Thailand, Our Trip of A Lifetime

November 10, 2023

For many desiring to see the world, Thailand is a bucket list trip. When you visit you think that you’ll simply check off this trip like all of the others but for some, Thailand becomes a place that you fall in love with. For us, we didn’t expect to enjoy it so well. Because of how far away it was, we were actually apprehensive about taking this trip. It’s the place where my husband was born and a place we had wanted to visit for the last 30 years, but after spending ten days there, we are ready to return back.

First, there are so many things to love about Thailand; the people, the food, the natural beauty, but for us, it was all of that together. Thailand was wrapped into an unexpected experience where all those things came together to show us that this country deserves all of the bucket list accolades. We had been saying for years that we wanted to go but kept putting it off. What finally made us realize the time was now was because my husband’s father told us he wanted to take Andy to see where he was born. His father is in his eighties and we felt this may be his last trip over there so we wanted to experience this trip through a father’s eyes with his son. Because of that experience, the trip was amazing for us.

When we arrived in Bangkok, their airport was extremely welcoming and organized. We arrived late at night and took a taxi to our hotel. We booked our stay at the Millenium Hilton hotel in Bangkok because we had heard staying on the waterfront was a must-do. You could take the water taxis places and it was close to lots of fun things to do. The hotel was impeccable. We had 24 hour room service, which was perfect since we arrived late at night and were hungry. In the morning, after being a little jet lagged, I was able to walk downstairs and get some really great coffee in a tiny cafe next to the hotel restaurant. The coffee was soothing my desire to have something familiar to ease the jet lag. Andy later joined me and we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. The buffet had so many offerings that you could choose something light or something hearty, breakfast like or lunch-ish. 

We headed next door after brunch to explore the eight story mall, the ICONSIAM. There was everything in that mall, from grocery stores, to haute couture designer stores to medical offices and a fitness center. We have never seen a mall so all encompassing and busy! In fact, Andy’s dad isn’t one to try new foods so he took us to dinner at a Sizzlin’ on the 7th floor (as in Western Sizzlin’). In the United States, malls are a throwback to the 80s and 90s but not this mall. It seemed like the center of fun in Bangkok and there were even Thai celebrities that stopped by to visit their beloved fans. 

We also enjoyed the water views from the top of the Hilton hotel during each day’s happy hour. There was an outdoor patio with lots of seating and then inside in the air conditioning there were couches and coffee tables to sit and enjoy drinks and appetizers with family and friends, which were all complimentary!

Over the next few days, we visited many other notable landmarks in Bangkok, like the riverfront, the Grand Palace, Asiatique the Riverfront, Wat Phra Chetuphon, the flower district, and Lumpini Park. We opted to take some great tours to learn about the culture, the first being a half day tour to see the Royal Grand Palace and all of the famous buddhas in Thailand. Our guide was so knowledgeable, she spoke great English and provided a historical and cultural reference to everything we saw. The Grand Palace was constructed in 1782 and served as the residence of the Kings of Thailand for over 150 years. It is a magnificent complex of buildings, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), which houses the revered Emerald Buddha statue. Make sure you dress accordingly and honor their temples and buildings with reverence by wearing clothes that cover your shoulders and when in the temples you remove your shoes. Throughout the day, our guide shared what the hand gestures of the Buddhas meant. For me, I felt this explained why the country as a whole seemed so calm and friendly. I highly recommend this tour as they came to our hotel to pick us up, drove us all around the city to see all of the iconic temples and learn about their past and present Kings and Queens.

The next day, we took another half day tour to the Maeklong Railroad and floating markets. It was such an experience for the eyes, ears and nose! The Maeklong Railway Market is one of the most fascinating markets in Thailand, known for its location along an active railway track. When I say active railway track, I mean that on each side of the rails, all of the street vendors are set up and you walk down the tracks to visit each vendor. Several times during the day, when the train arrives, the whistle blows and the street vendors pull back all of their offerings. Then the train passes and then they put back all of their merchandise on the side of the tracks. The train is so close, that if you aren’t careful, your toes could get run over as you watch the train go by. The market has been operating for over a century, tracing its origins back to the early 20th century. According to the guide, the market is there because vendors would bring food, and souvenirs to the people. The passengers on the train would reach out of the windows and the vendors would hand items to them. It was a sight to see and smell. The seafood was so fresh that it was still moving as the vendors prepared them for purchase.

The floating markets were interesting to experience. I was amazed at all of the canals that winded through waterfront stores and homes. Thailand rivers and canals have long served as vital arteries for trade and communication and the bustling waterways were lined with wooden boats filled with fresh produce, local delicacies, and handicrafts. I enjoyed some fresh coconut ice cream from our wooden boat that Andy purchased from me from a waterway business owner. There were all kinds of items you could buy from clothes to wooden knickknacks and even art!

While in Thailand, we took some time to visit where my husband was born, Udon Thani. My husband’s father served in Thailand during the 60s and 70s and was based out of Udon Thani. We visited the place where his home once stood and the hospital where he was born, which has been modernized and rebuilt. His father even took us to a special place in the neighboring country of Laos that was close to his heart. You can read up on this beautiful place in another blog I wrote. While in Udon Thani, we walked miles and miles to retrace some of the steps that Andy’s father visited many years ago. We stayed at the Centara Udon hotel next to a large mall, Central Mall. There were many dining options there and such a nice hotel. While we were walking listening to Mr. Pigott’s memories, he brought us to Glenn R. Woods’ memorial at a graveyard. He told us his story and how he died. They were the same age and I could tell Mr. Pigott was moved by this man’s life and death. Mr. Pigott was also concerned about his grave being cared for and wanted to make sure Glenn’s story was remembered. I’ve learned over the years that his and my parents’ generations really care for their loved ones after they pass and visit the cemeteries to pay their respects whenever they can. I’m sharing his story here so you can read about his heroism from long ago.

After the trip to Laos for a few days, we headed back to Bangkok and stayed at a different hotel, The Conrad. It was situated in the part of Bangkok that was near the US Embassy and other embassies. It was a short walking distance to lots of beautiful sights and green spaces. The hotel was amazing with spa options, a beautiful pool and 24 hour room service. We really enjoyed getting 2:00 am club sandwiches as we sat up discussing the daily travel adventures with our son, Jack. 

Another great place to visit in Bangkok was Lumpini Park, which is similar to New York City’s Central Park. It was Bangkok’s first public park and offers a beautiful green space in the city. There we saw walkers, runners and people practicing their Tai Chi. I noticed how much people loved animals in Thailand and it was so strange to see a cat just lying in the middle of the paved walking trail. He obviously wasn’t worried about anyone hurting him as runners and walkers passed by paying him no mind while he sunbathed. Andy and I enjoyed keeping up with our goals of getting our steps in each day on this trip and this park was a place we visited twice.

If Bangkok is on your bucket list, don’t hesitate but book that trip today. It’s a unique blessing on the other side of the world that is waiting to see you. You’ll never regret your time there even though the plane ride is long, it’s completely worth it!

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