Thailand

Chiang Saen - Golden Triangle - Chiang Saen 2 - Bangkok 2 - Phuket & Khao Lak - Pattaya - Rod & Yong Yong - World Map

We leave Mumbai on our 04:50 flight to Bangkok. We are all very tired but stay awake until we get on the plane. Once on board we all go straight to sleep for the 4 hour flight. We book an airport limonene for the ride to the hotel which costs 700 Baht which is a little more than the regular taxis but avoids more queuing. A nice air-conditioned London black cab style taxi takes us to the Dynasty Inn hotel just off the Sukhamvit Road on Soi Sukhamvit 3 / Nana. We check in then all go straight to bed and sleep from midday until supper time when we are woken by very loud thunder and a fantastic storm. We go for a walk around our new local area to see what’s what. What a difference Bangkok is to Mumbai. A very modern and cosmopolitan city filled with amazing new sights for us all. Of course there are street sellers and touts all over but having spent the last 5 weeks in India we are all now skilled at avoiding them. We have the determined traveller look rather than the gullible tourist. We visit some of the bars along Soi 3 and eat supper. I make friends with some of the girls working in one of the many bars and we play cards and Mon, one of the girls plaits my hair - she has never touched blond hair like mine before.

The next morning, 15th October 2005, daddy arranges a river tour for the afternoon and also air tickets to Chiang Rai so that we can visit his friends Ian and Vassana who live in the very north of Thailand. The river trip is quite interesting and small boats come over to us with different things for sale. There are lots of different types of houseboats and we can see what the people are doing, washing clothes, swimming, fishing and all sorts of things.

We have a really nice lunch on the boat which includes a huge selection of tropical fruits.

After our trip we return to the Dynasty and get ready to go out for a late supper. We treat ourselves and I have smoked salmon followed by a big steak. After supper we visit my friends in the bar again and I help a lady make flower garlands. This involves threading various fresh flowers on to a very long needle in a certain order then feeding them on to a piece of cotton. I make up some of my own designs for me and mummy to wear. They smell wonderful, particularly the Jasmine. In fact, during our visits to Bangkok, I help make the garlands on lots of evenings.

The girls eat all sorts of weird snacks which are sold by various street vendors. These include deep fried scorpions, cockroaches, bamboo worms and many other bugs and insects. Grasshoppers seem a particular favourite and you buy a bag of them at a time to snack on....

We leave Bangkok on the 17th October and catch our flight to Chiang Rai to visit Ian and Vassana. We depart at 16:00 and arrive in Chiang Rai at around 17:30. Ian and Vassana are there to meet us and we drive to their home in Chiang Saen which is about an hour away. What a beautiful house and resort they have. It is dark when we arrive so we can’t see a great deal. We spend the evening sitting on the terrace chatting. We have been given the guest room which is delightful. I even have my own bed and separate area to put my backpack and clothes. There are lots of pets around so I will have fun here. Early the next morning we tour the estate. Ian and Vassana are building a small holiday resort on some of their land. Their land is terraced and looks out on to a large peaceful lake.

Please have a look at their web site at http://www.viangyonok.com because a year on and they are ready for business....

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It is so peaceful here with no traffic passing. I don't even change out of my pyjamas when we go exploring and meeting all the animals.

We go in to the town after breakfast and buy a new bike for me to use while we are here. It's a super bike and in the afternoon we all go for a cycle around the lake. The climate is much cooler here than in Bangkok but it is still much warmer than England.

My new bike only cost £15

Ian, mummy and Vassana with the Mae Khong river behind. Laos is on the other side of the river

We spend the 19th October out and about on a motorbike that Ian has lent us. I sit in front of daddy just as in India - three (or even a whole family) on a bike, is okay in this country. We spend the day in Chiang Saen and have a look at some of the numerous temples. Chiang Saen is an ancient walled town and has 60+ temples both old and new. There is also a lot of archaeological work been carried out and the outer wall and many of the old temples and buildings are on view.

We have the use of the motorbike every day so on the 20th October we spend the day visiting the Golden Triangle which is 12 Klm along the Mae Khong river. It is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet and is infamous because of the Opium trade. This is quite a tourist trap with some very expensive hotels and numerous small stalls. There is also an excellent and very modern museum about the history of the area and the opium trade of years back. A super place with sound and light shows taking you through the centuries.

