A Travellerspoint blog

January 2019

Rayong Beach - Klaeng, Thailand

Happy New Year 2019!


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Happy New Year Everyone! Can you believe it’s 2019?

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Over six weeks into this amazing trip, we are definitely spoiled by daily buffet breakfasts with 100 plus choices, and twice daily housekeeping. I could get used to the housekeeping part of hotel living. But we are tiring of moving around! I booked 8 nights in one place to rest, exercise and soak up the sun before returning to Bangkok for the end of our trip. From Chiang Mai, we headed to Rayong Beach, about 2 & 1/2 hours from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok with a competent driver. We stayed at the Marriott. It’s about 10 km east of Ban Phe, where the speedboats leave for Koh Samet, and 10 km west of the Thai Swedish Community of Ban Mae Phim. Picturesque, uncrowded, walkable beaches extend the entire length of the Pae-Klaeng-Kram Rd.
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Every night there is a more beautiful sunset!
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We invited Noah, Preeda and Terran to join us for the weekend before New Years. We were happy to get to know Preeda better. Noah and Preeda seem happy together and we are happy for them. Noah and Mark had lots of time together.
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Terran at 7 is at a great age to enjoy the pools and beach. I taught Terran to snorkel in the pool and he totally got it!
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Terran was on the tall slide every day. Somehow he convinced both his Dad and Grandad to try it too!
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He’s pretty fearless. He went paddle boarding in the ocean with his Daddy, but almost left him behind!
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Sometimes Terran went to the Kids Club. It was handy!
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Noah drove us 10 km each of our 3 evenings to the lively and quaint Thai seaside town of Mae Phim where we found supplies; mask, snorkel and inner tube and crocs for Terran, and had interesting fun dinners.
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In Thailand everyone drives on the left side of the road, exactly opposite from the way we drive in America. The cars have the driver and passenger sides reversed too. The scooters and motorcycles and every other man or a vehicle on the roads drive in whatever lane they want. It’s a bit crazy and we were unwilling to chance driving at all while there. We didn’t get to Mae Phim during the day and it was too dark for good photos. It is charming, it is off the beaten path, and getting back and forth without a car is an adventure of its own. Noah and Preeda left before New Year’s to avoid the after the holiday traffic back to Bangkok. We said goodbye but we knew we’d see them again in Bangkok the following week before our trip home.
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We made plans for New Year’s Eve dinner with our new Pai friends Leeann & Cam. “Gettaxi” has not arrived in this part of a Thailand. It’s needed! Our hotel (The Marriott) called us a “taxi” which we thought was expensive at 400 baht ($12) Until Cam & Leeann told us that their hotel, the Novotel, tried to charge 1200 baht ($40) to go 11 km! They were smart enough not to do that but it took them a while to find the 400 baht ride. The locals surely don’t pay such prices. I’ve seen similarly expensive foreigner taxi rates in Samui, Ko Lanta and the south, and even in a Hua Hin. But I was surprised to see it up here and those prices are really out of line for Thailand.

We ultimately had a really fun New Years Eve dinner together.
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We started trying to get back to our hotels about 9:30 PM so that we would be sure to see the New Years fireworks up and down the beach.
We had both gotten our driver’s phone numbers. I called ours. He said he was coming. There was probably a communication foul up because I told him in Thai to pick us up at 7/11 instead of at the restaurant. He never showed up and he never answered his phone again. There were two checkpoints on the way where drivers were being checked for alcohol. So it became clear that no one wanted to come through there to get us. We wandered around for about an hour, we tried calling Leeann’s driver and waited another hour.
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We were pretty stuck in Mae Phim. Just us and the street cart seller of dried squid who was trying his best to help us, until finally a truck with about 3 people in the front other people and it showed up and said they came to drive us! The driver was clearly in holiday mode. He made it through the checkpoints probably only because of us farangs (foreigners) in the vehicle. We held onto our seats and held our breath and somehow got back safely. The driver got a good tip to start his New Year and we had about 1/2 an hour to spare before the fireworks at midnight. Needless to say, we did not repeat the trip to Mae Phim again that week!

