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Thailand

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Many of us began the year on a health and fitness kick. I say 'us', I don't actually mean ourselves included. Most people are still couch potatoes and the passing of time won't do much to change that.

80 percent of people will have abandoned their New Year's resolutions by February, which is a pretty high statistic.

The only thing that could tempt us to change our deviant ways and embrace the health kick is…luxurious travel destinations. Luckily for you gals, we've discovered the best value deals for your health-focused trips.

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Travel Republic have helped us to bring wellness to the forefront of our priorities…by having a selection of INSANELY stunning destinations to lure us towards.

Health and rejuvenation are the goal, and now it's never been easier to take a relaxing post-January break which doesn't negatively impact your lifestyle choices.

Sounds good to us, so what are the winners?

1. Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa: Killarney, Co .Kerry

The Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa is unbelievably magical, and offers unparalleled luxury overlooking the world-famous lakes of Killarney.

The spa at Aghadoe is honestly an oasis of pure serenity; the 10,000 square foot Resort Spa has 11 treatment rooms, relaxation areas, couples suites and a THERMAL SUITE.

The hotel has a fully equipped gym, conservatory-style indoor pool and outdoor terrace and some stunning local hikes and walking trails to enjoy.

If it's good enough for Gary Barlow, it's good enough for us:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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2. RedLevel at Melia Palacio de Isora – Tenerife

This is next-level privacy chic, and it's adults ONLY. The RedLevel at Melia Palacio de Isadora is located beside the Tenerife sea, where the excellent service and facilities will give you a classy, unique stay.

The destination has the elite SPA by Clarins on offer, as well as a private pool surrounded by Bali beds and a Pool Concierge service for the infinity pool. They also boast the LARGEST saltwater hotel pool in Europe, at a 5,000m2.

If you need the perfect place for relaxed rejuvenation with the best food you can buy, total seclusion and dazzling sunshine, this one's a winner. Escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and embrace the wellness, if you've got the cash, that is.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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3. 137 Pillars House: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ah, our personal favourite. This destination is NEXT. LEVEL. GORGEOUSNESS.

If a far-flung and exotic setting is your biggest wish for the great escape, look no further than the beauty of Chiang Mai. The tropical Thai paradise is famed worldwide for it's calm and serene vibe, and private space.

Nestled in lush scenery, the hotel boasts a luxurious spa, yoga classes, tropical gardens, a drool-worthy pool, a gym….and Tai Chi. Wowza.

The hotel has a variety of wellness packages on offer to suit the needs of every traveller; it's the ideal health-driven retreat. There are also millions of elephant sanctuaries nestled in Chiang Mai which make the perfect tourist treat.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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 4. Taj Bentota Resort & Spa – Bentota, Sri Lanka

The Golden Mile of Bentota beach is something of a gem, nestled along the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.

The setting is totally unique, with the hotel overlooking the idyllic Indian Ocean and only 40 miles south of Colombo; Sri Lanka's capital.

The relaxing resort comprises 162 rooms with sea or garden views, vistas of the Indian Ocean of the lush vegetation of the tropical shrubbery around the building. They've got two tennis courts, a health club with a steam bath and sauna and a fully-equipped gym. Oh, and don't forget about the outdoor swimming pool, a poolside snack bar and games.

Asia's most exotic sanctuary is without a doubt a great decision for those wellness and health fanatics out there to enjoy:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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5. Hotel Palazzo Montemartini: Rome, Italy

JUST LOOK AT THE POOL.

The prestigious Palazzo Montemartini is a boujée five-star hotel in central Rome, within walking distance from Termini Station, Baths of Diocletian and Michaelangelo's church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Need we say more?

It's the ONLY hotel in Rome crossed by the Servian Walls, built way back in the sixth century BC. Wellness and holiday fans can find unique high-tech elegance in the location, with 82 rooms and suites and the ultra-exclusive Senses Restaurant & Lounge Bar

The exclusive SPA ExPure has pure unforgettable moments of relaxation. They've got massage and treatment rooms, colour therapy showers, heated swimming pools, saunas and Turkish baths. The dream.

We. Are. Drooling. It's the destination we want, but also the destination we NEED. 

There you have it, ladies and gents. The top five wellness and health destinations the world can offer, with opulent, lavish and sumptuous locations for y'all to visit.

You deserve this level of decadence, plus you'd achieve the most EXTRA of Instagram snaps.

Retreat to these magical destinations and never look back. Actually, screw that. Just don't ever leave? 

