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Old 24th August 2013, 23:49   #1
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Default Thailand 101: Advice, Tips, Planning etc.

First of all I would like to thank everyone for going through this travelogue. Generally international travels are usually accompanied with tons of pictures but unfortunately I do not have many pictures to share. I will put up whatever I was able to click and hope you like it.

The purpose of this travelogue is not to mesmerize you with good photography (which I am not good at anyways) but to give people like me (who have never travelled abroad) a peek into what they can expect in Thailand if they ever plan to do so.

When I came back from this trip, I started thinking – what makes a particular trip a good one? I am sure many people have made many trips in their life but does one remember all their journeys vividly? I am not sure if people have felt this but there have been times when I am sad while heading for home after leaving a place where I have just spent 4-5 days. Can a person get attached to a place in just 4-5 days? Of course – I realized this after I made the Thailand trip. I am not sure if this was because I was in a foreign land and had interacted a lot with the local people or some other reason. I came back to Mumbai with good memories and am still suffering from the “After Trip Hangover” - It has been 2 days since I came back to home buy my heart is still in Thailand.

I have a few travelogues on this forum but I did not get this hangover feeling after returning home in any one of them. Here are the few posts of my small travel collection:

Goa (Goa Again!!)
Matheran (Matheran in Monsoon!!)
Lavasa (A short trip to Lavasa)

Note that I had great fun in Goa and Matheran but Thailand was something different. I know it is not fair to compare them but you feel what you feel. Please see below for some of my observations which might help others in their planning of Thailand.

Why Thailand? Where in Thailand?

In my opinion of all the international popular tourist destinations, Thailand has to be one of the most pocket friendly places. There are plenty of things to explore here, exchange rate is somewhat bearable, weather is suitable for Indians and is also close to India when compared through distance.

Planning a trip is the most important step of preparation. Fortunately Thailand is already well explored by Indians so planning a trip here is not a difficult task. However I would urge everyone to go through the official site of Thailand Tourism. This is the best place to get all the information you want regarding this trip. As far as my trip was concerned, it was a 4 day trip with 2 days in Bangkok and 2 days in Pattaya. Some of the other popular destinations which you can look at are Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Phuket and Koh Samui (all in Southern Thailand). Bangkok falls in Central Thailand whereas Pattaya comes under Eastern Thailand. My limited research revealed that Pattaya was not a very couple oriented place whereas all others were very popular honeymoon destinations (Bangkok excluded).

Visa Process? Foreign Exchange? Logistics?

Another aspect which makes Thailand an attractive travel destination is the visa on arrival option (I am not sure if other countries have this too). Visa on arrival enables one to enter Thailand for a period of 15 days for a fee. For people wondering what all documents are required and what forms are to be filled, I would direct to this site which has all the information. Please note that at the Bangkok airport none of my documents were checked. All they checked was my passport and my filled up forms. But please do take all the documents with you.

Current exchange rate is approximately 1 Thai Baht equals 2 rupees. A large amount of your total expense will be towards airline booking and hotel booking which will be known beforehand.

I had gone on this trip on a corporate offer and my total cost came to around Rs 49,000. I had taken Rs 70,000 split 30% in Thai Baht and the rest 70% in US$. Normally exchanging currency at the airports would be a bit costlier so it would be advisable to get it done elsewhere. For example, I had bought dollars at 62 rupees whereas a fellow traveller got a rate of 65 at the airport. So airport exchange should only be used in case of any emergency. Also please do carry some Thai Baht from India itself as you would need to pay visa on arrival fees at Bangkok Airport (known as Suvarnabhoomi Airport). If you forget this, you will need to buy Thai Baht probably at unfavourable rates at the Airport. Visa on Arrival will have 2 lines – one will be a regular line which will cost THB 1000 (i.e. Rs 2,000) and there will be an express line which costs THB 1200. Generally the express line is quite shorter and I would recommend this as one can save a lot of time for just Rs 400.

