“Wild Camping” & RV Boondocking Tips – Escapees Magazine

The winter RV boondocking scene was well underway in Arizona when we flew halfway around the world to explore Thailand for a month. But even though we weren’t a part of the groovy RV gathering in Quartzsite this season, an article of ours offering a few tips we’ve learned about how to boondock in comfort and style appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Escapees Magazine.

Wild Camping in Comfort and Style in Escapees Magazine by Emily Fagan

Escapees Magazine – Jan/Feb 2017 Issue
Article by Emily & Mark Fagan

Whenever we find a gorgeous campsite, we’ve gotta take pics. There’s something very satisfying about seeing our beloved buggy in really picturesque locations!! Writing this post seemed like a great excuse to share some pics from our favorite campsites during our travels in 2016. We don’t get to have views like these every day, but when we do, the cameras come out!

Many years ago, we started our RVing lives by dry camping in public campgrounds in a popup tent trailer. When we moved into our first big trailer to RV full-time nearly ten years ago, we assumed we would be dry camping most of the time.

So, we put a solar power system on our trailer and quickly learned the art of boondocking.

This is a really fun way to travel in an RV if you are into nature and solitude and quiet nights.

It’s not something that appeals to everyone, but we enjoy it immensely and have written about it on this blog:

For us, half the fun of boondocking is finding really great campsites, and that is a treasure hunt we undertake every day (we even caught ourselves pointing out to each other an “ideal boondocking spot” while on a tour in Thailand!!!).

Many people assume that “boondocking” means “roughing it,” but that doesn’t have to be the case. I had to laugh when I invited a new RVer into our rig last summer and, as she followed me up the stairs, she said, “I can’t believe you boondock all the time and you have shaved legs!!” Well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, whether camping in the wilds of nature or staying at the Four Seasons!

If your RV is outfitted well and you are willing to conserve your water and electricity a little bit, boondocking can be very comfortable, and of course, you can shower every day and shave your legs too!

Since we began living in our RV and boondocking every night all those years ago, the term “wild camping” has become popular, although I’m not sure that living in a luxury RV can be considered either “wild” or truly “camping.”

But the term does have a really sexy ring to it, so the Escapees Magazine editors used it in the title of our article. They posted the article on their website and you can read it here:

Wild Camping in Comfort and Style – Escapees Magazine

The Escapees RV Club has always encouraged its members to try boondocking, as it is the way the Club’s founders, Kay and Joe Peterson, liked to camp in their Airstream when they were full-timing as young working adults in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Escapees offers super cheap dry camping sites at most of their RV parks ($5/night for members) and they provide dry camping options at all of their rallies and functions too.

The Advocacy arm of Escapees RV Club also keeps tabs on changes in public land management and goes to bat for RVers when our camping options on public land are threatened in a big way.

Escapees RV Club has many other facets to support and educate RVers, from bootcamp programs for new RVers to rallies offered by various chapters nationwide that bring both inexperienced and seasoned RVers together socially.

On March 19-24, 2017, Escapees will be holding its 57th Escapade rally in Tucson, Arizona. This is a big rally and the schedule is absolutely chock full of informative seminars, social gatherings and fun entertainment.

Before Escapade begins next month, there will also be a 3 day Escapees Bootcamp training program for new RVers, March 16-18.

The schedule of Bootcamp seminars is eye-popping, covering everything from RV systems to Safe Driving to Specifics on Towable RVs to Specifics on Motorhomes to RV Weight and Load Management and Fire Safety.

They’ll also have their professional SmartWeigh Weighmasters available to weigh your RV. Our rig was weighed by a Smartweigh Weighmaster, and it was a very helpful and informative process.

Unlike most truck scales that weigh each axle of the rig individually, this weighing system weighs each wheel. This helps you figure out where the heavy spots are (all on one side or on opposite corners or in one particular corner) and find out whether your rig is limping a bit as it goes down the road.

This 57th Escapade in Tucson will also have a two-day program specifically for kids so parents or grandparents can drop their kids off while they attend seminars.

For folks that love to ham it up and perform, there is also an event called Escapade’s Got Talent where members can entertain their fellow RVers with whatever singing, dancing, music, skits or poetry they’ve got up their sleeve. For cowboy poets, there will also be a Cowboy Poetry contest.

There will be lots of great food too, including a chili cook-off, and on the last day there will be a 90th birthday party for Escapees Club Founder Kay Peterson.

We discovered Escapees RV Club back in 2008 through our love of boondocking when some fellow boondockers outside Death Valley National Park showed us the Days End Directory of boondocking locations and encouraged us to join.

If you are interested in joining, you can call 888-757-2582 or use the link below. If you mention that you heard about Escapees through our website, Roads Less Traveled, they will put a little something in our tip jar. We’ve been recommending Escapees to RVers for years, tip-free, so that is not our motivation at all. We simply believe in the Club and all the work they do to make RVing easier and more fun for everyone.

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Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures

January 2017 – After we finished hiking Erawan Waterfall in Kanchanaburi Thailand, our tour guides from Mellow Adventures took us to a second and even more breathtaking waterfall deep in the jungle.

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall – Breathtaking!

But before we hopped in the car to drive there, Mellow Adventures treated us to an amazing Thai lunch.

Back when I had been planning our tours with Steffen, the owner of Mellow Adventures, he had added a restaurant stop for lunch as part of our itinerary. However, I wasn’t keen on giving up precious time at the waterfalls to sit down for lunch at a restaurant.

“We can grab something on the run,” I said, explaining that we aren’t foodies and we wanted to maximize our time at the waterfalls.

However, Steffen insisted that food is an important aspect of Thai culture, almost to the point of being a national pastime, and he wanted to give us a proper in introduction to Thai cooking. So, as soon as we finished hiking, he took us to his favorite place tucked into a row of informal restaurants that line the edge of the parking lot at Erawan National Park.

Restaurants at Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Souvenir shops and eateries at Erawan National Park

Steffen started eagerly going back and forth in Thai with our guide Mai about what to order, and in no time Mai had written out a whole slew of beautiful Thai letters on a piece of paper. She handed it to the waitress, and in minutes, the most delicious array of platters arrived at our table.

With fried rice as a base, we had several yummy dishes that were so tasty we asked Mai to write them down for us in Thai so we could order them easily on our own during the rest of our stay in Thailand! Thai food connoisseurs might laugh, but this was a godsend for us!

Thai food order for restaurant in Kanchanaburi

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Back on the road, we headed deeper into the jungle to our next destination: Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall in Sri Nakarin National Park.

This part of Thailand is very hilly, and we were soon driving up and down very steep grades. Unlike America, where the Department of Transportation places signs for steep inclines only at the tops of mountains to warn drivers about the descent ahead, we saw signs warning about steepness going both up and downhill.

12% grade driving steep hills in Kanchanaburi Thailand

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And no wonder. At 12% and 14%, these hills were very steep!

Driving steep hills 14% grade Kanchanaburi Thailand

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At last we arrived at Sri Nakarin Dam National Park, home of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall.

Huay Mae khamin Waterfall National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand Entrance gate

Entrance to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall.

Because the Thai language has its own alphabet, words often end up with multiple spellings when the Roman alphabet is used instead. Sure enough, the waterfall had different spellings on the different signs out front: “Huay Maekamin” and “Huay Maekhamin” (with an “h” in there). The waterfall is often written as three words too: Huay Mae Khamin.

Huay Maekamin Waterfall Sign National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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When we pulled up to the entrance gate, Steffen asked the rangers if the National Park was busy. It was midday, afterall, which is the peak time for tourists.

“No,” the ranger replied, “There is no one here.”

What a difference from Erawan Waterfall where we had to arrive super early in the morning to beat the crowds!

Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Entrance Kanchanaburi Thailand

All is quiet at this National Park.

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall is a gem of a waterfall that hasn’t yet made it onto Thailand’s tourism radar.

Steffen explained to me that he often combines a visit to Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall with a camping trip in the jungle as part of a multi-day trek to the Burmese border that goes through tiny rural villages that are quintessentially Thai and have no tourism whatsoever.

As he described that experience, I suddenly wished we’d arranged for a multi-day camping tour with Mellow Adventures. Next time!!

Vines and jungle Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

The jungle is full of big, twisty vines.

The hike to the waterfall took us past wonderfully long and thick vines and a hollowed out tree that Mark couldn’t resist climbing into.

Hollow in a tree Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Tree house!

All around us were dense clumps of very thick bamboo stalks. Bamboo is technically a grass, and it grows easily and densely in the Kanchanaburi jungle

Bamboo Grove Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

A grove of bamboo stalks and a sign, “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

As I stood close to the bamboo stalks, I discovered they all had graffiti on them, most of it in Thai lettering! How cool is that?!

Bamboo Graffiti Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The beautiful and ornate Thai letters were carved onto the stalks and painted on as well.

Thai graffiti on a bamboo tree Khuean Srinagarindra National ParkKanchanaburi Thailand

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I guess lovers declare their affection for each other on all kinds of trees all over the world in every language.

