This year's vacation will be to Thailand, three weeks of travel by plane, bus, boat, train and elephant. This morning I checked my amazing Thai MapMagic program from Thinknet which let me put virtual push-pins into my favorite places, and measure the distances. As the crow flies, the itinerary I've picked for myself has me traveling more than 4,000 km. And I'm not going by crow.
Some of the things I want to do are:
- Ride an elephant to a Hill Tribes village near Chiang Mai
- Buy some Hill Tribes embroidery and silver jewelry
- Buy sapphires at the gem exchange in Chantaburi
- Visit my old haunts in Bangkok and Haad Yai
- Scuba dive in the Andaman Sea from Phuket
- Work on my tan
- Celebrate my birthday in Bangkok
- Walk off about 30 lbs
- Flirt in Thai (it's something I miss a lot)
- Eat real Thai food again
I lived and worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bangkok from 1975-76 and in Haad Yai from 1976-77, with a couple of months in between touring the country taking photos for the Peace Corps. The institute I worked for in Bangkok is now the national planetarium & science museum. The national research center I worked for in Haad Yai was a provincial research center on my last visit in 1989, I have no idea if it even exists any more. I haven't been in touch with anyone I worked with since I left. I was a Type A jerk back then, and didn't make any friends. Maybe this time I will...
So far I've booked my flights on EVA Air from SFO to Bangkok via Taipei, and two short hops on Thai Airways from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai and from Phuket to Bangkok. I'll take the bus from Chinag Mai to Mae Hong Son - an 8-hour jungle/mountain ride, and fly back in 35 minutes. Phuket will take me 24 hours to reach by train and bus, but the return flight is just an hour and a half. I never flew in Thailand before, they didn't have a national domestic airline network in 1989. They did have the Phuket flight, but it cost about $300. Now it's $75.
Also booked two days of scuba diving with Marina Divers from Karon Beach in Phuket. Three dives a day, plus meals, plus equipment. I was tempted to bring my fins but they won't fit in my backpack. And I don't want to tote them around for 3 weeks.