Ni hao and Sawatdi kha!
I would like to outline my itinerary and share my experience booking a trip on Groupon, because I feel it was absolutely amazing and definitely worth the money.
I want to start off by saying, I did go with my whole family, meaning my parents, brothers, Sky and Jax were all there with me. I love that I took Jax, and I wouldn’t think twice about doing it again, but we did miss out on some things, we had to make special accommodations for a one year old and we had to drag around baby necessities. I can not speak for every tour, but if this isn’t something you would enjoy doing, I recommend leaving the little ones at home. We were the only people in the group that had a 2 and 12 year old.
Our tour was through Affordable World, a company that puts together travel tours with a local guide. We had breakfast everyday and lunch about half the time. The total price you pay per person includes all flights, hotels and included tours and is based on double occupancy. I will discuss our prices at the end, so that you are able to see how much was truly included.
Now, the catch with Groupon is, you have to leave on certain dates and from certain airports. In this case, we had to leave from San Francisco to get the deal we did. I feel that San Francisco added a big chunk of unnecessary money spending due to flights being around $240 each at the time and getting an airbnb within walking distance of things wasn’t exactly cheap either. We didn’t want to spend an outrageous amount to rent a car and the BART (public transportation) did not go to where we were staying. Getting a shuttle was another expense we probably should have just avoided. My brothers and Sky had never seen San Fran, and they needed to, so this did end up being a portion of our trip, just a very expensive one.
11/26- We arrived in San Francisco, walked around, ate dinner and stayed in the CUTEST airbnb. Big tip we had learned quickly: most old apartments in San Fran do not have elevators and we had to carry our heavy freaking luggage 3 flights up. If you are ever in San Francisco, do make sure you see literally everything. Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gate Bridge, Coit tower, Alcatraz island, Pier 39, Union Square, I have literally never been in a city with SO MUCH to do! San Francisco is a MUST see at least once in your life!
11/27- We left for Beijing a little after noon and besides customs and airplane meals, this was very uneventful and 13 hour flights really just suck, especially with a child in your lap. We flew with Air China and the food was alright, the entertainment was fine, very similar to other flights I have been on. Announcements/pamphlets, everything really, was first in Chinese, which you would expect, but it was our first time out of the country, so pretty cool to us!
11/28- Due to time change, we arrived in Beijing pretty late that night, so we got on a bus and drove to the hotel to sleep. The airport was easily the most beautiful airport I have ever seen. Customs was a little confusing to navigate, but we survived. When we went to leave, it was cold and dark outside. We stayed at the New Otani Chang Fu Gong and it was very nice. This was my first time using a fancy bidet haha!
11/29- This was our first tour to Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City and Qianmen Street. Jax woke up throwing up this morning, so Sky and I actually decided to stay back at the hotel and let him rest, we had assumed maybe the long flight had messed with his little body. In the afternoon, when he seemed to be doing better, we bundled up and went out for a walk. We went to a nearby Starbucks, a shop to get some snacks and to a park for a bit. If I remember right, it was around 40 degrees.
11/30- Jax woke up sick again, it seemed to be only in the morning, so we were confused, because by the end of the day, he was doing fine. Anyways, this was our tour to The Great Wall, and of course, we missed it. Jax then got feeling better and it was a warmer day, so we walked to Tienanmen Square and Qianmen Street. Qianmen street is an ADORABLE little shopping street with a ton of food!! Very worth walking down if you are ever in Beijing. Later in the afternoon, we had already walked about 6 miles in the day and did not want to walk 4 miles back to the hotel, so we got on the subway. This was VERY confusing at first, but became very easy when we finally did it. We decided to take Jax’s hat off and everyone was so amazed to see a blond hair, blue eyed child. It was funny how many people just surrounded us and were taking pictures. Sky and I went out again a little later and left Jax with my parents, we got on the subway, met some Chinese women that spoke English, they invited us for tea and eventually scammed $250 in tea, coffee and wine out of us. Very long story short, do not go drink tea with strangers!!!!!!
12/1- BANGKOK!!! Finally, the land of smiles and was it ever! I adore Thailand and it will forever have such a special place in my heart. Downtown Bangkok is pretty run down and dirty, however, it still has such a lovable, welcoming feel to it. This hotel was easily the worst of the three, it was on a very crowded street filled with markets and food vendors. I loved the environment, but being so crowded, it was dirty and constantly very, very busy. I remember there were families with small children sleeping on the sky bridges and in allies. There were piles of garbage bags in front of shops. Again however, you walk into a shop and you are immediately welcomed and they just seem so happy and genuinely grateful to have your service. I remember it was extremely humid, they have a 7-11 literally on every corner and Bangkok is like a normal city, with trees growing up the side of buildings. Their power lines are also a very big fire hazard, but again, THEY ARE SO NICE AND HAPPY AND ADORABLE.
