Bangkok - tours or driver

Old Feb 6th, 2005, 01:58 AM
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Bangkok - tours or driver

I would like info on a good tour company that operates half day and full day trips in and around Bangkok also suggestions about having a driver for a day - how much they charge for a day etc etc and whether its best to take an organised tour or a driver. Places i want to visit are :- Grand Palace, Floating Market & River Kwai, and Thonburi Klongs. Open to suggestions
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 02:58 AM
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We used a guide in Bangkok whose name we got through this site and we HIGHLY recommend her. Her name is Tan and you can reach her by e-mail at: [email protected]. She works for Diethelm Travel, but also does custom freelance work, which is what we did. Lower cost & you can then see and do exactly what you want to do on your own schedule. It was out first time in Bangkok, and we wanted a guide rather than just a driver to give us more of an understanding of what we were seeing, as well as some explanation of culture and history. Tan fit the bill perfectly. Her English was excellent, she was always punctual & reliable and she was lots of fun to be around. She is very accommodating and will customize the trip exactly as you want. We visited almost all of the sites you mention with her & she made great transportation arrangments for us. Taxi to Grand Palace & Wat Po, which we wouldn't have enjoyed as much without her explanations of the history, the murals, and the Buddhist traditions. A longtail boat on the Klongs & the Royal barge museum, which you should not miss. And a day trip to the River Kwai, with some time at the tiger Wat, which my husband enjoyed immensely. Tan arranged a car & driver for this trip, which was very comfortable, although we were quite disappointed with the River Kwai area -- it was not nearly as scenic as we thought it would be. The war museum is interesting, but it is very small, not very well done and the photos are very repetitive. We also took an hour-long trip on the "death railway," which we thought was too long. All in all it was a long day and we thought not really worth the time it took, although my husband did love the tigers... If you use Tan, please tell her hello from Carole & Rob from Connecticut.
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 03:07 PM
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cfw, when you say her english was excellent is that with a heavy accent? I am asking because I was in BKK last September and used Ratt. I really enjoyed Ratt except, even though she had good english, I still had a very hard time understanding her.
I am planning another trip this September with my son and am torn between trying someone else or just not getting everything Ratt says. Thanks.
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 03:14 PM
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There is really no reason to take tours. For the Grand Palace/Temp[le of the Emerald Buddha, I'd recommend getting there on your own, and if you want a guide, you can gire one there. For the other places you can either hire a car and driver (River Kwai) or get an individualized tour. Wait until you are in Bangkok to arrange these - it'l be MUCH cheaper.
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 04:39 PM
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lbrown, We had no trouble at all understanding Tan. Kathie, yes you can get to the Grand Palace & all other sites in BKK on your own, but for the first time visitor we thought it was helpful to have a guide to provide explanations and context for what we were seeing. Some places, such as the Jim Thompson House & Vinmanek Palace provide guided tours, but the Grand Palace & Wat Po do not, and as first time visitors we liked having an individualized guide who provided interesting information not only about the sites, but about the culture and Thai Buddhism. She also gave us some insight into the Thai economy and way of life. Tours available through hotel or travel agents in Thailand are not any cheaper -- tourist-based services have rates geared to tourists, not Thais.
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 04:59 PM
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For the floating market, imo, you need to get a car and driver. that is what we did and it was great, but by the time we left and all the tours had shown up, it was a MESS! we used julie taxi, at www.julietaxi.com and had Udohm drive us there, it was great! Bu ti totally agree with Kathie that for the rest of the stuff, do it on your own, or when you get to the Grand Palace hire a guide there. Jeffrey
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 06:48 PM
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CFW, in my experience any tour you book locally are much less expensive than what you can book in advance via the internet or a travel agent.
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 07:36 PM
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we usually use a combo and for the 4 things you list i would split it down the middle....we used ratt who is often spoken of on this board to take us to the floating market and to river kwai area....i agree that the river area is not really all that great...we had lots of time so decided to do it, but i would not return again---most things in and around bkk i love to repeat, but not this one....the day was a long 13 hour day....she charges 225B per hour and 1 B per kilometer....it was about US $100 for the day with a decent tip....i will use her again....foreigners speak with an accent---THEY ARE FOREIGN afterall...you have to listen very carefully and ask them to repeat if you do not understand sometimes....

for the klongs i would only do it by myself and a long tail boat driver...

i prefer the grand palace on my own as well....there is tons there that could be explained to you, but i prefer just to soak it up without too much history and knowledge...you can get that from a book....
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Old Feb 6th, 2005, 10:20 PM
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T>Traveller,

Pvt touring v/s organsied coach tours should be evaluted on the time & budget that you have.