Buying SIM at the Airport – I would recommend people to also buy a SIM card for usage in Thailand. You can easily locate counters for SIM card. DTAC and AIS are the most popular ones with AIS having the largest number of subscribers. I had chosen DTAC (pronounced as DEE TACK and not DEE TEE AA SEE). I got a prepaid card for THB300 which gave THB100 calling time with India calling at THB3/minute. I also got unlimited 3G data which was very useful for navigation within Thailand. There were some plans for Blackberry users too. You should carry a copy of the passport as they might ask for identification for giving a SIM card. Note that I was not asked for any documents but you should be prepared to give documents. The SIM card will be activated immediately and you should check that there itself (probably make a call to India). The representative there will assist you in dialling the codes for local/international calls.

Where to Stay

I was visiting only 2 cities – Bangkok and Pattaya. I am attaching the contact card of both the hotels which might be of help. Both of the hotels were good with clean rooms. Whatever hotel you choose, always remember to take their contact card and keep that with you all the times. In case you want to travel to your hotel from any place, just show the contact card to the taxi driver and you will reach your hotel. Taxi Drivers there are quite knowledgeable and helpful. Trip Advisor has a huge list of hotels and choosing one is quite an easy task.

Citin Loft (Pattaya)

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The Seasons Bangkok Siam (Bangkok)

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Wat Pho (Bangkok)

Wat Pho is also known as the Reclining Buddha Temple. 90% of Thailand’s population practises Buddhism so visiting a Buddha temple is a must. The main attraction is a huge statue of reclining Buddha made completely out of Gold. This is a nice place to spend 2 hours peacefully. The main statue is simply marvellous and there are many small temples which are also good. The architecture is simply beautiful.

Entry fee is THB100 and you get a free bottle of drinking water. Special emphasis here is on wearing proper attire. I would urge men to wear jeans/trousers rather than wearing shorts or 3/4ths. Ladies who wear shorts or short skirts are usually given a cloth to cover their legs but better would be to avoid wearing shorts.

Around the temple there are many stalls serving different types of food and juices. We tried American Corn (corn is very sweet in Thailand), Mangoes, Orange juice and pomegranate juice.


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Last edited by Saanil : 25th August 2013 at 00:05.
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Old 25th August 2013, 11:20   #2
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Default re: Thailand 101: Advice, Tips, Planning etc.

Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 25th August 2013, 21:58   #3
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Coral Island (Pattaya)

We also paid a visit to Coral Island – It is about 7 kms into the Pattaya beach. One has to reach there via speed boat. There were a bunch of water sports being conducted near the Pattaya beach – the ones which are also there in Goa. Parasailing costs about THB400. Note that please carry some Thai Baht while going to coral island in order to pay for all these activities. We had forgotten to convert our dollars when we boarded the speed boat. In our case we exchanged dollars with the people who were conducting the water sports. (We converted 100 dollars for THB 3000).

Just as you approach Coral Islands, you can also do sports like Underwater Walking (THB 1200 + THB 700 for video recording) and Scuba Diving (THB 5000). We skipped scuba diving because it requires lot of time and we were supposed to be at some other place in the afternoon. We did Underwater Walking which was a different experience. Basically you will be wearing an astronaut helmet with oxygen supply and will be sent below the water. You will be touching the sea bed at depths of roughly 5-6 metres. While beneath the water surface, you will be feeding bread to the fishes and observing underwater life. You will be accompanied all the time by an instructor and it is completely safe. Underwater walking lasted for about 30 minutes and it is usually done in groups of 5-6 people. If you want to record a video of yours underwater, you will have to shell out another THB 700.

After completing Underwater Walking we headed off to the Coral Islands and spent 1-1.5 hours swimming in the sea and just chilling out. This would typically be like a beach in Goa but just more cleaner and with blue water.

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Old 27th August 2013, 23:32   #4
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Food in Thailand

Being a vegetarian, getting food outside India is always an issue – but not in Thailand. This is another positive point about Thailand – there are plenty of Indian restaurants (at least in Bangkok and Pattaya) so one need not worry about getting Indian food. Of course the non-vegetarians will have more choice but then they have that in India too. A typical meal for 2 would cost THB 400-THB 500. I found this site which has complete information about Pattaya and which can be very helpful in planning what things to do in Pattaya. I would suggest just do a quick Google search if you want a particular cuisine anywhere in Thailand.

