Back in Mae Sei

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Made the border crossing back into Thailand uneventfully on 12/31, then checked into the same hotel I had a week ago. The rooms on the north side of the hotel overlook Myanmar, 60 yards to the north.

Myanmar to the north 60 yards from my balcony.
I was anxious to get back into Thailand.  My cold started getting worse. Had cold sweats and an incessant cough on the 5 hour bus ride from Keng Tung to the Mae Sai border crossing.  
At check in at the hotel they could not find my backpack which I had left when entering Myanmar.  I had only taken clothes for 3 days and ended up staying for 7, so I was grungy and really neded some clean clothes.  After about 30 minutes they finally found it.  Honestly, I wasmore interested in a shower than clean clothes.  In Myanmar the only hot water was solar…so you took a shower at at 4 PM not in the AM.  Water was too cold in the morning.  
Went to the room, gave Slim a pair of tennis shoes that were excess baggage and wished him safe travels.  He did a great job.  My 1/2 of his guide fee for 7 days was about 3500 Baht – about $140.00 US including the 1000 Baht tip.  I gave him the 4500 Bhat and all the extra Kyats I had – about $6.00 worth.  
Showered, put on some clean clothes then cold really set in.  It was all I could do to go to the lobby to pay for the room one” more night thenext day.    Otherwise, never left bed other than to grope my way to the bathroom.  Cold sweats, chills, a deep cough and a headache.  I was hurtin, but at least I was in Thailand were healthcare is much much improved over Myanmar.

Hotel lobby.
Went out on the streets on New Years Eve, after taking a shower to experience the evening.    It was a zoo.  Did not see another westener but there were thousands of Thais.  A rock band was blaring, there were stage lights, video screens, food stalls, clothing stalls, almost all young Thais, etc., about like a venue in the US.
Ordered what looked like a sausage, but it was actually rice stuffed into sausage casing.  After 45 minutes of wandering around went back to my room and spent a miserable next 36 hours in bed.

A Little Detour

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

From Chiang Rai went north by van to the border with Myanmar or Burma.  Met a guy named Tom and to make a long story short, we matched up with a guide from Myanmar and took a 7 day excursion north168 kilometers to KengTung then east 80 kilometers east to the China border.  6 nights in Myanmar.


3 days worth of my daily writings mysteriously disappeared, but I am working on recreating them.  I am now safely back in Thailand on New Years Eve.  A hot shower really felt good.


This entry will be some of my pics the last 7 days.  Have taken about 1000 so far.  Will develop and post more text as soon as possible.


Will spend New Years Eve here in Mae Sei, over looking Myanmar, 60 yards to the north of my balcony.

View from my balcony north into Myanmar, 60 yards to the north.

Keng Tung is about in the middle of the map

Standing in China

Building a road by hand

Bus ride to Keng Tung with Tom

Slim, our guide, having a $1.50 breakfast

We traveled about 50 miles in the back of this tuktuk

Leaving the Bamboo Nest

Monday, December 23, 2013

10:20:42 PM. 12/23/13
Promptly left Bamboo Nest around 11:00 AM after 4 days of Bamboo Nesting with all the coffee, lunches, dinners, beer, bottled water and lodging for $4035 Baht.  Down the hill in Nok’s truck (this time in the cab) to CR and a drop off at the bus station and a brief sincere, heartfelt farewell to Nok for a wonderful time.  

Bamboo Nest de Chiang Rai is an 11 on the 10 scale.  

My Bamboo Nest lodging, above.
Had a smoothie again at the inet cafe then wished Robin the Brit safe travels (we had some great, long, wide ranging, deep discussions over the last 3 days) and farewell and good luck in his New Life Journey, a self imposed visit at a self help center with the same name 35 kilometers from CR.   I send him my best wishes for a successful recovery.  

Godspeed Robin.  Keep me posted. 
It is now solo travel time.  Time to be alone but not lonely.  No feelings of insecurity or fear.  Thailand is a safe, friendly place and I was confident that soon my path would cross with kindred spirits somewhere.
Dropped off the repaired backpack at the bus station bag storage area and headed out.

Picked up the iPhone case from the leather shop by the clock tower, visited a Wat, took pics and did a walkabout for block after block of stores and markets around the bus station.  

