A Travellerspoint blog

Istanbul to Chicago to Zeeland!

Home sweet home!


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This morning we got up and had breakfast in our hotel, then took the 45 minute taxi van ride back to the airport. The views of the city were really cool, I especially liked when it just looks like a sea of rooftops. So, of course I couldn’t resist some window pics!

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The new Istanbul Airport (I believe opened in April) is pretty amazing. It almost seems more like a high-end shopping mall than an airport. Right now it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, which I assume is why it took so long both times to get to hotels (in opposite directions), but there’s plenty of room around the airport so I assume hotels will start going in.

Just to enter the airport, you have to go through security just like you normally would to get to a flight gate area. Then you have to go through it again to get in after you have a boarding pass. For this flight to the US, we also had to go through THREE security checkpoints to enter our gate (it was glasses off from. the walkway) - twice our passports and boarding passes were checked, and then all of our luggage was hand searched and we were patted down. Then they checked again as we boarded, and in Chicago, we had to show our passports to get off the plane! Crazy! - we didn’t encounter anything like that anywhere else, or even in Istanbul when we went though for other flights on this trip.

We did find out upon arrival at the airport that our flight was delayed 2 hours, and after we went to our gate it got delayed another 30 minutes. While Turkish Airlines is wonderful in-flight with care packages (slippers, socks, eye mask, earplugs, toothbrush and paste), food (2 full meals the longer flights and sometimes a snack, but even a full meal on a 1.5 hour flight!), and beverages (sodas, juices, beer and wine all included at no charge, and offered frequently); they don’t seem to do so well with on-time flights, being helpful when their delays cause you to miss a flight, or getting all of your luggage to the final destination on time.

We landed in Chicago at about 8pm (9 in Michigan), and by the time we deplaned, got through customs and immigration, and got the shuttle back to the hotel we parked at, it was 10:00/11/00. So we got home a little after 2 and probably weren’t in bed before 3.

Our bodies are all out of whack on time, so we were all up by 7:30! I foresee naps in our future! ;)

Posted by Rowlandfamily 05:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Phuket to Istanbul

On our way home!

sunny 83 °F
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Our taxi van picked us up this morning at 8 to take us all to the airport. Nudi will be flying back to Bangok and going to her dorm because, although she is on summer break right now, she’s part of a club that has activities going on, and a group of foreigners coming soon that she will help around. It was really hard to say goodbye to her again, and we really hope to see her again soon!

The Phuket airport is really small - think GR Ford or maybe even smaller.

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The rest of us took a 10-hour flight to Istanbul. When I booked it, we were supposed to have a brief layover, then continue right to Chicago, but they changed our flight out of Phuket so that we landed in Istanbul too late, and apparently only one flight/day goes from Istanbul to Chicago. While initially I was less than thrilled with that development, in hindsight it’s kind of nice, breaking up the 10 hour flight and the 11 hour flight, and allowing us to sleep in real beds in between. It also allows us to adjust to the 11-hour time difference we’ve been on in increments, though I’m sure we’ll still be feeling that for a few days.

After we got checked into our hotel, which was NOT right next to the airport, as advertised, since the new airport has opened (it took us 45 min or more), we went and walked around a little. It was 7:30 or 8:00 pm by then, so the temps were in the mid to high 70’s - the coolest we’ve experienced in long time, and it was great. We weren’t terribly hungry - while there are things Turkish airlines could definitely improve on, they are really generous with food and drinks, and fed us full meals twice on our flight. However, we didn’t want to just sit on our hotel room, so we stopped at a place that had semi-outdoor seating and got a small pizza to share and sodas, which came to about $8 total.

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Tomorrow we fly out of Istanbul about 2:00pm, but because of the 8-hour time change, will land in Chicago at 5:30pm Chicago time. Excited to be home, but, after 25 days, 3 continents, and 6 countries (including the US), the travel big has bitten, and I am ready to start thinking about our next adventure! :)

Posted by Rowlandfamily 09:25 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Last day in Phuket - July 1

Patong Beach

sunny 93 °F
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Today, for our last day in Thailand, we decided to have a beach day. We slept in and walked down the hill to breakfast, the same place we went a couple days ago, which is on our way to the beach. Apparently they have an issue with people using the toilet hose to wash their feet?!

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We’ve also seen this one a lot, in public restrooms - I assume due to the squat potty’s?

