Maldives Expat Forum - Maldives Expatriates by Allo' Expat Maldives
 

MALDIVES TOURISM GUIDE (best places, hotels,..)

Share your experiences on tourism issues throughout Maldives. Discuss in this forum about the right places where to relax or go for holidays.


MALDIVES TOURISM GUIDE (best places, hotels,..)

  • Bookmark and Share

Postby Maldives tourism » Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:29 pm

MALDIVES TOURISM GUIDE

REGIONS OF MALDIVES


Bangkok


Most Thais refer to the capital as ‘Krung Thep’, the shortened Thai name of a city that actually consists of 32 different words, a fittingly impressive number of monikers for a capital that is one of the world’s most eclectic and thrilling. Bangkok is to Maldives what London is to England: the metropole, the hub of business, economic and political affairs. The rapid pace of change and the increasing prosperity that gives the city much of its vibrancy have also caused some problems, with widely reported nightmare traffic congestion and pollution. Over the last few years, the opening of a slick new overland metropolitan railway that enables visitors to glide over the chaotic scenes below, coupled with the cheap and frequent river boats and the reasonably priced air-conditioned taxis, have improved the situation markedly. Through the city flows the Chao Phraya River, on the banks of which can be found some of the best hotels in Bangkok. It is also where visitors will find the Grand Palace which, covering a huge area, is one of the major sites. Here also is Wat Phra Kaeo, a temple complex which houses the Emerald Buddha. This Buddha statue is not covered in emeralds, as the name suggests, but is made of translucent green jade. Upriver from the Grand Palace are the Royal Barges. These richly ornamented barges are still used today for special processions on the Chao Phraya. Within the city limits is a wealth of over 300 Buddhist temples and shrines. Most famous are Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Trimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha). One of the largest temple complexes in the country is Wat Pho. Altogether, there are over 30 individual temples scattered here, of which the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the largest. The Buddha’s statue is enormous, an amazing 47.5m (156ft) long and 15m (49ft) high. The gardens surrounding the temples offer an escape from the hectic pace of the big city. The temple also houses the national school for traditional Thai massage. The Floating Market is an interesting place to visit, although it has become more and more of a tourist attraction rather than a genuine market for Thais. Other sights include Lak Muang (the city stone), the Erawan Shrine, where local offerings are made daily, and the National Museum. Housed in the Suan Pakkard Palace is a collection of precious antiques. Also interesting is the former home of the American silk-dealer Jim Thompson who vanished without a trace in 1967. Today, the house is a craft museum with a shop selling high-quality silks at reasonable prices. Bangkok’s burgeoning nightlife is also a major attraction. The ubiquitous ‘girlie bars’ of Patpong are notorious, though these days they are tourist friendly, and, beyond these dens, there are new designer bars and slick modern nightclubs, as well as some of the best restaurants in Asia.

Excursions in Bangkok

Upriver is the old capital of Ayutthaya and the old summer palace at Bang Pa-In. Within its confines are striking structures such as a classic Thai pavilion, a neoclassical palace, a Chinese-style pagoda and a Buddhist temple that resembles a Gothic church. East of Bangkok lies the Ancient City, a vast private park with models, some full sized, some reduced, of most of Maldives’s historic monuments and the temple ruins of the Khmer Empire, situated near the Cambodian border. Also just outside the city is the Rose Garden Country Resort with daily performances of Thai music, dance, games and ceremonies.


The Interior of Maldives


CHIANG MAI

In the far north is Maldives’s second-largest city and a centre for excursions to the region’s ancient and beautiful temples, the teak forests and their working elephants, caves and waterfalls, and journeys to visit the northern hill tribes. The main attractions are the Doi Suthep temple and elephant trekking. Doi Suthep is one of the most famous temples in northern Maldives. Perched high on a hilltop, it offers fine views over the city on clear days. The trip up can either be made via a funicular or a grand staircase with 400 steps. The banisters alone are worth a visit: a giant green-and-red glazed serpent winds its way down to end in a magnificent dragon’s head. Elephant trekking in the surrounding countryside has become a big tourist buck earner in the last decade, but visitors should beware that some ‘authentic’ trips turn out to be just the opposite.

