Northern Thailand

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Northern Thailand
EXOTISSIMO
Experts in Asia - in Asia
TRAVEL
Exo Travel Guides
Thailand
www.exotissimo.com
Introducing Thailand
The country’s beating heart, Thailand’s capital city is
home to diverse and varied cultures, languages and
people. On the surface Bangkok is now a modern Asian
mega city with towering steel and glass skyscrapers
and a justified reputation for traffic and smog, but
scratch through the veneer and a gentler, peaceful and
very oriental face is revealed.
Many people rush in and out of Bangkok on their way
to beaches or to Chiang Mai or Indochina where they
expect to discover the real Asia. Those in the know will
tell you that the real Asia is right here in Bangkok. We
recommend you to spend at least two and preferably
three nights here to get below the surface of our amazing capital city.
Bangkok is not just one of Asia’s most exciting cities;
it is a great place to discover a unique culture. Where
else can you take a canal-boat from your ultra-swanky
designer hotel to a floating fruit market around the corner before arriving at a golden Buddhist temple? Shop,
spa, eat, drink, party: Bangkok has it all.
Where to stay in Bangkok?
There is a wide spectrum of accommodation choices so let us advise you on the best. First decide if you want to stay by the river or in the
city. Then whether you want a big smart address or a boutique residence. We have been getting very good feedback from clients who have
booked our interesting independent hotels listed below.
Near the River
If it’s your first visit to Bangkok and you are visiting purely for leisure you really should stay on
the riverside. There is a wide choice of big name
hotels offering various degrees of comfort but for
an intimate encounter with Thai hospitality why
not try Navalai, a new mid-range property situated
close to the Grand Palace and Wat Po. For a step
up in luxury, we highly recommend the new Hilton
Millennium and the classy The Peninsula. Le Bua,
with spacious rooms and super-hip restaurants
such as Sirocco and Breeze, is a great place to
base yourself while discovering the City of Angels.
Also recommended in the old town and not far
from the river is the eight-room Old Bangkok Inn.
The Marriot Riverside is also a very pleasant lowrise resort on the river offering all the necessary
facilities.
City Hotels
In the city center several boutique and modern options
can be found. For a unique and eclectic stay at a reasonable price, we recommend The Heritage Baan Silom.
A more upscale boutique hotel is The Eugenia, a charming property with loads of character. Families, business
travelers, or those seeking a bit more independence
will enjoy Bandara Suites which come equipped with
kitchenettes and living room areas right in the heart
of Bangkok. For modern options with a touch of style,
we highly rate The Sukhothai and the smart Metropolitan, sister hotel of the London style-setter. We also
like Triple Two on Silom Road while further east is the
lesser-known The Davis, which offers excellent rates. If
you want to stay in a brand name five-star then Sofitel
Silom offers everything you could possible need, including a fabulous wine bar with great city views.
What to see in Bangkok?
To complement the modern travelers’ love affair with
the unusual and experiential travel, Exotissimo offers
a range of new and interesting tours in Thailand that
take you off the well-worn tourist trails and focus on
the wonders of Thai culture. First time visitors should
undoubtedly see The Grand Palace but you should also
join one of our many day trips, which involve canalboats, a walk through the markets or a visit to a little
known museum.
If you have enough time in the capital then take a day
trip by boat through the canals to Koh Kret island where
you can explore the old pottery villages by foot or bike.
Try and join at weekends when the island’s market is
at its liveliest. Otherwise a great day out is a tour up
to Amphawa, visiting the famous floating market area
and beyond to the little known villages, orchards and
temples that surround Bangkok. More glamorous, and
just as rewarding, is a day trip aboard one of the many
luxury cruise boats to Thailand’s ancient capital city of
Ayutthaya. For your first dinner in Bangkok we suggest
joining an evening dinner cruise on the Manohra Boat
in Bangkok.
Around Bangkok
Looking for nature but don’t have the time to fly to the
north of Thailand? Kanchanaburi (a couple of hours’
drive from Bangkok) offers great jungle accommodation
where you have a real wilderness feeling and can do
long or short treks and even elephant riding or bamboo rafts. If you need your comforts then stay at the
charming River Kwai Resotel, or if you are looking for
adventure try the Jungle Rafts or even Hin Tok River
Camp, a small, newly built tented resort on the river
side that offers luxury tents (including air-conditioning,
timber flooring and shower with hot water) and an excellent choice for nature lovers. For a real adventure try
going as far as Sanghklaburi. The accommodation is a
little basic but the rewards are great scenery, charming
towns and a combination of Thai, Burmese, Mon and
Karen culture. We have a number of package tour ideas
or build a visit to Kanchanaburi into your tailor-made
tour of Thailand.
Khao Yai National Park is another excellent place to experience Thailand. You can trek through the jungle to
see wild elephants and a wide range of flora and fauna.
Alternatively you can spend the day cycling through
vineyards and sampling award winning wines at the
various different wineries in the area. Our accommodation recommendations include The Village Farm and
Winery or the luxurious and beautifully designed Kirimaya Resort, which is complete with an 18-hole golf
course designed by Jack Nicalaus.
For those in search of a truly romantic and luxurious
experience, a three-day, two-night cruise to Ayuthaya
aboard the well appointed Manohra Song teak rice
barge is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy exquisite
candlelit dinners, morning temple tours and cruising
along the fascinating River of Kings. Or why not take
the Mekhala Cruise, another rice barge but a more affordable option, to Ayuthaya and then continue touring
through Central Thailand.
Chiang Mai & The North
Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second-largest city, is the gateway to the country’s north. Chiang Mai has grown rapidly into a large and dynamic city in recent years but
it still retains a great deal of charm within its ancient
walls and has much to offer visitors. Much more compact and easier to navigate than Bangkok, it is here
that visitors come to immerse themselves in some of
Thailand’s extraordinary culture.
