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.   ( 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 Yacht, 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.

Carefully smuggled in my bag were the spices to create a Christmas dinner.  We went shopping in town, turning the 3 little stores upside down for the right ingredients.  It took Kevin & I over 2 hours in less than ideal conditions, to whip up mashed potatoes, mushrooms and tofu in gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberries with mandarins.  Instead of pumpkin pie for desert we finished with fresh mangoes over tapioca in coconut cream.  A mouth watering meal, we stuffed ourselves in a pre holiday feast then kicked back besides the ocean.

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 Lon and 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!

His final evening Kevin treated us to a meal at the neighboring resort and me to a luxurious massage under the palm trees next to the lapping waves.  Off he went on the ferry to embark on the next leg of his Australian adventure, open to whatever happens.  It was great to have been part of his walkabout.

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 & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph


Travel notes:

$1.00US = 30Thai Baht

$1.00US = 4000 Cambodian Riel


Dental Time:  Khao San
Dr. Thanathon  (excellent)
Tele# 02-629-0344  Fax 02-641-8991
177 Jakrapong Rd., Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakorn, 10200

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
Jan 2008 or March 2009 on the homepage.

Roof Garden (Sun) Guesthouse, 62 Soi Rambutri,
Phra-Athit Rd., phone #: 02-6290626, email:  Get a room in the new section in the back, (521 or 421 at the top of the stairs), these rooms have an extra side window with good air and light.  Spacious rooms, newly done, at 400b a night (360b weekly rate paid up front) these are a good deal and a real step up from many of the dingy rooms for backpackers.  Soi Rambutri alley has all the amenities for travelers and is like Khao San Road 20 years ago.  The management of the hotel (Mama and Papa and son Art) are a bit indifferent but Nee at the internet/travel agency on the ground floor, is really helpful (# 081 8477682)

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.

Vegan in Bangkok:
Good Karma - Thailand's online health food store.

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:
Next door at the international food court on the 5th floor of MBK Plaza.  Great, fresh cooked to order dishes.  Choose your veggies and have them cooked to taste. 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:
Take the large luxury bus right to the island from Soi Rambutri for 300 baht.  They say 4 hours but it really is closer to 6 hours.  If you pay for your return at the ferry it is only 250 baht.  They give you a phone number to call one day in advance.

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.

Bang Bao:
The friendliest family and the best simple food in Bang Bao - the small restaurant next to the fruit stand (same side heading out of town).  Lost the piece of paper with correct names but this family is just great and their food is very tasty for only 40-50 baht.  We shared lots of fun over food.

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.

Bang Bao Cliff Cottages:  A relaxing, scenic sitting area and restaurant ( too pricey -120 baht per curry) overlooking the bay.  Wifi free.  A 10 minute walk from the pier.  Very rustic cottages, some with stunning views, with small balconies/ shared toilet - 350 b.  Fancy a/c rooms 600b.  phone # 08590 46706  Let friendly Euan and his Thai wife make you feel at home.

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:
(About 1 mile walk from Bang Bao)
K.K.B. Huts: on Kong Koi Beach are simple but clean thatched huts with attached baths/shower; 350 baht per hut per night. 400 baht for short stays.  Gay and the woman owner and her brother are really friendly and helpful.  Her boyfriend isn't but chose your people to deal with.  For our 10 day stay we walked to town, bought fruit, veggies for salad, and 20 lt bottles of water and hired a ride back.  Just get off at the bridge and get a cart from the K.K.B.  Huts to carry your stuff.  The draw of course is the quiet beach with chairs in the shade under the coconut trees.  Take a swim, read, sip a coconut or eat at one of the many shops along the beach.  At dusk the beach clears out completely and you have it to yourselves without the thud thud of music.  The place next door is luxury 2 bedroom units at 3000 baht and up.  Best to swim in front of their place.  Don't miss a massage for 1 hour for 300 baht under the tree in front of their hotel - the best. 

Around the corner is the Tropical? Hotel.  Indifferent staff and small servings of food. Free wifi sometimes.  Rooms from 800 baht and up.  No more hotels on this beach.  Back towards town but right near the road is a small beach with a great bunch of hippies hanging around and 2 very basic rooms for 200 baht.  An option until K.K.B. Huts open up.  Also along the way to town is Hippie Huts for 150 baht per room per night.  Again very basic but ok.  No beach and next to construction on gigantic Tranquility Bay Hotel.  The hotels on the pier are about 400 - 500 baht with some nice ones to choose from.  The traffic on the pier stops by 9pm so it's quiet but during the day it's a hub of activity.

Take a morning ferry from Koh Chang then catch a bus to Trat -  50 baht.  From there a minibus 110 baht to the border.  Share a taxi or catch a motorcycle into town - Krong Koh Kong.  It is 4 hours by boat down to Sihanoukville.

Krong Koh Kong:
Blue Moon Guesthouse - good rooms for 22,000r or $6/night.  Back up the road from the water but quiet, clean, good room w/ front porch. phone #
016 57 57 41

Ask to be taken to several guesthouses when you arrive.  Some down by the water are relaxing at sunset.  Restaurants have a good view but the rooms are back behind.

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

Phnom Penh:
Go Vegan.  Save the Earth!
A recent explosion of vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the capitol is exciting news! Here is a list of places to try with all plates ranging from 3,000 - 8,000 r
The Vegetarian: 11 Street 200 (most meals one dollar!),
Evergreen: 109 Street 130 (4,000 - 7,000r) Owners strict vegans.
K'Nyay: 25K Suramarit Boulevard
Mao Xiang Xi Healthy Vegetarian Rest: 699 Monivong Boulevard:  Excellent look alike meat recipes, 4000 -7000














Buddhist monks enjoying the breeze on the river ferry.


Beautiful orchids everywhere.


Glistening 'Wats' (temples) are islands of serenity in the busy city.


A golden Buddha in the Wat next to our alley.


A long awaited reunion with Kevin in front of our
Guesthouse on Soi Rambutri


Soi Rambutri is a little oasis in the midst of the confusion of Bangkok.


Pad Thai to go!


The other end of the alley at night, filled with jazzed up
international travelers and locals.

Millions of lights commemorate the King's 84th birthday.


An elegant Thai dancer.


Nontha Bri Market, at the end of the ferry taxi run.



Hungry?  Never know what you are going to find in the
 back of a Thai market.



A contented smile after selling us a large hand of bananas.


The ferry over to Koh Chang.


A mountainous interior with a rugged coastline hiding
white sand beaches.


Thailand is a work of art wherever you look.


Smiling, happy orchids.


The Bang Bao pier on our way out snorkeling for the day.


Boats with big lights resting after a long night fishing.


Thong Yacht, 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.


After our trek Thong Yacht had a long bath then headed home
with Ao for a well deserved dinner.


A regular guest at our favorite restaurant in downtown Bang Bao.


A shot of our remote beach, Kong Koi, taken from the zodiac as
we joined the boat for a day of snorkeling.


Another Glorious sunset.


Nothing like a massage on the beach next to the lapping waves.


Kevin treated us to a dinner in the nearby resort the night before he
left to continue his walkabout in Australia.


Coconut anyone?  Who needs a truck?


One of my favorite sleeping shots.  These guys are
professional 'nappers'!


Thatch huts are the norm in most rural areas.


We spent over an hour talking with these happy monks.


All dressed up and visiting the local temple or 'wat'.


These smiling kids spend up to 12 hours a day behind Mom's
vegetable stall in the market.




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