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

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Phum Baitang’s Siem Reap Oasis

 

Siem Reap Hotels and Spas - Phum Baitang

Phum Baitang – Siem Reap

 

Spread out across eight hectares of lush gardens and rice paddy fields on the outskirts of the mystical Siem Reap, Phum Baitang is a place to behold. A collection of 45 wood and stilted villas inspired by traditional local architecture, the property showcases the village aesthetic, a green oasis ecologically built with indigenous materials and Cambodian wisdom gleaned from centuries of construction.  There are 20 villas that feature private swimming pools and gardens, with the remaining 25 villas offering large terraces as stunning vantage points from which to take in the green scene. Each villa is adorned with elegant, handmade Cambodian wooden furniture, rough stone sinks and bathtubs, antiques and lantern-style lighting that only uses eco-friendly bulbs.

In-house Rice Cultivation Experience

Designed to respect the land it sits on, Phum Baitang has a unique connection to the paddy fields that weave through the retreat. The high quality rice, Sen Kro Ob, is cultivated at the resort and is renowned for its superior taste and tenderness. Guests dining in either of Phum Baitang’s two restaurants—Bay Phsar and Hang Bay—can savour authentic Cambodian recipes with a bowl of the resort’s own rice harvest. The paddies of rice also allow for numerous authentic interactions between locals and guests, with the opportunity for visitors to experience rice planting or harvesting included in their stay. Seasonal planting starts from February and happens bimonthly while harvesting happens in the remaining months. Through this, you can learn directly from local farmers how the rice paddies are grown and harvested.

 

Siem Reap Luxury Hotels and Spas

Your surroundings in Phum Baitang

 

We also love that sustainable practices are evident throughout the hotel. An autonomous water treatment facility provides clean drinking water in re-useable glass bottles that may be re-filled at several stations throughout the resort, and eradicates the need for plastic containers. Elsewhere, the use of electric buggies to transport guests and luggage is driven by an objective to eliminate the use of fueled vehicles around the property, while bicycles are proposed for local tours and available for guests to ride around the resort.

Gardens and Buffalo

Playing a part in preserving local endangered species, Phum Baitang has its own natively grown garden that uses a naturally produced mist to control pesticides, essentially reducing harm to the environment. The resort is also home to buffalo, which plough the rice paddies and keep the lawn areas trimmed, while their excrement—along with garden refuge—is used as fertilizer. Pretty neat, right?

And the perfect antidote to the hustle of Siem Reap…

The Spa Temple, inspired by the architecture of Angkor. In seven treatment rooms, a blend of Cambodian techniques and traditional products are incoporated to round out your natural Cambodian journey.  Finish up with a sauna, hammam, a visit to the fitness room, or a generous 50-metre swimming pool that overlooks paddy fields. You can’t really go wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to hitch a ride to Angkor.

Paddy fields never sounded so good.

www.designhotels.com/phum-baitang

Hot Opening: Montage Los Cabos

 

MLC-Lifestyle-Santa Maria Bay Hero 3 (1)

Los Cabos, Mexico

 

When the much-anticipated Montage Los Cabos opens on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula this May, it could be the resort that helps transform an entire region into a luxury destination. Offering rare recreational opportunities courtesy of its prime beachfront location on Santa Maria Bay, it will also extend opening advantages exclusively for bookings made through an advisor affiliated with leading global luxury travel network Virtuoso®Virtuoso® is one of the leading international travel agency networks specializing in luxury and experiential travel. A by-invitation-only organization, it comprises over 1,000 travel agency partners with 17,500 elite travel advisors in more than 45 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

Guests who stay between June 1 and December 15, 2018 will receive a daily $100 USD resort credit as well as these complimentary benefits:

  • Upgrade on arrival, if available
  • Daily full breakfast for two guests
  • Early check-in/late check-out, if available
  • One-way airport transfer for bookings in Beachfront Suites and above
  • WiFi
MLC-Lifestyle-Santa Maria Bay Hero 3 (1)

Santa Maria Bay

On 39 waterfront acres, Montage’s first property outside the U.S. will provide walk-in access to the region’s finest swimming, diving, and snorkeling. Located on the Golden Corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, the resort will honor the destination’s tradition of indoor-outdoor living. Its public spaces and its 122 expansive guestrooms and suites will frame the surrounding Baja desert and serene waters of the Sea of Cortez. Montage Los Cabos will feature native materials and an earth-tone color scheme to blend with the striking setting. The resort will offer an enticing blend of recreation and relaxation, including two pools and two tennis courts, along with access to The Fred Couples Signature Golf Course. Guests can also take part in wellness programs and enjoy treatments at the 21,000-square-foot signature Spa Montage and fitness center. Younger visitors will enjoy Montage’s immersive children’s program, Paintbox.

002-Montage Baja-Guestroom LO (2)

Montage Los Cabos Guest Room

Montage Los Cabos will also feature an abundance of dining options where you can enjoy the region’s abundant seafood (our favorite!) and innovative use of fresh local ingredients. For you romantic types, the resort is aiming to be the perfect site for destination weddings with 5,100 square feet of indoor event space and more than 30,000 square feet of outdoor space.