The fireworks were impressive! 2019! I can hardly believe it. And we were there 12 -15 whole hours before our family and friends hit 2019 in the United States. Very cool.
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Each day we walked down the beach at lunchtime to the charming beachside Thai restaurant at One Beach.
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They had a busy beach massage but there too. To its credit, the Marriott allows a local beach Massage shop to operate on the resort beach too. We enjoyed beach massages and both stands were busier than the pricy hotel spa.
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One day we walked farther, to see the Novotel and the beach shacks between us and them. We hadn’t booked a snorkel trip because we didn’t want to give up an entire day to go to Ko Samet, or on a tour. A boat vendor from “Follow Me Tours” approached us on the beach and offered to arrange a shorter snorkel trip.
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It was a cloudy day and the Gulf of Siam where we were was calm like glass. I thought it was a good day for a boat ride and a bit of snorkeling. Mark didn’t really want to go but he knew I wanted to so, so he said ok. We arranged the for boat to pick us up at our hotel at 3:00 PM. It was a really small boat and a really bouncy 20 minute ride out. The masks and snorkels worked fine, but we were not provided fins. Our boat driver (the only other person on the rickety wooden boat) did not speak any English. I don’t think he spoke Thai either. He first dropped us on a beach and pointed to where we should swim. The reefs were completely dead and the water was rougher than on the mainland. And it wasn’t deep enough to keep our feet off of the coral. I soon had a bloody foot. We got back on the boat from the beach and told him it was bad!
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Take us somewhere better. So he took us to a deep water dive spot where at least there were some other boats. There was a larger boat from the same company there, and I saw that it was clearly overloaded. We did swim in some good schools of fish and I got some photos. It was too deep to see the reef. Maybe it was a better location for divers not snorkelers. But the sea was rough and we did not stay out long.
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By this time, I admitted that I had made an unsafe decision to go and we would be careful, shorten the trip, and be more prudent in the future.
Then we had to pull ourselves back up into the boat. The ladder only had one rung...there were NO handles or grab bars. The boat driver had to help pull Mark in and that only worked when Mark climbed higher by putting one foot on the boat motor wide legged from the ladder. We only got me back in when both men pulled at my arms. I worried about my shoulder. As we bounced 20 minutes back to our beach, I hoped the bouncing wouldn’t crack my back. Mark was clearly exasperated with me. Sometimes I’m just too much of an adventurer and I forget our ages!

We were glad to be back on our beach , almost in one piece! Always a good sport even though I made a bad decision, I tipped the driver fairly, and we headed in. Then Ouch! We hit the beach and I couldn’t walk without pain in my left foot. I’m still not sure what happened to it. My best guess is that my toes got twisted and caught on the metal ladder rung while being pulled into the boat. My foot is badly bruised and my 4th toe has a spiral fracture that’s 1/2 inch long. Our hotel had lots of ice and I spent our last day at the pool with ice on my foot!
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We stayed at the Rayong Marriott Resort and Spa. This far into our trip, I decided it was time to use some of the points I’d been accumulating. It was good value, especially because of the included breakfast and the loyalty discounts on resort and restaurant spending.
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I had been there before when it first opened five years ago. It’s under three hours driving from Bangkok. It was quiet then, And even on a holiday weekend, with the hotel mostly full, it’s still quiet. Our ocean view room was comfortable. (It was too busy a weekend for a suite upgrade.) The staff like we found everywhere and Thailand was very friendly. They try almost too hard to do everything they can for you. This is small town Thailand and there is not much fluent English spoken. The communication errors are comical and we often had no idea what we were going to get after a request.

I WAS disappointed that in five years, this resort has not evolved into its potential for the beautiful large beachfront property it sits on. It has most likely struggled, as the gardens and grounds have not been developed. The 3 tall condo buildings adjacent to the resort appear mostly empty. There are two large unfinished homes located right on the beach on the resort property. Five years ago I was told that the owner/developer of this particular Marriott was building those homes for himself. Five years later they are an eyesore guests must skirt around as we go from one pool and pool cafe and beach bar to the other pool and restaurant. This was a shame to see.
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This charming area of Thailand has relatively clean air and great weather and spectacular sunsets. We enjoyed the week, especially our family visit. I think for next time, I will recommend going a little farther east by flying to Trat and visiting Koh Chang.

Back to the Big City! Bangkok Again!

On Saturday, we returned to the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok for our last 3 nights. We love this hotel and they reward returning loyalty guests. We again had a spacious one bedroom suite with views up and down the busy and interesting Chao Praya River. We felt at home in the club lounge for breakfast and snacks, and we were happy to have the hotel amenities close at hand.
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After we got our room, I headed across the river to the Icon Siam on the elegant Sheraton riverboat. I was meeting my niece Elana’s good friend Hailey and her family for gelato sticks and shopping. It was so random that we were not only in Bangkok at the same time, but near enough to easily meetup! That was so fun!
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Mark doesn’t do the shopping mall thing. So I was thrilled to have a girls shopping trip. I managed to walk in my flattest sandals without too much pain. I figured I could ice my toes later. I’m not giving up my last 3 days in Bangkok!
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I was happy to be back in my walkable Bangkok neighborhood! I took some laundry to “my neighborhood laundry lady” made a “Seven” run, and went over to Silom Rd to do some last minute pharmacy and other shopping. I sadly got a “last neighborhood Thai foot massage.”
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Unfortunately the Bangkok air quality was in the danger zone. I’ve been coughing and having breathing issues since we left Myanmar so I’m conscious of not spending much time outside. Even the school kids are being kept inside and masks are popping up everywhere.
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But we were outside a bit anyway on our last day with Terran!
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I sent a package home via Thai post, but we still had a heavy load for our trip home.
At the airport, Mark said, “yet another mall?” And I assured him that would be the last one he had to walk through for a long while.
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Our flights were oh so long, but uneventful.
Global Entry was a breeze. We spent a night in Boston before catching the Dartmouth Coach home. Oh we love the USA. We love “our bus.” We love the clean air of the Upper Valley even though it’s January and it’s cold. And we love our cozy home, in which we can recover from our JetLag in total comfort.