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The Mae Khong River with Myanmar and Laos in the background

On the 21st October we are out on the bike again. In to Chiang Saen for a wander around town then out and about the local area looking for a waterfall. After a couple of wrong turns we find the track to the waterfall and spend some time paddling and chatting with the locals that are fishing in the pools.

Today the 22nd October Ian takes us off for the day to visit the palace of the King’s mother (deceased 6 years ago) which is now a museum. She was a conservationist and had her palace built from reclaimed wood - much of the interior constructed from old soft-wood pallets. The palace is surrounded by fantastic gardens and is a popular tourist spot. The King’s mother spent much of her life living in Switzerland but moved back to Thailand in her later years. She chose Chiang Rai province and spearheaded the work to change the local cash crop from opium, to flowers, vegetables and other produce that pays as well.

En route to Mae Sai we also visited a very special temple which has a pair of stuppa’s. The entrance to the temple area was lined with bells which I walked passed and rang by banging them with a stick. Super tones and a lot of fun.

We continued on to Mae Sai and had lunch near the border crossing with Myanmar. It seems an easy enough border to cross with a steady stream of people going each way. Interestingly, Myanmar (Burma) changed the side of the road you drive on as soon as the British were thrown out. In Thailand they drive on the left. This means that all the traffic crossing the border has to change the side of the road. I think this must cause lots of accidents.

The border crossing at Mae Sai

Myanmar across the river

It is Ian and Vassana's 18th wedding anniversary tomorrow so our mission for today is to search town for some 'Ye peng' (no idea on spelling) balloons to set off at night. They are made of thin paper and have a piece of fat at the bottom to light causing the balloon to fill with hot air and float up into the night sky. We manage to find some and carry them back on the motorbike.

The day comes, 24th October, and we start off with a very early trip in a couple of canoes on the lake. Vassana stays at home and supervises the work progressing with the first of the holiday Thai-style bungalows. We wheel the canoes across the road and launch in the lake. It is completely calm and peaceful and at 07:00 there is a light mist rising off the water.

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Later in the day Vassana's mum joins us and we celebrate the occasion with a bottle of Champaign - of course I just have a Fanta. We all get dressed up and go out for a fantastic meal in a really posh hotel then return home to set off our Ye peng's.

Next morning Ian is our guide again and he takes us to see how silk is farmed which was very interesting. The worms are really like caterpillars because they would turn into moths if they completed their life cycle. The worms build a cocoon when they are ready to turn into their chrysalis stage and the outer casing is made of silk - produced by the worm. The worms are grown from eggs until they reach the stage that they make the cocoon. They are then boiled in a tub and the silk unravelled from the cocoon. It is then dyed and woven into material. I helped a lady with her weaving - it was quite easy to do actually.

Unfortunately our stay with Ian and Vassana is coming to an end. We will be returning to Bangkok and continue with our travels. Here are a few last photographs from the 'Smith Estate'.

Its back to Bangkok today. Ian and Vassana drive us to Chiang Rai to catch the plane because they needed some shopping. Chiang Saen is so small that much is not available there. They take us to a unique temple on the outskirts of Chiang Rai called Wat Rong Khun. It is almost entirely white and covered in small pieces of mirror.

Well here we are back in the Dynasty Inn, Soi 4 Sukhamvit. It is now the 27th October 2005. We have booked for a week because our neighbour Kim and her sister are due into Bangkok on the 30th and we will meet up with them. We decide to go to the Vimanmek Mansion and Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple) which are both in the north of the city. We take a pre paid car from the hotel to get there. The Vimanmek Mansion was built in 1901 and was the royal residence of King Rama IV. It is the world’s largest golden teak building. We take a guided tour through the building but as with most places photography is not allowed. A lovely building with collections of china, tusks, weapons and other paraphernalia from around the world.

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We decided to go to Chatuchak market today. It is said to be the world’s largest open air market. It was certainly very large – and terribly crowded. Lots of interesting stalls but we didn’t buy anything. It really was too hot and crowded to enjoy browsing the stalls. We used the ‘Sky train’ to travel there and back. This is a super form of transport and is cheap, quick and efficient. Unfortunately it doesn’t yet cover the whole city yet but is still a great help for us staying in Sukhamvit.

We spend a few days in Bangkok visiting various places. We meet up with Kim for lunch one day. She is off to visit Lao next. In the evenings we play pool and I play with my friend outside the Dynasty. His mum has a little pavement stall which she sets up each evening. Everything is happening along our street - I even have my nails done by the nail lady opposite our hotel. There is a young elephant that is paraded along the pavements in the evening. I buy sugar cane for 20 Baht a bag to feed him with.

