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Overwhelmed...need help on what to do in Thailand between 24th Dec 2010 to 2nd Jan 2012

  • rubytuesday

    Joined Travelfish
    27th August, 2011
    Posts: 3

    Hi! Feeling overwhelmed with choice and information! Help!

    Background Info...

    Planning a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, starting with Christmas and NYE in Thailand. Need some help with the very short Thailand part.
    We would be flying in to Bangkok 24th Dec and have a hotel in mind for one night but then we want to go and do something amazing for 6 days before maybe getting back to Bangkok by 31st Dec to meet some friends for NYE.

    Questions...
    * Is Christmas Celebrated in Thailand? (eg will places be closed?)
    * How do we get from Thailand to an island?
    * If you have been to Ko Chang , which area is best and is there somewhere great to stay that is also budget?
    * Is Ko Chang great or would you reccommend another island more?
    * Where is better for NYE? (eg. Bangkok, Phuket, an island??)

    Interested in - pristine beaches, safe swimming, being in an area where we can swim, eat and get around on foot or bicycle, not too many tourists, jungle walks, cheap vegetarian food, cheap accommodation.

    #1 Posted: 27/8/2011 - 15:19

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6338
    Total reviews: 10

    OK, let's start with Christmas. It is casually celebrated, but not much, if anything, should be closed over the Christmas period like back home. So you needn't figure it into your planning.

    Swimming and Pristine beaches tend to mean not cheap. If it's nice, there's a very good chance it's been developed and it won't be that cheap anymore. If there aren't too many tourist, there is usually a reason for that. So keep that in mind. Everyone wants to the exclusive, beautiful, romantic getaway place right? And everyone wants it cheap.

    How to get from Thailand to an Island depends on the Island you are going to. You can fly to Koh Samui. And you can fly to Phuket (which most people don't consider and Island, but it is). These are well developed tourist areas, which seems to violate your rule about not too many tourists. But I'll come back to this, as I think your "Vegetarian requirement" will force you to go to a place that caters to tourists.

    After that, it's take a bus or train somewhere, and then take a ferry. But I caution you that now you are eating about 24 plus hours out of your six days in transit. Maybe a touch less depending on the Island, but not a lot less.

    I was thinking of Koh Chang as well based on what I've read. But bear in mind while I know Thailand well, I have NEVER been to any of the Islands (I don't like the ocean) and so you will have to depend on others here to give you good advice there.

    As for vegetarian food - Thais do eat vegetarian food, but I don't think you speak Thai. Some vegetarians tend to be very pedantic in their definitions (don't fish sauce, for example, which Thais use in a lot of vegetarian meals). And you will be hard pressed to find a restaraunt that is ONLY vegetarian (in my city there is only one), hence you will need to be able to articulate your desires in English, which means places that serve a lot of tourists. Given all of that, I would go back and take a look at Phuket or Koh Samui. They are developed, so "pristine" may end up being just nice... but unless there's some flex on the food side than I'd say that's your best bet. But others here like SBE can advise you better for sure. They've spent a lot of time down there.

    #2 Posted: 28/8/2011 - 00:30

  • rubytuesday

    Joined Travelfish
    27th August, 2011
    Posts: 3

    Thanks so much for all the info!

    We have now decided definitely flying to Bankok (from Melbourne, Australia) on the 24th December...then going to Koh Chang...it sounds like a mix of touristy and natural areas in the jungle, and has those cheap backpacker accommodations too....

    ....now just have to decide whether to spend NYE in Bangkok or on Koh Chang....think it will be Bangkok as this is where our friends have suggested to meet on 31st Dec.

    From what I can figure out, we could fly to Koh Chang or we could go the cheaper option and get a bus and ferry but it may take 5 hours or more. Thailand isn't our priority, just going for a bit of fun before the rest of the trip starts so we will probably go the cheap option and miss out on a day of fun times.

    PS...Luckily I work with a Thai girl and some others who speak Thai so they are going to try to help me learn how to say "no meat" "no fish" and "no fish sauce" and "no shrimp paste" haha. Hopefully that works. If all else fails they can write it down for me and I will show the wait staff and hope they don't think I am rude! :)

    Thanks again! xo

    #3 Posted: 28/8/2011 - 09:38

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6338
    Total reviews: 10

    Yes, write it down. Thai is not a difficult language, but it is a difficult language to learn to speak and be understood. So having some written instructions will help a lot in ordering food. It will, in some cases, make your menu options quite narrow, but I assume you are prepared to accept that as the cost of doing business.

