Take that big Thailand trip


By Amy Rosoman

Photography by Lepretre Pierre / Getty Images

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August 2017

Renowned for being ‘the’ backpacker destination, Thailand is the place you have to visit to understand how fascinating it really is. Enchanting temples, elephant sanctuaries, jungle adventures and euphoric islands, it doesn’t get much better. Meet wonderful locals and be charmed, in The Land of Smiles.

Bangkok to Phuket

Best for… big city meets beach breaks

The journey: 429 miles

Bangkok

Immerse yourself in the glow of this exotic city. Start your discoveries of Thailand in the enthralling capital of Bangkok. Crowded floating markets, tours on the Chao Phraya river and glistening temples burst with beauty and mystifying atmosphere, while bustling night markets brim with aromas and character. Explore the wonders of the Grand Palace in the heart of the city and take a stroll along the intriguing Khao San Road – come day or night.

Jump in a tuk-tuk for a fun-filled ride to a Muay Thai boxing match, or kick back streetside on a comfy chair for a Thai foot massage (if you’re not too ticklish). Hit the gigantic MBK shopping mall, tuck into tantalising street food and head to a rooftop bar at night for luminous skyline views. Just outside the city lay the utopian beaches of Hua Hin, Pattaya and the enchanting islands of Ko Khrok, Ko Sak, Ko Lan.

Where to stay: The Shangri-La Bangkok sits perfectly by the Chao Phraya river. Jump in a boat and discover the mystifying city by water. Grab a tuk-tuk into the centre or to the Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market. After a day of exploring, relax in the award-winning CHI Spa.

Snorkel at night and swim with plankton, which light up the waters like a starry night sky.

Phuket

This tropical island is the biggest in Thailand, oozing with cultural gems, blissful beaches and mesmerising monuments. Relish the azure waters and white sand of the shores, with the popular Patong beach on the west and the surfing waves of Kata beach and the sea turtles in the coastal Sirinat National Park to the north. Journey to Phang Nga Bay, to see the sights of the Bond film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Venture to the top of the Nakkerd Hills to see the magnificent Big Buddha, a 45-metre tall marble statue, with panoramic views. Feel enchanted by the views and enormity of this humble sculpture.

Make a move to the Wat Chalong Buddhist temple, journey down to the Promthep Cape in the south, for breathtaking beach sunsets. Take a trip to the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery, enjoy a mojito on arrival and join a tour around the only working distillery in Phuket. Have a big night out along Bangla Road or get tickets for a show at the Phuket Simon Cabaret.

Where to stay: Gaze out to azure waters with a west coast stay at Twinpalms Phuket. On the doorstep is ‘Millionaire’s Row’, Surin Beach – a golden shore with warm waters, favoured by celebrities. Just to the north is the four-mile stretch of white sand at Bang Tao Beach, to the south is the breathtaking Kamala Beach.

  • Food stalls in Bangkok. ©sorayut yookham / EyeEm.

    Street treats

    Satisfy your curiosity and try Thai street food.

    Book a stay in Phuket
  • Buddhas at Wat Arun, Bangkok. ©Leontura.

    A spiritual place

    Lose yourself as you wander around magnificent temples and statues.£515 return

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  • Lounge on the beaches of Koh Samui. ©Luxy Images.

    Island paradise

    Kick back on the Thailand gems of the south, with a stay in tropical utopia.

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Bangkok to Koh Samui

Best for… island paradise

The journey: 295 miles

Koh Samui

Lose yourself on an island haven in the south of Thailand. See the sights, indulge in mouthwatering food delights and take it easy on sensational beaches in Koh Samui. Visit the spectacular Wat Phra Yai, Big Buddha, to the north of the island. Admire its shimmering golden colours and scenic location next to the ocean. To the east, bask on Silver Beach for pure tranquillity, crystal waters and soft sand. Look out for tiny sand crabs and little fish in the shallows. Enjoy the long stretches of powder sand at Chaweng Beach, with plenty of bars, eateries and amazing nightlife. Sit on comfy cushions next to the sea and watch incredible fire shows, which light up the night.

Hike to the sparkling Nam Tok Hin Lat Waterfall to the west. Visit the curious Hin Ta and Hin Yai rock formation towards the south and wander to the Na Mueang Waterfall. Take a trip to the Wai Plai Laem Temple in the north. Wander through the buzz of Fisherman’s Village, with its abundance of food stands, craft stalls and twinkling lights. Grab a classic pad Thai or sweet sticky rice and mango before you leave.  

Where to stay: Soak up the views from the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui. Enjoy palm tree days by the calm of the infinity pool and soak up crimson sunsets. Sit back in a hammock, go paddleboarding or take part in morning yoga. Go ahead and explore the rest of the island, if you can pull yourself away.   

Take it easy in Koh Samui

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Best for… temples and jungles

The journey: 357 miles

Chiang Mai

Modern Thailand meets ancient spirit in this cultural northern hub. Experience an abundance of activities in and around this wonderful city. Book yourself into a Thai cookery class, wander through fresh food and night markets, including the flavourful Grand Plaza Sunday night market. Make your way to the beautiful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple on top of the hill, one of the most important in the country, with unforgettable views.

