This year, I’m boldly going where few Australians have been before.
Go to Thailand and wake up. And I’ve never had a richer travel experience.
While the thought of Australians in Thailand might conjure up images of questionable tattoos and island hopping driven by Chang, the calm environment and predominantly Buddhist religious influence make it an ideal destination to incorporate into the wellness tourism trend that encourages holidaymakers Really reset, relax and detox.
So during my 10 days in Thailand, starting in Phuket and an 8-hour nonstop flight from Melbourne via Jetstar, I decided to ditch the traditional airport beer to mark the start of the trip and swap the cocktails for poolside alcohol-free upon arrival. cocktail.
Four of Thailand’s top resorts were key to the challenge’s success: Melia Phuket Mai Khao, Banyan Tree Krabi, Melia Chiang Mai and Banyan Tree Koh Samui. They all have their own unique twists, offering an all-encompassing experience of the area without a hint of drunken FOMO.
While hangovers won’t go away, there’s certainly no shortage of indulgence thanks to the many culinary delights Thailand has to offer, carefully curated and presented by world-class chefs at each resort.
Day 1 – 3 at Melia Phuket Mai Khao
After a seamless Jetstar flight from Adelaide to Melbourne (1 hour 20 minutes) and then to Phuket (8 hours 50 minutes), our group of 6 stepped off the plane into the scented tropical air , the moist air elicits an instant head-to-toe sense of calm. Having not traveled abroad since pre-pandemic, being in another country is surreal, let alone escaping the winter at home.
We arrived late to Melia Resort’s sprawling oasis, and the friendly staff showed us to our room and quickly devoured a plate of healthy snacks before bed.
With indoor and outdoor showers, a private plunge pool, a large freestanding outdoor tub that made me feel like I was in a Herbal Essences commercial, and a giant cloud bed that sets the bar high for luxury on the go.
Wake up to the sound of tropical rain and it’s time for a sumptuous breakfast buffet to go crabbing at Mai Khao Beach.
Back at the resort, we took an in-house cooking class, fried sand crabs for lunch (sadly not caught by us), and then took a Muay Thai class on the beach with versatile trainer Aum.
Considering my desire to absorb as much of Melia’s wellness philosophy as I could, I went to the spa for a massage before dinner.
If you’ve never had a Thai massage, get ready to put on a set of white pajamas and be twisted, pulled, and twisted like never before, and try not to smirk all the time like I did.
Feeling soft and fluffy after asking me to massage “extraordinarily hard”, dinner at Gaia was accompanied by a tangy ginger mocktail (my favorite of the trip) and another incredible meal.
Start the next day with yoga with Aum, then enjoy a delicious and healthy lunch in the main restaurant and say goodbye to the Melia team before heading to the second destination.
Day 3 – Day 6 at Banyan Tree Krabi
If you’ve never been to Thailand, Krabi should be your first destination. While the gorgeous Andaman seaside town itself is like stepping into a postcard, Banyan Tree Resort’s majestic architectural design inspired by Thai folklore and views of the surrounding islands dotted with a glassy ocean are equally breathtaking.
Here, my room comes with a private infinity pool and sweeping ocean views from the cotton candy king bed. We all know sleep is better without alcohol, but what about a wakeful sleep in one of the rooms? change life.
After a dip in the infinity pool, at sunset, enjoy a virgin mojito at the beach bar. Enjoy dinner in a private room at the resort’s sophisticated Naga Kitchen, a multi-course Western fusion extravaganza.
After eight blissful hours on the marshmallow bed, I woke up early, took a beach walk with the monitor lizards and the rising sun, and raved about my new breakfast buffet.
This morning, we took the long boat to Hong Island, where we trudged up multiple flights of steep stairs with incredible panoramic views of the still ocean, treetops and the crispy powdery sand below.
Near the bend in the nearby lagoon, diving directly from the boat and floating under limestone cliffs is a highlight (but watch out for jellyfish lurking!)
Tip: An early day trip to the limestone islands near Krabi is a good idea. The area is often crowded with tourists looking for the perfect photo for the Instagram grid, which can lead to long boat traffic jams.
With wind-blown hair, sandy feet and salty skin, we head back to the resort, fresh coconut and pineapple in hand, ready for our next activity: another massage. hard life.
End the day with a traditional Thai dinner on the resort’s pristine sandy beaches, then go to bed early, promising an unforgettable adventure for elephants bathing in mud the next day at a nearby rescue sanctuary.
The Ao Nang Elephant Sanctuary has only four elephants rescued by enthusiastic operators and is definitely a must for kids if you are visiting Krabi.
Dedicated to caring for and nurturing these gentle giants, there are no controversial elephant rides here. Instead, you’ll feed, pet and bathe these wondrous creatures in mud and water under the watchful eye of Mahout – a 24-hour trainer and caretaker assigned to each animal with which they forge an unbreakable bond.
A truly humbling experience and a great organization.
Back at Banyan Tree, an afternoon lounging by the pool followed by a hilarious retro water aerobics class hosted by upbeat fitness guru Buddy.
From carrying bags to the pool to burning incense in the room every day, the attention to detail at this resort is amazing.
I even inadvertently synced my phone’s alarm to the bluetooth system, and it was a pleasant surprise when I woke up to the soft music from the bedside clock instead of the screeching vibrato of my iPhone. (The first time this happened, I was sure I had ghosts, but I was sure Banyan Tree was totally ghost-free).
Days 6-8 at Melia Chiang Mai
Pick up the pace by the sea, and next stop is Chiang Mai’s urban nap, Bangkok’s less chaotic sister.
As Thailand’s largest religion, with 93% of the population practicing Buddhism, Chiang Mai is a major spiritual center. While there’s plenty of good shopping, incredible food and a lively bar scene, the Chiang Mai air emanates from the streets, which you’ll share with the practising monks who take their offerings outside every morning.
For your temple restoration, join your guide at Wat Doi Suthep (about 40 minutes from the city) to learn about the rich history of the gorgeous golden temple and its significance to the area. If you’re willing to take an immersive tour, you can be blessed by monks who will tie a rope around your wrist for good luck and bestow on you an ancient prophecy.
My number 13 is translated as: “This is a lucky number, and the person who gets it will be rich, wealthy, dignified and successful. Ask the sick and be healed. As for the baby inside, it must be a man.”
(I definitely wasn’t expecting a baby, but my daily breakfast buffet made my food baby’s gender reveal more fun).
For a little juxtaposition, an after-dinner drink (water) at one of the city’s drag bars is a fun way to end the night. Even without booze, it’s impossible not to be drawn to excited travelers and friendly locals at one of these bars. Like all drag, the artistry of the Queen’s costumes, makeup, and lively routine will leave you amazed and laughed from ear to ear.
For me, the real highlight of Chiang Mai is the food.
When visiting some of the best places to eat in the area, you’ll find $1 chicken laksa called Khao Soi that will blow your mind, spicy grilled river fish, and an assortment of pork and pork dishes cooked in humble local eateries. Chicken curry.
There’s even an omelette with red ant eggs, traditional from the region, if you like to play games.
Returning to Melia, which sources its products from the organic farm Ori9in, Mediterranean influences offer guests something different.
Try the tapas afternoon tea and take a nibble. But don’t fill up before dinner at Mai Restaurant and Bar, where chef Billy is a serious planner.
Koh Samui Day 8 – 10
This is where my transition from perpetually jaded journo to zenned-out holiday pig is complete.
Nestled in the mountains of Lamai Beach, Banyan Tree Samui is probably the most beautiful accommodation I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in my life.
For the next two nights, a huge private villa was my home, with direct views from the pool to the quiet sandy beach, visible from the lush green site’s lush canopy of many trees.
There’s a reason Banyan Tree Koh Samui is considered one of the best resorts in Thailand, and it’s safe to say that by this point, my Instagram followers are fed up with Thai spam.
Aside from its breathtaking beauty, it’s the ideal retreat for sober travelers.
Health and vitality are key at Banyan Tree, and each site is dedicated to helping guests find a sense of clarity and balance during their stay. The resort has hired a number of experts to offer mindfulness classes and a range of activity options to keep your body moving on lazy days by the pool.
A particularly luxurious and unusual feature of this resort is the Spa Rainforest, designed to inspire a sense of tranquility as the user progresses through each level through different water techniques. From the trickling “rain” to pouring buckets, steam rooms and swimming pools with a variety of jets, you’ll feel refreshed, even if a little wrinkled from the soaking.
I found the pool jets to be very itchy, which sent me (again) into crazy giggles, so I have to apologize to my traveling companions for disturbing the peace.
Pilates, yoga, sleep meditation and breathing exercise classes, more hearty meals, thalassotherapy and sunbathing in my exclusive mini-paradise provide a truly magical introduction to Thailand.
Despite 10 days of sightseeing, working out, and borderline competitive eating, I still felt lighter (and slightly more rounded) than any vacation I’ve ever had, and I believe that’s because alcohol was left out.
Without booze and cocktails, I slept much better than usual and woke up without a hangover giving me the energy to take part in every activity on offer, plus the extra sightseeing I had time to squeeze into the day.
So if you’ve ever wondered if sober travel is worth it, and if it’s really possible, it’s definitely worth it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
From May 15th to 26th, the author traveled to Thailand as a guest of Jetstariver.
Jetstar flies direct from Melbourne to Phuket from $349 one way.