When I was 25 years young and working for the summer at a resort outside of Denali National Park in Alaska I got the big idea in my head to go to Thailand. I was in the process of breaking up with a boy and also breaking up with my life as a parkie (serial employee of park concessioners) to go back to school. Waiting tables was treating me well financially but contributing to a building disdain for my fellow man. Many of the people I was working with at the restaurant were gypsies like myself and had inspiring stories of backpacking through southeast Asia. I latched on to that big idea, joined forces with my dear friends Piper and Kevin and flew west when our season in Alaska came to an end.
The three of us spent six weeks in Thailand punctuated by a visa run to Cambodia midway through. I was there to eat all the food, Piper was there to shop all the shops and Kevin was there to make sure we made it back in one piece. When we returned home I regaled my folks with stories and pictures. Every time my mom and I would go out to lunch we would get Thai food and I would wax nostalgic about the amazing food we ate, adventures we’d had and cheap accommodations. I planted the seed in her mind and over the years it grew into a tree. Probably a coconut palm tree. Anyhow, fast forward a dozen years or so and my mom and I are chatting over a glass or two of wine and the subject of a trip to Thailand comes up. Mom and I had been traveling together in Europe with my Crazy Auntie Barbara (CAB) a few times and we were thinking it was time to explore a different continent. CAB had been-there-done-that with Thailand and wasn’t interested so Mom and I decided it would be fun to bring our sweeties with us! Scott is pretty much game for any crazy idea I spring on him so he was an easy sell. My dad, on the other hand, did not have such a rosy outlook on travels with Rachael (as noted in the intro to this blog- I may have scarred him for life on a road trip through Baja California twenty years prior). Also, Dad’s previous experience with SE Asia was a compulsory stint as a draftee in the Vietnam War and he never yearned to return. It took a couple of months of wheedling and cajoling but he eventually applied for a passport. The trip planning train could not be stopped from that point on.
Mom had some bucket list items that we had to hit on this vacation. She wanted to see the Jim Thompson House, the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok and see Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Dad just wanted to make it back home to his dog. I wanted to make sure that everyone had all the fun there was to be had. Plus air conditioning. One stipulation my dad made for going on this trip was that my mother could not talk about the heat or claim to be melting so air-con rooms were critical. On my last trip to Thailand, we went full bargain basement on accommodations rarely paying more than three dollars for a room. Those types of rooms would not be conducive to my folks returning form this trip with fond memories so I upped our budget to $20-$25 for a room with air conditioning and a balcony. I like balconies. Scott and I spent a couple of weekends at my folk’s house planning for this trip. My Mom and I would comb TripAdvisor and read room reviews on Agoda and Booking.com while Scott and my Dad would enjoy whatever variety of Sierra Nevada beer we brought with us from Chico that weekend and pipe in with agreement when we came up with any sort of plan. I put a lot of pressure on myself to plan the perfect trip but eventually had to let go and have faith that everything would be just fine. Otherwise, I might still be debating the best itinerary and room two years later!
We are blessed with generous friends who allowed us to rendezvous at their farm and leave our cars. They gave us a lift to the airport in Sacramento and promised to pick us back up again in three weeks time so that we would not have to pay for extended parking for two vehicles. Once we were checked in to our flights we sought out the obligatory pre-flight Bloody Mary to bolster our constitutions for the ridiculously long flights ahead.
We arrived in Bangkok close to midnight but our bodies thought it was Miller Time. Unfortunately, there are some awkward beer selling time laws so the only cold ones we were able to unwind with were full of water. It was probably for the best. The morning found us quasi-refreshed and provided us with espresso drinks and a walk over to Wat Pho to visit the Reclining Buddha.
We wandered around our neighborhood, found great food on the water with cold brewskis, and took a boat ride across the river to a temple that was being renovated. We were pretty much zombies from the jet lag. The next day we visited the Grand Palace. Mom had to borrow a sarong because her shorts were, well, shorts. There were mobs of people so we didn’t last long there. We escaped into an air-conditioned restaurant and had more delicious food.
Eventually, we headed across town to visit Jim Thompson House. We hailed a couple of tuk-tuks to get us there. It was a harrowing ride as they were racing each other through crazy Bangkok traffic. Both tuk-tuks pulled over suddenly at one point and the two drivers started wrestling on the side of the road. We were nervous and confused until one of them jumped up triumphantly with a hefty baht note in his hand. I guess they both spotted the money at the same time and the best man won! That windfall did not transfer over to our fare as they demanded twice what they quoted us before we climbed in. Scandalous!
The Jim Thompson House was just as peaceful as it was a dozen years prior. The mystery of what happened to that American silk exporter all those years ago has still not been solved in the last dozen years either. Once we had our fill of all that serenity we braved the local canal bus system. We watched a number of boats go by in both directions before I got the courage to butcher the Thai language questioning which direction a city on the route was. Nobody commuting on that boat would admit to knowing any English nor understanding my Thai, but they did understand big smiles and hand gestures! It was a frantic boarding process and we were the only ones who didn’t know what we were doing… luckily we were riding it to the end of the line so we didn’t have to figure out when to get off the boat. Once we were back on dry land again it was time to get a tuk-tuk back to our neighborhood. It was then that we were kidnapped.