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Amazing Thailand. Need you advice on Optional tours in Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.

Amazing Thailand. Need you advice on Optional tours in Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.

Nov 7th, 2005, 08:28 PM
  #1  
Lev
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 204
Amazing Thailand. Need you advice on Optional tours in Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.

My wife and I are going with SmarTours this month. It is 14 days tour covering
Bangkok and the area North of Bangkok.
We will have 3 full days in Bangkok. We will be staying at Holiday Inn Silom Hotel.
Day 1:
There will be prepaid tour covering Wat Trimitr, Wat Po, and the White Marble Temple.
Free time in the afternoon or they offer an optional canal (the Klongs) boat ride across the river for a glimpse of local daily life with a stop at the Royal Barge Museum. Price is $20 per person. It seems that they do not visit Wat Arun that is just across the river. Do you recommend us to take this tour? Is it worth visiting Wat Arun?

Day 2:
No planned trips. They offer an optional full day tour to the floating market of Damneon Saduak, Rose Garden resort for lunch followed by Thai Village Show. Price: $45 per person including lunch. Do you recommend taking this optional tour?

Day 3:
No planned trips. They offer an optional half day tour to the Imperial Grand Palace with the Temple of the “Emerald Buddha”. Price: $25 per person.
OR
Full day River Kwai tour plus lunch (renowned Bridge on River Kwai, etc.) Price: $45 per person, lunch included.

Probably it makes more sense to visit the Imperial Grand Palace with the Temple of the “Emerald Buddha”. Is it better to take this optional tour to avoid crowds or it is better just to go there?
We will have half day for other activities.. What do you suggest? Jim Thompson's House?
Suan Pakkard Palace? Chinatown? Phra Athit Road area? Sukhumvit Road area? Wat Saket ? Wat Rachanatdaram?

They also offer an optional Dinner Cruise on Chao Phrya River ($35 per person, dinner included). Do you recommend it?

From Bangkok we will get to Chang Rai (through Ayuttaya, Phitsanulok, Sukothai,Lampang, Chiang Saen, a short boat trip on the Mekong River towards the Golden Triangle, Mae Sai). We will not have free time and optional tours on the way to Chiang Rai.

We’ll have 1 full day in Chiang Rai with no planned tours.
They offer ½ day Mae Kok River Boat Trip and Hilltribe Tour (en route visit a temple located in a cave) for $25 per person.
Do you recommend taking this tour? If we take this tour, we will have ½ day for other activities. What do you recommend? Leisurely walk around the town visiting Wat Doi Tong, Wat Phra Keo and Wat Phra Singh?

From Chiang Rai we will drive to Chiang Mai. We will have 3 days in Chiang Mai.
Day 1:
We will arrive from Chiang Rai and have free time. What do you recommend?
There is an optional Kantoke Dinner and Entertainment (songs and dances by local tribes). $20 per person, dinner included. Do you recommend it?
Day 2:
½ day planned visit to an elephant camp and Orchid Farm.
½ day optional Arts and Crafts Tour (observe craftsmen at work, spinning and weaving of Thai silks and decoration of paper umbrellas, wood carving factory ($15 par person).
Do you recommend taking this tour? If not, what do you recommend us to do?

Day 3:
Optional morning City & Temples Tour (includes Doi Suthep Temple at 3,500 feet above see level. $18 per person.
The rest of the day is free. What do you recommend to see?

Day 4:
Free day. No planed activities or optional tours. We fly to Bangkok in the evening to connect to our flight to Los Angeles. What do you recommend us to do this day?

In all places we want to see as much as possible and we do not want to waste our time on shopping.

Thank you very much for your help.
Lev.



Lev is offline  
Nov 7th, 2005, 08:52 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,925
i find their prices quite steep...the klong tour you can do on your own for about 1000 B....$25 for the full boat to yourself...arrange at taskim pier..

you can tour the grand palace by yourself very easily...take a taxi there for about $2-3 from HI...guides are available at the door or do it totally on your own...just wander around...that is what i like to do...

floating market is quite worth while but i do not like rose garden, but it is part of the trip...

forget river kwai...too far and not very interesting...

silom road is interesting to explore on your own...patpong is nearby for nite time market and more???

silom village across from HI and up the street a ways is a very nice shopping and eating complex...

HI is not the nicest hotel, but it will do...it is well located...

bkk has tons of shopping so that will take up lots of your time...
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 07:49 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,282
I would definitely NOT take any of the packaged tours. If you want to go to the floating market do it own your own with a private guide/driver and leave by 7 AM and come home at 11 when the tour buses go there. To go with them is not only a waste of money but a waste of time.

For your free time in Bangkok I would do the following:
1. hire a boat and take a klong tour that includes Wat Arun (my favotire), royal barges and perhaps the flower market. This should take 3-4 hours and is a highlight,
2. Go to themple of the emerald buddha and palace on your own or hire a guide there. Make sure you get there when the doors open as it becomes very crowded.
3. Jim Thompson House is a must -- go on your own as they have a docent tour when you get there. It's a great place for lunch as well.
4. Vimamanek Mansion is another highlight. Again go on your own as they have a docent tour. Give yourself enough time to see the things on the grounds in addition to the house. The have free thai dancing at certain times of the day so you may want to coordinate your time to that.

