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5 Heritage and History Thailand’s rich and diverse culture creates a land of enchantment.

14 Kingdom of Luxury Enjoy the good life in welcoming, authentic Thailand.

7 Something to Celebrate Thailand boasts a year-round calendar of legendary festivals.

18 Treasure Hunt Thailand abounds with shopping options, from market streets and malls to artisan boutiques.

8 What’s Cooking? Sample the delectable flavors of Thailand, from local favorites to fine dining to hands-on classes.

20 Paradise for Lovers Thailand blends adventure and romance for the perfect honeymoon destination.

10 The Road Less Traveled Take the time to experience Thailand as a local.

22 Land, Sea and Air Thailand brims with exciting pursuits for adventure and sports enthusiasts.

12 Travel to Tranquility Succumb to natural bliss in the spas of Thailand.


24 Off the Beaten Path: Trat Trat boasts a bounty of unique experiences and adventures.



26 Off the Beaten Path: Chumphon The coastal province delights with stunning beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (U.S. Offices)

28 Off the Beaten Path: Ranong Explore the rustic scenic beauty of Ranong. 30 Off the Beaten Path: Sukhothai Sukhothai preserves the grandeur of its glorious past. 32 Off the Beaten Path: Kanchanaburi Explore the natural wonders and historic sites of Kanchanaburi. 34 Making Connections A friendly culture and first-rate facilities attract business events to Thailand.


Los Angeles Office 611 N. Larchmont Blvd., First Floor Los Angeles, CA 90004 tel 323 461 9814 / fax 323 461 9834 email: New York Office 61 Broadway, Suite 2810 New York, NY 10006 tel 212 432 0433 / fax 212 269 2588 email: Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT Newsroom Agent Specialist Program Social Media Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook @thailandinsider / #thailandinsider | AMAZING THAILAND | 3


Discover the Million Shades of Thailand WELCOME TO THIS YEAR’S EDITION of the Thailand Travel Planner as we invite you to savor and explore the vast diversity of experiential travel in Thailand. Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand offers every visitor a million reasons to smile and a million reasons to check Thailand off your bucket list of places to explore. Whether you are planning your first trip to Thailand or visiting the country again, we encourage you to see and explore the destination from a local perspective. We have segmented our latest edition of the travel planner into themes, from our deeply rooted culture and vibrant festivals to offthe-beaten-path destinations such as Chumphon and Trat. We offer up different forms of travel, from luxury travel to ecotourism, and you’ll learn some of the best places to shop in Thailand. We have filled pages with deliciously delectable Thai dishes and street food that will leave you eager for a bite of your own. And for those who are interested in destination weddings or honeymoons, Thailand provides stunning settings for any of life’s momentous events. Anyone seeking to delve deeper into Thailand’s palatable side may consider donning a chef’s apron, not only to learn how to make some classic Thai dishes but also to become acquainted with the food’s history, ingredients and health benefits. Perhaps Pad Thai is a favorite dish at your local Thai eatery back home, but did you realize there are more than 10 variations of the dish found throughout Thailand? The possibilities are virtually endless. For about $7 an hour, a Traditional Thai Massage sounds amazing, but you can reach new heights along the wellness plateau by trying other unique options such as Tao Fai (Fire Foot Massage) or Tok Sen (Nerve Hammering Massage). Early risers can bask in a sun salutation during a bout of sunrise yoga along the southern white-sand beaches, or try your bartering skills with street vendors for the best deal at a colorfully vibrant night market. In a time when information is easily accessible and all within the palm of your hand, it is a social norm to share moments and memories instantaneously. Whether you are zipping around on a tuk tuk, running your fingers over lengths of Thai silk or walking alongside an elephant in the jungle, share your story with others. We look forward to seeing you in Thailand soon, and we invite you to open yourself to the new shades of Thailand. TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND, LOS ANGELES OFFICE



Heritage and History Thailand’s rich and diverse culture creates a land of enchantment. BY RICHARD NEWTON

THAILAND SIMULTANEOUSLY uses two calendars. Throughout your stay you will flit back and forth between them without realizing it. The international Gregorian calendar (the one we’re used to) governs daily life while the Buddhist lunar calendar, 543 years ahead, determines the dates of religious holidays and festivals. On this parallel timeline you’re propelled forward in time to 2560. Buddhism looms large in Thailand, defining the national culture. Around 95 percent of the country’s 69 million people are Buddhist, with 4 percent Muslim (primarily in the south) and 1 percent other religious affiliations or none. Ethnically, 78 percent of the population are Thai, 14 percent Chinese, 4 percent Malay and 4 percent other groups. Thailand is dotted with nearly 34,000 Buddhist temples; in major cities they are practically on every street. Most are open to non-Buddhists, though whenever you visit it is important to observe the appropriate etiquette. Dress modestly, covering your legs and shoulders (if you wear shorts, consider carrying a sarong with you at all times, which you can put on to conceal your legs when required). Remove your shoes at the temple entrance. Take off hats and sunglasses when

inside the ubosot or ordination hall. Turn off your mobile phone. Most importantly, behave respectfully at all times, especially in the vicinity of a statue of Buddha. Although, according to the calendar, you leap five centuries into the future when you enter a Thai Buddhist temple, in truth you are immersing yourself in an ancient and timeless way of life. You will witness scenes unchanged in millennia and be reminded Thailand is one of the cradles of human civilization. Here, 10,000 years ago, nomadic hunter-gatherers began to grow rice. With agriculture came settlements, and with the settlements came the emergence of culture: pottery and bronze artifacts, increasingly ambitious architecture, music and dance. Fifty miles north of downtown Bangkok lie the UNESCO-listed ruins of the great city of Ayutthaya. Founded in 1350 as the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, it was constructed at the confluence of three rivers and boasted so many golden temples its lustrous glow could be seen from miles away. Burmese invaders destroyed Ayutthaya in the 18th century, after which | AMAZING THAILAND | 5

a new Grand Palace was built within a bend of the Chao Phaya River. The palace now stands at the heart of modern Bangkok and is one of the must-see visitor attractions. Here you will gain a vivid sense of the importance of the twin pillars of modern Thailand: Buddhism and the monarchy. The royal family is universally revered, and when visiting royal sites you are required to dress respectfully. (Men should wear full length trousers; women should wear trousers or over-the-knee skirts.) Bangkok — or Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, to use the abbreviated version of the 22-word official Thai name; it translates, in short, as “City of Angels” — is located in the center of the country, the heartland of the Thai people. The historic counterweight to their dominance was the Lanna Kingdom, ruled from the northern city of Chiang Mai. Thanks to a local ordinance forbidding tall buildings from being built in the vicinity of a Buddhist temple and the fact Chiang Mai has more than 300 such temples, the skyline remains modest, and much of the city’s traditional character has been preserved. The architecture, dress and cuisine are regionally distinct, providing noticeable contrast with the South and Northeastern Thailand. Chiang Mai is the staging post for the remarkable Golden Triangle, a lush, montane wilderness on the borders with Myanmar and Laos and home to at least 10 hill tribes. The precise number is disputed, both among the tribes themselves and among anthropologists. Each tribe has its own language, customs and heritage. The Lahu tribes are subdivided according to their preferred color of dress: Black Lahu, Red Lahu, Yellow Lahu and White Lahu. Akha tribe members wear elaborate headdresses and celebrate their culture with the joyous “swing festival” each August, in which women in traditional dress take turns on giant swings, often located on a cliff edge. Issan's, or Northeastern Thailand, culture is heavily influenced by Lao, with a distinct cuisine and traditional dress. Festivals in the area include the Candle Festival and the Silk Festival, celebrating the area's position as a center of silk production. Thailand’s long history has given rise to a rich and diverse culture. The country has its own classical music (using a seven-note scale), its own forms of therapy and massage, its own sports (particularly Muay Thai, or Thai boxing) and its own cuisines. All of this unites in a single nation encompassing modern cities and rural villages unchanged in centuries, as well as forest highlands, rainforests and idyllic tropical islands. Wherever you are, whomever you meet, Thailand invariably lives up to its nickname: The Land of Smiles. 6 | AMAZING THAILAND |


Something to Celebrate Thailand boasts a year-round calendar of legendary festivals.


