We're planning trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand for 6 weeks over March/April (arrive Hanoi March 5). "Rough" travelers, this trip will add a new dimension in that my wife will be pregnant (~23 weeks when we arrive) and we'll have our daughter in tow (~19 mo).
Current plan is to spend time around Hanoi/Sapa, run the train south to Saigon (multiple stops), spend time visiting major sites in Cambodia, and then wing it with our remaining time in Thailand likely by visiting Sukhothai for a bit or then heading south to relax for the remaining 1-2 weeks.
With regard to this last item, I'm trying to figure out the best options in Southern Thailand for us... have read the books and looked over the travel guide's on Travelfish, but still don't have enough insight to make a call. We're obviously not partying... relaxing beaches, maybe some nice day hikes (we typically do big 10-20 mile hikes, but we're obviously not doing that here), and some interesting markets and shopping (we like local flavor). The other wrinkle is that we'll likely be there during the full moon festival in April (Apr 6).
So, couple questions for anyone with a lot of Thailand experience:
1) Would you bag Sukhothai for the south if you were already spending lots of time in Vietnam and going through Cambodia?
2) Is there a specific island (Ko Kho Khao, etc.) or location/area you'd recommend for us given the above criteria? Doesn't have to be an island, but that seems like the way to go.
3) Do you have any thoughts on specific locations? We like low key spots near the beach and don't usually do resorts, but we could if the area was worth it (e.g., we have status and tons of pts with SPG and Marriott).
Thanks in advance for any help.
#1 rtilghman has been a member since 22/1/2012. Posts: 4
Jesus Christ Abdul, you put the same stupid link on every page here? Give it a rest already.
I would never do this if I were in your shoes.
I moved to Thailand when my daughter was nine months old. The first thing I did was settle in to a community and check with the pediatritian and make sure there were adequate 24 hour medical services for my child. The tropics has a lot more potential nastiness, and many areas, particularly in Cambodia, do not have the best medical facilities - or even decent ones. If you are on the bus to God knows where and your little one gets dengue... not good. I would stick to the major tourist areas that have good medical care.
The other issue is long bus trips. You have to find a way to avoid those as most kids are not saying "wow, look at the great scenery" on an overcrowded, hot bus with the AC not working properly and six more hours to go...
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I guess Abdul knows I'm a former Seal and Delta member who thrives on hot zones with the potential for infection and hand to hand combat with the locals.
Thanks for the detailed feedback, much appreciated. I' didn't think anyone was ever going to reply...
Great points all. Immunizations have been a big part of our prep (daughter is solid, wife is more mixed), and planning to have SOS Insurance which I've heard has awesome coverage in SE Asia in particular. In addition to all this, I'm assuming most of our travel will be planes, with select trains as needed (e.g., Vietnam) and renting drivers to avoid buses at all costs (Cambodia is going to be the tough one)... a small child and a pregnant wife (27+ weeks) don't do buses.
That said, I hadn't really thought about the problems getting into and out of some of the islands if we're not relying on buses, which I'd guess is the main/only real regular form of transport once you get out of the airports. To that end, from your comments it sounds like most of the islands outside of the major tourist spots will be problematic...? I'm assuming then that the list of places you'd consider would be Phuket, Ko Samui, etc.?
Is there a more subdued island that falls into this category? Is there a major tourist area you would pick over another if you had to? From the guides and everything else it's hard to get a real sense for the differences between Ko Samui, Phuket, Krabi, etc.
Thanks in advance for any help or insight. This is really the only part of the trip that I'm struggling with given the massive array of options.
#3 rtilghman has been a member since 22/1/2012. Posts: 4
I think I'd lean toward Phuket, which has an airport, lots of good, isolated beaches, plus the food and extras that come with being a large tourist destination. You can easily avoid Patong and the full on locations and still get the advantages of the area. My daughter (now five) travels pretty good and we've taken the over night bus to Bangkok and she was good with it. If you've got to do buses, do the overnight VIPs, as the child will likely sleep through (your wife will of course hate you, but you can't have everything).
#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I started to respond to this not long after you posted, but I guess I never finished. Sorry ...
If you're coming from Cambodia, why not just set-up shop on one of the islands in Trat Province, very close to the Cambodian border? They are, more or less, just a couple of hours from the border at Had Lek, which is about one hour from Trat. Koh Wai has a couple of very nice beaches, a nice trail that covers a good chunk of the island (which is quite small), and is quite inexpensive compared to its neighbours.
If you've got lots of points that you'd like to use up, you may look at going to a place just south of Hua Hin called Ban Khao Takiap (Chopstick Mountain). I used to live in this place and the beach, at the time, wasn't developed. Now there are quite a few resorts and you might find a Marriott. The village is south of Hua Hin, which may work for you as Hua Hin is on the train line. I wouldn't recommend Hua Hin, however, if you're looking for low-key places. Khao Takiap is pretty quiet, though. At least, it used to be. The temples in that area are great!
