The Delaneys are travelling to Singapore and Thailand with Wendy and Allan Schmidt.
  • Day18

    Home again, home again, jiggity-jog

    December 4, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Our flight home on Cathay Pacific from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong and then to Toronto was smooth and uneventful. A wonderful trip but we are glad to be home. Now we will refocus on family and the Christmas season. Happy Holidays!

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  • Day17

    The Last Temple

    December 3, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 30 °C

    We took our pickup truck taxi back to where we started and boarded a funicular to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple (rather than taking the 300+ steps of the Naga Serpent Staircase. It is the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai as it contains a holy relic of the Lord Buddha. After looking at a somewhat misty view of the town below, we went inside the temple. It was very busy. Initially, we were impressed with the abundance of flowers...until we realized they were all paper. The temple grounds include a monastery and people come to seek assistance from the monks. The Chinese influence is evident with lots of displays of the Chinese astrological figures for each year.

    As expected there are many Buddha’s. People light candles or give offerings to the big sitting Buddha’s or to the smaller statues that represent the day of the week in which you were born. Sunday is a standing Buddha with his hands folded; Monday’s Buddha has one arm extended with palm outward to stop evil; Tues. is reclining; Wed. has 2 Buddha’s ( not sure why); Thurs. is meditating; Fri. is reflective and Sat. has a headdress of serpents. Brian finds it amusing that the reclining Buddha is my day-of-birth Buddha, given that I love to sleep.

    Back to our wonderful hotel (Ranilanna Riverside Resort and Spa) for a relaxing afternoon. Brian and Wendy are fighting colds and need a break.
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  • Day17

    The Long and Winding Road

    December 3, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    Our last day in Thailand was a trip up the mountain overlooking the city. As the title suggests it was a steep, narrow road with countless switchbacks. When we stopped, we mistakenly thought we had reached our destination only to learn we were switching vehicles for the last leg of the journey. Apparently our tour company had been in an automobile accident on this final stretch of rough road some years earlier that had delayed a tour for hours and from then on used local drivers and their open air trucks with no seatbelts. This is safer?

    The village of the Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe is at 3000 ft. above sea level. Superstition says that if University students walk to the top of the mountain, they are sure to graduate. (They are probably just too tired to party!). The village is part of a National Park with beautiful gardens (including the biggest poinsettia we have ever seen) and waterfalls. The tribe is originally from Tibet but moved into Thailand early in the 20th century. Originally they farmed opium. In 1969 King Rama IX intervened to move the villagers from opium to coffee, flowers and, apparently, tourists.

    We meandered higher to a coffee shop where Brian enjoyed a delicious and artistic latte. They grow their own coffee beans on the steep slopes.

    Next came a walk through the Hmong Tribal Village and market. We resisted the urge to rent traditional garb for photos and made our way through the town, looking in on a local elementary school. We learned that the Hmong house’s are built in clusters, with several clusters forming a village. The Hmong are divided into clans and the oldest male controls the extended family. Each village has a Shaman to exorcise evil spirits and restore health to the sick.
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  • Day16

    National Elephant Park

    December 2, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    We were picked up at our hotel at 8:30 this morning to spend the day at Elephant National Park, a sanctuary and recovery centre for rescued elephants.

    It was a 75 minute ride to the compound but some of the time was spent watching a video on rescuing elephants from abusive situations (e.g. the lumber industry). Our guide Johnny, went over some basic safety rules then off we went to the edge of a platform to feed the elephant bananas and watermelons. Very cool. Some of the elephants had specific preferences only accepting bananas and ignoring the watermelon.

    Then down the steps to meet our first elephants up close and personal. The rest of the day we walked around a portion of the 140 acre property, meeting the family groups. It was distressing to see the injuries from the logging camps: broken legs which never were treated properly, injuries from land mines, blindness and psychological injuries that prevented the elephants from trusting elephants or people. But there were happy stories too with several babies and juveniles who had been born on the property.

    The elephants are free to go wherever they wish with their mahouts (handlers) following. So we had to stay alert and be ready to move out of their way quickly. We watched them eat (they eat 18 hours per day), cover themselves in mud and play in the river. We were all amazed at how close we could get to the elephants. The message of the park is respect and education so there are no elephant rides here.

