MAY 31,2011 - JUN 14,2011 (15 DAYS)
We traveled to Thailand with two toddlers : our eldest was three years old and our daughter was a year and half .
Yes, you got it right - 3 and 1.5.
As the weeks progressed toward the day of the flights, our horror level reached new levels. At the time we thought this was an insane decision, but yet we hoped for the best.
I remember a particular moment at the airport when all hell broke loose. My wife and I looked at each other with a frightened look :)
Eventually, we discovered that Thailand is THE place to spend a family vacation and it certainly was one of our best experiences with the kids.
Since our daughter was a year and a half old, more than half of the content of a large trolley suitcase was filled with diapers and Similak. Eventually, we discovered we could have purchased diapers and baby food in the islands. So if you're traveling with toddlers you shouldn't be too worried about it.
Food in Thailand is great. We ate at restaurants and at the street stands without any stomach issues. Surprisingly, the only time I had a food incident occurred when I ate MBK in Bangkok at their food court. Bad decision.
As usual, choose to eat where the locals eat.
The kids dictated the usage of internal flights opposed to cheaper options (bus, fairy). We had three internal flights: Bangkok-Phuket, Phuket-Samui, and Samui-Bangkok with Bangkok airways. They had very nice service - nothing to complaint about.
Always bargain in Thailand. Don't ever agree to pay the initial price. At some places you'll get 20%-30% discount and at others you may pay 20%-30% of the initial price.
Exceptions may be large shopping malls and airport taxis. But you should always try.
We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel (Kata). It was about 600Bht for the entire family. The taxi driver offered us his business card and offered to drive us back to the airport for the same rate.
The day before out flight, we tried asking some local taxis parked along the street outside our hotel about their rates. The lowest price we got was 1000Bht so eventually we called our original driver, and asked for him to come pick us up.
I recommend you ask the driver picking you up at the airport for his details so you can coordinate a ride back to the airport as well.
Kata Beach Resort
We chose to stay in Kata Beach in order to avoid the high commotion of Phuket. We stayed at Kata Beach Resort which was really nice. It had a very nice kids swimming pool - something we took into consideration when we ordered this hotel - and a nice beach. During that time of the year the ocean was quite high, so we spent most of our time in the pool.
Weather was nice - hot with sudden burst of showers. On our second day, the rain started around noon, and didn't show any signs of when it was going to stop, so we just went for the room for a nap. On other days, we just stayed at the pool while it rained.
It takes about 20 mins to reach Phuket from Kata Beach. We did this twice on our own during our stay and used taxis. There are cheaper options (Tuk Tuk), we avoided them along out trip because of our little ones.
We took a daily tour of the four islands. We heard that there's also a seven islands variation with a speed boat but, I can't comment on that. We were told that the four islands tour was possible with kids because it is done with a large boat/yacht.
We ordered the trip via SagolTravel- located in Phuket. They were very nice and helpful and encouraged us to the take the trip even though our small one was still in stroller.
The tour operators picked us up from our hotel and took us to the pier. From there we had a nice walk up to the boat. Our boats were anchored one beside another, our's being the last. So we had to jump from the pier to the first boat, and the first boat to the second, etc. The boat operators helped us by handing the stroller from one boat to another. This pass was quite surreal (and scary).
The tour included (not surprisingly :-)) the four islands. The first had an amazing beach with shallow crystal clear water. We arrived to the water with an inflatable boat. We spent there an hour before continuing to the next attractions.
On one of the stops there was an options to join a short trip of inflatable boats to see some caves filled with bats. Those of you with kids - don't miss this. Its doable. Each crew member drives a boat, so I took our little daughter and put her (with a life vest of course) between my legs, and my wife took our older son and held him in the same manner.
It was great fun, and although we were worried the kids may be scared of the cave or the dark, they enjoyed it a lot.
The last island on the tour was the famous James Bond Island. Although its very touristic with many peddlers, it's worth the visit.
At the end of tour we were offered to buy pictures that were taken while we were on the inflatable boats. Prices were quite high, and we didn't succeed in bargaining.
Another package we bought from SagolTravel were tickets to the FantaSea (http://www.phuket-fantasea.com/index2.php). Again this package included pick up from the hotel around 17:30 and a ride to the show and back.
We were told that the show was an amazing Vegas style show, and the whole area is like Disney Land/World- like theme park with many attractions to the kids.
Bottom line - we were disappointed. The park itself is nice with many Thai related street shows, but the ratio between the shops and the attractions is too high.
You can take photos with the show's elephants (with pay), or white tiger cubs (more pay). The show itself includes acrobats and elephants doing some tricks and dances.
If you've seen some Vegas/Broadway show in your life, you may skip this. Nothing you've never seen.
We arrived to Ko Samui with a flight. Ko Samui's airport is very small and user friendly. From there we took a cab directly to the hotel.
We stayed at Sareeraya (http://www.sareeraya.com/). The hotel is located at Chweng Beach, around 7 mins walk to the center of Samui. We found this place ideal as it allowed us to be on a quiet area and within short walking distance from the "downtown" area.
There is nothing like Sareeraya. I hope this review won't create too much attention so they'll raise the prices, and I can't afford it next time I'm there... but this place is heaven on earth.
