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2001 Return Trip Part 1
2001 Return Trip Part 2
2001 Return Trip Part 3
2001 Return Trip Part 4
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2001 Return Trip Part 1

Finally, after almost 27 years to the day from my departure, I was returning to Thailand. This trip was truly bittersweet. Not only was I going back to a place that I had only dreamed about for the past 27 years, but I was going back in the company of my wife Paiboon and two grown children, Cindy and Bobby. It was quite a trip, to say the least, and we were fortunate enough to be able to see many corners of this unique country in a very short fifteen days. Below and on subsequent pages, you will find a day-by-day rundown of our adventures, and some photos that I took along the way. I hope you enjoy it.

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L to R: On, Thongkun and Baifun
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Day 1, Dec 25th:
After spending ten and 1/2 hours flying from Anchorage to Taipei and another three and 1/2 hours from Taipei, we arrived at Bangkok International about 12:30 PM on Christmas Day. We went through customs in Bangkok with no problems and were met by one of Paiboon's brothers (Tongkun), his wife (On), and their seven year old daughter (Baifun). After converting some US money to baht, we hit the road for their home in Prachinburi which is about 2 hours Northeast of Bangkok.

Bangkok Traffic
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My first impression after arriving was "My God these people are nuts". Athough there are expressways all over the city with lanes clearly marked, there is often six or seven lanes of traffic driving on four marked lanes. Then to top it off there are motorcycles passing you on both sides between the lanes of cars and trucks. Some motorcycles may also have entire families on them at the same time. I saw one motorcycle with four people riding on it.

Bangkok cityscape
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Bangkok has grown tremendously since I was last there in 1974, and the smog is unbelievable. Actually the smog all over the country was much worse than I remember. One thing that may contribute to it being so bad this time of year though, is that this is the dry season and the farmers are burning a lot of the growth off of the rice fields in preparation of the rains and the planting of the new crops.

Thongkun and On's house in Prachinburi
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We stopped for lunch at a roadside open-air restaurant about an hour out of Bangkok, and got our first taste of eating with the natives. We all ate several dishes of mixed stir-fry veggies with rice, kaopot, and with drinks for all seven of us, the bill came to only around 500 baht (about $11.00). After eating, we continued on to Thongkun and On's house and arrived about 5:00 PM. They are pretty well off by Thai standards and have a real nice 5-bedroom house.

A street vendor cooking thai sausages - umm  umm g
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After spending a couple hours getting settled and visiting with Paiboon's mother, On wanted to take us to a market there in the town of Prachinburi. It was an open air market with everything under the sun for sale. I could only compare it to a giant flea market here in the states. We just milled around for about an hour or so, and I practiced my Thai by buying fresh sliced pineapple, and trying to socialize with the vendors. It didn't take long for my Thai to come back to me.

Crossroads at Prachinburi
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Cindy and Bobby checking out a market
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The people in this town were really fascinated by Cindy, Bobby and I, because not too many Americans frequent this town. The stares didn't bother me, but I could tell that Cindy and Bobby felt the eyes on them. The Thais were even more amazed when I would speak Thai to them. After returning to the house, I drank a couple of Singhai beers, and chatted with Tongkun, On and their little girl Baifun. None of them spoke any English, but the little girl knew some English words that she learned in school. By the end of our two-week stay, we were all communicating real well. I had Tongkun and On speaking a few English phrases, and Baifun and her Uncle John were real pals.

Samchia, our driver
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My Sweethearts; Pael on the left, Baifun on the ri
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Day 2 - Dec 26th:
Our first full day in Thailand began by leaving for Bangkok about 7:00 AM, and we arrived at Dusit Zoo around 9:00. Most of our transportation during our two week stay was a 9-passenger air-conditioned van which we rented with a driver. Our driver, Samchai, stayed with us the whole time, and with On's and his cell phone, he was always nearby to pick us up from one spot and take us to the next. It worked out really well. We milled around in the zoo for about an hour and ate some fresh fruit from some of the vendors. Paiboon and the kids took Baifun and her little friend Pael on the paddleboats. Pael is a little girl 6 years old, who is On's niece. She is the daughter of On's brother who passed away just last February at the young age of 34. She lives with her mother down the street, but from what I gathered she spends most of her time at Baifun's house. Both she and Baifun were my little sweethearts during my stay.

My girlfriends again from atop Golden Mountain
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The Grand Palace Grounds
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From there we headed over to the Golden Mountain. We climbed the many steps to the Golden Chedi and Temple and got a great view of the city of Bangkok. Then it was on to the Grand Palace. Here Bobby and I had to change into long pants, since we had shorts on, and Paiboon and Cindy had to change into long skirts. The pants and skirts were provided to us for just a few baht. Since this is a sacred place, you're not permitted to show much skin. We spent a couple of hours here looking at all of the detailed work on the palace, temple and Buddhas. This temple houses the most sacred Buddha in all of Thailand. It is an 18-inch statue made of solid emerald.

This is the type of boat in which we crossed the C
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We were greeted by several marketeers trying to pe
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As we were walking out of the Grand Palace grounds, a gentleman at the gate offered to take us to the floating market, which was just down the street. We got on one of the long powered boats and cruised across the Chao Phraya River through the canals. It was late in the day, so most of the marketing was over, but we were approached by several vendors in their little row boats trying to sell us souvenirs. We only bought some fresh fruit and some bread to feed the fish in the river.

The Temple of Dawn on the Chao Phraya River
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Bobby found a new friend at The Temple of Dawn
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After about an hour of cruising the canals, we were dropped off on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya River at the Temple of Dawn. This is a temple with a huge Chedi that can be seen on most cityscapes of Bangkok. We spent about an hour there, but most of that time was spent at the gift shops. Bobby got his picture taken with a Python around his neck for a few baht, and Cindy and Paiboon bought a few items. Paiboon is a real pro at talking the vendors down to their lowest price. Sometimes it was frustrating, because we were ready to move on and she wanted to haggle in order to save a few cents. I guess it's in her blood.

thai-tripzh.jpg
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We had to pay 10 baht (about 25 cents) to get ferried back across the river to where we had started, and after stopping to eat "again" our ride was there to meet us. While we were walking through the market place where the food vendors were, a local asked me where I was from. I told him the USA, and he said, "Oh, I am so sorry for your country, with the airplanes hitting the buildings." It really kind of put a lump in my throat. The Thais that I spoke with were well informed with what was going on in the world with the terrorism. A funny thing happened at one of these street vendors while we were in Bangkok. There was a young man frying up something, and Cindy asked how hold he was. On asked him, and he said he was 14 years old, muslim, and that he moved to Bangkok from Bangladesh a couple of years ago. She said You're not Taliban are you, and he was quick to assure her that he was not. About a week later when we returned to Bangkok on another visit, Bobby recognized the same kid, who was set up at a different street corner and said "Hey! There's the Taliban man".

After meeting up with our van driver, we headed back to Prachinburi. On the outskirts of Bangkok we stopped at a mall, which we were told was the biggest mall in Thailand. It was huge, and aside from the Thai writing on all of the signs it looked just like a big mall you would see in the states. There were lots of Christmas decorations and it even had a McDonalds, KFC and Burger King. We ate supper there at what I would describe as a Thai food court.

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For Part 2 of this story of our return trip, click on the link below:

2001 Return Trip Part 2