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Backpacking around Thailand sounds cool and exciting, right?

Asia never really appealed to me because it was so far away and the culture is so different to what I'm used to – but I've realised they should've been the reasons why I wanted to go.

My boyfriend had travelled around the country for three months last year so he was the perfect travel companion – also, he took care of all the boring booking so I had more time to drink Margaritas. 

Right, if you have a spare two weeks, are cash-strapped and have a desire to go on an adventure, then read on…

Before we begin, these are some of the essential things to pack:

Sunscreen (It's HOT)

Mosquito spray (I was eaten alive)

Flip-flops – easy to shower in and throw on/off because many restaurants and hostels expect you to be barefoot. 

You will also need vaccinations if you haven't gotten them – I got typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, tetnus. 

Change your money from Euro to Baht.

Before our flight, we had only booked a hostel with a private room for one night because we knew we'd be jet-lagged – so don't plan too much. 

Where to stay

Hostels all the way.

They are cheap AF – like 250 upwards Baht a night (around 7 Euro). 

Obviously, make sure they come with air-con or fans included. 

The best place we stayed in Bangkok was Pop Art Hostel run by Luca, a cool Italian guy. It's central, bright, clean and we meet other backpackers there in the communal rooms.

You can sit outside, get some local beers from the shop right next door – it's perfect. 

We stayed in hostels in Pak Chong and the coastal province of Krabi too. 

We later took a boat to the island of Railay where it was a bit more touristy.

We stayed in Rapala Rockwood Resort which cost a tenner for a room and a communal shower.

We also spent a night in Railay Viewpoint Resort with was 14 quid a night and came with a pool.

The cutest place we spent two nights was in Koh Lanta. 

They were rows of actual mini huts with a huge double bed and private bathroom and the cutest porch with chairs and a hammock.

It was near the beach where we had an evening swim and pubs/restaurants were a few minutes away.

It came with breakfast and set us back 8 quid a night – like C'MON. 

We booked everything online the day before – it was sooo easy.

Food

While you're in Thailand, eat the local food.

Not only is DIRT CHEAP (like 1.50 for a meal) but it tastes unreal.

Who knew fried rice and vegetables could be so delicious?

We are vegetarian so no meat for us, which helped lower the risk of food poisoning. 

Ethos restaurant is kinda hidden but such good food and massive portions.

For snacks, we ate sticks of pineapple from street stalls (my boyfriend drank, no joke, four fruit shakes a day at the stalls).

It's easy to eat cheap in Bangkok, but more touristy places like Railay can be a bit pricier and less local. 

Be careful of water there are 7-Elevens on every corner so no excuse not to stock up on bottled water.

I also didn't try any scorpions etc but people we met in one of our hostels did and they were fans. 

The best Pad Thai is in a place called Thipsamai in Bangkok, there's always a queue but they stay open until 2am – and when you eat it you'll know why it's in such demand. 

Transport

First off, you've gotta get a few tuk-tuks.

You can haggle and get them for quite cheap and it's so fun to be whisked around the Bangkok traffic in one. 

If you're getting taxis ALWAYS ask for one with a meter so they can't charge you tourist prices. 

For a 15-minute drive, it was less than two Euro for us. 

Motorbike

If you have a driving license, you can rent a motorbike (well, moped) there.

My boyfriend drove so it was fine – bit f*cking scary the first time we're speeding along the main roads.

By day three, I was as relaxed as the locals…a family of four with a toddler went by us on a bike one day.

Train

We got the train from Bangkok to Pak Chong – it was four hours of gorgeous scenery and no Wi-fi.

Prices were around four quid one way – there are fans and people walking up and down selling soft drinks and bags of rice, of which we devoured.

Night bus

This goes from Bangkok to the coast, for everyone who wants to get to the islands.

It leaves at 7pm and we got to Railay around 10am the next day.

It's not the comfiest (obviously, we slept on recliner chairs) and they put on The Shallows, which was an odd choice for a group of travellers going to the beach for the weekend. 

We stopped off for food and drink at around midnight and all in all, it was a long trek but worth it when we arrived at the island.

We got the day bus back to Bangkok and I wouldn't recommend it.

We chose it because we wanted another night in Koh Lanta but we spent our last full day – 12 hours – on a bus…it wasn't fun. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Things to do

Temples 

There are millions of temples across Thailand, all of which expect you to be covered up clothes-wise just FYI.

However, the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi is special and is famous for its 1,260 steps to the top, which are ''fun'' to climb.

