Trip Report: Thailand: January 2017

Here is the end of Tina C.’s trip journal – covering the Thailand portion of her multi-family group’s trip (11 people) to Southeast Asia.  We customized our 16-Day Southeast Asia Explorer: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia trip for these clients. Many thanks to Tina C., who agreed to allow us to publish her trip report.

Traveler: Tina C.
Travel Dates: January 6-12, 2017
Destination Visited: Thailand

DAY 13 – Bangkok

[T]he W’s and the W’s took off for Bangkok!  Our wonderful guide….can you guess his name…wait for it…VING (after Vong, Phong, and Cong) met us and was a delicious shift from our last one, as we could understand his English very clearly, and he had lots of great stories.  Surprised again, by the modern feel of the highways from the airport…and thankful to be staying in the older part of Bangkok…with that third world feeling!  Our first FAMILY SIZE hotel room was DIVINE, and the Nuovo Hotel had a rooftop pool and gym…awesome sauce (maybe I could do a workout and burn a grain or two of the vats of rice I’ve consumed in two weeks!  😬🙄😂).  We checked in and head out for a DELICIOUS meal just around the corner of our abode…oh my…Thai may be my favorite cuisine of this trip!  I ordered a glass of house white (NO SELECTION if by the glass), and as G. said…what they make up for in quality, is handled in QUANTITY…as my VASE OF WINE arrived.  Cute neighborhood we were situated in…:-).

DAY 14 – Bangkok (Walking Tour & Canal Boat Tour)

Ving met us after breakfast and we engaged a walking tour of Old Bangkok.  We water-taxied to the Grand Palace, several temples, ate Taro ice cream, and watched monks pray in the palace temple.  Ving was a great tour guide…he shared much knowledge and had lots of fun anecdotal stories.  Lunch was in a small resto in the back of a market area, and Ving ordered some spectacular Thai fare for us to enjoy.  Afterward, we got a private motorboat (motored by a gargantuan Diesel engine!), sat forever through the locks, and got a fantastic ride through the back canals of Bangkok!  Very cool to see the housing, and watch the locals embrace life on the canal.   Far more interesting to me to see the culture and how it functions, than more temples (although they were possibly the most beautiful of the four countries).  We also learned about the salience of the monarchy in Thailand, and how the King had just died on October 13…many locals were still in black to show respect. It seems if you utter a negative word about the king, you could go to jail! 

After some AWESOME downtime at the pool (including 20 laps), we took off by taxi for our evening adventure!  ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK, INDEEEEEED…😉😁👀!  Ving recommended a resto called CABBAGES AND CONDOMS, located in the downtown core, where their motto is “We promise our food will NOT make you pregnant”!  We hailed two taxis to take us into the newer, corporate, and red light district of the city.  Our cabbie spoke ZEROOOOOO ENGLISH, and the boys and I were feeling VERY ANXIOUS about our ride there, when he seemed clueless about how to LEAVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, TURNING THE WRONG WAY AND TRYING TO DRIVE THROUGH AN OPEN-AIR RESTO!  We found it eventually, and enjoyed a nice evening, very good food, and yummy dessert, and received a dozen condoms with the bill (like mints)!  The idea behind the concept is population control and support in Thailand’s rural areas, such that condoms are as readily available as cabbage in the market!  Very cool and important community work…and fun to see condoms EVERYWHERE…statues, table decor, etc…made for a good chuckle. 

The fun didn’t end there, as we meandered through the red light district searching for a taxi.  WOOOOOOOOWWWWW!  A FEAST for the senses INDEEEEED…👀😳😂👯!  Heaps of peeps, nightclubs galore, loud music, women (“some of whom propositioned the boys, but not the men!), “women”, and tons of “massage” offerings…you name it, it was for sale!  Found a taxi that agreed to drive us the 10km back, but only discovered after driving a few blocks that he had no meter and was demanding over TWICE the amount the last metered taxi charged.  When he refused to budge on price, or put on his meter, G. yelled “Get out now!” at a red light!  I thought the guy might grab his arm when we didn’t leave him a cent, and felt TOTALLY BADASS about running out on a main downtown boulevard…😈!  NEGOTIATE IN ADVANCE…WE FORGET THIS ONCE EVERY HOLIDAY!!!