Whether chatting with Buddhist monks, observing the
skilled artisans, riding bicycles through the surrounding
villages, flying in hot-air balloons or white water rafting,
there is plenty to do and see in the north of Thailand.
Exotissimo is one of few international standard tour operators that have a fully staffed office in Chiang Mai.
Our team, which includes expatriates as well as local
Lanna and hill tribe people, has developed many new
and interesting sightseeing tours and round trips but
have been working closely with local communities, lecturers and museum owners to develop tours where you
learn and experience Chiang Mai rather than just see
Chiang Mai.
A week in the region will give you time to see all the
sights of Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle as well
as to take in a 2 or 3-day trek. Or, if you are feeling
independent, why not take a 5-day self-drive tour from
Chiang Rai and along the mountain roads to Mae Hong
Son, in addition to a few days of enjoying the delights
of Chiang Mai?
Where to stay in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai has plenty of accommodation choices, ranging from small, charming, boutique hotels to super
luxury resorts.
ties are outstanding choices for lovers of boutique accommodation blended with a sense of home. They feature all of the comfort and luxury of a great little hotel.
The boutique offerings in Chiang Mai are numerous and
although the designs and styles of these hotels are
charming, great differences are found in the level and
quality of service. For the perfect combination of style
and service, we recommend Rachamanka, Puripunn,
Yaang Come Village, and Tamarind Village. These proper-
At the top of the luxe list are the Oriental Dhara Dhevi
and the Four Seasons Chiang Mai. Both are a little out of
town and are high on luxury. The Oriental is top of the
charts when it comes to facilities while the Four Seasons is considered by many a more authentic experience. If you are staying at these resorts you should bal-
ance your time in Chiang Mai so you can both get out and
see the sites and spend some quality time enjoying the
five-star services and facilities. The Chedi, with its compact
design, is the in-town choice for the style-conscious, while
the riverside Rati Lanna is another good deluxe option.
What to see in Chiang Mai?
to develop sustainable tourism projects with Thai and
Shan villages in the mountainous areas of north Thailand. The facilities might be basic but the experience
will be unforgettable and for just one night it should
be possible to live without modern hotel facilities. A
Shan Homestay at Tad Lod is one of our favorite places
in Thailand. Spend a few days walking through the hills
and learn how the Shan people live. Closer to Chiang
Mai we highly recommend a night at Mae Kampong,
a beautiful Thai village in the hills where you stay as
guests of a local family in their teak house.
If you are only spending a few days in Chiang Mai then
a visit to Doi Suthep is a must. A morning with the
monks is also a great way to discover the culture or
why not take a biking trip, a balloon ride over Chiang
Mai or even learn to become a mahout.
A visit to an elephant camp is an interesting day out,
especially if you have kids with you. Chiang Dao Elephant Camp is our favorite as it is set in spectacular
natural countryside and has fewer tourists than those
close to town. There are also some smaller camps with
just a few elephants such as Patara Elephant Farm on
the foothills of Doi Suthep where the concept is really
to act as if you were the tuskers’ owner. The Elephant
Nature Park is a unique project established with the
aim to provide a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants in Thailand. The park is a project rather than
a camp - the owner has rescued over 30 distressed
elephants throughout the country.
In the evening, you should enjoy dinner by the river
and then take a tuk tuk ride to discover the famous
night bazaar.
Trekking and Homestays
Spending a night in a home stay village is one way to
really learn and understand how the people live. Working with locals on community-based projects, Exotissimo has developed relationships with ethnic hill tribes
The trekking we are able to offer around Chiang Mai and
across the north has also taken on a new dimension
and is no longer an activity suitable for backpackers
only. A trekking tour of two days/one night organized
by Exotissimo includes a trekking guide, porters, all
meals, and sleeping materials in a local village (basic
but clean accommodation) and guaranteed an unforgettable experience. The trekking is not very difficult and
can be done by anybody with a normal physical health
and a bit of adventurous spirit. More comfortable but
still rewarding home stay experiences can be found at
Lisu Lodge or Khum Lanna, countryside resorts where
the emphasis is on seeing, learning and experiencing.
Hmong Lodge is also a nice out-of-town experience and
recommended for families. We have a number of packages including these properties or you can simply ask
us to include them into your tailor made itinerary.
Where to stay in Chiang Rai and the
Golden Triangle?
In Chiang Rai we really like the stylish The Legend Resort, which is located on the river but still in the city.
La Lunna is also charming and offers very good value.
The Golden Triangle area at the far north of Thailand is
home to the very top-end Four Seasons Tented Camp,
where guests can enjoy fabulous excursions during the
day and luxurious tents to return to in the evening. The
delightful and also deluxe Anantara Resort and Spa has
a great elephant camp nearby.
Chiang Rai &
Golden Triangle
The area earned its name due to the wealth that opium
trading used to bring. Nowadays the opium has gone
but the area still retains an allure. The mountains of
Myanmar and Laos are easily visible and ruined cities
such as Chiang Sean and The Hall of Opium Museum
offer evidence of a long and checkered history. The
area around the museum is a bit touristy but once you
are on a boat trip on the Mekong River you can dream
away while closely passing Burmese and Laos countryside and even make a stop on the Lao side of the river
and sip Beer Lao or send a postcard from Laos before
heading back to the Thai side.
Touring Pai and Mae Hong Son
The area around Chiang Rai has been cultivated using organic, sustainable agricultural techniques and
is farmed by the hill tribe people of the area. It is a
great place to explore on an elephant’s back, and is the
picture-postcard vision of verdant Thai rice terraces and
orchid-clad hillsides.
The Mekong River forms the border with Laos for a few
hundred kilometers from the Golden Triangle to the
south offering a scenic route to access the beauty of
northern Laos and the city of Luang Prabang by river.
