Sawadee ka in the “Land of smiles”. A place where a lot of my senses became active- seeing the turquoise blue water during our island hoping; enjoying the pristine beaches; the karst mountains;
riding along the tradional long tail boats; taste buds coming alive with the mouth-watering Thai food; smelling the beautiful various coloured orchids and touching the feet of Buddha for blessings during temple visits.
This was also a family holiday one which was meticulously planned by my sister. It was so much nicer to actually enjoy a holiday without having to worry about the tiny details.
TIME TO VISIT THAILAND
Thailand is a popular destination hence the best time to visit would be when there is less crowd. But you also have to take into account for the harsh weathers. Being a tropical country February through to April is considered to be the worst time to visit as the air quality is bad and the temperature is high. September is consider to be the wettest month. I would say the ideal time to visit would be November as the weather is cooler.
When it came to us we had to choose a month when we all could take holidays. Since it was a family holiday we all choose September. We did take a chance with the rain and were really lucky. Most of the time we didn’t struggle, experienced occasional showers only in the evening.
We always heard how Bangkok is known for its shopping. We wanted to see why people always complain about being stuck in Bangkok traffic, is it really that bad? We wanted to see Buddhism as it is a lot similar to our own culture. That’s how Bangkok really got shortlisted.
TRAVELING AROUND BANGKOK
To reach Bangkok we had chosen the flight option. Since the visa is on arrival and the place always has lots of tourist make sure you have all the right documents. We had landed in Bangkok using Bangkok Airline. Overall we didn’t have any issues.
During our stay in Bangkok we actually used different modes of commuting. Since we were a family of 6 hiring a car worked out best for us. But we also didn’t want to miss out on using the public transport so we added it whenever possible.
BTS is the sky train which runs from North to South East area. MRT is the subway that runs along the main road in Bangkok. From the airport we used Airport Rail Link. There are single journey tickets and Day Pass to choose from. This can be bought on the ticket vending machines or over the counter. If you plan to stay longer then it’s advisable to go for the top up cards. We choose the single journey and day passes.
Bangkok also has boats and ferries which is another way to get around. At first it may take time to figure it out but once you understand it can become very convenient. There is a special tourist boats which runs from Saphan Thaksin Sky Train to Phra Athit near Khao San Road. The tourist boats are little expensive but they stop at major tourist attractions and is also less crowded. We used a combination of local and tourist ferries and bought tickets based on our trip.
For private car in Bangkok we had chosen BKK tours for a day tour. There are plenty of company who specialise in sightseeing and choosing the right one can be daunting. Our main approach of short listing BKK tours was based on the reviews we read online. Everyone were all praises of them and after the trip we totally agree. They were very passionate about their culture, told us stories of the place and guided us on where to do shopping and which food to try. The cars were clean and we never really got stuck in the traffic. Everything was planned perfectly taking into consideration all of our requirements.
Bangkok also has bus, inter-state trains, taxis and tuk tuk options. Since we were a group of 6 with bags and parents we didn’t choose this options. Should you not be pressed with time then bus and trains although takes longer can be a cheaper option. Be very careful while using taxis and tuk tuk because of the scamming and the overall traffic.
WHERE WE STAYED IN BANGKOK
We had choose to stay at Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn in superior room with breakfast option for three nights. Our main reason for choosing this hotel was because of its location. It is located very near to BTS and the skywalk takes you directly to the hotel.
Although it is in a busy area we didn’t experience any noise. Check in was smooth and throughout our stay the staff very attentive towards our needs. The room itself was very spacious and clean. We were also happy with the breakfast variety and the staff there were also very welcoming. I have no hesitation recommending this hotel.
THINGS TO DO IN BANGKOK
JIM THOMPSON HOUSE AND MUSEUM
Jim Thompson was sent to Thailand as a military officer during World War II. After finishing his service he decided to come and live in Thailand permanently. He disappeared in 1967 during his visit to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. There is no evidence as to what might have happened to him even now.
