Where in Thailand do you come from? Tell us a bit about your hometown.
I was born and raised in Chiang Mai. It’s a city in northern Thailand and is one of the top destinations for travellers because of its 700 year old cultural heritage – there are more than 300 temples or “Wat” scattered around the city. Its natural attractions are also a tourism magnet including the Doi Inthanon National Park,where Thailand’s highest mountain is located.
Life in Chiang Mai is pretty slow-paced so you don’t have to rush or leave home early to beat the traffic like in Bangkok. The cold breeze during December and January makes things even better. However, during the past 10 years, Chiang Mai has changed a lot and it is becoming more like other big cities. Luckily all of our natural and heritage sites have been very well-preserved.
For first-time visitors to Thailand, what must-see spots would you recommend?
This is a very tough question. It’s really depends on what you like. For beach-goers or diving enthusiasts, I would say Khao Lak – it is one of the best spots where you can access the Similan Islands and Surin Islands (the best diving spots in Asia). It also has some of the best 5-star hotels and resorts in Thailand. Or if you don’t have any specific requirements, the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok would be a great place to start.
Culturally, what would you suggest travellers be mindful of when visiting Thailand?
Temples are a spiritual place where you will find Buddha images and pagodas – it’s good to know some etiquette before entering these sacred sites such as showing respect when taking pictures and wearing appropriate clothing. If you have a chance to visit the home of a local resident, don’t forget to take off your shoes before entering. Lastly, Thai people are really introverted, so making loud noises or showing too much affection in public will probably get a lot of unwanted attention.
What are the top Thai festivals/events to take in?
In November, people throughout the country will celebrate the Loy Krathong festival. It’s a chance for tourists to see floating “Kratong,” or decorative floats, and fireworks during the night of the full moon. Songkran is another must-see festival in Thailand. It’s a traditional New Year celebration and since it’s really hot during this time, we pour or mostly splash water just to cool off. This is also a major long holiday so finding a hotel can sometimes be a problem – it’s definitely best to book ahead.
What are your favourite Thai hotels?
Six Senses Yao Noi is one of my favourite hotels in Thailand. Not only does this hotel offer private villas with great views of Phang Nga Bay and its small islets, but it also offers numerous activities including rock climbing, scuba diving and kayaking. Closer to Bangkok, Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin is also my favourite. Because my family has spent our holidays in Hua Hin over the past 20 years, I have a lot of fond memories of this heritage hotel. The hotel is located along the beach and is close to Hua Hin city where you will find a lot of local shops, restaurants and souvenir markets. The hotel also has a signature topiary garden where the greenery is carefully trimmed into animal shapes. They were a lot taller than me when I was younger!