Choosing a honeymoon destination is really tricky, as the destination needs to be perfect for the new couples to enjoy the initial days of marriage ( I’m talking about typical Indian arranged marriage). At the same time you need to plan your destination based on the size of your purse as you will be still recovering from the pinch of your wedding expenses. Well one can argue about the generalization of the above statement, well at least in my case it was valid.
The planning started 3 months before my wedding in December 2015 and my budget was about 1.5 lakhs Indian Rupees (INR or Rs.), which is roughly US$ 2270 (@ Rs. 66 per US$). Based on the budget, any place outside of Asia was ruled out and therefore I narrowed on to the following destinations.
- Indonesia (Bali)
- Sri Lanka
Among the list, I had already been to Singapore and Malaysia, in fact I had been to Singapore twice making it the first destination to be deleted from my list. Sri Lanka was close from South India, but my friends who visited there suggested that the landscape looks similar to Kerala and being a Keralite I won’t feel much of a difference there. Bhutan was a perfect spot but since my trip was planned for December, I had to omit Bhutan as well from the list as it will be winter there. Maldives certainly tops the chart as the perfect honeymoon destination, but for my nature (as well as for my spouse) just beaches, beaches, beaches wasn’t an attractive option. Remaining was Thailand and Bali (Indonesia).
My Malaysia visa (taken for my August 2015 trip) was still valid (until August 2016) and I was yet to visit Northern Malaysia. That also brings me closer to Thailand as well. So finally I made up my decision, to visit Malaysia (again) and Thailand.
Visa Requirements for Indians
Malaysia : Indians need to apply for a visa before entering Malaysia.
Effective from 01 October 2015, Indian and Chinese nationals arriving from a third country which are Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia are eligible for Visa on Arrival. However you will have to shell out USD 100 (RM330.00). For more details click on the link below.
If you are in the same city where the corresponding Consulates are located (like Chennai) then the visa will be issued within the following timelines
Malaysia visa 4 working days – Valid for 365 days (Multiple Entry)
I was already having the visa and for my wife it took around 7 days to get the visa as she applied through an agent (Riya Travels) in Thiruvananthapuram and paid Rs. 3500.
Thailand : Indian Passport holders (passport with validity not less than 6 months) are eligible for Visa on Arrival at airports and seaports, for a period of 15 days by paying 1,000 Baht (Approx Rs 2000) per head. This fees must be paid in Thai Baht only, so make sure you carry Thai currency. The visa fee can be revised from time to time and as per the latest information, its been increased to 2,000 Baht per head. Also make sure to carry one 4 x 6 cm. headshot photo taken no longer than 6 months. For more details click the link below.
Budget Constraint and Planning
Well this sub-title might be there in most of my travel diaries and as usual I needed to keep a good watch on the budget. My savings were rapidly diminishing, thanks to my marriage expenses and therefore really had to tighten my noose on the costs. Well, by now I already had the savings mantra (courtesy of my Malaysia and Singapore trip). Well my departure point had to be Bengaluru (Bangalore) and my travel dates were also not flexible (I wanted to make use of the forced shut down in office, which is about 5 days for Christmas). This is certainly not the best time for budget travel due to Christmas and New Year rush. Unfortunately for me, I had no other travel dates available and knowingly I had decided to go for it.
As I had been to Kuala Lumpur on the month of August 2015, I had a rough orientation of places to visit in the city, however I had to research on North Malaysia (Langkawi) and Thailand. As usual, I started searching online and got some valuable inputs from one of my friends staying in Bangkok and also got a few suggestions from another friend who visited Thailand in 2012.
As in all of my travels, I really spend a good amount of time planning the optimal way to complete the trip, keeping in mind cost incurred, time taken and places covered. After a detailed planning (for about 1 week), I have zeroed on to the travel outline.
- Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
- Langkawi (Malaysia)
- Phi Phi Island (Thailand)
- Bangkok (Thailand)
The general route and mode of transport during my trip is as shown below.
|Route||Mode of Transport||Cost (for 2 pax)||Travel Time|
|Bengaluru (India) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)||Flight||Rs. 25696||4h 10 min|
|Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to Langkawi (Malaysia)||Flight||Rs. 4703||1h|
|Langkawi (Malaysia) to Satun (Thailand)||Ferry||Rs. 942||1h 15 min|
|Satun (Thailand) to Krabi (Thailand)||Bus||Rs. 872||4h|
|Krabi (Thailand) to Phi Phi (Thailand)||Ferry||Rs. 1800||1h 45min|
|Phi Phi (Thailand) to Phuket (Thailand)||Ferry||Rs. 800||3h 30min|
|Phuket (Thailand) to Bangkok (Thailand)||Flight||Rs. 7810||1h 20 min|
|Bangkok (Thailand) to Bengaluru (India)||Flight||Rs. 27972||3h 50min|
As usual, I have started searching for the hotels as the itinerary was fixed. I took the help of in.hotels.com and Booking.com for all the hotel bookings. In order to get the reviews about the hotels, I have taken the help of tripadvisor.in. The following are my hotels where we stayed (all are double bed rooms).
