The cousins had been discussing about a trip together for several months without much progress. Finally, some time in mid Oct 2015, cousin family 2 decided that they will go ahead regardless and booked their flight and tickets. Cousin family 1 decided to join and booked their tickets too. Cousin family 3 decided not to go. Then, in end Oct, we decided to join the trip too, and so did brother. It would be our second overseas trip together with the cousins. The first was to Legoland Malaysia. This time, it would be a 8 adults 7 children 5 days 4 nights Christmas trip to Bangkok, Thailand.
Usually, we would not travel during the school holidays, much less the Christmas / New Year festive period, because the cost would be high and there would be more crowd then usual. However, some of the other cousin’s children were already in primary school, so they could only travel during the school holidays. Oh well, so be it, the fun memories of traveling with cousins would be a great addition to our life experience.
(There was another side consideration about traveling to Thailand due to a recent bombing incident there. After some thought, we decided that it would be endless to consider all the what-ifs. What we would do is to be alert during our trip and avoid crowded places if possible.)
We booked our air tickets with Cathay Pacific @ $1664.89 for 2 reasons. First, we had a superb experience with them before. Second, the departure time of 2pm was fantastic. All 3 families would be taking different flights (the others traveled by Thai Airways at a later departure time), so we would only meet up at the hotel lobby the following morning.
We booked our hotel at Centara Watergate Pavillion Hotel Bangkok @ $483.36. It was not for us to decide as the other families had already booked their rooms at this hotel. Since we were the last family to book our flights and hotel, our overall cost was a few hundred dollars more expensive than the rest.
As for the itinerary, we had expected the first family to confirm on the trip to take up the responsibility of planning the itinerary. Well, they did, sort of. The itinerary was very vague and the routes planned were not optimal as it involved traveling from mall to mall multiple times a day, and sometimes just for a meal at a normal restaurant that can also be found in Singapore. When reading the itinerary, it felt like they forgot about the fact that we are traveling with 7 children! Dear2 got involved in the planning and the final refined itinerary was definitely much better (but still not ideal).
For this trip, we would use the large 117L Lojel Vita that we had recently bought from Tangs using their 12% rebate promotion. It was the first time that we would travel with only 1 check in luggage for the whole family. Our worry was that it might be too big and bulky and heavy to manage. However, we hoped that traveling with 1 luggage would be much easier to handle compared to having multiple luggage. Multiple luggage meant that the adults’ hands would be occupied, leaving less hands and attention to take care of the kids.
Now that we are back, I can say that traveling with a single luggage was a good choice. It was indeed much less mentally exhausting to handle a single luggage, much easier to travel on escalators, lifts, tuk-tuks, taxis, etc.
As for the flight, I think we will never travel on Cathay Pacific again. There were simply too many noncomplying Chinese passengers on board. Passengers standing up when seat belt sign was on. Going to the toilet during turbulence. Leaving food trays on the floor. One can literally hear the helplessness in the tone of the air crew when they try to deal with these noncomplying passengers. I, for one, do not feel safe when traveling with this kind of passengers on-board.
At Suvarnabhumi Airport, we got the priority queue since we were traveling with young children, very nice service.
Traveling by the airport rail link to our hotel was a breeze. Baby1 and Baby2 had fun with the coin like train tickets. After getting off at Rathchaprarop station, we walked about 10 minutes to our hotel. We checked in (brother would bunk in with us), then quickly got ready to go out for dinner.
We walked to this night market next to Baiyoke Hotel. We couldn’t find any suitable street food and ended up eating some simple Thai food at a cafe. After dinner, we went shopping at the night market. Brother recognized that he had been to that night market before and brought us to a stall where he had bought dresses for Baby1 3 years ago. There, we bought many more dresses for Baby1 and Baby2.
As we depart for our hotel, we bought a number of street food to eat back at our hotel. Although it was our first night, we shopped with the mentality at we will never see the same thing again during the trip, so it was then or never. And we were right, we really did not visit anymore night markets for the rest of our trip. That night, the soya bean milk, the salted steamed fish, the sweet corn, the pomegranate juice were all great. Yumz!
The next day, we met up with the cousins early at the hotel lobby to begin our itinerary for the day. The first stop was the famous Pratunum Wanton Mee, and the queue was quite long. We ordered a mixture of wanton mee and the lor bak rice. Baby1 finished a bowl of wanton mee all by herself, and fast too. I suppose it was nice. I personally preferred the rice. Still, I felt it was a bit overrated.
By the time we finished, it was already 11.25am, very late breakfast! We headed (on foot) to our next destination and our highlight of the day, Kidzania.
Kidzania Bangkok was very similar to Kidzania KL. Since we were traveling with the cousins, Baby1 went along with the bigger kids, and Dear2 would follow along to keep an eye on them. I would take Baby2 to play everything that was available to her, like the Firefighter, Artist, Interior Design, Disco, Clock Tower, Builder, Barber, and a few others. Meanwhile, the other adults escaped to do some shopping The Siam Paragon (same building as Kidzania). Baby2 took a short nap in Kidzania too.
For the last activity before we left, Baby1 became a tomato sauce bottler and brought home a real life bottle of tomato sauce, which Dear2 just used to make tomato sauce rice this recent weekend. Yumz!
