Probably the most exotic country in South East Asia, with a rich diversity of cultures and attractions. Superb beach resort islands in the south, misty mountains and fast flowing rivers in the north. Vibrant cities such as the lively capital Bangkok and the equally emotive Chiang Mai. Flying time from London to Bangkok is 12 hours, and from there to most of the resorts another 60 minutes. Bangkok is also the most obvious gateway for onward travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Weather wise – Thailand is a year round destination, although the resort do have differing season. The Andaman Resorts of Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak and Koh Lanta are generally at their best December to early May when the days are usually bright and sunny and the seas calm. During the summer months ( frequently called the green season but we think red flag and occasionally long face season more apt ! ) the humidity increases, the rains heavier usually in short sharp bursts, the beaches tend to erode and the sea swells higher.
Koh Samui is the reverse with the most settled time May to October, with the winter months having the highest rainfall beach erosion and sea swells.
Hua Hin/Koh Samet are more constant without the extremes found further south, with the summer months more humid and slightly more rainfall.
The resorts, irrespective of location, enjoy year round heat with day time temperatures usually in the high 20’s.
Note – In common witth most tropical areas, the beaches are to be used by tourist and local alike, private beaches are not permitted. The most attractive beaches tend to be the most popular, appealing to day visitors from other resorts where the beaches may be less enticing.
Bangkok can be hot and steamy year round, with heavy showers particularly Midsummer to October. In the North where the focus tends to be on touring, the winter months can see decidedly chilly misty mornings and evenings although by mid-morning the temperatures are well into the 20’s. The summer months can see increased rainfall, and more noticeably higher humidity.
Why – The instant excitement, the total innovation, the diversity of cultures. The fantastic shopping ranging from bustling street markets to contemporary malls. The eco influenced sightseeing opportunities, the incredible spas, the great value hotels, the superb service – and of course the mouth-watering food. Plus the superb air links with usually 4 flights a day to Bangkok from London, plus many more options travelling via the Gulf.
If we were to be critical – Thailand moves at a fast pace and at times development appears to be rather too instant rather than long term considered, it shows particularly in terms of infrastructure. Prices have increased, in line with growing demand, but it still remains one of the very best competitive destinations. Most of the resorts have their tacky sides, but these can be easily avoided – or fleetingly enjoyed – just as you wish.
Client Profile Update - As the financial situation in Europe, allied to high avaiation taxes, continues to hurt, the profile of tourist arrivals has changed and more emphasis has now been placed on regional travellers, and in particular from China which has risen quickly to be number one. It will be noticeable and audible, mainly in the larger cities and resorts. The mainland Chinese are not afraid to show their excitment openly on things we in the west have blandly taken for granted.
Russia is also a significant source of clients with arrivals now overtaking both UK and Germany. 80% travel in the period November to March, so they will be noticeable.
The bustling capital city of Thailand and the main gateway. One of the great cities of the region, a place of extreme contrasts. Towering high rise dwarfing ornate and colourful temples. Expansive motorways, modern over-rail system and fascinating traditional Klongs (waterways). Smartly dressed executives walking side by side with saffron robed monks. Obvious opulence and consumer indulgence alongside abject poverty. Fantastic shopping with a choice of modern malls or authentic street markets. Flight time from UK is approx 12 hours.
Weatherwise – Hot and humid year round, with heavy showers August to November.
Why – Instant Asia, exciting, bustling, chaotic with an in your face intensity that hits you from the moment you arrive. Apart from the shopping, the sights are equally attractive with a visit to the Grand Palace a must. Innovative restaurants, great Asian food of course but equally good Mediterranean options, in some amazing locations. Great hotels, fantastic value many embracing cutting edge design with a few – see feature on Ariyasomvilla on this page – offering a more traditional Thai experience.
Check out out our new inclusions of Eastin Grand in South Sathorn Road or Chatrium Riverside, both offering super quality and value.
If we were to be critical – Without doubt a ‘marmite’ city, with a love it or loathe it appeal. Its busy, hot and at times rather pungent, and totally real! It does have its (easily avoidable) sleazy side. Traffic jams are frequent but the monorail system an easy and fun alternative.
Chiang Mai and the North
Chaing Mai is the second city of Thailand, but just a fraction of the size of Bangkok. It’s a compact, bustling place still retaining a market city atmosphere and is the main gateway for exploring the northern region.
