A lot of people with kids want to go on a roadtrip outside of their country or continent but aren’t sure if it’s a good idea. Will there be internet (preferably wifi), will the kids like the food, what’s the quality of medical care, is it safe enough for a family trip? They have loads of questions. But the bottom line is: if you want to do it and know your kids good enough to know that they can handle it (kids with certain special needs might need some extra attention or guidance during trips), then go for it! That also applies to single parents. You won’t regret it. Believe me.
After traveling with kids for almost 15 years now (the first 14 years with just one kid, last year we added another nugget to the clan) I’ve come to the conclusion that if you travel responsibly, in other words: if you use your head, almost every country is fit to travel to with your bundles of joy. Ofcourse I don’t have to tell you that excludes countries with a travel warning.
If you are a bit nervous at first, you might want to start with trips closer to home or search for countries where the infrastructure is good, it’s easy to travel by train, where they love children and where there’s lots to see, do and learn. One of those countries is Thailand.
I’ve been a single mom for five years (2009-2014). During those five years I didn’t let my being single prohibit me from traveling. I decided from the get go that it was important for my son, but also for me. I started out taking babysteps. The first time we went on a citytrip to Athens. The second time we went on a longer trip and got our feet wet in Malta. We saw the whole island and also checked out Gozo and Comino. After those two experiences I was sure enough of myself to get us on a plane to Thailand.
Because I thought it would be nice for my son to have other kids to play with and for me to have some adults around to have a drink with during the evenings we decided together that we would book with Djoser Family and we choose the 21 day trip. It was a great choice for a first trip outside of our beloved Europe. And that’s why I highly recommend picking Thailand for a family roadtrip. Especially if you’re a single parent. Because the Thai speak English, the food is kid-friendly and if they really don’t like it, there are also lots of well known fastfood chains you can visit. You can take the train to different parts of Thailand and it’s as safe as every other city in your own country. I was with a group, but in hindsight I know him and I could’ve traveled around Thailand easily and safely on our own.
There’s lot to see and do and I want to tell you what we did during our time in Thailand.
We stayed in Bangkok for a few days. My son was 8 at the time and the flight took us 11 hours so before I booked with the agency I made sure to check if they booked our first hotel a little bit outside of the city centre (no Kho San Road type of streets) and with a swimming pool. I really wanted him to relax during the first few days. Ideally you go sight-seeing in the morning and when it gets really hot the kids can get into the pool and you can relax poolside with a cold drink.
What should you see while in Bangkok? We did a lot while we were there, but our highlights were: the Royal Palace (Wat Phra Kaew), Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Chinatown and eploring the Khlongs (canals) on a long tail boat. Oh, and we had a lot of great food and also some not so great food (I fell into a tourist trap on Kho San Road and had a scorpio).
We left Bangkok in the morning and our first stop was the very touristy floating market Damnoen Saduak. We did enjoy it though, because it was nice out on the water and we could buy all kinds of fruit that you can’t get in your own supermarket and all the while you can check out all the activity on the docks and on the boats itself that kept on bumping into each other. A really lively and fun experience.
After the floating market we drove for about 50km to get to a stupa in the small city Nakhon Pathom called Phra Pathom Chedi. This stupa is the tallest stupa in the world (127 meters tall). This city and stupa are often overlooked by tourists but if you want to get a more realistic angle of Thai life then this is the place for you.
Kanchanaburi is well known for its link to the Japanese occupation. We visited The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, about the history of the Thailand-Burma Railway. It was a disappointing experience for me as they didn’t have much information about the Asian Labourers. That would’ve been significant info for me as my grandfather was one of them. It was much more about the Allied POW (prisoners of war). After that we went to the cemetery next to the museum. A sad and impressive sight to see.
Of course these visits led up to us visiting the Thailand-Burma Railway aka Death Railway. People call it the bridge over the river Kwai because of the book and movie, but this bridge isn’t over the river Kwai, but over the Mae Klong river. Because of the success of the movie they very smartly renamed the river from Mae Klong to Kwae (=Kwai). All historical errors aside, visiting this bridge does make you think about all the horrors both the POW and Asian labourers must’ve gone through. So please make time for a visit.
Kids will also love it. Maybe they’re too young for a history lesson about war but they will enjoy walking over this bridge and will surely remember this place. Later on in life you can show them the pictures and hopefully remember so when they are old enough you can tell them about the history of the Death Railway.