KNOWN FOR ITS PRISTINE TROPICAL beaches, ancient ruins, ornate temples and incredible architecture, Thailand offers something to see and do at every turn. The vibrant culture and picturesque landscape provide a perfect backdrop to the country’s many world-renowned festivals. One festival sure to top many travelers’ bucket lists is Chiang Mai’s annual light festival celebrating Yi Peng and Loy Krathong. These spellbinding events occur each year on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, when participants join in vibrant costumed parades playing music and dancing. Take part in the pageantry and lantern-making contests by day and enjoy incredible firework displays. Guests indulge in heaping banquets of local fare while watching monks perform traditional chants during ceremonial performances. Yi Peng is only celebrated in the North, while Loy Krathong is celebrated countrywide. Festival goers gather to release khom loy, or lit lanterns, into the night sky. The sacred tradition of the floating lights symbolizes new beginnings, longevity and releasing personal demons. Participants also release krathong, small floating boats made from banana stalks, into bodies of water. Each vessel is decorated with incense, flowers, candles and personal offerings before floating into the river — mimicking the illuminated night sky. The Buddhist tradition encourages spiritual cleansing while honoring Buddha and the Hindu water goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha. Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent. The festival celebrates the people's devotion to Buddha and their candlecarving skills. During the Candle Procession, ornately carved beeswax candles are paraded through the city streets. The Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, an ancient local celebration, honors the Thai belief in supernatural powers that help the production of rice crops. Beautiful rockets are paraded to a launch site and fired one by one as locals dress in colorful, traditonal garb. Enjoy the magnificent colors and intricate botanical displays of the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, held each year in February and showcasing floral floats parading through the streets, accompanied by music, dancing and cultural displays. Visitors can check out various street markets and flower designs decorating the city. Thailand’s vibrant culture and stunning landscape allow for an amazing lineup of events and celebrations. With several occurring every month, visitors will find an exciting festival to attend nearly any time of year. | AMAZING THAILAND | 7


What’s Cooking? Sample the delectable flavors of Thailand, from local favorites to fine dining to hands-on classes. BY KIMBERLY KROL

IN THAILAND, FOOD is an experience. From the unique flavor bursts and regional specialties to the interactive cooking schools and the renowned cuisine of bustling Bangkok, there is a taste to suit every palate. Begin your culinary education in Thailand with the basics. The use of herbs, spices and fresh ingredients — including coconut milk, seafood and fruit, which factor into many of the popular dishes — characterizes Thai cuisine. Other essentials featured in the bounty of food options include basil, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, garlic and red chilies. On my first trip to Thailand, I noticed each meal consisted of several dishes, all complementing the ubiquitous rice and served concurrently — a sampling of many tastes, a little of this, a dash of that to delight each diner’s individual preferences. One can expect an informal gathering like this when dining anywhere in Thailand — it’s about the experience, the coming together, the community of the cuisine. All around Thailand, travelers find different foods and flavors. Rice is a common thread, served in each region and with all meals. Central Thailand — including Bangkok and Hua Hin — is the heartland, and the cuisine represents the confluence of a variety of influences. Try the well-known phat phak bung fai daeng, stir-fried water morning glory, or Bangkok’s popular street foods, including satay. In the North — Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mekong — milder dishes tend toward salty, tangy and sweet, with Burmese influences. One favorite is kaeng hang le, a curry dish. In Isan, or Northeastern Thailand, with its Laos influence, food is highly seasoned and sticky rice is popular. Som tam, or green papaya salad, comes from this region. The spiciest cuisine can be found in Southern Thailand, in tourist hot spots like 8 | AMAZING THAILAND |

Koh Samui, Phuket and Kho Pha Ngan. Given the geographical location, seafood also features prominently. Sample kaeng matsaman, a curry dish. No matter where you travel in Thailand, you must try a few dishes. Naturally, pad Thai, one of the most well-known Thai dishes worldwide, makes the list. As do tom yum, a hot and sour soup typically served with shrimp; khao soi, a noodle dish with coconut milk and a curry base; and phat kaphrao, stirfried meat with basil and chili. Enjoy green curry, with coconut milk, green curry paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil; or khao phat, Thai fried rice. Don’t neglect your sweet tooth. I indulged mine nightly during my visit with mango sticky rice. Other specialties include luk chup, a marzipan confection; tub tim krob, water chestnuts in syrup; and pla krim khai tao, noodles in coconut milk syrup. The culinary experience in Thailand reaches beyond sitting down to a meal. Food tourism in the country is bursting, with hands-on experiences including strawberry picking tours in Chiang Mai, tea cultivation in Chiang Rai, organic farm visits in various regions, such as Ratchaburi, and coffee cultivation with Doi Tung Coffee. Hua Hin, Pak Chong and Nakhon Ratchasima offer wine and cheese excursions. I picked mangoes and planted rice in the paddy at Bangkok Airways’ organic farm in Sukhothai before sitting down to a meal including some of the products I helped gather. Experiential culinary activities like these are a must during any visit. Travelers can visit the Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang, a project started by His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej to support food production instead of opium planting. The Station, located in Chiang Mai and founded in 1969, developed agriculture for tribesmen in the area, stopped opium planting and today grows a range of products including plums, strawberries, raspberries, persimmons, lettuces and flowers. Other Royal Agricultural Stations and Projects can be found throughout the country. Get hands-on in the kitchen and learn to prepare favorite Thai dishes. Cooking schools are available throughout the country. At Mai Samui on Koh Samui, I donned a chef ’s hat and apron to whip up tom yum; stir-fried chicken with cashew; roasted duck curry; and kluay buad chee, banana in coconut cream milk. Other schools on the island include Pai Cookery and Koh at Four Seasons Samui. On Phuket, visit Blue Elephant, Ginja Cook and Phum Thai, while Chiang Mai offers Your Sabai and Dot Cook Thai, among many others. Bangkok is the epicenter. Cooking schools abound — from Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok and Issaya Cooking Studio to May Kaidee Vegetarian, Amita and many others — as do world-famous restaurants, fine-dining experiences, local favorites and delicious street food outlets. With a plethora of options, here are just a few Bangkok culinary establishments for your next visit: World-renowned options include Nahm and Bo.Ian. For fine dining, consider Osha or Paste, and to contrast that experience, find mouthwatering street food at Jae Fai, Lao-Lao and Thip Samai. For a local meal, visit Taling Pling, Mother May I or Prai Raya. Thailand will surely whet your appetite for many types of adventures, chief among them the one your taste buds are sure to experience. | AMAZING THAILAND | 9


The Road Less Traveled Take the time to experience Thailand as a local. BY SUSAN FINCH

IDENTIFYING WHY LOCALS and travelers alike love Thailand comes with varied answers, from its amazing street food to island paradises. Lush jungles with curious monkeys, centuries-old ancient relics and Buddhist temples dot a countryside known for its friendly people and relatively inexpensive and desirable location to international travelers. But the real beauty of Thailand extends beyond seeing its biggest attractions and lies in the hearts of its locals. Tourists can get a glimpse of it themselves by embracing immersion travel and living like a local in Thailand. While tourists flock to tuk-tuks to get around Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Thailand’s other bustling cities, locals stick to less expensive options. Venturing onto a brightly colored songthaew bus with local citizens gives travelers insights 10 | AMAZING THAILAND |

into their daily lives as they head to work or run errands. Another economical transportation option is to rent a motorcycle or scooter to get around town, especially if you’re transporting groceries and other supplies. Travelers looking for tour options that combine scooters and motorcycles can try the Chiang Rai Big Bike Co. In Bangkok, the BTS (SkyTrain) and MRT (subway) are great options for getting around the city for locals and tourists alike. An airport link connects the airport to the city. Visitors can also explore Thailand quickly by taxi or car, but a cheaper and more immersive experience is to book a day train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Travelers see more of Thailand’s countryside and can purchase souvenirs, meals and snacks from vendors when getting off and on every stop. Shopping at large, Western-style supermarkets in Thailand offers foods and snacks tourists are familiar with from back home, but this isn’t how Thai people shop. Shopping like a Westerner also quickly depletes a slow traveler’s budget. Instead, Thais shop at local markets to pick up ingredients and produce right from the street. Eating street food also exposes visitors to the flavors locals love most, like pla pao (grilled fish), som tam (papaya salad) and sai krok Isaan (fermented sausage from Issan or the Northeastern region of Thailand). Combine Thailand’s tourism with its rich history. Bangkok was once called the Venice of Asia in honor of its main waterways and source of floating commerce. Local vendors sold wares from boats, though today it is more of a modernized, floating marketplace. And although floating markets are popular

throughout Thailand with tourists, they’re also frequented by locals and make for a spirited way to pass a Saturday. It is possible to learn to cook traditional Thai dishes after purchasing ingredients, including fresh Thai produce like papaya and seasonings from an assortment of local and floating markets. But residents also recommend a local canal-side home accessible by speedboat transfer along the bustling Chao Phraya River. Instructor Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon of Amita Thai Cooking Class gives a tour of her family home and teaches how to make dishes like sweet mango sticky rice and savory satay. Another option is the popular Cooking with Poo & Friends, founded by a native of Khlong Toey. Poo, whose real name is Khun Saiyuud Diwong, is a long-time resident of Bangkok and turned her cooking courses into a success story. Her classes book up quickly and are available to customers six days a week. Locals teach the classes, and students learn to make three dishes and shop for ingredients from Khlong Toey Market. Just because Thailand’s world-renowned attractions are popular with tourists doesn’t mean they’re not worth a visit from slow travelers and locals alike. The Grand Palace and the elephants at Khao Yai National Park are must-sees for any traveler. Photography and history buffs should stroll through Sukhothai Old City to see the relics from this UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient capital of Thailand. And in Chiang Mai,


