It's been 3 years now that a combination of fate and yellow T-shirt protests set me as a newbie to the Patong beach. I can’t really complain, since I met my wife there and she is the joy in my life. There was no real time for holiday up to
now, when I grabbed a window of opportunity to get some time away.
I usually fly with Emirates from Dusseldorf to Bangkok, it’s the cheapest airline and got the best service for that. Unlike other companies every seat has its own screen and entertainment program. A real help on those long hours. The drawback and reason why it’s so cheap: You have to change the plane in Dubai. Now of course the low price is not the compensation for this change, but rather the fact, that the location of the hub is so convenient. If Air Berlin wants to get passengers from Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich to Bangkok and Cape Town, that's 6 planes going all the way. Reasonable only if fully booked.
For Emirates, it’s 3 planes from Germany to Dubai (mostly full) and 2 planes to Bangkok and Cape Town. You just can’t beat that. The price for an economy ticket DUS to BKK is usually about 600 Euro, with bargains at 550 Euro. Can be more, depending on the season and the connection.
Since the connection is vital (you really don’t want to sit 8 hours in the Dubai Airport) you should always book the flight online at Emirates.com. It gives you all flight details and prices. One thing that does not make sense with Emirates is the single flight pricing. When my wife needed a one way ticket BKK to DUS it was 800 Euro, at a time when the return ticket DUS to BKK was 650 Euro. She took an Air Berlin flight for 550 Euro instead.
2 years ago I made an effort to become silver member in their frequent flyer program. It has the huge advantage, that you can use the business class lounge in Dubai, even if you are flying on economy class. It also puts you into some kind of lottery system, that grants you free upgrades to business class on the trip departing from Dubai. This happened to me on my first flight with the new A380, which is an amazing experiment. Made me giggle too, when Lufthansa celebrated their new A380 – almost one year later. I go into detail, because apparently this lottery does not stop when you lose silver status. When we went from Dubai to Bangkok now, me and my wife were upgraded to business, even though I did not fly at all for one year and thus lost my status.
Now with flights so cheap and the rewards so big, Emirates faced a growing number of economy silver flyers clogging up their lounges in Dubai. The first solution was, to open only one of their lounges to silver members. Last year they solved the problem, by making it much harder to gain silver status (which is one reason why I did not fly last year and am now blue again).
The distance between Germany and Bangkok is about 6000 miles. A return flight made 12000 miles. For silver you need 25000 miles. So when I reached silver, I only had to do 2 ½ flights per year to BKK. Can be done. The new tier system however cut the tier miles you gain for economy flights by half. So a return flight only yields 6000 miles, which means you need to fly 5 times economy in one year to gain a frequent traveler silver upgrade. Or you go business all the time, or you skip the special offers altogether and only buy regular tickets for about 800 Euro. Not a real option, since higher prices not always mark a better connection. Anyway, for economy budget flyers the frequent flyer program of Emirates is pretty much dead.
I wanted to visit Angkor Wat on my visit, so 2 days after we arrived in Bangkok I bought a tour for 3 days in Khao San road. It’s 4000 Baht, but was very well organized. Only problem was the visa scam, 1300 baht for a 20$ visa. I considered it tip and did not pay anyone on that road. A Mexican fellow was really upset though. He asked the visa guy and he replied: I got to make a living.
Maybe it’s better to get a visa before. Also since I had no real business in Bangkok I might have done better to just go there alone and try for a flight to Koh Samui or Phuket after. I should have asked about the air fare in Angkor town, but failed to do.
Angkor Wat is impressive and certainly worth a visit, but with a bored footsore Laos wife it can be a rush. But then, to her it’s just a pile of old stones and she has seen Luang Prabang in Laos before.
After the temple our driver drove us to the floating village. I thought it was close by, but in fact it was on the other side of town and took quite some time over baaad roads. I am certain he gets some commission for that, because I never brought up the subject. I only read about it before and thought it might be interesting.
