KimJapan's Thailand Trip Report

Jan 10th, 2006, 08:11 PM
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KimJapan's Thailand Trip Report

This will be a series of posts, as it will be looong. Am working on the pictures pages and will post a separate link later. Pictures include hotel rooms, too.

Dec 23 - arrive in BKK at midnight, long lines at immigration, but still make it through immigration and customs in under an hour. Looked all over for the transfer we'd arranged with and had no luck...we'd apparently been stood up. No problem. As the meter taxi line was long, we took a fixed price 600 baht car from the limo booth. Got to the Conrad in 20 minutes. It was now 1:30 AM or so. Lots of people checking in at the Conrad, but it was quick and painless. We were in our room within 10 minutes. This night was paid with Hilton Honors points, and because of my gold status, we were given complimentary breakfast for 2 people, and just paid the child rate for our daughter. The room was nice.

December 24 - Wake early for flight to Chiang Mai. Breakfast was excellent. Great selection on the buffet, and smiling service. Enjoyed our brief stay at this hotel and could now look forward to our return at the other end of the trip. Had booked for this transfer back tot he airport, but assumed it wouldn't show (it didn't) and took a meter taxi...140 baht plus expressway tolls, and 23 minutes door to door (I timed it!).

Flight to Chiang Mai on Thai Air was great. Even though it's only an hour long flight, they served a good sized snack and beverage. Landed in Chiang Mai on time, and 2 staff from Yaang Come Village were waiting for us. They took our bags to the waiting van, and we drove to the hotel...about 10 or 15 minutes I think.

Arrived to a nice greeting with cold towels and glasses of some sort of sweet tea. Check in was fast and we were shown to our room. Deluxe rooms are spacious with a big entry way and a big bathroom as well. Decor is simple and tasteful, with a few nice textile pieces on the beds and tables. Lots of space to hang clothes, but no drawers...we could have really used drawers. Bathroom has a large and deep bathtub and a separate shower stall. Soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, razors are provided...but no conditioner, so we bought some at the nearby pharmacy. There is an in-room safe that we used. The balcony is small and has bench seating with cushions. We did not sit out there...not really a big enough space to use in my opinion, but it does look nice from both the inside and outside.

The pool area is very nice, though unfortunately some of the slate tiles around it were already cracked. I don't think they considered that people would be walking there...the slate is quite brittle and several pieces had cracked or completely broken. They were thinking about what to do when we were there. There is a jacuzzi area in the pool, but the water is not hot in there as you might expect. Our daughter enjoyed swimming and playing there almost every day even though it wasn't very warm.

The restaurant is quite nice and good. Breakfast was buffet style, with 3 types of fruit, salad, some hot dishes like vegetables, rice, bacon, sausage, pancakes...and an egg station. There was also cereal and yogurt and a toaster with several bread choices, juice, milk and water. Coffee or tea was on offer...but no hot chocolate for kids...I suggested they add this, and we bought a package of Milo for Teaghan to have and they happily provided the hot water.

Lunch and dinner offerings were plentiful, and everything we tried was good. Pomelo salad was my favorite. Prices were reasonable...not cheap, but not bad.

I went to Oasis Spa this afternoon. Had a Hair Spa package that I totally enjoyed. Back at YCV Teaghan had made a friend who joined us for dinner.

December 25 - Doi Suthup and Meo village. Got a car to take us up there, and went to the village first. Very touristy, of course. Lots of tourist type stuff for sale and not much to see. We first needed a bathroom, and I spotted a place with signs in Japanese...and headed in there thinking they would have nice toilets...and they did! The owners of this shop were a Hmong woman and her Japanese husband. We ended up staying quite a while chatting with them, and bought a skirt for Teaghan and a few gifts for friends at home there. Not cheap, and not so negotiable there...but not bad prices and the toilets were clean!

Wandered around the village a bit more, and saw little more than shop after shop selling mostly the same stuff. Most were Meo villages, but some were Burmese and Nepalese, hoping to make some money to send home. Interesting chatting with those guys.

