It is as primitive as fishing hamlets perched atop stilts and as contemporary as skyscrapers. It has 1,700 miles of coastline and is roughly the size of France. It has three neighbors whose names recall troubled times—Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam—yet Thailand has largely escaped the devastation of modern warfare. It is the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized, a miracle of both perseverance and diplomacy. Another miracle is the land itself, from lush forests to the ivory white beaches of Phuket, which dangles like an exotic earring into the Andaman Sea. The Thais are fond of saying "mai penrai" It means "no problem." Thailand has its share, of course, but the kingdom endures.
Sun, sand and lace: Stephanie Seymour adorns Phuket's Nai Yang beach in a confection by Keiko ($44). On the preceding page, cover girl Elle Macpherson plays harem girl in pants by Diva ($76).
It's so easy to go overboard for Estelle LeFebure as she ships out for a scuba jaunt in a nautical number from Gottex ($88). In Phuket she tests the waters, and she won't blow the whistle if you eye her zebra-striped garb from HO ($88).
Karen Alexander in a thong suit from HO ($68) brings a touch of high modernity to a weathered wooden Bangkok house.
Sitting pretty at Nai Yang, Stephanie, in a Monika Tilley Swim suit ($56), reflects on the good life. At right, Estelle does a high-amp '40s vamp in cool shades from Revo and a satiny suit from Half Moon ($51).
Wanna go beach-combing with me? Kathy Ireland looks wistful in a wisp from HO ($78) on Mai Phai Island.
In a teeny bikini from Darling Rio ($35), Elle (opposite) steals the scene on James Bond Island in the Bay of Phang Nga. Stephanie knows less is more when there are rays to catch; Keiko asks $42 for the Kermit threads. When the sun sizzles, a parasol is handy.
Estelle is swept away by the beauty of the Phi Phi Islands, in Phang Nga Bay, in a Giorgio di Sant' Angelo creation ($400).
Elle takes the shade in a bamboo thicket by the Ping River in her two-piece suit from HO ($54). At right she is camouflaged, so to speak, in an Ipanema Wear bikini ($46) for a raft ride on the Ping.
Caressed by the dappled waters of the Pearl Village Hotel pool, Stephanie unwinds in a Gottex suit of vivid hues ($46).
Suspended animation suits Stephanie nicely in a Phi Phi cove. The Lycra T-shirt bikini is by HO ($68). At right, it's splashdown for Cindy Crawford at Bangkok's Oriental Hotel. That's a Keiko swim dress with golden Lycra thong ($79).
Elle gilds the lily pond at the Lanna golf course near the northern city of Chiang Mai. Her suit is by Ocean Pacific ($36).
The cool cascade of the 1,200-foot Mae Ya waterfall is a natural shower for Estelle in her neoprene wet suit from Anne Cole Collection ($75). Kim Alexis, in a gathered bikini by Diva ($68), daydreams in a cove sheltered by the Phang Nga Islands.
Elle chooses an abstract rock-print suit from Darling Rio ($35) for an interlude at One of the many spectacular waterfalls to be found in Mae Sa district.
Elle updates the "Sea Hunt" suit (opposite) in a bikini with zippered vest by Jantzen ($38). Her modest bikini from Half Moon ($62) is viewed with some amazement by a Li Su tribeswoman at Chiang Dao.
Poolside at the Pearl Village, Stephanie is anything but blue in a hand-painted suit by Half Moon ($57).
It's twilight time, and Kathy, in a suit by Darling Rio ($35), views a slice of Thai splendor from Phuket's lofty Prom Thep Point.