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One thing I haven’t loved about the location of our apartment, besides the steep hill, is the fact that to get anywhere by foot, we have to walk the side of the very busy road, which at times is almost nonexistent, and when there is a real “side”, there are usually cars or motorbikes parked there. Then, we have to cross the road - which is nothing like in Croatia where all the vehicles are you and stop. They just keep going, and you have to remember to look the correct way for traffic before you cross, since they drive on the open side of the road here. It’s a little nerve wracking!

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At the beach, we rented 5 chairs, 3 tables, and 3 umbrellas for 500 baht (about $17) and just had a lazy day.

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One thing I haven’t been quick enough to get a pic of.. each morning and evening they haul the rental sea doos to and from the beach. Most times, they pull them with this! And have even seen this pulling 2 single place trailers, train-style. If a little truck is pulling, it is often pulling 3, single trailers!

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After we got cleaned up, we walked to Bangla street - which is a little like New Orleans on steroids - loud music coming from every direction, all kinds of propositions, etc. The kids were a little bummed they didn’t discover this earlier - time as I were relieved! ;). We ate at a restaurant off a side street, and later took a Tuk Tuk taxi back to our apartment- wow - now THAT is the way to do the hill! :)

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Nudi forgot her phone in it when we got out, so she and I walked back down and got to ride up again (for ful price, of course;) ).

We will get picked up at 8am to head to the airport, so didn’t make too late a night of it...so sad to be leaving Nudi and Thailand!

Posted by Rowlandfamily 09:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Phuket islands excursion - June 30

sunny 96 °F
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This morning we had been told we had to be at the bottom of the hill at 8:30, but we got a call at about 7:30 that our driver would be there at 8, so we had to kind of scramble. After he picked us up, he made a couple more stops to pick up others, then we drove for about 45 minutes or so, to the other side of Phuket. There, we got on a large speedboat with way too many others - we were crammed in like sardines. The brochure said 4 islands and 8 points of interest (??...) Not my shining moment as far as excursion choosing, wouldn’t do this one again, but overall we had a good day.

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We first rode in the boat for about an hour, to get to Monkey Beach - and the name means it. We were not allowed to take anything to eat or drink off the boat, and were discouraged from taking anything other than what we planned to hold on to, and we saw why! A monkey drank a bottle of juice just like we would, and rummaged through a guy’s shirt and hat before finding and eating a bag of food someone had brought (not from our group). They were fun to watch, and this was also a beautiful beach with great swimming conditions.

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After that, we went around to the other side of Phi Phi (fee fee) island, where we ate lunch. It was a Muslim restaurant, so we had to take off our shoes and wash our feet before entering (even though it was open-air), and there was no pork or beef (it was chicken and seafood and I liked it, though Nudi didn’t think it was spicy enough). After lunch we had time to go to the beach (opposite side of where boats were parked, and almost deserted!) for a bit before getting back on the boat. It was hard to swim, though, because the water was only about knee deep, even way far out!

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There are so many boats that come here, that they all back in and bumper up tight together - if there’s a space that looks like it MIGHT be big enough, they just back in, bumping/pushing the other boats! :0

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We then went to an area off land where we had some time to snorkel. This really redeemed the trip - probably the best snorkeling I’ve ever done. So many beautiful fish, corals, etc!

After that, we rode again for awhile, stopping near a few places to hear about them (but I couldn’t really hear and his English wasn’t great, so I’m not sure...) including a beach that is no longer open because of too many visitors/ preservation, and a beach (same one?) where some movie was filmed and apparently the next Fast and Furious will be filmed soon.

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Our last stop was Khai Island, where the sand and setting were beautiful, but near and in the water there was so much coral and the water was so rough that it was hard to walk or swim, so we found a little bar playing Bob Marley (and with a ‘real’ Bob Marley juggling beer bottles in the sand out front) and relaxed in the shade for most of our time there.

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We got dropped at the bottom of the hill when we returned, so hiked up, got cleaned up, and went back down for dinner, then up again. We were going to taxi, but the place we ate tonight was right at the bottom, so it seemed a little silly (at least at the bottom it did!). When we got back, there was a bottle of wine waiting for us from our host - we decided to chill it and drink it tomorrow.

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We again played cards on the girls’ balcony before heading in to the “air con” as everyone here and in Europe call it.