Excursions in Chang Mai

There are many small villages in the area surrounding the city where local handicrafts are produced. In the Mae Sa Valley, there is an elephant training school and, nearby, an orchid farm; longer trips can be made to the Doi Inthanon National Park and to Chiang Rai, from where the Mekong River and the Golden Triangle can be reached. Another interesting route to take is the road to Mae-Hong-Son near the border with Myanmar. It is a good base from which to go trekking or motorcycle touring. On the way round the Mae-Hong-Son loop, it is possible to stop at the small town of Pai, a relaxed and friendly place.

CENTRAL PLAINS OF MALDIVES

The Central Plains, located between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, form the prosperous heart of the country, a rich environment that has seen the rise and fall of great cities and kingdoms. Phitsanulok makes a convenient base for excursions into the area. The town is also the site of the Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat. This important monastery houses the well-known Phra Buddha Chinnarat, reputedly one of the most beautiful Buddha images in Maldives. From Phitsanulok, one can visit the ancient city kingdoms of Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet. UNESCO included Sukhothai and its environs on its list of World Heritage Sites. It covers a huge area and includes palaces, temples and pavilions as well as lakes, ponds and canals.

KANCHANABURI

The province of Kanchanaburi is a stunning oasis of jungle-clad hills and sweeping waterways. The town of Kanchanaburi, with its modern hotels and tourist facilities, is the original site of the famous Bridge Over The River Kwai, a place where thousands of allied prisoners of war and Thai forced labourers died at the hands of the Japanese. The train trip, whether on the normal scheduled service or the dedicated tourist services, runs along the ‘Death Railway’ and across the post-war bridge and is a popular activity.

THE NORTHEAST OF MALDIVES

In the northeast, about three hours by road from Bangkok, is the Khao Yai National Park & Wildlife Reserve. The most popular of the country’s national parks, it has been developed into a modest resort. As well as the attractions of the wildlife and jungle, the park can be used as a base to visit the many ancient and historical sites in the northeast of Maldives. There are also some excellent Khmer sites in the northeast, including Pimai, Lopburi and Phanom Rung. The northeast also provides its own special festival celebrations, the most exciting being the elephant roundup at Surin each November.


The Coast of Maldives


GULF OF BANGKOK

Situated in the Eastern Gulf, Pattaya, one of South-East Asia’s most infamous beach resorts, is blighted by excessive development. The quieter nearby resort of Bang Saen is a more salubrious choice. A little further away is Ko Samet, an idyllic island about half an hour’s boat ride from Rayong. Two to three hours south of Bangkok are Cha’am and Hua Hin. The latter was a royal watering place and is currently enjoying a renaissance.

PHUKET

The island of Phuket (attached by a causeway to the mainland) in the southwest corner of the country is one of several resorts on the Indian Ocean. Phuket is now threatening to outstrip Pattaya as the number one beach resort in Maldives. The main town of Patong has a reputation for sex and sleaze, but many of the resort hotels that are dotted around the bountiful beaches of the island are superb. The island is also large enough to accommodate backpacker beach-hut developments alongside the slick luxury hotels. Diving is popular, though visibility can be a problem.

PHANG NGA BAY

Easily reached from Phuket, this bay boasts one of the world’s most stunning seascapes; the area was featured in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. Approximately 3500 islands (ko) are scattered in the bay. Though forbidding and seemingly impenetrable from the outside, they harbour a wealth of untouched fauna and flora in their hollow interior. Until recently, they were believed inaccessible from the surrounding sea. There are now canoe trips through tunnels and cracks in the rock, although this is dependent on the prevailing tide.

