What You Need To Know Before You Travel To Thailand

 

thailand mg cthu

(c) Mg Cthu

 

If images of the Buddha and pristine beaches come to mind when you think of Thailand, you aren’t alone, and you aren’t wrong either. This unique Asian country has seen a large growth in tourism in recent years, with more than 32 million travelers making their way there in 2016.

Before you plan your trip to Thailand, though, there are a few things that you should know before you go. Check out the helpful information below to discover a few things about Thailand so you can make the most of your vacation.

Why is Thailand amazing? 

In addition to being beautiful on its own, Thailand is conveniently located, so you can gain easy access to other nearby destinations that are just as unforgettable. In just a few hours, you could travel from Thailand to Bali, Singapore, and Hong Kong, as a few examples. 

– The locals in Thailand are welcoming and friendly. You may notice that they are quite happy, helpful, and polite. Travelers often feel safe as they make their way through the country and see the sights. 

– Nature lovers will find an array of outdoor spaces to explore during their time in Thailand. From picture-perfect beaches, to lush jungles filled with wildlife and waterfalls, the natural beauty of Thailand can’t be replicated. So don’t forget to pack your camera and make sure the battery is charged! 

– Many people ask, “Is Thailand affordable?” The simple answer is: yes! If you are traveling there with U.S. dollars, for example, your money will stretch very far. You could stay at a hotel or a guesthouse for less than $20 per night, so you can probably imagine that even the top-notch resorts will be surprisingly affordable. And when it comes to food, you could eat yummy Thai food at a restaurant without breaking the bank, or you could even get some food from the country’s famous street vendors for about $1. 

– Sure, there are plenty of things to do during the day in Thailand, but what about at night? Well, you needn’t worry about that either. The country is home to a thriving nightlife.

 

thai nightlife florian-wehde

Thai Nightlife (c) Florian Wehde

 

What are some of the must-see places in Thailand? 

There are a lot of must-see places throughout Thailand, so creating an itinerary to follow once you arrive could certainly be helpful. Here are a few of the top picks for visitors who are going to be checking out Thailand for the first time:

– Doi Inthanon National Park: Perfect for exploring the great outdoors and the stunning landscape, this park is also home to the highest peak in the country, Doi Inthanon. Throughout the park, you will also have the opportunity to catch glimpses of various wild animals that you can’t find anywhere else. 

– Sai Yok National Park: Another perfect spot for nature lovers, this is where you can spot some rare wildlife while also exploring caves and basking in the beauty of waterfalls. 

– Khao Yai National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the biggest monsoon forests in Asia, and it is also the second biggest national park in the country. You will find everything from valleys and waterfalls, to mountains and myriad species of mammals and birds. 

– Phanom Rung Historical Park and Phimai Historical Park: Perfect for history buffs, these parks feature ancient Khmer ruins that date back to the 12th century. 

– Bangkok: The capital of Thailand has plenty to offer travelers. Check out the incredible Grand Palace, which is one of the most famous landmarks in the nation. It dates back to the 1700s and boasts intricate details and stunning architecture. Then head over to the city’s famous floating markets, where you will find people in little boats selling a variety of fruits and vegetables, local food, and coconut drinks. And don’t forget to also visit Wat Pho, the well-known Temple of the Reclining Buddha. 

– Similan Islands: The Similan Islands were designated as a Marine National Park back in 1982, so this is an undeveloped natural haven for those who truly want to get away from it all. Snorkeling and diving in these waters will give you access to an array of coral and fish, so if you love spending time in the water, this is the place to be. 

– Phi Phi Islands: These popular islands are easy to access, as you can take a ferry or speedboat from Phuket. Once there, you will find breathtaking rock formations, pristine water, and perfect beaches for sunbathing and swimming with colorful fish. 

– Chiang Mai: Another popular city in Thailand is Chiang Mai, which is found in the mountainous northern part of the country. One of its many attractions is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which dates back nearly 700 years and is one of the most important spiritual and historical spots in Thailand. But another popular historic attraction in Chiang Mai is the Wat Chedi Luang, which was built between 1385-1402.

