Thailand 2017 – from Sukhotai to BKK and home

Sukhotai airport demands a separate blog. It was beyond all expectations. We decided not to suffer a long trip in a bus and to fly 1 h flight to Bangkok with Bangkok airlines. Good. But the airport was peculiarly far away form the Old and New cities – it took us an hour with a taxi shuttle, which picks you at your hotel. Once we came closer to it- I saw this temple shining in all its grandeur: Then the airport seemed to be something not regular – it had gardens, elaborate flower beds, semi precious stones, sculptures, wood creations and more. But they only bring you there half hour before your flight-  when to find time to see all that abundance of interesting things. There were also cafeterias, but I didn’t see a hotel – lots of questions started vibrating in my head – why all of that?Those decorative chairs seemed to be made form some jungle tree roots, I guess they are brought from somewhere far away…Table and chairs form semiprecious  stones:The museum of religions and Buddhism: A small copy of Ankgor Wat: And ancient kiln: So I asked the only guy who spoke English and was standing by the check-in counter – who built all this and why? have in mind – that the airport serves only 3 flights a day.  He explained  – a rich doctor had a dream to build all those beauties and he did it. The Airways belong to  his company as well as the airport-town. I bet that doctor is a really good one and his patients are Americans :-). But what a wonderful dream to have and to have it fulfilled! I will never forget it. What a generous doctor – to share his dream with others. We tried to count- there are no profits from this enterprise to him at all/ Once we entered the secure zone – there was a buffet table all covered with drinks and finger foods. Then in that 1 h flight we were fed well, and one ticket costed $40…Even the side of runway all the way was planted with flowers: From rags to riches. that how the saying goes. We flew from riches to rags. Bangkok airport was very crowded, then the Dwell hotel shuttle took us to the hotel, which is the closest to the airport and most praised on the internet. Yes, the hotel itself was nice and modern and had a free shuttle service to BKK airport:But look at the surroundings…It is in a swamp, literally. where people dump their stuff. Nevertheless we, being big walkers, walked some 1.5 mi to where there was civilization and a market to buy some spices. Our receptionist widened her eyes when we said we are going for a walk. But – we saw a beautiful sunset, it wasn’t scary at all and had a good farewell with Thailand!

Thailand 2017 – Sukhotai

We have been to Sukhotai once many years ago and  already posted some photos of it then. But then I didn’t see much of it for I was not feeling well and Andrei was completely bed bound by his meniscus problem, so we decided to visit again the ancient Thai capital, one of them :-), and see what is left of it. So we took a bus from Phrae and in three hours or so we were in New Sukhotai. While on the road from the front top seat  the views were not bad: So from New Sukhotai we had to get to the Old one. That is where all the ruins are mostly concentrated. And that was a little tricky. Just a little There was a songthai waiting for us and we expected it to go the the Old town. But it started doing round trips on the highway, as sometimes they like to do, and then stopped in teh center of the New town to wait for more tourists. After a long trip on a bus I get impatient, my problem. So once we came to the Old town, which is half hour away  -we checked into the Old Town Guesthouse by sentiment. Yes, it is in perfect location, the closest to the biggest ruins and restaurants and all. It looks also very authentic and inviting. And last time we had a room in a one story section, that was a perfect room. This time the room was OK, but the noise…Not a big noise, but as i noticed – all rooms in one section of the hotel are separated only by a thin board wall and we could hear everything from 2 rooms on both sides-  even the cracking of a plastic bag…Not speaking about a lot of French talk, and when you don’t understand a word – it gets annoying :-).  That evening we rushed to see the main part of the ancient capital, and to admire the sunset there and also something unexpected. Those ruins are mostly the temples and Chedis, because everything else was not built from sturdy materials and perished. And lots of them are restored and turned into a well preserved and cared park: What an interesting  tree – such a long and horizontal branch like a tentacle of a giant squid:One temple there was built by Khmers –  in Ankgor Wat style:Andrei is intensively photographing: So we walked and we walked and enjoyed what we saw. As Thailand is mostly on swamps there are many ponds to catch the excess water and also to use it in the dry season  -which we experienced – it is very dry in winter!  Those ponds were so good for reflections! Here is a monument for the last King that Thais  were still mourning:The Chedis in a for of upside bell are considered built in the Shri Lankan style: And here is what we didn’t expect  -out Saturday surprise – we noticed little clay pots with candles set here and there on the ruins – once the sun sat   -some guys very fast ran around them and lit them  – it was like magic: My advice – try to be in Sukhotai on Saturday, only then they lit the candles. The eve we visited the shops and restaurants that we remembered from last time. enjoyed the foods we liked last time and planned where to stay the next nights. Because of scarce availability we ended up staying one night in Thai Thai Sukhotai resort and then the last 2 nights in Sawadee Sukhotai Resort. Bot were very good! They ae not very close to the ruins. You have to take a taxi to get there, but they are all in one cluster and there are some restaurants close by. But still  -to get to the man part of the town you have to walk on a busy highway or drive a bike or take a taxi. But everything else was super! Here are the receptionists,  the corridor of Tai Tai Sukhotai and its pool: But the next morning we didn’t waste our time – we rented bikes and drove to another part of the ancient capital with other but similar ruins and  views:This one has a lot of elephants at the bottom. A peculiar tree – no leaves, just blooms: To  think about how many people worked with good intentions to make so many bricks. then to build so many structures, and then how they admired their temples, how they prayed and felt their hearts uplifted…To me those ancient temples are still emanating pleasant and positive energy, but you can argue :-). Here we found a garden with newly built temples. It had peculiar sayings written on trees.  One read: “Facts are stubborn things”. Then there was another Temple area:  And very slim cows – but there was a lot of grass… The last two days and nights we spent in the Sawadee Resort cottage, and that was beyond amazing! I can’t recommend it more! Both resorts served wonderful buffet breakfasts, both had super nice staff, but to have your own cottage in a spacious manicured garden with views to the fields and far away mountains-  nothing beats that! The housekeepers: The gardener: Elephants everywhere: The pool  – in the hot weather it was perfect to have a chance to swim:The last day we again drove bikes around the town, through farming fields, saw remnants of temples here and there – it had been a big city in a big kingdom: THat evening glow was so amazing all the 4 evenings we were there! It reminded me of my childhood summer eves in Lithuania, minus the ruins :-): Poor cows…This bull  -maybe they raise it for its ears…Here it was a shocking experience. There is a pond and a temple on the island in it in the very center of Old town. So we walked, looked at the Buddha foot there, then walked towards the water edge  because of some noise – those catfish were eating with chop-chop sounds and so many of them, they were crawling all over – plain unbelievable! No wonder there were so many fried catfish for sale in the farmers market. How beautifully the roots have overgrown an old structure: Andrei’s pet:

