Phanom Rung Historical Park
Phanom Rung Historical Park, Buriram
The largest and best-preserved Khmer temple complex in Thailand, Buriram’s Phanom Rung Historical Park, sits loftily on a dormant volcano overlooking paddy fields. Here, the sun only shines through all 15 temple doors four times a year (twice at sunrise and twice at sunset).
Where to stay:
Thailand’s only football-themed hotel, Amari Buriram United
(Buriram-Prakhonchai Road, +66 4411-1444, www.amari.com
) currently has Asian Champions League packages, which gets you a room and a chance to watch Buriram United take on Asia’s finest teams at the Thunder Castle stadium. Rates start at THB3,237 ($135) for a deluxe room per night.
Kaeng Krachan National Park, credit: Wisoot Supong
Kaeng Krachan National Park, Petchaburi and Prajuab Khiri Khan
The country's largest national park, Kaeng Krachan National Park, is home to hundreds of species of butterflies from April to June. There are two main spots to catch them: Pa La-U Waterfall in the south of the park, where millions of butterflies gather around a salt lick, and Baan Krang Camp Site, where visitors can stay to see the sunrise from Pha Noen Thung Mountain viewpoint. The campsite is also a good spot for bird watchers who can catch rare species like brown hornbills, dusky broadbills and bluethroated barbets.
Where to stay:
Kaeng Krachan National Park (+66 3245-9293, www.dnp.go.th/parkreserve
) offers both tents THB225 ($9.40) and houses THB1,200 ($50), but if you prefer a proper resort, Kaengkrachan Boat House Paradise Resort
(309 Moo 2, Wangwon Soi 5, Song Phi Nong district, www.boathouseparadise.com
) has picturesque views of Kaeng Krachan Dam. Deluxe rooms from THB2,600-3,200 ($108-134) and family rooms from THB5,000-6,000 ($208-$250).
Sam Pan Bok, credit: Nut Onaree
ON THE ROCKS
Sam Pan Bok, Ubon Ratchathani
Dubbed the Grand Canyon of Thailand, Sam Pan Bok (literally “3,000 Holes”) is best visited during the dry season when water levels are at its lowest, so you can explore the jagged orange rocks that stretch out like an alien landscape. The sunset at Had Hong, a desert-like stretch of sand, is a must-see. Other popular spots include Dog Head Rock and Had Salueng, where you can rent a boat to visit more impressive canyons along the river. The ride also takes you to Pak Bong where the mighty Mekong River is at its narrowest, at a mere 56 meters.
Where to stay: Tohsang Khongjiam Resort
(68 Moo 7, Baan Huay Mak Tay, Khongjiam, +66 4 5351-1746 and +66 8 1860-5905, www.tohsang.com
) has impressive views, especially during sunrise and sunset, with rates starting at THB2,500 ($104) per night.
Sangkhlaburi, credit: Nut Onaree
The dry season is the best time to visit the land of three cultures (Thai, Mon and Burmese) as the main attraction, Wang Wiwekaram Temple, is completely submerged by the dam for the rest of the year. Towards the end of the dry season, visitors can take a boat trip and walk around the ruins of the temple. The Mon community also hosts a unique Songkran festival from Apr 13-17, which starts with offering food to monks on the recently-repaired Uttamanusorn Bridge (said to be the second longest wooden bridge in the world), as well as bathing the monks by pouring water into long bamboo pipes.
Where to stay: P Guesthouse
(81/2 Moo1, Nonglu, Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi, +66 3459-5061 and +66 8 1450-2783, www.p-guesthouse.com
) has packages that include extras like a boat trip, elephant ride, rafting and a visit to the flooded church. Packages range from THB1,000 ($41) per person.
Khanon Temple, Ratchaburi
Wat Khanon, home to the renowned Nang Yai Shadow Puppet Drama, has its annual Wat Khanon Festival on Apr 13-14. This year also marks 10 years since the festival’s creation, hence the theme Nueng Todsawat Nang Yai Wat Khanon (One Decade of Nang Yai Khanon Temple). Apart from the impressive puppet performances, there are shows by the legendary khon artist Prasat Thong-aram, a.k.a. Kru Mued. If you can’t make it during Songkran, they also do weekly shows on Saturdays at 10am. Be sure to visit the Nang Yai Exhibition Hall (open daily 8am-5pm, +66 3223-3386 and +66 8 9555-4195), which tells the history of the troupe through puppet displays.
Where to stay: Space 59 Hotel
(8/9 Taoauthong Rd., Muang, +66 3231-5559 and +66 9 7016-2459. www.space59hotel.com
) is currently offering special rates at THB650 ($27) for a standard room and THB1,350 ($56.30) for a duplex room per night.