So check out how to book the Montage Los Cabos through Virtuoso directly online or visit https://www.virtuoso.com/advisors# 

 

Naturally Beautiful Make Up For Travel

 

jane iredale Snap Happy Kit

Jane Iredale Snap Happy Make Up Kit

 

We’re big fans of looking naturally beautiful when we travel, so we wanted to share Jane Iredale’s new products ready to launch in April. Why do we like them? Because they’re minerally based and compact… perfect for travel mavens like us. Here they are, for your beauty loving consideration:

Snap Happy™ Makeup Kit: Gorgeous, on-the-go, never been easier. It’s a trio of long-wearing, universally flattering shades of matte finishing powder, shimmery blush, and mix-and-match eye shadows in a three-tiered compact: Pure Matte® Finish Powder (translucent), Whisper PurePressed® Blush (a shimmery peachy pink), and Brown Sugar PurePressed® Eye Shadow Triple (warm brown, shimmery peach, shimmery copper eggplant). Pretty much everything you need in one go!

$58

jane iredale Content LipFixation_OpenedContent Lip Fixation® Lip Stain/Gloss: This matte pink, nude, and clear shimmer duo gives double-duty beauty new meaning with a convenient lip stain and gloss all-in-one.

$32

www.janeiredale.com

New Hotel Offers: Belmond Hotels

Maroma (c) Rafa Garete

Belmond Maroma Resort

Belmond has just announced a limited-time offer that we had to share. We first stayed at Belmond properties in Bali and, since then, they’ve been a top pick for any exotic retreats where service, style, and cuisine are top of mind.

Perfect for those who resolved to travel more in 2018, the Our Wonderful World for Less promotion includes up to a 30% savings across the collection of 47 hotels, trains, safaris, and cruises.

Booking terms vary by location, with highlights including:

  • A 25% discount on stays four nights or more at Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, a dreamy retreat on the sunny, Caribbean shores of Riviera Maya
  • A 30% discount on two-night stays or longer at Belmond El Encanto, the historic property in the hills of Santa Barbara that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2018
  • A 25% discount on visits of three nights or longer at Belmond Charleston Place, an easy two-hour flight from NYC
  • A 25% discount on stays of three or more nights at Belmond Copacabana Palace, the iconic Rio resort with a newly reopened restaurant, Pergula

The full list of global offers can be found here:

www.belmond.com/offers

Our Wonderful World for Less is available for bookings made by January 16, 2018 for travel through May 7, 2018, so get on it!

Costa Rica: When an All-Inclusive is Awesome

costa-rica-westin-pool

Westin Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

By Josh Levin

As a seasoned traveler, I do not – repeat – do not, do all inclusives. Ever. I want to be free to explore. I don’t want watered-down, bottom shelf drinks. I don’t want to be surrounded by the rabble. But this year, on the advice of a friend, I booked a trip for my wife and I to the Westin Playa Conchal, located on the shores of the Conchal Reserve in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. It forever changed my view of what an all-inclusive vacation can and ought to be.

Wanting something outside the “standard” Caribbean winter getaway and intrigued by Costa Rica, I booked a five night stay at the Westin. It was my wife’s 40th birthday and our first wedding anniversary so hope abounded that everything would be perfect.

westin-entrance

And perfect it was. The Westin Playa Conchal is part of a (relatively) new breed of deluxe, high end, all-inclusive resorts. The resort features 11 restaurants. We ate at all of them, and none disappointed, including:

Bamboo: Asian Fusion

Catalinas: French Fine Dining

Magla: Mediterranean

Faisanela: Italian

Mitra: International Buffet

Spirula: Pizza and Pasta Bar

Caracola: Poolside Snacks

Las Candelas: Latin American

Cauri: Lobby Bar & Bistro

La Sabana: Churascuria

El Ranchito: Latin American Grill and BBQ

We stayed at the Westin’s Royal Beach Club, which was a designated, secluded spot for adults, offering top shelf alcohol and a private buffet for breakfast and lunch. The rooms in the Royal Beach Club come with private check in and a private concierge who was on call 24/7 to help us make dinner reservations, and plan daily excursions. The Westin also has a Family Club, which offers similar services for families.

westin-room

Bathtub with a view…

Every night at the resort has featured entertainment, which were – and I say this as a complete cynic – amazing. Fire performers armed with poi, magic shows (we saw Costa Rica’s equivalent of David Blaine), and comedians (who were actually funny).

Costa Rican hospitality, I could only liken to Mexico and my experiences there. The staff and the locals are fiercely proud of their country and want you to experience all it has to offer. The Westin’s staff could not have done enough for us, throughout the entirety of our stay, and expected no tips at all…

The resort is also an hour away from all of the adventure activities one could imagine. There are guided ATV tours through the jungle; abseiling down massive waterfalls; and incredible, zip line courses which traverse the canopies of the rain forest.

costa-rica

The lush grounds

 

Travel to the Westin is pretty easy. There are direct flights to Liberia Airport (LIR) from most US metropolitan areas. From there, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the resort. Depending on when you decide to travel, rooms start at about:

$495 (US)/night

A note on the weather. Costa Rica only really has two seasons: dry and rainy. The rainy season occurs during the US Summer, and while it doesn’t get cold, I’m told that most afternoons have down pours.