the mountain Doi Suthep houses religious carvings and worship rituals where travelers and locals gather to watch and pay respect. For more off-the-beaten-track attractions, the Wat Samphran Temple features an oversized dragon scaling the walls of an ancient 17-story temple. And in Samut Prakan, the Erawan Museum takes visitors inside a building topped with the body of a three-headed elephant. Tourists venture inside to see Thai pottery and artifacts on display meant to preserve Thai culture and art. Thailand’s thriving cities like Bangkok offer plenty of excitement, clubs and shopping, with endless hours of nightlife opportunities. To get away from the bustle, residents travel from Thailand’s biggest cities and head to one of its 503 islands. Go where the Thai people visit, like Ao Yon in Phuket for a sleepy village with quiet beachside access to a small cove. Over in Phang Nga Town outside of Phuket, walk into the limestone cave of Wat Tham Suwan Khuha to see a reclining Buddha where monkeys roam around outside the cave. Travelers looking to explore nature beyond Thailand’s beaches can explore another limestone cave located inside Than Bok Khorani National Park in Krabi. It’s surrounded by a mangrove forest and holds more than 100 ancient paintings unraveling prehistoric stories on the cave’s wall. But perhaps the best way to truly experience Thailand like a local is to walk through the parks, streets and shops and say, “Sawatdee-krap” or “Sawatdee-kah” with a smile or nod. | AMAZING THAILAND | 11


Travel to Tranquility Succumb to natural bliss in the spas of Thailand. BY DEBRA BOKUR IN THAILAND EXOTIC scents hover in the warm air. The sky seems bluer, the flowers more dazzling, and the whole world seems slowed to a more pleasant, manageable pace. Long before wellness travel began to make travel headlines, those who call this beautiful country home already embraced the concept, weaving its principles into their daily lives and sharing them with characteristic Thai warmth and grace with visitors who arrive in search of balance.


At Six Senses Samui on the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, the environment is an integral component to wellness experiences. On the island’s northeastern tip overlooking Samrong Bay, the property emerges from the rocky, hilled shoreline like a great ship, the lines of its roofs and decks creating the illusion it rests upon the surface of the sea. Numerous environmental initiatives are in place, all designed to protect Thailand’s ecosystems while promoting social responsibility. In the spa, a host of treatments administered by highly trained therapists have been designed to unlock energy using ancient and modern techniques, as in the Harmonic Senses Therapy. A synthesis of acupressure, Taoist philosophy, qi gong elements and sound healing, the therapy includes a sound bath that promotes a profound sense of well-being. Reiki therapy is part of the Zen Na Thai Ritual, which also uses massage to stimulate lymphatic flow throughout the body. Terraced hillsides and resplendent gardens comprise the setting for the Spa of Social Harmony at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Treatments are divided into themed therapy collections that include Server, Farmer, Craftsman, Nobleman, Royalty and Monk. Consider the Rhythmic Earth Massage, part of the Farmer theme. Utilizing acupressure, tapping, cupping and kneading motions, the treatment includes aromatherapy with the scents of ginger and vetiver, believed to possess grounding benefits. The Jasmine & Pearl Renewal and Amethyst Wrap, in the Monk category, invokes balance and overall harmony with a body scrub composed of pearl and jasmine flowers, and ends with a relaxing wrap with amethysts and crystals to draw out any lingering negativity. Visits to the spa can include a sojourn in a private pavilion where you can drift into meditation while sur-

rounded by the abundant nature of the Mae Rim Valley. In central Thailand in the bustling city of Bangkok, the Banyan Tree Spa Bangkok is a heavenly oasis that’s won multiple awards for its offerings. Access the spa via a path through a bamboo passageway called the Bamboo Aisle, leading to 16 spa suites where therapies are administered, each derived from historic treatments created for the Royal Thai Palaces. Choices include the spa’s signature Tropical Rainmist Experience or the Thai Ginger Healer for Him that weaves yoga massage with therapeutic stretching for improved circulation and flexibility. Prolong your personal escapes with a yoga class in the spa’s Meditation Sphere. The four elements of earth, wind, fire and water set the tone for the spa at Paradee Resort on the secluded island of Koh Samet. Thai acupressure and Myanmar massage techniques combine for maximum relaxation in the Myanmar Massage, while herbal-infused pouches address muscle aches in the Thai Herbal Compress. Other therapies including the Aromatic Thai Massage and Coconut Delight use local natural ingredients including salt, sand, water and botanical elements such as evening primrose to help spa guests experientially absorb this corner of the world. The town of Hua Hin, about 115 miles from Bangkok, is the Kingdom of Thailand’s oldest beach resort and the address of the royal family’s summer palace, chosen in part for its cool breezes and broad views of the Gulf of Thailand. Hua Hin is also home to one of this country’s most celebrated luxury wellness destinations, Chiva-Som. In the Thai language, Chiva-Som translates to “haven of life,” and this peaceful resort has become recognized throughout the world for its holistic wellness programs and fabulous spa cuisine. A wide, arched footbridge leads from the lobby over a pond glittering with jewel-colored koi fish. Beyond, a shaded path leads past a yoga pavilion and individual suites, the seclusion factor heightened by the traditional sloping roofs of the buildings. Arrival consultations with the spa’s medical team are standard, allowing guests to customize a menu of treatments and activities to best serve their individual needs. Chiva-Som’s philosophy for holistic health is a trinity, embracing first a sound foundation, leading guests on to personal discovery, and then helping them to achieve transformation. Indulge in a flotation session within a domed, private bathing temple, where you can float languidly in salt-drenched water and lose all track of time and space, or a Spa Haven Body Cocoon with indigenous ingredients such as lemongrass, organic rainforest honey and hibiscus flowers, augmented by the sound of singing bowls. In Thailand it’s easy to succumb to the rhythms of the natural world and to find balance within a multitude of enriching and enlightening sensory experiences. | AMAZING THAILAND | 13


Kingdom of Luxury Enjoy the good life in welcoming, authentic Thailand. BY ILONA KAUREMSZKY

WITH THE AWAKENING of a new day, there’s an unmistakable calm inside this century-old Thai villa illuminated in Jim Thompson silks, original art and only the finest amenities. But there’s more. Guests staying in Chiang Mai at the Villa Mahabhirom (which translates as “Villa of Great Pleasure”) need not stray far to enjoy fine dining, relaxation and temple visits. The 14 meticulously restored Thai houses located in the ancient Amphoe Suthep district provide guests bespoke service while the closest temple, a mere 1,600 feet away, is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. Welcome to the newest intimate and ultimately private getaway in Old Chiang Mai. Small is the new luxury, and Thailand possesses it in spades. The growing luxury travel market has a penchant for bucket list-worthy unique places that accentuate intimate, authentic experiences in the lap of private surrounds. The compact size of this Southeast Asian destination is a big bonus in serving high-end travel needs. One of Thailand’s success stories is in providing luxury travel at competitive 14 | AMAZING THAILAND |

prices. Many areas within Thailand — such as the island of Phuket, revered as the “Pearl of the Andaman” — also offer luxury at affordable prices based on seasonality. Along with envious tropical climes and breathtaking natural splendor, Thailand has its fair share of pampering escapes. The Land of Smiles takes great cultural pride in welcoming all visitors with open arms to the good life. Choose from plush bungalows on stunning beaches hugging the Thai Gulf to posh mountain retreats in the north or romantic riverside legends by the River of Kings (the Chao Phraya) in Bangkok. Here’s a snapshot of luxe Thailand. JUST A ONE-HOUR FLIGHT from Bangkok, majestic Chiang Mai, the hub of extraordinary temples, beckons travelers to trek on foot or by elephant to meet local hill tribes. Known as the Rose of the North, Thailand’s cultural capital and second-most populous city after Bangkok balances tradition and modernity. Replete in gentler surrounds dotted in emerald mountains, rushing rivers and vast rice fields, royalty from bygone eras and artists today have found solace and inspiration in this Garden of Eden. Here find Old World elegance, as the city and its environs boast some of Thailand’s most desirable retreats. Think foothills and hundreds of sacred temples, many of which date back to the ancient Kingdom of Lanna, located near sumptuous boutique holiday properties. Amid a jungle patrolled by elephants, guests staying at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle lay their heads down to ultimate experiences. The hotel is in Chiang Rai, at the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, 45

