Thailand's Beaches, Phuket and Pattaya
Thailand's beaches are all in southern Thailand. There are three main areas, south-east of Bangkok on the coast near Cambodia, the lower southern gulf on the east coast and the west coast known as the Andaman coast on the Andaman Sea. The beaches and islands on the west coast of southern Thailand tend to be unavailable from May to November due to the monsoon. The east coast, in the Gulf of Thailand, tends to be fine all year round.
Phuket is Thailand's largest island and was the first place to be developed as a tourist resort. It is famous for its wonderful seafood. It is accessible by air, both domestically and internationally, or rail. As it is on the Andaman coast, on the west coast of Thailand, the best time to go is from December to May to avoid the rainy season.
Krabi province, on the mainland opposite Phuket, is another well-known area with many beaches. Ao Nang, a small beach town, is probably the cheapest resort. Rah Leh has good rock climbing and interesting caves to visit. Koh Phi Phi is stunning and actually consists of two islands, Ko Phi Phi Leh and Koh Phi Phi Don. This destination is very popular and usually packed during high season (December to March). The film, The Beach, starring Leonardo di Caprio and based on a novel by Alex Garland, was filmed here and no doubt increased the area's popularity.
The province on the upper southern Gulf coast, Prachap Khiri Khan, has many beaches. The most well-known being Hua Hin at the northern end of the province, but there are many lesser-known resorts further down the coast. Hua Hin used to be popular with Thai tourists and has now been taken over by visitors from the West. It is a popular resort for families and has an airport.
Pattaya is beach resort on the south-east coast of Thailand, very close to Bangkok. Therefore it is it has become Thailand's busiest beach resort. There are many diving centres where you can hire scuba or snorkelling equipment, and there are islands offshore from the mainland to visit. Something else Pattaya is known for is its golf courses. Because Pattaya is so popular, it is relatively expensive.
Koh Pha-Ngan is popular with backpackers due to the availability of cheap accommodation and is famous for its full moon parties. Koh Samui and Koh Tao are part of this archipelago.
Southern Thailand is getting near the equator and has a tropical climate so take care to protect yourself from the sun. Wear a sun hat and high-factor sun cream. Beware of sun reflecting off water and white sand. Take it slowly to start with as once you are burnt you can't go back. Be particularly careful with water activities such as kayaking, diving and snorkelling. Even water-resistant sun creams do come off in water if you are submerged for any length of time. Some people wear T-shirts while snorkelling to protect their backs from sunburn.