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Dining Journeys  (part 1 of 3)

 

Ron's Swedish grandmother had once said "I live to eat...I don't eat to live." That sounds like our philosophy. This journal recalls our most memorable dining experiences, in loose geographic order (and mostly chronological) , during 30 years of travel outside the U.S.

Many details add a little color to our foodielogue, including tales (those we dare print) about people in the travel industry who we met along the way. Working for and with international airlines and luxury hotels allowed us to make more frequent trips, of much better quality, than we could afford on our own.

 

Japan


Japanese waiters dressed as Cossacks at Volga in Tokyo

Our first time in Tokyo together, we stayed at the landmark Imperial Hotel - in separate rooms! On our honeymoon we ate Russian food at Volga - near Tokyo Tower - where Japanese waiters dressed as Cossacks. Rose had the musician play the theme song from "Doctor Zhivago" on the balalaika. Western dining was much more expensive than in the U.S. We also attended a variety show at a theater in the Ginza: from Noh and Kabuki to modern music. Rose flew to Tokyo for six years for Northwest Airlines and Ron made seven trips, but only two together. Rose visited 18 cities in Japan and Ron 12.


On the first trip, after our engagement, Ron just finished escorting a tour and Rose was on a layover from Seattle. He planned for her to stay in his room at the Imperial, but the night manager would not allow it. She was housed in the old Frank Lloyd Wright wing, about two blocks from Ron. We mostly used the subway (except during rush hour). Taxis were expensive and their drivers often got lost; we gave them a map in Japanese. When Rose lived near Tokyo as a child (age 5-8), the city was in ruins. She returned to a modern metropolis with NWA.

Kneeling at Ryotei Hashimoto, a traditional restaurant in Nagasaki

During our honeymoon Japan Travel Bureau gave us cars and drivers to tour Kyushu, Japan's southern island. We visited Kumamoto, Rose's paternal grandparents' home town, and were hosted by the Unzen Kanko, the classic Swiss chalet-style hotel in the hills of a national park. On an excursion to Nagasaki, we dined at Ryotei Hashimoto, a traditional restaurant with 12-inch high tables. Ron had to kneel when eating with tour groups, but it was too uncomfortable for Rose.

We flew to Fukuoka and used Japan's excellent railways; cars met us in each city. Rose's grandfather came to the U.S. in the 1890's. Her father was born in Seattle, went to college in Japan and worked for Mitsui in Manchuria, where Rose was born. The server in our private room at Hashimoto wore a kimono. She chided Rose for being Japanese and not being able to kneel properly, especially since her gaijin husband could. Rose told her she was an American, not used to sitting that way and it hurt...nine years walking in a pressurized cabin took its toll.

 

Taiwan

An outdoor Mongolian barbecue with a Malaysian couple in Taipei


Rose got passes on Northwest for our honeymoon to Tokyo, Taipei and Hong Kong. We went to Taiwan's Taroko Gorge, a picturesque valley and gorges surrounded by 4,000-foot mountains. In Taipei we met a young Malaysian couple at Genghis Khan, an outdoor Mongolian barbecue. We selected from a buffet of Oriental vegetables and thinly sliced meats, which were then stir fried on a flat grill. After dinner we attended a Chinese opera.

Except for military air charters, Northwest's American flight attendants only flew to Tokyo; Asian women worked Northwest's flights to Taipei, Manila and Hong Kong. The Chinese couple from Malaysia used English because Taiwanese could not understand their dialect. At a night bazaar we saw some snakes skinned for their meat (supposedly delicious) and a sidewalk dentist proudly displayed the teeth he had pulled.

Imperial Chinese decor of the Grand Hotel dining room


At Hualien we were carried to a banquet in sedan chairs by aborigines of the Ami tribe. In Taipei we also had dinner at the Grand Hotel...government-owned and built on a hillside sparing no expense. The architecture was similar to the Emperor's palace in Beijing, and the restaurant's interior had imperial Chinese decor, with intricate carvings on highly polished woods, accented with rare antiques, and serving court haute cuisine.

