Thailand’s beaches are mythical: tall palms angle over pearlescent sand, coral gardens flourish in the shallow seas and beach parties are liberally lubricated with alcohol and fun. With a long coastline (well, actually, two coastlines) and jungle-topped islands anchored in azure waters, Thailand is a tropical getaway for the hedonist and the hermit, the prince and the pauper. And in between the kissing cousins of sea and sky are dramatic limestone mountains standing sentinel. This paradise offers a varied menu of playing in the gentle surf of Bang Saphan Yai, diving with whale sharks in Ko Tao, scaling the sea cliff s of Krabi, learning to kiteboard in Hua Hin, recuperating at a health resort in Ko Samui and feasting on the beach wherever sand meets sea.
The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation, where religious devotion is a colourful and ubiquitous spectacle. Gleaming temples and golden Buddhas frame both the rural and modern landscape with exuberance. Ancient banyan trees are ceremoniously wrapped in sacred cloth to honour the resident spirits, fortune-bringing shrines decorate humble noodle houses as well as monumental malls, while garland-festooned dashboards ward off traffic accidents.
Scuba virgins from all over flock to Ko Tao to learn how to dive. Not only is this lush, pistachio-coloured island blessed with crystal clear water and trippy coral reefs shallow enough for beginners to explore; it’s also is one of the world’s cheapest and most popular places to get your open-water dive certification