August 2002 Archives

The Top of Siam: Doi Inthanon

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On the bus ride to Chiang Mai, Champ offered to let me stay with him at his friend's apartment. The following day, he said, we could go visit another friend of his at Doi Inthanon State Park, and stay there one night.

It turned out to be a great idea. The last time I visited Chiang Mai, I explored most of the old part of the once-walled city. This time, however, Champ took me to two old temples just outside of the old section of town that I had not seen. They were both beautiful. One of them has caves underneath the huge chedi, and one has a New Orleans cemetery look with the remains of the Kings of Chiang Mai.

We stayed overnight with Champ's friend near Chiang Mai University, and the next morning headed to Doi Intanon, home of Thailand's tallest mountain. Another one of his friends works in the Forestry Department there. The friend met our bus and showed us around a bit. This morning, we woke up early and headed to the top of the mountain. I never thought that I would ever be cold outside in Thailand, but I was this morning! The top of the mountain is cold, windy, and foggy. If I would have closed my eyes, I would have thought I was climbing Twin Peaks in San Francisco. But then I would have opened them and seen a lush green alpine jungle, and I would have realized that I was on the other side of the world.

On the way down, we stopped at a few waterfalls. After all of that hiking, Champ and I headed back to Chiang Mai. I showered at his friend's place, and took leave of him, thanking him for his excellent hospitality. Now I am heading to dinner with my friend Tu, who gave me a tour of Lampang last year.

Time Change

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As you might be able to tell from the entries below (or the fact that I haven't replied to an email you sent a while back! :) we have been staying very busy here in Chiang Rai. Just today I have started going through my backlog of emails, and have been able to enter my journal for the last few days.

I also just changed the official time clock on this site to the correct time zone. All posts before this one have Pacific time. For example, the one right before this was done a half hour ago... in the morning in SF. But it is really night time, as the time stamp on this entry shows. So, from now on, the time stamps will be more accurate. Whew.

After visiting the Golden Triangle, Isara and I headed back to Mae Sai, and then went 30 km in the other direction to Doi Tung (Tung Mountain), where we saw an extremely old temple and the Grandmother Princess' Royal Villa and Gardens.

The trip up the mountain was perhaps the most exciting part. The road was in good condition, but it was perhaps the steepest, narrowest "two-lane" road I have ever been on. There were several times when we weren't sure if the motorcycle was going to make it up the hill!

The views, though, were amazing. The road runs parallell to the Thai / Myanmar border. I would think that illegally crossing the border here would be next to impossible considering the jungle and the steep hills, but we passed through several police checkpoints in any case. Speaking of illegal crossings, the first night we checked into our guesthouse bungalow, we had a great time watching people cross the fast-flowing Mae Sai River from Thailand to Myanmar and back in intertubes, just around the bend from a watchful police station.

Today, Isara took the bus home to Phan to prepare for his move to Bangkok later this week. After I dropped him off at the bus station, I continued on the motorcycle, exploring the countryside and visiting hilltribe villages on my own. Tonight I will spend my last night in Chiang Rai and take the bus to visit friends in Chiang Mai tomorrow. My friend Champ from Chiang Rai will be joining me, as he has friends in Chiang Mai as well, so at least I will have company on the 3 hour bus ride.

Golden Triangle

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The past few days have been spent in Mae Sai, on the Thai / Myanmar (Burma) border. The border crossing is closed now, so we have stayed on the Thai side. There has been plenty to do here.

We arrived the afternoon of the first day, found a guest house right next to the Mae Sai River (with Myanmar on the other side) and rented a motorcycle. The next day we rode the motorcycle about 30 km to Chaeng Saen, also known as the Golden Triangle. Here, the Mae Sai River meets the Mekong River, and the countries of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos touch. Chiang Seng is one of the oldest cities in Thailand, and so we visited a few temples, one of which was built in the 10th century and on from the 13th century.

