Thailand – April 7 – April 23,2009
Another adventure begins. Here we sit in the airport in St. Louis waiting for our flight to LA. The group (John, Cyndi, Mona, Kelly and Rita) sits here chatting it up about what all we will be doing on arrival. Kelly worked the crossword puzzle in the USA Today and I have decided to start the journal for this trip. We will spend the night in LA and catch the Korean Air flight to Bangkok via Seoul, South Korea tomorrow. It is going to be one long flight. If we calculated correctly it will be about 22 hours. For those who care to know, there will be a 12 hour time difference between Thailand and Southern Illinois but we will be a day ahead of you. I will update this after we arrive in LA and maybe with a few photos if there is something worth taking a picture of after we arrive at the hotel.
We have finally arrived in LA at the Hotel. It’s a Holiday Inn near the airport and there is some major construction going on here. The rooms are very nice though and we just had lunch at the restaurant and the food is passable. I have a nice King size bed and the bathroom is big so I am very happy with my room. Later this evening we will be going out to dinner with some of Mona’s relatives. They are picking us up at the hotel and taking us to a nice place near to the ocean. It should be nice and I am looking forward to it.
In the meantime four of us (Me, John, Cyndi and Rita took the Trolley to Manhattan Beach and Pier. The Bell Captain told us about it to give us something to pass the time. It was $3.00 round trip per person and well worth it. The city of Manhattan Beach is a beautiful beach town with architecture and street design to go with it. It was full of pricey little boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. The beach itself was large and lots of people were sunbathing or body surfing the waves. On the pier you could find people bottom fishing although I didn’t see anyone catch anything while we were there. After walking by the beach and onto the pier we strolled around the area just looking, with me taking pictures naturally, until it was time to return to the hotel. It was a nice break from the dreary area around the hotel. There was lots of interesting things to see on both the ride there and back again. Unfortunately the window situation on the trolley was not conducive to taking photos. Back in my room now, I am posting this to the web site and may update it when we return from dinner depending on how tired I am. It has been a lond day so far and will be an even longer one tomorrow. I hope all of you (my family and friends) are having a good week.
Well, here we sit at LAX waiting for our flights to Seoul, South Korea and then connecting to a flight to Bangkok. It was an early morning for Rita and I as we wanted to get to the airport early and check in so that I could have seats in the Exit Row. Unfortunately the ticket counter didn’t open till 8am so we had a little wait before we could check in. At least we were first in line. I got the seats with no problem and we have also heard that the flight is not too full so we should be in comfort for the trip. Especially the really long leg from LA to Seoul.
Last night we did go out to dinner with Mona’s brother Dan, Sister Jean and their family and friends. They took us to a very nice restaurant called “the Warehouse” in Marina del Ray. The outside of the restaurant was very nice with a bridge over a fish pond for the entrance. It was filled with those large carp that look a lot like gold fish. Once inside the walls were covered with photos of all the famous people who had eaten there or been photographed by the owner who was apparently a famous photographer. The seated us at a large table, there were 18 of us, at a window overlooking the moored sailing boats and yachts. It would have been a spectacular view except it was raining and so we missed the actual sunset. The food was good and service acceptable considering the size of our group. It was great meeting Mona’s family and friends and spending time with them. You can tell that they are a close knit group. Rita and I sat at the end with her brother Dan, his wife Michelle, Laurie (a very close family friend) and her husband and daughter. Dan is quite the jokester and kept us in stitches on the ride back to the hotel. I had a great conversation with Laurie since she had been to Peru several times and we were able to exchange stories. We got back to the hotel at 10pm and we all immediately retired as it had been a long day and we were all very tired.
Now it’s the long wait for boarding time. Everyone is either reading or sleeping while I am updating this. I will make another entry in Seoul if there is Internet access and I have time. Otherwise it will wait till we are in Thailand. We love you all and wish you were here with us.
Here we are in Seoul, South Korea. It was a long 13 hour flight and I got very little sleep. The airport here is huge and unfortunately there is not a good view of the countryside outside the windows. There is a heavy haze in the air, it is hard to tell if it’s pollution or just regular dust and stuff. You can see the hills off in the distance or at least the shape of them. The inside of the airport is like all large airports, lots of shopping. Everyone seems tired and we have a three hour layover and then another 4 hour flight I think. I had one interesting experience on the plane. For our first dinner they gave you a choice of a traditional Korean meal called Bibimbap. It consisted of Rice, an assortment of vegetables, a little beef and chili paste and Ginger. It was quite delicious. I am sure an internet search can tell you more about the dish than I can.
Just wanted to let all of you know we had made it this far safely. Amazingly I do not have phone service here, at least in the airport. More will come after we arrive in Thailand.
We arrived in Thailand at almost midnight on 4/9. It was a 5 hour flight from Seoul. I can guarantee you that we were all exhausted. Mona had been under the weather since getting up that morning but was slowly getting better. Passing through immigration, baggage claim and customs was relatively painless. It all happened fairly quickly. True to their word out tour guide was waiting for us on the other side and we waited till the entire group had made it through before climbing on the bus and heading to the hotel. The Bus, WOW, what can I say. It was decorated on the inside in true Thai style (VERY colorful). The seats and walls were covered in a material with Pooh Bear on them; there were Hot Pink Curtains on the windows and lots of splashes of color everywhere. If you weren’t awake when we got there, climbing on that bus certainly woke you up.
After everyone boarded we headed out to the hotel and on the way, Nok (our guide) gave us a quick rundown of what was going to happen. First off the protesters had closed off the downtown area where our hotel was so they had reassigned us to another hotel, The Radisson. It is a little further away from the city center so it is not exactly a quick walk to the area. She assured us that we would not experience any problems with the protesters. They seemed to worry that we would be really upset by this. Personally no one in our group of six were bothered by it, the democratic process at its best. Some of us from the 60′s were glad to see that it worked so well here. Apparently the Prime Minister has started the “Songkran”, the Thai New Year, holidays early in order to brunt some of the rallies. This has caused a good 1/3rd of the population to leave Bangkok and head back to their home towns. Nok also explained how the tour would go and what to expect in addition to some Thai customs and the practice of Buddhism. It was all very interesting.
