Thailand beyond the Party Islands
For many years Thailand has been the go-to destination for backpackers, luxury lovers and honeymooners thanks to its bustling cities, party atmosphere and of course its numerous beaches.
The Thai Islands are what dreams are made of – think white sand, clear turquoise waters, deserted beaches lined with palm trees and hidden treasures. But with so many scattered along the east and west shores of the country, what really sets them apart and which ones are a must?
Found in the Krabi Province on Thailand’s Andaman coast, Koh Lanta is a hidden gem of an island known for its coral-fringed beaches, mangroves and rainforests. Away from the hustle and bustle of the ‘party’ islands, Koh Lanta is the island to visit if you are looking for some peace and quiet on a little slice of paradise. Days can pass in a blissful blur on the beach but when you can finally drag yourself away from the crystal waters, hire a scooter and explore the entire island, which is small enough to do in a day. Stop of at a gypsy village and learn about the traditional way of life before heading down the Old Town on the east coast, where a smattering of stunning seafood restaurants can be found amongst a quaint shopping street. The island also has a number of hidden beaches found off the beaten track – you’ll feel like a castaway when you discover one and realise there’s nobody else there.
Phi Phi may have a bit of a reputation as a party island but there’s so much more to it than that. Away from the bars selling buckets of booze, there’s luxurious hotels hidden in the car-free island. Once you’ve transported your luggage from the small ferry port to your hotel, take a walk around the island along the water’s edge and you’ll discover the Thailand you see on postcards – as the palm tree-lined beaches and traditional long-tail boats far surpass anything you’ve seen before.
The highlight of the island is without a doubt Maya Bay –featured in the hit film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Known for being the ultimate island, it can only be reached by boat and you have to get up around 5am to get there early to beat the crowds because its reputation really does proceed it and by 7am the beach is extremely busy. The early start is well worth it – the water is crystal clear and the rock formations surrounding the bay create a movie-like quality. You’ll feel like Leo himself as you swim in the water and explore the deserted island.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island but don’t let that put you off, in fact the size of it means it’s got even more to offer. Located in the Gulf Of Thailand, off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus, Samui is famed for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest. There are luxurious resorts aplenty and enough spas for a massage at a different place every day of your holiday. Take your pick from a host of postcard-esque beaches to stay at. Lamai Beach is ideal for those who don’t want to be surrounded by fellow holiday makers but like to be fairly close to some action. From there it’s easier to reach the islands’ must-see attractions, such as the 12-metre tall golden Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple. After that, check out the mummified monk wearing a pair of sunglasses at the Buddhist temple Wat Khunaram. Enjoy a cocktail or two as night falls and if you are feeling adventurous pay a visit to one of the famous Ladyboy cabaret shows. Ladyboys are a huge part of Thai culture and it’s very common for them to put on extravagant shows where they mime to songs, creating a truly inspirational and lively evening of entertainment.
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