Quick trip to Ko Samet

I am taking the family on a work trip from now. It will be an overnight bus ride, followed by a boat ride to Koh Samet and a smaller ferry-to-shore. We plan to return on Monday night, just in time to finish preparation for the new school term.

Photos (and Video) from the Korat Zoo

Yesterday we got home from a trip to Nakhon Ratchasima, more commonly known as Korat. The city is famous for being the gateway to the Northeast region (where we live) of Thailand, and is at just about the halfway point when we go to/from Bangkok. We were only there for one reason, though. Max wanted to see animals…

The zoo is medium-sized, and unremarkable from a technology standpoint. However, some thought has gone into the layout, premium services, and a few of the exhibits really stand out. In addition, the cost of things including admission (50 Baht for Thais, 100 Baht for foreigners, free for small children) is very reasonable. We went from 9:00AM and rented a golf cart for a couple of hours (500 Baht) after seeing the lines for the trams and figuring it would be too hot by noon. Two hours turned out to be just enough time to see almost everything including the obligatory pinniped (why isn’t “pinniped” in the Chrome spell checker dictionary?) show, which if you’ve been to Sea World looks like Retarded Animal Training for Dummies, but kept the kids entertained until they, too, got tired of seeing finned marine mammals playing in the water and doing horribly easy tricks for piscine (why isn’t “piscine” in the Chrome spell checker dictionary?) rewards.

We missed seeing some of the exhibits; it would probably take another hour to cover everything, but then again if you don’t have kids you don’t lose time on diaper changes and meltdown control when they are both convinced that the other has something in their hand that they want.

The highlight of the zoo for us: The giraffes! I have never been so close to a giraffe in my life, and it was a really cool experience. Now I have one less reason to go on safari.

Some pics:

 


 
 

Why the newspaper died

Clipping from the Bangkok Post, early 2011

At first I thought this was an early April Fools thing, but it wasn’t. The Bangkok Post was/is the widest circulated English language paper in Thailand (possibly initially funded by the OSS/State Department!), and printed a half-page article on how to properly shovel snow. In Thailand. Apparently, somebody sent a complaint to the editor that was printed in a subsequent issue. This was addressed by claiming that this article was pulled from a partner news source, which is just a ridiculous defense… They really should have claimed it was an early April Fools thing.

Hak Na Sarakham

Maha Sarakham University, where my wife works, paid off the right people to make a sappy love story movie (the kind that makes the most money here) about the university and our town in general called “Hak Na Sarakham” (Laotian for “Love Sarakham”). It opens today at SermThai Plaza in downtown Sarakham, and we saw a steady stream of motorcycles heading that way from the university.

It was fun trying to guess all of the locations shown in the trailer; our favorite bar, Play Bar, is shown towards the end.

Wat Ban Donnad

A couple months ago, when it was still “cold,” we visited a temple that we’d been hearing of for a while, Wat Ban Donnad (Wat Ban Don Nad?). At the end of a long, broken dirt road that runs through several villages, we ended up here:

You can see our destination out on the island:

We honked our horn, and a young monk on a small outboard came putt-putting out. Max saw the boat and it was on.

Max was wearing his inflatable life jacket all day in anticipation of riding on a boat.

The monk was shy, so I spared him the embarrassment of  a face shot.

There’s no electricity on the island, so we brought yard-long candles in addition to the usual food offerings. Giving these to a temple is the most popular form of making merit in Thailand. We talked to the monk that greeted us on the other side for a while, and he seemed to enjoy playing with the kids. Then he showed us the new temple they are building with massive slabs of timber floated down the river from Laos.

We walked around the island for a bit, then headed back to the boat.

We’ve since visited the landing again, but didn’t cross over because there was a temple festival with crowds of people, and they were packing themselves onto the tiny boats to cross over and back. In typical Thai fashion, the people sitting on the edge of the boats were half-heartedly bailing them out until the water inside reached their ankles, at which time the rate of bailing doubled or tripled – this would repeat until the boats reached their destination. When we saw this was happening, we decided it would be okay to pay our respects from the shore on this side.

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..random

Mina shook her head in serious disagreement 17 times in a row yesterday – I was asking about people she loves; apparently she just hates everyone, because by the time I got to the end I had run out of people she knows by name and had started naming animals.

Max just told his mother to leave him alone and go be with daddy.

I got an e-mail from a distant relative in Kyushu who runs a beauty salon that T, Adam, Inaba and I visited 12 (?) years ago when we went to visit my cousins Kana and Aya in Saga Prefecture (Saga was where my grandfather on my dad’s side grew up, and is the Northeast Thailand of Japan – the locals move out to work shitty jobs in the big city, and the only people moving in are either going back to work on their family’s farm, or to get away from people in general.) Anyway, when we visited the salon, they just happened to be shooting a commercial to be aired on a local TV station, so we got to be in it while getting haircuts and shouting the name of the store – “HEADS!” – at the camera.

So the owner of that shop is either a distant cousin or uncle (which makes him close enough to kill for under Sackett law), and he emailed me out of the blue yesterday. He’s recently into sansevieria plants (AKA mother in law’s tongue), which are not so popular in Japan, so he’s coming this June to check out some of the farms and collectors here in Thailand. Maybe we will hook up.

Max had to take an entrance exam for a nearby preschool yesterday (his current school, which he loves going to now, is closing at the end of March). They test out the little kids by giving them various little tasks and challenges like drawing, puzzles, logic games, motor skills testing, simple questions, etc. Max would not enter the room without mommy, but aced all of the tests. He apparently did some of them twice, by choice, because they gave him too much time to complete them. Sounds scarily familiar.

