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Thailand for 4 weeks with family

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Hi Folks!
Feeling overwhelmed by all the options in Thailand and could use some direction!

We are a family of 4 (myself, husband, 2 boys -- 6 and 8) that will be traveling to Thailand between December and January. Some things about us, so that we can get some good feedback:
1. First time to Thailand
2. Experienced travelers
3. Prefer to stay mid-range on accommodations, with houses with yard or some space for kids to run around, with wifi, if possible
4. I don't like being constantly overwhelmed by crowds
5. NOT looking to party or do a lot of shopping
6. We have varied interests -- I like historical stuff, husband likes beach stuff
7. We LOVE to find fun, out of the way places to visit
8. We plan to have a car
9. We plan to maybe visit 2-4 locations, so that we can get settled and then go out exploring

I would love some suggestions on places to locate during our stay and then places to visit around our locations. I realize that we will probably need to stay in Bangkok (or very close) for the first 2 days to get situated, especially with the kiddos. Otherwise, I am completely open to suggestions!!

Thanks so much!!
Warmly,
--Natalie.

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    First and foremost, Thailand is a beautiful country and a good choice for your Holiday vacation. I went there 4 years ago and spent 2 weeks there. There are lots of tourist destinations to go to. And it is very wise for you and your family to hire a car, because some tourist destinations are very far. However, I cannot recommend any cheap accommodation since I stayed at a friend's house.

    Here are some interesting tourist spots I've visited:
    1. The Grand Palace in Bangkok
    2. The floating market
    3. Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo
    4. Nong Nooch Village
    5. Bang Pa-in Palace
    6. The Ruins

    Enjoy Thailand. :)

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    Natalie,

    For accommodation in Thailand try the booking site: http://www.sawasdee.com
    If you want a smaller boutique, a house with yard, kind of place then look carefully at the description of the property.

    Ideally for a family and especially for the time of year you intend to visit I would like to suggest the following.

    1. Arrival in Bangkok and spend the first 2 - 3 nights in town. Lots to do but some attractions can be very crowded like the floating market as suggested above.

    2. Go to the North of Thailand next and spend a couple of nights in Chiang Mai. See the old city on Segways, take your kid to the "Flight of Gibbon" experience etc.

    http://www.treetopasia.com

    3. If you are up for it, rent a car in Chiang Mai and drive the "Mae Hong Son loop". Very nice drive for the whole family seeing rural Northern Thailand and staying in quaint little hotels along the way. There are many trip reports here on Fodors for the loop. Very little traffic once outside of Chiang Mai and the scenery is very nice.

    Spend about 2 - 3 nights driving the loop with overnight stays at Pai and Mae Hong Son. Some of my favourite places that fit your requirement are Hotel des Artists in Pai and The Fern Resort in Mae Hong Son.

    http://www.hotelartists.com/pai/
    http://www.fernresort.info

    4. Perhaps some beach time for you and your family. Again many trip reports for Southern Thailand which should have perfect conditions weather wise. Search for Phuket, Krabi, Koh Lanta etc. Some fun family activities down south would be the John Gray's Seacanoe.

    http://johngray-seacanoe.com

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    For your arrival in Bangkok, I'd like to suggest the Anantara Resort on the river. It has a very nice pool and grounds where your children can maybe run off some steam. Finding a place 'with a yard' might be a bit more problematic in Bangkok. Bangkok is a fabulous city... my family (no young children) will be there for about 3 weeks for the Christmas/New Year holidays. We will spend almost all of that time in Bangkok itself. We have been many times and always enjoy it. This time of year offers the best weather!

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    Sounds like the makings of a wonderful trip. Not knowing some other important considerations you might have (like budget) I’m just going to throw out some random suggestions in response to your questions.

    I know it’s the big city but with 4-weeks in Thailand, consider spending more than 2-days in Bangkok (either at the beginning or end of your trip) as there are tons of things to do there that you and your kids would enjoy.

    Since you’ve never been to Thailand before, you might want to hire a guide for a day or 2 on arrival there to get a better orientation. We really enjoy the company of Nook Tourguide; email cnnchinlawan@hotmail.com. She will charge you a flat fee for her time regardless of the number of people in your group. Depending on where you go, Nook will use public transportation or possibly hire a van for day trips outside of the city. You’ll pay for the van & driver in addition to her fee if needed.

