Tuesday 19 July 2011

Kidding about at the Dugong Kids Club - Anantara Si Kao, Krabi Thailand

Sometimes I wonder whether kids have more fun than grown ups.

I mean it just seems you drift from one fun activity to another, pick your nose unselfconsciously, eat when you're hungry, drink sugary soda pops when you're thirsty, laugh at naughty toilet jokes, nap when you're tired, then get up and play all over again. No mortgages. No boss. No woman, no cry. Easy life!

Some of that childhood spirit was rekindled in me at the Dugong Kids Club at Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa recently.

You see, my companion had been excited by the little blackboard which had promised batik painting and other free activities that day. Ok, but first we had to grab some nourishment for my growing brain at the hotel's Leelawadee Cafe. As much as I love Thai food, just now and again, pizza is the only way to go, so we ordered their seafood pizza. Oh man, that was sooooooooooo good ... one of the best pizzas I've had anywhere, anytime. Light crispy crust, cheese that was was all stretchy and stringy ...

So then I drifted along with her, and found myself in a wonderful airy space full of colour and promise. I was given the option of candle making. Ok, cool.

This involved tipping fine powdery neon-coloured granules in a pattern into a little glass vase-like container to make the base for my candle. The attendant Miss Pu (haha, her name sounds like Poo ... haha) gave me a demonstration. I can do that ... I'm a big boy now.

So, with tongue sticking ever so slightly out of the corner of my mouth, I started tipping the powder gently into the vase. Sunshine yellow, hot pink, swimming pool blue, radioactive green, they all went in, carefully constructing a wavy pattern echoing the Andaman Sea, sand and waves, visible just outside the windows.

My companion meanwhile was absorbed in painting her floral batik patterns, sneaking glances at my progress occasionally with encouraging expressions.

I carried on carefully compiling my pattern. I was determined that this was going to be the best candle ever. It's not that I'm competitive though ... no, really.

Finally I was happy with my candle base. The assistant gave me what I was sure was a look of utter amazement at my creative talents. She'd never witnessed such skill and craftsmanship in her Dugong Kids Club. I mean, I looked at some of the other stuff drying around the room. I mean some of the other kids had gone over the lines and everything. Some parents had been so disappointed in their kids' stuff they didn't even bother to take them home, so there.

'Is this the best candle you ever saw?' I asked. I took Miss Pu's giggling and silence to mean Absolutely Yes. You see, sometimes you have to understand these cross-cultural nuances. It's often the unsaid things that are more weighty.

Next we poured in some gooey silicon stuff to seal in the contents. Then we stuck in a candle wick, making sure it was perfectly straight and upright. After all, this was not just any candle, this was The Candle of the Year. She giggled and turned away again. My companion rolled her eyes. In encouragement, I'm sure of it.

Soon, her batik was finished ... an awesome T-shirt which she'd get to keep as a souvenir, and my candle -- a post-modern pop art masterpiece -- was drying.

Just then, the hotel's general manager strolled in. He shot a withering look at my creation. 'Hah, even my two year old can do better than that!' he exclaimed. He was just jealous I can tell.

It's not easy being a kid, jing jing.

Written by: Stuart Lloyd, aged 48 1/2

Monday 18 July 2011

Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa -- somewhere near Krabi Thailand

Si Kao is about an hour south of Krabi, which in turn is a couple of hours from Phuket. Down there floating around the south-west Andaman Sea somewhere.

Dugongs - thriving on land at Si Kao
The name intrigued me. Si Kao is the Thai word for 'white'. So was it named for the white sands? Or -- a bit more laterally -- is it a play on the word 'sea cow' which is I believe one of the names for the endangered dugongs, those weird blubbery down-in-the-mouth looking things that call this area home? No one seems to know. 'Just a name' seems to be the consensus.

Si Kao is all about the magnificent picture postcard outlook across the waters of the Andaman to the signature knobbly limestone karst upthrusts in the middle distance that characterise this bay. The waterfront is lined with dugong statues and seafood restaurants, many looking more like a tent city than fine dining on the Riviera. But excellent local seafood and beaming acquiescent smiles even though you may not be fully understood.

Just beyond this, over a mangrove-lined river, an imposing entrance opens up to the Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa. The drab olive buildings lend it a sympathetic edge with its surroundings. It almost blends in too well with the abundantly growing palms, casuarinas and frangipanis on the property.

