Blog, Bangkok, and Beyond

September 19, 2014

Just a few days ago our humble blog celebrated its 100,000th visit. For the last few years I have enjoyed sharing my ideas about living in Thailand with so many who are thinking of naming Thailand their retirement home. I have always felt that the more we know the better decisions we can make and the more comfortable and happy we can become.

Thanks to all our readers and may you be successful and happy in your plans for retirement. And to answer the question of why I take the time to work on this blog, I am happiest when those around me are happy. It is as simple as that. Also, I love to be read.

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This past month was one of those looked-for times in an overseas retirement. We had some really fun and interesting visitors to our home and we got to take a tour to parts of Thailand that I had never been.

Let’s start with a bit of travel writing.

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Our Trip to Kanchanaburi (and the Bridge on the River Kwai)

My wife Pikun and her former classmates try to get together as much as possible. It is customary for Thais to remain close to the people that they knew from child and young adulthood, so reunions are quite popular. They usually involve lots of eating and sharing of the latest gossip, talk of old times, and always talk of food. I have never heard politics or religion discussed at one of these, the two topics that are always good to avoid just about anywhere.

So Pikun went down to Bangkok for a few days with her classmates and I followed later to do a little touring. In the many years I have come to Thailand for visits and the years I have lived here I believe that I have spent a total time of less than 2 weeks in the City of Angels, usually just passing through or changing planes. This time was one of my longer stays. All total, I was in Bangkok for a little over 24 hours.

Here is how we spent that time. Between 10 and 12 hours were spent checking into our hotel, eating dinner, sleeping, and eating breakfast. That gave us 12 hours to spend in the city. At least 6 or those hours were spent in traffic getting to and from appointments. That left 6 hours for lunch and visits with friends. Just a typical Bangkok day.

Six hours of spectacular

Bangkok, six hours of spectacular touristy views like this.

It has always been my opinion that the people who aren’t dependent on a job in Bangkok or a business and who in fact choose to live in this city, physically about the size of Los Angeles but with about 3 times the population, may just have a lobe missing from their brains. You know the one that tells us to try and live a happy life.

But we are all different and if you are happy living in Bangkok please let us know and tell us why. You may convince some of our readers to decide to live there, although the percentage of foreign retirees living in Bangkok, for good reason, is rather low compared to other parts of the country.

When I arrived in the city we decided to leave the airport and go straight out to the provinces. We would have gotten out of the city’s traffic in about an hour except that we took a wrong turn, got lost, and it took us a whole hour to get back on the highway. So I got a one hour unexpected tour of the bowels and back streets of Bangkok. I used to have a recurring nightmare about getting lost in some 3rd World country slum and never finding my way out and being lost there forever. So when we saw the highway again I was much relieved.

 One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble 

“One Night In Bangkok”, Rice, Andersson, Bjoen

 (Believe it or not this song is about a chess match.

Not what you were thinking, right?)

Check the song out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnagSceaXss

To get to Kanchanaburi, a province famed for its lush jungle, the bridge made infamous in the Academy Award winning film “Bridge on the River Kwai”, and the horrific history of World War II’s Japanese forced labor camps, we needed to go west from Bangkok and through Nakorn Pathom.

The pagoda, or chedi, at Nakorn Pathom

The pagoda, or chedi, at Nakorn Pathom

Nakorn Pathom is famous for its huge pagoda. But we were looking for another popular place to visit there.  Just about every town in Thailand has a dish that it is famous for. Nakorn Pathom’s is red roast pork. We found the city’s most popular noodle restaurant and ordered the roast pork. And wonder of wonders, the hype was correct. It was the best red roast pork I have had since leaving New York’s Chinatown.

From Bangkok to Nakorn Pathom and for more than another 100 kilometers west all we saw was more city. Bangkok never stopped until we finally got to the jungle province of Kanchanaburi.

Kanchnaburi

Kanchanaburi, view from the road once we left the “city”.

