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Tiger bites, elephants and some culture - family visit to Thailand and Bali

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Jul 6th, 2009, 12:55 PM
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Tiger bites, elephants and some culture - family visit to Thailand and Bali

Apologies for any typos or errors - I'm too tied up in work to proofread.

Never in a million years did we think our family of 4 (kids are 6 and 9) would ever vacation in Asia. My family is very picky about food and, to be honest, Asian culture had never been something we were interested in learning about. After trips to Europe, Australia and S. Africa the past few years, however, we were looking for somewhere to go in 2009 that would be fun and exciting. Many thanks to Fodorite cruisinred for suggesting Thailand last year. Just in case we ended up hating Thailand, we decided to include Bali as well since it sounded like a sure winner. It’s funny how things can turn out so much different than you expect…

We relied almost exclusively on this forum for ideas for the trip and you did not disappoint. This is probably the best planned trip I’ve made in terms of where to go, what to do, etc. I probably made 2-3 mistakes and will highlight those along the way.
I’m going to cut to the chase otherwise I’ll never finish. Please feel free to ask questions or send me an email (breevans at hotmail dot com). We’re happy to offer insights/opinions, especially to those who are “typical American families” that are interested in getting a taste of other cultures without giving up certain Western comforts.

June 4-6
RDU / IAD / FRA on United (it got us there)
FRA / BKK on Thai (ok, but no Singapore Air)

Bangkok - June 6
Had Tong’s crew pick us and our 10 bags (yes, 10) up at BKK
Checked in early at the Marriott Resort & Spa, one room on points, one connecting room paid (pre-paid for a little less than $100/night all in). Did not do too much other than venture around the resort and attached mall – the kids did some activity at a store in the mall where you make things out of clay.

First night in Thailand and where do we eat? The Pizza Company! It was actually really good. Yes, we’re pitiful.

Tong called in the evening to say she was not feeling well and Nat would be taking us on our Bangkok tour tomorrow. I had told her when I booked that it would be ok to hand this day off to someone else since I thought we’d be dragging and wanting to keep things short.

Bangkok - June 7
After the Marriott buffet breakfast (free since I seem to live in Marriotts at home),Nat met us at the Marriott pier. We took the Marriott boat, then transferred to the city water bus/shuttle/whatever it’s called (non-touristy one) for the ride to the Grand Palace. The Marriott guys gave the kids some bread to feed the fish which they thoroughly enjoyed.
The palace was interesting and Nat did a great job of providing just enough info to keep us interested, but moving. We knew this was going to be the least interesting activity on our entire agenda for the kids and wanted to get it out of the way first. Cheryl and I are the types that like the highlights of tourist sites, but not much more. Did I mention it was hot? My convertible pants served as a nice oven – I can’t believe some actually think pants are cooler than shorts. Balderdash in this southern boy’s opinion.
We made the short trip over to Wat Pho. We all found this mesmerizing and much more interesting than the Palace. The kids enjoyed doing the coin in the bucket deal, too.

We had lunch at a English brew pub on the backpacker street - family enjoyed theirs and I had a decent Thai meal. Last stop was the weekend market. By this point we were beyond hot, tired and ready for the pool. We ventured around a bit, but did not buy a thing. I think we were all in a hot, jetlag induced coma.

Nice swim in the lovely Marriott pool that evening.

Weather was hot and not a drop of rain.

