Coming from Australia, I spent the first days in Bangkok. Although Bangkok is a big city with a lot of traffic, it is also a fascinating city.
Christmas lighting in front of the ICONSIAM Shopping Center, which just opened in November 2018. It is the largest in Bangkok with over 500 shops and more than 100 restaurants.
Some bars on roof terraces offer great views over the city and the Chao Phraya River.
Millenium Hilton Rooftop Bar
The view from the Millenium Hilton Rooftop Bar
Sky Bar at the State Towers
But the best view is from the Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of the State Tower, which I visit every time I am in Bangkok. But in the future I won’t have a drink there anymore. The prices increased every year, but in the meantime cocktail costs about THB 1’000 with taxes, which is about CHF/USD 30. That seems exaggerated to me. And I have enjoyed the view many times already.
The view from the Sky Bar on the State Tower
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
I’ve been to Bangkok countless times. Nevertheless I discover new sights again and again. This time I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). The museum comprises six floors and countless interesting works of art. It is the result of three decades of collecting by the Thai Boonchai Bencharongkul, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the mobile phone company DTAC and is considered one of the richest man in Thailand. He supported many artists directly and financed their stays abroad so that they could broaden their horizons.
As this small selection of exhibits shows, the museum is worth a visit.
This is a section of a larger painting.
Ratchada Train Night Market
After the museum visit I spent the evening in the night market Ratchada Train Night Market, which is located at the metro station Cultural Centre. Here, besides the usual market booths, there are also stalls selling antiques and other objects from the past that are otherwise difficult to find. In addition, there are countless food stands. This one sold grilled insects. I have not tried them. Later Thai bands played in some bars at the edge of the market.
After a few days in Bangkok I travelled to the Kao Yai area where I visited wineries.
Jim Thompson Farm
After spending the night at the Village Farm winery, the manager suggested that I visit Jim Thompson Farm, 50 km away, before returning to Bangkok. Since the farm only opens its doors to the public for one month from the beginning of December to the beginning of January, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I knew Jim Thompson from earlier trips to Thailand. He was an American who during World War II, as a member of the US Secret Service, worked for the liberation of Thailand from the Japanese occupation and came to Thailand with the end of the war. As a businessman he saw the potential of Thai silk and is now revered as the savior of the Thai silk industry during the 1950s and 60s. In the 60’s he was one of the most famous Americans living in Asia. In 1967 he disappeared under mysterious circumstances during a walk in a mountain area in Malaysia.
In one part of the farm countless different flowers bloomed. This picture shows one of several fields.
Whole structures were erected with grids overgrown with plants. One of these installations contained more than 30 different pumpkin species.
In the spirit of Jim Thompson, the silk production from the caterpillar to the spinning of the silk thread was also presented.
Silkworms are the larvae of the silkworm moth. They feed exclusively on the leaves of the mulberry tree.
Cooking the cocoons of the silkworms kills the silkworms before hatching.
Dried silk cocoons
The farm includes an idyllic river with historic buildings.
Further, a rice mill was shown in operation and activities of Thai rural life such as rice peeling and textile weaving. Snack stands offered local specialties and in a market hall pumpkins, herbal teas, noodles, T-shirts and much more were sold.
I liked the farm and was glad that I was made aware of this attraction.
On the same day I took the bus back to Bangkok. After a few more days in Bangkok I flew to the city of Udon Thani, 600 km north of Bangkok, only 50 km from the Laotian border.
In the center of Udon Thani there is a lake on which huge plastic ducks swim.
There I visited a colleague of a colleague who wanted to show me his new house. Since many tourists visit Thailand over Christmas, I was happy to spend a few days here away from the hustle and bustle. Joe is a retired Swiss who has been living in Thailand for a few years and has found a new love here after his divorce in Switzerland. Actually he wanted to live in Tuscany after his retirement, but this was not possible with his state pension, the Swiss AHV (Old Age and Survivors Insurance). Also in expensive Switzerland, he could only have led a very modest life. In Thailand his pension is enough for a middle-class life. With the pension fund money paid out ( which he and his employers had financed in the course of his working life) he was able to build himself a house in the countryside and build up reserves for unscheduled expenditures. Like all foreigners with a Thai partner, he supports his girlfriend as well as her children and the family. School fees or a motorcycle for his girlfriend’s daughter are some of the expenses, so that at the end of the month nothing remains of the pension. Foreigners cannot own land in Thailand, so the land always belongs to the Thai partner. That’s why Joe’s girlfriend owns a house in the city center of Udon Thani, which her Swiss ex-husband paid for. Now she also owns the land bought by Joe and the newly built house. A German friend of Joe’s, to whom we were invited for dinner, has signed an extendable 20-year lease with his Thai girlfriend for the land and house he bought in her name, so that he can stay in the house until his death even in the event of a separation. Unfortunately, only a few expatriates do this, so that many Westerners are no longer entitled to the common house and land after a separation.
An excursion led us to the province Loei, where we visited the winery Chateau Loei (in the lower part of the website). The province Loei is a sparsely populated, mountainous province in the northeast of Thailand at the border to Laos. Thanks to the altitude of several hundred meters above sea level, the temperatures here are pleasant.
On the way we stopped at a restaurant with a replicated London double-decker bus.
Joe, his girlfriend Ta and me
This discarded bus was also on the premises of the restaurant.
In the far north of the province is the small town of Chiang Khan on the Mekong River. It is known for its traditional wooden houses. The other side of the river is already Laotian territory.
Phu Phrabat Historical Park
On another day we visited the Phu Phrabat Historical Park 85 km from Udon Thani. It is a mystical area with massive boulders that have been eroded to varying degrees due to the different resistance of the rock layers. The rocks were formed about 15 million years ago as part of the seabed.
The people of that time considered this extraordinary area sacred, so they built Buddhist and Hindu shrines in the rock formations.
In several places there are over 6’000 years old rock paintings.
It was interesting to get to know the life of a Swiss pensioner in Thailand.
Next I traveled to Cambodia.