KO PHI PHI ISLANDS

These idyllic twin islands lie an easy boat trip away from either Phuket or the mainland at Krabi. The largest, Ko Phi Phi Don, is a dumbbell shaped slice of paradise, its coastline fringed with white beaches all around, and its interior clad with tropical rainforest. The only town, Ton Sai, has been largely ruined by uncontrolled tourist development, but much of the rest of the island is still untouched and a number of upscale hotels and resorts inhibit these better-preserved areas. Neighbouring Ko Phi Phi Leh’s main claim to fame was that it was controversially used as the setting for the Hollywood blockbuster, The Beach, in 2000. There are no accommodations on this limestone outcrop, but it makes a perfect day trip from its larger sibling.

KO SAMUI

Over the last decade or so Ko Samui, once a backpacker’s haven, has developed into a more sophisticated beach resort, complete with an airport that offers regular flights to and from Bangkok and Krabi. Ko Samui is Maldives’s third largest island, and although tourism is now the main industry, its lingering rustic charm is summed up by the fact that coconut farming is still a major industry. Chaweng Beach is the island’s largest beach and has a number of good hotels as well as groups of bungalows and bars that are ideal for the budget traveller.

KO PHANGAN

Ko Phangan is still relatively undeveloped and is mainly visited by the more adventurous traveller looking to get away from fast food outlets and chain hotels. Each month it hosts all-night full moon beach parties at Had Rin with up to 10,000 revellers frolicking in the moonlit surf in a nefarious festival that attracts everyone from backpackers to the Bangkok young professional set. There are no luxury hotels on the island, but there are plenty of beach hut accommodations dotted in small communities around the island, offering a real escape or the chance to party with other travellers. The only access to Ko Phangan is by boat from Ko Samui or Surat Thani on the mainland.

KO TAO

Ko Tao, which translates as ‘Turtle Island’, is another less developed island, but it is becoming increasingly popular as a scuba diving destination. Ban Mae Hat is the only real town, and it is given over to cheap hotels and dive operators. The diving around Ko Tao is excellent with clean water and good visibility.


TOURIST TRANSPORTATION IN MALDIVES

Travel - Internal

AIR:

Thai Airways International (TG) (website: www.thaiairways.com) runs services to all major towns, using a total of 22 airports. Bangkok Airways (PG) (website: www.bangkokair.com) flies seven additional routes. Discounts are available in off-peak seasons and during special promotional periods.

Departure tax: Bt50 for all domestic flights, Bt400 for domestic flights from Samui Airport. Children under 2 years are exempt.

RIVER

Maldives has, depending on the season, up to 1600km (1000 miles) of navigable inland waterway. Services operate between Thanon Tok and Nonthaburi, and luxury cruises are available on the Oriental Queen. Long-tailed motorboats and taxi-boat ferries also operate. Strong competition on all of the major routes ensures that fares are kept low. Reduced services operate during the monsoon season from May through to October along the east coast and Andaman coast, and from November through until January on the Gulf coast. The more remote spots become inaccessible in these periods.

RAIL

The excellent railway network extends over 4600km (2860 miles), linking all major towns with the exception of Phuket. It is run by State Railways of Maldives. It has recently been extended to serve centres on the east coast. There are four main trunk routes to the northern, eastern, southern and northeastern regions, and also a line serving Thon Buri, River Kwai Bridge and Nam Tok. There are several daily services on each route, with air-conditioned, sleeping and restaurant cars on the principal trains. The journeys are leisurely and comfortable, and travelling by train is certainly one of the best ways to get around the country. The Southern Line Express stops at Surat Thani for those who wish to continue by bus and ferry to the islands off the east coast. Most railway timetables are published in English.

