WEEK FOURTEEN: BANGKOK AND BACK

CONTENTS
Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week
Travel Tools and Toys - iBooks
Pups Across America! - Bangkok Street Pups
Favorite Photograph - Rearview Mirror
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading: Wine Country

REARVIEW MIRROR
Start: San Francisco RV Resort, Pacifica, CA
Stop: San Francisco RV Resort, Pacifica, CA
(with a quick trip in between)

thailand_googlemaps2

Sunday/Monday
Above the Ocean
It was windy, chilly, and gray as I walked the Pups out of the park, south on Palmetto Street among the many-needing-sprucing-up houses just off the ocean. The neighborhood was clean and felt safe, but had seen better days. On our way back we took the quarter mile RV park trail that borders the cliffs above the Pacific. If I had wanted to talk to myself, I would not have been able to hear, as the waves roared each time they crashed upon the rocks below. Back at the coach it was morning chores, a shower, breakfast, and packing.

Beach Walk Waves and Spray

On to the Airport
Late morning Jan and the Kids drove me the 20 minutes to the San Francisco airport, dropped me off close to the Delta counter, and said farewell. The lines were short and I had time to hang out at the SkyClub and watch the first half of the Netherlands-Spain World Club final—it was 0-0 when I had to go to board my plane.

Over to Asia
Except for a rough landing, the flight to Tokyo was quiet and uneventful. I read Travels with Charley by Steinbeck on my iPad, listened to three podcasts, and was able to get a couple of hours sleep. We arrived a little early, so I went to the very nicely appointed Narita SkyClub, e-mailed Jan, responded to half dozen other e-mails, and caught up on this blog.

Travels with Charley
When visiting the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA, a few weeks backed I was intrigued when learning about his trip that inspired Travels with Charley, and I had committed to myself to read it soon. I read the entire book on the flight to Narita, and I thoroughly enjoyed it because:
  • The story about his camping trip across the country with his dog parallels our motoring journey.
  • I love Steinbeck’s writing
  • The year he traveled was in 1960, and it was great to compare his thoughts to the world of today, 50 years later. Amazing what has both changed and what has remained the same. Highly recommended.

The flight from Tokyo to Bangkok went equally well. I got a couple hours more sleep, and we arrived into Bangkok at 11:00 p.m. Monday evening—almost an hour early (Bangkok is 11 hours ahead of Eastern time). Sitting up front with no checked bags and short lines at both customs and immigration made things fast. The limo service person was where she was supposed to be, and soon I was in a cab zipping through the night streets and on to my hotel.

Taxi Luxury Cab Kids on Stage

Simple Pleasure
My room was quite large and well appointed, and after a quick look around I saw the sight that, when traveling, always brings a smile to my face, a long, deep bathtub! I turned the tap on “hot” as I laid out my bags. I took a 30-minute soak that relaxed my muscles, eased my mind, and soothed away any stress that had accumulated over my journey. So far, so good.

Tuesday
I awoke at 6:00 a.m. feeling well rested and ready to get up and get going. Looking out from my small balcony, I was surprised how quiet things were for a city of ten million people. I took a shower, dressed, changed a $100 at the front desk, and then walked across the street for a breakfast buffet that was part of my lodging package. It included everything: Miso soup, lettuce salad, fried rice, pasta, beef cakes, pork sausages, chicken sausages, fried chicken chunks, real crispy bacon, some other kind of meat, fried potatoes, eggs-how-you-like-them, Corn Flakes, Cocoa Puffs, white bread and rolls, juices, fresh fruits, and several things that I’m not sure what they were. The coffee was black and stout, and after three cups I was ready to walk to Cambodia, write a novel, and coordinate the exchange of Russian spies.

Tour
My client was kind enough to arrange a city tour for me. At 9:30 my personal guide and a driver met me in the lobby and off we went into Bangkok traffic (wow, they know how to do traffic!). Our first stop was to see the Golden Buddha. Not a gold-plated, run-of-the-mill golden Buddha, but a five-ton, solid gold Buddha! Just amazing, and the story behind it is wonderful. It seems that Thailand has been at war with Burma off and on for forever, and the Burmese were notorious for burning Thai Buddha’s to melt down the gold plating then obfuscating with the gold. The Thais came across a very old plaster Buddha statue in a very old city that had been ransacked, and decided to transport it back to Bangkok. In the moving process a crack appeared on the statue, showing a yellow color underneath. After some careful examination, the Buddha was found to be pure gold, as the plaster was added as a decoy to fool enemies. The cover-up was also forgotten by the Thais! Without the travel and the crack it produced no one would have discovered the secret. Visitor fees to view the Buddha have raised enough monies for a new temple to be built to house and show-off this amazing piece of religious and cultural art.