Thailand 2017 – Phrae

Phrae in tourist books is described as a Thai analog to Luang Prabang in Laos. And also as a town of super nice people. How can you resist such descriptions while it was also on our way to Sukhotai. There are lots of buses going that direction belonging to at least three companies. We picked a big fancy double-Decker and got the very front top seats. It was a beautiful 3 h drive. Unlike than in Phayo -there were taxi drivers waiting for us at the station and we were taken to our hotel  with a strange name Come Moon. Seems like Thai people were studying English but didn’t learn well enough. But were smart and skillful enough to build a really good hotel! Two stories only not sticking out from the surrounding old style buildings, but with a modern zest!Steel glass and concrete! And very very grey, oh it looked good with any color you bring into the room: Very good for rest, for cooling off after our usual long walks and this time – bike rides. And it had breakfast  -some dishes were traditional Thai, like breakfast soup, some were American – like toasts and jam and fruit. I so much recommend this place for your stay there! “Come Moon”  -and only $22/night, how can they pay off their building… The location is perfect  -just immediately behind the moat and the surrounding wall, in a quiet neighborhood and there was even a pizza place which we didn’t notice the first afternoon. Yes, we came, settled and felt so hungry, so we ran towards the center in search for food and because we were so hungry – evidently we couldn’t see well, so we missed a couple of restaurants. then reached the center where they were closing early with the idea that everybody eats at the so called Night market – if a town is not touristy, then do not expect dozens of restaurants around you like in Chang Mai. Locals like to eat out. And they jump onto their motorcycles and drive to the Night market which opens way before darkness comes. They are so not eager to cook at home, that lots of them drive to buy already cooked food for their families that they get packed into plastic bags! and drive home to eat. Yes, hot food in plastic bags, hard to comprehend…Poor people, they need some education. We ate there from paper plates. That is better. But as many street foods as we experienced – nothing beats the Sunday Market in Chang Mai, nothing. Here those would be my signature pictures of Phrae: As we figured out the next day – the best way to walk there is not the direct route to the center, but on side streets, especially the ones that led us by the remnants of the ancient city wall and the moat. In some places there is a path to walk on that hill that the city wall was built on. From there the view towards numerous temples was amazing, and also for the sunset. And yes, there were lots of temples like in Luang Prabang, but unlike in Luang Prabangthey they were scattered, not on some main drag, and also – there was no touristy flair as in LP, which creates some celebratory holiday atmosphere. As for the people – they were the same nice as in other cities or towns, they are Thais, that is why we go and enjoy their country and their hospitality, their patience and putting up with us! In one of the yards I saw those horses made from driftwood – they reminded me Tamra’s horses in her yard in our Town Rockville. Which reminded me that we are all the same, very much the same, people of this planet. Even our tastes, aesthetics, methods of creating coincide, being from so far apart! Here are not one but two crematoriums, of which we haven’t seen non till we reached this part of the country. They usually have them here in a remote temple garden with some dining spaces for the relatives who, as we noticed usually celebrate their deceased while his or hers spirit is flying out a chimney.We spent three nights there which means we had two full days and were not bored at all. During mid day it is better to stay home and read for the heat is scorching. But mornings and evenings were glorious! We drove on bikes to the river which is not very spectacular, but it is a river: WE especially enjoyed this temple with lots of shooting towards the sky decors. To give you the size of the reclining Buddha I sat by his side: Maybe  I took too many pictures of this architectural concept of striving for the Absolute or becoming Buddha or Bodhisattva, or at least sending your wishes to the Universe  – but I couldn’t help myself, it was so plain beautiful!In the temple – here is what we saw – flags made from 5 20baht money bills dangling from the ceiling – the way of raising money in an aesthetic way: There were many other temples, there were also prominent old houses with a lot of wood carving decors, so cozy, so pleasant: This a different Chedi, not like I  showed before. But my aiming was not good: As we all know the sunset brings out warm orange glow onto surfaces-  this time a bunch of totem poles and a big tree: This a a rather strange temple by a busy street. It looks like this from the back:  Then you take off your shoes, climb with care (low ceiling) one of the 3 staircases, turn around and find yourself in front of this: I happened to be there at the exact time that my aunt in Lithuania was being buried, a sad situation for me, so I lit a special candle for her, at least… Here it shows how Thais revere their prominent monks who have reached the Buddha or Bodhisattva state and have done good deeds for their people. Going on a bike we could see more temples on the outskirts, or this close to the bus station, which was all wood and as in old times it was still used for crafts, weaving, embriodering, umbrella making, etc: I can’t issue a blog without at least one flower picture :-): Here is only one small pat of a long , very long fresco in one of the temples. Usually they have frescoes not in the main building, but in the side walls that enclose the temple gardens. This one was interesting to me because it described all their celebrations through the year, especially the full moon and the figures in it were all in motion, all vivid:

