}
All Thailand Experiences

All Thailand Experiences Thailand Photo Journal Away From the Tourist Crowds

  • Chedi Luang Temple during our Chiang Mai Thailand city tour Chedi Luang Temple, Chiang Mai Chedi Luang Temple during our Chiang Mai Thailand city tour
  • Mountain village during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour Mountain village Mountain village
  • Flower festival Parade Chiang Mai Thailand Flower festival Parade Flower festival Parade Chiang Mai Thailand
  • Monks receiving Alms during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour Monks receiving Alms during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour
  • Visiting an Akha hill tribe home during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour Visiting an Akha hill tribe home during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour Visiting an Akha hill tribe home during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour
  • Early morning in a Lahu village during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand trekking tour Early morning in a Lahu village Early morning in a Lahu village during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand trekking tour
  • Happy Lahu hill tribe children during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand trekking tour Happy Lahu hill tribe children Happy Lahu hill tribe children during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand trekking tour
  • Learning to weave in a Karen hill tribe village Learning to weave in a Karen hill tribe village Learning to weave in a Karen hill tribe village during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Mountain View during our national park Thailand trekking tour Mountain View during our national park Thailand trekking tour Mountain View during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Family visiting hill tribes during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour Family visiting hill tribes during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour Family visiting hill tribes during our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Thailand tour
  • Rice field view bungalows during our national park Thailand tour Rice field view bungalows during our national park Thailand tour
  • Waterfall during our national park Thailand trekking tour Waterfall during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang mai Doi Suthep Temple during our Chiang Mai Thailand city tour
  • waterfall while trekking near Chiang Mai waterfall at Doi Inthanon National Park during our national park Thailand tour
  • Khom Loi Release Loi Krathong "Yee Ping" Festival Chiang Mai Thailand Khom Loi Release Loi Krathong "Yee Ping" Festival Chiang Mai Thailand
  • Loi Krathong Festival Chiang Mai Thailand Loi Krathong Festival Chiang Mai
  • Thai New Year or Songkran Chiang Mai Thailand Thai New Year or Songkran Chiang Mai Thailand
  • View from Tiger Head Mountainl during our national park Thailand trekking tour View from Tiger Head Mountainl during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Using hand tractor in hill tribe villagel during our national park Thailand trekking tour Using hand tractor in hill tribe village l during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Helping hill tribe villagers plant ricel during our national park Thailand tour Helping hill tribe villagers plant rice during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Cloud forest mountain topl during our national park Thailand trekking tour Cloud forest mountain topl during our national park Thailand trekking tour
  • Fish farm in Karen Hill tribe villagel during our national park Thailand tour Fish farm in Karen Hill tribe villagel during our national park Thailand tour
  • Visiting Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital during our Chiang Mai and Lampang Thailand tour Visiting Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital Visiting Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital during our Chiang Mai and Lampang Thailand tour
  • Bungalow in Nationl Park during our national park Thailand tour Bungalow in Nationl Park during our national park Thailand tour Bungalow in Nationl Park during our national park Thailand tour
"An incredible 2 day experience"
robsK7379HK, Vancouver, Canada
"real thailand -not made up for tourists"
Christine_madrid2014, Madrid, Spain
Tours HOME Adventures

Robert , Heather and Henry Craig toured East, then North, then West Thailand with All Thailand Experiences.

They covered, in depth that huge area known as "Northern Thailand", which is seldom visited by tourists, who, overwhelmingly, prefer to flock to the sun, beaches and water sports of Phuket, etc, in the southern tail. Here are our photos listd by area, location and city.


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Thailand, an extraordinary experience

Thailand photo tour covering, in depth, East, Central and Northern Thailand.

Click on the underlined text or thunbnail photo to go to the image and story page.


About Our Thailand Trip
Myself, Robert, aged 82 in wheelchair, accompanied by my very fit wife, Heather (age 76) and brother, Dr Henry (77), from Ireland, set off at dawn on 28th December 2008 from Manchester, to explore that part of Thailand largely unvisited by tens of thousands of annual British tourists. We took a deluxe minibus, plus Thai driver and two Thai Guide/Interpreters, travelling over 7,000 miles, in 8 weeks, staying at the "best available" hotels in each area.

The whole trip was arranged on the internet, without any telephone contact, through a virtually "one man" Thai internet company All Thailand Experiences founded and owned by a 60-year old ex-Texan, Randy Gaudet, who had fallen in love with S E Asia following national service in Vietnam, then married a Thai girl and lived the past 20 years in Thailand. His organisation, helped by manager Nui (who accompanied us) was imaginative and superb - Randy put together a great team; the six of us had much amusement in our spacious "van" as we traveled for many hours between stops (each stop was usually of 2 to 4 nights). My wife (soon nicknamed "Professor Heather") had great fun teaching our Thai guests idiomatic phrases, while my brother chipped in with stiff riddles and some apt proverbs.

