Above - Gold Temple, Grand Palace, Bangkok.
Above - Typical long boat transport with high powered prop blasting through the Khlongs (canals) of Bangkok. Known as the Venice of the East because of the network of khlongs, Bangkok has held firmly to many of it's long held customs including floating markets.
Above - Tuk Tuk travel. Made for 2 or 3 little Thai people, we seemed to squeeze our amazon sized family in some how; the driver and front wheel were sitting 3 feet in the air though.
Above - Local boys swimming in Khlongs; Thaiboxing shorts and undies being the chosen swim wear; these kids would fearlessly dodge the passing boats with the huge outboard props.
Above - Spot the tourists, B2, FS, B3, B4 (back) and NS. We had to hire the pants as shorts weren't allowed to be worn into the Palace grounds.
Above - Chaing Mai Taxi service, bargain a ridiculously low price to go wherever you want and then lob into the back. Perfect for the big family, and more roomy than the Tuk Tuks.
Above - Budda, The Grand Palace, Bangkok.
Above - 2million steps later we finally reached the top of the Temple at Doi Suthep. Notice B4 asleep in my arms for the climb up. He conveniently woke just at the last step!
Above - MuayThai Kickboxing night. Ring-side seats, wooden benches, Singha beer and great action, a must for any Thailand visitor.
Above - Feeding time before the jungle trek.
Above - River rafting; a couple of small rapids further down stream really tested the strength of the ties holding everything together, but some how we made it back down stream albeit totally drenched.
Above - White water warriors.
Above - River Kwai, whistle the tune with us....lala, la la la la, la la.
Above - B1 rattling along the Kanchanaburi Rail high in the Thai jungle.
Above - Located deep into the jungles surrounding the outskirts of Kanchanaburi, we ended up spending the night on a floating barge during a heavy flood which was pretty freaky, but the backdrop scenery was amazing.
Above - B2, B3, B1 and NS waterfall swimming, Erawan National Park.
Above - FS & NS hurtle down the rock waterfalls in Erawan National Park. The large catfish below would immediately start nibbling our feet, leading FS to jump on and nearly drown me in her efforts to get to the rocks. Funny stuff at the time.
Above - View from the breakfast table, Koh Samui.
Above - Jet ski action, B3, NS & B2, Chewang Beach.
Above - Traditional Thai dance, Koh Samui.
Above - Robyn, FS, B1, &B2 lighting the beach lantern and ready for take off.
Above - Head Dip Madness. A little scary to watch but a bloody amazing show at the croc park. These guys are seriously mad, heavy scarred with lacerations and missing fingers from less manageable crocs. No second chances with the head dip trick though!
Above - Snake Wrangler NS with friendly Burmese Python.
Above - I'm a Virgo, 5'6", have great legs, B-cup boobs, Long dark hair, love to dance....oh, and i have a penis. LadyBoy dance troupe!
Straight from the airport home from Maldives, to grab FS and the boys, then back to the airport to fly out for our much waited trip to Thailand, yeh baby! Finally getting to test run our back packs, FS and i feel like 20 year olds embarking on our gap year trip around the world, of course not too many 20 year olds have their 4 kids in tow, and B1 thought we were just very embarrassing!! All the kids had their own back packs, albeit that B4's was purely for toys and B3 was carrying the dirty laundry pack.
Despite a bit of jet lag, we checked in to our hotel in Bangkok and then headed straight out to check the scene, using the SRT (railway). We had a general plan of where we wanted to go but had only booked our first couple of nights in Bangkok and our last week or so accommodation on Koh Samui Island, meaning the filling 2 or weeks were pretty fluid.
It's just got to be noted from the outset, that the Thai people are some of the friendliest, happiest, funny and easy people on our planet. Over the entire trip, through jungles, cities, beaches, temples, the poor, the rich, the dancers, the waiters, the market stalls, the side walk pros, the taxi drivers and the monks, everyone had a smile and would go out of their way to help or talk to you about their country; of course a few baht always helped the cause.
Our first few days in Bangkok were great fun, and what a cool city to travel in. We rode the long boats through the khlongs, checking out the floating markets, making offerings to the huge catfish that swarmed nearby to canal side budda temples. We stopped at a tiny zoo, where human/wild animal interaction was a little too full-on, from B2 getting to wrestle a large python, turning my head to see B4 climbing the 4 foot high wall separating him from a 20ft croc, to B3 about to hand feed a black bear and then finding FS in hysterical laughter at the masturbating gibbon. Still in Bangkok, we visited the Grand Palace, which was a great insight into the workings of the Buddhist faith, their beliefs and practises.
We were surprised one evening coming back from another fanbloodytastic meal, at the huge numbers of people out exercising in the public parks. Coming from the UAE, where you hardly, if ever, see anyone running or walking a dog or generally even outdoors, this was a real standout. Just as we're admiring the masses going through their routines, the Thai National anthem started blaring from all the park speakers. Absolutely everybody came to a perfect stand still, like silent statues. It felt like one of those internet stages where people prearrange themselves to simultaneuously stop in a train station. Turns out this occurs every evening at 6pm.