minutes north of Chiang Rai city center and about a three-hour drive from Chiang Mai. It’s no surprise, elephants are central to the camp’s appeal, where bungalow-style accommodations are furnished with unique and valuable Thai art. Located in the Mae Rim Valley, luxury reigns at this exquisite sanctuary in the midst of mountains and lush jungles. Guests enjoy yoga classes, riverboat excursions and special spa treatments. While luxury guests may be familiar with the bespoke service of the legendary 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, a historic property once owned by the son of Anna from the The King and I fame, the refurbished colonial building offers a home away from home. But the newest Villa Mahabhirom is the latest heritage stunner that has garnered worldwide attention since its soft debut last October. WELCOME TO PARADISE. The Kingdom is uniquely blessed with countless amazing islands while its extensive coastlines on the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea are studded with dazzling stretches of sand and buzzing beach towns. Along more than 1,500 miles of coastline, many luxury beach resorts hail as the ultimate dream-come-true getaway. One of the shining stars is Koh Samui. The grand dame of Thailand tourism, Koh Samui has delighted guests longer than any other Thai island. A perennial crowd pleaser, its beauty was first discovered in the 1960s by the hippie traveling set and backpackers. Now some of Thailand’s most decadent resorts reside here. Koh Samui luxuriates in its location in the Gulf of Thailand and special-

izes in catering to upscale pleasure seekers. The infinity pools of the Conrad Koh Samui and the W Retreat Koh Samui are popular, but so are the iconic W signs for Instagram selfies. Guests at the Six Senses Samui, meanwhile, imbibe at its exquisite infinity pool. This open-air perch overlooking the Gulf of Thailand boasts the perfect spot to watch time go by until the glorious sunset. WITH ITS POSH ARRAY of the finest accommodations, it’s no wonder the glamorous and glitzy guest has no trouble finding a stay-over in the City of Angels, the moniker of Thailand’s capital. Choose from a stellar list of luxury accommodations such as the beguiling Siam Kempinski, known to have one of Thailand’s largest Thai art collections in a hotel (around 1,500 paintings, sculptures and collages by local artists); the elegant Okura Prestige, revered for its incredible cantilevered pool; and the exceptional St. Regis Bangkok, the epitome of refined luxury. Offering understated luxury and unrivaled service combined with a stunning view of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, the timeless elegance of The St. Regis downtown property seamlessly meshes with the cosmopolitan energy of Bangkok. The hallmarks of the St. Regis experience are evident in the daily luxe rituals from the afternoon tea and Champagne sabering to the 24-hour butler service and the signature Siam Mary, a Bangkok twist on the vodka-infused Bloody Mary. Be sure to book suites overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. The 228-room property located along Bangkok’s tony commercial corridor, accessible by SkyTrain, lies in the heart of the city’s finest shopping malls, only minutes away. | AMAZING THAILAND | 15

THE CULINARY SCENE in the Kingdom has reached new heights. Thailand boasts a panoply of dining choices that includes the finest restaurants in Asia. Diners choose from an assortment of epicurean offerings from unforgettable Thai flavors to the finest global cuisines at the cluster of Michelin-starred restaurants. Experience the current fad of Sichuan, Japanese and Peruvian delicacies at a bounty of locations. In Bangkok head to Ginza Sushi Ichi, known for its daily deliveries from Tokyo’s iconic Tsukiji Fish Market, with chefs trained in customary Edo-style sushi techniques. At the landmark Anantara Chiang Mai, the dining scene is renowned for its spicy Chinese Szechuan and Indian food as well as the only Peruvian menu in the north. Food connoisseurs come to enjoy Thai cuisine, and there is no shortage of fine-dining establishments representing the best. Discerning foodies seek out some of the darlings in the Thai culinary scene such as acclaimed Chef Gaggan Anand in Bangkok, who won notoriety for his restaurant Gaggan, recognized as Asia’s No. 1 restaurant for the third consecutive year. Moreover, private beach dinners provide a romantic experience in plush surrounds where diners eat by candlelight serenaded by the sweet sounds of the surf in a secluded haven featuring butler service and an exclusively designed menu by the executive chef. TODAY’S LUXURY SEEKER looks for those unparalleled activities, most of which remain exclusive to the host destination. In Thailand there’s no shortage of unique diversions for those priceless experiences to showcase the beauty and culture of Thailand. Be it a sunset Champagne cruise in Phuket, a private yacht for an unforgettable sail around Thailand’s emerald islands or a hot air balloon ride as the sun rises in the hills of northern Chiang Mai, the bucket list-worthy adventures are out of this world. In this enchanted Land of Smiles, luxury seekers who venture here will be happy they did. 16 | AMAZING THAILAND | | AMAZING THAILAND | 17


Treasure Hunt Thailand abounds with shopping options, from market streets and malls to artisan boutiques. BY ELYSE GLICKMAN

BANGKOK’S CHATUCHAK WEEKEND MARKET, Chiang Mai’s Wualai Walking Street (open Saturdays and renowned for silver and lacquerware) and the Lat Yao Phuket Sunday Walking Street are the stuff of legend for well-traveled shoppers. The U.S. dollar goes far on Thailand’s walking streets, enabling young travelers to stock up on casual clothing, cosmetics and colorful décor items. However, every region of Thailand also features markets, malls, galleries and boutiques that cater to those wanting keepsakes that transcend T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and key chains. There is no disputing Bangkok’s an Asian fashion epicenter, with designers and trends finding their way around the world. The most notable breakout star is Thakoon Panichgul, a favorite with Michelle Obama, Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Years before Thakoon made his mark, Siam Center was a high-end shopping trailblazer when it opened its doors in the late 1970s. It continues its popularity, with its eclectic mix of homegrown labels on its Fashion Visionary floor. Timeless designs rendered in unexpected bright colors and exotic skins distinguish Tango Thailand’s shoes and handbags. Women’s clothing offerings run the gamut from the ultra-feminine frocks of Milin and Kloset to the crisp lines of Shaka and The Wonder Room. P.MITH, Painkiller and Smileyhound by Greyhound remain essential stops for men wanting to spice up their workday and leisure wardrobes. At Asiatique The Riverfront, several one-of-a-kind shops are worth hunting down amid the hundreds of handicraft shops. Winter White sells some of the chicest comfort shoes anywhere, crafted with buttery-soft leather and seasonless neutral shades. Link Shop, the flagship retailer for Linkgraphix Watches, gives Swatch a run for its money with its prolific collection of affordable and design-driven timepieces for men, women and children devised by rising stars from Thailand’s art scene. Magnifique et Moi brings a touch of Paris chic to Bangkok, while Qualy stocks a delightful array of durable yet whimsical home wares in colors that would do Crayola proud. River City Bangkok, adjacent to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, is custom-made for connoisseurs searching for investment-caliber antiques and objets d’art. Practically every gallery and shop is independently owned and painstakingly curated, ensuring what a discerning collector takes home will be


unlike any other souvenir. Hua Hin, about four hours south of Bangkok by car, emerged as a fashionable destination for Thai royalty and VIPs in the 1920s and features its own bustling night market. Cicada Night Market, meanwhile, offers sophisticated counterprogramming every weekend with live music, interactive family activi-

ties and numerous booths and shops manned by local artists and designers — some at work creating during the market’s opening hours, Friday–Sunday. Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces abound with silver jewelry and textiles made with techniques developed by the Hmong, Karen and other tribes, resulting in pieces that range from delicate and natureinspired to bold and abstract. While you’ll find plenty of jewelry vendors at Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar, Lanna Thai Silver proves a mainstay for its prolific selection of handcrafted sterling silver jewelry for men and women as well as unusual vintage-style handbags and serving pieces. Collectors seeking fine artist pieces in gold, silver and even platinum will find beautiful rarities at Nova Jewelry and Eranyara. Thai Silk Village encompasses bespoke clothing, ready-made apparel and a home goods section. Though merchandised like a European-style boutique, it does so without sacrificing its uniquely Thai character. While the newly opened MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum incorporates glorious fashion pieces into its permanent and temporary exhibits, it’s no surprise its shop stocks many tempting items that echo the museum’s goal to showcase contemporary Thai design. The DoiTung Lifestyle boutiques, flanking several museums and Royal Agricultural Project attractions in Chiang Rai Province, not only showcase contemporary textile apparel and home accessories but also financially assist the rural communities where the artists and designers live and work. 19 | LEISURE LIFESTYLE | 2016