About 45 minutes later we arrived at the hotel. It was now 1am on the 10th. I know the dates seem a little wrong, well believe me I am still confused about what time and date it is. It is now 4:15am on Saturday the 12th and I am up writing this because I can’t sleep. They had everything ready on our arrival and merely handed us our keys and sent us off to our rooms, No filling out forms, handing over credit card numbers, etc, etc. Naturally my room key wouldn’t let me in and I and to make a trip back down to the desk and get it reprogrammed. Here you have to use your room key to turn on the electricity in your room. Once you leave the room and take your key out of the slot the electricity in the room turns off. A really great idea in my book until it dawned on me that my phone and laptop were not recharging if I was out of the room. The rooms are beautiful, large, and spacious with monstrous bathrooms that include a Stand Up shower and huge tub for soaking in. There is a beautiful outdoor pool with restaurant and bar plus a gym with lots of exercise equipment. The staff is friendly and helpful and they all have smiles. So far the Thai people are holding up to their reputation, this is the land of smiles.
Around 2:15am the rest of my luggage arrived and I was able to finally hit the sack. We were told we could sleep in and wake up calls were assigned to the rooms for 8am so that we could make it to breakfast and meet Nok at 9:30 to start the days Tour of Temples. Naturally, I was up at 6:30 and went to breakfast at 7am. Rita, Mona and Kelly were all there also and we were joined by Cyndi and John at about 7:30. Breakfast was buffet style and the selection and range of food was the largest I have ever seen. It was also quite delicious and I ate enough to last me through lunch and into dinner.
Then it was time to meet Nok and start the days activities. We all received some more papers, a map, a currency conversion table and assorted other things and then boarded our bus to head out. As we drove we passed the City Center and could see the protesters getting ready for another day of activism. They all wear red t-shirts to identify themselves (which means we shouldn’t wear red ones) and are trying to get the present Prime Minister ousted. Our old hotel was right in the middle of it all. We were up on the expressway and unaffected by it. From there it was a drive through of China town and the Flower Market on the way to our first temple, Wat Pho. This is the location of the truly spectacular and HUGE reclining Buddha. The temple (Wat) grounds were being prepared for the start of the Songkran and besides there being a large number of tour groups, there were many local Thai people paying their respects to the Buddha. The temple grounds are very large and there are a lot on mini Wats there along with tombs for the Monks. The buildings are beautiful and also very colorful. I was very taken with this place and also paid my respects to the Buddha. Here in the main temple is a very long row of pots and the saying goes that is you make a wish and then place a coin in each of the pots the wish will come true. For a donation to the temple of 35 Baht (one dollar) they would give you a cup of coins to place in all of the pots. The Reclining Buddha was a sight to behold, over 190feet long and at least 40 feet high the entire statue was covered in gold leaf. It was so beautiful and awe inspiring. I am glad that they allow you to take photos in the temples but it always makes me feel a little funny like it is disrespectful. I feel the same way in all holy places.
The temples had roofs that gleamed in the sunlight from the many pieces of colored glass they used. Some of the buildings were covered in carvings and intricate mosaics and the walls on the inside were covered with murals depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life. Gold leaf, colored glass and mirrors were everywhere creating a feeling of being in a fantasy from some exotic Far East dream. After Noks talk we all headed out to the first colorful bauble to catch our eyes. I think you will all have to put up with looking at a lot of photos from this trip.
At the allotted time we all met up with Nok and started a short walk to the river’s edge where we caught a boat to the next temple, Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). Before getting there we stopped at a bank so that we could all exchange money into the local currency. Believe it or not, in Thailand they actually prefer that you use their currency. I traded in $500 US and got back over $17,000 Baht, WOOHOO, I’m rich. On that note I do have to comment that things are very inexpensive here (bottled water 10 Baht, Hand made “tailored” suit with shirt $130 US, lunch at a nice restaurant 100 Baht, etc, etc). It took awhile for all of us to get our money exchanged as there was only one teller doing the exchanging (I did mention the Holiday didn’t I). Finishing up we passed through a small market area where they sold an assortment of dried fish and other food stuffs, it all looked very interesting. No one was hungry at this point so continued through to pier where we hopped on a boat for the short ride across the river to Wat Arun.
Wat Arun is a spectacular site as you approach it for the river and I think I can safely say it was our favorite of the ones we visited. I believe that Nok told us it contains some of the remains of the Buddha but I am not sure about that. I was busy snapping away with the camera when Nok was talking and not paying real close attention. There was no huge statue of the Buddha here but the Temple and its grounds made up for that. Once again the buildings were colorful and ornamented with statuary and ceramic art works. You could actually climb this temple and there were stairs leading up to almost the top of the temple. Kelly and John were able to make it up as far as allowed, my knees only allowed me to the next to last level where Rita joined me. I don’t know if Mona and Cyndi tried, I didn’t see them up there. The stairs were VERY steep and shallow and reminded me a lot of climbing the Mayan Pyramid at Chichen Itza. Coming down was the hard part and you had to be very careful. It was also very hot and humid at this point so any physical exertion was a little difficult on my part. It’s time to head back to the gym. LOL
We didn’t spend a real long time here and I think that was because the time at the Bank took longer than expected. We all met up again and sat in the shade in what little breeze we could find before heading back to the boat to cross the river and catch the bus to our next site. The river crossing was just as nice going back as coming. We got to see lots of colorful boats and people doing business at the water’s edge. I will say you wouldn’t catch me taking a swim in that river. It was a tad polluted to my view.
Departing the boat it was a short walk back through the market, back to the front of Wat Pho and onto the bus for the ride to our last stop, Wat _____________, before returning to the hotel.
At Wat _____________ three is a huge statue of the “Sitting Buddha”. Statues of the Buddha come in four positions, Reclining, Sitting, Standing and Walking. The statue here is reportedly the largest statue of the “Sitting Buddha” in Thailand. Once again the Temples and grounds surrounding them were magnificent. Here they were different from the other two that we had visited already. This statue was also covered in gold leaf and I mean it when I say it is very hard to describe the beauty of the statue and its setting. Once again the walls of the inside of the main temple were covered in murals depicting the life and teaching of the Buddha. I need to say here that Nok made it very clear that they do NOT consider the Buddha to be a God but a teacher who has shown them how to reach enlightenment. Thailand is a Buddhist country and the Buddha is very important here and a major portion of the peoples life. Here also they were getting ready for the Songkran and the Monks were setting up stages and decorating the grounds in preparation for the celebration. As with all the Temples were people went in to pay respect to the Buddha and say prayers, you had to remove your shoes and if you sat make sure that the bottom of your feet did NOT point at the Buddha. This is a great sign of disrespect here and should not be done, even to other people. There were lots of Thai people in this temple saying prayers and lighting candles and incense. I snapped my pictures as quickly as possible, bowed three times to the Buddha in thanks and got out as quickly as possible.
