Thailand is a master in the delicate balance of being both exotic and accessible: it delivers a chilli-spiked dose of South-east Asia with all the modern comforts. And despite its popularity, moving beyond the tourist buzz is easy to do, even at the kingdom’s star attractions. Tranquil, gem-coloured seas wash away the winter blues, the high-octane capital of Bangkok keeps night owls up until dawn, and the mist-shrouded hills of the north invite adventure seekers. Most travellers slide down the elephant’s trunk of the Malay peninsula to one of Thailand’s famed island resorts such as Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan to the east, or those scattered around the west coast tourist hubs of Phuket and Krabi. Often, the prettiest stretch of sand on each island is the brashest, with an abundance of admirers and a penchant for hedonism, while less buxom beaches boast a quieter, family-friendly ambiance. It is something of a traveller myth – popularised by the book and subsequent film, The Beach – that there are secret Thai beaches known only to the initiated.