About 72 kilometers north of Bangkok is the city of Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was at one time the capital of Thailand and in its glory saw the reign of 33 kings from its palaces. Prepare to travel time here as you’ll visit structures built in the 14th century when the city was founded and progress into the 18th century when it was attacked by the Burmese and then abandoned. Getting there is easier than you can imagine. Taxis, buses, train and mini vans all offer easy transport to the city. Once in Ayutthaya tuks-tuks become the best way to get from one site to the other. The tuk-tuk drivers are usually pretty good at showing you cards with the different sites and can give you recommendations. Plan on spending the day here as there is a lot of ground to cover. Ayutthaya is usually hotter and wetter than Bangkok so plan accordingly. No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to this beautiful ancient city.
Today I turned 58. I woke up feeling no different from any other day. I got dressed and looked at myself in the mirror. I was looking for definite telltale sign that today I was older. I checked out the wrinkles as I put my make up on. Everything looked pretty much as it did the last week. My hair was showing a little grey in the roots, but nothing that wasn’t there yesterday or that a visit to the salon can’t fix. The guys took me to breakfast at a local restaurant. That’s where it hit me. I was going through the menu and wasn’t finding anything that really called out to me. Everything was either meat and eggs or huge portions that I would never finish. Finally on the last page I came across the perfect choice! A smaller portioned meal just right and wow it was like 2 bucks cheaper than the giant stack of food I was going to order. I look up to the top of the menu thinking its the kid’s meal section and that’s when I see “Senior Specials”followed by “55 years and older”. Thats when it really hits me…Not only do I qualify for the senior special but I have qualified for the last 3 years!
Sitting at breakfast was suddenly awkward . I was now questioning if I should return the two piece bathing suit I had just ordered for a more age appropriate one piece. Visions of my mom in her fifties suddenly hit my brain and for a brief minute I started to get that panicking feeling. I am 58 years old. I am a senior. I didn’t see a senior in the mirror this morning. Is that an age spot on my hand? Are these jeans too tight for a senior to wear? I look around and spot all the people I would consider “seniors”. That woman with the oatmeal and the toast by the window, she’s definitely a senior she’s like 70 or 80! That couple in that booth… they are someones grandparents, they are definitely seniors. The lady in the Christmas sweater with the silver hair…now she’s a senior. The waitress came back to our table with the coffee and asked me what I would like to order. I took a quick look at the senior specials and that stack of three pancakes I was going to order and suddenly choked a bit as I asked for the mountain of fruit filled crepes. They sucked! I am older but no wiser.
I spent my birthday on a beautiful beach in Ventura, California with my family. I enjoyed the warm sun on my face and got to enjoy breathing the fresh ocean air. We had a beautiful lunch together and drove up the coast. I am a very lucky lady who is living a pretty awesome life. I live with a wonderful man who I love. I have Bobo and HB and life is sweet. Ok so I am not a size 4 anymore, and yes I have to wear glasses to read. I am even considered a senior. My breakfast pity party was a short-lived event. Once the coffee woke me up I quit looking for age spots and proof that I don’t look a day older than I did yesterday when I was a senior of only 57 years of age. I am full of life and am always looking for another place to go explore. My life really is an adventure… In fact I think that next year I will do something really daring for my birthday like ordering that senior special!
This past October while in Bangkok we stumbled across a special spot. We’d just gotten back from Koh Samet and the weather in Bangkok was pretty unstable. One minute it was thunder and lightning then the next it was cloudy and misty. This particular afternoon it had just finished raining. We decided to venture out and explore regardless the possibility of more rain. We went out walking the neighborhood around Silom road and Decho Junction. We came across a Chinese cemetery. We couldn’t look inside as the whole front was closed off with corrugated metal that had been painted over with a drab forest green color. We had seen this cemetery sign so often walking in the area, but in all these years never bothered to look inside or even past those green walls.
The day was gray and wet. There was a fine mist falling on us as we walked down Si Lom Road. We decided to walk down Soi Sueksa Witthaya towards Sathon Rd. About halfway down the soi on our left we came upon a cemetery. We had never actually seen the inside of a cemetery in Thailand and I found myself really taken by this place. It was flooded from the recent rains and there was garbage floating among the tombs. But there was also this somber beauty to the place. Maybe it was the gloomy weather or the many homeless dogs who were perched on top of the tombs as if protecting them. I was actually teary eyed standing there thinking that this was the most peaceful and beautiful place. A couple of the tombs looked to have sunken a bit from time, rain and soft soil. They were darkened from all the dampness. More than a few were broken and photos of the deceased on tombs were now a bit faded and cracked. Even the large white chedi beside the fence had seen better days. But still this place was mesmerizing. It was far too flooded for us to venture inside and we really weren’t sure we’d be welcome to just invite ourselves in, So we stood outside and just enjoyed looking in through the wrought iron fence.
Once you actually look around you notice that the cemetery is filled with life. Soi dogs are everywhere here. On top of tombs and laying in alcoves of the monuments. Anyplace that is dry or offers shelter from the rain is home to one of these dogs. Puppies that look to be a couple of months old play atop stone carved tombs. So much life in this place of death. Soi dogs are dogs who just kind of belong to the street. You see them walking around the streets and alleys of the city. It seems as though every 7-11 store has at least one soi dog laying in front of its door. Maybe they like the AC hitting them whenever a customer enters or leaves the store. Often injured or lame and more times than not with puppies in tow, these dogs look like life has dealt them a bad deal.
