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Thailand: The Best Hidden Getaways

Thailand: The Best Hidden Getaways

Discover a Secret Thailand, Hidden from the Maddening Crowd

If busy streets, crowded tourist hot spots and massive congestion are not your idea of a ‘paradise getaway’, then take heart—here are a few secret places in Thailand that will give you the holiday you want.

By Candace van Zyl

If you’ve been to Thailand recently, you might have noticed things are a little more crowded than before. It’s not your imagination. According to Pongpanu Svetarundra, Permanent Secretary to the Tourism & Sports Ministry, Thailand’s tourism industry might soon be struggling to cope with an expected near-doubling of visitors to 60 million by 2030.

According to Sventarundra, the visitor boom is partly due to the explosive travel surge from the newly wealthy Chinese, who make up almost half of the rise in tourists—from 15.9 million in 2010 to 32.6 million last year—mostly inspired by Lost in Thailand, a 2012 road trip film that won cult status in the Middle Kingdom.

“If we don’t do anything, we will get into trouble,” says Sventarundra. “The congestion will be more and more.” With plans being set in motion to improve infrastructure around ports, airports, and railways in the future, right now you can expect bottlenecks and congestion in Thailand’s main centers.

Which is not great news, if you want to escape the crowded, bustling city center you’re in, and you’re desperate to find a ‘paradise vacation’ in Thailand.

Take courage; we’ve found these hidden gems in Thailand that will help you escape the madness and find the secret paradise getaway you’ve been looking for.

Ko Surin

The Surin archipelago offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Thailand, and Ko Surn has—so far—managed to escape the notice of the masses. There are two main islands, Ko Surin Nua and Ko Surin Tai. Both are gorgeous. If you’re after a real getaway-from-the-crowds place, this is it. The islands are covered in national park and a few tents and bungalows are the only accommodation options.

Ko Kho Khao

Not to be confused with the infamous Ko Tao, Ko Kho Khao is all about the beach, the bungalows and the resort-style lifestyle. A large island, with long golden beaches, mangroves and grassy sand flats, where you can ride elephants into the surf and scoot around on motorbikes, but otherwise there’s not much else to do. The nearest airport is Phuket. For accommodation, there are a few suggestions that vary according to  your pocket, or comfort levels.

Buriram, Northeast Thailand

If you’re after a more cultural Thai experience, then you’ll love the ruins of Buriram and the hot, hot Isan food! Ancient Khmer ruins are commonplace; the most impressive is Phanom Rung, which is one of the best preserved Khmer temple complexes in Southeast Asia. Apart from this, it’s the quiet Thai life that’s the drawcard. Here are a few accommodation options for this quiet area.

Nakhon Si Thammarat

Beautiful pink dolphins that swim in the glassy sea, craggy islands and ancient layered sandstone rocks topped with prehistoric-looking trees, this island is breathtaking and a retreat from the bustle of city life. There is a surprisingly wide variety of accommodation options to choose from.

Baanpong—Chiang Mai Countryside

We’ve saved the best for last. If you want to escape the well-beaten tourist path, the Chiang Mai countryside has Thailand’s natural treasures on generous display, and no one seems to know about it. Yet.

Baanpong Lodge, with jungles, lakes and mountains in its backyard, is the best choice if you’re in the Chiang Mai countryside. For the adventurous, make use of the resort’s jungle buggies and motorcycles for exploring, or climb the famed Crazy Horse crags close by.

But, at it’s heart, this lodge excels at being what it is—a luxury retreat, set in the jungle, aimed purely at taking the heavy load off your shoulders and putting it quietly down beside you, so that you can exhale and recharge. Dip your feet in the pool and enjoy cocktails or food at the poolside bar and restaurant. Air conditioning and all the modern conveniences are provided in these king-bed private chalets. Owner operated, Nim and John’s personal touch can be felt throughout the lodge—from the stylish and fun decor, the well-trained staff, the restaurant’s Thai and western dishes, down to the list of carefully selected craft beer. They can be found most nights enjoying a chilled beer at the poolside bar after dinner—you’re welcome to grab a cold one and pull up a chair for a chat. Personal service and limited numbers ensure that the lodge has a pleasantly professional atmosphere, but still feels like you’re visiting a friend in the countryside. It’s also one of the few truly family-friendly resorts in Chiang Mai. Fly to Chiang Mai airport and arrange ahead the Lodge’s shuttle service to collect you from there.

There’s more to Thailand than the tourism hot spots of Bangkok and Chiang Mai city life, and now you know how to find the best hidden getaways in Thailand.

Candace van Zyl is a casual traveler (when budget allows) and enthusiastic writer, based in Cape Town, always on the hunt for family-friendly places in gorgeous, friendly, affordable Thailand.

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