We were also hoping to visit the Chiang Saen National Museum. Isara remebered it from a high school field trip, saying that it was full of artifacts and information on the Golden Triangle's 1000 year history. Unfortunately, it was closed, so instead we went to the Opium Museum to learn about the Golden Triangle's infamous illegal opium production. Thailand has done a pretty good job of stopping its people (hilltribes, mostly) from growing and harvesting poppies, but apparently it is still produced in large quanties in Myanmar and Laos. In any case, the Opium Museum was a very educational trip through the facts and history of opium in this part of the world.

Handicrafts, hot springs, and fruit

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We have been taking it relatively easy in Chiang Rai today, after yesterday's full schedule. On the way back to Phan we stopped by a traditional Thai handicrafts store to check out their collection of ceramics, thai silk, woodcarvings, etc, and we also stopped at some hot springs.

Later in the day we rode the motorbike out to Isara's family farm, in the foothills of the nearby mountains. There we enjoyed the fresh longan (fruit) and corn on the cob that we had bought in the market in town.

Tomorrow we head to Mae Sai for a couple of days. This area is Thailand's northern-most point, and is also known as the Golden Triangle, for it is the border betweeen Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma).

After spending the night in a cheap but decent guest house, and having French Toast and coffee for breakfast (how Thai!), Isara and I went to his college to pick up his transcript. At the college we took a walk around the gardens named after the King's Mother. It was a beautiful terraced garden with lots of trees and flowering bushes surrounding a big lake, and a statue of the park's namesake.

This is all fine and good, but I have to admit I have a problem here. In various literature and conversations, I have heard the nickname of the King's Mother as "Grandmother Princess", "Grandmother Prince's", and "Prince's Mother". I have no idea which is correct. But at least I do know it was a nice park.

On the way back to Phan from Chiang Rai, we stopped by a brand new white and silver temple called Wat Rong Khon that is being designed and built by a famous Thai artist named Master Charlermchai Kositpipat. Its modern, yet classical style was quite impressive.

We then rode the motorcycle to Doi Luang National Park, where we rented a tent for the night. We had the campground to ourselves, since the idea of camping out during the rainy season is an unpopular one (if not downright strange!). Sure enough, it rained most of the night, but we stayed dry in the tent. When the rain stopped in the morning, we hiked about 1 km to see the Pa Keng waterfalls. There are 9 waterfalls in all -- each unique in size and shape. Needless to say I took a lot of pictures here.

After bathing in the falls, we hiked back along the very slippery and steep trail. We then took the motorcyle to another hillside temple, then to the town of Phayao on the lake for dinner.

After dinner we traveled north through Phan and back to Chiang Rai, where we visited the Night Bazaar again (no rain this time) and went to a few nightclubs to sample the night life of a medium-sized northern Thai town. We spent the night in Chaing Rai again, this time at a different cheap (yet still decent) guesthouse.

Overnight Bus to Phan

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At 5 AM this morning I found myself dropped off by the side of the road at hok yak phan or the "Big Junction in Phan, Thailand" (Actually it's translated as "Six Intersections in Phan", or where 6 roads meet at one point). Isara arrived on his motorcycle a few minutes later and picked me up. We headed back to his house, and I took a much needed nap after not sleeping very much on the 9 hour overnight bus ride.

Once I woke up, we took a motorcycle ride around his home village of Phan, and then rode a bus north for an hour to the city of Chaing Rai. We spent the day visiting several old temples, including the original home of the Emerald Buddha that is now housed in Bangkok. Tonight we ate another delicious, cheap Thai meal and watched Thai dancing and listened to Thai music. We were going to watch Men in Black II, but then realized it was dubbed in Thai. No thanks! So we had Swenson's ice cream instead.

We are spending the night here, and going to visit more temples and a few waterfalls tomorrow...

Jomtien Photos Added

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I just uploaded a few pics from our overnight trip Jomtien last week to the Pictures of Pattaya Photo Album.

