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Old 14th January 2012, 06:18   #1
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Default A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

So what is Thailand all about?

To put it in a nutshell, people come over here

To enjoy the nightlife,
A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-nightlife.jpg


to have some good food (read:excellent sea-food),
A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-food.jpg

to do a lot of shopping(!),
A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-shopping.jpg

and do a bit of sight-seeing too!
A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-sight-seeing.jpg

And of course, how could I forget this
A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09673.jpg


Of course, Thailand, is a lot lot more. What you are going to see in the coming travelogue is just a snapshot of the few things that we tried to do and what we eventually achieved. However, one thing was very clear to us - we are definitely coming back, again.
For the shopping, for the night-life, for Thailand.

Last edited by ninjatalli : 5th February 2012 at 16:55.
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Old 14th January 2012, 06:33   #2
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Contextual clarifications:
  • This travelogue (TL) will not be an exhaustive info-logue on Thailand, Bangkok or Pattaya. However it'll try to give a starting point to future Thailand tourist wannabes. For detailed gyan on what else to do in Thailand, please forward your queries to the boss (a.k.a. the Yeti).
  • This TL will provide you sufficient examples of how to cut costs without cutting corners. A lot of them learnt by the OP in the wrong way.
  • This TL would suggest a few options/alternatives on different matters that is based on the OP's experience and from friends who have made trips to Thailand in the past. If you feel anything is incorrect or wrong, please do correct me on this thread immediately with the correct info.
  • This TL was originally supposed to be a budget trip. As you could see from the cost breakups in the continuing posts, it didn't. However the OP (and his lady) enjoyed every bit of it - even the parts where they did the wrong things.
  • This TL will not have a lot of pics - unfortunately as the camera was left out on a lot of the outings.
  • This TL will also give you detailed situations where the OP did impossibly blonde-brain(less) mistakes. And lived and laughed to tell you about it. Any jokes in the near future to the OP might get physically or liquid-i-fically *wink wink* damaging for the OP and the joke teller.
  • However if you are the kind that enjoys a lazy, pleasurable trip with no pre-made plans & bucket lists and with sufficient levels of vitamin M, this TL will definitely give you enough reasons to find the time to go through it.

Last edited by ninjatalli : 5th February 2012 at 12:29.
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Old 14th January 2012, 11:49   #3
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Default Planning - Flights & All

Gyaan Section

Cheapest Option : Get on to makemytrip.com or yatra.com (or any other such travel website) and look for 3D/4D/5D trips to Bangkok and/or Phuket and/or Pattaya. Or call up any agent you know to come up with deals of such a similar trip. You'll get a completely end-to-end planned trip (including flights, airport drops, hotel bookings, sight seeings, etc). Basically the website/agent gets his cut from the hotels/airlines/sight seeing venues as he's getting business for them. You get a decent trip at the cheapest rate. For the veggie/food conscious, you can get your requirements ensured in advance. But then most of the time you'll have to travel with the group and can't detour to do anything specific that you would have wanted to. IMO, best suited to families with kids.

VFM Option : Talk to any agent to get you the best possible deal on flights + hotel booking + sight seeing venues. Remember to tell him that the deal has to be flexible on the hotel choices and the venues as per your needs. Research the hotels & venues online and decide/negotiate accordingly with him. You wouldn't get the cheapest deal, but then you'll get a better deal than going all on your own.

I'm da Boss Option : Research your airlines options on various travel websites and book accordingly. Research your hotels on websites like tripadvisor, agoda, virtualtourist, etc and book them online. Plan your itinerary and work out the smaller stuff such as airport pickup/drop options, visa requirements, food aspects, etc. Book well in advance to get the best deals. However do note, you won't get as good deals (for hotels/flights) as the agents do.

Da Backpacker Option : At the risk of sounding like the sasu-maas in the soap saga, I'll have to say it again - book the no-frills flights well in advance. From my experience, atleast 3-4 months if you are targeting budget no-frills airlines. For trips to SE Asia, check out Tiger Airlines, Air Asia (and others). You'll get excellent round trip quotes. Research on public transports/sharing options (Thailand has an excellent inter-city bus network) and use them accordingly. Check out rates on hotels through travel websites and call them up and get better rates (will provide example on this). If you are traveling during the off-season, then IMO don't book, just reach the venue and bargain hard. Look for hotels having (sharing rooms with) bunker beds, or similar budget hotels that provide other additional services too (coin operated washing machines, inhouse micro-wave ovens, etc)



Our Experience

Although a trip was in discussion since the last 4-5 months, we decided on this only by late November. For reasons unknown, I choose not to go through the agent option and decide to all the bookings on my own. The no-frills airline quotes had gone up, almost matching the rest. Also since this was the first joint travel trip for the both of us, I decide to book a good international airline, Thai Airways, ignoring the cheaper Indigo, Bangkok Airways and Air India; a good 3.5k (per person) more than the cheapest option. Also the lady was put up in Kolkata, so that included an additional 8k Kolkata - Mumbai round trip.