Thailand 2017 – Phayo

Why did we pick Phayo to go next? Because it seemed not so far from Chang Mai to the East, because it is by a big lake, not touristy and has a couple of handsome hotels between which it was had to decide…We wanted some real rest from Chang Mai’s noise and crowds and too much to do. But there are always some not so fancy features about traveling. The main rule is to take only the fastest bus. The slow ones are super slow and really not for us, spoiled people. So there were only two buses going to Phayo from Ch-M  -at 8 am and at 4:30pm. As we had to buy some presents in Ch-M still in the morning. we took the later bus and I hoped it will reach the destination before the sunset, but we came in pitch dark…There were traffic jams going out of the city, the bus started 1 later than it had to. all in all  -it took us 3.5h to get there on winding hill roads, but not so pretty as one can expect. There were no taxis in the bus station, so good old GPS was helping us to reach the very center of the the town and the hotel – we were walking and dragging our bags, no problem. Until a nice young Thai couple decided to give us a ride. The hotel we picked  – Phunlong – is on the very very center on the bank of the lake, good location and a very fancy one. Such a room in West would cosl no less than $150-$200 pe rnight. maybe even $300 as some Dutch people mentioned. Here in Thailand the difference between a fancy hotel and a so so one is $20. Interesting. For those 2 nights I can say  – we splurged! We payed $45 per night with the fanciest breakfast buffet we ever got in Thailand and look at our room: The bed was the softest one we ever experienced in Thailand, and the view from our balcony was like this: Yes, I was very sorry to have missed this sunset the first night. It was only the second evening we could enjoy it from everywhere – the room, the boat, the lakeside walk. The view to the other side of the lake-  there was a little island with a tiny temple on it: So we started the next day with a wonderful breakfast and then a usual long walk around the town, by the lake, enjoying bougainvilleas of which there was plenty!  Here we found a nice B&B and i am holding its sign – if you do not want to splurge and pay 2 times less – i is a perfect place, we even checked the rooms. Super clean, and very close to the lake front.  I lked this not overdecorated temple and a little sacred pig in front! Boy how lusciously Crowns of Christ bloom there! A Chinese temple-  they seem to have a pretty big Chinese population and live with them in peace – Chinese ran to Thailand after or during their Socialist Revolution: There is also a nice town park:And temples being built: With creatures devouring each other: And a school yard under this big roof  -what a good idea in a hot country! As it was enough of walking I took a boat to the little island, it was a fantastic quiet ride, with no wind, no motor, just a oar and a magic light surrounding us. See the little garden that monks tend on that island  -you can see cabbages, saladsI guess the orange ribbons are for the wishes to be fulfilled. And I guess that the tree is magical: Hen after a short rest we again entered the night in town searching for food which was not as good as it was in Chang Mai…Maybe we didn’t find the right places. There were illuminations here and there, there were Chinese people doing Tai Chi and line dancing on the lake front -in totality – a very very pleasant atmosphere!