 

Philippines

 

A dinner show in Manila with Mandarin Oriental's sales team

Mandarin Oriental Hotels had brought their international sales team - together with spouses - to Manila for a hard-hat tour of the Mandarin Oriental being built in Makati, the business center. We stayed at the InterContinental Hotel, where we had European cuisine and were entertained by the Ambivalent Crowd, an exceptional group of young Filipino singers. It was our second visit to Manila; Rose did not care for most traditional food.

Our host on the first visit was the downtown Hilton, where Rose got a great massage from a blind masseur. We attended a Bayanihan folk dance performance. Armando Tirona, Sales Director for the Mandarin Oriental in Manila, sent a faith healer to stay overnight with us in Sausalito. Rose flew 12 MAC flights via Clark AFB in the Philippines, transporting U.S. Marines to Vietnam. Northwest had to dive into Saigon to avoid gunfire and then takeoff quickly. Ron transited Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) to Phnom Penh, Cambodia...taking a group to ancient Angkor Wat.

 

En Route

 

Prime rib carved at our dinner table on the upper deck of Pan Am

Pan Am hosted many of our transpacific flights because they freely exchanged passes with Thai International and had a barter agreement with Mandarin Oriental. On a Pan Am 12-hour non-stop from San Francisco to Hong Kong, we had a special experience. The upper deck of the 747 was used as a dining room, requiring reservations...with table cloths, fresh flowers and even place cards. Prime rib was carved to order at our table.

With passes on SFO Helicopter, we checked and claimed luggage at Sausalito's heliport. Ron went ballistic on another Pan Am flight from Hong Kong. We had lost one suitcase on arrival from Bangkok (our only loss in 30 trips). Shortly after takeoff on a non-stop to San Francisco, Rose told him that her engagement ring was in that bag! The owner of a diamond factory in Tel Aviv had custom-made that ring in exchange for a Piaget watch Ron bought in Hong Kong - its wide 18-kt. gold band was custom-made for a British Airways pilot.

 

Hong Kong

 

Impeccable service at the Mandarin Oriental's Man Wah restaurant

The Mandarin Oriental on Hong Kong Island was rated among the top ten hotels in the world. Our host was General Manager Peter Stafford, a true gentleman dedicated to service. We were impressed by the impeccable service in its Man Wah restaurant; our needs were anticipated and unobtrusively fulfilled, while enjoying delectable Chinese cuisine. We had splendid European dinners at the hotel's signature Mandarin Grill, too. Both are Michelin star restaurants.

The Mandarin Oriental met us at the airport in a vintage Rolls Royce, the doorman greeted us by name, the front desk had us preregistered, and an Assistant Manager escorted us to our room ... a delightful arrival. A 'spouse tour' was led by Kai Yin Loh, the hotel's Public Relations Manager - a well-known jewelry designer - who brought them to the wholesale Central Market, Cat Street, Cloth Alley, and to her favorite stores (she did most of the shopping). Hong Kong had a campaign to compete with rival Singapore, the world's cleanest major city.

 

Fresh seafood on a floating restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour


We went to Tai Pak floating restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour, accessible only by small sampans. Afloat on barges, it was brightly lit by strings of lights outside and by Chinese lanterns inside. Their seafood was very fresh, caught the same day and kept alive until each customer ordered. We also dined at the Verandah of the Repulse Bay Hotel (now closed) and at Gaddi's in the Peninsula Hotel (flagship of Peninsula Hotel Group)...refined Continental restaurants.

Peter Gautschi managed the Peninsula; the gracious host on our first trip together. His hotel had a Rolls Royce fleet. While Rose went shopping in Kowloon, Ron took a private water tour on a motorized junk with Pacific Leisure's manager to Lantau Island - with a vegeterian lunch at Po Lin Buddhist Monastery - then visited the Christian Trappist monastery (Our Lady of Joy) on a remote corner of the island. Lantau is much larger than Hong Kong Island and adjacent to the new airport. Landings at the first airport, Kai Tak, were just above the rooftops of buildings...you could almost pick the laundry off clothes lines. At a Buddhist temple near Tai Po in the New Territories Rose tried an outhouse, but spiders made her loose the urge to go.

