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.

 

 

 

Thailand 2010 – its old capital Sukhothai

Sukhothai means “the dawn of happiness” and holds a unique place in Thailand’s history. Until the 13th century most of Thailand consisted of many small vassal states under the thumb of the Khmer Empire based in Angkor Wat. But the princes of two Thai states combined forces and in 1238 marched on Sukhothai where one of them defeated the Khmer garrison commander in an elephant duel. Installed as the new king of the region he founded a dynasty that ruled Sukhotai for nearly 150 years. Through military and diplomatic victories they expanded their kingdom to include most of the present-day Thailand and the Malay peninsula.

By the?? mid -14th century Sukhotai’s power and influence had waned, and Ayutthaya, once a vasal state, became the capital of Thai kingdom. Sukhotai was gradually abandoned to the jungle. If it wasn’t for a 10-year restoration project, started in 1978 and costing more than $10 mln., there wouldn’t have been the Sukhothai Historical Park:

We took a regular bus from Chang Mai city Arcade Bus station and it took us about 6 h to reach destination. If Bangkok is 700 km from Chang Mai, Sukhotai is 427 km north of Bangkok, almost in the middle of our return way to BKK. Which means that it takes 6h in a bus to cover 270 km…Pretty slow drive…Though the roads are not bad but sitting there on the second floor of that double bus you feel like you are hardly moving. The tickets cost around 300bt each. It is two times more than the price of the tickets you buy in Khao-San road. But in that case you can buy only for certain destinations and keep contact with them in order to know where are their buses leaving from. The prices for transportation there don’t bite at all, wherever you buy them. And you get better rides for more expensive tickets. lets say – the trip from BKK to Chang Mai was in a bus without shocks…12 hours of bumping…

This particular bus entered the area just through the Old town Sukhothai – where the history was. Once of a sudden the old stupas appeared here and there close to the road side. That was it, we left the bus and went to look for the hotel tat our Canadian friend recommended: Old City Guest house. It was worth staying there. The guest house rooms were built around a cozy square:

with the little altar in the middle – in case someone wants to please the Gods, the room was big, clean, comfortable bathroom and shower. After spending a week with a shower poring directly onto you toilet and having the floors wet for a while there – it was wonderful to have a spacious bathroom with a separate shower place. It was like a little center – with several hotels, restaurants, shops and bike rental places (the main city is 9 mi away):

Bicycles are especially popular there while trying to see all parts of the Historical capital. It is a pity we didn’t experience them and left it for the next time. It was a very pleasant stay, very good meals in the nearby restaurant Coffee Cup, nice people, good atmosphere. The park entrance was close by that little town center. Although the sun was setting I still eagerly went to see the ruins that were spread wide in the vast parks – I wouldn’t call them jungle, would you?:

Maybe that is what the restoration?? effort turned the jungle into -a spacious park.

The weather there was clearly more humid than in Chang Mai and it was hard to breathe or move fast even in the very late evening. But there were almost no people, one miserable pregnant and very hungry cat – she had only one eye…, lots of hungry but peaceful dogs and the darkness setting onto the trees and temple ruins:

It is hard to imagine the grandeur of the city in its golden age…Harder to understand why people abandon so many already built buildings and go somewhere else to strive for survival and build again…Still they don’t quite abandon those temples here – there are fresh candles and offerings.

A new temple surrounding an old stupa in the town center – there is a Buddha’s foot print under?? glass in it:

The hardest part in Sukhothai was to find a bus stop to go to BKK…Funny, isn’t it? I asked everyone, then checked a little map of the town on a building that looked like a bus station?? -we waited there because the map said that this is the bus stop. it never stopped. It was evidently a block down – by some shop – no logical reason to understand – why was it in such a place??? So we missed our bus, had to take their songthaew – that crazy “animal wagon” to get to the New City Sukhothai to a real and big bus station and from there we tried to reach Ayutthaya, but the bus stopped some 6 km from the city and it was our last evening, so we decided to stay on the bus and reach BKK, our belloved Khao San road and feel a little more of its atmosphere. Actually it is not the Khao San Road that we liked, but other roads in that area, that I even don’t remember their names. There is like a cirkle of them behind a temple, that faces Khao San road, towards Phra Artit road – a very lively, cozy, backpackers’ area:

