Search for  Thailand  found 13 posts
Order: Newest / Oldest / A to Z / Z to A
Feb 12, 2019, Tuesday
We made it!    Bangkok Thailand
Feb 12, 2019, Tuesday
Feb 13, 2019, Wednesday
Chiang Mai    Chiang Mai Thailand
Feb 13, 2019, Wednesday
Feb 14, 2019, Thursday
Templed out    Chiang Mai Thailand
Feb 14, 2019, Thursday
Feb 15, 2019, Friday
Night market    Thailand Chiang Mai
Feb 15, 2019, Friday
Feb 16, 2019, Saturday
Silver temple    Chiang Mai Thailand
Feb 16, 2019, Saturday
Feb 17, 2019, Sunday
We're not in Canada    Thailand Chiang Mai
Feb 17, 2019, Sunday
Feb 18, 2019, Monday
Wat Doi Suthep    Thailand Chiang Mai
Feb 18, 2019, Monday
Feb 19, 2019, Tuesday
Goodbye Chiang Mai    Thailand Chiang Mai
Feb 19, 2019, Tuesday
Feb 20, 2019, Wednesday
The train to Bangkok    Bangkok Chiang Mai Thailand
Feb 20, 2019, Wednesday
Feb 21, 2019, Thursday
A river runs through it    Bangkok Thailand
Feb 21, 2019, Thursday
Feb 22, 2019, Friday
Escape from the sauna    Bangkok Thailand
Feb 22, 2019, Friday
Feb 23, 2019, Saturday
Hits and misses    Chiang Mai Bangkok Thailand
Feb 23, 2019, Saturday
Feb 24, 2019, Sunday
Feb 24, 2019, Sunday

We made it!

February 12, 2019   Tuesday
Bangkok   Thailand
BKK is like a big grey plane      

If you're currently on Vancouver Island you'll be impressed that we made it off the island Sunday. It involved getting to the airport 6 hours early, watching all the flights gradually cancel as the sunny day turned snow white, a much-longer-than-expected ride from a senior Air Canada crew member (thanks Sue!) almost but not quite to the Swartz Bay ferry, the Pat Bay highway having become a parking lot, a one-km trudge down the highway in a blizzard carrying luggage and dressed for southeast Asia, walking past hundreds of newly arrived ferry passengers waiting for rides that couldn't get through the snow, a ferry ride, a bus ride through deserted snow-covered lower mainland streets to YVR, and then, finally, into the air and onto our journey. Whew.

Chiang Mai

February 13, 2019   Wednesday
Chiang Mai   Thailand

Our first day in a new town so we spent it exploring the neighborhood.

A row of Buddhas      
Gold stupa      
A golden stupa, just one of the structures at the Buddhist temple, Wat Phra Singh.
Moat around the walled city      
Chiang Mai was established as a capital city in 1296 by King Mengrai, the founder of the Kingdom of Lanna. The old town, where we are staying, is surrounded by a wall and a moat. Of course now the moat is bordered by roads and the wall is open in many places.
If you want groceries in the old town your choices are limited to farmers markets (great for cooking, not so great for tourist staples beer and chips) and the ubiquitous 7/11 stores.
Colourful dude      
Street food      
Her crepes smelled amazing but we'd just eaten.
Emergency kiosk      
A curiosity to me, an emergency kiosk. According to the instructions you stand on the step, push the button, wait for a reply, look at the camera, then report your emergency. Or you could walk a block to the police station.
Street food      
Chiang Mai is one of those towns best seen once it's dark. That's also when the temperature drops to almost comfortable.

Templed out

February 14, 2019   Thursday
Chiang Mai   Thailand

Once in the past a farang [non-Thai] novice actually thanked a woman for a handful of rice. She was so offended she came to the monastery and told the senior monk she and her family would never give alms to the wat again. Devotees give to the robe, not to the wearer. They believe it is a ritual for the making of merit, for a better rebirth. If a monk thanks the giver, then by treating it as a personal favour, merit is not gained. Tim Ward, What the Buddha Never Taught

This morning we dressed conservatively (we wore long pants, not shorts) so we could go inside Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phan Tao, and Wat Chedi Luang. There are lots of wats in Chiang Mai.

