For a day and a half post-take off from the enchanting Singapore, Kosherica Travelers are at sea, heading toward Thailand. The Kosher traveler gets to enjoy the delights of luxuriating in the best hospitality has to offer. Meeting fellow passengers at dinner and exchanging delightful experiences. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are unspeakably delicious and plentiful and are served and prepared with love. Freshly baked bread daily, fragrant food which feeds body and soul. The ship, ms.Westerdam by Holland America has completed all Signature of Excellence achievements. It is decorated in the New World style, with Old Dutch Heritage art, sprinkled with contemporary American sculptors and an Andy Warhol portrait. Comfort, green energy and great beauty surround the guests everywhere. Wherever they go, may it be their staterooms, the exquisite dining rooms, ballrooms or decks – they are oozing high class.
The first stop is in Thailand on Friday Morning and the ship docks at Koh Samui (Nathon). Perfect time to have a delicious breakfast, disembark and visit the port town which some call the Riviera of Thailand. You can stretch your muscles, walk around the pretty port town, even go swimming. Look up the souvenir shops where options are increasing for interesting finds. The wonderful summer weather on January 4 (date of docking), is sure to lift your spirits as you walk away with an unusual Thai bargain.
Shabbat is spent on the ship which has already arrived overnight in Laem Chabang, the port nearest to Bangkok. Celebrate and rest and enjoy Shabbat – Kosherica-style. The day may be spent eating traditional Jewish Glatt Kosher delicacies, going to shul for the services and reading. We can visit one of the most magical cities in Asia early Sunday, right after breakfast. There isn’t much time to waste. Departure is at 3:00pm on Sunday afternoon and the trip from the port to the glimmering city takes two hours so I would recommend an early start. Perhaps get together with a small group of friends or a tour and get on the road by 7:00am. This will
get you to a beautifully organized tour of the greatest highlights of this amazing place. Regardless of how often I visit Bangkok, I have yet to come upon a time when one will not bump into a brand-new discovery.
Your local guide will perhaps take you to Bang Rak, one of Bangkok’s busiest districts. Diving first into a busy market, you’ll smell some of the local spices and take a look at some of the exotically shaped and colored fruits and vegetables. This could be the first stop, from which to subdivide into smaller tours of individual interest. It could also be the meeting place to return the ship.
One thing is certain: you have never seen a city like Bangkok. It has everything to charge your spirit, a magical beauty older than Methuselah, floating markets and enormous gemstone statues. The city is peppered with Asian fairytale castles, like the Royal Temple. The Royal Temple, (Wat Pho), which is a magnificent piece of architecture is a must see on any tour to Bangkok. I must add here a word to the wise, and luckily our crowd will be unlikely to find this hard. Unless tourists wear long sleeves and their legs are covered, men are dressed respectfully with long pants and light jacket, they won’t be allowed into the breathtaking palace. The same holds true for many temples so stay warned. My impressions in this city have yielded my highest artistic inspirations and continue to do so. Fellow travelers, depending on their areas of interest and life history have been in tears seeing the authentic sites where there favorite films have been shot such as “Bridge over the River Quai”.
The city is vast, divided into 50 districts and as our time is crunched we must pick the best and most interesting for each Jewish traveler. In this case a private guide residing locally is a must. They will begin your tour at the ornate, gilded Grand Palace, visit the famous reclining Buddha and before long you’ll find yourself in the most fascinating place ever: Temples, courtyards and fairytale gardens. A short walk will lead you to Sai Ban Batre, an artist/artisan enclave. Watching their amazing precision work, use of color is a trip in and of itself. Merely writing about this awakens a longing to visit Bangkok, as an artist or anyone inflamed by exquisite art the trip back and forth to the ship will more than pay for itself. The artisans also handcraft more simple food bowls and practical items. Purchase a set and back home, away from other shimmering elaborate items, you’ll discover that you bought a set of gleaming practical treasure.
Bangkok is a combination of a wonderfully exciting modern metropolis with the befitting infrastructure. Yet, unlike most megacities and metropolis around the world and Asia in particular, there is a tangible added element. Instead of the loud, insanely fast paced neon lit megacities in most of Asia, Bangkok is touched by a state of grace and has a more relaxed tone, is easy to navigate using public transport and has exceptional, smiley, eager-to-please residents. All this makes a gentler introduction into Southeast Asian life. Originally, a key trading post of the 15th-century Ayutthaya Kingdom, Bangkok is still very much a commercial hub. This is the wonder of Bangkok. Flit between world-class boutiques. From the finest, most elegant look for treasures in the local markets and the stalls that line the streets. Have a business meeting with a world class company then exit to see the spikes between the malls, tower blocks and the gilded chedi (bell-shaped relic chambers) of the Buddhist temples and wats that provide places of solace throughout the city. This city, which was once known as the Venice of the East’, is sprinkled with canals, the large Chao Praya river that was highly useful for the European traders. All the while it maintained its exotic spiritual energy and look. The clongs or canals are still used for transport. ;
The largest Golden Buddha statue is right outside the royal temple and it is truly stunning. It’s noon by now and time to meet your compadres and begin the ride back to the ship. No hurry, you’d have seen the best of Bangkok and arrive in plenty of time for the 3:00pm departure.