Going to Thailand is now easier than ever, especially for the Indians, and yes, with families. But after landing in Thailand, what do they do to keep everyone in the family equally happy? Know more to not miss next time or for that matter, the first time!
Until not too long ago, Thailand was not the first name in mind when families in India began thinking of a trip overseas. However, of late, Indian families are turning up in large numbers in Thailand, with many looking for something more exotic than Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya. One such family that visited Thailand recently were the Majumdars from Bhubaneswar in the eastern state of Odisha.
‘‘This year we wanted to explore beyond Pattaya and Phuket. We heard from a journalist friend that northern Thailand is beautiful. A few days back we saw a picture of the White Temple in Chiang Rai, and that is why we went to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and felt that we took a right decision to explore the beautiful place up north. We went up to the Golden Triangle marine area where you see Myanmar on one side and Laos on the other side of the sea in the speedboat ride and feel lost in the vast water,’’ says Dwaipayan Majumdar, a television professional who recently went to Thailand with his large family.
And indeed, the south-east Asian nation can expect to have an increasing flow of Indian families exploring every nook and cranny of the country. Thailand is indeed the preferred destination for family holidays, at least for Indians, for many practical reasons. From budget-friendly packages to easier flight connectivity, availability of Indian food options everywhere to all kinds of shopping opportunities make Thailand a preferred choice.
What an Indian family wants
When holidaying, Indian families prefer covering multiple cities in each visit, instead of sticking to one. This can be challenging in many other countries but is easily doable in Thailand as families can explore the length and breadth of Thailand easily. Whether hopping on an internal flight as the domestic flights are quite cheap, or more intrepidly, board a train or simply book a minivan to take them through the exotic countryside, tailoring transportation to fit with the ages of children and senior citizens in the family is very easy.
As Thailand is particularly very good with value for money for families, accommodations are mostly comfortable and of high quality, with humble three-star hotels in Thailand often of a better standard than four-star accommodations in India. Thai people, in general, adore children and have high regard for family values. Indian families travelling with kids and parents get special attention and care from all around. Most hotels provide global cuisines alongside classic Thai dishes, not to mention special counters for Indian food. The well-trained staff is generally attentive regarding special dietary requests like allergies, halal food (food which adheres to the Islamic law), spice, vegetarian, or even Jain food options.
There is free wi-fi everywhere to satisfy the social media crazy kids in the family as well as be connected with office and rest of the world while holidaying. When a comfortable stay is taken care of at all the points the second last tick mark is the option of some shopping for which everyone keeps at least a couple of hours in Bangkok. But there are good options in other cities also and of course, there are excellent local markets in every corner of the country.
With every other element being taken care of, the only agenda that needs serious attention is where do they actually must go to enjoy the holiday as a family? Solo travel, golf tour, honeymoon trips, food trail, treks and hiking tours – all these are different in their own style and needs, so are the needs of a family that requires a loaded and meaningful itinerary that kids and elderly can enjoy. People don’t go on a trip to enjoy flights or hotels, well, mostly! Let’s identify what are the actual family travel routes in Thailand.
‘‘Indian families from smaller towns are increasingly travelling outbound and when they choose Thailand, they start from Bangkok. When a typical family of six to eight members pick a package to Thailand, we are increasingly facing the request of wholesome activities that cover theme parks, beach activities, shopping options as well as relaxation options. There is almost 100 pc request to ensure the arrangement of some kind of Indian food, vegetarian, non-vegetarian or even Jain,’’ says Sanjeev Churiwala, the director of Nimbus Tours, a Kolkata based leading outbound tour operator that focuses on family tours to Thailand.
Tourism Authority of Thailand has identified 14 different types of family routes all over Thailand. While some already figure in popular Indian packages, some more need to be added. More families are exploring destinations beyond Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket than ever. Travelling to all of these destinations is easier. Thai Airways and Thai Smile remain good options, connecting several Indian cities to Bangkok and beyond.
“Nowadays when flight bookings are done by our regular clients, we see a trend of looking at offbeat as well as popular domestic connections within Thailand. It is a fact that Indian families do not want to explore only Bangkok and they want to at least do two if not three cities at one go. People are increasingly going up north to Chiang Mai recently,’’ agrees Amit Sachdev, director of Unique Air Travels, another Thailand specialist tour operator.
If you are still confused, here are our top picks for offbeat family destinations in Thailand.
Chiang Mai Thailand & Chiang Rai Thailand: The abode of serenity
The northern capital of Thailand offers a well-balanced mix of nature and city life, with an added bonus of cool and fresh air, thanks to its mountainous landscape and lush jungles. Visit Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, walk in the rainforest glasshouse to learn about plants from the Asian tropical forests. Take the kids to the Chiang Mai Zoo, that also features a Snow Dome offering snow activities, and not to forget the Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium. You may reserve the second day for the Chiang Mai Tiger Kingdom to start your morning with some thrills. For some adrenaline-pumping action, zip lining lets you explore Chiang Mai’s pristine nature in an exciting way. In addition to its beautiful gardens, the Royal Park Rajapruek has worth-seeing Thai-style architecture. The best time to visit is during the floral festival in winter. The Chiang Mai Night Safari has a lot of fun activities and shows suitable for all ages. There is also an amusement park for the children.