So what is a wat? A wat is a Buddhist temple. It contains several buildings, at minimum a chedi, a viharn and a bot, and is enclosed by a wall. The bot is the main prayer room and the viharn is an assembly hall. The chedi contains relics. They might be relics of the Buddha or remains of a king or a very important monk. Depending on their financial means and the number of monks, a temple may also contain other structures like a sala, a scripture hall, living quarters for the monks, and a school. Wat Phra Singh, just down the block from our hotel, fills a city block and includes a school.

Wat Phra Singh      
These monks sit expressionless and motionless in the temple as tourists mill about, talk, and take photos, like I did here, which is weird but hey it's their show.
Wat Phra Singh      
It's wrong      
Wat Phan Tao      
Bells at Wat Phra Singh      
Wat Chedi Luang      
Wat Chedi Luang      
Thais think having a son ordain as a monk, even if only for a week, brings spiritual credit to his parents in their next incarnation.
Wat Chedi Luong      
Reclining Buddha

Night market

February 15, 2019   Friday
Thailand   Chiang Mai
Night market      
Chiang Mai has several night markets. This one, on Changklan road, is open every night of the week and features a lot of tempting aromatic food. Well, except for the fried scorpions.
Fried scorpions      
Scorpion seller      
Making roti dessert      
Cooking meat      
Making a dessert      
Enjoying kabobs at night market  

Silver temple

February 16, 2019   Saturday
Chiang Mai   Thailand
Iron bridge over the Ping river      
If you walk east of the old city's walls you'll encounter the Ping river, once a major transport route to and from the city.
Tuk tuk      
A tuk tuk is one of many types of transport in Chiang Mai.
Phra Singh Village hotel      
The Phra Singh Village hotel where we are staying is a quiet oasis in the old town. Breakfast is excellent. There are usually two cooks making eggs and satay and roasted vegetables, and inside is a huge buffet, all delicious, and changing every day. In the afternoon they serve snacks and local desserts, and again the offerings change each day. Come to Thailand for the food.
Red truck taxi or songthaew      
The red truck or songthaew is a common sight in Chiang Mai. It is a converted pick up truck with two benches in the back.
Making pad thai      
Wat Srisuphan      
Wat Srisuphan is better known as the silver temple. The exterior is illuminated with lights that rotate through several colours.
Wat Srisuphan      
Wat Srisuphan      
Wat Srisuphan  

We're not in Canada

February 17, 2019   Sunday
Thailand   Chiang Mai

Or Mexico or France or Bali or Greece, to name the last few places we've visited. Yes indeed, Thailand is different from the other countries on this list so, on this criteria alone, I can declare our trip a success.

But let me back up a bit. Paul and I choose a travel destination to satisfy a curiosity, like what's Greece like, or to do something we enjoy, like hike in the Alps. At the same time we know going in to manage, if not minimize, expectations, especially if it's the former, a new place, and that has served us well. So this is a long intro to saying that I've mixed feelings about Thailand. In this post I'll share some positives.

Our hotel, the Phra Singh Village, is one of the nicest I've stayed at. Beautiful buildings, gardens and pool, large comfortable rooms, conveniently located, and lots of amenities, like a gym and a couple of spas. Their delicious and ever-changing breakfast would rate as the best if only they could figure out desserts, but then I don't think this is a dessert country. France and Italy needn't worry when it comes to desserts.

Speaking of food, eating in Thailand is wonderful. Flavorful, fresh, vegetable-rich. Plus you can eat well for very little change (as long as you don't want wine). Nice.

The people are friendly. But I wouldn't place them at the top of my list of friendly people, up there with Mexico and Greece. There's something artificial in their friendliness, or maybe it's the way they express it, a smiling subservience that makes me feel uncomfortable.

The temples are curious and certainly photo-worthy. I'm also enjoying observing Buddhists in action, especially having just read Tim Ward's book What the Buddha Never Taught, on becoming a monk.

