The Gulf of Thailand offers a host of resorts where Thais and foreigners can unwind, relax on the superb beaches and enjoy the succulent bounties of the sea.
It is also home to magnificent mountains, waterfalls and lush tropical vegetation.
Pattaya, in the province of Chonburi, lies 150 kilometres east of Bangkok and is one of Thailand’s best known beach resorts.
It is a developed, vibrant city that draws families (mostly to Jomtien, two kilometres south of Pattaya) and singles (mostly to South Pattaya Road).
It attracts visitors who love watersports and golf, as well as those looking for entertainment, dancing and action in its neon-lit go-go bars, nightclubs, cabarets and discos.
For visitors looking for other activities, the Khao Kheow Zoo has more than 50 species of birds and animals, including deer, zebras and tigers, many of them indigenous to Southeast Asia. Each October, buffalo racing is held in conjunction with a fair, and there’s also a buffalo beauty contest.
Since the 15th century, Chanthaburi has been known to Western travellers for its abundance of gemstones, and is as renown for gems worldwide as Bangkok. More than 70 percent of the world’s rubies come from Thailand, and Thai workers have a reputation for their skill and dexterity in faceting stones. Of all the Thai gemstones, deep blue sapphires and blood red rubies are the most highly prized, as are unusually coloured (such as yellow) sapphires.
Covering an area of just 59 kilometres, Khao Kitchakut National Park is one of the country’s smallest and boasts a 1000-metre granite mountain after which the park is named. Many people make the four-hour climb to the summit of the impressive Phrabat mountains to see an image of the Buddha’s footprint and collections of natural rock formations shaped like an elephant, a large turtle, a pagoda and a monk’s bowl.
Nearby, the far larger but less visited Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary provides a home to many endangered species, including sun bears, spotbellied eagle owls, silver pheasants and elephants.
Mountainous Ko Chang is the largest of the 50 or so islands that form the Ko Chang National Marine Park, two-thirds of which is sea. Inland exploration is difficult due to the rugged terrain, but it has excellent beaches, including the popular Sai Khao Beach, prettier and quieter Khlong Phrao Beach and the particularly beautiful beach of Ao Bang Bao in the southwest corner. The tourism industry in Ko Chang is in its infancy, a contributing factor is probably the fact that several of the islands consist solely of exclusive, privately owned resorts.