Tag - thai

Chaiyaphum, Thailand

 

Barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks.
Barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks.
Barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks.

Though not as rich in attractions as its neighbouring provinces, barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks, and has a few worthy spots of its own too. CHRIS WOTTON gets under the skin of this undiscovered slice of Isaan.
 
Never heard of Chaiyaphum? That’s little surprise, as few people have. Tucked up in Thailand’s north-eastern Isaan region and bordered by Khorat and Khon Kaen, this largely untouristed province barely registers a foreign face. Still very Thai in appearance and character, the main industries here are rice and sugar production, while the province is also renowned as a silk centre. The capital city of an otherwise largely rural province shows the signs of some limited urban development, but venture here and you will still discover somewhere pleasingly quiet and low-key, the perfect antidote to the Bangkok lifestyle.

The primary attractions here, the Jao Pho Praya Lae monument and Prang Ku, are largely unimpressive and at most worth a passing glance. In fact, you will probably pass the former several times before even realising what it is. Jao Pho Phraya Lae was the eighteenth century Lao ruler of Chaiyaphum, and this statue in his name is the centrepiece of a roundabout in the centre of town on Bannakan Road. He switched sides to fight with Bangkok when Vientiane declared war on Siam at the start of the 1800s.

Jao Pho Phraya Lae lost his life in the ensuing battles, but was kept in high esteem in Chaiyaphum and today has two annual festivals celebrated in his name in January and May.

The Khmer Prang Ku further along Bannakan Road past the entrance to Siam River Resort, meanwhile, is really equally disappointing as a sight. Poorly preserved and not much to look at at all, in its heyday it was a temple on the route that connected Angkor Wat with the (far more impressive and better restored) Prasat Muang Singh just outside of Kanchanaburi.
Today, if nothing else it serves as a reminder of just how small Chaiyaphum proper really is – particularly at night, by the time you’ve walked just a short way east to this site, you feel like you’re well out of the city and into Isaan village life.

Tat Ton National Park makes for far more of a reason to visit Chaiyaphum. Twenty-three kilometres away and easily reached by 30 baht public songthaew share taxi from a stand at the north end of the city on Non Muang Road, it boasts amongst other sights an impressive waterfall that stretches to 50m wide in the rainy season – take care as it is easy to sip by the water’s edge. Group tours aside, you are likely to be almost alone in the park, and pretty much certainly the only foreigner. The 100 baht entrance fee gets you access to the whole park, which also includes the smaller Tat Fah waterfall.

The park as a whole is the perfect spot for a dose of back-to-nature relaxation sure to enliven the senses, and if you want to drag it out a little longer there are bungalows to rent too. The return journey to Chaiyaphum is a bit more of a pain than getting there, since songthaews don’t take this route after the morning – but you can hitch a ride back to Chaiyaphum quite easily. If all else fails, walk some way along the road you came down, make yourself look tired and wait for a few women to start shouting, asking if you need a lift back to Chaiyaphum (for a price). They came to our rescue, so they’re bound to for you as well.

Back in Chaiyaphum proper, picnics are the order of the day at a secluded, peaceful spot at the side of a small lake in the streets behind the Tesco Lotus supermarket on Sanambin Road. Roll up on a bike or on foot, having stopped at food stalls on the lanes nearby for giant Isaan-sized grilled chicken skewers and fresh pineapple with dried chilli and sugar, and soak up the goodness of some fresh Chaiyaphum air from the shade of the many trees lining the lake. As is the beauty with so much in this city, aside from the odd local fisherman you will likely have the place to yourself.

GET THERE: Buses run by at least three different companies connect Chaiyaphum with Bangkok’s northern Morchit bus terminal in about six hours. On the return leg, the three companies unhelpfully all have their own departure terminals dotted around town, but there are also local bus connections to Khon Kaen and Khorat, both linked to Bangkok by trains and planes.

WHERE TO STAY: Most western tourists stay at the five-star Siam River Resort, towards the far end of Bannakan Road, where 990 Baht will bag you a plush room with balcony and breakfast, and access to the pool. There’s free wi-fi and bike hire and staff are excellent. The Deeprom Hotel is also worth a look, with its pleasing pastel exterior, though staff speak little English. Expect to pay 800 Baht for a double air-con room.

