Travel with kids: Thailand with kids

Adrian (9), Eliott (5), Hanaé (2)

and their parents in Thailand

 

We really fell in love with the country: tropical forests and beaches lined with coconut trees, temples and golden Buddhas, exquisite food, a welcoming population… what a wonderful family trip!

travel-with-kids-thailand -top What we loved to do in Thailand with kids

 Our favorite places in Thailand with kids

 Thailand family accommodations

  Eating with kids in Thailand

  What we liked less

  Tips

 Don’t forget to bring

starWhat we loved to do in Thailand with kids 

 

Pedalling in the park of Old Sukhothai, and discovering the old city within this gigantic, breathtakingly beautiful park: vast, superb, and deserted temples – more or less in ruins, lost in the middle of the vegetation… Ideal for biking with children, on flat grounds and in total security as cars are forbidden (bicycles can be rented on location).

Discovering Bangkok on a ‘longtail boat’, a kind of motorised gondola which easily snakes in and out: the entire family loved the one day visit of the ‘Asian Venice’. Along the canals, we saw Thai people on their balconies on piles, drying laundry, jumbles of electrical wire, children diving, and accosting on-boat vendors.

Going on an adventure in the old temple ruins in Chiang Maï: looking for sleeping cats, finding secret passages, climbing on walls… It is preferable to come early or late in the day in order to enjoy the beautiful lighting, and because it is excessively hot in the middle of the day. Even at the height of the high season these places remain nearly empty, except for the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Snorkeling in the Similan islands: a magical desert island! There, we saw unbelievable creatures: Komodo dragons, bats, mangrove tree crabs, giant hermit crabs, squirrels, marine turtles, and fish, fish, fish… With young children, snorkeling stops are short and one must be vigilant as the currents can be strong. The best solution is to attach your life jackets together and to hang on to each other: the parents can thus swim energetically against the current with their fins and guide the children.

Travelling around the island of Koh Yao Noi on motorbikes (rented at the hotel) – admittedly, three on each bike and without helmets, but what an experience! We also loved the gorgeous meal which we ate in the midst of mangroves, at Ta Ton Do Pier, on the West coast. We slept in a dreamy bungalow on the beach, beneath the coconut trees, and with a view on Phang Nga bay… a beautiful, unweathered spot, devoid of concrete constructions.

Sleeping in a house tree, ten meters above the ground, in the national park of Khao Sok: a truly unbelievable experience. It was quite impressive, especially for people like me who suffer of vertigo. As to security devices… they were relatively lacking, and we worried for our youngest, whose hand we never let go. One night was enough! Khao Sok is a humid primary forest, where rain falls throughout the seasons but never lingers.

Wandering in Phuket on an elephant’s back. The walks last 30 minutes and take place everywhere in Phuket. We went to the jungle on top of big elephants, taking the road between Rawai and Kata. In the end, the children gave fruit baskets to the elephants. They simply loved it!

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star Our favorite places in Thailand with kids

 

Bangkok, in general! The streets of ‘Chinatown’, the swarming food stands where we stopped to eat, and Jim Thompson’s splendid house. We stayed a while in the garden, playing between the stone sculptures and the liana, near a pond of carps (which the children were able to stroke, helped by a guard), and a giant skate…

The Wat Arun: a haunting temple. One must be warned of its dangers though: the stairs are precipitous. The two of us – parents – mounted the steps separately to the top, while the children waited half-way. Behind the temple stands the monks’ living neighborhood: an utterly peaceful and beautiful area where you can take a walk. Pure happiness!

Bangkok temples: within the Grand Palace’s enclosures, the Wat Phrat Keoh. The children were particularly fascinated by the demon-guards. Wat Benchamapophit was extremely peaceful. We followed the monks’ prayers, seated in the temple. Despite the crowd, one should not miss giving a look at the 46 meter long reclining Buddha. The children also loved their Buddhist baptism, with the bracelet offered by a monk and the bells suspended in the trees.

Si Satchanalai Historical Park (a one-hour coach ride from Sukhothai): no tourists on the horizon, only temples lost amidst the jungle, and a bridge suspended above the river. Simply a magical place. A small mistake we made was to bring along a pushchair. We were not able to rent bicycles. Indeed the park is enormous and so many kilometres on foot is long, too long…

Chiang Mai: the entire family’s crush! We loved exploring the mountain in an ATV on bumpy roads, surrounded with a luxuriant growth of vegetation. You would require a taste for adventure. We were also fascinated by the temples: the old Chinese temple next to the flower market, the Wat Phra Sing with its gardens and artisan market, the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on top of the hill: hundreds of steps, but all worth it. The Wat Chet Yod outside the city was one of the most peaceful temples we visited, making it difficult to leave. And my favourite one, richly coloured and covered in dragon paintings, was nowhere to be found in the guides; and now I have myself forgotten its name: up to you to find it!

