Asia first timer trip report

Jan 18th, 2006, 03:53 PM
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ramble on and on and on....gleaning a lot of useful info for our upcoming trip. Thanks for the report.
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 03:57 PM
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Great report so far. I love your writing style and all the great details
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 05:12 PM
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You said, "we had both spent 3 months before this trip taking huge doses of acidophulus, bifidobacterium and stomach enzymes so by the time we hit the streets we were bulletproof and could see around corners, so we had no fear of street food." Can you elaborate on this so an idiot could understand?? I am a foodie and love to eat the "local" foods while traveling and was worried about trying things from the street vendors when I arrive in March, but I'm willing to start my "training" now.

I love your report and can only hope that I come home with even a fraction of the experiences you've shared.

Thank you!!
broncos32 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 05:19 PM
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Loving your report.

We hired Ponheary as a guide 4 years ago after reading about her here. I'm glad you had a good time with her. A co-worker of mine will be there with her next week.
I wish I'd known about visiting the schools there then. We did stop a a school and walk around a bit (my husband is a teacher) but we didn't know how to donate anything. Maybe she wasn't involved in this then. At the time, she was still a teacher herself.

I was really interested to read about your time with Tong. She sounds fantastic! I'm like you and like to play it loose with plenty of food stops. We will be going back to Bangkok (our 4th trip) and we've never had a guide while there, but suddenly, I find myself considering it.
Do you mind sharing what she charges? Is it by hour or by day?
Can you explain more about the merit-making? Tong prepared food for you to give to the monks? Did you reimburse her for this?
Was your klong tour a private longtail boat picked up on a riverside pier? Did Tong go with you on this and explain to you where you were going and what you were seeing or just set up the boat for you?

Anyway, can't wait to read more!
Kristina is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 06:25 PM
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Tong charges the same as Ratt, $45 per day. If you go out of town, you pay additional for gas.

Making merit is a Buddhist ritual. Tong explained it best when she told us that according to Buddhism, sins are not "washed away" like in the Christian faith. Your life is a vessel, into which you pour salt (bad deeds) and water (good deeds). Once you pour the salt in, it never goes away, you carry it all your life. The only hope is to dilute it with as many good deeds as possible, so you "make merit" as much as possible. The most common way is to feed the monks, who appear in the street outside the temple with their alms bowls at dawn. Monks only eat between dawn and noon and only that which is given as an alm. Tong prepared food for you us to give to the monks. We fed 18 monks (there were two of us and 9 is the lucky number) and it cost around $25.00 for the food and flowers if I recall correctly. The lotus flower represents purity and is placed on the bowl on top of the food.

But there are many ways to "make merit" and each experience is different. There's something about it that just feels right.

Upon leaving the amulet market we decided we were very hot and a klong tour would feel good. We were very near a public pier and Tong hooked us up in about 5 minutes. She did indeed go along with us and explained what we were seeing. If she hadn't been there when the bread man pulled up, I would have shooed him away thinking..."eeew, day old bread! What do I want with that?"
offwego is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 06:33 PM
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Hopefully there's a health food store near you. Go there and tell them what you're trying to do and that you want the very best acidopholus they have. If it's not refrigerated, it's no good. (The bacteria in the acidopholus is alive). These are microbes normally found in the gut that eat up bad things that get in there. Things such as heavy alcohol consumption and antibiotics and other drugs disrupt them tremendously so alot of people are sorely lacking in them and I think that's why some people get sick and other's don't.

Take double doses of it daily until you go. You can't overdose on it. If you get too many microbes in your belly, they will just run out of "nasty things" to eat and die off.

Also try to keep as much white flour and white sugar out of your diet as possible between now and then and you'll be a lean, mean street food eating machine.
offwego is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 06:41 PM
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our experience with ratt is different...yes she is pushy, but i would rather call it "inquiring", probing....she is trying to please you and take you where you want and show off her country....if she does not do that most tourists have no idea where they want or need to go...just look at the postings here on fodors....this gives some structure to your time in bkk because of the huge traffic problems in a huge city...

i think you had a totally different focus than most tourists so that is why it worked so well for you.... i think ratt would have worked well but maybe in the e mail it all seemed to wishy washy to her....too vague??? i am just guessing....

ratt's program, which she does not really have, would not have wrecked your stay...imo

now ----all those drugs?? i can't imagine putting all that in your system...but to each his own...

and ice!!!!....i have never once seen any report that suggested that any westerner should EVER use the ice in bkk especially on the the contrary....even with the drugs i personally feel you took a huge risk....would you also eat raw shell fish?? just curious....

and to prices at JT found them expensive??? for that quality?? the main store items are expensive but most things at the outlet are moderate and reasonable....a leather handbag for $75....where would you find that in usa?? wallmart made in china....

i do not intend to sound rough and contrary but this part of the trip is different than anything i have experienced in bkk in 10 trips over 11 years...again to each his own...and more power to you...
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 07:05 PM
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I'm glad that you didn't have any ill effects from your encounter with street food. Howeverm the "huge doses of acidophulus, bifidobacterium and stomach enzymes" would not have made you "bulletproof." Some studies have indicated benefit for some people in taking acidophulus after a bad bout of GI upset, but it doen't provide any immunity.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 07:47 PM
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Very true. I loaded up on high quality acidophulus before traveling to mexico one time and ended up with some horrid intestinal thing that took two weeks of antibiotics to clear up when I got home. I think it's hit or miss and offwego may have just been lucky.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jan 18th, 2006, 07:57 PM
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offwego-thanks for the details on Tong. You've given me some great ideas.

