paulathai

adventures in Thailand


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TAPEI, TAIWAN, Nov. 8 to 12 (written Nov. 16)

TAIPEI was great, better than expected. The reason for stopping there was to see two CouchSurfers whom I had

Hosted in Pai in August. They happened to be having breakfast with me on the morning that I booked my ‘round the world ticket. The ticket began in Seattle and went to Chiang Mai with a plane change in Taipei. When they heard that, they suggested I CS with them.

A stop at the Shanghai airport in late February 2012 and several short stays in Hong Kong in November 1999 comprised my total Chinese experience. (Unless you count Chinatown in San Francisco, NYC and Washington, DC.)

A number of factors made the 5 days there wonderful. These included:

*my terrific hosts, Riccardo and Dudu (more about them later),

*easy to use Metro (subway) and bus system,

*bilingual signs in Chinese and transliterated English,

*terrific, inexpensive food,

*one of the best museums I’ve ever visited (more later),

*a fantastic bakery and a typical Chinese breakfast/lunch restaurant a block from their apartment,

*a spacious 3 bedroom apt. that allowed me my own room.

 

RICCARDO & DUDU, Italian and Taiwanese 26 year olds, have been together several years. Rick, as he’s known, teaches Italian and translating courses at two universities and Works as a simultaneous translator in English, Chinese and Italian. Next month he’ll earn his PhD in translating from a Taiwanese university.

Dudu works as a freelance costume designer and they had warned me that if he had an assignment, the living room would double as his workshop. Luckily for me, he had six ballet costumes due for delivery on my third day there. Thus, I watched in fascination as he cut and sewed the last one. Turned out that one costume didn’t fit the young ballerina. This necessitated Dudu returning on Saturday with less than 48 hours to re=do one outfit. He worked non=stop on Saturday evening and Sunday all day until 3 a.m. Then Monday morning he added the finishing touches on two gorgeous headpieces that he had created, filled with sequins, feathers and fake jewels that he glued on individually.

When they visited Pai we really hit it off. Our friendship continued and blossomed in Taipei. Rick was quite busy on the weekend, taping three segments of an hour=long TV show where he appears regularly. That was fine since he wrote out directions in English and Chinese each morning for my sightseeing activities. Had no problems navigating the Metro, which Rick said has been voted #1 subway system in the world several years in a row.

NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM takes its place among the top museums I’ve ever visited, along with D’orsay and L’Orangerie in Paris, The Natl. Gallery of Art in DC, and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. When the Chinese nationals lost the war against Mao Tse Tung, they grabbed nearly half of the country’s finest art treasures. They’re now housed and displayed at this fabulous venue. Only a tiny percentage of the artwork goes on display at any time. During my visit there was an outstanding exhibit of Chinese Bronzes from the past three millennium on loan from Mainland China.

I spent nearly two days at the museum. The first day I rented an informative audio guide and took a two-hour tour with a fantastic docent who had spent 24 years with Intel in the USA. Her English sounded fine. On my next visit the docent’s accent didn’t live up to the first one’s English. But the tour was enjoyable anyway.

 

It’s odd that I enjoyed the museum so much since the Freer Gallery, part of Washington’s Smithsonian, never held great appeal to me. Perhaps it’s my maturity (last visit was at least 35 years ago) and the fact that seeing in China/Taiwan had much greater impact.

 

OTHER TAIPEI HIGHLIGHTS included a lovely day trip to the

Seaside where “old Taiwan” remains with its narrow, winding streets filled with vendors. A wide variety of vendors displayed colorful fruits and vegetables, numerous unusual fish, fresh chickens, meat, delicious food, and many souvenirs. Rick suggested I take the ferry to “Lover’s Bridge,” a pedestrian bridge that connects Fisherman’s Wharf with the island of Taiwan. The day was bright and sunny, perfect weather for a 20-minute boat ride and stroll.

COMPUTER AND iPAD PROBLEMS plague me. Those of you who follow my blog know that my hyphen doesn’t work, thus the equal sign substitutes for it. Now the delete doesn’t work either. It took me about 30 seconds to figure out how to use Command X to remove unwanted material.

The iPad now resides in the repair shop in Chiang Mai, CM.My fingers are crossed that the repairman can order the chip and install it===it’s an important chip that enables internet connection. No doubt the 5 or 6 times that it has been dropped, particularly the one in August that shattered the LCD screen (when stung by two wasps), damaged its internet capabilities. I’ll pick it up on Nov. 28 when I return to CM for the wonderful Loi Krathong Festival.

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Heading “home” to Pai today, 14 Nov. 2012

PAI awaits me. HURRAH. I feel as if it is my home. At least my SE Asia home. Woodstock still remains my home in my heart and soul. And in May it will become my (temporary?) home once again.

Seven weeks of travel makes me yearn for home. Gosh, what will I feel after 11 weeks of  ’round the world from Feb. 24 to May 2 (preceded by 2-3 weeksin southern Thailand or Malaysia)? No doubt some R&R stops must be part of my long adventure. Already thinking of “vegging out” on Santorini in Greece.