Mellow Bangkok Days

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The last few days have been pretty mellow here in Bangkok. I have been looking around a bit for apartments. Small studios go for about $300 and one bedrooms for $400. So far I haven't really found anything that I love.

Ever since I have been in Thailand I have also been looking for a pool to practice in, and today I finally found one. It's a nice 50 M pool at National Stadium, right by the Skytrain. They were holding an age-group meet there today, but I will be sure to swim there soon.

Tomorrow night I am taking an 11 hour overnight bus to Chaing Rai, Thailand's northern-most province. I am meeting my friend Isara in Phan, and traveling around with him a bit. We are planning on going camping, hiking, and waterfall visiting in the national park there. Even though I am starting to settle into life in Bangkok, it will be nice to get some fresh air and see the countryside.

And yes, for those who have been nagging... errr... worrying about me, I DO have my malaria prevention pills now! :)

Angkor Wat Photos are posted

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I finally posted my favorite photos from last week's trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

I have been able to make a few changes to the look and feel of the site, and the navigation, but I feel like I still have a long way to go, so please bear with me. I thought you might like to see the pics I have posted in the meantime, though. Let me know what you think about them.

Life in Bangkok is still good. I started looking for apartments today, and hope to start my job hunt next week. I am also starting to plan a trip to Northern Thailand -- to Chaing Mai and Chaing Rai sometime later this month.

Mark is leaving

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Today is a sad day for me, as my friend Mark is heading back to San Francisco. We have had a great time hanging out the past two weeks (I can't believe two weeks have gone by already!). You never know if your friends are good travel companions until you actually go on a trip together, but we got along really well.

I am really going to miss him.

A return to Pattaya

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The last two days were spent in Pattaya a small beach town a few hours from Bangkok (well, we were actually in Jomtien, just east of Pattaya). Mark and Petak drove down Wednesday morning, and Mag and I took the bus to join them later that afternoon.

I was a little hesitant to go to Pattaya again. Manop and I spent a night there last November, and it was perhaps my least favorite place in all of Thailand. The beach was very crowded (mostly European tourists) and the water was dirty.

This time, however, I actually had a great time. It appears that the town has been working hard to improve its image. They are building a wide brick walkway along the beach and have planted hundreds of trees. The chairs and umbrellas for rent are still there, but it seemed to me that the people renting the chairs were trying a lot harder to keep things clean. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone sweeping a beach, or smoothing out the sand.

It also helped that we were there on a Wednesday during the rainy season. In any case, I surprisingly had a relaxing time there, and hope to go back again sometime.

After a 30 minute flight and a 30 minute line for the Cambodian visa at Siem Reap International Airport, Mark and I were on the backs of motorcycles headed for our hotel. Right away we could see that a great revitalization was going on -- everyone seemed to be working on building construction. Most of the new buildings were hotels that lined the road from the airport to the "downtown". In fact, it seemed as if every single building that we saw was built in the last two years. We later learned that our observations were correct.

Our motorcycle drivers offered to show us around the ruins at Angkor Wat for $7 for the day, so we took them up on it. It turned out to be a wise decision, as the same two guys drove us around for the next 3 days.

The entire rest of the day was spent climbing over the ruins of temples from the 11th - 13th century. Mark and I tried to think of what one word would describe what we saw: Unbelievable. Awesome. Fantastic. Phenomenal. We finally decided on "Un-imaginable". The shear scale (in number and size) of the ruins were mind-boggling. It was without a doubt one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

That night we went to bed early, tired from scrambling over huge carved boulders, with anticipation of seeing the actual "Angkor Wat" the next day.

On the second day in Cambodia, Mark and I slept in, even though we had gone to bed early the night before. Our motorcycle drivers from the day before were waiting in front of the hotel when we stepped outside. The agenda for the day was to take a 35 km ride through the countryside to see the "River of a Thousand Lingas" with some waterfalls and stone carvings, and then to head back to see Angkor Wat itself.

