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Wildlife and culture in southwest Thailand

For relaxing beach holidays, southwest Thailand is a fantastic destination with idyllic seaside resorts such as Khao Lak and Krabi. Beaches aren't the only thing to enjoy here though – there's beautiful scenery, an abundance of wildlife, the fascinating Thai culture and a handful of truly beautiful temples.

To give you a taster of what's available, below are a few highlights you could discover during your Thai getaway.

Animals, waterfalls and fantastic views

Central Thailand has huge prairie-lands known as the Central Plains, which are dominated by rice fields. However, the south-western regions have a very different landscape of densely forested areas, hilly and mountainous regions, rivers, waterfalls and lagoons.

The diversity of wildlife in this region makes it ideal for hiking adventures and guided nature tours. The area is home to many rare and wonderful animal species that you might spot along your journey, including beautiful leopard cats, rare Javan rhinos, tiny fruit bats, water buffalo and exotic birds. It's certainly a place to keep your smartphone at the ready in case you capture some amazing Instagram moments to share.

If you'd like to see sea turtles, Thai Muang Beach in Khao Lak is the place to go, as it's one of their favourite nesting spots. To the north of the beach is Khao Lampi Hat Mai Muang National Park, where you'll find dense jungles, waterfalls and trails to follow, as well as the Bo Dan hot springs nearby.

Visit the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park and you're likely to see even more wild animals, such as tigers and several species of monkey. If you trek further inland you can also catch a glimpse of the stunning Ton Chong Fa waterfall.

Thai culture and Buddhist temples

Thai culture is most strongly influenced by Buddhism, while its links with Hinduism can also be seen in some of the beautifully elaborate art, literature and local customs.

As 95% of the population is Buddhist, the values and beliefs of this faith are dominating factors in Thai culture. Some of the most important aspects are respect for others, self-control and maintaining a non-confrontational attitude. Another important concept is known as sanuk – a wide-ranging term that encourages playfulness and a sense of humour about life. This is one of the reasons Thai people smile a lot!

Buddhist temples are an important part of everyday life for the Thai population. Spending time in prayer and making offerings of flowers, fruit and other foods is a regular practice. There are many beautiful temples in southwest Thailand, many of which are beautifully ornate. We've chosen just a couple you might like to see if you're staying in southwest Thailand resorts.

Wat Chalong, Phuket

This temple complex has several buildings with elaborate layers of terraces, turrets and towers. One of the many intricately carved structures holds a sacred bone from the Buddha, so this is a highly revered place of pilgrimage. It's a truly stunning religious space, surrounded by manicured gardens and lakes where you can find a quiet spot to admire the views.

Wat Suwan Khuha, near Khao Lak

Located in a cave, this temple has a very atmospheric feel. There's an enormous reclining golden Buddha here, as well as other exquisite statues and artworks. While there are also several intricately carved prayer towers known as stupas.

Wat Tham Suea, near Krabik

Wat Tham Suea is known as Tiger Cave because inside there are tiger paw prints preserved in the stone. Monks live and worship in the surrounding caves, giving this temple a peaceful atmosphere. There's a steep stairway of 1,237 steps leading to the top where there's a large Buddha statue. From here you can enjoy panoramic views across the jungle landscape.

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