Thailand- The Land of Smiles!


By Hrishabh Rathore (L&T MHPS)

If something good happens, travel to celebrate it. If something bad happens, travel to forget. If nothing happens, travel to make it happen.

In our case, it was something good that was going to happen. It was our second Wedding Anniversary that prompted us to plan a trip. Hence, it was a romantic-cum-adventurous getaway.

It took me & my wife few weeks in our quest to come up with the destination and finally we decided to go for Thailand, one of the most sought after tourist attraction in the world, as it offers something for everyone. It was pre-decided that that we won’t book any package through any of the travel agencies and would rather, try to explore everything on our own.

We decided to cover Phuket & Krabi because of the variety of attractions both have to offer. Bangkok was another must visit destination in our itinerary.

About Thailand:

Located in south East Asia, Thailand is one of the countries that can answer to a great variety of tourist life styles. Because of its amazing geography, Thailand has a vast array of different natural attractions. It has beautiful beaches, relatively untouched islands, coral reefs & sea life, spectacular views from mountains, refreshing waterfalls, green forests, flowers and wildlife for you to enjoy along with remnants of ancient civilization. When it comes to tourist facilities, Thailand has all that it takes to be a tourist friendly country.

Itinerary

Day-1: Start of the Journey

For Phuket, one can take a direct flight from New Delhi or via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. We chose for a flight via Bangkok for two reasons, one to get the return flight discount and second to have visa on arrival at the Bangkok Airport.

Day-2: Bangkok-Phuket

After 4 and a half hours of flight travel, we landed at Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok airport on its scheduled local time of 3:35 AM (1.30 Hours ahead of IST). As layover for our connecting flight was more than 4 hours, we completed our visa formalities in Bangkok only.

Phuket our first destination, is located in southern Thailand. It is the biggest island of Thailand, which sits on the Andaman Sea.

The 45 minutes journey from the airport to our Hotel in Patong was a real delight looking at the beautiful hills on one side and the green forest on other which increased our excitement & curiosity even more for the upcoming days. RCB Patong Hotel was our home for the next 4 days, is located in probably the most ideal location, having Patong Beach, Jung Ceylon Mall, and the famous Bangla Street within a vicinity of 500 m.

After getting a couple of hours of rest in the evening, we went outside to explore the much heard nightlife of Patong (Phuket). It was astounding, colourful and vibrant. Crowded nightlife scenes from glowing neon lights & loud music to lavish clubs, Phuket has it all. The most surprising part of the day was yet to come, when we found a 100% Indian Restaurant, The Badsha Indian Restaurant. The food was delicious with the Indian taste intact. After negotiating with few travel agents we booked our next day trip to Phi-Phi islands.

Patong Nightlife

Day-3: Tour to Phi-Phi Island

Located near the southern tip of Thailand in the Andaman Sea – between Phuket and Krabi – is a pack of small, mostly uninhabited islands. While each small islet has its own name, the pack together is mostly referred to as Phi Phi Islands. Initially, these islands were frequented by only those seeking adventure and only in recent years have these come on the radar of general holidaymakers. The popularity of these islands can be gauged from the fact that most of them are unidentifiable on Google maps and are mostly visited by the general tourists as part of a one day boat trip. It has been in the movies. It’s the topic of conversation for travelers all over Thailand. For some it’s the only reason to touch down in Thailand.

As expected & heard from various sources, Thai are very punctual & our pick up from Hotel was exactly on the scheduled time. We were then transferred to Boat Lagoon Pier wherein after some light breakfast & few safety instructions by our tour guide we embarked onto the Boat.

After 45 minutes of excursion in Andaman Sea, we reached the first island i.e. the Phi-Phi Leh. The island is completely free of human inhabitants. We had 15 minutes to explore this island & admire its crystal clear water & pristine white sand.

Phi-Phi Leh

Phi-Phi Don, our next stopover is the only island with permanent human inhabitants in this group of islands. For regular holiday- goers wanting to stay, Phi Phi Don is the only option. Phi-Phi Leh & Phi-Phi Don are connected by a strand of flat land. When being approached by boat, these islands look like fortresses, as they are covered on one side by tall limestone rocks. During the 26th Dec 2004 Tsunami, these islands were devastated.

The next island was the World Famous Maya Bay, which is the location for the shooting of the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The view of the white sandy beach surrounded by gigantic limestone cliffs was even more enthralling.