All too quickly it was time to load ourselves back onto the bus and head back to the hotel. We were all tired and hot so naturally we headed to our rooms on arrival, changed clothes and headed up to the pool, It was cool, refreshing and just what we needed. Kelly and I had a couple of beers at pool side and discussed plans for the next day with John. So tomorrow (actually today since I am up writing this Saturday morning), we are going to play golf while the girls go on a ride down the river to a floating market and an assortment of all day activities. After that it was back to the rooms to change for the “Welcome” Dinner which once again was in buffet style and with a selection of food that was truly fit for a king. We all over ate and went back to our rooms early to get some sleep and be refreshed for today. Obviously I have failed on that note. More later my friends.
04/12/2009 (Saturday and Sunday)
Hi all, time for another installment of all the fun we are having. Yesterday, Kelly, John and I went golfing at a Country Club outside of Bangkok. We had a nice time despite the heat. I will not repeat the scores since mine were embarrassingly high. The name of the place was the “Green Valley Country Club”, not exactly a Thai name by any stretch of the imagination. The price was reasonable but we did end up playing on the most expensive day we possibly could. The course reminded me a lot of the “Country Club” courses I have played in the USA, nothing really special about it other than it being nice and the staff extremely helpful. We rode in carts which were driven by our caddies, three very sweet ladies who were very helpful. It took us 5 hours to play the 18 hole course which for us is an extremely long time. There was a wait on every hole and naturally playing through is unheard of here. We had to take a Taxi there and back which was interesting in its own way. It was a quick ride since traffic is very low thanks to the New Year’s Holiday going on.
While we were playing golf the girls went on a tour of the Floating Market and some other interesting places. I am going to have one of them write up a little something on their day and add it in here with all due credit of course.
This morning we all loaded up for the tour of the Golden Palace and Flower Market. No shorts allowed today since we were going to the temple that contained the “Emerald Buddha” and the Palace of the King. Full respect is expected; even the dresses had to be below the knee for the women. Our first stop after getting on the bus was the Flower Market though. All the vendors were out with their wares since everyone needed flowers to lay in the Temples to honor the Buddha on the New Year’s Holiday. The number of vendors and selection of flowers to pick from was amazing. Some of the florists had sculpted the flowers to resemble dragons and other significant mythological features. Still others fashioned bracelets and necklaces to be offered. In the midst of all this were food vendors, pharmacies and stores selling all manner of goods. There were an especially high number of incense and candle places, these are also used in the Temples to offer up prayers from the people. It was an interesting and very colorful stop. It is the custom here to throw water on people as part of the New Year’s celebration. People use buckets, balloons and water guns to accomplish this. At the very end of the trip through the vendors Rita, Kelly and I stopped and bought one of those large pump action water guns to have some fun with. They even filled them with water for us. Then it was back on the bus to continue on to the Kings Palace.
The drive from the Flower Market to the Golden Palace wasn’t that far and we were getting off the bus once again in no time at all. The Palace is surrounded by huge white walls but you could still see the roofs of the Temples on the grounds sticking up above them. There was a LOT of people here to take this tour and add to that a huge number of local Thai people there to pay their respects to the King for the beginning of New Years. In addition to this the “Emerald Buddha” is kept in a Temple on the grounds here and is considered by the Thai people as one of the most holy of all images of the Buddha here in Thailand. To top all of this off, it was 105 degrees and the humidity was as HIGH as it can get. I have never been so hot and miserable in my life. I will say this though; once we were in the compound I forgot all that. WOW, what an amazing place! Can you say GOLD!!!!!!! This place was extraordinarily beautiful and almost everything was covered in gold leaf or was just plain solid gold along with gems and other semi precious stones. There were also beautiful ceramic motifs and sculpted reliefs on all the buildings. Monkeys and Demons dominated the themes here as you were able to see the battle of good versus evil painted on the walls of the buildings. As we toured the compound you would just move from one incredible view to another. I almost never had the camera down from my eyes here. I will say another thing about this place, “I could not post enough pictures to demonstrate how incredible it is”. All of you will just have to come for a visit and see for yourselves.
After passing through most of the Temple complexes on the ground we walked in front of the actual Palace itself. It was quite impressive with fantastic sculpted trees lining the immaculate lawn. Unfortunately we were unable to enter the palace and I believe that this was due to the number of visitors and the fact that it was the beginning of New Years. It also MIGHT have had something to do with the protestors and their rallies. As we left and were driving back to the hotel you could see trucks of them heading back in the direction that we were coming from. NO NOT fear for our safety despite what you might hear on the news. This is all about politics and they are not about to upset the bread basket that is represented by tourism in this country. At NO time have I or anyone in our group felt threatened in the least.
Back at the hotel it was back to the pool to cool off and eat some lunch. Of course it was here that we took the opportunity to play with or water pistols. We have heard that our evening cruise and dinner on the river has been canceled because parts of the city are closed. I think the tour company is worried about us worrying about the protests. It’s all kind of funny in a way. We are leaving Bangkok early in the morning for our next destination so we will soon be away from all of this anyway. That means I have to get packing after I post this with some photos. Still hope all of you are enjoying reading this.
We were up early this morning for breakfast and to board our bus to continue the journey. I quickly snapped some pictures around the hotel as well as a couple of photos of the people assisting us on the tour. You all will have to ask the others about their mistaken choice for a restaurant last night for dinner. Apparently they missed the correct establishment and went into another one. I will leave it to them to relate the tale to you.
The bus was loaded with our luggage and we boarded for the days trip. Nok explained that we had a little over an hour’s drive before our first stop. Because we were hitting the road so early we were going to be able to miss a lot of traffic leaving the city and get to the Temple in Ayutthaya before the crowds showed for the first day of the Thai New Year. The drive there was interesting as we left the city and were able to see some of the Thai country side. We learned that Thailand (before the recession) was the largest exporter of rice in the world. Seeing all the rice fields as we traveled today certainly made that statement believable.
Arriving in Ayutthaya we made our way to the ruins of the ancient Capital city. The palace and temples were destroyed in a war with Burma, but they were still impressive. One Temple has been rebuilt by one of the Kings of Thailand because of a Buddha statue that was not destroyed in the attack. He had the new Temple built over the statue and naturally the statue is covered in gold. There are other images of the Buddha in the temple. These have pieces of gold leaf stuck on them by the people who come here to pray. The purpose is to place the gold leaf on the part of the body of the Buddha where you are having pain and say a prayer for relief. Apparently a lot of people in Thailand have trouble with their knees also. The Buddha’s knees had the thickest covering of gold of any part of his body. Nok demonstrated the proper way to pay respects and talked about the history of this area. From the temple we went on a tour of the ruin site and I have to say it was quite spectacular. The buildings were more in the Khmer style and the Stupas were in remarkably good shape. All of us were running around with our cameras taking tons of photos and marveling at the beauty of this site.