As for Sukhothai, I guess that depends on how much you're into Thai history, architecture, and such. Personally, I love the area. The Historical Park is fantastic for cycling and walking, and there's an excellent and inexpensive guest house across the road from the museum there (Old City Guest House). Si Satchanalai, just north, is even better. However, at this time of the year it's going to be screaming hot and you may not want to make the trip up there if you aren't planning on going to any other places in the area.
Thanks for the follow-up. Yeah, my wife will be pretty big, buses won't be appreciated. Phuket sounds interesting, just so many horror stories about commercialism, tourist crap, outrageous prices, etc. Just want to try and enjoy some of the "real" beautiful/relaxed environment that's available. Hence the reason I was looking at Koh Lanta, or maybe Krabi...
Glad you circled back... [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img] We want to experience southern thailand, and Cambodia is (based on reports) not really a place we want travel around much with a 1.5 year old and a pregnant woman. Lots of potential illnesses (malaria) that would ridiculously complicate things for us unfortunately. Siem Reap and AW are really the only reasons we're risking going there at all (not even sure if we'll make Phnom Penh or bag it in favor of in/out of Siem Reap... goddamn those flights are ridiculous).
On Sukhothai , I think we've already solved the northern trip... going to try and fly from Bangkok after we get in from SR, probably same day... going to Chiang Mai instead of Sukhothai, figuring it'll be a bit of a better experience following SR and Vietnam. Sounds like Sukhothai is a bit hollow coming after AW. After that we'll fly directly to the south, from CM to Phuket/Karabi or the environs (direct flights are only ~$100), and then fly back up to spend 3-4 days tooling around Bangkok before we fly out (BKK).
Following up on my previous posts... if you had to pick an area within a reasonably developed area (e.g., Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui) or another area (Koh Lanta?) that is laid back, relatively uncrowded, but has stunning beaches/environs what would you say? I know it's a ridiculous question, but assuming you don't care about people or parties, are unpretentious, and just want some decent food, an early drink, and an opportunity to beach-hop and relax with your pregnant wife for ~7 days... anything come to mind?
Thanks again for all the help.
#6 rtilghman has been a member since 22/1/2012. Posts: 4
Sukhothai/Si Satchanalai vs. Angkor ? Apples and oranges. They are completely different places. Some of the more attractive aspects of the former Thai capital are ...
- You can see it all in a day
- You won't have people pestering you to buy postcards or allow them to be your tour guides at most stops
- There are usually very few people around, and in the case of Si Satchanalai, you'll probably be the only people there
- *Quite a lot of original Buddha images, which is definitely not the case at Angkor (any longer) ... you can see one of the original bronze Buddha images at Wat Suthat in Bangkok ... it's huge, and beautiful ... highly recommended if you're into that sort of thing
Still, these two places don't match the power, grandeur, and architectural/engineering genius of Angkor.
Anyway, as for your other question, if you're heading south I'd recommend Koh Jum, though it may not be the easiest place to reach from an ergonomic point of view as it involves changing boats (from the ferry to Koh Lanta onto a long-tailed boat to Koh Jum). It is also relatively undeveloped compared to many nearby islands. Probably worth it, though. Fantastic views across to Koh Phi Phi and Phi Phi Leh, and stunning sunsets. Koh Lanta is also a good choice, though it's been about 20 years since I've been.
I've also heard great things about Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi in Pha-nga, but can't speak from experience. I've traveled around that area, though, and it is something to behold.
Good luck, and stay cool. It's going to be smokin' hot, especially at Angkor (start at around sunrise, crash out at around lunchtime for the hottest part of the day, and head back out in the later part of the afternoon).
Tilapia has a lot of good points here. Honestly I was also going to recommend the Trat area too. A very good friend of mine goes there periodically for his beach time. He has a place he raves about, I haven't been there yet, but if you want me to go check get the hotel name and location - I can do that easy enough if it sounds appealing to you. The good thing about Trat is it deals with your family situation pretty good and it's not an overrun tourist destination (which seems to appeal to you). The bad thing is it's another bus ride - I mean, if you plan on going to Vietnam, your transport situation is going to blow anyway and your wife is going to curse you daily. That's just a fact of life you'll have to get used to. Pregnant women do buses and trains even worse than I do - and that's saying something. So one more bus ride to Trat shouldn't be a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Get her a nice foot massage on arrival to make amends!
Have a great trip man. Let us know here when it's over how it goes, and if you want more info on Trat give me a shout.
#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Rtilghman, you may want to check Koh Lipe, deep south. We've been there a few months ago with our baby (10 months old then) and it's a very nice little island, with plenty of accommodation to choose from and very nice white sand beaches. We loved it!!