Maya Bay-Location of Movie “The Beach

Khai Nai Island, probably the best of them all, had a white sandy beach without any cliff or reefs due to which there is no obstruction to the view of the blue ocean. We were in awe of this astonishing island.

Even with all the hype, Phi-Phi doesn’t disappoint & was love at first sight. For the adventure lovers all these places are a mecca for activities like snorkeling, diving and kayaking. The turquoise water provides a clear and deep visibility. Apart from the corals, there are abundant beautiful fishes to look for. In fact, at a few places, you can spot some coral reef sharks as well, if you are lucky.

 Day-4: Phuket City Tour

This day was reserved to explore Phuket city which took about a half day.

After breakfast, we walked down towards Patong beach as it was just 800 m from our Hotel. Patong Beach, which runs over a length of 3.5 km on entire west side of Patong, offers extremely beautiful views & a wide range of leisure activities. It also offers a lot of sport activities & we tried our hands at the Water Scooter ride.

Exploring City on bike is also a viable & economical option, though the Passport needs to be submitted as security. Due to this reason, we booked the city tour through one of the travel agents by minivan. A little drizzle made the day even more pleasant. Karon View Point, our first stop offered an extremely beautiful view of the blue ocean. This was followed by Kata beach & Big Buddha. Due to a slight drizzle & hazy atmosphere on the peak of hill, the beautiful white idol of Buddha was not visible clearly on that day. Then we visited The Prompthep Cape, famous for its extremely beautiful view of sunset and definitely the view was quite mesmerizing. Another tourist attraction, the Chalong Temple was an architecture delight.  However, the Trick Eye Museum remained the memory of the day. It lived up to its name & most of the paintings were so deceptive & illusory. One must have at least 2-3 hours to view & admire all the paintings. Lastly, because it was the weekend we had option to go to Phuket weekend Night Market, which offered wide variety in terms of shopping.

Karon View Point

Big Buddha

 

Chalong Temple

Trick Eye Museum

Day-5: Siam Niramit Show

This day we woke up leisurely as the evening, was reserved for Siam Niramit Show. In the afternoon, we walked down to the Jung Ceylon mall which is the largest and most modern shopping centre of southern part of the Thailand.

Warm Welcome at Siam Niramit Village

Before the Siam Niramit Show started, there were lots of pre-show attractions & therefore we were quite fortunate to reach early. There was traditional Thai village depicting Thai ways of life in bygone times, which is not easy to find these days. The spectacular fountain, light & laser show, around the 30 m Naga statue was quite colorful and dazzling. Naga in Thai Culture is known to be the God of Water which symbolizes power and prosperity. The act of elephant war parade was quite incredible with the elephants dressed for battle accompanied by a procession of soldiers and ceremonial dancers. After the parade comes to a halt, the guests may take pictures with artists in this background.

Spectacular Naga Statue

Procession of Soldiers in Battle

Guests may also view the famous Thai boxing, martial art bout which originated in Thailand. Besides viewing, we also had opportunity to even get in the ring and try a few punches for ourselves.

The buffet dinner offered a range of Thai & international cuisine. Surprisingly the Indian vegetarian dishes were quite delicious as well.

The main theatre show started at sharp 8.30 PM on the huge stage with more than 100 performers in a greater variety of costumes. The show was divided in three different acts with amazing special effects using the world’s most advanced technology.

Performers at Pre-show Attraction

The first act took us back to history of Siam through various kingdoms of Thailand. The second act was about diverse culture & livelihoods & the last act was about their colourful celebration of festivals and belief of rewards in heaven & punishment in hell of one’s deeds. All the acts were quite breath-taking & looked so stunning on the gigantic stage.

Day-6: Phuket-Krabi

After 4 Nights stay in fantastic Phuket, Now it was time to head towards our next destination, Krabi. Krabi can be reached from Phuket on road as well on water across the bay of Phang Nga by ferry or speed boat. We chose for road journey & hired a shared minivan shuttle for Krabi. It took us approx. 3 hours (165 km). The journey from Phuket to Krabi offered quite a panoramic view on either sides & made the 3 hour journey a memorable one.

We checked in first thing as we reached our hotel The Krabi Heritage which is in Aonang. After some lunch, we tried our hand at one thing that we could not do in Phuket. We rented a bike for 200 Baht for the whole day & explored Krabi & Aonang on it. In Krabi too we found few 100% Indian vegetarian restaurants where we had our dinner in. Then we went to Aonang Beach to make the day even more memorable. We celebrated our Anniversary by cutting the cake on Aonang Beach. This truly was romantic & remains the highlight of our trip.

