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Thai portion of Thailand-Laos-Cambodia planning

Thai portion of Thailand-Laos-Cambodia planning

Old Oct 18th, 2009, 07:22 PM
  #1  
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Thai portion of Thailand-Laos-Cambodia planning

I am planning my first trip so SE Asia and looking for comments, tips, recommendations, etc. I always appreciate the advice I find here and make an effort to post trip reports afterwards to follow up. So SE Asia folks, please share your expertise!
As background, I’m early thirties, female, travelling solo. I usually try to pack in a lot and prefer to keep it moving in order to see and do more. As such, I often prefer to have travel arrangements and accommodations secured in advance. I’m more interested in physical activity and/or exploring and wandering than I am interested in museums and/or lying on the beach. That said, art/temples and the beach/coast of southern Thailand are top agenda items for this trip. I’ve outlined a very rough itinerary below and jotted couple of country-specific questions. I’m particularly interested in recommendations for budget accommodations and restaurants. Lastly, I know it’s high season…I prefer to travel shoulder season, but this was the only time I could take off of work for an extended trip. High season will be challenging for my budget, so any cost conscious tips are appreciated. Also, I’m thinking about getting the Discovery AirPass to get around.
Dec 17-20 BKK, Thailand
Dec 20-25 Laos
Dec 25-29 Siem Reap, Cambodia
Dec 29-Jan 3 Southern Thailand
THAILAND
BKK – Any comments on Baan Dinso hostel or Sam Sen Sa Place? Other inexpensive guest house, hostel, etc that is clean, safe, and not too raucous?
Southern Thailand – Thinking about basing myself in Krabi, with possible day trips to other spots. Does that make sense? Any guest house reccs? Is there any beginner friendly rock climbing/scrambling or kayaking? If you were on a budget and wanted the best combo of scenic beauty + not too crowded + enough good food, where would you go?
My flight to return to U.S. is out of Bangkok on Jan 3 at about 8pm. I see a 10:30 am Phuket-Bangkok flight. These are reliable enough that I should be able to travel from the south to Bangkok that morning and make my flight, yes? Thanks!
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Old Oct 18th, 2009, 08:17 PM
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Hello,

You can kayak from West Raileh and do rock climbing at East Railay which is short 5 minutes or less walk between the two.

Not knowing your budget, and given that accommodations at most places in Krabi experience a huge jump in prices, you might consider quieter Krabi-town which is a short 35-40 minute ride from Ao Nang. Or else head to Krabi's Ton Sai which is it's own separate beach between West Raiey and Ao Nang and attracts more of the budget backpacker crowd. You may end up sleeping literally on the beach, though, since accommodations along this Bohemia is quite limited.

There's no need to catch a flight out from further away Phuket since Krabi Airport is also serviced by budget carrier Air Asia which offers several flights per day to Bangkok. Hmm, there's a risk to wait until the morning of your departure to return to BKK for your evening flight but unless there's some major problem with the airlines, you should be OK. Just hope no Bangkok airport gets shut down like last Dec.
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Old Oct 18th, 2009, 09:48 PM
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Hi,
Have fun on your trip! We went to Krabi 2.5 years ago. We liked it for the fact that it was lively and offered many activities. Still, someone referred to it as a scandinavian ghetto! Too many swedish meatball restaurants and the beach was just soso. Late night disco music in the streets...it can be fun if that is what you are looking for! Not sure on your budget, but the Cliff is quite acceptable. Personally i would not stay in Railay ( spelling?) The beach on the one side is fantastic, but the only way in and out is by long-tail. From what I can tell no real dining options unless You stay in the hotel there....then again, go to Krabi and it is swedish meatballs gallore ;-)
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Old Oct 19th, 2009, 02:53 AM
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Me thinks Kirsten is referring to Kraib's Ao Nang, with it's 'swedish meatball restaurants'. LOL
Gotta walk over to Nopparat Beach, a 10 minute walk away for better local Thai fare which is very popular amongst Thai day-trippers to picnic under the shade of trees along the beach front promenade.
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 04:47 PM
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Thanks, all. Do you recommend somewhere else more than Krabi? I may look into Krabi Town and Son Tai, seagypsy...but are any of the other islands around there a good base?

I was hoping to go to Krabi from Cambodia, but there is no direct service from S.R. There is direct service from Phuket, so maybe I should just find a cheap place (if it's possible) and base myself there, esp since the Discovery Airpass is only giving me the option of Phuket-BKK (vs. Krabi-BKK) for return.

No one offers direct services from S.R. to Krabi, correct?
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 04:52 PM
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Also, I'm checking out Nok Air...but posts on the forum are very dated. Has anyone flown recently and have any insight? Thanks!
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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No, there is no direct service from Siem Reap to Krabi. There is a flight from Siem Reap that stops in Bangkok and goes on to Phuket that counts as one flights on the Discovery Pass, but (as I understand it) no flight from Phuket to Siem Reap that counts as one flight.