With boho-chic and ethnic chic continuing to reign as buzzwords in Paris, New York and other fashion capitals, some shoppers want to go to the source to find pieces that continue to inspire top designers worldwide. In Chiang Mai, the Hmong Market (accessed via a narrow path at the southwest corner of the expansive Warorot food and flower market) is that source — not only a hub for vendors of vibrant textile goods for home and wardrobe but also the home of several ateliers of young Thai designers spinning these materials into modern, statement-making pieces. Traditional crafts of Northeastern Thailand include textiles formed with intricate weaving and techniques of the Isaan, as well as ceramics and tempera painting on wood. While Bang Noi and other floating markets of Samut Songkhram and Ratchaburi offer wonderful places to sample local produce and people-watch, native crafts and antiques from the area abound among the vendors of the walking streets and various markets of Udon Thani, Khon Kaen and Ubon Ratchathani. Crafts emerging from Southern Thailand lend themselves to dramatic home accents and furnishings. Techniques run the gamut from krajude (bulrush) basketry to woodcarving, stone sculpture, ceramics, betel-leaf lacquerware, theatrical masks, metalwork sculpture and embroidery. Phuket, the hub of this region, naturally boasts a broad mix of high-end malls and the Phuket Weekend Market (known for its antique dealers). However, the delightful Phuket Town Old Handicrafts Shops feature one-off specialty stores such as Ban Boran, China Inn and Siam Indigo. Karon Bazaar’s vendors include higher-end clothing from regional fashion designers. Krabi Town is a food lover’s paradise, from its Krabi Walking Street Market to the Maharaj Market. Travelers diving deeper for interesting boutiques will enjoy Old Town Koh Lanta, a two-hour drive from Krabi Town. Andaman, Muslim and Chinese cultures co-exist, resulting in a main street with a mix of craft boutiques, leather shops and specialty food and spice shops. LantaSilver, a few minutes away, not only charms with its hand-wrought sterling silver and costume jewelry (with a different aesthetic from Chiang Mai silver) but also offers jewelry-making classes in its airy and colorful bungalow. On Koh Samui, Bophut Plaza is a go-to destination for boutiques as well as artist vendors, textiles sellers and those dealing in other traditional Thai products. Fisherman’s Village Walking Street is noted for being a quieter night market where vendors are interspersed with a more refined assortment of bars and restaurants. | AMAZING THAILAND | 19


Paradise for Lovers Thailand blends adventure and romance for the perfect honeymoon destination. BY ANGELIQUE PLATAS CHOOSING A HONEYMOON destination should be the most fun and relaxing decision a couple makes when planning their wedding. After months of making wedding arrangements, it’s a pleasure to escape and unwind like royalty somewhere unforgettable, like Thailand. Thailand’s rich and vibrant culture, otherworldly landscape and intimate charms provide the ideal blend of luxury comforts and off-the-beaten-path locales. An incredible getaway makes any life event a most memorable occasion, but with its idyllic scenery, plethora of tropical beaches, ancient ruins and opulent architecture, Thailand reigns as the ultimate fantasy honeymoon destination. Escape to the nearly untouched beaches of the Aava Resort and Spa. Located on Nadam Beach in picturesque Khanom, Aava Resort sits on pristine golden sands along secluded shores. Enjoy the locale’s privacy and preserved natural beauty. The Khanom coast, which runs along Nakhon Si Thammarat in Southeast Thailand, features a quiet, small town for excursions and local flair while the incredible natural scenery boasts sweeping views of limestone mountains, lush tropical foliage and the occasional rare pink dolphin sighting. Stroll on the soft, sandy beaches and take a dip in the warm, tranquil Gulf of Thailand waters before retreating to the spa for a variety of relaxing wellness treatments and activities. Enjoy fine dining at the restaurant AALTO and take a Thai cooking class. Stay in a poolside villa and enjoy unending views of the serene pool and horizon over the water. Surround yourself with lush rainforests and incredible national park views during a stay at La Flora Resort & Spa. Located in Khao Lak, encompassed by natural beauty and the cool blue Andaman Sea, La Flora boasts impeccable service and accommodations. Opt for a beachfront villa and luxuriate in the boutique furnishings, private balcony and outdoor rain shower — all just steps from the beach. Head to the on-site spa and restaurants for high-end treatments and cuisine, or trek off site on expertly designed excursions. Newlyweds explore local destinations from a long-tail boat or spot wildlife while bamboo rafting through the jungle. 20 | AMAZING THAILAND |

Many visitors travel into Thailand through Phuket International Airport, making Phuket a convenient stop for honeymooners. Designed by Italian architects and inspired by a blend of Thai and Italian cultures, COMO Point Yamu resort in Phuket stars as a top choice for travelers. From the top of Cape Yamu overlooking the Andaman Sea, guests enjoy an exquisite mix of contemporary Italian design, Thai luxuries and natural beauty. Take in the view of Phang Nga Bay’s limestone mountains and all Point Yamu has to offer. Dine at the two world-class restaurants showcasing the resort’s cultural inspirations, Italian and Thai, and head to the health-centric spa. Stay in the private villa for premier views, privacy and access to the resort’s many top-notch amenities. For less in the way of sandy beachfronts and more mountains and jungles, head to Montis Resort in Viengtai Pai. Stay in the Montis Suite or Villa for the royal treatment. Enjoy private bike paths, pools and quaint bungalows set between winding canals. Just a few minutes’ drive from Pai Airport, Puripai Villa boasts a unique hideaway for honeymooners. Take in the lush hillside views and breathtaking mountain vistas from the elegant contemporary rooms. Early risers will catch the heavy fog receding over the mountainside with the sunrise peeking through. Go for a hike or a swim, and mingle with fellow guests during a barbecue under the stars and happy hour in the barn. For a custom stay, the Four Seasons Chiang Mai Resort provides signature resort activities, depending on the couple’s interests. Choose from a wide variety of retreat activities sure to please everyone from nature lovers and culture seekers to those wanting wellness and fitness plans. Couples indulge in spa treatments, take cooking classes and bike through breathtaking trails. Head off the resort for some culture and adventure and book a hot air balloon ride over the diverse terrain of Chiang Mai. Venture out for tea plantation tours or plan a visit to Atop Doi Inthanon National Park’s waterfalls. Visit the elephant nature park, local villages and nearby rice plantations for a completely unique and unforgettable honeymoon. Stay in rustic elegance at the Anantara Golden Triangle in the historic Golden Triangle region in Northern Thailand. Couples can escape from reality with an incredible stay, including top-notch accommodations, first-rate amenities and unique elephant-related activities like yoga and jungle walks with the animals. The focus on relaxation and well-being behind every resort’s design allows honeymooners to easily move at their own pace. Relax and enjoy the surroundings or head out on an expertly led rainforest hike, kayaking trip, elephant experience or temple tour. The opportunities are endless. With so many luxury resorts and boutique hotels strewn throughout Thailand, honeymooners will have no trouble choosing an unforgettable option. With its sprawling natural beauty, incredible wildlife and unique culture, Thailand offers something for every couple to enjoy. | AMAZING THAILAND | 21


Land, Sea and Air Thailand brims with exciting pursuits for adventure and sports enthusiasts. BY JACK GUY FOR MANY OF TODAY’S TRAVELERS, visiting a new destination means experiencing the local culture actively rather than lying on a sun lounger for the duration of their trip. In recent years both the Thai government and private enterprise promoted sporting pursuits. Whether you want to go hiking, rafting and diving, or prefer to watch international competitors do their thing, sports and adventure travelers find plenty of options in Thailand. The Thai sport of Muay Thai — both a mental and physical discipline that includes stand-up striking and clinching techniques — is celebrated every March in Ayutthaya. Both Muay Thai fighters and enthusiasts come together to honor the sport and its past and present teachers and masters. When it comes to sporting events, the coming years will get busier and busier. Thailand has become a popular destination for marathon runners from around the world, with annual races in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and Bangkok attracting international competitors. Phuket Laguna also hosts marathon and triathlon races, while the Singha brewery sponsors a yearly hot air balloon race in Chiang Rai. 22 | AMAZING THAILAND |

