Star Date: December 2010
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
Sawadee Ka (female) or Kup (male)!
(Hello - in Thai)
"We aren't taking our trip, our trip is taking us."
(The truth of traveling! )
Click on this link for a brief (3 min) but amazing glimpse of this planet we share! Compliments of BBC.
http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=2HiUMlOz4UQ&vq=large ( BBC Human Planet)
Bangkok, crossroads of the Orient, is an explosion of sights, sounds, colors, smells; a sensual overload. Its heart pulses round the clock. Where else can you find a street side noodle stand open 24 hours a day? Continuing our journey around the world we were dropped off on the end of our little alley, Soi Rambutri, in the heart of Bangkok's Khao San district about 1 am. We wheeled our bags down to our favorite noodle stand for a tasty order of pad thai near our guesthouse. We were relieved to find the key to our room waiting on top of the refrigerator in the lobby, as arranged via email. After a long sleep we were up exploring the area, greeting acquaintances from our many stays here, drinking fresh squeezed orange juice, buying exotic fruit at the market and later sneaking an order of Thai spring rolls from welcoming Quai's stand on the corner. We were back and loving every sight, taste and smell. This quiet alley in this noisy, thriving metropolis has been our "Home away from Home" for years.
But not all was calm on the home front in 2010. In March the city was awash with a sea of red shirts, protestors bringing light to their cause. After years of control by the ruling party, the people of Thailand want a change. For weeks the protests continued, the red tide expanding. Concentrated around Central World Mall, the wall was emblazoned with a large banner: "Together We Can!" As numbers increased the government felt threatened and violence broke out. After days of fighting, crowds were dispersed, negotiations finalized.
All is back to normal for now in Bangkok, capitol city of the Land of Smiles. For now this city that percolates 24 hours a day is as if nothing had happened. During rush hour the roads are bumper to bumper with a wild rainbow of taxicabs, pink, yellow, green, blue, purple; 'tuk tuks' darting in-between. When we can't take the noise or confusion any longer we just hide away in our quiet little alley or we escape the traffic by sneaking down a narrow walkway from the congestion to the quiet space of the river. Joseph was first here in 1961. The city was like Venice, with people travelling by 'klongs' or canals everywhere instead of roads. Today you can ride from one end of the Chao Praya River to the other for mere pennies, catching the cool breezes and views of life along the river or in the glistening temples or 'wats'.
In all our time in the U.S. there had been a 'puka' or something missing in our visit. Son Kevin had sold his house, truck and business to embark on a year's 'walkabout' around Australia. Missing him dearly, we arranged to meet him for a couple weeks in Thailand. Having just finished an overland 4x4 adventure through the Outback of 'Ozzieland' he was full of stories and excitement as we hopped on a river taxi to the Nontha Bri Market at the end of the ferry line on Chao Praya River. Soon we were exploring the back alleys amid mountains of bananas, mangostein, aromatic Thai herbs and vegetables of every color. Further back we carefully picked our way past tubs of writhing snakes, toads, eels, b.b.q bugs, brightly colored fish and several unidentifiable items to finally sit down for a plate of noodles with the locals.
For the next few days we walked the alleyways, took in the vibe amid the cacophony of Khao San road, cooled off in the upscale Siam Paragon Mall and even took care of dental problems at our favorite dentist. Evenings found us back at Mr. Yims, the best vegetarian Thai cook in the whole world! He whips up fresh mouth watering food for hundreds of people in his stand along Soi Rambutri alley every night for about $1 a plate. When we are hungry abroad we have visions of Mr Yim dancing in our heads.
Traveling in general and the buzz of Bangkok can wear you out so we went in search of a week of sun and sand. We found just what we needed in Bang Bao on the southern shore of Koh Chang Island, 5 hours from Bangkok. First we hung out for a couple of days up on a scenic ridge top overlooking both sides of the bay. Moving to Kong Koi Beach, we spent our days lazing in the shade of the coconut trees along the ocean, reading, writing and catching up.
One day we took a truck into
the mountains of the island's lush jungle. There we met Thong
an enormous bull elephant with daunting ivory tusks. He and Ao took us
slowly through the jungle, with Kevin as 'mahut' or driver for the
last half of the trip. We picked a big 'pomelo' grapefruit-type
fruit from the
top of a tree and ate it while making our way through the jungle and
across streams. Riding through Ao's
village of mostly elephant handlers, we were surprised how poor it was,
when the rest of Thailand is growing and becoming more prosperous.
On the way home we jumped off the truck at Lonely Beach. A
backpackers haven it was full of shops, tattoo parlors and bars.
Home to a monthly "Full moon Party" this place is noisy and crowded
and we were glad to get back to the serenity of Kong Koi Beach.
