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Bangtao is a 8 km long sweeping crescent shaped bay with a gentle slope and absolutely pure white sand and is fringed with rows of casuarina trees. The constant but gentle breeze on this bay has made Bangtao Beach very popular with windsurfers and it plays host to several international competitions each year. The main entrance to Bangtao beach is 2 km north of Surin Village and marked with large signs from the sprawling Laguna Phuket complex that takes up most of the middle of the bay.
The Laguna Phuket complex, containing five luxury hotels and an 18-hole golf course, dominates a large area of Bang Tao. However, it is not difficult to find a quiet spot to enjoy the crystal clear water and stunning white sand.
This remark able complex of five luxury resort hotels integrated into one into what appears to be small city by the sea.
The Banyan Tree Phuket, The Allamanda, Dusit Laguna, The Sheraton Phuket, and the Laguna Beach resort all employ the same low rise village style architecture that are uniquely designed to blend with the vastness of the old tin mine which is what this area used to be. The old tin mining lake is now a beautifully landscaped lagoon that serves as a watersports center.
The southern end of the beach is more developed and is where most of the accommodation is located, so if you want the beach to yourself, walk to the northern end where its much quieter.
There are a number of shops, restaurants and bars near the entrance to Laguna Phuket, as well as those within the resort complex. The nearby town of Cherng Talay has a few shops as well as a fresh market. Canal Village within Laguna Phuket comprises about 30 shops, mostly selling handicrafts and clothing items.
Chalong is a large bay with a pier that is the main departure point for diving and fishing trips from Phuket. The pier is a good place to charter boats for fishing, diving or snorkeling trips to nearby islands.
Chalong Bay does not have a great beach for swimming due to the muddy bottom and large number of boats moored here. It is also home to the islands only active yacht club which organizes regular yacht races which often involve racing around the five islands that protect chalong making it a perfect natural harbor for smaller craft.
Just inland is Chalong traffic circle. This area is popular among expat's living in Phuket and there are some good restaurants and bars nearby.
The Chalong area is home to numerous tour operators, yachting companies, game fishing charters and dive shops. You will also find spas offering massages, herbal saunas, yoga classes and a Reiki centre in the Chalong Circle area. Phuket Zoo is located in the Chalong area.
There are some delicious and inexpensive seafood restaurants along the beachfront with views of the charming bay. These can be found either along the road past Phuket Zoo or just to the south at Chalong Pier.
Kamala is about 10 minutes drive north from Patong and a great place for those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle. The southern end of this beautiful bay has a coral reef just a few meters offshore. Kamala is not over-developed yet, although there are some guesthouses and a few resorts.
The 2.5 km crescent shaped bay is dotted with casuarinas trees on the first half of the coastline and coconut palms and sugar palms decorate the other. In the past two or three year, Kamala has changed a lot and became a small beach resort with all the facilities for perfect holidays, but still peaceful and friendly. Many New hotels opened along he beach road, and some more secluded on the smaller southern beach, like the Kamala Bay Terrace Resort or the the Kamala Beach Estate.
This end of the beach offers a peaceful tranquil environment with crystal clear water and coral reefs just a few meters offshore. Back to the bridge and a right turn brings you to a small fishing village strung out along the beach going north. Intermixed with small house is the occasional store and restaurant.
There is a good selection of Thai restaurants, noodle shops and a few western restaurants in the area. The local people are mostly ethnic Malay and there are some good local restaurants serving tasty Muslim food.
Karon, featuring an incredibly long stretch of squeaky white sand, is less hectic than Patong but it still offers a full range of facilities, dining and activities. While it's a fast-growing area, Karon is one of Phuket's longer beaches, very popular due to its fine white sand. Being so long the sun beds are well spaced out so it never feels crowded.
Karon is concentrated around three main areas. In the Karon Plaza area on the south end there a number of budget guesthouses, restaurants and bars. The side sois are worth exploring, particularly the one that leads to a small art community. Nearby, on the beach road leading to Kata, is the football stadium, which hosts both local and international sporting events.
