Here is the final video of our trip! We are very excited that you have followed us on our journey. We are one tribe!
We know you’re still waiting for our long video, but enjoy this sneak preview of our trip. We are excited to share this with you!
Hard to believe the official part of our trip is coming to an end! Since tourism is such an important part of the Thai economy, we decided to undertake a two-hour journey southeast of Bangkok to the resort city of Pattaya, just to get a feel for what the tourism sector is like. Jomtien Beach was a hotbed of entrepreneurship. We rented chairs in rows on the beach. Vendors walked by selling everything from fried shrimp to clothing to woodcarvings to musical instruments. We could also get a foot massage, back massage, manicure or pedicure without getting up out of our chairs. All this for a ridiculously small amount when converted to US dollars. The weather was cooperative and those with fairer skin stayed in the shade of the palm trees while others ventured out to get a full tan. The water was deliciously warm. Life was good.
Our final dinner took place at AdMakers, a popular pub and Thai restaurant (now there’s a combination!). To get there we had to hop onto the Skytrain, which was much newer, cleaner and faster than the El back in Chicago. Tuk made sure we all got our tickets and got off at the right stop. There was live music at the restaurant, which seemed to be taken over by our group. More courses of delicious Thai food and bittersweet feelings about the end of the trip. Some of us were heading home that very night. But we had to make the night last as long as possible. After dinner we climbed into a fleet of Tuk-Tuks that took us through the streets of Bangkok. We must have made quite an impression. Many of the locals sitting at outdoor bars and cafes waved, smiled and laughed at us. Americanos!! Yes, we were probably that obvious. We even survived the break down of one of the Tuk-Tuks. We just climbed into another one! A night of dancing and laughter and early morning snacks in McDonald’s. Oh what memories!
Our first full day in Thailand began with an intense introduction to the city. Tuk guided us on an excursion to some of the most spectacular parts of Bangkok. We made our way through the fresh flower market called Pak Klong Talad where thousands of blooms were minutely crafted into beautiful bouquets, sculptures and wreaths. We caught a glimpse of Chinatown with its narrow streets, chaotic traffic and vibrant hanging lanterns.
A fascinating stop was Wat Chetuphon, better known as Wat Pho, the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok, dating back to the 16th Century. The biggest attraction in the complex, home of more than 1000 Buddha images, is the imposing reclining Buddha, 46 meters long and 15 meters high. Its glowing gold head and body ends in mother of pearl soles on its feet. The Buddha reclines in order to illustrate its passing into nirvana. Wat Pho is also famous as Thailand’s first university and is a center for traditional Thai massage. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop to have a massage this time since we were off to our next stop, the magnificent Royal Grand Palace.
Wat Phra Kaew also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, was within the same grounds as the Royal Palace. Another incredible architectural complex of highly ornate and varied buildings, we barely knew where to look first. Temples, statues, even a replica of Angkor Wat all vied for our attention. A strict dress code was in effect and Tuk came to the rescue of some of the girls with long wrap around skirts. It was funny to see boys and men also walking around with those same skirts covering their shorts. None were in our group however!
Perhaps the most revered spot was the home of the Emerald Buddha. We had to take our shoes off to enter the temple and photographs were not allowed. Nor could we sit on the floor with our feet facing the Buddha. We had to tuck them back under us. The Buddha was clothed, small and rather high up, hard to see, but definitely quite green. People lit incense sticks and said a prayer. It was quite a sight to see.
We then headed to a pier to cross the river for lunch at Supatra River House Restaurant for an authentic Thai lunch. The cashew chicken was probably the best we have ever tasted. There we all finally met Jeff, our friendly tour operator and we thanked him for all his hard work in making our trip a logistical success. During lunch we had a great view of the Chao Phraya River and we soon found ourselves on an open boat, cruising the waters and enjoying a river view of the city. We stopped to feed fish that looked liked whiskerless catfish but due to recent flooding we were unable to visit the network of canals that link the river to inland villages. The water had subsided somewhat on the river but it was still causing problems further inland.
Soon our group dispersed. Some went to have a traditional Thai massage, others went to visit a tailor and get some custom made suits ordered. Still others went on the search for an internet café to get in touch with loved ones and update blogs.
It had been a long day but we still had some business to take care of that evening. A light working dinner was held at the hotel with Chris Bruton, the head of Dataconsult, who gave us an insightful lecture on Thailand’s political and economic place within Asia and the world. It was an eye opening speech from a man who had spent the last forty years in Thailand.
We then spent another night in Bangkok, wandering through the night markets and watching the world go by.
Early afternoon we left Cambodia. Our time there had been brief but the country and its people made an impression on everyone. We had little time to reflect on our experiences however because our next country was just as fascinating: Thailand!
The capital city of Bangkok was only a short flight away in distance but a world away in content and style. We were back in the hustle and bustle of a large, modern and vibrant city. The long lines at airport customs was our first indication of what we were about to see. Our new guide was a tiny lady nicknamed Tuk who took us to our large double decker bus and told us about the city on the way to our hotel. The first thing we noticed was the traffic. Lots and lots of it, with incredibly long lights at intersections. We would have to plan well ahead to get anywhere in Bangkok on time. The City of Angels, as it is known, was an interesting mixture of the old and the new. Large modern buildings could be found next to old wooden houses. Buddhist temples shared the streets with outdoor restaurants and chaotic markets. We couldn’t wait to explore!
But first we had to check in to our hotel, the Century Park, and then we had to find a place for dinner. Our group decided on the quaintly named Cabbages and Condoms restaurant, which came highly recommended. Operated by a Thai NGO that provides family planning services to rural communities, the restaurant was definitely one of a kind. The décor consisted mainly of colorful condoms – on the tables, on the walls, almost anywhere you looked. There were even Christmas Trees and Santa statues made of…condoms! Luckily the food was superb, and many of us indulged our passion for real Pad Thai (less peanutty than the American version). The conversation flowed and everyone had a great time in the most unique of settings. Getting back to our hotel was a bit of a challenge since we had to negotiate with several cab drivers before they would take us for the price we were willing to pay. The shrewd MBA negotiating skills won out in the end.