14 April 2014

Review: April Suites in Pattaya

The common tourist areas in Pattaya are North Pattaya Road, Central Pattaya Road, South Pattaya Road, and Jomtien Beach. There are Pattaya 2nd Road and Beach Road that link North to South Pattaya road, and accessible easily by Songthaew (public transportation). I heard the Songthaew also goes to Jomtien Beach but I don't know for sure because I didn't go to that area.

April Suites is a small hotel in the center of Pattaya. It is just 1 minute walking distance to Pattaya 2nd Road, 5 minutes walking to the interception of Pattaya 2nd Road and Central Pattaya Road, and 10 minutes walking to CentralFestival Beach Mall and to Pattaya Beach. It is located inside a small street (Soi), so it's not noisy at night.

The hotel is really clean, new and nice. Our Standard Room was spacious located on the 6th floor. There is elevator to go up and down (thanks God!). Toiletries are complete. They provide 2 mineral bottles but no water boiler and tea/coffee sachets. They have restaurants on the ground floor, open from morning til afternoon only. Our package didn't include breakfast. I asked them how much to pay if we want to have the breakfast, and they said we could just come directly to the restaurant and order the foods on the spot because it's ala carte food, not a buffet. It was a good thing tho our package not include the breakfast, because we checked out very early in the morning and didn't have time for breakfast in the hotel.

Upon check-in we were given 2 usernames and passwords to connect to wifi, that means they only limit it 1 device access per person. I didn't care that much because I still had 3G Data from my Thai SIM Card. My husband tried the wifi in his tablet, and it's quite fast inside the room. There is TV inside the room but no international and interesting channels.

This hotel is managed by a family. From the accent, I guess they are from Philippines, including the hotel porters. They also have another hotel not far from there called August Suites, which is bigger and older.

The staff can speak English fluently and really helpful on giving us information about Pattaya. They also provide some shared tours to Mini Siam, Nong Nooch Garden, Elephant Tracking and Ladyboys shows. Other than that, they have hotel cars if we want to book it privately for the whole day. 

The highlight of this hotel I would say is the rooftop pool with jacuzzi. It is not that big, but it is enough to swim and enjoy the sunset. We can see Pattaya beach from the pool as well. The staff on the pool provide us towels and drinks on the bar. Other than swimming pool, they have also small gym or fitness center.

I booked this hotel in Agoda for IDR 454,319 ($39.70) for 1 night, about the same price of my hotel in Bangkok. That makes me conclude the accommodation in Pattaya is cheaper than in Bangkok (but the foods are more expensive!). It's a pity that we love our hotel in Pattaya more than the one in Bangkok but we stayed there only 1 night. If I go to Pataya again (but I doubt I will), I would definitely stay in this hotel again.

See You Again, Bangkok!

It's time to go home.

As promised, we were picked up at 5.30am by Bell Travel Service with a minivan which sent us to bus station. Booking online in their website is so easy (and cheaper than buying ticket in their office). We select the route (for example: Pattaya to Suvarnabhumi Airport), departure date and time, how many passengers and bags, pick up and drop off location, and seats number. Then we input the passengers data, and pay by credit card. When we select pick up location as "hotel", there will be many hotels in Pattaya listed to be chosen. There is no "April Suites" (our hotel) in that list, but the hotel staff said to choose "August Suites" instead. August Suites is so close with April Suites, only 1 minute walking, and they are from the same management. The receptionist of April Suites called August Suites to ask if the driver from Bell Travel Service already arrived. When we got the news that he'd arrived, the hotel porter then helped us bring our bag and lead us the way to August Suites where the driver of Bell Travel Service already waiting.

We weren't the first passengers in the minivan that early morning. It then went around several hotels to pick up other passengers, before finally reaching bus station almost 6am. One passenger can bring 1 baggage only for free (unlimited weight), while additional baggage will be charged. In its counter in the bus station, we changed our tickets. Actually we just showed them the booking confirmation on the phone, because we didn't have time to print it since we just booked it the day before. The coach is really nice and the seat is vast. That morning the bus was full with 40 passengers. One and a half hours later we already arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport, since the traffic was good. I wonder if the traffic was always good like that, maybe taking 9am bus would also be fine (our flight was 12.30pm by Tiger Air Mandala). Well, better not to risk. It was really a convenient trip with Bell Travel Service. They also have services between Bangkok and Pattaya, but it costs 345 Bat ($10) per person, almost triple than the usual public bus, and only have 3 schedules per day.

In the airport we had about 5 hours to kill! We walked around this huge airport, window shopped and ate. Here are some unique statues inside the airport.

In the first post about my Bangkok trip, I said "we wouldn't need letter from gynecology". I was wrong! When I was just about to walk from check-in counter (we got 17B and 17C), I was being stopped by a lady from Tiger Airways. She seemed a manager. She asked me whether I was pregnant and asked my doctor letter (medical certificate). Luckily we had prepared for that. She then escorted me back to the check-in counter, and asked them to change my seat. Actually I was already satisfied with our seats, C/alley seat was perfect because I would be going to toilet often. We then got 6B and 6C, in the front side of plane. We were a little bit happy, maybe we got seats with bigger and wider space for our feet.