Bangkok - June 8
Tong picked us up at the hotel in the am for a trip to Tiger Temple and an orphanage. I asked Tong if shorts were ok and she looked at me as if I were stupid – “of course.” Boy, did that make a huge difference to me for the rest of the trip. Apologies in arrears to anyone I offended with the shorts (the people still kept smiling though!).
Tong called the orphanage along the way for a list of items they needed. She said we could pick some off the list and go shopping – naturally, we bought everything on the list we could find at the Tesco. I won’t go into details about the TT since there are so many other reports on it. The one “highlight” was my 6-yr old son getting bit by a tiger! Ok, so it was one of the babies you pay extra to play with, but he’s got something to claim that not many others can. The bite left some bruises on his leg in the shape of a smiley face, but otherwise my son was fine (he would not go near the tigers afterward and it even took him a while to touch a deer). To take his mind off the incident, Tong took him to see Bam Bam, her beloved moon bear. I wasn’t quite prepared for her to feed Bam Bam a milk tablet with her mouth! I think I was so shocked (and disgusted!) that I missed getting a picture or video. She told me afterwards that a certain attorney from Boston had done the same thing – wonder who that could be???

Lots of pics and video with the tigers and other animals. I agree with another poster in their trip report that I can’t imagine going to TT with anyone other than Tong. She’s clearly in her element there and the other animals seem to love her. My kids liked feeding the deer, goat and the other Thong (seems like months ago – was that thing a buffalo???). It was an interesting trip – not one we’re likely to do again, but it was a nice one-time experience. Definitely resulted in some nice pics and video.

We had lunch at the spot up the road from TT – I can’t remember what we had, but it was tame Thai. Not bad – don’t think the kids ate much. We brought a jar of peanut butter and some bread for most stops - lifesaver.

Tong pre-ordered cake the day before for the orphanage and the rest of my clan served it while I took video and pics. It was a fun couple of hours and all of the kids seemed really happy (even before the cake) and well cared for. Aside from the supplies we delivered, we bought some things the kids make and made a small donation. It was a nice visit.

Long drive back to the hotel.

Weather was hot and not a drop of rain.

Bangkok - June 9
Railroad market, Floating Market, Fishing Village
One of our favorite things about Thailand was visiting the markets. In hindsight, I could have gotten much more interesting photo/video of the railroad market had I known what to expect when the train arrived. The people here (and everywhere in Thailand, really) doted over my kids, esp my son who has blonde hair.

We loved the floating market – probably would have hated it without Tong’s expertise. Unfortunately, the barbecue chicken lady was not there, but we tried all the other items everyone talks about. I loved the coconut pancakes while Cheryl really enjoyed the coffee in a bag (until she somehow punched a hole in the bag and it went everywhere). We both liked the noodles a lot. We also enjoyed going off the beaten path a bit to see how people really live in that area.

My kids loved the fishing village trip, feeding the monkeys being the obvious highlight. I could have done with a bit fewer monkey stops, but Cheryl says that’s just me being a grumpy boy. Part of my crappy attitude probably resulted from a real soaking I got at the front of the boat during a 30-minute storm (1st rain of our trip).

I enjoyed the oyster and mollusk farm visit – never seen that before. I particularly liked our stop to watch some fisherman dismantle their catfish net and haul up their catch. I can’t imagine doing that every day of my life. As with every stop, the fishermen welcomed us with smiles in spite of being neck-deep in the river and working their tails off.

We had told Tong we’d pass on the lunch since we don’t eat seafood.

Drive back to the hotel was uneventful.

Weather was hot and no rain outside of the soaking I got on the boat.

Bangkok - June 10
Tong met us early in the am so we could make merit. It was an interesting experience, although Cheryl was not too keen about bowing and receiving a blessing from a monk. Outside the temple, my daughter bought a $2 purse and my son picked up a similarly priced Transformer watch – the latter kept him occupied for hours on end on the trip. Who needs monks, tigers and boats when you can have a Transformer watch???

We decided our next stop was the flower market. Tong asked if we wanted a cab or tuk tuk. We’d not done the latter so we went that route thinking it would be a nice one-time experience. How wrong we were! The kids absolutely loved it and Tong did nothing from discouraging them – even Cheryl and I found it to be fun. Or maybe it was Tong screaming like a kid and having the driver do wheelies. Regardless, it became the first of many tuk tuk rides in Thailand.

