3 Weeks in Thailand – 2016

Welcome to the RB40 Road Show!

3 weeks in ThailandWhen we didn’t have a kid, we usually traveled internationally once per year. We decided to put off traveling after RB40Jr was born because traveling with a baby is very inconvenient. There are plenty of things to see and do locally so we didn’t feel the need to drag our kid across the globe. We still love traveling, though. Last year, we decided to visit Costa Rica for 2 weeks because RB40Jr was 4 year old and he could follow directions. It was a great success and all of us enjoyed the trip. It’s a bit different to travel with a little kid because we cut way back on activities. Our trips are more relaxing now. Costa Rica was a great first trip because the flight wasn’t too long and 2 weeks was just the right length.

This year, we are heading to Thailand for 3 weeks! (We’re probably on the way as you’re reading this.) This trip will be very exciting for RB40Jr because it’s his first trip across the ocean. We haven’t been to Thailand since 2009 and I’m really looking forward to seeing my extended family. My aunts and uncles are all getting older and I want Junior to meet them before it’s too late. It will be great for him to see what life is like in Asia.

Also, this trip will give me a chance to try a different format here for a few weeks. The articles will be on traveling with just a touch of personal finance. I’ll update whenever I can and we’ll get back on regular schedule after Thanksgiving. Let me know what you think. I plan to take a year off to travel around the world in 4-5 years so this will be a good preview.

See my credit card page for instruction on how to travel hack and which card to signup for today.


Our first stop on this trip is Bangkok. We’ll get there after two stopovers in Los Angeles and Taipei airports. This first part of the trip will take about 19 hours. Ugh, that’s a long travel day and I hope RB40Jr can handle it. This is why my mom doesn’t want to come on this trip. She doesn’t want to deal with the long travel days anymore.

We’ll land around 1 am and try to get through immigration as fast as we could. My uncle told me it takes 6 hours to get through immigration now, but I hope he’s exaggerating. It’s a bit hectic in Thailand because King Bhumibol of Thailand passed away in October. Thai people need to wear black or white clothing to mourn the passing of the king. This is a big deal because Thais really love King Bhumibol and you could get into trouble if you don’t show respect. Anyway, I don’t wear black or white so I had to buy quite a few things for this trip. This is one of the reasons why we had a negative cash flow in October. Mrs. RB40 has plenty of black clothes, so she’s set…

We’ll spend 3 days in Bangkok for this first leg of the trip. Here are some of the things that we plan to do.

  • Finalize RB40Jr’s Thailand citizenship process. We need to add his name to the house registration. This will probably take most of a day at a government office. After this is done, he will have dual citizenship, that’s pretty awesome. You never know if it will be useful in the future, such as if he decides to live there someday.
  • Visit the Snake Farm near the hotel. Mrs. RB40 has been here before so she will skip it and book a massage or something. I will go with Junior. He likes snakes.
  • Explore the Silom area on foot and try some good street food and restaurants. There are thousands of places to eat in Bangkok and I have no idea where to eat. If you know a place we can’t miss, let me know. I read about these places on the internet and they sound really good – Café Bangrak, La Table de Tee, Salapao Ko Uan, Lek Seafood, and Somtum Convent.
  • One flexible day – we will probably visit a temple or maybe check out Chinatown.

We’ll stay at Dusit Thani Bangkok for these 3 nights. My cousin works there and she got us an awesome employee discount. It’ll cost us under $100 for 3 nights at a luxury hotel in central Bangkok! Wow, that’s like 66% off. I’m looking forward to staying here.

After 3 days in Bangkok, we’ll take the overnight train north to Chiang Mai. We are really looking forward to this train ride because this will be Junior’s first non-light rail train ride AND they just got some new trains. The new trains are supposed to be up and running by now, but the rollout has been delayed since August. My aunt checked and told me that we’ll get to ride on the new trains on November 11th so wish us luck.

The old trains were the ones I rode 40 years ago. There was no dining car, but it was fine back then. Vendors used to run up to the windows at each station and you could buy BBQ chicken, sticky rice, or whatever you wanted through the windows. I’m not sure if they do that anymore. Oh, the onboard toilets were a bit umm… rustic. They were squat toilets that drop straight onto the track. That’s why you couldn’t go to the restroom when the train stops at a station. Anyway, we’re looking forward to checking out the new modern trains. The tickets for the 3 of us cost around $70.

