Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hi from Chiang Mai, Thailand,
After two days of travelling -- Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Hong Kong -- we've finally arrived at our destination of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. We have spent the first couple of days recovering from jetlag and becoming acclimatized to the 70 degree temperature difference. We are staying in a quaint Thai resort close to the University, far away from the tourist area. The gardens are lovely and the weather hovering around 30 degrees. Lots of interesting birds and we keep hearing a peacock, but haven't seen it yet.
Coincidentally, the last couple have days have been graduation at the university, so there has been a bit of chaos -- students with graduation garb, nurses in old-style uniforms etc.
It's Sunday here, so we're off to find a church where English is spoken and then to the Sunday market.
T & C
We're now back in Bangkok, having come full circle. It hardly seems possible that we've been in Asia for over six weeks, but tomorrow we will be heading back to Canada, with Terry returning to Regina and Coleen to Ottawa.
Thanks for following our adventure . . . . it's a wrap until next time.
Love, T & C
Location: Koh Samui, Thailand
Well, today we had to say good bye to our lovely beachside home and move on to another part of the Island of Samui. We moved up island to a lovely resort for the last two days. It's a lovely family owned guest house, with individual cottages right on the ocean. As you will see from the pictures, it couldn't possibly be more picturesque.
What is really interesting is that the patrons all appear to be eastern European/Greek or Italian. No English spoken, and the menus are Thai/Russian/English.
We spent the last two days lounging on the beach, having massages, and I even got Terry to have a "padicure", in the vernacular. There are massage tables set up all along the beach, so you can listen to the waves and enjoy a massage.
Besides the incredible scenery, the restaurants serve the most fresh seafood, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
It's been a great way to recharge before returning home.
The pictures say it all!
Location: Laos to Bangkok, Thailand
Today is a day of planes, trains and automobiles -- well, to be more precise, planes, stretch limo, tuk tuks, train, bus and bullet boat.
We flew from Luang Prabang, Laos, back to Bangkok. Then from the airport to the train station in a stretch limo (otherwise known as a city bus, with just the two of us as passengers)
We spent some time at MBK (Bangkok's largest shopping centre), which has everything western, as well as Asian. A very interesting mix of cultures. We also toured Jim Thompson House Museum. He is the individual credited with the revival of the Thai silk industry.
Then we boarded the overnight train to Surat Thani, a bus to the ferry terminal, and then a bullet boat to Koh Samui (a beautiful island paradise).
We were met at the ferry by Tor, who is the caretaker at the private bungalow that we rented for the week. The pictures say it all. The bungalow is nestled between two exclusive resorts, but is very private and has its own beach.
A week of relaxation, reading, playing canasta (Terry finally tied Coleen) and sipping wine. It's heaven!!
Location: Phonsavonhn, Laos
From Luang Prabang, we took a minibus through the most treacherous mountains - even worse than Peru. It was 6 hours of constant switchbacks with no barricades (and people puking out the windows) and the distance was just over 300 K. Even though we were seated in the very back, we made it without being sick! The scenery was breathtaking in more ways than one. Along the way we went through many small villages that were very interesting.
We expected to be taken directly to Mulberries silk farm, but we were dropped off in the middle of Phonsavanhn. We were immediately approached by a Laotian gentleman who volunteered to drive us right to the farm and refused our offers of remuneration. Just another example of the kindness of Laotians.
We were greeted at the farm by the most wonderful young woman named Boua Vene, who adopted us as her parents. We stayed in their guest house and were woken up each day by lovely singing of the woman living below us.
The silk farm was the most incredible experience for Coleen. She woke early each morning to pick mulberry leaves to feed the silk worms. She even held one!
Then the rest of the day was spent in the reeling room with a most gracious and patient instructor. Throughout the day, tourists would drop in at the studio and would invariably ask if it was all right to photograph Coleen reeling silk coccoons. Imagine!! At the other extreme, one American woman asked Coleen to get out of the photograph because she didn't look Laotian.
One afternoon, a group of ladies (weavers, dyers and spinners) surrounded Coleen as she was spinning, and sang and played instruments. They are the most incredibly joyous people, and even though they couldn't communicate with words, it was clear that they could communicate through other means. The women were very accepting of Coleen once they realized that she was serious about studying the art of sericulture.
While Coleen was honing her reeling skills, Terry went the plain of jars, which are ancient sites containing large stone vessels, which to this day are surrounded in mystery. What was also unknown was that the Viet Cong would enter Laos and would hide near these sites. There are many bomb craters around them.
MAG (Mine Advisory Group) have cleared these sites and have placed markers where it is safe to walk. To this day there remain many areas that still are mined. In fact, Boua Vene told us that when she was a child she picked up an unexploded ordinance and took it home to her parents. She was very lucky that it did not explode. Her parents were both solders during the Pathet Lao times.
