Friday, January 27, 2012

FIRST STOP: Bangkok!

FIRST STOP: Bangkok!

The city view from our hotel - morning, noon, and night, and oh, boy, was the city even bigger than that!  Here are some more city views:

We took a water taxi to get to several of the places we wanted to go. Above is a taxi, and below is a photo of it coming toward us while we waited on the pier. We had to board really fast because they didn't wait long for customers to climb in before zooming off again.  

See the guy walking along the side of the taxi above? Not the pink shirt guy on the platform, the little one on the boat just hanging out on the side. He was the ticket taker. It was pretty cheap to ride, 10Baht, or around 30-35 cents.  After he took the tickets, he'd pull up the tarp around the sides.  I was totally disappointed the first time becuase I wanted to see where we were going, but then when it dropped again I had my mouth open and water splashed open and I vomited quickly realized the importance of those tarps on the sides!  My mouth remained tightly closed from then on. Well, on the water taxi anyway.  

Where should we go first? 

One of our destinations was the King's Palace. Yes, I know we just did the palace in Cambodia, but the palace in Thailand is apparently a must-see, so we did it.  Pretty amazing.  Though I wouldn't do it again.  Never seen so many tourists packed into one tight space in my whole life. You don't see that in the photos, because it was in those moments I was too afraid to take my hands off the kids and husband and snap a picture because I thought I might lose them in the crowd.  Here are some from the less crowded moments.

There were all sorts of creatures like this that reminded me of Narnia or something

The palace guard 
Buddha in Thailand is depicted as fatter than Buddha in Cambodia

That was from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  It was pretty neat, had all sorts of gold and silver treasures all around it. It's still a sacred Buddha and wat (temple) to the people, so many were worshipping  and no photos were allowed inside, so this is shot from outside with a zoom lens (that was allowed). He was up about 2 stories high, and is actually made of crystal jade I think we read, not emerald.  Still a sight to see!

More photos: 
Tuk Tuk aquarium with shark in seat (tuk tuks in Bangkok were much different than Cambodia )
Playing at the mall. On the ground.  Ew.
Thai people in the market

The sign behind him says "People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges."  He was some sort of palm reader or Tarot card reader or something.  I just don't see long hair on men in Cambodia much so I had to take a pic.

 And the kids.  They loved Thailand.  They were cute because they'd still say things like "thank you" and "hello" and "goodbye" in Khmer.  I wonder if they understand why that was wrong or are still wondering why I kept telling them not to do that?

cold water bottles to cool off

 NEXT STOP:  Chiang Mai...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Thoughts on Thailand

Well, I’m exhausted and my bed is calling me, but it’s only 5pm, so I’m trying anything I can think of to keep myself from surrendering to its power because it’s just too early. It’s a good kind of tired. We just got in from an amazing vacation in Thailand. A much needed and very energizing journey to our western neighbor that was so packed full of adventure that I’m now home and totally exhausted! In effort to stay up until at least 8:00 (or 6:00), I’ve been sorting through photos, editing pictures, washing some clothes, and catching up on things like blogs and facebook. I decided my blog needed an update as well. But since I’m way too tired to think very clearly right now, forgive me as I stumble through the thoughts here. Here’s the short version of my impression of Thailand, and I promise more photos will come, and they may or may not include more comments.

First stop: BANGKOK
View of one side of Bangkok from our hotel roof
Facts - Capital of Thailand and city of 12-15 million people, depending on who you ask and who is counting. (Phnom Penh has about 2 million) North of Phnom Penh but still warm year round and has rivers and canals running through it, which flooded just a couple months ago (thus cancelling our first planned trip to Thailand).

My impression – Didn’t care much for it, honestly. I thought it looked like any big city in America and felt much like it, too. In fact, I think from the cities I’ve visited (which aren’t too, too many), I’d compare it to Los Angeles. In the city there are very wealthy areas where the elite live and then there are the poor areas where markets are set up on the streets and vendors are selling food and clothes to anyone along a dirty canal. There is a good metro system in place but we didn’t use it so I can’t say much about it. Lots of night clubs, but we didn’t see those, either. Mostly we just saw some awesome fashion trends – from the fabulous to the oddly mysterious to everything in between and also hair styles of all kinds. It was obvious that there was a large affluent population there. Stephen commented that there were more overweight people there than in Cambodia, too. Definitely true. And when I get to talk to you about food, I’ll show you why in photos. The food was great. They had all the Western fast food chains, and even some more upscale places like Outback and stuff and then all the Thai places, too. The malls were amazing. I was so excited to be in a place I could actually try on clothes – in a real dressing room as opposed to the market where if I do ever try something on it is only while the girl holds up a tiny towel while I change behind it. Frustrating thing was, just like in LA, I couldn’t afford anything in any of the stores! Not a chance!

