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Action and Adventure

November 19, 2017 | admin

 

Action and Adventure in Thailand

Action and Adventure Travel in Thailand has gained in popularity in recent years, with more diverse activities now available to better suit the needs of individuals and groups of travellers such as diving, snorkelling, rock climbing/abseiling, golfing, trekking, Muay Thai and cycling. This, coupled with the country’s beautiful and diverse geography including mountains, rivers, forests and seas, makes a perfect combination that attracts visitors to engage in activities other than just sightseeing. An increase in the number of hotels, other types of accommodation and airlines has also made travelling to action and adventure spots more convenient. The accommodation on offer is wide-ranging and of good standard. Government agencies have established strict action and adventure tourism standards as well. Some action and adventure activities in Thailand include:

1. Rock Climbing and Abseiling

Rock climbing and abseiling are outdoor activities for those who like challenges and wish to test their courage. The two activities were originally offered mainly at Railay Bay in Krabi province, which is renowned for its picturesque limestone cliffs set against a white sandy beach and the dark blue ocean stretching out towards the boundless sky. Recently, travel agencies have started offering this type of activity using other rock climbing cliffs, each with its own uniqueness depending on the location. Abseiling is an activity that has been added, along with trekking, caving and canyoning. Each year, an international rock climbing contest is held in Krabi.

Rock climbing categories

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes up to moderate heights of 3-5 meters, moving horizontally from left to right. Bouldering enables climbers to build strength, stamina and the climbing techniques necessary for climbing high cliffs. If bouldering is practiced regularly, rock climbing skills can improve very quickly.

Free Solo is a form of climbing that the climber performs without using any ropes. While it is quite similar to Bouldering, one big difference is that in Free Solo climbing, climbers climb up to great heights such as the summit, and then climb down without using harnesses or other protective equipment. This type of rock climbing requires great skill and expertise.

Free Climbing is a way of climbing high cliffs or reaching a peak in which ropes and other means of climbing protection are used to protect against injury from falls. This type of rock climbing requires skill in using equipment, physical strength, proper climbing techniques and experience, as the climber will not have any assistance in pulling themselves upward.

Sport Climbing is a form of rock climbing that relies on equipment similar to that used for Free Climbing, but provides a higher degree of safety owing to the fall-prevention pre-placed bolts that have been inserted into the rock. Climbers only need to follow a ‘line’ up a rock face, depending on an individual climber’s skills. This sport is very popular at the moment as it is safe and encourages climbers to push themselves to their physical limit. Apart from rock climbing, another action and adventure activity involving cliffs that has started to gain in popularity is:

Abseiling or Rappelling is to rope down from a vertical drop using a rope. Climbers rely on physical ability and abseiling techniques. To do it safely, climbers usually rope down facing the rock face. Rock climbing/Abseiling spots in Thailand include:

1. Naam Bo Phee Cave, better known among foreign travelers as the “Spirit Well Cave”, or Hagunee, is a spirit cave of the Lahu people in Pang Ma Pha district of Mae Hong Son province in the north of Thailand. It is the largest and deepest cave in Thailand, with a width equal to two football fields. What is more spectacular is the depth, which measures 140 meters at its deepest point. It takes approximately 1 hour to get from the mouth of the cave to the bottom—during this time adventurers have to rely on two lines of rope and some other basic equipment to take them down a deep chasm through to a lush tropical rain forest below. There is no other exit at the bottom, and the only way out is the same way they go in. At the bottom of the cave a thousand stalactites can be found in perfect condition. Evidence of the shifting of the earth’s crust can also clearly be seen. Travelers will feel as if they are travelling through a mysterious prehistoric forest.

For more information:
When to go: November-April Hyperventure Team Telephone: (+66) 8 6576 5158, (+66) 2748 9625 www.hyperventure.com The Peak Adventure Telephone: (+66) 5380 0567-8 www.thepeakadventure.com

2. Crazy Horse Cliff is located at Muang On Mountain in Chiangmai, and reaches a height of 150 m. There are two sides to the mountain to explore. The first side features a huge and stunning cave in which tourists can view the peculiarity of animal-shaped stalagmites and stalactites. The other side of the mountain has a steep limestone cliff with a height of 60 – 80 m. which is suitable for rock climbing. The cliff got its name due to the unique shape of the rock which looks very similar to the shape of a horse’s head.

Rock climbers can walk around this hill to locate climbing trails that suit each individual’s preference and experience, ranging from the beginner level up to the professional level. Another attraction for novice climbers, is that they will have a chance to attempt a climb and learn the necessary techniques in the Introduction to Rope Climbing Course that provides the skills and confidence necessary to enjoy rock climbing safely. Finally, participants will get to abseil from a 50 m mountain peak down to the cave entrance.

For more information: When to go: November-April The Peak Adventure Telephone: (+66) 5380 0567-8
www.thepeakadventure.com

3. Kiu Lom Damis located in the Tham Pha Thai National Park in Lampang province. This is a large dam constructed for irrigation using water from the Wang River, the main tributary of Lampang province and the northern region of Thailand. Rock climbing is a popular activity here due to the stunning view of the expanse of the water amidst picturesque limestone mountains. The dam is surrounded by a lush green forest covered in mist, fresh air, and a gentle breeze. The depth of the water in the reservoir and the colour of the algae below give the water in the reservoir its emerald green colour. There is a rock climbing trail of moderate height, suitable for “Solo Deep Water” climbing. Once they get to the designated spot, climbers can dive into the relatively deep water to cool down while at the same time get the adrenaline pumping. Also, if climbers get tired, they can take off their climbing gear and enjoy water activities such as swimming, kayaking, and exploring the cave which once served as a Japanese army outpost during World War II. Alternatively, visitors can sunbathe, relax and watch large and small fish, learn the way of life of the local fishermen, or just read and listen to the sounds of wild birds and pheasants.

For more information: When to go: November-April Opening hours: 06.00-18.00. Reservations should be made 3-7 days in advance, and visitors should stay for at least 1 night. The Peak Adventure Telephone: (+66) 5380 0567-8 www.thepeakadventure.com

4. Wang Tum Waterfall Abseiling is a new tourist attraction of Khao Kho National Park, and is a blend of ecotourism and action & adventure tourism. Wang Tum Waterfall, the lesser known waterfall of the Dong Hlong people of Khao Kho district in Phetchabun province, has become a spot for exciting waterfall rock climbing using equipment that meets high safety standards, and the activity itself is managed by a professional team. Prior to starting, there will be a demonstration and practice of how to use abseiling equipment, then begins the 0.5km trek into the forest with climbing over boulders and crossing ravines in lush greenery. Wang Tum Waterfall is a place where one can rappel through 40m of falling water. Those who dare to go first get the chance to enjoy themselves in the water below and cheer on their friends who are still making their way down on a rope. The next part of the adventure takes you along a shady waterway until you come to a natural cliff slide where you can slide down to a pool of water below. Moreover, there are thrill rides such as zip lining and a Tarzan Swing to give you the thrill you are looking for before heading home.

For more information: When to go: June-February Open on Saturdays and Sundays at 08:30 and 13:00 to groups of 12. On weekdays only, group tours with advance booking are welcome. Contact Khao Kho Explorer: Telephone: (+66) 8 9894 9211 www.khaokhoexplorer.com TAT Phitsanulok Office Telephone: (+66) 5525 2742-3

5. Than Rattana Waterfall is where you can enjoy trekking in the forest, abseiling from 4 cliffs and 5 waterfalls and kayaking in Khaoyai National Park. Before embarking on the adventure, participants will be trained how to abseil from a cliff and kayak at Khao Lon Adventure Centre for one hour to test their physical limits and courage as well as prepare the equipment and other supplies. After that they are led by park rangers to “Than Rattana Waterfall” in Khaoyai National Park.