He was a very gifted designer and textile colourist hence he devoted his time to learn the craft of hand weaving silk. He contributed immensely to the industry’s growth and got Thai silk into recognition. His house was another reason for his immense popularity. It was built in the traditional Thai architecture. The house was a combination of six teak building, it’s elevated to take precaution of avoiding floods during rainy seasons. The traditional red paint on the walls were used with roof tiles which were common in centuries before.
A very peaceful house, informative tour to enjoy, great ambience in the restaurant and a beautiful well maintained garden. Something different to the usual temples and island hoping in Thailand.
SIAM SQUARE SHOPPING MALL
Near Siam BTS station you have Siam shopping centre, given its location it’s a busy mall. Like every other malls there were plenty of shopping to do but we actually enjoyed the food court here. The place is also well connected to other malls nearby. If you love to shop then this wouldn’t disappoint. We didn’t spend much time here as we wanted to see the other side of Thailand.
ASIATIQUE NIGHT MARKET
An open air mall with the Ferris wheel which is illuminated and enjoyed mostly at night. The place offers a scenic view of the river and a unique Thai shopping experience. We visited the place at night when the whole place was lively. Plenty of Thai food choices and lots of shopping places. There were also many Thai shows to enjoy. You can easily spent an evening in this place and not get bored.
Built in 1782 it was the official residence of the King of Siam. A very popular destination for the tourist for its gold arrays of buildings and its riot of colours. The place is also said to have lots of royal ceremonies and state functions throughout the year. It’s huge and always filled with tourists so keep at least half day to thoroughly see and enjoy it.
There is plenty to see inside the premise like the halls, lawns, gardens, courtyards and the beautiful sculptures of mythical animals and of course the sacred temple. It’s truly magnificent but only annoying thing can be the crowd.
WAT PHRA KAEW
Wat Phra Kaew is the most important Buddhism temple in Thailand. In the heart of Bangkok inside the Grand Palace is where the Emerald Buddha is seen. The Buddha statue is carved from a single fine Jade block. The sacred image of Gautam Buddha is seen seated on the lotus in a meditating position. The temple itself is rich and intriguingly decorated, giving tourist feeling of entering the “city of angels”.
The hall where the rituals are done is surrounded by low wall, eight bai Sema shrines and twelve pavilions. Upon seeing closely you will be able to see the central base is decorated with golden row of 112 Garudas. The exterior wall is covered with gold leaf and has coloured glasses mosaic.
Temple of the reclining Buddha which is 46 m long and 15 m high. It was founded in the 16th century and is the oldest and biggest temple with the highest number of pagodas. Seeing the place is a unique experience, capturing it in your camera is another challenge.
The temple has Chinese guardian figures besides its gate. The figures are huge making you feel almost real. It was intended to serve as a place of education.
This is also the birth place of the famous Thai massages where traditional Thai massages is still taught. There is also an illustration in the medicine pavilion an interesting read.
WAT ARUN (TEMPLE OF THE DAWN)
Found in the West Bank of Chao Phraya River, derived from the Hindu God Aruna which personifies the radiation of the rising sun. Although the temple is mostly visited during the day at night the temple is equally pretty when lit up.
Decorated with the million mosaic pieces of Chinese porcelain is a pagoda which leaves a lasting image. The central pagoda is as high as 20 storey building and it has a surreal view of Bangkok. The steps are steep and the climb up can be tiring given the heat but the effort is well worth it.
This is said to be one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. The place is very crowded but worth visiting for the experience. We came without a plan and explored the place on foot.
SILOM AREA- LUMPHINI PARK
A huge park in the Thai capital which offers public space, trees, playgrounds and an artificial lake where you can rent a boat. Unfortunately when we visited it was raining. If you are pressed with time then this can be missed.
SUKHIMNVIT AREA- TERMINAL 21
An interesting mall where the concept of each retail floor representing a different touristic cities is unique. Each floor is decorated with themes from iconic landmarks from around the world. You don’t have to necessarily go there for shopping but it’s worth looking at the concept.
