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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bond, James Bond

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Monkey business started the activities today. These little guys are so use to people they just take the peanuts right out of your hand while barely even paying attention to you. Nearing the entrance to the cave, monkeys of all ages and sizes scamper up the rock and onto the trees trying to get your attention and a banana or piece of corn.

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Inside the cave of the Monkey Temple there are several large images of Buddha. Many are in several different positions, with each image of hand placement having a different meaning.

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Some of the areas in the cavernous cave appeared to have been cut into the rock with the only purpose being the placement of another Buddha, but was quite well done. In the rocky recesses of the cave the indirect lighting holds back the darkness while the direct lighting on the Buddha images cast shadows along the walls and ceiling.
In one dark and secluded area at the back of the cave was a gate separating us from a “squeeky”, musty smelling smaller cave.
Bats were resting and flying occasionally in the darkness but not bothered by the people standing so close to them.

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Another great boat ride had us racing thru the waterways of Phang Nga Bay National Park with Mangrove islands all around us in the James Bond boats again, heading to James Bond Island.

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This was such a cool ride. Some of the pictures will be posted up later as they are on the GoPro. Arriving at this large rock island we drove the boats right thru the center of the rock with the walls closing in around us as the light from the other side illuminated the exit walls.

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Exiting out the other side we sped away toward Phang Nga Bay and the large monolithic rock, named Ko Tapu, made famous in the James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun.

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We had a nice hike up and around the island before I jumped in the beautiful teal, clear water and swam out to the rock for some up close pictures, which ended up being a lot further then it looked, but was great.

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Hopping back in our long boat our driver fires up the big 6 cylinder engine and away we sped through the mangroves heading to a Muslim floating village that has been around for about 3 centuries.
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We had a lunch that had been prepared for us of fresh fish and traditional fare that I had no idea of what it was.
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A quick picture from the pool at the hotel. The Mai Tai’s and Long Island Ice Teas sometimes seem to flow so easily. Melanie said she had Sex on the Beach, and she said I was there…
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Cheers

Greg “WANDRR” and Melanie

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Floating Market and Death Railroad

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Our journey today started with a ride past the the salt processing area. Large areas are flooded, looked like rice paddies, with sea water and the water allowed to evaporate leaving a high quality salt behind that is gathered and further processed leaving just the salt crystals.
After about 2 hours we reached our next transport mode, the James Bond boats to the Damnoen Saduak Floating market.

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These skinny boats are powered by 4, 6 or 8 cylinder, turbo charged motors with a straight, long shaft to a propeller. The entire assemble is mounted to a swiveling platform the the driver operates from the back of the boat.

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As you can imagine they are fast in a straight line but can’t turn unless going very slow. Think Suzuki Hayabusa.

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The markets are all professional vendors with the sole purpose of selling you stuff you don’t need, that everyone else is selling. You can walk along the market or stay in your boat and inch along the waterways.

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I did manage to find something that I just had to have tho.

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Leaving, I found a scooter that would make friends Rachel and Raol green with envy.

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Heading north toward Kanchànaburi too much coffee and beer in my system proved to be quite a literal pain. Stopping at the Kanchànaburi War Cemetery I sprinted in my best full bladder speed hoping to find the nearest toilet, empty. Success, so a good end to that story.

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The Kanchànaburi War Cemetery is filled with British, Dutch and Australian POWs that died during the building of the rail line between Burma and this point as a supply line for Japan during WWII.

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We next were taken to an Elephant trekking camp where tourists could ride the elephants. We fed the babies, refused to ride on the backs of elephants and educated other tourists on the dangers of this activity.
Following this we rafted down some rapids on lashed bamboo rafts, swam in the calm parts along elephants on the side of the river. Very cool.

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A plane ride away was Phuket, Thailand, our next destination.

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Our hotel was a fantastic place on Kamala beach, the Novatel Kamala Beach resort. Great setting with a swim up infinity pool.
There was a show that we hit the first night, the Phuket Fantasea, which was a cultural show in a very elaborate setting.

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In my opinion, the show is overrated and not worth the price of admission, skip it.

