May 20 - 23: Thailand
Part II: Bangkok and Ko Samet
After an enjoyable morning at the Nong Nooch
Park, it was time to head back to Bangkok. We arrived in Bangkok
just before a horrific thunderstorm came rolling in. We checked
into our amazing hotel, the Pathawam Princess. The service was
extremely congenial, the rooms were fantastic and there was a
fabulous fitness center and swimming pool. Additionally, the
hotel is attached to a huge shopping mall. We waited out the
storm and then we went to dinner. More curry, more seafood and
this time we found mango sticky rice! Delicious. The next
morning, Fran and Ben did some shopping while Bryan and Nancy
returned to the airport to pick up Nancy's friend Julie who was
coming for a 12 day visit.
|Nancy boards the train to the airport.
The train was a bit slower than a cab would have been,
but at only a fraction of the price - only 5 baht (11
cents) versus 300 baht (7 dollars). We found Julie at the
airport and headed straight back to the heart of Bangkok.
|This was our second hotel
room at the Reno Hotel in Bangkok - considerably cheaper,
but much less cushy, than the luxurious Pathawam
||Julie's room was a mirror image of ours,
across the hall. She was holding up pretty well despite
her long and uncomfortable flight from the U.S.
|Later we hopped on the
Sky Train (Bangkok's light rail system, much like a
subway, but unfortunately very limited in scope) for a
short ride to a river dock, where we were due to meet a
boat for a river dinner cruise.
||When we arrived at the dock, we noticed
that there was a sign to call the restaurant for a free
shuttle. So, we called and minutes later a boat showed up
to take us to the Yok Yor Restaurant, where we had
planned to depart for our dinner cruise. However, upon
arrival at the restaurant, we found out that this was the
OTHER Yok Yor restaurant without the cruise. Luckily,
they were nice enough to take us to the correct
restaurant up the river. We arrived at the restaurant,
ordered tons of delicious food, including mango sticky
rice! This is the last picture that anyone has of Fran
and Ben as boyfriend and girlfriend.
|During dinner, Ben who
usually has a voracious appetite seemed to be pecking at
his food. Nancy wondered why. Bryan didn't notice but
Fran says that she also noticed he didn't seem too well.
After dinner, Julie and Nancy made a trip to the back of
the boat to wait ... for something ...
||We returned to our table and suddenly
Fran and Ben are now fiance and fiancee. Look at those
beaming smiles! Congratulations to the newly engaged
|We're not newly engaged but
we're happy nonetheless!
|The next day we went to a fresh flower
and fruit market. These pictures don't really show the
magnitude of the market - Thailand has an absolutely
unbelievable quantity of fresh flowers for sale. The
market was impressive as well with many fruits and
vegetables that we had never seen before.
||Here's Julie hanging out with the smelly
(not nearly as smelly as durian) jackfruit.
|Cutting a durian. We
didn't want to linger in this area too long due to the
smell - we stayed just long enough to snap this photo and
then we quickly moved away ...
||Fran makes a jackfruit purchase. We
liked jackfruit at first but somehow the taste became
less and less compelling the more we ate it. Somehow the
musty odor sort of gets to you after a while.
Later that day we went to the Grand Palace,
which is the site of many historial government and religious
buildings in Bangkok. The grounds were incredible - Thai
architecture is among the most interesting and beautiful in the
world. It looks otherwordly with its golden curved rooftops and
strangely insect-like "spirit hook" features at each
|Out of respect for the
Grand Palace, which is an extremely important place to
Thai people, visitors are requested to wear closed-toe
and closed-heel shoes, long pants or skirts, and bare
shoulders are not allowed. Essentially, informal clothing
is frowned upon and in some cases visitors are denied
entrance to the grounds if their clothing does not meet
Thai standards. Needless to say, we did our best to show
the proper amount of respect to this sacred Thai place by
wearing appropriate clothing, despite the extremely hot
There's not much to say about most of these
pictures - just enjoy the spectacular views that we were treated
to on a beautiful sunny day in Thailand ...
That evening we walked from the Pathawan
Princess to a Thai seafood restaurant. This was to be Fran and
Ben's last meal before returning to the U.S.A. so we wanted to
make sure it was a good one. Thanks to the concierge at the
Pathawam Princess, we had a good one.
beautiful spread of Thai food.
Fran devours a crab leg from the crab and shrimp roe
dish that became Fran's and Nancy's favorite dish while
|Everyone's smiling and full
of good food.
||The next day Nancy and Julie went to see
"The Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit". This golden
Buddha statue was discovered less than half a century ago
when construction workers accidentally dropped the
plaster buddha during a move and discovered a golden
Buddha inside. The story goes that the plaster exterior
was created to protect the buddha from invaders.
Supposedly it is made of solid gold but we are skeptical
as the security around the statue would not seem to
indicate that the Buddha is worth the tens (hundreds?) of
millions of dollars that it would be worth if it were.
May 23 - 26: Ko Samet
Ko Samet is an island off of the east coast of the Gulf of
Thailand. It is southeast of Pattaya. We were told that it was a
nice little place to go to and it wasn't very far away so we
opted for some rest and relaxation and sun! We took a nice little
bus from Bangkok to Ban Phe, a city on the mainland. Then we took
a rocky boat ride to a beach on Ko Samet called Na Dan. From
there we were just a songthaew away from a beach called Ao Hin
Khok. It was a beautiful beach. The shores had very soft sand and
it is possible to walk out very far into the ocean. There were
quite a few establishments with bungalows for rent. After some
walking around we settled on Jep's Inn. There we were surrounded
with other vacationers mostly from other countries. The
surroundings were fantastic, the music was pretty good and they
even played a few good movies on their outdoor entertainment
|The Ko Samet beach outside
of our bungalow at night ...
||... and in the daytime.