|Day||Date||Travel/Stay||Hotel||Rate (Rs.or INR)|
|Day 1||24-Dec-15||Kuala Lumpur||V’La Garden Hotel||1255|
|Day 2||25-Dec-15||Langkawi||Geopark Inn||1815|
|Day 3||26-Dec-15||Langkawi||Geopark Inn||1815|
|Day 4||27-Dec-15||Satun||The One Boutique Hotel||1771|
|Day 5||28-Dec-15||Phi Phi Island||Sabai House||3012|
|Day 6||29-Dec-15||Phi Phi Island||Sabai House||3012|
|Day 7||30-Dec-15||Phi Phi Island||Sabai House||3012|
|Day 8||31-Dec-15||Bangkok||Swana Bangkok||1891|
|Day 9||01-Jan-16||Bangkok||Swana Bangkok||1891|
|Day 10||02-Jan-16||Bangkok||Swana Bangkok||1891|
|Total Cost (Rs. or INR)||21,365|
|Day no.||Date||Night stay||Places Visited|
|Day 0||23-Dec-15||Flight to Kuala Lumpur|
|Day 1||24-Dec-15||Kuala Lumpur||Batu Caves, Merdeka Square, KL City Gallery, Masjid Jamek, Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC Aquaria|
|Day 2||25-Dec-15||Langkawi||Putrajaya Sightseeing, Flight to Langkawi|
|Day 3||26-Dec-15||Langkawi||Mangrove Boating trip, Eagle Square|
|Day 4||27-Dec-15||Satun||Cable Car, Sky Bridge, Ferry to Satun (4PM)|
|Day 5||28-Dec-15||Phi Phi Island||Bus to Krabi, Ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi Island|
|Day 6||29-Dec-15||Phi Phi Island||Scuba Diving, Phi Phi View Point|
|Day 7||30-Dec-15||Phi Phi Island||Island Hopping trip|
|Day 8||31-Dec-15||Bangkok||Ferry to Phuket, Flight from Phuket to Bangkok, New Year Party at Bangkok|
|Day 9||01-Jan-16||Bangkok||Bangkok city tour (Golden Buddha Temple, Flower Market, Patpong Night Market)|
|Day 10||02-Jan-16||Bangkok||Floating Market, Kwai Bridge and Tiger Monastery|
|Day 11||03-Jan-16||Flight to Bengaluru||Half day city tour (Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew , Wat Pho, Wat Arun), Flight to Bengaluru|
The total expense incurred for this trip comes to Rs. 1,60,625 (US$ 2400 approx.) for two adults (ex. Bangalore) inclusive of all expenses (airfare, visa fee, entrance fee,sim card, taxi, food, water, souvenirs, scuba etc. etc. ), which comes down to Rs. 80,312 per adult.
Mobile Sim Cards
Malaysia : I purchased “CELCOM” sim card from the airport by showing my passport as ID proof (its probably the best place to buy the sim card). I took the 20RM plan which offered 850MB data+local calling, valid for 7 days. There are other providers like Digi and Maxis, however I found Celcom offered best deal.
Thailand: I purchased “AIS” sim card from Krabi Bus Station. I remember paying 200 Bahts for the same.
Target : Reaching Kuala Lumpur, City Tour
Day 1 was marked for Kuala Lumpur (KL) city tour. Since I had an orientation about KL city, I decided to use public transport and call taxi for covering the city tour. However if you are new to the city and would like to hire a cab for a day then you can contact Sharad Sachdev +60126250209. I took his service during my earlier trip and it will be around 250-300 RM per day (Rs 4500 approx). If you want to cut the cost then my suggestion would be to install “MYTEKSI or GRABTAXI” mobile app and book taxi from point to point (which is similar to Uber or Ola in India). It’s a quick way to grab taxis and within 2-10 minutes taxis will arrive at your current location and drop you to your destination. Only thing is that you need a data connection and GPS enabled phone/Tab. the minimum charge for taxi is RM 3.5 (approx. Rs. 50).
10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Batu Caves is located about 15km away from KL city. We booked a taxi through GRAB Taxi app and reached KL Sentral station. From there we took metro train till Batu Caves.
The world’s tallest Murugan Statue is located in Batu Caves. Its a must see attraction (though it’s a temple, people across all faiths visit here). Dress code: No shorts allowed (if wearing one then u can get a dhothi/mundu for a nominal rent from below the statue). The temple is located inside the cave and we need to climb about 275 steps to reach there. I would say, even if you climb slowly, u must try to reach on top.
12:00 PM to 12:20 PM
Jamek mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia and is located at the confluence point of Klang and Gombak river. We took the metro train from Batu Caves, got down at Bank Negara station and walked about 1km to reach the masjid. The masjid is not so huge compared to the National Mosque, but has a unique architecture. Ladies must cover their hair and we can roam inside when prayers are not going on.
