A Travellerspoint blog

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

Our breakfast spot

The famous Mr. Yim, who makes various Thai veg curries for a buck

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

Statues on the grounds of Wat Pho

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)

Book Five: Return to Southeast Asia and China



After the long flight, Hong Kong still felt vaguely familiar after a five year absence. Our hotel, the Panda, was comfortable enough, though kitchy in the Chinese way. When we had breakfast in a local place around the corner, ham and eggs and toast with the crust cut off in the British manner, we truely felt we had arrived. Shortly thereafter we made our way to the subway station, and managed to get lost several times, though we did make it to the mainland Chinese train station. It was not entirely uneventful, as I left my small day pack next to the information both in the subway. As we were purchasing tickets from a machine, the attendant came up to me and asked if I had left a bag. Initially I said no, only to realize a few minutes later that in fact I had done so. Luckily she still had it in the booth. A close call with a lot of imprtant papers.

In the main train station we found ourselves next to Peter from Montreal, who we chatted with about travel adventures and found we had been to many of the same places. In his late 40's, he had a business and a girlfriend which brought him to Guangzhou on a monthly basis. He kindly offered to let us call Sunny, our former English student, on his phone when we arrived, which turned out to be unnecessary. Sunny, who was only 15 when we last saw her was right there to meet us, and we recognized each other immediately. It was, after five long years, wonderful to see her again, as she was by far our favorite student in Xiamen.

Sunny in her apartment and next to revolutionary statue in sculpture garden

Guangzhou is a big,rather futuristic looking city with many new skyscapers, and a nice walkway along the Pearl River. On the day we arrived Sunny took us to the top of the Canton tower, some 600M high with a commanding view of the city. The tower was erected for the 2010 Asian games. Unfortunately the smog obscured much of the sunset. However, when the lights of the city came on after dark, the display of multicolored neon was incredible.

Taken through the glass at the top of the tower

The tower itself was alternately lit up like a rainbo, then red, purple, green etc. which was best seen once we descended.


As Sunny pointed out, the Chinese are very good at puttng on a show for others to see. Later in the evening we took a cruise on the Pearl River, and the lights on the bridges and tall buildings were like a well organized light show, also multicolored, as well as moving and pulsating. I snapped away wthout a tripod, eager to try out my new superlight camera.






For the first couple of days Sunny kept us incredible busy seeing all of the sights, and insisted on paying for many things. We ate up a storm, from local soups, to dongbei, hotpot, and dim sum.

Old monastery amidst the constant new construction

Finally we had to tell her that we didn't need to see EVERYTHING, and just wanted to spend time with her. This gave us time to just relax and enjoy each other's company. We spent one evening making jouza, dumplings, in her apartment, where we met her roommates, and an Italian man who Sunny had corresponded with, who was interested in studying Chinese in exchange for teaching her Italian. Another night we met her boss, David , a low key Brit who seems to appreciate her talents and is almost paternal with her. She works for him as an administrator, in a language institute which provides training to multinational corporations. Though much more mature than when we last saw her, Sunny is still the same free thinking, independent person she was five years ago. Despite the gaps in her formal education she has a very good and inquizative mind, and has blossomned into a responsible and attractive woman. Her English, complete with American accent, has improved to the point where it is possible to have a conversation with her about practically anything. We discussed many things including some heavy family issues, friendships, work, goals for the future etc. When and if she decides to create her own business, we can be the first, and as she put it, likely the only shareholders. I think we all realized that our connection to each other remains as strong as ever, despite the time and the distance. She has become, for all intents and purposes, like our third daughter, and we feel very protective of her.

Posted by jonshapiro 07:58 Archived in China Tagged skylines people photography buildings_postcards cities_postcards Comments (0)

London with a brief foray to Dublin

We flew from Antalya to London, dirt cheap as previously mentioned, and were picked up in the middle of the night by our good friends, Michael and EJ.
I took few pictures because the weather for most of the week was dismal, rainy and cold. It was, if anything, worse than Albany weather, which usually starts to improve by the beginning of May.

Left to Right: Michael, Jon, EJ, Nanette (In front of their house).

Their street in Primrose Hill

At any rate, we managed to have a great time walking around the city, going to pubs, etc. We were constantly wined and dined by our extraordinarily generous friends, and it was fun meeting Michael's divorced (but still friends) parents, who are our age. A visit to the Tate Modern, and a performance of a Cuban ballet/modern dance troop that had us leaping out of our seats, completed the visit.

From there we went off to Dublin for one night, largely to save on the airport taxes out of London. It just so happened that Katya, the young German woman we hiked with in Morocco, was in town for a new orientation with Oracle. We had dinner with her and a friend, and then home.


Trinity College

For all my loyal readers. I am posting this from chaing rai Thailand. We are embarked another trip to southeast asia. We arrive home on April 2 and I look forward to blogging about this new journey. Hope all is well and as our former monk friend., now in chaing mai, would say, may you all be happy and healthy.


Posted by jonshapiro 02:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged people postcards air_travel Comments (2)


In Kaleici, the old part of town, most things are kitchy and touristy. There are many Europeans here, at least in part because of the dirt cheap flights from cities on the continent and the UK; and so it is easy to come for a sunny weekend getaway. Orientalism is still alive and well, with Viagra tee shirts, see through thongs, tiny belly dancing skirts with shiny bangles, and assorted and sordid memorabilia sold on every corner. You can get anything you want in Kaleici, and and certainly much of what you don't want. Still, the old buildings and tile roofs have a certain charm.