DO NOT attempt this if you're in any way unfit because I died several times on the way up.

Khao Yai National Park

It was seven Euro entrance fee and then we biked through it, saw waterfalls and slept in a tent next to a river – a dream come true for anyone who loves nature.

That isn't me, it's more my boyfriend so it was tough, but worth it because we saw monkeys, gibbons, porcupines, deer. 

We also did many hikes as well as the Night Safari where we went around the park after dark with rangers to see if we could see any wildlife at night.

We rented the tent, sleeping bag and pillow there and it was super cheap.

P.s A deer broke into our tent because my boyfriend stupidly left peanuts in there so don't have any food on you. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Beaches

Thailand has some stunning beaches – and the sea is the perfect temperature for a swim. 

We spent the weekend on the island of Railay where we just swam in the sparkling blue sea and sunbathed. 

The beaches were busy enough but it was absolutely stunning. 

In Koh Lanta and Krabi we biked around different beaches and just swam lazily in the sea for hours – it was perfect (especially after the nights spent on a bus and in the jungle).

For a more touristy vibe, Ao Nang beach in Krabi is the place to be.

Massage

When you're in Thailand, you need to get at least one massage.

We had three – two full body ones and one just neck, back, and shoulders.

Be warned – the therapists are not gentle but you will feel a million dollars after. 

An hour costs about five quid. 

Nightlife

Bangkok is obviously mad with bars and restaurants and the insane Khaosan road, which everyone should visit.

We went onto the adjoining road and got beers and cocktails in one of the many bars.

Try the local beer – Chang, Leo or Singa and there's always cocktail deals everywhere.

It was a relaxed holiday so we did a few bars, live music and then some nights we had drinks with other backpackers we met.

All in all, we spent 300 Euro each in 12 days backpacking – not bad, right?

So, book those flights and pack your bags because a holiday in Thailand is something you will never regret. 

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During my twenties, I spent a year and a half travelling the world, from India to New Zealand, Australia to Vietnam, Thailand to USA. 

No, I didn't win the lotto: my friend and I were travelling like poor backpackers, finding accommodation for less than 5 quid a night and eating for as cheap as we could. We saved for a few months beforehand, took on some small jobs along the way and managed to make it all work.

One of my fondest memories of this incredible trip is the two times I went to the Full Moon Party, on the island of Ko Phangan in Thailand.

If you are planning on going in the future, I have some advice for you.

 

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1. Do book your accommodation beforehand

For my first Full Moon, I arrived on Ko Phangan one day before what we had originally planed. We thought that the place that we had booked would have a room for a us anyway.

Of course they didn't. The whole island gets fully booked a few days before the D-day. We ended up sleeping in the laundry room of the hotel. That wasn't fun. 

2. Do not jump on the fire ropes

After a few glasses of naughty water (booze lads, I mean booze), it might look tempting to give these big jumping ropes a go and literally play with fire.

One of our friends did it and ended up in hospital for days with severe burns. You don't want to do that. 

 

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3. Do not buy the cheapest alcohol

At the Full Moon, the alcohol is purchased in colourful plastic buckets. For about a fiver, you can get pretty much any alcohol and mixer you like, but if you feel a bit fancy, mojitos and cocktail are also available for a few more quids. 

Whatever drink you decide to get, do not, I repeat, DO NOT get the cheapest unbranded whisky or vodka on the list. The difference in price isn't worth the utter pain you will feel the following day.    

4. Do not go into the water

Feeling a bit warm? Want to go for a quick dip? Sure, you are on the beach after all! 

A midnight bath during the Full Moon is a big no-no. Without getting into too much details, people use the sea as toilets and all you will end up doing is covering yourself in human excretions of all sorts. I'll stop here. 

The famous buckets

5. Wear your flip flops

As you can imagine, the beach doesn't remain clean for very long when thousands of people turn it into the world's biggest dance floor. Glasses, cans, and many other hazardous objects end up in the sand and you don't want to step on them. 

6. Don't bring anything of value

This one might seem pretty obvious, but better safe than sorry. Bring the minimum you will need for the night, enough money to enjoy yourself and get a tuk-tuk home, but don't bring a wallet, passport, expensive clothes or a pricey camera. 

 

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With all these simple precautions, you will probably spend one of the most amazing nights of your life, meeting strangers and dancing like there is no tomorrow. Enjoy it!

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We'd all love a trip to the exotic Asian destination of Thailand, especially with the ferocious weather we've been having lately. 