Headed out and down to Doi Suthep...stunning temple complex. We spent about 2 hours wandering around here, had drinks and a snack, and then headed back down to the hotel.

Teaghan went off with another family that was staying at YCV to get photos taken in traditional Thai clothes. Then we met them all at the Sunday Walking street later on. While waiting for them, we had drinks at a bar on the Sunday Walking street called Bar Ly...great place - friendly, relaxed, and great for people watching.

Before dinner, we reconnected with Teaghan, and all of us went in search of dinner...a total of 9 people...ended up at Tamarind Village for dinner. Sat outside, which was nice. We didn't like this place...the staff was cool and stand offish to us, the food was mediocre tasting, tiny portions and expensive. The wine was good, though. We had a look around the bar area and the pool while searching for the bathroom, and were happy we did not stay there. I know many others like this place, but it left me cold. I didn't see any rooms, but the public areas were not to my taste. Teaghan commented that the pool area was too small to be fun, and there weren't many chairs around it. It is in an enclosed courtyard area and felt a bit claustrophobic to me.

Left Tamarind Village still hungry, but ready to shop. We bought Thai style Barbie clothes-don't ask , a Thai style skirt and top for Teaghan, and a bunch of small things that I didn't keep track of. Took tuk tuks back to wanted to ride in them, so we was fun. Paid 30 baht or 60 baht...can't remember.

December 26 - Umbrella making excursion. Went to the factories and broke protocol by asking to paint our own umbrella...Teaghan did it and did a lovely job. Lunch at Whole Earth...pleasant place, well priced and big portions - we didn't come even close to finishing our lunches. Spent the afternoon lazing by the pool, I went to Oasis Spa again...lovely again. Dinner at with chili sauce and some coconut based soup were both outstanding. The manager ordered for us, so I'm not sure exactly what we got, but it was great.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 10th, 2006, 08:26 PM
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Kim - looking forward to more - love the details.
MaryW is offline  
Jan 10th, 2006, 08:46 PM
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December 27 - booked a custom cooking class with Yui from A Lot of Thai. We chose Yui because she was the most responsive to our requests and seemed the most flexible and willing to do something out of the ordinary with us. We loved our day with her.

She used to work at the Thai Cookery School, but branched out on her own. We wanted to make some unusual dishes, not the average curry and pad thai dishes that the regular classes offered everywhere make. We are both very experienced in the kitchen and both have extensive food service industry experience as well. By e-mail, together we put together a menu of vegetarian pad thai (for Teaghan to cook by herself, for herself), and for us Sa-ku-sai-mu, La-tieng, Mieng-come, Khao-tang-na-tang and Kha-nom-sai-sai (dessert). In English, we made ground pork dumplings with tapioca flour/rice flour wrapping, sweet pork dipping sauce with condiments to wrap inside pepper leaves, egg nets with shrimp and pork filling, sweet coconut and coconut cream steamed in banana leaves. There was maybe one more brain is forgetful, and the notes from class are still packed.

Anyway, Yui is absolutely delightful. Bright, cheerful, easy going, talkative, was very easy to spend a day with her. We first went to the market, where she bought fresh ingredients for us to use that day. The market was a good one...and very clean. The meat and fish area was in its own room and everything in there was on ice. Surprised me, the sanitariness of it all. Rich bought some fried crickets and ate a few of them...I wasn't brave enough to try them. We also bought some spice mixes there...chilis mixed with various things that can be used on top of rice to make a simple meal if you like, or else you can add the spice mix to other dishes for a little added flavor.

After the market, we started cooking and talking and eating...and it went on all day. About 3 or so, Sid, their 3 1/2 year old son, came home from school. Very cute.

