away It's easy to get off the beaten track in BANGKOK and THAILAND; remember, there's a

whole country out there. ‘.'.’orc:s: Simone Baird are” Gary McIntosh

There are a couple of modern day cliches regarding Thailand. The first, and the one most people are familiar with, is the backpacker just returned from a holiday there: tanned, relaxed and wearing woven bracelets, spouting Zen wisdom about the meaning of life. The next is of the country itself, perpetuated by books like The Beach (released next year as a movie): a land of endless unspoilt beaches, islands and full moon parties. Like most things, it’s a cliche because it's true Thailand offers an almost infinite number of breathtaking white powdery beaches, with ultra cheap guest house accommodation. And the full moon parties do exist. Many people unjustifiably consider themsleves intrepid travellers after visiting Thailand. The country may be hot and the locals may not look like your folks back home, but it‘s hardly unexplored territory. There is a distinct beaten track in Thailand, and few travellers - even those who stray from it realise it has become so well-worn over the years. Once in Bangkok, the Khao San Road in the Banglamphu district is the most popular haunt. It's where the guest houses, restaurants and travel shops sit, crammed side by side on small streets. From here, people either head out on an organised tour

The Reclining Buddha Wat Pho, Bangkok

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I. I "3‘. ~ ,.,,,,,_-,g .“vy‘ : 0n the beach: Thong Nai Pan in the North of Koh Pha Ngan

north to visit the hill tribes, or get a travel deal south to visit the beaches and islands.

To the north is the unmissable Chiang Mai province and some of the mountainous national parks. Once bedded up in a basic guest house there‘s no gloss or comfort here you'll have a sense of the real Thailand.

South of Bangkok, you'll no doubt be tempted to check out the island of Ko Pha-Ngan, where the full moon parties take place at a beach called Hat Rin. In some ways, this island is like Ibiza, where San Antonio is considered the be all and end all for many visitors and, like Ibiza, there's much more to this outstanding location than dancing on a beach.

Stating the obvious

Khao San Road It's where ch hard begrns hrs adventure rn The Beach, and rt's the marn startrng pomt for many travellers rn Tharland

The Hill Tribes Trek north to see the rndrgenous hrll tribes and rrde a few elephants Just be remember to be as eco-frrendly as possrble

Grand Palace Home of the Emerald Buddha tPhra Kaevr. r, consrderecl to be the talrsman of Tl‘avland

K0 Phing Kan aka the James Bond rsland, where The Man W/th The Golden Gun ha. i 'mect

Hat Rin full moon parties Thousands gather every month for the beach party that goes on well mm the next day, the polrce rncluclecl

The List alternative

Thong Nai Pan The opposrte srcle of the rsland to Hat an and a world away Empty beaches, a few huts and dense leTQlO, acc'essrble only by boat

Discover Latin America

STA Tranel's Drscoter Latrr‘ New ca n‘onth krcks off vvrth a free tram talk and slrde shots. at therr Eclrnhurg“ branch on Tue 9 Not. at 7pm Wet.- tr‘avelled consultants ml! he on hanu to share therr experrenc‘es, and Encounte' Overland vnll 'ntroctuc'e you to the Joys of overtandrng Numbe's are tanned, so phone Ol31 226 7747 or call 'n to collect your rnvrtatron

Latrn Amerrca rs the cool destrnatron thrs year, and to celebrate STA Travel have a range of spec'ral offers rn flrghts and adventure tours, \Vlilt drscounts of tll) {0 lSOC

So, whether you want an escape from the ‘.‘.'llll(~‘l' xvrth a Cuba Lrbra on a Sun-krssed (arrbbean beach, to go loc o at the R:o car'nrtal, to chrll out /h a mud volcano rn Colombta, to "ealrse the dream of clrmbrng a ltve Guatemalan volcano, to drsciover the lost c;rty of l‘vlac‘chu Prcchu, to swn‘. tvrth sealrons and dolphrns rn the Galapagos Islands, or to crurse the untamed Amazon whatever you want, there has never been a better trme to enjoy a latrno adventure

Formulate your own dream trrp usrng our special regronal sector fares For example

UK Cancun surface Panama»‘Cartagena surface Rro UK from £399 plus taxes

UK-era surface La Paz- Rro UK from £499 plus taxes

UK Nevv YOr'kr-lvlexrco surface Cancun—UK from £319 plus taxes

The National Parks There are around 80 natronal parks rn Tharland and the number rs set to rrse to 100 by next year All but a few have basrc guest houses and allow camprng

Day trips to Cambodia From Bangkok you can take a day trrp ano see Angkor, the anCIent caprtal and enormous temple complex

Shopping Tharlancl doesn't sprrng to mrnd when a shopprng spree rs tn order, but you'll frnd some of the cheapest clothes -— genurne and otherwrse -~ around.

Investigate Buddhism Whrle many travellers ‘.".'ll| prck up a lrke'tess o‘ Buddha, there are a number of retreats throughout the c‘Ountry that offer courses rn medrtatron and Buclclhrsm, usually run by monks or nuns

Getting there

STA Travel Offer return flights to Bangkok, for travel rn December from Scotland, from £347 plus tax (approx £40)

STA Travel are at 184 Byres Road and The University of Strathclyde, 90 John Street Glasgow. Tel: 0141 338 6000

27 Forrest Road, Edinburgh. Tel 0131 226 7747 0 30 Upperkirkgate, Aberdeen. Tel 01224 658222 0

126 THE lIST 4-- l 8 Nov 1999