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Steve and Laura amonst the Wats and Elephants

Steve and Laura amonst the Wats and Elephants

Jan 23rd, 2018, 07:08 AM
  #21  
 
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Just a quick nod to your stomach issues. Most of the better hotels throughout Thailand have a buffet breakfast, and you will find fresh fruit. Eat the papaya as often as possible - I ate it at every meal possible. It is a great digestion aid. (In fact, one of the main ingredients in meat tenderizer is papain enzyme - from the papaya. How Papaya Enzyme Benefits Your Digestion & How to Take It )

Another item we found on the breakfast menu - but only in Bangkok - was Japanese miso. Put in a little tofu and seaweed - and it's another good way to start your day.
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Jan 23rd, 2018, 07:42 AM
  #22  
 
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
" there were separate lines for Thais and foreigners "
If you go to India you will find different entrance fees for Indians and foreigners.
And the difference is usually significant.
jacketwatch is online now  
Jan 23rd, 2018, 02:18 PM
  #23  
 
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I just returned from BKK and my 21st trip there. we had 2 stays at the Penn this year. it is fantastic. do you need laundry done? we discovered a small laundry just outside the penn. walk down the drive and turn left when you reach the main road... walk along the sidewalk... cross the penn's service entrance driveway. the laundry is right there in the first couple of shops. I always use taxis... yes they are slow sometimes but still are very cheap and you get right to where you want to go---make sure the doorman gives full instructions to the driver---it also helps to have a phone number the driver can call for further directions to your destination.

an amazing lunch is daily at the lord jim restaurant at the Oriental hotel directly across the river from you... huge fresh buffet---expensive---you need a res... ask for a window table. Biscotti in the Siam Anantara is another fav of ours---across town--- taxi please.

Harmonique is also a nice, albeit unique Thai restaurant just across the river... taxi also... order yellow crabmeat curry---sweet and lux, plus tons of other thai dishes..

one reason for different lines is that thais pay less...
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Jan 24th, 2018, 05:55 PM
  #24  
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Thanks Scdreamer for the papaya advice - had some for breakfast (and does a papaya danish count?) and thank you RHKMK for the laundry advice. I did the old laundry in the bathtub routine (so gauche) and my hubby used the hotel laundry. expensive but wow were those shirts ironed!
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Jan 24th, 2018, 06:05 PM
  #25  
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Ayuthaya and onwards

Well we leave in an hour for the airport and Chiang Rai. We will be sorry to leave the Peninsula, still the best hotel we have ever stayed in. We had lunch one day at the Mandarin Oriental and while it looked very nice the staff wasn't half so friendly. I swear they pay people here to just stand around and smile at you.

anyway, on to trip report. Yesterday we met our guide, Wiboon, from Tours by locals. We've used them in the past and always found them reliable and professional and Wiboon was no exception. Usually they have their own cars, but he came with a van that would have seated ten and a driver. The van looked like something from James Bond - wild. Anyway, he was very knowledgable about history, and we enjoyed chatting about modern politics as well (seems like most of the tour guides we've used are a bit on the left wing/rebellious side - maybe it is a profession that fits the nonconformist - but as we are nonconformist ourselves we enjoyed it a lot). It took about an hour to Ayuthaya. First experience with Thai squat toilets (yuck). I don't mind the squatting - really. We use port a potties a lot when we hike. the problem was how to do so without getting ones clothes wet. uggh.

but anyway, I can sum up the day as we were knocked flat by the heat and humidity - and Ayuthaya knocked our socks off. Worth it, absolutely - it was staggering in the sense of walking in the footsteps of the those who have gone before, ghostly, beautiful, spiritual. loved the birds in the ruins. But after three Wats we were flattened by the heat. We had lunch in our first down to earth, frequented by locals place. Our guide helped us order as we would have had no idea, and it was delicious - soup whose name I forgot and pork with chinese Kale. We then too a dragon boat up the river which was refreshing and a nice glimpse of peoples lives - both very fine houses and shacks often side by side. We ended at an 19th century monestary on an island built by a king who was taken with Christian architecture. We were supposed to see the summer palace then but we were too wrung out by the heat and decided to call it a day.
oops, hubby is packed - I shall finish this later.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 02:49 AM
  #26  
 