DAY 15 – Chiang Mai (Temple & Sunday Walking Street)

G. and I got up for a rooftop treadmill run before heading out to the airport for our last town…Chiang Mai! . . . Mui Mui, a lovely, warm, enthusiastic guide, met us at the airport and we took off for some town exploration.  Ventured to the mountains, and climbed a couple of hundred steps, alongside heaps of Thai folks and visitors to the area, for a temple built in the 14th century.  It was pretty cool to be in the mountains overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, and enjoying the more modest temperature.  We watched some monks praying in the temple, and I got blessed with water and another string tied around my wrist.  The Thai people came from other areas of Thailand to this temple in order to receive blessings for the New Year. We then checked into our hotel…essentially, the least satisfactory venue of the whole trip…with questionably clean bathrooms, “too hot” running water and very poor wifi!  The rooms were actually traditional and attractive, but there were a few disappointments.  No biggie. 

Headed out on foot to the “Sunday Walking Street“…a lively, bustling night market with hundreds of stalls, heaps of yummy street food, and lots of action.  We bought a few things, and then found a resto for our dinner meal…where apparently “stir-fry means “deep-fry”…but was I really going to argue in THAI?!!!  L., D. and I continued shopping and wandering after dinner, while the boys and G. headed back (quelle surprise!). We eventually walked home carrying a street-cooked waffle (for R.) and coconut hot cakes for the famjam…PAS FACILE through SUPER dense crowds and a lengthy walk back I can tell ya 😅!

DAY 16 – Baan Chang Elephant Camp & Thai Cooking Adventure

Our last full day!!!  We drove an hour out of town with 8 others to Baan Chang Elephant Camp…a rescue for Thailand’s threatened elephants.  The Thai government has imposed huge fines for poaching, but some continue to kill elephants for their tusks…😢.  As such, most of Thailand’s elephants are domesticated and cared for in camps.  They are highly respected, and treated very well.  We had a fantastic day embracing the life of a mahout and enjoying these fabulous creatures…they were soooooo sweet!  Smart, social, caring, protective of one another…I fell in love. We first fed them a huuuuuuge snack of plantains and sugar cane.  It was adorable having them take food from our hands with their sweet trunks, and consume an entire bucket!  We learned that they never load them with any bench seating (for humans, as they do elsewhere (e.g. India)), as it hurts their spines, and they’re treated kindly and respectfully.  They taught us not to tease them when feeding, and how to ride, command, wash and brush them.

We had a great lunch of soup, pad Thai and pineapple, and LOAO when hip-deep in brown water as large balls of poop floated around us during our “bathing the elephants” experience!  Thankfully, showers and towels were provided to clean up…NO CLOROX BLEACH HOWEVER (as memories returned of pouring cups of bleach in the bathtub when baby pooped in there…and here we were ESSENTIALLY SWIMMING IN IT!!!).  It was a really novel experience for us…a highlight of Thailand.  THANKFULLY, I did NOT FALL OFF THE BAREBACK ELEPHANT…although I DEFINITELY THOUGHT I MIGHT A FEW TIMES…particularly when walking downhill!  T’s typical “Aaaaaah”s and “Oh my”s were heard nearby…I’M SURE THE B’S WOULD HAVE BEEN FLOOOOOORED TO HEAR THEM HAD THEY BEEN HERE…😬🙄😳😂!

In the late afternoon, we hung out by the pool with the W’s and heard about their awesome Thai cooking adventure.  Then went out for our final evening in SE Asia, to a beautiful, delicious resto recommended by the cooking teacher…WHOLE EARTH.  We walked through Chiang Mai to this stunning venue, with lovely tables set up outside, white string lights and colored paper lanterns hung about…and enjoyed a spectacular Thai meal (red prawn curry was my FAV!).  We toasted E. for his 18th birthday, and walked back through the vibrant night markets, purchasing a couple of wooden elephants for the boys to remember their trip to Thailand. 

DAY 17 – Chiang Mai (Local Market Tour & End of Tour)

After breakfast today, we made a final tour through a local market . . .

[If Thailand has caught your fancy, you may be interested in our Thailand Tours.  To read more about Tina C.’s group trip, follow the links below:

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