Friday, June 29, 2012

Trip Report, Part 14B: Sanctuary Of Truth - Interiors

Enormous, thick wooden pillars stretch up to support the intricately-carved sections of roof

[This is part 14B of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.] 

In some ways, the interior of the Sanctuary of Truth is more impressive than the outsides.

First of all, there's a depth of detail to the carved panels, doorways and ornamentation both large and small that is greater than what is left out to the mercy of the elements, as you'd expect.

Second, there's a wider range in types of wood appropriate for the protected interior, as you can see in the lead photo today.

Outdoors the salt water, wind, rain and other elements take their collective toll on piece after piece and section after section of the building, made all the more obvious by new pieces replacing those split or otherwise damaged, as in the photo below, where you can see a new figure sitting near another with the face cracked down the center.

Most of the interior is open to walk around and about in, but there are still some areas filled with scaffolding, filled with workers laboring away, facing the challenge of building the place in the old style; meaning with wooden doweling instead of nuts, bolts and nails, using a variety of basic woodworking joints, such as butterfly, tongue-in-groove and dovetail.

Although it's no great shakes itself here's an image that lists the types of joints used in the construction:

Delicate wooden illustrations
The high ceilings and open sides to the sanctuary keep it cooler, but the workers coming down off of the higher scaffolding were obviously perspiring and warm. It was an interesting mix of craftsmen and artisans among them, keeping a happy balance. 

I guess what impressed me most about the carvings was the attention to perspective and detail, in addition to the overall "depth" of the carvings, from the surface face to the deepest points. 

It was (not surprisingly) reminiscent of the stone carvings I've seen throughout Cambodia - a country we haven't even scratched the surface here as of yet. Those who responded to my question on preferred topics leaned towards staying more Thai-based, but you can't speak of Thailand without mentioning the Khmer influences, so they're coming.

Light from outdoors illuminates the doorway carvings

In the picture below you can see chalk line drawings of intended designs on one of the many support columns. The top two pictures today show the pillars as they are today; looking more like telephone poles than the decorative items they'll be painstakingly transformed into (by thousands of hours of labor) at some point.

Monday I'll take a stab at showing some of the woodworkers carving away, but this is probably enough for today.  Personally, I think having to scroll down through a dozen photos nicked from the web is kind of tedious, myself, and even though these are my pictures it can still be a bit much for some folks, I'm told.  Enjoy your weekend, unless you've made other plans.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Trip Report, Part 14A: Sanctuary Of Truth 2

Giving some perspective to one small portion of an exterior wall at ground level. It's no small wonder it has years of work left to come close to finishing it.

[This is part 14A of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.] 

Handicapped facilities
haven't caught on in many
 parts of the world, unfortunately.
There wasn't a sign, so we missed the required left-hand turn to the Sanctuary of Truth and ended up at a resort where a man sweeping the driveway was kind enough to answer the "is this it?" question he'd undoubtedly heard before; giving my friend brief instructions to back-track a few hundred meters and make the (now) right-hand turn.

There was plenty of parking when we got there, and we found a spot that looked like it would remain in the shade while we were visiting the place.  The days had been unseasonably hot for the end of February, so I sure hoped so.

As I nag at my other farang friends to do I'd slathered on the required sunscreen cream before leaving my room, but it was just too warm to wear anything but a short sleeved shirt and shorts so I figured I might be a rosy pink by the end of the day.

You purchase your entrance tickets in a building near the parking area, and are then directed through an area of trees and buildings I stopped to take the photos I later stitched together for the opening image about the place in Part 13

The wooden carvings along the path to the stairway down give a clue to what's ahead

The stairway down would be daunting for someone with a physical disability, but they were quite sturdy - as they'd need to be to hold the busloads of tourists I saw parking spots for in the lot. I can't say the same for the rope bridge below, suspended some 30 feet above the bottom of a nearly-dry canal; the small pools of water along it dotted with vibrantly green foliage. You don't need to cross this, but it's something I don't run across very often, so we did.

I'm not much on heights - especially when there's a probability of a fall - but I tried walking out a ways onto it for my friend to take a few pictures of me with a strained smile. I remember thinking to myself at the time "at least I have a skilled surgeon with me if I get a compound fracture doing this," but nothing that colorful happened.

