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Published: March 28th 2009
Monday, June 4, 2007, began with a 7 AM arrival from Chiang Mai at the Sam Sen railroad station in Bangkok, about 15 minutes from the guest home that my sister, Carol, manages. We had a quick breakfast and showers, changed clothes, dropped off dirty clothes and packed up clean clothes, and by 9 AM we were off again with the guest home driver and van, with our first stop being the Rose Gardens. Back in the '60s the Rose Garden owner, who was a friend of my dad, started Thailand In Miniature (TIM) Land near Don Muang Airport. Anyway, he eventually became the mayor of Bangkok, a very good one, and his small tourist attraction moved and evolved into what is now the Rose Gardens, an extensive area with recreated Thai village where a wide variety of arts and crafts are demonstrated, and where tourists can see a folklore show, with dancing, kick boxing, marriage ceremonies, etc. We spent most of the morning observing and then practicing various crafts (see pictures). We then proceeded to Phetchaburi, where King Mongkut (the king in the King and I) had a palace. I wasn't interested in touring another palace (as a child it
didn't impress me); our destination was one of the many limestone caverns which contained a myriad of Buddhas, and monkeys. It was only a brief stop as we really wanted to get to Hua Hin and relax on the beach.
My original plan had been to fly from Chiang Mai to Phuket, which I had never been to as a child, but decided since this trip was to introduce my children to the Thailand that I knew as a child, I opted instead for Hua Hin. Hua Hin was Thailand's original beach resort that grew up when the king built a beach palace there in the 1920's. Also built was the Railway Hotel (featured in the "Killing Fields" movie), where those who didn't have a beach cottage could stay. The Presbyterian mission had built beach cottages in Nong Gae, a small fishing village just south along the beach from Hua Hin near Khoa Takiap (Chopstick Mountain). This is where I spent most of my vacations growing up. When making hotel reservations, I saw on the website of the Baan Talay Dao what looked like the main building of the cottages where I had stayed, so made our reservations there.
Only the main cottage remains, and serves as their restaurant and lounge/meeting area. The other cotteges have been replaced with what is now a very nice boutique hotel. Other first impressions... when I vacationed in Hua Hin the entire five mile stretch of beach was bordered by sand dunes with small beach homes behind them. Now there is a stone/concrete seawall the entire stretch, with many muti-storey hotels on almost the entire beach front...oh for the good old days!
We arrived by 2 PM, checked in, had a late lunch, and then hit the beach. The sand was hot, the water was warm, and within minutes we were burning as we were exposed directly to the afternoon sun. We learned that if we wanted to swim in the ocean, we had to be out by 9:30 AM or in after 3:30 PM. Most of the time we relaxed by their infinity pool which was shaded with palm trees. Each evening we caught the hotel shuttle into Hua Hin. The first evening we went to the night market where we had dinner along the street, partaking of the many grilled fish and satay offerings, and the many kinds of kanoms
(desserts). We bought some souveniers and a pirated (pardon the pun) version of "Pirates of the Caribbean III" which was just being released in theaters, and watched it back at our room (DVD quality was very poor...we saw the movie in a theater upon return to Bangkok). It was a lousy movie even in the theater...the first one was the best.
Tuesday, June 5th, I awoke at dawn with the goal of climbing Khao Takiap before the heat became unbearable. I walked down the beach and half way up the mountain before reconsidering an attempt on the summit. I figured that whatever strength I had left must be conserved for the walk back to the hotel. So in defeat I returned to the hotel, ever so grateful for the cool swimming pool. We all lounged around the pool, eating or drinking whenever the need arose, and chatting with other guests...two ladies were there from Copenhagen...and reading books. Mine was about the British East India Company and their problems with the Dutch in the Spice Islands. I learned that the Dutch exchanged Banda Island, where all the worlds nutmeg came from, ad which the British had claimed first, for Manhattan,
Historic Main Cottage @ Baan Talay Dao
Formerly a Presbyterian cottege where I spent my vacations as a child.
