Family Trip To Thailand

by Tom McAuliff - Feb 3, 2002


Getting reconnected - Part 1

Enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Brad Martin and his friend Khun Angsana on the banks of the Chao Phrya. Khun Angsana is a high-powered woman and speaking with her gave both my wife and me a look at the modern Thai professional. For me she symbolizes the confidence and dynamism of today’s Thailand. Food and conversation was terrific and we look forward to seeing Brad again when he arrives at Dartmouth (for his visiting scholar or visiting writer assignment).


“Scandal rocks Kurusapa”

Headlines on this story were a constant companion on our journey. The Kurusapa’s business manager had directed the accumulation and warehousing of some 70,000 pairs of sport shoes along with other mountains of books, educational equipment, etc., “which had been left to rot because they could not be sold because of their inflated price.” You get the picture.


This kind of corruption is nothing new at the “Kurusapa Business Organization.” A criminal case against the previous business director and seven other Kurusapa staff is still before the courts. Mai pen rai, krap?


Jaiya Mongkol: Chiang Mai B&B

If you ever go back to Chiang Mai, consider staying at Jaiya Mongkol, a fairly new B&B (constructed for about US$1M according to a guide for one of our day trips). A delightful host, beautiful surroundings, great breakfasts with other guests, and a nice small village nearby where my wife and I walked off some of our jet lag early in the mornings.


Our family spent Christmas Day there. Our host (Khun Norachai) had decorated a tree in front of the B&B with some ornaments and white gauze and had holiday music playing. In the evening Khun Norachai presided over a barbecue for all the guests, his family, and his friends. I practiced my cultural sensitivity by joining a table with three Thai friends of Norachai’s who were working on a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. They welcomed me and paid great compliments to my rusty Thai. My kind of guys.


Kok River raft trip

As it was 35 years ago, the best way to go from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is by river. My good friend Paula Casey Bellerose was treated to this by Khun Yhotin (George) in the early ‘70’s and it is still fresh in her memory.

With my wife and two college age kids in tow, we min-vanned up towards the Burmese border north of Chiang Mai to Tha Ton and boarded our raft. This was a simple Huck Finn kind of craft ---20 feet of bamboo lashed together with a little thatched roof over most of the raft. To my surprise, it did have life jackets. The WC consisted of shoulder-high thatched walls surrounding a couple of gaps in the bamboo flooring.


We had a crew of three: Khun Noi, who was a farmer’s son but who had played music in a band in Chiang Mai and was a TAT registered guide; and a father and son (I believe they were Karen) who steered, poled, and handled the navigation of our raft through 3-4 not very frightening rapids.


The Kok River is plied by long-tailed boats, but the motorized traffic ended around dusk and we continued our peaceful drifting downstream. The peace and quiet of this trip had an enchanting effect on our little family because there was absolutely nothing to do but watch the scenery, read a book or magazine, or, for our children for whom this is a lost art, talk with their parents.


Eventually a nearly full moon appeared in front of us down the river and Khun Noi broke into song. He sang a little in Thai, a little in English (“Country Road” is one I remember). This for me encapsulated a lot of what I think to be the old Thailand/Thai people experience—beautiful, sentimental, simple, warm,  . . . you get the picture.


Getting reconnected- Part 2 

Barbara Lucey was right this time. No sooner had we arrived in Chiang Rai when the hotel informed us that people from “my” school would pick us up at 6PM for dinner. It was an unforgettable evening with my old colleagues and a night filled with emotion as they gave a little speech in my honor citing what they clearly remembered about me:


1. Liked to play basketball.

2. Ate laap dip.

3. Did not speak Thai as well as Khun Harlan Rosacker (volunteer who preceded me).


They also informed me that Khun Harlan still speaks Thai very well.


(Actually they really didn’t mean anything malicious in their references to Harlan and I have gotten in touch with him since I returned. He joined the foreign service and was posted to Laos, so he had about twice as much time as we did to work on his Thai language skills.)


As we walked out of the restaurant after this wonderful meal, my wife said to our son “Wasn’t that the nicest thing you’ve ever seen?” And he responded, “Yes.”


Okay, enough already. Hope you all go down the Kok River with your loved one(s) one of these days. Stay away from the laap dip, tho.