From Friday, Singaporeans will find it much easier to visit Thailand when it scraps its much-criticised Thailand Pass or pre-travel registration process for tourists. Face masks need not be worn in public either.
A slower spread of Covid-19 has made it possible for Thailand to relax travel restrictions.
Now that travel in Thailand is almost back to normal, check out its many new resorts and hotels. Here are four new properties in locations across the country that offer fresh experiences, such as a mountainside skywalk and Bangkok night market.
Krabi: SAii Phi Phi Island Village
The plush resort gives visitors access to Asia's most famous beach - Maya Bay - which, until January, was closed for three years so its marine ecosystem could recover from overtourism.
On my previous trip to Maya Bay in 2014, hundreds of tourists swarmed its curved beach, which became known worldwide after its star turn in the 2000 Hollywood blockbuster The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
This year, however, I found Maya Bay pristine and nearly empty - thanks to its long reprieve from tourism and the new rules on visitor numbers and behaviour.
During the pandemic, SAii Resorts upgraded an old property and reopened it as SAii Phi Phi Island Village in February 2021.
This sprawling resort in the Phi Phi Islands is ideal for families and couples. It owns a most serene location in Loh Ba Kao Bay, which has a 600m-long white sand beach lined with swaying palm trees.
Guests can admire this natural splendour while swimming in the resort's huge beachside pool or from one of its several open-air dining venues or the comfort of a seaview room.
At 59 sq m, the Deluxe Sea View Bungalow ($230 a night) is at once traditional and modern. The 125 sq m Oceanside and Hillside Pool Villas ($460 a night) have private pools, where guests can enjoy breakfast on a floating tray.
More relaxation is offered at SAii's spa and a love of nature is instilled by the resort's Marine Discovery Centre, which explains the habitats and life cycles of local marine species.
SAii has traditional Thai longtail boats that ferry guests to the nearby Maya Bay. Do not rush this 30km round trip as along the way are several beautiful snorkelling spots. And take note of the new rules in Maya Bay, which include no swimming, a maximum one-hour visit and a pre-booked $15 national park ticket.
SAii can secure that ticket for you. Just contact staff via its app, which also lets guests order room service, organise ocean excursions, and book spa sessions.
Info: SAii Phi Phi Island Village's website
Bangkok: Ayathorn Bangkok Hotel
Rattanakosin, Bangkok's oldest neighbourhood which is home to a cluster of palaces and renowned temples, is now more appealing to tourists due to a night market that opened in 2020.
At Ong Ang Canal walking street, a previously rundown area has been beautified - it now has fresh paving, flower boxes and dozens of giant wall murals that depict elements of traditional Thai culture.
The market runs from 4 to 10pm on Fridays to Sundays, when the banks of this canal brim with food vendors, art and souvenir stalls, and pop-up bars and cafes.
Locals say 6 to 9pm is the best time to visit, with the highest number of vendors and the freshest food.
A good base from which to reach this new attraction is the Ayathorn Bangkok Hotel. Opened last year, it is located just 1km away.
From the Ayathorn's rooftop pool, modern gym or room balconies, guests can peer down at the many historic sites surrounding the hotel. These include Mahakan Fort and Wat Saket.
While many new boutique hotels in Bangkok tend to have small rooms, the Ayathorn gives its guests ample space. Entry-level superior rooms ($80 a night) are 36 sq m, while the spacious Deluxe King Suite ($200 a night) is 70 sq m.
Info: Ayathorn Bangkok Hotel's Facebook page
Chiang Mai: Thantara Resort
Part of the enduring appeal of Chiang Mai is that it offers visitors easy access to both metropolitan delights and untamed nature. The city of about one million people has ample shopping, dining, nightlife, market and museum options, and is flanked by mountains and forests.
In late 2020, Mon Jam Skywalk opened just north of Chiang Mai. This raised wooden path hugs the mountainside and presents extraordinary views.
Nature and serenity are also the focus of the new Thantara Resort, a property on the eastern outskirts of Chiang Mai.
Opened in 2021, Thantara has a working farm on site. It offers activities such as rice planting and harvesting, fruit and vegetable picking, as well as cooking and Thai herbal juice-making classes.
Guests can also gaze out across the paddies from its top-floor Thann restaurant, which serves Italian and Thai food.
Thantara has 20 luxurious villas ($160 a night), each of which has a private pool, 72 sq m of interior space and a 16 sq m outdoor terrace.
With a mixture of dark woods and light-coloured stone, these villas blend traditional Thai aesthetics and modern Western features.
Info: Thantara Resort's website
Phuket: Melia Phuket Mai Khao
In an era when many tourists seek photogenic backdrops for social media posts, Phuket has obvious appeal, thanks to its majestic beaches, thick jungle, gleaming temples and bevvy of five-star resorts.
Businesses increasingly cater to such travellers, creating striking locations for photo shoots, such as Rock Beach Swing in Kata.
In early 2020, on a lofty perch overlooking the ocean, this facility opened a series of settings made for Instagram, such as a stairway to heaven and a rope swing.
You will have no shortage of such Instagram-worthy backdrops if you stay at the new Melia Phuket Mai Khao. The five-star beachfront resort hugs a spectacular stretch of sand - the 11km-long Mai Khao Beach just north of the airport. This quiet strip has the major advantage of being isolated from the far more crowded and touristy locations of Patong and Karon.
The resort's accommodation comprises large suites and villas. Its one-bedroom suite starts at $200 a night, and its one-bedroom wellness villa with private pool, which includes a daily one-hour massage treatment, costs up to $460 a night.
Guests can also work out in its gym, gaze at the ocean from its large pool or take the kids to burn off excess energy at its Kidsdom play centre.
Its Elyxr cafe specialises in fresh juice and there is also the stylish all-day restaurant Sasa and Mediterranean fare at Gaia Beach club.
Info: Melia Phuket Mai Khao's website
- Ronan O'Connell is an Australian journalist who has visited Thailand dozens of times in the past 20 years.
- He was hosted by SAii Phi Phi Island Village resort and Melia Phuket Mai Khao.
Travel to Thailand is hassle-free from Friday, thanks to the scrapping of the Thailand Pass and the requirement for Covid-19-specific health insurance for incoming tourists.
From Friday, travellers will need to show just a printed or digital version of their vaccination certificate or produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before arrival.