What else is positive? It feels safe here. There's not much cigarette smoke and not much dog poo. If you like a massage or strolling an open-air market there are more of these than you can shake a stick at.

Since we've more time in Thailand I hope I'll add some more to the positive column. In a future post, some annoyances.

Warorot market      
The Warorot market is three stories of markets, open every day. It's a locals' market, full of food, clothing, and accessories, not tourist souvenirs. Which begs the question, why are we here...
Eastern wall gate      
This stretch of wall isn't very long, maybe 100 meters each side of the gate. There is a huge poster nearby that states don't feed the pigeons in front of which people are feeding the pigeons.
Catching a red truck      
Getting a reading      
Getting your fortune read is just one of the services available at the Sunday walking market.
Dancing show      
The square in front of the museum was taken over for a dance presentation followed by live music, complete with laser lights and smoke. The crowd really enjoyed the show. I was pretty far away so the photo's not so great.
Sunday walking market      
Sunday walking market      
Sunday walking market      
Sunday walking market      
We saw some nice stuff for sale at the Sunday market, like art to put on the wall, but it's a bit awkward to get home. We did pick up a bamboo vase for 100 baht ($5).
Foot massage      
Want a massage? Come to Chiang Mai. Massage is everywhere. There's foot massage, Thai massage, even something where you put your feet in water filled with fish that nibble on you. Yuck.

Wat Doi Suthep

February 18, 2019   Monday
Thailand   Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is said to have three must-see temples. We've seen two. The third, Wat Doi Suthep, is up on a mountain, about 45 minutes away. So after breakfast we walked down the block to Wat Phra Singh to look for a red truck with the words Doi Suthep on the front. It didn't take long, and after getting a price, 50 baht each (a little over $CAD 2) we piled into the back of the pickup to wait for it to fill. Once there were ten passengers the driver cranked up the engine and we were off.

I sat furthest back as it's least claustrophobic. I had a birds eye view of the vehicles behind us as we raced up the mountain, leaning in the curves, and hanging on for dear life.

Once at the temple parking lot we piled out, paid the driver, then followed the crowd up the cool staircase to the temple.

Wat Doi Suthep is a very popular temple, I guess it's because of the view, though the air is currently so dirty you can't see anything. This wasn't a surprise, it's been like this since we arrived, it's the time of year in Thailand when air quality sucks.

Once at the temple I found many people worshipping the various Buddhas. Some were on the ground, some lighting candles, and some were walking in a procession around a gold stupa while holding yellow flowers. Whatever floats your boat, eh.

The famous staircase to the temple      
The temple stair was crowded when we arrived.
Paul at the Wat      
Making offerings to the Buddha      
Procession around the golden stupa      
Gold stupa      
Smoggy view      
Temple bells      
The king and queen      
This picture of the king, the one on the left, is ubiquitous in Chiang Mai. I suppose the lady on the right is the queen. Rumor has it he (along with much of the country's money) lives in Europe, though I suppose I shouldn't say this as Thailand's Lèse-majesté law is the world's most draconian. This is the law that pertains to the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state. I'm not a big fan of royalty, much less military governments, so two strikes against the country in my book.
Waiting for more passengers      
My view from the red truck

Goodbye Chiang Mai

February 19, 2019   Tuesday
Thailand   Chiang Mai

Today was our last day in Chiang Mai. Tomorrow we catch the 8:50 train to Bangkok. I'll miss the delicious and cheap food, the comfortable hotel, and the old town chock-a-block with temples.

City wall      
This is the southwest corner of the Chiang Mai city wall. The old wall is far from continuous, there are short stretches of what look like the original wall, partially collapsed sections, and completely missing sections. It is, after all, many hundreds of years old.
Orchids, Buak Had Park      
Orchids, Buak Had Park

The train to Bangkok

February 20, 2019   Wednesday
Bangkok   Chiang Mai   Thailand

Given a choice we'll take a train over flying, so to get to Bangkok we took the 8:50 #8 train. It isn't a short trip, it takes over ten and a half hours to make the 700 kms. The train itself is small, three cars, all second class seats, so there isn't anywhere to walk to like a restaurant car. It comes with a/c and a meal.

