Saturday, March 31, 2012

A little ride down the river

Bangkok is dubbed "The Venice of the East", so suffice it to say, I took more than just one little ride down the river during my trip to Thailand. Thank goodness Dad brought his seasick patches with him because it seemed as if we were always on a boat. Not a problem for me. I love the water.

Our first taste of a ride on the Thai waterways was a boat ride through the klongs, Bangkok's canals. We floated along to see family homes, temples, and the way of life in Bangkok.

At first, I was shocked to see such run down homes in the capital city! In the States, properties along the river would be the best, sitting on prime real estate. This did not seem to be the case in Bangkok. Houses were leaning, sinking, and falling down. Louis, our tour guide, explained that the appearance of the house did not necessarily indicate that the family did not have enough money to purchase something more stable and beautiful. It is just not as important to them. In Thailand, education, healthcare, public transportation, and electricity are all free. Because of this, even the poorest people have televisions! You cannot judge the income of the family on the structure in which they live.

As we cruised along the Praya Chao river, we stopped to visit this:
This is Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn.  Its 260 foot spire has been identified with Bangkok. This temple is steep so nobody attempted to climb the stairs to the top!

After leaving "Venice of the East", the boat rides continued. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a 3 hour ride down the Kok River from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. We boarded our longtail boat early in the morning and began our journey from one city to the other.

We were freezing,  our butts were sore (no real cushions on those seats), but by the end, we had arrived in a new city with more to explore.

PS: There is a little challenge in the blog world called the A-Z challenge. The idea is to write everyday except Sunday using a letter of the alphabet. I probably won't be able to keep up with daily updates and my readers might get blog fatigue, but I am going to try my best to meet the challenge. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Need for a Fourth Suitcase

 The Bigbys do not know the meaning of "pack lightly". My mom is the biggest culprit of over-packing, but admittedly, I am not much better. Dad is the best of us. He is a man and doesn't need a different pair of shoes for every outfit. Ok, well, we really don't need that either, but you know....This trip, however, the tables had turned. My dad's shopping extravaganza resulted in the need to buy a fourth suitcase.

It all started like this. Before going to Thailand, we had a number of people tell us that we had to go to the tailor to get some clothes made. We arrived in Thailand a day before our tour actually started so we would be able to acclimate ourselves to Asia. It so happened our tour guide, Louis, was around the hotel ready and willing to offer us suggestions on how to spend our spare time.

First stop: The tailor.

Louis made a phone call and the tailor sent a car to come and pick us up at the hotel and bring us to the shop. Dad said he was absolutely against going, but then decided he'd better go to "protect" us. He didn't want his two leading ladies whisked away by some strange men in the capital city of Thailand. So, he reluctantly enters the shop. Mom and I excitedly walk in and immediately sit down to tear through books of options. The two of us are so focused on what we are going to choose to have made that we completely lose track of where my dad might be. We turn around and we see this:

WHAT?!? The man who didn't want to go to the tailor is getting MEASURED?! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this man went crazy at the tailor! Mom and I decided on two dresses and a pair of pants in the amount of time that Dad had signed on the dotted line for 2 suits, 5 pairs of pants, 5 dress shirts and 5 ties! Now you see the need for the fourth suitcase.

The experience at the tailor felt very special. You'd pick out your pattern and then your fabric.

There were 2 whole floors of fabric to choose from. Then you were measured and your clothing was cut and sewn within a matter of hours! Zippity-quick, I tell ya. That night or the next day tailors would bring the freshly cut garments to the hotel for a fitting. While I don't have the money or the closets of celebrities, I did feel like one when the tailors would make a special visit to my room for a fitting!

The whole vacation was very special. This was just the beginning.  More to come on the Thai adventure.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day One: The Journey to the Far East

I wouldn't normally write a post about a plane ride, but there are some very interesting things that happened that I would like to document.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I was really anxious about flying for 24 hours. I had no idea what I was going to do for that long and feared that I might get antsy and claustrophobic. I packed all of these activities to keep me occupied and I must say I did not touch one of them! I was plenty occupied by 4 movies, 3 meals and some sleeping. Before I knew it, we had landed in Tokyo.

Our plane from DC to Tokyo was unlike any one I had flown on during my many trips. It was a 777 with close to 400 passengers. There was not an empty seat to be found. The business class seats (which we did not have on this leg) were interesting. Half of the seats faced forward toward the pilot like you would normally expect and the other half of the seats faced backward. It was a little strange.  At first, I thought it would make me sick to ride backwards on a plane for 13 hours, so I was thankful that we didn't have those seats. But, on the flight from Tokyo to Bangkok where we were upgraded to business class, guess who had a "backwards" seat. That would be me!
The cockpit is actually at my back. It didn't make me sick, though. My seat unfolded into a bed, so I just kicked back and went to sleep. Sadly, I was so full from the crappy airplane food in coach that when the good stuff came in business class, I wasn't even hungry! My dad was happy because he got two meals.

Speaking of my dad, this was his seat on our first flight.  There is no seat in front of him. He said he wanted legroom and the man got legroom. Everyone around us was commenting that we have never seen a seat like that on a plane! It's great if you have super long legs because you can stretch out to your heart's desire.

Being on the initial flight for 14 hours meant lots of walking around to stretch and avoid blood clots. As I would pace from one end of the plane to the other, I noticed something. There were close to 400 people on our plane and only about 10 of them were women, including myself. Yes, really, only 10! It was strange. I felt like I was a part of some social science experiment. This number doesn't include the flight attendants, but still. It could be because we were going to Tokyo and a lot of businessmen fly to Asia for work matters. It could be because Thailand has an issue with prostitution and unfortunately, a lot of American men take advantage of this. I have no idea, but it was weird. The benefit of only 10 women was that there was rarely a line for the bathroom! HA!

Arriving in Bangkok was a little disorienting. Not only had we been flying for over 24 hours, we had trouble figuring out what time it was. We left DC at 12:00 in the afternoon on Saturday and arrived in Bangkok at midnight on Sunday. It was so confusing to think we had completely missed a day and in a few short minutes, Monday was upon us. After gathering our luggage and going through immigration, we set out for our hotel and arrived there around 2am on Monday morning. Let me tell you, I thought New York City was dubbed "The City That Never Sleeps", but I think Bangkok claims that title. At 2am on a Monday morning,  the streets were hoppin'! Street vendors were cooking, people were dancing and mingling in the streets. "Don't these people have to go to work in a few hours?!", I thought when I was admiring their energy.   Either way, I knew all the action was symbolic of the fact that we would have a fabulous time on this trip! And that we did.  Check back for more details on our first full day in the capital city.
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