Nick, Selective Asia's founder, has spent a lot of time in Thailand over the years, and even lived there in the 90s (think fisherman’s trousers, long hair, and an outrageous fondness for Thai-dye). This time around, he sought out the Thailand he knows and loves the best - houseboats amidst lush jungle, wooden yachts slipping amongst limestone islands, the delicious bustle of Bangkok’s Chinatown, and expertly taught cookery lessons in the country’s idyllic rural north.
Thai wine is small-scale, so doesn’t get much attention in the aggressive international wine market, but the country boasts a number of excellent vineyards. The stunning, mountainous Khao Yai region and its thriving National Park (about 60km northwest of Bangkok) is one of the best places to find them. Several vineyards here offer tours and wine tasting, and some provide guest accommodation right inside the beautiful Park. Village Farm near Baan Pai Ngam has cosy wooden chalets and gives the classic vineyard experience a Thai flavour with its on-site spa, luscious massage menu, body scrubs and wine hydrotherapy.
An eye-opener and certainly not your average Bangkok hotel! Eccentric, really eco-friendly and absolutely bleeding edge cool, the Tree House perches by Chao Phraya river as it carves an oxbow around the surprisingly green and jungly Phra Pradaeng district. Here you’ll find Thai country life in central Bangkok - miraculous tranquility accessed only by boat, bike or foot. What’s really eye-popping about the Treehouse, though, is its design. Accommodation ranges from a spacious bamboo platform, its net-festooned bed open to the stars, to insect-themed ‘nests’ with transparent floors. Green credentials are impeccable - reclaimed fruit-juice carton insulation, solar/wind powered LED lighting, rainwater loos, organic veggie/vegan food grown on site, and an unchlorinated pond for dips and dragonfly spotting.
Hidden in Khao Laem National Park (southwest Thailand by the Myanmar border) gorgeous Lake Laem reservoir is surrounded by green forests that are home to tigers, bears, elephants, leopards, gibbons, tapirs, deer, and hundreds of tropical bird species. Much of the Lake’s surroundings are protected under UNESCO, and you can drift amongst them in a comfortable, thoughtfully equipped houseboat, piloted by your own private captain. An on-board cook prepares your meals, leaving you with all the hard work: swimming in the lake, disembarking for elephant rides, visits to the local villages, exploring caves and waterfalls…
Representing a more familiar side of Bangkok - its delicious hubbub - Chinatown’s amazing street food and riot of bright lights is absolutely for real and well worth the trip. Stretching roughly between Charoen Krung Road and Yaowarat Road, with Sam Pheng (or Sampeng) Lane as its focal point, 200 year old Chinatown is located in one of Bangkok’s oldest districts, and is packed with shops and stalls selling textiles, gold, spice, antiques, local delicacies, clothes and twinkling souvenirs. Visit during the day to shop or simply marvel at the array of goods on offer, but for goodness’ sake stay after sunset, which is when the food vendors really get going.
Rural Thailand at its subtly luxurious best, Khum Lanna's gorgeous traditional teak houses are just the centrepiece of a fantastic experience in the mountainous Phrao district, to the north of Chiang Mai. Many guests spend their time here at the excellent cooking school, learning to prepare local specialities from picked-today produce, grown in the lodge’s own gardens and orchard; you can also learn about the role of local herbs in traditional medicine. Other pastimes include water buffalo rides, trips to nearby villages in the lodge’s ox-cart, and trekking or cycling through the spectacular surrounding countryside.
Here's a little footage to whet your appetite (skip to 2 minute mark for Khum Lanna).
Protecting 42 islands and 80 square kilometres of sea in the Gulf of Thailand, Ang Thong (the name means ‘Bowl of Gold’) is a reminder that the best of Thailand is not all on land! Defined by the jungle-capped limestone karsts that tower up to 100ft above the Gulf’s warm turquoise waters, the region is home to many healthy corals, and an array of colourful marine life including sea turtles and stingray. On the islands, numerous bird species and monitor lizards occupy eerie caves and nest on strange rock formations. Embarking at Koh Phan Ngan or Koh Samui with Captain Bruno and his stylish wooden yacht, you can spend a few days exploring amongst the islands, kayaking, snorkelling and diving at leisure, or soaking up the sun on deck.