Thailand is now open to tourists. Here’s where to go

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We asked a few creatives what they loved to eat, shop, and visit during their recent trips to Thailand. In photo: Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan Temple. Photo courtesy of TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND

Our Southeast Asian neighbor Thailand is back in business. After imposing strict health protocols at the height of the pandemic, the Southeast Asian country is now opening its doors to more tourists, including visitors from the Philippines.

Tourism is a huge driver of the Thai economy, making up about 20% of their GDP. It’s visited by millions of tourists each year, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it welcomed over half a million Filipino tourists with an average length of stay at 8.7 days.

The country was quick to adapt to health and safety precautions to give tourists more comfort to travel. It has a “Test and Go” program that allows fully vaccinated tourists to enter the country without long quarantine restrictions, while all visitors are required to register for a Thailand Pass for easier contact tracing as they travel around the country. (The Pass requirement may soon be removed due to fewer daily infections.)

As part of their Amazing New Chapters campaign, the Thai government has opened up the country to the needs of post-pandemic tourism. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council Deputy Governor for International Marketing for Asia and South Pacific Tanes Petsuwan, this includes highlighting the country as a viable second home for “digital nomads.”

“Leading travel websites around the world have said Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai… these are the good places for digital nomads. For workation,” Petsuwan said during a press conference in Manila. “It’s a new segment that Thailand would like to focus on.”

As more Filipinos venture outside of the country, many of them have chosen Thailand as a nearby and viable travel choice. From January 2022 to April 2022, over five thousand Filipinos have visited Thailand, and they expect that number to grow as COVID-19 restrictions ease between the two countries.

For anyone looking to visit Thailand soon, CNN Philippines Life asked three creatives who recently visited Thailand to share some of their new favorite off-beat haunts, from shopping and art, to delicious places to eat.

SAM POTENCIANO, owner of Souvenir

Bang Sue Junction

“A multi-level shopping center dedicated to secondhand shops right across from Chatuchak. There's a flea market-style entrance on the outside, and on the inside the lower floors are occupied with antique furniture while the upper floors are full of secondhand clothing shops. Make sure to go [during] the weekend (most of the shops only open Saturdays/Sundays) when it's packed with young Thai vintage-hunters.”

Warehouse 30

“A small outdoor complex that houses contemporary Thai art galleries, a tattoo parlor, a coffee shop, and a big, pricey vintage shop called Horse Unit.”

The Commons

“A fun, open air complex filled with hip Thai food establishments and specialty shops.”

SOLEIL IGNACIO, illustrator and designer

Piccolo Vicolo Cafe

“A beautifully designed cafe inside one big compound of studios and shops. It’s my current favorite find because of the design and architecture of the whole space; adaptive reuse. *chef’s kiss*”

Charoen 43

“Again another small compound of cafes and cool shops! There’s a bike shop/cafe, a bakery, a gallery/exhibit space. Super loved the vibe.”

ARVEL ALVAREZ, co-founder and designer of Tanaw Studio

READ: Born during the pandemic, this design studio makes the most out of hard times

Rabbit Hole

"Rabbit Hole serves the best cocktails I've ever tried. As in, I tried multiple cocktails and each one sobrang sarap. It was also super fun looking for the place since they don't have a sign and their door is a bit hidden but I swear the hunt for their door is worth it!"

Havana Social

"Havana Social has a really fun vibe. They even have live bands playing from the balcony on weekends. (Laughs). Their entrance is hidden in a freaking phone booth and if you dial the right code, a secret entrance would automatically open! The cocktails were also super good, my faves were salted caramel and Ricardo Robson. They also have the cutest bathroom, as in Instagram-feed-(not just story)-worthy!"

Take a Breath

"Of all the cafes I visited, Take a Breath was the best. They have a cafe and restaurant so you can have a meal or just pastries. Both the meals and pastries were really good. Their grilled shrimp was really good and ang laki niya na I thought lobster siya. The fried rice with shrimps is super sulit kasi ang laki ng shrimp na they used, pang ulam na siya. The place was amazing. Just from the entrance of the place you’d think it's a resort with its gardens and wood facade."

Haidilao Hotpot

"Haidilao is a hotpot restaurant. The soup base and meat are really good. But what really stood out for me is that they have a snack bar, photo printing area, and free gel manicure area for people waiting for their table."