Thailand for New Visitors (part 1): 10 Must-Visit Popular Cities

Thailand Tourism is closely related with some of their popular cities, such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai. These cities are already very popular as a major tourist destination in Thailand, especially for foreign tourists who seek a combination of fun and adventure in the daytime, and the festive nightlife with its various parties.

However, not all tourists like the frenetic and festive atmosphere. Countless tourists who actually prefer to visit cities that are not too big and not too popular, but still maintain the attraction that is not inferior to various mainstream destinations.

Some tourists also had found pleasure exploring the various hidden gems in semi-mainstream cities, which could gave them an extra tourist experience than just sunbathing along with hundreds of other tourists on the beaches of Pattaya.

Especially for you, first time traveler to Thailand who prefer to explore various semi-mainstream city, you can listen to some of the following recommendations. Who knows among the following lists there are cities that can make you fall in love.

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1. Pai

Pai, via news.packist

Well, this Pai actually can not really be called a semi-mainstream tourist destination. In fact, this small town is popular enough to be visited by backpackers. Moreover, you could say that Pai is worth mentioning as one of the paradise for backpackers who plan to explore Thailand, and now has started to be sold as one of favorite tourist destinations in Thailand.

However because Pai is still less popular  than Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket; And still less popular for non-backpacker travelers, this city can be considered as one of the semi-mainstream destinations in Thailand.

Pai itself is located between the city of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. This city is famous for its calm and relaxed atmosphere, as well as its strong hippie impression. Some tourists who have visited this place even describe Pai as a place that has a fairly slow turnaround time. Pai also has many cheap accommodation, cheap restaurants, and of course various cheap shopping spots. That’s part of Pai’s charm that makes this city so appealing to backpackers.

Nowadays, along with the increasing popularity of Pai, this small town began to experience city development. Several resorts, nightclubs, and various other public facilities began to be found in this city, so the atmosphere of Pai is now quite much different than decades ago. But do not worry, you can still find many interesting spots to enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere, without having to jostle with other tourists.

The city that located in this mountainous area has many beautiful scenery, including various forests, waterfalls, caves, and a view towards the city that can be enjoyed from a height. Or, if you are too lazy to explore the outdoors, you can still do some interesting things in this city, such as, joining various yoga classes, or just renting a bicycle and walking around the city.

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2. Kachanaburi

Kachanaburi, via time2trip

Kachanaburi is the name of a small town located in the west of Thailand. Although the city is not as popular as mainstream destinations in Thailand, this Kachanaburi is quite attractive for tourists, especially for those who are interested in World War II.

Yes, in Kachanaburi there is a railway line which connect Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar) with Ban Pong in Thailand. The 415-kilometer railway line was built during World War II, and its construction process sacrificed up to tens of thousands people (even more). Therefore, that train line was later known as Death Railway, Burma Railway, and the like.

Currently part of the Death Railway that runs through Kachanaburi is still used for local traffic. You can catch a local train that passes the bridge over the River Kwai which is also a part of the Death Railway. Or alternatively, you can also walk across the bridge, but you must be extra careful.

Relax, there are only two trains that cross that bridge. As long as you know the timetable, everything will be fine. Anyway, in Kachanaburi there are also some museums, monuments, art galleries, to the funeral which is related to World War II, and quite attractive to visit especially if you are a history lover.

Besides the things related to World War II, this Kachanaburi also has several other attractions. This city has several National Parks, several waterfalls, natural hot springs, and also temples.

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3. Hat Yai

Hat Yai
Hat Yai, via backpackies.wordpress

946 kilometers away in south of Bangkok, there is a town called Hat Yai which is the main entrance for those who are coming from Malaysia and Singapore to Thailand (especially for those who travels on the roads), and vice versa. This city is also became one of the most important stops for Muslims in Malaysia who were heading to Mecca.

Hat Yai is the second largest city in Songkhla Province, as well as the third largest metropolitan city in Thailand. Interestingly, in Hat Yai you will rarely find tourists from the West, because this city is mostly visited by tourists from Malaysia and Singapore. So, do not be surprised if the prices in Hat Yai is relatively higher than other cities in Thailand because it adapts to the purchasing power of tourists from both countries.

For tourism matters, Hat Yai is actually not offering a truly major tourist attraction. But this city is still quite interesting to visit because the atmosphere is quite different from other cities in Thailand.

In Hat Yai, you can find the atmosphere of a metropolitan city, with its various shopping centers; however you can sensed a strong influence of Chinese and Malay elements in the city. In other words, going to Hat Yai can make you see another face of Thailand that is rarely seen in other cities.

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4. Krabi

Wat Kaew Korawaram Temple in Krabi
Wat Kaew Korawaram Temple in Krabi, via traveldreams

Krabi is the capital of Krabi Province. Although the status is the provincial capital, Krabi city has a pleasant atmosphere, especially because the city size is not too big. There are many tourists like to visit this city to enjoy the relatively calm atmosphere, unlike most other tourist cities that tend to be crowded.

There are countless tourists who like to make this city as basecamp to explore the province of Krabi, as well as their temporary shelter before heading to Had Yao, Ao Nang, and Rai Leh.

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5. Mae Sot

Refugee camp at Mae Sot
Refugee camp at Mae Sot, via Latterly

Mae Sot is actually the name of a district on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Automatically the city that located in this Tak Province had become one of the main gateways between Thailand and Myanmar. So do not be surprised if the atmosphere in Mae Sot is quite typical, because in this district there are quite a lot of immigrants and refugees from Myanmar. Trades of gems, as well as illegal markets involving illegal deals (including human trafficking and drugs) can also be found in Mae Sot.

Even so, Mae Sot is quite popular to be visited by tourists who are really want to find a different tourism atmosphere. This district has a unique atmosphere as it consists of a mixture of different cultures. You can find many shops that sell unique souvenirs as a results of a few different cultural blends.