Thai graffiti on bamboo tree Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Soon we heard the tell-tale sound of rushing water, and in moments we arrived at the first set of falls. Wow!

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Srinikarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Unlike Erawan Falls, which is a hike from the lowest cascade to the highest, the hiking trail to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall brings you directly to the fourth of its seven tiers.

Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The water rushed over the flat slabs of limestone creating exquisite mini waterfalls.

Huay Mae khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We were mesmerized by the shapes of the falls and the trees surrounding them.

Huay Mae khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Tree roots Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We had the place to ourselves, and we wandered all over the rocks and between the trees getting pics of each other in this glorious spot.

Steffen Mellow Adventures Tour to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Steffen, owner of Mellow Adventures.

Mellow Adventures Tour Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Selfie!

Huay Maekhamin Waterfall has seven tiers, and we had hiked direclty from the parknig lot to the 4th tier. From there we could hike down to see levels 3, 2 and 1 or we could drive around to another entrance area to see the top levels.

Our guide Mai felt that the seventh tier at the top of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall was the most picturesque, so we decided to go straight there. How right she was!

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand Mellow Adventures

Top level of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall.

We were bewitched. This was the waterfall image I had carried in my mind all the way from Phoenix, Arizona, where we had left our trailer in storage and our full-time RV lifestyle behind.

Turquoise pools Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Travertine pools.

The waterfall images were framed by rich green jungle trees, and sprays of water fell from ledge to ledge and from pool to pool.

As much as we loved Erawan Waterfall, for me, this spot at the top of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall was even more magnificent. I half expected fairies to emerge on the waterfall ledges or for angels to start singing!

Green pools Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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At that moment a jungle bird landed on a branch right in front of me and began to sing his heart out.

I listened for a while, mesmerized by his bright colors and vibrant song as his warbling and sweet songs filled the forest. I found out later he was a White Rumped Shama.

Tucked between the leaves we spotted a beautiful wildflower.

Wildflower Huay Maekhamin Waterfall National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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But it was the lush jungle pools and delicate sprays of waterfalls that will forever stay in our memory from our visit to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall.

Best Waterfall in Thailand Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Thailand has many stunning waterfalls, and lots of pre-packaged commercial tours take bus loads of tourists to visit them, especially the nearby Sai Yok Yai waterfall in Sai Yok National Park.

But the most beautiful waterfall in all of Thailand could easily be Huay Maekamin Waterfall, and amazingly, it isn’t promoted or dominated by the big commercial tour companies.

Most Beautiful waterfall in Thailand Huay Mae khamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi

7th Tier Huay Maekamin Waterfall.

What a thrill it was to work with Mellow Adventures to create a personalized waterfall tour and experience two of Thailand’s best waterfalls, Erawan Waterfall and Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall, and have them all to ourselves!!

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Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures

January 2017 – When I started planning our month-long trip to Thailand, I wanted to be sure we saw some truly spectacular places. After doing many image searches for things like “the most beautiful places in Thailand,” I came across a photo of a waterfall that took my breath away.

Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

One tier of Erawan Falls at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi Thailand

I found out it was Erawan Waterfall which is located in Erawan National Park in Thailand’s province of Kanchanaburi. Not only did this waterfall look like something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the name sounded like it too!

Wondering if there were other gems like this in the province of Kanchanaburi, I found an image of Huay Maekhamin Waterfall in Khuean Srinagarindra National Park. If it was possible, that waterfall seemed even more stunning but was even more remote.

I wanted to be sure we would see these exotic waterfalls without any crowds, at our own pace and on our own terms, and I quickly realized it would not only be more efficient but would be more fun and we’d get more out of our experience if we worked with a professional and personal tour guide service.

Mellow Adventures, a company that has achieved TripAdvisor’s highest standard — the Certificate of Excellence — offers fully customized, private tours in Kanchanaburi that are designed to meet whatever unusual plans a traveler might have. When I emailed them that we wanted to be at Erawan Waterfall long before any of the commercial tour groups showed up, I got an email back saying: “We’ll pick you up at your hotel at 6:30 a.m.”

Perfect!

Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Erawan Waterfall

Not every vacationer wants to have an appointment at that hour, but we were on a mission to hike alongside these cascades without encountering anyone else on the trail, and we were thrilled at the prospect of photographing the many tiers of Erawan Falls for a few hours in total solitude.

The owner of Mellow Adventures, Steffen, is Norwegian and he is fluent in English and German and speaks Thai as well. He responded to my emails from the US very quickly, and in no time we devised a plan for two days of custom tours that would take us to both Erawan Waterfall and Huay Maekhamin Waterfall and also include a tour of a remote cave, kayaking on a river in the jungle and even sampling some good Thai food which he felt was critical to appreciating Thai culture.

When we finally met in person (rather bleary eyed) at 6:30 a.m. on the appointed morning, he introduced us to Mai, a young woman who had been a tour guide in Kanchanburi and at Erawan National Park for seven years before she joined the Mellow Adventures team last year.

As we drove to Erawan National Park together, we passed through an area that has several elephant encounter sanctuaries. Even though an elephant encounter wasn’t on our itinerary, it was fun to see the signs for these places on the road!

Elephant road sign in Kanchanaburi Thailand

An elephant road sign – How cool is that?!

Elephant road sign Kanchanaburi Thailand

…and with Thai writing to boot!!

Elephants are very important and much beloved in Thailand, and we saw many creative elephant decorations along the way, including elephant street lights!

Elephant lamp post decoration Kanchanaburi Thailand

Elephants decorate lots of things in Thailand.

Mai explained to us that the elephant is an integral part of Erawan National Park. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the god of thunder, lightning and rainstorms, Indra, rides a huge white elephant across the sky. This elephant has three heads and is known as “Erawan” in Thai.

At Erawan Falls, the highest of the waterfall’s seven tiers has three parallel cascades that resemble the trunks of three elephant heads.

Sign for Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Erawan Waterfall is named for a three headed elephant that is part of both Hindu and Thai mythological traditions.

In no time we reached the entrance to Erawan National Park and the Visitors Center.

Erawan National Park Entrance Sign Kanchanaburi Thailand

Now here’s a cool National Park sign!

Erawan National Park Visitors Center

The Visitors Center for Erawan National Park.

Our guide, Mai, has hiked to the top of Erawan Falls many dozens of times, and she described what we would see at each level as we hiked in. Erawan Waterfall is an extremely popular place to swim, as the waterfalls have many shallow pools filled with warm, turquoise water. There are posted guidelines for swimwear, but we found out later they aren’t strictly enforced.

Erawan Falls sign Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

This way to the waterfall — and please dress modestly if you go swimming!

The beginning of the trail is a wide, paved path, and it wandered through the jungle.

Hike to Erawan Falls Kanchanaburi Thailand

The hike began with an easy stroll on a paved trail.

Soon, we heard the sounds of rushing water, and then suddenly we saw the lowest part of the falls in front of us. The water was cascading from one flat slab of rock down onto the next.

Prettiest Waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Kanchanaburi Thailand

The lowest part of Erawan Falls has many wide, flat travertine slabs that form turquoise pools.

We ran to the water in glee, quickly scouting out the best angles to frame this tropical jewel.

Most beautiful waterfall in Thailand Erawan Falls Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi_

Look at those tree roots!

The pools of aquamarine water were so inviting, it seemed like a fairy land.

Best waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Erawan Falls is actually a series of seven waterfalls, each with its own personality and flair. The hike begins at the lowest level and gradually climbs to the top, passing by each level on the way.

Erawan Waterfall Pool at Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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As we hiked from one level up to the next, we found ourselves in the most deliciously thick jungle. The leaves of one plant were absolutely enormous!

Huge jungle leaves Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

The jungle leaves are huge and give great shade

We just loved the shapes of the rocks along these falls. There were so many places where the water formed a shallow pool on a flat rock and then fell over the edge, like Nature’s most perfect infinity pool.

Erawan Falls

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The hiking trail wandered alongside the stream as we climbed higher and higher, and we got glimpses between the trees of the water spilling over the rocks here and there.

Most spectacular waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

We see a portion of the falls through the jungle trees.

At one point on the trail we came to a tree that was completely adorned in brightly colored women’s dresses. Mai explained to us that these dresses had been placed there as a token of thanks to the tree spirit Ta Kien Tong.

She told us that many Thai people ask this goddess for help or for blessings in their lives. When she responds by giving them what they requested, they show their appreciation by bringing her a beautiful dress.

Appreciative people said thanks to the tree goddess Ta Kien Tong by giving her a beautiful dress

The many dresses on this tree were placed here in thanks for blessings and good fortune that had been granted by the tree goddess, Ta Kien Tong.

The trees in the jungle are wonderfully gnarled with lots of exposed roots, and one had a fabulously twisted vine growing up its trunk.

Vine on a tree trunk

A twisted vine climbs the trunk of a tree.

Some vines are so strong they make a natural swing.

Swinging on a vine Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Our guide Mai enjoys a brief swing on a jungle vine.

As we ascended the hiking trail from one level of Erawan Waterfall to the next, we found beautiful surprises at every turn.

Top waterfall in Thailand Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Each tier of Erawan Falls was different.