MOVING ON: Khon Kaen is two and a half hours away by local bus – great for foodies, it also boasts the Bueng Kaen Nakhon lake which makes for a great walking spot. Buses to Khorat take two hours.

CHRIS WOTTON is a twenty-something crazy about Thailand. After a first visit in 2008, he fell in love with the country and has since travelled its length and breadth, searching out local life – and local food! – while writing and researching for SE Asia travel guides and magazines. When not discovering and writing about Thailand, Chris studies French and German in his native UK, and runs an online shop selling authentic Japanese and Thai cooking ingredients.

Koh Yao Noi


Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

You don’t have to spend very long on Koh Yao Noi to start to feel like you have stumbled upon that elusive traveller dream “the best kept secret”.  Why aren’t there more people here you wonder?  While also secretly hoping they don’t suddenly arrive.  Even locals working in resorts and restaurants obviously built for tourists ask, “how did you find us?” with a touch of surprise in their voice.  Like someone who has decorated their home for a party but never actually sent out the invitations.
 
The answer to their question?  Well, how does anyone find anything these days?  Google!  Qualifying our search of the Phang Nga region with words like “remote”, “peaceful” and “away from the crowds” Koh Yao Noi is where we happily found ourselves.
 
Koh Yao Noi (meaning small long island) and it’s sister island Koh Yao Yai (big long island) are located in the Phang Nga bay between Krabi, to the east, and Phuket, to the west.  Koh Yao Yai is the larger of the two islands but Koh Yao Noi is the more developed and more tourist friendly of the two.  It covers an area of about 50 square kilometers.  Speedboat ferries leave Bang Rong Pier in Phuket around 6 times a day and will whisk you out to this tropical refuge within an hour.
 
Most of the accommodation is on the east of the island where perfect little sandy strips of beach look out across tranquil water to a group of impressive limestone karsts a few kilometers from shore.
 
The majority of Koh Yao Noi’s 3,500 or so inhabitants are Muslim.  Their attitude is open and moderate.  Many, but not all, of the local women cover their heads.  You will still be able to get a beer or a cocktail if you desire, though bacon with your morning eggs might be harder to come by.
 
While crowds of holidaymakers have inundated nearby Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Koh Phi Phi in the last decade Koh Yao Noi has escaped any significant development.  Tourism contributes to the islands economy but it’s not the only source of income.  Traditional industries like fishing and rubber plantations remain important.  Locals are laid-back, friendly and quick to greet you with a warm smile.  This feels like a very tight-knit, authentic rural community and you feel privileged to be welcomed into it.
 
So what can one do here?  Well it’s the type of place you can quite happily do very little.  Slow down your pace, quieten your mind and breathe in the beauty around you.  Let the days drift by with a bikini, a sun lounger and a good book as your companions.  Take intermittent dips in the warm ocean floating on your back admiring the changing colours of the karsts as clouds waft in and out.
 
You’ll more than likely get the urge to have a closer look at these nature-made monuments, and that can be easily arranged. 
 
Most accommodation providers will be happy to arrange boating excursions for you, but you might save yourself a few baht by booking directly with one of the local operators. 
 
Husband and wife Kong and Poom run Saferoh Tours close to Tha Khao Pier.  They offer a range of day-trip options to nearby islands in their traditional Thai dragon boat and can supply snorkelling and fishing equipment and/or a kayak on request.  Lunch is also provided on daylong excursions and you can expect tasty home-cooked delights like chicken with cashew nuts and crunchy tempura vegetables.
 
Your first stop should be Koh Hong, about a 20-minute boat trip from Tha Khao Pier.  “Hong” translates as “room” and refers to the islands large interior lagoon walled by towering limestone cliffs, which can be accessed by boat at high tide.  But this islands real gem is its picture perfect white sandy cove where clear turquoise waters reveal a dazzling array of tropical fish.  In fact you don’t even need your snorkel to see some of them as schools of little black and yellow fish swim around your legs in the shallows.  Koh Hong has a small picnic area and toilet facilities and although it’s popular with day-trippers remains surprisingly quiet considering it’s beauty.
 
