Sexy Thailand

It says a lot about a place when it’s chosen by Recommend’s discerning readers—all knowledgeable travel experts and enthusiasts—for the fourth year in a row as being the Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in Asia in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Of all Asian countries, Thailand holds that special appeal. It teems and resonates with all the romance of the East, and the mere mention of its name brings forth a flood of pleasant images reaching deep into a visitor’s inner Kipling or Maugham—to say nothing about the romance that this captivating country evokes.

Srisuda Wanapinyosak, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), New York, says that the accolades from Recommend’s readers are merited because, “Thailand is a once-in-a-lifetime experience at great and affordable prices. It has much to offer honeymooners, or those seeking to kindle the flame of romance: enchanting culture; lush, green jungle landscapes; elephant trekking in the north and stunning islands with secluded beaches in the south.”

In between, there are scores of places with the unmistakable imprint of romance stamped all over. Wanapinyosak adds that Thailand “…offers what couples and honeymooners are looking for these days: world-class accommodations at—again—affordable prices. Thailand is full of such accommodations, places sure to make for magical and singular honeymoon memories.”

According to figures released by TAT, the U.S. travel market remains solid, with more than 53,000 Americans having visited in the period from January to October this year. In addition, Thailand was one of the few destinations that underwent an uptick in arrivals (by almost 2 percent) last year. This proves that its image remains a “powerful magnet” that continues to attract tourists and honeymooners looking for excitement and romance in faraway, exotic shores.

Banking on Thailand’s solid reputation as a thrilling and romantic destination, TAT estimates that approximately 15.5 million international tourists are expected during 2011, making the country a profitable source of revenue for travel agents.

With such rosy figures being projected, TAT recently announced an expanded promotional strategy for the coming year. This strategy will retain TAT’s highly successful “Amazing Thailand” slogan enhanced with the tagline, “Always Amazes You” to stress what Wanapinyosak says are “…the many aspects of Thai-ness that visitors from all over the world find so appealing.”

While the allure of Bangkok, with its magnificent Grand Palace and floating markets, remains undisputable, it’s Thailand’s far afield destinations that catch the eye of honeymooners seeking a romantic hideaway. Thailand is full of secluded, yet plush, resorts in both mountains and beaches—all tailor-made for romance.

In Phuket, Thailand’s classic honeymoon destination, couples will find a dynamic resort brimming with amenities catering to the special needs of newlyweds. It has countless hotels, spas and secluded havens where the aura of romance prevails.

The Amanpuri is the island’s most luxurious resort, and has been considered so for more than two decades. It’s a veritable honeymooners’ haven, with 70 pavilions and exquisite private villas exemplifying luxury and pampering. The villas begin at about $900 per night dbl.

Romance seekers will find Mom Tri’s Villa Royale Phuket (about $400 per night dbl) a charming, semi-secluded nook for tender celebration, as appealing. It sits on the white beaches of the Andaman Sea and is regarded as Phuket’s most exclusive boutique resort, with 35 luxurious, Thai-style suites mirroring all the exotic charm of the country.

The Sala Phuket Resort and Spa (about $278 pp dbl) is a hidden jewel that opened about three years ago. Most of its 80 rooms and villas have private pools. The serenity of its surroundings makes it ideal for romance.

Phi Phi, about 30 miles from Phuket on the Andaman Sea, is another magnificent romantic destination. This jaw-dropping island is ringed with powdery beaches fringed by wind-swept palms towering over limestone cliffs and green rainforests. Phi Phi Island Village Resort and Spa is a blissful, secluded haven for newlyweds or lovers. With 80 guestrooms (from about $590 pp dbl) and a secluded 2,600-ft. private beach, the resort epitomizes romance. Visitors arrive from either Phuket or nearby Krabi on a new luxurious high-speed catamaran, making traveling to Phi Phi an adventure in itself.

Other splendid romantic Thai destinations include three islands with a more laid-back lifestyle—Koh Chang, Ko Tao and Ko Samui—all considered earthly paradises by discerning locals who flock to their pristine beaches during honeymoons or romantic interludes.