It was time for visiting Asia and, while searching for it,
stood out Thailand beaches and Ang Kor among the rest for us. Also,
travelling that far allows us to have chances of a stopover in some
other countries of the continent. I’ve found then, Royal Air Jordan
could take us to Thailand from Barcelona with pretty good rates and
offered a stopover in Jordan with good prices for trips and hotels. The
idea of spending a few days in that country and visiting Petra, one of
the wonders of the world, made me draw a first draft for our itinerary.
Always thinking in a three weeks travel – which worked so well in USA
-, we would spend one week in Jordan and two in Thailand. My researches
for Thailand brought acknowledge of magnificent places around the
country and every time I wanted to add more and more spots for
visiting. The main draft showed to spend some days in Bangkok, some in
Chiang Mai and the rest on some beach area, like Phuket. But rates for
hotels and transport for Jordan stopover were not updated in Royal Air
Jordan website and the current ones were not an advantage, it was
cheaper to do a stop over by your own now. With these rates we were so
out of budget which I would want to set as close as possible to 2000€
(1000€ per person).
We still could use Air Jordan flights as it was no
airline with offers below 750€ per person and we always should have a
link somewhere in the way. I searched a lot once Jordan visit was out
of the table. I realized the key of the budget was in the flights as
rates in Southeastern Asia for hotels and transports are comparatively
low. Looking the route maps for low cost airlines in the area I found
what seemed to be the best option: Airasia starts a new route to Delhi
in 2010. As there were flights to India’s capital by 500€, appeared the
option of getting cheaper flights costs and also visit one of the
wonders of the world: Taj Mahal. With Lufthansa we could have flights
going to Bangkok and returning from Delhi by 600€. This plan seemed
definitive: flying to Bangkok, going around Thailand and to Ang Kor,
spending one day in Kuala Lumpur and flying to Delhi from there for
visiting that city and Agra for 3 days. This stopover in India is paid
with the saving in flight rates.
It was an evolution in the land route for the
visits in Thailand and Cambodia as more places were appearing to visit.
First must-do was for Ayutthaya, which could be done as a day train
trip from Bangkok, and then Lop Buri and Sukhothai joined to the list
in what started to look as a South-North route. In Cambodia flights
force us to land in the capital, Phonm Penh, and then go up to Siem
Reap for visiting Ang Kor. It is the option of doing this route in a
cheap cruise through Mekong River. Then Erawan and Khao Yai National
Parks appeared too for our route in Thailand, places we could visit by
I changed the beach to be in too because, after gathering information
on this subject, Phuket appears as a very touristic place while Krabi
looks like a less crowded place, with better landscapes and in a
perfect location for two of the must-do visits in the area: Phang Nga
Bay and Phi Phi Islands. I was recommended to spend one night at least
in Phi Phi, so I get the ferry timetable.
With what looked like a definitive route plan, the
budget was just a bit over that 2000€ line, but a great discovery did
we could get it lower: Delta miles earned in our travel to USA, which
we still have and expire at the end of 2010, let to be spend in hotels,
between a wide range of allocations in Delta website for cities as
Bangkok, Siem Reap and Chiang Mai.
The idea, then, was to pick our hired car at
arrival at Bangkok airport and driving to Chiang Mai passing by these
places: Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Khao Yai, Lop Buri, Sukhothai, Chiang
Mai. From there, we would fly to Bangkok and then to Krabi, we would
take a ferry to Phi Phi and coming back to Krabi the next day, then
flights Krabi-Bangkok and Bangkok-Phnom Penh, the mentioned cruise to
Siem Reap and, from there, a flight Siem Reap-Kuala Lumpur and then
We needed to choose the dates for this travel as,
although it was though for summer, it is their monsoon season. Although
it seems the rains use to be strong and short I was not confortable
with the idea of being in a paradisiac beach with no sun. High season
in Thailand is December, January and February. It is the dry season,
also known as fresh season, with a fresh that is more than welcomed.
Temperatures in summer are high, around 40º, and humidity is high too,
so you are sweating the whole day; somehow, in winter days are sunny
and temperatures in thirty-something. Hotel rates rise for this period
but as they’re generically cheap, it means you can get a luxury room by
30€ instead of 20€, so we’re still on budget. The travel then
is thought for December.
I could read Qatar Airways was going to add Barcelona on
their routes since June in 2010. They already have good rates from
Madrid and offer what is considered the best touristic class in the
world. So I’ve been checking the website of that airline often until
they included Barcelona flights and could see rates to Bangkok for
December were 714€. We could also fly to Bangkok and return from Delhi
by 600€. So I did the route plan based on their timetable. On another
hand, I found out December 5th is a very special day in Thailand
because of King’s birthday, which I used too to choose where to be when.
