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Trip Report with Observations & Suggestions

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Sep 20th, 2003, 01:55 PM
  #1
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Trip Report with Observations & Suggestions

We recently returned from a two-week trip that included Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi & Krabi, a traditional itinerary but with some unique experiences. The trip was planned around our sons wedding to his Thai wife in Bangkok; this alone made the visit memorable. On to our experiences:

We booked a flight that would arrive in Bangkok late in the evening so that you could go straight to your hotel and sleep. We had booked the Rembrandt Hotel on line and the deal included private car transport from the airport. All went well and we enjoyed the Rembrandts location off of Sukhumvit Rd on a quiet Soi away from the hectic noise. We visited all the must see locations: Grand Palace, Wat Po, Jim Thompson, and Weekend Market etc
In addition we took a 2 hour-long boat tour of the canals (klongs) of Thonburi away from the mass of tourists. We observed residents, some living in shacks, using the canals for bathing, dishwashing & cleaning, truly amazing! We went deeper into the canals and discovered a beautiful orchid farm. We passed many individuals selling food and crafts from their own boats & actually purchased some deep-fried sweet potato that we munched on through the rest of the trip.
We ate at a unique restaurant not available to us in the US called Seafood Market & Restaurant. It was as large as a football field; you are given a shopping cart to pick out the fish, vegetables & fruit that you want. You then take everything to your table where you decide how you want to cook it. Truly a unique experience, the place was fun, bustling and energetic.
A second unique eating venue was the Loy Nava Dinner cruise on the river. The beautiful rice barge was bedecked in orchids and subdued lighting as you enjoy a truly memorable dinner and cruise. Live Thai music & Thai dancers entertain you throughout.

After the wedding we flew on Thai Airways to Phuket where we were driven to the Karona Tropical Resort in Karon. We must caution you that red flags were flying during our entire stay so ocean swimming was out. Fortunately the resort had a lovely pool with an ocean view. The next day we rented a car and toured the island. We took a brief elephant trek near the entrance to the Gibbon Rehab center and continued on to Ban Pae Cascade/Waterfall where after a brief hike we discovered a swimming hole populated by many locals, quite refreshing & lovely. We stopped at Phuket Town?s market located off Ranong in the center of town. It is a smaller version of the Bangkok Weekend Market ?quite interesting. Not to be missed is Phuket Fantasea, a Cirque du Soleil style show that has an eyepopping opening! It was completely sold out, so making a reservation is a good idea.

We bought an open ferry ticket to Krabi but took the ferry halfway to Phi Phi Don and stayed at P.P. Charlie an inexpensive bungalow community on the beach. We broke from the tourist groups by booking our own longtail boat with lunch, fruit, and water all for 1.500 baht. We went in reverse order of the larger day trip boats and other longtail boats that had up to 12 people paying 1,000 baht each. We had Bamboo Island to our selves & began snorkeling off the island but jellyfish forced us to relocate. We ate lunch at Phi Phi Lay in Maya bay before it got crowded. We then went to Loh Samah Bay for some great snorkeling before the large day trip boats arrived. This was followed by a truly unique visit into Pileh Bay which is inaccessible to larger boats. The bay is almost completely surrounded by cliff walls and the bay has no beach at least at high tide. The bay?s sandy bottom was the softest we ever felt. It was truly serene and beautiful.
One caution: our hotel (and probably the others) is supplied electricity by generators and they changeover every 12 hours (approx 6AM & 6PM) At this time all power is briefly turned off ? including you?re A/C which has to be manually restarted. This led to a couple of interesting mornings.

We continued on the ferry to Krabi where we caught a songthaow (sp?) to the Thai style Green View Village. It was located about a half mile away from Ao Nang beach in a lush valley farmland. The Thai style bungalows were built around a small pond amongst a beautiful tropical garden. Our bungalow was next to the farmland where we were serenaded by ducks, geese and cows. One morning we awoke to the howling of Gibbons in the nearby forest. We had the place to ourselves- most tourists stay nearer the beachfront. We took a longtail to beautiful Railay Beach & hiked around to Phranag Cave Beach where we were surrounded by a pack of monkeys who were after our food. They managed to steal a lunch from people behind us. This area was particularly different especially all the interesting caves. We rented a car the next day and set out for the Emerald Pool and Hot springs. The Hot springs have formed natural pools in a stream deep inside a coastal evergreen rainforest. We then went to a nearby National Park to swim in the Emerald mineral pool after about a 1-mile trek along a nature trail. There, some Buddhist monks visited us on their way to a nearby shrine. We were then led by a park ranger through the coastal rainforest to the origination point for the mineral springs. It was a tranquil isolated pond with gases bubbling up but if you clapped your hands ? the sand on the bottom began to churn and stopped after your clapping subsided. Strange and beautiful ? by the way real ?quicksand? surrounded the pool ? thus the only way to safely find it is with a guide or local.

