Browsed by
Month: September 2011

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

I knew my father had been to Thailand when he was in the Air Force.  In fact, I knew he’d been to Bangkok and was stationed at Udorn before it was an “official” base.  Bangkok seems to be an entirely different city now, except for the Grand Palace, which has remained exactly the same.  Bangkok was a much smaller place in 1965, with none of the bright colors and “mixed” architecture of today.  Although my dad has expressed interest in going back, I have a feeling he would recognize almost nothing in the new Bangkok.   Despite this it turns out that on my trip I would end up standing in many of the same spots that he did in 1965.   We even took Don Muang Airport to Phuket, which is apparently an airport that my father flew into or out of (or both) 46 years ago.

Don Muang in 1965:

Don Muang today (not my picture, but exactly what it looked like):

Don Muang today is actually an underused mostly empty airport.  It felt like a ghost town when we were there.  This is due to the opening a few years ago of a brand new international airport on the other side of town.

One thing that didn’t change at all is the Grand Palace, which has stood looking virtually identical for over two hundred years.  Take a look for yourself:

even the trees are the same…

They’ve added a rope and removed the red carpet, but that’s about all that’s changed to this building.

I have a feeling if we visited the Udorn area things would be more as my father remembers.  The closest we would go to Udorn would be a few hundred miles west in Lampang Province, but in the north there isn’t much development outside major cities (of which, I understand, there are few).

Thailand Day 15

Thailand Day 15

Above is a street view of Fortville, where Sam and I stayed for two nights in Bangkok.  Below are two photos of the fort down the street that it is designed after.

Our only plan for the day was to visit the palace.  We were within walking distance so we walked down the street.  Across from the fort we ate breakfast at a roti restaurant.

Then we walked through a local college and along the river.

Everywhere in Thailand everyone wants to have one of these miniature buddhist temples on their property.  They are nearly as numerous as the photos of the king and queen and I’m assuming they are meant to bring good luck.

The below photo is from outside the gates to the Grand Palace.  I’ll write a little bit below about what some of the buildings are, but for the truly curious you should check out the wikipedia page linked in the previous sentence.  It explains more about the 34 different important sites in the complex.

One of the first things we did was visit the Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Coins.  My dad would have loved it as they had many ceremonial swords on display.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, I thought I’d be able to find an image online of the three-headed naga sword, but a google search turns up nothing.  Perhaps it is usually called something else.

It was really hard to get photos without any people in them since we were going on a Saturday.  Huge amounts of Chinese tourists come to Thailand and it seemed like they were all here today.  Below is a photo of Phra Siratana Chedi, built in the 19th century and supposedly housing the ashes of Buddha.

Below is one of the corners of Phra Mondop, a Thai style library supposedly housing sacred Buddhist manuscripts.

I waited forever and ever but this girl with the pink dress just wouldn’t move.  Because there was so much foot traffic by this area I eventually gave up hope of getting a photo of the entrance to the library sans humans.

The next series of photos were taken around (but not in, as that’s not allowed) the temple of the emerald buddha.  Inside the temple is a two foot high jade statue of the sitting buddha adorned with a gold outfit that changes depending on the season.

=

We walked by Chakri Maha Prasat Hall on our way out.

On our way back to Fortville hotel we walked along the sidewalk markets.  Below is advertising for a Thai dental laboratory.

We took the ferry to the other side of the river and back again.

At 3pm Sam’s brother-in-law, along with her sister and mother, picked us up to take us all to the floating market at Amphawa.  I didn’t realize it was two hours from Bangkok.  On the way we passed what must be the industrial area of outer Bangkok.  One of the food factories actually buys shrimp from Sam’s family shrimp farm and ships to Costco in the U.S.  The factories were all different than ones in the U.S.  Most of the piping was either inside or carefully concealed and every building was painted not necessarily in bright colors, but not the standard white, grey or black that you’d see in America.  Each one also proudly proclaimed what it did, some with giant statues of company mascots and the like by the highway.  I didn’t start taking pictures until we got to Amphawa.

We ate dinner at a restaurant with a live acoustic guitar band that took requests from the audience.  The singer did his best with the songs but the Asian accent was pretty strong.  It reminded me of that scene in A Christmas Story.  You know which one.  At one point he sang  Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, but it came out “Oh Buddy Oh Bruddah –  Life Goes On Bra!”  I think from the last part being “brah” maybe he assumed the first two parts were “buddy” and “brother.”  Such is the charm of a night out in Thailand.

