Nov 14 2011
Given the floods surrounding and leaking across Bangkok it’s fair to say that the Thai capital is not a particularly fun place to be for a holiday, at least for a little while. A few lost crocodiles are swishing around in the water, and it doesn’t smell so nice, either. For the truly blissful vacation you have been long waiting for, head elsewhere.
While Bangkok has never been known to induce feelings of relaxation, Khao San Road is still overloaded with crowds, Soi Cowboy is being its usual lively self, and gaggles of tourists wandering around Bangkok remain unfazed. Some have even admitted the benefits of the floods: less traffic, discounts on souvenirs, and more attention and personalised service at their hotels. The full effects of the floods are still unknown. In the end, it’s up to you and what you feel comfortable with on your vacation.
Remember, dear travellers, Central Bangkok is not flooded. It might never be flooded. Neither is the international airport, Suvarnabhumi, despite what misleading photographs you might have seen in the news.
Bangkok is still a perfectly useful hub to other parts of Thailand and Asia and many of the tourist destinations within Bangkok are still open and running. The Skytrain (BTS) and MRT are operating normally. Just because several districts in and around Bangkok are flooded does not mean Thailand is closed for business. In fact, it needs your business more than ever.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has already estimated up to US$825 million in losses in the tourism sector if the floods are not resolved by the end of 2011 (many due to tour group cancellations). Unfortunately, the flood collided with the beginning of the high season, leaving Thailand out of luck. A large percentage of hotel reservations cancelled in response to the floods have been for hotels outside of Bangkok, nowhere near the flooding. TAT blames the media for spreading misinformation and unnecessary fear, but we understand that tourists are concerned about their travel plans. Rather than panicking or reading articles that speak in too general terms about the floods, make sure you do thorough research about your destination. For those who are stuck in Bangkok, or do not have the option of diverting elsewhere, please keep in mind that there are plenty of destinations close to Bangkok that are high, dry, and stress-free.
Here are a few destinations within five hours of the partially wet capital. Please note, buses, trains, and taxis are currently running to all of these destinations, but do check closer to your time of actual travel in case of changes:
Hua Hin: Hua Hin is no Ko Samui or Krabi, but it does the job for an easy vacation out of Bangkok. (Usually) within two hours of Bangkok, expect semi-idyllic beaches and lots of hotels. With deep history and royal residence, Hua Hin has numerous activities and attractions to check out if you get bored on the beach, including night markets, temples, national parks, a vineyard, and an elephant sanctuary.
Pattaya: Some may say Pattaya is the dirty underbelly of Thailand’s sex tourism industry, others, a pleasant and convenient beach town a mere two (or three, or four these days) hours or a blink of a plane ride away from Bangkok. Pattaya was once a fisherman’s village turned stomping ground for Vietnam veterans, and today is the most visited city in Thailand after Bangkok. The sleaze factor is hard to avoid (go go bars abound), but lately Pattaya has been attempting to re-brand itself as a family destination. Many of Bangkok’s richest families own properties in Pattaya to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital on the weekends. For a tamer escape with fewer crowds and more class, head 2km south to Jomtien Beach.
Ko Samet: Ko Samet is national park land shaped like a teardrop, with cheap bungalows and often congested beaches. One of Ko Samet’s most redeeming qualities is its convenience –an easy three- to four-hour trip from Bangkok and you’re on an island – but it’s got a certain campy charm and laid back vibe. For more space to tan and quiet nights, stay on the northern or southern parts of the island. For a beachside party replete with fire-throwers, head east. The island is very small, so you can easily spend the weekend beach hopping down the coastline. Don’t leave without visiting Baan Ploy Samed, an over-water restaurant where you can chow down on soft-shell crab and watch fish swim under your table.
Ko Chang: A perfect mix of sandy beaches and mountains, Ko Chang is a little further to trek, taking about five hours on a good day. It’s a tropical island without the “made for tourists” feel of Hua Hin or Ko Samet. Most tourists stay on the west side of the island, where there are more hotels and sea activities. On the inside of the island, you can explore waterfalls (you know, water in abundance, but more fun than a flood) and trek through the jungle. It’s far for just a night trip, but worth the commute once you get there.
Kanchanburi: If the thought of being sequestered on an island to avoid the floods sounds claustrophobic, Kanchanburi might be a decent getaway, especially if you intend on returning to the city quickly. The drive is only two to three hours, but the flowing rivers and verdant greens make you feel like you are worlds away from Bangkok. Rent a bicycle or motorcycle and spend your floodvacation visiting the old temples, waterfalls, and national parks.
REMINDER: Suvarnabhumi is running normally. If you’d like to leave Bangkok but cannot change your ticket, consider buying a cheap return airline ticket elsewhere through Air Asia, Nok Air, Orient Thai, or Thai Airways to destinations like Singapore, Malaysia, or Cambodia.
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