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Thailand Travel Survival Guide

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Thailand Travel Guide

 Thailand Travel Guide

 

Bangkok

 Getting To and From Bangkok | Suvarnabhumi Airport

Bangkok International Airport (BKK)- 15 mi E of downtownSuvarnabhumi (pronounced Sue-wonna-poom)

This is the main airport in Bangkok, but not the only. It’s smaller but older sister is Don Meuang Airport and takes a little more to get to.

Floor /Chan 2 is arrivals and Floor/Chan 4 is departures. Ordinary bus into city, exit the bldg on this same floor/2nd. Outside you find a white Express Shuttle Bus to the bus terminal. For taxi or the Airport Express, go down to level #1. Contact Airport Express Counter Level 1, near Entrance 8 Public taxis at each exit; Airport Express bus is @ same end as Gate C.

From the Airport

Taking the train— BKK AIRPORT got a new train route from the airport to the Downtown BTS Skytrain/Subway route.
Taking a taxi— There are taxi scams in Bangkok. To be safe, go to the bottom floor of the airport and outside you’ll see a roped queue with a dispatch desk with taxis lined in the front. This is the legitimate taxi service with metered taxis. (ask the Information Desk in the airport for assistance if you can’t find this)

Bangkok Transportation

  • Hualamphong Train Station:  The central station is Hua Lampong Train Station (+66 2 223 3762), located on Rama IV Road. Aside from buses, this is the next best and cheapest way to get to different points in Thailand, as well as to cross the borders to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, etc.. Taking the  sleeper train to Chiang Mai is the best option slicing hotel accommodations and travel time into one.  Tip: Go grocery shopping before you go to the train station. At the station, there’s not a large selection to choose from. There’s some snack stands and a convenience store with has drinks and some snacks but you won’t get a large variety.
  • Bus Terminals:  There are four bus terminals- North, South, East, West & they are spread out.  The North/NE Bus Terminal/ Saathanii Mo Chit has buses to Chiang Mai (19 daily, 10-11hr), Mae Hong Son (2 daily, 18hr), near the Laos border and Lampang.
  • BTS Skytrain (map here): Hours: Daily- 6AM – 11:57PM,  Fare: less than B40 but depends on distance. Purchase your ticket at the window or auto machine.  Discounts:  3-day Tourist Pass for 280 baht or One Day Unlimited for 200 baht.
  • MTR Subway  (map here):  Hours : 5am to 11pm. Fare:  less than B20. Transfers with the BTS:  The MTR links with the BTS Skytrain at three stations – Chatuchak Station (transfer at Mo Chit Skytrain station), at Sukhumvit (transfer at Asok Skytrain station) and at Si Lom (transfer at Sala Daeng Skytrain station).

 

  Accommodations

Thailand can spoil all types of travelers when it comes to accommodations.  The Thai hospitality and design sensibility merged with the inexpensive prices make this destination unbeatable when it comes to quality lodgings.  For backpackers, expect to pay anywhere from $10- 30 on a boutique style hostel (where your dorm bed gets its own reading lamp and electrical socket)  in popular cities ( such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai).  Luxury travelers will experience exotic designer posh for prices which will still spoil you.  Leaving Bangkok, the prices and quality of accommodations can range, but prices drop. In less popular cities, you might get a room or bungalow to yourself for $5.  Hostels, hotels and resorts are common.  One of my favorite hostel/hotel search engines for Thailand is Agoda.

Read  :   3 Bangkok boutique hostels to rest your baht.

 

What to do and see in Bangkok

Visit the Floating Markets such as Damnoen Saduak and Taling Chan
Khlong tour: Take a riverboat tour through the canals/khlongs to see houses on stilts
Visit Bangkok’s many famous wats, where you’ll see giant buddhas in various positions.
Wake up at 5am to watch monks taking alms
Explore Bangkok’s various types of transportation
Take a motorbike taxi
Don’t see a ping pong sex show
See the freaky medical forensic museum
Treat yourself to a 4DX movie in a posh Thai theater
Get a $6 / hour massage ( & do it several times)
Go shopping and haggle for tech gadgets at MBK or Patnip Plaza
Get lost on the Bangkok city bus
Go to the 99baht all-you-can-eat restaurant
Check out the hippie budget backpacker scene at Khao San Road, where you can get hair weaving, illegal documents, used travel guidebooks and clothes.
Visit Chatachuk Market for mega-shopping
See a Muay Thai Kickboxing match
Explore Bangkok’s street food and street culture. My fave walk is Silom in the morning. Side streets and alleys have food shops and markets, but after 11 or 12 noon, many have closed.
Visit Bangkok’s night markets ( Patpong, Khao San Road, Lumpini and more)
Good streets to walk at night are in downtown: Siam Square Mall area, Lumpini square, Nana and Patpong (the sex districts, but they still have a lot of street hawkers)
See a ladyboy show
Take a day trip to Ayutthaya (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

