Perhaps no place is as romanticized as Thailand’s exotic stretches of coast and islands. The country’s many sugar-sand beaches, dramatic limestone cliffs and enticing emerald-clear waters create some of the most eye-catching scenery on Earth. In today’s photo, brought to us by Flickr user Geir Ertzgaard, we have further visual evidence taken at sunset near Krabi on Thailand’s western Andaman Coast. The striking Thai long-tail boat silhouetted in the foreground is complemented by the dazzling pinks and purples of the receding light.
Bustling Bangkok never looked so tiny and cute. Tilt-shift video makes everything look like a miniature play set, and this video of various Thailand locales employs the technique perfectly. The Chao Phraya river that runs through Bangkok looks like a tiny stream in some sort of elaborate diorama, and people taking to the sea in the Phi Phi Islands near Phuket look like small articulated action figures. The effect is both interesting and surreal. Be sure to check out Gadling’s guide on the similar tilt-shift photography technique. “Toy Thailand” was shot in Bangkok, Phuket, Ton Sai, and Railay in Krabi.
A new travel-planning website and booking engine is launching this month in beta, and I was excited to give it a test run, having first heard about the site this spring at a EuroCheapo travel happy hour. Wanderfly.com is a “personalized recommendation engine” that takes your interests, budget, and even social network connections to give you inspiration and help you plan your next vacation. Flights and hotels are pulled from Expedia, with restaurant recommendations, activities, and sightseeing descriptions culled from Lonely Planet, FourSquare, NileGuide, and Yelp.
Let’s say you have a week to travel in early September for Labor Day. Budget is under $1,000 per person for flights and hotels, and you’re interested in culture, beaches, and food. Plug all those into the search engine and you’ll get a series of destinations to review, refine, share, and book. While the site still has a few bugs (budget busters would sneak through the filters, the help feature is not fully enabled), the interface is slick and user-friendly, the features are thoughtful, and the content is reliable.
What’s cool about the site:
- Since I’m currently based in Turkey, I loved that your point of origin could be pretty much anywhere in the world so I could run searches from New York and Istanbul to get a wide variety of places convenient for different parts of the world.
- A wide (1,200 and growing) network of destinations gave me some ideas I’d never considered or even heard of (Kalingrad, Russia; Azemmour, Morocco; Krabi, Thailand), as well as some more tried-and-true vacation spots(Sunny Isles Beach, Florida; Mykonos, Greece; Split, Croatia).
- Weather and news tabs give you an idea of the current climate (could be too hot on that Egyptian beach) and happenings, though you might come up with nothing for more obscure destinations. I also love that many of the news feeds are through Twitter accounts like @visitbritain, giving up-to-the-minute quickie items.
What will be cool about the site:
- Ability to share trip ideas and plans with friends via email or Facebook is great for planning a trip with multiple people or getting feedback on a destination. Currently, Facebook Connect will tell you who you know in a given place, but I’d probably remember if I had a friend in Lutsk, Ukraine.
- Festivals and special events come up via Eventful , but on the beta site event dates will pop up well after your search range so don’t plan around that blues festival just yet. There are also plans to add destination reviews, currency converters, and travel tips.
- After all the searching, sorting, and sharing, you can actually book through the site, though only if you have a US credit card. The booking interface is also easy to use and gives options for frequent flier numbers, seat and meal preferences, and room types.
All in all, Wanderfly is a nifty new tool for dreaming and planning your next trip. If they could find a way to integrate time-sensitive deals, local blogs, and multiple-destination trips, this could be the only travel site you need.
Thailand has certainly become a hot tourist destination in recent years. It offers an exotic locale with a little something for everyone. The beautiful beaches along its southern coast are amongst the most popular in the world and Bangkok has many colorful and interesting distractions for those looking to explore Thai culture, while the backpacker crowd can head north to Chang Mai and go trekking in the hills for a completely different experience altogether. And if all of that wasn’t enough, Thailand is also home to some excellent rock climbing, as Steve Backshall discovered in this article for the Times Online.
It seems that Thailand’s west coast, near Krabi, has earned itself a reputation for being one of the best spots in the world to learn to rock climb. The crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches are littered with dozens of limestone karsts, rock towers formed over time by the process of erosion, and these towers offer plenty of great climbing opportunities. The best rock climbers in the world frequent the area, as much for the rock as the sun and sand.
But Backshall, an accomplished climber himself, says that begining climbers will find a lot to love in Thailand as well. There are a plethora of climbing schools in the Railray region of Thailand. In just a few days they can teach anyone the skills needed to take up the sport, and a fraction of what it would cost you elsewhere.
And when you’re done with your daily workouts, you can pamper yourself in the nearby resorts, hanging out on the beach, sipping a fruity drink, and soaking up the sun. Learning to climb has never been so fun, relaxing, or affordable.
These new resorts will be built in beautiful, remote destinations, with the guest suites designed for peaceful relaxation and seclusion, while resort amenities will feature all the luxury that is associated with the Ritz-Carlton name.
The Phulay Bay resort was designed by Thai architect Lek Bunnag, giving the property a modern style with local flavor. The guest rooms have gorgeous views of the Andaman Sea as well as private plunge pools and sheltered outdoor baths and rainforest showers. Public amenities at the resort include an infinity pool, fitness center, spa, casual and fine dining, cooking and batik painting classes, and an event space perfect for wedding of up to 80 guests.
The Ritz-Carlton Reserve is now taking reservations for Phulay Bay for 2009. Visit www.ritzcarltonreserve.com for more information. Future resorts are planned for Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos and The United Arab Emirates.