Chiang Mai

We’ll be in Chiang Mai for 6 days and we’ll stay at my condo. Yes, I have a condo in Chiang Mai. J My dad lives there and occasionally rents it out to Japanese tourists. I plan to use it as a home base for a few years once RB40Jr goes off to college. It will be a great jump off point to explore Asia. That’s a long way off, though.

  • Visit a retirement resort just outside of Chiang Mai. This is a full service retirement home that many westerners can afford. It costs about $1,400/month for single occupancy and $1,850/month for double (in 2015.) Not bad for a luxury retirement resort.
  • Visit the elephant center at Lampang and tour ancient wats in Lamphun.
  • Attend Loy Kratong and Yi Peng festivals. These are a fun cultural events and RB40Jr will have a great time.
  • Walk around Chiang Mai and try as much food as we can. The regional Northern cuisine is a bit different than Bangkok and we usually don’t see much of it in the United States.
  • Visit my dad’s side of the family.

Siem Reap

The next stop is Siem Reap for 3 nights. We’ll have 2 full days to explore the Angkor Wat area, but probably won’t cram all the temples in. It depends on how Junior will feel. He will probably be bored after a few temples.

We’ll stay at Nita by Vo, a boutique hotel outside of town. This will cost us $305 for 3 nights. That’s pretty expensive for Cambodia so it’d better be the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Here is our plan.

  • Day 1 – Angkor Wat private guided tour – $70. We’ll see the major sites on this day.
  • Day 2 – Bantaey Srie (pink sandstone temple) and maybe the landmine museum. Alternatively, we could visit Beng Mealea (the ruin temple) instead. Not sure which one to choose right now. Anyone been to both? These are further away from the main Angkor Wat complex.

This is just a short trip, but I’m looking forward to it. Angkor Wat is a UNESCO world heritage site and it will be amazing to see these ancient structures.

Rayong area

After Cambodia, we’ll fly back to Bangkok and head to Rayong with my extended family. My aunt and uncle will meet us at the airport and we’ll book a van from there. We’ll probably drop by Chonburi to see families on the way to Rayong too. These two places are not on the tourist track so we’ll experience real Thailand life for a few days.

  • Visit families, hang out at the beaches, and eat a lot of seafood.
  • Visit Rayong aquarium.
  • Maybe go to Koh Samed.

Not sure where we will stay on this leg of the trip. My relatives in Rayong own some businesses so maybe we could stay at their hotel for cheap. I’m not sure. We’ll figure it out.

Back to Bangkok

After Rayong, we’ll head back to Bangkok for the last stop of this trip. We’re going to stay at Anantara Riverside. This hotel is on the bank of the Choa Phraya River, the main river that runs through Bangkok and Thonburi. It’s a bit away from the major sites so it shouldn’t be too busy. We’ll spend these last two days relaxing, walking around, and eating good food.


Flight: $2,850

We didn’t have enough points for tickets to Asia so we just charged them on the credit card this time. The flight to Thailand cost $2,200 and the flight to Siem Reap cost $650.

Hotel: $730

  • $100 – 3 nights at Dusit Thani in Bangkok
  • $300 – 3 nights at Nita by Vo in Siem Reap
  • $260 – 2 nights at Anantara Riverside in Thonburi.
  • $70 – Overnight train.

We booked nice hotels this trip because we’re only paying for 8 nights. We could go cheaper, but it’s nice to live luxuriously for a few days. $100/night really isn’t expensive compare to the US. Any mid tier hotel in the US cost $100/night these days.

Activities: $1,000?

  • Snake Farm: ?$10?
  • Elephant Center Lampang: ?$50?
  • Angkor Wat driver, tour, and park passes: ?$150?
  • Rayong Aquarium: ?$20?
  • Food: $25/day ? $500?
  • Misc: ?$200?

This is just an estimate. I’m not sure how much everything cost. I think $1,000 would be a good budget for food and activities for 3 weeks.

