status

Return to Chiang Mai

We decided we were done with beaches but we weren’t done with Thailand.  We still had a few weeks left before our flight back to the States, and we were really feeling the weight of being away from home for so long.   The next best thing was to go back to our home away from home: Kevin-the-Kiwi-Photographer-with-the-Handlebar-Moustache‘s place all the way back up in Chiang Mai.

Hua Lamphong station

Kevin

So nice to be together again, and much sooner than anyone expected!

And khao soi.  Chiang Mai has khao soi.

Khao soi

Kevin took us to a ceremony for the Impossible Life Photo Contest that he and his fellow Thailand International Photographers Society (TIPS) friends had entered.  Each photographer was asked to create a portrait of a person who struggled with major disabilities or illness.  The both the winning photographers and their subjects would receive a cash prize provided by the owners of Theppadungporn Coconut Company (if you have a can of coconut milk in your pantry, it probably has the TCC logo on it.)

The ceremony was held in the garden of Wat Srisuphan, one of the most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai.  The Governor of Chiang Mai Province, Tanin Subhasaen, the wat’s abbot, Phra Khru Phithak and the owners of TCC were all in attendance, as well as most of the photo subjects who were receiving a cash grant.

Videographer

Wat Sri Suphan

Wat Sri Suphan's abbot, Phra Khru Phithak

A grateful recipient

Kevin’s portrait subject was a young girl with a serious and rare heart defect.

Kevin's photo subject

Chiang Mai Province Governor Tanin Subhasaen

Joe, one of our friends that we met through Kevin and the Chiang Mai Couchsurfing group, was honored with second prize.

Winning photographers

After the long, long ceremony (most of which was in Thai), we were invited to have lunch at the Wat.  Abbot Phra Khru Phithak stopped by to make sure we had enough to eat and checked out Tony and Kevin’s tattoos.  (Kevin’s tattoo is an homage to a Thai rock band, his favorite energy drink and is a reference to his Thai nickname, all at once.  It makes sense, trust us.)

Phra Khru Phithak inspects Kevin's Carabao tattoo

Oh, Chiang Mai.  You are so happy and beautiful and delicious.

Mango shake

Wat Buppharam

Donald Duck

Chiang Mai graffiti

Tony at Wat Buppharam

Cat enjoying Wat Buppharam's carpet

Buddha and chedi at Wat Buppharam

Wat tabby

Performing dogs

80 baht haircut

Tea bag

We spent two more weeks at Kevin’s house this time around.  We posed for more photos and he also took us on one last great Thai adventure…

Kevin's collage portrait of us

01
Jun 2013
POSTED BY admin
POSTED IN

Thailand

DISCUSSION 1 Comment
status

Ancient Khmer Temples Up Close

The Angkorian temples at Siem Reap are overwhelmingly detailed. Even after nearly a thousand years, you don’t need much imagination to see what they once were. Come in for a closer look.

Approach to Angkor Wat

Fallen column at Ta Prahm

Stone balusters at Angkor

Cracked relief at Angkor

Wildflower at Angkor

Lizard at Ta Prohm

Bas relief at Ta Prohm

Buddha-turned-hermit at Ta Prohm

Fallen balustrades

Broken wheel on bas relief

Doorway carvings

Dancers on columns

Cracked face

Green row of worshippers

Eroded ladies

Bas relief detail at Bayan

Bas relief dancers at Bayan

Flowers at Bayan

Elephant bas relief at Bayan

Roots at Bayan

Bas relief detail, leaves, at Bayan

Buddha's face at Bayan temple

Small green plant at Bayan

Sunrise, Bayan

Sea turtle bas relief at Bayan

Sunrise at Bayan temple

Sunrise at Bayan temple

Sunrise at Bayan temple

Mossy figures, Terrace of the Leper King

Terrace of the Leper King

Khmer writing

Tumbledown walls

Green plant in the rubble

Elephant war bas relief

Spider webs

Stretched ears

Kala

Dusty insect

16
Mar 2013
POSTED BY admin
POSTED IN

Cambodia

DISCUSSION No Comments
status

Secret Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Siem Reap road sign

Everybody goes to the west gate watch the sunrise in front of Angkor Wat.

E-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y (and their tripods).

But watch the sunrise from Angkor Wat? That requires sneaking around in the dark and paying a small… *cough*… “fee.” Ahem.

