In November 2013 the UK saw the first ever direct flight to Phuket. We sent Sam from our office to try the new Discover Thailand Tour. We asked Sam all about her jaunt when she returned to the office. This is what she had to say..
What was the full itinerary for the tour?
Day 1. Bangkok – This was our chance to check out the shopping district or just relax from the travelling.
Day 2. Bangkok to Kanchanaburi/River Kwai – The floating Thai market and Death Valley Railways were on today’s agenda.
Day 3. Kanchanaburi to Ayutthata & Phitsanulok – Today’s stops included Kanchanaburi Prisoner of War War Cemetery and UNESCO sites of Ayutthaya.
Day 4. Phitsanulok to Sukhothai & Lampang – Statues of Buddha and around 200 temples were on the cards for today.
Day 5. Lampang to Chiang Rai – We visited the Mae Salong Valley and Chiang Rai has a great night market
Day 6. Golden Triangle – One of the highlights from this mega day was standing on the terrace of the Three Boarders Restaurant with the amazing view of 3 countries Cambodia, Burma and Thailand where the prism of land splits by the Yellow River.
Day 7. Golden Triangle to Chiang Mai – Today we went to the Wat Doi Suthep Temple, this is the highest temple in Thailand 1676 meters above sea level.
Day 8. Chiang Mai – The Elephant Camp takes care of orphaned elephants or elephants that have been injured by poachers.
Day 9 to 14. Chiang Mai to Phuket – Finally time to chill! We stayed in the Apsaras Beach and Villas Resort for the remainder of our holiday.
So Sam, it looks like you were very busy but what was your favourite part of the Discover Thailand Tour?
I loved all of the tour, but the best parts was Kanchanaburi. On the way we went to the last remaining original floating market, then went on Death Valley Railway followed by a boat trip up the River Kwai. On day 3 we visited the Kanchanaburi Prisoner of War Cemetery but I also loved Ayatthaya and Sukothai, the UNESCO world heritage sites which were unbelievable.
Was there anything you disliked?
Nothing in particular, but my least favourite part of the trip was seeing the hill side tribe people who were all from Vietnam, Laos, Burma, China and Cambodia. They settled in the Maesalong Valley around 70 years ago. One of the restaurants displayed photographs how the tribe people originally lived. In my head this how I imaged it. In recent years the settlements have become more developed and now there are shopping venues, restaurants and market stalls as well as scooters, car on the roads. They do still have their own Native Language and they still work on the hillside tea plantations.
What are the advantages by being on an escorted tour?
You get to see absolutely everything. There is no way you can go to Thailand and visit all the places I did if you’re not on a tour with a great guide. The reason being is because the transport in Thailand, is unreliable and some taxis in Bangkok only drive a maximum of 30 kilometres.
Which places would you love to go back to?
Maesai on the Thai border between Laos and Burma. It’s also not too far from Chaing Saen which has some amazing shopping. Chaing Mai was fantastic too! I loved the Elephant Camp and Orphanage. It was great to see how well cared for and how happy the elephants were. Aside from the Elephant Camp they have the Silk Factory (Thai Silk Village) and also the Parasol Factory. You get to witness how everything is made by hand from start to finish and the shopping in both the Silk Village and Parasol Factory is great.
What was your beach hotel like for the last 6 days?
I stayed in the Apsara Beach Villas – this was gorgeous, and totally relaxing I would advise anyone to stay here on All Inclusive board basis as it’s about 15-20 minutes on the hotel bus into Khao Lak, and costs 200 Thai Baht return (£4). If anyone wanted something more central to Khao Lak centre I would recommend the Sensimar Hotel. The centre of Khao Lak is literally at the entrance of the hotel driveway.
Are you planning to go back? If so what would you do differently?
I’m definitely going back without a doubt, it’s my new favourite destination! I wouldn’t do anything differently, but now I have done the tour and I’ve seen all of the real Thailand I would probably do the islands next time such as Koh Samui, Phi Phi and Krabi. I would squeeze in another trip to Chaing Mai though.
What was your favourite Thai dish?
Chicken with cashew nuts and glass noodles. It was delicious.
How much was a 3 course meal with a drink?
Around £7.00 on average. You could make it more expensive if you had steak or something more British, but Thai food was really cheap. Thai Green Curry was £1.60 and a large Chaing beer was between £1 – £1.40.
What was the weather like?
It was 40 degrees on average and it only rained once on our last day for about an hour.
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