After touring the ruins we walked back through the market area to see all the food and trinkets that were for sale. The smells and colors were breath taking and in the end I had to stop and buy a couple of coconut goodies from one of the vendors. There was a huge variety of foods and trinkets to select from. Nok stopped and bought us all a fan as a New Year’s gift. It was much appreciated since it was another VERY HOT and HUMID day. Then it was back on the bus to continue our journey North.
We journeyed North to Lopburi for a quick stop at the Monkey Temple. It was a small ruin in the center of town, once again in the Khmer Style, and was packed with monkeys who had stowed away on the local train and had ridden into town to take up residence here. It was interesting to see but not that thrilling for me.
About an hour later we pulled off the main highway onto a side road to have lunch at a restaurant that had been prearranged. The place was definitely out of the way but was well worth the side trip. It was situated in a beautiful garden with open air seating under pagoda type buildings. The flowers were in full bloom and it was almost like taking another walk through the flower market. The lunch was a buffet style meal with a large selection of main courses. I took small samplings from all of them and there wasn’t a bad dish on the table. Not being that hungry I skipped the desert and took a long walk through the gardens and took some photos. Then it was back on the bus again for another hour before we stopped at what I can only call a convenient store with no gas station attached) for Tea and a Pee as the tour guide called it. We all bought some ice cream and stretched out for the last leg of the journey today.
One and a half hours later we arrived in Phitsanulok and checked into our hotel. Here the New Year’s celebration was into full swing. There were trucks full of people driving up and down the street in front of the hotel. They were throwing water on people on the street and in turn having water thrown on them. Everyone was soaked to the gills so to speak and having the time of their lives. It reminded me of Mardi Gras in new Orleans in the good old days. I sat in the lounge of the hotel watching until it got boring and then took off to explore on my own.
They are definitely into getting us up early and onto the road for the day’s adventures. Today it was out the door of the hotel and off to the first site at 07:30. This morning I did not feel like breakfast so I went for an hour’s stroll around the area of the hotel snapping pictures. I managed to catch the Monks on their morning rounds begging for food and money for the Temple and the people setting up their stalls for the day’s activities. The New Year’s festivity goes on for several days and most regular businesses were closed for the holidays by decree of the King and the government. On that note we received some good news today. The protestors have called it off! Apparently someone flashed some photos of their leader and his wife shopping in Dubai and that kind of took the wind out of their sails. Anyway I wandered through several street market areas, some Temples and by a martial arts school. It was a nice stroll by myself and I managed to get in some good shots as the sun was coming up and the light was perfect. On another quick note, I managed to catch the fireworks show from the roof of the hotel last night. It was quite spectacular although not very long. No photos of them since I did not have my tripod with me and the ones I tried to take came out very blurry.
Finishing up my morning stroll I rejoined the group in front of the hotel for the walk to the Temple with the largest bronze Buddha in Thailand. Nok walked us back down the same streets that I had toured on my earlier walk. As we entered the main Temple complex you could tell that the crowd had grown considerably since my earlier visit. There were Monks in the main courtyard chanting and giving out blessings to the people as they made offerings to the Buddha and the Temple. Musicians were playing stringed instruments and you could hear the beat of the huge drums echo through the buildings. Nok took us to the entrance of the main temple that housed the “Bronze Buddha”, noted as the MOST beautiful Buddha in all of Thailand. I have to admit it was an impressive statue. No pictures on my part of the inside of this place. There were lots of people praying and offering devotions and more and more I feel it is intrusive to be playing tourist with a digital camera when people are at worship in their Holy places. I don’t care which religion it is, there is something that just does not feel right to me. The Thai people are far too polite to ever say anything. From the Temple I walked back into the main courtyard where I made a contribution to the Temple and the Monk gave me a blessed bracelet which they make by hand. It is supposed to bring me good luck for the coming year.
Then it was time to head back to the bus and to our first stop for the day. We went to the foundry that had been run by the same family for generations that created the “Bronze Buddha. Here we got to see the process used to create these enormous statues for the Temples. After they are created the Monks are called in to bless them. For this reason we each bought a small statue of the Buddha here for ourselves. We discovered that you were supposed to have the Buddha in a pose that corresponded to the day of week that you were born. Mine is a Saturday and the means a “Hooded Buddha” for me. Here’s your chance to ask the others what they got. After purchasing my Buddha I also got a brass bell. Just a small one to hang in a window or porch to hear the chime. After that, they had a Bird Sanctuary on the property and I paid a little extra to walk through it and see some of the exotic birds of Thailand. There were some beautiful birds there and they appeared to be well taken care of. Then, time to board the bus again and head to our next destination.
An hour later we arrived in Sukothai just as they were swinging into full celebration mode. The trucks were lined up in front of us throwing water onto the crowds lining the street and the crowds were returning the favor to the people in the trucks. Everyone was laughing and having the time of their lives. We passed through this semi-traffic jam and entered the Park there that contained some of the oldest ruins in the country. Almost everything here is a “World Heritage Site” and supported by UNESCO. This area is supposedly where the Thai Language was invented by one of their Kings. Inside the park the bus parked and we were loaded onto a Tram and started our tour through the ruins. At the first stop there was a Sand Castle type contest where the contestants had built copies of the famous ruin sites in Thailand out of sand. They were beautiful and I can’t believe the detail the builders were able to place into the. The first place entry definitely deserved the prize. From here we walked across the road to the Stupa and surrounding buildings that contained some of the relics from Buddha. Relics can be anything from bones, ashes, teeth, utensils and other objects that belonged to the Buddha. These ruins were most impressive and I can just imagine how they must have been in their heyday. The Tram picked us up again and we drove through the rest of the site, stopping at points of interest while Nok explained the history behind the place. From what she was telling us the area was only uncovered in 1960, it had been lost to the world for a considerable period of time. I consider that fairly amazing considering how they revere the Buddha here. Then it was back to the bus and time to head for our lunch destination.