The grounds have a lot of wide open spaces, and it was already heading towards lunchtime when we heard the woman on the megaphone announcing a tour of the interior.  They prefer you to take this half-hour tour before looking through the place yourself, and it's not a bad idea, for a couple of reasons: one, there isn't much signage to explain the significance of what you're looking at, and there are some "please don't" announcements, both for your own safety and the preservation of the structure itself. You're free to wander the grounds on your own afterwards for as long as you like.

Because it's actively still under construction you're required to stop and pick up a hard had that you're obliged to wear while inside, but they allow you to take it off for a moment if you're taking a picture.

Sorry I didn't actually get you inside of the place today, but time's run out. We'll do that tomorrow.

A preview of things to come

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trip Report, Part 14: Sanctuary Of Truth

Front entrance to the Sanctuary of Truth

[This is part 14 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

It's sometimes surprising what people choose to do with their money. A life with what most of us would merely consider basic comforts isn't cheap in many countries, but as Mick Jagger continues to sing "if you try sometimes, you just might find you can get what you need."

Detail on the rooftops of the main structure

Some have far more than they know what to do with... and it shows. Larry Ellison just bought 98% of the island of Lanai'i in the state of Hawai'i. In 2009 Michael Bloomberg spent an estimated $100 million of his own money to be re-elected as Mayor of New York City. Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal spent $55 million on his daughter's wedding in 2004. Russian investor Roman Abromovich hosted a lunch for himself and nine others a few years back that ran up a tab of $40,000 - plus an additonal $12,000 for a tip. To pass on a generalization I've heard often, the Thai I know tell me that most Russians usually tend to tip next to nothing, so perhaps there's hope yet (there's your requested hint, Keng).

New (darker colored) portions
are constantly being added
as replacements
Some are more philanthropic with theirs: Warren Buffet gave well over $40 billion to the Gates Foundation in 2006, with a pledge for further donations. That can trickle down, too; the Gates Foundation has given a million or three to Cabbages and Condoms, a worthy Thai health foundation.

In 1981, 19 years before his death in 2000 at age 86 Thai businessman Phrapai "Lek" Viriyaphant began work on a mammoth project he'd never live to see completed: the Sanctuary of Truth, also known as Prasat Mai and Wang Boran. Indeed, because of weathering it's under constant repair  during the construction and will most likely never be truly completed, despite a target date somewhere in 2015. Viriyaphant was also the funding force behind the Erawan Museum - something we've yet to cover here - and another park, Ancient Siam, near Bangkok.

Somewhat of a fool's errand, this enormous structure on the edge of the gulf - exposed to the ravages of wind, rain, and salt water - is made entirely of wood, right down to the dovetail joints.  There are a couple of photos in yesterday's post, if you missed that.

The Khmer style architecture is reminiscent of others seen in Thailand from the days when the Khmer culture was prevalent, and there's generous representation of both Buddhist and Hindu to the place, also. Nearly 350 feet (105 meters) tall at its highest point, it covers over 34,400 square feet, (3,200 square meters).

It's relatively easy to get to from anywhere in Pattaya; it's actually visible from many of the higher points in town, such as the rooftop of the Markland Hotel. I lifted the detail from an unrelated picture and posted it below.  Below that is an aerial shot of the area I've dropped in an insert with a yellow arrow showing where the place is.  You can see how close it is to the curve of Beach Road.

The Sanctuary peeks up above the greenery above

In this case "X" IS the spot of the enormous carving that is the Sanctuary building, and the inset shows how close it is to town.

If you look closely in the image above you can see the stone wall built around the place at the edge of the water, put up to keep tour boats and assorted freeloaders from coming onto the grounds without paying the minimal entrance fee.  My guess is that it also cut down on materials going missing in the night!

More next time on the grounds, shows and interiors. If you want to read more about the place today there's a bit of information on their actual web site:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trip Report, Part 13: Saving Time For Friends

The Sanctuary of Truth near Pattaya

[This is part 13 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

You probably remember me saying this before, and you'll undoubtedly read it here again: one can't have too many friends - just too many to have time to keep up with.  This thought came up again repeatedly on my last visit; several good folks were hoping to take me places they felt I'd enjoy, and I simply didn't have the time to do all of them justice.

