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Beaches, resorts, national parks and cultured towns garland the
length of the Gulf Coast, with the islands offering unbridled
hedonism. Phetburi, south of Bangkok, is peppered with wats
and a hilltop royal palace affording sweeping views of the plains,
while Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park provides a glimpse of the
rare dusky langur. Cha-am, Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan
provide old-world charm, excellent spas, some outstanding
resorts and fewer tourists.
The appeal of the northern Gulf Coast towns is eclipsed by the
delights of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. These islands
have it all: there are the pampering palaces, appealing resorts, fine
dining, streets of thumping bars, action-packed beaches and quiet
bays on Koh Samui; meanwhile, once a month on the smaller Koh
Phangan, the world’s largest outdoor party spins on the sands at
Hat Rin when 10,000 people flock to dance and drink in the glow
of the full moon. Around the rest of the island, particularly the east
coast, the perfect getaways are waiting in cove after cove with
sapphire seas tainted only by a glint of granite.
Further north at Koh Tao, the underwater world is an attraction
with so many shallow reefs offshore. Around the island remote
bays are guarded by huge granite boulder formations and
surrounded by perfect tropical seas. At night Hat Sai Ri is enlivened
by funky bars and beachfront dining.
The thriving town of Nakhon Si Thammarat, unmuddied by
full-scale tourism, offers an opportunity to see the unusual art of
shadow puppetry and savour confectioners’ delicate pastries.