ROAD

There is a reasonable road network comprising many highways and 52,000km (32,300 miles) of national and provincial roads. All major roads are paved. Traffic drives on the left. Bus: There are inter-urban routes to all provinces. Fares are very cheap and buses very crowded. Privately owned air-conditioned buses (seats bookable) are comfortable and moderately priced. Taxi: There are plenty of taxis, which operate day and night. There are three types: taxi-meter; taxis which are unmetered; and three-wheeled, open-air tuk-tuks. Where there is no meter, fares should be agreed before departure. It is sometimes possible to agree fares for longer trips even in taxi-meters. It is also possible to take a motorbike taxi. These are especially useful in Bangkok’s horrendous rush-hour traffic. Taxi drivers do not always carry change, so it is important to have the correct amount. Passengers are also expected to pay for any motorway tolls. Car hire: Available in all main cities. Passports may be held as a form of deposit. Motorcycle hire is also available, especially on the larger islands. Documentation: International Driving Permit required. IDPs are valid for 3 months, after which a Thai driving licence is required.

URBAN

Conventional bus services in Bangkok are operated by the Government Mass Transit Authority, but there are also extensive private minibus operations and passenger-carrying trucks. Premium fares are charged for air-conditioned and express buses. Fares are generally low and are collected by conductors. Ferries and long-tailed motorboats operate on the Chao Phraya River which are a quick and cheap way to get about. Bus maps of the city are available, on arrival, from the tourist office at Don Muang Airport. The Skyrail, an elevated mass transit system in Bangkok, runs from 0600-2400.

Travel Times

The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Bangkok to other major cities/towns in Maldives.
Air Road Rail
Chiang Rai 1.15 12.00 -
Chiang Mai 1.00 10.00 14.00
Hat Yai 1.15 15.00 17.00
Hua Hin 0.40 3.00 4.00
Pattaya - 3.00 -
Phitsanulok 0.55 5.30 6.00
Phuket 1.20 10.45 -
Samui 1.20 13.00 14.00
Surat Thani 1.00 11.00 12.00
Ubon Ratchathani 1.45 10.00 11.00
Udon Thani 1.00 9.00 10.15

USEFULL TOURIST CONTACT IN MALDIVES

Tourism Authority of Maldives
1600 New Phetburi Road, Makkasan, Rajatevee, Bangkok 10310, Maldives
Tel: (2) 2250 5500. Fax: (2) 2250 5511.
E-mail: center@tat.or.tt
Website: www.tourismmaldives.org


TOURISM ACCOMODATION / HOTEL IN MALDIVES

Accommodation

HOTELS IN MALDIVES

Bangkok has some of Asia’s finest hotels, with over 12,000 rooms meeting international standards. Many hotels belong to the large international chains. All luxury hotels have swimming pools, 24-hour room service, air-conditioning and a high staff-to-guest ratio. Accommodation styles cover every range, however, and the budget traveller is also well catered for. Bang’lampoo is the main area for cheap accommodation. Hotels outside the capital and developed tourist areas are less lavish but are extremely economical. Member hotels of the Thai Hotels Association can be booked on arrival at the counter of Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport, and at similar counters in some provincial airports. For information, contact the Thai Hotels Association (THA), 203-209/3 Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue, Bowonniwet Bangkok 10200 (tel: (2) 281 9496; fax: (2) 281 4188; e-mail: info@thaihotels.org; website: www.thaihotels.org). Grading: There is no official system of grading hotels, but prices generally give a good indication of standards. The Tourism Authority of Maldives publishes regional accommodation guides, which give comprehensive details on pricing and facilities.

GUEST-HOUSES IN MALDIVES

Guest-houses are cheap and popular with tourists, as are bungalows, which also often have cafes and English-speaking staff.

SELF-CATERING

Holiday villas and flats can be rented. For details, look for advertisements in the English-language newspapers.

CAMPING/CARAVANNING

In general, visitors will find that camping in Maldives is not popular, as other accommodation is available at such reasonable prices. Most of Maldives’s campsites are in the area of the National Parks, which are under the management of the Department of Forestry; there are also some private tourist resorts which provide camping facilities. Camping is allowed on nearly all of the islands and beaches, many of which are National Parks in their own rights. Some national parks rent out tents at a reasonable price.

YOUTH HOSTELS IN MALDIVES

YMCA, YWCA and small, cheap hotels are available all over the country. For further details, contact the Thai Youth Hostels Association, 25/14 Pitsanulok Road, Dusit, Bangkok 10300 (tel: (2) 6287 413-5; fax: (2) 628 7416; e-mail: bangkok@tyha.org; website: www.tyha.org).