    It was very hot but a wonderful day.
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  • Day15

    Saturday morning temples and markets

    December 1, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    It would not be a day touring Thailand without at least a few temples. Today was different however, in that we started at 6:00 a.m. to offer alms to the monks. We drove part way up the mountain; the monks, mostly school boys walk down the mountain. The government has restricted the solicitation of the tourists by the monks to this area between 6 and 8 a.m. We saw mostly Thai people being blessed but of course, they could have been Thai tourists. Each monk carried a large bowl. On the side of the road, vendors sold food they had prepared for supplicants to buy and offer to the monks. The monks are required to accept whatever they are offered. Wendy was unhappy to see small bags of Lays potato chips as part of the offerings but I thought it okay for young boys to get a treat. After putting our offering in their bowls, we squatted down and poured water into a small bowl while the monks chanted a standard blessing for health, prosperity and long life. Then we poured the water into a plant. After eating, the monks go to school.

    Like Christians, Buddhists should not lie, cheat, commit adultery or steal. Buddhist monks seeking enlightenment cannot have money or possessions, take transportation, or eat more than once per day.

    We also visited shrines to special Buddhists who performed extraordinary service to the community. One donated 10 million Bhatt to rebuild a temple destroyed by an earthquake. Another rallied the people to resist the rule of the 2nd king of northern Thailand (Chiang Mai was its capital). While not a monk, the Thai people also revere the daughter of the last northern king who was sent to be a consort to King Rama V, thereby cementing the alliance and preventing the Burmese from capturing northern Thailand. Our guide seems to see being conquered by the Burmese in the 1800s and being invaded by Chinese businessmen now as equally horrible.

    As we drove back into town, we passed a large group of adult volunteers in blue and yellow shirts and hats. These are King Rama X volunteers who clean up the city.

    The other events today were a rickshaw ride, the morning market and the daily market. The morning market only runs until 9:00 a.m. it is a cross between a huge food court and a produce and spice market. It was jammed packed. People come in to buy their breakfast and whatever supplies they need for the day. There was a huge variety of beautiful fruits and vegetables as well as odder foods like eels, pickled eggs, turtles, and frogs. There was a huge variety of flowers which are grown in the hills outside Chiag Mai and shipped all over the country.

    We spent the afternoon at the hotel, ate lunch, read, napped and watched the staff set up for a wedding tomorrow morning.
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  • Day14

    On the Road Again

    November 30, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    We had our last long road trip today to Chiang Mai and I thought it time to share some thoughts on driving in Thailand. It’s scary. There are few speed limit signs and fewer drivers adhering to them. There are lines down the middle of the road but they’re more for decoration than instruction. The main roads have wide (4 - 5’) shoulders which are essential for survival. Here is why. To pass a car, no matter what the situation, you simply pull out to the center of the road and the car ahead straddles the shoulder to allow you to pass. If there is oncoming traffic, they simply move over to their shoulder. No horns honk; the only noise you hear are the sharp intakes of breath from the Western passengers.

    Motorcycles mostly stick to the shoulders until you reach a stop light; then they all weave through the traffic to the head of the line. Less than half wear helmets but most wear flip flops. It was not uncommon to see parents with one or two children zipping along. The legal age to drive is 20 but I swear I saw many young teens scootering down the road.

    Most cars are Japanese make, Toyota, the favourite by my count. There are MANY pickup trucks modified with extra large rear decks to haul goods. They can be seen to sway with their over filled loads of merchandise.

    Lastly, to be fair, I only saw one minor traffic accident. The Thai are just as polite on the road as they are off it. Honking is seen as rude. The police don’t seem to have much of a presence. We did pass 6 officers around a corner in Chiang Mai. Our guide explained they were stopping tourists on rented motor bikes. If you don’t have an international licence it’s a large fine and a good money maker for the city.
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  • Day14

    The White Temple

    November 30, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    On the day long trip to Chiang Mai, we stopped at The White Temple. It is a weird combination of Disneyland, personal hubris and religion. It was built by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a very successful artist (his Dad wanted him to be a mechanic). It has never been officially designated as a temple but it has both a Buddha and a life-like statue of a monk. Chalermchai’s work (he has a museum of his art on the grounds) has a strong bent to fantasy. Lots of strong pinks and greens, fantasy animals and dream-like landscapes. Even the bathroom building is ornate with gold painted trim. He continues to add to the complex; he is working on a pagoda for his ashes and a creamatorium.