Here is how to get there:
#9 sradu has been a member since 4/2/2012. Posts: 4
Yeah, I wasn't discounting Sukhothai, my point was only that on a limited timeframe and with a small kid and pregnant woman we need to be kind of ruthless to minimize travel/overhead. To that end, with 3-5 days of time and our trip to AW it seems like Chiang Mai would be the better choice for us.
Koh Jum sounds really interesting... my wife is tougher than my early replies may have indicated, and I don't see us having problems doing long boat trips and moving around. The proximity to Krabi makes it particularly intriguing... seems like a more islandish version of Ko Lanta from what I can see... My only concern with Koh Lanta is really the development whether it's as pretty and beach hop friendly as we'd like. The reviews make it sounds like the beaches are kind of "eh", though it is laid back.
Do you have a rec on good places to stay? Was looking at Koh Jum beach villas, pricey but seems pretty slick... and is a lack of A/C a killer this time of year? Sounds like I'm walking into Hades here, and with a pregnant woman and a kid sweating through the night would kind of suck.
Thanks for the follow-up. If we do the beaches I think we really want to experience the south, though Trat sounds like something to keep in mind. Will definitely follow-up with thoughts for others in the future.
Thanks for the post. Ko Lipe was actually on my list, sounds and looks interesting. My only issues are the distance/travel to get down there (not just a kid, but a pregnant woman), some of the descriptions of the resorts (it sounds like long tails circle the island endlessly), and the nature of some of the accomodations (I don't mind having to pay, but sounds like the mid range stuff isn't a lot for the money). Let me know if you have any thoughts or a rec.
Thanks again for all the help everybody, much appreciated.
#10 rtilghman has been a member since 22/1/2012. Posts: 4
Hi, indeed - it's far south but it depends on how many days you want to spend there. I woudn't go there for 2-3 days. But for more than that it's really worth it. We knew Koh Lipe from previous trips and we went straight there. Early morning Air Asia from BKK to Hat Yai, 2 hours taxi drive (2000 THB) to Pak Barra pier, ferry to Loh Lipe (1h and something, tickets at the pier - do not buy from travel agents as we did). We were in Lipe before 2PM and then I've just searched for accommodation.
Previously we stayed at Paradise Beach Cottages but they were not ready (just building new & beautiful bungalows) so we search some more, do a little bit of haggling and the we endd up at Bunga resort... middle range bungalows, very clean, air-con, hot water... being with the little one we wanted to make it as comfortable as possible. We payed 2000THB/night.
Accomodation on the main beach (Pattaya beach) is plenty. If not, on Sunrise beach there are some basic bungalows... from what we saw there were basic but clean, less than 800THB/night.
Koh Lipe has one of the best beaches, coral is dead near the shore but if you swim a little bit it gets OK and there are trips to nearby islands in the national park which have very good snorkeling & diving, pristine beaches...
Koh Lipe itself is lively, plenty of choices for food, laid back atmosphere... it really was the perfect trip.
#11 sradu has been a member since 4/2/2012. Posts: 4
I have only stayed at Joy Bungalows. It was the first place on the island, and the only one for a long time. I loved it. Very basic. I've heard that Ting Rai Beach Resort is also good, and the prices are quite decent (http://www.tingrai.com/). I've put a call out to a friend who stayed there with her two young daughters a couple of years ago and will pass that on when/if I hear back.
Okay, I heard back from my friend. She said that she stayed in the place I mentioned above (Ting Rai). She said that it wasn't great for snorkeling (I don't think many, if any places on Jum are good for that), but that the atmosphere was excellent and they had monkeys on their roof each morning. Very chilled.
Watch out for the Monkey's, they steal and like to destroy things. We have a bunch of them at Wat Ba here. They're cute until they get aggressive. Then they bite, which sucks and means rabbies shots. And they bite hard, the little bastards. But I have to admit, they are fun to play with and pretty smart. Funniest thing I ever saw a a monkey in a bar in NKP sitting on a stool smoking a cigarrette and drinking a beer looking at me with a cool, detached appraisal as I walked in. It could have been a movie.
#14 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
We are planning on doing some of the above this coming August, although I will only be 16 weeks pregnant and we will have our 11 month old son with us.. we were thinking Cambodia and some beach time in Thailand.. any suggestions / hints / feedback on your trip earlier this year??
When I was 32 weeks pregnant we spend a week in Karon Beach in Thailand on our way home from the UK and had absolutely no hassles at all.. well except for my partner getting food poisoning so Thailand isn't so much of a hassle or mystery, new family friendly destinations would be appreciated though.
Any feedback would be appreciated. Cheers.
#15 sarahvanders has been a member since 8/6/2010. Posts: 1
August is rainy month for Phuket/Krabi. I'd fly to Samui or hit up Chiang Mai.
#16 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148