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 My kids, John and Sarah, came to stay with me for three week in August 2004. They were to arrive on the 6th of August at Don Mung Airport Bangkok around 6:05am.

Now this is John nearly seventeen & if any of your teenage doubters want his email address I will be glad to pass it on. On the other hand on the left is Sarah my doubter & if any of your teenage sons want her email address forget it.

Therefore their holiday began for me on the 5th, the airport is at best 2hours drive away, but as anybody who knows the traffic in Bangkok will tell you the best is very frequently not what you find. Bangkok is a vast sprawling metropolis where you measure distance not in miles or kilometers but in time. I decided that as my son John, who is nearly seventeen, wanted to dive while he was here that we would all spend a six- day holiday down on Phi Phi Island in the far south of Thailand. I had never been there anyway and also because I have a friend who owns a dive shop there.

So we all set out to stay in the Dynasty Inn Suckhumvit Soi 4 Bangkok which more by good luck than good judgment we got to with little difficulty on the evening of the 5th. Having had a very disappointing snack at the Dynasty it was early to bed with a wake up call at 4:00am the next morning. Why 4-00 you may well ask. OK I need an hour to wake up with copious amounts of strong Coffee at the best of times. The evening before, just after their plane had taken off from Heathrow, London, I also had checked at the very expensive Internet shop owned by the Dynasty directly opposite their front door that the aircraft would be on time. The Thai Air Ways web-site is very good in that respect.  At best itís a 20min, drive to the airport from there as the entrance to the freeway is very close to the hotel but for all that and to make sure you are there in good time, you need to allow at least an hour. As it happened the traffic was good so we were there in very good time, only to find that their flight would be delayed by 40min, This was giving me indigestion as my timing for the onward leg down to Phuket by one of the local airlines was good providing that there where no delays. Needless to say that when they eventually turned up there was no time for hugs and kisses as there was then a mad dash pushing trolleys full of heavy baggage down to the Domestic Terminal which is about 1.5Km away from Terminal 1 where they were to arrive. Thankfully we reached there out of breath - well me anyway - in good time to catch the flight. So we were off in the very under populated aged 747 for the 1:15 flight to Phuket. There was a little time to catch up on the flight, Black had been quite excited about the arrival of John and Sarah for about a month before and also excited about his first trip on a big aircraft. Thankfully it was obvious from the first off that everybody was going to get along.

Looking out to see from the ferry terminal if you can call it that just outside Phuket town.

View from the small pier on Phi Phi South beach.

Having arrived at the airport in Phuket I rang the number that Kenny from the dive shop had given me for a taxi firm down there that the dive shop always use. He first took us to Phuket town for a pizza and then on to the ferry for Phi Phi which is about 30miles by sea, more or less east of Puket. Although it was somewhat overcast for most of the day it was a nice trip. Phi Phi consists of a small piece of useable land between two mountains which run near enough from north west to south east off the west coast of southern Thailand. This gives you a north beach and a south beach, where the ferry lands on a small jetty. The south beach is occupied by a mass of small watercraft, dive boats, long tail boats, and ferries all looking really quite pretty and for me interesting in the crystal, clear water, the colour of which ranges from white to aquatic jade. Kenny had many times described it as Paradise which being naturally skeptical I took with a pinch of salt but I now found him to be very accurate. On the island there is no motorized transport, OK I saw one small motor-cycle sidecar unit but I was told that that was not allowed in the town area anyway. This meant that including our bags everything had to be muscle powered. Young, extremely fit, Thai men push over-sized wheel barrows containing everything that is required for life including all the building materials, through the narrow walking streets, very busy with locals and holiday-makers alike.

