7 Thai beaches that are even better than 'The Beach'
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Hands up who's seen The Beach? The starched white sands of Maya Bay on the isle of Ko Phi Phi Leh are jaw-droppingly pretty, a filmmaker's dream. They are also deluged with day trippers, many of them looking to snatch a photo of the famous sands they saw in the movie, which was filmed here in 1999.
Of course, Thailand* boasts far more than just one beach. In fact, it has some of the finest beaches, not just in Southeast Asia, but anywhere in the world.
So, slip on your sandals and prepare to get sand between your toes as we look at some of Thailand's most spectacular beaches with something for everyone whether you're after the Robinson Crusoe experience or a serious party.
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1. Laem Tong Beach
We're starting close by with Laem Tong Beach, or Golden Bay as it's also known, which is tucked into the same island group, just across the water on the neighbouring island of Ko Phi Phi Don.
Laze on the dazzling white sands, slip out for a snorkel to explore the easily accessible reefs or hop over to nearby Bamboo Island. Golden Bay is infinitely more relaxed and quieter than its more famous film star sibling. Day trips are available from both Phuket and Khao Lak.
2. Kata & Karon Beaches
With Kata* and Karon*, you're getting two beaches for the price of one here on the west coast of the holiday island of Phuket*. Granted, when I first came here in the early 1990s both were quite quiet affairs, but development has moved in.
The facilities, though, are handy and have not ruined the beauty of these large beaches that first brought people here.
One word of caution: the seas here can be prone to pretty strong tides and currents - take it from me as I spent a tricky few minutes here once caught in a rip. The scene is pure picture postcard, though.
3. Donald Duck Bay
Forgive the name; it comes from the rocks overlooking the bijou bay that resemble the famous Disney duck. This gorgeous oasis is in a protected part of a national park in the Similan Islands.
As well as cotton-wool-white-sand there is a lot of coral around so you can snorkel off the beach or hook up with one of the local scuba dive operators to get in and amongst the wildlife-rich local reefs.
You can head off in search of hulking manta rays, smooth white-tipped sharks and graceful green turtles. A night dive here is a truly sublime experience. Day trips are available from both Phuket and Khao Lak*.
4. Bang Tao Beach
If you want the luxury of designer boutiques, chic restaurants and top-notch golf (there is an award-winning 18-hole golf course here) to go with your beach break, then Bang Tao Beach* is the ideal sandy oasis for you on the popular island of Phuket.
The epic arch of sand sweeps 6 km around the palm and casuarina tree-fringed coastline. The busiest stretch is to the south, so head north for some peace and quiet. Horse rides are a great option for cruising along and seeing everything that the beach has to offer.
5. Nang Thong Beach
The Khao Lak area sports some of the best beaches in the whole of Thailand, not just the mainland. It also offers three world-class national parks to go along with a whopping 20 km of white powder beaches backed by swaying palms.
It's very much the Southeast Asian beach idyll writ large here at Nang Thong Beach*. There are plenty of resort facilities on hand too, but it never feels too busy and there is always space to unfurl your towel.
6. Railay Beach
Why choose one white powder beach when you can have four? It's not greedy, just exactly what the mainland peninsula of Railay, close to Krabi*, offers with four first-rate beaches to choose from.
You can decide for yourself which of the quartet does it for you. My favourite is Phra Nang Beach for the pure sands, crystal clear waters and bizarre rock formations. You'll want your camera at the ready as well as your beach towel for this stunner.
7. Tri Trang Beach
If you like cold beer, cool cocktails and banging nightlife to go along with your beach escape then Tri Trang Beach*? is the place to be. By day, you can recline on the palm-lined sands before picking up the pace in Patong, the epicentre of Phuket's nightlife just 15 minutes away.
The beach is actually quite quiet given its proximity to the action so, slip into the laidback vibe here with an open-air massage right on the sand. The shallow water is also ideal for snorkelling.
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