We loved the flower market – I’d like to go at night sometime. So many colors and smells – quite unlike anything I’ve experienced elsewhere in the world.
Somewhere in the previous day, Tong had told us about the Buddhist belief about releasing fish as a way of saving someone’s life. My kids really latched onto that so our stop after the flower market was to another market closer to the river where we purchased a lot of fish (pregnant, of course, to maximize the lives saved), eel and frogs. We then took these to the river (where fishing is illegal) and released them. The kids loved it.

The place we released the fish/frogs was at the pier where you catch the boat for the canal tour. I was iffy about doing this, but ended up really enjoying it. The kids loved feeding the fish again, I got wet again and we all got to see some back canals off the beaten path. This was definitely one of those simple, yet interesting, experiences that makes Tong such a great guide.

Lunch was at Coconut Palm. I know a lot of you love this place, but we thought it was just ok. I liked everything I had at the Floating Mkt much better. I believe I had Pad Thai here and Cheryl had cashew chicken. Tong ordered us a bunch of other things – seems like the Vietnamese spring rolls were good.

Now it was time for shopping. Took tuk tuks all over the place, including Khao San Rd (wife loved the clothes, purses, etc. at Lofty Bamboo – they are all hand made by villages with money flowing properly back to them - a nice cause. Tong was wearing some pants from the place which is what led us there. Cheryl also bought a lot of jewelry from several stores in the same building as Tong’s office. From there, she took us to a market in Chinatown so I could explore the watches and we could locate some dvds. Made several purchases here. Also saw things we had not seen elsewhere (and did not see again later), like guns, knives, etc. Last stop was MBK. I think we could have spent hours in here, but time was running short due to my appointment to meet Jack at Monet Il Sarto to pick up my shirts (Bob – I did tell him hello for you).
We sadly said our goodbyes to Tong. We’re convinced she could make eating dirt fun. My kids absolutely love her.

Concluding thoughts about Bangkok:
• Once you get past the traffic and heat, Bangkok is a fascinating city. Tong helped us do just that and I would highly recommend using her for a day to get your bearings (not the tourist sites, per se, but the other things we did). I’d be willing to bet a lot of money we would have fallen into the “hate Bangkok” camp if we had tried to explore the city by ourselves. She took care of the hassles so we could focus on the fun aspects of the city. She explained things we would have never known on our own, took us to places we would have never found and, in general, just made normally boring things fun. She also taught us the ropes for how to get around – something that really helped us later in Chiang Mai.

• We would have liked several more days in Bangkok to do things like visit Chinatown, go to Siam Niramit, more shopping, river cruise, being lazy at the hotel, etc. We spent 5 nights in Bangkok and it was not enough for us.

• We fall into the “love the Bangkok Marriott” camp; the staff is extremely friendly without being intrusive, the pool is very nice and we liked having the little mall and its restaurants and mini-mart right next door. We spent most of the time outside of Bangkok proper so the supposed inconvenient location was irrelevant to us. One note about the hotel, we could only get wireless to work on our balcony (we were in the middle of the main building, 5th floor).

• None of the hotels on this trip had any carpet. Sounds silly, but really cramped my ability to do any workouts in the room (if you’re a P90X type of person).

• I’m somewhat ashamed to admit we looked at the menu for Benihana (that’s our style of Asian food back home ) at the Marriott. It was the only time I got sticker shock on the entire trip. I think we ended up at the Pizza Company again that night 

• We were prepared for rain, but only had the one brief storm on the Fishing Village trip. I guess the rain gods were paying us back for our Australia trip where it rained non-stop with record flooding in their “dry season.”

Next up - Phuket
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Jul 6th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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I'm so glad you enjoyed Bangkok!

The shorts thing is an issue at wats. Also, around town at good restaurants and such you might be turned away. You time outside of Bangkok, the shorts are perfectly fine. BTW, I find those convertible pants intolerable - the synthetic fabric hold in the heat.

