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Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two)

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Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two) | The Thaiger
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And now the Top 5…

5. Surin islands

Those who are seeking a peaceful and relaxing holiday experience will be left amazed by what Surin islands have to offer. Famously known as a destination that promises peace and tranquility, Surin islands are relatively secluded and have little to no human interference, leaving it unspoiled. Most tourists who visit the Surin islands often do so to learn more about the Moken community or simply known as the Moken sea gypsies. It is not surprising to find that the Moken Village is a top destination to be considered when visiting the Surin islands. One can experience the most natural way of survival, such as learning a thing or two from the sea gypsies in primitive living and fishing.

Surin islands are open for visitors from October 15th to May 15th, but the high season is between December and April, where the conditions are the best for diving and snorkeling with calm and stable waters. An abundance of marine life when diving and snorkeling here around Surin islands with angelfish, butterflyfish, and sea turtles commonly sighted when carrying out the sports. Whale sharks around Koh Surin Nuea will amaze those curious tourists. Snorkeling is a favorite sport on Koh Surin Nuea and Koh Surin Tai, where the best coral reefs are while diving around Richelieu Rock often comes with the sightings of the manta rays, sea turtles and whale sharks.

Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two) | News by The Thaiger

4. Similan islands

An expedition to Similan islands is usually on the list of most diving and snorkeling lovers, where it is a paradise on earth for both nature and sea lovers alike. The waters that surround Similan islands are shallow and stable, making it an ideal environment for beginners to practice their skill in diving. Koh Bangu, Koh Bon and Koh Tachai are the islands that often come to mind when finding an island to practice diving while Koh Ha and Koh Payu are frequently explored by those who are into the sport of snorkeling. The beauty of snorkeling here on the Similan islands is that one does not need to go too deep in order to have a magnificent view underwater.

Tourists can visit the Similan islands from November to May 15. Still, it is worth mentioning that December to February is where many visitors visit due to the high season for island hopping. Nevertheless, one should visit between November and May to enjoy the best weather condition. Pictures are a must when exploring Donald Duck and Sail Rock while diving and snorkeling are sure to please the avid explorers.

The shallow waters of both Honeymoon Bay and Princess Bay make for great snorkeling where the underwater scenery is beautiful beyond imagination. Diving around Christmas Rock and Turtle Rock with majestic arches and canyons, not to mention the vibrant marine life that one can experience on Koh Ha. A unique experience when exploring Koh Payu often comes with the sightings of the colorful manta rays, while one will be surprised by the mountain land crabs when visiting the secluded Koh Bon.

Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two) | News by The Thaiger

3. Koh Racha

Racha islands, a perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful escapade from their busy lifestyle. Racha Noi and Racha Yai are what make up the famous Racha islands, where each offers its charm and beauty. Those who are into a great holiday experience need to give Racha islands a try as one can only be left amazed by the soft and powdery white sand, beautiful bays, and the mystifying wrecks. Racha Noi is wild and rugged, suitable for the more adventurous ones especially those who are seeking a pleasurable diving experience.

The beautiful and colourful marine life underwater makes for an exciting fishing experience too. Racha Yai, on the other hand, is more known for its pretty and stunning sandy bays, including Ao Patok, Siam Bay, Thu Bay, Ao Lan, and Ao Khon Khae which deserve a space on your Instagram.

Perfect as a day trip for those holidaying in Phuket, travellers visit Racha islands from November to May as the water is said to be most stable and calm, and visibility is the highest. These serve as great news for the avid divers and snorkelers as they are then able to explore the beauty of the underwater world around the Racha islands. The healthy coral reefs are a part of the great diving and snorkeling experience, while those who simply want to relax on the beach can do so on the soft white sand, which is a sight to behold. Diving is made more exciting for those seeking a more active experience with the five known wrecks, not to mention the fantastic reef-building cubes and possibly the best staghorn reefs in the area. Giant manta rays often come and greet divers as one enjoys the incredible underwater topography.

Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two) | News by The Thaiger

2. Koh Phi Phi

It is an undeniable fact that the Phi Phi Islands often come to mind when discussing the best destination to explore in Thailand, as seen by its beautiful sceneries and enjoyable underwater experience. A perfect destination with majestic limestone cliffs and secret lagoons waiting for you to discover, one can only expect the ideal island holiday here on Phi Phi islands.

Nature lovers will be left enchanted by the beautiful underwater world of the Andaman Sea with high visibility, ideal for an excellent diving and snorkeling experience with the accompaniment of various marine life. The adventurous explorers can embark on a journey to conquer the Tonsai Tower on Phi Phi Don to enjoy the panoramic view that awaits.

Ideal for those seeking for a summer holiday, the weather is generally stable and pleasant on Phi Phi islands, especially between November and May. Still, it is ideal for visiting the islands from January to March as the weather condition is said to be the best. Specially catered to those into diving and snorkelling, various locations around the islands are paradise.