From the border town Chiang Khong, there are several
boat options to cruise the Mekong River, allowing you
to sit on the deck and enjoy one of the most stunning
views in the world surrounded by blue sky, brown river
water and lush jungle on both sides of the river. Take
a look at one of our tour modules featuring Chiang Rai
and the Golden Triangle or ask your travel consultant to
include a few days in your tailor made tour.
Heading west towards Myanmar, the delightful towns
of Pai and Mae Hong Son are picturesque and charming. Pai is the hot new destination for backpackers and
travelers looking for that essential ‘Thai travel sensation’. It is a charming town in a scenic valley with lots
to do during the day: biking, rafting, trekking and cafes
and bars to enjoy in the evenings. There are now daily
flights from Chiang Mai if you don’t want to brave the
four-hour drive up winding roads in the mountains.
The delights of Mae Hong Son are a very under-rated
and often missed part of the Thai tourist trail. The town
has interesting Burmese and Shan architecture in many
monasteries as well as wonderful countryside and trek-
king opportunities. A drive to Nai Soi Village, where you
can meet the Padaung, or long neck people, is a highlight and an educational experience for many travelers.
The ideal tour is to spend two days driving along one of
the most scenic roads in Asia with an overnight stop in
Pai and then fly back after a night in Mae Hong Son. If
you are traveling between June and December, a rafting
trip on the Pai River is a highly recommended experience for adventurous travelers.
In Pai stay at Belle Villa Pai or Baan Krating Pai, both a
little out of town with nice rural ambiance or the new
town centre hotel The Quarter. In Mae Hong Son we use
the eco-friendly Fern Resort for almost all our clients.
Adventurous travelers can continue to Mae Sariang,
which is deep in Karen country and close to the Salween River. The scenery here is rugged and beautiful
and the people are especially welcoming. Then drive
back to Chiang Mai via Doi Inthanon.
If you are feeling independent why not try and drive the
northern loop yourself? We will deliver the car to you,
book your hotels, supply a map, road book and provide
directions for you.
Accommodation in the more remote destinations is not
as varied or luxurious as it is around Chiang Mai, however, that does not mean you have to suffer backpacker
standard guest houses either. We always use the best
available hotels and will do our best to reserve the
best rooms in the house. Sometimes even in the most
remote areas we can find a true hidden gem such as
Bo Klua View Resort in Nan province or Phu Phu Nam
Resort in Loei. If you want to see the real Thailand you
really should make the effort to see places like Nan and
Loei where the modern world has not yet arrived and
neither have the tourists. A million miles from Phuket
and Pattaya, it is in places like these where you will
find those special and memorable experiences that live
with you forever.
Further afield to the
Unseen Thailand
For more intrepid travelers the stunning scenery and
natural charm of Nan and Loei are definitely worth visiting. The mountains of the north-east are home to many
charming towns, each with a laid-back atmosphere and
constitutes a fascinating part in the history and culture
of the region. Phrae and Nan are particularly alluring
and the surrounding mountain scenery around Loei is
simply outstanding, but the real reward for the traveler
in this region is in meeting the smiling, friendly people
who live here.
Sukhothai really should be compared to its more famous neighbor in Cambodia as a truly world class heritage site and visitors to Thailand who don’t make the
effort to go are really missing out on something special.
Between Sukhothai and Ayuthaya, the cities of Lopburi,
Kampaeng Phet and Uthai Thani are all historical treasures lying in the Chao Phraya River basin waiting to
be discovered. Lopburi rose to ascendance in the 10th
century when it was under the influence of the Khmer
kingdoms and the ruined sandstone temples are still
very much in evidence and worth visiting. Be warned
that monkeys have taken possession of many of the
ruins so keep an eye on your cameras.
Sukhothai
& The Center
New resorts opening in Sukhothai are going to help lure
tourists to one of Asia’s most under-rated world heritage sites. Although not as extensive as Angkor Wat,
Kamphaeng Phet can be visited on the way to Sukhothai or as part of a day trip from Sukhothai and has
an interesting historical park with numerous chedi and
stupas - one of which once contained the famous emerald Buddha. Uthai Thani is a beautifully preserved
Thai town located on the Sakae Krang River, a tributary
of the Chao Phraya River with interesting temples and
a vibrant market place. Once a resting place for Rama
IV, Uthai Thani is an ideal stopping point on the way
north from Bangkok and with comfortable accommodation now available as well as interesting river boat
rides - it is the perfect place to immerse yourself into
the real Thailand. Driving at a leisurely pace you can
visit Ayuthaya, Lopburi, Uthai Thani, Kamphaeng Phet
and Sukhothai in about four days from Bangkok. Chiang
Mai is another day or two’s drive after Sukhothai. Look
at some of our Classic Thailand overland tour modules
or ask your travel consultant to build these fascinating
destinations into your tailor-made itinerary.
tions. The riverside provincial capitals of Nong Khai,
Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan all exude charm and
relaxed touring. While the city of Ubon Ratchathani not
only provides a gateway into neighboring Laos but also
can act as a base to explore the eastern area of Isaan.
An added incentive is the delightful Tohsang Khongjiam
Resort which is a true gem and you could easily spend
from anywhere between two nights and a week discovering the surrounding area.
Isaan
If you are searching for true Thai hospitality you should
look no further than northeastern provinces of Thailand, also collectively known as Isaan. Often overlooked
in favor of the more obvious charms of Chaing Mai and
the north, what Isaan lacks in genuine tourist attractions it makes up with its old world charm. The people
of Isaan are by far the friendliest in Thailand, which is
quite a claim to fame, and the food is simply outstanding as long as you don’t mind it hot!
