There are certain characteristics that the rest of the world associates with Thailand – the Buddhist culture, the jungle treks, the hectic and happening atmosphere of Bangkok. But is Thailand really worth visiting, or is just another generic Asian tourist trap?

Our humble suggestion is that it is most certainly the former – for the following reasons.

The amazing welcome

Many countries claim to be friendly to visitors, but it is Thailand that has the reputation as “The Land of Smiles” – and that doesn’t tend to happen for no reason. The kind locals are all too happy to help you if you get lost or just want to ask a question about the country of which they are so proud.

It’s amazingly affordable

Thailand seems to lend itself well to budget travel, with the likes of hotels, food and clothing all pretty affordable. A beachside hotel in the country is likely to set you back only half what the U.S. equivalent would cost you, while reputable travel operators like Imagine Holidays have plenty of comprehensive, but good value Thai packages from which to choose.

The food is like nothing else

You might think you’ve sampled enough Thai food on your dinner plate at home, but in truth, there’s nothing like the Thai cuisine served up in Thailand. As aforementioned, it’s affordable, but it’s also delicious, as long as you choose a mild level of spiciness. The World Travel Family site has a great blog post on Thai food for beginners.

It’s the home of the “Death Railway”

The Burma Railway may have been built in 1943 by the Empire of Japan in support of its World War II effort and stretch some 258 miles from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma, but no railway known as the “Death Railway” is ever purely about facts and statistics. With its many rickety wooden bridges and line clinging to the sides of sheer cliffs, it is quite the experience to ride.

You’ll see vegetarians doing freaky things

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival isn’t quite the sedate event that its name may suggest – it’s actually a feast of gruesome self-mutilation, a place to watch rituals involving participants piercing their skin in all manner of weird and (if this is quite the right adjective) wonderful ways.

The monkeys are well-fed

Bear with us here. We’re referring to another key event in the Thai calendar, the yearly Monkey Buffet that sees monkeys rewarded for their role in attracting tourists with more than 4,000 kilograms of fruit in front of the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi province. In more recent years, visitors have even been treated to the sight of the monkeys licking huge fruit ice lollies.

You’re in the perfect place for further travel

You might be travelling for a while to reach Thailand, but once you’re there, you’re in the perfect place for all manner of appealing regional trips. Hong Kong? That’s just a three-hour flight away. For Bali, it’s four hours, and Singapore is a mere two hours away. You’re also well-positioned between Australia and Europe for a grander around-the-world trip.

With full moon parties, paradisiacal islands, all manner of exotic wildlife and unrivalled shopping opportunities just a few of Thailand’s other attractions for both the first-time and veteran traveller to this part of the world, it’s the very opposite of overrated – whatever the level of hype.