An Insider’s Guide To Thailand

Kenwood Travel Thailand consultant and professional connoisseur Matt Hall takes us through the highlights, or should that be Thai-lights, of his recent trip to the Far East’s favourite exotic enclave. By Oliver Todd.



What were your favourite places you visited in Thailand, and why?

Choosing my favourite place in Thailand is like choosing my favourite brother – all have their good bits! If I had to choose though, I’d plum for the general area of Krabi. Krabi really symbolises Thai beach life. Little things, like how the hotels agree not to bombard beaches with sun-beds, so the beaches are kept looking at their natural, uncluttered best. The views from many of Krabi’s beaches are incredible too – hundreds of sheer limestone cliff-islands jolting sporadically and spectacularly from the turquoise waters. Even more sensational views come at sunset, as you lay back on a comfy beach beanbag sipping a Thai cocktail. (As we found at the Tubkaak Resort for example.) Krabi offers endless boat trips, trekking and diving while the town provides excellent shopping and dining opportunities. It’s an all-round idyllic holiday destination that’s hard to fault!

Khao Lak comes in a close second, for its untouched beaches and quieter, more relaxed beach town. Pretty much the whole area had to be rebuilt after the Tsunami, and some of the stories you’ll hear will stay with you forever.  For example, at the Saroijin Resort, the owners stayed and rebuilt when every other hotel in the area left. They even helped the local community rebuild, by helping with the pipelines and roads, whilst humbly not shouting from the rooftops about it. They are really well thought of in Thailand because of this, and if you are lucky enough to stay at the Sarojin, you’ll be taught all about this story and many others by their own ‘Imagineer’, who is also on hand to help you in any way, from setting up a dinner proposal on a remote beach, to spending an afternoon shipwrecked on an island.

Favourite hotel and why?

Again, near impossible to answer. Some are big, grand and world-leading in many ways, like the unbelievable Ritz Carlton Phulay Bay (featured in the film Hangover 3 no less!) with its 4m long beds and mind blowingly extravagant rooms. Some have a more boutique beauty, like the Tubkaak again. Others, like the Rayavadee and Centara Grand Krabi are completely unique, both in their accommodation styles and their settings – hidden away on cliff-surrounded beaches. Khao Lak offers properties that are even more unique, like the ultra stylish and modern Casa De La Flora, designed by Thailand’s leading architects.

My favourite hotel based on all factors, however, has to be The Shore by Katathani. It really does tick every box. You can stroll along the Kata beach to pleasant restaurants, shops, massage parlours and a couple of small bars, or jump in a taxi and its only 20mins to the nightlife and shopping district of Patong. The beach is one of the best, being relatively quiet, with just The Shore and her sister hotel the Katathani Resort residing here. The Pool Villas are possibly in my top-three room types of any hotel I’ve inspected or stayed at. Everything is first class, from the comfort, to service, to food, and the location just tops it all.

Closely second is probably the Six Senses in Koh Yao Noi. An eco-friendly resort, with ‘the most spectacular sea view I’ve ever seen’ from their Hilltop Reserve infinity pool and bar. There’s a Robinson Crusoe feel with so many added extras, like the free homemade Gelato ice cream 24 hours a day!

You seemed to travel a lot by boat, which looked really fun, and it must have been a unique way to view the landscape too?

Arriving at the Rayavadee in Krabi, the Centara Grand Krabi, or the beautiful islands of Koh Phi Phi to stay at the Zeavola and the remote beauty of Koh Yai Noi for the Six Senses, was amazing. Arriving by boat really gives you that sense of freedom from the rat race back home. Also a great way to top up the tan! All the resorts we feature offer transfers on their private speedboats and very often have private jetties on the mainland to take clients to and from the islands.

Following films such as ‘The Beach’ a few years ago, Thailand gained a reputation of being a bit of a tourist trap full of ‘gap-year party kids’. Did you experience this in any way? Is it possible to escape the tourist trail?

Phuket is the busiest tourist destination in Thailand, so you have to expect other tourists and backpackers. It’s very important to choose your location correctly. Call Kenwood Travel and speak to myself or one of my Thailand-specialist colleagues. We can gauge what type of holiday you’re after, and place you in the right sort of resort. If you want busy, you can have busy. If you want off-the-beaten-track barefoot luxury, then places like Zeavola or the Six Senses offer this. Phuket on the other hand can offer completely empty beaches; you just have to know where to go.You will experience the backpacker partygoers in Ao Nang in Krabi, and in several spots in Phuket, but generally speaking, Kenwood resorts are all on completely separate beaches and again, just ensure you tell us exactly what you want, and we can deliver!

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