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Thailand or Bali...paralysis by analysis

Thailand or Bali...paralysis by analysis

Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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Thailand or Bali...paralysis by analysis

Hello Fodorites,

I've learned a great deal from this wondeful forum and from the many experienced travelers that frequent this site. Thus, it is with great confidence that I request your help to resolve a dilemma.

I am planning a family trip this April to either Thailand or Bali, but I can't decide. My wife prefers Thailand because a couple of friends have indicated that Bali can be boring at times. On the other hand, others on this forum have indicated that the beaches in Thailand are nice, but perhaps not on par with Bali. Originally from Miami (see below) and the Carribbean, I would sure be disappointed if the beaches were just okay.

I would appreciate your input and suggestions. To that end, please allow me to provide you with some details and background information on my family.

We are originally from Miami, but have been living in London for the past year or so. My kids (2 boys ages 9 and 6 and a girl age 4) are enduring their first English winter and dearly miss the beach and sunshine of South Florida. Hence, I promised to take them to some place warm during their Easter break. Also, we enjoy exposing our kids to different cultures and have decided on Asia rather than returning home for Easter. Our itinerary allows us 9-10 days departing London on or about April 7 and returning on or about April 16.

What type of hotel are we looking for?

We would like to stay in an ocean-front accomodation that is off the beaten path or in a boutique style place that doesn't scream tourist trap. Being in a nice room is important to us as it sets the tone for the vacation. We enjoy charming places over huge resorts. We dislike high rise hotels. We like places with character and nice architecture. We hate being in a place filled with bargain seeking tourists who are badly burned from their first day in the sun and their kids are running wild up and down the lobby. By the way, having 3 kids of my own I can understand the behaviour.

What do we like to do and how will we spend our days?

We want a restful yet adventurous holiday. We enjoy swimming and the spa. We will certainly lounge around the pool and swim in the ocean. My kids love collecting shells and enjoy wildlife. My wife and I will want a spa and massage treatments. We love to eat out and enjoy all kids of different foods. We love to explore, ride bikes and go elephant trekking if possible! Cooking classes would be a plus. Golf and tennis is not needed for this holiday.

Are we looking for a "child-friendly" or "family-style" resort?

NO! My experience with these type of places is that they tend to be mega resorts with massive pools, man-made waterfalls and game rooms galore. They cater to those wanting a one-stop shop. We don't like feeling like we are at Disney World. We prefer quiter, elegant places that are not loud, yet do not frown upon children.

How much do I want to pay?

I'm flexible, but would like stay around $300 per night for a suite or villa that can accomodate my family, or slighlty higher per night if it means two adjacent rooms in a hotel.

Since it is our first trip to this region we realy do not know what to expect. If anybody has any opinions on where to go and/or great places to stay in any of these locations, I'd love to hear those as well.

I look forward to reading your replys. Many thanks.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:20 AM
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Loved the title of your post...I am suffering from the same dilemna...we will probably try to combine both

As for Bali, you might want to consider a villa...tons of room for the kids, your own pool and your own chef. I recieved some great rates from the Tamu Group www.tamugroup.com .....we are probably going to rent the Villa Angkasa.

Good luck with your plans
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:30 AM
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I have a couple of comments that may help you decide, or may make it harder to decide. It is a difficult decision, as both Bali and Thailand are wonderful (albeit very different) destinations.

I don't know where you got the idea that the Bali beaches are nicer than the Thai beaches - it just isn't so. Nonetheless, I think you could find satisfactory beaches in Bali. That said, everyone has a different idea of the "ideal" beach, and my idea of a nice beach may be different from yours.

I don't understand the comment that "Bali can be boring at times." The advantage of Bali is that it is a small isalnd, and other areas of the island are readily accessible. This means you not only have a beach at your doorstep, but also cultural activities easily accessible.

You won't be riding elephants in Bali. If you really want elephants, Thailand is your choice. You'll find cooking classes in both places.

You will find wonderful places to stay in either location. There are lots of smaller places with beautiful rooms or villas in either place.

In April, you wouldn't want the Phuket area of Thailand as it is quite rainy. But there are other beach areas that will not be so rainy.

Other considerations: your money will go far in either location. There are travel advisories from the US and Australian governemnts discouraging travel to Bali. There have been two terrorist bombings there in the last several years. While I, perosnally, wouldn't let that discourage me from going to Bali, only you can decide what you are comfortable with.

