Luxury Vacations: Imagine being greeted with a broad smile, hands joined in a symbolic lotus gesture and a gentle nod at every turn. Welcome to Thailand! (To see the Best of Burma click here!)
This profoundly warm welcome is matched by the dazzling array of sights, sounds, tastes, experiences and accommodations on offer in this kingdom of delights.
1) Go to Cheng Mai. Start your journey in northern Thailand and allow Cheng Mai and its environs to introduce you to a country of contrasts.The sprawl of a vibrant urban center that is Cheng Mai surrounds the beauty and calm of the preserved walled fortress, which delineates the old city.
The intrigue, influence and mystery of the nearby but remote Hill Tribes of the YAO and AKHA vies for attention with the history of the opium trade through the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet on the scenic Mekong River.
Delight in your encounters with the elephants, once beasts of burden, now beloved and cared for at the Elephants Conservation Center in Lamphang Province, so that you may ride and observe them entertaining you with a talent for drawing and dancing.
2) Visit Thailand's Southern Islands Around Koh Chang
The beach beckons in Thailand's 52 Islands, rimmed in white sand, surrounded by warm waters awaiting discovery.
Just a brief flight or a drive and ferry away from the Thai mainland, these islands offer serenity and nature, as well as captivating village life to explore.
Visit the large island of Koh Chang, and then island hop by speedboat to the neighboring islands of Koh Wai, Koh Mak, Koh Kood, each with their own character.
Finally continue to Baan Salak Khok Community, a quiet, self supporting fishing village built on the bay and famous for boat rides around the mangrove forests.
3) Visit Pattaya
From Thailand's Southern Islands wind your way north towards Bangkok and spend a few sunkissed days in Pattaya. Pattaya has beach and resort amenities, as well as much nighlife.
Pull yourself away from the charms of the town to visit the Sirachi Tiger Zoo. World renown, enjoy upclose and personal encounters with these giant creatures!
4) Visit Bangkok
Wrap up your trip by going to Bangkok. Not to be missed is a tour of the resplendent Royal Palace Compound where an Emerald Buddha is displayed.
Ply down the Chao Praya River and view the Floating Markets and river side houses. As you make your way to the Amita Thai Cooking School, owner and chef Tam will instill you with culinary confidence, as you watch and then prepare your own four course meal in her riverside open air kitchen.
End your stay in the Bangkok area with the Aksra Theater with the magic of rod puppets-deftly handled by skilled artists. These artists bring the puppets to life in a superbly staged performance that will leave a lasting memory of your enchanting trip to Thailand.
5) What to Eat: Taste Every Variety of Thai Food
The variety and complexity of flavors, ingredients and spicing of Thai food offers something for every palate--- from simple peasant fare to sophisticated gourmet cuisine. It is virtually impossible to go wrong in choosing either a restaurant or the seductive street fare.
Although you may probably already have your favorite Thai dishes, you'll find subtle differences in each rendition, based on where you are, and the influences of the region. You will of course, find specialties of the area you visit as well.
The cuisine of the north of Thailand is influenced by Laos, Myanmar and China. You will find the mildest spiced dishes here, including an exquisitely aromatic sweet chicken and egg noodle curry dishes garnished with crispy noodles called khao soi that originated in Myanmar.
The cuisine of the south of Thailand is influenced by Malaysia and Indonesia and is notable for some of the most fiery dishes found in Thailand.
Centrally located, Bangkok is influenced by the cuisine of the Royal Thai Kitchens from which come some of the most famous international favorites like tom yum goog (hot and sour shrimp soup) as well as green curry, stir fried and noodle dishes.
Most Thai meals consist of many dishes placed in the middle of the table at the same time. These dishes are meant to be shared by all. A large mound of jasmine rice is served on each plate with a small portion of the dishes placed around the rice.
Thais eat with a fork and spoon, using the fork to push food onto the spoon. Chopsticks are only used for Chinese and noodle dishes. Fresh fruit is usually served at the end of the meal, but be sure to try the wildly popular sweet mango with sticky rice and coconut cream.
