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Here is a photo of Thailand you have seen before.

Thailand-KA-boat

There’s nothing really wrong with it: like the image of a white-haired old man when we think ‘professor’, it’s just stereotypical. It’s also not the full picture.

I was standing around a hip bar last week, drinking Old Fashioneds with a friend of mine, talking about travel. (Occupational hazard.) He swirled his drink, took a sip, and said ‘ugh, I’ll never go back to Thailand. It’s so overexposed. Any charm it ever had has long been destroyed by now. I’m going to Laos.’

 

Wandering along the Chiang Dao Nature Trail alone, the meaning of signs like these are inferred. Photo by Kati Auld.

Wandering along the Chiang Dao Nature Trail alone, you just have to hope that signs like these aren’t warning against anything serious.

 
Three months ago, I would’ve agreed with him. But I know better now, and I’ve never been so delighted to be wrong. For our September issue, I was sent to explore Thailand – and I learnt that there are still places you can go that are affordable, beautiful, and far enough from the beaten track to feel like you’re the only person in the world.

The sceptic’s guide to Thailand is on sale now – but in the meanwhile, I hope these photos give you an idea of what it’s like in the lesser-known corners of the Land of Smiles.

Calm waters, and the glittering roof of a Trang temple.


Calm waters, and the glittering roof of a Trang temple.

Tea with breakfast: every time you think you've found the limit of Things You Can Do With Rice, you are wrong.

Tea with breakfast: every time you think you’ve found the limit of Things You Can Do With Rice, you are wrong.

In Chiang Dao, I had the pleasure of discovering a valley of cherry blossoms. I hiked there the whole day, and had the entire valley to myself.

In Chiang Dao, I had the pleasure of discovering a valley of cherry blossoms. I hiked there the whole day, and had the entire valley to myself.

There are many ways to work on the sea. This captain did both.


There are many ways to work on the sea: moving fish towards people, or moving people towards fish. This captain did both.

This little spot by the river was only a few metres from Ko Kia, one of the best seafood restaurants in Trang.

This little spot by the river is only a few metres from Ko Kia, one of the best seafood restaurants in Trang.

Even if you can read Thai signs, the lichen can still beat you; coconuts are as delicious as they are ubiquitous.

Even if you can read Thai signs, the lichen can still beat you; coconuts are as delicious as they are ubiquitous.

Sail the world, strange hand-written note tacked to a beachside tree? Yeah. Don't mind if I do.

Sail the world, strange hand-written note tacked to a beachside tree? Yeah. Don’t mind if I do.

The tiny island of Koh Mook is full of distant kayakers and wary cats.


The tiny island of Koh Mook is full of distant kayakers and wary cats.

In Chiang Mai, this woman sold grilled parcels of rice, wrapped in banana leaves; meanwhile just down the road, hipster coffee spots sell flat whites.

In Chiang Mai, this woman sold grilled parcels of rice, wrapped in banana leaves; meanwhile just down the road, hipster coffee spots sold flat whites.

People are strange, when you're a stranger. The bustling streets of Chiang Mai Night Market are a riot of smells, people, and buskers.

People are strange, when you’re a stranger. The bustling streets of Chiang Mai Night Market are a riot of smells, people, and buskers.

I met this fellow in Chiang Dao. We didn't speak any common languages, but enthusiasm for cigarettes (like sport) is universally understandable.

I met this fellow in Chiang Dao. We didn’t speak any common languages, but enthusiasm for cigarettes (like sport) is universally understandable.

This roadside shrine is one of many lining the side of the road leading to the National Park. There's a spring here: it's customary to pray and splash your face with the water.

This roadside shrine is one of many lining the side of the road leading to the National Park. There’s a spring here: it’s customary to pray and splash your face with the water.

These are some of the sights on your way to the start of the nature trail.


You’ll go past scenes like this on your way to the Chiang Dao nature trail – and that’s before the trail even starts.

In this clearing, every tree was wearing a beautiful orange sash. It was equal parts moving and eerie.

In this clearing, every tree was wearing a beautiful orange sash. It was equal parts moving and eerie.

The Chiang Dao nature trail took me through a delightfully unexpected bamboo forest. They are as creaky as everyone says.

One of the hikes took me through a delightfully unexpected bamboo forest. It seemed almost animate, with its creaking and swaying.

September 2016

The Sceptic’s Guide to Thailand, in our September issue.

 
 
 

This story first appeared in the September 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

Our September issue features affordable destinations around SA, great photographic hides, and a Thailand travel guide. On shelves from 22 August.

 
 



  • maureen brady

    Thanks Kati for your lovely pics of Thailand.I have been there twice and love it but only off the beaten track to The Bridge on the River Kwai and all the history that goes with it-railway, cemetery and museum.Would love to go to the North to Chiang Mai and Chang Rai.and also the southern islands you describe so magically-on my bucket list now but will have to hurry up as I’ve just turned 70!

  • Rudi Fisch

    where can one buy the skeptic;s guide to Thailand?

    • Kati Auld

      Hi Rudi! It’s a feature in the September issue of Getaway – you can pick it up in store, or get a digital copy here.
      Hope you like it 🙂