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John and Diane's Amazing Adventure - Part III


Johnny B

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We both have vivid memories of flying into Hong Kong in 1997. It was the old airport, and our flight arrived a half hour earlier than the airport opened, so we circled those old high rises. We saw laundry hanging from balconies and I swear we got so close I saw a man shaving! It was a hair-raising experience (no pun intended).

 

We're at the airport now, and wifi is free (hallelujah!). It was just slick getting here. We walked the 5 minutes to the Star Ferry, took a taxi to the Kowloon terminal, and then a 20 minute train to the airport. This new airport is amazing. It's spacious and clean and efficient. Because it was so easy to get here, we've got two hours before our flight, so we can catch up on all our email, Cruise Critic, and Facebook. Everyone else here is dressed for the cold rainy weather in Hong Kong, but we're in short-sleeves, ready for the 95 degrees in Bangkok.

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We both have vivid memories of flying into Hong Kong in 1997. It was the old airport, and our flight arrived a half hour earlier than the airport opened, so we circled those old high rises. We saw laundry hanging from balconies and I swear we got so close I saw a man shaving! It was a hair-raising experience (no pun intended).

 

We're at the airport now, and wifi is free (hallelujah!). It was just slick getting here. We walked the 5 minutes to the Star Ferry, took a taxi to the Kowloon terminal, and then a 20 minute train to the airport. This new airport is amazing. It's spacious and clean and efficient. Because it was so easy to get here, we've got two hours before our flight, so we can catch up on all our email, Cruise Critic, and Facebook. Everyone else here is dressed for the cold rainy weather in Hong Kong, but we're in short-sleeves, ready for the 95 degrees in Bangkok.

 

Have a great flight :D, looking forward to hearing all about your overland adventure!!

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Diane and John,

 

The new airport is fantastic, so different from the old Kai Tak airport. We have used the new airport quite a few times and we think it is great. Singapore is our favourite and Hong Kong's is a close second.

 

Jennie

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March 12 – I don’t care which day

Bangkok

 

I think – no, I know that I’ve died and gone to heaven. In this case, it’s called the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. Today has been everything I like about independent tours. We had a good flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok and were greeted by Sonny, with a sign displaying our name. On the half hour drive into the city, he gave us a lot of background on the history of the city and its customs, followed by a long discussion about Steve Jobs, whose biography both he and I are reading.

 

We drove through a seemingly run-down area and made a sharp turn into our hotel, resembling a high rise colonial building out of the last century. Our friend Greg told us that last year one of the travel magazines named the Bangkok Peninsula the best in the world, and we can certainly see why. We were immediately met by hotel employees in the porte cochere making the wai gesture, a graceful bow with the palms of the hands together in front of the chest (yes, I know you’re trying it – can’t help it, can you?) The service here is quiet and unobtrusive, and extremely efficient.

 

The lobby is built out of beautiful wood and is a peaceful oasis from this busy city. The grounds are controlled overgrowth of tropical plants and flowers, and there are orchids everywhere. The pool, which we enjoyed after checking in, is built on three levels and is surrounded by luxurious lounges overlooking both the pool and the Chao Phyra River.

 

As the young lady who took us to our room was showing us how to automatically turn on lights and the button which automatically opens the drapes from bedside to give us a view of the river in the morning and such mundane things, she explained that our reserved deluxe room (deluxe? I didn’t know that) had to be upgraded because of a large business conference at the hotel. So that’s why we have a bathroom the size of Luxembourg alongside a dressing room bigger than our ship’s bathroom, and a bedroom I could live in. Probably my favorite unnecessary but cool luxury is the little box, accessible from the hallway, where the porter leaves our newspapers in the morning. We then open the little compartment in our foyer (yes, our room has a foyer) to pick up the daily news, from the Wall Street Journal and the Bangkok Post.

 

We do want to get out into the city to dine, but we were tired from the traveling and finding all the perks in the super deluxe room, including our own built-in fax machine and CD/DVD player, so we decided to eat at the most casual of the hotel’s four restaurants. It’s called the River Terrace and darned if it’s not on the terrace next to the river.

