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Old 29th October 2012, 13:43   #1
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Default Thailand | Third Time

The times we went earlier, are described here (10 days across Thailand (2009) - and 8 more days (2011)).

Three families, 3 members in each family, united by the fact that 4 of us went to the same college and spent a long, long time together. That was a long time ago. And we longed to go out after so many years, and have some fun.

Something like this...
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This was the group...
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Old 30th October 2012, 09:58   #2
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A holiday, for us, is usually a driving holiday. A road trip has to be a part of it. Each of the previous times in Thailand, we had rented self-drive cars from Avis. This time was going to be no exception. Except 2 issues:
1. Our friends were not confident about driving long distances in a foreign land; and
2. We planned to go to Koh Samui, which entailed a ferry ride, car and all.

We worked around hurdle #1 by deciding to rent a car that will fit in all of us. Hurdle #2 was circumvented by dropping Koh Samui from the places-to-visit list. Somehow, the others were not too confident about that ferry ride, even though we had done some extensive research into it, and found quite a bit of info, thanks in no small part to friend Suresh Padmanabhan, resident in Thailand.

Here are the findings, about how to take a car to Koh Samui.

At least two ferry services (Raja Ferry and Seatranferry) are available from the Don Sak pier at Surat Thani. Bookings can be made online in advance. Charges for a small vehicle to be transported to Koh Samui are 470 THB. The timetables are published on the websites, but delays and cancellations are said to happen in case of poor local weather conditions.

We didn't go that way, but I hope someone will, and post a travelogue here.
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Old 30th October 2012, 10:30   #3
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

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We worked around hurdle #1 by deciding to rent a car that will fit in all of us.
It was big and bulky. But one could drive it on a LMV driving license.

It didn't cost a bomb to rent (we paid ~7300THB for 5 days, including SCDW or Super Collision Damage Waiver, to Avis).

It was far more frugal with the fuel than we expected.

It had remote central locking, ABS+EBD, but no airbags.

It was comfortable at speed, with minimal roll, but with a strange pitching movement over road undulations.

It was a 11-seater Toyota HiAce Commuter. With a 3.0L D4-D engine and manual transmission.
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Our first encounter with the car at the Suvarnabhumi Airport.
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What I loved: It swallowed 8+ suitcases in the back. And it could do triple digit speeds effortlessly.
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What everyone loved: It seated all of us in great comfort. The air-conditioning was terrific.
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What we hated: The ICE did not have an USB port. 10GB of music that we listened to in our youth, were forced to stay locked up in the pen drives we specially carried. The radio played Thai stuff, and we didn't have CDs.
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What I hated: Woefully inadequate headlights. With everybody on low beam even on the highways (unlike how we drive in this country), my own beams barely lit up the road 20' ahead.

And the quality of gearshift was horribly notchy, a lot worse than my own Scorpio's. I'm not complaining about poor gearshifts on a Scorpio any more!

It was one of the commonest cars on the highway.

The overall FE including city drives, highways, and extended periods of idling at stops with the AC running, was 11.4 km/l of diesel.
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Tyre information placard.
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And then we were on our way, at 3:30 PM (local time). To Kanchanaburi. With the first stop coming up because the children wanted McD, and I wanted a coffee.
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In the event, the girls got a dose of cough syrup!

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 30th October 2012 at 16:41.
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Old 30th October 2012, 11:30   #4
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

McDonalds outlets around the world look pretty much the same. Inside as well as outside. And you get to drink Coke/Fanta with your burger & fries.
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Fanta sounds - well - fantastic.

So one of the girls asks for Fanta to go with her fried chicken. And they've never seen a Fanta that's red. So it's red Fanta she wants.

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Red Fanta tastes like Benadryl with soda. Try it in Thailand if you really like your cough syrup in exotic ways. Like in a plastic cup at McDonalds.

As for us, we really were loving it!
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Old 30th October 2012, 12:45   #5
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

It took me a while to settle in with the big car, so we covered ground slower than I thought we would. Took us 4 hours including stops, to cover the 195 km to Kanchanaburi. A highly rated (on TripAdvisor) little resort (http://www.xanaduresort2008.com/) on the banks of the Kwai River, and its very genial owners, Lee & Dennis Compton, were waiting for us to arrive.

Lesson learnt from an earlier trip: Never depend on the locals to give you directions when you are in the rural regions of Thailand, away from the high-volume tourist areas (unless you understand Thai, of course). No one speaks English, they don't understand where you want to go, and you won't understand their directions clearly. Great formula for getting lost.

Xanadu resort is about 10 km outside the city centre. I had fed in the GPS coordinates of the resort earlier, and we reached the place without worrying about getting lost. It was 7:30 PM, and all was dark.

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No, you can't book Xanadu Resort online with a credit card. Nor can you settle bills with your card at the end of your stay. They're cash only. Nevertheless Dennis, a Britisher, and his Thai wife, Lee, run an excellent resort on the banks of the Kwai River. More about it after we'd had a fantastic dinner.

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Old 30th October 2012, 17:03   #6
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Dinner time. Also the time to venture out back to the city, and explore the night market that we had noticed on the way in. Time to gorge on some delicious stuff. So here we go again, driving 10 km back to the city centre.

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Dinner having dinner?

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Fruits and juices galore
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99THB for this buffet spread, eat as much as you like.
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Sausages tooo good!

