Monday, January 15, 2018

Baan Souchada, Saraburi province

Swimming-pool side of the resort
Baan Souchada is a country resort & spa located in the province of Saraburi, north of Bangkok. It takes between 2 and 3 hours by car to get there. It is past the city of Saraburi, close to Lopburiburi refers to a Thai word meaning a 'fortified town' at the time of its foundation. On the other end, the word sa means a 'swamp'. So Sara-buri is litterally 'the town in the middle of the swamps'.
Pool waterfall
province. The word

This account is by no means meant to be an advertisement for this resort. It is there because I enjoyed staying there and truly loved the surrounding quiet atmosphere and the beauty of the place. It is worth to know that it is better to have a vehicle to stay there, as it is completely isolated in the countryside. The surrounding landscape is made of rolling hills, pastures and vast fields of sunflowers, a sort of hallmark for this lovely province; the type of countryside you would not expect to find in Thailand.

The resort in itself does not simply consist of a hotel and spa. It is spread
Lounge corner
out on a vast estate thay includes a well-tended garden, ponds, an orchid greenhouse and a farm displaying some of the local animals, among which a herd of water buffaloes.
Designed in a modern Thai architecture, the resort hotel is a good example of the beauty inspired by the Siamese culture. Needless to say, it is also tastefully decorated in the local style, offering all the modern comfort expected to fit the expectations of modern travelers.
Therefore, Baan Souchada (the word baan means 'home') offers three main attractions on site: its beautiful Thai architecture, an interesting estate, and a green and lovely natural countryside.
A lovely modern Siamese atmosphere in the countryside

Modern Siamese Architecture

Decorative lounge bell
 Whether it is the curved roofs, the interior design or all the decorative items, the guests feel they are truly in Thailand. Both the spa and the quality of the food at the restaurant bring an additional touch to the feeling. Outside, statues and a profusion of plants and flowers complete the picture.
Main lounge view
The spa
Modern Thai design
Bungalow setting in the garden

The Estate

A view of the garden and the hills
Thai pavilion
There are several types of accommodations to choose from. Bungalows are spread out in a landscape garden that gives the impression of being on a hill village. Flowers are everywhere. But there are also a few ponds, some have been designed to resemble small rice paddies. There is also a wide variety of plants and trees that indeed attract many birds. To this effect, they have buit an observation tower on a hill that enables people to admire the countryside and watch the birds.
One of the main attractions in this huge park remains the orchid farm with
Orchid specy
a great variety of species. Some orchids can also be seen in the garden, but the greenhouse offers a larger variety of course.
The farmhouse keeps many different familiar animals that children enjoy seeing. There are hens, ducks, rabbits, but also poneys, goats, sheep and a set of boars. Besides the water buffaloes already mentioned, there are a few deers as well. 

The surrounding environment

Garden rice paddy
Frangipani flowers
The province of Suraburi is mostly agricultural. Thre are ponds, rivers and even a large man-made lake nearby. The hills break the monotony of the flat lands and some higher karstic mounts can be seen in the  background. 
One of the province attractions is the intensive culture of the sunflowers with their byproducts that include natural honey.

It is clear that this district offers a natural diversion from the usual perception people may have of an exotic land like Thailand. 

Sunset time over a sunflower field
Thai country bungalows at Baan Souchada

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Province of Saraburi [สระบุรี]

Map of Saraburi province
Saraburi province is northeast of Bangkok. It is one of the central provinces of Thailand. This is where the former capital of Ayutthaya is. But this time, I went there with a group of friends to explore the area south of Lopburi. 
Many places in this part of the country end with the word buri. In modern Thai language it means 'town' instead of city [muang]. It derives from the Sanskrit word Puri which means a 'fortified place'. This is why there is Saraburi [สระบุรี] or Lopburi [ลพบุรี]; there exists many other places ending with the word buri.
The area is known for its past and has many temples. But there are two less-known particularities. This is one of the few places in Thailand, where there are cows and green pastures. This is why there are a few dairy-farms. Here, they also grow sunflowers that are in full bloom in December.
Sunflower field
At a sunflower farm
Local sculpture
Pasak Dam
The river below the dam
Thai deity in the lake park

