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Just back from a wonderful month long family adventure in Thailand - Part 1

Just back from a wonderful month long family adventure in Thailand - Part 1

Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 02:24 AM
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Just back from a wonderful month long family adventure in Thailand - Part 1

We = mum, dad & 2 girls aged 10 & 8 yrs from New Zealand & this was our second trip to the Land of Smiles - previously in 2004 (my husband & I had a stopover in Bangkok in 1993).

Firstly, let me thank all the contributors to this & other travel forums. Without your information, advice and inspiration, we could not possibly have had such a fantastic and memorable trip.

We flew Thai Airways from Auckland to Bangkok direct on a brand new Airbus A340-600. Prior to boarding, one of the airport officials told us that it was one of the nicest planes he had ever seen – and I would have to agree. Heaps of legroom (compared with SIA), 2-4-2 configuration & inseat entertainment which was equal to, if not better than SIA. Thai Airways certainly don’t advertise this and I was unaware that it would be so good until we flew with them. Must be because not all their planes have it yet. Kids amenities however were non-existant – not a colouring book nor crayon to be seen and the kids’ meals were also unappealing. Service was great tho’- call buttons were attended to promptly, hot towels, snacks and regular drink rounds made the 12 hour flight pass quickly.

BANGKOK:

Arrived Bangkok around 10.45pm – I can see why there is a new airport being built – what a hovel. After walking about 2 kilometres from the gate to immigration, we cleared customs & collected our bags in about 20 minutes. I had arranged with Ratt (a driver often recommended on the forum) for a driver to take us to our hotel. Turns out that it is Ratt’s husband Nick that is assigned this duty. Now, I don’t know if this is normal when being collected by a pre-arranged driver, but we were taken down into the unbelievably hot, stuffy underground carpark. We waited whilst Nick collected the car, we all piled in and I would guestimate that it took a further 40 minutes to get out of the maze of a carpark and finally on the road. We were so frustrated! But GREAT, we’re finally on our way – and at speeds topping 150km/hour, we were soon at Sukhumvit - in a state of complete and utter meltdown. Despite emails detailing the exact address of our hotel, The Bel Aire Princess, Nick confessed that he was unaware of its location. Fortunately I knew the actual address otherwise I’m not sure what would have happened – Soi 5, off Sukhumvit Rd. We drive by Soi 3, then Nick starts muttering his frustrations – he’s overshot Soi 5 by mistake so now we have to go around the block…. Another 45 in gridlock traffic (& remember – it’s the middle of the night!) and we arrive at the Bel Aire Princess. Whew! Lessons learned – 1) Take a taxi from the airport. 2) Ensure your driver understands that you wish to arrive at your destination with clean underwear and he should travel no faster than what you are comfortable – for me that would be 100km/hr. 3) If you by-pass a Soi on Sukhumvit Road – it’s quicker to get out and walk!! Anyway, the check in at the hotel was instantaneous and we soon fast asleep at last.

Bel Aire Princess: We chose this hotel for the following reasons – we stayed here in 1993, it was within our budget, rooms have 2 queen size beds, they allow 2 children free of charge, rooms are airconditioned & it has a pool. The location was handy to Nana Station & a small supermarket. Although it was very “mid-range” & a little tatty in places, it suited us perfectly. Our alternative of having to take two hotel rooms meant a downgrade in quality or an upgrade in price, so I am thankful that this hotel still provides the queen/queen room configuration.

We had two full days in Bangkok. The first morning after a wonderful sleep-in and big buffet breakfast we headed out. The kids were a little overwhelmed and quite nervous walking along Sukhumvit Road. They had never seen beggers or homeless people before and were hanging onto our hands really tight and asking LOTS of questions. Found the Skytrain easily, grabbed a one day pass* and travelled down to Siam Square where the Aquarium & the shopping malls we wanted to see were. Luckily for us the Aquarium opened at 9.00am as all the shops were closed until 10.00. That’s the trouble with being 5 hours out with the bodyclock. Well, we all LOVED the aquarium. It was definitely a highlight - we have nothing like it in NZ. There were heaps of fascinating sea creatures, plus the added attraction of the massive sharks & rays passing overhead. I highly recommend this attraction despite it being a little expensive by Thai standards.

The rest of the day was filled perusing MBK, Siam Paragon (gotta love that food hall!) and the rest of the shops.

After a cool down swim at the hotel we decided to try and find Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant and have an early tea. The hotel was great at giving us directions and we walked there in about 20 minutes. What a lovely setting in amongst a garden with huge trees and all the fairy lights – the kids loved it – and fortunately despite the name, there was nothing we had to “explain” so to speak.