On shorter time frames, I prefer to book, the organised daily coach tours, locally with the hotel tour desk upon arrival as I hv found them to be cheaper, reliable & better organised.

Chk out the local coach tours cost & pvt tours on the net with the diethelm travel or tour east web site.
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 03:31 AM
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Tan was also about $100 for a full day trip to River Kwai and the tiger temple (and a stop at a special temple on the way back, which was recommended by our friends who live in Bangkok). Price included guide (Tan) and very comfortable Volvo and driver. I honestly don't think you can get better prices if you book in Bangkok, and we thought Tan was great. She was highly recommended by several people on this forum. Her rates as a guide are 750 Baht for half day (1500 Baht for full day). As to whether to use a guide or not, everyone is different. We liked having a guide on this our first trip for all of the cultural information, but would probably not use one on a return visit.
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 07:34 AM
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there is a lot to be said about having help especially on your first trip...just getting around can be difficult...after 6 times in bkk we still sometimes get turned around and waste time getting places...

our 13 hour day included: floating market for maybe 1- 1 1/2 hours (our second visit---no boat ride this time)... pottery kiln/shop---excellent...wood carving center/royal thai crafts---not a good place really....large town where museum is....lunch at floating restaurant at river kwai bridge...pre-historic museum in area--very interesting....angkor style ruins in a large park....monkeys along the road...stop at elephant camp/we passed on this....drive to myanmar border...local countryside viewing....site away from town of death railway cut through rocks along river...visit to museum...drive-by of war time cemetary---we choose not to go in/have done them in europe...very long ride back to bkk...a wonderful day really...
this was 13 hours with ratt and cost about $100....her car is a toyota corolla taxi....they have a larger van as well for more money... whe provides cold water and soda whenever you want it...she is very pleasant and we had no trouble understanding her...
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 08:04 AM
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rhkkmk - I understand that FOREIGNERS speak with an accent. I also know that some people have heavier accents than others. As I said I did enjoy Ratt a great deal, I just could not understand her that well. I have difficulty with all accents, so I try to find those who have less of an accent than others. It may be my hearing, I cannot help that.

As far as hiring a driver, I really enjoyed having an air conditioned car with ice cold water waiting for me after each tour. I also enjoyed having someone who could recommend things and do all the driving. Since I was alone last visit I was a bit leary of wandering too much on my own. This time with my son we will attempt the Skytrain and such. But for a quick day of temple hopping I like a driver with a/c and ice water.
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 10:37 AM
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bob; i'm interested in doing the 13hr trip that you did, but with a few questions:

1. what time do you rec. we start to beat the crowd at the floating mkt?
2. since this is the first time at the floating mkt, do you rec. the boat
ride?
3. what are the two to three locations that you visited that you feel could be skipped on your trip?
4. will late nov. be ok (weather wise) for this trip?
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 11:21 AM
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late nov will be simply the best time of the year!!!!
we started at 6:45 AM...it was perfect...i think you could start up until about 7:30 without problems...the earlier you go, the better as it is prime tourist season in nov, and there will be more people....going at that time ratt pulled right into a shed just above the market and it was fabulous....near to water and no heat from the sun on the car....

i would skip the royal thai crafts center....we did really like all the other things, especially the pottery shed where we saw them making everything from scratch and bringing in trees to fuel the fire....if you are going why not go full boar and see it all...it will only cost a little bit more..the pre-historic museum only took 1/2 hour and was interesting as were the khmer ruins (how do i know i stayed in the car at the ruins---i call them piles of rocks)

give your driver a fixed time you have to be back to bkk, like 7PM...

