thailand

2 days in Koh Samui

To finish our trip through Thailand we spent 2 days on the island of Koh Samui. One night at the Le Meridien and one night at the Conrad Koh Samui, both on points. Given this was the end of the trip and we were exhausted we spent very little time outside of each hotel as this was supposed to be the “relaxing” end to the trip. The pictures can speak for themselves but I don’t know if I would go back. The hotels were incredible but the island itself was haphazardly developed and the beach / water at both places left something to be desired. If I was going to choose a beach destination in Thailand (based on our experiences) I would go with Krabi.

Le Meridien Koh Samui

Main pool area of Le Meridien

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Beach outside Le Meridien

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Narrow beach in front of hotel

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Lazy rivers that flow throughout the property. This shot was taken right outside of our room, ability to swim up.

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Another view of the lazy river from inside our room.

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Sunken tub in the room.

Le Meridien Koh Samui

The hotel does a nightly lighting of traditional Thai lanterns in the main courtyard.

Conrad Koh Samui

Entrance to the Conrad.

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View from the lobby of the Conrad. Our villa is on the 3rd level from the water on the far right hand side of this picture.

Conrad Koh Samui

Entrance to our villa.

Conrad Koh Samui

Infinity pool in the villa.

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Massive tub and awesome bathroom in the villa.

Conrad Koh Samui

Another view of the infinity pool and view from the villa.

Unfortunately, this concluded our wonderful time in Thailand. A few pictures below of the journey back through Bangkok to Seoul to Atlanta. Can’t say enough how amazing Thailand is, both the destination and the people.  Would love to return again in the future, maybe skipping Koh Samui on the return trip…….

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6 hour layover in BKK.

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Waiting for our flight to ATL in ICN.

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Planespotting at ICN.

 

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Trip Report: South Korea and Thailand – Day 6: Krabi

After a wonderful two days in Chiang Mai it was time to head to the south of Thailand to spend our final coupld of days relaxing by the beach. Our first stop was Krabi. We flew Air Asia non-stop from Chiang Mai to Krabi but unfortunately it was an early (emphasis on early) morning flight. I think the blurriness of the picture below completely captures the moment perfectly.

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Early morning departure from Chiang Mai

We had pre-booked transportation from the hotel and the driver was waiting for us outside of baggage claim with a sign for the hotel. Loaded into a van with ice-cold air conditioning and cold, bottled water for the ~30 minute drive to the Sheraton Krabi. On the return to the airport a couple of days later we used a taxi which ended up saving about $5 per couple.

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Arriving into the Sheraton Krabi

The entrance to the hotel may look familiar; that is because it was the lobby featured on Hangover Part II.

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Sheraton Krabi: Open air lobby

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Sheraton Krabi: Beach

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Sheraton Krabi: Beach

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Sheraton Krabi: Infinity Pool

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Sheraton Krabi: Grounds

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Sheraton Krabi: Beach at low tide

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Sheraton Krabi: Grounds

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Sheraton Krabi: View from lobby

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Sheraton Krabi: Grounds

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Sheraton Krabi: Pool

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Sheraton Krabi: Beach at high tide

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Sheraton Krabi: Reminder of the danger present

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Sheraton Krabi: Pool

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Sheraton Krabi: Grounds

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Sheraton Krabi: Morning yoga

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Pulling away from the Sheraton Krabi towards Railay Beach (approximately a 45 minute boat ride)

On our second day in Krabi we decided to rent a boat to travel to Railay Beach; about 45 minutes away by long-tail boat. I can’t recall exactly the price we paid but I think it was in the neighborhood of $30 USD per couple.

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Railay Beach, Krabi

The beach and surroundings were pretty cool and I would recommend spending a half-day there. Biggest issue was the crowds; it was difficult to find a place to spread out on the beach.

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Railay Beach – Long-tail boats

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Spicy Papaya salad on Railay

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Beer on Railay

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Lunch on Railay

One thing I do want to point about the Sheraton is that it is a long ways from Krabi Town and we never actually ventured into the city. However, there are several restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and a 7-11 right outside the hotel gates. One place that I cannot recommend enough is the Indian restaurant below (Gajanana). It was some of the best Indian food I have ever had.

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Sheraton Krabi: Nearby

After an extremely relaxing, pleasant 2-night stay at the Sheraton Krabi it was time to head on to our final destination in Thailand, Koh Samui. We had booked Bangkok Airways non-stop flight from Krabi to Koh Samui leaving during the middle of the day.

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Krabi Airport

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Boarding Bangkok Airways at Krabi to Koh Samui

Up next: 2 days in Koh Samui with one night at the Le Meridien and one night at the Conrad.

Trip Report: South Korea and Thailand – Day 5: Chiang Mai

Our second day in Chiang Mai started early with a roadtrip to Tiger Kingdom about 30 minutes north of Chiang Mai. As this was one of the top “attractions” in Chiang Mai we were very excited to experience it for ourselves. What is not to like about getting in a cage with a 1,000 pound, live tiger? Oh wait, nothing.

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Chiang Mai Street View

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First glimpse of Tigers at Tiger Kingdom

Now, some notables on Tiger Kingdom:

-Entry is not cheap; this one of the more expensive activities during our entire trip (approx. $40 USD per person for the Big+Medium+Small package)

-Included in the price of your ticket is short-term medical coverage as almost all health insurances would exclude coverage for any incidents resulting from a Tiger injury (as they should)

-You can hire a photographer to accompany you and it might make sense if there are only 2 people in your party; however, with groups of 3 or more it would not make sense as someone is always available. The photographer is not cheap

-The Small Tigers were the most active and, quite frankly, the scariest to me as they were the most unpredictable. The Medium and Big Tigers were relatively calm and used to human interaction

-The Tigers appeared to be well-cared for and we never felt like we were in danger but Tigers are large, live, dangerous animals (it is important to note that accidents do occur at Tiger Kingdom locations – a tourist was killed in the Phuket location several weeks prior to our visit to the Chiang Mai location)

Overall, I would recommend to future travelers to make the trek to Tiger Kingdom as it is an extremely unique experience that provides lasting memories.