Our first meal was… you guessed it, Cartman – mee krob!  Which Cartman is totally misinformed about by the way as mee krob tastes a lot like caramel popcorn.

We tried to take some shots from the bridge after nightfall.

I found some cool souvenirs at one of the stands in the area on land leading to the parking lot.  Sam’s mom actually negotiated for me to get a cheaper price since she’d bought something for herself when we passed by earlier.  In fact, it is worth noting that Sam’s mom might be the most charitable person I’ve met.  Every time I’ve been around her and we see a beggar she’ll give them something, and the beggars at the floating market were no exception.

Thailand Day 14

Thailand Day 14

Before leaving Chiang Mai we stopped at barorose market for snacks.  You can get almost anything here.

They had all the bugs we saw before, plus hornet maggots still in the hive.

They also had eels, turtles and frogs in buckets being gutted right in frontof us.

On the highway back to Bangkok (we didn’t take the mountains back) we stopped at many roadside businesses, such as a porcelain workshop (I have a feeling someone who collects coffee mugs might get a souvenir from here).

This is a giant monument that is a road sign.

We ate lunch at a roadside restaurant that was delicious and cheap.  I also found (albeit late in the trip) one of my favorite drinks: Guava Juice.  Even though this bottle (look closely) was made by “Michigan” brand, it was still my favorite.

Another crazy bus at a rest stop.

Later we came across a bunch of roadside banana frying stands.

As it began to rain and night fell we got closer to Bangkok and we stopped at Sam’s brother-in-law’s favorite restaurant on the route for dinner.

The chief chef at work on the sidewalk.

Back in Bangkok we drove very slowly through the flower district on our way to Fortville, where Sam and I would stay our final two nights in Thailand.

From the window you can see the tip of the old Bangkok fort (the lighted part with the triangle on top near the edge of the open window) which the hotel is designed to resemble.

The fort straddles the Chaopraya River and the view from the balcony (not in our room, but down the hall) shows a canal that empties into the river.  You can see the top of the new suspension bridge that goes over the Chaopraya peaking out over the other buildings.

Thailand Day 13

Thailand Day 13

On our last day in Chiang Mai we drove up Doi Suthep Mountain again to get to Phuping Palace.  We stopped at the lookout point on the way.

As always – insects everywhere, including my shirt.

Phuping Palace is the king and queens winter residence when they travel to the area.

The area is couched in religious aura (I had to buy pants to put on over my shorts) due to the citiezrns’ reverence for their king and queen.  In fact, images of the king and/or queen can be seen almost everywhere in Thailand.  Since Thailand has a parliamentary government system the king and queen are largely figureheads for the country.  The king and queen are loved here for their charity efforts much like princess Diana was in england, but over a timetable of four decades.  I would wager there are more photos of the royal couple in Thailand than there are coca cola signs in California.  There are huge billboards in every town in multiple spots.  Every government office has a photo by the entrance.  Temples have photos of the queen planting Trees on the grounds. Every restaurnt and business has a photo (the older the better) on the premises.  The really great places have a photo of the king or queen actually visiting.

However, the actual public grounds of the palaces were not very impressive, just a few small gardens.  I have a feeling we just aren’t allowed to see the good stuff.

On the way back down from the mountain we passed the perfect example of mobile safety in Thailand.  I didn’t have time to get a photo when passed by a motorcycle with a child in front of the driver and a woman behind holding onto a propane tank.  The photo below illustrates this minus the propane tank.  Also note the “All Seasons” hotel ad in the background.

After leaving the palace we visited Wiang Khum Kham or “old town” Chiang Mai, obviously the ruins of the first Chiang Mai city.  Unfortunately we didn’t see the Wat Chedi Si Liem (at the time I had no idea it was there).  Below are photos of what we did see.

The bathroom had a perfect example of Chinglish.  Also, if you’ve never traveled, then you haven’t experience the public restroom sandal situation.  At every public bathroom (except for some rest stops) you are encouraged to take off your shoes and wear provided sandals.