Below are some of the places we had visited:

Suansua Sriracha – We had breakfast here. This is basically a Tiger zoo which has a separate eating section (some pictures below).

Vedaa Restaurant (Pattaya)

256/27 Moo 5 Soi 20 Pattaya Nakula Road, Pattaya.

Garam Masala restaurant (Pattaya)
247/89-94, M-10, L.K Condo Soi-3, Sai-3, South Pattaya.

Maharaja (Pattaya)
10 Soi Pattaya 13/4, Near Walking Street, Pattaya.

Zaika Indian Restaurant (Pattaya)
215/62-63 Second Road, Opposite Royal Garden Shopping Mall, Pattaya.

Curry Pot (Bangkok)
Behind Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Indra market, Bangkok.

Apart from these you will have the usual Subway and McDonald outlets. In short, eating options in Thailand are plenty. Some pictures of the Tiger Zoo where one can watch these tigers while having breakfast.

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Old 29th August 2013, 22:17   #5
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Default Re: Thailand 101: Advice, Tips, Planning etc.

Saanil, Thank you for sharing, this reminds me my stay last year in Pattaya. I happened to be there for seven months for a business requirement, yes you heard that right it was a business trip. Though my office was at Rayong (60 kms away from Pattaya) I was staying at Hilton on the Pattaya beach road.

For people from South India there is Madras Darbar at Second Road where they serve typical South Indian dishes at an affordable price.
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Old 30th August 2013, 09:57   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treadmark View Post
Saanil, Thank you for sharing, this reminds me my stay last year in Pattaya. I happened to be there for seven months for a business requirement, yes you heard that right it was a business trip. Though my office was at Rayong (60 kms away from Pattaya) I was staying at Hilton on the Pattaya beach road.
Glad that my travelogue reminded you of good times! And going to Pattaya for a business trip does sound weird. What I liked most about Pattaya is the chilled out nature of the people. I did see the Hilton hotel on the beach road - probably the best location to stay.
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Old 30th August 2013, 10:17   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saanil View Post
Glad that my travelogue reminded you of good times! And going to Pattaya for a business trip does sound weird. What I liked most about Pattaya is the chilled out nature of the people. I did see the Hilton hotel on the beach road - probably the best location to stay.
I know this is weird for any Indian (large portion travel to Thailand as tourists) to hear a businesses trip to Pattaya . Rayong is 50 Km's away from Pattaya and it is a center for chemical and auto industries. There are assembly plants for Suzuki, ISUSZU, Ford, General Motors, Auto Alliance Thailand (Joint Venture between Ford and Mazda).
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Old 30th August 2013, 15:32   #8
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Excellent write-up. I visited Thailand for my honeymoon, and your thread reminds me of the great time I had in Thailand. However I did not visit either Pattaya or Bangkok. We stayed 4 days in Phuket and 4 days in Koh Samui.

Will come up with a travelogue pretty soon.

One advice to fellow T-BHPians planning to visit Thailand in the future: Many complain about stomach/intestine infection after visiting Thailand. Even my wife too suffered from a severe infection, which was discovered after a month. She was hospitalized for 2 days. Always carry a hand sanitizer with you in Thailand. This will help prevent such infections.
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Old 30th August 2013, 16:41   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scorpion_blore View Post
Excellent write-up. I visited Thailand for my honeymoon, and your thread reminds me of the great time I had in Thailand. However I did not visit either Pattaya or Bangkok. We stayed 4 days in Phuket and 4 days in Koh Samui.

