Radiant smiles greet the visitor to Thailand, a country of resplendent heritage and perfect white sand beaches. Suffused with Chinese and Indian influences it is an unforgettable blend of tranquil retreats and teeming cities.
In Chiang Mai, once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, the streets are dotted with crumbling stupas, jewel-encrusted temples and intricately designed dark wooden houses. This is the territory of colourful hill tribes in traditional dress, where the shops are full of silks and pottery.
Head south to bustling Bangkok with its floating markets, designer malls and tuk tuks. In the steamy night markets, bartering for bargains soon becomes an acquired art. Indulge yourself with dinner in one of the city’s exclusive rooftop restaurants before going on to savour the flamboyant nightlife.
Along the Thai coast, pristine beaches beckon – Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Yao Noi and more – with the opportunity to snorkel and dive deep in the coral reefs. Rise early to go bamboo rafting in Khao Lak and glide down unspoilt rivers finding surprises around every bend.
The cuisine, too, will surprise and delight – always mouth-wateringly fresh and spicy, packed with garlic, ginger, coconut milk and lemon grass. And if so much activity takes its toll on mind and body, then those famously reviving Thai massages beckon as Thailand promises an enlightening journey that will nourish the soul.
Thailand is generally very hot and humid with distinct dry and rainy seasons. The best time to visit most resorts, including Phuket, Khao Sok, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, is from November to March, with the exception of Koh Samui which is best visited from December to August. However, with ever-changing weather patterns and excellent offers, it is well worth considering a holiday during the shoulder seasons.
Non-stop Bangkok, Thailand's buzzing capital city, is an assault on the senses with its colourful nightlife and amazing cuisine. Shop in gleaming malls or bustling street markets perfecting the art of bartering. And take a thousand photos as you cruise along the Chao Phraya River and the canals of Thonbur, stopping en route at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, where you can climb the steps to enjoy the view. The Grand Palace, Bangkok’s most famous landmark, continues to awe with its elaborate architecture and intricate detail, whilst the huge Wat Pho temple complex will astonish with its giant reclining golden Buddha. Wat Suthat, known for the towering red Giant Swing that stands at its entrance, is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok.
Phuket has a lot to offer with its vibrant nightlife, markets, lavish resorts and some of Thailand's best beaches. For fabulous views visit the lighthouse at Phromthep Cape, or take a cruise excursion to Phang Nga Bay, a.k.a. James Bond Island and for some shopping visit charming Phuket Town. Witness turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs in Hat Nai Yang National Park, or explore Khao Phra Wildlife Park, site of the Nam Tok Ton Sai waterfall and home to the Gibbon Project. Over thirty Buddhist temples are dotted around the island, including Wat Phra Thong with its half-buried Buddha statue and Wat Phra Nang Sang which features some fascinating frescoes and Buddha heads that date back 3,000 years. The snorkelling is superb in Koh Waeo National Park, where the coral lies only one to five metres below the surface.
Set on the southern Andaman coast and accessible by long tail boats, Krabi has attractions ranging from hot springs and sea caves to dramatic limestone cliffs and flourishing coral reefs. Famed for its photogenic sunsets, the island boasts four national parks including the rainforest habitat of Khao Sok and the natural springs of Than Bokkhorani. Inside Tiger Cave are what appear to be large tiger paw prints embedded in the stone. Krabi itself is a charming riverside town with picturesque markets and Ao Nang offers a seaside strip of bars, restaurants and gift boutiques. For more enlightened recreation visit the temple of Wat Tham Sua with its 1,272 steps to reach the “footprint of the Buddha”.
An area of outstanding beauty, an hour north of Phuket, Khao Lak offers pure white beaches, cascading waterfalls, spectacular forests and an abundance of wildlife. Five national parks include the rainforest of Khao Lak and Khao Sok as well as Thailand’s largest natural mangrove system. The Surin and renowned Similian Islands are also close by and excellent for diving; kayaking tours bring the chance to visit sea caves and spectacular limestone islands. Further highlights include the
Siam Safari elephant camp and treks through the Chalong Highlands. In the historic town of Takuapa, several original teak houses and the Governor’s residence remain.
Reached only by boat, in an archipelago protected by the Mu Ko Lanta Marine National Park, Koh Lanta is unspoilt and laid back. The island is blessed with powdery white beaches and charming little restaurants serving freshly caught seafood to order. Its sinuous central mountain range is covered by virgin rainforest which can be explored on an guided trek. Carrier can provide you with a driver to take you to sites of interest such as visiting the Old Port, a traditional coastal village with stilt houses. There are many nearby islands to discover, with a half day cruise recommended to Koh Haa where the swimming and snorkelling is unsurpassed.
A quiet refuge from vibrant Phuket, this is a large, rugged island for kayaking, hiking, snorkelling, swimming and leisurely exploration. Traditional rubber farms dot the tranquil landscape, their tapping buckets hanging from the trunks; water buffalo meander slowly around. The beaches are mainly on the east coast, whilst the west coast is blanketed in rice fields and lined with mangroves. Restaurants and bars can be found dotted along the coastline.
Walk through the quiet winding streets of this friendly coastal village, sampling delicious seafood in restaurants built on stilts overlooking the brightly lit fishing boats on the Gulf of Thailand, or play a round of golf on one of the several international standard links. The oldest and most traditional of Thai resorts and a long-time favourite of Siam nobility Hua Hin provides an ideal getaway from the teeming metropolis of Bangkok. Barter in the lively night markets and take a leisurely drive though the rice paddies and pineapple plantations to see the glorious scenery of Prachuap Kiri Khan and Phetchaburi. Within a few
kilometres there are also floating markets, amusement parks, sheep farms, water parks and elephant camps.
At the point where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma converge, and historically infamous for its connection to the opium trade, the Golden Triangle has been transformed into a landscape of coffee, tea and fruit plantations in neat terraced fields. Exotic hill tribe crafts of jewellery, silverware, textiles and embroideries can be purchased alongside produce from local farms. High on the list of must-sees is the Doi Tung Royal Villa, set beside the Mae Fah Luang Garden and nearby arboretum, each proffering a rich variety of plant species including wild orchids. Take a gentle bamboo-raft river ride at the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp, or go trekking in the Doi Inthanon Park which encompasses the highest peak in Thailand.
Considered Thailand’s cultural capital, the 700 year-old city of Chiang Mai is the springboard for an array of exciting activities and white water rafting. In and around the city itself, Buddhist temples abound – Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep being perched near the summit of Doi Suthep Mountain. Nature lovers will enjoy Doi Intanon National Park with its dramatic mountain scenery, ancient evergreen forests, rare birdlife and spectacular waterfalls. Take a scenic walk along the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail or relax on a river cruise by long-tail boat to visit the Karen Hill tribe Village. A must do is a visit to the many buzzing markets to buy local handicrafts and to enjoy the local street cuisine.
Beautiful white sand beaches, clear warm water; lush tropical gardens and gentle ocean breezes await you at this idyllic destination. Team up with local guides to explore the pristine Ang Thong National Park by sea canoe, passing through deep ravines and stopping off at enchanting locations such as the Green Lagoon, keeping your eyes open for dolphin, sea turtles and the majestic Whale Shark. Perhaps the island’s most popular attraction is the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai – a wonderful place to sit and contemplate. For something a little different visit Heaven’s Garden, an unusual art gallery set in a secret garden high in the rolling hills of the interior.
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