MontanaRon

Just another ordinary English teacher eclectic expat blog about nothing in particular.

Month: January 2012

Wat Traimit

As I indicated in the previous Chinatown post, I did have enough time to tour Wat Traimit, one of the big attractions of Chinatown. According to the link on that post, the Golden Buddha in Traimit is the world’s largest solid gold Buddha image, weighing in at 5.5 tons and standing 15 feet tall (although the image is seated). So, at today’s gold prices, the image is worth quite a few millions of dollars!

Wat Traimit Buddha

Wat Traimit Buddha

There’s also an interesting history of the 13th century statue, a history involving deception and discovery. Again, check out the link to read about the image.

Here’s another smaller Buddha image that’s near the Golden Buddha.

Wat Traimit Small Buddha Statue

Wat Traimit Small Buddha Statue

There’s also a detailed history of Chinatown located in a second-floor exhibition, which shows 3D life-sized scenes of daily living and which also includes a scale model of Chinatown as it looked in the mid 1950s or so. This was the only photo I got of the exhibition, since most museums and similar places don’t allow you to take photos. I didn’t see any signs forbidding it, but I didn’t want to offend anyone. At the final exhibit, the scale model of Chinatown, I saw someone else taking a shot, so I figured it was ok and took the one below. As with all the photos taken this vacation trip, I had only my pocket point-and-shoot with me. It’s a good camera, but it doesn’t do too well in dark lighting, so I had to crank up the ISO to capture this shot. In post-processing, I removed most of the digital noise that’s usually present with high ISO settings, but in doing so, the image lost some of its sharpness, as you can see in the photo below. I’ll have to bring along my small tripod next time.

Wat Traimit Chinatown Exhibit

Wat Traimit Chinatown Exhibit

And, of course, here are a few shots of the exterior of the wat. As you can see, Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej is honored everywhere.

Wat Traimit exterior

Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit Bell

Wat Traimit Bell

Wat Traimit 3D Mosaic

Wat Traimit 3D Mosaic

This one is looking up to the spire from a position close to one of the outside walls.

Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit

Directly next door to Wat Traimit is a smaller temple, sort of an annex. Here’s a detail shot of the roof of that area.

Wat Traimit annex

Wat Traimit annex roof detail

Also next to Traimit is a boys’ school (well, I didn’t see any girls, so I assume it’s a boys’ school). At the entrance to the school is a statue of a scholar (again, I assume) from days gone by. Here are the kids during what appears to be recess.

Boys' school next to Wat Traimit.

Boys' School recess

And the scholar.

Boys' school statue

Boys' school scholar statue.

Finally, I did have some time to go to the Siam Paragon shopping mall to buy some reading material. They usually have some kind of display outside the center, and this year’s set-up featured an Alice in Wonderland motif. (Pretty girls not included) Quite colorful.

Siam Paragon display

Alice in Wonderland at Siam Paragon shopping center

OK, that’s about it for the Bangkok portion of the trip. It feels like I’ve kind of over-saturated the blog with too many photos of the trip already, so I’ll just post a few more from Nong Khai and Laos a bit later. In the meantime, I’ll process the new Expo 2012 photos I took this past Saturday and get those up soon. More later.

Jasan Park Playground

I’ll get the Wat Traimit photos up soon and I’ll also post some new photos of the Yeosu Expo 2012 site, since I took a walk down in that area yesterday. As usual, I hiked up to Jasan Park to get some shots and then walked down the other side of the hill to catch a bus back to my apartment. In Jasan, there’s a small kids’ playground area that is very colorful. I took a photo of it and played around a bit in Photoshop. Here’s the result.

Playground area at Jasan Park in Yeosu

Jasan Park playground in Yeosu

This took me quite a while to do in Photoshop. I added a new background layer and converted it to black and white. Then, with a layer mask, I brought out the colors in the underlying original photo using my mouse. Whew! It took quite a while to do (using a mouse) and it made me realize that if I want to do more of these types of “enhancements”, I’ll have to invest in a Wacom pen tablet, which makes things a bit easier and faster and which I think I can buy here in Yeosu.

