25
Nov
10

Maui – The Wedding Ring Miracle (December, 2009)

Layover of about 6 hours in Tokyo, then on to Honolulu, another 3 hours, then on to Maui. Our little villa in Lahaina, just perfect for us, restoring ourselves for ten days after the recent hectic travel in Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. The town of Lahaina is small and attractive, except, of course, for the usual knick-knackery and t-shirts. We found an excellent beach to visit, where we could read in peace – Sandy beach, but rocky sea bottom there, so we had to tread gingerly once we were ten feet into the water. A good route for running near our villa, so I could keep up the fitness. Did some Christmas shopping, of course. Met friends for dinner in Wailea one night.

Our last stop on sabbatical - the beach at Maui

Our days at the beach were relaxing and quiet – the beach was not crowded at all, especially since we would tend to go in the mornings, whereas most people go to the beach in the afternoon. We saw frequent paddle boarders on the water, riding the small waves, long paddle in hand like stickmen and stick-women against the blue ocean and the horizon. The only imperfections were the rocky bottom that started about fifteen feet out, and the proximity of the busy two-lane highway that went along the beach.

One typical day I happened to be sinking myself into the shallow water to cool off a bit, one hand resting on a large rounded rock and the other resting on the best smaller rocks I could find. Looking out at the ocean, I couldn’t see a single paddle boarder, actually, and up and down the beach few other pairs of people were stretched out on their towels.We seemed to be the only ones who had beach umbrellas we could stick in the sand – something so obvious that these Hawaiian beachgoers need to learn from their European counterparts, where small beach umbrellas are de rigueur, and widely available. I am sure someone has thought of it, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people don’t use them in Hawaii.

All of sudden the calm was rent apart by a screeching of tires, a couple of deep, earth-pounding thuds, the loud sound of wheels on gravel, followed by some more screeching of tires. And then silence. I had been waiting for the sound of cars crashing, but it never came. I tore out of the water. Past our parked car to look out at the highway, where, on the opposite side, a car was steaming, facing the wrong way at the side of the road. It had come off the road on our side, taken out a road sign made of solid metal, skidded in the very wide shoulder (at least 25 feet wide before you go to the area where you could park a car for a day at the beach) and missed our parked car by about six inches, it seemed. The trail of skidmarks went just past the end our car, back toward the highway,  started to do a donut that obviously continued out on the highway itself, before the careening car came to rest, having done a complete 360 before coming to rest on the opposite shoulder. The highway was busy, but no other cars had been hit, which would have been devastating. Some bits and pieces of bumper and headlights and turning signals were strewn close to our car and along the shoulder on our side. The tall, sturdy road sign that had been taken out was lying about 15 feet from our car.

But everyone was okay, and all the damage seemed to be superficial. After a long breather, the car in question turned around and headed back to Lahaina, at a more chastened speed, clearly.

It wasn’t until several hours later, when I finished my run, that I realized I didn’t have my wedding ring any longer. It is a wide gold band, substantial enough to have an intricate Haida carving in it that Joan chose when buying it. I wracked my brain to figure out when I had taken it off, and checked or beach bags, and the bathroom counter and the bedside table  – any places that might possibly invite one to put down a ring. But I never take it off, and was genuinely puzzled. Then in one of those moments of epiphany, I realized that it had come off my finger when I tore myself out of the water at the beach.

The light of day was fading, but I knew the best thing would be to go back as quickly as possible and have a look, before the light died. In my favour was the fact that probably no one else would have been in the water since we left, the beach was that deserted. I went and looked, as carefully as I could, but the light was fading too fast, and I had to give up.

Back at our villa I found and washed out a diving mask to take with me the next morning. As soon as it was light, I was out at the beach, scouring the seabed where I was pretty sure I had been sitting in the water. The large rock I had been resting a hand on was distinctive. I tried looking through the diving mask, but it didn’t help, and actually the surface was smooth enough – no wind that early – that it didn’t make much difference. The ring wouldn’t necessarily have fallen off right next to the stone I was using for balance. In the violence of swinging my arm to get out of the water to make sure no one was hurt in the car accident, the ring could have flown quite a distance.

