We started at Newark Liberty International boarding our non-stop flight on Monday, 11 January 2010 which headed eastwards over the Atlantic to take advantage of the tail winds. Total distance flown was 10,634 miles and took us over Europe, the Caspian Sea, then just to the south of Kabul Afghanistan, then Pakistan, India and out over the Bay of Bengal as we headed to Singapore. Total flight time was close to 18 1/2 hours. The return from Singapore also headed eastwards, again to take advantage of the winds, bringing us this time over the Pacific. Total distance was 10,249 miles back to Newark... amazing that it was just difference of 385 miles! Our trip also marked 10 years since Birch, for my 40th, gave me a round-the-world ticket... with the first stop on that adventure having been Singapore! An aspect of travel that we both enjoy, is the experience of great hotels... and as you will see in the pictures, we stayed in some awesome spots.
The Sukhothai Hotel and this Garden Suite 127 - are probably the finest hotel experience ever! The view to the left is from one of our two balconies overlooking the courtyard of pools. CLICK on above image for the web site for THE SUKHOTHAI.
Photo of this water courtyard at The Sukhothai taken from their web site.
Jim Thompson's house and garden are now an amazing museum and oasis within the heart of this busy city. CLICK on above image to go to the web site for THE JIM THOMPSON HOUSE.
Flag of Thailand | Dharmacakra Flag, symbol of Buddhism in Thailand | Flag of the King
Vertigo Restaurant and Moon Bar on top of the 61st Floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. The night before we'd been to the similar Sky Bar at Lebua on top of the State Tower on the 63rd Floor - right the grand staircase at night. CLICK on staircase image right for the web site SKY BAR - or above for VERTIGO.
Met up with friends Monica and Gregg at the Salathip, a pavilion overlooking the Chao Praya Rivert. The restaurant is on the ground of the Shangri-La Hotel. Photo from the Shangri-La web site.
Airport greeting and assistance whisked us out of the terminal in record time... only to find this amazing vintage early 1960's Mercedes awaiting us to go to the Amansara.
AMANSARA of Aman Resorts is located in the middle of busy city life, behind the walls and gate is a world of total tranquility. CLICK on the image for the web site for AMANSARA.
Guests rooms are clustered around two lawn areas.
The largest of the buildings at the Amansara is this 1962 built circular dining room and lounge structure set amongst tranquil lawns and trees. The whole complex was designed by a French architect living in Cambodia and was done in period known as "New Khmer Architecture" movement from 1953-1970.
Pool Suite 23 proved an oasis for relaxation. The Amansara is set right within the city, yet it seems miles distant. One late afternoon, a double rainbow appeared.
One evening local a performance was held in one of the courtyards of the Amansara.
The children are all orphans from teh Sangkheum Center for Children.
CLICK on the above image to see more about the Sangkheum Center for Children.
An Amansara Remork... photo from the Amansara web site. While there are many cars, cycles and remorks dominate the roadways.
Our first day to start temple looking. The most famous, Angkor Wat, is shown in the map by the guides elbow - it is 1/5 the size of Angkor Thom complex above it. We start the explorations with Angkor Thom - another day Angkor Wat - and finally Ta Prohm.
The most famous of all is ANKOR WAT which can be seen in the satelite photo with the moat surrounding in the lower middle of the photo. CLICK on the above image to go to the official web site for APSARA - the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap.
Arrival at 5:45am - only the flashlight illuminates the way.
The morning starts to gently glow.
Pond filled with lotus.
World Monuments Fund Conservation Project is focused on preserving the "Churning of the Sea of Milk" bas-relief by reinstating the roof's damaged ancient drainage system using appropriate materials and methods. For more on this and the WORLD MONUMENTS FUND, click on the above image.
An elaborate gantry system rolls on temporary rails.
Section of roofing removed for work.
A Wat, as in Angkor Wat, means a monastery temple.
Angkor Wat is still an active place of Buddhist worship.
This complex is well known through the famous photos of the trees overtaking the site.
One of the offerings of the Amansara is a private arranged visit to the Cambodian conservation center which is the main facility for the whole country for sculptural works both monumental in size, down to hand held statuary. This vast complex contains items both in outside open storage, covered storage and then storage buildings (where photography was not allowed). This complex is not open to the public..
KHMER COOKING CLASS
We set out at 7:30am with an assistant chef from the Amansara's kitchen for the "pasa ler" or big market. There we explored this vast market - both open air and within many building - and purchased several items with which we would soon be cooking. From there, we headed 15 minutes drive from the city to the Amansara's Khmer village house which sits in a lush garden on the embankment of Srah Srang, a 10th century "royal bathing pool" measuring 700m by 300m. There we met our chef and steward who would be our private teacher for the morning and then serve us the lunch that was prepared from the eight recipes to be explored during the class. Birch was the real student, while I recorded the event on camera... and then we both enjoyed the lunch!
Amansara Khmer village house. The attached kitchen is not visiable here but is to the rear of this buliding.
View from inside out. View across the lawn to the Royal Bathing Basin.
Our chef / teacher. Notice the open slatted bamboo flooring.
Chopping chopping chopping...
Sparks fly from one of three open ceramic cooking pots. Note that there was no ceiling opening or vent!
Bong Morris tasting. "Bong" is Cambodian equivilant of Mister/Mr. - so Bong Morris was what he was called for 4 days... and of course there was Bong Charles.
THE PAVILIONS Resort was our next home away from home. Set in the hills overlooking Bangtao/Layan Bay. Each of the pavilions has its own pool. CLICK on image above to go to the web site for THE PAVILIONS.
Ocean View Pavilion 9
The open air lobby of the resort.
Outside lounge and restaurant.
At anchor in Patong Bay
P H U K E T 2
Back on shore and off to a different resort... here the Amangani of the same Aman Resorts as the Amansara in Cambodia.
Left - view of the main pool and the resorts reception pavilion. Above - view when leaving our Tropical Pavilion. Right - main stretch of the private beach. CLICK on image above for AMANPURI.
Left and above: the most amazing gym pavilion of glass walls and incredible views. Even I had to go work-out one day to enjoy the view! Right: one of the many walkaways traversing the resort as it climbs up the hills.
A long set of stairs upwards...
Breakfast outdoors in our sala.
T H E 5 0 t h - D A Y 1 8 2 5 0
Amanpuri's AMAN I awaits boarding at Ao Po Grand Marina on the northeast coast of Phuket Island.
The captain shows us our route northwards in the Phuket Sea to explore the Ao Phang Nga Islands. Our journey today will last five hours.
Heading northwards to the small islands.
We boarded a zodiac to go exploring a internal island grotto accessed only at low tide by this small passage.
Now heading back out to the blue of the outside world.
Craggy formations and overhangs abound.
AMAN I awaits our return.
A surprise birthday dinner on the beach. A table for two awaits.
Birch descending the long stairs to the beach.
Torches and candles glow.
Table decoration of lotus flowers and votives.
Lighting a sky lantern to commemorate by birthday. CLICK on above for more on sky lanterns and a great video.
Back in the coolness of our air conditioned room - birthday cake, desserts and champagne were served.
T H E 5 1 s t Y E A R B E G I N S A N D B A C K T O T H E R E A L W O R L D !
Countries visited or stopped in now totals 62.
Snow awaited us on arival back in Lakeville, Connecticut.
Special thanks go to ROBERT VAN NUTT for the creation of the two special images to commenorate my birthday.