Turtle, Ecuador

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed February 2017
    Linda Stalker

    Disappointing "food departure"

    I particularly selected this trip because the trip notes promised that the trip would be led by a food obsessed leader who would make sure that we would taste and learn about Thai cuisine and that there would be several extra food orientated inclusions to the standard itinerary. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. We had a lovely guide, Tony, but he was either unaware of these extras or chose not to provide them:- we did not get a tuk tuk food crawl in Bangkok so missed the opportunity to taste street food cooked as we watched it being prepared nor did we get a street food dinner at Hua Hin night bazaar. In both cases Tony replaced these highlights with meals at local restaurants. We did get to visit Kanchanaburi night market and were encouraged to sample some street food there before we all sat down to a meal in one of the market restaurants. We also went for a "traditional" Khan Toke dinner but this was at a tourist trap on the outskirts of Chiang Mai with mediocre food and uninspiring entertainment in a huge hall filled with large tour parties. The Roti Sai Mai demonstration at a local market consisted of stopping at the roadside in Ayuthaya to watch a lady making the roti (pancakes) but the bags of filling were all pre-prepared and no explanation was provided as to how the cotton candy filling was prepared. We were able to participate in alms giving in Chiang Mai but again this was not an authentic experience as we were driven to an area of the city where vendors were selling prepared trays of food (almost like a UK Boots meal deal) which were then given to passing monks by tourists. We had three enjoyable walks - the Erawan Falls outside Kanchanaburi, Hmong Village trek and Tham Phraya Nakhon cave

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Bangkok - visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Po Kanchanaburi - Hellfire Pass and War Museum Ayuthaya - lunch cruise Chiang Mai - Cookery school and "free" day taking part in Karen Elephant experience Hua Hin - Khao Sam Roi Yurt National Park walk to Tham Phraya Nakhon cave (well worth the effort and the climb up was not nearly as difficult as Tony suggested)

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I was very disappointed that this was not the food orientated trip promised by Exodus. Ultimately Exodus must take the responsibility for ensuring that customers get the trip that they sign up for. Exodus make a great deal about the need to read the trip notes in detail to check that travellers know what to expect so they have a responsibility to ensure that their guides deliver the trip described in the trip notes. Based on previous reviews of this trip I took a box of items for children at the Hmong hilltribe - coloured pencils, dot-to-dot books, spot the difference puzzles, drawing pads, chalks, balls, toothbrushes etc. Our guide had no idea what to do with these items and, rather than let me give these to the local school or the village chief, kept calling young children to come over as we walked round the village. This was not what I had intended although the gifts were clearly appreciated by the youngsters. This was a level 1 trip so there was free time at each location and it would have been helpful to have some local orientation when we arrived - Tony's main concern seemed to be to tell us the location of the nearest 7/11. This was a feature of all road trips too and rather than stop at local stops we often either stopped at tourist traps where the quality of food was poor (cafe beside Grand Palace in Bangkok, Butterfly/Orchid Farm en route to Hmong Village) or at service stations with Mcdonalds, KFC, 7/11 etc. After pushing for the missing Tuk Tuk food tour from the first night of our trip Tony arranged for Tuk Tuk's to take us to Khao San Road on the last night. Unfortunately rather than the street food that we were looking forward to we were instead taken to a restaurant full of other tour groups for an uninspiring meal before we were taken for a walk up Khao San Road to get taxis back to our hotel.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    For a relaxing introduction to Thailand this is an ideal trip although it will probably just whet your appetite to return and do your own thing in Thailand. Bangkok is a very busy city with heavily congested traffic. The Rembrandt Hotel used by Exodus is in the business area of the city so if you want to do any sightseeing you have to use public transport or taxis.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is an Exodus "Premium" trip but the hotels at Kanchanaburi (Felix River Kwai resort) and Chiang Mai (Imperial Mae Ping) were disappointing and, once again, the hotels selected by Exodus (at Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin) were miles from anywhere leaving us unable to visit local amenities in our free time. The lodge at Hmong was much better than expected and the food at the lodge was delicious too. The overnight train trip was better than expected although those on the top bunks had to spend the night sleeping under the bright carriage lights as these are not dimmed overnight. The beds had thin mattresses so weren't too uncomfortable,there was a curtain across the bunk for privacy and they provided clean sheet, pillow and blanket. There were 14 in our group and all road travel was in two minivans. This meant that half the group did not have the guide travelling with them and had no-one pointing out things of interest etc. It would have been much better if we could have travelled together in one, larger, bus. We flew back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai and then endured a lengthy road trip through heavy Bangkok traffic to the seaside resort of Hua Hin or rather to a concrete resort Novotel 30 minutes drive from Hua Hin. This is a large 240+ room resort hotel with small beach area and the hotel minibus offering free transport to Hua Hin was fully booked for the duration of our stay - I'm sure Exodus could find a much nicer beach resort for the last few nights or at least a hotel nearer Hua Hin

