5 ways to... Experience Thailand
Exotic, tropical, historic, cultured… you could exhaust a dictionary of epithets when describing Thailand
Tuesday 18 February 2014
There are dazzling temples and enchanting animal encounters, plus some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. In spite of ongoing anti-government protests in the capital Bangkok, a trip to the tourist-friendly islands and beaches is likely to be unhindered by political strife.
You don’t have to break the bank for a holiday either: even some of the most luxurious hotels are budget-friendly and if you’re really on a shoestring, you’ll find myriad places to stay that cost the equivalent of just a few pounds a night.
On a budget
Live like a local with a stay in a pole house on Koh Lanta, an idyllic island in Krabi province, south-east of Phuket. These fishermen’s houses sit on stilts over emerald-green waters in Lanta’s Old Town, which is redolent of the old trading cities of the South China Sea hundreds of years ago. i-escape offers two to choose from: coconut and lychee, each with open-plan living rooms, dark wooden walls and large decks with hammocks to laze away the afternoons in. There’s Wi-Fi and a satellite TV to keep up with the modern world and Mo Koh Lanta national park across the street to retreat from it. i-escape (i-escape.com/lanta-pole-houses) offers a week’s self-catering from £213pp.
In affordable luxury
You can spend many thousands of pounds looking for luxury in Thailand, but you certainly don’t have to… Take Khao Lak’s five-star The Sarojin (020 7581 8281; sarojin.com) for example. British couple, Kate and Andrew Kemp, built the resort of their – and many other people’s – dreams a decade ago, on an 11km white-sand beach that fringes the Andaman Sea. Service is impeccable, thanks to more than 300 staff looking after just 56 rooms and there are landscaped gardens and lovely touches, such as specially -designed tubs where the rims are wide enough to balance a champagne glass. Turquoise Holidays (01494 678400; turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights’ B&B from £1,295pp, with transfers and flights from London.
Away from the beaches
Chiang Mai – on the banks of the Ping river between the Burma and Laos borders – is northern Thailand’s most culturally significant city. Once a separate kingdom, it’s now home to more than 300 temples, incredible festivals and museums. Leave the city behind to discover national parks and Doi Inthanon (Thailand’s highest mountain), take part in treks with hill tribes and learn how to drive elephants, then rest your head at the Anantara Chiang Mai. Virgin Holidays and Hip Hotels (0844 573 2460; vhiphotels.co.uk) offers seven nights’ B&B at the riverside hotel from £1,249pp, with transfers and flights.
From the water
You can sample some of the best snorkelling and diving in the world, as well as seeing several different islands with a sailing holiday that casts off from Phuket. G Adventures (0844 272 2040; gadventures.co.uk) offers a six-night trip on a skippered catamaran that takes in the Krabi, Phi Phi and the southern Phuket islands. Accommodation is onboard and most meals are included, but this is a group trip, so you need to bank on jolly shipmates. The trip starts at £949pp, excluding international flights.
As a family
There’s plenty for children to do in Thailand – spotting exotic wildlife, taking part in cookery classes, splashing in gentle, warm waves – and prices don’t have to escalate to tropical propotions, either. Phuket’s Sunwing Resort Kamala Beach is around 35 minutes’ drive from the international airport, to which direct flights from Gatwick were recently launched by Thomson. Week-long packages over Easter cost from £904pp, with B&B in a family studio, transfers and flights departing on 15 April. The resort has seven pools (two with slides), direct beach access, kids’ club and daily activities for children of all ages. There are also rooms equipped for families with babies so you can sit back and relax.
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