Saturday, February 18, 2012



Fond memories of Myanmar in our heads as we landed in Bangkok for the second time since leaving Bali in mid-December; only this time we had plans to meet Barbara’s sister, Alicia and 4 of our 5 kids. We had rented a 3 bedroom apartment in one of the outlying districts of this huge, sprawling, smoggy metropolis. By the time midnight rolled around everyone had arrived and we took out the bottles of duty-free booze we had brought and had a couple of toasts. 
Barbara and I had been to Bangkok a few times already, as had Sasha and Eli, so we knew the drill. First day—get on the river boat/taxi and take it up and down the Chao Praya river to get oriented; go to the big Wat Po Temple to see the huge Reclining Buddha and get a Thai foot or body massage at the massage school; stop at some local stands for some mouth-watering, delicious Thai street food; finally, walk, walk, walk. If you have never had a real Thai body massage you must be forewarned before putting yourself at the mercy of these small, but strong women (sometimes men). This is dry massage, so one puts on a simple loose fitting top & bottom and lays down on a mat on the floor. They know all your weak spots and pressure points and zero in on them for maximum pain and torture. Then they twist your body into shapes and positions that you did not know were physically possible except by certain circus acts. When finished you either swear to never put yourself put through that again or look forward to the next masochistic session.

Note: The Russians are flexing their wallets and are traveling everywhere. We see plenty of them in Bali; and Bangkok seems to be inundated with them—traveling in large groups, seeming to dominate wherever they are. So, look out your window because they will soon be in your neighborhood, and they make themselves known.

A few more days in Bangkok were spent exploring markets including the huge Chatichuk weekend market which has an over-abundance of everything you might want and everything you don’t want. We all made a few purchases and had some great food, including the best fried chicken ever! A good day was spent outside of Bangkok at a floating market with fabulous seafood and a boat ride through a small river canal observing local life as we passed by. We spent more time than we planned to at the MKB multi-level shopping center with more food courts and stalls of every different type of food imaginable, and then some you couldn’t imagine. There were floors of electronics, clothes, jewelry, food, a cineplex (showing Mission Impossible), a bowling alley, massage parlors and much more.  And this was but one shopping center among many. We passed by Patpong Road, famous for sex shows. Actually, the young ones didn’t just pass by Patpang Road but returned that night for the evening’s entertainment, which I will not attempt to explain—use your imagination!!

The ongoing topic of conversation was-------FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!!!  Local stalls and street stands did a good job of keeping us fed, but we had one of our best meals at a restaurant run by an NGO called Cabbages and Condoms. This NGO is one of many organized and run by a man whose name I forget, but what he has done is very admirable. Cabbages and Condoms distributes condoms and advice on birth control throughout Thailand; and does a lot to help feed those in need. The proceeds of the restaurant go to support their work and the food they served was excellent. During our entire stay we had so many delicious dishes never seen in the States.

After 4 nights in Bangkok we flew en masse to Chang Mai in the North where we stayed at a small, very relaxed hotel on a river, with very good breakfasts and a short walk to the main part of town, and the famous night market. The population of Chang Mai is less than 200,000 compared with the approximately 17 million in Bangkok, so the city is a whole lot more relaxed and laid back than Bangkok, for which we were all grateful. So what did we do in this cool city? Okay, here we go—

The Trek—2 days with an overnight into the hills which included a half day of uphill climbing and a half day of downhill; an elephant ride (lots of jokes and laughs); some pretty cool rafting; one fantastic night of stars; a very good chicken dinner; and a lousy night’s sleep.

The Zip-Lining—if you don’t know about zip-lining it involves putting on a harness, then climbing up to a platform in tree, then…hooking on to a cable and zipping really fast through the trees to the next platform. Really good fun for all, except for Barbara, who had a look of fear on her face with each zip. We stayed around for a very tasty BBQ lunch on the lake over which we zipped for our last zip.


The Cooking Class—a full day class starting at a local market, then to the farm where we all had our own stations with 6 dishes of our own choosing.  Some things we whipped up were Pad Thai, Tom Kha Gai, and dishes whose name I can't remember. The highlight of the class, besides all this excellent, tasty food, was the instructor. This woman, Emby was, not only informative, but funny, entertaining and kept us laughing all day; we talked about her the rest of the trip.

Thai Kick Boxing--Everyone seems to have fun watching these guys, but it is not all that exciting, I mean, I could do that!

The Night Market—Every night along the main street in Chiang Ma vendors open their stalls to sell clothes, handicrafts and all sorts of items, many from the hill tribes in Northern Thailand. There is much to tempt one, but we are not big shoppers and with all the opportunities to shop we bought very , very little. But it was fun to stroll up and down the streets a couple of times. As if there weren't enough  markets, and things to buy, we went to the Saturday market which seemed to have more stuff that we didn't need.
The Birthday Party—January 19th was my 70th birthday, which was the original impetus for us all to come together, so we booked a table in a restaurant for the bash; one that was recommended by a guy named Larry Abramson, an ex-pat living in Chiangmai with whom we hooked up. (This guy keeps a kosher home in Thailand!). A good time was had by all as we sampled many new and different dishes from the region. The whole meal was delicious and even in a good restaurant like this the prices were great! We started the evening with gin & tonics from the booze we'd been carrying and finished back at the hotel with a birthday cake! The kids promised to get me a Kindle Fire--I write this because now they will have to do it.

The Food—We had a NY Times article that listed some specialty dishes of the region and the best places to sample them, and we looked for a couple of spots that Anthony Bourdain had visited. We found almost all these places and had many dishes not found on menus in the States. Khao Soi is a noodle dish with veggies and chicken topped with crispy noodles that was wonderful. We had chicken, both fried and spit-roasted—all fabulous. I wish I could remember all the different things we tried, but your humble reporter is writing this over 2 weeks after leaving Thailand, in a hotel room in India, and not much is coming to me.

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