LEAD­ING GOLF

Thai­land has al­ways been one of New Zealand's most pop­u­lar travel des­ti­na­tions (2nd after Lon­don, ac­cord­ing to Master­Card's Annual Travel Study re­leased in June 2015) and a trip to Thai­land is not com­plete with­out a visit to its cap­i­tal city, Bangkok.

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B angkok is known as a city of

con­trasts, with moder­nity/ western in­flu­ences and na­tional her­itage/ Bud­dhist in­flu­enced cul­ture blend­ing sur­pris­ingly well to­gether. The city is rich with ex­cite­ment and de­light at every turn. One of the good ex­am­ples lies right in Bangkok's CBD, with a serene Bud­dhist tem­ple - Wat Pathum Wa­naram, set in the mid­dle of Bangkok's big­gest shopping area of Siam – Ratchapra­song.

Vis­i­tors to Bangkok will be amazed by the va­ri­ety of at­trac­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties Bangkok has on of­fer. Be­sides hun­dreds of spec­tac­u­lar Bud­dhist tem­ples, there are cul­tural at­trac­tions, mu­se­ums, bustling Chi­na­town, lux­ury shopping malls, float­ing mar­kets, tan­ta­lis­ing street food, fine din­ing res­tau­rants, ro­man­tic rooftop bars, re­lax­ing well­ness spas, etc. Bangkok is surely a des­ti­na­tion for all types of trav­eller.

Must visit Bud­dhist tem­ples in Bangkok in­clude Wat Phra Kaew (Tem­ple of the Emer­ald Bud­dha), Wat Po (Tem­ple of the Re­clin­ing Bud­dha) and Wat Arun (Tem­ple of Dawn). As these three tem­ples are lo­cated near one an­other, vis­i­tors with lim­ited time can eas­ily visit them all in one trip.

The Grand Palace, The Royal Barges Na­tional Mu­seum and Jim Thomp­son's Thai House pro­vide a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of Thai­land's his­tory and cul­ture. Other in­ter­est­ing mu­se­ums which are worth vis­it­ing in­clude Bangkok Arts and Cul­ture Cen­tre (BACC), Mu­seum of Flo­ral Cul­ture (a mu­seum fea­tur­ing unique ex­hibits of im­por­tant flo­ral cul­tures from civil­i­sa­tions across Asia) and a group of mu­se­ums at Siri­raj Hospi­tal i.e. Siri­raj Bimuk­sthan Mu­seum, Foren­sic Medicine Mu­seum, Cong­don Anatom­i­cal Mu­seum and a few smaller ones.

From Bangkok, you can take a day trip to many at­trac­tions such as Ayut­thaya His­tor­i­cal Park (one of UNESCO's World Her­itage Sites) in Ayut­thaya, Am­phawa Float­ing Mar­ket in Sa­mut Songkhram, Khao Yai Na­tional Park in Nakhon Ratchasima, Bridge over the River Kwai in Kan­chanaburi and the An­cient City in Sa­mut Prakan.

For those of us who love shopping, Bangkok has a va­ri­ety of shopping ex­pe­ri­ences from lux­ury shopping malls to bar­gain fash­ion malls and week­end mar­kets. Ma­jor lux­ury malls in­clude Siam Paragon, Siam Dis­cov­ery, Cen­tral World, Cen­tral Em­bassy and EmQuartier. Bar­gain shop­pers should check out Plat­inum Fash­ion Mall, MBK, Chatuchak Week­end Mar­ket and Asi­a­tique the River­front.

For those who have more time, a Thai cook­ing class is one of the best sou­venirs you can bring home from Thai­land. It will last an en­tire life­time and re­quire no ex­tra lug­gage.

Tips: The best means of pub­lic trans­port to avoid traf­fic are BTS Sky Train, MRT Sub­way and Chao Phraya River Fer­ries. Those trav­el­ing from the Air­port into the city can use the Air­port Link Train.

Less than a 2hr drive east of Bangkok is Pat­taya, a re­sort city in the Chon­buri provence.