Merdeka (Freedom) Square, Kuala Lumpur
12:30 PM to 12:45 PM
Merdeka Square is a historical place inside KL. Merdeka Square can be compared to the Red Fort of India (in terms of importance) as this is where the Malaysian flag was raised for the first time.The vicinity offers quite a few spots for photo ops and is worth spending 30 minutes around this square. Lots of historic buildings surrounds the square and the KL City Gallery.
KL City Gallery
12:45 PM to 01:15 PM
KL City Gallery is located in the area of Merdeka Square (Better you can visit this while visiting Merdeka Square). Gives an insight into the city and there is a light and sound show (indoor). Also this where the famous “I Love KL” sign is kept and a photo with it stamps your KL visit. Entry FEE : 5 RM (Can be used to buy souvenirs/ Food worth 5RM from within the building).
Aquaria KLCC, KL
4:15 PM to 5:00 PM
Aquaria KLCC is an oceanarium located beneath the Kuala Lumpur convention Centre (KLCC) and it is at a walking distance from the Petronas Twin Towers. For those who haven’t been inside an under water tunnel, a visit to the aquaria would be a great chance to be in one. It has about 5,000 different species and is value for money.
We Took taxi from KL city gallery (using grabtaxi app). Open: 10.30 am to 8.00pm. Entry Fee: Adult: RM 53, Child: RM 42
Petronas Twin Towers
6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
I don’t think someone need an introduction to the famous Petronas Twin Towers in KL, as it’s one of the tallest buildings in the world. One of the towers is occupied by Petronas ( Malaysian oil and gas company) and the other tower houses offices of various MNCs including IBM, TCS, Microsoft.
The towers feature a double decker sky bridge connecting the two towers on the 41st and 42nd floors, which is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. Tourists are offered to visit the sky bridge and level 86, but tickets are limited to about 1000 people per day, and must be obtained on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s better to purchase the ticket online in advance (https://eticket.petronastwintowers.com.my/) however make sure you be there on time (as specified in your ticket).
Open: 9.00 am to 8.15 pm (local time). CLOSED on MONDAYS, Entry Fee: Adult: RM 85, Child: RM 35, Senior Citizen: RM 45. For more details: https://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/
Jalan Petaling (China Town), City Centre, KL
8:00 PM to 8:15 PM
China Town was pretty close to Jalan Pudu, where my hotel was located. We took a taxi (using Grabtaxi app). Ideal place for buying Malaysia Souvenirs. (Fridge magnets, small replicas of Twin tower etc.). Roam around and compare prices. Don’t buy blindly. (You can bargain as well). Lot’s of duplicate copies are available for sale and therefore exercise caution. (You can even get the duplicate of brands that are generally known in India as duplicate).
Target : Putrajaya, Flight to Langkawi
It was our last day in Kuala Lumpur and our flight to Langkawi was at 6:25PM. So we had a good half-day or more for sight seeing. So we decided to take a look at Putrajaya, which was half way to the airport. There was not enough time for us to visit Putrajaya, come back to KL and head towards the airport. So we had to check out, head to Putrajaya and get to airport from there. This required “baggage management” and my dear friend Kalai Selvam came to our rescue. He collected the bags from us and promised to bring it to the airport by 4 PM, which was a huge help for us.
NB: If you don’t have a friend like Kalai, don’t worry, because KL Sentral and Putrajaya station have got locker rooms available (check the pics below).
Putrajaya is the federal administrative centre of Malaysia and its a new-planned city constructed on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. The city was constructed because of the congestion in KL city and the seat of government was shifted in 1999 from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya.
We took monorail from “IMBI” station (which was nearest to our hotel and reached KL Sentral. From there we took the airport express called “KLIA Transit” to Putrajaya. Its was a good experience as the train was different from the normal metro coaches and it was quick on the rails. We reached Putrajaya in quick time (about 20 min for 35 kms journey). From the Putrajaya Sentral station we took a public bus (NADI PUTRA) towards the Putra Masjid (Bus fare RM 0.50 per head).
Putrajaya is definitely quieter and much-less crowded. The city is completely made new with modern architecture, a series of government department buildings, officer’s quarters, a huge lake and a series of stunning looking bridges. We got down from the bus at the Putra Square.
The majestic Putra Mosque, on the banks of the Putrajaya lake is one of Putrajaya’s most distinctive landmarks. The mosque incorporates Malaysian, Persian and Arab-Islamic architectural designs. Being a Friday, prayers were going on during the time of our visit and being non-muslims, we were unable to to get in. However non-muslims can get free entry at these timings (Saturday-Thursday: 9am-12.30pm, 2-4pm, 5.30-6pm and Friday: 3-4pm, 5.30-6pm)
Seri Perdana is the official residence of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, located near the Putra Mosque. Once again the building is an example of the mix of modern and islamic architecture. Entry is restricted for public however its offers a good spot for photography.