 

phi phi island shifaaz-shamoon

Koh Pi Phi (c) Shifaaz Shamoon

 

What are the best beaches in Thailand?

To help you narrow down your many choices, here are some of the country’s top beaches:

– Kata Beach in Phuket

– Lamai Beach in Koh Samui

– White Sand Beach in Koh Chang

– Klong Dao Beach in Koh Lanta

– Donald Duck Bay in Similan Islands

– Railay Beach in Krabi

– Thong Nai Pan Noi and Yai Beaches in Koh Phangan

– Buffalo Bay in Koh Phayam

– Laem Thong Beach in Phi Phi Islands

– Pattaya Beach in Koh Lipe

Are Thailand’s tigers drugged? Are the elephants abused?

Unfortunately, as is the case with so many other places around the world that use animals for profit and entertainment, the wildlife in Thailand isn’t always treated well when they are used in tourist attractions.

Take the famous Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi as an example. For years, this establishment was accused of illegally breeding and trafficking endangered tigers. Visitors could pay to feed, pet, and even bathe the tigers, who were strangely calm. Reports surfaced that the tigers were drugged in order to keep them docile enough to interact with the visitors. Then, in 2016, more than 100 live tigers were confiscated by officials, and many tiger carcasses, including those of cubs, were also found in the facility before it was shut down.

When it comes to the elephant parks in Thailand, you should do your research before visiting one as well. Remember, a place could easily call itself a sanctuary without really functioning like one. It is best to steer clear of establishments that give you the option of riding elephants, taking a selfie with them, or watching them perform. These animals are captured from the wild, abused, and confined in severely cruel conditions, according to experts.

Ultimately, whenever you travel anywhere in the world, the very best way to view wildlife is in their natural habitat (and there is no shortage of truly wild places to view animals in Thailand). The second best way to view them would be within a reputable sanctuary that has a clean record of keeping their animals wild, free, safe, and well cared for. If an establishment is letting visitors take pictures with the animals, feed them, etc., this is a sign that it likely isn’t a place that truly respects the animals.

When is the best time to go to Thailand?

Thailand is a tropical destination, so you could travel there at any time of the year and enjoy hot temperatures and sunshine. But the best months to go are between December and March. Just keep in mind that an unpredictable rainstorm could occur even on an otherwise sunny day.

The west coast and its islands (Koh Lanta, Krabi, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi) have the best weather in December and January, when there tends to be just a small amount of rain and loads of sunshine. The islands of Thailand that are found within the Gulf of Thailand typically receive less rainfall even during the rainy season than other parts of the country. Experts recommend visiting the islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui between the latter part of January and the middle part of March. February will usually be the driest month.

The wet season in Thailand runs from May through October, and this is the season during which monsoons are possible. While you might get some good deals and smaller crowds if you’re traveling during that time of year, it may not be worth it if the wet conditions keep you from enjoying the beauty of the islands.

It is a good idea to have some cash on hand at all times, as some shops, guesthouses, and small hotels may only accept cash payments. Other establishments, such as major shops, airlines, and larger hotels, may accept credit cards like Visa and MasterCard.

Which electrical outlet adapter do you need for Thailand?

Power sockets in Thailand include types A, B, C, F, and O. The standard frequency is 50 Hz, while the standard voltage is 220 V. Therefore, you might need to pack the appropriate power plug adapter and voltage converter to use your appliances during your stay. 

Do you need vaccinations to go to Thailand?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of contracting Zika virus is high in Thailand. So if you are pregnant or you are planning on becoming pregnant, your doctor may recommend postponing your trip, as infection with the virus could lead to birth defects. Also, all travelers should take the appropriate steps to prevent both mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.

