Voyages in Siam

The kingdom of Thailand is so famed for its sights and spectacles – gaudy but majestic Bangkok; the ocean-jewel Crusoe islands – that as a destination it is completely ubiquitous, no longer seeming far-flung, exotic, or particularly adventurous.  Yet I discovered that you can still go in search of seas, sunsets, and a definite sense of the Siam of old, and triumphantly forgo disappointment.

The sun setting over the charming fisherman’s village of Bo Phut on Ko Samui, whose bay is home to both super-sleek yachts and ramshackle fishing vessels

Longtails moored on pristine waters in another fishing enclave, the sleepy horse-shoe harbour of Chaloklum in northern Ko Phangan

Novice Buddhist monks, dropped off in an old school bus, commemorate a visit to the Big Buddha on Ko Samui with a group photo

Mediterranean vibes and a swirling blue sky and sea make for a nirvanic dip in the rooftop pool of hotel L’Hacienda in Bo Phut

Dragon-red lanterns hold court in one of the many fairy-lit bars on Thanon Rambuttiri, Bangkok

The golden and somewhat genial-looking Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai on Samui – vault some coins into his outstretched palm and make a wish

The bluest of blooms at Bangkok’s fragrant forest of flora – the 24 hour flower market, Pak Khlong

The impossibly photogenic Maya Bay in Ko Phi Phi Leh, setting for the most serene swim of my life, numerous catapulting leaps from boat to water – OH, and a little-known film called The Beach

The beautifully bedecked prow of my longtail boat the Paradise Pearl (that fifteen minutes after this photo was taken suffered inexplicable engine failure, out at sea, in the eye of a sudden flash storm – I got soaked, but survived)

The apparently ill-omened apparition of a white cat – icily aloof and standing guard outside a hammock shop in Ko Lanta’s Old Town

In awe of the aurora: a sherbert pink sunset on my last night at the beach on Ko Lanta

Enchanting Chinatown back-streets, where there is a shop for absolutely everything, and you are just as much of a local spectacle as the wares on show

Local dishes I was reluctant to try

Drink until this sign is a neon blur on the infamous Thanon Khao San

Stalls peddling temple trinkets in heart of Bangkok’s Old Town, Banglamphu