Krabi and Phuket trip report card

Probably the only thing that didn’t go as smoothly as planned during the entire trip was the immigration clearance at Krabi airport. I was among the last to disembark from the plane, and it took 40 minutes of queuing before it was our turn to get through immigration. Anyway, not a single hitch thereafter.

Day 1

After picking up the rental car, we headed towards the Emerald hot spring pool, and upon enquiry about entrance fee, i decided to only visit the hot spring waterfalls, which was also around the vicinity. It cost 200 Baht (S$8) to visit the Emerald pool, but only 90 Baht ($3.60) for the hot spring waterfalls. We had time only for one, and i had originally planned to only take a dip at the hot spring waterfall anyway. To me, there’s more novelty in a hot spring waterfall than a hot spring pool.

Take in the view of the river while dipping in the naturally formed pool from mineral deposits . Almost like a Japanese Onsen, except that the pools here are not man-made but natural. How cool is that.
At around 5pm, there will be intervals when you can have the pool to yourself.

Continue reading Krabi and Phuket trip report card

Renting a car in Thailand

The car rental experience in Thailand was a pleasant one. I was really impressed by the condition of the roads – wide, two lanes, level trunk roads just about everywhere. Very low volume traffic (in South Thailand), and few traffic lights. No speed camera, mostly. Thais are rather polite on the road (beyond comparison to Malaysia). Motorcyclists keep to the side. All these made for an ultra smooth and pleasant road trip.

Here’s how my rental experience went: Continue reading Renting a car in Thailand

Krabi and Phuket 4 days itinerary

I grabbed cheap tickets to Krabi, at S$60 per person, from more than a year ago, and it’s time for me to work out the details of the itinerary. I guess few would do this – visit both Krabi and Phuket in the same trip. In fact, i suspect very few know that Krabi and Phuket are only 3 hours apart by car.

There are slight differences to the kinds of attractions you find at Krabi vs Phuket. Besides islands and beaches which are common to both Krabi and Phuket, there are also on-land attractions such as hot spring, waterfall, lakes and mangrove in the region around Krabi. On the other hand, Phuket is far more developed and has more hospitality offerings as well as city vibe.

My initial plan was to just stay around Krabi, but i actually found it hard to fill 4 days worth of activities. Granted, i have two very young kids travelling with me, and safe for taking the long tail boat, we will not be able to be engaged in most of the water-based activities (e.g. kayaking) that are popular around here. So I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone. I probably won’t need to visit Phuket again.

Here’s what i have worked out for my trip:

Continue reading Krabi and Phuket 4 days itinerary

Bangkok trip report card

Everything went as planned, except for improvements made on the itinerary. I was originally going to give Krua Apsorn a miss, but after reading various rave reviews by foodie bloggers, and since I didn’t think I would be in Bangkok so often, I decided I had to go this round. Also, i dropped Platinum Mall out of the itinerary as Central World alone satisfied all our shopping needs.

Summary of food/drink places visited over 4 days:
Chatuchak weekend market
Or Tor Kor market
Sao Ching Cha eateries – Roast pork rice, traditional coffee, grilled chicken and sticky rice with mango
Yaowarat street stalls
Eiah Sae coffee shop
T&K seafood
Hilton Millennium 360 rooftop bar
Chu chocolate bar and cafe
Mae Varee
Taling Pling
Coffee Beans by Dao
Boat noodles at Victory Monument
Krua Apsorn
BREW @ Asiatique
Pad Thai at Sala Daeng
After You
Somboon
Eathai

Of these places, I highly recommend going to Krua Apsorn (a must!), Taling Pling, T&K seafood, Mae Varee and After You. Continue reading Bangkok trip report card

6 things I love about Thai Food

1. Spice, Sauce and Soup

What can i say, Thais have perfect mastery over the spices they put in their food, the creation of sauces or gravy that really goes well with food, and the concoction of soup that are mind-boggling appetizing. I was never a fan of the “Thai sauce” that is commonly served in Singapore – it is usually too sweet and too thick. My trip to Bangkok has changed my perception of “Thai sauce”. The version served here has just the right balance of sweet, sour and spicy, at just the right thickness.