Be warned, it’s scam mostly. It starts with the admission fee of 2$ they charge, apparently to pay for the building they create on the dock. Hard to say what it will be when it’s finished, I guess some kind of market. After that we had to buy the ticket and were quoted 20$ p.P. That was when I turned without even answering. Should have left it that way, but they came after me and negotiated to 15$ each. Now I have to say, that bought me a boat just for me and my wife, but then, there were tours all the time and I really had no problem just to hop on one. Was not an option for some reason. The lake is scenic and a nice collection of poor primitive water buildings. Might appeal to some people but not really my kind of stuff and my wife being bored did not really help the mood. The first stop was some way out, where some beggars waited to get some money from the tourists. Kids with snakes was the main attraction. Most entertaining scene was a vendor boat docking on some tourist boat to sell refreshments. Was some show, when one of the vendor ladies climbed on the deck and got of a while later. 2nd stop was some shop thingy, it had the promised fish show (some basin with fish) and the crocodile show (some cube with crocodiles). And the usual tourist stuff. Wife was clearly disappointed and that was no surprise to me. Overall I can NOT recommend this trip, and if you find yourself in Asian company it can be a serious turn off for the night. Might still be ok, if your group is big enough to cut the price.
The hotel was nice BTW, low budget but tidy and the food is in the tour price. Maybe that is why the size of dishes is not really big and it’s not the best either, but certainly enjoyable.
The nightlife in Angkor Wat is tourist related and thus loud and late. Nothing really special, but nice if it appeals to you.
Next day we had to rise early, about 6:30 was our transport to the border. I skip the boring ride and after some hours you reach the border, get through and are transported to some restaurant near the border. That is where you get lunch, and it’s the same one you stop on the way to Cambodia. You need to switch cars there, because they need them to get the next load of tourists to the border. Basically it’s waiting and eating.
We made arrangements in Bangkok before, to get a trip to Koh Tao for 1000 Baht p.P. So back on Khao San road in the evening we had to wait for that trip. The usual uneventful bus trip to Chumpon, and the catamaran brought us to Koh Tao, where we arrived 9 o’clock in the morning of the next day. One full day wasted traveling, and this part I think was worth to just fly it.
I spent Christmas on Koh Tao 3 years ago and liked the quiet relaxed atmosphere. It’s still quiet, but more populated, since the word spread. Buildings coming up everywhere and remarkably close to the beach. Can’t walk it on some places without getting wet. There was some naughty bar 3 years ago that made room for a shop, can’t say if it moved, but I guess it’s just not working on an island where you go to dive. Had some nice katoey cabaret show though, virtually the show you see everywhere now. They even opened the small sister island for tourists now, the Catamaran really stops at some footbridge that goes around the island. Accommodation and diving are still reasonable cheap, got to haggle a bit. Helps to have a Thai speaking wife. Though it appears that they take Cambodian people now to work, and those can’t speak Thai. Might not be recognizable by tourists. Overall still nice, but I don’t think I'll go back for some time.
On the island we bought a trip to Phuket, to visit the mother of my wife, and since everything so far went so well I made some big mistake. I totally forgot about buses in Thailand and how they work. So instead of grabbing the head of the salesman and banging it against the desk, till he promised we’d get an express bus, I just agreed on the fare and an AC bus – that was literally checking every lantern for guests. Thus another day started in the morning ended late in the evening.
We ended up in the Deevana Patong resort, a Hotel that I booked in the Internet at Agoda.com. Pretty good site, has some nice hotels at bargains, though I guess you can have better deals if you just go and look around. Anyway, the Deevana shows only rooms with double beds on their pictures, which is a good idea in Patong. I was somewhat surprised on check in, when they told me I was upgraded to a superior garden room – that had 2 single beds. Actually it took them 3 days to deliver a standard room – with a standard double bed. Might be a high season problem, but all the time Agoda showed 5 empty rooms for rent – with double beds…
The hotel itself is nicely built around some gardens with a good pool in the middle, a little far from the beach and the action, but still in walking distance. They will accept “friends” you bring along, but only with an ID and if you paid for a double room. Since the reception is not on the way to the garden you may just go in anyway, it’s unlikely anyone asks. Can be bad though, if you run into any trouble with your guest.