Yui has cooking stations set up in her yard under a roof...enough for 8 people. There is a big table for eating and chatting. She gave us the cookbook she made for her regular class even though we made our own class...very nice book! Her husband, Kwan, is quiet and softspoken, kind of stayed in the background while we were cooking. They picked us up and dropped us off in an old VW van...very cool! Everything we made was delicious. She gave us her recipes and guidelines, as well as how to substitute and adapt recipes to our local ingredients. A very good day. Price for all 3 of us, including everything, was 4500 baht, but we gave her 5000 at the end of the day. For reference, Thai Cookery School charges 2500 baht per person for advanced classes, and would not customize a menu for us.

Had a light dinner at YCV...we'd been eating all day after all. Slept, and packed for elephant camp.

KimJapan is offline  
Jan 10th, 2006, 09:40 PM
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Great report, Kim! Thanks for taking the time to post the details.

I have been trying to decide which cooking class to go to for a day and I am now more interested in A Lot of Thai!

I like the idea of choosing our own menu as I already cook many Thai dishes from scratch and don't want to repeat them.

Were there only the three of you? If so, is that because that is what you requested or only because they didn't have others signed up?

eurotraveller is offline  
Jan 10th, 2006, 10:24 PM
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The cooking class was the 3 of us by design. Since it was customized, it was private. Since Yui is so flexible, I would think you'd have no trouble at all arranging whatever you want with her. I picked some dishes, she recommended a couple of more. We worked at a leisurely pace with plenty of time to eat and talk together, not just cooking non-stop. Her English is very, very good. Shockingly good. And she knows very well what kinds of ingredients are available in other countries, and what is not available and what to substitute. I can't say enough good things...
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 10th, 2006, 11:17 PM
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December 28 - 30 Elephant Camp

We did the 3 day mahout training/home stay program. Cost was 4000 baht per person inclusive.

We left YCV around 8:30 AM...a Supat from the Elephant Conservation Center sent someone for us. Car was fine...took about an hour to get there..maybe less.

Got there, and went to the office. We were greeted by a group of students who are doing a 3 month internship there. We had to fill in some forms about our height, weight, food preference and such, then we were shown to our accommodation.

The huts are set up a small hill above the river where the elephants bathe, at the edge of the small mahout village there. There are 3 huts for tourists. Ours was 2 bedrooms and the main kitchen area for the program. Each bedroom is the same...3 single beds and a simple wardrobe and some shelves. Each bedroom also has a bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower with an electric hot water heater that sort of works There are screens in the windows, and a fan that we didn't was cold. Rustic, but clean. We had one bedroom, and the other was occupied by Kate and her 12 year old daughter India. There were 4 more people in our group...a family of 4 with adult children. Good group, we enjoyed the others very much.

After leaving our things in the hut (there is a padlock on the door for guests to use and keep a key) we went to the show ground to see the show. It was really good...we could see 3 Japanese women in the show who looked like pros. Turns out it was their 4th trip there this year! They left on our second day.

We had lunch in one of the restaurants in the center...simple and good...then went to our hut to dress in our mahout outfits. Then, at 1:00 we went back to the office to begin the program. No time is wasted getting you right on your elephant. We got a paper listing some commands and a schedule for the 3 days, a short pronunciation lesson and quiz, then we were off to meet the elephants and mahouts.

Teaghan's elephant was a 4-year old male and a very kind and gentle mahout with a 6-year-old daughter of his own...great match! Teaghan took to her elephant, Si Siyung (spelling?) like a fish to water. She was confident and comfortable up there from the first moment. She was fearless...unlike me.

My elephant was big...very big. Known for being the gentlest elephant, and a favorite of many at the ECC, Tantawan was intimidating to me. When I was sitting on her head, it was a long way down...I got up there, and immediately announced that I needed to get down. Near panic, I got down, had water and a regroup, then got back on with Oui, one of the students, to ride out to the jungle. Everyone was so patient with me...they told me I was the most afraid person ever! But, for me it was great. Beforehand, my goal was to ride the elephant by myself without anxiety, and I was able to do this. I was not able to do a lot of the things my 8 year old daughter could do, like jump on and off, slide down the front of the head, and swim with the elephant, but I could get up there and not panic...that was good for me.

