Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year?

In Bangkok there has been a grenade attack in the capital just as New Years parties were getting ready to start. Two people have been killed at this time and dozens injured according to this CNN article.

It can be a dangerous world out there. At this time no one has claimed responsibility for these cowardly acts, but speculation is that it is realted to the ongoing separatist insurgency in the South of Thailand.

Anyway, here's to a safe and happy New Years and a prosperous 2007 for you all.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai - Koh Samui, Thailand

Video of the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai on the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sitting on the beach - Pattaya, Thailand

This is one of the beach areas in Pattaya. We got a hotel room pretty close by and walked over to find a good spot to sit and relax. I went with my girlfriend, her mother, one of my girlfriend's friends and her boyfriend. We left late morning and got to the beach by about 1:30PM.

Here you don't really see it, but when we got to the beach the entire area was covered with umbrellas to the point where the sun wasn't getting down to the sand.

Here's a perfect example of what I was talking about. Umbrella on top of umbrella. Now the reasoning that there is this heavy a concentration is that culturally, Thais don't want to get suntanned. My girlfriend wanted nothing to do with sitting out in the sun. I'm not a big sunbather either, but if I was going to go to the beach, I was going to sit in the sun. My chair was on the end in the sun and everyone else was in the shade (and thought I was crazy for doing so).

You can buy food from the various vendors and here is a table of grilled squid, crab, and green lipped mussels. I loved the mussels and the squid, but didn't really want the crab. It's too much work for too little payoff. We had to go get the beer (the bottle of Leo that you see in the photo), but you could buy ice there. For the entire day the cost was about $20, which I think is a pretty decent deal.

Here's the sun just getting ready to go down. Sunset is fairly early here around 6:00PM, but I just love getting photos of the sun setting behind the waves. The last time I had the opportunity to catch a sunset in Thailand, I was going to take a boat trip to the setting side of Koh Samui. Unfortunately, that trip was cancelled because a weakening typhoon was passing by.

Pattaya is a true beach resort with a lot of hotels and high end hotels going up. Because it is only 1 1/2 hours away from Bangkok is is a very popular destination with foreign tourists and Thais alike.

The sun is just about out of sight.

And it's gone until tomorrow...

These are all of the photos from my recent trip. It was a good, but busy time and I have a few ok photos and even better memories. I'm going to head back in 43 days to see my girlfriend for her birthday and for our wedding in Mae Sot a few days afterward.

I'm really excited for this trip and a bit nervous as I mentioned to her the other day. I'm very familiar with weddings in the West, not so much in Thailand and don't want to make any cultural gaffes. I'm sure all will go well when it is all over. After our wedding, we'll be going to the Adaman Sea (Indian Ocean) side of Thailand to Phuket.

I'll be putting up a couple videos as time permits in the next couple days. In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pattaya, Thailand

I always forget that my camera can take short video clips, so the video isn't the best quality if I actually had a video camera, but its the beach. Nothing terribly exciting, but I'll have a few photos by Friday from later in that day at the beach and the sunset.

Monday, December 18, 2006

An Evening Walk in Mae Sot, Thailand

The nice thing about Northern Thailand in the cool season is that the temperatures do get cooler in the evenings and are warm during the day. I had a different opinion of Mae Sot in April when I first came to meet my girlfriend's parents. In the evenings, we would take a walk around the village and talk. Didn't typically matter which direction we went in, but this evening we walked out toward one of the main roads because I saw a photo that I needed to get as the sun was going down.

It's much greener than in April because the rainy season has only ended about 5-6 weeks ago and this is just the start of the dry season. In Bangkok, we did see rain, but the showers both times only lasted about 20 to 30 minutes each time. I know that this area does get a lot of rainfall during the rainy season from May to October.

This is a cleared ricefield. One thing that I try to impress my girlfriend with is my rudimentary Thai language skills. The name for a ricefield in Thai is 'naa', so as we were walking by I ask her in Thai "this is a rice field, right?" and received a suprised "yes" in Thai from her. I really need to start studying Thai a lot more in my spare time.