MAEKLONG RAILWAY MARKET
The Maeklong railway runs between Wongwian Yai, Bangkok and Samsut Songkhram. The train actually passes through a market which is now nick named as Maeklong Railway Market or the “umbrella pull down market”.
The vendors are usually seen sitting on or near the track selling their fresh produces. Some of the shops even have their awnings over the tracks. When the train approaches you see the shops move back from the rails, some removing their awnings and as soon as the train passes the shops are again replaced back. The locals go back to their daily lives with so much ease and you are still standing amazed at what you just saw. A unique and first time experience for us.
Since we visited with a local she told us exactly what time the train comes, if you’re doing on your own this is very important. You have to see the vendors move their items to actually really understand and appreciate the beauty of the place.
DAMNEON SADUAK FLOATING MARKET
A famous tourist spot and personally this was our first floating market experience. Passing through the narrow canals (khlongs) and seeing images of females selling colour bright foods and vegetables was fun.
If you plan to do shopping here then better to bargain as the prices are overpriced. We had a nice guide who told us beforehand what the general prices are. Although it’s crowded the experience is unique and memorable one.
PAK KHLONG TALAT FLOWER MARKET
We also visited the famous flower market with our tour guide. We actually enjoyed the place more as our travel guide gave us a brief history of the place. The vibrant, fresh and colourful flowers were everywhere. The flowers were sold locally and across the country. There were special ones made for Buddha offerings and also few were spotted for funerals. I totally love the nature so for me this was one I wouldn’t miss out on and would recommend.
OUR ITINERARY IN BANGKOK
- From airport we took the City Line train to Phaya Thai. From Phaya Thai we took the BTS to Siam. Then took the BTS Silom line to Surasak and then walked to Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn using the skywalk.
- From hotel we took the BTS Silom Line and got off at Siam and explored Siam centre and all the malls nearby.
- From Siam Centre we took the BTS Silom Line from Siam to National Stadium and walked 290 m to Jim Thompson House
- From National Stadium we took the BTS Silom Line to Surasak to get back to our hotel.
- After breakfast we took the BTS Silom Line from Surasak and got off at Saphan Taksin. We walked to Sathorn Pier where we took the boat ride to Grand Palace. We also walked to see Wat Phra Kaew as it was also in the same area.
- From Grand Palace we then walked for 950m to reach Wat Pho.
- From Wat Pho we walked 450m to Sanam Chai station where we took the MTR Blue line to Lak Song and got off at Itsaraphap. Then we walked 950m and visited Wat Arun temple.
- From Itsaraphap station we took the MRT Blueline to Tha Pra and got off at Wat Mangkon. Walked for 240m and reached Chinatown.
- We then walked 850m to Rajchawongse to catch our boat ride to Wat Rat Singkhon. Then walked for 500 m to visit the Asiatique night market.
- From Wat Rat Singhkho we took the boat ride to Sathorn Pier. From here we went to Saphan Taksin station where we took the BTS Silom Line to Surasak and walked to our hotel.
- We had hired a private car with BKK tours for the day.
- The tour covered Maeklong Railway Station, Damneon Saduak Floating market and Pak Khlong Talat flower market. We were then dropped to our hotel.
- After resting we took the BTS Silom Line and got off at Sala Daeng. We walked for 750m and visited the Lumphini Park.
- Walked to Si Lom Station where we took the MRT Blueline to Sukhmvit. From here we walked 450 m to Terminal 21.
- From Terminal 21 we walked to Asok station where we took the BTS Sukhumvit line to Siam. From Siam changed train to BTS Silom Line and got off at Surasak and walked to our hotel.
Another thing which Thailand is famous for was its islands. There are plenty to choose from and we really wanted to see the famous ones. Hence we decided we will see Phuket.
TRAVELING AROUND PHUKET
In Phuket we choose Alex’s taxi service based on the positive reviews we read online. Alex was very polite and knew Phuket really well. He would always ask our opinion and always made sure our requirements were well looked after. He was very professional in planning our trip and made sure our needs and considerations were looked after. We were really very happy with the service given by him and would recommend him.
In Phuket although we were mostly in car we also got to try out the different boat rides. We especially enjoyed the long-tail boat as this was our first time on it. Speedboats were another one which we had used. We also did try our hands on kayaking which was also a first or us.
WHERE WE STAYED IN PHUKET
We had chosen to stay at Hotel Amari in the superior ocean facing room with breakfast for 4 nights breakfast included.
This was one of the best hotels I have stayed in till date. We had no complaints throughout our stay. We were welcomed to the hotel with a smile and throughout our stay we were well looked after.
There was a minor issue (not really a big deal) but the staff went out of their way to make sure the complaint was attended to. We even received a chocolate, fruit basket and lounge access to compensate for this.
In the evenings we were mostly in the hotel, the property is huge so we didn’t once feel bored. The whole property was well looked after and made every guest feel relaxed.
The rooms were very spacious with a separation of sleeping, eating and couch area. Everything was spotless and attended to with great care. The beds were really comfortable, one of the best till date for us.
We had enjoyed breakfast and even evening dinners at the hotels restaurants. The food was exotic with Thai speciality and hospitality at its best.
This is one hotel I would love to stay again and would highly recommend as well.
THINGS TO DO IN PHUKET
Since our hotel was along this beach it turned out to be our place to stroll in the evening. It is said to be the main tourist resort island in Phuket and has the best Phuket’s nightlife and shopping nearby. The place was buzzing with people throughout the day and even at night. The night life is also good around this place.
PHANG NGA BAY
It’s between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Kra Isthmus. Limestone cliffs and rock formations are the popular things in this island. There are collapsed caves where tourists are seen kayaking and enjoying its majestic beauty. There is plenty to do here, the scenic views in the speed boats was an awesome experience.
JAMES BOND ISLAND
This is in Phang Nga Bay and it’s also called Khao Phing Kan. It’s a 66 ft. tall islet, which was hardly visited before. It became famous after it got featured in James Bond film in 1974 and hence the name stuck.
The locals however have a different story. It was said there used to be a man who used to always do fishing here. One day he couldn’t catch any fish with the nail, frustrated when he was cutting the nail in half it jumped and speared in the sea. Thus creating the islet which is called Ko Ta Pu.
KOH PANYI (MUSLIM FLOATING VILLAGE)
A fishing village which is built on stilts by Malay fishermen. There are 360 families who have descended from the two Muslim families from Java. The village has schools, mosques, markets and floating football pitch. The community mostly survives on fishing, but since they struggled the place was opened to tourist.
We had lunch in the floating restaurant and even did small shopping in the local shops. The food was great and the people were very friendly. The view of the islands around while having our lunch was spectacular.
We had this place as part of the tour. We didn’t know what to expect given the name but were pleasantly pleased with what we saw. As the name suggests there were wild monkeys everywhere. Walking along the cave and saw different types of golden Buddha statues. Personally it was a nice break from in between island stops.
Thailand is famous for experiencing wild animals up close. In our tour we got the option of doing elephant trekking. We weren’t very keen on this but still did it- biggest mistake!
Personally the place we went the locals were very unfriendly, nothing like the usual Thai people. I don’t think the elephants were fed well and looked after. During our rides the elephants kept going for food and when the person riding it went to stop the elephants got very wild. I was totally unhappy with this and would not recommend anyone doing it.
Walking along the lively neighbourhood with brightly painted Portuguese styled townhouses was seeing a different side of Thailand. It’s a small place so don’t have any set plan just enjoy the locals and their small town. The place has small souvenir shops, clothes shops and restaurants. The vibe and architecture is amazing best enjoyed on foot.
PHUKET BIG BUDDHA
Sitting atop of Nakkerd Hills is a seated Maravija Buddha. It is 148 ft. tall and 82.5 ft. wide- basically it’s huge! The journey up the hill is totally worth the climb giving a panoramic view of the bay. During our visits there were lots of monks hence got to witness some of the rituals.
KARON VIEW POINT
Head onto Karon viewpoint to see the picturesque view of the ocean, beaches and islands. We explored the place in the evenings, although crowded we forgave it for what it showed us. We did walk around and spent some time relaxing here.