I loved so much about this amazing trip and I’m so happy we were both able to travel for so long. I often say that one of the gifts of travel (especially in the developing world) is that we come home so very grateful for the things we often take for granted. We feel so very blessed!

Wishing each of you a healthy and fulfilling year and some adventures of your own!
Love,
Nancie

Posted by Nsevers 10:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach bangkok rayong Comments (0)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Historic Ancient Walled City That’s Still a Vibrant Busy City!


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One Day In Chiang Mai or Chiang Mai in One Day!

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You can get a good feel for Chiang Mai, even if you just have one day there.
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We had both spent a few days in Chiang Mai together on our first trip to Thailand in 2005. That time, everything about Thailand and it’s culture felt new and exotic. On that trip we went on memorable small group minivan day trips to Doi Sothep, still one of my favorite temples in all of Thailand, and to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain area 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mai. I’ve been back to Chiang Mai a few times since then. I often wondered how we missed the historic ancient Temples right in Chiang Mai’s old walled city on that first trip, so that was our agenda for our one afternoon in Chiang Mai.

First we had to get from Pai to Chiang Mai. Highway 1095 from the high mountains is steep and winding and very slow. The narrow two lane road had 762 switchbacks, hairpin curves not wide enough for two vehicles.
We avoid the minivan travel now. The minivans don’t stop for anything. If you have motion sickness or need a bathroom stop, well that’s just too bad. And other travelers usually have some smelly just cooked street food along with them, stinking up the entire van.
It’s not that expensive and it is far more comfortable to hire a private driver. I booked my driver at AVA one evening on the walking street in Pai. As is our usual experience “Wood”, a nice young man, was at our hotel a few minutes early on/at the appointed day and time. We were happy that his car had good seatbelts!
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The ride rewarded us with more stunning mountain views. We stopped stopped at Coffee Hill - which has a guesthouse operation, pretty gardens, nice coffee shop and is exactly 66 km from Pai towards Chiang Mai. When you have your own driver you can do that. We made fairly good time and Wood delivered us safely to our Chiang Mai Hotel, the V@Suan Paak, (see “Tip” below) which is next door to the Airport Central Mall.

We were again upgraded to a one bedroom condo. I love this place! We left our stuff in the apartment. The hotel reception ordered us a GetTaxi (it’s like Uber in Thailand but I didn’t set that app up) and off we went! The first order of business was finding lunch! Remembering a particularly fun lunch in a garden restaurant with Ellen in 2009, we traipsed off to find a garden restaurant. We made a square loop from Wat Chedi Luang, first on our list, and we found a guesthouse and restaurant that did the trick.
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Once sated, we completed the loop on the way back to the Temple and passed stores, massage shops, restaurants and a busy schoolyard. Chiang Mai’s “Old City” (and modern it is not) is a vibrant city where people live and work and regularly worship in the 14th century temples that abound there. Mark and I opined that the entire city should be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But after visiting Bagan in Myanmar and learning that newer modifications to ancient buildings, even to preserve them for current worship and shrine use, largely disqualifies areas for UNESCO status, so I could see how hard that would be here. I think about the charming town of Melaka, Malaysia which I visited in 2013. It has that designation. Chiang Mai’s Old City has many splendid treasures but it’s not easily accessible and consequently many tourists just see it from the window of a huge tour bus which takes up the entire narrow street leaving safe no place for pedestrians like us.

The Temples are well maintained but the city infrastructure has deteriorated with every subsequent visit I’ve made since 2005. The streets are crumbling, the drainage is poor, the toilets are well, Thai toilets if you can find one, and you’d better have a nose clip and bring your own tissue. Seeing these historic Temples (for me once again) is always an adventure and it’s worth an afternoon of discomfort.

