Updated: Jul 13
✦ Tourism Thailand recently held a major Sydney expo to renew its welcome to Australian visitors. Travel writer Susie Boswell was invited along.
In the year to December 2019, just before COVID exploded, tourist arrivals in Thailand from Australia, New Zealand and adjacent Oceania were approaching 1 million, of an annual 40 million Thai tourism visitors overall.
The total loss of such huge patronage, obliterated in the worldwide pandemic travel bans, makes the impact on the Thai economy starkly evident.
Now, Thailand has thrown open its arms to embrace visitors once again, ten hours’ flying time from Sydney. Travellers need only show a vaccination certificate, or a negative RAT or equivalent test within 72 hours of departure.
As a destination Thailand is valued for its charming culture and scenery, gentle friendly people, delicious cuisine, general ease of getting around, widespread English understanding and range of good value accommodation from modest to the very finest.
Just one affordable example I spotted, on Koh Samui, the late Shane Warne’s chosen island, offers eight nights for a room for up to three at $1399, plus many extras, for travel until Christmas Eve next year.
Moreover, many of Thailand’s most renowned, most luxurious resorts are offering outstanding promotional offers: so, a timely opportunity to grab, to indulge.
Soneva Kiri has discounted rates of as much as 30 per cent and more.
SONEVA KIRI, on the island of Koh Kood:
Many a child’s early fantasy is escaping to the seclusion of a cubby house high in the branches.
So for adults at this premier resort one most-coveted experience is Treepod Dining, perched privately in an intimate “nest” elevated at the top of the rainforest canopy.
Guests are seated in a bamboo pod, then hoisted aloft, their ziplining waiter emerging from the tropical foliage delivering gourmet delights!
Soneva Kiri offers other signature experiences, a swift 90-minute flight from Bangkok. Just 34 luxurious pool villas form the resort’s very private accommodation: lingering adjacent to the beach, hidden amid hillside jungle or commanding breathtaking views from the clifftops.
Marvel then that such a select guest cohort may choose from as many as eight dining opportunities across an array of cuisines and an underground cellar offering some 350 top-notch wines.
One such rare indulgence is a Mushroom Cave lunch - five Thai vegan or Western non-vegan courses from varieties of fungi grown in the resort’s own Mushroom Hut - prepared by a dedicated chef.
Other Soneva diversions are private swimming excursions beneath isolated cascading waterfalls and a Floating Breakfast in your villa pool, or beachside. A generous buoyant woven tray is delivered by your barefoot butler laden with treats of pastries, tropical fruits, sandwiches, petits-fours and chilled Champagne.
Other experiences include a sunset wooden boat Champagne and canapes cruise, a visit to a traditional fishing village and family for a seafood barbecue, a sunrise jetty breakfast, an astronomy dinner cruise, beach dining on fresh-grilled seafood attended by a personal chef and waiter (marriage proposals!) and snorkelling, spa and steam treatments.
Treats are not confined to adults: children are indulged in dedicated playground dens with a range of outstanding fun-filled active pastimes. See: soneva.com
Photo: Alicia Warner. Mushroom Cave lunch, Soneva Kiri.
• Thai Airways operates flights from Sydney to Bangkok and Phuket daily, and to Bangkok from Melbourne daily and from Perth three times weekly.
• For current official entry requirements: canberra.thaiembassy.org/entry-to-thailand