Skip the dinner cruise. For that money you can go to Lord Jim at the Oriental Hotel and have a fabulous meal while looking at the river or you can do their outdoor buffet.

In Chiang Rai make sure you go to the Queen Mother's botanic gardens and workshops.

If you don't want to shop avoid all organized tours. In Chiang Mai I would skip the trip to the elehpant farm and orchid farm and go instead to the elpehant conservation center in Lampang -- it is much better. The craft tour is interesting but do it with a hired driver which will be cheaper and if you get one that one of us has used you will not have to spend your entire time being urged to shop. Doi Suthep is a must.
glorialf is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 07:54 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,242
Do the night market - far better than the weekend market - which is hot and a zoo.
Also do the Calypso cabaret- lady boy show in the evening at the Asia Hotel.
BillT is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 08:42 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Bill and Bob -- they have said they do NOT want to spend time shopping.
glorialf is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 09:10 AM
  #6  
Lev
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 204
Thanks Gloria. You mentioned that
if we want to go to the floating market do it with a private guide/driver. Does this private guide/driver will arrange and be with us on the boat? How much will the trip cost? Where and how can we find a guide/driver?
You also suggested to hire a boat and take a klong tour that includes Wat Arun, royal barges and perhaps the flower market. Sounds perfect. Where and how can we arrange this tour? How much do they usually charge for the tour?
Lev.
Lev is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 09:31 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,242
Shopping is the great elixer that cures many ills- however, as Gloria points out, these folks do not partake so.....go to the Calypso Cabaret- Bangkok Bob and I give it a big thumbs up!
BillT is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 10:17 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,282
To be honest -- based on the amount of time you have in Bangkok I would skip the floating market. As for the klong trip I always have the boatman at the Oriental book it but I stay there. I would post a separate thread asking how to do it. I know it's easy and can be done at the moment you want to go.
glorialf is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 10:25 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,925
the klong tour is arranged at taskim pier as i mentioned above (that is the end of the skytrain)...or it can be arranged in back of the river city shopping center at one of the kiosks there....

HI will get you a driver....it will cost about 250 per hour plus a charge for mileage....will perhaps cost $60 for about 4 hours...

ratt could also take you as could julie's taxi....ratt gives an excellent tour to FM...
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 04:37 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 492
Lev, My husband and I are going on the same tour in February. We won't go on any optionals and in fact, I intend to opt out of as many of the included tours as I can - we'll see Wat Po on our own and with the little time we have in Bangkok, Wat Timitr and White Marble Temple aren't at the top of my list. It's so much easier to travel around by yourself - river taxis, skytrain, car and driver - group tours always stop at some obligatory shopping place, travel too slowly and don't spend the amount of time I'd like at the actual sites. I hate lugging them around.

I've never been to Thailand but we've traveled independently so much and with the wealth of information out there, I'm sure we'll have a blast.

We're going with Smartours because you can't beat the price and the hotels are just fine. We went to Beijing with them a few years ago and did the same thing - no optionals. It was great.

Please give us a trip report when you return - I'll be especially interested. Have fun.
jahlie is offline  
Nov 9th, 2005, 10:27 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 66
Not sure if you're into bike riding, but my husband and I did a great mountain bike riding trip out of Chiang Mai last year. I am not a mountain biked and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We primarily rode on the road through the country side, with a little time on a mountain bike trail. It was just my husband, myself, and the guide. Great way to see out and see the country off the beaten path. We used active thailand and our guide was great. www.activethailand.com
ZoeB is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2005, 04:57 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 8
My wife and I are taking this trip to Thailand in January. I am interested in how you found the trip, and how many of these suggestions you took. Please, if you have time, share your experience. Last March my son and I did the trip to Beijing/Shanghai with Friendly Planet/Smartours and were generally pleased, however we didn't take any of the tours. We explored on our own very easily. Result; we saw more and had a better overall experience than if we would have gone on the optional tours with the time wasting shopping stops.

Darryl
Darryll1 is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2005, 06:21 PM
  #13  
CFW
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Lev, I agree with everyone else. Skip the optional tours and see the sights on your own. Do some searches on this site and get a good guide book and you will be fine. Given the short amount of time you have in Bangkok I would skip the River Kwai and the floating market and concentrate on sights in Bangkok:
Grand Palace
Wat Po
Jim Thompson House
Vimanmek Palace (dancers are at 10:30 and 2:30 I think)
Wat Arun
Royal Barge Museum
Klong Tour
Wat Arun

Whatever you do, you will have a wonderful time.
CFW is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2005, 07:18 PM
  #14  
CFW
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,482
Oh, and don't miss the flower market.
CFW is offline  

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