The Wat Panan Choeng in Ayutthaya, a temple rarely mentioned in guides, nonetheless really dazzled us. In spite of this, Ayutthaya is perhaps not an obligatory stop-over, as its temples are overall less impressive than those of Sukhothai. Moreover, the city sleeps entirely after 8 pm.

The bay of Phan Nga: one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in this world! The setting, with rocky peaks in the sea, is exceptional and served as the décor in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ James Bond. The hotel charted us a longtail boat with a guide. We were lucky enough to explore three secret lagoons within hollow islands. During the entire day, we were fed fresh cut fruit, and the children enjoyed diving in the water from the boat’s roof.

The lake of Chiew Larn (Surat Thani, a three-hour drive from Phuket): a huge artificial lake of an almost opaque jade green, with rocky peaks just like Phan Nga bay. We slept in one of the floating bamboo villages, Ploenprai, the only one actually located in the middle of the water. It was incredibly charming, and the children didn’t want to leave. One must just be aware of the lack of security, as the house opens directly on the water: non-stop mandatory life jackets for the young ones! Moreover, the pier is not easy to find: a quality map is necessary (Khao Sok national park, and internet guidance).

As to little moments of luxury, why not go for a detour in a beautiful hotel and have cocktails by the swimming pool (no need to be a client). We particularly appreciated Indigo Pearl and its kids pool. We also ate a very sophisticated Balinese style meal at the fancy Aman Puri…. where the price of three cocktails and three meals practically amounted to the equivalent of our entire stay!

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star Thailand family accommodations, apartments, hotels and guesthouses

 

  • In Bangkok:

Fraser Suites Urbana Sathorn – large apartments with a kitchen, quite central, by the canals and the elevated railways. Small swimming pool on the roof. And no problem whatsoever having two young children in the room: free extra sheets helped transform the sofa into a bed. 

Ascott Sathorn Bangkok: well located, spacious (about 120 m2), luminous, and comfortable apartments, with an equipped kitchen and two separate bedrooms. Also a pretty terrace swimming pool. Somerset Lake Point is a bit cheaper, in a residence offering 80 m2 apartments, perfect for a family, with two bedrooms, an equipped kitchen, and a swimming pool as well.

Pantip Court Serviced Residence: a nice hotel-apartment in a calm area, ideal for families. Suites with two separate bedrooms. The apartments located on the higher floors offer gorgeous views of the city. Beautiful swimming pool in the heart of a tropical garden.

  • In Chiang Maï:

We really appreciated the Bungalow Guesthouse, run by French people. Pretty bungalows for families within a tropical garden, and a small swimming pool.

Rimping Village: a little hotel in the historical neighborhood. Pool, nice teak terraces, and excellent reception and service.

Slightly apart from the city centre, and more luxurious, The Oriental Siam Resort proposes a lovely, two-floor teak villa for families, capable of welcoming up to six people. A dream environment in an appealing tropical garden with a large swimming pool – ideal for real relaxation away from the city’s restlessness.

  • In Phuket:

A magnificent place in the south of the island, Ao Sane (also known as Jungle Beach), north of Nai Harn Beach. It comprises a series of three peaceful beaches. On the first, you can sleep on a budget in basic bungalows: Ao Sane Bungalows.

More luxurious and in the same area (Nai Harn Beach), the Two Villas Holiday Oriental Style offer 8 spacious villas, modern style, 5 minutes drive from the beach, fully equipped and quite comfortable: two or three bedrooms, a private pool, and tropical gardens.

If you are planning to stay a few days, Villa Baan Bon Khao is the place to enjoy a perfect restful vacation with kids: a private four-bedroom villa, an infinity-edge pool with fabulous sea views, including a car with chauffeur (8 hrs/day)…

  • In the Similan islands:

We found housing to be quite below our expectations. We stayed in Chomviews, expensive and practically in ruins. There is no view of the sea because the jungle wraps around the balconies – which is in fact a good thing, as the sun beats down heavily on the windows.

  • In Ko Yao Noi:

The Koyao Island Resort, a dozen exotic bungalows, refined with their palm leaf roofs and teak floors, mosquito nets and open air bathrooms, all of which is surrounded with lush vegetation, beneath the coconut trees. A dream! A gigantic lawn where kids can run and play, a superb infinity-edge pool facing the sea, and delicious and copious breakfasts are included.

Lom Lae Beach Resort, Robinson Crusoe’s bungalow, stands under the coconut trees, in front of an exquisite beach and a view of the horizon where the islands of Phan Nga bay appear in silhouette… Who could ask for more?

  • At the lake of Chiew Larn, in Ploen Prai:

The bamboo houses of Ploenprai Rafthouse: basic and economical, each house comprises two queen size mattresses and mosquito nets. However, we spotted no mosquitoes – it is said that the lake fish eat them up. It is not easy to plan a reservation but despite communication in a very approximative English, it does work.