I'm not sure of the current status of Nok Air. They suspended operations for a while and I don't know if they are flying again or not.
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 07:25 PM
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Hello again cjw,
I'll cover the flights first. Since you're only required to book a 3 flight minimum for the Bangkok Airways 'Discovery Pass', you're not required to use BA for all your flights. So, if you use the pass for BKK>Luang Prabang>Siem Reap>Bangkok, then you will have fulfilled their requirements and can switch to any other airline for the BKK>Krabi>BKK route. However, it may still be cheaper to go with BA and according to their website, they do offer 2 flights/day between BKK and Krabi each way. I dont't think Nok Air offers budget flights to
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 07:38 PM
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Huh, I was just typing and hit the wrong key and sent instead.

Anyways, to continue,
I'm pretty sure that Nok does not offer flights to Krabi, though they compete against Air Asia by offering the alternative to Trang.
I still think though that your best option is with Air Asia to/from Krabi rather than flying to/from Phuket because travel time by bus from Phuket to Krabi runs around 3 hours and a private van transfer takes a little more than 2 hours and runs about U$100.
There's still one advantage to flying Siem Reap>BKK>Krabi and that is that Bangkok Airways should be able to transfer your luggage from your Siem Reap>BKK flight unto your Krabi flight whereas with Air Asia, for sure you'll have to retrieve your luggage and check-in again. Also, don't forget that when you fly into BKK from Siem Reap that you'll have to get a new free Thailand visa exemption stamp (good for a new 30 days) which means a little more time going through immigration. And note that Air Asia's check-in counter closes 45 minutes before their flight departure.
Also Thai Airways also offers the BKK>Krabi>BKK route so at this point, it's which ever airline works best with your flight coming into Bangkok from Siem Reap.

I'll post separately on accommodations shortly.
I want to send this ASAP because I realize that you're needing to line up your flights.
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 08:00 PM
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Yes there are a couple more islands between Krabi-town/Ao Nang and Koh Lanta and one is called Ko Jum but because of the ferry schedule it might not be practical due to logistics.

For budget accommodations, your only real options are:

Krabi-town--benefits are it's more of a Thai town with lots of good Thai food options and not nearly as crowded with tourists as any other locale for that season. They've got several night market options for food as well as live music performances at the town market on weekend nights. Downside is that it's not nearly as scenic as being close to the beach since it's mainly a riverview, though a very nice promenade along the river. Songthaews run until around 9pm but you won't want to miss the last one since it'll probably cost you a pretty penny to hire a private transfer back (~U$8-10) whereas the regular white songthaew fare is 50bahts (I think it jumps up to 70-75 at night).

East Raileh--it's been over 10 years since I've stayed at ER but I suspect this area too will be very busy since it's a short walk to West Railay with it's far superior beach (west is better than even Ao Nang). East Railay is still a mudflat zone but if you stay somewhere like Diamond Cave Bungalows, some rooms have a good view facing south/southeast towards the sea. I've even heard of a path between E. Railey and Ton Sai Beach. Yaya's seems to have a good reputation for it's bar. But I do expect that roomrates for peak season are in the U$25 range. Limited food choices so do some shopping at Krabi-town or Ao Nang and bring your own snacks. There is a minimart between West and East though I would think some places would sell their own snacks.

Ao Ton Sai--the beach between West Raileh and Ao Nang is more of a backpacker's scene. Haven't visited but even when we were in W. Railey this past spring one could see the backpacker's trying to find the path along the rocky cliff from Railey to Ton Sai.

Ao Nang--there are quite a number of places along this tourist strip but inland from the beach and away from the more tourist scene are some budget guesthouses. We didn't spend any time checking out this area but you can always hop songthaews back and forth to the tourist zone from the less expensive accommodations inland from Ao Nang. It's only about a 5-7 minute songthaew ride.

Hope this helps.
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 08:06 PM
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BTW, cjw, when I'm thinking budget, I'm thinking more in the under U$25 range and moderate priced as in the U$50 range.
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Old Oct 20th, 2009, 08:19 PM
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Hi cjw,

Right now I see Air Asia offers 3 flights/day between BKK and Krabi but their airfares returning from Krabi to BKK is running nearly 4,300bahts (excluding taxes) whereas Bangkok Airways (for the same date returning Jan. 2nd) is offering their late afteroon PG4705 departing Krabi at 15:40 for 2,255bahts (6 month ticket). That BA flight looks great to me for peak season, even without it being part of the 'discovery pass'.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 07:32 AM
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wow, thank you, seagypsy! so helpful! and kathie, too!

i was on phone with BA yesterday and it was looking so good for Discovery...only 3/4 of my segments were available, which I'd book, but apparently only 1 was a BA flight, so I didn't qualify...in any case, I'm looking at revising my itinerary or making other adjustments...so I'll be back later this evening to review your comments seagypsy...w/ your help, i'm hopeful i'll work it out!

