Where to go in Thailand?
Thailand, 2014-01-24 12:00 by Laerke
I often get this question from people in the process of planning a trip to Thailand. The thing is everybody has a different idea of what a perfect holiday destination is, but I’ve decided to try and come up with some recommendations in order to help people figure out where they should go in Thailand.

Islands and beaches

Thailand is blessed with a vast array of beaches and islands and choosing just one or two can be a real headache. Below I’ve divided places into three categories; the un-touristy places, the some-what touristy places and the places I would avoid.


A lot of people want an un-touristy beach or island and I can fully relate to that. However most people will be happy to still have hotels or guest houses who can cater to foreigners and a few restaurants to choose from. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes there is a reason a place is un-touristy, for example if the beach isn’t very nice.
If that doesn’t scare you off and you really want to get off the beaten path the North Andaman coast is a good bet. On the mainland near the town of Kuraburi is a small fishing village called Ban Talae Nok, here is a long, wide stretch of sand. It won’t be the kind of beach you’ve seen photos of in the travel brochures but you will probably have it all to yourself. The only accommodation in the village is home stays, which is a fantastic way to get a little closer to “the real Thailand” that many travelers search for and the people in the village are really nice and welcoming. Contact Andaman Discoveries to set up a homestay: Andaman Discoveries

Pic Sunset on Ban Talae Nok Beach

Off the coast off Kuraburi are several islands, all of them very un-touristy. One of them is Koh Phra Tong, here you can either do homestays (again through Andaman Discoveries) or stay in a couple of resorts and guest houses, and there is both budget and up-market accommodation available. We were personally disappointed with the beach there, the water was very murky and we even got stung by jelly-fish… But we did have several kilometers of beach to ourselves, and perhaps the season was not perfect. It is possible that the water becomes clearer at other times of the year, we were there in May. Kuraburi is the jumping off point for Surin island, which, so I’ve heard anyway, have some pretty beaches, but more importantly, great diving.

Pic Beach on Koh Phra Tong

Another place where you can get several beaches all to yourself is around Prachuap Khiri Khan, on mainland Thailand about 5 hours south of Bangkok. Once you get a bit south of Hua Hin the beach starts to get nicer (but still not the perfect paradise beach) but again you will likely be all alone. The water quality varies a bit here depending on the weather, we were here one day where the water was lovley – blue and almost all clear, during the night it rained a lot and the next day the water was all murky and a lot less appealing.

The beach on a good day :)

Koh Yao Noi off the east coast of Phuket is also a good bet if you want un-touristy, the problem here again is that the beaches aren’t that good for swimming. Here they are very shallow and on several of the beaches there are rocks and coral pieces in the water. Other than that is a wonderful island, and we really enjoyed our time there. We rented a motorbike and drove the quiet road that circles the entire island. The views to the lime stone karst in Pha Ngan bay are fantastic and it is a great place to take an all-day boat trip to visit some very pretty and swimmable beaches in the Phang-Nga bay. These beaches will NOT be without other tourists though, but with your own boat you can leave if one place starts to feel too crowded. A nice place to stay on Koh Yao Noi is Tabeak Viewpoint (


Some-what touristy

All my favorite places fall into this category and I hate to be in super touristy places, so don't think that this "somewhat touristy" category means over developed and overrun with package tourists. Instead in the following places there are merely plenty of accommodation and places to eat, gorgeous beaches and while well known, lots of the destinations on the following islands are not crowded at all.
There are loads of backpackers on Koh Tao yet still this small island manages to have more than enough beaches for all and some great right-of-the-beach snorkeling. I just love Koh Tao and it is probably my favorite island in Thailand. Do venture away from Sairee beach to find the true gems :)


Off the coast of Trat near the well know Koh Chang you’ll find Koh Kood (also spelled Koh Kut). Most of this island seems more up-market than for example Koh Tao and Koh Pha-ngan, and especially if you want to stay on the beach you will end up paying a bit more. The beaches here however are gorgeous! The island is pretty chilled out with not that many tourists and it is very much possible to find a beach with only one or two people on it.

Pic Gorgeous, empty beach on Koh Kood.

