Heavens above: the best destinations for stargazing
4 December 2023
As a change from Thailand’s exciting cities and bustling beach resorts, why not venture off the beaten track to experience another side of this beautiful country? There are many regions of Thailand that are not well known to the majority of tourists, and it is here in the remote and lesser-travelled areas that you will gain a deeper understanding of this multifaceted destination.
Chiang Rai itself is a quieter alternative to popular Chiang Mai, and its location right in the north of Thailand makes it less accessible and therefore you’ll find far fewer visitors here. It has a pleasant if sleepy vibe for a city of around 200,000 people, yet there is plenty to see and do here. The city has long been associated with the Lanna culture and you can delve into the history with a visit to the Oub Kham Museum, where fine collections of Lanna artefacts are carefully displayed. The best known sights in Chiang Mai are the plethora of fabulous temples which range from historic and ornate such as Wat Klang Wieng to the glittering modern adornments of the White Temple.
Within easy reach of Chiang Rai you’ll find many hill tribe villages where traditions remain unchanged for many decades and beyond. Experiencing for yourself the daily comings and goings of the tribes who live on the border between Thailand and Myanmar is immersive and interesting, and there is much to be gained from interacting with the Lamu people to understand their lifestyle and point of view better. Our local experts can arrange a visit to a hill tribe village as a day trip from Chiang Rai, including a lunch and a scenic journey.
Our trusted local experts often refer to Trang as ‘unseen Thailand’ as it enjoys a lower footfall than much of the country. This coastal province is famous, among other things, for the dugong which is an endangered sea mammal, visible several times throughout the year. As well as looking for these gentle giants, other highlights include sparsely populated beaches, lush landscapes with caves and waterfalls, as well as mouthwatering southern Thai cuisine.
Koh Libong is dugong central, home to around 70% of Thailand’s total population. The seas around the island are rich in seagrass which is the mainstay of the dugong diet, so its no wonder they flock here. The islanders of Koh Libong are accustomed to, and fond of, their funny faced sea mammals, and do their utmost to ensure their wellbeing. There is an option to include a dugong tracking trip near Koh Libong as part of your Thai holiday, which involves a trip inside Khao Kop Cave, a narrow labyrinthine of channels with a lunar-like-landscape, and an introduction to eco-education and forest preservation at a local village, allowing you to feel fully immersed in the ecology of this bio-diverse region. The day finishes as you head out on a boat to spot dugongs with a local conservation expert.
Located on the southwestern coast between Phuket and Ranong, Koh Phra Thong is a relatively unexplored area of natural wilderness. It may be the fifth largest of Thailand’s islands but is not overpopulated with hotels like some of the more popular regions for tourism. Koh Phra Thong is fringed with long stretches of fine golden sands – often virtually empty – and carpeted with lush greenery, yet it is well under the radar of many holidaymakers, which sets it apart as an adventurer’s playground and a place of unrivalled relaxation. Take your pick of the handful of laid back resorts and while away days on the beach, exploring inland, or enjoying some of Thailand’s best snorkelling.
The beaches of Koh Phra Thong and its nearest neighbours together form one of the major turtle nesting sites on the Andaman coast, where conservation efforts are constant in order to safeguard the nesting sites which have declined by over 90% in the last 50 years. The conservationists monitor the beaches of the island for signs of nesting so that they can then protect these areas until hatching has occurred. Koh Phra Thong offers 4 different ecosystems all on a single island so the diversity of wildlife is quite impressive here, particularly plant species and birds.
Tucked up in the far north west of Thailand, Mae Hong Son Province is a realm of mountains and wild valleys along the border with Myanmar, a rural enclave with a peaceful vibe and a slow pace of life. The misty, forest-clad mountains are as mysterious as they are beautiful, and apart from Pai – a laid back and languid town with a lovely riverside setting – there are no well known tourist destinations. This is a region of simple pleasures, such as hiking among all that incredible scenery in search of waterfalls, hot springs and rural hill tribe villages.
The Salween river and surroundings are protected as a national park and recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and may appeal to adventurers who are looking for a rafting adventure. Likewise the river at Pai, where you can take part in a variety of fun activities on the water, and recount your adventures over a sundowner in one of the lively bars and cafés. Pai makes a great base for a few days if you plan to make forays into the surrounding countryside where cyclists will be in their element as the area is overwhelmed with lookout points and roads to test the most advanced biking enthusiasts. As the Mae Hong Son region closely borders Myanmar you will discover unique flavours in the local food, which our local experts recommend as a must-try when visiting the north of Thailand.
Make it happen
Head for those lesser trodden corners of Thailand to discover another side to this friendly destination. Beautiful mountain regions, sleepy islands or undiscovered national parks are waiting for you to explore. Whether you would prefer your entire Thailand holiday to be off the beaten track, or you would like to add an intrepid adventure to a classic sightseeing itinerary, our handpicked local experts can oblige. Send them a few details and they will take the hard work out of planning your holiday. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.