Thailand Travel Tips 2010

Here is some advice from mainly my experiences (and a couple other people who have also recently been):

  • Bargain everything – unless it’s in a department store. This includes markets, taxis/Tuk-Tuks. You can negotiate price, but it will be seen as a commitment to buy, but you just need the courage to walk away if it isn’t what you want (even if the price is right).
  • Things are cheaper in Chiang Mai than Phuket. If you see it in Chiang Mai, buy it there. The locals in Chiang Mai are also not as in your face.
  • Don’t shake anyone’s hand or hi-5 anyone. You may be physically dragged into their store – happened to a friend lol!
  • Tipping – not required, but certain places may try to pressure you to tip – especially if you’re on a tour, there are elements of the tour that involve extra charges/tips (I’ve always been a believer that receiving a tip is a priviledge and it should not be expected!)
  • Be aware of the additional 10% and 7% VAT charge which can be added on top of meals and goods (make sure you’re aware if VAT is or isn’t included).
  • Larger department stores can refund VAT, but you must spend at least 2000 baht

Day 19 – Phuket, Thailand

Today was storms galore. It rained nonstop overnight. Throughout the day, it rained typical Thailand style. Buckets down for 15mins, then eases off and even becomes sunny for moments. We had already requested a late checkout, so most of the day was spent lounging around.

During our stay, we had breakfast at the hotel (Ayara Hilltops). This was one of the rare places in Thailand where we could actually get a real latte! After breakfast, we walked down to Surin Beach to spend some time, but all the shops and sidestalls were closed. Guess they are not crazy enough to try to work in stormy conditions.

Day 18 – Phuket, Thailand

Last full day in Phuket, so we decided to make use of the resort facilities. The resort we stayed at was Ayara Hilltops on Surin Beach. A very well built resort!

Made use of their beautifully maintained pool, before heading to Surin Beach for a massage and dinner. Choice is limited at Surin Beach due to the quiet location. It is about 30mins away from Patong, and even further away from Phuket town. Nonetheless, a great location if you want to wind down and get away from all the busy tourist locations.

First two pictures are from the Ayara resort. One shows the room view.
The remaining 3 pictures are from Surin Beach. It is a very quiet beach, especially at this time of the year. Sunset is great to watch, and the nightlife is close to non-existent, but at least the locals still try and make it inviting.

Review: Buying a Tailored Suit in Thailand

Just thought I’d put together some tips and advice for anyone who is looking into picking up a tailored suit in Thailand.

There are 4 elements to consider when it comes to suits in Thailand:

  1. Cut – how slim, or loose the suit fits
  2. Style – the creative design of the suit
  3. Colour – self explanatory
  4. Quality – as above

You’ll be glad to know that Cut, Colour, Quality are not an issue with the suits you get made in Thailand. The Cut is exceptional in most cases (from my experience, and other users on the web). There will be infinite Colour you can pick from as they have rolls of textiles for you waiting. The Quality of the sew is also very good. One thing I will note is that they tend to ignore the felt on the back of the collar of suits. This is generally used to make the collar sit better.

The issue is namely with the Style. When you go into these suit places (there is literally one on every corner), they will get you to flick through magazines to pick the Style you want. However, all you’re really doing is picking the colour, and the Cut. They will not be able to copy the Style of the suit from the magazine itself. In essence, they can only make one Style of suit, and you’re only picking the Colour and Cut from the magazine.

There is some flexibility, but it is limited to:

  • 2 or 3 button suit
  • Trousers – one or two rear pockets
  • Inner lining colours
  • Single, double, or no slit on coat

The reason for the limitation is that the store does not actually produce the suit themself. They get your measurements and send it off to a sweat shop to be made. How can I be sure of all the above? Observe the notes they jot down which will be sent to the sweat shop when they are measuring you up for suit. They jot your dimensions down, and note your preference of colour. Notice how there are no notes about the Style of the suit you picked out from the magazine!

This is from my experience, but maybe there are other people out there with different experiences. I have been told that they may be able to copy a suit if you already have the suit. But if this was the case, you probably wouldn’t be going to them for a suit, unless you really wanted a larger choice of suit colours to wear.

It should be noted that the Style of the suit would vary slightly from store to store, and that’s because they send it off to different sweat shops. Little things such as the angle of the suitcoat pockets will vary, but just remember each sweat shop can only produce one Style.

If all of the above sits ok with you, then Thailand is a great place to get a magnificent priced tailored suit. I paid 7600 baht for 2 suitcoats, and 2 pants (ie. 2 sets of suits). This equated to about AU$280. Normally I would spend AU$100 just to alter the cut and length of an existing suit, let alone have one made from scratch.

My suit came from a store in Patong, but I will withhold the location of the store until I am happy (or unhappy) with the longevity of the suit. I don’t want to jump the gun in recommending the place or vice versa til I am sure about the Quality.

The procedure for purchasing one of these suits is pretty standard:

  • Walk in, decide on cut and colours (make sure you decide on an inner lining colour or you will get the norm) and your initial measurement is taken. Deposit paid, usually 50% but get away with as least as possible.
  • 2 hours later, come back for preliminary fitting. The suit looks like an art smock at this point.
  • Next day, come in for final fitting with the finished product. Final alterations can be made including trouser length.
  • 2 hours later, suit ready for pickup with final payment.

