The Rough Guide to Thailand's Beaches & Islands (Rough Guide Travel Guides)

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9781848360914: The Rough Guide to Thailand's Beaches & Islands (Rough Guide Travel Guides)

"The Rough Guide to Thailand's Beaches & Islands" is the perfect companion for island-hopping through Thailand's spectacular coastal regions. Whether you wish to kayak through the limestone karsts of Ao Phang Nga, explore the dive sites around Ko Tao, party on Phuket or relax on one of Ko Samui's idyllic beaches, this guide will lead you straight to the region's best attractions. The guide features a colour section on Thailand Underwater, including the best of the country's amazing diving and snorkelling sites, as well as detailed coverage of Bangkok, Thailand's fascinating capital. You'll find up-to-date reviews on all the hottest places to stay from mid-range hotels to eco-minded accomodation including local Thai homestays, as well as plentiful recommendations of Thailands best nightlife, shopping, Thai restaurants and local cuisine for all budgets. Explore all corners of Thailand's Beaches & Islands with authoritative background on everything from Thailand's contemporary art scene and hot environmental issues to the latest films, pop music, and political developments relying on comprehensive maps and practical language tips. Make the most of your holiday with "The Rough Guide to Thailand's Beaches & Islands".

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About the Author:

Paul Gray has been a regular visitor to Thailand since 1987 when he taught English for a year at Chiang Mai. He is the co-author of the Rough Guide to Bangkok. Lucy Ridout has spent most of the last decade travelling in and writing about Asia. She is co-author of the Rough Guide to Bangkok, the Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok, and First-Time Asia.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

WHERE TO GO

Airline schedules decree that many beach holidays begin in Bangkok, and despite initial impressions, Thailand’s crazy, polluted capital is well worth a couple of days of your time. Within the city’s historic core you’ll find resplendent temples, canalside markets and the opulent indulgence of the eighteenth-century Grand Palace, all of which make a good antidote to the mind-boggling array of markets, boutiques and restaurants in the fashionable downtown area.

Within easy striking distance of Bangkok, the East Coast resort of Pattaya is the country’s most popular – and least interesting – destination, a concrete warren of hotels and strip joints that makes its money from package tourists who are unaware of what they’re missing. Yet just a few dozen kilometres further east sit the islands of Ko Samet and Ko Chang, whose superb sands are dotted with beach huts and bungalows designed to appeal to all budgets and tastes.

After an interesting inland diversion at the atmospheric, temple-filled town of Phetchaburi, the peninsular Gulf Coast kicks off with the historic resort of Hua Hin – now rather disfigured by excessive hotel development, though still a good place for a seafood dinner and a round of golf. The main draw on this side of the peninsula, though, is the Samui archipelago to the south: Ko Samui itself is the most developed of the three main islands here, but has kept its good looks and offers an appealing variety of beachside accommodation; Ko Pha Ngan, with its small resorts and desolate coves, is still firmly backpacker territory, drawing teenage ravers and solitude seekers in equal parts; while the last outcrop, Ko Tao, is the most rustic of the three, but has established itself as one of the world’s leading centres for scuba-diving courses.

Across on the other side of the peninsula, the Andaman Coast boasts even more exhilarating scenery and the finest coral reefs in the country, in particular around the spectacular Ko Similan island chain, which ranks as one of the best dive sites in the world. The largest Andaman Coast island, Phuket, is one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations and is graced with a dozen fine beaches; many of these have been over-developed with expensive high-rises and throbbing nightlife, but quieter corners can still be found. Ko Phi Phi has also suffered under unregulated construction, but its coral-rich sea remains an untainted azure, and the sheer limestone cliffs that characterize the coastline here – and elsewhere around the harbour town and beaches of nearby Krabi – are breathtakingly beautiful. The island of Ko Lanta has a more understated charm and is a popular destination for families. Inland attractions generally pale in comparison to the coastal splendours, but the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park are a notable exception.

Further down the Thai peninsula, in the provinces of the deep south, the edgy relationship between Thai sovereignty and Malaysian Islam – the kind of cultural brew that has characterized Thailand throughout its history – makes this a rewarding region for the more adventurous traveller to explore. The immediate attractions are the teeming sea life and unfrequented sands of Ko Tarutao National Marine Park and the islands off Trang, while Songkhla on the east coast is a good sand-and-see all-rounder, with miles of beach and several diverting museums.

WHEN TO GO

The climate of most of Thailand is governed by three seasons: rainy (roughly June through October), caused by the southwest monsoon dumping moisture gathered from the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand; cool (November to February); and hot (March through May). The rainy season is the least predictable of the three, varying in length and intensity from year to year, but usually it gathers force between June and August, coming to a peak in September and October, when unpaved roads are reduced to mud troughs and whole districts of Bangkok are flooded. The cool season is the pleasantest time to visit, although temperatures can still reach a broiling 30°C in the middle of the day. In the hot season, when temperatures often rise to 35°C in Bangkok, the best thing to do is to hit the beach.

Within this scheme, slight variations are found from region to region. In southern Thailand, temperatures are more consistent throughout the year, with less variation the closer you get to the equator. The rainy season hits the Andaman Coast of the southern peninsula harder than anywhere else in the country – heavy rainfall usually starts in May and persists at the same level until October. The Gulf Coast of the southern peninsula lies outside this general pattern – with the sea immediately to the east, this coast and its offshore islands feel the effects of the northeast monsoon, which brings rain between October and January. This area suffers less than the Andaman Coast from the southwest monsoon, getting a comparatively small amount of rain between June and September.

Overall, the cool season is generally the best time to come to Thailand: as well as having more manageable temperatures and less rain, it offers waterfalls in full spate and the best of the flowers in bloom. Bear in mind, however, that it’s also the busiest season, so forward planning is essential.

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