Choices, choices, choices. Go for a swim in the bath-water-warm ocean to the west. Lie on a hammock near the bar and Beach House facing the islands. Swim in the pool (surrounded by dugong figurines). Play at the Dugong kids club. Excursions to the Emerald Cave at Koh Morakut or other parts of the Chao Mai National Park. Ride a bike into town. Enjoy a Spa at the Anantara Spa.

After an easy cycle along the foreshore, and a refreshing swim (collecting amazing conical shells all the while) we chose the latter. Aaaaaaah ... Khun Zu gives me one of the best treatments I've experienced over the years, with a blend of Harmony oils (bergamot, lavender, ylang ylang and mandarin) that is at once both soothing and uplifting. It started with her taking what felt like a full 15 minutes just to position me on the bed correctly ... making sure the limbs are all perfectly aligned in order to get the muscles and tendons sorted out. I don't remember getting that sort of attention at any other spa.

She also asked me regularly 'Is the pressure OK, Mr Lloyd?' Gee, I wish some of my former bosses had asked me that question from time to time, jing jing.

They also offer an extensive range of wellness and holistic programs with specialist consultants, some of these 'journeys' lasting up to 5 days.

Then -- magic! -- sunset over the islands. It's time for a mojito and a gentle sway in the hammock, coming down from the massage with a radiant inner and outer glow. There are any number of swinging chairs and lounges to chill in, too. There are books on the shelf here that could keep you busy for 100 summers.

The white-on-white wood airy Beach House seems like a touch of Hua Hin here ... especially with its elevated outdoor deck. The Acqua Italian eatery is fine in style yet casual in atmosphere, and we enjoy a table on the decking outside in a perfectly balmy evening, with the slightest rustle of breeze in the coconut trees adjacent. Fine white wines accompany the freshest seafood. This sort of setting would suit a honeymoon perfectly; or could easily lead to one!

Speaking of which, over dinner, the hotel's genial general manager, Morten, tells us that the location scouts for Hangover 2 had come to the Anantara checking it out for suitability for the wedding reception scenes. As it had been the off-season, of course he asked them to use their imagination and visualize the usual cerulean waters and mirror-like ocean. He accompanied them to some of the islands, such as Koh Morakut, and the sea that day was so bumpy and they were so shaken about by the choppy water.

Coming off the boat, the producer shook his hand and said: 'We probably won't use you for the movie, but I will never forget this day.'

Fortunately, even though it was 'wet' season, the forecast -- provided thoughtfully by room maid Pin -- was sunny, and continued to be for the next several days. As I slipped into the comfortable bed a little later, I felt the same way as that producer: I would never forget this wonderful day.

I fell immediately into a deep sleep and dreamed of -- aaaaaarrgh! -- dugongs.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Trang - the most beautiful part of Thailand I've never heard of.

Here's a funny thing ... I've lived in Amazing Thailand many a year, and -- being a travel writer -- like to think that nothing, NOTHING, escapes my attention when it comes to travel and tourism.

So when my cousin (Hello, John) who lives in Africa mentioned he was coming to here and wanted some tips on good places to stay in Trang, there was something of a pause. 'Hello?' he said, not wanting to spend more time on this international call which he was paying for than necessary.

'Trang, you say?' I said, fumbling for my map of Thailand. I quickly scanned the country, up and down. No bloody Trang anywhere.

'You know, near Phuket, but better, nicer.'

'Oh, that Trang,' I said, finally seeing the little dot down south west, on the edge of Phang Nga Bay. 'Sorry, it's been a while since I've been, so whatever tips I have would probably be out of date. Better off checking Trip Advisor, mate.'

At that point I made a note to visit Trang, one of few little corners of Thailand I'd not been to. Ever. Why not?

So it was with great excitement that we boarded the overnight train from Bangkok's quite grandiose-looking Hualampong Station. The 1st class sleeper trains are excellent in Thailand, and a great way to have amiable chats with locals, maybe a medicinal sip or two of local whiskey if they offer it, and wait for the attendant to come round and make your bed. Comfy enough bunks, with curtains for privacy. (Oh, better take a spare bottle of Sam Song Whiskey if you want a really good night's sleep.)

