The land of flowers
With millions travelling to Thailand each year, this country is Asia’s primary holiday destination.
Yet despite this vast influx of visitors, Thailand’s cultural integrity remains largely undamaged – a country that adroitly avoided colonization, it has been able to absorb Western influences while maintaining its own rich heritage. Through all the changes of the last sixty years, the much-revered constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol, who sits at the pinnacle of an elaborate hierarchical system of deference covering the whole of Thai society, has lent a measure of stability. Furthermore, some 85 per cent of the population are still practising Theravada Buddhists, a unifying faith that colours all aspects of daily life – from the tiered temple rooftops that dominate every skyline, to the omnipresent saffron-robed monks and the packed calendar of festivals.
During your MSC Grand Voyages cruise to Thailand the clash of tradition and modernity is most obvious in Bangkok. Within its historic core you’ll find resplendent temples, canalside markets and the opulent indulgence of the eighteenth-century Grand Palace, while downtown’s forest of skyscrapers shelters cutting-edge fashion and decor boutiques and some achingly hip bars and clubs. “Deliciousness” is never far away in Thailand, be it fluffy deep-fried catfish with a tangy mango salad, toothsome beef green curry, or mango with sticky rice and coconut.