The water was so clear in some places that we could see fish swimming just below the surface.

Fish at Erawan Waterfall Kanchanaburi Thailand

Fish were swimming at the base of the falls in some places.

The aquamarine pools were so inviting…

Turquoise pool Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Gnarled roots of the jungle embrace the rocks in a turquoise pool.

Favorite waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The jungle was filled with unusual plants that we didn’t recognize and we saw some magnificent flowers too.

Exotic tropical flower Erawan National Park

Exquisite!

Perhaps the most wonderful surprise for me came as I turned a corner in the trail and looked up to see this image right in front of me:

Erawan Falls National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

We rounded a bend to see this view!

We crept closer, tip-toeing between the exposed and curving tree roots.

Stunning Erawan waterfall Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Again, we saw fish swimming near the edges of the turquoise pool.

Most beautiful waterfall Erawan Falls Kanchanaburi Thailand

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This was just too gorgeous — time for a selfie!

Travelers at Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Two very happy campers at Erawan Falls!

The trail had switched from pavement to well packed dirt a while ago, and we were glad to have sturdy trail running shoes rather than flip-flops to hike in. Now the trail suddenly headed straight up a long set of stairs.

Stairs to waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand_

A long staircase climbed up the hill to the next tier.

And at the top was another stunning pool surrounded by ancient trees with wonderful claw-like roots.

Swimming pools Erawan Falls Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

What an exotic place!

I moved a little to one side, and again, I was blown away by the beauty of Erawan Falls.

Cascade at Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

We loved the endlessly changing cascades and pools.

We were now at Level 6 of the seven levels of the waterfall, and we paused to take stock. We had more hiking planned for the afternoon, and it was already very late in the morning.

It had taken us over three hours just to get this far, because we were so busy taking photos.

Sign for 6th level Erawan Falls Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The seventh level of Erawan Waterfall is where the three namesake falls — the trunks of the three headed elephant — can be seen. However, because there hadn’t been much rain lately, Mai said they didn’t have much water.

Our cameras were already bursting at the seams with all the photos we’d taken, and the hike to the seventh level would involve some scrambling to reach, so we opted to turn around at this point and head back down.

What a shock it was to see how crowded the trail had become at the lower levels and to see all the people swimming in the pools. The gentle spirit of stillness and solitude we had savored all morning was gone. But the pools sure looked refreshing!

Swimming at Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

A few hours earlier we had been alone at this spot!

As we hiked back towards the parking lot, we were surprised to see a warning sign for a cobra!!

Cobra sign Kanchanaburi Thailand

We’ve never seen an animal sign like this one before — yikes!

We didn’t see any snakes, but the flowers were lovely.

Beautiful flowers

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At this point, we had completed only half of our first day of tours with Mellow Adventures, and we had a lot more in store!

There’s more info and more links for Erawan National Park, Kanchanaburi and Mellow Adventures below…

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More info and links:

Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:

Waterfalls we have seen in our travels:

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Blog posts from our visits to these majestic places

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Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – A Ride Through Thailand’s Countryside

January 2017 – Our stay in Bangkok, Thailand, was filled with exotic sights and sounds, and at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market we got a peek at a way of life that had been uniquely Thai back in the days when the city was built on canals. But it was a train trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, about 75 miles west of the city, that made us feel like we were beginning to see the “real” Thailand.

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Thonburi Station in Bangkok, Thailand

The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is a 3rd class train that leaves from the Thonburi station in Bangkok. The station and the streets around it were absolutely teaming with people, as it sits alongside a huge market where anything and everything was for sale on a vast array of tables and carts.

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Passengers wait for the train to Kanchanaburi

Tickets for the three hour train trip were just 100 Baht each, about $2.85 US, but we’d made the mistake of showing up without any notes worth less than 500 Baht. To our surprise, the ticket booth at the train station wouldn’t accept a 500 Baht note for 200 Baht worth of tickets.

So, I ran off through the market, passed by an ATM that was out of order, and finally found a lady selling juice from a cart who had an apron filled with bills of all denominations. Fortunately, she understood enough English and sign language that when I waved a 500 Baht note at her she figured out what I wanted. In no time I was back at the train station ticket window with exact change. Phew!

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A train conductor and a station guard exchange paperwork through the train window.

There were quite a few “farangs” (foreigners) waiting for this train, as it is a popular trip for tourists to do. But all the other trains at the station were loading and unloading throngs of locals who were going about their daily business.

The Kanchanaburi train finally arrived, and we hopped on board. We hadn’t been sure what “3rd class” would mean, but it turned out to be just like the commuter rail trains I used to ride as a kid years ago, except the windows were all wide open.

Inside Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is “3rd class” but we found it clean and comfortable.

As we headed out of Bangkok, the train narrowly missed hitting the corrugated metal rooftops of endless rows of houses, and we got a peek at the backside of Bangkok, as is so common when you take a train somewhere. We saw what amounted to being the “other side of the tracks” in some very poor neighborhoods.

Houses by window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The train skims past corrugated metal rooftops in Bangkok.

Once we got out of town a ways, we began to see classic Asian sights out the windows.

View from train window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Buddhist monk on motorbike Thailand

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Views from Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We stopped at quite a few train stations along the way. Several stations were very ornate with uniformed guards standing watch, and most were decorated with memorials to the beloved deceased Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who had died in October, 2016.

Train station Bangkok to Kanchanaburi train Thailand

A train station we stopped at on our route from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

During our stay in Thailand we saw thousands of memorials to the king, often with photos of him either as a young man who appeared to be very studious, or as a middle aged man dressed in all his royal splendor and regalia.

Train station Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A train station decorated with the black and white ribbons memorializing the recently deceased King of Thailand.

In general, when we walked on the streets, we couldn’t go 50 yards without encountering a memorial of some kind, and in a car or on this train the billboards and roadside shrines appeared several times per mile.

Thailand King Memorial

Memorials to King Bhumibol Adulyadej were everywhere in Thailand.

After about an hour, we stopped at one train stop and a group of vendors got on board. They walked up and down the aisle selling foods of various kinds.

Food vendor on the Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A food vendor offers munchies to travelers on the train.

Each vendor took a turn in each train car, waiting for the vendor ahead of them to finish walking through the car before strolling down the aisle themselves.

Food vendor Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Meanwhile, out the window, the ornate rooftops of temples and other buildings appeared between the trees.

Window view Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Thailand views Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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In the seat in front of us, a little boy was as fascinated with what he saw out the train window as we were.

Looking out train window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The things we were passing were fascinating, and not just to us!

His sister hung her head out the window too, and we got such a kick out of watching these two adorable kids taking in all the scenery and pointing and commenting on it.

They were loving the train ride as much as we were.

Kids on Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Their mom let them take shots out the window with her cell phone and then she got some pics of the two of them. We couldn’t help but take photos of them too!

Boy with cell phone on Kanchanaburi train

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After a while, the little boy peeked over the top of the seatback at me, put his hands together and bowed his head in the Thai expression of respect. I was touched and told his mom her children were very beautiful and she gave me a huge smile.

Playing on the train Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

These kids were so adorable we got pics and so did their mom!

She and I tried to tell each other where we were heading, though, and our attempt at conversation was hopeless. I think she said they were going to the mountains, and I tried to tell her we were going to see some waterfalls. But sign language and giggles only go so far.

Little Thai boy

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The train ride took us out into the countryside, far from the chaos of Bangkok, and soon we began to see the rural sights of farms and farmers tending their fields. Some of the farmers were tilling the land by hand.

Farming in Thailand Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

We passed lots of farm fields and farmers working.

Farming in Thailand Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Thailand farming Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We passed a row of trees that was so perfectly lined up I just had to take a photo. I didn’t realize at the time that these trees were rubber trees. A few days later I would see these trees up close, each one holding a small mug-sized cup to catch the sap.

Rubber trees in Thailand

Rubber trees.

We also passed a cemetery filled with pointed shrines for deceased loved ones.

Cemetery in Thailand

We caught a brief glimpse of a cemetery with lots of tombstones.

In no time, the trip was over. The three hours had zipped by, and we had arrived in Kanchanaburi.

Kanchanaburi Train Station Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Kanchanaburi Railway Station

An agent came to the train and greeted all the foreigners as we got off the train. She asked each of us where we were staying and assigned us to a cab or tuk-tuk to get us there. We were staying at the Bure Homestay which is just a few kilometers from the train station.

Peering out the window of the cab, the town of Kanchanaburi seemed very inviting. We loved the fish that adorned the tops of all the streetlights.

Kanchanburi Thailand city street

Out on the streets of Kanchanaburi

Streetlight decoration Kanchanaburi Thailand

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As we wandered around the town we noticed some very cool buses that were two stories tall and were painted up in wild colors and said “Mr. Beer” on the side.

Mr Beer Bus Kanchanaburi Thailand

There are many ways to travel in Thailand!!

We poked our heads inside one of these buses and were amazed to find that the entire first floor of the bus was a bar! The two bar tenders greeted us warmly, although they seemed to be a few sheets to the wind themselves, and we got a chuckle as we realized there are many ways to get around Thailand.