After that, it was more adult shopping at Naraya, before settling down for dinner at Swensen’s. Except that the Swensen’s served only ice cream and no main course. We had a quick dose of ice cream (cheap!) before switching restaurant to have some fusion Thai food.
Instead of taking a taxi back to hotel, the other family decided that we should walk back to hotel. Omg, it was a bad choice. It was Christmas Day and the streets were super super crowded with people despite it not being a public holiday in Thailand. We had to squeeze through the crowd at a snails pace while some of the children had to be carried for safety. At one point, we were so over stretched that the group nearly got separated. It was just an unpleasant walk, and it didn’t save much money either because public transport was really quite cheap.
We woke up and got ready for our Damnoen Saduak Floating Market day trip. We had bought the day trip from Groupon @ $25 per pax prior to the trip. Before setting off, we went down to the streets around our hotel to hunt for breakfast. To me, the best food of the day is usually breakfast food, and local breakfast street food definitely beats any hotel breakfast.
Our bus picked us up on time at the hotel gates. The journey took around 2 hrs which was longer than expected. We arrived at the floating market and were instantly ushered to one of the boats. The boat took us along a very standard looking river route lined on both banks by never-ending stalls selling touristy stuff (e.g. hats, elephant idols, ornaments, magnets, etc). We bought a coconut from one of the boats but avoided the ice-cream due to hygiene considerations. Eventually, we bargained (achievement unlocked!) and bought a pair of floating market magnets to add to our collection. Otherwise, the floating market was disappointing, too touristy.
After the floating market, our driver brought us to what I thought was a boring temple. And after that, we asked the driver to drop us off at Ekkamai Mall where we had a very late Japanese Ramen lunch.
After lunch, we went to Snow Town within the same mall. I have not been to our own Snow City before but Dear2 said that they were very similar. The children had a lot of fun sleighing down the snow slopes and building small snowmans and making snowballs.
After that, it was dinner at Tim Ho Wan. After dinner, we decided that it was getting late and our family took a taxi back to hotel while the other 2 families continued shopping.
That night, after the kids went to bed, Dear2 and I sneaked out for a Thai massage nearby while brother helped to look after the kids. It was nice to go out for a walk, just the two of us. On the way back to hotel, we bought a stick of ice-cream from 7-Eleven. That would be the worst decision of our trip.
By 3am, I was feeling sick. I knew that it would develop into stomach flu. It did. Dear2 started feeling sick in the morning, around 7am.
We call the hotel lobby and arranged to go to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor gave us anti-flu and anti-biotics. We would both feel so sick that we slept in for the whole day. Thankfully, brother was there to help out with the kids.
Baby1 and Baby2 were so sweet and sensible to stay in room with us and played quietly on her own.
During the evening, brother brought Baby1 to meet up with the rest of the cousins as they went ice skating and dinner. Baby2 stayed in with us.
Luckily, Dear2 and I felt well enough to travel by morning. We packed up and got ready to set off for the airport. We took a tuk-tuk to Rathchaprarop station and off we went to the airport. At the airport, we bought a packet of mango sticky rice and some fresh mangoes too. It was something we had wanted to try but had not seen throughout our trip. It was delicious.
We got home, unpacked, and continued resting to nurse of stomach flu. And that was the end of our trip.
As with our previous trips, I brought my waist pouch as my day bag. However, this trip, I noticed that my waist pouch was causing me lower backaches. This was because the waist pouch loosens easily and hang down from my waist. Also, the waist pouch was quite heavy due to the passports in it. I may have to seriously consider a new travel day bag.
It was really unfortunate that we fell sick during the trip. But it was not the first time it had happened either. I fell sick during our Hong Kong trip too. As always, we were covered by travel insurance, but nothing can bring back the lost travel time.
I suspected the ice-cream, but the time frame doesn’t quite fit. Because stomach flu required an incubation period, so it could be anything from several days earlier. But we shared most of the food with the children. Luckily, the children didn’t get the stomach flu! So, this is also a reminder of our food hygiene, and that we really shouldn’t be sharing food with the children. Prevention is better than cure.
I don’t know if I will want to travel with the cousins next time. The itinerary really wasn’t very interesting and wasn’t very optimal. Maybe if I do travel with them again, I should take up the responsibilities of being the trip planner.
Then there is the group dynamics. We tend towards street food but the others tend towards familiar well-known restaurants. Others want to spend a whole day on shopping while we prefer experiences. Furthermore, it was a little difficult at times to move as a large group and eat as a large group.
I guess I’m still happiest with we travel as our family of 4, just like our recently Cruise to Shanghai!
Our total spending was $1664.89 (air tickets) + $483.36 (hotel) + $712.68 (local spending) + $148.29 (prepaid day trip + travel insurance) = $3009.22. Or $752.305 per pax for 5D4N. Wow, not cheap. Oh well, forced by circumstances, not many avenues for optimization.
Overall, this trip fulfilled some goals for me. It was my first trip to Bangkok that I can remember. It was our first “special event day” (Christmas) spent overseas.
We discovered Baby2 has a tremendous liking for Kit-Kats!