You don’t have the big city feel there. So the next morning I walked a little towards the Kings palace in the streets I already know buying still some presents and nice things and off we left to the BKK airport which is very modern:

but also has Thai decors:

beautiful modern spaces:

And flew back home via Taipey in Taiwan:

Los Angeles, and believe it or not – Salt Lake city…:

Once we reached LA – the plane was late by half hour, then we had to take our bags. check through customs and run like crazy to another terminal. So we ran…like crazy…Over there after going through their security we found out that our seats to Las Vegas were sold…Big disappointment after 3 hours flight to Taipey and 12?? hours to LA…Luckily they gave a a hotel room, so we rested and early morning rushed for a flight to SLC, then another flight to Las Vegas. which was also delayed…A very long and not easy trip home…But in a week I recovered and already wanted to go back :-).

Thailand 2010 – A trip to Hill Tribes in N. Thailand

While in Chang Mai I decided to buy another trip – to hill tribes.?? We visited one Hmong tribe on our way from Golden triangle and it was too short for me. The villages are very poor, but they had some good atmosphere that I liked to experience more. So this trip was as if to visit 5 hill tribes, the Chiang Dao cave and the Orchid farm. It was a short trip in comparison with the previous one (only 7h), the cost being the same -900bt.?? As always – the mini bus came to pick me from our guest house. So here we were taken to a back road, not far from Chang Mai, with a view of some separate hills or mountains that reminded me our Zion NP:

Except that those rocks or mountains were all covered with greens, unlike our dry desert Zion. By the way?? -during our 24 day stay – there was not a single rain…not a single overcast day, though there were occasional clouds and the skies are not very blue there because of?? pollution and humidity in the air.

So here we were driven to the end of that dirt road to the very last village of three. It was a White Karen tribe.?? The women traders?? from all those three villages saw our bus and just ran to the end stop, or asked their fellows to drive them on motorbikes-?? so that they could literally “attack” us with their goodies. Which were mostly hand made and embroidered purses, jewelry, hats. I was “the weakest link” in our group, so I couldn’t even follow the guide and group – they surrounded me like hens, little decorated women and were doing a pushy sale of their beautiful stuff:

Shortly I could catch a glimpse of their houses:

and their kitchen with some soup boiling:

The guide said that hill tribe people eat only black pigs, never the white ones…

Their fresh crop of beans:

More houses:

And they had monkeys, poor creatures, attached to chains for good luck…:

They were ready to put anything they had on me, just to make a sale…:

and when I ran out of money, they directed their attention towards the others from our group:

So we walked down that main street that was a home to three tribes: White Karen, Lisu and Akha. There is a big difference in their cloths, decorations, customs and even their houses. But we couldn’t notice much – those same women were all over begging for a sale. At the very end – I don’t even know which tribe they belong to – with their very distinct bells on their head boxes.?? There were some quiet ones sitting on their porches with their crafts, but they were almost unnoticeable because of the aggressive ones. But to be completely honest – they were selling rather nice crafts in those villages, except that the silver was not silver at all.

The next stop was at Chiang Dao cave, here is the entrance:

and once you enter – the cave itself is nothing special. I have seen several more impressive caves as for the stalactites. but this cave is sacred to natives and as usual – is full of Buddhas in different poses:

As usual sacred places there are surrounded with old and new temples:

We had a group lunch in one of the restaurants by the cave, it wasn’t as good as the previous buffet lunch but it was still good. Thais have a good taste for cooking.