The first day at Ko Samet, Bryan rented a
motorbike for three hours and went to explore the island. The
island is not very large but in the first hour he managed to
become totally lost in the maze of trails winding their way to
different parts of the island. It was a beautiful and peaceful
ride, however, with nary a soul to be found anywhere. As the
second hour passed Bryan found his way back to civilization and
turned back around to head out on the "long trail" that
he had missed when he was lost, only to discover that it was the
long trail that he had just come from! Without even knowing it he
had explored all of the major trails of the entire island in
search of the one "big trail". Oh well. Another hour of
more difficult going through some overgrown jungle trails and he
was back "in town" again with a much better sense of
the size and the extent of the island.
the reservoir where Bryan first took a wrong turn and
ended up lost for most of the rest of the day.
||This frightening-looking sign warns of
forest fire. Lucky there weren't any while we were on the
|These bungalows were
buried deep in the jungle. Accomodations like these are
cheaper than those on the beach and much more secluded,
but you need a motorbike and some patience to get
||Here's Bryan from arm's length. Nice
|A secluded beach on the
southeast coast of the island.
||Here's a shot from the handlebars. The
going was pretty tough over some of the trails, which
were sometimes criss-crossed by very deep ravines and
lots of loose stones and sand. Bryan fortunately made it
through without a spill although there were one or two
close calls ...
|Just off of the trail
Bryan discovered a path to a bluff with some beautiful
||Bryan managed to take these two photos
of himself by balancing the camera on the back of the
motorbike, setting the timer, and dashing away before the
timer expired and the photo was taken.
|Here we see the motorbike
parked near a deserted bungalow on a quiet corner of the
||Bryan returned from his adventure to
find the girls relaxing on the beach.
|Each meal was accompanied
by a beautiful view of the beach. There were many
restaurants with outdoor tables very close to the water,
and in the evening when the tide came in the water would
come nearly close enough to touch.
|An interesting little tidbit about the
section of beach that we were on: prior to leaving for
Thailand we had read that Thai people dress more
conservatively and in our travel book it mentions that
Thai people find it obscene for women to go topless at
the beach. But when we went to the beach on the first
day, it seemed as if we had landed in the middle of a
European beach. Many women were sunbathing and swimming
topless. We just didn't quite understand the reason. We
suppose it's so that they don't have tanlines. We even
found this sign on the beach in front of our bungalow
||But despite all of the indications of
the inappropriateness of going topless, many women still
did so, such as the one pictured to the left.
|Nancy enjoys one of many
plates of Pad Thai at Jep's Inn. For a small
establishment that catered to Western palates, the Thai
food seemed very good. Or, may it's because we have
||These statues depict characters from
ancient Thai folklore.
|If you walk all the way to
the end of this beach and climb the small hill at the end
||... you are rewarded with this
breathtaking view of the sea.
||Here's Nancy relaxing on the beach. Hmm
... there just seems to be something missing ...
Ah ... there it is ... the mango lassi ...
a mixture of mango, yogurt and ice. Delicious! Nancy
enjoyed 10 of these wonderful beverages during the three
some days that we were at Ko Samet. Nancy says that they
were the highlight of the beach!
For anyone who talked to Nancy about our trip to Thailand
prior to our departure, you may have noted that Nancy was
planning on going to Thailand to eat as many mangos as possible.
So, when she arrived in Thailand and was having trouble finding
mangos in Pattaya and Bangkok, she wondered what had happened to
all the mangos. By the time we arrived in Ko Samet, she was
already way behind in mango eating. So, when she found out that
none of the restaurants in the area served mangos, she was
devastated. She just could not survive four days without any
mangos. Well, that first morning, she went on a mission in search
of mangos. She walked from our beach to the next larger beach
asking every restaurant in her path if they had mangos. One or
two establishments had raw green mangos, but that wasn't what she
was looking for. Finally, she lucked out. Someone suggested that
she find the market near the boat docks. Unaware that this
adventure would be so involved, she ended up walking over a mile
away to the market, barefoot in just a swimsuit. But, she
succeeded in finding her mangos. She bought a bunch of them and
headed back to the bungalow. That night at dinner, she convinced
one of the waitresses that they COULD make a mango lassi. She had
to ask several waiters and waitresses before one of them agreed.
She actually got to drink two of them that night. From then on,
whenever they saw Nancy with a mango in hand, they knew what she
wanted. Bryan even offered to go buy some mangos for her the next
day so she would be stocked with mangos for the rest of the trip.
What a nice guy!
|This lucky dog is relaxing
on the beach ...
||... and this one, in his bungalow.
|Despite the manually
operated toilet (water scooped from the bucket next to
the toilet "flushes" it), and the sand that
accumulated in the bathroom ...
||... Nancy is all smiles so long as
there's a shower at her beckon call to wash sand, salt
water, sweat, gobs of sunscreen and mosquito repellant
off several times a day.
Back to: Thailand (Part I)
|For our last dinner on the
island we trekked up the beach under threatening skies
and rising wind to a bigger restaurant. We were lucky to
get seats away from the beach and under a roof, because
the rain started pouring down minutes after we were
seated. We only got a little bit wet and enjoyed our meal
On to: Thailand (Part III)
Back to Bryan and Nancy's Trip to China Main Page