A venture around Thailand's beautiful, lush islands is almost a right of passage at this stage for adventurous travellers, and we've all been uber-envious of those full moon party and unspoiled beach photos our friends and acquaintances upload to Facebook.

Luckily, Skyscanner is offering some advice for when it comes to crafting the perfect Thai trip.

 

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According to the flight comparison site, the cheapest time to hit the bars of Bangkok and beaches of Phuket is May.

Data on the Skyscanner website proves that flights in May are on average 15 per cent cheaper than any other time of the year if you fly to the UK and then on to your final destination. 

Luckily, May is right at the end of the sunny season, before monsoon season arrives in June. 

 

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Flights in June are also 15 per cent cheaper, but you may want to pack your umbrella.

Flights in September are also set at a pretty competitive rate, at up to 14 percent cheaper. 

December is by far the most pricey time to head to the exotic location, with flights creeping up to 22 per cent more expensive than average. 

 

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Booking 22 weeks, or five-and-a-half months before you are planning to go, is also the optimum time frame to give yourself to avail of the cheapest flights.  

So if you're planning of going in September or October, now is the cheapest time to book. 

 

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You can also save money on your flights by flying into Bangkok rather than any of Thailand's other airports. 

We did a little bit of sky scanning ourselves, and found that you can save about €150.00 – €200.00 on flights by making Bangkok your first stop compared to Phuket.

That's a few hundred quid more to spend on buckets of booze and historical parks during your trip. 

Feature Image: Skyscanner

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The Irish Embassy in Thailand is providing consular assistance following the disappearance of a Cork man in Bangkok last week.

54-year-old Anthony O'Sullivan from Mitchelstown has been missing for four days.

It's understood that a member of Mr. O'Sullivan's family has travelled to the Thai capital to help coordinate the search effort.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that they were aware of Mr O’Sullivan’s disappearance and were providing consular assistance to his family in Bangkok.

Anthony is described as a very experienced traveller having visited both the Himalayas and Cambodia in recent years.

According to The Irish Times, one local who spoke characterised Anthony as “a very decent fellow and popular too.”

“Anthony has travelled widely – he would save up and head off for a few weeks and then come back to Mitchelstown where he is well known.”

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An Irishman has died in a kitesurfing accident in Thailand.

The 43-year-old, who had been living in the country for a number of years, got into difficulty shortly after midday at the beach Hua Hin district.

It's understood that officials in the area had warned against watersports due to the dangerous conditions brought about by an approaching storm.

According to The Irish Sun, the man's kite-board control line became entangled with a lifebuoy and he subsequently drowned in heavy surf.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of the situation and is providing consular assistance.
 

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We can all admit that we fell in love with mermaids when we first watched Ariel swimming around with Sebastian under the sea.

The Little Mermaid inspired many Halloween and fancy dress costumes, but since then, a mermaid has taken on a new iridescent lease of life.

With every beauty brand creating mermaid makeup brushed and every high street store creating mermaid-style accessories, it's safe to say the mermaid trend is staying put. 

 

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With pretty hues of pink and purple, we all go wild for anything with 'mermaid' in front of it now; mermaid lattes, mermaid shimmer, and even mermaid toast.

You'd think we had enough of it by now, right?

Well, not so, because we are currently freaking out about this mermaid cafe in Thailand.

The Mermaid Island Cafe is a dreamy dessert shop in Pathum Thani, and is embellished with mermaid scales on its walls, and even The Little Mermaid characters.

Oh, and they also give you a mermaid tail to wear while dining in the restaurant – casual.

And it's not only the decor that is inspired by the magical sea creatures; the menu is also kitted out with mermaid cupcakes, cheese cakes, waffles, smoothies and coffee.

BRB, getting our mermaid tail on.

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An Irish man had died following a road traffic accident in Thailand on Tuesday night.

39-year-old, John Malone was originally from Co. Longford but had been working as an English teacher in Thailand in recent years.

The tragic incident happened in the Chiang Rai province in the north of the country last night. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs are aware of the incident and are providing consular assistance to the victim's family. 

More to follow… 

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We can all admit that we fell in love with mermaids when we first watched Ariel swimming around with Sebastian under the sea.

The Little Mermaid inspired many Halloween and fancy dress costumes, but since then, a mermaid has taken on a new iridescent lease of life.

 

A post shared by MuMuNAMIKOMORI (@namikomori) on

With pretty hues of pink and purple, we all go wild for anything with 'mermaid' in front of it now; mermaid lattes, mermaid shimmer, and even mermaid toast.