    If it is your first visit to Bangkok, for sure visit the Grand Palace. That tour also typically includes a visit to the Emerald Buddha and giant Reclining Buddha.

    Also visit at least one of the floating markets. Some are more touristy than others but all are enjoyable if you’ve never been to one.

    We loved our visit to the Mae Klong Train Market as much for the walk through the sidewalk food market, where we sampled all kinds of tasty treats as for the amazing sight of vendors clearing their wares off the train tracks in seconds as a train approaches and then putting them back just as quickly as the train passes.

    Phranakorn Nornlen, is a wonderfully quirky little Bangkok hotel that we love. It is often described as an oasis in the middle of Bangkok and is most definitely family oriented. This isn’t a luxury hotel and there isn’t a swimming pool but there is a small enclosed courtyard that kids can run around in as well as a good wifi. It is located in the Phra Nakorn district, which puts it towards the northern end of the older part of the city. It is about a 2 block walk to the Thewet Pier on the Chao Phraya River, which gives you easy access to the Express Boat service, an inexpensive and pleasant way to get to different parts of the old city with the added benefit of avoiding the traffic problems.

    You could certainly drive yourselves but for longer distance travel, consider taking advantage of public transportation and then renting a car for local journeys in whatever city you are in. Train (and bus) travel is extremely inexpensive in Thailand and makes for a less stressful journey.

    From Bangkok, the train to Sukhothai takes about half a day. Nearby you’ll find the Sukhothai Historical Park, which includes the 13th century ruins of the ancient capital of the Sukhotahi Kingdom. The ruins you will find there are largely un-restored and not on the grand scale of Angkor Wat but it is impressive in its own way and sure to pique your interest in history.

    In nearby Phitsanulok, which is actually the location of the train station for Sukhothai, is Phra Buddha Chinnaratch Temple with what is described by some as “the World’s Most Beautiful Buddha”.

    Everywhere you go in Thailand, you’ll find opportunities for an “elephant experience.” Unfortunately, in some of these operations, little concern is given to the quality of life of the animals. However, if the cost is within your budget, I think both you and your kids would find an overnight stay in an elephant sanctuary one of the highlights of your entire adventure. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is located very close to Sukhothai and is one that does subscribe to ethical treatment of the elephants.

    If you continue heading north from Sukhothai, another half day train ride will bring you to Chiang Mai, the cultural center of North Thailand. There are lots of things to do there including visits to some ethnic minority hill tribes. Some of the hill tribes in the area have been reduced to staged events for tourists but some others are more worthwhile.

    If you missed the elephant experience in Sukhothai, Elephant Nature Park and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center; both relatively near Chiang Mai are two additional elephant parks known for ethical treatment of the animals.

    If you do make it up to Chiang Mai, you should check out the Secret Garden Bungalows & Guesthouse Wellness Resort. It is located a little outside of the city center in the village of Bor Sang, famous for the making of lacquered paper umbrellas. Secret Garden has reasonably priced cottages in a relaxed garden setting with plenty of room for your kids to play in. There is also a small pool. When we stayed there, there was an issue with the wifi but there was a desk top with internet available to guests free of charge.

    From Chiang Mai, you’re a long way from any beaches overland but it would be pretty easy to hop on a plane for a trip to one of the beaches in Southern Thailand. We don’t have a lot of experience at Thai beaches so we can’t offer much advice on those.

    Links to lots of info on travel in Thailand including more detail on all of the above can be found at http://www.se-asiatravel.com/thailand/

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    Hi Folks!
    Thanks so much for your suggestions. I am realizing that I desperately need to book my accommodations for BKK. Things are already booking up.

    I have looked at some of the hotel recommendations and done some searching, but am not finding something that works for us.

    Here's what I'm thinking that I need (side note: my SIL will be joining us for this part of the trip)
    1. A 2-3 bedroom serviced apt/suite/lodging
    2. Something close to the train or the express boats -- not planning to take a car in BKK
    3. Something with a kitchen. I know buying food at restaurants is cheap, but we need somewhere to cook and have snacks.
    4. We are not big shoppers, so we don't need to be near the malls.

    I am thinking that we would like to visit Wat Pho and a floating market while we are there.