The 30 km ride took us an hour and a half, as the road turned from a paved one-laner to a potholed clay one-laner. Again, words failed us as we tried to think about how to describe what we saw. Grass huts on stilts lined the road, naked babies played in the clay mud at the side, men bathed in their sarongs from a big cement container in their front yard, chickens, pigs, water buffalo, fields of rice as far as the eye could see, tuk-tuks and trucks and bikes and motorcycles and tourist busses all making their way down the narrow road.

When we finally got off the motorcycles, our drivers explained to us how the road we had been on continued on north to the Thailand border, and as few as 3 years ago was controlled by the Khmer Rouge and was a dangerous journey if not outright impossible. But now the people are free to move about as they wish. They went on to tell us that as few as 6 months ago, wild tigers roamed the mountain jungle we were about to hike through. But now that the mountain was open again to the public, the tigers were gone.

An uneventful 20 minute hike brought us to the waterfalls. The waterfalls were not that impressive themselves, but what was impressive was that the entire creek bed and the rocks around it were carved with Hindu figures from the same time period as the temples of Angkor. In the river bed iteslf, thousands of lingas had been carved (hence the name of the river). Again, the attention to detail and the beauty of the reliefs in the natural setting was overwhelming. The fact that no one was allowed to see them until only 6 months ago added to the thrill.

On the way back to town, we stopped at a small temple called Bantay Srei, and then went to Angkor Wat itself. It is billed as the largest temple in the world, and I believe it. Again, words failed us as we climbed the extremely steep and extrememly old carved stone staircases to the top. Un-imaginable. Phenomenal.

That night our motorcycle drivers took us to a Cambodian restaurant and left for the night. We walked back through town as motorcycles flew by and tuk-tuks pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. Ahhh, Siem Reap: small but loud. Chaotic and dusty. Struggling to build and repair and turn itself into one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world overnight.

Our third and final day in Siem Reap started early. We had a 1 PM plane to catch, and we wanted to see as much as we could. Our drivers picked us up at the hotel and we headed in the opposite direction from Angkor to a floating village. Siem Reap is near the largest lake in SE Asia, called Tonle Sap. Every year during the rainy season, the lake doubles in size. Since the rainy season had just started, the lake had begun its annual rise.

We turned of the main road onto a dirt road, and near where the road disappeared into the rising lake, we got off the motorcyles and boarded a long-tail boat. We were accompanied by a crew made up of a Cambodian guy, his little brother, and the brother's friend. For the next hour or so we traveled down a stream that was flanked on both sides by house boats. We watched as Cambodians on the left and Vietnamese on the right went about their daily life. Some were fishing, some were spreading out shrimp on the boat decks to dry, some were bathing the children, some were just laying in their hammocks. We made it out to the lake and tied our boat to one of the half-submerged trees. The two young boys with us (they were 16, but they looked 10) immediately jumped barefoot into the tree and began climbing it. It looked like great fun, so of course I had to join them. For the next half hour or so, the three of us sat in the very top of this tree, rocking in the breeze 20 feet above the 20 foot deep water.

After we made it back to the submerged road, we got back on the motorcycles and headed back into town for one last lunch and a ride to the airport. Luckily we got to the airport an hour before our flight was scheduled to depart, because it took off 30 minutes early!

As we flew into Bangkok, Mark and I were both amazed at how civilized and modern the city is, compared to the adventure that was Siem Reap.

Back in Bangkok After Cambodia

We are back in Bangkok safely. But before we left, we visted a floating village on Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in SE Asia. Again, lots of pictures and memories I hope to share when I get a chance (soon, I hope!)

Actual Angkor

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Today was our second day at Angkor Wat. We actually saw the real "Angkor", as well as a motorcycle ride through the countryside (some of which in a downpour), and a hike to some waterfalls with rock carvings from the 11th century.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things that happened today was that I saw a friend from San Francisco on a random back road outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I had no idea he was even in Asia, and then there he is, all of a sudden, riding a tuk-tuk down a dirt road in the middle of NOWHERE!