The morning light showed us to be in interesting tropical countryside with palm trees, sugar cane, the odd karst upthrust. After around 12 or more hours, around breakfast time, we pulled into Trang. There was a nice poetry to this, because the town is named Trang after the Malay word 'terang' which means light, which is when the trading vessels always used to arrive here.

You see, in its former life, 900-years-old Trang was part of the Kedahan-Malay kingdom, then became an important international trading port for Thailand, located on the Andaman Sea, just north of Malaysia.

The Muslims settled along the coast for trading purposes. The Chinese stuck to the town itself, where the commerce was. And the Thais were somewhere in between.

A dugong ... an underwater wombat?
The town today doesn't immediately scream Major International Trading Port. In fact it doesn't even whisper it. The railway station is a small affair with green gables, and nearby the shabby Ta Klang market plies its trade from 1am each morning till just after breakfast time. Stalls groan with mangos, durian and dragonfruit. An unimpressive clock tower forms one roundabout in town, but that is easily upstaged by the roundabout featuring 20 ... um, what the hell are those things?

Closer inspection reveals them to be dugongs, which are strongly associated with the area, but numbers are falling fast because they are exceptionally dumb and slow, frankly, and no match for a hungry local's harpoon.

Another statue is of former governor Phraya Ratsadanupradit Mahison Phakdi, also known curiously as Khaw Sim Bee na Ranong, who had the original vision to make this into a seaport. He was also responsible for introducing the rubber tree to Thailand from Malaya in 1899. 

Think of him as Thailand's equivalent of Singapore's Sir Henry Ridley. Thailand went on to becoming one of the largest suppliers of rubber (and rubbers!) in the world, jing jing.

A Robinson's department store talks of a little prosperity in the town . But most travellers don't hang around in town. They want to get out to some of the province's 46 islands (which include the beautiful Ko Kradan and Ko Ngai, the traditional fishing villages of Ko Muk, and the sea caves of Ko Morakut). As for us, we were met at the station by the Anantara Si Kao's car and whisked off to the fancy resort which I'll blog about soon.

Ko Kradan ... don't you just want to be here now???
Trekking is also popular, with over 20 waterfalls in the area. And diving should be a lot more popular ... the  Chao Mai National Park is home to some of the most awesome dive spots in the world. Ko Kradan is one of these.

But Trang only receives a fraction of the tourists that make it to Phuket or even Krabi. So if you want a quieter time, this is the place to be.

But you'd better go quick. You see, now that I've blogged about it, the crowds are going to be pouring in. You may even see my cousin John ... I recommended he should go to this really beautiful place down south that I know. It's called Trang.

The difference between Phang Nga and Pha Ngan Thailand

When booking your travel to Thailand, double check your facts -- and your ticket -- if you're heading to Phang Nga or Pha Ngan.

They are NOT the same place. In fact, decidedly different ...

Phang Nga is a massive bay in the Andaman Sea on the south-west coast of Thailand, famous for its emerald waters and jutting upthrusting limestone karst islands. It was first brought to worldwide prominence by the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun and hence one of the islands here (actually Koh Ping-Gan) is only known as James Bond Island. Another famous spot here is Koh Panyee (Sea Gypsy Island) named for its nomadic seafaring locals.

Boat tours or kayaking tours are the best way to see the bay and its 42 entrancing islands (mostly uninhabited) and it is most easily accessed from Phuket by ferry.

Or, if you were here 10,000 years ago when the sea levels were lower, you could've walked here, jing jing.

Phangan (or Koh Pha Ngan to be exact) on the other hand is in the Gulf of Thailand, on the south-east of Amazing Thailand. About 15 km from Koh Samui. Phangan was put on the map by a little farewell party which proved quite popular. So it was staged again and grew into a regular thing each month. You may have heard of the Full Moon Party?

This is held at Haad Rin Bay. The island has developed greatly because of this, but is rather quiet comparatively during the month, and there are plans to make it more family friendly.

Phangan was featured prominently in Alex Garland's book The Beach, on which the movie was based. Having said that, the movie was filmed in the Phang Nga area. Go figure! Fans of the German band Ace of Base might want to get out their iPods and check out the song Vision in Blue. It's about Phangan ...

A vision in blue 
Forever young 
A token so true 
My Koh Phangan [4x]
I see you dancing in front of my face 
Your body is moving to the trace of the chase 
I'm flashing for you 
A bright light in the night for you

Aah, they don't write lyrics like that anymore. (But there again, they are German.)

