Nancy's Travel Journal
South East Asia, Fall 2000

Bill and Nancy traveled to Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in October and November 2000 with Bob and Madeleine Robenhymer. Following are six trip reports written at Internet Cafes to send home from the other side of the world.


Trip Report #1 - October 13-18, 2000, BALI

Our first stop was Bali. We have never seen anything more beautiful with such peaceful, loving people. (Think we'll become Hindu.)

Where we stayed:
The Honeymoon Guest House was ideal - typical Balinese style with ornate carved doors and windows. We were served a big breakfast every morning on our lovely porch overlooking a lush garden. Right outside the gate was the lush rice fields. It was like we were in the country. We could hear the bullfrogs every night. Only one block on the other side was the town of Ubud, lined with interesting craft shops, the best restaurants and of course, Internet cafes. We did share our place with one little lizard and several ants that only arrived in the morning. We didn't mind because we slept under a mosquito net. So romantic.

What we saw:
Temples, TEMPLES, ceremonies, exotic things. We were lucky to see a huge ceremony that happens every 15 years - intended to harmonize the villages. There was a huge procession to the temple with people dressed in the most amazing outfits and playing unusual instruments.

On our first night, we went to a traditional Balinese dance that ended with a guy (dressed in a straw horse suit) kicking burning sticks into the audience. He was barefooted. What a sight! Sure the fire marshals wouldn't approve.

Best Memories - Hiking, HIKING
Bill and I took several long hikes into little villages outside Ubud. Once we were caught in the middle of a rice field during a huge downpour. (I'd call it a monsoon.) Several farmers, tucked into their straw huts, asked us to join them and get out of the rain, but we trudged on through the mud and warm rain, loving every minute.

Yesterday's hike took us through several villages. The people were so friendly - not accustomed to seeing two Americans on foot. Those that could speak English all said Hello and welcomed us to their village. The school kids were the best - always wanting to pose for pictures. Here it is considered a blessing to have someone take your picture. Believe me, I've blessed many people and taken so many photos.

I enjoy seeing the fathers with their children - they adore their kids. They don't have much, but they have plenty of love. In fact it is a difficult time for the economy (based mostly on crafts) because tourists are staying away thinking trouble in Indonesia - couldn't find a safer, happier place. Only blemish are the mangy old dogs who, for some reason, single me out to bark at. One even nipped my hand.

Bill and my concept of shopping is so different. As we roam through these towns, artists and wood carvers invite us to their homes where they do their work. We see mom and dad and of course, bond with them and end up buying some things for the memories. One buying trip to a wood carver who also trains cocks to fight ended up with a long motorcycle ride back to Ubud.

Best Memory
We went to a little town where all the heron from all over Bali come to nest each night. In 1965, they chose this one village. So from about 5 - 7, every evening, you can see flocks of beautiful white heron come to nest in only a few trees along the main street. Bill sat with a wood carver in the rice paddies, having a beer, while I crawled around the tiny town hoping for the best photos of these magnificent birds. Of course, we ended up buying some heron woodcarvings from this sweet little guy, struggling to feed his family.

This report has barely scratched the surface. So much to tell. We're off to the airport now with our crazy driver Wayan, who loves to say, "Monica Lewinsky - Big woman - Clinton likes big women."

Next stop Singapore for a Singapore Sling - Going to miss those afternoon beers and the finest food.

Campuan Ridge, Bali

Wood Carver, Bali

Rice Fields, Bali


Trip Report #2 - October 19-20, 2000 - Singapore

SINGAPORE -- Friday (10/20) - Stayed at the Royal Peacock Hotel in Chinatown. Great little hotel. We had a made-to-order American style breakfast. I was the designated Tour Guide for the day because Bill was feeling a little sluggish, if you know what I mean.

Planned a full walking tour day. Started in Chinatown - Stopped at a big Hindu Temple. Fascinating sights. Men were smashing coconuts in a bin - symbolizing smashing their egos. Lots of other strange activities going on there.

Next was the Colonial area. Walked along the mouth of the Singapore River. There were rolls of quaint shops and restaurants and a lovely, clean park. There were lots of school kids out picking up papers and cleaning the park. A teacher told us they are required to do community service. Singapore is the most orderly, clean town. All the citizens seem to take pride in their community.

