Discover the Hidden Havens of Thailand  3

Thailand is known for its unparalleled blazing-blue water and pristine beaches, freckled with rocky islands and hemmed by emerald jungle. Yet this Southeast Asian country teems with undiscovered hidden corners. Here is an “Off the beaten track” exploration of three regions all too often overlooked by travelers.

Chiang Rai: Golden Triangle Tangents

Tucked on a 25-square-mile land mass bordering Laos and Myanmar is Thailand’s northernmost province of Chiang Rai. Its hilly terrain and backdrops make Chiang Rai an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from rafting the currents of the Mae Kok River to setting out on a hike to reach 230-foot Khun Kon waterfall. Pass rice paddy fields and verdant farmland during adventurous pursuits into the mountains of Wawi, home to an estimated seven different ethnic groups.

Authentic exploration becomes even more exclusive at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, 50 miles north of the city center. Meet more than 25 elephants residing in the camp and learn the commands that mahout trainers use to communicate during your elephant trek, or while practicing yoga from a new perspective—on the gentle giant’s back!

Krabi: Summit Splendor

On the west coast of southern Thailand lies Krabi, a province distanced about three hours by road from Phuket. More than 130 limestone karst formations flank surrounding waters, while the rugged interior harbors hot springs, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries.

There is an exotic camp at Phulay Bay which has freestanding pavilions and villas hidden in the lush landscape of tropical gardens and serves as a luxurious base for excursions to Krabi’s renowned rock climbing destinations. At spectacular southern-tip Railay Beach, choose from 700 different climbing routes, some lofting you 196 feet above the Andaman Sea.

Continue to explore Krabi’s history as you kayak the mangrove forests and stalactite-dappled caves of Ban Bor Thor, anchoring your sea craft for a hike into Pee Hua Toh cavern adorned with 3,000-year-old paintings by prehistoric seafarers.

Koh Phangan: Below the Surface

A diminutive island resting in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is home to a duality that contrasts its festive full moon celebrations at Haad Rin beach with the quieter days on Samui Archipelago, where Ang Thong Marine Park’s 40 mostly uninhabited islands sprawl across 60 miles of the gulf’s lapis waters.

Climb aboard a speedboat to reach the marine park’s outlying islands and plunge into the waters of the Koh Wao cluster at its northern edge. The sheltered cove here, a secret snorkeling spot, harbors brilliant whip and fan coral formations abuzz with neon reef fish. Or, set sail on a catamaran to the clandestine diver’s paradise of tiny Koh Tao, or “Turtle Island,” favored for its placid waters where you can swim alongside namesake sea turtles.

A jungle trek on Koh Phangan’s peninsula will lead you to another must-experience secluded bay. The just-under-two-hour hike to Haad Rin’s twin beaches is a rarified one, even for locals. This makes the experience feel incredibly singular as you crest a scenic mountain plateau and descend to the waters framing the beach at Haad Yuan for a refreshing swim.

Thailand rewards with beach paradises while simultaneously imparting unexpected adventure. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-fueled experience or a tranquil and luxurious stay, let us help you uncover the hidden side of Thailand.

About the Author: Sue Shimkus, President of Lake Zurich Travel & Cruise, provides custom travel itineraries for the discerning traveler. To learn more, visit or call 847.438.5551.