Goof-up : Booking a few months in advance would have saved us by a cool 5-10k per person. A friend who traveled to Bangkok less than a month earlier had flight tickets in the range of 10k per person. Of course he had it booked via an agent a good deal in advance.

Costs :
  • Mumbai - Bangkok : 32k (X2)
  • Kolkata - Mumbai : 8k (X1)


Goof-up: Thai Airways were considerably cheaper from Kolkata, by a cool 4k per person. Also so was the Mumbai - Kolkata round trip. Plus the flight time would have gone down by atleast 2 hours one side.

We do an online check-in and reach the airport, a good 3 hours before the departure time, like good kids. However the Thai counters are surprisingly empty, a clear indication of the market share going towards the budget airlines which are filled with busy counters.

The immigration counter requires you to fill up a form, and of course neither of us arrive with a pen. The cheapest pen available in the nearby shops is at a mind-boggling price of 300 INR. Also none of the friendly faces around gives us confidence to borrow a pen, so we choose to buy a coffee at the nearby coffee shop in order to avail a pen to fill up the forms. People planning to go overseas, please kindly carry a pen with you.

Once the security check is done, we while our time in the duty free section waiting for the boarding call. Surprisingly there is a good amount of duty free shops available at the Mumbai airport. This is no where close to the setups at international locations, but still it is definitely better than what I expected.

Also we have free wi-fi available so it ain't very soon before the laptops come out. While I head straight (no points for guessing) to TBHP, she heads towards the social websites. In retrospect I wish we didn't have the internet facility, atleast I would have spent more time in taking a few pictures of the airport and the surroundings.

The flight takes a duration of 4 odd hours during which they bombard us with food and liquor. The food is extremely good (both veg & non-veg meals) and we amaze ourselves by finishing the entire meal at 4 in the morning! A result of which we land in Bangkok, feeling extremely sleepy and a bit dazed.

Now before you can claim your checked-in luggage, you need to pass through immigration. Also there are two different sections, the main section being for the visa holders with sufficiently large queues and one smaller section for the Visa-on-Arrival option. However like sheep we follow the rest of the group and stand in line behind the visa holders. A good 30 minutes later, once our turn arrives, we are informed about the other section.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09458.jpg
Immigration counters for Visa holders

The visa comes at a significant charge, 1000 Baht. Also they accept the payment only in cash, and in Baht currency only. There are exchange currency counters at every corner in case you don't have Baht with you. The documents required for the visa are
  • Passport (with more than 6 months expiry period)
  • 1 Passport sized photograph
  • A filled out Immigration form (form available at counter)
  • A filled out Visa application form (form available at counter)
  • Boarding Pass
  • A copy of your return ticket & hotel booking

Thankfully the process is quite simple and gets over within 15 minutes. But then the next question arises - what about your baggage. There are close to 20 conveyor belts and we have absolutely no idea about the one with our luggage. Also it is close to an hour since we landed and we start assuming all kinds of problems. However this saves the day

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09450.jpg
Baggage information display

We move towards counter 6, our designated belt and as we imagined, we are the last one to pick up the luggage.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09454.jpg

However it seems we aren't the only ones late in picking up luggage. The adjacent belt has unpicked up luggage from a Dubai-based flight - probably some poor souls like us who have yet to get their immigration act completed.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09455.jpg

Meanwhile I finally get some good shots of the gorgeously clean airport - a far cry from the Mumbai airport we just left a few hours back.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09451.jpg

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09456.jpg

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09457.jpg

Last edited by ninjatalli : 14th January 2012 at 20:35.
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Old 5th February 2012, 13:32   #4
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Default Airport Transfers, Transport Options, and other stuff

Gyaan Section

As I mentioned earlier, Thailand has a good bus setup plying A.C. buses between the airport, Bangkok and Pattaya (and probably Phuket too). The buses are frequent by the hour and for an additional surcharge they'll drop you at your hotel (or a nearby landmark if it is not well-known). Even if your hotel can't be identified by the bus staff, then no issue. Catch the bus, and land up at the Pattaya bus station. There are bike-taxis, tuk-tuks, and (actual) taxis available to take you to your hotel.

