Finding the Perfect Beach in Phuket Thailand

Some of the world’s most unforgettable beach holidays happen here, whether vacationing alone, with friends, family, or if you’re honeymooning. When someone hears Phuket, it is immediately associated with spectacular sandy stretches. But when in Phuket, where exactly do you go to enjoy the postcard-perfect beach, or the beach that suit your vibe?

If the object of your Phuket visit is to find out just how alive or vibrant beach life can be in this part of the world, Patong Beach should be your first destination of choice. By the sheer number of visitors to this beach, you can say it’s the most popular in Phuket. This is a busy and crowd-friendly beach, and nightlife here is electrifying as most would describe. If you don’t mind the crowd, and if part of your goal is to enjoy crystal clear water and white sand, this is the beach for you. Patong, itself is pretty convenient for vacationers as it offers a plethora of hotel and restaurant options. Even the shoppers and diners will find the area to be a perfect respite to a day on the beach. Its shopping center is something you should check out. You might just find something that will fascinate you and be a perfect gift for those back home..

For a long lazy walk on the beach and the enjoyment of plenty of space, Karon Beach is a great choice. Despite being the second longest beach in Phuket, Karon is not as crowded as its neighbor Patong. It exudes a more laidback atmosphere. The nice thing about spending time at Karon Beach is you usually have a vast personal space even while finding comfort in the presence of other tourists, who are also seeking a more serene environment. The beautiful water is intensely inviting too. You’ll also find that Karon has a pretty decent number of restaurants and pubs. Nightlife here is low key. The kind you probably like if you’re not into the huge party crowd but would still want to enjoy a few drinks.

If you feel Karon Beach is still pretty crowded, head to Phuket’s secret beach – Banana Beach. With its palm trees, clear blue shallow water ideal for swimming, and exceptional sand, this beach is just going to blow you away. Banana Beach is also a popular snorkeling spot. It’s not totally without people around but it is not as explored or visited by many. Perhaps, this is due to its more isolated located. Unlike in Patong and in Karon where you can easily have access to a number of restaurants, including the western chains; at Banana Beach, choices are more limited. Some visitors even opt to just bring packed meals and eat them under a coconut tree.

If the secret beach, with its charm and just a handful people even during the peak season, still doesn’t prove peaceful enough for you, try the deserted beach Haad Sai Kaew. Here you will most likely have the beach all to yourself. After your much needed time alone, head to one of the thatched roof open cottages to satisfy your hunger. There’s just no better way to cap a solitary walk or swim on a gorgeous beach than feasting on a nice fresh seafood meal!

Whichever type of beach person you are, Phuket has one that’s perfect for you!

