Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page >

3 Fabulous Weeks - BKK, Chiang Mai & surrounding area, & Pimalai on Koh Lanta (Krabi)

3 Fabulous Weeks - BKK, Chiang Mai & surrounding area, & Pimalai on Koh Lanta (Krabi)

Feb 6th, 2005, 03:20 AM
  #1  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
3 Fabulous Weeks - BKK, Chiang Mai & surrounding area, & Pimalai on Koh Lanta (Krabi)

Just got back from our first trip to Thailand & recovering from jet lag, but wanted to thank everyone on Fodors whose advice and responses to endless questions made our trip even better than expected. My husband and I both felt this was our best trip ever and we definately want to go back - hopefully next year same time. Although it's high season & a little more expensive the weather was perfect. The heat and humidity were not as bad as we expected, and never a drop of rain. We just can't say enough good things about the country and particularly the people who make Thailand a special experience like no other. And then there's Thai massage. Andy, you are absolutely right. Thai massage is extraordinary. It's like Yoga, only better. I've never felt so relaxed in my life. I thought the best was at the Oasis Spa in Chiang Mai. Am looking for Thai massage in Connecticut, so if anyone knows of anyone, let me know!

Ok, so here's a summary of our trip. Could go on & on, but will try to summarize with some useful info. We flew Korean Air because we had frequent flyer miles on Delta (their partner) & were able to fly business class. Service was very good, food was good, seats were roomy, but the foot rests were not particularly comfortable and the in-flight entertainment was very limited. On one of the legs (Bangkok to Seoul) the flight was nearly empty and the Thai reservation clerk at check-in bumped us up to first class & that was VERY comfortable.

On arrival in BKK shortly after midnight we used AAC limousine service, which Bob recommended & they were very reliable & efficient. The best thing about them is they are based right at the airport, so you don't have a concern about what to do in case of no-show. [email protected].

Arrived at the Marriott Resort & Spa, thanks again to Bob, and it was even better than expected. Although it is not as convenient as the Shangri-La, Peninsula, Oriental, or Royal Orchid Sheraton, we loved the low-rise garden setting and open feeling. The decor was beautiful, the service was fabulous, and the breakfast buffets were beautifully presented and delicious with incredible choices - tropical juices & fruit, eggs, omelets, pancakes,bacon, ham, sausage, breakfast potatoes, salads, breads & pastries, and Asian noodles & other Asian choices. And delicious strong coffee. We were upgraded to a junior suite which was spacious & had a huge bathroom with double sinks, separate shower & tub, and a dressing table with mirror.

Our first day in BKK we spent getting adjusted to the time change & getting a view of the riverside area. Took the riverboat to the Oriental Hotel & went to Cotton House in Oriental Place around the corner from the hotel to start the tailoring process. I highly recommend them - I had blouses & a pants outfit made from Chinese silk and the whole experience was a pleasure. Two fittings & everything came out perfectly. By the way, the Oriental has a lovely "old world" atmosphere, and I would have loved to have tea there one afternoon, but couldn't persuade my husband. Maybe next trip.

That evening had a spa treatment at the Mandara Spa , and that was our only disappointment at the Marriott. Over-priced compared to others spas in Thailand, and the scrub & aromatherapy massage were very mediocre. The setting was not particularly special, either. Would have liked to try other spas in Bangkok, including some Thai massages from Wat Po, but despite the fact that we had 7 days in BKK, never seemed to have the time. Next trip! Things do take longer in BKK, because the city is quite spread out (and the Marriott is a little out of the way, though we liked that it is an oasis away from it all). The sky train is limited in its reach, and you do have to take taxis and sit in traffic to get to some places, so you just have to allow time. There was a terrible subway accident when we were in BKK, so the subway was closed down, which may have made traffic worse. Anyway, our favorite sites in BKK were the Grand Palace & Wat Po, the flower market, & Vimanmek Palace & the Thai dancing there at 10:30 a.m. Also enjoyed Jim Thompson House & Suan Pakkard. And of course shopping. My husband, who is not a shopper, could not get enough of Jim Thompson silk stores - kept going back to buy more shirts, ties & scarfs. Expensive, but fabric designs are like no others.
Restaurants in BKK. Our favorite was Harmonique. The crab curry was outstanding as was the whole fried fish, which you can order with different sauces. Baan Kanitha on Soi 23 is in a lovely setting, but we were somewhat disappointed with the food, but maybe we did not order well. The most beautiful restaurant was MahaNaga, but again the food was not as good as the setting. Again, perhaps we did not order well. They have Asia fusion food, and we both had New Zealand lamb chops with different sauces. The sauces were delicious, but the lamb chops were very thin and fatty -- not anything like the New Zealand lamb we get here. Cabbages & Condoms was also disappointing. Again, we liked the setting, but the food was really just mediocre. Had some lovely lunches, though. The cafe at Jim Thompson house was lovely and the food very good. Also, had lunch one day near Grand Palace/ Wat Po by the river at a place called S & P, which is really a chain of coffee-shop style (but very nice & clean) restaurants. The only people in the restaurant were Thai & we though the food was GREAT. Turns out there is an S &P in the outdoor mall across from the Marriott - only discovered it on our last day as we were going to pick up laundry.