Our Experience

A lot of the hotels in Thailand offer you airport pickup options, but then you need to inform them in advance. Since we hadn't taken up that option, we head towards the public taxi stands. Now I had gathered sufficient info about taxi fares and their antics - the rule being always opting for the meter-ed option and absolutely no detours (unless you are in the mood!) suggestions offered by the taxi guys. Also I was told by several folks that the meter fare to Pattaya should not exceed 800 Baht by any standards.

We come out and look for directions to the taxi counter. Similar to most international airport setups, the taxi counters are a floor below and we take the elevators to reach another spanking clean lobby, one without the hustle & bustle. While there are hardly any folks around, I do note there is a small Thailand tourism counter at the corner with two ladies at the counter.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09459.jpg
List of directions once you come outside

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09460.jpg
The board showing the direction to the taxi stands

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09461.jpg
Stairs going down to the taxi (& bus) stands

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09462.jpg
Lobby on the ground floor

I find a gate with a sign for the taxis, and head towards it. There are a sufficiently large number of taxis, in all colors possible standing in line. I move towards the taxi counters which are located just outside the gates and ask for a taxi to Pattaya to the lady at the counter. Weirdly she nods towards a guy standing next to her who walks up and informs me that the fare to Pattaya is fixed and would cost me 1500 Baht. When I suggest to go by the meter rates, he smiles at me and says it will come out to the same amount.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09463.jpg
Look out for this sign to reach the counters for the taxi stand

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09470.jpg
The colorful taxis

I am well aware that I am being swindled out here. Having just come out of an overnight trip, and a bit tired and still sleepy, I am in no mood to negotiate or bargain with him. So I head back to the tourism counter and ask them about the fixed rate being quoted to me. They are quite astonished to hear about it and in return they ask me if I have any particular reason to overlook the buses to Pattaya.

Now it is my turn to get astonished as I am also informed that these buses, for a bit of additional amount, would even drop us off at our hotel. We decide to go by bus and start walking towards the bus counter, which is a bit of a walk as it is located at the other end of the lobby. Thankfully I find the folks at the bus counter extremely professional, while they quickly note my hotel address and hand me over a ticket slip for the next bus which leaves in another 15 mins.

Costs :
  • Bus Ticket (Including drop to hotel fare) : 200 Baht (X2)

We head towards the bus and take our seats in a Merc-Benz bus that looks extremely similar to the Shivneri buses. Interestingly the bus is filled with mostly Indians, especially a bunch of noisy Hyerabadi fellows who make no attempts at lowering their Hyderabadi tones as they laughingly joke around.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09465.jpg
The A.C. buses counter

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09467.jpg
Multiple buses - these include the Airport - Pattaya & Airport - Bangkok buses

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09476.jpg
Interiors of the sufficiently comfortable buses. Mumbai-Pune travelers, deja vu, wouldn't you say? And no they didn't show any movies!

And dot on the clock, the bus moves out of the airport to head towards the highway. The bus would take us close to 3 odd hours to Pattaya, numerous trips on Neetas & Prasannas make me wonder if these folks would also be showing a movie to while away the time, and if they do, I wonder in what language! Nothing of that sort happens, and while the lady decides to make use of my shoulder as a pillow, I while away the time trying to take pics of the cars passing by us on the highway before I too sway away to slumber.

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09477.jpg
Finally we make a move from the airport

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09479.jpg
The highways

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09483.jpg
Weird clip on the seat - I wonder what is it?

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09482.jpg
Aha - a coffee mug holder. Now if only someone would serve coffee!

A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand-dsc09484.jpg
The only good shot I could take off the cars that overtook us

Last edited by ninjatalli : 5th February 2012 at 16:48.
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Old 5th February 2012, 19:17   #5
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Thread moved here from Assembly line. Thanks for sharing the travelogue with us.
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Old 5th February 2012, 19:59   #6
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Great start ninjatalli
I'm sure that this is going to be interesting. Subscribed.
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Old 5th February 2012, 20:57   #7
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

He he. The chaos at the Bangkok airport is part and parcel of the attraction of Thai tourism. I remember back in the day when I had to immigrate out due to an unscheduled stop in Bangkok, find a hotel in the middle of the night, find the United Airlines office the next day to collect my modified tickets after I had missed all connecting flights and then carry on to Hongkong and then to the US just because Thai Airways was very popular back then and was invariably delayed everyday due to the crap being carried back and forth by "businessmen" . And this, like you my friend, was my first international travel, umm 12 years ago.

