Getting There: All leading international airlines have direct flights to Bangkok. Most visitors will arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, also known as the new Bangkok International Airport. Thailand's four other international Airports are in Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket and Chiang Rai.
Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) is the country's national carrier. Thai Airways offers tours through its Royal Orchid Holiday Tour Packages.
Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com) operate several daily flights from Bangkok to Phuket, with a flight of one hour. Phuket is 516 miles from Bangkok, a journey of about 12 hours by car.
Visitors can fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok and then take a ferry to Ko Samui. Thai Airways International has two daily flights connecting Bangkok with Surat Thani. The flight time is approximately 70 minutes. The ferry for passengers and cars to Ko Samui departs from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., a trip that takes about 90 minutes.
Thai Airways operates daily flights from Bangkok to Krabi, an 80-minute flight. You can also fly from Phuket to Krabi on Phuket Air, which offers a daily flight to and from Krabi.
Accommodations: Pimalai Resort & Spa (www.pimalai.com), a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is on the tiny island of Koh Lanta Yai in Krabi Province, in southern Thailand. The island is easy to reach from Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi and even Bangkok.
Your clients will most likely arrive at Krabi International Airport, where they'll have a choice of transportation: by road from Krabi, which takes about 50 minutes, or from November to April, they can opt for a scenic cruise aboard one of Pimalai's boats along the coast of Koh Lanta Yai to the resort's beach jetty.
Pimalai is spread out over 100 lush acres with direct access to 2,950 feet of sandy beach. There's a choice of 121 accommodations, including Deluxe, Bayfront Deluxe, Pavilion Suite, Beach Villa and Pool Villa. All the accommodations are furnished in refined Thai style, with tropical wood floors, bamboo blinds and dark wood furniture. The Hillside Pool Villas come in one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations, and have magnificent views of Kan Tiang Bay and the surrounding tropical?forest.
The spa has seven treatment huts. Treatments include traditional Thai massage, aromatherapy massages and body wraps or body scrub treatments. Anchalee Chugit is the spa manager; you can make advance reservations for your clients by contacting her at [email protected]
Franck de Lestapis is Pimalai's general manager; he can be contacted at [email protected] Travel agents can also reach out to Evelyne Gaudin, owner of California-based Evelyne's Collection and official travel agent liaison for Pimalai, at [email protected], 310-453-8853.
Rayavadee (www.rayavadee.com) is a Thai beach resort on a peninsula on the edge of Krabi Marine National Park in Krabi Province on Thailand's Andaman Coast. The resort is bordered by three National Park beaches, including Phranang, often noted as one of the world's most beautiful beaches. Rayavadee's 103 guest pavilions and villas are spread over 26 acres of coconut groves. The most requested premium accommodations are the one-bedroom Hydro-Pool Pavilions. These have a secluded setting surrounded by lush jungle, with private gardens, a terrace barbeque and a 15-by-8-foot hydro-pool.
The Rayavadee Villa is another popular option, with two bedrooms, a free-form swimming pool, a living and dining room that seats eight and a terrace with stunning views over Phranang and dramatic limestone cliff formations. Other accommodations with great beach views include the Raitalay Villa Phranang Villas and the Deluxe Villas in the Raitalay section of the resort.
The spa director is Khun Garnchai Asavapapol; request advance bookings by contacting her at [email protected] The resort has a range of beach and water sports activities, including excursions in Rayavadee's private Siamese junk to the outlying islands.
The travel agent liaison is Maria Grueter (011-66-75-620-7403, ext. 2800, [email protected]).
The Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui (www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui) opened early last year on a private cove on the secluded north shore of the island of Koh Samui on the Gulf of Siam. The resort's 63 villas and residences offer open-air living spaces with their own infinity pools.
The spa has individual treatment rooms housed in five salas (covered verandas) each with two indoor and two outdoor Thai-style massage beds, an outdoor shower, an outdoor bathtub and a steam room or indoor rain shower. Honeymooners and romance-minded travelers give the resort high marks. Contact Christina Purba at [email protected]
Tour Operators: A partial list of tour operators with programs to Thailand includes Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com, [email protected], 800-323-7308); Gate 1 Travel (www.gate1travel.com, [email protected], 800-682-3333); Globus (www.globusjourneys.com, 866-755-8581); GTS Globotours ( www.globotours.net, 800-988-4833); Orient Flexi Pax Tours (www.orientflexipax.com, [email protected], 800-545-5540); Pacific Delight Tours (www.pacific delighttours.com, [email protected], 800-221-7179); Pleasant Holidays (www.pleasantagent.com, [email protected], 800-448-3333); SITA World Tours (www.sitatours.com, [email protected], 800-421-56430; Ritz Tours (www.ritztours.com, [email protected], 800-900-2446); Travcoa (www.travcoa.com, [email protected], 800-992-2003); and Viking River Cruises (www.vikingrivercruises.com, 888-505-7984).
Entry Requirements: U.S. visitors staying fewer than 30 days do not need a visa to enter Thailand, although they do need to show a valid passport and proof of a return ticket.
Language: The people of Thailand speak Thai. English is widely understood, especially in Bangkok. Road and street signs are in both Thai and English.
Currency: The Thai unit of currency is the baht, which is divided into 100 satangs. At press time, the exchange rate was $1 to 32.6 Thai baht.
Electricity: 220 volts AC. Travelers with varied appliances and electronic gear are advised to bring an adaptor kit.
Time: Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. — MR