Thailand Sojourn in 2015

Photo of Thailand Sojourn in 2015 1/4 by Shaunak Marulkar
Coral Islands
Photo of Thailand Sojourn in 2015 2/4 by Shaunak Marulkar
Our diving instructor
Photo of Thailand Sojourn in 2015 3/4 by Shaunak Marulkar
Photo of Thailand Sojourn in 2015 4/4 by Shaunak Marulkar
Chao Phraya Dinner Cruise

I find it real stupid how I kept avoiding going international (on my own & with my money), just because I wanted to start off on a bigger scale, going to Europe or USA and hence kept under-estimating the beautiful experience I would have got by visiting cheaper and nearby countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, UAE or even Nepal for that matter. I kept telling myself “Thailand, aahhh… I can go there anytime… I will wait for 6 more months and may be try to visit Turkey instead”… Bigger, Better, Farther !

And so, 8 years passed post completion of my MBA in 2006 and I was nowhere. There were 32 Flights taken till then, all domestic. Eventually I let go of that irrational thinking and made up plan to visit any damn foreign country, that fitted my budget & matched my willingness to pay for… Guess which it turned out to be ? Thailand. The same country that I could have visited, way back in 2007 itself. Under the pretext of making a bigger & costlier trip as my ‘first’, I had wasted so much of my time… Not that I didn’t go anywhere in India.

So, me & my partner opted for Make My Trip to book our trip. Here I shall mention one by one my experiences of my Thailand Sojourn 2015:

a) Make My Trip (MMT) Booking

When I emailed MMT, they were very quick to call me back, I guess within 10 minutes. One of the female Customer Service Officers spoke with clarity and I perceived her to be very genuine in giving me a good package (except negotiation on money). I was also contemplating going to Hong Kong & Macau but for a 8-day tour, the budget was going overboard. So, I opted for 7 Days & 6 Nights Thailand instead, with 3 nights in Pattaya and 3 nights in Bangkok. MMT charged us around INR 65,000/- including Return Airfare, 6 Nights’ Hotel Stay, visit to Coral Islands & Gems Gallery & one Indian lunch in Pattaya and visit to Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok. Package Inclusions & Exclusions in detail may be seen on their website.

Other General Things

1) Food seemed cheap, especially the local food. There is also the street food, live small crocs that are roasted / barbeque with 100s of their sauces. I wasn’t able to eat that. But found one McDonalds there on the Beach Road. Bangkok also has a lot of good food stuff. But since Bangkok is more of Shopping Malls, we savoured food of the Food Court of those malls.

2) It is perfectly fine if you don’t carry your passport whilst you are roaming in the city (Pattaya or Bangkok), just carry a photocopy, it is sufficient.

3) Crooks are everywhere and they will want to target naive tourists. If you aren’t sure, no need to pay attention. But overall, people I found there very helpful. They are funny, they don’t get angry and can be very interesting to talk to.

4) Negotiate hard, whatever you buy, especially on the streets. The prices are expected to come down by atleast 20 % when you negotiate. I did small shopping of around 6,000 THB but no product was found defunct. Also, before you opt for Tuk Tuk or Taxi, again negotiate and fix the rate before-hand. You don’t know the roads and it could turn out to be a long ride unnecessary. But, looking at the worst traffic situation in Bangkok, the taxi drivers are less likely to fool you, since they are themselves bored of the long queues at every signal. Skytrain & Public Buses are way too cheap though and best way to really see the place around – almost 60 % cheaper than Tuk Tuk and Taxis.

5) ATMs and Currency Exchange Counters are one too many in Pattaya. Keep cash ready for Bangkok.

This blog was first published on Fly With Shaunak.

MMT had booked our flights from Mumbai to Bangkok & back with Bangkok Airways, a regional airline, not as big as some of the other popular airlines. But it turned out to be good. My partner & I were the first couple to finish the Arrivals formalities at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, including VISA ON ARRIVAL etc and found our wonderful guide Ms. Tuk (a Thai National) waiting for us, right at 5.30 am. There were other couples in tow (though we didn’t know till then) and we waited for them till 7.30 am. You can expect this when there are 2-3 more couples with you, as everybody may not be as fast as you. We started off in a Toyota Mini Van, had Indian breakfast somewhere in between in Bangkok itself and then went straight to Pattaya (a little over 2 hours drive). The vehicle was very clean & nice, with Indian music being played (Hindi songs – straight from Kumar Sanu 1990s era). The breakfast is bad, except for the Orange Juice. After the breakfast, there was an introductory meeting of the couples – just to get to know eachother – and MMT pitches in with all the attraction points to go to & all activities that are must-do, at additional cost of course. But MMT doesn’t force you and respects your decision, if you don’t want to join them.

