I'm visiting Thailand for the first time next year and would love feedback on my itinerary. Travelfish (including this great forum) drove many of my choices. To narrow my destinations to a manageable number, I'm sticking with central and southern Thailand on this month-long trip, leaving the rest for another time.
As a middle-aged woman traveling alone on a limited budget, carefully selected lodging can make a huge difference in my enjoyment. In some cases I've shaped this trip around guesthouses that sound especially welcoming and atmospheric. (You can google them if they're not on Travelfish.)
My itinerary strays a little off the main tourist path and reflects an interest in nature, peacefulness, local people and good cheap food. I realize most people love Bangkok, but I need to skip it because the chaos would overwhelm me. I plan to study basic Thai before leaving.
The trip begins in mid-February:
Arrive Bangkok late night, taxi immediately to Nakhon Chaisri (near Nakhon Pathom). Four nights at Hidden Holiday House.
Train(?) to Kanchanaburi. Five nights at Xanadu 2008 plus one night at rafthouse near Sai Yok.
Bus & train to Prachuap Khiri Khan. Three nights at Sun Guest House.
Train & bus to Pak Song (mountain village near Ranong). Five nights at TCDF Eco-Logic to volunteer with kids and do rafting, yoga, cooking classes etc.
Bus to Khao Sok National Park. Three nights at Smiley Bungalows, including one at their floating lakehouse.
Bus to Krabi. One night at budget guesthouse in town.
Ferry/longboat to Ko Jum. Six nights at Ting Rai Bay Resort, with day trips to nearby islands.
Longboat/ferry back to Krabi, then taxi or minibus to Phuket airport for late-night flight home.
Thanks for any thoughts or advice!
Looks like you've got everything sorted out already. A very good itinerary.
Thoughts? Well, for someone on a limited budget, or who is budget-conscious, you're going to pay through the nose to get to Hidden Holiday House (Chris' place, right?) in the middle of the night if you go by taxi from the airport. Plus, Xanadu 2008 isn't exactly a budget-friendly place for Kanchanaburi. You can do a lot better in that town if money is a concern. Also, even though I really enjoy Kanchanaburi, I think that 5 nights would be quite a long time in that town/area. Maybe consider a night or two in Sangkhlaburi? It's a really great area.
Koh Jum is a really nice island. Very few people go there and in February the weather is usually great. Spectacular views across to Koh Phi Phi and Phi Phi Leh.
Have a great trip!
Thanks so much, Tilapia. I really appreciate your comments.
Re the taxi from BKK, I realize that may sound crazy, but hear me out. I originally planned to check into a generic airport hotel in the wee hours of the morning and check out a few hours later. But when Chris offered to send a driver to meet me at the airport, it seemed to make a lot of sense, even at 1,000 baht. After a loooong and exhausting flight, I can save the time and hassle of taxiing to an airport hotel, checking in, checking out again and then getting a cheaper form of transport to Nakhon Chaisri when everything is still so foreign to me. I realize 1,000THB is a lot, but that way I can just relax once I land and let the guy drive, then wake up exactly where I want to be, for a full day of relaxing. (I don't bounce back from jet lag very fast.) And for all that, I'm not sure it ends up costing much more -- but am I wrong?
Re Kanchanaburi , you may be right that I'm staying too long. I had originally planned to continue on to Sangkhlaburi afterward, but it sounded like exploring that spread-out town would take a ton of walking for a person without wheels. Was that a misimpression?
Re Xanadu, yeah it is somewhat pricier than the other guesthouses. But it's a bit out of town (ie more peaceful) and close to a village that might appeal to me more than Kanchanaburi itself. It also sounds like a place where the owners would be sure to make a person like me feel at home. My interest is not so much with Kanchanaburi proper as with the many sights within a 2-hour radius -- and chilling by the riverside pool with some home-cooked food in friendly company. For me that could be worth a little splurge.
But you are so right that if I splurge everywhere, it will really add up!
Do you think I should adjust the length of my stay in any other places? Should I consider adding any new places? Thanks again!
Actually, B1000 isn't too bad to get you out to Chris' place, especially if it's going to be in the middle of the night. Money well spent IMHO. I thought you were going to have to negotiate with a driver at the airport. And you won't have to be concerned about the driver not being able to find the guest house, either.
