Known as the “Land of Smiles”, Thailand has long been a popular tourist destination thanks to its beautiful beaches, great shopping, culture, stunningly oornate temples, delicious food and friendly people.
With a deep history that stretches back over many centuries, Thailand is a perfect holiday spot for families. And with Thai AirAsia X recently launching direct flights from Muscat to the capital of Bangkok three times a week, it’s just a six-hour, non-stop journey away. Our trip to Bangkok and Phuket last month was a great choice for the school holidays, while our AirAsia flight was comfortable and enjoyable. And because it’s a relatively short trip, there’s very little, if any, jetlag to deal with — a great plus if you are on a short break.
Our flight arrived at Don Muang Airport at 6am, which meant plenty of time for my daughter and me to recover and explore Bangkok on our first day. After checking into the well-located Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21, we had a couple of hours to rest and then headed out for what has to be one of the most quintessential experiences Thailand has to offer: a two-hour spa treatment at the tranquil Divana Massage and Spa, a short drive from our hotel. This set the tone for the rest of our first day, which included shopping at the famous MBK department store and then on to Asiatique The Riverfront to watch the thrilling Muay Thai Live stage show, which takes you on an action-packed journey of the history of the martial art, which also happens to be the country’s national sport.
We spent two days in Bangkok before heading to the island of Phuket, also a short flight with Thai AirAsia X. The popular holiday island has a much slower pace while the colourful Old Town, which boasts Sino-Portuguese architecture, is a great place to pick up some bargains.
My favourite place- No visit to Bangkok is complete without a dinner cruise along the famous Chao Phraya River – the lights are stunning and you sail past some of the city’s most famous and historical temples and palaces. These include the highly ornate Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho, the oldest temple in Bangkok.
Highlights- With so much to see and do in Bangkok and Phuket, it’s difficult to choose just one. We loved the spa treatment in Bangkok while a trip to the famous James Bond island in Phang Nga Bay, an easy boat trip from Phuket, is incredible. The lime cliff island was made famous in the 1974 Bond movie, The Man With The Golden Gun. Unfortunately, it poured with rain on the day we went out and we had to abort our trip after seeking shelter in a cave on the way. But we are determined to get back there. Another must-see in Phuket is the award-winning stage show, Siam Niramit, which takes you through a stunning visual history of Thailand. Featuring 100 performers, as well as special appearances by some amazingly placid elephants, it’s a great way to familiarise yourself with Thailand’s rich heritage and culture. Before the show, you can walk around the grounds of a traditional Thai village, which features a range of rural houses, watch how silk is made and even sample some delicious Thai desserts.
Lowlights- The usual tourist precautions apply, such as ensuring you don’t fall victim to pickpockets. We were there during the monsoon season, which is great if you are from Oman and haven’t seen rain for quite some time. All hotels provide umbrellas in their guest rooms but it can play havoc with your plans if you are heading out to the islands off Phuket.
Souvenirs- From cute knick-knacks to beautifully crafted wooden statues, stunning artwork, clothes and traditional arts and crafts, there’s something for everybody. My daughter was happy with the selection at MBK and the Damnoen Saduak floating market, about 100km from Bangkok.
Where to stay- From the high end to the budget-friendly, there are enough choices to suit everybody. We stayed at the sleek Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 in Bangkok and the B-Lay Tong in Phuket, a funky boutique hotel overlooking Patong Beach.
* Felicity Glover visited Thailand and Phuket courtesy of Thai AirAsia X and the Tourism Authority of Thailand
1) Visit a Thai spa
2) Try the shopping at MBK
3) Head out to the islands in Phang Nga Bay
4) Take the kids to Safari World in Bangkok
5) Head to the Siam Niramit show in Phuket