Golf arrived in Thailand during the reign of King Rama V a hundred years ago. It was first played by nobles and other high society elites, but that has certainly changed since then. In the last decade, golf has grown in popularity in Thailand and is now popular with Thais as well as tourists and expatriates.
Meeting the needs of an average of 400,000 foreign golfers who come to Thailand every year, golf in Thailand has become a huge local industry with new golf courses being built all the time. Golf alone brings 8 billion baht into the local economy every year. Thailand offers more than two hundred courses of the highest standard. Courses of international renown can be found in tourist locations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
There are a number of reasons why golf has become so popular in Thailand. Firstly, when compared to the cost of most golfing countries in the world, membership and course fees are exceptionally low. The overall low cost of travel in Thailand itself makes it an ideal place for for-profit tourists. In addition, many of the golf courses in Thailand have been designed by big names in golf such as Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman.
- Golf Courses Association of Thailand, 96 Moo 3, Viphavadi-Rangsit Rd, Bangkok, +66 2 6625234.
Thailand is a country big enough, about the size of Spain, that almost all outdoor sports can be practised there. Ko Tao is becoming one of the most important diving centres in Asia. The Ang Thong National Marine Park near Ko Samui and the Similan Islands off Khao Lak also attract many people. One of the newest diving hotspots is Ko Lipe, a small, relatively untouched island with large reefs and beautiful beaches. Snorkelling can be done on almost any beach, but the coral reefs of the Similan Islands are particularly interesting.
Even though Thailand is not a surfer’s paradise like Bali, surfing has its place. The waves are generally small, good for longboarding and for those who want to learn to surf. The west coast beaches of Khao Lak and Phuket are among the best, but the best waves are at Ko Kradan, on the west coast of the relatively unknown province of Trang. Other surf spots are Rayong and Ko Samui, but the waves on the Gulf Coast are less reliable.
The gravity-defying limestone formations of Phang Nga Bay are usually seen on boat trips, but if you canoe out to sea, you can reach areas unexplored by the tourist crowds. The limestone cliffs of Rai Leh are among the best in the world for climbing.
Traditional Thai massage has a history of over 2,500 years. Thai massage is based on the belief that many invisible energy lines run through the body. The masseur uses his hands, elbows, feet, heels and knees to apply pressure to these lines, releasing any blockages that may be present and allowing energy to flow freely through the body. Many Thai people believe that these massages are useful for treating illness as well as for general well-being. You are said to feel both relaxed and energised after a session.
Although spas were only introduced here in the early 1990s, Thailand has quickly become one of the most popular spa destinations in the world. In addition to traditional Thai massage, there is a phenomenal variety of international treatments, including aromatherapy, Swedish massage and many others. There is usually an option for every budget, ranging from extravagant wellness centres in luxury hotels to small massage shops ubiquitous on many street corners.