After checking Qatar Airways flights
Bangkok at 6:59 AM, the route plan was the following:
- Arrive to Bangkok’s airport
and taking the car for driving to Damnoen
Sadouak. The idea is reaching the floating market before 9 AM, when the
tourist coaches arrive and it gets crowded. Just before getting there
we pass close to Maeklong market, famous because it is set on the rail
tracks and, 8 times per day, they must remove the stock for letting the
train pass through it. From there we would drive 1 hour and 15 minutes
to Kanchanaburi to be with tigers in Tiger Temple, which opens at 12PM,
and then we would drive to Northern to reach Erawan park, which closes
at 5 PM. After that, we would have a quick stop in Kanchanaburi for
pictures to the river on the River Kwai and go on with our ride to
Ayutthaya, where we would arrive by night, to see the temples on lights
and sleep there. Big plan for this first day, but feasible.
- Next day we would visit Ayutthaya to leave to Khao Yai,
passing by Lop Buri. We must be at Khao Yai on time for the evening
safari and, if we see we’re not going to manage it we wouldn’t pass by
Lop Buri, but drive directly to the National Park.
- One day safari in Khao Yai
- Driving to Sukhothai
- Driving to Chiang Mai, where we would visit Doi Suthep
before delivering the car.
- Two days in Chiang Mai with trips to Doi Ithanon and an
elephant farm, for example.
- Flight to Bangkok and spending two days in the capital. One
of these days we sould apply for Indian visa.
- Flight to Krabi witth 4 days by the beach. One of them we
would take the ferry to Phi Phi Island spending one night in there.
- Flight back to Bangkok, where we would be two more days,
with time to taking the visas.
- Flight to Phnom Penh and one night in there
- Cruise through Mekong to Tonle Sap Lake, close to Siem
Reap, where we would spend three days exploring Ang Kor.
- Flight to Kuala Lumpur and one night close to Petronas
- Flight to Delhi and two nights in that city with a train
trip to Agra.
And this was going to be the definitive plan if
two important things didn’t happen: I was forced to reduce my vacation
days because of work issues and Qatar Airways rates to Bangkok were
discounted to 567€. We found out too the Bridge on River Kwai festival
happens at the end of November, with fireworks and sound &
light shows. We should spend the night in Kanchanaburi if we want to
The “easy” part of the plan adaptation to the new
terms has been to remove the short visits to other countries, as
transits by India and Malasya. The good part of these changes is we can
reduce the total budget to the incredible amount of 1500€.
Other days removed are the one in Phnom Penh, one
at beach and one in Bangkok. We concentrated some of the visits too.
That way, the changes we did over the previous route plan to get the
definitive one were:
- Spending the first night in Kanchanaburi and removing the
visit to Tiger Temple (). The visit to Maeklong market is going to be
difficult to introduce and this first day will be just for enjoying
Erawan and the Bridge on River Kwai festival, after visiting the
- Visit to Lop Buri is just if we’ve got enough spare time
after visiting Ayutthaya.
- Flights to and from Cambodia have been removed as we’re
going to cross the border by land taking advantage it is close to Khao
- We will go to Bangkok directly from Cambodia, where we will
deliver the car. The benefits of this option is saving the one way fee
of 60€ for delivering the car at the same place it was picked off from
and reaching Bangkok on time for the Trooping the colour at December
- We will use a local low cost airline to go to the North of
the country. Nok air flies to Phitsanulok very early, there we could
take another hired car for a single day and visiting Sukhothai and
reach Chinag Mai. As this is in Saturday, we’re going to be able of
being in the Sunday market the next day.
- From Chiang Mai we would take advantage of an Airasia offer
which allows us to fly to Phuket by less than 10€. As the ferry to Phi
Phi Islands leaves the next morning at 8:30 AM, this way we can spend
the day in Chiang Mai but being in Phi Phi Islands the next morning.
We’ve finally reduced some costs and make some of
the fixed expenses cheaper so finally the budget is below the 1500€
line (750€ per person), which is incredible for us.
finally, the definitive
route plan (number of day and
sleep) is the following, starting by November 26th of 2010:
2, 3: Khao Yai
4,5 and 6: Siem Reap
7, 8: Bangkok
and 15: Krabi
At the map above are appearing in blue the routes by car, in
red the routes by plane and in green the routes by boat.
The first step is always purchasing the flights as the date
time of the arriving and leaving days make conditional to the rest.