Lunch was at a beautiful hotel called “___________”. The meal consisted of another buffet with a large assortment of Thai dishes. I tried at least five and one of the soups and they were all delicious. It was during lunch that the downpour started. I don’t think I have ever seen it rain that hard. Of course there was lightening and thunder to accompany it. The rain continued even after we boarded the bus and continued our journey. We decided to pass on the visit to the ceramic kiln, it was an outdoor thing and we would ave gotten soaked. Besides, Nok tells us we can visit a different one in Chain Mai so we won’t miss out. The next stop was a Textile Museum which was an obvious shopping opportunity. Naturally my Sister couldn’t resist and came back to the bus with some beautiful material. I can’t wait to see what she makes out of it. We are now traveling up into the mountains on a winding two lane road. Coming up while the storm was still raging, a large limb hit the front windshield of the bus and cracked it. The sound sure gave everyone a start. Well that’s it till we get to Lampang and check into the hotel. I hear we will have internet there so I will be able to update this and post it to my web site. Love to you all and we are still safe and having the time of our lives.
Well as you obviously know by now I had problems with the Internet at the hotel in Lampang also. I was able to log on and read some of my E-mails but that was it. No uploading or sending as the connection was too slow. I tried several times. So after checking into my room and spending an hour playing with the Internet connection I joined everyone for dinner in the hotel restaurant. The meal was quite good and I went back to my room immediately afterwards since it was so late. Due to the huge storms we were passing through on the way there the trip took longer than expected and it was after 6pm when we arrived. So it was another early morning for us, no time to enjoy Lampang at all. I got up early and went for a walk after eating breakfast to try and get some photos of the city and its life. I loved this hotel and the views from my room. The interior with its open spaces and fish ponds was very relaxing. It all had a very Oriental décor to it which was different from the ones we had stayed in so far.
Walking up to the main street I managed to get some good photos of the horse drawn carts getting ready for their morning business and other pictures of the empty streets. They had some interesting decorations along the street and at the entry way to the city. In addition I noticed these really nice little benches for people to sit on in the shape of Elephants. I wish I would have had more time here, I think I would have enjoyed a tour of the city in one of the carriages. All too soon it was time to hop on the bus again and head further North. First stop a pineapple Farm that had been run by the same family for many generations.
Driving to the pineapple farm took us through winding mountain roads again. The scenery was beautiful and picture postcard perfect. It was a humble place a this by no means belonged to a rich man. He took us on a tour of his fields and Nok explained the process of planting, growing and harvesting the pineapple. Afterwards we were treated to fresh samples of his pineapple and it was quite delicious. I think we all know how much better things taste when ripened and served fresh from the vine. He then allowed some of us a look into his simple home. No air conditioning but there was a TV. He then opened a small stand in which he sold paper products made from pineapple fiber. Everyone in the group bought a little something.
From here it was on the road again. Are you getting the impression that we are on the bus a lot? Well that impression would be correct. Another hour or so later and we stopped at a beautiful fresh water lake. I didn’t catch the name of it but if I can find it out later I will add it into this Journal. It was a beautiful place and yet another scene from a postcard. Unfortunately the restaurant we were stopping at to refresh ourselves, have a snack and attend to other necessities was closed for the holiday. It had a beautiful Spirit House and fish pond outside and I managed to get some photos of it. No fear, there was a Seven Eleven a few doors down and we all picked up some goodies for the rest of the trip there. While everyone was wandering around the edge of the lake I noticed a young man getting ready to do some fishing with a net. He was casting from the shore and it provided a perfect opportunity to get some great photos. All too soon it was, yes you guessed it, back on the bus and to Chaing Rai to check into our next hotel and have lunch.
We drove through the city of Chaing Rai on the way to our hotel which was on the outskirts of town and Nok explained that property here was very expensive as this was the ideal place to live. I must admit it is beautiful up here and the 10 degree difference in temperature makes a huge difference on my comfort level. She alos told us that many of Thailand’s wealthy and famous people owned summer homes here to escape the heat and humidity of Bangkok. Arriving at the hotel it was a spectacular site. This place is a resort hotel and has all that go with those words. The rooms are amazing with lots of Teak Wood and huge beds. There is a beautiful pool area and lots of small private separate residences you can rent. I thought we were in the luxury rooms until I saw these. The restaurant, where we immediately had lunch, is tastefully appointed and has an extensive menu. Once again our lunch was buffet style with the largest variety of food to select from as yet. Unfortunately we are only going to spend two nights here.
So after lunch it was back on the bus again to head for the farthest Northern tip of Thailand and the Golden Triangle with a quick trip to Laos to get our passports stamped. We once again passed through some spectacular scenery on the way there. As one of my friends stated,” This looks exactly like I thought Thailand would”. We arrived in the city of ______________ where the Northern most tip of Thailand is and the crossing into Myanmar (Burma as the locals still call it) and everyone unloaded from the bus to follow Nok. I was a little late getting off and when I stepped down the entire group had disappeared. Kwan (not sure of the spelling), Nok’s assistant pointed in a direction so I set off to find them. Unfortunately I couldn’t see them anywhere and when I returned to the spot where the bus was, it was gone too. A momentary panic set in until I realized this was my opportunity to explore a little away from the group. Walking down the street I noticed a large side street going up a hill with lots of little shops on either side of it. So off I went on a little adventure of my own. I bought a couple of trinkets for my collection and found a very nice Buddha for Mike’s collection at the Buddha Bar. As the street ended there as a temple off to the right and it was decorated more lavishly than any I had seen so far. Nok had explained earlier that the Northern people had a bigger flair for decorating their temples. She certainly did not exaggerate the point. A little further up the road I came to a set of stairs that went up the hill to a large statue of the Fat Buddha sitting. Each side of the staircase had a beautifully painted Dragon’s head and body going all the way up to the top of the hill. All the people on this street looked at me as if they had never seen a Farang before. Not in a threatening way, just curious. Of course everyone I passed nodded and said hello. After a bit I decided it was time to find the group or at least find the Seven Eleven that was our meeting point. It didn’t take long to find the Seven Eleven and I met up with the group there. Naturally I missed seeing the most Northern part of Thailand but I think my little side excursion was worth it. The back on the bus an off to the Golden Triangle.
