Ten days in Thailand.




We arrived in Bangkok at 2:00 in the morning. The ride we had previously arranged to our hotel did not show so we took a taxi. Unfortunately, the streets around our hotel were closed. It seems that the king's sister had died the previous year and they were having a parade in her honor the next week. The parade route was closed for a "practice" parade the following morning. Unfortunately, the parade route closed streets on three sides of our hotel with the Chao Phraya River on the fourth. The police manning the road block said it would be fine for us to walk through the parade route. So, at 3:00 in the morning in a ginormous foreign city we took our bags, paid the taxi and began to walk through the city, stopping at each road block to get directions from the police. Bangkok addresses are not like other cities. The numbers follow no particular order, so addresses reference landmarks. Ours, for instance was 394/27-29 Soi Pansook (near BankThai Tatien Branch). The police couldn't have been any friendlier. The last one we spoke to even took our map and got on his bike to locate our hotel for us. Thai's, I must say are among the friendliest people I have ever encountered.

Bangkok started as a small village on the Chao Phraya River. It was made the capital of Thailand (aka Siam) in 1768. Bangkok is also Thailand's largest city with a population of over 8,000,000 people, though roughly 15,000,000 live in the greater Bangkok area. The Chao Phraya River is still an important part of the city, providing food, water and transportation. The official ceremonial name for the city is "Krung-devamahanagara amararatanakosindra mahindrayudhya mahatilakabhava navaratanarajadhani puriramya utamarajanivesana mahasthana amaravimana avatarasthitya shakrasdattiya vishnukarmaprasiddhi". Loosely translated that means The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam. The name is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest place name.

Chiang Mai

Though it is Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai is almost the polar opposite of Bangkok. With about a million people in its metropolitan area it is not nearly so dense and it is possible to escape the noise and the crowds. It is also far cooler and less humid (though still pretty damp), than the Thai capitol. The name Chiang Mai means "New City" but the 700 year old city was founded in 1296. It was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom (Northern Thailand) until it was overthrown by Burma in the 16th century. It became part of Siam 1774.

Chiang Mai is a city of temples. There are literally hundreds and we visited many while there. It is a beautiful area and the mountains around the city have temples, hill tribes and even elephants. One of the high points of the trip was riding Elephants in Chiang Dao and rafting on the Ping River. Thai hospitality is evident everywhere in Thailand and tourism (and associated tourist traps) are alive in well in Chiang Mai. However, the city's relatively small size and the ability to get outside of the city give you a better feel for Thai culture than you get Bangkok and Phuket.


Phuket is located on the Andaman Sea. Originally famous for tin mining, it is now made for tourists. That being said, it is relaxed, stunningly beautiful in places and provided some much needed relaxation after the hectic pace of the Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, rain finally caught up to us here but we were still able visit the Phi Phi Islands, eat some Fantastic food and catch some real quality beach time. We stayed in a lovely hotel on Kata beach. Kata is one of many communities on Phuket island. Phuket City is the provincial capital and Patong is where much of the night life and shopping are located. The Krabi province and Phang Gna Bay, famous for their stunning scenery, are also located nearby, unfortunately we were unable to visit....next time.

Nearly half of Thailand's deaths in the 2004 tsunami were in the area of the Andaman Sea, including Phuket Island. The area in which we stayed was hit hard by the tsunami though we saw little evidence of its destruction, save the "Evacuation Route" signs that are now placed strategically throughout the area. I believe that many communities more distant from the tourist centers are still hurting economically.




All photos on this page are originals by & copyrighted by Daren Willden, unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.