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Send In Your Southeast Asia Tips – Bangkok, Siem Reap and Koh Samui

by on November 6, 2013 · 73 comments

in Trip Reports

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TPG Managing Editor is about to embark on a month-long journey through Southeast Asia and needs your tips!

A few months ago, a friend in Thailand suggested I come down for a visit in November since it’s low season in Southeast Asia (and I hope it’s not too rainy while I’m there because of it!), and after a quick search of award tickets back in June, I was able to book a first class award itinerary from New York to Bangkok on a combination of Lufthansa (in business class, but a first class ticket opened up this week, so I was able to change it to first class aboard the 747-400) and then continuing from Frankfurt to Bangkok on Thai Airways’ first class aboard the A380 – both of which I’m very excited to experience.

I can't wait to fly the Thai A380's First Class.

I can’t wait to fly the Thai A380′s Royal First Class.

I booked the return a few months later in August and snagged a first class award ticket on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong directly back to LA, where I’m based – so I’m thrilled to get to experience that product as well.

Minimalist yet luxurious, Cathay Pacific's first class seats have been garnering raves.

I’ll also get to experience Cathay’s First Class.

While I’m in Asia, I’ll be exploring Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – starting with Bangkok where I’ll be staying at the Four Seasons and the St. Regis, Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and to check out the new Park Hyatt that took over the classic Hotel de la Paix Angkor, and Koh Samui. I’ll also be heading to other parts of Thailand as well as Vietnam, but for now, I’d love tips and suggestions for the first few stops on my trip.

Cambodia's most famous tourist sight: Angkor Wat.

One of the highlights will be visiting Angkor Wat.

So I wanted to ask all of you to share your amazing finds, hidden gems and any other suggestions you have, whether it’s how to find the best guide at Angkor Wat, where to get a suit made in Bangkok, what the best beach for snorkeling on Koh Samui is and anything else you have to suggest.

I can't wait for some beach time on Koh Samui.

I can’t wait for some beach time on Koh Samui.

I’m really looking forward to getting to know the region much better, and I can’t wait to see what ideas you all have for me. In the meantime, I’m taking off later this week, so stay tuned for trip reports on my flights, hotels and more – and thanks in advance for your help!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Alex Farmer

    Are you planning on heading to Hanoi? If so, I’d say an overnight in Halong Bay is a must. One of the 7 natural wonders of the world and can’t be missed….also….pack me in your checked bag?

  • clayd333

    My wife and I are heading to USM on the same FRA-BKK itinerary this month (the 19th). we are on the 748 in business, hoping 2 first class tix open up in the next two weeks but not holding my breath (have an EF alert setup). We are staying at the W and the Conrad, two days in BKK on the return. Look forward to this tread! What great timing!

  • smartcookie

    Eat at Nahm in Bangkok. Top 50 restaurant in the world. David Thompson’s food is amazing. Also, eat lots of street food. That’s really the best way to experience Thailand in particular.

  • Francisco

    Check out the intercontinental at Koh Samui! Staying there in May 2014!

  • Allison

    Cooking with Poo in Bangkok was probably one of my favorite experiences.

  • SOLTATIO

    What an amazing trip it is sure to be. In Thailand, make sure to just read up on the scams. While you probably not likely to be taken for a ride on a big one, knowing about the smaller ones will prevent you from ruining your holiday.
    Similarly in Vietnam, ONLY use Vinasun or Mai Lihn taxis. Don’t use other taxi companies or you could pay dearly. Memorize the colours and tel numbers to ensure you don’t get in a fake Vinasun/Mau Lihn taxi (Yip it happens). And finally make 100% sure that you go and stay overnight in Ha Long Bay on a boat in northern Vietnam, It is one of the most amazing places you will ever visit.

  • Dieuwer

    Fun! I will be going to Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore for the upcoming December holidays! Flying BOS-JFK-ICN-REP with Delta and Korean in business class, and back from SIN with Air China in business class via PEK and JFK.
    I have a total of four days each in Siem Reap, Bangkok and Phuket. And finally a day-and-a-half in Singapore.

  • jweigle

    While in Siem Reap, be sure to check out the Floating Villages on Tonle Lake. It’s really quite the experience…and take a tour of http://www.artisansdangkor.com/. I was so moved seeing the artisans make these items in person!

    I highly recommend the guide that our MBA class used for the few days we were there. He’s been guiding students in this course each year when they visit Siem Reap. Is there a way to privately message you his contact info?

  • clickychick

    Do not miss Soul Food Mahanakorn in Bangkok. Yes, the street food is cheap and amazing, but this place does great food with the only decent drink we found in the city. Have the owner choose dishes for you.

    http://www.soulfoodmahanakorn.com/

    We hit the main sites in BKK, but otherwise I could not get out of there fast enough. Not my scene unless you like shopping malls.