Before going to Thailand, talk to your doctor to be sure that you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations, such as the polio vaccine, flu shot, varicella vaccine, measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. The CDC also recommends receiving vaccinations for typhoid and hepatitis A, as both of these could be contracted through contaminated food and water in Thailand. Tell your doctor about where you are going in Thailand, what you plan on doing, how long you plan on staying, and if you are visiting other countries during your trip. This will help him or her decide if you need additional vaccinations, such as those for hepatitis B, cholera, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, and rabies.

Ready to dive into Thai culture?

Thailand truly is a country like no other. You could spend one day exploring a lush forest and the next one lounging on a sandy beach and swimming in crystal clear water. And in between exploring temples, ruins, and markets, you can sit down to indulge in some authentic Pad Thai and Thai iced tea. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next exciting trip to this exotic and unforgettable destination!

Melita DeHazes is Marketing Director, North America, for cross border payments provider OFX. In this role, she is passionate about educating North American businesses and individuals on how to lower their fees on cross border currency payments. https://www.ofx.com

Advertisements

Just Opened! Como’s Point Yamu in Phuket, Thailand

Point Yamu by COMO

Point Yamu by COMO

One of our luxe favorites, COMO Hotels and Resorts’, has just opened another sweet property. Personalized luxury travel is what COMO is all about: Urban Hotels, Island Resorts, Adventure Retreats and Wellness Resorts all highlight wellness, cuisine, adventure and culture, service and design – while always upholding a sustainable approach towards the people and places where they operate. Founded by Christina Ong, COMO Hotels and Resorts develops and manages handpicked, individually curated properties like The Halkin by COMO in London, two Metropolitan by COMO hotels in London and Bangkok, Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks and Caicos, Cocoa Island by COMO in the Maldives, and three Uma by COMO experience resorts in Bali and Bhutan.

A rendering of Point Yamu's Italian Restaurant, La Serena

A rendering of Point Yamu’s Italian Restaurant, La Sirena

Enter their 106-room resort, Point Yamu by COMO. The property, on the coast of the island of Phuket, Thailand, has COMO’s classic stunning interiors, this time by famed Italian designer and architect, Paola Navone. New to the hotel world, Ms. Navone designed Point Yamu with deep, bold colors, clean lines, and a myriad of textural elements to combine COMO’s signature style with indigenous designs. Point Yamu is also home to a COMO Shambhala Retreat, a 100-meter infinity swimming pool and infinite views of the turquoise waters of Phang Nga Bay. In addition, private residences with access to all Point Yamu’s facilities are also available to purchase for those who want to keep coming back to your own sexy digs.

The bathroom in a suite

The bathroom in a suite

LOCATION

Point Yamu by COMO is located on Cape Yamu, a peaceful peninsula on the east side of Phuket, Thailand. The resort overlooks the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Andaman Sea.

CUSINE

Cuisine prepared in a wood-fired oven also plays a star role at Point Yamu. The resort offers everything from relaxed Italian cooking and locally caught seafood at La Sirena to spicy southern Thai cooking at Nahmyaa. Healthy COMO Shambhala Cuisine, designed to maximize energy and wellbeing, can be nibbled at The Central Bar while private dining such as beach picnics and romantic sunset meals can be arranged in-room and at a number of special locations in and near to the resort.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 330-foot swimming pool
  • COMO Shambhala Retreat with eight treatment rooms including one beauty treatment room and yoga studio
  • Pilates and Asian-inspired therapies
  • Italian and Thai restaurants
  • Child-friendly interactive learning area

GETTING THERE

The resort is a quick 25-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. So get thee to serenity.

Rates for a Bay Room begin @ $500/night

 www.comohotels.com/pointyamu

One of Thailand’s Best Spas: Chiva Som, Hua Hin

Chiva Som

Chiva Som

Seven acres of gardens, wellness programs, rooms with private balconies and butler service. This is Chiva Som, a luxury health resort facing the Gulf of Thailand, just south of Bangkok. In addition to 3, 5, 7, 10, 14, and 21 Day wellness retreats like Inner Wellness, Art of Detox, Weight Management, Natural Healing, and Yoga For Life, they combine classes on everything from daily massages and yoga to spa cuisine meals, meditation, aqua therapy, and holistic health. In short, they’re considered one of the best holistic spas in the world and we can’t wait to try them out to offer our personal review.

