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Phuket Photos

At last, a few photos of my trip to Phuket, Thailand back in December. We stayed at Patong Beach at a couple of different hotels, the Thara Patong Beach Resort (our usual favorite) and at the Ramada Phuket Deevana Hotel. They’re both nice places to stay and have swimming pools (though the Deevana’s is rather small and fills up early), good service and decent food. If you by chance decide to visit Patong and stay at one or both of them, I recommend reserving a room at the Ramada with the free breakfast buffet option. The buffet is awesome, with a few dozen or more choices of food and plenty of hot and cold drinks. The buffet at the Thara Patong is OK, but can’t compare with the one at the Ramada. Either hotel is a good choice, though.

The weather during the first several days of our stay was a bit unsettled at times with cool temperatures and occasional rain, but near the end of our holiday, the sun and warmer weather dominated. As I mentioned in a previous post, I did a bit of shopping and bought a Lenovo Tab Essential, mainly to use as an ebook reader. It was a great buy at $75, and I use it every day. I’m getting in a lot of reading in my spare time, having recently read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” native-Montanan Ivan Doig’s “This House of Sky,” and George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo,” among others. Next up is “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing, followed by Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and the first book in a trilogy by Ivan Doig titled “English Creek.” I better get reading.

Here are a few of the photos that I took. More later.

Thara Patong swimming pool

One of the swimming pools at Thara Patong Resort. This is the smaller one, just a little splash pool compared to the much larger one at the main building a little ways behind it. This one has a bar right beside it, featuring a “Happy Hour” (limited selection) every day, so be careful if you swim and imbibe here.

Swimming Pool, Patong Beach.

This is the view from our eighth floor room at the Ramada. The swimming pool is on the property of a hotel next to ours. It looks inviting, but there appeared to be little shade available.

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand.

This was high season, so there were many vacationers at the beach and in the town. The hotels were booked full and some of the choice spots at the beach were taken. Nai and I always stayed at one particular spot, where we made friends with the ladies who gave massages and sold beer and food under a shaded pavilion, of sorts. This is the scene near that pavilion.

Nai drinks a Heineken beer.

Nai really likes Heineken Beer, even more than Beer Lao, I suspect. Here he enjoys a cold one under the umbrellas at “our” spot on the beach.

Nai gets a massage at Patong Beach

Nai gets a massage from the “boss lady” of this little place on the beach, where, along with the massage, you can get food and drink. This gal, whose name is Ma, I think, was a dear. She addressed everyone as “Dahling”, a la Zsa Zsa Gabor. A very friendly spot.

Paragliding at Patong Beach

Late afternoon paragliders enjoying a flight over the beach. It’s a pretty expensive proposition, costing about $30 for a 3-minute experience (I timed it). Still, a lot of people shell out the dough for it.

Patong cruise ship

Quite a few large cruise ships pulled into the bay off Patong Beach. They didn’t stay long, mainly for a day or overnight. Lots of smaller boats anchored in the deeper water away from the beach.

Patong beach at night

Patong Beach at night. As the evening progresses the beach goers head back to wherever they’re staying. This is a pleasant time to take a casual stroll on the sand.

A Hike Above the Expo

I’d been wanting to hike up the mountain just behind the Expo for quite some time, so a few weekends ago I finally decided to give it a go. Maraesan (Marae mountain) stands at 385 meters high (1263 feet), but it isn’t that steep of a hike to the top, as I was to find out. First, though, I had to find a trail. Just about every hill and mountain around here has numerous paths going to the top, so it wasn’t too difficult to find one to Marae. I assumed I could stumble across one if I went behind the traditional Korean hotel just up the hill from the Expo. Sure enough, I found one, so up I went. Here’s a shot of the mountain, and the traditional hotel, which was under construction when I took this photo, is almost smack dab in the middle of the scene, just up and to the left of the Big O. (Click on the photo a couple of times to enlarge it.)

Expo Overview from Jasan Park

Expo Overview from Jasan Park

Here’s the present-day hotel from a short way up the trail.