We toured East, then North, then West from Bangkok, covering, in depth that huge area known as "Northern Thailand", which is seldom visited by European tourists, who, overwhelmingly, prefer to flock to the sun, beaches and water sports of Phuket, etc, in the remote southern tail. My brother and I are keen photographers, both use SLR Canon cameras. On this trip I mainly used a 28mm-300mm long focus lens, a bit of a monster, but no problem while using the wheelchair.

We have travelled previously on similar trips in China (including Tibet), India, Russia, Ecuador and many other countries, but have not before seen the extraordinary variety of interests of Northern Thailand My normal catch would be 300-400 photo, but on this trip I took over 1200. NOTE - the descriptive notes, relating to the photo.

29th December - Arrive Bangkok, 7.30am


Warm welcome at Oriental Hotel by Nui (Manager with All Thailand Experiences) and our first guide, Nok.

30th December - Our first real day in Bangkok.

(together with previous page)
Nok, our guide, takes us to market and we meet Thai people, See some strange foods, moved around in a variety of ways. Off to lunch at Asia's largest Fish Restaurant. (500 tables; food counter is a staggering 50m long). Some fish are very fresh. In all, an incredible range, including Alaska King Crab and Maine Lobster, but Heather prefers the vegetables. Its only 1.30pm, yet the vast restaurant is almost empty. That afternoon we go shopping. I purchase a tailor made jacket and trousers, delivered to hotel in 54 hours.

31st December - Drive into the country, to visit a Lotus Farm.

Seen, en route - field of rice; local family; man with dog; strange fruit. Later we cross a canal (with boats) and finally reach the Lotus Farm, where the flowers, in bud, are being harvested for sale in the Bangkok market. There are other flowers every where, and Nui is hidden amongst them. The Lotus Lake is full of strange fish, which Henry, my brother, photographs. On way home there is a field of birds. Later we stop at a splendid riverside restaurant, where a lady comes alongside, offering tempting extras. Later we see the famous Standing Buddha and admire the fine Topiary, back at the Oriental Hotel.

NEW YEAR EVE - Dinner, under the stars, at Oriental Riverside Restaurant - fabulous fireworks.

There is a great party atmosphere, all wear masks and top hats. Precisely at Midnight, the famous - Internationally Televised Fireworks, over the River, commence. All seem to enjoy themselves. The fireworks continue, with great intensity, for about 30 minutes. Finally it is time for bed.

1st January 2009 - Visit the Royal Palace, Bangkok

(together with previous page)
New Year's Day, so Palace is packed. Nui has brought 2 wheel chairs - a reluctant Heather is put in one. The Palace is magnificent, Nui keeps Heather informed - there are some fearsome men, and more lurking in the Topiary - then a final look, and off to the hotel, on the way we pass a large Buddha display, at a shop front, on the roadside.

2nd to 6th January - Travelling east from Bangkok to Ubonratchathani

See a field of storks, en route, then visit an Italian vineyard, where we have a fine Italian lunch with our new guide, Nan, who replaces, Nok, for this sector. Then off to explore; see sunflowers en mass, and some plants that Heather has not seen before. Next is the scenic Lotus Pond and related photographing, including "Heather lost in the Rushes". Another uncommon plant, then final a farewell to the vineyard. A roadside stop, to buy some pears, then proceed for a rather special lunch (lobster for me). A helpful young lady fits a bib but, mistakenly, thinks I would also like a kiss. en route; is an eye catching roadside shop display. The eye-boggling Mushroom Rocks of Ubon (read: "1000 things to See before you Die"). Spectacular views of the Mekong River from our hotel room. Nui presents Heather with a lovely Bird Drawing, done by herself on the journey from Bangkok.

