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My visit to Thailand

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Nov 29th, 2015, 12:41 PM
  #1
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My visit to Thailand

Our 4 country adventure started in Bangkok, Thailand. Our hotel was the Anantara Riverside Hotel with a lovely view of the river. We started out as 4 couples with a private guide for the first leg of our trip and then gained another couple. We traveled with the wonderful guidance of a company called Aurora Travel also known as Vietnam Stay. Our tour director was the very capable Xuan Hao. He worked with me to develop a great itinerary and provided the drivers, guides, vehicles and expertise. I would highly recommend the company.

As we arrived late our first day, we decided to start our first tour mid-day on the second day. Our visits were to the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew to see the Emerald Buddha, China Townm Wat Traimit to see the Golden Buddha, Wat Po to see the Reclining Buddha and then a walk through the Flower Market. Very exhausting but fun. Then back to the hotel in time to jump into the pool (with swim up bar) to watch the drum ceremony and candle lighting. Great fun. We enjoyed the dinner buffet complete with traditional dinner show.

Day 3 in Thailand finds us driving out to the country to see the salt pans of Samut Songkram. Then on to a coconut farm to watch the process of making coconut sugar. We got to participate. Next stop Damnan Saduak, the floating market. This was lots of fun. As the boatman paddles along we stop to look at the stores. If you are interested in buying something they literally "hook" you over to the store. Once the transaction is completed you are set afloat. Make sure you bargain. It's part of the fun. Now it's on to the "Death Railway", a short journey on the train shows what it was like to travel the track. I found it a bit of a let down. Thought it would be more authentic. Then it is on to the River Kwai and the bridge made famous. Very crowded, but eventually we got some nice photos. Back at the hotel we decide to clean up and go to the Night Market for dinner. We eat at a Thai restaurant that was delicious, Baan Khanintha. The market was just a bit to modern for our taste so back to the hotel.

Early departure to the airport to catch a flight to Chiang Mai. First stop Wat Phra That Doi-Suthep, just incredible temple complex. Then on to our hotel, Le Meridien to clean up for dinner, which was a Khuntoke Dinner with a Northern Dance Show. Very beautiful.

Our next day is jam packed with travel as we are heading to Chiang Rai. We drive to the White Temple, which was built in 1997 and still not finished, but none the less, beautiful. Very avant-garde in style. From there it is on to two small villages, Yao & Akha to see how the hill people live. Very authentic and heartfelt to see how they live in such meager conditions. Then it is on to the Monkey Cave. Lots of monkeys. Next stop MaeSai which is a town that boarders Myanmar. We really wanted to cross the boarder, but not enough time or visas. Then it is on to the Golden Triangle. Thailand is on the left, Myanmar in the middle and Lao on the right. Very beautiful to see. Short visit to the Opium Museum and then more driving to Chiang San to see more temple ruins. Wat Chedi Luang is the best of the ruins. It's a long drive back to the hotel and we are all exhausted.

Next day it is on to more temples. We visit Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Mun and Wat Ched Yod. All very beautiful and interesting. After lunch we are moving on to Lao. Check under Lao for my next trip report.
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Nov 29th, 2015, 11:56 PM
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Thanks for sharing, but that's an exhausting itinerary. Because of the speed you were being rushed around it turns into not much more than a tick-off exercise.

For example...

<<>>

Thousands of Allied servicemen died during WWII constructing that railway. If you'd needed it to be more authentic then your guide should have taken you to the Thai-Burma Railway Centre in Kanchanaburi (2 miles from the Bridge) to give you an overview of what life was like for those soldiers, airmen and civilians.

Opposite the Railway Centre is the immaculately maintained Don Rak Commonwealth War Cemetery, where thousands of those who sacrificed their lives are buried. It is a very moving and serenne place to visit

Just down the road is the JEATH Museum, which is unashamedly low-tech, and shows the living conditions that had to be endured by the Prisoners-of-War. JEATH stands for Japan England Australia America Thailand and Holland.

It's criminal really that you were only allowed a short trip on the Death Railways. It really is a beautiful run up from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok.

Just after Nam Tok is the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, which is yet another place that ought to be visited in the Kanchaburi area. There you can see parts of the rail track and the terrain that had to be dug through by hand with little more than pick-axes in searing heat by mal-nourished men. It's a very haunting and harrowing place to be, and very authentic.

Sorry for going on a bit. But these rush around tours really do leave a lot to be desired, and definitely fall into the 'Too Much = Too Little' category.
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Nov 30th, 2015, 12:14 PM
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We did visit the Jeath Museum and learn about how the railway was constructed. My synopsis of the trip was just that. Sorry if you felt it wasn't detailed enough. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. We loved our trip.
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Nov 30th, 2015, 01:46 PM
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Glad you enjoyed your trip, but next time slow down, loiter at leisure, immerse yourself, and really take it all in.
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Dec 1st, 2015, 04:26 AM
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Caryn,
Many thanks for a report on your trip! Sounds like you had a fabulous time and got to see a number of highlights at each stop.

