We went to Thailand on a 5 day trip. Our vacation package was from Antilog Vacations. Initially we wanted to cover just Pattaya and Bangkok. But as we thought we shouldn’t miss Phi Phi island, we took a package that covers Phuket too. Unfortunately, we couldn’t cover James Bond island due to time constraints. Our package was for 40,000 rupees per person including visa and flight tickets. We thought that this deal was the best we could get. And based on our complete 5 days experience, we concluded that we made the right choice. This post is about my experiences in Thailand.
I had an ECR(Emigration Check Required) stamp on my passport and we panicked in the last minute when one of my friends told me that her travel was canceled because she had an ECR stamp. But that was 7 years ago. ECR stamp is not a problem for tourism(at least not for Thailand).
We went by Thai airways. Standard meals is non-vegetarian. If you are vegetarian, you better request for vegetarian meals before 72 hours of flight time. Our baggage limit was 30 kgs per person for check-in bag and 7 kgs for cabin bag(3 more kgs if it has laptop). We did our best to minimize our luggage and liquids(100 ml limit).
We packed lot of food (dry fruits, bread and jam, khakra, oats and dryfruits snack bars, maggi cuppa noodles, green tea bags and other snacks) in ziplock bags as it’s difficult to get vegetarian food in Thailand.
We traveled to Phuket from Hyderabad via Bangkok. Hyderabad to Bangkok flight takes 3.5 hours(Thailand is 1.5 hours ahead of India). We had a vegetarian meal in the flight which included salad, coconut dessert, rice, roti, chole, cabbage, orange/apple juice, coffee/tea. After reaching Suvarnabhoomi airport(Bangkok), we filled immigration forms(arrival and departure) for visa on arrival and waited for our turn in a long queue. If you want to skip the long queue and get into a shorter one, then you can choose to go for express visa. Express visa costs 200 more bhats(Thailand currency 1 Bhat ~ 2 Indian rupees).Normal visa is 1000 bhats.
Once we got the visa, we went to domestic terminal to catch a flight to Phuket. Suvarnabhoomi airport is very large and even through escalators, it took us lot of time to reach domestic terminal. It had lot of beautiful wall murals. You can get free wifi as in any other airport by registering using your passport number.
Bangkok to Phuket flight time is almost 1.5 hours. We didn’t request for veg meals, but luckily we got veg sandwich as some other couple who requested for veg meals were not in the flight. When we reached Phuket airport, we were picked up in a Benz car and dropped at APK resort(There are 3 hotels owned by APK: APK resort, APK resort and spa, The Three by APK). Hotel check in time is at 2 PM and in general they don’t allow early check-in without additional cost. APK resort was okayish. The receptionist was bit rude when we didn’t go for their city tour as we thought it was expensive.
We went on our own by a tuk-tuk(which was very very expensive) to Old Phuket Town Thalang Road. It’s filled with old Sino-Portugese buildings which are now converted to shops or restaurants. We found lot of graffiti covered walls too.
We spent 2 hours roaming around in and out of the shops. It was drizzling on that day and we had coffee at The Old Phuket Coffee “Coffee Station”. It had lot of antiques and old photos.
Next we went to Jungceylon shopping mall which is the largest mall in Phuket. It had fish spa, shops and stalls everywhere. We were lost more than a couple of times, it’s difficult to find your way out of it. We didn’t even cover the entire mall. From whatever shops we visited, I found the Shell World museum and shop amazing. It had cute shell photo frames which were about 100 bhats each. It also had a huge pile of shells.
Banzaan fresh market was nearby Jungceylon(opp.) We didn’t explore it as it was smelling so much because of the seafood.
Next day we had breakfast at hotel and started at 7.30 AM by a shared vehicle(3 more couples along with us) to Rassada Pier where we took the Royal Jet Cruiser to Phi Phi island. While entering the cruise, your photo will be captured and later when you come back from the island, your photo would be ready on some frame for 100 bhats(if you want to buy). It took 1.5 hours to reach there. We were seated inside the cruise only for some time. Most of the time we sat outside in the sun enjoying the wind, water and the sky.