So, back to what happens at elephant camp. After meeting your elephant, you ride around, learning how to stop and go and turn, and practice getting on and off in various ways. You feed your elephant rice cakes and sugar cane while you are sitting up there. You kind of get a feel for just being up there. Then you gather up a big long and strong chain, drape it over the elephant's back, and ride out into the jungle. The elephants are left in the jungle, chained to big trees so you can find them in the morning, so that they can eat a variety of plants that they need for good health. Elephants with long tusks cannot go out to the jungle overnight, though, because of poachers. After chaining your elephant up...sounds harsh, but it really isn't in hike it back to camp...about an hour.

After that little jungle excursion, we all wanted a beer...well, the kids got milo and orange fanta...and we relaxed together and talked. Then we started to make dinner, which was vegetables, rice, fish...I think. Food was good, fresh and plenty of it. We were all pretty tired, so we went to bed early.

Sometime in this day, we also made paper from elephant dung...basically saw the process and tried the final step. Interesting, and nice looking paper at the end. Looks like Japanese style paper.

Next morning, 6:30 meet at the paper factory and hike it out to the jungle to find the elephants. This day I was the last one back and almost missed breakfast. We found Tantawan OK, but she is a very hungry elephant and ate her way back to the camp. The mahout just laughs and says she's a hungry elephant. I found out soon enough that she's really most interested in bamboo that is located far off of the path, and is strong enough to take down a whole good-sized tree with her trunk with me sitting up there and her mahout looking on with a proud grin on his face.

We finally make it back to camp, and the Japanese women had come searching for me. My breakfast was waiting for me...a fried egg and white toast and coffee. At it fast, then off to watch elephant bathing. I did not do this, but Teaghan and Rich did...right into the water with the elephants. They got drenched...and the mahouts are clever enough to stand up on top of the elephants and hardly get wet at all. Fun to watch, and reportedly a blast to do. The water is mucky, and amass with elephant dung, and I think Teaghan paid later for this experience...more on that...later.

More training, lunch of fried rice, visit to the elephant hospital, more training, then back to the jungle, but to a different jungle. Today we were lucky and were just in time to catch one of the buses back to camp. Beer, an amazing dinner of curries, fish, veggies, rice...and sleep early.

Day 3 is the same as day 2 early morning, but this day, if you are good, you get to be in the show. Teaghan was in the show. I was not. Rich was a little. Then we say goodbye to the elephants, and we around 1:00 to go back to YCV.

The experience is well worth it. It is an entirely different experience than just seeing the show and taking a ride. Although I think elephant riding is just not my thing, I did really enjoy the whole program. I would do it again in a second. Teaghan was all for us leaving her there for the rest of our trip and picking her up at the end. She now wants to go for a month.

The program is well organized. At the end, we got a CD with many photos on it...we paid Supat 500 baht for this directly, and I understood it as he gets to keep that money for himself, as the photos are his thing, not the ECC's or the government's. At least I hope that's the case.

Would I recommend it...certainly. Absolutely. Even for chickens like me. is the website.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 12:35 AM
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Kim-- great report. The elephant experience sounds just fabulous. I wish I were a lot younger -- too old at this point but can live vicariously.
glorialf is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 12:46 AM
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December 30 - after elephant camp
We went back to Yaang Come Village to learn that we had been upgraded to the junior suite for that night. But, we couldn't get into the room yet. The luggage we had left there during elephant camp, our elephant camp luggage, and our clean laundry (we left dirty laundry at YCV when we went to elephant camp) was all in the manager's office. We hung out by the pool, had drinks and snacks. Rich went out to the market a bit to buy some small things, and came back with 2 jackets, insect repelllent, and some books. Teaghan swam.

