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Published: October 11th 2007
Thanks for all of your e-mails. Being this far from home it is really good to make connections with friends and family. We love hearing what is going on in your life also. We are glad to hear that you are following along on our travels and we thank you for your suggestions for the blog.
We left the country (Seattle) September 16th and we are beginning to get our travel legs. There is a rhythm to long term travel and we are starting to get it figured out.
Each morning you wake and ask yourself, where am I? Even if you’ve been in the same country for a little while it can seem a little disorienting in the morning.
We’ve learning to deal with languages, religions, beliefs, customs and traffic. Women in Asia need to be particularly careful about how they dress so they do not offend. The search for the phone card is always interesting and learning to use telephones. It is so easy doing laundry at home ….. ah, the things we take for granted!
We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and the flight was just over two
Weighs 5.5 tons and we are told is valued at 20 billion dollars
hours. The good thing is that it was two hours north and when we got off the plane we were delighted to find that it is not as humid in Thailand as it was in Malaysia. We are thrilled!! Plus it seems to be about 5 degrees cooler so this is big news!!
We’ve experienced some of the busiest cities in Asia at this point and have become accustomed to the crowds. They really haven’t bothered us. We’ve tackled mass transit systems, cabs and tuk tuks - more on that later.
You do need to be extremely careful when crossing the street. Many streets do not have walk signs so you go when you think it is safe. Key words, “think it is safe” These cities are crowded with cars, motorcycles, scooters, vespas and they don’t necessarily stay in their lanes. They drive with a vengeance. One day (Dave) looked at the street seemed safe so he started to cross- what he didn’t see was the police officer in the street directing traffic and as soon as he stepped off the curb the cars began coming our way. We snatched him back from the depths of traffic and
all is well. The drivers do not stay in their lanes and there are millions of mopeds darting in and out of the rows of traffic. Sometimes they look like ants climbing on each other. We learned that the traffic lights are merely a suggestion, at least it seems that way.
Now that we are in Thailand, we are cognizant that the majority of the people are Buddhist and we are beginning to learn about this philosophy and religion. They are a peaceful people. It is very important for them not to “lose face.” Arguments are rare, as raising your voice is not the proper way to communicate.
Among the founders of religions the Buddha was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple. Other teachers were either God, or his incarnations in different forms, or inspired by him. The Buddha was not only a human being; he claimed no inspiration from any god or external power either. He attributed all his realization, attainments and achievements to human endeavor and human intelligence. Every man has within himself the potentiality of becoming a Buddha, if he so wills it and
endeavors. Man is his own master, and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgment over his destiny. I’m sure this summary has simplified things but it seems like a simple concept. Buddhists do not think everyone needs to be a Buddhists, they support people in whatever religion or belief system they have chosen for themselves.
Don’t come to Thailand if you can’t say no. Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers will follow you down the street trying to talk you into getting in their vehicle. Hey, everyone has to make a living. It is pretty funny though because they will literally follow you down the block. They don’t want to be rude so they are full of questions. Hi, where are you going? You want a ride? Hey, where are you from? How long are you staying here? They are very friendly and don’t get upset if you say no….but they really are persistent.
A tuk-tuk is sort of a rickshaw with a motorcycle engine. They are fun to ride in but sure wouldn’t want to be involved in an accident in one.
We are in the land of baht now (money). The exchange
rate is 34 to 1. We gave them $300 at the currency exchange booth and received $10,000+ baht. It feels like we are playing with Monopoly money, especially here in Thailand. At one point we had 50 one hundred dollar bills. It is also very strange to hand someone a 1,000 dollar bill.
Our first night in Bangkok we ended up in a beauty salon. We both got a wash, trim and style for $4.50 each. She did not speak English so it was fun trying to show her what we wanted. It all worked out fine. Just like back home.
We blew $6.00 on our first dinner: three beers, one bottled water and we both had a large bowl of soup. Dave had noodles with beef broth and yummy vegetables. MJ had a hot and sour shrimp soup. They were amazing!
One of the first things that you should do in Bangkok is take the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat up and down the river. For $2.20 you can ride up and down the river sightseeing all day long. You can jump off at interesting sites and jump on later to go on down through town. It’s
a lovely view from the water and an easy way to get around. This is a very busy waterway.
Temples and Palaces—what a country! We are told that there are more than 38,000 temples in Thailand. They are very ornate. See photos.
Bangkok is a big sprawling city that in our opinion is difficult to get around in. The city planners ( if they have any) did a poor job. We don’t want to bash Bangkok but so far it is the dirtiest city we have been in. They have a lot to learn from Singapore. We decided to sign up for a tour of the Temples and Palaces because we didn’t want to challenge the traffic and the poor lay out on our own. It really turned out to be a nice tour and we were glad we went. We saw the Temple of the Golden Buddha, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace.