A couple of days later we catch the overnight train from Bangkok station to Chaing Mai, a 15hour trip, but great fun on the train, with the seats converting to bunks for a night of ZZZzz's. Of course there were heaps of back packers (early 20's) doing this trip, as it's cheap and rough, so it was a bit of a chuff to throw our backpacks around, embarressing B1 of course. FS is so excited, and keeps talking about travelling through Europe and UK as a family of backpackers...B1 rolls his eyes at the thought...I quickly convert that when travelling with a family of 6, there is no such thing as cheap and cheerful, even taking the backpacking route, but like FS though, I can't wait!
I was expecting a city of buildings and surrounding industial areas when we reached Chaing Mai, so am just so pleasantly surprised to find that Chaing Mai, built around the moted 'Old City' is mostly low rise and very very laid back, and sooo inexpensive. We stay in Chaing Mai a little over a week, but frankly could have stayed for several months very happily.
Our days are spent mostly travelling the outskirts and jungle regions surrounding Chaing Mai, such as an hour or so north, we took some elephants through the jungle, just amazing creatures with unbelievable agility and balance, even on the steepest and muddiest slopes. B4 was in uncontrollable fits of laughter every time the elephants trumpeted a fart. We then took a bamboo raft back down stream. This is in the middle of nowhere, and seeing a few farmers working in their nearby rice feilds was the only civilisation we encountered, before the shear cliffs with clinging jungle became the back drop again. We finished the day with a few hours guided trekking, coming across the 'Karen' tribe, not actually Thai nationals the tribe comes from China, but are supported by the Thai Gov't to grow rice instead of the old school crops of Poppys,for opium production. During the walk we also come across the Maewang waterfall which is magnificent for a cooling swim.
Other days we went white water rafting, a day at the zoo and a bit of chilling out too, just to recharge the batteries. Fran snuck off for a couple of massages, one noteable one being run by the women's prison for rehabilitating former female prisoners. Essentially this is just a good system of giving the women training for reentering society, rather than turning back to crime, and it seems everyone in Thailand gets a massage near daily.
I too went for a massage at a reputable establishment in Chaing Mai, hoping to ease some of the accumulated soreness from our adventures to date. "Sawatdee Krapp, just a 1 hour body and shoulder massage thanks", i request before as with everything in Thailand, we negotiate a fair price for the service. Ahh yes, time for a bit of relaxation and a nice soft massage. Laying down on the mat, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of knees, elbows, shins and what ever the hell else was being used to grind my joints and muslces to powder. So much for relaxing, it took every ounce of concentration to stop myself from screaming like a girl who'd fallen off a bike. Thorough wasn't the word; painstakingly i was worked over every vertebra, joint and muscle for over an hour and half (she must have been working on a tip), the head rest was wet with perspiration from the pain...it could also have been tears, i don't really know. When my body was reduced to nothing more than a skin covered rag doll, she announced the massage done and ask if it was good. I slowly rolled over, my eyes falling back into their sockets, my hand wiping away the sweat from my brow. I achingly dragged myself upright to see the massuse smiling, waiting to hear my response. "yes, it was lovely, i enjoyed it very much Khop Khoon Krapp", i ly to her. I end up paying more than we agreed anyway; not because there was any obligation, i was just gratefull i could still walk after such a pumbling.
We spend most of the evenings visting the markets after a great deal of Thai cuisine, and manage to get to a MauyThai kickboxing tournament which is great fun to be at. B1, B2 and B3 came with me and especially liked the 'special'fight where 4 guys are placed into the ring, all blind-folded and only allowed to hit as if doing dog-paddle. It makes for a hilarious specticle, most of the guys tripping over themselves or attacking the ref.
It's sad to leave Chaing Mai, but we take the train back to Bangkok and head straight out to the River Kwai, visiting the war memorial of the 9,000 POW's that died building the railway line and infamous bridge over the River Kwai. We head a little further up the road of Kanchanaburi to the also infamous Death Railway, and take the train up into the highlands. The scenery is spectacular, nearly everything is engulfed by the jungle and we pass winding rivers in flood. Our only dodgy accomodation of the entire trip is spent actually on the flooding river. We board a barge with a few thatch cabins clinging to the timber floats and assume this is where one of the river boats will collect us from. We are literally in the middle of the jungle and the fella simply gives us a couple of keys to the thatch rooms. This IS the accomodation we realise, and FS is so panickied by the thing that she straps B4's bubble to him for the entire evening. We travel up to the Erawan National Park which has some amazing waterfalls where we swim and slide down the rocks into crystal clear pools filled with huge catfish. The water is quite cool and a welcome relief to the humid jungle.
Our last week in Thailand, we fly down south to the island of Koh Samui. A great way to round out an adventure packed holiday, by lounging on the beach and taking advantge of all the great facilities of the resort where we stay. Fran's mum, Robyn flies in from Australia to join us, or was it to take advantage of the great shopping bargains? Robyn is a notorius shopper; and short of plastering posters picturing her face all over the island, all the hawkers and market stall owners knew her on a first name basis by the end of the week.
Ko Samui really is a relaxing time, and besides a couple of visits to snake and croc parks, we spend most of the time swimming on the beach, sipping cocktails and eating out.
What a great place!! And as they say in Thailand, "Khop Khoon Krap".