Thailand, The Real Deal For Less Than $1000, Air, Hotel, Tours & More…Latin Life Travel Blog

Thailand Oct. 2018 Part_2 (259)

Article, Photos & Videos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery & travel tips below)

I have to say I was very skeptical of taking an 11 day package tour trip to Thailand that was offered by Affordable World Travel for less than a thousand dollars US $900 with the 10 percent discount offered through Groupon.Thailand Oct. 2018 Part_2 (395) I rarely recommend anyone or anything as  recommendations can backfire but I have to say this vacation package to Thailand lived up to its billing and then some. I wanted to make sure there were no hidden costs and that it was all legit before recommending it to anyone. Note: The Groupon deal comes and goes throughout the year so keep checking if it is no longer available. Trips are available year round but avoid the rainy season May/June to October. For most of Thailand, the wettest months are usually August-October.

Thailand Oct. 2018 Part_2 (129)It was sold as 11 days, all airfares from L.A. to China to Bangkok then Phuket and back to L.A. Two five star hotels. One at in downtown Bangkok, the other at a Phuket beach resort. 4 nights 5 days at each. All ground transfers to and airports and 3 free tours along with Breakfast each day and some lunches. All for under a US $1000.

I’m not into group tours but this one sounded too good to pass up. Did a lot of research and decided to go for it. Turned out everyone on the tour,132 of us, bought the same package for about the same price.   I like doing my own thing on vacation and don’t care to be herded around in groups for everything. Turned out you could do whatever you wanted.

Breakfast buffet at the Bangkok Amari Watergate Hotel

Breakfast buffet at the Bangkok Amari Watergate Hotel

You were not obligated to do anything you did not care to do other than to check out and be at the airport on time. Breakfast was from 6am to 11am with a buffet offering that catered to people from around the world including America. So you could eat whenever you pleased as long as you did not have an early morning tour to catch in which case the restaurant opened earlier to make sure you were fed before you went out on your adventure.

Most people kept to themselves although many friendships were developed. I met Dorothy from Florida who was traveling with a group of 6 ladies, all African American, with tee shirts that read “Girls Trip, Thailand, I’m Living My Best Life”. Bangkok, Thailand Oct. 2018 (58)I asked her about the little travel group, where they were from and how they came to be. “We are from everywhere” she exclaimed. “We all met in Morocco about 5 years ago, there are 19 of us in total, we stay connected and every year we plan and take a trip somewhere on the planet. Those that can make it do and the others make it some other time. We have been to Africa, Europe, South America and now here,” she said with much excitement. I also had some other interesting encounters and impressions of Thailand. Read more and see other photos about my adventures HERE
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We were all blown away by the quality of service and accommodations we received for such a low cost. Most, including me, had low expectations given the price. We were expecting continental style breakfasts, toast and coffee, old rickety Chinese planes, survivable rooms, lame tours. Many of us were planning just to get here and do our own thing.

But it has all turned out to be much more than we could have hoped for. China Eastern Airlines flies Boeing’s 777 jumbo jets. In-flight dinner with wine or beer, a nice breakfast, several movies TV channels and video games to choose from all included in economy class. Even comes with your own personal remote and ear phones. Business class is amazing with seats set in cubicles that convert into beds complete with slippers and down comforters. Worth the extra money considering the long 14 hour flight from L.A. to Shanghai, China plus it’s still four more hours from there to Thailand.

Our travel guide OH, she was amazing. Helpful,Informative, caring and very funny.

Our travel guide OH, she was amazing. Helpful, informative, caring and very funny.

The English speaking guides were amazing. We all felt safe, pampered and well taken care of every step of the way. The tours, both the ones that were included and the optional ones were off the hook with lunches that would normally cost the amount of the entire tour. Our guide ‘OH’ accompanied us on every tour and outing making sure we did not get lost while making valuable time saving recommendations for shopping, dining and sightseeing. She also took care of ground transportation to the airport from Bangkok to Phuket and also at the end of the trip even meeting us at the Phuket International Airport to make sure we got to the right gate for departure back to the U.S.

Thailand Oct. 2018 Part_2 (147)The 3 free included tours included visits to the Buddha Temples in Bangkok that were astounding (see photos) for a half day. You could purchase an additional temple tour or after lunch go back to the hotel and do whatever. I did whatever choosing to enjoy the 5 star Amari Watergate Hotel. Later that evening we took a Dinner Cruise that featured some spectacular sites along with good food and live music. $50 US each. Transfers from hotel included.

