Reflections on Thailand

Lucy
We went to loads of Wats in Thailand. They are very beautiful with big Buddhas, you have to take your shoes off when you enter because it is respectful. You are not allowed to point your feet at the Buddhas because it is very rude as feet are dirty, so you have to sit in a mermaid position so you are sitting on your legs but your feet are facing backwards.
We stayed on the beach, where there lots of old spirit houses. I played on the beach and made special bathing place for the spirits to enjoy. 
We travelled through Thailand having great fun. We met Daddy’s friend Brian in Bangkok and his lovely girlfriend Kae, and we sent a weekend with them. Kae was very nice, lots of fun and she kept on buying us tasty treats from the market. The thing I most liked was the frozen fizzy drinks on sticks, I had coca-cola. The black grass jelly wasn’t so good, it tasted like nothing. We also fed some monster fish with her, they had gotten so fat with all the bread. We also went out for 2 delicious dinners. The first place had amazing puddings, one had cream, coconut, cake and ice cream in it. The lady had a flat disk with a bowl on it, loads of smoke was coming out. Then she dropped it on the table, we thought it was a broken plate but it was a frozen bowl of chocolate. Yummy!


We left Thailand to go to Cambodia and Laos. Then we came back and went to Chiang Rai then Chiang Mai, it’s funny to name 2 cities close together with almost the same name. In Chiang Mai we went to the 3-D museum where there were amazing paintings, that made you look like you were doing unreal things. We were chased by a massive kitten and my favourite was when we were flying on the magic carpet but actually we were just lying on the painted floor.


We went up into the mountains where there were loads of huge moths in the toilets. There was a big hill we were playing on, when Mummy went in with the camera Alisha shouted “You can’t take pictures of moths on the toilet.” I laughed and laughed. Going down the mountain was worse than going up because it was steeper. One day on a twisty mountain road there was a truck stuck right in the middle of the road, he had run out fuel and blocked the whole road. The driver used our jerry can to refill it, Alisha and I didn’t mind waiting as Mummy made us a picnic lunch to eat in the cab.

Alisha
There was a lots of Wats pretty much all over Thailand and they are very beautiful. But in my opinion there is nothing worse then being dragged round Wats until your head hurts and your feet feel like they’re going to fall off the next time you take your shoes off to go into another Wat.  


When we returned to Thailand the King had died, although the official 30 days of mourning where over most people were still in mourning and there was big black signs all over the place showing the King with some Thai writing. In the cinema we all had to stand for a slideshow all about the King but they hadn’t updated it as at the end it said long live the King. When we went to see another movie it showed the millions of people outside the palace after his death singing the national anthem. Most people where wearing ordinary black clothes with a piece of black ribbon on a safety pin. The national anthem was played while we where at the Saturday market everybody stood still. 
I liked going to Bangkok where we met Daddy’s friend Brian and his girlfriend Kae. I think Lucy has written about them. I’d say my favourite bit of Thailand was when we spent a couple days up in the mountains it was really cold we went climbing up on a small hill. We found some dried flowers wrapped in a dead leaf with some old insense up there. There was a lot of moths in the bathroom we found a dead one on the road and buried it up on the hill with one of the old sticks of insense. When we got down from the mountains we went to a park with lots of old ruins. We got our scooters and scooted around it was fun except when we went inside the ruins then we had to carry the scooters. Admission to the park was free because of the death of the King.

Gilly
Our memories of Thailand from previous visits were lovely beaches, excellent food, fascinating culture and smiling welcoming faces. It is well renowned world-wide as an excellent place to travel, welcoming all types of visitors. Just why then, a month before we had hoped to go there, did they effectively close their borders to overland travel? Only those people already driving through neighbouring countries or so determined so they could continue their route would bother to go through the rigmarole to go through the process of getting a permit to go through. Luckily for us, as well as being incredibly well organised, Steve is very stubborn. He was determined to move hell, high-water or the DLT (Department of Land Transport) to get us in. We had to get 3 different special dispensations to get the truck in; umpteen forms; super expensive letter from the home office (so special it even came with its own ribbons and a wax seal); a travel agent; and lots of pacing up and down for over a month to get us in. Even better than that, he managed to get us a second permit at the same time so we could go to Cambodia and Laos as well before crossing Northern Thailand to get to Myanmar. Since we got our permits we’ve heard that they have completely stopped motorhomes from coming in, many people need to get a Thai licence and it sounds like every foreign vehicle will need to be escorted by a travel agent through the country. What is most upsetting is that this is the same country where you can hire a car easily with no extra checks and we even heard a guesthouse owner telling a backpacker that there was no problem hiring a motorbike if he didn’t have the licence or even if he had never ridden a bike before. Surely a biker bringing their own bike, or a driver with their motorhome, having driven it across multiple countries is far safer than someone who have never ridden a bike before going out on the roads. Maddening! 
Having had my rant above, once in we absolutely loved the country. Having traversed from south to north; from coast to coast; and city to countryside we have seen a lot. Some of my personal highlights have been the amazing Buddhist Wats we have been to; the beach at Railey; eating out in Bangkok, in fact Thai food throughout the country; the beautiful cool mountains north-west of Chiang Mai and the friendly Thai people. 


Returning a second time, after our trip to Cambodia and Laos, was a bit like entering a different country. While we were in Cambodia the much loved King had died, leaving a country in deep mourning. We arrived after the official 30 days of morning had elapsed but still the majority of people were still wearing black and black beribboned portraits with books of condolences everywhere we went. We were really amazed when in the crazy busy night market in Chiang Mai that the whole street came to an absolute standstill when the national anthem was played over the loudspeakers. 


Steve

With all the difficulties getting a permit under the new rules to drive our truck in Thailand we were just relieved to get in on both our visits. To be honest though we also felt extremely lucky not just because of all the lovely things that Thailand has to offer but because the rules regarding the permits are been tightened such that vehicles like ours are unlikely to be granted a permit in future and for other vehicles they will need a guide. Such a shame and one that makes no sense as Thailand is a wonderful country with lots to offer.
Having now visited a number of other South East Asian countries we can see that Thailand is much more developed than most of its neighbours and much more set up for tourism. However it’s possible to get off the tourist path and to explore little visited parts.
There is a lot to see but just as importantly there is a lot to eat. The food is fantastic as well as varied and of course if you want it, very spicy. It was great to have Brian visit us in Bangkok and introduce us to his girlfriend Kae as she was able to introduce us to a whole different side of Thai food. We had a wonderful gastronomic weekend with them where we traversed the wide spectrum of eating from local markets to fine dining.  


We managed to explore the whole country from some wonderful beaches in the South through the cultural heartland visiting the ancient cities of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai and up to the mountains of the North. Along the way we visited countless temples from the rather bizarre White Temple in Chiang Rai to the magnificent Grand Palace in Bangkok. Everywhere we were greeted with the smiles of the friendly relaxed people.
It was also great to catch up with some former work colleagues and see life in Thailand through their eyes. After living in the truck it was lovely of Keith and Victoria to put us up in their lovely house and show us around Phuket Island.

Thailand is a wonderful country to visit and also a key country in terms of access to other South East Asian countries by vehicle. It seems a shame that as other countries in the region slowly open up that Thailand is effectively shutting itself down to overlanders. 

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