Trip Report Thailand and Vietnam-LONG

Old Feb 14th, 2008, 10:19 PM
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Trip Report Thailand and Vietnam-LONG




Woke up at 530 am to be on our 710 Delta flight to Atlanta. Left Raleigh uneventfully. Almost forgot to take our jackets off which we had no intention of bringing with us. Had a 2 hour layover in Atlanta where we spent in the Business Crown Room. Ate a few little snacks and headed to the plane. We had booked Delta using FF miles last year. Wasnít exactly sure of the itinerary that we wanted to do at that time, but had been hoping for Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. As we started to really plan (about 6 weeks ago, way late!) realized that was too much. We cut out Cambodia, but were flying into Hanoi so stuck with that. Decided that we wouldnít make it down to South Vietnam.
The Delta flight was very unimpressive. After flying Singapore Air and Korean Air, there was just no comparison. The seats werenít very comfortable, service was lacking and most importantly, the inseat entertainment wasnít working. We did get 100.00 cash each when we got off the plane for this inconvienece, but husband would like some FF miles or something else in addition and will be writing a letter to Delta, especially since the lead flight attend stated that he could give us each 200.00 vouchers. There was only 1 or 2 movies that I was interested in, so it didnít bother me too much. I caught up on my sleep and read a few books. But he was pretty bummed. With two little kids at home, we donít usually get to watch much other than Barney and Teletubbies!
Delta does not have the pod reclining seats, just the standard old seats in business class. Certainly nothing like the Asian airlines.
Had a 2 hour layover in Seoul where we went to the lounge. Ate some more snacks, then headed to our gate. Luckily all of our flights were right on time. Landed in Hanoi at 1030 local time. Went though immigration and customs without a hitch and was out of the airport at 11. The driver from Hanoi Elegance that we had prebooked for $14 was waiting right there for us. He got us the hotel in about 40 minutes. The hotel was ok, though we had a few issues, such as a noisy room, limited hot water and broken heater! The rooms are very standard. I had read that it is new. It might be new as The Hanoi Elegance, but it certainly isnít new and actually appears quite dated. But because of our limited time in Hanoi, we didnít plan to spend much time in our room. I really wanted a small, Vietnamese boutique hotel, not a big hotel like the HiltonÖ.so the Elegance it was.
We had slept a decent amount on the plane and then went to sleep about 1230 and slept til
about 6 so did pretty well with jet lag.

Sunday-Hanoi

David figured out his blackberry (canít live without it!) and then we headed for breakfast and to explore Hanoi.
Ate breakfast, included in the room at the hotel. Choice of eggs, French toast, pho and bread. It was good, tasted better than it would at home, but nothing too amazing. The coffee with condensed milk was wonderful!!
We left the hotel and just headed out, not really sure where we were going. Wandered into a wonderful smelling outdoor food market. Saw tons of fresh meat, seafood, fruit and veggies. Too bad we had just eaten breakfast. I did buy two pastries from a lady selling them from a basket. I paid 10,000 dong for the two. She had started at 10,000 for one. According to a woman standing nearby (who told me this after the transaction was completed) I tremendously overpaid.
We wandered some more and came upon the water puppet theater. We stopped in and they had tickets for the 930 show. An hour to go, so we wandered some more. Came upon the big market and walked in there for awhile and then headed back toward the show. The water puppet show was interesting and something I am glad that I saw once. We noticed a large number of Caucasian women with tiny Asian babies. We realized that they were newly adopted.
After the show we started to walk to Ho Chi Minhís mausoleum and realized that we were going to get there at lunch time when it was closed. Instead we changed our plan and caught a cab (with a meter) to Hanoi Hilton, the prison. Spent a little time there and then caught a cab to Cha Ca La Vong for lunch. This fish only restaurant had been highly recommended on Fodors as well as in the guide books. We personally thought it was just fine. Maybe it was just that we didnít like the one choice of fish (I donít like dill and it was very heavy on the dill.)
After lunch we negotiated with a cab driver and found one who would take us to the pottery village and wait there (turns out just for about 45 minutes) for 250,000 dong. Not sure if this was a good deal or not. But I definitely recommend the drive out there. It was a neat drive (a little scary at times) and we found some beautiful pieces of pottery to take home. I would have spent more time but it was only our first day and I am sure that I added 25 pounds to our luggage. Spent about 35 dollars.
The cab driver wouldnít agree to drop us at Ho Chi Minh so we went back to the hotel and dropped off our purchases. We then got on our first cyclo ride. It was transportation and an amusement ride all in one. The driver assured us that he was a good driver and he got us there all in one piece, so he must have been. The traffic in Hanoi was interesting to say the least. By the time we were leaving, I had certainly had enough of the noise. I was shocked that we never saw any accidents. It seemed that even where there were lights, no one paid attention. We made it to Ho Chi Minh though.
Unfortunately the mausoleum was closed, but we saw the museum and residence and walked around the grounds for a bit. We then got another cyclo to take us to the Fine Arts museum. Spent some time there and bought a few post card size paintings for 1 dollar each. Then we took a taxi back to the Old Quarter. Walked around for a bit and headed back to the hotel.
Decided on The Seasons of Hanoi for dinner, again based on a few Fodor reviews as well as guide book reviews. We were definitely disappointed by this meal. After all the wonderful smells in the city, we found everything to be pretty much tasteless. The restaurant had great atmosphere and was very quiet compared to the outside city and the presentation of the food was great, but we didnít enjoy the meal.
We were exhausted after a very long day and went back to the hotel and to sleep.
Halong Bay nextÖ.