Other upcoming events include the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup badminton finals in May 2018 and the country’s first MotoGP motorbike race in October 2018. The motor racing event takes place at the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram, fast becoming a sporting mecca in Thailand. Alongside the racetrack, the first Formula 1-certified track in the country, Buri Ram is also the site of a state-of-the-art soccer stadium. The i-Mobile Stadium, home to Buri Ram United, is an important element in the developments that catapulted this quiet city to the forefront of Thai sporting culture. Visitors can rest their weary heads in the Amari Buriram United, a soccerthemed hotel right next to the i-Mobile Stadium. Previously best known as the site of the largest and best restored Khmer palaces in the country, Buri Ram has big plans. In addition to the MotoGP race, Thailand could host a Formula 1 event after Malaysia leaves the series in 2018. Such a prestigious event would propel Thailand to prominence on the world stage. Buri Ram is situated in the east of the country, an area popular with adventure travelers who want to visit Khao Yai National Park. Here a number of operators offer adventure trekking tours to see many species of birds, Asian elephants and even monitor lizards. Another great base for jungle trekking is Chiang Mai, in the north, from which popular routes head off to Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Pang Mapha. Take a multiday trek to isolated villages, where you’ll get a window into local culture. After you’re done trekking, return to Chiang Mai for a hot air balloon ride to see Thailand from above. Chiang Mai is also a hub for whitewater rafting on the Khong, Pai and Mae Taeng rivers, with various outfitters offering expeditions of different lengths

and skill levels. Capable kayakers can also run these rivers in individual craft, combining kayaking and trekking on multiday adventures. You can also make whitewater runs on the Songpraek River near Ao Nang in the south of the country, close to the popular tourist town of Phuket. Phuket is famous for scuba diving, as are many spots on Thailand’s extensive coastline. You can visit the famous Richelieu Rock from Phuket or strike out for the Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast. Other popular dive sites dot the Gulf of Thailand, including Koh Tao and Koh Samui, and 27 marine parks enhance more than 1,200 miles of coastline. If you prefer to stay on dry land, seeing Thailand on two wheels is an increasingly popular option. Of course, you can take a bike wherever you like, but certain tours and routes prove more popular than others. The area around Chiang Mai remains a favorite with cyclists, and some operators offer multisport trips that combine biking and watersports. You can cycle from Chiang Mai to the Lao or Burmese borders, or head to the south of the country and take a tour from Krabi to Singapore via Malaysia. With sports and adventure tourism on the rise in Thailand, there are interesting ways to see a fascinating country from land, air and sea. Plan your own adventure holiday, head off on an organized tour or attend one of the growing list of international sporting events throughout the country. Facilities and tour options are getting better all the time, and there is even talk of a joint bid to host the World Cup with Singapore and Malaysia in the near future. With so many options there is bound to be something for everyone, and you can top off your trip with a few relaxing days on one of Thailand’s incredible beaches after your exertions. | AMAZING THAILAND | 23


Coastal Beauty Trat boasts a bounty of unique experiences and adventures. BY NICOLE QUASTÉ ALONG THE COAST OF THAILAND sits the easternmost province of Trat — a resort town and collection of offshore islands. When you visit Trat, its rich, interesting history is palpable. Traditionally home to a mix of Thai, Lao, Chinese and Khmer people, Trat was briefly annexed into the French Empire in 1904 before being given back to Siam. Historically a seaport for mooring ships and trade, Trat continues as an integral entity in local, regional and global economies. The destination is also famous for precious gemstone mining; and while these gemstones are rare today, visitors can still experience the unique history. Trat’s geographical location makes it a premier agricultural and ecotourism destination. As a leading fruit-growing and fishing region, it is famous for its agricultural products such as durian, mangosteen, rambutan, lanzones fruit, santol and salacca, and for its fishing — a lucrative export, culinary staple and culture in and of itself. Composed of 52 islands, bordered by the Gulf of Thailand to the south, the Banthat Mountains to the east and the Welu River to the west, Trat is a uniquely beautiful destination. The province’s seven districts each offers diverse natural beauty and one-of-a-kind experiences. Trat is a dream come true for outdoor adventurers and beach loungers alike. Visit the Irrawaddy Dolphins Viewpoint in the Mueang Trat district to see the species distinguishable for its round head, or take a boat ride to experience the local fishing lifestyle. Visit the 1st Mangrove Forest Learning and Development Centre, home to a nature trail comprised of more than 40 species of mangrove flora and fauna, or ride on a gondola through the mangroves surrounding Salak Khok Village. If you seek sun and sand, head to Khlong Yai and the peaceful white-sand shores of Hat Muk Kaeo, Sai Kaeo or Banchuen, ideal beaches for fishing, swimming and admiring the sunset from the shade of the coconut trees. Divers and snorkelers can make their way to Koh Chang to find clear water and stunning reefs at Ao Klong Son, Koh Wai and Koh Mai Si in Mu Koh Chang National Park. The 250-square-mile park is also 24 | AMAZING THAILAND |

home to Namtok Than Mayom and Khlong Phlu — massive, tiered waterfalls. History lovers can explore Wat Buppharam, the most ancient temple in Trat, dating from the mid-15th century. The temple’s museum houses ancient relics, Chinese and European porcelain and other notable artifacts. At more than 110 years old, the Khiri Wihan temple boasts iconic architecture located on a mountain overlooking forested hills and the sea below. Yotha Nimit, the only royal temple in Trat, was built during the reign of King Taksin the Great in the 18th century. It contains an old ordination hall of Ayutthaya art and antiques including palm-leaved books, scriptures for sermons and a Buddha footprint. Because of the region’s bountiful fishing and farming, some of the best food in Thailand can be found in Trat. For the freshest seafood, head to Rimtalay Seafood Restaurant in Laem Ngop, Phu-Talay Seafood Restaurant or Baan Sapparot on Koh Chang, or Ban Thew Thara on Mueang. Large markets like Muang Trat Municipal Trading Center and White Sand Beach Night Food Market offer a true taste of local delicacies, from fried noodles and coconut chips to cracked crab curry. The Community Product Centre, located in Bo Rai, offers authentic cuisine and crafts, jewelry and apparel, like Ngop Nam Chiao — folk-style, handmade palm-leaf hats. The Ban Hat Lek Border Market, a village on the ThaiCambodia border, offers inexpensive goods from Cambodia, from perfume and

clothing to furniture and artwork. Festivals of note take place in Trat throughout the year, offering visitors the chance to experience the local culture firsthand. For a taste of Trat’s history, check out the Koh Chang Naval Battle Memorial Fair in January, commemorating a notable naval battle in 1941 between Thailand and France, or the Independence Day Fair held in March at Provincial Hall, celebrating the country’s independence from France. Food festivals are among the most popular in the coastal region. The Tambon Nong Khan Song Seafood Festival takes place the last week of February, offering an abundance of seafood products, music performances and entertainment; and the Trat Sweet Salacca, Fruits and Goods Fair celebrates local agriculture in May. Leading resorts in Trat include The Chill Koh Chang, Sea View Resort & Spa – Koh Chang, Soneva Kiri Resort & Residences, Santhiya Tree Koh Chang Resort & Spa and High Season Pool Villa & Spa. Getting to Trat to experience all it offers is not difficult, despite its unique geographical composition. The destination is easily accessible from Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok by car, bus, commuter van service and plane. Trat Airport is only serviced from Bangkok (BKK) by Bangkok Airways, offering three flights a day. Minibuses are available for local transport between districts, and regular boat services travel between islands. | AMAZING THAILAND | 25


Charming Chumphon The coastal province delights with stunning beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests. BY NICOLE QUASTÉ

WHILE THAILAND’S CHUMPHON province traditionally offers a convenient stopping point to and from Ko Tao, Ranong and Phuket, it has become a worthwhile Thailand destination in and of itself. Dating back to 1098, the Southern Thai province boasts a long, significant history in the region. Chumphon sits on the narrow Kra Isthmus of the Malay Peninsula with Prachuap Khiri Khan province to the north, the Thai city of Surat Thani to the south, the Gulf of Thailand to the east and Myanmar to the west. It comprises eight sub-districts, each offering geographical variety and unique cultural and historical landmarks. Due to its geographic location, Chumphon province is known for its long coastline dotted with beautiful beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests. Surrounded by the Phuket Mountains, the city of Chumphon is the capital of the province and a gateway to popular tropical Thai destinations like Ko Tao. With 40 small islands off the coast, there is no shortage of beautiful white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water and colorful coral reefs. Some of the most notable sandy spots to visit include Lava Island, Ko Thalu, Hat Thung Wua Laen, Hat Sai Ri, Ko Maprao and Hat Sai Ree Sawi. Several beaches offer prime bird-watching, with 15 unique species recorded in Chumphon Province alone, and small fishing villages along the coast offer some of the freshest seafood in Thailand. Heading inland from the coast, Chumphon offers a variety of outdoor and adventure activities from guided nature tours, rafting and kayaking to forest trekking expeditions and elephant experiences. Mu Ko Chumphon National Park consists of several islands, mangrove forests and a wide array of flora and fauna, all visible from


a wooden-bridge walkway. Ban Klong Rua Homestay in the Phato district is a biologically diverse destination boasting waterfalls, fruit and coffee fields, tranquil gardens, bamboo rafting and bird-watching. The province is home to several impressive waterfalls, with notables including Namtok Khlong Phrao in Amphoe Thung Tako and the Kapoh falls in Ban Yai, where visitors can hike and camp. Visitors can also bathe in the Tham Khao Plu Hot Springs in Amphoe Lamae. Local lore maintains the baths’ warm, nutrient-rich water not only relaxes but cures illness. Those interested in history can visit the Chumphon National Museum in Mueang, home to everything from ancient relics to contemporary representa27 | LEISURE LIFESTYLE | 2016