I hoped not. I gradually widened my search, methodically back and forth, gradually a few more feet out into slightly deeper water. I do have reasonably good eyes, and reading glasses do help. The seabed here consisted of a solid layer of small rocks and stones, mostly rounded, varying shades of gray and brown and white and black. It was actually a small bit of slightly duller rock that caught my attention. I was looking for something bright gold, but in the water, the carvings on the ring actually made the total effect of the ring’s appearance darker. I still wasn’t sure it was the ring. It was another three or four feet out. The care with which I stepped on the unsteady stones and slowly reached down was accompanied by holding my breath the whole time. It wasn’t till my face was right at water level that I was pretty sure it was my ring. I forced myself to extend my hand in slow motion, so that I didn’t dislodge it and send it down into the rock below. Success. Unbelievable. I stood up in the sunlight, breathing deeply, catching my breath. I could hardly believe how fast my heart was beating, how still and quiet the world was around me, in the midst of such private tumult.

Needless to say, breakfast was a happier affair than it would have been otherwise. Joan and I aren’t people who cherish “stuff”. But some stuff has more meaning than other.

dinner out

23
Nov
10

Bienvenue Bangkok – again 1/12/2009

We had had to re-organize our southeast Asia visit, to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, partly because of the Indian visa fiasco, and partly because of the closing of the Pakse airport, whose runway was undermined by the monsoon. So we had a second stay in Bangkok.

We didn’t do much different this time in Bangkok, just settled more deeply into the life of this exotic, vibrant and multi-personality city.

Yes, multiple personality:
it is a huge, teeming city, where a traditional powerful elite woven from old families, wealth and the military maintain a tenuous and tenacious grip on the country, despite the pressures of the rest of the country which feels largely disenfranchised. At the time of our visit, the celebrations for the King’s 85th birthday were imminent, and out of respect politicians of all stripes called off their violent squabbling, and the deposed Prime Minister elect, Thaksin, on the run from corruption charges of which he is probably guilty but certainly no guiltier than those who usurped him, mainly a cabal of army and traditional elite, is being hosted by the Cambodian government, who are using the opportunity to offend their Thai neighbours by welcoming the fugitive to make a point in a squabble about some disputed territory.

Multiple personality:
one morning on our way to the LRT station we shared the hotel tuk tuk with a wealthy Indian family whose daughter was going for an obscure operation (not our business, understandably) at the main hospital there, a hospital known throughout this corner of the world as the best. Christmas decorations adorned all the malls and department stores, enticing money from people’s wallets in a country where a tiny percentage of the population might call themselves Christian.

Multiple personality:
thousands and thousands, perhaps millions of workers from different rural provinces kept the city operating, cleaning it, maintaining it, driving tuk tuks, supplying the sex trade, and as the day wore on more and more food stalls appeared to provide these workers with a taste of home. The most exotic of which were the stalls selling deep fried locusts, slugs, wasps, for the migrant workers of the poorest province, Isaan.

Or:
Joan did a cooking class, a nightmare of a cab ride so that she had to re-schedule but eventually it happened, and she brought back her delicious production, nearly missing her spa appointment again through the total ineptitude of the cab driver. However I have learned that our cabbie experiences are far from the worst. Suffice it to say to future travellers to Bangkok: be ruthless and assertive with your drivers. There are exceptions, such as the one who took us to one of the large markets. I also think you are safe going to and from the airport. But generally, taxis seem to exist in Bangkok for drivers to take you where they want to go, not where you want to go.

cooking class - great colour!

And again:
Our last night, a cabdriver took us to the Banyan Tree Hotel, whose rooftop bare and restaurant, Vertigo,  is a spectacular collection of dining tables and a bar that looks down over the entire city of Bangkok. A famous hotel, and the driver didn’t know where it was. Fortunately, it wasn’t far from our hotel, and I had the address, and actually was able to direct the driver. It was a perfect, balmy night, and Bangkok lay below us with its grid, within which seemed to flow moving lights like those candle-lit flowers that the girls here place in the river to meander and disappear, extinguished somewhere out of sight.

lights of Bangkok from the Vertigo bar, top of the Banyan Tree Hotel

22
Nov
10

Luang Prabang 30/11/2009

The flight from Siem Riep to Luang Prabang, the old original capital of Laos, was about an hour. A van to our small hotel, the Lotus Villa. Driving into LP it was hard to imagine this country had more tonnage of bombs dropped on it (during the Viet Nam war) than any other country in history. Quaint and tidy, pleasant. The temperature was warm, perfect in the shade. The Mekong River snaked alongside. One street up from the river was our hotel, a charming place built around a courtyard, with our spacious, comfortable room giving onto the courtyard on one side and the street on the other. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we had some tea in the courtyard while some men chopped down branches from banana trees. Small bananas, the size of a large thumb, tasty, a little more fibrous than the ones we buy in the store at home. In our room, as in most hotels, there were the rules of accommodation, check in times, etc., but here the rules included a proscription on unmarried couples engaging in sinful activities. Remarkable. I don’t know how they enforced it, or why they bothered with such a law.

