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Tuesday 27 April 2010

trekking Thailand and Vietnam 2010

so i’ve decided to blog a little on my recent trip to Thailand and Vietnam.
A little crazy? maybe..
Reasons? well after getting back a few friends were keen to know where i went, what i did, how much the holiday was, etc.
I started thinking well it would be good to know how much things were last time i was there in comparison, specifically how much was i paying for that coconut drink from the food cart on the side of the road last time? or how much does it cost to get around and how is the best way to get around.

ground work.


Wed 07 - Sydney (14:30) Phuket (20:45)
Thu 08 - Phuket
Fri 09 - Phuket (19:20) Ho Chi Minh (21:10)
Sat 10 - Ho Chi Minh
Sun 11 - Ho Chi Minh (17:55) Bangkok (19:25)
Mon 12 – Bangkok (15:50) Chiang Mai (17:00)
Tue 13 - Chiang Mai
Wed 14 - Chiang Mai
Thu 15 - Chiang Mai
Fri 16 - Chiang Mai (14:05) Samui (15:50)
Sat 17 – Samui – Koh Tao
Sun 18 - Koh Tao
Mon 19 - Koh Tao – Samui
Tue 20 –  Samui (15:05) Phuket (16:05)
Wed 21 - Phuket (22:05) Sydney (10:10 22nd April)

Visa information

Aussies do not need a visa for Thailand however they do require one for Vietnam. We organised ours through the Vietnam Embassy in Australia by completing the application form and sending it to the embassy with a bank check for the visa, our passports and a paid registered return envelope. It was about 70 bucks per person however the overall experience with the embassy wasn’t so good (no one picks up the phones, hard to find out how much, etc). Next time if i was to apply apparently there is a company online which does them cheaper and faster, alternatively they did have a landing visa booth at the SGN airport which you may be able to get one there too.

Also if you are applying for a visa make sure you put down dates which are well outside of the dates you are going to be there. DONT make it for the day after you arrive (co’mon it was only 3 hours) at the airport and hope that the customs officer will let you in a few hours early!

Car rental

Getting to and from the airport when having more than 1 person i always hire a car from Hertz or Avis as it works out heaps cheaper and takes you right to/from the airport door.


We flew between all cities since time just didn’t permit us to do it by other means. We chose Air Asia since it does flights to pretty much all places required with the exception of Samui which we flew Bangkok Airways which was the only airline which i found flew there at the time (since going i think Nokair and One-Two-Go does too.)


Asia Rooms is my booking of choice for accommodation in asia (if there is no Marriott lol) since it is pretty comprehensive and i haven’t had any issues with it. It also gives you some protection from having a bad experience since you can leave a review on the website so the hotels are less likely to do anything dodgy compared to just walking in off the street to book a room.
I recommend booking accommodation before you go since you spend more time on the beach or in the pool than in an internet cafe finding the next place to stay. Plus it is almost always cheaper!
The following accommodation was chosen for each city.
Phuket – Courtyard Marriott (Patong Beach)
Good location (1 street away from the beach and 1 street away from the shops – SWIM IN BAR!!)
The Holiday Inn and the Patong Resort Hotel also looked good.
Ho Chi Minh – Asian RubyNot too bad, reasonably priced, good location and included breakfast.
Bangkok – 
Courtyard MarriottApart from being right in the middle of where the red shirt protesters were, was good as per all other Marriotts.
Chiang Mai – 
ManinarakornGood location, breakfast included and free internet however there was no lift and there was no hot water in our shower (not that you needed it but apparently it should have been working.)

Koh Samui – Chaweng Buri ResortGood location (private beach one side and main road the other) and it had a restaurant on the beach which was cool.

Koh Tao – Monkey Flower Villa
This place was a definitely a highlight of the trip, not your usual run of the mill hotels. It was actually a private house which was rented out, awesome views and the level of service from Linc and Woonsen (owners / occupiers) who pretty much after we exchanged money were like having friends on the island. The best thing was if there was anything you wanted to see and do they knew where to go or who to talk to to make it happen. We ended up having a great meal with them and then partying out at all their local hangouts until the sun came up, and when the sun was up we brought 1/2 of the party goers from the club who were left standing back to have a party by the pool!

on the ground.


As always i find the best way to manage money in another country is just by working out the currency difference from a currency exchange and withdrawing it using a visa card from an ATM, you do end up paying a cash fee but the convenience is soo good!