tions of Chumphon culture. Mueang is also home to the Prince Chumphon War Ship, a torpedo battle ship used in the Navy of Thailand for 37 years before its retirement in 1975. Visit the ancient Wat Pradoem temple, featuring iconic Buddha sculptures and ancient Srivijaya artwork, and the iconic Wat Chaofa Sala Loi temple and the Sala tree, believed by locals to be the birthplace of the Buddha. The Wat Thep Charoen, at the foot of Rap Ro Hill, was an important ancient port area. The nearby Rub Ror Cave, a National Archaeological Site, boasts ancient religious drawings and wall frescoes. It also contains what is believed to be a footprint left by the Buddha and the body of a revered monk said to have never decayed. Several notable festivals throughout the year offer a true taste of local culinary, agricultural, musical and artistic traditions. The Traditional Boats Procession and Boat Racing and the Phato Rafting Festival showcase the importance of boating in the province, and festivals like the Chumphon Sea-World Fair and Lang Suan’s Fruits Fair showcase the importance of agricultural production. In addition to agricultural products, Chumphon is known for its seafood. Visit Papa Seafood, the various night and day markets, Liu Seafood and Aeki’s Bar for the freshest finds. For authentic Thai cuisine, check out Prikhorm, OK Restaurant, Farang Bar and Yay Puad. The destination is also known for its fruit and coffee, so visit one of the many farms and robusta coffee fields for a tour and tasting. In Chumphon, tourists dubbed one street, which runs through a night market, Pad Thai Row. Here, vendor after vendor prepares the dish in a unique way: topped with barbecued pork or pork loaf topped with sweetened shrimp. Several accommodation options throughout the province range from forest hideaways and beachfront bungalows to luxury resorts. A few of the best Chumphon accommodations include Sara Boutique Resort, located right on the beach and offering great food and a quiet, peaceful atmosphere; Novotel Chumphon Beach Resort and Golf, complete with pool, nine-hole golf course, spa facilities and an ideal location near Koh Samui island; and Tusita Resort & Spa, a peaceful oasis surrounded by lush green forests, featuring pristine beach access and excellent food. Easily accessible by car, train and bus from Bangkok, Chumphon also offers plenty of local transportation options via bus, van and local taxi services. Nok Air, one of Thailand's low-cost carriers, offers flights from Bangkok. Boat service is available to visit the various islands located just off the coast. Be prepared for a tropical monsoon climate, with average temperatures above 75 degrees throughout the year. Ideal travel time is December–April, as there is less rainfall than May–November, with precipitation particularly high in October and November. | AMAZING THAILAND | 27


Remote Possibilities Explore the rustic scenic beauty of Ranong. BY ALLIE MENZIONE

RANONG, A SOUTHERN PROVINCE on the west coast of Thailand along the Andaman Sea, is well-known as one of the wettest and rainiest places in Thailand, with a rainy season that lasts about eight months. It’s also the least populated area of the country. The majority of its land consists of dense forests (80 percent) and mountains (67 percent), making it difficult to reside in but incredibly scenic to visit. Mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, mangrove forests and a gorgeous coastline prove the most popular attractions in this destination. Its pristine natural beauty and proximity to Myanmar make it a wonderful stop for travelers to Thailand and also a growing destination for birdwatchers. It’s best to visit this hidden gem between November and May, as the months from May through October are the rainiest. The temperature remains on the warmer side year-round at an average of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Ranong town’s main center, Thanon Ruangrat, is a remnant of 19th-century Sino-Portuguese design, with pastel colors and shuttered windows. Take a trip here for Chinese products, clothing and other trade goods. Natural attractions abound in Namtok Ngao National Park, where you can spot the Ngao Waterfall from quite a distance. Hikers and nature lovers alike can trek to the summit of the 985-foot-high waterfall and several surrounding waterfalls including Nam Tok Khlong Pera and Nam Tok Bang Rin. For those who want to relax after a long hike, the Bo Nam Ron Pon Rung hot spring is located in this area as well. Visitors seeking more adventure can go rafting in Klong Yae from May to December. Located at the mouth of the Ranong River, the small beach of Hat Chan Damri offers the best spot to view the natural surroundings of Ranong. Boats and ferries operate from the beach’s pier, bringing tourists to other islands along the coast. Enjoy a lovely sunset over the water in the evenings. Should you choose to take a short boat 28 | AMAZING THAILAND |

ride to neighboring islands, consider visiting Koh Song, also known as Victoria Point, a popular island attraction. Browse through the market for local products, souvenirs, wicker baskets and gems. The boat ride takes about 15 minutes from across the Kraburi River and 40 minutes from the Ranong Pier at Hat Chan Damri. Don’t miss out on the legendary natural hot springs in Ranong. Basins form a spa for visitors to bathe in, all free of cost. The healing waters of Raskawarin Hot Springs are the purest natural source of hot water in Thailand, free of sulfur contamination, and hold at a constant temperature of 149 degrees Fahrenheit. Across the way from the springs visit Siam Spa, a full-service spa. For a look at Ranong’s past, visit Rattanarangsarn Palace, located on top of the Niwest Kiree hilltop, the palace of King Rama V since the historic royal visit in 1890. It is built entirely of teak wood. UNESCO named Ngao Mangrove Forest Research Centre a World Biosphere Reserve Zone for its essential role in maintaining the region’s ecological integrity. Walk along its trails to experience the wildlife of this area and get up close and personal with the mangroves. The research center is the birthplace 29 | LEISURE LIFESTYLE | 2016

and home to many species of marine life before they are old enough to be released into the wild. Also watch for the abundance of monkeys roaming around. In the rainy season, water splashes down from Namtok Chum Saeng (or Namtok Sai Rung) waterfall onto the boulders below and creates rainbows in the spray. Because of this phenomenon, it’s been nicknamed Rainbow Waterfall. During the dry season it is still a lovely hike and waterfall to visit. If diving interests you, explore the shipwreck of a Japanese World War II logistic warship. During low tide you can see the wreck from above from a pier in Tambon Pak Chan. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay with resort amenities and accommodations, Numsai Khaosuay Resort is the top-rated resort in Ranong. It features beautiful rooms and furnishings and a large swimming pool for guests to relax and enjoy. The top-rated inn in Ranong, The Hidden Resort, offers highquality charm and luxurious gardens and amenities. If you prefer to stay off the beaten path, consider Mr. Gao, a charming beachside bungalow and B&B where you can soak in the rustic charm of Ranong. | AMAZING THAILAND | 29


Ancient Inspiration Sukhothai preserves the grandeur of its glorious past. BY KIMBERLY KROL

THE SKY WAS A BRILLIANT SHADE of blue interspersed with white, fluffy clouds. The sun blazed brightly. As I pedaled around Sukhothai Historical Park on a serene day, surrounded by centuries-old ruins, I fully understood the meaning of the word Sukhothai — “Dawn of Happiness” — and why it is the name chosen for this place in Thailand. The city of Sukhothai serves as the capital of the province of the same name, located in Lower Northern Thailand. In the 13th century Sukhothai became the first independent Thai Kingdom when princes Pho Khun Pha Muang and Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao joined forces to drive out the Khmers. Under King Ramkhamhaeng the kingdom prospered and Buddhism flourished in the region. During this time King Ramkhamhaeng encouraged Chinese artisans to teach pottery in the Kingdom, a skill still practiced in modern-day Sukhothai. Sukhothai’s heritage has been preserved at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Historic Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns, including Si Satchanalai Historical Park, Sukhothai Historical Park and Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park. Given the ancient Kingdom’s devout Buddhism, many iterations of Buddha can be found. Sukhothai Historical Park boasts 27 square miles of former palaces, temples and homes from the ancient city and former capital of Siam. The nearby Wat Si Chum features the largest Buddha in all of Sukhothai. Explore the park as I did by renting a bicycle from the shops across the street. The park is open daily; treat yourself to catching the park either at sunrise or sunset or illuminated by lights in the evening. The second-largest city after Sukhothai in ancient times, Si Satchanalai City, is commemorated at Satchanalai Historical Park, 17 square miles of former palaces, temples and homes in the authentic Sukhothai architectural style. Open daily, the must-sees include Wat Phra Si Mahathat, Wat Chang Lom and Wat Chedi Jet Taew. Ramkhamhaeng National Museum houses artifacts and antiques found in both historical parks during excavations in the 1960s. Sukhothai and Ayutthaya styles blend at Kamphaeng Phet Park, where the ruins include temples, pagodas and fallen towns boasting a variety of building materials, from laterite to smaller, brick-made monuments. Wat Phra Kaeo stands in the center, adorned by lions and guarded by other majestic statues nearby. 30 | AMAZING THAILAND |