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Linda for her review, although we are very sorry to learn that she was disappointed with the food orientated aspects of this trip. We recognise that on a food orientated departure, the leader needs to be knowledgeable about the local cuisines and have a strong interest in food, so we have asked that this leader does not lead any future food departures; we hope this will help to avoid similar client disappointment and we have been in touch with Linda on an individual basis.

    Megan Devenish - Product Manager

  • Reviewed February 2017
    Joanna Weston

    Classic Thailand

    A great introduction to Thailand with a good balance between sightseeing and travelling, with comfortable accommodation throughout. I'd be very happy to go back to Thailand on my own given how safe I felt and how friendly the locals were.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many highlights: Hellfire Pass and the War Cemetery - when you see this for yourself you cannot help but be moved by what the prisoners of war had to endure. Cooking at Home Thai Culinary School - Pom and her husband were so welcoming and great teachers. We started by visiting their local market and learning about the local produce, including the many many different varieties or rice! The actual cooking school at their home was brilliantly equipped and run. I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and eating a number of authentic Thai dishes. Great day and look forward to trying to replicate it all at home! Hilltop Temple of Doi Suthep - there is always the possibility with these holidays that you can become a little "templed out", however, for me personally the setting of this temple in particular, up in the hilltops and with the incredible gold ornate detail and the stunning views made this a firm favourite for me. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary - the normal Elephant Nature Park that Exodus tends to visit was fully booked but the jungle sanctuary was a good second option. It was great spending time with the elephants feeding and washing them and so refreshing to see that they didn't have chains rounds their ankles. The elephants really were free to roam so if they got bored of you, or spotted someone else with more food they could just wander off as they pleased. Just a word of warning, if you do this particular optional extra the journey to the sanctuary was a good 1.5hrs and is in the back of a local taxi (in essence like being in the back of a pick up truck) - therefore take some warm clothes as it was certainly a bit chilly first thing in the morning. Hmong Lodge - beautiful tranquil setting with very comfortable accommodation. They have a lovely pool so remember to take your swimmers if leaving your larger bag in Chiang Mai.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tony was a great group leader, always willing to please and even on our free days was always around to see us off on trips etc. It was my birthday whilst I was out there and despite this falling on a fairly busy travelling day he'd done his best to source a birthday cake and candles!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I had been somewhat dreading the overnight train journey based on my experiences of having done this in other Asian countries. To my surprise it was a very enjoyable experience. We were fortunate to be on a fairly new train but it was clean, had western toilets, smooth ride (not too many stops throughout the night) and there was even a little mattress to make it more comfortable! I would advise taking an eye mask and ear plugs for this as they don't dim the lights at night. On the whole all the convenience stops were perfectly acceptable but toilet roll is scare so do take some with you! Whilst this trip is a Level 1 some of the walks were a little more challenging than expected, especially when you take the heat and humidity into account. The walk / trek round the Hmong tribe area was fine and more like a leisurely stroll around their stunning farmland area. The walk up the Erawan Waterfalls is steep, slippery and hot! In Khao Sam Roi Yort National Park we chose to get the boat to the beach before embarking on the walk to the Tham Phraya Nakhon cave - the idea was that this would save our walking legs a little. Unfortunately my particular boat got struck by a rather large wave and as a result we were totally and utterly drenched. As a result I then didn't fancy hiking up to the cave in sodden clothes so perhaps take a few spare items in your bag in case something similar happens. For those that did the hike to the cave I gather it was another steep and slippery walk but based on their pictures clearly worth the effort!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All the local food is fine to eat, just make sure it is freshly cooked in front of you. I have travelled with Exodus a lot over the years and I have to say the standard of accommodation on this trip was the best I have experienced to date. Obviously with busy days you don't always have a lot of time to enjoy the hotel facilities but I found the standard of the accommodation was a pleasant surprise when compared to other trips I've done. The road network in Thailand was far better than I expected, no pot holes and so not the back breaking hours i've experienced on other trips being bounced up and down in mini vans! The traffic, however, particularly in Bangkok is terrible and therefore the transfer to Hua Hin is a very long and boring journey (not in the least bit scenic). We would have all preferred it if we could have either flown direct from Chiang Mai or got the train from Bangkok, however, the timetables for these don't match up with the needs of the trip unfortunately.
  • Reviewed December 2016
    Joanna Leslie