Whether it is swimming or snorkeling in the waters around Maya Bay or be entranced with the green shade of water and majestic limestone cliffs around Pileh Lagoon, one can never be satisfied enough with the beauty of Phi Phi islands. What better way to get closer to nature than to swim with the colorful fishes on Loh Samah and encountering seahorses and turtles as you make your way through the rocks of Nui Bay. Even the interesting long-tailed macaques are a sight to behold. The reefs between Phi Phi Don and Mosquito Island make for memorable diving while those who wish to go on a historical expedition can explore the King Cruiser and the Viking Cave.

Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two) | News by The Thaiger

And the Number Thai island… Phuket

Phuket is often on every traveller’s bucket list when considering a destination for an enjoyable holiday. Due to the boom in the tourism industry, Phuket is a well-developed destination to cater to the needs of both locals and tourists alike. Despite being a tourist attraction with many facilities for the convenience of the tourists, one can still experience natural beauty when traveling to Phuket, as seen by its long stretch of beautiful beaches and remains the most popular launch place for trips to hundreds of offshore destinations and islands around Phuket.

The island is also strategically located with close access to other famed destinations of the Andaman Sea, where many tourists opt to go on day trips to nearby Koh Phi Phi, Similan Islands, and Koh Racha. Tourists are spoiled for choice when it comes to activities in Phuket with pleasurable activities such as shopping and enjoying local cuisine and culture along with the beaches that offer not only relaxation but parties as well.

Those who are into eco-adventures will benefit from traveling to Phuket as various activities allow tourists to get closer to nature, such as trekking, exploring hidden waterfalls, and the famous elephant sanctuaries that one should not miss. The best period to travel to Phuket is between October and early May, where one can experience many fun and exciting activities on the beautiful beaches of Phuket and even other outdoor activities under the bright sun. It is worth mentioning that April is when many tourists visit Phuket for the Songkran festival, but other than that, the overall atmosphere is more of a pleasant and relaxing one.

Top 10 islands to visit in Thailand (Part Two) | News by The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand threw a tourism party. No one arrived.

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Thailand threw a tourism party. No one arrived. | The Thaiger

OPINION

The Thai Government, flushed with the success of their containment of Covid-19, decided to market the Land of Smiles to the world as the safe place to travel. With the annual wet season starting to weaken the tourists would flock back to the S E Asian country that had such remarkable success containing, then almost eradicating, itself of the coronavirus.

They floated the Phuket Model – a chance to visit Phuket and do your mandatory quarantine in a luxury hotel with walks along the almost deserted beaches. But Phuket’s locals didn’t like that idea. It was floated again just before the annual Vegetarian Festival on the island, because piercing yourself with sharp objects and wandering around the streets in big groups isn’t dangerous, but a few foreign tourists in hotel quarantine is.

Then they came up with the STV – the tourist visa which would have the world’s eager travellers packing their sun cream for up to 270 days of Thai tourism.

There were promises of plane loads of tourists and even published flights and carriers. A few flights arrived, most didn’t.

In fact, since the start of the STV, the Special Tourist Visa, with its long list of restrictions and requirements, was floated, along with a re-vamped Tourist Visa, less than 400 people have arrived per month, on average, since the end of October. In the October and November of the year before more than 3 million people arrived in Thailand. Even the government’s limit of 1,200 new tourist arrivals per month was even slightly tested.

The government had bought all the streamers and a pretty new dress for the party but no one came.

For the Army generals and public servants who ran the country it was a devastating loss of face. But they had other things to worry about at the time as the Thai youth were revolting, literally. Anti-government protests, whilst modest in size, were inconveniently demanding democracy at the same time as the government was trying to figure out how to attract tourists. They were also targeting, for the first time, the country’s revered monarchy and the man who currently sits on the Thai throne.

Suddently it was high season, the annual onslaught of tourists from the end of November, but popular spots like Phuket, Samui, Krabi, all the other islands, even Chiang Mai, just remained mostly devoid of tourists.

Meanwhile the STV wallowed in its own failure – another failed response to the reboot of Thai tourism.

What went wrong?

Where was the much-anticipated pent-up demand and people banging on the doors of the world’s Thai embassies?

It was the European winter and the ‘snowbirds’ would surely be back to soak in some Thai sun rays. But no.

The first problem was there wasn’t much for them to come back to. They would have the beaches of the islands all to themselves, they wouldn’t have to wait in line for anything, the domestic airlines were still selling low fares to travel anywhere around the country.

But otherwise there wasn’t a lot for them to do. The tourism magnets were a shadow of their former selves. Walking Street, Bangla Road, tours and tour boats, all the tourist-strip restaurants. The buzz of the crowds was gone and more than 90% of the tourist-related business had closed up.

