Travels by myself – 3 Thailand

14th June 2006 – A day which left me feeling frazzled
Today started with a visit to a Buddhist temple in Hua Hin. The monks were already eating their lunch. It seems that they are not allowed to begin their meal after 12 o’clock. There was also a school on the site and the small children were just settling down for a nap. Then it was on to the railway station to board the 11:38 train, which was only a few minutes late. The train was very crowded, with women passing up and down selling all kinds of food. We got off at Pran Buri station and our coach met us to take us to Pran Buri Village, where we walked a little and then had lunch at a small seafront restaurant.

Temple at Hua Hin












Pran Buri – This is one of the many displays we saw commemorating the King’s 60th anniversary



After lunch we drove to a river for a rather slippery climb down to some very small boats which took us sailing down the river for over an hour. I remember it seemed a long time because there was not a lot to see other than some egrets and a couple of monitor lizards. There was a little breeze but when it stopped we were left exposed to a burning sun so that by the time we climbed out of the boats we all felt frazzled and fried.

To make things worse, I was due at the village’s No 1 dressmakers for a dress fitting. Mr and Mrs King were leading local entrepreneurs. In their shop they sold beautiful materials, had a team of dressmakers and tailors and they did our laundry cheaper than at the hotel! I just made it.

That evening there was a Saga reception with free drinks and nibbles, which always brings all the Saga visitors together! Then there was dinner in the Bua Chompoo restaurant under James Bond movie on the telly!

15th – 16th June 2006
In a holiday of almost four weeks there have to be some days when there’s not much going on! However I was not entirely idle and on the first of these days I went to a vegetable carving demonstration. Under the guidance of one of the chefs I produced a flower from a tomato and another one from a piece of turnip. My teacher produced some fantastic creations. I promised myself that I would practice when I got home but I never have!

The next day there was a shopping trip. One of my new friends had arranged for a taxi to collect some of us to take us to the shopping village just half an hour’s journey away.  We could have almost been at home again because there was even a Tesco! I felt duty bound to look around to see if the products on sale were the same as they are at home. Some were but the stock was mostly local produce.

Tomorrow was going to be a big day, so there were no Scrabble games or TV watching that evening.


The “art” of vegetable carving!

Travels by myself – 3 Thailand

12th June 2006 – An episode of “Lost”?
I was rather less enthusiastic the next morning as I got up at 7 a.m. we left at 9 a.m. for something which was described as “trekking”.

We drove for about 2 hours stopping on the way to look at a pineapple farm followed shortly afterwards by the Dole factory where they process the pineapples. We drove into a national park and up towards a waterfall. A guide joined us and took us back to a lower car park. Some alarm bells rang! We set off through the jungle. I was with a group of people from other parts of the hotel, much younger and fitter looking than my companions in the Saga group. It started off quite gently, climbing up alongside the river. It got a bit rocky and steep as we walked alongside the river, then we had to cross it. We did this by clambering over rocks and along a tree trunk. It got much harder going as we criss-crossed the river. On  one crossing I waited too long to step and unbalanced, so I stepped right into the water. Well, at least one foot was nice and cool! The man behind me slipped and sat right down in the water and the man behind him decided to just wade across. Eventually we arrived at a bridge. Was it the end of the trek? No. And when the guide pointed out the tracks of a wild boar and we saw a pitch covered up with sticks and found a monkey carcase, I began to feel as if we were auditioning for an episode of “Lost” (a popular TV programme of the time about people who were stranded on an island when their plane crashed).I felt as if I could audition for the part of the little old lady who says: “Go on leave me behind, I’m old. At least you will all be safe”.  Eventually we could see a waterfall and, above the sound of the water came voices.  We had simply walked back to the first car park and the area was filling up with people who had taken the sensible decision to join the river there instead of doing it the hard way!

I gave up, exhausted, at the first waterfall. Some of the others made it to the second one and one couple made it to the third.  I was very pleased to look at their photographs but I had seen quite enough of the jungle for that day.

