Green Thailand awaits those who treasure the environment
WITH worldwide awareness of climate change and global warming, there has been a dramatic change in consumer attitudes, travel habits and prerequisites for discerning holidaymakers.
Focus is now on responsible travel where the environment is conserved and the wellbeing of the local community is further enriched.
Beckoning travellers to one such destination is 'Amazing Thailand'.
No longer is the 'Land of Smiles' attracting tourists who just go swimming in crystal-clear waters, lie on white sandy beaches and participate in water sports.
They are looking for a more meaningful vacation experience.
According to the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Suraphon Svetsreni, Thailand received 19.2 million visitors in 2011.
The number of Australian tourists visiting the kingdom last year - more than 850,000 - was an increase of 22.35% on 2010.
The authority has realised the importance of ecotourism and, along with the Thai tourism industry, has been pursuing green initiatives in an effort to maintain the delicate balance between tourism promotion and environmental protection to ensure long-term sustainability.
One of the tour specialists, Royal Silk Holidays, offers a perceptive Flavours and Fragrances tour package of the Central Plains to Samut Songkram and Petchaburi.
After experiencing one such enlightening journey, here is a list of the 10 must-see highlights, starting with a luxurious stopover in Bangkok and ending with total recreation in Hua Hin and Kanchanaburi.
1. Redefining space, style and luxury accommodation in a tropical oasis edging the Chao Phraya River, the Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort and Spa offers deliciously lazy days or days filled with adventure cushioned by indulgence.
Uncover the capital's best backstreet cuisine and hidden cultural highlights with Anantara's streetwise guru Chettha Khambunditkul.
2. On arrival in the province of Samut Songkram, visit coconut plantations at Amphawa. Or take a boat ride to see agricultural villages along the Mae Klong River.
3. An early-morning visit to the Tha Kha floating market sees innumerable boats piled high with fresh tropical fruit and vegetables, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked on floating kitchens.
4. Visit the Wild Animal Protection Centre in Amphoe Thayang, where the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand has done some amazing work in caring and rescuing wild animals that have been held in captivity.
5. See the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace - a Thai-Victorian style summer seaside palace fronting Cha-Am Beach - which was built during the reign of King Rama VI in 1923.
Built with golden teak, the palace is referred to as "the palace of love and hope".
6. Explore wines from new latitudes at the Hua Hin Hills Vineyards, 45km west of Hua Hin, set amid rolling hills, jungle and close to the Myanmar border.
Check out Thailand's "most beautiful train station" at Hua Hin before wallowing in the beauty of Cape Nidra Hotel Hua Hin on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand.
7. The 98sq km Three Hundred Peaks Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park includes some of the finest examples of shoreline habitat remaining in Thailand.
Located on the western seaboard of the Gulf of Thailand at the thinnest part of the southern isthmus, the park includes fine beaches, caves and wetland habitats.
8. Take a leap back in time and relive many poignant moments from history in the Kanchanaburi Province.
First stop is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery where you will find the graves of thousands of Second World War victims.
There are almost 7000 former prisoners of war buried there, mostly Australian, British and Dutch.
9. About 130km west of Bangkok is the Bridge over the River Kwai.
This is the most famous bridge on the infamous Death Railway from Bangkok to Rangoon in Burma.
10. Step out of your hectic, everyday world into the harmony of nature and let your boat glide down the River Kwai to the Jungle Rafts Hotel where you'll find paradise in the jungle.
Visit tourismthailand.org for more information.