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Thailand: travel diary December 1988

Friday 9th December

After the problems with booking the taxi last night it turned up on time and it was quite a good drive to the airport. I had an easy check in.

Flight via Rome. We caught up time and landed in Rome a few minutes early. It seemed quite a wait there. I was sitting next to two people who were part of a party coming to Bangkok for a defence exhibition who worked for a company owned by the appropriate government department. They fly back to the UK on the same flight as me.

Saturday 10th December

In Bangkok I was expected at the airport and after some wait driven town in an estate car with a woman guide. It seems that I am a freak as a woman on her own! My trip to the north has been brought forward a day so I have three days at the beginning in Bangkok and two at the end because of accommodation difficulties. There may be other changes which my “guide will explain!" Apparently Silk Cut Travel had been telexed!

The Royal River Hotel is up the river out of the centre of town. Had to pass the King's palace where he lives (rather than the Grand Palace). Nice rooms at the hotel. Mine is facing the river and has a decent balcony. I did a little sunbathing and then sat in the shade reading and watching the river traffic.

Had a snooze in the afternoon. Hotel full of Japanese! Had my complimentary cocktail in the bar and wrote a few cards. Clear sunny day with quite a strong breeze by the river. Dark clouds came up late afternoon/evening. Mosquitoes around in the lobby and bar areas. top

Sunday, 11th December

Had a good night's sleep. Breakfast on the balcony and a sunbathe. Lot of high cloud. Went into shopping arcade and ordered 2 jackets in silk. One tailored in heavy cream with brown fleck and the other green, ruched, padded. Had fruit and cream cheese for early lunch.

Tour to Rose Garden at 12.30 p.m. Taken by taxi to World Travel depot. Had to wait for bus and then ages for everyone to come. Slow ride out to Rose Garden through Lop Buri, 'third capital of Thailand'. At the Rose Garden saw very little of gardens but some roses with bougainvillaea. Saw 3.15 p.m. show of Thai dancing, boxing, sword stick, cock fighting, Buddhist novice and wedding. Then outside to watch elephants and then one more dance and then musical instruments played by children. Back to Bangkok. After tour of most of hotels I was dropped to get a taxi. Royal River Hotel 10km from there - 60 baht paid by World Travel.

When I got back to the hotel the Indian from the tailoring shop was looking for me as his tailor there to fit me. The Indian also has a shop in Middlesex.

Had dinner outside at buffet on the terrace. There was a strong breeze blowing and it was pretty cool. I had a wander in the shops - pretty cheap and cheerful! I cancelled Grand Palace tour (as I had visited earlier in the year) and booked City and Temples tour for Monday. top

Monday 12 December

Had a bad night so felt pretty rough when I woke up after an hour's sleep! Picked up by World Travel just after 7.45 a.m. and got to World Travel Centre before 8.30 a.m. Had to wait until after 9.00 a.m. in freezing air conditioned bus before leaving on the City and Temples tour. First went to Golden Buddha in Wat Trimitr in Chinese quarter - see photo of cat asleep in front of small Buddha in buildings near to the Wat. The golden Buddha was discovered:

The weather was quite cool and with a clear sun. We went next to Wat Po (‘Po’ - tree) the temple of the Reclining Buddha (In honour of one of the King Ramas born on a Tuesday - reclining Buddha is the 'Tuesday Buddha' the last position before death). top

After Wat Po we went to the Marble temple, Wat Benchamabopit, the newest of the royal temples in Bangkok, with both Carrara marble and Venetian stained glass. It was started by Rama V, King Chulalongkorn in 1901 and finished ten years later, just after his death:

"The name means 'Temple of the Fifth King'. It is also one of the most unusual, for the architect, a half-brother of the king, made a number of departures from traditional style. The most obvious of these are the Carrara marble used on the main buildings; the enclosed courtyard; and the curved, yellow Chinese tiles of the roof. top

Two gigantic marble lions, or singha, guard the entrance to the bot. The marble courtyard has a Renaissance quality about it, with clouds of pigeons that descend to eat bread thrown by visitors. In a gallery surrounding the courtyard are 51 Buddha images, slightly larger than life-size, in a variety of attitudes. All the periods of Thai Buddhist art are represented, as well as art from China, India, Japan and Tibet. Some of the images are originals of the period; others were recast and enlarged from smaller images to achieve a uniform size. The principal Buddha image is a replica of a famous one in Phitsanulok called Phra Buddha Chinaraj.

