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Thailand is one of the most culturally grounded countries in all of Asia, which is evident through its beautiful architecture and tourist-friendly environment. In fact, the country thrives on its tourism industry, with roughly 3.5 million people visiting in the past view months. If you plan to add to that statistic, do a little research before booking your flight, and consider the following some of the best reasons why Thailand should be your next vacation.

The Food

Thailand boasts some of the world’s best street food. Tom yum soup, a tangy, hot and sour dish, is a popular item that vendors can make very quickly on the sides of roads. Restaurants throughout serve traditional recipes such as pad Thai, som tam, Gai Med Ma Moung (Chicken Cashew Nuts), and variations of stir-fried rice.

The Outdoors

Khao Sok National Park is the embodiment of Thai wildlife with an array of plants and animals. Gibbons, leopards, tigers, and tapirs can all be found within this scene park that boasts 460 square miles of evergreen forest. Be sure not to limit yourself to just this attraction, however. Thailand has hundreds of islands that you can visit via boat.

The beaches found throughout the country are of the friendliest in the world, with locals welcoming visitors, and beach bars being operated by outgoing staff members. Fishermen in the area are happy to sail you to the many islands around the mainland, where you are free to swim or scuba dive in the surrounding waters, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the whale sharks that pass through Koh Tao.

The Elephants

Even those who haven’t visited Thailand are aware of the country’s many elephants, but visitors should be wary when it comes to certain attractions. Make sure that the experiences you choose are ethical, and within the rights of these animals (see this list here).

Visit the numerous elephant parks to get up and close and personal with these gentle giants and lend a hand in the facility’s conservational efforts. The King’s Cup is another fun event where guests are able to watch elephants take part in a polo tournament. It’s a four-day festival that is dedicated to the betterment and welfare of Thailand’s many elephants.

The Architecture

As mentioned before, Thailand has some of the most visually stunning buildings in the world alongside thousands of Buddha statues. Many rural buildings are constructed of just simply bamboo, incorporating traditional Thai style. The ancient Buddhist temples throughout are sights worth seeing as well.