    Koh Samui was lovely. We stayed at the Hansar Samui–small hotel near the small (former) fishing village of Bophut, opposite side from Chaweng Beach. Easy walk into “town” for food.

    http://www.hansarsamui.com/
    Do not miss the Friday night market. And eat your body weight in banana pancakes. (It’s a roti of sorts, filled with bananas and nutella–about $1.50.) I would fly back just for those.
    We took a boat trip for day snorkeling to the Angthong National Marine Park–gorgeous trip, do not miss.
    Enjoy!

  • Mei Lee

    Hotel de la Paix was such a classy hotel. I still remember smelling the lotus blossom in the air and the minimalist decor when I visited in 2009. Hopefully, the new Hyatt can beat it. The Angkor complex has so much to offer. It is the most amazing place I’ve ever visited. Hope you have more than 3 days to spent there. My favorite temples are: Bayon, Banteay Srei, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and the newly restored (in 2011) Bahphuon. Do get massage in Siem Reap, it is cheap and good. Siem Reap is a great place to shop, too, and bargain hard when you do. Have a great trip.

  • Katrina Johnson

    Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens, Chiang Mai, Thailand
    Royal Barges Museum in Bangkok
    China Beach in DaNang, Vietnam
    I’m fond of Thai Whiskey. Be aware that Thai Whiskey is actually distilled molasses and rice with some herbs.
    My partner and I got a foot massage every day.

  • DanG

    A Few things in terms of BKK.

    1. It’s HOT there. There is a “North face” store there…Why I will never know. Compare it to New Orleans in August…..

    2. Bad news – You’re a “Farang” or outsider. They will try to scam you. The Good news…Their idea of a scam is usually 10-20% higher than the bargained price. You’ll most likely never notice or care, or consider it part of the entertainment.

    3. You want your clothes laundered there…Many hotels include free laundry. Take advantage of it. It’s cheap, and trust me..It’s worth it. Never were my polo shirts that clean, or that pressed.

    4. Chatuchak weekend market – You must go there. Thai and Tourists alike. You will find everything from T-Shirts to live animals. Highly entertaining… Good food too, but that’s rarely a problem in BKK.

    5. While the quality has improved, don’t drink the water. If you order a bottle of water, make sure that they open it in front of you. Don’t get iced anything from street vendors.

    6. The Four Seasons isn’t on the river, and is about 3/4 of a mile from the BTS. Expect to Sweat quite a bit.

    7. The Thai people are very friendly and optimistic people. Any sign of anger or sarcasm is offensive. Also – Your head is considered clean, and your feet are considered dirty. Don’t put your feet up…It’s an insult.

    8. The Fifth Freedom flight from BKK to HKG, Emirates A380 First Class Suite…Wow. Everyone moaned when it was time to land. Not always very expensive.

  • Ben

    In Angkor, use the tour guide Son! He has a website: http://www.angkorinenglish.com and donates much of his earnings to a charity benefiting Cambodian children. He has a fascinating back story and knows it all. He was also a monk as a child, and knows the ins and outs of Angkor Wat and Bayon.

  • BeagleBoy

    Sounds like it’s gonna be a great trip. The wet season has passed, and it’s supposed to get cooler and dryer around this time, so you should be alright. Read up on the on-going protest in BKK and get news update where/when the demonstration is taking place to plan your day. Thai demonstrations are usually not violent, but it usually turns Bangkok’s already nightmarish traffic into hell. In addition to the restaurants other posters have mentioned, I also recommend Supanniga Eating Room on Thonglor. The food and the ambiance are great.

    For tailoring, I usually go to POEM in Siam Square or Meticulous (there are a few locations in Bangkok).

    A few months ago, I saw that Uber was recruiting for a GM position, so you may be able to use Uber in Thailand already. If not, try the app GrabTaxiTH (http://grabtaxi.co.th/) to get your ride.

    Hope this helps! I’d also recommend you get a lot of massages. I usually get one almost every other day when I’m there :)

  • Brad

    DUDE – you have to try the overland trip from Thailand to Cambodia. Lots of flights if you’re less adventurous, but that is one of the craziest border crossings in the world. There’s a huge market right at the border, it’s complete chaos, and the roads in Cambodia are even crazier. But if you want to get away from the beaten path I’d highly recommend it.

  • Michael

    Hoi An Vietnam is the place for custom clothes. There a year ago, silk suits for $60. They will make in 2 or 3 days. Besides the city of Hoi An, a couple of historical sites outside the city, My Son and Marble Mountain, will keep you busy between fittings.

