Travellers’ Tales – Thai golf dreams
Thwack! – The ball goes slicing off toward the long reeds behind which there’s a pond.
“Do you think it’s gone in the water?”
“50/50…” says the smiling female caddy. That’s not what you want to hear. The Thais are so keen to please, that when you hit a ball out of bounds or into a lake, it nearly always elicits the “50/50” remark. They don’t want to disappoint you by saying, as we’re inclined to, “No, that’s gone, 100%, for sure!”
Best courses in Asia
Golf in Thailand is a wonderful experience. There are the caddies, compulsory companions on most courses to advise you on every shot, there’s the heat, and there are also some of the very best courses in Asia, if not the world.
The two key Thai golf centres outside of Bangkok are Phuket, where the phenomenal Red Mountain, carved out of a former tin mine and spectacular Blue Canyon courses are found, and Hua Hin, a coastal town about 200kms south of the capital. Thailand’s first golf course was built at Hua Hin in 1924 and today there are 11 courses in the area, with two – Black Mountain, and Banyan, being truly championship class and a real pleasure to play on despite plenty of “50/50” potential.
Culture, cuisine and more
A great aspect of taking golfing holidays in these areas (and in Bangkok too which has some terrific courses, including a replica of US Masters’ home Augusta, even though getting to them through the horrendous traffic can be trying), is there’s plenty to keep your partner happy if they don’t play golf. There are many fabulous hotels and resorts in Thailand to simply enjoy staying at – the Centara Grand, a 1920s Raffles-style spread on the beach at Hua Hin is particularly appealing, Thai food is fantastic, the country’s culturally fascinating, you can shop til you drop and the Thais are incredibly welcoming and hospitable.
Thailand is also very cheap by Australian standards, a great meal for example will cost just a few dollars in local restaurants, so your money goes a long way which enables long stays there if you want.
So, what are some of the dos and don’ts about heading off overseas, particularly if you’re going for an extended period?
Get your money sorted
Clearly, having your money sorted out is vital.
For starters, you can get by without travellers chequesi in most places in this age of credit and debit cards and ATMs, however most credit cards charge a transaction fee for overseas purchases.ii
That said, there are some credit cards that don’t charge overseas transaction costs, which make sense for frequent overseas travellers. You can find them on comparison sites like Finderiii and Canstariv.
Take out travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a necessity. Overseas medical costs, such as in the US, can be jaw dropping, and make sure you take out insurance as soon as you pay for your tickets and accommodation, as it covers you for any cancellation costs immediately, if an illness or accident prevents you from leaving. Some credit cards provide complimentary travel insurance if you use them to make your bookings, but don’t automatically rely on it, check that the cover is adequate for your requirements and destination.
Avoid surprise phone bills
Turn off international roaming on your mobile phone. This saves your phone automatically linking up with the local mobile network and billing you at massive rates for calls, texts and data downloads including emails – potentially presenting you with a huge phone bill on your return. Using WiFi is the answer here with local and international calls using Skype or Viber via the internet being free – just make sure your family and friends at home have downloaded one or both of these apps to their mobiles too.
For other traveller’s tips, visit the government’s Smartraveller website. It has lots of useful information including travel advisories about destinations worldwide, and if you want, you can register your trip on the site so that you can be contacted easily in the event of a problem or emergency either at home or overseas arising. The address is www.smartraveller.gov.au.