 

The river is magical at night. The Mandarin Oriental is just across the river and its courtyard trees are dripping with fairy lights over its own riverside restaurant. There are lighted boats traveling up and down the river, and our hotel has four of its own lighted riverboats, about the size of a Chinese junk, which will take us on complimentary crossings to the River City Shopping Complex, the Peninsula Pier Lounge, or the Taksin Pier Skytrain Station. This place just gets better and better – and I know you’re tired of hearing about it.

 

Tomorrow we are to be in the lobby at 7:30 to begin our morning tour, so I’d better cut this short and set my clock to 6:00 AM – yikes!

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March 12 – I don’t care which day

Bangkok

 

I think – no, I know that I’ve died and gone to heaven. In this case, it’s called the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. Today has been everything I like about independent tours. We had a good flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok and were greeted by Sonny, with a sign displaying our name. On the half hour drive into the city, he gave us a lot of background on the history of the city and its customs, followed by a long discussion about Steve Jobs, whose biography both he and I are reading.

 

We drove through a seemingly run-down area and made a sharp turn into our hotel, resembling a high rise colonial building out of the last century. Our friend Greg told us that last year one of the travel magazines named the Bangkok Peninsula the best in the world, and we can certainly see why. We were immediately met by hotel employees in the porte cochere making the wai gesture, a graceful bow with the palms of the hands together in front of the chest (yes, I know you’re trying it – can’t help it, can you?) The service here is quiet and unobtrusive, and extremely efficient.

 

The lobby is built out of beautiful wood and is a peaceful oasis from this busy city. The grounds are controlled overgrowth of tropical plants and flowers, and there are orchids everywhere. The pool, which we enjoyed after checking in, is built on three levels and is surrounded by luxurious lounges overlooking both the pool and the Chao Phyra River.

 

As the young lady who took us to our room was showing us how to automatically turn on lights and the button which automatically opens the drapes from bedside to give us a view of the river in the morning and such mundane things, she explained that our reserved deluxe room (deluxe? I didn’t know that) had to be upgraded because of a large business conference at the hotel. So that’s why we have a bathroom the size of Luxembourg alongside a dressing room bigger than our ship’s bathroom, and a bedroom I could live in. Probably my favorite unnecessary but cool luxury is the little box, accessible from the hallway, where the porter leaves our newspapers in the morning. We then open the little compartment in our foyer (yes, our room has a foyer) to pick up the daily news, from the Wall Street Journal and the Bangkok Post.

 

We do want to get out into the city to dine, but we were tired from the traveling and finding all the perks in the super deluxe room, including our own built-in fax machine and CD/DVD player, so we decided to eat at the most casual of the hotel’s four restaurants. It’s called the River Terrace and darned if it’s not on the terrace next to the river.

 

The river is magical at night. The Mandarin Oriental is just across the river and its courtyard trees are dripping with fairy lights over its own riverside restaurant. There are lighted boats traveling up and down the river, and our hotel has four of its own lighted riverboats, about the size of a Chinese junk, which will take us on complimentary crossings to the River City Shopping Complex, the Peninsula Pier Lounge, or the Taksin Pier Skytrain Station. This place just gets better and better – and I know you’re tired of hearing about it.

 

Tomorrow we are to be in the lobby at 7:30 to begin our morning tour, so I’d better cut this short and set my clock to 6:00 AM – yikes!

 

Dear John and Diane,

 

Thank you for taking us along on your wonderful journey. Your writing is wonderfully descriptive and balanced.

 

We are boarding on the next to the last leg of the WC, and look forward to meeting you both.

 

Ricki

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March 12 – I don’t care which day

Bangkok

 

I think – no, I know that I’ve died and gone to heaven. In this case, it’s called the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. Today has been everything I like about independent tours. We had a good flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok and were greeted by Sonny, with a sign displaying our name. On the half hour drive into the city, he gave us a lot of background on the history of the city and its customs, followed by a long discussion about Steve Jobs, whose biography both he and I are reading.