  • In the national park of Khao Sok, tree houses:

Nature House Resort (tel: 086 120 05 88 or 086 276 98 05). Or, on the river’s bank, a house perched only one meter away from the ground: not as much fun, but safer. Art’s Riverview Lodge and Travel (tel : 086 470 32  34)

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star Eating with kids in Thailand

Never a pavement without a street vendor: fresh fruit, sesame doughnuts, grilled sausages on skewers, “satay” skewers, fresh coco milk, “nems”… Everything seems delicious: Thailand is the country of cuisine! Don’t forget to ask for non-spicy versions for kids! What the children preferred: “Pad Thai” (a dish with a base of sauted noodles), fried rice, and fried chicken wrapped in banana leaves.

In Bangkok: for a savoury change, the Indian restaurant The Moghul Room (Soi 11, Sukhumvit Road) is very good. We also treated ourselves to a delicious meal in the small restaurant behind the Wat Arun, where no one spoke English: we simply chose by looking at the images.

In Ayutthaya: the Saithong River Restaurant, a nice little place frequented by locals, on the river banks.

In Chiang Mai: try any (or all) of the stands of Wararot Market!

In Phuket: the canteen on Nai Harn beach, to the left and facing the sea. It is one of the cheapest and most delicious places to go. Also good: the little restaurant on Ao Sane beach, the Banana Cafe in Rawai, the restaurant at the beginning of the road that leads to Phromthep Cape along the beach (divine crab curry), and, a bit further near the end of the same road, a series of canteens – the best is the last one.

In Koh Yao Noi, on the west coast (Ta Ton Do Pier): the Sunset restaurant in the middle of the mangroves.

In the Similan islands: at night, one of the restaurants was screening a film, a very Bollywood remake of The Pirates of the Caribbean, on Phan Nga bay. It was magical for the children, although, we must confess, the idea of television on a desert island did not enchant us at first.

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star What we liked less

Lopburi, the city of monkeys. An obligatory stop for the train that goes from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai. However, the city was not interesting, the monkeys were aggressive, and the temples seemed tiny.

Chiang Mai’s zoo: sad animals, ill-adapted runs, and unhealthy attractions. Cars drive into the middle of the zoo, so you breathe their exhaust pipes. In short, no matter what the guidebooks say, avoid this zoo!

Stray dogs: they are not aggressive but tend to frighten younger children. And without being mean, they will brazenly come and eat from your plates.

The Vimanmek palace in Bangkok: a very long walk… for a characterless visit. Not even a lawn where we could sit and rest a little: we immediately took a taxi back home.

Karting: it is cheap, open to all ages, and very dangerous!

Patong: not a good place for children, even though all the tourists seem to walk around with  kids on their shoulders. It seemed inappropriate, not so much because the women are indecent, but because the streets appear to attract the dregs of western society: I never saw so many disturbing individuals at once.

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star Tips

As to on-location transportation, trains and coaches are comfortable but spring-mounted… We jumped a lot! And once in a while, we met a cockroach on the bus.

The ideal season to travel to Thailand with kids is winter, but it is crowded. Spring is lovely, as it is the end of the tourist season, the beaches are virtually empty, and the heat is quite bearable. Be warned though that the Similan islands and Surin close early during the season (from end of April until October) because the sea then becomes quite dangerous.

We spent three weeks in spring, from Bangkok to: Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Surat Thani, Koh Yao Noi, Phan Nga, Similan Island.

Before leaving, we purchased a very light, fine, and cheap pushchair. It revealed extremely useful. Folded, it fitted in the tuk-tuks, the longtail boats, and even the airplane cabin. Also quite practical in the long airport hallways! In Thailand you will find nappies easily: cheap and sold in packs of four in any small shop, which is ideal to take along for a day. However, it was impossible to find baby wipes.

Regarding health issues, there are few specific precautions. Drink bottled mineral water only, avoid ice cubes, and wash your hands regularly. Of course, also make sure that your vaccines are up to date.

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star Don’t forget to bring

You will find excellent local anti-mosquito products (natural and less natural), which are affordable and well-adapted to local mosquitoes.

  • a basic medicine case, including liquid paracetamol
  • antibacterial gel
  • baby wipes, if applicable
  • a few little knick-knacks to entertain children during the long rides: when looking out the window is no longer enough, stickers, crayons, and little notebooks might help.
  • few clothes: you can wash everything at night in the shower with your feet, just like in the good old times.
  • trousers and light, long sleeved shirts to protect yourself from the mosquitoes (ideally in dark colours)
  • sunscreen or anti-UV shirts, hats, and goggles
  • child-size life jackets, as they do not have any on boats!
  • under-water cameras (you can find them on location but the quality is bad)
  • sneakers, useful when visiting the jungle or a grotto
  • your favourite blouse or dress if you want to have a copy made at an unbeatable price!
  • a complete guidebook, such as the Lonely Planet Thailand (Travel Guide)

Enjoy your trip to Thailand with kids!

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