Spend an afternoon at the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, a red quarry with dazzling water, where you can splash about or try cliff jumping. Head out of the city to try white-water rafting along the Mae Tang river, visit the elephant hospital or go further afield and help at an elephant sanctuary. Immerse yourself in the spirituality of this city and on many nearby adventures. Go trekking through the jungle, up luscious mountains and rice fields or bamboo rafting along the Mae Kok River, then treat yourself to a Chang beer and a massaman curry.

Where to stay: Enjoy a retreat in the heart of Chiang Mai at Shangri-La Chiang Mai. Enjoy jungle views, feel enchanted at the CHI spa, bask in the outdoor pool and sip on cocktails as you watch glorious sunsets disappear behind the rolling mountains.

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  • Monkeys on Monkey Beach, Phi Phi Islands ©Anna Jedynak.

    Meet the monkeys

    Grab a kayak or hop on a boat to Monkey Beach and make friends with the locals.

    Book a stay in Krabi
  • Chinatown ©tropicalpixsingapore.

    Inspiring neighbourhoods

    Gaze at beautiful decorations, smell delicious food and immerse yourself in culture.£515 return

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  • Pile Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh Island ©ImpaKPro.

    Travel by boat

    You must ride by longtail boat at some point on your Thailand adventure, it’s a way of life here.

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Bangkok to Krabi

Best for…surreal landscapes

The journey: 407 miles

Krabi

With its crystal clear waters, wondrous limestone rock formations and island-hopping opportunities around the Andaman Sea, Krabi is a getaway place. Hop on board a colourful long-tail boat and glide through beautifully unique scenery. Make your way to Railay Beach for glorious beach days and admire the views when you reach the top of the Hang Nak mountain hiking trail. Go sea kayaking in nearby caves, or scale the ultimate rock climbing faces. Enjoy the tropical coral reefs and sea life of Thailand on a scuba diving or snorkelling adventure. Choose a boat tour where you can snorkel at night and swim with plankton, which light up the waters like a starry night sky.

Look out for the cheeky monkeys, explore the Phra Nang Cave Beach or head further afield to the Morakat Emerald Pool, the Krabi hot springs and to explore the wilderness of Khao Phanom Bencha National Park. Jump on a bigger boat and journey to the paradise of Koh Phi Phi. Nearby is the famous Maya Bay, where ‘The Beach’ was filmed. Visit the sensational Monkey Beach too, where the local monkeys come out to play.

Where to stay: Witness glowing pastel sunsets that will steal your heart, at the Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort. Take a break at the world-class Mandara Spa, relish the choice of beautiful bars and indulge in Asian and Thai cuisine. 

Book a stay Krabi

  • Hong Kong night markets ©Caroline Pang.

    Explore the extraordinary

    Book a seven-night hotel stay in Bangkok before Hong Kong, from:£537 pp

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Bangkok –Singapore – Hong Kong

Best for…modern city blends with tradition

The journey: 2,498 miles

Singapore

Step into a world with a fusion of cultures, where bright city lights meet spectacular botanical kingdoms. From the captivating Gardens by the Bay, the sensational Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, to the entertainment island of Sentosa, Singapore has it all. Shop until you drop along the miles of retail indulgence of Orchard Road, then explore the hot shops and trendy cafes around Bugis Street market. Let your taste buds explode with the fresh flavours of chilli crab, dim sum and wanton noodles, wherever you roam in the city.

Visit Chinatown and see the colourful Sri Mariamman Temple, make your way to Little India for the treasure troves, including the House of Tan Teng Niah. Take in the tranquility of Marina Bay or watch the light show at night, then take a snap of the iconic Merlion statue. Jump on a bike and kick back on the beach at East Coast Park. Hike up the hill at Fort Canning Park for skyline views, then explore the MacRitchie Reservoir for a serene treetop walk.

Where to stay: Admire the floor-to-ceiling views of the Singapore skyline at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. Make your way up to the glorious rooftop pool and make a splash. Enjoy a drink on the terrace and overlook the city lights at night.

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Hong Kong

Discover the Yin and Yang lifestyle of this curious city. With its many neighbourhoods, dramatic cityscape by hillside and harbour, as well as its green areas of stillness and faith, Hong Kong will fill you with inquisitiveness. Bask by the breezy Victoria Harbour, catch a ferry over to Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island, or jump on the funicular to the Victoria Peak for the best views of the city. Make your way to see the fascinating Tian Tan Buddha, venture to Wisdom Path, marvel at the many temples and enjoy the botanical charm of Victoria Park.

Stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, smell incense from little shrines around the city, shop in the glamourous Times Square in Causeway Bay or head to Temple Street and Mong Kok for the markets. See the luscious side of Hong Kong at the beautiful Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark and its understated beaches, including the breathtaking Tai Long Wan. Or discover the surf at Big Wave Bay.

Where to stay: Indulge in the extravagant Chinese cuisine at the Royal Plaza. With its central location and great access to transport, getting around Hong Kong is made easy. Enjoy the health club, serene pool and lavish rooms.