Gimme an 'OM'

Gimme an ‘OM’

Hydrotherapy treatments include aqua skin polish with spearmint and apricot to exfoliate the skin and a food philosophy that means “healthy cuisine but with so many flavours you will never notice it’s good for you!” Think: the freshest produce delicately mixed with fresh herbs and spices.

Chiva-Som chefs create daily menus to offer the widest range of dishes to suit a healthy lifestyle while satisfying your appetite. So, you won’t be deprived if you don’t want to be deprived, but you will have clean, delicious fulfilling healthy fare. They claim to have the tenderest steaks, the tastiest lamb, the softest chicken, the most delicate fish and the freshest vegetables combined with local herbs and spices to produce great tasting dishes.

We believe it. If Forbes says they’re top notch, we won’t be doubters this time.

$340/night

Retreats from 3, 5, 7, 10, 14, and 21 days

www.chivasom.com

Casa de la Flora on Thailand’s Khao Lak

Casa de la Flora

Take me to Casa de la Flora! For a beach holiday among lush vegetation in private unspoiled surroundings, Casa de la Flora is one of Design Hotel’s finest. With 36 glass-front villas to the azure waters of the Andaman Sea, it’s located on Thailand’s Khao Lak, and all eco villas feature private pools and secluded patios.

Their sexier than thou pool bar

There’s also the resort’s amazing pool bar (see above) with double loungers and La Arunya restaurant, which offers excellent Thai and international cuisine. Great weather, beach yoga, island hopping from one sun-kissed beach to another using the resort’s private yacht (a romantic dinner onboard is a must for couples), and exploring the lush jungles along Khao Lak’s wild rivers…

What more do you really need?

www.designhotels.com/casadelaflora

Buddhas & Bustle in Bangkok

Sarah Ivens, Founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine in the US, is back again to share her Bangkok secrets!

Enticing, exciting, alarming and alluring. There are a thousand more words to describe your first thoughts when you step out into the hustle bustle of Thailand’s capital, but those were the four to hit me. I loved it immediately – but it’s also a shock to the system. I warn you: after 24 hours in the city, your eyeballs will literally hurt from everything you’ve seen.

Racing through the city on a tuk-tuk is the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to get around and feel part of the street. As you dart in and out of the traffic (it’s the worst I’ve seen anywhere in the world, worse than Athens on a bad day!), exotic smells hit your nostrils and the colors of spices and fish and fruits come into view.

There will be stall after stall of sellers, trying to trap you with promises of a good meal at a good price. Then you’ll whizz past ancient temples as expert salesman wave gleaming jewel tones of fabric in your path, promising to make you the best suit in your wardrobe by 4pm that afternoon.  And  as soon as you step from your tuk-tuk out into the heat, there’s a gaggle of petite, pretty girls, pulling you towards their parlor for the massage of your life – like no other you’ve ever had.

This is all startling and stunning but sometimes, when the shocks come too hard and too quick, you need a sanctuary to escape to. Thankfully the Shangri-La became my very own, well, Shangri-La. Perfectly positioned on the edge of the river Chao Phraya, the hotel’s location not only offers a cooling breeze but a great travelling–without-moving edge. If you get too exhausted getting out into the melee, you can let the madness come to you. Watching the life of the river from the calm of your lounger, cocktail in hand, cold towel and fruit being offered at regular intervals, is bliss. And surely has to be the most charming and luxurious way to witness the people and their comings and goings without having to fasten your seatbelt. If your stomach feels as sensitive as your soul, hideaway in Angelina’s, the hotels Italian brasserie, voted best Italian restaurant in Bangkok 10 years in a row– and serving a very refreshing high tea at the peak of the midday sun.