 

 Transportation in Thailand (Read my post)

Transportation in Thailand- timetables and routes

Booking long distance buses and trains– 12go.asia
It’s always best to buy your tickets at the bus or train station in person. However, I’ve used this online booking service for a few bus trips and I’ve had a good experience.


Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is chill place to kick back in. The walled city houses a lot of wats, buddhas and tourists, but its not got the craziness of Bangkok. Doi Suthep Temple is a 10-15 drive from the city center and a worthwhile visit. Visit during  Yee Ping and Loy Krathong festival season to see lantern lit and set up into the sky.

Chiang Mai makes a perfect launching ground to visit Northern Thai cities such as Pai, Mae Hong Song, Pang Mapha (for caving/trekking), Chiang Dao (more caving) and more.  It’s got many tourist agents to sell you cheap day trips to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.  Read my guide to the Yee Ping/Loy Krathong Festivals.

Getting There/Around in Chiang Mai

From Bangkok, take the overnight train (read my post)

Airport Pickups:  Many guesthouses offer free airport and train station pickups. This is one place where booking a stay in advance is to your advantage.
Downtown Chiangmai:  If you’re staying in the backpacker’s area of central Chiang Mai, then most things are walkable.Renting a motorbike or bicycle is the best way to explore the greater part of Chiang Mai city.  Other ways of getting around locally is via red truck tuk-tuk which ranges around 20 -100 baht for short to semi-long inner city distances.  You’ll have to haggle. Another vehicle for slightly longer distances is a songthaew or those red trucks that you see with a rail on the back.

 

  Accommodations in Chiang Mai

Gongkaew Guesthome $6 (Review HERE)
See other Chiang Mai lodging options here

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Sightseeing in Chiang Mai

Take a trek
Visit Maesa Elephant Camp (or Tiger Sanctuary, Snake Farm, etc…  they’re all on the same road)
Take a Golden Triangle tour  (I took a good tour & trek from Travel Hub Chiangmai and they offered very good budget rates!)
Visit the Anusarn Night Market– lots of food, seafood stalls, places to shop for souvenirs and stuff
Visit the Sunday Walking Streets
Visit wats/temples
Get cheap $6 hour long massages
Rent a bicycle or motorbike and sightsee around town. Traffic is easier in CM.
See a Muay Thai Kickboxing match
Explore Chiang Mai’s food
Do a Temple stay
Visit Monk Chat to ask monks about their lives (and let them practice English)
Visit Doi Suthep
Hire a driver and go to see the Umbrella and Silk Factories
Take a trek in the mountains and meet tribal life (see Travel Hub Chiangmai)

My favorite Budget tour company: Travel Hub Chiangmai  

Wat Doi Suthep Meditation Retreat- Fee: Donation
•     Retreats are 3+ days and follow a strict Buddhist/Wat lifestyles  •  Accomodations & Food provide  •   Reservations in advance (limited openings)
•  Approx. 100B to get there from Central Chiang Mai (take the red truck/songteuw to Wat Doi Suthep)

PAI

  Getting There/Around in Pai

Most get there via Chiang Mai. You can book a shared van ride from your guesthouse or from tourist agencies around town.
Getting around Pai is best if you can rent a bicycle or motorbike. The motorbike will afford you the freedom to get you around and to explore the countryside . Bike rentals are right outside the bus station and start at 100baht, but plan for 150 baht for a decent quality one.   Journeys onward from Pai: Chiang Dao, Bang Mapha (caving/trekking), Mae Hong Son


  Accommodations in Pai

Beung Pai Fish Farm   (Review HERE)
(bungalow *catch-n-release fishing resort)

Buzzas Backpackers

Other accommodationsin Pai here.