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Great, fun, informative report. Love your writing style. Looking forward to more.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 03:15 AM
  #27  
 
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Enjoying your on the go trip report! I admire people who can write while on the road (so to speak!). Enjoy Chiang Rai! Try to see the Black House in addition to the White Temple. Very different experiences. The White Temple is a very popular tourist destination but the Black House is not nearly as visited (or at least that was our experience 4 years ago). I saw them described as Heaven and Hell -- and there's a bit of truth to it, and maybe it's saying something about us, but we actually enjoyed the Black House more!
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Jan 25th, 2018, 05:03 AM
  #28  
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of Hill tribes and princesses

Thanks Progol - we have a guide tomorrow to drive us around and I will suggest the black house and see if we can work it into the itinerary.

To pick up where I left off - we got back to the hotel yesterday totally wrung out from the heat. I comforted myself with a little shopping at the hotel's Jim Thompson boutique (place mats!), and then we took a cab to J'aime - another Michilin star restaurant we had found online, located in the U-Sathorn. For those of you who might possibly be judging us negatively for all these high end meals we are having a word of explanation. We love food - both cooking and eating it, and in our little town the only restaurants are Mexican and steak houses - which are quite good but still, when we get a chance to have other food adventures we grab it with both hands.. anyway, the driver did quite well until we were about a block away, in a relatively quiet tree lined neighborhood, and then got quite confused. He had little English, but stopped to ask directions. A group of men gathered around, one of them asked if I had gps on my phone (I had already pulled up the hotel on it), I gave him my phone (a little nervous that I might not see it again), and he quickly was able to explain things to the driver. Just an illustration of how helpful and friendly everyone we meet has been. When we turned into the hotel what a surprise - all of a sudden we were in this oasis of pools and fountains and trees - just lovely. The restaurant is on the second floor. The food was excellent though not as good from my perspective as the two prior nights. Steve had pigeon, I had venison, and enjoyed patisserie for dessert. the only part that was a little weird was the maitre'd scolding us for cleaning our plates. I think we will laugh at that one for years to come.
So again, I can't speak highly enough of the Peninsula. We had a driver take us to the airport this morning and he had their airport representative meet us, he took our luggage, helped us check in and smoothed the way (drats, I didn't need to stay awake last night worrying about getting lost in the airport after all!). I have never felt so well taken care of.
The flight on Bangkok airways was smooth - took off on time (only confusing part was they boarded group 2 before group 1, but it did kind of make sense from a spacial perspective). Nice gentleman from France sitting next to me who is planning a biking tour through northern thailand. We were amazed that on a one hour flight they served lunch (didn't really look appetizing so we didn't eat it, but still I admire the effort).
I got happy as soon as we landed, the little airport is just like our home base and I loved looking out over the fields and mountains. There were school children singing by the baggage claim. We are staying at the Meridian and a representative from the hotel met us and drove us over - I think it was 45 minutes from landing to check in - probably the quickest airport departure ever. As we got closer to the hotel though we started getting a bit nervous - there seemed to be police everywhere and we were wondering if there had been some kind of incident or trouble. When we got to the hotel though all was made clear. Evidently a real live PRINCESS is staying here. She was due to arrive any minute, complete with red carpet and live music. The hotel staff was all in a tizzy - but kept assuring us that it wouldn't impact our stay (and I thought the red carpet was for me...I keep trying to tell Steve I'm a princess but he just isn't buying it). When we got home tonight we noticed a policeman standing guard outside of a door on our floor so we think the princess is our neightbor. We'd better keep the noise down lol.