#8 train

We found the ride long and uncomfortable. Despite how it appears in the photos the train has seen better days. The seat padding is worn out. Paul's seat kept spontaneously reclining. The tiny toilet is a hole in the floor. And the poor train slows and struggles at the least incline which didn't inspire confidence. But it did finally get us to our destination.

I've left the best, or rather the worst, for last. The meal. I could describe it as worthy of a Survivor challenge. It appeared to be an invitation to food poisoning. It made Air Canada's offerings haute cuisine. Ha ha, I can laugh now.

We were served rice and two mackerels, one sweet and one spicy, all pre packaged so, said Paul, it must be safe. First off, looking at the local rivers I don't think I want to eat any fish. I won't show you the actual mackerel or you'll think I needed my head examined for having eaten it, which I did. It was very spicy, the crunchy chunks of fish absolutely disgusting looking but I was hungry and I wanted it out of my way asap as I also feared the nasty brown fish sauce would spill on me --- the rickety tray tables looked ready to go --- and then I'd smell of fish all day. I'm writing this, oh 12 hours later so I guess my decision was ok, no signs of illness. Yet.

As to the scenery, which is one reason to take a train versus a plane, it was interesting for awhile. Leaving Chiang Mai one got occasional glimpses of the outlines of hills, the smog obscuring details. We saw lots of birds, rice paddys, fields of sugar cane, water buffalo, cows, fields of solar panels, temples everywhere, big hilltop buddhas, rice fields burned, and endless little villages.

We were awfully glad when we pulled into Bangkok, in the dark night, where we availed ourselves of the train station bathroom and then walked out into the car-packed streets where we made death-defying runs to cross, then to look for our curious little hotel. But that's a story for tomorrow.

The from-the-train photos kind of suck because they are taken through dirty reflect-y glass and the train is moving, albeit slowly, but I figure sometimes a crappy pic is better than none.

#8 train      
Special and Express are relative terms      
As you may have noticed by now all signage is in Thai and English. Based on my experience English really is the international language, which is good for me as it's all I know, save a little Spanish and French.
The #8 train      
It looks nice in the photos. Just don't sit down. And bring a jacket, the temp varies from frigid to warm.
#8 train      
Trees seen from train      
Distant hill      
View from train      
Mackeral, mackerel, and rice      
Seen here lunch looks, well, ok. Just don't open them.
View from train      
View from train

A river runs through it

February 21, 2019   Thursday
Bangkok   Thailand

Our Bangkok hotel, Loy La Long, is in a 100-year old house built on stilts over the Chao Phraya river, the wide wet highway that cuts through Bangkok. The hotel is tucked away behind a temple and has but six small rooms, each a different colour. Our room is the black room. Yes, black. Not my first choice but it was what was available. This is the second hotel we've stayed at with a black hotel room, the previous being in Lisbon. Can't say I recommend black as a colour scheme but I can live with it for a short while.

The Loy La Long is long on character but short on comforts, pretty much the opposite of Phra Singh Village in Chiang Mai. The building is a dark rambling structure where you are massaged by the sound of waves from the river which is splashing directly underneath the floor, just a meter or so below. In fact you can see water through the cracks between the floor boards. What with the eye-level river traffic and the sound of the waves my first thought on arrival was that we were on a boat. Weird, but you quickly get used to it.

View from our hotel room      
I try to post photos in chronological order and this one is from yesterday, it's the view from our hotel room that I saw upon checking in.
Loy La Long hotel      
The dark building is our hotel which is perched on stilts over the river, and behind it is --- guess what --- a wat (a Buddhist temple), the Wat Patumkonga Rachaworawiharn. You can't have too many wats.
Inside a orange-flag ferry      
We took a ferry four stops up river, to see the giant gold Buddha. The river ferries function like busses, carrying commuters to work and tourists to tourist sites. As you can see this ferry was standing room only.
Passenger minder      
This fellow ropes the ferry to the dock and blows a really shrill whistle an awful lot.
Giant Buddha at Wat Pho      
The giant gold Buddha is 46 meters long and 18 meters high and is surrounded so closely by columns that it's impossible to get a look at the whole thing which is probably the point. It's a popular draw, the room so packed it brought to mind the Sistine chapel, the difference being the Buddha's visitors are all barefoot.
You can't get a complete view of the Buddha. Perhaps this is a koan.
Toes of the Buddha      
I guess that rule about not showing the bottoms of your feet only applies to us non-Buddhas.
Dirty canal      
It's hard to discern in the photo but all the standing water I've seen in Thailand is dirty and full of trash.
Chinatown market      