One advice to fellow T-BHPians planning to visit Thailand in the future: Many complain about stomach/intestine infection after visiting Thailand. Even my wife too suffered from a severe infection, which was discovered after a month. She was hospitalized for 2 days. Always carry a hand sanitizer with you in Thailand. This will help prevent such infections.
Hi,

Indeed you have visited the correct places for your honeymoon. I have heard Phuket and Koh Samiu are extremely beautiful. Would love to read your travelogue. I think the stomach infection is probably due to some eatables or something in the drinking water. Really sorry to hear that your wife had to be hospitalized.

Do and Don't in Thailand (which I was told by the travel company which organized our trip):

1. Do show respect at all times for Buddhism and anything associated with the Buddhist religion. Shorts and sleeveless are unacceptable when entering Buddhist temples

2. Do follow common sense health precautions and check with your local doctor on current vaccination recommendations for traveling within Thailand

3. Do take care of your valuables at all times and report any loss immediately to the nearest tourist police office.

4. DON’T do or say anything that may offend the Royal Family. The King and the Royal Family are held in highest regard by Thais. The same behavior applies to any object - such as money bearing the King's image.

5. DON’T hug a Thai to show him your appreciation. In Thailand, a firm 'Thank you very much' is enough. Thought your intentions are good and clean, he/she will not like it.

6. DON’T drink the tap water. Bottled water is available everywhere.

7. DON’T carry anything through customs for anyone else unless you know the contents. Penalties for drug trafficking are severe.

8. DON’T carry any liquid in handbag on board more than 100 ml

9. Passenger should carry at least $500 up to $25,000 with receipt or credit card of same amount for their personal use

10. The passport validity should be at least 6 months from the date of fly.

Last edited by Saanil : 30th August 2013 at 16:43.
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Old 30th August 2013, 17:49   #10
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Default Re: Thailand 101: Advice, Tips, Planning etc.

Thanks for sharing the experience. Brought back some memories from the two years stint I had in Bangkok (a decade back)

Quote:
Originally Posted by scorpion_blore View Post
One advice to fellow T-BHPians planning to visit Thailand in the future: Many complain about stomach/intestine infection after visiting Thailand. Even my wife too suffered from a severe infection, which was discovered after a month. She was hospitalized for 2 days. Always carry a hand sanitizer with you in Thailand. This will help prevent such infections.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saanil View Post
I think the stomach infection is probably due to some eatables or something in the drinking water.
Personally, I have found the street food in Thailand quite safe (probably safer than India). But as Saanil mentioned, drinking water can create problem. So always get bottled water. If you’re staying for a few days, it maybe worth to buy those 5-10 litre ones which are freely available in department stores / 7-eleven etc, as buying water from the hotel maybe quite expensive.

And avoid those slices of raw cucumber/tomato which comes along with the food (quite common with fried rice, phad thai etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saanil View Post
8. DON’T carry any liquid in handbag on board more than 100 ml


10. The passport validity should be at least 6 months from the date of fly.
Good set of tips there. The above two points (8 and 10) are applicable for all international travel.

Last edited by vb-san : 30th August 2013 at 17:52.
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Old 31st August 2013, 15:10   #11
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Shopping at Indra Market (Bangkok)

Before I start to describe my experience, let me give an important piece of information – I HATE SHOPPING. Shopping in a mall on a weekend tops my list of “Things I hate’. I do not know how many people are like me but I like to go shopping alone! If I go with someone chances are really high I might not buy anything – whatever I like, the person accompanying me might not like it and vice versa. In short, you waste time and you do not buy anything. I am much more comfortable going alone and buying the things I want.

So I have seen that when people travel, one of the things on their agenda is shopping – of course this will depend on the location but Bangkok is such a place where people in fact shop a lot. So while leaving for Bangkok, I was told that I MUST do some shopping at Indra Market as you get good stuff at cheap prices there.

I was in no mood to go shopping at all but then my cousins had warned me that if I return empty handed, I will be in trouble. I hate when people expect you to bring something for them just because you are going abroad. It was because of this ‘social pressure’ that I decided to visit Indra Market (10 mins walking distance from my hotel). Plus I also wanted to see what was so special there.