The surrounding “jungle”?? where even tigers live – I wouldn’t call it a jungle… :-), looks more like a park:

The next stop was at a Long Neck – Karen village. The Long necks and Big ears are not Thailanders. They come from Burma (Myanmar) as refuges and are not legal in Thailand, have almost no rights, are even more poor than other tribes. This is how their village looks:

it is mostly stalls with scarfs and my guess is they live their simple lives in the back:

The little girls already have their rings on necks based on how old they are, poor babies…The rings press very hard on their collar bones and also on chins. I guess they loose their appetites so they are all slim:

Big Ears have rings only on their knees -?? to make it hard for them to run from their husbands, but they have things in their ear lobes:

And they sti there and weave. The things they weave didn’t impress me at all in comparison with what the other tribes had…Maybe their creativity is bounded by those terrible rings…

As you can see – I had no money in my pockets left. So I could spend my time admiring their beauty and taking pictures:

They are so soft and pleasant, that my heart was very saddened by their situation in this world:

The oldest one sang a song with her guitar:

So those were Long Neck Karens. By the side of their stalls another tribe had their stalls -a Palong tribe, a very colorful one:

So that was it, as if we saw 5 tribes,?? just very superficially. And it is enough, for they are people with their own traditions,own styles, what is the point of getting to a closer encounter – it makes you feel more weird about how unfair life is for their women…or at least it seems to us, westerners.

We finished the trip in an Orchid Farm:

Orchids everywhere in Thailand, not only in farms,?? grow hanging in the air. The little pots just hold the root bundles. So they are sprayed often with water and fertilizers constantly. Not so very healthy to walk around that farm…And for the last note – Ginger flowers:

(there will be more)

Thailand 2010 – A Trip to Golden Triangle

The owners of hotels, guest houses usually have a folder with a selection of trips, which pictures of happy tourists while on trips. It is a good way of advertising. You buy a trip from your owner and make him happy – they get a commission, and then the next day the mini bus comes directly to your door and picks you. So we picked a trip to Golden Triangle via hot springs and Chang Rai. The price was very right – 900 bt each, a whole day trip lunch included. We were picked rather early and drove out of Chang Mai, a rather spread out city, through hilly landscapes with their so called jungle being very spacious, not crowded with trees, full of calm light that reminded me of our Lithuanian forests in September, if not to notice some banana trees here and there. The first stop was Hot Springs, I don’t even know which ones :-):

We had only a half an hour, only to immerse our feet in a specially done pool by bus stop. No time to go and take a real bath…but there were woman, as always, selling a basket of 10 quail eggs or two regular ones so that tourists can put the basket into a hot spring and gettheir eggs boiled:

Yes, couple of?? minutes and the eggs were done. A good snack.

The White Temple of Chang Rai was the next stop. Is is being built now, not finished yes, one wall inside still to be decorated. But from the outside it looked amazing. It is not particularly my style of architecture, but it still looked amazing…

I particularly liked the two sculptures or “icicles'” by the entrance to its grounds:

On the left there was a devil with several faces with a whiskey bottle!!!

The other one on the right also had devil faces and lots of hands around the sign, with real cigarettes, cigarette boxes, matches holding them!!!

We asked the guide whether it is considered bad to smoke and drink alcohol in Buddhism. Yes, it is , that is what the warning signs meant. But…their Buddhism is very “user friendly”, everything is is upon you. Your afterlife is your business, your responsibility and nobody would ever despise the ones who don’t follow the rules in order to enjoy this life more.

Going to the entrance of the Temple you cross a bridge over a small “pond-hell” with the hands sticking from the depths of it with desperation…temples are supposed to remind us sinners about the hell’s existence and the architect?? did a good job to show us that. For good luck – toss a coin into a prepared jar…

And then there is this long white path to the entrance, with symbolic nagas -snakes on the sides. They start with two sculptures – a male and a female:

This comes from the hill tribe’s tradition to have a male and a female signs on both sides of their gates to the village. Only those in villages are super primitive, here they are more elaborate:

You can spend a lot of time in this Temple, analyzing each sculpture or painting. But we had only half an hour…The most astonishing part was once we entered the Temple itself and turned towards the back wall. They don’t permit to take pictures there, so sorry, only my interpretation of what we saw. First of all you see the front – the altar as we call it. there is a wax monk sitting there and the wall behind him is the description of Heaven. Just as one can imagine – everything is romantic, forms, colors, shades, but this is the most uninteresting wall and who can remember what it was depicting…The side walls show people in boats swimming towards Heaven, also nothing particular. But the back wall, as you already guessed, is Hell – and what a Hell it is…Painted in surrealistic style there are very decorative heads of devils, on the background, but still prominent. And on the foreground in brighter colors are some main characters of American popular?? animation movies, some bad heroes, police cars, lots of rocket-bombs and the main point – 9-11 in New York! Yes, the twin towers collapsing, one airplane already stuck, another approaching and the juices that fall from all this are in gasoline pipes dripping straight into the mouths of devils…The artist gave a lot of thought while doing it…

In and hour or so we reached the Golden Triangle where two rivers and three countries meet?? -Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. The main river is Mekong, looked very wide to me, but the guide said it is at its lowest level because of the dry season. And you can see that?? – the water line is very low down the slopes or steps, depends on where you look. Our group took a boat ride to Laos market, we stayed. Too short to enjoy. 1 hour total, 300 bt. There was enough to see on this side, the place where opium trade once flourished. The markets are everywhere, wherever the bus stops and there are always beautiful things to buy that you can’t resist… That is their way of life, I guess, to sell, sell, sell.?? And temples are also everywhere. So during that hour we managed to see only one temple on the edge of the bank – made into a boat with Buddhas sitting on top and elephants posing, too:

Then a stop in Mae Sai?? -for a buffet type lunch, boy,?? it was good! Under those bougainvilleas:

And here is the border with Myanmar (Burma):

The whole street leading to the border is a humongous market, as usual…

They say there is a lot of Chinese goods sold there, but to my eyes they were all the same, too much to even distinguish.

At the end of the trip we visited one hill tribe village, if i remember correctly it was Hmong tribe:

The visit was too short to make more pictures. In short – it was very poor…people living with pigs almost together…but some of them had even motorcycles and among this poverty – there were tables with things for sale – arts, crafts, silver…

The whole trip was long, it took us maybe 3 hours to return and it was late in their standards, around 8 pm. Totally – it was a 12 hour trip.

(to be continued…)

Thailand 2010 – Chang Mai – more temples…

I have to admit – I didn’t walk enough in Chang Mai. It was hot, though not as hot as in Bangkok. But maybe the inconvenient streets for walking were the main reason. The sidewalks are not always there, but if they are-?? they are crowded with either stuff for sale, or motorcycles, or restaurant tables, in other words – none of?? Thai cities are walker friendly. And it is a hazard to cross the street – sometimes I would stand for a long time until I dare to just go straight into the stream of cars and expect them to slow down or stop to let me through. Those who live longer there- they get used to it and sometimes don’t even bother walking on the sidewalk – they pretend they are a car or a tuk -tuk 🙂 and walk on the street. It is at least more even than side walks -which have steps, holes, slush, whatever that can make you fall badly if you decide to look around instead of looking down while walking.

As I mentioned earlier – I would walk for 20 min almost every day we were there to the other side of the river?? to do Chi -gong with Chinese people. But on this side of the river very close to the pedestrian bridge there was a different temple – built in a very crowded with buildings and a dirty corner among several streets. Too beautiful to be stuck over there…

It seemed to be a Chinese temple, only the papers that I got there were telling me a strange story.?? Yes, it is adorned mostly by Chinese people, but the saint they are worshiping there was an Indian and he had a?? bad temper and character:

To tell the truth – in that heat my brain didn’t accept information so I mostly?? forgot what I read in those papers…Evidently Buddha story is not enough for people to worship, they need a variety.

As usual with Chinese – they had a beautiful tiger image on one of the walls:

The mountains or rocks that Chinese paint in their watercolors or in this?? panel – they are usually very specific, and I thought it is a creation of their imaginations. But no, we saw some 3 rocks that looked exactly the same sticking out of the plains of Thailand while crossing the country on a bus. But I didn’t take my camera in time to take a picture – in awe…

(to be continued…)