    Classic Thailand

    A relaxing holiday which combines about the right amount of excursions and free time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Visiting Hellfire Pass and the death railway memorials was very moving. The day spent at the elephant jungle sanctuary was wonderful giving me a chance to embrace wild elephants.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    She was outgoing and entertaining which helped with our small quiet group. She could have been quicker to take on board our preferences.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although the walks are short they mostly involve steep and sometimes slippery steps so probably not the holiday for people with dodgy knees or hips.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All the hotels are of a good standard including the Hmong tribe lodge which had all mod cons, a swimming pool and wi-fi access.
  • Reviewed November 2016
    Jane Hall

    AOE161031 Classic Thailand

    A busy, informative and totally enjoyable trip with an exceptional leader. Though in a period of mourning for the King, we were welcomed wholeheartedly and genuinely felt that everyone wanted us to have the best of experiences. Every day brought a new experience and we left enriched but with a hunger to return.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip had instances of inspiration. However, if we had to pick three experiences that stood out we would highlight the sleeper train journey to Chiang Mai, the visit to Hellfire Pass and visiting the Hmong hill tribes. The opportunity to experience the living conditions and culture of a community so different to our own will stay with us for ever.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ae was an exceptional group leader. She was full of energy, ready with relevant and useful advice and clearly well qualified for this 'foodie' trip. It was clear that Ae wanted the group to have a full experience of her homeland and worked tirelessly to deliver the best possible trip for everyone. Ae has a natural effervescence that helped when the heat or tiredness caught up with us.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Please can you emphasise to future travellers the opportunity to take educational gifts to the hill tribe children. We had not seen the link in the reading and felt that we had missed out on a real opportunity. Although classed as a leisurely trip, we were kept very busy. It was fine for us, as we were able to see so much. However, others may have expected more 'downtime'.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We will definitely return to Thailand to visit other areas, particularly the islands in the south. Great food, wonderful sights and friendly people.
  • Reviewed March 2016
    Robert Higgins

    Classic Thailand AOE160222

    The hotels were all a reasonable standard with some slightly better than others. The cookery lesson and the sleeper train were the highlights for us. We particularly enjoyed the night at the Hmong hIllLodge and would have liked a 2nd night there with the option of a longer trek - maybe 7-9 km. The walk we did among the forest and village was very short.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Visit to Kanchanburi and the museums. We enjoyed our few days in Chang Mai. The cycle ride. The cookery lesson. The night at the Hmong Hill lodge.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Pikul was very attentive. We had a number of interesting street food meals and was able to organise the food for everyones taste.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The treks are mis-labelled and are short walks. You don't really need walking shoes or boots, just something more than flip flops or sandals.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Hua Hin was slightly disappointing. It is a built up area spread along the coast for approx 10-12 Km. It is not a pretty area and there was little to entertain us other than 1 trip to the Royal Cave (which we did enjoy). We were unable to walk anywhere from the hotel as the hotels are just off a busy main road. Having flown back to Bangkok from Chang Mai I feel we could have then flown to a prettier Island for the last few days.
  • Reviewed December 2014
    caryl Gregory

    Thailand what a great place

    This 14 day tour was just fascinating. Our leader Aom was delightful she was from Bangkok and was very knowledgeable about local restaurants and markets. We started in Bangkok and visited lots of temples and the grand palace and Aom had lots of interesting historical facts for us. There were 12 in our group and most of our transportation was in 2 very comfortable minibuses. We visited the bridge over the river Kwai and Hellfire pass which was very moving. We got to swim in waterfalls, had boat trips and spend 1 night on an overnight sleeper train. The tour took in at least 5 other cities and Aom was able to take us to really good restaurants in each one. This was one of the best touring holidays I have done.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    While staying in Hua Hin we visited a national park and climbed into the mountains to visit a cave. After the long climb we descended into the cave and then in a second chamber there was a temple. It was amazing just like something out of Indiana Jones.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Aom was great she manged to keep us all under control and on time - not an easy task. She was always smiling and had lots of local knowledge.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    For the overnight train it would be helpful to have an eyemask and earplugs. Also for the waterfall it could be useful to have beach shoes like the ones you can use at the seaside with stony beaches - I found that much safer than flip flops
  • Reviewed July 2014
    Deborah Lloyd