Through the rear entrance of the courtyard is a huge Bodhi tree, 70-odd years old; it was brought from Buddha Gaya in India, the Buddha's birthplace. A canal filled with large turtles (released there by people wishing to earn merit) separates the religious buildings from the monks' quarters where the present king spent his monkhood shortly after his coronation.”

We went next to a jewellery factory 'recommended' by World Travel! I bought a 14K gold and sapphire ring plus four metres of red silk for Mum's friend, Mary Hadley. Both the factory and the Marble Temple were fairly near to the Royal River Hotel. They got me a taxi back to the hotel.

I had lunch at the hotel of fried rice and fresh asparagus with chicken and then caught the hotel boat to River City shopping centre. Super shops! I ordered 2 silk outfits for collection the following week. Bought white/tan handbag and purse very good value as white and tan all leather. I also got flower napkin rings. Did not want to leave! River ride in boat was great - even if it did seem ready to break down on the way back!

When I got back I rang Sirichat - she was out - rang Voraluck and agreed to meet on the evening of the 20th. I agreed to ring with the time when I get back to Bangkok. I collected cream silk jacket from Indian shop in hotel shopping plaza and then had a drink in the bar. top

Tuesday, 13th December

Up early and watched the sunrise. Guide was a bit late arriving because of the traffic. The name of the guide is Wan and the name of the driver is Perm. There was a lot of traffic going out of Bangkok, especially to get across the bridge - the first built in Thailand. We drove (in a station wagon) towards Ayuthaya, the third capital of Thailand. We stopped on the way to look at a village in the rice paddy fields and to look around a temple and the monks' houses in the grounds. There were a couple of trees full of bats hanging in them and black crow-type birds. I went to the loo!

We then carried on towards Ayuthaya. En route we saw the temple with the largest stucco Buddha in Thailand. We then went on to the first temple built in Thailand in 1350 to celebrate the defeat of the Burmese and which was partly destroyed by the Burmese in the 1750s. We then went to rebuilt temple in the style of the time. All the original temples were destroyed and Buddhas apart from right arm destroyed. We then walked around the ruins near and around destroyed palace. I was then taken to the 'best restaurant in Ayuthaya' which was on a boat moored against a restaurant at the river side. Quite a good and peaceful meal.

It seemed a long journey to Phitsanulok through the paddy fields. We visited a temple which has been given to the present King and where the greatest teacher of today teaches. He is 86 years old. Opposite was an old temple by a river and a new silver one which was given to the king by the people of Uthai Thani. Tourists are not normally taken there. We stopped for petrol and 'happy stop' which was not my idea of fun! Got to Phitsanulok just before 7.00 p.m. I think that I left my nightdress at the Royal River Hotel! Room smelt of urine. Had a club sandwich for supper in the coffee shop! top

Wednesday, 14th December

I woke up early again and read. Got up at 6.00 a.m. Not a very successful breakfast! (Paid 100 Baht for supper and breakfast which should have been included in the tour but the instructions from World Travel were different from the Silk Cut travel brochure.)

We went to the early morning market in Phitsanulok. There was a very great variety of produce. I saw the first train to arrive in Phitsanulok - 1897 I also saw a 'green' elephant - topiary! We went on to see the 'most beautiful Buddha in Thailand'. It was certainly was beautiful as also was the rest of the Wat.