Let me make your choice more complicated: another idea would be to go to a beach location in Malaysia. Many people belive that Malaysia has the best beaches in SE Asia. While I'm not interested in the arguments about what is "best," I can say theat the beaches are beautiful and there are wonderful places to stay.

I'll leave it to others to make specific resort recommendations.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:39 AM
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If weather is a factor, remember that these destinations are on different sides of the equator and, weather in April may, therefore, be different for each.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 10:02 AM
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Kathie,

Thanks for your response.

I'm glad to hear that the Bali beaches are at least on par with Thailand (I note that you did not say they are considerably better). Quite frankly, I don't know.

As for Bali being boring, again, I don't have an opnion since I've never been there. I was simply sharing the opinion of others (not Fodorites) who felt that way. These folks have different tastes, style preferences, etc. I am not relying on their opinions, but simply seeking input from those on this forum.

Thanks for the other considerations as it could sway me to Thailand. Please continue to post if you have any other ideas or things that I should consider.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 10:12 AM
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first of all bali is anything but boring...it is a fantastic destination...

neither place has fabulous beaches quite honestly...nothing like south beach or captiva or sanibel...they just aren't the same as great american beaches....

may i suggest koh samui island in thailand to you...may i further suggest the peace resort there....there is a decent, but not fabulous beach, but a wonderful pool...the place is kid friendly and the town is a 5-10 minute walk away with good restaurants that are also family friendly....the resort itself also has a decent reasonable restaurant...a beachfront bungalow would be perfect for you...this is only one suggestion....

take a look at this hotel web site:

www.huahin.20m.com

in bali many of the resorts are family orientated...we stayed at the bali hyatt at sanur and liked it quite a bit...lots of families....

try looking at www.balidiscovery.com for ideas and seek their help...it takes longer to fly there and generally one flies through jakarta or singapore or K/L....
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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Okay...I'm starting to regret the "Bali is boring" comment even though I attributed it to others (smile). I may just have to find out for myself

Seriously, the more I think about it, the more I think Thailand is the place for me.

So, any other recommendations other than the Peace resort? I will look into Peace, but would like as many options as possible.

How would you compare Peace to say Nakamanda in Krabi or the Pimali in Krabi?
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 10:54 AM
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As you are going in April, that is the beginning of the rainy season in Phuket, Krabi, etc. So you'll have to decide if you are willing to risk the rain. If rain doesn't bother you (average in April in the Phuket area is a bit over 6 inches), then consider that side of the peninsula. The Peace Resort on Koh Samui gets good reviews, but is not as upscale as it sounds like you want.

I'd suggest you go to a good hotel booking site (I like www.asiahotels.com) and look at hotels and resorts in the areas that interest you and then ask questions.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:05 AM
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Kathie,

I thought early to mid-April was still okay? I know one can never predict the whether, but from what I've read on this Board, May and June are suppose to be much more problematic.


Given that weather could be an issue, do you recommend any specific part of Thailand to maximize our stay?

I agree that the Peace resort is not my cup of tea. I will look at the website your recommended as well as others. In ther interim, any thoughts on the Pimali in Krabi? Also, do you recommend booking directly with the hotel or are their reputable on-line companies that can help you save a few bucks?

Thanks, again.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:35 AM
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Krabi is an area. The Nakhamanda is near Ao nang which is the busiest mainland area in krabi, the beaches there are not great but you take long tail boats to the best beaches.

Pimalai is not in that area at all but several hours south on Koh Lanta island, so it's quite different, the Pimalai is a great resort but Koh lanta island although busier than it was is still very quiet, and although the boat trip isn't long you are on an island and it's quiet.

April/May is when the rainy season generaly starts but it can vary a month, you could have solid sunshine or you could get some rain. There are plenty of nice resorts and if you like a high class spa resort then the Nakhamanda is good.

On Samui which is the other side, in the Gulf of Thailand weather shoukld be fine, lots of top places and pool villas places, Sala samui, the Sila Evason and others.
Phuket is also an option but that is in the south west so same weather considorations as for krabi, lots of good resorts, JW Marriott as an example ( Bob can tell you all about that ), there is more to do on Phuket than around krabi, Krabi is more for scenery and Phuket is more for those who want an overall livelier place with shopping, restaurants, plus lots of tours, excursions, snorkeling trips etc, that kind of thing. Plenty of top class places, kata Thani, 2 Meridien's , the Laguna Sheraton and others.

