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Survival Guide To Shopping In BangkokSurvival Guide To Shopping In Bangkok Shopping in Bangkok is a ‘must do’ on any trip to Thailand. The place is a shopaholics dream city with many different shopping malls ranging from the sophisticated Emporium to the legendary Mah Boon...

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Andaman Dive Sites – Hin Daeng & Hin MuangAndaman Dive Sites – Hin Daeng & Hin Muang Two of the more popular dive sites in Thailand, Hin Daeng & Hin Muang are usually dived on the same day due to their close proximity to each other. In fact they are so close you can swim from one...

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Survival Guide To Shopping In Bangkok

Posted on : 13-12-2010 | By : Brian | In : Bangkok, Holidays To Thailand

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Shopping in Bangkok is a ‘must do’ on any trip to Thailand. The place is a shopaholics dream city with many MBK Shopping Bangkokdifferent shopping malls ranging from the sophisticated Emporium to the legendary Mah Boon Krong or MBK as its better known. The best thing about these malls is the transport between them can be so easy if you plan it right but the worst thing about them is you will never have enough time to visit them all on just one short trip, I mean the Central World mall has over 500,000sqm of retail space alone, but then again this is the biggest in Bangkok.

When you’ve had enough of shopping in the malls there are all those markets to get around as well. With over 15,000 stalls, the famed Chatuchak Weekend Market is the biggest outdoor market in the world I believe but I’ve not been to them all so correct me if I’m wrong here. Then you have your night markets in the Patpong area and floating markets at Damnoen Saduak to name just a few.

With so much shopping to do in such a short time it’s a good idea to be prepared. I’ve listed a few things that I think could help when shopping in Bangkok and also may help to make your shopping trip that bit easier.

Plan Your Shopping Trip – You should have a idea of how many days you will be in Bangkok so plan what days you want to go shopping. Early morning and late evenings are the best time to visit those markets with the temperatures and tourist numbers not yet peaked. Visit the air conditioned malls at the hottest time of the day for some lunch and leisure shopping. Its best to try and have an idea what you want to buy and plan where to get it, this will target focus your shopping in Bangkok instead of wandering about in the heat and humidity wondering where to go next.

Transport – Bangkok has a multitude of ways of getting around the city, tuk-tuk, taxis, Skytrain and underground are just some of them. Although very inexpensive public buses are best avoided, you will waste a lot of time trying to find the right bus. Taxis and tuk tuk’s are often your best method of transport in Bangkok but watch out for those that want to take you some where else first. Make sure before setting off the driver wants to take you to your destination without any detours. I have, more than once, been driven a few hundred meters and then got out because the driver changed his mind about the destination. Another thing to consider with your taxi and tuk tuk is the Bangkok traffic, it’s notoriously bad at certain times of the day and getting stuck in traffic won’t help your shopping plans.. The skytrain and underground are both air conditioned means of transport but unfortunately don’t cover all of Bangkok. If you can get either of these close to your final destination then walking a short distance may be the best plan at certain times of the day.

Opening Hours – Bangkok shops open anywhere between 9-10 am and stay open until around 8-10p six days a week, with Sunday closing. The biggest shopping malls however may still have some shops open on a Sunday but I wouldn’t advise planning any shopping for that day.

Comparing Prices & Haggling – Like other shopping trips you do, don’t just buy the first item you see. Shop about a little and check out what others have that item on sale for. If you are in a mall shop with a price tag save yourself the embarrassment and don’t try to haggle with the shop assistant. If getting a bargain is what you are after ask about a Tourist Discount Card or VAT refunds at the airport. The best place to try your haggling skills is on the street market stalls. Bartering, haggling or bargaining on stalls is very normal and indeed will be expected in most cases. The first price you get from a vendor will be marked up considerably and it is your job to try and get them down to a price that both you and they are happy with. There are many different ways to haggle and each person will have their own technique and it will develop the more you do it. In the high tourist areas like Patpong it would not be uncommon to offer a price less than half of the vendors asking price. Some points to remember when trying to get your item for a cheaper price is to treat it a bit like a game. Have fun with the vendor smile lots and be polite. Getting angry and shouting because they wont come done anymore on a price won’t help and in fact they may refuse to sell to you. If you are unhappy with the price thank them for their time, smile and walk away, if they really won’t come down any more they will let you go, but if they want that sale then maybe you have just won the game when they lower the price.