Whilst Karon's nightlife doesn't have the frenetic pace found in Patong there's still plenty of fun to be had. Revolving around bars, Karon's nightlife is packed into a small area with many places to choose from.
The bars are popular with both expat's and tourists, some are beers bars but they're harmless enough. Most places start to close at midnight.
Souvenirs can be found everywhere in Karon however you need to look elsewhere for a major shopping experience. Beachwear and clothing is widely avail able.
Kata BeachThe pleasant bay of Kata, just a few minutes south of Karon beach, entices many with its white sands and clear waters.
Very popular with families, Kata is an all round favorite due to its spectacular beach, great restaurants, lively but not raucous nightlife and not to mention varied accommodation options - all close to the beach. April to September surfers flock to enjoy Kata's somewhat small waves. The beach is palm lined and fairly busy but never too crowded to be annoying.
In the high season, yachts moor just offshore, adding to the ambience and the sunsets here are some of the best in Thailand. Restaurant lined or tree lined, there's a perfect spot for everyone at Kata.
With the exception of the popular Easy rider's Pub with its live, excellent but loud music - and a few pockets of beer bars - nightlife in Kata is mostly family oriented and relaxed. Kata's many open-air bars, restaurants and shops are where most visitors relax in the evening. There are some good bars that open late but they are very unobtrusive, however those who seek them out will find them.
For many, one of the main draws to Kata is the number of high-quality restaurants that offer excellent value for money. Kata is fortunate to have more than its fair share of eateries that have been recognized as amongst the best in Thailand. In southern Kata there are several upscale resorts and restaurants where fine dining is avail able.
Kata is split into two focal areas: Kata Centre, which is at the northern end close to Karon and Kata South, home to several resorts. The Club Med takes up most of the beach road, resulting in a shaded footpath that makes for a pleasant stroll. Continuing on through the village, visitors will find an abundance of shops to browse in, from souvenir and ready-to-wear outlets, to 7-Elevens and local mini-marts, to name-brand fashion stores. There are also plenty of dive shops and tour operators to assist those looking to explore beyond the beach
Laem Singh is a small secluded beach that can get quite crowded during the high season. Easy to get to but can also be easy to miss if you are not careful.
Laem Singh beach is located a few minutes drive north of Kamala in a small curving bay at the foot of forest-fringed cliffs. There is no accommodation here and not much other development except a few restaurants.
Both entrances to the beach have car parks, for which there is sometimes a small charge. If you don't fancy the steep walk down, head for the second car park on the road coming from Kamala heading north. The path here is longer but not as steep.
Because the beach can only be accessed by a walk down a steep path, Laem Singh has a more private feel than many of Phuket's other beaches. Nevertheless it can get quite busy on the weekends with plenty of sun-beds as its one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
Laem Singh really is a gorgeous beach and the sea here is lovely. The southern part has some nice coral which is worth exploring with some snorkel gear. This can be rented from one of the shops on the beach. There are usually some sea kayaks for rent or you could also go water-skiing or rent a jet-ski for some faster thrills.
Located just north of the airport is Mai Kao beach, an incredibly long and deserted stretch of sand.
There is no tourist development here except for the JW Marriott Resort & Spa. Mai Kao is the longest beach on the island and also the most deserted. If you really want to get away from it all this is the beach for you.
Mai Kao is part of the Sirinath National Park, which also includes Nai Yang and Nai Thon, the next beaches along to the south. The area was declared a national park in 1981 to protect the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles that lay their eggs here from November to February.
The sea here is fine for swimming during the dry season but a strong undertow and large waves make Mai Kao particularly dangerous for swimmers between May and October.
One of the loveliest beaches in Phuket, Nai Harn is relatively undeveloped thanks to the Samnak Song Nai Harn monastery which occupies a large portion of the beachfront land. Except for the exclusive Phuket Yacht Club and its amazing view on a turquoise bay and some small islands, Nai Harn is not as developed as other south coast beaches.
This beach is not recommended for swimming during monsoon season but it really varies according to daily weather changes. Watch for the warning flags and use some common sense. A number of food vendors here offer inexpensive but quite tasty food.
