As I'm absolutely, brand spanking new on this forum, let me shortly introduce myself. Hi! I'm a 30something year old, with girlfriend and a six month old daughter. I've travelled around a bit in recent years. Absolute favorite? Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. Easily. Cheapest (and scariest) hotel? $3 (US) for a double with aircon in La Ceiba, Honduras. Most relaxing? A beachfront bungalow on Lombok or farm stay in Tuscany.
Now that we intimately know one another, I would love to get your help on something.
My girlfriend, six month old daughter and I will be going to Thailand in a bit less than a month. We'll be there for a full fourteen nights. We don't want to move around too much, what with the baby and all. So we've decided on three things we're going to do while in Thailand. I now would very much like to ask you for your help with all three parts. Most importantly the island option.
First, let me tell you a bit about our travelling preferences. No good recommending some Thai resort town when you know we won't go for that, after all, right?
We're on a budget. Not tight, but a budget nonetheless. We can spend about 1500 BHT on accommodation a night.
We like it when we don't feel overwhelmed by other tourists, but rather like we have the place to ourselves a bit. We, for example, prefer Lombok over Bali. We don't want or need cinemas, western fast food chains, or shopping malls.
And finally, and perhaps most tellingly, we LOVE local food, as eaten by locals. This love combines most of the above (i.e. budget and lack of mass tourism).
With that in mind, I'm trying to come up with a two week itinerary, including and limited to these three 'destinations'.
1. Bangkok. Most likely three or four days at the end of our trip. And, not to forget, one night at the beginning of our trip, when we arrive and head out the next day. Ideally for the three day stint we're looking for somewhere central, within walking distance of most attractions, if such a place exists. As we'll be pushing around a pram we would hate the inconvenience of getting in and out of transportation too frequently. For the first day we'll probably pick somewhere close to our 'port of departure', i.e. an airport or railway station.
2. Nature. We're looking forward to spending a couple of days in the jungle. Not sure where yet, though. Considering Khao Yai and Khao Sok. I think the choice will depend mostly on what island or beach we're gonna pick. For example; if we're staying on Koh Chang, we won't be heading south to Surat Thani and will probably head to Khao Yai. Likewise, if we'd stay on Koh Phangan, Khao Sok is the likelier option.
(Secret option 2a) We might convince ourselves of heading into Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, instead of a Thai jungle. Depends on the amount of time on the road... Not likely to happen, though.)
3. A beach. We've read about probably twenty islands and beach towns. Can't seem to make up our minds. The most important things we're taking into consideration are the weather, mass tourism and to possibility of diving. The 'Gulf islands' (but not Koh Kut, I gather) will probably see better weather in june, but the Andaman islands won't be too bad either, I understand. Add to this that we've found it difficult to determine which island offers a somewhat authentic feel, with good local food and idyllic accommodation and you have an idea of why we're not booking our room just yet. The islands that haven't made our shortlist are; Samui (tourism), Phi Phi (budget) and Phuket (combination of the two former). All the others are still on there. We would love to stay directly on the beach without breaking the bank, preferably on a west coast. We do love our sunsets...
Right, enough! Hope you can give us a nudge in the right direction.
#1 orejas has been a member since 16/5/2013. Posts: 4
OK, let's start with number one. Don't bring a "pram". The streets here are impossible to navigate with one. Sidewalks here are for vendors, not for people walking. Bring something you can carry the little girl in. Walking around, particularly in Bangkok, can be a challenge. You will need to be a little bit nimble. You probably want to stay somewhere around Chinatown in Bangkok.
As for Islands, I don't do Islands or beaches (don't like the ocean) but based on what many a friend has told me, Koh Chang would probably be a place you would like. Koh Samet might be out of budget, and it's definitely full of tourists, but close to Bangkok which is a plus. Having said that, Chang I would think is worth the extra travel time for you. I'm sure someone here will chime in as there are lots of beach goers here.
