I have never travelled anywhere outside Europe before (lets get that out of the way...)
I am planning to travel to Thailand (and many more places also, but let's start with Thai) early next spring. Could you confirm or dispel some things people have told me about the place.
1. You can buy airfares to pretty much anywhere very very cheaply (I have been quoted about half the price it would be from anywhere else...) This is quite important as it may determine what type of ticket I buy for my travels.
2. The average prices of the land transport across to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and to other areas in the country (and best options to choose)
3. That you can stay at hostels for less than $2 a night (and the names of these places... Directions from the airport etc.)
4. Suggestions of things to do in Thailand (out of the way things... I am not interested in Go-Go bars or big city bright lights... I'm more up for things like Buddhist temples, places I will not want to forget for their beauty, and nice places to eat)
If anyone has much to say about what I have written, please write back with some positive thoughts....
first of all I have not been to Thailand yet so cannot help alot, nor can I confirm anything! However I am visiting there next November for three months before seeing the rest of the world. I have heard that it is very cheap to stay there and to eat there. I presume transport is cheap too. A little word of warning to you although I may be wrong - beware of things that are too cheap such as hostels etc. they may not have good security. I guess it is just common sense though. As for things to do off the beaten track, that is up to you. I have heard that Bangkok is good to experience the nightlife, eat, see the temples then just to get out of there. The film 'The Beach' was filmed in Thailand and had some lovely beaches but I have heard that they have been slightly ruined by too many tourists and backbackers who now flock to these beaches. Sometimes you may go there and find them a tad messy. If you venture far enough though I have heard there are lovely beaches elsewhere. You could try diving out in Thailand, I am planning on doing this whilst out there as some people have said it will be very cheap. Also I would imagine there will be some great underwater sites whilst diving there. If you do not want touristy bars you are best to avoid the nightlife in Phuket main centre as I have heard it is full of tacky bars and it isn't too pleasant for the adventurous traveller. However not sure if the outskirts of this place are good such as certain beaches etc.
On another note though if you are planning on visiting other parts of Asia, some of Asia is not cheap if you plan on visiting Japan for instance I have heard it is very expensive. Sorry to not be much help but best of luck and if you are still there Christmas and New year 2004/05 and want to meet up maybe for a day or two or whatever then give me a shout. I will have some spare time when not on either Elephant Safari, with a Thai family, diving or trekking a rainforest or visting temples
All the best
I've done Thailand a couple times. One place I would reccomend is "Phuket" its an island. It has a lot of nice temples and isn't too much of a big city atmosphere out there. While there I visited a number of temples and even rented an elephant to ride through the Islands undeveloped areas with a guide.
I found you can hire a guide there for 15-20 usd a day, and although I didnt' see a hostel while there my hotel was 7-8 usd a day
If you are looking for something nicer there are some "Big Hotels" there too.. 100+ a night that were well worth it also
only spent a week in thailand so i'm no expert, but......
rachels right about the swarms of travellers - it makes for a very very beaten track. sadly the only way to stop this happening is not to go there, because every time someone adventurous finds an unspoilt place it doesn't take long for the word to spread. That said, the upside is that you can always find the info you want. iwent there solo with no plans, no idea, not even a guide book. everything you need to know you can find by asking around the guesthouses. with so many travellers who are happy to talk, there is unbelievable network of information, and you will have a better chance of finding things/places that haven't yet been found by the travel brochures and the tourists.
our exchange rate means that everything is pretty damn cheap including food and accomodation so the only restriction is what kind of quality you want - there are livable hostels for $5 a day or luxury hotels for hundreds. all i can say is do some footwork and see whats there - you will find geat deals - on Lamai i had a private hut on the beach for $1.50/day. the same goes for flights. - there are definitely airfare/ticket places on every corner around backpacker areas like Khao San Rd. i didn;t do much overland travel so i cant help you with prices.
if you really want to find the out of the way places, pay attention to the local sellers and tuk-tuk drivers, they'll know places the Westerners have never heard of. its a little more risky cos you leave yourself open for a rip off. but really look out for someone who is genuinely friendly and not trying to get into your wallet too much - they ARE there and they are awesome - and ask them where to go. i was lucky to get a great taxi bike driver who took me around a bunch of temples and rainforest tracks on Samui, 4hours for about $2. just be careful. have fun!
