Published only in January 2003.
After 3 beautiful days at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit where we reacquainted ourselves with Richard Chapman who had opened the Osaka Hilton many years ago when we were still living in Japan, we left one morning bright and early on our trip to the Golden Triangle, by road, in a Toyota van with a German-speaking guide. His German was so rusty and difficult to understand that we switched to English that was also not of the present time, but at least we got along well enough.
Of course, there were the customary guided visits of some temples and pagodas as well as the trip on the famous Chao Praya River with a good friend. I also let myself be talked into buying too many shirts, 3 pants and 2 jackets, this by an energetic young Nepalese with Indian accents that reminded me of Kobe. Uschi got an elegant little black dress and a pair of sapphire earrings.
First we saw the King’s former summer palace near Ayuthaya, then by fast riverboat to the center of that city where we caught up with our van near a famous temple. On it went to Sukhothai with the many stupas (also called chedi). Here we took a ride on a slow and bumpy ox cart. In the evening, we stayed at the Amarin Lagoon Hotel in Phitsanulok, which later was to become the source of some long-term infections in my mouth. We had a city tour on a bicycle rickshaw to see the night market.The northern capital of Chiang Mai was reached through some very lush and fertile lands, the main rice growing area of Thailand, on good to very good roads; even minor roads were hard surfaced and excellent. There, we also had the traditional Kantoke dinner where exquisite foods of the fill tribes were served in abundance and with live entertainment. On the first night, we met our old colleague Hans Baumann who as a long time resident knows the city and its environment like the back of his hand. He had tons of literature waiting for us, and verbal advice, and we had lunch and dinner on several occasions. He also drove us around quite a bit in his rental car, and made me climb up one sheer staircase after another to see some caves and/or grottoes, geysers, and water falls. He also took us to eat in local restaurants, where his Thai skills showed some shortcomings: he had asked for fresh orange juice, but the surly waitress brought us bottles of already opened Fanta.
For one day, Uschi had to do all the visiting in and around Chiang Mai by herself and the guide, as my toothache had developed into a serious infection, after having unconsciously bitten on a piece of hard matter that was contained in the rice at the Amarin earlier in the Kuoni organized trip. I had noted it but thought nothing of it at the time, as it did not hurt. The doctors gave me some pain killing pills, but found no real reason for the pain.
Then on to the Golden Triangle via some dog eating tribes near the border, and the former summer residence of the Queen Mother in Doi Tung. We visited bustling Mae Sai, the northernmost place in Thailand, with a bridge over the Mekong to Burma, but decided not to walk over it without a visa as we were scheduled to enter Burma in a few days via Rangoon anyway. We also took a long fast-boat trip on the Mekong, taking on diesel on the Laotian side and visited the opium museum before retiring to well laid out and locally built Le Meridien at Baan Boran for dinner and staying there overnight. Our Kuoni trip ended there. However, the driver and guide had to return the same day to Bangkok and offered us a ride in the car back to Chiang Mai by a different route, as it was on their way. An extra tip was in order as we saved on the rental car. In Chiang Rai on the way, we even got to ride another bicycle rickshaw to get to know the centre of that small northern city.
With my toothache increasing despite the pills, due to the infection, I went to the same Chiang Mai hospital again on Sunday afternoon, but after some cleaning of the teeth, the doctor merely gave me some antibiotics and I was OK for some time. Finally, with impossible pain I visited another dentist on the hotel compound, and in view of what I told him, he immediately took an X ray and then started to drill, finding the last molar broken. It was the real cause of the infection. Root canal treatment was necessary after the infection got under control, nothing to make one’s day, though I felt like a new person after the pain had finally gone. After our trip to Burma, I am now going to return to Chiang Mai to get him to make a new crown, and also replace the one next to it, which also showed a crack, probably from the same incident but not problematic by itself.