For us, the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi was a great way to go, and it felt very authentic and made for a very pleasant three hour ride.

Mr Beer Bus Kanchanaburi Thailand

Welcome to the Mr. Beer Bus!

But taking the Mr. Beer bus could always be another option!

There are a few tips for taking the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi below:

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok or Disney’s Epcot Center?

January 2017 – On our first days in Bangkok, Thailand, we got a huge kick out of everything we saw around us, because it was so familiar yet so different. We went to the 7/11 store (yup, 7/11 is huge in Thailand and can be found on every street corner) and we picked up one of every kind of beer they had in the cooler.

Beer in Thailand

A selection of Asian beers!

The beers are decidedly a lot lighter than we’re used to consuming at home, but what fun it was to sample such a wide variety. Three of them were named for large cats, from Leo beer to Singha (which refers to a mythical lion in Thai folklore) to Tiger beer (originally from Singapore)!

Lay potato chips are also easy to find everywhere, and what an interesting way Pepsico has modified the familiar red and white label on the bag to give it a Thai twist.

Lay Potato Chips Thailand

Same same, but different!
(the chips themselves are identical)

Mass market food products are a part of most cultures nowadays, but we wanted to try to get a little deeper than that in our introduction to Thailand. However, uncovering the “real” Thailand proved a little elusive at first.

In the olden days of a hundred years and more ago, Bangkok was a city of canals. “Floating markets” held aboard open boats were commonplace. However, since then, most of Bangkok’s canals have been filled in to make way for traditional roads and wheeled vehicles.

There are still many floating markets to be found, but they are a bit contrived as they are intended more for tourists to experience a touch of the bygone Thai culture than for Thai people to peddle their wares to each other.

Longtail boat floating market Bangkok Thailand

Mark gets in a longtail boat for a tour of a floating market

I searched high and low for an “authentic” floating market, and found one called the Tha Kha Market just outside of Bangkok that seemed like it would fit the bill.

Longtail boat damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

All smiles as we started down the canal.

We hopped in a cab to make our way out to this unusual sounding market, but were alarmed when we drove right by the signs for “Tha Kha Market” and arrived at the parking area for the known-to-be-touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market instead.

I chastised the driver for taking us to the wrong place, but he kept insisting this market was better, especially for photography. In the end we relented and hopped in a longtail boat and were piloted along a canal system.

The jungle was thick, and the ride was actually very cool.

Longtail boat canal damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

We cruised down the canal through dense jungle vegetation.

We passed the homes of people who live on these canals.

House Damnoen Saduak Floating market Bangkok Thailand

A different kind of waterfront life.

Then we arrived at our first “store.” A series of shops stood right on the water’s edge, tucked under a wide corrugated metal roof overhang, and vendors sat in each stall.

Shopping Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

The first of many canal-side shops.

Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Get your “spicies” here!!

Negotiating is a natural part of shopping in Thailand, and we’d heard that the standard patter is to ask the price, counter what the vendor says with something outrageously low, and then accept his counter if you want to buy the item.

Shops damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Negotiating is part of the fun and part of the deal!

We had come to this market with photography in mind, however, and we weren’t looking to make any purchases.

Our pilot slowed down a little as we passed each shop, and we admired the many items but simply shook our heads “no.” After all, we wanted our luggage to be able to meet the extremely stringent international weight guidelines on our flight home!

Damnoen Saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Trinkets, souvenirs and keepsakes of all kinds were for sale.

But in the days that followed, as we talked with other tourists around town, we realized that lots of people come to Bangkok specifically to shop, and many go to these floating markets hoping to score a deal.

Ironically, we found that the asking prices on many items at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market were ten times higher than in other places!

Sandals for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Need some sandals??

We were surprised to see a monk out shopping too!

Buddhist monk shopping Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Shopping in Thailand might be a religious experience for some!

We had arrived at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market very early, but soon we began seeing boats filled with other tourists.

Tourist shoppers Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

A boat full of happy shoppers passed us.

We joked with each other that we were a long ways from home and never would have seen something like this if we’d gone to Quartzsite for the RV show as we have so many times in Januaries past! Even with inadvertently getting caught in a tourist trap, we were having a blast!

Woman vendor damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

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Besides trinkets sold in the shops along the sides of the canals, many vendors were cooking things in their boats and selling various edible goodies to passersby.

Woman cooking in boat damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Some vendors cooked delicacies right on their boats.

Boat selling produce Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Food of all kinds was for sale.

Beautiful tropical fruits and veggies were on full display.

Fruit for sale damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Fruit for sale!

Women at damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Veggies too!

As the morning wore on, the canals became busier and busier as vendors and tourist boats passed each other continuously.

Lady Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Coconut drinks.

Veggies for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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It was a little early for a beer, but some tourists imbibed as they floated along.

Beer for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

A Singha beer for you??

Of course, the display of traditions from long ago was just a show, and modern life lurked just out of sight.

On the cell phone damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Sometimes even the best displays of tradition include a fast-forward to the modern era.

Vendor on cell phone damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

A quick Facebook check between sales.

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market could easily be a showpiece at Disney’s Epcot Center, but experiencing it on the outskirts of Bangkok gave it a certain kind of realism.

And what fun it was to immerse ourselves in an event that hints at a lifestyle lived long ago.

Tourists damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Slipping through the jungle on the canals was truly wonderful.

Little boy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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As we putted back to the parking area in our longtail boat, we passed some men holding jungle critters for us to see up close.

Furry animal Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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Snake charmer Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Snake charmer.

As our taxi driver took us back to Bangkok, we passed signs for the Tha Kha market, the slightly more authentic floating market that I had originally wanted to go to. I tried to find out from the cabbie exactly why he hadn’t taken us there but couldn’t really understand his response.

Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand longtail boat

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a very fun excursion even if it wasn’t particularly authentic!

When we returned to our hotel, I asked the concierge about the Tha Kha market. I pointed out its location on the map and he called over some colleagues to discuss it with them. In the end, they all agreed that the Tha Kha market had been closed and there was nothing there to see any more.

Whether the Tha Kha Market is truly closed — or whether we were taken to a more touristy market in hopes we’d buy a few things — the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a great spot for photography and made for a memorable morning.

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Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:

More info about the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market:

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One Day in Bangkok – A trip on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat!

January 2017 – When we moved off our sailboat and back into our trailer three years ago, the main reason we ended our sailing cruise of Mexico was that we’d found exotic travel to tropical destinations was a lot easier by airplane than by boat. Many of our dream destinations were hard to get to in a sailboat!

Boat on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

River views from the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand

Yet, the last exotic foreign destinations we’d visited were all in Mexico during that cruise. We hadn’t made good on our promise to ourselves to get on planes and fly to cool places!

So, last week we hopped on an airplane and flew to Bangkok, Thailand. We will be touring around the country for a month.

If you haven’t looked for Thailand on a map lately, it is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Burma (Myanmar):

Southeast Asia Map

Southeast Asia

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is very close to the Gulf of Thailand, and a long skinny portion of the country drops south between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea:

Thaland and Cambodia Map

Thailand

This was all news to us when we started thinking about going to Thailand a few months ago, as the only thing we knew about the country was that everyone we’ve ever talked to who’s been there absolutely loved it.

RVers we met in Montana last summer told us about the many happy winters they’d spent visiting Thailand, and a loyal reader of this blog who has lived in Thailand for 10 years encouraged us to throw caution to the wind and check it out.

So, I jumped into researching places to go in Thailand and came up with a four week plan that will hopefully introduce us to many beautiful facets of this country.

Of course, the first hurdle to all of it was getting through 28 hous of travel door-to-door. When we stepped off the plane in Taipei after 13 straight hours in impossibly tiny seats (the width of the seats, from armrest to armrest, was the length of my forearm from elbow to fingertips), we were bleary eyed.

But how exciting it was to realize we had actually arrived in Asia!

Welcome to Taipei

We landed in Taipei, Taiwan, for a layover – We’re in Asia!

Once we finally got out on the streets of Bangkok, stumbling all over ourselves from lack of sleep, we were instantly caught up in the vivid sights and sounds and smells of downtown Bangkok as scooters, buses, tuk-tuks and intrepid bicyclists jammed the streets around us.

It felt like we were back in Mexico, except the writing on the signs was totally different!

Bangkok Thailand Road Sign

Thank goodness for the hints in English!

Thai menu in Thailand

What would you like for lunch?

We’ve been told that Thailand has two seasons: Hot and Hotter. We were there in the Hot season of January, so the daily highs were a balmy 90 degrees with 70% humidity, quite a change from the cool and dry Arizona desert climate in mid-winter.

Street vendor Bangkok Thailand

A Bangkok street vendor grins at me as he walks by

The locals were all cool as cucumbers, though, and motorbikes lined up at every Intersection as if they were at the startling line of a race.

Motorbikes line up at intersection in Bangkok Thailand

Motorbikes lead the pack in Bangkok’s notorious traffic.

Street vendors were selling food and drinks of all kinds and exotic smells filled the air.