Nam thought up a brilliant substitute for tenkasu today: Rice Krispies!

This was sufficiently genius for me to acknowledge that I am truly lucky to have married her… For the ten thousandth time or so.

😉

Night Beer Hiking in Downtown Chiang Mai

Exactly one month ago, our family took a trip to Chiang Mai by way of daddy, Max, Mina, and the nanny hitching a ride with mommy on a business trip. Our driver was fast and polite, and since there are typically no seat belts in a Thai commuter van, we decided to leave the baby seats behind. This made for a very smooth and uneventful ride, just the way I like it.

I’ve written about other parts of the trip already, but I didn’t get around to posting (blurry) photos of one of the highlights, an impromptu night stroll from the center of downtown to our hotel. We went out as a group for dinner and to check out the night market, which was a big tourist trap / disappointment. By that time, we had joined up with Daisuke and some of his and Nam’s students… Dai had expressed a longing to drink on the grounds at Wat Chedi Luang, at the very center of town, because it was beautifully lit up at night and temples make such excellent chill out spots.

So Dai and I got dropped off at the main gate, and everybody else went back to the hotel in the van. So began our journey.

Wat Chedi Luang, former home of the Emerald Buddha

Since the front and side gates were already closed, we had to walk all the way around to find a rear way in. We found it, and weaved through various building to get to the chedi (stupa).

Apparently, UNESCO and some overeager Japanese meddlers did an awesome job of rebuilding these ruins IN THE WRONG ANCIENT STYLE!!

Unfortunately, the temple grounds were full of monks and followers walking around and looking at the illuminated stupa, just like us. We could have had beers while hidden in the shadows, but having other people around kind of killed the appeal of it. Instead, we decided to walk back to the hotel by walking out to the ring road (Chiang Mai has an inner and outer ring road, one running clockwise and the other counter-clockwise, just like Osaka’s nakakanjo and sotokanjo, but not elevated), and following it back. We made several stops at historic sites along the way, roughly fulfilling one of the main to-dos for visitors to CM: Visiting many temples.

A temple on the side of the road, name unknown. I lit joss sticks and felt very spiritual, and then some loud foreign tourists came, so we left.
Some government office with statues of unknown dudes. Oddly, there was an older Thai couple sleeping under the statue.

After leaving the heart of the historical district, we came upon the first 7-11 and eventually instated the two beer rule: Two cans of Leo per person at every 7-11 passed

We ended up at an outdoor futsal stadium with two fields. Daisuke played in the minor soccer league in Japan, so he wanted to watch for a while. I had several beers and a pork bau from a cart outside the 7-11, so I didn’t care. It started getting chilly, though, so I got up and stood watching the khao tom store across the street for ten minutes. There was a deaf guy waiting on the tables who would bring out food to the customers and communicate with them by pointing at the menu and writing things down on the pad, but the cook insisted on shouting at him when orders were ready, very loudly, twice for everything. It made for some fairly hilarious happenings which would suck to relate in writing.

A late night khao tom (aka okayu aka congee) store

Eventually, we neared the ring road.

Mysterious CD-stars pasted to lamp posts and curbs. Somebody is air peeing.
Mysterious CD-stars pasted to lamp posts and curbs. Somebody is air peeing.

We passed an open jazz bar with too many skanky farangs hanging out, and resupplied at another 7-11.

More CD-stars. They might just be used as traffic reflectors, but the placement of some of them was off the road so they might be used to ward off dogs / cats / Christians.

We ended up on the ring road near a historic gate and in dire need of a place to pee, peed on it.

The only public restroom in downtown Chiang Mai

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The rest of the night was fairly surreal. We had seafood noodles outside a car dealership. It was fairly late when I saw a red lantern way down a small street, and I was drawn to it. It turned out to be a Japanese izakaya that was closing. They initially refused to serve us, but I begged piteously and an old Japanese man drinking outside shared his bottle with us. He turned out to be just an average guy from Nagoya, who I naturally gave a lot of shit to even while partaking in his drink, just because I secretly look down on Nagoyans as a proud Osakan. The owner’s husband came around and he turned out to be an ex-coworker of Dai’s, so we extended our unwelcome at the closed bar even longer.

We eventually got home, but I don’t remember that part.

Back Home Again, No Time Again

It’s still quite cool during the days in Maha Sarakham and actually cold at night. Last year we only had a week or two of this weather, so it’s been great to have it continue for almost two whole months.

These past two months, I’ve been all over on family trips to Phimai, Chiang Mai, and Surin, and for work to Nam Nao, Saraburi, Trat, and Koh Chang. Next weekend I’m taking my Master’s class to Wang Nam Keaw for a weekend survey. Then hopefully, I can take a break from too much traveling for a while. The babies miss me when I’m gone (or so I like to think), and I miss them too.

The photos above were taken with my Galaxy 5 phone on one of our neighborhood walks – the open areas in our development are fast disappearing, so we are getting in as many dirt road rambles with the babies as we can.

Why Android is the best for now

Two words: Google Maps

Yes, I know you have it on the iCrap, too, but Google will never make it as good for you. Fact.

I’m heading off on a trip to visit some 3rd year students interning in Saraburi, Trat, and Koh Chang for a few days. Leaving at 5AM tomorrow, so I’m starring destinations and saving route info (toll and non-toll, with different ferry options to the island)  in Google Maps on my PC. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to access it all from my phone. This is the kind of techno-wienery I’ve been dreaming about since I was 7.

Day 1: Maha Sarakham to Saraburi and Trat (city)

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Day 2: Trat (city) to Koh Chang Destinations

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