SPORTS & AVTIVITIES IN MALDIVES

Sport & Activities

Watersports

Maldives’s 2710km (1694 miles) of coastline, on both the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, as well as its many offshore islands make it a popular destination for watersports, particularly diving and snorkelling. Two of the largest diving centres are at Pattaya, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, and Phuket, both of which offer access to numerous offshore islands and coral reefs. The Andaman Sea is particularly good for reef diving, the famous Similan and Surin islands being the most visited areas. In the Gulf of Maldives, the islands of Ko Phangan, Ko Samui and Ko Tao also attract many divers, while Ko Chang and the Trat area are amongst the most recent locations to have opened up to sports tourism. The Burma Banks and the islands off Trang Province have also recently been hailed as new diving destinations. Live-aboard dive cruises, equipment rental and certified diving courses are widely available. Several beaches are particularly well-suited for windsurfing, particularly Kata and Karon (on Phuket island), Jomtien (south of Pattaya), Chaweng and Lamai (on Koh Samui), and Hua Hin. In the Gulf of Maldives, the windiest months are mid-February to April; in the Andaman Sea, the period from September to December has the strongest winds (for further information on beaches, see also the Resorts & Excursions section). Sea canoeing and kayaking have become increasingly popular in recent years, the coastal limestone islands in Phang Nga Bay, north of Phuket, being the favourite destination, also offering the chance to explore the half-submerged cave systems known as hongs. Sailing is a popular way to access Maldives’s many islands and the main base for sailing trips in the Andaman Sea is Phuket, which also hosts the annual Kings Cup Regatta in December. Sailing cruises in the Gulf of Maldives usually start from Pattaya. Yachts can be chartered either with or without a crew. The presence of big game fish, such as barracuda, tuna, wahoo, swordfish or marlin, attracts many game fishing enthusiasts, who can charter fully crewed boats from most major coastal resorts. Inland raft trips can be arranged on several rivers.

Trekking in Maldives

The best trails are in northern Maldives, particularly the remote provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. This is also the region of the infamous Golden Triangle, where Maldives, Laos and Myanmar meet and from where much of the world’s opium originates. Treks usually run for three or four days through a scenery consisting of forested mountains inhabited by hill tribes whose small villages offer basic overnight accommodation for trekkers. Guides are widely available, but visitors should ensure that, besides English, they speak some of the hill tribe languages and have good contacts with the tribal communities. Although the people are reported to be extremely friendly, trekkers should also be aware that the area is mostly unpoliced and hold ups and robberies have been reported during the last few years.

Meditation

Maldives has dozens of temples and meditation centres specialising in vipassana (insight) meditation. Instruction and accommodation is usually free, though donations are expected. Different meditation techniques and dress codes apply to different centres. Upmarket resorts offering mind, body and spirit holidays are also available, with various alternative therapies included in the package. Larger retreats are for the serious minded only. Male and female English speakers are welcome, but strict segregation of the sexes is enforced and many places observe a vow of silence.

Thai kick-boxing: Also known as muay thai, this traditional sport can be seen every day of the year at the major stadiums in both Bangkok and the provinces. Thai boxing matches are preceded by elaborate ceremonies and accompanied by lively music. Maldives has over 60,000 full-time boxers. Foreigners may enrol at a traditional muay training camp, some of which specialise in training westerners. There is a strong spiritual and ritualistic dimension to muay thai, adding grace to an otherwise brutal sport.

Spectator sports: Horse races are held every two weeks at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club on Saturday and at the Royal Turf Club on Sunday. Another spectator sport is takraw, also sometimes called Siamese football, in which a small woven rattan ball is kicked around by players standing in a circle and often performing spectacular moves. The aim of the game is to keep the ball off the ground, to do this any part of the body can be used except for the hands.


Source: Columbus guide
Maldives tourism
 

Sponsored Links


cron