From Snoqualmie to Southeast Asia – By Matt

We arrived at 21st Floor of 39 Soi Suanplu in the Sathorn area of Bangkok. I’ve traveled extensively now, but it still blows my mind that I can leave a little cul de sac in a tiny town of Snoqualmie, WA, in the northwest corner or the United States and spend a day in a mix of cars, airports, and the sky, and arrive, virtually seamlessly, at a standard serviced apartment on a little street in Bangkok, a massive city of more than 10 million people in Southeast Asia. We are so fortunate to live in the only time in this world’s history when such an information and transportation miracle is not only possible, but relatively simple. It would sure be a shame not to take advantage of it.

The plane ride went as well as expected. The common reaction by friends to our family adventure to Thailand was concern about the length of the flight. I can’t say we all had a riveting time, but with the movies and games on the back of each seat the kids handled the travel well and passed some of the time with some good sleep. Kathryn and I slept very little, but made it through the travel without a hitch.

The girls waiting for our bags to arrive.

View from our room

Upon arrival at the airport we strolled past all the tourist transportation travel services and made our way downstairs to the public taxi queue. We thought cramming all five of us in the back seat of a small taxi for the 35 minute ride (cost about $12) to our hotel was quite an adventure–and at the time it was. The driver spoke no English and had some sort of Thai narrative blasting on the speakers. We sat in back seat on laps without seatbelts (one of our two bags in the car’s tiny trunk and one on the front seat), laughing at the sound coming from the speakers and taking in any sights along the way. Now, just more than 24 hours later, the taxi ride doesn’t seem too adventurous at all, but just a common form of transportation that we’ve completed successfully several times on the first day.

I’m worried that every day after the first could be a let-down. We did more in the first day than any organized tour would do in a few. In the elevator up to the room at 10:30 PM I asked the girls how the day went and Emily said, “great, but it seemed like three days.”

Pineapple buying on the street

Typical street view

The 20 minute morning walk through some side roads from Sathorn to Silom was filled with uniformed kids on their way to school and many street vendors selling food of all types. We also got our first real taste of the traffic and “busyness” of Bangkok. Ebey thought it was all interesting, but that all the different smells together gave her a headache. After erroneously going into the Silom Subway station we u-turned to the Sala Daeng Skytrain Station where we purchased tickets, let the kids put them into the machines, and boarded the already-busy Skytrain headed for the riverfront. People gawked at these three little blond girls, as would become a common theme, and stood up to offer them a prized seat on the crowded train. A couple of stops later we got off at the Taksin Station and made our way onto a commuter ferry on the Chao Praya River.

Waiting for the boat - the girls


There are all types of boats loaded with people going every direction on this river that serves as a transportation and cultural highway in the heart of Bangkok. With countless piers and jetties for loading and unloading we finally found ourselves crammed on the correct commuter ferry (the one with the orange flag and not several other colors) going in the right direction. This turned out to be the most confusing part of all of our different transportation adventures that I’m sure will be fully discussed later.

A few stops ahead we disembarked in the Chinatown area. We walked through several blocks of shops and stalls, dodging motorcycles on sidewalks and cars in roads and alleys. The vendor booths seemed to extend forever, mostly selling the same things as the one a few booths down. How any of them could possibly make any money is one of the many mysteries of a day in Bangkok. I asked the kids what they thought and they just couldn’t believe there were so many people and that it was so big, dirty and crazy. Emily, when reflecting on what it would be like if any of these people came to our little home town of Snoqualmie said, “they would probably say, ‘Where’s the shopping? Someone needs to open up some stands and sell some flip-flops.’” The kids got a bit bored walking around in Chinatown and I said at the end of “this alley” we would leave. Emily asked, “Good, can we go back to Thailand?”

Family shot

More temple views

Girls in front of the temple

Details on a temple

Family entering the Palace grounds

The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha were amazing. Because of the dress code Kathryn and I needed to rent pants and a skirt. The pictures speak for themselves as to the awesomeness of the sights of the palaces and temples (wats). I trust these images will stay in the girls’ minds for a long time.

We laughed when we jumped in another taxi and realized it was still only 10:30 AM. We’ll cover a lot of ground in two weeks if we keep this pace up.

Getting ready for the foot massage

So what do you do in Thailand when you get tired? You go get a Thai massage. I once remarked that it would be cheaper to just get a full night of massage than pay for a decent hotel and I’m actually mostly correct. The amazing and unique Thai Massage (not the dirty kind your Western friends talk about) can be found on most every street. The price is about $10 per hour, with tip. We treated everyone to a one-hour foot massage in the Siam Square area. The Thai girls doing the massages, mostly teenagers who have traveled to Bangkok from far away Thai towns and villages, seemed to really enjoy a break from massaging old men’s feet in exchange for some tiny little feet of a few blond girls from America. A three –year-old getting a foot massage may have been a first.

Family feeding the elephant

After a Thai lunch and a brief nap, we were picked up for the famous Siam Niramit show. The traffic was horrendous and a 20 minute drive took 90 minutes. The amazing show features a huge stage production artistically recounting the diverse histories of the different peoples that make up the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand). The kids were riveted by the costumes, lighting, dancing, music, stage sets, and elephants. Elephants are a part of the show, but even more a part of the pre-show time where we fed them small cucumbers from our hands. I would recommend Siam Niramit to anyone visiting Bangkok.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Scott Babcock
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 01:50:13

    Matt, Bravo! You’re a brave man traveling so far with your family. What an experience for you and your family. How old our your girls? Maria is 10, maybe they can hook up some time.

    Reply

  2. Dixie Williams
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 15:55:08

    Awesome. Looks like so much fun. I dare you to keep the pace. 🙂 Not really. What is the time difference? Maybe little bodies are still functioning on Seattle time. You’ll acclimate right as it’s time to go home. 🙂

    Reply

  3. phan
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 01:20:21

    ahhhhhhh! the girls are soooooo cute, and seem like all of you already have a lot of fun in Thailand,
    I wish I be there:)……they look so excited with feeding the elephant.

    I will have to go back to read all about your story heheheheh:)
    have a lot of fun and take care
    phan

    Reply

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