Living in Thailand or one of its neighboring countries brings with it the considerable privilege of being close to a vast array of weekend destinations. Luxurious seaside resorts, island bungalows, high-rises – even remote mountain villas – dot Thailand's terrain and many of them are just a short flight from Southeast Asia's major cities.
With Valentine's Day looming, here's a quick guide to five of Thailand's most relaxing and romantic destinations for a last-minute getaway.
The coastal city of Cha-am is perfect for a quick dose of fresh air and fresh seafood, but the main beach gets extremely hectic on weekends. For the best chance at quiet time, harried city slickers should find a resort on the waterfront south of Cha-am's main drag and enjoy al fresco meals and some classic long walks along the beach.
Drive time from Bangkok: 2.5 hours.
Get there: Self-drive is the best option or taxi (around 2,000 THB). Minivans also depart from National Stadium, but the romance factor of this is non-existent. (160 THB)
Stay: Cher Resort – a chic boutique resort with big, soft bed, full TV-facing tub, DVD and flatscreen and an exclusive, intimate ambience. Some villas have outdoor tub and/or Jacuzzi. The Sea Spirit rooms from 6,024 THB per night with breakfast.
Eat: Platoo, a five-minute walk away from Cher. Choose a table on the grass or sand for the nicest ambience. There are two boat karaoke rooms if you want to serenade your boo.
Head for the hills, only two hours from Bangkok. Ratchaburi Province has a floating market, temple ruins, caves and hot springs, plus the latest 'hip' activity: sheep feeding.
Drive time from Bangkok: Around 2 hours.
Get there: The best option is to self-drive along Highway 338 or Petchkasem Road.
Stay: The boutique Eden Garden Resort has English country-style cottages with river views, bicycle hire and a rowboat available for some kind of overwater romance scenario (from 1,600 THB). Toscana Resort is a romantic Tuscan-themed property with an onsite sheep farm.
Eat: The rustic Baan Hom Tian is local landmark that offers meals and homemade scented candles – how romantic!
Mountains, gardens, arts, crafts, Karon villages and a cool café scene make Chiang Mai a year-round favorite destination for short getaways.
Flight time: Around 60 mins from Bangkok – the best option for a short break.
Drive there: The 999 VIP bus from Mo Chit station takes 10 hours (767 THB) and you can do the trip overnight if you have time. A sleeper train departs from Hua Lamphong several times per day, taking around 12-14 hours (1st Class Sleeper 1,453 THB).
Stay: The new 137 Pillars House offers an indulgent stay in spacious colonial-style suites with claw-foot tubs, iPod docks, plush beds and full entertainment systems.
Eat: Anusan Night Market – no need to overspend on dinner in Chiang Mai, just head to the markets for fresh streetside seafood.
For secluded beaches, quiet nights and some of Thailand's most picturesque sunsets, it's hard to top Koh Chang. Thai Bangkokians rarely make this trip, so it never approaches the level of crowdedness of, say, Koh Samed or Koh Samui, even on long weekends.
Drive time: Around 4-5 hours from Bangkok.
Get there: Minivans depart from Victory Monument (200 THB) or you can hire a taxi (around 2-3,000 THB). The VIP bus from Ekkamai's Eastern Bus Station takes just over 5 hours to Laem Ngop pier (239 THB). From the pier, take a songthaew to your resort (70-100 THB). There is also an express bus from Suvarnabhumi Airport all the way to Lonely Beach
Stay: Gaja Puri Resort & Spa has stylish timber villas and cottages with private pool and/or spa on Kai Bae Beach, a 15-20 minute drive from the pier.
Eat: Head to the main road and choose your pick of international or Thai food.
Admittedly, this trip takes a bit more of a time investment, but it's worth it. And even though it sits in the south of the Thai Gulf, Koh Tao is still more accessible than most people realize. Unlike neighboring Samui and Phangan, calm permeates this diver's paradise – its quiet coves, clear waters and gentle breezes provide a wonderful natural setting for whatever romantic activity comes to mind.
Drive time: Around 6 hours self-drive to Chumphon pier, 9 hours by overnight bus.
Get there: Overnight Lomphraya bus from Khao San Road departs 9pm and arrives at the pier by 7am, then it's a 90-minute ferry to Koh Tao (950 THB). First Class bus from Sai Tai Mai 306 THB (ferry extra). Some Koh Tao resorts will offer airport pickup from Surat Thani Airport, 70km away.
Stay: Charm Churee Village Resort on Jansom Bay has chic rustic rooms and private cottages nestled along the boulders of the shoreline. Guests can paddle or snorkel off the rocks or sun bathe on the sandy Jansom Bay.
Five Romantic Bangkok Staycations
Shanghai Mansion Boutique Hotel – Heritage hotel decorated in rich Chinoiserie. Full in-room amenities, with candles and room service provided. Mu Dan and Ying Hua rooms have big two-person tubs.
The Metropolitan – Metropolitan Rooms have plush deluxe King beds, big flatscreen TVs, and huge modern bathrooms with separate tub.
Banyan Tree – Club rooms have spacious modern bathrooms with deep tubs for two set against the window for sweeping city views.
Peninsula Hotel – Romantic riverside position, amazing views, top-notch service, and couples' treatments in the spa.
Lebua State Tower – Large self-contained suites with arguably the best view in Bangkok.