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Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

Princeton, New...
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Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

My girlfriend and I are looking into traveling to Thailand. We would like to visit Bangkok, but I've always wanted to visit Phuket and Ko Samui. To visit these other areas of Thailand, would it require a very long vacation? Is 11 days enough to explore Bangkok and do tours of the area? We aren't able to take long vacations because of our jobs, but obviously after a long flight we won't want to stay for only 5 days and then head home. and

What airline would you recommend we look into? Thai? We are nearby Philadelphia, Newark, and JFK airport...although JFK is a bit further for us. I don't really have a preference, but we definitely would like a non-stop flight and cheaper is always better. We're figuring about $1200 per person for airfare, is this about right? I was planning on booking the flight myself when the time comes, but I'm nervous that I'll do soemthing wrong...should I maybe try a travel agent?

I have traveled internationally before, but it was in an organized group trip to London and France and I didn't really have to plan anything. I've traveled a lot inside the US and to the Caribbean islands and Mexico, but I don't have much experience in traveling abroad where cultures are much different from what I'm used to.

I am planning on going to the bookstore to buy a travel guide to read up on Bangkok and the other areas.

Sorry to bombard you with all the questions, we're just getting started so its a little crazy right now trying to absorb all the information and sort things out...I hope you can help!

I'd really appreciate any information you can give me.

SFO-NRT-SIN-BKK
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1. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

Greetings,

Excellent choice of vacation destination. :)

One suggestion for your flight to Thailand is to book a non-stop with Thai Airways. Thai presently has four non-stops per week via JFK-BKK. It is a very efficient way to get to Thailand (and back) from the New York region. The flight is about 17-hours (each way), aboard a newer Airbus 345. The current economy class fare is approximately US$1075. ((If you feel like splurging, you can go up one class for US$1706 (First class is presently going for US$6930 -- ouch!)). Further information can be found at:

http://www.thaiairways.com

Depending upon your lodging budget, would be pleased to suggest some Bangkok hotels. Almost all of my business trips to Thailand concern solely Bangkok (not that i am complaining)...

Concerning Phuket, a friend and i spent some time at Pansea Bay. We started off at the Chedi and finished at "Heaven on Earth," the Amanpuri. Easily the best vacation of my life; the graciousness of the Thai culture is something to behold.

Enjoy your planning -- you will be travelling to a special place.

macintosh (Robert)

SFO-NRT-SIN-BKK
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2. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

Hello again,

One Thailand travel book suggestion is the 2004 edition published by Knopf. It contains a good mix of information, photos, and impressions by various painters and writers.

It probably wouldn't matter, but the First class figure given to you is actually Thai's Business (C class) fare. On Thai's non-stops from JFK (and LAX) to BKK, the configuration is primarily Business, Executive Economy, and Economy. Just for fun (and in case you win the lottery before your departure), a recent First class quote for JFK-BKK was the low, low, sum of US$12468... (best book a suite at the Peninsula). ;)

Princeton, New...
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3. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

Robert:

Thank you so much for your quick response! We're highly anticipating our trip to Bangkok. I've always dreamed of visiting the area, I'm sure its absolutely amazing! I've only heard good things about the Thai culture and that they treat tourists with great respect.

I've been looking around for different prices for flights. I think the best I found was Thai Airways for around $1080 each Economy class. The only thing I'm worried about is I saw their seats and it just looks to be the same size as the seats on domestic flights here. I'm worried that we will get uncomfortable after sitting in a tight seat for 15 hours. However, we certainly can't afford to bump our tickets up a notch (or two for that matter). I can't believe that they sell for that much money! Who in their right mind pays for that?! Would you recommend looking into any other airlines for better prices/seating? When we flew to London, we flew on Virgin airlines and I remember the seats being comfortable/roomy but I understand that they only fly to London.

Its probably best if I picked up the book that you recommended on traveling to Thailand. I'm very unfamiliar with the different city areas, key places to visit, places to stay, things to do, etc.

I know Bangkok is a very large city, so we'd like to be in a more tourist-type area rather than where business travelers are. Someone recommended that we stay at the Bangkok Marriott near the river, but I don't know if I want to stay at an Americanized hotel. We'd really like to stay in an area of Bangkok that we can really get a taste of the culture (ie: near markets, stores, etc).

We really want to see the floating market, temples, palaces. Would you recommend doing organized tours or just exploring the areas on our own?

It would be a big plus if we could stay somewhere with a view of the river. As far as prices go, I really don't know how much a hotel room might cost (American $) to stay in Bangkok. If you can give me a price range / matched up with a type of hotel, I might be able to tell you how much we'd be willing to spend. We'd like to stay somewhere nice, but not ridiculously overpriced.

Is it feasable to travel to Phuket? Would we need a separte flight there? If so, that would probably be out of the question considering we'd like to be on some sort of a budget. Or would you recommend ONLY going to Phuket rather than Bangkok?