Hopping in a sea kayak for a leisurely paddle is a great way to explore these archipelagos even closer up as you’ll be able to get into nooks and crannies your dragon boat can’t.  Around Koh Panak is particularly interesting to explore, as there are a number of sea caves you can paddle into. 
 
If you’re starting to miss the crowds take a daytrip to Koh Ping Kan (better known as James Bond Island).  This narrow pillar of rock has been attracting visitors since it starred alongside Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.  A constant stream of boats pull in from Phuket and Phang Nga and it can be a bit of a shock to the system after the peacefulness of Koh Yao Noi.  In high season you’ll have to queue to get your photo taken in front of the famous rock.  Unlike the other small islands there are a number of stalls here selling jewellery and touristy trinkets (but surprisingly little James Bond memorabilia).
 
After your 007 pilgrimage it’s a short trip to Koh Panyee, a 200-year-old Muslim fishing community whose stilted homes rise out of the sea clinging to a rocky outcrop for support.  These days there are a number of large restaurants on the waterfront that cater to the boatloads of tourists who disembark for a look around.  There are also numerous souvenir stalls vying for your tourist dollar, but it’s an interesting little place and still worth a wander.  Check out the small floating soccer pitch built from old scraps of wood and read the community’s list of rules (and punishments).  You don’t want to get caught with a beer in your bag here – the fine is 5,000 baht plus a goat.
 
Back on Koh Yao Noi the sun loungers beckon, but if you’re feeling a bit more energetic there are also opportunities to try rock-climbing, Muay Thai boxing, yoga or a Thai cookery class.  Or rent a scooter and seek out secret beaches down traffic free dirt roads.
If your idea of a perfect holiday involves shopping and nightclubbing this isn’t the place for you.  But if you want blissful relaxation combined with a bit of healthy activity, in a place that still has a firm hold on its traditional way of life, then this is it.  Locals are happy they’ve avoided the rapid development seen on other islands and are proud of the relaxed piece of paradise they have to share.  You get the impression they intend to keep it that way.
 
Leah Carri is an Irish freelance journalist currently based in Australia. She has kindly shared her experiences in Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. If you’d like to check out her blog you can see it here. Leah is currently available for writing projects and can be contacted by email.

KhaoSanRoad.com enjoys promoting the work of new writers and writers new to Thailand. If you would like to see your work on this site, contact us and we will see what we can do.

 

DARE 1/11 – Thailand’s First Mixed Martial Arts Championship


Jussi Saloranta Interviewed DARE 1/11 Mixed Martial arts Championship, Bangkok, Thailand
Jussi Saloranta
DARE 1/11 Mixed Martial arts Championship, Bangkok, Thailand
DARE 1/11 Mixed Martial arts Championship, Bangkok, Thailand
DARE 1/11 Mixed Martial arts Championship, Bangkok, Thailand

For me, one of the reasons to move to Thailand was an interest in the local martial arts. Like Karate in the 60s, and Kung Fu in the 70s, Thai boxing – or Muay Thai as it is known in Thailand – has experienced a phenomenal growth in popularity over the last 20+ years. It seems Muay Thai has spread to almost every town and city in the world, and virtually every country has a range of Muay Thai associations, leagues, and federations. But living in Thailand, and plugging into the local cable TV on a regular basis, I became aware of a parallel (and equally meteoric) rise in the popularity of another martial arts genre – Mixed Martial Arts.

Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, started in its modern form in 1993 with the launch of the Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC) in the USA. UFC brought fighters with different combat styles to the same arena – an “Octagon” – an octagonal cage where full contact fights took place under the scrutiny of a referee, a doctor, and under a comprehensive set of rules. These were no blood fests or street fights; these were professional, organized events with global TV coverage.

The spectacle of watching Muay Thai fighters, Judo, Jujitsu and Karate exponents, pugilists and wrestlers test each other’s skills had immediate appeal, and as with Muay Thai, MMA went global. It produced a number of stars – Royce Gracie, whose particular brand of Brazilian Jujitsu dominated the early years of the sport, and since then the likes of Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz have become household names in the West (the latter appearing in movies, and curiously, Donald Trump’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice’). 