As you guys must have anticipated, I do not understand what was so special about Indra market. It is basically a huge mall with tons of shops selling all kinds of things – electronics, clothes, shoes etc. It is primarily a wholesale market. I got some T-shirts for myself (for THB250 each) and some purses/designer bags for my cousins. When I came back I was told that I paid much more for the T-shirts and that I should have bargained for THB150. Well, if you are really into shopping, then you should bargain. I generally do not bargain a lot because I am very bad at it – just like how Leander Paes is with acting in a movie.

I was able to shop all the stuff I wanted in 1 hour flat because I had decided before hand what I wanted to buy. If people go there without any specific list to buy, then expect to walk around for 2 hours inside the mall. I was so tired just after shopping for an hour (I seriously was exhausted) that I went to the food court had just sat there for 30-40 minutes drinking fruit juices and observing people around me.

In short, Indra Market was just an ok experience. Shopaholics might go crazy here but it was just an average experience for me. There are plenty of Indian restaurants around Indra market so one can have a nice dinner/lunch after an exhausting shopping experience.

There were many electronic items on sale – mobiles/headphones/laptops/TV’s. I went to a mobile shop just to inquire about the price of Galaxy S4. Here is how the conversation went:

Me (pointing at a mobile phone) – ‘Sir, How much for Galaxy S4?’
Shop owner – ‘THB 5000’
Me (doing some elementary maths) – ‘So that is like INR10k. Wait how is this possible? This phone is definitely more than 30k in India. Can there be so much difference? Is this the reason why people go crazy for shopping in Thailand?’
Me (Knew I was asking a dumb question) – ‘Are you sure? In India this phone is worth a lot more’
Shop owner – ‘ Sir, the mobile you are looking at is a Chinese copy of Galaxy S4. It is the exact same design as S4 but its a copy. Hence the low price’
Me – ‘Wow!’

Please be very careful while buying electronics. Always ask whether the product is original or a copy.

Also people generally buy LCD/LED TV’s from Bangkok. Apparently one can save around 40% money on buying a model from Thailand than buying the same model from India. Please note that from 26th August, the government of India has increased duties on TV’s so the cost differential has come down a bit. I have not done the exact math but please note that bringing a TV into India is not that economical as it was earlier.
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Old 7th September 2013, 13:56   #12
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Royal Garden Plaza (Pattaya)

We also paid a visit to a mall named Royal Garden Plaza. This is a nice place to spend 2-3 hours with family. Like any other mall, there are many activities that can be done there. We paid THB 1000 for a pass which allowed us to take part in7 activities all together and I would say it was worth it. You can choose to do particular things individually and I think each of them might cost around THB 300, so taking the complete package might be economical. The activities which were part of our package:

1. Ripley’s Museum – Lots of fascinating things on display and some awesome facts one can learn.

2. 4D Movie – I know there are 4D theatres in Mumbai too but this was way better than the ones we have in India. As usual, there is a 10-15 minute movie with a complete 4D experience. Even if you have not taken the package, I would strongly recommend going for this.

3. Haunted House – Another must have experience. You go in groups of 4-7 people. You will be given a rope and all of them will hold it at all times. You will go inside the haunted house and experience the really scary set ups there. There was a family with us with a kid and he got really scared and started crying when he went inside. It is possible some people might find this really scary – but I urge people to try it out.

4. Tussaud's Wax Museum – A usual affair so nothing extraordinary here.

5. Infinity Maze – You will wear white gloves and white socks and will be led into an empty room (remember it will be pitch dark in there). You will have to find your way out of many such rooms. Rooms are similar to the ones shown in the movie ‘Cube’.

6. Laser Maze – Remember the Ocean’s 12 scene where the Night fox tries to dodge a laser maze in order to go cross a room (or was it Ocean’s 13?). This is the same thing. Try to finish the race avoiding contact with lasers as fast as possible.

