Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Hanoi is history.

I'm back in the land of smiles.  Dolly, my friend in Bangkok, picked me up from the airport and we headed for the wine country of Thailand, in the mountains about 4 hours northeast of the city.  I would never have even thought of looking for wineries in Thailand, but Dolly had this trip on her wish list and I was game.

The drive was pretty boring until we hit the mountains, and then it was delightful.  We took a couple of wrong turns, so we didn't arrive at our resort until after dark.  

This is the view that greeted me from our balcony in the morning.

From another angle.

We didn't realize we were so far from the winery we planned to tour, so we got an early start to make our reservation at noon at the winery's restaurant.

We had seen this Tuscan village imposter on the way to our resort the day before, and we decided to stop and check it out.

It was pretty impressive on close inspection.  All the townhouses here are 3, 4, or 5 stories.  We toured this 5 story that was still under construction.  These units had 5 bedrooms and 5 full baths.  The view from the balcony of the 5th floor was amazing.  You could see the whole valley and, of course, the backdrop of mountains.  Price tag--half a million.

We also toured a 4 story unit that was finished.  The development really did have the feel of Italy, except the buildings were way too new and there was no church!

We went on to have a delicious lunch at the winery restaurant and then toured the grounds and the "wine factory".  I'm sure most of you have toured a winery, so I won't bore you with an explanation or pictures of the wine-making process and equipment.

But I will show you a section of this beautiful flowering tree.  This valley abounded with flowing bushes and trees.

This winery was established only 10 years ago, so the wine is not that great yet.  There was a Chenin Blanc that was quite drinkable, but that was it. 

After the tour, we went to some other tourist sites in the area--another Italian village knockoff, but this one's buildings were filled with retail shops.  It was really crowded because this was a holiday weekend for Thais.  Monday was Makha Bucha Day, which is held on the full moon day of the third lunar month to venerate Buddha and his teachings.

We couldn't resist stopping to see this water buffalo.  There were some gardens here, but the place was closing up so we just did a quick photo op.

Dolly was a little disappointed to find that the grass covering this guy was plastic.

We stopped at another place to check out the menu of what we thought was a restaurant.  But it was just a gift shop.  While we were looking around at the merchandise, a sheep wandered in and out again.  You could pay for the privilege of feeding grass to some sheep in the back of the shop, but they decided to knock off work early, so we missed out on that, too.

We couldn't find a decent restaurant for dinner, so we headed back to our resort and ate there--not that great, but the options were truly limited in this area of the country.  This area must not be frequented by Westerners, because we didn't see one white woman all day.  (You'll always see a white guy with a Thai woman no matter where you go.)  And at most of the restaurants, there was no English translation of the menu; and most of the road signs were in Thai, which made navigating a real challenge.

We left early on Monday morning to beat the holiday traffic back to Bangkok, plus Dolly had planned to work.  I was supposed to be flying to Myanmar that afternoon.  But I scratched that plan after discovering the difficulties I would probably encounter traveling alone in a fairly underdeveloped country.  I would have to carry enough crisp new American dollars to cover all my expenses, because credit cards aren't accepted and there are very few ATM's.  It just didn't feel safe to me.

So I'm in Bangkok for a few days, then I'm headed to Ko Samui, an island south of here, for a couple of weeks.  Wait until you see my front yard!

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