Gulf of Thailand

Beaches, resorts, national parks and cultured towns garland the length of the Gulf Coast, with the islands offering unbridled hedonism. Phetburi, south of Bangkok, is peppered with wats and a hilltop royal palace affording sweeping views of the plains, while Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park provides a glimpse of the rare dusky langur. Cha-am, Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan provide old-world charm, excellent spas, some outstanding resorts and fewer tourists.

The appeal of the northern Gulf Coast towns is eclipsed by the delights of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. These islands have it all: there are the pampering palaces, appealing resorts, fine dining, streets of thumping bars, action-packed beaches and quiet bays on Koh Samui; meanwhile, once a month on the smaller Koh Phangan, the world's largest outdoor party spins on the sands at Hat Rin when 10,000 people flock to dance and drink in the glow of the full moon. Around the rest of the island, particularly the east coast, the perfect getaways are waiting in
cove after cove with sapphire seas tainted only by a glint of granite.

Further north at Koh Tao, the underwater world is an attraction with so many shallow reefs offshore. Around the island remote bays are guarded by huge granite boulder formations and surrounded by perfect tropical seas. At night Hat Sai Ri is enlivened by funky bars and beachfront dining.

The thriving town of Nakhon Si Thammarat, unmuddied by full-scale tourism, offers an opportunity to see the unusual art of shadow puppetry and savour confectioners' delicate pastries.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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