As one of the world's most exotic locations for a beach holiday, Thailand offers paradise beaches, world-famous cuisine and friendly locals in a 'land of smiles'.
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An idyllic place to relax on white sands with a coconut in hand, the Asian hotspot remains a firm favourite among travellers who can't get enough of its sublime scenery and laid-back lifestyle. While it's no secret among visitors to the Far East, Thailand has come a long way since its backpacker heyday and a myriad of five-star hotels has put its beaches and islands firmly on the luxury traveller's map. Now, more visitors than ever are combining a trip to the pristine coastline with a break to the ancient cities for a multi-centre holiday that allows them to explore the country's diverse delights.
After delving into the culture of northern Thailand in the colourful city of Chiang Mai, we headed for the south to soak up some luxury on a relaxing island escape in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan with Hayes & Jarvis.
Koh Samui, the original Thai island, is known the world over for its palm-fringed beaches, posh spas and fine resorts. A superstar among Thailand's Kohs, it is anything but low-key and home to some of the world's best beach hotels, while serving up excellent adventures for those in search of them. We checked into sleek, upscale hideaway Silavadee Pool Spa Resort, which oozes exclusivity, peace and privacy so you can experience the best of Koh Samui's east coast. A resort with romantic couples in mind, Silavadee is the ultimate retreat for seclusion and relaxation, blending seamlessly into its surroundings, with a beautiful rock beach and lush greenery.
Around the hilltop hotel, there are two infinity pools providing outstanding views over the Gulf of Thailand, excellent dining at restaurant The Height and fabulous rooms, such as the Jacuzzi Deluxe - because who doesn't want a balcony with its own hot tub? Silavadee hosts Thai boxing lessons on the beach for guests who like to get active and try a typically Thai activity. The national sport of Thailand, muay thai uses punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, and classes at the resort teach you the basics in a fantastic beach workout.
You can easily while away the hours on the beach while in Koh Samui but there is plenty to see and do around the island for those who like to soak up the culture and see authentic Thailand. We'd suggest skipping the strip of bars that make up the busy, Brit-heavy town of Chaweng and instead visit Koh Samui's temples, waterfalls and viewpoints. Wat Samret is a terrific temple without the crowds of tourists, allowing you to watch the locals pray and monk ordination ceremonies take place. The larger, more famous temples of Big Buddha, Plai Laem and Kunaram are certainly worth visiting and when you need to cool off, the Na Muang Waterfalls are surrounded by the jungle and great for a quick dip while taking in some natural beauty.
Just moments from Silavadee, Renaissance Koh Samui Resort & Spa invites you to get hands on with a Thai cooking class. The hotel chefs will give you fresh ingredients and aromatic spices to create delicious dishes, such as papaya salad with grilled chicken, spicy and sour prawn soup with lemongrass and green curry with seafood. It's a superb way to immerse yourself in the culture and pick up a new skill on holiday.
With so many top-notch hotels to choose from in Koh Samui, it's worth splitting your time and experiencing another side to the island, such as the charming north where you can soak up the casual vibe of Bophut and its elegant Fisherman's Village lined with old wooden houses and quaint shops. Stay at stylish beach hotel Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort to indulge in its serene temple-like spa set among water gardens, feast on chargrilled food seasoned with salt recommended by a 'Salt Guru' at restaurant Full Moon and relax on the picturesque beach.
Just a hop away from Koh Samui is the smaller island of Koh Phangan, famed for its full moon parties on Haad Rin Beach, yet providing a blissful setting for those who like moonlit strolls and excellent food away from the southern party spot. Escape to the jungle with a stay at Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa, an eco-luxury haven with traditional-style rooms and villas featuring beautiful wood carvings and nestled among 18 acres of tropical forests with a private beach for guests. There's an impressive lagoon-style pool overlooked by a waterfall and a quieter pool featuring beautiful boat-shaped sun loungers. For a luxurious dinner near Santhiya, book a table at Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Resort's The Bistro @ The Beach to enjoy al-fresco dining, where sophisticated dishes include smoked cauliflower risotto and Thai signature dessert Kanom Mo Geang, a yellow bean cake scented with jasmine flowers and served with coconut sorbet.
Koh Phangan has something for everyone, whether you're an active traveller, into food, culture or nature. Snorkelers can explore the underwater world at Koh Ma, a gorgeous island in the northwest connected to Koh Phangan by a sandbar, which also attracts divers who can see the local marine life - from the vast range of coral to schools of tropical fish. Stunning waterfalls, more than 20 temples and the untouched Phaeng Waterfall National Park await visitors who wish to go off the beaten path. And the town of Thongsala is the place to pick up crafts, jewellery, clothes and traditional Thai items, as well as browse vibrant stalls of tropical fruit and vegetables.
However you choose to spend your time on these islands, you're never too far from its fine white sands and inviting waters...
Book it: Hayes & Jarvis (01293 762 456) offers a 12-night holiday to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan starting from £1,799 per person. The trip includes four nights at the five-star Anantara Bophut in Koh Samui, followed by four nights at the four-star plus Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa in Koh Phangan and four nights at the four-star plus Silavadee Pool Spa Resort, as well as international flights and transfers.
For a city-beach getaway in Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, book Hayes & Jarvis' 13-night multi-centre holiday to Thailand, with prices from £1,799 per person. The holiday includes a stay at Tamarind Village in Chiang Mai, Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa in Koh Phangan, and Silavadee Pool Spa Resort and Anantara Bophut, both in Koh Samui.