Sai Yok NP
The bridge is still very much in use. We boarded the train right next to it. The train took us over the bridge and through the beautiful Three Pagodas Pass and brought us to one of my all-time favorite hotels.
Or actually, a floatel. After leaving the train a bus drove us to the Phutakien pier in 45 minutes time. We had arrived in the middle of Sai Yok National Park and from the pier a longtail boat brought us to The River Kwai Jungle Rafts. We had two great nights in this eco friendly floatel. No phone reception, no internet, no electricity and no hot water. Just peace and quiet. Only the sounds of the jungle and laughter of children floating down the river in their lifejackets. And great food.
Next up is a trip to Erawan National Park, which biggest attraction is Erawan Falls with its emerald green ponds, named after the 3-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. The falls have seven major tiers and some small ones. The top tier is said to look like the head of an elephant. Since we spend lots of time in the water at the lowest tier we didn’t get to check out the other ones, which is a pity.
How to keep the kiddos happy during a roadtrip
As much as children love to explore, there’s a limit to what they want to do during the day that isn’t fully kid related. Make them and yourself happy by following some or all of these tips:
- When you arrive in a new country stay in a pre-booked room. You don’t have to find something while you are all already tired and can check in immediately;
- Stay there for two or three days so you can all acclimatize to this new place;
- If you’re in a hot climate then book a place that has a pool, so they can cool off in the afternoon and you can do all the exploring in the mornings when it’s still relatively cool;
- Every now and then find a playground for the kids to let loose;
- Don’t worry if they don’t eat the local food for a couple of days. I always take small but nutritious snacks with me from home to give them if they don’t eat. Worst case is that you have to visit a Mickey D’s after a few days;
- Bring enough entertainment with you. We always bring UNO along and a travel version of monopoly. Ofcourse we also download games, movies and series onto our iPad for the long hours on the road;
- Bring a first aid kit.
We leave Sai Yok NP and Erawan NP behind us and travel along to Uthai Thani. Not much to see there and so we visit a safari park. Please don’t visit this park! You can cuddle with baby tigers and even with bigger ones.
Please note that wild animals like that should live out in the wild and not caged up to learn tricks for us. I’m also pretty sure they drug them, because why else would a tiger willingly do tricks with people and let people sit on them. I can’t wait for this outing to be over and have a hard time looking at people stepping into the cages to get a picture with these beautiful creatures.
I myself have made my fare share of mistakes regarding activities with animals during this trip to Thailand and there are not many things in life I regret more. In my next blog I will write about animal cruelty, but for now let’s stay on topic!
After leaving Uthai Thani it is only a short drive to Sukhothai. We’ve been looking forward to this very much. We stay in a hotel with a pool for the kids and in the morning we get into a skylab who brings us to Wat Sorasak, a cute chedi in the shape of a bell with elephants all around it.
And then we are off. Finally we arrive at Sukhothai Historical Park. We rent bikes and that’s a great way to explore this park in all its glory. In the heat it is also very nice to catch a little breeze while biking through this city.
The maintenance of the place was impeccable. Grass cut very short and there wasn’t any litter to be found. Our favorite temples were Wat Mahathat and Wat Sa Si.
In Lampang we visit the Elephant Hospital “Elephant Soraida”. No riding or bathing elephants here. But they tend to elephants that are wounded. A great cause.
Another tourist trap, but one that we really enjoyed and were we spend loads of Thai Baht: Umbrella Village in the small village of San Kamphaeng. We really enjoyed seeing how they made the umbrella’s and you could choose a design to be painted on your umbrella. I even got my iPhone case painted.
My favorite place in Thailand and one that I would like to go back to someday: Chiang Mai. We went on a lovely hike up to the sawa’s, went for a 21km bike ride in and around Chiang Mai. Had great food (also pizza because my boy deserved it after so much rice and noodles) and relaxed in and by the pool.
After a few relaxing days here we took the night train back to Bangkok where we got in a bus for two hours that dropped us off by a pier. From the pier it was only an hour long boat ride before arriving at our next destination.
No roadtrip through Thailand is complete without visiting one or more of the hundreds of islands. We stayed at Koh Samed for 3 great days. Sunbeds, cocktails, seafood and swimming. It doesn’t get much better than that! Oh, and I also did some parasailing.
A great way to end our trip through Thailand. Lots to do for adults and kids. We felt safe wherever we went and the Thai are amazing people who love children. Thailand is a great destionation for a first time solo trip with your kid(s).
ps: this is not a sponsored post. I did not get paid to book or sleep at the locations mentioned.