by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)
Feeling just a little bit energetic on your stay in Thailand?, why not enjoy some of the fabulous activities that are available throughout the Kingdom!.
With green and caddie fees much cheaper than in the West, it is easy to see why many visitors to Thailand include a round of golf on their itinerary.
Many clubs are open to non-members, and golfing vacation packages are particularly popular at places such as Laem Chabang International Country Club in Pattaya, Blue Canyon Country Club, Mission Hills Golf Resort, and Phuket Country Club in Phuket, Palm Hills Golf Club in Cha-am, and the Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin. Ko Samui has recently improved its golfing facilities with the addition of the Santiburi Samui Country Club.
Visit the “Golf Thailand Net” website to see what is on offer. The bestprinted guides to courses are the Thailand Golf Map and Thailand Golf Guide. TAT also publishes a free directory of the country’s top 75courses. The David Leadbetter Academy of Golf at the Thana City Golf and Country Club is a great place to remove handicaps.
After the mechanization of logging and its supposed ban in 1989, elephants in Thailand were no longer used for logging work, and their mahouts were reduced to begging on city streets for a living. Offering elephant rides is a positive move toward ensuring the survival of this magnificent national symbol, since their lowland forest habitat has been largely destroyed.
Visitors will find the best opportunities for elephant riding in the south and east, especially at Nong Nooch Village to the south of Pattaya and Pattaya Elephant Village, where there are daily elephant shows and elephant rides into the nearby countryside. Similarly, Ko Chang’s Ban Kwan Chang Elephant Camp and Samui’s Namuang Safari Park offer rides, as do Bangkok’s Dusit Zoo and Safari World.
Thailand offers some ideal terrain for trekking .The precipitous karst forests of Krabi and Khao Sok, in particular, have outstanding hiking trails.
Useful tips include lining backpacks with plastic bags to keep damp out; sleeping in dry clothes (even if it means wearing wet clothes by day); wearing a sun hat and cream for protection against sunburn, and long trousers to protect against leeches; using insect repellent; and wearing wornin hiking boots or at least supportive athletic shoes.
The best time to trek is from November to February and early in the wet season, in June and July. Eco-friendly visitors can try Evolution Tour, Khao Sok Trekking Club, Siam Safari, and Phuket Trekking Club; Friends of Nature also organizes ecological treks.
Unfortunately, much of Thailand’s wildlife has been hunted almost to extinction, so there is little point in spending a few days in a hide in the hope of seeing a wild tiger or a bear. However, the country has a wide network of national parks, where some effort has been made to protect pockets of natural beauty.
Here, visitors might well see rare and colorful birds, huge butterflies, and foot-long centipedes. The entrance fee to national parks for foreigners has been doubled to 400 baht. Some parks have campsites, and most have log cabin-style accommodations that can be reserved through the National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department.
The more popular parks, such as Khao Sok, Khao Sam Roi Yot, and Khao Phanom Bencha, have well-marked nature trails, but in less popular parks, visitors should ask park rangers to lead them to interesting features.
Before the arrival of motor cars, boats were the only form of transportation in Thailand, apart from walking. Low-lying areas of the country were criss-crossed by canals that enabled locals to visit friends and do their daily shopping.
These days, however, floating markets are strictly for vacationers who can enjoy the colorful spectacle of it all.
Apart from these floating markets, there are several other locations where visitors can go sightseeing by boat. In Bangkok, Chao Phraya Express Boats offers short tours with commentary on the main riverside sights.
In the south, companies such as Sayan Tour organize half- and fullday trips on longtail boats around the limestone stacks in Phang Nga Bay; visitors also have the option of canoeing for an hour.