S: THAILAND 2012
BC: DEPARTED | THAILAND | 31 AUGUST 2012 | SA WA DEE KA
FC: THAILAND | THAILAND | ARRIVED 17 AUGUST 2012 | Thailand officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam is a country located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest.
1: August 16th, Thursday - the adventure begins! I gave Jeremy the wrong directions to the airport. I was a bit nervous about being late. Headed up to the first class area. Of course, there was a big storm in Chicago, so the plane is delayed. Then, traipsing through O'Hare Airport was quite a feat, but finally ended up at Cathay Pacific. What a delight. "My" first class suite was even stocked with my own sleeping suit. What amazing food, service and comfort! We had caviar, lobster, etc. Not a bad place to sleep! Finally heading into Hong Kong which is in the midst of a Typhoon. A bit bumpy! On to next flight! Arrived in Bangkok midnight August 17th, Friday. Transferred to Century Park Hotel.
2: August 18th Saturday, - Bangkok City Tour Woke up and joined the members of the tour for an intro meeting. Some had yet to arrive and others were to join later. Group is 29. No eligible men. A few gay men, a few couples , some friends traveling together and a few singles. It is monsoon season, so as predicted ,the rain came down in troves. We were caught in it! In the afternoon,we went on a half day city and temple tour to introduce us to Bangkok, the “City of Angels”. Drove through Chinese Town, the Indian Market, and the Wholesale Flower Market. We travelled along the Royal Avenue where most of the Government offices are located as well as the Palace of the Present King.Traffic is intense, but everyone accepts it and you never even hear a horn blast. We ate at the Siam Niramit Restaurant before a stunning performance "The Journey to the Enchanted Kingdom of Siam". Boasting over 150 performers, this $40 million production delved into Siam's history and culture, Tonights show was great, although jet lag set in and everyone was dozing.
3: Bhumibol Adulyadej is the reigning King of Thailand. He is known as Rama IX. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. Although Bhumibol is legally a constitutional monarch, it is believed that he has made several decisive interventions in Thai politics. He was credited with facilitating Thailand's transition to democracy in the 1990s, although he has supported numerous military regimes, including Sarit Dhanarajata's during the 1960s and the Council for National Security in 2006–8. He has authorized over 15 coups, 16 constitutions, and 27 changes of prime ministers. He has also used his influence to stop military coups, including attempts in 1981 and 1985. Bhumibol is advised by a hand-picked Privy Council. Bhumibol is respected and revered by many Thais.The King is legally considered "inviolable" and it is offense against the dignity of the monarch, which may be punished. The King and Queen Sirikt pictures adorn homes and streets throughout the country. They are both in very frail health. Consort Sirikit (Since 28 April 1950) Issue Ubolratana Rajakanya Vajiralongkorn Sirindhorn Chulabhorn Walailak House House of Mahidol Chakri Dynasty Father Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla Mother Srinagarindra Born 5 December 1927 (age 84) Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States Signature Religion Buddhism Bhumibol Adulyadej (Thai: ; RTGS: Phumiphon Adunyadet; pronounced [pumípon dunjádt] ( listen); see full title below; born 5 December 1927) is the reigning King of Thailand. He is known as Rama IX. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. Although Bhumibol is legally a constitutional monarch, it is believed that he has made several decisive interventions in Thai politics. He was credited with facilitating Thailand's transition to democracy in the 1990s, although he has supported numerous military regimes, including Sarit Dhanarajata's during the 1960s and the Council for National Security in 2006–8. He has authorized over 15 coups, 16 constitutions, and 27 changes of prime ministers. He has also used his influence to stop military coups, including attempts in 1981 and 1985. Bhumibol is advised by a hand-picked Privy Council. Bhumibol is respected and revered by many Thais. The King is legally considered "inviolable" and lse majesté, that is offence against the dignity of the monarch, may be punished. In 1957, the overthrow of the government was justified with allegations of lse majesté. Bhumibol however invited public criticism in a 2005 speech. | TUK TUK | VICTORY MONUMENT
5: Visited Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), the oldest and first school for people in the olden days. We saw the famous golden Reclining Buddha statue, 150 feet long and 40 feet high.
9: August 19th Sunday - THE FLOATING MARKET
11: August 20th Monday - Kantari Hotel Ayutthaya is the second and most prosperous capital of Thailand, from 1350-1767. We stopped at Bang Pa In Royal Palace which was the royal summer palace for Thai kings. Originally constructed in 1632, the complex fell into disrepair. In the mid-1800's, King Mongkut restored the site to its former glory. Upon arrival in Ayutthaya, we enjoyed the sunset at Chai Wattanaram Temple. This temple was built by King Prasat Tong, who was actually a commoner who overthrew the previous king and took his throne.