Given the strong element of Muay Thai in MMA, a question on many people’s lips was “Why hasn’t MMA come to Thailand?” The kingdom has for a number of years had a variety of Mixed Martial Arts clubs, but it has never had a full-fledged MMA tournament to boast of… Not until now anyway.

June 25, 2011 sees the launch of DARE 1/11, Thailand’s first MMA championship under adapted UFC rules and with experienced MMA referees. Initial fights take place at Club Insomnia on Sukhumvit 12 with winners of this event moving on to the quarter finals of the DARE championship. The prospects of this event taking off are good, so we caught up with organizer Jussi Saloranta to ask more. Here’s what he had to say.

KSR: Jussi – thanks for meeting up with us like this. First, let’s get some personal details – where are you from and how long have you been in Thailand?

Jussi: OK – well, I am from Finland, and I have been living in Thailand for about 4 years now. I first came here in 2004 for a holiday and just fell in love with the Kingdom and its amazing people. I decided that this was the place where I wished to live. My involvement in the DARE Championship is handling the foreign fighters and public relations, and I also assist our Thai owners with international promotion. Our team includes both Thais and foreigners, each with years of business experience in Thailand and in Scandinavia.

KSR: How did DARE Championship get started? 

Jussi: Ever since I came to Thailand I’ve wanted to create something for local sports – something that would feature local MMA talents alongside international competitors. There are a limited number of professional MMA fighters in Thailand and there’s been very few fight possibilities in the country, so I thought I’d contribute in that direction. Right now the timing seems right, so led by our President Mr. Thitidonpipat, we decided to launch the DARE Championship with the goal of becoming the number one pro-MMA event in Thailand and the region. We believe that like everywhere else in the world, MMA will catch on in Thailand sooner or later, but making it a reality has involved a lot of people doing a lot of hard work – our organizers, promoters, trainers, camps, gyms, fighters, other dedicated individuals… They have all done tremendous work.

KSR: Are you are martial artist yourself?

Jussi: Yes – I have been involved in the martial arts since I was 10 years of age. I have also been a huge fan of MMA since the end of the 90’s when MMA / NHB first came to Finland and we saw the first UFC fights on VHS. Ask any of the members of our team and they will probably tell you the same thing. 

KSR: Tell us a bit more about the tournament. How many people are involved and what’s the format?

Jussi: The DARE Championship starts with opening preliminary fights and the winners of these in each weight class move on to the quarter-finals. After that winners go on to the semi-finals and ultimately the finals. In the first event, DARE 1/11, we will have a total of 6 fights with 12 fighters from 8 different countries. Initially it will be an “open tournament” and later it will transform into something more similar to the UFC structure where you have a champion and guys fighting to move up the ladders and become the number one contender in each weight category.

KSR: So when can we expect the follow up events?

Jussi: We are looking to have the next event – DARE 2/11 – three months after the first one. This way, we would be looking to see the next part of the championship around September 2011.

KSR: And where will the finals be held and when?

Jussi: All of the weight classes are moving forward at their own speed. We will probably see the first DARE Champions crowned early 2012. We are very happy to be working with Club Insomnia Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 12 – this is where the first events will be held. The venues for the championship events have not been decided yet.

KSR: So, the fighters – are they locals or international? Are there any names involved?

Jussi: DARE 1/11 feature fighters from Thailand, Brazil, France, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, the UK and the USA. These fighters include a black belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion from Brazil, a Judo black belt and Olympic competitor from France, a South African Muay Thai champion, a local Thai MMA fighter with over 150 Thai Boxing fights – who’s now fighting MMA – and a number of other interesting fighters. We have two fighters from Thailand competing in DARE 1/11 – Ngoo Ditty, probably Thailand’s best known Thai MMA competitor (read more about him here) and Detchoot Detsuriyan, the Thai Amateur MMA Champion (read more about him here). 

KSR: Is there likely to be much coverage; TV, etc.

Jussi: All the fights will be recorded in HD and released for public viewing after the event via a range of selected broadcasting channels. The footage might also be shown on Thai TV after the event. Future DARE events will have an online mobile application in place which will allow us to stream the fights globally. In this way the DARE Championship will be available globally, coming live from Bangkok, the fight capital of Southeast Asia. (Follow updates here)

KSR: On your website it says that the event will be under “adapted UFC rules”. How will the Thailand event differ from a standard UFC event?