The next day we flew back to Bangkok and prepared for our return flight to Arizona. Close to 20 hours of flying time & due to 14 time zones & crossing the Int?l date line, by our own count, we consumed 4 breakfasts and one dinner ? all before 9AM San Francisco time on the same calendar date. Go figure!

In summary, we learned much about the Thai from our in laws & from going off the typical tourist routes. We learned that they are extremely tolerant people. We observed some living in poverty stricken tin shacks who managed to smile or wave at us as we passed in all our luxury and wealth.
Once you leave the urban setting you are treated to magnificent vistas and hidden jewels. One must search them out but the effort is greatly rewarded. We noticed that many of the attractions have few road signs to direct you & the ones that exist seem to point vaguely in a direction. This might be intentional as they would like you to book a tour but then you might miss out. Striking out independently with a good map & guidebook is all you really need to enjoy Thailand, the Thai people and hidden jewels.


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Sep 20th, 2003, 03:09 PM
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Captb

Fascinating trip report, and congratulations to your son on his marriage. So many of the experiences you described seem so great that we'd love to try them on our upcoming visit to Thailand! If you could provide some nitty-gritty practical details (see questions below), I sure would appreciate it.

How and where did you arrange for your 2-hour boat trip to the Thonburi klongs?

What car rental agency did you use in Phuket?

How did you arrange for your long-tail boat excursions on Phi Phi Don and Krabi? Do you just go down to the pier and negotiate with the boat owners (who speak English??), or did your hotels set this up for you?
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Sep 20th, 2003, 04:16 PM
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great report Captb. Will you be returning?
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Sep 20th, 2003, 06:27 PM
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The Klong tour - It was one of the river taxi stops either 9 or 10. My son took us there(our first Tuk Tuk ride) so I am not sure of the exact location. There was a pier with shops and tour agents who advertised a 1 hour & a 2 hour trip. Our guy was near the entrance on the left. I am sure that your hotel can arrange the trip.

Rental car: It was not a major company but a local outfit we arranged through the Hotel. If you can get a group of people together, you can sometimes rent a van with driver for the day for less money & leave the driving to others. Remember -left hand driving! Crossing the street can be an adventure especially when you look the wrong way for traffic!
In Krabi we rented through Budget and was actually double charged. The rental agency in Ao Nang charged us and the Budget Airport location billed us after we dropped the car off. Budget did clear it up and apologized for the error.

Yes, we will be going back. Two weeks was not nearly enough time. Would love to spend more time in Phuket & take day trips out to the islands. But next time it will not be in the rainy season.
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Sep 20th, 2003, 07:32 PM
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Hello Captb: A very good trip report indeed! I have heard of the Phuket Fantasea before and I gather by your post that it is in Phuket town. Where can you get tickets and reserve in advance? I'll be there in Feb/04. Does it run year-round?

Thanks
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Sep 20th, 2003, 09:09 PM
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captb---a great report...sounds like fun....can't wait to return...how was the rembrandt?? do they have a pool?? i love their restaurants, especially the indian one on the top floor....also the mexican, which maybe you found not so interesting as you live in AZ...
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Sep 21st, 2003, 01:19 PM
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Simmer,
Fantasea is not in Phuket town it is just north of Patong beach in Kamala. We went to the early show I believe 7:30PM and ate at the buffet afterwords. You can reverse the order and see the later performance, I believe 9PM. What ever you choose, get there early! There is so much to see before the show. Many stages are set up on the grounds for different acts that are very entertaining.

We called ahead for our tickets and It would appear that in Feb (peak season) reservations would be mandatory! The show includes a brief scene with a small flock of trained chickens! The opening sequence/parade is stunning!

The buffet was OK & is in a huge facility. They could feed thousands all at the same time.

Here is their URL: http://phuket-fantasea.com
Enjoy the show.
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Sep 21st, 2003, 01:39 PM
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rhkkmk,
Re. the Rembrandt Hotel: First impression is a first class European style hotel with lots of marble. But upon closer inspection you discover an aging property that has an insect problem on most floors. You can smell the insecticide throughout the hallways and in your room. We were there on two occasions 10 days apart and the odor was quite prevalent both times. In fact, our first room on the 7th floor had to be changed to a higher floor due to large roach-like bugs. Too Bad! This is a first class hotel nicely located off Sukhumvit Rd away from the noise. The pool was nothing special.

Restaurants: Their Café puts out a very good buffet breakfast - good mix of western and oriental choices. Especially enjoyed seeing baked beans and corn on the cob being offered for breakfast.
The Indian rooftop restaurant was excellent and the view of Bangkok, with all its worts, is very good. Try their lunch special two choices: meat or vegetarian, cost about $9 p.p.

You are correct re. the Mexican restaurant. But since visitors are exposed to the great Thai cuisine i.e. Roti and fruit shakes - why would any westerner ever want Mexican when in the land of curry and seafood (Oh! those giant prawns)
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Sep 21st, 2003, 02:59 PM
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Thanks for your response.
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