You'd think we had enough of it by now, right? Well, not so, because we are currently freaking out about this mermaid cafe in Thailand.

 

A post shared by (@mook_asama) on

The Mermaid Island Cafe is a dreamy dessert shop in Pathum Thani, and is embellished with mermaid scales on its walls, and even The Little Mermaid characters.

Oh, and they also give you a mermaid tail to wear while dining in the restaurant.

And it's not only the decor that is inspired by the magical sea creatures; the menu is also kitted out with mermaid cupcakes, cheese cakes, waffles, smoothies and coffee.

BRB, getting our mermaid tail on…

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It's notoriously a time to really let your hair down surrounded by your closest friends: yes, hen and stag weekends have something of a reputation for debauchery and drunken antics. 

But Ronan Keating and Storm Uechtritz are definitely maintaining low-key celebrations in advance of their Monday nuptials in Scotland.

In fact, it is the former Boyzone singer's teenage children who have been tasked with organising the events. 

For Storm, that means getting the Eurostar from London to Paris with a dozen friends and family of varying ages. The group, who donned pink Storm's hen lanyards, were this morning all gifted with chic monogrammed Burberry scarves.

They also brought on board with them champagne or lemonade and brunch in wicker baskets from London's famed and oh-so posh Fortnum & Mason

In one Instagram snap, the bride-to-be was eager to thank her stepdaughter-in-waiting, Missy Keating, 14, for organising the particulars. Also visible in the same image is younger sis Ali Keating, nine.

Meanwhile, back in Ireland, Ronan's own bash was underway with thanks to Jack, his 16-year-old son. In an online post, the musician thanked his eldest child – as well as Storm – for pulling together the pre-wedding celebrations.

The accompanying snap also showed lines of brightly-coloured cooler pouches, each with a sticker naming the reciprocate, as well as a row of white gift bags. "The stage is set," the Dubliner said, playfully adding: "This could get messy."

Ronan, 38, popped the question to his 34-year-old Australian girlfriend of three years in April during a tropical trip to Thailand. "We've been together a few years now and knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

"I felt it was the right time," he said in a Hello! magazine interview announcing their intention to marry.

Mr Keating also helped design her ring: a stunning oval-shaped diamond set in a diamond-encrusted band.

His divorce to Yvonne Connolly, 41, whom he married in 1999, was finalised earlier this year following their 2011 split. 

Ronan's friend Brian McFadden had previously warned that the stag-do "won't be wild". He added in conversation with the Daily Star: "Ronan's stag do will be all red wine and cigars."

Following their lightning-quick engagement, Ronan and Storm will marry on Monday at the luxurious Archfield House estate and golf club in East Lothian. 

She has also been married once before – to finance chief Tim Iver.

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There is a lot more to Asia than simply heading to Phi Phi Leh Island to visit The Beach location.

If you are planning on heading in that direction this summer, you definitely need to hit these spots before you come home.

Lombok
Slightly off the beaten tourist track, this gorgeous island in Indonesia is kind of like Bali but with less tourists to get in the way.

Cebu and Visayan Islands
Located in the Philippines, this nightlife hot spot is home to the friendliest people in the world – apart from the Irish of course.

Bali
Yes, there are loads of tourists but hey it’s Bali and you simply can’t go to Asia without heading here – you just can’t.

Ko Lipe
In southwest Thailand you will find a small island that has three absolutely gorgeous beaches. If you do head here make sure you stay in one of the grass huts on the beach.

Ko Chang
Just at the border of Cambodia, this is one of Thailand’s largest islands with its gorgeous waterfalls, coral reef and rainforests. This destination needs your full attention.

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Thailand is an extremely popular place for Irish 20-somethings to let loose and go crazy! Apart from the plane tickets, obviously, it makes for a pretty cheap long holiday.

It is famed for its Full Moon parties, elephant riding and tubing but there is so much more that the country has to offer that you would be mad not to pop these on your itinerary.

Night market
Take a night off from the partying scene and spend the evening wandering around the night markets. You pick up some pretty awesome clothes and taste foods you would never have tasted before.

Get a tuk-tuk
You have probably heard of these as a means of transport in Thailand. While they may have a cute sounding name, they are far from cute reaching up to 60mph… eek! An experience you can’t miss.

Long tail boat
Apart from the fact that the long tail boat taxis are the best way to get to some of Thailand’s most secluded beaches, they are pretty spectacular.

Get a massage
A Thai massage is a must when you are visiting the country. They are extremely cheap so why not treat yourself to one every day!

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