And the people all tried to con us. Tuk tuk drivers, tour guides, even the concierge at our nice hotel! We had read about their “tricks” and quite a few were pulled on us. Good thing we didn’t fall for any of them. It just was so frustrating to be in a place where we couldn’t trust anyone enough to even ask something simple as how to say a Thai word or to point us in the right direction of some place we were going. Everyone was out to scam us. I hated that and I was ready to get out of there.

Next stop: CHIANG MAI

Overlook of Chiang Mai, Thailand from the temple on the mountain

Facts: Largest city in northern Thailand, in the mountains, pretty far from Bangkok, at least a full day’s drive. Apparently it has over 300 Buddhist temples. Lots of Thai hill tribes (sort of like American Indians are to Americans) live in the mountains around the city.

My impression – Love at first sight. It was beautiful. We were supposed to take a train into the city but long story short, tickets were sold out, so we had to fly. I was in love before our plane started descending. Mountains surround a city that in ancient times had a wall and a moat around it. It’s gorgeous. And the people were much nicer. The Thai people take much pride in Chiang Mai. At the airport when we told people we were going there they were all proud of us. It was here that we had to design an excel spreadsheet to account for every hour of each day to squeeze in all the things we wanted to do. We got to see a night safari of animals, go to an ancient temple on the top of a mountain, visit beautiful waterfalls, take part in an umbrella festival in a province where they make paper umbrellas, ride elephants in a jungle, see elephants put on a show where they painted pictures, played soccer and more, and see monkeys do a show, too. I have lots to share about Chiang Mai. We didn’t want to leave.

But we had to. And we took an overnight train for 14 hours back to Bangkok last night. We each shared a sleeper bed with one kid, so neither of us grown ups slept at all. Then we boarded a plane and came home. So we are tired. And now I think it’s getting a bit closer to being an acceptable time to climb in my bed, watch a little TV, and then drift off to dream about the wonderful vacation we had in Chiang Mai.

I hope you are as excited as I am!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The King's Palace

We were tourists today.  We've been here over 6 months now and have yet to do many of the "touristy" things Phnom Penh has to offer.  We thought Saturday morning would be a good day to tour the King's Palace.  After all, how often do you get the opportunity to visit the home of a real King??  This one here is the home of Cambodia's King, King Norodom Sihamoni.

The boys were comfortably dressed in t-shirts in shorts and I was in a cute tank top and my denim shorts, but the guards deemed that "inappropriate" for visiting the grounds, so I had to rent this cool outfit to wear over my clothes.

I guess if I have to wear special clothes I get to actually meet the king?  Well I hope they'd give me something better to wear if that were the case.  I got this white tee for $2 and the pink pants were rented for 1000 Riel, which is about $0.25.  It all went over my clothes so it didn't make for flattering family photos in front of the Royal Palace or anything.  Oh well. There goes that New Year's Resolution to be in more photos with my kids!

I don't remember what each building was.  Here are some photos.

Murals lined the whole compound and were worn away but still quite beautiful.

Stage for private performances for the King.

Scale model of Angkor Wat.

These are the seats that go on an elephant's back that the King and Queen could ride in during a parade.  There was a room full of different styles and sizes of these types of seats.

The gardens were beautiful but had all sorts of strange looking plants as well as beautiful ones.

This plant was growing out of the tree trunk

Even strange little things guarded the plants

 More photos on the grounds

 After we finished touring the grounds we went outside and chased some pigeons.  It was silly and fun.  We could have fed them but then they would have come near us, which I'm quite sure would have terrified my kids. I think they were much happier having them fly away from rather than toward us.

It was a fun day to be a tourist!  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beautiful People

Thank you so much for all the encouragement and support I received after my last post.  

I decided there was nothing that would get my heart back in the right place faster than a few special moments with God's people of Cambodia.  I went on another of the journeys I like to call a photo walk.  This time I chose the market near my apartment for the walk.

Though I had set aside 3 hours of my afternoon to do this, God decided I only needed 30 minutes.  It's dry season and it hasn't rained in weeks, but He sent a storm today and as the first sprinkles began to fall I decided I better get myself (and my non-waterproof camera) back home.

But in that half hour, I met some beautiful people. 

I had to speak in Khmer because none of them spoke English and that, too, was the reminder I needed that I have to continue my language study so that I can hear their stories. I want to learn about their families, their struggles, their loves, their lives.

As I type this the rain has stopped and the photos are nicely edited and ready to be printed here locally.  Tomorrow I'll try to go back out, with my boys this time, and hand out prints to these beautiful people.  I know they will be excited to have them.  

They'll be getting a gift worth about $0.06 but they will never know they gave me a priceless gift today.