Jussi: We are using the “Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts” followed by all major MMA promotions in America – UFC, Strikeforce, etc. These are the same rules that have been approved by the various State Athletic Commissions in the USA. These rules are in place because they protect our fighters’ safety. DARE events will though only be a fraction of the size of the UFC events and are also designed to be more exclusive in their set up. We only have 300 tickets available for each of the first events and we advise all those interested of coming to book a ticket in advance as we might sell out quickly. You can book a ticket at our website or pick tickets up at any of our sales points in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket or Hua Hin. The information is on our website. 

KSR: So what goes and what doesn’t go – what are the rules?

Jussi: The rules are designed to protect the fighters. Basically, all techniques that seriously injure an opponent are prohibited. For example, techniques like hitting the back of an opponent’s head or his spine are not allowed. Kicking the head of an opponent who is on the ground or trying to attack the groin, eyes, and fingers of an opponent are also strictly against the rules. It is also important to remember that all of the fighters in DARE are professionals. They have all been training for years and each of them has fight experience. Most of them have been operating as a professional fighter for several years and understand the risks involved. Importantly, they also know how to respect their opponents. DARE will only promote professional Mixed Martial Arts where the fighters are trained, prepared and experienced, and therefore understand MMA rules.

KSR: So if any KhaoSanRoad.com visitors are interested in going to event, how do they get more information?

Jussi: You will find more information from our website and our Facebook page.

KSR: And what about tickets?

The tickets for the first DARE event on 25 June 2011 are priced in two categories: Standard tickets are 1,100 THB in advance and 1,500 THB on the door, while VIP Podium tickets are 2,000 THB in advance and 2,400 THB on the door – these tickets provide a better view and offer some catering. Again, tickets are available from our website or our sales points in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin. Tickets can be booked from our website. Doors open at 4 p.m. and the action starts at around 5 p.m.25 June 2011.

KSR: What are the chances of bringing DARE to Khao San Road?

Jussi: We will have to see about that. If there is a big demand for it, we are always happy to consider it as a possibility… 

KSR: Well, good look with the event – it’s going to be very interesting to see how this pans out.

Jussi: Thank you very much and best regards to all KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. Your support is very much appreciated. See you all at DARE 1/11.

Penang, Malaysia

penang_malaysia_1
penang_malaysia_2
penang_malaysia_3
penang_malaysia_5

Situated just off the mainland of Malaysia to the very north, the pretty island of Penang – known as Pulau Pinang in Malay – is a great place to spend a few days. Bordered by Thailand to the north, many people head straight to Penang after taking the train through Thailand and across the border.

There are many reasons to visit Penang. With its beautiful beaches, Kek Lok Si – perhaps the largest and finest Buddhist temple in Asia – and spectacular scenery, it is easy to see why the island has earnt the nickname Pearl of the Orient.

Don’t miss Kek Lok Si, the terrific pagoda-style temple situated atop Penang Hill. Not only is this a great place to relax and meditate, but the views from the top are spectacular as well. Another good place to visit is the Botanical Garden. This 30-hectare garden was created in 1884 and features a sparkling waterfall as well as beautiful wild Rhesus monkeys.

Also known as Foreigner’s Rock, Batu Ferringhi is a picturesque beach resort. Take a break from temple hopping and trekking through the jungle to simply lie back on the sand a soak up the sun for a while. The Penang Butterfly Farm is located nearby at Teluk Bahang. The butterfly farm is set in picturesque tropical gardens and has thousands of species of butterflies and insects.

In 2004 Time Magazine announced that Penang had the ‘Best Street Food in Asia’, a fact that many dedicated gastronomes have known for some time. People flock from all over Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to sample the wide range of cuisines available, which include Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya, Thai and a sprinkling of Western dishes such as pasta and hamburgers.

As you walk through Penang’s Indian area, you are greeted by the scent of dozens of stalls and small shops cooking up spicy biriyanis, masalas, daal and dosas whilst meat marinated in tandori spices roasts on spits and in ovens.

