Thailand but not as you know it
BEEN to Bangkok? Seen Samui? Then it’s time to discover more of Thailand’s gems, writes Kristie Kellahan.
There’s so much more to Thailand than the average tourist ever ventures to see. Beyond the sky-high bars of Bangkok and the beach clubs on Samui and Phuket, this inviting, diverse country beckons with tranquil beaches, jungle adventures and world-class wellness retreats.
Getaways for all
Krabi, on the west coast of southern Thailand, is a hotspot for action-adventure enthusiasts. Blessed with limestone cliffs that were made for rock-climbing, and ideal conditions for divers and snorkellers, this is a destination where it’s hard to sit still. If you decide to do just that, the islands of Ko Phi Phi have sun lounges and cocktails at the ready.
Devoid of full-moon parties and doof-doof beach clubs, the tropical islands in the Trang archipelago offer a sleepy, appealing charm. On Ao Kham beach, for example, crab tracks tend to outnumber human footprints on the sand. Take a look at Sivalai Beach Resort for upscale lodging at the water’s edge.
Island-hoppers come to the eastern city of Trat on their way to the gorgeous islands of Mu Ko Chang National Park. With 52– mostly uninhabited — white sand islands to explore, there’s plenty to see and do. But first, take the time to check out what Trat city has to offer. A lively night market, interesting architectural styles, great food and the informative Trat Museum make this destination a worthy stopping point before diving in to the big blue.
Into the Golden Triangle
Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern rose, has enjoyed a well-deserved tourist surge of interest in the past decade. While those of us who loved the city when it was quieter and less ‘discovered’ lament the construction boom and long lines at popular restaurants, we can understand why so many have fallen in love with the gentle Lanna culture, amazing food and thriving arts scene.
For an upcountry adventure with a bit more space to breathe, head further north to Chiang Rai province. It’s here you’ll find some of Thailand’s best trekking, rafting and jungle adventures. Home to many hilltribe communities and bordered by Myanmar and Laos, it’s an ethnically and culturally diverse region. Explore the temples, try the northern food, visit an elephant safari camp or do nothing at all in a laidback guesthouse on the banks of the Mekong River.
A lesser-known fact about Thailand’s favourite beach spots is that many of them are within easy reach of Bangkok. To get to the charming resorts of Hua Hin, there’s no need to hop on another flight. Regular bus departures service the area, or simply take a private car transfer from the airport. The journey is less than three hours.
The area is popular with members of the Thai royal family and Bangkok high society seeking a reprieve from the heat and rush of the big city. The beaches are pretty, the seafood is fresh and scrumptious, and the resorts are top-notch.
Also not too far from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is Pattaya. Although it has a reputation as a party town and the red-light capital of Thailand, there’s another side to the beachside destination with family-friendly resorts and attractions. Avoid the centre of town unless you’re looking for all-night clubs, and head instead for the quieter Jomtien Beach area.