Nakhon Chaisi has a station where you can hop onto a train to Kanchanaburi twice each day. Pretty limited. Lots more options from Nakhon Phathom. But, despite being slow and rarely on schedule, the train is a nicer, more scenic, fun, and social way to go. It's not far from Hidden Holiday House ... about 3 or 4 km, I think? There will be transport to get you to Xanadu from the station if they aren't sending a driver.
Sangkhlaburi is worth going to just to see the area. It's beautiful there. And the little village of Wang Kha, on the other side of the long wooden bridge, is (or was?) a good place to check out some Burmese culture. Being at a higher elevation, it also has a very nice climate, especially in February. Neither Sangkhlaburi or Wang Kha are very big. I didn't think that too much wandering was required. If you decide to go, don't go on a weekend or Thai holiday.
Jum has day trips to other islands? I'm not sure if they do as it's a quiet island. I'd look at 3n there and add the others onto Krabi.
Kanch I'd just do 3 nights. I've stayed at Sai Yok, it's nice but you need some transport like a car or motorbike to move around.Didnt see any local transport.
Thanks, Tilapia and Leonard.
Ok, I've added 3 nights in Sangkla, going all the way there from Hidden Holiday House by train and then bus. Then 4 nights in Kanchanaburi, maybe one of them at a remote rafthouse. Jum will be 5 nights instead of 6.
Leonard, your comments are much appreciated. I thought I read something about longtails from Jum taking people out to snorkel at tiny islands, and I also assumed I could get to Lanta (and Phi Phi?) by connecting with a ferry. But if I can't get off the island it won't bother me much, because I'm mainly looking at Jum as chill time at the end of the trip.
Krabi sounds awesome but maybe not so much for me. I want to be on the beach but away from crowds, which doesn't sound likely there at my budget level. (I realize I'm kinda weird!)
When I stayed on Jum there was only one place (Joy), and it was possible to hire a boat for snorkelling trips to the smaller islands in the area, as well as Phi Phi Leh. We even made a pit-stop on Phi Phi (hated it!). Friends have stayed there since then and said that there are lots of options for day trips off of the island.
To get to Jum you usually need get onto the ferry going to Lanta and then hop off that boat onto a long-tailed boat that comes from Jum. The long-tail boat then beaches at whatever place you want to stay at. It's probably changed since then, but you can find out everything you need here ... http://www.kohjumonline.com/
So, if that is still the case, it should be simple enough to get to Lanta from Jum if you want to go there.
On Jum you'll definitely be away from the crowds.
"Friends have stayed there since then and said that there are lots of options for day trips off of the island."
Handy to know but a solo person might not find another person to share with. 6 nights on Jum is a long time for a quiet island.
I think Lanta would offer more and you can do boat trips to the Trang islands from there which would be better than small islands near Jum.
Ting Rai gets some good reviews but these people weren't fans:
Thailand is no longer the cheap capitol of SE Asia but Ting Rai is really starting to exemplify the pricing explosion. Bottles of water charged at 4 times the going rate, meals at least 4 times as expensive as I could buy in Bangkok, scooters 150 baht dearer per day than on the mainland yet the roads are atrocious and there is a limited opportunity for travel. (Except going to the local mini mart to buy water at a more affordable rate). Yes the resort is really ideal for someone who needs to totally relax and does have wonderful views but even for a near 50yr old it can get boring. The snorkling isn't good, the beach minimal as it goes into stone/rock very close to the waters edge and the resort charges for everything else. Take for instance the kayaks, 100 baht an hour I think they were charging. In 8 days I saw one out once.
With regards to going to Sangkhlaburi ... if you are going to go straight there from Hidden Holiday House, you might want to think about taking the bus to Kanchanaburi instead of the train.
If you take the train into Kanchanaburi, you'll have to get transport back to the bus station where the buses and minivans leave from for Sangkhlaburi. Also, the train is much slower, so unless you get the earlier one you will probably arrive in Kanchanaburi a little too late to continue on to Sangkhlaburi. Taking a morning bus from, say, Nakhon Phathom you'll have far more options for getting there on the same day. Chris might have something to add to this.
Good points, Tilapia. Actually I was thinking of taking the train all the way from Nakhon Chaisri to Nam Tok (for scenery) and catching a bus (not mini) from there to Sangkhlaburi. Would that be feasible in one day if I caught the morning train? Any idea how long it might take?