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A Taste Of Thailand

Bethany Shearing, Trainee Sales Consultant at our Jarrolds and Thorpe travel agents in Norwich, got to experience a fascinating tour of Thailand; taking in the capital Bangkok and some other interesting cities. Here are her highlights from this amazing trip…

Destination: Thailand (Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and Bangkok)

Operator/Host: Travel2

Accommodation
(Hotel names/Ship name): 
Anantara Chiang Mai, Hilton Hua Hin, Dusit Thani Hua Hin, Centara Watergate Bangkok

Airline: Eva Air and Bangkok Air

Duration: 9 days

Flights

We travelled economy class both ways with Eva Air with an overnight flight travelling to Bangkok and a day-time flight coming back to the UK. The flight time was just over 12 hours direct and our check-in was quick and easy at all the airports we visited. We were advised to use the electronic booths at Heathrow to print our tickets and luggage tags. This made things a lot less stressful as we only had to drop off our bags at the Eva Air desk and didn’t have to wait in line.

The flight attendants on board Eva Air were friendly and regularly came round to offer a selection of drinks and nibbles throughout the flight. As soon as we were in the air; dinner was served. There was a choice of pork and rice or chicken and potatoes, both served with a small green salad, a bread roll and a slice of lemon cheesecake. Tea and coffee were served after dinner. We also were provided with breakfast, which consisted of scrambled egg and beans.

The seat configuration on board our flight was 3-3-3.  The seat pitch was good; however, I did find the seats to be quite uncomfortable. Pillows and blankets were provided during the flight but the onboard entertainment was quite limited compared to other airlines that I have experienced, with only a small amount of English films.

We flew with Bangkok Air from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which took just over an hour. On this flight, it was 3-3 configuration and the seat pitch was good. As it was such a quick flight, I did not expect to be provided with a meal on board, but we were quickly offered a bread roll, cold meat, pasta salad and a brownie. Again, we were offered tea and coffee, along with a selection of soft drinks. There were no films on this flight but this wasn’t really an issue due to the fact that we were only on board for a short time. We flew with Bangkok Air from Chiang Mai back to Bangkok a few days later and again I found the service provided to be good.

Travelling back to the UK from Bangkok on our last day, we were invited into the Eva Air lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport before boarding our flight. There were plenty of food and drink choices, such as pizza, brownies, sandwiches, ice-cream, orange juice and wine, and guests were able to go up and help themselves as much or as little as they liked. There are plenty of seating areas in the lounge and the Eva Air staff provide a free Wi-Fi code for customers to use whilst in the lounge. There are also free massage chairs for travellers to make use of.

Overall, I was impressed with the service provided on board Eva Air and Bangkok Air. I would recommend both these airlines for anyone making this trip.

 

Bangkok Buddha

Accommodation

We stayed at the Anantara in Chiang Mai for the first two nights. On our first night, we were treated to the ‘Kasara Suite’, and on our second night, we experienced a deluxe room. The Kasara Suite offers guests 105 square metres of pure luxury, a private courtyard entrance, balcony with double daybed, table and chairs, large open plan bathroom with a rain shower and deep terrazzo bathtub, dining area, indoor day bed, Wi-Fi, 42″ flat screen LCD satellite television, CD and DVD player, iPod docking station, coffee machine, coffee and tea making facilities, writing desk, ample closet space, in-room safe equipped with power outlet and a hairdryer.

Guests staying in a Kasara Suite are offered their own private check-in and check-out (either in the Kasara Lounge or in their own suite), full access to the Kasara Lounge, international breakfast buffet in the lounge or restaurant, all day refreshments of non-alcoholic beverages, tea and coffee, butler service from 7:00am to 11:00pm, evening cocktails, wine and canapés, Wi-Fi and laptop computer facilities and a laundry service which offers to process up to seven pieces per day (excludes dry cleaning and express service).

I thought the suite itself was beautiful and created a calming, tranquil atmosphere for guests.  However, with low lighting and dark woods, I found the room to be really dark; meaning it was hard to get ready/find your belongings. On our second night, we stayed in a deluxe room. I was just as happy with this room as it was simply a smaller version of what we had stayed in the night before.

The hotel offers guests a couple of choices for eating and drinking. ‘The Restaurant’ serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, and guests can choose to either dine on the wooden veranda of the inner courtyard or on the riverside deck if they would prefer. ‘The Terrace Bar’ is ideal for pre and post-dinner gatherings and ‘The Lobby Lounge’ offers guests a relaxing and quiet atmosphere throughout the morning, as well as live Thai Kim music at dusk. ‘The Bar and Cigar Lounge’ is ideal for guests looking for pre-dinner drinks and sophisticated nightcaps, whilst the ‘The Colonial House’ offers savoury snacks, scones, sweet treats, exotic teas, home-made ice-creams and sorbets throughout the day.