 

An endless variety of dim sum at City Hall in Victoria

City Hall on Hong Kong Island in Victoria, capital of the former British Crown Colony, had a cavernous restaurant overlooking the Harbour, and at lunch it was filled with civil servants and businessmen. We sat by the windows and were served by at least a dozen women wheeling carts with an endless variety of dim sum. Darse Crandall, Ron's pledge father at Northwestern University, and wife Ruth Ann - who lived in Hong Kong - invited us to dinner.

Darse took us to dinner in Wanchai, the nightclub district. He had been a U.S. Navy supply officer. There is a tunnel to drive between mainland Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, but we preferred to take the Star Ferry...always an interesting experience. Transportation was often provided for us, but taxis were clean, reasonable and by the meter. Central District was terrific for walking, with fascinating shops around every corner. On Rose's first visit, she attended an elaborate dinner at a Chinese millionaire's estate. New dishes just kept on coming. Ron had visited Macau while it was a Portugese colony; it now surpasses Las Vegas in gambling revenues.

Dancing the hora after dinner at a publisher's apartment on Victoria Peak

Adrian Zecha published Orientations, a quality magazine dedicated to Asian antiques, arts and culture. He and his wife were Jewish émigrés from Indonesia and invited us to dinner at their apartment on Victoria Peak. After dinner we danced the hora, led by their amah (maid) who sang “Hava Nagila” in Hebrew. On two of our five trips together to Hong Kong, we ate at the Peak Tower restaurant with spectacular views of the Harbour at night.

Adrian's brother Alwin -  an owner of Pacific Leisure - was our guest for a tour of California for Asian tour operators attending the ASTA convention. Adrian later founded Aman Resorts, ultra-luxurious small resorts in Southeast Asia, whose services, facilities and prices put Ritz-Carlton to shame. Wally Gress, V.P. of Sales for Mandarin Oriental Hotels, also lived on Victoria Peak. He came from New York City, but rents in Hong Kong more expensive. On our next trip we ate with Andreas Hofer, the Mandarin Oriental's new General Manager. Hong Kong is usually warm and sunny, but we once had cold winds and monsoon rains.

 

Indonesia

 

Supper at sunset on Tuban Beach on Bali

Cathay Pacific - a Thai International pool partner - hosted us from Hong Kong to Bali. There we were guests of the Kartika Plaza on Tuban Beach, in a brick bungalow with a thatched roof. We had an early supper so we could later attend the Ketjak (monkey) dance...just as exciting as the colorful Barong dance the next night. The dining room faced west toward the ocean and - at just 10 degrees south of the equator - sunset lasted 'forever.'

Rose wanted to enjoy the unspoiled white sand beach in front of our hotel, but Ron - who escorted two tour groups to Bali - kept her busy visiting the many interesting sights on the island. Tuban was adjacent to Kuta Beach, the favorite of hippies and nude sunbathers. Since our trip, 47 hotels (8,100 rooms) have opened there. Many public beaches are now crowded with tourists, but most of the new luxury resorts have their own private beaches.

 

Rijstaffel at exotic Tandjung Sari near Sanur Beach

We had one dinner near Sanur Beach at exotic Tandjung Sari, its cottages covered in frangipani and hibiscus. Its lovely courtyard restaurant is an elevated, circular terrace. A specialty was rijstaffel, 15 Indonesian dishes served individually, such as satays, stews, and curries. Lunch was at Puri Suling, Bob Hargrove's charming restaurant, by the Elephant Cave. Bali's tropical splendor was only surpassed by its serene, spiritual and artistic people.