The first leg of the adventure is trekking along the river and boulders while enjoying the lush green forest along the way to the first cliff, “Song Phi Nong Waterfall”, where visitors can abseil from a height of 70 meters. After that the journey continues to the second cliff, which is 18 meters high. Here participants will get to abseil down along the side of Song Sawan Waterfall before taking a one hour break to enjoy a packed lunch of sticky rice and fried pork or fried catfish wrapped in a banana leaf under the canopy of the shady trees near a small pool of water. The third descent is reached following a trek across the water. Here, guests will enjoy a thrilling abseil down a 38 m waterfall and one more 45-minute hike along a shady river bank to “Wang Bon” waterfall—the last cliff on this abseiling adventure, before kayaking 800 m back to finishing point.

For more information: When to go: February. Visitors should get to the Khao Yai National Park before 9.00am. Sarika Adventure Point Telephone: (+66) 3761 6164, (+66) 8 1251 8317 www.sarikaadventurepoint.com

6. Railay Bay -“Heaven for Rock Climbers” is situated in Noppharat Thara National Park, which includes the Phi Phi Islands in Krabi province. The charms of Railay Bay rock climbing lie in the natural beauty of the site, which is surrounded by limestone cliffs, an emerald-green sea, and sandy beaches stretching out to the horizon. The cliffs are perfect for rock climbing. Railay Bay comprises two sides: Railay East and Railay West. Rock climbers usually prefer the Railay East side as the cliff there offers an ideal height for a limestone cliff, with over 600 lines to suit climbers of all levels of expertise. Rock climbers can bring their own climbing gear, or rent from one of the many shops in front of the bay area. Visitors who wish to enjoy the beauty of Phra Nang Cave can take a boat from the west side. The white sandy beach and the crystal clear water on this side make it a popular spot for swimming or sunbathing.

For more information: When to go: November-April Railay Rock Climbing Club Telephone: (+66) 8 9294 0686, (+66) 8 1797 2517 TAT Krabi Office Telephone: (+66) 7562 2163, (+66) 7561 2811-2.

Three types of rock climbing competitions, namely Lead Climbing Marathon, Speed Climbing, and Deep Water Soloing, are held during the annual Krabi Rock and Fire International Contest. The evening Fire Contest adds flavour to the event.

2. Golfing

Golfing is one of the most popular sports in Thailand. When it was introduced to the kingdom around 100 years ago, it gained in popularity rapidly among high society and expatriate communities. In the beginning, patrons included the Thai army, who sponsored the first tournaments, and government agencies, who commissioned the construction of golf courses throughout the country. Golf continues to gain in popularity, particularly after Thailand hosted its first international tournament (23rd Golf World Cup) in 1975. Since then the number of golf courses has grown rapidly. Many of which have been designed by world-renowned designers and countless world-class golfers have visited Thailand. These days, golf courses can be found all over the nation, most of which are situated in close proximity to other tourist attractions. Golfing is a sport that can be enjoyed year-round by people of all ages and genders. The best time to golf in Thailand is between November and early March as the temperature is mild and the rainfall is less. Between April and June, the temperature can be quite hot during the day. Between July and October, it tends to rain in late afternoon/ evening, however most golf courses are well equipped with a good drainage system and so it is not an obstacle for golfers. Thailand is home to a great number of international standard golf courses that offer reasonable rates. These are equipped with the necessary facilities and services both on the course and in the clubhouse. During the high season (December to February), it is essential to book in advance.

Fast and safe transportation systems mean you can get to golf courses easily by car, train and air travel, and all are within easy transfer distance to nearby hotels. Sometimes accommodation is located at the golf courses themselves which makes it even more convenient. For family members or those who wish to take a break from the green, there are usually a number of cultural sites and other attractions such as restaurants and shopping malls located nearby. Examples of accommodations located near golf courses in Thailand include: Bangkok and the Central Region

1. Summit Windmill Golf Residence, Samut Prakarn province:The Residence is located at one of the best golf courses in Thailand—luxurious, picturesque, with palm trees to provide shade along the fairway of the 18-hole course.

2. Sida Resort Hotel, Nakorn Nayok:Surrounded by mountains, the resort is blessed with beautiful scenery and boasts diverse facilities and amenities. Guests can enjoy a round or two on their mini-golf course on which golfers of all levels can practice their swing and show off their skills.

3. Anantara Resort, Huahin: Modern, luxurious, and located by the sea, this resort is not far from many world-class golf courses. Palm Hill Golf Resort & Country Club, Imperial Lake View Resort & Golf Club, The Majestic Creek Country Club, and Springfield golf course will all challenge golfers of all levels with their 18-hole courses with wide fairways.

4. Banyan Resort, Huahin: This world-class championship golf course and hotel has been designed to please golfers as well as visitors of all ages and genders. This contemporary Thai-style clubhouse has great facilities including exclusive club suites and an impressive dining experience at Mulligan’s and The Terrace Restaurant.

5. Milford Paradise, Huahin: Designed by renowned American designer Robert McFarland, this 18-hole golf course is the only golf course in Thailand, surrounded by both mountains and the sea. In this paradise as guests play on a private golf course on a private beach.

6. Imperial Lake View & Golf Club: Especially designed by two renowned golf course designers, Roger Packard and Ronald Fream, to offer golfers the enjoyable experience they deserve. There are four types of course on offer: mountain, lake, desert, and links.

The North

1. Four Seasons Resort, Chiangmai: Located on a prime location—just 5 minutes from the hotel is the Summit Green Valley, Chiangmai Country Club—the layout of this 72-par, 18-hole golf course has been meticulously designed with sand bunkers and water hazards. Golfers can enjoy the game as well as the beautiful scenery. The course is well-maintained and considered one of the best golf courses in the north.

2.Green Lake Resort, Chiangmai: This resort, located near Chiangmai Lanna Golf Course, has a beautiful views of the mountains and the Emerald Lake of Lanna. The resort provides shuttle buses to and from the course so that golfers can enjoy their game of 18-hole golfing with caddies on hand.

3.Sukantara Cascade Resort, Chiangmai: This boutique resort has been nominated by The Independent as one of the world’s top five luxury eco hotels. Nearby, visitors can find attractions such as the Tad Hmok Waterfall and Summit Green Valley Golf Course, which was designed to challenge golfers of all skill levels on its 18-hole course.

4. Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai: Decorated in Lanna style, this peaceful resort is perfect for a quiet getaway and relaxation. The resort is surrounded by picturesque mountain views. Not far from the resort is Santiburi Golf Course and Waterford Golf Course where golfers can enjoy a round with beautiful views of the nearby mountains.

5. Gassan Khuntan Golf & Resort, Lamphun province: Widely considered the penultimate golfing experience in the north, this 72-par, 18-hole golf course was beautifullydesigned to make the most of the Khuntan mountain range view, giving visitors a memorable experience on the course.

6. Gassan Lake City Golf & Resort, Lamphun province: This peaceful and luxurious Hariphunchai-style resort has been designed to blend in with nature. With the lake flanking the fairway and the beautiful mountain ranges in the background, the 72-par, 18-hole Gassan Lake City golf course totals 7,089 yards and is suitable for hosting championship tournaments.

The South

1. Laguna Phuket Golf Club, Phuket: Laguna Golf Phuket is an 18-hole, par 71 awardwinning golf course, set within the world renowned Laguna Phuket Resort. The skillfully designed golf course provides the perfect golf experience for players of all abilities. Many outstanding natural features can be found on site including large native Banyan Trees and natural water features – often inundated with water lilies and wildlife.

2. Kirikayan Luxury Pool Villa & Spa, Samui: Kirikayan is located in a gently undulating countryside with views of the beautiful and mountainous interior of Ko Samui, which remains virtually undeveloped. The hotel has world-class facilities including a day spa, fine dining and an infinity pool, and provides shuttle services to and from nearby Santiburi Samui Golf Course.

3. Santiburi Resort, Samui: The only golf course on Samui Island, the course is located amidst tree-covered hills. Golfers can enjoy breathtaking views of the sea from almost every hole. The course layout, while challenging, is beautifully-designed as is the clubhouse. Free shuttle services are provided by the hotel which takes only 7 minutes by car.

4. Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, Krabi: Located between Had Klong Muang Beach and the Ngon Nak Hill, this golf course is a real challenge for golfers. The 9-hole, par 28 course features a lake and flowing waterway, built on a hill and graduating down towards sea level at Had Klong Muang. Its sand bunkers and water hazards are a true test of a golfer’s skills.

5. Deva Phuket:This tranquil resort in Phuket is the perfect destination those who just wish to unwind. For golf lovers, the world-renowned, 18-hole Blue Canyon Golf Club, designed to challenge as well as blend seamlessly with nature, is just 10 minute drive away.

6. Dusit Thani Laguna Resort: Surrounded by a lush tropical garden, this lovely retreat is nestled on the island of Phuket. Very near the resort, several famous golf courses are located such as Laguna Phuket Golf Club and Banyan Tree Phuket Golf Club.

7. Laguna Holiday Club, Phuket province: In the centre of Laguna Phuket and surrounded by tropical foliage with the view of the golf course and the lake, this club has 79 rooms, each of which includes a well-decorated bedroom, dining room and the kitchen. The club features state-of-the-art facilities including an 18-hole golf course, shopping mall, free-form swimming pool with a slide, pool bar, restaurant, spa, kid’s club, game room and internet.

8. Movenpick Resort and Spa, Karon Beach, Phuket province: This resort is situated near world-class golf courses including The Palm Tree and Phuket Country Club Golf Course, an 18hole course set amongst the mountains and limestone cliffs.

9. Mission Hill, Phuket Golf Resort and Spa: This is an 18-hole paradise for golfers who can enjoy themselves in one of the 72 Thai-style rooms situated next to the sea and a rubber plantation. All rooms have a view of the well-groomed garden, golf course, and swimming pool.

10. The Green Golf Residence, Phuket province: This residence is located in a green hollow in a quiet corner of the Phuket Country Club. The 9-hole and 18-hole courses are suited for all golfers and visitors who like to be surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.

The Northeast (Isan)

1. Wishing Tree Resort: This modern resort is located along a river bank in a tranquil forest. The luxurious rooms are tastefully-designed, decorated, and equipped with various facilities. Standard-size golf courses such as Dancoon Golf Club and Hotel, and Singha Park Khon Kaen are located a short distance away.

2. Kirimaya Golf Resort and Spa: Enjoy luxury surrounded by the lush green forest of Khaoyai. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in a tranquil atmosphere among the trees. Designed by world famous golfer Jack Nicklaus, this 18-hole par 72 golf course is one of the most beautiful in Asia.

The West

1. Lakeside Chalet by Mida, Kanchanaburi: This resort is situated on a golf course with uniquely designed greens which offer golfers a more interesting game. The course is surrounded by over 20,000 trees.

2. Green World Hotspring Resort and Golf Club: This resort is situated on a golf course with uniquely designed greens which offer golfers a more interesting game. The course is surrounded by over 20,000 trees.

The East

1. Dor-Shada Resort Pattaya, Chonburi: With modern, luxurious rooms overlooking the sea and white sandy beach, this resort is heaven for golf lovers. They can try their hand at the 6hole golf course located in the resort compound which is equipped with full amenities.

2. Horseshoe Point Resort, Pattaya, Chonburi: This resort is located within a 10-minute radius of numerous international standard golf courses such as Siam Country Club, Laem Chabang International Country Club, Phoenix Golf and Country Club and Pattaya Country Club.

Travel agencies offering golfing tours include:

S.K. Executive Golf Tour Co Ltd www.skgolftour.com M.S. Sky Travel.com Offering golfing tour packages and selling golf memberships that can be used at golf courses throughout Thailand www.msskytravel.com Mister Lob Offering golfing tour packages and golf course booking in Thailand and worldwide www.mrlob.com Jack Total Golf International Offering golfing tour packages in Bangkok and providing information about golf courses www.jackgolf.com Thailand Golf Tour Offering golfing tour packages, golf course booking, accommodation booking and shuttle bus services www.thailandgolftour.net K.P.G. Golf Tour Offering golfing packages, golfing lessons, golf course recommendations and golf tournament hosting in Phuket www.phuketislandgolftour.com

3. DivingSouthern Thailand has coastlines on both the Andaman Sea, which opens to the India Ocean, and the Gulf of Thailand, which opens to the South China Sea. The best time to travel on the Andaman coast is between November and May and in fact the Similan and Surin National Parks, widely regarded as the best diving spots in Thailand, are only open during this period. The best time to visit here is between May and October. The marine life on each side is distinctly different, with the Andaman side having brighter and clearer water, sandy beaches and more colourful aquatic life.

Types of diving:

There are three types of diving:

1. Snorkelling or Skin Diving is the practice of diving at a depth not more than 0.9 m. At this depth, the current is not strong and the water is clear. Snorkelling is an activity that allows you to learn about marine life, and explore the underwater world without the need for diving gear and an oxygen tank—a mask, snorkel and fins are all you need.

2. Scuba stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Like snorkelling, scuba diving allows you to explore the underwater world, but allowing you to explore a little further and deeper. Scuba divers require the use of more complicated breathing equipment, so training is required by qualified Scuba Schools International (SSI) or Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) instructors. Instructors can be found at many resorts on Thailand’s coast, or at nearby Dive Centres.

Diving courses on offer at Thailand’s resorts usually include an Introduction to Scuba Diving, Open Water Diver Certificate and Advanced Open Water Certificate. Some Dive Centres and Resorts also have more advanced courses available including the Rescue Diver course and Dive Master qualification.

3. Snuba is short for Self Non-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. This is a new form of diving that uses air from the surface. You only need some basic diving gear such as a mask, fins, weight belt, and a long hose which is connected to a tank on a pontoon raft on the surface which follows the pull of the divers. Snuba is popular because no prior dive experience is necessary. It is thus suitable for those with no ‘C-card’.

Top 10 Dive Sites in Thailand

1. Similan Islands in Phang-Nga province are an archipelago comprising nine islands, generally referred to as “1” to “9”. Also close by are Ko Bon and Ko Tachai – both usually included on any trip to ‘The Similans’. Its most well-known feature is Sail Rock on island number 8. The site has been ranked as Thailand’s best dive site and one of the world’s top ten. Snorkelling is also a popular activity at the Similans with beautiful snorkeling spots around island number 4 (Miang) and island number 8. Lucky snorkellers will get to swim with sea turtles.

Dive spots at Similan include Fantasy Reef where the three underwater boulder formations adorned with Gorgonian Fans and hard corals are home to a vast array of marine species. On the east side of Ko Payu or island number 7, there are both snorkelling and scuba diving spots where hard and soft corals, Gorgonian Fans and schools of colorful fish abound. Pusa Rock or the Skull Boulder is yet another small island where a skull-shaped rock can be seen above the water, and underneath the surface divers can enjoy the breathtaking underwater beauty of a many-tiered seabed full of rock crevices and swim-throughs. On island number 6 divers will find soft corals as well as underwater caves. This is where lion fish and giant stingrays are sometimes sighted. At Ko Ba Ngu or island number 9, and Shark Fin Rock, which is a rock formation near Ko Payun or island number 3, divers can often chance upon silvertip sharks, leopard sharks, and whitetip reef sharks. Ko Ta Chai is home to colourful corals and a myriad of fish species. Large marine animals such as whale sharks, leopard sharks, and stingrays are often spotted here. Ko Bon, on the other hand, features smaller soft corals and stingrays are often sighted. Once in a while blacktip sharks will also make an appearance.

2. Surin Islands in Phang-Nga province form an archipelago where clown fish and sea turtles can be found. This is one of the dive sites in the world where whale sharks are most often found. Richelieu Rock—with large underwater rock formations of various sizes, is a spectacular dive spot with colourful marine life including damsels, angelfish and thousands of anthias, as well as frogfish, clown shrimps, seahorses, nudibranchs and the elusive ghost pipe fish. Divers will also see schools of fusiliers, barracuda, bat fish and giant snapper.

