THAILAND is known as the Land of Smiles and strolling along an idyllic beach in Krabi it's easy to see why.
Relaxing on the tropical white sands, framed by lapping turquoise water and lush green jungle, makes it hard to stop grinning.
While tourists flock to the more famous holiday hotspots like Phuket and Koh Samui, this mainland gem has remained a relatively unspoilt hidden treasure.
A break away from the crowds in the blissful beauty spot will leave you beaming from ear to ear as you feel as if you've stumbled on your own personal paradise.
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Arriving at tiny Klong Muang, the laid-back charm makes it impossible not to chill out instantly. A million miles from the hustle and bustle of home, a few upmarket resorts share a spectacular stretch of almost deserted seafront.
There are no high rise monstrosities to spoil the view and the hotels are spread so far apart it often feels like you are the only person on the beach.
The stunning shoreline is even protected by a local by-law banning sun loungers from the sand so it remains refreshingly uncluttered.
Looking out across the glistening water you can see huge rocks and distant islands jutting out of the sea to create a dramatic backdrop.
And if you can tear yourself away from relaxing on the beach, one of the best ways to explore is to take one of the many boat trips on offer.
We tried the 900 Thai Baht (around £18) Four Islands tour, an exhilarating speedboat ride to a series of picture-perfect desert islands.
However, you will not be alone at some stops as the curious monkeys peer out of the mangroves to check out the visitors.
A different type of wildlife can be seen on Chicken Island, named after the shape of the rock formation that sticks up like a bird's head.
The most spectacular sight is defi-nitely the eye-popping shoals of fluorescent fish darting through the crystal clear water as you snorkel over the coral reefs.
Then quirky Railay drew almost as many gasps as we checked out Princess Cave, where superstitious locals leave models of their manhoods in a bid to boost fertility. We also took a boat trip to the Phi islands, made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach.
The tour round some of the region's busiest hot spots was breathtaking but a shock to the system after the sleepy pace of life in Klong Muang.
Stunning Maya Bay, where the movie was filmed, was crammed with tourists shipped in from miles around to check out the location.
The island's backpacker-friendly resorts are busy compared to the peaceful mainland, but that made a change from being barely conscious on a beach.
Palms And the snorkelling was once again spectacular.
Back on dry land we stayed at the plush Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort, the ideal spot to soak up the sun and adapt to the relaxed pace of the region.
The discreet low-rise hotel nestles into the Klong Muang seafront and manages to offer top class facilities without feeling snooty.
Secluded sun-beds for couples and chill-out hammocks are dotted among the shady palms that separate the lush garden from the beach.
The set-up means you can recline in luxury with a cocktail by the pool while idly gazing out to sea deciding where to take a dip to cool off from the sticky 32C heat. If you want a break from the sun, there's a luxury spa where you can enjoy a revitalising Thai massage.
A trip to Krabi Town, around a 40-minute drive in the hotel shuttle bus, is a decent afternoon out.
The lively place is a not a purposebuilt resort and offers a glimpse into the everyday life of the area.
You can also take a bargain trip in a traditional long-tail boat down the mangrove fringed river.
For just 300 baht (£6) we cruised past local villages made up of tumbledown homes leaning precariously on stilts and saw more monkeys peering out of the bush.
We also stopped off at the Kanabnam View Seafood & Fish Farm where workers proudly showed off a spiky pufferfish and fearsome white snapper.
Back in the town, more culinary delights can be found at an open-air riverside food court, where locals flock to scoff every type of Thai food at rock bottom prices. Closer to the hotel, the more developed resort of Ao Nang is around 20 minutes away by taxi.
It has a wider selection of restaurants, shops and late-night bars than Klong Muang so is a better bet for boozing and has a more mass market feel.
And if you fancy a real dose of big city chaos, a stopover in bustling Bangkok is essential.
Once you snap back to life after chilling out on the coast, the frantic capital offers a feast for the senses.
It is a city of contrasts with glittering temples, heaving markets, winding canals, sleek shopping malls, seedy sex shows and sophisticated bars all jostling for space. During the day, the rundown buildings of the sprawling metropolis can look a bit drab but taking a long-tail boat down the canals shows the real heart of Bangkok.
Leaving the high-rise bustle behind, you'll drift past ramshackle buildings, floating shops, and the impressive temples that crop up every few yards.
The most amazing of the Buddhist holy sites is the Grand Palace, home to the revered Emerald Buddha.
Pay no attention to the pushy tuktuk drivers who will try to persuade you it's closed so they can take you on a tour instead.
If you do fancy a ride, the motorised rickshaws are fun and inexpensive, although air-conditioned taxis are actually cheaper.
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If you have time to venture further out of the centre, the Chatuchak weekend market, the biggest in the city, is an incredible slice of local life.
Beware, it is easy to get lost for hours among the bizarre range of oriental treasures. But you won't go hungry as it's an ideal place to sample the Thai street food.
Bangkok really comes into its own after dark where multi-coloured neon lights transform it from rundown to stunning.
The heady mixture of Bangkok's sweltering city life and Krabi's chilled-out charm will make sure you never get tired of Thailand.
And you'll certainly go home with a smile on your face.
TEN nights in Bangkok and Thailand with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Thai Airways from Heathrow direct to Bangkok with onward flights to Krabi, two nights at the 4V Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers, room only, followed by seven nights at the 4V Sheraton Krabi beach Resort, bed and breakfast, with transfers included, starts from £1,029.
Price is per person based on two adults sharing a standard room and based on departures from May 1-12.
Book by January 31 via virginholidays.co.uk, call 0844 557 3859 or visit a Virgin Holidays shop in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.