The appeal of Asia for us has always been the beaches. Coming from New Zealand, heading to Thailand for some swimming and sunshine is something that a lot of Kiwis do. It’s a popular stopover for young people heading off the England for their OEs, and for NZ families who want to take their kids somewhere during school holidays that’s a bit more interesting than going to Queensland in Australia.
Although there is one flight option that’s direct to Phuket (on Jetstar), the trip over the the Thai beaches usually involves a connection in one of the big hub cities of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. All of these cities are worth a stopover for a few days. Singapore tends to be the most expensive, and Bangkok the least. In fact, one of the best aspects of Bangkok is that you can live the high life on what would be a moderate travel budget for other cities/countries. A few examples include getting ultra long Thai massages, or more Western style oil massages for very cheap prices, or going to the movies luxury style where you get a giant armchair to sit in. Kuala Lumpur has a large number of 4 star hotels at very good prices, and we really enjoy a few days of hanging out by the hotel pool on the way to and/or from the beach/islands. The price difference between that star level and your basic flashpacker style accommodation is usually minimal, so it’s well worth the splurge. In Bangkok, flashpacker style accommodations are very inexpensive so there tends to be more of a price difference when you make a big step up in style, but there are great options, and the service at hotels in Asia is usually excellent, so staying at a high end Bangkok hotel is generally going to offer a luxury experience if you’re needing to recover from your jet lag or scuba trip, or ease yourself into the transition of going home to work after a week or two on a tropical island.
When picking a hotel, consider the location and the accessibility of a sky train station. The BTS skytrain is a fantastic way to get around. It’s very clean, modern, and fun for kids if you’re travelling with little ones. Taxis are super cheap in Bangkok but the traffic is a big problem, which the skytrain will help you avoid. It can also be hard to even get a cab during some peak times (and you won’t catch us on a tuk tuk sucking up all those city fumes.)
A nice pool is also really important to us if we’re going to splurge on a nice hotel, so check out those pool pics and make sure the pool isn’t closed for construction or anything like that.
You can see the sights in Bangkok e.g., go to temples, but by far we prefer the general hanging out aspects. Even the mall food courts have great Thai food at prices that are 1/10th of what you’d pay for Thai takeaways at home. Taking a boat along the river, a walk in one of Bangkok’s parks to observe some Bangkok life, fitting in movies or massage, and going to a night market are all very fun ways to spend a day in the city. The massage places are open late, so that’s a good thing to combine with a night market trip, and leave your day free for other things. Bangkok is hot year round. However, in the rainy season, you’re going to need an umbrella to cope with any sudden torrential downpours, but these don’t typically last all day (usually they’re short.) The dry season is the best time to visit. If you’re going to be doing things in the outside heat, then do them in the morning or at night, and plan to retreat to air conditioning during the day. This mainly applies if you’re not used to heat and humidity (i.e. if you’re from NZ or the UK ;-)) During the hottest part of the day in Asia, the hotel pool or enjoying mall air conditioning are the places to be!
This post was written in association with Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok but thoughts expressed are our own.