This is a front wheeled drive cart that is used by people in the area. There are several around and I always kid that I'm going to buy one and use it when I'm in Mae Sot. I rode in the back of one of these this evening and then got another photo of this one.

Another rice field. This one was being flooded.

A papaya tree.

This was the photo that I wanted.

and this one also. I really liked the sky that was offset by the sun going down and how green everything was at this time of the year.

This photo was taken from the other side of the road. The sun has slipped behind the mountains and its going to get dark now pretty fast. I'm also about to become a meal for the local mosquitos for the first time in three days in Mae Sot.

Some cattle at a farm on our way back. I've also joked about becoming a farmer when we finally decide to move back to Thailand. I already know, I don't think I'd be a very good one.

This is the shop at the front the home of my girlfriend's parents.

in the metal container is the broth for noodle soup. It's one of my favorites and my girlfriend makes some of the best. The broth is combined with vegtables, rice noodles, and pieces of pork. Its garnished with crushed peanuts and cilantro also. I think I might know what I'm having for lunch today.

Some of the goods that are offered for sale.

These little red peppers are some of the hottest you will ever try. I love them, but sometimes eating them really sets my mouth on fire. I guess I don't learn so easily.

So on tap next will be photos from my trip to Pattaya, Thailand. It's the closest beach to Bangkok at a 1 1/2 hour drive away and we went here for a day prior to going to Mae Sot. I think I'll post the video first and then the photos a day later.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mywaddi, Myanmar - Part 2

Sorry for the delays. I got back two weeks ago and my first week back, no jetlag. I was also running around the entire time and just couldn't afford to sleep. This past week, not the case. I love being tired at 4:00 PM and struggling to keep my eyes open on the train home. In Chicago, the consistent thing about the trains is their inconsistencey. I live 5 miles away from work and some days it takes an hour to get home; other days, much less time.

Today, I had nothing to do and with my football team being a pathetic mess (4-9 record with three to play), I decided to upload everything I could (and as it figures, they won today). I now have photos and a couple videos that I posted to You Tube and then copied into postings. I should finally be a little ahead of the game and only have to write which will be a nice change of pace. It's really the loading of the photos that I can't stand because the amount of time involved. Anyway, back to Mywaddi, Myanmar...

This is one of the market areas in Mywaddi. I guess there was another market area to shop, but the day we were here, it was either closed or not open to tourists (never really received an answer on this either way). Nothing terribly exciting to see here, but I took a photo of these bikes because they were chainless. They had a drive shaft connected from the pedals to the back wheel. The vendor said they were from Japan and they were around $200. I didn't really consider buying one and actually couldn't due to lack of funds.

This is where we parked and went into the market. The market wasn't that large and after a quick walk around, we were off to the second of the four temples we were to visit.

Here's the view from the second temple and the Myanmar countryside in the background.

Here's the Buddha image from the second Wat. Do you see the purple disc behind the Buddha's head? Well, this was pulsing lights in a circle. Craziest thing I've ever seen. I guess not that crazy. I didn't get a photo of this, but behind this was one of the Wat's monks sitting watching television and had a better stereo system and television than I can afford right now. Just crazy.

There were also other items and if I recall correctly even a motorcycle inside at this Wat. I forgot to ask my girlfriend about this, but if I get back here to Mywadi, I'll be coming back here to get a photo.

More of the Myanmar countryside. My interest is really peaked to explore this area further in future years.

What's that you say? Is that a giant crocodile? Well of course it is. Now we weren't allowed to go into this temple, but I certainly wasn't going to leave without getting a photo of this. This kind of reminds my of vacations when I was a kid and going to Northern Wisconsin. I don't know if I saw it on vacation, or I saw the photos of it, but I do recall a giant Muskellunge statue being in the Northern part of the state of my birth (also a giant bass which I think was what I actually saw).