Bob always says the Marriott Resort is the best place in Bangkok for families with kids. For what you did, it was just right.
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Jul 6th, 2009, 01:38 PM
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Kathie - you are exactly right about the shorts. The impression you (or I least Cheryl and I) get on here, however, is you're committing a major faux pas by wearing them anywhere - Tong got a good laugh when I asked her about it. I felt even better when Sgt Kai showed up in shorts on our first day with him. I'm not interested in offending, but my sanity was on the line.

With kids, we don't go to places that have dress codes!
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Jul 6th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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Great start, statefan.

I'm curious about the Lofty Bamboo shop, and have made a note to myself to try to find the place next month when I'm in Bangkok. I love buying handmade goods. Anymore details you could provide about what was available there would be most helpful. I like purses and jewelry, in particular.

Looking forward to more of your report.

To another BKK lover!

Carol
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Jul 6th, 2009, 02:36 PM
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Carol - the address for Lofty Bamboo is 1st Floor Buddy Hotel, 265 Khaosan Rd.

I don't remember the hotel b/c the shop looked like just another store on the street. I do seem to recall it is right before you get to the place where Tong's office is.

I believe they have a website, loftybamboo.com, but it does not show the really unique and colorful pants Tong has. My wife would have bought every pair they had if they had bigger adult sizes and kids sizes.
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Jul 6th, 2009, 02:54 PM
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Thanks for the great start on your report. I agree with you. I thought the Coconut Palm was just alright. But I did love the noodles at the Floating Market. Sorry you don't eat seafood, the meal at the fishing village was quite wonderful.

Looking forward to more of your report.
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Jul 6th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Phuket - June 11

In preparing for the trip, I was really enamored with the John Gray “Starlight by Hong” tour in Phuket. It’s the wet season in Phuket so it did not make a lot of sense to go there, but I really could not get past missing on this tour since it might be our only trip to Thailand. It did not hurt that the JW Marriott sounded great and we could stay there for free.

We had an early afternoon flight to Phuket – uneventful. Tong arranged for a van to pick us and our 11 bags (yes, our count grew) up for transfer to the JW Marriott with no problem.

After checkin, we got settled, did some laundry (we had booked one of the 2-bedroom Beach Club condos using Marriott points) and checked out the resort. We had planned on swimming, but the pools close at 7pm!?!

When it came time for the kids to go to bed, my 9-yr old daughter suddenly realized her precious pink baby was missing. We concluded she must have left it on the bed in their room at the Marriott. Normally, we would have said “oh well,” but this little $5 stuffed doll was what we gave her at birth. I called the Marriott and they promised to search. I called back a few hours later – nothing. So, what’s a person to do when they need help in Bangkok? Get Tong! Cheryl sent Tong an email explaining the situation. Tong contacted the hotel and spoke to the GM. I have no idea what else transpired, but we awoke to an email from Tong indicating they found the doll in the laundry! Long story short(er), Tong picked up the baby and mailed it to our next hotel in Chiang Mai. Keep in mind we had already paid her, she lives 1.5 hours away from the hotel and is beyond busy with her work. So, this was simply her doing something to make a very sad little girl she just met very happy. I still can't believe Tong did it without hesitation - just shows you what kind of person she is.

Weather was sunny with no rain – go figure.

Phuket - June 12
The kids participated in the Circus training program at the Marriott and loved it. We have some great video and pics – highly recommend it.

John Gray’s company picked us up in the afternoon for the Starlight by Hong tour. I think this excursion was a classic case of expectations being too high. We had fun on the trip, but it’s not something worth planning your trip around. It was also expensive. The crew spoke limited English, but smiled a lot. The food was pretty good, but not too many options for kids. I would imagine tours with John Gray himself are infinitely more interesting. I don’t want to sound too negative, because we still had a lot of fun. One note – they said we would be back by 9pm or so – it ended up being closer to 10:30p which was very late for our kids.

Weather was partly sunny with no rain – go figure.