Temple Top Golden Buddha Demon

Entrepreneurship
You gotta love this one. I didn’t see it coming but I like this guy’s ingenuity. Shortly after a tourist’s arrival, a stealth photographer takes a shot. By the time one is putting his/her shoes back on after visiting the temple, the photographer has processed the image, imposed it on a button with the title of “Bangkok 2010,” and shoves it (politely) into your hand as you head for the exit. For roughly $3.25, who can refuse? Well, it wasn’t the most flattering shot of me, and I don’t like buttons, but I now own this souvenir. I just love entrepreneurship....

Our next stop was the Royal Palace. I won’t try to describe it. All I can say is, Wow! It is amazing what can be built if you are the monarch and “own” all the assets of a country! We ended our tour by viewing the famous Reclining Buddha and the oldest temple in the country (Emerald Buddha Temple), in which 76 Buddha statues reside.

Reclining Buddha Emerald Buddha Priest

Traffic bad? Yes. Lots and lots of people? Uh, huh. Traffic heavy on the streets? Sure was. Hot and muggy? Yup. Worth the trip? Absolutely! Recommended.

Work Trike Work Bike Motor Bikes

Local Lunch
After I was returned to my hotel, it was time for some lunch. I decided that some local food was in order, so I walked several blocks in the heat until I found just the right place. I knew it was perfect because no one spoke one word of English, the whole family worked there, they had a menu with pictures, and they had chilled Singha (Thai beer) in their cooler.

Umbrella Alex

Mom (I’m guessing) seated me, but she quickly turned over the task of waiting on me to the youngest daughter (I thought of her as Smiley). I pointed at the Singha to get started, and she stood by me as I started leafing through the 30 or so pages of slightly yellowed laminated menu. As I was studying dishes I’d never seen before, she must have gotten impatient as she stopped me in mid-page turn and pointed at a picture proclaiming “good.” Being very open to recommendations by experts, I stopped, smiled, and nodded my head—one of the day’s most important decisions of the day had been made. Trying to help the local economy, I said “egg rolls?” However, my comment triggered only a blank look and then the turning on of a fan. The breeze felt good; I left it at that.

When my lunch arrived, the presentation was impressive. A pot of browned steaming chicken (I’m pretty sure) with bright red peppers and other green vegetables was set in front of me. I dished some onto my plate and the whole family watched me taste the first bite (there was not another customer in the restaurant). It was wonderful, and I gave them an appreciative nod. However, three seconds later the heat of the peppers kicked in, raced up part my tongue, screamed through my nose, registering a four-bell alarm in my brain. As I quickly reached for my Singha, I gestured for another beer, triggering smiles, giggles, and knowing looks among the family members. I’m no lightweight when it comes to hot food, but maybe I was set up? Maybe just a little? :>>>
A nap, hot bath, some reading, and off to bed.

Wednesday
Photo Fitness Walk
Right after an early breakfast, I put on my tennis shoes, grabbed my camera, and headed down the busy street my hotel was located on. My plan was to get in some exercise, but also be able to quickly take advantage of any photo opportunities that might arise. My camera got a lot of looks, but most people were very cooperative about me taking their picture. Lots of fun, especially with the children seated on buses heading for school.

School Bus Peace Bus Long Day

Work Day
At 8:30, two vans picked me up along with about 30 others to go the short distance to my client’s Asian headquarters. After introductions all around, the morning was spent talking about several key technical/operation issues in running a services business. Along with corporate, there were country managers and services managers from Australia, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, India, Taiwan, and Thailand. At lunchtime we walked five minutes to a wonderful Thai meal served up family style. I led the afternoon session, sharing benchmarks and best practices of running a services business inside a product company. In order to “tropicalize” our discussion and make it more relevant, I shared a success story of an Asia-Pacific business similar to my client’s and fed back to them what I had learned about their issues from earlier telephone focus groups. In order to get their buy-in, we had several small group discussions and a few exercises. It’s a lot of work facilitating this kind of group, but I was very pleased with the outcome.

Time to Relax
I met with the Aussies at the Witches Brew, a bar close to our hotel for a couple of cold pints, and then we walked to another restaurant where we met up with the rest of our colleagues and the whole gang feasted on Thai food.

Thursday
While the country managers reviewed numbers, my client and I helped the services managers build their services plan for the year that had just started. Everything went well, and plans are being developed for phase two of my involvement. Productive business trip.

Bangkok Traffic
Have you ever observed how very large schools of fish composed of thousands of individuals have the ability to swim as one? They twist, turn, dive, and surface without ever colliding, in fact, without even touching. This comparison best describes Bangkok traffic. If similar roads with the same amount of vehicles were in a U.S. city, it would be total gridlock. Here, though, traffic flows (although sometimes very slowly) as one organism—kind of like the Borg. On a four-lane road there will be six to eight lines of vehicles moving back and forth with motorbikes zipping this way and that in every direction, the vehicles coming within centimeters of each other but almost never touching. There must be some sort of hidden communication built into the culture :’>>> I don’t know how they do it, but it works.

