THAILAND 2017

Plane out of Eugene, scheduled for 12:45pm on Friday, February 17. Sit in airport for 5 hours. Weather delay into SF. Sittting now in SF airport. Protesters chant displeasure with Trump’s recent immigration ban. Only 5 more hours until we get on our China Air plane to Taiwan.

It is against the law to have a Buddha tattoo. Do not disrespect the religion or the king, especially with your feet. 15 hours to Taipei and another 4 to Bangkok.

BANGKOK
Sunday at 2pm when we get to the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok. World Spree guide is Tan. You are 100% safe in Thailand. You can walk around anywhere at anytime. We sleep for twelve hours.

Eighth floor hotel room view of the River of Kings is stunning. Bright colored longtail boats zip groups of tourist up and down the river, just like Man with the Golden Gun. Modern high rise buildings on the banks sit next to ghetto looking neighborhoods. Wat is temple. Singhai is tasty beer brand. Hong Tong is tasty whiskey.  Baht is currency We trade in $450 for 15000 baht.

Recently deceased, and much beloved, King Rama IX is on all bills. His pic is also everywhere throughout the country. His son, Rama X, will be coronated soon, after more than a year of mourning. Kings here are like England’s, ceremonial but very rich and usually philanthropic leaders of the country.

60% of income is tourism. 70 million people, 94% are Buddhists. Size of France. 80% of food grown is exported. Very clean. No beggars. Drive on left. Everybody loves the King.

Tour bus to Chinatown. 33 in our group. Largest yet for us, but all pleasant and experienced travelers. Spree People, as Tan would call us to get our attention. Smelling freshly made street snacks.

Chao Phraya River at night on a longtail boat to Asiatique shopping mall for trinkets and Thai dinner. Spicier than Chinese, but similar with rice, noodles, stir fry.

37000 temples in Thailand. Only about 10 considered true Buddhist. Tan was a Buddhist monk. All male Buddhists over 20 must spend at least 3 months as a monk. 94% in Thailand are Buddhists. Not a law but social pressure that makes young men ask to be a monk. Big celebration all family and community attend. Man throws coins to group, giving up all world possessions. After ceremony he is a monk and totally respected.

Do good deeds. There is record. Make sure recorder knows by ringing bell in temple to alert recorder that good deed is being done. If not enough good deeds recorded, go to hell when die.

The easy going nature of Buddhist infused Thailand people attract the tourists.  Nobody is ever mad.   Relax, take it easy.

Boat ride to Wat Pho, largest reclining Buddha at 160 ft. Largest collection of Buddha images. There are no fat Buddhas. Those western images are actually monks, grown fat to thwart the attraction of females.

Grand palace and emerald Buddha. Most revered in Thailand.

Flower market.  

CHAING MAI
Plane to Chaing Mai, second largest city. Northern area. Siripanna hotel. Buffet dinner. Gave food to monks as alms as our good deed before breakfast the next morning.

Wat Doi Suthep, on hill overlooking city. Site of holy relic of Lord Buddha, 300 steps up to beautiful golden stupa. Constructed in 1383 at peak of the Lanna Kingdom.

King 24 of Lanna kingdom built temple on mountain. White elephant forced him to. Led monks to top of mountain. Circled area 3 times and died. Sign to monks where to build temple for Buddha relics

White elephants belong only to the king. Number owned symbol of power. Wars ended when one more white elephant than enemy. Now, white elephant pants are a hit with tourists in the markets. Betsy bought a pair.

Before 1917 white elephant on flag. Now just 5 stripes red outside then white and middle blue.

Paper umbrella factory. Mulberrybark pounded into wet fibrous mush. Soaked in colored water. Screened dipped out and dried in to paper. Had hand painted dragon on my IPad. 3 minutes, 100 baht. Mulberry leaves are food of silkworms.

Tuk Tuk ride to night market in downtown, then on to traditional Khantoke dinner and exhibition of Lanna culture.

Next night, skipped the Thai cooking class and took tuk tuk ride back to night market for barbecue rib dinner and foot massage.

Elephant ride at elephant camp. Bought painting done by elephant for 1000 baht.

Stopped at longneck village and bought scarf. Took pic of weaver. Tribe from Burma and hope to go back someday.

CHIANG RAI
6 hour bus ride north. On the way, stop at White Temple, a striking modern construction built by a wealthy local, with gold happy room, 65% complete.

Pedicab rickshaw ride to original temple of emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew. Buffet lunch. Papaya salad. Cow soy soup. Great watermelon and pineapple at every meal. Tour of grade school in hill village. Stop at natural temple in cave

Katilliya Mountain Resort and Spa on mountain top. Next morning to Royal Villa, queen moms home on hill in Swiss lodge and Lanna Thai architecture garden below.

Bus ride north to Golden Triangle. Laos/Burma/Thailand connect on theMekong river. Opium trade use to run rampant, but now rubber trees, sugar cane and pineapple grow. Burma and Laos each had a large casino near the river. Took boat ride across river to Laos, for shopping stroll around local market.

SUKHOTHAI
Happy city. Historical park UNESCO. 42000 acres. First royal grand palace, where king lived and Buddhist temple is. Original Siam capital. 13th century. Same time as first alphabet 4 rivers come through. Take small tram ride around ancient city and visit Wat Sara Sri and Wat Sri Chum. Buildings without windows, slits for vents, to protect from tigers.

Feminin style Buddha is Burmese, designed to look like 13th century king, noted lady man, perhaps cross dresser.

Kingdom of Sayam, of dark people literal, changed to Thailand in 1949, because dark people not representative. Thai men always fall in love with Chinese lady because of their fair skin. Every 7-11 cosmetic counter has whitening properties. Chinese people think Thai people lazy, because it is their nature.

Bangkok built by Chinese labor, while Thai people sit back and relax. Thai people not work as laborers. Chinese people richest, Indian people second.

BACK TO BANGKOK
Went to Mandarin Oriental Hotel, boat ride across river to best restaurant with Christina and Thirry, Ann’s friend and French husband. Would we trade our Oregon house for their Bangkok condo next February for a couple of weeks? I think so.  Betsy’s birthday dinner came with Thai treat of sticky rice and mangoes.

Next morning, Jim Thompson house tour then sky train back to central dock. Jacks Bar for beer. Chat with expat vet from Coquille. Pick up laundry after getting 1 hour foot massage for 250 baht.

PHUKET
7:50 pickup. 7:00 leave luggage out. 6:30 wake up call March 2. Fly south to Phuket, largest Thailand island. Novotel, lots of Europeans happy hour drinks at 4:30 at swim up bar, 2 for 1 mojitos. Walked up beach to Smile 1 Thai food. Met Indira and Tom, tour mates from Berkeley, for chicken/pork skewers, and shrimp and corn on cob. Rain shower, short one, then walked back to hotel for mojito on rooftop bar overlooking bay. Squid boats on edge of bay lit up to attract squid. Will order calamari tomorrow.

Did. It was tasty.

We opted out of regular tour schedule and had best trip excursion with Adaman Sea Kayak – 6600 baht for two, about $100 each. INCREDIBLE. Went through 4 sea caves in limestone islands. One was 150 meters long, only 1 1/2 meters high. Had to lay down on our backs in 3 man kayaks to go through the pitch black caves. Came out to beautiful lagoons, encircled by high rock walls with sugar palms and all variety of vegetation. About 50 on boat including 15 crew. Support boat, a longtail, manned by 3 with 2 extra kayaks. Lunch on boat then circled James Bond island. Ended with private beach swim on island with 2 local monkeys entertaining us for boat’s supply of bananas.

 

BACK TO BANGKOK, AGAIN
Fly back to Bangkok. Taxi to shop at 6 story mall. Never did stay up to see Soi Cowboy, notable red light district in Bangkok, and never got beyond a foot massage, but maybe save it for the next trip. We might be back.

Always wanted to go to Taiwan. Done that, as 8 hour layover in airport on return. Betsy’s card gets us into premium lounge for free drinks and snacks. 12 hours back to SF. Switched seats to exit row with better leg room. Took Advil PM to sleep. Protestors greeted all arrivals with “Yes to immigrants, Yes to Muslims, No to radicals, No to Trump.”

BOOKS/MOVIES/STORIES ABOUT THAILAND:
Bangkok 8 – detective story
Sightseeing – short stories
Eyewitness Travel Thailand – travel book
Man with the Golden Gun – James Bond in Bangkok and Phuket
The King and I – unrealistic King Rama IV story
Kingdom of War – book on Siam
The Bridge Over the River Kauai – WWII story of river near Bangkok
The Railway Man – true story of WWII in Thailand.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/01/travel/bangkok-thailand-city-of-spirits-culture.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share. Great Bangkok story

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