On the way home from New Zealand (I will blog about that later) we spent about a week in Thailand in January. It is an easy country to go to as Thai people really love children.
Eating: you are very welcome with kids in the restaurants. Everyone played a bit with our toddlers, often gave them some small thing to play with, and they absolutely did not mind if the kids were not happy to sit still quite as long as mum expected them to. They were also very understanding with the food telling what would most likely be too spicy for kids and happy to offer pure steamed rice for kids too (which was a bliss for us with a very picky girl).
Grocery shopping: On top of that we found dark bread in a Swedish bakery in Hua Hin, and bought fruit and veggies from the night market (the ones you can peel). (Night markets where a good entertainment also when we were forced to get up at 4 and 5am due to a messed up day and night rhythm of our toddlers). Corner shops, on the other hand, do not have a lot of food, mainly biscuits and snacks, but you can find some cheese and yogurt there too. More nappies and food we found mainly in the bigger shops like Tesco in the malls.
Getting around: Having a stroller was a waist of time as the side walks were next to non-existing (or there are so many pop up restaurant and parked vehicles on them), and we felt a stroller was in the way on the streets. So we used Manducas, ergonomic baby/ toddler carriers, when our two toddlers did not walk. (I find Manducas excellent also when flying long hauls, we’ve even managed a 25 minute transfer with two toddlers thanks to them.)
We found it very convenient to hire a van with aircon to take us from the Bangkok airport to Hua Hun, about a 3 hour drive, even though we as former backpackers usually rather opt for public transport. But getting there with public transportation would have taken us pretty much the whole day, and after already flying about 15hrs we did not want to spend any time travelling anymore. The driver was happy to stop wherever we wished, and he was good at suggesting various destinations and telling us about Thailand. As a bonus he was, like most Thais, very good with kids. Our driver also had a very good command of English, and I am happy to hand over his contact details if someone is in need of his services. Obviously hiring a driver and a van cost a bit more than public transport but at the end the difference was not huge. The private guidance and flexibility was worth paying for,
If one has bigger kids/ more time using public transport could be exciting for kids as well. As I remember it from my backpacking days in Thailand it was easy, not always super comfy but nevertheless fun. The only horrible memory was from the night bus from the north to the south, where the toilet was covered with urine and I just could not use it, so I tried not to drink. Not so easy in a bus where the aircon was broken. You also have to be careful during the night time stops at toilets, as some tourist buses have then been emptied of all luggage. Around the world in 181 days had a more detailed list of tips on various forms of travel in Thailand from a non-toddler point of view that I can agree with.
Our kids also loved using the local taxis, utes, when going to see sights. It was a novelty for them not to be strapped to their car seats.
To do: I found that the world there is so different that what ever we wanted to do or see, it was exciting for toddlers as well. They were amazed by the markets, excited about visiting temples and seeing their monkeys, happy to see the Buddha statues (or the “Big Babies” as my 2,5yo refers to them), having taxi or tuktuk rides, watching the fishing boats get ready, and obviously playing on the beaches and swimming. We did not find many playgrounds and the ones we found were not that much fun.
Accommodation: I have not been interested in prepackaged trips but I can now understand their value: when you travel alone or with one partner on a budget, it is easy to find a place to sleep in. But when you travel with two toddlers, it was suddenly not so easy to find practical budget accommodation. Not all hotels have rooms big enough to even put a travel cot in (or they just don’t allow it). Many of the places I was looking at gave us the option of two double rooms (how fun would that be, to sit in separate rooms with your husband after the kids have gone to sleep? No way our 1 and 2,5 yo could sleep in their own room down the hall). There are also places where you can not prebook online your accommodation but you can only turn up to see if there is space available, which is not really an option with tired and hungry kids + tons of luggage. Further, you can not always be sure that what you have read online is the quality you will get. We have read reviews actively and in various sources when booking something online in Asia.
When I was backpacking around Thailand we aimed for never paying more than 3e/ night and we mostly succeeded in it. Prices may have risen a little but not much from what I could gather. When you book something ahead, it is always more expensive but from a North European point of view, accommodation in Thailand is still cheap and can be even cheaper if you have the time to put down on the search for a suitable place. The other secure option is to put down more money on e.g. a resort where you can be pretty sure of getting good quality.
Hospital: Unfortunately we also got to experience an international hospital in Bangkok, when our youngest one got a bad stomach flu. However, the service and treatment was great there! Everything was clean, we got help with everything, and we truly felt they were taking care of our son. Not everyone had a fluent command of English but they were willing to communicate and happy to try to explain what was going on until we understood each other. Also, they had, before we asked, organised a van to take us to the airport and carried our luggage, free of charge.
I assume part of the attention we got was due to our blond kids; I wonder if there is always 5 nurses coming to check the IV of one patient and simultaneously filling their mobiles with pictures of the blondies? But they had a lovely way with the kids, and I appreciated them also taking time to play with big sister so she got part of the attention. We were very encouraged by this experience, but also reminded about how important good travel insurances are when traveling with kids.