Archive for the 'Thailand' Category

Goodbye Thailand

Matt has returned to the States after our visit to the beach at Ko Samet and a few days in Bangkok. I think I like Bangkok more each time I visit – there is really something here for everyone. We saw the amazing reclining Buddha at Wat Pho (46 meters long and 15 meters high!), had all-you-can eat sushi and hot pot from conveyor belts for $8, got lost in Chinatown, and much more.

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Today marks 3 months I have been on the road, and my last night in Thailand. I’m getting on a plane in a few hours to go to the Philippines and begin the final 6 weeks of my journey. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed – I could easily spend much more time here. But the mountains and beaches and underwater paradises of the Philippines await and I am excited about what lies ahead!

Cyclone

We just found out today that the death toll from the cyclone that devastated Myanmar/Burma over the weekend is at least 4,000 people, with hundreds of thousands left homeless. Here in neighboring Thailand, we just had some mild rainstorms but nothing serious. That this disaster has struck the already suffering Burmese people is just so tragic. I’m not sure how to help at this point, but it sounds like international aid organizations are being allowed in the country now to assess the situation.

Pai

During this trip I repeatedly heard great things about the small town of Pai in the mountains of Northern Thailand between Chiang Mai and Burma. It is definitely a resort town catering to Westerners, but it has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and an amazing location among mountain peaks and low-lying clouds.

Matt and I spent a day visiting Pai Canyon and other nearby sights on bicycles, braving some pretty steep hills and intermittent rain storms.

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Yesterday we began our journey South by taking the overnight train to Bangkok, and tomorrow we will go to Ko Samet for some beach time!

Chiang Mai Wats and Woks

Chiang Mai lives up to its reputation as the cultural center of Thailand, with 300 Buddhist temples (called “wats” in Thai), great curries, a fantastic Sunday night market full of great deals, and even a few decent places to catch live music. There’s really not much more you could ask for on your holiday! The old part of the city is surrounded by a moat and portions of an old wall, and a maze of tiny streets fill the inner square.

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One of the best things we did was a day long cooking class at a Thai Organic Farm. We made our own curry paste and then turned out delicious curries, stir fry, Tom Yam soup, Pad Thai, spring rolls, and more. It actually was not so difficult and I’m looking forward to the day when I have a kitchen again and I can keep practicing!

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Riding Bikes in Bangkok

Yesterday I took a fantastic bicycle tour of Bangkok – across the shipping channel to a neighborhood crisscrossed with canals called khlongs. We were riding on these elevated sidewalks that are about 3 feet wide with no railing and a 10 foot drop into the water below. Yikes! The sidewalks are the only way to access houses on stilts that make up the neighborhood. Once we crossed the channel we were technically outside of Bangkok and it was such a difference – like crossing into a different world.

My pictures aren’t that great because I was concentrating on not falling into a khlong! The tour company also has promised to post pictures our guide took of our group: go to www.realasia.net and click on Daily Biking Pictures and then use the date picker to choose Feb. 29.

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Later today I fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia where I will spend a few days exploring Angkor Wat.

Phuket

In a country full of popular tourist destinations, Phuket ranks #1. I was expecting to find nothing but resorts catering to Westerners, and although the beach areas fit that description pretty well, I was pleased to discover that there is definitely more to this island. I am staying in the old section of Phuket town on Thalang Road, which is about a 45 minute bus ride away from the beaches. My $10/night guesthouse has high ceilings, hardwood floors, a great view looking over rooftops to a nearby temple and a selection of neighboring art galleries, used bookstores and cafes. Pretty cool.

Yesterday I went out to Kamala Beach to meet up with friends Suzanne and Andrew who now live in Singapore and were vacationing in Phuket. It was nice to catch up and soak up some of their vacation vibe. When I came back to town I had a meal that finally truly tested the limits of my tolerance for spicy food. After a few bites of my seafood curry, I got the sniffles, but it was tasty and I was sure that my childhood training with Tabasco sauce had me well-prepared to meet this challenge. By midway through, my head was throbbing and I couldn’t see anymore due to the tears running out of my eyes, and I had to admit defeat. I think it was a perfect last meal to remember South Thailand!

Later this afternoon I will get on a bus back to Bangkok and then begin making my way East to Cambodia. I promise to replace my camera by the time I get there so I can post some pictures again!

Also, I have been meaning to say thanks for all of the nice messages and birthday wishes I have received and I apologize if I haven’t written you back yet. Please know that you are all in my thoughts every day! I feel so extraordinarily lucky to be having this experience, and to have all of your good wishes and inspiration with me as well is just amazing. Thanks!

Gibbon Songs

I made a recording of the gibbons. It didn’t turn out great, but turn up your volume and have a listen to what I was waking up to for the last week.

Listen to gibbons sing (mp3)

Talae Nork Tidbits

Today marks a week at Talea Nork, and things have settled into a bit of a routine. Get up at 6am to go survey the beach by boat or motorbike to look for turtle activity, feed the monkeys, go to the market or do some office work, lunch (simple and delicious chicken or seafood curry w/ rice), feed the monkeys again, nap, down to the beach for a swim, dinner, bed.

After dinner the Beer Chang (Elephant) comes out and things tend to get a little silly. There’s a Thai guy from the forestry service who comes by most nights and plays the guitar and tells lots of jokes – I don’t understand much of anything he says, but he uses a lot of pantomine and is hilarious. Last night after dinner they lit candles and he sang me a Thai version of happy birthday. It was really sweet.

I still don’t have a camera, but I do have some photos to share now, some that I took and some from other volunteers. Here are a few shots of the place I have been calling home.

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Talea Nork was hit hard by the tsunami a little over 3 years ago. It completely destroyed the provincial village near the beach (including the school) and 47 people lost their lives. Only 200 people live in the village, so it really was devastating. Things seem to be going ok for them now. They received aid money and have rebuilt, and now they have a community-based tourism project going where the villagers open up their homes for tourists to stay and that brings money into the community.

The other day, kids from the village came with us to to release a turtle. The truck got stuck in the sand on the way and everyone jumped out to push!

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The village kids know quite a bit of English and are very friendly and talkative. The other night I was joined by 2 young girls while walking back from the beach and they taught me Thai words for the animals we passed by – goat, water buffalo, cat, chicken. When I was able to repeat the words correctly, they told me “Very Gooood!”. It was too cute.

Here are some of the animals I have been hanging out with at the project: gibbons, macaques and a slow loris.
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Many of the gibbons will be released at some point, but not around here. They can only be released in areas where gibbons are extinct; and Talea Nork has wild gibbons living in the mountains and they are very territorial communities.

Tomorrow I will leave Talea Nork to go to a smallish beach town called Khao Lak a little south of here. I plan to stay for a few days and do some scuba diving there before braving the tourist masses in Phuket. Although I know it is time to move on, I will definitely miss this place and the people I have met here.

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