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initial planning stage for trip for 5 to Thailand/Cambodia

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Mar 28th, 2012, 05:25 PM
  #1
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initial planning stage for trip for 5 to Thailand/Cambodia

I am just starting to plan a trip for our family of 5, with three adult students. My husband, 16 year old daughter & I have 3 weeks, while my son & his fiance have only 10 days. We are going in mid-December. Due to the short length of time my son & his fiance can be with us, we thought we would confine ourselves during that time to Thailand and then move on to Cambodia when they left. I am wondering what you Thailand experts would suggest for us. We all like wildlife viewing, would like to see temples and enjoy cultural activities & boat rides. A couple of days on a beach would probably be enjoyed by my kids. We have all traveled together throughout Peru and visited the Amazon, as well. We have never been to Asia.

I thought we would spend 4 days in Bangkok, then head to a beach resort and then north to Chiang Mai. The girls would really like to visit an elephant reserve. Any suggestions? Also, since I have not yet booked flights, any suggestions on the cheapest way to fly from San Francisco to Thailand?
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Mar 28th, 2012, 08:43 PM
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china air is probably the cheapest, but certainly not the best... check out some of the asian airlines: korean, ANA, japan, malay, cathy pacific, thai, singapore... and united, american, continental, delta..

a nice hotel along the river with a nice pool in bkk is always good: anantara, peninsula, royal orchid sheraton, hilton, shangri-la and the less expensive ibis, but you might like a two bedroom apartment at chatrium riverside or center point silom..

the 2 bd rm apts at marriott sukhumvit park on soi 24 sukhumvit is very nice.. i will stay there again this year... i like the marriott mayfair too..

december rates are high... get your res now, esp. for the beach.... khao lak, koh samui, hua hin and krabi are my fav beach places.. you can see elephants in some of these places too
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:47 PM
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jgg
 
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We stayed at the Anantara Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai (http://goldentriangle.anantara.com/) and visited their elephant reserve and rode the elephants there - amazing!

We did 4 nights in BKK, 4 nights in Chiang Rai, 4 nights Siem Reap and then 2 last nights in BKK before flying home. Here is a link to my trip report with all the details that you may find helpful: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...les-and-to.cfm
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 07:12 PM
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If you arrive in mid-December then you will be spending the new year in Thailand which will be nice both for fun and weather. However the room rates will be very high but if you plan and book early then should help.

4 Days or nights in Bangkok will be good and should be quite festive around then. 4 More in around Phuket or Krabi area be perfect and then you can fly direct from Phuket to Chiang Mai. After a few nights in Chiang Mai you can rent a car and drive, eat, sleep for 3 or 4 nights doing the Mae Hong Son Loop which is fun and easy. Many places along the way with elephant parks, tiger petting zoos, flight of gibbons nature park and many quaint small towns with wonderful small hotels along the way. If you are interested in the drive then let me know and I can post some links for hotels and attractions, both culturally and fun, for the drive.

On new year's eve there will be fireworks all over the place, Bangkok will have a big show around the river, Chaing Mai will have a city wide display and most major resorts on the beach will be firing as well.
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Apr 10th, 2012, 09:09 AM
  #5
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Thank you for all of your helpful responses. I was away for a week & did not have an opportunity to check for responses until today. Hanuman, is the driving difficult in Thailand & are rental cards in good shape. Also, how are the prices for renting cars. I have heard about the loop & thought it sounded interesting. More information would be greatly appreciated. I was looking at Krabi. What area of Krabi would you suggest? Would you suggest a resort? We like quiet, locally owned small places to stay. They are also often cheaper. As we usually rent two rooms or a suite, I wonder if renting a house might be a good idea. Does anyone have an opinion (when don't Fodorites have opinions?) on house rentals or suggestions?

jgg - the pacing of your trip looks like what I might do but we have additional time. Where else would you suggest that you didn't get to go? Perhaps another spot in Cambodia?

As my son & his fiance will only be with us the first 10 days, should we do Bangkok & then Krabi or BKK, Chiang Mai & then the loop? Thanks for your feedback.
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Apr 10th, 2012, 10:37 AM
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We rented a car in Chiang Mai to drive the MHS loop in January. Car was just fine, don't remember the type. We originally rented from Budget but mistakenly went to the wrong pick up place (the airport) and ended up with another major brand that was right at the airport. Absolutely no issues. I suggest u book an automatic if u r not used to driving on the left side of the road. Once u leave Chiang Mai, traffic was easy and the drive along the loop was beautiful and fun.

We also spent some time in the Krabi area at Aonang Beach -- We stayed at Phu Petra which is a smallish resort about a 5 minute drive out of Aonang. It's a nice resort with a pool and large rooms. It's got great views of the karst formations. The surrounding islands are beautiful and many gorgeous beaches to explore. We did a one day outing with a tour guide recommended on fodors by rhkkmk and she was fabulous. The tour company is called Andaman Camp and Cruise. Its owned by an Austrailian woman, Elizabeth and her Thai husband. They have 2 boats. I suggest if u r interested in this type of outing u contact Elizabeth way in advance. We were there at the beginning of Feb and lucked into getting her for a day. She has lots of recommendations but will tailor a day to your specifics.