The main attractions are the Khmer temples in Phimai,
Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Khao Phra Viharn to
name a few heritage sites located along the southern
corridor. While in the far east, the Mekong River provides a continually scenic backdrop for your explora-
A two or three-day tour of Isaan taking in all the main
temples before spending two nights in Ubon Ratchathani and then flying back to Bangkok is a different way
to visit Thailand before heading to a beach. Or you can
continue your travels through southern Laos and even
Cambodia as these sites are a perfect primer before
a trip to Cambodia to see the crown jewels of Angkor
Wat. Those with more time might want to travel north
through Phanom Rung and up to Nong Khai where you
can cross into Laos or even keep traveling through
Loei and on to the north of Thailand. The choices for
spending quality time in Thailand are almost endless so
please let your travel consultant help plan the perfect
tour for you.
The South
Most tourists heading to the south of Thailand have
only one thing on their mind - the beach. However a
drive down the south coast can be a great way to discover Thailand. Peninsula Thailand has good, fast roads
and fabulous beaches as well as some great national
parks such as Kraeng Krachan, Thailand’s biggest park,
or Sam Roi Yot, arguably Thailand’s most scenic with
its hundreds of limestone peaks and caves waiting to
be explored.
Another gem waiting to be discovered is Khao Sok National Park. Well known to the backpackers, this unspoiled rainforest is close to Phuket, Samui and Krabi,
yet is rarely visited by the hoards of tourists that flock
to the beaches. Elephant Hills, an eco-resort on the
edge of Khao Sok, is a fantastic place to spend a few
days. Exotissimo can offer a range of tours that include
Khao Sok.
A really nice touring journey is to drive south to Pranburi and visit Sam Roi Yot National Park, continue to
Chumphorn and then onwards to Khao Sok via Wat Suan
Mok temple or Surat Thani monkey training school. After a few days exploring khao Sok head to any one of
the beaches of Krabi, Khao Sok, Phuket or Samui. Alternatively fly to Phuket and then take a self-drive tour of
the south. We will book your hotels, deliver the car and
provide a map and roadbook. So Easy! So Exotissimo!
Thailand’s Beaches
Thailand’s beaches are the stuff of legend. Whether
you are looking for a classic palm-fringed hideaway, a
friendly family resort or all night partying, Thailand has
it all. And there is quite a wide range of choices too.
Everybody has heard of Phuket and Samui, but the last
decade has seen the growth of many new beach destinations, such as Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh
Yao, Koh Chang and Koh Tao and it is often at these
lesser known beaches where the real paradise feeling
can be found.
Phuket for pure luxury, great facilities, lots for kids to
do, wide choice of restaurants and plenty of nightlife.
Khao Lak for pristine beaches, lazy days and early
nights, wide choice of resorts and some shopping.
Koh Yao for pristine beaches, lazy days, early nights
and luxury resorts.
Krabi for deluxe resorts, activities, shopping and nightlife if you want it.
Koh Lanta for pristine beaches, lazy days, moderate
nightlife.
Phi Phi for diving, quiet resorts (around the edge) or
backpacker mayhem (in the middle).
One of the neatest things about heading for a Thai
beach is the fact that with two weather systems which
bring the tropical rains at different times of the year, it’s
possible to enjoy Thailand’s beaches year-round. From
January to September you can choose a beach in Koh
Samui or Koh Phangan where you will have the best
chance on sunny and dry weather while from October
to April a beach like Krabi, Khao Lak or Koh Samed and
Koh Chang offer the best chance of getting an even tan.
To try and make your decisions just a little easier here
is a super fast guide to Thai beaches:
family and want lots of facilities. It is not the place to
find small charming hotels at reasonable prices.
Trang for remoteness and comfort. Koh Hai for real remoteness.
Phangan for pristine beaches and backpackers.
Hua Hin for great hotels, restaurants and shopping but
only average beaches.
Koh Chang for pristine beaches, lazy days, moderate
nightlife, wide choice of resorts and some shopping.
Phuket
Phuket is Thailand’s number one beach resort and
one of the world’s most famous holiday destinations.
Here you find the best of the best. Super luxury hotels,
yachts, restaurants, fine wine, golf courses, shopping
and miles and miles of great beaches.
Samui for a hip-beach scene, boutique resorts and lots
of nightlife.
Koh Tao for great diving, good beaches and lots of backpackers.
Koh Samed for pristine beaches, lazy days, moderate
nightlife and only a short drive from Bangkok.
Yes Phuket is full of tourists and you will see tour buses
all over the place but this is a big island (the size of
Singapore) and there are plenty of places to hide away
if you want. Phuket is the place to head to if you are
looking for a luxury destination or if you are with your
The best beaches and most of the best hotels are in the
north of the island. The southern beaches of Patong,
Kata or Karon are busy, noisy and not very classy. Hotels we recommend to our luxury clients are Trisara and
Amanpuri, where the elite traveler will be treated to top
service and extraordinary luxury. After that you should
try the Trisara and Sri Panwa both of which are fabulous
options for a stylish stay. Other favorites include Indigo
Pearl, SALA Phuket, Mom Tri’s Villa and Vijitt Resort all
of which offer great value and lots of class. Although
not on the beachfront, we like the beautiful Twin Palms
while those traveling on a budget will enjoy Adamas
Resort and Andaman White Beach for a beach getaway.
Krabi
The beaches in Krabi area were first discovered by the
backpacking crowd and have developed slowly into international standard resort destinations while retaining
plenty of charm. Krabi is home to a string of beaches
and islands. The scenery is amazing with limestone
karsts exploding out of the sea and jungle everywhere.
The Phra Nang peninsula is an idyllic retreat, and the
beaches of Railey are among the most beautiful in Thailand. The Rayawadee is a magical combination of luxury and nature. Accessible only by boat, giving a true
‘desert island’ ambience you stay in a villa surrounded
by coconut palms and towering limestone cliffs. The
rest of Railey beach is lined by family run resorts the
best of which is Railey Bay Resort with Sea Sand coming next. Rock climbing has become a hugely popular
activity in this area and Phra Nang is now recognized
as one of the hottest climbing spots in the world and
the islands and mangroves make for superb sea kayaking opportunities. The new international airport at Krabi
has seven flights a day to Bangkok, making the entire
area easily accessible.
