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Honest opinion needed about Thailand

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Hello,

I am in the beginning stages of planing a trip to Thailand in 2018. I usually travel to Europe since I am half French from my father's side. We currently live in Florida. It would be my husband and I, our two children (5 and 2 at the time of travel) and my mother (active and healthy).

I have never been to Thailand. I have travelled to third world countries before.
My concern is that it seems like the destinations within Thailand are either presented as beautiful or as a tourist trap. This is what I like when I travel:

-Walking/ bicycling/ canoes/swimming. I don't like cars and traffic. I search for walkable cities such as old town Salzburg, Vienna, Murren, Siena/Pienza, Manarola, Bruges, Varenna, Venice, Sarlat. I want to be far away from pollution.
-Stunning scenery. I love the hike between Oia and Fira in Greece. I love the Cinque Terre trails (not just the main one). I don't mind crowds if there is a way around it and the place is amazingly beautiful: for example we get up at 5am to be on the trail by 6am for Cinque Terre trail and we enjoy 3 glorious hours. In Oia, there is no one in the streets at 8am. Ditto for Venice.
-History
-New foods
-Meeting new people

We don't need luxury as long as it it is clean for the children. I avoid resorts.
My other concern is the welfare of the elephants. some trip reports say it is the highlight of their trip and I could see how my children would love it. However, I don't believe in teaching wild animals useless tricks (like an elephant painting???!!). The behavior could have been implemented via harsh and cruel methods.

Could anyone be so kind to suggest a few places in Thailand that might fit the wants of my family?
Thank you.

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