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Eddie
Sacramento

Thailand

Advice sought for December-Jan family trip

I'm taking my family to Thailand for a 24-day trip this Dec-Jan and I have a few questions I haven't been able to find answers to yet.  I am bringing my wife and 13-year-old son.  My wife and I have traveled, but never to anywhere in Southeast Asia.  We realize we're going during the highest season (13/12 - 6/1), but since we have to take advantage of my son's winter vacation, it's our only option.

We have a few priorities:

  1. Buddhist temples/historical sites
  2. Meet and interact with locals (I want my son to experience another culture up close, so perhaps a dinner with a family)
  3. At least one overnight trek, most likely from CM
  4. At least one cooking class, most likely in CM
  5. Scuba diving - I'm certified, and I'd like my son to get certified while we're there
  6. My wife wants to shop for textiles towards the end of the trip.

We fly into and out of Bangkok.  Here are the places we're thinking of going to:

  • Chiang Mai (at least 3-4 days)
  • Chiang Rai (2 days?)
  • Krabi (with day trips to local islands?)
  • Ko Tao (at least 3-4 days for SCUBA)
  • Bangkok (2-3 days at the end?)

Other places we'd like to squeeze in, time and finances permitting:

  • Ayutthaya
  • Ko Samui
  • Ko Lanta
  • Khao Sok Nat'l Park

Here are some questions we have:

  1. I'm wondering if it's worth trying to get to any of the eastern islands (i.e. Koh Kut?), or just stay on the western side?  
  2. We'd like to do an overnight sleeper train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.  Any recommendations on which direction to do that (CM to BKK, or BKK to CM)?
  3. I see a lot of recommendations to wait to purchase tickets for tours, classes, etc until we get to Thailand because it will be cheaper there then online.  But since we're going during the high season, is there a risk we won't be able to get tickets to some things?  For example, the sleeper train between BKK and CM?
  4. Any tips for how to most efficiently organize our itinerary so that we can get between some of these places, particularly the southern islands, without spending an arm and a leg on transportation?
  5. I love Thai food, but I've heard some horror stories - should I count on at least one or two "sick days" during the trip?

As far as budget is concerned: I've saved up for a couple years for this trip, and we will be willing to pay a little more to have comfortable accommodations with a/c in every location.

I know there's a lot here.  I do appreciate your help!

Thanks!


5 Answers

answered by
Deborah from Toronto

One of my absolute favorite experiences in Chiang Mai was monk chat. 

Wat Chedi Luang’s central Chiang Mai location and constant availability makes it our favorite place to join a Monk Chat. It is very easy to find and takes place at the outdoor tables on the Northside of the Temple Complex. There typically 7-6 large tables and up to 50 young Monks waiting to talk. Chat Hours: Daily 9am-6pm, most abundant on Saturday & Sunday Mornings.


Doi Suthep:
 If you are planning on visiting Wat Phrathat Doi Suthepwe suggest going during their daily Monk Chat as the Monks here are the ones that run the International Buddhism Center.  The Center is located on the far Eastern side of the Temple complex.  We suggest skipping the tour groups and just renting a driving to Doi Suthep which is not only cheap but gives you more flexibility.   Chat Hours: Daily 1-3pm.


3. Flower Garden Temple (Wat Suan Dok):
 free Monday, Wednesday and Friday 5-7pm; you can also do a 2 day meditation retreat weekly on Tuesday & Wednesday.


4. Wat Umong:
 Available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5:30pm-7:30pm.


5. MCU Buddhist University, Chiang Mai Campus:
 Monday, Wednesday , Friday  from 5-7:30pm.


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Doi Suthep (attraction)
  3. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (attraction)
  4. Wat Suan Dok (attraction)
  5. Wat Umong (attraction)
1 thanks


answered by
Eddie from Sacramento

Thanks to everyone for your advice!

We ended up with this itinerary:

  • Bangkok (arrive ~1pm)
  • Leave late the next day for Chiang Rai (flight)
  • 3 days in Chiang Rai
  • Train to Chiang Mai
  • 6 days in Chiang Mai
  • Flight to Krabi
  • 6 days in Krabi
  • Bus to Khao Lak (Similan Island Diving)
  • 4 days in Khao Lak
  • Flight from Phuket to Bangkok
  • 3 days in Bangkok
  • Home

We decided to skip the night train to Chiang Mai because we wanted to save the time, and the flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi are much less expensive than from Chiang Rai to Krabi, so we wanted to do Chiang Mai second. We hope to do an overnight trek to the Hilltribes while in Chiang Mai, and an overnight trip to Khao Sok while in Khao Lak. Otherwise, lots of temples, food/cooking, scuba diving in Krabi and Khao Lak. We've got our flights and accommodations all set, and I think it will be an amazing trip!

