As a couple, me and my wife were used to travelling alone so it was a challenge travelling with 2 other couples as we didn’t know how it will turn out.
One thing that discourages me from travelling with groups was the possible constant waiting. Waiting for them to finish with their respective routines ruining the itinerary altogether. For short, the more members of the group the greater the chance of a fuck-up.
We first chose Beijing as our would-be destination. This year being an Olympic year and Beijing being the host city, we thought it would have been awesome to see the Bird's Nest Stadium and the Aquatic Center.
But Beijing was scrapped, we estimated that it would be too expensive for our allotted budget. Also, the sites we perceived, required a lot of lengthy walking like for example touring the Forbidden Palace, which is an expansive compound so we had to give up Beijing and went on looking for the perfect destination for our group.
So it was a toss-up between Malaysia and Thailand. i tried asking one friend what he thought of both places and he put it in this perspective, if you’d like a modern city like that of Hongkong then Malaysia is the way to go but if you want something of a new experience then Thailand would be a better choice.
So i started learning about the 2 countries over the internet.
Since last year, my best online reference for travel has been www.virtualtourist.com, a site where real tourists share their first-hand accounts be it good or bad experiences. I researched non-stop and tried comparing the two countries and in the end Thailand was hands-down the better choice.
Below is our Amazing Thailand Trip presented in Photoshop, the layouts will comprise the book i had printed at http://www.blurb.com/. A coffeetable book that will serve as a memento of this amazing trip.
this is the cover page of our trip titled "Amazing THAILAND 2008
introduction page, the text contents of which is used in this blog.
This was our Excel file spreadsheet defining our travel plan (itinerary) and the corresponding costs for each item. It was a thorough collaboration between the couples as to what were the priority destinations and how all the sites we chose would fit with one another.
We were able plan out the route, the time, how long we stay in each site, the cost, the location, the opening hours and the important reminders for all the sites.
Summary of our expenses as to type can be seen on bottom right and it turns out that airfare comprised half of the total expenses.
it’s recommended that when you travel, try to come up with an itinerary to be your guide or at least research of the places you’re going to over the internet to familiarize yourself with the destination before making the trip.
Our main online resources for Thailand were www.virtualtourist.com, www.tripadvisor.com, www.flickr.com, www.phuket.com, www.bangkok.com.
Upon entering our new airport, you'll be surprised and might think finally we have an airport we can be proud of. But once you reach the departure waiting areas, it smells of cement dust coz it still is not finished. many portions were covered with plywood still.
i dont know how i feel about it by then, first i was impressed then it was taken back coz i was really disappointed that they had to show the unfinished portions to the country's visitors.
the airport is the first and the last places tourists get to see so the last image of our country may not be as pleasant for them. i just hope their stay was so warm to compensate for this. and by the way, the unfinished portion didn't have airconditioning on.
but this is a temporary thing. hope it is completed soon.
The new Bangkok airport named officially as Suvarnabhumi (pronounced suwannapum) was very modern with high ceiling and state of the art facilities.
Upon arrival you really wouldn't be impressed yet with this airport but when you get past the Customs Section that's the time the architectural beauty of this airport comes to you.
We arrived at Bangkok Airport around 11:30pm and we stayed there till our flight bringing us to Phuket the following morning at 7am. We thought we didn't need to check into a hotel to lessen expenses and that way we found time to shoot around the airport with our digicams.
Would you believe we even got to shoot a set of bikinis being dried out in one portion of the airport, and nope they were not from the Philippines.
Our first stop was Phuket Aquarium, which personally i found unimpressive. Maybe after seeing Ocean Park in HK and even our very own Manila Ocean Park i don't think Phuket Aquarium has anything left to offer to outdo both. Phuket Aquarium is outdated.
Wat Chalong or Chalong Temple was the temple to be in once in Phuket. You should visit this temple ahead of those in Bangkok coz if the pattern was reversed, you might not stay in Wat Chalong very long coz the ones in Bangkok are far more impressive and majestic than this one in Phuket.
Sugar Palm Resort is located in Kata which is one of the three adjacent beaches south-west of Phuket, the other two being Patong and Karon. SPR’s rate is a bargain given the beauty of the hotel facilities. Though it’s quite small in size compared to the other grand hotels lining up the area, SPR scores big in its elegance. Their non-peak rate of TB1,100.00 includes the buffet breakfast already. As the pictures would show SPR is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately we only had the chance to stay overnight here and didn’t even get to swim in their pool. This hotel is really recommended to any traveller looking for a comfortable hotel at a backpacker’s price.
Kinnaree Elephant Trekking Camp was about 10 mins away from our hotel. They would start quoting around a thousand baht for a 30-minute ride but then i read from virtualtourist.com that the way to do it was to pretend that you don't agree with the price and pretend to leave.
