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Mystical Thailand

January 12 - 28, 2013

Globus  Vacation Travel

This travel adventure to Thailand with an extension to Cambodia started with a great deal of frustration!  Carol and I were packed and ready to drive to Binghamton Airport, when we were notified by email just before noon that our 2:30 p.m. flight to Washington Dulles was canceled. All United flights were cancelled due to heavy fog across the eastern states.  I immediately contacted United to find out when we could fly to Washington.  They had rescheduled us for January 14th.  That would not work, because our Thailand tour began January 15th.  After a couple of hours with United Frequent Flier personnel, we decided to drive to Dulles due to the lack of flights available from Binghamton in order to keep our original flight schedule in place.  United was able to place us on an Air Nippon flight from Washington to Japan on Saturday in the late morning.  So, off we went to rent a car at Binghamton Airport.   We arrived  at Dulles car rental office at 10:00p.m. after driving through heavy fog!

Our Saturday, we boarded Air Nippon.  The flight was great, but took 12 hours plus.  We arrived at Narita Airport near Tokyo at mid-afternoon on January 14th in a heavy snow storm.  Our flight from Tokyo to Bangkok was delayed until after 11 p.m.  We arrived in Bangkok at 4:15a.m. on January 15th.  A Globus representative met us, and after a brief wait we were loaded in a taxi to take us to our hotel.   We arrived at the hotel and the taxi driver unloaded our bags and off he went.  It was the wrong hotel!  We were able to secure a new taxi to take us to the correct hotel.  By the time we got settled in and showered it was breakfast time.  Our tour started at 9:00 a.m. with a tour of Bangkok's Grand Palace.  The day ended with a Thai dinner and show at Silom Village.   Needless to say we collapsed after dinner, tired but happy to be in Bangkok on time for our tour. 

 

Our Bangkok hotel, the Majestic Grand.  We met our capable Thai

tour guide, Sam Ruchchakorn, at the hotel on the first morning. 

He was a native of Bangkok, who spent his high school years in Southern

California before returning to Bangkok where he went to college. 

We were a group of 18 travelers from the U.S.A. and Canada.

The first day of touring in Bangkok was January 15.  Bangkok is

also nicknamed "Venice of the East" for having over 2,000 canals. 

We started out with a visit to the Temple of the Emerald

Buddha in the Grand Palace area.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha,  Wat Phra Kaew.  The temple consists

of over 100 brightly colored buildings, golden spires and glittering mosaics. 

The temple dates back to 1782, when Bangkok was founded.

The Chapel of the Emerald Buddha

Ornate figures guard the temple.

On the left is the Phra Si Rattna Chedi, in the middle is the Mondop,

and in the right background is the Pantheon.

Beautiful golden statues guard the Wiharn Yod.

Carol admiring the ornate sculptures found in the temple.

Shoe racks were provided for those people who wanted to visit the Temples.

Next stop adjacent to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was the Grand Palace.

The Phra Maha Montein group at the heart of the Grand Palace.  This is

considered the most important set of throne halls in the entire complex.

Phra Thinang Chakn Maha Padat is composed of nine major and minor halls.

Our next stop was a river cruise on the Chao Phraya River that runs

through Bangkok.  Above is a typical scene of houses along the river.

As we sailed along we also saw modern structures built on the river banks.

This is a riverside Temple where the monks feed the carp in the river. 

It is quite a scene to see the large fish fight over bread tossed in the river.

Our second Temple visit of the day was at the Temple of the Dawn.  It

stands on the the bank of the Chao Phraya River.  The name is derived

from the first light of the morning as it reflects off the surface

of the temple with pearly iridescence.

Wat Run is a 260 feet tall spire.

The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (or Rama IX), is the

world’s longest reigning monarch.   He has reigned since 1946. The

Constitution stipulates that although the sovereignty of the state

is vested in the people, the King will exercise such powers through

the three branches of the Thai government. Under the constitution

the King is given very little power, but remains a figurehead and

symbol of the Thai nation.  The picture of the King and his wife can be

seen throughout Thailand.  In this scene his picture is

on a building along the river.

Our last stop of the afternoon was the Temple of the Reclining

Buddha.  It is located in the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok.

The temple houses more than 1,000 Buddha images, including the

49 foot high and 151 foot long massive reclining Buddha.

Another temple on the grounds of the Reclining Buddha Temple

After a busy day of sightseeing, Carol and I elected to go to the

Silom Village for dinner and to see the Ruen Thep Thai Classical

Dance show.   The meal was good and the dancing show

was outstanding.  We had to sit on the floor, feet in a pit beneath the low table, with our shoes off.

Sam, our tour guide, leading us at the Coconut factory.

The second day of the trip found us on the bus early in the morning.  Our first stop

was a small family-run coconut factory where coconut syrup and

sugar were manufactured.  Note the pile of coconut husks waiting to

be burned in the process of making the sugar.  Nothing is wasted!

