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Honeymooners, Thailand edition
November 16, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

We're honeymooning in Thailand for 2 weeks in February. I have questions about everything from jet lag, budgeting time between the north and the beaches, intra-Thailand travels, and the ethics of elephant rides.

We arrive in Bangkok at 1AM after a 21hr flight. I am going to try my hardest to sleep until at least 9AM that morning (I worry I'll be too excited to sleep, but then again I might be bushed. My husband will likely pass out).

(totally flexible) ITINERARY:
Day 1: Bangkok
Day 2-5: Chiang Mai
Day 6-8: Scootering around the northern provinces (but where?!)
Day 7-11: Beaches
Day 12: back to Bangkok
Day 13: Board flight back to US

Specifics:

*It's been a while since I traveled well outside my time zone. What are your best tips to avoid crazy jet lag?

*While we both love cities (we're New Yorkers), Bangkok sounds a bit stressful for a honeymoon. I've been to Beijing, which is was kinda fun but all the crowds and bikes made me a bit anxious. Would we be doing ourselves a disservice by only spending 2 full days there? I'm anxious to spend time in the northern provinces and I predict my husband will love the beaches, so I'm leaning toward those two destinations over Bangkok.

*We want to rent a scooter and motor around outside the Chiang Mai limits, but we're not sure where to go! Advice?

*I am intrigued by the prospect of interacting with elephants, but we'd only enjoy the experience if we know they're treated well. The jungle tour sounds super fun, but I'm not sure if the animals are exploited. Should we stick to volunteering at the conservatory?

*Flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai are extraordinarily cheap on Kayak ($53/person!) but flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi are 10x as much. Trains take forever. What are our best options to get from the north to the south? Right now I'm considering buying round trip tickets from BKK to CNX, landing back in Bangkok after we see the north, then using round trip tickets from BKK to Krabi, and just waiting at the BKK airport for a few hours in between. Complicated, but cheaper.

*I'm especially intimidated by picking a beach (or beaches) to round out our visit. We're not exactly backpackers but don't need a luxury resort either. We'd love something that involves a bungalow, easy access to the water, few (or fewer) crowds, and good food.

*Any specific recommendations, especially in terms of food, markets, sights, are also appreciated!
posted by Viola to Travel & Transportation around Thailand (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really liked the food markets in Krabi Town. There's a market, and then more of an outdoor area with places to eat (not really sure how to define it).

Railay Beach was nice. Not super busy when I was there, but definitely some fancier places to stay. Rock climbing is readily available too - I'd recommend it.

Two days in Bangkok is probably fine (not my favourite city). If you wanted to do a lot of shopping (and not necessarily bargain shopping) you might want to spend more time there, but I don't think you do. I took a bus from Krabi to Chiang Mai. Overnight. If you think you can sleep on a bus, it might be an alternative. We lucked out with some roomy seats, but you may not be so lucky.

I'd recommend a cooking class in Chiang Mai - there are lots, and most of the reviews I heard from fellow travellers were positive.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:01 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


To help with jet-lag you could use the Argonne Diet. It worked wonderfully for me on a trip to India (~12 hour time change). I used the diet for the flight there, and had virtually no jet-lag; coming back I didn't use the diet and regretted it.
posted by anadem at 1:44 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


F forgot to add this link which describes the Argonne diet routine
posted by anadem at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2011


If you're in Bangkok on a Saturday or Sunday check out Chatachuk Market. It's east to get to from the MRT or the BTS. 2 days in Bangkok is probably enough. I didn't find it too crowded. We mostly used the BTS to get around the city, though anytime we could travel on the river we'd jump on a boat - they were cheap and fast.
posted by IanMorr at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're arriving at 1am and want to sleep till 9am, force yourself to be awake the last 10 hours of the flight. You'll probably be super tired and have no trouble falling asleep the second you get to your hotel. I've always done that for long flights to Asia, 20+ hours of plane time was for adjusting to the current time of destination, instead of trying to adjust once you land. So if I was arriving in the morning and didn't want to waste the day being sleepy, I'd take a tylenol pm on the plane ~9 hours before my flight lands and sleep, so I'd be somewhat rested and ready for a whole day of adventures.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2011


I also honeymooned in Thailand. Two days in Bangkok is more than enough. We were there for five and that was way too many. Highlights for us were Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, cruising up and down the river, and Jim Thompson's house.

For an elephant experience near Chiang Mai, I cannot say enough good things about Patara Elephant Farm. It's about a half hour drive outside Chiang Mai and they pick you up at your hotel. The scenery is gorgeous, with the mountains rising up around you and all this misty sunshine coming down. We had a pretty small group, six adults and four children, and everyone was given their own elephant to take care of for the entire day. We learned how to feed them, walk them down to the river, and give them a bath. They taught us a bunch of basic commands and showed us three different ways to mount them, after which we took an hour-long ride up to a beautiful waterfall where the owner's wife met us with a huge Thai lunch. We hung out at the waterfall for a couple hours—eating, swimming, watching the elephants play in the water like four-ton dogs—then took a slightly longer ride back. We rode on the back of their necks like the mahouts do, not in a basket. Since you're too busy interacting with your elephant all day to take any pictures, Pat, the owner, took pictures with his fancy camera all day long, and the next morning, he dropped off a CD of all the pictures at our hotel. The website may not look like much, but you can get a sense of their mission, and the whole day and the staff were just incredible. Highlight of our vacation, hands down.

While in Chiang Mai, we also spent a day at the Thai Cooking Farm, which was fabulous, incredibly well-run, and delicious.