Flowers, fruit, vegies, pigs heads, bacon, stuffed toy animals, luggage, clothes, satellite dishes, shoes in market stalls.
One place was playing all Thai-ized Christmas music.  Stopped to look, listen and soak up a dose of Xmas spirit in Budhist Chiang Rai.  It is the day before Xmas eve and I thought the music beneficial for my inner spiritual being.  Will visit more Wats tomorrow and on the 25th to fill the spiritual cup.

Bought some fresh fruit then found a tuktuk ride to the place I found on the inet – not the 150 Baht Jimmy Hendrix dive that was described yesterday……..but think I will try a similarly priced place before too long.  Maybe one with a bit more character.
Settled in my room, watched some tv and around 7:00 or so went out to find something to eat for supper.   Walked past the hotel “dining room”  and saw only empty tables and thought “Nope, I’m seeking a connection somewhere or else I will return to my room and eat a granola bar and some dried fruit.”   
Walked a hundred meters further toward the nearest lights…..saw some liquor bottles on a shelf on the wall….always a good sign….and some tables with several people inside.  A lady started waving at me from inside.  Not the Thai wave, but an…..American wave.  More direct than a Thai wave, a more personal, less inhibited wave.  I thought “why not check it out?”
Rondi and Andy were inside having dinner with Why, a well-traveled-in-the-US Thai and her son. Why was the owner of the brand new restaurant. 
As I approached, Rondi increased the welcome, then Why joined in greeting me.  Sat down, ordered a beer at a solo table and lo and behold, Rondi and Andy were from….Portland!
They run a treking service in Nepal.  They invited me to join them at their table and 2 minutes after passing the empty table restaurant I had my connection.  Why brought everyone our dinners…chicken in oyster sauce, onions, rice, and 2 big beers for 200 Bhat.
Really enjoyed listening to Andy and Rondi’s story and will fill in the blanks in tomorrows blog…..but Why’s stories of travels to Dallas, San Francisco and St. Louis by bus and plane had everyone laughing heartily.  I thoroughly enjoyed her stories.  Why insisted we try some hearty, sweet, fresh baked bread with butter, honey and jam for desert.  A treat seldom seen anywhere.  We all agreed to meet again in the morning for breakfast and espressos at 7:30 AM.  Great end to a great day.  
Back to the room for some music and posting this blog.  Listening to The Caution Horses by the Cowboy Junkies, a nice late evening album.  A very enjoyable evening.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mission Accomplished

10:40:36 PM 12/22/13
Just left the campfire and returned to my bamboo hut for some music, journal writing and reflecting on my time at the Bamboo Nest. The last 4 days have been the most relaxing and enjoyable days imaginable.

Had coffee and conversation with the crew at breakfast, then washed up in the propane heated shower that I finally figured out how to properly operate.  Showering when it is 45 or 50 degrees, basically outside on a concrete slab is….well, quite enjoyable…….with hot water that is, even if it is only with the trickle of gravity fed pressure.
Earlier today, at 1:00 PM left the mountain and headed to to Chiang Rai with Nok, Robin the Brit, the Dutch lady (fluent in Dutch, French, Spanish and English) and the French lady (a macro biologist).  The ladies, in mid to late 30’s, both living in Madrid, were departing today after 2 nights at the Bamboo Nest.  They were headed out on an organized 2 week bike trek over to northern Lao – to Luang Prabang – then down to Vientiane – both are destinations on my agenda several weeks ahead.
In town met a Brit – actually Nok pointed him out to Robin the Brit at the Nest – and he gave me directions to a leather place he had seen so I could get my backpack repaired.  It was a Sunday afternoon and even though most Thais are Buddist, many still take Sunday off.  Many places were closed, even the bakery/inet cafe that was enjoyed briefly yesterday.  
Set off, hopeful but not expectant and walked the 5 blocks to the spot described by Richard and found it was basically……….a tatoo parlor. But there were several thin leather hides laying around.