So there you have it. An all-inclusive resort vacation in Costa Rica. Ditch the DR and check out the CR! I will definitely be going back again.

____________________________

Josh Levin is a recovering PR consultant turned tech entrepreneur and travel writer. A globe-trotter since the age of 13, he has lived in Sydney, Shanghai, and Jerusalem and now calls New York home.

josh-levin

Josh Levin, Jaunt Magazine Contributor

 

What’s New in Napa

News from the Vines: What’s Cropping up in the Napa Valley this Season 

Meadowood Napa

An Arial View of Meadowood Napa

SLEEP

1.       Just Completed: Five new Harvest Suites in the Harvest Cottage were just completed in September at The Carneros Inn. The new suites make for a total of 800 square feet of indoor living space, as well as 400 additional square feet of private outdoor patio space, which includes an outdoor soaking tub and fire pit. www.thecarnerosinn.com

2.       Just Opened: Meadowood Napa Valley just debuted their new 14,000 square-foot, all-suite spa on November 2, 2015, with eight treatment suites, each offering forest views and a private environment for relaxation. Each spa suite features a private bathroom, steam shower and daybed. www.meadowood.com

3.       Just Completed: Calistoga Hot Springs finished its extensive renovation project in June 2015, including a redesign of the guest rooms with spa-inspired bedding, pebble and Italian porcelain tile showers, kitchenette upgrades and High Definition LED televisions. The focal point, though, are the four geothermal heated mineral pools, with travertine tiles, new pool furniture and vine covered arbor niches. www.calistogaspa.com

EAT

1.       Just Opened: The team from Ca’ Momi debuted their new Osteria on October 13, 2015, with a full bar of Ca’ Momi wines, house-made spirits and beer and a menu of authentic Italian specialties like their certified Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) and Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani pizza. Ca’ Momi Osteria; 1141 First St., downtown Napa; www.camomiosteria.com.

2.       Just Opened: Launched by AvroKO and chef Matthew Lightner (who received two Michelin stars when he oversaw the kitchen at Atera in NYC), NINEBARK opened in October 2015 in downtown Napa with California-focused, market-forward cuisine using innovative techniques like smoking with local hardwood and shrubs and marinating in herbal, fruit and floral broths. 813 Main St.; www.ninebark-napa.com.

3.       Upcoming: Opening late 2015, Tannery Bend Beerworks will brew and serve their own beers, born from a unique collaboration between a brewer (Matthew Cromwell) and a chef (Tyler Rodde) within blocks of downtown Napa. An upcoming crowdfunding campaign be established to engage members of the community. www.tannerybendbeerworks.com

4.       Upcoming: Miminashi, Napa Valley’s first and only “Izakaya-style” (Japanese pub) in downtown Napa, is set to open this month by chef and owner Curtis Di Fede. The menu will feature classics like Kara-age (Japanese-style fried chicken), binchotan grilled porterhouse with uni shiso butter and the space will focus around an open binchotan grill.

DRINK

1.       Just Opened: In the center of Yountville, K. LAZ WINE COLLECTION opened on October 7, 2015 by former Dean & Deluca Wine Director, Kerrin Laz. The 12-seat tasting room and retail shop features a curated wine collection, local Napa Valley landscape photography shot by Kerrin and fresh flowers and terrariums from nearby Evermore Flowers. www.klazwine.com.

2.       Upcoming: JaM Cellars is coming to downtown Napa this winter, with wine flights, by the glass and by the bottle programs available for Butter Chardonnay, JaM Cab and Toast Sparkling, plus several guest wines and special releases only available at the downtown tasting room. Designer Richard Vonsaal is creating a unique space with reclaimed materials and contemporary twists. www.jamcellars.com

CELEBRATE

1.       Flavor! Napa Valley – March 16 – 20, 2016: A five-day celebration featuring farm-to-table cuisine, world-class wines and culinary star talent, with local and celebrity chef demonstrations, intimate winemaker workshops, Grand Tastings and exclusive experiences that bring out the best flavors of Napa Valley. www.flavornapavalley.com

2.       Superbowl 50 – February 7, 2016: In celebration of the Bay Area’s hosting of Superbowl 50, Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, is offering a “GAMETIME” package for Superbowl weekend. The package includes a one-night stay in a Maison king room, GAMETIME welcome party snacks paired with a bottle of former pro Dick Vermeil’s Proprietary Red, wine tasting for two at Vermeil Wines in Calistoga or Napa, a GAMETIME sampler in the Bistro & Bar, a $100 resort credit and a 10 percent discount on any 60 minute service at Auberge Spa (including the GAMETIME sports massage and “heat-to-toe” treatment). The package starts at $898 and is valid through Feb. 12, 2016.