As we pulled into the area where we would catch the boat to take a ride on the Mekong River, Nok pointed out two magnificent Buddha’s that were placed here by the Queen to symbolize the close connection between the three countries. One was a typical Buddha in the sitting meditation position whereas the other was a statue of the large Jolly Fat Buddha. The stomach on this Buddha gets bigger because he takes in the problems of the world, or so the saying goes. Also in this area were two huge statues of Elephants surrounded by gold ornamentation where you could have your picture taken sitting on top of them or just standing in front. All of this was very beautiful and surrounded by the joy of the people celebrating their New Year it was a nice experience to be there. Nok walked us through a shop where we bought our “docking pass” for the landing in Laos while we were on the little cruise one the Mekong. We cruised up the river for a bit observing the Casinos in Myanmar, the Chinese boats docked at the shore in Laos loading Teak Wood and the other colorful boats hauling tourists up and down the river. This is a very famous area and I am sure that most of you have heard of it. Finally we docked at the pier in Laos and went ashore where, naturally there was shopping available. Kelly and I had a shot of “Snake Whiskey” and “Lizard Whiskey”. We both preferred the Snake as it had more “bite” to it, no pun intended. A little later we chased it down with a Laotian beer. I bought a T-shirt here for a friend and the others purchased more. Kelly got a bottle of the Snake Whiskey to display behind his Bar if it ever gets built. Nk took our passports to immigration there and got them all stamped while we wandered about the shopping stalls. Then it was back on the boat to cross the river back into Thailand and onto the bus for the trip back to the hotel. It was almost 7pm when we got back to the hotel and once again I discover that the advertised “Wifi” is not strong enough for me to use in my room. Frustrated I head to the bar to have a few drinks with Kelly and Mona. Rita joined us for one and before long they all headed to their rooms. I decided to skip the tour of the Hill Tribes on Thursday and spend it typing this up, converting the photos I need to post and then heading to the lobby of the Hotel where supposedly the “WiFi” is strong enough for me to stay connected to the Internet. Then I’m off to the pool for some relaxation. I am a little tired of being on the bus anyway. Later family and friends, we are all having a GREAT time with lots of fun. Friday we are off to Chaing Mai for three nights. Lots more to do in Chaing Mai before heading off to Cambodia and Angkor Wat.
Well folks, I skipped the tour this morning and have spent the last 6 hours in the lobby of the hotel updating this for the last three days. Now I’m headed to the pool for some rest and relaxation and possibly a cocktail. Tonight I am going to try and get into Chiang Rai and see the city more up close and personal if possible. There will probably be no more updates till we are in Chiang Mai but who knows. Love to all of you from all of us.
It gets a little old saying, “Up early again today”, but it’s true again. Last night we went to the night market in Chiang Rai to take a look at the goods and eat a little food. The food was excellent and the trinkets looked the same as every other market we had been in. There was live entertainment and we stopped at Swensons for Ice Cream before boarding the bus back to the hotel. Early to bed and early to rise is the way the saying goes and it has certainly proved to be true for this trip.
We boarded the bus again this morning to head for Chiang Mai with a few stops before arriving at the hotel. Our first was at the “White Temple”. It was the most amazing place we have seen so far. The temples on the grounds are all white and silver. The place is being built by a famous Thai artist and he is designing the place by himself. He only accepts donations in small amounts so that he does not have any obligations to sponsors. When you enter the main temple there are pools just before a bridge containing white fish. On either side of the bridge are sculptures of hands reaching out of a pit. Some of them are holding containers which had some money in them. The hands are supposed to represent people reaching up from Hell begging people to share their good Karma with them so that they can leave Hell. It is a very eerie looking scene to be just before a person enters the main temple. You then cross a beautiful silver gilded bridge with fanciful creatures to the entrance of the temple which contains a white and gold Buddha (no photos please). Any person into photography has to feel like they are in paradise here in Thailand. After going through the Main Temple we walked through an exhibition of his paintings and a gift shop. We really like his work and if I remember correctly everyone bought some kind of souvenir.
Then back on the bus to head for Chiang Mai and a drive through the beautiful mountains of Thailand. Everywhere you looked there were landscapes that were a painters dream. We drove through scenes like this till we stopped for a Tea and Pee as they call it. The place was called the “Condom Triangle” and its claim to fame was a whole line of stuff made from condoms. It was quite a hoot o see all that stuff. I had also picked up some roasted bamboo worms for us to try on the bus as a snack. They were pretty good but could have used a little more salt as far as I was concerned.
From there it was a straight shot into Chiang Mai and a whole series of stops at an assortment of “Factories” since our hotel rooms would not be ready until 5pm. The first was the gem factory where the bling factor was totally off scale. A few of the men, myself included, decided to sit it out in the bar conveniently situated for those who chose to sit it out while their wives and girlfriends ogled the jewelry. Naturally the drinks were free while you waited. I am fairly sure that almost everyone picked up something here also.
From the gem factory we headed over to the Silk factory to see how silk was made and woven. The ladies demonstrated how the silk was harvested made into thread and woven. We were shown samples and how to tell the difference by feel in whether cloth was truly silk or not. Then it was into the store where you could buy anything from pajamas to scarves to suits. They were all beautiful and well tailored. A few people picked up some goods here.
After Silk it was off to the wood factory where we saw Teak and Rosewood being carved and made into all sorts of goods from wall hangings to furniture. I think that if people could have carried this stuff home they would have bought the place out. I love fine wood work and this was some of the best I have ever seen. The prices were amazingly cheap and included shipping to the US. Unfortunately it was to Detroit and you had to get it home from there. Still the intricate carving and excellent workmanship almost made it worthwhile.
On the bus again and off to the Ceramics factory. Nice stuff once again but very difficult to transport home. Most people opted out of purchasing anything here.
Now finally to the hotel and a room for three nights. Once again the hotel is fantastic. They just keep getting better. I can’t imagine what the one in Cambodia is going to be like. After dropping my stuff off in the room I decided to take a Tuktuk tour of the city. Nok had one arranged for me and I had an amazing look at Chiang Mai from this perspective. The driver was excellent and took me to some amazing (I think I’m using this word an awfully lot) sites in the city. I saw the stone walls and gate of the old city with its surrounding moat, some truly magnificent temples from different eras and markets galore. There were stone elephant and giant snake/dragons. Monks played with kids, squirting water on them sending them squealing with delight and coming back for more. Tourists of all shapes, sizes and ages wandering the old city looking for bargains, places to eat or a bar for a drink were everywhere. Picnickers on the moat banks and people rushing home from work on the crowded streets added to the visual stimulation. I had only arranged for an hour but he took me for at least one and a half hours. I was extremely happy with the tour and tipped him very well at the end. I think everyone else headed for the pool and then out to the night market here. Haven’t seen them so not sure how their evening has gone. I am finishing this up and placing it on the web page and then it’s off to bed for me. We ride elephants tomorrow morning and I am really looking forward to that. Good night all and have a great weekend.