The hotel had a gym would make 24hour fitness envious with vapor pools, floating salt pools, steam/sauna & racquet ball courts. An outdoor pool with a happy hour 2 for 1 drinks $5 complete with snacks and refrigerated cool wet towels that waiters distribute with tongs to all their guests. You can stay at the Bangkok Watergate Amari forUS $105 per night,per room breakfast included, if you go on your own

The next day was a tour to the floating markets of Bangkok. I have been to the floating gardens in Xochimilco in Mexico City and expected somewhat the same. Decorative shops on floating rafts along a lake of some kind is what I expected. Not the case at all. Rather we boarded a long tail boat, kind of a long canoe with a 454 horsepower engine that turns the vessel into a speed boat powering through a system of scenic narrow canals. The ride last for about 30 minutes before arriving at an array of shops offering tons of items the constant flow of tourist may be interested in, clothing, souvenirs, food, drinks and so on. The third tour was a city tour of the island of Phuket. We passed on that one as we wanted to spend the day on the beach getting another massage and eating fresh caught fish.

Phuket is pronounced pooket and is Thailand’s largest island with 400,000 inhabitants. Our hotel was fabulous for the price we paid and came with a welcome drink. Then a complimentary bottle of wine delivered to the room, ocean view, then high tea each day at 3pm with pastries that made my eyes roll. A menu for 7 different kinds of pillows. Soft or firm, down or micro fiber. A nightly cocktail reception. Breakfast was again incredibly spectacular. All included.

Thailand Oct. 2018 Part_2 (655)We did purchase the optional ‘James Bond Island Tour’ for about 50 bucks each. The island just happens to be in the shape of Male genitalia. The movie ‘Man with a Golden Gun’ was filmed there so everybody felt they had to do the obligatory pose for their photos.
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Part of the tour included a stop  to the Monkey Temple. Caves where Buddha statues have been carved or placed. The monkeys seem to like it. Then it was off to the red light district for the infamous Lady Boy Simon Cabaret Show

Again our guide “OH” worked tirelessly to insure everything went smoothly. She met us at the airport and accompanied us to the hotel. She made sure we got checked into our rooms, let us know of the upcoming itinerary and served as a concierge in case we wanted any recommendations for shopping, dining or anything else. She hooked us up with a one hour in-room massage our first evening for $15 each which included the tip.

We purchased an upgrade for the beach resort at Dusit Thani for a about $200 for the 4 nights and  wow. On top of the incredible free breakfast and many other perks we got afternoon High Tea that was more than enough for lunch, all the pre dinner cocktails, beer or wine we wanted and 50 percent off our dinners. I became skeptical and was concerned about possible hidden costs. After all we had taken advantage of most everything including numerous mojitos and margaritas. I checked with the front desk and was told that as of my last day I owed nothing and was offered late checkout.

The Holiday Inn Resort in Phuket. 5 days 4 nights come with the standard package. Not an upgrade unles you want a room with a pool.

The Holiday Inn Resort in Phuket. 5 days 4 nights come with the standard package. Not an upgrade unless you want a room with a pool.

I would probably skip the hotel upgrade next time as it is 45 minutes away from the 5 star Holiday Inn where most of the rest of the group stayed at.  The guides were located there, the tours originated there and it is where most of the action was at.  I toured that resort and was impressed with the layout, the pool and the rooms some of which had private pools. Besides you are not at the hotel for much of the time. I would have rather taken the Elephant Reserve Tour and the speed boat and snorkeling tour to the  Island of Ko Phi Phi. Most people I asked “What was their favorite part of the trip” said those two tours were the best part. Each day tour costs about $90 US per person and  include lunch, equipment and all transfers.

All in all it is a trip of a lifetime as there are so many other places on earth to explore. Dubai is next on the bucket list.


Here what others said:

Actually looks like a great deal.There is plenty to see and do in Bangkok, we liked Khao San Road area. Has everything bars, massages and shopping day and night. Free wifi everywhere!
Bangkok is supposed to have warmer weather year round. Only part of our Nov trip with sun 🙁
We hired two “taxi” scooters (they wear vests) and got a ride from our hotel to Khao San Road just for a cheap thrill and to beat traffic! So fun!
Can get on a long tail boat to famous floating markets (weekends only). Close to Khao San Road. The dinner cruise could also be fun.
I recommend going from your hotel via subway train to dock along the river. Take a long tail boat (about $15-20 or 500 baht) to the Grand Palace (Reclining Buddha).
So you get an idea a plate of Pad Thai or a fresh coconut is 30 baht ($1) from a stall in Khao San Rd. Look for cheap silver jewelry and do ALL shopping in Bangkok markets! Phuket is pricer, but always negotiable. The Patong Night Market was reasonable a la carte style.
Phuket- Holiday Inn Mao Khao listed is on a really nice beach. Think you would enjoy that!
FYI- its 1 hour from nightlife area Patong but one night is enough, maybe two? Holiday Inn has a shuttle 3 times per day for a fee.
Best nightclub is called Illuzion Club Phuket great music, live show and confetti.
Another option- book a cheap hotel in Patong
We spent $26-40/night for 2 people $50-60 was splurging for nicer resorts they book up fast!
In Ko Lanta resort we split up $35/room
Arita Hotel Patong $26/night total (2ppl) we liked it, clean pool on the roof with a view. Free cancellation available
Book it! Do it! Save me a seat!! I am packed 🙂
Fyi- must have 6 months remaining on visa on return date. If not need new visa
30 (32) baht = approx 1 dollar
300= $10
600= $20
180= clothes
300= a massage
80-150= beer (buy at convenience cheaper)

