Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B: Oh, the places you'll go (A to Z Blogging Challenge)

On my A to Z Blogging Challenge, I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited.
B is for Bangkok, Bandung, Borobudor, and a multitude of B cities in England

Bangkok, Thailand (March 1987)
As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Debbie and I visited her friend Noi in Bangkok during our spring break in 1987. Noi came from a Chinese family of affluence, and they were gracious and generous hosts to the poor English teachers visiting from Japan. Here are some of my impressions of Bangkok, lifted from my journal:

Buddha we saw our first day in Bangkok
  • CRAZY driving...with tuk-tuks all over the place and an elephant on the side of the road
  • Beautiful landscape and people!
  • Strange pets--one looked like a monkey/bear, and the other had a body like a cat with a long, curly tail, and a face like a rat!
  • The most amazing food I'd ever eaten in my life at my young age of 22
  • Exciting nightlife (we went to a trendy disco one night)
  • Wonderful golden Buddhas, temples, and artwork
  • Inexpensive and fun shopping, especially at floating markets, positively dizzying with visual imagery and culture
  • One day in the park we saw a group of people doing tai chi while nearby, a snake was being skinned, followed by two men consuming the gall bladder and blood without batting an eye
  • Incredible street food, especially mangoes with sticky rice, one of my favorite Thai dishes
  • Dinner on a boat floating down the river--gorgeous!
  • The Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha, where we actually saw the Crown Princess
  • A Chinese banquet with a full roasted pig, and everyone delighted in eating the pig tail, ears, and tongue!
  • One of the strange pets

  • A fortune teller who seemed to know an uncanny number of things about me...she said I'd have a long life and have three to four children...she also said that I like to take risks and challenge myself, and that I'm independent and make decisions quickly...and I would have a successful career but later in life my husband will travel a lot and I'll have to stay home! Maybe when Mike makes the New York Times bestseller list!
At the Grand Palace

 Bandung, Indonesia (August 1989)

Mike and I spent a few days in Bandung, the third-largest city in Indonesia, to see wayang golek, or a Sundanese puppet play.

Borobudor, Indonesia (August 1989)

I will never forget visiting Borobudor, the largest Buddhist monument in the world--it was simply spectacular. It was probably built around 750 AD, but historians are not sure who built it or why it was built. In fact, for centuries it lay buried under layers of volcanic ash until it was rediscovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1814. When we visited, renovation had just been finished.

We saw about 500 stone Buddhas, many of them headless. The temple had beautiful views of the surrounding hills and countryside, and our visit was relaxing and peaceful.

Bath, Birmingham, Burton-upon-Trent, England (1992-2007)
Chris and Ellie in Burton-upon-Trent

And many years later (2004)
Over the years, we've visited a number of places in England that start with "B." We visited the beautiful Bath early in our marriage (couldn't find any photos but I loved that city!), met up with a school friend of Mike's in Birmingham for lunch one other visit, and we've frequently visited a college friend of Mike's, named Keiron (yes, that's where we got the name for our Kieran), in his home in Burton-upon-Trent, which is near Derby and Nottingham. Keiron's oldest daughter, Ellie, and our oldest son, Christopher, got along like a house on fire when they were little tykes. 
A Keiron/Kieran sandwich!

Blakeney (summer 2004)

Mike on the beach with Chris,
nephew Mark, and niece Victoria
Picturesque beach town Blakeney is located on the Norfolk coast, about 129 miles from London. We spent a few days there when Kieran was a toddler. The village is known for its beautiful buildings covered with local flint and pebbles, and apparently it has a history of piracy and lawlessness (hard to imagine now)! We stayed in the Blakeney Hotel with Mike's family.

Typical house in Blakeney
One memory I wish I could expunge from my mind was fear that I had injured Kieran irreparably with a concussion. One evening I was carrying him on my shoulders and unfortunately wearing some Clark's slide-on sandals. Somehow I fell, and he went soaring down to the pavement. He cried and cried and cried, and I remember trying to keep him awake. We were very far away from medical facilities, so we were watching him carefully to see what would happen and if he needed medical care. At the same time, our nephew Alex seemed to be suffering from norovirus, and Mike's brother and his wife had to rush him to a bigger city to get medical care. Those are not pleasant memories! Fortunately Kieran was fine. Clearly, he has a hard head!
I have always loved this photo--
Kieran had just learned how to walk
I also remember some amazing tomato chutney from a local shop in Blakeney. I wish I had some right now...yum!

Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway (2007)

Lowerfield Farm
Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway are both in the Cotswolds. The last time we were in the United Kingdom, we stayed with some wonderful friends of ours from Japan. Sue and Gareth lived for many years in Japan and adopted a half-Japanese child before they departed for good. Now they run a wildly successful bed and breakfast near Broadway, Lowerfield Farm. At the time we visited, they had been open for only a year or so. Now it's one of the highest-rated B and Bs in the Cotswolds. We were delighted to discover that around the time we visited them, Sue and I had first met exactly 20 years previously to the month! (We met when she came to Osaka for training--we both worked at two branches of the same English school.) 
Sue and Gareth
Sue and Gareth are some of the most hospitable, charming, and warm people we know, so I'm not surprised at all that their business is so successful. The Cotswolds feel like the real "old" England. I miss these people! They are true treasures from Japan.

Our group visiting Broadway
Stay tuned for tomorrow's C adventures!


  1. I would love to spend time in the British Isles. But as exotic as Thailand and Asia are, I don't think I'd be able to survive the sights, sounds, smells or food. One of my friends traveled in Asia and India for a month in 1991 and I asked her, 'tell me honestly, would I be able to take such a trip?' without hesitation she said, 'no.' lol She knows me well.

    1. Haha JoJo--it's definitely for the adventurous. I'm so glad I got to visit India--it was an amazing experience, and I love Indian film and books now--but I'm not sure I will return. Too many other wonderful places to visit, and much easier ones as well!

  2. Great post. I always wanted to go to Bangkok and see some of the temples. Now you've given me a whole list of reasons to go. I did travel to Britain a few years ago. Though we stayed more inland. Anyway, I'm a fellow A-Zer stopping by. I look forward to further adventures.

    1. Thanks, Noree. I too would love to return to Bangkok. I'm sure it's very different now than it was in 1987!! I appreciate your comment!

  3. Oh my gosh; how fun! What wonderful memories of such adventure!


  4. So cool to be able to travel through blogs! Thanks for the lesson on culture and the pictures are great!

    A-Z Blog Hop Challenge

    1. You're welcome Shelly--thanks for stopping by!

  5. Such an adventurous lady :) Good luck with your A to Z

  6. How awesome your travels have been!! I feel as though I just took an exotic vacation. Thank you for stopping my blog and giving me the opportunity to discover yours!! Good luck on the rest of the challenge. I'll definitely be back.

    1. Thank you--I'm glad you are enjoying it!

  7. Just stopping by from the a-z challenge.

    I love the picture of one of the strange pets you found in Thailand, it looks adorable! I've never been to Bangkok, but I was in Phuket, and although I haven't travelled as much as I would like, it's my favourite place I've been!

    Lovely post, I love learning about new places.

    Have fun with the a-z challenge.

  8. What wonderful memories! Between economics and inclination, I don't get out much, but I thoroughly enjoy vicariously traveling through the blog posts of others. :)

  9. i love to travel; what a great idea!