The bridge on the mispronounced river’s name

The movie Bridge on the River Kwai won 7 Academy Awards (including the big 3, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay). But interestingly enough there is no River Kwai in Kanchanabui or anywhere in Thailand. The name of the river where the infamous bridge was built by Allied POW forced labor is “Kwae”. Since it is so hard to pronounce (rhymes with the sound something like a duck makes) I guess that “Kwai” (the Thai word for “buffalo”) was easier for westerners to say.

Being it is the main tourist attraction we headed for the Kwae River.

Before getting to town we went to Sai Yok National Park and took a long tail boat down the Kwae River to do the quintessential Thai touristy thing; we went to a waterfall.

 Little Sai Yok Waterfall

Little Sai Yok Waterfall

And then hung out at some hot springs right along the roadside.

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

There really is a bridge near Kanchanaburi town, but it isn’t “The” bridge from the movie. That one was destroyed by allied bombers during the war. This bridge is now a tourist trap, with loud Rap music playing on huge speakers, and groups of revelers floating down the river on party barges. Ironically, this new Bridge on the River Kwai isn’t even in the same place as the original. So we quickly passed it by and went to a very quite place and a place which I thought was the more important. The cemetery in Kanchanaburi.

The cemetery in Kanchanaburi where thousands of Allied soldiers rest.

The cemetery in Kanchanaburi where thousands of Allied soldiers rest.

Here rest thousands of allied POWs who died under the horrible conditions impose by their Japanese captors. Their gravestones tell their names, rank and their ages. Twenty two, 24, 26, and a few older in their thirties and forties, row upon row of them. It is a sad reminder of how war can change regular people into monsters and young people into memories. Would that we could learn from them.

But war has been around these parts for along time.  We went up to the Three Pagodas Pass, the place where the Burmese armies of centuries ago would invade from when they would engage in one of their many wars with The Kingdom of Siam.

Three Pagodas Pass - a staging area for many a war.

Three Pagodas Pass – a staging area for many a war.

With thoughts of wars past and present in my head we ended our tour and returned to the tranquility of Bangkok traffic.

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Friends come visiting.

In the 1960s when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chiang Mai I had a close British friend named Garrick. He was the one person I knew who was poorer than I but we both took the grand opportunity of being Young Men in Chiang Mai in the 60s. Garrick had come to Thailand overland from London on a special Honda motorcycle which could get him over the Himalayas. He finally made it to Chiang Mai and promptly got his one-of-a-kind motorcycle stolen. So he looses his Honda sponsorship and winds up my buddy. We had no money but we sure did have fun back then.

Forty-three years after we last met I got an email from my old buddy. He had done a Google search on my name and voila. After he left Chiang Mai Garrick had gone on to be very successful in a number of business he created. Now he was retired living on the banks of the Chao Phaya River in Bangkok. So the city mouse came up to Chiang Mai for a visit to his country mouse friend. And what memories we had to talk about! Thank you Google.

 

Old Chiang Mai Buddies

Old Chiang Mai Buddies

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Our other guests were Billy and Akaisha Kaderli who do the very popular website Retire Early Lifestyle and they write books on places to retire. They know what they are writing about as they both retired at the age of 38. And even better, they are really good people.

I am one kind of retiree and Billy and Akaisha are a different breed. I am settled down and do a bit of traveling but always come back “home”. Want to know how the other kind live? Here is a bit of an interview I had with Akaisha.

Hugh: So where do you live?

Akaisha: Right now we are living in the Lux Hotel on the Chiang Mai Moat. We have been there for 3 months doing our regular medical checkups here.

Hugh: No, really, where do you live?

Akaisha: Before that we spent 3 months in Vietnam in an experimental retirement community.

Hugh: No, really, where do you live?

Akaisha: After this we will go see family in Florida, and then we will be going to Mexico and maybe later to Guatemala.

Check out their website for lots and lots of retirement information.

Billy and Akaish Kardali with the Leongs

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli with the Hugh and Pikun Leong

All in all it has been a good retirement month.

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