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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Things I May Have Forgotten to Share Along the Way

As the adventures in Asia are coming to a close. I noticed a few things I have failed to mention. Don’t worry, we’ll start with the good …

Hoi An, Vietnam. Beautiful even in the rain.

Hoi An, Vietnam. Beautiful even in the rain.

Cool boats, on the shores of Vietnam.

Great boats, on the shores of Vietnam.

Wonderful things happening, this store sells recycled goods hand crafted by the hearing impaired and all the profits go to those who need heart surgeries. Very cool.

Wonderful things happening, this store sells recycled goods hand crafted by the hearing impaired and all the profits go to those who need heart surgeries. Very cool.

Another great idea, a tea shop run by the hearing impaired. Customers point to the cubes with words to communicate.

Another great idea, a tea shop run by the hearing impaired. Customers point to the cubes with words to communicate.

Artisans of Angkor, a non-profit organization that trains Cambodians in art craft, creating jobs for thousands.

Artisans of Angkor, a non-profit organization that trains Cambodians in art craft, creating jobs for over a thousand people. They provide free tours to their workshops and out to their silk farm.

Dragon fruit, I love it. Someone said it tastes like a mix of a pear and a kiwi, yum!

Dragon fruit, I love it. Someone said it tastes like a mix of a pear and a kiwi, yum!

This is fun, it's called a hot pot. You cook your own food in it at your table.

This is fun, it’s called a hot pot. You cook your own food in it at your table.

This little tree frog was perched on my doorknob awaiting my arrival in Ko Lanta, Thailand.

This little tree frog was perched on my doorknob awaiting my arrival in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Did I mention Hoi An is beautiful even in the rain?

Did I mention Hoi An is beautiful even in the rain?

Okay, on to the bad. First of all, these aren’t necessarily bad, they are experiences that make life interesting, or lead to a good story, or teach us something. I actually have little to report.

The buses in Vietnam were interesting. You climbed up into a seat and tried to sleep through the night. Some roads were worse than others, but this mode of transportation was tough on this light sleeper.

The buses in Vietnam were interesting. You climbed up into a seat and tried to sleep through the night. Some roads were worse than others, but this mode of transportation was tough on this light sleeper.

My next bus attempt was supposed to be a shorter  one, but you know you're in for a long haul when everyone is examining the tire that is no longer on the bus. I decided my time with buses was finished after this one.

My next bus attempt was supposed to be a shorter
one, but you know you’re in for a long haul when everyone is examining the tire that is no longer on the bus. I decided my time with buses was finished after this one.

Train travel was much better.

Train travel was much better.

Finally, the ugly. Now remember this is a matter of opinion …

I had to look closely to see that these were baskets full of eels for sale, maybe they are tasty? Maybe they are not so ugly after all.

I had to look closely to see that these were baskets full of eels for sale, maybe they are tasty? Maybe they are not so ugly after all.

Maybe you guessed it, but this is silk worm salad. And yes, I tried it. Just imagine the silk worms are like little potatoes, they taste similar.

Maybe you guessed it, but this is silk worm salad. And yes, I tried it. Just imagine the silk worms are like little potatoes, they taste similar.

You probably don't want to hear about this one, and yes I tried this too, you never know unless you try. Pig's brain, not that tasty (I'd rather eat bugs)

You probably don’t want to hear about this one, and yes I tried this too, you never know unless you try. Pig’s brain, not that tasty (I’d rather eat bugs)

So we can’t end on ugly, there was far too much beauty seen in the past three months, so let’s end on how I ended. In the tropics of Thailand …

Guest property bordering National Park, near Krabi, Thailand

Guest property bordering National Park, near Krabi, Thailand

Harvesting rubber in a rubber tree plantation, Krabi, Thailand.

Harvesting rubber in a rubber tree plantation, Krabi, Thailand.

Bird of Paradise, Krabi, Thailand

Bird of Paradise, Krabi, Thailand

Park on the island Ko Lanta

Park on the island Koh Lanta

Insert towel, Koh Lanta

Ko Lanta, Thailand

Koh Lanta, Thailand

 

 

 


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Save a Tree

While visiting in Thailand, I learned of a method used to save and protect trees from being cut down. Buddhist monks would bless cloths and these clothes would be tied around tree trunks. The people of Thailand wouldn’t think to cut a tree with a blessed cloth. While walking in the small mountain town of Chiang Dao, I saw many examples of this. These trees, left to grow for many more years, were incredible.