  • Ryan

    If you can make it down to Krabi, Railay Beach is my favorite place in the world (of the 30+ countries I’ve been to). It’s a zen a peaceful penninsula accessible only by boat (for this reason many think Railay is an island). Accomdations are limited and range from $15/nt backpacker bungalows to the exclusive and elusive $700/night Rayavadee Resort – a heavily guarded resort community for Thailand’s most elite travellers. I, of course, have never stayed there at that price tag, but I have heard it’s truly incredible. I can’t wait to head back to Railay for my 7th time. Happy travels!

  • Ryan

    As someone who has spent 4 years leading travel trips through Thailand, I have to disagree with the “scamming” comment. Yes, Thai shop owners may give you the “foreigner” price, but they can always be gently bargained down with limited hassle. Also, you will almost never see shop owners hounding you to come in to their shop like you’ll find in Cambodia, most of Africa, South America etc….walking through Thai markets is actually an incredibly peaceful experience. Of course, nothing has price tags and they will start high (so do car salesman), but they are easy and always willing to bargain down.

  • Ryan

    Also, it won’t be terribly hot. December and January are dry and “cool”. Still warm during the days, but nights can be chilly. You won’t have to worry about rain this time of year.

  • DanG

    It’s a great country, and maybe “Scamming” is too powerful a word. I found the whole bargaining thing entertaining, and my US Dollar no matter how you would figure it….Went extremely far there. I found the Thai people to be extremely courteous, friendly, and fun. The Thai Markets are highly enjoyable.

  • Nicole Gilzenrat

    You should definitely check out Beng Mealea in Siem Reap. It’s an Angkor Wat style temple, but is a bit off the beaten path, and is about an hour outside of the city. The temple is destructed, and hasn’t been restored at all. So you basically get to climb all around it, and it’s like an episode of Legends of the Hidden Temple. I would recommend going to Laos if you have the time too, and try to head over to Koh Phangan, specifically Thong Nai Pan beach (boat ride from Koh Samui).

  • KatCanuck

    While realizing you’re likely using points for hotels… why on earth go to a place like BKK (or the rest, but that’s the only one I’ve been to), only to stay in the most “western” hotels possible? Why not actually experience the Thai culture and stay in more typical places, there are some absolutely lovely hotels, some of them dirt cheap and still awesome albeit minus some of the western luxury you might be accustomed to. Chatuchak market definitely an “experience”. Grand Palace. Oh and street food… seriously good heaping plates (or a fresh mango smoothie… ) for $1. No you won’t get sick. I agree with the other who said scams not really an issue, other than the TukTuk drivers who will take you where you (they) want to go.

  • Jason Sundar

    Thanks for this wonderful tip. What a kind-loving tour guide he is. Definitely will consider him on my next trip to Siem Reap! Will recommend him as well.

  • Bill Rubin

    I’d recommend checking out the Sukhothai Hotel while in Bangkok. It’s a better priced alternative to the Oriental, FS, and Peninsula properties with equally impressive service, accommodations, and dining–though it is not on the river.

  • Bill Rubin

    My husband and I are heading in January to Myanmar (LAX-ICN FIrst Class on Asiana, ICN-RGN Business Class on Asiana) to see Yangon for 3 nights and Bagan for 3 nights. Then heading to Siem Reap but staying at Amansara for 5 nights–but very curious about the Park Hyatt Siem Reap which we did consider and hope to visit while in town. We end with 2 nights in Hong Kong at the Upper House. We also got the Cathay Pacific HKG-LAX First Class flight so we look forward to your review. Enjoy!

  • dean

    Pay to fly from bkk to siem reap. Use Cambodia Air. The countless scams you’ll encounter on the 5 1/2hr train ride to the cambodian border and especially AT the border at crazy, as are the innocent begging girls, the 5.5hr train ride, $1.42-ish, the 10min tuk tuk to the “border” $10. The fake border stamps and “V.I.P.” visa stamping, $15-$20., the bus/cab from cambodian border to Siem Reap, figure $12pp, and opt for cab if 3 ppl ($48 for cab, split) bus you have to wait until “filled’ will only cost $2-4, but tack on HOURS to your trip waiting for it to leave, depedning on when you cross. Educated you can avoid all the scams but the market at the crossing is similarly experienced in Siem Reap.

    Angkor Wat – hire a tuk tuk for $15 for 8hrs to tour, he’ll be waiting for you when you walk out of each temple to take you to the next one.. $25-$30 and a semi-informed guide will walk with you as well, great if you don’t know the history…but they are hit-or-miss. Get day passes for A.W., it shouldn’t take more than 2 days to see it all, and it’s either 2 day passes or a 3-day pass. I was tired, but saw 85% in 1 day…and left early b/c of all the climbing!! S.R. also have 4-wheelers to see the countryside, not bad, like $65ish, great time, run by a French guy…if you do, go to Costco and get a HUGE bag of suckers for the multitude of children who’ll run up to you…otherwise they stop you off at a vendor (who gives kickbacks to the guy guiding you) for the small bag of suckers for $3.