 I was hopeful.  Stood patiently for 10 minutes waiting for the owner to finish a tat job before asking for help with repairing my backpack.  I twice explained my need for backpack repair with a piece of leather.  I deduced that there was a communication breakdown somewhere and then politely declined his offer to help me today……by giving me a tatoo.  
However, I was told by the European lady that was sitting and unskillfully strumming a yukelele in the sun outside the tatoo parlor of a leather place “100 meters to the north by the clock tower……..with leather bags hanging out front.”  Maybe, just maybe that is the place.  Walked 100, 200, 300 meters, never saw a clock, much less a tower so then returned to the coffee/inet shop.  If I had only walked 50 more meters……..   
Reconnected with Robin and Richard, both Brits, at the inet cafe and ordered a 65 Baht banana strawberry smoothie.  Richard, fluent in Thai, retired at 43, and was big, strong, fit.  He had worked on offshore oil rigs as an electrician and diver in the North Sea and lives 9 months per year in CR and 3 months in England.  He gave me directions again, this time to the clock tower.  I set out again with the hope that this time Richard’s knowledge had somehow improved and my quest would end better than the first attempt.  
Travel, new places, adventure, the unknown.   A walkabout, I thought.
Set out walking and was elated upon finding the clock tower, a 40 foot tall, golden monument in the center of the main street in Chiang Rai, and a little further, the leather shop.  

 Quickly determined that repairs to the broken parts on the backpack (basically making the shoulder straps unusable) were within “Predious Gem’s” ability and turned the backpack over to him.  Precious Gem was a young Thai that was married to a friendly blonde from Ireland.  He looked like a Jamican Rasta, but he was a perfectionist in his work. 

Watched him precisely measure, cut, glue, hammer, stitch and replace with buffalo hide the broken plastic parts.  He  made the repair to the backpack several times better than when originally made 24 years ago.    

Took about an hour.  Even paid to have him make a case for my iPhone, which I will pickup tomorrow.  To quote George Bush, “Mission Accomplished.”
In back of the leather shop they had a bar and rented upstairs rooms for 150 Baht a night – or a little less than $5.00.  Looked at the room and the shared bathroom.  The decor reminded me of what a cheap hotel in Haight Ashbury might have looked like in the late 1960’s.  Rainbows, spray paint stencil art of Jimmy Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan (all artists I enjoy) and brightly colored rainbows, vivid yellow walls, sky blue walls.  It was sort of……cheery, bright and nostalgic.  The owner was anxious to book me for tomorrow night, but I deferred, not desiring to commit to a lodging decision so far in advance.
Hustling back to The Old Bus Station with minutes to spare, I was surprised when I passed the young, strong German bicyclist I met yesterday atbthe coffee shop.   He was sitting in a street cafe having an espresso.   I greeted him, we spoke briefly…..he suffered a bike problem that required a part from Bangkok for 3000 Baht.  He was waiting for it to be express delivered.  After wishing him safe travels, I raced for the Old Bus Station to meet Nok for the return ride to the Bamboo Nest.  
Had been told earlier by Nok that she was picking up 4 new Bamboo Nest patrons in her double cab 4 WD.  Robin and I would ride in the back of her open bed 4WD pickup for the return trip up the mountain…about a 50 minute ride.  By the time 6 backpacks, tonight’s food, the spare tire and who knows what else was in the truck bed, there was just barely enough room for Robin and me to squeeze in.  But we did.  And then all 7 of us were all off through Chiang Rai enroute to the Bamboo Nest.
Up the mountain road.  It was the first time I have ridden in the bed of a pickup since high school 40 years ago!   This was my third time on the road up to the Nest, and by far the most enjoyable and scenic, although cramped.  Made numerous videos with the iPhone of the journey up to our mountain retreat.
Dinner, then over to the fire pit for conversation.  One of the new patrons was a Dutch PhD biology candidate that was studying thrips…a small insect.  Also 2 Brits that did not want to talk much to anyone, 2 Spaniards that were here last PM and the couple from Quebec that were very friendly and energetic.
Last PM at the fire we had no wood, only bamboo.  Tonight we had wood about 2″ diameter, and it made a tolerable fire when fed with bamboo.
Retired to my bamboo house and listened to Meddle by Pink Floyd, Springsteen’ s Nebraska, then Linda Rhonstadt’s (with Nelson Riddle) For Sentimental Reasons, a nice mellow album for 11:50 PM at night.  All in all, a memorable day.
Will leave the Bamboo Nest at 10:30 AM tomorrow and return to Chiang Rai for the next phase of the walkabout.
After 4 nights of “Bamboo Nesting” with no heat, chilly nights in a house with bamboo floors, walls, doors, windows and a thatch roof – and feeling flush because of the large point gain in the stock market on Thursday – I am giving serious thought to carpet, heat, furniture and inet in my room Monday night.