    The temple is made of white concrete embedded with tiny mirrors. From a distance, it looks like spun sugar. The ramp to the temple has images of hell and demons on both sides. Inside, the wall with the entrance doors is painted with fantasy scenes which include Superman, a Minion, Spiderman, Elvis, Batman, space ships and the burning World Trade Centre. Clearly a complex man with a unique vision.
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  • Day14

    Goodbye to the Katiliya Resort

    November 30, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Today we leave Chiang Rai and drive to Chaing Mai, our final stop before heading home.

    The resort is in the hills outside Chiang Rai which means that once we are dropped off, we are here for the night. The access road alone is 2 kms. The resort is surrounded by lush, beautiful gardens, mature trees and lots of water features. It is a typical tropical resort in that the only inside spaces are the rooms. Hallways, dining room, bar and lobby are open-air.

    There are 2 lovely pool areas. One unheated, the other a heated large jacuzzi and a children’s pool. The jacuzzi is the size of the average backyard pool at home.

    The most memorable feature however, will be the toads in the pool just outside the lobby. They are VERY loud and sound like a cross between an angry goose and a small dog. The front desk staff say the toads moved into the pool on their own and the noise drives them crazy (the toads croak from dusk to dawn). Sort of like an unwelcome relative who moves into your basement and refuses to leave! We came up with many creative solutions which respects the Buddhist proscription against killing. My favourite suggestion was a sign that said, "Free frogs".
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  • Day13

    Afternoon in the Mountains

    November 29, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Over a horrendous, pot-holed road we visited Burmes refugees famous for their “long necks”. The Karen hill tribe people wear heavy brass necklaces from a very young age. The longer their neck, the more beautiful they are thought to be. These members of this tribe are refugees from the war in Burma and persecution by the Chinese. As refugees, they have few rights and limited opportunities. Brian thought subjecting these children to this practice bordered on child abuse and couldn’t wait to leave.

    Further up the mountain we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Maekok Village Resort. overlooking a tributary of the Mekong River. The resort was started as an international school by a British couple but has been expanded to include a cooking school, and a spa. A short walk through lovely gardens brought us to our “long tail” boat and a 45 minute cruise down the river.

    The river reminded Brian and I of our Viking Cruise up the Mekong. We saw men fishing with poles from boats and from the shore and a family fishing with nets. We also saw people working in the corn fields and orange groves. No wildlife except egrets. But the main activity seemed to be dredging sand from the river. Although the river banks looked lush and green we also saw signs of environmental stress. There were floating plastic bottles, plastic bags stuck in bushes, and large areas where the forest had been completely cleared. Most disressing was seeing the significant presence of the same invasive species that we see taking over the wetlands in Ontario. Tall fronds with feathery tops which can grow to 8 feet and push out all the native plants. Tragic.

    We disembarked at a Lasu village, cut through a family's backyard, said hello to their pig and 3 piglets and then met up with our driver. We bounced over another terrible road to get back to the main highway.
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  • Day13

    The Hill People

    November 29, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Perhaps the nicest day, weather wise we have had this trip, 28 and sunny. We headed out to the mountains to visit Akha and Yao, minority villages. The Akha are originally from Burma, having fled the fighting there. We were able to walk through a thatched, bamboo house owned by an elderly woman who sold us bracelets. She didn’t have running water but had electricity and an old satellite t.v. We walked the length of the town of 500 and met the mayor who was quite personable. The mayor is ‘elected’ but buys his votes. He has a great deal of power. As well as being headman, he is also policeman, judge and jury. He is a young man and has big plans for the village. He wants to encourage tourism by having his older citizens dress in traditional garb (they already sell souvenirs). He is trying to address the drug trade but has already been shot at, twice! Being mayor is very lucrative. He gets a salary from the government and unspecified ‘perks’. He drove a brand new Honda and had the biggest house in the village.

    A short drive took us to the second town whose people are from Tibet. The older women where turbans and ethnic dress. We walked to a public school and looked into the classrooms. A teacher applies for the job and must be approved by the bureaucracy of the royal family as the royal family are the patrons of the school. The rooms were small but everyone seemed in good spirits. The teachers must teach but also get the kids to like them as there is no infrastructure to keep them in school. If they are unhappy, they stay home.
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