So yes, indeed. Two lovely weeks in Thailand and what a great place. Fair enough I am back two weeks at this stage but thought that I would share some knowledge on my time there.
Firstly, Bangkok is not as dirty as people make out. A fella I know on his way back to Ireland from Oz stopped off in Bangkok. He told me of going to the cinema and seeing rats running around the place. We also heard from someone else that we may see a rodent of two on the streets. To be honest, in five nights there I didn't see a thing. Not one..which is great as I am not a big fan of rodents at all. Overall I thought the city was nice and had a great buzz about it.
We spent the first three nights in Bangkok and stayed at the Amari Boulevard on the Sukhumvit Road. It was a very nice hotel and the rooms were nice but basic. Nothing to fancy. What was very nice was the Thai food served beside the swimming pool and the breakfast was really nice (it was also a bit on the expensive side even when you convert back to Euro. It was not included as part of the package we had). What was great about this hotel was the location. A skytrain station was just around the corner and this could help you get around most of the city (when it is fully completed it will be everything that the Luas in Dublin should be). Getting around Bangkok is very easy and save and I can say at no time did I feel intimidated or at threat unlike the Dublin nightlink or the London underground.
Also the Sukhumvit had some great little streets of it and some of the restaurants and pubs were excellent. There was a lovely pub on the corner of our street and it was great to watch the 'farang' with the young Thai girls and also great to spot the ladyboys. And the beer was nice. If you are interested in Ping Pong shows there is a street of the Sukhumvit where you can see this - unfortunately I read this in the Lonely Planet when we left there !!!
During the first few days we done a bit of sightseeing. We took a tour to the Grand Palace but I would recommend that you do this yourself. You can get a skytrain to the river and get a river taxi to Wat Po and the Grand Palace is beside this. The tour was nice to get some questions answered and some history but spent the total of 1hr 10mins there before being put back into the van and taken to the Gems Factory. You are shown a video of gem stones and then shown the factory before being followed around by someone waiting for you to buy something so they can get commission. We would have loved more time in the palace and especially some time to look at the Emerald Buddha and also to explore the place more and take it all it. It is such an impressive place that it deserves some attention.
The next day we went to some of the shopping areas and also took the River Taxi, Skytrain and also went to Wat Po palace which was great. Just watch out for the people inside who want to give you a tour. Maybe its your thing but I like to walk around at my own pace exploring. We ate that night in a restaurant whose concept was as good as its food - Cabbages and Condoms. Here you get a condom with your coffee rather than an after-dinner mint. The concept is excellent and well worth eating there to support this fantastic venture.
Then we headed for Koh Samui and to the town of Cheung Mon. This is a lovely little town and is very quiet and peaceful and has some very nice restaurants. It is a perfect place to go if you are looking to chill out, relax, have some good food and meet some Thai locals. If you are looking to party then it aint where you go. We stayed in the Imperial Boathouse Hotel which I cannot fault at all. Breakfast was lovely, food in the hotel was nice, staff were great, 2 swimming pools, beach access, cold beer...everything ! The hotel was just on the beach so you could stroll onto the beach at night and walk up to restaurants which were on the beach. We ate in Sala twice which had superb food. Another night we just lounged on a beach recliner, had some food, a few beers on the beach - class.
In Samui we done a tour which included some waterfalls, baby elephant show, monkey show and croc show ("Insert head, put in mouth...very beautiful creature" - you had to be there). Nice tour and a great way to spend a half-day and you get a Thai food lunch as well. Other than than went to see the Big Buddha which is big. Mainly we just chilled out and went through the three Irish stages of tanning - white, less-white and Red.
Back to Bangkok then for 2 nights and we stayed in the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel. Another lovely hotel and rooms which were nice but nothing special. Still, we had a river view room and the breakie was fab. We done the floating markets tour which also included the Rose Gardens. This was excellent and we booked a private tour so just us, the tour guide and the driver. The tour also brought us to a wood carving factory that is amazing and is defo worth a visit. I would recommend the tour option for this simply for the little stop off places.
We finished off that day having cocktails overlooking Bangkok at the Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel..class.
Then it was shopping for a day and off home. The MBK Center is the place to go but also check out the street markets as you can get good deals there. There are other shopping centres but the prices are not as good as you might expect. The MBK is the place for watches, clothes, mobile phones and other misc items...and its feckin huge
So overall here are some things that I would make note of if you are going to Thailand...
1. The Thai people are amazing. They are the loveliest people you could meet and a smile gets a smile - it really is infectious. Treat them with respect and that is what you get back.
2. Learn a few Thai phrases. Even learning to say "hello" and "thank you" makes the world of difference and it is really appreciated"
3. Tipping is between 80 and 100 baht generally.
4. When shopping barter in a fun way and with a smile. Do not raise your voice as this can be taken the wrong way. If you have a laugh with them they will joke back and does result in getting better prices.
5. Talk to the people. They are really nice and love to chat. We spent time in a shops and restaurants just chatting away to the owners and it was great.
5. Enjoy Thailand. I would defo go back as I think its a great country.