We were up very early for breakfast this morning as Nok wanted us to be the first people at the Elephant ride place so that we did not have to wait on any other groups. Breakfast was the usual fare again; a buffet set up with a combination of Thai and American breakfast foods. It’s fairly good and definitely filling. Then it was onto the bus again for the ride outside the city and part way up the mountain to the Elephant camp. Nok occupied us with the precepts of Buddhism for the short 45 minute ride. We all unloaded and walked a short distance here Nok purchased the tickets for our rides. Only one couple in the group opted out. Not sure why. We climbed up on these platforms to mount the seats on the elephant’s back just behind the driver for lack of a better word. I think they are called Mamoud but I am not sure of the spelling. After climbing on board it was up the mountain side for a ride that lasted about 45 minutes. It was just as exciting as the camel ride in Egypt but without the spectacular ruins in the background. We had to settle for magnificent mountain side views. Everyone in the group was laughing and enjoying the rides. The elephants seemed to have a mind of their own at times and their antics on the trail made for humorous situations as they trekked up and down the trails. I tried getting a lot of photos of the group but very few turned out well, a lot were just plain blurry.
Finishing up the ride we climbed off our mounts and followed Nok over to the Elephant painting exhibition, these are some well trained animals. Their paintings are very good and some of the people on the tour snapped up a few. Afterwards it was off to see the baby elephants where they performed a few tricks for us. Everyone was enthralled and we spent a considerable amount of time while everyone got their photo taken with them, then it was off to the river to watch them get a bath. They certainly looked like they were having fun in the water. This only took a short period of time and it was off to the arena to watch the elephants perform a show for us.
The show was pretty good but you have probably seen all the tricks if you have ever attended a circus. They paraded in a circle, danced to music, played soccer, threw darts, painted a pictured and had a race of pick up sticks. The whole show took another 45 minutes or so and then it was shopping time. They had paper products made from elephant dung, paintings, postcards, carved wood, t-shirts and anything else you could think of in an elephant motif. We all bought something and then headed back to the bus for the trip to our next stop, the Orchid Farm.
Naturally the Orchid farm was a beautiful place. Orchids of every color and variety were grown here and most were in bloom for our visit. Here they take the orchid and turn it into jewelry. You would have to see the process to believe it and the pieces were beautiful. A few ladies purchased them and then it was time to head back to the hotel for lunch and a free afternoon. I’ve had the lunch, worked and posted this along with the photos and been to the pool for a short while. Now I will take a nap and head to the night market again before retiring early. I will be getting up at 5am to go with Nok to donate food to the Monks at the local temple tomorrow morning. Later friends.
Another very early morning folks. I was up at 5am to go with Nok and a few others to donate food to the Monks. It was a very interesting experience. The Monks come out of the temples between 5am and 6am and walk the streets while the people come to donate food to them They are required to walk bare footed to show respect for the food that is being given. To be clear the Monks are not begging for food, the person must request that the monk stop (“Ni Mon”), at which time the Monk comes over and opens a large silver bowl to receive the food. It must be placed into the bowl in a specific order; rice first then vegetables, sweets, juice, water, milk. The food is already prepared and in separate little packages. The people can purchase this food from vendors or actually prepare it in their homes and bring it to the temple street. Once the food has been placed into the bowl the person bows (either kneeling or standing) before the Monk while a blessing is placed so that you receive the good Karma for the gift. When he is finished the person replies “Satou”, a kind of amen and the Monk then moves on. It was a very nice experience and well worth the early morning wake up call. One of the others who came with us for this bought a bag of live fish to release in the river, this act would supposedly add years onto your life from the good Karma received from the act. So we stopped at the moat surrounding the city on our way back to the hotel and they held a little ceremony while he released the fish. Very cool indeed.
We arrived back at the hotel in time to have breakfast and freshen up before heading out for our last tour in Thailand. This tour took us to two temples here in Chiang Mai that are connected with each other through a reported miracle with a piece of a relic from the Buddha. One temple is in the city of Chiang Mai and the other if on top of a mountain overlooking the city. Both temples are beautiful and like most here in Thailand the Stupas and some of the buildings are covered in Gold Leaf. On stopping at the first temple we toured the grounds as Nok explained the miracle that caused the creation of the two temples. We also got to observe the novices practicing the memorization of their chants. In addition members of one of the royal families were buried here on these grounds. It was the family on one of the ancient Kings of Chiang Mai when it was a separate kingdom.
From here we traveled up the mountain to the next temple. It was quite a drive and the scenery from the road overlooking the valley and city was beautiful. It was a bit hazy at times but we had a beautiful day for this trip. Arriving at the temple entrance we departed the bus and headed to the tram for the ride up to the actual temple. It was truly an inspiring place with enough gold to keep me happy for a long time. The sun was shining brightly and the shine from the gold covered Stupas and other buildings was almost blinding. They shined so much it was hard to get pictures at times. In this temple there was another Buddha carved from a solid piece of jade. It is one centimeter smaller than the famous one out of respect for its antiquity. It took the jade carvers over three years to make it. It sat in front of another huge golden Buddha in the main temple. There were gold statues of the Buddha in all his poses on the grounds surrounding the temple. Some of us had our pictures taken in front of our birth day’s Buddha. At one of the smaller temples we went in and received a blessing from one of the Monks and a small bracelet made of string that was supposed to bring us luck. The women had to receive theirs from a Buddhist Nun since the Monks are not allowed to touch women and vice versa. We then wandered over to a terrace on the side of the temple that served as an overlook to the jungle leading down to the valley and city below. The view was breath taking and almost worth the trip up on its own. After touring the complex we were given the option of walking back down (316 steps) or taking the tram. After taking a look at the stairs I decided that my old knees could take it so off I headed with a few others, including Rita, and took my time climbing down since the stair case was beautiful and a Naga (mystical snake) stretched along the entire staircase as a handrail. Nok told us that it was always pictured with its head at the bottom of the stairs and tail at the top. The head rests on earth and the tail extends into heaven. I was struck by the similarity of the snake on the stairs of the Mayan Temples in the Yucatan.
At the bottom you had to negotiate your way through the market again and we were to meet the rest of the group at the Jade Factory. We strolled leisurely down the street to the entrance which Nok had pointed out to us on the way up to the Temple. We were seated for a short video presentation and live demonstration about Jade and then taken into the room where the carvers work the Jade. It was this place that carved the Jade Buddha in the aforementioned temple. They definitely do some beautiful work. After this we were released into the sales room where I quickly discovered that I couldn’t afford a real Jade Buddha. The price tags on the carvings and jewelry sucked the air right out of your lungs. Of course that didn’t stop most of the ladies in the group, ask Rita and Mona to show you their pieces.
