Dreaming of your next beach holiday? Here’s what awaits vaccinated travellers as part of the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension
In partnership with TAT Malaysia
Thailand has been leading the region in gradual reopening for vaccinated travellers, first with the Phuket Sandbox programme and then the Samui Plus programme. The combined Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension gives visitors access not just to Phuket and Samui, but some of southern Thailand’s most beloved islands, such as Koh Tao and Koh Pha-Ngan.
Between them, the islands offer many of the cultural and natural charms that make the Land of Smiles so special. Here are just some of the experiences you can expect when Malaysians can visit Thailand again.
A jewel in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is not only Thailand’s third-largest island, it also comprises more than 80 other smaller islands. It’s studded with stunning beaches, clear waters and lots of culture – and you can explore a lot of it by motorbike or car. Here are just some of the things Koh Samui has to offer vaccinated travellers:
Pristine beaches for all holidays
Koh Samui has approximately 40 beaches, bays and coves. Perhaps the most well-known is Chaweng Beach – think powdery white sands, exciting nightlife and loads of dining choices. For a slower pace, check out laidback Bophut Beach which has accommodations to suit any budget, and is close to Bophut Fisherman’s Village, a charming neighbourhood with rustic buildings, trendy restaurants and even a street market. And if you’re travelling with kids, family-friendly Lipa Noi Beach has calm waters, and no rocks or coral that could potentially injure little feet.
Close encounters with nature
A huge rock formation, Elephant Rock is named for its size and is a peaceful spot surrounded by hiking trails. If you’re game to hike all the way to the summit, the views of the Gulf are worthy of Instagram. If you prefer to stay closer to sea level, beat the hot weather at Ang Thong National Marine Park, where you’ll find more than 100 square kilometres of mountains, lakes, waterfalls and jungles bordering gorgeous sandy beaches. Camp for the night with a rented tent, or go for a snorkel or dive to see exotic marine life.
Wild and wonderful temples
There’s more to Koh Samui than beaches, as anyone who has visited The Big Buddha can attest. The 12-metre statue is one of Koh Samui’s most known landmarks, surrounded by stalls selling charms, souvenirs and street food. Another great site is the Secret Buddha Garden high up in Koh Samui’s lush hills. The garden is filled with sculptures of mythical animals, deities and of the Buddha himself, alongside a soothing waterfall and thick foliage. For a taste of the macabre, head to Wat Khunaram, where you’ll see the mummified body of Luong Pordaeng, a Buddhist monk who died in seated meditation in 1973.
There’s more to Koh Pha-Ngan than the beloved full-moon parties. It’s also the place to be for some of Thailand’s most spectacular beaches, natural sights and wellness activities. A trip to Koh Pha-Ngan is incomplete without:
Beach-hopping, boating & kayaking
The island is small, but it still has 30 different beaches to explore – favourites include Haad Rin Nok, famous for its full-moon parties; Haad Yuan, which is tricky to get to but worth it for the viewpoint and crystal-clear waters; and Haad Mae, linked to a small island called Koh Ma. Explore Koh Pha-Ngan’s coastline with a longtail boat or by kayak, which you can rent at most major beaches.
While Koh Pha-Ngan may not as popular among divers and snorkellers as Koh Tao, that just means there are fewer people to share the amazing underwater views with. Snorkelling and diving are possible at almost any beach along the western and northern coasts, but if you’ve got a fear of the deep ocean, shallow-water diving is also an option. One must-see dive site is Sail Rock, teeming with barracuda, tuna, anemones, turtles and even the occasional whale shark.
Yoga under the stars
You’ve heard of the iconic full-moon parties, but did you know Koh Pha-Ngan also has half- and black-moon parties? Most take place around Baan Tai Beach, where you can party the night away with other vaccinated travellers. Alternatively, try a little relaxing yoga under the moonlight. Moonlight-bath yoga sessions are a huge thing in Koh Pha-Ngan, and all you need to do to join one is to ask around at the beach you’re on.
This tiny island is where divers go to appreciate some of Thailand’s best marine life. It’s a breeding ground for Hawksbill and Green turtles, which means most of the island practises eco-friendly diving. Koh Tao is also great for those who want to be in nature without dealing with the crowds. Here’s what to do when you’re there.
Unforgettable diving and snorkelling
There are numerous diving centres where you can get certified before your first diving trip. There are snorkelling cruises available, too, if you’re not ready to dive. Either way, you can expect to see turtles, black tip reef sharks, whale sharks and blue spotted rays.
Hikes and high-speed fun
Koh Tao has plenty of great trails if you’re looking to do some hiking or cycling. For example, take the 4.6-kilometre trail from Sairee Beach to Tanote Peak for some gorgeous ocean views at the top. Alternatively, hit up Flying Trapeze Adventures, a flying trapeze and circus school in Koh Tao for some acrobatic fun – no prior experience necessary!
For more up-to-date information on Thailand’s reopening and entry requirements, visit the TAT’s Newsroom . In Malaysia, the TAT Malaysia Facebook page is the go-to resource for official updates and even some exciting giveaways. Alternatively, you can email your queries directly to the TAT at email@example.com.