Can you tell us as a family how you like to spend your time? It helps to give ideas, for example if it is just lazing on the beach, or do members of the family want shopping and street markets, are restaurants important, nightlife etc, all these things help.

I know otherw will suggest this but in Thailand you can mix your trip with different locations, many like to spend a few nights in Bangkok, then head north to Chiang Mai or Chiang rai/Golden Triangle for a few days, elephants and treks, and then finish with a week on the beach, that way you get varierty of city/nature/beach.

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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:36 AM
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For Thai beach ideas try www.beachsiam.com
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 12:08 PM
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Gables, the best of the weather websites in my opinion is www.weatherbase.com. Take a look at the stats there to get an idea. Yes, April is better than May or June on that side of Thailand, but it is iffy.

I find I can (almost) always get a better price with one of the internet booking companies. asiahotels is one I use often, the ones James likes which I think all connect to www.sawasdee.com
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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Steve,

How much more information do you need on my family and our preferences? Did you read my initial post at the very top?

If there is anything else you need in order to provide a recomendation, just let me know. I will do my best.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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I meant James not Steve...apologies.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 01:42 PM
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Kathie,

Thanks for the links and advise. It concerns me knowing that the weather could be iffy in Thailand during April. There is nothing worse than being on a beach vacation with rain or cloudy weather. It happens in Florida all of the time.

Is it dryer in Bali during this same period?
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 03:58 PM
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Gables, notice that it's the Phuket side that starts to get rain in April. Thailand is a large enough country that one area is rainy when another is not. So go back to weatherbase and check the other beach areas you are interested in (like Koh Samui or Hua Hin). For Koh Samui, use Surat Thani. You have to look at each location. Both Hua Hin and Surat Thani are fine in April, as is Bali.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 02:24 AM
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After discussing the pros and cons with my wife last night, we have decided on Koh Samui in Thailand. Phew! I'm gald that's over with.

Now, on to the simple task of picking a hotel. Given my needs, wants and expectations, can any of you expereinced Thai travelers please provide me with some hotel recomendations in Koh Samui?

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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 03:27 AM
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Gables, Iím a little slow on the draw today and see that youíve chosen to go to Samui. Thought Iím not wishing to further muddle your already difficult decision making process, Iíd still like to just say a word about Bali. (Maybe for future holidays. . .)

Weíve been traveling to Bali regularly since our son was 3. Heís now a college student so thatís a lot of sand in the pail. Bali is a GREAT destination for kids. I know exactly what you mean about avoiding Disney-ish experiences and I assure you Bali is the real deal. The beaches are good to very good. Itís an island so there are beaches all around and some are better than others. You donít get the pristine white sand and limpid water of the Caribbean but the wide sandy beach with pounding surf, miles of room to run and play and brilliant sunsets is definitely a possibility. Lively restaurants, shops selling handicrafts and beachwear and divine spas are high quality and plentiful.

I think what really sets Bali apart from the typical beach locale is the rich and fascinating culture and profoundly beautiful natural surroundings. If you spend a few days in the inland area you will be literally surrounded by a ďliving museumĒ of the arts Ė dance, mask making, drama, music, architecture, temples, handicrafts. Every day is a festival of some sort with processions and temple events that go on to all hours. Kids love the pageantry and stimulus and since the Balinese love kids they can easily enter into the magical mystery world of the Balinese village. It is an experience that is at the same time spiritual and educational and FUN. Plus there are all sorts of nature-adventures activities you can take advantage of in addition to water sports: rain forest treks, volcano climbs, swimming in waterfalls, river rafting, visiting bat caves, monkey forests. (They even have elephants -- imported, though.)

Bali has some of the most aesthetically advanced design of any resort destination; in fact, itís the Bali-style thatís been exported all over the world. Two places that I think would fit your budget and your taste-level are the Legian on the beach and Alila in the Ubud area. They both offer a high level of sophistication plus plenty to keep kids occupied. There are many others.
http://www.alilahotels.com/Ubud/
http://www.ghmhotels.com/hotels/hote...3&section=home
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 10:39 AM
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bump...

Looking for recos...
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 10:43 AM
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Check out the Amari Emerald Cove on Koh Chang.

It has everything you want, plus there is a great elephant trekking on the island.
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