7th and 8th January, still at Ubon (total of 4 nights at Tohsang Khongjiam Resort)

Early start - 6.03 to 6.29am photos of sunrise over Moon River, at its junction with the Mekong. Market at 6.42 am. Nui, has previously arranged for the "Presentation of Alms" to Monks. So she now purchases huge quantity and variety of delightful foodstuffs. Sadly, only Chief Monk comes. After filling his bowl to overflowing, several times, we are given a solemn Blessing. At 10.55, visit school on the banks of the Mekong; warm welcome; Heather quickly makes friends and is soon deeply involved. Provokes strong objections as she deliberately makes a wrong move. Nui has brought "Prizes for all" (c.200 pupils; well over 200 items, incl. Toothbrushes, etc, etc) Handing over the Presents, ceremony, under Teacher's watchful eye. School reassembles to say "thank you and goodbye"; we leave them for their lunch. Nui finds another splendid place for our lunch, magnificent views; photogenic buffalo nearby. Next day, we see latest fashions outside local shop; some fine basketwork and a Thai Philosopher. More market scenes, including "Dr Henry, as the popular Children's Photographer". We peep at a crossing to Laos, returning to see more of the famous, intricate Ubon Basketwork. More Ubon specialities - Jars of Pickles and Sacks of Charcoal. The ubiquitous Thai version of the UK "wheelie-bin".

9th to 12th January at Mukdahan, on the banks of the Mekong River, 4 nights at Ploy Palace Hotel.

Visit to extraordinary Temple - impressive decor; fierce Eagle; enormous natural wood art pieces Visit to Tesco; photogenic cattle en route. Henry replenishes our wine cellar, but choice is limited. Father Christmas is still around. Now 9th January, 4 days after he should have been back in Lapland! Bizarre Rock formations in Mukdahan National Park (a many millions year old, dried up seabed). Today we have a great adventure. Henry and Nan get lost in the Park and Nui has to send out the Rangers with a huge, high power, electric megaphone. The pair of them left at 10.30am and were due back, to leave for lunch at 12.30. Instead we receive a panic mobile call at 12.15, saying they are completely lost, going round in circles, and asking for a helicopter (they are told one has to break a leg, to get this!). The Rangers eventually bring them in at 3.30pm. In the meantime the rest of us remain stranded, in a vast Coach Park. However, Nui, the ever resourceful improviser, manages splendidly by shopping for a wide variety of fresh produce in a local market and arranging for them to be cooked at a tiny cafe, on the corner of the Coach Park. Taeck brings a bottle of wine and glasses from the van and we have a great meal - one of our best! First of many Sugar Cane Trucks. This one, being neatly stacked and securely tied, passes inspection On the 11th, we climbed a tall Observation Tower, providing great views of Laos and the Mekong, A small exhibition is on the ground floor, plus a pebble "Foot Massage", which is free of charge! We then visited the majestic "Friendship Bridge No.2", linking Thailand to Laos. Nearby is the famous "Riverside" restaurant. Boats & flowers alongside, and a sumptuous lunch. Later, at the Riverside Markets, we see men selling sacks of garlic and colourful feather dusters. Our suite at the Ploy Palace Hotel even has an exercise bicycle. Heather takes a final ride.

13 - 14th Jan. at Nong Khai, for border crossing to Laos and visit to nearby Laos Capital, Vientiane

Warning! Lopsided load on a Sugar Cane Truck and Trailer, photographed through windscreen. We stop for coffee. Back on road "Disaster has struck". The gaffer looks on in dismay. It's a real mess, but help may be on its way. Another marvellous lunch at an idyllic restaurant, so many new dishes each day. Nui is a wonder! Heather takes Nan for a long walk. Henry and I examine the adjoining river-houses, popular for picnics, in the extreme heat of summer. Our big day in Laos don't worry, if you haven't a pen for the Visa Form, State will sell you one. Many Monks line up to cross into Laos. For our trip we have to change to a Laos vehicle. Here is our Laos Driver and youthful Guide. At Vientiane a VIP visitation is in progress, with many officials, on-lookers and police around. Soon the all-clear is given. Heather and Guide set off to explore the Temple. See fine plastic tube scaffolding. Wish we could take some back to UK, for overdue roof repairs. A man sells superb, instant digital camera prints, from a portable machine. Victory Gate and adjoining park. It's a lovely hot day; note colourful assortment of parasols. Heather admires an important sculptor and has a final look at the Temple. Have "Chinese" lunch, photo other tourists. On 10km trip back to border, see workers in fields.

15/16th January. Decide to break journey to Petchaboon,
with a one-night stop at Loei

It's a long journey. We pass an elephant, en route and stop for lunch at another splendid restaurant. Many Thai restaurants have no wine, so we carry our own, plus corkscrew, glasses and an ice-box. The Loei Hotel has a fine aviary - plus a knowledgeable young man to show us round. Also, there are some remarkable artefacts, mostly in the form of brightly coloured "Totem Poles".