We had to laugh because we thought the tour was over and we were heading back to our hotel when our guide announced she was going to take us on a tour of a manufacturing company…..we drove
up to the International Gem Manufacturing Co. We were being held captive to shop. They hussle you into a theatre where you hear a 10 minute commercial on Siam rubies and how theirs are the best rubies. As you leave the theatre you notice a sales person tagging along behind. Each person or couple is assigned a sales person. She followed us all around the 10,000+ sq. ft. jewelry store. We looked at diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires and all that you can think of. We almost walked out with a new ruby ring but came to our senses at the right moment. When you are done shopping they send you home in a cab. I was glad we escaped the feeding frenzy that was going on in that gem store.
One night we went to the lobby of the hotel and sat in the lounge listening to a guy who played the piano. He used a karaoke -type sound system and played some tunes from the 60’s - 80’s like Moon River, (if you’re going to) San Francisco, etc. He was probably Thai, but had long hair half way down his back. His voice was nice, but it seemed
One of Thailand's finest
weird as he sang only “American” songs and all in English. People floated in and out of the bar on their way to their rooms or out for the evening.
We had date night. We went out for dinner and out to see Thai Boxing. We stopped at an Indian Restaurant (tables clothes and all) We had two orders of Naan bread and we each had an entrée and our dinner cost $9. We really need to stop splurging like this.
……And then off to see a Thai Boxing match at the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. Thai Boxing is kind of like kick-boxing. There are 5 three-minute rounds per fight. The locals in the stands also bet amongst themselves who will win. The sport is fairly violent as the action is fast and furious.
If you like to have a good massage then Thailand is the place for you. We like to have a massage at least once a month but here you can afford to have them more often. We wandered down the street to a local massage salon and received one hour massages with hot stones for $8 each. After we got back to our room
One more mode of transportation
at the hotel we wondered if it was worth paying the extra money that our hotel charged for massages so we went downstairs and had another one. This time we opted for the oil massage and it was $ 19 each. Both massages were wonderful. The ambience at the hotel was nicer. Two massages in one day…now we are living!!
For those of you who live in Washington or plan to travel there soon we recommend that you go see Denali Walden for a massage. She is still the best we have ever had!! She has strong hands and a true understanding of anatomy. She is located in Olympia and we can assure you that it is worth the effort to go down there. Please give her a call to set up an appointment at 360-280-3609 You will not be disappointed. You can get a massage and then go out for a nice dinner in Olympia.
Thailand Background Information:
There are about 60 million people in Thailand, which is about the size of Texas, and 6.3 million of them live in Bangkok.
The Kingdom of Thailand is one of ten nations in Southeast Asia. Central
Thailand is a fertile plain, drained mainly by the Chao Phraya river, which is quite large. A densely populated region, it includes the capital, Bangkok.
Thailand has a large Chinese minority, accounting for almost 15% of the population. Local trade is chiefly in the hands of the Chinese and as a consequence there is substantial tension between Thais and Chinese. Other substantial minorities include the Muslim Malays, concentrated in the southern peninsula; the hill tribes of the north; the Khmers, or Cambodians, who are found in the southeast and on the Cambodian border; and the Vietnamese, chiefly recent refugees who live along the Mekong River. While the ethnic minorities generally speak their own languages, Thai (linguistically related to Chinese) is the official tongue; English predominates among the Western languages.
Theravada Buddhism is the state religion; some 93% of the people are Buddhists.
The northern part of Thailand includes the city of Chaing Mai. The southern part is part of the peninsula of Malaysia and may be better known from the tsunami which happened the day after Christmas in 2004 and killed more than 5,300 people (some 1,700 of them foreign tourists). This part of the country
includes many beach resorts.
In decades past, the country was better known as Siam. . In 1932, Thailand became a constitutional monarchy.
In 1938, Pibul Songkhram became premier and changed the country's name to Thailand. In 1941, Pibul, despite opposition, invited Japanese forces into Thailand. One of the results of this is the railway made famous in the movie, “Bridge over the River Kwai.” Over 100,000 lives where lost in the construction of this railway across Thailand and Burma.
In 1950, Bhumibol Adulyadej acceded to the throne as Rama IX. In 1957, Pibul was overthrown in a military coup. The military governed Thailand until 1973. General Prem Tinsulanonda ruled for much of the 1980s.
The current leader is Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has worked hard to bring Thailand to the forefront of the Southeast Asian economy. There is also some discontentment among the Muslims in the southern part of this land who clammer for autonomy and perhaps a separate state.
It is a country of great beauty as the pictures illustrate.
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