13: Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Grand Palace For just about 150 years, Bangkok's Grand Palace was not only the home of the King and his court, but also the entire administrative seat of government. Within the crenelated walls were the country's war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Thai Kings stopped living in the palace full time around the turn of the twentieth century, but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.
14: August 21st Tuesday Sukhothai. Travelled north to Sukhothai, which was founded in the 13th Century by King Ramkhamhaeng, as the capital of Siam Some of the most beautiful Thai art and architecture were produced during Sukhothai's golden era - between the 13th and 14th centuries. Modern Sukhothai is made up of the old town and new town. The old town of Sukhothai mainly consists of the large Historical Park, where most of the remains of the original city can be seen. This historical site has marvelous ancient Buddha figures, palace buildings and ruined temples. The newer section is a memorial park with a statue to Ramkhamhaeng the Great - Thai king, ascribed to have invented the Thai alphabet in 1283. There is also a large lake where you feed the fish as a sacrifice.
16: The principal monuments include the monastery (wat) Mahathat, with its royal temple and its cemetery; Sra Si Wat, with its two stupas, their graceful lines reflected in the water of the town's biggest reservoir; and an impressive prang (reliquary tower typical of Ayutthaya art) from a somewhat later period.
18: Legendha Sukhotai Hotel The Buddhist Monks arrive daily at 6 am to collect donations of food cooked by the locals. They walk miles each day to do this! No words are spoken. | The hotel was beautiful, set in a lush tropical setting.
19: At 4am, music started drifting through the windows and woke us up. It was a Thai Funeral.
21: Wat Chang Lom, which was situated in back of our hotel, is quite unique because of the 39 elephant statues surrounding the 4 corners of the chedi. Similarly, some 17 smaller Buddha statues encircle the structure, with the crumbling stairs leading to the largest Buddha at the top. None of the statues are in good conditions; some are headless, dismembered while others are barely discernible. It goes to show that Sukhothai was at one stage in time a flourishing and mighty kingdom.
22: Asian "Happy Room" | Rice paddies Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter | Water Buffalo
23: Yet another Reclining Buddha & Temple
25: The White Temple, Chiang Rai (Northern Thailand) Chalermchai Kositpipat, the Thai artist created this strange mix of old traditional Buddhism with modern art. The piece de resistance is its enormous mural of an earthly hell featuring crumbling twin towers, comic book characters, Neo from the Matrix, and even a demon that looks suspiciously like Jabba the Hutt. The temple’s provocative murals challenge Western culture, our materialistic instincts, our obsession with violent imagery and humanity’s war-like ways.
26: Welcome to Myanmar formerly Burma We traveled to the town of Mae Sai, the northern-most point of Thailand, on the border of Myanmar. Here we crossed over into Myanmar to see the markets and temples.
28: Myanmar's Food Market
32: We stopped at the infamous Hall of Opium. This tour combined a visit to the museum of the history of opium where the impact of illegal drugs was highlighted, along with a visit to the information center for research and extensive education on opium, opiates and other narcotics. | Le Meridien Chang Rai Resort Truly gorgeous!
34: Later, we visited the night bazaar for an evening of shopping for the local wares of Chiang Rai. It poured! Cockroaches and worms were common fare.
36: The Mekong River, is 2,703 miles long and originates from the Tibetan Plateau. It runs through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The section of the river at this Golden Triangle flows through the spot where three countries Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Thailand meet. We boarded a motor boat and cruised slowly along the banks of these three countries, near enough to really shout "Hello" to those villagers who were living here along the banks. We continued on to Don Sao, a small island of Laos. The amount of knock offs of pocketbooks, shirts, etc. was unbelievable. Let's not forget the local liquers made from snakes, turtles, frogs and alligators. The poverty was so apparent.
40: There are six main hill tribes found in Northern Thailand. Each tribe is divided into clans or subgroups, which have distinct customs, rituals and clothing. The Lahu, Akha and Lisu have languages with common linguistic roots (Yi/Lolo of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages) and migrated into Thailand from Yunnan via Burma.
41: Living in remote upland areas, the hill tribes were left to practice subsistence agriculture relatively undisturbed until the 1950's. Then their increasing numbers, their poverty and the threat of insurgency encouraged the government to exert greater control.Royal Projects and both government and international aid development projects began promoting cash crops such as coffee, red kidney beans, potatoes and cabbages. The programs have been very successful in bringing hill tribe villages into the cash economy and in reducing opium production.
