From southern reservoirs to northern rivers, Thailand offers tranquil stays a far cry from the crowded beach scene.

Northern Thailand

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Kwan Phayao

The largest lake in Northern Thailand, Kwan Phayao, is fed by 18 brooks stemming from the Ing River. It’s also home to the half-submerged Tilokaram Temple, believed to be more than 500 years old. Each year during the Wian Tian Klang Nam ceremony, which takes place on major Buddhist holidays, people carry lighted candles and paddle out to the temple on boats in a show of faith. To visit the temple yourself, boat services run for just B30 per person. 

Where to stay: Sawanbondin Farm ( offers rooms at B500-B600 per night while the Japanese-themed Ryokan Cafe (081-868-3010, is B4,500 per night with futons and tatami mats. Kick back on the terrace overlooking the rice fields, reminiscent of rural Japan, or enjoy an alfresco rock bathtub with piping hot Japanese mineral water.


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Nong Harn

Nong Han Lake, aka Talay Bua Dang (“red lotus sea”), regularly ranks as one of the world’s most breathtaking lakes. It gets its name from the red lotus flowers that blossom from Dec-Feb. Visit early in the morning, before the flowers shut their petals around 11am. During peak season, 10-person tour boats operate from Ban Diem Pier from 6am-5pm (B60 per person for the 30-minute trip, B100 for 1.5 hours). Note that the later in the day, the longer the queue. 

Where to stay: The minimal Baan Rare ( is chockfull of Isaan touches, from pakaoma (local gingham) pillows to kratib (sticky rice bamboo containers). The architect-owner also runs a bike tour operator called Otto, which offers bike trips to Laos starting from B12,000 per person. Room rates start from B500-B1,000 with breakfast.


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Pang ung

Surrounded by mountains in the north of Mae Hong Son province, Pang Ung has become known as the Switzerland of Thailand. Wake early to watch the sun rise while floating unhurriedly on a raft surrounded by fog. Note that access requires prior permission from Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Training Center Mae Hong Son. Contact them at 053-611-244. Also visit the nearby Yunnan immigrant village of Rak Thai, which feels surreally like rural China. 

Where to stay: Check out Ruam Thai Guesthouse (053-611-244), a small wooden property on the bank of the lake that offers rooms for B500. At nearby Pai, colonial extravagance meets rice-paddy charm in Reverie Siam (, which lies sprawled beside a river in the Pai valley. The 18 rooms (from B3,692/night) are whimsically decorated with antique bric-a-brac, old-world fixtures and hand-worn wood furniture. 


Central Thailand

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While many tend to stop at Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok, those seeking a more adventurous hideaway should head to Sangkhlaburi. The sleepy border town near Myanmar is best visited in the rainy season, when a full Khao Lam Dam means lots of fun water-based activities. The region is also home to a charming Mon community. 

Where to stay: Go Beyond Asia (02-630-9371, offers a five-day tour staying at its lake house for B14,850 per person, which leaves from Bangkok. The two-level floating accommodation is the perfect spot to laze on a tube or kayak through caves and submerged temples. On board there’s a small restaurant and a bar with daily happy hours. Over the five days, the house moves to different parts of the lake offering amazing sunset views plus rafting and trekking tours to nearby villages. 


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River Kwai

The most-famous of Thailand’s riverside locations has everything the cultured Bangkokian needs for a weekend break. You can drive there (four hours if you’re lucky with the traffic); the floating resorts are on a whole other level of privacy and luxury (see below); and chances are you’ll bump into friends also making the trip out of town and can schedule dinner at the riverside Rice Barge at Away Kanchanaburi (

Where to stay:  Z9 Resort (, 063-239-4459), near the Srinakarin dam, sets a new watermark for luxury floating villas. The design of Dersyn Studio manages to be both classical and futuristic, each room stepping out onto a private terrace with unobstructed views of the reservoir. Weekdays, the 50-sq-meter spaces go for B6,600; weekends are B8,600 (breakfast and kayaking included). Alternatively,  it's a little bit of a trek to Float House ( as you can only reach it via the local long-tailed boat from the Phutakien Pier, but trust that these Thai-folk style floating villas, all equipped with aircon and Wi-Fi, will be worth it. Rates start from B4,895. 


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Bueng Boraphet

Bueng Boraphet in the Nakhon Sawan wetlands covers a vast area of 212 sq kilometers, making it Thailand’s largest natural lake. Boat trips for 10-12 people (B500) will take you to view the various bird species that migrate to the area such as waterfowl, which are found here from Nov-Mar. Bueng Boraphet is also famous for its aquarium in the shape of a Thai junk boat, (open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm. B49 for adult and B19 for children), which is home to more than 100 species of freshwater fish and birds. On the lake’s southern coast you’ll find Nok Nam Park (Water Bird Park), a twitcher’s paradise that provides a safe-haven for various forms of wildlife, not just birds.

Where to stay: At the center of Nakhon Sawan, 42C the Chic Hotel ( is decked out with all the mod cons. Prices start at B1,050. If you want somewhere quiet, The Infinite Resort (, 094-639-2362) offers minimalist cabins just a bit out of town. Rooms from B690. 


Southern Thailand

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Khao Sok

Regularly ranked as Thailand’s most beautiful reservoir, Khao Sok in Surat Thani is surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs that give the water a vivid, turquoise hue. Although accessible all year round, the rainy season is only for the adventurous. Boat rides start at B2,000 for a round-trip.

Where to stay: Raft accommodation within the national park costs B800 per person/night and is available at 092-545-9212. In the heart of town, the boutique Rajthani Hotel (from B690/night, makes a perfect launchpad for anyone planning lots of day trips. An alternative is the Orchid Riverview Hotel (, across the river from the city center, where a rooms go for B1,090/night, breakfast included.


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Talay Noi 

In the southern province of Phatthalung, Talay Noi (“small sea”) comes alive with a vast covering of red lotus from Feb-Apr. Thailand’s first wildlife sanctuary is famous for being home to the world’s largest waterfowl and is also listed as one of 2,000 global wetland areas of extreme importance. From Dec-Apr, more than 150 bird species migrate to the area from as far off as Siberia. The red lotus is at its most splendid from Feb-Mar.

Where to stay: At Centara Hotel Hat Yai (, room rates start from B1,900 a night; while Hansa JB Hotel Hat Yai ( costs from B1,400 a night.

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