When we were near to Phi Phi islands, there was very beautiful scenic view with green hills and cliffs. After reaching there, we took a locker for our belongings for 100 bhats. Snorkeling was included in our package, but we were just given the snorkeling mask with no flippers. the water was deep even near the shore. So we wore our life jackets(we can’t swim) which was inhibiting our snorkeling experience even more. We were told that we need to pay 1500 bhats if we break or lose the snorkeling kit. We were given an hour for snorkeling. This was followed by lunch(included in package). After lunch, we went back to our hotel.
We walked to Patong beach as it was just 1 km away from our hotel. We spent some time walking on the beach. The sand was smooth. It was 7 pm by then, the waves were bit strong. There were some shops across the beach line.
Then we walked towards Bangla road(walking street) which was a new experience for me. It had lots of bars with loud music, live music and pole dancing women. There was a step up kind of street dance. Pikachu, a lady-ish person with huge fake breasts, women dressed in feathers(Thai style?) with whom you can take a photo for 100 bhats, lot of people on street holding menu cards for God-knows-what, some holding whips and of course lot of tourists like me. A lot of people try to grab your attention by showing you their menus, but it’s safe enough. We walked back to our hotel.
We had to travel to Pattaya via Bangkok next day and we were running late. We picked some fruits for our breakfast at hotel and started to airport in a BMW car at 8 AM. The driver dropped us at international terminal and we had no way to communicate, so we had to take a airport shuttle to reach domestic terminal. Phuket airport was super crowded at that time and our flight was delayed. We got only one veg wrap for both of us as we didn’t request for veg meals in advance. We were ready with our baggage at Bangkok airport by 3.30 PM.
We got a complementary sim card with 20 bhats talking time(3 bhats/min for international and 1 bhat/min within Thailand) and 90 MB data from our agent. She was very friendly and explained us our further tour plan. We started at 4 PM from airport to Pattaya in a shared vehicle with few other couples. It takes 2 hrs to reach Pattaya from Bangkok.
We reached our hotel: Citin Garden Resort. The receptionist was very friendly and explained everything with patience. The hotel was good enough and had a free tuk-tuk service every 2 hrs till Pattaya beach line. So we checked in to the hotel and started to Art in Paradise at 7 PM by tuk tuk provide by hotel.
Entry ticket to Art in Paradise is 400 bhats per person. It had awesome 3D arts which even had photo pose and photo point info at each art. We spent around 2 hours there clicking photos almost at every art piece. For returning to the hotel, we boarded a tuk tuk for 150 bhats, but that guy left us on the road after going for some distance demanding 200 bhats. So we had to take another tuk tuk for 150 bhats. Tuk tuks are frequent in Pattaya unlike Phuket.
We had breakfast at hotel which had Indian food too(jeera rice, upma, veg curry, potato fry) and started to Pattaya beach at 8 AM in shared vehicle. There we waited for some other people to join us for a while and then started on speed boat to Coral Island(Ko Lan).
Again, your photo will be taken and framed for 100 bhats. They stopped the boat on the way for parasailing. It was for 500 bhats and only one person can do it at a time. Even here your photos(2) will be taken and given in a card for 100 bhats. You need to wait until everyone on your speedboat is done with parasailing(who ever wants to do it). Meanwhile you can enjoy the sea and click photos.
Next you will be taken to another point which is the back of coral island where we can do underwater diving. It’s 1200 bhats per person for 20 minutes and we got 36 photos(both of us) in a CD for 700 bhats. You need to leave your belongings(along with jewelry) on the boat where you agent will take care of them. There will be lot of bodyguards underwater guiding you to walk and taking care of you. As you can’t hear anything under water, you need to communicate with them using sign language: thumbs up to go up and out of the water, ok hand sign to say that all is well, stop hand sign to stop walking. You will be wearing the oxygen mask. Make sure you will be marked on your hand with some sign for photos under water, as the body guards underwater only check for that mark and take photos. You will be holding hands with other people forming a chain to walk around. You will also be given some fish food in your hand and when you hold it, all the fishes rush to your hand giving you an awesome view and experience. You may face some pressure on ears initially, all you need to do is swallow or hold your nose and close mouth to relieve the pressure from ears. Once you are out from it, you will be given water to drink. Overall, under water walking is an awesome experience.
