Thailand is a country that has been the talk of backpackers since the 80s. Before that it was a place popular with American soldiers on their time off during the war in Vietnam. But until the late 1980s, the places where foreigners would travel to was fairly limited. As is the usual order of things, backpackers lead the way for more mainstream travellers, for example those on package tours, and this is how tourism develops, usually.
And as it has done for certain parts of Thailand. So when some think of Thailand these days, their assumption is that everywhere has just too many tourists. Well as someone who knows Thailand very well from living there for a number of years, to working closely with the country’s tourism infrastructure professionally, I can absolutely say that that is not true. It doesn’t take much effort to get away from the very touristy parts, and discover the real Thailand.
As a sprawling city of over eight million people, it is logical that escaping the tourist areas of Bangkok should be easy. And it is. But it is also the case that many travellers will stay in certain areas such as Khao San Road for its convenience.
This street and surrounding area is fun, and should be experienced, but it is also easy to escape the thousands of travellers that flock here every week. I lived in Bangkok for a number of years, and you can follow this link for some insider tips on the most interesting areas to visit in Bangkok.
There are many islands in the south that we know today as being popular traveller destinations, but until relatively recently, the 80s, and for some of them, the 90s, were reasonably inaccessible. For example, Koh Pha Ngan, a now established tourist island still popular with backpackers but also with families and those seeking more than just a hard bed, fan and a hammock, in the early 1980s was seen as somewhere completely off-the-beaten path, whilst Koh Samui didn’t have many or any paved roads and only had a relatively small amount of basic traveller accommodation. Its airport opened in 1989, and for Koh Samui this changed everything quickly, for neighbouring islands, this also brought about change, although at a much slower pace.
Here, read about my favourite Thai islands, and how to escape the masses and enjoy the peace and tranquility that you would have found on Koh Samui in the early 1980s.
Northeastern Thailand (Isaan)
This part of Thailand is one of the least visited, and in my opinion most under-rated. If you head northeast from Bangkok towards Cambodia and Laos, this is the area we can refer to as Isaan. Culturally the region shares many similarities with Laos, including the dialect that the people of the region speak, and the types of food that they prefer.
If you want to experience a fascinating part of Thailand that does not have so many foreign visitors, then have a look here at my recommendations on where to go in Isaan.