Monday-Halong Bay
Woke up and ate breakfast. Checked out of the hotel and checked our luggage other than an overnight bag. I went outside to catch a cab and there was someone selling the pastries I had bought the day before. This time I got two for 5,000 and felt much better! Caught a taxi over to the Press Club where the Emeraude van was waiting for us. We had debated paying 50.00 dollars extra to get a private van out to Halong Bay. We ended up deciding not to, but as it turned out we were the only ones on the shuttle.
I loved the drive out. We passed lots of small towns and villages and beautiful farm land. I especially found it interesting that in the middle of many of the farm plots there would be a small cemetery. I was very tired because I hadnít slept well the night before, but forced myself to stay awake to watch the scenery go by.
We arrived at Halong Bay at about 1145. Waited in the Emeraude Café for a few minutes and then loaded on the tender out to the boat. We had been debating doing the cruise because of the weather this time of year. However we didnít know if and when we might ever make it back to North Vietnam so we went ahead with it. Although the weather was far from ideal, (50ís and misty) and we didnít have jackets, I am so glad that we did it. Halong Bay is truly beautiful! I highly recommend the Emeraude. We had looked at the Emeraude and a few of the Handspan boats and decided on the Emeraude. We boarded the boat and had a buffet lunch. I must have eaten 50 small clams. It was much better than dinner the night before. The cabins, although small, with the toilet actually in the shower, are really nice. The food was good and certainly plentiful and the staff were all very friendly. We went to the caves and hiked and then saw a floating village. Unfortunately it was way too cold to swim or kayak. I had my first of many massages. I thought that 20.00 USD on the boat was pretty reasonable. Dinner was another buffet. I will say that there is nothing to do at night. The one activity they did offer was to watch a movie. Unfortunately because it was cold we headed back to the room.

Tuesday-Halong Bay-Hanoi-Bangkok

Woke up bright and early and ate breakfast (underwhelming). Then grabbed our comforters and sat out on the deck. We passed another floating village which really are pretty amazing. Then the kissing chickens rocks. It was a beautiful ride back to the town. Our driver was there waiting for us and we headed back to Hanoi.
We had decided that we would try and get a flight to Bangkok that night so that we could get to Chiang Rai early in the day and have the whole day there, instead of arriving late afternoon. We felt like we had seen what we wanted to of Hanoi. Spent a little time on the internet at the hotel doing the research then went over the to Thai air office to change our tickets which was no problem. The only issue was a hotel at the BKK airport.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the city. We walked over to Craftlink and I bought a few things. We then took a taxi back to the Old Quarter. We walked through the food market and got food. We watched the making of spring rolls and had a few along with some other goodies. We went into a few art stores. I wish that I could have gotten some big pieces of artwork home!! Then it was off to the airport.
Arrived in BKK without a hitch, but we were surprised that it is a brand new airport and we didnít even go right to a gate. Our plan was then to check out the Louis Tarvern Dayrooms. Apparently there is just Novotel and the Louis Tavern Dayrooms. The Novotel was pretty expensive, so we decided on the Dayrooms which turned out to be pretty expensive for what they were. We paid for 6 hours and got a little sleep.
Then off to Chiang Rai.