Thanks again for your help and advice! 


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Bangkok (city)
  2. Chiang Rai (city)
  3. Krabi (city)
  4. Khao Lak (attraction)
  5. Phuket (city)
  6. Chiang Mai (city)
1 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Darren from Thailand

As already mentioned, take the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The 2nd class sleeper is the most popular, gets into Chiang Mai in the early morning. The scenery through the mountains and countryside alone is well worth the ride. You can book that in advance through 12GoAsia.

While in Chiang Mai my personal recommendation would be to take a Hilltribe tour, and my wife and son really enjoyed the Segway tour of Chiang Mai.

You could do Chiang Rai after Chiang Mai, then fly from Chiang Rai to Surat Thani, then ferry to Koh Tao.

As for your tours, tickets etc, there are a couple of ways to save money, just take a look at the link... https://www.pattayaunlimited.com/discounted-thailand-attractions-and-tour-tickets/

Some beautiful islands on the east side, but if you are visiting islands on the west I would not bother unless you are going to also take in something Cartoon Network or Ramayana water parks in Pattaya.


1 thanks


answered by
Sheena from Quezon City

Hi! I have some useful answers for your trip in ThailandThailand. Let me share some travel tips for your Thai experience.

Questions:

I'm wondering if it's worth trying to get to any of the eastern islands (i.e. Koh Kut?), or just stay on the western side?

It's really worth trying, but you only have limited time to visit Thailand and get your son certified for diving. You might miss the attractions in KrabiKrabi and Ko TaoKo Tao if you include some of the eastern islands.

We'd like to do an overnight sleeper train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok.  Any recommendations on which direction to do that (CM to BKK, or BKK to CM)?

BangkokBKK to Chiang MaiCM. Are you flying in to BKK from your hometown then travel to CM? Take the overnight sleeper. Why have an overnight in BKK to rest and have a tour around the city then head to CM. So when you return to BKK before leaving Thailand, you can try day trip to Ayutthaya Historical ParkAyutthaya and it's worth it.

I see a lot of recommendations to wait to purchase tickets for tours, classes, etc until we get to Thailand because it will be cheaper there then online.  But since we're going during the high season, is there a risk we won't be able to get tickets to some things?  For example, the sleeper train between BKK and CM?

Get some tickets now for important things like transportation, so there'll be no hassle while you're in Thailand. I always book mine early.

Any tips for how to most efficiently organize our itinerary so that we can get between some of these places, particularly the southern islands, without spending an arm and a leg on transportation?

You can fly from Northern Thailand to Southern Thailand. This can save time.

I love Thai food, but I've heard some horror stories - should I count on at least one or two "sick days" during the trip?

I also love Thai food, especially when I took the BKK Street Food Tour. It really depends on you, I did not have any sick days as I tried these Thai foods. Even street foods are clean.

I hope this helps! :)


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Thailand (attraction)
  2. Krabi (city)
  3. Ko Tao (attraction)
  4. Bangkok (city)
  5. Chiang Mai (city)
  6. Ayutthaya Historical Park (attraction)
1 thanks


answered first by
Nam from Bangkok

Hi,

1. Better to stay the western side, there are a lot of nice attractions worth to visit.

2. BKK-CM overnight train route is very popular, book early! In my opinion, you should avoid arriving Bangkokin the morning due to heavy poor traffic on working days except Sat-Sun.

3. You must book early for flights, hotels, trains and buses. They are the big operators which have the standard prices. However, for day trips, amusement parks and shows you can shop around for comparison, no need to book online. They may charge too much.

4.  Krabi is located on Andaman coast on the Southwest but Ko Tao is on the East. You have to travel on land and take ferry to the island. A bit tire!

You can hire private car for someday such as a private day trip in Chiang Maior Chiang Rai. It's easy and don't cost much like the touristy towns on the South. Please research the prices before booking! 

5. I'm Thai and got some stomach sick but not often. Please avoid street food where you can see the unpleasant environment. 

Have a good trip!


Mentioned in this answer:

VIEW DETAILED MAP
  1. Bangkok (city)
  2. Krabi (city)
  3. Ko Tao (attraction)
  4. Chiang Mai (city)
  5. Chiang Rai (city)
1 thanks




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