Shallow coral reefs lining the sheltered coasts of the Surin Islands provide extensive opportunities for snorkellers to enjoy the most pristine corals in Thailand. The reefs provide shelter as well as feeding and spawning grounds for marine animals. The site has been voted by snorkellers as the most spectacular snorkelling spot in Thailand.

3. Hin Daeng Hin Muang, off of the Lanta Islands in Krabi province is a dive site that is rich in beautiful marine life including colourful coral reefs where large aquatic animals such as whales, whale sharks, manta rays and sting rays can be sighted. Leopard sharks as well as schools of barracuda can also be sighted by lucky divers.

4. Lanta Islands National Marine Park boasts a large number of uninhabited islands considered great dive sites. Ko Ha, (Five Islands) are tiny islets located 25 km west of Ko Lanta Island. The channels that separate the islands are over 50 metres deep and the water is usually clear in season. The two southern most dive sites of Mu Ko Lanta are considered the best outside of the Similans: Hin Daeng (Red Rock) is a submerged boulder pinnacle where, looking at the bare rocks above water, you would have no idea that it is such a beautiful dive site below water. Healthy soft corals in various shades of red are all around here and one of the most impressive sights is that of a silver wall of trevally cruising past.

5. Phi Phi Islands There are a dozen or so sites around Ko Phi Phi and the best known are Ko Bida Nok – an island in the south of Phi Phi group, and Maya Corner – close to Maya Beach on Ko Phi Phi Leh – the beach made famous by the movie ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

6. Ja Bang Island of the Tarutao Islands in Satun province is one of the most beautiful dive spots where seven colours of coral can be seen. The underwater rock formations in this area are covered by pink, purple, blue, red soft corals, as well as anemones, feather stars, giant marine sponges that look like mortars as well as colourful reef fish including clown fish, parrotfish, and damselfish. The current through this deep channel is very strong so suitable only for experienced divers, and snorkellers should wear a life jacket and hold on to the rope on the side of the boat.

7. Racha Islands in Phuket province comprise Racha Yai and Racha Noi islands. Dive spots are located to the southeast of Racha Yai where hard coral reefs are found and inhabited by colourful feather stars. Dive spots on Racha Noi can be found on the north side of the island. This is where soft corals abound and serve as a habitat for schools of reef fish. Frogfish can also be sighted here.

8. Phuket The area to the east of Phuket and south of Krabi contains a number of dive sites. The best-known site between Phuket and Ko Phi Phi is Ko Dok Mai (Flower Rock); others close by include: King Cruiser Wreck, Anemone Reef, and Shark Point. Hin Moo Sung Nok (Anemone Reef) is known for its blanket of anemones and soft corals which cover underwater rocks, and Hin Moo Sung Nai (Shark Point), has pretty corals, Gorgonian sea fans, large sea sponges, nudibranchs, flat worms, lion fish and lots of butterfly fish.

9. Ko Tao-Ko Nang Yuan in Surat-Thani province is one of the most stunning dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. The many dive spots here include Nang Yuan Rock which is a popular night dive spot where small crabs and fish are found in great abundance. Giant sting rays can sometimes be found resting or sleeping on the sea floor. At the Gong Hin Khao rock formation you’ll find black coral, anemones, Gorgonian sea fans and colourful soft corals. Gong Chumphon is frequented by giant grouper, brown spotted cod, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a whale shark. Gong Sai Daeng is famous for colourful soft corals, sea fans, and sea sponges. With relatively shallow water, it is a good spot for novice divers. Ko Tao also has the largest community of diving schools in the country.

10. Ko Chang Islands in Trat province boast many interesting dive sites such as Ko Rang and Ko Yak. There is also a shipwreck dive site known as the as S.S. Suddhadib (Hardeep Shipwreck)—the steam freighter belonging to Siam Steam Navigation which sunk between Ko Rong Khon and Ko Juang. Here divers can enjoy exploring this sunken freighter and the huge diversity of marine life that now call it home, including nudibranchs, sea turtles, sting rays and schools of barracuda.

4. Biking

Cycling holidays are becoming extremely popular in Thailand with more people interested in staying healthy and using an alternative form of travel. Cycling has many benefits for both the cyclists and the environment. Quite often, travelling by bicycle will even help you to get to a desired location more easily than traveling by foot or by car. This is because many places do not allow cars, sometimes the thoroughfare is too narrow for cars, or it would simply take too long to get there on foot. Travelling by bicycle also gives you a more intimate experience than travelling by car, giving you more time to enjoy the surrounding scenery and to get to know the locals.

Interesting bicycle routesinclude:

1. Sam Praeng Community bicycle route, Bangkok:The name ‘Sam Praeng’ includes the communities of Phraeng Phuthon, Phraeng Nara and Phraeng Sapsaat, or the area between Xuantianshangdi Temple and the Ministry of Interior. This area got its name from the names of the
three princes whose palaces were located here. In Sam Praeng you’ll cycle along small interconnecting roads and pass by beautiful old buildings along the way. The area is also famous for the variety of delicious foods that can be found along the bicycle route. Bike route: Start from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration town hall and cut through Manannop Road towards Xuantianshangdi Temple. Turn left and cycle along Thanon Tanao Road. Then, turn into the alley on the right and cross over Khlong Lod Canal and keep going towards the Ministry of Interior. The route ends at Museum Siam. Distance: Approximately 3 km Interesting sights and attractions: The Chao Por Sua Shrine or Xuantianshangdi Temple houses the statues of Xuantianshangdi, Guan Yu, and Tubtim goddess. The streets of Sam Praeng are lined with examples of historical western architecture, buildings that exude timeless charm. The arched entrance on Praeng Sappasat is all that remains of the European-style entrance to Sappasatsuppakit Palace of Prince Sappasatsuppakit. Located in the Worawan Palace of Prince Narathipprapanpong, the Preeda Theatre in the Praeng Nara community was Thailand’s first opera theatre. What remains of the theatre is a two-story mortar and timber structure beautifully adorned with an intricate perforated wooden façade. Sukhumananamai on Praeng Phuthon was the second Red Cross office and Bangkok’s first public health centre. Museum Siam is a learning museum which focuses on the national identity of Thai people. The museum’s opening hours are TuesdaySunday from 10.00 am to 6 pm. Caution: The bicycle route passes through tight spaces in a crowded community. Caution should be exercised while cycling.

2. Bike route along the Chao Phraya River on the Thonburi side: The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has built a bike route that runs along the Chao Phraya River on its Thonburi side. The route will take cyclists through the Kudejeen community—an old community that has existed since the Thonburi era. The area was settled by Thais, Chinese and Portuguese after the Ayutthaya war, which is why it is a melting pot of people with diverse cultural heritage and beliefs, three different religions—Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, exist here, all living together in harmony.

Bike route: Starting from under the Memorial Bridge on the Thonburi side, cycle along the bank of the Chao Phraya River passing the Santa Cruz Church, Kuan Im Shrine and exiting onto Aroon Amarin road at Wat Kalayanamit Woramahavihan Temple. Then turn right towards Wat Arun. Distance: Approximately 2 km Interesting sights and attractions: Santa Cruz Church is a Roman-Catholic church built in the Thonburi era. The ornate detail of the interior and exterior of the structure were influenced by the Renaissance and Neoclassical periods. The Kuan Im Shrine was awarded the Best Award of Art and Architecture Preservation in the temple category by The Association of Siamese Architects under the Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King in 2011. Wat Kalayanamit Woramahavihan Temple was built during the reign of King Rama III. Similar to Wat Phanan Choeng Temple, it was built along the riverbank with a large Buddha statue of “Luang Por Toh” or “Sum Por Kong” housed in the chapel. Bang Luang Mosque or the White Kudee was constructed during the reign of King Rama I. The Thai-style mosque is the only one of its kind in the world. The area is also the location of Wat Arun, also known as Wat Chaeng. With the tallest pagoda in Thailand, the temple is a stunning sight to behold on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. Caution: This bicycle route is narrow and shared by pedestrians.