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We returned (the short way) to our bus and we were taken to have some lunch which was very welcome. There were lots of butterflies there to some absolutely huge ones. I bought some beautiful handmade cards which will made from mulberry paper. So off we went downhill again. The road was uneven and full of potholes and our driver had to keep slowing down, sometimes almost to a standstill. Then we stopped at a small shop and on our way to visit a Karen village.  I bought some sweets and exercise books. These people were refugees from Myanmar, with the border still only 15 km away. They’ve settled and a small village has grown up.  But the houses looked very poorly maintained and the children we saw playing were poorly clothed. As I said on my visit to Borneo, I have mixed feelings about this visits but the children were happy with their books and, of course, the sweets.

I was in the pool within a few minutes of arriving back at the hotel and then I met my friendly ladies from the Midlands and we spent the evening together.

Half our group were doing “Hua Hin By Night”. Unfortunately for them it rained for much of the evening. I hoped that it would be a better night for us the following week when it was our turn.

13 June 2006
Time for a brief spell of laziness and relaxation during this very busy week. Another walk with my friends along the beach and then the black clouds came over.  I was caught by the eventual downpour while in the swimming pool and had to run inside. The TV continues to be constant coverage of the 60th anniversary celebrations!


Travels with myself – 3 Thailand

9th June 2006 – Victoriana
Afternoon tea may not be the first thing that springs to mind on a trip in Thailand. But that was to be the highlight of the afternoon.

The first stop was at the Mrigadayavan Palace just outside Hua Hin. The Palace was built for King Rama VI as it was a cooler, seaside locatio n and more pleasant in summer than Bangkok. Built of teak and completed in 1924, it is, apparently, typical Thai-Victorian. It had recently been restored and contains furniture and other items belonging to King Rama VI and his family.  The king died in 1925 but his only child, a daughter, Princess Bejaratana was still alive when I made my visit. (She died in 2011).

Then we drove into the town for a quick tour including the railway station of which the people are very proud. After spending a short while in town and looking at some of the stores I ventured into yet another Starbucks for a frappuccino and to cool down in the air conditioning.




Our final visit was to the Sofitel hotel for afternoon tea of cakes and earl grey. The hotel has a beautiful garden filled with topiary animals.








Despite a heavy downpour, I managed to have my daily swim. Later I made my way to the main lobby, where we were to join in the celebrations for the King’s 60th anniversary.  All guests were asked to attend and the lobby was crammed full of both guests and staff.  As requested I was wearing something yellow – my pashmina.  There was a huge portrait of him in the lobby and a big screen on which we began to watch the proceedings from Bangkok.  We were all given a yellow candle to hold and these were lit  as the ceremony proceeded.  Crowds of thousands in Bangkok were also holding lit candles. It was quite a spectacle. However at the end of the ceremony none of us were sure as to whether we had actually seen the king and queen.  No-one seemed certain that they were actually present! It shall remain a mystery. Afterwards there was a great rush to the dining room and I met up with another couple of Saga guests and spent a lovely evening in the ar shampoo restaurant until 10.

10th June 2006
Today I mostly spent relaxing including having a pedicure from which I emerged with bright red toenails and feeling very relaxed. The highlight of the evening was settling down to watch the World Cup in the bar.  It had barely got started when the channel disappeared and there was total uproar!  Eventually it came back on and I watched the game with a couple of other Saga guests.

11th June 2006
I was up at 6 a.m. and we were on the coach by 7:30. We first visited a coconut farm where they make sugar from coconut flour, coconut milk and coconut oil. They also have a substantial souvenir shop!  Then it was on board a long tail boat to ride to the floating market. The ride was at great speed, until we had to slow down to turn the corners. As we got near the market the waterways got busier and there was something of a traffic jam just before we got off the boat. There was both an indoor and outdoor market selling everything from beautiful silk and silk clothes to fruit vegetables being sold from boats sailing up and down the waterways at the edge of the market. It was fascinating and I bought some spices. Then we set off to a craft centre where they made beautiful furniture and where we could watch the craftsman at work. Finally we were off to the Rose Garden Hotel for an excellent buffet lunch followed by a show of cultural activities, dancing, stick fighting, Thai boxing accompanied by different types of music.

I decided to have a change of scenery at dinner time and ate at the Rim Talay restaurant which was just by the beach. There was no inside seating so it was a bit warm but the food, which happened to be Italian, was very good.