Phuket - June 13
The kids pool (right half of the main pool) at the JW Marriott is really nice so we decided to spend the day there. It was a nice, relaxing day.

After feeding the kids peanut butter, crackers and other stuff we brought along, we dropped the kids off at the Kids Club and had a nice dinner at the Italian restaurant.
We spent the evening packing for the trip to Chiang Mai and finished up laundry.

Weather was sunny with no rain – go figure.


Concluding thoughts about Phuket:

• I had big expectations for the JW Marriott, especially after having such a good time at the BKK Marriott. Unfortunately, the staff was largely indifferent and I don’t think we got a single smile (after declining the timeshare presentation ). They were not rude, but more like hotel staff you get in the US. We definitely missed the smiles and greetings from the BKK group. Not a huge deal, but definitely disappointing.

• We booked one of the 2-bedroom condos using Marriott points – it’s a little bit out of the way (no big deal) and the condo was nice and spacious. The beds, however, were beyond uncomfortable and the deck had no view. Note to families - they do not have connecting rooms in the hotel section.

• On the last day, we decided to walk to the other side of the resort – it was then we discovered ladies near the beach doing massages for ~$15 (maybe a bit less). Wish we had been told about that before! Grrrr….

• A couple of the restaurants at the resort were closed – the Café and one other.

• Closing all of the pools at 7pm (maybe it was 6p?) every night is just unacceptable, imo, esp. when you’re somewhat trapped at the resort if you don’t have a car. What exactly do they expect kids to do in the evening? Or adults looking for a quick night swim?

• The ocean was very rough, but we knew to expect it – that is what made the pool closing time even stranger.

• In hindsight, 1-2 more days here for R&R and the kid’s club would have been better. Probably would not have felt that way if it had rained most afternoons as we expected.
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Jul 7th, 2009, 01:47 AM
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Thanks for the report! We are taking our 2 boys, 6 & 8 to Tokyo/Bali this August. We've been before without the kids, but it's been many years. I'm anxious to hear about your Bali time, especially what the kids liked there.
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Jul 7th, 2009, 02:08 AM
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"First night in Thailand and where do we eat? The Pizza Company! It was actually really good. Yes, we’re pitiful."

That's a great line Statefan. We felt the same way last year eating at Pizza Hut in Beijing. Pitiful, but full.
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Jul 7th, 2009, 07:38 PM
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Chiang Mai - June 14

Travel day from Phuket to Chiang Mai via BKK

Baan Orapin send a driver to pick us up at no charge – nice!

Checked into Baan Orapin in the late afternoon with Pepsi – what a nice man; our room for these 2 nights was a Jr. Suite and connecting room in the front building. The rooms in this building are older, but charming. Mini-bar is dirt cheap.
One of the advantages of Baan Orapin is the fact that it is on the same street as the riverside restaurants. We ended up having dinner at Riverside which was fine, then took the footbridge across the river, walked past the flower market then up towards the Sunday market.

We loved the Sunday market (inside the old city). It had lots of clothes and handicrafts we had not seen elsewhere. They had one stage set up at the end of a street where the students of a dance school performed – we watched them for a good bit. There were lots of street performers, too. We had ice cream for 10B each and saw lots of other food that looked really good. If we ever go again, we’re going to have dinner within the market. Cheryl bought several things, but what they were escapes me.

Weather was partly sunny.


Chiang Mai - June 15
Sergeant Kai picked us up in the morning for a trip to Doi Inthanon and some light hiking. He is an interesting man – very polite with great English. I enjoyed talking to him about Thai politics, his previous life as a horse trainer in the Thai Army and other things. He shared with me that the driver/guiding business in Chiang Mai is really tough these days and many are having to consider bankruptcy. Apparently things are much worse than they have ever been in his decade in the business (incl. SARS, bird flu and other well documented events). So, if you’re going to Chiang Mai, line up a guide as they are reasonably priced and you’ll learn so much more than without one!