The Taste and Tradition of Thai Cuisine

A tropical country with mountains and long seacoasts, Thailand’s rich history of stability, modern capital and vibrant rural areas contribute to a wide diversity of cuisine.
Thai cuisine is characterized by hot, spicy flavors and has been influenced by China and India, sometimes through the filter of the surrounding countries of Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. As a result, there are interesting regional differences, as well as variety due to geography and social group. As with Chinese and Japanese cuisines, balancing flavors, textures, colors and cooking methods to complement one another is important. The Thai staple is rice, with shorter-grain varieties preferred in the north and longer-grain in the south. There is a wide diversity of cuisine in this tropical country, which boasts mountains and long seacoasts; a long, rich history of stability; a large, modern capital; and vibrant rural areas.
Known for assorted curries, Thai cooking includes a broad range of seasonings: many citrus flavorings, such as turmeric (orange-flavored spice), lemongrass or fresh fruits; coriander; galangal (very pungent type of ginger); dill; mint; anise-scented basil; scallions; chile peppers; garlic; and fish sauce (nuoc mam).
Typical accompaniments are rice, rice noodles, wheat noodles and mung bean noodles (threads), also called cellophane noodles. Garnishes include straw mushrooms, ground peanuts, curries and different kinds of bananas. Thickened cornstarch sauces are not used; rather, dry foods, with the cooking liquid as the accompaniment, are passed with rice. Thai cooking utilizes all cooking techniques.
There are four staples of Thai cuisine, which can be discussed in four distinct categories: rice and noodles; fish and seafood; vegetables and fruit; and meat and poultry.
  • Rice and Noodles
The Thai people have cultivated rice since the earliest days of their history, and, although Thailand contains many jewels, no gem can rival the pearly white rice that is produced in abundance through much of the country. It has even staved off famine throughout Thai history. It is the staff of life, the yardstick by which all well-being is measured. A Thai will not ask, “Have you had lunch?” But, he or she will ask, “Have you eaten rice?”
In May, led by the king’s symbolic example, Thai farmers go to the fields to weed and clean in preparation for plowing. As soon as the first rains fall, usually in May, the rice is sown in smaller nursery fields and carefully tended. The shoots grow quickly in the monsoon season, and young plants are removed from the nursery to be replanted in the fields. Harvesting is in January. The government has now set up an efficient irrigation network, which gives a second harvest in some areas.
Among the many varieties of rice, Thailand boasts a particularly fine, long-grain type, called Jasmine rice, which is often destined for export. Rice is cooked in water without salt, to balance the spiciness of the accompanying dishes. The secret of perfect rice lies in the quantity of water used; the level of water in the pan should be at one knuckle above the rice. All the water should be absorbed during cooking, leaving the rice firm and fluffy.
Shorter-grain, glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice, is a favorite of the hill people and of the Issan group that lives in the northeast. Elsewhere, it is generally used in desserts. The Thai usually cook more rice than is necessary for one meal. The remainder is used in a wide variety of khao phad (fried rice) dishes, mixed with chicken, ham, prawns (shrimp), eggs, etc., and flavored with garlic, onion and basil. The ingredients can be chopped, sliced, ground or crushed, before being mixed with khao phad.
The best utensil for frying rice is a wok (a deep, conical pan), which can easily be obtained in Asian shops. Strong heat is needed, and the rice must be tossed vigorously with the seasoning ingredients. This can lead to splashes and penetrating smells. In Thailand, the kitchen is sensibly located in a small, open-sided wooden outhouse, and the breeze carries away strong smells. In the West, an efficient extractor fan in the kitchen would be a suitable alternative. Khao phad makes a meal on its own, while plain rice is served with a selection of meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
Thailand, like other Asian countries similarly influenced by the Chinese, has many noodle dishes using a wide variety of types of noodles. Mung bean noodles, rice noodles and wheat flour noodles, with or without egg, all find their way into delicious recipes–cooked in various ways and combined with different ingredients.
  • Fish and Seafood
The love the Thai have for fish and seafood is born from nature’s bounty. The coastline along the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand is long; large rivers full of fish traverse the country from north to south; and a maze of canals crisscross the plains. Fishermen can be seen everywhere, as they cast, haul in and lift their nets for cash and subsistence. Farmers view their klongs (irrigation and transport canals) as important sources of protein to augment the rice they grow. Thai fishermen put out to sea all along the coast and through the maze of small islands that dot much of the coast. Shrimp farming is big business in southern Thailand.
In Thailand, people eat far more fish than meat. In fact, the produce of the sea and rivers is second only to rice in importance. An old Thai saying, “There is rice in the fields and fish in the water,” sums up how the Thai measure happiness and illustrates how they appreciate natural good fortune. Inland, freshwater fish is available throughout the country. Sea fish is often preserved by smoking, salting or drying. In the markets, highly aromatic dried fish and cuttlefish are displayed in bamboo boxes or hung from wires. Both fish and seafood are made into delicious curries and wonderful soups. In addition, they are the main ingredients of those two basic Thai condiments, nam pla (fish sauce) and kapi (shrimp paste).
Any discussion of Thai food would be lacking, if fish sauce were not discussed in greater detail. It is a fundamental flavor component found in every Thai kitchen, right next to the sugar. For this reason, nam pla should be on any shopping list for Thai ingredients. Not only is it an essential ingredient in finished dishes, it appears as a condiment on the dining table at nearly every meal, by itself or mixed with chiles or lime juice. A prime source of salt and rich in protein, B vitamins and minerals, this clear, brown liquid is to Thai cooking what soy sauce is to Chinese and Japanese cooking. It is a brew made by fermenting anchovies in sea salt and water.
Nam pla’s odor can be overwhelming. When used in cooking, its fishiness lessens dramatically, as it dissipates and blends in deliciously with aromatic flavor ingredients. If its odor does not diminish satisfactorily, consider switching brands, because some are more mild and likable to the uninitiated. Most Thai prefer a sauce with a mid-range of fishiness, but keep a few varieties on hand for various purposes. An uncooked dipping sauce for the table fares better with a milder blend, whereas rich curries, spicy soups and seafood dishes are enhanced by a stronger sauce.
It is advisable to stick with one brand to ensure consistent results. A recommended brand is Tra Chang (scale brand), identified by a red label depicting a weighing scale with a fish on one end balanced by “100%” on the other. Another very flavorful brand, Golden Boy, pictures a chubby baby holding a bottle of fish sauce, rather than a milk bottle. These two premium brands are not yet widely distributed in the U.S., so look for them in Thai and Southeast Asian markets. More readily available is Tiparos, a brand that has been around in Western markets for a long time. Aside from these three, there is a wide range of other brands. Though some show pictures of shrimp, silver pomfret fish or squid on the label, these are only identifying logos; all nam pla is made from anchovies. Gourmet specialty markets have started to carry fish sauce along with other convenience Thai food items, specially bottled in Thailand with English names and labels, for the affluent Western cook. Usually in much smaller bottles, these brands carry a hefty price tag–about six times the price of those offered in Asian markets. Fish sauce does not need to be refrigerated after opening, but it does evaporate and darken over time, getting stronger.
  • Vegetables and Fruit
Vegetables play an important part in Thai nutrition. The Thai do not all practice the vegetarianism preached by Buddhism, and they eat meat in small quantities, as long as non-Buddhists sacrifice the animals.
Nature produces many vegetables, in a temptingly wide variety of colors and shapes, including tomatoes, cucumbers, shallots, crispy lettuce, pure white cauliflower, green beans, peppers, zucchini and pumpkin. New species are regularly introduced to satisfy the Thai’s enjoyment of variety. They grow in the irrigated market gardens around Bangkok, as well as on the hill slopes of the north. The Thai also consume many tropical and regional vegetables unknown in the West. These include aquatic plants, such as phak bung (water cabbage); creeping plants, like tam lung; and rhizomes, such as white turmeric, bamboo shoots and lotus stems.
Fruit is often used in salads. Particular favorites are papaya and grapefruit, and a great number of salad and vegetable dishes include fish, seafood or meat. Salads are refreshing in the hot, humid climate of Thailand and appear at most meal-times in one form or another, from a simple dish of raw beans or assorted vegetables with a spicy dip, to a complicated restaurant showpiece.
Vegetables are not served at any particular moment during the meal. They come with all the other dishes, and people nibble at them while eating curries or other hot courses. Sometimes, they can be meals in themselves. Oil and vinegar are rarely used to prepare dressings for salads. The most common dressing recipes include lemon juice, chiles, fish sauce and shallots. Papaya salad is served with a dressing of pounded peanuts, fish sauce, garlic and chopped chiles with dried prawns. Another popular salad dressing is made with hard-boiled egg yolks, mashed in tepid water with sugar and lemon juice. As with other sauces, the Thai create a wide range of salad dressings from different combinations of all the available ingredients.
  • Meat and Poultry
For the most part, Thai dishes contain fairly small quantities of meat. Killing animals does not lie easily on Buddhists’ consciences, and the sight of a Thai butcher is rare. This job is left to the Chinese, who specialize in pork, and to the Muslims, who deal with beef, mutton and chicken. These days, poultry is often sold in pieces. Meat is set out on stalls in the open air. Most Thai people distrust frozen meat, which is not widely available anyway, and will often go to market twice a day.
Chicken is the most popular sort of poultry, as it is relatively cheap. Its bland flavor goes well with a variety of spices and sauces, and it is useful in making a stock base for soups. Rich and poor alike eat chicken. Thailand has a modern poultry industry alongside family farm production; country roads are full of scratching chickens. Chicken can be skewered and grilled over charcoal, or sautéed with spices and vegetables. Duck breeding is an increasingly common sight along rivers and canals. The Chinese are particularly keen on this bird, and Peking duck is a gastronomic delicacy. The whole bird is eaten, from the delicately roasted skin cut into strips, to the stock made from the carcass.
The choice of meat varies according to religious beliefs and habits. Muslims refuse to touch pork, which the Chinese like so much; Indians cannot bear the idea of eating beef; and the Thai generally hate the smell of mutton. Buffalo is popular in country areas and can be tenderized by suitable cooking. Veal is rarely found in Thailand. Meat is usually well-done and, except when dried, is accompanied by vegetables and spices. Certain restaurants specialize in game, such as venison and wild boar. In memory of harder times, it is not unusual to find protein in the form of insects, rodents and reptiles, particularly in restaurants specializing in northern Thai cuisine.
In the mountainous north, where borders are shared with Burma and Laos, the cuisine is as distinctive as the handicrafts for which the region is noted. Here, the earliest people of Thailand settled on their migration southward from China, forming first a group of small city-states, and then a loose federation known as Lanna, with Chiang Mai as the principal city. The impact of Burma is apparent in dishes that use aromatic spices, like cinnamon and cardamom, also found in northern Indian dishes. These include the popular khao soi, a curry broth with egg noodles and chicken, pork or beef, as well as gaeng hang lay, a pork curry seasoned with ginger, tamarind and turmeric. Of Laotian origin are nam prik noom, a complex dipping sauce with a strong chile-lime flavor, and ook gai, a red chicken curry with lemongrass. The northeast region is characterized by highly seasoned dishes making use of unusual wild plant and animal foods, which reflect the historical poverty and uncertain harvest of the region.
Nicholas Gervaise, a Jesuit missionary, noted that kapi, the popular, fermented shrimp paste, has such a pungent smell, it nauseates anyone not accustomed to it. He also wrote perhaps the first general recipe for a typical Thai condiment based on kapi: salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, white onions, nutmeg and several strongly flavored herbs mixed in considerable quantities of shrimp paste.
The presence of cloves and nutmeg is evidence of trade with the East Indies. Other influences may come from Chinese, Japanese, Malays and Indians who once lived in the old Thai capital of Ayutthaya. None of the early writers mention chiles, but they were probably already in use–either brought directly by the Portuguese, who opened relations in 1511, or having come via Malacca or India. The indigenous black pepper is called Thai pepper, while later arrivals, capsicum chile peppers, have more colloquial local names. The Portuguese also introduced a number of popular Thai sweets based on sugar and egg yolks, and possibly corn and the tomato, which are also of New World origin.
A more refined type of cuisine prevailed in royal and aristocratic houses. Sometimes referred to as “palace cooking,” these elaborate dishes called for great skill at blending numerous deluxe ingredients to achieve the most subtle nuances of taste. The dishes were then presented with carved fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of decorative forms. The women’s quarters of the Grand Palace were the center of such skills, and many daughters of aristocratic families were sent there to prepare them for future life. The current Queen of Thailand has been instrumental in reviving many of these traditional culinary and craft art forms, so they may be enjoyed by future generations.