    #4 Posted: 28/8/2011 - 12:19

  • SBE

    Click here to learn more about SBE
    Joined Travelfish
    14th April, 2008
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 1951
    Total reviews: 5
    Places visited:
    At least 2

    That week you want to go (between Xmas and New Year) is absolute peak tourist season on the islands.

    Interested in - pristine beaches, safe swimming, being in an area where we can swim, eat and get around on foot or bicycle, not too many tourists, jungle walks, cheap vegetarian food, cheap accommodation.

    Ko Chang near Trat is a large island and quite hilly so not really suitable for getting around on foot or by bicycle. I haven't been there since January 2005 but the beaches were already looking quite developed back then and there were a lot of tourists about (partly because of the tsunami mind you). I hear Ko Chang has got a lot more developed now.though and I'm not sure it's what you're looking for. Maybe have a look at the nearby islands of Ko Mak, Ko Wai or Ko Kut instead.

    Given your wish list Ko Phayam might be a better option for you. It's a bit further away though, takes 9-10 hours on an overnight bus from the Southern Bus Terminal to get to Ranong where the ferries leave from. Ko Phayam is smaller than Ko Chang and would be easier to get round on foot or by bicycle. It doesn't have too many steep hills and the roads are too narrow for cars. Most people get around on motorbikes but it's a good place for cycling and walking too.The beaches there are still comparatively undeveloped and never look very crowded, even at the time of year you're going. There are only a handful of upmarket resorts there. Accommodation is still mostly the basic beach hut type and prices relatively cheap compared to other Thai islands. Most menus have vegetarian dishes on them though they probably do use fish sauce when making them as it's such a basic ingredient in Thai food.

    Possible downsides of Phayam for you. No ATMs so bring enough cash with you. Entertainment and shopping options are very limited. Although the beaches are quite pretty the sea isn't very clear there. There's a lot of silt in the water, so it's not a good place for snorkeling. Sandflies and stingers (minute jellyfish larva) can be a problem too. On some (but not all) beaches the tide goes out a long way so you can only swim when the tide's in.

    North Ao Khao Kwai would be your best bet if you want to stay somewhere quiet with nearby jungle and water deep enough to swim even when the tide goes out.

    South Ao Khao Kwai has whiter and finer sand and clearer water but the tide goes out very far there.

    Ao Yai would suit you better if you want somewhere with a few shops and easier access to parties and bars. This beach also often has waves big enough to do some surfing/bodyboarding but personally I don't find it quite as pretty a beach as Ao Khao Kwai.

    All the above beaches have cheap places to stay on them but would be better try and to book in advance as it's peak season on Ko Phayam too and accommodation will be quite full.

    #5 Posted: 28/8/2011 - 16:06

  • SBE

    Click here to learn more about SBE
    Joined Travelfish
    14th April, 2008
    Location Global Village
    Posts: 1951
    Total reviews: 5
    Places visited:
    At least 2

    PS Have a look at this too if you haven't already.

    http://www.travelfish.org/islands.php

    #6 Posted: 28/8/2011 - 16:19

  • traceyt109

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd October, 2011
    Posts: 2

    Hi! We are also arriving in Bangkok around this time (from NZ) and have plans to head straight to Koh Chang. My husband and I stayed there two years ago and absolutly loved it, we stayed up the northern end at a place named Bang Bao which is just over the hill (a few windy hills) from Lonely beach - this end of the Island is far more chilled out with backpacker types unlike the more popular Long Beach, which is pretty much resort city. Bang Bao is a fishing village /pier which has cute shops and restaurants all down it, we loved it. We stayed at a place called Cliff Cottage which is very basic but has tonnes of character, a great communal chill out area and restaurant and nice owners - the beach it sits on though is rocky but that didnt phase us as we just jumped on our Bike when we needed some beach time. The huts are all placed on a cliff and we had a view on either side of two beaches, it was brilliant. It had a really good reviews online and we found it exceeded expectations. We are staying there again when we head over xmas/nys though only for a few nights and then plan to party on Lonely Beach for NYE so have booked accommodation there as well. Check out:
    http://iamkohchang.com/
    I found this site to be excellent.
    We have 6 nights planned for Koh Chang then heading south...I hope we love it as much down there!
    Have fun!
    Tracey :)

    #7 Posted: 2/10/2011 - 09:08

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