Safety – Bangkok is no different than any other major city when it comes to petty crime. Although you are on holiday to enjoy yourself don’t let your personal safety slip. Remember to keep you possession close by you and if in a crowded area don’t carry your rucksack or bag behind you. Pickpockets are common in busy areas so take care of your wallet and purse and always know where it is.

What To Wear – Bangkok is a hot and humid city all year round so what you wear to combat these conditions should be thought about carefully. Your first priority should be a good pair of walking shoes. The streets of Bangkok are not that easy to traverse, often resembling obstacle courses with exposed manholes, potholes, vendor carts, the odd beggar and garland maker. There is nothing faster than a broken toe to stop a shopping trip so although maybe cool and trendy sandals and reef shoes should be left in the hotel. Cool light weight cloths will help when outside but if you plan a full day in an air conditioned mall maybe something a little heavier would be best. Oh, and beach wear is never best in Bangkok except by your hotel pool. My first purchase when I arrive in Bangkok is always some bandanna’s and some wet wipes. These help freshen you up on a long shopping trip. Quick tip – keep the wet ones in the fridge if you can.

These are just some of my tips on how to make shopping in Bangkok easier than normal, there will be many more I’m sure. One thing I will say is that if you are traveling to Thailand with children then none of these tips will help easy the pain of shopping with children.

The Best Seat For Flying With Children

Posted on : 19-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : Holidays To Thailand

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Is there a best seat to have when flying with children to Thailand?

When flying with children getting the seat you want/need should be the most important part of your planning, this should never be left to chance. After all the thing you will be doing most on your flight to Thailand will be sitting, so make sure it’s the best seat in the house.

Before booking your flight.

To check on seat availability, you should call the airline direct or check and see if they have an online seat locator. If using a travel agent or flight booker, make sure you let them know that you want to book your seats at the time of booking your flight. This should not be a problem if you have children in your party, but some companies will get you to call the airline to book the seats yourself. If this is the case, don’t buy a ticket until you’ve check you can book a seat on with the airline.

We’ve now taken to booking our seats direct with the airline and reserving our seats at the same time. Sometimes we could have got the same flight a little cheaper if going with an online travel agent but having the seat booked before we get to check-in stops a lot of worry.

Bulkhead seats.
Bssinet on airlineIf you are traveling with an infant make sure you get the bulk head seat so you can have the bassinet. A special point to note here is check what type of inflight entertainment your aireplane has. Screens at the front, above the bassinet, won’t help in settleling your baby to sleep. Bulkhead seats are usually near a kitchen or the toilets, this can get noisy sure, but more importantly is the number of people comimg and going all night long may make your own sleep a little more than disturbed.

Window seats are good for sleeping in, with the window providing a perfect place to rest your head, should you get a chance to sleep. On internal flights in Thailand window seats are great for sightseeing; as soon as you leave the hazy smog of Bangkok you get wonderful views of Thailand from the air.

Aisle seats let you stretch your legs once in a while but you do risk getting bonked by other people’s elbows and hand luggage. Fellow passangers in your row, going for a walk or the toilet, will make sure you dont settle confortable for long as well, and if you leave those legs stretched out for long guarentted someone will trip, or a carte will remove a few layers of skin for you.

Front or back?

Back row passengers usually board first giving them first choice to the overhead luggage space but if traveling with children then most airlines will call families first anyway. If at the back, you should remember that it may take some time to get off the plane, with impatient and excited children this can make the wait seem like eternity.

The further to the back you go the less choice you’ll have when the food carte gets to you. Not a problem if traveling without kids, but a nightmare with picky eaters. Airlines now provide children’s meals, but usually these come with a supply of toys, pencils and other knick-knacks to keep the kids distacred away from the food.

