ARRIVAL & BANGKOK
had planned to go to Thailand for over 3 years but as it happened it wasnt
until a few months ago that things fell into place and we finally booked
to go. We left for Thailand on 2nd February from Heathrow on Thai Airways.
It was worth the wait.
BANGKOK AMARI ATRIUM HOTEL FACE
We landed in Bangkok, and we stayed here for the ½ day that we
arrived, and the following day, at the Amari Atrium Hotel we loved
it although it was a bit too far out from the action approx a 10min
walk to the metro, or a 50p taxi ride. Tip always always get a
Taxi Meter and make sure its turned on, and that includes
the trip from the airport. Go downstairs in BKK airport, to the taxi rank
½ or less of the price of the touts upstairs.
First night we went to Face restaurant in Sukhumvit and it was just absolutely
amazing, even if getting there with a taxi driver who spoke no English
and read no romanized Thai wasnt! It is a traditional teak house
with lots of nice features; set in a little garden with ponds, walkways
and candles everywhere. There are two restaurants, Thai (which we went
to twice) and Indian, and a spa on the premises beautiful, great
ambience, recommended restaurant - the atmosphere being so contrastingly
relaxing to the Bangkok outside you could forget where you were. Expensive
by Thai prices, although not by English ones, at £30+ for a meal
for two with drinks. Chicken red curry was our favourite.
Our first and only full day in BKK we did the usual sights, taking a tuk-tuk
because as a farang its expected to the
Grand Palace (packed, and the sun was in all the wrong places in the morning),
Wat Pho (reclining Buddha), and Wat Arun. All nice enough, but as usual
with these things it can be the places without the tourists being bussed-in
which are best. We jumped onto the boat-taxi down to Tha Rachawong pier,
and walked to and around Chinatown a place filled with stuff you
didnt know you didnt want. Hands on your valuables here
with no exaggeration there will be times when you have no choice but to
be moved along in a sea of moving people, and woe betide anyone who falls
down or wants to change direction; an experience.For a more relaxed shopping
environment without fried fish, we looked through the Silom, Central and
Siam Paragon shopping malls empty and brand new, expensive but
you get security checks on entry. Went to the smaller mall down the road
packed and older, no security checks and toilets were 2p but hey
you win some you lose some! Picked up some clothes for a few £,
and lunch for even less.
BANGKOK LOY NAVA DINNER CRUISE
We took the 6pm start for the sunset, although the smog in Bangkok is
awful. The food was frankly not all that great; if you want to do this
choose the Traditional Thai Menu not the seafood one. At £25 per
person (with drinks) we wouldnt do it again, but if youre
stuck for an evening you do get to see the sights up and down the river.
We were going to go to Sirocco / State Tower for drinks, but having a
4am wake-up call for our flight to Cambodia we decided against!
BACK TO BANGKOK & NORTH THAILAND
BANGKOK HUA LAMPHONG TRAIN STATION OVERNIGHT TRAIN NORTH
We arrived back in Bangkok midday, and went straight to the station where
we left our luggage. We really couldnt face walking around looking
for a decent restaurant, so went to, um, Face, again! We had the place
all to ourselves, but a word of warning - the barman doesnt work
till the evening. Thus our waitress seemed to get confused as to the amounts
to pour for the drink and the mixer
:-) add Bangkok heat = merry
lunch! Funnily enough we didnt feel the need to explore Bangkok
more, so took it easy till our 1900-0900 train from Bangkok to Chiang
Mai. The train was full, a mixture of Thais and backpackers, with an American
school trip thrown in for good measure. We went for a 1st class
compartment, which was clean and adequate, and once they turned the seat
into bunkbeds with clean sheets etc, a nice way to save on a flight/hotel
fee, although there isnt as much scenery to see as wed have
liked. Wed do it again only if it was convenient 12 hours
was a long time. Oh, and skip the train breakfast, unless your idea of
tasty is soggy and lukewarm.
CHIANG MAI AREA BAAN RAI LANNA RESORT
After our gruelling train journey finally arrived in Chiang Mai, we were
picked up from the train station, whizzed through the city and headed
to Baan Rai village for 3 nights. The hotel (well hardly only 6
bungalows to the resort) was called Baan Rai Lanna and it is approximately
1 hour away from Chiang Mai. It is an absolutely delightful hideaway!
We had the resort to ourselves for 2 nights and on the last night shared
it with only 1 other guest!!! The staff were incredibly helpful, and include
an on-site masseuse
:-) The resort and the area are very relaxing
and picturesque. They have mountain bikes available with a map of the
local area and villages. We twice went for bike rides, and they turned
out to be a highlight of the whole trip despite being in the middle
of nowhere, we felt safe and even explored some poor guys banana
grove (by accident).
