Thailand the “Land of Smiles” radiates a golden hue from its ancient temples, pristine beaches to its ever so friendly locals and diverse culture. Thailand has transformed to a friendly and fun-loving destination, once known for its bustling cities but now it is so much more offering something for every kind of traveller. To help you design a Thailand itinerary with a difference, we’ve compiled a list of the best cultural experiences and coastal escapes along the Eastern seaboard. #hugthailand

Bangkok

The vibrant city of Bangkok is quickly becoming a foodie’s dream destination for its diverse culinary landscape, vibrant markets and maze of sois (laneways). You can easily spend your day strolling through unique neighbourhoods, snacking on Michelin-starred street food, sampling Thailand’s new offering of craft beer and finding new experiences at every turn.

Amongst the high-rise buildings lies a hidden gem above the chaos of the city below. Rise Rooftop bar offers a blend of Western and Thai culture served in a stylish urban space.Taste a traditional papaya salad while sipping a finely crafted cocktail and watching the sunset over the bustling of the Thai capital.

For travellers looking for an authentic meal with a modern twist, the Nai Harng Restaurant is hard to miss. The restored warehouse turns into a streetscape paying homage to both the Thai and Chinese cultures through its art-filled walls. The restaurant is situated within the culturally historic Chinese -Thai Huo Chuan Laung Steamer Pier which was built on the Chao Phraya River in 1850 and reborn in 2017 as Lhong 1919 with a meaning of ‘Heritage at Heart’. This heritage is presented in the street style food served at Nai Harng.

Hotel Recommendation: Akyra Sukhumvit Bangkok

 

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Pattaya

Live the life of the rich and famous while on a budget in the beach town of Pattaya. The idyllic coastal escape is situated away from the buzz of the capital city offering a line of luxury resorts and hotels. Once known for its neon-drenched nightlife, Pattaya has been reinvented and is shedding its past to showcase its lavish and family-friendly sides.

Spend your day on the sandy beaches, laying back on deck chairs that line the Pattaya shore, while wandering vendors cater to your every need.
If you are looking for more adventure, then you can hike Khao Phra Bat (also known as Pattaya Hill). Located between South Pattaya and Jomtien, the growling climb is worth the effort for the panoramic view of the crystal waters hugging the curved bay and city beyond.

For an enlightening experience, make a day trip to the Sanctuary of Truth – an intricately decorated structure made from teak wood, located north of Wongamat Beach. Neither a palace nor a temple, the structure was created as a place of appreciation for art and philosophy, welcoming all religions and cultures to embrace its beauty. The craftsmanship includes carvings of elephants, people, scenes and creatures respecting the Ancient Vision of Earth and Eastern Philosophy.

Getting to Pattaya
From Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, there is a bus, taxi, and limousine service to Pattaya, only a 1 ½ to 2 hour drive from the airport. Bangkok Airways services Pattaya U-Tapao airport from Koh Samui.

Hotel Recommendation: Cape Dara Resort

 

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Chanthaburi

Chanthaburi is an eclectic town along the Eastern seaboard, blessed by lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, quiet fishing villages and peaceful beaches.The region, famous for its abundance in tropical fruits and as a centre for gem mining is inviting, kind and true to the Thai traditions. Visit during their summer and be delighted by fresh durian, the king of fruits and sweet mangosteen, the queen of fruits.

Situated at the Gulf of Thailand, there is no doubt that Chanthaburi has the freshest seafood. A quick trip to Pa Louise Loong Thom during your stay will not only ensure you taste the freshest, largest and most delicious oysters in the world but you will also be greeted by its friendly owner Uncle Thom, who will make you feel right at home on his floating restaurant.

Hugging the banks of Mae Nam Chanthaburi lies the Chanthaboon Waterfront with a history dating back over 300 years, where farmers and merchants met to trade alongside the river. Today the streets are still lined with private homes, but the emerging art galleries, coffee shops and market stalls selling local treats are what entice visitors to this charming part of town.

Venture further down the river and you will meet the Baan Nam Cheaw Community, a fishing village who open their homes and hearts to passers by. The community invite travellers to explore the mangroves in the area, taste local food prepared by the community, learn their way of life by joining in crafts, making a bamboo hat ‘Ngob’ with the elders or making ‘Tang Mae’ a sticky burnt sugar treat.

Getting to Chanthaburi
Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) to Chanthaburi every hour from 4 a.m.-midnight.

Hotel Recommendation: Blue Rabbit Hotel

 

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Koh Mak Island (Trat District)

Cast adrift from the gulf of Thailand lies the quiet and unspoiled island of Koh Mak. Savour a real Thai experience while getting back to basics in a place where you are reminded to be present with nature.

To get there you will board the island’s own speed boat, which will transport you across pristine crystal waters to a tranquil and peaceful surrounding. Once you step onto the island, your worries will drift away as you prepare to unplug from the mainland.

The island’s natural beauty is preserved by the community’s eco-tourism initiatives from sustainable farming to solar powered vehicles, yoga retreats and trash hero – an initiative where both locals and tourists join together every Saturday to clean-up the beaches.

Many visit the island for training techniques in Muay Thai and scuba diving but stay for the tranquility and kindness of the locals, who make you feel welcome from the moment you arrive. Visitors can contribute to the island’s organic farming efforts while learning a new skill in Thai cooking with fresh authentic ingredients.

For some of the islands best seascapes, Thaidaho Vista Viewpoint is a must, offering panoramic views of the island and sparkling turquoise waters below. Or better yet watch the day slip away with a sunset cocktail at Coco Cape Wooden Bridge.

Explorers can take a great day trip by speedboat to the secluded beaches of nearby Yak Yai Island and Yak Lek Island, where you can snorkel off the nearby crystal clear waters and discover a kaleidoscope of corals and tropical fish.

Getting to Koh Mak Island
The easiest way to get to Koh Mak is to fly from Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) to Trat airport (TDX). Then take a taxi to Laem Ngop Pier, which has daily speedboat services to the island up until around 4pm.

Hotel Recommendation: Plub Pla Koh Mak Retreat

 

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