(does not include Bangkok or Phuket)
●Trails of Indochina – 10/8 Phan Dinh Giot Street (Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Binh District); 011-84-8-3844-1005; trailsofindochina.com.
●Chiang Mai Resort (Anantara) – 123 Charoen Prathet Road, T. Changklan A. Muang; 011-66-53-253-333 or 800-745-8883; chiang-mai.anantara.com; centrally located on Mae Ping River banks; within walking distance to night markets; modern Asian design, with teak wood flooring, and warm rich colors; deluxe rooms & club suites, each with courtyard, garden, or river view, balcony with day bed; complimentary breakfast buffet, cocktails, and snacks; butler service and round trip transfers in Mercedes Limousine.
●Four Seasons – Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road (Mae Rim); 011-66-53-298-181 or 800-819-5053; fourseasons.com/chiangmai; pavilions recall 1400s Lanna architecture.
●Mandarin Oriental – 51/4 Chiang Mai, Sankampaeng Road Moo 1 (T. Tasala A. Muang); 011-66-53-888-888; mandarinoriental.com; spread over 60 acres of moats, fortified walls, and gateways; 2-story villas.
●Baan Rai Yam Yen – 14 Moo 3, Soi Lanka 3, Jaroenraj Road (Faham); 011-66-53-244-796; not in tourist area; outdoor-covered seating, wood decor with man-made pond in back; live band plays local music; ask for khao soi (classic northern Thai dish with boiled noodles, fried noodles, and braised chicken).
●Huen Phen – 112 Rachamankha Road; 011-66-53-814-548; northern cuisine foodie destination (sort of Burmese and Chinese mix, lighter than southern Thai cooking); try khao soi (curry, crispy egg noodles, pickled cabbage, and shallot-lime mixture); breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
●Krua Phech Doi Ngam – 125/3 Moo 3, Mahidon Road; 011-66-53-812-051; restaurant with encyclopedic, northern Thai dish menu; try jin hoom (beef stew seasoned with turmeric), yam kai meuang (intensely flavored chicken soup), and yam samun phrai (herb-heavy salad).
●Khao Soi Lam Duan (Fah Ham) – Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham, 352/22 Charoen Rat Road; 011-66-53-243-519; any trip to Chiang Mai without khao soi bowl would be like trip to Texas without barbecued brisket; this open-air space, with basic kitchen in front, and busy staff, fills bowl after bowl with house-made noodles, then ladles in pork-and-chicken-based broth, small dose fresh coconut cream, and little, crunchy fried noodle crown; have with gaeng hung leh (pork belly and shoulder hunks in rich curry), nahm phrik noom (green-chile relish), and sai ua (herbaceous pork sausage).
●Pa Daeng Jin Tup – Ban San Sai, Noy Moo 9, Highway 1001 (San Sai); “Restaurant” might be too strong for this roadside dirt spot, about 15 minutes northeast of Chiang Mai; scattered with benches and tables haphazardly nailed together; cook uses crude pulley system to raise and lower meat-covered rack over glowing charcoal; specializes in northern Thai drinking food: charred pig teat, jin tup (grilled flank steak hammered into shreds), sour fermented ground pork, and tremendously tasty but comically tough beef strips (called “crying tiger” because not even tiger can chew).
●SP Chicken (Kai Yang Isaan) – 31/1 Sri Phum Road; lemongrass- and garlic-stuffed chickens rotate in front on vertical spit beside glowing charcoal wall; sat beneath aluminum awning on plastic chairs while eating sticky rice, papaya salad, and chicken (hacked into pieces and served with sweet, spicy dipping sauce; food mainly from Isaan, Thailand’s northeast region.
●Night Bazaar – city center; shopping arcade.
Sights & Sites
●Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep – Doi Suthep Mountain temple.
●Anantara – 229 Moo 1; 011-66-53-784-084; goldentriangle.anantara.com; on lush hills Thailand’s border, overlooking Laos and Myanmar; 77 impeccably finished rooms and suites; Bill Bensley designed gardens; every room has oversized terrazzo bathtubs, Thai textiles, teak furnishings, and artwork from local cultures; on-site elephant camp; cooking school; explore 3 countries including hill-tribe villages, Hall of Opium museum, and Lanna Kingdom’s ancient capital (Chiang Saen).
●Soneva Kiri – Ko Kut; 011-66-39-619-800; soneva.com/soneva-kiri; 42 villa-suites.
KOH PHANGAN – world renowned Full Moon Party is monthly dance music festival on Haad Rin Nok Beach scheduled every month at full moon; features electronic music & attracts anywhere from 40K party-goers (normal) to 1M (high season, December-March).
●Rasananda Resort & Spa – 5/5 Moo 5 (Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, Baan Tai); 011-66-77-239-555; phangan-rasananda.anantara.com.
KOH PHI PHI
●Hin Deang – 40 nautical miles south of Phi Phi Islands; among Thailand’s best dive sites; just breaks surface, with depths down to well below normal recreational limits; southwest side drops to over 60m, creating steep, soft coral wall; leopard sharks, whale sharks & manta rays; east side has 2 ridges that slope gently into deeper water; pelagic fish such as jacks hang close to rock; in shallower areas, moray eels commonly found hiding in cracks in rock face.
●Hin Muang – long rocky ridge just few 100 ms from Hin Daeng; top at 8-9 m & bottom at 60-70 m; strong currents so want to stay on sheltered side; surface covered in purple soft corals and anemones & swarms of tiny silversides, constantly under attack from predators such as jacks and trevallies; leopard sharks common & whale sharks also seen.
