Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blog questions

For anyone out there that reads my blog and blogs themselves, I need some blog help.  The upload video icon no longer appears when I do a post but I see other bloggers still posting videos.   How do I now upload a video??  Also any ideas on where the spell checker went, everyone knows I really can't spell. : )  Thanks!!!

The last few days

The last few days have been a total whirlwind of travel!  On Wednesday Alex and I flew from Chang Mai back down to Bangkok.  We had planned to spend our last three days in Thailand there but once we got off the plane we changed our minds.  People started hasseling us and we just looked at each other and quickly decided that we were just to tired for the hassel.  So.... we went and got on a bus and four hours later we got on a ferry and one hour later we were in the back of pick up truck bumping down a crazy scary road to our beach side vila!!  The island we went to wasn't one of Thailand's best but it was reachable from Bangkok and we had a great little bungalow with AC and a bath right near the beach for only $40.  

We had a great time at the beach on thursday and then friday it rained like I have never seen it rain.  We had to ride back to the ferry in the back of the pick up in the rain and then had to do the ferry in the rain.  Oh the joys of travel.  The bus ride should have only been about 3.5 hours but their was a big accident and so with traffic it took us 6 hours. 

When we finally arrived back in Bangkok friday night we decided to splurge and stayed at a fancy (by Thai standards) hotel at the airport.  It was AMAZING!  I took a hot bath and the bed was so gloriously clean and soft!  We really enjoyed the nice hotel, it was a great end to the trip.  We had to get up at 3am to catch our (in total) 22 hours worth of flights back to Denver.  We had a great trip but I have to admit that I am glad to be home, and bree (our cat) was super glad to have us back!

Below are some pictures of our last few days in Thailand.

Our little bungalow on Ko Samet

One of the many little coves on the island.

Alex had a blast climbing and playing amongst the rocks.

Our last night on the island Alex got to pick his fish - he could choose from shark (upper left), grouper, squid, huge prawns and many other kinds of freshly caught fish.  He chose the grouper.

One thing I love about going to other countries is looking at their chip flavors.  They are always so different from ours.  Here you can buy flavors like wasabi and grilled shrimp amongst the normal flavors. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the passing of a beloved monk

Alex and I got to experience something truly special while here in Thailand.   One of the country's most beloved Monk past away about three months ago.  Over the past three months they (his main temple) has been building out of wood and paper a giant cremation structure for his cremation ceremony.  I posted pictures of it a few days back.  Apparently the Monk's body was mummified in order to await the ceremony that was performed this past Monday night.  Buddhist ceremonies are open to the public here so we attended the amazing event.

The ceremony started with what I believe was prayers and songs.  I think at least, we don't speak Thai so I had to guess what was going on by observing the actions of the Thai's around me.  During this the head and truck of the elephant structure swung from side to side while the wings of the structure flapped.  Then it happened, complete silence and not a movement in the crowd.....   Smoke started to come from under the wings of the structure and this was the ashes of the monk who had just been cremated inside the structure.  After another prayer amazing fireworks were set off for about 15 minutes.  Then the entire structure was set a blaze and burned to the grown. The emotion amongst the crowd was very celebratory and of great joy and respect for the Monk.

All I could think was, man .... what a way to go.  I believe that death is just a transition and why not celebrate it with fireworks instead of tears.  It was an amazing experience.  Taking pictures was difficult but I did get a few. 

The structure during the Ceremony and before the cremation.

The structure at the end of the entire ceremony.

Small shrine to the Monk.

The Elephants

 Alex and I finally made it to the elephant conservatory.  It was an absolutely amazing experience!  The conservatory and hospital is one of the only one in the world.  They take care of sick elephants for free.
We spent the day basically feeding, petting and playing with the elephants.

 Alex tell's the elephant to be patient and wait for the banana.

This elephant is 2 years old and was an orphan and has elephant rickets because he didn't get enough calcium since he didn't have any of him mom's milk.  He  really liked sniffing Alex's head.  

 This baby is 15 months old and she really wanted to play.  She climbed up on fence and I was afraid she was going to fall onto me.  At one point she almost knocked me over because she was pushing so hard up against me. 

This is the same 15month old that Alex just had a blast playing with. At one point she tried to eat Alex's shirt but Alex was able to eventually pull it back out of her mouth.  We feed her a bunch of banans too.  

This is the above baby's mama.  She is 27 years old and really loved the bananas I had. 

I am giving a Banana to yet another great elephant.  

They did a show with all of the elephants show us how strong they are the thing they can do.  Afterward, school kids feed them all sugar cane and bananas.  Alex got jealous of the  kids and he had to feed the elephants too. 

Alex gives a very big elephant a hug!