Behind the beach is a lagoon where there are some up market housing developments and a few good bars and restaurants.
The many yachts anchoring in the bay during high season add to the tropical holiday feeling which is unique on Phuket Island.
This is a small rocky beach that can only be reached by a small road that runs underneath the Phuket Yacht Club. There are a couple of bungalow operations here as well as a couple of restaurants.
Nai Thon is a nice quiet place to sit in the sun or take in a swim. Although it's quiet, the beach
is not completely deserted and there are a few sun beds avail able for hire.
As you descend the last hill you will find a peaceful, quiet cove, beautiful along its length, and well sheltered from wind and waves and offers wonderful swimming. Both ends of the beach are flanked with rocky headlands jutting out to the sea. Corals and rich marine life are drawn to the rocks and they offer excellent fishing.
Part of the reason Nai Thon has managed to remain so peaceful is that it is quite isolated. The road leading to the beach winds through jungle and rubber plantations as well as over a few hills. There is a small fishing village across the road from the beach with some small bungalows and a few small restaurants.
Patong Beach is a beach on Phuket's west coast. It is the main tourist resort in Phuket and contains the centre of Phuket's nightlife and cheap shopping on the island. The beach became popular with western tourists, especially Europeans, in the late 1980s. Numerous large hotels and chain hotels are located in Patong.
Patong's 3 km strip of golden sand is one of the most popular beaches in Phuket, it's a place to watch the world go by. By day, Patong Beach is a hive of activity with parasail and jet-ski operators, boat drivers, beach vendors and masseuses all vying for the attention of the many visitors relaxing on the beach chairs.
During November to April (NE monsoon) the water is very flat and calm. May to October (SW monsoon) there can be some larger waves on some days however Patong beach is safe to swim on most days, pay attention to the red flags when they're out.
Patong Beach is maybe more famous for its nightlife than the 2-kilometer beach that runs the entire length of Patong. Nightlife is centered on two main areas Bangla Road and Paradise Complex, with Bangla Road being predominantly straight and Paradise Complex being predominantly gay. Much mixing of the two scenes occurs due to Phuket Island's tolerant nature.
Being the main centre of tourist activity in Phuket, its no surprise that Patong has the highest concentration of restaurants to be found on the island. Patong is a cosmopolitan place, attracting visitors from all over the world and the cuisine choices reflect this in their diversity. If you're feeling adventurous there's bound to be something you've never heard of and if you're missing the pleasures of home you're sure to discover a restaurant with some down-home comfort food.
Patong Beach transforms into a large night bazaar every evening, when all the main roads become clogged with stalls selling handicrafts, silk scarves, sarongs and a variety of beach clothes, leisure wear, leather goods and luggage, CDs, computer games and electronic gadgets and toys.
It's chaotic but fun if you approach it with the right attitude -- just remember that bargaining yields the best results when done lightheartedly and with a smile. The two Ocean Plaza department stores in Patong, one on the south end of the beach road and the other on Bangla Rd, are good spots to escape the heat while shopping. Jungceylon is a monster of a shopping centre. It contains just about everything that shoppers could conceivably need and is a must-do if you're a bargain hunter. Situated on Rat-U-Thit Rd. diagonally opposite the eastern end of Soi Bangla, you simply can't miss it. The two main stores in the complex are Robinson and Carrefour. The almost 200 other stores in this new shopping heaven sell branded goods.
A kilometer north of Laem Sing Beach lays the popular Surin Beach. As of now this beach has not been developed Although there are now a few hotels springing up Surin is still quiet and peaceful bay lined with a row of stately Casuarina trees.
For the careful swimmer Surin offers some good snorkeling opportunities at both ends of the beach but during the rainy season the water visibility is not very good. Big waves that are common on Surin beach during the monsoon season have caused a steep drop from the shore to the water line and can create dangerous undertow conditions. During high tide when the swells are big and running swiftly good surfing condition exist here and is becoming an increasingly popular sport. There are some vendors renting surf boards at the beach at a reason able price. Good surfing conditions can make for hazardous swimming and care must be taken with children and non-swimmers.