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Things to Do and See in Pai

Take in the Weekend Walking Street/Night market (Sat/Sun?)
Visit the Chinese Village
Learn to ride a motorbike
Things to Do in Pai

 

Sukhothai 

  Accommodations

No. 4 Guesthouse (bungalow * Lonely Planet recommended)  Pros: your own private bungalow at a cheap price, 5 min walking distance from bus station & located across the field next to bus station* (do not listen to touts at the bus station- leave station and look for the guesthouse sign), mosquito net, located close to bus stop.  Cons: no internet, surrounding water is marshy & looks dirty, clean but doesn’t look it.

Things to Do and See in Sukhothai

Old Sukhothai Historical Park vs. Ayutthaya (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

 

 

Plug Adapters & Converters for Thailand

Voltage in Thailand is 220v, which is slightly higher than much of Southeast Asia (220v). I’ve charged my Mac Airbook and Canon DSLR and they was fine, but to be safe you may want to use pick up a transformer for the voltage. Without it, your devices may heat up.  Plugs used are generally  A and C and in some hotels, G.

 

  Airports in Thailand

There’s a handful of airports throughout Thailand. If you’d like any information on them, check out the Official Thai Airport website.

  Communication in Thailand

1-2-3 Go SIM (SIM card for GSM phones can be bought at the airport and 7-11 stores)

 

Money/ATM in Thailand

Thailand is a cash-based society. Few places will accept a credit card unless its a big purchase and I’ve not seen traveler’s checks for ages. Most of the costs for street food and such are relatively small, so you’ll want small notes and change anyways.

Advice: When you get to the airport, exchange your money or find the ATM. ATM service fees in Bangkok might compete with the exchange rates at the airport so I suggest sizing up what you need for your trip and getting it in large chunks. (i.e. in Bangkok, I was charge a service fee of $5-7 per withdrawal!) Not sure if Chiang Mai’s ATM’s charge similar exhorbitant rates ; I’ve always had overspill cash from Bangkok.  But this brings me to…

  Safety

I’ve always felt safe in Thailand. But as a general rule of safety, always be on guard about scams and theft, as they do happen. Always utilize street smarts and look like you have your wits about you; know where your belongings are at all times. If something doesn’t feel right, best not to trust it. Don’t LOOK like a naive tourist; those ones make the best targets. Don’t have all your money open in public, try to stash your money & valuables in places which aren’t obvious. For instance, ONE of my secret stash places is my sanitary napkin bag. Of course, you can’t forget where you stash you things.

 

  Food

With the wealth of good food in Thailand, why only settle on restaurants?  I snack on street food A LOT. In Thailand, there’s a never-ending supply of good street food and fruit carts (my favorite!). Nevertheless, here’s some recommended Lonely Planet joints here.

 

Renting a motorbike

Many rental shops will request you leave your passport for the term of your rental. It may feel scary but it’s normal. They’ll have you sign insurance for any damage done to that bike. They will not rent to people who have never driven a motorbike.  So here’s a guide to driving a motorbike.

 

Haggling

Food is generally not haggled. It’s already pretty darned cheap and fairly priced. But when shopping in markets for souvenirs or when handling prices for drivers/transportation, haggling is somewhat expected. If you’re not sure what the going rate is, you can do what I do and ask a local person or your hotel/guesthouse what the standard rate for an item is or how much it would cost to and from a certain destination. Then, work from there.

 

GETTING TO LAOS (See LAOS ITINERARY)

Overnight Train to LaosBorder crossing via Friendship bridge (Seat 66 for more info)

Flight via Lao Airlines:
i.e.  FLIGHT LAO AIRLINES    02-Feb-2011     Luang prabang (LPQ)  –   Chiangmai (CNX)     $200

 

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  MAPS FOR THAILAND

General Maps of Thailand
BTS- Skytrain Map (Bangkok)   > more info
MRT- Subway Map
(Bangkok)   > more info
Chao Phraya Express Boat Routes

 

FAVORITE THAILAND WEBSITES

Travelfish.org(travelers forum)
visit-chiang-mai-online.com
Bangkok Sawadee.com
Packing Tips for Thailand(THAILAND*)
Bangkok-hotels-link.com (Website with info about Thailand)

 

 
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