Visited Raffles Hotel - very famous, elegant old place, famous because a lot of authors (Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham, James Michner, etc.) hung out there and wrote about Raffles Hotel in their books.

Raffles is also famous for the Singapore Sling which was invented in their bar. We took pictures, but didn't order a Singapore Sling because they were too expensive. Instead, I borrowed someone else's drink for an official photo - (it ain't easy being cheap)!

Went to Arab Town. Loved the smell of the spices and all the exotic people. Stopped at a Travel Agency to book hotels for the next town. They were the sweetest bunch of Muslims at the agency. One took us down to a corner café where all the locals ate and helped us order our authentic Arab lunch. The cook let us try the various sauces - YUMMY.

Bill started feeling better and took over the roll of designated Tour Guide (don't think he could take my leadership anymore).

Stopped at the most gaudy Buddhist Temple (Temple of a 1,000 Lights). There was a giant Buddha and if you paid a fee, you could switch the lights on, framing this giant Buddha statue. Bill said it was only worth a buck (Singapore dollar) to turn the lights on and the little old Buddhist lady in charge was firm at $5. When someone else came in and offered $5, she switched the lights on and then immediately turned them off before I could get a picture. Like I said, it's tough being cheap!

Many miles and many hours later in the day, we made our way to Little India. The area was fascinating. In the doorways of several little shops hung limestone wrapped with umbilical cords to bring luck to the store. Bob and Madeleine left to buy a camera. (Madeleine left her camera on a bus in Bali.) Bill and I were energized by all the lights and activity in Little India. It was Friday - big Hindu time and the celebration of the Hindu New Year. So many crowds and so much excitement.

Bill and I stopped to share a Tiger beer at a local sidewalk bar. This big, burly Hindu bartender wished us "Good Journey." The people are really sweet and friendly.

For dinner, we picked a hole-in-the-wall place for locals. They seated us by this guy (who turned out to be a pilot for Singapore Air). We ordered what he had. It was a place where you ate with your hands - your RIGHT hand because your LEFT hand is reserved for wiping one's you know what. Since I'm left handed, I had to sit on my left hand to keep from offending anyone. GREAT MEAL and total bill for both of us was $3. Love it here.

Went to another Hindu Temple in full action - can't begin to describe the sights - so many people ringing bells, moaning, praying, lying on the floor.

Walked to the MRT (subway) station to ride back to the hotel. On the way to the station we saw amazing street theatre - a girl on her back spinning 5 rugs - 2 on each foot, 2 on each hand and one on a stick out of her mouth.

Long, wonderful day in Singapore - home on the subway (MRT) and to bed.

Next day we're off to Malacca, Malaysia.

Bill just came into the Internet place in Kuala Lumpur and told me I wrote too much and would bore you. I was suppose to cover 3 more days. I think the man of few words should write the next trip report.

Singapore Sling at the Raffles
Hindu Temple, Singapore

Trip Report #3 - October 21-26, 2000 - Malaysia

Malacca (10/21 - 10/22)

We traveled by bus from Singapore to Malacca. We checked into a charming old Hotel - Hotel Puri. It has lots of old tiles, wonderful artwork and a really neat lobby and courtyard. We are happy campers.

Took a walking tour of Malacca - saw many little Muslim school girls draped with their veils in such hot, steamy weather. We're dying in shorts - can't imagine how they feel.

Malacca has a bloody past. The history of Malacca is who killed whom, who ruled whom -- from the Sultans to the Portuguese, to Dutch, then the British (of course), next Japan and finally independence for Malaysia in 1957. We saw many buildings and museums represented from all these groups. We really liked the replica of the Sultan's Palace and surrounding gardens.

We also enjoyed the People's Museum with an exhibit of body mutilation around the world - such things as bounded feet, extended lips and ear lopes, chiseled teeth, extended necks. (We may see some in the North of Thailand) and corsets. Very fascinating.

We had dinner in a little Portuguese town on the straits of Malacca. I took pictures of our cook in a dirty kitchen, but boy was the baked fish in banana leaves good! Our table was right out by the water. After dinner, we went to this tacky Portuguese cultural dancing. The guy really sang off key.