So i put my bag on the belt when checking in from Sydney Airport and it weighed approx 6kgs. Coming home on the check-in belt in Phuket it weighed 18kgs, need i say any more? Shopping is fantastic in asia! Shorts, shirts, singlets, jackets, beanies, hats, jeans, jackets, sunnies, shoes, thongs, dresses, watches, socks, underwear, you get my drift!
One cool thing i found in thailand is there is some awesome stuff for decorating houses there from cool lamps, beanbags, tables, chairs, paintings and pictures. Most of it is reasonably priced since you are getting something you cant buy from the shop in Australia but the only problem is getting it home due to size, maybe checking it in as oversized baggage could work?
In most asian country bartering is a must! Department stores are usually fixed price however markets is usually where there is fun to be had. These stall owners are so cluey that they know what the price of things are in your and probably 10 other countries and they could even probably offer you prices in your currency to make it easier for you to work out how much you are paying! However you would be paying normal shop prices for everything you bought.
I have found that the following tips help when getting things for a good price. Below i have listed the price of stuff i bought over there to give an indication of what i got things for.
  • Stall operators will usually start the price at what you would pay for things retail in australia (e.g. 4500 baht ~ 150 AUD for a fancy copy watch)
  • You should be able to barter down to 1/2 of the price (1/3 if you’re good / lucky!!)
  • The first item you buy, you will probably pay too much for. With that in mind you know how much people are willing to part with goods for… try and beat it next time you buy!
  • Wear all of your bought clothes, watches and sunnies out with you when you barter. Yes you will look like a typical tourist but you can say (i bought these for $X amount)
  • Stall keepers know what kinda shopper you are a mile away! Don’t be one of those annoying ones, or especially not one of those sucker ones! Barter with style and have fun! (“,)

Getting around

Elephants, bamboo rafts, motor bikes, tuk tuks, boats, planes, trains and automobiles are just some of the means of transport used on the trip. Some advice on transport in asia is as follows (trust me ive been there (“,) )
ALWAYS negotiate your rate/cost of your trip before getting on your mode of transport. If they say it is free or you just give them what you feel is OK is never the case!
BEWARE of the people offering you taxi’s at the airport by waving a sign in your face, though very tempting and you will probably get to your destination they are WAYY overpriced.
Preferred method of transport in the cities visited:
Phuket – Minibus from the airport to Patong, Taxi from Patong to the airport, walking!
Ho Chi Minh – Taxi’s to and from the airport, Motorbike!
Bangkok - Taxi’s to and from the airport, Tuk Tuk!
Chiang Mai - Taxi’s to and from the airport, Walking or Tuk Tuk!
Koh Samui – Covered Utes (Jeepnis), Tuk Tuk or Taxis.
Koh Tao – Boat from other islands, Utes or the back of Linc / Woonsen’s motorbike / 4×4.
Getting between Koh Samui and Koh Tao the only means of transport is a boat (unless you’re a dead keen swimmer!) these boats go via Koh Pha Ngan (where the full moon parties are held) and usually take about 3 hours. We took the Lomprayah to Koh Tao which was more expensive than the other companies (20 bucks one way) but was a professional service and you did not need to get off at Koh Pha Ngan. We caught the songsermboat back which was 1/2 the price (10 bucks) but you had to get off at Koh Pha Ngan and was not as fast and the trip from Koh Pha Ngan to Samui did not have air conditioning!
If i was going to go to Koh Tao again i would definitely book the trip online instead of the hotel or a travel agent on the island (Lomprayah does it for less than $5 each way if you book online.)

Things to see and do

Below is a list of things that we did or would have liked to do, there could be better stuff to do at each place but this gives you an idea.
  • Koh Phi Phi island tour – Shooting location of the film The Beach (usually need 1 day booking in advance – 6 islands via speed boat including lunch)
  • Diving – Ko Racha (which is meant to have a wreck to dive to)
Ho chi mien
  • Lumphini night market / Chatuchak weekend markets
  • Ping pong show in Patpong (also not for the squeamish)
  • Muay Thai Boxing at Lumphini Stadium (Tuesdays and Fridays)
  • Bars and Clubs (Khao San Road / Royal City Avenue)
Chiang Mai
  • One day Trek (elephant riding, white water rafting, bamboo rafting, orchid farm, waterfall, includes lunch – TOPAZ Travel)
  • Private taxi driver to Tiger / snake / monkey shows
  • Flight of the Gibbon (practically like Tarzan!)
  • Shooting Range
  • Fish Spa
Koh samui

Koh Tao


Pretty much everywhere we ate was awesome and none exceptional above the rest worth a special mention. Just go where ever looks good!