This indoor food market in Bangkok's Chinatown goes for many blocks.

I'm pretty convinced that most everyone in Thailand spends their day either preparing food, selling food, or eating. Food is everywhere.

Campaign poster      
I've read that an election is coming and there are posters like this everywhere in Thailand. Of course I've no idea what the sign says.
Our hotel is located near the intersection of Chinatown and the place where metal things go to be reused. Here there are block after block of storefronts where men, and it's always men, are tearing apart metal engines/suspensions/transmissions/etc to I assume re-furbish and re-sell. It's noisy, dirty work and it flows out onto the sidewalks.
Relaxing on hotel deck      
It's the end of another day of being a tourist. We relaxed on the hotel's deck and watched the riverboats go by.

Escape from the sauna

February 22, 2019   Friday
Bangkok   Thailand

Bangkok is pretty f-ing hot and humid so to escape we did what seemingly half the population does, we went to the mall. I know what you're thinking, you've three days in exotic Bangkok and you're going to the mall. I'm thinking it too, in fact I hesitate to write it, and it really is something I would normally never do because I hate hate hate shopping. But a friend suggested it (thanks, Linda!) and it seemed a good idea. So after a leisurely breakfast on the hotel balcony we set off for the nearest metro station.

Half way between the Loy La Long hotel and the station we walked by the golden Buddha, which has an interesting backstory. It was encased in plaster and accidentally dropped, chipping the plaster which revealed the solid gold Buddha underneath. That the 3m tall plaster statue weighed 5 tons might have been a reveal, too. Upon the discovery a four-storey (!) marble building was constructed to hold the 3m statue. It is now a tourist attraction. Admission to see this Buddha isn't free of charge, though, so I've not visited as I don't want to pay any more money to see another Buddha. I've seen enough Buddhas. I have achieved Buddha satiation.

So we walked to the metro. Now walking in Bangkok is not bad, if anything it's sort of the complement to walking in Chiang Mai. Bangkok's sidewalks1 are wide and clean and in ship shape whereas Chiang Mai's2 range between crappy and non existent and what sidewalks exist are used as parking for the ubiquitous motor bikes and food vendors. Also you often find extension cords running to and fro on Chiang Mai's sidewalks because those food vendors need electricity.

So, kudos Bangkok. However, Chiang Mai lacks the many-laned streets of the far bigger city so you've a shorter distance to run for your life when crossing. Bottom line: in Thailand, cars rule.

Anyway, going to the mall gave us the opportunity to try out the Bangkok metro which works well though what's with each line3 having its own ticketing? The metro let us off at the MBK mall (over 2,000 stores), eight floors of claustrophobic hallways with stores grouped by type, like floor five has maybe a hundred cell phone and cell phone accessories stores, floor six is cameras plus ugly and torturously-uncomfortable furniture that makes your house resemble a faux palace. I kid you not. How one decides whom to buy from I've no idea. I need a new phone case for my trusty iPhone but faced with so many choices I just threw up my hands and left.

We left the MBK mall and crossed on an overhead walkway, thus avoiding the nasty task of crossing the street, to enter another mall and then after that mall we passed into a third mall next door and after that we walked into yet another mall next to that. The last three malls, I can't believe I am reviewing malls, the last three were far nicer than the first, more like the north American flavour, with the usual stores you see everywhere, in fact some appeared several times there is so much space dedicated to retail.