Our very favorite thing in Malacca was visiting this living museum called Villa Sentosa. It's a Malay family home. Emma, this sweet little Malay lady (about 60-ish) greeted us at the door. She took us all through the house her father had built. We saw her mother's wedding dress, her grandma's biscuit maker, the wedding bed and all sorts of memories from a wonderful, talented family. There were 13 children, 85 grandchildren - artists, musicians, highly educated - a most impressive family. In March they entertained the King of Malaysia (who is 73) and his lovely bride (who is 29). The family prepared all the food. They sat in the same gaudy pink chairs we were sitting in. Emma's brother showed us pictures of all the famous people that had come to the house. It was a very special morning.

We had lunch at a restaurant where we watched these giant alligator-sized lizards swim from one side of the river to the other. I decided not to go for a dip.

We spent a lot of time in Malacca's Chinatown. Saw temples, monks, Buddha statues, etc. Bill didn't see the last few temples - he got tired of taking off his shoes.

Kuala Lumpor (KL) (10/23 - 10/24) We had a two-hour bus ride from Malacca to KL. Got a taxi to the Federal Hotel - great place right smack in the middle of town. We were on the 8th floor with a fantastic view of the Petrones Towers (featured in the film "Entrapment"). We only had the afternoon in KL so decided to take a half-day city tour - a mistake for adventuresome souls. Saw the main sites - Train Station, Sultan's palace, Buddhist Temple - but had time just to snap a photo and not really explore the place. Worst of all, as part of the tour, we had to endure the pewter, batik and diamond factories. Finally asked our guide, Leo, to drop us off at the Kuala Lumpur Tower to get a grand view of the city.

Had a huge Indian dinner across from our hotel - cheap and good.

Georgetown on Penang Island (10/24 - 10/26) 5-hour bus ride from KL to Georgetown - the scenery was spectacular - lush mountains, Cameron Highlands on our right. Saw what looked to be marble mining. Also saw groves and groves of Palm Trees. Palm Oil is one of their main exported products.

Found a great new hotel in George Town (Cititel) - very fancy and only $33 a night including two huge buffet breakfasts. The dollar is strong. This is truly a bargain vacation. We were on the 11th floor with a fantastic view of the river. The whole town is preparing for the Hindu New Year - Deepavali. Lots of celebrations, decorations in the hotel. The Malaysians are very friendly, sweet people and can't do enough to help you. They make our visit so pleasant.

Bill and I had a great adventure on Penang Island. We climbed to the top of Penang Hill, starting at the Botanical Garden. I mean a hill - took one and a half hours to get to the top and an hour to return. Walked through rain forest and saw families of monkeys crossing the road. Most people take the funicular up, but we wanted to save 25 cents! Just kidding - the views were wonderful and the exercise felt great.

After Penang Hill, it was back to the hotel to shower and get ready for a walking tour of George Town - more museums, more temples, and lots of time in Chinatown.

Stopped for our afternoon beer at an official Hash House Harriers Pub. Our geeky bartender knew everything about war and bombers. The bar had a pole - if you could climb it, you'd get a free beer. I tried, but no luck.

We had dinner with Bob and Mad at a Muslim place that served murtabok (a pancake thing with spices and chicken). Everything was good - but I'm starting to catch a cold and couldn't enjoy it as much as the others - I just watched the lizards on the wall catching flies for their dinner.

Back to the hotel to prepare for our next adventure - southern Thailand.
PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS - We've already been there and all I can say is OH WOW!!! This is some place. Time to say Goodnight. We are very happy and having wonderful adventures - but miss our friends and family back home.

Malaysian School Girls
Malacca Malaysia
Patrones Towers, KL

Trip Report #4 - October 26-31, 2000 - Southern Thailand

Oct. 26 - Took a mini bus from George Town (Penang Island, Malaysia) to Krabi, Thailand. Turned out to be a long, rough day. Our driver definitely had a death wish. We spent most of the 9 hours passing other cars on slick, rainy roads. Due to basic survival needs, the 8 passengers in the van bonded -- 2 teachers from Germany (Herman and Bridget) and 2 sweet Chinese Malaysians from George Town (Ben and Isaac). We arrived in Krabi and all decided to stay in Ao Nang Beach at these little bungalows called the Peace Laguna resort. So we all piled back into that same mini van with that same wild and crazy driver for another 30 minutes to go to the beach bungalows.

