The airport in Koh Samui is charming. Reminds me of some of the airports in Tahiti – open air and laid back. We had a quick bite at an Italian place and waited at our gate – Bangkok Airways touts itself as a boutique airline, and offers free lounge service to all their guests – which of course means that they offer cheap snacks (not very appetizing) and drinks, and that their lounges are pretty crowded. No thanks. We hopped on an open-air tram (felt like an amusement park ride) to get to our plane, and quick one hour flight on Bangkok Airways later we had arrived in Bangkok again. I’m amazed that Bangkok Air offers meal service to all it’s passengers even on these one hour flights – that’s crazy. Again, low-quality food and so we passed on the food. We took the BTS Skytrain into the Ratchaprop District of Bangkok (maybe $2 and a 20 minute ride) and flagged down a tuk tuk to take us to the hotel. He had a hard time finding the hotel, when around and around, tried to drop us off at several other hotels, and finally I had to refer to google maps on my phone and point to get there.
The Renaissance is a Marriott brand hotel – it was clean and modern and the service was very good. Since I have gold status with Marriott, we got a club floor room and had drinks and dinner after check in and then a good breakfast the next morning in the lounge.
The hotel has an nice indoor pool:
We walked around the Ratchaprasong District, which is great for upscale shopping, and stopped and watched some very cool Thai Dances at the Erawan Shrine. The hotel is in a great central location convenient to everything in Bangkok and I would definitely stay again. It was a nice quick overnight to start our journey back home.
After a short 1 hour flight from Phuket, we were picked up by Mr. Samui (text him at 089-060-6440 to arrange an airport pick up for 1000 baht) we were planning on checking into the Conrad Koh Samui and then checking out the rest of the island. Our plans were instantly derailed after seeing the resort. Whoa. So beautiful. We only had 2 nights here so we decided that we didn’t want to be anywhere else.
We checked in and were blown away by our Ocean View Villa with private infinity pool #308:
We jumped in the pool, watched the sunset at 6pm, and ordered room service… the chicken cashew nut was delicious! The Thai food at the resort was pretty reasonably priced and yummy:
The next morning, we took a complimentary muy thai kickboxing class overlooking the water:
And then we had a delicious SPG Platinum buffet breakfast overlooking this dreamy view:
And went on a complimentary private Conrad Koh Samui speedboat (with a few other guests) to a secluded snorkeling spot and a private island:
On our last morning, we had another kickboxing class (the instructor was excellent!), another beautiful breakfast, then they pretty much had to drag us out of there kicking and screaming (in my mind!) to leave for our Bangkok flight….. sigh… life can be tough that way.
We flew into Phuket International Airport, which was a 2 hour flight from Chiang Mai. A 45 minute, 800 baht taxi ride later, we arrived at the Westin Siray Bay Phuket. This resort is a bit out of the way from all the action of Phuket, but good if you want some peace. The views were good, but not a good beach to for swimming, walking or laying out. They did have a lot of tour groups from China and Korea staying at this hotel. We used SPG points and suite night awards and was given a discovery suite with a cool view:
The SPG platinum breakfast at Eest restaurant (downstairs from the lobby) was very good, but the dinner selections at the restaurants were pretty limited and not very tasty, so we opted to shuttle or taxi to other parts of Phuket for many of our meals.
We had fantastic meal at Sizzle, on the rooftop of the Avista Hideaway Resort & Spa in Patong – a bit pricey but totally worth it for the upscale Steak & Seafood. Chef Tim Westaway likes to chat with guests and makes sure they are enjoying their experience at this restaurant with amazing views:
And another great meal at The Pad Thai Shop in Karon – you can’t beat 50 baht ($1.50) for the best Pad Thai in the world- we also took some to go and it comes wrapped in a banana leaf and paper. We didn’t like the noodle soup and ground meat with vegetables and rice as much – I think the Pad Thai is the real draw at this place – sooooo good!
Also we enjoyed Bang Tao Beach, north of Patong, and got Thai massages ($10) and rode waverunners ($50) – it was much more quiet than Patong would have been:
We also saw some Muy Thai Fights and walked the night markets in Patong right across from the Bang La Boxing Stadium:
A speedboat tour to the Phi Phi Islands was a highlight of our time in Phuket. Too bad there was some litter at all of these spots. Disappointing that people leave trash in these beautiful, once pristine places. We did a speedboat tour with Andaman Leisure Phuket (about 3300 baht, $95 per person) and it was pretty crowded in all these spots with all the tour groups coming and leaving at the same time – next time I would opt for a private group tour (about $160) as the experience is probably much nicer. But so glad we got to see the Phi Phi Islands – another item crossed off our bucket list!
