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Chiang Mai & the North
Hua Hin & Koh Samet
Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi & Koh Lanta
Samui, Neighbouring Islands, Southern Thailand
Chic Locations – Friends of Thailand Award
Amazing Thailand | Beach | Spa | Romance | Culture
Thailand is 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.
Thailand is a year round destination, although the resorts do have differing seasons. 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 albeit usually in short sharp bursts, the beaches tend to erode and the sea swells higher, but the prices drop and the offers increase.
Koh Samui and the neighbouring islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao and mainland Khanom – Surat Thani region are the reverse with the most settled time March to October, and the winter months (particularly November to January) having the highest rainfall, beach erosion and sea swells.
Hua Hin/Koh Samet is 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 daytime temperatures usually in the high 20’s.
Note – In common with most tropical areas, the beaches are to be used by tourist and locals 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.
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 can show 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 aviation taxes, continues to hurt, the profile of tourist arrivals has changed and more emphasis has now been placed on regional travellers. In particular, China which has risen quickly to be number one by a long way. It will be noticeable and audible, mainly in the larger cities and resorts. The mainland Chinese are not afraid to show their excitement openly on things we in the west have blandly taken for granted. Russia is probably the second biggest source of arrivals, especially in the winter months. The UK is one of the most consistent producers, with each calendar month almost the same.
Just as an indication, China produces about 8.5 million visitors each year for Thailand, Russia 2 million and UK 1 million.
Note – Thailand is one of the most liberal countries in the world. Openly hedonistic. However you should refrain from open political comments of any type , and most importantly show total respect to the images of the Thai Royal Family.
See UK Foreign Office Travel Advice as this contains some additional information which might add to your understanding of the country and its customs.
Please note smoking is now banned from many public areas including several beaches. E-cigarettes are officially banned from import and fines apply for usage.
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. Super hotels, fantastic value many embracing cutting edge design with a few offering a more traditional Thai experience.
If We Were To Be Critical...
Without a doubt a ‘marmite’ city, with a love it or loathe it appeal. ( 90% of our clients think its an amazing place and return year after year, and marvel at the new attractions. The remaining 10% just don’t get the appeal, its too hot, too busy, too extreme.) Its busy, frequently humid and at times rather pungent, and totally real! It does have its (easily avoidable) sleazy side. Traffic jams are frequent but the monorail system offers an easy and fun alternative.
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.
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 tends 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?
Chiang Mai is in our opinion a must on any tour of Thailand. An easy to explore a 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.
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.
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 Hua Hin & Koh Samet?
The easy access from Bangkok city and airport makes both resorts a firm consideration, particularly at the end of a multicentre 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...
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.
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 and many of the Gulf cities. Krabi has slightly fewer 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.
Why Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi & Koh Lanta?
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 atmosphere and just a handful of hotels. The main appeal of Krabi is to visit the incredible limestone islands just offshore, with some good beaches. Koh Lanta is quiet, with a rustic authentic charm, a scenic nature influenced island with some super 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.
Phuket ( and surrounding islands), Khao Lak , Krabi and Koh Lanta are all located in the Andaman sea area. Sea swimming is generally at its best December to April. During the months May to October high waves can be encountered making swimming dangerous, and lifeguards absent as they generally do not think anyone will want to go into the sea.
The majority of our selected hotels in Koh Samui are located on the north coast, 10 minutes either side of the airport. Maenam is 5 minutes further west along the coast. Vana Belle is located in south Chaweng, in the mid south east corner. We do not feature any hotels in the boisterous central 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 half and full moon parties that occur on the beaches further south. Reached by speedboat or ferry from Samui, approx. 45 minutes.
Koh Tao is even less developed and has for years been the chosen resort for divers and hippy backpackers. It is now gradually moving slightly more upscale, but it remains delightfully simple. Usually reached by ferry from Samui, approx. 2 hours.
Khanom on the mainland has glorious beaches, a fantastic mountain backdrop, small villages with lively markets where white faces can be the source of well-humoured curiosity. Wonderfully underdeveloped, this is the Thailand of how it used to be – or maybe should be!
Generally at its best March through to October. In our winter months expect higher rainfall, some long faces and in particular some beach erosion and higher sea swells.
Why Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Khanom ?
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 options look at Koh Phangan, Koh Tao or Khanom but compatible company might 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. Despite being widely promoted as a beach island, there are probably only 4 beaches that are rated on a world stage, namely Mae Nam, Bo Phut, Lamai and Chaweng. The rest tend to be small rocky coves, with a definite ” ouch ” factor when entering/exiting the sea. Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Khanom are more simple and much less developed, with some super beaches.
Friends of Thailand Award
David Kevan from Chic Locations was privileged to receive the prestigious Friends of Thailand award in June 2013.
The award is given to individuals or companies who have shown constant innovation and originality in promoting Thailand. The award is presented every other year. In 2013 there were over thirty winners from around the world, but only two from the UK, David and the publisher from Lonely Planet publications.
Although the award has been presented to a couple of UK operators in the past, David is the first individual from a British tour operator to be recognised.
The presentation was made by the Minister of Tourism to David during the annual Thailand Travel Mart held in Bangkok. (David pictured above receiving award. He is the taller, balder, fatter one !)
David said “It is always good to receive recognition, especially as it was presented in front of an audience of tour operators and press. Although the award was made to me personally, at Chic we are very much a team so we all share my pleasure. Thailand has consistently been our top selling destination in Asia. Plus it has the highest repeat business. The product range is vast and ever changing, so it is easy to be creative and you can always offer something new.“