It’s that time of year again when intending travellers or betrothed couples start the time-consuming and frustrating process of deciding where to spend their next long haul holiday or hopefully — their one and only honeymoon! There are many contenders out there and all have their pluses! The USA, The Caribbean, Mexico, South Africa, The Seychelles and Mauritius usually appear high on most peoples wish lists but it is Thailand that often comes up trumps, notwithstanding it’s distance from Ireland. It’s easy to see why. Thailand appears to have it all: a distinct and fascinating culture; rich history; intoxicating (and healthy) cuisine; stunning beaches; the friendliest people you’re ever likely to meet (and that includes us Irish!) and of course all those amazing handicrafts and exceptional prices — particularly in places like Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. In short, Thailand is the perfect holiday destination with a good year-round climate although you do need to be mindful of the distinct monsoon seasons which vary somewhat, depending on which side of the country you’re on. Although the country has more than enough to keep even the most demanding of tourists occupied for two or three weeks, some insist on packing even more into a trip to the Far East so itineraries can be easily constructed with your local Travel Centres agent that encompass neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam or increasingly, Burma. Given that you lose two days in travelling to/from Thailand, a typical 14-night ‘package’ to Thailand would look something like 10 or 11 nights in a resort like Phuket or one of the Islands such as Koh Samui with the remaining few days exploring the delights of Bangkok. For those looking for a bit more variety, a three-centre holiday can be split up to look something like seven nights in resort, two nights in Chiang Mai and three nights in Bankgkok.
If you are a collector of local handicrafts or like to return with memento’s of your visit to a foreign country then I would definitely recommend that you include a visit to Chiang Mai as part of any itinerary to Thailand as the choice is overwhelming; the prices great and the quality unsurpassed. Particularly good buys include silver-work, wood inlay (particularly in furniture), artwork and wooden carvings, some of which originate from over the border in Myanmar (Burma). As no direct flights operate between Ireland and Thailand, you need to travel via an intermediate point such as London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt or Paris and the routing is often determined by a combination of both availability and price. Flights from London usually take about 13 hours to Bangkok from where you can get connecting flights to almost all other internal points within Thailand. Early booking is advised though.