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Thai sauce over popiah, which, by the way, was AWESOME. This was sold at a street side-walk stall along Yaowarat road.

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A simple Asparagus in oyster sauce dish at Taling Pling. The sauce was surprisingly nice, without having a strong cooking-wine taste to it that is so common in typical Chinese Tze-Char dishes.

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Steamed White Snapper in garlic lemon grass gravy (more like soup), a popular dish at T&K Seafood. The dish was actually served cold, which put me off initially, but as the dish warmed up through the heat from the burner underneath, it became spectacularly flavourful. You just want to keep drinking the soup. Continue reading 6 things I love about Thai Food

Bangkok Travel Tips

Data SIM card
I followed Aroimakmak’s advice and bought the AIS Traveller SIM from Changi Recommends at Changi airport. It worked without requiring any activation – just insert SIM card into phone and you’re good to go. All the telcos sell SIM cards for tourists at the same price – 299 Baht which comes with 1.5GB for use in 7 days (there is also a cheaper option at 199 Baht which comes with 500MB). Truemove requires registration/activation at their shop. Although I saw no queue at their airport booth, I read that there is usually a long queue, which would be a hassle. At $13, the SIM card from Changi Airport is really just $1 more than what it costs in Bangkok. Update: if you’re with m1, it is probably better to just sign up their data passport service. It costs $10 per month plus $2 activation fee, so it is cheaper, and hassle free since you don’t have to swap out the SIM card and worry about losing it. Other telcos have similar services too.

Taxi
Out of the 4 times we hired a taxi from the street, we were quoted a fixed price twice, so I’d say there is up to 50 percent chance an attempt to swindle you is made. The actual cost if the meter is used is likely to be less than half of the price quoted, so if you’re not in a hurry, you can try to bargain it down, or wait for the next available taxi. In any case, the taxi drivers who didn’t try to cheat were really nice people, and those who did were OK.

Chao Phraya Express Boat
I would guess that most tourists only stick to visiting places near a BTS or MRT station, for obvious reasons. Yes, they do provide access to many attractions, but not all, especially those around the oldest parts of Bangkok. Taxi would be the second best choice for getting around, despite the persistent traffic jam and having to worry about having to haggle with the driver. There is actually a third viable choice – the Chao Phraya Express. This brings you to the Grand Palace, for example, and travelling on the river lets you see Bangkok from a different perspective. You could do a river cruise, sure, but for a fraction of the price you get the same view. All boats depart or make a stop at the Central Pier, which is connected to Saphan Taksin BTS station.

ATM cash withdrawal
When I did cash withdrawal from a Bangkok Bank ATM machine, I was levied a 180 Baht (S$7.20) fee ON TOP of the usual S$5 Maestro/Cirrus fee, and needless to say the exchange rate was also very unfavourable. So the lesson learnt is that it is far better to have leftover Thai Baht to be converted back to the currency of your home country, than to have to withdraw cash from the ATM.

Left luggage service
Arriving at Don Mueang airport on Sunday, I took the A1 bus service to Mo Chit bus station (the stop after Mo Chit BTS station) where I read that there is a luggage storage service. I intended to store my luggage before going on to explore Chatuchak Weekend Market. Unfortunately, when I got to the bus station, no luggage storage service was to be found. Maybe the bus station mentioned in the forum postings was a different one. In any case, if you’re in the same situation, you’ll have to make an alternative arrangement. We ended up just pushing the luggage around Chatuchak while also lugging 2 kids, which is still doable. I have not seen any locker nor left luggage service in Bangkok, so you basically have to go to your hotel first if you want to deposit your luggage.

Travelling with kids
Kids mostly need to take a nap during the day. I imagine most people will head back to the hotel to let their kids nap. Not for us.