BLOG PROBLEM rears its ugly head due to iPad difficulties. Two written blog entries await posting–one from Seattle and the other from Taipei. They sit in my iPad which spent the night in a repair shop in Chiang Mai’s biggest mall. Will know at 11 a.m. if they fixed it. If not, will pick it up on Nov. 28 when I return to CM for 2 nights for the Loi Krathong Festival.

MASSAGES make up part of my daily routine in Thailand. Monday night after my 7 pm arrival at my guesthouse, I ventured out and had an hour massage (back/shoulder/legs). Then last night had a foot/lower leg massage. Currently I’m killing 15 minutes until the 9:30 opening of a massage studio where I’m scheduled for one hour Thai massage followed by half hour back/shoulder/neck massage.  Yesterday I felt like royalty as the salon owner cut my hair, one assistant gave me a pedicure and the other helper gave me a pedicure.

That’s all for now. With any luck you’ll receive the Seattle and Taipei blogs within a couple of days.

 

 


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(Belated) CAMBODIA: Phenom Penh & Angkor Wat

By now my regular readers know that this blog tens to come in spurts. There’s been a silence of about 6 weeks. During that period I spent a couple weeks working on a brochure for the Banyan Center, preparing for my current trip and then setting off for a week in Cambodia followed by my October 1 flight to the USA.

PHENOM PENH was our first stop after a flight from Bangkok where I hooked up with Annie Timusheva who had arrived after an overnight flight from Moscow. Annie and I met in Thailand last year where she fell in love with Pai and Ing Doi Guest House. This time she wanted to spend a few months in Pai so she sublet my house for October.

Annie’s 30, very tall and thin, a world traveler and talented writer. Last year she was traveling with the MAGIC PHONE (translation of Russian for what we call a Smart Phone). She used it as her camera and for writing short stories and working on her long novel. Can you imagine writing a complete book on your iPhone? I can’t.

We spent two nights at Number 9 Guest House in Cambodia’s capital on a quiet street nestled between two major thoroughfares. Our first night we explored the neighborhood and searched for dinner. The exploration was more successful than the meal. It was late so not many places remained open. We stumbled upon a very small restaurant that boasted Khmer (Cambodian) and African food. Annie, a vegetarian, had a tasty vegetable stir fry with brown rice. My attempt at vegetables and chicken featured a few vegetables and two chicken wings that had been cut into pieces–not much edible protein.

The next day, Sunday, we planned on a depressing day starting at a famous prison from the Khmer Rouge days followed by a visit to the Killing Fields. The prison was a short tuk tuk ride away but the Killing Fields and its creepy monument filled with skulls behind glass were about a half hour outside of town.

One walks away from the prison and fascinating but morbid Killing Fields wondering how a government could treat its citizens so outrageously. The provided audio tour and good signage explained many details of this site with its horrific past. If one ignored the informative signs and skull-filled monument, the Killing Fields could pass for a large city park. Of course, you’d have to ignore the occasional bones and skulls that poke up through the grass, especially during the rainy season. Luckily the caretakers remove these awful reminders of Cambodia’s sordid past. Every month or so the newly-emerged skulls take their places atop the thousands already enclosed in the tall pagoda-like monument.

Annie purchased a memoir by a young woman captured and imprisoned at age 14 by the Khmer Rouge. The gripping book was difficult to read but necessary to get a full picture of the horrors of that time.

ANGKOR WAT (Siem Reap)  If this had been written in a timely fashion–five weeks ago while in Cambodia–no doubt it would be more detailed and vibrant. 

We had a lovely guest house (Happy House) that Annie found, again on a quiet street. Amazing value: $11 a night for two, private room, color cable tv, private shower and excellent management. We spent five days in Siem Reap, three of them exploring the impressive ruins of Angkor Wat. Additional interesting activities included a fabulous (though touristy) evening to see traditional dancing while enjoying an amazingly huge and delicious buffet dinner ($10 per person including transport to/from), another dinner ($6) with free shadow puppet performance, three hour boat ride to the huge lake near Siem Reap and visiting the day market.

Friends had warned us about the many young and teenage children at Angkor Wat who accost tourists the moment they arrive at a site. Yes, they were annoying. But at the same time, we felt sorry for them. Here they are trying to sell handicrafts, postcards and books instead of going to school. Although we’d been warned about beggars, we saw none in Phenom Penh, Angkor Wat, or Siem Reap. The only exception was at the Killing Fields where a poor farmer was standing on the edge of a rice paddy on the other side of the chain link fence, asking for money.

Our ride from Siem Reap to Bangkok consisted of a private taxi shared by us and a couple staying at our guest house ($25 for 4!) to the border followed by another taxi from the border to Bangkok ($70 for 4). Rides, which were about 2.5 hours each, were okay but customs was HORRENDOUS. It took two hours to pass through the border—–the worst Annie or I had ever experienced. Just understaffed and too many people, mid-morning on a Sunday.

Sunday night I stayed at an inexpensive hotel near the airport–$21 including shuttle van to/from the airport. Quite upscale compared to our guesthouse accommodations. To find dinner, I wandered around the neighborhood and found a market with take-out food which came back to the room. Flew out Monday, Oct. 1 on Cathay Pacific with a stop in Hong Kong, arriving JFK in NY Monday night. (22 hours of travel).

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