All images and associated pages copyrighted © by Don Chesnut, 2006
My travel agent, Frances Woollam, booked my stay in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand through Brendan Vacations (www.brendanvacations.com). They, in turn, booked certain segments with other regional travel services, including Indochina Services (www.indochina-services.com) and Pandaw Cruises (www.pandaw.com). I traveled alone (except on the cruise) and in the hot and humid season when few other tourists were there; perfect for me.
I got up, showered and had breakfast. We all went to the airport and to the ticket counter to get our boarding passes. Then we paid our US$25 exit fee and then entered airport security. We got to Bangkok mid-day (late morning) and I went straight to the Thai passport control. After about a half-hour wait in line, I got my passport stamped and then walked through the "Nothing to Declare" line. Then I saw the Brendan tour guide.
My guide and driver then took me on an afternoon tour of the Grand Palace complex (www.palaces.thai.net). I took lots of pictures.
Then we had the compulsory tour of the gem cutting factory where I was pressed to buy jewelry. I bought a very cheap key chain and the sales lady was very disappointed. After we left there, the guide and driver took me to my hotel, the Sofitel Silom Bangkok (their webpage). I arranged for a tour with the guide for the next day and then checked in. The hotel is very nice and they have several restaurants in it.
I met with the Sleepers and we walked to the Mango Tree restaurant which the concierge recommended. It was too busy and crowded for us, so we found another Thai restaurant and had a so-so meal.
I had to meet my guide and driver at 6:30 in the morning, so went to bed early.
I got up at 5:30, showered and had a very nice breakfast at the Mistral Restaurant in the hotel. The Sleepers were going on a half-day tour, so I didn't join them on their tour.
I met my guide and driver at 6:15 and headed west out of town. We drove for 2 or 3 hours and got to the River Kwai (pronounced "kway" like day). We went to a museum about the prisoners of war that built the "Bridge over the River Kwai." I also took pictures of a nearby Buddhist temple and some river scenes. We then went to a cemetery for the prisoners who didn't survive. There were no Americans buried there because they were removed to be on American soil.
We then went to one of the bridges, a steel bridge, which had been bombed by Allied planes. I had a pomelo (much like a grapefruit, but with tougher skin), and bought a yellow polo shirt in honor of the King's 60th anniversary of rule. The locals wear the yellow shirt on Mondays because yellow is the color for Monday and Monday is the King's birthday. [I gave the shirt to my Thai friend, owner of the Bangkok House in Lexington.]
We then went to a train station and boarded the train headed for the trestle ("viaduct") on the Kwai River. The trip was in hard coach and lasted about 1 hour, 10 minutes. I took a lot of pictures of the countryside. I had to be careful of the branches and leaves slapping at the sides of the car. When we got to the trestle, I took some pictures. We got out of the train here and it has become a sort of tourist stop with restaurant and souvenir stands. I had lunch and afterwards, walked to a cave with a Buddha in it and took some pictures of the river and a river boat.
After that, we had a long drive back to my hotel. It was evening by the time I arrived.
I contacted the Sleepers and we went back to the Mango Tree where they had room for us this time. I had chicken panang, extra, extra spicy. When it came, it wasn't spicy at all, so I sent it back. Much better the second time. This was the best meal I had in Bangkok.
After dinner, we all said our goodbyes. I went to my room to pack and went to bed early. I have to get up at 3:30 in the morning for my flight home. I really didn't get to see much of Bangkok on this trip.
I didn't sleep much because I thought I would oversleep. I got up at 3:20, took a shower, and then checked out. The breakfast dining room wasn't open yet, but last night my guide ordered a breakfast box to be prepared for me by the restaurant. I got the breakfast box and then the guide and driver took me to the airport. I was there by about 5:00 AM. My flight was 6:50 AM. I got my boarding passes all the way to Cincinnati, and then paid my 500 Bat departure tax. I also entered airport security and passport control. Everything was pretty quick because of the early morning hour. The flight was full and pretty standard all the way to Norita, Tokyo. We disembarked at Norita, went through security again, went to gate 35 for the same flight to San Francisco. It was raining in Tokyo.
I got on the same flight again, but it may have been a different plane. This was the long flight and it went close to the Aleutian Islands. I sat next to two young ladies who had just graduated from high school and had visited family in Thailand. I told them about Elizabeth being a senior and looking at colleges. I nodded off a time or two, but mostly stayed awake and watched the movies.
We landed in San Francisco about 9 in the morning and I went through passport control and back through security again in the domestic flights terminal. The flight to Chicago was delayed about 15 minutes and I arrived in Chicago at the same time that they announced, "Last call for boarding" for my flight to Cincinnati. I ran down the terminal and made the flight. After landing in Cincinnati, I was glad to see Anne there waiting for me. We had a 1.5 hour drive home and got there about 11:30. Elizabeth came home from the play that she was in by midnight; she had green hair and sparkles all over her face and shoulders. She played a wood nymph in the "Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" play at the "Shakespeare at the Arboretum." Nora was in Florida and Mary was in North Carolina, so I didn't get to see them. It was good to be home.