Vanishing From Winter: 2014
Updated: Jan 4
The winter of 2013–14 was one of the most significant for the our hometown of Windsor, Ontario, due to the so-called "polar vortex"across North America, leading to an extended period of very cold temperatures. The pattern continued mostly uninterrupted throughout the winter, resulting numerous significant winter storms, most notable a powerful winter storm that dumped ice and snow in mid-February.
It was time for another Vanishing Act.
We departed from Detroit's Metro Airport on Delta Airlines through Tokyo. What can you say about these flights? Long and boring - something to be endured. After 27 hour journey from our frozen abobe in frigid Olde Walkerville (Windsor, Ontario), we were exhausted and excited once we landed in hot humid Bangkok
Our half-way-around-the-world flight included a major climatic shift—some 115 Fahrenheit degrees increase from the Arctic chill that had gripped our city for days.
Our neighbour Chuck picked us up as the arctic bear took a respite for one day back to the woods. Detroit roads were a menace as that bankrupt city could not afford to keep the highways clear. The interstate was treacherous but we dodged a huge bullet as there were accidents and jams in the on coming lanes.
Through Detroit Metro Airport's security cordon and into the bubble—flying reality—best to smile and work with all parties whose best interest is our safe passage. Speaking to one of the supers, he surveyed our plastic bins and expressed his gratitude that we were organized and ready for the screening.
"The worst travellers are the independent ones," he confided.
Not surprisingly, the entire ordeal that constitutes air travel receives little attention by travel writers. When reading travel narratives, which seem to have covered every conceivable topic related to travel on the internet, it is as if the dastardly tedium known as flying never happens.
The writer arrives at a destination with nary a touch of jet lag
What 24-hour flight? Let the real journey begin!
We know better. Jet travel has become something far removed from the golden age of flying. Hard to image plush seats and high-end meals for all, rounded out with a brandy and a smoke, pipe or cigar!
At least the international traveller currently enjoys fringe benefits lost on North American domestic flights. Pillows and blankets sit expectantly on each seat, free cocktails, snacks, hot meals, wider seats and a bit extra legroom to make the journey bearable.
So it's up up and away...we arrived back in the tropics where Bangkok simmered under the threat of protesters and complete shutdown. Traffic is snarled on a good day, hard to imagine the impact when all major intersections are blocked by demonstrators.
Changing in Latitude....
Bangkok is one of our favourite cities but it poses challenges: it can be very hard on the senses, especially regarding changes in latitude, attitude, temperature and noise level. There is an incredible volume of noisy motorized traffic in the city, despite the rapid transit system both underground and above, via the SkyTrain.
This time, we stayed at 1950s vintage The Atlanta Hotel, which promised much more than delivered. Perhaps at one time this haunt was a glorious place, but our room was seedy, staff surly, the entire place dusty, flea bitten and mosquito infested. Its charm had faded long ago, but the joint was still extremely popular with the backpack and aging boomer traveller types.
Yes, we have become the traveller that seems to complain about almost everything, but there you have it.
Given the political climate, a government under siege by massive protest movements, a city on the brink of a major shut down on Jan. 13th, rumours of coups and violence, we cut our stay short. The normal drill for us would have been to hop on a plane or train, head down to one of the islands in the south, particularly Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Phuket et al...
This time around, we decided to embrace slow travel. For this Vanishing Act, we will spend three out of four months in Bali and environs, so we thought to explore visit new places in Thailand and Malaysia that are perhaps a little more authentic during our first month.
Thanks to our friends over at the great SE Asia resource TravelFish.org, we learned about Prachuap Khiri Kahn, a four (or six-hour) train ride from Bangkok (best to go with the latter time as shall be seen.
"get there early, might be late."
Note: Once upon a time when traveling in Fiji, we heard an expression which stuck: "get there early, might be late." It has rung true time and time again during our travels in developing countries.
After only three nights in Bangkok, which surprisingly felt much longer (must be the jet lag) we grabbed our train tickets, were up at 6:15 am, checked out of The Atlanta, jumped into a cheap taxi to the train station, then settled in to wait for the 8:05 am train, which of course arrived 1/2 hour late, but served to transport us to the sleepy seaside town of Prachuap.
We then were ensconced in the Sunbeach Guest House, our deck overlooking the refreshing salt water pool, swapping city traffic and regular wail of sirens with the soothing lull of waves beating against the seawall just a few hundred feet away.
The Sunbeach Guest House - what a gem- 10 comfortable rooms situated across the street from the beach at the south end of a giant scenic bay. A very well maintained facility, spotlessly clean, each room with lovely private veranda overlooking a small salt water pool, perfect after meandering around this peaceful little community. One of the neat finds off the beaten path normally missed by travellers hurrying directly from Bangkok to the southern Thai islands. We liked it so much we added an extra night to our stay; at $35 night good luck finding anything like this in N. America!
We enjoyed our unwind in quiet Prachuap, rented bikes, at some great Thai seafood, walked the night market, hung out with the monkeys, walked the beach. The seas was a bit stirred up due to winds but our hotel pool was a great respite from the heat.
Here are a bunch of photos at Parchuap...