East facade at dawn

Our hearts raced with nervous energy as we entered the 900 year old temple alone, in pitch blackness. At one point, we stepped into a courtyard and paused because we thought we heard monks chanting. (Nope… we had just awakened all the mosquitoes in Cambodia.) Alicia wavered, sure that the instructions that a fellow traveler gave us would get us arrested, but Tony kept us on mission.

cobwebs

We made it up to the third, final, most sacred tier, the Bakan, just in time to hear the jungle come alive with the calls of strange birds and to see the bas reliefs illuminated by the red morning sun.

Sun peeking over the jungle canopy

Orange sunrise

Sun peeking over the jungle canopy

Wildflowers

Empty courtyard

We looked down at the hundreds of people gathered at the far end of the pond, grateful that we were not among them.

Hundreds of people gathered for sunrise

Tony waves

As soon as the sun was up, the guards quickly shooed us back down, presumably to avoid the scrutiny of the people who began filtering into the courtyard who might wonder why the posted opening times didn’t apply to us.

Apsaras at Angkor

Steep steps up Angkor

Facade lit by the morning sun

Empty corridor

Chedi along the east wall of Angkor

Us at east gate of Angkor Wat

After that great start, we were not too frustrated with the tour groups clogging the pathways through Ta Prohm (a.k.a. the Tomb Raider temple).

Big tour group at Ta Prohm

Poky straw hats

Goofy selfie

Ta Prohm corridor

Looking up

We experienced another peaceful (albeit more conventionally achieved) sunrise at Bayon Temple the following morning.

Bayon silhouette

Sun coming through the trees

Pink sun

Buddha at Bayon

Spider at Bayon

Bayon tree trunk

Apsaras on columns

Linga at Bayon

Bayon east facade

Buddha altar inside Bayon

Bayon face

Bayon face - vertical

Lens flare

Bayon face with jungle

Apsara at Bayon

Us at Bayon

We visited many other ancient Khmer temples around Siem Reap, but those two sunrise experiences were the best.

Kid sleeping

Tree roots

Interior shot

Colorful banner

One head left on the bridge

Disembodied feet at Preah Khan

Back entrance to Preah Khan

Tree through a hole at Preah Khan

Monkey and baby at Angkor

Terrace of the Leper King

Girls selling souvenirs

Angkor pass

Beard pass

15
Mar 2013
POSTED BY admin
POSTED IN

Cambodia

DISCUSSION 1 Comment
status

Deserted Beaches and Cham Towers in Quy Nhon

After biking around Hoi An for a few days, we realized that it was nearly mid-January and we still hadn’t seen much of the sun since the day after Christmas. It was getting warmer as we traveled down the coast of Vietnam, but the skies were continually dark and the waves were rough. Probably to be expected since it was typhoon season in that part of the country. Nothing to do about it but keep on moving south.

Since we enjoyed being one of only a few Westerners that we saw back in Da Nang (one day we counted only five) and since we liked the atmosphere that those types of cities bring, we looked for a city on the coast that had good beaches but was smaller than Da Nang.  Quy Nhon looked about right, so we bought our bus tickets.

Here’s what Quy Nhon’s beach looked like on the Saturday afternoon that we arrived.

Deserted beach

Sunbathing isn’t exactly a national pastime here.

Rough waves

Just like the rest of the beaches we had seen in the past week, the water was too rough to swim. But that was just fine because we now had blue skies and THE SUN.

One evening while walking along the beach, we had a very nice (if lengthy) conversation with a local man who wanted to practice his English with us. Every question had the same formal preface.

“Excuse me, can you please tell me about education in your country?”

“Excuse me, can you please tell me about the economy in your country?”

“Excuse me, can you please tell me about guns in your country? Many people have been shot?”

Whoa. Those were some pretty broad and deep questions, but we worked our way through them to the best of our abilities.

Besides enjoying what was essentially our own private beach, we entertained ourselves in the evenings by walking through a night market. Western Christmas carols blared on the sound system and there were some mini carnival rides for little kids. Tony looked for a new pair of flip flops, but if you’re over size 42 (U.S. size 8.5), you are out of luck.

Reindeer spaceman ride

Paddleboats for babies

Carousel swing ride

One day, we rented a moped from our guesthouse and drove it out to see some partially restored 11th and 12th century Cham towers. Two towers were in town and the others were about 10 miles away.