The Wai

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiing remains to this day an extremely important part of social behavior among Thais, who are very sensitive to their self-perceived standing in society. As a rule of thumb for foreign tourists and other visitors unaccustomed to the intricacies of Thai language and culture, it is unwise to initiate a wai exchange with someone who is younger. However, one should always return a wai that is offered as a genuine sign of respect. Corporate wais, such as those performed by convenience store cashiers, can generally be ‘returned’ with a smile.

If one is waiied while carrying goods, or for any other reason that makes the physical act of returning a wai difficult, it is still important to recognize the show of respect and make a physical effort to wai back as best as possible under the circumstances.

The hand wave, the nod……

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The head nod that I first noticed on the plane to BKK is a Thai cultural norm.  A head nod or the open hand rolled forward from the wrist means “yes, it is OK, take it, go ahead, it is for you”.     

On the plane – wearing my earphones listening to music or the movie, I noticed the subtle nod of the head every time the flight attendant offered a drink or a food item to a passenger.  “Here, this is for you, it is OK, take it” all included in the the little head nod.  She always nodded for the delivery of every item.  

At the airport – when immigration returned my passport – the subtle head nod.  

Receiving change for my purchase….the subtle head nod.

The Blog Beginning

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

So, the Shared Journal, or my blog

Now that the question of what this effort should be called has been defined and clarified, the issue is somewhat resolved.  I have an application on the iPad called “Maxjournal” that I am using for first drafts, inner thoughts and experiences that many would consider private.  We all have private thoughts and experiences…….


The flights here were uneventful and suprisingly comfortable.  Flew from SEA to NRT on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  It has been about 15 years since I went to Europe and domestic planes are nothing like international planes.  My good friend Jerry asked me prior to departure about food on the flights…I said that the website said there were no meals.  So I went aboard prepared, with some nuts, an orange and some snack bars.  
The ALl Nippon flight to NRT (Tokyo) was a Japanese airline.  They served a choice of poached salmon or pork chop.  I had the poached salmon on a bed of noodles, brocolli, several slices of chicken breast, grilled yellow, green and red peppers, fresh fruit and free alcohol.  Declined the alcohol but enjoyed the meal.  3/4 of the way to NRT they served another meal which I declined.


Free movies, music and games in the headrest in the seat back…….I  watched Aston Kutcher in “Jobs” which made me feel like an old man.  As an Apple user going back to the original Macintosh 128 in 1984, I found the movie nostalgic.  Has it really been 29 years since the Mac was introduced?  In 1985 I paid $300.00 to get my 128 “upgraded”  – (which my handy dandy inflation calculator says is like $650.00 in today dollars)  from 128K to a whopping 1 megabite of memory…….   My current iPhone has 61,400 times that 1 megabite of memory and was about $850.00.   


11 hrs to Tokyo and then 7 hrs to Bangkok.  While waiting to board the flight to BKK, I noticed the boarding line getting longer….and longer….and longer.  Finally I jumped in the line and was astounded by the quantity and size of carryon bags that everyone had.  It was nothing like domestic US carryon.  Practically everyone had shopping bags from stores in the airport and they were big.  2 pieces of carryon?  NOOOO.   As much as you can carry, basically.  Got to my seat and this Japanese couple came down the aisle to sit next to me and I swear they had 3 times my total baggage as carryon.  Luggage, bags, backpacks, purses and then 2 stuffed full shopping bags. 


Flight was an Airbus 380 and it is a big plane.  10 seats wide, with 2 levels.  
The Japanese guy sitting next to me was as figity and restless as a two year old child and he was sitting next to me for 7 hours.  I had been awake almost 30 hours and wanted to sleep but I had a jitterbug sitting next to me.  A handheld game machine, a phone, the seat back games….he played them all…repeatedly moving from one device to the other.  Then he would root through his panoply of bags for something else to play with.  He never watched or read anything.  


Uneventful through baggage claim, immigration and customs.  Got some Bhat – 31 to the US $ then found the ride to the hotel easily.  Was told at the airport that the ride was free then was told at the hotel upon checkin that it was 200 Bhat – $6.20.  Arrived around midnight local time and called my friend Jerry.  Spoke 13 minutes ($.10 or $.20 a min) then had 2 beers from the hotel bar at 140 Baht each.