Being just a regular guy I don't mean to imply that I'm all that and a bag of chips, as I like to say; I'm merely someone who's attempts to be thoughtful of and grateful for the friendships that have grown over the years, but it's a minor frustration each trip. More for them than myself, I suppose, but I don't like to disappoint people.  I'm sure many of you understand.

When the rubber slipper's on the other foot I like to drag people to Yosemite National Park, so it's only fair I go along with climbing the 611 stairs up to see the Erawan Cave, even if I might not do so traveling on my own. In fairness, though, I'd miss a lot if I didn't.

Many Thai work long hours, and often six days a week. It's only gracious of us as visitors to show some appreciation for the extra efforts they make to exhibit some pride in their country and locale, wouldn't you agree?  I mean, if it were a nine-hour drive to see the country's largest ball of string off up on a hillside in Nakhon Ratchasima I might try to adjust the plans slightly, but who knows?

This past trip a friend had asked if I'd saved any time for him to take me somewhere, and this time I had. My only request was that it be somewhere off the well-beaten farang tourist path and that it not be scheduled with so many side trips that there wasn't an hour or two to read, catch up on notes and - with any luck at all - an afternoon nap. 

As a warm-up before heading to some mystery location he wanted to surprise me with we did a quick half-day trip to see Prasat Sut Ja-Tum (the Sanctuary of Truth) just outside of Pattaya, which you can see in a couple of panorama pictures today.

I'll write more about the place next time, as there's quite a lot to see there and I don't have the rest of the photos prepared yet.

A small portion of the Sanctuary of Truth

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recreational Drugs And Other "Forbidden Fruit"

Items regularly found at night in Bangkok

[As a forward to today's post let me state as clearly as possible that I do not use, endorse nor encourage the usage of any of the items discussed today - except the durian, which can be delicious.]

Anyone who's considering a visit to Thailand ought to know that they punish those they catch with illegal drugs very severely. By these I primarily mean marijuana, heroin, opiates and any form of methamphetamine. If you don't know that you'd better learn about it before you end up sharing a 12 foot by 12 foot cell with 25 others for an open-ended visit, if you're lucky.

Trafficking is punishible by death in Thailand and other Asian countries, and your home country embassy can't really do much more than wave you farewell. Carrying your own prescription drugs into the country has been covered in a post about packing your bags you can check out to begin with.

We'll cover durian another time soon, but the spiky-skinned fruit coming into season in another couple of months is also unwelcome in a lot of places. While its smell can be highly obnoxious to some it isn't illegal.  Come to think of it, if merely being intensely malodorous were a crime in Thailand there would be a lot of irregularly-bathed tourists who'd be in serious violation of the law.

Being stopped with a durian is the least of your worries

Stupid toys like these pellet guns can (and do)
get people shot here in the US when mistaken
for the real deal.

The less worrisome of the illegal recreational items often pop up (if you'll forgive the erectile disfunction joke) in night markets throughout tourist areas, and can sometimes be purchased in small pharmacies if one is discreet, but more often than not anything that needs a prescription will involve seeing an actual doctor.

Once I was looking for a specific sinus medication and the pharmacist took pity on me when he saw and heard how miserable I was at the time, but that's not at all common.

The Viagra, Cialis and Kamagra you can see up top for sale on a street-side table in Silom aren't liable to land you in prison if you only have enough to qualify as "for personal use", but since a stop in at a clinic is so inexpensive it's still not worth the risk, in my opinion.

What tend to be grouped together under the label of "personal pleasure items" such as vibrators and a wide variety of latex novelties are also illegal in Thailand, although if you insist on making use of them while on holiday you can find them, which is probably less of an embarassment than having an inspector opening your suitcase at Suvarnabhumi International, holding up your Black Mambo and announcing for all to hear "Cannot!", as I actually witnessed a few trips ago. The face on the man standing by the suitcase turned a bright red. And no, it was not me.

Questionable smoking accessories

Some things like smoking paraphernalia are regularly put on display for sale here in the USA in what are euphemistically called "Smoke Shops"; places where the line between legal and illegal is smeared to nearly a meter wide, in some cases.  It's much the same in neatly arranged booths along Silom Road, beneath the Sala Daeng BTS station.

