This is the journal of our second trip to Thailand, during December 2016, and part of January 2017.
TV screen on the plane showing it’s a long long way…
December is a month where the weather isn’t favorable for tourism in Vancouver and usually our company doesn’t get customers during this time of the year. So, it’s our time to relax and “play tourists” ouorselves traveling to sunny destinations around the globe.
We choose to visit Thailand and were happy with our choice.
We have been there before during a cruise and… well… when we travel by ship there’s not enough time to immerse in local culture and check the attractions in a slow pace.
Vancouver to Beijing
We flew from the best airport in the world (YVR – Vancouver) to Beijing and from there we flew to Bangkok.
We flew Air China, on business-first _ mandatory for traveling half way around the globe. From YVR to Beijing it’s a non-stop flight that takes ten hours and forty minutes. On a flat-bed drinking champagne it’s not so bad… 🙂
Great service flying Air China
Beijing Airport is modern and beautiful but we found it poorly organized.
The positive point was that, as soon as we disembark the plane there was someone from Air China with our names written on a sign and she guided us through immigration (kind of “vip line” for premium passengers, otherwise it was a long line). After immigration she guided us through a “labyrinth of stairs” till we got on the “security line” (located under a staircase!) to go through X-rays and from there to the embark area (vip lounge and gates).
The security personal who work on the x-rays aren’t polite, and besides that they got our key ring five times under the x-ray machine! Probably because it has a FOB to open the garage doors here at home? No idea… but it was weird.
Due to the “politeness” (lack of…) and the lack of organization at the Beijing Airport, we lost our interest in visiting China in the future. Sorry… you just lost two good potential tourists…
We had approximately three hours between flights and waited at the well-appointed Air China’s business lounge. Selection of food was good, including western options and good Chinese wines.
From Beijing we flew to Bangkok, again with Air China, on a five hours flight.
Bangkok airport is modern and well-organized. There are post signs everywhere, in English. It was easy to find our way to the taxi booth.
There’s free wi-fi at Bangkok airport. Just select the SSIC network “@AirportTrueFreeWiFi”.
Sim Card: There are several companies selling Sim Cards at the airport. I recommend you get one before leaving the airport.
Taxi: I recommend you have your hotel name printed in Thai. We had a hard time telling our cab driver that we were staying at the JW Marriott Hotel Bangkok located on 4 Sukhumvit Road, Soi 2, Bangkok. After this episode we always had a card with the hotel name printed in the Thai alphabet. This made our communication with transportation providers much smoother.
Marriott Bangkok: Spectacular hotel. Modern, clean, with a very well-appointed room and amazing service.
We stayed at the hotel for less than ten hours before taking the next flight to Krabi.
From Bangkok to Krabi:
We enjoyed our less than two hours flight within Thai Airways. We were happy with the excellent service and cute colorful seats!
Krabi Airport is busy! Really busy!
We had a driver arranged from the hotel waiting for us at the airport. It was kind of trick to find him, though. There’s a waiting area where you can meet your driver/guide but only big companies are allowed to pick-up their passengers there. “Ordinary” drivers and guides will meet you outside the airport. We only discovered that after waiting for a while and calling the hotel. Then they called the driver and called me back instructing to step outside the building. There are dozens of people outside, with a paper showing passengers’ names and it was great to see a smiling face carrying a paper with ‘Cecilia’ written on it! 🙂
Thats’ why I recommend you get a local sim-card as soon as you get to Thailand! 🙂
From Krabi Airport to Koh Lanta
It’s a ninety minutes journey by car, that used to be longer in the past, at a time when it was necessary to take two ferries to get to Koh Lanta. Now there’s a bridge linking the one of the islands to the continent, and from there it’s just one slow and old ferry to Koh Lanta.
As you can see on the picture, the driving is “on the wrong side”. 🙂
Koh Lanta is a beautiful and peaceful island. Calm sea, soft sand and amazing places to eat.
Our hotel bungalow was located on the sand, went feet away from the ocean. As a friend of mine said, “if there’s a tsunami while you are there you will be history”.
Despite some tsunami concerns, it was great to have like a “private beach” to ourselves, as there were always very few people on the sand
An astonishing sunset welcomed us on our first day on the island. This one was taken with an iPhone6! 🙂 We stayed on the island during one week.
At this time 1 USD equals to approximately 35 THB so… one fresh coconut equals to less than USD1.50! Just imagine! We are used to pay USD 5.00 or more when we travel to Hawaii.