At a first check we got a rate of 1500€ for both of us with Royal Air
Jordan. Then we got a 1200€ rate using the option, as mentioned above,
of returning from India, first with Lufthansa and finally with Qatar
Airways, after they opened their route to Barcelona. We finally could
get our flights to Bangkok with Qatar Airways, in a return trip, and
for both of us, by 1134€. This rate appears in July and was still there
in August, only that for less dates and times.
conditions for these cheap rates are the usual ones: leaving on
Thursday and returning on Monday. The most wanted options, as leaving
on Friday and returning on Sunday are usually more expensive.
All flights of this airline have a link in Doha, Qatar capital. While
link for flight to Bangkok is short, when returning we must spend the
night in the airport. This airline offers hotel and meals to people on
transit for more than 8 hours between flights. It is explained in their
website there are some routes out of this option. Regardless our
Barcelona-Bangkok is in or out of this service, it is specified you can
only take advantage of this benefit if there is no shorter options for
your route. Our route has shorter options, only they were more
expensive, so we will see how the hall I’ve read they have in Doha
airport for people to sleep are. We’re going to spend 8 hours and a
half in there.
Finally, then, return flights
with Qatar Airways are like this:
11/25/2010 BCN 10:40 DOH
11/25/2010 DOH 20:30 BKK
12/12/2010 BKK 19:50 DOH
12/13/2010 DOH 7:50 BCN
We still needed to take some domestic flights. The choosen
airline has been Air Asia. Their rates change week after week and I
should check their website very often in order of getting the best
rate. This way I detected a Chiang Mai-Phuket flight by 900 Baht for
the two of us. I purchased it immediately. Air Asia has three flights
per day on this route and this incredible rate was only offered for the
nocturne one, but it was very useful for our itinerary as I could be
for the first ferry to Phi Phi Islands at 8:30 AM next morning. So it
was needed just a transit night in Phuket.
Another flight we should get is the one returning us to Bangkok from
Krabi. This is more expensive and, although I saw a cheaper rate just
for a moment, I finally bought the tickets by 4500 Baht, which actually
is less than 50€ per person.
So, in August we’ve
already got Air Asia flights, although the offer for the one to Phuket
was taken in June. These are the flights:
12/06/2010 CNX 21:30 HKT 23:30
12/11/2010 KBV 12:15 BKK 13:40
We still needed one more flight, this one from a local airline. The
plan for our Bangkok-Chiang Mai route, visiting Sukhothai in the middle
in the same day starts with an earlt flight to Phitsanulok. This route
is made by Nok Air. This airline has local rates for its flights and,
therefore, is the cheapest rates you can find. Somehow, their website
doesn’t allow to book – or even check – any flights until 4 months
before the flights. So this flight for December 4th appeared on their
website in August. We paid around 20€ per person here.
12/04/2010 DMK 6:50 PHS 8:00
I’ve checked a lot of websites before taking the hotels.
Asiarooms.com, agoda.com and booking.com
have concentrated the most part of the research. Somehow, in some cases
I’ve found the best rates directly in the hotel’s website.
For this travel there is one thing that has affected a lot the choice
of hotels. Delta miles earned when travelling to USA could be spent on
hotels. And they should be, as the miles expired on December 2010.
There were a lot of hotels available on Delta website for cities with
airport like Bangkok, Siem Reap, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi, and none
for the rest of places. This way, I spent my miles on the three nights
in Siem Reap, a cheaper city than the rest, and the one in Phuket. My
wife’s miles have been spent on two nights in Chiang Mai, and my
sister’s on three nights in Krabi.
Having that, the
choices for those cities should be in Delta’s hotel list and based to
Tripadvisor’s ranking, the desired location and if breakfast was or not
included, the choices have been:
- For Chiang Mai, Banthai Village, one of the best
rated in its rate range and located in city center, at short distance
from the market.
- For Krabi, Sunda Resort, good rated, with our
own bungalow, the only objection is the location, but they include a
free tuk tuk service.
- For Siem Reap, Prum Bayon, one of the best rated
on its rate range.
- For Phuket, Thavorn Grand Plaza, a cheap hotel because it has no
beach, but as it is just for sleeping and leaving early to the ferry
quay, we just ask to be close of it. We’ve chosen a spacious suite.
For Bangkok, at the beginning our attention went
to Davis Hotel, forgetting about
Delta miles and Bangkok Smile card discounts, but we finally have
chosen the President Palace Hotel,
best rated, closer to public transport and, also, a little bit cheaper.
This hotel is close to restaurants, bars and clubs and we can get a 30
sqm with a 42” flat screen by less than 40€ per night.
For Kanchanaburi we looked after being in the city, as close as
possible to the Bridge on the River Kwai, to enjoy the festival without
needing the car. River Kwai Hotel
seems to fit here and have free parking and wifi. Rate is 1300 Baht per
night plus additional 300 Baht for the festival day. 1600 Baht in
total, which is almost 40€.