    It’s a long bus ride to PP, but the Killing Fields is moving. Can still see human skulls/bones in the ground and Pol Pot history, etc. You’ll understand why Cambodia is in the predicament they are.

    In BKK, check out a Muay Thai fight. The Presidential Place is great and is about $6 to get in, but had the Jade Buddha and some great architecture…WELL worth it. Also a miniture Angor Wat there as well.

    Beware the Tuk Tuks. Always overcharging. ALWAYS. Traffic is INSANE. If you value your life, do NOT ride pillion on a bike.

    If you’re there(in BKK) long enough, get fitted for some custom shirts/suits/pants. Someone will say “go to Raja’s” Sure…but there are like FIVE Raja’s within a 2 block area…so finding the right one is difficult!!

    You can buy/light off Fireworks in Koh Samui. IIRC it’s on the northern part of the island. http://samuifireworks.com/

    Email if you want more info…have a great trip!

  • http://heynoobz.com/ Casi @HeyNoobz

    Looks like an amazing way to fly to Bangkok! Cozy!

    Bangkok: Drive to วัดมหาธาตุ (Wat Maha That) and bring your camera(see pic)! And the pad thai lady in front of the Suk 11 Hostel is the best!

    Koh Samui: Bandara Resort and Spa has a beautiful pool! (see pic)

    And if you make it to Chiang Mai spend a day at the Elephant Nature park (see pic)

  • dean

    I forgot. Take $2 bills. they are “good luck” in Cambodia and can bargain a better deal many times if you show them one…i.e. the last to cinch a deal.

    In Cambodia, ONLY take/use CRISP bills. Even a VERY small tear and they will NOT accept it. Most banks won’t either. Forewarned, is forearmed.

    Cambodia takes USD…they actually PREFER it…you have no reason to change money into theirs other than to make the money changers richer. Thailand you’ll need to change money. NEVER step on their money..any of it. As said bottom of feet are dirty, and their president is on ALL currency. You could very well get arrested (and shaken down for a bribe) if seen doing it.

    In BKK, the floating mkt is the one of an old James Bond movie as well.

  • JM

    Following recommendations is for those that like beautiful sandy beaches. If you like rocky outcrops and no beaches, stay on opposite sides on the island I recommend. The western side of S. Thailand (Phuket) will be dry in Nov/Dec. The eastern side (Samui) will get rained on. Plenty of info online on all the touristy places, but if you want bliss, go to Koh Lanta, just east of PhiPhi. Spent 2 weeks there with girlfriend in January of this year, we’re going back for 2 more weeks in a month. Rent a scooter on Lanta. Stay in a bungalow. If you go to Samui, stay on Chaweng/Lamai, despite the noise. On Koh Phangnan, Haad Rin (full moon beach) has the most beautiful beach, followed by the quiet, bliss Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai on NE side of island. Spent 10 days there with gf in August (no rain in August), and while it was great, won’t go back. I read Koh Chang is amazing, and will also try to hit up with my gf as we head out to Thai beaches again in December. We live in Korea, so the 6 hour trip is basically free using United miles :-)

  • JM

    Fully agree with you. It’s nice to come back to a nice, clear hotel though. Nothing says that just because you sleep in a nice, western hotel that you can’t experience thai culture. BKK has TONS to explore, just gotta get away from the places all the tourists go to. The touristy shit isn’t real Thailand – it’s Thailand for tourists. I’ve never gotten sick of Thai street food, and I’ve spent about 5 months traveling through Thailand on a budget over the past 5 years, going back every year or two for vaca.

  • RakSiam

    November is not low season. It is the start of high season.

    Lots of great hotels in BKK as noted. Too many great hotels actually. I would select a place based on its proximity to where you want to go or to BTS (first) or MRT (second). I also agree that a 4 star or even 5 star place with a little more local flavor is much more interesting than a Western chain. And I say that from the Grand Hyatt Erawan where I am checking out in a couple of hours.

    For Siem Reap, pace yourself. There are lots of old temples. How much you enjoy visiting them is only something you can tell. I loved it there. Try to get away from the main tourist areas and go to places like Phnom Kulen to see the waterfall and enjoy a picnic like the locals. Visit the outlying temples like Beng Mealea which will have a lot fewer tourists. There are also some other far flung temples. It’s a bit more interesting experience.

    I am not a beach person so I skip beach destinations and go to more interesting cultural destinations like Chiang Mai.

    It’s been a few years since I went to Vietnam and I am guessing that things there are changing fast. I really enjoyed Hanoi and the surrounding area. I believe the November time frame is monsoon season along the Vietnam coast. I spent a couple of November days in Hoi An and it was very rainy.

    It’s a fascinating part of the world. The people are great. The sights are like nothing you’ve ever seen.