Oct. 27 - Probably the most remarkable, beautiful day we ever had. We rented a long tail boat with Bob and Mad and our new friends Ben and Isaac to visit the desolate islands offshore from Ao Nang beach. First stop was at a lovely island where we had lunch. Next stop - snorkeling at Chicken Island. Man-oh-man, the coral and fish were amazing. Our darling little Thai boat driver brought along bananas for the fish. They swarmed us. After an hour of snorkeling, we went to another island to explore caves and lagoons (reminded me of the movie, "The Beach"). Saw lots of beautiful people (mostly young German and Swedish kids) climbing the limestone cliffs. One last island stop for a beer. Can't describe the beauty of this place. We returned to our bungalows, cleaned up and went out for a wonderful dinner. Thai food here is great and cheap.

Oct. 28 - Another day in Paradise - Today's it's kayaking with Iad, another loveable crazy Thai guide. Ben and Isaac joined us for another adventure. We have bonded with them. We put the kayaks in the water. Iad insisted I paddle with him in his boat. (Think he was worried about the old gal kayaking all day.) We first went through the mangroves next to limestone cliffs. Impossible to describe the peacefulness of that place--the bird sounds, the wind blowing the trees, the paddles through the water. We went in and out of little caves carved in the limestone. A second guide cut up fresh pineapple for us. Then we reached the monkeys. They jumped on our boats for the pineapple. Iad and his guide knew each monkey by name and their babies. The next stop was Crocodile Cave where we encountered one lonely, bad-assed monkey. Iad warned us to stay away because this monkey was banished from the group -- He was really mean and not quite right. (I've known some people like him!)

We then went through two large cliffs to the open sea and then found a secluded beach for lunch. We were served 5 different Thai dishes over rice. Delicious. After lunch we headed back to the open sea. Since the tide was receding, we were able to get out of the kayaks on a sand bar in the middle of the sea and run through the waves.

At the end of the day, after we docked the kayaks, Iad took us to a local swimming place--waterfalls, rushing water. We dived in--the rushing stream almost carried me away. We played liked Tarzan--climbing trees, swinging on vines and jumping into the water. Nobody in Thailand has the concept of lawsuits--so everything is so much more fun.

We had our last dinner with Ben and Isaac. They had to return to George Town in the morning. We're going to miss them. Ben studied at the Univ. of Oklahoma (in Engineering) and became Americanized. His dream is to someday return to our country. I could definitely adopt that sweet Ben. Isaac is an amazing guy--so well read and so witty. He knows more about American culture and politics than most Americans.

Oct. 29 - Bill and I rented a motorcycle for the day. Decided to visit a beautiful waterfall (Khoa Pnom Benja National Park). We missed our mark and spent a lot of the day touring the backcountry of Thailand. Only need to get a mile or so from the tourist areas and no one speaks English. Makes life an adventure.

Finally arrived at the waterfall. We hiked up the trail to the 5th waterfall with a group of about 25 Thai military guys. They took an interest in us and one with a camera snapped our picture. Of course, we took their pictures--posing with them with great big hugs. Coming back one darling little soldier tried to help me when I slipped and pulled him down into a muddy pond. His freshly pressed uniform and nicely polished boots were ruined. We all laughed.

A thunderstorm was coming so headed back to our motorcycle. Too late, we were caught in a downpour. We sought refuge under a covered picnic table. Then along came a group of Thais that had been partying all day. They insisted we share their booze. We tried to communicate--not easy with their limited English and drunken state. I was worried about committing a faux pas--while one guy kept kissing Bill's hand and saying "I love you." The Thais seem to adore Bill. Finally, the rain lifted and I said I wanted to take one picture of the gang and then "Bye-Bye". They were OK with that. It really was a fun time.

Got back to our bungalow safely, in spite of the rain. Then Bill and I went to our favorite place ever--called The Last Café, set right out on the beach. The spot is left over from the 60's. Took lots of pictures and got to know the owner / bartender. Beautiful sunset, beautiful evening and wonderful day.