Can’t believe tomorrow is our last day in Thailand! :(

Posted by Rowlandfamily 08:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Phuket - June 29

Patong Beach

sunny 94 °F
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Today we had another ‘no-alarm’ day. We’ve decided that here in Phuket, for our last few days of vacation, we’re just going to have a relaxing beach vacation. Here was the view from Tim’s and my room this morning:

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When we were all ready, we walked down the hill into town and head breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, then went straight to the beach for the rest of the day. We were at Patong Beach, which is on the east side of Phuket, on the Straits of Malacca, in the Andaman Sea. Although there was a surfing competition going on, the beach wasn’t busy at all. And although these temps are not the highest we’ve had, it felt really hot! The water temp was 90 degrees, so it almost made the air feel cool - but not really.

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Looking down when you’re almost to bottom from our apartment


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After we’d had enough sun and sand, we walked back up the hill and got cleaned up, then went back down the hill for dinner. Again we chose a sidewalk/street restaurant - the looks of which we would steer FAR clear of at home, and again we had an excellent meal.

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After dinner, we talked about taking an open-air taxi (will get a pic tomorrow), but decided to walk. We stopped at 7-Eleven to get yogurts and some other food for breakfast in the morning, since we booked an island-hopping/snorkeling excursion for tomorrow and have to be at the bottom of the hill (they would pick us up at our condo but the bus can’t make it up the hill) by 8:30.

The girls cleaned some of the fruit that our host left for us (thank goodness Nudi is here - we didn’t know what most of it was, let alone what in the world to do with it!), so it’s ready in the morning, then we played some cards on the girls’ patio - it’s larger than ours but ours, directly above, has a better view - before heading to our air conditioned rooms (bedrooms have a/c but the rest of the house just has fans).

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Posted by Rowlandfamily 08:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Udon Thani to Phuket - June 28

Last leg of our journey! :/

sunny 93 °F
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This morning, for the first time since we’ve been in Thailand (and one of the few time so this whole trip!), we didn’t set an alarm. So I woke up to the girls knocking on our door at 9:30! The time difference is still affecting me some.

After breakfast, we requested a late check out and went and used the pool (on the 5th floor, but on the side of the hotel so it’s outdoors even though there are 13 floors) for awhile. Nudi was asking why we like to be tan, since here it is the opposite. She says here, it’s a status/social class symbol - the lower class have jobs where they have to work outside, so they get dark, while the people who have better jobs work inside in the air conditioning and their skin stays light. So they want to have light skin. So, despite it being a sunny, gorgeous day - we had the pool area to ourselves.

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We were also talking about snow, and how she felt about seeing it for the first time, and how she felt by the end of winter, etc. She said that although they of course don’t get snow days, she did have her college classes canceled for a day a few months ago because of how bad the air quality/pollution was in Bangkok during the hot season. Crazy to believe with today being 93 with a ‘feels like’ of 107, now is not the hot season! This is ‘rainy season’, which seems to mean it rains once or twice each day, for 15 minutes or less, and otherwise it’s sunny to partly cloudy.

After we checked out, we went next door to the large mall, and Terri and Natalie got gel nails - $30 for both of us, and they don’t tip here! Nudi had just had hers done, plus she said the mall is really expensive compared to where she goes, but she interpreted for us.

We noticed a lot of kids at the mall, hanging out together and easily identifiable by their school uniforms. Since it’s a school day, and still school hours, Nudi’s best guess is a teacher inservice? Nudi says it is very typical for kids to hang out at the mall together, just like they do in the States, especially because it is very uncommon for them to go to each others’ houses.

For lunch, we at Kentucky Fried Chicken in the mall, at Nudi’s suggestion. She told us it’s realy good here and quite different from in the U.S. We had to wait for our order for 30 minutes (we agreed to this before paying) because they hadn’t cooked the rice yet. She was right - SO good! She also told me that McDonald’s serves kao pad basil, (now one of) my favorite Thai dish!

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We had a bit of a panic when it was time to go to the airport. When Nudi had said she thought leaving the hotel at 4:00 for a 5:45 flight would be good, I mentally questioned that, but didn’t say anything, thinking that I would be taking care of our transportation and would arrange for 3:30. When we found that our same driver was taking us, I didn’t speak up. Well, our driver got held up in traffic and didn’t get to our hotel until 4:30. It was a 20 minute drive to the airport - so we arrived at about 4:55. Thankfully, it’s a small airport and also Nudi’s mom was there waiting to tell us goodbye, and she knew one of the ladies doing check-in, and there was no line, so we had no problem and even had to wait about 30 minutes before boarding began - phew!

