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By this Author: chrisvasil

Chiang Mai - Jungle Trekking Adventure


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From Chiang Mai we took a 3 day/2 night trekking tour, with 3 others and the guide.

Orchid garden and butterfly farm
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Sweaty Sue and dry me with jungle fruit (cucumber and banana flower) as our guide looks on unimpressedly
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Thai jungle spiral plant
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The first night we stayed in a chicken farming small village of 10 people and a few cats, terrifying Sue. We washed ourselves and our clothes in the brown river, and slept in a bamboo hut with 10 straw mats and mosquito nets.
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The next day started with a trip to the elephant farm, where we rode for close to an hour
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Bamboo rafting is the same as riding on a gondola, only not as high-tech
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The long-neck hill tribe "village", which (before negotiation) costs an extra $10 to visit, is a series of about 20 gift shops staffed by people taken from refugee camps. They got to the camps after fleeing persecution in Myanmar. The "village" we went to had mostly long-neck hill tribe people (all women: they are taken unmarried and get married to locals thereafter). There were also a few long-ear people (who wear the earrings that make holes in the ear lobe). The dress between the two tribes is different, but one thing they have in common is tight metal bands from the middle of the top of their calf muscles. The guide said these are to keep them from running away from their husbands, but I suspect it's to keep them running away from their colony. They are only paid subsistance amounts of rice for working in the village, though the guide said that if they sell stuff they can use profits to buy other things (presumably for inflated prices from the company - there are no stores in the jungle).
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After some more trekking, we stayed in thatched huts in a different village, and it rained the next morning
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The following day we hiked to a summit overlooking the whole area. It was a couple hard hours to get up, but we all made it in good spirits.
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Later in the day was whitewater rafting, which had a few good rapids. Apparently in the dry season it's just rafting rather than the whitewater type on account of the slower currents. The first day when we saw the river water we were really hoping that wouldn't be the whitewater rafting water, but after washing and doing laundry in the same water it didn't matter.
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The price of the whole 3 days, including transport, elephant riding, bamboo rafting, whitewater rafting, 2 nights' sleep, 3 meals a day, a guide shared between 5 people, and a stop at the hill tribe "village" was 1200 THB or about $40, per person (negociated from an initial price of around 2000THB).

The next day we did ziplining, which was great fun. The company we went with - Jungle Flight - is locally owned, advertises much less than the other, and is apparently much better.
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On the way back we stopped by some hot springs. They smelled sulfurous, and were really hot, probably around 80C
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On our last night in Chiang Mai we got locked out of our hotel - unbeknownst to me they lock the building at 11pm, and I didn't bring the hotel keys because our room lock was a padlock so I used one of our padlocks instead. After plotting for awhile, Sue flagged down a motorcycle driver who was delivering something to another hotel in the area. He woke up the manager of our hotel in her room, and she angrily came out to open the door. The next day her arm was in a cast, but she told us it was unrelated.

Posted by chrisvasil 10:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (1)

Bangkok - Life in the year 2552


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Going to Asia from Europe was a nice change - everything is so much cheaper: meals for a dollar, double rooms for ten, and the food is so good! This posting describes both our sejourns in Bangkok, totalling 7 days and interupted by the trip to Chiang Mai.

We're staying near the backpacker district of Khao San Rd, which has great shops to buy and sell equipment and books, and surpisingly has some excellent thai food. It is also near a 6-way intersection which is terrible to cross, made me get lost about 10 times, marked by this elephant monument.
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Our first day there was a day of national celebration (an actual one, not the one tuk-tuk drivers make up every day - more on that later), so we saw a show of music and dancing in front of City Hall.
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Half the pics we took were of food, it was all so good and so cheap
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Sue decided to be Buddhist while in Thailand, so she prays at all the shrines and many of the temples we pass.
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It turns out Ronald McDonald is Buddhist too. I was wondering why he hadn't been seen at church, synagogue, or mosque in North America. A statue like this is outside almost every McDonalds we passed by in the country.
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The vast majority of Thai Buddhas are slim, and a few seem to violate the rule of Buddhist statues that says they can't have apparent bones or muscle (one of 32 rules for making images of Buddha). But there are some fat Buddhas.
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Juxtoposition of old and new
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The Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace are amazing, so big and ornate. Obviously, before finding the entrance we were told by tuktuk drivers that it is closed today, but another temple is free today, so we should go there with them. We politely declined, before being told by another tuktuk driver a few minutes later that we're underdressed (Sue wearing a tank top) and wouldn't be allowed in. We finally found the entrance, and though Sue had to borrow a blouse from the clothing-borrowing office there were otherwise no problems.
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Me posing as a rat
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Our hotel price was absolutely cheap, and it was pretty good 20091015_036.jpg

There's a massive night market along the sidewalks in the park in front of the Grand Palace, selling everything from used shoes to jewelery to food. Here is a view from there
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Democracy Monument, close to much good food and one of our main landmarks to find our way home
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Posted by chrisvasil 10:56 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Rome - Fountains and ruins


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Rome - Fountains and ruins

Like any good conquering empire's capital, Rome brought home some Egyptian Obelisks, like this one in at the top of the Spanish steps.
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Similarly, they have a couple of Jesuses standing on the top of pillars.
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One of the main squares is beautiful by night, with fountains and artists
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The Vatican is technically a seperate country, but with no borders to the tourist parts (St Peters Square and Basilica, and Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel). The rest is inaccessible, guarded by the Swiss Guard (in their colorful costumes).

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It's a bit troubling how many statues and carvings are of small children, especially in St Peters Basilica.
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Me on the Spanish steps, and refilling my water from the fountain in front
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National Antimafia Directorate, on a side street. There were a few officers in front, smiling for the camera as we took this pic, but we didn't take a picture of them.
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Smart cars seem to be the most popular type in Europe, and there are many copycats there, a few of which, like this Auto Pini 2, are even smaller
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The Roman ruins are situated in the middle of the city, and are the reason the transport system is so bad (2 subway lines) -- large parts of the city are above hidden ruins, and they do not want to destroy that without first excavating.
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In front of the Colussium
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At the Triti Fountain, and more small child angels
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Posted by chrisvasil 10:49 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Cinque Terre - Dramatic seaside villages on cliffs


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Cinque Terre is a stunning collection of 5 picturesque villages with farms perched along cliffs and overlooking beaches. Each village is about the same: a few thousand residents, a beach with touristy restaurants nearby, a convenience store somewhere in town, and trails leading into the hills.
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There are trails connecting the 5 villages, accessible for 5 Euros and with a total of 5 hours of hiking. We skipped 2 hours of the trail, going instead by train, to conserve our energy.

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Posted by chrisvasil 10:47 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Nice - Tropical paradise in France


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Nice is a nice warm place with a castle, lots of pebble beaches and some restaurants and markets.
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Posted by chrisvasil 10:44 Archived in France Comments (0)

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