Street Food Bangkok Thailand

We found street food everywhere in Bangkok

Bangkok is known as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพ), or the City of Angels, just like Los Angeles. But an aspect of its soul may be closer to Las Vegas’ Sin City.

I found myself humming the 1980’s son, “One Night in Bangkok” and looked up the lyrics and YouTube video only to learn that it was written for the musical “Chess” and talks of the irony of a nerdy international chess tournament being held in this city of sensual pleasures.

A hundred years ago or so, Bangkok was considered the Venice of the East, as it was built on a canal system and everyone got around town by boat.

On our first full day in Bangkok, we wanted to get an overview of the city as it looks from the water. So we took the Skytrain from our hotel to the public boat pier on the Chao Phraya river near Saphan Taksin station. Mark made his way through the many buttons on the Skytrain ticket machine, and we joined the throngs that travel through Bangkok by train everyday.

Getting train ticket in Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok’s Skytrain is super easy to use.

Chao Phaya Tourist Boat is a hop-on-hop-off ferry system that is just 150 Thai Baht (about US $4.50) per day. Perfect! Within moments we were out on the water.

Boats and buildings Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

The Chao Phraya river runs through downtown Bangkok

Boats of all kinds were zooming up and down the river. There was so much boating action that the water was choppy from all the wake!

Boats on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is busy!

But the sights — oh my. Between the temples and highly ornamented buildings on the shoreline and the exotic boats plying the water of the river, we knew we had arrived in another world!!

Boat and temple Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

We loved the classic images that surrounded us on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat ride.

Boats seen from the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Bangkok Thailand

What a great scene!

Thailand is a monarchy, and the much adored King Bhumibol Adulyadej (formally crowned King Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty) who ruled the Thai people for the last 70 years just died in October at age 88. Images of him, his 65 year old son who will replace him, and his wife are absolutely everywhere.

From splash screens across Thai websites to shrines in front of businesses built in his memory to billboards on the highways to the black pins and black clothing that many Thai people are wearing for a year of mourning, the sadness of this man’s passing is ever present.

On the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters building we saw portraits of the royal family.

Royal Navy Headquarters Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Portraits of the royal family at the Royal Navy Headquarters.

There were all kinds of unusual sights to be seen all along the river’s edge.

Sighting on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

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In the distance, we saw the spires of the Grand Palace appear over the rooftops.

Boat and Grand Palace Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Grand Palace spires peak over the roofs.

We got off at this stop to explore a little. As we made our way from the pier to the main street, we passed a creative display of bicycles hanging on a wall.

Bikes on a wall Bangkok Thailand

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The throngs of tourists surrounding the enormous city block that makes up the Grand Palace was intense.

It was a Saturday, and thousands of people filled the streets in all directions. Many were Asian tourists led by a strident person out front holding a flag high in the air to keep the group together.

A passing Buddhist monk caught my eye.

Buddhist monk Bangkok Thailand

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The Grand Palace was built in 1782, and the spires of its many buildings in the complex rose above the high white wall that encloses the palace grounds.

Grand Palace spires Bangkok Thailand

Peaks of the Grand Palace

Mark and I had to laugh as we snapped endless pics. Two days earlier we’d been boondocking in Arizona. Now we were in Bangkok!

Tourist at Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

OMG – We’re in Thailand!!

In order to approach the entrance gate to the Grand Palace, we had to show our passports and walk through a metal detector and get wanded. From there we moved into a massive line outside the gate to buy tickets.

Ornate rooftop Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

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Grand Palace views Bangkok Thailand

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There is a strict dress code for visitors to the Grand Palace — elbows and knees must be covered — and even though officials would lend us cover-ups, our hearts weren’t into touring the palace just yet. There was still so much to see on the river.

Ministry of Defence Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

Ministry of Defence at the Grand Palace

So, we made our way back to the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat at the pier where a breeze on the water made the sultry heat bearable.

Up ahead, a public ferry boat passed us as we approached one of the modern suspension bridges that crosses the Chao Phraya River. These boats are just 40 Thai Baht (about $1.15 US) for a point-to-point ride, and we saw a few foreigners (“farangs”) taking these ferries. But to us, the few dollars more for an all day hop-on-hop-off pass on the tourist boat was worth every penny.

Boat and suspension bridge Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

A public ferry boat is dwarfed by a towering suspension bridge.

Compared to the public ferries which were packed, there were no lines at the piers for the Chao Phraya Tourist Boats. The wait for a boat was never longer than a few minutes, there was always plenty of room on the boat, and we could listen to narration about what we were passing on the shore.

Lots of room on Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Bangkok Thailand

The “hop-on-hop-off” tourist boat wasn’t crowded and we never had to wait long to catch it.

As we floated along the river, we loved the juxtaposition of the old style boats, the historic Thai temples and the modern highrise business buildings.

Temple and highrise building reflections Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Reflections: Old meets new and East meets West.

Tourist Boat and suspension bridge Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Views from the river in Bangkok.

Temple and boat Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Getting out on the river is a great way to see the shore.

Lots of people live on the river’s edge, and we passed a few housing blocks where laundry was hanging out to dry.

Houses on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Houses along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River

The Chao Phraya river is very dirty, and a few large patches of leaves and debris floated past.

Debris and Houses on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, though, and we noticed an egret standing in the middle of one debris pile.

Egret in trash on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

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There are dozens of ways to get out on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, as many of the big city hotels offer their own tours for their guests and private longtail boats offer tours not only on the main river but onto some of the smaller canals too.

Longtail boat Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Tourists can take rides on longtail boats and float up some of the smaller canals.

These private tours can cost as much as 1,600 Thai Baht, or about $45 for an hour of driving around. For us, the Chao Phraya Tourst Boat with its all day hop-on-hop-off service was a much better deal!

Longtail boat Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Longtail boats offer private rides.

Getting out on the water in the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat is a great way to get an overview of Bangkok.

Longtail boat Bangkok Thailand Chao Phraya River

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The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat makes 8 stops along the river. We started at the Sathorn Pier near the Saphan Taksin BTS (Skytrain) station (station #S6). After getting off the train, we simply walked down to the street level and asked a BTS station official which way to go to get to the pier.

After a short walk to the pier, we walked past the enormous line of people waiting to take the cheaper ferry boat and ignored the many vendors selling expensive longtail boat rides and made our way to the well marked “Tourist Boat” loading dock at the end.

BTS Map Bangkok Thailand

BTS Skytrain map. Chao Phraya Tourist Boat stops at Sathorn Pier next to Saphan Taksin station (S6) on the southern line.

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Our New Column in Trailer Life Magazine – Roads to Adventure!

We are very excited to announce that we are going to be writing and providing photos for a regular column in Trailer Life Magazine!

Trailer Life Magazine January 2017

Our column debuts in the January issue of Trailer Life Magazine.

For many years, the back page of Trailer Life has featured the unique stories and insights of RVer and writer Bill Graves.

Bill’s unusual tales from the less traveled roads of America have been such a delight to readers that we’ve heard people say that the first thing they do with Trailer Life is to flip it over and read Bill’s column on the back page.

I admit that I have done the same thing!

His stories provided a wonderful glimpse of life in America off the beaten path, and he ended each column with a fun tag line: “Welcome to America’s Outback.”

Bill has decided to retire from writing his column, and Trailer Life has asked us and travel writer Lisa Densmore Ballard to take turns luring readers to the back page.

We are thrilled to have been given this honor.

Trailer Life has named the new column “Roads to Adventure,” and we’ve come up with a new and different format for the column that will highlight our love of photography.

Each column will feature a beautiful photograph from a special place we’ve seen in our travels and will include a brief description of our experiences there.

Photography and RV travel Horshoe Bend Arizona

Our “Roads to Adventure” columns will bring you a stunning photo from an enchanting place.

We will be writing this column every other month beginning with the January, 2017, issue. Our first column is about the wonderful sweeping bend in the Colorado River that RVers can see when they make a trek to Horseshoe Bend, Arizona.

Photography at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend is a fantastic place for RVers to do a little photography.

This is a gorgeous spot that is well worth making a detour to see. We wrote in detail about our experience at Horseshoe Bend and shared lots of photos in the following blog post:

Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Arizona – Stunning!

We were utterly smitten when we visited, both by the immense size and scale of the cliffs and by the crazy antics tourists did on out on the hairy edge. We took endless photos, and one of Mark’s finest is the one that Trailer Life chose for our debut column.

Sunset was a wild time at Horseshoe Bend with hoards of people taking selfies and photographers lining up at the edge, tripod to tripod, watching the sun slip away on the horizon. Sunrise, however, was peaceful and still and hauntingly beautiful.

Even though the sun rose at our backs, it was a thrill to watch the shadows disappear down the rock walls under the pink sky in front of us as it climbed higher and higher in the sky.

Sunrise at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Although famous for its sunsets, our favorite moments at Horseshoe Bend were at sunrise!

We captured many wonderful images at Horseshoe Bend, and one of Mark’s just won the Photo of the Day at Steve’s Digicams a few days ago. This is the fifth photo of his that has been featured on that website.

 Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona – What a place!