I'm getting tired, so will stop for now. More later.


CFW is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 05:15 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,282
Glad you had such a wonderful time. Thailand really can become adicting.

Happy that you were pleased with Cotton House as I have been over the years. Next time, DO have tea at the Author;s Lounge. It's a treat.

Can't wait to try the Oasis Spa when I'm in Chiang Mai next year . Where is it?

Looking forward to the rest of your report.
glorialf is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 06:27 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 198
Thank you for the great report so far.

Looking forward to more.
jvrab12 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 07:36 AM
  #4  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Oasis Spa in Chiang Mai is near Suthep Rd outside the city walls at 102 Sirimuangkarajan Rd. Tel is 0-5322-7494. They will send a car to pick you up. Their web site is www.chiangmaioasis.com. It is truly an oasis in the middle of Chiang Mai. Set in a garden, each treatment room is lovely and has its own private garden with outdoor shower, etc.
CFW is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 09:07 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,687
It sounds like you had a wonderful time ! I'm so glad.
Kathie is online now  
Feb 6th, 2005, 07:12 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,929
great report....who is this bob guy he gave you good info, especially about that marriott hotel ....

where is the maha naga restaurant? i would like to try it this spring, but not lamb....the boss hates lamb....
rhkkmk is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 10:04 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 1,602
Very interesting report, CFW. I obviously agree with you about the Mandara Spa on the Marriott property, as I had posted about that previously. The Mandara at ROS is much better, and not quite as expensive I believe-however, I did not do the spa thing this last trip to BKK(after visiting the Marriott Mandara Spa I knew I wouldn't like it there)--my next trip will include CM, and I will definitely check out the Oasis Spa-your experience there supports the idea that CM really is turning into a spa/tranquillity destination in Thailand.

I also totally agree with you about Baan Kanitha restaurant. The food was only okay, overpriced, and although the restaurant/house was decorated quite beautifully, I couldn't get out of there fast enough-it was 100 per cent farang- I felt like I was in a Thai restaurant in the US!

I'm going to have to try Cotton House this next trip-I think I meant to do so on this last trip-but just forgot and didn't make a mental note of it-I hear nothing but good reviews of this shop, both here and elsewhere.


Spygirl is offline  
Feb 7th, 2005, 02:11 AM
  #8  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Bob, Maha Naga is a 2 Sukhumvit Soi 29. Tel # is 02662-3060. It is a little expensive for Bangkok (about $50 for two I think), but the setting was really beautiful. Let us know what you think.

Spygirl, Wish I could remember the name of the lovely woman who helped me at Cotton House. She was great - very attentive to detail and a pleasure to be around. Perhaps Gloriaf will know her name as she was the person who initially recommended Cotton House so highly.

Well, I'm off to a conference for 3 days, so I'll try to do more of the trip report when I get back.
CFW is offline  
Feb 7th, 2005, 05:22 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,282
The staff at Cotton House has been the same since it opened about 8 years ago. I've had all the women at different times and they are all wonderful. I have never had one problem with any of them. Not only are they great at what they do but they are gracious and not at all hard sell -- in fact they talked me OUT of getting one thing made this time.
glorialf is offline  
Feb 9th, 2005, 02:54 AM
  #10  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Here's some more of our trip report: In Bangkok we used a guide who was referred by several posters on Fodor's for visiting the Grand Palace/Wat Po, a Klong tour with the Roayl barges, and for a day trip to the River Kwai area. Since it was our first trip we thought it was helpful to have a guide to give us some deeper insight into the history, culture, religion than we were able to get from guide books. The guide, tan, turned out to be perfect for our needs. Her name is Tan, and she was a journalist/photographer for a newspaper in Bangkok until it folded in the economic crisis in 1997. She is a TAT licensed tour guide, very knowleadgeable, and speaks excellent English. Has been to the US & Europe. Also, lively and lots of fun. She was very flexible and willing to take us wherever we wanted to go, including an "off-the-beaten track" temple outside of Bangkok (more about that later). Her prices were very reasonable - 750 Baht for a half day & 1500 Baht for a full day.