16 - 18th January. Transfer to Petchaboon, for 2 nights

(together with previous page)
En route is another vineyard, but in rather poor condition; weeds and spots on the grapes, etc. Henry replenishes our wine stock. Also, on roadside, are a child's playground and a rose nursery. Next day sees we go to a scenic bamboo plantation. Before leaving on 18th, we visit the hotel's challenging "Adventure Centre". Heather shudders! Mostly the weather is perfect. Dry and comfortably warm, requiring "shirt only". However, on the higher ground, and in the evenings, it can become surprisingly chilly. In the above photo, Heather is trying out a heavy cardigan, which she bought the previous evening, in the hotel shop.

18 - 20th January. Transfer to Sukhothai for 3 nights

En route: scenic goats and a cottage industry - recycling old tyres for rubbish bins or garden chairs Heather samples a chair, which Nui buys, (lots more on the roadside). The Family Beauty appears. RICE FARMING: 9 photo, taken from roadside, show various machines preparing the land. Next day, we visit to a rather strange Temple - the 11 photo speak for themselves. Surely the World's largest Buddha??? Note the "miniature" people (and pigeons) in first photo. Visit to "Unique Gold" factory. (5 photo). Fine restaurant in another marvellous setting. Decorative soap for sale.(Heather shops for presents) Cotton picking.

21 - 22nd January. Transfer to Lampang (Town of Horses)
River Lodge Hotel for 2 nights

Two scenic snapshots. The guides (and we have 3 now) enjoy pushing me over the wobbly swing-bridge, to the hotel. Hotel cat. Lampang Horse-drawn Carriages take us to a Temple, popular with Art Students. Heather takes me and chair on a tour of hotel grounds. Gardener helps push me uphill.

23 - 24th Jan. Transfer to Chiang Rai, 4 nights at magnificently situated Golden Triangle Resort Hotel.

(first 2 days)
En route, as we climb into the mountains we see Monks, being dropped off from a truck, in pairs. They set off determinately, on a hike. Note bare feet on the tarmac. The scenery is fine. (9 photo) Visit an extraordinarily pretty Temple, built in white stone. An art gallery is attached. Nan and Heather lead way into hotel, to meet our attractive receptionist. Balcony views are stupendous - Thailand, Burma, Laos - all in one, thus name "Golden Triangle" In bye gone days the Golden Triangle was the centre of the rich opium trade. Now the borders are all but closed and the poppies gone. The only, currently approved border crossing is by foot or bicycle (no motorised vehicles allowed) across to the Burmese town of Tachilek. We go there today, hopefully picking up tut-tuts, on arrival, then going sight seeing till dusk. We are told there is a strong Chinese influence in the town. First impressions of a busy border crossing - visa queue, carry plenty, take dog in wheelchair. All must have paperwork. But is ours correct? Apprehensive moments; finally we are through, Many Monks, also a vast assortment of pedal-powered vehicles, including Taeck with my chair. Motor traffic resumes. These cheery chaps give us a friendly welcome.

24 Jan. Inside Burma, Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai Thailand.

(2nd day)
Depart in tut-tuts to the "Temple on the Hill", overlooking the town. Stunning Buddha display. Sold bird in a cage, to enjoy giving it freedom! Onlookers enjoy our attempts to photo its escape! Next, the Chinese Temple - fine lanterns, fierce animals, smiling Buddha, fish and a group photo. Back to town for a mediocre Chinese lunch. (Told we will not enjoy Burmese food, very greasy!). Marvels! CHINESE NEW YEAR FUN FAIR complete with "May Pole" is in town. Finally, back to Thailand. Note change from red Burma flags to Thai tricolour, at Border Line. This load should win first prize - the tyres are almost flat! On Thai side is a street of Chinese shops selling expensive artefacts. Henry buys a Buddha. Later, en route to hotel, we see huge Buddha being manufactured in an open air factory.

25 Jan. Trip to Laos - Golden Triangle - Chiang Rai

(Day 3)
"Unofficial" visit to Laos. Breakfast is on our veranda we then take a small boat across to Laos. An enormous "Buddha on a Boat" greets us, as we approach the river. Girls sell tasty sugar cane, while children in National Dress, offer to "Sing a Song for Sixpence". A variety of small boats make the crossing. On the Laos side one has to clamber up a steep bank. See the new Casino, built on Burma/Thailand "No-man's Land"; and now a Mecca for Thai gamblers. At top of the bank is a shed-like building, selling bottles with miniature cobra, preserved in whisky A well caged mynah bird bids us farewell. In this remote part of Laos, there are no officials about, hence one enters without a visa. The local custom of preserving reptiles in spirits dates back to the 19th Century, being referred to by the famous Scots Botanist, George Forrest, as seen on his 1904 tour. The bottles, with snake cost just £5 each, so making interesting presents to take home. Remote, yes, but even here in Laos there are the ubiquitous tall telecom towers, mentioned previously as being peppered all over the Thai landscape. Have splendid evening meal at riverside restaurant - more strange fish and an attractive plantation. Sunset, and so to bed.