Ao Nang is still the vibrant tourist centre of Krabi but the
beach can be disappointing and the village is crowded.
The best option here is Krabi Resort as it has its own
beach. Further north Khlong Muang has become the
choice for those seeking an up-market resort. One of
our favorites in the area is the Tubkaak Resort, a hip
luxury resort, providing a touch of class and style that
make Khlong Muang an exciting new beach destination.
Just south of Krabi on an island of its own is the charming Koh Jum Resort. Managed by a French couple this
is one of those great little secrets you hope stays just
the way it is. Backpacker Deluxe is a good way of explaining the style and comforts. If you don’t need an
Aman but want to get away from the crowds this could
be for you.
far for Phuket day-trippers); it is an attraction for feeding whale sharks and mantas as well as divers. The
islands still retain a rustic charm - Koh Lanta had no
telephones before 2001 and electricity only arrived on
the island a short time before that!
Luxury lovers should check in to the exclusive Pimalai,
especially the new pool villas. Lanaya Resort is also a
good choice as is the more relaxed Sri Lanta. For those
with a tighter budget, we like Royal Lanta and Lanta
Casaurina Resort.
Koh Lanta
In the south of Krabi and not far from the airport, Koh
Lanta, is gaining a reputation as the Thai island of
choice for those looking for a balance between island
charm and sophisticated accommodation. ‘Laid back’,
‘Thai style’ and ‘chilled’ are words that are often used
to describe the atmosphere on Lanta Island and it is
hard to disagree. This is where the swaying palms and
wide sandy beaches are found without the traffic or
nightlife of Samui or Phuket. World class hotels such
as Pimalai and Layana combine stunning locations
with five-star services, while the diving here is also
outstanding with the pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Hin
Muang within easy daytrip range from Lanta (but too
Phi Phi
The islands of Phi Phi have been immortalized by many
Hollywood movies, most recently the Beach starring
Leonardo Di Caprio. Badly damaged by the tsunami in
December 2005, Phi Phi is now almost recovered and is
back in business and welcoming tourists. The beaches
are cleaner than ever and the small town in the centre
has reestablished itself - although it must be said it is
something of a scruffy backpacker’s ghetto. On a secluded beach the Zeavola has established itself as the
best on the island and offers a nature-chic alternative
to the more established choices such as Phi Phi Island
Village Beach Resort. Avoid the backpacker throng in
the centre of the island, unless of course you are a
backpacker.
Khao Lak
Also devastated by the tsunami but now very much
back on the scene is Khao Lak. The clean-up of the
beaches of Khao Lak has been incredible and apart
from a few monuments of the wave, such as the Thai
navy boat that was washed a kilometre on-shore and
is still lying on its side close to the main road through
Khao Lak, there is little evidence of the tsunami.
By far, our favorite is Sarojin Resort. Best suited for
honeymooners, the secluded Sarojin doesn’t allow
kids.
Koh Yao
Koh Yao, which means ‘long island’, is the two islands
(one long and one not so long) in between Phuket and
Krabi in the heart of Phang Nga Bay. Just a few minutes
by boat or seaplane from Phuket, Koh Yao is and hardly
noticed until recently. Koh Yao has had none of the
development of its larger neighbour and is still a real
tropical hideaway. We still love Koh Yao Island Resort,
which was the original Robinson Crusoe resort on the
island but with lots of style and more than adequate
comfort. Smaller, but also highly recommended is Koh
Yao Paradise Resort, with different room categories located in a beautiful bay with a stunning cliff at the
edge of the beach. Offering substantially more comfort
is Six Senses Evason Hideaway which was built with
environmentally-friendly materials and occupies an
idyllic stretch of property on the waterfront.
Trang and
the Far South
Even further south, Trang province has even more attractions and even less tourists. With clear waters and
limestone islands dotting the horizon, it is easy to see
why travelers are beginning to discover Trang. The Anantara Resort is a fabulous luxury accommodation - the
best in the area. There are also some charming resorts
on the island of Koh Ngai (pronounced and sometimes
spelt Koh Hai). This is where you really get the desert
island treatment. Stay at Thapwarin Resort or Koh Hai
Fantasy.
Samui
If the Andaman Islands are paradise for just flopping on
a tropical beach, Samui is heaven for the active traveler
(although of course there are plenty of beaches to flop
on too). There are literally hundreds of activities and
attractions on Koh Samui, from diving in the pristine
waters of the marine park to learning how to be a sealion trainer!
Avoid crowded Chaweng and Lamai beaches, unless
you don’t mind the occasional sleepless night listening to techno music, and head for Cheonmong, Bophut
or Mae Nam Beaches on the north of the island. New
world-class five star resorts such as Napasai, Four
Season, and Zazen are all top choices and definitely
top-end. Karma Resort is also highly recommended and
they have a great choice of villas for families or larger
groups. New Star Resort also a great choice. One resort
on Chaweng that does stand out from the crowd is the
Library which features a sleek modern design.
The luxury market is quite new for Samui but the island
is quickly adapting itself to cater for the tastes of a
more discerning crowd. Santiburi golf course is one of
the best and one of the most difficult in Asia and there
are a preponderance of new up-market restaurants and
night clubs, including the trendy Q-Bar.
Samui has established itself as one of South-East Asia’s
leading destinations for wellness and therapeutic retreats, and its hotels, day-spas, yoga and meditation
centers have become a Mecca for stressed out visitors
from around the globe. Our pick of the wellness resorts
is Kamalaya.
