A sensational holiday destination that’s on travellers’ bucket lists each year, Thailand is enjoying tons of attention with good cause.
From its mysterious mainland steeped in tradition and peppered with bustling cities like Bangkok, to the islands that scatter down across the map in the south, this is a holiday destination you owe it to yourself to visit.
Of course, with so much to see and do, you might feel at a loss where to start. That’s where we come in, having compiled some keen insider tips that’ll not only steer you right among Thailand’s most prized tourism hotspots, but also take you off the beaten path to discover the more remote and secretive corners of the country.
Keep our recommendations in mind as you plan your Thailand escape with us.
Sometimes it’s best to start with what seems obvious, after all Phuket is much-talked-about for a reason. Always keen to impress, this holiday destination has gone from the mainstay of backpackers and gap-year travellers to one of Thailand’s most invigorating places to play.
For those of you looking for a party, look no further than Phuket Town itself. By day, it’s a mishmash of colourful markets, bicycles, motorbikes and tuk tuks, yet once the sun goes down, the outlook changes to one of unstoppable fun.
If you’re thinking it’s all nightclubs, cocktails by the bucketload and boozy misbehaviour by the boatload, think again. In fact, some classy yet accessible places to go for good music, better company and top drinks include jazz bars and rock music hideaways.
You can head to Music Matter in Phuket Town to hear dulcet sax and talented improv piano any night you care to mention, all over smooth whiskey and sweet rum. What’s more, jam sessions every Wednesday see local legends and upcoming artists fuse their musical moxie to sublime effect, and Music Matter also proudly hosts Phuket’s annual International Jazz Festival.
A brief on beaches
While you’re in Phuket, you’ll likely be enticed by the lively hijinks of Patong Beach, Thailand’s famous retreat for wild escapades and parties on the sand. It’s a superb place to spend your evenings, although we did promise you some insider tips, and in that respect we’re recommending Phang Nga Bay.
A boat trip out here, beyond the remit of normal tourist routes, is cheap and easy, and promises some of the most secluded beaches around. The bay is located north of Phuket, making for a lovely day trip that boasts gorgeous sheer limestone cliffs that jut up out of the sea.
Your boat weaves lazily through these inspiring edifices as you snap the scenery and consider where to lay down your towel next.
If real exclusivity appeals to you as far as unspoilt beaches go, take a look at Railay Beach. Its lush golden sand is only disturbed by the hushed murmurs of the sea lapping the shore. Untouched by mainstream tourism, it promises serenity and sunshine in abundance, and you can reach Railay Beach by taking a boat ride from Krabi.
Natural parks aplenty
Talking of Krabi, don’t be shy in exploring that realm of peaceful beauty to its full. While pristine coastlines, colourful boats and lush forests are a given, special mention definitely goes to Thung Teao Forest Natural Park.
A rainforest left to develop without human interference, this is a realm of sublime biodiversity, as you’ll see when you notice the colourful tropical birds and cheeky monkeys among the other animals making a home here.
The star attraction, however, is the body of water known as the Crystal Lagoon or the Emerald Pool. Shimmering green water invites you to take a dip in one of the most secluded places in all of Thailand – it rests at the end of the forest trails that wind for almost three kilometres.
For a natural park in Krabi with even more water to explore, look to Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park. Coastlines, meadows and woodlands form this special space, meaning that you can see coral reefs and meet denizens of the deep just as easily as exploring the forgotten wilderness.
Temples to tempt you
Buddhism is the most practised religion in Thailand, and as such, its cultural impact has inspired some truly magnificent structures across the country. Shimmering golden after dark and mysteriously iridescent in Thailand’s continuous sunshine, you can expect these breathtaking spires and domes to fill your photo album, such is their beauty.
During a foray to the frenzied Thai capital of Bangkok, for instance, you might see the riverside temple known as Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn.
Once home to priceless relics to the Thai people – the Emerald Buddha and the Phra Bang – this awesome structure is today known just as often as Wat Chaeng. It’s called the Temple of Dawn because it’s said that the brave King Taskin, when fleeing his enemies, managed to reach this splendid building just as dawn broke, and took it as a sign.
Of course, temples are dotted across Thailand, and you needn’t brave the big city crowds to explore them. In fact, the peaceful beach community of Khao Lak also happens to be home to the Wat Suwan Khula, also known as the Wat Tam. It’s pretty distinctive, as you’ll understand when you realise that Wat Tam translates as Cave Temple.
Tucked away from the rest of the world in a limestone hideaway, this sacred space inspires with superb craftsmanship, best seen in the immense golden reclining Buddha statue. It’s 15 metres long and decked out with lighting that emphasises the sublime artistry that went into its design.
Thailand is bristling with places to see, and we’re only scratching the surface. If you know a defining place in Thailand you think your fellow holidaymakers would love, give it a shout-out in the comments below.