We stopped at the Vachiratharn waterfall on the way up the mountain – nice. Spent a fair amount of time at the queen’s chedi at the top of the mountain. Got a nice picture of the kids on the little bridge in the garden behind the Queen’s chedi. Really enjoyed the nice cool weather up there, too.

On the way down, we stopped at 2 different Karen villages. The first one had recently gotten electricity and was a bit touristy. The second village seemed more “real.” We were able to talk to an older husband/wife in their “house” which was extremely interesting to everyone in our family. I’m not sure how any of them live past the age of 20 with the fireplace inside the house and no ventilation. I could go on and on about this part of the trip, but let’s leave it as highly educational and interesting.

We had our cheapest lunch in Thailand at the bottom of Doi Inthanon – 110B for 3 meals and 5 drinks. It was good, too. Incredible!

During lunch we got a lengthy heavy thunderstorm so we decided to skip the hiking to another waterfall. Instead, Sgt. Kai recommended taking the scenic roads thru Lamphun so we could see different people and villages. As we got closer to Lamphun, he suddenly pulled the car into an elementary school. The timing was perfect as the kids had just finished for the day and were out front playing. Sgt Kai spoke to the school's principal to explain who we were (he had never been there either). Kids on both sides of the language barrier were fascinated with each other. This was a very poor area, but you’d never know it by the kids – tons of laughs and smiles. The students were anxious to show the strange white people (apparently they had never met anyone with white skin before) their English skills so the sang the ABC song and counted to 10 in unison. My wife then had them sing the Thai national anthem - all priceless video moments. An impromptu game of soccer broke out and the boys did their best to get my son to play – he finally did after a bit.

The most interesting and fun aspect (to me, anyway) of this stop was watching Sgt. Kai interact with the kids. You can tell he has a real soft spot for children. When we were leaving, the kids kept talking to him in Thai. When I asked him later what they said, he told me they were asking him to “take them to the sea.” “Uncle, we’ve never seen the sea before. Please come back and take us to the sea.” If there had not been so many of them, we would have paid for an overnight trip, but 30+ students plus teachers made that impossible. Fwiw, apparently Thais often call elder males “uncle." If anyone ever uses Sgt Kai again, have him take you to the school near Lamphun that he took the Evans’ clan to – highly memorable, at least for us. I'm sure the kids there enjoyed it to - they sure seemed to anyway. Next time we're going to bring them something.

Upon dropoff at Baan Orapin, we walked to the Italian place that everyone recommends (ok), then went to the Night Market (ehh).


Thai Elephant Conservation Center - June 16 thru 18

We left most of our luggage at Baan Orapin and took a taxi to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center for our 3-day mahout course. This course is the activity that sold me on going to Thailand. We visited South Africa last year and the elephants were a big hit with everyone except my wife (long story involving mock charges). Both my kids have unusually strong interests in animals so we thought TECC sounded like a perfect adventure. Ok, everyone but Cheryl thought it sounded like a perfect adventure. I think she would have signed up for a root canal instead had the opportunity prestented itself.

I won’t bore everyone with the details of the 3 days here, but will share some random thoughts:

• The schedule was basically the same every day. I think earlier visitors like KimJapan had a lot more variety than we did. It wasn’t bad, but had I known it we might have done the 2-day course instead of the 3-day.

• They don’t mess around with getting you indoctrinated – we were on the elephants within 15 mins of arrival and participated in the morning show on the same day.

• Riding is tough work if you have tight hips. I struggle with crossing my legs so riding JoJo (the biggest ellie in the mahout course) led to several sore days for me. Cheryl was sore as well. The kids were fine.

• If you are worried about your younger kids doing it – don’t. My youngest had just turned 6 and he had no issues – his mahout did a great job taking care of him. All the visitors were amazed to watch our kids riding ellies bareback as if they had been doing it for years.