Although our guide was good, we would not particularly recommend the River Kwai trip. We had expected more beautiful scenery and were disappointed. The war museum is small, not particularly well-done, with very repetitive photos - not that interesting. We spent an hour on the "death railway" that went through some of the mountain side that had been cut through by the POWs, but again, most of the train trip went through countryside that was not very scenic or interesting. Had lunch at a barge restaurant on the river, which was pleasant. The best part of the trip, however, was a visit to the Tiger temple in the area, which my husband particularly enjoyed. The monks in this particular temple near the River Kwai have kept a number of tigers, which they have cared or and tamed. It was amazing to see these beautiful animals and the monks with them. My husband even petted one sitting under a tree, though I was scared to death since they are after all wild animals who can "turn" on people that are not known to them. The monks and handlers carefully monitor them, however, and ask visitors to move away when the tigers seem to have had enough. There were very few visitors and it did not seem too touristy as I feared it might. The tigers seem well cared for by the monks, and we got a couple of photos of one of the monks with a baby tiger in his lap.

Another highlight of our River Kwai trip was a visit to a Wat in a small town (Nathum Pratom) outside of Bangkok at the end of the day on the way back to the city. The wat has one of the largest chedis in Thailand, and it is apparently a teaching wat and "univeristy" for monks. Friends who live in Bangkok recommended it. It was large and peaceful, and we arrived at about 5:00 p.m. just in time for the evening prayers. It is a huge wat and the sound of the monks chanting carried throughout the peaceful pavilion surrounding the wat was absolutely beautiful and one of the wonderful memories of our trip.

Next on to Chiang Mai. We stayed at the Rahamankha, which is a small beautiful new "boutique" hotel recently opened by the owners of Tamarind Village. It is a low key two story hotel with room two landscaped courtyards. The sitting areas facing the courtyards are beautifully and tastefully furnished in an elegant Asian minimalist style and the entire place has a quiet elegant feel. The rooms and bathrooms are very comfortable, and we enjoyed staying there. The location is within the old city, but on the opposite side from the night market and Tapae Gate, so it is a bit out of the way near the Wat Pra Singh. If you want to be in the center of the action, the location is not good, but we didn't mind being somewhat away from it all.

Chiang Mai is very different from Bangkok. Smaller, no high rises (or very few except on the outskirts), and no taxis. The old city, which is quite large (about an hour walk from one side to the other) is surrounded by old brick walls and a moat, and is a very enjoyable area for walking, with lots of wats and a lovely large park on one corner. Much less traffic and transporation is by tuk tuk or little red "trucks" with passenger seats on two parallel benches in the back. You can also get cars with drivers at every hotel, so getting around is not a problem. The air is clearer and humidity and temperatures much lower. When we were there at the end of January the weather was in fact perfect. 80s during the day, clear blue skies, and very little humidity. For some reason Chiang Mai seemed to us to attract younger visitors than Bangkok, perhaps because it is the access city to trekking & elephants. Anyway, there seemed to be lots of young Europeans walking along the streets, in the cafes, and at the internet places we visited to send e-mails home, which gave the city a young fun feel. Chiang Mai also seems to be home to lots of lovely spas. I went to one in the city called the Oasis Spa, which I have posted about eleswhere on fodors. It is truly an oasis set in a landscaped garden and each treatment room has its own private garden with outdoor shower & bath. Had the best Thai massage, and other treatments, all at very reasonable prices.

We used Poon for a couple of days/half days for siteseeing and shopping, and she was great. Have also posted about her elsewhere, as have many others. We used Poon to take us to Doi Suthep, which is one of the most beautiful wats we saw in Thailand up on a hill outside of Chiang Mai. She also took us to the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, which we loved. It is a large well-maintained elephant center about an hour south of Chiang Mai that I think is supported by the government. Elephants are well cared for (they also have an elephant hospital on the site). They have a great elephant show at 10:00 a.m., but you should get there by about 9:15 to see the elephants bathing in the river. If you like elephants, this place is fabulous. We also did a one hour elephant trek along the river, but you can do shorter or longer rides.

Have to go now, but will follow up with more later.
CFW is offline  
Feb 9th, 2005, 06:24 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 1,602
Excellent description of Chiang Mai-it is one of the cities on the backpacker circuit throughout S.E. Asia, so it does have a lot of youth there, and the city is set up, I think, to cater to western travelers-it makes things easy for you. I'm quite looking forward to returning there.
Spygirl is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 02:50 AM
  #12  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Here's some more of our trip report. Shopping in Chiang Mai area is great - Poon took us to Hang Dong & Baan Tawai where we bought a wooden spirit house. Also bought beautiful celadon at Baan Ceadon on San Kampaeng Rd. We were disappointed in the night market - Lots of T-shirt stalls & not as many handcrafts as we expected, though I did buy a beautiful crocodile handbag at a vendor on the first floor of the mall for about 1/2 the price of what I had seen in Bangkok (which was 1/2 the price of the U.S.).