We shouldn’t think a
lot about the next two nights as they come with the activity: safaris
on Khao Yai. Greenleaf has, apart from the safaris and tours, basic
rooms by 8€ per night, but they mention in their website a room with
A/C and hot water in a resort close to them can be arranged if desired
by 1000 Baht. We’ve chosen this option and in their email they mention
resort’s name is Ruen Mai Ngam. In 2010 this resort
is not appearing in internet, so we will find out about it.
The only night pending to solve is the one at Phi Phi Island. I’ve
checked rates in various resorts and could see they’re expensive in
there. Looking a lot os websites I find out about Phi
Phi Sand Seaview
and love the idea of being in a bungalow just on the white sand of the
beach. We’ve booked and paid 70€ for one night in a beach front
This way, just with 280€ I’ve paid all
the hotels of this travel. This is the cost of 7 nights: 3 in Bangkok,
2 in Khao Yai, 1 in Kanchanaburi and 1 in Phi Phi; which is an average
of 40€ per night. Thanks to Delta airlines for the other 10 nights of
Following the plan above, we need to hire two cars: one in
Bangkok airport to take just at our arrival at the country, which is
going to be delivered in the same place, avoiding this way the one-way
fee, which use to be 60€ in Thailand. The other one would be in
Phitsanulok airport and thought for being delivered the same day in
It seems we can rely on Thai-rent-a-car to rent a
car in Bangkok. It includes all the insurances and there is a 50% of
discount with Bangkok Smile card. I think the price would be 60€ for
all 7 days with these conditions. With these rates we can think on
leaving the car in Cambodia border and paying the renting for the three
days we’re going to be in that country although we’re not using the car
But just two months before this travel I’ve
changed to another local company for renting the car. The reason is
I’ve got a confirmation by phone I cannot get a Bangkok Smile card in
the airport, they’re just delivered on three spots in the city center,
so we cannot use it for the car hire. I found out too that
Thai-rent-a-car and the most of the companies use to charge a huge
deposit which, although it is returned if there are no problems, it is
less money for spending in the travel. In our case this deposit was as
big as 1000€!. I don’t understand it considering that, with the paid
insurances, the most you must pay in any case is 150€ of excess, which
would be a logical amount for the deposit. Our solution for all these
problems has been to use another local company: Siam
rent a car. I haven’t found reviews about this company, but
price is 7250 Bahts with them for a week of renting and just 5000 Bahts
of deposit, which can be delivered by cash or card. Without Smile card
this is the cheapest option.
For the single day hire we’re thinking about
hiring it once there. My searches in internet have returned 90€ as
cheapest price: 30€ for the rent and 60€ for tone-way fee. I think I
can do it cheaper on site. Anyway, we are going to be there with the
plan B of going to Chiang Mai by bus.
The reason why we’re going to be in Khao Yai for two nights
is reading about two safari tours in the National Park: one full day
one and the other for a half of a day. The rates for these tours are
low in Greenleaf's website and, after
contacting them by email, we could confirm they haven’t changed: 1500
Baht per person for both tours, including drinks, meals and National
Tiger Kingdom’s website shows
these rates per person: 520 Baht for 15 minutes with baby tigers, 320
Baht for young tigers and 320 Baht for big cats. They talk about a
special rate for all three combined, which is what we’re going to do,
but the rate is no appearing there. We can know there too they have a
200 Baht buffet lunch, which we’re not going to miss either.
Then we have our big wish: spending one day with
an elephant. There are a lot of elephant farms where you can get a ride
on an elephant seated on chairs at both sides of the animal and
watching an exhibition of elephants painting or playing football, but
we want a different experience. We want to drive an elephant seated on
its neck as locals do. The best farm for this seems to be Patara
elephant park with an activity called “own an elephant per one day”.
The problem it is expensive: 5800 Baht per person. Then I found a
cheaper farm with seems to be a good experience too in Baanchang elephant park. The
activity is similar and they have the option of two persons sharing the
same elephant, which is the best option for us as a couple. The
activity is like a mahout (elephant driver) training and rate is 2400
Baht per person, a bit over 50€.
These activities are not included in the budget
above because, as we use to do, are considered as extras and would go
to the expenses while traveling, like meals and gifts. The 1500€ budget
is including transport and accommodation. The final amount is a bit
over it because of the Phi Phi bungalow and not getting the
Krabi-Bangkok flight on time.
plan, then, is like this:
to BKK to 6:50. Floating market
and bridge on the River Kwai
safari at Khao Yai