Next we drove through the dangerous mountains again to get to Jae Son National Park.  The heavy rains that caused our hotel ceiling to leak two days earlier had also caused landslides on the mountain roads through Lampang Province.  Once we had a to stop and wait for a backhoe to clear the mud for us.

We also came to some kind of ranger station with a bathroom where everything was powered by solar panels.

Once we reached Jae Son we ate a late lunch made by an old woman accompanied by many stray cats who begged for food.

After lunch we headed to another multiple-level waterfall.  Again, we didn’t have time to walk up more than two levels.

This time we skipped the other levels of the waterfall because we had to go to the hot springs at the base of the waterfall for a two hour thai massage.

I can’t say Thai massages are my favorite (unless Sam is doing it) as they are very painful.  I’m told that the pain is necessary to release tension from the muscles and other things.  It seems to work for other people so I’m sure there is some truth to that. After the massages the sun was alredy setting, but they let us use the hot springs tubs for ten minutes.

Sam and I actually hopped out after about five minutes because it was so hot.  The rooms normally had electric lights, but the rains had downed electric lines (or something).  It was dark when we walked out and a park attendant led us back to the car with a flashlight through the maze of stones running through the hot springs stream.  I tried to take some photos, but they were rushing us out, so I couldn’t get the shot that I wanted.

When we were almost back to Chiang Mai we stopped in another town for a street snack.  These snacks were a hodgepodge of beans and other things boiled up in front of us.  Not a fan of beans in general I did not find this desert sweet enough for my western palette.

Across the street was a good example of the proliferation of English in small towns.  I think they like to see it and feign use – but here we can clearly see an english sign installed upside down and left that way.  If I owned a business I’d certainly had that corrected if I could tell the difference.  My guess here is that they could not.

(I’d like to make clear that I’m not saying they SHOULD know English at all, but the misuse is often amusing.  I often think “why bother?”)

Thailand Day 12

Thailand Day 12

At our last breakfast at Baan Gong Kham they brought us sliced dragon fruit and prepeeled rambutan fruits along with our regular meal.

Wednesday was something Sam and I had waited a long time for.  We would have to wait a bit longer as our tour had to wait for the last group of tourists to fit in our minibus because of a “driver miscommunication error.”  Once underway we were stopped in traffic again when a bunch of the giant double decker tour busses you see all around Thailand had to turn around in front of us.

Finally we got the site of Flight of the Gibbon and got our gear on.

For three hours we flew through the rainforest on zip lines.  There were also “Indiana jones” style jungle bridges, vertical rope descents and treetop tree houses with stairs winding down around the tree.

During the first part the ziplines were mixed with some hiking.  At  one of the sites they brought us over to the side and pointed way up into the trees where we could barely see some Gibbons lounging around.

going down one of the spiral staircases around a tree:

There were lots of insects running up and down the crazy rainforest trees.

About halfway through we had to cross a bridge that had wooden slat with wide spaces between each slat.  This was hard for me to walk on since I was walking with a limp.  The woman in the photo below behind me kept joking that “hop-along” was slowing everyone up.  While I was on the bridge it seemed to move around a lot – and actually the cable on my left banged into my head twice (which would have hurt immensely if I didn’t have a helmet).  I later found out that either the mother or the daughter behind me in the photo below (forget which one) was bouncing the bridge around purposely.

Twice we were lowered down vertically from one platform to the other.  This one is the shorter fall:

Another wood bridge:

When we got to the final zipline the forest was cleared a bit for a stream and a small basecamp.  For the first time we could see how high above the forest floor we were, and this made this zipline probably the most exciting and scary.

The way down from the last tree stand is to be dropped straight down.  They dangled Sam and I together below the platform to take our pictures…

and then something happened.  The guide started looking at something else up there and we dangled for what was probably ten seconds but felt like ten minutes before he looked back down and started to shoot us down.

After the three hour adventure we were taken back to base camp for lunch.  The base camp for FotG (like most of Thailand) had lots of insects.

On our way back to Chiang Mai we stopped at Mae Kampong waterfall.  Like Sawan Noi, this waterfall had seven levels, but we only had time for two.  Both times the adventurer in me was disappointed, but on this day my foot was still hurting (though less than the day before) so it was best that I didn’t walk up hundreds of wet slippery stone stairs.

When we got back to the hotel we took photos of Baan Gong Singh before going to the other side of town.