Traditional Korean hotel

Traditional Korean Hotel

The trail forked into three just a short way from the start, and the first two I tried seemed to be dead ends just a short way along, so I finally opted for the third one, which took off to the right, the direction I needed to go. Not too far along, it started to dwindle and it eventually came out into a large field of quite old burial mounds and wandered into smaller ones. Eventually, it petered out altogether, but I decided to bushwhack towards the bulk of the mountain; I assumed I would eventually stumble onto another trail. Well, after hacking my way through copious amounts of thick spider webs and bleeding slightly from a razor-like thorn bush, I began to think that this wasn’t such a hot idea.

Tomb_MG_7652

Here’s a close-up of one of the tomb guardians. There was no one else around and all was silent. Being a fan of the Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit, I could imagine being in the Barrow Downs, hoping not to awaken any tomb wights.

Guardian_7653

I could almost see the top of the small hill that I was on, so I thrashed my way up, thinking that I could probably spot a better route at the top. I broke through the brush and, surprise, came out to a broad, well-used trail! It must have been one of the supposed dead ends that I didn’t use. (On the way back, I found out that it was.)

The rest of the hike to the top of Marae was pretty ho-hum with but a few steep stretches, but with plenty of clearings to catch the increasingly beautiful views of Yeosu and the harbor. Here are several more photos I took as I made my way higher.

Harbor_7651

ExpoHike_7666

Expo 2012 site from Mt. Marae

Expo Overview

Yeosu from Mt. Marae

Yeosu

Yeosu from Mt. Marae

Yeosu

Yeosu Harbor

Yeosu Harbor

Expo site from Mt. Marae

Expo from Mt. Marae

Yeosu Harbor

Yeosu Harbor

Expo Overview

Expo overview

Once you reach the ridgeline, awesome views of Manseongni Beach, north of the Expo site, open up.

Manseongni Beach

Manseongni Beach

So, it was a nice hike on a beautiful fall day. If you’re ever in Yeosu, give Mt. Marae a shot.

Bicycle Ride to Jang-deung Beach, Yeosu Peninsula

Spring seems to be fully here, with the cherry blossoms beginning to bloom, and azaleas, camellias and other flowers brightening the landscape. As a matter of fact, there’s an annual azalea festival at Yeongchuisan (san = mountain) this coming weekend that I’m going to visit.

So, despite 3 inches of rain last Friday, I decided to take a bicycle trip Saturday down to Jang-deung beach here on the Yeosu Peninsula. My riding companions were a couple of the new teachers, Rob, a Scotsman, and Trevor, from Canada. Now, both of these guys are much younger than I (who isn’t?) and in much better shape (insert another rhetorical question here). Trevor, especially, is quite the athlete; he’s a dedicated football (soccer) player, rides his bicycle all over the place, jogs, plays tennis and who knows what else. Rob’s no slouch either. When they suggested the ride, I was all gung-ho. Even though it looked like a fairly long trek and that it would be my first time out on my bike in almost 6 months, I thought I’d be ok. Wrong! It turned out to be a 36-mile (60 km) round trip. I haven’t ridden that far in about 20 years. Plus, it was mostly up and down hills, hills which I mostly pushed my bike up (or maybe it was pushing me). I probably spent more time pushing than riding. And, as I said, it was the first time on the bike in quite a while, so my muscles were sorely taxed by the end of the ride. I’m still recuperating.

However, it was fun for the most part and the scenery was pretty nice. We made it to the beach and stopped at a small restaurant on the way back and had some delicious fish stew. By that time, though, anything would have tasted wonderful. I just wanna thank the young studs for waiting for me at the top of all those hills. At least they didn’t have to carry me back! Here are some photos of the ride.

First, here’s a map of the peninsula. The university, from where we started, is circled in red at the upper right and the beach is at the left center. Click for a larger image.

Here we’re getting prepared to start the trip from our dormitory. That’s Trevor on the left and Rob, already on his bike. My trusty steed is in the foreground.

Preparing for the bicycle trip

Beginning the bike trip

There are many small fishing towns and harbors sprinkling the coast. We all thought that it would be great to live in one of them as long as we didn’t have far to commute to and from work.

Yeosu fishing village

Fishing Village

There are, of course, many beautiful spots along the coast. Here’s a small sample.

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

South Coast View

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

South Coast Shoreline of Yeosu Peninsula

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

Yeosu Peninsula South Coast View

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

Yeosu Peninsula South Coast View

The above photo is actually the beginning of Jang-deung beach, which is out of sight at the bottom of the photo. Here’s a shot of the beach.