Shopping done it was back to the hotel for some downtime. I spent mine taking a nap before we went out to the “farewell” dinner that Nok had arranged. The people helping us here in Thailand will not accompany us to Cambodia; we will have new guides, helpers and drivers there. I just hope they are half as good as the ones we had here. Nok, Kwan and Kaew were just excellent.
The dinner was held in a very old restaurant. The house/building was over 140 years old. It was located right on the river and we could watch the barges go b till the sun set and the place was lit up with candles and strings of light. The dinner was nice; a mixture of various Thai foods followed by ice cream and fruit for dessert. At the end of the dinner Nok had arranged a special surprise for Mona’s Birthday. They brought out a cake with 9 lit candles (lucky number in Thailand) and everyone sang happy Birthday along with the band. Mona was very surprised and it was a very nice touch. After we finished we headed out to the parking lot where they had arranged for us to release some hot air balloons made of paper in celebration of our tour.
Then back on the bus to the hotel where some of us caught the local transportation into the old part of the city for the Sunday Market. Just more of the same but was this place packed. After walking the street for awhile we piled into a TukTuk and headed over to the regular night market for Beer and Bugs. Kelly and I shared some grasshopper and Silk Worm Grubs. Hmmmmmmmmmmm Yummy!!!!! Afterwards we sat around and chatted and eventually headed back to the hotel. A good night’s sleep and here I am at the airport in Bangkok writing this up before heading off to Cambodia. Later everyone.
The trip to Cambodia was a long day. We had the morning to pack and get ready for the departure to the airport. John (who had bought a suit) and Rita (a dress) picked up their final products from the tailor. Kelly and I had thought about it but ended up deciding against. For me the decision was based on all the traveling I will be doing. I will not really have a place to wear one for a few year s. Repacking my bags turned into a real chore, I haven’t bought a lot but there wasn’t a lot of extra room in my suitcase either. I think Rita will be getting a letter from the Thai government thanking her for single handedly saving their economy. Then it was time to jump on the bus one last time in Thailand for the trip to the airport in Chiang Mai. Nok had our boarding passes all set and helped us all the way through customs and to our gates. The plane took off on time and we arrived in Bangkok for the next leg to Siem Reap, Cambodia on time. Nok gave us all a big hug and I told her to say bye to Kwan and Kaen and let them know how great I thought they were. There was enough time for everyone to grab a snack before boarding our next flight. The flight to Cambodia was short, it took only about 45 minutes and we were at the gate in Siem Reap. Just as we exited Customs, we met our new guide (Mr. P. Sim) and a down pour started and continued until we reached the hotel. Fortunately for us, this was the last rain we have seen since being here. The weather has been very HOT and HUMID since arriving with temperatures running around 110 F every day.
We checked into the hotel, which by the way is another fantastic place. I don’t know how Smartours does it. You can’t even buy round trip airfare for the price of this vacation and everyday has been jam packed with stuff to do. Cambodia and Siem Reap are another story though. This country is considerably poorer than Thailand and it shows. The people seem very happy; they have after all been through 30 years of Hell and are just now starting to recover. Prices for the same things you see in Thailand are considerably higher which really surprises me. Siem Reap is a city on the move though, with its population growing from 15,000 to over 1,000,000 in just 10 years. After check in which was really quick, a shower and a bite I headed for bed to get rested up for the next day’s adventures.
Tuesday morning it was up early again, a quick breakfast and back on a bus for the days adventures. The first stop is Angkor Wat, the most famous archaeological site in Cambodia and possibly all of Asia. What a magnificent site both visually and architecturally. This site has been significantly reconstructed by French archaeological teams over the years. It has also been occupied by Buddhist Monks almost since it was abandoned. It was like walking into the past except for the groups of tourist from all over the world. Our guide was very knowledgeable about all the sites that we visited. Unfortunately the only two names I remember are Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. I do know that we also visited an ancient walled Capital City and several other amazing temple complexes over Tuesday and Wednesday. The capital city had this enormous temple in it’s center with faces carved into every side of the towers on the building. One of the temples we visited was used to shoot a portion of the movies “Tomb Raider” that starred Angelina Jolie. It was very cool. Also the last temple we built was truly beautiful. It was carved from pink sandstone which is a very hard stone and so the carvings were extremely well preserved. It looked like they were done yesterday. Tomorrow we catch our flight home starting at 8pm in the evening. We fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok, then to Seoul, then to Tokyo, to Los Angeles, to St. Louis and then the two hour drive home. It is going to be an exhausting day. Tonight I am working on this and then will pack again and do some relaxing. This will probably be my last entry for this trip. I hope all of you reading it enjoyed the discourse and the photos. I will be heading back to South America on May 1st so stay tuned for more adventures.
04/23/2009 (Thursday – late)
A few last notes my friends on this trip overall. I can’t express the words adequately to tell you how wonderful this adventure has been. The tour company, the guide in both countries and the support we have received from them is nothing short of amazing. Nok and her crew were the nicest people you will ever meet in your life. The kind or people that you want to have as friends forever. Mr. Sim and our driver in Cambodia were just as excellent in their own way. Both groups gave us extensive histories of their countries and shared intimate details of their and their family’s lives. It is always this type of sharing that makes a trip more interesting for me. Once again despite all the fantastic and amazing things that we saw it was the people and their cultures that meant the most to me on this trip.
If you ever have the chance to come to this part of the world please do so. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Whether or not you use the same company that we did (Smartours, inc.) is up to you but our experience with them and the price of the package was incredible. Several people who were on the tour with us had used this company several times and they raved about all their trips with them.
I kind of shortchanged the Cambodia part of this trip but we have been kept so busy that it is hard for me to keep the story going. I am sitting here in the airport in Bangkok typing this up since we have a little wait till our next leg of the flight home. I just thought it would be nice to sum up my feelings about this experience for you. Everyone who came with me agrees and each person has their favorite part of the adventure. There are plenty of opportunities to help over here. Cambodia is still recovering from the Pol Pot regime. There are very few people here that are over the age of 35 and every family has been affected by the “Killing Fields”. There is a whole generation of orphaned children who need education opportunities desperately. They are specifically looking for people to volunteer to come to Cambodia and teach English while they live with a family in their village. Take a look at these web sites:
Once again, thanks for keeping up with my adventures here. I hope you have enjoyed reading about them and seeing the pictures as much as I have putting them here for you to read. See you when we get home.