26 Jan. Doi Tung Gardens between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai in the mountains, once home of the King's mother.

Another day dawns - it's a long road when repairs have to be done by hand. RICE FARMING a series of 8 photo, taken from the roadside, near Chiang Rai. A modern housing development. That long, straight road, again.(Colour cast due to photo being taken through tinted glass wind screen) Arrive at famous Doi Tung Gardens - can you guess which girl has set up the camera? Small queue, then we meet a friendly Gardner, who helps push my chair up the steeper slopes. Amazing photos: a galaxy of colour, magnificent landscapes, interesting artefacts and people. It is quite extraordinary to the UK visitor to see normal British Spring, Summer and Autumn flowers, all out on a single Winter's day, in such profusion and in such perfect weather.

27th January. Transfer to Doi Angkang Nature Reserve,
for one night

Three Landscape photo (Flat fields, Mountains rising out of them in the distance) Strawberry and strawberry wine sales; from identical booth after booth, as far as the eye can see. Small roadside market. Includes many offerings of roast chestnuts. Prefer our spacious van, cleaned and polished daily by Taeck, to this double-decker with Gold Plated Nuts FARM SCENES, including people at work in fields, long eared cattle, and buffalo. Natural hot springs (letting off steam), plus the only known Catholic Church in the region. Hill Tribe Village (near roadside, heavily commercialised, much better seen later) - photos. Landscape and other photos, taken on the stiff climb to the Doi Ankang Nature Reserve. Tour of the Nature Reserve. A multitude of flowers, include the "heroin" poppy. Ancient orchards. Some old trees have orchids growing on them.

28th January. One night stop at Pai

Country scenes including herd of cattle, elephants and a farmyard. Holiday campsite, including a "take-away" food stall. Heather has discussions with Nan and Nok, before we set off. Another cottage industry - collecting river pebbles for sale. Also, buffalo in nearby field. "Magic Water" Temple; bowl magically refills as plastic bottles (provided) are filled and removed Visit to Chinese village. New Year festival is in full swing. Speeches and games. At a "Viewpoint" stop, we meet an ex-pat Yorkshire man, with valuable dogs. Troupe of Thai girl guides stops on roadside to practice "orienteering" (use of compass, etc). A mountain fire, workers in rice fields and mountain scenery.

29 - 31st January. Three nights at Fern Hotel, Mae Hong Son

(29 Jan and Morning Jan. 30)
Stop for an elephant ride. Our Mahout trains Nok and Heather to feed the animal. Only Henry wants a ride. Price is same for two as one so Nok is coerced into riding. She"s terrified!!! In the jungle, nearby, is a Hill Tribe Village. This girl, a university graduate, speaks perfect English. A typical villager. She brings in money too, distilling "illicit" whisky the traditional way, starting with rice grain. Another of her village team, is in charge of fuelling the stills. Heather volunteers on the Cross-saw. Other interesting money-spinners are the Poultry, hatched the traditional way, and the black pigs; liked by Churchill because they looked him straight in the eye. [Dogs looked up and cats down]. What's this? (Sorry, I wasn't listening). But the girl failed with the children's toys which, by popular demand, had to be 21st Century. Farmers trying to catch fish, apparently without much success. But fish were stumbling over themselves at the nearby Fish Temple. At 6.10am: a commercialised "giving of alms" (Alms ready packaged to buy from adjacent table). Heather is deeply concerned to see boys, so young, entrapped in a religious order. It is in a busy market. A hugely popular stall, selling orchid plants, has the ladies all but fighting. Morning mist at the Temple. Nok purchases an attractive, ready-made display, for the Monks. Tree laden with golden leaves. Put your name on a leaf, it may be drawn in the lottery for eternal life.