3. Ayutthaya World Heritage Bike Route: Due to the thriving culture which existed here for over the 417 years it was Thailand’s capital, Ayutthaya Historical Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ayutthaya Historical Park area is divided into 7 zones with over 200 ruins to visit.

1. Ayutthaya Historical Park, which contains the most important ruins including Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, and Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit

2. Ayutthaya Island (outside Ayutthaya Historical Park), where the Chankasem Palace is located

3. The east of Ayutthaya Island, where Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon are located

4. The west of Ayutthaya Island, where Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Wat Worachettharam are located

5. The northern part of Ayutthaya Island, where Wat Phukhao Thong and Wat Na Phra Men are located

6. The southern part of Ayutthaya Island, where Wat Phutthaisawan is located

7. Areas not mentioned above

Bike route: Starting from Bueng Phra Ram, cycle to Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana and take a detour back to Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. Cross the canal to Wat Lokayasutharam onto U-thong Road and travel along the river towards Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Then continue until the route ends at St. Joseph’s Church. Distance: approximately 9 km. Interesting sights and attractions: Wat Mahathat is where a famous Buddha relic is housed. Of particular interest is the head of a Buddha image, which a tree has grown up around, and Wat Ratchaburana, which was once the royal temple. The main feature at Wat Mongkhonbophit is the large bronze (gilded) Buddha image in the pose of subduing Mara, named Phra Mongkhon Bophit and housed in the vihara. Judging from the blend of U-thong and Sukhothai art, it is assumed to
have been built during the early Ayutthaya Era. Finally, located in the compound of the ancient palace is Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, which is a temple uninhabited by Buddhist monks. Wat Lokayasutharam is the temple which houses the largest reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya. Wat Chai Watthanaram is a temple was built during the reign of King Prasat Thong to commemorate a victory over the Khmers. This features an architectural style influenced by Angkor Wat in Cambodia. St. Joseph Church on the other hand, is a beautiful Catholic church constructed in the reign of King Narai the Great. It was originally built with wood and was later reconstructed in Romanesque style during the reign of King Rama V. Caution: This bicycle route is on the main roads shared by various types of vehicles. Caution should be exercised and always keep towards the side of the road at all times.

4. Sukhothai World Heritage Bike Route: Sukhothai is another symbol of Thailand’s former glory. The Sukhothai kingdom was Thailand’s first capital and was prosperous in many aspects such as politics and administration, education, and religion. Thai written characters were invented here and the first literary work “Traibhum Pra Rueng” was also written during this era. Evidence of flourishing religious beliefs can be seen in the large number of temples scattered around the old city area.

With over 200 ruins, Sukhothai Historical Park has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is divided into 5 zones:

1. Historical ruins at the city centre including Wat Mahathat, Wat Sri Sawai, Wat Sra Sri, Wat Trapang Ngern, and Wat Sorasak

2. Historical ruins situated outside the city wall on the north side including Wat Prapai Luang, and Wat Si Chum

3. Historical ruins situated outside the city wall on the east side including Wat Trapang Thonglang, Wat Chedi Soong, and Wat Changlom

4. Historical ruins situated outside the city wall on the south side including Wat Chetupon and Wat Chedi Si Hong

5. Historical ruins situated outside the city wall on the west side including Wat Saphan Hin

Bike route: Starting from Sukhothai Historical Park opposite the National Museum of Sukhothai, cyclists can ride around a cluster of historical ruins in the city centre. Then take the main road towards Wat Si Chum, Wat Phrapai Luang, before coming back to the starting point via Wat Sorasak.

Distance: Approximately 10 km Interesting sights and attractions: Wat Mahathat is by far the most important temple located in the heart of Sukhothai city and it is surrounded by a wall and moat. The principal lotus bud chedi, built in the original Sukhothai style, is flanked on its sides by mondops (porches) enshrining images of the standing Buddha. To the front is the Viharn Luang (grand hall) set behind Viharn Soong and Buddha images built in the Ayutthaya Era as well. Wat Si Sawai’s distinguishing features are the tree prangs (pagodas) built in the Lopburi architectural style with a Hindu influence. It is believed that the temple was first built as a Hindu religious structure and was later converted into a Buddhist temple. It is located in the middle of a large pond called Tra Phang Tra Kuan. The wat’s main chedi is shaped like a bell and built in the Sinhalese style. The highlight of Wat Si Chum is the large seated Buddha image that has been enshrined inside the remaining structure of the square mandala building which has no roof. There is a narrow passageway between the outer and inner walls that allows people to walk up to the Buddha image, hence the origin of the ‘talking Buddha statue’ story. Wat Phra Phai Luang is believed to date back to the pre-Sukhothai Era. The temple was likely constructed during the reign of the Khmer King Jayavarman VII. Three Khmer-style prangs testify to its origin, though only one of them is still intact at present. On the opposite side is located a mondop that is believed to have been built during the late Sukhothai Era.

Caution: This bicycle route is on the main roads. Caution should be exercised and always keep towards the side of the road at all times.

5. Amphawa Bike Route: Amphawa district sits on wetlands on a bank of the Mae Klong River, with the Amphawa Canal and other Mae Klong tributaries flowing through the communities. As many smaller canals also flow through the various communities, Amphawa has become a main water transportation. The local people have set up homes on the banks which also serve as means of irrigation for the farmers’ communities. Bike route: Starting from Amphawan Jetiyaram Temple, visit the Amphawa Chaipattananurak Conservation Project and go on to Atsana Wihan Mae Phra Bangkoet Church. Then cross the river to Wat Bang Kung and Wat Bang Kae Noi, located along the river. Finally, cross the bridge back to the starting point. Distance: Approximately 20 km Interesting sights and attractions: At the back of the Amphawan Jetiyaram Temple is the former residence of Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok (King Rama I) and birthplace of King Rama II. The chapel architecture is that of the early Rattanakosin era. The Amphawa Chaipatananurak Conservation Project is overseen by Chaipattana Foundation for the benefit of the local communities. The project also aims to promote local wisdom and preserve the way of life of the Amphawa people. Atsana Wihan Mae Phra Bangkoet Church—this French Gothic structure is decorated with spectacular stained glass windows. Wat Bang Kung Temple, with the chapel completely enclosed within the roots of a banyan tree, is one of the ‘Unseen Thailand’ attractions. Wat Bang Kae Noi
Temple’s chapel’s interior walls are made of beautifully-carved teak wood which tells stories of the Buddha’s life. And finally there is Amphawa Floating Market which is open only on the weekends and is a place where cyclists can see the way of life of the people of Amphawa as they ride their bicycle on highway number 4013. Caution: This bicycle route is on the main roads. Caution should be exercised and always keep towards the side of the road at all times.

6. Suan Phueng Natural Bike Route: A district in Ratchaburi province, Suan Phueng is an area lush in foliage, mountains and waterfalls. Most of the area is surrounded by mountain ranges lining the Thai-Myanmar border which give the area a temperate climate like in the north of Thailand. This small town has a romantic atmosphere in the mountains with misty trickling streams and green meadows. Bike route: Starting from Baan Hom Tien, turn left towards the district office. Then take another left turn before you get to the office, heading towards Suan Phueng Wittaya School. Go on rural road number 4019 and loop back onto highway 3087 towards Baan Hom Tien. Distance: Approximately 50 km Interesting sights and attractions: Baan Hom Tien is a handmade scented candle store, restaurant, and souvenir shop offering a wide variety of colourful scented candles. The building contains charming nooks where visitors can take photographs. The Tourist Information Centre ‘I Love Suan Phueng’ provides information on the entrepreneurs who founded the ‘I Love Suan Phueng’ group. Maepra Fatima Church is a Roman-Catholic church built in neo-gothic architectural style. There is also the hundred-year-old Phueng tree—the icon of the district. Trees of this kind are rarely seen nowadays. Panyasawan—a vineyard surrounded by the mountains—is open to visitors who are interested in learning about how grapes are grown and cultivated. Suan Phueng Orchid is a garden where visitors can enjoy the beauty of various orchids. They can take photographs and buy orchids for souvenirs. Veneto Floating Market imitates the romantic atmosphere of a town in Veneto region of Italy. The design of the whitewashed buildings with bright blue trim is a mix between Venice, Italy and Santorini, Greece. Finally, New Land is a place where fun activities can be enjoyed, whether it be a train ride into a flower field, feeding the lambs, or riding an ATV. Caution: This is quite a long route which includes a steep climb. Cyclists should make sure they are fit for the trip.