Putrajaya to Airport
It was hot and humid at the time of our visit and it was getting late for us to get to the airport. We had lunch from the shopping centre on the banks of the lake, besides the mosque and hopped in to a NADI PUTRA bus to get back to Putrajaya Sentral. From there we took the KLIA Transit and reached KLIA2 (airport). My friend arrived 15 minutes after we reached, with our luggage and we checked-in for our flight to Langkawi .
Flight to Langkawi
6:25 PM to 7:25 PM
It was an hour long journey from KL to Langkawi. Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes and we reached Langkawi by around 8PM. It was my first time visit and I had no idea of the place.
Before getting out of the airport terminal, I got attracted to one of the counters of the tour operators. I thought of giving it a go, as I haven’t made any advance booking for local sightseeing within Langkawi. Even though its not in my habit to book anything from inside a airport terminal, the prices offered by the tour operator sounded reasonable (I had an idea of the rates, thanks to a few articles in trip advisor) and I booked the “One day Mangrove tour” for 100 RM per head (included free hotel pick up and drop). After getting “DAY 3 sorted out, I booked a taxi and headed towards my hotel (Geopark Inn at Kuah).
Check-in at Geopark Inn
Well I don’t know how many will like this hotel from the outside, but the room was far good enough for the price. The hotel is located within a shopping complex and it lacks the “show-off” factor. It has the reception at one side of the shopping complex and the rooms on the other side. However, it wasn’t a surprise for me as I already knew about it, reading through reviews about the hotel. There was a local fair happening near the hotel and we tried the food on offer there, before getting a sleep.
Target : Mangrove forest boating, Car rental
Mangrove forest (Kilim Geoforest Park) boating
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
The pickup car arrived as promised at 9 AM and we headed towards the starting point of the boating which was 13 kms from our hotel at Kuah. The following items were on the list as part of the guided tour (sharing basis).
- Eagle Watching
- Floating Fish Farm
- Crocodile Cave
- Bat Cave
- Open Sea (Andaman Sea)
- Swimming at the beach (Tanjung Rhu Beach)
The Kilim Geoforest Park is the dense mangrove forest covering the northeast tip of Langkawi island. The boat trip goes within the curvy estuary surrounded by mangroves and its really an experience that takes you for a rendezvous with the nature.
The first pause of the ride was to say hi to “swimming monkeys”. It was a rare sight to see monkeys swimming and they were ready to get the food thrown to them by the tourists. The next pause was for “Eagle Watching“. The name Langkawi also means means island of the reddish-brown eagle in colloquial Malay and we were able to see atleast half-a-dozen brown eagles where our boat stopped. From there we reached the Crocodile Cave (named after its shape and not for the presence of crocodiles). Boats can ride through the cave and we headed towards the floating fish farm.
The floating fish farm (pic below) was a fish farm cum restaurant made right on top of water. The star attractions were the stingrays and coconut crabs. We touched the stingrays and I got a chance to hold a coconut crab by its tail.
Bat cave was the next stop and we could see a number of boats parked at the quay. We walked inside the park on wooden walkways, through the mangroves and our guide was explaining about the cave and the mangrove varieties. We spotted quite a few bats inside and headed back to our boat. We then sailed towards the open sea (Andaman Sea) and we could feel the change while exiting the tranquility of the estuary to wave dominant open sea. The boat dropped us at the Tanjung Rhu Beach and I was quick to change my clothes to get a swim at the beach. After 30 minutes, the boat came to pick us and dropped us to to a floating restaurant. Lunch was the final item on the itinerary and after which were dropped at the starting point. It was about 3 PM by then and we were dropped to our hotel, back in Kuah.
I read in an article about driving in Langkawi using Indian Driving licence and wanted to check out on that. My plan was to get a bike for 24 hours, which would be enough for the rest of my stay in Langkawi, as public transport is not available there. So we headed to Kuah jetty (on a taxi). After talking to a few rent-a -bike guys, I founded that the bikes available in my price range were not in good shape and they were asking 60 to 75 RM. I came out of the jetty and found a lady offering bikes for rent. However instead of bikes, she offered me car for 100 RM (no fuel included) for 24 hours. It was a decent enough deal and unlike bike, it would be convenient enough for us to pack our bags, return the car the next day and catch the ferry to Satun (Thailand) the next day. We also booked our tickets for the ferry as well.
6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
The main attraction of the square is the man made eagle sculpture which is about 12m tall. Leading to the Eagle statues is a vast landscaped area that has concrete pathways, ponds, fountains, shops & eateries and area for stalls. The best time to visit would be either for sunrise or sunset, as it can get quite sunny there (with less shade on offer near the statue). Entry is free and the square is open 24 x 7, however finding parking spots would be task, especially during sunset time.