The coconut processing stoves burned constantly.

The second morning stop was a boat ride to the most famous of Thailand's

floating markets, the Damnoen Saduak.  It's about 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok.

The colorfully clad merchants at this lively market paddle along

congested canals in sturdy canoes laden with fresh fruit and

vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks.

Our afternoon was time at leisure, and we made the most of it by

napping to catch up on our lost sleep from the flights to Bangkok. 

It was hot and muggy in Bangkok, even though it was their winter.  It was a pleasant change

from the cold weather of Owego.  January/February is the best time for travel to Thailand.

The evening activity was an optional dinner cruise with dancing entertainment

on the Chao Phraya River.  It was fun to sail on the river and

see all of the temples lit up.

The next day of touring found us on the bus traveling to our

 destination.  We took a short drive to Kanchanaburi where

we visited the Thailand-Burma Railway Center.

 

Our first stop in Kanchanaburi was at this Museum to view the interactive

exhibits depicting the story of the railway.  Most of the exhibits dealt

with the horrors faced by captured soldiers in building the Thailand-Burma

Railway during World War II at the hand of Japanese soldiers.

Across the street from the Museum was the Cemetery of the Allied

Prisoners from World War II.

Approximately 25,000 soldiers and workers died in forced labor while

building the Thailand-Burma Railway.

Some of the many grave stones in the cemetery.

The famous Bridge on the River Kwai.  The World War II bridge was

wooden and was eventually destroyed.  This steel bridge serves

the railway in current time.

All aboard for our a two hour long train ride on the Thailand-Burma

Railway.  The railway is often referred to as the "Death Railway".

"

Along the way we saw a variety of crops growing, above is a grove

of banana trees.  We also saw fields of sugar cane and tapioca trees.

Rice fields were everywhere in Thailand.

After lunch, we drove to the Tiger Temple or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua.  It 

is a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand that was founded

in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals.

There were originally two tigers rescued from poachers.  The majority are Indochinese tigers.

A large group of young people help care for the Tigers.  They also help

guide visitors who come to see the Tigers.

Carol being brave around her new friend!

While the tigers are chained they can still be anything but tame.  Having

my picture taken with two real live adult tigers was a first for me.

This was a real close experience for me and maybe the tiger.

There was a tiger cub at the sanctuary.  He was quite playful.

There were several varieties of wild animals in the sanctuary.  Above

is a small herd of water buffalo heading for their afternoon swim.

Friday the 18th, found us on the road to Ayutthaya one of the world's

largest cities before falling to the Burmese in 1756.

Above is display of local produce on sale at a small local market that we visited

 

Phra Mongkhon Bophit is a major Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya, believed

to have been built during the reign of King Chairachathirat, around 1538.

The huge Buddha statue, Phra Mongkhon Bophit, was previously sitting

outdoors at Wat Chichiang, but was moved indoors here by King Song Tham.

The Wat Phra Phitsanulok the largest temple on the Royal

Palace grounds.  Above is Wat Mongkol Bophit, a giant 55-foot-tall bronze Buddha.

After lunch we continued on to Phitsanulok on the banks of the

Nan River.  We toured Wat Phra Si Sanphet [ 1448 ]

.A view of the shrine of Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Another view of the shrine of Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Phitsanulok’s main tourist attraction is Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat, known

locally simply as Wat Yai (the big temple). This famous temple, built in 1357,

it is home to the Phra Buddha Chinnarat, which is one of the most revered

Buddha figures in Thailand, and the official symbol of the entire Phitsanulok Province.

The monastery was built in the reign of Phra Maha Thamma Racha I (Phra Lithai)

in 1357 A.D. It houses the Phra Buddha Chinnarat regarded as the most

beautiful Buddha Image in Thailand. This statue was cast in the attitude of

subduing evil during the late Sukhothai period in 1631.

Buddha Statues were found in several locations around the

outside to the Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat.

Today we are traveling on to Chiang Mai with stop at the Sukhothai

Historical Park, a UNESCO Heritage site.

The ancient Sukhothai City walls consist of three concentric earthen banks,

the in-between spaces, from which the earth was dug, were originally moats.

Wat Traphang Thong

It's the weekend, and a young couple were getting married in the park.

Wat Mahathat Seated Buddha Statue

Sukhothai was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th

centuries. It has a number of fine monuments, illustrating the beginnings of

Thai architecture. The great civilization, which evolved in the Kingdom of

Sukhothai, absorbed numerous influences and ancient local traditions.  The

rapid assimilation of all these elements forged what is known as the 'Sukhothai style'.

Buddha Statue in Sukhothai historical park

They were celebrating an anniversary of the Park with this colorful display.

After our visit to Sukhothai Historic Park, we drove on to the city of Chiang Mai. 