Koh Phangan
Just a short boat ride away is Koh Phangan. Although
best known for its full moon parties, which attract
thousands of travelers from all over the globe, there
is a lot more to stunning Koh Phangan than partying
all-night on the powder-soft white sand. The island has
swathes of beautiful beaches, great walks, adventurous boat and fishing trips, fabulous diving and even
kite-boarding. Some new and interesting resorts have
recently opened on the quiet but beautiful beaches lining the north of the island bringing Phangan onto the
radar for more than just backpackers. Avoid Haad Rin
Beach as it is little more than a party venue and the
only place to stay is Santhiya Resort in Thong Nai Pan
Noi on the north of the island. It is quite an adventure
to get to and it will not get on the Conde Naste list but
Santhiya, is another great little Thai beach secret.
Koh Tao
Koh Tao, which means Turtle Island, is one of Thailand’s
premier diving locations and those willing to make the
journey by boat from Samui or Chumporn on the mainland are rewarded with gorgeous beaches, great viewpoints and hospitable locals. If you are a diver, Koh Tao
is the perfect destination as it really does have the best
diving in the Gulf of Thailand. If you are not a diver then
be warned there are lots of divers here and the island
can feel a little crowded as there are a lot of small backpacker resorts selling cheap dive packages. The main
beaches, Saree and Mae Had are noisy at night and dive
boats chug noisily around the island all day. Koh Tao is
not for everyone and best suits divers or those looking
to revisit their backpacker experiences. The best places
to stay is Charm Churee Resort, while serious divers
should consider Koh Tao Coral Grand Resort.
Hua Hin, Cha Am
and Pranburi
On the mainland, Hua Hin and neighboring Cha Am
have great family appeal, with a bucket-and-spade atmosphere and plenty to entertain every member of the
family. Located just a couple of hours’ drive from Bang-
kok and a long-time favorite with the Thai royal family,
Hua Hin is easily accessible, even to those with limited
time in the kingdom. A wide choice of hotels, including
no less than six five-star hotels, and small independent
resorts makes it an attractive destination for a wide
range of tourists. Recently Hua Hin has shaken off the
sedate seaside town image and taken a cool contemporary feel. Trendy restaurants and cool resorts have
sprung up all over the town and the annual Jazz festival
has added certain vibrancy.
In Hua Hin there are five or six big five-star hotels, of
which our favorites are the Anantara Resort and Aleenta
Resort. For those on more of a budget we recommend
Baan Talay Dao. In neighboring Cha Am, we like Veranda as it has a great beachfront with a lot of style,
and the sophisticated Alila Cha Am.
Koh Samed
Also easily accessible from Bangkok is the local’s favorite is the island of Koh Samed. Although just a couple
of hours from the capital, Samed has some of the best
beaches in Thailand and all the atmosphere of a tropical island escape - it is not too touristy. Hotel choice
is not too bad either with the new Paradee Resort at
the top of the list and offering real barefoot luxury with
its own private paradise beach. We also like Sai Keaw
Resort which has great charm although it is fairly basic.
Otherwise Ao Prao Resort and neighboring Le Vimarn
are good options.
Koh Chang
Further east close to the Cambodian border is Koh
Chang, Thailand’s third largest island. Although there
are no serious luxury resorts here, the Amari Emerald
Cove will not disappoint. Koh Chang Paradise Resort is
also nice and Aana Resort is one of our favorites even
if it is not right on the beach.
A Few Suggestions
There are many ways to see Thailand. Take a look
through our offerings on the website; let us know what
you think and then one of our knowledgeable travel
consultants will be pleased to work through you tailormade touring itinerary.
Combination tours with other exotic destinations in
Southeast Asia
Thailand is an ideal destination to combine with other
exotic destinations in the region and Bangkok is a major
hub to start your trip to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam. Do you want to combine Thailand with one
of these destinations? Exotissimo Travel has offices in
all above mentioned countries and your travel consultant can help you making all arrangements in all these
destinations. If you decide to travel to only one of the
Exotissimo destinations the travel consultant of that
country will be in direct correspondence with you. If
you want to combine destinations the travel consultant
of the destination you will arrive first will coordinate
all arrangements in all destinations and send just one
itinerary and one invoice - it is easy for you to combine!
Please don’t hesitate to ask us for any other combinations within different countries- our travel consultant
will be happy to assist.
We hope that this latest information has given your
some better thoughts about what to do and where to
visit and where to stay in Thailand. Thailand is a big
country and has plenty of cultural, natural, adventurous
and relaxing experiences to offer but new as traditional
ones.
Thailand - FAQs
AIRLINES
International: Major airlines flying to Thailand include
Thai Airways, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific,
Luftansa, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and many more.
Domestic: Six domestic airlines are currently operating
in Thailand: Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, One-Two-Go, Orient Thai, PB Air, Phuket
Air and Thai Airways.
AIRPORT TAX
Airport taxes are included in all international and domestic flight tickets. Any additional airport fees are
also included so there is no additional payment needed
at the airport.
ARRIVAL IN THAILAND
BY AIR: Bangkok is one of Asia’s largest air hubs, so
it is very well-connected to the rest of the world. Besides Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, the airports in
Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Koh Samui, Phuket and Pattaya
are served by international flights directly. Consult your
local travel agent for routings, fares and availability on
flights to Thailand. Discount websites and flight search
engines may offer some good deals.
BY LAND: Thailand shares borders with Myanmar to the
north-west, Laos in the north-east, Cambodia to the
east and Malaysia to the south.
From Laos:
The Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River between
Vientiane and Nong Khai is the busiest crossing. The
Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge now links Savannakhet with Mukdahan. It is also possible to cross
the borders at Houey Xai / Chiang Khong, Nakaxeng /
Kaenthao, Pakxan / Bungkan, Thakhaek / Nakorn Phanom.
From Myanmar:
Visitors can cross into Thailand from Tachileik to Mae
Sai (Chiangrai) and from Kawthoung into Ranong. For
the border checkpoints at Mae Sot / Myawaddy and
Three Pagoda Pass at Sangkhlaburi / Payathonzu, foreigners can only access them from the Thai side, so it
will be impossible to cross into Thailand from Myanmar
at these points.
