Thailand

Thailand

We have now arrived in Thailand. We got here a couple days ago. Before coming here I didn’t know what to think of this place. Most people who backpack SE Asia come here. I know there are a lot of beaches and that the food is delicious.

These patterns were on all the doors of the Wat

When you have been on the road for 8 months, things don’t really shock you as much. Nor are you as impressed as much. One thing that was amazing was how nice this place is for backpackers. There is a couple of streets lined with cheap t-shirts, cheap food, cheap beer, cheap CDs, cheap books and cheap fake driver’s licenses. The streets are full of street food. You can get a really good cheap meal just about anywhere, and there are all sorts of meat being shown for display on the side of the road. The streets are a little dirty (but not as bad as some places), the traffic is nice to pedestrians, and there are a fraction of the motorcycles there were in Vietnam.

Buddha Statues

Nearby our area is the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho. One day we went to see all three. However the price of the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha where a little to expensive for us. One thing that really bothers us is how much palaces charge to see them. It is not like the royal family really needs the money. I think the problem lies with the fact that people will pay it. As long as people are willing to pay to go in, a couple of cheap backpackers are not really going to make much of a difference.

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Big sleeping Buddha

After the trip to the gates of the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha we headed to the Wat Pho. The Wat Pho is a pretty big complex, the entrance price was reasonable and we enjoyed ourselves. In the days since that we haven’t been doing to much. Just killing time before we start our internship at the Panya Project, you will get more on that later. Tomorrow we will be in Chang Mai (northern Thailand).

Posted from Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
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Ha Long Bay

Tanya gazing at the scenery

After much debate we decided to go on a 2 day boat ride on Ha Long Bay.  Ha Long Bay is a World Heritage Site in Northern Veitnam and is about 1,500 square kilometres in size.  The bay has thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes.  Arguable the most popular attraction in Vietnam for both Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese tourists is a boat trip around the bay.  You can take either a 1,2, or 3 day excursion and you sleep on the boat.  We decided on two days and being the low season we where able to bargain down the cost one of the nicer boats on offer (there are literally hundreds to choose from).

In Surprize Cave

At dusk

In the bay, there are over 500 boats

Mystical, maybe a bit too much so

Fishing boats, the lights help attract the fish

After a 4 hour mini-bus journey we arrived at Halong City and jumped on the boat.  We were not dissapointed.  The boat was really clean and nice (we heard stories of rust buckets and rats) and had the second most comfortable bed I’ve slept in.  The meals went on and on, upward of nearly 10 courses  (we tried to count but lost track thanks to the bottle of wine and good company) of tasty Veitnamese (mostly fresh seafood) at dinner.  Other than that you just lounge around on the upper deck, enjoy the incredble scenery, and chat with the others on the boat.  We did stop at a “surprise cave” which was lit up with tacky strobe lighting but was also pretty amazing because it was so incredibly huge!    And we did some kayaking around the karsts and a floating village.  All in all is was a great trip (the pictures don’t do it justice at all though)!

The limestone islands covered in greenery

Posted from Vietnam
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Hue

Hue is a pleasant place to ride a bicycle

Hue is a town which houses the an Imperial Citadel. The citadel is a huge complex in the middle of the city. There is an outside wall, which houses many buildings, shops and houses. We rented bicycles and crossed the moat to check what was on the inside of the huge walls. Inside the walls is similar to that outside the wall, a Vietnamese city. As we have been moving north on our journey though Vietnam, we have noticed that the farther north you move, the more chilled out the country comes. In Siagon, it was crazy, a ton of motorcycles and many cars. The past week, we have seen more bicycles, less motorcycles and way less cars.

Inside the citadel

This is understandable as the wealth seems to be more concentrated in the south. Vietnam appears to have the most fairly distributed wealth out of all the countries we have visited. Saying that, there are some houses which are large (not huge), and there are some people living in poverty, but no where near as polarized as India, Cambodia or Malaysia. Everyone seems to own a motorcycle, and a surprising number of people own electric motorcycles.

Not really sure what this circular sign means, but it is everywhere in Vietnam

Another example of porcelain, and the symbol

A nice partially of restored house in the citadel

We went to see the imperial citadel the other day. It was great, there was a ton to see. The complex is huge, and as a result from its size, they were many times you could escape the crowds. It was great, Tanya and I would have a chance to walk alone, in quiet (the walls of the citadel cut out the traffic noise). We walked along the stone sidewalks, looking at the interesting use of porcelain to decorate the walls of the buildings. We even had the chance to watch a cat “play” with a small lizard, although, I’m sure the lizard wasn’t enjoying its last few minutes of life.

The lizard didn't really like this exercise

Tanya couldn't get enough of this wall

A dragon as a railing

Some of the colours seen

Kelly

Bright orange pillars stand against drab walls

Tanya, and the interesting windows

Some of the contrast of colours

Inside the one of the nicely restored building

The complex has many stages in different stages of restoration, as some parts are pretty much fully restored, many parts are not. Which is nice, there seems to be a nice balance of what it used to look like, and now, what it looks like after it has been neglected.

