Ah, it’s the month of Valentine’s Day – perhaps in the rest of the world, not here in Thailand. Yet, the country makes for a great escape from the cold elsewhere, offering sun, next to no rain and cheaper accommodation due to the end of peak tourist season.
In other words, this is a great time to hit the beach and some natural attractions. First up, Isan.
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Ready your cameras, because the Red Lotus Sea (Talay Bua Daeng) in North East Thailand offers you an Instagram feast for the soul. Take a boat ride through the lotus covered lake in the genial breeze. About ten minutes into a pontoon ride, you will reach the centre of the lake with the pink blossoms for acres upon acres in every direction you turn.
Do keep an eye out for the small islands dotting the waterscape, home to little Buddha temples and statues. As you settle in to your lake sojourn, feel free to snack or sip on your picnic, and make most of the chance to quench your appetite in such luxury.
Lastly, if in the mood to linger on the water, why not get the 90 minute boat-ride? This may be the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day after all.
Central region (Bangkok)
Head to Prachinburi’s Makha Bucha fair for processions, cultural demonstrations, and a lantern release. In classic Thai style, the festivities are in honour of the monks making merit or earning their Buddhist stripes. Usually on the full moon of the third lunar month, this public holiday marks when 125 enlightened disciples originally received the “principles” of Buddhism.
Depending on the dates of the Chinese New Year, you could also enjoy lion dances, Chinese opera shows and acrobatic feats.
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South (Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, Hua Hin)
In Krabi, you have at least two great options. The first is Krabi Naga fest, home of free live music. Held at Khlong Muang Beach near Krabi, it is best known for its live pop and jazz concerts, though street performances, dance shows and a local products market are also on offer.
Alternatively, if you are in the mood for solitude, head to Emerald pool situated in Thung Teao Forest Natural Park, Krabi. The trek to the emerald pool begins at the wildlife sanctuary office and ends 800 metres into a well-worn forest path. You could also take the longer 2.7 km nature trail through tropical rain forest hosting rare flora and fauna including the Pitta Gurney bird which was once believed to be extinct.
It’s worth shelling out for a tour guide for this one, they’ll get you to the remote location, walk you through the pools, and help find/supply lunch. Remember to bring a change of clothes, the water in the pool will be invitingly warm, and there’s a small ladder to help you get in and out if you’re nervous.
If yours is an adult only party, be sure to hit Patong Resort in Phuket. It’s beach is lined with bars, restaurants, and cabaret offerings! Mop your dinner off, then head to Bangla road for a glimpse at the local architecture and nightlife.
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North (Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi)
Up North, in Chiang Mai, we have a gorgeous flower festival, one of three key festivals in the region with the others being Thai New Year (Songkran) and the festival of lights (Loy Krathong). People come from all over the world to experience this festival with beautiful women performing traditional Thai dances on floats decked with signature Chiang Mai flowers.
Had your fill of culture? Head to the Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi and relax to the sound of the falling water at this verdant, quiet location. Please take a moment to note that the top of the waterfall resembles an elephant’s trunk.
No wonder then that this waterfall is named after Lord Ganesh. Even more interesting, Erawan refers to a particular avatar of the Elephant god, “Trimukhti Ganapati” or Three Headed Ganesha. Like the white angel to the right and the devil to the left of our childhood cartoon heroes, Lord Ganesh symbolizes our attempt to stay in the sattva (equilibrium) state, rather than tip to inertia (tamas) or anxiety (rajas).
This unique attraction boasts seven tiers and is usually swarming with tourists. If you’re in the mood for some quiet, skip the East side of the park where this waterfall is located, and head to Huai Mae Khamin falls about 40 km North. Enjoy the 1.8 km long hiking trail along the falls’ tiers and cool off in the emerald ponds dotting the park.
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Down in the archipelago, Koh Samui is ideal for sunbathing in this cool, dry season. Definitely carry lots of sunscreen so you can pack in some stand-up paddling, sunbathing and sea-side snoozing. Then, relax some more with a Thai massage or reset your body with Yoga lessons.
In the mood for some nightlife? Fisherman’s Village in Koh Samui is a great destination for couples, elders and bootstrapped travelers. The picturesque street is particularly beautiful at the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. But of course, the weekly market in the evening is when the street truly comes alive with its boutique shopping, accommodation and food options.
Perhaps the most unusual travel destination you’ll ever encounter, the Hin Ta/Hi Yai rocks are a must-see for the traveler with a sense of humour. The rocks are visibly reminiscent of human genitalia, eliciting quiet chuckles and snickers from disbelieving visitors.
Prepare for stunning views from the rocks, stretching across the blue sea to neighbouring islands. There’s a small white-sand beach close by that is not good to swim in, but perfect to soak your feet after a day of exploration. Make sure you take some time to appreciate the vivid marine life swimming below the surface of the clear waters here.
Nearby, you will find the traditional Muslim fishing village Hua Thanon, boasting plantations, buffalo fields and a time-warp into life on the island before global tourism.