We changed to a hotel called Lilu in a more densely populated area of Chiang Mai.  This hotel was the best one so far in the trip.  The rooms were cramped, but very modern and the shower was better than mine at home.

After checking in we headed to the night bazaars, which was not as impressive as the weekend night market.  On the way I saw another one of the crazy huge buses.

We ate dinner at the night market.

And finally, no trip to Thailand would be complete without a gaggle of ladyboys competing for attention in the market.

Thailand Day 11

Thailand Day 11

After breakfast we stopped by a local shopping mall for supplies.  I tried to find a good iced chocolate.  What I found was KFC’s Thailand iteration which not only sells iced chocolat, but iced coffee, ice cream and something that mixes corn and ice cream called a Kream Ball, which you couldn’t pay me to eat.  I’m not sure if this is a full-on tongue in cheek embracing of Chinglish or not, but they had signs that said “chicky meal.”

At the mall we also checked out some cars for sale.  There is a 300% import tax (or something high, internet evidence is contradictory) but there are maybe five big brands that have factories in Thailand.  Regular cars still cost a bit more than in the US, but not unbelievably more.  However, cars that are common here, like the Accord, cost about $50,000 in Thailand because there is no market for large sedans.  Either you drive a tiny city car (the Honda Fit and Mazda 2 were everywhere) or you drive on the country roads and have a truck.  However, these were all the smaller trucks, there was no equivalent of the F-250 in Thailand.  If you’re even better off you can afford one of the few SUVs available.

Our first big stop for the day was Doi Inthon National Park.  Our first stop was wachirathan waterfall.  The base of the waterfall was so wet that I had to use my waterproof housing for my camera just to take any photos at all.  We were all instantly soaked.  It was also so wet that I slipped and fell on my right side.  I got pretty muddy on my right side, but my left foot hurt so bad could barely walk.  Sam’s sister slipped and fell on her right side as well and ended up with a nasty bruise on her right knee.  As you’ll see in comparison of the video below and our photos the waterfall was much stronger on this day because of the recent rains than it is normally.  This also made all the rock paths more dangerous to walk on.

We went from the waterfall to the stupas at the top of the mountain for the king and queen.  It was raining when we got there and there were many many steps.  I was convinced at the time that I had a hairline fracture in one (or more) of my toes, but I hobbled up and down the steps (one of the escalators was broken, of course) as I didn’t want to miss the stupas at the top of the tallest mountain in Thailand.  There was no view from up there though, as the mountain is so high that it is above the first level of rainclouds (or fog) for the entire rainy season.  In the video below you can see what the stupas look like in March and then the marked difference in our pictures below.  The foggy atmosphere was somehow more fitting though, in my opinion, for such a holy revered place.  It gave the impression that we really were floating in the clouds.

The little lady below greeted me at the male restroom, which, of course, was down another flight of stairs.

Then it was time for lunch at the gift shop.

After eating lunch at the base of the stupas we went to the other side of the mountain for Siritharn Waterfall.


My foot was hurting badly at that point and so I didn’t mind that the next destination was about two hours away.  On the way the sun peaked out many times and gave us some beautiful views of the northern countryside.

When we arrived at the hot springs we were all underwhelmed, but I was secretly happy we’d be riding in the car for another few hours instead of walking.


When we returned to Chiang Mai we visited the tàlàat tôh rûng, or “till dawn” market for dinner and desert.

Really cheap (and good) duck with sauce and hard boiled egg:

Thai deserts.  Ginger broth with bread balls (or something) and fried dough sticks with herb dipping sauce.  I liked the dough sticks much better than the ginger broth.

Dragonfruit smoothie:

Thailand Day 10

Thailand Day 10

Because it was low season the four of us ended up being the only ones that “Tony”, our tour guide, had to supervise for the day.  This made for a much more relaxing tour.  Our first destination was a local butterfly and orchid farm. Honestly, compared to the butterfly hatchery at the science museum in Seattle this was not impressive.  There weren’t many butterflies and they were all the dull brown ones. This didn’t matter though as this wasn’t originally part of our tour and had been thrown in as a “freebie.”

On the way we stopped by a local market for some fruits and snacks.  We bought fried chicken skin (which is good, but would be much better if still fresh), mangosteen and durian.  There are also some photos below of things we didn’t buy.