It was extremely difficult to leave Mulberries, with tears flowing with Boua Vene telling Terry how sad they were that Coleen was leaving.
When we were about to leave, a young man presented Coleen with a Laotian traditional reel that he had made for her.
We hope to return one day!
Location: Luang Prabang, Laos
Well, it feels like we've been to the end of the world and back since we last posted. In the meantime, we have lost our hearts to Laos!!
On February 10th we flew from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang, Laos, PDR (People's Democratic Republic) -- but it really stands for "Please Don't Rush". What a difference from Thailand! Laos is an extremely poor country, but its people are the most generous, kind peoples that we have met. Laos is a very mountainous country, and extremely picturesque.
LP itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is situated at the juncture of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. As you may know, the French occupied Laos and their influence is everywhere, architecture, cuisine, etc.
While in LP we stayed in a bamboo hut overlooking the Nam Khan river. Each morning we were awakened by the drums and chanting of the monks, and throughout the day we would watch them bathe in the river. Our breakfast was served each morning on our deck overlooking the river.
The night market came alive at 5 p.m. each evening and the streets were filled with handmade textiles and silver. Laotian weaving and silk is of the highest quality, and Coleen wanted to bring it all home. However, our backpacks are full! (We mailed a package home weighing 14 kg, which lightened our loads significantly)
We spent one day riding elephants, and visiting a beautiful waterfall and a cave filled with thousands of Buddhas.
Let me tell you, riding elephants is not for the faint of heart. It's actually a task to stay on. We both felt like we were going to catapult over the head. The mahouts had great fun taking us into the river and having the elephants splash us and throw us off into the river. Once we got used to it, it was actually a lot of fun.
One day we climbed to the top of a hill in the centre of LP (328 steps) and spent a couple of hours enjoying the view. At the top of this hill is an ancient temple called Wat Phosi. We ended the day attending the Royal Ballet at the National Museum.
It was hard leaving Luang Prabang!
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Started our day off with a trip up the Holy Mountain to Doi Suthep temple. It's 1,000 metres above sea level and has a lovely view of the City.
The pictures we took, just can't adequately capture the beauty!
Then visited a couple of beautiful textile studios, where we saw textiles dating to the 1800's. Beyond beautiful!
Spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the warmth, spinning and reading.
We're off to the netherlands of Laos tomorrow so that I can learn about sericulture at a silk farm. We won't have access to the internet, so probably won't be making any entries until after the 19th.
We are well and having a great time. There is fighting between Cambodia and Thailand over five miles of border and a temple. We are far away from the fighting. We have heard that the King of Thailand has intervened and that hopefully this matter is resolved. At the moment it is not affecting our plans.
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Today we were picked up at 6:45 a.m. to go to the jungle for a "Flight of the Gibbon".
What a great experience!! We were driven about an hour out of the city into the forest. Since we got to Thailand, we've been enjoying the heat. Not so in the jungle. It was quite cool, but cool is relative. After a few minutes walking and zipping, we were definitely warmed up.
You will see from the photos that we were outfitted with gear for riding zip lines. The day included 20 different ziplines through the jungle, as well as two rappelling lines. Initially I was terrified, but after a few, it was really great. When we got to the rappelling, I told our guide that I couldn't!! But he pushed me off the edge of the platform, and that was that!
We even saw a mother gibbon grooming her baby.
We met the most wonderful young couple from Australia and ended up meeting them later in the evening at the Italian restaurant they had recommended to us. We ended the day off with a great Italian dinner.
So . . . . . Terry decided to have a suit made while we're in Chiang Mai, and I've been avoiding talking about it. After four trips and numerous alterations, it finally fits! The first time he went for a fitting, when he put it on it was about 20 sizes too small! Almost as funny as the episode of MASH where Trapper John had a pinstripe suit made and the tailor made the suit with the stripes running horizontal rather than vertical! Final product looks great, but it took four fittings and a lot of consternation getting there!
That's all -- will leave the rest of the story to the pictures to tell!
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Coleen had set this day aside to attend cooking school. Just so happened that she was to be alone in the class, so Terry decided to join in as well.
We went to the local market to shop for ingredients, and then back to Orchid. It was a beautiful setting, with much of the cooking done outside. We learned to cook 11 Thai dishes, including spring rolls, chicken satay with peanut sauce and Pad Thai. The dishes were surprisingly easy to prepare and absolutely delicious.
At the end of the class we could hardly move, we were so stuffed. Won't have to eat for a few days.
We received a cook book with all the recipes, so look forward to cooking for our friends when we return home.
What a great experience!
Tomorrow we're off on a rain forest trek.