Both for seasoned RVers and for those that are new to the hobby, Trailer Life is an informative magazine that offers lots of RV tech tips, overviews of major RV upgrade projects as well as enticing travel destination features.

You can subscribe to the print and digital editions at these links:

We have lots more fun destinations in store for Trailer Life readers from the many places we’ve visited over the years, and we hope that our spot on the back page will be one that readers turn to.

All smiles at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

Look for us on the back page of Trailer Life Magazine!

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2016 – A Year of RV Travels in the National Parks

When 2016 burst upon us last year, our only goal for the year was to take our RV to the Canadian Rockies. As it turned out, on the way there and again on the way back, our year of full-time RV travels took us to a slew of National Parks.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

By mid-year, we had visited so many that we gathered all of our National Parks adventures from our nearly 10 years of travels onto one page:

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites Travel Adventures

We always keep a list of our most recent posts at this link (under “Latest” in the menu bar). But we also wanted to share our yearlong journey from 2016 on one page for RVers and other travelers who would like to follow in our path.

Arches National Park Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Living as we do is a dream come true for us, and we began the year with some reflections on what it takes to live the dream. We were in Phoenix, Arizona, to ring in the new year where we enjoyed some wonderful encounters with wild (feral) parrots that take up residence in the saguaro cacti.

Peach faced lovebird parrot saguaro cactus Scottsdale Arizona

A peach faced lovebird perches on a saguaro cactus in Phoenix, Arizona.

From Phoenix we made our way to Quartzsite, Arizona, the RV gathering place.

Quartzsite Arizona RV boondocking in the desert

Quartzsite, Arizona, is the RV Gathering Place each winter

The Quartzsite RV Show was in full swing in this crazy truck stop town where the name of the game is “Anything Goes.”

Quartzsite Desert RV Boondockging AZ

Sunrise in the Arizona desert in Quartzsite

From Quartzsite we headed east to Tucson, Arizona, where the historic part of town is filled with wonderful old adobe doorways.

Adobe door in Historic Tucson district Arizona

Historic Old Town Tucson in Arizona

We visited the beautiful Xavier Mission in Tucson which evokes the days of the Spanish explorers.

Front San Xavier del Bac Mission Tucson Arizona

San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Arizona.

We found even more ancient history among Saguaro National Park’s ancient Indian petroglyphs. This was our first National Park visit of the year, and we discovered wonderful native Arizona animals in their habitats at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum there as well.

Arizona Sonoran Desert Musuem Tucson Mountain Lion

A mountain lion at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

Despite being February, temps suddenly hit 90+ degrees in Tucson, so we began our trek north, stopping in Sedona, Arizona, to ride our bikes on the Bell Rock Pathway and hike The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek.

Mountain Bikers Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The Bell Rock Pathway is an easy hike or bike ride in Sedona’s quintessential red rock scenery

We took in some sunsets under stormy skies.

Cathedral Rock at sunset Sedona Arizona

Sunset peeks through brooding skies at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona

In early March, we witnessed another stunning sunset and sunrise at Horseshoe Bend Overlook near Page, Arizona and explored Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon nearby.

Horseshoe Bend Sunset Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Paria Riffle and Paria Beach Lees Ferry Arizona

The Paria Riffle at Lees Ferry, Arizona

The ancient Indian ruins at Navajo National Monument and Monument Valley beckoned, and we learned about the proposed (and staggeringly massive) Bears Ears National Monument. For the next few weeks we would travel in and around the land area that would become Bears Ears National Monument by year’s end.

Ruins at Navajo National Monument Arizona

Betatakin cliff dwelling ruins at Navajo National Monument.

At Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park, we were swept us up in the otherworldly red rock beauty of southern Utah.

Valley of the Gods Utah Scenic Drive

Valley of the Gods, Utah.

It was only mid-March, so a surprise snowstorm at Newspaper Rock wasn’t really a surprise.

Ancient Indian Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Mixture

A few of the hundres of petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock in Utah

Southern Utah is peppered with stunning scenery and National Parks, and our eyes were popping as we hiked the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

Canyonlands National Park – Needles District.

We took in Moab’s gorgeous snowcapped mountain views and visited Arches National Park.

Double Arch Arches National Park Utah

Double Arch in Arches National Park Utah

Nearby, we witnessed a stunning sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park, a spit of land that is embraced by the much bigger Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park where we enjoyed brilliant night skies.

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah Before Dawn

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

It was now April, and it was warm enough to take our trailer further north through southeastern Idaho’s picturesque mountains and farmland.

RV travel trailer on bridge Salmon Idaho

RVing Idaho’s back roads on the Salmon River.

We traveled along US-93 following the Salmon River through Challis and Salmon, Idaho.

RV roadtrip through southeastern Idaho mountains

Idaho in early Spring

Driving up through the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, we watched a herd of elk cross the highway in front of us.

Elk crossing road Bitterroot Valley Montana

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We had a chance to sample a little cowboy life and cattle ranching too.

Riding horses in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana

Savoring the views of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley on horseback.

In Phillipsburg, Montana we discovered a sweet town that’s been dubbed one of “America’s Prettiest Painted Places.”

Philipsburg Montana main street

Philipsburg, Montana, one of “America’s Prettiest Painted Places.”

Early May found us on the western side of Montana’s Glacier National Park before the park was really open for the season. Placid Lake McDonald shimmered lovely reflections.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park RV travel

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Crossing into British Columbia, Canada, we had finally arrived in the Canadian Rockies. We were blown away by the casual attitude of the big horn sheep who wander all over the roads in and around Kootenay National Park.

Big horn sheep crossing a road in British Columbia

Big Horn Sheep just outside Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Kootenay National Park gave us glimpses of bears nibbling Spring’s earliest treats, but our arrival at Lake Louise was when we began to feel like we were in the heart of the Rockies!

Lake Louise in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We took several trips up and down the southern half of the Icefields Parkway, a scenic drive like no other.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We were stunned by the majesty of the towering snowcapped mountains all around us in Banff National Park.

Rental RV Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

On the Icefields Parkway, which included a stop at royal blue Peyto Lake, we felt like we were driving on a highway right across the pages of a brochure for the Alps.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canad

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park is an incredibly vivid royal blue.

In contrast, we reached picture perfect Moraine Lake in Banff National Park by bicycle, and we had it almost to ourselves because the road to it was still closed for the season.

Moraine Lake Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Canada has four National Parks that are adjacent to each other in the heart of the country’s best Rocky Mountain scenery, split between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. On our trip to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, we bumped into the fabulous waterfall at Natural Bridge.

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park British Columbia Canada Rocky Mountains

Natural Bridge surprised us on our way to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park Alberta Canada

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Banff, Alberta, has been a resort town since its inception, and we met an inspiring pair of young artists at the historic hotel in town.

Banff Alberta Canada and Cascade Mountain Canadian Rockies

Banff, Alberta, Canada

It was late May by now, and we celebrated our 9th anniversary of full-time travel by splashing around in the outdoor hot springs that bring a touch of summer to Canada’s snowy Rockies year round.

Banff Upper Hot Springs Alberta Canada

Banff Upper Hot Springs, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Visiting Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park and spending some time in the outdoorsy town of Canmore rounded out our visits to this part of the Canadian Rockies.

Snow Icefields Parkway Jasper National Park Alberta Canada

Beautiful patterns of snow on the mountains near the Columbia Ice Fields.

But there was still more to come with a scenic drive through jaw-dropping Kananaskis Country, where some of the 1988 Winter Olympic events were held.

Sunrise Kananaskis Country Canadian Rockies

Dawn in Kananaskis Country.

Dropping south from there, we visited Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada’s sweet little sister to Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Horseback riders Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Waterton Lakes National Park is a beautiful jewel in Canada’s National Park system. Taking the Waterton Shoreline Cruise on a historic ship to the southern side of the lake in Montana gave us even more incredible views.

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Waterton Shoreline Cruise in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

We were now well into June, yet when we arrived in Saint Mary on the east side of Glacier National Park, we were surprised to learn that the Going to the Sun Road that traverses the Park was just opening!

Happy camper Glacier National Park Montana

Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana.

The heat of the summer was on in full force by the 4th of July, and after all those National Parks we were ready to spend some time in quiet, less visited communities. We found just that in pretty Libby, Montana, where we spent happy days watching eagles and hummingbirds.

Lake Koocanusa at sunset Libby Montana

Sunset in Libby, Montana

We met some special travelers while we were there: a lady who had traveled cross country by horse for many years and a couple sightseeing by bicycle.

Bernice Ende on 28,000 mile long horse back ride

Long Rider Bernice, and her beloved mares Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit.

Nearby, we visited Kootenai Falls and Ross Creek Cedars, Montana’s answer to California’s sequoias.

Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area and Kootenai Falls MT RV trip

Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area, Montana

As we dropped down along the back roads of Idaho, we visited the charming small towns of Sandpoint, Moscow and McCall.

RV Trip from Sandpoint Idaho to Moscow and McCall on the Little Salmon River

Idaho’s back roads

What an absolute delight it was to find a summer beach town in the middle of Idaho’s mountains perched on Payette Lake.

