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Thailand - Land of Chom Poos
Sat – Feb 18 - Auckland to Bangkok – May be a repeat of some of the stuff on the last blog.
The comfort inn suggested a place for breakfast called the Benediction (on St. Benedict’s Street) and it was wonderful. I liked their food so much, I took a sandwich with me for lunch before the plane.
Well, even though I was three hours early for my flight and asked nicely, no window seat for the 11-hour flight to Bangkok. Baggage was too heavy, so I ended up taking three kg of stuff from the luggage and into the carry on. I WILL GET RID OF SOME STUFF AT EACH STOP AND WILL END UP WITH LUGGAGE THAT DOESN”T WEIGH TOO MUCH. Sigh!
I love Thai Airlines. The seats are very bright in mustard, fuchsia and deep purple. The flight attendants had lovely Thai silk sarong outfits and are beautiful. The food is great, Thai and western food. Hot towels are handed out before the meals. The bathroom had little tiny toothbrushes and paste which was very helpful after 11 hours.
Lots of movies later, I arrived and was picked up by the hotel.
Maurey Gardens Hotel close to the airport was a wonderful change from my hotel in Chile. Elegant lobby and helpful staff. The one thing that I learned in NZ the last time I was there, that sometimes the lights in your room are dependent on your key being put in a slot near the front door. I knew that this time, but still had a time finding which switches to hit to get lights off or on. I couldn’t tell if I was being exceptionally dim or if jet lag had me. I finally got all the lights out and went to bed happy and looking forward to exploring.
Sun, Feb 19 - Naps are a wonderful thing.
I woke in time for the breakfast, which was a very comprehensive buffet of western, Thai and Chinese breakfast options. So there were eggs, toast, cereal, thai veggies, noodle dishes, rice, soups, dried fish, fabulous fruit and all kinds of other things that I did not try.
I sat with two German Ladies who were in town for shopping and lounging. I decided that I really do like nam pla on my fried eggs in the morning, and I kept going back to the fruit tray for just three or six more pieces of papaya.
I was pretty pooped and a little intimidated by the size and complexity of Bangkok so I did some internetting in the morning and studied the map of Bangkok. As it had been 35 years since I lived here, and I had been a child, I needed to remember how to navigate the city. It had grown tremendously and now has an elevated train and underground. Bangkok is now as well known for its pollution as it is for its friendly people with shy smiles.
I finally got my bearings and had decided to adventure out after a nap. Just as I did in France, I knew that I would feel more able to explore and adventure forth, even though it would be for shorter time, after I had slept. I set the clock for a two-hour nap and closed the curtains.
5 hours later I was up and it was dinnertime. I had not set the clock properly. Oh well, I needed my sleep. I took my Earthwatch brochure with me and was prepared to dine in the hotel lobby in order to try and contact other volunteers. I had hardly cleared the elevator, when I was approached by Gary from Washington State, who recognized the brochure. He had been in town for two days and had already learned the sky train and had a recommendation for a good dinner place. He invited me to dine with him and Erica, from England, at a restaurant down town. (Cool! dinner partners and dinner farther a field than I would have done by myself).
We went off in a metered taxi to get to the terminus of the sky train. The train is very modern, air-conditioned and is very easy once you have done it once. We had to walk a ways down a soi (street) to the restaurant called Ly Lys, a recommendation from a taxi driver. It was wonderful, and we had samosas, shared two salads and one curry and each had sticky rice and ripe mango. MY FAVORITE DESSERT! We happened to be there on a night where 30% of the bill would go towards a kindergarten for the poorest kids in Bangkok. Fabulous!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous 7-11’s that are just like the ones in the US. I bought washing powder, Kleenex, two kinds of green mango treats and shampoo.
Home to bed for tomorrow at noon, we meet the group and travel to Khorat.
Mon, Feb, 20, Transit day to Khorat and Phimai
My internal clock was all whacked out, so I was up and watching the most amazingly stupid movies on HBO from 2:30 on. I promised myself that I would not nap at all during this day so that I could sleep at night.
The day before, I noticed that there was hair dryer at the desk in my room. It was plugged in, but I couldn’t figure out why it would not work. This morning I found out. Between the beds on the built in end table were switches for most of the lights in the room. When I hit the one for the light for the desk, all of a sudden the hair dryer started up. Surprise!
Another wonderful breakfast buffet and I met more volunteers including Joan, Karen and Christopher (Grandmother, Daughter and Grandson from the Seattle Area). I also met Bud and Onnalee, Gail and Helen. More internetting and then I went upstairs and went through my entire luggage to see what would not go to Khorat with me.
New plan for traveling.
1. Only one book for pleasure reading at a time. I will trade out or leave behind any other books of this nature when I am done with them.
2. Travel book for the next location only with me at any one time. The current book is then mailed back to the US along with all the goodies from the location at the end of the trip in that country.
3. I will mail back home extraneous cords for the computer. Added weight and not needed.
4. At each location, I must divest myself of at least one piece of clothing by either gifting it to another or leaving it behind. (In Bangkok, I said goodbye to one set of shorts, one t-shirt and three pairs of panty hoses) Good! That takes care of my divestiture for Peru and Chile as well. If I still want the article of clothing, it gets mailed home.
I was downstairs ready to meet the group with luggage that still felt the same weight, but at least I have a plan for when I leave Thailand. I learned that we would be a group of 15 for the first week, 10 for the two-week program and 5 for only one week. We will pick up a few extra people for the second week, but we are not sure how many. 11 Women and 4 men. The team was mainly from the US, but also Erica and Lisa from England, Diane from the Philippines, Tara originally from Thailand, but currently from LA, and Mr. Hiroshi from Japan. Two of the volunteers have done this placement before, Bud and Onnolee have done three, and one volunteer, Helen, has done 9 Earthwatches. The rest are first timers, like myself.
We were vanned to the bus station where we bought tickets ($5) for the 3-hour bus ride to Khorat. The bus was air-conditioned with assigned seats and a conductor who walked the aisles and offered coke and buns with sweetened red beans in the middle as a snack. Diane and I were seatmates, which was nice as we are planning to go together to Angkor Wat following the dig, and needed to put our heads together. I bought two fresh green mangos with chili/salt and let everyone who wanted a taste to try one of my favorite Thai treats!
We arrived in Khorat and were met by Prof. Charles Higham (Hi am) from Dunedin, NZ. He is very cute and accommodating and took us all in hand. We traveled by shuttles another hour to Phimai (Pee My) to our hotel and base for two weeks.
Phimai Hotel is a 5-story building with a LOVELY pool. We all have separate room, except for the couples (for an additional $4/day). My room was basic with tile floors, two double beds, air conditioning, and a hand held shower in the corner of the bathroom. Because there is no shower curtain or demarcation of any kind, you can’t keep clothes, towels or toilet paper in the bathroom with you if you want them to remain dry. If you have to visit the potty, you had to remember to bring the paper with you. I finally got the hang of it on day two.
I was the proud temporary owner of a chinchuk (small, harmless lizard that clings to the walls and ceilings and eats mosquitoes.) Very handsome and based on the number of flying bugs in the room, I felt he would be well fed by morning.
We had an hour until dinner, so I unpacked and decided to lie down for 30 minutes. 10 minutes into my rest, the phone rang next to my head but no one was there. HMMMMM? More on this later.
Dinner was family style in an open-air patio. We met the staff and heard about our weeks ahead.
We filled out what we wanted for breakfast and went back to our rooms to prepare for tomorrow.