Oct. 30 - Had so much fun yesterday, we decided a rent another motorcycle for the day's adventure. (Costs about 3 bucks a day!) Our first stop was Tharn Bok Koranee National Park--beautiful waterfalls and pools. Then we tried to find our way to a little bay where you can catch a long tail boat to visit caves. We were way out in the backcountry. Finally a guy flagged us down and said he was a tour guide and would take us to the caves. (There's always someone to come along and save the day!) The first cave (Pee Hua Toe - HuaKalok) had cave paintings dating from 5,000 years ago. Very impressive. One was a pair of hands--right hand had 6 fingers, left hand had 5 fingers (go figure). Got back in the long tail boat and drove through the second cave (Tham Rot Thi) dodging stalactites. Got back to shore and met the whole family that runs the boating operation - they were featured in our book, The Lonely Planet Guide. Sweet family - but had to hurry to get back to the beach before dark (1 hour drive).

Back to our little bungalow to clean up for the evening. Perfect evening at The Last Café. Walked down the beach. Hooked up with Bob and Mad for a delicious dinner at Jinda's, a great little hole-in-the-wall place. Lots of food--good and cheap. Can't believe the prices. The wonderful bungalows are $15 a night and the best dinner ever for both of us is only about $5.

Oct. 31 - Last day in southern Thailand.
We booked a tour to catch all the things we missed - big mistake for folks who love to get away on motorcycles. Transferred to a big bus - then to a big noisy long tail boat loaded with people. First stop - James Bond Island crawling with tourists and tacky souvenirs. Just given 10 minutes to take a photo. Then lunch at a floating Muslim village - amazing place--but only 10 minutes for another photo. Back on the boat to return to shore and then back on the bus to stop at a famous Buddhist temple. Monkeys everywhere begging for food. Such a sad sight.

We were so glad to get off the bus at Pang Nga to head for our resort. Felt like we were in the Twilight Zone - beautiful setting, rustic bungalows--but it seemed we were the only guests they ever had and we were stuck way out in no man's land. A wonderful lady at the counter took pity on us and ran us into town in her pickup to get money, use the Internet and arrange for a taxi ride to the airport in the morning.

Later, in the middle of the night, the place turned into a disco - a band with only 4 guys to entertain. The place was certainly interesting.

Ben and Isaac
Ao Nang Beach
Nancy at James Bond Island

Trip Report #5 - November 1-8, 2000 - Northern Thailand

Nov. 1. Flew to Chang Mai - Got settled into our hotel, The River View Lodge. It has gorgeous gardens and of course, a wonderful view of the river. Next to The Last Café, it’s the second best place to have our evening beer.

We took off on foot to the old walled city, stopping at Wats (temples) along the way. At one temple, we met our first con artist. He told us about this incredible jewelry deal--a big government promotion and a great way to take precious stones out of the country. Since we wanted to go to that part of town anyway we let him hail a tuk-tuk (funny little taxi) and off we went to check out the gems. We arrived at the jewelry store and were greeted by a real con-guy. He showed us jewels and told us they were worth twice as much in U.S. plus we wouldn’t have to pay 195% in taxes. Since this was an obvious scam, we said "goodbye" and left. (The very next night Bob and Mad ran into the same setup. They were forewarned and not interested. We were both impressed at how good the scam artists were.)

Nov. 2. Had a big breakfast at the River View Lodge. Then we shared a driver with Bob and Mad to go out to the mountains to visit the King’s palace. The Thai people love their king. (He plays the saxophone, but doesn’t have palace interns!) There were so many beautiful gardens--everyone was preparing for his arrival. He and his family spend 4 months a year at this palace outside Chang Mai and the rest of the time in Bangkok.

Next stop was the Mother of all Temples - Wat Phar Thart Doi Suthep. The temple blew our socks off--lots of gold, lots of Buddha’s, lots of monks and so shiny and beautiful. It took 360 steps to reach the top. On the way back, the driver dropped Bill and me off inside the walled city to have lunch and do some more temple hopping. (Bob and Mad went on looking for silk shops.) All the in-town temples paled in comparison to the Mother of all Temples. We did meet a sweet little monk. He was from one of the hillside tribes and spoke great English. He is studying English literature. I asked him what monks do. His response was - No Sex. He’s been a monk for 2 years. He told us how monk-hood changed his life. He used to be so serious, but now he laughs all the time. I wanted my photo with him, but he said, I had to be lower than him, so I kneeled down - I’m sure it’ll be a weird photo. He wanted our address, so looks like we now have a monk-pen-pal.

