Please take a look at my initial stab at an itinerary.
We'll be a couple with a 1 year old baby. We are experienced and adventurous travellers, but this is our first time travelling internationally with a baby. We speak no Thai.
We are looking to get ever so slightly off the beaten track once, and travel overland once. Is Mae Hong Son is a good choice for this? (Any alternative suggestions that would fit with the rest of our route?)
Does it look like we have too much, or too little time anywhere?
Thanks so much,
(I have also posted this to thorntree)
08-Nov / YYZ to BKK
09-Nov / arrive BKK eve
10-Nov / Bangkok
11-Nov / Bangkok
12-Nov / Bangkok
13-Nov / BKK to CHX
14-Nov / Chang Mai
15-Nov / Chang Mai
16-Nov / Chang Mai
17-Nov / Chang Mai
18-Nov / Chang Mai
19-Nov / Bus to Mae Hong Son
20-Nov / Mae Hong Son
21-Nov / Mae Hong Son
22-Nov / to CHX to BKK
23-Nov / BKK to REP
24-Nov / Angkor
25-Nov / Angkor
26-Nov / REP-BKK and BKK-KRV
27-Nov / Krabi
28-Nov / Krabi
29-Nov / Krabi
30-Nov / Krabi to phuket
01-Dec / Phuket
02-Dec / Phuket
03-Dec / Phuket
04-Dec / HKT - aft to HKG
05-Dec / Hong Kong
06-Dec / HKG - eve to YYZ
If you go to Mae Hong Son don't support the long neck tourism. These people are pretty much slaves that were brought into Thailand purely so someone else can get rich off of tourists. Having travelled to northern Thailand and volunteering with a hill tribe organization I must say you have to be very careful with what you do regarding hill tribes. Most of them are pretty much tourism grabs but if you find the right situation it can be interesting.
You could spend more then 2 days in Siem Reap. Having a child is going to likely slow you down a fair bit when looking at temples so I would spread it out over 3 days as entrance fees don't cost you any more to do so.
Other then that I might consider something other then Phuket but that just comes down to personal choice.
Thanks for the advice about long neck tourism - I had not heard about this at all, but have now read the Travelfish link, and we will not support it.
We picked Mae Hong Son because it was on the cover of the Eyewitness, looked beautiful and sounded really chill.
We have also discussed visiting Suhkothai, but it seemed like the landscape in the north would be nicer, and perhaps a little less travelled.
If there are any other suggestions, we are most certainly open to them.
For Siem Riep - we are planning to fly to REP in the morning, so will have a full afternoon / evening and then two full days, flying out on the morning of the 4th day. Does this seem reasonable?
For Chiang Mai - is 5 full days excessive? We are thinking of - hiking, elephant visiting, taking a cooking class, walking around the city, visiting a spa. We are also excited about Loi Krathong - is this great? Our itinerary is based around the festival.
For Phuket - we want to fly out of the area in order to catch a Cathay flight to Hong Kong - and we have a great deal on a luxury hotel. We are open to suggestions in the area aside from Krabi and Phuket, but want to make things easy as this is the 100% relaxation part of the trip!
To the Canadian crooner - why do you suggest avoiding urban centres? We live in one, even if it's only large by North American standards.
Yeah if your flight is early enough that should be good I guess. Thing about the temples is that it is a lot of walking even with a tuk tuk driver and it gets quite hot so with a young child will have to take it slow. If you head out the first afternoon and see a couple temples it will help break it up though. I would recommend saving the best temples(Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm) for last so you don't spoil yourself.
5 days in Chiang Mai is doable as there are so many good fairly priced things to do. Hiking, rafting(not baby friendly though lol), elephants, tiger kingdom, cooking courses, zoo, temples, night bazaar/walking streets, Thai boxing, shopping etc. I only gave myself 3 days and it wasn't enough, I didn't realize that there was so much to see and do until I got there. If you are thinking about trimming a day from Chiang Mai to have more time in Siem Reap it might not be a bad idea but research what you would really like to do in Chiang Mai so you don't miss anything. Siem Reap has good spas so if you were planning on a spa day maybe move that from Chiang Mai to Siem Reap, you will appreciate it after a couple days of hiking up and down temples.
Loi Krathong is supposed to be great in Chiang Mai, the evening of I am guessing there will be a parade and they will likely have other things like live music and such(they did in Phuket town where I happened to be at the time). It will use up an evening for sure and they might have other things available on other days as well. Most of the celebrations are in the evenings I believe so it doesn't really warrant adding extra days on but will definitely a nice benefit while there.