Other considerations when booking your seat

Some other points I feel you should take into consideration before booking your seat.

  1. Bulkhead seats have their tables in the arm rests making them fixed. This reduces the width of the seat overall making your seated position fixed. You cannot lift the arms up to create wider sleeping areas for children either.
  2. The seats at the back should have a special mention for it often turns into a gossip gallery as all the flight attendants gather up and swap stories. Great for a bored passenger, not so great as a tired child.
  3. If you couldn’t get the seat you wanted in advance don’t despair, just keep trying when you arrive at the airport check-in and all the way to the gate agent in charge of your flight.
  4. A handy Web site called SeatGuru is worth a visit before you book your flights. It provides seat plans for all the aircraft used by most major carriers, providing useful information about seat width and pitch as well as some other funky stuff.

So do I have a perfect seat to fly with children to Thailand? No not really! When we travelled with only 3 of us we would book three seats together on the side, if it had 3 that is, this gave us the option of creating a bed in between me and Emma. Now there a four of us we get the 4 together in the middle. We always use airline that have seat back TV/ entertaiment units. For us, at last, bulkhead seats are a thing of the past, other than having the bassinet and some extra leg room, there is no benifit to having these seats. I find the fixed arms make for an uncomfortanble flight and the children can’t drape over you to fall asleep, and the close proximaty to the toilets and kitchen keeps everyone awake most of the flight.

I hope this post has helped, if so then please let me know in the comments box below or grad my RSS feed above.

Why Consider a Holiday To Thailand?

Posted on : 13-10-2010 | By : Brian | In : Holidays To Thailand, Thailand Travel

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With all the troubles in Thailand since 2008 you would be wondering why anyone would even consider a holiday to Thailand in 2011? I can imagine that for many people who had planned a holiday to Thailand in 2008/9 or even 2010 found themselves changing those plans at the last minute to go somewhere less in the media.

Last year seen a continuation of ‘problems’ with the government leaders and Taksin Shinawatra, who was for ever popping up now and then keeping media attention focused on his political plight. Thailand’s problems however hit the headlines when PaD protesters managed to close down the International airport for a long period of time. As was to be expected the protest ended without too much fuss and the headlines of yesterday are long forgotten, when something new captures the media headlines.

So back to the fun side of Thailand and why I think you should consider a Holiday to Thailand in 2011.

With the world economy in a tailspin and the UK in recession, prices are dropping everywhere and the tourist industry is no different. With airline operators and hotels all slashing prices to entice overseas travellers to use them, you are in a great position to get a bargain.

If you are in the unfortunate position to have been laid off work or just can’t find a job, then why sit in the UK and be miserable? Avoid the recession and go travel! Sell your stuff, grab a cheap flight and head of for Thailand beaches. You won’t worry about the recession lying on a beach and you can always come back when the economy is better.

Winter in the UK is a time to batten down the hatches and semi-hibernate for the long cold months ahead. Usually however Christmas and New Year was a time to get out and party with friends and family but again the recession put that on the back burner this year. So more likely than not you have been living a day to day existence through the winter, with nothing to look forward to. A holiday to Thailand won’t only heat you up but you will meet a lot of new people from all over the world doing the same thing you are, escaping the recession!

You’ve been working all year, you deserve a break! Sitting behind a desk or working on the factory line or stacking shelves in ASDA for eight hours a day is no fun if there isn’t a light at the end of that tunnel. Let’s face it, between worrying about next month’s budget or sitting on the beaches in Thailand, everyone would choose the beach.

A holiday to Thailand is often a life changing experience, it was for me and many other people I have met while travelling Thailand. You only get one chance at life your so make it worthwhile and don’t let media scare stories stop you from anything. There’s no reason not to go to Thailand in 2011 as many of the reported problems have either subsided or were blown out of proportion by the media.