Rose previously had rijstaffel at Bali restaurant in Amsterdam (Indonesia was a Dutch colony until 1949). We shopped at the artist villages of Ubud and Mas - superior quality and fantastic values. Indonesia has 13,000 islands and has the world's largest Muslim population, but most of the Balinese are Hindus. Bali is called the "Isle of the Gods"...it was a paradise on Earth with clean air, pleasant weather, dependable rainfall, plentiful food, and lush flora.

 

Singapore

 

Eating at food stalls on Singapore's Esplanade

On Singapore's waterfront Esplanade, we ate at food stalls which served freshly prepared satay...chicken, lamb or beef skewered on sticks and cooked over an open flame. Very tasty and very cheap. We then took a cycle rickshaw to Chinatown. We also dined with Bob Chamberlain, Director of Sales of the Shangri-La, our luxury host hotel and flagship of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, and had another dinner at the Raffles, built in 1887 and still a grand hotel.

We were hosted from Bangkok by Singapore Airlines, which served with fine crystal, china and silver...the best of any airline. Sonnie Lien, G.M. of the Mandarin Orchard Hotel, was disappointed that we did not stay with him. Singapore is a true multi-cultural island nation: Although predominately Chinese, it has a large population of Malays, Indians and Anglos. The most prosperous Southeast Asian country, it has many (mostly benign) laws controlling the behavior of its citizens. Ron's first visit was for Northwest Airlines, exploring the possibility of going online there.

 

Malaysia

 

Eating at food stalls with Thai International's manager in Penang

On Penang island we were hosted by the E&O (Eastern & Oriental), a colonial hotel built in 1885 (now closed). We were just seated for dinner in its stuffy, formal dining room when Thai International's Manager swept in. He was a jovial - and somewhat loud - Chinese Malay who said "you don't want to eat in this place" and took us out to a night market of food stalls serving an amazing array of seafood. Delicious and fun!

We took a funicular up to a Buddhist temple, which had many snakes...kept sleepy by the smell of incense. Ron had a long and controversial interview with the Straits Times newspaper. Malaysia's population is primarily ethnic Malays, but Penang was mostly Chinese. A jolly tour operator from Penang joined our California tour for Asians attending the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) conventon. He played saxophone, with Alwin Zecha on drums, sitting in at a jam session in Anaheim. We brought them to Disneyland the next day.

 

Thailand

 

Lunch by the pool at the Siam InterContinental with Tiger Tops' owner

One trip to Bangkok was in August, in sweltering heat. Rose took tours while Ron was in sales meetings. She was wilting and grateful to return to the air-conditioned Siam InterContinental. At its pool, we had lunch with Jim Edwards, owner of Tiger Tops in Nepal, and his Nepalese secretary Uma. The next day we all went to the newly opened Ancient City, one hour south of Bangkok

When Ron worked for Thai International, the Station Manager always met us so we didn't have to clear Immigration or Customs. Transfers from the airport to the downtown hotels should take 30 minutes, but took an hour due to the mind-boggling traffic. Many drivers sat to the right of their seat to allow room for the Buddha to steer them to safety. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel had a river transfer for groups...suggested by our international sales team. We used hotel cars in Bangkok: newer Mercedes and quite reasonable. Taxis? A hassle.

Barking deer with the Managing Director of Thai International

Niels Lumholdt, Managing Director of Thai, took Ron to Nick's Hungarian Inn to have venison of barking deer. These miniature deer were imported from Burma (Myanmar), but illegal to hunt in Thailand. Rose remembers lumpia Niels brought from Manila to a party at the San Francisco home of Claus Jensen, General Manager-Americas for Thai International.

Thai Airways International started in 1960 as a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines and Thai Airways Company, Thailand's domestic carrier. That ended in 1977 when the Thai government bought out the remaining 15% of SAS shares. Niels joined Thai International in 1964, rising from Director of Sales & Marketing to V.P. and Deputy Managing Director. Claus Jensen was one of the pioneers of in-flight entertainment on airlines.

