Life's a beach

By Anna Melville-James, TravelMail

Last updated at 10:01 04 October 2002

For many travellers Thailand is synonymous with exquisite beaches - long stretches of white sand and turquoise sea fringed with palms that are the picture-postcard definition of paradise.

Beaches (known as Ao in Thai) are the number one reason why people flock to this tropical country - and even the most high-minded traveller is guaranteed to end up prone on the hot sands at some point in their trip.

Most of Thailand's best beaches are to be found in the South, along the peninsula that stretches down toward the border of Malaysia.

On the east side lies the Gulf of Thailand, whose waters are also home to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, while on the west the Andaman Sea cradles holiday island favourites Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.

While practically all beaches in Thailand send out a siren's call to the rain-drenched British holidaymaker, it pays to choose with care where you lay your sunhat.

Sadly, some of the better-known areas have been blighted by uncontrolled and unsightly development. Environmental destruction and rubbish disposal have also become perpetual headaches as Thailand struggles to come to terms with its popularity.

However, the beaches of daydreams do still exist here - places with a few huts and a short walk to an unspoilt stretch, or resorts that have managed to keep the beast of commercialism on a tight leash - for now.

This is Travel rounds up six of the best hot spots for beach bunnies looking for a slice of paradise.

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