Friday, February 27, 2009

Goodbye, Thailand - final thoughts

It has been an amazing return trip for me and I believe Judy and Russ would use the same descriptor. We have learned and experienced so much in such a brief time that it is hard to fully share in this blog.

I want to comment about many things, but will limit myself to a few observations.

FOOD - The food is so different from the USA. The spices used, the types of food eaten, the variety of food, the difference in taste from Western Food, all combine to make this very interesting. All three of us have avoided Western food which is readily available in Bangkok and other large cities, but is harder to find in smaller cities. Judy's favorite is Green Papaya Salad. Russ and I agree our favorite Pad Thai - a noodle dish served with Pork, Chicken or Seafood. We all liked the soups especially Dum Yum and Tom Kaa Khai. The variety of street foods is amazing. Almost every corner has vendors with carts selling every fruit, juice, drink, and food possible. There are other vendors who set up night restaurants that majically appear at about 6 pm.....they haul in tables chairs, portable kitchen units and operate till late in the evening. By morning when you walk past this sidewalk area you would never know that just a few hours earlier there was a restaurant here.

People in Thailand eat out very frequently, or at least buy prepared foods at the market to bring home and serve with rice. In the homes we stayed in, evening food was virtually never cooked at home.

PEOPLE - Everywhere we met we found friendly, courteous people. The people of Thailand appear to be a gentle people---that is hard to believe when you see a Thai Boxing match. Buddhism is a central part in the lives of most Thai people. As you walk by store after store, you will see altars outside and inside. Often you will see the owner taking time to pray before the Buddha image or putting fresh flowers by the image.

Family is very important in this culture. Taking care of elders and very often living with elders is part of this culture. Respect for elders is of utmost importance and this also means students respecting teachers. Families do much together including partying. A Thai enjoys a good party with music, food and drink. Parties can occur for almost any occassion and any night of the week.

Industry and Business in Thailand differ from the US most significantly in terms of the amount of labor. Labor costs must be much less than the US as even stores have many, many workers, often not very busy. Even farming is not highly mechanized and requires extensive labor.

NATURAL BEAUTY - We often describe the USA as a beautiful diverse geography. Thailand, in a much smaller country also has great natural beauty with mountains, beautiful beaches and seashores, great productive farm lands, and natural reserves to preserve nature. It is a very unique land.

That is it from Thailand....We leave in the morning and will see you all soon.


Last day today

Today is our last full day in Bangkok. Last night it was off to the night markets for dinner and a nearby Puppet Theatre. We saw a show based on the Birth of Ganesha. Interesting story really (at times it seems as though the English subtitles were mucking up the splendor of the show some).

Before that I was let loose in a couple bookstores. English Teachers and Bookstores is a mix to run out of Baht quite quickly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our final days in the land of Smiles

Thailand is known as the land of smiles. You will find people here very friendly. We certainly have experienced that throughout our stay here.

As Russ mentioned in his last post, we are back in Bangkok. Parting our friends was difficult especially for me as Tawin and I have become such good friends over the past two years. I know that Mr. Chusak, Ms. Ratree and Mr. Ceasar are very excited about their trip to the USA in April and hopefully we can make their experience in the USA as memorable as our experience in Thailand.

Here is our plans for our final days here in Bangkok.....Russ and I have to pick up our new suits that have been made for us. Cant wait to see the final product!!! We then will do some shopping today and this evening we are going to the Thai Traditional Puppet Theater to see their production. Puppetry has been used for centuries in Asia and we look forward to seeing this show.

Tomorrow we will visit the National Museum. In all the times I have been in Bangkok, I have not visited this museum so I will see something new. Tomorrow night we are meeting my friend Brian (from was a former Peace Corp worker I met last time I was here). Brian is bringing a friend of his and we will have a chance to talk about our trip in Northcentral Thailand. Early Saturday morning we head to the airport for our trip home.

Throughour posts you have learned a little about the people, schools, culture, history and food of Thailand. When we return toWisconsin we have so much more to share with you.


Back in Bangkok

We have arrived back in Bangkok this afternoon after saying a sad farewell to all of our new friends. I feel mostly recovered after a bout with heat stroke. Went to the hospital in SiSachanalai Monday Night, but am well on my way to feeling better. Everyone came with us to the train depot, and when the train was two hours late, to the bus depot to bid us a fond farewell today. We are resting up in Bangkok and picking up a few last minute items that probably won't fit in a suitcase, but I'm going to try anyway.