    Thanks so much for suggestions.
    Warmly,
    --Natalie.

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    I'm back off to Thailand soon (Bangkok) and I'm used to staying in serviced apartment buildings. I've stayed in the same one since 2005. Prior to that I stayed in one or two other serviced apartment buildings and the rest hotels. But, I've been to a lot of serviced apartment ones, over many years, and checked them out to take notes.

    I have accommodations booked in Bangkok for a day less than 30, as I don't want to deal with the visa situation. Remember, one needs to be out on Day 30, if one doesn't have a visa.

    I've booked two, non-serviced apartments and then also a week in my regular serviced apartment, for old times sake.

    I'm using www.airbnb for the non-serviced ones. The company is located up in San Francisco and my Airbnb bookings have been easy to deal with. One of my best friends uses them and has gotten really good places overseas, so I'm game as I like to try different things.

    I spent a couple of months contacting different serviced apartment buildings in Bangkok as I was considering trying out 1 or 2 new ones and was also looking at Airbnb's apartments as well and it was really easy dealing with the owners of the Airbnb apartments. I had a list of potential apartments and was in contact with different owners over about a 2-month period.

    Here's an apartment that would suit your needs. I was back and forth on Airbnb message with this owner and he answered all messages very promptly.

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/105030

    He also has another apartment in the same building. Maybe the SIL could stay in that one. I almost rented the one-bedroom one, but then found another one. There were a lot of choices. But, one day I may still rent it and who knows it might be this upcoming trip since I didn't prepay my serviced apartment booking. I like to be able to be flexible.

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/106049

    Happy Travels!

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    I don't have time to read all of the other above comments at the moment as I'm on my way out the door, but I forgot to add that I think you should book a week in an apartment in Bangkok at the beginning of your trip. There's a lot to do in Bangkok, plus that week could be spent getting over jetlag and settling into the rhythm of Thailand since you've never been.

    Happy Travels!

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    Hello
    For my suggestion in Bangkok

    1.First time to Thailand
    :: To come into the city, you might need to take a taxi for 4 peoples and for easy way to get to the Hotel.
    You can stay in Bangkok and buses or train to nearby province for day trips.

    2.Experienced travelers
    :: Bangkok > Visit important temples such as Wat Phra Kaeo and The Grand Palace,Wat Pho ,Wat Arun and other temples around there(Can go there by Boat at Chao phraya river)
    floating market if this is your first time and come like a big family I would advice for use a tour guide, for easy to go there if you don't have a car
    http://www.tourwithtong.com
    http://yourthaiguide.com/
    http://www.nokthaitour.com/


    About apt/suite/lodging
    :: I would advice Radisson suites sukhumvit13 near BTS and MRT
    this hotel just option for easy to travel in the city.
    http://www.radisson.com/bangkok-hotel-th-10110/thabakk
    other website for hotel booking discounts
    http://booking.hoteltrip.com/hotel/10030014-11415100O.html
    or: http://www.orbitz.com/hotel/Thailand/Bangkok/Radisson_Suites_Bangkok_Sukhumvit.h961961/


    - NOT looking to party or do a lot of shopping and Close to the express boats
    :: accommodation for staying near the river ,I would advice Peninsula they are really good service and friendly for luxury hotels.(if you're thinking about the hotel or this maybe next time)
    http://www.peninsula.com/Peninsula_Hotels/en/PenCities/default.aspx#/Bangkok/en/
    or choices for booking discounts
    http://booking.hoteltrip.com/hotel/10030014-10207283O.html
    and: http://www.orbitz.com/hotel/Thailand/Bangkok/The_Peninsula_Bangkok.h160093/


    6.We have varied interests -- I like historical stuff, husband likes beach stuff
    :: Historical , you can take train from Bangkok Railway to Ayutthaya for day trip , and the beach you can go to Hua hin or Koh Samet for closer only 3 hrs from Bangkok. but the beach better to do 2 nights.
    *You can take bus from Ekamai bus terminal (BTS) go to the beach
    link for BTS and MRT maps
    http://www.bts.co.th/customer/en/02-route-current.aspx
    http://www.bangkokmetro.co.th/map.aspx?Lang=En&Menu=8&Sid=1

    Hope this will help.

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