  • whrobb

    I’ll be going the first week of December.. Anxious to see the follow up to this post. We’re staying at the Conrad on Koh Samui.. Got in on an AXON award right before they devalued the points.

  • DJOOLZ

    Good time of year. Not rainy or humid. Golf at Laem Chabang about an hour S of BKK – Jack Nicklaus gem.

  • Kelvin

    When arriving at the airport in Bangkok go upstairs to the arrivals level and get a taxi that you see dropping someone off. If you go downstairs to the official taxi line there is a good chance you will get a taxi with a turbo meter. After the third time this happened I stopped using the taxi line and will only take a taxi from the arrivals area that I see dropping off a passenger.

    If you do take a taxi from the arrivals area be sure not to take one of the taxis that’s already sitting there. Those drivers are part of the taxi mafia and have paid off the police in order to park there, and they will then rip you off. But if you see a driver dropping off a passenger you should take that taxi. Those drivers are usually very happy to have a customer for their drive back to the city and shouldn’t try to rip you off.

    When in Bangkok you will never want to take a taxi that is parked. They are always the ones that will rip you off. Always flag down a moving taxi and you will have much better luck. Taxis sitting in tourist areas or on the street in front of hotels are usually the worst.

  • Harold

    Go to Chang Mia and ride elephants the right way. Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. http://thaielephanthome.com/

  • beachfan

    Two killer tips for Bangkok;

    1) Get the pants whose legs zip off into shorts. Several fantastic sites in Bangkok require you to cover your legs (men and women) and it’s hot!! If you wear pants all day, you broil. If you were a sarong over your shorts, you broil. But if you have lightweight safari pants with the legs that zip off….

    2) The #1 best site in all of Bangkok is the Throne Hall, which is part of the Teak Palace complex. Decorative arts that rival Versailles, truly stunning. You will need your zip off pants leg shorts there.

  • elemenopee

    totally agree, my wife and I visited Beng Mealea this past June and we loved it.

  • Erminaesd4o2

    I would love to go there too, I found an interesting project and I hope it will be ready by the time I will get there : http://aquasamui.com/

  • LarryInNYC

    Thailand has no President, and at any given time probably half the population would be happy to step on the Prime Minister, symbolically or otherwise. It’s the King who’s image is printed on the currency and yes, mistreating that image (by stepping on it) is considered a punishable form of lese majesty — as are other forms of disrespect. Do not disrespect the royal family, even in jest, in the presence of Thais.

  • Mark R.

    For a fun evening in Bangkok, make sure you go to the Tawadang German Brewery – it’s a real experience!

  • Scott Cooper

    If you wear neckties ever, check out Jim Thompson in BKK. Excellent and special designs and construction, easily comparing to Hermes or Ferragamo, about 1/4 the price. Ex-CIA guy, disappeared but left behind a great silk company. A tour of his house is not to be missed in BKK.

  • Roni

    I second the comment on taking only crisp, unworn, untorn bills to Cambodia. Bills are thoroughly inspected for damage,especially the large ones. Always go with with a lot of smaller USD bills to have on hand for tuk tuks, markets, street food–vendors often don’t have change for larger bills. While USD bills are accepted everywhere, they don’t use US coins. Any change less than $1 should be paid in Riel. The universally accepted exchange rate is $1=4000 riel, in any combination of the 2 currencies.

    Money aside, check out the Landmine Museum in Siem Reap. It’s a bit out of town but the story behind it is fascinating–the man behind the museum was a Khmer Rouge soldier who planted countless of landmines under Pol Pot, and not he’s dedicated his life to demining the country.

    Be sure to eat Amok in Siem Reap! The best I’ve found is at Star Rise Restaurant on Wat Bo Road.

    Save your massages for Thailand (cheaper and far better) and your tailor-made clothing for Hoi An, Vietnam.

    Safe Travels!

  • Richard Tell

    The two best hotels in BKK, IMO are the Mandarin Oriental (still referred to as the Oriental by locals) and the Peninsula hotel. Y0u can shop around for good prices. I always pay in the $220-$250. 4+ times more in NYC. Try Hotels2Thailand. I go twice a year and alternate. Both are on the Chao Phraya river, a nice respite after a day in BKK. They have a fleet of boats for moving around on the river. There are also public boats that are like buses. Much easier to get to the Palace than taxi. Also the BTS Skytrain is nearby. Easy way to get to the big shopping stores in Siam.

  • Bespoke Worldwide

    The Four Seasons location is not very good. I’d suggest looking at one of the Marriott branded hotels (the Renaissance comes to mind).

    Also, when taking the boat down the river, make sure you get the cheaper 15 THB ticket, not the 40 “Tourist” THB ticket.