As someone asked on the other thread, what was the overall itinerary for your trip and how long were you in each place?
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 04:23 AM
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We really did have a fabulous trip. And yes it was very busy, but we like to move not sleep. There are some things that I would change not that I've been there, but you really don't know until you go. Also, time is very difficult to find when you still work, as my husband does. We were gone a total of 3 weeks. Yes, I know I could have cut out one country, but which one?

We had 2 days in Bangkok, I felt it was enough. Transferred to Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai for 2 days, it was fine, but hectic. Transferred to Luang Phrabang, Lao for 2 days, could have used a little more time here. On to Hanoi, 1 day. That was fine. 2 nights on the junk in Bai Tu Long Bay, great amount of time (really loved the relaxation and sights). Hoian and Hue 1 day each (should have had an extra day between the 2 cities?) Saigon 2 days, needed 1 more. Siem Reap, Cambodia 3 days and it was great. So a total of 18 nights, with travel between locations and international travel. If I had more time I would have added a couple of days, but such is life.
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 06:02 AM
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What were your favorite places? In retrospect, if you had to eliminate a country (as least favorite), which would it be and why?
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 06:02 AM
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Wow, I am worn out reading but we all have different touring styles
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 08:05 AM
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I prefer "fast travel" to "slow travel" when I want to see as much as possible on a first trip. Sounds like you saw a lot and had a good time, so you had a sucessful trip.

We are heading back to Thailand and Vietnam in January for a 3 week second visit to each, and we will do "slow travel" because we have already seen many of the starred attractions on our first visit. I'll see if I feel "slow travel" is relaxing or boring once our trip is over.

Thanks for taking the time to post.
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 08:17 AM
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@julies<<>>

With a whirlwind itinerary covering 4 countries in less than 3 weeks it's impossible for anyone to objectively answer your questions.

For example Luang Pranang is just one small part of Laos, the capital city Vientiene is a complete contrast, as is the countryside around Vang Vieng, and everything in between.

Ditto with Cambodia, there's much more to the country besides Siem Reap. Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampot, and Kep are all worthy of a couple of nights.

Vietnam's a long and narrow country, with different climates north and south, and different appreciations of their own culture and history.
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 09:02 AM
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LL--I am not looking for an objective answer. I want a subjective, gut-level response.
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 10:27 AM
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Thanks for answering my question about your itinerary.
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Dec 2nd, 2015, 10:28 AM
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Caryn, thanks for your trip report. Sounds like you went on one of the Indochina Junks to Bai Tu Long Bay? Agreed--great fun, and for me, a highlight.
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 02:18 AM
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julies. Travelling at a gallop in South East Asia on the back of subjective gut-level information isn't really a good idea. That's why I try to be objective.
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 03:39 AM
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LL,
I respect your approach to travel and I ask that you respect others as well. There are many different types of travelers on this board -- some have time and money (and they are blessed to have that); others have time, not as much money; and others have limited time (money or not!). Many of us have very limited vacations and are not fortunate to be able to travel for extended periods of time. So, if someone chooses to see parts of 4 countries in 3 weeks, wonderful! That is their choice -- perhaps they will return to the country in the future, perhaps this is their only opportunity. But that person has had a valid travel experience; who are you to judge them?

Your comments to the OP on the nature of her trip were unnecessarily harsh. We each travel in our own way and it is not helpful to criticize her trip just because it's not the way you would choose to do it. Clearly, you are at a point in your life when you have the opportunity to travel extensively; yes, I know you try to travel on a budget, and that's great -- for you! If others choose to stay and enjoy higher end places, that's great -- for them! And if someone has the desire to experience highlights of different countries on their trip, that's their choice -- and let's hear what their experience is like. You don't have to agree with their choice -- but it's good to hear what works for them.

Please, let's all respect each other's choices and not judge or criticize someone else's trip. Feedback is helpful when asked -- such as in planning a trip -- but when someone is generous enough to write up a trip report, read it, enjoy it, ask questions, and post comments in a spirit that supports the community.

Paule
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 04:23 AM
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I get all that.

But travelling quickly, especially when it's nigh on impossible to slow down, has possible dangers lurking, especially if South East Asia is an unknown quantities.

Dangers such as...

- Being totally ill-prepared for the climate change.

- Illness early into the trip, which can carry on for a few days. You can't stop.

- Not enjoying the pace. Lots of early starts, early flights, lots of road travel, packing, unpacking, packing, being shunted around by a clock-watching tour guide. Some like it, some don't, some hate it.

- Perhaps being a bit of an introvert, and feeling a bit isolated from the rest of the tour party.

- Having trouble with the heat and humidity.

- Wanting to break off for a while, but being unable to.

