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Where to stay in Thailand?

Posted by Nick Hughes on 15/04/2016
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Thailand – The Land of Smiles – is one of the most popular and magical tourist destinations in the world. We take a look at some of the popular, and not so well-known, tourism destinations it has to offer so you can pick the perfect place for your dream holiday.

 

A land rich in culture, surrounded by crystal clear waters, hundreds of beautiful tropical islands and a boundless selection of palm fringed powder-soft sand beaches; understandably, holiday makers continue to rank Thailand amongst their favourite long-haul destinations in their search for paradise.

Since the early years of tourism in Thailand, it has become far more multi-facetted and now offers a vast spectrum of accommodation, activities and infrastructure to suit all budgets, tastes and abilities, which has opened up the tourism market to far more than the original Western travellers looking to ‘find themselves’ in a $1 per night wooden hut on ‘The Beach’. While the back-to-basics, inexpensive but immersive experience is still there to find, Thailand now has some of the most luxurious hotels, apartments and villas in the world and can easily cater for the most demanding of guests.

Sumptuous luxury properties, first-class restaurants and entertainment, easy transport links and a warm welcome from the charming locals awaits those looking for a high-end luxury break. Once you are sold on the destination, the only question is where to stay.

We have put together a quick ‘at a glance’ summary of some of the better (and no-so-well) known destinations in Thailand.

 

Phuket

Known for: Crystal blue sea, amazing resorts luxury apartments and villas, great tourist infrastructure.

Where: Andaman Sea

Best for: Luxury living, Phuket has every modern comfort without losing its cultural identity.

The largest island and most expensive area in Thailand, Phuket is internationally recognised as one of Asia’s premier tropical island destinations and is home to quite a number of Thailand’s luxury resorts.

Few places in the world offer such an array of pristine sandy bays and clear blue water. Phuket delivers this in spades (no pun intended), making it the perfect location for relaxation, sailing across the waves or underwater exploration. The island has natural beauty, vibrant towns, spectacular scenery and sweeping coastlines fringed with some of the most exclusive residences and holiday accommodation in Asia and has fantastic restaurants and night-life to match. The wild bars and dancing girls are still there in the mass-tourism hotspot of Patong but once you get away from its madness, you will discover a more serene and understated high-end holiday destination that is perfectly tailored for the more discerning traveller.

Boasting well-established and reputable luxury resorts in areas such as Naithon’s ‘Golden Mile’ and Kamala’s ‘Millionaires Row’. Phuket’s finer resorts are now frequented by the jet-set who submit themselves to invigorating Thai massages at glamorous spa resorts, dining at international-standard restaurants serving delicious, aromatic, local cuisine and sipping well crafted ice-cold cocktails at fashion-forward nightspots or aboard their charter yachts.

Insider tip:

One of the best-kept secrets in Phuket is Banana beach. Located about 5km from Naithon’s ‘Golden Mile’, where you will find one of the most exclusive resorts on the island, Trisara, is an isolated beach that is well worth the effort to discover. If you can, find the ‘shack’ – it only sells fish but it’s really, really good fish!

Where to stay:

Naithon – For tranquility in one of the prettiest spots on the island, Nai Thon beach is located in one of the most beautiful bays on Phuket. Sheltered and often calm making it kid-friendly too. It has bags of natural local charm and accommodation tends to be at the higher end of the market. Stay at: self catering apartments and penthouses at The Pearl of Naithon (luxury). This luxury beach resort with its huge lagoon-style pool offers exceptional value for groups or families looking for exclusivity and spacious high quality accommodation.

Kata – A busier town with some of the more mass tourism buzz, Kata has some good family-friendly restaurants just a short walk from the beach. Stay at: The Shore at Katathani (luxury)

Karon – A nice beach with plenty of restaurants and nightlife Stay at: Hilton Phuket Arcadia and Moevenpick (moderate)

Bang Tao – A stunning 6km beach featuring the expansive Laguna resort complex of 7 five-star hotels towards the northern-end and the ultra-exclusive Amanpuri and neighbouring Chedi hotels at the southern end near Surin. A mass of long-tail fishing boats at the southern end of the bay make this area unsuitable for swimming but further around the bay the long stretch of pristine sand, fringed with mid-range and luxury hotels, are a good spot for those looking for easy access to hotel facilities from the beach. This makes it suitable for families with young children, whether for a day trip or a base for your holiday.

