When you think of Thailand, what usually comes to mind are the inspiring temples from ancient kingdoms, tiny tranquil villages along the Mekong river and impossibly green limestone islands nestled along the Andaman Sea. These are what makes it a vast cultural kaleidoscope.
It’s hardly surprising that Thailand, meaning ‘land of the free’, has long been a honeymoon paradise, allowing sweethearts to cast off the shackles of everyday life and immerse themselves deep into its liberating and relaxed way of life.
There is an abundant choice of exotic activities on offer. Whether you want to languish on a glittering beach or ride a wild animal on an exotic elephant safari – peace and adventure go hand in hand here.
Remote spas and hideaways dotted around the verdant island will seduce you with their tranquil intimacy, while the vibrant streets of Bangkok beckon you to experience a whole new world at your feet.
And if the idea of unspoilt beaches and fresh tropical cocktails at sunset still doesn’t sway your man, casually mention that Leo Bay was where James Bond’s The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed. No doubt he can live out his 007 fantasies on Khao Phing Kan, the same sandy stretch that saw Roger Moore and Christopher Lee battle it out! Get in the sea and do your best Ursula Andress while he’s at it.
Blessed with a balmy climate that settles for 35 degrees centigrade at its hottest, it is widely recommended that if your wedding is in April or October, to postpone it by a few weeks – since these are the two worst months to visit, particularly the capital.
April is the peak of a roasting summer, while October brings miserable floods – making the south a more pleasing option.
Thailand’s beautiful bounty is vast enough to combine a beach and city holiday, so even if you do fly into Bangkok, you can just as easily travel down to the South to soak in the sun.
Bangkok, or City of Angels differs from its American counterpart in that while the latter boasts guns, sex and plastic surgery, the former is still steeped in rich Thai cultural charm, offering delectable food, breath-taking temples and shopping heaven.
Resisting the usual coldness that most cities possess, it is a far cry from the advanced urban development of neighbouring countries like Singapore, with Bangkok natives exuding friendliness.
A city of contrasts, Bangkok breathes mystery on the east side of the Chao Phraya River, with polished temple spires nestling against glittering glass and steel buildings rising up from the seething mass. Delicate wreaths of jasmine flowers the buses and taxis. Orange-robed monks potter along the street beneath a giant Sony screen blasting western pop videos.
Home to the most stunning temples in the world, it is worth visiting a few to get away from the disquiet of Bangkok’s streets for a moment of quiet reflection.
Khao San Rd in Banglamphu is the traditional haven for the budget traveller, but the Sukhumvit Rd area has a better selection of mid-range hotels.
Banglamphu and neighbouring Thewet are the best spots for budget eating, and if you want to go for a city stroll and experience day-to-day Bangkok, head for Chinatown and Pahurat, the busy Chinese and Indian market districts.
Chinatown is a Chinese-Thai residential area since 1782, it’s hard to believe that this district used to house 245 opium dens and a huge number of pawn shops, gambling houses and brothels. Today Chinatown is one of the most charismatic districts in Bangkok, with intricate alleyways, bright markets and mouth-watering food stalls.
Pahurat is a bargain shopper’s paradise lined with a stunning array of Indian silks and Thai shoulder bags. Head down little alleys and you’ll find a thriving culture that might ordinarily pass you by.
THINGS TO DO
A testament to architectural wizardry, housing the famous Emerald Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Thailand. Go early in the morning to avoid the major crowds and do not wear sandals or skirts.
Even if snakes make you queasy, this is definitely worth a visit – the sheer volume of information is astounding. Officially called the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, the snake farm is one of the largest producers of anti-venom serum in Asia.
Whatever you’ve seen in Lake Placid or Crocodile Dundee is child’s play compared to this enormous place with over 60,000 fresh and seawater crocodiles to see. For extra garnish you can buy chicken to throw to the crocs, and they also have a show every hour, in which an insane guy puts his head inside the croc’s mouth.
80 km from Bangkok, this market is famous for selling fresh produce and fine trinkets. You will also be able to travel around in a boat and have a taster of Thai village life.
If you base what you do on inaccurate information, you might be unpleasantly surprised by the consequences. Make sure you get the whole story from informed sources.
Temple of Dawn
Situated on the other side of the Chao Phraya river, the sight of the 79-metre-high porcelain encrusted pagoda sparkling in the sun is truly something to behold.
Wat Trai Mit
Built in the Sukhothai period, this temple houses an awe-inspiring solid gold Buddha which weighs five and a half tonnes and is three metres in height.
Crystal clear waves lapping the shores of white beaches are standard wherever you look in Thailand.
Called the Pearl of the Ocean, is particularly unmissable. If you want to do more than just sunbathe, pay a visit to Ko Phi Phi, the stunning island where Leonardo Di Caprio’s The Beach was filmed.
Pattaya is a gorgeous beach resort tucked away on the south-east coast of Thailand, a stone’s throw away from Bangkok, while Koh Pha-Ngan is famous for revellers throwing their arms in the air in the throes of its legendary full moon parties.
Phuket for a beach hotspot, Phuket is 70 per cent mountainous, yet this precious jewel is Thailand’s largest island in the Andaman Sea, boasting a rich and wealthy history. Although the warm and humid island is Thailand’s main tourist attraction, it has the luxury of harbouring secluded and unspoilt beaches for those wanting a romantic getaway.
Pamper yourself with fresh lobster everyday, be massaged to sleep in any of Phuket’s legendary spas and take a midnight swim by moonlight in its indigo pools, with the assurance that you’re going to love every minute of it.
If you’re lucky enough, you may even get to take part in the celebration of Loi Krathong, a 700 year old festival to honour the water gods. Doorways and gates of temples and houses are decorated with banana trees, palms, and lit lanterns, while locals dress up in traditional Thai sarongs and tunics.
There are more tourists in Phuket than on any other island, which hikes up the prices slightly, but by British standards is still cheap.
Palm-fringed beaches punctuated by bursts of coconut plantations make Koh Samui overflow with charm and, while on its way to becoming too touristy, it still retains its old untouched-paradise charm.
Tiny thatched bungalows pepper most of the beaches, but make sure you book in advance as accommodation is hard to secure in the high seasons between December and February, and from July to August.
There are flights from Bangkok to the island’s Don Sak Airport. Several ferry and jetboat companies operate from Surat Thani: express boats take two and a half hours and jet boats take one and a half hours.
Island-hopping isn’t just a past-time of hippies and backpackers, nor does it mean you have to endure horrible conditions simply because you choose to explore Thailand outside your hotel door.
One of the perfect ways to bond with each other in the first weeks of marriage is to experience new things together and create a rich tapestry of memories.
Be adventurous – just because you’ve booked a flight to Phuket doesn’t mean you can’t jet to Bangkok for a few days.
Travelling within Thailand isn’t half as daunting as you may think.