Well we are Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south of Thailand. This is an ancient Thai city, the source of Buddhism, or rather the route that Buddhism came to Thailand from India via Sri Lanka.
You can argue about religion if you want, but Buddhism at least creates, or allows an environment where people can live gently, kindly, generously with one another.
We walk out and just go walking down random streets, through interesting shopping streets, or quiet residential steets and paths, and through rather poor and wanting areas all without any concern for ourselves, and always with great friendliness and even affection from everyone we pass.
OK, more to specifics…
Barb and I flew into Bangkok a couple days earlier than the other people we are travelling with. We wanted to have some time to recover from jet lag. And this is serious jet lag for wimps like us. I don’t even have to reset my watch when we get here, because it is 12 hours out of kilter. This also makes it easy to remember what time it is for folks back home.
We settled into the Grand Tower Inn which is mostly used by Thai, Chinese and Japanese buisnessmen. It has a great pool, health center with jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, training equipment, and a frigid pool that is 52 degrees, for shocking the hell out of your system after one of the hot thingies.
Anyways all this is good for taking it easy for a day, which of course is not what we did. We went travelling around the city by public bus, which means moving at around 10mph on average because the traffic in Bangkok makes New York look like a village. The sweet side of the equation is that for a few cents more you can be on an airconditioned bus, and slow is the best way to see everything as you go by.
We eventually ended up at the National Museum, and finally got around to educating ourselves a bit about the history of this place we love. Got hukstered a bit by a tout who wanted to have us tour around with his taxi and spend money at shops where he would get a kickback, but all in fun as we went on our way.
After museum we went out on the main river which runs right through Bangkok. It’s maybe 1/3 mile wide, and has water buses and taxis and really big barges running up and down it. Caught a water bus and went a few miles downsteam, which gives a really great view of markets, temples, palaces and luxury hotels. Got off and wandered through ChinaTown, a section with about 10,000 shops on a impossibly dense grid of walkways selling about everything you could ever imagine or want.
Then finally we did go back to the hotel to indulge in some relaxation and indulgence. We each had a Thai massage which is an intense 2 hour session of working on every joint in the body including many I didn’t realize I had until then.
Did some other fun stuff and eventually met the group we will be travelling with, an interesting and eclectic mix. Mostly around our age. All between 53 and 61 with two young 20’s guys thrown in which adds a good interesting spice to the mix. All active and interesting people, which bodes well. Oh, This whole parade consists of 10 paying customers, Kasma, who runs these trips, and her husband Michael, and Sun and Yan the drivers of the Toyota vans we speed around in. Sun is Muslim from the south.
This trip has two main focuses, if you could call them that. One is food, Thai food, and the other is snorkelling. We first indulged in the first (hey snorkelling in Bangkok wouldn’t work too good) at a Northern Thai restaurant with what we were to find is our normal meal: a banquet consisting of maybe 7 to 10 different dishes, mostly all spicy or very spicy and mostly hot, hot hot. And really good.
So our next morning consists of leaving Bangkok and getting to the south of Thailand. This is the only long drive of the trip, thank goodness, because with Bangkok traffic we are leaving at 5:30 AM to escape traffic. This accomplished, we head south like a bat out of hell on good divided highway going up to 148kph (around high 80’s). Stopped into a seaside village for lunch. This was the squid village for this part of the coast. There was squid drying in racks by the may thousands, and squid as a small part of the menu which was nearly a dozen different dishes, mostly all with seafood of some kind as part of the dish, along with several kinds of chilis, peppers, and other spices. Good food.
Back on the road to finally get to a hotel with a hot spring which was a good release from the long day. I am glad that this is the only day of hellbent travel. From here we are in the South and will be much more local in our movements.
From here we go to Ko Surin, an island about 34km off the shore, tucked into Burma, where we spend three nights in the national park. Next time I get to sit down here, I will give a poor accounting of the beautiful snorkelling in this tropical paradise island.