By: Deepu Madduri

Cities Visited: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koi Sami

Generally

Bring a shawl because you will have to cover your shoulders and knees in most of the wats (temples). They have cover-ups available, but they vary in cleanliness and quality. Sometimes, you might have to buy them outside the temples.

You can use uber in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koi Samui. Much cheaper than taxis. Don’t use a taxi without a meter and negotiate upfront.

Do not let anyone tell on the street that a wat or area is closed. They will take you to some random jewel or tailor shop and it’s all extremely organized (think Europeans planted at wats to tell you how lucrative the jewel business is). My friend got conned :(. Check with your concierge first on what is closed.

Tipping is not required or expected, but appreciated. Nicer places will charge 10%.

Thai massages – They are everywhere. I would ask your concierge for best, clean spot near you. We pretty much did a massage every day. Average massage is like 350 Thai bhat per hour per person (which is about $11)

Day 1:

We landed at 1050 pm (Friday night) in BKK. You can get a pre-paid taxi (which is what we did) or uber to get to your hotel. The pre-paid taxi is about 3000 Thai bhat (THB).

We stayed at the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel and Towers. It was amazing because the water taxi stand is right next to the hotel. This is the best way of transportation to the wats or other places then you don’t have to deal with traffic. Water taxi is about 3THB per person one way. The only problem with these is that it gets crowded and when it’s hot, it was a little hard, but other than that it was great.

Day 2:

Grand palace and Emerald Buddha

We actually went to the grand palace and emerald Buddha. You have to take a copy of your passport for each person and entrance fee of 500 THB pp.

The dress code is strict here.

Ladies: no sleeveless, have to wear pants or wear a scarf as a skirt to not expose your legs, flip flops ok

Men: no shorts and no tanks.

There was a store across the entrance where you can buy a top or skirt or pants if you need. Super cheap like 30 THB to 60 THB per thing.

Honestly, we were standing in line and it was soooooo hot that day. My daughters face was super red and she didn’t want to stay anymore so we just went back to the hotel and chilled at the pool instead.

Later that night we got a massage (which started our daily routine of massages) for about 300-500THB pp for either 60 min to 90 min

Day 3: New Year’s Eve

Flew out to Chiang Mai. People always told us don’t spend much time in Bangkok since it’s dirty and crowded so that’s what we did. I kind of agree, there is so much to see elsewhere, didn’t feel like staying here for longer. It’s only an hour flight from BKK and we did an airport taxi again as well. It was 1500 THB to our hotel

Where we stayed: U Chiang Mai hotel. This was an amazing hotel. Free breakfast. Each room on the ground floor has a swim out pool (which is what we got). This hotel was awesome since it was in the center of the square with all the wats. Another cool thing was that we were there on the weekend (esp. new year’s weekend). Since it was the weekend, they do a night market on the weekends on the same street outside our hotel so it was really fun to walk up and down the night market the whole time we were there. Lots of food or little trinkets to buy to take back to people.

Since we got there early, we did half day at the Tiger Kingdom. There are lots of rumors on drug and animal abuse of these tigers. I tried to do some research and saw this article for those that are interested. http://www.paintmeparadise.com/2016/03/06/tiger-kingdom/ To me, it was a fun experience, the one my daughter still talks about. Tigers do sleep a lot in a day. We chose the small cub experience (since our daughter is only 4.5 years old).  It was a 5 min per person experience and all of us were in the we just rotated. The tiger was asleep but then woke up and played with us. It was 6200 THB for 6 people. You can buy pics that they take at the end on a USB for only 300 THB.

At the end of the evening, there was a lantern lighting festival so we joined in on the fun there. It was really cool to see the lantern floating off to the sky.

Day 3: New Year’s Day

Today we did a half day elephant sanctuary excursion, Ran Tong Elephant.

http://rantongelephant.com/

You can do full day; half day play and ride the elephants or just do feed and play in the sanctuary. We did the half day play and ride with the elephants. The important thing to remember whichever elephant sanctuary you go to is to make sure you ride elephants bare back. These are the ones that are not tortured. We saw another riding elephant activity in koi samui as we were passing by and it was awful. The poor elephants were all beat up and were not bare back so please beware and be careful. There is another one people like in chiang mai and it’s called patara. We didn’t book early enough so we missed out there but our experience at ran tong was amazing. They picked us up in the am, we learned about the elephants, played and fed them and then rode them for 15 min or so. Afterwards, we gave the elephants baths. The elephants are super wet and dirty lol but they give you clothes to change into that you use while doing this experience. My daughter again loved this! Even my parents rode the elephants for a brief minute lol

Day 4: Visits to the temples in Chiang Mai

You can pretty much walk from one corner to the other if you stay in the center going from one wat to another. We saw maybe three of them and then got tired since it’s the same thing really. The wats here are less strict in your dress code. You do need to use a shawl to cover your legs but men can wear shorts and you can wear sleeveless tops.