Our VRBO in Phuket was about an hour’s drive from the airport - again I underestimated the size of the town - so I was really glad I had prearranged transportation. This place was kind of my “splurge”, though the price was only slightly more than the other places we stayed. It’s a house with 3 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, a great view of town and the beach, and a ‘9 minute walk’ to the beach. It’s beautiful, but being in the hills, we are having flashbacks to Croatia - hills and stairs!! ;)

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After we started some laundry and got a little Seattle’s, we walked down the hill to get something to eat. We chose a place on “Pee Street” that was delicious!

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Posted by Rowlandfamily 06:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day trip to Vientiane, Laos - June 27

From Udon Thani

semi-overcast 94 °F
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This morning our driver picked us up around 8 am, and drove us north to the Thailand - Laos border, about a 45 minute drive. There, we filled out paperwork for our Laos visas and arranged our transportation over the border, and a tour (a package deal).

We the took a different van, to border patrol, and across the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River. Once there, we had to go through immigration then get in yet another van - this one with the steering wheel on the left, as they drive on the right side of the road in Laos. This was our driver for the rest of the day, until we returned to the border and reversed the process.

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Our first stop was a shopping market (I think it’s seocnd to last on itinerary sheet), then we went to Phra That Luang temple. I won’t pretend to know anything about any of the places we saw today, I’ll just put our itinerary here, and some pics, and will Google it later.

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Phra That Luang temple:

  • Our funny here today also happened to Nick ... there was a guy selling birds (4 or 5 in each very small cage) and he hounded us to buy them. I believe people buy them, pray, them release them as some sort of symbolic gesture. When we all refused and the rest of us passed, he said to Nick, “they’re going to die if you don’t buy them!”

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Next, we went to Pratuxay. Nick and I climbed the steps the the top, the girls and Tim didn’t want to do it in the heat, so they relaxed at the bottom. On each level there is shopping and each time we thought we were as high as we could go, there was another staircase!

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After that, we went to two temples that were right across the street from each other. The first was Sisaket:

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Then we walked across the street to Ho Phra Keo:

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After that, we stopped at one last temple, Wat Chao Mae Sri Muang.

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Our driver then took us to lunch - promised to be a “testy lunch” :) - some of the translations could use some improvement! :)

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Finally, we were driven back to the border and dropped off to shop the duty free store for a little bit while the tour company got our paperwork in order for us (a nice part of what we paid for - they did everything except sign our names!)b - apparently we didn’t have time for the mall.

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After we reversed our tracks getting across the border, we met back up with our driver we’ve had the last couple days, and he took us back to our hotel in Udon Thani where we relaxed and used the pool for a bit before we needed to get ready to meet Nudi’s mom for dinner.

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When we went to leave for dinner, I was surprised our driver was waiting for us - I had assumed we were finished with him. He took us to a Vietnamese restaurant called VT Nam Nueng, a favorite of Nudi’s mom, were we met her. She invited our driver to eat with us too (side note - she just found out yesterday that he is her cousin). Despite the fact that he doesn’t speak any English and Nudi’s mom isn’t as fluent as Nudi, and of course our Thai is pretty much nonexistent, we had lively conversation throughout dinner. The food was excellent - we discovered that we are huge Vietnamese food fans!

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After dinner, Nudi’s mom had to get home to bed, as she has to teach tomorrow. She had planned on taking some time off while we were here, but since she’s taken so much time with her parents recently, she wasn’t able. However. she will come to the airport tomorrow to see us off. The 5 of us went back to the hotel and played some cards, something we introduced Nudi to in the US that she really enjoys.... but - fun fact: playing cards is illegal in Thailand. Which is why we played in our room rather than at a table in the lobby, and why Nick entertained is with the song ”Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest as we played! ;)

Tomorrow we check out of our hotel and fly to Phuket - the last leg of our journey already (not counting the 20 hour stop in Turkey). I can’t believe how fast it’s gone!