There are three things you MUST see when you’re in Bangkok, and they all within 15 minutes of the hotel:

1.       Shopping for items you didn’t even know you wanted at the legendary weekend market, Chatuchak. Everything is reasonably well made and reasonably priced, so even if you’re venturing to Thailand in February, stock up on Christmas presents for people back home.

2.       Gawking in wonder at the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is another don’t miss thing on any sensible Siam traveler’s agenda. Wat Pho is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok, dating back to the 16th century, and its famous lazy Buddha is 46m long and 15m high. It’s breathtaking. Imitating the Buddha as he rested before reaching his final nirvana, his eyes and feet are decorated with mother of pearl while the rest of him is covered in gold leaf. He glows! He inspires! He transfixes! Allow for a full morning there as you’ll feel blessed just soaking in the atmosphere (yes, there are a few monks on hand to make it authentic).

3.       Clapping for traditional Thai dancers as they weave their way towards you in elaborate gold costumes and magnificent head pieces (seriously, each head piece is unique, ornate and resembles a temple). Sway to the customary music as they perform a dance that their ancestors have been doing for centuries. Watch their finger tips for the most subtle of movements – they draw attention to the beautiful arching of their hands with finger decorations quite unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world. We saw a great show at Salathip, the Shangri-La’s Thai restaurant – where by the way I had the most delicious mushroom and lemongrass soup of my life. Ever. I can still taste it now.

So for tastes, sights, smells and of course the odd crazy person on a tuk-tuk that you will never forget, Bangkok is the place. And the Shangri-La is the place to keep you sane once you’re amongst it all. A winning combination of shocking and soothing.

http://www.shangri-la.com

http://www.bangkok.thailandtoday.com

Phulay Bay, Thailand

Sarah Ivens, Founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine in the US, continues to share her tips from Krabi, Thailand and beyond!

The Perfect Cocktail

The natural beauty of Southern Thailand and the luxurious setting of the world’s first Ritz Carlton Reserve at Phulay Bay is an intoxicating blend that will leave you heady with relaxation. The 200 islands of the Andaman Sea float like giant ice cubes in the blue curacao waters, garnished with palm trees and coconut shells. With only 54 villas, the resort is small enough to make you feel pampered while vibey enough to let you know you’ve come to the best place in the country. It’s exclusive but homely, an addictive gulp of the good life.

After  we get comfortable in our breath-taking bedroom (with the largest beds in Asia – two kingside beds put together then made dreamy with  gigantic, custom-made linens), I meet the general manager, who worringly, considering she’s in charge of the just- opened flagship hotel, has tears in her eyes and looks rather shaken. ‘A guest just came up to me and grabbed me,’ she recounts in her charming Argenitinian accent, ‘and he looked me in the eyes and said “Stop the time! Stop the time! This is what life is about, this is the perfect place.” ‘ Her eyes well up again, happy with the fact she and her 97% Thai staff are doing their jobs so well. What’s strange is that my eyes well up too. I’d only been there for a few hours yet already know how that emotive, German tourist feels. I want the clock to stop as well.

Each villa comes with its own outside water feature – be it a rain shower or an infinity pool overlooking the sea. We had a totally private swimming pool, perfect for skinny dipping our burnt bits, and an outdoor, oversized bath, just made for relaxing under the stars. Indeed, they supply lanterns, candles, incense and locally-grown floral oils to enhance the experience. The villas also come with their own butlers. This sounded a bit pompous to start with but we soon fell into the trap of needing Tanya, our personal helper. She not only organized the basics performed by any good concierge desk at a top hotel like booking restaurants and filling our room with flowers and sweets each night, but she organized a beachside yoga lesson (for me), a trip to an elephant sanctuary (for him indoors) and would inform us of the best times to go to the bar for sunset each evening. Before long, we were scared to rejoin the real world without the help of Tanya.