Around 4:00 we were shown to the junior suite, and it is quite nice. It's bigger by a bit than the deluxe rooms, but the balconies are much better. One is big and very usable, and the other is small. There is a sofa and coffee table in the room, along with a giant bed, an armoire, tv, still no drawers. The bathroom has the added bonus of a jacuzzi tub with a window to the garden on the big balcony...I don't think anyone can see in.

The only drawbacks this room has is it is on the third floor of the problem for most, but if you hate stairs, you'll hate this room's location. It is also set at the back of the property, which is presently another construction site. The workers have set up camp there, and have a grand old time after hours. We quite liked it...even talked about going over to join them they sounded llike they were having such fun...but I know that the work camp wouldn't be so charming to others as it was to us. Noise was no problem...with the windows closed, we heard nothing. Mosquitos were also no problem...I'd read about someone else having a mossie problem, and the manager told me about the chance of it...but we were fine. Seems to have been taken care of.

I had a two hour Thai massage in the room for 500 baht that evening...nice...worth much more than 500 baht. Teaghan and Rich shopped and ate while I relaxed. I joined them afterwards for a drink.

We tried the jacuzzi...nice...and had a nice sleep.

December 31
Off to the airport after breakfast to fly to Phuket, then by car to Khao Lak. This is the part of the trip that I was most worried about, as Khao Lak was devastated by the tsunami last year. We wanted to spend our money somewhere it was needed, and chose Khao Lak for that reason. We also wanted, however, some creature comforts. There are several high end hotels in operation now there...Le Meridien, the Sarojin, La Flora...but they were out of our budget. We decided on the Khao Lak Merlin, and while it was fine, actually everything it promised to be, we wouldn't go back. Not even really sure why.

The driver from the Merlin met us at the airport in Phuket and drove us to the Merlin in Khao Lak...this took about an hour. The road passes some beautiful forests. The entrance to the Merlin is well garnished by the ruins of the neighboring resorts. The Merlin is fine, almost completely finished repairing. There is a small and new place up the beach (north) a bit just before the forest that is open. In between there is rubble. Amazingly, from inside the Merlin, the neighboring rubble is forgotten...out of sight out of mind. From the beach, it can be seen if you look for it. Walk south from the Merlin and it's a kilometer of untouched beach, with one small shack selling drinks about 1/2 a kilometer down. We bought tons of stuff from them just because.

The hotel itself is lovely to look at. Just like the pictures on the website. Lobby is stunning. Rooms are clean, well furnished, and comfortable. Balcony is nice to sit on. Shower was great...strong pressure and plenty hot enough...I love a good shower, and it's one thing I always notice about places. Beds were comfortable and we slept well every night. They were about 30% occupancy over the New Year from what we could gather from talking to the staff. Met the general manager one day, and he is worried, very worried, as travel agents won't book clients in there until the adjacent construction is finishes they've told him...that looks to be years off. j

We enjoyed the New Year's Eve dinner and lantern lighting and wasn't a fabulous party...actually mellow, but the lanterns in the sky at the end were stunning. Teaghan played many games and won lots of prizes. The emcee was grateful for T's enthusiasm I think, as it seemed most of the other guests were very reserved.

We spent our days swimming in the pools...water slide was Teaghan's favorite, having cocktails poolside, walking the beach collecting shells, relaxing. Every morning we collected glass from the beach, some fresh, some well washed by the sea. We felt like we were doing our part a bit by doing this

KimJapan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 01:18 AM
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January 2
The Dengue Fever Scare and Great Praise for John Gray Sea Canoe

In the middle of the night, Teaghan woke with a raging fever. In the dark, I didn't look at her, but did feel the heat just radiating off of her. For the rest of the night, she alternated between between being roasting hot and kicking off blankets, to being freezing cold and shivering. She's not one to be sick, so I was concerned, but assumed she'd picked up some virus or something and would be fine.

Come daylight, I became alarmed. She had developed these purple/red marks on her eyelid and cheeks, and more were coming on the softer skin in her arms. I immediately thought dengue fever. And panicked.