The above, and plenty more besides, will not only affect the individual, but also have an effect on fellow members of the group.

It's not simply a case of fancying a whistle-stop tour of 4 countries, there's a lot more to take into consideration.

And actually reading things like the following might put other people off wanting to visit...

<<>>

What's the point getting all the way to the Mai Sai border, and it is a long way,...

<<>>

...only to find there isn't time to go across into Myanmar for a couple of hours, have a look round the town and buy a few souvenirs? I'm also 99.99% certain that day trippers don't need a Visa to cross, so the guide was telling a porky.

These whirlwind tours always include far more than it's possible to fit in, and often allow too little time for the places they do visit.

I'm not trying to be harsh to the OP, and hope that people who read the thread can take onboard that there are quite a lot of things to consider.
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 05:19 AM
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I'm so glad that so many of you have read my report and enjoyed my comments. As for LL, well he just doesn't get or want to get it. I don't appreciate the repeat comments of what I did wrong. I know what I enjoyed and what I could have done better and I've shared those thoughts in my report so others can see those comments. No trip will ever be perfect. I have traveled extensively and enjoyed each and everyone of my trips, but that doesn't mean I couldn't have made some improvements to them. As for this trip. It was awesome and may have me going back to some of the countries again. Sometimes you need to get your feet wet to know where you want to get them soaked.

Okay at the end of the trip we ranked our 1 - 4 favorite country. Each person (6 of us) had a different ranking. I chose as my first favorite Cambodia (crazy huh), but I had some amazing experiences there and the people was so kind and wonderful. I would love to go back in a few years and see how the country is moving along. Second, I put Vietnam. Very diverse and beautiful. It was very interesting learning so much about the Vietnam/American War and through the eyes of North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese, as they view it totally different. I learned a lot. I love learning history it puts things in a whole different perspective for me. We also had the most time in Vietnam, which was planned. I will repeat that we needed one more day in Saigon.

3rd on my list is Lao. We stayed in Luang Phrabang. Which is ranked one of the best travel cities. It is beautiful and they have a lot of guest houses that you rent, really cheap and spend a week there. It's definitely on my list and then I could get to Myanmar when I have the time.

And I know I will shock everyone, but Thailand was last on my list. Maybe because we went there first or didn't spend enough time. I would like to get back there and maybe see some points south.

But I will repeat again, for LL's benefit. The trip was great. The experiences amazing and we are glad we did it the way we did. Maybe some change suggestions, but no regrets about any of it.

Paule, thanks for the support. One more comment. I had read in other forums that it was a waste of time to go to Halong Bay to travel by Junk. We found the right company and right itinerary to make this extension work for us. I would not recommend a one night junk trip, it's not relaxing, but I'm sure there are some that feel that is all they want or can afford. Good Luck to all my fellow travelers. We are the lucky ones.
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 06:03 AM
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LL-As of our last trip to the area (five years ago) you did need to pay a fee ($15, I think) to cross the border into Myanmar. We had read not to waste our money as there is nothing much to see if you are only going for a few hours. We did not go, but others who did said it was a waste of time and money.

Caryn-We spent one night on a junk and found that it was enough for us. I definately would not recommend doing it as a day trip, if anyone is thinking of doing that.

On a final note, to LL, it is fine to give your opinions, but it is not helpful to state your opinions as if it is gospel. Please try to respect that not everyone wants to travel in your style. When it comes to travel, different strokes for different folks really does apply. BTW, I have gotten some good info from some of your posts on other threads, but the argumentative nature of some of your writing can be off putting.

Caryn, thanks again for taking the time to post.
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 06:42 AM
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Caryn--Thanks for doing this. The only country in SEA we've visited in Vietnam; that is why I am reading up for a possible return trip. I have never been to Thailand, but from the reading I have one thus far, I am not surprised that you put it at the bottom om your list of favorites. It is last on my list of places I am thinking of.

We are lucky that we recently retired and have both the time and the money to travel, so we wouldn't go at as fast a clip as you did, but no matter how much time one has places still have to be prioritized.
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Dec 3rd, 2015, 07:07 AM
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<<>>

Yep, but you get it crossing the bridge into Myanmar. My point was that crossing into Myanmar was on the itinerary, and was something that CampingCaryn was looking forward to. We've been across, and yep it was a waste of money - lol! But these Tour Companies insist on having the place on their itineraries.

<<<...but the argumentative nature of some of your writing can be off putting.>>>

I prefer to call it provoking further discussion. Which is good, as it encourages more information to be forthcoming, and providing that information is useful [not necessarily objective] then it shouldn't be frowned on.

If I post a proposed itinerary then I'm looking for as much response as I can get, good ideas or bad ideas, it doesn't bother me. I'll research what's been said, and either adjust my itinerary or not adjust it. Either way I'll be grateful for the info.

If I post a subsequent trip report, the more response I get, and the more questions I can answer the better. It all helps other people.
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