by Nina Sabin - Travel
Well, I bet you are wondering, what is a Repat? Repat is short for repatriate. The definition of repatriate is to send someone back to the country that is legally their own. When we moved to Saudi we knew that once a year we would get funding and time allotted for us to take trip back to our home country. We were allocated approximately 30 days to travel. Most expats, however, would take the opportunity to travel to other countries instead of just going back to our home country. Though we still didn’t miss the chance to go home and see friends and relatives in the US.
Our first repat, took John 300 hours to plan. He worked on every detail and came up with an amazing itinerary. Since we have traveled with my in-laws during summers when were first were married, and then our France/Belgium/Germany we were excited for them to join us once again. They came to visit us in Saudi before we began our journey to six countries in a month. Relatives can only visit you if someone who works in Saudi sponsor them and can get them a visitor visa. Not anyone can travel and visit Saudi Arabia, you must be sponsored.
John title our itinerary (link itinerary page) The Infamous Asia Sampler Tour 2002 (aka Around the World in 60 flight hours). The countries we visited on this tour were: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, US (San Francisco, and South Florida). This was during the months of November and December. It was our one and only Christmas we celebrated out of Saudi.
Our first stop on the Infamous Asia Tour was Thailand. We flew into Bangkok. Wow, what a difference from flying into Egypt, Saudi, or France. Even at the airport you can just sense the relaxed atmosphere. You always hear of people wanting to ‘drop off the face of the earth’ and live in Thailand. After just entering the country you could understand why. You could smell the orchids and once you landed off the plane you were handed a welcoming orchid as you arrived.
We spent three and a half days in Bangkok. Even though it was winter, we were wearing shorts and enjoying the weather of 75 – 88 degrees Fahrenheit (24 – 31 degrees Celsius).
The best way to travel in Bangkok is a Tuk Tuk. You can rent one for a whole day inexpensively, but it will include a stop at a local tailor to supplement the ride. This was fine with us. John had some shirts and a suit jacket made. Most people come to Thailand to have clothing custom made at reasonable prices.
We started our tour at the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo. It is recommended that this city landmark should be the first place on any visitor's itinerary. It is a huge compound on Na Phra Lan Road near Sanam Luang, surrounded by high white walls and occupies an area of about a square mile. The palace, begun in 1782, consists of several buildings with highly decorated architectural details. The Royal chapel, Wat Phra Kaeo, which is in the same compound, houses the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand.
Within the palace is the Royal Thai Decorations and Coin Pavilion - located on the right hand side before entering the palace's inner gate. The pavilion displays exotically designed coins and other monetary exchange units used in Thailand since the early 11th Century A D. John used to collect coins and was very excited to see this place. In the same building, adjacent to the coin collection, is a display room for Royal regalia, decorations and medals. Most of the items seen were used in former royal courts. Some are made of gold and are elaborately pattered.
We finished our first day with a massage. No trip to Thailand is complete without a daily massage. This is where the relaxing part of our vacation happens. They are inexpensive (less than $10) and very rewarding.
Before the sun set we wanted to see the floating market. It was amazing to see all the boats floating in the water. Also, it was interesting to see the fruit or vegetable hanging from the boat to show what they were selling.
Part of any country, as I have shared before, is tasting the culture. Thai food is very delicious. Lots of vegetables, rice, and noodles and it can be spicy or not spicy which worked for our whole family.
The next day we were off again to explore more of Bangkok. In the morning we journeyed through the Phra Thi Nang Vimanmek and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall. Vimanmek Palace is located behind Bangkok's National Assembly and is the world's largest building made entirely of golden teak. The three-story wooden palace has 81 rooms, halls and ante-rooms, excluding terraces and verandahs. Near the entrance to Vimanmek Palace is the Royal Carriage Museum where 13 royal horse-drawn carriages once used during the reign of King Rama V are collected. The collection is so splendid and regarded to be of great historical value.
Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall (The Support Museum), a one story teak building built in the reign of King Rama V. is situated on the east wing of Vimanmek Throne Hall. Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall is now Thailand's first handicraft museum where Her Majesty the Queen collects handicraft masterpieces created by members of Support Foundation. In the museum, visitors find such handicrafts as niellowares, Thai silk with various unique designs, ''Lipao" basketry like beautiful trays, handbags studded with jewels in different designs such as green beetle.
In the afternoon, we traveled to Rose Garden and Thai Village Show. West of Bangkok on the bank of the Thachin river. It boasts large, beautiful and well- maintained gardens and is ideal for a picnic. In the resort there has a Thai cultural village showing Thai folk dancing, Thai boxing, sword fighting demonstrations and elephant show, Buddhist ordination, fingernail dance, hill tribe dance, wedding ceremony. Our best memory of the cultural village was being able to have parrots on our shoulders. You felt very welcomed and at home at the Thai cultural village.
The last day in Bangkok, we of course had another massage. We didn’t want to leave Bangkok without visiting Chinatown and Pahurat (the Chinese and Indian District). This was the start of another family tradition that when we go to a city we include Chinatown on our visit.
We also wanted to take home some souvenirs. The best place in Bangkok to buy gifts is MBK (Ma Boon Khrong Center) Shopping Center. It is eight stories high, the center contains around 2,000 shops, restaurants and service outlets. The MBK Center management reports daily visitor numbers of more than 100,000, half of whom are young Thai people and a third foreign visitors.
On a side note before we end our journey in Bangkok, I wanted to share one food place that we learned they cater to the culture. Believe it or not it is McDonald’s. We found that in Thailand they have a rice and chicken dish sold only in Thailand and in Saudi it is the McArabia (a flat bread chicken sandwich).
Stay tuned for my next blog about the amazing adventure through Chang Mai Thailand.