which the Dutch had bought from the Indians for $24 worth of trinkets. However, we didn't talk to the old white guy with a young Thai girlfriend...they give older guys like me a bad name. There was some thought of riding horses or the ski doos, but the prices they were asking (1000-1300 baht) were way beyond what was stated in the guide books (Frommers at 500 baht), and almost what we would pay in the U.S. They didn't seem to be doing a booming business. I thought of giving them a lecture in microeconomics and elasticity...about raising prices so high as to eliminate demand. That evening the hotel shuttle dropped us off the the Railway Hotel (now a Sofitel), where I also sometimes stayed as a child. We ate Thai food (except the kids who by then were tired of Thai food and had spagetti instead) in their restaurant...obviously we were not trying to save money...the night market just down the street would have been 1/10th the price, but I was reliving old times. After dinner we did return to the night market for dessert and people watching. Many Scandinavians live full time in the gated retirement communities around
Hua Hin. I had once thought of retiring half time in Colorado and half time in Thailand, but after this trip and seeing all the changes and experiencing once again the high heat and humidity, I gave up that idea. We returned late to our hotel, and turned in for the night.
Wednesday, June 6th, was another relaxing day by the pool, with an occasional foray into the ocean (or Gulf of Siam). That evening, we took the hotel shuttle to a mall and ate at a dim sum shop. We spent the entire meal guessing whether the waitress was really a guy...an Adam's Apple usually is a dead giveaway. Transvestites are very common in Thailand. We concluded she was a he. We finished the evening at the night market (one reason I didn't think we had to visit the Chiang Mai Night Market, since I knew we would be spending a lot of time at this one).
Thursday, June 7th, was or last day at the beach. We arranged to check out at 3 PM, so spent most of the day beside the pool; same scenario as Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday and Wednesday...I try to
Rosanna & Tamara on the beach @ Hua Hin
Khao Takiap (Chopstick Mountain) in the distance
have some down time in my insane itineraries! We took the hotel shuttle to the train station. While waiting for the train my daughters took pity on one of the many mangy Thai dogs, feeding it sausages and other finger foods. The four hour train ride back to Bangkok was ok (we didn't have to use the toilet). Steve met us at Sam Sen again. At the guest home our kids were reunited with their cousins, Joshua, Jordan, and Justin, who had just returned from a semester at Dalat School in Penang, Malaysia (where I graduated from high school in 1968).
Friday, June 8th was our last day in Thailand. Mike and Betty left us, and flew to Penang. My first priority was to finish shopping for Linda's list. We went down to the Pradunam (Watergate) area, near Siam Square. The kids first priority was to see the Pirates movie, which we did, after which Will, Tamara, and their cousins went back to the guest home to hang out. Carol, Rosanna and I then headed to my favorite jewelry store where I bought all the aniversary rings, bracelets, and necklaces for Linda many years earlier. Our friendly jeweler was
not there, and I wasn't able to find the specific item that Linda had asked for. So we went to several other stores, and completed the list to my satisfaction...of course I found out upon returning home that there were things she wanted that weren't on the list...what can I say! We returned to Sapan Kwai, where Carol and Rosanna got foot massages (only two masseuses were there so I gave up my spot). Carol ordered take out Lebanese food for supper. That evening we spent packing, and trying to fit our souveniers into suitcases. Will had to leave his sword behind as it wouldn't fit...which I told him at the time of purchase...but who listens to their dad.
Saturday, June 9th, and dawn found us a "S-airport" where we caught a 6:30 AM flight to Narita (where we had our first McDonalds meal in weeks). The sun was setting as we took off for Seattle. We landed in Seattle at dawn, again Saturday morning, thanks to the International Dateline. Our flight to Denver was delayed hours, and we finally landed in Denver as the sun was setting, returning home to Woodland Park after dark...two sunrises and sunsets in
one day...isn't international travel amazing!
Well, I think I got the knack of writing this travel blog. I learned that it takes several hours to write each blog. I may end up writing about the trip when I return, but hopefully I will find time and a high speed internet connection along the way. From May 21 to June 14, 2008 I will be traveling with my mother, who was married 60 years ago in Labrang on the China-Tibetan border, and Will, my son, to China (Shanghai, Xiahe (Labrang), Xian, and back to Shanghai, and onward to Southeast Asia. Other than Bangkok, we do not plan to duplicate the trip I have just written about. We will either go to Angkor Wat, Saigon (I can't get used to Ho Chi Minh City), and Dalat, Vietnam (where I went to school from 1956 to 1964); or to Penang, Malaysia (where Dalat School is now, which I graduated from in 1968, and work my way north through all the islands, back to Bangkok. It's a tough choice. You will find out in May.
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