Near our Hotel

Looking out over the Roofs

Nearby Beach with Tauros Mountains in background

We arrived from the mountains yesterday in a sweltering day, and had little enrgy to do much of anything other than lounge around the outdoor patio drinking beer, and wish we didn't have two more days before our flight. The small pool here at White Garden Guest House was closed for reasons that I didn't understand, ie, they said it's still the rainy season.

Today is a bit cooler after last evenings thunderstorms, and we took the trolley to the muze to look at more ancient Greek and Roman artifacts. Well worth the trip.



With a day before we leave for London and exactly one week before we go home, my thoughts have turned to all the things I have to do once I return, including an up and coming PSA test. It should give an indication, though very imprecise, as to whether I am headed with some rapidity into that long good night. Of course, the results might be equivocal, leaving the sword dangling at an unknown distance. And yes, the sword is always dangling at some unknown distance, but having the Big C, with one relapse, makes it more palpable. I have not spent much of the last two months contemplating this, but preparing to head back has brought it to mind.

It is always hard to sum up a trip of this length, which has at times been frustrating, highly rewarding, great fun with our friends from previous journeys, sickening (literally), strenuous, and above all, culturally and intellectually stimulating. It has opened my eyes to the varieties of Islamic practice and thought. Certainly there is room for an Islam that is not fundamentalist, just as with Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. I have developed again, after many years, an appreciation of the humaness of the Greek and Roman Gods, with their sexuality, jealousy, pettiness, and appreciation of music and the arts. At the same time, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed at the Antalya Museum, that the old pagan Gods were thought up as a way to explain natural forces that were scary and beyond comprehension. It is interesting that in this Muslim country, which forbids criticism of Attaturk, the statement is not seen as the blasphemous one that it is. I guess old Gods are fair game for criticism.

We in the West, may have distilled thousands of Gods to one, but he/she still serves the same purpose, at least to this writer. Faith is faith, and reason is reason, and there is not much room for both simultaneously.

On a different note, as a Jewish man, albeit a secular one, this was my first trip to Germany. Overall I found the environment and the people, and not just my friends, very much to my liking, forcing me yet again, to acknowledge that given the right circumstances, we are all capable of great evil and great good. The current situation of suicidal hostility between Israel and its neighbors, seventy years after the holocaust, only reinforces this view.

The Great Man himself

Posted by jonshapiro 03:42 Archived in Turkey Comments (4)


We have spent four enjoyable days hiking in the Tauros Mountains, high above the intensely developed coastline of southern Turkey. At 1250 meters, the sea is still visible down a long valley, right in front of our terrace at Gul Mountain House.


At times, we can even see the shoreline opposite Antalya Bay and the high mountains beyond.

Sea and Sky Merge in these pictures


It is different world up here in the shadow of Tahtali Dag, 2650 meters, still snow covered at the end of April.


The scenery is quite alpine, despite the relatively low elevation. There are sharp rocky peaks rising above the piney forests that cling to the flatter crevices on the cliffs. In between the mountains, are small villages with red tile roofs that have more goats than people.


It took the better part of the day to get here from Egirdir. The big bus to Antalya was fine, but the dolmus from the octogar (bus station) was very slow, taking almost 2 hours to go the 50k down the coast to Kemer. From there we contacted our hotel and they came to collect us. Thanks to Omar, the manager and cook, the food is fantastic, perhaps the best we have had in Turkey. Often he gives us a half a dozen mezes, including what is probably the best yoghurt ever, stuffed and smoked eggplant, salad, olives, homemade bread from the wood oven, soup, and then a main course of fish, chicken etc., also cooked in the same oven. Enough food for at least four people, and then a sizable breakfast as well, all included in the price of 130 Lira, a definite bargain.When we first arrived, the hotel was practically empty. Omar told us that summer is their busy time, and despite the heat, a lot of Russians make it up from the beaches in Kemer, including his Russian girlfriend. This time of year, it is mostly Europeans, and sometimes day trippers on a jeep safari, who stop for lunch.

We spent day two hiking a section of the Lycian Way. Luckily two Dutch hikers showed up with good maps and a GPS because the trail markers were few and far between. Kate Clow's descriptions and maps were almost useless, in part because they assumed a starting point in Fethiye, a long way in the opposite direction.

View of Tahtali Dag from Lycian Way

After about 5 hours of rugged slogging on a trail with many twists and turns, brambles,etc, we arrived in Geldelme, a small village with an overpriced restaurant. But the beer really hit the spot. From there we walked part way back on the road when we were lucky enoubgh to hitch a ride in the back of a truck.

The next day we ignored the Lycian Way altogether, and walked down a couple of clicks back to the tiny village of Ovacik. We then followed a dirt track that a butted up against two large rock faces. After about 7K of relatively flat walking, there was an even smaller road heading up towards Tahtali Dag. We took it up towards the pass, eventually stopping in a subalpine meadow. Small purple, yellow and white flowers dotted the grass. The road continued, but we walked back the way we had come. Altogether it must have been 25K, a long but satisfying day.

Today, a shorter walk up the paved road in a different direction, and then to a village on the right. From there we scrambled close to the top of a nearby, but low mountain, and then back to another dirt road leading up and around the far side of the valley. We stopped for lunch in a field surrounded by old pines, with views looking out at the misty sea. We returned to the hotel for the last night and another huge and scrumptious dinner. There were an interesting mix of people now staying at the Mountain House. Several more Dutch couples, a couple of Brits, and a very friendly young couple from Australia, one of whom was originally from Moscow. After we finished dinner, not long before dark, a group of elderly Germans showed up after hiking all day.

Birds Flying just off hotel deck

All in all, it was a delightful and relaxing coda (or nearly so) to our time in Turkey.

Posted by jonshapiro 09:21 Archived in Turkey Tagged landscapes mountains postcards Comments (2)

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