Take Me to Thailand

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The Travelers
Petra Schulze-Permentier, her husband Volker, and their sons: Vincent (12), Patrick (10), and Frederik (8).

The Plan
Instead of going home to Germany and the Netherlands for Christmas, the family opted for some fun in the sun. Their direct flight with Air China from Beijing to Bangkok was booked online via Ctrip (www.ctrip.com). They flew Bangkok Airlines between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and Air Asia between Bangkok and Krabi.

The Cost
Roundtrip flights from Beijing to Bangkok with Air China cost approximatelyRMB 15,000 for a family of five. Online, they discovered a German tour operator called Thailand Tours (www.thailand-tours.net). From the variousoptions, the family chose a trip that combine the best of culture and beach from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Krabi and Koh Jum Island. The tour included plane tickets between their various destinations within Thailand,entrance tickets, full- and half-day tours, a Christmas Gala dinner,hotel stays (including five nights at Koh Jum Lodge) and breakfast. The family of five booked two rooms each night, but families with two children could do with one room. The all-inclusive trip was priced at approximately RMB 14,000 for adults, RMB 8,000 for children 8 years old and under and RMB 12,500 for children 10-12.
The grand total for the family’s Thailand trip was RMB 76,700 for 13 days and 12 nights. Extra costs included dinner, tips and souvenirs.

They stayed three nights in Bangkok at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok, a wonderful hotel located on the Chao Phraya River. On the first day, they took the hotel shuttle boat to the Skytrain station and went to the Chatuchak weekend market, supposedly the largest market in the world with over 9,000 stalls. Then they hit the malls at Siam Square. In the evening, the Schulze-Permentie family walked through Chinatown and stopped for a lovely dinner at Samsara, a small riverfront restaurant.
On Sunday morning, their German-speaking guide – Ms. Yui from Siam Tours Bangkok (www.siamexpress.com) – picked them up for a full day of Bangkok highlights, including: the flower market Pakklong Talad, Royal Grand Palace, the golden 45-meter long reclining Buddha, a long-tail boat journey through Thonburi ("the Venice of the East"), and last but not least the Jim Thompson House – a collection of traditional Thai-style houses preserved as a museum containing valuable works of art and Thai silk. It was a full day of new impressions and lots of Buddhas.

On Monday morning, the river-cruise boat set off from Bangkok to the old kingdom of Ayutthaya. There, the family stayed at Lopburi Inn Hotel for one night. During their travels along the river, the family passed time by spotting temples dotted throughout the countryside. For dinner, they enjoyed an evening meal prepared by the boat crew. On Tuesday morning,the Schulze-Permentiers met up with Ms. Yui again, who took them on a tour of the ancient capital. Starting at Bang Pa, the former Royal SummerPalace, they then continued traveling by long-tail boat to Wat Sri Sanphet,a monastery used as a residential palace by King Ramathibodi I. Among the many temples visited on the tour was Phra Kan (monkey temple) in Lopburi. As its name suggests, monkeys live throughout this temple city and have no qualms about grabbing whatever else they can get their hands on.

Chiang Mai
After a night in the Lopburi Inn Hotel, a simple but clean hotel, they rode first-class on a train to Chiang Mai. The ride took almost 12 hours and although it was very comfortable, the air conditioning made things a little too chilly.
Once at Chiang Mai, the family stayed at Banthai Village Hotel (www.banthaivillage.com) in the city center for two nights. It is within walking distance from the old city wall, temples, as well as the night market. With tour guide Ms. Pong, they rode in a trishaw (cycle rickshaw) through the old town and visited various temples including the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep that sits atop a mountain with a bird’s eye view of the city.

After plenty of sightseeing and temples, it was time for the beach. They flew to Krabi with a stopover in Bangkok. In Krabi, they stayed at Koh Jum Lodge (www.kohjumlodge.com). Managed by Frenchman Jean Michel and his Thai wife, the lodge has 19 small Thai-style houses, each suitablefor up to four people. A driver from the lodge picked the family up from the airport and drove them 40 minutes to Luam Kruat Pier, where a long-tail boat took them to the beautiful island of Koh Jum. They booked a one-day private snorkelling tour through Koh Jum Lodge. They went snorkeling in five different locations around Phi Phi Island and the kids got the chance to swim with the colorful tropical fish.

The Best Part
The trip was a perfect combination of culture, history, city, beach and relaxation. Taking a boat trip down the river was a highlight and the kids loved having their own cabin.

The Worst Part
The Eastin Hotel Makkasan was the family’s first choice for accommodation in Bangkok, but the service was unfriendly and rooms were not ready when they arrived, so they opted instead for the Millennium Hilton Bangkok, which turned out to be a wise choice.

Family-Friendly Features
The Koh Jum Lodge is extremely family-friendly. The cooks made the kids’ favorite foods (pancakes, spaghetti) at any time of the day. The staff spoke several languages including English and French, and they were all very helpful.

Travel Tips
This trip is suitable for kids ages 6 and up. Opt for a flight instead of a train ride to Chiang Mai and make sure there is an extra day to take an elephant tour.


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