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Tiger Rules

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Small Tigers

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Small Tigers

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Medium Tigers

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Medium Tigers

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Big Tigers

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Big Tigers – Did not appear to like my wife pulling his tail!

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Group Photo – Big Tigers

We arrived back at our hotel just after lunch and headed out to enjoy the rest of the day with no plans. Wandered out to grab some lunch, tour some temples, and ended up staying out at some local bars before heading back for the night.

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Temple

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Lunch

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Local Bar – Zoe in Yellow

Coming up: Early morning flight to Krabi on AirAsia and 2 nights in Krabi at the Sheraton Krabi.

 

Trip Report: South Korea and Thailand – Day 4: Chiang Mai

Today was a travel day from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to start our adventures in northern Thailand. We had chosen to fly Bangkok Airways from BKK-CNX given the convenient flight times and price (~$36 per person). We took a taxi to the airport in Bangkok, which was uneventful and enjoyed use of the lounge Bangkok Airways provides for all passengers. I wouldn’t go out of my way to use the lounge but it was nice to have complimentary soft drinks, popcorn, and tea/coffee; especially considering the price paid for our tickets.

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Bangkok Airways “Lounge”

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Bangkok Airways (BKK-CNX)

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Thai Smile next door (BKK)

Flight was uneventful and soon enough we were landing in Chiang Mai. Took a taxi from the airport to the Le Meridien which we had booked using Starwood points (3,000 points per night). At the time I was a Starwood Platinum so my wife and I received an upgrade to a corner suite, pretty awesome!

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Le Meridien – Chiang Mai

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Le Meridien – Chiang Mai

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Chiang Mai, Thailand (view from the room)

After getting settled into the hotel we set out to explore Chiang Mai. The hotel is a convenient ~10 minute walk from the city center and has a number of good restaurants / bars close by (also a night market on the side street bordering the hotel).

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Walk into town from Le Meridien (notice the crazy power lines everywhere)

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Small night market near Le Meridien

First impressions of Chiang Mai are fantastic. The town is clean, compact and generally a pleasant place to wander. Lots of great food and drink so no complaints from anyone. After spending the day wandering around it was back to the hotel to refresh prior to our Thai cooking class that evening.

We had a booked an evening session (~3 hours) through Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai. They picked us up from the hotel in a van and brought us to the cooking school in the city center. Experience was a lot of fun and engaging; resulted in some delicious food as well! The only drawback was the length of the class; the last hour seemed to drag a little bit. I would still highly recommend this outfit in Chiang Mai.

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Asia Scenic Cooking School

After our cooking class ended we had made plans to head over to the Sunday night market, which is a well-known Chiang Mai attraction. The cooking school is centrally located and probably only 1 block away from the center of the Sunday Night Market so it is ideal to do the cooking class on a Sunday evening and transition directly to the market. Had a great time wandering around for an hour or so and then decided to call it an early night as we were all exhausted from a busy day of traveling and walking.

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Famous Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market

Stay tuned for the next post detailing our 5th day in country and our visit to Tiger Kingdom north of Chiang Mai. Never in my life did I expect to get in a cage with adult tigers; still look back at those pictures and question my judgement!

Trip Report: South Korea and Thailand – Day 3: Ayutthaya

After spending all day in Bangkok the previous day, we had planned to venture outside of the city to spend time in the historical capital of Ayutthaya. We took the public ferry across the river from the Millennium Hilton and commenced our walk to the train station (should have taken approximately 15-20 minutes). Unfortunately, we got pretty turned around on the way there and the walk ended up taking about 1 hour (did get a nice tour of Chinatown!).

As we approached the station, we were approached by a women wearing what looked to be an official vest for the rail company stating that the last train to Ayutthaya had already departed and she could provide a minibus for us for a relatively small amount of money. We contemplated and decided to confirm for ourselves within the train station only to find out she was in no way official and had been lying. Lesson learned to be on the lookout outside of the train station!

We purchased tickets for the air-conditioned train car to Ayutthaya (only marginally more expensive) and were on our way. Some pics below of the exterior of the train station, colorful Thai trains, the interior of the air-conditioned car, and the Ayutthaya station.

The train passes through suburbs of Bangkok for about half of the journey before emerging into agricultural fields for the final 30 minutes into Ayutthaya (did I mention the train is extremely slow!).

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Bangkok Train Station

Thai Trains

Bangkok Train Station

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Air-conditioned train to Ayutthaya

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Ayutthaya Train Station

Upon arrival in Ayutthaya, one is approached by a handful of Tuk-tuk drivers offering their services to take you around to the various sites as they are quite spread out. We chose the one who seemed the most sincere and after negotiating a half-day rate with him, we were off.

Can’t recommend Ayutthaya enough, it was pretty marvelous and for someone who has not been to Angkor Wat, it was quite impressive! Make sure you bring plenty of water though; it was incredibly hot.

Photos below of some of the highlights:

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Ayutthaya

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Ayutthaya (wife and I)

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Ayutthaya

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Ayutthaya

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Ayutthaya

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Ayutthaya

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Tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya (one of our traveling companions and myself)

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Bangkok slums

Arrived back into Bangkok pretty exhausted but managed to rouse ourselves up to go out for drinks on the famous backpacker road (Khao San Road). It was quite the experience!  (no photos from that night though, ha)

The next day we were scheduled to head north to Chiang Mai, stay tuned for the next installment!