(Written by Steve)
pulled into a port called Laem Chabang,
which is right next to Pattaya. I don't know if you
remember Pattaya, but it is where the GI's used
to go for R&R during the Vietnam War back in the 60's. We hopped in a
van with our 2 friends Suzzanne and John (from the
Florida Keys) and drove just over 2 hours into
The sites are absolutely incredible and something
you can't see anywhere else. There is the Emerald Buddha next
I was worried about coming here because of the
devastation from the tsunami, but
I told you back in
That all I am going to say, Helen will write you in a couple of days to tell you how great the shopping is here.
(Written by Steve)
finished reading what I wrote about
†1000 years of history is absolutely amazing, and the people were very friendly, so I think I should write it a little differently today (3 days later).
I think I
was so worried about going to this country because of the Tsunami, but I donít
think life in this city changed one bit since it happened. Our drive from the
ship to the Hotel was a real eye opener, and then the area the hotel was in was
very poor. I felt guilty for staying there when the people right outside the
front door lived with so little. We then went on a canal tour through the
shanty shacks of the city, and it again was very disturbing. That night when we
were in our Hotel I saw something happening with a couple of Thai Girls and an
American guy that made me want to get the kids up to the room. As the comedian
at the show said last night ďHe did not realize that
forgive me if that little message I wrote on
So, if you
ever get the chance to go to see the
(Written by Helen)
We were so
excited to get to
at our hotel and the minute you step through the doors you realize what a
magnificent place it is.† The white
gloved doormen are their instantly and will not let you carry anything.† They greet you by holding their hands in
prayer close to their mouths and they bow, it really is gracious.† When Steve booked our room he was told that
they only allow a maximum of 3 people to a room so we had to book a deluxe
suite.† When we got to our room we went
crazy.† I guess after spending the last 2
months in a room that measures about 9x12 feet anything would look huge.† But this place was massive.† It had a living room with wrap around floor
to ceiling windows, two bathrooms with one that had a marble bathtub with a TV.
built into the wall, a shower, a separate room for the
toilet and two huge sinks.† The bedroom
was also large and it had a huge floor to ceiling window as well.† All of the windows had curtains that opened
and closed by the press of a button.† The
kids sure got a kick out of that!† We
actually figured that the one bathroom in the hotel room was a little bigger
that the whole room on the ship.† Our
hotel room looked over the
We went to Chinese Restaurant for lunch that was in the hotel.† The service here was truly the best we have ever received.† We had about 3 or 4 waiters standing by our table while we ate and if we needed anything they were there before you even realized you needed it.† When me and Dani got up to go to the washroom they jumped to hold our chairs for us.† And the food was spectacular.† We had lobster filled wonton soup that was excellent, the best sweet and sour pork we have ever tasted and believe me we order it wherever we go.† Steve and I ordered these prawns in garlic and soy sauce that were brilliant.† They were perfectly cooked and delicious!† The kids enjoyed it as well but they were very hesitant to try anything because it all looked a little different then usual.
After lunch we hooked back up with the couple we drove in with and set out to take our boat ride.† The hotel is situated right on the river so we just walked out the doors and across the outside restaurant to the boat dock.† It was so funny because we had booked a tour through the hotel and when we got to the dock there was this brand new gorgeous looking boat sitting there with the name of the hotel on it.† We thought, Wow! This is going to be great.
Suddenly however, this boat motors out of the way and this old decrepit long boat pulls up and is waiting for us to jump in.† The thing looked like it was hardly holding together.† It was shaped like a canoe but the front was pointed and it curved upwards.† In the back was this cute little shoeless man holding a pole that was connected to the motor.† Imagine an outboard motor that was actually a 350 motor from a Chevy car and it actually had a transmission from a car connected to the back of it.† It was absolutely unbelievable.† The exhaust from this thing was black and the noise it made was deafening.† Once again I crawled into a boat that I felt very unsure of.† I was actually really mad until I saw the life jackets and I made Dani put one on.† The ride across the river was so bumpy because the boat traffic is unreal.† Everyone travels by boat because the car traffic is ten times worse!
I was trying so hard to find the perfect word to describe the colour of the water in this river.† Olive green with a splash of coffee perhaps?† It is so disgustingly dirty.† There is garbage floating in it and the smell is very hard to describe.† Burning tires and sewage mixed together maybe.† We were sitting so low in the water and every time we would hit a wave we would get splashed.† I had to yell at the kids not to lick their lips and I kept wiping our faces with my clothes.† At one point I actually started laughing because I was thinking, what the hell am I doing?† But in hindsight it was an amazing experience and very well worth it.