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KFC can take a backseat

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The Thai version of the quintessentially Bong mughlai paratha. Except, this one is made with eggs and ripe bananas, and garnished with sweetened condensed milk (similar to Milkmaid). Tastes WOW.
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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 30th October 2012 at 17:25.
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Old 30th October 2012, 23:09   #7
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

Thus ended Sunday, the 21st day of October, 2012, aka the Saptami day of Durga Puja. Not quite though - we continued with our adda in our room till well past midnight.
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Little did we realize in the darkness, exactly how magical the place we were staying in was.

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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 30th October 2012 at 23:15.
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Old 30th October 2012, 23:38   #8
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

Xanadu is appropriately named. For those like us who gorged on Mandrake comics in their childhood, the name would be very familiar. What greeted us in the morning was a delectable environment that we were very averse to leave.

The entrance to the resort, the bungalows (just 10 rooms in all) and the gardens

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These are wild fowl that come in from the surrounding jungle, not kept by the owner (though he does admit to occasionally tasting them! )
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Beside the swimming pool
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And the best location of all - by the River Kwai, as it flows past the resort

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At 1300THB per room, including breakfast, it was excellent value for money. If I could afford it some day, I'd go back and live there for a month!

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 30th October 2012 at 23:57.
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Old 31st October 2012, 00:10   #9
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

Meet Dennis and Nee Compton, the perfect hosts, who work really, really hard to pamper their guests. Dennis is British, and Nee is Thai. Between them, they made our time at Xanadu so comfortable, we hated to leave. Dennis has this very Robin-Williams-esque infectious smile, which we fell in love with.
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Here comes our breakfast...
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...followed by lunch

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Chicken Massaman curry - yummy
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Prawns with garlic in black pepper sauce, served with rice
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Last edited by Eddy : 31st October 2012 at 12:20. Reason: Corrected typo
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Old 31st October 2012, 07:04   #10
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So Doc, You guys had a rocking time in Thailand : The land of smiles
I am hooked to this TL.
We too would have been there during the same period had i didn't had major product launch coming up. Any way there is always next time. May be we can plan a 4th trip

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Old 31st October 2012, 08:23   #11
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

Wowee. 1,300 baht for a room in that amazing location. Barring the hassle of cash only, it really is amazing.

The TL is really neat. Cool photos. Looks like you had a really great holiday
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Old 31st October 2012, 09:06   #12
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Default Re: Thailand | Third Time

Good Start to the TL from the 'veteran' Thai traveller , thanks for sharing

The rental car is a great option and makes a lot of sense especially when travelling in a group and will make the experience enjoyable as everyone can travel in the same vehicle together.

Question about the resort and other places in Thailand - is veg. food available easily ?

Ah this is a common thing that happens with rental cars - we end up not having the media that the car HU is capable of playing! I remembered a trip several years ago on a 13 hour journey in the US in a rental car. It had a CD player and we had more than 100+ cassettes that were common those days and just one CD of Taal. We ended up setting it to repeat mode and listening to it all through the journey!

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What we hated: The ICE did not have an USB port. 10GB of music that we listened to in our youth, were forced to stay locked up in the pen drives we specially carried. The radio played Thai stuff, and we didn't have CDs.

Last edited by NPV : 31st October 2012 at 09:07.
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Old 31st October 2012, 09:29   #13
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Question about the resort and other places in Thailand - is veg. food available easily ?
Yes, you get vegetarian food quite easily in Thailand. There's even a vegetarian festival held in Phuket, which we saw glimpses of, and will share once we get there.
http://www.phuket.com/festival/vegetarian.htm
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Old 31st October 2012, 11:48   #14
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Between a late breakfast and lunch, a short sight-seeing trip to the historical attractions of Kanchanaburi.

But first, a trip to the nearest moneychangers next to the River Kwai Hotel, and a spot of fun with some spirited dogs who took a liking to our friend.
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The war cemetery does get a little spooky, with its geometrically arranged headstones.
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Fruit sellers like this are quite ubiquitous across the country, and the strict vegetarians among us ought to rejoice at the thought that they wouldn't die of absolute hunger! Though somewhat more expensive, they handle and sell the stuff a lot more hygienically, and common fruits like guava and jackfruit look & taste different (IMO, crunchier yet sweeter) compared to that available in India.
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We've gotta do what this signboard tells you!
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But before that, we've got to park in a parking lot that one can get lost in...
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...and inspect a couple of rail engines. I especially liked the truck conversion.
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The museum coming up... pay up 40THB to enter!


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Old 31st October 2012, 12:54   #15
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Another wonderful travelogue in the making. Excellent pictures to start with. I believe this is the same river Kwai from the cult movie. Wonder if you got a chance to see the bridge of the Burma Railway though it is not the same bridge shot in the actual movie.

One thing I noted was even though the THB is relatively stronger than the INR its not roaring strong and in fact came to almost 0.7 of INR in July 2011. Given all this Thailand seems to get a much bigger bang for their buck when compared to India. Their services and quality of life is always way better than ours. For example 40THB for a museum entry fee translates to about Rs 70/75 and still the quality and maintenance of their museum would be perhaps at least 3/4 times better than what we have in India. During my numerous visits to Thailand I have only been amazed how their citizens take a personal responsibility towards their nation unlike us.

Waiting for the next set of pictures.

Last edited by samarjitdhar : 31st October 2012 at 13:18.
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