15 Countries You Should Visit Before You Die


Why to go when you’re young: Because this is the Land of Smiles, and of impossibly cheap adventure. Go during the hot, rainy off-season, when $35/day can still cover backpacker-style food, thatched-roof camping, and whatever party mode you fancy.

Where to head first: Bangkok, for every reason you could imagine, plus some of the greatest cheap food in the world.

Thailand is one of a handful of countries that’s never been ruled by an outside power, part of the reason there’s no other place like it — mellow, hospitable, patient. On any main street you’ll be able to rock out in a buck-a-beer joint with a posse of new backpacker friends and then, steps away, sample the lemongrass-, lime-, and chili-infused national dish tom yum soup or get a classic Thai massage (they stretch you, too, so you can call it a workout). The front of most massage parlors has several reclining chairs if you only want a foot massage — a fun outing with your new drinking buddies (BYOB).

From Bangkok, take an overnight bus (which can be a party or a snooze) north to the cooler mountainous terrain (start in Chiang Mai, plan further trekking outreach from there) or head south to the divine beaches on either coastline (start on either Koh Samui island or in Krabi). Once you’re clear of city traffic, rent a motorbike. Thailand’s so-called progress includes elements of mass tourism: insulated resorts, double pricing for foreigners. But it only takes a short walk in another direction to rediscover wholesomeness. This is what it is to feel invincible, young, and in a land where even a few folding dollars can get you wherever you want to go, borderline rich.