Went to the front desk to ask about a doctor...the girl there told me it was a holiday and I'd better wait until tomorrow. Apathetic and not helpful. Decided to just get a taxi and go. Went back to the room, gathered up Teaghan, passport, money, Rich...and back to the desk to get a car. Teaghan had begun to vomit and have diarrhea, and was complaining of headache and stomach pain. Upon seeing Teaghan, the staff got concerned, and soon we were on our way to the nearest clinic.

Unfortunately, the doctor wouldn't be in until 4:30 that afternoon. No can do. Next clinic, further on. This place was bigger...more than a shack like the first place was. I had hope. No doctor, but a nurse was there. She said that Teaghan maybe had food poisoning...I though maybe so, but Rich and I were fine, and we ate the same things. Also, she couldn't account for the growing patches of what I knew was blood under her skin. She suggested we go to Takuapa to the government hospital.

Off we went. Takuapa hospital was a real place, in spite of an outdoor waiting room. The nurse and doctor spoke excellent English, and the place was clean, if a bit crowded. It was a holiday, so only emergency was open.

We checked in...I had to take the forms to another building for processing...and a nurse took all the information. We waited for a while, not too long, then met with the only doctor on duty that day...young and pleasant. He was concerned about the hemorrage-like patches as well, and wanted to test for dengue fever. The first test, using a blood pressure cuff to limit circulation for 5 minutes, then count the number of blood spots within a square area, was positive...meaning dengue was a real possibililty, but not the only possibility. At this point, I lost it and started to cry, which freaked Teaghan out and made Rich angry. The doctor and nurse were great and patiently "handled" me...explained that they needed more tests to find out what was going on, but to relax, that dengue fever was possible, but not sure.

So, they took a blood sample and sent it to the lab. Wait one hour, we were told. Teaghan vomited a few more times....toilets in this hospital were excellent...especially considering they are the squat type and had no flush but the bucket pouring system. I'm toilet squeamish, but this place was sparkling. Really.

After an hour, the doctor came over to us with lab report in hand. He said it's negative for malaria...OK, I wasn't even thinking about malaria, but she was tested for it. Then he said that she had a bacterial infection, a serious one, but not dengue fever. I cried again...I can deal with bacteria. Dengue fever sounded like too much to me.

He prescribed some antibiotics, anti-vomiting medicine, pain medicine, and rehydration salts (nasty tasting stuff). We got the medicine right there, clearly labelled in Thai and in English. Total cost, $8.00. I actually asked if that was the total and if I had paid for everything because I couldn't believe it could be so cheap. We left, with instructions to watch her carefully, and to return immediately if the purpura didn't start to clear, her fever spiked again, the nausea didn't subside....basically come back if anything changes other than recovery.

Relaxed now, the hospital security guard called us his taxi buddy to take us back to the hotel. On this ride, we really could see the devastation of the tsunami, even a year after. The damage is unbelievable, and we were well sheltered from it during our couple of days at the Merlin. The whole area is really a patchwork of new buildings and rubble. Construction is going on everywhere. I just watched out the side and back of the taxi as we drove past, kind of dumbstruck by it all.

Antibiotics worked quickly. Teaghan recovered by the next day. She was in the pool playing, happy, with the only evidence of her illness the red blotches on her face now, a nd they were fading fast. (As of today, you can't see them).

January 2 was the day we had been booked to do a John Gray Sea Canoe trip...but we couldn't go, of course. I phoned to their office in Phuket, and the woman on the phone was wonderful. She just said, OK, no problem, let me call the driver back since he's already left to get you, and call me after you get home from the hospital.

They say that there is no cancellation after noon the day before your trip, and no refund at all, so I was expecting to have to pay again for us to be able to go, and was only hoping there would be space on the 5th. Too my surprise we didn't have to pay again, and we could go on the 5th. She was so nice, so easy, and so willing to work with us to be sure we'd get to go anyway in spite of Teaghan's sickness and their cancellation policy (which they didn't apply in our case).