I'm sure some of you are asking what exactly is a giant Muskellunge? Click on the word and you'll find out. It's an elusive sport fish in the upper Midwest of the United States and it averages about 3 feet long. They feed on other fish, frogs, mice, ducks, babies (oh wait, probably not babies, but you wouldn't want to find out.)

So that's Mywaddi, Myanmar. Wait. You say I was supposed to have photos of four temples? Yeah, I noticed that too when we were heading back across the border into Thailand. Only went to three and the market. It really didn't bother me too much. The afternoon temperatures were in the 90's and the sun was pretty strong, so after a couple hours of walking around and taking photos, I was a bit tired and ready to get something to eat.

My girlfriend, her mother, brother, and another relative and I all headed to a restaurant for a late lunch and a cool drink. Sometimes, you have to prioritize to keep everyone happy and I had no issues with cutting the siteseeing short. Plus, I now have a built in excuse to go back and see the fourth mysterious temple in Myanmar.

Coming up next, I've got a few photos from the other side of the Moei river back in Mae Sot followed by a trip to Pattaya, the closest beach from Bangkok.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mywaddi, Myanmar - Part 1

Description of the photos and my observations to follow. Its late and I need to get some rest.


Ok, here is the first view of going into Mywaddi, Myanmar on the Friendship Bridge from Mae Sot, Thailand. I was happily trying to snap photos across the bridge when I was told that it was a big no, no until I went into Myanmar. This is just before you get to the Tak immigration booth. You go to the Thai immigration point and are stamped out of the country and then you walk about 50 yards to the Myanmar immigration booth. They fill out some paperwork, take your photo on the computer, take 500 baht (about $13 now thanks to the even weaker dollar), and you are free to enter Myanmar.

Now one other hitch, Myanmar holds onto your passport. Entering into Mywaddi, you're not allowed to stay overnight. You are only allowed to enter through this immigration point for a day trip and further travel is strictly prohibited. You are also not allowed to drive into Myanmar as we had to rent a van and a driver for the trip.

It was pretty hassle free as the driver knew where to go and was very familiar with the immigration procedures.I'd definitely like to travel a little more in Myanmar, but you have to travel in by air to Yangoon and I think that your travel is still further limited as to where you can go.

The photo below is the friendship bridge crossing the Moei river into Myanmar from Mae Sot.

This is the first temple we visited. The stark difference I thought after visiting several Thai and Cambodian temples was that the Buddha image was not in all gold. A very different image but beautiful.

There are parts of the temple that were unmistakably Burmese and others that were unmistakable Thai. Some of the Chedis here in the foreground were actaully constructed by the Thais.

This photo below shows one of the locals. You'll have to open the picture up to see it (the photo posting software unfortunately darkens the photos you post), but the boy in the foreground has a yellowish powder on his face which is used as sunblock.

This was another Buddha style that I have never seen before. The image is in a typical pose, but the style was something that I have never seen before. It was pretty impressive though.

I'll have more of two other temples that we went to and a few images of Mywaddi in one of the local markets. The one difference that you could see between Mae Sot and Mywaddi was that Mywaddi was drastically poor. The surrounding roads in Thailand are all paved and aside from one of the main roads into Mywaddi, the remaining were dirt tracks. I can only imagine how tough it would be to get around in the rainy season. It was a real eye opener. About the same eye opening experience that happened when I traveled to Cambodia. You have different countries in the same area, but you could tell which was the more prosperous within just scant miles into the country.

I did notice a heavy investment though in Mywaddi by the Chinese as I noticed several Chinese owned banks and hotels. Makes you think a bit on how effective U.S. economic sanctions are against the military junta in charge when the Chinese are so willing to invest. Just some food for thought.

One thing that really peaked my interest was the scenic beauty which you'll see in the next set of photos that I'll post somethime in the next day or two. This is what makes me want to travel further into Myanmar and further into the area. Its a shame that further travel is prevented because Myanmar looks like it could be a realy beautiful country to explore. Hopefully this changes in the future.