We went on to Sukhothai and after going around the museum we drove around the old city which is being made into a beautiful parkland. There were various styles of Wat including ones in the Khmer style. There was a chedi with elephants all around it very much restored. We had lunch at a garden restaurant at the Thai cultural centre at Sukhothai. I was 'adopted' by a cat and a dog - the cat for cupboard love! After lunch we went to see a Khmer chedi and wat and I walked halfway over a wooden bridge suspended over a river! We then drove on towards Lampang through teak covered hills for most of the way. I saw one elephant early on. We visited a Burmese style chedi and wat at Lampang. There were school children playing a marching song with Thai instruments. Got to hotel at about 4.00 p.m. I had a walk in the town then a read. I had supper at about 7.00 p.m. in the restaurant of the hotel which was outside along the street. After supper I had another walk around where there was a night market with lots of food stalls. top

Thursday, 15th December

We left Lampang at 7.30 a.m. I spotted nine elephants setting off across the paddy fields to work as we left Lampang. Nine is a lucky number for the Thais! We went to see the 'most beautiful temple in Thailand'.

We went on towards to Chiang Mai where we visited the teak, silver, umbrella and silk factories - the latter one of which supplies silk to Jim Thompson's shop in Bangkok. We got to the Chiang Inn hotel in Chiang Mai at about 1.30 p.m. I had lunch in the coffee shop and then went out shopping. I got some second hand Yao (Mien) embroidery and some cards and film. I came back and sat by the hotel pool writing postcards until about 6.00 p.m. I then went and had a glass of wine in the bar where a man and woman sang. I then went out shopping again in the night market. It was seething with people and stalls. Got some Akka patchwork both old and new and a piece of indigo and red Hmong patchwork. I came back to the hotel and had a toasted sandwich in the coffee shop and then retired to bed exhausted! top

Friday, 16th December

I had breakfast in the coffee shop and then went out to change some more money. I then came back and sunbathed and wrote postcards by the pool. At 11.15 a.m. I left with my new guide, Pungsat. We had a 35 minute flight to Mae Hong Son. It was quite a rough road to the resort hotel. We had lunch overlooking the river. My room is at the end, right on the river. After lunch we went by river to the Padaung village. The engine cut out at one stage and would not re-start. It was necessary to change the battery. Before going to the village we had to go to the border post on the other side of the river and register. We saw three Pa'dong women with rings around their necks. Only women born at the time of the full moon wear rings. They stop changing and adding to the rings when the women get married. One woman had 24 rings. The 53 year old woman had 20 rings. The rings can be of gold, silver or bronze. They worship spirits. 1. dogs, chickens, cats. 2. women. 3. men. 4. spirits. We spoke to a Burmese Karen man who lives with them, Lao. He was political and advised us to go to the camp downstream where Burmese students were, some of whom had only been there 2 weeks. We did not go. We came back up river and had a drink and after a couple of hours, supper. To bed at 9.00 p.m. top


to 14K photogalleryh of her house 8812J04A

Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of three sets of Padaung photos.  The first, taken in December 1988, is of three Padaung women living as a tourist attraction near Mae Hong Son in the north of Thailand on the border with Kayah State in Myanmar.  The second set, taken in September 1998, is of two Padaung women in Kalaw market, Shan State, Myanmar with their neck rings discretely covered with shawls.  The third set of photos, also taken in September 1998, is of two Padaung women, again living as a tourist attraction in 'traditional' houses, at a hotel on the edge of Lake Inle, Shan State, Myanmar. 

all text and images © Pamela A Cross  top

Saturday, 17th December

We had breakfast at 8.30 a.m. and then went for a ride on a elephant for a couple of hours into the jungle. A French couple came as well. Mahout of their elephant had a transistor radio which he would insist on playing. On the way back the two of us stopped at a Karen house where some of the mahouts lived. We watched an old woman sifting rice. We were able to continue back on our own. Our elephant was male, 47 years old and his mahout had been with him 15 years. The elephant was owned by the mahout's mother who 'loved the elephant more than his father'! The mahout had been brought up with the elephant at home. He worked with the elephant logging as well as tourist rides. There were twelve elephants based at the camp.

We came back at about 10.30 a.m. We sat around until we had lunch at 12.00 noon. After lunch we went by pick-up truck to a 'fish cave'. We saw Hmong people by the cave. We went to see several temples built about 100 -112 years ago. There was one with a Buddha from Burma and another with wooden dolls. After a drink in Mae Hong Song we caught the flight back to Chiang Mai and I was taken to the Ringcome hotel. I had some supper in the coffee shop and then went to bed early. top

Sunday, 18th December

After breakfast in the coffee shop I sat out in the sun by the pool and finished my book. I had a look in the shops at the hotel and got a beautiful book on the hill tribes. The Indian shop owner had to go back into town to get the English version of the book.

