The Best Beaches + Islands Near Bangkok

While there are no beaches in the immediate vicinity of Bangkok, there are quite a few that are within a few hours distance and are accessible from Bangkok via car, train or bus. For those who can afford it, there are also private airports offering flight shuttles to the various beach destinations. All beaches are not created equal in Thailand, and depending on what you’re looking for it pays to do some research before making any decisions.

Hua Hin

One of the best and prettiest beaches close to Bangkok is Hua Hin. Referred to as the Thai Riviera, this area is a favorite weekend destination for those who live in the city or for tourists who are looking for a conventional beach vacation. The Hua Hin beach is within a three hour trip by car or rail, but it is well worth it for this is one of the cleanest and quietest beaches close to Bangkok.

The long white sandy beach runs along the length of the town, and despite its length it can become quite crowded especially during the weekends. Even so, this is a popular beach for families and retirees.

There are a variety of water sports available on the beach such as jet-skiing, snorkeling and kite boarding. The waves aren’t really suitable to surfing, but the opportunities for enjoying a good, clean beach are plenty.

Cha Am

Located in the Phetchaburi province of Thailand and only 200 kilometers south of Bangkok, Cha Am is an idyllic beach resort area. Cha Am became popular when nearby Hua Hin became the vacation area of choice for Thai royalty. Not long after the royal family remarked that Cha Am was equally beautiful did the area’s popularity grow.

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Trekking in Chiang Mai

By contrast to the beaches and resort towns of southern Thailand, northern Thailand has a completely different atmosphere, and offers something radically different from the south. In northern Thailand, you can explore the dense forests and rolling mountains of Thailand, visit hill tribe villages, and take in Thai culture in the city of Chiang Mai. Make Chiang Mai your base, then enjoy the various jungle tours, mountain hikes, and elephant riding available nearby. Here's a closer look at some of the trekking opportunities near Chiang Mai.

Doi Inthanon

The highest peak in Thailand at 2,565 metres (that's 8,415 feet), Doi Inthanon has also been known as Doi Luang (“big mountain”) and Doi Ang Ka (“crow's pond top”). Its current name was given in honour of King Inthawichayanon, who ruled from 1870 to 1897, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai. His remains were placed on the mountain.

In 1954, the forests surrounding Doi Inthanon became one of the first National Parks of Thailand. Later, in 1972 and 1975, the protected area was increased to its current total of more than 480 square kilometres. Spreading from the lowlands to the mountain's peak, the park covers a wide variety of climate and ecological zones. With 362 known species of bird, the park, which is often called “the roof of Thailand”, has the second highest number of bird species in any Thai park.

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Surfing in Phuket

Phuket has been popular with westerners since the seventeenth century, when the Dutch, English, and French all competed for trade dominance over the large island located off Thailand's southwestern coast in the Andaman Sea. A real island paradise, Phuket has been a popular tourist destination for many years – especially with surfers. Surfers consider the west coast of Phuket to offer the best surfing in all of Thailand.

Kata Beach

Phuket is the surfing capital of Thailand, and Kata Beach is the surfing capital of Phuket. With nearby Kata Beach Resort, it's very easy for tourists to catch a wave in the consistent surf of Kata Beach. The beach is crowded during peak tourist seasons, but still very friendly, and always international. It's not unusual to see surfers from different parts of the world taking a break from the waves to play a little bit of beach volleyball. Thanks to the popularity of surfing at Kata Beach, the biggest surf competition in Phuket is held annually here by Quiksilver.

With winds running southwest to northeast, the waves are fast but only make it up to about two metres at their peak heights. The south part of Kata Beach is home to the highest waves, thanks to the sandbar.

Other Surfing Beaches in Phuket

Compared to Kata Beach, the other beaches are less famous, but this doesn't mean they're bad places to surf. Here's a few of the beaches you might want to check out when you go surfing in Phuket, in no particular order:

  • Nai Harn Beach: The permanent sandbank at the south end of this beach offers a good ride. Waves on Nai Harn reach up to three metres.
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Fishing In Phuket

The masses have not yet discovered Phuket as an ideal fishing locale. It remains a mostly untouched repository of gamefish, and thus a prime spot for amateur and expert fishermen alike. Because of their under-the-radar status and plethora of available prize fish, the Racha Islands, the Similan Islands, and the Andaman Islands are some of the most lucrative places to catch gamefish in the world.