So with this tip in hand, we did just that, and true enough the receptionist shaking his head agreed to 600Baht for the 30-minute ride.
Bangla Road is the center for everything when in Patong. It seems all roads lead to this part of Patong. A mix of different types of entertainment, the clean and the naughty ones alike, can be found and experienced along Bangla Road.
We passed by this row of restaurants in Patong which served seafood and boy were we in for a night of gastronomic feast. It’s almost like our Dampa version but only better.
Don’t forget to haggle for the price which is done hush-hush with the help of a calculator so that the discounted price will not be overheard by other unsuspecting tourists. Price is cheap and already includes the cooking. We ordered shrimps, crabs and stingray with coconut as our refreshment. Curry Crab is a MUST!
Our speedboat tour was provided by JC Tours. Prices were different if you’re seated in the front of the boat. I recommend sitting at the back where it’s shaded. Sure you’ll get a good view in the front, but it’s not worth the damage to the skin while being exposed to the sun. Our seat located just in front of the 3 engines was the best seat coz aside from being shaded it does offer some fantastic backgrounds as you leave the spots as can be seen in the middle photos. A tripod can be real handy, used it to take the upper left photo.
Phi phi speedboat tour arranged online from JC Tours for TB 1,700.00 off-season rate. First stop is Maya Bay, where the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo di Caprio was shot.
Did you know that El Nido in Palawan was also considered as one of the finalists for the setting of said movie? Now you know.
The speedboat will only dock for about 30 mins., so make sure to click away with your digital camera as fast and as many as you can.
Travel time from private pier of JC Tours to Maya Bay took an hour.
these were some of the favorite shots i took from my Panasonic Lumix LS-75. Speedboats abound aside from the rustic rented boats. Tourists abound. But the beauty is undeniable.
When i got home, i put on the movie The Beach in the DVD player and tried to check if the beach were one and the same with that from the movie. i realized the way they shot it was some sort of created an optical illusion, it really did seem like the perfect beach. what they didn't show was that there was a wide opening as you approach Maya Beach. What they did was shoot just half of the view to project like it was a hidden beach. Try to watch it again if you have it in your DVD library and tell me if it really was a trickshot.
The Panasonic Lumix i had with me is a 7.2 MP digital camera that produces very good color quality considering that it's only about Php8,000 in the market. Very good value for your money.
Phi ley cove, viking cave and the monkey beach are merely sightseeing spots, shoot some photos and off you go to the next stop of the tour which was the snorkelling at Hin Klang.
Phi ley cove is perfect if you have a yacht i think, imagine the Tommy Lee Jones and Pamela Anderson Home Video, this would be perfect for that. hahaha.
Monkey Beach had us interact with the small primates. it's a give and take relationship with the tourists, they come out and get friendly and in return the tourists give them food and are left happy with the interaction.
The Viking Cave on the other hand, i don't know much of its significance. when the tour guide tried to explain what the cave was all about, i can't understand much coz she had a heavy Thai accent to her so i gave up listening and just occupied myself with shooting the sites for some pics.
here are the shots i exchanged for the tour guide's little-understood-chitchat.
Phi phi don is the larger of the two islands, the other being Phi phi leh, where Maya Beach is located. This is where most of the tour operators have their visitors take their lunch, however buffet is not that impressive.
The spectacular view kinda make up for the ordinary lunch. There are several resorts located here so if your idea of a vacation is to enjoy the scenery and just chill out then you should stay here. but if you’re the type that heads out to all the tourist spots of the area, like us, then Patong, Karon and Kata beaches are still the way to go.
here are some outtake shots and a cutout of myself overseeing the nice view. i tried losing weight for this trip but unfortunately those lovehandles are really hard to lose. nice try though. i should have photoshopped it instead but i think the lovehandles add a little drama to it, right? ... Right? ... ok maybe not.
the snorkeling at Hin Klang was a nice interaction with the marine life. i really don't know what type of fish they were but it was the green/yellow kind. we also encountered this type of fish in Coron, Palawan particularly in Kayangan Lake (the cleanest lake in the Philippines).
this was the last stop of thetour, which costed TB1,700each person. here in Khai Island you’ll be left for about an hour to enjoy an encounter with the same yellow/green variety of fishes that come ashore to greet you in exchange for some food. this is another example of the give and take existence of nature and tourists like that in Monkey Beach and Hin Klang snorkelling. an encounter with a specie in bikinis is also assured, just be really discreet about it if trying to shoot at them.
the umbrella with chair is rented out at 150Baht each. But our group only rented one and shared it out since majority of the time anyway we were interacting with the fishes.
caucasians really could stand the scorching sun and i can't even understand why. i just hope it's for the right reasons.
