Thai down a city or a beach

Many Thai visitors will be returning for the second, third or 10th time because this country has a magical attraction. Part of the reason is that it appeals to all ages.

I first visited when I was in my 20s. Now, decades later, I still love going there.

My ideal Thailand visit consists of time in Bangkok and time at one of the beaches. Others will want to visit Chiang Mai and the northern mountains or the far-flung attractions of Isan in the northeast.

Everywhere there are temples, markets, museums, friendly people and new experiences. What more could you ask for? Bangkok is a sprawling city of more than 10 million people and is the perfect introduction to Thailand,but be prepared for some cultural shock.

Most Australians find the heat, crowds, traffic, and sights and sounds somewhat overwhelming at first. Give it two days and it all starts to make sense.

Traffic can be chaotic at times but the expanding underground and skyrail systems help you move around. Taxis are cheap and tuk-tuks, those three-wheeled kamikaze machines, can be fun for short distances.

When I get near my destination, I like to walk. This is when you see the real Bangkok. Devote some time to see some of the best palaces, temples, museums and cultural shows in the whole country. Take a boat ride on the river, enjoy a Thai restaurant or simply eat on the street from mobile stalls, and enjoy a Thai massage.

Bangkok has become one of the world’s best shopping venues so check out the spectacular upmarket stores and malls as well as the weekend market and one of several daily night markets.

When it comes to accommodation, there is endless choice from 5-star to budget. Where you stay has some influence on what you will see, so consider your priorities. There is no best area or hotel for everyone.

If luxury accommodation, staying by the river and being close to some of the city’s historical and cultural attractions is what you need, consider The Siam (  for your accommodation.

It is set in lush gardens and the suites and villas, the spa and wellness facilities, and the several restaurants all contribute to making this a private urban sanctuary after a long day sightseeing, shopping or touring. Believe me, you will need it!

Koh Samui is my personal favourite among Thailand’s well-developed islands.

During the past 25 years, the island has changed from a backpacker’s paradise to a resort-goers’ dream.

Koh Samui is ringed by beaches – some almost deserted, others quite developed. Most have clean white sand and all have good quality water.

Away from the beaches you can visit the Big Buddha Temple, see the mummified monk with his sunglasses, watch monkeys pick coconuts and play basketball at the Monkey Theatre, and ride elephants in a jungle setting.

Koh Samui has become a popular spa centre and some of the facilities are spectacular. The same can be said of many of the restaurants which have beach or cliff locations. Resorts are everywhere and it’s impossible to pick one which would suit everywhere.

Some are on isolated beaches while others are close to the island’s town centres. The Bo Phut Resort and Spa ( is set in landscaped gardens and is a good compromise. It provides excellent facilities with privacy from the crowds.

You can swim, eat, snorkel in the bay, boat ride, or wander down to the nearby fishing village and see the fishermen bringing in their daily catch.

Millions of visitors enjoy the sun, sand, surf and sex that the island of Phuket offers and plenty of tourists only visit during their Thailand holiday thanks to direct flights into Phuket International Airport.

Where you stay has a big bearing on what type of holiday you will have.

If shopping, bars, massage, discos and shows are your thing, stay in Patong. If you want to chill-out and enjoy some peace and quiet, choose one of the resorts on an isolated beach.

The Crown Plaza Phuket falls somewhere between these two extremes. It is a hideaway on the beach but you can still easily reach Patong and Phuket Town if you have the need. The Phuket FantaSea, and the Phuket Aquarium are close by for those wanting fun activities.

Len Rutledge is the author of Experience Thailand 2017, available as a paperback or ebook at
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