Some airlines are throwing promotions online and offline for parents to book a dream holiday with their kids come this school holidays. And if you need some ideas on what to do with your adorable small set, Bangkok offers the perfect setting for a fun and affordable family vacation which combines delicious Thai food (oh, Tom Yam Kung, how I love thee!) , cheap shopping, friendly people and a host of charming family attractions that will make a family vacation truly memorable.
We went to Bangkok in December 2013 (yes I should have posted this long time ago!) on Air Asia Free Seat Promotion early of the year and ended up paying RM1600 for 5 of us, which was quite a steal. Throw in a cheap hotel deal from those online sales group for our amazing hotel stay at the Royal President Bangkok Hotel for less than RM900 for 5D4N, our family vacation for five pax was all in RM2500, which was really not a bad deal at all.
I am not kidding when I say my kids have visited just about every zoo locally in Malaysia as well as in the South East Asia. But the one that really stood out as our favourite-est favourite is the Safari Park of Bangkok. I cannot praise it enough for the sheer awesome learning opportunity for the kids to learn how animal live and behave in the natural habitat of their own. So, to satisfy the animals-lover of our little people, we headed straight to the safari on day 2 with a driver guide recommended by the hotel.
Safari World is divided into two zones: There is the open space, 500-acre Safari Park that comes with a bird park where one can drive through in their own car or in the park bus, and a Marine Park which is the traditional zoo that showcases many shows, lots of food stalls and souvenir shops.
Even as a grown up, my imaginations went wild as soon as we reached the open air Safari Park! The definitive keyword here is Herds. Whereas the other zoos in this part of Asia house animals that look like they are undernourished, bored and lonely because they are confined to such small, sad space within their cages, Safari Park Bangkok is a very impressive eight kilometers wide land where animals wander freely in groups and herds exactly like one of the Madagascar movies!
Feast your eyes on the wilderness as you drive past tigers, lions, deer, zebras, antelopes, black bears, horses, camels, rhinos, pelicans, ostriches, cranes, storks and more, all roaming so healthily, looking handsome and well-fed and so wild in a really well-maintained free space of their own that are filled with trees and preserved naturally like a safari jungle. Wind down your windows at your own risk but I wouldn’t do that with 3 active kids in tow. 🙂 There is a separate drive-through safari area that houses the carnivores with massive metal grill gates complete with a security lookout tower as if you are entering the Jurassic Park. My three happiest little people were all oohs and aahs during the whole tour— it couldn’t get any better!
We also watched an animal shows at the zoo’s amphitheatre but the kids loved the spectacular dolphin show the most. At this point Baby B grew so tired (he was barely two years old) he slept through the entire show but Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei-Mei were awe-struck with the whole performance.
After that we also watched a western cowboy stunt show that was a little cheesy but it did showcase the performers’ horse-riding ability and with its good old western humorous acts, was a nice way to wrap up the whole visit with a smile on the kids.
My personal favourite was the giraffe feeding platform where at a very low fees, the kids could buy some banana to feed these graceful giants which was a nice way to inculcate love for the animals in children. The gentle giraffes came in large herds. There must be at least more than 100 head counts there that make it such a sight to behold. Did I mention Herds?
We spent our day 3 on our own to do some retail therapy at the Platinum Fashion Mall and spent half of our day there. Because Bangkok is home to so many treasure troves of shopping malls and wholesale market, really, if you are into haggling prices in the wholesale market such as the Chatuchak Market or Night Markets, you should really travel there with an empty large luggage to lug back all the goods and satisfaction from Bangkok. Things that can be found there are largely imported from China which means you can get very good bargains for such things as home decorations, kitchen wares, kids clothing, tees, arts pieces and a gazillion of knick-knacks.
With the 3 kids, it was not feasible to walk through the many alleys of wholesale markets or the open-air stalls of the Chatuchak under the scorching hot sun to get our shopping done, so we opted for Platinum Fashion Mall instead, which is a 6-storey wholesale mall at the Pratunam area to get our shopping completed in the comfort of an enclosed, air-conditioned mall environment with the same satisfaction that came from putting our best bargaining power to full test. For less than RM300, we managed to get basic clothing such as tees, hats and short pants for Daddy Joe, trendy work tops, denim jeans for Cheeky Koko, Thai designer tops for Pumpkin Mei-Mei, jumper for Baby B, fashion belts and accessories that filled our small empty luggage to the brim. It was truly a fun experience to get some retail therapy.
No trips in Bangkok is complete for the kids without a visit to their Khlong (Bangkok canals beautifully nicknamed as the Venice of the East) on a long-tail boat. So on day 4, we engaged the same driver again to bring us to where we hopped onto a small fast boat to visit this famous waterway along the Chao Phraya River.
The kids were thrilled to be riding the narrow but fast boats that cut through the waterway, which was quite a delightful and tranquil experience as we zipped past the many wooden local houses along the long canal only to reach a floating market at the end where there were many Thai traders crisscrossing and trading on their small boats packed with our favourite dessert — Khao Neow Ma Muang (sweet mangoes served with glutinous rice and sweet coconut milk), local arts and crafts, fruit and drinks and even roast pork rice which made the whole experience made even more enjoyable.
We learned that for many villagers, the waterway is still used as a main transport mode (in the form of a water taxi) to get around. It made you appreciate the simple conveniences and joy back home where one is able to get around in your own bike, car or any of the public transportations. After that, our driver also brought us to an elephant sanctuary where they offered elephant rides for the kids at around RM30/pax for a full 30 minutes ride around a small forest. Elephants are much revered in Thailand, and it’s not hard to see why — the kind, intelligent, gentle mammal made not just Baby B but all three kids came back with a beaming smile that lasted for days on end!
Good family vacations do not have to be extravagant nor does it have to be extremely sophisticated for the average family. All in, we feel Bangkok truly has its rich, charming Asian flavour offered in an affordable package for families that seek a good bargain and enriching fun memories that last a lifetime. Happy holidays to all!