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Trip report: Krabi, Angkor, Golden Tri, & Bangkok

Trip report: Krabi, Angkor, Golden Tri, & Bangkok

Feb 1st, 2005, 10:56 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 61
Trip report: Krabi, Angkor, Golden Tri, & Bangkok


We took a two and a half week trip to Thailand and Cambodia at the end of December and early January. We departed on December 28th, only two days after the tsunami hit. The first 5 days of our trip were planned for Krabi, which is quite close to Phuket and other areas affected by the tsunami. We seriously considered changing our plans, and probably would have done so if we had more options. Although our travel agent was totally on the ball and looked into places for us to go for those days, it turned out that all the other attractive beach locations had no hotel availability and flights were basically unavailable. We also heard from the hotel in Krabi that everything was fine at their property and the surrounding area. So we went as planned. As you’ll see below, we were glad that we did this.

Our flight from Baltimore left at about 6 pm on the 28th. We took the MARC train to the airport at about 3:30 and had plenty of time. The flight, on United, was not enjoyable. The plane was packed and we were in the last row. There was bad weather in LAX so we circled for a long time in bad turbulence and had a very rough landing. At LAX we took the shuttle bus to the international terminal. We checked in with Cathay Pacific with no problem and then went right to the gate. Our seats were pretty good, towards the front of coach and -- the best thing -- we had three seats to ourselves. Although the flight boarded on time, we sat on the runway for two hours due to the bad weather. The normal flight time for LA - Hong Kong is 15 hours, so we were on this plane for 17 hours. Needless to say, this was insanely long. Fortunately we were pretty comfortable and slept on and off. The Cathay flight attendants were very efficient and responsive.

Once we landed in Hong Kong, we had missed our connecting Cathay flight to Bangkok due to the delay in LAX. The Cathay staff was completely prepared, and had already booked us on the next flight, on a different airline. We were so glad they handled this so well, because we were definitely not in good shape to be haggling with airline representatives! The flight to Bangkok on Thai Airways was fine. Once we arrived in Bangkok we had to very quickly get to our next flight, which departed in an hour and a half and was in a different terminal (and we had to go through passport control, get our bags, etc.). We made it with about half an hour to spare. Our final flight, to Krabi on Thai Airways, was uneventful.

By the time we landed in Krabi, we were totally exhausted. We were met by two people from our hotel, Nakamanda. One had wet towels and took our order for a welcome drink at the hotel. The ride to the hotel was about 45 minutes. At the hotel we were met by a senior staff member who chatted with us while we had our drink and then showed us to our room. The room was quite nice, with a patio and day bed, and a huge bathroom with a large tub and skylight. As it was our honeymoon, they had the room decked out with rose petals, candles, and a drawn bath. It was very lovely -- I just wish we could have enjoyed it more rather than just eating dinner and passing out in bed!

We spent 5 days at Nakamanda and loved it. The hotel is very unique. It is a boutique hotel so is rather small and the service is very personal. Because we were there just after the tsunami, there were not many other guests there and they were very attentive to us. The hotel is situated on a small cove, where the tide comes in and out. So it is not really your typical beachfront hotel, though there are large beaches on either side of that cove. The hotel has a gorgeous pool that we spent a lot of time at during our last couple days there. We also loved the restaurant. They have a good selection of Thai and western food, and they accommodated special requests quite nicely. Breakfast was a real treat -- it is included in the room rate and you can order as much as you like.

One day while we were there we took the hotel shuttle to Ao Nang, a nearby town, where we caught a longtail boat to Railay beach. We spent the day at the beach, which is quite nice and I think is normally quite popular, though there were not lots of people there since it was fairly soon after the tsunami. Overall we did not see much tsunami damage -- just some debris on a couple beaches (most so on the Rayavadee hotel’s primary beach) and some damaged boats. We were happy that we went as planned, because that area is really suffering from tourists canceling their plans and they were thrilled to have our business.