7. Pranburi-Sam Roi Yod Beach: Pranburi boasts beaches that are as beautiful as the more famous ones in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The beach here is quiet and perfect for relaxation. The three beaches in Pranburi are Pranburi Beach, Naresuan Beach, and Khao Kalok Beach. They are all connected seamlessly as if they were one single beach. The highlight of the three beaches is the privacy and tranquility they offer while various resorts offer their own unique styles of accommodation. Bicycle route: Start from Pranburi Beach next to the Pranburi Community, then ride along the beach passing Naresuan Beach, Khao Galok Beach and exit onto the outside road heading towards Sam Roi Yod Beach. Distance: Approximately 15 km Interesting sights and attractions: The 7-km long beach of Pranburi is a sandy stretch of pristine white sandy beach with an asphalt-paved road running alongside it. The atmosphere is one of peace and quiet, which is perfect for private relaxation. Naresuan Beach, situated next to Pranburi Beach, has a similar peaceful atmosphere. The sand here is light brown instead of sparkling white like in Hua Hin. The beach stretches to Khao Kalok Hill and Khao Kalok Beach. Further down Khao Kalok Hill is a cove where small fishing boats can take refuge from strong winds. A coastal road runs along the stretch of the beach. At Sam Roi Yod Beach visitors can rest under the shade of the pine trees lining the beach. At low tide, the beach stretches far out into the sea. It is a beach where the tourists and the locals share equally in the tranquil atmosphere. Caution: This bicycle route is on the main roads. Although the roads may not be very busy, caution should still be exercised and always keep towards the side of the road at all times.

8. Bang Krachao Biking Route: On the banks of Chao Phraya River is a 12,000 rai expanse of green space. An aerial view shows a ‘pig’s belly-shaped’ plot of land. Named ‘The Best Urban Oasis of Asia’ by Time Magazine in 2006 and also known as ‘the green lung’ of Bangkok, Bang Krachao has numerous cycling routes through Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and the Botanical Garden, and which will also take you by the Fighting Fish Museum, several temples, Bang Namphueng Market, and many more sites. The area is open to visitors year-round and bicycles can be rented at all piers. Let’s get to know different types of bicycles: Fat Bike With its oversized tyres, this all-terrain bicycle can be compared to a 4 wheel drive vehicle. It is suitable for riding on snow, sand, and mud. More air in the tyres makes them more flexible. The tyres of a fat bike can also sink deeper into the ground than other types of tyres. Mountain Bike Light weight with large, knobby tyres, a straight handle, suspension system and gearing of 18+ speeds, mountain bikes have been designed for off-road cycling without luggage. Road Bike Designed for traveling at speeds on paved roads, a road bike is therefore the fastest of bicycles. However, it is not at all suitable for off-road use due to its small and narrow spokes and tyres which means the tyres or frame may be damaged easily upon hitting an obstacle. City Bike Designed for rides through urban areas, city bikes come in all sorts of design—foldable, nonfoldable, vintage, or simply cute. This is a kind of bicycle that is convenient to take around. Some come with hub gear while others don’t. Touring Bicycle Touring bicycles are designed to handle long-distance touring. They have a robust frame and are usually equipped with luggage racks on the front, rear, and sides to carry camping gear. Touring bicycles traditionally use wide-ratio derailleur gears to help lessen the work of the cyclist. They are generally used on flat terrain or trails with few obstacles. For more information about cycling tour agencies, visit: http://bicyclethailand.com/tours/

5. Trekking Thailand is a land of diverse geography and there are a great number of sites which are suited to trekking and camping. But first, let’s get to know the differences between backpacking, hiking, camping and trekking. (Credit: Everest, November 2003 – MrBackpacker) Backpacking is a form of travelling with luggage or a backpack on your person and without the use of a vehicle for transportation. This form of travelling is totally different from travelling with a tour group. As for ‘hiking’ and ‘camping’, they are both associated with backpacking. If you go on a nature trail on a day trip, it is called hiking. But whether you hike, ride a bicycle, or row a canoe, and then spend the night somewhere—it’s camping. Trekking is usually used to describe a journey of several days for a long distance. We often hear people use this term when they travel a long distance in the forest such as trekking in Nepal. Hiking is a form of rigorous one-day walk in the countryside or the forest. If you spend the night it’s called ‘camping’, which may involve a campfire or not. Trekking is a form of traveling on foot in the mountains for a long distance and for many days; however, the characteristics of the route are not as rough as ‘mountain climbing’. Mountaineering or mountain climbing refers to a form of traveling that focuses on climbing a mountain or when the route takes you over mountain ridges or high mountains.

Interesting trekking & hiking trails in Thailand include:

1. Khaoyai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima: There are 6 hiking trails ranging in length from 1-5 hours on which you can immerse youself in nature in Khaoyai National Park.

1. Dong Tew-Mo Sing To: This 2-km trek takes you along a stream and through a rainforest. The highlight of the trek is the gigantic Sompong tree whose buttress roots are taller than a man’s height.

2. Dong Tew-Nong Phak Chee: This 4-km trek shares the first part of the Dong TewMo Sing To route through the rainforest lush in plant diversity but ends up at the Nong Pak Chi observation tower.

3. Pha Kluay Mai-Hew Suwat: This 3-km trail takes you along a stream abundant in a variety of mushrooms. You may even chance upon animals that reside on the river bank such as giant lizards or otters.

4. Km 33-Nong Phak Chee: This 2.5 km trail cuts through a dense rainforest with a large number of giant trees such as banyan trees, java plum, holy basil and vines.

5. Wang Jumpee-Nong Pak Chi route

6. Kong Kaew-Hew Suwat trail

5. Wang Jumpee-Nong Pak Chi route

Visitors who are interested in going on a hiking trail must ask permission from a park official in advance. The trails that require 1-3 nights camping include:

1. Khao Smor Poon is a limestone mountain 805 meters above sea level. The ridge comprises flat areas and sparse forests. The best time to go is between SeptemberNovember when wild flowers such as cockscomb, silver button weed, and Khao Kham grass can be seen along the way. The trail starts from National Park Ranger Office #12 (Neun Hom) and ascends along the cliffs, passing Lan Suriyan, Tung Promachan, Hin Dad waterfall, Bang-Ern waterfall, Hew E-um waterfall and finishes at National Park Ranger Office #10 (Prachantakham). The trail takes 4 days 3 nights to complete.