There is a new mosque nearby, looks like it got a loudspeaker system like you find it in Marokko. At 5am it will broadcast the ways of Allah to anyone. I doubt that this will improve the relationships with Allah in a place like Patong. But since Islam and Patong don’t match anyway I wonder who spent the money and effort to build it in a place like this. They even had an impressive display of Islam girls near the beach the other day. No idea why it appeals to them, but with restaurants serving “halal” food now it can be an interesting competition in the future.
On the second night out I wanted to relive the past and went to Bangla road. Got me some serious fight with my wife, because she thought I just wanted to stare at the girls. She got some weight in Germany (the fate of many a wife in Europe) and fears the competition with all those slim girls. I was looking for something else though, I fondly remember a quiet Cuban bar behind Suzy Wong's and I could not find it, no one knew about it. Learned the next day that it got some kind of mall now in the place.
The party scene is busy like it was, but for some odd reason they sport Russian girls suddenly. Shows and bars present Russian girls and I hear that Thai ladies are a bit unhappy about that. Not to mention that there are a lot of Russian customers, too. I hear they are more into drinking than into girls. What puzzles me is not that the Russian ladies want to stay here, I would prefer Patong beach to the Russian winter anytime. I just wonder how they cope with the bargirl life here and apparently do well with it. A German expat told me that they ask (and get) 3 to 4 K Baht.
Mosquitoes are a real pita this time, looks like they can even sting through socks and T-Shirts now. Evolution at it’s best. They got some toy called “bite-away” in Europe, this might have been good to bring along. It heats the spot for about 3 seconds at 50 degrees, destroying the protein that causes the itching. It sells for 1000 baht, I wonder if I could build something similar and just sell it here on the beach. Or maybe cure itches for 10 baht per spot.
My wife spent a day on the loo with diarrhea and vomiting. I would have told her that motorbike street vendors and fish just don’t mix, but she chose an opportunity when she was out alone and I was at the pool. Guess some lessons got to be learned the hard way. Believe it or not, 2 days later she bought another fish, from a different street vendor though. With similar effects.
Deevana resort prepared a big Christmas event in the garden. Got food and drinks free, and some show, too. Also had some lottery, prices were mostly Thai massage. However they charge 2000 baht for it. That’s 50 euro and you’d have troubles to sell that in Germany. I assume they had troubles with the number of paying customers last time and try to solve it the “Thai” way. Had a good turnout, too. Actually more than I expected. Party did not last that long though, most people who can afford that kind of cash don't like the Thai disco music that followed 10pm.
The mother of my wife lives with some Thai bloke in Phuket town. He rents a small house (more like a garage) and turned it into some repair shop for electric stuff. My wife told me they might have to move soon, because somebody wants to buy the house for 1 million baht. I am pretty sure she got that number wrong, or the prices for land are just crazy in Phuket (it was not even remotely close to the center or the beach).
Back in Bangkok we stayed at the D&D inn on Khao San Road. I like the street, but that was a big mistake. For one, even though the hotel overall was pretty good for low budget, the room stank. Got some trouble with the vent I think.
The main problem though was something a man can forget easily. Shopping frenzy. My wife spent the 2 remaining days hunting for all the things she can't get in Germany and since the major shopping areas are far away from khao San, it meant taxis all the time. Through busy Bangkok roads. Next time it will be a hotel near the skytrain again.
I can't help but feel that with a bit of research you would have been forewarned and not suffered any of the hassles or scams or had to put up with the low quality hotels you ended up in. Much of the problems you suffered were most certainly avoidable with a little research…