Upon arrival at the city we toured three locations where high-quality handicrafts

were made.

Our first stop was at the Silk Factory of Chiang Mai

A silk weaver creating beautiful silk cloth.

Beautiful, but expensive, silk clothing

Our second stop was at the Chiang Mai Teak factory.  Above is a photo of

a teak carver making a bas relief wall hanging.  The carving was

very complicated with many layers of figures.

A carved teak table and chairs ready for finishing.

Our last stop was at the paper parasol factory

Parasols being made by a group of women who shape the ribs

and prepare the paper covering.

Early the next morning we drove up to the Shrinehru School located on

a mountain top near Chiang Mai.

The school was not in session, so our visit was limited to a picture taking walk about.

A local woman drying her field crop.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is a Theravada Buddhist temple near Chiang Mai

Province, Thailand. The temple is often referred to as "Doi Suthep",

although this is actually the name of the mountain it is located on. The temple

is located 15 km from the city of Chiang Mai, and is a sacred site to many

Thai people. From the temple, impressive views of Chiang Mai can be seen

and it remains a popular destination for tourists.

The gold-plated Chedi in the middle of a square marble-tiled courtyard

There were several Buddha's found in the Temple.

The Jade Buddha was a beautiful sight!

Young local dancers greeted Temple visitors throughout the day.

After touring the nearby Temple we had a visit to a Jade factory where

we learned about Jade and how jewelry was made.  Items for

sale were quite exquisite and expensive.

Our next morning started with a stop at a local Orchid Farm.  It was off

season, but a few very pretty orchids were on the vines.

Our second stop of the morning was at Karen Village the home

of the Padaung Long-Necked  women.

The girls of the village receive their first brass neck rings at age seven. 

They work in the village shops weaving fabric for scarves they sell in their shops.

After this visit we were off to the Mae Taeng Elephant Camp.

People returning from their elephant ride.

People returning from their elephant ride of about an hour. 

The rides are partly taken in the Maesa River.

Elephants performing in their unique show.

Elephant's painting pictures.

Completed paintings were purchased by two of our tour group members

 to take home.  Suda, a 4-year old elephant was able to write her name.

 

Carol & John enjoying an elephant ride.  It was a bouncy experience.

After elephant ride, we rafted down the Maesa river for about 45

minutes.  We saw water marks on trees indicating that in the

rainy season the water level rises 20 feet.

After our busy and exciting day we checked in to our Hotel at our

in Chiang Mai.  It was a fun day of new experiences.

A new day and another boat ride on the Kok River to Baan Mai.

Kok River scenery.

The boats went very fast and maneuvered very easily.   They were powered

by automobile engines mounted on the rear transom of the boats.   The prop

is in the water about ten feet behind the boat.  This is the river spot we stopped to

visit the Hill Tribe village.

  This is a view of the Hill Tribe Village of the Akha.  They are

know for their gorgeous headdresses decorated with silver coins.

There was a snake charmer on the dock at the Village of Baan Mai

when we landed there.  Carol was eager to handle this gentleman's

pet python, about 8 feet long.

Upon our arrival at Chiang Rai we went directly to the famous White

Temple.  Wat Rong Khun is a contemporary unconventional Buddhist temple

in Chiang Rai, Thailand. It was designed and built by Chalermchai Kositpipat, an art instructor.

Construction began in 1996 and is expected to be completed 60 - 90 years after the

death of the artist and designer.

The temple is a brilliant white color with thousands of small mirror

mosaics inlayed around the temple.

Day 10 found our hardy group of travelers heading to the famous

Golden Triangle.  We boarded these trucks for the ride up to the

Doi Mae Salong settlement.

Along the way we saw beautiful sun-bathed images like this rice paddy.  Jasmine rice

is the leading agricultural product of Thailand.  You could see rice fields

all round the country.

This settlement was founded by Kuomintang soldiers who fled China in 1949.

A typical home found in the village settlement.

Villagers displayed their traditional dance for our group.  There was several

stands offering local crafts for sale.

Mae Sal a market town on the Myanmar border.

After Mae Sal we drive on to the Golden Triangle.  This is the place where

the Ruak and the mighty Mekong Rivers meet.

A large Buddha greets visitors to Sob Ruak.

Carol in front of the Elephant Monument.  Three times crossing

under the elephant brings good luck.

Boat landing for Mekong River cruises.  Our group enjoyed a sail

on the Mekong river.

A river view of Sob Ruak

A large casino on the Laos side of the river.  The casinos are built on the Laos and

Myanmar river sides to accommodate the Chinese gamblers.  There are no

casinos in Thailand.

Carol and I are in Laos.  Our river boat ride stopped at a dock on the Laos

side, so we could shop in a small area that offered all kinds of things

for sale.  One popular item was clear whiskey in bottles with cobras, giant scorpions and

other interesting objects inside.