Phuket was magnificent. Though, we only stayed 2 days there, we were able to sort of scratch the surface of this gem of an island. The speedboat tour of Phi Phi was the highlight of our entire trip, it’s nothing quite what i’ve seen and experienced so far. Dinner in Patong was also one of a kind, the energy of the place was just awesome.
Phuket should be considered a separate trip altogether. The province is so magnificent, we even didn't get to try Phang Nga canoeing, the different festivals, the Big Buddha, Promthep Cape, Safari Tour, Fantasea Show and many more that we missed.
If i were to to allot a trip in the future, i'll stay 2 nights in Kata 2 nights in Karon 2 nights in Patong coz each place have a different atmosphere and experience to it.
we stepped into suvarnabhumi airport for the 2nd time, our concern was how to get to our hotel from the airport. so many things were suggested but we were not sure which one was the best alternative. a lady approached us and offered transfer services to our hotel for 1,200baht.
it was a little high for us so we haggled till it reached 900baht for a Toyota Hi-ace van. we thought riding 2 taxis for the 6 of us would have cost us around 700-800baht excluding the toll fees, yup passenger pays for the toll fees.
so we agreed with the van and we were surprised how roomy the van was. our wives can stand up inside the van without hitting their head against the van roof. we joked that we can have a party inside as the van also had its roof adorned with lights and big speakers.
The infamous Bangkok traffic is really not as bad. Some cities are much worse. it can be described as a controlled chaos, the cars pretty much stay in their respective lanes unlike here in Manila where it’s total chaos. A glimpse also of some of the skyline and street scenes.
if looking for a budget hotel which will serve as just a place to sleep in without needing much hotel facilities then Grand Watergate Hotel is highly recommended. The advantage of this hotel apart from its very competitive price would be its proximity to the shopping malls.
Pantip Plaza (aka IT Mall) is about 10minutes walk away. Platinum Plaza (Ladies' Mall) is almost beside Pantip Plaza or an additional 5 minutes of walk.
Streetfood abound in the area in both directions. Public transport is also available anytime with taxis and tuktuks plying the area.
Tuktuks can only fit 2 passengers. it fills the Bangkok streets like the jeepneys in Manila does. however, it's still better to get a taxi cab if travelling in a pack of say 6. Tuktuk drivers charge higher for tourists and one driver even showed us a brochure where to get some hanky-panky. that's how aware the Thais are in giving their visitors a grand good time. Laging handa!
a couple of years back, biyaheras (tiangge garments store owners) made Hongkong their country of choice in purchasing their stocks. but i gathered Bangkok is now where they make their purchases. Chatuchak of course is on the top of their list, this expansive piece of shopping heaven is really a complete shopping experience.
Pantip Plaza or IT Mall of course caters to those tech-savvy individuals. 5 levels of pure IT gadgetry can be found here.
Platinum Plaza or Ladies' Mall is a wholesale center. Purchase 3 or more and get additional discounts. It is like Shoppesville only cleaner, roomier, colder shopping temperature and overall better.
Patpong Night Market i thought initially would be a forgetful shopping experience. Given that it's at the center of Bangkok's red-light district, i thought the place would be littered trash. it exceeded expectations as the market turned out very orderly.
In all these shopping centers, be very good bargaining, and when you bargain, bargain hard. you'll be surprised that they are willing to meet your bargained price almost always.
we had lobster, shark's fin soup and other seafood varieties. The corner restaurant we dined in, T&K Seafoods, was filled to the brink that night. We wanted to eat al fresco but since it was full, we had to be whisked away to the 3rd floor dining room.
Eating along the streets would have been a better dining experience honestly. Should have waited a couple more minutes.
Bangkok is a place mushroomed with Wats (temples), they have Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Pra Kaew to name a few. But we decided to visit the grandest of them all, which is the Grand Palace where Wat Pra Kaew can be found.
Visiting a temple would almost take half of your day, which we really couldn't afford since our itinerary was still full of sites just waiting to be visited. we hurried our way inside the Grand Palace alloting just around 3 hours of our time.
Our last stop was the rooftop bar & restaurant of the Banyantree Hotel. The Vertigo Grill offers an al fresco dining experience with a spectacular view. a buffet dinner here would have cost 3,000baht or roughly Php4,500.
We opted for the cocktail area or Moon Bar. An orange juice here costed 250baht or around Php375.
The Moon Bar and Vertigo Restaurant are located at the 61st floor of The Banyan Tree Hotel near Lumphini Park. Most tourists can be seen at the Moon Bar to enjoy some cocktails while getting amazed with the view. We clicked away like crazy here with our cams.
It is best to come here right before the sun sets and stay until nightime. the transformation from day to night is spectacular.
my last page of my photobook. this page didn't make it to final print coz i miscalculated my pages.
i'll be coming up with blogs that highlight each place with actual photos taken during the trip in its original format, not collaged photoshopically (if there's such a word).
till next time .... zzzzzzzzzzz.