The next day we returned to the same area to see if the cemetery was dry and to take a better look inside. Unfortunately the cemetery was still quite wet and muddy. A few feet further down the road at the entrance to the cemetery we saw an older man surrounded by soi dogs. Curtis noticed that the old man was calling the dogs and filling bowls with food. He struck up a conversation with the old man and learned that he “the old man” prepared food and brought it to the dogs every day. That he had been doing so for the last 35 years. The man patiently waited till the bowls were empty, then scooped them up and packed them up into a bag as the last puppy scampered back to its mother. All the dogs were walking back to their home in the flooded cemetery, where the tombs were their safety. Curtis asked if there were anyway he could help…The old gentleman replied, ” Yes, you should come and enjoy feeding the dogs yourself”. That was the perfect response. Every one of us can do more than just admire actions…we can act ourselves, which is more beneficial for all. I look forward to returning to that cemetery again soon. Hopefully this time it will be dry and we can go inside and explore the cemetery. And while we are there we can also enjoy feeding some dogs. Till then this old cemetery will just be a place that haunts my memories whenever its cloudy and gray out.
We first discovered Koh Samet in November of 2011. We went to Bangkok despite hearing of the flooding. The city was pretty beat up from the floods and the happy-go-lucky place we knew was now shuttered up and sand bagged. Our friend there suggested we get out of the city and head over to an Island off the eastern coast of Thailand. Koh Samet is a really cool little island that is also designated as a national park . To get there you can catch a bus in Bangkok or hire a taxi to drive you there. We have taken both and find the taxi a much faster and more convenient way to go, though the bus is considerably cheaper. The cost for a taxi from Bangkok to Ban Phe pier is between $50 to $70 dollars U.S. but keep in mind that it is a 2 to 2 and a half hour drive. A cab would cost me that from LAX to my home in SFV.
Once you get to Ban Phe you can either travel to the island by public ferry or speed boat. The ferry will set you back about $4.00 USD. The speed boat private will be about $ 50.00 USD. Sometimes you can share speed boats with other visitors for a discounted price. Mind you these prices are one way. Once at a resort, book your return through your hotel and you can save up to 50% on the return trip to the mainland. I like returning on the ferry, it gives me time to mourn my departure.
There are several great beaches on Koh Samet. Ao Wai is our personal favorite. It’s on the southeastern coast of the island and has a beautiful large white sand beach. There are several trees on the sand so shade is easy to find while still laying out at the beach. At the southern point of the resort is a great snorkeling spot. The hotel is Samet Ville Resort. It’s a large but very quiet place. It’s a clean, cozy and stress free chill kinda resort. With room rates starting at about $30.00 USD there isn’t much stress at all. The bay is very shallow here and the water clear and calm. Just a couple of feet off shore your surrounded by small fish that don’t seem shy at all. It’s a private beach, owned by the resort so its pretty much only hotel guests here. Not a lot of day trippers like you’ll find at the beaches on the northern tip. It’s the perfect paradise hideaway. Watching the sunrise here is well worth getting up early.
Another favorite Beach is Ao Thapthim. It is located on the eastern side of the island about half way down the coast. It’s near the night life but still far enough away to not be too bothered by the noise from the clubs on Sai Kaew beach. There are some nice resorts here, Tub Tim Resorts , Pudsa Bungalows and Samet Villa. The beach is white sand and the water is bath water warm. There is a great Bar here between Tub Tim resort and Pudsa bungalows called Trio Cocktail Bar. The music at this little watering hole is always the best of the best anywhere … anytime. Their drinks are very nice too. It’s a friendly laid back place to get your island relax on. Stop by and say hi to my favorite little guy on the island an adorable Jack Russell that is the Trio mascot.
My favorite neighborhood in Bangkok Thailand can be found by going to the intersection of Si Lom Road and Thanon Pan . There you will find a beautiful mixing of cultures in a very small radius. I love the sights, smells and sounds of the area. The intersection is home to the Sri Maja Mariamman Temple, or as it is known to Thai’s “Wat Khaek. This beautiful colorful building was built sometime in the mid 1800’s by Tamil immigrants and stands today as a reminder of Thailand’s inclusion and acceptance of other cultures and religions. You’ll know your there when you see a sea of vendors stringing marigolds, fresh fruits and fragrant flowers into beautiful offerings. You’ll be treated to the music and chanting from the temple. If you’re a vegetarian then this is your mecca. There are many excellent vegetarian restraints and food stalls here.
Traveling to Thailand in the month of October is usually pretty good. The weather is better because the rainy season is drawing to an end. The temperatures are also much lower and it marks the start of the high season. This last October we traveled to Bangkok to check out the Vegetarian festival or Tesagan Gin Je. It did not disappoint! Bangkok was a river of yellow flags waving the joys of delicious vegetarian foods. The entire country gets into the spirit and for vegetarians like us it was heaven! The main festival is held on Yaowarat Road in Chinatown. But really everywhere you go you will see a sea of yellow flags. The yellow flags are there to let you know that the food served there is Vegetarian.
Our friend Aud had moved from Bangkok to a village in northern Thailand and it had been ages since we had seen him. We had never traveled to Issan (north-eastern Thailand) before and going there was so much easier than we had thought. It is pretty amazing how affordable air travel is in Thailand. Two round trip tickets from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani cost us a total of $138.00 USD and that included the optional insurance and preferred seating. I think next time I will save myself a few dollars and not go with the preferred seating or insurance. Hotels in the North East are also a deal. A beautifully appointed room with a breakfast buffet was $22.50 a night. So will I ever consider going back to Issan for more exploration…YES indeed!
At the age of middle 50’s…I start a blog.