We started at Wat Chedi Luang where I had to rent a pashmina scarf, because it was a hot day and I didn’t wear sleeves. That was the easy part. But then, I still was not allowed into the best small chapel on the grounds. Women might be impure, because it might be their “time of the month” so no women are allowed inside, even those in their mid-60’s who don’t have monthly times like me.
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For all of us women, I’m sharing some of Mark’s photos of the inside murals!
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Built in the early 1400s, Wat Chedi Luang reigned as one of the tallest buildings in Chiang Mai. The Big Stupa at Wat Chedi Luang was once 82 m high, with a base diameter of 54 m, and at the time of completion, it was the largest building of Lanna until modern times. But a severe earthquake in 1545 toppled the top tiers and it wasn’t reconstructed until the 1990s. Wat Chedi Luang was home to the famous Emerald Buddha (1468) before it was moved to Luang Prabang in Laos and later to the Royal Place in Bangkok, housed in the famous Wat Phra Kaew, named for this holy emerald green jade Buddha.
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Next we went to Wat Phan Tao (Temple of a Thousand Kilns). This ancient temple sits directly next to Wat Chedi Luang, and it is known for its Lanna-style ordination hall made entirely of teak. It was built in the late 14th century and is the oldest remaining wooden Temple within the walled city. It has stunning teak pillars and panelling inside, along with decorative mosaics and accents, as well as an enshrined gold Buddha statue. The temple itself was originally built as a royal palace building (ho kham) for the ruler of Chiang Mai, Chao Mahawong, who used the structure from 1846 to 1854. Scholars speculate that the site was also used for the casting of Buddha images intended for Wat Chedi Luang, which is adjacent to the monastery, explaining its name and the presence of the kilns.
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On this day, the Temple was being prepared for a ceremony and was closed to visitors. But the grounds were humming with activity as young Monks were working on this and that. This is a Chiang Mai Old City scene that I adore surreptitiously photographing.
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We then walked a bit, looking for a garden hotel I’d heard about, but we couldn’t find it.

So we took a red Chiang Mai taxi to The Elephant Temple. The oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man dates to 1296, the same year the city was founded. But, what makes it one of the top temples to visit in Chiang Mai are the two Buddhas it houses – an 1800 year old crystal Buddha and a 2500 year old marble Buddha. Also at the complex is the Sacred Elephant Encircled Stupa (or chedi), which was at one time the royal residence where the king lived while the temple and the city of Chiang Mai were being constructed. It is said that the stupa houses a Sacred Hair Relic from the Buddha. The Sacred Elephant Chedi looks very similar to the one we saw in Sukhothai from about the same time period. It makes me wonder about the mobility of people in the 11th century - I can imagine that a trip from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai could have taken months!
At the back of the complex is a quaint temple that sits on stilts in the middle of a small square pond, reachable only by a bridge that was retracted. Now that’s a place to sit and meditate!
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Once we closed the Wat, well it closed for the evening around us, we watched the sunset over the Elephant Chedi before hiring a red taxi to take us over to Nimmanhaemin Rd.
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Nimman Road and the surrounding side streets are at the heart of the trendiest part of Chiang Mai. Occasionally known by its full name of Nimmanhaemin Road, the place is alive with fashionable restaurants, cafés, bars, shops and boutique hotels. I thought we would find some art galleries to wander in and out of. But as we walked a large square loop taking in the busiest Soi’s ( little streets) off the main road, we found only shopping, restaurants and bars. I was looking for a particular shop from a 2009 trip there with Lynn, David, and Faye. Lynn had a favorite elephant expresso cup- I was with her when she bought it. She wanted more...and often the search for something makes for a good adventure. It looked to me that the shop is long gone, replaced by a complex with a Starbucks that even has a drive-through window. I did finally find a ceramics shop - it had a similar item. It appeared to be a pop up of a Siam Celadon shop whose factory is our on the crafts road outside of Chiang Mai. The shop was open but no one was inside. We waited about 1/2 an hour and even asked the neighboring shop owners where the “person” was. Eventually a guy showed up. I bought the 2 cups he had as I like them...but we never did find the match to Lynn’s.
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Meanwhile, Mark found me a “Free WiFi Toilet With Parking.”
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Why Not?
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The “shopping evening” ended well as we stumbled into the back entrance of “Why Not?” It turned out to be a very fun garden Italian restaurant popular with ex-pats. We had a yummy meal, met some retirees who live in a Chiang Mai condo for several months a year, and listened to the airplanes landing and taking off every few minutes over a leisurely glass of wine. Ok, we get it, now we’ve been to Nimman!

We got another red taxi. Other than the Get Taxi app, The Red Taxi is the taxi option in a Chiang Mai. These are open trucks with benches in the back. Why Not, we can see more that way, and bounce around without seatbelt. We were happy to get back to our comfortable condo at V@Suan Paak, and get ready for another day of travel, this time through Bangkok to Rayong Beach.

