The Ultimate Insiders’ Guide to Thailand

Phuket thailand

Ornate temples, gilded royal palaces, tropical beaches and urban jungles – it’s all packed neatly into Thailand. Three Qantas travel writers – who uncover hidden gems and secrets all over the globe – share their tips, insights and must-dos following their recent visits to the Southeast Asian country. One thing they agree upon? Bangkok is a rollicking good time – and it’s just the gateway to Chiang Mai, Krabi and beyond. 

“Skip the crowds for a snorkelling tour of four unspoiled islands” - Alex Carlton 

“Thailand is a place of magical contrast: the emerald-green countryside of the north, the pristine beaches of the islands and the energy of Bangkok. The capital is famous for its street food (the congees and dumplings of Charoen Krung Road, the pad kra pao from just about anywhere). 

“To escape the heat of the street, duck into BKK Social Club, the bar at the Four Seasons Chao Phraya, which takes its moodily-lit cues from the tango bars of Buenos Aires. The amethyst-red Hand of God cocktail shimmers with a glamorous blend of Campari, tequila and cacao malbec and it’s just one of the reasons this has been named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.

Kamalaya-Ko-Samui Thailand

“Thailand’s islands and coastlines are a postcard paradise of sugar-white beaches and jewel-blue seas. Drifting around the private grounds of wellness retreat Kamalaya Koh Samui, with its fragrant mango trees and rock-carved pools strewn with frangipanis, is an exercise in self-care on its own. Tired bodies are revived with a massage in open-air treatment rooms and cleansed with fresh papaya salads and green juices. 

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Bangkok river tour

“While at Banyan Tree Krabi, on southern Thailand’s west coast, a new luxury longtail boat tour skips the crowds for a snorkelling tour of the four unspoiled islands of Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, inhabited only by seabirds, monitor lizards and monkeys.”

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“Uncover a gem hidden in a temple-studded northern city” - Sarah Reid 

“Thailand is one of those rare holiday destinations with so many highlights that every visit offers a new adventure. Take Erawan National Park in central Thailand, where a spectacular seven-tiered waterfall offers the ultimate opportunity to wind down in nature after exploring the WWII history of Kanchanaburi province. Make the 90-minute bus trip from Kanchanaburi town to paddle in Erawan Falls’ serene set of turquoise pools, ideally on a weekday to avoid crowds.

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“Fans of colonial-era relics can uncover a real gem hidden in the temple-studded northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. While Thailand was never colonised, the British government long-maintained a consulate on the serene shores of the Ping River, just east of the Old City. Built in 1915, the two-storey building now sits at the centre of the splendid Anantara Chiang Mai Resort, with non-guests also welcome to stop by for a refreshing gin and tonic at the old-world-style bar now occupying the former consulate. 

Nahm restaurant at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

“Some highlights in the ever-evolving city of Bangkok never change – at least not much. Among them is contemporary Thai restaurant Nahm. Opened by renowned Australian chef and restaurateur David Thompson in the Como Metropolitan Bangkok in 2010, the restaurant has continued to win fans – and Michelin stars – since Thompson handed the reins to chef Pim Techamuanvivit in 2018. Made with delicate chunks of blue swimmer crab, the aromatic gang pu bai cha plu (southern yellow curry) is a must-order.”

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“Visit the city’s oldest jazz club with tropical speakeasy vibes” - Kendall Hill 

“Throughout Thailand there’s no region I haven’t enjoyed, from southern Trang to the northern borderlands. But the most fun I ever have is in Bangkok. A vibrant, multifaceted city home to fantastic eating and fine hotels, bustling markets and Buddhist temples – Bangkok is many things but never boring.

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“Check into the capital’s oldest luxury hotel, the circa 1876 Mandarin Oriental beside the Chao Phraya River. Its 331 rooms are spread across a 16-storey tower with sparkling views and the original garden wing; elsewhere there are two swimming pools, 12 restaurants and bars and a riverside spa. 

“Bangkok’s renowned for its skyscraper bars but for more down-to-earth drinks head to the Oriental’s Bamboo Bar. The city’s oldest jazz club mixes tropical speakeasy vibes – all rattan and tiger prints – with a large range of gins, whiskies and custom cocktails.

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“Get your greens in at Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s first and largest public playground. Open daily from dawn till 9pm, it’s equal parts outdoor gym, community centre and part nature fix… mind the monitor lizards. 

“Bangkok’s lifeblood is its river and canals (klongs). Feel the pulse of the city on half- or full-day boat tours taking in temples and floating markets, the royal palace or klong-side communities of artists and farmers.”

Earn 75,000 bonus Qantas Points* when you apply online by 31 October 2023, are approved, and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Available to new American Express Card Members only.

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Getting there

Fly Thailand Economy return for one person for 55,400 Qantas Points plus AUD $249 taxes, fees and carrier chargesˇ.

*Receive 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you apply online by 31 October 2023, are approved, and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months from the Card approval date. This offer is only available to new American Express Card Members. If you are an existing David Jones Card Member and don’t hold or have previously held any other American Express Card(s) in the past 18 months, you will be eligible for the offer. All other Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited, in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for the bonus Qantas Points offer. Eligible purchases do not include Card fees and charges, for example annual fees, interest, late payment, cash advances, balance transfers, traveller’s cheques and foreign currency conversion. Qantas Points are earned in accordance with and subject to the Qantas American Express Card Points  Terms and Conditions . 75,000 bonus Qantas Points will be awarded to the eligible Card Member’s account 8-10 weeks after the spend criteria has been met. Qantas Frequent Flyer membership and the earning and redemption of points are subject to the Terms and Conditions of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program available at . This advertised offer is not applicable or valid in conjunction with any other advertised or promotional offer.

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SEE ALSO: The 5 Best Day Trips to Do From London

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