Holidays To Thailand In The Green Season

Posted on : 13-08-2010 | By : Brian | In : Holidays To Thailand

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With the world in the grip of a credit crunch that doesn’t seem to be letting up for a while many people are putting off the luxury items, like their holidays. If you look at Thailand as your annual break, like me and my family, you will know that it’s not cheap to get out there and stay for 14 nights in the high season, but there are ways to avoid losing your holidays to Thailand totally.

Unlike the UK many, if not all, hotels in Thailand reduce their rates throughout the year. The period between mid December and the first week in January is the peak season when room rates can double and almost treble in price. You may also find that you’re expected to stump up for a Christmas or New Year gala dinner if your holidays to Thailand coincide with this time of year. In contrast though, if you were to visit the same hotel during the ‘Green Season’ you would be shocked at the discounts that are offered during this period.

What is the green season?
This is the time of year during which Thailand receives most of its rainfall. Traditionally the Songkran water festival is the celebration to start this rainy season but in reality the rains don’t come for a few weeks more. When they do arrive the surrounding landscape becomes very lush and green as the plants and trees begin to grow after the long dry period. It’s the greener of these plants that have given this period it nickname, the ‘Green Season’.
Thailand Rainforest

When is the green season?
In general the green season occurs during the UK’s summer time but each region of Thailand will have its own set time for the green season. The majority of holiday destinations in Thailand will reduce their prices between 1st May and the 1st November but there are some exceptions to this.

Koh Samui for example does not share the same weather patterns to Phuket and as such don’t have the same rainy season. The low (green) season on Koh Samui is mid September to mid December, but in Phuket the low season is between the end of May and the end of October.

What will the weather in Thailand be like during the green season?
Depending on where you chose for your holidays to Thailand you will most like see some rain during the green season but how much rain will depend on your location and when you are there. Not so long ago I can remember the dry season lasting well into May and June but those arriving for their holidays in Thailand during November to Ao Nang, Krabi, caught the end of the rainy season. You should always remember that you are dealing with the weather and it is often unpredictable.

How much can I save during the green season?
I’m not getting into the price of flights to Thailand from the UK or which airline is best. If you choose to arrive in Thailand during the green season you will most probably save some money on the cost of your flights. Finding cheap hotels in Thailand during the green season is really easy for most locations but you should know that the savings will not be great from hotels in Bangkok. I will provide the cost of a double room for the 3 seasons that most holiday destinations share, the low, high and peak season.

In Phuket the Deevana Patong Resort & Spa Phuket will cost 2085 baht in the low season 3108 baht in the high season 4274 baht in the peak season.

In Bangkok the Majestic Grande Hotel Bangkok will cost you 3700 baht in the low season and 3800 baht in the high season. Although not a great saving there is also no increase for the peak season. So if you plan to be on holiday in Thailand around the Christmas and New Year time you should consider being in Bangkok around this time. Be warned however it does get busy and rooms book out fast.

In Chaing Mai the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel cost 2200 baht in the low season and 2900 baht in the high season but during the peak season the cost goes up to a whopping 9000 baht! Obviously this includes the compulsory gala dinner dances but from the few I’ve been to you are best to try and organise your own entertainment. I feel I should add another warning here and say that if you do decide to organise your own celebrations while on holiday to Thailand don’t expect too much to be available when you get there. For families it may be best to stick with the hotel organised entertainment, this will save a lot of trouble for you.

The hotels I’ve listed here are for illustrative purposes and if you search around the internet you may find different prices offered. If you look on the right side of this page you should see a search function that allows you to look for all hotels for your holiday to Thailand.

So just to recap! The green season is the wet season and varies across Thailand but in general it’s around the same time as the summer in UK. If you time things right you can save a lot of cash on your hotel booking. Other services will also be reduced during the green season such as tours, car rentals, internal flights etc. If there is no reduction you could always ask for a discount! Everyone is looking for customers during this quite period so why not plan your holidays to Thailand around the green season and save yourself some cash.

