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Independent travel vs. Private tour--which would suit us?

Independent travel vs. Private tour--which would suit us?

Jun 21st, 2013, 06:35 PM
  #21  
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rhkkmk, good advice about Bangkok and private cars, I'll think about that one. And thanks everybody else--my head is now officially spinning.
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Jun 21st, 2013, 08:21 PM
  #22  
 
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tong and rat are excellent folks to help you in bkk...
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 08:34 AM
  #23  
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Still digging around--any nice beachy resorts within easy distance of Bangkok that we might enjoy? (I know I said "no" to Anantara in CR, but my ideal is a beach resort in French Polynesia--have no way to know how to compare this to Thailand.)
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 08:35 AM
  #24  
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I'm looking at Hua Hin, for example.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 09:12 AM
  #25  
 
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I am not an expert on beach resorts but both Phuket and Kho Samui in southern Thailand are quickly and easily reached by air from Bankok...
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 09:23 AM
  #26  
 
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Hua Hin is about a two hour drive from Bangkok. There are some nice places to stay like the Hyatt and a new Intercontinental. There are no beach resorts in Thailand that are like French Polynesia - no overwater bungalows, etc.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 10:12 AM
  #27  
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Yeh, well, we've never been able to afford to stay in an OWB anyways, actually wouldn't want to. But a nice beach bungalow, that would be great. Or small resort. I'm back and forth on this--if we chose a nice resort hotel in CR it might be almost as good--no ocean of course.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 10:57 AM
  #28  
 
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None of the places in Hua Hin have beach bungalows.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 11:03 AM
  #29  
 
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Plenty of places in the south...
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 01:14 PM
  #30  
 
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I am 68 and my husband will be 71 when we take our trip Jan-Aril 2014. We also want to have a relaxing pace with our sightseeing. We are doing Cambodia and Thailand DIY and most of Myanmar too. DIY is not difficult and you can save so much money.

For Bangkok I booked the Bossotel for us. www.bossotelinn.com It's about a 5 minute walk to Saphan Taksin BTS and adjacent to Sathorn Pier/Central Pier. Very good location. Next to the Shangri-la Hotel and near the Oriental. I booked directly with the hotel or you can use agent like booking.com. I got a superior room for 1800 THB per night. This price includes all taxes & service charges plus breakfast. It also has a pool. With this location it will be easy for you to get around without having to deal with the traffic which I've heard can be awful.
You mentioned Ayutthaya. We are doing that trip. I think it would be nice to do one way there by car/van and back on the rice barge. River Sun and Grand Pearl are the names of the rice barges. www.bangkok.com www.orientalescape.com/thailand www.localbangkoktours.com

For Siem Reap I splurged a bit, booking the Royal Angkor Resort and Spa. It has a pool and the price was $1319.50 for 14 nights. That's $94.25 per night. This includes all taxes, etc. and breakfast as well as a free pick up at the airport. We are flying from the US to SR. I booked this through booking.com as it was the best rate I could get for a superior room. Other hotels I considered-Golden Temple (great reviews), Central Boutique Angkor Hotel, The Kool Hotel (highly recommended), Borann, l'Auberge des Temples, Golden Mango Inn, Mother Home Inn.
We intend to get out and about early mornings, back to the hotel for a pool break and a bite to eat, then back out again around 2:30-3 pm. We plan to just get a tuk tuk driver for the Angkor site.
We are doing a full day trip to Preak Toal bird sanctuary/Tonle Sap with OSMOSE. www.osmosetonlesap.net/www/english/accueil.php
Our time here will be DIY except for a 2 day, 1 night trip up to remote sites near the Thai border.

We are taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. www.seat61.com/Thailand We will spend 5 nights at the Baan Orapin. Price $340 includes all taxes, etc. and breakfast. I booked a superior room through the hotel. e-mail [email protected] website www.baanorapin.com Property has a pool.
You mentioned Chiang Rai. I booked 3 nights there through agoda.com, staying at the Baan Soontree for about $50 per night. It has a pool. We will get to CR from CM via Green VIP bus.
Have booked Jermsak for 2 days in Chiang Rai. He gets outstanding reviews. I e-mailed him [email protected] He's very popular. With him we are doing a tea plantation, Doi Maeslong, Doi Tung mountain, coffee plantation, Maesai, Golden Triangle and Chiang Saen ancient city/Temples on day 1. If we want we can pay the small fee to see the Opium Museum, Doi Tung Villa, Doi Tung garden. On day 2 we visit the White Temple, stopping to walk across a suspension bridge and visit Lahu tribe and Akha villages, relaxing raft ride (with bbq lunch) on the Mekok River, and a final stop at a natural hot spring. We opted not to do the elephant portion of his trip as we were spending a day in CM at the Thai Elephant Home.

We are not going to Laos so can't offer any advice/info there. We opted to go to Myanmar for 28 nights using One Stop to book hotels and internal flights, boat, and the permit, etc. for Mrauk U. I am looking forward to seeing a country that hasn't been completely spoiled by tourism yet.