With plenty of at­trac­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties, it is the per­fect des­ti­na­tion for fam­ily hol­i­days as well as ad­ven­ture en­thu­si­asts. Be­sides its fame as a re­sort city, with its va­ri­ety of ac­com­mo­da­tions to fit all bud­gets, world – class golf cour­ses to­gether with the fa­mous Thai hos­pi­tal­ity.

Pat­taya beach is lined with ho­tels and res­tau­rants. The beach is di­vided into three sec­tions i.e. North, Cen­tral and South. The north­ern sec­tion is gen­er­ally more tran­quil whereas the cen­tral and south­ern ar­eas are packed with ho­tels, res­tau­rants, shops and night­clubs. Jom­tien Beach is Pat­taya's main beach which is pop­u­lar for wind­surf­ing and other wa­ter sports. To the north of Pat­taya Bay is Wong Prachan Beach which is quiet and good for swim­ming.

Ko Lan and Ko Sak, two small is­lands which can be reached by a 45min ferry ride or 15min speed­boat ride from main­land Pat­taya, are great places for snorkelling, scuba div­ing and view­ing coral reefs in glass bot­tomed boats. Ko Phai, an­other small is­land fur­ther be­hind Ko Lan, is one of the best scuba div­ing sites in this part of Thai­land with su­perb coral reefs.

Other at­trac­tions for the whole fam­ily in­clude Pat­taya Float­ing Mar­ket, Car­toon Net­work Ama­zone - the world's first Car­toon Net­work themed wa­ter­park, Flight of the Gib­bon - Asia's #1 Zi­pline Eco - Ad­ven­ture Canopy Tour, Nong Nuch Trop­i­cal Gar­den, Art in Par­adise – a Trick-Eye 3D Mu­seum. An­i­mal lovers should check out Pat­taya Un­der­wa­ter World and Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Si Racha, about 45min drive from Pat­taya.

For those who are in­ter­ested in cul­ture, don't miss Thai Thani Art and Cul­ture Vil­lage and the Sanc­tu­ary of Truth - a gi­gan­tic wooden con­struc­tion cov­ered with ex­quis­ite ar­chi­tec­tural carv­ings which re­flect an an­cient vi­sion of East­ern Phi­los­o­phy, and Alangkarn The­atre – a mod­ern-Thai Multi Di­men­sion Ex­trav­a­ganza Show.

For lovers of ad­ven­ture and ex­treme sports, there are plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer e.g. para­sail­ing, jet ski­ing, wa­ter ski­ing, wake board­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, go kart driv­ing, mo­tor rac­ing, ab­seil­ing, bungee jump­ing and sky div­ing.

But we are here for the golf and for golfers, with so many high-qual­ity cour­ses and ex­cep­tional value for money, Pat­taya is Asia's top golf­ing des­ti­na­tion. Ex­am­ples are Laem Cha­bang In­ter­na­tional Coun­try Club, Siam Coun­try Club, and many more.

Fi­nally, Pat­taya of­fers a va­ri­ety of shopping and din­ing options; from out­let malls to large duty-free shops and from Thai street food to in­ter­na­tional fine din­ing. Since Pat­taya is home to in­ter­na­tional ex­pats who work at the East­ern Se­aboard In­dus­trial Es­tate, su­per­mar­kets here are full of lo­cal as well as im­ported pro­duce. The best fresh mar­ket is Nong Mon Mar­ket in Bang Saen, which is half way be­tween Bangkok and Pat­taya. The mar­ket is the best place to buy food and sou­venirs of Chon­buri, from fresh and dried seafood, to lo­cal del­i­ca­cies such as steamed fish in curry paste, crab roll, sweet sticky rice in bam­boo pipe and many more.

Thai­land is also ridicu­lously cheap. The ho­tels and golf cour­ses are specif­i­cally de­signed around tourists and vis­i­tors, so if you have a cad­die (with some cour­ses they are manda­tory) remember to tip them well. For many of them it is their sole source of in­come, and it is still cheap by our stan­dards.

Ben­cham­abophit Dusit­va­naram, Bud­dhist tem­ple in the Dusit district of Bangkok, Thai­land.

Wat Pho, Bud­dhist tem­ple com­plex in the Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok.

Wat Arun in Bangkok, Tem­ple of Dawn.

Banyan Tree, Ver­tigo & Moon Bar.

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