February 9, 2015

A Thailand travel story and tips for visiting

Mango rice pudding, bathing elephants and getting drenched in the rain are just some of the awesome memories Taryn Classens, Senior Travel Consultant at Sure Travel 24-7 in Boksburg, made on her educational* visit to Thailand last November…

We were lucky enough to experience Phuket, Khao Lak and Bangkok. When I travelled, Thai Airways was still operating direct flights from Joburg to Bangkok. Unfortunately they don’t fly from SA anymore.

Several airlines offer flights from SA to Thailand; none are direct routes.
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We stayed at six different hotels but two of these were my favourites as they were completely out of the ordinary. Having been to Thailand previously, these just stood out to me. The first was Elephant Hills luxury tented camp, where you actually stay in a tented camp in the jungle. Various activities are available to you there such as an elephant interaction where you get to feed and bath the elephants. For travellers wishing to do something totally different, this is it!

Then we got to stay at the 5 star Mai Khao Lak hotel. It’s a stunning property right on the beach. I really enjoyed Khao Lak, as it’s not yet as popular as Phuket which allows you to have a more laid back holiday in a beautiful setting. We were also spoilt as we stayed in pool access rooms and could literally jump into the pool from our patios!

Phuket is the most popular city for South Africans to visit and we stayed the The Patong Merlin Hotel. This is a great hotel as it is right in the heart of Patong where all the action is, but once you enter the hotel it is quiet and serene. You feel like you are miles out of the city.

I am a big believer in trying the local cuisine. Thai food is spicy and if you enjoy spicy food then you are spoilt for choice. If hot stuff is not for you there are plenty of more westernised restaurants. Keep in mind that you will pay more for this than you would a local dish. My favourite meal was the Thai Mango Sticky Rice pudding. Delicious!

•  Pack light and comfortable clothing. Thailand can get extremely hot and humid, which you may not be used to.
• Drinks lots of water (bottled). It’s best to stay hydrated if you want to enjoy your trip to the fullest.
•  Although Thailand is not a malaria area, due to the humidity, there are a surprising number of mozzies. Some mosquito repellent is a good idea.
•  Have cash on you for getting around (tuk tuks) and for general items that you may want to buy along the way.
•  ALWAYS negotiate the price before you get into a tuk tuk. Drivers can always be bargained down to a reasonable amount but they may take advantage if you are unprepared and do not negotiate your fare beforehand. That being said, tuk tuks are a fun and easy way to get around town. Same thing goes with the markets. Always bargain down the price. It is a common and accepted practice.

•  If you are visiting tourist attractions, for example, Simon’s cabaret in Phuket, you WILL be forced to pay to have photos with any of the performers. It is better to know what to expect.

This is one of those you have to laugh so you don’t cry moments. Looking back it is really funny, but at the time we were not impressed! The day our Phi Phi Island Tour was booked, we woke up to pouring rain. We thought the trip would be cancelled…how wrong we were! Apparently it would take an actual hurricane before your Phi Phi Island trip would be cancelled. So we set off with a good attitude, determined to make the best of it despite the weather. It rained the whole day continuously…and the only protection we had were some brightly coloured plastic Ponchos. After a few hours these were also soaked and basically just protecting us from the wind. Now bright spark over here doesn’t pack an extra set of clothes so the dress I was wearing was drenched. When we eventually reached dry land again, the thought of the 2 hour drive back to Khao Lak looking like a drowned rat was not really appealing. Luckily there was a shop at the Marina and I managed to buy myself a T-Shirt. Needless to say, I got more than one strange look arriving back at our 5 Star hotel in my swimming costume covered only by an I HEART Phuket T-Shirt!

• If it’s raining…don’t go on a Phi Phi Island Excursion!
•  Always pack a spare set of clothes when going on a day trip (rain or shine).
•  Know what to expect. Expect breathtaking scenery, but also keep in mind that this is a major tourist destination. There will be loads of tourists and way more boats than you expect to see, but if you can deal with that, then you will get to experience one of the most stunning places on earth!

Don’t be afraid to explore. There is so much to see and do that you will really miss out if you spend most of the time at your resort. If you are nervous getting around on your own, book a day tour.

Besides the fact that it is absolutely beautiful, it is really affordable for South Africans. You get such great value for your money that you can experience so much more and stay a lot longer than you would when visiting other destinations.

*An educational is a trip undertaken by those in the travel industry, usually organised by a tour operator, to allow the individuals to experience first-hand a new destination. The purpose is to educate the consultants on all facets of the destination and will include site inspections of properties, activities on offer, etc. so that they are able to confidently impart this first-hand knowledge and advice to their clients.

Keen for Thailand? Visit our website for more info.
Contact Taryn and Sure Travel 24-7 for all your travel needs:
9 Orkes Road, Sunward Park Ext 1, Boksburg.
Call:  011 896 5295
Email: taryn@travel24-7.co.za
Like them on Facebook here.

Taryn has been in the travel industry for 9 years, is a crazy animal lover, loves sport and spends every Sunday on the soccer pitch. Her first overseas trip was to Spain and she's most definitely an island girl. Sun, sea and sand are her happy places.
Read more about Taryn here


Tarryn...you sure (pardon the pun) brought back great memories! not a day goes by without me reminiscing! it was one of the best Educationals I have ever been on and we had a fantastic group... Well done Tarryn xxx

Hi Gouwa, thanks for the comment! We're sure (great pun!) you and Tarryn had an amazing time! If you feel like sharing, what were some of your highlights? :)

My absolute highlight without a doubt Elephant Hills Luxury Tented Camps... it was an experience never to be forgotten, We were taken to the Elephant Sanctuary where we were allowed to interact with the elephants. We could bathe them, prepare their food for them and feed them..we were educated about them in a fascinating manner...they are Huge animals with such gentle Souls...wish some humans would be that way! I also love krabi and the 4 island visit which we did...spent the day snorkelling (my first time!) feeding the fish and have them eat from your hands, feeling them nibbling on your toes and body! awesome! I loved out pimped up tuc-tucs and the minivans which transported us between sight inspections felt like we were seated in business class on a plane,..that's how posh they were! LOL... but mostly I loved the people...their kindness, generosity of spirit, their hospitality and eager to please attitude and of course BANGLA ROAD was an experience not to be missed!!! Having to spend such a lengthy period with amazing colleagues certainly did not hurt! thank you ladies and gents...xxx AMAZING THAILAND INDEED!

Hi Gouwa, WOW thanks for sharing! What incredible experiences - I'm sure you've convinced a lot of our readers with these awesome highlights :) Thailand truly is amazing!! #AmazingThailand

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