Posted by Rowlandfamily 08:40 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Udon Thani - June 26

Wat Pa Kham Chanod and Banchiang

semi-overcast 92 °F
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This morning when we finished breakfast in the hotel, our driver that Nudi’s grandparents hired for us was ready and waiting. They had planned our entire day, and it’s so great that they hired us a driver, because, while I had a little idea from booking our hotel, I really didn’t understand how spread out Udon Thani is. Although Nudi calls it a “small town”... it is only so in population - in land area, it is huge! To get to our first destination, Wat Pa Kham Chanod, we drove for about an hour and a half, and were still in Udon Thani!

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Wat Pa Kham Chanod is..... well, I don’t fully understand it, and intend to Google it later when I have more time and mental stamina, but this is my understanding from what Nudi told us: While not really a temple, it is temple-like in that you need to follow a dress code (which we didn’t know ahead of time so the girls and I had to make a free-will donation in order to borrow long wraps/skirts, and we had to remove our shoes, even though it’s all outside. It is based on legend that two large snakes guard the area (represented in cement painted snakes that are handrail-height as you cross the bridge over the water to enter the wooded area. Inside, there are people praying (for luck and money), and way in the back there is a fallen tree, where people study the tree looking for numbers. If you see numbers, those are your lucky numbers, and you should use those as your lottery numbers (conveniently for sale, along with offering flowers, just outside this area). Although there were a lot of people, it was very quiet, in respect to the people praying. Nudi also said that people will ‘negotiate’ with (?? Gods? Spirits?) that if they get their wish, they will ____ (for example, boil 100 eggs). When we arrived, there was a woman dancing in the front area - Nudi assumes she got her wish and was fulfilling her bargain. Our funniest moment was when we were leaving the ‘holy’ area, and an old Thai woman grabbed Nick by the arm and put his hand on the cement ‘snake’ and rattled on to him in Thai - Nudi said she was telling him that you have to touch the snake as you leave to ensure your wishes will be granted!

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When we left there, we rode for awhile again to get to Banchiang, which is an archeological dig site and museum. It was really interesting, and we spent quite a bit of time looking around.

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After Banchaing, we went to lunch at Nudi’s favorite restaurant. It wasn’t Thai, Nudi described it as ‘northeastern’. Ok. So. Remember how I said we’ve really been liking all the food and have been trusting Nudi to select everything for us so we get a good feel for all of it? Well - today she really tested how much we really meant that! :0 It was out of our comfort zone - even Nick’s! - to say the least. But we tried it all and liked most of it.. though I’m not sure we will rush to order some of it again! On the bright side, our entire meal cost the equivalent of about $17! Wow - I think the fish alone would cost at least that in the I.S.!

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We then headed to Nuid’s grandparents’ home to meet them. On our way, we saw a whole bunch of these trucks in front of the school, with kids getting into the back. I had noticed them before but only one here and there. Nudi tells us that this is how people in the outlying areas get into town - it’s kind of like a city bus. For example, when she is staying with her grandparents to help them (they have had some health issues recently and live in a ‘village’ outside Udon Thani), this is how she gets into town.

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Nudi’s grandparents were so nice, and we had a great visit with them, despite the language barrier. Nudi’s grandpa does speak some English. We found out that he was a monk at one time, because at that time only the very rich and the monks could get an education. He left the monk hood and met Nudi’s grandma, and they had 3 children. (However, he stays active in his temple, which is actually how he recently broke his thigh - standing on something that collapsed while he was fixing something.) He was a house builder and could make much more money working as a builder in Saudi Arabia, so for many years he lived there and grandma lived here raising the kids (they had 3), until he was forced to come back because of the war. They now have a store that they run, and they live in the back of it, and own (or Nudi’s mom owns?) the house right next door - but Nudi’s mom mainly lives in Udon Thani and just stays in that house a couple times a week to come help them.

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There was one more place that Nudi’s grandpa thought we should go, but Nudi thought it would not be interesting, especially this time of year when there aren’t many flowers planted there, and Nudi’s grandma thought it would be too buggy, so we ended our day out by going for massages! They are so inexpensive here - about $6! The area of town we went to for them had a bunch (eight?) of massage places all lined up. Across the way was a pond with a walking/jogging path, a separate biking path, an aerobic/dance class going on, and bleachers.... and there were a TON of people doing all of that!

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When our driver dropped us at our hotel, we got cleaned up and went to the lobby bar for a drink before dinner, then headed to the (5?6?)-story mall next to our hotel for Thai food - however, it was 8:30 and the mall was closing at 9, so the restaurants there had stopped serving. So we walked to a place a little further down from the place we ate last night. Again, the food was delicious and we ate family-style.