We love to ride our bicycles but unfortunately, this is not a popular sport on the island. Everyone uses the “tuk-tuk” and the locals are not used to walking or cycling. It was very hard to find a rental bicycle, and when we found a store, they carried only two bicycles and they were old and not to adults. They are almost like a “teenager size” but we rented them anyway…
Motorcycles: They are super popular with locals and tourists as well. No one will ask to see a drives’s license to ride, but we preferred not to risk our skins and our travel insurance. We don’t have motorcycle driver’s license here in Canada, so, there was no point in “learning” to ride a bike in a foreign country, with the traffic flowing in the “wrong direction” and with many crazy drivers around.
The best beaches are the ones located on the west side of the island.
We visited the east side one day (we hired a private driver) and it was interesting to visit the “Old Town”. The first inhabitants arrived in this part of the island.
Visiting Koh Lanta Old Town with a private driver/guide who didn’t speak English but it was fun anyway!
Day trips from Koh Lanta:
Longboat to Maya Bay:
We took a ferry to Koh Phi Phi and from there we booked a private tour by longboat to Maya Bay. We enjoyed ourselves although there was no English communication are all.
The longboats are owned by local people, usually fishermen earning extra money during the tourist season. Anyway, don’t worry as it’s very easy to communicate with “international gestures” like “How much” / “thank you” / and pointing to the watch in order to know the time to get back to the boat 🙂
We had a good time at Maya Bay although we found it too crowded. It would be great if Thailand could create some rules, like maximum number of people allowed on a small island (like the one where Maya Bay is located).
The ferry-boat from Koh Phi Phi back to How Lanta where we were staying was also fully packed.
After the experience with ferry-boat and longboat, we decided on a more “exclusive” day trip.
We went with Tin Adventure to Koh Rock, a very tiny island with astonishing scenery and from there we went to two different places to do snorkeling.
The company sent a car to pick us up at the hotel and from there we went to a calm beach where we boarded their high-speed boat.
The places where they took us were really amazing and we were able to see incredible fishes and marine life.
Tin Adventure’s Captain was a sweetheart and swam with us showing things underwater that we wouldn’t have notice, including some amazing vegetation that “opens” and “closes” its leaves when they are touched.
“Our” boat and the almost desert island of Koh Rok
Koh Lanta Restaurants
Amazing food everywhere you go on Koh Lanta island. Super favorites were Jai Dee, Pad Thai Rock and Roll, Drunken Sailors and Richey Bar.
What we really loved on Koh Lanta:
After a marvelous week on this scenic island it was time to move on.
We got a car to take us to the airport (cheaper than when we arrived, as we booked it directly with a driver and not through the hotel).
Krabi Airport was busy again and there was almost no free seats to sit down while waiting for the flight that would take us to Chiang Mai.
I don’t think they have a “vip lounge” at Krabi airport. If they do, we couldn’t find it.
Krabi to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is located on the north part of the country and it’s just a two hours flight. We flew Air Asia and loved it.
Chiang Mai Airport: Small and busy. (I guess everything is busy in Thailand!)
It was easy to get a taxi and the driver, who spoke good English, took us to the hotel, located less than fifteen minutes away.
Mini Boutique House Hotel in Chiang Mai
We found the Mini Boutique House to be an excellent boutique hotel! Wonderfully located inside the “square”, has spotless clean large rooms (our had a balcony!), tasty breakfast, and also a friendly staff. It would have been “perfect” if there was an elevator, even a small one to carry the luggage upstairs.
There are several temples in Chiang Mai and they are all amazingly beautiful. Take your time, dress accordingly (no shorts, no hats, no low-cut, etc) and have a great time.
I recommend you wear shoes or sandals that are easily taken-off as you will have to put on and take off your shoes several times a day. You must enter the temples barefoot.
Chiang Mai beautiful temples
Take Care with “scam artists”! Although we are experienced travelers, this scam was well planned and I must confess that we didn’t realize it was a scam until it was too late.
We were visiting one of Chiang Mai’s temples when a well dressed guy came to offer to take our picture. After the picture was taken, he started a pleasant conversation with the usual: “Where are you from?” / “How long are you staying?” / When “did you arrive?” / “what have you seen so far?” / etc
We chatted a little bit more and after the farewells, we decided to go to the “Official Tourist Agency” he had mentioned and gave us the instructions of how to get there.
The “Official Tourism Agency” was a store with the “i” in italics (as it is the “official tourist logo” everywhere in the world and had many Thailand’s flags by the door.
We noticed we have been victims of a scam when I checked the prices online at the hotel and noticed that they charged us more than the prices charged for private tours in any Chiang Mai Tour Agency, and that they are NOT an official tourism office. They are “just” scam artists, plain and simple.