***Lesson for the day: Don’t buy a day pass for the Sky Train if you are only using it for a return journey from Nana to Siam. An individual ticket is a heck of a lot cheaper!

The second day we had arranged to have a driver (Ratt) for the day to take us out to the Floating Markets. Unfortunately despite assurances that she would personally cover this assignment, her husband Nick was the one who turned up on the day. Now, don’t get me wrong, he is a lovely guy, BUT after our previous speedy experience I was somewhat reluctant to go with him. We decided to ask him politely to drive much slower this time and to our great relief he did. In fact, he was an excellent driver in the mayhem of Bangkok traffic & very attentive. Unfortunately, his English was only so so compared to Ratt. I know this because she telephoned me to apologise for not turning up herself – and I had no problem conversing with her. Bit of a shame because we virtually had no dialogue with Nick and a lot of our questions about what we saw enroute remain unanswered. We drove for several hours out into the countryside, past all the salt farms and even a man with an Elephant and baby grazing on the side of the highway – fantastic!

The Floating Markets were initially a little disappointing in the regard that the stalls are all the same as land based markets all over Thailand, selling all the same trinkity stuff you see everywhere else. The only difference is that you are in a boat being paddled to each stall and harassed to buy something. It’s a little bit tricky to “walk on by” when you are stuck in a boat. We soon got over this and enjoyed it for what it was, trying fried bananas and coconut pancakes from the ladies who were cooking in their boats. Then, just as we were at the turn around point, the sky opened and down came the heaviest rain we have ever seen. Our rapid return journey was filled with lots of shrieking and laughing as our boats filled with water and we got drenched to the skin. Fortunately our boat lady dropped us off early and we managed to sit out the rest of the downpour under shelter. For regular travellers to Asia, I would recommend that you forgo the Floating Market, but for first timers, I guess it would be a very unique experience.

Nick then drove us back to Bangkok via the Craft Centre which was very interesting. Lots of beautiful carvings and furniture being made – bit too expensive for us to buy anything tho’. We asked to be dropped off at Jim Thompson’s House instead of the hotel which worked out really well. Saw the beautiful gardens and took a tour thru the house. We all enjoyed this, especially the kids. The girl taking our tour spoiled our girls rotten with lots of little treats and extra attention which they lapped up.

***Lesson for the day – Never leave home without an umbrella!!!

On our last morning in Bangkok we quickly packed up and headed out on the Sky Train to the river. Unfortunately I figured that we had to leave for the airport by 11.00am so we didn’t have time to take the tourist boat up the river. We tossed up whether to hire our own longtail or just take the Peninsular Hotel shuttle boat over the river. We decided on the latter, which was a great idea. I enjoyed checking out the Peninsular (from the outside) just in case we decide to upgrade next time…No one seemed to mind us “lurking”…

Raced back to the hotel, grabbed our bags & took a taxi (slowly) to the airport – which only took half and hour & not the 90 minutes I had allowed & wouldn’t you believe it – upon checkin we were advised that our Air Asia flight to Chiang Rai was delayed 2 hours. We could have taken the river trip afterall! The flight was completely full and fortunately I had read about and was expecting the bullrush at the departure gate. Brings out the worst in people that’s for sure! We were fortunate to be boarded first as we had children and managed to get seats together.

Next: Chiang Rai / Chiang Mai

nzers

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Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 03:31 AM
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it is really fun reading your trip journal espeacially the "Lesson of the Day". Really useful tips indeed. I'm going to Bangkok this coming November and paln to hire Ratt to bring us to the floating market. So, how much did she charged you for the tour (half day tour?)? You only went to flating market and then straight head back to Bangkok?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 06:31 AM
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thanks for this report
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Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 06:33 AM
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try to write all your installments on one continuous thread and thus we can more easily follow them
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Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 09:28 PM
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Thanks for that advice - have no idea why I didn't think to do that after reading millions of JBR's myself over the years - another "lesson for the day".

Cheers

nzers
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Old Aug 24th, 2006, 02:16 AM
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Hi Claran

Yes, we went straight to the floating market then back to Bangkok with a quick stop at the cultural centre. We were dropped off at around 1pm from memory. Ratt charged us B1800 plus 2baht/km petrol which wasn't much. It was a good price for the distance we travelled.

Hope you have a good time.


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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:25 PM
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so based on this price, if two people go it almost always cheaper to hire a driver to take you if you can limit your trip to just one place and then back...
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