Nice room, new, free inet, flat screen, pool, bar, restaurant, brkfst buffet, room safe, AC for about $30 a night.  Inquired about visiting the floating market, but it was a 1.5 hour drive out and back and about $90.00 US.  I am sure I will see many markets in the weeks to come.  Would rather relax and sleep.   
81 degrees, sunny.

View from hotel window……
This afternoon walked down the gravel road that the hotel is on to a quick mart and bought a few beers to avoid the hotel prices.  55 baht for a 16 oz Heineken.  Sat around the pool and did some reading.  Am rereading Space by James Michener.


Will quaff a few more beers and get some rest then head back to BKK tomorrow at 11 AM for the 1.5 hour flight north to Chiang Rai and 3 nights at Bamboo Nest.


Here is a link you can click on to see a YouTube video another traveler put online:

Bamboo Nest de Chiang Rai – YouTube

► 4:00► 4:00www.youtube.com/watch?v=JH90_yPL_ugNov 2, 2012 – Uploaded by Christopher BThe following is a quick video I put together of Bamboo Nest deChiang Rai. It’s easily my 

Blog vs Journal

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is this a diary or a journal? How do they difer from a blog?

What IS The Difference Between Diaries, Journals & Blogs?

At this link:
http://www.inboxjournal.com/articles/difference-between-diary-journal-and-blog.php


I found this explanation:


The words diary, journal and blog are terms often used interchangeably to mean the same thing. Most people associate a diary with a special book that is closed with a padlock to keep your thoughts and feelings private. Journals are recorded entries that are often not as private, although you may choose to keep it so. A blog is often used to publicly share your thoughts on specific topics. Blogs have become so popular that even companies are using them to update people on changes in their industry or in their company. However, each is different and unique in its own right and they can be put to different uses. You may even choose to use one, two or all three.

Diaries

A diary is often the most personal of the three. They are often arranged by date and have space for you to write what has happened over the course of the day. Many diarists often think of their diaries as a special friend that they can confide to. For example, Anne Frank named her diary Kitty.  She begins her entries with Dear Kitty so it as though she is writing to a dear friend that she can tell all of her secrets to. The naming of a diary has a unique psychological effect as it gives the writer a feeling of someone listening to his or her inner secrets and feelings.

The word diary itself is for the Latin word diarium or daily allowance.  A diary tends to be more focused on daily thoughts and events, while a journal can be written sporadically. The page a day diary is popular amongst young girls and are often given as gifts. However, the diary goes back hundreds of years and one of the first most popular diaries belonged to Samuel Pepys. Pepys is known for making the diary more personal, while it had been more of a business notation in the past. Several books have been published from diaries as well. It is these diaries that have given us great insight and knowledge into history from all parts of the world. 

Journals

A journal is a diary in a sense. It can be used to document life events like a diary, but it is not necessarily a daily activity. There are also several different types of journals that a person may keep. There are travel journals to document your various travels across your state, country or the world. There are workout journals that help to keep track of the type of workout you do and make comments on it. 

Journals have also become popular in schools. Teachers often give students a writing prompt to get them started in their journal writing. Each week the students may write from the prompt and then share the journal with their teacher. These are excellent because they get children to think creatively and to learn to put their thoughts and feelings down on paper. This is an important step in teaching children to express themselves and communicate effectively through the written word.

Blogs

A blog is another form of diary or journal, but it is one that is digital and on the Internet. These are often referred to as online diaries/journals or personal blogs. They may document your day-to-day experiences or even social commentary. Many people use personal blogs as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as to share with them their thoughts and feelings on certain subjects. You may choose to keep your blog personal or to share it with the world. By sharing it with the public, you can open the blog up to personal comments from those who view and read the blog. This is unique to the blog and many personal opinions are common throughout the world of blogging, some are kind and others may be quite blunt. 

One of the first online diaries or blogs was Claudio Pinhanezï Open Diary.  This was the first web site that was published in a diary format on a web page. This site was published in 1996 by the MIT Media Lab. Since, there were several different online diaries that popped up and now the web is full of them. There have also been several websites open up since then to allow people to have their own online journals and diaries. They are especially popular with teenagers and college students. 

Preparation

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

4 days to departure

MONDAY the 16th.    Departure Day.  

Getting jazzed.  Spent the last 2 days housecleaning and organizing.  

Will start backpack packing tomorrow. 

Assured, I can carry all that will be needed. 

Ready, Aim, Fire.