Travels with myself – 3 Thailand

8th June 2006 – Off to Cha-Am
We left Bangkok promptly at 9 am for Cha-am, a district on the Western coast of Thailand about 100 miles to the south. It was a weekday morning so the traffic was still heavy, although thankfully nothing like the nightmare that was previous evening! The city buildings got smaller and changed to very poor looking housing which then disappeared as we reached the countryside. Saga provided yet another guide to accompany me on this journey and she explained a little about the land around us as we went along. We passed salt farms and rice fields. Farmers are able to grow several crops of rice in a year. She pointed to a range of hills to the west of us and said that they marked the border between Thailand and Myanmar and said that the history of Thailand was filled with Burmese invasions.

We arrived at the Cha-Am resort to be met by Kai who would be the Saga Rep for the rest of my stay. It seemed huge resort which I’m not used to and I was going to have to wait until the next day for the conducted tour. Still, I had a lovely large room with a balcony. I found a nearby restaurant (apparently there are several) called the Bua Chompoo and had lunch, then unpacked, had a quick nap, looked at all the visits and activities on offer and filled out a tentative schedule. Then I went out to sample the swimming pool. I remember that it was an unusual shaped pool with lots of vegetation at the far end and, as I noted in my diary, it was “gorgeous” with ” warmish, inviting” water. Happily it was quiet too and so it was very easy to spend the afternoon swimming lazily up and down. I never go on holidays which simply involve sitting around a pool or on the beach but I did always set myself the aim of swimming a few lengths every day whether or not I was going out on a trip. I also visited the beach which was beautiful too and almost deserted.

Later I had a walk around the grounds to find the Sukuna restaurant and then retired ready for the next morning’s team talk.

9th June 2006 – Saga friendliness
Over the years I’ve found that hotels which Saga uses regularly, usually have a lounge where you can go and get teas and coffees, chat to other Saga guests and meet for information about the day’s activities. This is where we had a meet and greet followed by a tour of the complex. Most of my fellow guests are also women like myself, either on their own or in twos. After touring the complex we were taken for a short walk to the local village where they were selling some beautiful clothes. Then it was back for lunch in a third restaurant, this time serving Italian food.

After lunch and a spell by the pool, I was invited by two ladies from the Midlands to join them for a walk along the beach. Now, this is the thing with Saga holidays. In Borneo, although I met some friendly people on the trips this never extended to invitations to share meals or indeed join in any non-trip related activity. In fact, I think I only ate one meal in the hotel when I was not alone. This doesn’t really bother me but sometimes it is nice to be able to sit and chat over a meal – or to have someone invite you to walk along the beach with them. As it happened, these two ladies and I became friends and, although we haven’t met again on holiday, I still exchange Christmas cards with one of them and we update each other on where we have been that year. If I ever arrived on my own in the restaurant, they would always invite me to join them at their table. It was something I really appreciated. Later on we went on some independent outings together.

Tonight we returned to the Bua Chompoo. Their buffet was not just themed night by night but there was food from China, India, Vietnam, Japan and Thailand served each night. It was pleasant to also meet some of the other guests afterwards for a drink in the lobby. This was typical of the friendliness that I became used to on just about all of my subsequent Saga holidays

Then it was time for bed and for looking forward to our first chance to explore.


I loved this pool.  It had a resident frog who lived in the vegetation down at the far end, who serenaded us every day.  And every day, I offered to kiss him and turn him into a prince.  But he always told me to **** off and leave him alone. He was thoroughly fed up with being patronised by women who thought they could improve upon his chosen lifestyle! So, I won’t try that again.



Travels with myself – 3 Thailand


6th June 2006 – Bangkok in all its glory and chaos
My first guided tour started at 9 a.m. We were visiting the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).

This year, I’m pleased to say, was the start of my use of digital photography so I haven’t had to search for holiday snaps amongst my boxes of photographs.  They are all neatly stored in folders on a hard drive.

