If you haven’t been to South Thailand already, where have you been all your life? Here’s nine tempting reasons to visit South East Asia’s backpacking mecca – with a touch of beach luxe in the mix…
1. The beach life is all that and more
December is the coldest month in Thailand, and even then the mercury sits at a balmy 26°C. Which means there’s never an excuse not to hit up the spectacular beaches of the southern peninsula. This is true fantasy territory, with gently swaying palm trees and sand so white it’s practically iridescent. To do anything other than bask in a hammock here, papaya smoothie in hand, would be a travesty. Oh OK, you can go snorkelling, too. You’ll find tropical fish aplenty, and even some coral reef, tucked away in emerald lagoons.
2. Street foodies, this is your Eden
This is not a drill. Street food in South Thailand is off-the-radar good, with an infusion of spicy flavours and regional influences that span from Malaysia to Laos. Don’t miss khao yam, an addictive rice salad with grated coconut, lime and a sweet fish sauce. Make room, too, for gaeng som: a fiery curry soup made from shrimps, green papaya and turmeric that will knock your tiny socks off. In any given market, you’ll find a treasure trove of edible snacks – and even a few fried insects, too, for those feeling brave…
3. You’ll feel a bit like a young Leo DiCaprio
Alex Garland’s novel The Beach is the epitome of 90s backpacking culture, and the scenery of South Thailand is captured exactly in the film version – starring our very own Leo. You can’t help but get a huge whiff of nostalgia for your footloose youth as you wander past Full Moon parties in full swing on the beaches of Krabi, or cafés packed with hemp-wearing travellers discussing their next spiritual tattoo. It’s all very freeing and uplifting, and yet don’t have to rough it in dollar-a-night hostels anymore. And hopefully, you won’t end up like Leo in a murderous cult, either (#spoileralert).
4. You can’t move for natural wonders
Towering limestone karsts, grottoes filled with stalagmites: South Thailand is awash with the kind of natural splendour that would make Hollywood green with envy. Make a beeline for the nature reserves of Khao Sok and Bor Thor to tap your inner Indiana, and head deep into the tropical mangrove, amid a playground of waterfalls, lagoons and eerily beautiful caves. Then you have Railay Bay, with its spectacular islands, beaches and shrines; not to mention dramatic cliffs that were just made for scrambling over (you know, if you get bored island-hopping).
5. Cocktail hour just got serious
It’s always cocktail o’clock in south Thailand, a place where the livin’ is easy and time is about as languorous as the lazy waves that lap the shore in the glare of afternoon sunshine. But though the delivery is relaxed, the substance is on-point. South Thailand is on its game when it comes to cocktails, with a wealth of fruits (lychee, jackfruit, guava) playing into the hands of a new generation of talented mixologists. Get set for mango rum punch, vodka coconut martinis and a ream of other delights; all served to the tune spectacular ocean views.
6. Massages are cheap and game-changing
Forget the limp excuse of a massage you know back home: Thai parlours bring a whole new meaning to the word. Prepare to be pummelled and crunched in ways you couldn’t even imagine as you get to grips with this country’s lauded take on the rite. It’s the kind of experience that will have you teeth clacking in sympathy with every new lunge; and yet, you’ll feel AMAZING afterwards. You’ll find parlours in the most unexpected places (petrol stations, outdoor markets – you name it), and they’re good value, too. For those feeling a bit wimpy, you can ask for a toned-down version, or a facial, instead.
7. Café culture reigns supreme
Palapa-thatched cafés are the kind of unofficial signature of South Thailand beach towns. You’ll bump into them on every street corner, complete with a chalkboard menu, a clutch of travellers and to-die-for watermelon shakes. These places will weave themselves into the fabric of your South Thailand trip. You’ll shoot the breeze in them, make new friends in them and assign them your haven after one too many SangSom rums the night before. Better still, they often seem to be open at all hours; so you never have to look far for a snack.
8. Sunrise boat trips are worth the trip alone
Forget lying spreadeagled on a beach post-Moon Party. The best way to experience a South Thailand sunrise is with a fresh head, aboard a boat. If you can bear to tear yourself out of bed and onto a vessel in a place like Khao Sok pre-dawn, you won’t regret it. This is the kind of scenery that will make your soul sing, with pink-tinged skies lighting up the waters, and a horizon wreathed by misty rainforest and looming peaks. Soak it all in for a true I-am-alive-and-travelling-isn’t-the-world-great moment.
9. Did we mention the banana pancakes?
Uh, yeah. You can’t go to South Thailand without trying the legendary banana pancakes, available pretty much anywhere you go. This ubiquitous backpacker dish is the stuff of legends: a huge plate of banana-stuffed pancakes, drizzled with condensed milk and sometimes chocolate sauce, too. Much like Pringles; try them once, and you’ll be hooked for life.
Dive into all of this, and more, with our shiny new adventure to South Thailand. Act fast to land your insider discount on our very first trip. Hello, sunshine delight…