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For beaches – the undiscovered ones.
What was that? Did you just laugh out loud? An undiscovered beach in Thailand - ha! Must be a joke, right? Well no (and a little bit yes). Sure, the once pristine stretches of Thailand sand are now frequented by more tourists than they are waves, but fear not, it’s still possible to find a little golden nugget.
Koh Lanta is a gloriously un-trampled region in Thailand’s Krabi Province. You’ll find a framework of lush jungle, cool waters and the fabulous Long Beach with its blanket of golden sand and scuttling crabs. Long by name and long by nature, the entire stretch is wonderfully sparse of sun-worshippers; an isolation that makes everything feel easy.
For beaches that will remind you of Koh Samui 30-years previously, Koh Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi archipelago comprising Pattaya Beach, Sunrise Beach and Sunset Beach. As idyllic as the names suggest, each beach boasts exactly what you'd expect from Thailand paradise – impossibly white sand, emerald water and isolation.
HOT tip: Don't be put off by any negative press you hear around Phuket, it’s still a gem. Talk to your HOT consultant about key times to travel (most likely low season) for quieter, uncrowded beaches and Thailand's quintessential relaxed vibe; it still exists in pretty Phuket.
You can certainly find a safe Pad Thai in Thailand (funny that), but for the most part, the entire culinary experience is an intimidating one. What’s with the purple coloured rice and fried things that have antennae? The best approach is to embrace everything and regret nothing.
A few notes before we get stuck in - Thai spicy is next level hot. What the Thais consider mild, we would define as a tongue burner so tread carefully. If in doubt ask for no spice and add your chili afterwards. Which brings us nicely to condiments; typically you’ll be offered jars of sugar, fish sauce, a chili/garlic/vinegar sauce and dried chili flakes, try them all and find a favourite.
Due to its vast array of food options, from upmarket restaurants to street stalls where you’ll eat like a king for less than $5, Bangkok is a foodie’s dream. Some of the best Thai street food can be found at the market on Sukhumvit Soi 38. Quick, tasty and cheap, the vendors make their dishes from fresh, right in front of your eyes. To get there, take the sky train to Thong Lo Station; the market’s next door and you’ll find it open daily from 6pm.
HOT tip: Meal styles aren’t really distinguishable in Thailand (IE you’ll find noodles at dawn, noon and night) but Kai Jeow is the closest thing you'll find to a western breakfast; a Thai style omelette with onions, herbs and soy sauce.
All together now – Koh Tao. As one of the most famed diving-spots on the planet, it’s no secret Koh Tao is a haven of underwater splendour. It’s also one of the most popular places to learn to dive; with both PADI and SSI certificates available, at prices that won’t make your wallet wince. Just prepare to put in a little groundwork first, over the course of three days you’ll partake in classroom work, skill-based work in the pool, quizzes, open water dives and…wait for it… an exam!! But hey, following that, you can dive anywhere in the world (with a companion) up to depths of 18 metres.
HOT tip: For unforgettable diving experiences, try Chumphon Pinnacle, Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay, Tanote Bay, Shark Bay and Nangyuan Island (to name but a few/phew!) You’ll discover anything from huge schools of trevally, batfish and barracuda to whale sharks, if you’re incredibly lucky. Either way, you’ll surface wide-eyed and mesmerised; the marine life is so abundant down there it practically needs its own traffic system. Enjoy!
It’s virtually impossible for kids to get bored in Thailand, there’s so much to do. If you have older sprogs, consider experiencing a taste of traditional Thai life by heading north. Chiang Mai and the surrounding mountain villages provide an insight into the rustic, rural way of life. Kids can learn local handicrafts, cooking on an open stove and if you venture into the paddies, how to plant and harvest rice.
For families with younger children, this is exactly where Phuket comes into play, with hotels fiercely competitive to provide the best, most family-friendly amenities. The resorts are all well established with everything set up to facilitate kids; fabulous kids clubs, spacious grounds, many of which boast 2-3 swimming pools and a full programme of activities. Phuket is one of the easiest of the Thai Islands to access, with daily domestic flights from Bangkok. Once at your chosen resort, you’ll find complete tranquillity, even with little’uns in tow. By day, children can swim safely, explore, chase the beach crabs and try all sorts of exotic Thai food, as well as palette-appeasing ice-cream of course. By night, the beaches are covered in family-friendly dining establishments, with alfresco tables adorned in candles and torches. Fire dancers will keep the entire clan entertained and you may even get the chance to light and release your own paper lanterns.
HOT tip: We recommend pre-booking a taxi transfer from Phuket Airport to your accommodation, or arranging a transfers with your resort in advance. Your HOT consultant can help you organise this beforehand.
For independent travellers
If ever there was a destination for solo travellers, it’s Thailand. A popular haunt for adventure-seekers of all ages and backgrounds, you won’t be drinking or dining alone here for long.
If climbing on-board an old rickety longboat and embarking on a full day of island hopping is just your cup of Thai tea, head to Phi Phi Ley. The local entrepreneurs offer all sorts of one-day adventures, most of which circumnavigate Bamboo Island, Pi Ley Bay, Loh Samah and Maya Bay, among other uber-exotic delights. From small rocky outcrops of islands to reefs full of tropical fish, you’ll spend the day jumping off boats, snorkelling off-shore and poking sea cucumbers.
HOT tip: When it comes to health and safety, Thailand can be a little, shall we say, nonchalant. You might be encouraged to jump off things, scramble here, swim a few hundred metres and climb a rocky cliff or two. Take care out there.
Culture? How does 30,000 Buddhist temples sound? Or 127 national parks, the world's highest stupa and the world’s ninth tallest statue? Can’t say you’re not spoilt for choice in Thailand. The Great Buddha of Thailand (that’s the ninth tallest statue FYI) is located at the Wat Muang Monastery in Ang Thong province, while the Phra Pathom Chedi – and the world’s tallest stupa - stands grandly at 127 metres. For a local cultural experience, seek out one of the many Thai music and dance performances that play a significant social and spiritual role in every community.
HOT tip: The ever-popular ‘monk chat’ service allows visitors to natter away to a Thai monk for an hour or so. They’ll happily spend some time with guests, talking about their beliefs and habitual way of life. It’s a fantastic insight into Thailand culture.
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