In Bangkok, if you’re not near to a BTS or MRT station, it is a lot of hassle (getting stuck in the traffic for example) to make a trip back to the hotel. Unless, you also want to have some rest yourself. At the very least, our kids can nap in their kid carrier. We look for a cozy corner in a Starbucks or equivalent coffee place. Granted, there are not many malls outside the Central Business District, so it may be a problem finding a cozy place, but i think you should still be able to find a decent place with a little bit of walking around. Bangkok is not stroller friendly, and i hardly remember seeing anyone pushing a kid on a stroller.

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We got a chance to do foot massage while the kids napped

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Napping in Starbucks

Bangkok 3.5 days itinerary

The last time i went to Bangkok was in 2001, for work. Back then, the only place i visited was MBK. I guess that was as good as not having been to Bangkok.

For my upcoming 3.5 days trip to Bangkok, i have come up with the following itinerary. Grouping nearby places to visit together seems to be a sensible thing to do for Bangkok, since not all areas are accessible by the BTS or MRT, and taking into consideration the traffic congestion which makes the travelling time increase exponentially the further you have to travel. My trips are always centred on food, especially for Asian countries, so this itinerary won’t make sense to you if you’re not a foodie.

Day 1 Sunday – Arrival at noon. Head straight to Chatuchak Market. Finish the day with dinner at Or Tor Kor Market (this turned out to be a bad idea because most stalls in Or Tor Kor close by late afternoon)

Day 2 Monday – Street food day. I will be following the recommendations on Thai Feature Stories for street food around Sao Ching Cha. After that, go for Thai massage at the Khao San Road area (planning on trying Shewa). Next, head to Chinatown – try the Yaowarat toasted bread (as recommended by Aroimakmak), visit Eiah Sae, a vintage Chinese Kopi shop. After some walking around Chinatown, get dinner at T&K Seafood. Hopefully we can stomach that much food! Finally, walk to River City and take the ferry crossing to the other side of Chao Phraya and finish the day with a visit to the Millenium Hilton Hotel Rooftop bar, one of the few with a view of the Chao Phraya river.

Bangkok Day 2
Day 2 itinerary

Day 3 Tuesday – Shopping day. Start the day with a nice breakfast at Chu Chocolate Bar and Cafe (just because i am staying nearby – any decent cafe will do for me). Try the Mango Sticky Rice from Mae Varee before going for shopping proper. Almost all the shopping in Bangkok is concentrated in one area – Siam, where Platinum Mall, Central World, Siam Paragon, Siam Center and MBK are located. I will probably visit only Central World and Platinum Mall. When done with shopping, grab a taxi to Victory Monument to try the Boat Noodles. The portion of the noodles is small enough to leave room for dinner proper at Somboon (my choice being the Surawong branch), where Aroimakmak recommends the curry crab as being a must. Finish the day with a visit to Asiatique.

Bangkok Day 3
Day 3 itinerary

Day 4 Wednesday – Relax day. With only half a day to spare, I plan to take it easy and try 2 must-eat places as recommended by Aroimakmak – Pad Thai at Sala Daeng and Prachak Pet Yang Duck Rice/Noodles. Finally, check out Terminal 21 before heading for the airport.

Bangkok Day 4
Day 4 itinerary

Excluded in the itinerary:

Grand Palace, Wat Pho and other temples – somehow i’m not into Thai architecture, so will give these places a miss.

Floating markets – Most are available only during the weekend, and the famous one (but with many bad reviews) -Damnoen Saduak is located far away from Bangkok city centre. Since i have only half a Sunday available, going Chatuchak is a more sensible choice.

Night markets – All of them are not open on Monday through Wednesday, so no luck for me.

Khlong tours – private tours seem expensive and involve a lot of waiting. The Khlong Saen Saep express boat sounds fun, but may not be a good idea for travellers with young kids (with the possibility of getting splashed with dirty canal water and the under 30 seconds window to embark or disembark).