The only drawback to Nakamanda is that it is rather isolated. For us, this was ok because we were happy to just relax and spend a lot of time there. But if you’re looking for a place where you can walk into town and to shops and restaurants, this is not that type of place. Phuket, though it is much more touristy, probably offers more accessible activity.

From Krabi we flew to Siem Reap, through Bangkok. Those flights were on Bangkok Airways, and although the planes were quite small, they were pleasant and well-run. The airport in Siem Reap is a bit of a scene -- long, somewhat chaotic lines at visa and passport control. Once we got through, a representative from the Sofitel was waiting for us outside.

The Sofitel was quite nice, though quite a change from Nakamanda because it is a very large hotel. The concierge arranged a guide for us for the next two days at Angkor, but there was a tense hour or so when we requested the guide. Because it was late in the day and the high season for tourism, the concierge told us we might not be able to get an English-speaking guide on such short notice. It turned out ok in the end but we were worried until we heard back from the concierge that we might not get a guide. Our guide and driver were very good -- the guide spoke very good English and was very knowledgeable. Visiting Ankgor was definitely the highlight of the trip. The history is incredible and sad, but there is still so much to appreciate and wonder about. On the second day once we had seen all of Angkor that we wanted to, our guide took us out to the Ton le Sap river and lake and then to the Artisans d’Angkor workshops and store, both of which we enjoyed (though the “tour” of the workshops was rather hilarious -- they just whisked us through and then dumped us off in the gift shop). The river trip was very disturbing because the people living along the river live in extreme poverty and do not have basic sanitation needs met. Nonetheless, it was a good reality check after all the 5-star hotels in Siem Reap.

We really enjoyed Siem Reap. Though it is pretty gritty, it has a real bustle to it, and the downtown area with restaurants and shops is very active at night. We ate at the FCC one night and the Red Piano the second. Both were very good though we particularly enjoyed the atmosphere at the Red Piano and walking around downtown afterwards.

We next flew to Chiang Rai, again through Bangkok. The flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai on Thai Airways really felt like a cattle car -- it was a huge plane, very hot and somewhat uncomfortable. Fortunately that was a quick flight. We were met at the airport by a representative from Anantara Golden Triangle, where we stayed for 4 days. The hotel was about an hour drive.

The Anantara is in a lovely location, in the countryside of the Golden Triangle, surrounded by lots of greenery and the river. The hotel is very beautifully designed and has a lovely pool. Our room was very nice, with a balcony and a bathroom with an enormous tub. We went to the spa twice, once for Thai massage, which was incredible (though a little rough for my husband, who is not that flexible). The restaurants (there is a large one that serves Thai and Western food, and a smaller Italian one) were pretty good, although we saw an enormous rat at the Italian restaurant one night.

The hotel has lots of activities available. We took a day trip that took us into Myanmar and Laos. The Myanmar part was really neat - - we went to a couple temples and visited this crazy market where we bought a bunch of bootleg DVDs. The Laos part was ok but not as interesting -- you just go to this island where there is a market set up for tourists. Frankly the things they were selling were not all that interesting and it was a little depressing. But the rest of that tour, including a boat ride on the river, was well worth it. We also visited the hotel’s elephant camp, watched the elephant bath and took an elephant ride. That was really fun and a highlight.

Our only criticism of the Anantara is that they did seem to nickel and dime you a bit. While the room rate is a lot less than, say Nakamanda, breakfast is not included and meals and all the hotel activities are pretty pricey. We were charged a different price for the buffet breakfast every day, even though we typically ate the same things, which was strange and a little discomforting.