The view at the front of our bungalow in Phi Phi

One of the monkey family in the tree above our bungalow having finished Noiís lunch.
Having eventually found somewhere to stay about 50ydís from the jungle on two sides in a very basic but clean small bungalow for about $13.00USD per night one for me Noi and Black and one more for John and Sarah. We then set off to visit Kenny to the south of the town on the south beach just to get the low-down on Johnís diving and say hello. This was about a 15min walk taking it easy, then off for something to eat at one of the many restaurants, the first night we picked a Thai style restaurant really quite near the bungalow as everybody was, to say the very least, tired. This was looking out over the south bay watching the boats slightly bobbing in the extremely still waters. It was decided that John would not start his open water course the next day but take a day to recover from the journey, so beginning the day after.
Looking out from Kennyís dive shop in Phi Phi
One of the many little settlements I think only accessible by sea on Phi Phi.
On the second day on the island I finally gave in to the relentless badgering from the long-tail boat owners to take a trip to the other beaches. A further $17.00USD secured a three hour trip and I have to say really quite good value, which included the hire of masks and snorkels which were well used. I managed to get a little sun burned but a very good time was had by all. The next day began early with breakfast before the start of Johnís diving course at 8.30am. The rest of us spent the day on the north beach lazing under the trees taking in the magnificent view and reading. This beach has more up market accommodation with a nice, very reasonable restaurant catering for all sorts of food tastes. There is plenty of shade from the trees overhanging the beach so I secured one of them to watch Sarah and Black play all day in the sand and water, Blackís swimming is coming along but only good for a length of a short swimming bath but there was no danger as you can walk right out in no more than knee depth and almost as far as the eye can see, at only waist deep.
Sarah and Black messing about in boats on the North Beach.
All I need is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
Noi was most amused at the European women going topless on the beach not being able to understand what that was all about at all. Thai people in the main go back to Victorian times where the likes of beach-ware is concerned and in many other things as well. OK, you donít get the sort of view that you would see in the old brown and white photoís of trolleys that are pulled up and down the beach with the bathers stepping out of them at the waters edge covered from head to toe like a wetsuit but they will go swimming in their normal shorts and tee-shirts. So despite what the media will try and tell you as far as morals are concerned for at least 97% of Thai people it goes back to where the west was over a hundred years ago. If you donít believe me and having seen the very misleading media coverage that I have seen, I would not blame you.  Come and see for yourself.  The rest of our days on the island were spent relaxing in much the same way. On the last day I think Noi had become a little tired of the beach and decided to stay around the bungalow. She had managed to acquire some of her favorite food consisting of local vegetation and massive amounts of extremely hot chillies and was just going to chill out, if you can say that after the food she was going to eat. A gram of this concoction would send most westerners to hospital. Anyway a family of the local monkeys had different ideas. One appeared at first and she parted with a small amount of food, That was a big mistake as that one called the rest of the clan, she was then surrounded. This was amusing at first but as time went on, one mother carrying a baby decided to take a bit out of her knee so she had to stay the rest of the afternoon indoors. Luckily this was just a nip and didnít draw blood or it would have been a case of anti rabies treatment. John successfully completed his diving course and we made the return trip six days later having had a very nice time.
Noi in Phi Phi after a hard day on the beach.
Noi having found a friend in Phi Phi you can see the plaster on her knee which there was no real need for after the monkey bit.
Noi at the Phaow of the boat in one of the many coves in Phi Phi. That John you can see snorkeling in the back ground.
We arrived back home really quite late around 10pm, so everyone was ready for bed. Over the next week or so we made trips to the Crocodile farm, Nong Nooch, Pattaya Park and other local amusement which I have already covered in other stories so I wonít bother to describe them again here. (They are in the story entitled Holiday at Home) On the 18th of August I took the day off and went to Bangkok for my Pilots Ground Test. I think the kids where quite happy just to stay still for the day. Over the next two weeks John went flying at Chonburi on several occasions, which was a big surprise for him.
I have seen this done many time now and I have also heard that sometimes they come unstuck.
This young Thai man had better know what he is doing.
Siatcher Tiger zoo.
The magician it's all done with mirrors.
Laid Back or what?
Johnís first flight in a QuickSilver.
John on one of his many flying trips.
John on one of his many flying trips.

Whoís flying John or B-Din

 

On the 21st we all set of for Kanchanaburi to see the world famous Bridge over the river Kwai, this place was made famous by the film staring Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins in the 1960ís. I saw it for the first time over nine years ago now on my first visit to Thailand, the actual bridge that is, it was certainly a place I had never expected to get to in my life. However in my youth I had heard about it many times being the most famous place along what has become known as the death railway that was started by the Japanese in around 1942 from Bangkok to Rangoon. I had heard about it long before the film as my Uncle Don, my fatherís brother was there on the railway having been stationed in Singapore at that time. The British forces there were ordered to surrender to the Japanese. If you have not seen the film its worth digging through the archives to find a copy as the situation is well portrayed in it. Now I think that although the situation was well portrayed it may have been on the up side compared with the harrowing stories I was told as a boy. However there never was a commando raid on the bridge as the Hollywood people portray and it was eventually bombed from the air. As it happened the film was showing for what must have been the 9000th time in the bar over the road from where we spent Saturday night. So having had our evening meal there I enjoyed seeing it again as by now itís so old that itís off the repeat list. I say it must have been shown for at least 9000th time in the bar because the locals seamed to know the script word for word.
A cross the river where we had lunch on the first day in Kanchanaburi.
Looking up river from the bridge
The new bridge
The original bridge.

Washing the elephant by the side of the bridge.