    Classic Thailand

    This was done at a good relaxed pace, so not recommended for adrenalin junkies, but if you want free time to enjoy a place and do your own thing then this was perfect. Getting 'metime' in a group trip was priceless and turned it from good to very good! Hotels were so much nicer than the usual Exodus hotels, yet without losing anything in character. I could not fault the location of any of the hotels (my usual complaint with Exodus hotels), and there was always excellent food around.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Time on my own exploring Banglampu before the trip, Thai people are welcoming and helpful. The whole time in Kanchaburi, the railway museum was very thought provoking but being able to have a free afternoon by the riverfront really made it a balanced day. Hellfire pass memorial . The Cooking at Home school in Chang Mai, the early morning elephant ride through the river. Hua Hin and sunrise walks along the beach - arriving at the quirky Marakech hotel in Hua Hin and finding we had been upgraded to suites complete with private balconies and jacuzzi.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Probably less enthusiastic than many of the Exodus leaders I have had elsewhere, as you often had to prompt her with questions to get information, but she always did things if you asked her and was brilliant at things like organising meals for vegetarian or other diets, or people who didn't want spicy food.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't be put off if you usually avoid Exodus because the hotels are of poor quality or poorly located, this one used good hotels in great locations. If you have time have an extra night before the tour in Bangkok as the Nuovo hotel is located in a wonderful area (Banglampu) that has retained a lot of character. Shopping in the 'night markets' is poor tourist tat and knockoffs. Wander away into the shops and galleries behind the markets. much better quality goods at the same prices! Don't be put off the idea of a cookery school, I don't 'cook' but the instruction at "Cooking at Home" was good and very practical. Probably not a trip for adrenaline junkies but if you want a holiday that you don't need a holiday to get over then this is perfect. If you want to climb to the top of Erawan falls wear walking sandles as you need to wade for the last part. Wifi available everywhere so lovely to keep in touch and send home photos.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus: Make more of your trips in nicer hotels - both quality and location! So much more relaxing than any other Exodus holiday. Ayuthana was the least inspiring visit. Both the temples and the hotel arrangements so look into that. Ask guides to give clients more time at Hellfire pass. We were rushed through without being able to listen to the audio commentary but there was a lot of spare time that day.
  • Reviewed January 2014
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC THAILAND

    A wonderful way to end the year and prepare for the New Year...I am home, throoughly exhausted yet rested! Thailand is a real feast for the senses.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Our first group activity was a visit to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.  Wow, I was blown away.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Arjan is a lovely local girl who plays a mean Uno.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack lightly, use the local laundry services and eat from the markets - its delicious and so cheap. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A wonderful introduction to a beautiful and charming country.
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC THAILAND

    A good varied holiday that wasn't too rushed. It was nice to spend a couple of days in each place.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Lots of things. It was really interesting seeing all the bits of the thailand Burma railway and hearing about what happened. The night in the hills near Chiang Mai was lovely. Food was fab and I really enjoyed the cooking day although there was too much food to eat!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    She was Ok. Because we travelled in 2 buses rather than all together it made it difficult for her to tell us extra stuff about Thailand. On previous holidays with Exodus the guide has talked during longer drives and answered questions about the country and culture etc. I missed that on this trip. Got a bit of conflicting info at times.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    On the day we travelled from the hioll tribe back to Chiang Mai it would have been better to do a longer walk before we got back on the bus. We arrived in Chaing Mai at 12.00 and our hotel rooms weren't ready so we wasted a couple of hours hanging about. I would have preferred to walk for longer or go somewhere else and then get back at 14.00 so we could go straight to our rooms and then go out exploring.
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC THAILAND

    A good experience of the basic highlights of Thailand, done at a reasonably leisurely pace in reasonable accommodation. Basically delivering what was promised.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting away from the built up and to be frank, somewhat tawdry modern Thailand. The trips to the Natioal Parks were especially enlightening.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    She was adequate. She did the basic organisational stuff well but was a bit short on interesting background. However as the group was split between 2 minibuses it was somewhat difficult for her to provide a consistent service to all parties.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Try to ensure that the group is small enough to travel in one single group rather than split in two. The 2 buses were not ideal. Not sure why Exodus couldn't provide a single vehicle given that we were only 17 including our guide. Also in Hua Hin the hotel was a bit past its best and some way out of the centre, necessitating a drive every evening to the restaurants and town action.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We had a good and varied group, and apart from the afore mentioned comments, the trip did what it said on the tin!
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