Thailand Packing List

Top Recommendations for Bangkok

1. Take the longtail boat via Chao Phrya River to see the Grand Palace & Reclining Buddha (locals will tell you Grand Place is CLOSED, but it’s a scam)

2. Wat Arun at sunset

3. Hail down 2 “taxi” scooters (riders w/ vests) and breeze through rush hour. You’ll feel 20 years younger, its a cheap thrill that you’ll most likely survive 🙂

4. Famous weekend outdoor markets

5. Take a taxi scooter or longtail boat from the markets to Khao San Road- best spot for shopping, drink a $1 coconut, get dinner at trendy restaurants/ bar or spend $1 for pad-thai at the street stalls) and foot or full-body massage $11

6. Shopping in Bangkok- will be the cheapest prices on your trip, negotiate hard

* sterling silver was inexpensive similar to Mexico non-tourist prices

Top Recommendations for Phuket

1. Watch your wallets, scooters not recommended & bargain it’s overpriced area

2. Watch for ladyboys

3. Run from lady boys 🙂

4. Must See Club in Phuket called Illuzions

5. The beach side of Phuket (near your hotel) is supposed to be really nice!!!

Before Thailand

  • Check with doctor to see if shots are needed

  • Book hotels

Download Apps
*need to download currency via WIFI one time (works offline)

Google Maps *download local map via WIFI then you can use offline with GPS

Maps.Me- maps without internet connection

Document Checklist

  • Check AAA Membership discounts

  • Passport & ID- take photos, copies or scan  (back and front) *email it to yourself & companion

  • Credit Cards & CASH

    • Notify banks of travel

    • Make copies of credit cards (back and front) *scan & email documents to yourself, companion & family in case of emergency or lost/stolen

    • *Emergency numbers- family members, doctor, embassy, etc.

  • Flight Tickets/ Check-In

  • Travel Insurance (with flight tickets)

  • Hotel Reservations

  • ***Emergency Health Insurance** (buy online)

  • Travel Guide Lonely Planet guide

See Complete Packing List

Check On

  • Luggage cover or bright ribbons (not black)

  • Luggage locks

  • Luggage weight scale (optional)

  • Tracking device (optional)

  • No valuables

Carry On

  • Compression socks, slippers, jacket, sweatpants, extra clothes

  • Inflatable neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, blanket

  • Money belt (Ziploc for passport- keep dry)

  • Wet wipes (face/makeup, hands, toilet wipes), hand sanitizer

  • Take Airborne before or on the plane (not after)

  • Luggage locks

  • Foldable day pack/bag or fold-up shopping bag

  • Book/ magazine, tablet, headphones, charger cables

  • Extra charger 10,000 mah

  • Empty water bottle

Medical Kit (most bug repellants are inexpensive in Asia)

  • First aid kit- bandages, alcohol wipes, neosporin

  • Large trash bags, ziplock or travel bags, dryer sheets (prevent bed bugs in suitcase)

  • Effective natural repellents like citronella, eucalyptus, or tea tree and should be oily in texture. Lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus or lemon lotion/oil.

  • Mosquito spray (Peppermint, Lemon, Lavender, Eucalyptus),

  • Caladryl or Itch Relief (antihistamine, aspercreme pain/bites)

  • Mosquito Plug-In **Buy plug-in to kill mosqitos at local convenience store for $5

*** use while not in the room

  • Motion sickness tablets for boats (eg. Bonine non-drowsy)

  • Sleep Aid- melatonin

TOILETRIES (**expensive to buy abroad)

  • Travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion

  • Extra empty travel size (fill with booze)

  • Makeup, mascara & contact solution (cheap in US)

  • Toothbrush/paste, cotton pads, makeup/remover

  • Sunscreen SPF (expensive abroad)

  • Toilet spray/matches, essential oils, candles

  • Laundry soap packets, plug, hooks or clothes line

(Laundry or soap bars cheap abroad)

ELECTRONICS (*expensive to buy abroad)


**Asia- must cover shoulders and wear long skirt/sarong or pants

  • Wear sarong or cute long skirt with a cute blouse or top/ short sleeve jacket (covering shoulders)

Hats- ball cap, beach/ straw hat

Socks, underwear, swimsuit, cover up (sarong/wrap/scarf), board shorts,

Pants- 2 jeans, black leggings, yoga pants ,

Skirts- mini, long/maxi, black/jean, temple sarong

Dresses- long sleeve, mini, black dress, 3-4 dresses (buy in Asia)

Tops- sweatshirt/ hoodie, layers

Shoes- Comfy shoes/ heals, walking, converse, flip flops, hiking shoes

Jacket- rain coat/umbrella*, winter coat (*many hotels lend umbrellas in Asia)

More Items

Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media

Bangkok, Thailand, Amari Watergate Hotel & Dusit Thani Resort in Phuket, Thailand