By Kareen Perrin-Debock
For a decade, Thailand has experienced an unprecedented tourism boom and has been one of the most popular Asian countries for travelers. Landscapes, beaches, gastronomy, culture, hospitality… the Land of Smiles has won over tourists, whether in Bangkok or along the paradisiacal islands in the south of the country. However, there are still, far from the capital and the unmissable places like Phuket, Koh Samui or Chiang Mai, some destinations as unspoiled as they are enchanting, and frequented by only locals or almost … It is this secret Thailand where we take you this time, through 8 spots off the beaten track and away from the main tourist routes. A more discreet and more authentic Thailand, where you will also have the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with the Thais more closely.
It is the land of rice terraces carved into the hills, mountains bathed in mysterious clouds, and that of traditional tribes. To rediscover this authenticity and these dreamy settings, you have to escape the tourist centers and head into the unknown …
Located about thirty kilometers south of Chiang Mai, Lamphun is the perfect destination to escape the crowds swarming the capital of northern Thailand. Settled on the banks of the Kuang River, Lamphung has retained a strong identity and even a certain pride in its past since it was once the capital of the Mon Kingdom. Founded between the 7th and 8th centuries, it was known under the name of Haripunchai. This glorious past has left many traces which give all its charm to the city, in particular its temples and its covered bridge. But Lamphun is also the capital of Longan, a kind of local lychee very popular with Thais, whom they accommodate in a thousand and one ways.
Not to be missed: Wat Vhama Dhewi, a 13th century wonder whose stone chedi still houses the ashes of one of the queens who once reigned there. A must!
The Good Tip : The Jamadevi Lamphun, a magnificent hotel run by Thai people, and built in the style of the ancient temples of the city. Excellent value.
Welcome to the city of horse-drawn carriages! 100 kilometers from Chiang Mai, Lampang lives at a completely different pace than the rest of the north of the country. Here, time passes more slowly, to the rhythm of the harvests and lunar years. In the middle of the 20th century, Lampang occupied an important place in the teak trade. The Burmese foremen recruited by the British for their excellent knowledge of wood species then built magnificent temples, as well as exceptional houses. Even though the city is not very big, do like the locals and get around in a horse-drawn carriage. Formerly a real means of transport, now they are mainly used to preserve the charm and somewhat quaint atmosphere of this extraordinary city.
No to be missed: La Ban Sao Nak, a magnificent example of a traditional teak house. It dates from 1895 and remains furnished as at the turn of the 20th century.
The Good Tip: The Riverside Guest House, as its name suggests, is located along the river. The Colonial Suite is worth a visit even if the atmosphere is more contemporary than at the Ban Sao Nak. Nice address at an affordable price but be careful not all the rooms are air conditioned.
For some, it is simply the most beautiful city in the country! For others, it is a destination in the making. But all travelers who have had the chance to discover Phrae leave conquered. It must be said that the city and its region have sacred assets. First of all, a rich history and culture, as well as a powerful nature, like the strange rock formations of Phae Muang Phi, in the nearby Doi Phu Kha National Park. The city has magnificent old houses in carved teak. In this quiet little town of only 20,000 inhabitants, it is delicious to let the time pass, and to spend your days admiring the silhouettes of monks going to the temple, in the shade of these beautiful old residences. Here life is peaceful because the city remains an important monastic sanctuary. The best way to explore the city is to cycle around it. Most accommodations lend them free of charge. Otherwise count 4 € the rental day.
Not to be missed: Wat Luang, the oldest temple in the city. A marvel of calm and serenity when the inhabitants come to make their offerings to the monks.
The Good tip: There aren’t any hotels or accommodations housed in the magnificent teak houses yet, but the Gingerbread House Gallery – both coffee house, art gallery and bed and breakfast – is a good one. compromise. Simple, pleasant and at a reasonable price.