Target : Cable Car, Sky Bridge, Ferry to Satun
Langkawi Cable Car and Sky Bridge
9:00 AM to 12:15 PM
Langkawi Cable car and the sky bridge is definitely the biggest crowd puller in Langkawi and if your schedule is tight then make sure you arrive as early as possible to catch the earliest possible cable car ride which will take you closer to the Langkawi sky bridge. Apart from the cable car and the skybridge, the place offers a list of other attractions and activities like SkyDome, SkyRex, SkyTrail, 6D Cinemotion, F1 Simulator, Lake activities, 3D art galley etc. For more details log on to http://www.panoramalangkawi.com/. Also check out for the monthly maintenance calendar (from the link above) before planning your trip, as twice in a month, the cable is closed for maintenance.
The base station of the cable car (SkyCab), known as Oriental Village was located about 30 kms from our hotel and we started by 8 AM on our rented car with a target of reaching there by 9 AM. I had already booked an open ticket (you can visit any day and time within operation hours) for the SkyCab through https://mylangkawideals.com/ for RM 35 per head.
However, if you don’t wish to wait, you can get the “Express” tickets by paying about RM 100 per head. Though we reached by 8:50 AM and the cable car starts operation by 9:30 AM, the place was crowded with people and we embarked on a long queue with waiting time of 1 hour, after collecting our boarding pass. The SkyCab ticket allows a free entry to the SkyDome (offers visitors free viewing while they are waiting for their ride on the Cable Car). By 9:45 AM, our SkyCab arrived and we started the steep climb first towards the middle station (we got down there, took some pics and caught the next sky cab) and then towards the top station.
At the top station there are two circular viewing platforms at the top of the hill offering 360° views. The top station is located 708m above sea-level is about 5 °C cooler than the lowlands. After photo session there, we started towards the SkyBridge. There are two ways by which we can reach the SkyBridge (entry fee RM 5 per head)
- By Walk (10 min walk through Jungle trails)
- SkyGlide (cabin type carriage, recommended for elders, addl. RM 10 per head)
I can say without doubt that the SkyBridge is undoubtedly the must see attraction in Langkawi. Its a 410 ft long 410ft-long curved pedestrian bridge above Mount Mat Cinchang at a height of 100m from the ground. It took us a few minutes to cope up with the height, wind as well as the stunning view from the bridge. The view of the blue ocean is spectacular indeed and the bridge was featured in the climax scene of the Bollywood blockbuster, ‘Don: The Chase Begins Again’, starring Shahrukh Khan.
We didn’t had much time left to be spent in the Oriental Village, so didn’t go to the other attractions. If time permits, you can go to the 3D art gallery for some fun pics.
Ferry to Satun
It was time to leave Malaysia and our next mode of transport was ferry. After visiting the SkyCab and Sky Bridge, we came back to hotel, had lunch, packed our stuffs and checked out. Our ferry to Satun (Thailand) was scheduled at 5:00 PM (30 RM per head) from the Kuah ferry terminal and we reached the terminal by 3:30 PM after returning our car. The ferry terminal was indeed a crowded place with a number of duty free shops and we waited there untill the tickets were issued for the international ferry service to Satun (Thailand).We have to go through emigration counter and get exit stamp from Malaysian side.
The ferry takes 1hr 15 min to reach Satun. However due to the time zone difference if you start at 5PM (Malaysian Time) from Langkawi, you will reach Satun by 5:15 PM (Thai Time).
Immigration and Visa – Thailand
Thailand offers “VISA-ON-ARRIVAL” for Indians for a fee of Thai Baht (THB) 1000 per head (roughly INR 2000 per head) and all you need is a colour photograph of yours and of course the passport.The visa issued at seaport/land border will be valid for 14 days.
NB: Check the existing visa fees before applying for the same. I was charged THB 1200 per head by the officer and being the lone foreigner there (apart from my wife), I had no one to ask to for the correct fees. later I found out that 400 THB went to his pocket.
Satun – check-in
Once we came out of the ferry terminal (after the immigration process), we found that our fellow ferry mates have already left the place and it was all silent and lonely outside apart from a tuk-tuk and a car. We car was actually a local taxi and after much bargain he offered to drop us at our hotel for THB 100 (about 15min drive). By the time we reached our hotel by 6:30PM, the town almost slept and there was an uneasy calmness around. The hotel we booked for our one night stay was the “One Boutique Hotel”. We really liked the cleanliness, amenities and staff behavior at the hotel.The town itself if quiet and therefore rest assured for a peaceful sleep. The value offered by the hotel was worth for the price.
Target : Leaving for Phi Phi
Bus to Krabi
We checked out from our hotel by 8 AM and headed towards the bus terminal in a tuk-tuk to catch the bus to Krabi which departs at 8:30 AM. The ticket was taken from the terminal itself (no advance booking). It was a nice and comfortable bus and Krabi was 5 hour ride from Satun (THB 216 per head). We reached Krabi bus station by 1:30 PM.
Ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi
We approached a travel desk for ferry tickets to Phi Phi Island. The agent arranged us a transport to the ferry terminal (10 kms from the bus terminal) + ferry ticket for 450 THB per head and the ferry departure was at 3 PM. After a quick lunch from the ferry terminal we headed towards our ferry.
Reaching Phi Phi
Its a two hour long journey from Krabi to Phi Phi Islands and by 5 PM, we reached Phi Phi. The main island in Phi Phi is the “Ko Phi Phi Don”. Honestly I didn’t had much of a clue about the setup of the island and like in any new place, I started asking around for the taxi stand. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the gentlemen told me that there are no taxis in the island and you need to walk around. From a local map I identified my hotel location and to much of my relief it was just 800m away from the pier. Once we entered the island, we got a hang about the layout of the island. There are no roads and the island is criss-crossed by narrow pathways between a series of shops and lots and lots of tourists.
Check-in at Sabai House Hotel
After walking through the narrow streets for about 15 minutes, we reached our hotel “Sabai House”. It was a humble adobe with clean room and a semi-open cafeteria. The staff were well beahaved and it was a value for money hotel.
After getting fresh, we went around inside the island in search of “Scuba Diving” options. While most of the PADI certified divers were offering the same price of 3400 THB per head for the basic “DISCOVER SCUBA” package, we got lucky in finding a new shop “DIVEALOG”, which just opened a day before and they offered us a rate of 3000 THB per head.
Target : Scuba Diving, sunset point
8:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Undoubtedly the most exciting day for us as both of us, bad swimmers, were about to take a dive, first time in our lives, to explore the underwater beauties of Phi Phi. We reached on time at the dive shop, sorted out our gears, met our guide, collected the underwater camera and headed to the pier. Since “DIVEALOG” was a new shop and both of us were the only customers, we shared the boat of a bigger team. Inside the boat our guide explained about the dive plan and gave us all of the instructions. Most importantly she did a brilliant job of keeping us cool and enjoy the adventure on offer. The “PADI Discover” package consists of 2 dives at 2 different places and depths. The first dive was at a shallower depth. We geared up and dropped to the water. Before taking the dive, our guide gave us some more instructions (like what to do when ear block happens, hand symbols to be shown to the guide as part of communication underwater, how to take breath, how to blow water out if it comes inside the glasses etc. etc.). Once we were good to go, she deflated our life jacket and we sank into the depths.
Initially we panicked, as I told we were both not good with swimming/water bodies. After a few minutes, we got our composure back and slowly we were getting a hold of things, but still weren’t 100% OK. So the initial dive was more about acclimatisation than enjoying the underwater view. We went back to the boat and our guide explained the mistakes we did and adjustments to be made for the next dive. After about 12-20 minutes, the boat stopped at the next dive spot, which was slightly more deeper. Once again we were in water and after a quick refresher course, we took the dive. This time however we were much better and started enjoying the breathtaking views underwater. Also our guide was confident this time to let us lose and she managed to take pictures underwater before we surfaced.
It was almost 2PM when we finished our diving and by 3PM we reached back to our hotel.
Phi Phi View Point
5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
The view point is one of the highest points in Phi Phi Island from where you get a spectacular view of Ko Phi Phi Don island. Its a steep climb with over 150 steps and be prepared to burn some calories. Ideal to visit during sunrise or sunset, the latter being most crowded. It took us about 20-30 minutes to reach on top. It would be ideal to carry some water bottle, however there is a shop atop. We enjoyed the sunset and that marked the end of an exciting, adventurous and tiring day.
Target : Island Hopping trip
Island Hopping trip
9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
In and around the main island of Phi Phi, there are many small islands and famous beaches (including Maya beach featuring in Leonardo Di Caprio starred movie “The Beach”). Island hopping trips offers to cover these islands and one can opt for full/half day trips. If time permits, take the full day package. You can also choose the mode of transport smaller/bigger boats. The smaller ones are mostly without sunshades but cheaper and can take you to more places. However the bigger boats are convenient in terms of seating, nice shade and they have canoes which you can take a ride on, but slightly expensive. We chose the bigger boat and for a full day trip it was 680 Thai Baht per head (cheapest we could get after a long search) and this includes lunch and refreshments as well. The trip covers the following places
- Shark Point (stops for snorkelling)
- Bamboo Island
- Mosquito Island
- Monkey Beach
- Maya Bay
- Sunset Point
Maya Bay and Bamboo Island are considered as National Parks and to enter there a foreigner needs to pay 400 THB per head, extra. This is collected by the boat operator after you board the boat.
I must say that all of these islands/beaches are filled with people and you can barely see the sand. However, I’ve never seen any plastics or trash floating around anywhere and that’s responsible tourism. We didn’t opt to pay that 400 THB extra, instead took the canoe from our boat and sailed to a much less crowded beach. It was totally worth it and we found a great spot for snorkeling. The white sand, clean water and good sun offered a spectacular snorkeling experience. The tour ended with the sunset and with that it was curtains to our Phi Phi trip.