Now the part about how I think Teaghan got so sick...elephant camp. She took a bath with the elephants, literally. She was immersed in the dungy water, I'm quite sure she got some of into her mouth at some point. She was drenched from head to toe. I though about it at the time, but it was too late to stop her from doing it. Rich did the water thing too, but wasn't drenched, and I'm sure was much more careful about his mouth...but still, he had stomach cramps and diarrhea a day or two before Teaghan got sick. I was the only healthy one of us all, and I didn't go near that water. It's not proven...I didn't ask for a culture of T's bacteria so we don't know exactly what it was, but...I'm left fairly confident that swimming in a pond of elephant dung makes you sick. Luckily, only for one day in her case.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 01:34 AM
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So, I think the main reason I wouldn't go back to the Merlin is the initial reaction to my request for a doctor...that was enough to put me off. Afterwards, I talked with the manager, and he promised that he'd train the staff better to manage that type of request more nicely and effectively. I hope so.

It's also more hotel style than we like. We chose it for the pools and the beach, which were both amazing. I enjoyed the spa there, too, and the food was fine. But it lacked warmth and hosptitality I think.

Anyway, we spent until the morning of the 6th there, enjoying the pools and the beach. We found a nice little restaurant in Khao Lak town that we liked and went to escapes me though. Teaghan had her hair cut and put into little beaded braids at the only hair salon in town. We bought t-shirts and sarong skirts from some street sellers. We walked along some of the other beach areas, and found a few rebuilt places, but mostly either nothing at all left, or in some phase of construction. Few toursts, very few tourists.

January 5 - John Gray Sea Canoe Hong by Starlight tour. This was our make up day. Picked up at 10:30 and driven to the dock by a man whose sister lives in Khao Lak and used to run Coconut Bungalows, but it was wiped out. He lost 7 family members last year there, but is hopeful that recovery will enable his remaining family members to earn a living. As of now, the bungalows are not open, but a volunteer is staying in a room with her for a while, so a little income. He told us she received a grant of 20,000 baht from the Thai government to rebuild. That's it. So, she hasn't been able to rebuild any bungalows yet.

The hongs were outstanding. Breathtaking. If you can do one excursion in the Phuket/Phang Nga area, see the hongs, and not by speedboat, but by kayak, so you can get inside them. It's unbelievable. Pictures and words do not do the experience justice at all.

People on the boat were nice, guides were great, toilet was iffy. At one point, it overflowed into the sea where some people were swimming...that would be my only complaint, and I'm not so sure there is anything that can be done about that type of thing in that type of boat...I think too many people used too much water to flush and the tank simply overflowed.

Got back to the hotel around 10:00 and slept very well. Arranged with Mac, the driver from John Gray, for him to take us to the airport the next day, as he would be staying with his sister that night in Khao Lak and going to Phuket in the morning anyway...and it gave him a little extra money that would otherwise have been paid to the hotel for the transfer.

January 6 - off to Bangkok.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 01:48 AM
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Jan 6
Arrived in Bangkok aroudn 1:30 pm, got a 600 baht limo from the limo counter and got to the Conrad in 30 minutes. Check in was completed in our room, which was very nice. Went right to the pool and spent the afternoon there. Lovely. Had snacks and drinks, and soon it was time to go to Suan Lum night market and the Joe Louis puppet theater. We loved the market and show, and spent a good bit of time shopping around before and after the show.

January 7 - totally enjoyed breakfast at the Conrad, then took a taxi to the Jim Thompson house. Although it is our 4 (or 5th?) time in BKK, we'd never been there. It was really lovely, and our guide for the house tour had a great personality and sense of humor. We enjoyed her.

We had lunch at the restaurant outdoors next to the water...nice, but not special. Thai food there was very average, but Teaghan's tuna sandwich was quite nice! We bought some small things in the shop, then went over to the Paragon mall for a look. Teaghan found some hill tribe dolls she had to have in the craft section of the mall, and the price was fine, so we bought them. The food floor is unbelievable..spent a good while wandering around there. The given the choice of aquarium or hotel pool, Teaghan opted for the pool, so we went back to the hotel for a poolside afternoon.