The palace and temple area was absolutely amazing, with seemingly dozens of buildings covered in gold and patterned with statues and shrines. We were able to enter the temple to see the Emerald Buddha. The statue of the Buddha itself is carved from a single piece of dark green jade (not emerald) and this temple is regarded as the holiest Buddhist temple in Thailand.  We were also allowed to visit parts of the Grand Palace. However, although the king no longer lives there, it is still used for ceremonial occasions and preparations for the King’s 60th anniversary were in full swing and there were many places we weren’t allowed to visit. I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves.


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It was so hot that it was a bit of a relief to get back on the bus!  Our next visit was to the Royal Lapidary where we were shown how gemstones develop and how they are collected and made into jewellery. Of course it was also a purchasing opportunity and I bought a beautiful amethyst ring which I have since sadly lost.

I restricted myself to a light lunch in anticipation of a swim to cool down but then it proceeded to pour with rain all afternoon so I fell asleep instead.

It was still raining when we left for an evening soiree on the river. Thanks to the preparations for the King’s anniversary celebrations going on throughout the town, we had a nightmare journey.  The whole of Bangkok seemed to have ground to a halt and it took us almost an hour and a half to do our journey, much of which time was spent just standing still. At one point our guide jumped out of the taxi and ran to the riverside to make sure that the boat didn’t leave without us! When we arrived, thank goodness, it had stopped raining. The boat left straight away and we enjoyed a gin fizz and a three-course buffet and afterwards we sat on deck to enjoy the calm and warm evening while we travelled up and down the river. Yet again part of the river was closed for rehearsals for the celebrations.

It had been a short but enjoyable introduction to Bangkok but I was looking forward to arriving at my next stop where I was to spend my three weeks for the price of two.  What was in store at Cha-Am?

Travels with myself – 3 Thailand

In all honesty this holiday was chosen because Saga’s offer was 3 weeks for the price of 2 rather than any burning desire to visit Thailand! But the itinerary looked interesting and a 3-day extension in Bangkok at the start of the holiday was affordable.

2nd June 2006 – Déjà vu
It was exactly a year since my holidays in Borneo. I was no better at packing and had my usual last minute panic. What happened to the super organiser, who could get a husband and three children ready to travel, including packing all suitcases, repacking the car when said husband gave up on it halfway through (saying that we would never get everything in) and setting off to drive to a channel port after waiting for him to complete work tasks that he couldn’t bear to leave behind? I was still trying to zip up the flight bag when my daughter arrived to take me to the station.

At this time Saga was still providing a service whereby you could take a car free of charge from King’s Cross to the airport or an airport hotel, so I was transported to the Heathrow Holiday Inn in a comfortable Mercedes. The evening was made even better because I had a free dinner with two glasses of wine courtesy of some privilege points which I had amassed through working visits to the north east.

3rd – 4th June 2006
After a very early arrival at Terminal 3, I was pulled over at security and had to empty my bag, after which the security officer went to check something about me which was a bit nerve-racking! It can’t have been too serious as I was allowed to proceed.  I’m one of those people who has to keep their mouth firmly shut at these times.  I’m always tempted to say something flippant but totally inappropriate!

When I’m flying, I do enjoy watching the route, so it was interesting to see that we flew via Germany, the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Myanmar before arriving just after 6 a.m. in Bangkok. I passed easily through immigration, luggage collection and customs but then couldn’t find anyone to meet me – I had gone to the wrong end of the arrivals hall. Eventually I did find that the Saga Rep and we took a taxi for the journey to the Montien Riverside Hotel, where I was handed over to the hotel-based Saga Rep. My room was on the 14th floor and had two views of the Chao Phraya River.

Exploring the hotel (I discovered that it was hosting an international darts competition during my stay!), having a meeting with Saga Rep Tom, (who booked me onto two visits) and taking short naps through the day, helped me to stay awake until Michael Parkinson finally sent me to sleep at around 10 p.m.

5th June 2006 – Bangkok
Today was the day when I was to explore Bangkok on my own. Tom had told me about the hotel shuttle which would take me to the SkyTrain. There were five other people on the shuttle who all seemed to know what they were doing but as soon as we arrived at the station they all disappeared and I was left floudering wondering what to do. A kind woman who saw me looking lost, helped me to buy a ticket and showed me where the platform was. Bangkok is a very crowded and high-rise city. I didn’t see a single patch of green on the journey.