Fun, frivolity and firecrackers: the top Thailand festivals

Thailand knows how to party in style. Whether it’s celebrating the start of the rainy season, a new year or just the size of the moon, there’s a festival for nearly every occasion. And the festivals themselves are some of the wildest, weirdest and sometimes wettest on the planet, involving everything from home-made rockets to buffalo races.


Marking the start of the lunar new year, Songkran involves the entire country throwing water at each other. Thais and tourists alike grab buckets and water pistols and spend the day drenching anyone in sight – a welcome relief from the searing April temperatures. As well as hurling water, locals love to plant coloured paint on visitors’ faces and wish them a happy new year.Of course the light-hearted mayhem has a more serious side – the water represents cleanliness and a chance to forgive and forget any problems in the previous year. Khao San Road in Bangkok is where most foreigners head for, but every town will have its own water-throwing fun.

Bun Bang Fai

Farmers take a swig of local moonshine, light a fuse and step back. Seconds later their 6m (20ft) homemade rockets are blasting skywards. Welcome to Bun Bang Fai, which takes place in the northeastern town of Yasothon every May. The festival’s official aim is to awaken the spirits in the sky and make sure they send plenty of rain for the crops, but unofficially it is an excuse for the entire town to party in the street. The fun lasts several days, starting with a raucous parade and ending, in a remote field, with the release of the giant rockets.

Phi Ta Khon

A surreal mix of Halloween and carnival, the Phi Ta Khon festival sees locals don brightly coloured ghost masks and take to the streets of Dan Sai, a village in the northeastern province of Loei. The three-day event begins by invoking the spirits with incantations and the tying of ‘protective’ white string around everyone’s wrists. Villagers then hit the streets wearing their famous masks, singing and dancing and inevitably sweeping visitors up in the action. As well as spirits of an ethereal nature, rice wine also makes an appearance, but things sober up on the third day, when Thais listen to Buddhist sermons.Phi Ta Khon is normally held in June, though the exact date is determined by local soothsayers. It re-enacts a tale of Buddha’s return to his home town before he attained enlightenment. His arrival was said to have caused such joyous celebrations that they woke the dead, who then joined in the festivities.

Buffalo Racing

It’s not quite Ascot, but every October in the eastern province of Chonburi buffalo races are the big draw in town. Riders cling bareback to the beasts as they thunder down a muddy track, cheered on by thousands of spectators. The festival also features muay thai (Thai boxing) and traditional Thai games, for example, climbing up a slippery pole to grab money pinned to the top. There is even a Miss Buffalo content for the prettiest-looking animal.