Nightlife in Bangkok

Posted on : 13-07-2010 | By : Brian | In : Bangkok, Thailand Travel

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In a recent post discussing shopping in Bangkok I suggested that after the sun goes down you should head off to the night markets dotted about this city. If however shopping is not your thing there are many other nightlife experiences to be had in Bangkok, without the obvious Thailand bar girls!

1. For a romantic experience you should head for one of the evening dinner cruise that slowly meanders along the Chao Praya River. I have posted already about the Loy Nava, one that I have experienced myself but there are many others to be had if it’s not exactly romance your looking for. These types of cruises are an ideal way to see the city from a different angle, learn about about its history and culture or just enjoy the cool river breeze.

2. If it’s the club scene you are looking for then you won’t be disappointed. Bangkok nightlife club scene is alive and kicking hard, even with tight closing regulations! You can find clubs in almost every part of Bangkok with most of them open every night of the week offering different styles of music.  If it’s a trendy type bar you want then start with the bedSupper Club or try the loud music in the mega-clubs of RCA, Flix or Slim.

3. For that feeling of sophistication you should try Cocktails on a Rooftop Bar at sunset. Not only is this a great way to beat the rush hour madness in Bangkok you can also avoid most of the sunset mosquitoes. The highest drink you can sip in Bangkok would be from the Rooftop Bar on the 83rd floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel or try some real sophistication and relax on the open air decks of the Moon Bar on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel.

4. Live music is available in Bangkok if you look hard enough. I should say good live music is available if you look hard enough! From Thai acoustic music in your hotel lounge to freeform jazz in a smoky club, Bangkok does have it all on offer even large stadium type concerts. Don’t think these will be easy to find, most marketing and advertisements will be written in Thai so if live music is your thing do some research before you get there.

5. Bangkok’s not known for its theatrical shows but for something spectacular you should not miss out on the Siam Niramit Cultural Show and Thai dinner. Performed on the worlds largest stage this show combines Thailand’s historical and spiritual heritage in a blaze of colour. There are many other cultural shows on offer in Bangkok some good some not so good so beware when booking any of these and ask in some forums for what other people have seen.

This is just a few suggestion of what Bangkok nightlife has to offer except for the obvious shopping and Go-Go bars most tourist end up frequenting. There is nothing wrong with Go-Go bars and shopping but it can become boring after a while so the next time you visit Bangkok try and think outside the traditional tourist paths.

Songkran – Thailand New Year

Posted on : 13-03-2010 | By : Brian | In : Holidays To Thailand, Krabi, Thailand Festivals

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The Thai New Year Songkran is better known as the water festival and if you’ve never been to Thailand during this period you truly are missing a wondrous site.

Songkran BikerSongkran falls in the hottest (+40°C or +100°F) time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season and with the coming of the rains Thai people become generous with their water and start throwing it about a bit, a lot in fact. Everyone will be armed with the latest pump action water pistols and walk the streets just soaking everyone else. Pick up trucks will be jammed full of people surrounding a large water butt and as the truck drives past bowls of water are tossed from the container onto everyone. Home owners on popular routs will have their own water butts outside their homes or it some cases a garden hose and drench each other and passersby.

As fun as this all sounds it is also tradition to visit and pay respects to family and elders. Many Thai people celebrate Songkran by visiting the local Wat for prayers and to give alms to the monks. It is also a time of year to clean out the household shrine to ask for good fortune in the coming year. Many of he cities and local villages will parade the most important Buddha images through the streets giving everyone a chance to ritually bath the image for luck. On the whole Songkran to Thai people is no different to other cultures really. Songkran PickupThey make New Year resolutions to be better people, they cleanse their homes for a better future and promise the following year will be better. The only difference between their celebration and that in the UK is they have fun.

What started as gently pouring water over peoples hands has grown into one huge street water fight. If you are lucky enough to be in Thailand at this time of year then don’t take your camera out unless its protected. Don’t wear your best Prada or Gucci you bought in Pratunam market, just get yourself an UBER pump action water pistol and have some of the best fun since you grew up.