Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pictures From Thailand Travel

These are selected from my photos from the first half of vacation, as I traveled through southern and then northern Thailand. They are in chronological order. I will add a little bit of commentary to locate  and identify each. I will leave them all on the medium size for loading and you can always double click them to enlarge them. It is only a smattering, but hopefully it will supplement the dashed entries I managed to write earlier.

 This is the large city park near the Northern Bus Terminal. It was 6 am and I was walking to catch the train to the south to join my scuba team, after a 2 hour bus wait and a twelve hour bus ride to BKK. Really a lovely park and a lovely morning. Quiet and mostly to myself since it just opened.  I can't imagine a walkway like this across the water surviving US Liability laws.
I might have had the park to myself, but not the skytrain. They open at 6 am and that means a packed rush hour mob. The skytrain is cheap and clean and efficient. What I didn't know was that I could have transferred and taken the underground metro directly to the train station.
 Here are one of two sign translation fails from the bus and skytrain terminals. There is also a store called "Book Smile".
 Here is the second one. I am not sure the Thais really want to have "suck sess", though it clearly has invigorated those three youngsters on the left.

 Well, with walking and getting lost I managed to miss the early train and so ended up taking another bus across BKK to the Southern Bus Terminal which, after another ten hours, landed me in Surat Thani on the Gulf of Thailand, another series of effing misdirections, and meeting and joining my buds on the bus East two hours to the other side to the Andaman Sea, the site of our dive aspirations.
 Above is the scenery on that eastward bus trip. It involved passing through a beautiful mountainous region which included the national jungle wilderness area Khao Sok. I wanted to visit it, but apparently car was the best mode of transport, and then the flooding rains had arrived and I bailed up north.
 This is some of the Thai crew that manned our live aboard scuba diveboat. The head cook is in the background and her helper is to the right. The young man on the compressor was one of three young crew. All very competent and friendly people. It was nice to see that we were helping support local families. It bothered me that none of our divemasters, 4, were Thai. They were all terrific, but I thought they should be doing more to bring locals into the underwater and management side- especially if they want the reefs to be valued and protected for their beauty. It is a complicated issue, but I loved diving in Mexico and having everyone being Mexican.
 Here is Zach on the first morning being woken up to do the pre-breakfast dive. We had steamed all night to arrive and some of the passage was fairly rolling. We had at least two customers talking to the porcelain god. My Japanese cabin mate did not sleep a wink. Happy to report my stomach and sleep were quite good. I actually found the motion of the boat and the throb of the engines comforting, oddly.
 This is, Akshat, one of three friends from Mumbai. He is phenomenally bright and interesting, working with his family business but trained as an aerospace engineer. He has a wife getting a ph'd in biochemistry at OSU. There just wasn't enough time to really talk to all our fellow passengers, which was too bad since I know I could have been very good friends with a number of them.
 Ladies and ladyboys, here is your gratuitous beefcake shot of Ben, getting geared up. When this all started, I thought it was going to be Ben and I diving. He of course became immediately addicted and in his usual manner, made every discovery that much better thanks to his enthusiasm and fearlessness.
 This is our captain. Couldn't find a better man at handling a boat. He was the husband of the head cook. He was calm and always in full control. He was also working in the younger guys into handling the boat.
 This is the scene we went through 4 times each day. That is a couple from Austria. They were really adorable and sweet in the way they looked after each other. They were also highly experienced divers.
 This was the approach to Ko Ta Chai. Beautiful. And that was typical of the cloudy skies we had for four days.
 The groups were divided up since two groups were taking an advance course they only had 3. The other two groups were 5 divers and one divemaster. I think our group was the most enthusiastic. Robin, our Swedish divemaster in the red on the far left, was perfect for our group- he was funny and relaxed, but when he needed to be he reigned us in- or I should say me and Zach in since we tended to stray the most. In spite of the whiskey and beer in the photo, we drank very little on the trip. We were frankly too tired at night and we always knew there was going to be a 6am wake up and suit up call.
 Here is almost everyone. Missing our gorgeous lead diver from England, Alex, and the captain, and another dive master, Lott, who was Robin's girlfriend.
 This is the movie theater in BKK where I headed after diving. As usual I had no idea what I was doing when I bought the ticket, not realizing it was in the super exclusive theater. $20! I probably would not have bought it had I known there were other options more in the 10$ range, but once I was there it was awfully nice. This was in the exclusive Paragon Mall which I spoke about in an earlier post.
 I came out into the lobby into some kind of major red carpet opening. There were movie stars and directors everywhere, as well as free food and beer. Or at least in my ignorance, I thought it was free. So in the end if I count that in I didn't do too badly. The movie stars, like movie stars everywhere, were somehow beyond normal, like some kind of superalive species. Stunning, obviously, but ineffably more than that too.
 Below is the view from my bed in BKK, at the Hi Sumvarit Hostel. I suppose it is the opposite end of the spectrum from the movie theater. And in fact 24 hours here cost me half what 2 hours cost me at the paragon. The youth hostel was interesting, filled with an odd collection of travelers. I first managed to stumble into the all women dorm, then I was politely ushered on here. My bunkmates included a custodian from a Michigan high school on his 9th trip to Thailand.
 I finally realized my train desires on the diesel express from BKK to Pitsanoluk, almost dead center of the country.  I love trains, walking around and listening to the rumble of the steel wheels. The scenery was much more lush than in Isan and finally I saw the bird life I was missing. It was also suddenly much less white and touristy, for which I was grateful.
 Pitsanoluk was supposed to be just a train station to get me to the historical ruins in Sukho Thai, but I found it to be a lovely town, and it had several interesting wats and of course some great food.
 Among its attractions is perhaps the second most famous buddha statue in all of Thailand, so I felt very fortunate to see it.
 Each city seemed to have its own take on the tuk tuk and this was Pitsanulok's. The combination of riding up front and the steering process made these wonderful from the passenger point of view.. Not sure how great they would be in a rainstorm.
 Speaking of great food, this was possibly the best meal of my trip, fresh fish caught locally with a very peppery broth. $2.50 including the cold Chang.
 And here is the world famous chef who created it. Rachel Ray, kiss my ass. You aren't fit to clean this woman's feet.
 Finally arrived Sukothai. That was two days of pure bliss. I rented a bike and toured all the available ruins. The weather was finally sunny, the park vast and quiet and lovely, the ruins, tranquil and sould refreshing. Best of all? The total lack of crowds and noise and commercialism.
 I was alone at this famous site for nearly 25 minutes before someone came along to snap a photo with me in it.
 A nice French couple took this one of me in front of the chedi with the elephants. How cool is this monument? It positively radiates a culture at peace.
 I would love to generate a very private list of places as sacred and substantial and unheralded as ST. One would have to promise not to publish a guide or the list since that would eventually lead to their Disneyfication. Any candidates for the list?