After our boat ride we stopped at the nearby Hall of Opium.  There were no pictures

allowed.  Hall of Opium was constructed on over 40 acres of land at a site

near The Golden Triangle. The site incorporates an exhibition area and

information centre of the Hall of Opium within the landscape of the Golden

Triangle Park. The Hall of Opium combines a museum on the history of

opium and the impact of illegal drugs.  There is an information centrer for research

and extensive education on opium, opiates and other narcotics.
 

We returned to our hotel to be greeted by this colorful photo opt.  This

evening we had our special farewell dinner.

Tomorrow we fly back to Bangkok,  for some of our group it means they

will fly home, others will venture on to other Asian tours.

Carol and I have decided to take an extension trip to Cambodia.

After arriving in Bangkok, we stayed at the airport to catch a Bangkok

Airways flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Our Camdodian adventure will cover

2 days of sightseeing in Cambodia. 

We stayed at the Prince D' Angkor Hotel Siem Reap.

We rode around in a tuk-tuk when traveling to shop at the night

markets in downtown Siem Reap.

The morning of the 25th found our group of 10 travelers heading out to the famous

Angkor Wat Temple.  It was a hazy morning as we talked to the temple.

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world and the largest religious

monument in the world. The temple was built by a Tamil king Suryavarman II

in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura,  present-day Angkor, the capital

of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum.

Lions guarded our way to the temple

One of the entrances to the interior of the temple.

Entrance to the inner temple.

Library of the outer temple.

Inner Temple courtyard

It was a hot day in the 90's, and after a tour of Angkor Wat, we retreated to the hotel for a rest.

A entrance stair case at Angkor Wat.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Angkor Thom and its Bayon temple.

A Cambodian shopping center on the way to the temple.

Bayon bridge ruins

Three slephant at gate to Bayon

Bayon Courtyard

Carol in front of ruins of Bayon

Sunset on Bayon.

Our first stop on the morning of January 26th was at this roadside stand,

where local Cambodians were making and selling palm sugar.

The entrance to Banteay Srei, the citadel of women. 

Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey is a 10th century Cambodian

temple dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. Located in the area of

Angkor in Cambodia. It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km (16 mi) north-east

of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval

capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.

This pool of water is the only one found within temple walls.

Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to

the elaborate decorative wall carvings, which are still observable today.

The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so, when

measured by the standards of Angkorian construction.

Consecrated on the 22nd of April, 967 A.D., Bantãy Srĕi was the only

major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch.  Its construction is credited to

a courtier named Yajnavaraha, who served as a counsellor

to king Rājendravarman II.

A band made up of military veterans who lost limbs due to land

mines during the conflict in Cambodia.

 

After our stop at Banteay Srei we are on our way to cruise on Tonie Sap.  A "Large Fresh Water River",

but more commonly translated as "Great Lake" is a combined lake and river (Mekong)

system of major importance to Cambodia.  The Tonié Sap is the largest

freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that

was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.

This gentleman is smoking small fish taken from the lake.  The fish were

caught by using nets.  There are literally hundreds of fish being smoked

by residents of this fishing village.

Baskets used for catching fish were stacked at many of the houses.

Our boat awaits us for our lake cruise.

Houses were built on poles to provide the correct height to keep from

being flooded out during the annual monsoon rains.

A fish trap in the lake.

A farming tractor along the lake front.  As the fish supply dwindles,

more and more fishermen are becoming farmers on the rich soil next to the lake.

Building a new house on the lake shore.

Typical floating home on the lake.  We saw some houses being

towed to a new location.

The lake is the play ground for the kids that live on the water.

After our lake cruise we visited the Artisans d'Angkor in Siem Reap,

the first initiative to train the uneducated rural youth in the age group of

18 and 25 was made in 1992 when the Chantiers-Écoles de Formation

Professionnelle (CEFP) started to provide vocational

training in Angkorian art forms. 

Students working in the academy workshop.

Our last temple stop of the Cambodian trip was at Ta Prohm where the trees

have over grown the temple there.  Ta Prohm is the undisputed

capital of the Kingdom of the Trees.  It has been left untouched by

archaeologists, except for the clearing of a path for visitors and structural

strengthening to stave of further deterioration.  Because of the natural state of this temple,

it is possible to experience the wonder of the early explorers

when they came upon these monuments in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Beautiful natural scenes abound!

Banyan trees vary in type and size.

Our Cambodian tor group in front of the locale for a movie scene.  "Tomb Raiders" was filmed here.

Carol enjoying the magical images of Ta Prohn.

All good times must come to an end and thus our trip to Thailand and

Cambodia has reached that point. It was a terrific travel venture! 

This sunset was taken in front of Angkor Wat.  A beautiful closing to a great travel time.