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Spectacular spots in Thailand for a truly memorable trip

Spectacular spots in Thailand for a truly memorable trip

If you’re considering a trip to Thailand, it’s likely you’re feeling a little spoiled for choice. Far more than a beach paradise (although it certainly ticks that box with ease), the Land of Smiles can serve up bustling city adventures, testing jungle treks and foodie escapes with ease. Whether you want to head North for a culture-soaked sojourn, to Koh Samui for an island escape, to seek out the temples in Bangkok or simply to flop on the best-looking strips of sand, we know the location for you.

Here, discover the most beautiful places in Thailand, from the gateway island escape to some lesser-known hideaways.

For a weekend in the city: Bangkok

Bangkok is not a city for the faint-hearted: from the humid climes to the non-stop moped traffic, it’s a city that requires both energy and enthusiasm.

But come prepared (that’s comfortable shoes, a proper hat and a decent night’s sleep) and there is so much to discover in this vibrant city.

On weekends, brave the rabbit warren of Chatuchak market (go early to skip the crowds and the heat) and hunt for designer vintage treasures hidden amongst the 15000 market stalls, or head to Chinatown’s Yaowarat road to traverse the miles of gold traders and street-food vendors. Looking for something more cultural? The Grand Palace is one of the most spectacular Buddhist temples in the country, sensitively maintained and glimmering gold beneath the sun.

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The stay: Mandarin Oriental

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The oldest hotel in Thailand, The Oriental first opened on the banks of the Chao Phraya river in 1876 and, after being bought by the Mandarin group in the 1970s, remains the most prestigious place to stay in the city today. Ask for a room in the Author’s Wing, part of the original 19th century building, where each suite is named after a past literary guest.

For jungle treks and food markets: Chiang Mai

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An hour’s flight north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand, offering a serene contrast to the beachy Southern regions. Many come for the elephant sanctuaries (which can indeed be wonderful, but be sure to do your research to find an ethical option), and to delve into the country’s rich history and enduring Lanna heritage. Time-honoured temples, jungle treks and national parks are all on the cards here, as is a fantastic food scene for those unafraid to get stuck into a string of dishes on the side of the road. (Do as the late Anthony Bourdain did, and look for the lady in the cowboy hat at Chang Phueak Gate night market).

The stay: 137 Pillars

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Chiang Mai isn’t the place for flopping into a five-star resort, with most visiting for a few action-packed days before recovering on the beaches. But that doesn’t mean a stylish stay is off the cards: opt for 137 Pillars, which honours the traditional Lanna architecture while working in modern (and truly luxe) touches, such as a slender swimming pool and well-kitted gym.

For the best beaches: Koh Lipe

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Koh Lipe is considerably trickier to reach than the popular islands of Samui and Lanta (the flight-taxi-speedboat trifecta takes up a whole day) which means it’s generally visited by those serious Thailand travellers who have ticked off the obvious spots and are in search of something that feels more secret.

Indeed, a trip to Lipe is something you’ll be talking about for some time: this truly paradisiacal island is dubbed the ‘Maldives of Thailand’ for good reason. Here, expect homespun cocktail bars, casual BBQ restaurants and some of the most jaw-dropping beaches in the country, with shallow shores and spectacular snorkelling spots. Don’t pack for an evening dress code – there is nowhere here that requires a high heel – and remember to throw in a few good books, as Lipe is really all about the reclining.

The stay: Idyllic Concept Resort

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On hippy-centric Lipe, pristine sandbanks are flanked not by high-rise hotels and mega resorts, but lowkey properties designed around the natural landscape. The most luxurious is Idyllic, which is situated on a coveted spot at the end of Sunrise beach (early risers will be rewarded). The rooms are modest yet modern, with beachfront villas available, and there are two pools: one for lapping, and the other with a swim-up bar.

For family-friendly fun: Koh Samui

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Koh Samui is perhaps the most well-known of the Southern Thai islands, situated in the Gulf next to Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao. Served by its own airport, it’s an easy hour’s flight from Bangkok, yet the atmosphere is worlds apart from the bustle of the city. Development has been rampant on Samui, and there’s now a multitude of luxury resorts to choose from, while the nightlife of Chaweng beach and restaurants of Fisherman’s Village are there should you fancy a livelier libation.

The stay: Six Senses

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Set into the hillside on the Northern edge of Samui, Six Senses is the kind of otherworldly retreat that instantly makes you feel deliciously free from the stresses of real life. It’s a taxi drive away from the crowds of the main tourist beaches, and offers both privacy and incredible ocean views (which you can gaze at smugly from your own private infinity pool). Be sure to reserve a table at Dining On The Rocks for a quiet, memorable dinner on a platform perched over the ocean.

For a peaceful retreat: Koh Lanta

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Koh Lanta, situated on the Western coast and easily accessible from the mainland at Phuket or Krabi, is one of the quieter islands, offering a true sense of castaway escapism. The beaches to the north are the most built-up (although they’re still beautifully chilled out) while the south of the island is where you’ll find the best resorts and most beautiful views. Lanta isn’t packed with tourist attractions or Western restaurants – families after ease and entertainment may want to consider Samui instead – but anyone after a week of rest and relaxation will be in their own personal paradise.

The stay: Pimalai Resort and Spa

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Set into the snaking hillside of Lanta’s southerly Kantiang Bay, the Pimalai resort offers the most striking panoramic views of the Andaman sea (with a virtually private stretch of sand to boot). Here, you’ll feel immersed in nature, with villas built around the thriving tropical flora and fauna. Sure, you can rent a paddleboard, play tennis, complete a PADI diving course or borrow a bike to explore the island, but we think a day best spent involves a long, lingering trip to the award-winning spa, where massages take place under the palm fronds, soundtracked simply by the breeze.

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