In December 2001 Paul and I went on our first holiday together which brought us to the land of 1000 smiles. It had almost been a year now since Paul and I met and we had been living together for a while now, time for a break, time for our first holiday.
We flew with Emirates from Amsterdam to Dubai and then boarded a connecting flight to Bangkok. On hat flight a stewardess passed by and made a polaroid picture, what a wonderful touch. We felt pampered by the wonderful service onboard which did not change the fact it was a long, very long trip indeed.
After we finally arrived in Bangkok we took a taxi to our hotel and had a short stroll in the neighborhood to stretch our tired legs. During that walk we were twice invited to enjoy some typical Thai hospitality and although the ladies were very nice it simply was not our thing…
Next day we started our exploration of the Thai capital and what better place to start than the Grand Palace which has been the residence of the kings of Siam since 1782. The palace complex houses a variety of buildings and temples so there was enough for us to see and enjoy.
After having spent quite some time at the magnificent temple complex we decided to make a long-tail boatride on the Chao Phraya River and the khlongs (canals). And what an experience this was. It gave us a good opportunity to see all aspects of life in he Venice of the east..
Our final stop of the boat ride was at Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn. It is a collection of stupa-lie pagodas covered with colorful porcelain, a very special place indeed which was surrounded by a serene atmosphere.
In the evening we decided to go to Pat Pong, the red light district and initially we wanted to go and see one of the famous erotic shows. However, after having seen the “menu card” with things that were shown during the show we decided against it as this was so female unfriendly it had nothing to do with erotics. Instead we went shopping and ended up with a couple of drinks before returning to our hotel.
The next day we took the train to Ayuthaya. As soon as we left the outskirts of Bangkok we were surrounded by a beautiful landscape and both of us kept on staring out of the window to take in the scenery or relaxed with one of the many books we brought along.
Ayuthaya is a historic temple city and a Unesco heritage site. Originally it was founded in 1350 and was the second Siam capital after Sukothai. Although it was destroyed by the Birmese in the18th century a lot of temples have been rebuild and it as a fantastic place to stroll through for a couple of hours.
After two days in Ayuthaya we continued our journey northwards to Sukothai which was the first capital of Siam between the 13th and 14th century. As the temples over here were more widespread than in Ayuthaya we rented to motorbikes to make it from one place to another, that was big fun indeed.
Sukothai was a marvelous place and we loved each and every single moment over there. There were so many beautiful sights to be seen and driving from one place to another on our motorbikes made our stay over here certainly one of the highlights of this trip.
We could have stayed much longer but as time was pressing we continued our trip further north to Chang Mai. This city is famous for two things, home industries and jungle trekking. Needless to say we did both but in order to relax a bit and prepare ourselves for a strenuous trek we started off with a day of visiting the several house industries.
We started our jungle trip with an elephant ride. Yes, I must admit we thoroughly enjoyed it and it was only years later we started to realize the dark side of this business. The mistreatment of these gentle giants does not stop once they are tamed and although it is much fun for tourists to ride them the whole experience is less fun for the elephants themselves. It is something we would not do anymore nowadays.
After the ride it was our turn to walk for a couple of hours and although it was not an easy trek the surroundings made us forget al about our inconveniences. After 3 hours of walking we arrived in a Karen village where dinner was prepared and we spent the nigh. Accommodation was basic to use an understatement and Paul vividly recalls to be woken up several times at night by laughing dog licking his face. Laughing dog’s jaws were so mis formed it appeared he was laughing all the time, hence his nickname.
After having showered in the river and having enjoyed a simple breakfast we continued our trek. We also spent about two hours of bamboo rafting which was fun indeed but due to the low water level we could see rubbish about everywhere, that was a real shame to see a beautiful area like this destroyed by human presence.
Late afternoon we arrived at a Shan village. Both of us were expecting a back breaking experience again during the night but we were pleasantly surprised by the presence of thick mattresses and blankets. In spite of the pleasant temperatures at night though we decided to sleep with our clothes on though, it seemed to be a cleaner experience.
In the evening the locals came along and the children performed for us. They really seemed to enjoy themselves and it was a pleasure seeing the genuine smiles on their faces.
The next morning we made a short trek to the Vachirathan waterfall where we had some time to swim and have fun. It was a magical place indeed and none of us wanted to leave by the time we were told to get ready.