Joan in a garden at a Wat in Luang Prabang

Later that night, walking along the Mekong, exploring, dinner at a restaurant about 15 minutes away, where the niece of the hotel owner danced traditional Lao dances. A delicious dinner. The next day, visiting the market, lots of fabrics, textiles, silver, regional herbs and medicines. A woman cooking a small fish, like a sunfish, on a fire made from sticks and other refuse she had gathered. Continued walking, a circuit of the town, practically, a large temple – wats everywhere, beautiful places, some in the process of restoration. The main museum a busy place, showing some of the belongings and furniture of the last king of the country, deposed during the 1960s. Like the rest of the crowd, we took our shoes off before entering. Some remarkable historical pieces inside, old colonial and pre-colonial artefacts, pictures. One can’t help but wonder how things would have been different in the world without the great sweep of empire and colonization that rolled out of Europe, and later, the United States, exploiting and transforming. Would these unfortunate countries have carried on their self-contained, independent paths, developing and changing as they intersected with other countries, or would they have evolved to a state of imperialism and colonization themselves? History suggests, I think, that greed would have driven them to grasp, to possess. Before the Europeans, there were other empires – Egyptian, Persian, Mongolian, and so on. You look at the museum in Luang Prabang, where the resentment of the oppressor running dog Americans is explicit but restrained; you think of the thousands of unexploded bombs still in north eastern Laos, you think of the gentle kindness of the people we meet in Luang Prabang, and earlier, in Siem Riep, and feel sorry, you can’t help it. But, it is what it is.

Restaurant at the edge of the Mekong River

Lunch and then, later, dinner, at one of the restaurants hanging over the Mekong. The night market, where Joan got a great price because she was the first purchaser of the night, and the first purchase brings the stall owner good luck.

Bamboo bridge over the Mekong

Back to Bangkok, the LP airport the only place where my white temporary passport raised any questions. The tuk tuk we had ordered to take us to the airport didn’t show up; as we were looking for another one the monks were doing their dawn rounds in the city, begging bowls in hand, local citizens waiting for them by the side of the street with their offerings of rice or fruit or whatever else they had. In the quiet of the dawn this activity was like a layer of another world, a different plane that intersected the more mundane, quotidian plane where we existed. In Laos, generally speaking, the better education is found in the precincts of the Wat; therefore many young boys are sent to the Wat to school, where, heads shaved and berobed in faded saffron, they learn what they learn. Boys only: although in some places Buddhism has included females, here it does not. In Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the official mainstream Buddhism is less flexible than you find in any of the countries north of this corner – in China, Tibet, Japan, and pretty well the rest of the world, actually. Here, the Buddhism is more ascetic, more traditional, and, to their way of thinking, purer. Fortunately, the vast majority of people do not become monks; their lives are lives of warmth, good nature and a sort of raw freshness that has emerged from horror into a hopeful post-apocalypse; over these lives their Buddhism lies like a mist of tender or more rigorous order. We loved LP, its tone, its smells and softness, its subtle, slightly sweet food.

11
Sep
10

Angkor Wat 28/11/2009

The lily pond at Angkor Wat

Our guide was a small, businesslike woman, her official guide’s badge pinned to her utilitarian white shirt. Black jeans, running shoes and an oversized white sunhat completed the uniform. The Golden Banana had organized her and the accompanying tuk tuk for the day on our behalf. We climbed aboard, and sped away through the city and beyond through the sunny heat. At the gate, we paid our US $20 each, and had our pictures taken for the visa that would allow us entry to the site, and our excursion began.

starting our tour

Information about Angkor abounds, and so instead of information, none of which would be new, I can only provide my reactions, which might have been duplicated and echoed in others’ reactions, but are nonetheless new. Our guide was well-trained, and selected the most efficient route for a one-day visit to the site which one could easily spend days or even weeks exploring. So we went in via a side gate, along a long roadway where monkeys peeked out from the undergrowth of the patches of jungle. Keep your cameras close, or the monkeys wouldn’t hesitate to saunter up and make off with them.