Not even a visit to a doctor's office is liable to get you a prescription for a glass pipe to smoke rock, but stranger things have happened in Thailand, I'm guessing.

My suggestion would be to merely be entertained by the colorful displays, and keep moving along.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kanom Dok - A Crispy Street Treat

The Thai people don't eat like many of us do in the West. Yes, buffets exist; but they're more of a way of sampling different dishes and not an opportunity to stuff ourselves as if we're being bred for the production of pate. It's a gift, really.

They tend to eat when they're hungry, and decline the opportunity when they're not. They're much more likely to snack a bit here and there throughout the day. My friend calls it "grazing," and it certainly seems to fit. The whole idea of "Super-sizing" is an idea that's been foisted on some folks, and again - I don't believe we're doing them any favors.

Even something as light as a bag of the delicate, fried pastry-type cookies above, sold in small bags of perhaps three to six, isn't a portion - although it would be a single serving for most of us. Kanom Dok is made from cassava (tapioca) flour, rice flour, coconut water, white and black sesame seeds, sugar, lime water (made from red lime paste), egg yolk and salt, for the most part. The pink color comes from the red lime paste.

The scent of these delightful treats greeted us as we strolled slowly along the narrow streets of Old Chantaburi on my last visit. I thought the aroma was drifting out of the open corner restaurant, but my friend pointed to the tiny cart in front of the shop a couple of doors down, and I took a quick detour to watch the woman there cooking a few before tasting the sample she held out for me; fresh from the fryer. It was magnificent, and I bought a half-dozen to take along with us.

Heading back to the restaurant where we ended up stopping for lunch I resisted eating the bagful. I offered them to my friend, who first said he'd wait for lunch, but then gave in and had one.  One.

The "Old City" section of Chantaburi is something I'll post about next week.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thai Children On Smoking

A nasty headache kept me from writing today, but while checking email a few minutes ago I found a friend had sent me the link to the clip above, put out by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, a group who have done several other amusing and informative public service announcements, so I guess there'll be a post today after all.

There are another half-dozen or so others on their site. The clips below could serve as messages to people in almost any country, but happen to be intended for Thai people.  Good on you, THPF!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Night Visitors: Tokay Geckos

That's Tokay, not Takei - but they DO sound much alike. You Trekkies out there will get that one.

Yesterday a reader left a comment on the My Night At Hat Nang Ram post from a couple of years ago.  In it they identified the welcoming committee that was waiting for me on the ceiling above my bed: a Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko), with the "tok" pronounced like the word tuck. The specimen that greeted me was well over eight inches (21cm) long, and they can grow twice that size, I'm told.

Those of you in the United States are probably better acquainted with the spokesgecko for an insurance company with an impressive advertising budget, but many I've encountered in Thailand haven't been quite so cute, such as the one above, which is capable of a bit of a bite.

The one below was minding its own business in a cave outside of Udonthani when I hit it with my flash, although it didn't flinch at the time.  I did, shortly thereafter, when it ran up my arm as I tried to pet it. My friend was highly amused, for some perverse reason... go figure!

In a cave near Udonthani

More often than not the geckos you'd be likely to come in contact with in the tropics are of the common, benign, insect eating variety seen below . They're nocturnal, and while they may look odd they're going to run away if you get close enough to prove to be any kind of threat, and remember that they eat bugs, not people.

The most common nocturnal gecko - this one in Chiang Mai

There was a juvenile version of the creature above in the kitchen of my condo in Hawaii last visit, and although I carefully caught him and put him out onto the lanai/balcony the stubborn little guy was back inside in the same spot a few hours later.  If they bother you, try to look at it like the Hawaiians do: they're good luck to have in your house, despite the poppy seed sized droppings they tend to leave behind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Same Same, But Different! Pt 11: Local Television

Nice shootin', pardner. . .

In the vernacular where I live, the saying goes "payback's a bitch"; another way of saying what goes around, comes around. Perhaps it'd be clearer for some readers to note it makes reference to karma, although this isn't a piece on revenge - it's indirectly more about the love/hate relationship many of us have with television programming.

Without going into detail better left un-posted, the television up top lay down it's functional existence via a large caliber hand gun a few days ago. Granted, it was merely the messenger, but still...

