Recently I was in a jewelry store getting an appraisal on a bracelet previously purchased in Thailand and the sales woman asked me what I thought of the country. Without hesitation, I told her it’s a place known as “the land of smiles”, where everything I saw was beautiful; the land, the people, the food…everything. It was in December 2006 that my wife Peg, together with sisters Barbara and Joan, and I spent Christmas in Bangkok, and New Year’s in Siem Reap, Cambodia…home to the temple city of Angkor Wat, one of the man-made wonders of the world [if you own the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”, it is described on page 475]. Besides Bangkok, additional Thai locations visited included coastal Khoa Lak, which was on the mend from the devastating tsunami two years previously in 2004, and Krabi, another popular seaside resort area. [On the return we spent an overnight layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which at first blush may be the cleanest city I have ever seen. It is also the City where, in my best “Fast Eddie” Felson imitation I challenged Barbara to a game of eight ball, whereupon almost immediately my pool finesse failed me miserably…humility lesson learned.] From that initial visit images of Thailand’s unique character and beauty have stayed with us all nearly five years later; the following is just one of the many.
A few days from now, Peg and I will be fortunate to leave once again for Bangkok…this time to begin a seven week adventure which will begin with cosmetic surgery for each in Bangkok, and end with exploration of the northern mountainous region that includes Chiang Mai, Thailand. Joining us in-between these two Thai cities, Peg’s sister Barbara will fly into Hanoi, probably with her custom-made cue stick, as we tour Vietnam from Sapa in the North, then move southward to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Further south, we will explore the Mekong Delta and then take a “swift-boat” from the Delta to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where Barbara will leave us to come home and Peg and I will fly back to Bangkok for a necessary medical post-surgical check-up prior to a flight to Chiang Mai, our last stop before returning home. To help expedite all the moving around from place to place, Peg and I decided to take only super light-weight carry-on sized suitcases with one week’s supply of clothing and accessories, and two tote bags to carry cameras, one laptop, one iPad and numerous smaller miscellaneous items. As you might imagine, laundry service will be a priority. All in all we will spend about 54 hours in airplanes traveling internationally and within individual countries; because of frequent-flyer miles, well enjoy first or business class for the longer flights over the 21,000 + miles. We can expect about 27 fun-filled hours in over-night trains, and an estimated 300 hours in restaurants and assorted libation stations, once medically released to imbibe. And I can’t leave out extra time experiencing curbside street vendor lunches and dinners as the travel books informs us that some of the best food can be discovered on the streets.
My plan is to blog as often as possible hoping you will be entertained sufficiently to follow along with the highlights and lowlights, together with added pictures to hopefully wet your own traveling appitite. The two maps below can be used as a reference to get an idea of exactly where we are in a particular country at a particular time. Planning began a year ago with the purchase of a few books, namely: the latest editions of “National Geographic Traveler” for both Thailand and Vietnam, “Lonely Planet Vietnam”, “Travelers’ Tales Thailand”, “A Dragon Apparent (Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam)”, the aforementioned “1,000 Places…”, countless articles from ten years of saved travel magazines, and hundreds of Google searches. We have read, reserved and researched until our eyeballs watered, and now we are ready to implement our Southeast Asian Travel plan (SAT). The SAT schedule is tight and not open for much ad-libbing. To the weather gods I humbly ask p-l-e-a-s-e no “Irene” type hurricanes or any other biblically proportioned bad weather this week. Our “to do” list has dwindled down to just a few more last minute details. I’m getting very excited as we inch our way towards September 1st. Yes, we are ready to be moving on to Southeast Asia.