After this, we were taken to the other side of the island which was so beautiful with greenish blue gradient. Unlike Phi Phi, the water here was shallow for some distance from the shore. We did jet ski for 300 bhats per person. But it was only for a very short distance. We loved the water so much that we didn’t get out of it until our agents started calling us out.
We went back to Pattaya beach by speedboat and had lunch at an Indian restaurant(included in package). It was okayish food. We were dropped back at our hotel. On the way, we were taken to gems gallery which was boring for us. It was pure marketing to make the tourists buy overpriced items. You will be given a tour by a person who speaks your language and gems gallery was mandatory thing on every tour, that’s the level of marketing.
We checked with some tuk tuks nearby our hotel to go to Mini Siam and everyone demanded 200 bhats for 2 persons. But as our hotel receptionist told us that it’s just 20 bhats per person to Mini Siam, we walked towards main road and took a tuk tuk who charged 20 bhats per person. I think tuk tuks get commission if they bring tourists to Mini Siam because our tuk tuk took a U-turn just for us and dropped us inside Mini Siam. Ticket for Mini Siam is 300 bhats per person. It had lot of miniature buildings from around the world. It was super hot as it was 3.30 PM and we thought it would have been better if we visited in the evening as there were lot of lights arranged for every miniature. It would be better if you can spend around 2 hrs there. But as we didn’t have enough time, we rushed through it.
We went back to our hotel and were picked up for Alcazar show(included in package). Our show was from 6.30 PM to 7.30 PM. All the girls(?) were pretty and had colorful costumes. They performed on several musicals from different countries/cultures. It was a good enough show. Photos/videos can be taken as long as the flash is off. After the show, all the performers come out and you can click a photo with them for 100 bhats.
Nachle song performed in Alcazar show
We were dropped back at the hotel and then we went to Thepparasit market by walk which was nearby our hotel. It was good market to buy everything for cheap. It’s open till 11 PM. We spent 1.5 hrs there and rushed back to hotel during closing time by a tuk-tuk(10 bhats per person). We bought a denim jacket(120 bhats), belles(99 bhats), ear rings(3 for 50 bhats), shorts(100 bhats), boxers(80 bhats). We could have bought lot more if only we had more time.
Day 5 :
We had our breakfast at hotel and started to Bangkok at 8. There was some delay because our shared vehicle had to pick some other people. We went to two temples: Wat traimitri(5500 tons of Golden Budha) and Wat Pho(very big reclining Budha and beautiful architecture).
After that we went to another boring gems gallery and even when we protested to our guide, we couldn’t skip it as he asked us to pay 100 bhats per person to skip it! Everyone was pissed off, we just went inside and immediately came out in 5 minutes. From there we went to Indara square which was nearby. We didn’t book a hotel in Bangkok as it was our last day, so we roamed around with our luggage. Our guide told us that we can keep our luggage at reception, but the reception was closed by 2 PM and no stall was ready to keep our luggage for a while. As we had our flight at 10 PM, we didn’t spend much time there. I bought some necklace chains from few shops within that short time. It had several wholesale shops. We took train to airport which was a 5 minute walk from Indara square. We reached airport within 30 minutes.
We searched a lot for Samudra Manthan when we arrived in Bangkok the first time on Day 1, but couldn’t find it. But we found it on our last day at the International Departures terminal. We thought we wouldn’t get any veg meals, but we did get it, probably because the flight was filled with Indians. We returned to Hyderabad and thus our Thailand trip ended.
Overall it was a great experience. We managed to survive without mobile phone data/calls at most of the places. We did face language problem as we couldn’t understand what they were saying and most of them couldn’t understand English. But even then, almost every one of them were friendly and tried to help us out. One exception to this was the lady on train who tried to block the place beside her the moment I tried to sit there. When I ignored her and sat anyway, she went away after a minute from her place. We didn’t say anything to her though the experience was very bad to us.
We felt safe enough everywhere even on the walking streets at 11 PM. You need to bargain a lot with tuk tuks and trust me haggling when you don’t speak a common language is very difficult.