Thursday, March 6, 2008


When flying to Asia from the U.S., one must past the International Date Line, at which time there is the maximum time difference between Chicago and the date line. It is also the next day. The further one travels west from the date line, the less time difference there is between Chicago and where you are. We flew from Chicago to Tokyo and arrived (after 13 hours in the air) 14 hours ahead of the time we left. After waiting 1 ½ hours to get on the plane to Bangkok, we flew an additional 5 hours, to arrive only 12 hours ahead of Chicago time. Now you might think that this means we were half way around the world, but according to the longitude system, we were about 400 miles short of being half way around the world from Chicago.


We arrive very late at night, which means the traffic is light and we arrive at our Marriott Resort Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, one of the main rivers that flows through Bangkok. We have a great view of the river and garden below from our balcony. All photos are expanable.

Next Morning.

Our arrival to Thailand was one week ahead of the International AIDS conference and the first thing on our agenda was to travel about 50 miles up the river to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya on the Song Manorha, a restored 50 year old, 50 foot rice barge made of teak and rare woods, the most luxurious vessel on the river. There were four cabins, one which was empty so there were 6 of us, 5 Americans and 1 Canadian. One couple Jim and Helen lived in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia where summer temperatures of 120 are normal. No wonder they travel during this time. However, the temperature and humidity in Thailand are comparable to Florida and Jim’s shirt was always soaked through. The other couple, Kevin and Martin, were from San Francisco and they were great guys. We had one thing in common in that we both booked this trip as a result of reading about it in the book called “1000 Places to See Before You Die”. Like most cruises on board time was mostly about eating great food and drinking gin and tonics, and fine wine. I gained 5 pounds while in Thailand.

We did get off the boat a lot to see various temples and markets usually with a guide who managed to usually talk too much as we stood in the heat

I found that viewing many of the temples from the river was just fine as they looked more exotic from a distance and there really comes a point when enuf’ goes through your head.
Below is The Temple of Dawn or Wat Arun as it is otherwise known.

This is one of the best known temples in Bangkok and dates back to the ancient Ayutthaya period. The tall, elongated central Khmer-style tower is surrounded by four minor towers, which symbolise Mount Meru, the earthly representation of the thirty-three heavens. Here you'll find pavilions containing statues of the Buddha at the most important stages of life. The beautiful architecture and fine craftsmanship mark Wat Arun as one of the most remarkable temples in Thailand.

It was a super experience and the various sights, food, drink, and friendships made for a wonderful experience. Below is the 6 of us at the restored winter palace at Ayuthaya.

Kevin, me, and Martin riding elephants.

Upon returning to Bangkok, we rested that night then flew to Chang Mae in northern Thailand. We again arrived late and traveled through narrow streets that looked like alleys in some cases until we arrive at the Riverside Inn. It was a small hotel right next to the river, no TV but that was fine, kind of a bed and breakfast place. We had to walk two short blocks from the hotel to one of the main streets where we usually caught a tuk-tuk for transportation. Now I have to tell you, I think the tuk-tuk’s are great. First of all, the word is descriptive as all get out. This is the noise you hear when you are standing still waiting in traffic. A tuk-tuk is a two seated motorcycle taxi and they can move in traffic much faster than a car than as they swerve and squeeze into any traffic cranny possible.

We saw many things in the Chang Mae area. Chang Mae is near the “Golden Triangle” where Laos, Thailand, and Mayamar (Burma) come together. This name is symbolic of the importance this region is to the economies for all three countries. For centuries, the opium produced in these countries was brought to the ‘Golden Triangle” where traders from Europe and elsewhere gathered to buy.
We saw many things in Chang Mae, from orchids, to native villages. But without a doubt, the most amazing thing I have ever seen was elephants painting pictures with water colors. Real pictures, which were taken to the shop, and sold. The shop was doing a very good business. At first, I was too stunned to realize what I was watching. But as I saw what was happening, I ran down and took 3 photos. Here is the first and the third, so you can see part of the sequence

The elephant first painted two stems, then leaves, then red and yellow flowers, all where they were suppose to be. Sure the trainers, handled paint filled brushes to them, but I could see the elephant looking at the picture to make sure things were going where they were supposed to go. The elephant is a sacred animal in Thailand, they are given very elegant names, and the Thai people were constantly telling anyone that the Asia elephant is much smarter than the African elephant

Then we flew back to Bangkok in time for the AIDS conference. Judith has a project involving obtaining PhD candidates to come to UIC to get there degrees and AIDS knowledge to take back to their countries. The countries are China, Chile, Indonesian, and Malawi..

We took a tour to the river Kwai, subject of the 50’s film “Bridge Over the River Kwai’ (starring Alec Guiness and William Holden and was quite a good movie at the time) walked over the bridge then took a long railroad drive through the country side, following the river much of the time. I learned the events in the movie never happened. The steel bridge was finally rendered inoperable hit a bomb from a plane late in the war. The Japanese wanted a railroad between Thailand and Burma so they made prisoners and local men build the bridge giving them little food and no medical help using primitive equipment and methodsThe railroad is called the “WWII Death Railroad” and ten of thousands died during the construction, including many Australians and Englishmen.

We also took several foot massages at less than $10 per hour had a tailored sport coat made and generally had a great time. The trip home was long. Thankfully, we flew Business Class, but even so, it took 21.5 hours sitting in a metallic tube, watching second run movies and eating, always eating.

1 comment:

GETkristiLOVE said...

Did you get me an elephant painting? How much does that cost?

BTW, you are linked on my site.