SUMMER BY THE SEAS
As summer arrives, the beach calls out to you,
begging you to visit
NISARAT / TIEWROBLOK.COM
There’s something about inhaling fresh air and letting your mind drift when you go to the sea, whether in Thailand or overseas. So, what’s your destination this summer?
IN THE MIDDLE OF INDIAN OCEAN
Maldives is paradise on earth and a must-visit destination for beach lovers. It is built up out of more than a thousand coral reefs in the midst of the Indian Ocean, south of Sri Lanka. A trip to Maldives is about spending your time at a resort and doing activities (or absolutely nothing). Each island has its own unique character. If it’s not too far from the international airport in Male, you can take a speedboat to your resort, but if it is far, you will have to take a seaplane.
When you think of Maldives, you will think of little huts dotting the sea. You can sit on the terrace and see little fishes swimming in the water. If you want to swim or snorkel, you can do so right at your villa.
In addition to sunbathing, sipping drinks under the tree and lazing about in a hammock, there are plenty other activities to do, like growing corals on a metal frame, watching dolphins, swimming with turtles, and diving with manta rays. You can get close to marine animals. As the sun goes down, watch the sun gradually dip into the horizon. Maldives is famous for beautiful sunset, as the sun rays tint the sky and water.
Go: AirAsia flies directly between Bangkok and Maldives. (www.airasia.com)
Stay: Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa and Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. (www.fourseasons.com/maldives/)
When you think of Maldives, you will think of little huts dotting the sea
BETWEEN JAPAN AND TAIWAN
When you want to go to the beach and one friend suggests Japan while the other suggests Taiwan, Okinawa is the answer.
Okinawa is in Japan, located in the East China Sea. It has a mix of Japanese and Chinese culture and traditions. Today, it has a lot of Western influences as it used to be a US military base.
The beaches of Okinawa feel pretty much like Hawaii, especially in summer when you can see Japanese couples honeymooning here. Its underwater world is breathtaking with corals, fishes and turtles, particularly at Kerama. If you’re an experienced diver, go wreck diving and you might even see a whale shark. But if you’re not much of a diver but want to see a whale shark, you’re in luck, as a couple of whale sharks are displayed at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.
Beyond beaches, Okinawa also has many interesting castles and Japanese-Chinese temples. You can try riding a Yonaguni Uma horse, which is small but very strong. The best activity is to watch the first cherry blossom bloom in Japan, which begins in January-February. The cherry blossoms here are in deep pink and you can watch it in Okinawa’s capital city Naha or near Mount Yaedake in Motobu. There are thousands of cherry blossom trees and the entire mountain turns pink in this season.
Wrap up your trip to Okinawa with an impressive shopping experience at Kokusaidori, eating fresh seafood, and trying American-style ice cream.
Go: Peach Air flies directly between Bangkok and Okinawa. (www.flypeach.com/pc/th)
Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Okinawa. (www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/japan/okinawa)
SOUTH CHINA SEA AND BEYOND
Con Dao is a Vietnamese island in the South China Sea. The French colonial government established a prison on the island to house prisoners. Not much has changed here over the past decade. You can check out the Con Dao Museum, old prisons and local markets. This island makes a good day-trip destination from Vietnam, but many people love to spend a few nights on this island due to its 5-star resorts and beautiful corals and beaches. You might even spot sea turtle eggs here.
If you’re not into sitting idly by the beach, head to the other side of Vietnam to Phu Quoc. This island is the biggest in Vietnam, near Cambodia, and is only an hour and 45 minutes from Thailand. It is a colourful destination with a lot of entertainment.
You can go diving to see beautiful coral reefs and marine animals around Phu Quoc. There are also water activities such as kayaking and jet-skiing. At night, you can go sailing while enjoying barbecued seafood. Go shop at Dinh Cau Night Market, or head to Phu Quoc Cable Car, which is the longest non-stop three-way cable car in the world. The cable car is the first and most important installation of the Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park and takes you from An Thoi to Hon Thom island, a total distance of more than 7,899 metres. You can watch the beautiful views of the sea as you’re up there.
Go: Vietnam Airlines flies directly between Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh, then connect to Con Dao. AirAsia flies directly between Phuket and Phu Quoc.–www.airasia.com
ISLANDS OF THE PHILIPPINES
If you’re into water activities and land activities, the Philippines is just what you need. With many islands and activities, as well as beautiful beaches and facilities, it is a destination worth visiting.
Cebu used to be a capital city during Spain’s colonisation. Cebu is the country’s second biggest city after Manila. It is home to San Pedro fort and colourful Jeepneys. What brings people to Cebu is diving and swimming with whale sharks at Oslob. Locals throw food at designated points in the morning to attract whale sharks. You need to book in advance because the number of visitors is limited.
During the day, you can enjoy extreme sports by the beach, check out limestone formations which lead to emerald green lagoons and waterfalls.
Not far from Cebu is Bohol Island, which is accessible via ferry. It is a famous diving spot, but is also known for world famous Chocolate Hills which are natural cone-shaped hills. They are covered with green grass that turns brown during dry season, hence the name.
On the eastern side of the Philippines is Palawan Island, which was dubbed the World’s Best Island in 2013 thanks to its pristine beaches and world-class water activities. You can go diving to see corals and fishes, as well as black-fin sharks and whale sharks.
Go: Philippine Airlines flies directly between Bangkok and Manila. Connect to various islands using Cebu Pacific Air.
GULF OF THAILAND AND ANDAMAN SEA
For a quick trip not far from Bangkok, you can go to Samed Island in Rayong, where the beach and level of relaxation is second to none.
Samed has long been famous for its white and pure beaches. It has become popular and heavily visited by tourists over the past years, and now looks nothing like its description in a novel by Suwannee Sukhontha, but there are still quiet corners where you can relax and enjoy the sea. If you want some entertainment, you can go to Sai Kaew Beach which is famous for Thai-style massage and som tam.
One highlight of Samed today is that it has banned plastic bags in order to reduce the number of plastic waste on the island and prevent leakage into the sea.
Another destination is Koh Yao Noi in Phuket, which faces Phang Nga National Park. It has beautiful views and is a great place for those who want to check out marine animals and corals. Koh Yao Noi is quiet and peaceful. About 80% of the locals are Muslims, so there aren’t many bars and night entertainment spots. On this island, there are farms, coconut groves and lobster farms, which attract a lot of long-term European visitors.
Go: Take a speedboat from Samed Pier to Ban Pae (www.ท่าเรือเกาะเสม็ด.com/) / Thai Airways and AirAsia fly daily to Phuket, then connect to Koh Yao Noi with a speedboat (www.thaiairways.com, www.airasia.com)