The Lower Gulf features Thailand’s ultimate island trifecta: Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Tao. This family of spectacular islands lures millions of tourists every year with their powder-soft sands and emerald waters. Ko Samui is the oldest sibling who made it big, where high-class resorts operate with Swiss efficiency as uniformed butlers cater to every whim. Ko Pha-Ngan is the slacker middle child with tangled dreadlocks and a penchant for hammock-lazing and all-night parties. Meanwhile Ko Tao is the outdoorsy, fun-loving kid with plenty of spirit and energy – the island specialises in high-adrenalin activities, including world-class diving and snorkelling.
The mainland coast beyond the islands sees few foreign visitors, but is far more authentic Thailand. From the pink dolphins and waterfalls of sleepy Ao Khanom to the Thai Muslim flavours of beach-strolling Songkhla and the charm of Nakhon Si Thammarat, this region is stuffed with off-the-beaten-track wonders.