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Archive for January, 2013

Chiang Mai In Photos

A gallery collection of some of our photos in the busy but nonetheless enchanting city of Chiang Mai- the gateway to northern Thailand. Click on any photo to view slideshow.

 

Changing Attitudes in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Jan. 18 – Jan. 25, 2013

masked policeman controls traffic during a typical afternoon in Chaing Mai

After a mellow and spiritually uplifting couple of days in the nearly 800-year-old city of old Sukhothai, arriving in Chiang Mai was a bit of a shock. While we were certainly aware things had changed since our memorable first visit in 1989, when we had traveled here from Bangkok (a slow, hot, long train ride) with Chris’s mom Ange, merely travelling the short distance from the train station to our hotel revealed how incredibly busy the city had become. No longer a peaceful haven from loud, busy, polluted Bangkok, it seemed that “progress” and tourism had turned this northern hill tribe centre into a smaller version of the capital.

close call on our train from Sukhathai

Our spirits sank, especially as the nearly 10-hour train ride here from Sukhathai had exactly been a picnic: cramped, slow, dirty, cock roach invested, and it even caught on fire about an hour and a half outside of Chiang Mai! Fortunately, no one was hurt and there was no structural damage as the fire started underneath the carriage of one of the cars. No bus or other alternative transport was provided; we were all loaded back on and the train carried on.

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Old Sukhothai in Black and White

The Sukhothai ruins seem to lend themselves to black and white imagery. Taken with our iPhones and trusty Nikon, here is a tasty sampling of our many photos- click on any photo and follow the arrows left or right.

 

Back in Time in Old Sukhothai

After a four-night stay, we looked forward to departing noisy frenetic Bangkok – eastern city of angels and devilishly dirty canals. We were booked 2nd class express air con but were dismayed to see our train pull up. More like a worn out subway car, the seats cramped our long legs and the journey north was not the pleasant experience we had played ahead in our minds.

Eight long hours on – and 2 hours late- we arrived in Phitsanulok, yet had another couple hours of travel ahead of us. First, a TukTuk (or as we call them – souped up golf cart) to the bus station, then a mini van for the one-hour trip to new Sukothai city, and after protracted negotiations, a Songtheaw (pick-up truck taxi) to the Orchid Hibiscus, a charming small guest resort managed by our second congenial Italian proprietor Paolo (the first being Guido in Amman).

Our Guest House

In his surprisingly strong Italian accent, Paolo informed us that our timing was impeccable as the old city would play host to the Festival of Lights the very next day in honour of King Ramkhamhaeng, noteworthy as the founder of the modern-day Thai alphabet and Theravada Buddhism; it was meant to be an auspicious occasion.

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Bangkok Photo Gallery

A selection of images from four days in the Thai capital.

One Night in Bangkok

Elaine’s Journal, Midnight, Jan. 15, 2013

Damn it.  A nap before dinner to try to catch up on sleep turned into a 4.5 hour snooze – again. So now it’s too late to venture out to Khao San Road, the nearby tourist ghetto  for dinner. A banana in our room will have to suffice.

Chris checks out the sights and sounds of Khao San Road, including the ubiquitous Tuk Tuks during one of our day-time explorations

My body continues to fight the affects of jet lag three days after arriving in Thailand’s capitol. Combined with the woozy, disconcerting roll which lingers following our latest and hopefully last harrowing ride on a packed-to-the-gunnels Chao Prya River taxi yesterday afternoon, sleep at normal hours remains elusive.

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Bangkok Bound: 1987

Note: This previously unpublished story chronicles our first visit Bangkok in 1987- we thought it would dovetail nicely with our current trip nearly 26 years later…

See also: Travels With Barney (Bangkok, 1996)

Bidding adieu to our latest favourite paradise – the southern Thai island of Koh Samui – Elaine and I traveled by boat to the port of Surathani. There we boarded a second-class sleeper on an overnight train to Bangkok. Chugging out of the station at around 6 p.m., we discovered our latest mode of travel to be surprisingly comfortable. Our two seats faced each other and we had half of the aisle to ourselves.

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Snowbound In the Desert- Amman Jordan- January 8-11, 2012

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”   John A. Shedd

Booking tickets around the world using our substantial collection of British Airways points should have been easy, but it wasn’t. We have been collecting miles for more than 14 years, but in the last year BA has re-jigged the game – especially with its OneWorld partners – and the opportunities to travel, especially in Business Class, have diminished to a trickle.

I became frustrated as well as irritated, despite being six months out from our proposed departure date, it seemed there were no tickets to be had. I decided to contract out what appeared to be the impossible dream to upgrd.com award experts.

Miraculously, after much back and forth e-mailing, a round-the-world travel agenda was organized on our behalf: Detroit to Bangkok on Royal Jordanian Airlines, with a 10-hour layover in Amman Jordan. I did the math – 14 hours to Amman (one stop in Montreal to pick up more passengers), a 10-hour layover, and then another 9-hour flight to Bangkok: total travel time was over 34 hours! This was clearly too much even for seasoned global travelers like us to bear.

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Crazy Snowman- Ammen, Jordan

Aaron Showker, one of the guests at our B&B By The Lemon Tree took this great in Amman during the snowstorm yesterday- love the palm tree and Arab Script sign…

Is he hitchhiking?

How We Became Stuck in Amman, Jordan