Friday, February 28, 2014
A little north of Chiang Mai in Thailand is a small sleepy mountain village called Mae Taeng.
The most significant complex is a Wat there with a conspicuous presence.
The massive complex is growing by the day and our visit there the end of a weekend-long celebration of the crowning of some massive stupas.
Pilgrims and monks descended on the complex for the celebration. Many were Burmese and some camped overnight within the Wat's grounds.
A large "money tree" was erected for the ceremony.
The Wat has just a few resident monks who usually keep the entire complex spotless, probably with the help of some devotees, but on this particular weekend there was plenty of debris to keep up with.
The abbot's residence on the grounds of the Wat.
The crowning of the stupa.
It's rare to see a Wat of this splendor, especially out in what may seem like the middle of nowhere.
The Abbot of the Wat is rather young and much of the money for the construction of the Wat is reported to have come from Burma. The quality and materials are all top notch including large timbres of high quality wood, also probably from across the boarder.
Nonetheless it's an impressive complex and the revered abbott will definitely have a well defined legacy.
Monday, February 24, 2014
A popular outing in Thailand, and especially in the north, is visiting an elephant camp.
Even if you're not into mahout training or riding you can usually go out to see elephants at one of the many elephant camps located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai.
Having ridden elephants in the past, we had no desire to do it again on this trip.
So we set out, with bunches of bananas in hand, to one of the local camps.
This particular camp was set up for mahout training. You can take a one day to week-long course for mahout training where you'll learn all about the elephants, clean and feed them, and eventually bond and ride them.
This particular camp had several mothers who had young with them. They stay very close to their mothers and will come running when the mother calls.
Bananas are a great treat for the elephants, swallowing them peel and all.
There are no working (logging) elephants left in Thailand today. There are still pockets living in the wild but the easiest way to see them is at the camps set up to train them for the tourist trade. It may seem cruel for some but for the most part, the camp elephants are healthier and safer than the few remaining in the wild.
As the voices for protection of these magnificent creatures grows, the more humanely they are treated in captivity. No riding platforms are erected on the elephants at this particular camp and the elephants here have plenty of free roaming ground.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
For a variety of reasons, Chiang Mai is probably one of our favorite destinations in Thailand.
Thailand's second largest city is still dwarfed by the massive size of Bangkok but still offers a lot of charm and Thai culture for visitors.
One of our favorite things to do here is shopping for antiques. Lanna Antiques (shown above) is one of our "must" stops when in Chiang Mai. Although we're not currently in the market for more buddhas, you never know when something may catch your eye.
The "Silver Temple" has been going through years of construction and there doesn't seem to be a defined end at the moment.
A break for afternoon coffee and evening mango with sticky rice.
Catching up with old friends from Sweden who coincidently visit Chiang Mai just about every year.
We first met about 10 years ago in the ancient capital of Sukhothai in central Thailand.
Then there's the more serious business of some minor dental work for Alan.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
After a week in Bangkok we were ready for some R & R on the beach so we headed off to Nai Harn Beach on the southern tip of Phuket.
As tourist beaches go, Nai Harn is pretty good, although our last visit three years earlier was full of not so pleasant memories.
We've been to Nai Harn 8 or 9 times over the last decade and have seen development around, and leading to, the beach grow enormously. So much so that much of the sleepy charm we remembered so well on our early visits was gone.
None the less, Nai Harn is still probably one of the better "tourist beaches" left on the island.
The one advantage Nai Harn has over some of the larger beaches is the fact that jet skis and motor traffic is not allowed. The water is cleaner and clearer with an abundance of sea life.
The Russians have taken over Phuket.
We first noticed a large number of Russians at the beach community of Jomtien, near Pattaya, just southeast of Bangkok.
On our first week here on Nai Harn this year we were surrounded by Russians, upwards of 80%. Many were younger (20s to 40s) with infants and toddlers in tow. This made for quite a bit of noise on the beach.
Posing for photos seems to be a favorite activity on the beach for many and the Russians were no exception.
If you don't mind the crowds, Nai Harn still remains a decent beach to visit. We will most likely return but it may not be as regularly as it once was.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Bangkok has a rather large Chinese community so the Lunar New Year is celebrated in many parts of the city. Here are displays at Paragon Shopping Complex welcoming in the Year Of The Horse.
Chinatown is bustling with activity with people making their way to the various shrines and temples to beckon in a healthy and prosperous new year.
A major Wat on the outskirts of Chinatown is Wat Traimit which houses an incredible gold buddha, the largest solid gold buddha in the world.
The 13th century statue is slightly under 10 feet tall weighing five and a half tons. A must see if you ever find yourself venturing near Bangkok's Chinatown.
Food is always a part of any Chinese celebration and here we have ducks and geese hanging out to cool and dry in the late morning sun.