7. Scream in the Dark – A good activity for kids – you sit in a trolley with a gun and you shoot targets as you move.

A minitiature pool table

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World's smallest book

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Completely made out of matchsticks
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Old 19th September 2013, 17:34   #13
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Cars in Thailand/Traffic Scene

One thing which most Indians will notice here is the traffic situation. One fun fact – I was here for 4 days and I did not hear the sound of a car horn! Yes – Being an Indian it is hard to experience this but trust me – People driving in Thailand are extremely patient and sane. There were many times where our tour bus had to take U-Turns and used to create a big line of cars behind it but none of the cars honked (even if they had to wait for 2-3 minutes)! Note that in cities like Bangkok, there is good amount of traffic on roads at peak hours but just because of its sane nature, we do not feel irritated like we feel here.

Also driving habits of people here are quite good – people follow lanes and traffic signals. There are no unruly or aggressive drivers. Please note that I have only seen an iota of Thailand and all my impressions are based on those experiences.

You will also be surprised on seeing the variety of cars here. Toyota/Honda rule in Thailand! Toyota is probably the Maruti of Thailand. You will witness plenty of pick-up trucks here – mainly from Toyota and Isuzu. I also saw the Fiesta hatch in flesh and it was pretty good.

Public Transport also is pretty good here. I did not use the metro trains as most of the times I took the Corolla Taxis and the Rickshaws. Taxi drivers here are very helpful and the taxis are very clean and maintained. Always have an idea of the approximate amount you will have to pay for a taxi ride as it is a bit costly here. We always used to ask the hotel people how much will a taxi ride cost to a particular place - if the cost by meter was too high, we used to negotiate before hand and go without using the meter.
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Old 19th September 2013, 19:57   #14
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Hi Saanil,

Thanks for sharing. As a matter of fact, I keep traveling to Thailand at least once every year. I just love that country and feel free as a bird there. Infact I am going there again end of October to celebrate my 30th birthday, sigh! 30s :-( Your write up and description is awesome. I would like to add a bit to it. Perhaps, I shall also write a travelogue once i get back (I always thought travelogues were limited to domestic destinations!). So here goes:-

For stay in Bangkok:-
  • With family, stay in Silom area. Its proper CBD & plenty of shopping. It's a safe area and many 4*/5* hotels are based here.
  • Backpacking style. Head to Khao San Road. This is my preferred destination as I get to mingle with plenty of like minded folks. And the pavement bars are awesome and dirt cheap!
  • You are feeling, well, 'naughty' and want to engage in 'naughty' stuff (sorry, couldn't put it in a more decent way) stay along Sukhumvit which is close to Nana and Soi Cowboy!. Plenty of nightlife here.
Apart from these locations, all other places are a bit boring. I always stay at one place and I swear by it - Rikaa Inn on Khao San Road. It's a great place to meet other people traveling solo or in small groups. Trust me, I go there alone and end up traveling with a bunch of 10+ folks! Its a fun place. My personal favorite is Koh Phangan for its awesome beach nightlife. Going end of October to celebrate becoming an old man (damn, I am going to be 30!). Will publish a travelogue post the trip!

Link to Rikaa Inn: http://rikkainn.com/index_pc.php

Cheers!
Rohan

Last edited by rjalihal : 19th September 2013 at 20:01. Reason: wrong month. adding hotel URL.
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Old 19th September 2013, 21:29   #15
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Default Re: Thailand 101: Advice, Tips, Planning etc.

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Originally Posted by rjalihal View Post
Hi Saanil,

Thanks for sharing.
Hi Rohan!

Many thanks for sharing this information. You are right - this place does feel awesome. It has just been over a month since I came back from this place and I already want to visit Thailand again.

As a matter of fact, I am planning to go there again in December. This time however, I am planning to go for the 3 day scuba diving certification course in Koh Phangan anad also try to attend the famous full moon party.

I guess you have already been there. It would be great if you could give me some pointers on staying in Koh Phangan and the area. I am not sure if I should cover the other areas too like Koh Samiu/Crabi or just stick to Koh Phangan for say 5 days? It would be great if you could tell me how did you plan this trip or what are the must do things in Koh Phangan. Please feel free to PM me too

Great to know you are going in a month! Let me know what places are you planning to cover this time.
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