Chiang Rai is even smaller and traditional, akin to a sprawling village and is located in the extreme north-east of the country, facing the borders of Laos and Burma.
Weatherwise – December to mid March is probably the most popular time, with cool – frequently chilly mornings and evenings so pack accordingly – with temperatures then rising quickly as you approach midday. March to May tend to be the driest, hottest months. The wet season is June to November, characterised by sharp heavy showers rather than constant rainfall.
Why – Chiang Mai is in our opinion a must on any tour of Thailand. An easy to explore 700 year old city, fantastic temples, it rivals Samui for the highest concentration of boutique hotels and restaurants, the night market, the great scenery and eco adventure options. Chiang Rai is smaller, much less developed, with the major attraction being in the heart of the Golden Triangle with equally interesting touring options. There are excellent air links from Chiang Mai direct to Phuket and Samui, as well as to Bangkok of course.
If we were to be critical – Chiang Mai is developing fast, sometimes without a lot of thought and planning. Tourism has brought wealth to some of the hill tribes but sometimes village tours can be on the hour, every hour! Some of the scenery in the Golden Triangle is blighted by the rather obnoxious casinos on the Burma/Laos side.
Hua Hin and Koh Samet
Located on opposite sides of the Gulf of Siam, these two resorts share the fact that both are easily accessible from Bangkok, just a two hour plus road transfer. But that is where the similarity ends. Hua Hin is a sprawling resort with many hotels, a rapidly expanding town centre and is the aspirational centre for many upwardly mobile Thai families who have villas and condominiums in the area.
Koh Samet is a small island retreat, 20 minutes by speedboat from the ferry point at Rayong. Just a handful of hotels mainly catering for regional tourists, and the delightful Paradee Resort which would not be out of place in the Indian Ocean.
Weatherwise – Both are at their best December to April, but they do not experience the seasonal pattern of the islands further south, so in our summer months you have slightly more rainfall and maybe increased humidity
Why – The easy access from Bangkok city and airport makes both resorts a firm consideration, particularly at the end of a multi centre touring holiday. Hua Hin has several good restaurant options, improving shopping, and probably the highest concentration of golf courses in Thailand. Koh Samet is more simple, laid back relaxation mainly within the resort with shopping limited to the ubiquitous seven – 11 outlets.
If we were to be critical – Hua Hin is erection city – in the building sense of course. The regional demand for more luxurious homes and apartments just rolls on. Don’t expect something tropical with swaying palm trees, the landscape is rather barren. Samet is all slow paced, delightfully simple so your expectations need to be realistic.
Note Koh Samet can also be spelt as Samed, both are correct!
Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi and Koh Lanta
The Andaman sea resorts of Thailand. The main gateway is Phuket, served by regular one hour flights from Bangkok as well as several flights weekly from all of the major regional cities. Krabi has slightly less flights, and is essentially a domestic airport. Khao Lak is one hour road transfer from Phuket, Koh Lanta a two hour road and speedboat transfer from Krabi.
Weatherwise – Generally this region is at its best December through to the end of April when the days are generally bright and sunny, and the beaches at their most impressive. During our summer months you get increased rainfall although unlikely to be constant despite the locals referring to the monsoon season. We think red flag season is more accurate as it is probable you will not be able to go into the sea due to high swells and long face if the rain has erased the memory of your fantastic promotional offer.
Why – Phuket is the most developed, with many hotels of differing standards and just as many residential villas, a good infrastructure and some excellent albeit seasonal beaches particularly on the west coast, as well as some of the best golf courses on the region. Khao Lak is much quieter with a small village and just a handful of hotels. The main appeal of Krabi is to visit the incredible limestone islands just offshore, the beaches in the main resort are wide and reasonable. Koh Lanta is quiet, with a rustic authentic charm, a scenic nature influenced island with some good beaches and Led Zepellin influenced bars and hairstyles!
If we were to be critical – Phuket has its tacky side at Patong but that is just a very small mile square on an otherwise attractive and generally upscale island. Equally Krabi has Ao Nang which is rather brash. Khao Lak and Koh Lanta offer simple pleasures but with reassuringly attractive hotels. Shopping is limited although Tesco- Lotus are prominent in Phuket.