Total: $4,500-$5,000

The trip should cost us less than $5,000. That’s not too bad for 3 people, right? We used Digit to save for this trip and it worked out very well. We’ve saved $6,377 without even noticing it. Check out my Digit review if you don’t know about them.

That’s it for today. Wish us luck on our long travel day. RB40Jr is very energetic and sitting around all day is going to be tough for him. We got 2 new travel games – IQ Fit and IQ Twist. They are a lot of fun and they should keep him busy for a while.

Let me know if you’d like me to check out anything in Thailand. Stay tuned for more over the next 3 weeks. 

More details.

Part 1 – Exploring Bangkok 2016.

Part 2 – New Bangkok to Chiangmai Overnight Train.

Part 3 – Visiting Chiangmai and the Elephant Conservation Center in Lamphun.

Part 4 – Enjoying Loy Krathong and the Chiangmai Zoo.

Part 5 – Retirement Options for Foreigners in Thailand.

Part 6 – Wrapping Up Our Thailand Trip in Rayong and Chonburi.

See my credit card page for instruction on how to travel hack and which card to signup for today.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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44 thoughts on “3 Weeks in Thailand – 2016”

  1. That’s really cool you have a condo in Chang Mai. Sounds like quite an exciting trip and glad it’s going well. 3 weeks is perfect for going to Asia. Gives plenty of time to get over the long flight and jet lag.

  2. Awesome,
    One of my hobbies is making jewelry with semi precious stones and wire. I wonder if there are inexpensive bead/stone stores? Enjoy!

  3. I hope you have the best time! I’d love to hear how the internet access is over there, so I can plot a trip back there in the next five years. There was an awesome chicken and rice shop in Phuket Town I’d recommend if I could remember where it was but I think you’ll be in good hands with the food anyway 🙂

    • The internet access has been very good so far. The big hotels have good wifi. My dad’s condotel also has good wifi. I like Khao mun gai (chicken rice), but we have a shop in Portland already. 🙂

  4. Hi Joe,

    I am envying you going back to Thailand, I went several times to Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen. I took my wife for the Songkran (water festival and Thai new year, we had a lot of fun. Hope you can have some Khao So which is one of my favorite dish.
    Enjoy your vacation.

  5. Joe,
    We took our daughter to Chang Mai and Siem Reap when she was 6 years old (last December) and I have to say that the Cambodian Circus in Siam Reap was by far the best thing we did as a family on this trip. I can’t say enough good things about it and highly recommend that you fit it in. I assure you it will be the highlight of Jr’s trip (& yours)

  6. Have fun in Thailand, bud! The long plane ride has been my worst nightmare in all travels for the past few years already… I’m just not as young as before! Eat good food, drink some real Thai ice tea for me. We want to see pictures and hear stories!

    • The plane ride was terrible. RB40Jr did great. He overloaded on movies and games and had a ton of fun. Plus, he got to stretch out. The adults didn’t do so well…

  7. I am in Thailand now with my Thai wife of 30 years visiting family in Chonburi and in Loei province, great country , great people and great food. I was in the government offices in Bangkok yesterday extending my visa, very busy place! Enjoy yourself with your family there, Loy Kratong is a real fun festival.

  8. Sounds pretty awesome and the price is pretty reasonable. Looking forward to more updates about the trip.

    Boy I hope it doesn’t take 6 hours to get through immigration. If that’s true that’d be so exhausting to stand there for that long with a little one.

  9. Sounds like a great itinerary. I definitely want to read about the highlights of your trip as DH and I are headed to Thailand in two weeks. We’ll be going to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

    • We are doing a few touristy stuff, but mostly visiting families. Those 3 spots are good. Make sure you get to tour a few islands when you’re in Phuket.

  10. Sounds like you are going to have a great trip. Traveling again after your long hiatus is going to be fun.

    I really need to check out that part of the world. Hopefully I can make that happen once our little one(s) are a little older.

  11. Man, that sounds like an AWESOME trip! I’m super jelly; I’ve never been able to check out Thailand before. For three people, a flight cost of $2,850 really isn’t that bad at all. My round trip flight to Korea cost $2,000 (although it depends on the airline, booking date, etc.).

