Located in the Eastern Gulf, Pattaya, 1 of
Southeast Asia's most
beach destinations, is crowded by massive
development. The more peaceful nearby destination of Bang Saen
could be a more pleasant place. A little further is Ko
Samet, a peaceful and
delightful island which is around a 30 minute boat ride
from Rayong while Cha'am and Hua Hin are a 3 hour drive south of Bangkok. The
latter was a royal holiday place and is currently enjoying a renaissance.
Phuket Island is connected by 2 bridges
to the mainland, Phang Nga. It is situated in the southwest corner of Thailand. Phuket has become the most popular beach destination
in Thailand. Patong, a small town, is famous for its wild bars on Bangla Road, but a number of accommodations and hotels
that are scattered around the
beaches on the island
are excellent. Phuket is also large enough to accommodate backpacker
beach-hut developments alongside deluxe hotels. Diving is popular
but visibility can be a problem. Since the tsunami Phuket has
recovered and again welcoming visitors from around the world.
Phang Nga Bay
Easily accessible from Phuket, Phang Nga Bay is home to 1 of the world's
most remarkable seascapes; the area was shown in the
James Bond film, The Man with the Golden
Gun. About 3,500 islands (ko) are spread out through this bay.
Although obviously impenetrable from the outside, they are home
to a wealth of unspoilt fauna and flora in their
hollow interior. They were believed unreachable from the
enclosing sea but now canoe trips can take you through some tunnels and
cracks in the rocks, although this depends on the prevailing tide.
Ko Phi Phi Islands
and pleasant twin islands which were battered by the tsunami
is easily reached via a boat trip from either Krabi or Phuket. Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest island, covered with tropical rainforest, is a slice
of paradise with its wide white sandy beaches. Ton Sai, the only town, is being rebuilt, unfortunately
back to its ugly days before the tsunami struck.
Ko Phi Phi Leh, a short boat ride away, became famous when
it was used as the setting for the Hollywood film,
The Beach. There are no accommodations on this
limestone island, but it is an ideal place for day trips
from its larger island.
Ko Samui, once a backpacker's
paradise, has been transformed into a more advanced beachfront holiday destination,
complete with an airport that provides regular flights from Bangkok
and Krabi. The country's 3rd-largest island,
Ko Samui's major industry is now tourism although it used to be coconut farming.
The largest beach on the island is Chaweng Beach which features many nice hotels including bungalows, bars and shops that are
suitable for budget travellers.
The comparatively undeveloped island is
visited by the more adventurous travellers who wish to escape
from fast food eateries and chain hotels. Each month it is the
setting for the all-night full moon beach parties
at Had Rin with up to 10,000 revellers frolicking
in the moonlit surf in a wacky festival that appeal to everyone
from backpackers to the Bangkok young professionals. You will not find luxury hotels on the island, but many beach hut accommodations
are located in small communities around Ko Phangan, providing a real
escape or the opportunity to party with other travellers. The island can only be reached via boat from Ko Samui or Surat Thani.
Ko Tao, translating as 'Turtle Island',
is another undeveloped island, but it is becoming widely known as a
scuba diving site. The
only real town, Ban Mae Hat is being over run by budget accommodations and dive
operators. The diving is great with clean water and good visibility.