In closing, you get what you pay for. There is also a massive post on Lonely Planet about tailoring in Thailand. I found this page most interesting (post 334) – http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1207953&start=330

Day 17 – Phuket, Thailand

This day was spent island hopping between 7 islands. Funnily enough, only 3 of the islands were memorable.

In total, the 7 islands visited were:

  1. Panak Island – to see the “Ice Cream Cave”
  2. Hong Island – just a stop
  3. James Bond Island
  4. Talu Island – for canoeing
  5. Panyee Island – for lunch
  6. Khien Island – just a stop to see some ancient drawings
  7. Naka Island – sandy beach island

The memorable 3 were:

  • Panak Island – the Ice Cream Cave was pretty cool, especially the view at the end
  • James Bond Island – the name lives up to itself. It is the island where “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed
  • Naka Island – a not too bad sandy beach island
Ice Cream CaveJames Bond IslandAncient DrawingsA Hermit Crab

Day 16 – Phuket, Thailand

Another scheduled day of relaxing. There were two things planned for today to Patong:

  1. Go in for my final fitting before picking up my suit
  2. Go to see Simon Cabaret to see some Ladyboys sing

Suit fittings require a couple visits to finalise. See my Suit Tailoring in Thailand blog for those who are interested (http://blog.fuelip.com/?p=323).

Simon Caberat is another one of those things on the to-do list when you visit Thailand. The walk from the centre of Patong (Jungceylon Shopping Mall) is about 20mins (or you can Tuk-Tuk). The show is a bit gimmicky, but it is entertaining nonetheless. It pretty much involves girls (who may not be born girls), singing and dancing to various songs from different countries. I was disappointed to see that everything was mimed, but the entertainment value was still there.

(apologies for the blury photo, it was a mad rush to secure photos, and most ppl were snapping away because a posed photo require cash payment – like most things in Thailand, everything can potentially be charged).

Day 15 – Phuket, Thailand

Today was the day we started on our tours. This one involved Phi Phi Island and required us to leave our hotel at 7am…

The tour itself involved a cruise to Phi Phi Island, where we would snorkel in a coral reef before having lunch, and cruising back to Phuket. I have to admit that the hype with Phi Phi is just not worth it. Apart from the snorkelling, I would rather have spent most of the day doing something else (like relaxing!).

Snorkelling is always fun, and I’m a huge addict. Must get myself a proper underwater camera before my next snorkelling adventure (the Fuji FinePIX J15 just does not cut the cake – infact, I’ll summarise the woes with it in another blog).

Not much to say about Phi Phi Island really, so I’ll end it here with this entry…

Note: Pictures below are of islands around Phi Phi.

Day 14 – Phuket, Thailand

Spent most of the day relaxing before heading to our night show FantaSea! It’s good to have some time to just do nothing, especially when you’re staying at a 5 star resort. Makes the holiday actually feel like a holiday, and not just rushing around trying to tee end-to-end tours.

FantaSea is theme park, but the theme park is pretty ordinary. The two best elements are the zoo (for giggles) and the show itself. I’d recommend seeing the show once if you come to Thailand. It’s one of those things you’d have to tick off your to-do list.

The show itself is quite interesting. Storyline is a bit hard to follow, but from the middle to the end the actions speak for itself. The fireworks and effects on stage is really spectacular. Who would’ve thought you could launch fireworks in a confined space! The security there is quite strict, and you will undergo multiple bag checks. The most amusing is the final check before the show where they will get you to deposit any type of recording device (mobile phones, cameras etc) to protect the copyright of the show.

Day 13 – Phuket, Thailand

Today we went to Phuket Town. I’m sure during peak season, and when there is lesser political turmoil in Thailand, there would be more people roaming around. Today when we went though, the town was practically dead.

We roamed through some smaller shopping centres, before heading to the larger Festival Center Shopping Center. This one is of decent size, and you can spend hours here (as we did). We ended up buying quite a few items, and even got a massage.

Later that night, we headed across to the Phuket Night Markets. This was of decent size, and comparable to the Chiang Mai Sunday Market. Items were more expensive here though, and bargaining was more difficult (read my Thailand Tips page when it comes out).

After doing a bit more shopping in the night market, it was time to head back to the hotel for a good nights rest.

Sorry folks, no photos again. The last two days have been a bit dry.

Day 12 – Phuket, Thailand

Phuket covers a large region, and today we were off to Patong. The beach here is nicer than Surin and is quite busy. There are many side shops, but the night market lacks anything interesting. The shopping centre (Jungceylon) here is nothing great, but its good if you want to get indoors and enjoy some airconditioned comfort.

If you have been up to Chiang Mai, you will notice things in Phuket are more expensive and the people here try harder to get your attention (and probably rip you off). The classic that springs to mind was the Thailand Shot Glass – they wanted 300 baht = $11 AUD. Wouldn’t even cost me that much back at home. In department stores, it was a reasonable 150 baht, which I would consider to still be expensive.

I had predetermined that I would go to Thailand to purchase a tailored suit since it seemed to be all the rave. I will post a review of the suit once it is fully made and I get it home to compare the quality against some of my other suits. I ended up paying 7600 baht for 2 suits (totalling 2 coats, and 2 pants).

Had dinner in Patong, and funnily enough the suit was my only purchase for the day. Nothing else caught my eye.