PHI PHI ISLAND
Part of the Karbi province and between Phuket and Straits of Malacca coast Thailand. Initially it had Muslim fishermen’s and later became coconut plantation. There were plenty to see in Phi Phi Island and in the short time that we had we tried to make the most of it.
Some of the places we visited around Phi Phi Island included:-
- MAYA BAY
One of the shallow bays in Phi Phi Island. It cannot be accessed directly from the boat because of its shallow waters and corals. Boats get anchored at Loh Samar and then you walk through the rocks and jungle to reach Maya Bay itself.
- BAMBOO ISLAND
A beautiful island with white sand and a mix of green and turquoise sea. The place is good for snorkelling. There are many coral rocks so be careful. A very nice place to relax.
- VIKING CAVE
A very interesting limestone caves where you can see the bird harvesting nests which is used for making traditional Chinese soup. Unfortunately you can only see it from a distant and the place is usually crowded. Since we couldn’t actually walk around it we weren’t too thrilled with the place.
- MONKEY ISLAND
A small beach which is filled with monkeys hence the name. The monkeys do get wild hence advisable to only look at them from a distant. The beach itself is small with clear turquoise water but the monkeys do make you scared to stay long.
KHAI NAI ISLAND
A small island which is usually having tourists hop on and hop off. There is refreshments available on the island. Another island where snorkelling is enjoyed. We did find the place to be little dirty but it could be because of the crowd.
OUR ITINERARY IN PHUKET
Took the train from Hotel Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn Bangkok to airport. Took a flight to Phuket. Was picked by Alex and dropped off at Hotel Amari. Walked to Patong Beach and enjoyed time here. Walked back to our hotel.
We had hired a car with Mr Alex for the day. Our day was spent in a combination of speed boats, kayaks and car travel. We visited Phang Nga Bay, James Bond Island, Monkey cave and Koh Paniya Muslim floating market.
We had again hired Mr Alex for the day and our travel included a combination of walking, car and boats. We did the elephant trekking, walked along Old Phuket, explored Big Buddha and enjoyed Karon view point. After being dropped at the hotel we decided to enjoy an evening dinner at La Griton in Hotel Amari.
Again we had hired Mr. Alex’s car service for the whole day. We had Phi Phi Island planned today. We visited Maya Beach, Monkey Island, Bamboo Island, Khai Nai Island and saw Viking Cave. After being dropped back to the hotel we walked along Patong beach and at night has dinner in our Hotel restaurant.
Enjoyed our hotel. Afternoon checked out and were dropped to the airport for flight back home.
FOOD TO TRY IN THAILAND
Thailand is a paradise for food lovers. Since we all loved to try everything we looked forward to all our meals. There were plenty to try, below were some of things we had tried.
Don’t miss out on the fresh fruits as well, we loved trying them as snacks.
TOM YAM SOUP- A spicy clear hot and sour soup. It is enjoyed with mushroom should you be vegetarian. We enjoyed the non-veg version.
SOM TAM (PAPAYA SALAD)- A beautifully blended salad with the correct balance of sour, chilli, sweet and salt. A salad with vibrant colour and equally tasty to the palate.
TOD MUN PLA (THAI FISH CAKE)- An appetiser which is cooked from fresh fish mixed with lime leaves, Thai Basil and long beans. It also had chopped cucumbers, chillies, shallots, peanuts, sugar, fish sauce and vinegar. It is deep fried and served with spicy, savoury and sweet Thai dipping sauces.
POH PIA TOD (THAI SPRING ROLLS)- We tried the chicken version but its best enjoyed with Pork. It is made with chicken, carrot, sliced cabbages, rice noodles and opinions which is spring roll wrapped and deep fried.
PAD THAI – Fried noodles which is very common street food. The flat noodle is usually served with tofu, egg, beansprouts and authentic Thai sauces.
THAI GREEN CURRY- Thai green curry paste cooked in coconut milk along with onions, lime leaves and basil leaves. This is mostly enjoyed with chicken and fish. It is also served with steamed rice and veggies of your choice.