Their staff, their families, their bank loans, their stock and investments – all on hold and forced to find some other means to make ends meet. 931 of some of the larger official tourism operators have now gone out of business, according to Bloomberg News. There would be thousands more of the smaller family operations that have also been swept aside by the Thai government’s responses to the world pandemic.

The industry players wanted action, changes and some sort of stimulus to bring back the tourists. For a country that relied on up to 20% for its GDP, getting the tourists and travellers back was THE only thing on their mind. 2019’s tourism revenue of US$60 billion had vanished from their, and their employee’s, pockets.

But the government wouldn’t relax the quarantine rules and maintained the restrictions and paperwork that has turned off even the keenest Thai-ravellers.

An outbreak of clusters to the south of Bangkok and the nearby eastern coastal provinces since December 20 hasn’t helped. In less than a month Thailand’s number of Covid-19 infections more than doubled. Initially the latest outbreak was tracked down to the illegal import of Burmese migrant workers by greedy seafood businesses wanting cheap labour. Then it spread to eastern provinces – Rayong, Chan Buri, Trat and Chanthaburi – through illegal gambling dens. In both cases the practices were things the local officials turned a blind eye to. The use of cheap, illegal migrant labour and illegal gambling were both popular pursuits but ‘underground’. It was a rude awakening for Thai officials that, this time, the enemy was within.

Street after street in Pattaya is deserted, shops shuttered. Parts of Phuket’s Patong are a ghost town. The island’s ubiquitous tuk tuks, taxis and tourist vans have vanished (where?!). Most of Bangkok is ‘sort of’ back to normal but there are few tourists topping up the retail till or booking rooms in the tens of thousands of hotels. Average occupancy rates, even for the brave hotels that have re-opened their doors, has been less than 30% – bottomline, they’re losing money.

On the upside, if you are living in Thailand, the plane fares remain cheap, hotels have slashed their prices and, for the first time, many renters will consider a discount. The Thai government has been active in stimulating the domestic tourism but apart from circulating the local currency, the country’s tourism industry remains on-hold until the pandemic passes. And that, as we’ve seen, won’t be any time soon.

The world’s travellers, now a much smaller groups than the masses that fuelled the world’s aviation industry in the past few decades, are not heading to Thailand to front up to a 14 day quarantine. They’re going to the Maldives and Costa Rica, and a handful of other resorts who have thrown caution to the wind – some with greater success than others. Just about every survey indicates that tourists, even business travellers, are not willing to stare down 14 days couped up in a 20-30 square metre hotel room. For many of the hotels that rushed to be registered as ASQ (Alternative State Quarantine) facilities, many have dropped out, some of them are now closed.

The stakes are now really high for Thailand and its tourism industry. The government, despite demands, is refusing to reduce the quarantine time or lessen the long list of restrictions and paperwork. The country has now lost it’s glossy veneer as the ‘safe country to visit’ and the annual high season will be coming to a close in a month or so.

Chinese New Year and the annual flood of Chinese visitors to Thailand? Won’t be happening in 2021, the Chinese year of the Ox.

The other ‘elephant in the room’ was the high value of the Thai baht against the currencies of some of the traditional feeder markets. Whilst the Thai baht has been relatively steadfast, many of these currencies have dropped in value against the THB. The perception was that Thailand as becoming too expensive to travel. But 2019 was still the biggest year for tourism on record, despite this often-wheeled out prediction of a tourism apocalypse.

The only hope on the horizon is the vaccine, or vaccines. The early global roll out is just that, early. It will take 6 – 12 months to see if the hard work of the world’s medical and scientific community will be the great saviour.Certainly, a risk-averse Thailand will be limiting any tourism in the immediate future to vaccinated customers. only, and (as stated policy) they will still have to do the 14 day mandatory quarantine, at least in the short-to medium term. Same with the world’s airlines. So Thailand’s tourism woes, especially in the hotspots – Pattaya, Phuket, the islands, Chiang Mai and Bangkok – will reverberate throughout 2021 as well.

Thailand’s economy contracted 6% in 2020 but some economists are predicting a positive turn-around to a 3.5 – 4.5% improvement in 2021. Even the ever-optimistic Thai Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, says that there will be 10 million arrivals in 2021. The actual numbers, even in the best of circumstances, will fall well below that prediction. Exactly where the tourists would come from, under the current circumstances and a global depression, is difficult to imagine.

In 2020 the buzz word in the tourism industry was ‘closure’. In 2021 it will be ‘management’.

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Drugs

Thai laws, how to stay out of jail in Thailand | VIDEO

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Thai laws, how to stay out of jail in Thailand | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Thailand has plenty of laws, some of them applied more vigorously than others. Some not at all. But the ones they do apply can get you in hot water or, at worst, in a Thai jail. You DON’T want to end up there. Here’s a few of the better and lesser known Thai laws from The Thaiger. You can visit all our videos, and subscribe to our channel HERE.

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Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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