 

Koh Samui

Known for: Long beaches, top restaurants, world-class resorts.

Where: Gulf of Thailand

Best for: Family luxury,honeymooners

Koh Samui is a stunning island located in the Gulf of Thailand that has established itself as one of the world’s best holiday destinations.

Thailand’s third largest island (after Phuket and Koh Chang) was formerly known for its party-scene catering for the back-packer crowd. However, like Phuket, Samui has morphed into a sophisticated tropical luxury getaway while still offering more modest accommodation for those on a tighter budget.

This paradise island provides stunning sea vistas and rocky shores while the island’s interior contains picturesque waterfalls and rainforest for those looking for and alternative to the beach. Alternatively, trips to nearby out-lying islands offer amazing experiences for all ages, whether you like to explore beneath the waves, play on the surface or relax on the beach or boat.

The island may have busy, yet great, beaches such as Chaweng (with a variety of restaurants and nightlife) but with a little effort due to the well-established infrastructure, it is still possible to find that idyllic beach paradise to enjoy some quiet time away from civilisation.

Insider tip:

Choeng Mon, just ten minutes away from Chaweng, is one of the most child-friendly beaches on the Island.

For a local tipple, head to Koh Samui Rum, formerly known as Magic Alambic Rum Distillery, and try some of the island’s own rum mixed into heady cocktails (make sure you are not driving home afterwards!)

The Jungle Club bar and restaurant – only accessible by 4×4

Visit the Sunday night market in Lamai

Where to stay:

For the ultimate luxury stay in one of the most exclusive villa developments in Thailand, we simply love the award-winning  Samujana. If your budget will not quite extend that far and you are happy to compromise on exclusivity, we like the Anantara resort for its sophisticated feel, luxury spa and great facilities.

 

 

Koh Phangan

Known for: Pristine beaches – Gulf of Thailand

Where: Gulf of Thailand

Best for: Full moon party

The home of the full-moon party, where thousands descend on Haad Rin beach to party the night away, sipping from ‘bucket’ cocktails and revelling till dawn. These events are not for the feint-hearted or has-beens! What lies beneath this all night party mecca, however, is a more isolated and pretty holiday destination with pretty vistas and a spiritual undertone from both the Buddhist temples and yoga retreats.

Insider tip:

HaadRin beach for the full moon party really is a must for those looking for a wild experience.

Thong Nai Pan is a beautiful, semicircular bay backed by steep, green hills.

Where to stay:

Sunset Hill beach resort offers spectacular views far from the madding crowd…without missing the party

 

Koh Tao:

Known for: “Turtle Island”

Where: Gulf of Thailand

Best for: Scuba diving

This small island in the Samui archipelago is the best in the area for snorkeling and diving. The area has rich, diverse and prolific marine wildlife and is the site of vital breeding grounds for Hawksbill and Green turtles. Unsurprisingly it is one of the top scuba diving destinations in Asia. In fact, Koh Tao is the second most popular place in the world behind Cairns, Australia, in issuing PADI certifications.

Insider tip:

Casas del Sol are five contemporary self-catering villas on a hillside

Nangyuan Island Dive Resort

 

Krabi

Known for: rugged limestone cliffs

Where: Andaman Sea, west coast mainland

Best for: Back packing, package tour

A province on southern Thailand’s Andaman coast, the area offers spectacular vistas of limestone cliffs that seem to erupt vertically out of the sea.

Until recently, many of the secluded beaches were only accessible by boats. Now, with its own airport and new hotels Krabi is more accessible, resulting in an evolving tourist scene, but in relation to other areas Krabi is still relatively underdeveloped and has large areas of lush un-spoilt jungle and idyllic satellite islands just offshore, such as the famous James Bond Island, home to Scaramanger in the film Man with the Golden Gun.

In the know:

Accessible only by boat the gorgeous beaches at Railay have become popular with rock-climbers.