Thanks for all this information. I never could have hoped for a response this good. It's making me confident of human nature and communication already.
Could anybody recommend an actual hotel to book into for my first night, that is pretty cheap with lots of friendly travellers etc.
Do check out Siam Oriental on Khaosan Rd. It's a motel with reasonably clean room, hot private shower and aircond. The last time I was there, it was inclusive of a free dinner as well. Good security. It's surrounded by tonnes of lower price backpackers. You can find your way from there for the first night.
Recommended stuff to do / places to visit in Thailand :
1. Grand Palace / Wat Phra Keow
2. Wat Po
3. Wat Arun
4. Vimanmek Mansion
5. Jim Thompson House
7. Any one or two of the ff: Koh Samet, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, or Krabi
8. Chang Mai
Wat = temple
Koh = island
9. Watch Thai Kickboxing
10. Visit the Jatujak Weekend Market (take the BTS train and go down at Mo Chit)
11. Go to a spa (I went to Divana Spa in November; fantastic place)
12. Go on a food trip
13. Shopping, but this may be your least priority
I stayed at the Asia Hotel Bangkok which was at US$38 a night. This may be beyond your budget but this is the cheapest one I've found in my hotel research. I'm sure our other friends here have better ideas!!
Yes, Air tickets from Bangkok are always very good price. It's a fantastic hub of travel, and Thailand is a nice place to stop and relax for a few weeks anyway while in transit to somewhere else. This year i got an air ticket from BKK- Hong Kong for US$30 one way. Finn Air had a promotion on, so i took it. Flying one way to Calcutta (now Kolkatta) is about 6,500 Baht. So,pretty good really. Thailand is nowhere near as "South east Asian" as the surrounding Laos and Cambodia. But it is sheer fun and very very very...one more time...very easy to travel in.
It's also pretty cheap (even in heavily touristed areas). If you choose to eat Thai food (and you would be insane not to) then the food is even cheaper. Accomodation is also cheap (certainly in main centres). Not as cheap as India, but it's possible to spend a lot of time in Thailand if you can resist splashing on buying silly things that you dont really need. The rainy season in the south, tends to begin around July-December. But this is not always set in stone. It keeps wildly fluxuating every year.
I tend to keep using Thailand each time as a relax and chill out spot when i'm on more serious travels around Asia. So i get lazy and dont see too much when there. I tend to hang out on the beaches for a few weeks in places like Ko Samet, or Ko Samui. In both places you can get away from the crowds very easily. It's not ruined by tourism. Only certain areas of the islands are condensed pockets of westerners.
Beware though, that there are a LOT (and i mean that) of other western travellers going to Thailand. At times, it can be very crowded and travelling around the country can feel like you're all white sheep obediently driven around in minibuses. It can get some people down, and they start to feel their trip is not as exotic as they thought it would be. Yet, it's still easy to avoid that crowd. You just have avoid the "convenience" and "cultural bubble" way of travelling, and travel like the Thai's do, on their own state buses. They're much safer, more comfortable, and you'll actually be seeing Thai people while inside..LOL
Tourism in Thailand has jaded the Thai people to a degree (mostly due to certain rude nationalities playing bully boy and not understanding the asian way of doing things and talking to people). But you'll still get a warm welcome and smile most of the time if you're polite,and respectfull. Thailand is a great place to travel "Thai" and see Thai lifestyles when you want to and make the effort to do so, and also very easy to hang out with other westerners when you feel you want to.