Depending on how adventuresome your palate, you can taste some unusual items, usually found in the night markets. This adventure eating will broaden your repertoire and expose you to such deliacies as grilled silk worms, whole roasted frogs the like.
The best way to immerse yourself in the food is to attend one of the many cooking schools for an afternoon or evening hands-on experience with Thai cuisine.
Each island is unique with a great diversity of activities, accommodations and cuisine which offers options for the jet- setter to the backpacker, for couples and families alike.
U Chiang Mai Hotel - Chiang Mai
The U Chiang Mai Hotel is a deluxe five- star hotel in Chiang Mai, the largest and most culturally important city in the north of Thailand. This hotel offers 41 luxurious rooms with all the expected amenities.
Guests are welcomed in the Resident's Lounge located in the restored former residence of Chiang Mai's governor. The rich heritage of the Resident's Lounge is enhanced with modern Thai decor. The hotel offers guests the use of a gym, spa and swimming pool.
The hotel is only a few minutes away from the city's famous walking streets such as the well-known shopping area of Tha Phae Road. Many major temples are within walking distance of the hotel such as Wat Chedi Luang, a must-see for visitors to Chiang Mai and Wat Phra Sing, famous for its fine examples of Lanna art.
The U Chiang Mai Hotel provides the ideal base for guests wanting to enjoy diverse activities such as hill-tribe tourism and trekking, the Elephant Nature Park and Thai cooking courses at many of the city's schools.
Anantara Golden Triangle Resort and Spa
"Anantara" is Sanskrit word which means "without end." The word evokes the freedom, movement and harmony that are the spirit of the "Anantara Experience".
Each Anantara Resort draws its strength from the rich cultural traditions, historic heritage and natural beauty of its destination. As such, every experience is a unique voyage of discovery and inspiration that is distinctly Anantara.The Anantara in Thailand's far northern Golden Triangle region, with the unique and world-renowned Anantara Elephant Camp Experience brings a unique brand of laid-back luxury, intuitive service and sense of discovery.
Amari Emerald Cove at Koh Chang
This five-star Koh Chang resort set on secluded Klong Prao Beach offers 165 rooms and suites, all with views of either the sea to the west or the jungle-covered hills to the east. While the soothing modern Thai interiors of the rooms and suites tempt you to relax inside, Koh Chang adventures await just outside your door.
Start your day with a refreshing swim in the stunning 50-metre beachfront pool before breakfast. Experience the healing touch of Thai massage in an open-air sala at Sivara Spa. Kayak among green islets and steep cliffs along Koh Chang's stunning coastline. Sample the best of traditional Italian cooking or surprise your taste buds with exotic Thai flavors.
Six Senses Resort and Spa - Soneva-Kiri -Koh Kood
Remote but accessible aptly describes the Thai island of Kood, on which the Six Senses Resort and Spa -Soneva Kiri is set amidst lush tropical rain forest, off the southeast coast of the Gulf of Siam. International guests are personally met on arrival at Bangkok's airport and transferred to the resort's own airplane for the one-hour flight to the Soneva Kiri airfield. From the air the beauty of untouched Thailand and Koh Kood, with its white sandy beaches is immediately evident.
Upon stepping ashore an electric buggy arrives, a testament to environmental responsiveness and intelligent luxury of the resort.The buggy is a private discovery vehicle during the duration guest's stay.There is also a self-sustaining Eco Villa for those wishing to be on the cutting edge of innovation.
Orchid Ocean Tower Hotel and Resort - Pattaya
Just a relaxing stroll to the beach, the Ocean Tower soars 20 stories into the sky, offering contemporary rooms and suites with stunning views of glittering Pattaya Bay. The Ocean Tower envelops you in a picturesque oceanfront panorama with 297 spacious guest rooms.
For relaxation, soak in this scenic tropical panorama and unwind on a shaded beach lounge, or experience bliss at the Sivara Spa.
By Diane Sukiennik & Michael Reiss
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