As far as restaurants go, we liked the Whole Earth (which many have written about) and the Grand Lanna on San Kampaeng Rd (now owned by Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi but still called the Grand Lanna). Grand Lanna was very special. A little expensive for Chiang Mai, but the setting and decor are stunning and we thought the food was delicious.

We also did an overnight at a teak house called Lanna Farm in a lovely agricultural valley just north of Chiang Mai, which we enjoyed very much. Booked it through the Lisu Lodge web site. The package included private car & driver, visit to the Queen Sirikit botanical garden & the Hilltribe museum along the way. Then a river boat trip on a long tail boat with a stop for lunch at a raft restaurant on the river, and then arrival at the beautiful teak house in late afternoon. We had a Thai massage on the sala outside our room. The house has about 6 room all opening on to the lovely sala. There was only one other couple staying there - a young couple from Switzerland who we enjoyed talking to. Had a fun cooking class there the next day.

Then off to the Pimalai, which was PARADISE, on Koh Lanta. Will post about that tomorrow.
CFW is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 04:02 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 21
I know I keep asking alot of Q's. but I am very excited to go to CM. I wanted to know what type of river cruises CM may have. My wife and I will be there for business and pleasure. Would a river cruise be recommended to slow things down a bit?
trvlmnky is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 05:37 PM
  #14  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Just want to finish up our trip report for anyone interested in a southern beach resort that is really paradise. We can't recommend the Pimalai highly enough. It was only slightly affected by the Tsunami (the beach open air bar/restaurant & 6 villas on the beach, but when we were there they were already replacing landscaping & opening them back up). Unfortunately, though they suffered very little damage from the Tsunami, they have had a dramatic drop in visitors, and we were so glad we decided not to cancel. The resort is spectacular and low key, and the people were so warm and happy to have us there they just made our stay so memorable. You fly to Krabi and are met by a car & driver from the hotel and then drive about 45 minutes to a dock where you take a boat for 45 minutes to get to the resort. The trip from the airport was enjoyable & interesting & the boat ride relaxing. We planned to stay 3 nights & then go to Koh Samui for three nights, but loved the Pimalai so much that we cancelled Samui and stayed there for the rest of or vacation. Rooms were in individual units with lovely teak floors, terraces, and spacious bathrooms with separate shower. The beach was wide, long and perfect - framed by palms and lush vegetation. Water was so clear that we could see our toes. There was a lovely infinity swimming pool surrounded by tropical gardens with birds of paradise, jasmine & other tropical plants. It sounds corny but the smell of jasmine actually filled the air. And the spa was great - individual thatched treatment rooms in a garden with ponds and the sound of flowing water. Total R & R to end a wonderful vacation.
CFW is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 05:42 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,929
sounds wonderful....so now have you planned your return so you can go to samui???
rhkkmk is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 05:52 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 284
Is the December a good time/weather to go to Pimalai? We will need to decide between Pimalai or Langkawi location. All suggestions are welcome. Thank you.
clear is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 05:56 PM
  #17  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
November, December, & January are great months weather-wise. Clear blue skies with temperatures in the high 80's low 90's F. Humidity was low, and there were no mosquitoes.
CFW is offline  
Feb 10th, 2005, 09:11 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 259
CFW can you tell me what mall you bought the crocodile purse in? One of my shopping goals is to come home with a crocodile purse. Were the purses expensive? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
austine is offline  
Feb 11th, 2005, 03:23 PM
  #19  
CFW
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Bought the crocodile purse and my husband bought a crocodile wallet at a PKK Supply which is on the ground floor, toward the back, of the night market building in Chiang Mai. The owner, who was very nice and not at all pushy, has a factory that makes handbags, belts & wallets using crocodile, stingray or snake skin. He said he supplies stores in Italy and California. We thought his styles & quality were very good, and his prices were the best we saw anywhere - a medium size crocodile handbag & a wallet for my husband were about $200.
CFW is offline  
Feb 12th, 2005, 08:26 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 1,602
You know I was shown crocodile leather in both HKG and BKK, and it looked very nice made into purses and shoes. And the importation of crocodile is legal in the US as to those companies that have legal import licenses. But the fact of the matter is, this administration is rather stealthily dismantling environmental laws across the board, including endangered species laws, as it now paving the way to allow for the importation of ivory, among other animals and parts of animals, to satisy those people who like to have the skins and heads on the wall and bragging rights to same.

There are many endangered crocodile species throughout the world-African, Mexican, and of course the American crcodile. As for me, I don't want to further contribute to the declining population of endangered species solely in the name of vanity and bragging rights, in order to show the folks back home what a good deal I found in the other part of the world, so I draw the line at real crocodile.

Actually, I think faux crocodile purses and wallets, from the right designer, not only don't look half bad, but are quite stylish, besides the fact that such items are morally consonant with my point-of-view.
Spygirl is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:33 AM.