The jungle out here in the rainy season blows. The vegetation grows like wildfire making some places impassable. The insects are out in force. Mosquitos will be dive bombing you in formation. And I haven't mentioned the snakes yet. I'd bag the "jungle" idea and simply go to some sort of "homestay" option that is near nature, but not right in it. The only homestay I know of that I would recommend is way too far for you guys to travel to (up in Mukdahan). So you'll have to do a bit of research on what kind of down to earth exposure you want to have.
Lastly, as for food, the locals eat local food wherever they are. You can too. In the heart of Sukimvite you can find plenty of cheap local food. I'm not a fan, but you can find it easily.
I second MADMAC, DO NOT take a pram/stroller to Thailand. The sidewalks are impassable, what with street markets, people, potholes and what not. Use a baby carrier like an Ergo or a Baby Bjorn (That is what we used when taking our then 7mth old to Thailand).
Remember to slow down when taking a baby along. Hopefully your little one will sleep anywhere, but remember to factor in naptime when planning your day.
It will be HOT, so make sure you and the baby are well hydrated - extra breastfeeds/ feeds whenever needed, and a sippy cup of bottled clean water on hand. and make sure to apply sunscreen early and often, and wear a hat and find shade in the middle of the day.
I would ditch the idea of the jungle trek, again as MADMAC said, it is hot, uncomfortable etc. No place for a baby. If you head to Ko Chang there might be walks you could do, but don't drag the baby along.
If you wanted to head to the Gulf Islands on a budget, you could take a sleeper train to Surat Thani (would work well with a baby, we did a similar train ride in Malaysia no problem) and then a ferry across to Ko Samui, Ko Phang Nang or Ko Tao. That might be easier with a baby than a bus ride (5+ hours with a baby) to Ko Chang). There are lots of smaller guesthouses/resorts that can fit a couple and a baby that would be lovely.
As to Bangkok, you might want to consider a decent hotel at the start/end of your trip instead of a guesthouse - you can certainly get good prices in Bangkok online. If you want to be in walking distance to attractions, try along the river. Or for ease of getting around, a hotel near a Skytrain line.
#3 alisonmilliken has been a member since 10/12/2006. Posts: 70
Wow, guys! Thanks!
By some apparent and unintentional fluke I've somehow always managed to visit the tropics during anything but the rainy season. Never experienced or realized how the rain down there can torpedo any travel plans.
My girlfriend is the least adventurous (some might say reckless) of the two and will ensure that we don't do anything without extremely careful consideration for our little one. I'm just glad you've stopped us from going into a jungle now, rather than we we're at the visitors centre, when my gf realises this isn't for us.
So, preliminary conclusions. No pram, no jungle. Fair enough. That leaves us with Bangkok and any island. Since we're planning on being on one for an entire week, I would probably write off both Koh Chang en Koh Kut. Part of the reason we're going there is to soak up some sun. Enter Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. (Just to be sure, the Andaman islands are no fun in june either, right?). Definitely not considering Samui, so that leaves us with Tao and Phangan...
And with the jungle out, we're looking for a third destination. Perhaps Angkor Wat isn't the stupidest idea ever. Chances are we won't be in SE Asia for the next decade at least, so we might just make the most of this trip by going there.We loved the incomparable Borubudur, so it must be right up our street. We'd take the morning train to the border and a taxi from there to Siem Reap. Too much hassle?
Perhaps one final note; we've put ourselves on a budget, because it is how we like to travel. If we can find just cause for a splurge, we certainly won't miss the chance. If there's some island paradise available for 2000 THB a night, we're open for suggestions.
#4 orejas has been a member since 16/5/2013. Posts: 4
OK, a third option if you want the "exposure to rural culture" option (in place of jungle) is this place:
I like it a lot. I like the owner and his charming wife. It is rural Issan, but in comfort. So you get the best of both worlds. Room rates of 750 a night make it affordable on your budget. You would have to take the night bus to Mukdahan , then a local bus out to his place. Not exactly an easy trip, but you might consider it an interesting one. If you take the night bus to Mukdahan take the VIP bus. It's the safest and bar far most comfortable. Keep in mind, though, it's a ten hour night bus ride and another hour to get to Thai House Issan.