Thai food is considered one of the greatest cuisines in the world and the chefs at Phulay Bay are doing everything they can to further this reputation. If you like the classics – pad Thai, green curry, tom yam guang – you’ll eat yourself silly each day. Wash it down with a glad of locally made house wine, surprisingly good considering we didn’t even know Thailand produced wine until we got there. Breakfast is set in the shade of the jumgle-like main lawn. Jams made from the fruits of the gardens and honey, served still dripping from the comb, moisten the freshly made breads and pastries. If you need something sturdier before a caving or diving trip, the seafood stir fry and eggs benedict fill you up for hours.  We stayed for two nights and it wasn’t enough.  You can get used to every need and desire being anticipated and uncomplicated – a refreshing, mouthwatering swig of how good life can be… Thailand never tasted so good.

TOP TIP! If you need to water down the price of this expensive elixir, for the room rate alone will drink your dollars, do what my husband and I did: rough it for a few nights in Phuket or Phi Phi, or in the nearby town of Krabi, in a hostel first.

These can be easily booked on arrival and you can get a decent room with a private bathroom and A/C for around $20 per night. These cheaper nights will allow you to get over your jet lag and into the swing of Thai life on a budget, before you make it to Phulay Bay for the spoiling you have always deserved. Don’t do this trip in reverse though. It will make you seriously depressed.

For more info or reservations, call toll free in the US, 1-800-241-333 or visit the company website at www.ritzcarlton.com

Top Spas in the Far East

Right now, Jaunt Magazine’s staff is overworked and under pampered which is exactly why we’ve picked three special spas in the Far East with only one thing is mind… massage, massage, and more massage. We could use a few, you too?

Bali - Ubud Hanging Gardens

Ayung Spa at Ubud Hanging Gardens

Bali, Indonesia


Perched along the steep rice terraces of Ubud lays the Ubud Hanging Gardens hotel, where the spa takes its name from the winding Ayung River below. Here, you can indulge in the 60-minute Coconut & Rice Scrub. Since ancient times, the coconut has been by Balinese women to heal and beautify skin complexion, so this traditional recipe is made out of grated coconut and coconut milk to smooth the skin and rice powder to gently exfoliate. Followed with an energizing herbal bath.

Treatment price: $81

Hotel accommodations from $337 per room per night.

www.ubudhanginggardens.com


Laos Luxury Hotels Spa

The Spa at La Résidence Phou Vao


Luang Prabang, Laos

At Luang Prabang’s first luxury spa, cozy pavilions are decorated with an inviting mix of ethnic craftsmanship and modern comfort. In such an exotic elegant setting, the pampered can enjoy the Sip Sen traditional Lao massage, originally cultivated in monasteries of Laos and handed down through generations of Buddhist monks. Now you know if the monks developed it, it’s gotta be good. Chimay, anyone? The philosophy of this massage is based on freeing life force which runs throughout energy lines called “sen” to achieve total wellness. This very respectful way of applying pressure with thumbs and palms was once exclusively applied to Royal families to help the body to relax, detoxify, balance, heal and energize, giving a new sense of wholesome well-being. Since you’re such a royal pain in the ass most of the time, it’s perfect for you!

Treatment price: $35 for 60 minutes / $50 for 90 minutes.

Hotel accommodations from $232 per room per night.

http://www.residencephouvao.com


Ko Samui - Thailand Spa

Napasai Spa

Koh Samui, Thailand


Royal Thai massage, or Nuat Pen Boran, has been practiced as part of Thai medicine to heal Royal family members of the Kingdom of Siam for over 2,500 years. The massage is given very slowly to facilitate the tendency toward mindfulness, so that any resistance or discomfort resulting from a particular position can be detected thus minimizing the risk of injury. During the massage, the therapist uses hands, thumbs and fingers to apply pressure on sen energy points. The therapist will also gently pull, twist and manipulate the body in a way that is compared to “passive yoga.” All these movements aim to create a smooth energy flow within the body, which is believed to help loosen joints, stretch muscles and tone internal organs. That’s right… your kidneys will look hot!  The after-effect? Deep relaxation and drool, of course.

Treatment price: $47 for 60 minutes / $57 for 90 minutes.

Hotel accommodations from $263* per room per night.

www.napasai.com