Vegetarian Festival

The Vegetarian Festival is Phuket’s most famous festival and sees the islanders perform gruesome acts of self-mortification. Cheeks, ears and even tongues are pierced with skewers and swords as participants display their religious zeal. Other highlights include fire-walking, climbing ladders that have razor-sharp knives for rungs and letting off firecrackers. As the name suggests, participants abstain from eating meat, and do so in the belief that it will help them live a happier life. The festival is Chinese in origin, and is held annually from late September to early October.

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong takes place in November and is one of the most serene and peaceful festivals on the Thai calendar. Krathong are small floating vessels made from banana leaves and adorned with candles, incense sticks and flowers. During the festival, Thais take their krathong down to the water’s edge and release them, making a small prayer and letting go of any past grudges. Look skywards and you’ll see dozens of kom loi (mini hot-air balloons), which cast a golden glow over the night sky. Loi Krathong is held throughout the country but the best places to experience it are in Bangkok, Ayuthaya or Sukhothai.

Full-moon party

Welcome to party central! The legendary full-moon parties of Thailand are held on the island of Ko Pha-Ngan in the country’s south. What started as a simple affair with a few dreadlocked backpackers now attracts thousands of visitors keen to sip buckets of booze on the beach and listen to the booming sound systems and DJs. There’s no religious or profound purpose behind the event – it’s simply a hedonistic beach gathering full of fireworks, cocktails and dancing.

Surin Elephant Round-up

Elephants are the kingdom’s national animal (they were even on the flag once), and they get their very own festival each November in the northeastern province of Surin. The festival showcases the strength and skills of the creatures, and includes elephant football, tug-of-war and mock battles, in which around 300 elephants take part. Some pachyderms can even turn their trunks to painting and produce remarkably good pieces.

River Kwai Bridge Week

Held from late November to early December, this festival remembers the fierce fighting that took place on the River Kwai during WWII. The famous Death Railway Bridge in the western province of Kanchanaburi acts as a backdrop to a nightly sound and light show, which tells the story of the Thai-Burma railway and the infamous Hellfire Pass, where Allied prisoners of war were forced to work in brutal conditions. Rooms fill up quickly during this spectacular festival, so be sure to book ahead.

Why Phi Phi Island in Thailand is considered the heaven on the earth?

What makes Phi Phi island a heaven on earth is that it is free from the hustle bustle of the busy lives that we usually encounter. Phi Phi Leh islands are entirely free from human inhabitants. Phi Phi Don lacks roads and you wouldn’t get lost in the maddening crowd. You can explore the place on your own which is one of its kind experiences. Located in the AndamanSea, Phi Phi Islands offer the best things for the visitors to explore. This stunning island that is second to none offers impeccable choices when it comes to the activities and the tours. You always have something or the other to indulge in Phi Phi islands. The crystal clear waters, lush green vegetation and the white sand powder on the beaches transforms Phi Phi islands into a heaven on Earth. The Maya Bay is a hot spot on the Phi Phi islands. The back end of the beach has a small terrace that offers a breathtaking view point of the Loh Sama which is famous for snorkeling. The Viking Cave is yet another attraction in the Phi Phi Islands. This cave features ancient paintings and the tourists learn how to capture swifts live in the cave through the aid of local fishermen. The Koi Phi Phi Don is a main village and is renowned for its unusual shape. Shaped like the alphabet “H”, this village is covered with jungle and features two mountains as the vertical bars of the alphabet. This village has a setting of a picture post card which is bound to enchant the visitors. This village is a Mecca for the photographers. The Pirate Island Adventures in the Phi Phi Island is one of its kinds. It is one of the popular attractions on this island and features a shop house that resembles a pirate ship wreck. The visitors have the option to enjoy the electronic shooting range with muskets and pistols. This attraction as well features rides and a 5D motion theater. The adults and the children are bound to have fun in the haunted house that sprawls over 250 square kilometers. If you love diving, then Phi Phi Islands wouldn’t disappoint you. Professional and serious dive centers offer dispensing courses to the visitors around and in the Phi Phi waters. The Anemone Reef, King Cruiser Wreck and the Shark Point are the most notable dive sites in the Phi Phi islands. The shark watching tours are quite popular and done in small groups. Snorkeling equipment under the guidance of professionals are offered to the visitors offering educational yet exciting experience to carry home with.

If you love shopping, then Phi Phi islands offer you the best experiences. You can find most of the interesting items for purchase on these islands. Although the number of stores is few, they offer a lot of souvenirs and original articles for sale. You would be able find unusual gifts to take back home in the Phi Phi stores. Get a glimpse of the life of the islanders by visiting the Phi Phi market. You can check out the exotic vegetables, fruits and seafood that grow on Phi Phi. The tropical jungles and the azure waters of the Phi Phi islands would leave you speechless. Explore the wildlife, cruise in a long tail, unravel the mysteries of the prehistoric cave paintings and a lot more while you are at the Phi Phi Islands

Eating & Ordering Thai Food (as Thais do)

Thai food is eaten with  a fork and spoon. Even single dish meals such as fried rice with pork, or  steamed rice topped with roasted duck, are served in bite-sized slices or chunks obviating the need for a knife.  The spoon is used to convey food to the mouth.

Ideally, eating Thai food is a communal affair involving two or more  people, principally because the greater the number of diners the greater the number of dishes ordered. Generally speaking, two diners order three dishes in addition to their  own individual plates of steamed rice, three diners four dishes, and so on. Diners choose whatever they require from shared dishes and generally add it to their own rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with other  dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes are “balanced” by bland dishes to avoid discomfort. 

