Experience Thailand on last leg

Written Tuesday, 4-3-2012
for Monday, 4-2-2012

Disclaimer:  YES, this is too long to read in its entirety, but, I truly am leaving out so many details!  AND my main reason for writing this is to have a record of my travels from my perspective.  I am including even more details since we have 2 more hours in the Bangkok airport!!

Tuesday morning began with our breakbast bar at the Novotel.  Their free breakast is quite different than a USA free continental breakfast.  It is a feast: Indian food, African food, European food, American food and Asian food: omelet chef, cheeses, meats, salad, yogurts, muesli, waffles, fruits, pastries and breads.  Even a few steamed vegies.  PLUS, juices coffee, expressos and YES: LATTES!

Paul’s brother has provided a driver for us with his company van each day.  He also hired a local guide (Yui is Thai and does tours for the Korean population that visits).  Yui knows her way around town and has been a big help in staying 3 steps ahead of us by purchasing tickets and getting the details.

So the first place the five of us visited on Monday was Paul’s brother’s (Alex) facotroy.  It is call CAP (www.comechai.com) and they recycle high-quality aluminum (from windows).  The factory was about an hour away…way out in what we call the boonies.

Our travel to the factory, however was slowed.  We began to notice pilgrims, of sorts, wearing all white: men, women and children of all ages.  As we rode down the six lane road we noticed only a few dozen at first.  But as we continued  to travel there were more and more.  They were lining the sidewalks but like people do for a parade.  The dozens quickly turned into 100′s, all wearing white.  Then we noticed people laying red carpets on the road in front of the sidewalk.  The they began distributing bags and bags of flowers and petals.

As we continued at a snail’s pace on the other side of the road (we were, fortunately, traveling the wrong way) and as time passed, the flowers were poured onto the carpet.  Then the fancy van appeared.  Since, by this time, both sides of the road came to a halt, I jumped out of our van and began snapping pics!  The fancy van was going slowly followed by another fancy van with a golden Buddha on top.  That is when i noticed the DOZENS of orange-robed, head-shaved Buddhist monks.  It was called the 1,000 monk march but they were simply the predecessors to the HEAD HAUNCHO who, from what we understand, is rather charismatic and is the leader of this cult (my word).  The monks were everywhere, all in a straight line, all stoic, all walking.  (they had a LONG way to walk….!!)  WE never got to see a leader but we were told that it takes $300 a person to be his follower.

Traffic finally moved and we made it to CAP.  Upon arriving we were served tea in beautiful porcelain tea cups and a crumpet.  Then on for our personal tour.  CAP was in the flood that took place over many square miles of Thailand last October.  They showed us the 1 meter water-mark that kept the facility in water for a month.  Clean up lasted another 2 months after the water receded. CAP has about 150 employees, many from nearby Burma.  Alex is not as intricately involved as he use to be and little brother, Won Chi, runs it.  Both of Paul’s brothers were kind, accommodating and generous.  The factory was very impressive and they showed us all of the steps of the recycling process.  Pictures to follow!

Then we all visited a local restaurant.  Won Chi ordered American rice (his favorite!)  It was a pile of rice with KETCHUP in it! (ew!)  The gardens around this restaurant were stunning, Thailand has beautiful flowers…and they grow bougainvillea like the south grows azaleas.

From there we went to the OLD CITY, which was another hour away.  I truly didn’t get whether it was a monastery or a monastery in a city.  But, there were lots of buddha’s all over the place.  It was very hot there, so we snapped a few pics and then visited the local market which was not in full swing.  There i found the “girlfriends/fiance” a gift “made in India” (go figure!)

Next came the elephant ride.  When I saw the contraption that was the tied to the elephant as well as the loading dock, I opted not to take the 20 minute ride.  Paul was game to take my place, so he and Tim loaded up and went waddling off on the 28 year old trained pachyderm.   I am glad I was the photographer.  The elephants looked like they were treated well, but they (about 12 of them) were wearing chains (understandably) and therefore, it felt a little circusy.  It was yet, another adventure!

Then we dropped by another Buddhist monastery where Paul went to speak to one of the monks.

By this time we had run into afternoon traffic and had to forfeit our afternoon rest. :(

So we went on the Hotel Shangri La in which was next to the main river running thru Bangkok. We were about an hour early to meet Paul’s family so Tim and I ventured out on our own into the streets.  It was fun visiting the pharmacy, the Kabul house (yes, the owner was from Afghanistan!) and a local ladies shop where we were able to finish our souvenir shopping!  WE made it back to the hotel in time to order a freshly squeeze pineapple juice.  Then we were lead to the dinner-crise boat.  This treat was totally unexpected!

The tables were all set with linens and china and silver and crystal.  Our table was located in the read (aft) of the boat.  The weather was remarkably “PERFECT!”  The well dressed host gave us explanations of the dinner menu, the bathroom location as well as the duration of the cruise (2 hours).  AS the boat left the dock we noticed many other boats doing the same thing.  Some had teenagers (prom?), some only had a few people, and some looked like it was the Golden Coral.  The host urged us to go ahead into the airconditioned galley where a buffet fit for kings awaited  us: Lamb from Australia, Salmon, sushi, river prawns, river lobster, mussels, salads of all types (green, rice, lettuce, pasta) dressings….then the hot foods: lasagna, red snapper, cream based fish, stir-fired vegetables and rice, stir-fried beef, baked duck and crab cakes…I took photos since there is no way I could remember everything.

The dessert bar (yes we saved room) had tiramisu, cheesecake, Scottish cake, Homemade icecream and sherbert, and many Thai desserts (which are FAR different than the desserts we are use to!)  I tasted a bit of everything and enjoyed it with my Latte!  The pictures are great and I will post later!

The two hour cruise was stunning…the buildings, the high-dollar hotels, the shrines, and the churches (I think I saw 3 while I was here) gave us spectacular views as they reflected on the river.  WE finally found our half-way point (at the modern bridge) and turned around to head back.  20 minutes later we were back at our hotel…and 5 minutes later were asleep.

Today (Tuesday, 4/3/12) we, again, ate a lovely breakfast and then were back into the van.  However, the van grew as we had yet one more host: Pii Lau (Spelling uncertain!).  Pi Lau was the Thailand Ambassador to the USA in 1983 for 10 years!  (He also served as the Thai Ambassador to England for 4 years.)  He is in his late 70′s now, but accompanied us at the request of Alex’s wife, Noii, so that he could answer any questions on our trip to the Grand Palace.

The Grand Palace was about 30 minutes (without bad traffic).  It was packed with people (think Disneyworld) but truly was GRAND!  It was very elaborate but due to  great deal of remodeling we were not able to visit the inside of if.  We were able to visit the emerald buddha which was inside a shrine on the Grand Palace campus. Tim really enjoyed viewing the weapons (guns, knives, killing-type-things and wants to begin an armory when we get back! We were able to get some great pictures and it was fun getting to know Pi Lau.

Then we stopped at a local spot for lunch on the side of the road to enjoy more of the local fare.  Paul bought lunch: $11.00 for 5 of us  ANother bargain!

So now, we continue to sit in the Bangkok airport.  WE have 3 indian hindu women to our left and many sleeping Asians all around us.

Ah, I long for home.

Jenni, I promise, I will write one more at the next airport…time for a bit of reflecting….

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