The tours indeed happened but on a passenger van carrying ten more people.
Day Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park
The guide was ok and the food served during the excursion (included on the price) was awful and there were no other options for places to eat. These are restaurants located along the road where all tours stop. Argh.
Day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park where we visited the highest point in Thailand; the King & Queen Pagodas and the Wachirathan Waterfall
Day Trip to White Temple, Black Temple and the Long Neck Karen Village
On the next day we had the second day trip and again, same van, same driver, ten people inside and awful food in a restaurant along the way.
The White Temple and the Black Temple are somehow interesting but I am not sure if I would visit them again, and if they deserve hours seating on a van to get there. I guess not.
Both temples get jammed and the employees at the White Temple rush the tourists as they are walking along the premises. It’s almost impossible to stop to take a picture.
We also visited the Long Neck Karen Village and I felt bad watching the women and children wearing rings around their necks and legs.
While in Chiang Mai, we went on an excellent half-day trip to an elephant sanctuary. This was a great day and we were pleased to see a place where the animals are respected and there’s no “mounting on elephants”, or other things that usually involve cruelty.
Chiang Mai has excellent restaurants and we had plenty of good food while staying there. Our favorites were Kanjana Restaurant, Mr Kai and Casa Diverso.
Several rental stores and it’s a great place to ride a bicycle as it’s flat. Must take care with the traffic as it’s really busy there.
The night markets are interesting places to buy souvenirs and to eat fresh food. it is packed with people and sometimes I felt claustrophobic having such many people around me.
Chiang Mai to Phuket:
We flew with Thai Airlines and it’s a convenient 90 minutes flight.
We arranged with the hotel to have a private driver waiting for us at the airport. The airport is located on the north part of the island and it takes more than one hour to travel from the airport to Patong beach.
Phuket is another beautiful and crowded destination. Our hotel was located on Patong beach.
We found Kata beach better than Patong and got there daily, by cab. It’s recommended that you tell the cab driver who take the time you want to leave. On the first day we went there we tried to take one of the local cabs and they all refused to leave Kata and go to Patong due to traffic and probably because they live close to Kata and would return with an empty vehicle.
Tip: When going to Kata, tell the driver the time you want to return or get his phone number and call him one hour before you intend to leave as it takes almost 40 minutes during rush hour.
Several excellent options with fresh food, reasonable priced.
Our favorite places to eat were:
The informal market at Kata Beach serving seafood, cold beer and delicious fruits. Also “Kata on Fire Bar and Grill”, Euro Thai and Tratoria Capri,
New Year’s Eve on Phuket Island
Busy, busy, busy but magical! Instead of fireworks, the local costume is to light lanterns and send them to the skies with good wishes for the New Year.
It’s ludic and magical!
From Phuket to busy Bangkok:
We flew Air Asia and it was a convenient flight (only 90 minutes).
This time we stayed at Le Siam Hotel, located in the city center, a stone through away from the giant Shopping Malls, restaurants and attractions.
It was easy to take a cab from the airport.
Bangkok is a live city and we had a lot of fun, specially on our “crazy ride” with a fast ferry boat along the river. WOW! To step in was an “adventure”, to ride was another “adventure” with huge waves formed by other speed boats and to step out was another adventure. I am glad we “survived” the experience, but it was all really funny!
The King had passed away a few months earlier and people were sad and mourning him. All public buildings, temples and shopping malls as well as most hotels and restaurants had his pictures and flowers around it. Locals were mostly dressed in black.
Best tour: “Explique” (www.explique.com)
This is a tour where a group of people ride on a tuk-tuk with a driver. The excursion takes place at night, visit many attractions, has a stop at the most famous restaurant in Bangkok (where we had a delicious dinner) and ends at the flower market. The tuk-tuk driver dropped us at the hotel.
The excursion is composed by several tuk-tuks and each family rides its “private” tuk-tuk. Our driver was a sweetheart and I highly recommend “Explique” to anyone traveling to Bangkok.
We had unforgettable dinning experiences in a lot of places but Thip Samai was pure HEAVEN.
There are several shopping malls and most of them are interconnected. All of them offer high end stores with incredible prices. Lots of bargains!
Time to return home!
We asked the hotel to book a cab for us to return to the airport.
From BKK (Bangkok Airport) we flew to Beijing where we spent two hours before flying to Vancouver (YVR _ best airport in the Americas and one of the best in the world).
Dear reader: If you need more information or advice, feel free to drop me a line or post your question on the comments field below.
If you are planning a trip to my city, Vancouver, get in touch with us and we will create the best tours for you and your family members!
See you in Vancouver!