Rhkkmk-I know the general rule of thumb is to avoid ice, but my understanding is that most ice (esp in Bangkok) comes from purified water. I've drunk iced coffee all over South East Asia and not been sick yet. Maybe I'm just "lucky".
Also, offwego wasn't taking "drugs", just enzimes that already occur naturally in the body. I know they are very helpful if one has been sick, but I don't know that taking them as a prophylactic will work. They can't hurt, but I do agree with Kathie that they won't make you "bulletproof".
Kristina is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 12:21 AM
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Fantastic report, am really enjoying it and have made a note of Tongs details as i am "Hopefully" going back to BKK in May. If so i will DEFINATELY try to book with her.
Smeagol is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 06:10 AM
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OK Bulletproof is a bad word. But I stand by the recommendation to get your gut in order before putting strange things in it. Most Americans are lacking in these healthy critters. For instance, it takes 2 years for your stomach to return to normal after only a 10 day course of antibiotics.

Another reason we got so lucky with the food was that we had someone with us to guide us. We only ate at places where the food was being prepared before us, where there were lots of locals eating, everything looked clean, etc.

I disagree about proper gut health not giving immunity. To a degree it does, but certainly it can be overwhelmed by something particularly nasty in which case only antibiotics will do.

These are choices that all adult people make on their own. My travel partner and I have pretty strong constitutions anyway and I'm sure that helped. But I do stand by dosing up on GOOD acidophlus (not that crap in the grocery store).

I have seen this topic discussed here on this board ad nauseum along with the discussion about anti-malarial drugs (which we took with no side effects) and these are both decisions everyone must make for themselves.

Don't think I didn't also travel with a bag full of Immodium AD and Cipro. Thankfully, I just never had to take either.

I need to say also that I know Ratt is an outstanding guide. Her communications with me were extremely professional and efficient. Tong is also a great admirer of her ability and knowledge. I am not bashing Ratt by any stretch and I take FULL responsibility for my inability to communicate our desires. I was very vague in my missives to her and I know I made it impossible for her. Once we got hooked up with Tong I think I finally understood that there are just different kinds of travelers and we fell into the category of the maybe 15% of all people that don't like to tour in the same way most do. That's me, not her. She is doing what her clients demand and appreciate and doing a great job at it.

Most people (especially those going for the first time) would no doubt prefer to tour with Ratt in order to see many things & maximize time. Those who are looking for alot of site-seeing would be disappointed with Tong.

There are a few import stores in Austin that sell home decor items imported from Thailand. One of them is a fair-trade store that sells things similar to what we bought. The savings to buy these things in BKK would not be enough to compel me to drag it home. But again, that's just me. Perhaps it's just a difference in what's available where one lives.

Don't get me wrong. We bought plenty of stuff. I think maybe my expectation was higher.

No Bob, I would never eat raw shellfish, even in America. Gave them up about 10 years ago. Sigh.
offwego is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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I have left a message for Ponheary re Sonya. Hopefully, she knows who she is and can suggest ways to sponsor her studies before we arrive. I will be sure to pass any info on to you as soon as we hear back.
jodo is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 09:21 AM
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i also stick by no ice!! my vacations are too valuable to me to even think of taking a chance...

but we each are different and do what we want....
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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Offwego-if you find yourself agreeing with Bob (RhkKmk) the fine will be reinstituted and doubled. Payable in Baht. Bob=Salt. Hold your ground.
Gpanda is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 10:38 AM
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Great review so far offwego...can't wait for the Chiang Mai update. I also had a question regarding using Ratt as a guide. She is not available for my dates in February, but she referred Mint for our services. Has anyone used Mint thru Ratt?
cyn777 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 10:44 AM
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I hope Bob and I have the opportunity to meet up in BKK someday. I'm going to slip him a cafe yen!
offwego is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 11:07 AM
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If you meet up with Bob in BKK, here are a few suggestions:

1.Public place.

2. Daytime.

3.Sit with your back against the wall.

4. Do not order the Chicken with Cashews.

5. Be prepared to have Bob talk to the manager of the establishment for an absolute minimum of 15 minutes.

6.Double check his math when he "offers" to split the bill (See previous posts on the Boston GTG).

7.Make sure you have plenty of cash because it's 50/50 that he will have "forgotten" his wallet.
Gpanda is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 12:34 PM
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But I assume the meeting will be at the Marriott...
offwego is offline  
Jan 19th, 2006, 04:19 PM
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Offwego - maybe you did indeed manage to convey your needs to Ratt very well as she hooked you up with Tong. She must have thought that Tong would suit you well.
MaryW is offline  

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