Anantara offers plenty of recreation and leisure facilities for its guests to make use of too. These include the 34-metre riverside pool, the Anantara Spa, a fitness centre and yoga facilities. During our stay, we were treated to a delicious dinner with the hotel manager, Syahreza Ishwara, on the riverfront. After dinner, we released floating lanterns on the rooftop of the spa and headed to a local bar for a few drinks.

The hotel is a 20-minute transfer from Chiang Mai International Airport and it is less than a five-minute walk to the local night market. It is in close proximity to the local bars and restaurants and there are plenty of Tuk Tuks available in the area should you wish to use them. Breakfast at the hotel was nice, although I felt there was a long wait for our omelettes that we ordered; considering it wasn’t busy at 7.30am.

When we first arrived at Hua Hin, I was very surprised at the area. Before travelling out to Thailand, I did some background research on the places that we would be visiting and, looking at the pictures on-line, I expected Hua Hin to be a very beach-focussed, simple resort but I was so surprised at how built up it was.

On our third night, we stayed at the Hilton Hua Hin in a twin deluxe room. I found this room to be light and comfortable, offering us views over the pool and beach area. A common thing that I picked up about this hotel was that it provided us with amazing views over Hua Hin, no matter where you were standing in the hotel. It is centrally located on the beach and is just steps away from a range of attractions, including bars and restaurants.

Pre-dinner cocktails and drinks at the Sky Bar are a must for any guest who stays here. They are beautifully presented and were thoroughly enjoyed whilst overlooking the amazing views of the town. Dinner was a delicious buffet with a choice of anything and everything that you could possibly imagine. There is also an outdoor BBQ, where guests can pick their own meat and a chef will cook it for them and then bring it over to their table. After dinner and cocktails, we spent the night exploring Hua Hin.

Next stop was the Dusit Thani, also in Hua Hin, and we stayed there for two nights. I was a little reluctant about staying at a Dusit hotel as we visited the Dusit D2 in Chiang Mai and I thought it lacked character and felt very much like a business hotel. However, these apprehensions were soon allayed as the only thing I can say about the Dusit Thani Hua Hin is wow!

It was the complete opposite of what I imagined and by far my favourite hotel that we stayed in during the trip. The hospitality that the manager, Diana, and her amazing team provided us with was absolutely incredible. Nothing was ever too much trouble and they really did take such great care of us. We were upgraded to a club suite, which offered us a sitting area, bedroom, bathroom, a walk-in wardrobe and a balcony which offered us beautiful views over Hua Hin.

Before we went for dinner, we were taken ‘out-the-back’, where we were met by the hotel’s army of chefs who gave us chef whites to put on. We were then taken into the kitchen where an amazing spread of canapés, wine and a chocolate fountain awaited us. Dinner was served to us shortly after; consisting of a delicious buffet. Breakfast the next morning was also delicious and again there was an amazing choice of everything you could imagine.

Service at this hotel was first-class; always opening the doors for guests, welcoming guests, giving flowers to guests, and all the staff were very friendly and efficient. If you are looking for a luxurious, quiet and relaxing break, I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the Dusit Thani Hua Hin.

Our final nights were spent at the Centara Watergate Hotel in Bangkok. This hotel is very new, modern and I found it to be fun and quirky, with loud music playing in the lifts. I think it would be perfect for a young couple who are spending some time in Bangkok. The hotel is located conveniently in central Bangkok (about 10 minutes from Patpong Market and about 40 minutes from the airport). It offers a rooftop bar, called the ‘ChiliHip’ and the views overlooking Bangkok from there are stunning. Again, the staff were all friendly and helpful and breakfast was very, very nice.

As well as the hotels we stayed in, the trip was packed with visits to other accommodation options. In Chiang Mai, we also visited Khum Phaya and Dusit D2 and in Hua Hin we managed to find the time to look around the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas, the Regent Beach Cha-Am, the Anantara Hua Hin, the Hyatt Regency, the Novotel Cha-Am, the Sheraton Hua Hin and the Cape Nidhra. In Bangkok, we visited the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, the Rembrandt Hotel, the Dusit Thani Bangkok and the Shangri-La Hotel.

My two favourite hotels from this long list were the Cape Nidhra and the Anantara, both in Hua Hin.  These hotels were so luxurious and I felt they went above and beyond our needs and expectations. One thing I would say about Cape Nidhra is that, although the hotel itself was incredible, the views from the room let it down a bit. The rooms tended to overlook local apartments, houses and gardens rather than offering impressive cityscapes and seaside panoramas that we saw in other hotels. I also enjoyed breakfast at the Shangri-La, Bangkok as the hotel was set in such a beautiful location and offered views over the river and the city.