Thoughts on Bangkok
This was my first trip to Bangkok, but my impressions are highly positive. Wonderful people, great food, and lots of cool places and things to do. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Friday
Fly Day
My car picked me up from the hotel at 3:30 a.m. (yes, that is a.m.) to take me to the airport. I thought that I had allowed very ample time, but after a crazy long line at passport control, a thorough security check, then another passport/mini-interview at the gate followed by another hand bag check of every piece of luggage of every traveler, the time was being eaten up. Furthermore, our departure time was moved up 30 minutes to 5:20 a.m. in order to allow time for re-routing in attempts to avoid the heavy winds and heavy rains from a typhoon that had just visited SE Asia. All in all, my schedule worked out well.

The flight to Tokyo went well, with just a few minutes of turbulence here and there. I finished reading an Embarrassment of Mangos, a book that Moreen and Brad had recommended. It is a great story of a Canadian couple that takes a couple years off and sails the Caribbean. Recommended. I also watched the movie The Book of Eli. Well done, but I found it depressing.

The flight from Tokyo to San Francisco was a good one as well. I enjoyed the movie Alice in Wonderland, but would recommend viewing it on a big HD screen to really show-off the visual effects. After a nice dinner, I got in a solid six-plus hours sleep and woke up right as continental breakfast was being served—it doesn’t get much better than that on long flights.

Greeting Committee
I zipped through customs and immigration and was soon met by my greeting committee, Jan and the Kids. Jerry was running back and forth in the car from front to back and Mitzy was turning inside out—you’d thought I’d been gone for months. I know how Roman generals must have felt when returning from a successful campaign. The rest of the day we hung out at the coach.

Saturday
Pacifica
Pacifica has lots of things going for it. It borders the ocean, has great weather, and is strategically placed close to many very cool places. However, Pacifica gives off a feeling of tiredness, like it no longer cares enough to keep yards tidy and buildings painted. Kind of like the child with good potential that never lives up to her promise. Therefore, to avoid this malaise, we jumped in the car and headed 18 miles south along the Big Water to the village of Half Moon Bay.

RV Cat Lighthouse View Zepher

Half Moon Bay
Jan and the Kids had scouted out this territory earlier in the week while I was gone, so Jan drove with confidence to the downtown area. We walked the Pups along the residences and businesses with their magnificent gardens of brightly colored flowers and the scents of vibrant roses. As we strolled the busy, vibrant main street, we stopped at a wine-tasting shop, complete with original paintings, sculptures, imported chocolates, and an assortment of gourmet olive oils. We met the owners, Bart and Mary, and quickly fell into conversations on wine, California, and past travels. After tasting some excellent wines, including some medal winners, we left our new friends with some perky sage olive oil in hand, a bottle of wonderful champagne, and a memory of a great afternoon. I highly recommend you go meet Mary and Bart in person. www.BarterraWines.com.

Flowers Smell the Roses Barterra Winery

Bart and Mary

TRAVEL TOOLS AND TOYS: iBooks
Planning for long trips in the past, I used to anguish over what books to bring along. Bulk and weight were always considerations. How many books? What if I don’t like what I’ve brought? This is not an issue any more.

Although I’d bought the iPad on day one of its availability, I’d never read any iBooks on it, and this trip was the perfect excuse to try out this capability. The result is that I love it—great screen that is easy on the eyes and easy to use. Print too small? One click and choose the font size (and style you like). Tired of viewing in portrait mode? Just turn the iPad sideways and it automatically adjusts. Not sure the meaning of a word? Highlight it and hit the dictionary. Highly recommended.

PUPS ACROSS AMERICA!
Jan caught some nice pup pics, including Poppy, and I was able to catch a few in Bangkok. My favorite is Bangkok Street Pups. Although their proud owner is not in the shot, he is behind the scenes trying to get them to pose for the camera. Pet Parents are the same the globe over.

Poppy Bangkok Street Pups Pacifica Pup

Schedule Your Pup Shoot
Please e-mail me at alex@PupsAcrossAmerica or call me at 239-671-0740 to set up a shoot when we are in your area.

Pass the Word
Know other Pup Parents who might enjoy this blog? Please spread the word.

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPH
This week you’ll see a mix of Bangkok shots and California coast pictures that Jan took—an interesting variety. My favorite is Rearview Mirror, one of Jan’s pics.

Rear View Mirror

HEADLIGHTS
July 18 thru July 21
San Francisco RV Resort, Pacifica, CA
www.sanfranciscorvresort.com/

July 22 thru 24
Napa Valley?

July 25 to September 17
???

September 18 thru September 25
Kalamazoo, MI

September 26 to 27
Cincinnati, OH

September 28 thru October 2
Lexington, KY

October 4 thru 6
Asheville, NC?

October 7 & 8
Charleston, SC?

October 10 & 11
Savannah, GA

October 12 thru 14
Apopka, FL?

October 15
Return to Pine Island?

Going to be near? Look us up. Have some suggestions concerning places to see? We are open.
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