So now you know the difference between Phang Nga and Pha Ngan. Are you in the right place after all? Or would you rather be at the OTHER place instead???

Friday Funny: An apology from the heart of my bottom.

Oops! I just learned the hard way that I've been pronouncing a couple of Thai words slightly wrongly which impart a whole new meaning ...

When saying 'Excuse me' (as in when pushing through a crowd, or trying to get past somebody) you might say: 'Khaw Thod'. This should sound roughly like Car Tord.

But -- like so many other unforgiving Thai words -- I've been getting this slightly wrong and saying: 'Kor Thood' which sounds more like 'Cor Tood'.

And this means ...

Oh, this is the embarrassing part ...

Are you ready for it?

Kor Thood means 'I want your bum!' Jing jing!

So I apologise from the heart of my bottom, er, the bottom of my heart, to anyone I might have inadvertently offended as I brushed past you in the crowd.

About Thailand festivals and public holidays 2012 ...

Before you firm up your dates to travel to Thailand, have a quick glance at a list of its amazing festivals and public holidays.

A site like Thailand Festivals or Thailand Festivals and Events 2012 will do the trick.

Well, you can't have a quick look at the list -- and that's my point -- there are soooo many events, celebrations, and commemorations each year, there's barely any time to fall into the usual 9-5 workaday routine in any one week of the year.

No, this is not the Katoey Eyelash Fluttering festival ...
Everyone's heard of Songkran and Loy Krathong. But what about the Monkey Buffet Festival in November. Or the Phuket Vegetarian festival in Phuket (which, ironically, features more bloody meat than you'll see anywhere else ...). Then there's Thai Elephant Day in March. Buffalo Racing. Ploughing Ceremony. Then there's rocket festivals, horse-and-cart festivals, and the annual Katoey Eyelash Fluttering festival.

Ok, I made that last one up. But you get the idea ...

On the upside: check the events calendar and try to fit in with an event or occasion in the area you're travelling to to get a feel for the free-wheeling, fun-loving Thai lifestyle, jing jing.

Royal Barge Procession, December 5
On the downside: check that it's not a Buddhist holiday (like the Candle Festival being celebrated this weekend) as it means that all bars are shut and no alcohol is served in deference to the occasion.

So you might find yourself with your one and only big night out in Bangkok planned, and a glass of lemonade in your hand.

All of which reminds me: Why am I working on a public holiday?

Thursday 14 July 2011

Famous blockbusters filmed in Northern Thailand ... a surprising list!

It’s easy to see why tourists come to northern Thailand's Lanna region: evocative temples, lively markets, cloud-scraping mountains, vibrant summer, nippy winter, and the soothing mix of small-town charm and budding, hip neighbourhoods. 

In sum, it’s romantic. But for Hollywood filmmakers, from Ridley Scott and Barry Levinson to Sylvester Stallone (or Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone as his mother calls him when she's angry), the pull of the area is not its romanticism but its practicality – the combination of accessible jungle, tame elephants, and the ease in which it can be transformed by movie magic into somewhere resembling, mostly, Vietnam.

Levinson arrived here in 1987 with Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker to shoot the comedy Good Morning Vietnam, about a military DJ who injects sparkle into jaded GIs, with Chiang Mai standing in for Saigon circa 1965. The movie also stars the famous and not completely uncute Thai actress, Jintara Sukapat (a regular face on local Thai TV). Three years later, Mel Gibson (or Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson as his mother calls him when she's angry) landed with Robert Downey Jr, for the filming of Air America, a Vietnam-era military drama about a pilot recruited for a special CIA mission.

These two films generated much interest in film circles for using northern Thailand as a location, even though nobody in the movie-watching public really knew it was Amazing Thailand. More recently, two big American productions have done a little more justice to the city by at least setting their plots in northern Thailand, as opposed to a stand-in Saigon

In 2007, Ridley Scott came with Denzel Washington to shoot American Gangster, in which the Oscar-winning actor plays a heroine dealer seeking a deal with a drug lord of unidentified nationality in the Golden Triangle. Rambo 4 (2008), meanwhile, has actor and director Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo) living a hermetic existence in the jungle, catching snakes and brooding and swearing, before missionaries hire him to lead a danger-filled expedition into Burma (it was, of course, not shot in Burma).

