The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Thailand for Two

Thailand's Beaches

Simon N. Ostheimer, a long-time resident of Thailand, uncovers the hidden gems of Thailand’s most beloved destinations for couples and shares his insider tips.


This small jewel-shaped speck in the Gulf of Thailand is the country’s most luxurious island, filled with five-star resorts, superb fine dining, and chic beach clubs.

The approach to landing is a dreamy vista of fishing boats, blue seas and white sand, before you disembark onto a retro trolley bus that carries you to the open-air terminal held up by pillars designed to look like coconut trees.

This idyllic arrival sets the stage for your honeymoon, whether you stay in the bright lights of Chaweng, the quaint fisherman’s village of Bophut, the rustic spa retreats of the south coast, or the remote sunset-facing resorts on the island’s west shore.

No matter where you check into, the attractions remain the same – a chance to soak up the stunning natural beauty Samui is renowned for. For a change of scenery, try one of the island’s famed beach clubs such as the party-centric Nikki Beach or the chilled Hemingway’s on the Beach.

SEE: The weekly Sunday walking street market in the Bophut Fisherman’s Village is a great place to pick up unique souvenirs and – when you need a break – people watch. Not far from here, you’ll also find the famous Big Buddha, and amazing coastal views.

EAT: You can find pretty much anything your heart desires in Samui, but for top-notch and inventive cuisine look no further than the cozy space with a large wooden centrepiece table at Chez Francois. A close runner-up is the Mediterranean cuisine at Link, which also offers fine views of the beach.

DRINK: Depending on your mood, we offer up two of our favourite places for a tipple. Coco Tam’s on Bophut Beach allows you to sit on the beach and enjoy cocktails by candlelight, but to really get away from it all, head up into the mountains and find the Jungle Club.

STAY: Koh Samui is awash with luxury lodgings. From Garrya Tongsai Bay with its private beach and pool villas and cottages, to the InterContinental on the island’s west coast, which boasts romantic sunset views. We also love the Four Seasons for its solitude, style and sophistication – not to mention fantastic service.

Related: A couple’s travel guide to Koh Samui


It’s so vastly different to the rest of the country, that in many ways Bangkok is not really Thailand. Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (meaning ‘City of Angels’), to give it its Thai name, is a futuristic metropolis of 10 million people, full of skyscrapers, skytrains and sky-high prices (in the luxe shopping malls, at least).

The ever-expanding city sprawls for miles, and seemingly never sleeps. However, alongside the world-acclaimed dining, buzzing nightlife scene and modernity, you can still find treasures of the past, such as the historic Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In sum, the country’s vibrant capital is a captivating blend of old and new.

SEE: The best way to see as much as possible in one day is to catch the Chao Phraya Express Boat, which runs up and down the city’s river, stopping at all the major tourist attractions. Distinguished by a blue flag, it begins at the Saphan Taksin BTS stop.

EAT: With so many top tables in the city, the choice is endless, but you can’t miss only the third street-food eatery in the world to win a Michelin star: Jay Fai, where the eponymous grandma serves up superb curry crab omelettes.

DRINK: From Cuban speakeasies to Shanghai-style nightclubs, Bangkok has it all covered, but to get your bearings before you dive right in, head to one of the city’s dozens of rooftop bars – the best being Moon Bar, located in the lofty position of the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel.

STAY: Bangkok is such a large city, that it’s best to first decide what you want to see and do before choosing a hotel that will best suit your itinerary. That said, for vintage glamour, stunning riverside views and magical memories, we recommend staying at the Mandarin Oriental, which first opened way back in 1876.

Related: Here’s how to spend 48 hours in bustling Bangkok // Bangkok’s Creative Destinations


The jewel of the Andaman has made great strides in recent years, with the addition of new shopping malls, airport improvements, and the refurbishment of the delightful Old Town.

But the original charms still remain the same: gorgeous white sand beaches, both convenience and a place to get away from it all, and all the dining, drinking and entertainment options that come with being a world-class holiday destination.

When it comes to good eats, you can’t beat a beachside plate of pad Thai, but for a higher-end farm-to-table eating experience, look no further than the menu at Pru, Phuket’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, which focuses on organic ingredients harvested and grown locally.

For shopping, go for a Sunday stroll at the weekly Old Town market, where local vendors sell homemade arts and crafts, and the sound of busking musicians fills the streets lined with colourfully painted 100 year-old shophouses.

SEE: For a bird’s eye view of Phuket, head up to the Big Buddha statue, which sits atop the island’s highest mountain. Surrounded by a Buddhist temple complex, it’s both a place of pilgrimage and sightseeing, with spectacular 360-degree vistas of the entire province.

EAT: With a wonderful melting pot of local cuisines that reflects the Thai, Chinese, Malay and Indian migrants that call Phuket home, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to dining out, but if we had to pick just one place it would be the Blue Elephant for its Old Town charm.

DRINK: There’s no shortage of places to enjoy a drink on Phuket, but for a truly amazing setting, look no further than Baba Nest at Sri Panwa on the south coast. With a wooden deck seemingly floating on an infinity pool, the Andaman Sea stretches out before you.