Stay tuned to the blog. There’s still more coming!
Love,
Nancie

Travel Tip:
How do you choose lodging for Chiang Mai. Over 450 possibilities show up on the hotel booking sites, not including home stays or Airbnb’s. Most tourists want to stay near the famous night market but I didn’t want to deal with the hawker harassment. Or they pick a hotel in the historic old walled city. There must be more than a hundred options there. That’s a great location for temple sightseeing and tasty eating, but I know from prior visits that it’s a high density, high traffic area with little sewage infrastructure and lots of pungent odors. The neighborhoods across the Ping River, are definitely quieter. My Pai friends still like the Sathorn Residence over there, and the newer X2 Chiang Mai a little farther upriver is bound to be both quiet and hip. The exquisite 5 plus star spa resorts ( think 4 Seasons and Dhara Devi) are destination locations not near anything. Nimmanhaman Rd, the hip, artsy expat area, has some good options, in particular the charming Yesterday that some of my friends like, but this neighborhood is right in the flyover of the busy airport and there’s a plane flying in or taking off overhead every few minutes.

So many choices, so little time in Chiang Mai, I decided not to agonize over it, and just pick something.
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I booked V@Suan Paak hotel and serviced apartments on Agoda. The reviews on both Agoda and Trip Advisor were good and our stays, we were there twice, were even better! Located literally 5 minutes from the airport, the complimentary as needed shuttle service sealed the deal for us. We arrived after a long day touring Mandalay Myanmar at night, reinstalled my Thai SIM card into my iPhone, called them up and in a flash we were at the hotel. On our first stay, we were flying out to Mae Hong Son first thing in the morning so we couldn’t take full advantage of the lovely upgrade to a one bedroom apartment (that even had a washing machine). But the pool, the gardens, the uncharacteristic quiet next door to the airport, and the location adjacent to a Central Mall (think food and pharmacy...) made it a no brainer to plan a return stay on our way back to Bangkok from the north. The breakfast buffet was just ok and the restaurant location on the busy road was the weak spot for a longer stay. But for a clean comfortable spacious quiet hotel room or apartment, ten minutes either to the old city, night market, or Nimman area, V@Suan Paak worked out great! The staff couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. We were again upgraded to the same lovely apartment when we arrived midday from Pai! You can find photos on the Agoda listing for this hotel. We had such a busy day that I never got a chance to take any!

Posted by Nsevers 17:33 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples hotels chiang mai buddhas Comments (0)

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Si Satchanalai, Thailand

Always an Otherworldly & Inspiring Treat!


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I have saved the best for towards the end of our long trip! In December, Mark & I visited Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) in Si Satchenalai near Sukhothai Thailand. Mark has been hearing about BLES for 10 years already and really wanted to visit. For me, a trip to Thailand is incomplete without a trip to see my dear friends there. And of course, to visit the gorgeous and brilliant elephants there.
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I first met Katherine Connor, the founder of BLES in March, 2009. This is my 5th lovely visit to “my” BLES family. Katherine, Hope, Noah, Arron, Ethan & Luke, the Mahouts, the staff, and of course, the family of now 12 rescued elephants, welcome only a few guests at a time and integrate us into the daily life of the sanctuary. BLES has already been named one of the top 10 Wildlife Sanctuaries in the world. Katherine Connor, it’s founder, is widely recognized as one of the most effective and knowledgeable elephant caregivers in the world. Most of the lovely elephants, were rescued from abuse or neglect. In a few cases, their owners agreed to surrender them for better care at BLES.
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You can read each elephant’s personal story at: http://www.blesele.org/meet-our-elephants/

When I visited BLES in 2009, 2011, and even in 2013, it was different from every other elephant camp in Thailand. At BLES, the majestic beasts are respected and treated to a life as an elephant. There are no shows, rides or forced breeding programs. The mahouts of the female elephants don’t use hooks or prods. Their charges respond to kind words. The first two majestic old bulls (males), Somai and Tong Jai, each who nearly died before coming to live at BLES, got so healthy that one or the other was nearly always in musthe, requiring extra careful tending. Both lived out their final 9 plus years at BLES, always treated with respect, compassion and love.
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Now that Katherine and her team and colleagues around Thailand have been spreading the word about responsible elephant tourism for a decade, I am seeing more camps advertising no rides with chairs and some “no elephant riding” at all. I saw this in Hua Hin, Kanchanaburi, and Chiang Mai. The Lonely Planet Guide for Thailand now discourages tourists from visiting camps with elephant riding and very favorably recommends BLES. Change is in the air! There’s still a lot of work to be done, but so much has been accomplished in these past 10 years. I am so very proud of Katherine. She has shown us all what one person with determination and a cause can do!