Alicia on the moped

Thap Doy towers

Carving detail

Facade

Interior

Interior altar

Cham towers sunflare

Bahn It tower

Two towers on a hill

Bahn It

The groundskeeper called out to us and asked for 20,000 dong. Despite the official-looking ID hanging from his neck, we were skeptical, but he produced a booklet of tickets. We noticed that the price printed on them was only 7,000 dong and he reluctantly accepted that amount instead. Although he was being dishonest, we later felt badly that we had not simply paid what was the equivalent of an extra $1.20. He probably needed it much more than we did. Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t clear.

Groundskeeper

Bahn It facade

Bahn It facade

Lower carvings

side detail

Tower further down the hill

Silhouette

View from the top

From our vantage point on top of the hill, we spotted what looked like an interesting pagoda nearby and decided to check it out. We never figured out its name, but it looked like it was either under renovation or its construction had begun and stopped a few decades ago and is only now starting up again.

Stairway to Buddha

Buddha

Dragon

Pagoda tower

Top of pagoda tower

We started to wonder where we should go next. South, obviously, but how far? Our guesthouse had a binder full of local information and something interesting caught our eye…

21
Feb 2013
POSTED BY admin
POSTED IN

Vietnam

DISCUSSION 3 Comments
status

Temples, Waterfalls and New Friends in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is on a peninsula at the convergence of the Khan and Mekong rivers and is full of heavily decorated temples and orange-robed monks and golden Buddhas.  The days were sunny and warm and the evenings were cool and quiet (most of Laos has a midnight curfew which enforced to varying degrees).

LPB riverbend

Golden animal statue in the evening

man napping at a wat

Yellow chedis

Monk laundry

Golden nagas

Sunset from Phousi

Sunset from Phousa

Wat Siphoudthabat

Wat Siphoudthabat

Cow hide stretching for drums

Buddha at Phousi

Buddhas at Wat Xieng Thong

Handmade stencils at Wat Xieng Thong

gold stencil mandala

Lotus at Wat Xieng Thong

Buddha inside Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong door

hungry guy

old chedi

LPB street

Night market

Moped ferry

Big red ants

One afternoon at our guesthouse, three ladies who owned shops in the neighborhood showed up with shot glasses, dice and bowls. The shot glasses weren’t for drinking; they were for rolling the dice to play Ludo, which we later learned is a Vietnamese game similar to Parcheesi. We observed for a few games and tried to figure out the rules. They played fast and groaned and smiled at each others’ luck and misfortune.

Ludo ladies

Ludo board

Ludo from above

Alicia asked to join and did her best to not slow down the game. She was no match for the pros and in the end the ladies took her for about 30,000 kip ($3.75). You don’t need a common language to laugh and enjoy an afternoon together. (Watch a clip from the Ludo game here.)

Ludo payout

We also got to hang out more with Kevin and our boat buddies from our Mekong trip. We were spread all over town in various guesthouses, but got together for dinner a few evenings and negotiated with two tuk-tuk drivers to take us to a local waterfall for one afternoon.

Boat buddies out to dinner

Josh and Ashley

The Kuang Si falls are the prettiest we’ve ever seen. And we have seen. a lot. of waterfalls. this. year. We jumped off the lower falls into the ice cold water.

Kuang Si swimming hole

Lacey jumping off waterfall

waterfall jump

Trail at Kuang Si

small waterfall

Travertines

Wait, we haven’t even shown you the prettiest part yet.

Kuang Si waterfall

Kuang Si waterfall

Kuang Si vertical

Christmas was approaching, and we noticed a few decorations around Luang Prabang, but it just felt odd amidst palm trees and golden temples and jungle waterfalls. Our guesthouse put up a tree next to the household altar a few days before Christmas, and on the 24th and 25th day, a few people wore Santa hats around town. We went to our favorite “noodle lady shop” for Christmas breakfast and had a nice quiet day together.

Jaliya Christmas tree

Christmas noodles

Santa hat

Christmas was actually our second-to-last day in Laos, but we had a few more adventures before then…

Related Videos:
Northern Thailand and Laos (in December)
Ludo in Luang Prabang

14
Jan 2013
POSTED BY admin
POSTED IN

Laos

DISCUSSION 4 Comments