Once you leave the river and enter the network of canals the water settles down and the ride is quite smooth.† The sights however, are mind boggling.† I cannot begin to describe what we saw, how some of these people live.† Their houses are shacks built over the water and they look as if they are ready to fall over any minute.† Itís amazing to see that some of these places had beautiful pots of plants and flowers on the decks and you could tell the people were making the best of the situation.† They apparently use the river for everything.† We saw a young boy having a bowel movement into the river, we then saw his mother scoop up a big bowl full of the river water and start washing her dishes.† We saw a group of young boys swimming in the water and someone told me they saw a couple of dead dogs floating in the same river.† Everywhere, you see fishing lines and we were amazed that fish could actually survive in this water.† Then we saw this enormous Komodo dragon lizard emerge from the water onto the steps and Steve got a great picture of it.† I kept thinking to myself, Please donít tip over, please!
We did a little
sightseeing along the way and were fortunate enough to see the Reclining
Buddha.† It is considered the largest and
the most beautiful reclining Buddha in
It is most
unusual to decorate feet in this way because the Thai people believe the lowest
part of the body represents what is spiritually least exalted.† That is why there are signs in some of the
temples saying that you should not touch someone elseís head even in joke, as
the head is held in the highest regard.†
Also in the
Another stop on our canal tour was to an Alligator Farm.† We didnít ask to come here but he stopped anyway so we got out, paid the cheap fee and walked in.† Well, we pretty much walked right back out.† The place just gave us the creeps.† We were the only ones in there and itís actually a kind of zoo.† When we first walked in a man approached us and told us that the snake show was starting in 10 minutes.† When we looked we saw a round arena with a few benches and in the middle were three sacks.† Thatís where the snakes were and who knows what kind of show it was going to be.† The animals in this place were so unkept.† There was one enclosure that held about ten huge snakes and when we looked down we noticed that there was a hole in the wall enclosure and they had stuck pieces of cardboard in the hole to keep the snakes from slithering out.† Steve took one look at that and said, letís get the hell out of here.† As we were leaving we noticed a small cage with a huge tiger in it and this big sign that said donít stick your hand in the cage.† And you could if you really wanted to!† It was really sad as we walked out and saw a monkey in the tree and it had a metal leash around itís neck and it was chained to the tree.† We left very quickly.
When we got back to the hotel we decided that we were going to spend the rest of the day and night in the hotel.† We got our bathing suits out and headed to the beautiful pool.† It was great but you could smell the stench from the river as it wafted in with the wind.† And lo and behold we got a little sample of the sex trade as well.† In the pool were a couple of older men and their very young Thai escorts.† It really was revolting and we packed up and ended up spending a lovely evening in our room with room service.† The food was delicious, the view was spectacular ( the city looks great at night) and we felt safe and sound.† My sisterís going to kill me because I didnít get a chance to try any authentic Thai food.† Oh well!
Did some shopping the next day and headed back to the ship.† Steve and the kids went in and I stayed out and did some last minute shopping in the kiosks set up right outside our ship.† And thank goodness I did!† With an hour left before the All aboard I came upon† a kiosk that was selling Thai massages for very cheap.† $20 for an hour.† There was a line up of passengers from the ship and finally it was my turn and let me tell you there is nothing like it.† First she did my feet and legs for half an hour and then she brought me down to a mattress on the floor and started in on my back.† Soon she was sitting on me and grabbing my arms and pulling them backwards.† Then she put her knee on my spinal column and yanked me up again.† I actually started to laugh and then she started slapping my legs with her hands and then sheíd flick my ears.† It all hurt but felt good at the same time.† What an experience!† Poor Steve missed out but I told him to come with me and he wouldnít.† We had heard so much about the infamous Thai massage and he wanted to get one so badly but we didnít get a chance.† I gave him a massage that night with everything I learned!
The Virus numbers on the ship have crept up again and many people are now quarantined to their rooms once again. This thing just wonít go away!†
stupa-studded mountains of Mae Hong Son and the verdant limestone islands of
Full country name:
Area: 517,000 sq km
Population: 62 million
People: 75% Thai, 11% Chinese, 3.5% Malay; also Mon, Khmer, Phuan and Karen minorities
Religion: 95% Buddhism, 4% Muslim
Government: constitutional monarchy
Head of State: King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)
Head of Government: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
GDP: US$166 billion
GDP per capita: US$2,168
Annual Growth: 3.5%
Major Industries: Computers, garments, integrated circuits, gems, jewellery
Major Trading Partners: