What Islands to Visit in Thailand

There are three islands off the southern coast of Thailand—Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Most people think of Thailand via Bangkok and scenes from the Hangover Movie, but these islands are far from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s an entirely different atmosphere filled with amazing restaurants, gorgeous beaches (many with few people), and a host of options for resorts. It’s an island vibe with a cross between Scandinavian design, marries Caribbean with a bit of Hawaiian Polynesian thrown in.

There are places you visit that change you forever and Thailand is one of those places. I have to admit I really didn’t know what to expect from my travels there and what I found was absolutely incredible—from the country, to the food and the culture—it really is worth the trip. Thailand is definitely a place that has a bit of everything to offer.

Koh Phangan

I really loved this little island and enjoyed our stay at the Anatara Rasananda Resort. You fly into Koh Samui and you’re transferred via the hotel high-speed boat to the resort (about a 40 minute ride). When you arrive, the staff is waiting on the beach to greet you. It’s a wonderful way to start your vacation.

The resort itself is a perfect blend of luxury and island nature. In the morning, you can grab a table for breakfast right on the beach and then meander up the hill to the spa situated amongst the boulders for a traditional Thai massage. They have beachfront accommodations or you can opt for being just off the beach with your own private plunge pool. Breakfast is included at the resort with fresh juices and infused waters each morning. There is also a cute little village within walking distance you can explore on your own and shop.

Koh Nang Yuan

Koh Nang Yuan National Park
A perfect snorkel spot!

Koh Nang Yuan is an island national park. It’s the perfect day trip and a great place for snorkeling in calm waters. You can also hike up to the highest point (not too strenuous of a hike) for some incredible views. Beach towels are not allowed on the sand as they impact the island’s natural habit, but they do offer chairs for rent and bathroom facilities. There is also food available for purchase. I highly recommend the coconut water, served fresh in the coconut—cool, refreshing and hydrating on a hot day.

Koh Tao

 

One thing I love about these islands is they are close enough, you can island hop. Each is maybe at best, an hour boat ride. We didn’t spend a ton of time on Koh Tao, but on our way back from the National Park, we stopped there for lunch right on the beach at Blue Water. The food was fresh and delicious and every time I think about the pad Thai and ginger tea with honey, my mouth starts watering and you certainly cannot beat the view!

Koh Samui

Kamalya Resort Thailand
The view at Kamalya

Koh Samui is the largest of the three islands and is home to the Samui International Airport offering flights to Bangkok and Hong Kong so big planes do land there. It’s also home to a variety of accommodations including Six Senses Hideaway Samui, known for sustainability, the more modern, Melati Beach Resort and Spa, and the luxurious Kamalaya, a wellness resort offering health and wellness programs including electronic detox, stress and burnout, and emotional balance to name a few.

 

This is an island that offers many options—yoga retreats like, Vikasa featuring Yoga classes and teaching certification, traditional Muay Thai boxing, beaches, nightlife and shopping. We dined at Coco Tam’s right on the beach and I highly recommend their signature dish. It’s worth every bite! It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.

Coco Tam's on the Beach
Coco Tam’s on the Beach

With the arrival of the New Year, our thoughts turn to shedding those few extra pounds, eating healthier, exercising and our next vacation. With exceptional health and wellness options allowing you to escape the craziness of life and leave your cell phone behind, Thailand has it all. From the mountains of Chiang Mai, to the urban city life of Bangkok and the slow, island pace of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, it’s a life-changing adventure with an amazing culinary scene. When I got back to the United States, I kept telling my husband I felt like all the food I was eating was dead compared to what I ate in Thailand, and I eat vegetables and fruit regularly. Everything was just so fresh, and the presentation alone was a photograph every time!

Curacao—The Urban Chic Gem of the Caribbean

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I really didn’t know what to expect when we docked in Curacao. During my days at Islands and Caribbean Travel and Life Magazines, it wasn’t an island we covered frequently. The only thing I had heard was it was “colorful” and “not like any of the other islands in the Caribbean.” (We docked there on our recent ten day cruise on the Norwegian Jade.)

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Docking in Curacao on the Norwegian Jade

The dock itself is charming. I loved the inviting little white tents with “Welcome to Curacao”. And, in the background was something I’d never seen in the Caribbean—a modern bridge towering over the skyline of the island. The Queen Juliana Bridge is a focal point of the skyline. It’s one of the tallest bridges in the world, weighing 3,400 tons and is 185 feet above sea level over Santa Ana Bay. Traveling over the bridge is a little harrowing when the wind is blowing, but the views are spectacular.

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View of the Queen Juliana Bridge with the Swinging Bridge below

The only way to describe Curacao is Caribbean, urban chic. It has the vibe of the Caribbean with all the vibrant, gorgeous colors; yet Willemstad with the view of the Queen’s Bridge overhead, gives it an urban chic kind of feel. With outdoor cafes, shops, and restaurants, it has the bustle of a city with the laid back vibe of the Caribbean.

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Colorful Curacao

Oddly enough, Curacao is home to another unique bridge in the Caribbean—the Queen Emma Bridge. Also known as, “The Swinging Old Lady,” this floating, swinging bridge connects two parts of historic Willemstad—the Punda and the Ortobanda districts. Sixteen floating pontoon boats support the bridge and two motors allow it to swing open to let ships enter the port. It truly is one of the most unique bridges in the world and certainly the Caribbean.

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The Swinging Bridge in Curacao

Things to Do In Curacao

  • Visit the Curacao Distillery Home to the world famous Blue Curacao liqueur and housed in the historic 19th century mansion Landhuis Chobolobo .
  • Take a local driving tour—Ben Tours offers a luxury motor coach tour and includes ice-cold beer, water and wifi. The tour takes you to the distillery and two scenic overlook spots before dropping you back at the dock or you have an option to get off in town and explore. It’s a great overview of the island.
  • Explore the Punda area of Willemstad for shopping, outdoor cafes and local eats. Afterwards make your way to the Netto Bar, the oldest in Curacao (and one of the oldest in the Caribbean) for their famous Rom Berde (green rum).

Where to Stay in Curacao

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Luxury awaits at the gorgeous Baoase Resort in Curacao

The gorgeous Baoase Luxury Resort is the perfect place for a romantic escape.  Located on the south side of Curacao, the resort offers 23 rooms, suites and villas to restore your well-being.  The resort also has a spa for wellness seekers and offers yoga and detox programs. With beaches, golf, hiking and exceptional diving, Curacao is the perfect place to wander, relax and unwind.

An Insider’s Look at the Exceptional Viking Sun Cruise Ship

For those of us that live stateside, you may have heard of Viking River Cruises, but what you may not know, is that Viking has now ventured into ocean cruising. At the Art of Travel Company, we were recently invited to Miami to tour one of their new ships, the Viking Sun, and what we experienced was a work of art, steeped in Nordic tradition, with the beauty and simplicity Scandinavian design is known for.

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The Atrium on the new Viking Sun

The ship itself is stunning. With tall, bright windows, and a neutral décor, when you board the ship, you enter the Viking Living Room. Featuring comfy couches and chairs, it makes you feel as though you’ve entered the home of a Scandinavian relative. Every detail was thought through—from the leather wrapped hand railings, to the incredible woodwork of the Winter Garden—each fine touch has a purpose. The carefully selected artwork lining the ships walls even has a story to tell. The art is numbered, and guests who download the app, can look up the description on that particular piece. Other unique attributes include the retractable roof in the Winter Garden and heated pool area, the Explorers’ Lounge complete with telescope for stargazing, and the infinity pool and spa. For the food adventurous, try Mamsen’s, a gourmet deli featuring true Norwegian cuisine, and the World Café with selections from around the world. There are two specialty restaurants on board, The Chef’s Table providing a multi-course tasting experience, and Manfredi’s specializing in the fine art of Italian cuisine. In the evening, head to Torshavn 1920’s style bistro providing a very intimate setting for entertainment. And for those of you on extended cruises, leave the heavy suitcase at home; the ship even has a self-service laundry on board at no additional cost. It automatically dispenses detergent and fabric softener so no need to bring your own. For a small class ship, the Viking Sun is packed full of features.

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The spa facility is very unique. As you enter the spa, a gorgeous modern, gas fireplace greets you. Surprisingly, the same fireplace overlooks the spa pool on the inside, creating a focal point and ambiance for peace and relaxation. The spa is also home to the snow grotto, where guests can experience chilling temperatures and actual snow, and then hop on over to the sauna just across the way. It’s beautifully and comfortably appointed and the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day at sea. Guests on the Viking Sun can use the spa facilities at no extra charge and spa treatments are extra.

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Viking Ocean Cruises has taken what they learned on the rivers and expertly applied it to ocean cruising. With sixty-two ships in their river fleet, and four ocean ships currently, they plan to have ten by 2022. As we stood at the infinity pool, overlooking the ocean, we couldn’t help but envy the passengers about to embark on their journey to Cuba, as the Viking Sun is truly in a class all by itself.

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The Viking Sun offers:

  • Year built 2017
  • Double occupancy only
  • No children under 18
  • Every stateroom has a veranda (270 sq ft minimum)
  • Only 930 passengers (for those who don’t find megaships appealing)
  • Small class ship
  • No casino
  • Two specialty restaurants on board, no upcharge fee
  • Beer, wine and soft drinks at lunch and dinner are complimentary and specialty coffees, teas and bottled water are included
    • Unlimited cocktails beverage package is available for a minimal charge
  • Includes one excursion per port per passenger
  • Complimentary Wifi
  • 24 Hour Room Service

Viking Sun offers extraordinary, carefully curated, cruising itineraries to the Caribbean, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, The Adriatic, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Russia and the Baltic Sea. To book a cruise vacation on this beautiful ship, please Contact us.  For more information on the Viking Sun, visit https://www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/ships/viking-sun.html.