But I get ahead of myself. I'd read about the hilltribe museum in the guidebook and since we arrived so early we were able to catch a cab there before it closed. It's a little place, simple exhibits and objects, but it tells very powerfully the story of what has happened to the different tribes, their current dilemma of being half part of Thailand, and yet not citizens, and how they have been exploited by westerners, as well as explaining the culture, history, impact of the drug trade, etc. We both found it moving and worthwhile. Then we wandered around, got a bit lost, found the night market, had fun buying stuff (pillow cases and gifts for the kids and their girlfriends), found a little restaurant that served both western fare (fish and chips, and weinerschnitzel ) and northern thai food. I had Kaow Soi and Steve had a beef curry. Now we are back at the hotel, chilling as the kids would say, and looking forward to seeing a whole different aspect of Thailand tomorrow.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 05:46 AM
  #29  
 
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what terrific [hotel] experiences you are having - first of all the Peninsular and now hobnobbing with a Princess no less. And please don't feel the need to apologise for eating well - we are enjoying it with you.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 06:28 AM
  #30  
 
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No need to apologize for choosing some expensive places to eat. There are other foodies here as well. And Bangkok is a place where you can get exquisite food at very reasonable prices.

Will you be back in Bangkok for a dinner before you fly out? If so, I have a recommendation for you: Gaggan. It is molecular cuisine and simply amazing!

PS if you think Bangkok is pedestrian-unfriendly, check out Hanoi!

Last edited by Kathie; Jan 25th, 2018 at 06:31 AM.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 11:25 AM
  #31  
 
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Please enjoy your meals. You are on vacation so splurge on yourselves.

I saw an episode of Bizarre Food with Zimmern which featured Bo Lan, also well rated. I hope someday we can go there again
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Jan 25th, 2018, 05:28 PM
  #32  
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we tried to book Gaggan on line before we left but it was booked solid! maybe worth a phone call though as other places have been relatively unbooked. thanks
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Jan 26th, 2018, 05:54 AM
  #33  
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The dream world of architects and addicts

So the Meriiden Chiang Rai is lovely though not quite the Peninsula. The grounds and view of the river are particularly beautifull. the place is crawling however with the Princess's security entourage. However we learned she is here for a good cause (visiting a women's prison) so we will forgive her. Steve actually got to see her as he wasn't allowed on the elevator until she had finished walking down the stairs. I realized though why all the frogs are croaking so loudly - they're all saying "kiss me" "no, kiss me" - just kidding.

I know I tend to go on about breakfasts but realized that Thai breakfasts (in hotels) are even better than the European ones as they have foods to meet the needs of so many nationalities (I had alu gobi for breakfast, and Steve had Chinese noodle soup!).

We had booked a tour today with Sergeant Kai as recommended by so many of you, but he had an injury and couldn't take the tour and sent his friend Tis instead. Tis is lovely and just easy to be around, plus flexible which suits us fine.
We started at the White Palace - a relatively new Wat/Temple. It is a marvelous fairy tail concoction which reminded me a lot of the Sagre Familia or Gaudi. Turns out the architect was a great admirer of Gaudi. Also a bit like Dante's inferno, and modern allegories painted on the walls - Osama bin Laden and George W Bush, plus Pirates of the Caribbean. And who can fail to mention the golden bathrooms. (oh a word to those who have not been before - like in Greece many of the public bathrooms ask you to put toilet paper in waste cans. We learned in Greece that if you do not do so you risk ruining the plumbing for everyone).

We took the back roads to the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet there). Tis pointed out rice fields, water buffalo, banana trees, and then pulled in so we could see a rubber tree being harvested. The farmer appeared and invited us back to see how it was done. To say that this was subsistence farming is probably no exageration. They explained to us that the governments policies have lowered prices. He lived in a set of shacks, open to the weather, what would be horrible poverty in the us, but seemed content and with no sense of distress - I can't describe it well, but it was a powerful experience for us to see his world a small bit.

We then had lunch and drove tot he Hall of Opium. It is a very modern, well done museum that shows quite powerfully the role the west played in fosteering the opium trade and the politics and history that have brought the whole world to the pass it is in today. We spent several hours there and were very glad we went. It was also very powerful just standing by the Mekong river, looking across to Laos (and the casino the Chinese are building there), and towards the mountains that form the border with Myanmar. We both grew up in the 60s and 70s and this was a place that played such a large role in our consciousness, that to see it, and to remember all that took place along its banks was also very powerful.