  • sf

    As a side, the best part about Thailand is that even though everyone is trying to rip you off, at the end of the day, the actual “loss” is only a few dollars here and there (in terms of taxis, boats, transportation, food – not the gem scam).

  • jackdaniels2

    you are so pretty nicole

  • Doug

    First and foremost, pay close attention to news reports about BKK since there is escalating political unrest from both the left and the right over the amnesty bill just passed by Parliament. In 2010 protests were centered around Ratchaprasong, adjacent to where you will be staying.

    Since you will be at Four Season & St. Regis, take the Ratchadamri BTS (right in front of both hotels) to Saphan Taksin station on the Chao Phraya river and take an express boat to pier #8 (Tha Tien) where you can take a ferry over to Wat Arun, and then come back and take an easy walk to Wat Pho; and a short walk or tuk-tuk ride to the Grand Palace (be sure to wear long pants and shirt with sleeves for the GP).
    The river express boat is a great experience vs taking a taxi that might get stuck in traffic for hours. Also, in BKK all taxis are supposed to be metered–but some drivers claim that the meter is broken and want a flat fee. So unless you know your way around and can mentally calculate a reasonable fare–simply get out.

    Note on the river taxi–be sure not to buy “tourist” boat ticket in advance (blue flag boat) instead wait for orange flag boat (more like a commuter boat) and just hop on and pay on board–very cheap maybe like 20 THB to pier 8 vs 150 THB for the blue flag. The orange flag boats offer a much more authentic experience, whereas the blue flags have a narrator who you cannot understand and pay much more.

    Second, beware of the tuk-tuks around Wat Pho and the Grand place. Rates are outrageous and often they will scam you by taking you to the “gold shops or jewelry stores” on the way. Also, beware of pick pockets in this area.

    I also agree that the Chatuckak weekend market is a must do if you have time on St or Sun. Take the BTS to the Mo Chit station.
    Regarding Siem Reap–I go frequently and have an ownership interest in a boutique hotel there (which I am not promoting). Please PM me for tour guide info if interested ([email protected]) . I know several good guys in SR–no scams.
    I also agree on the currency comments about SR. Everything is priced in US dollars (no need to do mental currency exchange rates) and you only encounter the Cambodia Riel when you get change in a convenience store or drug store; and the Riel is essentially worthless. When I go, I take $150 in $1.00 bills since everything is so cheap in SR, you need crisp clean bills.

    I envy you staying at the new Park Hyatt. Hotel de la Paix was the only place I ever stayed until it closed. I was able to visit the Park Hyatt two days after it opened in August, and I am sure that you will be pleased. But it now way too much money for my budget.

  • SD14

    Cambodia: Bantaey Srei is another smaller temple about 20 minutes away from Angkor Wat – Much smaller than the massive Angkor Wat complex, but the carvings there are more beautiful. Its a beautiful place – was one of the highlights for me when I went there…

    Another tip – if you do join the hordes trying to see the famed sunrise over Angkor Wat, you will be surrounded by hundreds of people, but once the sunrise ‘moment’ passes, take a walk to the area behind the temple – it is almost deserted with maybe a handful of people – much more enjoyable and you can get some brilliant pictures too.

  • Carrie Gillespie

    Having just returned from a trip to Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand I would steer you to Myanmar before it’s too late! Tourism has just opened up and there is so much to see. A hot air balloon ride over the thousands of stupas in Bagan is not to be missed. Amazing sights in Yangon and Mandalay. If you stick to your original 3 countries and want to have some different experiences – try a fish pedicure in Bangkok and try to talk to one of the more successful and english speaking girls about their transformation from male to female. The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh Cambodia and Chu Chi tunnels in Vietnam are emotional experiences. Some of my more adventurous group members ate fried tarantulas and crickets which are considered tasty snacks. Enjoy Angkor Wat (Cambodia) and the Grand Palace (Bangkok) but try to get off the beaten path.

  • dlnbk

    Go see Mr. Bobby Gulati on Sukhumvit Rd – treated some friends like royalty when they were there a few years back… And relatively inexpensive.

  • Chris Rutledge

    I totally agree, Bobby’s at Raja’s Fashions. They’re fantastic. Excellent, trustworthy, inexpensive. I’m sure there are other good tailors in the city, but picking one at random is a crap shoot. Go see Bobby, he’ll take care of you.

  • dean

    Usually the waiting taxis are worse b/c they are paying a kickback to the doorman/etc that is at the hotel. With that said, best to walk a bit from your hotel when going to the airport, as those are the most egregious ripoffs.

  • dean

    Great tour. Not allowed to take pics once inside. The silk, while nice, is quite expensive.

  • What Steph Wore

    Me too :)

  • dean

    Depends where in Thailand re: massage prices. In SR, I got a 1hr massage for $5, gave $3 tip. In BKK, the avg. price seemed to be $15-$20, granted some were 90mins.

