Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Loi Krathong

Our visit to Thailand coincided with Loi Krathong, one of the most important festivals in the Thai calendar. One of the activities associated with Loi Krathong is to launch chinese lanterns into the air:

Another is to launch tiny floating Krathongs into the river. I'm afraid I don't fully understand the religious significance but it has something to do with asking forgiveness from the water goddess. You can read more here:

Here is a picture of some people going down to the water to release their Krathongs:

There were also lots of shows with dancing and other fun:

Jeff enjoyed Loi Krathong almost as much as the locals did:

To appreciate Loi Krathong fully, you need to hear the Loi Krathong song. Check it out:

Hands Centre in Fang

On Wednesday, we headed up to Fang to visit the children's centre that is run by the Hands charity. Jeff had previously done lots of volunteer work here on a number of occasions so it was great to visit.

One of the things that the centre is doing is farming vegetable and pigs and fish in order to feed the kids. Here are a couple of very tasty looking porcine pigs:

Here is a picture of Jeff hanging out with a very hot looking canine dog:

Upon our arrival, we were told that some help was needed; the kids had been playing football next to one of the building and the impact of a football on the walls was causing damage to the paintwork. We attempted, together with one of the guys who lives at the centre, to contruct some nets to give the building some protection. Here is  our first effort:

The next day, we did a slightly a slightly better job:

The good news is that the nets really did seem to help protect the building from flying footballs. Time will tell if they actually last, though. And I should add that Jeff and I shouldn't really take that much credit for their creation in any case; the guy from the centre who "helped" us turned out to be a lot more skilled than us Farang types and did most of the good bits :-)

One thing that massively surprised me is that the centre is in the middle of an oil field, being situated above the richest deposits of oil in northern Thailand. Here is a picture of one of the pumping units:

A more common activity in the area is rice farming. This field has already been used to grow rice this year. The guys in the picture are now planting onions and garlic:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Chiang Mai is a much bigger city that I realised on my first visit here. We were staying several miles out and we had to catch the green songthaew home. Can you spot it here?

Or here?

Or maybe this way:

We eventually managed to get on it. Can you notice anything strange about the traffic in this picture:

Hint: the traffic in Thailand usually drives on the left but this one street seems to be the exception:

Huay Thung Tao Lake

Back in Chiang Mai, we met up with some of Jeff's friends, who kindly took us to Huay Thung Thao lake, a short distance north of the city.

Here is a picture of the view from the side of the lake:

Jeff is clearly enjoying it:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sukothai's Western Zone

On Saturday, we hired bikes once again and headed to the western zone of Old Sukhothai. I hadn't seen these ruins before and we understood that they were less "restored" than those in the central zone and thus, in some way, more authentic.

Here are some more ruins:

This was the longest flight of stairs:

Half way up, you started to get great views of Sukhothai below:

It became obvious that there was an awesome standing Buddha image at the top:

... and it was definitely worth it up close:

Having said that the ruins in the western zone were less "restored" than those in the central zone, I noticed that this particular Buddha image was being artificially supported. I guess this was a good thing, overall:

Before handing the bikes back, we went for an explore round some local farms, cycling past rice fields:

We found some more ruins around this area as well.

Some of the farmers kept bovine cows outside:

Later on, we found a whole herd of bovine cows:

Visiting Sukhothai was very rewarding and cycling around the place was great fun, albeit exhausting in the heat. Definitely recommended.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Old Sukhothai

Here is a picture of Wat Maharat, the biggest and best preserved ruin:
Here is a sitting Buddha image:
Preparations were already well underway for Loi Krathong, which was to include lighting up the ruins, so electrics were being brought in:
One of the other more impressive ruins is of Wat Si Chum:
Here is a walking Buddha image:
Another sitting Buddha image:
We found a very interesting bird that was carrying something in its long beak. We were so moved by this that we both took pictures:
Wat Maharat from a distance:
I wanted to get futher up the path but found my way rudely blocked:
Jeff was very impressed by the large chedis:
Later on, we saw a blank sign on a tree. No idea what this was for:
Part of the Loi Krathong celebrations involved giant floating dudes in the lake for some reason:

Thursday, November 22, 2012


On Thursday, we got a bus from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai. I'd been here before but Jeff hadn't and we thought it might be nice to visit again and do a bit more cycling.

