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Long unspoilt sandy beaches, towering limestone cliffs, ancient culture, friendly people and an endless array of eager to please young lady boys and girls have combined to make Thailand the most popular tourist destination in South East Asia. Each year millions of tourists make their way here looking for their own piece of paradise.

Package holidaymakers on their precious two and three-week vacations fly to Koh Phi Phi and other resorts that have become the Caribbean of Asia. Backpackers, à la “The Beach”, search for that ever-elusive undiscovered island of cheap food and drink, free love and dope. Seedy middle-aged men make their way no further than Bangkok, their cultural quest ending in the massage parlours and thumping gogo bars of the red light districts.

The depth and character of Thailand means that even the cursory two-week visitor leaves with a profound experience that other tropical paradises can’t match. This isn’t some plastic resort created for rich Americans; it is a diverse country with its own unique food, culture and history that is as attractive as its palm-lined beachfronts. Budget travellers flock here because it is inexpensive, not cheap in the way that Eastern bloc countries are cheap, but where world-class food and service is available for a fraction of the western cost.

People come here for their own reasons but all get seduced, not by the spectacular landscape, but by the people. Thais are amongst the most friendly and accepting people in the world. This combined with their legendary diplomatic skills ensured that they were never colonised. This easy nature can cause travellers to be too lax in their attitudes, attire and commentary. It is commonplace to see Westerners ignorantly flaunting local sensibilities by going shirtless in towns, criticising the royal family or behaving in an aggressive manner. One cannot help but think that the term “farang” will come to mean more than foreigner in the future.

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