You can see a lot of fish in the water – we were amazed how many of there there were! they were staying by the surface of the water in the afternoon – maybe because the water gets too warm. Maybe they grasp for oxygen  -it has to be said that the lake is an artificial one and very very shallow. And the water is very dirty…I was dreaming we will swim in the lake-  no way…But fish live there and fishermen are catching them in the dark. And everyone seems to be happy. Only while leaving the hotel to go back to the bus station – I took this picture really fast…it is the tallest building in town – maybe some 9 stories high! wow! And looks like it doesn’t belong here :-). Like some giant cut a top from a hotel in Las Vegas and landed it here. There is another similar hotel, but a little further form the center and is better fit to those who drive a car. They have a nice swimming pool, I checked it and next time we are staying there! Renting a car and driving around the lake! But this time we had not enough time. 

Thailand 2017 – Chang Mai

It was the third time we visited Chang Mai and it seems there is a reason why  -we like it so much! Together with lots of other people, so it got very crowded…That is the feeling you get once you are taken with Taxi or walk from the minivan stop not far from Tha Pae Gate. The hotel we reserved through Booking.com was called Bahn Mi – in a nice little street with a British owner which was a really nice bonus – he could tell us some things about Thailand and give some advice. Chang Mai seems to be densely full with restaurants and interesting shops and massage places. This time we found a really good vegetarian restaurant, and I enjoyed a really good massage by the same lady in a temple garden every day! In fact she helped me a lot with my knee, which started swelling the very first day I walked a lot in Bangkok and the whole trip made me use a cane and bandage. For your information 1 h Thai massage costs there 150 bt. And during my trip I never got as good one anywhere. As I figured out later – it is not only one temple that offers its grounds for massage therapists, here are at least three of them. So one gets spoiled in Chang Mai…Here is the cafe where we liked to eat not only because of the food, but because they have a shelf with books which tourists can exchange and also get ideas for their further travels form Thailand tourist books:One of the weird shops that sells so many different things and cow bells are among them, their sound is pleasant: I don’t see, I don’t hear, I don’t smell – it is meaningful for Thais: Only one temple had so many orchids around it and it was the closest to our house. Its main Buddha was lit in bright changing colors. Here are the orchids: This is the view from a very shabby but very tasty organic vegetarian cafe Bodhi Tree  -it is literally under the Bodhi tree: We planned our trip to be in Chang Mai on Saturday. I wanted to go to Doi Suthep temple some 1 hour away higher on a hill side and see the little Thai girls dancing. Well, I had to be disappointed. They are not permitted to dance by that temple or maybe all the other temples any more. What a loss – it was the most beautiful manifestation of Thai culture…But when we took the special taxi to there  -we didn’t know that. Our first stop was the Zoo, which pleasantly surprised, how nice it was, how good the conditions for the animals were (considering that it still is not freedom) and what a variety of animals they had: Always gloomy: Always happy: There were cucumbers for sale in little baskets to be fed to this elephant  -and boy he wanted them! After he finished eating – he lost every interest in me. Poor thing, with his legs chained… The Zoo is not on a horizontal plain, far from that. So it involves going up and down its roads. There is also  an Aquarium, but we had no time to visit it-  we were rushing like crazy to get to Doi Suthep in time, not to miss the girl dances…See the crowds going up to Doi Suthep…It was their holiday  -Big Buddha Day and not only tourists, but Thais, too, go to visit this temple with the main golden Chedi know for it houses Buddha’s bone. But those girls were not dancing, only posing for pictures on the stairs and that was that, cute: This time I looked more attentively to the frescoes on the temple inner walls and liked them a lot! Especially their color scheme: White elephants in Thailand are considered sacred and are kept only for the use of their kings. But this one has even a story  -it came here by itself, turned around three times and trumpeted three times, which Thais transcribed as a sign to build a temple which they did.  What a strange Bodhi tree – fruits grow from its trunk. Each temple has a Bodhi tree-  a big and old one, a sacred one.  Here is the view from our hotel balcony – lots of guys playing pool in a bar and drinking beer – so it was the main shortcoming of our hotel – the noise lasted till 12 am, but only till then and for us those Big Buddha Days (because those were Saturday and Sunday and the moon was full and red!) was a savior for 2 nights-  alcohol was forbidden those two days and nights and therefore the bar was closed, yey! For the Big Buddha Days monks decorated their temples in colors and with diligence: Houses where ordinary people live: One of the mornings we decided to check the south side of the downtown, which is enclosed in moats. We walked on small streets following the route with most temples towards West  -it was a pretty one: But best of all were our findings of lots of other small hotels and hostels that were not in the area where bars were making noises. So we made notes for the next time. And that is my advice for silence seekers. That direction leads to the Town park on the very SW corner and that park is very cozy in the heat of a day: Evidently this year the park is decorated with a variety of elephants, but it also had large amounts of flowers just brought there after a recent Flower festival which we missed. So at least we saw their flowers here: On the way back we entered one of the temples and here is what a fresco we saw there. Maybe it is like a warning against alcohol, cigarettes, but what are those different warms with people faces doing in the man’s insides? A usual combination of cacti here and there: This is a promenade in the Tamarind hotel – a fancy one. But I noticed that they always have an interesting exhibit of ethnic people that live in the hills and keep on to their folk ways of lives: And the last impression about Chang Mai was as usual –  the Sunday market. never miss that! it starts when the sun is still shining, but towards the evening. At that time it is still manageable to walk through it and look around. later in the evening such a mass of tourists come, that the street becomes like a packed bus:This band of blind people I saw even 7 years ago…They usually set up in the middle of the street and it is kind of dangerous – they can be stepped of pushed.  Everyone is trying to collect some money… The side streets turn into super massive massage parlors – mostly men are on the chairs – not to waste time while their women are shopping :-): And the close-by temple gardens turn into food courts. What a variety of foods one can try there! And so cheap! It is a big celebration for all your senses! But better to bring your own food box or plate – in that way we can all try to lower the amount of waste this poor Earth is accumulating from us.