Angkor Wat is a favorite place for wedding pictures

This flanking approach did allow the effect of the site to be perhaps a little less overwhelming than if we had approached it full frontally. The site has been there for centuries, and was at various times the seat of power in the region, the focus of the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism, off and on. The architecture is impressive and solid – heavy foundations upon which only slightly less heavy structures rise in a geometry of curves and straight lines that suggest both order and imagination. Elaborate epics are carved into the stonework along the extensive colonnades of all the buildings throughout the complex, full of historical and religious meaning. High civilization, lost to the outside world for centuries until a French archaeologist unearthed it. The painstaking work of preservation, restoration and uncovering now goes on thanks to grants and aid from many foreign countries – especially, it seems, Germany and Korea.

Our guide did a wonderful job of selecting our route, and choosing the particular sections of the complex we would visit. We finished off with a visit to a section that was being left, more or less, the way the jungle had reclaimed it, and where the movie Tomb Raider was shot. At this particular location, we approached this section of ruins along a wide dirt walkway overhung with trees, and accompanied by the deafening sound of cicadas that you can hear in the video below. Our guide was full of the history of the complex, but also full of the more recent history of Cambodia. She was from a rural family, as were most of the people who lived in Siem Riep – the city had been cleaned out during the rule of Khmer Rouge. Now, she was the only one in her family to have finished her education and who had risen to the dizzying position of tour guide, which brought with it an income that looked after her extended family. Her sister was also pursuing an education that would make her financially successful.

The unique sound of cicadas at Angkor Wat


We returned to our hotel via a different route, open country, and then into Siem Riep via the back way, it seemed. Along a quite, dusty and winding road next to the river, past houses and small restaurants and shops where, one imagined, the true locals dwelled and lived. On the opposite river bank, houses hung over the river on stilts, forming a sort of extended shanty town for a mile or two until the more solid structures of concrete replaced them. At the point where the ramshackle buildings petered out,  the river banks were covered instead with scrub, or grass, or dirt, festooned with garbage and shreds of plastic.

At the hotel, we gave our guide a tip of about half her day’s wages – $10 – and retreated to our room and the poolside, still absorbing the power and history of Angkor Wat, and still fermenting the bubbling impressions of modern Siem Riep, its recent horror, and its climb out of despair into the blinking daylight of the new century.

15
May
10

Cambodia – Siem Riep and Angkor Wat

Such a contrast: Angkor Wat is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world, and Cambodia is the site of some of the most impressive human cruelty in history. To go to Siem Riep is to learn about both.

Amazing is the resilience and spirit of the common Cambodian people we met in Siem Riep. I imagine there are still terrible people in Cambodia, as there are everywhere in the world, human nature erupting everywhere there are humans. Good and evil grow up together: in the same country, the same community, the same family, the same individual heart. It is a constant tension, has its ups and downs.

The flight on Bangkok Airways (a recommended airline, by the way), to Siem Riep showed a sunny morning of flat, very green terrain and much water – rivers and lakes, large and small. We arrived at the Siem Riep airport (a bright, modern, small and efficient airport) and Joan and I immediately went to the counter for those who already had visas, avoiding the line-ups and wait involved in getting the visa at the airport. Clever, but really a bit of a precaution. Because I had a spanking new temporary passport issued in Ankara, Turkey, I still wasn’t out of the woods when it came to visas: a temporary passport only has four blank pages, and I knew I would need a full blank page for Nepal, and a full blank page for Laos, and a full blank page for Cambodia. This left only one blank page for other countries, and I didn’t trust the capricious whims of immigration officials not to mar one of these cherished blank pages with a stamp that would render my passport useless once again! Cambodia, fortunately, has an E-Visa process, which you do online, and which occupies NO pages in your passport. In addition, you avoid the line-up at the airport. It costs $5 or $10 more than the visa you get in line, so if you are travelling to Cambodia, you can weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

We were booked into the Golden Banana, a hotel recommended by a friend in Vancouver. They had organized a tuk-tuk driver to meet us at the airport, and sure enough: there he was when we came out. A ten minute ride from the airport took us through some flat scrubland, past billboards advertising all the usual products – hotels, restaurants, golf courses – and warning us about child prostitution. Siem Riep has the highest per capita income in Cambodia, because of the neighbouring ruins at Angkor. A low town of perhaps 60,000, with many new buildings, schools, hotels and restaurants.