We fly to Cambodia on the 2nd November then return to Bangkok on the 10th.

After returning to Bangkok for a couple of days we fly south to Phuket for a few days to relax by the beach. Although Phuket was named as one of the areas hit by the Tsunami it did in fact escape quite lightly compared to other areas in Thailand and around Asia. We stay in a nice hotel which is popular as a Scandinavian resort and enjoy the pool and beach. I tried boogie-boarding but it was very difficult because the surf was so big. Mummy was stung by a jellyfish tentacle.

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Because it is a tourist resort hotel there is lots happening eat day. I make all sorts of things at the kids club in the day and in the evenings there are shows. One night there is a fire-eater and another a magician who also make things out of balloons.

On the 19th November 2005 move on to Khao Lak in Phang Nga province It is about a 2 hour drive north from Surin beach, over the bridge to the mainland. Khao Lak was particularly badly hit by the Tsunami last Boxing Day and the devastation was still quite apparent during our drive north. We have arranged to stay at the Andaburi Resort which dad found on the internet. It is a really nice place with lots of beautiful flowers in the gardens. We stay in a bungalow near the pool.

Daddy hires another motorbike so we get out and about and explore Khao Lak. It rains quite often because the monsoon isn't over yet but it is still hot and sunny in between showers. We visit lots of beaches along the coast which was until the Tsunami, a holiday paradise. The devastation is till all around. There are lots of new houses and hotels being built but much of the area is just like a wasteland. The hotel where we are staying was high enough up the hill to escape the huge waves.

Along the road from our hotel are a group of restaurants and an internet cafe. They are all newly built or in the process of being rebuilt following the Tsunami. We go to one of the restaurants quite regularly because they have a little Pug dog there called Tina and she is really friendly to us. There is also a ginger kitten living at the local shop and I take her back to our room sometimes. Mummy likes to stroke her too.

On the 22nd November we take an elephant ride in the jungle and a dip by some waterfalls. There are just the three of us and a German tourist from our hotel – ‘Toolie’. The elephant start point is about a 25 minute drive north. We arrive at the trekking place and the three of us have an elephant to share – the largest one there – and Toolie has his own. Off we set into the jungle. And this really is jungle, well with a small trail to follow, but with overhanging creepers and branches to avoid. Lot’s of bugs about as well. We pass through a couple of rubber plantations and see raw latex being collected and also the treated material drying.

We continue on to the first waterfall on our trail. We have to leave the elephant and clamber through the jungle for a few hundred metres. On arrival we find a nice small waterfall and me and mummy actually stand under it - it is freeeezing.

We return to the elephant and head back to the trekking base – about an hour away. On arrival and when dismounting the elephant I spot something on my foot – it’s a leech and it must have jumped on when we walked back from the waterfall to the elephant. It turned out that mummy and Toolie also had leeches so there was blood all over the place. I didn't make a fuss at all, mummy wasn't too pleased and Toolie  was actually quite horrified.

We are off back to Bangkok again tomorrow. Here are some pictures that mummy took of the lovely flowers that grow all around the hotel and road side.

We return to Bangkok on the 28th November then the next morning we take the bus to Pattaya to visit more of daddy's friends. We are only going for a couple of days because we have to return to Bangkok to meet up with Rod who is arriving on the 4th December. As we know Bangkok so well now we are going to be his tour guides. We meet up with Alan and his wife Joom at an AIDS charity event and play pool to raise money. We also go out for supper together. Next day we go to an elephant show. They explain how the elephants are now all retired and don't work in the logging industry anymore. It was quite interesting to see the elephants working as a team moving huge logs. We also got the chance to ride on them and feed them coconuts and sugar cane.

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We return to Bangkok on the 3rd December ready to meet up with Rod. We are sitting waiting in his hotel when he arrives - what a surprise he gets. We spend our last few days in Bangkok showing Rod some of the sights. He is going to go off to Pattaya for a few days when we leave for our next stop. Rod and daddy play lots of pool - of course - and drink really big beers.

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And finally here are the most important pictures. This little dog is called Yong Yong and lives in the chemist shop around the corner from the Dynasty hotel. I used to go and visit her almost everyday that we were in Bangkok. The lady that owned her would let me take Yong Yong for walks along Sukhamvit Road. She is a really soppy, friendly dog and would roll over to be petted as soon as I entered the shop. Here she is with me, mummy and Rod.

 

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