Fumbling with escargot at dinner with Lars Lind in Bangkok

Lars Lind, owner of a tour company in Bangkok, invited us to dinner at the Montien Hotel. Earlier Ron drank too much at a reception for his friend General Chalermchai, Director of the Tourist Organization of Thailand. We both like escargot, but Ron used the clamp for holding the shell to try removing the snail...a fumbling attempt that failed. Lars provided cars and guides for us; he seemed to value both our opinions about tours.


As Sales Development Manager, Ron promoted destinations served by Thai International. Lars asked us to evaluate a 'real' floating market 90 minutes from the 'tourist' version in Bangkok...would Americans think it worthwhile? The next day we explored the market and made our first visit to the Rose Garden in Nakhon Pathom. At the Nipa Lodge, our host in Pattaya, we had dinner with General Manager Anton Good.  Together with the Pattaya Palace, the Nipa Lodge (now Basaya Beach Hotel) later hosted Ron's first group of American tour wholesalers. Since then, 30,000 hotel rooms have opened there.

Lunch at the Rose Garden with the InterContinental's sales director and family

Two years later, the Siam InterContinental's Sales Director, Niphon Palalikit, his wife Toi and their children were our guests for lunch at the Rose Garden (now Sampran Riverside), the restaurant and Thai cultural show park owned by Suchada Yuvaboon, daughter of the former mayor of Bangkok. Their four-year-old daughter, a little lady, easily read the English menu. Quite a contrast with the young girls of the Karen tribe, smoking pipes, who we later met in a village near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.

Niphon and Toi visited us in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He later opened Venus Jewelry in Bangkok and made a ring for Rose from a large star sapphire Ron bought in Sri Lanka. The Rose Garden was included on Ron's first trade mission for American tour wholesalers and most of them added it to their itineraries, en route back from the real floating markets at Damnern Saduak. Suchada was so grateful that she gave us a 700 year old vase from Ayutthaya. Outside Chiang Mai, Ron had a Mountain Dew...bottled in Kenosha, Wisconsin (his home town).

Lunch served to us in the cockpit of Thai Airways en route to Phuket

We were 'bumped' on Thai Airways from Bangkok to Phuket...the flight overbooked. As a Thai International employee we were able to get on a cargo flight. The Captain invited us to sit in the cockpit, where we were served a box lunch. From the Phuket Island Resort - our host - we sailed 10 miles to Phang-nga island, location for a James Bond movie. We stopped for lunch at Ko Panyi, a Muslim fishing village built on stilts over the bay.

An Italian film company was at our resort; one actress had her body covered in blue paint. On Phang-nga, a Thai movie was filming. After our trip together, Ron's second trade mission introduced Phuket to American tour wholesalers; it is now included on many of their tours of Southeast Asia. Sets for "The Man with the Golden Gun" were being built on Phang-nga when they were there. The seafood dinners were wonderful at the Phuket Island Resort. Later, 33 resorts (7,000 rooms) were built on Phuket's 12 fine beaches; ours was the first.

 

A dinner service performance at Le Chalet in the Erawan Hotel

Le Chalet was the Franco-Swiss restaurant in the old Erawan Hotel (now site of the Grand Hyatt Erawan). Its ebullient Thai chef was Cordon Bleu-trained in Europe. He prepared or finished most dishes at each table, with a flourish and much chatter. The decor was of a Swiss chalet, with a cow bell at the door. At Baan Thai, a Thai-style house/restaurant and gardens, we watched graceful Thai classical dances from tables sunk in the floor.

For one trip to Bangkok we stayed at the Dusit Thani, which had a baby elephant standing next to the doorman. During a later hotel strike, the little elephant died. At the eclectic weekend market, a fortune teller told Rose never to return to the place of her birth. After joining Mandarin Oriental, Ron conducted seminars on incentive travel to Asia. One result was Chevrolet booking three back-to-back charter flights for their dealers to stay at the Oriental Hotel. They were cancelled when Bangkok had its first ever student riots just three weeks before departure.