Our time here continues to be AMAZING. I have so many pictures I don't know how I am going to go through them all. But time, again, is short, so I will stop here and wait to write up details when I get back to Bangkok tomorrow.

The "minor" temples of Angkor

I don't have much time to write now, but I just wanted to post that we are here in Cambodia safely. Yesterday we toured the "minor" temples of Angkor. They were absolutely unbelievable. Today we will do the main Angkor Wat, and return to Bangok tomorrow. So far, the little get-away has been unbelieveably amazing and fantastic. I'll fill in the details when I get back.

Off to Cambodia

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We're off to Cambodia! Wow.

We will actually be staying in Siem Reap (not Phnom-Penh as the weather map says) for the next two nights, and visiting Angkor Wat.

Coming Soon: Real Adventure

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This morning we awoke early and went shopping for our breakfast and to buy food for the Buddhist monks, who sit next to the market every morning to collect donations. Our breakfast consisted of spring rolls, fried fish and basil cakes, fresh squeezed orange juice, small creme-filled pastries, pomello fruit, and iced chai tea. Mmmmm.

The rest of the day was pretty busy. I bought an internet card that allows me to use the modem on my laptop. Then I got a cell phone. (Which, by the way, seems not to accept international calls. I need to look into that further.) Then it was off to my second trip to 24 Hour Fitness. (Actually, it is called California Fitness, and it is MUCH nicer than the ones in San Francisco, including a great view of Bangkok from the 19th floor). Now I just need to find a lap pool and I will be all set.

Tonight, Mag, Mark and I went to dinner in Chinatown, then took a tuk-tuk to Kao San Road. We walked down the street famous for the large number of backpacker hotels and bars, all of which were filled with white people. We then walked a block to the park next to the Grand Palace, and were back in a sea of Thai faces, many of whom had spread out blankets in front of them with various knick-knacks for sale.

The real adventure starts on the 8th, as Mark and I fly to Cambodia for a 3 day 2 night trip to see Angkor Wat. I am really looking foward to seeing the temple ruins (one of the largest temples in the world) yet at the same time I am curious to see what it is like to visit one of the poorest countries in the world. I am sure I will have a lot to post (including pictures!) when I get back on the 10th.

Jet Un-lagging

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Today is my 3rd full day in Thailand, and I am still feeling a little jet lagged. My friend Mark from SF arrived today, and we will be staying with his friend for the next two weeks. Apparently the friend is a Thai soap opera star / model / recording artist. We went to the Central Department Store today (a big mall) for lunch, and it was quite amusing for me to walk behind him and watch the girls (young and old) with shocked and smiling faces of recognition as he walked by.

Most of my time here has been spent trying to get over the jet lag. That means a lot of sleeping, and a lot of eating. For some odd reason I have been stuffing myself ever since I got here.

Highlights of the last few days have been going to Ministry of Sound on Friday night -- definitely one of the coolest nightclubs I have ever been to. It had a nice mix of guy and girl, gay and straight, and GREAT music. I did, however, leave with my ears ringing. Was the music too loud, or am I too old? haha.

Saturday night Mag and I had a very simple street vendor's Chicken and Rice dinner. It was raining lightly as we sat outside under a big umbrella next to a busy street eating our food. The dish was so simple... nothing more than grilled chicken on rice, with a spicy sauce on the side. But it was the simplicity that made it so good. Comfort food at its best.

Last night at 10:45 I arrived at Bangkok International Airport after a relatively smooth (but VERY long 19 hour) flight. I quickly made my way through customs and found my friend Mag. We took a 30 minute taxi ride to his apartment off of Silom Road. Since I hadn't slept much on the plane, I was able to go to sleep fairly quickly, even though my body thought it was 10 AM.

Today I got up early, and although I am awake, my body isn't quite responding to me. I am moving very slowly. But hopefully since I was able to sleep at night time, then my body will get used to the time change quickly.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2002 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2002 is the previous archive.

September 2002 is the next archive.

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