I booked a spa treatment for myself in the spa in the Conrad, and loved it. Gorgeous room, lovely woman did my body scrub and massage.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant...buffet style but many things to order. It was all excellent.

January 8
Bicycle tour, just us, to Ko Kred island north of BKK. A little hiccup with me and Teaghan...I told her once too many times to be careful...but otherwise very enjoyable. The bicycles were good, guide personable, and lunch great. We tried a fair bit of food bought in the market on the island as well, some of which tasted horrible, but some of which was amazingly delicious. All in all, a good day.

Back at the hotel around 5, pool, I had a Thai massage in the spa...but this time around I wasn't so lucky and had what I thought was a lousy service dinner because we were packing and very lazy, and then bed. Up at 3:30 to go to the airport for a 6:00 am departure on the 9th...left the Conrad at 4:20, arrived at the airport at 4:35.

That's it. The end. Now to plan the next trip...we're thinking India. Or Laos.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 01:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Gloria...never too old for elephant camp. Even if you aren't comfortable on top of an elephant - which I can COMPLETELY relate to, just going there to do the homestay, see the hospital, walk in the's the other stuff that I really enjoyed, not the riding elephants...if we go back, which I'm sure we will if Teaghan has her way, I will do everything except ride the elephants and be very happy and plenty busy there.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 02:36 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 68
Wow ! Didn't you do a lot? We did the same trips and went to a cookery school when we were there, but did not customize it. Our elephant experience was a day trip. That was wonderful, more commercialized, but enough for me.

Sorry to hear about Teaghan's illness.
Frightening when you are at home, never mind abroad.

Best wishes,

GillandTony is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 02:52 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Kim, Loved your report and could really feel for you as you described your experience with Teaghan's illnes. So glad everything worked out and it was only one day. We had a similar experience with our daughter on a trip to Argentina when she was very young. I think you held up amazingly well and did all the rights things. Otherwise sounds like a great trip. Loved hearing about your cooking class with Yui -- we're trying to decide which one to take and her willingness to adapt to individual requests sounds great. Plus I like the idea of being in a Thai home - more personalized and not so commercial.
CFW is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 03:56 AM
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Kim, I loved your report! It seems that for the most part, you had a great time. I'm very happy that Teaghan's illness didn't last but sorry it happened--you certainly don't need something like that ever happening, even worse considering the stress you went through with your father's illness before the trip.

Your report has me considering going back to Chiang Mai to give it another chance. I wasn't crazy about it when I was there but I became very ill while there which probably colored my perception. The cooking class sounds wonderful.
laurieco is online now  
Jan 11th, 2006, 05:05 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,834
Wow! What a great trip. Thanks so much for sharing your report. Glad to hear that Teaghan recovered quickly. (I was reading on the Bali board that a family's 3 kids got dengue on holiday there).
BTW, thanks for pointing me to the Villa Angkasa some time ago. It is on the top of my list for our May trip, as they got back to me with a price of only $160 inc, tax breakfast and transfers.
cruisinred is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 05:25 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,282
Kim-- we spent ab out two hours at the hospital at the elephant conservation center a few days ago. Had a wonderful and informative conversation with the vet. I really love that place.
glorialf is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 05:37 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Thanks for the interesting report. I'm glad everything turned out fine with the big scare. How frightening for you.

simpsonc510 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 182
What a fabulous report! I just read it all the way through instead of doing work. I can't wait to see the pictures!

We are doing the 1 day elephant camp. I hope Supat offers us pictures too!
SJLBK is offline  
Jan 11th, 2006, 08:26 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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Great report...We were going to use Julie's taxi for a couple of times this trip but have cancelled her out of our plans. Glad Teaghan is ok...must have been a traumatic experience. Can't wait to see the pics.
hawaiiantraveler is offline  

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