Got caught in traffic coming back, and were too tired to venture out tonight so had a mediocre Italian dinner at the hotel.

oh and did I mentionn the most important part - I realized to my amazement that we weren't horribly hot - the weather was absolutely perfect!. Time for bed - here are some pictures




.
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Jan 26th, 2018, 06:56 AM
  #34  
 
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Enjoying your reports - especially having just returned from a similar itinerary.

I did not really like Wat Rong Khun - the "White Temple" - thought it was gaudy and too Gaudi-like, in a bad way. Having had so many people tell me we had to see it, I was unimpressed and even a little disturbed at the carnival-like atmosphere. I'm probably just not sophisticated enough for this kind of stuff.

We, too, went to the Golden Triangle - took the obligatory boat ride, handing our passports over on demand, and receiving tourist-y faux passport stamps on the last page in return. I agree, it was interesting knowing we were on the mighty Mekong River - so much history downriver.

While we were in Chiang Rai in came a cold front - the weather went from sunny and warm to very cold and overcast, with a few spots of rain. We were staying in a charming cottage at Phowadol Resort & Spa for two nights, and of course there were no blankets - it was like camping in the winter in a freezing, but luxurious cabin. I had brought absolutely no warm clothing - lived in the thin black cardigan I wore on the flight over for the next couple days. I actually considered sleeping in it one night, but thought it would really look worse the wear if I did that. (BTW, why is it no one besides me seems to be taken by the HARD beds everywhere in Thailand? It's almost like sleeping on concrete in some places!)

I am on Day 5 being home, and today is the first day I am feeling somewhat "normal." It's still morning, so we'll see if it lasts all day. The jet lag has been pretty awful this time around - I have googled it a few times in desperation, looking for remedies, and have discovered it's always worse going west to east (check) and the more time zones crossed, the worse it will be (check - 15!) and *sob* the older one is, the more one will be affected (check). It's been a rough week for me - little undisturbed sleep, feeling like my head is full of sludge, and general malaise. Just a word to the wise - and your mileage may vary, of course.

Looking forward to more from you -
scdreamer is offline  
Jan 26th, 2018, 07:40 AM
  #35  
 
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It sounds like you are having a fine time.

I'm not a fan of her White Temple - scdreamer, I loved your gaudy/Gaudi pun!

Being on the Mekong is lovely, but the brief stop in Laos in worthless, IMO. Of course, we had come from a week in Laos before we visited the Golden Triangle, so found. the Chinese-made Laotian "crafts" sold at the tourist trap on the Laos side offensive.

It is very hard to get reservations at Gaggan. If you are sign back to Bangkok, have the concierge at your Bangkok hotel call and see if they can get you reservations. Chef's Table did an episode on Gaggan, the chef, that was very well done, I thought.
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Jan 27th, 2018, 02:14 AM
  #36  
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totally agree about the beds! andd so sorry to hear of the cold front. and yup we will be in the same jet lag hell - I use melatonin and find it helpful. Good luck
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Jan 27th, 2018, 11:06 AM
  #37  
 
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You won't be in Chiang Mai for a few more days, I would imagine, but thought I'd pass this on. We went to a Khantoke dinner while we were there, and found it to be interesting. The food was actually pretty good - not the ultra gourmet meals you have been experiencing, but reasonable tasty, and an endless supply served on a round wooden tray . The dancing was very interesting, especially the beautiful tribal costumes and indigenous musical instruments. You can sit on the floor at a low table, or at a standard-style table.

We went to Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center for our Khantoke experience - I had read that it is the least touristy, although we did see other Westerners there. After the dinner and show, there was a little outdoor "market" with tribal vendors. I found a few souvenirs there that I thought were authentic and reasonably priced.

I think you may have to make reservations in advance, we did. www.oldchiangmai.com