AFTER THIS WONDERFUL JOB, DONE ON A SATURDAY EVENING, WITH OUR FLIGHT FROM BURMA 2 HOURS LATE FOR THE 6 PM APPOINTMENT, AND THE CROWN NOT FITTING CORRECTLY, DR. SUPPACHAI HAD TO DRIVE WITH ME TO THE TECHNICIAN’S HOUSE IN THE OUTSKIRTS TO FIX IT, THEN RETURN TO HIS CLINIC. ALL WAS SUCCESSFULLY FINISHED BY ABOUT 10 PM, HE AND HIS 2 LADY ASSISTANTS LEFT FOR A 4 DAY PUBLIC HOLIDAY, WE FOR JAPAN. THE BOSSHARDS HAVE RETURNED EVERY YEAR AS HIS THANKFUL PATIENTS IN THOSE WONDERFUL SURROUNDINGS. Published on Oct. 8, 2015
We also took a side trip to Mae Hong Son, a city of 10000, which until 1985 could only be reached on foot or on elephant. Since then, a road has been built, narrow and winding. The loop is some 400 km from Chiang Mai, with some 4000 curves. We went by plane. Despite the season, it was very warm and even sultry as we landed; only the night brought a little cooler air, and the famous mists. We visited a village of long neck people who had fled their native Burma and were allowed to build their little village. On the way, we saw many elephants working and also some used for trekking with paying foreigners.
In Chiang Mai, our base for nearly 10 days, is very lush and has many good hotels & restaurants. The temperatures are best from mid November till March, and then it becomes very hot. There are many beautiful drives and treks, and a number of fine stores for nice pottery, baskets, etc. Cars can be rented cheaply, and accommodation is also plentiful and not costly even in the major hotels when one concludes long term rentals. Some even accept pets.
One day, our good friend Hans Baumann drove us on the large loop to Doi Inthanon, at 2565 m the highest elevation in Thailand. At 2000 m were two magnificent large chedi (stupas) erected a few years ago by the Thai Air Forces for the reigning king, Bumiphol and his wife Sirikit. On the way, we visited a number of quite splendid waterfalls and 2 mini hydroelectric stations generating 180 KVA and the larger just over 1 MVA. The equipment was from the UK, I had thought possibly from before the war, but in the meantime I have read it was built in the mid eighties. These stations are ideal for these regions, as they can provide energy on a year round basis without the use of large dams which require the evacuation of local residents. The water needed for the generation of electricity is but a small part of the total available, and even enough in the dry season. There is only minimal construction required (for conducting the water along the mountain side to a point where it can drop down to the turbines), thus leaving the original flora and faune quite unscathed. In times of need, the Electric Authority can use the output also for regions in need, like a few days for Mae Hong Son a few years back.
The King’s 72nd birthday was loudly celebrated on December 5. We were in one of the resort places outside Chiang Mai for an early dinner when, all of a sudden, all the guests were getting up. We obtained candles, which we lit, and all clients and staff stood standing listening to some speeches on TV. Later, fireworks and many Thai style balloons with a live fire were launched into the night air, where we could observe them flying back and forth for a long time. It is really quite touching how much sympathy and love the Thai people of all walks of life have for their king.
The food around the second largest city of Thailand, Chiang Mai, about 1.6 million inhabitants, is just staggering. The many fine restaurants, from the many serving Thai and Chinese fare, to others offering Western fare, a number of fine Japanese eateries with fine sushi (even chu toro and Kobe gyu nikku was available at reasonable prices), Indian, French, Italian, you name it they have it. We mostly had some kind of Thai food, but went twice to a Japanese restaurant. For the best Thai food, with some appetizers, and a main dish, and a dessert, with a beer or a fresh orange juice, the tab would come to 40 francs for 2, but it could be had in simpler places for half or even less than that. And the people are always friendly and smiling. Of course, language is sometimes a problem, but we always got what we wanted in the end.
Without the tooth incident, we would have flown to Phuket to meet with our friend Max Kagi for some sailing in the region. They had miserable weather, with lots of rain and flooding. On a trip down to Langkawi in Malaysia, they encountered 3 m swells. Right now, Max is telling us on the phone that we cannot leave the Boat Lagoon because the tide is very low and it is too dangerous for his yacht to get through. Thus, we are trying to book an earlier flight home so that Uschi has a bit more time to get our things cleaned and the bags repacked for our December 19th departure to Nevis. We will do the sailing next year.
We will also go back to Chiang Mai one day as there are many other trips to be made with a base there: some day trips, others with overnights in the remoter areas, such as amazing Angkhang Nature Resort 2 miles from the Burmese border. A trip into Laos can also be made from here, with one or 2 days on the Mekong.