During the "show" the elephants painted for us.  They had a little bit of direction from the trainers as far as brush placement but they made the strokes on their own.  It was actually really amazing!!!

Bath time.  It was a lot of fun watching them play in the water.


   Bath time.

 I was giving this big boy some trunk loving.
Little 7 month old baby elephant.

It must be nice to be king.

Yesterday alex and got up super early to go to this great elephant conservatory about 2 hours from Chang Mai.  It is really hard to get to so we sucked up the cost and hirred a private taxi to take us.  We drove all the way there only to find out that the kind and queen of thailand were there that day and so no other visitors could go in!!  Ugh! So we then had to decide.... skip the beach and go back to the elephants tomorrow or go to the beach.  It was a very tough decision but we choose to wait and see the elephants.  This is the only conservation park and hospital of its size in the world and we really wanted to go. 

So what is one to do when you are "templed out" and you have a day to spend in Chang Mai.  Go to the spa of course!  For a mere 30 bucks I had a full afternoon of papering.  It started off with a full body - and when I say full body I mean every body part, yikes - herbal scrub.  After I looked like I had been dipped in yellow curry I showered and returned to the table for an hour long Thai massage with lavender oil.  How does one say HEAVEN in Thai?  After cleaning up the oil, I had a long fascial with head massage.  Glorious!!!  While I was having all of this done Alex got a 2.5 hour herbal massage for 15 bucks.  I love Thailand!!!

After our massage we got to experience something truly special.  If you read my previous blog about the monk that died then you know that his public cremation ceremony was last night and we went.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  I will post a full post about it with pictures and video when I have time to do it justice.  Lets just say it was extremely moving and full of smoke, fireworks and fire.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

travels update

So when I left you last  Alex and I were i the town of LopBuri playing with wild monkey's.  The day we left LopBuri their was a giant parade to honor the temple in town.  There were hundreds of school children marching through the town in amazing dress.  I took a picture of the girl below, with her permission of course while we were waiting for our train.

 Isn't that a great outfit?!?

On Friday morning we boarded an "express" train to Chang Mai.  It was one of the nicest trains they have but still pretty old and man did it go slow!!  It took us well over 10 hours to get to Chang Mai but we enjoyed just sitting back in the AC and watching the countryside go buy. 

Rice Fields

As we got further north it got much more tropical.  More rice fields.


It starts to get mountainous near Chang Mai - the mountains around Chang Mai remind me a lot of the smokey mountains in NC.

Alex and I really like the city of Chang Mai.  It is a walled city and has a good tourist infrastructure.  There are over 300 Wats (temples) within the city. 

There are no true addresses in Thailand, only directions to places based on streets.  This town has the prettiest street signs I have ever seen!  That being said though, it is still hard to find your way around. 

Oh, the glorious toilets of Thailand.  You use the water in the bucket next to the toilet to flush.  And the sides that you step up on can get really slippery so be careful, this is NOT a place you want to fall!

We saw what seemed like a gazillon wats yesterday!  One of the bigger one has a large university associated with it and they were about to have a very large event.  We found out later that the event was to honor a monk who had just died and the "celebration" was his public cremation.
Now what to make of this?  It has an elephant head and the body of a duck and the body of the monk who just passed is on the back of this creature waiting in 95 degree heat to be cremated tonight.  I don't think you can see the casket in this picture but trust me.... it was there.   Different cultures are so fascinating!

Monks paying respect to the departed Monk.

After a long day of "wating" in the heat Alex and I went for a message.  Best $6 we have spent so far. 

Alex drinking Tea in his sexy message outfit before our message.

This is my favorite Wat we have seen yet.  It is "newish" and is build completely out of SILVER!  It was absolutely spectacular.  The picture does not do it justice. 

 The inside of the temple was covered in the most amazing reliefs, again all in silver.

Mural inside the Temple.

Last night Alex and I spent the evening at a temple sitting and discussing Buddhism with a group of Monks. It was absolutely fascinating.  We spent hours asking them questions and listening to their explanations.  We learned that the Buddhism here in Thailand is very mixed with many of the beliefs of Hinduism and that is why we see people giving offering and why many of the Wats look the way they do.  After several hours of "chatting" we had a private meditation lesson from two of the monks.  It was great, I can't say that I understood everything, but we learned a lot and had a great time!

Oh, and have I mentioned that they drive on the left over here.  I get whiplash crossing the crazy streets as I always look the wrong way first step out and then look the correct direction only to see that I have just stepped out in front of 20 fast moving motorbikes!  Yikes.  