We did 1, 2, 3, and 4 on this map

Day 5: Departure to Koi Samui

We flew out again in the am to Koi Samui. It was a quick 1.5-hour flight. We booked a villa (Presidential Thai Villa In cheomeng beach) there since we wanted to all stay together during our last leg of the trip. It was really relaxing. We didn’t do much here since we wanted to unwind and just chill out.

Hung out at the villa and our private pool and got a massage

Day 6:

Went to the local beach, then hung out at the pool

Day 7: One day of sightseeing

Our villa arranged a driver for us to go around Koi Samui and stop at all the major attractions.  We saw Wat Phra Yai (big Buddha temple), magic garden (secret garden), the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks (in reality the rocks are really gross, it’s the male part and female part of this famous old ship wreck tale, a husband and wife got ship wrecked here  and their bodies were washed ashore and transformed the rocks but somehow those who wants kids are supposed to visit this rock and it’s good luck); Na Muang waterfall 1 and 2 (at this place they had a lot of activities you can do such as monkey dancing, tigers, elephants, ATV, etc but this is the place I felt the animals are abused so we didn’t even attempt to go near any of these activities) we just saw the waterfalls and this mummified monk at wat khunaram (really interesting)

Day 8: Back to Bangkok

This time we stayed at the W Bangkok. OMG was it amazing or what! The food was the best I’ve had in all of Thailand in their restaurant.

We hung out at the pool and also went to Wat Pho. It’s Thailand’s biggest temple. Where you will find the large reclining Buddha. It is also school of traditional Thai medicine. You can also get a massage at their massive pavilion, but it’s a little pricy and always busy. No shorts but sleeveless tops are fine. Just covered my legs with a shawl.

Checked out the Patpong Night Market – Bangkok’s red light district, just to see it. Up to you if you want to go. I wanted to see everything about Bangkok including this, but I left feeling sad.

Day 9:

Chilled at the pool, got our last day of massages, ate at the W kitchen again (look at this amazing ice dessert) and then flew out that night to NYC.

Overall, Thailand was amazing. The food was okay but we did find some really good restaurants. The food might not have been as amazing for us since we are all vegetarian. It might be a different experience for someone else.

Restaurants to try:

Bangkok:

W hotel restaurant – hands down the best food we had all trip; too bad we came here at the end; good options of Indian, Thai, American etc.

Sarvana Bhavan – we came here for my parents almost every day we were in Bangkok and the food was actually really good. The portions in Thailand are super small but we ordered a lot and ate a lot

Gagan: supposed to be the #7 restaurant in the world, we couldn’t get reservations since we booked last minute

Naam: supposed to be #28 in the world but we chose to go to W kitchen again so didn’t try it but heard it’s really good

Chiang Mai:

Ruen Tamarind: really cute, trendy place for thai food

New Delhi restaurant: just the usual ordinary north indian food

Dash: a super hip restaurant and always busy

Koi Samui:

Akbar Indian restaurant: food was tasty and decently priced

Cliff Koi Samui – amazing Italian food. Awesome view from a hill top and of the ocean

W Koi Samui – dinner; was pricey but was really good thai food

Things we didn’t do because we ran out of time or were too lazy:

Bangkok:

Mae Nam Chao Phraya – Large tower on the Chao Phrya River. Beautiful and tall

Jim Thompson House – This is a random find that we were skeptical about, but ultimately liked. Keep in mind, a few things were closed when we were there, so I would make sure you see the wats mentioned first before this. Jim Thompson was an American entrepreneur who revolutionized the silk business and loved Thai culture. He built a number of adjoining houses that are filled with his art collection. Interesting story, he mysteriously disappeared in 1967. Has a cute shop and restaurant, but a little pricey. Jim Thompson seems to have become a fashion label in Thailand (you can find higher end purses, scarves etc.).

Banglamphu – Fun neighborhood to walk around in.

Wat Phra Khew and Grand Palace – Beautiful large temple with emerald buddha.

Wat Arun

National Museum 

Museum of Siam 

Chiang Mai:

Cooking class

Koi Samui:

Water sports, ATV, snorkeling