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[Published on 2011-12-05 in Attractions by Jesse Schule]

The Similan Islands

Diving in Similan IslandWhen it comes to scuba diving and snorkelling in Thailand, there is no better place to visit than the Similan Islands. The National Park is located just 84 KM north of the island of Phuket, and the Similans rank amongst the world's top 10 dive sites, alongside such places as The Great Barrier Reef in Australia and west coast of Grand Turk in The Turks and Caicos. There are several dive companies offering day trips as well as live aboard trips departing from both Phuket in the south as well as Khao Lak just 50 KM away.

The Similan Islands are a group that consists of 9 islands with different names, however they are commonly referred to as "Islands #1,#2,#3" and so forth. The southernmost island, "Koh Huyong" is also known as Similan Island #1, and the numbers increase as the islands go north. There are ranger stations on Islands #4 and #8, with the only available overnight accommodation available only on Island #4. The island of Koh Bon, located approximately 17 nautical miles north, is a part of the Similan National Park and in the future may be granted honorary status as Island #10.

The Similan National Park is closed every year between May 1st until November 1st, and it is illegal to visit during this time. During the high season that begins November 1st, the island is open to visitors, however there are no resorts or stores at the National Park, only a few ranger stations and a handful of bungalows available for rent. The bungalows are quite modest, and they rent for over 2000 THB per night, however tents are available at a much lower price for those who are traveling on a budget.

The wide variety of marine life that are found living near The Similan Islands are what attracts scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world. You will find Sea Turtles, Manta Rays, Barracuda, sharks, and a wide variety of other creatures that you don't find at most other dive sites in Thailand. Fishing in the waters near the National Park is illegal, however big game fisherman target Marlin and Sailfish just outside the immediate area of the marine park. Fishing charter companies often advertise day trips to The Similan islands, fishing in the waters nearby, getting as close to the marine park as the possibly can.

The crystal clear blue waters and glistening white sandy beaches of The Similans appear in postcards and travel brochures around the world, known as one of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet, and the premier location for diving and snorkelling in Thailand. Nowhere else in Southeast Asia will you see the wide variety of marine life, and the natural beauty that you see while diving and snorkelling in The Similan Islands.

[Published on 2011-11-16 in Attractions by Jesse Schule]


Climber hanging from overhanging rock faceThe Rock Climbing Capital Of The World

Krabi is considered to be one of the world's premier rock climbing destinations, topping the list for many people. The unique rock formations that are scattered along the coastline are not only stunningly beautiful, but also fantastic climbing sites. The limestone cliffs that line the shore make for some of the world's greatest and most challenging locations for climbers to enjoy the sport of rock climbing. Krabi is also the gateway to the popular southern islands of Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, with ferry services to both locations from the Thai town of Krabi.

Krabi Town is not where all the tourists flock to, as most of the hotels and restaurants are located just outside the town in the beach resort of Ao Nang. Compared to Pattaya or Phuket, Ao Nang is a quiet, relaxing spot with a lot less focus on nightlife, and much more emphasis on remaining active and enjoying the beautiful, natural landscape and breathtaking beaches. Nearby Railay Beach is one of the main attractions that draws so many people to Ao Nang, photos of Railay Beach are commonly seen in magazines and travel brochures designed to entice people overseas to travel to Thailand. The beach is only accessible by long tail boat, and there are several locals offering service to and from Ao Nang. Railay Beach is world renowned as one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand, even more so than those seen on the Islands of Phuket and Saumui.

Nobody comes to Krabi for the nightlife, however there are plenty of bars in Ao Nang,  including a popular street full of beer bars that are busy in high season. There are also a handful of great international restaurants in Ao Nang as well as local Thai restaurants serving traditional Thai dishes like Tom Yam Kung and Pad Thai. As is the case anywhere else in Thailand, there are also several spas and massage parlors for tourists to enjoy a traditional Thai massage for only a few hundred baht. Other popular activities include swimming and snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and kayaking. There is no shortage of fun and exciting activities to keep people occupied while enjoying their holiday.

Traveling to Krabi will also prove to be more cost effective than a trip to Phuket or some of the more developed resort destination of Southern Thailand. The price of accommodation in Ao Nang is quite reasonable in comparison to other places in Thailand, there are a wide range of both low cost guesthouses and bungalows as well as high end resorts that will cost several thousand baht per night. Krabi is an affordable and relaxing destination, with a wide variety of activities for healthy and active tourists that are after more than just nightlife and bars. Krabi and Ao Nang is a wonderful place to relax and unwind, experience the beauty of Southern Thailand without the hustle and bustle of places like Koh Samui and Phuket.


[Published on 2011-11-14 in Attractions by Jesse Schule]

Hidden Mecca of Northern Thailand

A Paradise In The Hills Of Northern Thailand

This little town in the mountains of Northern Thailand didn't even appear on the map a few years ago, however these days Pai is all the rage amongst Thais and foreigners alike. The natural beauty and stunning landscapes combined with old fashioned peace and quiet is appealing to tourists young and old, from all walks of life. What started out as a small little village with only dirt roads and a few guesthouses catering to hippies sporting dreadlocks, and spending their days smoking grass and sleeping in their hammocks, has blossomed into funky little town with an artistic style that is truly unique to Pai. These days you are more likely to bump into a businessman from Bangkok, than you are to come across a flock of hippies with dreadlocks, however there are still a few around, and that is all part of the appeal.

A trip through Northern Thailand would not be complete without a visit to Pai

Nowadays many of the roads have been paved, and there is even a 7/11 in the middle of the walking street, depending on your point of view, this could be either positive or negative. It is still quite a small town, and depending on when you choose to visit, it could be bustling with activity or so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Pai is extremely popular with wealthy Bangkokians and Thai tourists from around the country, it is considered to be a very trendy place to spend your holiday. Souvenirs from Pai are a hot commodity, many of them are focused on the road signs and the incredible mountain roads that connect Pai to Chiang Mai. T-shirts with a curved arrow and a sign pointing to Pai, or little miniature distance markers that look like what you see on the side of the highway, showing how many KM you are from Pai are amongst the most popular.

People come to Pai for the most part to relax, however there are a few popular activities for those who would like to stay active, such as white water rafting on the river, nature hiking and elephant trekking. One of the more leisurely activities that many people choose to indulge in would be bathing in the natural hotsprings, there is a national park with several pools, some far to hot to actually bath in. A far better option that the national park would be the Pai Hotsprings Resort, located just down the road from the entrance to the national park on the opposite side of the road. The cost of admission is similar to the cost of entering the national park, however the five star facilities make it a bargain, with a luxurious pool of water tapped from the hotspring, as well as an infinity pool right on the river bank. There is a bar serving cold beers, cocktails and drinks right at poolside, and plenty of seating with umbrellas for shade on the sundeck. There are also a few gazebos on either side of the pool, for relaxing in the shade while looking out on the river.

Most things in Pai are quite affordable, restaurants and guesthouses are reasonably priced to accommodate to Thais as well as foreigners. You can find rooms in Pai from anywhere between a few hundred baht per night, to several thousand baht per night in one of the luxury resorts that have been springing up in recent years. Getting to Pai from Chiang Mai is quite easy, there are mini bus services running every hour during the day, charging just 150THB each way.

A trip through Northern Thailand would not be complete without a visit to Pai, you certainly won't see anything like it anywhere else in Thailand, or anywhere else on the planet. The relaxing atmosphere and laid back attitude of locals make Pai a peaceful place to get away from the daily stress of life in the city. This tranquil hillside village is an ideal place for R&R after a busy work week.


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