Ko Lipe (pronounced koh lee-pay) is a hidden gem among the more popular beach destinations of Phuket and Krabi. Close to Malaysia, experience crossing borders by sea via a 60-minute speedboat from the Malaysian island of Langkawi; complete with a ‘floating’ immigration where your passports are collected and stamped! Ko Lipe is pristine and cosy, and you can walk its entire length in 30 minutes. With crystal clear waters and a flurry of marine life, it is ideal for snorkelling and diving. Limited accommodation options, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters – did anyone say paradise?
Chiang Mai is a charming city with several hipster cafes that are a crowd favourite among the local youth. The city moves at a leisurely pace and provides welcome respite to Bangkok-weary travellers. One of the best times to visit is during the Yi Peng or Lantern Festival in November. Preparations for the event begin days before with monks putting up decorative lights and lanterns at every temple. The Festival commences at sun down, transforming the entire city into a magical wonderland of miniature ‘boats’ made of banana leaves and flowers, as well as large paper lanterns that are released into the air for good luck. The rest of the night, the skies and waters are dotted with several hundred lanterns, floating away like gold stars into the distance. There are also parades, fireworks, music, food and dancing – creating an incredible atmosphere to soak up the sheer positive and celebratory vibes.
About 3 hours drive from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a quaint locale in northernmost Thailand. The population is an eclectic mix of indigenous peoples and Burmese labourers from neighbouring Myanmar. No visit is complete without a trip to the tribal villages, where you can meet members of the Karen hill tribe, whose women are renowned for their exquisitely long necks and large ear piercings, symbols of beauty in their culture. The Wat Rhong Kun or White Temple is another spectacular destination to feast your eyes upon. The only white temple in Thailand, (bring your shades as the building’s mosaics and glass tiles dazzle in the mid-day sun) make you feel like you stumbled upon an ice palace in the tropics!