Tanya had to get a closer look too

I really wanted to get a closer look

The orange wall, the tiled walls, the big vase and the red and grey lines

An example of the nicely restored buildings

A detailed look at how the decorated their walls

Every entrance was nicely decorated

Golden roof, red walls, you see the Chinese influence here

The colours were truly amazing, full bodied reds, mixed with shimmering gold. Walls had the red brick colour, and were stained with years of tropical weather. Blue porcelain accented many buildings and green plants bordered nearly every wall. It was truly enjoyable way to spend the morning.

These archways are restored very nicely

Another example of the great porcelain work

Where's my beer?

Tanya hanging out

Posted from tp. Huế, Thua Thien-Hue, Vietnam
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Fairy Stream

After viewing the deserts we went to a place called Fairy Stream. Although the internet will tell you about a small waterfall, we didn’t walk far enough. We we did see was a small stream slowly eroding the heck out of giant sand dune. The result was a canyon, about 25m deep. To make things better, you had to walk up this stream to get to it, the stream was cool and it looked like we in paradise (you know, sandy banks, palm trees, hot weather). We even saw a cow, which adds to experience (being India for five months will make you look at cows in a whole different light). It was a lot of fun and no better way to spend the morning in this town.

Posted from Phan Thiết, Bình Thuận Province, Vietnam
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Silk and Crazy House

As you knew from our last post, we were involved with a motorcycle tour, which took us around the sights of Da Lat. Of the many things we saw, the Silk Factory and the Crazy house, I thought could use some more information.

The que of cocoons

Silk comes from the silk worm, but in reality it is a caterpillar, which makes it an insect, not a worm. Caterpillars should be allowed to become a moth, but as you will soon know, this doesn’t happen. The first thing that happens, is the caterpillar is fed mulberry leaves, in a controlled environment (like on shelves, with a screen to protect it from predators). The caterpillar eats the leaves for about a month, after a month it is ready to change into a moth, so it spins a cocoon. A tiny thread is made and it covers the whole caterpillar.

Coccons, awaiting the boilding water

The cocoon is then put into boiling water to kill the insect. The thread is then placed on a high speed dethreading machine.

Boiling the cocoons

The unraveling machine, cocoons at the bottom in boiling water

Another view of the unraveling machine

And that is it, you have the thread, you use a loom to make the fabric.

A loom turns the thread into material

Pretty interesting, or at least I thought so, see the worm, then the cocoon, the boiling water, the high speed dethreader and the loom was pretty cool. As an added benefit, you can take the boiled caterpillars, add some seasoning and sell them at the markets as a tasty, salty, protein snack.

The other sight that we saw was the Crazy house. This place was CRAZY…seriously. A place like this may be built in Canada, however it would have never had passed the building code. If it did pass the code, there is no way the public would be allowed to wander around this complex. Railings were knee height, and there were many opportunities for someone to trip and fall over 3 meters to concrete landing. Although it did look pretty cool, here are some pictures.

The view from the courtyard

Stairways

Another view

This pathway led to a 6m drop

An organic style was used

A swiss style was also used

An eagle protecting the egg

Creative Lighting

Posted from Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng, Vietnam
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Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

Before coming to Ho Chi Minh, all I new about this busy city is what I saw from Apocalypse Now (which wasn’t much). With a population of 9 million, this place is fully of energy and excitement. After getting off the bus, which was in the “tourist area,” we looked for a hotel. The first thing I noticed about this place is the motor cycles. There are a lot of them…4 million (according to Wikipedia). Crossing the road here is near suicidal. In Asia, motorcycles act more like bicycles, they drive on the sidewalks, they don’t really care what traffic light is and a lot get parked inside shops (including our hotel). This nice thing about the motorcycles is that they treat you like a big pothole in the road, they will do everything to avoid you, which is nice, but when you are facing 4 million coming at you at 45km/h you start to worry. Forget India, crossing the road here is way more dangerous. Other then crossing the road, this place is pretty cool.

The replica of tanks that broke down the front gate of Reunification Palace

Food here seems to be great value, breakfast was huge and meant we didn’t need to have lunch. With fully bellies, we headed to Reunification Palace. Reunification Palace was the presidential Palace from 1966 to 1975. A tank crashed through the front gates in April 1975, ending the Vietnam War. The place has been kept in wonderful shape, admission is cheap and your admission includes a guide. The first thing you notice is that the president had a pretty nice pad. You also realize that the 70’s were a pretty interesting time for interior design. Bright yellow furniture, olive greet carpet, and brown fixtures, this place makes you step back in time.

 

The metting room, retro

Recreation Room

Another room

The really cool sights are in the basement though. As you walk down the steps you feel like you will turn the corner and Q from James Bond. I didn’t see him, but I did see a lot of old gear. Rooms were named by their function, the map room, the phone room, the war room. It was pretty cool.