Now this is a place to live, which is exactly why Phuket's rapidly developing south coast is teeming with retirees, artists, Thai and expat entrepreneurs, and a service sector that, for the most part, moved here from somewhere else.
The region is defined not just by its beaches but also by its lush coastal hills that rise steeply and tumble into the Andaman Sea, forming Laem Phromthep, Phuket's beautiful southernmost point (for a more secluded sunset spot, seek out the secret viewpoint 1.5km north).
Is the traditional heart of Phuket's Muslim community. As you pass through this picturesque village strung out along the highway you will see the Ban Thao Mosque. This impressive and ornate structure is the largest mosque on the island. Visitors are allowed and discrete photos may be taken, but care should be exercised and avoid going on Fridays the Muslim holy day. The village offers several roadside markets that offer up delicious Muslim food and fruit picked fresh from the many nearby orchards. When ordering food or buying fruit you may have to resort to "point and smile technique", because English is for the most part only spoken by the younger generation. At the traffic light you can continue straight to the Heroines Monument and the main road to Phuket Town or go left and continue for your tour of the northern beaches
Lying on the fringe of the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Southern Thailand, the island of Phuket is approximately 890km from Bangkok. It is Thailand's largest island at 550sq km, roughly the same size as Singapore.
The name Phuket is apparently derived from the word bukit in Malay which means mountain or hill, as this is what the island appears like from a distance.
Phuket is surrounded by many smaller islands that add a further 70 sq km to its total land area. Phuket is separated from the mainland by the Chong Pak Phra channel at its northernmost point, where a causeway connects the island to the mainland.
Phuket is quite mountainous. There are a couple of peaks above 500m, the highest being Mai Tao Sipsong at 529m. Many of these are covered in lush jungle. The lowlands consist of rice paddies, plantations of rubber, pineapple and coconut as well as the only
significant area of rainforest remaining on the island, Khao Phra Thaeo Park which is now protected.
Against the backdrop of hills, the beaches of Phuket stand as one of the most sought after palm-fringed tropical destinations. Nearly all beaches along the island's west coasts are frequented by locals and tourists, with the northern beaches along the west coasts remaining very quiet and unspoilt.
In such an idyllic setting the temptation is simply to laze peacefully on the beach and soak up a tropical sun tan. But if you want more there are amenities for water sports, such as sailing, windsurfing, kayaking diving and snorkeling. The coastal waters are exciting to explore and are especially rich in shoals of brightly colored fish and exotic coral formations.
Principal among Phuket's natural sights are two picturesque waterfalls, Hin Lat and Na Muang.
Island hopping is another attraction and boats can be easily hired for trips to Phang Nga Bay to discover the myths surrounding the formation of the mountainous limestone karsts which are scattered across the bay, Krabi province and The Phi Phi Islands which boasts beautiful bays with colorful coral formations and marine life, and offer excellent conditions for diving and snorkeling.
A more adventurous full day excursion can be made to the national park of the Similan Islands, 140 square kilometers in total, 14 of those being land in the shape of an archipelago consisting of nine islands. There is an enormous diversity in species - both in fish and corals. The visibility is the best you will find in Thailand. You will see plenty of colorful fish such as lionfish and clownfish (Nemo), and if you're lucky you may spot a bigger one like a manta or even a whale shark.
Elephant riding is a good way to support the remaining domesticated elephants of Thailand and their mahout, is fairly cheap, and can be an interesting new experience. The elephants are well trained, and you can tip the mahout by giving the money to the elephant who will hand it to the mahout with its trunk.
The residents of Phuket comprise Thais who have migrated from the mainland, ethnic Chinese, Malays, and Chao Leh or 'sea-gypsies' who are the original inhabitants of Phuket.
According to the census, Thai-Buddhists account for 71% of the population, with Malays (24%) and Chao Leh (4%) making up the remainder. The figure for Thai-Buddhists also includes the Chinese who are almost completely assimilated. Some estimates put the percentage of ethnic Chinese at around 35%. The vast majority of the population resides in or around Phuket City and Patong Beach, creating a population distribution along an east-west axis.
