Permanent Vacasian

The traveller sees what he sees; the tripper sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton

Paradise Lost, Then Found, Then Lost

May 9, 2009
by Tina
11 Comments
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Ko Phi Phi & Ko Lipe, Thailand – Maybe it was the heat or just the length of time we had been traveling, or most likely a little bit of both, but we hit a serious wall in Bangkok and were really looking forward to the Islands for some much needed R&R.

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Getting ready to leave Krabi.

The Thai islands had reached an almost mystical status in my mind, and I had come to expect near perfection from the tropical beaches that awaited.

It was just a matter of picking which one.  We interviewed numerous other travelers who had been to the islands and found it nearly impossible to pick between them all; but we finally settled on Ko Phi Phi.

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The view from our seats on the ferry.

I came to Ko Phi Phi expecting paradise. And what I saw when we arrived at four in the afternoon after another overnight train, two hour bus trip and three hours on a ferry, was anything but.  It was pouring, the beach was junked up with boats, the town was crowded and dirty, the streets were flooded with an inch of water and in some parts you cold smell the distinct odor of sewage.

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Bangkok Hot

May 8, 2009
by Stuart
4 Comments
8,442 views

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Graffiti art depicting the crazy traffic.

Bangkok, Thailand – The first thing we noticed about Bangkok after stepping off the night train from Chaing Mai was the heat. It was hot (upper 90s) and humid (upper 80s) and would rain every afternoon for about 30 minutes. It reminded me of growing up in Florida. Incidentally, according to a couple sources, Bangkok is the hottest capital city.

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River taxi along the Mae Nam Chao Phraya.

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Wat Phra Kaew distorted by a stupid photographer not paying attention.

The second thing we noticed was how huge this city was. Since leaving Shanghai four months ago, most of our time has been spent in little towns with less then 100,000 people. Bangkok has millions. And they all love going to malls – which also might number in the millions – downtown is full of them! If you went to a different mall each day, it would take at least three weeks to see them. And most are connected so you can move to a different mall without going outside. Which is great when you want to escape the heat.

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Slice of Pai

April 27, 2009
by Tina
6 Comments
2,785 views

Downtown Pai.

Downtown Pai.

Pai, Thailand – Pai (pronounced “bye”) is one of those glorious small towns where there isn’t much to do.  We were lured there by this and its hip, artsy feel.  It’s a Lonely Planet proclaimed “traveler’s mecca”, but the loads of Westerners doesn’t take away from the town’s laid back atmosphere.

Breeze of Pai Guesthouse.

Breeze of Pai Guesthouse.

The locals have embraced tourism in a way unlike most SE Asian towns, in that they have incorporated themselves into the traveler’s community as artists and funky shop and restaurant owners as opposed to strict businessmen.  I was even pleasantly surprised to see several Thai/Western couples where the man was Thai and the woman was Western.

After a windy four hour bus ride from Chiang Mai we set off on one of our least favorite activities – finding a room.  Stuart and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on the types of places we want to stay.  I like air conditioning (it is over 90 degrees every day), an ensuite bathroom and a clean place that doesn’t look infested.  Stuart gravitates towards places that are “interesting” – such places often lack the few amenities that I desire.  Our opposing views came to a head in our search this afternoon, but I won out and we booked a cute concrete bungalow at a guesthouse called Breeze of Pai.

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Sukhothai Or Bust!

April 27, 2009
by Stuart
Comments Off on Sukhothai Or Bust!
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Stupa top of Wat Pra That Lampang Luang.

Northern Thailand –  It had been a while since we took a motorbike trip, so we were getting restless for freedom. Our friends, Ray and Megan, suggested an itinerary they had done around northern Thailand that sounded pretty good. So we rented a bike, bought a map, and hit the “super highway” heading south towards Lampang.

The super highway is anything but. No doubt it’s a highway – it’s the “super” part I take issue with. It’s certainly wide enough – three lanes of traffic going in both directions with a nice grassy median to give it some order. But drivers, particularly motorbikers, seem to ignore the flow of traffic and drive on the wrong side against the flow of traffic at full speed. This makes it hard to drive on autopilot and enjoy the scenery.

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Polls used to keep branches from falling. Can even see the original tree now!

Thailand really showcases their elephants so our first stop was at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC).  There are offerings of rides, shows, baths, etc in almost every town but the TECC was supposedly one of the best in terms of treatment of the elephants with proceeds from the center going towards their elephant hospital. They also treat elephants from around the country.

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Friskies

April 17, 2009
by Stuart
3 Comments
2,115 views

Chiang Mai, Thailand – When crossing into another country, we usually make observations about how different things suddenly are. This is mostly in jest because things don’t change that fast. You are in the middle of nowhere when you leave Russia, and when you enter Mongolia, you are still in the middle of nowhere. This nowhere just has a different name.

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Wat Chiang Man.

When crossing the Mekong into Thailand from Laos, things did change that fast. Everything was paved, shiny, hammockless – and there was a sense of being with people who had someplace to be soon. When I asked our minibus driver if we were all going to get our own seat or if he would cram as many people in, he laughed at me for thinking they would stuff it like a Thanksgiving turkey. “It only has eleven seats”, he said. “No more”.

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That’s right!

Our time spent getting our Thailand visas while in Vientiane paid off – we got a 60-day stay, but the people we were crossing with, who didn’t have a visa, only got 15 days. It also paid off that I am taller then the average Asian – the immigration office was a zoo, but learning a trick I discovered in China, I pushed towards the officer and reached over everyone and put our passports through the window into his hands. He took care of us next.

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