Tomorrow, our driver will be here at 8 am to take us to the border of Laos. We will bus across the border - he can’t take us because he does’t have an international license, but he will wait for us and bring us back.

Posted by Rowlandfamily 08:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok to Udon Thani - June 25

The Grand Palace temple

semi-overcast 92 °F
View Much to Celebrate 2019 on Rowlandfamily's travel map.

Before I talk about today, I keep meaning to write a couple things about some things we’ve seen and some differences we’ve encountered to what we’re used to in the U.S. First, every bathroom we’ve encountered (Europe and Asia) has the light switch outside the bathroom door! And, in the hotels in Istanbul and here, you have to insert your key card when you enter the room, to get power to the room. When you leave and pull your card, the power stays on for another minute or two, then everything (power and air) is shut off (except here, our refrigerator and the light over the kitchen counter stay powered). Here, we also need to use our key card inside the elevator, to select any floor other than ground. That might be because the elevator and rooms are on the opposite side of a drive-though to the parking garage?

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Also, I mentioned we’ve been riding the sky train a lot - but I don’t think I mentioned how extremely clean it is, even the floor! And how air conditioned it is - to the point of almost being too cold!

As you may know, Thailand is a monarchy. The current king became king about 2 years ago when his father died, but was just crowned in May. Because of that, the Thai people who are working are supposed to wear yellow to work unless they have a uniform, through July. Yellow because each day of the week has a color, and Monday is yellow. Since the king was born on a Monday, that’s his color. It’s been really noticeable, especially on public transportation - I don’t think we have that much yellow in all of Michigan! There are also displays (?? - Nick calls them shrines) all over town, with a huge poster of the king and flowers. I took a pic of this one in front of a bank, but they are literally everywhere and no 2 are exactly the same - I even saw one in front of the 7-Eleven. Speaking of the king, Nudi says there are strict laws about talking bad about the king - if you do so, you could be banished from Thailand or killed.

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I did talk about motorbikes and how they zip in and out of traffic and between cars, but I got a great pic of it from the skywalk this morning. As you can see, especially at stoplights all the motorcycles go between the cars and end up clustered in the front, often creating extra lanes where there aren’t any. Sometimes they even pull into oncoming traffic, as you can see here (they drive on the left here, from the right side of the car).

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Finally, about the food. Those of you that know me know that I am pretty picky about eating meat, so I was a little worried about eating in Thailand. I do have one go-to Thai dish that I love, but I stick to that - and that’s in the U.S. However, since we’ve been in Thailand, we’ve been trying lots of different dishes, largely due to the “family-style” way we’ve been eating most meals (very common here), and Nudi saying “I think you should try______”, and we do, and we really like it!

Now, on to today...

This morning after breakfast we took the sky train to the boat again like we did last night, but this time we took a different boat and went the other direction on the Chao Phraya River. We got off near The Grand Palace temple, where we walked around the grounds, and went inside the main temple (“the most holy temple in all of Thailand”, as I overheard a tour guide telling someone). There are a lot of temples in this area, Nudi says each king gets his own, and you can tell how powerful the king is by how large his temple is. The Grand Palace is the oldest and largest. To enter the temple grounds, you have to adhere to their strict dress code - long pants, no bare shoulders (preferably, but not strictly, long sleeves), no sandals. You must take off your shoes to enter the temple. So, to be honest, we probably didn’t take the time or give it the attention that we might have had we not been melting (it was 92 degrees with a “feels like” of 102), but we did walk around and see most everything. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but the design and artwork are amazing.

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After that, we went back to the hotel and used the pool a little before our late check out, then went to lunch down the street from our hotel before taking a taxi van to the airport. We are heading to Nudi’s hometown of Udon Thani, where we will stay until Friday evening. To get there, it’s a 7 hour drive or a 1 hour flight, and the flight is cheaper than taking the bus! Nudi says it costs her about the equivalent of $15... I paid a little more because the cheaper airline didn’t accept any form of payment I could provide and I paid for heavier luggage, but it was still extremely reasonable.