Apparently NOT, it was just the same seat with others. Tiger Air Mandala plane doesn't have business class, and the only vast seats they have are emergency seats. Worst, we got seats behind a group of noisy college teenagers who were also in front of us in our flight from Jakarta to Bangkok last week. Give me back my 17C!! However there's no one sitting in 6A, so we got one half row for ourselves, and I could rise my feet on the next seat. Maybe that's why the staff gave those seats to us. Kapunka (thank you)!

It also proves that airport staff in Bangkok are more care with the passengers and the airplane. When we entered the boarding gate, the staff approached me again to check my seats, asked my doctor letter and asked me to sign up a letter to state that I would not sue the airplane if something terrible happened with my baby on the flight. It was the usual procedure. But in Jakarta airport, there's no one approaching me in the check-in counter or boarding gate, nor giving me the best seats they could find, nor asking me to sign up any letter.

That is the end of my Babymoon trip to Bangkok. Excluding flight ticket, accommodation and souvenirs, we spent about 4million Rupiah for transportation, foods and sightseeing for 6 days in Bangkok + Pattaya. We walked slowly, not able to visit all the interesting places, but it was really enjoyable, refreshing from works and chaotic Jakarta. Many people warned us about the politic crisis in Bangkok, but it was safe, and hopefully we didn't encounter any commotion during our stay. I and my husband had really a great time together (despite of scams and getting lost :P). Hope I can visit Bangkok again one day.

13 April 2014

To the Beach: Pattaya

Today we checked out from our hotel in Bangkok and traveled to the southeast side of Bangkok, to another city called Pattaya, popular for beach resorts.

The bus to Pattaya is departed from Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai), located near exit of Ekamai BTS Station. When we were looking for the ticket counter to buy the bus ticket, we were approached by a man who showed us the counter for Pattaya. He seemed trustworthy, and the ticket price they asked us was 130 Baht ($4) per person, not too much different than what I read in internet (~124 Baht). So we bought the tickets. He then led us the way to a minivan, put our baggage inside and asked us to get inside and wait (somehow we understood his body language). I was a bit worried, because this was not what I expected, to travel with a minivan. I thought we would be going by a bus!

Not long after that, other people started filling up the minivan, including tourists from Philippines and Indonesia, and some locals. The car would depart at 9.10am, but the car was quickly full of passengers, so off we went to Pattaya before 9am, and would take about 2 hours to Pattaya (depends on the traffic). Since the car was fueled with gas, every 1 hour it stopped in gas station.

When we arrived in Pattaya City (we knew it by seeing the welcoming board of Pattaya City on the way), the driver suddenly stopped somewhere in Sukhumvit Road, and he said it's the last stop and everyone should alight. This was AGAIN not what I expected! I expected we were stopped in Pattaya Bus Station, where we would take public transport to our hotel like we planned. I was so panic and about to cry. Even with my husband and 3G data in my iPhone, I still got lost!

Now when I read again some articles in the internet about going to Pattaya, I just came across this article:
Be wary of touts who solicit you at various bus stations in Bangkok. Most of them provide private minivan transport and won't drop you off at the main Pattaya station on North Pattaya Road. You will likely find yourself miles outside Pattaya. They also don't begin their journeys until the minivan is full. Unless you want to charter your own van, you should stick to the government buses or those offered by Roong Reuang Coach.

To the Ancient City: Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand from 1351 to 1767, is located in the central of Thailand, about 85 km north of Bangkok. The kingdom is destroyed by Burmese armies, but we still can see the ruins. Since I love history, I put this as one of my itineraries in Bangkok.

We started the day very early, because the tour picked us up at the hotel around 5.30 am. We were the first passengers in that minivan. It then stopped at some hotels to pick up other people before heading to the meeting point in Khao San Road, the center of backpackers in Bangkok. I wonder if all the drivers in Bangkok drove recklessly like that, so scary!

When we arrived there, many people and minivans were already gathered. Each of us was given colorful stickers to stick on our clothes. I, my husband and some people got blue-yellow stickers, and many other got blue-only sticker. We then got inside another minivan with other group of people, and this time with 2 girls as our tour guides and a-not-so-recklessly driver of the day.

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is about 1,5 hours from Bangkok, depends on the traffic. It is located in the middle of 3 rivers: Chao Phraya, Lopburi River and Pa Sak River, makes it looks like an island. See the map of Ayutthaya below for more details.

Click image to enlarge

For this tour, all of us would visit 5 temples. Participants with additional yellow sticker (like me) would change to another tour minivan to visit one additional place called Bang Pa-In Palace before heading back to Bangkok, while the blue-only sticker would go back to Bangkok directly after 5 temples. The package already included the entrance fee for all the places we would visited, foods for lunch, pick-up and drop at the hotel.