The first day you arrive you will be seated on their very welcoming couches, receive necklaces of jasmin flowers, and cold water to refresh yourselves. The lobby is widely open and you can view both the pool and the beach. Then you understand you made a very wise decision (although not that cheap - we payed 5000 Bht for a night for a large room for the four of us).
The rooms are HUGE and contain everything you need. It includes straw hats for the beach, a straw bag to take your stuff to the beach, and a pair of sandals. So in case you forgot any of the above; don't worry.
On our first day we didn't use any of the above, but then when we saw everyone else using it, we wanted to be part of the scene.
Breakfast at the hotel was very good. You can order any type off egg you want including their nice variation of shakashuka. The fruit variety is very good, and they have amazing walnut and banana cake. Be careful not to be too tempted with the food or you'll gain some extra pounds. For the kids you can have cereal, scrambled eggs etc.
In the hotel you can choose rooms with a pool outside or rooms on the second floor. We were too scared our kids would decide to practice their swimming on the room's pool, so we chose the second floor rooms which had a huge and amazing porch with a beautiful sea view.
If your kids can swim, or better, if you're staying without kids, take advantage of the room with the pool.
On the beach there are some guys renting sky jets; we were almost tempted to rent one. Luckily, we saw on our room desk a letter from the hotel warning about these guys. Apparently, they rent you the jet and when you're back they start blaming you scratched their jet and that you need to pay them for the damage done. They ask for a ridiculous amount of money ( for nothing) and if you don't pay they start to be rude.
Not sure these are the guys you want to get into an argument with.
Take the jets elsewhere.
Massage - you can either do it on the beach, if you don't mind the sand and the humidity. Or you can go "downtown" where there are many options including "happy ending" options. Since we weren't for that type of massage, we found a VERY nice place just outside of the hotel. You just go out, turn right, and within a minute walk beside the supermarket on the left side, there's a very nice place. 200 Baht for an hour and you'll feel brand new.
At noon we put the kids to sleep, we took turns and each of us went for an hour of treatment.
Breakfast we ate at the hotel, because we usually over ate at breakfast we skipped lunch and went for an early supper.
On the beach you can find all the shakes/fruits you want.
We usually ate supper at one of beach restaurants. Just go outside of the hotel (beach side), turn right and choose what fits you.
Sometimes we ate our supper there, and walked to the center of the city to eat Banana Loti.On the single occasion we ate in the center we were disappointed from our choice.
Beaches in Chaweng is not the classic turquoise water beaches. When we were there (June) the low tide was around late morning till late noon. The exposed sand was quite muddy and had crabs which were nice to see and show the kids, but not so nice to walk to where the water was deep enough.
However just left of the hotel there's a path of land which is exposed at low tide which allows you to bypass the muddy part. This is a Thai wedding (rehearsal?) we caught while spending time there.
And this is the hotel as it is seen from this patch of land....
Since this was my first time in Thailand, we decided to spend the last two days in Bangkok. Bottom line - if you are traveling with toddlers, try to skip Bangkok. Cities are tough for kids, and cities with high humidity and all day rush hour are even tougher.
To my personal view, nothing we saw there was worth the time spent and the difficulties we had.
We stayed at the Pathumwan Princess(http://www.dusit.com/dusit-princess/pathumwan-princess-mbk-centre.html) hotel which is connected to MBK, and 5 mins walk from the Siam Center.
The reasoning for staying here was if the kids drive us crazy we can go to MBK which has AC and let them release some steam.
The hotel is unlike the other hotels we've been to this trip - it's very business-like with very small rooms. For the four of us it was a bit crowded with not much space in the room once we positioned the extra beds.
Breakfast wasn't cheap and not so tasty. We had it on the first day. The second day, we preferred Starbucks which was on the street as an alternative.
Overall its a nice hotel.
Bangkok is very similar to Beijing. No matter where you need to go, it usually takes you more than 45 minutes. But unlike Beijing, the taxi drivers are willing to turn the AC on :-)
There is the TokTok option, which we would have taken if it weren't for the kids. But my impression, is that TokToks are stuck in the traffic like an ordinary cab, but with the "pleasure" of breathing in their surrounding exhaust. However, it's probably cheaper and more fun.
The Grand Palace - One of the reasons I didn't want to miss Bangkok.
It has a strict dress code, and because of that I wore long trousers when we visited there. Walking with long trousers in 95% humidity wasn't fun. When we got there we saw that there was an option to rent large cloth to hide your legs. I would have used that options if I knew about it. The place was very nice and interesting. We didn't spend much time there because the kids were bored but it was worth the visit.
MBK is a huge shopping mall with seven stories filled with huge varieties of merchandise varying in different quality.
Most of its stories look like a huge street market put inside a mall.
My wife dyed her hair there and was very pleased with the price and the service.
We bought some shirts from one of the shirt stands. They turned out like a waste of money and they lost their form and color after the laundry. I was told there are places where you can find amazing clothing. I guess I didn't know where to look, so use your senses.
We also went to visit Siam center which is just across the street. The atmosphere there was totally different (more luxurious) but so are the prices so we didn't buy anything
The weekend market - the weekend market isn't something you want to miss if you spend the weekend in Bangkok.
It's a huge maze, filled with anything you could possibly sell with a very nice colorful market atmosphere.
Near the weekend market there's a nice park where you can relax from the frantic atmosphere.