Mark and I showed up with lots of fruit for the elephants and for the family and guests too. I first left a fruit offering at the beautiful Ganesha shrine near the BLES Community gathering spot.
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I’d hung a bell on the shrine for Maa Boon Mee a few years ago after she passed on. She was in her 70‘s or 80‘s and enjoyed her last years at BLES and I adored her!
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This is my first visit back since Pang Tong died. She was Boon Lott’s mother and came to BLES with Katherine before there was a BLES. Katherine founded BLES in part to keep Pang Tong from having to return to dangerous work as a logging elephant. Pang Tong’s passing is palpable, but she’s still vividly present in my memories!
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Before our walk, we watched the elephants getting their morning medical checkups, foot tending etc. I was so happy to finally meet David Owen! He is the most extraordinary volunteer BLES has ever had. His skills, humor, and dedication are unmatched and he brings so much fun to the Sanctuary. David, you rock!
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I went looking for Lotus! In 2011, I wrote this about Lotus: “I call Miss Lotus the "house elephant." Because of her foot injuries from conditions before she was rescued, she cannot go on long walks with the others. And I think that she is most comfortable around humans because she was always around people (tourists) before she came to BLES. She never had the privilege of being part of a social group of elephants, her own kind, and she is tentative around the others, preferring to stay by herself. Lotus has her own supply of fruit just next to the shady sala (lanai) where we eat breakfast and lunch. Lotus likes our leftover fresh fruit, especially the sweet mango and papaya. And she loves to be hand fed if she happens to warm up to you!”
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Well THAT has changed. Lotus is no longer “the house elephant.” I could not easily find Lotus. She was somewhere deep in the cool forest. During her past years at BLES she has learned to be an elephant! She forages the forest for food, bathes in the stream and can be found out and about with Wassana and Pang Dow, her inseparable friends. The change is an amazing accomplishment. One of so many here!
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Pang Dow has a skin problem that to date has been resistant to treatment. Katherine is on top of it, and consults with world experts. Katherine is quite the expert herself already too. With the regular care she gets, Pang Dow isn’t as bothered by her skin issues. She can be found happy in the forest streams or pond with her best buddies! She sometimes asks to be touched and patted, and she wears her bluish spots like a beautiful robe, shimmering in the sunlight.

Pang Suay is as beautiful as her name. She is a large girl and she likes to hog the pond bathing. It's a really big pond, but just watch when Lom and Mee Chok come down for a dip. Pang Suay will go roaring at them. Pang Suay is funny, She likes to stay cool in the water but she'll stand half wet, and nuzzle up to the guests for hand fed bananas and leftover fruit.
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Mee Chok, the baby boy that Katherine rescued about 7 years ago is no longer a baby. Lom is taking over Pang Tong’s role as Mother to Mee Chok and keeps him in line. Katherine works daily with Mee Chok and his mahout to train him to respond to the commands necessary to live in the sanctuary, This lively little boy brings so much joy to the sanctuary family.
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Pang Noi played with her mahout and the guests. She was ready to go exploring before the morning medical check was over. Her mahout told her she had to wait and she gingerly lifted the log “door” off the fence as if to say, I can leave if I want to but if you ask me nicely and bring some bananas, I’ll wait.
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We met the newest rescue Pang Fai when she came tumbling out of the jungle. She heard the farm truck arrive with the guests lunch and decided to investigate. There are no dummies around here!
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That’s a brief elephant update!

BLES too is now a teenager. Some things have changed with its notoriety & popularity with visitors. But I would still describe this to visitors as a homestay resort in the midst of a specatcular nature preserve. The 3 guest cottages were unfortunately recently damaged in a storm and there aren’t funds available to repair them. But fortunately, a European with ties to the local village has opened a nice guesthouse nearby. It has hot water showers and a swimming pool to cool off in after a full day at BLES. The daily fee to visit BLES covers the Guesthouse stay, all transportation, meals and other expenses. While I loved waking up to the elephants roaring or squeaking, I would also have loved a proper shower after a day on dusty roads or in the forest with the elephants. So change can bring small blessings too.
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Lets See Where the Eles are Today!

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The meals at BLES are simple healthy fresh food, served at a communal table, or during the day, on a mat by the forest road, or in the shade of the lovely hut from which we can watch the elephants bathing or grazing.