I went to thailand in June 2003 for a month and it was fantastic!It seriously is the best place for travelling on a budget!I travelled the length of the country over land by a combination of trains,buses and ferries and it was very cheap and easy.We had a budget of £250 each for the whole month which at the time was about 16,880 THB.That covered transport, accomodation, food & drink, sightseeing and some partying.We were roughing it a bit tho, but that was fun.In Bangkok, for example, you can stay in guesthouses for as little as 50p a night.For some interesting temples i'd visit Ayutthaya, where you can spend a day going round all of them - and there are quite a few.Also Chiang Mai is lovely and from there you can go on to do short treks through the jungle in the national parks up in the north.Be careful tho, not to choose a really naf touristy one, where they take you to fake hill tribes!In this region you can do lots of activities such as white-water rafting, kayaking, bamboo rafting and elephant trekking.Of the islands down south, off the eastern coast, Koh Tao is the least developed and touristy, and excellent for diving and snorkling.I would def go again in a flash!hope this is helpful.
Looks like everyone has suggested quite a few interesting info on Thailand. I have a few extra stuff for you to digest.
Hotels in Bangkok come in all rates. Some are a few hundred dollars to a couple dollars. You get what you paid for. I often traveled to Bangkok with my family so I stayed at the Rama Garden Hotel. It locates halfway between the airport and downtown, and has free shuttle trips for hotel guests to go shopping. Price runs around 35 US$ a night. The hotel is in the middle of a beautiful garden full of tropical flowers - orchids, ect... There should be many cheap hotels in Bankok, too. I have found that if you checked on the internet, the price is always higher than if you walked in. I bargain with these hotels, too. Just stay a night, and then check out other, cheaper or fits your need better.
Shopping - go to Sukhumvit street. It have plenty of very reasonable priced items, (and an internet cafe, for you to write or phone home.) If you happened to be in Bangkok during the weekend, visit the Weekend Market (flea market). One of the biggest in the world. I've found the Thai products at the duty free stores in the airport cost much more than downtown stores.
Bangkok has more temples than most cities I've been to. There is largest reclining buddha surrounded by beautiful temple architectures. There is also a temple where there is a large buddha made out of solid gold. It first people thought is was a clay buddha, until they try to renovate the area and moved this image. The clay broke and revealed the solid gold statue inside.
Taxi trips are cheap, but beware for those drivers who pretend that the meter doesn't work, and charge you an much more than the normal price. Bargain before getting in. From the airport to downdown, you can buy a taxi ticket at the travel counter in the hall where you pick up your luggage. It a fixed price (around $10US or less). Normally, I would go out to the departure side, and wait for a taxi that just drops off a passenger. These taxi use meter (they always should), and runs around 5 us$ to downtown.
Last time, I was there with my family I hired a taxi driver for half a day to take me around. I found out, it was cheaper than pay for tours for the whole family. My driver, also became my tour guide for free. If I want to take tour in a city, I would converse with a taxi driver, while taking me on a short trip. I ask, "How much do you make driving in a day?" The guy might say, "Oh, not much... $10 a day." I would say, "How about, tomorrow morning you come and pick me (or my family) up at the hotel and drive me sight seeing for half a day. I'll pay you $10, plus lunch?" Often, it works. And I make friends that way, too.
Normal price from Bangkok to Saigon, Vietnam is around $200US by plane (maybe cheaper now). You can go to Vientiane, Laos by train (use to be around $15US). Have taxi take you to the train station, and buy a ticket for Nongkhai (city border with Laos). It's a good train ride (around 12 hours). I normally take the evening train, leaving 6 or 7 pm arrive in Nongkhai 6 or 7 am. I often get a 1st class compartment for that price. It might be a bit more today. In the back of the train is a restaurant, so you won't have to go to sleep hungry. Once, you get to Nongkhai, take taxi to the Laotian border (Friendship bridge), get your visa and go to Laos.
If you decided to stay in Thailand, there are numerous sights to see which have been listed by others already. Thai beaches are very nice and cheap - Phukhet, Phi Phi (pronounce Pee Pee) islands are just a few. I took buse from Bangkok to Pataya beach (just a few hours from Bangkok). My only problem with most Thai beaches are prostitution. If that is what you're looking for is ok for you. But, to me it takes away the value of a beautiful place - especially, if you traveled with your wife and kids or fiancé. And worst, is child prostitution. The Thai government is doing something about it, but not enough.