The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of the spicy, the subtle, the sweet and sour, and is meant to be equally satisfying to eye, nose and palate. A typical meal might include a clear soup (perhaps bitter melons stuffed with minced pork), a steamed dish (mussels in curry sauce), a fried dish (fish with ginger), a hot salad (beef slices on a bed of lettuce, onions, chillies, mint and lemon juice) and a variety of sauces into which food is  dipped. This would be followed by sweet desserts and/or fresh fruits such as mangoes, durian, jackfruit, papaya, grapes or melon.

Adventure and adrenaline in Thailand

Over the past few years Thailand has gained a reputation for its incredible range of adventure activities, with testosterone-fuelled highs around every corner. You don’t need to be super-fit to join in and you usually don’t require special training. Any budding Indiana Jones can stomp through jungle paths to meet remote ethnic groups while Easy Riders can bike around looping roads surrounded by swooping mountain ranges. Here is a list of the top places in Thailand for thrill-seekers to get their fix or klick

Kayaking and rafting

Thailand’s rivers and seas are the perfect places for some paddle power. Kayaking trips often venture inside caves glittering with stalactites and stalagmites, visit limestone islands or pass through mangrove forests. Many companies run trips around Krabi and Phuket while in Kanchanaburi you can power your way along the famous River Kwai.Some of the country’s wildest and wettest white-water rafting can be found in the north and west of the country. In Chiang Mai, for example, you can take on the fierce Mae Taeng River, which has grade three and four rapids, with Siam Rivers outfitters.


For more upmarket adventure, learn how to sail your own yacht. Sailing Thailand runs courses around Phuket for those who wish to learn the ropes through to those who want to race. Phuket also has some reasonable rips for surfers, while kiteboarding is starting to take off, literally, in Ko Samui and Hua Hin.

Diving and snorkelling

Peer into the crystal-blue seas that surround Thailand’s 3,200km (20,000mi) of coastline and a whole new watery world appears. Snorkelling is the simplest option and nearly every island runs day-trips out to nearby coral reefs. All you need to do is grab a mask, pull on some fins and jump in.To get a closer look at the range of marine life, scuba diving in Thailand is an incredible experience. Day-trips typically include at least two dives, or you can join a Jaguar F-Pace Personal Contract Hire and spend several days diving.The best places to plunge are on the west coast, which includes the Similan Islands. Set in the Andaman Sea, these islands are rated among the top dive sites anywhere in the world. Along with red and purple soft corals, the marine life includes yellow boxfish, triggerfish and octopus.Ko Tao is one of the most popular places to learn to dive, thanks to its shallow waters and abundance of coral. Dive centres run courses that will teach you the basics in a few days, and after that the undersea world is your oyster. Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock) are remote sites that are off Ko Lanta but are worth seeking out as sightings of manta rays and whale sharks are common.The best time to dive is from November to April, when the waters are at their clearest.


Think you’d make a great Tarzan? Then check out the high-flying, high-speed jungle adventures in the heart of Thailand’s stunning countryside.Several resorts in Kanchanaburi have specially built courses that offer visitors the chance to fly from tree to tree while attached to 500m (1640ft) ziplines, then scramble across rope bridges and over spider nets while surrounded by dense jungle. Tree Top Asia runs a Flight of the Gibbon experience that includes up to 26 platforms stretching over 3km that lets thrill-seekers whizz, crawl, fly and swing through the forest canopy. It has bases near Bangkok and Chiang Mai.


If ziplining isn’t enough altitude for you, learn to fly at the Nok Aviation Flying Club near Chiang Mai or try a spot of hang-gliding and paragliding in the eastern province of Rayong with the Thai Gliding School.

Biking and cycling

By far the best way to see Thailand’s mountain ranges and lush countryside is to jump on a motorbike. An area to the west of Chiang Mai is known as the Mae Hong Son loop and in biker circles it is said to be one of the ultimate routes thanks to endless hairpins, corkscrew twists and awe-inspiring views.Cycling tours are also available, with the best routes running from Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi or Hua Hin. Organised trips can be arranged with companies such as Spice Roads, and these often include sleeping overnight in a homestay with villagers.

Trekking and camping

Meeting ethnic groups and experiencing life in their villages is a highlight of any trip. Trekking tours range from short strolls in a forest up to challenging stomps through thick jungle accompanied by expert guides who are often able to spot hidden creatures that you’d otherwise walk straight past.Thailand’s national parks are filled with dragon-toothed mountain peaks, tumbling waterfalls and dense vegetation. Camping out at designated sites means you are utterly immersed in nature. One of the best parks is Khao Yai in the northeast, which includes a giant monsoon forest, dozens of elephants and excellent trekking options.

Elephant riding

Riding through the jungle on the back of an elephant is a memorable, if somewhat jolting, experience. For those who want to understand Thailand’s national animal better, it’s possible to spend time training as a mahout. The Elephant Palace in Ayuthaya runs special courses that teach guests how to respect and care for the pachyderms.


If you’re planning to visit Thailand’s beaches rather than its jungle, some of the more remote, rugged islands are ideal for quad-biking. Ko Samet is virtually filled with dirt tracks and so these machines are the best, and most enjoyable, way to get from beach to beach.

Rock climbing

Clambering up a rock face delivers the ultimate vertigo-enducing buzz. If you’re a beginner, head for Ko Phi Phi which has relatively simple ways up, but if you are more experienced, then Railay beach in Krabi is rock-climbing nirvana – and has one of the best beaches in Thailand. Andaman Adventure runs rock-climbing, fishing and kayaking packages around the southern islands.

Thai food: a tour from north to south

Whether you’re munching on freshly-made papaya salad, slurping down noodles or devouring fresh mangoes, Thai cuisine is unbeatable. The country has some of the most explosive, fresh and tasty food in the world and eating is a major reason people visit.

Thai meals tend to have five features – spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter – and when put together are said to produce the perfect balance. Not all of its food has the famous tongue-burning spices, so don’t be afraid to dive in and sample some dishes. When it comes to eating etiquette, throw off any chopstick anxiety – most food is eaten with a fork and spoon, and chopsticks are only used for noodles. Dishes are placed in the middle and shared.

