September 11, 2008

Elepants

Filed under:News!,Travel — Aileen @ 12:31

We travelled 700km north to Chiang Mai, a city a little bigger than Galway, on Sunday. We took a 13 hour overnight train which was an experience in itself. Travelling second class, we had private bunks in a shared carriage of about forty people. We passed the evening with some German backpackers and although the bunks were extremely comfortable, nothing could disguise the fact that it was like sleeping on top of a washing machine!

It was a relief to escape to Chiang Mai because it was so much more chilled out and slow-moving than Bangkok. The city is centred around the old city, which is full of temples – about three to every block. Alb really regretted not buying What Wat? before starting out on our little tour of the place.

We took a day trip to one of the National Parks to the south of the city. We trekked through some rainforest and visited two small hill tribes, the Hmong and the White Karen. The Hmong have wonderfully cross-stitched costumes, whilst the White Karen are renowned for their weaving.

The White Karen are so called because young women wear white overalls before they are married. The tribe is related to the Red Karen, or the long-necks. As we were limited to three days in Chiang Mai we had to pass up on a trip to the Red Karen tribe but from what we heard from other travellers, they are exhibited like a human zoo. At least with the White Karen, we saw how they lived without disturbing them and there was no pressure to buy anything off them.

Yesterday was Alb’s birthday so we went to an elephant park. He was mad to have a go on one and I was really not… but I have to say – I’d ride an elephant before I’d ride a horse any day.

The baby elephant you see here was five months old and came up to my waist. I was petting him for about thirty seconds before his trunk went right up my fisherman pants, curled the material up in his snout and started to pull the pants right off me! (Note to self: fishermen don’t use elephants for a reason) Ah, they were great. The mother would send her trunk your way looking for bananas… and when I mean looking, I mean hoovering up everything in your general direction. From what we could tell, they were very well treated. Each elephant had its own trainer and the guy who took us on our spin through the forest talked a lot to his.

Afterwards, we visited an orchid, butterfly and snake farm. I have never been a fan of snakes but I figured that if I can get up on an elephant, I can touch a snake. This guy is a four month old python.

When we got back to our hotel, the staff had left Alb a birthday card on his bed, along with a small cake, cake slice, plates and forks, candles and a lighter. Nice end to the day, eh?


“Mr Albert”>

More photos here.

end

September 9, 2008

What?

Filed under:News!,Travel — Aileen @ 15:58

We sit into a taxi in Bangkok.

Driver: Where are you from?
Us: Ireland.
Driver: Beside UK, right?
Us: Yes!
Driver: What’s it like there?
Us: Wet.
Driver: Like here? What months does it rain there?
Us: Every month.
Driver: What?
Us: It rains every day.
Driver: What?

end

September 6, 2008

Taking it easy

Filed under:News!,Travel — Aileen @ 16:16

Today, we caught up with the Reclining Buddha at the Grand Palace.

There were all sorts of interesting buildings to wander around and look at.

All of the buildings have been decorated by hand and have been standing about 500 years. The coloured mosaic is made from cheap broken plates but the gold is all gold leaf, applied by hand.

It is the start of the rainy season here, which means that the mornings are generally bright and sunny. Moisture builds up quickly and the afternoons are wet and thundery. Yesterday was so bad, we didn’t go anywhere. You think the rain in Ireland is bad? Rain drops here are as big as your little finger! You can see them from across the street!

Our first full day was a little odd – there’s a story to go with it – but we visited old Bangkok and saw all the fruit farmers with their houses on the river. Their plots are deceptively large and they all grow a variety of fruits so that they have fruit in season all year round. It is a very simple and calm existence, away from the smoke and clamour of new Bangkok. There is a floating supermarket that calls round every day, including the post man, bin collection, nurse, ice-cream man, coffee shop and pretty much everything else you can imagine. The market middle-man comes around in the morning to buy fruit from the farmer so they don’t even have to travel into the city to sell their fruit. This is an old style teak house. There aren’t too many of these left because teak is expensive.

Today, we also visited the legendary Khao San Road, which was exceptionally quiet and I had a good time haggling for clothes. It was amusing to see other Europeans just giving the vendors what they asked for. Tomorrow, we take the night train to Chiang Mai. I have no idea what it will hold for us but I know Alb is hoping for a drink with one of those little umbrellas in it.

PS For more photos, check out my picasa album here.

end

September 4, 2008

Behind the scenes

Filed under:News!,Travel — Aileen @ 03:26

There has been some actual knitting going on, too, you know. I started Heidi‘s wedding shawl about a week ago… this is strictly air conditioned knitting for the moment.

…and with the yarn I picked up in Amsterdam, I started a sock.

The yarn is Regia Design Line by Kaffe Fassett in colourway 4451. Speaking of Kaffe Fassett, I witnessed his range of yarns for Rowan in the flesh: they are much, much yummier than any shade card can do justice to.

Even though we just arrived in Bangkok, the first thing we’re going to do is book tickets out of here! Chiang Mai is top of our list so we’re going to head out now to the train station and book the overnight train for Sunday. As for later, we’ll probably swing by the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and pick up some less glaringly obvious western clothes at the Khao San market. Back later with sunburn and fisherman pants!

end

September 3, 2008

Safe and sound

Filed under:News!,Travel — Aileen @ 09:46

Hello! Alarming stories in the news prompt me to pop my head in and tell you all that we are safe and sound in Bangkok :) We only got in this morning after a glorious 26 hours and didn’t know anything about the unrest until just now! Everything has seemed fine so far and it doesn’t look like there will be any military involvement. I will post again soon!

end