With your time frame of 16 days I would do at least 4 nights/3 full days in Bangkok as one of them will be for Ayutthaya. You could also check into a day trip to Kanchanaburi. It's a long day but if you're into WWII it might suit you. We are taking the train from Bangkok and staying at Sabi @ Kan for 2 nights. Our interest is mainly the WWII sites.
For Siem Reap I would do at least 5 nights/4 full days especially is you want to go slow. More time would be even better. Chiang Rai is in the north so weather may be more agreeable. I think 3 nights/2 full days are fine there. That is 12 nights leaving you the remainder for Laos.

Of course you could spend more time at any of your listed places if you want and my recommendation is just that. You need to allocate your time per your needs/interests, etc.

In Feb. 2014 we will be in C. Mai and C. Rai 2/1-2/10. Maybe we'll see you!! On 2/10 we fly from CR to Bangkok and on to Yangon.

Please do consider DIY as I found Cambodia and Thailand very easy for this kind of trip.

Happy trip planning!!
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 05:23 PM
  #32  
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Wow Chris, that sounds like an ambitious trip! Nice to be able to spend so long--two weeks in Siem Reap? Why so much time? I guess you can really take your time there and explore the temples a little at a time.

Judging from what you say, you've been to this part of the world, right?

Thanks for sharing!
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 05:26 PM
  #33  
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Kathie, doesn't have to be a beach bungalow, I was just wondering. Just a nice resort would be great. Just don't want anything horribly touristy.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 05:32 PM
  #34  
 
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I think rhkkmk and others may chime in on this, hopefully with something in your range. You don't need to do Ayutthaya from Bangkok if you are visiting Angkor.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 05:56 PM
  #35  
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Wow Chris, that sounds like an ambitious trip! Nice to be able to spend so long--two weeks in Siem Reap? Why so much time? I guess you can really take your time there and explore the temples a little at a time.

Judging from what you say, you've been to this part of the world, right?

Thanks for sharing!

Craig, you're about the third person who says I don't have to visit Ayuttaya if I'm visiting Angkor--is the assumption that it's too similar? Or just underwhelming?
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 06:05 PM
  #36  
 
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WW- they are similar (I've been to both) and Ayutthaya is underwhelming by comparison. If you were just visiting Thailand and had several days in Bangkok, I would recommend a visit.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 06:17 PM
  #37  
 
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Ayutthaya is the ruins of an old Thai capital. It has some lovely ruined temples, but it does not compare with Angkor. The Khmer-style temples are larger, grander than the ruins you will see in Ayutthaya. if you are really into Buddhist ruins, by all means go, if you have time. But given the amount of time you have, use your ruins time for Cambodia, and visit wats still in use in Bangkok. And you'll see different kinds of Buddhist wats in Luang Prabang. They are all "working wats" with monks in residence. Some of the Thai temples have monks in residence, some do not.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 07:55 PM
  #38  
 
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IMO a trip on tonle sap is well worth 1/2 day as it will give you an opportunity to see how the boat people live on the water. We took a tuk tuk out there and enjoyed seeing the countryside along the way. Remember that the heat in this area of the world is extremely oppressive and you will need to get out of the mid day heat. We lost a great deal of tour time as nap time was essential. We spent 5 days in siem reap and were happy that we did t rush things.

We found chiang rai itself to be uninteresting, but it is a great jumping off place to visit the sites nearby. If you go and are in chiang rai on a Saturday evening, the market is remarkable. Chiang Mai has a great Sunday night market. Just outside of chiang rai is the incredibly interesting white temple. A guide such as jermsak is highly advisable.
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 07:37 AM
  #39  
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Anybody willing to come down on the side of pre-arranged private tours? I like the idea of having an air-conditioned driver waiting for me. Thinking about this decision, for me, it's not about fear of the unknown or being timid--it's about wanting to be comfortable and a bit pampered and being able to come out of the trip refreshed and not exhausted.
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 08:14 AM
  #40  
 
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My caution to you on a private tour is what I have already said: most agents want to arrange absolutely everything for you - transfers, car and driver and guide (even when you don't need one), meals and other things you want to choose on your own.

As we have all said, you could go with just your hotel and air reservations and take care of everything on the spot quit easily. However, if there are some extras you would like to have pre-arranged, you can do so - but be aware you will pay much more for these extras. A taxi from the Bangkok AIrport to your hotel will be about 350 baht plus tolls; a "limo" (nice sedan) and driver will be about 1100 baht plus tolls if you arrange it yourself. A hotel car arranged in advance will be about 3000 baht. What does the agent want to charge you?

I've seen instances in which an agent sets up a car, driver and guide in places and circumstances where you don't want one (like Luang Prabang). In LP you can walk into an agency or ask your hotel to arrange a half day car and driver for you to go to the waterfalls - but most of the time in LP you will want the freedom to wander.

If an agent is willing to set up just what you want (and they all are, though you will likely endure some arm-twisting) fine. But be aware that having everything set up for you in advance may feel at times like a straight-jacket rather than pampering.
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