The party island of Koh Pha-ngan is actually a rather large island and riding a scooter from one end to the other would make for a very long day. This means that there are lots of different areas on the island, some chilled out other more developed. The infamous full moon party takes place at Hat Rin, I’ve only briefly been to Hat Rin but that was not my scene at all. I do however love the bay at Than Sadet on the east coast, here bungalows are sprinkled out over the cliff sides with gorgeous views of the beach and the blue water. There is a nice chilled vibe and it is easy to end up extending your stay here.

The view from our balcony at Mai Pen Rai bungalows

In the very south of Thailand on the Andaman side off the coast of Trat lies clusters of islands amongst others Koh Ngai, Koh Kradan, Koh Bulon Leh, Koh Lipe, Koh Rawi and Koh Adang. As I’m writing this post we are on Koh Ngai about to embark on a two week island hopping trip through the above mentioned islands, and so far it is looking good! Koh Ngai is very chilled, the blue ocean laps against a long, white and narrow strip of sand immediately backed by a mountainous interior where hornbills soar freely and the cicadas are probably the nosiest thing on the island.

Koh Ngai beach

Place to avoid

This category was difficult to write up, as it is very subjective and I don’t want to scare people away from a place they might enjoy. However I can say that I did not really enjoy the following places mostly because they were overrun and/or too developed:

  • Phuket
  • Koh Phi-Phi
  • Koh Samui
  • Koh Chang
  • Hua Hin

I haven’t been to Pattaya but that is a deliberate choice I’ve made as I’m positive that is a place I’d hate! Martin can second that, and he has actually been there and he was not impressed with what he saw!

Off the beach

Yes, there is a Thailand that does not involve gin-clear water, umbrellas in your drink and your toes in the sand :) People have very divided opinions when it comes to Bangkok, but I LOVE that city. Having visited numerous times and lived there for about 2 years it has a firm places in my heart. Good for shopping, food and going out, as well as numerous cool sightseeing oppotunities.


Do you wanna experience the Thai jungle and possible see elephants in the wild then Khao Yai National Park is a lovely place to spend a few days. The best way to experience this vast park is to have your own wheels, so rent a scooter or a car and head out there. We’ve been twice and have been lucky enough to see elephants both times! As well as gibbons, macaques, giant hornbills, lots of different kinds of deer, snakes, scorpions and giant porcupines. We camped at the campground on both visits and loved it. You can either bring your own gear or rent everything on the spot – super convenient if you are not carrying camping gear with you. Weekends and holidays get crowded, come midweek and you will probably have the whole place to yourself.


If you have the money to do it, a few days on a raft house on the lake in Sangklaburi is sooo worth it! Read all about our floathouse trip here. But I can tell you that a floathouse trip equals a beautiful floating house built all in natural materials and you get a big comfy double bed and a wonderful view out of big windows. There are plenty of little trips to take, into town, to a small coconut island and you can go ride elephants. The majority of our time was spent playing in the water though and we did some lovely little kayak trips. The lake water was so nice, it was super warm and it was great to be able to swim without getting all salty. We had all our meals aboard – and they were delicious! A couple of sweet Thai (and a Burmese) staff members did a fantastic job cooking up some scumptious meals for us! It's perfect to go in a group or with family.


My favorite little slice of northern Thailand is Pai valley. Pai is a small-ish town set along a river and all of it surrounded by rice fields complete with water buffaloes and mountains covered in green. It is such a pretty place and there are lots of great walks and hikes one can take to really get to appreciate the lovely nature in this little corner of Thailand. Hot springs, waterfalls, elephant rides and a great night market means you’ll need more than a few days here :)
To get away from the crowds, you could head to Nan province, which has a very rural feel to it.


There are lots of other places in Thailand I still haven’t been and I’m sure many of them would make it on to this list, but those you’ll have to go out there and explore on your own :) On the top of my wishing-to-go list is Khao Sok a fabulous national park in southern Thailand, Chiang Khan an old town along the Mekong in northeast Thailand, Surin and Similian Islands for great snorkeling and diving, Lopburi for its sunflowers fields and the list could go on and on – Thailand has so much to offer!