On a much smaller scale, a number of made-for video flicks have been shot in the region, including Sniper 3, starring Tom Berenger as a lone soldier working for the secret service, and Vampires: The Turning, whose title is explanation enough.

Like the northern Thailand scenery itself, that list is breathtakingly impressive, jing jing. 

Footnote: thanks to Kong Rithdee (Lanna 101 magazine) for his expert input into this piece.

More movies being made on location in Amazing Thailand ...

Just read in the Bangkok Post that a staggering 359 movies were shot in Bangkok last year. That's about one per day (with one week off for good behaviour).

I've blogged a lot about the movie Hangover 2 lately, but there's a whole bunch -- like around 358 -- I've obviously missed.

And outside Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi are also popular locations. In fact Kanchanaburi (home of the River Kwai but ironically not where the famous movie Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed) is an up and coming starlet, with 28 movies filmed there last year.

Best known of those was The Scorpion King. Anyone who follows Korean culture and movies would also be familiar with Sunny, which was shot there.

Anyone know which other movies were filmed in Bangkok or Amazing Thailand?

Monday 11 July 2011

Bangkok Thailand named best city in the world ... again!

At this time every year, people rush to their mailboxes to check if the new issue of Travel + Leisure magazine has arrived. Because they want to check the magazine's annual 'World’s Best Awards'.

Well, at the risk of being a spoilsport, I'm going spoil the surprise for you by announcing the results now. Here. Today.

For the second time, Bangkok has clinched the No. 1 spot as World's Best City, jing jing.

Now, just in case you're not familiar with these awards, no, they're not run and sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand or the Bangkok Metropolitan whatever ... these are genuinely independent worldwide awards which take in ratings from readers of Travel + Leisure’s international editions including the USA, Southeast Asia, Turkey, China, South Asia and Mexico.

So as a result, they are highly coveted.

Hotels in Thailand scored highly on the list of Top 100 Hotels Overall (best hotel in the world), with the magic-kingdom-in-a-rice-paddy Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai coming in at no. 7. The Peninsula Bangkok on the fabled Chao Phraya river also made the list. The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi was also voted Asia's second favourite resort, while in the city hotels category for Asia, The Peninsula Bangkok came home at no. 4. 

The best city hotel in Asia was judged to be the legendary Mandarin Oriental Bangkok nestling on the banks of the river as it has done for over 135 years. We should assume then that it is also the best city hotel in Thailand?

Not to be outdone in the Best International Airline category, Thailand also scored highly with Thai Airways International flying smooth as silk at No. 9.

For full results, check your mailbox on August 1 for your subscription copy of T+L again. Better still, as I'm first with the news here anyway, just cancel your subscription and send me the money instead.

Saturday 9 July 2011

A picture paints a thousand years: historical photos of Thailand and beyond

Pictures From History is an innovative photo library specializing in Asian history and Asian culture.
Some books you can’t put down; Pictures From History is a virtual page-turner ... a site that entices the history surfer deeper into Asian epochs such as Chinese dynasties, wondrous Buddhist and Hindu temples, and the warriors and tyrants of Asian history, from Genghis Khan to Pol Pot (no relation to Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men).
Or, if you think like me, you simply type in 'Miss Thailand' and back comes images like the one at left of Miss Songkran, Phuket, 1951. Jing jing.
The commercial arm of the site is aimed very clearly at the photo editors of the international press, travel guides and historical magazines. However, any red-blooded history buff or Jing Jing reader will get lost inside the archives of pictures, paintings and ancient scripts.
The best way to navigate this site is to type into the Search Box a country, an era or an interest, such as “Thai Buddhist temples”, or “Indochina Wars”. However, the site also offers a hearty selection of “Themes” to whet your appetite—collections of revolving images, which you can click on at any time to go directly to a series of related images. Individual images are accompanied by a paragraph or two of historical and at times anecdotal information about the picture, the people and the period in time.
Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to search for Miss Songkran 1952 now ...

See the picture library here: http://www.picturesfromhistory.com

Friday 8 July 2011

Friday Funny: Some Humour from the Hills of Northern Thailand

Taken at a rather touristy Hmong hilltribe village, Doi Mae Salong.
-- makes you wonder about the precedent  that caused this sign, doesn't it?