Tourism has dominated the island's economy for the past two decades. Each year, over 4 million visitors arrive to enjoy Phuket's natural splendor and many amenities.
Thailand , and therefore Phuket, is fast becoming a country to be visited all year round. This is of course largely due to the tropical weather and climate.
The 'dry' season is from November till May. Temperatures average 30 degrees year round. The 'green' season is from May to October when temperatures are around the 25 to 30 degree mark.
For more information please view weather and climate on Phuket.
1. Blue Canyon Country Club
This amazing golf course is set on 730 acres of land in a secluded valley overlooking Phuket's famous hills.
The Blue Canyon Country Club has won a number of international awards as well as hosted several tournaments like the Johnnie Walker Classic.
2. Laguna Phuket Golf Club
Within the Laguna Phuket development, you will find the Banyan Tree Golf Club . This resort style 18 hole golf course is situated in the popular and exclusive Bang Tao Bay on the west coast of Phuket.
This is perhaps the most unique golf course in Phuket due to its location and contrasting landscaping. It has been described as a "piece of living art". This golf course is all about pleasure and no stress. With the spa waiting at the 19th hole, stress and tiredness is further banished with caddies and golf carts both being compulsory.
4. Loch Palm Golf Club
Spread over a 160 acres lush and hilly plateau, Loch Palm Golf Club has been masterfully designed to blend in with its natural terrain. This 18 hole golf course surrounds the largest lake on any golf course in Phuket, Crystal Lake.
5. Phuket Country Club
Established in 1989, Phuket Country Club is the first and one of the finest built golf courses in Phuket. Offering both an 18 hole and a 9 hole course, many tournaments have been hosted by Phuket Country Club in recent years. In 2001, this golf course was also voted "Best Course in Thailand" by Asian Golf Magazine.
Shopping in Phuket City is also one of the favorite activities of the tourists. Also known as Phuket Town, this historical downtown area of Phuket in Thailand is the favorite haunt of the shoppers. From traditional Thai crafts and textiles to the shops selling antiques, clothing and jewellery, this is the perfect shopper's destination
The shopaholics love this place and if you have the best bargaining skills then use it in the Phuket City. Walking down the streets which still have the Sino Portuguese style houses, the markets of Phuket City are quite unique. From furniture superstores to hypermarkets Phuket City has it all.
You can find the best stuff here in Yaowarat, Dibuk, and Thalang and so on. These streets are famous for their stalls. The best quality shops like Baan Boran and Soul of Asia are located in this attitude. In Soul of Asia you can find articles and textiles of Asia.
Ramong Road in Phuket City is one of the markets which sell fruit, veget ables and fresh meat. You get too see a glimpse of the Thai lifestyle in this market.
There are two departmental stores called Robinsons and Ocean for the brand conscious trendsetters. A fresh food market also sets up here every evening.
In Phang Nga Road, the Chatuchak Planet has been set up modeled on a famous market where things like clothes, jewellery, knick knacks are being sold. You can also taste the local food in Phuket City.
Shopping in Phuket City is an extremely unique experience and if you are in Phuket do not miss this unique feature of Phuket City.
Museums in Phuket have a special attraction for the history they stand witness to. One of the prime museums in Phuket is the Phuket Sea Shell Museums, positioned on Viset Road near Rawai Beach in Phuket. The exhibition at Phuket Sea Shell Museums features more than 2,000 species of shells, including the only left-handed Noble Volute ever discovered, giant clams, 380 million-year-old fossils and one of the rarest golden pearls in the world.
For 40 years, the Patamakanthin brothers have searched the world for the most beautiful and unique seashells and formed this extraordinary treasure at the Phuket Sea Shell Museums.
While most of the shells are from Phuket and the sea around Thailand, several are from other parts of the world. Each specimen is carefully selected for its quality and condition. Some rarities and odd shells include an oyster weighing 140 karats (the world's largest golden pearl), large sections of sedimentary rock containing shell fossils that represent the earliest life forms on earth, and an enormous shell weighing 250 kilograms. The displays have been created in a logical order so that visitors can see at once the differing characteristics among related species.
