The Eastern & Oriental Express
Southeast Asia’s most glamorous train, the Eastern & Oriental Express travels through Thailand at a soothingly gentle pace. What better way to watch some of the most spectacular scenery pass you by than sitting in a comfortable armchair in an elegant carriage, sipping on a chilled Singapore Sling? Choose from a selection of itineraries, all of which include guided excursions, bringing you even closer to this fascinating part of the world.
Thailand is filled with devout Buddhists and you’ll find a host of wonderfully ornate temples (or wats) across the country, where locals pay their respects every day. They are more than just places of worship and reside at the heart of local community, providing guidance, education and acting as social centres for festivals, ceremonies and charitable events. As a focus for artistic endeavours, they offer unique examples of architecture, sculpture, painting and decorative arts and crafts. Top picks include Bangkok’s Wat Pho and Chiang Mai’s Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
With over 3,000 miles of tropical coastline, Thailand has a beach for every age and taste - whether travelling on a honeymoon, as a family, or during your ‘golden’ years. Just a few to mention include the sublime scoops on Koh Samui or the sweeping crescents on Phuket, each lapped by the warm, turquoise Andaman Sea. In the middle of Phang Nga Bay, stretch out on a secluded beach on Koh Yao Noi, or head to the blissfully peaceful, flaxen-coloured sands of Koh Kood.
Thai food needs little introduction and is enjoyed in restaurants around the world. Taste the very best and most authentic of this delicious cuisine; every dish is a juxtaposition of tastes, blending sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. There is also an intricate interplay of texture and colour, as well as the medicinal benefits of traditional Thai ingredients. Sample fiery soups in the north, creamy green curries in the south and, of course, Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle dish that’s almost an ambassador of Thai cuisine. Whether tasting the flavour-filled street food or trying out an exquisite fine dining restaurant, expect a taste sensation.
Blessed with a tropical climate, pristine seas and seemingly endless coastline, Thailand is home to a rich bounty of dazzling marine-life and healthy coral reefs, as well as sunken wrecks. As a result, it’s a playground for divers! There are some great sites to suit all abilities around Phuket and Koh Samui – plus professional instruction and equipment rental all readily on hand. More experienced divers can discover the world-class sites off the Similan and Surin Islands, a protected marine National Park encompassing a string of picturesque, tiny isles. Look out for Batfish, Moray eels, Snappers, Barracudas, Surgeonfish, Leopard sharks and more!
Phuket, Krabi & Koh Yao Noi
Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is blessed with a mix of verdant, tropical rainforests and stunning sandy beaches, washed by the balmy Andaman Sea. Phuket City is hugely popular for day-outings, a place where colonial architecture blends with new-age charm. East of Phuket, where the river meets the sea, Krabi is best described as a paradise, with dramatic limestone islands soaring out of the sea, lush, rubber-tree plantations, and spotless beaches. Half-way between Phuket and the Krabi mainland, the isle of Koh Yao Noi offers a calm refuge far removed from the crowds of neighbouring towns, oozing peace and tranquillity from every angle.
Khao Lak & Koh Samui
Kao Lak is in the Phang Nga province of southern Thailand and features immaculate beaches and dense jungle. Close by, discover the world-famous diving sanctuaries of the Similan and Surin Islands, as well as five magnificent National Parks. On the opposite side of the peninsula, Koh Samui is home to sleepy villages and forested hillsides, sweeping down to white-sand beaches, fringed with swaying coconut palms. Join a local guide and experience the inner-jungle world, exposing hidden waterfalls perfect to plunge in, or relax and rejuvenate in their pure, calming waters.
Bangkok, Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai
Bangkok straddles the grand Chao Phraya River and offers an enlightening experience into Thailand’s diverse personality. Discover its temples and age-old street markets for a secret glimpse at ancient heritage. Landlocked Chiang Rai is the country’s most northern province, a place of captivating scenery dotted with National Heritage sites - including temples, settlement ruins and Buddhist shrines. South-west brings Chiang Mai on the Ping River, the principal city of the region and home to an impressive 300 gilded temples and museums! Local inhabitants cradle their customs, their cuisine and their own unique dialect.
Hua Hin & Koh Kood
The coastal resort of Hua Hin is the oldest and among the most traditional Thai resorts, successfully combining the charms of yesteryear with modern-day facilities. Situated 200km southwest of Bangkok, this attractive resort has long been the holiday destination for Thailand’s elite. Today, overseas visitors come to share this thriving yet peaceful resort, which delightfully preserves a classic Thai ambience. It also has an established fishing port. Close to the Cambodian border, stunning Koh Kood is one of the larger yet least developed islands, fringed with some of the most pristine beaches in the whole Gulf of Thailand.
To the Thai people "sanuk" is about striving to achieve satisfaction and pleasure from whatever they do, whether it’s the office, the karaoke bar or working in the rice fields. As a visitor it will help do to likewise especially if you’re staying at The Peninsula Bangkok and are visiting the market – if you barter in the right manner, you may be surprised and delighted at the results.
If you’re staying at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai or are enjoying a luxury rail journey on the Eastern & Oriental Express and have decided to pay a visit to the temples, do wear appropriate clothing, i.e. make sure your knees and shoulders are covered and remove both shoes and hats before entering the temple (or indeed any room where there is an image of Buddha). There is a direct association between the head (high status) and feet (low status) so don't place your hat on top of your shoes.
All buildings in Thailand have a raised threshold which is there to keep out evil spirits. You’ll see this in hotels like the Amanpuri and Trisara, take care to step over the raised threshold of the wat as it is bad manners (and bad luck) to place your foot on it.
Inside the wat, do try and keep your head lower than the images of Buddha and the monks. Don’t point the bottom of your feet at the images of Buddha or the monks - you will always see the Thai people kneeling with their feet tucked behind them.
If you do take photos, be discreet and consider leaving a small donation in the collection boxes as it will go towards the upkeep of the temple.
The Thai Smile
In Thailand, the smile isn’t just a sign of happiness, although you’ll be the recipient of many smiles when you enter any of our featured hotels and resorts and in particular the Banyan Tree Samui which has been described as a little piece of heaven soaked in angelic tranquillity. Thais smile when they are amused, bemused, apologetic, annoyed, uncertain, wrong, furious or embarrassed. In fact, there is a Thai smile to cover just about every circumstance. Bear this in mind and it shouldn't lead to confusion.
Capital city Bangkok is the country’s hub for onward travel, offering easy connections onto Burma, Cambodia and Laos - and indeed to the rest of the world - stopping here gives you a chance to catch your breath and sample some of the city’s attractions.
British Airways and Thai Airways from London Heathrow to Bangkok. Etihad Airways from London Heathrow and Manchester (via Abu Dhabi). Flights with Emirates (via Dubai) from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow are also available. Onward connections from Bangkok to Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Krabi and Chiang Rai.
From London Heathrow to Bangkok: 11 hours, 40 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa - this is known as a visa exemption. It is now possible to extend your stay beyond the 30 days granted by the visa exemption by an additional 30 days from the expiry date of the original visa. To extend your visa you will need to apply at an immigration office.
If you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, please kindly check with the Royal Thai Embassy.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.
For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website. View the travel advice in full here: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/thailand