Written by Tripfuser’s Eilidh Wilson.
When you think of a trip to Thailand, your thoughts will likely drift to the white sand beaches of Koh Phi Phi and Lanta, both of which are part of the well-trodden trail of Krabi Province – and a tiny fraction of what Thailand has to offer.
Boasting white sand beaches, azure waters, chilled coconuts and sizzling heat, it’s easy to work out why the far south has become so popular. But with these alternatives, you’ll be exploring the natural beauty of the Land of Smiles at a much more relaxed pace.
Cha-am is a beach-lined part of the flat, countryside of central Thailand, just three hours from bustling Bangkok. It neighbours the popular tourist city of Hua Hin which offers the conveniences of a beach town, alive with beachside resorts and convenient restaurants selling non-spicy Thai food. Cha-am has a much more local feel, with bars serving stunning seaside Thai dishes.
Here, you can enjoy a little cycling, pool time and evenings by the beach, yet still remain within a short distance to the nightlife of Hua Hin, where you can enjoy lively night markets and music.
Koh Yao Noi
Slap-bang in between the busy areas of Phuket and Krabi in the stunning Phang Nga, the charming little islands of Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai still seem to miss the floods of tourist buses.
Although not as busy, Koh Yao Noi’s main village is bustling, filled with restaurants, bars, cafes and yummy street food.
There is lots of exploring to do, all of which is within easy distance, just a short local bus (songthaew), a long-tail boat or a scooter away. The island is small enough that you can take your time and do little bits at your own pace while always knowing that you’ll make it back in time for a sundowner looking over the bay. Perfect.
Mae Hong Son
Frequently travelled through, but rarely stopped in, Mae Hong Son is found not too far from Chiang Mai, in the north-west of Thailand. High in the mountains, Mae Hong Son is an escape like no other. With numerous hiking trails, hot springs, caves and temples to discover, this remote area will charm you with its roots in ethnic minority tribes and laidback atmosphere.
The town is in the province of the same name, which is famed as part of the most stunning motorcycle routes in the world. The whole route, beginning and ending in Chiang Mai, is a long one. Staying in town offers a more relaxing alternative that allows you to explore its beauty at your own pace.
Koh Chang & Koh Kood
Close to Bangkok and easy and cheap to access, the eastern islands of Koh Chang and Koh Kood gives you the best of everything. After some impressive island hopping, relax from a hammock in the garden or on a sunbed next to the pool of your 5-star resort.
Koh Chang still holds its creative small-town hippy vibe close to its heart, while Koh Kood retains its local family-run guesthouse charm, paired, of course, with luxury resorts.
Umphang is home to one of the largest waterfalls in the country, as well as being part of the largest protected area in South East Asia. Surprisingly, Umphang remains well off the tourist trail.
Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary will get even the laziest of travellers excited for an adventurous hike. With year-round hiking possibilities and a great chance of seeing many an endemic species, the jungle holds many secrets just waiting to be uncovered.
The highlight is the towering 250-metre high Thi Lor Su Waterfall, possibly one of the highest in Asia. Climb up it, swim in it (seasonally dependent) or walk around it; no matter what the angle, its natural beauty will not disappoint.
Finding the hidden spots that are less touristy, yet still known is easy for those willing to do a little more research.