Greg “WANDRR” and Melanie

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Elephant World

Waking up at 4am we leave as soon as we are ready for our taxi to the bus station, a 3 hour bus ride finishing with a 40 minute ride in the back of a safari truck to Elephant World. Getting off the bus in Kanchànaburi we buy our first street food in Thailand, breakfast for 20 baht, or about $0.60.
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She was cooking pork on a stick over a small grill and served with a small bag of sticky rice, which you easy with your fingers.
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It was delicious and had two pork sticks, which we shared. The other entertainment in the square were the many scooters buzzing anound town all loaded down.
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They carried sometimes whole families, but my favorite was the dad and his 2 year old, in his pajamas, holding on the the handle bar with one hand while drinking from his bottle with the other. He was sitting in front of the seat and his feet were stretched out in front of him on the fairing. Dad was driving with one hand and holding a small bad of groceries with the other. The many vendors also used them for work with watched sidecar rigs..
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We were greeted by the elephants when we arrived to Elephant World in time for their breakfast of bananas and watermelon.
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Elephant World is a rescue/sanctuary for old and abused elephants from either the logging of tourism industry. While in Thailand there are many elephant camps that give rides to tourists in basket benches on the back of elephants. It looms like a great time but three back of an elephant can only support about 100 kgs before damaging the spine, the baskets weigh 50 kgs empty, so you see how easily they can be overloaded by two grown adults taking a ride on one.
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However, the neck of these gentle creatures can support over 500 kgs, so riding on the neck just behind the ears in perfectly OK.
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After the morning feeding we walked with the down to the water before turning them loose in the jungle for a couple hours.

Back at camp a nutritious snack had to be prepared starting with boiling sticky rice, stirring in cut vegetables and cooling the rice.

After a lunch prepared for us by the volunteers,

it was time to wash and prepare the watermelons and bananas for the afternoon feeding. Its amazing how much food this group of elephants can eat in a day.

The cooled sticky rice had to be blended with water and crushed vitamin pellets into a pasty consistency and then rolled into softball-sized balls to be hand-fed into the elephants mouths.

Next on the schedule was the fun part, bath time. Following them down to the water and up on their necks to scrub them down.

My elephant was named Kammoon, a 65 year old female that was rescued from the trekking industry with a compressed spinal cord and severely underfed. Her gentle way and soft brown eyes tells you she is happy now. Sitting on her neck with my toes under her ears, scrubbing her head covered with scattered, bristled hairs and scratching her ears was one of the coolest things I have done.

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Buddhas and Wats

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Our first day in Bangkok will be spent visiting two different Wots, or Buddhist Temple. The first one, Wot Pho, is where the Golden Buddha is located. This very large, solid gold Buddha is a treasure that was moved by crane from its current resting spot many years ago during an invasion to protect it.
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After visiting and paying our respects to the Buddha and temple, we stopped outside to be blessed and have our luck increased. I’ll take whatever good luck I can get.
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Continuing on to our next Wot, the Wot of the Reclining Buddha, we were amazed by all the small scooter combinations on the road carrying from one to five people, plus stuff on board. Seems sort of silly when one liter plus bikes complain about overloading.
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This gold inlaid Reclining Buddha is about 30 x 80 meters and is breathtaking.
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The feet are inlaid mother-of-pearl.
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We toured the many beautiful buildings of the Wot each one housing a different Buddha image.
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Air China to Bangkok

The day has finally arrived for our flight to Bangkok, Thailand. We’re up and our the door at 5am to drive the first 20 of the 60 miles to LAX in rush hour traffic moving along at a blistering 20mph average speed. We left home early this morning just because this can happen here.
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Arriving plenty early to the airport for our 11:40 flight on Air China, with a scheduled 4 hour layover in Beijing, we relax in anticipation of our landing in Bangkok at 11pm tomorrow.
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Our routes take us up and over Alaska, following a line just south of the Arctic circle and south through Russia and into China.
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Flying over western Alaska we are treated to a two hour sunset with the pinks dancing over the ice and snow of the landscape below us.
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After passing the western coast of Alaska we fly just south of the Bering Strait. Looking to the tail of the plane e see the US and toward the nods, Russia.
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Looking out the window all you can see is frozen tundra, snow covered mountains, icebergs and frozen over waterways with openings in the water. Crossing down thru Siberia there is nothing but a starkly beautiful, frozen wasteland.
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Crossing the International dateline into tomorrow and continuing south toward Beijing the skies begin to brighten as our sunset appears to have become a sunrise even tho it will be setting in just a few hours, after we land in China.

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