Tag Archives: Thailand

Koh Samui

8 Jul

Escaping the rains of Phuket, we landed in paradise, otherwise known as Koh Samui. A couple years ago I read an article about Koh Samui and knew I had to go. Once we landed we were bused in open air shuttles that looked like they drove off the Disney lot to the main terminal. We took a shuttle bus to the hotel, Buri Rasa Village. I found this hotel using Trip Advisor and Amex travel. While of course there were some negative reviews, the key reasons I chose it was A) it was right on Chaweng beach and the main strip B) the same people had been going back for years C) it was described as peaceful and romantic with a good buffet breakfast and hotel prices that weren’t as overpriced as say the JW Marriott Phuket. Our expectations were fully met. The hotel staff brought us coconut water while they checked us in, showed us to our room and even helped us book our excursion for the following day. To top it off, every evening there was a local treat, such as flowers made from leaves, or homemade carmel candy waiting for us next to the bed.

Taxi cabs in Samui need to be negotiated in advance as they have no meter like the cabs in Bangkok (even though the taxis in Bangkok don’t want to use the meter). The hotel receptionist helped us to negotiate reasonable rates. Our first dinner in Samui was a place called the Larder. While pricy, the food did not disappoint, especially the peanut butter martini I got for desert.

Chaweng beach is full of many typical beach activities such as parasailing and jet skiing. However, there are also $12usd massages with tiger balm and vendors selling everything from bracelets to Japanese corn. Of course our trip would not be complete without a ride on an elephant. Lucky for us, we were the only people on our excursion at Island Safari. We rode an elephant, watched an elephant show, a monkey show, learned how to make papaya salad, had our feet cleaned in a fish spa and had a private jeep safari tour of the mummified monk and Na Muang waterfall. After our adventure we went to Fishermans village. On Fridays you can pick up a 50/60baht cocktail while browsing the vendors and restaurants on the water. (Yes once again we’re shopping!)

Our last order of business on the island was to get suits made. Many of the websites suggested a tailor near the Centara hotel, and said that anyone standing outside the store was probably a “fake”. The suit guy next to Centara got the job done in 4 hours. We walked in the store for measurements at 5pm and came back at 9pm for a fitting. Talk about professional! For our last dinner on Koh Samui we ate at our hotel, and once again, had the whole place to ourselves. Wow. The food was great and the atmosphere relaxing.

The following morning we made our way back to the open air airport that is Samui international. Once again we were shocked at how relaxed and easy it was to walk around to the shops, go through security and be treated to a Bangkok Airways “coffee bar” with free wifi. The only downside were the flies, the fact that we were leaving and the absolutely horrendous outfits some people wear to get on a plane. We were fed on the 50 minute flight to Bangkok and serviced by no less than 5 airline stewards (also did I mention that none of these flights were full?).

Samui is definitely some place I would go back to simply for the fantastic service, peaceful atmosphere and good shopping. Maybe next time I would stay on Koh pha ngan … Full moon party anyone?

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Bangkok

5 Jul

Bangkok

Our first couple days in Thailand were naturally in Bangkok, which apparently beat out Paris to be the most visited destination of the year. The morning was spent taking in the Grand Palace with the Emerald Buddha, along with Wat Pho, the reclining Buddha. The excellent concierges at the St. Regis Bangkok helped us plan our day and before we got into a taxi the doormen cautioned us against getting into taxis without a meter running and not to believe anyone that told us the sites were closed. We had no trouble getting into the Grand Palace especially since we were both wearing pants and had covered shoes and shoulders. Being seasoned temple goers from our experience India, we were prepared to take off our shoes, put away our cameras and resist the urge to roll up our pants.The palace was magnificent. Every building had attention to detail. The only place we could not take photos was inside the Emerald Buddha.

Going from the Grand Palace to Wat Pho, the reclining Buddha, required some google mapping, given the high walls of the palace and surrounding side streets, not to mention that everyone we talked to wanted to take us to big buddha or somewhere of their choosing. When we finally made it to the walls of Wat pho, the outside vendors kept pointing in different directions for the entrance and saying it was closed until 4pm. False. The key is to not listen to anyone. We eventually found the entrance and thus the giant reclining gold buddha.

We could have spent all day going from temple to temple and Buddha to Buddha, but it was hot as hell and the infamous chatuchak weekend market was in full swing. We opted for pad Thai and shopping in the afternoon. A cab driver outside wat pho told us there was too much traffic to the chatuchak weekend market so it would be… 500 baht! No way, we told him to run the meter. He countered saying 200baht and we’d make one other stop. Gee I wonder where he was planning to take us? We walked away. The cab drivers definitely do not want to run the meter. The second cab said 200baht “because of the traffic” we agreed. We knew we were probably overpaying a bit, but at 30baht to 1usd we weren’t going to argue, plus this cab driver sang old school American tunes the entire way. What more could we ask for?

Side note: I noticed in the Philippines as well… Asians love to sing. And by sing I mean randomly bust out in song with really good singing voices. I wish this was as socially acceptable in the US as it is in Asia.

The weekend market was huge! After some shrimp pad Thai ($1 usd), we bought silks, spices, t shirts, and leisure pants, which everyone seemed to be wearing at the temples. We could have spend all weekend there. They sold everything from souvenirs to furniture to puppies. Instead of going back to the hotel via taxi, we wanted to experience taking a tuk tuk. We’d taken one before in India, but wanted to see what was different. This tuk tuk was more like a motorcycle with a back seat. After negotiating the fare, we hopped for a high speed ride back to the hotel. Our goal for the evening involved finding a rooftop bar for drinks and pictures. The concierge of course recommended the four seasons restaurant. Apparently our dishelved sweating faces somehow gave the impression that we can afford the best Thai restaurant in the country. Unfortunately one thing we did not count on was the dress code at some of these rooftop bars, especially Vertigo where the hangover II was filmed. Instead we went for thang long, a very cute and reasonably priced Vietnamese restaurant and the rooftop of Hotel Muse called the Speakeasy. Mai Thai’s came in mason jars and the view was exactly what we had hoped for.

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The Land of Smiles

30 Jun

My mom has one of those decorative stone heads sitting in our living room. You know the ones with the long ears and curly cue hair that comes to a point, or bun, at the top? I must have asked at some point, but I really have no idea how it came to reside in our living room, yet for some reason I associate that head with Thailand.

This trip came about a couple ways. A) I’m currently residing in Asia, specifically Manila, thus Asia is my new oyster. B) Earlier this year my grandma broke out an album of a trip she took with her husband and friends to Thailand and Malaysia in the early 80’s and the pictures were fabulous…even with a non-digital camera C) two of my travel buddies and I were discussing where to go on vacation and Thailand overruled the Greek isles.

Planning the trip became a bit difficult simply because there is so much to see and do. It’s impossible to pack in a whole country in one week, especially if your coming from the other side of the world. Ultimately we came up with a basic tourist itinerary including Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui (which has been on my list of must-go’s for about 3 years). Shopping, street food, temples, Buddhas and beaches here we come!

Already, the four of us have hit a few minor snags due to rainy season delays, visa issues, and airline mechanical problems, but we’re hopeful that in the next couple days we’ll all be together and telling battle stories… Like the woman sitting next to me on the plane who is under the impression this seat is in her living room. And the sweet check in girl at the airport who is now following me on twitter. Can’t wait to see what vacation brings!