●King Cruiser – 10 miles off Phi Phi Island; divershotspot.com/Site/Thailand/Andaman_Sea/King_Cruiser_Wreck; car ferry that sank May 4, 1997 when hit submerged rocky pinnacles at Anemone Reef; impact tore large hole in hull & vessel sank within 2.5 hours; all 561 passengers – including both Thai locals and foreign tourists – rescued.
●Shark Point – southeast of Ko Bida Nok; large rock going down to 22 ms on sandy bottom; among most famous local diving sites; best place to spot Leopard sharks resting; drift dive.
Bars & Nightclubs
●Orgasmic – Bophut Beach; 011-66-86-276-9101; finewinedinesamui.com; expensive but innovative cocktails.
●Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa – 99/9 Bophut Bay; 011-66-77-428-3000; samui.anantara.com.
●Elements Resort – 53/5 Moo 4; 011-66-77-914-678; elements-koh-samui.com.
●Four Seasons Resort – 219 Moo 5 (Surat Thani); 011-66-77-243-000 or 800-819-5053; fourseasons.com/kohsamui; on secluded northwestern tip of island’s glassy Laem Yai Bay; 60 gorgeous hillside villas among coconut trees, all with expansive Thailand Gulf views (including from tub); decks with plunge pools and shaded day beds; small, effectively private beach by main infinity pool; March-June best; rooms in 900 series are closest to beach.
●Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary – 102/9 Moo 3, Laem Set Road (Na-Muang); 011-66-77-429-800; kamalaya.com; Ayurvedic healing, Chinese medicine, and Western naturopathy come together; beachfront lagoon and former Buddhist monks’ meditation cave.
●Langham Place – 146/24 Moo 4, Lamai Beach (Maret); 011-66-77-960-888; langhamplacehotels.com; posh resort on Lamai Beach is like small village.
●W Retreat Koh Samui – 4/1 Moo 1 Tambol Maenam; 011-66-77-915-999; wretreatkohsamui.com; great, must-see spa.
●Beach Republic – Lamai Beach; 011-66-77-458-100; beachrepublic.com; especially noteworthy for sunsets, barbecues, and Sunday brunch.
●H-Bistro – Bophut (at Hansar Samui resort); 011-66-77-245-511; hansarsamui.com; French-Mediterranean and Thai menu conceived by Jordanian royal family’s former chef.
●Orgasmic – Bophut Beach; 011-66-86-276-9101; finewinedinesamui.com; expensive but very good; try cocoa butter scallops.
Bars & Nightclubs
●Fizz – Sairee Beach; music and drinks; restaurant attached.
●Koh Tao Cabana – 16 Moo 1, Baan Haad (Sairee Beach); 011-66-77-456-505; kohtaocabana.com; ask for cottages 28 or 32 for remote experience.
●Whitening Bar & Restaurant – 17/2 Moo 2, Mae Haad; 011-66-77-456-199; Thai food and barbecue.
●Island Cruises – island-cruises.org; ask skipper, Alf, to take you to Ang Thong for spectacular swimming and romantic dinners.
MAE HONG SON (includes Ban Tham Lod)
●Cave Lodge – 90 Moo 2, 15 Moo 1 (Pang Mapa); 011-66-53-617-203; cavelodge.com.
Sights & Sites
●Big Knob – Ban Tham Lod; towering limestone pillar that has 30’ square flat surface at top, affording 360˚ views from top over surrounding forest.
●Christmas Cave – Ban Tham Lod; beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.
●Hair Cave – Ban Tham Lod; giant spiders.
●Tham Lod – Ban Tham Lod; river that flows into cave; can arrange rafting trip to see.
●Tham Pi Maen – Ban Tham Lod; name means “tall spirit caves.”
●Anantara Resort & Spa – 198-199 Moo5, Had Pak Meng, Changlang Road (Changlang Beach, Maifad, Sikao, Trang); 011-66-76-592-100; sikao.anantara.com; 51 thatched-roof villas, all with 4-poster beds and glorious views of silvery beaches along Andaman Sea or 22-acre palm grove surrounding sapphire lagoon; each expansive marble bathroom opens onto secret garden; visit rescued leatherback turtles at Hat Thai Muang National Park, then take afternoon jungle trek to secluded waterfalls and hidden beaches.
SIMILAN ISLANDS (national park that includes 9 islands: Ko Bon, Ko Bayu, Ko Huyong, Ko Miang (2 adjoining islands), Ko Payan, Ko Payang, Ko Payu, and Ko Similan)
Sights & Sites
●Manta Rays – mantatrust.org; among world's premier manta-viewing locations.
●Ha Roi Rai Floating Bungalows – jungleyoga.com; bungalow is like “living in basket”; thatch roof, hand-woven bamboo walls and split bamboo; each has small deck in front, offering cliff and lake views and place for hammock nap or viewing wildlife; sparsely furnished – bedding, mattress, mosquito netting, and pillows; bedding changed every 3 days; all bungalows, as well as all other structures, float over lake, connected by bridge walkways; bathroom and shower facilities are only structures on land.
Sights & Sites
●Khao Sok National Park – khaosok.com; world’s oldest evergreen rainforest; huge limestone mountains, valleys, lakes, caves; see Cheow Larn Lake (floating villages).
●Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary – Khiri Rat Nikhom and Ban Ta Khun; great wildlife, including large cats.