In 2014, I decided to take a trip to coincide with my boss’ vacation so I had very limited flexibility in which tour to take. I had originally decided on South Africa but the particular tour I needed sold out before I could book it. With only 3 weeks prior to my trip, I finally settled on G Adventures Cambodia and Laos Mekong Adventure as it fit snugly into my allotted time slot.
I’m still torn on whether or not this was a good decision. Over the next dozen or so blogs, you will be able to form an opinion of your own.
May 18 – Once you arrive in Bangkok, you must go to the lowest level of the airport to find the public taxis. The first thing I noticed as I exited the airport to get to the taxi stand was the heat. My glasses actually fogged up because of the heat and humidity. I thought I had experienced heat before…..I was wrong.
The taxi stand was very easy to find. To get a taxi I simply greeted the woman at the stand and handed her Centra Hotel’s address. She called a driver over and handed him a form she completed and off we went. Unfortunately, my driver didn’t actually know where the hotel was and he had to stop to ask directions. Luckily this didn’t add much time/cost to the meter. He also tried to have a conversation with me, but his English was so bad and I didn’t know any Thai so I had to just apologize and stay quiet.
The Centra Hotel was one of the nicest hotels of the tour so enjoy it while you can. Rooms are very clean, no bugs, working AC, great breakfast, free WiFi. It has a nice lounge area where you can leave your bags if you want to roam the city, relax on their couches or use their computers. They claim it has a small pool but in reality it has wooden lounge chairs sitting in a few inches of water. The chairs are not shaded so this is not very refreshing.
I had connected with another tourmate via the G Adventures meetup page. Since we were both arriving on Sunday morning, we planned to tour the city together once he arrived. G Adventures does not make it easy to find one another upon arrival. It turned out two other tourmates arrived early that day and others a day earlier, but I only found one other tourmate because she was my roommate. Other people had to explore on their own.
My two tourmates and I ventured out and managed to see a lot in just a few hours. We took a tuk tuk from the big Buddha (which was on the same block as our hotel) to the river and only got charged 30 baht for the ride. This was because we agreed to pretend to shop in a store where the driver got kickbacks. We then went on an hour long khlong boat ride which cost 1500 baht – we haggled them down from 2000 baht. I also bought food to feed the fishes which was supposedly good luck. This was the highlight of the ride for me as the fish went crazy for the food. Our guide was silent for the duration of the ride so we didn’t learn about anything we saw. During the ride we saw various living accommodations which ranged from the crappiest hut to big beautiful houses – sometimes right next to each other. The ride ended in Chinatown which was just like the Peruvian markets I visited last year except these had a better variety of goods.
After Chinatown, we bargained with tuk tuk drivers until we got a 100 baht ride to the Royal Palace which a guard told us was closed to tourists (only Thai people were allowed in after a certain time). We tried to get in anyway via a different entrance and were quickly approached by a tour guide who offered to bring us in and show us around for only 700 baht. This sounded like a great deal and it was! The entry fee to the palace was an additional 500 baht. Having a guide to show you around is definitely the way to go. We saw and learned about things that we would have completely missed.
I also had my first experience with a Thai bathroom. This one was very clean but had a variety of Western and Eastern toilets. You would think that perhaps they would line up the Eastern on one side and Western on the other…..nope! They were just randomly put in stalls so it was a crap shoot (hehe) to find the one you wanted to use. After the Royal Palace, we walked around the outside of the gates to see the reclining Buddha which was directly behind the complex. This Buddha was HUGE! Entry cost another 100 baht. From there we went to eat some street meat which was delicious. I also got some hard boiled fried egg in dough – kind of like a wonton – also delish. After that we went to the hotel via another 100 baht tuk tuk ride.
We showered and got ready to meet the rest of the group for orientation and travel insurance check (I only used the insurance on my credit card which technically is not okay with G Adventures but the guy let it go). We all went to dinner at a restaurant diagonally across the circle from the hotel. The food was okay but was nothing special and overpriced. I’m sure the tour CEO got kick backs for bringing us there. Also a huge waterbug found a way to terrorize me all the way from America (they stalk me, I swear). I accidentally made a scene as I jumped up and tried to get away from it. After dinner, we got water and ice cream and went to bed.