  • Kalboz

    If you happen to stay at the St. Regis Bangkok, get a room/suite overlooking the polo club which will provide expansive views of Bangkok. Although part of a Western chain this property conveys the Thai style in an elegant and subtle manner but with comfort & luxury. The service is awesome too.

    If you interested to see the real Bangkok, then a visit to the Saochingcha area is a must. Located at Rattanakosin “Island”, this area was originally built by King Rama V. You will find great architecture of old palaces, temples, and gates. The food is amazing there – eat at Tien Song, Chote Chitre, or both!

  • MK

    Highly recommend a foray to Laos or Myanmar too if you can squeeze them in. But if not, definitely check out the smaller Bantaey Srei temple at Angkor Wat. In Thailand, Chiang Mai is worth the trip, and the beaches anywhere are incredible (especially if you are into scuba or snorkeling). In Vietnam, do a day or two on a junk (small boat) in Halong Bay in the north… very cool. And if you’re a foodie, the pho in Vietnam is to die for. Seriously, and so cheap too. You can just sit at a stall on the side of the road eating steaming hot pho with so many amazing flavors. One of the highlights of Vietnam. Hoi An (in central Vietnam midway between Hanoi and Saigon) is a fun, relaxing beach town with lots of cool culture (and food) that merits a stop too in my mind. I have so many great memories from backpacking for 4 months through southeast Asia during college… must say I’m jealous. Have fun exploring the coolest corner of the world!

  • michaelem

    If you go to BKK and don’t stay at the Oriental or the Peninsula, you are doing it wrong.

  • Ben

    Second the Koh Lanta. We stayed at Crown Lanta resort during our honeymoon. Swim up rooms = favorite pool of my life!

  • Kristen Caplan

    Probably not a hidden gem, but the malls of Bangkok are surprisingly fun & diverse, from crazy MBK to travel-themed Terminal 21. Eat any and all street food you pass! If you head to Chiang Mai, take a cooking class at Thai Farm Cooking School and ask for MB for your teacher – she is hilarious. Happy travels!

  • ian smith

    If you are in Thailand in November avoid the South, because it is still in the rainy season. You need to head off to Koh Chang or the other two islands that are a bit further a field. Bangkok Airways fly from BKK via Trat, a a bit expensive but worth it just to get on one of those FOKKER 100′s.

  • Matt Nolfo

    I just did this trip in September. Got great redemption into Asia on China Eastern (business on main leg but complimentary upgraded from having platinum delta status on inter asia flight) JFK>PVG>HKG then returning from BKK>PVG>JFK (same as prior) for 120K Skymiles. Did JW’s in HK and PVG (which treat you like royalty). Then did 5 days at the W Koh Samui. The service here is impeccable. Definitely use suite night upgrades. All the rooms are pretty awesome to begin with but the upgrades are 10 times better. Sea Torres, food insider, rocks. She will set you up with anything and everything needed. She got us in with all the local restaurants and even at their very own Korean Iron Chef SK Chois chef table at their restaurant on premise. In Cambodia, we did the Le Meridien. It is the closest hotel to the temples but also the furthest from the downtown and pub street (about 2 miles if that). Food here is so cheap, everything is $1. I agree with crisp dollars, the locals made a big fit about wrinkled dollar bills. You have to do at least 2 days of temple tours, do 1 with a guide (about $30 for the day with car service) and 1 with a tuk tuk (about $7 for the day) The Tonle Sap lake tour was awesome. There are a lot of bad reviews about some of them how they try to force you to buy rice for $40 to donate to an orphanage. We went through the company the Le Meridien provides and had no issues at all. We had the entire boat to ourselves and it was truly a sight. In Bangkok we stayed at the St. Regis. After Hong Kong, I didn’t know what to expect about Bangkok since everyone said they are identical with population and buildings; they definitely aren’t and I 100% recommend BKK for sure. I used suite night upgrades at the St. Regis and upon checkin was told it wasn’t ready so they upgraded us 3 levels higher (their second suite from the top). The room was insanely large and 100% unnecessary but an absolute amazing experience. The Elemis spa on site is phenomenal (3 in the world, miami, london and bangkok). They allow SPG members (not just platinum but all) to use their spas for free. The pool is amazing. The italian restaurant in the lobby is amazing. This part of town makes you feel like you’re not even in bangkok and more of an upscale American city (kind of like near newbury street in Boston but a lot more traffic and people. You are also 1 subway stop (subway entrance is in hotel) to the red light district :P.