alevi7475 is offline  
Old Feb 14th, 2008, 11:04 PM
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Thank you for posting your detailed report. It's much easier to read if it's all in one post...subsequent installments just as a reply. I've posted the next two here.


Author: alevi7475
Date: 02/15/2008, 01:20 am

Wednesday-Chiang Rai
Woke up very early and went to the Thai Airways lounge. David would have slept there if it hadnít closed at 1. Relaxed there and ate breakfast. I actually showered in there (it was nicer than the dayrooms). We went down to the gate to get our 815 flight to Chiang Rai. As the plane was supposed to board they announced that it would be delayed due to weather in Chiang Rai. Apparently it is often quite foggy in the mornings in Chiang Rai. So we waited and waited. Turned out that it was delayed about an hour and a half.
We landed in Chiang Rai and our driver from the Legend Hotel was there waiting. Saw a little of the town on the way to the Legend. Checked in and had a welcome drink. I really loved the hotel. The grounds were beautiful. Our rooms was wonderful, all white with a mosquito net over the bed. A huge pseudo-outdoor shower. To top it off, we had gotten a great rate with a winter package deal.
After checking out our room we got a map and walked into town. Our plan was to find an ATM, check out the downtown area, find food and a maybe a driver for the afternoon. We got some Thai Baht and walked around a bit. We passed two street food areas that we had seen a lot of Thaiís eating at. We decided to try one of them. We watched a lady cooking what looked like Pad Thai and sure enough that is what it was. We ordered that along with a Pad See Ew and then went to the drink stand. We watched the lady making a fruit drink and questioned if the ice would be Ok and without ever getting a definite answer ordered a pineapple and coconut. It was all wonderful!! Our best meal so far!! And it was only 80 Baht after we got an extra Pad Thai.
Headed back to the hotel with our full tummies and enquired about a driver. I spoke to one on the phone and he said he would be there in 20 minutes. Unfortunately about 20 minutes into our ride we found out that the person who showed up was not the person that I had spoken with as our driver did not speak a word of English. We are still waiting to hear what the hotel has to say as we went with someone they suggested.
We wanted to see the Golden Triangle and Opium Museum as well as some hill villages (I really wanted to see the Long Necks). We first stopped in one village (the Yao) and walked around for a bit. I wished that their crafts were my taste because they were quite beautiful. From there we headed up to the Golden Triangle and The Opium Museum. After the Opium Museum, I looked through my Fodors book, as it wasnít how I remember it being described. It turned out that I had been thinking about the Opium Hall (across from the Anatara). So our next stop was there. David and I both thought that this was a remarkable museum. It was so well done, so intricate and detailed. Unfortunately that was one place where we could have spent more time. We rarely say that! It is huge. The building and grounds are beautiful. We were very confused because the Opium Museum had been packed with tour buses. The Opium Hall was virtually empty. It was more expensive (300 Baht versus 50 Baht) but totally worth the difference. I wanted to see a Long Neck village next. Unfortunately the major problem with our driver not speaking English came into play here. He took us to one of the Disneylandesque villages. Not at all what we were hoping for and I am embarrassed by what we paid to ďget inĒ and that was with major negotiating!
After the village we headed back to the hotel. I wasnít sure of how much time we would have the next day and we each had a 90 minute massage included in our package, so we called the spa and went for our massage. It was outside on the river under mosquito nets. It was our first true Thai massage. It was good and very different from Swedish and what I had expected.
We also had one dinner included in our package and decided to go that night to the BBQ buffet. It was wonderful!! We got to try lots of delicious Thai dishes. I wish that I had room for a few more platefuls!

