Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles and there’s an intense feeling of optimism almost everywhere you go, the locals’ hospitable and friendly.
Thailand has something for every type of holiday. Drawing us back time and time again to stay in rustic splendour or designer luxury. Soft white sandy beaches with clear turquoise waters perfect for diving; colourful historic monuments intermingled with bustling markets; lush green landscapes prime for trekking, rafting and riding on elephants.
A frenzy of sights and sounds invigorates the senses as you arrive in Bangkok, a vibrant metropolis sprawling around a majestic meander in the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok is Southeast Asia’s main hub, around which the entire region revolves; it is a big, working city where you will see real Asian life.
Sights abound, with the soaring spires and bright-tiled roofs of the Grand Palace, the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, a million bright blooms at the flower market or the quiet timber elegance of Jim Thompson’s House amongst the highlights, but there’s something of interest around every corner: quiet temples where saffron-robed monks sweep leaves from the paths, shrines where devotees light candles and incense, and ancient stilted houses teetering over quiet residential canals.
In the steamy night markets, bartering for bargains soon becomes an acquired art. To relax you may wish to indulge yourself with dinner in one of the city’s exclusive rooftop restaurants before going on to savour the flamboyant nightlife.
Chiang Mai, Thailand’s ‘Rose of the North’, is a world away from the bright lights of Bangkok and ensures guests a more rounded view of Thailand. Once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, the streets are dotted with crumbling stupas, jewel-encrusted temples and intricately designed dark wooden houses – the shops full of silks and pottery. This is the territory of colourful hill tribes in traditional dress, where the adventurous can ride on an elephant through the forest or undertake some more energetic trekking or cycling.
Another of our favourite spots within the Northern Province is Chiang Rai. With its glorious temples – one white, one black – and the huge domes of Ayutthaya’s crumbling monasteries, you’ll feel yourself looking on in awe as you gaze upon these magnificent vestiges of history.
Chiang Rai is the main gateway town for the area known as The Golden Triangle; once famous for its opium production, it is surrounded by tiny villages with breath-taking, panoramic views. This is where the Ruak and Mekong Rivers converge, and being close to the borders with Laos and Burma, you can visit their frontier towns or begin a more in-depth exploration of Indochina by heading down the Mekong River into Laos.
Over the years Thailand has grown in stature and refinement and you can find resorts and hotels to match the best in the world. Thailand’s islands are undeniably some of the most beautiful in the world and should be at the top of any travel bucket list. Yes, one or two are infamous for raucous full-moon parties (still fun to try for an evening escapade for some!), but there still remains a multitude of pristine coves that lie hidden away from the crowds and are perfect for ultimate relaxation.
Travelling Thailand shows lush virgin rainforests, dramatic limestone crags and broad sweeping sands which collectively make up the landscape of Thailand’s Andaman coast. Peaceful and calm, Khao Lak, close to the diverse paradise of the Similan Islands, is on a wonderful stretch of beach close to the jungle clad karsts of Khao Sok National Park. Rise early to go bamboo rafting in Khao Lak and glide down unspoilt rivers finding surprises around every bend
Koh Yao Noi, with its sheer karst limestone rocks and Koh Lanta Yai, with its fine beaches can best be enjoyed from a sea kayak.
The clear waters off Phuket are within easy reach of some of the most colourful reefs, a haven for both divers and snorkellers alike. The towering cliff rock islands found in the bays of Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, made famous in the James Bond classic, The Man with the Golden Gun, are an iconic backdrop that’s a must see on any tour of Thailand.
On the other (East) coast, the unrivalled beauty of Koh Samui, with its white sands, swaying palms, dense tropical foliage, rocky outcrops, hidden coves and world renowned beaches really have to be seen to be believed. With its beaches lapped by the warm blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui was one of the first islands to be discovered by Western visitors. Koh Samui lends itself to exploration and you will find hidden coves and traditional Thai fishing villages as well as a full range of hotels and resorts to suit all budgets.
An eclectic array of spas; activity centres; family friendly resorts; world-class restaurants; beach bars, and a colourful mix of residents and tourists help you start to understand the unique charm of Koh Samui.
While the miles of pristine sand are undoubtedly one of its biggest draws, Thailand’s fascinating culture, endless shopping opportunities, mind-blowing cuisine and a population who love you for loving their wonderful kingdom have made Thailand a once visited, never forgotten destination.