Q: A friend and I are headed to Thailand in December and would like to spend time at the beach. We expect Phuket to be pretty crowded then. Any suggestions for less-crowded beaches?
I'm a big fan of Ko Chang, a lush, mountainous island with gorgeous beaches off Thailand's southeast coast, about five hours from Bangkok via motor coach. It's popular with Thai families and the lodging options offer terrific value, with lots of nice places for under $50 a night. Not much of a party scene, though, so if you're looking for more action, consider Ko Samui, Ko Samet or Ko Phangan. For info on Thai beaches: Tourism Authority of Thailand,
Q: My business partner and I will be traveling to Manila in the Philippines. Can you suggest some weekend jaunts in other parts of the country? We are considering a trip to Corregidor but might also like to spend time relaxing on a beach and enjoying Philippine culture. Please provide information on guide services that might handle transportation, lodging and interpretation.
Corregidor Island, the Spanish fortress that became a symbol of Filipino and American courage in World War II, would make an excellent day trip. Scenic Tagaytay, 37 miles south of Manila, is known for its views of Taal Lake and what's said to be the smallest volcano in the world.
Other options: Puerto Galera or Nasugbu beaches; a trek up Mount Pinatubo, which erupted in 1991; and Pagsanjan Falls and Rapids, where you can take a canoe ride through a lush gorge.
The Philippine Department of Tourism said the following travel agencies can help set up guides, transportation and lodging: Southeast Travel, www.southeasttravel.com.ph; Rajah Tours, www.rajahtoursphilippines.com; CCT.168 Travel and Tours, www.cct.168 traveltours.com; and Trips Travel, www.tripstravel-phil. com. Info: Philippine Tourism Authority, www.philtourism. com.
Q: We'll be flying into Belize City in early January for a week. Not sure if we want to stay at an all-inclusive or a more eclectic resort in Belize.
A: Depends whether you're into jungles or oceans. If your main focus is snorkeling, diving or fishing, consider a hotel on the country's largest island, Ambergris Caye, known for its fabulous marine life. No need for an all-inclusive here, because checking out the island's many bars, cafes and restaurants is half the fun. If you'd rather explore Mayan ruins, trek through forests, go cave tubing and spot exotic wildlife, then choose a resort or jungle lodge in the country's interior. Info: Belize Tourism Board, www.travelbelize.org.