By Gregory S
As a frequent traveler, especially international, one would assume I would leverage TripAdvisor often to both read, comment and review. This however is not the case. It?s not that TripAdvisor isn?t a ...
As a frequent traveler, especially international, one would assume I would leverage TripAdvisor often to both read, comment and review. This however is not the case. It?s not that TripAdvisor isn?t a good source, but I am not always sure if the people reviewing have the same taste or experiences as I have so I am less likely to trust them, and I assume the same is true when it comes to my reviews. It is for this reason I mainly leave reviews when the experience was either out of this world or truly horrendous and truly warrants the time expenditure. I may change this opinion in the new year, but this review of Ly from Exotic Voyages continues the same premise.
The vacation we experienced in Thailand was not only absolute perfection, but it was so well organized that I believe anyone who books with her will achieve the same 5-star result. In this review, I will let you know how I found Ly and Exotic Voyages, the experience leading up to the vacation and some highlights of why choosing to book anywhere else is foolish.
First, I found Ly through the app provided by Evaneos.net. I had never really used a travel agent before, because probably like you, I believed there were enough resources to help me plan it and I enjoyed the planning process. Plus, when you want to set a budget for yourself, you are a bit leery of the cost you will incur with the use of a travel adviser. I picked Thailand on a recommendation from a colleague at work and being curious about new travel apps I plugged in some basic desired outcomes into an Evaneos survey. A few hours upon completing the survey I was put into contact with Ly. She asked me several questions about what I wanted to experience in Thailand and while I wasn?t still completely sold on going, my curiosity led me to outline some basics I thought might be fun I saw in a couple YouTube videos.
She returned a few days later with a 15-day private travel itinerary that not only fulfilled all my requests but added several unique experiences I hadn?t even considered. She and I had discussed at length on being able to experience life in Thailand and its unique culture, not just visit Instagram locations and she did not disappoint. To put how uniquely different this experience appeared, when Googling 15 day itineraries in Thailand, very few included half of what we were outlined to participate in. Over the next few weeks, Ly and I corresponded with each other as we added finishing touches to the vacation plan, mostly involving hotel selection and dinner plans, after which I submitted the deposit. Throughout this process she was always available, if I posted her a message, her response was either immediate or due to the time change, first thing in the morning her time. The only way to describe it, is that you have your own personal consultant.
As this was 8 months before I was set to travel, Ly and I didn?t communicate much again until the trip got closer. A week or so before the vacation, Ly sent me some helpful tips and let me know last minute logistical items. She also provided me some helpful emergency numbers and she and I exchanged WhatsApp contacts just in case. We departed the US and landed in Bangkok safely upon which the itinerary began. When I say the itinerary she planned was detailed, this is an understatement. She let me know when someone was going to meet me from the airline, she told me when I would have a guide or not, she even let me know minor details about the hotels such as what was nearby or what restaurant I should consider. She even helped me with friendly info about our guides. Upon arrival at the airport we were met by a representative who walked us personally through customs, picked up our bags and walked us to our car. We were transported to our hotel, which besides them giving away all their balcony rooms, was exactly as described, down to the breakfast.
The next morning, Ly gave us some jet lag recovery time upon which we were met by our tour guide to visit the palace. I would have added a trip to the national museum, as several of the locations we visited afterwards referenced that the originals were on displayed there, but that?s for another trip to Thailand. The following day we participated in a food tour on a recommendation from Ly. If curious about my review on that, search The Chili Paste Tour. This was something I wouldn?t have naturally selected for myself, but so glad we went, it was complete social immersion.
After two full days in Bangkok we were off to Sukhothai. The flight alone is worth taking from Bangkok to fly into Bangkok Airway?s private airport and zoo, yes airport and zoo. If you haven?t picked up your luggage right next to a Zebra you haven?t lived. We were met by our guide, Nunn, and our driver, Ka, who were to accompany us for the next 5 days. Ly and Exotic Voyages picked out absolute gems of people. They were not only friendly, but full of stories on life and culture. It was if they were picked out just for us. The hotel Ly picked for us in Sukothai was gorgeous and the Spa was amazing, another selection I wouldn?t have found on my own. As for the tours we participated in, Nunn led us through Sukhothai on bikes. She and Ka drove us to Chiang Mai with lots of stops along the road to interact with local people and food vendors, a trip to a temple in Lampang and lots of information on local farming practices. With both of their help we really felt like we learned Thailand.
Within Chiang Mai, Ly scheduled a full day with elephants, a special restaurant with multiple courses, found us an outstanding tailor to visit and an evening with the friendliest restaurateur. After our stay in the city before venturing to a beach stay, Ly encouraged us to stay at Khum Lanna. It was here that you feel part of the local culture and if I had known how magnificent this was, I would have suggested we extend for a couple more days. It is here that you learn about rice cultivation, local customs and food purchase and preparation all in a house that reminds you of Disney?s Swiss Family Robinson. When I retire, I want to be as happy and engaged with service as much as the proprietors of this establishment.
Finally, Ly gave us the beach and she did this through a jaunt to Koa Yao Noi. Here she picked the most fabulous of hotels. We had a pool villa along with direct access to the beach. Besides the fact that this place is geared towards Europeans who want a lounging tropical vacation, without having to forgo any of their western ways, this hotel is a marvelous getaway. My wife and I used the pool constantly, rented a scooter and traversed the island eating at a remote Italian restaurant, took a long boat at the wee hours of the morning out to Hong island and just let go of the clock. This was a great exclamation point on a stellar vacation.
This was the vacation that everyone talks about, but no one ever gets. It was stress free, it was the right balance of activity and leisure and it was beyond compare to any of my other once-in-a-lifetime vacations. Without Ly, I would not have had the relationships or experiences that I got and I thank Exotic Voyages for hiring people like her. Take my advice, if you are planning to go to Southeast Asia, don?t plan it yourself, get Exotic Voyages and Ly to take care of you. Trust me, they do. You won?t be disappointed.
Visited Januaray 2019
This review was originally posted on TripAdvisor