btw, are you a travel agent? also, we are of the same mind re: budget figures...thanks!
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 04:10 PM
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i had to juggle the itinerary, but i think i got flights! just waiting on the email re: discovery airpass to confirm purchase. i did have to book the krabi flights separate as no more discovery airpass seats were available. thanks! these flights ending up costing me more than i'd hoped...so may be looking for the least expensive hostel options...may post about that separately once i dig into some.

appreciate your help, seagypsy especially!!!
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 04:43 PM
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Hi cjw,
Did you get the flights you wanted/hoped for with the Discovery Airpass?
And what about the roundtrip flights for Krabi? Where those flights less on Bangkok Airways?
Just curious.
Now that you've got your flights, you can relax a little and find places to stay which shouldn't be a problem for Bangkok, Luang Prabang and Siem Reap. Krabi is the only destination that might be more difficult because of availability vs the amount of travelers to location.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 08:28 PM
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I had to revise schedule so that I am doing
BKK
Siem Reap
Luang Prabang
Southern Thailand
back to BKK
I didn't find workable flights for Krabi, so I booked with Bangkok Airways at the rate you quoted. I agree, for peak season, it is not a bad price. That said...I wonder if an overnight bus to/from BKK might've been a better choice, from a $ perspective. I read, though, that theft can be common on the overnight buses and I would totally fall...I'll probably be travelling with one big backpack, so maybe hard to keep right with me. Do you have any thoughts on the overnight bus, esp. for female travelling alone with luggage?

Re: southern Thailand...how does one ever pick where to stay? There are so many options...Krabi itself and the areas you describe...or maybe Ko Lanta? Even maybe Ko Phi Phi? I am mostly looking for beautiful surroundings with some hiking/kayaking/similar but with "local" feel...not overdeveloped/too crowded and touristy...good food...if I base on your comments, I'm thinking maybe book in Krabi town, and do day trips...
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 08:31 PM
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oops - that's supposed to say "I didn't find workable flights for Krabi with Air Asia"
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 10:21 PM
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Hi cjw,

Yes, I kinda figured that the BA flights might work out better to/from Krabi. How is the connecting flight coming back from Luang Prabang to Bangkok with the flight to Krabi lining up? I hope the connection isn't too long.

As to taking the VIP bus vs. a flight, for the price of approx. U$66 oneway, I'll take it for peak season. The overnight VIP bus would have you arriving a bit tired.

This way all you'll need to do is take the 'white airport' bus from Krabi Airport to Krabi-town (90bahts) or Ao Nang (150bahts). And you can shuttle between Krabi-town and Ao Nang for 50bahts oneway but it does take approx. half an hour. If you book one of those day trips such as the one to Ko Phi Phi that includes multiple stops along the way for snorkeling (Bamboo Island, Phi Phi Leh's Maya Bay, Hin Klarng) then dependig upon the operator, they'll even deliver you there and return you from Ao Nang for free. Krabi-town certainly offers more of a Thai town feel whereas any other place mentioned above will be far much touristy (but the trade off is that they're much closer to the beach).
We stayed at a riverfront hotel in Krabi-town with AC, ultra clean rooms, private bathroom, TV, etc. for 750bahts for a few days, though I suspect their rates will go up for the holidays. Still, it was excellent value for money. We really liked that it was away from all the tourists and it was quiet.

The other option for more of a local atmosphere is staying inland from Ao Nang but I don't know of any place offhand.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2009, 07:02 AM
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well i do have a long wait in bkk before leaving for krabi...another reason i was thinking of the bus. if i took the bus, i could head out for lunch and whatnot...if i keep my flight, i've got approx. 6 hours...maybe not enough time to get in and out of the airport...

looking around last night, i was maybe more inclined to stay closer to the waterfront. it's hard to predict if i'll be inclined to stay out for dinner and whatnot, and so should be mindful of the timing/cost of returning to krabi town...i found availability at railway viewpoint, which has some mixed reviews. i'm going to look into the hostel options tonight...
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Old Oct 22nd, 2009, 12:26 PM
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Meals at restaurant choice are far more limited on West Railay since you've got only the resorts selections but you could also check out the restaurants on East Raileh as well. That is one of the drawbacks since meals are pricier. But it makes up for it in beauty. One more drawback to West Railay that I neglected to mention is that of the noise from the longtail boats coming in and going out.
I've stayed at Sand and Sea a couple times and it was OK overall but both times, this was just before Christmas or after New Year's and Railay was packed.

One option with staying at Krabi-town is that we would sometimes stay into the evening and have our meals in Ao Nang before taking the songthaew back to town (we were in the mood for some pizza and salad after one of the island excursions and some Swensen's ice cream before learning belatedly that Krabi-town had it's own of both! duh!). But overall, the Thai food in Krabi-town was much better and far cheaper.

It's too bad there's no private message function since I feel like I'm dominating this thread.
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