29 - 31st January. Three nights at Fern Hotel, Mae Hong Sorn

(30 Jan afternoon and evening)
French Researcher, in 1995 discovered a perfect natural hot mud-bath, with medicinal properties. The price is high (£1.20 each!) but I pay for a "facial" for both Nan and Nok. Horrific results, each has lost 10 years!!! (There is only one other similar spa in the world). Collecting leaves, for thatching. Then back to Fern Hotel, and it is still only 9.50am. Manager lays his finger on overhanging branch, at spot Henry hit, with his forehead, last night. It seems that the others, without me, had gone the previous evening to a display of Chinese Hot Air Balloon flying at the Temple on the Hill. Coming back to the Fern Hotel in the dark, Henry had hit his head on this forked branch, which overhangs the pathway to our lodges. Blood poured out. No help was about; so Heather rushed to Reception, but it was unmanned. However there was a huge gong. She proceeded to beat the life out of.it. Within seconds the Manager arrived and, on seeing the Henry's blood, became extremely agitated; hopped about, sweated profusely and wanted an ambulance immediately to take Henry to hospital. Henry told him he, himself, was a doctor and wasn't going to any hospital. With difficulty the Manager was calmed. Heather worried about the blood getting on Henry's jersey. The next day Henry asked that the branch be removed. The Manager readily agreed in principle but said he couldn't do so without an official letter of complaint, to forward to the hotel owner, who lived in Taiwan. It was suggested that a letter from our Tour Company, saying they would no longer use the Fern Hotel till the branch was removed, would suffice!!! Passed great mountain scenery, then saw 4 boys having a picnic; Three throw a net to catch lunch.

1st February. One night at a hotel near Pai

Experiment at hotel with two Chinese Balloons, which Henry purchased the previous evening. See groundnuts and coconuts, growing in the hotel grounds. after a scenic (bridge over river) stop for coffee, and a Buddha, we approach a place called "HOT" Then a super fine lunch and Temple with yet another unique feature "name writing on stakes".

2nd February. One night at Doi Inthanon
(for Hua Namdung National Park)

Bird Watchers Mecca - a hotel guest book entry, claimed 34 different - I managed just three! flora, include "treasured in UK" white rhododendron, growing wild as recorded by George Forrest. Nok reaches highest spot in Thailand and we see a fine waterfall. Below are many "plastic greenhouses", displaying a crop of chrysthananum. a tour of the adjacent beautiful gardens. Young children encourage Heather, against her better judgement, to buy a bunch of flowers.

3rd - 7th February, at Luxurious Chedi Hotel, Chiang Mai (4 nights)

Another lovely temple. The magnificent plastic scaffolding again makes us envious. Wood Carving Factory (One of the highlights of our visit to Thailand).We like the first gentleman. See exquisite elephants, in various woods and sizes, plus an amazing Cocktail Cabinet, and more. We sit, contemplating what to buy. Henry's eye lights on a charming Thai lady - he jumps up to purchase, lest Heather forestall him. We buy that Thai gentleman, a lovely electric lamp (with a supply of bulbs to last over 50 years!) and a bird. Prices are reasonable, considering the high quality of the carvings, and that they include transport to the UK. However this only means fob Southampton. Unloading, insurance, customs clearance and VAT, plus delivery to our roadside kerb (in a vehicle with a "tail-lif"), add about 30%. Nevertheless we are well pleased with all our purchases. A brief stop at Chiang Mai railway station. Warm welcome to the Chiang Mai Gala Dinner for Overseas Visitors. (Heather likes the bicycle!) Nui and the charming, Ning - an important player in the history of the company All Thailand Experiences. A merry crowd leaving the Gala Dinner, set off Hot Air Balloons.

Another big day - The Chiang Mai Flower Festival.

We arrive early, before the crowds. Then come the first of many splendid Floats; the Bands, and Car Parade. Note Union Jack, it's a fine British "Morris 8", then an American guzzler and German Mercedes. Randy - adventurer, founder and director of the whole tour operation, videos the parade. Taeck, our driver, man in a million, quick to spot good photo opportunities and stop accordingly. The parade continues. This fat man, repeatedly impairs Randy's view. He receives a stunning rebuke!!! The parade still continues. Planting of RICE SEEDLINGS - many hands make light work. (10 photo).

Burmese shacks

7 - 8th February, Transfer to Mae Sot, the Westermost point in Thailand. (2 nights)

Border with Burma. Burmese are allowed onto wall but not allowed to cross railings to Thailand. This young man can look back at the Burmese shack encampments, or can look along the wall at his fellow country folk, selling anything a buyer can be found for. But if he attempts to go forward, he will immediately be detained, by one of the many soldiers, as he descends into Thailand.
Mae Sot is an important staging post for International Relief Workers to Burma. Many stay in our hotel. Burmese encampments. Note cottage industry "Growing Orchid Plants on tree stumps". Burmese vendors - "You don't smoke? But you may like these?" There are all-sorts on the wall, and many Thai soldiers on this side. The soldiers are heavily armed, many are young conscripts. All are pleased to chat to visitors. AMAZING FIND - a UK style wheelie bin - perhaps all ours are made in Thailand? Nearby Burmese carvings are on sale. Bedroom view from our rather Westernised Hotel.

