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Destinations in Thailand
Sultry and engaging, Thailand's capital is a warm whirlwind of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. This Venice of the East is criss-crossed with canals, thronging with traffic and brimming with temples, palaces, markets and malls.
There’s no place that better embodies Thailand’s cultural heritage and modern aspirations than Chiang Mai. This venerable walled city was once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, filled with splendid stupas, saffron-robed monks and dusty tracks.
Chiang Rai is as real as it gets in Thailand. This sleepy city might not have the boho-chic of sibling Chiang Mai, but it is an authentic slice of life and the launch pad for a magical adventure.
A couple of hours south of bustling Bangkok, the laid-back resort town of Hua Hin has been a Thai weekender’s favourite ever since the royal family started heading here back in the 1920s.
Beachy Khanom is untouched by the tourism boom and boasts tranquil surroundings where the locals are more than welcoming, the bars and restaurants lack crowds and there’s no need to reserve a lounger by the pool at first light.
Thailand's fourth largest island Koh Kood flies under the radar, despite its come-hither coconut palm-fringed beaches, ancient forests, rushing waterfalls and dazzling cobalt sea.
Once known as the ultimate backpacker haunt thanks to its hedonistic party scene and guest appearance in The Beach, Gulf of Thailand isle Koh Phangan has grown up.
Cellophane-clear waters, pastel coral beds, beaches overhung with palm fronds… With raw ingredients like these, it’s no surprise that Koh Samui is considered one of the world’s best holiday destinations.
With world-renowned hotels, high-kicking nightlife, mountains of adventure, and countless beaches and islands a long-tail boat ride away, Krabi is deservedly one of Thailand’s rising stars.
Imagine the perfect beach and Phang Nga can probably beat it. This postcard-spectacular south-western Thai province hugs the Andaman Sea, with crystal-clear waters and jaw-dropping bays giving way to sheer limestone cliffs and dense tropical jungle.
Dropped like a giant pearl into the azure Andaman Sea, Phuket is a textbook tropical paradise of perfect beaches and forest-fringed cliffs.
You’ll find to-die-for green curries and wok-fresh pad thais at every street corner, but no visit to Thailand is complete without sampling its flavourful regional cuisine and lesser-known culinary gems. Fiery papaya salads, larb laced with holy basil, salted fish straight off a charcoal grill and all manners of delicious morsels wrapped in banana leaves are there for the tasting; one notch above a street stall, Chote Chitr may well serve the best meek rob (crispy noodles) and wing bean salad in Bangkok. David Thompson’s celebrated Nahm tops every epicurean’s to-do list with treats such as jungle curry with freshwater fish. Don’t miss the rainbow of salty-sweet Thai desserts: pumpkin-steamed custards, honey mangos with sticky rice and piping hot banana roti are worth the loosening of belts.
Buddhist temples as ancient as the banyan trees; a tapestry of landscapes that takes in beaches, rice paddies, mountains, rainforests and cloud-poking urban jungles; a flavour-pushing cuisine that ticks off salty, spicy, sour, sweet; that famous Thai smile… How many reasons do you need?
Criss-crossed with canals, a mighty river and a handy Skytrain, Bangkok is a city of mega-malls, historic royal temples and gold-leafed pagodas. It’s also surprisingly easy going and affordable: indulge in sumptuous day spas, exquisite dining and on-the-hoof street snacks. To the north, Chiang Mai (Burmese-style temples, boho-chic boutiques and lots of elephants) and Chiang Rai (sleepy backstreets, mist-shrouded hills and, yes, elephant-packed too) are gateways to densely packed jungle, glittering waterways and local hill communities. To the south, Thailand’s party beaches, sybaritic islands and crystal-clear waters beckon: hop on a long-tail boat to under-the-radar Koh Kood, carefree Koh Samui or spectacular Phang Nga bay.
Just a hop from the Night Bazaar, sleekly stylish The Chedi Chiang Mai hotel is one for shopping fiends and modern design fans – understated elegance gives way to jaw-dropping vistas of the Mae Ping river at every turn.
Six Senses Yao Noi’s private-pool villas are perched on a cliffside, with spectacular views over the emerald waters of Phang Nga Bay. Need some pampering? Just summon your personal butler or take up residence at the divine spa.
Wake to the trumpeting of elephants and magical views of the Mekong River at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in the jungle hills of Chiang Rai. Be prepared for impromptu visits: big-eared gentle giants are everywhere, and staff are happy to share their knowledge if you’re keen to learn more.
Seek out boutique beauty The Siam hotel in Bangkok and you’ll uncover a swelligant, dandy affair boasting prime river views, lavish suites and unexpected intimacy. Wow-worthy extras include the city's only pool villas, a retro screening room and a muay Thai boxing ring.
Come-hither coconut palm-fringed beaches, jagged limestone cliffs, pastel coral beds… With raw ingredients like these, Thailand is a textbook tropical playground where the intrepid can hike to Chiang Mai’s hill tribe communities, dive around the Similan Islands or clamber up Krabi’s rocks. Chiang Rai’s excellent Hall of Opium traces the history of the region’s infamous drug trade. In a more reflective mood? Festivals punctuate the year: time a visit to coincide with the beautiful festival of Loi Krathong, when candle-carrying vessels symbolising wishes illuminate local rivers and canals. A river cruise along the Chao Praya takes in ancient temples, the ancient capital of Ayutthaya and towering skyscrapers: the perfect way to admire Bangkok’s most iconic landmarks.