A hilarious lunch with the Oriental's manager and his wife in Bangkok

At the Oriental (now Mandarin Oriental) in Bangkok - 10 years rated the world's best hotel by business travelers - we dined with Kurt Wachtveitl, then its General Manager for 30 years. We will never forget one lunch on the outdoor Riverside Terrace with him and his Thai wife Penny. A female French journalist, known for complaining about everything, exited the hotel and Kurt sat under the table to avoid her. Penny put a napkin over his head, which made everyone laugh, including the waiter. His staff adored him.

Every hotel sent us a basket of heavenly Thai fruit: rambutan, mangosteen, pomeio, and pawpaw. At the Oriental, Mrs. Ankana, Front Office Manager, always met us. She was with the hotel for 50 years and full of energy. Pornsri, the Public Relations Manager, was sweet and helpful. As we were leaving the Oriental, Kurt and Penny saw us off. The Bangkok Post, English-language daily newspaper, published our photo together.

A sumptuous buffet on board the Oriental Queen sailing the Chao Phraya River

On the Oriental Queen - a luxurious riverboat operated by the hotel - we sailed from Bangkok up the Chao Phraya River to the former summer palace at Bang Pa-in and the ancient capitol of Ayutthaya. On board was a sumptuous buffet of tropical fruit, Thai specialties and Continental cuisine...with an impressive and appetizing presentation. We were also Kurt's dinner guests at the Oriental's legendary Le Normandie, on the rooftop, then considered the best French restaurant in Asia.

Kurt hosted Thai International's sales staff on the Oriental Queen, entertained by a lady with a bullwhip. We first stayed at the Oriental Hotel when the River Wing was being constructed, given the lovely Somerset Maugham suite in the original building, then 75 years old. On a hard hat tour of the River Wing, Wally Gress fell one storey onto a pile of bricks; bruising both his ego and his back. On a later stay, we were in one of the spacious new rooms overlooking the Chao Phraya.

 

A shellfish banquet at the Sea Palace with Mandarin Oriental's sales team

The Sea Palace was a large, attractive restaurant outside central Bangkok. In the elevated brick structure we were greeted by pretty hostesses who led us past glass tanks of live fish and shellfish awaiting our selection. Most tables were on the patio where Mandarin Oriental's sales team had a banquet, laughing and gorging ourselves. On one of our six trips together to Bangkok, we had a Thai dinner on a converted rice barge on the Chao Phraya.

Chalie Amatyakul, the Oriental's Director of Sales, took us to a high class massage parlor next to the Sea Palace where every masseuse wore a different outfit. He then brought us to a risque club down an alley off Patpong Road. Wally Gress, Armando Tirona, Chalie, and Robert King (HKG) had brunch with us in Sausalito, before they went with Ron to make audiovisual presentations for travel agents in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Chicago, and New York. 

 

Nepal

 

Eating tandoori shrimp in Calcutta, then fainting in Kathmandu

Rose went ahead to Nepal on Thai International's nonstop flight. Ron had business in Bangkok and took a later connection through Calcutta (now Kolkata), where he first entered India en route to study at Lucknow University.  He ate tandoori shrimp for lunch at the Oberoi Grand Hotel downtown. That evening in Kathmandu, while we met with friends from Guam, Ron fainted.

Rose stayed with Jim Edward's Icelandic wife and baby at their home in Kathmandu, then moved to Hotel de I'Annapurna, our host, when Ron arrived. After our first trip, Ron's third trade mission took American tour wholesalers to Nepal. He went with two of them by helicopter - piloted by an Australian nursing a hangover - briefly hovering over Mount Everest then landing at a remote farm on a mountainside of the Himalayas. The rest of the party went to Tiger Tops, which the two had seen, as guests of Jim. At a shop in Kathmandu, Ron haggled for a Tibetan prayer pendant for Rose: three visits, three prices, sold!

Eating water buffalo at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge

Ron had escorted a tour to Tiger Tops, so he sent Rose on her own. Rooms were in the tree tops. The daily staple in the restaurant was water buffalo, also used as bait to attract tigers at night. Rose was stuck for four days due to weather in Kathmandu, commuting each day to the grass airstrip - on elephants through the jungle - with a German tour group. She became very fond of her elephant. Villagers staged a flea circus to entertain the tourists.