The MBK shopping centre was right at the end of the line and, thankfully,  just across the road from the station. I was so relieved to have arrived safely that all my sense of adventure deserted me and I went in a Starbucks and had a coffee. I spent the morning looking around and bought some clothes for my grandchildren.  It was just a purse for me this time – I resisted the urge to buy another handbag.  The one thing which spoilt my enjoyment was the number of decidedly dodgy-looking men around, usually with a young Thai girl on their arm.

I did read discover my sense of adventure sufficiently to have my lunch in the Thai bakery. I arrived back and plenty of time for the bus at the railway station but left at the wrong eggs it and couldn’t find my bearings. Another helpful person pointed me in the right direction.  I waited and waited for the shuttle and was beginning to think that I would have to get a taxi.  The only trouble was that most of the taxis were just little motor scooters.  the passengers just hopped on the back and off they went!  But not me.  I didn’ fancy my chances on the back of a scooter, so I continued to wait and, at last, the bus turned up.  There was time to shake off the dust of the city and have a swim.  I chatted to an American woman who had, coincidentally, lived in North Yorkshire for some years.  I often seem to turn up an example of “What a small world!” when I am away.

After a day of adventurous living on my own, I was looking forward to an organised trip the next day – to the former royal palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

11th June 2005
Today we were taken to visit a local village, stopping on the way to buy gifts of tea and coffee and pencils and books for the children. One of the houses we saw had been originally built on stilts but walls had been built around the basement to form a ground floor resulting in a two storey house. We were taken to visit the lady of the house who had a new baby only 18 days old. The next house was still on stilts so we had to go upstairs to visit. There was a new baby here too, just 4 months old, plus a tiny girl of about 3 and a little boy of around 5. A small chicken was sitting on a shelf in the corner. We exchanged pleasantries with the people in each house, cooed over the babies and handed over our gifts. I also feel rather uncomfortable on these visits. They seem rather intrusive and I wonder if they are of benefit either the residents or the visitors.

It was extremely hot as we walked back to the bus. The same children that we had met when we arrived found us as we left so they came in for all the rest of our pencils and notebooks. How canny were they!

12th June 2005
Today was mostly noteworthy for the arrival of my pottery saucer which turned out fairly well and still sits on my window sill supporting a plant pot. Plus a major eating faux pas, during dinner when I was sampling the sushi and took a large dollop of what I took to be mashed avocado plus a small helping of pickle. I was wary of the pickle which turned out to be alright, but of course the “avocado” was actually wassabi and when I took a mouthful, it burned its way right down to my stomach. Phew! I could have breathed fire !!

13th June 2005
Today I ventured out on my own by bus to Kota Kinabalu Centre Point, a large shopping mall. It was just beginning to spot with rain as we arrived which was a sign of things to come! I did some shopping – you can never have too many handbags. I think I’d been around every shop at least twice when I found the basement and a store selling CDs where I bought a CD of Chinese orchestral music. Back on the bus at 4pm, we travelled back through a huge downpour which followed us all the way back to the Nexus.

After I made it back to my room there were some huge claps of thunder right overhead and lightning lit up the sky. I decided to film the downpour and, just as I opened my window, a huge lizard ran across the path into the pond opposite. Luckily it came out again and sat on the grass as I was filming. I had to stay inside the room to prevent the camera from stopping due to the condensation. The downpour went on for well over an hour and a half before it started to ease.

When the rain finally stopped, I went to the Penyu restaurant for a last dinner. It was Arabian night. I went to pay my bill,which was very much as I had calculated. I paid $18 in travellers cheques. The local currency, which is the Ringgit, is worth only about 14 p.

14th June 2005
I had my last breakfast at the Penyu and then a last bask by the pool before going to pack and trying to cram everything into my case, carry on and the new handbag. After lunch by the pool my bags were collected and then it was time to hand my key back. What a wonderful 10 days it had been! What a very special day I had visiting the beautiful orang-outans.

As I mentioned at the start of this holiday I then flew to Brunei. I don’t intend to say anything about that leg of my holiday as I don’t want to do anything to promote that country. Except I should say that the people who looked after me there were incredibly kind.