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River Travel – the Mekong

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There are plenty of travel options in Southeast Asia, but my favorite so far has been by boat down the Mekong River.
The Mekong is the 12th longest river in the world. It is about 2,600 miles long, beginning in China and touching Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

I’d seen photos of the Mekong and remembered its chocolate brown water, not thinking much of it. But after spending three days, first traveling by a small faster boat from Chiang Khong  to Chiang Rai in Thailand, then two days on a larger slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang in Laos, I now know how beautiful it can be.
We need to take care of this important river. I saw many small villages utilizing it, as well as bigger towns, and it also hold some rare species. The Irrawaddy dolphin, which lives in both the freshwater of the Mekong and salt water, is highly endangered. It also is the home to the hard to find Mekong catfish. This giant fish can be 10 feet long and weigh 650 pounds!

 

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Fisherman uses a large weighted net to catch bait

 

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Faster boats sit low in the water, be ready to get splashed!

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Slow boats – much more relaxing

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The river helps over helps with the transportation of goods

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Ice cream truck taking the ferry across

 

 

Laos riverside village

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A Modern Twist – The White Temple

 

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Outside of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, there is a new design on a traditional style of temple. Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as the White Temple is a mix of modern art, fantasy and imagination. It is purely white with small bits of mosaic mirrors and it is incredible (in my opinion). It was designed by an artist from Thailand named Chalermchai Kositpipat and the construction began in 1997.

It is still a work in progress, inside an artist was busy painting a section of the temple’s inner walls. The inner colorful mural is all fantasy and symbolism. On the walls, you can find superheroes, movie stars, and cartoons (I even found a Kung Fu Panda). To enter the temple, you must cross a bridge, which has gruesome guards and many sculpted hands reach out toward you from below. Even the surrounding pond is filled with large white goldfish! There are many temples to see in Thailand, but none quite like the White Temple.

 

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Elephants!

 

 

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Everyone loves elephants! And visiting Asian elephants is a popular tourist attraction here in Thailand. I wanted to make sure that I chose a place where the owners took very good care of these amazing creatures, and I found it, Elephant Nature Park. Elephant Nature Park started with a woman named Lek who really loves elephants. When she was a young girl, her grandfather, who was a doctor in a small village, was given a young elephant as payment.

Lek took care of that elephant and now takes care of many more. She decided to rescue elephants that had been hurt or orphaned and bought land that she calls “elephant heaven.” Here they  live happily ever after. It is a beautiful park and the elephants share it with water buffalo, 400 rescued dogs, and many workers as well as volunteers (my tour guide told me over 200 all together).

When you pay to visit with the elephants, your money goes to feeding and caring for the animals. This is important because elephants eat a lot! And they eat all of the time – I heard over 16 hours a day is spent eating!

The elephants in Thailand were once used for logging and clearing forests for farmland, which is no longer allowed because the forests are disappearing. Without jobs for the elephants and because it costs a lot of money to feed them, tourists can help. Visitors can pay to give them baths and feed them watermelon. Elephants love baths, but they might not like giving rides or living in cities. That’s what makes Elephant Nature Park so important, it makes elephants happy!

 

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Elephant facts:

There are 2 species, African & Asian

The Asian elephants are endangered, there are under 30,000 in the world

In Thailand, there are 3,000 – 4,000 Asian elephants, one-half live wild in National Parks, the other half are domestic

The skin of an elephant feels rough, it’s one inch thick & they cover themselves in mud to avoid a sunburn

They can live up to 70 years

Bulls are males and cows are females and they weigh a lot, around 3 to 5 tons!

 

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Could be lunch, dinner or a snack

 

 

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Bath time

Bath time

 

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“elephant heaven”

 

 

 

 


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Festival of Lights

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On the first full moon of November, northern Thailand shines brightly. I was lucky enough to be here during the country’s Festivals of Lights otherwise known as Loy Krathong or in Chiang Mai, Yee Peng. It is one of the most incredible festivals I’ve ever seen.
I first saw the preparations in the small town of Pai, where people were preparing the Krathong, beautiful floating candles made out of slices of a banana tree trunk, folded leaves and flowers. I was told that you must light the candle and send your Krathong down river. It is believed that any misfortune or bad luck will float down the river and you’ll be left with good luck. I was also told that the longer the float or the longer your candle is lit the better luck you will have (My Krathong floated downstream as far as I could see!)
At the same time flowers & candles are floating down rivers by the thousands, the sky is also all aglow! Khom Loy or glowing paper lanterns are released all around me. A small fire at the base or bottom of the lantern is lit and as the heat rises it floats into the air like a hot air balloon. Similar to Krathong, with Khom Loy it is believed that bad luck floats away into the air. It is magical.
Just when I think the festival is nearly over, my attention is caught by another glow outside of a Buddhist temple on the final night. Peeking inside, I can’t believe the sight, hundreds of candles! The young monks gather inside the temple, carrying flowers and preparing for a ceremony. Loy Krathong truly is full of light.

 

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