No, I'm not one of those Hunter S. Thompson wannabes - thankfully I outgrew that in my first couple years of college or I'd be a rather sad example of a human today - but seeing this electronic bearer of bland tidings dispatched with such a vengeance warmed the very cockles of my aging heart.

You're far less likely to be
graced with wisdom from a
monk in Idaho than you are
to hear crop news from
Zeke and Jeb
In the earliest days of television broadcasts in the USA some of you will remember gathering with friends to watch a test pattern for a while and marvel at this miraculous new technology. The unfortunate side note to that is how some programs broadcast today aren't much more stimulating as those earliest static test images.

Local programming is the worst, hands down. Aside from the kitsch factor and the wealth of opportunities to gather blooper clips for YouTube there's rarely little danger of running across anything of quality on a small town broadcast, unless you really need an instructional program on how to go about tipping a cow.

Let me save you the time if you feel compelled to leave a comment defending local program by saying it has its place, and it can be amusing, albeit often unintentionally. I myself have appeared on smaller market programs a couple of times to be interviewed about independent film-making, but that's a completely different topic.

When I'm on the road here in the USA I tend to stay in mostly utilitarian lodging, and that means there's often not a lot to do within easy striking distance. After a day's driving or whatever I all too often find myself watching TV, and seeking out the local news or other programming. It gives me a glimpse into life in that particular area, and yes, crop reports are life to many people.

If I'm not careful, though, I can become hooked on Thai television. The cheesier the better, for some reason.  I suppose it has something to do with the gluttony and sloth I'm already signed on for when I leave the rationality of my everyday life behind.  I stay up too late, I spend too much, I'll eat an order of food enough for three people and behavior I'd normally keep a reign on I can justify from Hell to breakfast, no problem at all.

Most of you will notice that this South Park clone

Again, I don't speak Thai; but I'd guess the worst of the broadcasts are those I see broadcast in Thai.  The Thai love their "stories" equally as much as some in the US love following the Kardashians. Kindly note I did not include myself in that group.

Thai soap operas feature action so exaggerated and with such low budget technical skills they're rather like potato chips; difficult to just eat one or two (maybe I should have likened them to a road accident - you don't really want to look, but most of us do). Before you know it an hour's gone, and if you have a friend with you who hasn't been howling with laughter because it's a comedy they're usually staring at the screen with rapt attention, as if another episode will follow immediately after the one that just ended.

Unfortunately, as some of you know, there often IS another one of one sort or another on directly afterward, and if you've allowed your Thai friend(s) to start watching stories you may have lost them for the evening. In some cases that's a beneficial thing; my friend can be entertained while I'm checking email, transferring photos off the camera or taking a nap.

I'm not implying that the Thai are unintelligent or anything of the sort. More often than not, if one of my friends picks up the remote (and can't find a football broadcast) they tend to settle on an educational program for a while - nature shows depicting other parts of the world are favorites - but it usually isn't long before the sounds of channel roulette stop and are replaced by canned laughter and the "zooops! thunk! booiiinng!" noises of one simple Thai comedy or another.

The Thai have no corner on the cheesy TV broadcasts there, though; there's one local Pattaya channel many I know have come to dislike, if for no other reason that they insist on mispronouncing the name of the place. Some may be quite fond of it, so I'll leave it unnamed, and I do occasionally stop while flipping around the dial to see if there's the slim chance they aren't re-broadcasting the paid clips from one club of drunken revelers or another.

The same smiling interviewer will repeat something along the lines of "So, you have many visitors come here for the fun I see... tell us a bit about that!" and then hold the microphone up to the the person next to them - that person often wearing the face of a deer caught in the headlights.  The locale changes, the interviews rarely do. It's a living, and it is entertaining in small doses sometimes, I have to agree.

Returning to my room one night I was looking for some news in English and happened across it. Someone at the station was asleep at the board and they were broadcasting the image below.  Just for kicks and giggles I checked back a few times before turning in that night, and it hadn't changed.

It was one of the better programs I'd seen them run in a while.

Friday, June 15, 2012

An Imaginary Friday At Jomtien Beach

Part of the walkway along Jomtien Beach

Not to whine - although I did minor in it in college - but this past week has taken a bit of a toll on me, both physically and emotionally. It's at times like this that I like to find a quiet spot, tune the world out for a little while I attempt to center myself sometimes and daydream about being somewhere else than where I am at the moment.

