Two Quick disclaimers:
1. I've never blogged!
2. Sarah's Travelogue/Cookbook will be a thousand times more interesting, thorough and tasty than what you're about to read.
First off, this trip would not have happened without the vision, talent and generosity of Sarah and John Fragoso. Thank You! This 5 week journey was borne out of yet another one of Sarah's amazing cookbook projects, but certainly ended up being much more than just food photography (which I love). We visited many places in Thailand traveling around the country by plane, van, car, tuk tuk, scooters [or as John and I like to call them: motorcycles]. Our journey began with nine people (don't worry it ended with all nine of us still alive): Sarah & John and their two boys, Myself and my wife America with our two girls as well as Mayela a wonderful friend/nanny to help out on days that we were working on the book, or the occasional night out for dinner.
I've tried to arrange my pictures in the Thailand gallery in order of events…as I remember them. Let me dive right in and state what an amazing trip this was and what wonderful, welcoming and warm people I found the Thai to be. We would go to a restaurant and the waitress would just scoop up one of our 5 or 6 year olds and engage them without a common language to connect! I've been at some restaurants where the site of young children can make a host(ess) roll his/her eyes, what a welcoming environment. So many people asked me before the trip: "aren't you worried about….disease, bad food/water, child trafficking" etc…my reply: No, I'm not worried. My plan was this: Be alert and aware of my surroundings and don't put my family in any dangerous situations.
After our flight from San Francisco to Beijing, (where we missed our connection), we eventually landed and stayed in Bangkok for a few days. Yes, it is busy. Yes, there does seem to be a seedy side. But, no I never felt as if any of us were in danger. In fact we were extremely welcomed by everyone right from the start. We got a fair amount of work done in the beginning, which was encouraging to all.
While in Bangkok I was able to squeeze in a nature expedition as well as witness some very cool events. Not only did I photograph a ceremony/street procession for two gentlemen entering into the monastery I passed my camera off to my guide and jumped into the procession and had my picture taken with a few of the locals. They were very willing and warm (I've encountered some angry people when it comes to pictures in other countries). I also witnessed workers harvesting/mining the salt from the salt flats. Both of these things I had never witnessed before, not to mention the various bird and reptile species that I saw for the first time.
From Bangkok we flew to Chiang Mai where we continued to get the lions share of this project in the books. Not to mention a night at Muay Thai fights, a morning riding Elephants through the forest and straight into a river where we got to bathe them! We spent a morning at a sustainable farm, Sunday night at the street market. I was able to arrange a birding/nature photography trip to Doi Inthanon National Park. My driver know nothing about birding, yet he was very patient as we hiked around, he took great pride in helping me spot various species (he had a keener eye than I).
After 10 days or so in Chiang Mai we traveled to three islands (the order of which we visited them is fuzzy to me) Ko Pha Ngan, Phuket, and Ko Samui. Mopeds or Scooters were the best way to get around and the kids LOVED the thrill. It was 'low season' and therefore pretty easy to get a great deal on beautiful accommodations, some right on the beach. One early morning I took my girls for a ride on the scooter onto the beach and ended up at another hotel nearby that had a zoo (of sorts). Not very humane conditions, but my girls fell in love with the Otters (that had been declawed).
We saw a very interesting and large Eagle Owl with very dark ominous eyes, all of us concluded that this was one amazing looking bird that was not to be messed with. Later that evening, after 'shooting' food we were dining outdoors, at a picturesque hilltop location. The sun was setting, a gentle breeze was blowing and suddenly I noticed a very large bird beating its' wings deeply but not making much progress. I called out to the group as we watched an Eagle Owl on a treadmill of wind about 30 feet from our heads just above eye level. This majestic creature flapped in place for 27 minutes as we watched (actually it was about 2-3 seconds) and then disappeared silently the way only Owls can do.
While in Khao Lak, we were all deeply moved when we got to cook with owners of a restaurant that were survivors of the 2004 Tsunami.
Traveling with our families, we decided crabbing at night and exploring during the day, would be a good time for all. Snorkeling, adopting stray dogs, visiting Angthong Marine National Park and playing on the beach also kept us quite entertained.
Our return to Bangkok at the end of the trip was spent visiting Wats, shopping, going to the backpackers district and having drinks at the location of 'Hangover II' lebua at State Tower.
P.S. I spent 5 weeks in Thailand in high humidity with the following: 2 shirts, 2 pants (with zip off legs), 2 pair of underwear, 2 pair of socks, 2 pair of shoes…it made sense at the time seeing as though I was bringing about 80 pounds of camera gear.
This was a trip of a lifetime with lifetime friends! I would highly recommend traveling to Thailand with or without children.