01 August 2019
Travel Counsellor's very own Natalie went on holiday to Thailand and has recorded her experiences to help with your travel planning.
When you think of Thailand, what are the first destinations that spring to mind? Bangkok? Phuket? Koh Samui?
When you envisage Thailand, it’s likely you picture the limestone karsts and glistening waters from the film The Beach, or elephants trekking through the rainforest, or towering skyscrapers in Bangkok.
When you think of Thai culture, you probably think of historic temples, a fascinating language, friendly greetings and lemongrass-infused food.
You’re not wrong. Undoubtedly Thailand is brimming with beautiful beaches, exquisite food, a welcoming culture and a respectful way of life, but there is so much more - go beyond the beaten track and explore more of the Land of Smiles.
I was lucky enough to travel to some of Thailand’s well-known and lesser-known regions, on a 7 day trip in June. Firstly, I’ll dismiss the myth that the UK Summer is an unfavourable time to visit Asia, with warm, sunny skies with only occasional, short showers in all the destinations I visited - Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Chumphon and Bangkok.
Arriving in Koh Samui airport, we were greeted by the sounds of a traditional ranat ek, playing as everyone calmly collected their luggage from the one carousel at the centre of the small arrival hall. All in all, it took us around 20 minutes from landing to boarding our transfer to our hotel, Santiburi Samui. One of the Leading Hotels of the World, this five-star resort boasts luxury villas with a choice of either contemporary chic or traditional Thai, welcoming couples and families alike. But it is the beach that is the stand-out feature here, with palm tree-laden white sands fringed by shallow, clear waters and dotted with relaxing beach beds. Before dinner, walk down the beach which is lit only by tiki torches and fairy lights woven into the trees.
Koh Samui itself is a delightful island which is relatively easy to get around, so don’t be afraid to venture out of the hotel. Our day of sightseeing consisted of a bike tour beginning in the South of the island and stopping at local coconut farms, undiscovered beaches and the Laem Sor Pagoda where the locals had just finished their morning prayer. In the evening, the Fisherman’s Village was a personal highlight of mine, with a delicate blend of Western and Eastern restaurants and bars, and small market stalls to grab a bargain! Find one of the beachfront bars and enjoy an evening ordering cocktails, snuggled into beanbags along the sand – you may even spot an impromptu fire show performed for locals and tourists alike.
Getting to our next destination was surprisingly easy, we boarded the high-speed catamaran in Koh Samui and a short 20-minute journey took us straight to Thong Sala pier in Koh Phangan. This island is best thought of as split in five ‘zones’:
We began in the Health & Wellness zone with an organic lunch at Seed to Feed of yellow curry chicken, smoked salmon salad, and a fresh fruit smoothie made with coconut milk, mint, lime and cucumbers. The afternoon was just as tough as the morning (!), as I had a traditional Thai massage in one of the small, local spas, which was just what you need after a long-haul flight.
As we headed to Chumphon, again by boat, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I sensed I would be stepping back into Thailand as it was some years ago. I was right – Chumphon was laid-back, quiet, and charmingly different to other areas of Thailand which have been catering to tourists for years. Unsurprisingly, this meant the snorkelling was phenomenal, and for those that love the water, the surrounding islets of Ngam Noi and Ngam Yai offer colourful coral reefs and amazing marine life, begging to be explored. An evening spent in Chumphon’s local walking street, watching life go by, I was thrilled to have seen a part of Thailand that many are yet to experience.
Arriving at Don Muget stuck into the hustle and bustle of city life. Of course, the shopping was fantastic and getting around was easy via the BTS sky train, but my favourite part was boarding the local river taxis and tuk tuks! Wat Pho, home of the impressive Reclining Buddha, is a must-do for any first timer’s trip to Bangkok – head there in the morning when you’ll likely hear the sound of the monk’s morning chanting ritual. Not forgetting the appropriately named Grand Palace, as well as the heavenly Golden Mountain for superb city views, you’ll get a sense of Thailand’s deep religious roots in just one day here. As my time in Thailand came to an end, my final night was spent at the Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar on the 61st floor of Banyan Tree Bangkok, soaking up the iconic skyline, reflecting on a great week, and planning my next visit.
If Natalie's story has inspired you to book your own Thai Adventure, get in touch with your Travel Counsellor today and receive exclusive benefits such as full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and even after your stay.