When we landed in Udon Thani shortly after 7pm, the first thing we noticed was that it was fully dark out already! I guess we didn’t pay attention in Bangkok,but we are certain it wasn’t dark this early in Croatia, and of course it’s not at hone so early this time of year.
We were pleasantly surprised when Nudi told us that her mom was there waiting for us! :). It was so fun to finally meet her in person. Because she is currently teaching (their school year is different than ours) and also taking care of her parents, she is really busy right now, but came to meet us and also followed us to the hotel (we needed a taxi van for all of us and luggage) to visit for a bit before going over to her parents’. She also brought these flowers for Tim and I ~ they are common for Thai Mother’s Day and are jasmine and mini roses, symbolizing gentleness and love. Nudi says her grandparents are also very excited that we are here, and have been calling her multiple times each day to check on us :). We also found out tonight that they’ve very generously hired a car and driver for us for the next 2 days - tomorrow Nudi will show us around Udon Thani, and the next day I think we will go north into Laos for the day.

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After Nudi’s mom left and we got a little settled, we walked out to dinner. We went to a street vendor, where we ate at camp-style tables, and the were cooking on the curb. It was a bit late, and they were still cooking even after we were finished - Nudi says with the club nearby, they will cook and have customers easily until midnight. They were busy they whole time we were there, both with sit-down and takeout (on scooters, mostly). Again, it was delicious (though Nick is pretty sure he’s not crazy about frozen then cooked blood, which looks like chunks of beef in the red dish, which the rest of us didn’t have). Six meals (Nick ate 2) cost us 240 BTH (about $8). The five ~20oz beers we bought from the marker next door (sound familiar Mom, Dad, Mexico friends??) cost us 300 baht ($10) - more than the food!

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While we were there, it downpoured - but luckily we were under an awning, and it lightened up a lot before our walk back. We just had a little ways to go without cover, as most of our walk was under a covered walkway, When we got back to the hotel, we sat in the lobby bar for a bit (closer to American prices but not quite) and listened to the piano player and singer ~ about 50% in English, about 60% of those songs we recognized.

Posted by Rowlandfamily 09:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bangkok - June 24

Floating Market

semi-overcast 93 °F
View Much to Celebrate 2019 on Rowlandfamily's travel map.

This morning we got up early and ate a quick breakfast in the hotel before meeting our tour guide to go to the floating market. We rode in a van for a couple hours (it was supposed to be shorter but we took a longer route to avoid a traffic jam). On the way, it rained so hard that the roads flooded in places - when we drove through, water sprayed up to the windows, and people walking were in water a few inches above their ankles! It didn’t stop the motorbikes, though - they were still everywhere! Here, as in Croatia (but more so here), motorbikes zip all over and often go between cars/lanes - it’s kind of scary to watch!

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When we arrived, we got on a long-tail boat that took us to the floating market called Damnoen Saduak. There, we opted to pay extra to get in another boat and be paddled around the channels, where you can shop for goods or food right from the boat - if you’re interested in something, or even look remotely interested, the vendors hook your boat and pull it over to them.

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

64697AFF-8F5E-4332-94F8-1874A2A2E3A8.jpegDamnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

After that, we walked around the ‘land’ part of the market, and ate lunch there. For Thailand, the food was expensive - $30 for the 5 of us, not including drinks.

We then got back in the van and stopped at an elephant and tiger “farm?” where you could pay to ride the elephants, and pet or feed the tigers. It looked a little inhumane, so we didn’t really participate, but I couldn’t resist taking pics of the elephants being fed. We weren’t allowed to take pics of the baby elephant or either the adult or baby tiger (both chained so they had about 2 feet of movement) without paying, so I declined.

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We got back to the hotel in the afternoon and used the hotel pool for awhile before getting ready and heading out again. This time, we took 2 sky trains then an antique river boat on the Chao Phraya River, to get to a place called Asianique. It’s kind of a cross between a carnival, an outlet mall, and a food fair! We had dinner at one of the many “real” restaurants (as opposed to the vendors), walked around the shopping area, and took a ride on the Ferris wheel gondola. While we were riding it, there were fireworks going off - pretty cool. Then Terri and Nick had their feet chewed on by fish ($5 each for 15 minutes) - it really tickled! No one else wanted to do it.

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It was starting to sprinkle and lightening just as we were getting back to the hotel after reversing our path, and I hear thunder now. We really got lucky with the weather today - when we were out, it was nice. It was around 94 degrees, Natalie’s weather app this afternoon said it was a “feels like” 111!

Posted by Rowlandfamily 08:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

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