We spent 3 days in Chiang Mai at Le Meridien Chiang Mai, just outside the old city. A convenient location across the street from the night market and close by were tons of places to eat, shop and get $5 massages. We used SPG suite night awards to upgrade to a one bedroom suite. The views were nice and they also provided a breakfast buffet in the restaurant or club lounge.
We didn’t want to ride elephants or see elephant shows because of the abuse we had heard of, but we did visit the Elephant Nature Center, where they care for and rehabilitate elephants who were previously abused. We enjoyed feeding and walking with these beautiful creatures. Although ideally they should be roaming free, the demand for elephant tourism in Southeast Asia keeps many of them in captivity in abusive situations.
We also enjoyed a Muy Thai training session Sit Thaharnaek Muay Thai Gym across the street from Le Meridien, did a lot of walking around and enjoyed some good food all over the city. I got some great suggestions from the Extra Pack of Peanuts blog – Mae Sai Khao Soi ($1 excellent Northern Thai curry noodle soup), a haircut, blow dry and mani-pedi at New York New York Hair Studio (and the cafe next to it had some yummy smoothies too), and Dash Teak Restaurant (nice ambience). I felt like 3 days was just not enough for this city and so we will be back for some more exploration one day.
Afternoon tea with a view in the Le Meridien club lounge:
We landed in Bangkok around 11pm, went through immigration, changed currency at one of the many currency booths at the airport, bought a cheap $10 sim card good for 10 days and 4GB of data (so easy – they change out your sim for you – takes 2 minutes – I bring a spare old iphone for this), then took a 15 minutes taxi ride for about 250 Thai Baht ($6). Good thing I had a print out of the hotel location in Thai – it was a bit hard to find.
We checked in at Le Meridien Survarnabhumi and Golf Resort and enjoyed our short time there. The room was nice and had a view of the golf course. With SPG platinum status, we had a beautiful comped breakfast in the hotel restaurant and cappucino/espress in the hotel bar.
In the morning we took a taxi to the Emerald Bhudda Temple (about an hour in heavy traffic). The buildings were very ornate and beautiful but it was so crowded with tour groups and masses of people that it was hard to enjoy our time there.
We then rushed back to the hotel and back to the airport for our Bangkok Airways flight to Chiang Mai. They provide a lounge for everyone on the flight (don’t bother – the lounge is packed, lounge and the snacks looked pretty sad). We were packed like sardines as these short flights have only economy seating. Surprisingly they provided a meal (really, they shouldn’t have!) which was pretty inedible – labeled “chicken” but looked like rubbery tofu) for the 75 minute flight. We then took a 20 minute taxi ride (go to taxi kiosk at baggage claim, give them 150 baht, and get a ticket – taxi drivers wait outside the exit and escort you to their car). Next post: Chiang Mai
We used AA miles to fly from LAX (First Class) to Tokyo, then Biz (no First Class cabin) onwards to Bangkok. We checked in and used the Qantas First Class Lounge, which was comfortable and provided a restaurant for guests with an innovative menu. The lunch we had was very good.
The First Class flight was outstanding – plenty of room in a flat bed seat and large monitor for movie watching, and incredible food (Japanese and Western Choices) and service for the 11 hour flight.
We connected in Tokyo (Narita) and had to go through security again before using the Qantas One World lounge, which provided a decent selection of drinks and snacks. I enjoyed my little soybean skin sushi piece:
The second leg of the flight was in Biz angled flat seats (6 hours) and while it was much more comfortable than flying economy, it really couldn’t compare to JAL First. However, it was nice arriving in Bangkok fairly well rested after 2 long flights.
Getting ready for our next adventure – Thailand. It’s going to be during the rainy season in Oct/Nov but we will bring our rain gear and we will see how it all works out. Of course I’m using points and miles on this trip, and here is the breakdown:
Japan Airlines First Class LAX to Narita, Japan, then onwards to Bangkok in Biz: 67.5k AA Miles each
1 night Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi, near Bangkok Airport: 7k SPG points/night
3 nights Le Meridien Chiang Mai: 3-4k SPG points/night
5 nights Westin Siray Bay Phuket: 7k SPG points/night with one night free
2 nights Conrad Koh Samui: 2 free night certificates from the Hilton Reserve Credit Card sign up bonus (or 95k hilton pts/nt)
1 night Renaissance Ratchaprasong Bangkok: Annual Free night from having Marriott credit card
Intercontinental Hong Kong: 1 annual free night from having the IHG credit card.
Cathay Pacific Biz Class BKK to Hong Kong, then onwards to LAX: 67.5k AA Miles each
We did pay about $777 for 2 people on Air Asia and Bangkok Air for quick flights within Thailand getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to Phuket to Koh Samui back to Bangkok.
Using miles & points to whittle down the cost of this luxe vacation to less than $1000 for two people? Yes, please!!!
I’ll be doing a post on each city soon so stay tuned…..