Travelling to Asia in June with a child

Introduction


First plan: Bali

As we were contemplating summer holiday plans, we came across a nice deal to Bali from London Heathrow. We found out that our summer months June-July-August were supposed to be excellent weather-wise and prices still pretty decent. Thus we started planning of spending three weeks in South-East Asia.




After some calculations, schedule checks and lots of planning and reading we decided Bali was not for us this time. One of the issues we were concerned about was the number of stray dogs on the island (some of which still carry rabies). As our child is not used to dogs - especially bigger ones - we thought they wouldn't make our holiday very pleasant if you had to be on a constant lookout for them. Hence we ditched Bali.



What next? Which areas have good weather in June in Asia?

I started looking for other options as we sort of got excited of the idea of spending our holidays abroad. I found a few websites with some good weather information for June in South-East Asia that helped me decide from a few different options:

-Central Vietnam
-Eastern coast of Malaysia
-Eastern coast of Thailand (Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Khanom)

After a lot more research and reading we narrowed it down to Hua Hin, Khanom or Koh Samui. Direct flights from Helsinki to Bangkok (with a reasonably good schedule and price) played a role, as well as the superb Thai cuisine.

Since we had been to Hua Hin with my wife once we wanted to try a new place that ticked the right boxes: good accommodation choices, plenty of restaurants and spa/massage shops close, and easy enough transfer between Bangkok and the other spots. The destination would be Koh Samui and the neighboring island Koh Phangan.



Flights

We ended up booking direct flights from Helsinki to Bangkok by Finnair - there was a little sale that made use of, and upgraded to economy comfort seats (50€/adult/one way).

We would spend three nights in Bangkok, fly directly to Koh Samui with Bangkok Airways, spend 15 nights in Phangan and Samui altogether, then return to Bangkok for two nights before heading back home.


Accommodation: which hotel in Bangkok?

Bangkok has a ton of hotels. There are just so many that it's difficult to choose. However, I could narrow it down to 5 star hotels since the prices are very affordable for quality accommodation in Bangkok, especially during the summer months.

Some of the criteria were:
-Executive Lounge access (they might present very good value in Bangkok)
-an extra bed or a sofa bed that wouldn't be too expensive
 (the added cost may sometimes be an unpleasant surprise)
-location (Google Maps comes in handy)
-hotel facilities and service


I read a bunch of reviews on TripAdvisor and individual reports, and I narrowed the selection down to:

-Siam@Siam Design Hotel
-Pullman Bangkok G
-Hilton Sukhumvit
-Conrad
-Dusit Thani
-Centara Grand at CentralWorld
-Tower Club at Lebua 


We decided to split our first three nights in Bangkok into two.
For the first two nights I chose Dusit Thani (my review here), which was the first 5 star hotel and the tallest building in Bangkok when it opened in 1970. My wife and I visited Dusit Thani Hua Hin two years ago and liked it very much, especially the fantastic service at Club Lounge.



Pool area at Dusit Thani Bangkok
Dusit Thani Bangkok



The location of Dusit Thani Bangkok felt good - close to shopping and restaurants, not too far from the airport, Lumphini Park opposite the hotel. Add in a 50% sale and I booked a Dusit Club Room with plenty of space and access to Club Lounge. The hotel feels child-friendly and children are permitted in the Club Lounge also during the evening cocktail hours, as opposed to Conrad, where children under 12 can not enter the lounge at that time.



For the third night I opted for Conrad Bangkok. We had never been to Conrad before and as they had a terrific sale, I took the opportunity to book a King Bed Executive Corner room. The pool area looked rather pretty in the pictures and I thought it might be good fun to experience two different hotel brands with similar price points.


Pool at Conrad Bangkok
Conrad Bangkok




For our return trip I booked Centara Grand at CentralWorld largely because of two things:
-It is attached to the big CentralWorld shopping mall
-I was able to book a Club World Deluxe room with a 50% discount

The hotel also has an outdoor pool and a spa, and the club lounge is located on the 52nd floor so we would be able to enjoy the views while enjoying some refreshments. Unfortunately the room is not even close to the size of  Dusit Club Room, but then again we wouldn't be in the room for too long given our flight schedules and walking around the huge mall.


Night view from Centara Grand


Accommodation: which hotels in Koh Phangan and Koh Samui?

As neither of the islands were not familiar to us, we had to rely on good old internet and read a bunch of reviews and opinions. I was able to get a reasonable Travel Industry discount for a nice hotel in Koh Phangan: Panviman Resort, which seemed like a pretty good option since the beach is supposed to be nice and there are quite a few local restaurants in the vicinity.

Koh Samui was a tad trickier, with a very high number of accommodation options across the island, most of them of course close to the numerous beaches.

Bo Phut (also spelled Bophut) felt like a sensible place for a family, and I made a refundable booking to Smile House for 4 nights.

For the last 4 nights in Samui I booked Amari Hotel in North Chaweng.

Due to such good time in Koh Phangan we made a last-minute change to our plans, and continued in Panviman Resort for 3 additional nights. I cancelled our reservation in Smile House, and booked an extra night in Amari so there wouldn´t be too many hotel changes in the last days.

Which website to use for booking hotels in Thailand?

I booked our Bangkok hotels directly via the hotels' own websites. As I enrolled in Dusit Gold (frequent guest programme) I received their email concerning a 50% sale and took advantage of that. The same applied to Conrad (Hilton portfolio) and Centara.

I checked and compared hotel prices mostly via Agoda, Sawadee and Orbitz. The prices were in some cases almost identical but it pays to see if there is something to be gained booking directly from hotel's own website.

Sawadee doesn't have the same volume of hotels as Orbitz or Agoda (Hilton hotels missing etc) but some independent hotels can be a bit cheaper through Sawadee. Our room in Smile House was booked via Sawadee. The cancellation was easy though incurring a 500 THB fee.


Local transfers

There would be a few transfers that I wanted to book in advance:
-From Bangkok airport to the hotels and back
-From Samui airport to Koh Phangan and back to a hotel in Koh Samui

In Bangkok we had used a normal taxi before, but they didn't seem like a perfect solution for a family, so I opted for Oriental Escape. We had used their service once before, and were very satisfied. The car was lovely, driver very nice and careful and they had working safety belts which I thought were necessary for our Bangkok transfers.

I read about the ferries operating between Samui and Phangan, and found out that booking directly through Lomprayah website our ferry ticket price would include transfers from Samui airport to the ferry pier, and Samui ferry pier to our chosen hotel in Samui. That felt like a good deal since taxi prices in Samui are high compared to Bangkok.

Our ferry would depart from Nathon Pier on the Western side of Samui. The minibus ride from the airport took about 45 minutes.




A high-speed catamaran ferry takes 30mins to reach Koh Phangan, and from there we would take a taxi to the North-Eastern part of the island (Thong Nai Pan Noi). It was easy to catch a ride from the pier, but if we were to travel that route again, I would book the transfer directly from hotel.





It does make travelling a lot less complicated to have access to such high volume of information in the internet. Once you've done your homework, booked and planned, it's easy to just go and enjoy your trip.
We really had no problems with any of our bookings. I still recommend carrying printed documents of your passports and booking confirmations in case the battery of your phone dies or you don't have internet access.

Safe travels!