Phuket Sea Shell Museums remains open daily from 8 am to 7 pm.
Thalang National Museum in Phuket is located in the east of Highway 402, near the Heroine's Monument, just off the main airport road, south of Thalang town in central Phuket. The museum displays the indigenous cultures of Phuket, the history of the Thais in Phuket, crafts from the southern Thai regions, as also a 9th century statue of the Hindu deity Vishnu.
Inside the museum one can explore the general Thai history. There are some old artifacts, which bears the history of the people of Thailand. There is also a section about different kind of people in Thailand - Chinese, Muslim, Indigenous (sea gypsies), etc, with mock-ups of homes showing the way these people lived.
A major section is devoted to the Heroines of Thalang who mobilized the people of Phuket to defeat the Burmese in 1785 AD. These two ladies are popular all over Thailand, but more especially in Phuket and Thalang, where roads, temples and schools are named after them.
Outside the Thalang National museum in Phuket there is a kind of tsunami memorial - a sculpture showing a spirit leaving a body.
Thalang National museum in Phuket remains open daily between 9 am and 4 pm.
Although Phuket is an island, getting here is very straightforward. The majority of tourists arrive through Phuket International Airport (HKT). However, you can also get to Phuket by road, rail (in a roundabout way), and of course by sea if you have your own boat.
Getting to Phuket by air couldn't be easier. Phuket is served by an international airport with a number of scheduled and charter flights from Europe and around Asia.
However, the majority of visitors still fly to Bangkok first, where there are over a dozen domestic flights to Phuket daily. With the growth in budget airlines such asNok Air , Air Asia , Bangkok Airways and Orient Thai (One2Go), ticket prices are now very low. There is also the national carrier Thai Airways , which is slightly more expensive but offers a higher level of service.
Flights from Bangkok take about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Book your tickets early, especially during the high season from November to April.
Phuket International Airport is situated at the northern end of the island about 45 mins drive from Phuket City. Tel: +66 (0)76-327-230 (information counter is extension 1111 or 1122).
Phuket is about 867km (539 miles) from Bangkok, with a traveling time of approximately 10 hours. There are many car rental companies in Bangkok, both international firms such as Avis and Budget, as well as local companies.
Driving in Thailand is quite pleasant outside of town and cities. Motorways are in good condition and mostly well sign-posted in Thai and English. Driving standards are poor but better than many other developing nations.
Take Highway 4 from Bangkok, passing through Nakhorn Pathom, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Prachuapkhirikan, Chumphon, Ranong and Phang Nga. The highway between Ranong and Phang Nga is quite scenic with forest-covered mountains on one side and the Andaman Sea on the other.
On the Island
Well paved roads service the island, giving ready access to all beaches, retail centers and the administrative center Phuket Town. The best and safest form of transport is a self-drive air-conditioned vehicle (car or 4 wheel drive jeep); motorbikes can also be hired (be cautious of traffic hazards and wear a crash helmet). You then have the freedom to explore the island and
Tuk Tuks are the small red open taxis which you can find everywhere on the island. They are great to get around. You have to negotiate the fare before you hop in. Rates depend on distance, time, weather and many other things and start at app. 50 Baht for a short distance and can go up to 500 Baht for a longer trip. It is normally cheaper to stop a Tuk Tuk when it passes by then to take one which is waiting in front of a hotel or restaurant.
Long Tail Boat
The ubiquitous long tail boat is found wherever there is water in southern Thailand. The current version with the motor mounted on the back is just the latest modification on this ancient but quite seaworthy craft. Often called the workhorse of the Andaman Sea, long tails are used in to provide a number of marine services. While not as flashy or fast as modern speedboats, a voyage in a long tail boat is an interesting experience and a great way to take short sightseeing trips. The one serious disadvantage of the long tail is the almost complete lack of safety equipment such as lifejackets. Long tails are not advis able while traveling with small children or non-swimmers. Rental prices average 400 baht per hour for a short trip and up to 1000 baht for an entire day.