So, be on the lookout for more of these types of shots. Next, though, I’ll get the Wat Traimit photos posted and then some updates on the Expo, followed by other shots of my recent trip to Thailand and Laos. (Maybe not necessarily in that order.)

Laos-Thailand Trip Report: Bangkok’s Chinatown

In all my previous visits to Bangkok, I’d never visited Chinatown, except for a crazy tuk-tuk ride on my way to another area several years ago. I’ve read and heard that this section of Bangkok is one of the city’s most interesting and fascinating to visit. Here’s what Lonely Planet has to say about it:

“Bangkok’s Chinatown is the urban explorer’s equivalent of the Amazon Basin. The highlights here are a rather complicated web of tiny alleyways, crowded markets and delicious street stalls. Unlike other Chinatowns around the world, Bangkok’s is defiantly ungentrified, and getting lost in it is probably the best thing that could happen to you. The neighbourhood dates back to 1782 and relatively little has changed since then. You can still catch conversations in various Chinese dialects, buy Chinese herbal cures or taste Chinese dishes not available elsewhere in Thailand. Getting in and out of Chinatown is hindered by horrendous traffic but the area is a brief walk from Hualamphong Metro station.”

Although my time in Bangkok was very limited this trip, I decided to take a brief excursion to the Chinatown area, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to see it in depth. I had several hours to kill before I hopped aboard the overnight express to Nong Khai, so I dropped off my big bag at the luggage holding room at Hualamphong Railway Station and made the short walk (15 minutes) to Chinatown.

It’s easy to find the main road, Yaowarat–just look for the large gate marking the beginning of the area.

One of Chinatown’s main attractions is Wat Traimit, which is a short walk from the gate (I took the shot of the gate from the top of Traimit). It was on the right hand side of the road as I was walking down Yaowarat.

I wasn’t sure how much time I was going to spend browsing around the area, so I decided to visit the temple on the way back, if I had time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have all that much time to spend in Chinatown, with its many shops, side streets and vendors’ stalls. It was extremely busy and crowded with shoppers and tourists, and walking was quite slow, although it’s probably faster than driving. Motor bikes would probably be the fastest way of traveling through the dense mass of traffic.

It’s a very popular place to buy gold, gems and other jewelry, but it appeared that, in the short time I spent there, you could buy just about anything you might be looking for. Here are a few items that caught my attention.

Traditional clothing.

Tassels

Fruit and vegetables.

Stuffed crab, anyone? Chinatown is renowned for it’s nighttime outdoor eating venues. Unfortunately, by nightfall I’d be on the train to Nong Khai. The next time I’m in Bangkok, I definitely want to visit this area at night.

Oh, and did I hear you say that you need a barber’s chair?

So, just about anything you need or want, you can probably find it here.

Yes, I did return to Wat Traimit and took the tour of the temple area. This post is getting rather long, so I’ll save the wat for next time. More later.

Happy New Year, Again

Yes, we’re enjoying the Chinese New Year, which is a 3-day holiday in Korea, and is one of the two big Korean holidays. (The other is Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving.) The official days this year are today, Monday and Tuesday, which makes for a nice, long weekend. This year is the year of the Dragon. Too bad the weather isn’t cooperating; it’s cooler today than it has been recently, and the KMA is forecasting snow(!) in Yeosu from tomorrow through Thursday. Do I put much faith in the KMA to call the weather accurately? Not by a long shot, so I’m gonna guess that we’ll get very little, if any. If it should happen to snow, I’ll go out and take some photos, if only to document that, once in a great while, the weather people give an accurate forecast. More later.

Laos-Thailand Trip Report: Beijing Airport

Beijing’s Capital City Airport (BCIA) is a bit of a contrast to Incheon Airport, although it is a huge, bright gleaming facility. On my departure to and return from Thailand, I had the opportunity to browse around Terminal 3, which could be described as cavernous. T3 is kind of in the shape of a 3-bladed propeller, and each “blade” of the propeller, where the boarding gates are located, is very long, perhaps as much as half a kilometer long.