Payette Lake shore near Legacy Park McCall Idaho

McCall, Idaho, is a fantastic beach town!!

Unfortunately, the summer months in America’s west always bring huge wildfires, and we soon found ourselves dodging fires and smoke. We had planned to spend several weeks in beloved Sun Valley Idaho, but were chased away by smoke.

Dashing far down south, we landed in Cedar City, Utah, where we witnessed a most moving event: the release of a golden eagle in honor of America’s First Responders.

Golden eagle release Cedar City Utah Southwest Wildlife Foundation

A rehabilitated Golden Eagle flies to freedom, honoring America’s First Responders.

Just like the Banff area in the Canadian Rockies, we were once again situated in a sea of National Parks. Cedar Breaks National Monument is a lesser known gem in the area, but it is Bryce Canyon National Park that really knocked our socks off (as it always does, no matter how many times we see it).

Photography at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

After walking along the Rim Trail with our eyes popping, we then explored special parts of Bryce Canyon we’d never visited before.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hiking down into the hoodoos in Bryce National Park, Utah.

We hiked the Fairyland Trail and took our bikes on the newly extended Bryce Canyon Bike Trail.

Windows Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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We even discovered a year-round waterfall in the Park.

Mossy Cave Trail Waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon’s Waterfall.

Mother Nature was in grand form while we were there, letting loose several August hail storms that pelted the area, but rainbows appeared and the sun shone as we wandered among the thousand year old bristlecone pine trees at Rainbow Point.

Bristlecone Pine Shadow Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A bristlecone plays with its shadow

Satiated with red rock scenery, we were ready for some fall color, so we spent much of September crossing Utah from west to east. Scenic Byway 12 is a stunning drive, and we stopped along the way to do the wonderful Lower Calf Creek Falls hike.

Sunshine waterfall Lower Calf Creek Falls Grand Staircase Escalante Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah.

A little further on, we drove between the towering cliff walls of the Burr Trail.

Red rocks Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Burr Trail, Utah.

Arriving in Colorado in late September, we drove the fabulous San Juan Skyway through the dazzling fall color.

Motorcycle in fall colors San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

Fall colors on the San Juan Skyway, Colorado

A surprise snow storm turned the world into a spectacular landscape filled with orange and yellow and a dusting of snow.

Golden aspen and pine trees San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall foliage

A dusting of September snow on Colorado’s San Juan Skyway.

Life in an RV is cold when it snows, so we quickly dropped to Durango at the south end of the San Juan Skyway to enjoy a Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Horse and carriage Durango Colorado

Durango, Colorado, is the perfect setting for a Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Heading west across northern Arizona, we drove alongside the Vermillion Cliffs where we took a peek at the “Cliff Dwellers” roadside stop.

02 761 RV travel Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Our “National Parks” travel theme was so well established by now that we just had to make a quickie stop at Grand Canyon’s North Rim to do both day and night photography.

View from deck Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

Tourists on the cozy back deck of the North Rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge in Arizona.

Milky Way at the Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona

Full moon and the Milky Way at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim!

Then we continued on to the majestic scenery of Zion National Park.

Virgin River Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah RV trip

Zion National Park, Utah

Exploring an area in Zion National Park that we hadn’t visited before, we did a hike into the autumn colors of Kolob Canyons on Taylor Creek Trail.

Autumn Leaves Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park’s Kolob Canyons in Utah.

November and December saw us flitting between Arizona, California and San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico as we made several visits to our dentist and spent time socializing with friends.

Fabulous year of RV travels

What a fabulous year of RV travels!!
Moab, Utah

During 2016 we published quite a few non-travel posts as well. The links are below:

RV Tips, Tricks and Tech Topics:

Truck Related Topics:

RV Warranty & Repairs:

Lifestyle:

Product Reviews:

Dental Care on the Road:

Mexico’s Gold Coast:

OUR TRAVELS IN PREVIOUS YEARS

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A Visit to the Dentist in Mexico

Dentistry is really expensive these days, and RVers that make their way south in the wintertime can take advantage of the good quality dental care that is available just over the border in Mexico.

The November/December 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine features our article about some of the great experiences we have had with dentists in Mexico just across the border from Yuma, Arizona, in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.

Mexican Dentistry Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016

Escapees Magazine Nov-Dec 2016
Article by: Emily and Mark Fagan

Escapees has posted the article on their website at this link:

The Affordable Alternative of Mexican Dentistry

Our dentist, Dr. Sergio Bernal, is a general practitioner in San Luis Rio Colorado just over the border from San Luis, Arizona (south of Yuma).

Last year he coordinated and oversaw a root canal I had done in a tooth that already had a crown on it (described in detail here).

Eight years ago, Dr. Bernal put a porcelain crown on a baby tooth of Mark’s that had never fallen out. It was an exccellent crown and very easy procedure.

The crown was fabricated by the lab and ready to be installed within 18 hours of us arriving at Dr. Bernal’s office for the very first time. It fit perfectly and cost just $130.

Mark always said it was the best crown in his mouth.

Unfortunately, the baby tooth under this crown came loose this past October, and Mark was suddenly in a lot of pain. He needed another solution.

Ironically, this happened just as the issue of Escapees Magazine with our article about Mexican dental care was being mailed out to Escapees members.

Because we lived on our sailboat in Mexico for the better part of four years, we have enjoyed top notch dental care all over Mexico, from the Arizona border to the beautiful Bays of Huatulco very near the Guatemala border.

We have always been very satisfied with both the dental care and the price.

With Mark’s tooth aching, we dashed to Yuma and then zipped across the border from San Luis, Arizona, to San Luis, Mexico, on our bikes (you can learn more about doing this as well as walking over the border in our blog post about Mexican dental care here).

Even though dental care in Mexico is excellent, the upscale frills that Americans are accustomed to are not necessarily a part of the deal.

For starters, dentistry in Mexico is usually handled on a walk-in basis rather than making an appointment in advance.

Some people have read my writings about dentists in Mexico and have tried to find these dentists on the internet. Well, most Mexican dentists don’t bother with the expense of setting up a website, as they rely more on word of mouth and patients showing up at the door when they need care.

So, we got psyched up for a day of dentistry, rode the 1/2 block from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office, leaned our bikes against the wall and peered in the door. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there.

Rather than wait, we decided to ride over to visit the endodontist, Dr. Horacio Avila, who had done such an excellent job on my root canal last year. I needed to see him for a follow-up on my root canal anyway, and we figured he might have some thoughts about Mark’s aching baby tooth. We each took a quick turn in his dentist’s chair and looked at our x-rays with him on his computer screen on the wall.

My root canal was doing great, but Mark’s situation was more complex. The adult tooth was present but was lying sideways, which meant there was no option for an implant. Instead, Dr. Avila felt he probably needed a bridge.

Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Mark and Dr. Avila check out his tooth on an x-ray.

Being an endontontist and not a general practice dentist, bridges are not his line of work. So, he handed us the x-rays and sent us on our way.

The bill for our five x-rays at Dr. Avila’s office was $50.

We biked back to Dr. Bernal’s office and found he had returned from his errands and was happy to see us.

Mark got in his dentist chair, and Dr. Bernal had a look at his tooth and Dr. Avila’s x-rays. Of course, Dr. Bernal has an x-ray machine too, but there was no need to duplicate the x-rays. He agreed that an implant was out and that a bridge was probably the best way to go.

He pulled Mark’s tiny baby tooth out of his mouth with a quick yank and explained that a bridge involves grinding down the two adjacent teeth, putting crowns on them, and then suspending a false tooth in between. Egads!!

Sadly, the two teeth on either side of Mark’s (now absent) baby tooth were 100% healthy. Mark felt really badly about grinding those teeth down to support two crowns and suspend a false tooth in between.

Dr. Bernal scratched his head for a while and studied Mark’s teeth for a while and then suggested he consider a different option: grinding a tiny channel on the back side of each of the two healthy teeth and suspending a false tooth in between on wings that were inserted and glued into the channels.

This sounded intriguing.

He suggested that Mark try a temporary solution like that and see how it felt before committing to a permanent solution. So, we hung around San Luis for about three hours while Dr. Bernal’s lab technician across the street fabricated a plastic temporary tooth. In the middle of the afternoon, Dr. Bernal inserted it and off we went back over the border.

He charged us $20 total for all of his work and the lab’s work.

Mexican Dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Dr. Bernal goes over Mark’s options with him.

Mark liked the idea of being able to keep his healthy teeth mostly intact and not crown them, so we returned a few weeks later to get the permanent work done. Again, we showed up unannounced around 8:00 in the morning, and by late afternoon Dr. Bernal’s technician had fabricated a permanent false tooth with wings and Dr. Bernal had prepped Mark’s teeth and installed it.

The cost: $250.

Mark absolutely loves this tooth. He’s had it for a few months now and doesn’t even notice it’s there. It chews fine, looks fine, and the teeth on either side of it are totally intact except for a tiny indent in each one to support the wings of the false tooth. A retired dentist friend of ours said similar dental work in the US would have cost over $1,000.

