The moment you walk out of the airport, it hits you.
The humid heat engulfs every inch of your body, the smell makes your stomach rumble and there’s a whirring noise in the background.
Welcome to South East Asia…
A part of the world I have been travelling to since I was a little kid.
But this time I’m taking my own children and husband Chris for Christmas, New Year and our belated Honeymoon (Mega Moon! We’ve already had a Mini Moon, but that was just Chris and I for a couple of days in Amsterdam.)
First stop… Thailand
From the serene temples of Chiang Mai to the busy streets of Bangkok, to the idyllic sandy beaches in Krabi & Phi Phi islands and, beyond.
There is something for all of the family in Thailand.
Overview = Bangkok is very much “a city of contrasts” as described by the Lonely Planet Guide.
There’s monks roaming around in robes with idyllic Buddhist temples popping up in between shopping centres and bars.
There’s vast poverty but with luxurious hotels in juxtaposition.
For a family with kids 2-3 days is plenty.
Accommodation = Escape from the hustle and bustle of central Bangkok by staying at one of the luxurious hotels.
We stayed at the Dusit Thani Hotel which is opposite to Lumphini Park.
We were drawn to it as it has a pool, waterfall and highly praised restaurants serving everything from bar food to steaks and fine dining Japanese.
There’s even a Le Cordon Bleu cookery school next door.
Trips = Silom Thai Cooking School: We all went along to Silom’s Thai food cookery course.
It started with a trip to a local market to learn about authentic fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.
There were lots of different types of basil and chillies as well as masses of fresh mouth-watering lemongrass.
Park Life: We loved walking around Lumphini Park, munching on fresh fruit from the stalls located inside.
There’s decent kids play areas and a has-been adult outdoor gym.
Our highlights included going on a Pedalo on the lake which cost around £1 for 30 minutes. It’s great exercise pedalling as well as good for sight-seeing… Lizards, birds and people doing Tai Chi.
Nearby, in Silom you can find the Unicorn Cafe which has gone viral online.
Patpong is one of those places you just have to go once if you’re in the city.
It’s eccentric, it’s lively and it’s a bit crazy. Ping Pong bars (not the sporting type) with strippers, Western style bars and a colourful night bazaar.
If you head there prior to 5pm, before it truly opens up, it’s a bit more manageable as a family.
Taxis are a plenty too if you need a quick get-away (just make sure the taxi driver is using a meter or you can use Uber or Grab Car).
The Grand Palace: We grabbed a tuk tuk (not for the faint hearted) to see the Palace and temple.
But as the King passed away in recent months, the area was full of mourners so we couldn’t see much.
The whole country seems to be grieving.
So instead we stopped at a cafe by the lakeside to watch the beautiful sun set (just watch out for touters trying to sell expensive cruises).
We caught a boat back to our hotel but rather than an expensive cruise you can just jump on a boat at the terminal near the palace (make sure it’s going in the right direction) and it costs pennies and the kids were free.
Yes it’s crammed and mainly standing-room only but we found that locals are so child-friendly and made such an effort to give the kids attention and smiles.
Food and drink =
Drink: Iced drinks galore. I love Bubble Tea (flavoured ice tea with tapioca balls), Thai Iced Tea and Iced Coffee… cheap and heavenly.
Some of our favourite food was what we ate at a little food court which consisted of street vendors. Far from luxurious but that’s how you can find the best non-westernised grub over here.
Also try traditional Thai coconut ice cream.
Kitchen & Bar 22 at Dusit Thani Hotel (22nd floor): The best thing about this eatery/bar is its panoramic views of the city, even the toilets come with an amazing view.
Chris started with scallops followed by a poshed-up surf and turf style main.
I had a yummy pumpkin stew followeda by quinoa.
And it was nicely finished off with some birthday cake for Chris.
Restaurants http://www.latabledetee.com, http://eatmerestaurant.com and http://www.mayathailand.com
Accomodation: There are lots of top hotels around 20-30 minutes from Bangkok’s International Airport (note there’s two airports) and there’s B&B & hostels everywhere if you want something cheaper.
But we wanted somewhere with a nice pool for the girls and a bit of luxury for our honeymoon.
For our hotel we used hotels.com to book.
We have also booked a B&B near Bangkok airport for when we travel home. This was through Air BnB (they now have tons of options that don’t involve crashing at someone’s pad).
Lots of people try to take you on trips but often these are expensive detours.
Download Lonely Travel App, Trip Advisor and other apps on where you’re going in advance so you don’t have to lug heavy books around or pay hefty data charges.
Another tip of mine would be to Google a local magazine just type in (name of destination) + magazine.
When travelling around either flag down taxis with a meter (and check that they will use a meter) or use the Uber App.
Better still, try to get to grips with public transport.
Food & Drink:
Head for the street food and avoid the westernised places.
Spicy means spicy over here which is great for us chilli lovers but for those who don’t watch out.
There’s an abundance of fresh fruit every where but it goes off very quickly so your best of buying it whole and washing/cutting yourself. Or get it freshly prepared In a cafe/Restaurant.
After enjoying a few days in busy Bangkok we craved for some Krabi tranquility and we weren’t disappointed.
It reminded me of Langkawi, an island off the cost of Malaysia. Langkawi is a divers paradise with crystal clear blue seas where as krabis sea is warm but not as clear. Although the sandy beaches were better in Krabi.
We stayed at Anyavee Tubkaek resort which has two gorgeous swimming pools, unique rooms and is right on the beach front.
The sea is warm and the sand is soft. Just perfect.
It was small but had a colourful market and wasn’t too touristy like some of the other areas.
One evening we took a shuttle bus to Ao Nang.
We ate a nice (averagely priced) Indian meal. But most of the shops etc were tourist prices so it was as expensive as the UK.
You can haggle almost everywhere though.
Whilst we were there we booked (and haggled) for a family one-day excursion which cost £60 in total (original price was double that).
Our favourite day was the day trip which included a visit to hot springs, a waterfall, lunch, Tiger’s Cave temple and Riding elephants.
You could swim in all three. But the girls yelped as they saw a children’s playground… so we ended up in there.
We took a long boardwalk path through the jungle to the bottom pool and slipped into the beautiful clear water.
We were hungry for lunch so opted for a shorter walk back and skipped the top pool.
Lunch was ready at a large cafe by the entrance where we ate Thai Green Curry, stir-fried vegetables, fried eggs and sticky rice.
We then got back on the bus to the temple (where you had to cover your arms and legs).
There’s also steep steps up the side of the bordering hill where you can come very close to the monkeys.
It was a magical experience and the girls loved it.
Thai Massage: We enjoyed some down time in Krabi not doing much other than playing on the beach, swimming, eating and using our outdoor bath!
But I was determined to get a Thai massage.
In Krabi I found an hour of Thai massage started from £5.
I paid £10 to have it on the beach close to our hotel.
It was phenomenal. It felt like a mix of Physiotherapy and a sports massage.
They really move, click, kneel and massage your whole body including your ear lobes.
The beaches were just perfect.
3-4 days as a family is more than enough.
One day by pool and on beach. Then one day trip, a Thai massage, a trip to town (or a cooking course).