I will miss SiSatchanalai, where I met some truly amazing people. I know look forward to returning home and telling everyone about my experience and the wonderful world that is Thailand.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our last day in Sukhothai

Today is our last day in the Sukhothai province. I just got back this afternoon from our journey north and west in Thailand. I previously mentioned several roads we traveled with many hairpin curves. On the way back today we estimated that this trip I experienced over 6,000 hairpin curves. My stomach today is a little upset which I think is from the roads we have been on. But it has been exciting and fun and I have learned more about this beautiful country.

This evening we gather at Ms. Ratree's house for our final evening together. I have not seen Russ or Judy since Sunday. Ceasar tells me that Mr. Chusak called to say that Russ was ill yesterday and did not attend school. I am hoping he is feeling better today.

Tomorrow morning we board the train at Uttaradit at 8:30 am and head back to Bangkok arriving in the early evening. We have a day and a half to rest and do any last minute shopping and then it is back home.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Wan-nee Duhn ten (Exciting day)

I don't know where to begin with this post....Yesterday after lunch Mr. Tawin's family and I separated from the rest of the group and took off along the western edge of Thailand and headed south...destination Umphang. There is only one road is 90 miles from the next city and to get there you have over 1,200 hairpin curves on a narrow winding road....Umphang is basically the end of the road in this part of Thailand because south of here is the National Wildlife Refuge...This refuge is huge!!!! Approximately 100 miles north to south and over 50 miles east to west with basically no roads. Took us almost 5 hours to go thoe 90 miles.

We are staying at a small resort. Buildings are beautiful teak, but it is not the Hilton or even motel 6. After a good night sleep our adventure began at 9 am when we road in the back of a pickup truck for an adventure drive to take us to the river. Two guides steered the zodiac through 3 hours of unbelievable beauty. There were caves, towering mountains, beautiful trees and wild birds and animals. Wild birds and animals are not seen here in Thailand like in Wisconsin. You have to visit a reserve like this....Why??? Most things edible are eaten, so the reserve is the place you can still see them. While we were only on the northern edge of the reserve we did see a number of small animals and even some monkeys. But the birds were great.....Tam (the bird queen) would have loved this spot. Many species with beautiful songs in the air... We floated for three hours except for two short stops and never met anyone else along this wild and remote river except two fisherwomen. One of our stops was fantastic as a hot spring flows into the river at this point. It is shallow enough to lay down in and enjoy a perfect "nature's whirlpool".

After a lunch which we brought, we hiked a trail to see the highest waterfall in Thailand. Not only did we see it, but we swam under it with no one around. We did see a few hikers in the park, however this park is give you an took us over one hour to traverse a one lane road with ruts that could bury my Toyota Prius...Even the worst Chequamegon Forest Road would have been luxury....not too many people get to do this and at the end our hotel gave us certificates for this adventure.

Tomorrow we head home , experiencing those 1200 plus curves again. On Wednesday, we leave for Bangkok. It has been an unbelievable adventure.....Thank you so much to Mr. Tawin, his family, Mr. Chusak and Ms. Ratree!!!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Caving riding a bamboo raft

It is Saturday night and we are in Mae Hung Son in far NW Thailand in a remote area of Thailand hugging the border with Myanmer. Just finished looking at the night market (night markets are out door sellers on the streets at night found in many Thai cities). Today was an amazing day as we traveled from Chiang Mai to here ---a distance of only 260 km. but it took all day....why you ask....well you are up and down every hill and there are over 1800 hairpin curves on this road.....I know this because they sell t-shirts telling you about the number of curves.....If you get car sickness, you will never want to see this road!!!!

We went caving today!!! There is a river that goes through a beautiful cave. You ride on these rickety bamboo rafts, can feed the fish in the cave, see millions of bats, hear frogs, and take side walking trips through the caves to see the formations, all lit be kerosene lamps carried by your raft driver.

We also visited the Karin hill tribe. This particular part of the Karin tribe are well known because many women elongate their necks by wearing rings around the neck.. They add rings as the neck is elongated. They believe this is very beautiful. Today, tourism is the draw tothis village which in some ways is unfortunate, but it helps keep this tribe out of total poverty which many hilltribes face. That being said, there is no starvation here. There is food and clothing, but little other modern conveniences.

We continue our touring of NW thailand tomorrow with more to be ready at 5 am, so goodnight.