We also organised a tour to the Karen Long Neck tribe which turned
out to be the human zoo as expected - and Lang Dao cave ok but
nothing great. We would have preferred to have staying at the resort to
enjoy the birds and mountain scenery from the infinity pool which
by the way, if you go in you are braver than me. We were a bit worried
about the food as you are kind of stranded in the resort but the food
was very reasonably priced and extremely tasty. One evening we ordered
whiskey with sprite for 200Bht assuming that we would get a shot but oh
no they brought us a whole bottle of local whiskey!!! Every evening we
strolled down to the restaurant with a bottle of whiskey, not the most
romantic look I agree! ;-)
After 3 very relaxing nights in the north we flew to Phuket, and having
missed the last boat to Phi Phi had to book a hotel in Kata. I specifically
chose this area after endless reading on TA/Fodors - most of the people
say Kata beach is the most relaxed place. I beg to differ! We felt we
were on the Spanish Costa all leather tans and gold chains. The
place was absolutely full of tourists, and generally the type who make
you ashamed. Suffice to say as were we using the net in our hotel reception
a number of overweight Westerners came in to book a room by the hour with
their newly found Thai girlfriends. We knew that we will see this occasionally
but quite frankly it was shocking to see to what extent this has come
to - I dont even want to start imagining what Patong must look like!
Each to their own, but there was nothing to suggest this was Thailand
and even the local Thais here didnt have their famous friendliness,
especially compared to up North. Discussing this with a few backpackers
we met, we came to the same opinion it was probably a reflection of who
they had to deal with. Its hard to judge Phuket on such a short
trip the scenery to the North was brilliant and the area seemed
better, but the whole feel of Kata was everything but relaxing and a far
cry from the Thai experience we went for.
KOH PHI PHI DON
After Phuket we spent another 3 night on Phi Phi Island in Phi Phi Villa
resort (basic, overpriced, room cleaning on request) and we
were equally disappointed. The scenery is breathtaking but the whole place
is so busy and loud, although to be fair we did arrive at the height of
the day-tripper invasion. Everyday we made our way as far as possible
from our hotel, which was located at the end of the Ton Sai Bay build-up.
We found a secluded little cove, about 30mins walk through jungle, where
we relaxed and were finally able to enjoy Phi Phi Island. Perhaps this
sounds negative, but when your expectation is for perfection I guess youre
bound to be a little disappointed. The scenery of the Island is however
amazing, and in hindsight we should have stayed further away from the
crowds. The upside was the pancake lady outside Phi Phi Villa resort
£0.30 for her pancakes for breakfast was the best option by a long
shot. And see if you can spot her kid shes the cute one!
MAYA BAY (KOH PHI PHI LEY)
We hired a private long tail boat to take us to Maya Bay - and were very
happy to find out that we were the first ones to arrive! Mind you we did
leave at 07:00 but to be on The Beach by ourselves
was spectacular, and a real treat on Valentines Day! We enjoyed
a whole hour of quietness and bliss; we left as soon as the first tourist
boats started to arrive; I am very impressed that the place is still so
beautiful and untouched after the never-ending raids of tourists, even
if there is a snack-shop there.
KRABI AREA AO NANG THE CLIFF RESORT
We finished off in the Krabi area for 4 nights, staying at The Cliff resort,
which was surprisingly on a main road, although this wasnt an issue.
This is a beautiful, intimate resort, although initially we were a bit
apprehensive here as the rooms are not all that private, although you
get used to it.
Ao Nang and the Krabi area had, by far, the most impressive and stunning
scenery, palm trees and limestone cliffs/rock-formations. Ao Nang, although
still a bit commercialised, was much better alternative to Phuket. And
I bet if we ventured down to Ko Lanta we would have found the Thailand
that we experienced in the north. We did a few trips to Railey Beach,
Phrang Nhang Cave beach and Koh Poda Island long tail boats (fixed
prices) run fairly frequently to most places. We also went on a tour that
comprised an elephant track through jungle and rivers, and a hike up to
Tiger Temple. To be precise you have to climb exactly 1250 steps - we
made it, an achievement you can only really appreciate if youve
tried it yourself! The views are, as expected, amazing from the top and
it gives you a real sense of achievement ;-)
can you believe that
my husband & I were the only people from the tour who climbed up there?
Everyone else simply could not be bothered
! Well, they just had
to wait at the bottom for the hour it took us which were
told is a respectable time!
THAILAND AND CAMBODIA
To sum up we had a fantastic time in Thailand & Cambodia. It always
seems like a cliché, but the people we met were just amazing and
so friendly; we have a lot to learn from them. Whether it was the school
kids laughing and chasing us as we rode by, or the old shopkeeper who
then offered us a bed in his house because we looked too tired to make
it to our village before sunset, it was a rare experience to feel genuine
warmth from strangers. Although some places didnt live up to our
expectations, there were some places that totally surprised us; it is
all an experience and I think thats what travelling is about.
ps we loved the food!