Sign inside the room at Little Home Guest House, Doi Mae Salong.
Another good reason to keep your shoes handy is so you can chuck them at the bloody roosters
 which will wake you at around 4:30 am, jing jing.

Phaleease enjoy your weekend.

Lanna 101: new magazine about Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, etc)

If you travel to Thailand or Bangkok, you will probably already know about Bangkok 101 magazine, which is the best-selling lifestyle, travel and 'what's on' type magazine about the great many goings on in that city.

Now comes Lanna 101: your definitive guide to northern Thailand.

It covers the region from Sukhothai north (one of the dramatic ancient capitals, roughly 350km northwards of Bangkok is considered northern Thailand).  So Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai (which turns 750 next year), Pai (Thai tourists' favourite winter retreat), Mae Hong Son (interesting border city), the intriguing The Golden Triangle (where Laos and Burma meet Thailand on the Mekong River),  Loei (near Isaan and the Mekong), and one of my personal favourite cities Nan (an up and coming Pai, full of coffee shops, hanging flower baskets, and a well-preserved Lanna culture).

So what is Lanna? Essentially it was the Kingdom of One Million Rice Fields which spread from what is now eastern Burma down through this region in the 12-18th centuries under the guidance of founder King Mengrai ... well, he wasn't around for all of those 500 years, of course, but you understand what I mean.

The first issue of the magazine is on sale at the news stands NOW, but you can also jump online at www.lanna101.com to see the best of travel, accommodation, arts, community, wellness, nightlife, etc, etc, etc.

It's bloody brilliant. I know, because I edited it, jing jing.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Oops -- I got it wrong about the Thailand election.

These are words you will rarely -- if ever! -- hear from me:

I. Was. Wrong.

Wrong about what? The aftermath of the recently completed Thai elections. With all the build-up in the past couple of years, the red shirts, yellow shirts, polka-dotted purple shirts, blah-dee-blah-dee-blah, I thought there was no way that the election result would simply be announced and people would say "Oh, Ok" and get back to work.

But that is exactly what has happened in Amazing Thailand in the last few days. Thankfully. There WAS no aftermath.

I have covered the country from Krabi to Phuket to Bangkok to Koh Samui to Bangkok (again) and now Chiang Mai in the last week, and have seen not one hair out of place. Nothing amiss. Nothing simmering that I can gauge from my humble viewpoint. Even though a good percentage of people (like in any democracy) didn't get the result they wanted.

May I say for the record, as a foreigner, I am absolutely apathetic and not involved in the politics of this , or indeed any, country.

So, the point -- you knew I had one to make EVENTUALLY didn't you?!? -- is that if you're thinking of travelling to Thailand but were a little worried or thinking What if? or whatever ... take a leaf out of Nike's book and Just Do It.

Confirm your flight and get on over here to Amazing Thailand now ... jing jing.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Coming up in July from Krabi, Trang, Phi Phi and Phuket Thailand

Dear readers,

Painting at Anantara Si Kao
You're in for a treat in July, as I visit a part of Amazing Thailand I've never been before (Trang and Krabi) and revisit some areas I first went to in 1988 (such as Phi Phi Island and Phuket).

Among the hotels, resorts, activities and attractions I'll blog about on Thailand Jing Jing as I criss-cross Phang Nga Bay are:

Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa, near Krabi
Red Ginger Chic Resort, Ao Nang, Krabi
Pakasai Resort, Ao Nang, Krabi
Bhu Nga Thani Resort and Spa, Railay Bay, Ao Nang
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa
Koh Yao Yai Village
Kayaking through limestone and mangroves in Phang Nga Bay.
Snorkelling on Phi Phi Island
Jungle Splash Water Park, Phuket

I resisted the urge to visit the Ritz Carlton at Pulay Bay where the stunningly beautiful Hangover 2 movie wedding scene was shot, though I did speak to one hotelier whose location was rejected after the producer got seasick!

Many of these blogs will take a wellness angle, with wonderful spa treatments which have me oiled up and steaming and creaming, and some take an eco-angle, kayaking and snorkelling and doing my bit to save your earth.

Oh, by the way, do not call Phi Phi Island part of Phuket. It is part of Krabi province, and a good way to annoy the locals by getting it wrong, jing jing.