Koh Samui and Koh Phangan
Koh Samui is a small totally tropical island, located in the Gulf of Siam, just off the west coast mainland, 75 minutes flight south of Bangkok. In addition to the numerous flights daily linking the island to Bangkok there are also daily flights from Chiang Mai, as well as Hong Kong, Singapore and KL.
The majority of our selected hotels in Koh Samui are located on the north coast, with the main concentration in the Bangkrak, Bophut and Choeng Mon resorts, 10 minutes either side of the airport. Maenam is 5 minutes further west along the coast. The Banyan Tree is located in Lamai, in the mid south east corner. We do not feature any hotels in the boisterous Chaweng resort area, although this is easily accessible.
The best beaches on Samui are Bo Phut and Maenam on the north coast and east coast Chaweng, all of which are good with soft sand and easy water access. The remainder tend to be small rocky coves where swimming is usually possible only at high tide. As it is a relatively small island you might have some aircraft noise, particularly in the north-west corner of the island which has the airport and the highest concentration of hotels.
Koh Phangan is rather like Samui 30 years ago, and I am probably one of the few people that can say that with first hand authority! Dirt tracks for roads, just a few sleepy villages, no shops, hardly any nightlife once you ignore the monthly full moon parties that occur on the beaches further south.
Weatherwise – Generally at its best Mid April through to October. In our winter months expect higher rainfall, long faces and in particular some beach erosion and higher sea swells.
Why – a combination of funky hip and Thai chic sophistication. Samui rivals Chiang Mai for the most boutique hotels and restaurants. The best beaches tend to be on the north coast at Maenam and Bophut or east coast at Chaweng, the south and west coast areas have hardly changed in 25 years and still appear untouched by the advance of tourism, primarily because the beaches are small with sea access difficult due to rocks and coral. An easy island to explore, you can drive round within a day, also make time to visit some of the offshore islands. Chaweng can be brash but fun, Fisherman’s Village is more family focused. See weatherwise note above. For a Hide and Chic option look at Koh Phangan, but compatible company will be important !
If we were to be critical – too much emphasis on building hotels, not enough on infrastructure, it can show particularly on wet days! It’s a small island so aircraft can be visible and audible from most hotels, especially those on the popular north coast. Depite being widely promoted as a beach island, there are probably only 3 beaches that are rated on world stage, namely Mae Nam, Bo Phut and Chaweng. The rest tend to be small rocky coves, with a definate ” ouch ” factor when entering / exiting the sea. Koh Phangan is more simple and much less developed, with some super beaches. China is now the largest producer of tourists to Thaiand, followed by Russia. Unlike UK visitors, the Russians tend to travel mainly in the period November to March, so they do tend to be noticeable.
Thailand Chic Locations
- 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai
- Aava Resort and Spa
- Thailand – Some Touring Suggestions
- Akyra Chura
- Aleenta Pranburi
- Anantara Cruises
- Anantara’s Rasananda Resort
- Andara Resort and Villas
- Apsara Resort and Spa, Khao Lak
- Banyan Tree Resort & Spa , Phuket
- Banyan Tree Resort and Spa
- Chatrium Hotel Riverside
- Chiva – Som Destination Spa
- Dusit Thani Laguna
- Eastin Grand
- Elephant Hills Safari Lodge
- Four Seasons Resort
- Four Seasons Tented Camp
- Indigo Pearl
- J.W. Marriott Resort
- J.W. Marriott Resort – Khao Lak
- Journeys through Thailand
- Kirikayan Boutique Resort
- Layana Resort and Spa
- Let’s Sea
- Maikhao Dream Resort
- Maikhao Dream Villas
- Mandarin Oriental
- Melati Beach Resort and Spa
- Mom Tri’s Villa Royale
- Napasai by Orient-Express
- Napasai Resort
- Outrigger Resort
- Paradee Resort
- Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
- Pimalai Resort and Spa
- Sala Samui Resort & Spa
- Sala Talay
- Santhiya Resort & Spa
- Santiburi Beach Spa & Golf Resort
- Sri Panwa – Suites and Residences
- The Chedi
- The Library
- The Metropolitan
- The Peninsula
- The Racha
- The Sarojin
- The Scent
- The Sukhothai
- The Tubkaak
- U hotel
- Vie Hotel
- Wanakarn Beach Resort, Phang Nga
- YaiYa Resort
- Zeavola Resort