Chiang Rai, a lesser-known city closer to Chiang Mai, is becoming famous for a breathtaking white temple, the Wat Rong Khun. A family can visit Chiang Rai simply just to visit this work of art. Of course, the trip will start from the one-of-a-kind golden Clock Tower, especially during the light and sound show. Checking out the Night Bazaar for an excellent collection of clothes which goes on till midnight is highly recommended.
Lampang: The charming city of horses
Lampang is the only province in Thailand that still has horse carriages, and it has enough of its own charms to attract visitors with its rich culture and unspoiled nature. In every Indian family photo album, you will find a photo of everyone, on a horseback in their childhood somewhere. Don’t forget to take a picture of your kid with a horse when you are in Lampang next time. Kat Kong Ta is a walking street on weekend evenings with lots of food and fun activities. Other than horses, Lampang is also famous for elephants. The Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) cares for more than 50 Asian elephants, as well as 10 royal white elephants, in a beautiful forest that must be visited with the entire family.
Samut Songkram: The happy tropical jungle
Samut Songkram is located just southwest of Bangkok, along the Gulf of Thailand. Attractions in the province include floating markets, temples and a famous Siamese cat house, other than its beautiful tropical jungles. It is absolutely a must to get wet and a little bit dirty at the Klong Klone Mangrove Forest with mud ski and together with your family find little cockles as much as you can. Get closer to the locals by wearing a Thai dress and participating in activities at the Rama II Memorial Park, where the absolute peaceful atmosphere transports you back to the days of ancient Thailand. Before travelling to Hua Hin, come and enjoy a variety of playthings, swimming and shopping at the Santorini Park.
Hua Hin Thailand: The hub of theme parks
Hua Hin is a city of historical importance and a favourite family destination offering a balanced mix of nature, culture, and leisure, which makes it a perfect place for families who want to kick back and relax. While kids will absolutely enjoy the Camel Republic that has more than just camels within its Moroccan-style buildings, the elders in the family are sure to like Mrigadayavan Palace, a former royal residence by the sea. You need to keep some time for horse-riding on the beach, or swimming in the sea as well. After a rather lazy first day, your family may head to Hua Hin Safari & Adventure Park, watch snake shows, crocodile shows, elephant shows, ride an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle), go trekking on an elephant, or simply have fun with paintballs. Vana Nava is one of the best water parks in Hua Hin where there is something called Kiddie Cove with 11 interactive fountains and play structures which kids can splash down into a child-friendly pool. The Cicada Market is full of cool, creative crafts and delicious snacks, and if you happen to be there at the right time, there are also performances that you can watch for free.
Phuket & Krabi: The mix of adventure and relaxation
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, famous for both nature and entertainment having spectacular Sino Portuguese architectural cityscape. Flying Hanuman is an adventure for everyone in the family to explore Phuket’s exquisite natural scenery. The Splash Jungle Water Park is an expansive water park with fun rides and activities with trained lifeguards and high-level security system throughout the park. Phuket Bird Park is the only privately-owned bird park on the island nesting 1,000+ birds of more than 100 species from Asia, Africa and South America. Anthem Wakepark, the first clockwise cable wakeboarding park in Asia serves the intermediate, advanced and professional level of coaching for the enthusiasts. Phuket Fantasea is a very popular cultural theme park inspired by Thailand’s rich and exotic heritage, with a state-of-the-art show featuring cutting-edge technology. Get on a speedboat and do some island hopping to see the beauty of three breathtaking islands in Krabi – Phra Nang Cave, Kai Island, Poda Island. It is important to note that most of the resorts and good hotels have babysitting services available.
Pattaya: The ultimate tickmark for family fun
Pattaya is now such a popular holiday destination for the Indians that you need to figure out who has more information. Since time will always be less, there are a few waterparks to choose from; such as Ramayana and Cartoon Network Amazone, providing fun for both children and adults. The entire family can enjoy beautiful ice sculptures inspired by Thai literature, and light shows in subzero temperature. The Ripley’s World of Entertainment has over 350 fascinating real exhibits and things you can’t see anywhere else. Kids will also love The Vault: Laser Maze Challenge, where they can get some action in a maze.
“Thai Airways always welcomes family travellers and have designed certain fare products and online facilities. We also curate special offers for our Indian tourists who love to travel with their families. The special reduced promotional fares to Thailand under the ‘Monsoon Bonanza’ scheme have to be bought before September 30, 2019 and are valid for outbound travel till December 15, 2019. We have bassinet seat facility onboard aircraft for the infants, special child and infant meals that can be pre-booked. Preferred seating choices like the front of emergency rows for families with children who seek extra leg space are given on request.”
Kris Theerarak, General Manager Eastern India, Thai Airways
“We are strongly promoting family routes in India as we know India is the market for family travel. In a big country like India, families save money for holiday purposes, and when they decide to spend their hard-earned money, they want to spend it to get value for money. Thailand has been getting steady tourist traffic from India because it caters to the mass and we never forget that. At the same time, we are trying to excel and improve our services for every visiting tourist. Thai culture gives the highest regard to family structure just like India, and we at our level are trying our best to incentivise the family travellers in the best possible way to make their trips worthy and memorable. As much as we want first-time family travellers to visit Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, we look forward to repeating visitors to explore Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Lampang or Samut Songkram in their next visit with their families to explore more shades of amazing Thailand.”
Isra Stapanaseth, Director (New Delhi) – Tourism Authority of Thailand