One of the many great things about Thai food is the sheer variety; each region has its own style and characteristics, although it’s possible to get virtually any meal in any part of the country. Here’s a breakdown of what you can look forward to while you’re on the road.


Folk from the northeast (Isahn), are justly proud of their food. Much of the cuisine, like the dialect, is similar to that found in neighbouring Laos. This includes the legendary som tam (spicy papaya salad), made by pounding papaya with a mortar and pestle, then adding lime juice, fish sauce, tomatoes and roasted peanuts. Lahp (minced meat mixed with shallots, chillies and mint) is a firm favourite in the northeast, along with grilled chicken, catfish and tom saep, a spicy hot and sour soup.

Food is often eaten with glutinous sticky rice, which is rolled into a ball with the right hand and then chomped on. Eating this way will earn you huge respect from locals, who will marvel at your ability to dispense with a fork and spoon. To clock up some more respect (and if you’re feeling brave), join them in dining on frog, rat or deep-fried scorpion.


The north is home to several tasty Burmese-style curries and dips. The most well-known is gaang hang lair, a pork curry with handfuls of peanuts, tamarind juice and dried chillies thrown in the mix. Khao soy is a fantastically rich broth with egg noodles and meat, topped with pickled onions and a slice of lime. Also popular in the north are dipping sauces, which are usually combinations of chillies, tomatoes, fish sauce and raw vegetables. Deep-fried pork rinds are used to scoop up the mixture by hand.

The best way to experience northern cuisine is while watching a khantoke (traditional dance performance). Diners sit on the floor and eat from a low table filled with various dishes that will almost certainly include the north’s spicy version of sausage, sai ua.


Central Thailand is home to rivers that flow from mighty mountains into fertile plains, and the abundant rice and vegetable crops that grow here form a major part of the diet. Along with fantastic jasmine rice, there are several classic central dishes, including gaang pet (red curry), gaang som (orange curry) and salads. The latter are seriously spicy affairs and a world away from the tomato and lettuce variety found in the West.

One of Thailand’s most famous dishes, tom yam, comes from the central region and is a fiery concoction featuring lemongrass, lime, galangal, herbs and, of course, chilli. This soup usually comes chock full of giant, juicy prawns, but can also be found with mixed seafood. Another must-try soup is tom kah gai, a gorgeous creamy coconut soup that comes with chicken.

In Ayuthaya, the erstwhile capital of Siam, be sure to check out gooay deeo reua, a famous noodle soup, and roti sai mai, a DIY dessert that diners create by rolling together thin strands of sugar palm inside a pancake. Those who make the journey up the serpentine road to the border town of Sangkhlaburi are rewarded with markets offering large pots of curries made by the local Mon people.


With a strong Muslim community and more coconut trees than rice fields, it’s no surprise that southern food has a distinctive flavour. The coconuts are used to full effect in curries and soups, with one of the best being gaang massaman, a smooth curry featuring potato and peanuts. Another major ingredient is turmeric, which gives many dishes their characteristic yellow tones.

Being a narrow peninsula with lots of coast, seafood is particularly common and inexpensive in the south. Lobster, crab, squid, prawns and scallops all feature on menus, and if you’re staying near a beach, be sure to experience the seafood barbecues. Other traditional southern dishes include yellow rice and chicken, Malay-style satays with peanut-based dipping sauces and the dessert roti, a pancake covered with lashings of condensed milk, filled with anything from bananas to chocolate and eaten with toothpicks.


It’ll be a test of your willpower, given the array of savoury cuisine on offer, but make sure you leave plenty of room for dessert. An incredible array of Thai fruit is available, including mangosteen, bite-size bananas, super-sweet pineapple and durian, which is delicious but so smelly most hotels ban it. As well as fruit, be sure to try khao lam (black or white sticky rice with coconut milk, sugar and black beans) and the divine mango with sticky rice and coconut milk.

All About Thai Curry

There are many kinds of Thai curry dishes, from non-spicy to very spicy. This article groups many of the more well-known curry dishes, while giving examples of dishes as well as introductory lists of ingredients and cooking methods.
When people hear the words “Thai Curry”, the first thing that comes to their mind is some spicy coconut milk with curry paste. This is not totally true. Thais say “Kaeng” which means “Curry”. However, Kaeng in Thailand does not only mean curry, but it means the cooking process of mixing various kinds of vegetables with liquid like water or coconut milk. It can be spicy or non-spicy or a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish like soup, stew, curry or even dessert. I will use the word “Kaeng” throughout this article. In Thailand, there are 2 types of Kaeng: Kaeng Jued and Kaeng Ped. Ped literally means spicy and Jued means tasteless. Kaeng Jued usually refers to non-spicy soup dishes.Kaeng JuedKaeng Jued dishes are usually comprise of broth, vegetables and meat. Homemade broth is preferred over bouillon cubes. Broth is made from boiling pork ribs or chicken bones in water for a long period of time. You will often hear Thais say “nam soup” which means broth. To make broth, the bones should have a little bit of meat and fat left on them. On low heat, boil meat in water. Once the boil begins, reduce heat to its lowest point so that the broth just barely simmers. The longer the simmering, the more flavor you will get. One and a half to two hours usually is enough to extract flavors from meats. Before using broth, straining is a must. In Thai cooking, some recipes would add Chinese cellery or white radish during the simmering to add more sweetness to the broth.The clear broth then will be used in a different kind of Kaeng Jued. A common way to make Kaeng Jued is to 1) bring broth to boil 2) add meat, 3) add vegetables and 4) add flavor. Example Kaeng Jued dishes are:

  • Kaeng Jued Fak: chicken/pork broth with winter melon
  • Kaeng Jued Mara: chicken/pork broth with bitter melon
  • Kaeng Jued Mara Yat Sai: chicken/pork broth with stuffed bitter melon
  • Kaeng Jued Pla Muek Yat Sai: chicken/pork broth with stuffed squid
  • Kaeng Jued Taeng Gwa: chicken/pork broth with cucumber
  • Kaeng Jued Taeng Gwa Yat Sai: chicken/pork broth with stuffed cucumber
  • Kaeng Jued Tao Hu: chicken/pork broth with bean curd
  • Kaeng Jued Wun Sen: chicken/pork broth with clear noodles