In the afternoon I went on a tour with Pungsat, a Thai family and a Taiwanese couple currently living in America, to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and a Hmong hill tribe village. It was a very rough track to the village and we had to change into a pick up truck for the trip. The temple has a lot of carving and well maintained gilding. It is set high up upon the hill, Doi Suthep, overlooking Chiang Mai. top

Green (Blue) Hmong

To 14K gallery (8812L12.jpg) Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos of Green (commonly known as Blue) Hmong taken in December 1988 in the north of Thailand.  A few were taken in Mae Hong Son province and remainder near Chiang Mai in two villages - one on Doi Suthep above Chiang Mai and the other on Doi Chiang Dao on the road from Chiang Mai to Fang.  

See also the Photo gallery of RedHmong, Vietnam whose clothing has close similarities.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We went to a Jade factory afterwards. We had to wait ages for the Taiwanese couple and got quite cold as the sun had disappeared.

When we got back to the hotel I caught the hotel's minibus to the night market in the centre of Chiang Mai. I found some super Hill Tribe pieces especially from Yao (Mien) women and an Akha girl whose mother had done the embroidery. I bought a beautiful old natural dye pha biang from an antique shop upstairs in the night market. I caught a Tuk Tuk back to the hotel which was quite a way away - 5 km. I had some supper in the coffee shop and then went to bed. top

Monday, 19th December

I left the hotel at 8.00 a.m. by station wagon with Pungsat and a driver. We went by road up to the hills to an elephant camp, or school for elephants. We watched the elephants being washed. We were able to talk to the elephants first and feed them with bananas before the show started. There was a very greedy baby elephant. We then watched the elephants 'working', dragging and pushing logs.

After the elephant show we drove on quite a way through the mountains stopping at a Hmong village on the way and then to flatter land until we reached the river. At the village we saw Hmong women working on batik and also embroidery and applique. top

Green (Blue) Hmong

To 14K gallery
Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos of Green (commonly known as Blue) Hmong taken in December 1988 in the north of Thailand.  A few were taken in Mae Hong Son province and remainder near Chiang Mai in two villages - one on Doi Suthep above Chiang Mai and the other on Doi Chiang Dao on the road from Chiang Mai to Fang.  

See also the Photo gallery of RedHmong, Vietnam whose clothing has close similarities.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We had lunch at a water/roadside hut which was very good and where there was a lovely little cat. After lunch we went by boat down the river to Chiang Rai stopping three times at villages on the river bank. We stopped first at a village where there was a police border post to register - there were some Akha women selling bits and pieces and lots of tourists. We next stopped at a Lahu village, I think Lahu Nyi (Red Lahu). We watched a girl weaving a strap on a back strap loom and bought one from her. We saw a woman working on some patchwork in a house and talked to her. There was also a man weaving a basket. This village was quite a climb up from the river bank.

The next stop was a Karen village. We walked through the village and I bought a skirt length of hand-woven cloth with stripes that had been hand woven. We watched a couple of women weaving on back strap looms. There was an elephant tethered to a house by the river-side. top


To 13K gallery (8812p01)

 Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos of Karen taken in December 1988 in the north of Thailand near Mae Hong Song, along the river Mae Kok between  Tha Thon and Chiang Rai and in the night market at Chiang Mai.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We arrived in Chiang Rai about 5.00 p.m. After a shower I had a wander around the evening market and looked at the outside of a Wat. I found a very nice antique shop facing onto the street. I bought an antique Lao woven stole and an antique silver buckle which could be Lahu. The owner of the shop was very nice and showed me photographs of paintings by a local Chiang Rai painter. They were beautiful. I then went back to the hotel and had supper. Pungsat called me in my room to watch some tourist television which was quite interesting. top

Tuesday, 20th December

We had to change my flight ticket at the Thai International office since the flight since world travel did not think that I would catch my connection to Bangkok from Chiang Rai. We did this before going up into the hills by car from Chiang Rai. We went to an Akha and a Yao (Mien) village. In each village Pungsat took me into a house. The scenery was beautiful but the villages were pretty poor.