• We have 3 complaints – 1) when you go to the forest in the evenings and return in the mornings, you have to ride on top of the chains they use for tying up the elephants– the chains were very uncomfortable to the adults in our group. I’d recommend bringing a big towel or something soft for those particular trips. 2) the beds were beyond uncomfortable. You’re sleeping on a wood bed with a mattress that is a half inch thick and marginally softer than the wood. I don’t think any of the adults in our class slept much the first night. The second night was a bit better after we doubled up the mattress or used the blankets as add’l padding. 3) In hindsight, the course is really expensive given the level of accommodations. We had no problems with roughing it a bit, but there is no excuse for the mattress based on the price they are charging for the course. I was a bit disappointed they did not throw in a t-shirt, too, at least for the kids.

• Bring flashlights – storms knocked out the power for extended periods of time on 2 days.

• It poured rain on both trips to the forest in the afternoon. We got soaked to the bone.

• They provide clean mahout suits after each session. There is no need to bring more than 1-2 changes of clothes to wear during the evening and on the way home. Our underwear turned blue the 1st day so I went “commando” (is that TMI?) thereafter with no issues.

• There is nothing like riding and working with the elephants. It’s definitely provided memories we will never forget. The elephants are so intelligent and gentle you completely forget about any fear of their size. Cheryl was ready to strangle me after the 1st hour of the course, but as she got comfortable with the elephant she even admitted to enjoying the experience.

• The mahouts did a great job taking pics and video with our equipment.

• The food was fine – the kids lived off peanut butter though

• Although you'd never know it by my poor grammar in this report, I'm usually the studious type. There is no way, however, I'm going to study something on my vacation. So, don't stress about learning the mahout commands. If you forget something, the real mahout will cover you. I'm sort of convinced the elephants only listen to the real mahouts anyway.


Chiang Mai - June 18

Sgt Kai picked us up at TECC for another half day touring the area. Along the way back we stopped at a local roadside market and saw several things we had never seen at the other markets – mostly insects.

We had a Thai lunch somewhere (how's that for being specific, lol) along the way on the way to Chuanlhong Ceramic in Lamphun. We enjoyed watching them make the ceramics – the detailed work is incredible. Cheryl found 2 mid-sized items to buy, but the shop only has arrangements with container companies so the shipping cost to NC was going to be 4x the cost of the goods. We wrote done the item #s and I’ve promised to look into other options once I get back into the groove at work. The owner is a really nice guy that studied in Australia. His English is excellent. Anthropologie is one of their big customers, but most of their pieces are originals.

We drove through the wood carving village, but did not stop. I think we were too tired after 3 days of elephants.
Next up was a visit to Doi Suthep – the views are incredible. Apparently you can often see sun, rain and rainbows in the afternoons here, but it was not in the cards for us. Just sun (not complaining). Mighty glad we took the elevator thing to the top given I was walking a bit funny after the elephants. We did take the steps down - I took them walking sideways. The hawkers at the bottom are quite annoying…

Checked back into Baan Orapin. This time they had us in the newer building right next to the pool. The rooms were much more current, but that’s not to say there was anything wrong with the rooms in the 1st building. After saying our goodbyes to Sgt Kai at Baan Orapin, we decided something other than Thai was in the cards for dinner. At one point earlier in the week we had passed Mike’s Hamburgers & Hot Dogs so we decided to give that a go – eh.
Weather was partly cloudy.


Chiang Mai – June 19

For our last day in Chiang Mai we had planned to do Flight of the Gibbon. We were still worn out and sore from the elephants so we ended up giving it a pass. My daughter said she wasn’t interested, but it turns out she misunderstood what ziplining is. In hindsight, I wish we had gone…
Instead, we were lazy and slept in. We took a tuk tuk to the indoor mall and spent a couple of hours there. Ate lunch at, gasp, Pizza Hut. Cheryl made a Starbucks run. Took a tuk tuk to a jewelry store recommended in the Rough Guide (way overpriced and not that interesting). Went back to Baan Orapin for a swim where we met some American families.
Dinner was at the Aussie place that is famous for ribs (Dean’s? Gus’s? some guy’s first name – place was outside the Night Market and near McDonald’s). Cheryl enjoyed hers and mine was acceptable. Not a cheap place though.
Strolled around the Night Market and bought a few things – Cheryl loves the various flip flops they sell in Chiang Mai. I think she must have bought a dozen pair.