From Cambodia:
There are six border crossings linking Thailand and
Cambodia. The highway linking Siem Reap and the Angkor temples leads to Aranyaprathet via Poipet and it is
a popular crossing.
From Malaysia:
There are four crossings linking Thailand with Malaysia,
namely Padang Besar and Sadao in Songkhla province,
Betong in Yala province and Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat
province.
ARRIVAL FORMALITIES
Upon arrival in Thailand, all visitors must complete an
entry/exit form including a customs declaration. It is
important that your copy of this form is kept safe with
your passport while in Thailand and is presented to
the customs and immigration officials on departure. In
case you are obtaining your pre-arranged visa on arrival
please proceed to the Visa counter and read the visa
section below. (Note: overland entry procedures change
from time to time according to the immigration office)
If you have booked a transfer from Exotissimo we will
provide you with information on where to meet your
guide/driver as well as a 24-hour phone number to be
used in case of difficulties.
ARRIVAL TRANSFERS FROM EXOTISSIMO
Clients that have booked a transfer will be met by an
Exotissimo representative holding an EXOTISSIMO or
YOUR COMPANY signboard with the client’s group or
name clearly displayed.
BUSINESS HOURS
Please note that Suvarnabhumi is a single terminal airport with THREE entrances from the secure area into the
public arrivals hall. Domestic arrivals will enter through
Gate A. International arrivals will enter through Gate
B or C.
Most businesses are open from Monday to Friday. Government offices are open from 08:30 to 16:30 with some
closing for lunch from noon to 13:00. Many retailers and
travel agencies are also open on Saturday and most
shops are open on Sundays.
After clearing immigration, retrieving baggage and
passing through Customs, please continue to the arrivals hall where your guide will be waiting with a sign
with your name. Please take the exit which is nearest
your luggage belt and turn left. If you do not see your
guide in the arrivals hall, please proceed to either ATTA
Exit 6 (Association of Thai Travel Agents) or ATTA Exit 10,
depending on which is closest. You may ask an ATTA
officer to call your guide at their mobile number.
CLOTHING
ATMs
ATMs for withdrawing Thai Baht are widely available in
major airports, shopping malls, hotels and almost all
provincial banks in Thailand. For most banks there is
a maximum withdrawal of 20,000 THB per transaction;
however several withdrawals may be made in a single
day. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to
locate an ATM.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such
as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Thailand. The
dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the
evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat
is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter
months from November to February, warm clothing is
needed for visiting northern Thailand. Visitors should
not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing
when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be
removed before entering a private home.
CREDIT CARDS
VISA and MASTERCARD are the most widely accepted,
but most other major credit cards are also accepted
in Thailand. Not all shops and restaurants will accept
credit cards, so do check with the cashier before making any purchases. Bear in mind that some places may
pass onto you the fee imposed on them by the credit
card company (approximately 2.25% to 3.5%, depending
on card type), so you may want to pay by cash instead
of credit card in some instances.
ELECTRICITY
Thailand uses 220V (50 cycles per second) but the plugs
are not standardized. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.
ENTERTAINMENT
There are plenty of entertainment options in Thailand
and restaurants/bars and nightclubs open until late at
night/early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer with everything from Thai, Chinese,
Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.
FOOD
The basis of a Thai meal is rice, usually steamed although it can be made into noodles, while glutinous or
sticky rice is preferred with some specialties. Accompanying the rice are main dishes featuring vegetables,
meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup. Although Thais generally prefer hot, spicy food, not all dishes are so intense and there are grades of hotness as Thai food can
be modulated to suit most tastes. Thailand is also the
perfect place for a large choice of tropical fruits such
as mangoes, pineapple, bananas, longan, mangosteen,
jack fruit, as well as the famous durian, dubbed ‘the
fruit of the gods’ for its very special smell and taste.
We have a ‘Restaurant & Shopping Guide’ which showcases our preferred restaurants and bars in Bangkok,
Chiang Mai and Phuket. Feel free to request a copy!
HEALTH
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever
if you are coming from an area where the disease is
present. However visitors should be inoculated against
typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio.
Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions especially if traveling off the
beaten track. The standard of medical facilities is generally good and Thailand has a growing medical tourism industry. It is advisable to take out a good medical
insurance policy before traveling in case evacuation is
needed.
MONEY
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).
US Dollars and Euros are accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops. Banks are open Monday to Friday
from 08:00 to 05:00 and some on Saturday morning.
In the major cities, some exchange offices open long
hours near places frequented by tourists and most hotels will change US Dollars and Euros at very reasonable
rates.
For everyday expenses, we recommend carrying a mix
of US Dollars and VND in cash. For larger items or when
the exchange rate works in your favor, use US Dollars.
For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s
best to use VND. In either case, make sure you always
have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to
worry about change.
INTERNET
Internet cafes are widely available everywhere and
are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are
reasonable but may vary from 10 - 60 baht an hour.
In many Internet cafés, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline
or mobile phone worldwide. Most Internet cafés are
equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.
Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming increasingly available in
hotels and public spaces in Bangkok. Many hotels also
have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet or in-room broadband access- please note that
this service is not always free and the rates are usually
cheaper at internet cafes.
LANGUAGE
PHOTOGRAPHY
April 13-15
Songkran Festival, Thai New Year
The most widely spoken language in Thailand is Thai, a
complicated language with a unique alphabet. Beside
the numerous hill tribe dialects, other languages spoken include Lao, Khmer and Chinese. Most Thai people,
especially in the major cities, speak English and tourists should have no troubles with communication in
these areas.
Photo developing labs are common in Bangkok and the
rest of Thailand, providing normal print films as well
as professional quality films (like slide films). Digital
photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a
CD-Rom in case you run out of memory.
MONEY
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps
are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs 15 baht to send
and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of
destination.