  12. Not a bad price at all. We do a lot of travel hacking and generally keep our travel budget low. That being said just a look around shows people driving to the beach an hour from my house and spending 2-3 grand on a rental for a week. To go somewhere out of the country for 3 weeks and to do it for only double the price is fantastic when you think about it. So long as travel is your thing, I see no concerns. Happy and Safe travels, I look forward to some cool pictures.

    • I’m not very good at travel hacking. The timing is always wrong. My Chase account has a lot of points now – 190,000, but it’s a bit too late. Next year we should be good with cheap travel. 🙂

  13. Enjoy the trip – sounds like you are packing a lot of stuff into 3 weeks!

    5k for 3 weeks isn’t bad at all, was going to cost near that at a fancy resort in Mexico for 2 of us for a week

    • That’s a lot of time spent in transit, but we want to see Angkor Wat. My relatives are spread out too. We’ll take it slower the next time we come to Thailand. Hopefully, a lot more time than 3 weeks. We’re not into all inclusive resorts. 🙂

  14. Sounds awesome, Joe.

    I convert the blog to “travel mode” and post about wherever we are at the moment when we head off on these multi-week trips. I notice a slight drop off in comments and traffic but no long term damage. 🙂

    How are you handling RB40jr’s school absences (maybe I missed it in the article)? We would love to go to SE Asia for a while but can’t swing it with the kids’ school schedule. And I’m afraid it will be too hot in the summertime when we have off school for a long period. I’ve heard this time of year is the best for SE Asia weather-wise. Not quite as hot and humid and less rain than the rainy season.

  15. Enjoy the trip! I’d love for you to do a review w/ pictures of Chiang Mai. I hear so much about the place since there are so many digital nomads there. Is it really that amazing of a landlocked city? If so, I gotta try it out!

    I loooooooooved Angkor Wat! So hot though in May/June. I hope the tourist lines aren’t too long. A magical place. Truly.



  16. That’s going to be a great trip for your family. I’m sure it’ll be so nice to see the extended family again and show RBJr around. I look forward to hearing how great of a time you folks have!

    $5K for all three of you isn’t bad at all, especially considering it is a 3 week trip! Enjoy, I’m sure you’ll cherish these memories!

  17. Have a wonderful time with your family, Joe. I’m jealous of all the delicious food you’ll get to eat. Do you have a favorite your looking forward to?

    Great job with managing the costs. Looks very reasonable for 3 of you and plenty of luxury included as well. Safe travels!!

  18. You say, “Let me know if you’d like me to check out anything in Thailand.”

    Yeah, check out the women for me. I am single. Let me know if there are a few little younger women with really low standards. Then I may have a chance. Just kidding about this.

    Actually, I have an iBook called “The Essential Thailand Retirement Guide” by Pete Bowen. I read the whole book and it gives a lot of useful information about Thailand. After reading the book, I concluded that I wouldn’t want to retire in Thailand because of the bureaucracy, the way people drive, and particularly the lack of good quality wine.

    I may visit Thailand someday, however, keeping in mind these words of wisdom about travel:

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people
    need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and
    things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all one’s lifetime.”
    — Mark Twain

    “I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of child-like wonder
    than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.”
    — Bill Bryson

    “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between
    man and the universe.”
    — Anatole France

    “Voyage, travel, and change of place impart vigour.”
    — Seneca

    Have fun while you there.

    • Yes, the bureaucracy is pretty bad. There are a lot of rules especially for foreigners. I’m too scared to drive in Thailand… You can get good quality wine in Thailand. You just have to pay much more than here. From what my dad told me.

  19. Enjoy the trip Joe…especially the food! 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing some fantastic food pictures.

    Thailand has been on my list of places to travel. Other than the ridiculous cost of the flight(s), that actually looks like a quite affordable trip.

    We’ll get there someday…probably after the kids are a bit older.

    Travel safe, and post when you can!

    • Actually, the tickets aren’t bad for Thailand. It’s more than usual because we’re also going to Siem Reap. I can probably post from Bangkok, but not sure about the other locations.


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