In her tree top room at Tiger Tops Rose saw a giant spider...her screams woke everyone. We both experienced the jungle excursion by elephant, four people riding atop each on a wooden platform, straddling a post. We sought tigers, which are usually nocturnal, but only encountered rhinos. Rose talked with the mahouts who took great care of their elephants: bathing, brushing, feeding, and talking to them like dear friends. Kathmandu had no instrument landing system. Flights could not operate in the frequent thick fog. Australia contributed ILS equipment; RNAC couldn't pay duties demanded by Customs.

 

Meeting Boris Lisanevich at the Yak & Yeti restaurant

Boris Lisanevich ("it rhymes with son-of-a-bitch," he said) was a legend in Kathmandu. He was the first Westerner to open a hotel and restaurant in Nepal. Boris had picked up Rose at the airport and later met us at his Yak & Yeti restaurant. It served good Russian and East European food, among Ron's favorites. That day, Thai International's Tibetan airport hostess gave us a tour of Kathmandu.

Ron had gone to Nepal with Travcoa, but our first trip together was on holiday. We went to Bhadgaon, Pokhara and Patan. A mean old goat, with a scraggly beard, chased Rose. Rose bought a necklace to ward off evil spirits, which she wore during sales at Neiman Marcus to keep nasty customers away. We have several photos of Thai International's accident at Kathmandu. The jet was stopped by a mound of dirt at the end of the runway, preventing it from falling into the valley below. Two Americans (each 300 lbs.) were injured seriously.

Lunch with Princess Rana, later fainting atop a Buddhist stupa

On our second trip together, Rose had a salad for lunch at the American Club with Princess Rana and the ladies of the 'mahjong club,' while Ron was working at Royal Nepal Airlines. Rose later fainted atop the 365 steps of Swayambhu Buddhist stupa (painted with eyes) and was carried down by an SAS pilot friend.

Princess Rana's small palace was covered with Tibetan carpets, but her prize was a shag rug from an American friend. She had a little zoo in her yard, including a bear. Ron met HRH Princess Helen Shah at a reception for the American tour wholesalers. Royal Nepal Airlines had manual typewriters, a mimeograph and recycled paper. Thai International in Bangkok had modern office equipment when Ron was assigned there for four months.

A dinner party at the home of the Soaltee's manager

While in Kathmandu on business, we attended a dinner party at the home of Prabhakar Rana, Owner/Manager of the (Crowne Plaza) Soaltee hotel and a Director of Royal Nepal Airlines. The wife of India's ambassador complained about living conditions, after moving from postings in London and Washington, DC. We were considering living there as advisors for SAS.

Ron was the only American member of the SAS team, financed by Denmark's DANIDA. When Prabhakar came to San Francisco, we took him to Vlasta's, our favorite restaurant, for her incredible roast duck. He told us that SAS did not get the management contract, but offered Ron the marketing position with Royal Nepal Airlines. We declined because we would not have the security of SAS and Ron had recently become Director of Sales-North America for Mandarin Oriental Hotels.

 

En Route

 

Gracious - and quietly efficient - first class service on Thai International

We flew Bangkok-Tashkent-Copenhagen...splendid first class meal service. Rose was impressed by the quiet efficiency of the Thai flight attendants. When SAS managed Thai International it was rated among the three best airlines (behind Singapore and Swissair). That contract was ending, so they sought an agreement with Royal Nepal.

 

Pan American World Airways ceased operations in 1991.

Northwest Airlines ceased operations in 2010.

Thai Airways International now flies to 78 destinations in 35 countries.

 Mandarin Oriental Hotels now has 28 hotels in 24 countries on four continents.

Most of our travel together outside the U.S. was between 1967 and 1997, before widespread use of digital photography. See our photos in Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, and Thailand at 

 

Also see Parts 2 and 3:



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