Dubai 2006 Trip Marguerite’s Trip to Dubai, Thailand & Vietnam, 2006

Marguerite’s Trip to Dubai, Thailand & Vietnam, 2006

In February and March of 2006, Marguerite joined her college friend, Gretchen Drachman Turner, for a 19-day trip with her daughter, Elizabeth (Beth), to Dubai, Thailand and Vietnam. Marguerite and Gretchen did “Europe on $5 a day” when they graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1964 – 13 countries in 8 weeks, so knew they would be good travel buddies. Gretchen’s daughter lives in Dubai with her husband, Davin Hutchins. They are both international journalists – Beth writes for a business magazine and Davin creates, directs, and produces documentaries. Gretchen is a semi-retired school counselor in Atlanta.

Marguerite et al. at Lunch in Dubai

Beth, Marguerite, Davin, and Gretchen at “The Lime Tree Cafe” in Dubai – M and G had just gotten off the plane after a 24-hour trip, so were a bit jet-lagged. They stayed in Dubai (the most progressive of the United Arab Emerites) for a couple of days. They did sightseeing, including the outside of the Burj – the 7-star hotel where celebrities pay $10,000/night for a suite! The Burj, along with just about everything else in Dubai, is owned by the government which runs Dubai like a large corporation. We learned that to go inside the hotel we had to at least buy a drink, and the minimum cost would be $60 per person – even for a coke! We decided to save our money for other adventures.

Marguerite Next to Wat Arun

Our next stop was Bangkok, Thailand (a 6 hour flight from Dubai). Wat Arun is a very old temple/pagoda complex bedecked with millions of tiny pieces of Chinese porcelain donated by Thai citizens hundreds of years ago. For two nights, we stayed at a local hotel for $20/night for the 3 of us! Bangkok is a huge city with almost 4 million people and at least that many motor scooters! Crossing the street is taking your life in your hands – we quickly learned to follow the locals and pray a lot! We went on a couple of tours, including one down the river where we saw how locals lived – everything from falling-down small shacks to elegant large homes – definitely no CC&Rs in these neighborhoods!

Marguerite “Striking a Pose” in Bangkok

There were many statues of all sorts everywhere. Marguerite’s “misshapen” look is from carrying all of her possessions in the inside pockets of her vest – we were warned to beware of pickpockets, but did not experience any thefts or safety challenges during our trip. The weather in Bangkok was hot and humid, so the convertible pants came in handy – bottoms could be zipped off to make shorts.

Chiang Mai, Thailand – Our Favorite Place!

Chiang Mai is in the north of Thailand and we stayed there in a lovely local resort hotel ($30/night for suite) for three nights. We were met at the airport by Noot, a very nice Thai woman, who took us first to the silk factory – Marguerite bought about a dozen pieces of fabric for her pillow projects, and several silk items in this shopping paradise! They also learned about how silk is made and observed several women weaving silk. Following this experience, we visited several other shops and ended up at a Thai massage salon where we each had a 2-hour massage for $10!

Beth and Monks

Outside of one of the Wats in Chiang Mai, Beth visited with some of the monks and their dogs. Young boys can enter a Buddhist monastery when they are 10 years old and stay there until they are 20 before making a decision about whether to become a monk for life. We were told many boys from poor villages do this because their families want them to have enough food, a safe environment, and some basic education. Many leave at 20 but may come back to the monastery for several days for “retreats” throughout their lifetime. Noot’s brother was going to do this before beginning his career as a dentist. The Monks sit around a lot and lead prayer services several times each day.

Riding Elephants

The next day we took a tour that included an hour-long elephant ride through the hills outside of Chiang Mei. It was quite an experience! Marguerite and a Canadian woman were on the lead elephant, an ornery male, who used his tusks to de-bark a couple of trees and snack on the bark along the way. The ride was quite bumpy, and staying on the elephant required hanging on to the seat – as a result, Marguerite had a sore hip for several days!!

Waterfalls in Thailand

Thailand has many beautiful waterfalls and we visited several. This one was at the bottom of 125 stone steps – Gretchen took a swim but Beth and Marguerite watched. It was hot and humid and bathrooms were few and far between! We had to learn to use “squat toilets” and took our own TP and alcohol hand wash with us everywhere.

The Highest Spot in Thailand

Marguerite, Gretchen, and Beth at the highest spot in Thailand – about 8,000 feet above sea level. This spot is inside a beautiful national park, Doi Inthanon, that also includes a huge national garden, hundreds of greenhouses, as well as a hill village for the Karen tribe that was Christian rather than Buddhist. The Thai government supports the park and also has some experimental laboratories to improve the quality and heartiness of fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Some of the healthiest green things we had ever seen!!

Shopping for Silk in Hanoi, Vietnam

Our next stop was Hanoi, Vietnam, where we stayed for 5 days. There was little evidence of the communist regime, no police with machine guns, and the people didn’t talk much about it. There was lots of commerce everywhere, and of course, Marguerite had to get several shopping fixes! We stayed at a hotel in the old section of Hanoi that was on Hang Bo Street – there are 36 “Hang” streets, each of which specializes in different merchandise. This photo is on the silk Hang street – silk items were very inexpensive and we brought home many small gifts.

Remembering Raleigh on March 5

Gretchen’s husband, Raleigh Turner, died of pancreatic cancer on March 5, 2005. On the one-year anniversary of his death, we visited an old Buddhist shrine and lit incense in his memory. It was a rainy day, hence the blue raincoat! There were many locals and tourists at the shrine which was on one of the large lakes in Hanoi. We also visited the “Hanoi Hilton” – Hoa Lo Prison – where John McCain and other American pilots were POWs for several years – the Hanoi version and the U.S. version of that experience are told very differently, of course!

Scooters and More Scooters!

Gretchen and Beth both took scooter rides with one of the guys from the hotel. Gretchen’s camera broke and they were en route to a repair shop. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t get fixed but the ride was an adventure! There are thousands of scooters in Vietnam and many fewer cars than in Thailand. The hotel also had free internet service in the lobby that worked some of the time.

Perfume Pagoda Experience

One day we took a tour to the Perfume Pagoda – a pilgrimage for locals much like Mecca. We didn’t realize it was pilgrimage season, however, until we were en route – once we got there, we had to climb a high mountain (on slick, muddy, rock steps), take a cable car, and climb more steps to get to the pagoda in the cave at the top of the mountain. Quite an adventure – very crowded and dirty, but beautiful scenery. En route home we had two flat tires on the tour bus.

Ha Long Bay Trip

Ha Long Bay is in northern Vietnam and is a beautiful natural park with many large caves (sort of like Carlsbad caverns). We booked a trip for 24 hours that included spending the PM on a “junk” in the bay. Our boat was built in 2000 and was quite modern – 14 people on the trip included folks from Australia, Germany, and Spain. We ate well, slept in a small cabin (with a clean bathroom, running water, a hot shower, and a western toilet!!) and climbed up and down a couple of mountain sides to get to several caves. Gretchen and Beth also did a kayak trip to other caves while Marguerite stayed on the boat and read her book.

On the Way Home

We returned to Dubai for another day before heading home. This photo is of Marguerite and Beth at the beach near the Burj hotel. The trip from Dubai back to San Diego was 30 hours, with stops in Paris and Atlanta. Marguerite got home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes, filthy shoes, and very tired bones, but the trip was a wonderful adventure!

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