Thursday-Chiang Rai
Went to the Breakfast Buffet (also included in the package). Another great meal! Lots of local fruits, Chinese donuts (which I have taken quite a liking to), omelet station, local Chiang Rai sausages and tons more. Ate plenty and then got a Tuk Tuk to take us to the pier by the Dusit River Resort for a long boat ride. This was written about in my Frommers book. They said to go to the pier over the bridge across form the hotel. I donít think that we ended up at the right pier, although I am still not certain. When we got to ours there were only 2 or 3 boats. We negotiated with a lady at the top (with the help of the very nice Tuk Tuk driver). Then headed out. When we left the hotel I ran back to get sunscreen. Turned out that we didnít need it as it rained virtually the whole trip. On the way up the river we saw another pier with many more boats, possibly the correct one?
David and I huddled next to each other up and down the river. Our first stop was Lao Village. After we got off the boat there were four or five women who pretty much cordoned us off showing us their crafts. Again they were beautiful, just not my taste. I did buy one purse for my daughter, though it was tough to decide who to buy from. We continued our walk with a little boy and girl following us and after a few minutes got something from each of them. We walked by one hut and they invited us in and gave us a Ďtourí. It was amazing to us the fact that they seem to have so little, yet one whole wall was covered with a big TV, stereo, speakers and DVD player!! We bought a few more things that this family was selling and headed back to the boat. This was a true village experience. Not like Disney World at all!!
Our next stop was the hot springs park. The hot springs were truly hot at 54 degrees celcius. I couldnít even stand to have my feet in! We walked around there for a bit and then went to the Hot Springs resort. We thought that there were more springs here but due to communication issues never found out for sure! From there we went to the temple in a cave. I found this to be quite ingenious and interesting (as well as dry for a few minutes!). The Long Boat then took us back to the Legend dock.
We took a hot shower and warmed up and then walked back to our favorite Pad Thai stand. I found a place for a massage. It was again nice and relaxing. Then back to the hotel before heading into town for the Night Market.
The rain continued. Unfortunately that meant that many of the vendors were not out at the night market. We walked around for a while. Made a few purchases. We tried to significantly negotiate the price on everything. We were surprised when the seller would say no and let us walk away, but figured that was part of the game. Ate delicious curry, BBQ squid and cockles from the street vendors and then called the hotel shuttle to bring us back to the hotel.

Friday-Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai
We had spoken to the Legend about arranging a driver to take us down to Chiang Mai. It was going to be 3500 Baht with one or two stops along the way, but essentially going to Chiang Mai and ending the day there. But we figured we would do a little more research and see what we could find. David found a wonderful driver and tour guide for 4400 Baht. Mutchalin Ponya ([email protected]), whom I highly recommend. She and John, the driver arrived at the Legend at 930 after we had another delicious, very filling buffet breakfast.
From Chiang Rai we first stepped at the White Temple. It was wonderful. I am so glad that we had Mutchalin with us to explain everything. I never would have known that it is only 10 years old and the meanings of everything. The murals are fabulous and it was just a great sight, but definitely a place that I was thankful to have a guide. This is definitely a must see in Chiang Rai.
From there we stopped at a local Chiang Rai winery and did a wine tasting. All very interesting, different wines. By then she had picked up on the fact that I liked to eat. We stopped at a cashew factory and watched as the cashews were bagged (and tasted by us as well as the workers while they worked). Then it was on to Condoms and Cabbages for lunch. I had read a lot about this restaurant. The food was very tasty and the apparently all the proceeds go to a good cause. After lunch we continued down, stopping at a hot springs for a short walk.
My plan in Chiang Mai was to check out the craft villages. Initially we went to a silk factory and celadon factory along San Kamphaeng Road. We had never seen silk worms before and the art of celadon was quite impressive. However, this was not where I wanted to shop. I explained what I was looking for to Mutchalin and she took us to Ban Ta Wai which was great. It is an area primarily for wholesalers and there were few non Thai tourists. We made some purchases including a small table which we have to work on getting home. I could have stayed much longer but the shops all close at 530 and by then we were ready to get the hotel.
I had really wanted to stay an Ban Orapin in Chiang Mai but by the time we booked it was full. We found Bodhi Serene which is a new boutique hotel in the center of the Old Quarter. David found a great rate so we booked it. It is definitely an area of serenity amongst the hub bub of the Old Quarter. There is a huge courtyard and while in it you donít feel like you are in the city at all. There is a beautiful pool on the second floor. It is a neat city boutique hotel.
We headed out to dinner at Huen Phen. This was recommended by Mutchalin and is also in the guide books. It was yummy Northern Thai cuisine. We learned this is much less spicy than Southern Thai. I was craving chocolate and on our walk back to the hotel we found what I would describe as a bulk cracker and cookie store. Picked out two and headed back.