the boat...first ratt took us to a boat landing away from the market...she said we could board a medium size motorized boat and approach it via water....i asked the price and was told 1000B....this turned me off....i said no...the boat driver reduced it to 750B and i said no and walked away and told ratt i did not want this and wanted to be taken directly to the market...i think she was testing me for what i was willing to pay and if i knew what i was doing and how much things should cost...interesting....

she then drove us directly to the market...

when we were there the first time our driver just dropped us off and we later returned to the parking lot to his car---this was a marriott car---he got lost on the way there by the way....
we went to the back of the market---away from the river and rented a small boat there so we could ride through the market...the owner lady paddled it and navigated amongst the boats...you hit and bounch off one another...i think we paid the woman about 300B which is what i had read in a guide book, maybe less even....don't take the first person who asks you, bargain or have your driver do it...IT IS VERY WORTHWHILE....i loved being right down in the middle of things and taking pictures....the boat ladies try to sell you things as well, i.e. souveniers and foods...the ride is maybe 30 minutes...
the buildings along the canal where the market is are lined with things to buy...the usual tourist stuff....karen bought a hat on the first trip---straw peasant farmers hat...it is in our basement after our kids laughed at her the first time she wore it to the beach in nantucket....
ratt bought us some delicious coconut muffins just baked from a boat lady from the side lines ...

after riding in the boat make sure you walk along the canal as you get a good over view from there also great picture taking....just above my computer i have a great overshot of the market, which i love to look at...of course i have probably 200 other 5X7 pictures on these walls to look at too....
hope i have answered everything

bob
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 11:21 AM
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late nov will be simply the best time of the year!!!!
we started at 6:45 AM...it was perfect...i think you could start up until about 7:30 without problems...the earlier you go, the better as it is prime tourist season in nov, and there will be more people....going at that time ratt pulled right into a shed just above the market and it was fabulous....near to water and no heat from the sun on the car....

i would skip the royal thai crafts center....we did really like all the other things, especially the pottery shed where we saw them making everything from scratch and bringing in trees to fuel the fire....if you are going why not go full boar and see it all...it will only cost a little bit more..the pre-historic museum only took 1/2 hour and was interesting as were the khmer ruins (how do i know i stayed in the car at the ruins---i call them piles of rocks)

give your driver a fixed time you have to be back to bkk, like 7PM...

the boat...first ratt took us to a boat landing away from the market...she said we could board a medium size motorized boat and approach it via water....i asked the price and was told 1000B....this turned me off....i said no...the boat driver reduced it to 750B and i said no and walked away and told ratt i did not want this and wanted to be taken directly to the market...i think she was testing me for what i was willing to pay and if i knew what i was doing and how much things should cost...interesting....

she then drove us directly to the market...

when we were there the first time our driver just dropped us off and we later returned to the parking lot to his car---this was a marriott car---he got lost on the way there by the way....
we went to the back of the market---away from the river and rented a small boat there so we could ride through the market...the owner lady paddled it and navigated amongst the boats...you hit and bounch off one another...i think we paid the woman about 300B which is what i had read in a guide book, maybe less even....don't take the first person who asks you, bargain or have your driver do it...IT IS VERY WORTHWHILE....i loved being right down in the middle of things and taking pictures....the boat ladies try to sell you things as well, i.e. souveniers and foods...the ride is maybe 30 minutes...
the buildings along the canal where the market is are lined with things to buy...the usual tourist stuff....karen bought a hat on the first trip---straw peasant farmers hat...it is in our basement after our kids laughed at her the first time she wore it to the beach in nantucket....
ratt bought us some delicious coconut muffins just baked from a boat lady from the side lines ...

after riding in the boat make sure you walk along the canal as you get a good over view from there also great picture taking....just above my comouter i have a great overshot of the market, which i love to look at...of course i have probably 200 other 5X7 pictures on these walls to look at too....
hope i have answered everything

bob
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Old Feb 7th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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great info bob, thanks.
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