Things went somewhat wrong on the first night that we arrived. We left the guesthouse and went for dinner at a food stall beside the round. Dinner was quite tasty and certainly cheap. When we went to pay, Jeff noticed that his wallet was missing. To this day, we have no idea what happened to it but we suspect a pickpocket. We spent the rest of the evening searching around the locations that we'd been to that evening but to no avail.

The next morning, the owner of the guesthouse very kindly gave us a lift to the police station so that we could report the theft. "Will the police speak English?" we asked as he dropped us off? Of course they would, he assured us, and sped off.

As it turned out, although the police had a better command of English than we had of Thai, they still couldn't speak much and we spent a long time pointing to the appropriate phrases in our Thai phrasebook. Sadly, the phrasebook didn't have a pre-canned phrase for "My wallet has gone missing and I think that it has been stolen but I'm not 100% sure". In the end, two policemen gave us a lift back to the scene of the crime, before taking us to the TAT (Tourism Agency of Thailand) tourist information center where we found someone bilingual in Thai and English who could translate for us. While we were doing this, two motorbikes collided outside and one of the policemen sprang into official mode to deal with it.

The cops then told us that we'd need to come back to the police station with them in order to make a statement so we got back into their police truck. On the way, a call came through on the radio and we ended up diverting to *another* traffic collision. This one looked a bit more serious and we spent a lot of time in the back of the police truck before eventually heading back to the station.

Jeff's wallet never did turn up and we can only assume that a Thai pickpocket somewhere is feeling very pleased with his evening's work.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

United vs WHAT???

British football (or, more specifically, the Premier League) is quite popular in Thailand. This Thai football magazine grabbed my attention for some reason:

Shopping in Chiang Mai

Having arrived in Chiang Mai, we did an awful lot of looking round markets and shopping malls. Most produce was, as you might expect, cheaper in Thailand. One thing that struck me as slightly odd was the "luxury" items imported from the UK such as this one:

I ended up buying myself a packet of Walkers salt and vinegar crisps for about 100 Baht, or little over a pound.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Chiang Mai

On Monday, we said goodbye to Bangkok and got the plane to Chiang Mai. Jeff was very excited as we prepared to board the plane:

Things we have done so far in Chiang Mai:

- Miserably failed to meet up with a friend from primary school who happened to be in Chiang Mai on the day that we arrived
- Bought bus tickets for the journey to Sukhothai in a few days
- Jeff drank some blue Fanta that made his tongue go blue and made his hat start to evaporate:

- Stylishly browsed the market:

Sunday, November 18, 2012


On Sunday evening, we visited Asiatique, a rather large shopping centre a little way further down the river than where we were staying. We had dinner in an unnecessarily expensive restaurant where we spent more money on food (about £20) than we had on the whole of the trip up to that point.

The most interesting part of the evening was when Jeff made a new friend:

The Grand Palace

On Sunday morning, we breakfasted on wonton noodle soup on the street near our hotel. This was probably the most chinese dish that we'd had so far and we didn't even need to go all the way to Chinatown to find it:

We then got the number 53 bus to The Grand Palace, the official residence of the Thai king and Bangkok's most popular (possibly) tourist attraction. I'd missed out on visiting it on previous visits to Bangkok so was looking forward to seeing it this time. The only possible problem is that the palace is still used for official functions and is closed when these are going on. These are rare so we thought it pretty unlikely that our visit would coincide with one.

Here are some pictures that I took:

One interesting thing that we found in the palace complex was what looked like a scale model of the palace in the old capital of Ayutthaya, the ruins of which we had seen on our previous visit to Thailand:

Some of the golden chedis were held up by some kind of freaky dudes:

Near the temple of the Emerald Buddha, we found a shrine featuring some kind of bovine cow statues:

Here is some kind of chedi with a bell in it:

Here is the entrance to an important building being guarded by a fierce looking soldier:

As I mentioned, parts of the palace complex were used for official functions and, unfortunately, the temple Emerald Buddha was closed for just such a function:

We weren't sure what it was at the time but, later, it turned out that none other than Barack Obama was in town, Thailand being the first country that he chose to visit after the US presidential election. There are two ways to look at it: either President Obama has the same excellent taste in places to visit as us, or he is rather selfish and mean for causing us to miss out on seeing the Emerald Buddha.