Provide what has to be the ultimate method for sightseeing and taking photographs of Phuket and the surrounding areas. Helicopter service is provided by two companies Southern Flying Group at Tel: 247-237/9 and Southern Helicopter Service Tel: 216-389. There are no scheduled flights at this time, so you must call and arrange for a charter.
Songthaews are the open blue-yellow local buses. They follow fixed routes and operate between 6am and 7 pm. There are no bus-stops so you just stop the songthaews when they pass by and give the driver a sign when you want to leave the bus. Prices are fixed and much cheaper then Tuk Tuks but it takes a bit longer to reach your destination. They operate mostly from Phuket Town to the different beaches but
There are metered taxis everywhere. Only use them when they go by the meter - if they ask for a fixed price don't go for it and take another one.
They are just everywhere. You can recognize them by there green or red wests with numbers on them. This transport is for the more adventures ones as it is not the safest but it is fast, cheap and bring you wherever you want. As with the Tuk Tuks the price must be negotiated before the ride.
If you want to drive by your own you can rent a motorbike or car everywhere on the island. Keep in mind that in Thailand you drive on the left hand side and traffic rules are widely ignored. Busses, trucks, water buffalos and elephants have always the right of way - because they are bigger than you.
Motorbikes can be rented everywhere. Rates are app. 200 Baht/24h for a small bike and up to 1000 Baht/24h for a big one. It is very dangerous riding a bike in Thailand so it is advis able to pool together and rent a car instead.
You should be an experienced driver - Phuket is NOT the place to learn it Drive carefully
If you rent froma private shop make sure the car has full insurance coverage (which is often not the case)
The Kingdom of Thailand draws more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality, robust cuisine and ruins of fabulous ancient kingdoms
From the stupa-studded mountains of Mae Hong Son and the verdant limestone islands of the Andaman Sea, to the pulse-pounding dance clubs of Bangkok and the tranquil villages moored along the Mekong River, Thailand offers something for every type of traveller.
Of course Thailand, like other Asian countries, has been influenced by contact with foreign cultures. But the never-changing character of Thai culture has remained dominant, even in modern city life. Often depicted as fun-loving, happy-go-lucky folk (which indeed they often are), the Thais are also proud and strong, and have struggled for centuries to preserve their independence of spirit.
Thailand's rainy season, monsoons, arrive around July and last into November. This is followed by a dry, cool period from November to mid-February, followed by much higher relative temperatures from March to June.
By far the best time to visit is from February to March when the weather is kind and the beaches are at their finest.
The peak seasons are August, November, December, February and March, with secondary peak months in January and July. If your main objective is to avoid crowds and to take advantage of discounted rooms and low-season rates, you should consider travelling during the least crowded months (April, May, June, September and October). On the other hand it's not difficult to leave the crowds behind, even during peak months, if you simply avoid some of the most popular destinations (eg, Chiang Mai and all islands and beaches).
Bangkok has dominated Thailand's urban hierarchy as well as its political, commercial and cultural life since the late 18th century. Although you can shop in air-conditioned comfort in its Western-style malls, the city is a long way from being tamed by commercial homogeneity.
Bangkok 's history of haphazard planning means you'll have the best experiences in the most unlikely of places. Just when you start despairing at the predominance of concrete and cars, a waft of incense leads you to a serene temple in an area you'd written off as soulless.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayuthaya's historic temples are scattered throughout this once magnificent city and along the encircling rivers. Several of the more central ruins – Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mongkhon Bophit, Wat Na Phra Meru, Wat Thammikarat, Wat Ratburana and Wat Phra Mahathat – can be visited on foot.
You could add more temples and ruins to your itinerary by touring the city on a rented bicycle. An ideal transport combination for visitors who want to see everything would be to hire a bicycle for the central temples and charter a long-tail boat to take a tour of the outlying ruins along the river.
Chiang Mai has a striking mountain backdrop, over 300 temples and a quaint historical aura. It's also a modern, friendly, internationally-flavoured city with much to offer the visitor - food, accommodation and shopping are all top quality and cheap, and the nights are relatively cool.
