Check out the best places to chill, eat and do yoga in Thailand.
Thailand, aka ‘The Land of Smiles’, is a place that appeals to all of the senses, what with its stunning scenery, fabulous food and fascinating culture. It’s a place to chill, explore, eat and be awed. A destination where almost anything is possible, from hanging out with monkeys in the jungle to doing yoga on the beach. There are luxury hotels, cheap bamboo bungalows and hole-in-the-wall hostels. Thailand also happens to be the most travelled country in all of South East Asia. Despite this, it has kept much of its Thai-ness intact, with the culture still being seen even in some of the most visited spots.
As a tourist, it’s easy to stay on the beaten-path and not really experience the real culture of the country. Luckily, it’s also possible to stray away from the masses and become totally engulfed in the Thai-ness that makes the country so great. Thailand is still quite a traditional country, where politeness and demeanour go a long way. Anger is shunned, while smiling goes a long way. There’s a great respect for elders, a strong sense of hospitality and a social hierarchy. Still, the people have evolved and taken on more westernisation, but at the core, the Thais are very Thai. This makes visiting the Kingdom that much more appealing, and makes people often decide to extend their holiday and stay longer than planned; doing yoga, eating and chilling out. Especially when visiting one of these places.
This south-eastern island used to be best known for the infamous full moon party, but today it’s known as the island of yoga and food. But not Thai food, although there are some great spots, but vegan food. In fact, it’s often pegged as one of the top yoga destinations in the world. Its home to numerous yoga centres that are close to a handful of vegan restaurants, especially in the Sri Thanu area. Places like Orion Healing Centre, Wonderland and Samma Karuna come recommended, and there is also the long running Yoga Retreat. To match these centres are restaurants like Eat Co, Karma Kafe and Pure Vegan Heaven.
For a more chilled out experience, head to the south east coast and the serene The Yoga Sanctuary and its secluded location. This is the longest running yoga centre on the island; a place where hippies have flocked to for decades. Today, the private retreat appeals to many, from high-heeled glamour queens to dreadlocked backpackers, and everything in between. If the scene at The Sanctuary isn’t right for you, go to the equally secluded Blooming Lotus on the next beach over.
Koh Phangan oozes chill, what with its beachfront bars, jungle hideaway tea stalls and stunning viewpoints, complete with a bar. The hike to the Hide on High bar atop Than Sadet Beach is a must, with the views being some of the best on the island. Drinks here aren’t cheap, but worth it for the chance to chill in a hammock and enjoy the spectacular views. The views are equally fantastic at 2CB at the top of the mountain in Thong Nai Pan Yai. Sunset is the most popular time to come here, though it’s pretty great at any hour of the day. For a nice chill out spot on the beach, Freeway is often heard amongst those that know. The owner is a Thai artist, which is not hard to believe when you take a look at the bar’s décor. Other great places to eat and chill on Koh Phangan include L’Alcove, Sunset Walk and Secret Mountain Bar.
One special place of note on Koh Phangan is Ananda Yoga and Detox Centre. Ananda offers all things yoga, from all-inclusive Yoga Teacher Trainings to outstanding detox courses. They have picked up a raft of awards and produced incredible teachers all over the world. It’s a relaxed, cosmopolitan atmosphere with people from around the globe where you can deepen your practice, get clean or just hang and chill. Google Ananda Yoga for more info. Definitely worth checking out.
If you have ever dreamed of exploring the mountains, mingling with ethnic minorities and being surrounded by history, then Chiang Mai is the place to do this. The hub of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is often at the top of most tourists’ lists, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a city filled with culture and history, that’s matched by its truly Thai hospitality and cuisine. Plus, the surrounding scenery is magnificent, as are the massages and the historic sites. In fact, Chiang Mai is known for its wellness centres, and there are many to enjoy.
Thai massage is often pegged as the lazy person’s yoga, so it’s fitting that there are excellent places to do both in Chiang Mai. It’s known as a centre for massage training and ancient healing techniques, with yoga now adding to the list of ways to heal in Chiang Mai. This is especially true thanks to places like Wild Rose Yoga, Satva Yoga and Freedom Yoga, all of which offer traditional yoga practices. The city is also known as a haven for foodies, with Thai cooking classes seen at every turn. Not only can you please your palate while holidaying here, but you can continue to do this once you go home. Still, nothing beats the roadside stalls that can be found all over the city and probably serve the most authentic food.
The wellness and culture in the city match its history, which dates back to 1294. Chiang Mai used to be the capital of the kingdom of Lan Na and is still today known for its unique Lana culture. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage city that has so much to offer, and so many places for one to go to chill out. The famous Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is one of these places, sitting on the slopes of a mountain around 18kms outside of the city. Then there are the Bua Tong Waterfalls, Huay Kaew Waterfall and Mae Sa Waterfall, all of which showcase what chilling out really is all about. You can also do Tai Chi every morning at 6am at Suan Buak Haad Park, stroll through Phu Ping Palace or have a drink at the cosy Dragonfly Bar. Other great places to chill in Chiang Mai include Jungle De café, Kaomakham Coffee, Phuffin Terrace and The Giant Treehouse, which is suspended above the jungle.
An island on the southwest coast, Ko Lanta has always been known for its superb diving and beaches, but it’s fast becoming a destination with so much more. How could it not be with its stunning long white sandy beaches and stunning scenery. The island is also a melting pot of cultures, being home to Buddhists, Muslims and sea gypsies; meaning the food here is very unique. It’s influenced by Indonesian, Malay and Indian cuisine, but with its own twist. As well, given the island’s location, there is no shortage of fresh, delicious seafood that can be devoured at a restaurant set right on the beach. The beach is also where most of the chill out bars can be found, including the backpacker hang out Chill Out House that lives up to its name.
All-in-all, the entire island oozes chill. Even the swanky beachfront resorts are barefoot chic that define what chilling out is all about. This is matched by yoga centres like Oasis Yoga, Lanta Yoga and The Sanctuary –which has no affiliation to The Sanctuary on Koh Phangan. Oasis even houses a health bar that serves up delicious smoothies, salads, sandwiches and cold pressed juice. The Happy Veggie is another great establishments that serves up vegetarian and vegan food. The opposite side of the spectrum is Faim de Loup where you can grab a delicious fresh croissant and coffee. Bee Bee’s, Where Else Resort and LaLaanta Hideaway Resort are also great places to lose yourself and totally chill out on Ko Lanta.
The beaches are the best places to chill on the island. Mooks bar is a known sunset hangout and is a nice place to relax with a drink while listening to reggae. This seems to be the theme in most bars in the island, proving just what a relaxing island Lanta is.
We couldn’t do a wrap of Thailand without mentioning CC’s hideaway. Good friends of Yoga Journal, CC’s Hideaway is near the bustling tourist town of Phuket. But it’s not called a hideaway for no reason. It’s tucked away on Kata beach on the Southern end of Phuket. It offers teacher training, spa and wellness retreats and very comfortable and stylish accommodation. If you’re looking for some luxury with your daily dose of yoga and meditation, CC’s is definitely worth a google.