That photo above is a stack of Mangosteens.  Mangosteen is Sam’s favorite fruit in the whole world.  I don’t know if it is my favorite fruit in the whole world, but it was very good – and my favorite new fruit I tried.

It takes some time to learn how to open it right, but once you’ve figured it out it’s a really easy fruit to eat.  Sam actually took a video.  In the first video she was telling me how to open it and I followed the instructions but the fruit exploded all over my shirt because it was spoiled.  That’s why in the video below she says “take II.”

Our real adventure started at the elephant camp.  The way into the camp is to cross a river on a bridge made of wood and vines.

We fed the young elephants bananas before watching them take a bath.

Then they had a show which was mostly the elephants pushing or pulling logs and doing things in unison before the long finale of an elephant “painting” a picture.  I felt bad for the elephants, it certainly didn’t look like much fun, hauling logs for the amusement of tourists.
However, the elephants’ next trick was hauling us on their backs.

We boarded the elephants for a half hour trek through the rainforest mostly walking through a stream.  This was a great experience that is hard to describe.  Not only were we ten feet up in the air, but the terrain the elephants were navigating was not just a mud trail, but a variable elevation course of streams rocks and hillsides.

The entire time our elephant was eating a tree.  Yes, it was curling a tree with a circumference the size of my head in it’s trunk and then taking a crunchy bite every now and then.

After half an hour we delephanted and walked through a jungle village.  There was a woman mashing grain the old fashioned way – but the while thing looked like a seat-up for souvenir shopping as there were no living spaces or people walking around, just people watching their souvenir tables.

After half an hour in the village (we wre done in ten minutes) we boarded our elephants again for a ride back to the camp.

As we were leaving an 8 month old baby elephant came over and wanted to shake “hands” with us.

(Sam is shaking hands with the elephant’s mother below)

Our driver then took us to “nest 2,” a restaurant (attached to a resort) at the edge of a fantastic mountain range.

It was a surreal setting and the food was good too.


As a light rain began to fall we headed to Chiang Dao Temple and caves. Before we entered the caves we fed a bunch of full size catfish.  Imagine a ten foot diameter circle of foot wide mouths gyrating below you with a hundred fish whiskers poking in and out of the water.

The below video is of the entrance of the caves.  When she says “you must take a lantern or otherwise ‘forget it’ and a guide who know what he’s doing” – that’s where we went.

As we entered the caves it became clear that safety issues (although this was already thoroughly demonstrated on the freeways) are nonexistent and people are expected to look after themselves.  Strangely I kept thinking about how this country in many ways would be Ron Paul’s fantasyland. Unlike in America, here we were encouraged to touch the stalactites and stalagmites as our two guides lit the way with only gas lamps.  We went through two or three “gateways” (holes) that really would not be big enough to accommodate a frequent mcdonalds customer. The whole time we could hear the bats above us.

There were still insects everywhere too.  Since the only light was the lamps there were tons of spiders and grasshoppers (?) skittering away when the light would hit them.  Or they’d just shrug and stay put like this big fellow:

After leaving the caves (which were a large loop) we briefly visited the temple and ancient stupas on the grounds.

Sam taking my picture taking my picture.

After leaving Chiang Dao Caves we headed to Ping River to ride on bamboo rafts.

When we got back to Chiang Mai we ate.

I found this strange generic wood sculpture of #3 in the back by the bathrooms.


After nightfall we headed up into Doi Suthep mountain overlooking Chiang Mai to visit the doi suthep temple and stupas.

On the way there we saw another random roadside waterfall.

Because it was raining and there was a thick fog on top of the hill the all-gold stupas made the air glow.

Also because it was late and raining we shared the grounds only with the actual monks and some large insects.  We followed  tradition, taking off our shoes to walk around the stupa three times for good luck.  The whole experience was (in the absence of any religious faith) magical.  Many Thai people actually consider this a sacred site.


Unfortunately on the way back to the hotel we backed into a truck that was parked in the road.  After 45 minutes the insurance adjuster showed up on a motorbike to take photos and collect signatures.  So I really got the full Thailand experience, complete with insurance adjusters.

Thailand Day 9

Thailand Day 9

We were only staying at the river house hotel for one night before heading east to Chiang Mai province and town.

