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THAILAND HAS IT ALL


some areas in the world boast first-class diving. Other places are renowned for their sailing, while still others draw the dedicated big-game fishermen. But Thailand is one country which has all of these attractions and more. Much more.

Are you planning a diving holiday? Why not combine it with sailing? Or with sailing and golf. Or with sailing and sea canoeing and fishing and golf and horseback riding and jungle trekking and disco dancing and seafood dining of unexcelled quality. Why not?


TWO SIDES, TWO SEASONS

Thailand has it all. More, this country has it all at any time of the year. When the diving or sailing isn't at its best in the Andaman Sea, go across to the Gulf of Thailand. Or vice-versa. Pattaya offers all water sports year -round. Phang Nga Bay is fine for sailing at any time of the year.You can always find good conditions for your favourite sea sport in Thailand. Calm seas, sunny skies and ideal temperatures both in and out of the water help make this land a paradise for sea-sport enthusiasts.

Thailand's 2,710 kilometres of coastline fronts on both the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. Thai waters include a dozen marine national parks,all of them awe-inspiringly beautiful natural preserves. Hundreds and hundreds of islands, many of them uninhabited, provide an abundance of coral reefs, beaches, and other scenic marvels for the visitor.

The dramatic, sheer-sided islands of areas such as Phang Nga Bay, Krabi and Ang Thong Marine National Park are of limestone. Holed with sea-caves, snaggled with stalactites and fringed with jungle, they thrust hundreds of metres out of the sea. Other island groups are granitic, of lower relief and more heavily forested. Some of them the Similan Islands, for instance have shorelines jumbled with enormous sea-sculpted rocks. Beneath the sea, similar boulders spill down in piles to 40 metres and more. Encrusted with coral and algae, they are home to vast numbers and varieties of fish which stream and drift through their caves and archways.


THE ANDAMAN SEA

From Malaysia in the south to Myanmar in the north, Thailand's Andaman Sea extends over 870 kilometres of scenic coastline -coastline which includes hundreds of delightful islands, many of them uninhabited.

Ko Tarutao Marine National Park lies just five kilometres from Langkawi, in Malaysia while Ko Surin National Park is located only a few kilometres south of Myanmar waters.

Between these two frontiers the visitor can explore such idyllic island groups as Ko Phi Phi, Ko Racha, and Ko Similan, not to mention any number of other, lesser known attractions. The is land of Phuket, meanwhile, provides a convenient base of operations for more remote destinations.

The Andaman Sea is deep and clean, flushed by the Indian Ocean. Water temperatures are similar to those in the Gulf - ranging between 26°-28°C year-round. This is a rare treat for visitors who are used to wearing wetsuits (or even drysuits) when diving or windsurfing. Sailing is also an entirely different experience where you don't have to worry about the cold. Winds don't normally get much above 15 knots, though 25- to 30-knot winds are possible. In the high season, meanwhile, the seas are usually slight to moderate, with waves generally of less than a metre.

Climate. This side of the Thai peninsula puts forward its best face during the northeast monsoon season. "Monsoon season", contrary to some popular opinion, does not mean unremitting torrential rains. In fact, you can rely on consistently fine weather and calm seas from November through March, with peak conditions extending from late December until late February. From April through October, on the other hand, the southwest monsoon does bring rain and squalls and rough seas (though rarely more than 4-metre waves) to exposed coastlines in the Andaman. Even in this season, however, there are frequently periods of fine weather. At this time of year, with favourable weather reports, diving and sail ing daytrips are still possible to destinations such as Phi Phi, Racha, and the Similans, though scheduled ex-cursions cannot be re lied upon and longer cruises are often ill-ad vised.


THE GULF OF THAILAND

From Malaysia in the west to Bangkok in the north to Vietnam in the east, the Gulf of Thailand extends in a great curve for 1,840 kilometres. Part of a geological feature known as the Sunda Shelf, the Gulf is essentially a shallow bowl, rarely deeper than 80 metres and on average no more than 30 metres. Bottled up by a submarine ridge which runs between Kota Baru and Vietnam, the Gulf is diluted by freshwater runoff from the many rivers to the north. Like the Andaman Sea, the Gulf is warm (26'-30'C) all year round -a boon to divers, windsurfers, and sailors alike.

The underwater visibility is good, better than most places in the world. The gamefishing is not as good as it is on the other side of the peninsula (though it is still good enough to be recommended if you are in the area). Seaside resorts such as Ko Samui and Pattaya are known around the world. Less familiar are the hundreds of islands, the national parks and travel frontiers such as Ang Thong and Ko Chang. Motor cruising, sailing, sea canoeing, and scuba-diving trips all find plenty of extraordinarily scenic and largely unspoiled waters for the exploration.

Climate. The May-October southwest monsoon is high season in most of the Gulf of Thailand. Skies are consistently sunny, the air is dry, and the seas are calm ideal conditions for just about any sea sport. The exception is Trat Province on the southeastern side of the Gulf. Here, the 47 islands of Koh Chang National Park are exposed to the southwest monsoon, so diving and other sea sports are better advised during the same months the Andaman is enjoying its high season.

Year-round, then, Thailand's seas present a dazzling variety of attractions both exotic and familiar. Complete novices as well as dedicated sailing, diving, windsurfing, and game-fishing enthusiasts from all over the world are drawn by the combination of great facilities and ideal natural conditions.


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