We went back to our hotel, had our beer in the garden and then went to the best Indian restaurant with Bob and Mad. Loved the place and the food. We splurged - total bill for all of us was almost $15. Can’t believe these prices.

Nov. 3. After breakfast, we hired a driver (got Nikon, the same driver as before) for a day in the country.

First stop was the official government elephant training camp. Wonderful place -- saw so many elephants. Got to fed them and watch a show. (The San Diego Wild Animal Park show will never be the same.) The elephants, rolled, lifted and stacked logs. They painted, played the harmonica and xylophone. We got really attached to the baby -- so nice to get so close to those wonderful animals.

We had lunch on the river, and then rode horse carts through the little town of Lamphan and then stopped at their main Wat, of course (what else would one do in town?).

Next we visited an old Teak House and a couple more Wats (Burma style) - then time to go back for a beer in the garden at our hotel.

Had dinner at a place called The Gallery. Hillary Clinton ate there when she visited Chang Mai. Good dinner (but not as good as the night before) and only cost Bill and me about $3 or $4. This is a bargain-hunter’s paradise. You can live like kings (and queens) for next to nothing. We went back to our hotel and prepared for our trek to the hill tribes.

Nov. 4. The start of our 3-day trek to visit the hill tribes.
Rungson, our guide, picked us up at our hotel at 8:00 am. (Editor's comment, 2011: Rungson now has his own travel service--Sam Trekking and Travel Service. We highly recommend him.) We piled into a converted pickup truck for a beautiful 3-hour drive to Pai. We watched the twisty, winding, old mountain roads with fantastic views. The Mexican sunflowers were in full bloom.

We had lunch and did a little shopping in Pai. Bill lost his edge at bargaining because the cutest, most adorable little Thai girl was on the other end. He was actually offering her more money than she had negotiated! (What’s happened to my guy?)

We hooked up with two porters to carry our stuff. (Cost $3 per day to carry your packs.) Bill was the only one who wanted to carry his own backpack. From then on, Rungson, our guide, referred to Bill as THE BIG GUY--because he was the one in charge of our little group and tough enough to carry his own pack. (Bill loved it - never been called THE BIG GUY before.)

The trail was wonderful - crossed a stream 13 times. The water felt great on our feet. (My poor Teva sandals are ruined.) We arrived at the first village - gave out a few pencils and sewing kits to the women and children hanging out.

The next part of the trail took us way up a steep hillside. The views were fantastic. One of the porters kept lighting firecrackers and we’d all laugh. About 4:30 pm, we arrived at the little village where we were spending the night. When we approached this little hut up on stilts, Rungson said, "Welcome to the Karen Tribe Holiday Inn." Rungson first started the fire in the kitchen and made us hot tea. We were served tea in bamboo cups kneeling around a little table.

Rungson was the head chef while our porters helped him chop the fresh vegetables and chicken for our dinner. It took him 2 hours to prepare the most amazing meal - chicken and ginger, chicken and garlic, green curry chicken, chicken and cashews, vegetables plus rice. The best food we had in all of Thailand. It was served in that little hut by candlelight. While Rungson was preparing the meal, he told us to go out into the village and meet the people and photograph them. The village had no electricity and only a communal cold-water faucet.

We saw wonderful sights - mothers scrubbing their kids at the communal faucet, a guy using a slingshot to get his cow home, chickens, pigs, cows under the stilted huts, farmers returning from the fields, woman building fires to prepare dinner, kids everywhere running and playing. It was just like camping.

After our huge dinner, Rungson brought us dessert - fresh pumpkin cooked in coconut milk and more tea. We were stuffed - lying on our backs like pigs. The family was huddled in the kitchen around the fire, laughing and joking with each other, having a great time and without TV or a video!

We all went to bed about 9. At 3 in the morning, the roosters began to crow. A little later it was time to feed the pigs, then came the pounding sounds. The wives were pounding rice to prepare lunches for their husbands going off to the fields. It was so fun to watch the little village wake up. We are so lucky to see such a different and amazing lifestyle. (Why does everyone seem so much happier than people back home?)