Looking forward to more of your trip report!
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Jan 27th, 2018, 07:10 PM
  #38  
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Over the mountains and through the woods to Chiang Mai

so I did enjoy the white temple - it was just so exuberant and fun - though certainly without the history and perhaps acquired spirituality of the older Wats. I loved the painted walls with all the hidden symbols.
So yesterday morning our guide picked us up and we said goodbye to the Meridian and the Princess (or so we thought....spooky music plays). Tis suggested that we stop at the C.R. flower show before leaving and as I am a sucker for gardens we agreed. It was lovely, free (we had walked past it the night we arrived but hadn't realized it was there). It was just lovely and sweet and lifted our spirits.
We then stopped at the black house - it reminded me of a similar artist's house I had visited back in Philadelphia, but I can't remember where that was. Anyway, again, loved the whimsy - skulls and alligator skins and everything very wicked looking but with a sense of humor - very game of thrones.
We then hit the road, driving north through gentle mountain passes (nothing like the steep ones in Colorado), very beautiful. We stopped in Tha Ton for lunch.My favorite moment of the day was when I walked over to the river just to take in the view and an old woman came up to me to sell crafts. She was Akha I think and I bought a bracelet and she let me take her picture (then kissed my hand!), later I went back and bought a few other things from her. I don't know, it just felt right meeting her in such a way - we smiled at each other a lot. It was also the best road lunch to date - cabbage soup and fried rice and chicken with ginger by the road.
Our guide then took us to the monastery at the top of the mountain - so close to Myanmar we could practically touch it. We had been talking on the ride, sharing more of our stories, and bonding over political sensibilities. He shared that he had taken part in protests after the coup, had to flee to Laos for a while, and spent time in jail when he came back. He told us he had then spent time as a monk at that monastery praying for his friends who had died and/or were in jail. We shared photos of our protest experiences with each other. (more in a minute - need to deal with airline stuff)
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Jan 27th, 2018, 08:00 PM
  #39  
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on the road to Chiang Mai continued

From the Tha Ton monastery we could see a village that Tis said is inhabited by refugees from Myanmar. We drove down the winding road to continue our journey when we were stopped by a police officer - yes you guessed it, the Princess had followed us, so we had to wait for her entourage to pass by before we could continue. By the way we learned that yellow flags lining the road are in honor of the King, the orange ones we saw were for the Princess.

We decided to skip the caves we had been planning to see as it was getting on in the afternoon. The rest of the drive through the mountains was just gorgeous - this is the part of travel I like the most, getting out of the cities and seeiing the countryside and small villages and towns.. We said a fond farewell to Tis who dropped us at the Puripann Baby Grand Resort.
so I sadly think the Penninsula ruined us for all other hotels.
It is a beautiful little hotel not far from the old city walls, but we both found ourselves feeling cramped in the room (which is really the size of a normal us hotel room). It's funny, when we were younger I would drag Steve to beds and breakfasts and he would say, "why can't we just stay at the Hilton?" and last night I found myself laughing thinking this is just too frou frou - lace and doilies everywhere - it would make a bed and breakfast in Cape May so happy. It's weird, so many little things to make the room special that just end up taking up space so there is no where to put clothes. But hey, we're in Thailand - no complaining.

Again, a high light of the day was dinner. Whilst in the US Steve had found online a restaurant in Chiang Mai that is supposed to be one of the best in the world. They only take reservations a month out and fill up quickly so I made sure to make the reservation exactly one month to the day ahead of arrival. DAVID'S KITCHEN - definitely lived up to reputation. They picked us up from the hotel, the owner met us at the door and came to talk to us twice during the meal. Everything about the food was exquisite - great drinks, pumpkin soup, foi gras, escargot, lamb shank, beef cheeks, chocolate mousse - truly one of the best meals ever. The icing on the cake for us was that our waiter (Thai young man) when he heard we had been from Philadelphia got very excited and said "the Eagles are in the superbowl" and we bonded over mutual disdain for the Patriots (hope I'm not insulting anyone). Turns out he is a total American football junkie and told us where we can watch the superbowl next week. Oh and the service at David's kitchen was superb.
We are off now to explore Chiang Mai. We had had a cooking class scheduled but it was cancelled and we decided to give ourselves an easy going, unscheduled day with plenty of rest. Here are a few pictures from the White Palace, Black House, and yesterday's drive, plus David's kitchen.

Black house


Blacck house


White palace - souls in hell



Mekong river


White palace


David's kitchenn


Davids kitchen
lauramsgarden is offline  
Jan 28th, 2018, 01:19 PM
  #40  
 
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what lovely photos! and well done on getting a reservation for that restaurant.

I am really enjoying reading about your journey - please keep it coming.
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