Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Visiting Thailand ... mostly for profgrrrrl

I have a colleague who visits Thailand regularly. (He is married to a Thai woman and they own a second home in the northern part of the country.) PG's latest blog about her planned trip reminded me to ask him some travel questions when I ran into him today between final exams.

His comments, in no particular order, from memory:

There is no major difference between May and June. Both are equally hot. As in 100 to 110 F hot. The rainy season comes much later in the year, so you probably won't have to worry about scheduling a trip around bad weather. It is only "cool" in the winter when they visit. Winter is also the only time there are a lot of tourists. (The resorts were packed when the tsunami hit near Christmas.) The north is only cooler in a relative sense, but he said that Bangkok is particularly hot because the tall buildings block any breeze, plus the usual urban heat island effect. Running in San Diego is just the thing to prepare you for the trip!

If you are in Bangkok, you can spend days just touring places in the city. Lots of temples, for example. One very cheap way to do this is to hire a car (sedan with driver, not a taxi). Your hotel will be able to set you up with some reliable choices. You can get driven anywhere you want to go for an entire day for a very nominal fee. Sounds like a great travel tip. I expect lots of temple photos in return!

Bangkok has nothing resembling zoning. A 5-star hotel could be one block from a slum.

The country is larger than it looks on a globe because it is dwarfed by India. He said it is something like 900 miles north to south, and it is not a "day trip" from Bangkok to many places of interest (like the beaches). Several hours on a train each way, so you would have to plan for an overnight stay if you go very far afield.

One side trip he recommended was to visit the ancient capital, which is upriver from Bangkok and can be reached via a beautiful boat ride. There are regular tourist excursions up there.

He did not think there would be any trouble traveling as a single woman, but he did recommend avoiding the southern part of the country. There have been problems with terror groups down towards Malaysia, but nothing major. (The major beach resorts, like the ones hit by the tsunami, are down there, but he said those are safe. His concern seemed more with the countryside in between.)

I also asked him about crossing the border to visit Angkor Wat, a place I've always wanted to see, but he had no experience with that. His wife cannot cross that border on her Thai passport. (Not sure what that is about, but must go back to the Vietnam War.)

Finally, he added, if you like riding an elephant ... there are week-or-two excursions into the jungle on elephant, moving from camp site to camp site. Sounds totally exotic.

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