Our last stop was 3 nights at the Peninsula in Bangkok. We loved the Peninsula. It is a large hotel and there are lots of business people there, but there were also plenty of tourists like us, the service was impeccable, and the rooms have all these cool technology gizmos. Because they’re on the other side of the river, they have a shuttle boat service across the river. This runs extremely well and we were never inconvenienced by the location. We enjoyed Bangkok too, though, as we had been told, it is huge, dirty, and a little crazy. Because we knew that going in, we weren’t too put off by it. We spent one day shopping and exploring (Siam Square, Jim Thompson, Narai Phand, Gayshorn), and the other day sight-seeing (temples and the Palace). We ate at Harmonique, which was very neat, though we did see a giant cockroach (we’re lucky that way, apparently!). One night we went to a random Indian restaurant, and the last night we went to Biscotti in the Four Seasons, which was excellent.

As for transportation in Bangkok, we took the Skytrain and the river boats exclusively. The Skytrain is great, easy to use, clean, and runs frequently. We took a river taxi once to Wat Po, but this was pretty expensive (400 baht/$10) compared to the communal boat we took back (30 baht/less than $1 for both of us). There are parts of the city we didn’t get to see because we didn’t have time, however, so to explore more we may have needed to venture into taxis. We were happy not to, because the traffic is a nightmare and you can easily get stuck, and there are lots of stories of taxi drivers taking you places you don’t want to go (gem stores, etc.).

Our flights back were all on time and went well, though the United flight from LAX was again sort of a hassle. It took us about a week to recover from the jet lag and feel normal again, but once we did, we got our 9 rolls of film developed and reveled in what a great trip we had!
ps1111 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 11:25 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Thanks for your report ps1111. Sounds like you had a great trip!
lcuy is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 11:53 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
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Thanks for the report very informative.

How much did you pay for your trip from the Anantara and how did you arrange it ?
john44 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 01:11 PM
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Thanks for the report. It sounds like you had a great trip.

By the way, virtually any hotel in Asia can be booked at a rate including breakfast which usually is less expensive than buying the breakfast there. We were at the Anantara Golden Triangle just after they opened, and the staff said they thought the breakfast buffet was "too expensive" so they typically chrged only for what they saw you eat. So rather than being nickeled and dimed they may have been trying to save you money! (not what you would expect anywhere else)
Kathie is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 01:59 PM
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The day trip from Anantara was about $100 pp. That included the visa waiver fee to get into Myanmar for a day, lunch, the guide and driver, boat ride, etc.

That is an interesting point Kathie makes about breakfast. I think we were more confused than anything because it was never explained to us.
ps1111 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2005, 08:05 PM
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great report....i asked anantara to include breakfast and they did....i think kathie's point is a good one...

going back????
rhkkmk is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 02:47 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Thanks for the great report. It was interesting to read about a trip that was beach-Angkor-CR-BKK. Most are done in the opposite order. I've always suspected that thetraditional order was essentially random. Sounds like you had a great time.
Gpanda is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 12:07 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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That was quite the trip you took, ps1111-well done, partic. the part on the condition of Krabi-I'm going to try this next visit to get down to the beaches, at least for a few days.

Harmonique-a giant cockroach-eek! I try not to think about what might lurk in those kitchens where meals are being prepared...
Spygirl is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 06:34 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
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ps1111 - thanks for the trip report. sounds like you had a great time! you confirmed my thoughts on the anantara's exclusiveness in regards to prices, but i'm still excited to be there! we are doing the cooking class, elephant walk and country tour as well. sounds like an awesome honeymoon....congrats! thanks for the tips in bangkok as well. like you, we'll be starting the trip on the beach, although phuket, not krabi. count down to the 22nd!

john44 -- i'm not sure if i posted to you before, but if not and you're interested in contacting people in touch re: driver and guide for comparison with anantara let me know and i'll post info, or you can e-mail me direct at [email protected] and i'll send you our correspondence. we are doing a day trip similar to what the anantara offers for about $65.00 total for 3 of us (incl driver, guide, gas). the anantara will send you a full brochure of trips including costs if you e-mail them. i asked for the elephant schedules, spa treatments and tours. enjoy!
hipvirgochick is offline  

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