KimJapan is offline  
Old Feb 14th, 2008, 11:05 PM
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Saturday-Chiang Mai

Slept a little late and went down for breakfast at the hotel. Limited selection (at least compared to The Legend) but good. We were half way through the trip so we dropped our laundry off at a place next to the hotel. Found a cab (Songthaew) that would take us to Doi Suthep and headed up there. We saw the temple and walked around for awhile. We were amazed at all the vendors and stuff for sale at a place of worship. From there we came back into the city and did a walking tour of the Old Quarter and saw a few more wats. We saw Wat Chiang Man, Wat chedi Luang and Wat Singh.
Went back to the hotel and changed and got a recommendation for lunch. We went to Keay Chiang Mai. It was good. From there we walked home a different way. We passed a food market with lots of wonderful treats. I finally had my sticky rice with mango. It was wonderful! I couldnít wait for more. We also found a man making crepes and had a delicious banana chocolate Thai crepe for a second dessert. We went back to the hotel and relaxed by the beautiful pool and read for a bit.
It was almost 4 and we were told that the Saturday Market started at 4 so we headed that way. We passed the place we head left our laundry and sure enough, there was my underwear hanging on the street! When we got to the market we found a few vendors starting to set up but very little going on. There were however massage places set up so we got a 30 minute foot massage. Of course we could have used it more by the end of the night, but it was great. We walked around the market and bought a few things. As we were walking music started playing and everyone stopped what they were doing and stood dead still. It was 6 pm. We think that this was the National Anthem being played and still havenít figured out why. At least we figured out to be still!
Had a few treats to eat and then went back to the hotel to change for the Night Bazaar. We took a truck there. By this time it was past dinner time and we were quite hungry but we really couldnít find any of the great food that we had seen at the Saturday market. We walked for a bit, were completely overwhelmed by the crowds (all foreigners as opposed to the Saturday market which seemed to be mainly locals) and the number of stalls and underwhelmed by what was being sold so we decided to get on a Tuk Tuk and go back to the Saturday market to eat dinner and buy a few more crafts. We ate our way through a good part of the market for about 50 Baht. By this time we were quite exhausted and had walked quite a bit so we headed back to the hotel.

Sunday-Chiang Mai to Phuket

Slept later and went down for breakfast. We had some time before we had to leave for the airport, so I took advantage and went for a massage while David packed the bags. Then we were off to the airport.
Arrived in Phuket and had read to look for the metered taxis. There was a long line and we ended up finding another company. It was 50 Baht more and a total of 300 Baht for a 10 minute ride. That seemed pretty ridiculous considering how cheap taxis were everywhere else. In hindsight we should have arranged for the hotel van to pick us up, however we thought a taxi would be less expensive because we were so close to the airport.
We got to Indigo Pearl. We had decided on this hotel at the very last minute and booked on Agoda. Our original plan had been to stay in Krabi as I had read that these were the most beautiful beaches. However when we really looked at how much time we would have, it wasnít going to be much so instead of the 2.5 hour drive to Krabi we picked a town on Phuket very close to the airport. Indigo Pearl was a very unique hotel. It was chic, modern and very classy. It was huge and apparently full, but with three large, beautiful pools, you never felt it was crowded. The one problem with the hotel is the beach. There is a beach right across the street (and as everyone says the Phuket beaches are nothing special) but the hotels beach is about a 10 minute walk or short hotel provided Tuk Tuk ride down the road to their beach club. We ended up spending most of our time by the gorgeous pools.
After settling into our room, we explored the one street town of Nai Yang which primarily consisted of numerous seafood restaurants on the beach, all with very similar menus. We then took the Tuk Tuk down the beach club and read and relaxed for a few hours.
After the sun set (and the lounges were taken from under us to be put away for the night) we headed back to the room to wash up for dinner. Dinner was at Momma Mias (seafood, not Italian). It was Ok, but we had better. But the atmosphere is wonderful. Little plastic tables under the stars, listening to the waves crash. It reminded me of the dinner we had at Jimbaran Bay in Bali which was wonderful.