A couple of days later we went out on a boat to snorkel 4 surrounding islands. There was a surprising variety of multicolored tropical fish and we spent hours in the warm turquoise water surrounded by schools of every shape and size, amongst vibrant coral. Kevin & I paddled a kayak around one island, well almost around it. All was fine until we started to lose control. Puzzled Kevin told me to "Sit still" and I told him, "Don't lean to one side" just before the kayak rolled. 'Huli huli'! Stranded we hung on the kayak then started swimming back to the boat. Seems the kayak had developed a leak and slowly filled with water. We laughed when they asked if we wanted to take out another kayak. Enough was enough. We were just glad that someone was around to help.
Returning for an orange sunset
we ate Thai food down by Bang Bao's pier. One of our favorite
places to eat was next to the fruit stand and taxis in Bang Bao. We were welcomed to eat tasty simple dishes with
his family, some of the friendliest people on the island. Once the restaurant closed the family would often have a b.b.q.
while singing and playing guitar. They sure know how to have
fun and make great
Thai food in Thailand!
Not wanting to leave our oceanfront hideaway we finally had to catch the ferry then mini van down to the border for a 'visa run'. Thailand has basked in their popularity for years and now with fewer people learning English, visas set at 1 month instead of 3, and smiles becoming more jaded, travelers are instead looking at neighboring countries.
Crossing the border into Cambodia was entertaining. Wanting to charge triple the amount for entry in Thai baht, Joseph asked the immigration officer her name and number, while taking a photo of everyone in the office. Quickly they bargained down for the price of the visa from $50 to $25 (it is $20 at any other border crossing). Away we went in a taxi over the bridge to the island of Krong Koh Kong. Checking into the Blue Moon we spent our days exploring the markets and waterfront. Delicacies on the menus included porcupine fish, stingray and raw pork to name a few. A plethora of seafood is waiting to be caught amongst the islands and massive mangrove coast. This little place is shifting from a seedy border town to a center for eco tourism in the beautiful nearby parks, jungles, islands, and Cardamom Mountains. It is immediately apparent how poor Cambodia is compared to Thailand. War takes it's toll on the people, economy and infrastructure. (Just check out the condition of the schools and crumbling infrastructure in the USA).
Cambodia, as with Rwanda, suffered at the hands of fellow countrymen and military. In 1979 Pol Pot and Leng Sary were sentenced to death in absentia for their horrendous slaughter of 2 million fellow countrymen during the reign of terror of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. They were defended by American lawyer, Hope Stevens. As an Afro-American she described herself as an expert on the genocide, torture, lynching's and deprivation of her people's human rights. The United States historically has dirty hands in the treatment of Afro-Americans and Native Americans. She labeled Pol Pot and Leng Sary as "criminally insane murderers" as a long parade of witnesses told the gory details of mass murdering, often without bullets because they cost too much to use. It was another appalling example of humankind's cruelty towards one another. We are the only animal on earth who commits such acts against each other. The trial was of great international discussion due to discrepancies but little retribution was felt by the victims families. Leng Sary was even pardoned in exchange for working with the government that followed the overthrow of their regime. Now 31 years later, a more legitimate tribunal recently sentenced Kang Guek Euv, Pol Pot's chief executioner to the rest of his life behind bars. Only the victims can be the judges if true justice is finally being carried out. People move on. The welcoming spirits of the Cambodians is proof that time heals all wounds.
We returned to Bangkok on Christmas Eve, just in time to call and wish Happy 33rd Birthday to daughter Mariah and 1st birthday to Grand daughter Kayla. Our usual singing, a family tradition, got the local dogs howling and smiles from the people around us. Skype is always fun. We went to Siam Paragon in search of Christmas music or festivities but even though shops were decorated and the lobby had a fantastic 20 ft. Austrian crystal tree it didn't render up the spirit of the day. Let's face it, I always wish we could be with family on Christmas. Family & friends are the only disparity in my life on the road.
New Years Eve was a whirl of
activity. To celebrate with the locals take the river taxi to
Sanam Luang field opposite the Grand Palace (see below).
Loaded with food stalls, bands playing and fireworks at midnight.
Since we had seen the traffic jams at Christmas and the river taxi's
stopped running about 7pm we decided to seek out entertainment by foot.
A quick trip around the side roads found Khao San Road in absolute
bedlam while our street had a live band and a fun crowd dancing in
the street. It was there we brought in another year, 2011, wide
open and full of possibilities. May it be as full of wonder &
awe, joy & good health as the last. New Year, New Beginning.
Each day is a precious gift, make it count!
And so it goes.........................................Next month exploring the stunning country of South Africa, surprises around every corner. Thanks for sharing our site with all your friends and family. Pass the word around. Be the 100th monkey towards change on our precious planet. It needs our help! Glad you stopped by. Take care and keep in touch!
Love, Light &
$1.00US = 30Thai Baht
$1.00US = 4000 Cambodian Riel
THINK BEFORE GIVING MONEY TO BEGGING CHILDREN - POSTER IN CAMBODIA.