Rows of chairs beneath a brightly colored ceiling of umbrellas
Many times that "somewhere" is under an umbrella on a tropical beach, like the one above; a cool drink within reach, hopefully an interesting book open but spread flat on my chest as I lean back, allow my eyes to gradually close while I listen to the waves lap rhythmically on the sand in front of me, joined by the rustling of the palm trees high overhead and the gentle flapping of the umbrella fringe against a neighboring edge.

A foot masseur works on a farang foot nearby

If I allow myself to drift deeper into the daydream I can sometimes imagine a voice asking "Massage? Massage?" The voice is low and soft as my eyelids slowly open and I see the familiar blue shirt of an "authorized" massage man standing in front of me; alternately looking down at my feet and back up at my face, hoping for a positive reply so he may make a bit more to add to his fee pocket and tip kitty for the day. "Foot massage? Body massage?"

Body massage under the palm trees

If you agree to a body massage you're often guided over to a flat spot beneath the trees closer to the walkway, where there's room for the masseur to manouvor around you better while he works, unless you're on a lounger that will flatten out, but those aren't nearly as ubiquitous as the canvas sling-type chairs seen above that are more for resting, although they're fine for a foot or neck/shoulder massage.

Either way, it beats the crap out of sitting in traffic, or worse yet, in a cubicle accessorized with an overflowing "In" box.  I left that nightmare behind a decade ago, but there are still obligations to living - and that's what I'll be attending to for the next few days.  If I'm not back here by Monday, start without me and look for me Tuesday.

And now, if you'll excuse me... I can see my chair is ready. And yes, I'd like to see a menu, please.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ah, Life's Little Interruptions...

Unfortunately, too much has been added to my plate to make a proper post today. My apologies, but it really isn't anything I can avoid.  With luck I'll meet you back here tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thai Long Beans (Revisited)

Thai Long Bean seedlings, as they looked on April 3rd

Don't worry, you won't see updates on my gardening efforts here on a regular basis, but of all the things planted in my home garden this season the ones I'm most interested in are the Thai Long Beans.  They're both a way of reliving one of my personal memories of Thailand and a horticultural experiment that really takes no more effort than simply watering and watching them - my kind of experiment.

They were started from seed, and had just sent out their first pairs of leaves when the picture above posted on April 4th.  You can open a new window to read "Planting A Thai Memory: Long Beans" by clicking on the title.

Although there has been some weather in the past week closer to what we'd expect Summer to be in my area of California, there hasn't been much of it; most of the plants in the garden are trying to figure out if it's time to bloom, set fruit or vegetables or just stay somewhat stunted and leafy.

Fava bean blossoms in the yard this morning

As you can see above, the Fava Beans are blooming profusely and have gotten quite tall and bushy, so perhaps there'll be a decent crop to enjoy later on, even without a nice Chianti.

But I'm off track, again, sorry.  The long beans are in several spots, but my guess is it simply hasn't been close enough to "tropical" to inspire them, so they're perhaps 30" tall, at best, and so far producing nothing more than leaves - although from what I could note this morning there may be some buds coming.  We shall see.

One of the potted Thai Long Beans today

So far the most produce to come from the yard has been about 20 cups of sweet, intensely flavored boysenberries, but that's something. If you plant any amount of edible garden where you live I hope you're achieving better results than here, but that's often simply part of the experiment, isn't it?  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trip Report, Part 12: Finally On My Own

The view South on Beach Road, Pattaya
[This is part 12 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

You definitely get to know friends, co-workers and casual acquaintances better when you travel with them.

Some days I'd give up an arm
to be on a beach like this.
Even if you're on some form of packaged holiday jaunt there's a fair amount of the unknown, the unpleasant, and the unexpected - such as traveler's stomach - to throw one of you off in one way or another, and that, coupled with a drastic time/sleep/schedule shift can bring out the oddest quirks in people; ourselves as well as people we thought we knew better. Wouldn't you agree?

I learned that many years back, so when I go anywhere away from home with friends I build in time away from them, somehow.  It's beneficial for all concerned; be they your partner, family or your life-long best friend(s). Co-dependents excluded, of course!