If you fancy a treat, take a spin in the Revolving Restaurant on 25A Lebuh Farquhar. It takes an hour for the restaurant to make a complete revolution, allowing you to enjoy spectacular views of Penang.

Some of the best and cheapest accommodation can be found in Georgetown, especially on Lebuh Chulia, where there are several guesthouses offering rooms from RM 200 per night.

Western Cambodia

Western Cambodia
Western Cambodia

This picturesque region of Cambodia stretches from the capital city of Phnom Pehn to the Thai border. The area is marked by two dramatic mountain ranges, namely the Cardamom Mountains located in the southwestern corner and the Dangrek Range to the north.

There are a number of picturesque villages located in this region of Cambodia, especially in amongst the Cardamom Mountains. Although not many travellers visit western Cambodia, those that do will find waterfalls, caves and traditional villages, where the way of life has stayed more or less the same for centuries.

This is a great place to rest and unwind away from the tourist scene. Although you won’t find many bars or beaches in this area, there is still plenty to do. Hike through the forest, discover traditional craft skills at tribal villages and take a boat trip from Battambang to Siem Reap.

Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand

Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand
Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand
Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand
Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand

Famous for its lively full moon parties at Haad Rin Beach, Koh Pha-ngan has a chilled-out hippy atmosphere that combines nightly hedonism with day time water sports and lazing on the beach. Situated in the south of Thailand 20 kilometres north of Koh Samui in Surat Thani Province, this is an ideal destination for travellers who enjoy less crowded, more private beaches. The best way to reach Koh Pha-ngan is from Koh Samui and the boat trip takes about an hour.

Haad Rin is Koh Pha-ngan’s most popular beach. Lined with beach bars playing a wide assortment of music, the white sands can get pretty crowded. Luckily, Koh Pha-ngan offers many more secluded stretches of white sand for those who prefer a little privacy. Ao Thong Nai Pan is perhaps the second most beautiful beach on Koh Pha-ngan reachable by boat or songthaew from Thong Sala Pier.

Another extremely beautiful and tranquil beach is Ao Si Thanu, whilst the nearby tiny island of Koh Tae Nai can be reached just 5 minutes by chartered boat. This island offers jungle-covered hills, a long stretch of golden sandy beach and colourful coral reefs, perfect for diving or scuba diving.

Koh Pha-ngan has some extremely pretty jungle waterfalls waiting to be discovered including Than Sadet Falls, Phaeng Falls, Than Prapat Falls and Than Prawet Falls. A great way to see the falls and the rest of the island is to take a guided boat tour. Boat trips usually take around 10 people, last all day and include snorkelling and lunch. The boat trips are also a great way to meet fellow travellers and exchange tall tales and travelling tips.

Wat Khao Tham is a cave temple located on the hilltop of Khao Kao Haeng. There is a monastery here that is ideal for meditation amidst the well-preserved nature. The monastery offers 10 days meditation retreats and can be found near the pretty village of Ban Tai.

Another interesting temple is Wat Madio Wan, where a replica of Lord Buddha’s Footprint is enshrined on the hilltop Mondop, whilst jungle trekking up to the island’s largest mountain of Khao Ra is a great way to see the island.

Many people stop at Koh Pha-ngan for a day or two before heading on to Koh Tao, which lies 45 kilometres north of Koh Pha-ngan and is known as the best diving site in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao, which means Turtle Island in the Thai language, is very small and covered with palm trees and pristine white sand, the perfect exotic island.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

An area of incredible natural beauty situated in Krabi Province, there are actual two main islands of Koh Phi Phi; Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh. The Phi Phi Islands are believed by many to be among the most beautiful tropical islands in the world and have become one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions.

Koh Phi Phi Don is the area’s tourist hub. This is where you will find the majority of the hotels, beach bungalows, bars and restaurants. Koh Phi Phi Don covers an area of 28 square kilometres and features the twin bays of Ao Ton Sai and Ao Lo Da Lam with their stunning curving white sandy beaches, the perfect picture of an exotic tropical paradise. A great way to get an idea of the island’s true beauty is to tackle the 1000 foot vertical climb to Viewpoint. Although slightly challenging, the climb, which takes you through a lush leafy jungle, and the view more than make up for it.

