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cindy26 Dec 5th, 2004 08:46 AM

Thailand - Trip Report
I just wanted to take the time to report back on some of our trip to Thailand since I used this site extensively before going. It truly made a potentially great trip suberb. We stayed at the Bangkok Marriot Resort and Spa and loved it. My goal was to stay at hotels with a Thai/Asian feeling vs a high rise. This one fit it perfectly. The room's furnishings and hardwood floors were a perfect introduction. Definitely reco a Riverview room. Great seeing the barges etc going down the river. We used Mrs. Ratt as our driver. She was fabulous. Always on time and the greatest multi-tasker I've ever seen. We had limited time in Bangkok and she helped us make the most of it. She arranged for a guide for us at the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Po. That worked out great and she was there with umbrellas for shade and constantly filling up our water bottles!! She also set us up with her sister Poon in Chiang Mai who was as great. Picked us up at the airport, drove us shopping, Wat Doi Suthep etc. In Chiang Mai, we stayed at the Rachamankha Hotel which I highly recommend. (Although Poon and a Thai driver from the Thai Cookery school thought it looked like a temple...too ascetic for them I think). It is Asian in style with antiques used everywhere, rooms gorgeous and even the bathroom vanities were antique pieces of furniture with raised bowls etc...WOW!. The service was superb and it is located within the old city. We left for Phuket on Thai Air - the non-stop flight - landed and found waiting (which I was highly skeptical) the transportation service my husband and friend had booked at the airport in Bangkok. (Oh I forgot to mention we used ACC Limo service when we arrived from the States to Bangkok. It was convient and located exactly where someone had posted. It cost 870 baht which was fine at midnight when we got in but when Mrs Ratt dropped us at the airport to fly to Chiang Mai, she charges only 400 Baht.) In Phuket, we stayed at Mom's Tri Boathouse Villa Royale. We had ended up booking one room at Mom's Tri and the other at Villa Royale. They were very kind to show us both before we chose who was to be in which room and we both hands down wanted to stay at Villa Royale. WOW!!!!!! We had a Seafront Studio at Mom's Tri which was a great room and location but it was a very "beachy" type room in decor while the Villa Royale Room had the gorgeous Asian decor and an ambience that couldn't be beat. My husband's wish was "I want to be on the beach" but he acquiesced to my Asian preference even when he saw the Villa Royale room. We were on the side of the cliff (easy access to the beach) but the incredible view of the water from full floor to ceiling windows, trees and patio where you could sip your coffee and read the paper sold him. This I think was my favorite hotel. The service was fabulous - and the type of hotel where they know you by name. Kata Noi beach was beautiful and very serene..a few vendors to keep it amusing but otherwise just peaceful. After 3 days we reluctantly dragged our bodies away off to Koh Phi Phi. The ferry over was uneventful but our friends nearly died when we discovered we were to be off loaded with our baggage out in the harbor into long boats for transportation to the shore. (They do look a little precarious to be carting luggage and multiple bodies.) But it proved to be very safe and no calamities. We stayed at the Phi Phi Princess and unfortunately after Villa Royale a little bit of a let down. Our feet were definitely in the sand (as per my husbands instructions). We stayed in a Junior Suite on the front row of the beach. The rooms were fine and the mix of people were in their 20's and 30's with a few 40's thrown in.. We took a walk down the beach one day and the Phi Phi Cabana was an older mix of people - 30's 40's 50's it appeared and people hung out around the pool more than on the beach. The hotel also appeared a bit more upscale but that was solely from an outside view. Depending on your preference, one can decide on the hotel is more suited to your taste. Phi Phi Island was great for sunning on the beach and snorkeling in various bays but it was crowded with tourists. 3 days was enough for me but our friends could of used more sun days so it depends once again on your preferences. Well that's about it but I just wanted to say all the regular Fodorites you provide an incredible service with all your input and patient answering to innumerable questions. Keep it up. As I said our trip went without a glitch the entire time because of all the info I had when planning it!!!!

Gpanda Dec 5th, 2004 10:11 AM

Thanks for the report. Just back from Thailand as well (see my ongoing post). A couple questions. How was the Thai cooking class? Did you go to the market with them? Was Ko Phi Phi worth the time and effort? Thanks.

cindy26 Dec 5th, 2004 11:35 AM

Hi Gpanda -
I had been reading your post...Love your descriptions especially about the newbies :-). I loved the cooking class. We used the Thai Cookery School and we did go on the market day...Fabulous. Sampon, the owner of the school took us around the market showing how to pick the best fish, chilis, etc etc then we had to go buy an ingredient on our own..Very fun.

Regarding Koh Phi Phi..If you are a beach person it's fine and if you are in your 20's or 30's definitely (I'm in my late 40's-ouch). Otherwise, I think its a little crowded. The snorkeling was great there but once again it was hard to avoid crowds. I really preferred Kata Noi.

CFW Dec 5th, 2004 12:26 PM

Hi, Cindy. We're planning almost the same itinerary in January, and have scheduled to use Poon in Chiang Mai. How many days did you spend in CM? Where did she take you shopping? And what other sights did she take you to in addition to Doi Suthep? We're trying to schedule our time with her, and looking for ideas of how much time we should allow, and what things we should combine in each day.

Also, we still can't decide whether we should use Ratt for sightseeing in BKK or just do it on our own. We'll have 6 days in BKK, and thought we might do sights in the mornings & shopping & leisure in the afternoons. Thought we might be able to get around on river boats & sky trains & occasional taxis without using Ratt, and get more of a feel for the city. On the other hand, Ratt may save us time & help with guides at the major sights - Grand Palace, Wat Po & Wat Arun. What do you all say?

cindy26 Dec 5th, 2004 04:05 PM

Hi CFW - We were in Chiang Mai for 2 1/2 days. When we arrived there, Poon picked us up and we went to the Sankamphaeng Road for some afternoon shopping. She was very helpful for that - Thai silk, bronzeware and jewlery. The next day was a full day at the Thai Cookery School so we didn't need her. The day after that we only had her for the morning as she had other clients for the afternoon. So we had to choose with Wat Doi Suthep or the Elephant Conservation Camp - We did the Wat and then shopped around on our own.

Regarding Ratt - We had only 1 day in Bangkok before we flew off to Chiang Mai so it worked out great having her getting us around expeditiously to all the Wats, Grand Palace and shopping. You sound like you have plenty of time to explore. I would say we would have gotten a more true feeling of the city if we did it on our own but we didn't have time. Maybe use her one day to get your bearings and then go on your own. Definitely have a guide for the Grand Palace etc. The one we had after the Grand Palace took us on the water taxi over to Wat Arun and then back to Wat Po. Her stories of the Palace and Wats were great.

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