Target : Reaching Bangkok
Ferry from Phi Phi to Phuket
We had already booked the ferry tickets from the same agent from whom we booked the Island Hopping tour. Almost all shops sell ferry tickets of different operators, so it won’t be difficult to get one. unless its sold out for the time you look for. Our departure was at 10:30 AM and it cost us 200 THB per head for the 2 hour journey. We also booked the airport transfer (from Phuket ferry terminal to Phuket Airport) which was 150 THB per head.
We reached Phuket by around 12:30 PM and as promised, a van was ready to drop us to the airport.
Flight from Phuket to Bangkok
We reached the airport by 1:15 PM and had enough time before we catch our flight to Bangkok which was scheduled at 5:10 PM. Since we booked “Nok Air”, which is a budget airline, our arrival was at “Don Mueang” Airport (DMK) in Bangkok (not the main Suvarnabhumi Airport, BKK). Flight was as per schedule and we reached DMK airport by 6:30 PM.
Airport to Hotel
As usual, my search was to get the cheap and best travelling option. I had already read about “LIMOBUS service” offered from DMK airport but was not sure to take it. Quite a few taxi guys approached me offering me rides for 800+ THB and it was then I decided to take the Limobus which was at 150 THB per head. Another reason was that the bus goes past “Khao San Road” bus stop which was 300m away from my hotel, Swana Bangkok. It was a value ride with A/C and push back cushion seat.
Check-in at Swana Bangkok Hotel
Swana Bangkok hotel was located close to Khao San Road and opposite to our expectations, it was a quite neighborhood where the hotel was located. The hotel looked small from the road, however it was big enough inside. The rooms were big, well laid out and once again it turned out to be great value for money.
New Year Party
It was New Year’s eve and plans for party was already made with my friend Karthik, who stays in Bangkok. It was quite a night as Karthik and his friends made sure we had one of the best New Year party ever.
Target : Bangkok city sightseeing
The New Year’s party went till 2AM and we woke up by 12 noon. We haven’t planned anything big for the day, as the plan was just to take a casual look around Bangkok city. We headed for lunch in a tiny shop and one thing we noticed that “pork” was dominating among the food on offer, however we had no complaints.
Golden Buddha Temple (Wat Traimit)
4:30 PM to 5:30 PM
The temple is located near Chinatown and it houses the world’s largest massive gold seated Buddha measuring nearly five metres in height and weighing five and a half tons. We reached there by taking a local bus. The temple is located on a fairly busy side of the city and there was reasonably good crowd there. The architecture is interesting and its definitely one of the main attractions of Bangkok.
NB: Women visiting the temple (any temples in Thailand) should make sure to cover up your knees and shoulders. No shorts or skirts.
Our next target was the flower market. To reach there we again took public transport and had to get down 500m away from the flower market. We started walking with Google maps on and on the way visited the following temples.
- Wat Chakrawatrachawat Woramahawihan (Wat Sam Pleum)
- Wat Ratchaburana Ratchaworawihan (Wat Liap)
6:15 PM to 6:45 PM
The Flower Market “Pak Khlong Talad” is located in the middle city part of Old town on the Chak Phet Road close to Saphan Phut, Memorial Bridge. Once you enter the market, you are welcomed by the shades of yellow, orange, rose, white and pink. The market is vast and packed with flowers and vegetables all shapes and sizes, quite amazing.
Local Ferry (Chao Phraya River)
It was totally unplanned to take the local ferry. I smelled an oppourtunity to take one, as our next destination was the Patpong Night market. Looking at Google map, I found that I can reach the night market, first by taking a ferry till Central Pier/Sathorn (Taksin) and then take a metro train to reach the destination. The nearest pier (Memorial Bridge/Saphan Phut (N6) Ferry Terminal) was at walkable distance from the flower market. Our experience with space management inside a local bus in India came into help this time as the ferry was absolutely jam packed. Not to my surprise, a large chunk of passengers were tourists (especially non-asians) who just enrolled for a valuable lesson on managing space while on the move. jokes apart, it was a joyful ride, as the urban-scapes of Bangkok were lit up to give us a spectacle.
Patpong Night Market
7:45 PM to 8:30 PM
The night market of Patpong is a fun place and its alive. Once you walk through the streets be prepared to be offered with XX rated shows. If not interested, you can politely decline, like we did. The shops are setup on makeshift arrangement and offers souvenirs, counterfeit designer goods such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci handbags, Lacoste shirts, Rolex & Breitling watches etc. Its somewhere you can test your bargaining skills as everything is priced 30-50% extra. We bought a few “Thailand” souvenirs (including a Tuk-Tuk) after hefty bargaining. make sure to look around, compare prices before you lock onto one.
Target : Floating Market, Kwai Bridge, Tiger Monastery
We booked this tour from inside the DMK airport after we arrived from Phuket two days back. This was the second time in this journey that I went against my old rule of “don’t book any tours from inside any airports”. After a quick check online, I found that the offer (1500 THB per head) was fairly reasonable, plus it saves me the trouble of finding on in the busy streets of Bangkok.