As for Phuket I guess it comes down to personal choice and location within Phuket. I don't like expensive high touristy areas myself but if you are on the right beach it probably isn't bad. I personally would never go to Patong and having been to Phuket town wouldn't go back there either. I haven't been to some of the considered to be nicer beaches though so they could be nice I would just rather go to a nice island or check out a place like say Khao Sok National Park lake tour, not the cheapest tour but the scenery is absolutely amazing(the best I saw in SEA imo).
Thanks again for the feedback.
FYI, up til now, I'd have agreed with you! My favourite beach hotels have been a $2 sugar cane hut in El Remate, Guatemala and a $7 in Capurgana, Colombia.. but the times they are a changing!
It looks like I'm going to do a little rejigging to include Khao Sok on the itinerary - you hit the nail on the head with what's missing - a national park - and this one certainly seems to be incredible. Sadly, this means that Mae Hong Son will have to be cut.
It seems like I can book tours through the accommodation.. Does two days seem like a reasonable amount of time to spend here? Is the environment suitable for an 11 month old?
I will repost tomorrow with an updated itinerary - I have to book hotels on Wednesday, and Cathay has a sale on flights that I don't want to miss!
I stayed at and booked the tour through Smiley bungalows. They have their own set of floating bungalows(if you do the overnight lake tour) which are much better shape then the communal bungalows some other companies share. I had no issues with Smiley and their brick guesthouses at the park itself are quite nice and only $13 a night, they also have wood houses for $10 but I didn't look at them since they were sold out.
You can do the Khao Sok lake tour either as a day tour or as a 2 day tour. You will see most of the stuff in the 1 day tour as the 2nd day is pretty much just relaxing(they have kind of swimming pools set up, kayaks you can use or can just relax and read a book) but the extra relaxing is nice since it is such a beautiful location. You will need to arrive the day before and from Krabi there is only 1 minibus daily at 11 AM and takes 2-3 hours. This will give you time to look around the actual park for a while if you are interested in doing so(I never had the opportunity as I was short on time, others said it was nice and different from what you see on lake tour). If I remember right you might be able to catch the last bus to either Surat Thani or Phuket the evening your tour ends but best to plan on not leaving until the next morning just in case(or get confirmation on bus situation if you book through Smiley's or someone else).
Note the tours don't seem to run every day(Smiley's anyways, probably can get on a tour with someone) so might want to confirm availability if you are going to be pressed for time.
As for the child, as long as you feel safe taking the child on a longtail boat and carrying it with you through jungle(quite easy walk) and into cave(a little trickier since water was almost chest deep at one point and of course dark, but if you don't feel safe doing so can wait at entrance or if trusting leave him with guide or perhaps other person not wanting to go in cave). Other then the brief trekking portion you will spend your time on longtail boat or at their rafthouses which shouldn't be an issue. Worst thing about the baby is that if he crys a lot you might not be the most popular people lol.
"We are open to suggestions in the area aside from Krabi and Phuket , but want to make things easy as this is the 100% relaxation part of the trip!"
My take is that Phuket is a good location for 2-3 days, but there are some great nearby locations. Do a search on travelfish/Google etc for Phi Phi (if you don't like busy the laid back east coast is great - look for Relax Resort, Ao Toh Koh and Ao Rantee [all budget/ flashpacker] or Laem Thong/Loh Bakeo [midrange/hig end] - and good ol' Viking (budget thru to lower midrange) on the south coast).
Also check for Ko Yai Yai and Ko Yai Noi, both adjacent Phuket plus near Phuket Coral Island and Ko Racha/Raya.
Hi Tezza, the attraction for us is that we have unbelievable rates at a particular hotel chain because of a family rate - so spending more money on more basic accommodation seems dubious. It seems like it may only be 2 hours to Phi Phi from Krabi or Phuket. Just not sure if the extra 4 hours of Ferry + packing, unpacking, checking out and in will be worth it. Hard to say without having been there.
Geer - thanks for the info. Chest high water trek may be too stressful for my partner even if okay for my daughter! Will play it by ear.
How fast were the boats you were on? My partner is easily seasick.
FYI, this is our current itinerary. Have booked hotels!