Rungson brought us breakfast on our bamboo mats--coffee, scrambled eggs, lots of toast with butter and jam. After breakfast, we got ready for our trek back to civilization.

Wonderful weather, wonderful day, great trail. There was one tricky place, climbing up the narrow sides of the river. I slipped, grabbed for a branch, but the branch broke. Lucky for me, Rungson was there to break my fall. Only a little bruise instead of a great big one.

We passed about 10 kids (ages 6 to 12) on the trail. They were on their way to school for the next week. They leave their villages on Sunday afternoon and trek about 10 tough miles to the next village for school (Monday - Friday). We gave them pencils and barrettes. Sweet kids.

Finally hiked to the road and found the truck. We all jumped in, including the porters and a 67-year-old grandma hitching a ride to town. She had 10 kids, 54 grandchildren and beetle-nut juice stained teeth. Drove to a little town for lunch, then climbed on a bamboo raft to go down the river. A very peaceful float down the river. Rungson met us at the dock and said, "Welcome to Burma." (He was kidding - what a jokester. Earlier he said he wouldn’t go to Burma for a million bot--which happens to be only $200,000.)

That night we stayed in the Riverside Lodge - a great place right on the river. Rungson joined us for dinner. He wears a lot of silver rings, reads everything, is shy, sweet and takes care of his 74-year-old mother. His father was killed by an ox cart 14 years ago. He’s a great cook and shared some of his secrets. He loves the villages and says he sleeps much better in a hut than in a fancy hotel. It was great getting to know Rungson.

Nov. 6. Had a big breakfast (so what else is new?) at the hotel. Rungson joined us. Our first morning adventure was the elephant ride. For about 2 hours, we rode those wonderful animals through the mud, through a river and into the jungle. So great to see the trees from so high up. Loved the experience.

Hill Tribe
Elephant Ride
Mae Hong Song

After the elephant ride, we rode the truck to a great little town, Mae Hong Song. We visited the temple and saw lots of women and monks preparing for a big celebration. At another temple, we met a sweet older monk who loves the Internet and Al Gore. (He was appalled by Bush’s drunk-driving record.) After lunch, we flew back to Chang Mai and checked in back at our River View Lodge. Cleaned up, organized, had a beer and a wonderful dinner at a great Indian restaurant, Whole Earth.

Nov. 7. Rungson came to the River View Lodge to met us for breakfast. He brought us maps of the area we had visited. We said our good-byes and talked about some future trips he would plan for us. (Would love it! The last 3 days were packed with fun and adventure--for only $82 each including airfare. Can’t find that kind of excitement anywhere.)

About 11, we flew to Sukhothai--the first ancient city of Thailand--actually where Thailand began. Sukhothai has the most beautiful airport I’ve ever seen. Looks like a Disney creation--porters dressed in Safari suits, huge lily ponds, antique furniture and free fresh fruit and free Internet service. The place has won several awards.

Took a taxi to our hotel - cozy, funky little bamboo rooms. It’s obvious the electricity was added later (terrible wiring). After lunch, we rented bikes and rode to the ancient city ruins. Wonderful afternoon--such a peaceful place with so many amazing temples and Buddha’s.

That evening, we returned to the ancient city because the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra was giving a free concert. They played mostly western tunes - a tribute to Henry Mancini. We bought some food from the vendors and had a picnic while we listened to the music.

After the concert, we bought tickets to see a light and sound show inside the main temple. The show was a big Hollywood production with casts of thousands and wonderful lighting effects. It ended with dozens of mini hot air balloons floating up into the sky. Caught a tuk-tuk back to our bamboo hut.

Nov. 8. Had breakfast at the hotel and then jumped on our bikes for one last look around the ancient ruins of Sukhothai. At the first Wat (temple), we hooked up with the friendliest monk - very close to enlightenment, I’m sure. He said he would be our FREE GUIDE! (Apparently Monks don’t have a lot to do. He flew in for last night’s show and got to ride on an Airbus - A400. He was so excited about everything.) He was a good guide, pointing out things about the temple - how concrete was constructed to last from the 11th century.

We biked to a few more ruins and visited the museum. Saw the first toilets--haven’t changed much from their current stand-up and aim. It was a highly developed civilization, even had ceramic pipes for their water system.

