The Kingdom of Siam is one of the few Asian countries never to have had a colonial ruler, and present-day Thailand proudly preserves the country's cultural, historical, and natural riches. Ancient festivals continue to be celebrated today and you can stop by during the worship ritual to the City Pillar in Chiang Mai or join in the Thai New Year festivities across the country. Thailand is a beach paradise and besides the sandy shores at Ko Samui, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Phuket, there are dozens of small islands away from the crowds just waiting to be discovered, and the beaches here are even better than on the mainland.
For some tropical jungle adventure, head to Kanchanaburi — the setting of The Bridge on the River Kwai, where temple caves meet thick green vegetation in the steamy heat of Thailand's interiors. Bangkok alone has enough Buddhist temples to keep you busy for days of sightseeing, but there are equally beautiful, if slightly less ornate temples at Sukhothai and Ayuthaya. After a long day lazing in the sun or exploring Thailand's well-stocked shopping districts, get a massage at one of the many facilities that offer services on the beach, or near every major temple. And if food is your passion, don't be limited to just eating it here. There are plenty of culinary institutes across the country where you can learn how to make that perfect Thai curry and khao pad.
Bangkok is Thailand's main international airport and is also a major hub for airlines flying to other Asian destinations, Australia and New Zealand, or toward Europe. A large number of airlines use Bangkok as a stopover airport, making cheap flights readily available at almost any time of year.
Chiang Mai (CNX), Phuket (HKT), Chiang Rai (CEI), Hat Yai (HDY), Udon Thani (UTH), Khon Kaen (KKC), Songkhla (SGZ), Surat Thani (URT), and Phitsanulok (PHS) are smaller airports which have limited international connectivity, but are well connected by local flights. Air Canada, United, Continental, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines have flights from Montreal to Bangkok via stops in Japan or the US while flights from Canada's east coast will have two or more stopovers. If you book well in advance, flights can be quite cheap even when you factor in connections to regional airports in Thailand.
Located close to the equator, Thailand has a tropical climate in theory —heavy monsoons, hot and humid summers, and a cool period that passes for winter. In reality, Thailand is hot and humid for most of the year and temperatures can rise as high as 40°C. This is especially true in the southern and coastal regions, while central and northern areas tend toward the three season divisions. In most inland regions, the rainy season lasts from July to October, but on the two coasts, these periods vary — April to October on the West coast and from September to December on the East coast. This ensures there's always a sunny spot on at least a few Thai beaches.
November to February is the cool period in the North and this is a peak tourist season for most of Thailand, but visitors stay on into April in the southern region. March to June is the off-peak season for most of Thailand owing to the heat, occasional downpours, and high humidity. During this time travel to the beaches and the northeastern areas is still popular. October has the heaviest rainfalls and is best avoided, while travel from April to June or September to early-October will get you cheap hotel rates in the shoulder seasons.