Since our last blog in November we have been busy booking flights, accommodation and generally researching the places we are going to.
Getting the final itinerary in place was actually the easy part even though it didn’t always feel like it at the time. Since then the amount of time we have spent looking at accommodation and transport options has been crazy!
So where did we start – we gave our plan to our travel counsellor – Kirsty Fisher who was going to be booking all of our flights and some of our accommodation. Kirsty has been supporting and advising us on this trip since the early days and we are so grateful to her for all her help – we really wouldn’t be where we are now without her.
Thanks to Kirsty we have a total of 13 flights booked, as well as our first three nights accommodation in Bangkok and 2 nights in Chiang Mai. We know that all of our flights are ATOL protected and whilst we had to transfer an eye watering £9,500.00 to Travel Counsellors at the point of booking we are reassured that should anything go wrong we can call Kirsty and get things resolved.
This is the biggest cost for the trip and so we wanted to make sure we used a trustworthy company. The moment we transferred that money was scary and exciting and I’m sure that like us whenever you do an electronic bank transfer you worry you may have got a digit in the wrong place so we were checking and triple checking before we finally hit submit!
With the flights and initial accommodation booked it was time to start to look at all the other logistics and accommodation. We came up with a plan and needed to book the following with a target of completing it all by the end of January:
- Book overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- Book our overnight trip to the Elephant Nature Park
- Book 10 nights accommodation in Koh Samui
- Book 4 nights accommodation in Penang
- Book ferry and train to Kuala Lumper from Penang
- Book 5 nights accommodation in Kuala Luper
- Book a motorhome/sites in Tasmania
- Book accommodation in Christchurch
- Book a motorhome/sites in New Zealand
- Book 3 nights accommodation in Sydney
- Book 2 nights accommodation in Singapore
Not much to do then!
Booking the train
Our first step was to look at the best options for the train – from reading other blogs we had learnt that Seat 61 was the place to go for International Train Travel, so we headed over to the site and starting reading about all the options for the journey we were going to take. The trip itself is approximately 13 hours so way too long for the girls during the day but having never taken an overnight train ourselves we decided this would be one adventure we couldn’t miss whilst on our trip.
After doing some reading on the Seat 61 site we decided to book two first class sleepers so that we had privacy and comfort.
In Thailand tickets aren’t released until around 60 days ahead, however demand for 1st class sleepers is high and we didn’t want to risk leaving it too late or missing the release of them. So on the recommendation of Seat 61 and after reading lots of reviews we have purchased our tickets in advance via 12Go Asia the process was simple and we have all our email confirmations so that we can collect the tickets from them in Bangkok.
We’ll let you know when we are on our travels how the process of getting the tickets and what the experience on the train was like!
Elephant Nature Park
Part of our dream for this trip is to visit an Elephant Sanctuary and to be able to give our time to helping with the care of the elephants, however we also know that in Thailand there is a huge number of ‘elephant experiences’ where the elephants aren’t treated as well as they could be. So we spoke to our friend Lisa, who as well as being a seasoned traveller now lives in Australia and is author of Sunsets and Sarcasm. Lisa had spent time at Elephant Nature Park a few years ago and highly recommended it so off we went to their website and booked ourselves in for the overnight experience!
We are all so excited about this part of the trip and it is one of our ‘must dos’ – look out for a blog on this experience once we get there!
So now it was time to investigate Koh Samui and look at where we should stay that was easily connected but also not too touristy. We have read a number of blogs on Koh Samui as well as looking on Trip Advisor – here are a few of our favourites that really helped us make the final decision to stay near Mae Nnam in the North of the Island.
Trip Advisor – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Tourism-g293918-Ko_Samui_Surat_Thani_Province-Vacations.html
Koh Samui Sunset – http://www.kohsamuisunset.com/samui-kids/
My Little Nomads – https://mylittlenomads.com/kohsamui-family-hotels
Morgans Go Travelling – http://www.morgansgotravelling.com/koh-samui-with-kids/
Milanas Travels – https://milanastravels.com/2016/08/16/koh-samui-travel-with-kids/
We wanted a great self catering base for the bulk of our time, but also were really keen to stay in beach huts as close to the beach as possible – we discovered that traditional wooden huts are hard to find in Koh Samui but have found a lovely place with huts pretty close to the beach instead.
We have 8 nights at Sazana Villa Resort followed by 2 nights at Treehouse Silent Beach.
Our next job was to find accommodation in Penang with late check in as our flight lands at 12.25am! We were originally there for 3 nights but when we checked the trains to Kuala Lumper we discovered that since our initial research the trains are now a lot faster and so we don’t need to travel overnight.
In order to get some accommodation ideas we look at booking.com and Airbnb for suggested places that were available for our dates but also had 24 hour check in. We had initially wanted self-catering accommodation but we struggled to find something within our budget that had 24 hour check in. So we compromised when we found the beautiful Reunion Heritage House had a lovely duplex that whilst wasn’t fully self catered was within budget and a favourite for us all.
Travelling from Penang to Kuala Lumper looks like it will be quite simple – ferry to Butterworth and a train that takes around 4 hours. We are going to book this when we are travelling as it will be much easier to do when we are in Malaysia.
So now we needed some self catering accommodation for the 5 nights we are in Kuala Lumper – again we consulted blogs and also asked on the WorldSchoolers Facebook Group for recommendations. This is where we found the Greenery View Suite – a lovely modern, studio apartment complete with desk (for Sarah to work at), wifi and access to the pool, gym and other facilities within the complex. We were sold and booked immediately via AirBnB.
Having made great progress with our accommodation booking so far, we decided to take a break from research and enjoy the run up to Christmas as a family. So far all our searches for motorhomes in Tasmania were proving difficult as it is Winter in Tasmania when we are there and many of the depots are shut. We needed time to think about our plans more and do more research to decide the best option for this part of our trip. Our next blog will tell you more about our Tasmania plans and how we made our final decisions.