It was my misfortune to spend 6 hours and 8 hours there going and coming back. There are very few restaurant options and only one western outlet, Pizza Hut. The prices are insane, $10 for a medium-sized hamburger and a medium to smallish order of fries, somewhat underachieving in taste, at the western styled Lucky Shamrock restaurant, named Rucky Shamrock on the BCIA website. The website also states that there are a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a KFC and a Roger’s in T3–not so. False info. The Lucky Shamrock, luckily, took US dollars. There’s also a Starbucks in the terminal, and after spending from midnight until 6 a.m. (Starbuck’s opening time) in the terminal, I was really ready for an invigorating, hot cup of coffee or two. Alas, Starbucks does not take dollars, only Chinese currency, of which I had none. There was a currency exchange machine and a booth, (not open at 6 a.m., though I checked it out during the day on my way to Thailand), but the commission that was wanted on any exchange in either place was ridiculous. I don’t remember what it was exactly; I just remember shaking my head in shock and walking away.

On the way down to Thailand, the temperature in the terminal was moderately warm, but the long overnight stay (midnight to 8:30 a.m.) on the way back became an impossible attempt to take a snooze. I found some very nice lounge-type chairs that I could lie down on and probably easily sleep on. However, the temperature was incredibly chilly! I had a long-sleeved sweater, but it was no match for the draft coming from the vent system. Just really unbelievable–I was shivering, so no sleep. There was an hourly hotel right in the terminal, but, again, the prices were incredibly steep.

Skytrax gives BCIA a Four-Star rating, but I’d say, in my opinion, that for stays of over a couple of hours, it’s only about two stars, especially if you have to stay overnight and you’re not rich. If you end up with a long layover at the airport, bring your own snacks, if possible, and definitely bring a heavy jacket if you’re trapped there overnight.

Laos-Thailand Trip Report: Incheon Airport

The weather here in Yeosu has been great lately, with abundant sunshine and temperatures around 6 or 8 C (mid-forties fahrenheit); however, the big factor is that the wind hasn’t been howling, like it usually does this time of year. I even managed to get a few jogging sessions in this past weekend. If it would stay this way the rest of the winter, I’d be quite content. It ain’t gonna happen, I’m sure.

No winter in Thailand and Laos, though. This is the best time of year to visit that area of the world, with temperatures in the 80s (30 C), low humidity and clear skies. It was wonderful when I went there in December and early this month, and it was tough coming back to what I expected to be cold, windy Yeosu. (Like I wrote, though, it’s not that bad right now).

I flew out of Incheon about 1 p.m. on December 19th, after taking the 11 p.m. bus from Yeosu on the 18th and then hanging out at the airport from 4:30 a.m. until the flight departed. Incheon Airport, Korea’s award-winning facility, isn’t all that bad to kill time in–lots of restaurants, internet access and other niceties in this state-of-the-art site.

At the main foyer on the first floor, there is usually some kind of Korean cultural theme or event. Featured this season was a traditional Korean winter scene. At 4:30 in the morning, there are hardly any other people around, and I usually head into McDonald’s for a large coffee. The fast-food joint is situated on one side of the foyer, so this was a very tranquil area at that time of day, especially with the winter scene just outside the boundary of the restaurant. So, here are a few photos of the setup.

Very nice, and, like most other things at the airport, a first-class effort.

I’ll get some more photos of the trip posted when I can, but don’t expect something every day–I have one more week of long work days to go before the schedule settles down. Stay tuned.

Nose to the Grindstone

Well, it’s back to work after the nice vacation. Unfortunately, I’m up to my eyeballs with classes and lesson planning for the next few weeks. After next week, my schedule becomes much more manageable, but until then I’ll probably post only on the weekend. I hope to get a few photos up of my trip to Thailand and Laos, so stay tuned for that. For now, though, I’ve gotta get ready for my early morning classes. More later.

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