Monday-Phuket

David woke up bright and early as the Superbowl was on. It was being shown in the hotelís sports bar. The bar wasnít officially open, but they had it on for the 6 or so guys who wanted to watch. I joined him for the fourth quarter. After the Giants upset the Patriots we headed the huge buffet breakfast. It was quite an impressive mix of American, Chinese and Thai food. From bagels and lox to dim sum, there wasnít much missing!
After a late breakfast we explored the grounds some more and settled on pool number 3 where we spent most of the day. We took a break in the afternoon for lunch at Octopus which was good and then went to Pool number 2. I discovered that they had lounge chairs built into the pool, perfect for reading. I was in heaven! Before sunset we headed back to the beach for a few drinks and watched the sunset as we sipped our pina coladas.
It was then back to the room for a shower. When we arrived back at the room we found a Birthday cake on the desk for David. A nice touch of the hotel. They must check the dates on everyones passport! Dinner was at Khwanta . It was yummy. Unfortunately they didnít have any sticky rice with mango but they promised to have it for me the next night if I went back.

Tuesday-Phuket

We had arranged to go scuba diving on Tuesday. We woke up early for breakfast and then went down to the dive shop. We have dived many places, but always off of dive boats. In Thailand we got to dive from a longtail boat! You couldnít forget anything because there were no extras on this boat. The first dive at was good. We saw a turtle amongst lots of beautiful coral and fish. The second dive the visibility wasnít as good. The terrain was a little different and there werenít as many fish. Unfortunately we just didnít have the time to make it out to Phi Phi or The Similian where the truly great diving is.
After diving we were quite hungry and went to Lindaís, one of the other beach front restaurants for lunch. From there we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading by the pool.
Sunset came too quickly. We headed back out to the beach for a beautiful sunset. And then we went to dinner at Khwanta . Where, as promised, they had the sticky rice and mango for dessert!!
Then it was back to the room to pack as we were leaving early in the morning for Elephant Hills.



Wednesday-Phuket to Elephant Hills

As we were planning the trip my mom gave me an article that was in the Washington Post on Elephant Hills. It sounded like an interesting place, so we figured we would give it a try.
They had told us that we would be picked up at the hotel at 8 and were a little late getting to us at 830. We had about a 2.5 hour drive out to Elephant Hills. In the article, they mentioned that some people arrived after a car and boat ride. We simply had a bus ride. It was a beautiful ride on the winding mountain roads. We arrived and were told that our tent was not ready to check in as check out is later in the day. Apparently they like to keep you quite busy there. Since we had some time before lunch, they boarded us on a bus to a local temple in a cave. From there we fed some fish and then saw a local school.
It was then back for a delicious buffet lunch (at this point in the trip I have gained 10 pounds!). We then got on an open safari jeep for a short ride down to the river where canoes were waiting for us. Each couple had a canoe and a canoe driver. We took a 1.5 hour ride down the Sok river. It was beautiful. David felt that he could have rowed us, but I was perfectly content to just relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. From there we had a short ride to the Elephant camp.
We learned later that the camp land is owned by Elephant Hills and they allow the Manhouts and their elephants to live there and the hotel pays them and feeds their elephants. We went for a 1.5 hour elephant ride. It was quite rocky and bumpy so it was definitely plenty of time. We saw the huts where the manhouts live and trekked through the forest. Again the scenery was beautiful. Afterwards we fed the elephants which was the best part!
From there we went back to the camp for some snacks and relaxation time. There was then a cooking demonstration and dinner. We had an early night and were asleep by 9 oclock.