With the other rescued animals there’s lots to receive your love. With lots of dogs and cats, a couple of monkeys, and Jerry the crocodile (ask to see his enclosure), there is always drama, laughter, and lots of stories. Every guest at BLES leaves a mark on BLES.
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The information on how to visit BLES can be found here:
http://www.blesele.org/participate-visit/

I was so happy to be with Katherine again! I have been privileged to watch Katherine’s family and her elephant family grow and to see the evolution of this spectcular nature preserve. Thanks to Katherine’s unusual drive and dedication, her family in England, and her supporters worldwide, 28 elephants have been rescued since its founding. More land has been acquired, trees have been saved, crops and food for elephants have been planted, stables, a first aid room and a viewing tree house, and other structures have been built. There’s always more to be done! So many needs, every visitor and every supporter worldwide can make a difference.
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The Star Elephant Clinic (to be built in memory of little Star who died in a lightening storm) is still a dream. Traditionally there have always been elephants in this region of Thailand. There are still a relatively large number in Si Satchanalai and nearby districts. The Star Elephant Clinic will be the first elephant clinic/hospital to provide care for elephants in this region of Thailand. Currently it is a long treacherous truck journey for any injured or sick elephant lucky enough to have the opportunity to make the expensive trip north to seek necessary medical attention and having a regional clinic at BLES would be a huge help.
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If you love animals and nature, and you want a chance to be up close and personal with elephants, then you will treasure this place, and the BLES family, as I do. BLES’s location is definitely off the beaten tourist track. Those who make the effort to come out here will be inspired and rewarded.

Enjoy the photos and stay tuned to the blog.
Love,
Nancie from “my happy place!”
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Travel Tips:
Because BLES accepts only a few visitors at a time, they are usually fully booked months or longer in advance. But there are occasional cancellations, and now, with guests staying in the guesthouse in the village there is sometimes more flexibility. Inquire and be nice and be patient and you might get lucky and get in!

Most guests fly Bangkok Airways to the precious Sukhothai airport to get to BLES. The Sukhothai Heritage Parks nearby are well worth an extra couple of days there. They are like visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia without the 100’s of tour buses and thousands of tourists. Be sure to check that out too, when planning your visit to BLES!

Posted by Nsevers 14:40 Archived in Thailand Tagged elephants sanctuary sukhothai bles Comments (0)

Pai, Thailand

“Do Nothing in Pai”


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The drive to Pai took 1 & 1/2 hours, with a stop at the Viewpont.
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When I was here in 2009, they sold tee shirts that say “ Do Nothing in Pai.” I couldn’t find that shirt this year, but I’ll tell you that Pai is the quietest, most easy going town we’ve found in a Thailand. It’s easy to be here and it’s hard to leave!
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We settled in at the Quarter Hotel, a quiet location just a 5 minute walk to the heart of Pai. We liked our hotel choice and we even added one extra night.
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Pai is now solidly a tourist town. But in a good way. It’s residents have adapted well to this identity and tourists come here to enjoy the relaxed and joyous evening vibe, healthy food, and the mountain sites around the area. We’ve already seen many Thais, visitors from Singapore, and all of Europe, even Vancouver. There’s a small expat community here. It’s extremely affordable for folks living just on a pension. It’s popular with sensible aging hippies but everyone knows that in Thailand, recreational drug use is a big no no. Don’t chance it or you can go to jail for eons.
Pai is also the base for young backpackers trekking to the hill tribe homestays up in remote mountain villages near where we were last. Scooter rentals, backcountry supplies are available here along with guided day trips for the less adventurous.

When we arrived, I was still coughing with any effort to fully breathe. We had to forego the holiday gathering at my friend Jay’s home Friday night. :( I wasn’t sure if this was a cold or what and it’s not fair to expose others.

We walked through the night market and had a really good dinner at Charlie & Lek’s. It’s on the Walking Street with the Tesco- Lotus supermarket. There I drank a large glass of mulberry juice sourced from a local organic farm to boost my immune response. Mulberries look like blackberries but they are small and redder! I stopped into a pharmacy and got an inhaler. The pharmacist confirmed my suspicion that I should start the Augmentin that I carry with me. 7 days 1000 mg ( 1 gram x 2 a day) should fix what ails me. This is the 2nd similar episode this year. My best guess is that it’s related to the breathlessness on minimal exertion too, and that it’s a remnant of chemotherapy.