Thailand 2017 – Lamphun

What a big break I did between the trip and this description. When I came back home to Utah it was so busy. Lots of guests, lots of garden work, and it distracted me. Right now it is the very heat of the summer and we are closed to survive this natural disaster time. At the same time – it is appropriate to connect with the hot weather we had in Thailand and to continue my travel descriptions. I am reading a book by Isaakson about Einstein’s life and his scientific works – and with their diligence and consistency they both inspired me to finish what is unfinished, that is my Thailand my blog. So here it is – we took a bus ride from Phang-Nga to Phuket – we needed to get to the airport, not the city. So the bus let us out on the highway and not on the right side of it. They said they are not permitted to drive to the airport, for the taxi drivers need work and only they can take us to the place. But it was not so easy to get a taxi – luckily there was a traffic jam and we could try to talk to drivers and ask them to send us a taxi. The taxi person drove to where our bags were and then he got out of the car – yes, he put our bags in to his car, but also started changing his clothes – which was a little strange at first – he even put on nice socks and shoes and uniform pants and jacket – evidently they don’t let drivers without nice shoes to enter this “precious” airport. So here we are on a flight to Chang Mai – very good views of the seashores of the parts of Thailand that we visited. If I remember correctly – it was around a 1.5 -2 hour flight. And they feed you, of course! There in Chang Mai we already had a shuttle ride ordered   – a person named Om came to meet us from Lamphun ant drove around 40 min to the town south of Chang Mai. That was the plan – Om is running a B&B in Lamphun. The Pick Baan B&B is in two traditional Thai houses, which is on “legs” by a gardens with lots of trees and bird songs. Ideal!Seemed like ideal. In the very center of this marvelous temple town, nice architecture and we were alone! That saved us. Because when we figured out how the floors squeak, how you can hear every noise outside and under your floors where the living area is – it would be impossible to enjoy neighbors :-). But we were alone and the breakfast was traditional Thai, everything was good enough, the AC worked.  I felt sorry for the poor thing AC – there were such holes in the floors that the cool air escaped  and the mosquitoes entered, and therefore I am not suggesting for you to stay there unless you are patient like us and value such aspects as authenticity. To add insult to injury – every morning when my sleep is the most pleasant that is at 7:30 am – I was woken up by radio anchor’s voice from a loudspeaker, for exactly half hour, directed almost to our ears. Reminded me of living in a dictator’s country…But on the good side  – there was a rather strange hippie type restaurant arranged right in that little lane at the end of which out B&B was. So we had to eat there – they were super nice, super without customers and the food was good.  Here I am at that little outdoors facility, very tired after day’s walkings, posing with the owner: Lamphun seemed not to have a normal restaurant that we expected.  Except for that one by our B&B. Well then we noticed that there is a touristy area on the other side of the town where there are hotels and eateries for visitors. But there were almost no tourists in town- only us and some two three buses during the day by the main temples.  So here is the main Temple   -Wat Prathat Hiriphunchai  – in the morning sun, in the evening sun, with the moon, with the main Chedi around which we walked three times as all the few visitors were doing, with the monks chanting every evening and with very beautiful buildings and frescoes in them, etc.: This is the so called Library where they keep the most sacred Buddhist scriptures. The next morning we took an excursion the town offers. A driver takes you through town to two prominent historical houses and maybe some 9 temples, so you do not need to walk in the heat. The excursion costs 100 bt and with the dollar costing 30 bt – not expensive at all. Having in mind that we would have been only us in the bus if not for that Thai single woman who was celebrating her birthday. I guess in her honor the driver was talking loud and a lot in Thai language, leaving us to wait for peace and quiet. And the booklet they handed was also in Thai, almost everything. But i understood, that we saw some noble man’s house:Then the house where their previous queen lived, a very modest one with squeaking floors: And a monument to a more previous Queen Chamadevi, who helped to establish Lamphun or something along those lines. Seems like they do not need Feminism, their women seem to have enough rights and respect, though take it as a joke – I have no clue what is going on now in their society in this regard.  So here our Thai lady of the bus did what I really do not support – she bought little birdies in a super small cage and let them out – yes. it is good to let the birdies out, but it is not good to support this crazy practice of catching birdies and keeping in the heat through the day by temples with the idea that some good person will free them…If there were no buyers, the sellers gradually would look for something not so alive to sell. Some Thais still believe that by saving the birds you get your wishes fulfilled or turn some fortune your way. Our bus lady also bought three water turtles fished from nearby canals…and she was carrying the poor creatures  in plastic bags for the rest of the excursion till the driver sopped by some more remote canal so that the turtles would not end up in another plastic bag again. Here is our yellow bus behind the elephant sculptures:Then as I already mentioned we were driven in a bunch of temples, the driver would stop and let us walk around. They were all beautiful, interesting, but the heat…Some temples had old Chedis on their grounds, like very old, some had new buildings built in their already very crammed sacred gardens: This temple was especially elaborate with such delicate plaster works covering all surfaces. It reminded me of Lithuanian wedding cakes that our girls made for competitions and won prizes. The most sacred Buddha here is the small one on top of the arch, and there is a glass ball in front of big Buddha which people touch when they visit-  so we did, too :-). I guess – it was for good luck, what else can it be.  To be in such a clean pristine temple alone – I think it is more than rewarding… Here is one of those feminist altars, as I called them. Our friend Alison who is a devoted and knowledgeable Buddhist said she is not quite satisfied how women are considered in Buddhism. So this altar is specially for her: And if you don’t see well in this small picture – they are all women! They like to make their monk-dolls. This is a cell where monks live and it shows how they sleep on a wooden pillow. But why the bed-pan is not under the leg part of the bed? Nobody to ask… One temple is dedicated to some heroic elephant who saved some king of theirs. The elephant’s ashes are in this Chedi  and then there is like an elephant park – very comparable to the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania. There are so many big and small elephants all over on the walls and posts and a big one in the center to go under him three times-  you guessed – for good luck! So we did it.  The last temple had several ancient structures, one of which, the Chedi had a warning for the women not to climb! Men could. As our bus lady explained to me – women are dirty at times during the month, so that is why. But why not after they stop getting dirty – she had not answer, just laughed. That is where the equal rights end…on the steps of a weathered Chedi:The interesting part about this temple is tat if you visit it – you will live a 100 years. But I didn’t know it then, only now I read in a booklet. So I guess that to me it doesn’t apply… They definitely have no lack of imagination for creatures. You will ask – and where do ordinary people live there? Here are a couple houses from the street:  A graveyard also by a Chedi  on temple grounds  – my guess it is only for rich and noble: Statues of prominent monks in temples look like wax figures that belong to Madam Tussaud: One temple had two of those topless women by their entrance, quite strange, maybe just a little:Here are the views of the river in town: Here a covered bridge is seen in the distance – yes, like in Florence, they have a covered bridge filled with little shops. In conclusion  -I would highly recommend to visit Lamphun, if not for several days then at least for one – the micro buses leave for Lamphun in Chang Mai by the Flower market and it takes only half an hour to 40 min to get there. In that way you can escape all the crowds and have temples and the walks in town just for yourself!