Thursday-Elephant Hills to Phuket
Breakfast was at 830 and we woke up just in time. After breakfast we had to be ready at 930 for our jungle trek. I thought that this was going to be a short, simple walk through the jungle. I was wrong! First we had to take a bamboo raft across the river to get to the jungle. There was some rock climbing, steep hills, slick rocks. It was quite a trek. All the while our guide was pointing out things in the jungle. I stepped onto a log which was unsteady and took quite a fall. Luckily no broken bones!! Just scrapes and bruises. Lunch was in the jungle, prepared as we watched. There was BBQ pork, chicken curry and thai scrambled eggs, which are much better than standard scrambled eggs.
We continued our trek back to Elephant Hills after lunch. On the way back we had to walk through the Sok river. Back at camp we showered and packed up for our ride back to Phuket. After a 2.5 hour windy ride we arrived at the airport to find out that our flight was delayed an hour. We arrived in BKK and at the Old Bangkok Inn.
The Old Bangkok Inn is a wonderful, small bed and breakfast off the beaten path. We stayed in the Orchid room. The only drawback to this room is the steep staircase to get up to the bedroom. In general, I really liked the Old Bangkok Inn. The one drawback is the location. Although relatively close to the Grand Palace, it is not close to any sky train, subway or water taxi. However, BKK seems to be a huge, sprawling spread out city, so I personally donít know if there truly is an ideal, central place to stay. (I know that a lot of people do say to stay along the river.)


Friday-Tour with Tom

I had tried to get Tong but of course she was long booked but she was able to offer us Tom. I had read so much about the fishing village that although we only had two days in BKK, I really wanted to get out to it.
After a quick breakfast at the Old Bangkok Inn, Tom picked us up right on time at 8 am to head to the floating market. After reading up on the floating market, we werenít 100% sure that we wanted to spend a half a day getting there and seeing it, but I am so glad that we did. I loved it! Although the floating market isnít used like it once was it was wonderful to see. Tom got us a boat and then we began to go through the market. There are people selling food and crafts in other boats as well as on the shore. We ate some wonderful treats. Coconut pancakes and a delicious noodle that Tom got. And I of course found sticky rice with mango. It was on the other side of the canal, but I managed to get it and get the money over! Tom had our boat driver take us out of the market to see some of the back canals and houses where people live. It was nice to get out of the hub bub of the market. I understand why this is a tourist stop at this point and I usually prefer to avoid spots that are just that, but this was well worth the trip. The colors, the noise, it was all wonderful. One of my favorite things of the vacation.
From there we headed to the fishing village, Tongs secret place. Again, a wonderful spot. It was exactly the opposite of the Floating Market. While that was a loud bustling place, this was quiet without another tourist in sight. We took the boat through the different farms. We then took the boat through the mud and watched the walking fish scatter. Then we headed to feed the monkeys. They came running when the fisherman called them They were certainly hungry!! The almost attacked the boat. I loved seeing the babies on their mommies bellies. We watched a few of them really fight it out over the bananas. I questioned if it is really good to be feeding these wild monkeys. But Tom assured me that it isnít that frequent and that they are well able to fend for themselves from the river. Some even had hermet crab shells in their hands to prove it.
Finally it was off to lunch at the fishermans house. The table was set for two on the stilt house. It was so beautiful and romantic. We had shrimp and crabs, which they peeled for us, two delicious kinds of fish and soup. It was all great! I loved every second of it. We relaxed for awhile and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately way to soon it was time to take the boat back to the village and from there head back to BKK.
Once back in BKK we went to the Jim Thompson house and toured it. It is a beautiful and house and it was nice to see upscale Thai architecture.
Tom took us back to the Old Bangkok Inn where we relaxed for a bit before heading out to Chinatown. We walked from the hotel. Most of the stores were closed in Chinatown but there were plenty of food vendors and we ate dinner, sampling some of the Chinese food stands. We then took a Tuk Tuk back to the hotel.