Kaeng PedMost Kaeng Ped dishes differ in degree of spiciness. Some are very spicy and some are mild. Some have coconut milk and some do not. Kaeng Ped can be categorized into 6 different types: Kaeng Ped, Kaeng Khua, Kaeng Liang, Kaeng Som, Tom Yum and Pad Ped.1) Kaeng PedIt can be confusing that Kaeng Ped is a subcategory of Kaeng Ped. There are 2 distinct types of Kaeng Ped: Kaeng Ped with coconut milk and Keang Ped without coconut milk. The key to a delicious Kaeng Ped is curry paste. Either homemade or commercial curry paste must be finely ground. Fish sauce and sugar are the two main ingredients to flavor Kaeng Ped dishes.Examples of water-based curry dishes are:

  • Kaeng Hang Le: Northern style curry with meat, curry powder, lemongrass, ginger, shallots, shrimp paste, chilies and peanuts
  • Kaeng Pa: jungle curry, Northen curry. This curry is hot and full of flavor from fingerroot, kaffir lime zest, lemon grass, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste and chilies
  • Kaeng Leung: hot yellow curry, most common meat used is fish. Other ingredients are winter melon, chilies, garlic, turmeric, lemon grass, shallots and shrimp paste.

Examples of coconut-based curry dishes are:

  • Kaeng Daeng: red curry with meat, bamboo shoots, Thai sweet basil, kaffir lime leaves and coconut milk
  • Kaeng Kari: Indian style curry with meat, potatoes and coconut milk
  • Kaeng Kiaw Waan: a slightly sweet green curry with meat, Thai eggplants, pea eggplants, winter melon, Thai sweet basil (Bai Horapa), kaffir lime leaves and coconut milk
  • Kaeng Matsaman: curry with meat, potatoes, peanuts and coconut milk (a mild curry from the Muslim Southern part of Thailand)
  • Kaeng Phed: spicy curry with meat and chilies

2) Kaeng KhuaKaeng Khua curry paste makes this curry dish distinct and different from Kaeng Ped dishes. Kaeng Khua curry paste has either deep-fried fish, grilled fish or dried small shrimp as part of its ingredients. Most Kaeng Khua will not have added spices because of its strong aroma. The typical flavors of this curry are sweet, sour and salty. The most common meat is fish, shrimp or clam. Main added ingredients typically used in this curry can be pineapple, mushrooms or winter melon. Other ingredients are galangal, kaffir lime zest, dried chilies, lemon grass and shrimp paste.Some people might confuse Kaeng Khua and Kaeng Pa because they look similar and both are coconut-based curry. However, both use different curry paste and Kaeng Pa mostly has only a salty taste.3) Kaeng LiangMany say Kaeng Liang is Thai vegetarian curry. The main ingredients of this curry are vegetables, usually there is no meat. Some recipes may add chicken or shrimp. However, if we look at Kaeng Liang curry paste, this dish is not vegetarian. Part of Kaeng Liang curry paste is dried shrimp paste (ka pi), dried shrimp and deep-fried fish or grilled fish. This curry is a water-based curry that is quite thick. The most common vegetables are sponge gourd (buab liam), gourd leaves (bai tam leung), “hairy” basil (bai Maeng Luk) and baby corn.4) Kaeng Som Kaeng Som is a water-based curry that in flavor combines sour, saltiness and a little sweetness. The common meat used in this curry is fish or shrimp. Some recipes use clams. Common vegetables are morning glory (phak bueng), bottle gourd (phak nam tao), water mimosa (phak kra ched), Vegetable Humming Bird (dok kae), cabbage (kra lum plee) and juice-based tamarind. Other ingredients are shrimp paste, dried shrimp and shallots. The famous Kaeng Som is Kaeng Som Pla Chon Phak Kra Ched which has striped snakehead (pla chon) and water mimosa (phak kra ched) as main ingredients.5) Tom YumTom Yum is a hot and sour soup. Tom Yum soup dishes have lots of herbs and meat as the main ingredients. Few vegetables are used in Tom Yum soup, although usually included are oyster mushrooms or straw mushrooms. Common herbs used in Tom Yum soup are kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chilies and coriander roots. The common meats used in Tom Yum soup are chicken, shrimp and fish. The ingredients used in flavoring Tom Yum are lemon juice, tamarind juice, sugar and fish sauce.Tom Yum soup can also be categorized into 2 different types: coconut-based Tom Yum soup and water/broth-based Tom Yum soup. Examples of Tom Yum soup dishes are:

  • Tom Kha Gai: coconut-based hot and sour soup with chicken
  • Tom Kha Pla Duk: coconut-based hot and sour soup with catfish
  • Tom Kha Ta Le: coconut-based hot and sour soup with seafood
  • Tom Yum Gai: water/broth-based hot and sour soup with chicken
  • Tom Yum Goong: water/broth-based hot and sour soup with prawn
  • Tom Yum Hua Pla: water/broth-based hot and sour soup with fish head
  • Tom Yam Moo Pa: water/broth-based hot and sour soup with boar

6) Pad PedPad Ped is similar to Kaeng Ped; however, Pad Ped dishes use less coconut milk or water than Kaeng Ped. Thus Pad Ped is more like a stir-fried dried curry paste dish with meat and vegetables. Example vegetables are Thai eggplants, yard long beans, bamboo shoots and pea eggplants. Two main ingredients used in flavoring Pad Ped dishes are fish sauce and sugar. Example dishes are:

  • Pad Ped Moo Tao Fak Yao: stir-fried red curry paste with pork and yard long beans
  • Pad Ped Pla Duk: stir-fried catfish with chili paste
  • Phanaeng Gai: stir-fried phanaeng curry paste with chicken and kaffir lime leaves
  • Phanaeng Moo: stir-fried phanaeng curry paste with pork and kaffir lime leaves
  • Phanaeng Nuea: stir-fried phanaeng curry paste with beef and kaffir lime leaves

The example dishes listed above are famous dishes in Thailand. Of course, there are more dishes than I can name here. “Kaeng” has more than just the one meaning of spicy curry like many believe about Thai curry. Thais even use the word “Kaeng” in desserts like Kaeng Buat. Kaeng Buat is a dessert that has pumpkin, taro and/or potatoes in coconut milk. Most Thai restaurants in the U.S offer coconut-based Kaeng Ped, Pad Ped and Tom Yum soup. If you have a chance to visit Thailand, I hope you will have a chance to enjoy all different kinds of Kaeng.

