Beyond Thailand’s headline beaches and islands lie hundreds of less-lauded, less-visited, but totally stunning alternatives. These are the best places to really connect with the country’s famous coast, from the peaceful barefoot luxury of Koh Kood to the chilled out vibe of Koh Lanta. Back inland, you can camp in the wilds and get a closer look at ethical elephant conservation in Koh Sok National Park, head north to immerse yourself in the traditional towns of Fang and Chiang Kham, and explore UNESCO-listed Ayutthaya and the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai, all within reach of Bangkok’s modern metropolis.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
One of the best adages to stick to on the streets of Bangkok is: 'If it's cooked, it's safe to eat'. This is a city that sizzles, steams and smokes. Skewered meats are grilled on impromptu barbecues while curries and soups simmer in giant silver saucepans. There’s no way you can stroll around the Sukhumvit and Khao San Road areas and not get hungry. Be brave. Pull up a plastic pew. Learn to ask for a few dishes in Thai or just point and nod enthusiastically! Markets are great places to sample street food like a local, night markets especially. Once you've found your favourite food you'll want to return again and again, a bit like the city itself.
There's something about the rooted, rustic nature of Fang that's instantly relaxing. People are friendly and welcoming, and visitors from distant shores are still something of a novelty. Explore beyond the ramshackle wooden houses on the edge of town and you'll find tea plantations and trekking trails leading deeper into the jungle. Thin slivers of smoke rise from the fires of tribal communities living in the mountains. These hill tribes have embraced trekking tourism alongside preserving and promoting their distinct cultural beliefs and traditions. The experiences are genuine, not enhanced for visitors, and the town of Fang itself gives you a vivid glimpse into life in rural Thailand.
Khao Sok National Park is somewhere that merits a longer stay. Interact with elephants in the right way, on their terms, feeding, washing and observing the animals alongside the conservationists at Elephant Hills. But this is more than a wildlife project; it’s somewhere to stay and have a completely immersive experience. There are guided jungle treks, luxury safari-style tents and outdoor swimming pools set against incredible limestone outcrops. You can kayak across the clear waters of Cheow Larn Lake and along narrow channels where monkeys, gibbons and birds populate the banks.