Bustling culture, slurpy street food, and barefoot beach luxury await in our complete Thailand travel guide
From breathing in the clean air in Sri Lanka’s lush tea plantations to contributing to eco initiatives in the Maldives, we cannot wait to explore again. But where to focus on first? Thailand is always a fabulous option with its luxury hotels, restaurants, spas, cultural hot-spots, and epic beaches. Plan your next holiday and lift your mood, soothe your soul, and put an extra spring in your step.
Best For Peace & Nature: Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province in Thailand, is the perfect place to reset after the stressy start to the year. Small, relaxed and friendly, pitch up by the river with a book, trek to ancient settlements, and visit the colourful hill-tribes that still inhabit the lush green hills.
Stay: Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in Chiang Rai is a nature lover’s dream, and when it reopens on July 1, it will be with a swish new cleanliness initiative. Super-unique, it’s not just a place to flop out; rather, it offers guests the chance to interact with Asian elephants, learn about Mahout training, and gen up on elephant behaviour and conservation. Opt for a stay in one of their Jungle Bubbles – transparent domes with a bedroom, living space and bespoke furnishings – offering front-row views of the pachyderms.
Best For History & Culture: Kanchanaburi
Peppered with natural and historical attractions, Kanchanaburi offers a cultural history lesson. World War II memories are prominent here with the Death Railway, Bridge over the River Kwae (Kwai) and the Allied War Cemetery. On a lighter note, there’s also Khmer temple ruins, mysterious caves, bamboo rafting and shopping to discover. We recommend a lazy stroll along the scenic riverside by day, and the vibrant bars that only come alive after-dark by night.
Stay: Living up to its name, The Float House River Kwai is located right on the River Kwai and – the best bit – guests can jump from their villa into the water. Easily accessed by boat, it has a really secluded and special feel, with cosy rooms, inviting private decks, homely food and all the main attractions nearby.
Best For An Energy Lift: Bangkok
If it’s the throbbing heartbeat of a capital city that you’re craving, it doesn’t get much better than Bangkok. Alongside the megamalls, luxurious hotels and world-class restaurants, it still maintains tons of history with its majestic Grand Palace and reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. Also, you haven’t really experienced Thai food until you’ve slurped noodles on a Bangkok street corner, so put this on your schedule before you hit cocktail o’clock.
Stay: Located on the Chao Phraya River, The Peninsula Bangkok lies away from the hustle and bustle and provides a glam sanctuary. The facilities are impressive; the three-tiered pool, gym and spa sit nicely alongside activities such as yoga, cookery classes and Muay Thai lessons. The hotel’s River Bar is one of the city’s top people-watching spots, so pull up a pew and reminisce about the time when you couldn’t see other human life forms for months.
Best For Arts & Calm: Chiang Mai
Before tourism cottoned on, blissfully laid-back Chiang Mai was the centre of Thailand’s artsy scene. The city has since flourished outside of the moated walls of the Old City, but the handicrafts, culture and ancient history remain. Leave your heels at home and discover the cultural complex filled with boutiques and temples, and galleries and museums, all wrapped up in a distinctly Thai atmosphere. For the ultimate spiritual session, head to Wat Dok Suthep for an enlightening chat with the monks.
Stay: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai feels like a separate world. From the plunge pools and sundecks to the patios and terraces, it’s hard to tell where nature ends and the facilities begin. Rooms are lose-yourself huge with swing sofas, cosy pavilions and large baths. Outside, the surrounding gardens feature lakes, lily ponds and hidden pools and restaurants so you can spend hours simply wandering freely.
Best For An Island Escape: Koh Kood
Koh Kood still has the rugged jungles, sweeping beaches and fishing-village charm that drew people to Thailand’s islands in the first place. It also proves the theory that the harder a place is to reach, the more special it is. Indeed, your Koh Kood experience begins at Bangkok Airport where you’ll be met and escorted by private plane, followed by a five-minute speedboat ride which will deliver you directly to paradise.
Stay: Koh Kood is home only to snazzy Soneva Kiri, a property of dreams where shoes and brain cells are both unnecessary. Accommodation comes not just with beach access, but some of the suites have slides leading straight from a top-floor bedroom into the pool below. Relax on the sand, try a Watsu spa treatment, enjoy yoga classes or charter a private yacht. To continue social distancing in style, dine in a wicker dining pod elevated in the air while overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Why didn’t we consider locking down here in February?