Turn left at end of Soi Rambutri - walk down left side of street for about 2 blocks - very professional and friendly - they speak English. Not all dentists are the same in the office. Let us know if you can recommend a good one. Joseph had all the mercury removed from his teeth, or I should say repaired from an incomplete job done in Uganda. He checked at the Dental College near Siam Paragon and although it was a bit cheaper you had to return many times to have all the work done. Better to just go to Dental Time. The Dental Time next to Burger King at the end of Khao San Rd. is more expensive but just as good. It costs about 500 baht per surface filling, discounts for a lot of work.
We have been to Bangkok so many times we forget to include sites to visit such as the Grand Palace, the water taxi up and down the river (drop off along the way at Chinatown, etc), the national museum, the floating markets. Ayuthaya is a 2 hour drive from the city. A smaller version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia but with tickets so cheap why not just fly on Air Asia to see the real thing? Don't miss an up close encounter with a 600 lb. tiger the Tiger Monastery in Kanchanaburi about 3 hours away.
Also check out past webpages
for more info on Thailand: click here to see
Roof Garden (Sun) Guesthouse, 62 Soi Rambutri,
Sunset along the river with the locals is a relaxing event. Just head down the alley from Soi Rambutri towards the Chao Praya River and keep walking 1-2 blocks until you come to a sharp right bend in the road. The park is on the left side along the road and is a fun people watching place. The impressive span bridge lights up at night.
Don't miss going to see the 'circus' at night along Khao San Rd., and the lights along Chao Fa Blvd are spectacular, especially around the time of the King or Queen's birthdays. The Grand Palace and a ride up the Klongs are not to be missed. The list of sights in Bangkok is endless.
Take the river taxis up and down the river. At the far end, away from city center, is Nontha Bri Market. Get off at the clock tower at the end of the line. Amazing sights to behold. The taxis run back every 30 min until 7pm, but you would want to leave before dark.
Pantip Plaza: Computer heaven in Bangkok. If they don't have it, it doesn't exist. Bus #15 or 47 from near Khao San.
New Year's Eve Thai style: Take the river taxi before 7pm from Soi Rambutri to Tha Chang pier and walk to the field opposite the Grand Palace. You will need to patiently take a land taxi back to Khao San. If there is ever question of a possible traffic jam bargain for the price ahead - point to point, or it will cost too much via meter. Once you know the prices you can bargain - ask a local standing next to you. Meter is better if you don't know the cost.
The 'tuk tuks' will offer you a
cheap city tour or ride to the malls if you stop and shop in a
jewelry or tailor shop. They get a gas coupon -
whether you buy or not. We have helped out a couple of drivers
when we had extra time. DON'T take the tuk tuks back during
rush hour (5:30-7pm) or you will get gassed to death in the jam.
The Happy Cow website lists vegetarian places in Bangkok, but every restaurant can whip you up something vegan in a jiff. They love vegetables here and haven't added all the terrible western diet items yet.
A little ferry crossing to Pra Arthic pier from behind Soi Rambutri to Wang Lang has a small organic vegetable produce market. Just ask.
Ethos Vegetarian & Organic Restaurant. Left at Burger King on the end of Khao San Rd, right down alley, left into lane. Tasty food, juices and deserts.
Siam Paragon, Gourmet Grocery: Longing for anything familiar overseas? You can find it here! Also has a delicious salad bar you can eat safely and a whole organic vegetable section to purchase.
Tamarind Vegetarian Restaurant:
www.airasia.com is still the cheapest airline in Asia. Great service, modern planes, young energetic staff, great safety record. Go to their website and sign up for their newsletter. You will get notices for the 1 million free or reduced seats they give away annually. Just got a notice that for under $40 we could fly from Kuala Lumpur to London, 4 places in India, 5 places in China and less to inter Asia destinations. Professional - reliable website. Don't miss them. From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok is only $10-15. We also heard Jet Star is cheap from Bangkok.
Highly recommended on the southern island Koh Samui: Lemai Beach - Green Villas. Bungalows only 350 b per day near the beach.
Koh Chang Island:
Once you get to the north end
of the island it costs 120 baht (posted) to Bang Bao at the complete
southern end of the island (about 40 min). Riding in the back
of a covered truck 'sawngthaew' is kind of expensive so plan your trips
around the island wisely. Chartering to a remote beach is also
expensive so find others to share with you. You can walk to
Kong Koi Beach, about 1 mile from Bang Bao but better to check it
out first as the K.K.B. Huts are often full.
Their are several good restaurants along the pier for some tasty Thai food at sunset.
Great snorkeling- go about 1 km up the hill away from the pier. Turn left at Nisa Cabana. Continue about 700 m to the end. The shore
near Paradise Bungalows has great snorkeling.
Check out the Koh Chang Bang Bao Boat for dependable service in booking snorkeling (500 b p.p.) or the elephant rides (500 b p.p. or 900 to include giving your elephant a bath). Located on the right side across from 7-11 phone #084 -661886
Kong Koi Beach:
Krong Koh Kong:
Don't miss the Cambodian treats sold in a shop along the main road at night. Tiny cubes of sago or rice or agar-agar in all colors, mixed with banana, doused with coconut milk. Yum
Never know what you are going to find in the