Overall, it was a great trip - we loved Thailand and would highly recommend it. Our Thailand travel agency set up a great itinerary for us and almost all of the activities and hotels were fantastic. The agency is based in Vietnam and they used a Bangkok based tour company to book our tour - we didn't have any major problems at all, but I do think this created just a few hiccups, since our main contact with our travel agency wasn't actually in Thailand and needed a third party to help plan our trip. With that said, with the exception of one less than ideal hotel stay, it was an amazing trip, and I would highly recommend the Ariyasom Villa in Bangkok, the De Naga in Chiang Mai (amazing - stay here!) and the Saree Samui in Koh Samui. I would NOT recommend The Legend in Chiang Rai - or really, going to Chiang Rai at all - the time we spent there would have been better spent in Chiang Mai or Koh Samui, or perhaps seeing another part of the country.
Our contact at our travel agency was WONDERFUL. We loved her! But her contact at the Thailand based company was not as helpful as we would have liked when we encountered a military coup while we were traveling. We were completely safe the entire time, but we decided to change one of our hotel stays to be closer to the airport in Bangkok. Our travel agent responded immediately and helped us make the change, but we needed the Thailand based company to help with the change in the reservations, and they pushed back a bit on the change fees, etc.
Bottom Line: I would go back to Thailand and I would definitely use our travel agency again, but I would also recommend researching the places you are headed a little bit more than we did and knowing who your contact on the ground will be, to be sure you're getting exactly what you want. Also, if we plan a trip to Vietnam, I would definitely use this agency as well, since they are based there.
Visiting the Elephant Nature Park outside of Chiang Mai was truly memorable - the elephants are rescued from abusive situations and given the chance to form a new herd here. It's a really emotional experience and all of the fees that you pay go to support the park and the elephant. I would recommend everyone go here (instead of going to a place where you ride the elephants, which leads to more abuse). We had the chance to feed and bathe the elephants, so we got incredibly close to them - unlike any other experience I've ever had.
Also, we had an amazing time in Koh Samui. The scenery is gorgeous and the resort we stayed at (Saree Samui) was incredible. It's absolute paradise. In the airport at Chiang Mai a grizzled traveler said to us "You won't like Koh Samui unless you are in your seventies." Um, thanks...Well, we are in our thirties and we LOVED it. We were able to go snorkeling and explore Anthong Marine Park (go there!) via speedboat, AND we had a few days to lounge by the pool and just relax. It was perfect.
Skip Chiang Rai. We had a great bike tour there, so it was a good day, but the city itself was not that interesting to explore. Granted, it rained when we were there, and the night market was basically rained out - but Chiang Mai is much more picturesque - we liked Chiang Rai, but it wasn't a "can't miss" for us. We also fit a lot into a ten day tour, visiting four different places - three locations probably would have been enough - Bangkok to see the city and the historic temples/palace; Chiang Mai to see the north of Thailand and especially the elephants; Koh Samui for the islands/snorkeling/beach and pool time.
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