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Trip Report First Time in Thailand Trip Report - Bangkok & Surin Beach, Phuket

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First off - Thanks to all of the experienced, frequent posters that helped out with my planning. The Fodors Forums are such a wealth of diverse knowledge. I realized while planning this trip that the first time I used the forums was 10 years ago while planning my honeymoon. Now using it the plan the 10 year anniversary trip. I have received some great tips. We threw this trip together in less than two months. We have three kids at home and DH (Mike) has a very busy career so travel and travel planning has fallen a bit by the wayside. Thanks again to all. I have never written a trip report but for some reason I feel like I need to write this one. I am wordy person and apologize in advance.

Now to get started - Mike and I left from IAD Thursday 4/16. We flew United to Frankfurt and then Thai Airways to Bangkok. The Thai flight was great. I am pretty sure the plane was a brand new A 380. We were on the upper deck and each seat had a USB port for charging. I slept most of the flight and was in pretty good shape when we landed at 6:30 am. Mike did not sleep as well but was hanging in there. We picked up bags and cash with out any issues. Since we were new to this airport and country, we went ahead and booked transport through the Mandarin Oriental (MO). The cold towels, water and excessively air conditioned 7 series was a nice relaxing way to start the trip. There was also WIFI but I cannot even look at my phone while moving.

We are arrived at the MO about 8 or 8:30. The lobby is gorgeous. Pictures do not do the floral arrangements justice. I requested an early check in and our room was ready when we arrived. A very informative front desk person took us right upstairs for check in. We were upgraded to a deluxe room with balcony. We had a little balcony and a nice sitting area. The bathroom was very large with a generous walk in closet. Since I told them we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary they also included a complimentary lunch at the Sala Thai lunch buffet and few other special treats that I will get to. I am immediately impressed with the 50 or so orchids all over the room. Orchids are definitely one of my favorite parts of Thailand. Mike and I get cleaned up and then head to the spa for the 1.5 hour jet lag massage that I scheduled ahead of time. I knew that staying up would be key to surviving jet lag. The spa at the MO beautiful and very expensive. The jet lag massage was worth every cent. We had a private suite with a steam shower. It was a combination of Swedish and Thai massage. One of the best I have ever had. Mike only fell asleep once during the massage.

After the massage we went back across the river and changed for lunch at the pool. At this point it was pretty warm so the pool was great. I really enjoyed being there in low season for a few reasons. One being that there was always a chair available at the pool. We swam, ate a delicious lunch cold spring rolls, satays and chicken with cashews and fresh vegetables. I had at tasty cocktail with lemongrass. I had many tasty cocktails during our stay at the MO. After lunch we went upstairs and took a short snooze and got cleaned up for our 4:30 pick up by SJ International for jewelry shopping. Kathie - I can see why you enjoy shopping there. Kenny helped me find some very nice "souvenirs" for myself, daughter, mother and sister. I can see how people get carried away there. My mom's ring needed to be sized and it was delivered the next day promptly at the scheduled time. My 10 year anniversary band is a great way to commemorate the trip and celebrate that we made it 10! I have received many compliments. Thanks again for the recommendation.

When we returned to the MO there was a little cake with cherubs on it congratulating us on 10 years. Each night there was something similar, a bottle of wine or cocktail hour invitation. The service was very attentive. That night we had dinner at Sala Thai. We had the set menu that accompanied the traditional thai dance performance. It was entertaining. The food was good but not our best meal. One stand out was in the first course. Tiny minced chicken balls stuffed inside mandarin orange slices. Delicious. They also brought us a huge dessert plate for our anniversary. Some of it was good but I am not quite used to the overly starchy desserts or the gelatinous ones. We tried them all. We also had some great photos with the dancers after the performance. We finished the evening with a nightcap on the river. The breeze made it very comfortable. The first day was just about perfect. I went to bed anxiously awaiting the next.

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    Day two - Bangkok

    Mike and I were up at 6:30 and at breakfast by 7. Our plan for trip was to get up early, sight see and then relax in the afternoons when it is the hottest. The breakfast at the MO is AMAZING. It is open air on the river and the selection is more than any person would ever need. Mike was amazed at the amount I ate every morning. One savory and one sweet plate. Delicious iced coffee or cappuccino and fresh squeezed juices. I also discovered I love mangosteen. While waiting for my eggs, I said hello to the person waiting with me. We starting chatting and he invited us to sit with him. Our new friend was from Chicago and on his 25th leisure stay at the MO. We chatted about all of our plans and he confirmed that as first timers we should see the Chatuchak weekend market. He also coached us on how to get there by Skytrain. You guys were right. It was so easy, clean and safe. We were at the market by 9 and armed with cash and a zippered tote bag that I firmly held on to. We picked up some trinkets to take back to the girls. I few decorative items for us. I bought a few dresses to use as cover ups for next to nothing. We only stopped for an iced coffee. Now street food. Mike didn't want to risk it on day 2. It was great people watching and fun to bargain and I am glad we went. I only wish we hadn't wandered over to the animal area. The conditions were difficult to witness. On the way home we though about stopping at Siam Paragon but we decided relaxing by the pool was a better idea.

