Call2Call's guide to Tempting Thailand...Pure shores of paradise!
Thailand is Asia’s primary destination for students, and it’s clear to see why, once you have stepped upon its fair shores. White sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters surround the south of the country, while the north is characterised by multiple mountain ranges, river valleys and lush green trekking paths.
Made famous by Leonardo Dicaprio and the film ‘The Beach’, it’s no wonder that Thailand has continued to be one of the favourite travelling destinations in the world. Relatively cheap, warm climes all year round and numerous activities to do and places to see, you’ll never be short of new and interesting experiences.
But it's not just full moon parties and cheap copied branded t-shirts for next to nothing – Thailand is full of rich history, religion and excitement. Formally known as Siam, the country was named Thailand in 1949. Loosely derived, it is believed, from the phrase ‘land of the free’, Thailand is just that. A fantastic bright and vibrant country, you will need a fair amount of time to explore all that it has to offer.
A popular destination to go to are the trio of islands off the east coast, Ko Samui, Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Tao. Ko Samui, the largest and closest to the mainland, has an airport, should you wish to fly by Thai Airways, but has a ferry boat that runs frequently from the nearest town, Surat Thani, for a small fare. Ko Samui has waterfalls, Elephant rides and beautiful beaches (there is even a McDonalds on the island – a welcome sight for a hungry traveller!), whereas Ko Pha-ngan is slightly smaller and home to the ‘full moon’ parties. Ko Tao, the smallest and perhaps the most beautiful of the islands, is a scuba diving haven and many travellers pass their Padi diving course in this pretty place.
Ride up high.
Elephants are mainly treated well in Thailand, but unfortunately some are mistreated, and thankfully kind hearted people have set up Baan Chang, an Elephant sanctuary, close to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It educates visitors about elephants and their preservation. Ride bareback through the jungle, take care of one of these fascinating creatures for the day, learning about their behaviour and lifestyle (including feeding and bathing). You’ll soon fall in love with these gentle giants.
Fun in the park.
Khao Phanom Bencha National Park is just 20km north of Krabi. The park protects a vast amount of virgin rainforest, and is full of scenic waterfalls, hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife – yet only the monkeys are commonly seen. For those budding geologists, a definite must is Tham Peung, a dramatic cave just as you enter the park full of shimmering stalactites and stalagmites. There is no public transport to the park, but tuk-tuks are often for hire at a 600 baht round trip; the driver will wait while you visit the park to take you back to Krabi.
Visit The Beach.
Danny Boyle’s film of the Alex Garland novel was filmed on Hat Maya, the main beach of Phi Phi Leh Island, near Phuket. Amid allegations of ecological vandalism when imported palms were planted to make the ‘perfect beach’, the film crew actually removed hundreds of tons of fishermen and visitors waste, to improve the look of this beautiful place for future travellers. Having recovered from the tsunami of 2004, there is a daily passenger ferry from both Krabi and Phuket pier and return tickets cost around 600 Baht. Just take your litter home with you.
Bangkok on a budget.
• Khao San Road - Backpacking and looking for the cheapest accommodation? Look no further than the Khao San Road located near the Chao Phraya River in Rattanakosin. An easy boat, bus or taxi ride from Bangkok, the Khao San Road is the ultimate place to feast and catch some zzz’s on the cheap. As an indication of how much you can spend here, a meal will set you back about 50-80 baht which is approximately £1-£1.50, combine this with a stay at the Green House and this will cost you 590 baht, about £13.00 – A meal and a roof over your head for under £15, sounds ideal right? Although there isn’t much here in terms of sights, if you would like a real taste of quintessential Thailand, we strongly recommend taking a break and stopping here for a night or two.
• Temples - Visiting Bangkok would not be complete without visiting the many temples that make up the city’s, as well as the country’s culture and atmosphere. The temples are sacred places and are treated with the highest regard, something that can clearly be seen in the architecture of the buildings. Swirling pillars, intricate pottery and thousands of pieces of coloured glass form these beautiful structures. Probably the best time to visit these temples (or “wats”) is during the morning as it often cooler, resulting in a more enjoyable experience. However, it is important to remember that these temples play a highly important role in Buddhist traditions, so don’t act inappropriately. A few we recommend paying attention to are: Wat Mahathat, this is the headquarter of Thailand’s largest monastic order and is an important centre for Buddhism. Also, take a visit to the Temple of Emerald Buddha and you will not be disappointed.
• MBK food court - If you have ever thought that the food court at Bluewater or Harrods was mental, you should perhaps think again! Thailand’s MBK has not one but two food courts to feed all the hungry shoppers that are busy going about their day. The Fifth Food Avenue, which, believe it or not, sits on the fifth floor of the MBK has a large selection of stalls and food vendors ranging from Arabic cuisine to Italian. If you thought it might be like going to grab a Boots Meal Deal then think again! Rows and rows of different foods line up on a spacious setting whilst chefs freshly prepare dishes for you in open kitchens – and that is just the 1st court! In the MBK Food Centre (the sixth floor) dishes are priced cheaper than those on the fifth floor but are situated right in the middle of the shopping centre. It's ideal if you would like to grab a quick bite to eat and continue exploring the stalls and shops.
• Tuk Tuk ride - Now, a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi doesn’t sound like the most comfortable mode of transport out there but when in Thailand, if there is one thing you must do, it is this. Found in Bangkok and other big cities in Thailand, the Tuk-Tuks offer visitors the chance to really explore the area and take in all the surroundings at the same time. That said, the price of a Tuk Tuk is not always cheaper than a standard, metered taxi, so always agree on the price of your travel before you get in one.