There are many interesting activities to engage in on Koh Phi Phi Don, and it is easy to spend a week or more there. Fire jugglers and beach bars make up the evening entertainment, and there are plenty of restaurants showing western movies throughout the day and late into the night. There is dancing on the beach most nights. To experience a true touch of hedonism, visit the island around the full moon.

The sunset yoga classes on the beach are a good way to unwind, and you can learn a new skill and impress your friends by taking Thai cookery classes.

When it comes to food, just about every taste can be catered for, whether you fancy a fish barbecue on the beach, an all-you-can-eat feast or traditional Thai cooking. There is also a small market where you can eat with the locals at dramatically reduced prices and this is a good place to buy fresh fruit.

The clear waters, beautiful coral and colourful fish mean that the area is popular for diving and snorkelling, whilst many visit the island to climb the limestone cliffs. Boat trips are extremely popular and are usually combined with snorkelling and a visit to the extremely striking island of Koh Phi Phi Leh.

Koh Phi Phi Leh is famous for Ao Maya – the location where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. The island covers a mere 6.6 square kilometres and is surrounded by limestone mountains and sheer cliffs, which plunge hundreds of metres to the sparkling blue sea. The sea is around 20 metres deep and the deepest point to the

south of the island is approximately 34 metres. There is no accommodation on Koh Phi Phi Leh, and the only way to see it is by an arranged boat trip.

Koh Phi Phi Other islands in the area to explore include Koh Jam (also know as Koh Pu) and Koh Si Buya. Although extremely pretty, both of these small islands are less popular with tourists and are great places to stay if you want to avoid the crowds.

Krabi, Thailand

  • Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand

Welcome to Krabi, said by many to be the ‘most beautiful province in Thailand’. Located approximately 814 kilometres from Bangkok, Krabi Province can be found in the south of Thailand and consists of more than 150 attractive islands and beaches.

There is plenty to see and do in this province, and it is easy to lose yourself here for more than a month as you hop from island to island and beach to beach. Popular activities are sea kayaking and canoeing, whilst diving and snorkelling are always popular in Thailand’s crystal clear waters.

Ao Nang is the closest beach to Krabi Town. This area is mainly occupied by large, upmarket beach resorts. You can hire a sea kayak or long-tail boat and explore the uninhabited island of Koh Hong.

Just 6 kilometres away from Ao Nang is the well loved are much talked about Hat Noppharat Thara, which is a famous 3 kilometer long white sandy beach, perfect for taking it easy and soaking up some rays. Elephant trekking is popular in this area, while the hot springs at Khlong Thom are a good place to ease aching muscles. Whilst there, check out the informative Wat Khlong Thom museum.

Railay is perhaps the prettiest beach in this area. This is a great place for rock climbing, and the sunsets at Hat Rai Leh West are spectacular.

There are some interesting limestone cliffs to explore. Tham Phra Nang is named Princess Cave after a local legend. The cave is hidden in the lagoon of Sa Phra Nang (Holy Princess Pool). Climb the cliff top for spectacular views.

Nearby, Tham Phra Nang Nai (Inner Princess Cave) is a series of illuminated caverns of high beauty. A feature point is the unusual ‘stone waterfall’, which is made of sparkling golden quartz.

Khao Phanom Bencha National Park consists of 50 square kilometres of virgin rainforest and a whole host of pretty waterfalls including Nam Tok Huay To, Nam Tok Huay Sadeh and Nam Tok Khlong Haeng and it is possible to swim in most of the waterfalls. The park is also home to the cave of Tham Khao Pheung, which contains stunning shimmering mineral stalactites and stalagmites.

Another area of natural beauty is the large Than Bok Khorani National Park, where caving is the main activity. Caves of interest here include Tham Hua Kalok, Tham Lawt and Tham Sa Yuan Thong. If you need a break from the beach, there are many interesting temples in the area to explore. Look out for the monastery of Wat Sai Thai, which is a particularly auspicious place and very interesting around Buddhist holidays.

There are many places to get a good meal, and of course seafood is top of the menu. Barbecues can be found all along the beach and western food is widely available. If you are looking to save a few baht, the night markets are generally the cheapest places to eat and these are the best places to find tasty, authentic Thai food.