The Thai Mango – A Luscious and Precious Staple

The abundant and delicious variations of fresh Thai mangoes are enjoyed by millions in Southeast Asia. This article offers detail on types of Thai mangoes and dishes, while exploring the broader cultural value of Thai mangoes.
The Thai mango is known as “Ma Muang” in Thai, although this varies by region. For example, in the Northern region a mango is also known as “Pae,” and in the South as “Pao.” The mango is rich in symbolic meaning. As part of the feng shui tradition, for generations many Thais have believed that growing a mango tree on the south side of the house will bring prosperity to the family. More broadly, mangoes are so widely enjoyed in Thailand and surrounding countries that they truly do represent a precious part of the culture. There are perhaps more than one hundred types of Thai mangoes, many of them hybrids developed in Thailand. The mango tree only bears fruit once per year, and its season is between late March and early June. This is the time one will find delicately delicious mangoes – a fairly small window of time for top quality. Nevertheless, this small window of time represents much of the enjoyment of mangoes by so many in Thailand, making it in effect a staple for meals and especially desserts.
Thai mangoes vary in size, shape and color depending on the type, soil and harvest areas. The shapes of mangoes can be round, kidney-like in shape, oval, or a long slender shape. The color of a raw mango is typically green, but the color of ripe mangoes (the skin) can be yellow, yellow-green, green, yellowish orange or yellowish red. All mangoes have only one flat seed surrounded by flesh. Ripe mangoes have flesh that is yellow, golden-yellow, orange or orange-yellow.
The following are the most well-known mango types:

  • Nam Dok Mai (น้ำดอกไม้): oval with a sharp pointed tip. The ripe fruit has golden-yellow flesh with a sweet-scented taste;
  • Kiaw Sa Woei (เขียวเสวย): oblong dark green fruit. The ripe fruit has pale white flesh with a sweet taste;
  • Thong Dam (ทองดำ): oval with rounded tip. The ripe fruit has yellowish orange flesh with a sweet taste;
  • Ok Rhong (อกร่อง): oval with rounded tip. The ripe fruit has light yellowish orange flesh with a sweet taste;
  • Raed (แรด): oblong with a small pointed knob. The ripe fruit has light yellow flesh with a sweet-scented taste;
  • Pim Sian (พิมเสน): oval with tapered tip. The ripe fruit has light yellow flesh with a sweet taste;
  • Nang Klang Wan (หนังกลางวัน): oblong with curved and tapering tip. The ripe fruit has light yellow flesh and a sweet-scented taste.

As I experienced in Thailand, mangoes are eaten in a number of ways depending on the type of mango. Both ripe and raw mangoes are enjoyed as snacks. Nam Dok Mai, Nang Klang Wan, Thong Dam and Ok Rhong are usually served at the peak of ripeness. The most famous dessert is perhaps mangoes with sticky rice (Khao Niaw Ma Muang). Increasingly, this dish is being offered at restaurants in America as well. Kiaw Sa Woei, Pim Sian, Fah Lan and Raed are preferably eaten raw, even though they are also delicious as ripe mangoes. Well-liked dishes include Mango Salad (Yum Ma Muang – spicy shredded raw mangoes) and Crispy Shredded Catfish with Raw Mango Salad (Yum Pla Duk Foo).When eating raw mangoes, dipping sauce is essential. The two common dipping sauces are:

  • mixed of salt, sugar and crushed dry chili, called Prik Gleua in Thai,
  • mixed of chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar, heated to a caramel-like consistency, called Nam Pla Wan in Thai

Besides eating fresh and raw mangoes, Thais also use mangoes to make ice cream, juice and milkshakes, as well as pickled mango (Ma Muang Dong), dry pickled mango (Ma Muang Chae Im), or air dried pureed mango (Ma Muang Kuan). Since mangoes ripen so quickly and are abundant during the season, many mangoes are canned and sold, both domestically and internationally. Mango products are usually made from other types of mango such as Kaew (แก้ว), Chok Anan (โชคอนันต์) and Maha Chanok (มหาชนก).
Thais not only use mangoes as fruit or in cooking, but in medicine as well. The following process is one example. The seed of the ripe mango is dried, and subsequently ground up or boiled in water. This process results in a drink which helps one with health problems such as a bloated feeling or to get rid of a parasite or worm. Another approach involves boiling 15-20 mango leaves with water to create a drink to treat bloated feelings, ulcerative colitis, or for other applications such as external use to clean wounds. Some drink water boiled with the bark of a mango tree to reduce fever. As always, consult a physician as appropriate before deciding on treatments.Asian grocery stores in America often do not have Thai mangoes, but may have products made from Thai mangoes. In this case, if mango juice or mangoes with sticky rice sound appealing this summer, mangoes from the Philippines or Mexico are your best substitute. Costco often offers Mexican mangoes – wait until they are ripe – the skin will be very yellow. Mangoes from the Phillipines may be better, but they are equally if not more difficult to find.As the vast majority of people in Southeast Asia eat mangoes, the cultural significance of the mango is broadly based. The mango has been a luscious and precious staple for generations. This is an ongoing result of both the high quality Thai mango itself, and the inspiration of its many delicious variations, uses, and cultural heritage.