I'm not familiar with Pansea Bay or "Heaven on Earth" that you speak of. Can you explain a little more?

Some other questions I have for you (and others who might want to answer):

What is the price range of meals in Bangkok? Can you give me an example or comparison to a meal here in the US?

Is Bangkok a safe place to travel to and will we be okay if we go out at night?

Is it going to be confusing to us to manage our money? I have no idea what the value of Baht is as compared to the dollar.

How will we get around the city if we don’t have a car?

Is there a strong language barrier? Will we have a lot of trouble communicating, ordering food, etc?

If you were to visit Bangkok as a first-timer, where would you go and what would you do to give you a great experience of the Thai culture?

I appreciate your help very much. I know its a lot of questions...thats probably why I should get some tour books to read up on first before I come here and go crazy with questions!

Princeton, New...
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4. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

Also, I was recommended to stay in the Koh San Road area, Sukhumvit, or Siam. What is the difference between all of these areas?

We're both 25 if it matters and would DEFINITELY need to stay in a hotel with air conditioning and a pool would be a plus.

We both like to go out at night, but we aren't HUGE partiers. We like more of a relaxed night out, hanging at bars and pubs rather than to go to a dance club jam-packed with sweaty teenagers.

We don't need any super fancy accomodations, but we would like a safe place to sleep and to get a shower in the morning. Am I going to be worried about leaving cash in my hotel room after we have left for the day? Do any hotels have room safes? We're more concerned about location and convenience for getting around than anything.

Is there anything I should beware of in Bangkok? I love this site because its so helpful in planning vacations. Last year we visited Mexico and were told to watch out for the time share people because they really try to suck you in.

Princeton, New...
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5. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

I heard that the Suan Lum Night Bazaar (night market?) would be closing either this month or in February of this year. Is this true? Is this something that we wouldn't have wanted to miss out on?

What other markets are good to go to?

I've heard that the Chatuchak Market is good to experience, but VERY large and you can get lost inside the market?! Sounds kinda scary to me!

Broadbeach...
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6. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

$1 currently buys 39 Thai Baht.I use ATM's to withdraw cash and i make sure i take 2 cards in case i lose one.

The area i prefer the most in Bangkok is around Pathumwan and i always stay at the Pathumwan Princess,it is connected to a 7 story shopping centre and also Skytrain for easy access around Bangkok.

Getting around is easy,there are Tuk Tuks and taxis,make sure they use their meter,if they don't go to another taxi.

There are lots of daytrips to the River Kwai,floating market,Grand Palace.

Monsoon season in Samui is from Oct-Jan and in Phuket it is from May-Oct,try to avoid these times as there is heavy rain daily,but sometimes no rain at all,it's hard to judge.

One of my favorite websites is Sawadee.com

where you can also book accom. at 30-40% discounted rates from travel agents prices.

You can see a lot of Bangkok in 4 days and Phuket/Samui about 4-5 days each.

For flights to Samui you have to use Bangkokair.com,they are the only airline that flies to Samui,you can book them direct at their website.

SFO-NRT-SIN-BKK
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7. Re: Please help us begin planning a trip to Bangkok

Hi,

Thanks for your fine messages. i am getting the sense someone is pretty excited over the prospect of going to Thailand. :) You could not be going to a better country.

Well, to start with air travel... one suggestion would be to access Expedia and Orbitz for their quotes. Thai's non-stops to BKK are a very good way to go (and return). To make the 17-hour flights a bit more bearable, you may wish to consider taking a sleeping pill, such as Ambien. That drug works wonders on my flights to and from Asia (a few drinks may also play a role)...

Concerning Bangkok hotels, one recommendation is the Pathumwan Princess (my review was posted on 28 June 2005). It is adjacent to numerous shopping opportunities and close to the beautiful Jim Thompson House. It also has easy access to the "sky train," which makes getting around Bangkok quite straightforward. The hotel has a fine lap pool, and if you and your girlfriend are so inclined: 24-hour, in-room massage treatments...

Another thought is the Swiss Lodge Hotel (only 57 rooms). A friend loves that property, and she has extremely good taste and judgement...

The hotels i tend to stay at the most on my business trips to BKK -- the Four Seasons, the Peninsula, and the Sheraton Grande -- may not be the best for your budget. (But if you do decide to splurge for a night or two, the Peninsula is very special).

Regarding Phuket, it is well worth a visit (you may wish to post any additional Phuket questions on that board, and two fine Experts ;) will gladly assist you.

The "Heaven on Earth" i mentioned is just one of my little nicknames for the Amanpuri. It is a gorgeous property on Phuket. If i ever do get married (don't hold your breath), ;-) that resort will be one of our top honeymoon choices.

Apologies for having to leave and tend to a few matters, but will post again with more thoughts. Have fun with the reading and planning. :)

macintosh (Robert)