STAY: Phuket has many lovely resorts perfect for honeymooners or couples looking for a luxury escape. The glamorous Rosewood – tucked away in Emerald Bay along a 600-metre long beachfront – is this writer’s go-to for both privacy and romance.

Related: A complete travel guide (for couples) to Phuket


Home to more than 300 temples – more than anywhere else in the country – it’s perhaps no surprise that Chiang Mai is considered Thailand’s most cultured city.

Founded in 1296 as capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom, today it’s famed for heritage architecture – including a moat that still surrounds the city – a thriving scene of artists and galleries, the imposing Doi Suthep mountain, distinctive northern cuisine such as khao soi, surrounding green national parks still home to native hill tribes, and the beautiful annual festival of Yi Peng, when thousands of candlelit paper ‘sky lanterns’ are sent upwards to the heavens.

SEE: While you should definitely spend time exploring the city’s temples, including the awe-inspiring Wat Chedi Luang, hilltop Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and iconic Wat Phra Singh, do make sure to visit the thought-provoking MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum.

EAT: Given its love of the arts, it stands to reason that many of Chiang Mai’s best places to dine combine culture and cuisine, such as gallery and restaurant Seescape; dual cafe and photography studio Rakuda; or flower shop, lifestyle store and eatery Woo.

DRINK: It may not be indigenous to Thailand, but jazz has been embraced by the locals – the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a keen jazz saxophonist who once shared a stage with Benny Goodman. For local beats and bebop, head to the North Gate Jazz Co-Op.

STAY: Hugging the shore of the sleepy Mae Ping River, in the city’s historic east quarter, the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort is a luxurious property that combines colonial and Thai influences with tranquil surrounds, comforting spa and a superb location in the Old City.

Related: Check out Simon’s guide to Chiang Mai’s trendy art scene


A two-hour drive west of Bangkok, in the foothills of the mountains that separate Thailand from Myanmar, Kanchanaburi has a dual identity. It has a dark history as the site of Allied POW camps during World War II, and the infamous’ Death Railway’ the prisoners laboured to build from here to Burma through impenetrable jungle. That contrasts with a vibrant present, with visitors flocking to lush national parks filled with flowing waterfalls and atmospheric caves; spending time rafting, jet-skiing, and cruising on the River Kwai, and exploring the charming Old Town. It’s this split personality that makes it an ideal destination.

SEE: The town’s most famous attraction, the bridge across the River Kwai, was immortalised in the 1957 film of the same name. Arrive early to walk across before the train from Bangkok arrives, and then pay a visit to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre for a detailed explanation of its construction. Don’t miss Pakprak Road – a charming strip of century-old shophouses and mansions.

EAT: Given its laidback atmosphere, don’t expect to find fine dining in Kanchanaburi, but there are still a range of great options, from Krua Chukdon, a large riverside restaurant at the east end of town popular with day trippers from Bangkok, to the quality (and cheap!) Thai meals on offer at the Kanchanburi Night Market.

DRINK: For cold beers in an equally chilled setting, head to the bars that line Mae Nam Kwai Road, just southeast of the bridge. For something a little different, try craft beer bar AVE Thaifood & Goodbeer.

STAY: It’s a little ways from town, but the quiet location of the X2 River Kwai Resort means you can appreciate the incredible natural beauty of Kanchanaburi away from the crowds. We highly recommend the floating cabins with their private rooftops and industrial-chic design.

Related: Thailand’s Wild West – Exploring Kanchanaburi


Located in Thailand’s most easterly coastal province, Koh Chang is part of a national park that includes more than 50 islands. The name means ‘elephant island’, but – although many camps dot the landscape – the gentle giants are not actually indigenous, with the name instead referring to the isle’s distinctive shape. In 1941 it was the scene of a major naval battle between the Royal Thai Navy and French forces based in neighbouring Cambodia, but has otherwise been a sleepy home to fisherman and farmers. In recent years more upscale luxury resorts have opened, adding to the charms of this picturesque destination.

SEE: Given that you’re on Thailand’s third largest island (after Phuket and Samui), a visit to Koh Chang means embracing the ocean. Explore the fish-filled waters on a snorkelling or scuba trip, with the latter allowing you to explore the wrecked Thai ship HTMS Chang.

EAT: There are many fantastic places to eat along Koh Chang’s sandy beaches, but for a taste of something different, try The Buddha View. Located at the end of the Bang Bao Pier in the island’s southwest, you dine on superb seafood in a stilt house built upon the water.

DRINK: You don’t come to the island for sophisticated cocktail lounges, so mellow out like the locals do and pull up a beanbag at a beach bar. White Sand Beach on the west coast is full of great venues offering this vibe, including 15 Palms, Sabay Bar and Sun & Soul.

STAY: There are places for all budgets and tastes on Koh Chang, but for a true escape from it all, catch a boat south from the island to nearby Koh Kood and discover the remarkable Soneva Kiri resort, with its inspiring natural setting, top-notch service and sublime spa.

Planning a trip to Thailand? You’ll love these articles:

A complete travel guide to Thailand for couples (no waterparks here!). // 10 Unique Things to Do in Thailand // The Best Islands in Thailand // H4C’s Complete Library of Thailand Travel Stories

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