Got back to the hotel, packed and off to the airport for our last adventure, Bangkok.

Wat Doi Sutep
Chaing Mai
Karen Village
Holiday Inn

Trip Report #6 - November 9-11, 2000 - Bangkok

Arrived at the Bangkok airport, got a taxi to our hotel, turned on CNN and discovered Bush had just been elected. Wait a minute, switched to BCC and those clever Brits said, "Not so fast, some problems with the Florida count." (The rest is history, or almost history.)

Found another great place for cheap beer across from our hotel. Then went out for a great dinner at a Jazz / Art place. Bangkok is cool. We were pleasantly surprised.

Nov. 9. Up early and off to the Grand Palace. The streets of Bangkok are scary to cross - almost run down by a host of motorcyclists. The Grand Palace is the most remarkable place we have seen in all of Thailand. The big deal is the emerald Buddha, but I loved all the wild monkey guard statues. We rented headsets to take us through the Grand Palace.

Two hours later, we visited the Wat across the street--Wat Po--to see the reclining Buddha (about half the size of a football field). Lit a candle and made some wishes.

After lunch at a nice little place, we took a river taxi across the river to see another famous Wat. It had all these huge dome structures (called stupas) that housed parts (parts like hair or tongues) of the early kings--Ramas I - VI. We were amazed at how the domes were covered in mosaics.

Last stop was the National Museum. There were about 15 exhibit halls - We were wearing down. We learned that the current King (the saxophone player) is 72, born in Cambridge, Mass. and has ruled since 1946. Looks like a nice guy.

Stopped at our favorite spot for a beer, then Bill bought me a gold necklace that has the Chinese letters for Happiness and Good Luck. Bill loved bargaining with this darling little character. She said her English is GI-issued because she learned it from the American soldiers fighting in Viet Nam. We had fun with Mrs. Yu (and I love my necklace).

Took a water taxi and had dinner at a wonderful Indian restaurant called Cha Cha’s, started by Nehru’s chef. The Chef has since died, but the place lives on with his recipes and his wife. We all loved it.

Nov 10. Breakfast at the hotel - then the first stop was the Marble Temple. The white walls sparkled in the sun with all the jeweled trimming and lots of Buddha’s in lots of positions.

Next stop was the Teak House, a mansion used by the early royalty. We had a guided tour with the cutest little Thai guide-trainee, trying her best, but giggling her way through each room. After the tour we watched traditional Thai dancing on the veranda.

Next, we took a taxi into the downtown area to view a collection of teak houses brought from Change Mai. Saw a lot of antiques.

We were getting overwhelmed, so we stopped for lunch at a hotel. Then we took the sky train to the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an American who visited Thailand during WW II, feel in love with the place and decided to re-build the silk industry. He disappeared while traveling to Malaysia and nobody knows what happened to him. He was an architect and put together this wonderful house and garden situated along the canal.

Next stop for us for the 5 ½ ton solid gold Buddha. It was covered by concrete in the Chang Mai area for hundreds of years. One day a crane operator was moving it and accidentally dropped it, revealing the gold. It was really shiny.

After the golden Buddha, we decided to walk to the river to catch a river taxi home. We saw the real Thailand life--little places turned into little factories. Now I know where all that stuff that says "Made in Thailand" comes from.

Had a nice last dinner in Bangkok on the pier. After dinner, went to the Internet café (which includes facials, Thai massages and other interesting activities).

Nov 11. On our last day in Bangkok, we took a walking tour in Chinatown. We went to all these local markets with narrow aisles packed with people and an occasional motorcycle. Such sights and sounds. Bought a few more treasures, had lunch, then back to the hotel to shower and pack.

Uneventful flight home until we reached L.A. and had to wait. Bad brakes on our American Eagle. Finally got to San Diego at 9:30 pm on Saturday. Amy and Brian met us. So good to see them again. My only request was a pizza stop on the way home. (It tasted good.)

END of a wonderful adventure. It will be difficult to top that trip. Looking forward to getting the pictures (35 rolls) and re-living the trip. Also looking forward to seeing our good friends and neighbors again.

Gold Buddha
Nancy Leading
Thai Dancers


 visit © Bill and Nancy Interactive, 2005-09. All Rights Reserved