7 headed buddha

9 - 10th February, Transfer to Uthai Thani for 2 nights

See eye-boggling 7-headed Buddha, in a magnificent hill setting. Modes of transport, nearly a murder, market with masses of garlic and HARD BOILED EGGS. Orchid PLANTS for sale. RICE FIELD SCENERY We approach the EXTRAORDINARY BAT EXODUS territory, guarded by monkeys. Lady sells nut - but cheeky monkey jumps, and snatches whole bag from Nui's hand. Many more monkeys, looking a bit like rats. King Monkey, amongst the rice fields. Mountain rock caves, where the bats live, in background.

Bat Exodus Uthai Thani

Evening 9 Feb. Bat Exodus Uthai Thani

Dusk approaches, we wait apprehensively for the great BAT EXODUS, are we at the right Place? Magically the GREAT EXODUS commences - wave, upon wave, pass overhead. A lone roadside vendor offers huge, barbecued, Rice Field Mice (look more like rats). These animals are a serious pest, destroying a significant part of the rice crop annually. The Government offers a "Dead or Alive" bounty, so the vendor is not too worried whether he sells to us, or not. More roadside sales of lovely Orchid Plants. The poultry have a lovely Dust Bath. A market, includes latest fashions!

Straw Bird FestivalUthai Thani Thailand Feb 10th Straw Bird Festival and out hotel Uthai Thani Thailand
Big day - Straw Bird Festival. Birds of many breeds constructed from Rice Straw, and varnished. These Penguin Displays won 1st Prize. Straw for construction. Bird artists prefer live model, in basket coop. Otherwise use colour photo. A New Invention - Machine to mechanically PLANT RICE SEEDLINGS, precisely spaced!!! Grown rice plants; other machinery exhibits; and a monk visits. Closer examination of how the Bird Artists make the Straw Birds. (10 photos). Another bird lurks on a street corner. Two more great motor loads. Attractive Street Furniture. Reach our hotel; some stunning topiary, lifelike statues, many elephants and an orchid in a tree. Make a tour of the hotel - a monolithic structure of a bygone era - but with a quaint charm.

Henry at Tiger Temple

11 - 13th Transfer to River Kwai Transfer to River Kwai Kanchanaburi Thailand and visit "The Tiger Temple"

Uthai Thani exit has mile upon mile of dual carriageway with a magnificent central floral display. Entering Sugar Cane country, many heavily loaded trucks - some not so well balanced. Other forms of transport too. Sugar Cane Plant comes in sight - queue upon queue of laden trucks reaching their destination. In the heat of the mid-day sun, Nui and Heather have a quiet chat.. A strange plant is found. Taeck stops for a herd of long eared cattle (not much meat on them). A common way of getting from A to B. At hotel, a lovely, pink and white, flowering tree. Kwai River is just a few metre from our room. Overnight, the guides discover a Sugar Plantation, adjoining our hotel. Work is in full swing. Gaffer, in charge of the truck, declares it is time for tea. But there is no break for the cane cutters. Day of the Tigers. Long and difficult wheelchair trek, through nature reserve, see a few animals. Eventually a Tiger is seen - my chair, may provoke a reaction, so is not allowed closer than 100 metre With 300mm lens, and blow-up, I photo feeding of tigers with milk, from bottles with teets!!! Henry weighs up situation, it's his turn to sit beside the King Tiger, and give it a cuddle. All goes well but Nok, using Henry's camera, misses the key photo, Person, following Henry, provokes an incident (see below). Tiger is led away in disgrace, by a Monk. A general exodus follows (includes some cubs), all closely supervised by the pink shirted minders.

The story of the Tiger Temple is an amazing one, everything is done to keep the tigers "tame", feeding on milk, etc. However some things will provoke them, for example bright colours. So, at the far entrance to the reserve there are two "bouncers" who, without argument, reject any visitor wearing bright colours, especially red. We witnessed several irate ladies from a coach being so treated. I reckon we were lucky to get the chair through, even though the 100m rule was strictly enforced.

Now for the story - immediately after Henry there came a very tall, American lady, dressed from head to toe in a snow white pyjama suit and well perfumed. As she manoeuvred to sit beside the tiger he turned abruptly, with a grin and a growl and laid his paw on her. She was very startled, completely terrified and fell over backwards - the ever present pink shirted minders rushed in to lift her away. I must say my sympathy was with the tiger; as two of the female minders, then subjected him to a most humiliating, 10 minute scolding. The session was abandoned.

