Three reasons for Londoners to visit Thailand this year
Paradise beaches, welcoming people, and luxury hotels at comparatively bargain basement rates - here are three reasons Londoners should put Thailand at the top of their travel wish-list.
Amazingly good value five-star hotels
Bangkok has hundreds of top-end hotels which means UK travellers can experience some of the highest standards for very reasonable prices.
Thailand’s beach bungalows are cheap as chips but when was the last time you visited a hotel with its own chocolate laboratory? If you fancy living it up in the country’s buzzing capital, why not check in to the Sofitel So, with its remote-controlled curtains and a pillow menu?
This super stylish ‘lifestyle’ hotel oozes class for good reason; Iconic French designer Christian Lacroix was heavily involved in its concept, along with five local Thai designers.
Many of the city’s hotels have the wow factor but the Sofitel So has is among the very best.
Opulent staff uniforms have been designed by Lacroix with each worker enjoying three outfits to choose from, allowing them to rotate throughout the week as the hotel becomes a living catwalk.
We opted for a 25th floor ‘So Comfy’ room which gifted us views of the lush Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s biggest, where you can frolic in paddle boats or feed the turtles. The calming city oasis is even more impressive contrasted with the bright lights of Bangkok’s skyscraper skyline.
The incredible infinity pool with its awesome city views comes complete with an underwater sound system, and beds submerged in water to cool off in the searing city heat.
How much does this picture-perfect luxury cost? Compared to London’s five-star establishments, Thailand’s top-end hotels are a fraction – for around £100 a night you can expect a suite and many places will throw in free mini-bars or other complimentary services.
They’ll often do returning rates too - so if you find one you love and visit again, be sure to contact them first for the best deal.
We also checked out the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Bangkok which is perfectly located for one of the city’s most popular nightlife areas - Soi 11.
A luxuriously lush pool area - decked out with dark wood beds, fluffy towels and flanked by brightly-coloured flowers, trees and shrubbery will make you forget you’re in an action-packed metropolis.
Yet being connected to the Asok BTS skytrain station, Sukhumvit subway station and Terminal 21 shopping mall, it’s a great choice for anyone looking to get around the city quickly and conveniently.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the suites show the best of Bangkok’s skyline while huge bathrooms with dark, locally-sourced marble make an excellent sanctuary for unwinding in at the end of the day.
Be sure to dine at Basil, one of the hotels seven restaurants adorned with red and yellow chilli peppers hanging from the walls where the traditional Thai food is made from the freshest ingredients and totally MSG-free. Wash it down with a refreshing cocktail or two – the Basil Daiquiri was delicious.
Nightlife London should be jealous of
Thais know how to have a good time. Whether its a beach with a behemoth sound-system, a street market full of incredible food or a water fight involving the whole city, London can pale in comparison.
If the pictures of the Full Moon party aftermath make you feel queasy, there are plenty of smaller (better) parties where you can still have an all-nighter on Thailand’s party island Koh Phangan.
Touts will likely offer you a pack full of leaflets when you step off the ferry – it’s worth picking up if you intend to check out the island’s nightlife including the Black Moon or Half Moon events - which are held in the jungle instead of the beach.
Alternatively, get the Phangan Info free guide book – it’s genuinely useful and will have more up to date listings than any other traditional guide book.
If food is more your thing, Thailand has no shortage of night markets where the offerings phenomenal. Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s markets are world-renowned and you can have a superb dinner of delicious different dishes for between 50p and £1 (in total). You will pine for the food you have here, trust me.
Bangkok’s nightlife is legendary - and while many clubs will be full to the rafters with Westerners, if you veer away from the top tourist spots you can find some genuinely cool and ‘undiscovered’ spots. We checked out Beam a cool compact club where in Thonglor - full of chic (and rich) Thais and Japanese dancing to good house and techno.
April is a great time to visit for Songkran - Thai New Year - with Chiang Mai’s festivities among the largest in Thailand. The city becomes on gigantic water fight - and there’s nowhere to hide. While Bangkok’s celebrations are a little less chaotic, its still a fantastic place to join in this three-day festival.
A word of advice re nightlife - Thailand is still feeling the effects of a night time curfew following a military coup and it’s not uncommon for the music systems to stop playing when the police are on patrol.
It’s wise to keep quiet and obey any orders, and definitely don’t openly complain. Things will usually resume as soon after they passed by and taken a few photos. However it does mean that parties like those on Bangkok’s (in)famous Khao San Road, or the slightly more laidback Soi Rambuttri, will now only go on until around 1am / 2am as opposed to 6am.
Self improvement and learning
There are endless courses you can take in Thailand – from yoga to cookery. Chiang Mai remains a popular destination to pick up new skills. This city is cooler (in temperature) than other parts of the country where sweltering heat can leave you unmotivated to leave the beach.
It’s best to stay in one of the hundreds of guesthouses, which vary in size, and your reception will be able to help you out with booking a place.
Courses vary in time – you may just want to do an evening Thai cookery course or a week-long stay on one of the farms outside of the city. Massage tutoring is also a popular choice, as is mediation.
It’s also a brilliant place to get physical. Head off on a trek through Thailand’s wild jungle for a few days or try white water rafting in the foamy rapids. Be sure to check the river levels first. If it’s been particularly hot, the water will be low and the experience will be lack-lustre to say the least.
Alternatively you could head to Koh Tao, one of the world’s most popular diving destinations. Dive resorts are literally everywhere on this paradise island and with competition fierce among the schools, travellers benefit from it being more affordable than elsewhere in the world.
It’s also worth mentioning that Thailand is also hugely popular for so-called ‘health tourism’. Cosmetic procedures, in particular dental work and laser eye surgery, are among the most-practised.
It might feel peculiar but it’s quiet common to see a visit to the hygienist listed on tourist information leaflets - and when it’s half the price it is in the UK, you could be quids in. Thailand’s private healthcare system can be world-class but of course it’s prudent to do extensive research beforehand and you may want to run anything by your travel insurance too.
Sofitel So Bangkok, 2 North Sathorn Road, Bangrak, Bangkok
Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Road, connected to skytrain Asok station.