Got a travel question? I answer it in this ongoing “travel expert” series.
Question: I absolutely love your blog! I noticed you spent your honeymoon in Thailand. My fiancee and I are looking to plan our honeymoon to Thailand in April (it will be a 2-3 week trip). I was wondering if you had any advice or recommendations of places to stay? Tours/guides you recommend? Where to spend most of our time? Do you use travel agents? — M.
Answer: Thanks for reading (it’s always great to get emails that start off this way)! It’s funny; when this request came in, my husband and I were just talking about where we wanted to go for our fifth anniversary this year. And while many countries have appeared on our list – Turkey, Morocco and Vietnam being some of them – we’re thinking that we might go back to southeast Asia, where our marriage all began. So your question allowed me to return to the sources that I used when I originally planned the trip.
Our Value Luxury honeymoon cost about $8,000 total for 3 weeks. Part of the reason we went to southeast Asia was because we knew that we could travel longer, for less. We splurged on some things – an outstanding 5-star hotel in Bangkok; personal guides and tours in Bangkok, Phuket, and Siem Reap, Cambodia; flights within Thailand – and went cheap on others (inexpensive guest houses in Chiang Dao and Siem Reap, restaurant food, foot massages instead of hotel spa treatments).
Using a Travel Agent
This question comes up frequently among Value Luxury travelers. I didn’t use a travel agent for our honeymoon, and did all the research and booking for the 3-week trip, which included stops in Bangkok, Chiang Dao, Phuket and Siem Reap in Cambodia. My main sources were the Southeast Asia forum on Fodors.com as well as Tripadvisor’s forums. But you might not want all the responsibility. It depends on how many locations and internal flights that you are taking (we did buy comprehensive travel insurance).
If you do decide to involve an agent, I’d look for one that is either affiliated with Virtuoso or is Four Seasons Preferred, as they can get you upgraded rooms and complimentary breakfasts. I’ve also read good things about Eddie, an American Express-affiliated agent who works with Seatours Agency in Bangkok. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luxury Hotels in Bangkok
The great thing about traveling to Bangkok is that you can get amazing five-star hotels for the price that you’d pay for an upscale chain back home. One key decision point: Do you want to stay on the Chao Phraya river or not? We decided that being on the river was important to us, as we wanted to be able to watch the boats (and some people say that the air is slightly cleaner). Yet we also wanted easy access to the SkyTrain, so we could get around the city without taking cabs or tuk tuks.
That’s one reason why I chose the Shangri-La. It’s on the river, yet is very close to the SkyTrain. We upgraded to the Krungthep Wing, where all the rooms have a balcony overlooking the river and a private pool. We also had butler service, complimentary Happy Hour cocktails and canapes delivered to our room, and a monster buffet breakfast, which allowed us to go most of the day without refueling. The amenities may have been over the top, but we loved starting our honeymoon on the luxurious end of the spectrum.
Other five-star hotels on the river include the Peninsula and the Mandarin Oriental. You’re more likely to get a better deal at the Peninsula, where all rooms face the water. You will, however, have to take a water taxi to reach the SkyTrain. But some people love having that type of seclusion after a long day touring. The Oriental is one of Bangkok’s storied hotels, where writers such as Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad stayed. We came here for an afternoon tea that was expensive (for Thailand), but enjoyable.
If you decide to stay downtown, you have a wide range of options, as almost every major chain, luxury or otherwise, has a property in Bangkok. I’ve heard good things about the Four Seasons, both for its Sunday brunch and its swimming pool. Smaller options include the Sukhothai and Hansar Bangkok, a boutique hotel that often has deals on Jetsetter.
Things to do in Bangkok
Bangkok has so many things to do that you could easily spend up to five days exploring (particularly if you take breaks at the height of the day). We saw a few things on our own, such as the Jim Thompson House, Wat Pho (where I looked up from my massage at the temple’s school to see a tiny monk standing on my husband’s back) and the Erawan Shrine.
We did hire a tour guide for part of our visit in Bangkok. Tong took us to the city’s major palaces and temples, and gave us invaluable history about the city and Buddhism. We also enjoyed the river tour that she took us on. On a separate daytrip, she took us to the Floating Market as well as Kanchanaburi, where the River Kwai is located. (if you have time for only one thing outside the city, we preferred the Floating Market). Tong is extremely popular so you’ll want to book her far in advance.
Other Places to Go in Thailand
As I mentioned, we went to Chiang Dao, a small town north of Chiang Mai and Phuket in the south. While Phuket proved to be a nice jumping off point for our daytrips to Phi Phi and the outstanding Hongs by Starlight trip that we took with John Gray Tours, I’d make different choices if we went back, as parts of Phuket are drab and annoying. I’ve heard better things about Krabi and Koh Samui. Check the weather patterns for April before you choose.
In the north, we loved The Nest, a small guesthouse retreat in Chiang Dao. We signed up for one of their treks, but had to quit due to some health issues. If we go back, I’d head even further into the Golden Triangle and look into Anantara, which has cooking classes and elephants on site. If we went back, we’d also spend more time in Chiang Mai so we could visit the Night Market; the city also has quite a few well-known cooking classes.
You don’t want to spend so much time traveling that you get worn out. It is your honeymoon, after all, and you’ll want time to relax! In retrospect, we should have visited only three locations instead of four.
Got a suggestion for M? Leave it in the comments!