Friday-Bangkok

Headed out early to be at the Grand Palace when it opened. The queen (the Kingís sister) recently died and her body lies in state at this time. Apparently this is a huge deal for the Thaiís. Tom had pointed out when we drove by the Grand Palace the day before that many of the tour buses were there for people from all over Thailand to see the Queen. People were sitting out by their busses. Others were cooking food. Others were selling things. I commented to David that it almost seemed like a Grateful Dead concert. There were thousands of people, dressed in black around the grounds of the Grand Palace. There was a line, which had to be many hours in length of Thaiís waiting to see her body lying in State within the Grand Palace. That in itself was a sight, beside the sight of the Grand Palace.
We bought our tickets and headed in. We spent some time and observed it all. We saw the Emerald Buddha. After walking around and reading up on the Grand Palace we headed over to Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha. From there we went to the pier to get a Klong tour. Due to the water level being high and having to wait at the locks, our tour was almost an hour and a half. It was quite interesting to see all the houses along the canals. We passed the Jim Thompson house once again. The houses definitely ranged to quite palatial. After getting back onto the river from the canals, our driver pulled over and another Klong pulled up. For some reason, we were instructed to switch Klongs. We never did figure out why. But it is always amusing the communication without speaking or understanding the reason for what you are doing.
The Klong driver dropped us at the skytrain and we hopped on the skytrain to the weekend market. This is quite a market. Different guide books say different things, but anywhere from 8-15 thousand vendors and 200,000 people in any one day, primarily locals. We spent some time in the Handicraft section and I am sure we didnít even see 50% of that. We ate some street food and after we had enough headed back downtown. We took the Skytrain to Siam and spent a little time walking around the main shopping mall area. Ate a little more food when we passed something yummy. We hopped in a cab back to the hotel and dropped off our purchases.
We then walked down to Kao San street. That was the last area that we really wanted to see. We walked around for a bit. David wanted a beer. I wanted a massage. So we took our beers up while we were massaged! Continued to walk and make a few last minute purchases. I had wanted to eat dinner at Chote Citr but like many of the restaurants in the city, it was closed for the Chinese New Year. We then thought about going down to the Night Market to eat dinner but there were plenty of good options right there so we stayed for the duration of our time.
Headed back to the hotel to find out that our flight was actually an hour later than we thought it was. Took a quick shower and packed up. We got a cab after confirming that it would cost no more than the 450 Baht we had left, we were off to the airport. Of course because we had all the time in the world, we made it to the airport in what had to be record time. I looked up at one point and saw that the speed limit was 80. Our driver was going 160! It was quite an exciting ride.
And now we are back in the statesÖ.thinking about where to go nextÖI think someplace in South America!




KimJapan is offline  
Old Feb 15th, 2008, 03:41 AM
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A very good report, timely and detailed. Penalty avoided. KimJapan, thanks for putting it together. Alevi, it's interesting to read about your craft likes and dislikes.
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Old Feb 15th, 2008, 03:59 AM
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Lovely. Thanks. I also took the Emeraude last month and was in Bkk when the King's sister was at the Grand Palace. So maybe our paths crossed somewhere!
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Old Feb 15th, 2008, 07:44 PM
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We leave Sun. for Bangkok, Siem Reap and Vietnam. The account of your trip was really interesting. Do you live in D.C.? We're in a Md. suburb! (Potomac) but we're lots older than you - grandkids instead of little ones. Thanks for the info.
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Old Feb 15th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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great report...thanks....you show lots of us up with the amount you can accomplish in one day, esp. in bkk...
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Old Feb 16th, 2008, 05:56 AM
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Alevi and Mali, I graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1970. I remember the first Thai restaurants in DC in the early 1970's. The Pad Thai was a wonder. If I had only known that I was going to be captivated by Thailand, I would have explored the Thai community much more.
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Old Feb 17th, 2008, 05:19 PM
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My husband and I both graduated from Kennedy High School in Silver Spring. We grew up there but live in Raleigh, NC. I can't even remember what I said about DC in the report....
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