Phuket and Isaan make TIME’s Top 50 World’s Greatest Places of 2023

Roi Et province, Isaan

Iconic New York-based news magazine Time released their ‘World’s Greatest Places‘ list of 2023, including two Thai locations: Phuket and Isaan.

Phuket making the cut might come as no surprise given the island’s reputation as a much sought-after holiday destination. Isaan, however, is not hot on tourists’ radars despite its rich culture and temples, vast landscape, amazing traditional music and instruments, and culinary uniqueness.

Time‘s list was curated, “with an eye toward those offering new and exciting experiences” by correspondents and contributors all around the world.

Time lists 50 locations in their list which they believe are the “top spots to visit this year.” The locations are not numbered in any particular order. No Thai locations were included in Time‘s World’s Greatest Places of 2022.

Phuket’s most notable feature is “family thrills,” according to Time magazine…

Thailand’s most visited region—the famed beaches of Phuket—just upped its family appeal with the grand opening of Carnival Magic last September. The country’s first culturally-focused theme park, 40 acres sandwiched between a verdant mountain and sandy shore, re-creates traditional festivals and market fairs found throughout the kingdom in a dazzling array of neon lights.

“Kids can get their ice cream fix at Torry’s, a family-run ice cream shop in the heart of Phuket Town that uses ingredients like coconut milk and blue pea flower in the subtly sweet and umami-rich Bi Co Moi.

“Volun-tourism initiatives continue to be a priority on the island. The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, for example, invites visitors to help feed the animals and provides education about elephant communication and behaviour.”

Phuket’s beautiful waters, white beaches, luxury hotels and elephant sanctuaries might be the typical picture of Thailand in the imagination of the West.

Isaan, or Isan, doesn’t fit the same description. Time calls the huge area a “unique culinary capital,” offering more adventurous tourists a different experience…

Chances are you’ve already tried food from Isan, and you might not even know it. The largest region in Thailand, which hugs the border with Laos and Cambodia in the country’s northeast, has given us such classic dishes as som tum (green papaya salad) and larb (ground meat salad), and its diaspora is spreading this sour, spicy, herbaceous cooking style far and wide.

“Those who venture to this off-the-beaten-path region of Thailand teeming with rice fields are rewarded with national parks and Khmer temple ruins that rival Angkor Wat, and now: Michelin-recommended restaurants.

“This year, the company expanded its Thailand guide to include Isan, doling out 33 Bib Gourmand designations across the region to spots like Kai Yang Saeng Thai, which has been serving its herb-marinated rotisserie chicken since 1967, and Lab Nua, known for its fiery salads and rice field snail soup.”

Northern Thailand News

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.