Our TR for this trip is a work in progress, Our SEASIA Odyssey - u can check it out at
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...ia-odyssey.cfm

In terms of your timing -- do u want beach time or more exploring the mountains? That would be the deciding factor for me.
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Apr 10th, 2012, 05:34 PM
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yestravel described the drive well and IMO it's an easy drive with very little traffic once out of Chiang Mai. Scenery is beautiful and there are many places of interest to stop, shop or eat along the way. I recommend two overnight stops at Pai and Mae Hong Son for this route and I like the following places to stay:

Pai = Hotel des Artists http://www.hotelartists.com/pai/

Mae Hong Son = Fern Resort http://www.fernresort.info/
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Apr 10th, 2012, 05:49 PM
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As usual Hanuman is right on. We absolutely loved Hotel des Artists and Fern Resort is quite nice with lovely grounds.
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Apr 10th, 2012, 07:39 PM
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cjon, Pat's Klangviang in Chiang Mai was perfect for my husband and me a couple of months ago. It's a small,spotless, family-run inn in the old section of the city. Very reasonable and comfortable, across the street from a beautiful wat and within walking distance to more wats, restaurants, shops, museums, massage and the very fun weekend street markets.

We were VERY impressed by the Elephant Nature Sanctuary where you can spend quality time with rescued elephants. It's a sad fact that in Thailand, elephants in most camps have been captured and tortured as babies, and then forced to entertain and give rides to tourists or to log. This place allows them to be eles as much as possible.

Have fun! Wow, it's great that you have grown kids who still like to travel with you!
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Apr 11th, 2012, 01:00 AM
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If you do decide on The MHS loop then I would suggest downloading the following map:
http://www.budget.co.th/images/world...ss_mae_eng.pdf

which, together with a decent guidebook provides all the info you will need. We did the trip last Dec for the second time. If you are feeling adventurous it might be worth considering hiring a 4WD to get to some of teh more remote areas (the map will indicate which roads are 4WD recommended.

Personaally I was disappointed with Pai this time as it had grown so much from what I remembered so we kept on going to Soppong which has a lot to see and is still a relatively authentic local town. Soppong River Inn is a good place to stay (great food!).

Fern Resort is a great place to stay in MHS if you have a car - try and get bungalows towards the top of the resort. Breakfasts are good but there are better restaurants in town for dinner.

Here is a link to my TR
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...n-thailand.cfm
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Apr 12th, 2012, 08:51 AM
  #11
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Thank you for all of your suggestions. I will have to read through in detail and check out all of the suggestions. I think we will definitely drive the loop as my husband is game for driving.
yestravel - I always prefer to be in the mountains but get many complaints from the family that I never plan a "beach" vacation. I think I will have to do a couple of days at the beach, especially for the burnt out grad students with us. We are lucky to have them with us so I have to plan well for them.
The girls really want to be around elephants so the nature sanctuary might be perfect.
A general question - should I book air in & out of BKK, despite flying to Vietnam or Cambodia. It looks like BKK is the most convenient hub. Is that correct?
Thank you again for all of your suggestions & please keep them coming!
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Apr 12th, 2012, 03:12 PM
  #12
 
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just a note, in thailand they drive on the same side of the road as does england, in case that is an issue..

budget and avis are good rental companies in thailand, but i have also rented from local companies, especially at the beach resorts
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Apr 12th, 2012, 07:45 PM
  #13
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Crellston - Thank you very much for the link to your trip report. It was very helpful. We were in Peru 2 years ago & you gave me many great suggestions on the Peru forum. I took my kids to Ollantaytambo, where we stayed for a week acclimatizing and had many very nice meals at Heart's Cafe. We have continued to donate to them and send friends their way.
I think my college kids would LOVE to do the Thai cooking program as they are both into that kind of thing (as opposed to me!).
Your trip reports are always full of just the right amount of detail to make following in your footsteps possible but not necessary. Thanks, again.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 11:43 PM
  #14
 
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I hope you enjoy your trip. I just read this funny article about a trip to Pattaya, Thailand. Pretty funny stuff and enlightening. http://asiadocs.com/en/writings/trav...-building-trip
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Apr 13th, 2012, 02:31 AM
  #15
 
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cjon - You are very welcome. Glad to hear you enjoyed Hearts Cafe and that you continue to support them and their work in the Sacred Valley. Enjoy your trip to the north of Thailand its a great place which keeps drawing us back.
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Apr 16th, 2012, 02:21 AM
  #16
 
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cjon, I'd like to address the non-northern part of your Thailand itinerary since you've decided on the loop drive already, with the exception of one little comment about elephant interaction. The ONLY elephant interaction experience that I find morally acceptable is Elephant Nature Park near Chaing Mai. All elephant interaction activities that allow for rides, ball games between elephant "teams," painting of pictures by elephants, playing musical instruments by elephants are forced behaviors on the elephants and have been trained into them by means of torture. If you'd like to know more about the torture-training, see descriptions of "pha-jaan" http://news.nationalgeographic.com/n...6_phajaan.html

Regarding a beach stay at a place that's not too touristy, I recommend the Andaman Sea in December, and specifically, rather than Krabi (which is developed) why not go to Koh Lanta instead? You would fly into Krabi airport and get a transfer from there to the island.
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Apr 16th, 2012, 03:50 AM
  #17
 
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Are you going to do the Discovery Air Pass? If not, it might make sense to fly into BKK and out of Phnom Penh. After Angkor you could go down to Kep/Kampot/Bokor for a bit of relaxing before you head home.
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Apr 16th, 2012, 05:06 PM
  #18
 
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Yes, the Elephant Nature Park is the spot I referred to in an earlier post. Quero is quite right about the elephant torture. Very, very sad. ENP gives as many eles as they can a happier life. You can visit for a day, stay overnight, or volunteer.
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