 

We drove through a seemingly run-down area and made a sharp turn into our hotel, resembling a high rise colonial building out of the last century. Our friend Greg told us that last year one of the travel magazines named the Bangkok Peninsula the best in the world, and we can certainly see why. We were immediately met by hotel employees in the porte cochere making the wai gesture, a graceful bow with the palms of the hands together in front of the chest (yes, I know you’re trying it – can’t help it, can you?) The service here is quiet and unobtrusive, and extremely efficient.

 

The lobby is built out of beautiful wood and is a peaceful oasis from this busy city. The grounds are controlled overgrowth of tropical plants and flowers, and there are orchids everywhere. The pool, which we enjoyed after checking in, is built on three levels and is surrounded by luxurious lounges overlooking both the pool and the Chao Phyra River.

 

As the young lady who took us to our room was showing us how to automatically turn on lights and the button which automatically opens the drapes from bedside to give us a view of the river in the morning and such mundane things, she explained that our reserved deluxe room (deluxe? I didn’t know that) had to be upgraded because of a large business conference at the hotel. So that’s why we have a bathroom the size of Luxembourg alongside a dressing room bigger than our ship’s bathroom, and a bedroom I could live in. Probably my favorite unnecessary but cool luxury is the little box, accessible from the hallway, where the porter leaves our newspapers in the morning. We then open the little compartment in our foyer (yes, our room has a foyer) to pick up the daily news, from the Wall Street Journal and the Bangkok Post.

 

We do want to get out into the city to dine, but we were tired from the traveling and finding all the perks in the super deluxe room, including our own built-in fax machine and CD/DVD player, so we decided to eat at the most casual of the hotel’s four restaurants. It’s called the River Terrace and darned if it’s not on the terrace next to the river.

 

The river is magical at night. The Mandarin Oriental is just across the river and its courtyard trees are dripping with fairy lights over its own riverside restaurant. There are lighted boats traveling up and down the river, and our hotel has four of its own lighted riverboats, about the size of a Chinese junk, which will take us on complimentary crossings to the River City Shopping Complex, the Peninsula Pier Lounge, or the Taksin Pier Skytrain Station. This place just gets better and better – and I know you’re tired of hearing about it.

 

Tomorrow we are to be in the lobby at 7:30 to begin our morning tour, so I’d better cut this short and set my clock to 6:00 AM – yikes!

 

 

Thailand is on my bucket list and the Pennisula Hotel sounds like heaven. Enjoy every minute. I love reading your posts. Thanks so much!

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March 13

Bangkok

 

Boy, are we templed out! We began our morning (at 7:30!) with a ride on a longtail boat through the klongs (canals) of Bangkok. We saw houses that looked like they’d fall into the canal during the next rainstorm and a few big, expensive houses. It looked like it was laundry day, with dozens of pieces of clothing hanging from rope outside the houses.

 

We got off the longtail at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, a beautiful temple built several hundred years ago and decorated with pieces and fragments of pottery. The outside steps up to the first level were intimidating – about 18 inches high and really narrow. After walking around that level of the temple, we headed up to the next level, with similar steps challenging us. The problem arose for me when it was time to go down. I really don’t like heights, and I grabbed the bar alongside the steps with both hands and walked sideways down those puppies. I was really, really happy to get to the bottom.

 

After a ferry ride across the river, we went to Wat Po, which features the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand – about 60 feet long. I took a really good photo of his feet, which have a great deal of religious significance (but I’m not sure what).

 

We then proceeded to the Grand Palace, which isn’t the palace anymore, but it certainly is impressive. It was the residence of the Kings of Thailand until the mid-Twentieth Century, but now it’s best known for housing the Emerald Buddha. The Buddha isn’t really made of emerald; it’s carved from a single piece of jade and called that because of its color. It is the most revered object in Thailand and three times a year must have it’s “clothes” changed – but only by the king or the crown prince. Since the king is now 84 years old and ill, it’s his 60-year-old son who must climb the ladder (it’s up really high) and do the job. As we drove away from the palace, our guide pointed out a lot of new construction across the street. It seems that a temporary crematorium is being built for a deceased 92-year-old princess. I thought a crematorium would only involve one building, but the area is full of all kinds of ornate, colorful buildings.