U Lo-Akha

To 12K gallery (8812p11)

 Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos of U Lo-Akha taken in December 1988. Most of the Akha in Thailand today live in Chiang Rai Province.  These photos were almost all taken in a village in the hills around Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.  Almost all of the photos were taken in a village in the hills around Chiang Rai in northern Thailand except for one taken on the banks of the Mae Kok River above Chiang Rai.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

click on thumbnail to go to enlargement

Mien (Yao)

To 14K gallery (8812q12.jpg)

Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos of Mien (Yao) taken in December 1988 in the north of Thailand in the hills around Chiang Rai and in the night market at Chiang Mai.  See also Dao Photo gallery  from Vietnam which is part of the same ethnic grouping and there are close similarities in some of the clothing.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We drove back to Chiang Rai and stopped at a craft market for a drink before going to catch the flight back to Chiang Mai.

When we arrived back in Chiang Mai I was taken back to the Ringcome hotel to wait for my flight. I phoned Voraluck and cancelled meeting her that night as I did not think that I would be back in time. I had lunch in the coffee shop and then went and looked at some very nice shops across the road from the Ringcome Hotel. Pungsat took me in the hotel's bus to the airport. The plane was delayed for two hours so more waiting around. I got back to the Royal River hotel at about 9.30 p.m. having been met by the World Travel courier who had met me on my arrival in Thailand. It took ages to get a taxi to the hotel. When I got there I rang Sirichat and arranged to meet her for lunch the next day. top

Wednesday, 21st December

Breakfast did not arrive as I had not signed the card! When it did arrive it was the best breakfast that I had had since arriving in Thailand! I collected the turquoise silk jacket from the shop in the hotel shopping arcade and caught a Royal River boat to River City. At the shop in River City where I had ordered various silk clothes to be made I tried them on. The trousers needed some altering and I ordered some more. I then did some present shopping and went into an antique shop run by a Japanese woman and bought an antique solid silver belt which she thought was about 70 years old.

I met Sirichat at the Royal Orchid Sheraton for lunch and we were joined in the Japanese restaurant by Voraluck . It was a very pleasant lunch. Sirichat had arranged for me to have one of the Asia Credit cars and drivers - Songsang - who brought me to the hotel and waited for me to take me to the Lemon Grass restaurant where I had dinner with Sirichat, Voraluck, Damrongsuk and Dr. Supachai. I got there very early. Thank goodness I had a book to read while I waited! Quite a pleasant dinner but I felt a bit heady. I was driven back to the hotel by Songsang. top

Thursday, 22nd December

I got up early for Klongs tour and was too early for breakfast! A World Travel guide collected me and we caught an express boat to River City where the tour started after waiting for another 8 people to turn up. The tour was pretty awful. It: was very noisy from our own engine and lots of boats racing up and down the Klongs. There were enforced stops at a tourist market and a crocodile farm which was really a zoo and where we had to watch the snake show.

I developed a terrible migraine and felt absolutely awful by the time we got to the Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn. It: was overrun with very noisy Thai school girls and their teacher with a megaphone. I had a hair raising taxi ride from River City back to the hotel. I just could not seem to shift the headache when I got back to the hotel. I rang the shop at River City where I was to collect the clothes and eventually managed to arrange for them to take them to the Royal Orchid Hotel and page Songsang and get him to bring them back to the hotel since it had been arranged by Sirichat that he would meet me at the Royal Orchid hotel at 2.30 p.m.

I did eventually manage to snooze and by about 5.30 p.m. my headache had just about lifted. I had a club sandwich and then did my packing.

A very nice World Travel courier arrived in good time for me and took me in a car with a driver to the airport and stayed with me all the time until I had finished checking in. There was a pretty long queue to do this. I got talking to an English guy who had been staying in Pattaya and who had a Thai girlfriend. He had overstayed his Visa and was a bit concerned about it.

The flight back was via Amsterdam where I got out to stretch my legs and spoke to the man and woman that I had travelled out with. The flight got back on time and I got a taxi back to flat.

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this page last updated 8 January, 2009