Beung Kan, Thailand

Beung Kan, Thailand
Beung Kan, Thailand
Beung Kan, Thailand

Situated in Nong Khai Province to the northeast of Thailand, Beung Kan makes a good stopping off point on the way to Laos. This is a quieter alternative to the interesting yet sometimes overwhelming bustling city of Nong Khai. Baung Kan may be quaint, dusty and slightly sleepy, but there is still plenty here for the adventurous to see and do.

A great attraction is the temple of Wat Phu Tok. This temple features six levels of steps, which can be slightly difficult to climb in the heat of the day – it is best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. However, the spectacular views over the surrounds countryside from the top more than make up for the effort. This is a absolutely enchanting place, and people are offered the opportunity to get to know it better by staying overnight in one of the dormitories.

A pleasant day trip from Beung Kan is the charming little town of Sangkhom, which looks out on the Lao island of Don Klang. This is the home of several beautiful flowing waterfalls such as Nam Tok Than Thip and Nam Tok Than Thong, which is a great place for swimming and cooling down after a hike through the countryside.

Whilst there, make sure that you check out the pretty little temple of Wat Pa Tak Sua, which is located 4 kilometers from the town and another great hiking destination. Another point of interest is Wat Silawat. Beung Kan, a great place to hire a bicycle and go exploring or go trekking to.

This peaceful village is also a good place to be lazy for a few days and just soak up the stunning scenery, fresh air and tranquility. There are a few local guesthouses where you can indulge in delicious Thai food and practice the simple art of doing nothing.

Phrae, Thailand

Phrae, Thailand
Phrae, Thailand

Welcome to Phrae, an old and important community in Northern Thailand. Phrae was founded shortly after Chiang Mai had been established as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom. The province has one of the largest reserves of teak forests in the country and is located on the banks of the Yom River, 555 kilometres from Bangkok.

Phrae has a slightly sleepy feel and is a great place to escape from the hustle and bustle of life for a day or two and simply relax. This is an area of intense natural beauty and there is plenty to explore if you’re feeling active.

Wiang Kosai National Park is a great showcase for the area’s nature. Another immense area of natural beauty is the Mae Yom National Park, which is situated around 48 kilometres from the town of Phrae. A popular feature of the park are the Kaeng Sua Ten rapids, a two-kilometre-long stretch of rock formations which is best visited during November-February when the weather is cool and scenery at its prettiest. Visitors are permitted to camp along the river banks, making this a great place to simply relax for a day or two.

Scattered around the province are some pretty sparkling waterfalls and haunting caves to explore. Take a trip to Tham Pha Nang Khoi 40 kilometres north of town, Namtok Huai Rong and Namtok Tat Mok.

The area’s temples offer an interesting insight into the traditional culture and style. Wat Luang is the oldest temple in Phrae and includes an interesting museum. Also look out for the 400-year-old chedi of Phra That Phra Lo, Wat Sa Bo Kaeo, Wat Phra That Chom Chaeng, Wat Phra That Cho Hae and Wat Phra Non, located near the old city wall.

An interesting day trip is Phae Muang Phi, which is located about 12 kilometres out of town. This is an unusual natural feature which subsidence and erosion of the soil has created rocks in the shapes of exotic-looking mushrooms.

Another interesting local feature is Vongburi House, which is a private museum. This teak house was the residence of the last Prince of Phrae. Another interesting old teak house can be found in the village of Ban Prathap Jai.

A good place to get a feel for the local culture is at the Folklore Museum, which is located three kilometres from town. Here you will see different types of wooden houses, which demonstrate the different status of the local people. There is also market and shop houses of the ancient traditional style.

When it comes to eating, a great place to get a good, cheap meal is at the town’s large night market.

Phrae province is well known for its lively and interesting festivals. The Phra that Cho Hae Fair is held around March and involves a procession to carry robes to cover the local chedi. The procession follows the Lanna style and all participants are decked out in traditional Lanna attire.

The Kin Salak Fair is an old Buddhist merit-making event. Villagers prepare offerings and carry them in a procession to present to the monks. The fair is held around September each year.