 

Finally, we went to Wat Traimit, which contains a 16-foot, 5-ton solid gold Buddha. It seems that when the Burmese were stealing the Thai gold and taking it home, the Thais covered the statue with stucco, and there it stayed for a few hundred years. When a new temple was being built for it in the 20th Century, some of the stucco broke off and the monks were absolutely shocked to find that their statue was made of solid gold. On the way back to our part of the city, we waited about 20 minutes at a traffic light for a couple of Rolls Royces with members of the royal family to pass by.

 

We finished our tour across the river and took the Peninsula boat back “home,” where a swim and lunch by the pool were called for. Since lunch lasted until about 4:00, we decided that that would be dinner, too. Later in the evening we took the hotel’s boat down to what turned out to be a less than elegant little shopping center, and upon return, beer and bar snacks became our final meal of the evening.

 

It was a lovely day in Bangkok, and tomorrow will be a trip outside of the city to Ayutthaya, the former capital which was destroyed by the Burmese in the 1700’s.

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So enjoying your posts. The Peninsula is a great hotel. Sound like you have the Thai suite. Will be interested in your post about Ayutthaya. When we were there in November it was flooded as well as some of Bangkok, The Palace, Wat Traimit, Wat Aiun all had sandbags around them and water in the streets. Again, thanks for wonderful posts and sharing your journey with us.

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Thanks for keeping up the posts John and Dianne. SO going to do a world cruise one day.

 

We'll be in Bangkok on Saturday night. We're heading up to Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle for a few days, down to Railay Beach for a few more and then back to Bangkok for the last four days.

 

Last time we were in Bangkok we stayed at the Millennium Hilton, just up the river from the Pensinsula. Tuk tuk drivers had no idea where the Hilton was but if we said Peninsula they were off like a bullet and we just had to tap them on the shoulder before they turned down the drive of the Peninsula, point at the Millennium and say "Hilton" and we'd be 'home'.

 

Loved looking down into the river and the hustle and bustle, longtails and small cargo vessels, and the big cross river ferries. Did you notice any of those giant fish that bob up to the surface every now and then?

 

Loved the hotels' boats. The Hilton has a couple of beautiful old restored 1920s ferries that take you to and from River City or down to the Skytrain station. Can't remember if the Peninsula used small rice barges (replicas?) for their ferries?

 

We loved Bangkok and Thailand in general. Can't wait to be back in three days.

 

pete

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March 15 – Bangkok

 

Exactly 150 years ago today, Anna Leonowens stepped off her ship into a country she knew nothing about to teach the children of King Mongkut, Rama IV. She later wrote her memoirs about that time and they were eventually made into the musical and movie “The King and I.” Having spent three days in Bangkok, I decided it was time to actually read the book, which I happily found for free on my Kindle. It seemed appropriate.

 

Yesterday we drove about 90 minutes, through thousands of acres of rice fields, out of the city to Ayutthaya (ah-YOOT-uh-yah), the old capital of Siam. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the late 1700’s, and the capital was then moved to Bangkok. The city is considered an island, because it is surrounded by three rivers, including the Chao Phraya which flows downstream to Bangkok.

 

Just outside of the city is Wat Sri Sanphet, a ruined temple (wat = temple) which looks just like those at Angkok Wat in Cambodia. If you’ve always wanted to see Angkor Wat, just come to Thailand and you’ll be convinced that you’re there. While we were there, there was a school tour of kindergarten through fourth graders who were just as cute as little buttons. Many of the moms had come along, and I got some great photos. When we saw one little boy with everything on his head shaved but two small patches on top that were each braided, we asked our guide about it. She told us that people in the countryside were fairly superstitious and believed that sometimes if children were too attractive, they would also attract bad luck, such as illness. Therefore, the shaved head was to make the little boy ugly – and not a temptation to the spirits. As we were leaving, about two dozen very young monks came walking along, and our guide explained that sometimes families who cannot afford to educate their children have them join monasteries to be educated. (More about that later)

 

Once we drove into the city, we went to another temple complex which had been destroyed in the aforementioned fighting. It also looked like those we’ve seen at Angkor Wat, and, had we chosen, we could have toured the complex by elephant – but we chose feet. As at the prior temple, ropes keep people from the main structures because of last year’s floods, whose evidence can be seen on the sides of the buildings.

 

We continued on to the Summer Palace. Oh my! I thought I was looking at buildings in France or Italy. Apparently Rama V traveled to Europe twice and was quite taken with all things European. The buildings, painted in soft pastels, were just beautiful.

 

Then it was time to board The Grand Pearl Cruiser for a boat ride (and lunch) back to Bangkok. It was just lovely gliding along the river watching the large clumps of water hyacinth make their way to the sea, but then the weather turned. Lightning flashed and thunder roared – right overhead – and the rain just poured. Our guide telephoned someone in Bangkok who said, surprisingly, that there was no rain in the city. Overall, it was a lovely ride with great food.

 

During the 2010-2011 school year, we hosted two exchange students, Francoise from Belgium and Giorgia from Italy. One of their best exchange friends was Beat, a young man from Thailand who was so friendly and outgoing that he was elected Homecoming King at Morro Bay High School. We contacted him on Facebook and told him that we were in Bangkok at the Peninsula and expressed a desire to see him. He got back to us with his phone number, and we all agreed that he would meet us at the hotel at 6:00. It was wonderful to see him, and while he apologized that his parents couldn’t come because of an ill grandmother, he asked if his older brother Boom could join us. We happily agreed, and the three of us headed out on the hotel boat to the Skyrail station and thence to the Siam Paragon shopping mall to meet Boom.

 

I’ve seldom seen a mall like this one. It wasn’t just the size of the place (huge) or the upscale shops (including actual stores selling Ferraris and Maseratis), but the energy of it. While we waited for Boom to join us, Beat took us to “the heart” of the mall, where about 20 young people were lined up on risers trying out for modeling careers. It was amazing.

 

Once the four of us got together, they took us to Manna, a lovely little Thai restaurant where we simply let them order. Everything was delicious, and a couple of the dishes almost burned my lips off, but that just added to the treat. One of our topics of conversation was Buddhist monks, and with 95% of the country practicing that religion, monks are seen everywhere. Both of the boys said that they would spend time as monks, as is expected of males of their faith. I think it's a great idea to have every young person spend a time of sacrifice before launching into full adulthood. After dinner Boom offered to drive us back to the hotel, and after spending 20 minutes getting out of the Paragon carpark, we enjoyed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through the streets of Bangkok and back to our little home away from home. What a wonderful evening spent with two absolutely great young men.

 

Getting in at 11:00 and having to get up at 5:30 to be driven to the airport isn’t my idea of fun, but it was necessary, and it was really hard to say goodbye to the Peninsula. Our last boat ride across the river to meet our driver and guide was bittersweet, but I’m sure we’ll return to spend time just wandering around Bangkok sometime.

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Diane and John,

 

"Getting in at 11.00 and having to get up at 5.30 to be driven to the airport."

 

How do you manage to keep up with your posts so religiously, with such a full on travelling schedule?

 

I wonder if you have any idea on the amount of pleasure you give to so many people through sharing your amazing adventure. Thank you!

 

Like you, I love Thailand and the Thai people. I was saddened to have to cancel my last planned trip, due to travel advisories not to travel to Bangkok. Did you notice any signs of the political troubles remaining?

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Diane and John,

 

"Getting in at 11.00 and having to get up at 5.30 to be driven to the airport."

 

How do you manage to keep up with your posts so religiously, with such a full on travelling schedule?

 

I wondered that also. When we cruise I keep a daily journal and am often days behind. I can't imagine keeping an updated trip report online.

 

 

I wonder if you have any idea on the amount of pleasure you give to so many people through sharing your amazing adventure. Thank you!

 

I agree!!

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Thailand has so many Wats and they are so interesting Did you know that the present King, when he came to the thrown made an edict that no more Wats were to be built as there were sufficient and the money should be used for schools and hospitals etc. Also the first black and white film of Anne's life "Anna and the King of Siam "was a magnificent film and I remember scenes still;)

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March 15 (Part 2) – Bangkok to Chiang Mai

 

It was up and at ‘em at 5:30 this morning so that we would have time to shower, dress, check out and have a last wonderful buffet breakfast before taking a Peninsula boat across the river to meet our guide and driver who took us to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai. Thai Airways has comfortable seating, wonderful service, and both flights so far have left either on the minute or a few minutes early. What more can you wish for?

 

Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, we were met by Jet, our new guide, who escorted us into the old city and to the Tamarind Village, our new hotel. I believe that this hotel can be described as the anti-Peninsula. While its rooms are air-conditioned, they are much smaller and do not have the upscale amenities we’ve had for the last three nights. Our room is in the Lanna style, characteristic of northern Thailand. Having said that, the Tamarind Village has its own charm, and it reminds me of the old Breakers Hotel in Honolulu, with wooden-walled and shingled units around a lovely pool.

 

We had two hours before our afternoon tour, so we had a leisurely time by the pool, sharing a club sandwich. I took full advantage of the welcome head, neck and back massage for 10 minutes, and we were then ready to head off to parts unknown. Chiang Mai is less humid than Bangkok, so it feels cooler, but we were to make it even better by driving 3,200 feet up the mountain to Wat Doi Suthep, a royal temple which we had to walk up 290 steps to access. The center of the temple complex is the Chedi, or tall, golden pagoda, which we were told has some ashes of Buddha.

 

We headed back into the old town to visit two more temples, and then returned to our hotel, where one of us headed for the pool and the other for her pillow. After a lovely nap and a shower, we headed to the hotel’s restaurant to enjoy northern Thai specialties like chicken curry, absolutely enormous prawns, and pork ribs. Delicious!

 

An after-dinner walk took us to the walls of the old city and, surprisingly, a Starbucks.

We then headed back to the hotel and an early night, since we’ll be leaving at 7:00 tomorrow morning for Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Burma, and Laos meet.

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Chiang Mai was the first airport we had visited with the luxury of having a person waiting, holding our name up on a board, so we were suitably excited.

 

Imagine our surprise when we came out, spotting our name, to much laughter and clapping!

 

Seems the people waiting with the signs had a competition to see whose customer came out first. Ours won!

 

I hope you enjoy Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. It remains on our wish list.

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March 15 (Part 2) – Bangkok to Chiang Mai

 

 

 

It was up and at ‘em at 5:30 this morning so that we would have time to shower, dress, check out and have a last wonderful buffet breakfast before taking a Peninsula boat across the river to meet our guide and driver who took us to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai. Thai Airways has comfortable seating, wonderful service, and both flights so far have left either on the minute or a few minutes early. What more can you wish for?

 

Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, we were met by Jet, our new guide, who escorted us into the old city and to the Tamarind Village, our new hotel. I believe that this hotel can be described as the anti-Peninsula. While its rooms are air-conditioned, they are much smaller and do not have the upscale amenities we’ve had for the last three nights. Our room is in the Lanna style, characteristic of northern Thailand. Having said that, the Tamarind Village has its own charm, and it reminds me of the old Breakers Hotel in Honolulu, with wooden-walled and shingled units around a lovely pool.

 

We had two hours before our afternoon tour, so we had a leisurely time by the pool, sharing a club sandwich. I took full advantage of the welcome head, neck and back massage for 10 minutes, and we were then ready to head off to parts unknown. Chiang Mai is less humid than Bangkok, so it feels cooler, but we were to make it even better by driving 3,200 feet up the mountain to Wat Doi Suthep, a royal temple which we had to walk up 290 steps to access. The center of the temple complex is the Chedi, or tall, golden pagoda, which we were told has some ashes of Buddha.

 

We headed back into the old town to visit two more temples, and then returned to our hotel, where one of us headed for the pool and the other for her pillow. After a lovely nap and a shower, we headed to the hotel’s restaurant to enjoy northern Thai specialties like chicken curry, absolutely enormous prawns, and pork ribs. Delicious!

 

An after-dinner walk took us to the walls of the old city and, surprisingly, a Starbucks.