After that I made multiple trips through Bangkok and was extremely aware of the procedures of "visa on arrival" like the back of my hand. Hell I even knew the immigration counters pretty well and which ones to use, lets say I too became like one of those "businessmen". Finally I had become so bored of Bangkok and its airport, I dropped Thailand from my list of tourism destinations forever . Nowadays when somebody I know comes and tells me he/she had a vacation in Thailand, my nonchalance invariably deflates their excitement. But let me not be the party pooper here, so keep the posts coming.
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Old 6th February 2012, 10:03   #8
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

@ninjatally,

right thread at right time when rajababues are planning to go to thailand!!
looking forward.

Last edited by ASHISHPALLOD : 6th February 2012 at 10:07.
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Old 6th February 2012, 10:51   #9
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Noob is something I can totally relate to, bring it on! I like trips without too much planning, though I like to do it extensively myself but end up being spontaneous mostly.

And thanks for not making it another infologue, travelogue's supposed to be fun and all, not an excerpt out of a lonely planet book.
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Old 6th February 2012, 11:06   #10
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Great TL Sir. Refreshed my memories while I was working at Bangkok.
Eagerly awaiting details about Pattaya.

Hope you have clicked pics of the monster trucks - elevated pickup trucks. Loved them. Visited their workshop too.

Last edited by mikon : 6th February 2012 at 11:07.
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Old 6th February 2012, 11:10   #11
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

@ninjatally, appreciate the details you have provided in the log. We are planning to visit Thailand during March or April and this log is very informative. Please pour in more info.

Cheers,
Rajesh
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Old 6th February 2012, 12:26   #12
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Wonderful start Niranjan!
Awesome reading your witty, funny and informative write up. Can be called as " Noobies guide to Thailand"
Keep posting regularly. This is one log I wouldn't want to keep pressing F5 for long.
So just bring it on with all the humour.
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Old 6th February 2012, 12:42   #13
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Nice travelogue, just came back from Thailand, was there during the Christmas and New Year period. Did you go to Phuket? It's truly a paradise on Earth (for that matter, even Langkawi, MLY is). Hotel rooms are also great in the Far East, not like the cramped ones in Europe. For those planning to go to Thailand, Amari Watergate (Bangkok, bang opposite to Platinum Mall), Royal Cliff (Pattaya, has 2 private beaches) and Marriott (Phuket, located on the Patong beach, the most happening place in Phuket) are great hotels and I'd recommend them to members who are planning to visit Thailand. If you don't have issues, I could share some of my pics too. Do update the travelogue as soon as possible!

Last edited by prateekm : 6th February 2012 at 12:44.
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Old 6th February 2012, 12:46   #14
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Quote:
Originally Posted by hdnivara View Post
Great start ninjatalli
I'm sure that this is going to be interesting. Subscribed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
@ninjatally,

right thread at right time when rajababues are planning to go to thailand!!
looking forward.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2500cc View Post
@ninjatally, appreciate the details you have provided in the log. We are planning to visit Thailand during March or April and this log is very informative. Please pour in more info.

Cheers,
Rajesh
Thanks guys. Will try to provide as much info as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikon View Post
Great TL Sir. Refreshed my memories while I was working at Bangkok.
Eagerly awaiting details about Pattaya.

Hope you have clicked pics of the monster trucks - elevated pickup trucks. Loved them. Visited their workshop too.
I went ga-ga over them. They are literally all over the place. In fact I could quite correctly assume that there are more pickup trucks in Thailand than sedans! My biggest grouse on this trip was I didn't plan about taking a car on hire. Would have loved driving one of those. More on that later!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fine69 View Post
Noob is something I can totally relate to, bring it on! I like trips without too much planning, though I like to do it extensively myself but end up being spontaneous mostly.

And thanks for not making it another infologue, travelogue's supposed to be fun and all, not an excerpt out of a lonely planet book.
Thanks. Ironically, my initial thought was to make a infologue, but then decided against it as it was taking too much effort to plan and write it accordingly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by samarjitdhar View Post
And this, like you my friend, was my first international travel, umm 12 years ago.
The first international trip has always a story linked to it, isn't it? For me 5 years back, I made an entire flight wait for me close to 10 mins after departure time while I was oogling at the products in the duty free shops!

But yes, if done multiple times Bangkok would no longer have the charm of an international location. But then which location would!
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Old 6th February 2012, 12:56   #15
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Default Re: A Noobie International Traveler's first trip - The Land of Smiles, Thailand

Great start Ninja! Good that you are mentioning the costs incurred. It will help a lot of fellow travelers to look for right options.
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