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I accidentaly let the "cat out of the bag" when I called Dad from Cincinnati last night.  Yes, my "secret destination" for the holidays is Thailand (and I can't even remember why I wanted to keep it a secret in the first place other than I wanted to phone home on Christmas Day and say, "Guess where I am?!").

A brief synopsis of my itinerary begins with the Portland, Oregon, trip this Friday morning, via Las Vegas.  I'll be looking at apartment and condo prices/locations while I'm there, as well as doing a bit of sightseeing.  I'm also attending the 10th anniversary celebration of a major U2 website (including prizes and a U2 tribute band) as well as the last concert of the real band's 2005 tour in Portland.

Next Wednesday, I begin a long series of flights.  I fly first to Vancouver from Portland (on a Dash 8-300, even smaller than my plane from Atlantic City to Cincinnati last night!) with Jazz Air, picking up an Air Canada flight to Tokyo.  The next leg is with Royal Thai Airways to Bangkok, where I arrive late at night on the 22nd.  The complete roundtrip from Portland to Bangkok was booked through Air Canada at significant savings — a total of $841 (if I'd departed one day earlier or later and/or returned one day earlier or later, the price would have been almost $3000 MORE!).  After a possible 12-hour stay in the Bangkok airport (all nearby hotels were already booked for that night back in August!), I complete the last leg of my journey on Nok Air to Phuket Island.

My accomodations for the next 11 nights is a new resort on Kamala Beach on the west side of the island.  This area was devastated by the tsunami a year ago but has almost been completely rebuilt now.  They are desperate to lure back the tourists and prices have been cut significantly at a number of locations.  I plan to relax on the beach (I bought plenty of sunblock so I don't return looking like a deep-fried lobster) and would love to do things like ride an elephant, sea kayak to the outer islands, snorkel, etc.  I might even take the train, bus, or plane down to Malaysia since I'll be so close in order to get another stamp in my passport and see a bit of yet another country.

On January 2nd, I fly back up to Bangkok.  There will be a brief period of "playing it by ear" as I don't have any other accomodations booked until five days later.  I'll probably take a bus up to Kanchanaburi and spend several nights in one of the floating guesthouses near the famous bridge over the River Kwai.  I might travel to the Burmese border if it happens to be open while I'm there.  A brief visit to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is also an option.  I doubt it I'll have enough time to enter Laos or travel into Cambodia (the purpose of which would be to visit Ankor Wat).

The final portion of this trip is four days in Bangkok, where I'll be staying in the "Sky Zone" (upper 30 or 50 stories) of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, until recently the tallest in the world.  I'd saved so much on my bookings up to this point that I wanted to splurge.  However, it seems like nothing is very expensive in Thailand at this moment in time (except, perhaps, the largest suites at the famous hotels along the river) and my room is less than $50 per night.

I'm really looking forward to this trip — the first portion will be completely relaxing (I might even try a traditional Thai massage) with plenty of time to just lay around and read or enjoy the sun and sand.  Bangkok will be very hectic, but exciting.  I'll try and do as many of the touristy things I can in the capital in the brief time I'll be there.  I think of it as chaotic as London but in a more difficult to understand (for me) language.  The Thai people don't celebrate Christmas (being predominately Buddhist) so I don't expect to see a lot of decorations (London certainly took care of that!).  There is a large expat community, however, so I can probably find a small Christmas party in a bar or something if I feel the need to be around people then.  I do plan to attend at least one of the memorial services on the 26th for the anniversary of the tsunami.

One is for certain:  it will be quite an adventure....