 

 

 

 

Thailand 2017 – Phang Nga

Phang Nga is a small town in midway between Krabi and Phuket. There are flights to Krabi from Bangkok, of course, but even from Helsinki. But there are no flights from Krabi to Chang Mai. So as we bought a ticket to fly from Phuket to Chang Mai – we decided to stay a couple days in that middle. Phang Nga is praised on the internet and is a place where excursions take tourists to see the James Bond island as they call it. Which means there a bay full of vertical rocks similar to the ones we already saw in Ao Nang. There is a shuttle that takes from Ao Nang to Krabi bus station, there are plenty of buses going to Phuket, but you have to make sure the bus won’t drop you on a highway by Phang Nga. but will drive to the middle of the town. Nobody advises you anything in Thai bus stations –  from what we saw there are usually several bus companies, each has several schedules and a ticket office. A lady there usually speaks some English. so you go, ask, figure out and decide. We saw a group of mini buses in one corner of the bus station, so we went. asked them and yes. they are taking people to the bus station of Phang Nga  – you have to buy your ticket from them in the bus. Usually those minibuses have lower fares than big buses, but there is much less space for luggage in them and for seats. On the way views were outstanding. Lots of places had those vertical rocks, those nature’s grand sculptures. Phang Nga was one of those places. Once we came out of our bus – our hotel “Sleep Phang Nga” was right there, right in front of a cute mosque:

It was a perfect hotel – clean and quiet, except for a short and pleasant Muslim prayer early some mornings. The very first afternoon we went for a walk to the Dragon Cave temple. While walking I noticed that the properties. little houses in little cute gardens were neat and tidy. It seemed a town of happy people. Poverty was not seen at all. So once we reached that Dragon cave temple-  our attention was caught by the dragon, of course, and it was a little scary to walk in its belly: Once you get of the dragon -you see a cave under rocks  -but it is dark. There are little temples there, but the attention flies towards strange sculptures, lots of them, all of them describing Hell, and scary, ugly Hell it is: They even warn by the entrance that the more sensitive should not go: So that first evening we walked around the temple gardens and parks and were left wondering – is there Heaven somewhere? There is, but we found it only on our next visit to this temple. It took us some courage to climb the stairs hanging in between rocks: The view from the top of the temple on the rock: There are three parallel streets in Phang Nga on one side of the river. The other side has some houses and little streets,too, but very soon there the street end up in the jungle, or a pond or a cave. Here is another cave known for its drawings: Walking there is rather pleasant, no problem finding a local restaurant. Some rent bikes and drive further, see more. There is even a park where lots of monkeys live and perform to observers. But my knee was not doing very well, and also the heat and humidity were unbearable, sweat was dripping from my cheeks, therefore we didn’t investigate all the trails we saw there…What we noticed that there were lots of Chinese and Thai temples, Muslim Mosques in the small long town stuck between mossy rocks: Here is how a Chinese cemetery looks like: Here is a strange tree that usually grows in temple yards and has those flowers hanging from its stem: Here is a …fruit tree that also grows in temple gardens. Their fruits have some kind of smell. I wouldn’t call it bad or anything. but some strange aroma once you open it or a package with cleaned pieces. Funny as it is some hotels have a policy and card in their rooms – no smoking and no …fruits in the room. They say that smell would linger in the room for three days, but I highly doubt. The fruit itself is very tasty, has some similarity with a pineapple. But it grows on trees:In Phang Nga we noticed different religions coexisting peacefully together. As I couldn’t ask about it local people – their English was not sufficient for such a “philosophical discussion”, so I checked the all knowing internet and found an interesting fact. Lots of Chinese came to live to Thailand after their revolution. And they built their churches, but they go to Thai churches, too. As well as Thai people go to Chinese religious celebrations. Chinese never stayed in their community, they mixed and mingles with Thai and also accepted their ways of life –  this is a secret recipe for the future of the world, which is now mixing and mingling, but very often not mixing well enough.

Thailand 2017 – Hong Island trip

Once you get into any hotel – they have booklets and adds about different day trips that are offered by different companies. The prices differ from $20 to $40, usually. Here they offered trips on longtail boats – they were cheaper, but it would take longer to reach the islands that are seen all over from the beach. So we picked a more expensive trip on a fast motor boat, which had a Lithuanian flag on it:No, we didn’t know about the flag beforehand. And all our boat travelers were exclusively Chinese. Nothing bad, they are quiet company, but…definitely not a fun company, mostly do not speak English and are not used to chatting and getting acquainted.  So we saw some islands on the way and had three stops in different beaches on Hong Island and others. Obviously, the trip is very popular – see how many boats are docked, consequently – how many people are trashing the fragile and small islands… This is the entrance or more precisely  -the exit of the Blue Lagoon of Hong island: Here is our last beach, pleasant, but no corals, only very small stripped fish that were neither fancy not interesting at all. The beach itself was fine, too many people for my taste: This creature –  it was maybe more than a meter long-  a Varan, I guess it is called, was the biggest excitement of our trip. They are living freely there and reminding us of Jurassic park: Look how many people the boats unloaded at one time in the small beaches, I think it is crazy, but some even managed to lay down in between others walking feet: In totality – I was disappointed in that trip, they advertised snorkeling which consisted of giving us the masks…but not taking to coral reefs and not letting us see the beauty of the under water world…This was another life’s lesson – do not assume!  Stop assuming! For we took such a trip in Koh Chang years ago – they advertised snorkeling as well and fulfilled their promise by taking us to amazing coral reefs where I saw the most amazing fish and sea urchins, etc. in my life. I guess – there are no corals in Andaman sea left, all are already damaged by the crowds, by the civilization…

Thailand 2017 – Bao Ao Nang

Bao  means beach. This time we decided to see Andaman see and how do those famous rocks look like there! So we flew to Krabi, a small airport, but they even accept big flights even from Helsinki and other cities. Therefore crowds of Northerners flock to Thailand seas to catch the rays of sun. I met people with families, small kids from all over Scandinavia and Baltic countries. Understandable, their winters are too long and grey. There in Krabi they are very organized-  you get out of the building and little shuttle buses are waiting for you and taking you eagerly to the very doors of your hotel for a reasonable price. It was dark already and what I was pleasantly surprised-  Krabi town has a bicycle line on the road and that line has little cute lights coming like form the pavement for bikers to see the route well. That was my biggest impression of Krabi at night from the bus window. Via Booking.com we found a very good hotel in Ao Nang Beach  – Vipa Tropical Resort, so we were taken there and were plain amazed – walked through a romantic jungle pat in the dark towards our cottage, all sunken in exotic tropical plants:

Even in the darkness of the night we could see a vertical wall  close by – a bright light was directed towards it creating a natural decor full of mysteries. In the daylight it looked just unreal. The resort had a swimming pool which was quite useful to get acquainted with other guests and killing some time before the next trip: A very very pleasant stay, good for families with kids, just amazing. They are not so close the sea, but we walked a couple of times by ourselves and it was OK. But the resort has a shuttle bus and they take guests to the beach on top of every hour, and in the evening when we are tired I would call them and they would pick us from there back home. So – we came to the beach in town the first morning and obviously  -immersed into the warm waters of Andaman sea…Then we found a trail on GPS to another beach over a slight hill and while on our walk we figured out why the sea water didn’t seem very clean to us…Two sewage streams were joining the sea very close by. So it goes, as Bill Pilgrim said long ago. Never again we would dip into this beach. The walk to the other very secluded one was pretty, well maintained and had cleaner waters, but it involved some climbing and some views: The main attraction while staying there is to take a longtail boat to the Railey Beach – a peninsular with plenty of trails and several beaches, caves and rocks for climbers. They charge 200bt round trip and can pick you on one end of Ao Nang or the other and then can pick you back till 6 pm also from two beaches of the peninsula. The sail is amazing and Railay beach is a pleasure for the eyes to be at: The rocks are much more photogenic during sunsets: There are a couple of paths to cross the peninsula and nice walks on the other side – lots of peaceful restaurants and hotels, of course. The walks are by caves, of which there is a lot. Those caves can go deep into the rocks, but because of the amounts of rain there are stalactites hanging from the rocks all over in plain sight, hanging like icicles hang in winter from the Weeping rock in Zion: On the way to the cave area there are plenty of monkeys. Two sorts – this one on top has white spectacles –  a good monkey, not aggressive, ephemeral. The Makaka monkey are aggressive, they grab food from unsuspecting ladies walking by and eating or carrying some lunch, kind of scary: To swim under stalactites –  quite a thrill, what if one of then dis attaches? There were also some stalagmites, maybe they inspired to bring so many fallos to the two main caves and arrange them into little temples: We tried to see all sunsets  – why not, I am used to going to lead the sun since my childhood – while in our resorts by the Baltic sea it was a ritual. Here are some views of Ao Nang town, main street and its beach – in the evenings the tide used to go down or far away and leave the beach wet and wide: I loved those boy-girls, loved them. They are so feminine and pleasant and soft and kind…Hey, who of us looks less like a princess? :-). They have a show in town and each eve stand in groups in the street inviting people to their show. But Andrei became very shy and couldn’t take more pics… Here we happened to see a Thai wedding  at a precise moment when the bride was telling her groom a whole speech! A teary speech. The South of Thailand has a substantial Muslim population, therefore Mosques are noticeable:Who said that Thai people have no sense of humor?: One of the days we bought a trip to Hong Island, that will be described next.

Thailand 2017 – Bangkok

It was our third time in Thailand. Why you may ask, why to travel in a country we have already seen while there are so many unseen. And will never be seen by us. Because we are “following the dollar”  – tickets were cheap to Thai;and this year. And because I figured that out this time – Thailand is a country of my childhood summers. The same light, the same feeling of safety and excitement, the same feeling of being cared and loved. Strange as it is. Of course, nobody takes you around if you do not organize or order it, nobody cares how you are dressed and if you ate enough – but we lived long enough not to notice how we do that, it is a routine. So I visited my parents and flew to Thailand from Lithuania – Helsinki -Bangkok. A long flight, some 10 hours from H to B. But my Andrei’s trip was longer – he flew to LA -Tokyo-Bangkok, therefore spending in the air almost 21 h. But what can you do. My advice – buy a traveler’s credit card which lets you into Airline lounges, it makes the trip more entertaining and tasty. Some of them have unoccupied sofas where you can nap for a while. One of them  – this was in Phuket and they accepted even the local, meaning not only international travelers – they offered even a 15 min shoulder massage. But we started in Bangkok, Andrei met me, we left our bigger luggage in a safe room for 100 bt a piece and went to cover the places we haven’t seen last time – the Silom Park with King’s palaces. The whole Thailand is in grieving. The first view our eyes touched in the airport was this memorial for their late King:And after we got off the metro train and walked for maybe 3 km to the park – all the way we saw such memorials, bigger and smaller and also all the walls and fences were lined with black and white fabric – it got into our psyche, we were not very joyous…Here is a glimpse of Silom park and palaces. The white one is carves from Teek trees: No, we didn’t go inside, too tired after long trips, to jet lagged, too many people. And hot. We arrived at the end of January, you would think – the best time to visit Bangkok, but it was plenty hot. Sweaty. And we walked a lot the very first day, which played not a good impression on my knee and it started its protests the rest of the trip. Also – we didn’t have a lot of time. Our firs encounter with Thai food was the worst through the trip, to our horror they served us little paws of crabs in their famous papaya salad…So we were happy to leave Bangkok behind that same eve and fly to Krabi.