Phuket’s beauty has caused it to become known variously as the “Jewel of the Andaman” and the “Pearl of the South.” Phuket’s waters are home to four of the world’s largest freshwater species – giant Mekong catfish, giant Siamese carp, freshwater stingray, and arapaima. Phuket’s other claim to fame, the giant snakehead, can grow to over a meter in length. Anglers regard all five of these underwater dwellers as some of the most aggressive and difficult to catch fish in the world.

Charter a day boat trip year round to the Racha Islands, the closest fishing location to Phuket, for a chance to catch billfish, sailfish, and black marlin. If your fishing delight runs more toward tuna, longfin, yellowfin, skipjack, and dog-tooth are found around Racha Island’s waters in abundance. A deep sea tour during the monsoon season (November through March) to the eastern part of the Rachas will most likely net wahoos, tenngiri, travelly, barracuda, reef sharks, dorado (dolphin fish), rainbow runners, king mackerel, black marlins, and a host of other fascinating species. Choose from bareboat sailboats for day excursions and boats to live on for extended trips. Either is feasible – after all, the Racha Islands are only fifteen miles from Phuket.

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Golf In Chiang Mai - Resorts + Golf Courses in North Thailand

Culture-saturated Chiang Mai is the largest city in Thailand, with some of its cheapest and most scenic golf courses. The city boasts a lengthy list of prime golf clubs and resorts to satisfy every golfer’s craving, most within a 45-minute drive.

Chiang Mai Lamphun Golf Club, located in a valley east of the city at 336 Moo 4, San Kamphaeng, Banthi Road, is a difficult course with water hazards and bunkers in unexpected places. The 9th is one of the toughest holes on the course, featuring a second shot of 100 yards across water. The 15th also offers a challenge, with a visually impaired uphill tee shot spanning 2 lakes and a bunker. The Lamphun course has ample facilities, including a driving range, locker rooms, a Thai/European restaurant, and hotel accommodations.

Located at 183/2 Chotana Road, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai Green Valley Golf Club is a long, flat course peppered with bunkers and water hazards. The best time for teeing off here is the early morning or late afternoon, as there are not many trees to offer shade. Among some of the best-conditioned and maintained fairways and greens in the area, the Green Valley Club has a driving range, locker rooms, hotel accommodations, and a Thai/European restaurant.

In sharp contrast to Green Valley, Royal Chiang Mai Golf Resort is a short course focused on accuracy, containing abundant trees and foliage. The course features streams and waterfalls, as well as stunning views of the surrounding mountain range. In addition to a driving range, putting green, restaurant, and hotel accommodations, Royal Resort also offers a swimming pool, fitness center, sauna, massage facilities, and snooker. Royal Chiang Mai Resort is located at 169 Moo 5, Sansai-Prao Road, in the Sansai district.

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Bangkok's Parks + Gardens - Lumpini, Queen's Park (Benjasiri), Romaneenart and Santichaiprakan

As crowded as Bangkok, Thailand may seem, its multiple parks offer a relaxing respite from the masses. Lumpini Park, Queen’s Park, Romaneenart Park, and Santichaiprakan Park are welcome alternate realities from Bangkok’s hectic outside activity.

Lumpini Park offers a variety of physical activity, including but not limited to rowing, weight lifting, paddling, jogging, basketball, and tennis. Visitors can rent a pedal or rowboat on one of the park’s two artificial lakes. Weight lifting is also an option on Lumpini’s miniature muscle beach.

King Rama VI funded Lumpini Park’s creation on royal property in 1925 to help spur Thailand’s ailing post-World War I economy. The park features a series of gardens, nature habitats, community buildings, and historic monuments. Lumpini’s bird watching course is a sanctuary to more than 30 different bird species who feed off of the abundant food its trees provide. Lumpini Park also features a palm garden, a bamboo garden and a forest park. There is a Chinese-style gazebo, built to celebrate the king’s 72nd birthday. Also situated on the grounds is the Sri Thai Doem Food Center, which sells food and drinks daily from 4:30 to 10:00.

From February to April, the Palm Garden holds the yearly Concert in the Park festival on Sundays from 4:30 PM to 8:00 PM. The event showcases the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, as well as other Thai and Western groups. Lumpini Park is ideal for disabled individuals, as Smiling Sun Ground has a slope path for wheelchairs and a disability-oriented playground.

