Green curry is a staple in Thailand's popular cuisine.

Let them eat curry – three reasons to turn your Thai holiday into a culinary journey

Most come for the beaches, many come for the temples, and everyone sort of comes for the food: Thailand is widely regarded one of the world’s most exciting culinary destinations. Between cheap-and-cheerful street food and Michelin-starred haute cuisine, the Thai Kingdom offers just about everything hungry visitors could be lusting after.

Still, not everyone thinks of their vacation as a way to explore the Southeast Asian nation’s fabulous flavours… If you’d been planning a trip to Thailand and you’re adding places, not but plates, to your bucket list, you might want to reconsider. Here are our top reasons to factor in your tastebuds when planning a journey to the Kingdom!

Thai cuisine is surprisingly diverse

A Thai meal consisting of several plates of colourful, fresh foods
Eat up: Thai flavours and textures are as manifold as they come, with countless local variations.

Think Pad Thai is all that Thailand has to offer? You’re in for a surprise. Other than a general tendency towards lightly prepared and fresh ingredients, it’s hard to make out a distinct preference amongst the country’s culinary fare. While visitors to the southern islands rave about mild curries that use copious amounts of coconut milk and ground ginger, a trip to the Kingdom’s northern provinces will be filled with heartier and earthier-tasting meals, some of which are shared with neighbouring Laos and Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Bangkok offers its very own take on Thai cuisine. Some of the capital’s most readily available dishes are rooted in former settlements by countries as far-flung as Portugal. Speaking of other countries, should you find yourself in the bustling Chinatown district for dinner, you’re in for authentic Chinese Theochew cuisine served by the countless vendors lining Yaowarat Road (you might want to skip lunch so as to leave some space!).

Eating is a social and fun way to learn about Thai culture

A friendly food vendor smiles for the camera at a floating market in Thailand
Friendly offerings: buy from a Thai food vendor and exchange a few smiles and some chatter.

One thing you’ll immediately learn upon arrival in Thailand is that Thais love to eat. They do it all the time, just about everywhere and most importantly, always in the company of others. For many travellers, a quintessentially Thai experience is no doubt eating their way through a traditional food market. You’ll find these in virtually every destination you could possibly be headed for, and they can’t be missed:

Wander around a lively labyrinth of food stalls selling everything from fresh, tropical fruits and seafood to an assortment of exotic spices that a few hundred years ago, sold for higher prices than gold and silver. For open-minded travellers, markets are among the best places to strike up conversations, make friends with the locals and learn about life in Thailand over a shared meal or an iced coffee. If love goes through the stomach, so does cultural immersion!

Many Thai restaurants are an experience in and of themselves

The Giant restaurant outside Chiang Mai, Thailand
Treetop teatime: The Giant restaurant outside Chiang Mai is a prime example of a memorable Thai food experience.

Adding to the delicate and diverse flavours on offer across the Kingdom, Thailand also makes for a fabulous foodie destination for its restaurants are quite simply one-of-a-kind. Take, for instance, The Giant outside the city of Chiang Mai, where guests are invited to have tea and cakes on a terrace built around the trunk of a massive tree. Though for those suffering from vertigo, perhaps something a little more grounded but equally sensational will do: throughout Kanchanaburi Province, you’ll find several ‘floating restaurants’ that will have you seated in bamboo huts built over idyllic jungle streams!

Looking for something more upscale? Bangkok is home to several Michelin-starred eateries, where award-winning chefs create seasonal and themed menus, many of which are inspired by Thailand’s ancient ‘Royal cuisine’, a specific type of cooking and food presentation so elaborate and intricate, it was once exclusively reserved for the Kingdom’s royal family. What more convincing could you need?