Do you already have accommodation in Chiang Mai? If not, I have nothing but rave reviews for the Baan Orapin.

Jet lag actually wasn't too bad. The biggest difficulty was that we were falling asleep in our dinner plates by seven p.m. but we felt fine during the day. We just crashed really early each night and were awake by five a.m. every morning. That worked out okay because we could get out and walk around while it was still nice and cool in the morning.
posted by anderjen at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


What are your best tips to avoid crazy jet lag?

Prescription sleeping pills. I wouldn't travel without them.

A couple the first full night, slowly reduce dosage for the first week, then off them until you go home. Maybe one or two nights once home to get your routine reestablished. Since using this regimen I have not had the slightest jetlag anywhere in the world, 8 hours sleep and you feel perfect.

Talk to your doctor, s/he should be happy to write a script for a nominal amount.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2011


You don't mention the floods that have been affecting significant parts of Thailand in the last few months (particularly the Chao Phraya river).

These have been reported in a lot of media as "Bangkok floods" but in fact have had a wider impact (see 2011 Thailand Floods).

There's no reason to think this is a showstopper for your trip but when considering what you might do and where - even 12 weeks hence - you would probably want to take this into account.
posted by southof40 at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2011


*While we both love cities (we're New Yorkers), Bangkok sounds a bit stressful for a honeymoon. I've been to Beijing, which is was kinda fun but all the crowds and bikes made me a bit anxious. Would we be doing ourselves a disservice by only spending 2 full days there?

Personally, I love Bangkok, but if you think Beijing is crowded, you will not enjoy 'Krung Thep'. It's very full-on. For me, there is easily a week of sightseeing there, but given your preferences, I think 2 days will be plenty for you to see the main attractions.

*I am intrigued by the prospect of interacting with elephants, but we'd only enjoy the experience if we know they're treated well. The jungle tour sounds super fun, but I'm not sure if the animals are exploited. Should we stick to volunteering at the conservatory?

I went on at length about this just last week; I have been to the Elephant Nature Park / sanctuary twice and am a huge fan. If you are concerned about elephant welfare, it's the shiznit.
Note that 'volunteering' there is essentially a longer stay with a few minor tasks involved. Think about it, what can a tourist do to help care for elephants that the park couldn't pay local village children to do with far less trouble for themselves? It's clever marketing aimed at backpacking 'travellers' who would never sully themselves with a group tour, but love the idea of being a volunteer. Definitely worth doing, but be aware you are going as a visitor.

*Flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai are extraordinarily cheap on Kayak ($53/person!) but flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi are 10x as much. Trains take forever. What are our best options to get from the north to the south?

I have taken the sleeper train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai several times and love it. You get to see a different side of the country and the atmosphere on board (especially in 2nd class and the dining car) is very Thai.

I'd recommend a cooking class in Chiang Mai

Seconded - the one I did was good fun.

And probably my favourite hotel anywhere is the Ping Nakara in Chiang Mai. I went there when there weren't a lot of other tourists around, just after the end of the 2008 yellowshirt protests and they had very attractive prices. (and free upgrades without having to ask!) As you're going fairly soon after the floods, you will probably find something similar, wherever you end up staying.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:35 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't dismiss the trains - we've travelled overnight on Thai railways a few times in first class and really, it's always a highlight. There is no more more romantic way to travel in my opinion.

As for beaches, our favourite island is Koh Samet. Added bonus, it's only about three hours by bus + ferry from Bangkok.
posted by Wantok at 2:45 PM on November 16, 2011


Have you looked at the flight prices on airasia ? It a budget airline, you have to pay for food/drink/baggage charges etc. The fares vary a lot it seems to me, cheaper further in advance and if you're prepared to accept an unpopular flight time. I've flown with airasia a number of times and the flights have been fine.

I've travelled on Thai trains in the past and I personally wouldn't recommend them unless you enjoy arriving late and travelling at a crawl. Maybe I was unlucky but I gave up on them after 3 train trips.

For a nice room and/or just meal/drinks in Bangkok (not cheap by local prices) you could try the Banyan Tree: it's a 5* hotel/executive suites with an open air roof restaurant & bar on top with good views across the city night skyline. Baiyoke tower is the tallest in BKK and has a miserable/depressing indoor bar on top, but does have great views.

Hua Hin might be worth considering if you need to stay close to Bangkok or you're fed up travelling for hours after your stint up country. It's about 90 mins by mini bus from Bangkok and it's a nice place to relax (not picture postcard beaches though). It's a more family orientated place than some of the beach resorts, a lot of Scandinavians there for some reason. Thais go to Hua Hin at the weekends to get away from Bangkok, so the beach is busier from Friday night -> Sunday afternoon.

nb. Chatujak (JJ) market has a pet/animal section, you can smell that area so you won't stumble upon it accidentally. I didn't hang around long but in it's current form that area wouldn't be legal in the UK or I'd guess any Western country (I didn't see anything horrific, but the animals didn't seem to be well housed/cared for)
posted by selton at 4:19 PM on November 16, 2011


Do less. Eat more. Relax.
don't try to go some many places.
Hire a driver and a van: someone who knows the countryside and the good spots to eat at.
posted by dougiedd at 4:57 PM on November 16, 2011


IMO, you don't have enough time budgeted for the beaches. You could spend a couple weeks at them and still feel like you don't have enough time.

Don't miss Koh Phangan, one of my favorite places on earth. When I came back from there, I was blissed out for days.
posted by mikeand1 at 5:26 PM on November 16, 2011


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