Besides the high quality workmanship and low cost, the best thing about all of this was the back-and-forth conversation we were able to have with Dr. Bernal. Rather than the brusque manner of many dentists, he took the time to consider other options besides a bridge and to listen to our concerns about destroying two perfectly good teeth. I was in the room with Mark the whole time, and I liked the feeling that we were participants in Mark’s dental care rather than being just recipients.

Next door to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a hair cutting salon. Both times we visited Dr. Bernal, we dropped in on the hair cutting salon to get haircuts. The most delightful stylist named Amber works there, and for just $3 for men and $5 for women, she does a great job.

To find her shop: as you walk into the alcove where Dr. Bernal’s office is, the hair salon is on the right side before his office. For both of us, these have been the bests haircut we’ve had in over a year!

Barber next to Mexican dentist San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Next to Dr. Bernal’s office there is a great little hair cutting place.

Getting a haircut in San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Amber gives me a haircut

Another thing that’s great about going to Mexico for dental care — besides receiving excellent care at a fraction of American prices — is that it’s an excuse to enjoy a daytrip to another culture and eat some really wonderful Mexican food.

In San Luis there is an absolutely fantastic restaurant called El Parianchi that serves incredible food, complete with fun entertainment. We’ve now eaten several lunches there and a breakfast too, and we have loved the experience every single time.

El Parianchi Meal San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

The first course of a feast for two for $13 (pancakes and omelette not shown) at El Parianchi restaurant.

We’ve gotten to know several of the waiters as well as the harpist, Elias. Mexicans enjoy listening to folk songs played by various kinds of musicians while dining, and the harp music adds a special something to the ambiance at El Parianchi.

Mexican restaurant El Parianchi San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Elias entertains us with his harp.

El Parianchi also has a stash of huge sombreros, and sometimes the waiters bring them out and put them on their guests as a gag. We ended up wearing these crazy hats on one of our visits for my root canal last year (see this post). On one of our visits this year, a group celebrating a 26th birthday ended up in the hats right behind us!

People in sombrero hats El Parianchi Restaurant San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico

Sombreros for everyone at the birthday party!

For lots more details about dental care in Mexico, including directions to our dentists’ offices, check out this link:

Mexican Dentists – Finding Affordable Dental Care in Mexico

Basic info for our primary care dentist. He’ll set you up with specialists in town as needed:

Dr. Sergio Bernal

Call him directly from the US by dialing this number: 011 52 653 534 6651
Address: First St. #118-9 San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico

Open Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 9-2, Sunday 9-11

For first timers, walk 100 yards from the border to Dr. Bernal’s office (detailed directions at this link), and then take $2-$3 cabs to visit other dental specialists, if needed, and be sure to enjoy a meal at El Parianchi! Here is a map showing the locations we visited:

Locations of Dr. Bernal’s Office, El Parianchi Restaurant and Dr. Avila’s Office – Interactive Google Maps

On the above map, the locations are labeled as:

  • Dr. Bernal = “Calle 1 115”
  • Dr. Avila = GPS 32.477776,-114.766224 (Calle 13 & Madero)
  • El Parianchi is in between them at Calle 10 & Captain Carlos Calles

When we crossed the border for our first visit with Dr. Bernal this past October, we were alarmed to see a huge group of illegal immigrants waiting to cross into the US. On our return visit a month later, Mexican authorities had removed them from the sidewalks and placed them in shelters. The sidewalks near the border were empty as they always had been before.

So how do you get hooked up with a good dentist in Mexico?

We first heard about Dr. Bernal from fellow Escapees members at the Escapees Kofa RV Park in Yuma. For new RVers, we highly recommend joining Escapees RV Club, as it is little tidbits like getting the name and address of a trusted Mexican dentist that are the unsung benefits of being part of this club.

Escapees is known for its fabulous magazine, its many member parks, its discounts on RV parks across the country, its workcamping job board, its massive database of boondocking locations, its bootcamp training for new RVers and its incredible mail forwarding service and RV advocacy work.

But sometimes it is the little things that are passed on member to member, like dentist and doctor referrals, that make the club particularly helpful for folks living on the road in their RV. Lots of people go RVing, but there is a comaraderie among Escapees members that is unique.

To learn a little more about the unusual history of Escapees, check out our links:

If you think you might want to join Escapees RV Club, you can become a member at the link below…and if you mention that you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, they will put a little something in our tip jar as a thank you (and thank YOU!!):

Join Escapees

We’ve been members since 2008!!

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RV Trip to Zion National Park “West” – Gorgeous Kolob Canyons!

October 2016 – Zion National Park in Utah is one of America’s most beautiful National Parks, and we were loving our RV trip to the main part of the park at Zion Canyon. A side trip to Kolob Canyons at Exit 40 on I-15 took us to a much less visited but equally dramatic area on the west side of the Park.

Kolob Canyons Road Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Kolob Canyons Road is a spectacular scenic drive.

The stunning scenic drive through the Kolob Canyons region of the park is truly breathtaking.

We had been blown away by the fall foliage season on the San Juan Skyway in Colorado in late September where the aspen trees were cloaked in gold. Autumn comes four or five weeks later in Zion National Park, but the colors in the last days of October were wonderful.

Autumn Foliage Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

The trees were vivid colors.

As we followed Kolob Canyons Road, Taylor Creek accompanied us. Hardwood trees along the edges of this thin trickle of water were resplendent in their fall colors.

Fall Foliage Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Fall foliage was at its peak in late October – Wow!

The red rock scenery was awe-inspiring too, with jagged cliffs towering in front of us and then surrounding us.

Fall Foliage Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Kolob Canyons

Autumn Leaves Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

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There is no shuttle bus on Kolob Canyons Road, and there is very little traffic, especially in the early morning. We stopped at several pullouts to take a deep breath and savor the incredible views.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah RV trip

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Kolob Canyons Visitor Center at the beginning of the scenic drive is at about 5,000′ elevation, and Kolob Canyons Road climbs about 1,000 feet to the Kolob Viewpoint at the end, about 5 miles down the road.

In comparison, Zion Canyon is at 4,000′ elevation.

So, there was a delicious mix of evergreens and deciduous hardwood trees that stand out against the red rock backdrop.

Kolob Canyons Red Rock Fall Foliage Zion National Park Utah

Fall foliage and red rocks – yum!

Red Rock Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Trees perched on outcroppings of the red rock cliffs.

Kolob Canyons is an awesome area for photography, and our cameras were going wild.

Photography Kolob Canyon Road Zion Canyon National Park RV Trip

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Some of the best fall colors seemed to be down along Taylor Creek, so we decided to hike the Taylor Creek Trail to see if we could immerse ourselves a little deeper in the fall foliage.

Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah RV trip

The Taylor Creek Trail headed right into the fall color.

Taylor Creek Trail was an easy hike that took us under lovely archways of colorful leaves.

 Fall Color Taylor Creek Hike Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

We walked under an arch of autumn color.

We had the trail almost entirely to ourselves as we walked into a wonderland of fall color.

Taylor Creek Trail hike Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

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Because the elevation in Kolob Canyons is slightly higher than in Zion Canyon, late October was the ideal time to see the autumn colors along this creek.

Autumn color Taylor Creek Hike Zion National Park Utah

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Red rocks autumn leaves Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

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Being there at the right time for beautiful colors was a nice surprise, because, over in Zion Canyon we had found we were just a little bit early. The best time for that part of the park is the first week of November.

Fall Color Taylor Creek Trail Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

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Fall Foliage Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

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The red rocks of the surrounding peaks of Kolob Canyons jutted into the brooding sky, adding a wonderful burnt orange to the brilliant shades of the trees around us.

Taylor Creek Hike Zion National Park Kolob Canyons

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We were just having too much fun with our cameras here!

Photography in Fall Colors Zion National Park Utah

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As is always the way when we go on a gorgeous hike with our cameras, we soon got separated as we each scrambled off the trail here and there to explore inviting and hidden spots. Mark found himeself surrounded by maple trees and had fun with their bright red leaves.

Maple Leaf and acorn from Zion Canyon

Fall comes to Zion National Park.

Who knew there were maple leaves in the red rock desert canyons of Southern Utah?!

Colorful autumn leaves Zion National Park Utah

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We spent many hours on Taylor Creek Trail and didn’t even make it to the end of the hike!

Autumn colors Taylor Creek Trail Hike Zion National Park Utah

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Keeping tabs with each with our two-way radios, we finally made our way back to our truck. When I got there I found Mark had put pretty fall leaves all over my seat!

Autumn leaves in a truck

I came back to our truck to find my seat covered with fall leaves — fun!

It is days like this that make our crazy lives in our trailer so special.

Zion National Park RV Trip Kolob Canyons

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For RVers heading to Zion National Park, the one hour drive from Zion Canyon around to the west entrance at Kolob Canyons is really worthwhile. There is a campground on the west side of the park that is designed for tent camping and is suitable for truck campers and very short Class C’s.

Camping Zion National Park Utah

A full moon rises at Zion.

There are links with more info and big rig RV parking ideas below.

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More info about Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park:

Other blog posts from our RV travels near Zion National Park in Utah:

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