Note the below prices (apart from shopping) were split between 2 people but is calculated per person.
Flights to/from Australia = $850AUD (Jetstar)
Connecting flights = $503AUD (Air Asia / Bangkok Airways)
Accommodation = $624.70AUD (all places listed above)
Vietnam Visa = $70AUD
Car Hire =  $100AUD + Fuel (Hertz
Tailored Collared shirts = 800THB / 27AUD
Tailored Pants = 1200THB / 40AUD

Tailored Vest = 2000THB / 60AUD
Tailored Leather Jacket = 7500THB / 250AUD
T-shirts = 150THB / 5AUD ~ 300THB / 10AUD  (brand)
Shorts = 200THB / 7AUD ~ 400THB / 13AUD  (brand)
Jeans = 600THB / 20AUD  (brand)
Watches = 1000THB/34AUD (brand), 150THB / 5AUD (no brand)
Sunnys = 250THB/8AUD (brand)
Hats = 200THB / 7AUD (brand)
Shoes  = 800THB / 27AUD (brand)
Thongs = 125THB / 4AUD (brand)
Belts = 200THB / 7AUD (brand)
Sun Screen = 390THB / 13AUD
Deodorant = 117THB  / 4AUD
Hair Product = 290THB / 10AUD
Hand Bag = 900THB /30AUD
Purse = 650THB  (brand) / 22AUD
Underwear =  80THB  (brand) / 3AUD
Dinner for 5 with 3 beers each = 395.000 DONG / 23AUD
Korean - 3 dishes and a bottle of vodka = 650.000 DONG /  37AUD
Seafood  - Full fish and 1 crab with rice = 750THB / 25AUD
Mixed Grill – 2 crab, 2 king prawns, grilled pork, fillet of steak, fillet of barracuda fish, = 990THB / 33 AUD
Buffet dinner (pp) = 450THB / 15AUD
Coconut drink = 20THB / 1AUDGrilled Corn = 40THB / 1.30AUD
Street cart Kebabs – 20THB / <1aud br="" each="" stick="" style="box-sizing: border-box;">Beers = 180THB / 6AUD (long neck) | 120THB  / 4AUD (stubby) / 50.000 DONG / 4AUD (beer in club)
Buckets = 500THB / 17AUD (1/4 bottle of spirits with mixer and a few straws!)
Airport transfer: SGN – city = 10AUD (taxi)
Airport transfer: city – SGN = 100.000 DONG / 6AUD (taxi)
Airport transfer: HKT – patong = 150THB / 5AUD (minibus pp)
Airport transfer: Patong – HKT = 800THB / 27AUD (taxi)
Airport transfer: chiang mai – CNX = 90THB / 3AUD (hotel transfer)
Airport transfer: BKK – Bangkok = 500THB / 17AUD (taxi)
Airport transfer: USM- Chewang = 150THB pp / 5AUD (mini bus pp)
Airport transfer: Chewang – USM = 220THB /  8AUD (hotel transfer pp)
Boat to Koh Tao = 650THB / 22AUD (pp including hotel pickup)
Boat from Koh Tao = 300THB /10 AUD pp + 500THB / 17AUD (taxi to hotel from pier)
Koh Phi Phi Island tour = 2200THB / 74AUD (includes hotel pickup)
Muay Thai Boxing Ticket = 1000 ~ 2000 THB/ 30 ~ 60 AUD per ticket
Chiang Mai one day trek = 750THB /  25AUD (full day inc hotel pickup)
Chiang Mai Flight of the Gibbon = 1800THB / 60AUD (full day)
Chiang Mai Tiger/Snake/Monkey shows =  1050THB / 35 AUD (includes private taxi and ticket to shows – 1/2 day)
Chiang Mai Shooting Range = 1700THB / 57AUD
Chiang Mai Fish Spa = 200THB / 7AUD
Ho Chi Minh Cu Chi Tunnels = 17USD / 18AUD
Massage = chiang mai 140THB / 5AUD (1 hour) | phuket  200THB /  7AUD (1/2 hour) |  ho chi minh city 60.000 DONG / 4AUD  (1/2 hour)
Ping Pong show (including 1 free drink) = 600THB / 20AUD
Dam Sen water park = 90.000 DONG / 6AUD
APPROX TOTAL PRICE = 2 Aussie G’s ($2000) + spending money.

Final words.

If you’re looking for maps of each city, I found googling the city name and the word map comes back better than using Google Maps. Check out the pictures from the trip by clicking on the link below (“,)
Shouts to Stace for the proof reading.

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