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Tantalising Thailand

Think you’ve already done Thailand? Think again! TIM MARTIN explores the hidden gem that is the Thai island of Koh Samui, with a cheeky stop-over in the ever crazy capital – Bangkok.


Amari palm hotel

SOUTH-EAST Asia’s beloved kingdom of Thailand is already high on the list for many adventurous Antipodeans. What’s not to love about pristine beaches, cheap as chips accommodation and street food almost too good to be true?

As a midway point in-between our beloved home Down Under and our temporary base that is the UK, Thailand has almost everything one could want from a holiday. Eternal sun. Endless parties. And a culture different enough from our own to keep even the most well-travelled journeyman wide-eyed and jaw agape. But there’s a couple of particular places in the idyllic paradise that was once known as Siam – that deserve special attention.

Banging Bangkok

A trip to Thailand would not be complete without a night (or four) in the bustling capital that is Bangkok. Floating markets. Golden temples. All-night bars. And ‘women’, where everything is not as it seems.

Bangkok will most likely be your entry or exit point for any Thai holiday, so it would be rude not to sample its heady delights. Fried grasshoppers from the little Thai man on the street corner? Why not! Yes, they are very crunchy and have a texture that is somewhat…leggy but they are actually quite delicious.

A visit to Khaosan Road will fill most of your wanton desires. Travellers from the world over spill out from the thumping bars that make this place a ‘backpacker ghetto’. The bars never close and the music never stops (which means if you’re after a good night sleep – stay somewhere else) and all sorts of the weird and wonderful fill the heaving, living promenade.

Khaosan kisses

Thai ‘lady-boys’ will blow kisses to you and massage touts will be your best friend, and maybe even “love you long time” if you chose to stop by their shop. Tuk-tuk (something between a dune buggy and a covered motorbike taxi) drivers will chase you up and down the street and the tantalising aromas of fresh Thai street food will have your stomach growling even louder than the countless stray dogs. Even if you’re a little on the faint-hearted side, a trip to Khaosan Road is definitely worth a look – just remember to have a bit of fun and be prepared to stay awhile.

Bangkok is not all just hedonism and debauchery. The myriad of temples and museums that dot the city can take anywhere up to a day or a week to visit and will leave you informed and inspired. And if you are after a bit of peace and relaxation from the relentless Bangkok ‘assault’, you could do a lot worse than stay in the opulent Amari Watergate hotel, a 5-star haven that will leave you refreshed and ready for whatever Bangkok decides to throw at you next.

Serenity in Samui

You can’t spend all your time in Bangkok (at least it’s not wise to), so next stop must be one of the famed Thai islands. Whether it’s jungle raves and full-moon parties or a week in a beachside bungalow, Koh Samui really hits the spot. This traveller-friendly refuge off Thailand’s east coast is the largest of three islands (Koh Pangyang and Koh Tao the other two) that make up one of the most visited places in south-east Asia.

You can treat yourself to anything from a spot of golf on a world-class course, or elephant trekking through the dense and lush Thai jungle. If it’s more the beach that you are after, hire jet-skis for ridiculously cheap prices or even get up high with some para-sailing. Lamai is where the action is but Bo Put is a great place if you just want to get away from it all, sit back, relax and do your best Darryl Kerrigan impression and murmur – “How’s the serenity!?”.

Reef relaxation

Depending on your budget, you can hire a hut with just a bed, a mosquito net and a ceiling fan where the front steps literally touch the azure waters of the Gulf of Thailand, or you can live like a king in the secluded privacy of a resort like the Amari Palm Reef. It’s all dependent on the sort of holiday you are after and what’s left in the bank after Bangkok. At least this should be a lot, as Bangkok is relatively cheap when compared to London.

The only worries you really have on Koh Samui are “which beachside seafood shack shall we select?” or “where shall I venture to on my moped today?” If you’re after an incredible night out you may remember for ever (or may not – depending on how many buckets of vodka and Thai Red Bull you consume) then go and check out an infamous Thai full-moon party. Leave your camera, your thongs and your inhibitions in the hotel room and go crazy with another 1000 or so happy-go-lucky souls.

The worst thing about a holiday in Thailand? Packing up the towel and the budgy smugglers and saying goodbye to your local tuk-tuk driver and getting on that plane back to London. But hey, you’ll have the tan and you’ll have the stories. And hopefully, you may be a little bit wiser to what a Thai ‘lady-boy’ is (but hopefully not too much wiser).

Room prices at Amari Watergate Bangkok and Palm Reef Koh Samui start from £60 per night, dependent on season and availability. To book visit www.amari.com