Tempting Thailand

The ship docked at Laem Chabang Port which is a three-hour drive from Bangkok, but only an hour or so from Pattaya. We chose to take a shore excursion entitled A Journey Beyond Pattaya and I was so pleased we did.

Our first stop was the Wat Yannasangwararam Monastery where the ashes of the recently departed King are interred. This enormous temple complex situated in 145 acres of gardens houses several buildings of very different architectural styles. The Viharn Sien is a beautiful Chinese temple and museum that has a magnificent collection of over 300 Chinese artefacts and antiques, one of a kind in Thailand. Included is a scale model of the Terracotta Warriors site near Xian in China, which brought back wonderful memories.

From there we drove to the Khao Cheejan Mountain which is famous for its 130 metre high golden Buddha lasered into the side. Next was Silver Lake, a vineyard and winery established by a former Thai movie star. We didn't realise Thailand produced any wine and we were introduced to the Chenin Blanc and Shiraz, both of which were delicious.

The vineyard is set amongst beautiful gardens and the buildings are Italian in style - all red brick and terracotta. As the complex is set on Silver Lake, the surrounds are known as Lake Como, and from a distance one could be mistaken for thinking they were actually in northern Italy. We lunched there at the restaurant on fabulous Thai food but it also serves Italian and offers an extensive European wine list. The main building and the winery itself are modern and spacious - and air conditioned!

On the way back to the ship we stopped at yet another market, this time the Gems Gallery, the world's biggest jewellery store with its expensive gems, jewellery, leather bags and wallets and even silk by the metre. As we entered I noticed a little train, much like those used in theme parks, and our guide invited me to take a ride whilst we waited for the bus.

This was certainly a highlight. The train takes the rider trough a series of cave-like scenes demonstrating the history of gems and their production in Thailand. The first scene is an erupting volcano where the floor breaks up around the train with red lighting and smoke. Other scenes including gem fossicking and mining, village life and even holographic figures processing gems. An amazing ride.

It was certainly hot in Thailand, but there was much to see and do and we enjoyed it immensely.

Wat Yannasangwararam Monastery

Viharn Sien

Khao Cheejan Mountain

Silver Lake Vineyard and Winery

Sunset from our balcony on the Celebrity Millennium