Thailand's Hidden Beaches
Thailand has long been one of the most exotic vacation destinations for Westerners. From true-if-cliche images of smiling people and sublime palm-fringed beaches, to the sophisticated lure of Bangkok and the country's legendary cuisine, this nation seems to have been blessed by the Buddhist gods from all angles.
Still, for the intrepid traveler, it can be altogether disheartening to travel halfway around the world only to find your dream Thai beach packed with your fellow Statesmen (behaving badly, to boot) and an abundance of 7-11 and Starbucks-related signage.
For sure, the well-trodden beaches of Ko Phi Phi, Ko Samui and Ko Phangan are exquisitely beautiful. But if you're looking for a private piece of paradise away from Thailand's tourist masses, follow our lead to some of the former Siam's more serene escapes.
Ko Lao LiangOffshore from Trang province, in southern Thailand, Ko Lao Liang is an enigma for most foreign tourists, who tend to stick to Krabi province to the north. And that probably has a lot do with why Thais on weekend trips from Bangkok consider the island one of their country's best-kept island secrets. Limestone cliffs tower over a perfect crescent of white-sand beach on Ko Lao Liang, and upscale sea camping tents provide eco-minded and comfortable accommodation within earshot of the gently lapping sea. You can arrange boat tours just offshore, where reefs painted the colors of the rainbow in soft coral formations teem with clownfish and swaying anemones.
Nai Harn BeachA 1-hour flight from Bangkok, the island of Phuket, on Thailand's Andaman coast, is about as undiscovered as Disneyland. But armed with some insider knowledge, you can still experience the island's stunning beaches in relative peace and isolation. Nai Harn Beach, on the southern end of Phuket, has just a smattering of hotels along a thickly forested shore, and is a favorite destination for island locals. For a great snorkeling spot that's quieter still, take the dirt road from The Royal Phuket Yacht Club's parking lot to the tiny beach of Ao Sane.
Railay BeachInternational rock jocks have long had Railay on the radar; the limestone karst formations jutting eerily from the landscape here are heavily bolted with climbing routes reaching skyward. Such a sporty slant to the beach means the sugary sands at Railay remain relatively lonely -- particularly compared with the people-patterned patches of beach elsewhere in Krabi province. From Krabi's chief built-up beach town of Ao Nang, it's just a 15-minute trip by longtail boat to Railay. However, perched outside your thatched bungalow with a frosty Singha beer in hand, you'll feel eons away.
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