Travel and Leisure gave Bangkok its Top City award in its August issue. Some people were surprised to hear this because of the political protests that took place in the city from March to June, but I wasn’t.
Keep in mind that from December to March, 16,000 Travel and Leisure readers voted for their favorite city for this issue. So the protests that disrupted tourism in Bangkok had not yet occurred.
But honestly, even if the survey had been taken in the midst of the demonstrations, I doubt the results would have been different. Bangkok is simply a spectacular city, and this award clearly demonstrates how much it is loved by travelers.
Unfortunately, the protests did put a dark cloud over the city, and even though peace has been restored, tourism to Thailand is still suffering as travelers cautiously reconsider traveling there.
While I’m sure tourism will soon rebound and exceed previous levels, it still saddens me that for now, some people are missing out on opportunities to experience the islands, cities, ancient ruins, and exotic architecture that make Thailand one of the best places on the planet to visit.
I hope this award reminds travelers of what makes Bangkok so alluring. I love that it’s a microcosm, a city with something for everyone. You can tour the city, admiring the modern buildings, malls, and plazas.
Or you can shop and explore the numerous street markets, travel the canals to see traditional Thai homes and people going about their everyday lives, and eat the most amazing food you’ll ever taste. (I’m terribly fussy about what I eat, but I love Thai food.) Just a few hours from Bangkok are gorgeous, and not terribly expensive, beach resorts as well as historical sites, complete with intricately carved temples.
The value for your money in Thailand is incredible. I like to tell a story of when I needed a new suitcase to bring home all the treasures I had bought in Bangkok. I wanted to buy a good-quality suitcase so I could use it for future trips, and I was prepared to spend what I thought would be at least a few hundred dollars.
My guide brought me to a luggage store in a lovely, upscale mall. I looked around, examining all the various options and then proceeded to buy the best (most expensive) suitcase I could find. It had all the bells and whistles on it, including hidden compartments, zippers galore, non-rip material, and locks with keys. It only cost me $29.
I’ve been using it for two years now, and by the way, it has held up better than any other suitcase I own. And the value Thailand offers to travelers goes way beyond goods to all areas of tourism infrastructure, including hotels, meals, entrance fees, and every other cost item associated with a trip to Thailand. The genuine warmth, friendliness, and goodwill of the Thai people toward their visitors is the value added that is absolutely for free.
Friendly Planet Travel has been selling tours to Thailand since 2003 because we believe in it as a destination. This award proves that we’re not the only ones who think so. Shortly after the political protests ended we felt it was safe to re-enter Bangkok. So we reinstated our programs and even launched a new tour, giving us three different tours to Thailand.
My goal is that they will help boost tourism back to its previous levels and hopefully beyond. With all my heart, I hope Travel and Leisure’s award brings to people’s attention that Thailand is ready to welcome tourists back.
And for those travelers ready to go, please check out our three wonderful tours. A Taste of Thailand, Incredible Thailand, and Treasures of Thailand all have available departure dates and will cost you less than a weekend in Las Vegas.