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Thailand

Back to Bangkok

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2/3--New Siam Guesthouse. This place never changes. Khao San Road will forever be locked in the 60's with a constant parade of foreigners from all over. Interestingly we have heard the Chinese now make up 13% of all tourists and are now the single largest group of foreigners. However, there are lots of hippie types (non Chinese) or wanna be hippies. This includes an old white guy, going bald, but with dyed red hair and a long white beard looking more or less like an Indian sadhu. Everyday we see him parading back and forth along the nearby alley. There are Euro's with little kids, and yes, even a bunch of us older folk, (excluding the sadhu), from various parts of the globe. We met two intrepid travelers from Vancouver, several years older than us. Joyce and Gordon have been all over, taking off for four months during the soggy winters of coastal BC. They have been to and trekked in Nepal several times, befriended a guide named Santa, and paid for his girls to go to school. They will leave for Pokhora in a few days after spending a month in Burma. They tell us the place is now lousy with tourists, prices have quadrupled, ATM's have appeared, and cell phones are ubiquitous. Luckily, the people are still the same, though I think we got there at the right time.


At night the nearby alley and surrounding streets here in Balimphoo become one big party scene with loud American rock and blues, outdoor restaurants and bars, and VERY crowded streets. It is quite a scene.






All's quiet in the morning
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Our breakfast spot
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The famous Mr. Yim, who makes various Thai veg curries for a buck
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Yesterday, we went to see Wat Pho, a little further on the river taxi than the King's Palace, but a place we had never been. The enormous reclining Buddha was spectacular.


Although some 50 feet long, it is only possible to capture the head by itself
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Statues on the grounds of Wat Pho
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After wandering around a bit, we set off to look for a local sim card. That was an adventure, and we got somewhat lost on the way back. It was a success, in that we did find a card and then were able to call Derek at Chaing Mai Apartments, our next destination.

Posted by jonshapiro 18:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged food cities_postcards Comments (0)

Bangkok to Ko Mak

I won't bore you with too many details from this busy city since they can be found in an earlier post. Suffice it to say that we returned to Khao San Road, where, like Alice's Restaurant, you can get anything you want, literally. We spent an extra day recouping here, translate that to mean Nanette wanted a mani-pedi and a massage, all to be had for about 15 bucks. Despite the traffic and the heat, there are some interesting sights, most notably the King's Palace.

Detail From the Palace
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Head of a Large Standing Buddha
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Before long, we headed for the island of Ko Mak. Most of the better known beaches in Thailand, Phuket and Ko Samui for example, are in the south and require a plane ride or a VERY long bus ride to get to them. Ko Mak, not as well known as these or the nearby Ko Chang, is about 4 hours by bus to the north. It is a quiet place, mostly with young German and Swedish families, as well as some older couples like us. Perfect for lazing around for a week.

We managed to find a very nice bungalow right on the beach.

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We spent our time reading, swimming, and eating various Thai fish curries at different restaurants, though we often didn't make it past the German run TK Hutte, right next door. Not only was the food good and cheap, but they also made mango and pineapple shakes that were even better when we brought them back to our place and added rum. We met an older (than us) German couple there who we have shared some meals with and long walks down the beach.


It is never crowded and usually the sea is very warm and calm.

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So far we have not been able to motivate ourselves to check out another nearby island for what we are told is mediocre snorkeling. We did manage to find a beach side masseuse for another massage, and occasionally Nanette is moved to arrange shells and other collectibles.


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Last night, Gerard, a Frenchman about our age, came over to borrow the Lonely Planet. He proceeded to tell us a good deal of his life story, which was interesting, although he talked rather too much about himself. After his second divorce, it seems he spent five years wandering and fucking around the Islamic parts of the Phillipines. He said it was a miracle he wasn't killed or didn't get aids. He then went to other parts of Southeast Asia for a few more years before ending up in Luang Prabang. Here he met his current wife, now in her early 30's. It is apparently illegal for Laotian women to hook up with foreign men, in contrast to Thailand where it seems to be the norm. Her family more or less disowned her, and the government threatened to arrest her. They went back to France, and now after several years, she has a French passport and they are going home for a visit with their seven year old son. I'm afraid that telling him we were shrinks, after he asked our occupation, only encouraged him to go on at greater length. We ran into him again in Laos under very different circumstances.

With some regrets, we managed to pull ourselves away from Ko Mak after a significant rainstorm seemed to signal a change of weather.


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Posted by jonshapiro 07:57 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Book 2: Bangkok to Burma, Indonesia & Southern Laos

The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Heat


View Burma, Indonesia and Laos on jonshapiro's travel map.

In case you were wondering, (not) I've decided to describe our most recent travels while they are still fresh, and then I will return to our teaching experience in China and travels to other parts of Asia.

We are on the road again, or rather we have just returned from an 11 week jaunt to Southeast Asia. At the suggestion of so many of our Burmese refugee English students, including our favorite monks, we began this latest excursion with a visit to their troubled country.

Our first stop, Bangkok. Khao San Road and surrounds remain largely unchanged, still a throwback to the 60's. Sitting here by the small pool at New Siam 2, the place feels very familiar after five or six previous visits.

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I am reading The Forever War, about Iraq and Afganistan, and am reminded how US soldiers came here for R@R from Vietnam. Now it is mostly young backpackers and families resting up in between their travels. Iraq is too far away for these new soldiers, but with the cheap street food, Thai prostitutes, cluster bombs and phosphorus, jihadis instead of gooks, the sense of historical deja vu is nearly complete. The only thing missing is the napalm, but you don't need that in the desert. The jaunty disco music in the background rounds out the picture. Fuck You, Fuck You, very, very much. I kid you not.

In our bathroom the sign reads: To Flash Toilet Push Handle Until Finish.

On the the street the sign reads: Fooking Good Food, Fooking Good Song, Fooking Good Beer, Fooking Nice People.

Hmmm.

After a couple of semi-comatose days recovering from the 26 hour flight, we took a long taxi ride to the only Burmese Monastery in Bangkok, which just happens to be run by the nephew of my English student, the Sayadow or head monk, here in Rensselaer.


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He has a boyish, infectious energy, just like his Uncle, and was quite pleased to see us, especially as we had agreed to sponsor him for a visit to the US. Also there was an ex-professor of ethnobiology, Dr Myint, who seemed quite knowledgeable about many things, and who spoke English well. He said he had a wife and daughter in Yangon and was planning to return in a few days. Another gentlemen, with even better English told us he had been living in Thailand for 10 years, but was hoping to gain political asylum in Copenhagen.

In typical Burmese fashion, they fed us a huge meal, though I ate little, already having some stomach problems adjusting to the food.

The beds at New Siam were much harder than I remembered, or was I just getting older?

Posted by jonshapiro 16:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged air_travel Comments (3)

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