Andi and I left Bangkok Saturday at 5:00AM (which is 5:00pPM Friday in Minnesota), finally arriving in Minneapolis at 6:30PM Saturday (which, if you're keeping track, is 6:30AM Sunday in Thailand). I'm not sure how many hours of travel that equates to be ... but I can tell you the flights were LONG and MISERABLE. Far to long to be cooped up in a small airplane seat!
So, how was it? I give you Andi and Heather's trip to Thailand in review:
Thailand is an amazingly easy place to get around ... that is, once you get there. Domestic flights from city to city average $50/per person so it's a great opportunity to see the entire country without paying an arm and a leg.
Overall, not as crazy as I expected. Every restaurant offered Western and Thai dishes. Although, the Western dishes were usually a crappy version of [insert item here]. Take for example, the BLT sandwich I ordered that came with no bacon or lettuce, but tomato, salami, ham, fried egg and onion.
The traditional Thai dishes we ate were tasty - mostly cashew chichen or pad thai. Almost always, you could customize the spiciness which was nice. Nearly every item included seafood (especially prawns) and since I don't care much for seafood, there wasn't a ton of selection for me.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the best meal by far was breakfast. It never disappointed. The breakfast buffets at every hotel included the traditional cereals, fruit and juices. The great additions were fresh breads, gourmet cheeses and made-to-order omelets.
One interesting note: no traditional establishment (restaurant or hotel) pushed booze at all. Not a big deal to Andi and I since we usually don't drink a ton on trips anyway ... but a far call from the usual Mexican all-inclusive resorts where pina coladas and daquries flow heavily. Thai restaurants/hotels do sell alcoholic drinks but push their fruit smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices instead.
I'd read before the trip that Thai people are gentle-natured and believe in saving face whenever possible. I found this to be completely true - every single person we met was friendly and helpful. We experienced the best customer service while traveling here.
Cheap, cheap and cheap. While airline tickets to Thailand were expensive (about $1200 each), our hotels, food and entertainment were inexpensive. We stayed in some pretty swanky hotels for about $120/night but you could easily find a decent hotel for $45/night. Food was inexpensive too. One night we went to a 5 star restaurant and ate a 7 course meal - our total bill was $100 (including 4 cocktails). Other than that, most meals were under $30.
One tip: Andi used http://www.agoda.com/ to book all of our hotels. We found some amazing deals on this site, often staying in $400/night hotel rooms for less than $100.
About 30 Million people live in Thailand; of those, 16 Million live in Bangkok. It's the 10th largest city in the world and you can definintely feel it. While the city was built for a large amount of people (equipped w/ underground subway and above-ground train systems), there were also a ton of taxis and buses. Traffic was pretty bad here - especially before 10AM or after 3PM.
In line with their culture and demeonor, Thais kept their cool in the mix of all of this. No horn honking; no running red lights. Everyone seems to get along fairly well in this big city.
As any big city does, there was plenty to do in Bangkok. There were several shopping complexes and hundreds of temples to visit. The floating market on Bangkok's outskirts was one of the neatest things I'd ever seen.
The Southern half of Thailand is beachy and was definitely beautiful. Unfortunately, due to the time of year, the ocean was pretty rough and swimming was not advised. In other parts of the year (Nov-Feb), you can take a speed boat and visit "James Bond Island" or the place where the movie The Beach was filmed. Unfortunately, because the waters were so rough, we weren't able to travel out there.
Thailand had gigantic rock formations which made the beaches unique. While there was little sand, these rocks made the beach worth visiting.
We lucked out with weather. August is the end of the rainy season so we fully expected rain for part of our trip. Fortunately, it only rained for about 20 minutes each day (which was actually nice because it cut the humidity / heat factor). From what we heard, the most popular time to travel in Thailand is Nov-Feb and the weather is even MORE gorgeous then.
While we did have mainly sunny skies, the weather was HOT. About 90-95 each day and very humid. Every hotel we stayed in had air conditioning though so it was definitely manageable.
Yes, Thailand is a third world country ... but I was suprised at how civilized it was. We fully expected to see some crazy stuff while we were there, and really it wasn't much different than anywhere else we'd been. That being said, we were in our hotel room by 10PM every night. I'm SURE we could have seen some craziness if we looked for it!
Our favorite things about Thailand:
- Phuket. It was the perfect mix of culture and beach. Small at 200,000 residents but still plenty to do. We visited temples, sat by the water, dined at great restaurants and stayed in a luxury hotel.
- Bangkok's Floating Market. This was the best "you won't see anything like this in America" adventure we experienced. Not only was it interesting to see the way Thailand people live in their own environment, but we also snagged some good shopping deals too.
- The money conversion. We traveled for 2 weeks and spared no expense (it was our honeymoon, after all) and we still managed to stay within budget. The dollar is so strong in Thailand; we lived it up without paying a fortune.
All in all ... a great trip!