We are taking the day off from doing much of anything today.  The heat was really getting to Alex and I am just exhausted and needed a break from all the walking.  So its 3pm here and Alex is still sleeping and I am blogging in a little cafe watching people walk by on the street.  What a vacation!  Tonight we plan to go to the big market they have here.  There isn't a lot stuff worth buying though, just lots of cheep, I mean really cheep stuff from china that is not worth bringing home.  Tomorrow we are going to go to a place in the mountain that cares for sick elephants and hopefully "help" them care for the elephants.  I am sure it will be touristy but fun I hope.  Then the next day we plan to fly or take and overnight train down to southern Thailand and relax on the beach for awhile. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where to start?

So where did I last leave off...   I think in my last post I was in Bangkok.  We went to an amazing flower market.  The market started at night so the flowers won't die in the heat and people buy and ship them all over the world.  I loved the stacks of irises and orchids!  The whole market was AMAZING!!  It was probably my favorite thing so far!

These bundles of roses sell for 30 bot - that is about $1 for 3 dozen roses!! 

Yesterday was Alex and I's third wedding aniversary.  We decided to splurg and get a $18 dollar room in Ayuthaya.  We got what we thought was a great deal on a beautiful room until we figured out that there was no running water in the bathroom.  UGH!!  In the heat of Thailand, a shower is a must!

The room we almost had.  I won't post a picture of where we ended up as it was very very plain but did have water. 

After Bangkok, alex and I headed north to the town of Ayuthaya. It has lots of neat ruins and was a very cute town to wonder through. 

View of some of the ruins from afar.

They give elephant rides around the Ruins.  How cool!!  We didn't do it.  It really didn't look that comfotable and they were very smelly!

Some of the Ruins up close. 

After a very hot afternoon of wandering the ruins of Ayuthaya we cooled down in our airconditioned room and then headed to the night marked for dinner.

Grilled Calamari anyone?

Today we headed, via a very crowded local train, up to the small town of LopBuri.  It is famous because the town has several very large troops of wild monkeys.  They roam the streets and live like kings at some of the ancient ruins.  We had a lot of fun playing with them.

This monkey was trying to take Alex's water bottle.  He put up quite a fight for it.  Earlier, alex got to close to one and it jumped on his shoulder. I tried really hard not to touch them as I don't think they were the cleanest things.

I was trying to pose for a picture next to this Buddha, all covered in Monkeys,  when small baby monkeys kept trying to climb up my legs and jump on me.  In this picture I am tell them who is boss.

Agghhh, it's good to be the Alpha!

Life as a monkey in LopBuri is such hard work.

After our visits to the large Monkey clan we walked through the Day Market.  I love watching people buy and sell stuff in these market and looking at all the strange stuff you can buy.  We found this one spot that had lots of live seafood for sale. 

Fresh live Eel anyone?

Alex bought some dried fish as a snack,  yummm!!!  

We visited a monistery and while I was meditating in front of the Buddha Alex sat enjoying his dried fish.  When I came back out, this is what I found..... Alex surrounded by a pack of wild dogs.   Apparently he gave the skin of the fish to the dogs. 

Well, I have tons of pictures I would love to post but they are going to have to wait.  The computer has already crashed once while posting this and I can't stand to wait while I do it all over again.  I will post again when I get time, hope everyone back home is well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Pics and Day # 2

So it is 4pm in Bangkok which makes it 4AM in Colorado.  Alex is in our room taking a nap, but I was afraid if I laid down again I wouldn't get up till tomorrow.  I didn't want a repeat of last night so I decided to go blog. 

Today was fun.   Bangkok has a HUGE Chinese population so we spent most of the day wandering through Chinatown and neighbouring "india - town".  We also wandered through a several of the many markets here  in Bangkok.  Oh, and of course we went and got another message at the end of the day.  We are planning to go to this really neat night flower market tonight, if I can stay awake.  : ) 

Below are a few more pictures from yesterday and today:

Typical street food spread.  Yum!

Inside the Grand Palace

Ornaments on the side one of the many temples in the Grand Palace.   (I am so glad I brought my "real" camera - it is totaly worth the weight of carring it!)

The lotus buds/flowers are amazing!

The reclining Buddha.  It was huge, I couldn't fit the feet in the picture.

Me being silly at the Grand Palace

I had eggs, toast, tea and fresh squeezed pineapple juice for 2 dollars for breakfast.  Alex.... He had fish from a street vendor for less than 50 cents.  Oh the options! 


I took tons of cool pictures of the strange food and market stuff in Chinatown but I don't have enough time left on this computer to upload them.  It will have to wait for another day, plus...I need to go wake alex up and go to dinner.... Pad Thai anyone?

Check back latter, we are getting the heck out of Bangkok tomorrow and headed north!  Yippee, the smog and hastle will be behind us.