The uniqueness can also be seen in terms of culinary, because in Mae Sot you can find a variety of culinary, a blending of Thailand, Myanmar, and India culinary. Mae Sot is also ideal to be visited by those of you who plan to continue the journey to Myanmar.

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6. Nong Khai

Sala Keoku
Sala Keoku, via thailandneo

If we move to the Isaan region of Northeastern Thailand, there is a town of Nong Khai which is quite interesting to be visited by tourists. Nong Khai is a city that became the capital of Nong Khai province. The city’s position is located around the Mekong River, and is also known as Dragon City. This is an ideal city to be visited by those of you who plan to continue the journey to Laos and Vientiane.

Nong Khai has some interesting attractions. One of the most popular is Sala Keoku (or Wat Khaek), which is a park that has many large statues. Some even have a height of more than 20 meters. This city also has several popular temples, aquariums, and markets.

However, not a few also consider that the other attraction of Nong Khai lies in many events and festivals that held throughout the year, such as Rocket Festivals, Song Kran, The Candle Festival, Maekong Fireballs, The Anou Savari Festival, The Rowing Festival, Loy Kratong, to the Chinese Festival. If you seriously want to go to Nong Khai, there is no harm in coming to this city right at the time of the festival.

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7. Phetchaburi

A cave in Petchaburi
A cave in Petchaburi, via datofarm

Phetchaburi is the name of a city that became the capital of Phetchaburi Province. The city which is 130 kilometers from Bangkok, is very much liked by those who love the atmosphere of the old city.

Yes, Phetchaburi is indeed one of the oldest cities in Thailand, and has been recorded in history since the 8th century. Therefore, it is not surprising that this city has so many ancient artifacts, including a number of temples and buildings with interesting ancient architectural style, as well as palace buildings.

So, what can be done in this city?

Ancient architecture addicts and lovers of the ancient ambiance usually love to go around the city in various ways, ranging from riding Tuk Tuk, motorcycle taxi, or renting a vehicle. This city does have many old school buildings that are still very well groomed up to now. But of course one of the city’s highlight tours is Khao Wang, an old palace complex located in the mountains and has several interesting buildings such as museums, temples, and various stupas.

Alternatively, you can also explore Khao Loung Caves, there are 2 giant caves located on the north side of Petchaburi. Both caves have some interesting features. The first cave was filled with stalactites, with many Buddha statues among them; while the second cave was overgrown with 300-year-old trees on the inside.

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8. Trang

Trang City Hall
Trang City Hall, via Oatz/wikimedia commons

Trang is the capital of Trang Province, and is approximately 839 kilometers from Bangkok (towards the South). This city which located on the Andaman Coast is one of the cities that have high rainfall. The rainy season usually occurs between May and June, while summer season occurs ‘only’ in February-April.

If asked what is the attraction of Trang, usually tourists who have visited this city will call Trang as a nice city, with friendly locals, and delicious culinary.

The city also has beautiful white sandy beaches, and an exciting night market to be explored. In addition, Trang also has many temples, caves, waterfalls, as well as several islands that can be accessed by boat. Want to do snorkeling or scuba diving? You can absolutely do that in Trang!

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9. Lampang

Part of Chalermprakiat Temple in Pu Yak, Lampang
Part of Chalermprakiat Temple in Pu Yak, Lampang, via edition.cnn

Lampang, or commonly called as Nakhon Lampang, is the capital of Lampang province, 601 kilometers away in the north side of Bangkok. Meanwhile, if you drive from Chiang Mai, it takes you only 1 hour to reach the city which is 101 kilometers away in the southeast of Chiang Mai.

As the provincial capital, Lampang is also the third largest city in northern Thailand. The city has a number of its own charms, such as the existence of various temples which was built in Myanmar style, a number of temples with traditional ancient touches, vehicles like rickshaw to visit around the city, and popular attractions like the Thai Elephant Conservation Center.

Oh, Lampang also has an old town area with a number of buildings and quite well preserved, because this city was once one of the important cities in the era of the Lanna Kingdom.

In addition, Lampang also offers the charm of its natural beauty. The city that located in the Wang River valley has a mountainous area, a number of waterfalls, and five National Parks. Whereas if you want to move a little further to the outskirts of Lampang town to Pratu Pha, approximately 50 kilometers to the north, there are a number of ancient paintings that are estimated to have aged 2000-3000 years ago.

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10 . Hua Hin

Paviliun in Phraya Nakhon Cave
Paviliun in Phraya Nakhon Cave, via gripatrip

Last but not least, there is Hua Hin, a seaside town resort which is located in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. This city can be reached in just 2 hours by bus, and popularly visited by Bangkok residents who want to ‘escape’ momentarily from the city center, especially on weekends.

Image of Hua Hin as a popular tourist city has started since the early 1920s. In those days, the royal family built a seaside resort as a holiday spot for the royal family. Eventually, the fisherman village in that region turned into a luxury resort and always associated with the royal family and nobility.

Some of the remains of the past that can still be seen today include the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, a summer palace by the sea built in the 1920s; As well as Hua Hin Station built with Thai touches and a bit of Victorian nuances.

Hua Hin has a number of interesting tourist attractions, ranging from beaches, temples on top of mountains, natural caves, traditional markets, to modern facilities like modern shopping centers, thematic shopping centers and theme parks.

But one of the must-visit place is Phraya Nakhon Cave, a cave with a mystical feel that has gold and green pavilion on the inside. Unfortunately there won’t be many tourists who can photograph the pavilion because of its position is quite difficult to reach. Only a few tourists who have a strong will able to capture the pavilion.



Photos taken from various sources without any additional edits other than the resizing process.


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