I had actually done research online prior to departing for Bangkok, and found some tours that seemed to tick all the boxes. However, what kept me from clicking the book and pay button was uncertainty. Uncertainty over how legit the tour operator is, especially the cheaper ones. Of course, if money was not an issue and you made a booking through a private tour operator with a lot of positive reviews, then there would be a much lower level of uncertainty. However, as I did not have a lot of money to spend on tours, I had to look at the cheaper tour operators. The problem was that these operators often have VERY mixed reviews, and some do not even have recent reviews (by recent I mean within the past 3 months), with the last reviews for some coming almost 2 years ago.
Were they still in operation? Why were there no reviews at all in recent times? Were they any good? I asked myself these questions and finally decided that I would go to Bangkok and source around then, which led me to finally book a tour with the agency at my hotel. I did have a backup tour in mind though, with a slightly more expensive private tour operator, but didn't go through with that in the end. Booking with the tour agency at your hotel offers better peace of mind, because the hotel generally does its own check to ensure the agency is legit, and if there were any complaints or screw-ups, it would be easier to get hold of the tour agent.
Thus, as mentioned in my previous post, we booked a day tour out of the city area of Bangkok for 2,700baht (S$111) per person, not including tips. This covered return transfers, long boat ride into Damnoen Saduak, entry & photo opportunity in the Tiger Temple, lunch, and the visit to the bridge over River Kwai. The paddle boat ride within Damnoen Saduak and the elephant ride were not included in the price.
We woke up super early around 5am *YAWNNNN* to get ready, and were the first few souls down for breakfast at 6am sharp. We were picked up by the tour guide at around 6.40am (not too bad, considering we were told pickup was at 6.30am), and ushered into a private minivan. After picking up a few more tourists, we made our way onto the highway at around 7.30am.
We reached the pier to take the long boat ride into Damnoen Saduak at around 8.45am. Here's a picture of our tired faces from having to wake up so early.
What was cool about this tour was that we actually took a boat into the floating market, so we got to see many houses along the river as we motored past. Some other tours simply drove you directly to the floating market entrance itself.
We reached the entrance of the floating market after a 15min boat ride. It was a fun boat ride, and we got kinda wet as the boat zipped through the water. It might not be very obvious from the picture, but the boat was actually sitting very low in the water, so everytime we picked up speed, we got splashed from all sides!
We bought tickets for a 20min paddle boat ride (160baht per person, S$6.60) around the floating market. The boat would bring you to stalls that can only be accessed by the river, so it was cool like that.
These ladies nonchalantly rowed by on their boats, and hawked their wares to us. It was pretty cool how they could balance and manoeuver so easily in the crowded waterway.
We rowed past more shops along the riverbank.
We had about an hour to explore the floating market on foot, and we managed to buy some souvenirs. Clothes weren't really very cheap there so we didn't get any. There was a nice restaurant there as well but as we had lunch provided, we didn't try it, maybe next time!
We did buy coconut ice cream though! And it was quite nice haha, well maybe it was helped by the fact that it was starting to get hot so..
We departed for the Elephant Village at around 10.30am, and it was a short drive there, probably about 10-15min. Tickets for riding the elephants were not included in the tour price, so we paid an additional 600baht (S$24.70) each.
We were driven to a nearby restaurant on the River Kwai for a buffet lunch, but the lame thing was that drinks were not included in the lunch, and we had to pay an absurd 40baht for a 500ml bottle of mineral water. It was a hot day though, so we didn't really have a choice, and paid for the cold water.
After lunch, we were taken to the Tiger Temple, which contrary to what its name suggests, is NOT a temple dedicated to tigers, nor where tigers go to pray! It had a really interesting history, and supposedly started when the abbott of the temple found an injured tiger on the steps of the temple many years ago and nursed it back to health. From then on people started bringing wounded animals to the temple to be nursed, and that was how this temple became a wildlife sanctuary of sorts.
The tigers were kept in an enclosed area, but it was just after their feeding time and most were pretty drowsy and sleepy, enabling us to get really close-up pics with them. How this works is that you pass your camera to a staff member, who will be walking with you throughout, and all your pics are individually taken. If you would like a group pic, I think it's an additional 1,000baht (S$41.15) for the entire group, and one member gets to have the tiger put its head on his/her lap. There was this one tiger that was super active though, and kinda shocked me as I was taking a pic.
We walked around the sanctuary after that and saw bison, deer and cute little pigs roaming free. The pigs were super cute as they wobbled after their mother.
At around 3.30pm, we headed to the bridge over River Kwai, which is a historical landmark of the Kanchananburi region. The original bridge was built by P.O.Ws during WWII, but most of the original bridge was blown up, and what we see today is mostly a reconstruction I believe. We spent some time there taking pics and understanding more about the bridge before we piled back into the minivan for our 2h+ drive back to Bangkok.
We arrived back in Bangkok at around 7.30pm, thankfully the traffic wasn't too bad, and we didn't encounter a very bad traffic jam. Whew. We got the driver to drop us off at a nearby BTS and took the BTS down to Thong Lo in search of mango sticky rice. The exact location was at Sukhumvit Soi 38, and it could be found across the road after exiting from Exit 4 of Thong Lo BTS. It's in one of the small side lanes so it cannot be missed! Most of the stalls there have since relocated, as there was a clampdown on foodstalls on the road. However, when I was last in Bangkok in March 2016, this mango sticky rice stall was still around!
After polishing off the mango sticky rice, we left in search of Pad Thai. We flagged a metered cab by the road to take us to Thip Samai Restaurant on 313 Mahachai Road. Supposedly all taxi drivers know where that is once you tell them "Pad Thai Pratu Phi", but ours seemed very lost and probably did get lost, because we took rather long to get there and ended up paying 150baht (S$6.20). We arrived at 9pm to a super long queue and we were wondering if we would even get to order before 10pm. Surprisingly the queue moved pretty fast, and we were seated after waiting for 20min!
The waiting was made easier as we bought fresh orange juice from the restaurant while standing in the queue (prices change daily depending, we bought ours for 150baht that day). We ordered their Pad Thai with egg and Pad Thai (beach?) which were their more popular choices, with each priced at 80baht (S$3.30). We liked both, but preferred the one without the egg slightly more as it had a stronger flavour to it.
We flagged a cab back to the hotel after dinner, but we realised that we had been cheated after we arrived at our hotel. We managed to bargain down from the initial quote of 200 baht to 150baht, but even that was too expensive, because the ride back took barely 10min and it was actually rather near to our hotel. The ride should probably have cost around 50baht or less on meter, but we were rather unlucky as we had waited quite a while and no metered cabs came. As we were tired from the long day out, we decided to settle for a fixed price one instead. It made sense to us at the point in time because we thought that it was rather far from our hotel, but after the taxi ride we realised how near it was..
The last post will be up soon!
Summary of Day 4:
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
- Elephant Village
- Tiger Temple
- Bridge over River Kwai
- Mango Sticky Rice at Sukhumvit Soi 38
- Pad Thai & Fresh Orange Juice at Thip Samai Restaurant (313 Mahachai Road)
Published by Lucas Lee