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Downstairs

Shooting range in the basement

Afterwards we headed to the War Remnants Museum, which was interesting and shows the brutality of the war.

Posted from Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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The Killing Fields

The sign you see as you enter the Killing fields

In the late 1970’s there was genocide in Cambodia. As I don’t remember ever learning about in school, and for the large part had no idea what happened. Pretty devastating. According to Wikipedia over 1.4 million people where killed and Cambodia only have 7 million people at the time. The words sad and terrible don’t really sum up what happened. Tanya and I (both of which had very little knowledge on the subject), toured Choeung Ek (where people where brought to be killed) and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (formally a prison).

Both the sites were informative, the museum was definitely the most interesting, and Choeung Ek is fairly far out of town (long tuk tuk ride). Like I said before, the museum was a prison. Before it was a prison, it was a school. You could still the chalk boards on the walls of the classrooms turned prison cells. In some of the rooms you could see the beds where people were kept. Other rooms had pictures of the victims and interviews of both sides of the fight. The sight was nothing short of amazing. It is hard to believe there are people out there that can lead an army to commit genocide. Here are the pictures of prison, and killing field memorial. The images talk for themselves.

Posted from Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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Angkor Wat: Part 1

While in Cambodia, one must go to Angkor Wat. So we did, we had the hotel booked for a couple of days so we opted for the 3 day pass. Using the strategy of saving the best for last, we say all the outer temple first, slowly making our way to the crown jewels of the World Heritage Site. This is a great way to see the temple as you start on the smaller less impressive ones and they get better and better as time goes on. There will be three posts on this, and this is part one.

 

The temples here are in various states of condition. From completely overrun by plants to restored, each temple has a different feel to it

Day one and day two: without going into boring detail of the names of the temples we went to, I’ll just say that we visited the outer most temples first. Seeing a lot of sandstone buildings worshiping Hindu and Buddhist gods. It was pretty pleasant and the crowds were low (because most people don’t see these temple).

Temple hopping is pretty enjoyable here, you get a tuk tuk, which has the most wonderful airflow, to drop you off at each temple entrance. There kids from the age of 4 try to sell you postcards and books, which is quiet humourious. Just say no about 7 times and smile at them. The kids give up and then ask where you are from. The people here are so friendly. We would walk around the temple seeing what it had to offer and then head back to our tuk tuk.

 

Great Detail

By the time you are done walking around these ancient structures, you shirt is covered in sweat and you are quiet hot, this is where the open air tuk tuk is great. As you move to the next temple you quickly cool down and repeat.

If you only interest is to see some temples (not try to get a ton of photos) and you have spent 5 months in India, only get a one day pass. The temples in India are for the most part bigger, in better shape and more memorable. Saying that, if you haven’t seen your fair share of temples, getting a three day pass for Angkor Wat is well worth the cost and experience, I would just recommend the saving the best for last strategy.

Posted from Krong Siem Reap, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Georgetown Buildings

Georgetown is full of old buildings (as you may have gathered from the last post). This morning I went out early and took some shots. It was great walking around in the morning and seeing the town slowly wake up, unfortunately most were driving. I stopped for breakfast at an Indian stand and got a roti cennia (like a porotta, just not quiet as good) and watched people get some goods from the market. The most popular item was the chickens, plucked of feathers and sitting in a box, they are flopped onto a cutting board where the butcher will chop up the chicken efficiently and quickly. You can’t do this in Canada, in fact in BC you need to go through so many regulations only the big farms and super markets can afford to sell meat. Kind of funny, there is probably a billion people here in Asia that get there meat from a road side stand, sitting in +20 degree weather and chopped up with a cleaver. It is something we have moved away from in the West, just the thought of getting our chicken not wrapped up in styrofoam and plastic wrap breads concerns of germs and disease. I think we need to rethink our food system from the bottom up. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Sorry for the little aside, Georgetown in a beautiful city and it is only a matter of time until the roadside markets are replaced by the disinfected supermarket I know back home. Here are some pictures I took from this morning.

Posted from Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia
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Penang

For the past few days we have been in the town/island called Penang. Situated closely off the coast of North West Malaysia, Penang was where the British first colonized in Malaysia. The town is great, both Tanya and I really enjoy it here, there are so trees and greenery, hills and heritage buildings, it is a great place to be. We have been lucky enough to meet up with Balan (Balan took the PDC course with us back in the middle of May). It was great, Balan and his wife (Chithra) welcomed us into their home, showed us around Penang and made our visit to Penang truly memorable.

There are many sights to see in Penang and we have seen quiet a few. There is the Penang hill, a 800m tall hill that overlooks the main city of Penang, there was also the Ban Po Thar (largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia), The sleeping Buddha, The Burmese Buddhist temple, the old town and the Thai Consulate (we got our Thai Visas). Some we saw on our own, and others we saw with Balan and his family. So far our stay here has been wonderful, tomorrow we are heading out a farm on the island (we met the farm manager at the PDC) to help out the farm.

Posted from Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
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