One of the many old steam engines on display in and around Kanchanaburi, this one was at the side of one of the waterfalls.
John and Sarah seemed to enjoy the trip taking full notice of the museum that we went to as soon as we arrived. I was quite surprised by this since we forget the WW2 period is very distant history for young people of today. Then again they may just have been placating the old man. We spent the rest of the next day visiting local water falls which Sarah said was the highlight of her holiday. The most spectacular one being the Erawan waterfall some 40 miles from Kanchanaburi but well worth the trip, set in pristine countryside well protected by wardens, all the visitors there Thai and foreign alike were having a great time splashing around in the cool waters on a hot day. The bridge you see now in Kanchanaburi is the replacement concrete and steel construction which replaced the wooden one that you see will depicted in the film (shot in Sri Lanka, incidentally). From the museum window in the coffee shop section we could see one of the many graveyards for the allied solders that I have to say is magnificently kept. Kanchanaburi is a cool place to visit but itís is sure a shame that so many people had to die there for the place to ever be heard of. It is flat country all the way from Bangkok to the river but on the other side the mountains form a natural border between Thailand and Burma. In the town there are a great number of small hotels and boarding houses. The one we stayed at I have to say was very nice with very pleasant helpful staff. Not expensive at all at $15.00USD for the night for two small but well appointed clean comfortable bungalows.
The first part of the Erawan waterfall
The third part of the Erawan waterfall.
Black enjoyed having a much bigger brother for a while.
 The day before the kids where due to return home to England we spent in Bangkok seeing some of the very many tourist sights that I have seen many times before. After a very nice, reasonably priced breakfast at the open air bar known as the Bus Stop just across the road from the Dynasty that we had stayed in the previous night, we started off on the tour that my friend Philip had agreed to joins us on. Getting on the Skytrain at Nana station and going to the end of the line presently on the Chao Phrya river. We caught the local Chao Phrya Express ferry up river, getting off across from the Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. While there some local schoolgirls who were on a day trip, took great interest in us, filling out questionnaires etc, for their school work, being just about the same age as John they took a particular interest I think but they also were very interested in Sarah, with to them her very beautiful white skin that they would kill for. Thai ladyís would love to have our white skin as itís a sign of wealth, quite different from a peasant with dark skin.
View from the side of the pear on the south beach.
Swimming with the fish I just wish they would remember which bit of white is the bread.
All getting along well after dinner.
   I sat around smoking and talking politics with one of the local fortune tellers, a lady who had been educated in the States many years before. Back on the other side of the river after a $0.04c ferry ride we saw the Wat Pho with the reclining Buddha, this I have to say I saw for the first time as I must have managed to miss it on other occasions. Although world famous I have to say to me itís over the top. OK, the building is very nice but then so are they all. As you go inside and look between the pillars of the building you see a big gold thing, I say this because you have to pop your head around the pillars to look up and down the length of the Buddha. Rather like a flea would have to look at a dog being on its back. See what I mean; over the top. The building for sure was built around the Buddha but to do the job properly it would need to be ten times the size, or indeed the Buddha would need to be ten time smaller. OK gripe, gripe, gripe, never mind we saw it. Then a short taxi ride to Khao San Road, something to eat and generally chilling out for the rest of the afternoon waiting for the night market to open at Pat Pong. We took a taxi there but had to get out about a mile before we reached it. The traffic just came to a halt so as it was virtually in sight we walked the rest of the way. The mass of stalls was as ever not changed in the 4 or 5 years since I had seen it last. One of the most amazing things about it is that they bring it all out and put it all away each and every day. We had a small meal or at least the kids did in the Madrid bar, reasonable food for reasonable prices. It is a small bar decked out in the Spanish style with about 20 pretty young waitresses and only about 20 seating places so you could have a waitress/hostess per person if you see what I mean. The market seemed quite slow outside but it was early.  

Pat Pong is on the list for all the tour operators as a night place in Bangkok and is very soon avoided by expats and residents. But a half hour look around the market is OK and no harm. From there we had to call it a day and get back to the hotel to pick up the bags and the truck. The traffic still looked just as bad so we took the Skytrain again which got us back to Nana in probably a third of the time it would have taken in a taxi. So we were now early to be going of to the airport but then there is always Nana Plaza for one last drink at one of the outside bars. I picked the Pharaohs Bar owned by one of the black sheep of the Walls family, as in Walls Ice Cream. Itís a nice friendly bar set more or less right in the entrance to Nana Plaza. John was in the lime-light there and I was asked by one of the many very pretty young waitresses how I managed to have such a handsome son.  I sure was not going to leave him there on his own. The traffic was not looking bad in that part of town so we were able to chill a little. But this was only to lull you into a totally false sense of security as it was fine on the expressway, that is until we were about a mile from the airport itself. Then we hit the queue just to get into the airport. Itís a good job I know Bangkok and the troubles you can have. The queue to check-in was no better at the Thai airway stalls. However having finally got there the staff took care of the escort facility for kids under eighteen very well. We were instructed to meet her at midnight and she was on time, a very smart young woman quickly whisked them away into the immigration and for me that was the end of that with only the trip home to my own bed to look forward to.

   

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