Photo of Pattaya Chon Buri Thailand by Shaunak Marulkar

Post the arrival by around 12.00 pm (which is our 1st day), we parked ourselves in Hotel Sunshine Garden Resort, a beautiful 4-Star property, and no activity is planned by MMT that day. It is for you to explore the place on your own, in your own way, the way you want to do it. We relaxed till evening and then took off walking. Not much traffic in Pattaya and drivers are extremely patient and respectful of the walkers on the road. Inspite of the green signal, they wait till people cross the roads and no honking is done even by the drivers at the back. I really appreciated this.

The next day (2nd Day) was the day for beaches – Coral Islands Tour. MMT took us to Coral Islands – extremely crystal clear waters and no littering around by any of the tourists. Very clean and neat despite the huge number of tourists coming over. The above picture is a real picture, it is exactly like this.One complaint I have with MMT is although they promise you this spot, what they don’t tell you is this: Coral Islands is a very small island about 20 miles from Pattaya. So, you take a speed boat and take off, but you don’t go directly there. In between that distance, they also have already planned another activity PARA SAILING, which is chargeable. The charges may not be very high but you have already done it in Goa, what’s the difference ? Nothing. Secondly, from a tourist point of view, much of your time gets wasted in here. Then, you head off to Coral Islands and MMT Official orders you to finish your swimming, photo-ops etc and be back in 45 minutes. Too less time, believe me ! They are very particular about the time & with Indians on board, the Thai guide becomes even more demanding :) Although our guide Jiji was time-bound, she was just doing her job. I found her actually very sweet.

Photo of Coral Islands, Thailand by Shaunak Marulkar

You can finish this tour in the first half, followed then by Indian Lunch, that was included in the package. We went to The Indian Garden Bar & Restaurant, and the day is free thereafter. Same evening, you can plan to stroll to the very popular Walking Street.

3rd Day was utilized by visiting another attraction point Sri Racha Tiger Zoo. This is far away from Pattaya, on the Bangkok – Pattaya Highway, around 50 miles from Pattaya. So, this might as well take a lot of time, such that you won’t be able to come back to your hotel before 3.00 pm. This time, the lunch & dinner is to be managed by you and the evening is free for your own things. Alternatively, they suggest you 2 shows, Alcatraz or Russian Adult Show.

Alcatraz is fine for family but not the Russian one. It is a one-hour nude show, all Russian ladies, showcasing their bare bodies with sexual acts, seduction, trying to create different, extreme fantasies for men & women… essentially enacting that on stage. Looking at the overall mindset, customs & traditions Indians have, I am not sure how much Indian ladies will be comfortable at this Russian Show. Phone & Camera is not allowed. It costs not much. But yes, the ladies are TERRIFIC. Extremely beautiful !

On the 4th day sharp at 9.00 am, the guide is waiting for you at your Pattaya hotel to pick you up and take you to Bangkok.

Photo of Bangkok Thailand by Shaunak Marulkar

On the way in Pattaya itself, there is The Gems Gallery, the World’s biggest jewellery store. There are no charges to be paid here. At first, they shall take you in a small train within the building itself (yes, the building is that big). On either side, there are statues made – that depict the process of making jewellery from raw stones – wonderful light & sound combination – in English to help you understand. This continues for 30 minutes, post which they take you to their jewellery store, within the same building. Precious stones and costly…

Once we left from there, MMT took us to Bangkok and covered Wat Pho Temple. After spending about 2 hours there – which is enough – we were taken to our Marvel Hotel. Thereafter you are free to enjoy your time, the way you want for the next 2 days. We roamed around the city that day, explored their Skytrain, not knowing where we were going. But it was fun, that way too !

Our 6th day was scheduled for own things till afternoon. We had opted to go for Chao Phraya Dinner Cruise. MMT sent their vehicle for our commute. But we did something else. Once this cruise got ended at around 11.30 pm, instead of taking the vehicle & heading to hotel, we decided to explore Bangkok at night and went to Asiatic Market, luckily the same night there was some festivities going on and it was open. Market meant for street shopping but I found the prices higher than Indhra Market, though. Open till 1.30 am on Thursdays.

Photo of Chao Phraya Express Boat Trips Bangkok Thailand by Shaunak Marulkar

Our 7th day was basically only relaxing, packing off, having breakfast, getting ready by 4.00 pm, in order to reach Airport by 6.00 pm for a 9.00 pm flight. The hotel was gracious not to charge us anything till 4.00 pm although our check out time was 11.00 am.

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