The tuk-tuk ride cost us $5, and deposited us at the end of a lane at the foyer of the Golden Banana boutique resort. We were greeted efficiently and amiably by a young man who checked us in. Other young men in their green t-shirts wandered around, took our bags, helped other guests, or worked at the bar. We knew it was a gay-friendly establishment – witness all the helpful young men – but there were plenty of heterosexual couples in the place. In fact I would say they predominated, not that it was an issue at all. The Golden Banana is cozy and comfortable, a real gem. A salt water pool (you really can’t taste the salt) sits right in the middle, with comfortable chairs spread around. The rooms are tidy and spacious, and come complete with insect spray – or else a daily visit from a fellow with a spray bomb – to get rid of mosquitoes that might be purveyors of malaria. Occasional geckoes (or the local equivalent) scampered along the walls – creatures to be encouraged, for their diet of flying insects.

A note about malaria and various preventives in this part of the world. We did see a few mosquitoes in our room, but they were not a problem. Going out at night, definitely wear long pants and spray yourself with insect repellent – the restaurant we ate at on our first night had plenty of mosquitoes around. We had also taken our malaria pills- in our case, malarone was the recommended antidote. We found the malarone made us feel like we had a case of the flu constantly coming on – sort of weird, foggy-headed, and even a bit off balance. I stopped taking it after a week, and felt better within a day. After talking with enough locals  in both Siem Riep and Luang Prabang – none of whom took malaria pills – we realized that sensible clothing, insect repellent and windows with screens were really the best preventive. But if you follow this routine, and find yourself feeling like you have a bad case of flu, immediately get medical help: there is a good chance you have malaria. The cure is quick and effective, if you get medical help – it’s three days of malarone (however if you use malarone as a prophylactic, a preventive, you have to take it for a few days before a malarial area and a week after leaving it – go figure). If you don’t get medical help though, malaria can cause permanent damage, and even death. So don’t fool around with it! But if I were to go back, I would stick to the regimen of insect repellent and sensible clothing – and take malarone along just in case you need the antidote.

Our day at Angkor Wat I will write about separately – it deserves that treatment.

On our second night in Siem Riep we met friends for dinner and ate at the Golden Banana. The meal was every bit as good as the meal the previous evening, at one of Siem Riep’s top establishments. Massage being as much a part of the culture here as in Thailand (massage doesn’t stop at the border in southeast Asia), Joan and I went for a massage in the town, which was excellent.

A good night’s sleep, then off in the morning to Luang Prabang on Lao Airlines. We loved Siem Riep – the place and the people.

13
May
10

bienvenue Bangkok

The first time we arrived in Bangkok it was a three-hour stop on our way to Kathmandu. I have already mentioned the gleaming, friendly warmth of the new airport, a sort of pod-like, futuristic building with outdoor gardens outside the glass that connected different pods. We discovered we could not change our Nepalese rupees; nowhere in Thailand, they said. In fact, we couldn’t change our Nepalese rupees till weeks later, back in Victoria, in Canada.

We were going to have two stays in Bangkok- the first for two nights, before heading off for a few days in Siem Riep, Cambodia and Luang Prabang, Laos, then back for four more days. Originally we had planned to spend a few days in Pakse, Laos where we had a visit to some rural schools planned. Alas, the monsoon had been particular drenching this year, and had undermined repairs to the Pakse airport, closing it till after we were long gone. So Bangkok was going to get more of a look than originally planned.

A crowded city, ancient I knew, from my reading, but also thoroughly modern. Our hotel in the Sukhumvit part of the city was well-chosen it seemed: a busy area, right downtown, close to shopping, markets, the transit system and eateries. Massage shops, both licit and illicit, on practically every street corner. Thai massage – and massage in general in southeast Asia, we discovered – is simply part of the background culture. Kids learn to massage quite young, and one frequently sees a young person massaging a grandparent, a friend, or a parent. The sex trade for which Bangkok is famous, which was certainly intensified, expanded and diversified during the extended period of wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, is fairly present. Joan and I, out in the evening looking for a restaurant,  could not walk very far without a subtle or not so subtle invitation from one of a crowd of “bargirls” outside an establishment who wanted us to come in and, likely, have more than a drink. As spectators of this game, we found it amusing and entertaining rather than distasteful.