And then it was time for our final trek to the pickup point where a minibus was waiting to bring us back to Gap’s guesthouse where we would stay our final night in Chang Mai. The trek had been fantastic and even though our first night had not been very comfortable and our backs were still complaining it definitely had been worth the effort.
Of course we could not leave Chang Mai without participating in a cookery course. Gap’s guesthouse was offering a full day program at it’s Thai Culinary Art School and neither of us could wait to get our hands on some serious Thai cookery skills. Our day started with a visit to the market where we were explained about many of the typical Thai ingredients and spices. It was an interesting tour and we love visiting markets anyway as they are such a colorful place, perfect for shooting pictures and breath the atmosphere.
Once we were finished at the market we headed on to the outskirts of Chang Mai where the cookery school was located in a garden. A magical place. All mis en place was taken care off but that did not mean we only had to watch. It certainly as a hands on course and all of us were enjoying the smells of the different dishes whilst cooking them. Presentation is of big importance in Thai cuisine as well so quite some effort was spent on learning how to carve the decorations. All was extremely well prepared and we thoroughly enjoyed to make a big variety of Thai dishes. The best was saved for last though when we were allowed to taste the result of all our hard labour.
Unfortunately we could not stay until the end as we had booked a night train to Bangkok. We were very pleased however that desert was packed as a takeaway so we could still enjoy it on our trip south.
Next morning we arrived refreshed in Bangkok. We dropped of our luggage in our hotel and then headed straight to “The Versaces”, a taylor we had visited after our arrival in Bangkok. By now a pair of suits was ready to be measured as well as a long Cashmere overcoat. We were extremely pleased with the result and were convinced it would look great on us on the day of our wedding which was planned the next year.
Next day we took a short flight to Koh Samui, one of Thailand’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand. On arrival we then boarded a catamaran to Koh Tao. Although the weather seemed to be fine and calm the water was not at all. We were bouncing constantly and seemed to go everywhere except Koh Tao. Almost everybody on board was sick and so was Paul. Fortunately I did not so I could pick up plastic bags to comfort him…
We made it in one piece to Koh Tao but as a result of the horrendous journey Paul did not feel very well the next couple of days so I went out scuba diving on my own. With the water being stirred up so much though and myself not feeling a 100% either I decided to skip that after one day and relax with Paul on this beautiful island.
And beautiful it was indeed. During the next couple of days we found some really idillic spots. It was weird though to be here at this time of year. At home people were celebrating Christmas, dressed in their warm clothing and the both of us were enjoying the sun, only dressed in our swimwear. Both of us were enjoying ourselves tremendously. With the waters surrounding the island being so rough though food supplies were running short. After a couple of days there was only one option for all three meals. Fried rice for breakfast, fried rice for lunch and fried rice for dinner. What a way to celebrate Christmas, not that we were complaining as we could definitely see the funny side of things.
Paul was already dreading the return trip but as by miracle things had changed and the water was flat like a mirror. So with no problems on our way back, no seasickness, both of us arrived happily at Koh Samui for the last couple of days of our holiday. We had booked a nice resort at one of the quieter beaches and were looking forward to our final days of sun and fun.
With our motorbike trip in Sukothai in mind we decided to once again rent two motorbikes and explore the island for a day. It was difficult to concentrate on the road as the scenery surrounding us was definitely breathtaking. Fortunately we made it that day without accidents.
Not only our days in Thailand were coming to an end but it were also the last days of 2001. What better way to finish off our first holiday togther than celebrating new year’s eve at Lamai beach. It started off with a dinner and a traditional Thai dance show after which we partied all night. I even remember we went swimming after midnight, just because we could…
New Year’s day we spent some more time at the beach but late afternoon it was time to return to the airport for the flight to Bangkok and our connecting flights back to Amsterdam. It had been a most fantastic trip and both of us had difficulties with the idea we would have to dress up warm as of the day after. The contrast with here could not have been bigger.
When we made it back to Amsterdam we had to go first to an ATM and get our first Euros. When we left the Dutch Gulden and German Mark was still the official currency but now we needed euros. It is funny how quickly things can change after one holiday, a holiday we will cherish forever as it was our first one together, the first one of many more adventures to follow.