Part of the reason of for this trip was to again attend a conference put on by an arm of an organization I'm involved with, and a friend from that same group and I spent some of this trip together.  He'd come along with another couple of guys in 2010; all newbies to Thailand.

Two of them are scuba divers and have branched off to other places since, but one returned in 2011 and again this year; partially for the conference, but in all honesty more for the rented admirers. Everyone has their reasons, and I'm certainly not judging anyone; my stand is this: as long as it's legal and you don't do it in the street and scare the horses - enjoy your vacation however you wish.

From the conference - very nicely done outdoor buffet

Last year he'd established an ongoing connection with a couple of people in Phuket, so this year he wanted to be there for a fair part of his visit.  This worked fine with my wishes, as I had new things planned and a couple of old friends to check in with, although of a different variety.

Some of them were the students I sponsor (and the charity folks who are kind enough to help me), as mentioned in the May 25th post about helping underprivileged kids with their school fees - where there's still far more of a need than funds available, by the way.

Most trips there I tend to over-book myself, and this time I intended to have more time to just wander on my own; time for some strolls along the beach, some reading, maybe a little shopping - and definitely more naps, one of the few guilty pleasures (other than food) I still allow myself.

One of the sights I can enjoy just fine on my own

As the conference was drawing to a close on Sunday morning, my friend was on his way to the airport to catch his flight to Phuket, leaving me on my own.  I walked along the beach, sat in the shade and watched a few beach boys get looped, got a couple of massages from the blue shirts wandering up and down the beach and caught up with notes I'd scribbled on a pad along the way, foolishly thinking that a couple of words would spark my memory and allow me to fill in the details.  HA.

Nevertheless, I had the melody and words of the old Afro-American spiritual - "Free at last, free at last, I thank God I'm free at last" running through my head.  Feel free to insert the name of your own higher power there.

Now I could begin the side trips - and my actual holiday would begin.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flowers, Part 15: ...And My Aging Brain

Potted water lily, street side, Lopburi

It's not meant to sound depressing, but some of you reading this can agree that as we've begun to move a little further along our life's paths, our memories tend to become more - let's say - disorganized.  That's the kindest way to say it, I think.  If I were to be a little more honest about it I'd probably have to say undependable, or lousy, if we're really going to be brutal about it.

Ginger bud at a friend's home, Udonthani

Despite my best efforts, I walk from one room to another and say "why did I come in here?" when I get there more often than I'd care to admit. The late Herb Caen (a favorite columnist of mine for decades) said once that President Reagan more than likely often said the same thing after walking into the Oval Room of the White House during his second term, when he was in his mid-70s.

That's a little scarier than my merely wondering why I've arrived in the bedroom carrying a pair of scissors, having completely forgotten I'd gone and gotten them to cut the store tags off of a new shirt before tossing it into the laundry basket, but not much. Nobody told Reagan where "The Button" was, either, I'm sure.  He'd have been just as likely to have pushed it, thinking he was calling Nancy in.

Flowers along Soi Convent, Bangkok

Passwords?  "Write them down and put them in a safe place"... oh, please, stop it; the tears of laughter are making it difficult to type this here today. Occasionally I'll be putting socks away and find a piece of paper with some past passwords on it and walk it to the shredder, if I remember to shred it and don't stop to do something else on the way. I do have a specific spot I keep such things now, just so you know I can remember to bathe and cloth myself still, but the old grey matter ain't what she used to be, that's for sure.

Flowers for offerings at a temple in Phitsanulok

That said, with 45,000+ photos of Thailand to work with, I can be disorganized.  Many's the time I've gone to use an image in a post and then wondered if I'd already used it somewhere in the past. Sometimes images near it in the same sub-folder give me clues, and I can look up a post topic and see if the questioned picture is there, but not always.  Over 600 posts is one thing; the 27 months since I started this is quite another.

A large Hibiscus Sorrel bloom - seen throughout the country

I suppose the overall gist of this today is to ask you kind folks to just roll with it if you see a picture here and say "hey... didn't he already use this back in September?", because that's quite likely.  The unkind folks can say what they wish, also; it won't mean much to me a week from now, either!

Lycoris Amaryllidaceae - Spider Lily - Bangkok