Friday, March 23, we left Saigon at mid-day to return to Bangkok for two nights at the riverside Peninsula Hotel to celebrate my birthday and begin our journey home.
We're amazed and thrilled that Chuck Vernon (my friend Christie's youngest son) and his wife, Alina, came to Bangkok to join us in celebrating my birthday and Alina's June birthday. They live in Bucharest, where he has his law practice and she is an auditor. Their little ones, Christie (now almost 4) and Andrei (almost 2), stayed in Romania with Alina's mother.
Friday night Chuck hosted a spectacular dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's top floor Le Normandie restaurant, where world-famous U.S. chef, Thomas Keller, was cooking. It was an all-evening affair with too many courses to list and an appropriate wine for each one. Louis had orchestrated birthday cards from many family and friends to be waiting for me on a little stool next to my chair. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. An unforgettable evening near the end of a life-changing sojourn in Thailand and Vietnam.
Saturday we visited the Jim Thompson House Museum for lunch and a tour of the late American silk merchant's home, followed by a swim and relaxation at the hotel before dinner at the open air, casual, riverside Baan Klang Nam seafood restaurant. Terrific. Alina and I had river lobster.
Sunday we took a tour of two favorite temples, Wat Pho (famous for its huge, reclining Buddha), and Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn with Khmer-style architecture covered in ceramic tiles). Traveling by long-tail boat, we landed at each temple, where the sun was VERY hot, so we didn't linger too long, but ended our time with a cooling and extensive ride through the khlongs (canals) of Bangkok. I had not seen this side of the city, and all of us found it fascinating.
Our time in Bangkok ended with tea at the Peninsula. Finally, in the early evening, we headed to Subarnabhumi Airport for the long ride home, Bangkok-Tokyo-Dallas-Columbus. We made it in about 35 hours with no mishaps - a minor miracle.