12/2- We took the tour to Wat Trimitr, Temple of the Golden Buddha and Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is respectful in Thai culture to cover your shoulders and knees, which made this a very hot, but amazing day! Also, make sure you have a fresh pedicure, because you won’t be wearing your shoes.
12/3- Damnoen Saduak AKA COOLEST SHOPPING EVERRRR. AKA The Floating Market. Guys, we got on a long tail speed boat and drove down a river for 45 minutes to a floating village of shops. It was so much fun! This is a MUST DO and I cannot stress this enough. Really, you could go to Bangkok just to do this and you would have the time of your life!
12/4- Okay, this was literally one of the best days of my life! The Elephant World Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi!! This wasn’t a ‘ride on elephants’ ‘go trekking’ kind of day. We did real and actual service here. We went and cut down sugar cane and hand made treats for the elephants that were losing their teeth, we gave them mud baths and then we went to the river to wash them off. It was a magical day! The downside: Jax couldn’t go, so Sky decided to stay back with him. We finished the day with coconut ice cream at River Kwai and seen a WW2 cemetery. It was very intriguing to hear about the war from another country’s perspective.
12/5- We traveled to Phuket on a very small plane and stayed at Holiday Inn Resort on Mai Khao Beach and it was easily the most beautiful places I have ever stayed! We could have gone to Patong night market as part of the tour, which I’ve heard is a party, but we chose to relax at the pool instead! I think by this time in the trip, everyone was pretty exhausted haha. We ate at a restaurant called Lay’s, which was just down the road and we ate there like every day, because it was so incredibly delicious and they were so, so nice!
12/6- My family and Sky traveled to Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island) and Buddha cave temple, Suwwanakuha, AKA Monkey Temple on a long tail speed boat. My family said there were monkeys everywhere and that they were kind of aggressive (which is why I stayed back with Jax). They often saw monkeys take people’s things and one even tore through a guys bag and took his mango haha. They all were able to get some fruits and feed the monkeys. Meanwhile, Jax was sick again and it didn’t get better so we went to the resort nurse that evening, who called the doctor into our room. They diagnosed the flu, gave him a Zofran injection and prescribed us like 7 medications that we didn’t end up using, due to not being familiar with them. After the Zofran, he seemed much better anyways. Being a nurse here in Utah, it was very interesting to see healthcare in another country. When they came into our room, they even took off their shoes!!
12/7- My parents watched Jax for the day while Sky and I went on a snorkel tour around Phi Phi Islands. This was so much fun, because honestly, if I could get paid to snorkel in oceans around the world, that’s all I would want to do. Snorkeling is my most FAVORITE vacation activity! We went to Rantee Bay and I had the best pad thai and curry I had ever tasted in my life. *begins drooling* After snorkeling in several places and lunch, we went to Khai Island, which is the smallest and cutest island and we had a few drinks and basically explored the entire thing.
12/8, 12/9- Could have gone on a tour of the city, but we were all crispy and worn out. We played at the pool, in the ocean and got Thai massages. We drank so many banana smoothies, rented paddle boards and kayaks, got stung by jellyfish and slept. Besides the jellyfish, this is my ideal lifestyle, so I was in my happy place and life truly couldn’t get better.
12/10- Then came our 8 hour flight to Beijing, 10 hour layover in Beijing, 14 hour flight to San Francisco and carrying our luggage 3 flights up again. Due to time change, we left at midnight on the 10th, arrived in Beijing at 6am on the 10th, left at 4pm on the 10th and arrived in San Francisco at 11:30am ON THE 10TH! Spent the day napping and walking the city again, then had our flight home on the 11th. What an EXHAUSTING TWO DAYS.
I do want to say, our tour guide Alice, was EVERYTHING. All of our guides were amazing, but we were with her for most of our trip and she was the cutest ever!!! She was so amazing the entire time and constantly checked on us with Jax. She was always trying to keep him happy and make him smile. She is the absolute sweetest, was so knowledgeable and recommended gooooood food.
PRICING: This whole tour (all flights, hotels, and included tours) was $1399 per adult and $500 per child under 2. We paid for The Great Wall tour, which was $50 each. The Elephant tour was $75 for myself and James Bond Island was $50 for Sky. Phi Phi Islands snorkel tour was $100 each. At most, we probably spent $10-$15 dollars on shopping/food a day in China and probably only like $20 a day in Thailand, but I also bought A LOT of food and clothes and crap I didn’t need in Thailand. So if we assume I spent that money every day, I still didn’t spend over $5,000 for this entire trip. Which I feel is a pretty dang good deal considering a round trip flight to Phuket is typically $1,000! I did not include every temple, shopping area and lunch we had, because we went to so many. This post outlines all the major things we did. This was the best adventure ever and I am forever grateful for how much I learned.
If you have any questions or need clarification, I know this is long, just let me know. I hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for getting to this point if you made it!