    That night we meet our new friend for dinner. He took us to a small local place that was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. We had larb gai, a whole roasted fish (a type of bass?) and my new favorite green...morning glory. I ordered it everywhere. I am also trying to grow it so I can have a fresh supply at home. We then grabbed a cab and our friend took us by the patpong just to see the spectacle of it. Gross(sorry - trying not to judge). I did bargain for some cute bracelets for my girls from one of the night vendors. I also bought the Thai boxing shorts for my nephews. Cheesy but they love them. I am pretty sure I only need to see the terrible fake bags, "show" menu pushers and tons of people looking for a good time once in this lifetime. Our new friend did show us how to catch a cab, ask for the meter and say Mandarin Oriental so locals can understand it better.

    Day three we got up early and secured a guide and car for the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. We used World tours through the concierge. I could have done it on my own but I was looking for easy and relaxing since it was going to be very hot. Plus - I wanted to know exactly what I was looking at. I have been through the forum in Rome with a guide and without and the difference is amazing. Both places were incredible. The endless glittering tile and the overwhelming spirituality of the temples were highlight of my trip. I have a good friend who is Thai and won a battle with breast cancer this year. I am a practicing catholic but there is something very meaningful about saying thank you to the universe for blessing my friend with more years in her church in her country. I am tearing up remembering those special moments. Travel changes you in so many ways. After leaving the throngs of Chinese tourists we headed back to the hotel for pool time and a late lunch at Sala Thai. The buffet was fabulous. The manager walked me around and described every dish and made recommendations and a few combinations just for me. I love all of the cold salads and the crabs sautéed in a spicy sauce. Messy but good. Again I stuffed myself and realized I need to use Pandan leaves at home and need lemongrass scented cold towels by the pool all summer.

    That evening we scheduled a klong tour on a longtail boat with the concierge. We asked them to have us dropped off across from Wat Arun so we could watch the sun set and have a drink. I am glad that we had the concierge plan trip with the long tail boat because we only communicated with smiles. I am glad we did the tour. It was eye opening. The precariously built homes, broken Styrofoam pieces being used as floats by children, and gigantic water monitors made for a potent mix. The MO is a sheltered and luxurious piece of Thailand but you miss the whole country if you never venture out and there are some people that never leave the MO. Some others that did venture out and were disappointed. I don't get it. We were dropped at the public dock across from Wat Arun and then walked around the corner to the Deck bar. We sat right on the water and watched the sunset. Wat Arun is covered in scaffolding so it prettier at night right now. We had planned to eat dinner upstairs but were still too full from lunch so we walked toward china town. The flower market was just getting started. For an orchid lover, it was really something to see. I wanted to just roll around in the endless arrays of flowers. We then caught a cab back and to the hotel. The next day our guide asked us not to walk that way at night anymore, that is was not a safe choice. We were fine but we may have just gotten lucky. The next day (Tuesday) was my favorite but I will have to post about it later. I am still catching up at home from the trip, First communion and mothers day. Hope I am not boring anyone with silly stuff that is already out there in the Fodors universe.

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    It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I'm sorry you didn't take the public water taxi to the Grand Palace/Emerald Buddha because it is such a quintessential Bangkok experience. But you (very reasonably) made choices based on what you felt you could do comfortably.

    I'm not sure why you were told that walking to Chinatown wasn't safe - I've done it many times. I think sometimes the staff at hotels are afraid people will have a bad experience, so encourage them to travel "inside the bubble." Did you stop at Wat Tramit (Golden Buddha) in Chinatown?

    BTW, I've been to Bangkok more than 2 dozen times in the last 30 years, but I always enjoy reading about someone's first trip there! Looking forward to more.

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    Your trip sounds wonderful! We were in Bangkok at the same time, it appears, as I arrived in the city about that same time, on trip #37 for me. Boy was it HOT this year. I'm in Bangkok every year in late April for two birthday parties. This year the temps and humidity seemed almost over the top. Good of you to got pool time during the hottest times. The outdoor dining terrace at MO is very nice. We had a late lunch there one day, following a klong tour.

    Anxious to read more!

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