Monday, March 13, 2017

Thailand 2017



Since high school, my friend Aneesa--originally from Singapore-- has said she would get married in Thailand.  We only had a week in Thailand inclusive of the wedding, so I focused our pre-wedding itinerary on relaxation. Good thing because I never would have had the stamina to survive the non-stop Indian wedding events otherwise!

We began in Ayutthaya, about one hour north of Bangkok.  Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam until it was toppled by the Burmese in the 18th century.  Located on an island at the confluence of three rivers, including the mighty Chao Praya which flows through Bangkok, Ayutthaya's historic wealth was derived from trade and acted as an important meeting point between the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans.

Taking advantage of jet lag, we set out before sunrise on our bikes

We had the Ayutthaya historical park mostly to ourselves

Wat Mahathat: restored ruin of Buddhist monastery

Our base was the Baan Thai House, a lovely hotel just off the island with charming bungalows around a pond.

                                     




Food is one of my favorite aspects of travel!  We tried the Ayutthaya specialties of river prawns as well as roti sai mai.

River prawns--very expensive and not so flavorful.


Roti Sai Mai:  crepes filled with angel hair cotton candy.  I didn't love it.

Next, we traveled five hours south to Sam Roi Yod National Park's Dolphin Bay, just south of Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand.  A palm-fringed beach with fishing boats, Dolphin Bay is little more than a single road along the beach bordered by a handful of small independent hotels. It's the perfect jumping off point to visit surrounding national parks like Sam Roi Yod, Petchaburi, and small islands.  The vibe reminded me of the quiet local beaches on the eastern side of Maui close to Hana.  We stayed at the lovely Long Beach Inn, located a short walk from the beach.

Kayaked to this money island where monkeys aren't at all scared of humans!  

Dolphin Bay beach:  I think these fish are drying for fish sauce.  
On our second day, we visited the Phraya Nakhon Cave.  We biked a little over an hour from Dolphin Bay and then proceeded to hike to Laem Sala Beach, which is only accessible by hike or boat.  From Laem Sala it was another 45 minute hike to the cave mouth.

Laem Sala Beach



Descending into the cave

Looking up from the cave

The temple deep in the cave

This trip we befriended an Israeli classical conductor and his consultant wife who have been coming to the Long Beach Inn for over a decade to unwind.  Not only did they introduce us to a simple beachfront Thai restaurant with the most incredible fried fish and delicate prawn dishes, but they also introduced us to their Thai friend Oote.

The restaurant, not much to look at

A lovely masseuse, Oote spoke enough English to establish a nice rapport and took care of us with the most relaxing massages, facials, etc.



Oote's massage parlor
The Dutch owner of the LongBeach Inn accompanied the Israelis, Oote, Michael and me on a day of exploration to Ao Manao beach, a secluded beach on a Royal Thai Air base and afterward to an elephant safari in Kuiburi elephant sanctuary in Kiri Khan National Park.

Ao Manao
I regret that we didn't do the overnight stay in Kuiburi, home to 250+ wild elephants.  Elephants loathe the heat so they only come out when it is relatively cool, past 4pm and in the early morning.

KuiBuri:  we saw a few elephants from a distance
The wedding took place in Hua Hin, a famous beach town an hour north of Sam Roi Yod on the Gulf which has been a longtime retreat for the Thai royal family.  Hua Hin is mostly made up of large international resorts and has that distinct vibe of a SE Asian beach town that has long since been "discovered."

I noticed Khomopastr Fabrics when we were in the well-appointed truck bed (!!) of our our taxi driving into Hua Hin from Dolphin Bay.

In the truck bed taxi for the 1 hour ride to Hua Hin!
In the Khomopastr store where I purchased several yards
Wedding events were nonstop, but I managed to sneak in a quick hour at Khomopastr for some fabric shopping.  Founded in 1948 in Hua Hin by the Royal Prince Bovoradej, Khomopastr' focus is on handmade screen-printing of traditional Thai designs, some from the Royal collection and archives.

Tablecloth. They only had it in 3.5 meters, so I cut it and pieced together for a 2 meter length.
Cotton is believed to have been chosen instead of silk because of the humid climate and more relaxed atmosphere of Hua Hin. The factory is located in Hua Hin and it can be visited by appointment only.  It's still a small operation, with only 70 workers producing about 900 yards per day.

Southeast Asia is a real pain to get to, but I love it more and more with each trip to the region.  Not sure when we will return on vacation, but Myanmar and Laos are high on the list.  Wanderlust....

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