 

Elephant Chiang Mai

Excursions

Whilst we were in Chiang Mai, we visited an elephant camp which was absolutely incredible. When we first arrived we were able to feed the elephants bananas (we had to buy bunches ourselves) and watch them bathe and play in the river with their handlers. Their handlers then brought them round to us to watch them perform a few little tricks that they had learnt including laying down, rolling logs and even painting a picture of a tree and a bunch of flowers. After that, we were given the chance to ride the elephants. The handlers were very good; some singing to us whilst going through the jungle and offering us anoraks when the weather got a bit damp.

The elephants took us up into the jungle to a local hill-tribe, where there were a few souvenir stalls that tourists can purchase from. We were then taken back down to the camp to board a bamboo raft to take us down the river. This river-raft part of the excursion took about 40 minutes and it felt so relaxing and peaceful floating down the river.

Whilst visiting the Anantara Hua Hin, we spent the afternoon having a cooking class demonstration.  This attraction is something that the Anantara offers all guests and the price includes a cooking class with the chef, lunch (the meal that you have cooked), a trip out to the local markets to pick up ingredients with the chef, a chopping board and an apron. I would say it is well worth giving it a go; merely to be able to try the local cuisine and take part in something a little bit different.

For starters, we prepared a fruit salad (papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit and mango) which was drizzled with a fish sauce and a handful of cashew nuts were thrown in. For someone who isn’t keen on fish or seafood, it was surprisingly tasty! For main, we prepared a chicken curry which was also delicious.

During our time in all three areas of Thailand, we got the chance to explore the local markets. You can pick up some real bargains here, with everything from souvenirs to clothing items and food. I can honestly say that my bartering skills have really improved! A little tip….as a general rule, you can usually get the seller down to at least half of what they are asking if you haggle well enough. The sellers will always pick a random price, so try to get the price as low as possible.

Pickpockets are common in the night markets, so always be very wary of your belongings if you choose to visit at this time of the day. We also visited the floating markets in Bangkok, which was brilliant. We were transferred there by a speed boat, which took about 15 minutes and there are plenty of unique things to buy and experience here.

On our last day, we went on a treasure hunt around Bangkok. It was so good to see the city from all the different types of transport options available in the area; the Tuk-Tuks, the SkyTrain (very easy to use) and the river boats. Afterwards, we all said that this route was such a good way to see Bangkok.

Trip Highlights

So many people have asked me what my favourite part of the trip was and I honestly can’t pick one thing as the whole experience was just incredible! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and feeding the elephants in Chiang Mai (something I have always wanted to do), but I also loved Hua Hin and having a little bit of time to relax and lay by the beautiful pools. Having roof-top drinks overlooking Bangkok at night was another highlight and experiencing Bangkok for myself was brilliant; such a lively and crazy city!

Possible Improvements

To be honest, I can’t pick anything to be improved upon. Everything about this experience was brilliant; I just wish it lasted much longer!!

Recommendations

I would 100% recommend this trip of a lifetime. It is so great to have been able to experience different and diverse parts of Thailand. If you are looking for a bit of culture, Chiang Mai would be a great choice, and if you are looking for peace and tranquillity, Hua Hin would be perfect. Bangkok is just great; I think everyone should experience this city once in their lifetime. Personally, I would say Thailand is my new favourite destination, overtaking Mexico and the Caribbean.

 

Tuk Tuk

Additional Comments

Here are a few tips that I picked up whilst in Thailand….

  • When bartering, try to half (or more) the original selling price.
  • Before getting into a taxi/Tuk Tuk, always negotiate a price. I paid about 100 Baht (£1.80) for a 10 minute Tuk Tuk ride. If taking a taxi, always ask to have the meter running.
  • Tipping is not necessary, but it is just courteous. I tipped our elephant handler and bamboo raft driver 100 Baht each.
  • Be wary of belongings whilst in the markets.
  • Try the street food. At the floating markets in Bangkok, they cook all the food on the boats in the river; from fried sweet banana to Pad Thai.

It was such a brilliant trip, and I feel so lucky to have been able to go to Thailand and experience such a beautiful place. Thank you so much to Paul and Vicky for the opportunity of a lifetime!

Must see? Chiang Dao Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai and the Floating Markets in Bangkok.

Must do? Rooftop drinks at the ChiliHip Bangkok / Hilton Hua Hin

Must try? The street food in Bangkok

If you would like to recreate Bethany’s tour, or plan something similar, the team at Fred Olsen Travel can make this a reality. Visit one of our high street stores, such as our Felixstowe travel agents, or fill in an online form and we will get back to you.