Went back to pack for the trip to Bali.

Weather was partly cloudy.

Concluding thoughts about Chiang Mai:

• We really enjoyed it here – the city is very easy to get around on your own, esp. after the chaos of Bangkok

• Would have liked more time to visit the craft villages

• Loved, loved, loved Baan Orapin – we liked its location at the river a lot; there is no doubt where we will stay when we come back

• Wish we had done Flight of the Gibbon

• Next trip both kids will be old enough for a bamboo raft trip

• Definitely make a visit to an authentic hilltribe village

• Try to arrange your schedule so you can go to the Sunday Market


Concluding thoughts about Thailand overall:
• LOVED IT

• The country has an almost perfect combination of culture, fun activities and good shopping to make everyone in the family happy.

• One other huge factor in the appeal to us was the people – everyone is so friendly; we could not get over how the guides would interact with people we ran across – it was like everyone knew each other

• Who could not like a place where everyone smiles so much??? The wai is the icing on the cake. It took us a while to get used to that, probably post-Bangkok, but it’s fun

• Next visit will be slower paced with more exploration, more pool time, more massages, more shopping and less sightseeing.

• I’m ready to book our Jan vacation for Thailand right now, but Cheryl wants to go somewhere we’ve not been yet. She enjoyed Thailand quite a bit though.

• We were incredibly fortunate with the weather and never got rain while we were "out and about."
Next up – 9 nights in Bali
Statefan is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2009, 07:56 PM
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I'm glad you loved Thailand. Many of us here are addicted!
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Jul 7th, 2009, 08:19 PM
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You had some great experiences Statefan. The good news is that there are still plenty more to be had. Start working on Cheryl, I'm sure she'll come around. Thailand keeps getting better. Try and combine it with Vietnam or Cambodia next time if she wants some variety.

I'll be interested to hear how you think it compared to Bali. I can remember being quite dissapointed on my one Bali trip, probably because it just wasn't Thailand!
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Jul 7th, 2009, 08:29 PM
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I'll work on Bali tomorrow. We felt the exact same way as you, shanek. There really is no comparison in our opinion.

For the record, we did eat a lot more Thai food than it would appear in reading my lame account!

I'm still waiting on confirmation that a panda actually fed Bam Bam with his mouth...
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Jul 8th, 2009, 12:47 AM
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Great report. Nice to see Thailand through the eyes of a first timer.

Can you give a little more info on Hong's Starlight tour? I've never heard of it.
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Jul 8th, 2009, 02:37 AM
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Wonderful report. Your narrative puts us right with you and your family in the midst of the action. Your ability to roll with the punches served you well. Tong and Sergeant Kai are gems. Glad you liked them.

On the Bam Bam feeding by mouth, Tong was horrified when I first did it. Glad to see she's come around to the Cambridge method. Probably not recommended for the faint of heart.
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Jul 8th, 2009, 02:37 AM
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BTW, timely report, no penalty.
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Jul 8th, 2009, 04:57 AM
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Femi - here is the link for the tour, http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com/tha...-starlight.htm

Gpanda - wow, I thought Tong was just messing with me. You are nuts!
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Jul 8th, 2009, 05:23 AM
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Thanks.
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Jul 8th, 2009, 10:31 AM
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Wow, what a great trip report. I remember your post from last year, asking about where to visit next. I'm so glad you loved Thailand!!

Can't wait to read about Bali.
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Jul 8th, 2009, 11:03 AM
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There is in fact a picture of me feeding Bam Bam by mouth, mine and his. I figure bears and pandas are closely related. What harm could result.
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