4 nights Bangkok
5 nights Chiang Mai
4 nights Siem Riep
6 nights Krabi
2 nights Khao Sok
4 nights Khao Lak
fly out of Phuket
2 nights Hong Kong
Also, for any future searchers - here is some positive feedback on flying with a baby.
Thanks for your help and advice!
Good luck on the trip. When you fly economy, you know you are risking sitting next to someone obese invading your already small space or someone with a child who is going to get a little rambunctious. It's not going to be a happy flight no matter what. My best flights have only sucked. My worst have sucked a lot.
As for your itinerary, I would not commit to 2 nights at Koh Lok or 4 nights at Koh Lak. Krabi is nice for beach types, and if you are enjoying it, then there's no reason to lose beach time to travel time and incur the added expense of movement. Keep in mind SEA is about chillin', not seeing lots of things and places. Lots of people go to Phuket for their entire vacation because they like it there (which is why it's so popular). You might find the same at Krabi, and then if you want to move on, you always can.
Madmac I disagree, yes a big part of SEA is relaxing and taking it slow but imo Khao Sok NP is worth seeing. It was one of my top 3 sights in SEA on my recent trip.
Mike, as per the speed of boat and sickness, should not be an issue. Lake is fairly smooth and for most part travel is straight. They go slow around karsts for pictures and looking around. In the open not that fast either as a longtail boat just doesn't go that quick when loaded down. I wouldn't worry about sea/motion sickness unless she just gets sick by being on a boat.
Baby is going to be annoying mainly for other people, might be slightly frustrating for you but if she doesn't cry too much then won't be bad. As mentioned you or partner don't need to go in cave(it is ok but nothing overly special, minor compared to rest of tour) so don't worry about that.
I think your itinerary looks pretty good. Should be a nice trip. Only thing that might make it better is if you can get someone to babysit for 4 weeks lol.
"Madmac I disagree, yes a big part of SEA is relaxing and taking it slow but imo Khao Sok NP is worth seeing. It was one of my top 3 sights in SEA on my recent trip."
Ayuttaya is worth seeing. Kanchanaburi is worth seeing. Phuket is worth seeing. Chiang Mai and it's environs are worth seeing. Chaiyapum province is worth seeing (although no one seems to realize this). The mighty Mekong is worth seeing. I can name a lot of places and things worth seeing Geer - but the point is every time you add a place you add travel time, which means it's time not spent chilling. You also add expense. So you lose two things for every location you add - you lose time and you lose money. And they don't have a lot of time. If they are enjoying Krabi - I wouldn't leave. If it loses it's luster, fine, move on and check out Koh Sok.
They have lots of time. Nearly 2 weeks in that area and almost half their trip... If they only had a few days and were trying to squeeze in Khao Sok I would agree with you but with 12 nights in that region I would definitely be swinging by Khao Sok if they are into nature(nature is my thing so a big reason why I enjoyed it so much).
I think you tend to forget that most people travel to see and do things they can't see or do at home, very few really appreciate and target the type of travel you seem to prefer(moving slow, assimilating into the culture and meeting new people) in large part because it takes a long time and requires you learn some local language etc. I do agree with you in that it is a good experience and I enjoyed my month of volunteering I did near Chiang Rai, you get a completely different experience when you hunker down in one spot for a while and get more involved with locals but I just don't think it is what they are targeting for their trip.
Personally I think they have a pretty good itinerary, they are moving fairly slow compared to what most people do and that will be good especially with the baby. If they are really loving Krabi then sure spend some more time there but 6 nights will likely be enough I am guessing.
I guess what I am saying is I wouldn't commit. In fact, I wouldn't be time lines attached to the itinerary. I would use it as an outline and move from place to place when I was really ready.
As for approach, I suspect you are right. I really like the idea of absorbing a place for as long as I can get away with. My timelines are, of course, constrained by family. Being able to talk now helps mitigate that a bit, but yeah, you are probably right in that people want to move around a lot and are less interested in indigenous persons than indigenous things.
I agree but it depends on the person and what they are willing to put up with. It is nice to not have deadlines in case weather or sickness come into play(I lost a week travelling due to Dengue Fever for example) but it can be stressful if you are having trouble finding a decent place to sleep for the night.
They are flying a fair bit and then have the hassle of child and carrying everything so booking ahead kind of makes sense and takes away some of the stress. They can always cancel their bookings if something comes up especially since you don't have to usually pay to reserve a room in SEA(if you book directly through them).