Sukhothai’s glorious past also lives on at Sukhothai Sangkhalok Museum, a nod to the Sangkhalok pottery/earthenware native to Sukhothai. The technique dates to the beginning of the area’s history, and today the pottery and ceramics are the most famous products and exports from Sukhothai. The fine ceramic, made of clay and mud from the region, boasts an olive green glaze. For an authentic taste of village life, Ban Na Ton Chan Village, on the outskirts of Si Satchanalai and about 90 minutes from Sukhothai, offers home stays. Here visitors can learn more about two local products: khao perb — a broth soup made with mung bean noodles, bean sprouts, coriander, garlic and a sunny-side-up egg — and fermented mud cloth. Locals use looms to create fabric made from threads dyed with mangosteen and jackfruit before drenching it in mud to help soften the material. Before departing Sukhothai, sample another signature dish, kuaitiao Sukhothai, a rice noodle soup with sliced pork, green beans, salted turnip and ground peanut. The brainchild of Bangkok Airways’ CEO Dr. Prasert Prasartthongosot, Sukhothai Heritage Resort opened in 2008, offering not only boutique accommodations to please discerning travelers, but also cultural and agricultural activities within the resort. The nearby organic rice farm demonstrates the way of life of Thai rice farmers and even developed its own rice variety. Depending on the time of year, visitors may see farmers plowing the paddies with water 31 | LEISURE LIFESTYLE | 2016

buffalo or learn more about the milling process. I was able to plant rice in a paddy and pull fresh, waiting mangoes from orchard trees. The vegetables, fruits and duck eggs also cultivated locally are distributed throughout Thailand and used to prepare in-flight meals on Bangkok Airways. Sukhothai Heritage Resort also offers four room types, a library, two swimming pools, meeting and event space, massage services, a restaurant and bar. It is conveniently located to the Sukhothai Airport, an open-air facility opened in 1996. Modeled after the ancient Sukhothai architecture and quite picturesque, it features lush gardens and an orchid greenhouse. With capacity for 150 daily arrivals and departures, Sukhothai is easily accessible. Daily one-hour flights depart Bangkok on Bangkok Airways, and the airport lies only about 24 miles north of the city. Other accommodation options in Sukhothai range from guesthouses to home stays and basic bungalows. Daily bus service is also available from Bangkok (a seven-hour journey), from Chiang Mai (a 5.5-hour trip) and Chiang Rai (a nine-hour ride). For cooler temperatures, plan to visit November–February. No matter the season, magical, ancient Sukhothai, awash with history and heritage, comes alive to inspire, delight, transform and ignite the imagination of any traveler. | AMAZING THAILAND | 31


The Wild West Explore the natural wonders and historic sites of Kanchanaburi. BY ELLEN CLARK

KANCHANABURI — PRONOUNCED GAAN JÀ NÁ BÙ RII — is hardly the first destination that rolls trippingly off the tongue when one thinks of Thailand. It has no beach, no elaborately decorated palaces or temples and no glitzy upscale shopping malls, but Thais know it is one of the most beautiful provinces in the country. Located less than four hours from frenetic Bangkok, Kanchanaburi city is a place of serenity. Set at the confluence of the Khwae Yai and Khwae Noi rivers, its proximity to easily accessible parks and historic sites makes it a good base for exploring some of Thailand’s exterior. Despite being off the beaten track, for those who are not driving themselves, the city is readily accessible by bus or train. This stunning province draws nature lovers and backpackers to its seven national parks. The best known, Erawan National Park, located about 40 miles from Kanchanaburi city, spreads over an area of 212 square miles, about 80 percent covered in deciduous forest. Surrounded by untamed jungle, the seventiered Erawan Waterfall, the park’s most famous attraction, is considered one of the most beautiful falls in Asia. The bottom tiers are the easiest to reach for a swim. To avoid crowds, plan to arrive early. For cave fanciers, Phra That Cave lies just a few miles from the falls. A large


mountain cave, it boasts four rooms full of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Kanchanaburi’s history tends toward the grim. Due to its proximity to Burma, now Myanmar, the area saw its darkest days during World War II with

the Japanese construction of the notorious Thai-Burma Railway. Undoubtedly the area’s most famous landmark, it survives from that time. The bridge on the River Kwai attained global notoriety thanks to the Hollywood blockbuster of the same name, which won an Academy Award for best motion picture of 1957. The original bridge was constructed in 1942 using Allied prisoners of war and conscripted Asian laborers who were forced to live under appalling conditions. Thousands of workers died before the bridge was completed in 1943. A year later Allied Forces bombed the bridge, destroying three sections, thus rendering it useless. A tourist destination today, the bridge serves as a reminder of the area’s dark past. The track has developed into a walkway with side platforms so the bridge can be crossed on foot. Every year the River Kwai Bridge Festival commemorates the Allied bombing of Nov. 28, 1944, with a spectacular sound and light show. The nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery contains the remains of about 7,000 POWs who sacrificed their lives in the railway construction. Just north of the cemetery, the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre recounts the details of the railway’s construction. About a 50-mile drive from Kanchanaburi, the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum movingly chronicles the atrocities the laborers suffered during the building of the railway. Hellfire Pass is the name of a railway cutting on the former Thai-Burma Railway. Built with forced labor, including Allied prisoners of war, the pass was noted for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life. Hellfire Pass was so named because the sight of emaciated prisoners laboring at night by torchlight was said to resemble a scene from Hell. Looking at displays of personal items such as pages from prisoners’ diaries and photographs of starving workers is not for the faint of heart. A moving seven-minute audio tour includes recorded memories of surviving POWs. As a part of the museum experience, it is possible to walk through the cutting itself and along a section of the former railway track bed. If there’s still time after checking out the province’s natural wonders and historic sites, arrange a fun and educational visit to Elephant World. This nonprofit sanctuary provides a refuge for old and ailing elephants. On a day visit, learn about the Thai elephant and interact with the animals, including helping with feeding and bathing. For years Kanchanaburi appealed mostly to the young backpacker set and serious World War II buffs. But with more people looking to get out of the big cities and into more relaxed surroundings, the province attracts more diverse visitors. Accommodations include basic backpacker guesthouses, simple hotels and a hotel with rooms afloat on river rafts. For travelers looking for a little more luxury, however, the riverside X2 River Kwai Resort includes amenities such as a river-view restaurant and outdoor deck, a riverside infinity pool with sun lounges, and bicycles for loan. Even by Thai standards, the area can get impossibly hot from March to May; so if you’re planning a trip, aim for November through February.



Making Connections THE THAILAND CONVENTION & Exhibition Bureau reports directly to the prime minister’s office, so it’s safe to say Thailand takes the MICE — meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions — industry seriously. Thailand’s rich culture, friendly reputation and exceptional service make it not only a bucket list destination for leisure but for business as well. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, offers a number of excellent facilities on par with many international cities of its size and larger. As Bangkok’s first major convention center, Queen Sirikit National Convention Center embodies all things Thai. Richly decorated in the styles and colors of Thailand, the center exudes a traditional ambience, making it completely unique among look-alike convention halls. It totals at 215,000 square feet of meeting space. Queen Sirikit herself, alongside King Bhumibol Adulyadej, officially opened the hall dedicated in honor of her 60th birthday in 1991. Located 15 minutes from Suvarnabhumi International Airport, connected to BTS Skytrain and just seven miles from the center of Bangkok, Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre is among the most convenient convention centers in Thailand. It boasts more than 580,000 square feet of space throughout its six halls and 19 meeting rooms. Impact Arena, along with Impact Exhibition and Convention Center, is one of the largest event facilities in Asia, located in Muang Thong Thani, a northern suburb of Bangkok. Its Challenger Hall is the world’s largest indoor column-free space. The center touts an astronomical 1.5 million square feet of indoor space across its five buildings. Its concert hall hosts big-name celebrities, including The Rolling Stones. The meeting areas and hotels of this complex are as high-tech as they are luxurious. With an attached 5-star hotel and an enormous mall/ entertainment center, the Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre enjoys an enviable location in the heart of the city. It offers more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space and can hold up to 6,000 people. One of the largest facilities in Thailand, however, is located outside of the capital in Chiang Mai. Located in Northern Thailand, the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre is the largest center outside of the capital and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. It offers a total of 640,000-plus square feet in event space including exhibition halls, convention halls and meeting rooms. Just a 15-minute drive to Chiang Mai International Airport, the center is surrounded by two 5-star hotels, shopping malls and restaurants. 34 | AMAZING THAILAND |


A friendly culture and first-rate facilities attract business events to Thailand. BY ALLIE MENZIONE

Uncover the metropolitan CHARM | AMAZING THAILAND | 35

Thailand Travel Planner 2017  
Thailand Travel Planner 2017