Day-7: Krabi- The 4 Island Tour

On this day we explored the 4 islands of Krabi which is the location of quite a few scenes & songs of Hrithik’s first movie Kaho Na Pyar Hai. You have option of speedboat as well long tail boat for the tour, though the latter is cheaper.

After 30 minutes of sail, we reached, Phranang Cave Beach on the Railay peninsula. This beach, inaccessible by road, is considered to be one of the most beautiful strips of sand in the world. We were given almost 30 minutes for sun-bathing, swimming, photography & exploring.

Phranang Caves

Our second stop was Tup Island which is an exotic tropical island. It is ideal for snorkeling and exploring on foot. In the event of low tide, one can walked along the white, sandy pathway joining the neighboring island. This is an amazing experience it seems as if one is walking on the ocean.

Tup Island

Chicken Island is a natural landmark, named after the shape of its unique limestone rock jutting out into the sea. We had excellent snorkelling opportunities in warm waters, rich in coral life.

Our last stop, Poda Island is a stunning jewel of the Andaman Sea. This is another large Island with a coconut plantation at the centre. The island is famous for its white beaches and turquoise water; the huge rock in front of it (pictured below) has been featured on countless postcards, screen savers and tourist brochures.

Poda Island

Day-8: Krabi-Bangkok

After two days of pleasant stay in this beautiful town on the shore of the Andaman Sea, it was time to head towards our last destination of Bangkok. Our two days stay was booked in KC Place hotel in Pratunam which has a good connectivity with Sky Train.

On reaching, we first booked the Chhayo Phraya Sunset River cruise for the evening. Roaming around Pratunam we found that it is sort of a Mini India in Bangkok.

The Pier of the river city of Bangkok was around 4 Km from our Hotel, but as this was Bangkok traffic we expected that it may take us around an hour & it happened so.

Our booking agent was fully acquainted with our Indian Veg food priority but to our amazement, the ship was full of Indians. After a few drinks, the musicians began singing English jazz songs but as Indians were in majority, after the musicians began singing Bollywood songs after 2-3 songs starting with “Made in India”. As the ship drifted along, we saw major landmarks & monuments of Bangkok lining the banks of Chhayo Phraya river namely 17th Century Temple of Dawn known as Wat Arun, famous Grand Palace which looks even more dazzling when lit up at night & one of the world’s largest asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge, The Rama VIII.

Dazzling “The Grand Palace”

One of the world’s largest asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge The Rama VIII

It was a delightful evening on the cruise listening to romantic Bollywood songs and viewing beautiful attractions on both sides of the river banks.

Day-9: Bangkok

To avoid usual Bangkok traffic, we decided to use two most convenient & widely connected modes of transport, the sky train & the express boat in Chhayo Phraya River running through the length of the city. First we went to view the lavish Grand Palace. It is the official residence of the Thai King for last 150 years. The architect himself looked so royal. Entry to quite a few sections of the palace was prohibited as Thai king was visiting on the day. After seeing the Wat Pho Temple, we proceeded to witness the sea life of Bangkok also known as the Ocean World as it was right beside the Siam Sky train station & therefore was very accessible. It was amazing to see how they’ve kept a myriad of sea creatures so well here. We got to see Sharks, Penguins, Octopuses and many more species of sea life. It was really a fun filled time & a great experience.

Penguins at Sea Life Bangkok

Finally it was time to do something for which Bangkok is famous for, The Shopping. Both Pratunam Market & Platinum Fashion mall offered a wide variety of choices.

After having some wonderful lifelong memories, it was time to say good bye to “The Land of Smiles”.

Some Travel Tips

  • Carry Visa fee in Baht currency from India only, as at the airport exchange rates are way too expensive.
  • Visa fee for Indians has been increased from 1000 THB to 2000 THB per person w.e.f. 1st Sept’17.
  • November is the month just after the rainy season & before the start of peak season. Therefore hotels, water sports & tour packages are cheaper.
  • It is better to book all tour packages & activities in Thailand only through local travel agents. Online booking will be costlier.
  • Try to avoid Bangkok Traffic or minimize on road travel. Rather use Sky Train or Express Boat. Suvarnabhumi Airport Sky Train Station is at lower basement.
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Beautifully narrated, i could recall my trip.

Sandeep Dahiya

A perfect travelogue…it has everything one would like to know…