On our way out of Mae Sariang we visited “chom tawny” (I couldn’t find anything online so the name is probably wrong) and Chom Thong temples.  Chom Thong is high up above the city and you walk up a long stairway with dragons on the other side.  When you get to the top you’re greeted with a long flat level with a view of the valley below and a gigantic golden buddha on your right.

Again, insects everywhere and there was a big snail on the dragon steps.

We ate rambutan purchased the previous night on the way to our next destination.

We then stopped at Sawan Noi waterfall before lunch.   Because of all the rain the water in the waterfall was red from the mud.  The last bit of the road was washed out as well, so we had to walk down.  We ended up only having time to go down two levels of the seven level waterfall.  The video below shows some of what it is like, but not during the rainy season.

Below is a photo of Sam’s brother-in-law’s trusty Toyota Fortuner, a truck based four wheel drive SUV that isn’t available in America.

It got us through muddy spots like in the photo below that would have forced a car like mine to turn around with its tail between its legs.

The path down to the washed out road that leads to the waterfall:

and finally some waterfall pics:

By the bathroom I almost walked right into this nasty specimen (who apparently has had a rough life from the looks of it’s legs):

I looked and looked but couldn’t find any info on this spider except for a reference from one other Thailand visitor calling it the “Death’s Head” spider.  CLEARLY the same spider.  However, “death’s head spider” brings up a different spider in google search that is more bulbous with a much less “skull” looking image on the back.  Below is a photo taken when walking back up past the rice paddies cultivated from the stream that feeds the waterfall.

Getting back on the main road.  Note the photo of the king and queen again.

We stopped at a roadside fruit stand so I could try this orange colored fruit.  I didn’t like it much.

These skinny cows would be the closest I’d get to a cheeseburger in Thailand.

But I didn’t mind because all the chicken and fish was great.

We entered Ob Luang National Park and ate at a restaurant in the park.

After lunch we hiked up and down through the granite forest.  We saw a lot of bugs, came to a few high viewpoints and lost our way a few times.

What is that little dot on the bridge in the photo below?  That’s me.

After hours hiking up and down the hills along the rushing river we headed to Chiang Mai.


We checked into Baan Gong Khan hotel.  The hotel has a Koi pond that you can walk over to get to your room.

Once in the rooms we discovered that our rooms had a “hidden” creepy attic room.

We would stay here for three nights and on the last night heavy rains produced a nasty leak next to our bed. After checking in we walked along the streets in search of dinner, which wasn’t these frogs on a stick:

Nor did we eat at Pink Pussy (I’m not even going to bother trying to google that for a link!).

I saw G-Long, but nobody else wanted to eat there.

We went instead to Monkey Club because, you know, when you feel up, it’s Monkey Club.

The menu had a Ron English painting that I’m sure was authorized by the artist…right?

Next, Sam wanted to stop in at D Milk Cafe for dessert.  This place makes drinks that are a mix of milk and/or chocolate and/or coffee including boba and topped with everything from gummy bears to candy to cereal (you get three included).

Then we headed to the famous weekend night street market on Nimmanhaemin Road.  The giant street market had lots of interesting food and trinkets on display.

This was my first look at fried insects.  Unfortunately they only had cockroaches and grubs – no fried scorpion.  I’ll try scorpion, I won’t eat the cockroach I saw running through the bathroom earlier.  These were the big gray roaches too that looked like the aliens from independence day.

We had actually already eaten a large dinner and didn’t get to try any of the food.  I did however try a dragon fruit juice cup – which was very cheap and very good.  10BHT = about 33 cents USD.

A band of blind boys.

We ended up getting a lot of souvenirs at the night market.  Something we didn’t get, but we thought would make for nice photos were these fake flowers with lights inside.

Thailand Day 8

Thailand Day 8

On Saturday we departed for Mae Sariang at 4am.  Mae Sariang is in Mae Hong Son Province in northern Thailand. Thankfully, Sam’s brother-in-law had volunteered to drive the entire trip, so I thought I would sleep some in the car on our all-day drive (it’s similar to driving from Los Angeles to San fancisco).  I didn’t count on the fact that we’d be traveling on country highways at close to, and often over, 100 miles and hour.

