Well, we have reached the final full day of our incredible adventure. Tomorrow morning at 4 AM, we will be whisked to the Bangkok Airport for our flight home. I have seen pretty much all that I wanted to see in the city, so we have no definite plans for today, but we probably have some last-minute shopping to do before we leave.
Besides the unusual descriptions of the events of the day, I will reserve today’s blog for some random observations and opinions as a kind of recap of our entire trip. So let me start with some weather remarks. We were extremely fortunate throughout the trip with weather. From past experience, I know how much weather can affect the enjoyment of a place, not to mention its overall effect on attitude and tolerance. I can truthfully say that weather really did not hinder us at all. We had one rainy morning in Beijing (when we took the pedi-cab through the Hutong), but there was not much sight-seeing scheduled for that day since we were flying to Shanghai in the afternoon. Our day in Hong Kong during which we visited the Po Lin Buddha was miserable-looking with light rain and fog, but things cleared a bit when we reached the Buddha so that we were able to take pictures and enjoy the location. We did have to scrub our planned funicular ride to the Peak at night because the fog and mist were too thick, but that was our only concession to the weather gods. It poured several times when we were in Bangkok, but we were either inside, having dinner or asleep — otherwise the weather here was spectacular, although extremely hot and humid.
Next, a few words about group travel. I was nervous about the idea of a group tour because I have never traveled that way; I always designed and orchestrated my own trips. Plus, when I examined the itinerary, I was disappointed that several "must-sees" seemed to be omitted and yet there were an excessive number of trips to "factories," to "learn about the process of making items characteristic of the area" (in other words, to shop).
Well, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the group travel experience. In each location, we were provided with a Local Guide who was well-versed in the culture and knowledgeable about the sights of the area. Some were a bit difficult to understand (English is not their native language) but all were adequate and increased our enjoyment of the attractions with their information and willingness to answer our questions. I was content to let someone else lead and take responsibility for the group’s welfare, yet there were a few times (especially in Hong Kong and Bangkok where there were short group agendas) when I led a few of us on a side trip or when I left the group completely to explore some places on my own. In conclusion, the only real detriment on this trip were the factory tours and the girls seemed to relish them. The other very positive (or negative, I suppose) aspect of group travel is the comaraderie of the group that seems to develop over the length of the trip. Our group turned out to be great! Everyone got along well and we seemed to settle into particular roles, which was interesting. The beauty of this group was its size — only ten (10) at its largest. We heard some horror stories from people we met in various hotels about their huge groups (30 – 50) and we could only imagine how that would have affected our enjoyment of the trip and the time spent in each place (think about how long it would take for 40 people to go to the bathroom).
The personalities of the group are also very important, and again, we were lucky. Everyone was fairly flexible and pleasant and accomodating. The possibly ramifications of the effects of bitchy or overbearing people could prove horrendous, or at least unpleasant.
Another random discussion: Lee and I have been collecting pins from our travels for many years. We have hundreds of them from all over the world. However, it proved very difficult to find pins in this part of Asia. The only places where we found a few were Beijing and Hong Kong. I still have not found pins in Bangkok, although I will look a little harder today, our last day. Obviously, pins are more a European and American phenomenon. Perhaps some enterprising person will start the trend here in the Far East.
Fruits of Thailand – We were introduced to several fruits here that we have never or seldom seen before. Here are a few of them: Durian – a strange-looking large globular fruit with large spines (we didn’t try this because the hotels don’t stock it since it smells horribly); Jack Fruit – the bright yellow interiors are edible but not extremely tasty; Longan – small brown relatives of the Lychee, the creamy white almost transparent interiors are very tasty; Mangosteen – resembles a squat apple with leaves at the base of the stem. The white interiors are delicious; Rambutan – the most unusual-looking fruit of all, its rind is red and very hairy but the white fruit inside is wonderful; Rose Apple – looks more like a pear, but the fruits has no particular taste.
Finally, a very special wish:
HAPPY 8TH BIRTHDAY, ZACHERY from Nanny and Pop-Pop with lots of kisses and hugs and loves!