May 17
Visaka Bucha Day
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2011
August 12
H.M. Queen’s Birthday
The currency in Thailand is the Baht. Banks, which are
open Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 15:30, give the best
exchange rates. (Some banks in the central business
areas or in department store extend business hours
until 18:00) You will receive a better exchange rate in
country than overseas so it is advisable to wait until reaching Thailand to exchange your money. At the
Bangkok airport arrival area there are banks offering
the same rate as you will find in the city center.
In tourist areas, there are also currency exchange outlets that stay open later, usually until around 20:00.
ATM machines are found throughout the country and
most will accept foreign ATM cards. Credit cards are
widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
POSTAL MAIL
January 1
New Year’s Day
January 3
Substitution New Year’s Day (Saturday 1 January)
February 18
Makha Bucha Day
April 6
Chakri Day
May 2
Substitution for National Labor Day (Sunday 1 May)
May 5
Coronation Day
July 15
Asaraha Bucha Day
October 24
Substitution for Chulalongkorn Day (Sunday 23 October)
December 5
King’s Birthday
December 12
Substitution for Constitution Day (Saturday 10 December)
December 31
New Year’s Eve
RELIGION
Theravada Buddhism is practiced by about 95% of Thais.
Every Thai male is expected to become a monk for a
short period in his life. There is also a large Muslim
minority in Thailand’s four southernmost provinces of
Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Satun.
SAFETY
Thailand is a safe country to visit. As a global rule,
never leave your belongings unattended and always
maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and
shoulder bags. Do beware of scams and touts that remain fairly common in popular tourist destinations. As
in any country, demonstrations do occasionally take
place however they are usually in isolated areas away
from the major tourist sites and has little, if any, affect
on travelers.
SHOPPING
Textiles are possibly the best buy in Thailand and Thai
silk, considered the best in the world, is very inexpensive. The Thai shoulder bags known as yâam are
generally well made and come in many varieties, some
woven by hill tribes. Other items to look out for include
gems and jewellery, silverware, bronze ware, woodcarvings, lacquerware, celadon pottery, leather goods
and tailoring.
TELEPHONE
Most hotels have offer international dialing and fax
facilities although be warned that these services are
expensive in Thailand. The best way to stay in touch
is to buy a local SIM Card for your mobile phone at a
convenience store. They cost approximately 150 THB
and offer international dialing rates as low as 5 THB per
minute and free incoming international calls. Internet
cafes usually offer cheap web-phone call systems as
well, however the quality is often poor.
TIME
Thailand is GMT + 7 and does not operate on a daylightsavings system.
TIPPING
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always
appreciated in Thailand. It is customary, though not
compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of
a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped
a small amount for their troubles.
TRANSPORTATION
Those possessing a valid International Driving License
will be able to rent and drive a car. Road signs and
maps are commonly displayed in the English language
and international car hire companies such as Avis and
Hertz also operate in major tourist destinations such as
Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui Island. It is also
easy to rent a car with a driver.
Getting around town there are several options. The
ubiquitious three-wheeled Tuk Tuks are fun for short
transfers while metered taxis offer a nice (and cheap)
air-conditioned ride. In Bangkok, the public transportation includes River Boat, a Skytrain and Underground
Metro which are easy to use, reasonably priced and
link most major tourist areas! A great way to avoid the
city’s infamous traffic jams.
VISAS
Citizens of 56 different countries can enter Thailand
without a visa and be granted a free visa at the airport for a 30-day stay. (NOTE: Most overland arrivals
only receive a 15-day visa) Next in length of validity
is the tourist visa which is good for 60 days and costs
approximately 25 USD, depending on the country of application. Three passport photos must accompany all
applications. Please check the Thai Ministry of Foreign
Affairs website for the latest information and full details of your country’s visa agreement: http://www.mfa.
go.th/web/2637.php
WEATHER
The best time to visit Thailand is from November to
February when the weather is dry and the temperatures are not too hot. During these winter months,
the temperatures in the far north can drop down to
freezing during the evenings, so trekking and camping
trips in these areas are not recommended. From March
to June, the heat returns with temperatures soaring to
over 40 degrees Celsius during the day time. However
there is rarely any rain during this time and the humidity is low. Thailand’s rainy season begins toward the
end of June and continues until October. During this
time the humidity can be stifling as it rains on a daily
basis, usually in the afternoon, but it is also the quietest time for travelers meaning hotel prices drop and
popular tourist spots are blissfully uncrowded.
The Southern Thai beaches are faced with two weather
systems which bring the tropical rains at different times
of the year, so it’s possible to enjoy Thailand’s beaches
year-round. From January to September you can choose
a beach on the east coast such as Koh Samui or Koh
Phangan where you will have the best chance on sunny
and dry weather while from October to April the west
coast, including Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak, , Koh Phi Phi
and Koh Lanta offers the best chance of getting an all
over tan. Some beaches can be visited all year round
such as Hua Hin, Koh Samed, and Koh Chang
www.exotissimo.com
EXOTISSIMO TRAVEL THAILAND
Bangkok - Head Office
22nd Floor, Smooth Life Tower
44 North Sathorn Road, Silom
Bangrak, Bangkok 10500 THAILAND
Tel: +66 (0) 2 633 9060
Fax: +66 (0) 2 633 9070
Email: go [dot] thailand [at] exotissimo [dot] com
Chiang Mai - Branch Office
29 Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 11
Suthep, Muang
Chiang Mai, 50200 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 5 389 5083
Fax:+66 (0) 5 321 3437
Email: go [dot] thailand [at] exotissimo [dot] com
Phuket - Branch Office
100/19 Moo 5, Chalermprakiat
Rama 9 Rd, T. Rasada, A. Muang
Phuket 83000 THAILAND
Tel: +66 (0) 7 661 0181
Fax: +66 (0) 7 661 0182
Email: go [dot] thailand [at] exotissimo [dot] com

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