There are a number of high end exclusive resorts now in the area, such as the amazing Rayavadee, located on the edge of Krabi’s National Marine Park at the heart of the stunning Phranang Peninsula. However Krabi town and the surrounding area is mostly characterised by its local restaurants and more ‘back to basics’ accommodation for those looking for a more simplistic and immersive Thai experience.

 

Phi Phi Islands

Known for: its nickname – the ‘jewels of the Andaman Sea’

Where: Andaman Sea

Best for: ‘The beach’, solo or small groups

There are six islands in Mu Koh Phi Phi-Nopparathara National Park: Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley, Bamboo Island, Yung Island, Bida Nok, and Bida Nai. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited; all others are undeveloped and protected by their National Park status and are frequently visited as day trips from Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Don. Maya Bay on Phi Phi Ley was featured in the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, chosen as it exemplifies the stunning beauty of the perfect island beach, although now many boats visit each day so visit before 10am or after 4pm to experience the true magic and beauty of this spectacular location.

In the know:

Zeavola Resort – well away from the busy town -These ‘villas’are absolutely lovely, made of teakwood in traditional Thai style nestled amongst the trees with sea views.

Maya Bay – the beach paradise made famous by Leonardo di Caprio in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Beach’.

 

Chiang Mai

Known for: cultural centre, temples, hill-tribes and jungle

Where: Northern Thailand

Best for: Culture Vultures, pachyderm lovers and explorers

Thailand’s second city, this revered walled city, was once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. The “Rose of the North” as it is now known, is a safe, laid-back city with a profusion of natural beauty, history and ancient Buddhist, as well as modern, culture.

There’s a vibrancy generated from people visiting Burmese-style temples and ornately carved teak houses; vendors in traditional hill-tribe regalia selling souvenirs beside fast-food outlets; and a raft of cool boutiques and new design galleries to tempt the cognoscenti.

It offers impressive scenery, and is a perfectlocation for trekking, rafting, elephant riding and discovering the hill tribes. Don’t worry though those that love to be pampered can still enjoy spa breaks and Thai cooking schools.

Chiang Mai’s northern location and moderate elevation at the base of the mountains of DoiSuthep and DoiPui is a constant and scenic reminder of the city’s magical beginnings; it also results in the city having a more temperate climate than that of much of Central, Eastern and Southern Thailand.

In the know:

‘Never forget’ getting up close and personal at the Elephant Nature Park where the largest land animal is rescued and cared for partly by you, the guest!

 

Koh Chang

Known for: name means Elephant Island; jungle territory!

Where: Gulf of Thailand, eastern Seaboard

Best for: off the beaten track island withgreat sandy beaches

The nick-name is derived from its elephant-shaped headland. There are Elephants on the island but they are not indigenous. Koh Chang is a large island with steep, lush jungle-covered peaks, with Khao Salak Phet being the highest peak at 743 metres. The island is known for several waterfalls, flourishing coral reefs and accessible wilderness with a thriving party scene, picturesque it retains its remote and rugged spirit despite its current status as a package-tour resort. White Sand Beach.

In the know:

Bang Bao-beach resort

Recommended Hotels: Amari Emerald Cove (luxury) Panviman Resort (luxury) Centara Tropicana Resort (moderate), KC Grande Resort & Spa (moderate), Garden Resort (moderate)

 

Koh Samet

Known for: not much – this hidden gem is still a well-kept secret!!

Where: Gulf of Thailand, eastern Seaboard

Best for: Beautiful beaches, getaway

The country’s most beautiful beaches, Koh Samet is a small island, around 200 km Southeast of Bangkok. Technically part of Khao Laem Ya – Koh Samet National Park, Koh Samet is a popular weekend escape from Bangkok. There are lots of beach resorts, bars, and restaurants yet Koh Samet has no fresh water source; water must be brought in from the mainland or gathered from the rain.

If you’re in Thailand during September and October and need some beach time Koh Samet is a great choice as it doesn’t get the heavy rain like the rest of the country.

Beach massage, inflatable banana rides, jet skiing, mellow party scene, snorkelling.

In the know:

During the wet season Koh Samet has some of the country’s driest weather!

Nimmanoradee Resort. Cute weatherboard huts, perched on rocky outcrops amongst the trees, all with sea views and a secluded sandy beach.

