Our trip to Thailand was an overwhelming success, thanks in more than a small way to our travel agency and this travel planner. While, as can be expected, we did have a few bumps in the road, overall this “trip of a lifetime” was a huge success.
Our main motivation in making this trip was to take our daughter, who was born in Bangkok, while we were part of the American Embassy family some 40+ years ago, to see and experience where she was born. Result: huge success!
So, here is my review of the Very Good and the very few hiccups. As I know you are interested, let me start with the hiccups.
Problems with the schedule
The first was our arrival in Chiang Rai, where there was no one to meet us. I called our travel planner. Apparently, there was some confusion about our arrival time. Our travel planner made contact with the guy who was to meet us, and he came as soon as possible. We only had to wait about 45 minutes, which was not a huge problem at all.
We also learned during a subsequent interaction with our first guide in Chiangmai, that the Thai support for our tour had the wrong departure time for our flight from Chiangmai to Phuket. Fortunately, we were able to get that set straight, so no problems ensued.
Aside from those two “problems,” the service at, to and from the airports was excellent. Of great importance was our initial arrival in Bangkok, where we were greeted as soon as we arrived and guided quite easily through the maze of Immigration and Customs, plus getting to the domestic terminal for our flight to Chiang Rai. What a great relief to be so efficiently and pleasantly greeted and taken care of. We were all very grateful and appreciative for being treated as VIPs.
All of our hotels were excellent…except for the hotel in Bangkok. While the brick and mortar were attractive and entirely acceptable, that did not offset 1) the poor and nearly impersonal attitudes displayed by the ladies working in the reception area and 2) the incredible and powerful stench of mildew in the living area of the hotel.
When I checked in, I was given only one key for the each of our two rooms. I wasn’t aware of that until we reached our rooms. Stepping off the 4th floor elevator, we were met with a mildew smell, which nearly gagged us when we entered our rooms. The power in the room requires a key to be inserted into a slot near the door, an arrangement I have encountered in other places outside the U.S., so we needed to use our room keys to turn on the power and, therefore, the AC. However, with only one key per room, any time we would leave the room, off goes the power and AC. In one room, the AC, when set at 23 degrees C or below, was cold enough to kill the mildew stench, but not in the other room (used by my daughter). She gutted it out during our three nights there. I went down to reception to get additional keys for our rooms…and had to leave a 200-baht deposit for each key.
The good news is that we spent very little time in the rooms, basically only to sleep at night.
Aside from reception, the other staff were very gracious and helpful. The breakfast was fine. However, those plusses were more than offset by the mildew. I would not ever stay at that hotel again.
Now, that out of the way, onto the other 99% of the trip, which was fabulous!
We loved our hotels in both Chiang Rai and Chiangmai (The hotel in Chiang Rai had as good a cup of coffee as I have ever had!) Facility, staff, breakfast, everything was wonderful. And the hotel in Phuket was as nice a place as I have ever stayed. Just fabulous!
Each guide you arranged for us was excellent. I have no doubt had we tried to go it ourselves, the trips would have been much less enjoyable.
Not even one disappointment. In fact, just the opposite. Not one moment of boredom!
Black House: Did not exist when we lived in Bangkok 40 years ago. Just amazing and a great tool for seeing important Thai history in Northern Thailand.
White House: Simply amazing. Again, did not exist when we lived in Thailand. Just an awesomely beautiful structure.
Doi Suthep: We have a painting of Doi Suthep we brought back with us from Thailand 40 years ago. This tour was like stepping into that painting. How they managed to build that temple that far up the mountain is a story all by itself.
Rickshaw Tour and Woratot Market: Very enjoyable with much more than I expected. One highlight was the visit to the Golden Temple. Another, a visit to a lacquerware factory and shop. Re the latter, we spent more than an hour there. Turned out the owner was educated in England, enabling me to have a wonderful conversation with him about many different topics while my wife and daughter shopped. Just a wonderful man. And, of course, we took away more than a few things from his store at what I am sure was as good a price as possible.
The Elephant Camp: I really did not expect much. Boy was I wrong. Just a wonderful outing, right down to “bathing” with our two elephant hosts. The guide and the staff on site treated us like royalty. My daughter and one staff member are already Facebook friends! They could not have done more to make this outing great for us!
Cooking Class: You MUST change this tour’s name. Personally, I had no interest in it at all, yet it turned out to be my favorite experience of the entire two weeks. When we were picked up at our hotel, we did not realize the driver and his assistant were members of our host family. Then, when we arrived, the main host took over and led us through an incredible historical tour of the Raunkaew-Yanon family and business. We were fortunate to have not only the number one son as our main host, but his father, who speaks wonder English, spent a lot of time with us. The cooking was certainly fun and interesting, but this was not a cooking class. Far more than that. When we departed, we really felt like we had made friends, not just experienced a tour. Just wonderful!
The Night Market: We did get a chance to visit the famous Chiangmai Sunday Night Market. For me, just another place to shop, but the ladies loved it.
Because of the problem with meeting us in Chiang Rai, our agent paid for us to have a wonderful Northern Thai Dinner while on a River Cruise on Saturday night! Very nice of him to do so and very much appreciated by all three of us!
While we made our own tour arrangements in Phuket (James Bond, Pi Pi Islands and City Tour), your travel arrangements were excellent, and I have already commented on the hotel. I would strongly recommend to anyone going to Phuket to attend the Siam Niramit Show. I was told it was a Thai dancing show. Nope! One of the most entertaining and informative big shows I have ever seen. If they took it to Broadway, it would enjoy a long run! Just fabulous!
What a change in 40 years!
It could be a U.S. city, with its skyline. The tallest building when we lived in Bangkok was, I believe, 6 stories. Sally and I just could not get over the difference. In reality, while I like many things in Bangkok, I do not like Bangkok, itself, very much.
Our guide and driver were wonderful. In fact, I would now call our guide our friend. She really went out of her way to make our visit a great one.
While we certainly enjoyed visiting Wat Po, etc., our two highlights were, first, visiting the place where our daughter was born. The Bangkok Nursing Home facility still exists, but is now a private school. Right adjacent is the The Bangkok Nursing Hospital, which is breathtakingly beautiful, more so than many grand hotels I have been in.
The second was visiting the apartment building where my wife and I lived from 1975 to 1979. Still there, almost unchanged! The only one more thrilled than my wife and I was our daughter, who was so emotional as seeing her very first home! What a great experience.
It was a good day, indeed, when we discovered this travel company and this agent. We will soon place very positive reviews on Trip Advisor. We are all very grateful to you for not only your knowledge and help, but your integrity. We did not know you and had no idea how good or bad working with you might be. I would recommend your services to anyone and will do so among our friends and associates.
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