Going to Thailand? We took Cathy Airlines via Hong Kong. Great service going; wretched service coming back and someone stole my neck pillow.

The Thai are very polite; before you go, be sure to master a few key phases. Please (Karuna Kap) and thank you (Khap Kun Kap), of course, but one phrase sa wa dii kap also serves as hello, good morning, good to see you again.

If you must visit highly urban Central Thailand ("Bangkok is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car [or a motorbike]" and far too many of its 12 Million residents have) we recommend the Affordable Asia tour. We stayed in 5* hotels where available and visited all the tourist hotspots accompanied by a knowledgeable and caring guide. Alas, most destinations were visited during the heat of the day.

We recommend visits to Temple of Reclining Buddha, Summer Palace, Elephant Camp, and Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Low spots on AA tour were Coral Island and Gem factory.

Bangkok has 5* hotels, skyscrapers, giant multi-story shopping malls, a subway; it also has shanty towns.  Still, in some respects, it's just like home.







Our hotel was the Centara Grand At Central Plaza Ladprao, adjacent to the Central Shopping Mall and a short walk from the subway. Each of our three mornings in this hotel featured a huge buffet style breakfast. We made sure that it always included a build-your-own-noodle soup along with tropical fruit, Danish pastries, and many cups of the excellent Thai coffee.








Best way to get around Bangkok is the subway. It's tough on pedestrians










In Bangkok, musts are visits to the Temple of the Golden Buddha (the latter is worth an estimated $14Million) and The Reclining Buddha














We toured a monastery where Buddhist monks learned medicine and dispensed blessings.










We always came back exhausted from our midday excursions; on our second day in Bangkok, we took a brief nap, lay down at  two, but didn't get up again before seven. Then we went across from the hotel to the adjacent multi-story shopping mall, where we had build-it-yourself soup at a stall in the Tops supermarket.












The next day, we boarded a long-tailed speed boat, and made our way to the Damnern Saduak floating market.



Dorothy immediately purchased a dress having seemingly forgotten everything she was told by our guide about the need to bargain.  I determined to show her how it was done and soon found myself holding an attractive belt. "2000 baht," said a sales clerk appearing out of nowhere. I demurred and started to walk away; the clerk followed, turning the belt over to reveal it was a money belt and said "1900 baht."

"Mai kap," I said, a polite but firm no, and walked on.  She gripped my arm, "1500 baht."  I broke free and continued to walk away. She followed still clutching at my arm, still carrying the belt.  By this time, we were not only several stalls away but I'd actually stepped off one boat and stepped on to another. "1000 baht."  "Mai!" I replied, a no with no hint of politeness.  Still she followed. At the end of the corridor and almost at the gangplank to a third boat, she said, "200 baht."

A rapid calculation revealed this to be about $6 U.S.  Did I really need a second money belt regardless of how attractive it was? Money changed hands.










From the market, we went on to the River Kwai and the war cemetery. This visit was quite disturbing for the older Brits in our tour group as it brought back memories of lost relatives.








We took the optional elephant tour; Dorothy, a skilled rider, rode bareback; fortunately the elephant held her in place with her ears until she felt Dorothy was secure.

















The tour also included a raft ride down the river.  Though some of us felt the raft was unnecessary. 












A good night's sleep with a view of the river and a Buddhist temple.









And then we were off to tour the grounds of the Summer Palace in the blazing heat. Here I found inspiration for a novel.



Our hike through the park under the brutal sun wore me out completely.  I think I stayed asleep on the air-conditioned bus while Dorothy took a tour of the ruins at Wat  Phra Si Samphet left after a clash between Burmese and Thai forces in the 18th Century.   








We spent that night at the Krungsri River Hotel with its extensive grounds. Home alas to a zillion mosquitoes. One couple from our tour group found their room already occupied by a hundred or so.  We were more fortunate, though we kept our windows closed and drank only bottled water as instructed.


Helas, we left before we could enjoy the hotel's amenities as pictured here: 










Want to melt your partner's heart?  Just take her to the Tiger Zoo at Sriraj where we stopped on our way to Pattaya the next day

I wanted to watch the pigs race, but never got the chance . Too much happening at the zoo. 









We spent the next two nights in Pattaya--in two different rooms in the same hotel. Our first room had two windows with Bay views; one window faced a Russian nightclub.  We could have danced all night long--but as we wanted to sleep, we changed rooms. 






 The next day in Pattaya, we took a thoroughly undesirable trip to (No) Coral Island. No coral meant few fish; fins useless as water shallow in swimming area. Outside the area motor craft constantly threatened life and limb.

 Evening banquet back at hotel at which we consumed lobster after lobster and crab after crab partially made up for it.





Next day was a bus trip back to Bangkok and our original hotel and another bowl of soup at Tops Market. 








The following morning, we ate another enormous breakfast, idled the time away till checkout time, then took the subway to the train station. 

I'd booked us on a 2nd class berth to Phucket.  Big mistake. Slow, rattling, noisy and got in to station at three in the morning.  But we finally got to see jungle.






Were we in Phuket when our train trip ended? Not really; in fact, the bus to Phuket--a five hour journey--didn't leave till seven-thirty. No hotel or restaurant for miles. Tried sleeping on benches; guess it's an acquired ability.

The bus brought us to the Phuket Airport. We risked life and limb to cross the divided highway with our bags. But caught a taxi to Naitan Beach, our real destination. 

Even then, alas, we were told we were too early to check into our hotel. "Did we want a massage."  We went to the beach instead. Fortunately, it was high tide and we had our snorkeling gear with us. 








Was it a hotel or a massage parlor? anyway, they sold water and beer just across the street.












The air-conditioned hotel was a bargain at $47 a night and included the identical continental breakfast daily. Again, all hail Thai coffee.

The Russians (and Thailand swarms with Russian tourists and expats in both Naitan Beach and Pattaya) really go for white bread.






We stayed indoors in the air-conditioning most of the day, venturing forth only in the early morning and the evening.

In the morning, to buy fruit at an open market. In the evening across the street to a market where we bought water and beer and our evening meal.


But, alas, still with too little time in the water, we boarded a plane and headed home.