Floating Market (Damnoen Saduak)
9:30 AM to 11:30 AM
The floating market of Damnoen Saduak is located about 90 kms away from Bangkok. The concept of floating market originated in times in places like Damneon Saduak where water transport played an important role in daily life and goods were sold on boats. As time evolved and connectivity improved, floating market have started to remain as a tourist attraction.
We reached at 9:30 AM and after paying 125 THB per head, hopped onto a boat. The channel was narrow and over crowded with tourist boats and seller boats. Its tough for the boat to meander through the busy traffic without brushing another boat (be very very careful not to hold on to the side of the boat, as you are likely to lose some fingers). Though it’s one of a kind of experience, I would recommend just do window shopping as the prices are highly inflated. The boats have clothes, souvenirs, food, bags etc. on offer.
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
The Kwai bridge has lots of history associated with it as it was constructed by the Japanese as part of “Burma Railway” to connect Thailand with Burma (Myanmar) during World War II. The railway line was constructed using prisoners of war (POWs) and over 12,000 POWs died during the construction earning the name of “Death Railway”. There are couple of activities to be done here:
- Visit the Museum
- Walk on the bridge
The museum was not that well maintained, however there were enough pieces of history on display. The walk over the bridge gives you ample chances of photography and the views are excellent. There is also a Buddhist temple on the other side of the bridge, however time didn’t allowed us to visit there.
Tiger Monastery (now closed)
3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
The tiger monastery of Kanchanaburi was infamously on news recently after Thai police discovered tiger cub carcasses and tiger skins. We visited 6 months before the closure and as part of the tour, we too took pics alongside the majestic cats.
Target : Half day City trip, Flight back to Bengaluru
The Grand Palace
10:30 AM to 1:00 PM
The trip to Bangkok will be incomplete without visiting the Grand Palace. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782 till 1925. The palace showcases Thailand’s skills in architecture, detailing and craftsmanship. There are several impressive buildings within the palace complex, including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). There is a rich collection of wall paintings as well.
If you are really interested to know in detail about the palace, better hire a guide. Dress code is a must (over up your knees and shoulders. No shorts or skirts). Entry fee is on a higher side (500 THB per head), however there was no shortage of visitors.
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha)
Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand. The temple is located within the Grand Palace complex. Here the Buddha is in mediating position and the idol is carved out of single block of Jade (“emerald” is derived from the colour and not the stone). Its again a magnificent temple and is always full of worshippers and tourists. The idol, which is not so huge compared to others that we’ve seen, is positioned on a higher ground inside the sanctum and photography is only allowed from the outside. I’ve tested my zoom lens to capture the idol from the outside on camera. Avoid Sunday and if possible reach as early as possible to avoid the rush.
Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha)
1:30 PM to 2:00 PM
Wat Pho is located very close to the Grand Palace. Once we finished our visit to the Palace, we walked on hot sun to reach the temple of the “reclining Buddha”. It was the first time for me to see Buddha idol in reclining position. The crowd is relatively less here and there is an entry fee of 100 THB (includes a bottle of water). Wat Pho is one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok with the Buddha in reclining position measuring 46m long and covered in Gold. Apart from this, Wat Pho is also the best place to get a traditional Thai massage. The temple complex houses a “Thai Traditional Massage School” and if time permits you must try it out (be prepared to wait for your turn).
Wat Arun (Temple of Sun)
3:15 PM to 3:45 PM
I would have been disappointed for not visiting the temple bearing my name, “Arun” (which means “sun” in India, so does in Thailand), so we made sure we visit there before winding up our trip. Wat Arun is located on the opposite bank of the Grand Palace and we took a cab to reach there. The temple stands out from the rest for its design and architecture. Located right on the bank of Chao Phraya River, its distinctive prang (spires) reflect the first lights of the dawn. Though it’s the temple of dawn, ideal time to visit would be in the evening as sun will go easy on you and it’s when they light up the temple. However due to time constraints we had to visit in the afternoon and “Aruna deva” (Sun God) was pouring in blessings on us.
Entry fee : 50 THB
Our return flight to Bengaluru was scheduled at 9:00 PM from Don Mueang (DMK) airport and our plan was to reach the airport by 6:00 PM. After visiting Wat Arun, we took a cab to our hotel, packed up and checked out by 4:30 PM. We booked a cab through Grab Taxi and reached the airport by 5:30 PM. The flight was on time and by midnight, we reached Bengaluru Airport and from there, in a cab, reached back home.
Well, as said before, we chose Malaysia and Thailand after considering all available options and I must say the places never disappointed us. Moreover, it was the first trip for us together and the combination of adventure, history, nature and of course romance were all there in right proportions throughout.
Myself Arunjith, is all ears to your queries on this trip. Do feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org