Yes Thailand is a beautiful country. We took a small group adventure tour so were travelling in mini buses. This was our very first major trip since we bummed around Europe in the 60's. Were we to go to Thailand again we would not bother with a tour but make our own way by train and bus but would probably not drive, at least not in Bangkok and environs.
You are right about storm lighting. If one can't be blessed with perfect weather then speaking photographically you can't beat a good storm. We were overtaken by a very dramatic storm while on the beach at Koh Samet, Thailand. As everyone was rushing for cover we were sprinting back to our bungalow for our cameras!
I will come to New Zealand one day for sure but you will all have to promise not to do the 'All Blacks' thing. That frightens the living daylights out of me every time I see it.