09 April 2014

Cultural Day in Bangkok

It was so exhausting for me the day before, so we decided to make today mooooore relax haha. We went out from hotel quite late around 10am. We stopped by the only travel agent we found in Saladaeng Road near our hotel, asking about Siam Niramit show for tonight and one day tour to Ayuttaya for tomorrow. Since we didn't know where other travel agents were around there, we decided to take their service. We paid 1000 Baht ($31) each for Siam Niramit show, and 1250 Baht ($38.5) each for Ayuttaya tour. I know from my friend Elfira, that was a normal price for Siam Niramit show. So I trusted they didn't scam me with Ayuttaya tour either. Hell no, the next day we found out we paid too much overprice for Ayuttaya tour. I will write more detail on the next post.

After dealing with travel agent, and having Thai foods for lunch in one of local food stalls near Saladaeng BTS Station, we took BTS towards Saphan Thaksin BTS Station and transferred to Sathorn/Central Pier of Chao Phraya Express Boat. Today we would take the water transport to visit Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The nearest pier to Grand Palace was Tha Chang (N9). Taking river boat is not as easy as taking BTS and MRT. When we arrived in Sathorn Pier, we followed the crowd, and approached a lady that went around the crowd who seemed in charge of the ticket. We said "Tha Chang" to her, and she gave us 2 tickets, "30 Baht for 2". Not long after that, the orange flag boat came and we boarded it.

07 April 2014

Shopping in Bangkok

My second day in Bangkok was Sunday, and the agenda was shopping! This was the only weekend day we had in Bangkok, and since Chatuchak Weekend Market was only opened in weekends (Friday to Sunday), we must visit this place today. We went there by taking BTS until Mo Chit Station. Not like MRT which is using a token, one way BTS ticket is using a card like this.

Once we got out the train, we saw a big park with lake and many street stalls. This place is huge, and everything is there! I should restrain myself to not spend my money a lot because it's still the beginning of my trip.

Chatuchak Market

Thing that one should try in the very hot weather of Bangkok, and it could be found in any tourist places in Bangkok: Coconut Ice Cream (35 Baht / $1)

05 April 2014

Review: Park Saladaeng Guesthouse in Bangkok

Park Saladaeng is a new budget boutique guesthouse, where all the facilities and interiors are still new, clean and working fine. I didn't take any photos, but you can see the pictures in its website, they really look the same: beautiful and neat. Design of the room is nice, except that the air conditioner is directly facing the bed.

Even though the Queen Deluxe Room was a little bit small, only 18 sq.m, but it had everything we needed. They cleaned the room everyday. They gave us 4 free bottles of mineral water per day. There was no water boiler at first, but they provided it when we asked for it. It would be nicer too if they provided me some tea and instant coffee sachets :P

Toiletries are complete, except toothbrush, toothpaste and shower cap. The electric sockets on the wall is universal, so we can plug our cables without any converter.

There is cable TV with a lot of good international channels (but some of them are dubbed in Thai) and the most important thing is free fast wifi in the room!

04 April 2014

Babymoon to Bangkok

Before pregnant, I had planned several trips between December 2013 to April 2014, including Dieng, Penang, Cameron Highland, Bangkok and Myanmar. After we found out that I was 7-weeks pregnant in Dec 2013, we decided to cancel all of the trips for safety. I also didn't feel like going anywhere with my sickness. So, I had missed my trips to Dieng, Penang and Cameron Highland.

However, 2 weeks ago I suddenly thought it was ok for me now to travel. And the next trip would be Bangkok. So here it is, my babymoon to Bangkok for the first time, in my 19-weeks pregnancy, with my husband, with 5 days preparation. Random trip is always fun and exciting!
  • Tuesday: I visited my gynecology to get her 'permission'. She checked my baby, and she said everything's normal. She wrote a permission letter for the airplane, even though I knew we wouldn't need that. Most airplane would allow pregnant lady to travel without any letter until 30-weeks pregnancy.
  • Wednesday: I asked my manager for leaves next week, and notified a friend in Bangkok and arranged to meet up.
  • Thursday: I booked the hotel in Bangkok.
  • Friday: I booked the hotel in Pattaya.
  • Saturday: Packing and THE DAY!!
I was flying with Tiger Air Mandala. I bought the flight ticket on September 2013 via Tiger Air website where I got it for IDR 1M ($88) per person for round trip. The flight from Jakarta to Bangkok was supposed to be at 3.40pm but I just knew it's already changed to 4:35pm. Well, what do you expect. Good thing it's not delayed.

We arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport around 8pm. Not like my Honeymoon in Bali last June, where I switched off my communication to the world, this time I would like to stay connected. While walking towards immigration and luggage claims, I turned on my iphone wifi in the airport to have internet access. There was free wifi but we needed to get the userid and password to login from Information Counter. The staff would give us a paper contains of userid and password that can be used for 1 hour after login.

After collecting our baggage, we stopped by a telecom stall in Arrival Hall to purchase Thai SIM card. It's not difficult to find, because it's the only stall that evening which had long queues. I bought Happy Tourist SIM card from DTAC with package of 7 days data 1GB and 100 minutes free call for 299 Baht ($9). They set up my iPhone and I could use it straightaway.

Happy Tourist SIM Card from DTAC