43: This store was too funny! It openly supports birth control in a country that was once opposed to even a discussion about it!
45: We traveled northwest along the Mae Sa Valley, with its scenic botanical gardens and ten-tiered waterfalls, to visit the Mae Sa Elephant Training Camp. We saw elephants bathing in the running streams and demonstrating their daily feats of skill and strength in a show with music and dance, a soccer match, and even an abstract painting demonstration. The elephant poop is collected downstream of the baths to make elephant dung paper! Even more impressive is the camp's goal to protect the endangered Thai Elephant by controlled breeding, a program which has flourished since it was established in 1995. We rode on the back of a Thai Elephant, which was truly a memorable experience.
54: Lunch at the Orchid Farms!
57: The Karen Tribe migrated to northern Thailand from Myanmar (Burma) in the 17th century and are the largest of all of the Hill Tribes in Thailand now numbering 400,000. Mistreated by their own country, the Karen Tribe fled to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and around the Golden Triangle living in their traditional-style all of these years. Only the Padaung females wear these rings from the age of five or six and never take them off. According to their myths, it is said the rings protect them from the bite of a tiger while others think the rings are a sign of beauty and wealth. The brass rings appear to elongate the women's necks but medical evidence has shown that the rings actually push the color bone and upper ribs down.
59: Shopping for ingredients for my cooking class!
60: THAI BASIL COOKING SCHOOL | MAKING PANANG CURRY PASTE | SETTING OUT THE INGREDIENTS | PAPAYA SALAD | SHRIMP WITH GREEN CURRY | PAD THAI PREPARATION
61: STICKY RICE WITH MANGO | BLACK GLUTINOUS RICE WITH COCONUT | FRIED BANANAS WITH ICE CREAM
62: The Ladyboys of Thailand Acceptance of Kathoey/Ladyboys Ladyboys really are quite prominent in Thailand and are seemingly accepted by society, not only in the cities but in the countrysides as well. It seems as though it is the relaxed attitude of acceptance and tolerance in Buddhism that keeps people from shunning their lifestyles, although many other Buddhist countries are not as willing to accept a ladyboy living their lives in public. Thai Buddhism specifically does not regard homosexuality as a sin and has no specific prohibitions regarding their lifestyle. Though Kathoey continually face discrimination, are gaining acceptance and have made themselves a very distinct part of the Thai society, they still have not yet attained equal status with those who are not transgender..
63: SOME OF THEM ARE SO GORGEOUS!
65: OUR FABULOUS GATE ONE TRAVEL GUIDE CHAI
66: August 26th Sunday - Chiang Mai We enjoyed a half day city and temple tour, and visited the most interesting temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Suan Dok, where the remains of the Chiang Mai Royal family are enshrined. We continued to Wat Phrathad Doi Suthep, erected in 1384 A.D. Located 3500 feet above sea level, Wat Phrathad Doi Suthep is Northern Thailand's most sacred temple, containing a holy relic of Lord Buddha and a copper-plated chedi topped by a tiered gold parasol in its interior cloister. Equally impressive is the mythological Naga (Dragon-headed serpent) staircase, consisting of 290 steps leading up to the temple grounds. In the evening we shopped at the Night Market!
75: We had dinner in what they told us was a local typical Chiang Mai family home, but really it was the mansion of Gate 1 managers! We had a tour of the home, enjoyed the savors of home cooked Thai cuisine and had a special floatinglantern ceremony!
76: JAMES BOND ISLAND
77: August 28th, Monday We were rained out of our excursion so we went for facials and foot massages! Amazing! Beautiful shopping Mall! August 29th,Tuesday We had a full day excursion to Phang Nga Bay and Lawa Island.We cruised through Phang Nga Bay, one of the most unusual and beautiful coastal locations in the world. We canoed through the mangrove jungles and limestone peaks, where the cliff faces rise vertically from the sea. Koh Ping Kan island was made famous by the James Bond film "The Man With The Golden Gun." Koh Pannyi Sea Gypsy Island is a village built over the water on wooden stilts, and is guarded by a giant rock monolith. Then we cruised to Lawa Island to relax on its white-sand beach. I was so sick!
78: PHUKET | I travelled to Phuket! Burasari Palace
80: BAT CAVES | BAT CAVES
82: MEETING NICK AFTER 32 YEARS WAS ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF MY TRIP! Nick regaled me with stories of the royal family, his family and his work at Singha Beer. He is very well respected in Thailand. He even gives some of his time to the Para-olympics. | August 30th, Wednesday Returned to Bangkok Nick Bhirombhakdi and me!