The malls were all packed with people, shopping and eating at the extensive food area. We didn't buy anything except lunch. The only items that interested me were yet another Fuji lens4 and a white Aston Martin (one floor featuring high-end car dealers) but the pricing wasn't tempting, Canada actually being cheaper for once, plus there's the problem of getting it home. And no I didn't really consider a $1m Aston.

1Of course I'm speaking for the infinitesimally small bit of Bangkok we've seen.

2We saw enough of Chiang Mai to make this broad statement.

3Actually there are only two ticketing systems for the four metro lines.

4One cannot have too many Fuji lenses.

Writing today's blog      
Me on the hotel deck working on the words you are now reading.
Breakfast at Loy La Long hotel      
The home of the golden Buddha      
Prohibited behaviours on Bangkok metro      
No Durians I understand but how am I expected to get my balloons home?
A mall      
Good enough for James (Bond)      
A mall      
Fireworks as seen from hotel      
Dinner cruise      
Just after sundown the river fills with brightly-coloured dinner boats cruising up and down the river. Most feature music so loud that I wasn't tempted to take a ride. I'd rather be on our hotel's deck.

Hits and misses

February 23, 2019   Saturday
Chiang Mai   Bangkok   Thailand

Our last day in Thailand.

Hits: The food, the food, the food. Bangkok's river. Phra Singh Village hotel in Chiang Mai. Loy La Long hotel in Bangkok. Chiang Mai street markets. Mango shakes. EVA airlines.

Misses: Too much Chiang Mai, not enough Bangkok. Too many temples. Maybe I should have gone to see some elephants.

In summary I liked Bangkok more than expected and Chiang Mai less. Chiang Mai is not an attractive town and it's a challenging place to walk which is a shame as it's sized right for walking and the temperatures are marginally more comfortable. Bangkok just looks cleaner, is more attractive, and is easier walking. If only it weren't so hot and humid.

Next stop, Ubud.

Buddha, Thailand National Museum

A boat ride to the museum

February 24, 2019   Sunday
Thailand   Bangkok

We arrived in Ubud mid-day today after a four-hour flight. Since I've blogged from Ubud previously I'll spare you more photos.

Ha ha, just kidding.

Just to wrap up Thailand I've a few photos from our last day in Bangkok when we took an orange-flag boat upriver to the Thailand National Museum. The boat ride costs less than a dollar and is well worth it though it can be crowded.

Starting the day with a tasty breakfast      
River port map      
To get to the Thailand National Museum we caught an orange flag boat at port 4, Marine, and got off at port 13, Phra Arthit. Most of the ports are on the eastern shore.
Orange flag boat      
The green boat is the type we took up and down the river. The river is quite busy with boats, vying for space at the ports and zipping in and out between each other. Many times a day you see a series of barges tied together, going up river, with a tug at front and a tug at the back. I can't tell what's being carried in them as they are covered.
Orange flag boat      
You jump on and off the boat from the back. You have to be ready and you have to be fast, the boat doesn't spend much time at port.
The boats tend to be crowded      
Close call      
The river is packed with boats, especially around the tourist sites. I thought for a moment this catamaran was heading for our boat and was going to hit us but they know what they are doing, they are out every day dashing between the many ports.
Tying to the dock      
The deck hands are busy, jumping between boat and dock, tying up, then releasing the boat the second the passengers are transferred. It happens very fast so you have to be ready to jump on board.
Busy port      
At some of the ports there are many boats competing for dock access, honking horns to speed everyone up.
A looong boat      
A squareish boat      
The shape of this boat brings to mind my Kitchenaide mixer.
Pagoda boat      
Refreshing cold mango drink      
These icy mango drinks bring on a quick bout of brain freeze but they sure are delicious. I only wish there were an alternative to the one-use plastic cup and straw.
Monks photographing fan display      
While we explored the Thailand National Museum I caught these two photographing a display of historic fans. Note their bare feet; many of the museum's rooms require visitors to leave shoes at the door, just like at the temples, so wear something easy to slip off.
Checking out the museum      
I didn't see as many monks as I expected, perhaps because I wasn't up early enough to witness them out receiving their food donations.