KHAO KLUKH KRAPI (RICE WITH SHRIMP PASTE)- Traditional Thai fried rice with shrimp paste, garlic, lemon, prawn and cucumbers.
MASSAMAN CURRY – This is a Muslim curry where chicken in cooked in coconut flavours, tamarind, potatoes and massaman curry paste.
GKA PROW GAI (BASIL CHICKEN) – Chicken tossed in aromatic basil leaves with mild oriental flavours. A very popular dish and also very mild to the stomach.
TOM KHA GAI (CHICKEN IN COCONUT SOUP)- This is a richer version of tom yum soup which is milder and a lot more creamer. The combination makes it a rich sweet soup.
PAD KRAPOW (FRIED BASIL)- usually made with minced pork or chicken. This one is stir fried with Thai Basil and plenty of chillies. It’s served with white rice along with an oozing fried egg.
KAI MED MA MUANG (CHICKEN WITH CASHEW NUT)- A sweet Thai flavoured dish where the chicken is stir fried with cashew nuts, soy sauce, honey, onions, chillies, pepper, mushroom and vegetables.
KHAO PAD SAPPAROD (PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE)- Another popular fried rice with shrimps and pineapple. This also has curry powder, shrimp sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and is best enjoyed in jasmine rice.
GAENG PED GAI (RED CURRY WITH CHICKEN)- the red colour comes from the red Asian chillies which is crushed with artic, shallots, blue ginger and lemongrass. There is chicken, eggplant, mushroom and tomatoes which is cooked in coconut along with a touch of fresh kaffir lime and sweet basil leaves. Best enjoyed with served with jasmine rice.
YELLO CURRY WITH CHICKEN- As compared to red and green curry this is milder. There is a perfect blend of turmeric, curry powder, coriander, cumin, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, garlic and coconuts. All cooked on coconut cream and coconut milk. Vegetable and chicken are added accordingly while cooking.
KAO NIEW MA MUANG (MANGO AND STICKY RICE)- Very popular dessert. Made with sticky rice, mango slices and sweet condensed milk.
BANANA ROTI (BANANA PANCAKE)- A pancake which is fried on both sides with crispy banana slices. It is then topped with condensed milk and sugar. A very popular street food.
THINGS TO NOTE IN THAILAND
- Thailand have a lot of tourists throughout the year. The immigration officers are not the friendliest, which is understandable. Recommend carrying all your documents and organising it properly. Visa is on arrival and the lines are usually long so be prepared for the same.
- Remove your shoes in the hall of worship and when asked. It is Thai culture to not wear them inside local home, small shops or authentic restaurants. There are particular temples also which asks you to do so.
- There are lots of monkeys in Thailand, avoid feeding them no matter how cute you find them.
- Thai people are nice, they will strike a conversation and try to be friendly. Take care while speaking, scamming also takes place.
- People usually don’t follow the rule of standing in line. You will have to make your way and make sure not to be lost behind.
- Thai people have a lot of respect for their king. Avoid speaking anything against them as this is considered disrespectful
- Mangoes in Thailand are delicious and the best in the world. Indulge in as much as possible.
- Cover your elbows and knees while visiting temples.
- Avoid elephant rides or any sanctuaries with wild animals. The animals are usually drugged and personally found this very in human.
- If you visit the night markets then be prepared for bargaining. Also be aware of fakes. Plan accordingly.
- Generally Thai women are conservative so don’t touch them without their consent.
- Thai people usually greet by saying wai (by pressing their palms towards their chest). Should someone do this return with the same gesture.
- Thai people usually greet by saying wai (by pressing their palms towards their chest). Should someone do this return with the same gesture.
- Dining in middle and high restaurants there is tipping of 5-10% of the bill.
- Asiatique night market has free ferries running, advisable to find the exact time of the ferries.
- When visiting the Grand Palace if some stranger tells you it’s closed and show an alternative route ignore them. Scammers are there in the area don’t fall for it.