Chiang Mai's plethora of temples will probably exhaust you before you exhaust them. For variety, try a wander round the night bazaar, acquaint yourself with local culture at the musuems, or practice your Buddhist calm under a palm tree in the city's gardens.
This beautiful island off southeastern Thailand is covered with coconut plantations and circled by (call us clichéd but it's true) palm-fringed beaches. It was once an 'untouched' backpackers' mecca, but is now well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged tourist resort.
The most popular beaches are Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai: both have good swimming and snorkelling but are getting a little crowded. For more peace and quiet, try Mae Nam, Bo Phut and Big Buddha on the northern coast. The main town on the island is Na Thon.
Nakhon Pathom, west of Bangkok, is regarded as the oldest city in Thailand and is host to the 127m (417ft), orange-tiled Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest Buddhist monument in the world. The original monument, buried within the massive dome, was erected in the 6th century by Theravada Buddhists.
Tucked away in the countryside to the east of Bangkok, this provincial town is hardly visited by foreign tourists, mainly because it's not on the major road or rail networks out of the capital. It's home to one of the most sacred Buddha images in Thailand - Phra Phuttha Sothon.
Housed in the Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihaan, the origins of the modest 198cm (77in) Buddha are cloaked in mystery but the image is said to be associated with a famous monk with holy powers who supposedly predicted the exact moment of his death. Chachoengsao makes a great day-trip destination.
Ko Si Chang
This one-town island offshore from Chonburi Province on the Gulf of Thailand is practically deserted, making it great fun to explore. Its attractions include a meditation centre with hermit caves, beaches with good snorkelling, a ruined palace, limestone caves and a Chinese temple with sea views.
Most of the friendly population are fisherfolk, mariners, customs officials or workers in aquaculture projects. Camping is permitted anywhere on the island, but if you don't want to tent it, there are numerous hostels and bungalow-style operations.
In northern Tak Province, close to the Burmese border, Mae Sot has a reputation as a frontier town with an outlaw image. It has a thriving black-market trade (guns, narcotics, teak and gems) and is an increasingly important official jade and gem centre.
An interesting mixture of ethnicities have shacked-up here- Burmese Muslims, members of the local Karen hill tribes, Chinese and Indian shopkeepers and poppy-clad Thai army rangers. It's a departure point for the fascinating border markets that trade Burmese handicrafts and foodstuffs.
It may be a bit pricey to get to Thailand by air, but once you're there you can take advantage of bargain-basement flights. Just bear in mind that flights in and out of Thailand are often overbooked so confirm, confirm and reconfirm. Buses are a sterling way to get around - they're fast (often terrifyingly!) air-conditioned and comfy. There are even women-only buses. However, there have been bad reports of the service on buses booked from agencies on Thanon Khao San. If you want to get to Malaysia, there are train services
The bad news is that it can be quite expensive flying to Bangkok, depending on your point of departure; the good news is that once you're there you can shop around for an inexpensive return ticket. A host of international carriers land at Don Muang, Bangkok's major airport terminal. Flights in and out of Thailand are often overbooked so it's imperative that you reconfirm ongoing flights as soon as you arrive. The departure tax on international flights is waived if you're in the country for less than 12 hours.
Overland travel from Malaysia is popular and there are four border crossings between Thailand and Malaysia, two on the west coast, one in the centre and one on the east coast. It's not possible to buy through-fare tickets for rail journeys between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, unless you ride the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express, but the trip can be made on express trains via the Thai-Malaysia border at Pedang Besar. The journey usually requires an overnight stop in Butterworth ( Malaysia) in order to comfortably make train connections.
There are plenty of crossing points between Thailand and Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia, but very few border crossings are made - officially, at least.
It's legal for non-Thai foreigners to cross the Mekong River by ferry between Thailand and Laos at the following points: Nakhon Phanom (opposite Tha Khaek), Chiang Khong (opposite Huay Xai) and Mukdahan (opposite Savannakhet).