    My restaurant recommendations:
    Koh Samui:
    1- Namu (SK Choi’s spot, talk to Sea Torres at the W)
    2- The Page (in Library Hotel, resembles what you’d see in Miami)
    3- Spirit House (outside seating, very cool ambiance)
    4- Happy Elephant

    Bangkok:
    1- Jojo
    2- Zuma
    3- Nara
    4- Manna

    Cambodia:
    1- Khmer Kitchen – this was the only place I really enjoyed. I didn’t love the flavors of a lot of the local cuisine (and I’m pretty adventurous). The restaurant in the Le Meridien isn’t that great, the Platinum lounge, however, is awesome.

    As for Spas:
    I tried them all in the St. Regis (BKK), Le Meridien (REP) and W (USM). I would say save all your $$$ for the Elemis one in BKK or the one in the W (its not a Bliss Spa, forget the brand though).

    As for Activities:
    USM:
    1- Elephant Trekking/Tiger petting
    2- Tour the island, check out the Banyon Tree hotel, views are insane
    3- Ang Thong Marine Park, On the (max) 40 person speedboat company, they will drive right up on the beach and drop you off at the W upon return instead of the main drop off site. Very A-list! This attraction is a must by the way. Boat ride there is a little scary and bumpy.
    4- jetleving!

    **Word of advice, brush up on your Angelina Jolie knowledge before heading to Cambodia, they swear by her.

  • Matt Nolfo

    By the way, I went in September, heavy rainy season (except for Koh Samui as monsoons are on the other side of Thailand at that time). I got a half of day of rain on the entire 2.5 week trip. If it rains, it’s for very short periods of time at the same time each day, like Florida.

    Also try to plan Koh Samui for the full moon party!

  • BangkokBaby
  • Sarina Harnett

    My husband and I just recently returned from a 2 week trek through Bangkok, Siem Reap & a beautiful resort located in the Gulf of Thailand, about an hour away from Sihanoukville, called Song Saa. We were there from 10/19-10/30. The weather was absolutely perfect during our entire stay.

    Re: Bangkok, we just booked a car through our hotel (Grand Hyatt Erawan on points), just so we didn’t have to think about it after a 18 hour journey. It was by far and away, the greatest car ride ever….massaging chairs, fresh cold towers & bottled water. I felt like a movie villain.

    I agree with other posters re: getting around Bangkok. Try to avoid the parked cars in and around touristy areas…they’re crooks. My husband and I found ourselves stranded by Wat Bo during our last day…which word to the wise….try to bring exact change for admission. After spending a good 10 min going from car to car which quoted us anything between 200-400 baht, a local street vendor was able to help us flag down moving taxi who was able to get us home for 150.

    Paragorn shopping mall was underwhelming unfortunately. It was just a strip of high end stores that’s readily available to me in NYC. Pass.

  • Guest

    Craig and I went to Thailand two years ago and are going back next year.

    Suits in Bangkok: we met this couple while at the Conrad Maldives this week. Mike Gulati at Paul’s Fashion at Mari Watergate Hotel. Tell them Craig and Ginger Murchison sent you. +6681-809-1081. [email protected] or [email protected].

    You must hit the Krabi region while in Thailand. If you want add to info, you can contact me at [email protected]. Meeting Brian today for a drink here at the Conrad. Will give him some details as well.

  • TeamMurchison

    Craig and I went to Thailand two years ago and are going back next year.

    Suits in Bangkok: we met this couple while at the Conrad Maldives this week. Mike Gulati at Paul’s Fashion at Amari Watergate Hotel. Tell them Craig and Ginger Murchison sent you. +6681-809-1081. [email protected] or [email protected].

    You must hit the Krabi region while in Thailand. If you want addtl info, you can contact me at [email protected]. Meeting Brian today for a drink here at the Conrad. Will give him some details as well.

  • Andy

    Long time reader and beneficiary of your posts! Have an amazing tour guide for Siem reap and a. Watt if you would like his name
    Just let me know. You need a local guide to enter the sites…

  • Norm

    Hey, nice thread. I am traveling myself to Bangkok and Cambodia next week and dont want to carry lot of cash personally.

    What is the best way to carry money there?

    I have bank of America and chase debit cards. Should I get it there from ATM? Which ATMs?

    Can you guys please help me with that …

  • Guest

    We

  • Apatahunga

    We are flying from FLL to Ho Chi Min on United first class for 70000 points in July 2014, returning 3 weeks later on Air Canada bus class for 60000 points from Tokyo. Since I have some amex and chase points left I tried to book flights from Ho Chi Min to Bali, then to Taipei and from there to Tokyo on ba and united but without much availability. Are there any Asian airlines that offer good deals on these routes? Thank you.

  • upena1

    Was wondering if you had given the Tourism Authority of Thailand permission to use your photo – https://www.facebook.com/tourismthailandmiddleeast/photos/a.187639541253301.53900.184907868193135/843307695686479/?type=1&theater

  • Trinh

    Try Air Asia, Jet Star or Tiger Air.

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