An over abundance of power lines can spoil the photo, even in remote regions.


Train on the bridge over the river Kwai

12th Feb. Allied Forces War Cemetery
and "The Bridge on the River Kwai"

Allied Forces 1939 - 45 War Cemetery. Everything is kept in perfect order. Guided tours are available. A true chameleon, shows his colours. Night falls over the spot where we have breakfast each morning. THE BRIDGE is just 900 metre up river. Sightseers on the bridge and the floating restaurant where we are to have lunch. Eventually the train comes. It only runs some tens of kilometre, into the jungle bordering Burma. The Jeath War Museum, relates to Japanese use of Prisoners of War for construction work on the bridge. One of the many excellent coffee stalls, throughout Thailand. I sit for an hour taking photo. Henry talks to a Monk; a pigeon watches; see "3 on a bike" (My ambition is to photo "5 on a bike"). Variety of street scenery. Includes a very young working Monk, while his elders shop window shop. Finally, success - "FIVE on a BIKE". Henry tells me about his conversation with the Monk. A last look at the Death Railway and one of the locomotives that used to operate on it. Rural scenes. Our hotel has an unusual feature to remember it by - all the grounds are fenced by old wagon wheels! Sunset over the River Kwai.

The beach at Hua Hin

14 - 17th February. 4 nights at the Beach Resort of Hua Hin

A peaceful early morning, but then tragedy strikes - another overturned sugar cane truck. We ask to visit a rice mill. Nui makes an impromptu stop and, appropriately dressed, chats up the Manager. He is totally charmed. Invites us in and personally gives us a thorough tour. He's lovely man. We are presented with a sack of rice. Nui has in mind to take it to the Temple, but Taeck has other ideas. The Manager invites us to his office. It is Valentine's Day, and he has a magnificent bowl of red roses. We are each given a red rose. Nui takes our photo. At our hotel in Hua Hin. Nui ensures that our 3 Roses, along with my book, are removed from the van. View of a warship, from our splendid room in the Marriott. More photo from the Marriott. Visit an Art Gallery. The artist, with some of his work illustrated in a book. Henry buys a cat, so a photo-call Station at Hua Hin, nearest good Beach Resort to Bangkok. Royal Family used to be frequent visitors. Consequently this house was built on the platform, so that they could await their train, in comfort. Locomotive used to bring them from/to Bangkok. Monstrous Black Monk. Arguably the largest in the World??? (Note size of people, seated below). A Monk, a policeman and a lucky Double Headed elephant. Heroes of the past. And a bird. Lunch at a vineyard. Unique feature - one can have an elephant ride around the estate. Farming pineapples. Splendid view of Hua Hin beach, as we have our final al fresco dinner, at the Italian Restaurant, in the Marriott.

Postscript:

THE FOOD

Nui's ability to find superbly situated restaurants, offering an amazing variety of delicious food, was quite remarkable. Egged on by myself, at the end of the first 3 weeks, we estimated we had sampled over 60 different magnificent dishes. Normally the three Thai and three British sat at different, but adjoining, tables. 8. We would trade dishes between, thus having a huge and varied banquet. Henry or I paid for all six. The bill (excluding any alcohol) rarely came to more than £20, and that mostly included a "doggie bag" of bits for Taeck's supper.

THE ACCOMMODATION

Hotels were all spotlessly clean and well equipped (except with alcohol, which was patchy). Staff were astonishingly friendly and helpful. The food, as might be expected, was fine for breakfast but, for other meals ran a poor second, compared to the splendid neighbourhood restaurants. Every hotel we stayed in was different, in one way, or another (ie no standardised hotel chains, as we have in the West). Many hotels went to extreme lengths to provide a unique feature, that guests would remember them by for many years-for example, rooms all have a magnificent "view of the Mekong River"; splendid gardens with superb Topiary displays and "99 Elephants"; dangerous looking Adventure Park with high level jumps; all fencing made from old wagon wheels, on bank of the River Kwai; fine, well stocked aviary and landscaped gardens with colourful "totem poles"; attractive water features, including water driven artefacts that go "Nock-Nock-Nock…..on a 24/7 basis", and many others. We stayed in "7 star"; down to "2 star" establishments, and enjoyed them all.

SUMMARY

We would like to Thank All our guides, (Nui, Nok, Nan and Ning) our driver (Taeck), Randy at All Thailand Experiences and all the lovely Thai people we met along the way. This was surely a wonderful holiday experience we will remember for a lifetime.
Edited by All Thailand Experiences

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