Friday, January 5, 2018

Return Trip to Thailand

Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
After almost a one-month leave, it is now time to go back to Bangkok for the rest of the winter season. Although, the weather was mild, mostly sunny in Tunisia and in Provence, it feels good to go back to the warm environment of southeast Asia.
From Marseilles to Rome – 03/01/2018.
My sister drove me to Marseille-Provence airport [MRS] in the afternoon to catch the evening flight to Rome-Fiumicino [FCO]. This is just a short hop. ALITALIA operates a smaller, Brazilian-made aircraft (E175) on this route. As I was on business class, I had the privilege to have a full dinner with a glass of red wine aboard the airplane. The fight to Rome lasted 50 min only.
ALITALIA flight from MRS to FCO
As usual, it was a bit long to get the luggage at T1. I walked to T3 in order to leave the case at the left-luggage counter (6 euros / 24h). Then, I proceeded to the airport station in order to get into the 'Leonardo Express' train to Rome-Termini (14 euros OW / 32 min).
ROME – 03-04/02/2018.
Relais Cavour, Rome
The B & B I chose to stay in, is near the Termini-station on the main via Cavour. It only took me ten minutes to reach the building where Relais Cavour-Inn is located. I followed the instruction to get in. My room (#104) was really nice and modern.
Room at Relais Cavour
Before going to bed, I chose to take a night walk to the area I already knew. Since I stayed near Santa Maria Maggiore basilica, I first went there before going anywhere else.
Next day, I woke up at 6:30AM as I wanted to be ready to go out. Breakfast is served in the room at 8:00AM.
Narrow street near Trevi
Covered gallery in Trevi area
I left the inn at 8:30AM. My main purpose was to see a part of Rome I did not know well. I headed to
Building courtyard
the Trevi Fountain by walking in two different sections. Rome is so rich in culture that there is always new things to discover. It is amazing how one can hop from
piazza to piazza in the Eternal City! I walked past a monument with the city symbol: the she-wolf with Remus & Romulus. The air was brisk but it was a beautiful sunny day. At this early time, there weren't too many people in the streets nor too many tourists around. Even at the Trevi Fountain, the tourists were few but I thought that was a great time to be there. Wandering around the narrow streets of this Roman section, I walked as far as Bernini Square and the Fountain of the Triton. Then I started to walk back to the B & B via the Piazza della Repubblica near Termini-station. Check-out time is at 11:00AM at Relais-Cavour.

Via Veneto
Piazza della Repubblica

In the 'Leonardo Express'
Back at Termini, I rode back the 'Leonardo Express' to Fiumicino. I checked my case out of the left-luggage counter and it was already time to check in for the QATAR Airways flight to Doha [DOH].
Being a privileged QR customer, I can check in at the Business counter even when traveling economy. They changed the aircraft today to an A340-600. I was allowed to be on the first row of the economy cabin [01A]. Using the Fast Track security lane in T3, I then proceeded to reach the International terminal E by using 'Le Enfore' lounge.
Flights back to BKK
From Rome [FCO] to Doha [DOH] – 04/01/2018.
The aircraft did not leave exactly on schedule but it did not seem to affect the time of arrival. QATAR is really good at welcoming back its frequent travelers. Even in economy, the air-hostess brought me a welcome drink and made me choose my dinner straight away.
Soon after take-off, the air-attendant came back to bring me a glass of red wine before serving the dinner. The dinner-tray was good and at the end, I even had a glass of Cognac with coffee.
The rest of the trip went quite smoothly. The flight lasted 5h20.
QATAR Airways flight from FCO to DOH

Hamad International Airport, Doha [HIA].
It was just a brief transit at Doha airport. I had time to go for a short while to Qatar business lounge before proceeding to the airplane for the last portion of the trip back to Bangkok.
From Doha [DOH] to Bangkok [BKK] – 05/01/2018.
Business class again [seat 4F] on the QATAR Airways B777-300ER to Bangkok-Sourvanabhumi. I slept most of the way. I asked the air attendant to wake me up 90min before landing. I had a real nice breakfast on board, refreshed a little and it was already time to land at BKK after a flight of about 6h.
QATAR Airways flight from DOH to BKK

 - End of the trip -