 

 

Mainland resorts

 

Bangkok:

Known for: vibrant, chic hotels, breath-taking sky bars & floating markets

Where: Southern Mainland

Best for: an overwhelming Asian culture sensation

Vibrant, chic hotels and breath-taking sky bars, floating markets – Sultry and engaging, Thailand’s capital is a warm cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. The ‘Venice of the East’ is threaded with canals, thronging with traffic and brimming with temples, palaces, markets and malls. This is a capital city full of excitement, diversity and juxtaposition but the by-word here is sanook – a Thai word that translates to ‘easy-going fun’

In the know:

According to celebrity DJ Goldie, who’s made his home in Phuket, the best nightclub in Thailand is Glow in Bangkok. He says ‘Anyone passing through, from Skrillex to Fabio to myself, will play there. It’s quite small and dark, with low ceilings, a great sound system and great people. It’s a cool place to be.’

One of Thailand’s most sumptuous hotels, The Siam is a perfect base whilst exploring the city.

 

Hua Hin

Known for: its reputation as the Royal resort

Where: Gulf of Thailand, western mainland

Best for: cosmopolitan cocktail of city and sea

Known as the Royal resort town ever since the Royal Family started heading here in the 1920’s. Just a couple of hours drive south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand’s north-west coast it provides a sharp contrast to the capitals manic activity with a laid back vibe, manicured golf courses, world-class spas, swanky hotels and a handful of mouth-watering seafood restaurants providing a peaceful paradise of seaside chic.

Hua Hin beach at dawn (low tide only), Buddhist monks walk along the sand to their temple and locals come to give alms

In the know:

Chiva Som – the world’s number one destination spa, one of the best luxury resorts in Thailand

Currently, it is home to the highest concentration of golf courses in all of Thailand

 

Chanthaburi:

Known for: gem dealing

Where: Eastern seaboard, mainland near Cambodia border

Best for: getting away from it all

Is a renowned for attracting international traders dealing in sapphires, rubies, emeralds and jade. Another gem with a little less sparkle is the fruit Durian another notable commodity of the so-called ‘City of the Moon’. The surrounding hills are rich with leafy forests and scenic waterfalls whilst quiet fishing villages & peaceful beaches are within easy reach.

In the know:

Ao Khung Kraben, Chanthaburi – this is a deep, lagoon-like scoop of a bay that’s occasionally visited by dugongs and is edged by a dense mangrove forest.

 

Pattaya

Where: Eastern seaboard, mainland
Best for: package tours and activity

Pattaya may not be tranquil but it positively makes up for it with a wide variety of activities, places to stay and a lively nightlife.

This hugely popular Thailand resort is on the Gulf approximately 150km southeast of Bangkok.

Although Pattaya’s well-known for its effervescent nightlife, in recent years an effort to improve the quality of the beaches has resulted in the resort becoming a more family-friendly destination. Nowadays, people arrive from all corners of the world to windsurf, water ski, swim, sun-bathe, snorkel, sail, or day-trip to nearby islands. They also partake in more adrenaline based pursuits such as bungee jumping, cycling, sky-diving, go-Karting and Paintballing. Golfers are also well catered for with a wide selection of golf courses in the area. Due to the eclectic mix of visitors there is also a wide selection of western, Chinese and Arabic food readily available.

There’s vast array of accommodation to suit those on a tight budget or even those with a little more to spend.

In the know:

The next bay south, longer, cleaner Jomtien Beach, has sparser boutique resorts, delectable seafood and fewer development mistakes

 

Kui Buri:

– Shhh, peace and quiet

Where: Gulf of Thailand Western mainland

Best for: Seeing where the locals go for a true escape

Kui Buri is situated on the Gulf of Thailand just 3 hours’ drive south of Bangkok, and half an hour south of the beach resort of Hua Hin, the area has a number of traditional local fishing villages and is seldom discovered by non-Thais. With tranquil beaches, long stretches of sand and excellent sea food this is peace and quiet without isolation.

In the know:

Stay at the chic beach resort of X2 and venture out to the Kui Buri National Park,

Visit the “monkey temple”, Wat Thammikaram, which is situated just north of the town.
 

So, why go to Thailand? Why go anywhere else!