A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Category — Thailand

The Key to Life


Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, lies about 435 miles northwest of Bangkok.  It is the preferred base for exploring northern Thailand and a jumping off point for adventures in Burma and Laos.

Home to 200,000 people and 300 temples, Chiang Mai is often idealized as a quaint, moated, walled city surrounded by mountains.


We discovered it to be modern while still managing to maintain its charm and sense of place.  Still, like any growing city, it is grappling with rapid development and pollution.

It is also gaining a reputation as a center for Asian-influenced health and wellness.

Early in our trip planning we had pegged it as a place to spend an extended period of time, giving the kids a chance to make good progress on school work.

We spent our first few days there exploring the city, sightseeing and taking note of all the ways we could improve our health while in town.

After a few days I came across one spa that was clearly differentiating itself from the hundreds of other clones.  Janrawee House bills itself as an alternative spa that allows people to “Detoxify for Real Beauty.”

They had my attention.

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February 16, 2009   3 Comments

A Tale of Two Markets


From the time we left Washington, DC last July until the day we landed in Bangkok, I kept telling Caroline and Conor, “Save your money for Asia – everything will be a lot cheaper there.”

Of course I had no actual proof of this.  I’d been in the region only once before, on business, and with a minder to ferry me from place to place.

Now, based on experience, I can tell you this:  The rumors you may have heard are true.  Everything is cheaper in Thailand.  I may not be at the headwaters of the global supply chain, but I know I’m close.

On our last full day in Bangkok we visited two very different markets that had one thing in common:  Prices that made you do double-takes.


Our first stop was the Chatuchak Weekend Market.  There was a buzz of excitement all around as stepped off the Skytrain.  From the elevated platform we could see what looked like a tenement village of vendor stalls.

We found an opening and dove in.

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February 13, 2009   3 Comments

What Karma Is


In 1908, in what surely must be one of the most creative public outreach efforts in history, members of Gideon’s International placed Bibles in the rooms of the Superior Hotel in Montana.

In the century that followed the organization has distributed millions of Bibles in 180 countries and 80 languages. Still, I was surprised to find a Gideon Bible in the bedside table of our hotel in Thailand, a country that is 95% Buddhist.

In the drawer, tucked next to the Gideon Bible, I noted another slimmer book: A Constitution for Living – Buddhist Principles for a Fruitful and Harmonious Life.

Curiosity got the better of me and I picked up the book.


There is no firm estimate of the number of practicing Buddhists in the world today – some claim as many as 500 million, others as few as 250 million.  (As a point of reference, there are approximately 1.5 billion Christians).

Buddhism is based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be known as “The Buddha” (the Awakened One). Siddhartha lived four hundred years before Jesus in what is today northeastern India.

Buddhists recognize him as an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help people end their suffering by understanding the true nature of reality, thereby eventually achieving enlightenment (i.e., Nirvana).

How one achieves Nirvana is the study of a lifetime, not a blog post.  Briefly, though, here are three concepts that caught my attention.

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February 11, 2009   2 Comments

Lessons in Street Food


I am beginning to wonder if Thai homes have kitchens. Street food is so plentiful and cheap (and good), it comes close to rendering “home cooking” irrelevant.

I say this boldly now, but I wasn’t always brave when it came ordering dinner from a vendor’s cart. Fortunately, we were given a seminar in street food from Nomadic Matt, traveler, blogger, teacher.

I’ll let Matt tell his own story, but I’ll tell you this: He’s a late twenty-something with an MBA who decided he didn’t want to live his life behind a desk. So he created a new life for himself, on the road, exploring new places and cultures.

Given what’s happened over the last decade, I think we can agree we’d all be better off if more MBAs had taken to the road instead of Wall Street.

Matt was kind enough to give us a lot of his time while we were in Bangkok, showing us the ropes.


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February 9, 2009   4 Comments

Start of a Dynasty


In 1782, the same year that Britain recognized U.S. independence, General Chao Phraya Chakri ended nearly two decades of territorial wars in Siam and established the country’s new capital in what is today Bangkok.

In building the new capital the Chakri Dynasty set out to recreate the grandeur of Ayuthaya, one of the wealthiest cities in the history of Asia. For nearly 400 years, from 1350 to 1767, Ayuthaya was a thriving seaport and the capital of the Siamese Kingdom.

In 1690 an emissary from London said:  “Among the Asian nations, the Kingdom of Siam is the greatest.  The magnificence of the Ayuthaya Court is incomparable.” Historians have noted that London, at the time, was a mere village in comparison.

I knew none of this when I walked onto the grounds of Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Wat Phra Krew where Bangkok was founded.


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February 6, 2009   2 Comments

Shifting Gears


After ten weeks in New Zealand and Australia, Bangkok was an assault on the senses. I mean that in the best possible way.

Big, chaotic, confusing and a bit intimidating — it was just what we were looking for after the ease of Oz.  We loved Australia, but we had grown soft there, losing the hard-earned “travelers’ edge” we had acquired in South America.

We arrived at Bangkok’s ultra-modern Survarnabhumi Airport, one of South East Asia’s busiest, and home to the third largest airport terminal in the world.


Suvarnabhumi made headlines round the world in late 2008 when the People’s Alliance for Democracy blockaded and seized the airport, demanding the resignation of the government of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

All flights to and from the airport were canceled for nearly a week, leaving hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded.

The protests gave us pause (particularly as portrayed by CNN), and we briefly considered not traveling to Thailand.

But as the weeks passed, it became apparent that our concerns were overblown. The standoff at the airport had been tense, but the country itself was not a dangerous place for visitors.

A little history helps put the recent protests in context.

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February 4, 2009   6 Comments

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