This is a destination that is still totally unknown, an isolated gem typical of the northern provinces. Located at the gates of Laos, the city of Nan and its region remain marked by the influence of the Mien, Hmong, Thaï Lü, Mrabri and Khamu tribes. Here, you have to travel around by motorbike or by car to discover a succession of splendid landscapes of mountains and rice fields. The desire to stop to photograph each painting is great, the places are so grandiose! But Nan will also be able to satisfy temple lovers with, in particular, the famous frescoes of the famous Wat Phumin, which tell the daily life of the province in the 19th century. Because the city of Nan is a city steeped in history which only joined the kingdom of Siam in 1931.
Not to be missed: The night market which is held along Wat Phumin. And then why not go and taste the best Massaman chicken in town at the restaurant of the Sukkasem Hotel. Undoubtedly the best restaurant in town.
The Good Tip: The Nan Seasons Boutique Hotel, between rice fields and forest, offers a few bungalows entirely in wood overlooking the plain. A nice pool and great service. www.nanseasons.com
Bye bye the rice fields and the Gulf of Siam and the warm waters of the Strait of Malacca are yours.
To say that Hua Hin is one of the secret addresses would be a bit of an exaggeration … In fact, the place has been the favorite resort of the nobility and then of the Thai bourgeoisie since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the places welcome both tourists wishing to treat themselves to a sunny retreat or a quiet stay with among other activities beach, spa and golf and spa. Because the region is renowned for its magnificent golf courses, world famous as well as for its wellness hotels which offer turnkey stays. And for the beautiful beaches, we head south and Khao Tao.
Not to be missed: Sam Roi Yot National Park, a beautiful natural park located by the sea with great opportunities to observe local wildlife.
The Good Tip: If the Chiva Som has seen parade since its inauguration more than 30 years ago, the biggest celebrities on the planet for a little slimming / detox / rejuvenation cure, now Hua Hin has become the perfect place for a stay. “Wellness”. Another establishment that stands out in this area is the Aleenta Hua Hin.
Further south than Phuket, Trang is a seaside city in the making. It must be said that it has great arguments to compete with its northern rival: boat trips between islands and mangroves, wild manatees to observe, swimming in ancient caves occupied by the pirates of the Straits of Malacca … In short, wonderful landscapes again untouched by mass tourism and a beautiful place to discover as quickly as possible.
Not to be missed: the island of Koh Kradan, a marvel with its large sheer cliffs. A few small, quiet resorts to stay in and the possibility of crossing over to Koh Mook to swim in the famous Emerald Cave.
The Good Tip: The Ko Mook Sivalai Resort, with its breathtaking view and its ideal location on the beach. Magical !
Nakhon Si Thammarat
Between sea and coconut palms, the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat has no less than 130km of coastline! Even though Nai Phlao Beach, known as “Khanom” is starting to attract more and more curious people, it is far from being the influence of Phuket or Koh Samui. Here the inhabitants live simply, in harmony with the sea. Fishermen go out to sea, women and children stay on the shore sorting fish and shells, or just playing, while beautiful mangroves surround the villages. The city of Nakkhon deserves a detour for its 13th century temple.
Not to be missed: Khanom, the most beautiful beach in the region or the Baan Tan Khun Ratwut Vicharn, a wonderful old house wisely bordered by a pleasant little café.
The Good Tip : Le Petit Saint-Tropez, a guest house opened by a French couple, Stéphanie and Julien, who fell in love with the places, the beaches but also the locals.
Located in the center of the Malay Peninsula, Phatthalung is a quiet provincial town. People come here for two nearby natural wonders: Thale Noi and Songklha lakes. Transformed into ornithological reserves, the places are a fragile refuge for many birds. The people of the region have lived on these shores for centuries, and use their boats to trade and move around. As for the pretty wooden houses on stilts, they give the place a very peaceful atmosphere, light years away from the usual seaside resorts. To discover the places, climb aboard a traditional boat to explore the “Little Sea” and admire the expanses of water lilies and magnificent pink lotuses, herons and other kingfishers. A natural and soothing stopover in rural Thailand and preserved.
Not to be missed: The lagoon, of course, is the main reason why visitors come to this wonderful end of the world.
The Good Tip: The Sripakpra Andacura Boutique Resort, a pretty boutique hotel located directly on the lagoon.