In the Queue: Thailand

29 Mar

For the past three years I have fantasized about going to Thailand. I’ve been completely enamoured by the idea of mingling with the smiling people on the street, chatting with monks, washing an elephant, learning the power of meditation, experiencing an authentic Thai massage, trying delicious food and swimming in the most beautiful ocean I’ve ever seen. Two years ago I was all set to go, deposit on the plane ticket and all, but unfortunately had to cancel. I am thrilled to say that in less than two months I will be carrying out this dream vacation!

I am in the middle of the planning process but I thought I would share some things.

When I’m Going: Mid-May

Typical Peak Travel Season: November-April; best time for weather: November-February (when it’s not too hot)

Monsoon Season: April-October (South West Side- Andaman Sea); May-October (South East Side- Gulf of Thailand)

For How Long: 10 days (2 days for international travel; 8 in Thailand)

Where I Want to Go: Everywhere!

Where I Can Actually Go: I’ve broken down the trip to include…

–       2 nights in Bangkok

–       3 nights in Chiang Mai at TBD hotel

–       3 nights in Koh Samui in Lamai Beach

* Note: people continuously tell me to choose between the North and South. I know that if I don’t get to see the North (or South) I will feel as if I didn’t get the full experience so we’ve chosen to get a taste of both and hope to return for more of an in-depth experience some other time. In fact, the hardest thing about planning was choosing between the Gulf of Thailand side and the Andaman Sea side. We’ll get to that some other time…

The Budget: $300-$400 per person for hotels; $300 per person for tours; $400-$450 for domestic transportation (not the cheapest vacation we’ve ever planned…)

The Hotels:

  • Bangkok: Lebua State Tower
    • Cost: $194/nt including breakfast
      • Note: this rate was purchased in advance via Vacationist.com. Rates for this hotel during this time of year are

        View from Lebua State Tower

        around $275/nt and over $400 during the peak season (the benefits of traveling during the shoulder seasons!)

    • We were originally planning on staying in the Old City since we have just a day and a half in Bangkok and wanted to be able to walk to all the sites. After seeing this deal and learning how easy it is to get to the Old City via boat (this is located on the water), we thought a little luxury hotel never hurt anyone…
  • Chiang Mai: Rimping Village
    • Cost: $67 per night including breakfast via Agoda.com
    • The deciding factor: ideally located between the old city

      Rimping Village Hotel

      and night market (walking distance) and award-winning service with stellar reviews from Trip Advisor users

    • Perks: a pool!

  • Koh Samui: Beach Republic
    • Cost: $125/nt with breakfast via hotel website (note: this is an early bird special rate that requires you to pay an non-refundable deposit in advance; rates are typically $146/nt)
    • The deciding factor: great facilities and a slightly modern hotel in Lamai beach (the second most popular beach in Samui)
    • We chose Lamai instead of the touristy (and crowded) Chaweng beach because we wanted to escape the hustle and bustle but still wanted to be able

      Beach Republic Hotel

      to experience some of the great nightlife, dining scene, etc. Another option we considered was Bophut beach (Fisherman’s Village)

    • Perks: multiple pools, daily DJ, right on the beach

Domestic Transportation:

Unfortunately given our time constraints we have no easy way to get to each destination without flying. Flying is quick, sure, but it is also expensive. We weren’t anticipating these high costs, being used to cheap European airfare from carriers such as Ryan Air, but we’re biting the bullet and moving along with our plans. You only live once, right?

  • Airline: We’ve decided to travel with Bangkok Air for all flights but other low cost carriers include Air Asia, Noka Air and Thai Airways (note: Bangkok Air is currently the ONLY airline that can fly in/out of Koh Samui)
  • The Routes:
    • Bangkok (BKK) to Chiang Mai (CNX): $58-$65 per person
    • Chiang Mai to Koh Samui (USM): $200 per person (ouch)
    • Koh Samui to Bangkok: $158 per person (ouch again)

Other things to consider:

–       If time allows, consider taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or from Bangkok to Koh Samui (with a ferry in there)

–       Noka Air offers a flight + bus + ferry option if you are looking to cut costs when traveling from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui

Tours/Activities:

In Bangkok we will…

  • Visit the temples in the Old City. Highlights include: Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Saket & Golden Mount, Wat Arun (amongst many others)
  • Get an authentic Thai massage at the Wat Pho Massage School
  • Watch a Muay Thai boxing match at Lumphini Stadium- Th Phra Ram IV (prices range: 1000 baht to 2000 baht ($33-$66 USD))
  • Visit the Chatuchak weekend market
  • Visit Jim Thompson’s House

In Chiang Mai we will…

Courtesy of Patara Elephant Camp

 

Chiang Mai Craft Village

In Koh Samui we will…

Ang Thong Marine Park

 

  • Visit Anthong Marine Park (said to be the inspiration for “The Beach”—the book, not the movie (which was filmed on Phi Phi Islands))

Tour options:

Note: all prices include lunch but do NOT include the park entrance fee of $7 (to be paid upon arrival)

  • Snorkel at Koh Tao Island (typically a diving Mecca but we prefer to stick to snorkeling) 

Tour options:

  • Head to Koh Phangan for the monthly full moon party (will ask hotel to help arrange transportation via speed boat)

Note: pre-booking tours is not necessarily required unless visiting during peak travel season. There are plenty of tour providers to choose from. If you find one you are comfortable with beforehand, feel free to book, otherwise it is fine to allow your hotel concierge to assist.

Helpful Planning Links:

–       Lonely Planet’s Thailand Guide: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand

–       New York Times: 36 Hours in Bangkok: http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/travel/29hours.html

–       Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g293915-Thailand-Vacations.html

–       Thailand Tourism Board: http://www.tourismthailand.org/

Courtesy of Patara Elephant Camp

Coming soon…

–       A look at some of the other hotels in these three cities for you to consider for your trip

–       Choosing which side to visit in the South of Thailand

–       Dos/Don’ts when visiting Thailand

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One Response to “In the Queue: Thailand”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Wednesday Travel Deal Round Up! « eagerfortravel - March 30, 2011

    […] –      Check out our itinerary for our upcoming (and 1st!) trip to Thailand: http://eagerfortravel.com/2011/03/29/in-the-queue-thailand/ […]

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