Another place you might consider if you have time that is pretty easy to get to is Ayuttaya. It is only an hour from Bangkok, many people take a day tour to get there. I have always prefered to take the time and stay a few days there. It is the old capital of Thailand, with beautiful old temple ruins, along the river. I love it. And it is an easy train ride from Bangkok. After a few days there, you could continue the train journey to Kanchanaburi (about 3 hrs from Bangkok) and enjoy the scenery (waterfalls, temples, WW2 history). Lots to do but not too tricky to do with a baby. I keep stressing trains, as they are convenient, clean, and safer and more comfortable than some of the crazy Thai bus driving I have seen.
AS to your beach options, if you are at all interested in diving/snorkelling, Ko Tao is the place. (although snorkelling all around there is good). It is hard to dive with a baby, but you could take turns maybe. There are other things to do besides diving on Ko Tao, as well.
And food - no problem. THere will be delicious food eveywhere - maybe take a cooking course if you can take turns minding the baby. They are easy to find almost wherever you go = there is a great one in Kanchanaburi called Apple's.
#6 alisonmilliken has been a member since 10/12/2006. Posts: 70
"Just to be sure, the Andaman islands are no fun in june either, right?). "
wrong! Trang islands are awesome in June. Few tourists, fine beaches and cheap prices. Chang as mentioned above is also a good choice for a family. It's a big laid back island.
Sorry not to check in earlier. As they do, things came up.
@ MADMAC, although your suggestion seems like an absolute gem, I doubt we'd want to go that far north. It used to be that we considered night buses the only way to travel, even if it envolved padlocking our bags to our bodies and our seats. Travel and sleep at the same time! An absolute win win combination. Now, it doesn't seem like that good an idea. Although I might consider it, the baby's mother does not. And, in all fairness, she's probably right. Our little girl isn't the soundest of sleepers, unfortunately...
@Alison. Thanks for all your suggestions. We'd obviously read about both Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi, but they didn't register. Now, they are extremely viable options. Also, thanks for stressing the train travel. Sound advice!
We both are divers by the way and would love to do some in Thailand. The reason Koh Tao isn't bolted to our itinerary just yet are the stories we've read about development and damage to the coral. Too many tourists (like us), causing too much damage to the coral. I think we'd both rather not dive than dive with 50 others at the same spot and possibly contribute to further deterioration of the coral.
@LeonhardCohen1. Two out of the three you suggest are now firmly among our favorites. The third, Ko Chang, has me puzzled a bit. The Thai Meteorological Department has an average of 23 rainy days and 700 ml of downpour for Rangon in juni on average; http://www.tmd.go.th/en/province_stat.php?StationNumber=48532. That's more than three times the amount for Koh Lanta; http://www.tmd.go.th/en/province_stat.php?StationNumber=48566.
#10 orejas has been a member since 16/5/2013. Posts: 4
Yeah, it's a crappy bus ride. God know I've taken it enough. Although on the few occassions my daughter has taken it she's always slept through. Me - NOT. For me it's a lose-lose. Lose a nights sleep and the next day catching up on sleep.
We're getting there. Just thought I'd let you know. Also for future reference.
Looking at hotels and things to do. The current itinerary is this;
Day 1; land at Bangkok airport and immediately take a taxi to Ayutthaya (around THB 1300, I understand).
Day 2; lazing by the hotel pool and getting accustomed to our surroundings.
Day 3; Ayutthaya sightseeing.
Day 4; Go to Kanchanaburi - not sure how yet. There's no direct train or bus connection from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi, it seems.
Day 5; Kanchanaburi.
Day 6; Kanchanaburi.
Day 7; Take the night train south, for either Koh Lanta or Koh Phangan. Change trains at Nakhon Pathom.
Day 8; Beach.
Day 9; Beach.
Day 10; Beach.
Day 11; Beach.
Day 12; Head back to Bangkok. Either fly or take the night train.
Day 13; Bangkok
Day 14; Bangkok
Day 15; Bangkok and head back home at the end of the day.
#13 orejas has been a member since 16/5/2013. Posts: 4