 Here is the nightly laundry routine. Hand wash in the sink and then fan dry. This room was $6 in ST. I learned so much again about packing and traveling light. I could not fathom why I dragged some of the silly things I did.
 From ST I headed up to Chiang Mai, perhaps the most famous university town in Thailand. I wanted to hit it before the onslaught of the Thai New Year's celebration, when all the 20 somethings flock from East and West to celebrate. I wanted to dislike CM because of it's reputation as hip, but it resisted my scorn and I ended up have a very nice time there. There were some fantastic wats, lots of interesting little alleyways, a few very well stocked bookstores, and a lot of diverse food. I broke down and had an almost good burrito at a great little dive called el diablo. I mean, it might not quite cut it in Pueblo Colorado or Austin Texas, but under the circumstances it was excellent.
 Outside of the old city walls, CM is another concrete Thai city, bustling and noisy. I rented a large motorcycle (Kawasaki 650) and headed up to the hippy mountain town, Pai. Being set free for the first time to go as fast and far as I wanted was exquisite. My first stop was this waterfall.
 The Thais love waterfalls and it is a destination for many trips the way a mountain top might be for Americans.
 The road was twisty, the bike phenomenal. I want to come back someday and spend months doing nothing but traveling on one.
 In Pai I had my first dark beer in 6 months. It was waaaaaay toooo gooood. Then it was back to Chaing Mai, the train down south back to Pitsanoluk to catch my bus east. As I was walking I came across this wonderful scene, and I thought of Monica and all the hard work she is doing trying to keep classical music alive back in cold and still snowy Maine.
24 hours later I was back in NKP, seeing my friends there, doing my laundry, eating squid salad again in my favorite haunts, and regrouping for a quick dash to Cambodia.


  1. Peter, Thanks for the visuals - like following a crumb trail dropped along your travels. I can really feel the wind in your hair when you got that motorbike- I'm feeling very restricted being so pedestrian for so long. And that dark beer! I was going to show Abe your blog but now I don't think I can.

  2. Nice trip! I would appreciate a copy of that list once it is fleshed out. I still hope to get out and about someday.