2. Klong Pla Gung-Wang Hew waterfall-dinosaur footprints-Kaeng Hin Peung: Starting from National Park Ranger Office #4 (Klong Pla Gung) and climbing up towards the ridge, you will encounter a spacious plain with a meadow dotted with wild flowers and orchids. Next on the trail is Wang Hew waterfall. Another 2 kilometers along the stream you will find very clear footprints of carnivorous dinosaurs imprinted on a boulder on the way out of the rainforest. Once you exit at Kaeng Hin Peung, you can embark on a 3-km white-water rafting trip down to National Park Ranger Office #9 (Sai Yai). The trail takes 4 days and 3 nights to complete. There are also day-trip trails and one-night excursions. The Nang Rong – Forestry Department Khaoyai Training Centre – Baan Klong Dua-Khao Laem – Hew Suwat – Pong Ta Long – Pha Dan Chang waterfall – Pha Mano Yak waterfall – Sai Khoo waterfall – Pha Kra Chai waterfall route covers 15 kilometers and takes 2 days and 1 night to complete. The trail that includes a group of waterfalls in Tambon Bu Fai, Amphor Prachantakam, Pracheen Buri province covers 20 kilometres. The Hew Krathin – Khao Sam Yod trail takes 3 days and 2 nights to complete

2. Doi Intanon National Park, Chiangmai: Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is located in Doi Intanon National Park, Amphur Chom Thong in Chiangmai province. It is considered one of the top tourist attractions for trekkers who wish to experience the natural beauty of Chiangmai. Having been developed as an ‘ecological educative nature trail’, the trail takes you through a lush rain forest as well as the deforested areas so as to raise awareness of the adverse effects of deforestation. The scenery of misty mountains makes the trail a perfect choice for those who want to be in the midst of nature. The Kew Mae Pan trail received the 4th Tourism Industry Award in the Eco-tourism category in 2003. The short, 3-kilometer nature trail takes trekkers around in a loop. The trail can be divided into 4 sections—the first being an evergreen forest full of mosses, ferns and Foi Lom lichen (Psilotum triquetrum Sw.). In the rainy season, the area is shrowded in white clouds of mist and is rather chilly. The trail then takes you to an expanse of grassland at the end of which you will find yourself in a field of wild flowers such as white Nad Khao (Pearly Everlasting), Som Pae (Vaccinium sprengelii), and various other yellow and purple-coloured wild flowers like violets and Bua Thong Intanon. Approaching the ridge you will see rare red rose trees that usually bloom during JanuaryMarch. The trail will then loop back to the evergreen forest again to enter the last section of the trail which takes you down towards Huay Mae Pan before going back into the National Park area again. For those interested in finding out more about the trail, please check out the Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail Facebook page. Another interesting trekking trail is Ang Ka Nature Trail where trekkers can walk over a 360metre wooden bridge which takes a bit under 30 minutes. The highlight of this trail is the yearround cold weather due to its being 2,500 meters above sea level. In some areas trekkers will enter a warm evergreen forest while other areas will be wetlands and swamp forests where various rare plants thrive in abundance. The grounds are covered in a blanket of thick moss giving the area the atmosphere of a prehistoric forest. Doi Intanon National Park in Chiangmai province covers different forest terrains rising 3002,565 meters above sea level. Bird watching is an activity that can be enjoyed all year round on Doi Intanon mountain, but the best time is between November and May. Up to 384 bird species have been recorded and among them are Long-tailed Minivet, Purple Cochoa, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Blackheaded Sibia, Green-tailed Sunbird, Chestnut-tailed Minla, and Yellow-bellied Fantail. Bird watching spots start from kilometre 10 up to the Tourist Information Centre located at the summit. Interesting spots include kilometre 38 checkpoint, Jeep Track leading to Amphur Mae Jaem and Kew Mae Pan. For more information, visit the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand website at: www.bcst.or.th

3. Phu Toei National Park, Suphan Buri: The recommended trail here is the Phu Toei National Park Nature Trail which goes down to the Tapoen Khi Yai waterfall. Then you can walk along a 4-5 kilometer-trail through the forest heading towards National Park Ranger Unit 3. The 3-4 hour trek will take you to a camp site where you can set up a tent and enjoy a starry night. At 4 am the next morning trekkers can set off on an uphill trek towards the Khao Thevada (Angel Mountain) peak which is the highest in Suphan Buri province to see a spectacular sunrise. Generally, visitors spend 2 days and 1 night on this trail. The best time to visit is around the end of the rainy season or beginning of winter which is during September and December

4. Nam Nao National Park, Phetchabun: This park is located in Lom Sak, Lom Kao, and Nam Nao districts of Petchabun province and the Khon San district of Chaiyaphum province. Situated on the border between the Northeastern and Northern regions, it is one of the most beautiful national parks covering mountainous terrain with lush pristine forests that serve as watershed area. The park is rich in spectacular scenery and a number of nature trails have been mapped out for visitors to enjoy trekking. For safety reasons, before setting off on any trekking expedition, visitors are required to inform the National Park staff.

The three recommended trails are: Trail #1 is approximately 5km long. Starting from the junction near the National Park Headquarters, visitors will get to take in the beautiful scenery of nature along the way and may even chance upon rare animal species. In the rainy season, wild elephant trails are often found. The trail loops back out to the entrance of the National Park Headquarters.
Trail #2 starts from the walkway opposite the National Park Headquarters, passes along a deciduous forest, and then a saltlick where elephants, deer and other animals gather. The trail cuts through the heart of the park and at the end you will reach a pine forest. Upon reaching Phu Khum Kao hill you will see a 360 degree expanse of pine trees at eye level. The trail ends at National Park Ranger Unit 4 (Sum Bon), totaling a distance of 8 kilometres. Trail #3 starts at a spot 800 metres away from the National Park Headquarters which is the entrance to the pine forests or “Pa Paek” in the northern dialect. Apart from the pine trees, you can also see wild elephants, deer, barking deer, and sometimes even tiger footprints. There are also three other long-distance trekking routes, namely, Phu Pha Jit, which is 15 kilometres both ways, Huay Pralard (15 kilometres both ways), and Pa Pha Lom-Pha Klong (7 kilometres).

5. Kui Buri National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan: This national park is located in an area that spans three districts of Prachuap Khiri Khan province, namely, the Muang district, Pranburi district and Sam Roi Yod district, which are watershed areas full of valuable and beautiful natural resources. Most of the area is mountainous terrain which allows for various nature trails of a distance between 800 meters to 3,000 metres. The trails are relatively flat.

6. Phu Soi Dao National Park, Uttaradit: This national park covers areas in the Chart Trakarn district of Phitsanulok and Nam Pad district of Utaradit province. The park runs along a high mountain ridge on the border of Thailand and Laos. The most interesting nature trail here is “Lan Son Sam Bai Phu Soi Dao”, which goes through a natural forest and covers an expanse of 1,000 rai (approx. 400 acres) of a plateau on Phu Soi Dao mountain. To get to “Lan Son Sam Bai Phu Soi Dao”, visitors must trek on foot from Phu Soi Dao waterfall along highway 1268 from the starting point, up toward Phu Soi Dao peak. The entire route is approximately 6.5km long and takes between 4-6 hours to complete. Along the way trekkers will see a spectacularly lush green forest. The peak of Phu Soi Dao is 2,102 meters above sea level, which ranks 4th highest in Thailand. The best time to visit is during the rainy season from August to September.

6. Phu Soi Dao National Park, Uttaradit: This national park covers areas in the Chart Trakarn district of Phitsanulok and Nam Pad district of Utaradit province. The park runs along a high mountain ridge on the border of Thailand and Laos. The most interesting nature trail here is “Lan Son Sam Bai Phu Soi Dao”, which goes through a natural forest and covers an expanse of 1,000 rai (approx. 400 acres) of a plateau on Phu Soi Dao mountain. To get to “Lan Son Sam Bai Phu Soi Dao”, visitors must trek on foot from Phu Soi Dao waterfall along highway 1268 from the starting point, up toward Phu Soi Dao peak. The entire route is approximately 6.5km long and takes between 4-6 hours to complete. Along the way trekkers will see a spectacularly lush green forest. The peak of Phu Soi Dao is 2,102 meters above sea level, which ranks 4th highest in Thailand. The best time to visit is during the rainy season from August to September.

In the middle of a meadow grows a wide variety of wild flowers such as Ngon Nak (purple), Soi Suwanna (yellow) and Ya Rak Hom (purple). In winter the temperature can go as low as 1-5 degrees Celsius. There is also the “Sai Thip” waterfall—a small waterfall of about 5-10m high consisting of 7 tiers with water flowing all year round. The surrounding forest is very humid so there is a lot of moss growing over the rocks by the stream, making the scenery all the more beautiful.

7. Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary, Loei: This wildlife sanctuary is located in the Loei Wang Sai district of Phu Kradueng in Loei province. The most distinguishing features one can find on trekking trails on Phu Luang mountain include a mixed forest, dry rainforest, mountain rain forest and most significantly, the Merkus pine and Khasiya pine forests and grassland along the plain and at the foothills, as well as the interesting rock formations. The nature trails on Phu Luang are connected, starting from “Loan Mon” which is the tourist rest area, through the rain forest, Pa Son Sam Bai stream, and a meadow of wild flowers. After 2.3 kilometres you will get to “Loan Sao Yaeng King” which leads to “Loan Hin Aew Khan” which is about 2 kilometres away. The 1.5 kilometer trek through a meadow of various wild flowers takes you to “Loan Dae”. This is where white roses and wild orchids are found. Nearby, there is a view point where visitors can enjoy the view of Phu Hor, Phu Kradeung, Phu Yong Phu, and Phu Kwang.

8. Doi Phu Kha National Park, Nan: This national park received the top award from the 4th Thailand Tourism Industry Awards in the Natural Attraction category for the North in 2008. The park spans 8 districts in Nan province, namely, Chalermprakiat district, Wang Pha, Pua, Chiang Klang, Tung Chang, Bo Klua, Santisuk and Jarim districts. There are 2 main interesting nature trails in Chompu Kha. Trail #1: Chompu Phu Kha nature trail offers two options which are a 4-kilometre trail which takes about 3 hours to complete, and a shorter route of 2 kilometres which takes about 1.30 hours to complete. Along the way visitors will see rare and indigenous plants including herbal plants. Route #2 is a 7-kilometre trail through a prehistoric forest (Doi Dong Ya Whai) which is about 5 kilometres long. It is famous as a bird watching spot as it is the only place in Thailand where the beautiful nuthatch (Nok Tai Mai Si Suay) can be sighted. It is also where visitors can see a variety of butterfly species.

9. Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, Phitsanulok: Located in Tumbon Bo Pho in the Muang district of Phitsanulok province, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park is a great expanse of forest covering three provinces: Loei, Phetchabun, and Phitsanulok. In the past, the area was a battlefield, and evidence of that can still be seen today. The park landscape is generally dominated by mountainous terrain covered with three types of forests, namely, the dry dipterocarp forest, hill evergreen forest, and pine forest. The nature trails at Phu Hin Rong Kla are blessed with both natural beauty and historical significance.

The trekking trail here takes visitors in a loop. In the rainy season, visitors will see along the way beautiful wild flowers including white roses that bloom in March and April. The route then takes the visitors to Lan Him Pum and Lan Hin Taek to see the strange beauty of the rock formations which geology fans would find particularly intriguing. Finally, the trail leads visitors to Mun Daeng waterfall where the trail ends. This trek through the rain forest can be done in a day and visitors will get to enjoy a diversity of natural beauty.

10. Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, Phetchabun: This is Thailand’s only Savannah grassland terrain with a widely-spaced forest of merkus pine. It is located in Tambon Nong Mae Na, Amphur Khao Ko in Phetchabun province. The area has many interesting nature trails such as:
1. A nature trail to study and wild animals on which you can see a mixed forest with various wild animals which come out to search for food. You will also get to see rare wild flowers.
2. Nang Phaya Trail, located on the west side of the National Park Ranger Unit at Nong Mae Na, is about 14 kilometers long. The trail goes through grassland surrounded by a merkus pine forest interrupted by a dry evergreen forest and deciduous forest. Trekkers can also enjoy wild orchids which grow on the pine trees such as Aung Chanee (Dendrobium senile) and Aung Kham Pak Kai (Dendrobium trigonopus), which bloom during the summer months.
3. Kaeng Wang Nam Yen Trail is about 7 kilometres from the National Park Ranger Unit at Nong Mae Na. The trail is located in the same area of Tung Non Son but is 500 metres deeper. Along the way you will notice a gradual change from grassland into pine forest and mixed forest. Visitors can also enjoy the beauty of Kaeng Wang Nam Yen, large rapids which are several hundred metres in length. This is also where fresh water jellyfish and rare butterflies such as Blackand-Gold Birdwing butterflies and Non Keub Sabai Daeng butterflies—as well as a wide variety of birds—can be found.

For more information about nature trails and national park reserves, visit: http://www.dnp.go.th/parkreserve/nature.asp?lg=2 https://www.thainationalparks.com/

6. Muay Thai Muay Thai is Thailand’s native martial art and is unique in its combat techniques requiring skill in both body and mind. Eight body parts are used in the combat, namely the two hands, two feet, two elbows, and two knees. (Some Muay Thai schools will also include the use of the head or bottom as well.)

On top of its being an art of self-defence, Muay Thai is also a very popular exercise due to its ability to induce rapid weight loss as all muscles in the body are required in the exercise. Sparring also stimulates the heart to work more efficiently, and it burns nine times more calories than jogging or cycling. At present, there are a total of 1,762 Muay Thai camps across the country, 443 of which are standardised and able to cater to tour groups. 75 of these Muay Thai camps are located in the central region, 116 camps are in the north, 147 in the northeast and 115 in the south. As for the number of Muay Thai camps overseas, results from surveys conducted by the Thai Consulates and the Royal Thai embassies have found that there are a total of 3,869 Muay Thai camps in 36 countries worldwide. The five countries with the highest number of Muay Thai schools are Brazil (1,631 schools), Iran (650 schools), India (256 schools), Morocco (220 schools) and the United States (190 schools in California, Nevada, and Illinois alone). (Source: TAT Review 4th Quarter, Oct 4-Dec. 2013).

Examples of boxing camps that train foreign visitors include:

1. Fairtex Camp: Located in Chonburi, this is Thailand’s first sport hotel and also a brand that sells all kinds of boxing-related products. Visit their website at http://fairtex.com/

2. Sor Vorapin Gyms: There are two branches or Sor Vorapin Gyms: Taling Chan branch (Soi Suan Phak) and Banglumpoo branch (Khaosan road). These two gyms offer top quality Muay Thai courses to the general public and classes are conducted by former Muay Thai champions and renowned Muay Thai boxers who will instruct you in the art of Muay Thai. http://thaiboxings.com/text_topic.html

3. Fit Fac: The only place in Thailand with sports scientists on hand to design exercise routines to go along with the boxing. These exercises will help build muscles and prevent injuries. Their sports scientists will also give advice regarding proper diet and relaxation. www.fitfacmuaythai.com

4. TUFF Camp: A Muay Thai camp with an international design, located on the 6th floor of a building at the heart of Bangkok. www.tuffcamp.in.th Apart from learning the art of Muay Thai, visitors can also buy tickets to enjoy watching professional matches at various stadiums such as: – Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium, Rama IV road, Bangkok – Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, Ramindra, Bangkok www.muaythailumpinee.net – Bangla Boxing Stadium, Patong, Phuket www.banglaboxingstadiumpatong.com Visit www.muaythai2000.com for more information about boxing camps, boxing stadiums and boxing matches in Thailand.

7. Homestay Another type of travel that allows tourists to immerse themselves in the Thai culture and traditions of each region is homestay travel. The Thai Homestay Standard is used to evaluate homestays in 10 aspects based on the requirements established by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ declaration of Thai Homestay Standard B.E. 2554. The 10 areas that are evaluated include accommodation, food, safety, host’s hospitality, itinerary, natural resources and environment, culture, adding value to community products, services provided by the homestay group, and public relations. Moreover, that home itself must meet the government requirements for being a homestay.

Find homestays that are up to the Thai Homestay Standard at www.homestaythai.net

Find out more about Community-Based Tourism in Thailand activities and services at www.cbt-i.org