We came to Pai over Christmas week. After the Holiday Hoopla which started in Hua Hin and Bangkok Thanksgiving week, Myanmar, Thom Lod, and Pai were refreshingly out of the fray. We looked forward to sharing Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day dinner with our Pai friends Jay and Wat. I met them in Bangkok in 2009, came up to discover Pai with them then and we always enjoy our reunions! It was Jay who referred us to Anne of Myanmar Pure Travel who planned our wonderful Myanmar adventure, and for that, we are eternally grateful!
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We had a lovely Sunday Brunch Reunion at Om Garden! Wonderful food, coffees and smoothies. It’s on a side street and only open until 5:00 PM. Look for it!
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This year Jay’s Mother, Joan is visiting also from the US. I’m so happy to know her. She has already found the gym in Pai and is exercising daily. My older friends inspire me on how to “age strong” and my younger friends keep me young!
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Together with Joan, Jay and Wat we enjoyed a beautiful, tasty Christmas Eve dinner at the Siam Reverie. With a live guitar and saxophone playing in the background we had a fun leisurely holiday dinner. We recommended it to our new younger friends from the Quarter, Leanne & Cam**and they also really enjoyed their Holiday meal at the Reverie. I hear it is a nice place to stay also. It’s just outside of town and their shuttle has two stops at the night market in Pai Town.
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Wat made Christmas Day dinner at Jay and Wat’s lovely home in their small village just outside Pai. He bought 5 live fish (in the red snapper family) at the market. And lots of fresh lettuce and greens. He steamed the fish with ginger, made a lovely sauce of peanuts and herbs and we each had a delicious fresh fish for lettuce wraps! Always the perfect hosts, What a clever, healthy, tasty festive meal! Mark and I thoroughly enjoyed being with friends for two Holiday evenings. What a treat!
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At the Quarter, we spent our days working at “doing nothing.” Mark read, swam, and did afternoon his yoga workout on our balcony each day. Resting in the sun and shade at the lovely sparkling cool water pool helped heal my bronchitis. And I was happy to have some time to work on this blog. We are both enjoying the many fellow travelers we are meeting from all over the world. Travel compatriots all have advice and stories to share. We have met so many interesting people and we treasure the friendships that we have made along the way. **Cam and Leeann, this includes you both!
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Pai now has a stellar upscale organic spa and wellness center. I found SaPaiYa when I googled “best massage in Pai” and I’m so glad I did. The owner, Khun Kwang (reindeer in Thai), opened about a year and 1/2 ago in the brand new building of her design and architect rendition. There’s nothing else like it in Pai! When I saw that they have 2 private Thai Herbal Steam Rooms, I was in disbelief. This was just what I needed for my bronchitis and it indeed enabled me to get the first full breaths I’d had in days. Following the steam room, I had a massage using Thai Herb pouches that had been warmed in a crockpot. Used like a “thumper” followed by flushing, my massage therapist at home would have approved. This organic spa and wellness center is not your 350 Baht massage place on the street. Cancer survivors must exercise caution to avoid infections. SaPaiYa was immaculate. I paid about 1,750 baht for the 1 & 1/2 hour services. With the tip, about $60 US and that’s less than comparable upscale spas and wellness centers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Khun Kwang has brought something special that was previously missing to Pai. Try SaPaiYa and you’ll thank her!
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All Around Pai

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All About Food!

In Pai it is easy to find great eats. 10 years later, I still love, Na’s Kitchen. Her freshly cooked Thai dishes, generous portions and fruit smoothies are always tasty. We enjoyed falafel and kabobs at TKK, still great! We had a wonderful brunch with Jay, Wat and Joan At Om Garden. Go for breakfast or lunch. They close at 5. And we had a delicious delicious dinner of home made pasta with chewy shiitake mushrooms at Le’ Reve de Pai. This is the only wine shop in Pai. Eve and Frank welcome you into their home not far from the walking street where you can relax with a delicious Italian dinner and a glass of wine, or take home a bottle.
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With all of the great restaurants, we didn’t eat in the night market although that’s really hard to resist!
Here are some photos to make you hungry! And that’s only from one street! If you are Dreaming of Thai Night Market Food, Just Come to Pai!
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The Pai Night Market is chill and colorful and relaxing. No one accosts you or pushes you to buy like in Chiang Mai. And the sellers offered fair discounts even when I didn’t try to bargain. Check out these gorgeous yoga bags! Of course I have a new one.
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My suitcase is heavier now, and after a week of perfect weather, cool nights and warm sunny days, I’m feeling much better!
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Keep reading, we are not done yet!
Love, Nancie

PS Here’s my Trip Advisor & Agoda Review of the Quarter Hotel in Pai:
I think Trip Advisor reviews are overly critical. I am glad we booked the Quarter even after seeing them. We booked the Luxury Grand for 5 days over Christmas. Our 2nd floor room overlooked the garden and had a view of the mountains and pool. The living room, bedroom, double sink Bathroom with Toilet room, bathtub and shower was so spacious and comfortable. The deck got the morning sun - perfect for drying clothes, and shade in the hotter part of the day. Staff was attentive and eager to help. There was not a leaf out of place in the well attended gardens! It’s Quiet location with a quick walk or complimentary ride to the head of the Pai walking street is the best in town. Breakfast Buffet was fine. And the Pool! Oh it’s lovely. The Management made every effort to do whatever we asked. We extended our stay by one night. The Quarter and Pai was so right , we really didn’t want to leave!

Posted by Nsevers 18:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged food spa pai wellness Comments (0)

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