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

This page is the final part of my four part story of our return trip to Thailand in December 2001. To access other parts of the story, make your selection on the bar at the left side of this page.

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Day 12 - Jan 5th:
This day began with a stop at Wat Yai in the city of Phitsunalok. This is one of the most revered temples in all of Thailand. It houses the Buddha that sits with his legs folded. After Paiboon and On did their praying and we ate again, we drove another hour or two south to a temple in the town of Prichis. I don't remember the particulars on this one. Like I said before, they were beginning to all look alike by now.

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Rather than taking the expressway all the way back to Prachinburi, our driver decided to take us over some of the back roads. And, in some cases I do mean back roads. Along this route we were definitely getting to see some of the true Thailand as we drove past the rice fields and through the poverty stricken towns. As we were driving along, Paiboon asked the driver what town we were in, and he replied that we were getting close to Petchaboon. She told him that she was born not far from there, in a small village named Wanguwan, and asked him to look for signs. She left there when she was only 10 years old and hasn't returned there since. A few minutes later he saw a sign and told her it was just a few kilometers down the road to the left.

Paiboon was really excited that we were so close to her birthplace, but didn't want to go into the small village because she said if we did, we wouldn't be able to leave. She said once the villagers found out who she was that they would make her spend the night. I insisted that we go there, because as I explained to her it's been 40 years since she left as a child, and God only knows if she will ever get back there again. I told her if she doesn't go now that she will surely regret it. She gave in, and we headed down the road, which soon turned into a dirt road.

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Winding our way down this dirt road, that was getting progressively worse, we eventually came upon an old temple which she told us she recognized. A little further down the road we came to a rundown shack of a building which she said was where one of her father's brothers had lived. He had died some years ago, but we stopped and she saw an old lady that she recognized instantly. It was an aunt, whom she hadn't seen since she left there as a 10-year old. Wiping away the tears she told us who she was and went on to tell us how she lived just across the road, and how as a child she worked the fields and carried water. She pointed and told us how she would walk down the dirt road for several kilometers to the nearest market with her mother and father.

This was really a heart-warming, and eye-opening experience for all of us, but especially Cindy and Bobby. I don't think they ever realized just how their mother was raised until we came to this place. Under the house there were piglets nursing on a sow, and all of the buildings had straw roofs. I think it shed a lot of light on why their mother has some of the habits that she has, such as buying everything at the store in bulk, filling the garage with foodstuffs, and how she goes crazy over coupons and reduced prices. It's all coming together for them now.

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Cindy, Bobby and I sure received the stares while we were in this little village. The little kids, about 8 or 10 of them, all had their eyes glued to us the whole time we were there. Paiboon's aunt, who is probably in her mid 80s told us that she lived there all of her life and doesn't ever remember a falong (white foreigner) visiting that village. The little kids sure didn't hesitate though when I rounded them all up and put them in the back of an ox cart so I could take their picture. After about an hour we had to get going and Paiboon said her good-byes. It took us about two more hours to get back to Prachinburi.

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Day 13 - Jan 6th:
Today we decided to drive over to Aranyaprathet. It's a town about 2 hours to the east of Prachinburi and is located on the Cambodian border. Paiboon always talked about this place after returning from previous visits to Thailand, and told us how this was such a great place to shop. She said the prices are really low at this place. We couldn't imagine them being much lower than what weve already seen, but what the hell. When we got down there, the first thing that struck me was the heat. My God was it hot! This was the hottest day so far, and walking around the acres and acres of open-air shops on the asphalt and concrete sure didn't make it feel any cooler. I wasn't impressed with this place, and I don't think Cindy and Bobby were either. Most of the goods for sale was junk clothing and we were constantly harassed by the beggar children wanting one-baht and the sunglass salesmen. We only spent a few hours there. We did have to drive into and out of Cambodia though just so we could say we were there.

After about a two-hour drive back to Prachinburi, I hung out around the house while everyone else went into town to look at more shops. When they returned, I spent the evening drinking Singhai and showing On how to use the Internet and email. They had a computer, but didn't have Internet service. She got the Internet service hooked up and wanted me to show her how to use it. This really tested my limited use of the Thai language trying to explain this to a Thai that speaks no English, but we finally got it.

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Day 14 - Jan 7th:
This was our last full day in Thailand, and I wanted to go back to Bangkok so the kids could see Wat Po. This is the giant gold reclining Buddha. We were near there on our previous trip to Bangkok but it was closed when we got there. After the two hour trip to Bangkok, we stopped at the American Embassy to get tourist visa applications for On. She wants to visit the US really bad, but didn't know what was required. I'll really be surprised if they ever visit us, but then you never know. After that short stop, we went to Wat Po and saw the giant Buddha and all of the chedis and the 394 golden Buddhas that are scattered around the grounds. It was well worth the extra drive into the city to see it.

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On the way out of Bangkok, we stopped at the Thai Market. As funny as it may sound, the name of the place is The Thai Market. It's a huge open-air wholesale market which sells Thai food that comes into Bangkok from all over the country. If you couldn't find what you wanted here, then they don't have it in Thailand. Paiboon stocked up on a lot of things that she can't find in the states. After that we stopped again at the big Mall on the outskirts of Bangkok, and we did our final two hours of shopping.

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Following the one hour drive back to Prachinburi, we arrived at On's house about 9:00 PM. Since this was our last night in Thailand, some more of Paiboon's relatives had driven in to see us. She had an older brother that died about 3 years ago, and his wife and kids were there. Also just down the street, Baifun's cousin Pael was having a birthday party so we went down and drank beer and socialized with everyone. Cindy was a real hit with one of On's uncles who was there. He was a little drunk when we arrived, and he just cracked everyone up. He'd get Cindy to say something in Thai, and then he would just laugh and laugh. I told Cindy to tell him in Thai that he was really handsome, and you should have heard him laugh then.

By midnight, we were all packed. How we managed to get all of our souvenirs and Paiboon's food into our luggage I'll never know.

Day 15 - Jan 8th:
After about a two hour drive to the Bangkok Airport, we arrived at about 12:30 for our 4:25 flight. We checked in all of our baggage and ate lunch with Tongkun, On, Baifun and On's mother who went along to see us off. Our flight lasted three and 1/2 hours to Taiwan, and then another 11 hours to Los Angeles where Paiboon's brother Suwan met us. Crossing the international dateline can really mess you up with jet lag. We got off of the plane in Los Angeles at 6:30 on the evening of the 8th, which was four hours before we got on the plane in Taipei. We spent the night at Suwan's place and caught a flight to Anchorage through Seattle the next day. We arrived back home in Anchorage around 7:00 PM.

This was definitely the trip of a lifetime. I was a little apprehensive about returning after all of these years, not knowing what changes to expect and everything, but I must say the only disappointment I felt was at the Air bases and the areas surrounding them. This little disappointment however was far overshadowed by the rest of the things we saw and experienced during these two weeks. The only place we didn't go where I had hoped was to was Ubon Air base. This would have been a nine hour drive to the very eastern part of the country, and I was told that the base is closed, so I figured it wasn't worth the time. After seeing the disappointing changes at Utapao and Korat, at least this way I can remember Ubon exactly as it was in 1973. Perhaps I'll make it up that way on my next trip. With the exception of the population growth and the smog, Thailand itself was just as I remember it. The people are still the friendliest in the world, and I'm already looking forward to my next trip. I'll definitely not wait another 27 years before I go back again.

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