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Nicolas_C Apr 30th, 2014 08:44 AM

Gate 1 Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam (17 Day)
My wife and I recently took Gate 1's 17-Day Bangkok. Cambodia, and Vietnam and we want to give future travelers our review of the pros (many) and cons (few).

In all, it's a trip I highly recommend. The pros....

1. Price. Unbeatable. We used miles to get into and out of Asia, so we paid Gate 1's "land only" price of around $1900, which includes about 15 nights in mostly superb hotels (including large breakfasts), 4 regional flights, 2 Regional Bus Trips, admission to all major attractions (Angkor Wat, Halong Bay Cruise, etc.), and the occasional meal. I always shop around and tried to beat this on my own and the regional flights alone ate up most of the budget. We probably would have had to stay at rat-infested hostels instead of consistently 4-star hotels to achieve the same price and even then would have probably gone over. Every single hotel included free wifi, by the way, another nice savings.

2. Nice balance of free time and tour time. Straight up, I'm more of an independent traveler then a tour traveler. Of the 40-some countries I've been to, about 35 of them have been solo, so joining a tour is something I do only if the price is off-the-charts unbeatable and I simply wouldn't be able to afford the trip otherwise. The great thing about Gate 1 (or at least this trip) is that you get lots of independent time so you don't have to feel like cattle the whole trip. Also...

3. The tour guides in Cambodia and Vietnam were exceptional. I mean, this is how it's done. They were young, they love their countries and cultures (though in the case of our Vietnam tour guide he also wasn't afraid to give a balanced view of his country's problems), and they want you to love it as much as they do. In their hands, I actually didn't mind being in a tour at all (it also didn't hurt that we got lucky and were only traveling with 10 other people). Being young and hip, they knew the local scene everywhere and made sure you got a taste of it.

4. Cambodia and Vietnam are unforgettable. Angkor Wat, Saigon (what a lively city!), Hoi An, Halong Bay, the food in Vietnam. A top 10 lifetime trip. Bangkok....meh.

Now, one con (and I wrote Gate 1 about correcting this)....

1. The Bangkok portion of the trip is, as of this writing, very poorly organized in marked contrast with the rest of the trip. Really, what it is is an optional add-on, to the more popular Cambodia/Vietnam itinerary (of the 10 people on our Vietnam portion, only 4 of us started in Bangkok) and you're basically on your own there. Again, this is totally fine (I prefer independent travel). The problem is that they advertise a "city orientation tour" that never happens - instead, a "guide" comes to the hotel, gives you a subway map and some tokens, and some tips on where to go. Just be forewarned about that. I was fine with it, but if you're more comfortable being toured around, I recommend calling and getting a guarantee that there will be an actual tour here. This kind of muck-up is very atypical of Gate 1, so I have to believe that their Thailand office is still getting organized or something. But to ensure happy travel before this trip, I would make sure to get clarification beforehand about the Thailand portion.

That's it! Happy travels. I think you'll love it!

Kathie Apr 30th, 2014 09:23 AM

Sorry to hear that Gate 1 did so badly on the Bangkok portion of the trip. Bangkok is a fabulous city - my favorite city in the world, and to not even orient you to the city - and to give you subway tokens - that's awful. The subway is not of much use to visitors, the sky train is the way most visitors get around in Bangkok. Gate 1 has had tours to Thailand for decades, so absolutely no excuse for this. They are well known for putting people up in poorly located hotels and that can be a real issue for Bangkok.

I'm glad the rest of your trip went well.

janisj Apr 30th, 2014 09:31 AM

Gate 1 asks their customers to post reviews on line . . . Bet they didn't think one would include the cons w/ the 'pros'. >)

LancasterLad Apr 30th, 2014 09:55 AM

The subway (Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) is very useful if it gets you to where you want to go! For example it's terminus at one end is Hualamphong, right next to Bangkok's biggest main line train station. So if you're staying in Silom or Sukhumvit it's an ideal way of getting to and from the train station.

The MRT also connects with the Skytrain at Silom and Sukhumvit (Asok), and with the International Airport Rail Link at Phetchaburi (Makkasan). So it's v.useful, and when I've used it there's been plenty of tourists on the train.

Tbh the Skytrain has got lots of cons to it, often well overcrowded, particularly since the line extended across the river. Lifts and escalators at stations often not working, resulting in loads of steps to negotiate.

Kathie Apr 30th, 2014 01:16 PM

LL, obviously you and I are going to different places in Bangkok.

LancasterLad May 1st, 2014 12:20 AM

Kathie. Not necessarily, I use both the MRT and Skytrain. But I try and avoid both during what often seem like eternal rush hours when sardines have more room in their can!

There's loads of interesting places in Bangkok that neither the MRT or Skytrain go within miles of. The Grand Palace, Banglamphu, and Chinatown, for example. That's when the Public Ferries and the Khlong Boats also come in useful.

It's a good idea for visitors to familiarise themselves with all the public transport options, and where the useful interchanges are.

Kathie May 1st, 2014 08:13 AM

The water taxis are my favorite form of transport in Bangkok. While they are packed at rush hour, at least you are on the water where it is cooler.

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