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The Grand Palace + Temple Of The Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Keo), Bangkok

Construction began on Bangkok's Grand Palace, or Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang, on May 6th, 1782, after Thailand's King Rama I ascended the throne, founded the Chakri Dynasty and moved the country's capital to Rattanakosin, now known as Bangkok. With a few exceptions, the Grand Palace remained the primary residence of the Chakri Monarchs until the present king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, moved to the Chitralada Palace. The Grand Palace is still a fully functional royal venue but is now also open to tourists.

The palace is not just a single building but is rather a collection of shrines, temples, royal halls and apartments. Divided into three sections - the inner, middle and outer quarters - the complex covers 218,400sq.m. and is surrounded by a wall that is approximately 1,900m long. Construction was also not immediately completed on the complex, and different buildings display different architectural styles and influences. Situated on the eastern bank of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River, this imposing structure is the most famous of the city's many cultural centers, and its most prized possession is the statue of the Emerald Buddha, which resides in Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

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Guide to the best Spas + Massage Parlours in Bangkok

Bangkok may be known as the City of Smiles, but it's also an incredibly fast paced center that is bound to exhaust even the most experienced traveler. Fortunately, the City of Smiles is also home to some of the most wonderful spas and massage parlours in the world, and this is no surprise as Thailand is, after all, the country that invented the Thai massage.

Upscale day spas and massage parlours in Bangkok are divided between those that are affiliated with, and located inside, certain hotels and those that are independently run. The Ananda Spa, for instance, which is universally acknowledged as one of the best in the city, is located in the President Solitaire Hotel on Sukhumvit Street, and another renowned "hotel" spa is the Mandara Spa at the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa in Riverside. The independently situated spas that visitors have to choose from include the Orientist Spa, which has two locations in the city, and the Apsara Day Spa, which is situated on Silom Road.

Every visitor to Bangkok should, however, try to spend a little time at the Dusit Thani Hotel's Devarana Spa, which, in 2008 alone, was the recipient of the Best Spa: Living in Thailand Award and the Best Urban Spa: Lifestyle+Travel Magazine Readers' Choice Award. Ananda, Mandara and Devarana are, furthermore, only a few of the numerous first-rate hotel spas that are available, and these spas are not available exclusively for hotel residents and welcome visitors for day spa packages.

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Thailand's Climate + Weather - Wet and Dry Seasons

Located midway between India and China, Thailand is nestled in a fertile monsoon belt. The monsoon season in Thailand gives rise to its incredible lush forests, while the tropical warmth makes its beaches delightful for anyone tired of cold, grey skies. Here's a closer look at Thailand's climate, so you can judge for yourself when the best time to visit this Southeast Asian paradise would be.

North Thailand

The northern part of Thailand is mountainous, with its highest point reaching 2,565 metres, or 8,415 feet. This is easily as high as some of the famous skiing mountains in the western United States. Thanks to the higher elevation, the climate is more agreeable for most Brits than central and southern Thailand. During the cool season, which lasts from October to February, daytime temperatures average around 21 degrees Celsius, with nights that are much cooler. December and January are the coolest months. March through May is the hot season, with average temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. The rain starts to pour down in early June, with the highest rainfall in September.

Central Thailand

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Thai Festivals, National Celebrations + Public Holidays

Thailand is a nation that loves its holidays and celebration. From Children's Day to the traditional Thai New Year, Songkran Day, every month in Thailand seems to have at least one special holiday. Here's a description of some of the best festivals in Thailand.

New Year's Festivals

Thailand has not one, not two, but three different New Year celebration. On January 1, the Thais celebrate the western New Year. In Thailand, this includes a gift exchange, dawn rituals for an auspicious new year by devout Buddhists, and general afternoon and evening merry-making.

In early February, Thais celebrate the Chinese New Year, or the Lunar New Year. In Thailand, February is the beginning of spring, so sometimes the Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Spring Festival. During the Chinese New Year in Thailand – not unlike other Chinese New Year celebrations throughout the world – firecrackers, dragon dancers, and parades march down the streets. Thai children love this time of year, not just for the dragon dancers, but also for the Ang Pao (red envelopes filled with money).

Two days before Chinese New Year's Day, food markets are filled with people stocking up on food and offerings. On New Year's Eve, shops are closed, and people of Chinese heritage make prayers, offerings to the gods, and to their ancestors. In the morning come the prayers for the Gods of the Land; at noon come the prayers for their ancestors; in the afternoon come prayers for the wandering souls who have no relatives to pray for them. After each prayer, the Chinese faithful burn golden paper, which they hope will become money in their afterlife.

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