At our first rest stop I got a good look at my first “traditional” Thai toilet (to be fair, these are used all throughout southeast Asia and other countries).  These toilets are the kind that are basically a raised hole in the floor with two foot grip areas on either side.  There is no flushing mechanism, just a big bucket of water with a ladle for you to flush it yourself. I didn’t feel comfortable taking a photo of this – but other people have:

I tried the squatting technique, but I just couldn’t make it work. I also discovered there was no toilet paper.  This is also common for public toilets in Thailand, but they make up for it by usually having a sprayer handy.  I looked around for a bit and found one stall that had an “American style” toilet throne, but with no seat and no flush.  I got some Kleenex from the car and made the best of the situation. Despite the facilities being different, I have to say that on the whole Thai bathrooms, even gas station ones, are much cleaner than in most of America (Santa Monica perhaps being the exception). By the way, toilet paper was available at the convenience store for twelve baht per roll (abort 45 cents USD).

Later we stopped for lunch at a nice little authentic roadside restaurant.


After lunch we began our long  journey through the mountains.  Our first stop was a hot spring.

It was so hot that they sold people eggs to boil in the spring and eat.  We decided to have ice cream instead since it was already a very hot day (which is most days in Thailand).  I had Thai iced tea flavor – which was great.

Our next stop was a Buddhist Temple in a small town.  If you can read the Thai writing in the photo below maybe you can tell me the name of the place…


Then we drove along mountain roads through the jungle next to Burma.  At one point we stopped to take photos of a village next to cliffs and we were told that the village is actually a Burmese refugee camp with 30,000 residents.  I searched for it later and found out it was MaeLa Oon refugee camp and actually has 16,000 residents.  The setting was quite breathtaking and beautiful, which was quite a contrast with the stories of the residents.

After that we tried to visit “mash-sa caves” (I couldn’t find any information about the caves online so I probably have the name wrong) but the final road to get there was washed out. There were kids hanging out on the roadside.  I took their picture and then gave them some of Sam’s brother-in-law’s twinkies (we brought them for him because you can’t buy twinkies in Thailand).

On all of our travels in the north we were constantly coming across washed out roads as heavy rains had done major damage only a week before.  In some places we were spinning truck wheels in the mud alongside cliffs high in the mountains. Our next stop was a view of the Moei River which separates Thailand from Burma.  There was a light rain which was refreshing. I saw a stone walkway going down to the water.  Sam took a shot of me down there:

As I neared the water I heard frantic yelling in Thai from the gazebo above me overlooking the river.  It turns out that my choice of green shorts and shirt was a poor one as this made me look like a Thai military officer to Burmese sharpshooters across the river. They told me to come back up immediately.  On my way back up I took some quick shots of this guy:

We continued on the winding mountain road in the rain.  At one point we came along a rock waterfall just sitting there on the side of the road.

Below is a sample of the mountain washed away from rain.  We drove up that side and went around the curve – so the part in the picture you can see is where we were driving a few minutes before the photo was taken.

As we entered the valley next to the river it started raining and we came across many bucolic scenes like the one below.

Eventually we came to Mae Sariang and checked into the river house hotel.

It was an all-wood construction hotel built with the Yuam River rushing through the back yard.

We ate dinner at the restaurant next to the hotel.

Then we went up the street so I could try some Thai fruits for the first time.

The fruits I liked the best were mangosteen and rambutan (we weren’t able to find any mangosteen until a day later).

Since northern Thailand is essentially a rainforest dotted with villages the bugs and geckos are everywhere, including inside the hotel and even inside the rooms. I think the couple below was trying to get the honeymoon suite.

And the little guy below was on the floor right by our bed.

 

Thailand Day 7

Thailand Day 7

On Friday we flew nok air from Phuket back to Bangkok. Before we could get there though our transport to the airport was stopped by a local parade through a town.  Note the photo of the queen.  They’re everywhere – but I’ll talk more about that in a later blog.

We still reached the airport, where I mailed several postcards (all of which still had not arrived at their destinations two weeks later).  You can actually see the beach from the terminal.

We went back to Sam’s friend’s house for a bit to prepare for the next leg of our journey. Below is the view from her guest room.

After packing we walked to the local Japanese market to eat dinner.

Around 8pm we took a cab to sam’s sister and her husband’s home on the other side of town.  The next day they would drive all of us up to the northern part of the country where we would spend most of the rest of our trip.