We then headed back to the hotel and an early night, since we’ll be leaving at 7:00 tomorrow morning for Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Burma, and Laos meet.

 

 

Welcome to Thailand--trust that you will really enjoy your visit here

 

Make the most of the cooler temperatures in the north--Phuket is extremely hot this month---and most other months too !

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Welcome to Thailand--trust that you will really enjoy your visit here

 

Make the most of the cooler temperatures in the north--Phuket is extremely hot this month---and most other months too !

 

The forecast is for 97 today in Chiang Mai - wow!

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That particular dish did not make it to our menu, but it sounds delicious.

 

It sure is, maybe you can try a request to the chef via your favorite waiter. You never know the chef might make it for the officers.

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March 16 – Chiang Mai

 

It’s not every day that a person can enter three countries within 10 minutes, but if you’re at the Golden Triangle, it’s no problem. That’s at the far northern end of Thailand, where Laos, Burma (Myanmar), and Thailand meet, and that’s one of the things we did today.

 

We asked for a tour of Chiang Rai (Shang Rye), and what we got was a 13-hour day, with stops at some of the most amazing places. We began at 7:00 this morning, and headed out of Chiang Mai (Shang My), with our first stop at a natural hot spring which had been commercialized as much as possible. They even had local ladies selling baskets of eggs (both chicken and smaller birds) so that you could put them in the hot spring and boil them. We took a pass there, but took off our shoes and soaked our feet before continuing on.

 

Stop number two was absolutely fantastic. It’s called “The White Temple,” and by golly it certainly is. While the Thai King has decreed that Thailand has enough temples and that government money should go to other things like schools, private individuals are welcome to build temples, and that’s just what the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, a devout Buddhist with a vast fortune, is doing. This temple, however, is unique. It looks like a cross between a snow carnival and Disneyland, with parts of the temple and its associated buildings complete with fantastical designs and most parts decorated with pieces of mirror. It is truly the most unusual place of worship I’ve ever seen. Take a look at it online if you get a chance.

 

We continued on through Chaing Rai to Mae Sai, at the border of Thailand and Burma. This place is amazing. There was a half-mile line of cars waiting to cross the bridge into Burma and people coming and going in both directions. Because this is a big trading area, there are shops for absolutely everything – and some of it is actually real (but not much). Had we wanted sunglasses, we had our choice of Gucci, Prada, or many other brands – for about $2.00. Because there are so many Chinese goods sold here, our guide said that instead of The Golden Triangle, many Thais call it “The Golden Quadrangle” – including China in the mix. He also referred to China as “Mother China” because it has so much influence in the area.

 

After lunch (with more “burn your lips off” fish soup), we drove to the actual Golden Triangle, where we could take one photo which encompassed Thailand, Burma, and Laos. A 10-minute boat ride takes you across the river, stopping at a little island to put a foot in Burma and then across to Laos – total cost $15.00.

 

On the way back, we drove to Chiang Saen, the old northern capital (before Chiang Rai) and walked through the ruins of another Cambodian-style temple, and then watched four monks try to figure out a chain saw.

 

It was finally time to go home, but “home” was four hours away, so even though we finished our sightseeing at 4:00, we didn’t get home until 8:00. On the way, our one stop was at an outdoor restaurant called “Cabbages and Condoms.” Yes, you read that correctly. There are actually several of them throughout Thailand, and they are run by a non-profit group that contributes all profits to feeding the hungry and educating healthy lifestyles (hence the “condom” in the name).

 

Once we got home, it was a quick dinner and a beer at the lovely restaurant around the pool and then to an early bed. Tomorrow’s activities don’t require us to be picked up until 8:00, so we feel like we get to sleep in. Also, tomorrow involves an elephant safari, which was #1 on my list of activities for Thailand, so I really can’t wait!

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March 16 – Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai

 

Tomorrow involves an elephant safari, which was #1 on my list of activities for Thailand, so I really can’t wait!

 

What an amazing adventure you continue to have.

 

Make sure you cover up and lather repellent on prior to your elephant safari, as our daughter got bitten, through her long pants, on our elephant safari and she became very ill, with a high temperature. Fortunately, she recovered after a couple of days.

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