Our first night, walking the three or four blocks from our hotel (which I definitely recommend for value and comfort – the President Solitaire) to Sukhumvit Road, we passed the expected selection of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and food stalls on the street. The food stalls were fascinating: vats of oil, deep-fried items in a variety of colours, vegetables steaming. Bits of chicken and seafood that were recognizable. Then piles of little items that were unrecognizable, which I knew were insects of various types: many of the low-wage earners in Bangkok were migrants from the poorest countryside provinces of Thailand, where the cuisine often went to friend insects, many of which were considered delicacies. We would watch someone point to a pile of deep-fried sticks (arms and legs of grasshoppers) or small nuggets (slugs or worms) which would then be loaded into a styrofoam container or paper cone, spiced with a reddish oil, and devoured the way we are used to devouring french fries. We didn’t do any sampling.

At night the main street is transformed from a wide sidewalk into a market, selling all the usual knock-offs: watches, t-shirts, handbags, shoes, radios, cameras, dresses. Unlike the assertive and sophisticated merchants of Marrakech or Istanbul, the owners of stalls here were polite and patient, as if it was offensive to suggest you should be interested in their wares.

The air was humid – comfortable at night but perspiringly warm during the day. You walked in the shade, and tried not to walk too far in the heat of the day. Taking a taxi was actually a very difficult option: taxis outside the hotel – outside of all hotels, we learned – were in place not to go where you want to go but where they want to go: usually to a store or venue where they got a cut of whatever you spent your money on, whether it was shopping, food, drink or night life. One had to be persistent and pushy to get a cab to go where you wanted to go. More than several times we would enter a cab, say our destination, and be told that the cab wasn’t going there, or didn’t we want to go this special “government store where you get special discount” or some special nightclub. It was just as frustrating for the doorman at the hotel to find us a suitable cab – often he would have to ignore the line of cabs outside the hotel entirely, and go flag one down on the street. Quite bizarre. Fortunately, we were able to walk just about everywhere, and the transit system, we learned on our return trip, was quite convenient.

This first stay in Bangkok, a quick sort of orientation visit, was welcoming and warm. We eventually found good Thai food, adjusted to the southeast Asian outward manner of gentleness and courtesy, and got ourselves ready for Siem Riep and Angkor Wat.

11
Apr
10

Au revoir Nepal (24/11/2009)

We had that overfed feeling when we left Nepal: full of impressions, new experiences, encounters with new people, new discoveries about ourselves. I had finally managed to get enough bank machines to work (with my VISA card, however, not my bank card, incurring a $5 charge for every transaction) to pay off Mr. Rana for our expenses. As with other places we had visited on this journey, Nepal would occupy a space in our memories larger than we had planned – fortunately putting an extension on your mind seems to be more seamless than an extension on your house.

The last thing we expected in the Kathmandu Airport was a lounge: as frequent travellers we have access to some lounges. Immigration and security (the first security check, that is – another was to come) were the last dusty experiences we had before going up the escalator to discover a placard announcing a lounge. Diffidently, we showed our boarding passes and access cards, and lo and behold: we were in. The only occupants. Some peace and calm before taking our Thai Airways flight to Bangkok.

I was fortunate to be seated on the north side of the plane as we took off. Soon after, the pilot told us that to the north, if we were lucky, we could pick out Mt. Everest. So in the picture below I hope someone might indicate if we were successful or not.

Himalayas, and possibly Mt. Everest, from the airplane window.

Landing in Bangkok: back into heat and humidity, after the fresh, cool sunlight of Nepal. A short and relatively easy drive to our hotel, right downtown in the Sukhumvit area of the city – a good location, apparently. In fact Bangkok is a large, sprawling city, and one could stay in many different areas, but we were very happy with our location: easy access to the subway, close to markets, easy to walk around. Our hotel was outstanding value – the economic downturn in the world was allowing us to get excellent prices everywhere. Our time in Bangkok was divided in two by an excursion to Cambodia and Laos. We relaxed, and prepared for the teeming, seething city.




Bob and Joan en voyage

Welcome to these reflections on our travels - Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Mexico, France, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, United Kingdom, United States.

Himalayas at Dawn – video

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Delayed in the Toronto airport

Flickr Photos

detail of interior of Kasbah Timdaf near Demnate

Sixth grade class in mountain school

doing the washing - Berber village

eating tagine - with bread and fingers

the art of pouring tea

mountainside Berber village, with its minaret

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