A holiday in Thailand can mean many things, from sampling tasty street food at a market in Bangkok to a long-tail boat trip around Ao Nang.
It’s one of those rare destinations that can be enjoyed whether you’re exploring cultural wonders on land or enjoying the island life by sea.
But why force yourself to choose, when you could extend your next Thai holiday to include both a trip on land and a coastal cruise? Here is our list of must-sees in Thailand, that you should tick off on your next South East Asian adventure.
See the other side of Phuket
When people think of Phuket, they’re often put off by the thought of a touristy, resort holiday and seedy nightlife at Patong Beach. But, there is so much more to the island than meets the eye – you just have to know where to look.
A walking tour of Old Phuket is unmissable for those who are intrigued by the melting pot of cultures that has shaped Thailand. Historically, rich tin mining moguls brought international architects and builders to design and build their lavish homes, so exploring the restored Sino-Portuguese, Sino-colonial and Chinese-style buildings of Baan Chinpracha, Thalang Road, Soi Rommanee, Yaowarat, Deebuk, and Krabi Roads is a must.
If you’d like to test out your sea legs, cruise around the coast and avoid the crowds packing Patong and Karon beaches. Head for Phang Nga Bay to laze on the stunning beaches and admire the limestone cliffs, or go snorkelling with the colourful, tropical fish.
Explore the National Parks
Thailand is overflowing with incredible flora and fauna. The diversity of the landscapes means you can be trekking through a jungle one day and sipping a cocktail on the beach the next.
On land, it’s hard to go past Khao Sok in Northern Thailand, a national park, which is home to the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world. Here you’ll be able to explore caves, valleys and waterfalls, as well as spot a vast array of wildlife including wild elephants, monkeys and maybe even a tiger.
By sea you don’t want to miss the Similian Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park that’s dripping with pristine white beaches, rainforests and coral reefs – just off the shore. Swimming or snorkelling is a great way to see the tropical fish, or go kayaking around the islands for a watery viewpoint.
Enjoy the local cuisine
Anyone who’s travelled to Thailand will attest to the fact that the food is one of the undisputed highlights of the holiday. Depending on where you are in the country, the cuisine will vary based on historical or neighbouring influences, and availability of produce.
In Bangkok, much of the food is influenced by Chinese cuisine, and the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries dating in 1511 CE. On the Chinese side, expect a lot of noodle-based soups and stir-fries, with a heavy use of coconut milk and meat. On the other hand, the Portuguese were responsible for bringing eggs and sugar to Thailand, so you can thank them for the creamy egg yolk desserts known as foy tong. The Portuguese were also the first people to introduce chilis to Thailand – without them, the spicy cuisine wouldn’t be as we know it.
If you’re heading north to Chiang Mai, you’ll notice Burmese and Northern Laos influences, that tend to make for less spicy, coconutty meals than you might normally associate with Thailand. You’ll taste dishes such as gaang hang-lair, a gingery, garlicky, pork curry or kow soy, a wheat and egg noodle dish with a curry broth.
And if you’re down on the southern coast or out at sea, you‘ll be spoilt for choice with delicious fresh seafood dishes (and no shortage of chilli). Try the range of sour fish soups, sataw shrimp, or simply treat yourself to a whole, fresh crayfish.
Kick back and relax
While South East Asia may seem like it’s all hustle and bustle, there are plenty of opportunities to simply relax, unwind and take in the beauty of the destination.
Chiang Mai is known for its yoga culture and beautiful mountain scenery, so on a free morning you can stretch out your muscles before enjoying a quiet breakfast in one of the local cafes.
If flopping on the beach is more your scene, don’t miss a trip to Khao Lak. Here you will find Memories Beach, Bang Niang Beach and White Sand Beach, slow-paced beachside towns perfect for a relaxing day with a book.
Or, kick back on the deck of your small cruise ship, only rousing yourself to apply more sunscreen, grab a cocktail from the bar or perhaps even have a swim off the back of the ship in a secluded bay. Bliss!
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