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Planning a Thailand Trip

DH and I are planning three weeks in Thailand for our 30th anniversary, going in November. The actual anniversary is this May, we'll just celebrate a little later. (twice?)

Here are all the elements we are trying to put together. Fortunately a very good friend of mine is a professional dive trip organizer and works with a great travel agency. She can get great fares and do some of the booking. Frankly, I don't have time to do it all.

We are going to do 5-ish days on a high end liveaboard, diving and boating in the Andaman/Similan seas, up near the Burma, NW coast of Thailand, way N of Phuket. There are lots of little day trips to small islands, great food, and hopefully good diving for DH. I hope to take a couple of extra days for the national parks around there. One of the boats we are looking at is a high end sailing junk...

Another part of our trip is in the Northern mountain/tribal area, Chiang Mai. I hope to take some cooking classes here, and we are looking at a 3-4 day dirt road village-to-village bike tour.( Chiang Mai to Chaing Rai) We are hoping to take the overnight train from Phuket to here; the first class overnighters are supposed to fantastic and cheap, and I think the daylight hours it would be a great way to see things. Almost forgot - we have a ton of Hilton points that we can use in Bangkok or Phuket..... I'm not hot on Bangkok but staying at the Hilton could ease that a bit, lol.

Last but not least we are going to hit Cambodia for a few days, probably fly from Bangkok to Phnom Pehn and then bus up to Seim Reap, the city closest to Angor Wat. Anyone I know who has been there says that is it the "absolute must not miss outshines them all and will blow you away". I have a contact for a guide there that an acquaintance has worked with, who he highly recommends, so I'm going to try and set up a few days with him. I have a relative ( my half sister's half brother) who lives in Cambodia part time. I hope he's there when we are there... he doesn't know yet what his schedule is.

We've been talking about this trip for two years, it's exciting to be putting the plan into action!
Sounds like an interesting trip.

Unless you're into temples, Bangkok probably don't hold much interests. Phuket, on the other hand, I never heard any complains. That said, coming off a live-aboard, maybe you'll be sick of ocean views by then...

Angkor is one place I would really want to see. But everyone who's been there said "if you think you've seen the worst infrastructure of the 3rd world, wait till you go to Angkor!". Well, I've seen a lot of 3rd world, I have a hard time imaginging anything still worse than what I've been through so far, so not looking forward to that... sigh
Thanks for the comments, ABC. Frankly, Phuket sounds like a zoo to me, kind of Cancun-ish (other than the Hilton points) I'm more interested in Khao Lak for a landing place in that area. The national park up there (Khao Sok) sounds lovely.
Thanks for the comments, ABC. Frankly, Phuket sounds like a zoo to me, kind of Cancun-ish (other than the Hilton points)
Funny enough,I've never been to Cancun. So I can't compare. I didn't find the seaside town in Thailand as tacky as some of the ones stateside, say Daytona beach. The time of year of visit has a lot to do with it though. November is low season in that part of the world. No major holidays. So I doubt it'll be zoo like.

Chiang Mai is the area I didn't get to go but would love to.

By the way, Thailand is well known for its hotel industry. Typically well-designed and superbly staffed. I can't quite remember the hotels we stayed in but I do remember it being really nice and really homy. So much so I felt reluctant to go do the day's activity, feeling more like staying AT the hotel just relax and enjoy, which is really unusual for me (who has a nickname as "the energizer bunny, always going")
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Ski Diva Extraordinaire
We went for our honeymoon, but localized our stay around some of the climbing areas on the Andaman coast. Didn't hit Phuket aside from transportation through there as we're not into the touristy beach stuff. I've heard good things about Chiang Mai and all the other areas you're hitting, sounds like a great trip!
All the pieces are falling into place. This trip is going to be fully booked in just a few days.

We decided to scrap Angor Wat in Cambodia as it was just too much time/travel out of all the other things we wanted to do.
The trip looks like this:
We fly into Phuket for two days and then right onto almost a week on the liveaboard I mentioned earlier. After that, we'll go about 3 hrs N of Phuket, to Khao Sok National Park. There is a big lake (reservoir) there in the karst topography that is supposed to be very beautiful, Cheow Lan lake. It has wildlife sanctuaries, and floating raft houses that you stay in.
3 days and two nights there, and then onto Bangkok where we are using our Hilton points that DH earned while working too much last year. We'll stay at the Hilton on the River downtown ( free, yeah!) and explore a bit.
Then, onto Chiang Mai. DH is dying to do the sleeper train. The first class overnight trains are incredibly cheap and supposed to be very nice.
A few days in Chiang Mai, and then we head out on a 4 day dirt road bike tour up to Chiang Rai.
http://www.spiceroads.com/tours/chiangmai_chiangrai then two nights in Chiang Rai and fly home.

It sounds like a lot, but other than the boat, the bikes there's a whole lot of time not allotted to anything. I'm super excited: doing lots of homework, taking notes, too much time on Trip Advisor, looking for the right clothes as I want to go light with a carry on, I need a camera.....


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
you are familiar with the common scams in and around the tourist areas of bangkok right?
I know about the gemstones one and the "your attraction is closed" one.They are pretty well document in Lonely Planet and Rough Guide ~ but if you have something to add that would be great


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I know about the gemstones one and the "your attraction is closed" one.They are pretty well document in Lonely Planet and Rough Guide ~ but if you have something to add that would be great
Here's a few we found:
1. Someone who looks pretty official tells you as you go to enter a monument that it is currently closed and they will take you in their tuktuk to another one thats open *gemstone scam- oops just realized you know this one
2. someone who looks official tries to tell you that you can't get into monument in what you're wearing. They will rent you a skirt across the street. *in the monuments if you are wearing shorts, you can enter them and then they will give you a skirt or long shirt or whatever for a deposit, you don't have to buy/rent and you get your money back upon leaving.
3. Not a scam, but something I had to get used to. If you are getting public transport of any sort, even if you are paying for a bus/van to the airport, they will say they are going directly to whatever destination you are going to. This is rarely the case and made for some stressful rides to catch buses or planes with a zillion stops to pick up other people on the way. We were freaking out that we'd be late, but we always got there maybe 10-15 minutes late or later and the thing we were trying to catch was waiting for us. So basically, don't expect any public transportation to be on time or to go where it says (though it will, eventually). For example, we asked a guy if the ferry would take us to X. He said yes. But really it took us to Y where we had to catch a connection to X. We would have had to take a connection no matter what, but we thought from what he said that the first ferry would take us direct so really it was just stressful for us. We got there eventually, no big deal. I guess my basic advice for public transport in thailand is to not stress it, enjoy the ride and try not to worry about getting anywhere on time. By the time we ferried to Phi Phi and our boat broke down on the way, we were so used to this that we were the only passengers not freaking out, we just laid on the deck and enjoyed the sun while waiting for our rescue boat.

Generally, I've found that the Thai people don't mean anything harmful by their scams and attempts to 'trick' the tourists, it's almost like a playful game and it helps if you view it that way. That being said, Bangkok was a bit rough with that but the attractions and monuments are really amazing and totally worth the hassle.
Thanks Kimmyt - 1 & 2 are well documented in the guides. Having travelled lots in the Caribbean where everything is on island time, my expectations for timeliness are adjusted when out of the US.

Yesterday I booked a really nice room at the Millenium Hilton (city views, in the tower on the River downtown) using all reward points...:clap:
So here we go. We are soooo excited. We are working on how to pack our carryons as that is all we are taking.
I appreciate that I can share this here. You gals do enough travel and spending money on skiing tha

So... fly in to Phuket and stay in some nice hotel on Patong Beach for two nights.
Then, a week on the Diva Andaman. 115 ft long, triple masted, only 14 customers, 4 star chef, kayaks, diving...

Doing something along the lines of

Then, we head on up to Khao Sok National Park. We are doing a three day tour there that involves taking a longtail boat back to various locations on Cheow Lan lake. We'll stay in some floating fishing villages, visit some wildlife sanctuaries and do lake kayaking, jungle hiking and more.

Then we hop onto a plane to Bangkok ( a 1 hour flight).
We have a gob of hotel points leftover from when DF was working so hard so we were able to book three nights at the Millennium Hilton downtown on the river.
We have no great big plans. We don't have a lot of time in Bangkok. I want to take a tour to the floating markets, and we might go the palace. Mostly I think I'll want a hot shower and internet after our rustic adventured.

Then, we take the overnight train to Chiang Mai. The sleeper cars are supposed to be amazing, and they are cheap, too.

Then a few days in Chiang Mai. I am hoping to take a cooking class. Maybe visit an orchid farm? Chilling out, sightseeing.
We get picked up for our bike tour. We are doing a four day tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. This will be a four day, three night dirt road/elephant trail "mountain bike" tour. It's mostly mileage and scenery and visiting the hill tribes.
Then home, with a full day in Seoul.


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