Jang-deung Beach

Jang-deung Beach

And, here’s a view from the end of the beach. As usual, it’s pretty hazy along the coast looking toward the sun.

Jang-deung Beach view

Another view from Jang-deung Beach

Rob and Trevor, showing no ill effects of the ride, mock my exhaustion. I took this shot just before I was put into the ambulance. :smile:

Rob and Trevor

Rob and Trevor

If you take a look at the map again, you can see that just to the east of Jang-deung there’s a small island called Baekyado (pronounced dough = island). Connecting the island to the mainland is this pretty little bridge. Quite a few of the islands are accessible by bridge, though many more require a ferry boat ride. Rob and Trevor are taking one of the ferries to another island this Saturday. I really wanted to go, but, like I stated earlier, I’m still recuperating and the rash I got on my, ummm, . . . well, you can guess where . . . is still bothering me, so no bike ride this weekend. The more sedate azalea festival beckons.

Baegya Island Bridge and Harbor

Baegya Island Bridge and Harbor

Our total trip time was about 7 hours, but that include dawdling on the way (the young guys waiting for the old guy to catch up) and stopping at the restaurant. I’m really looking forward to doing some other bike trips, especially later in the year when the bicycle muscles in my legs are in better shape. As always, then, more later.

Final Vacation Photos

Here are a few more photos from my recent trip to Laos and Thailand. This is one of my favorite views of Bangkok, looking into the Silom area and taken from the statue of King Rama VI in Lumphini Park. I probably should have tried to take a panoramic shot to give a better sense of the beautiful skyline that surrounds the park, but this small sample will have to suffice for now. Maybe next time.

After a few days in Bangkok, it was on to Phuket and Patong Beach. We spent a week there, lazing away the days on the beach while getting a sunburn and enjoying the nightlife. I’m always tempted to try the para gliding offered at the beach, but the price seems too steep (about $20) for the short ride (about 2 1/2 minutes). It’s kind of fun, though, to watch people taking off and landing.

The beach is usually crowded, but it’s not too bad to sit under an umbrella and read a book or “people watch.” You can’t see the lifeguard station in this shot, but at least one or two people had to be rescued every day due to the strong undercurrent in this area. The guards kept warning people out of the restricted area, but there were always a few people who ignored the warnings or accidentally strayed into the red zone. Fortunately, no one drowned.

Near day’s end.

Ok, that wraps up my vacation shots. I’ll try to get some Yeosu photos up soon, although this week sees the beginning of a 3-week kids’ camp and next week marks the start of a week long camp for children of faculty members, so I’ll be quite a bit busier than I have been.

Out and About

Except for quite a bit of haze, it was a beautiful day in Yeosu, so I took the motorbike out for one of my infrequent rides, another one along the coast. I’m extremely careful about riding the ‘bike–I don’t want to emulate my friend Nai in Laos, A.K.A., Mr. Accident-Prone. The back roads along the sea are very wide and have very light traffic, so there’s not a big problem with other vehicles. Also, I’m quite wary of any other obstacles, like potholes, wet spots, and other potential disasters-in-waiting. Here are a few photos of my ride today and I’ll post some more soon.

The first one is of what I call Sindeok Beach East. I posted a couple photos of this area on Sept. 27th from one side of the small peninsula that juts out into the sea. This is a smaller, more beautiful beach (in my opinion) that is just a short scramble over the rocks. Along the left side of the photo, near the top, you can see one of the buildings on the other part of the beach.

East Sindeok Beach

East_Sindeok_Beach

A kilometer or so farther along the coast road is the very small fishing village of Soji, if my memory serves me correctly, and if I read the sign, in Korean, correctly. Very lovely, peaceful area only a few kilometers outside of the city.

Soji Fishing Village

Soji_1

I’ll try to get some more shots posted in the next few days, and I hope to get out to a few other areas, so stay tuned. More later.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my mom. Getting younger every day.

Rainy Day

It’s been raining off and on all day, at times somewhat heavily, and there’s a bit of a chill in the air–a good day to stay indoors and read or watch the baseball game. I had planned on going out early in the morning to catch the sun rising on one of Yeosu’s beaches, but I’ll have to wait until next weekend for that. I did get out last Sunday and took a few pictures of Sindeok (shin-duck) Beach, one of three beaches that are somewhat nearby. There are quite a few more on the islands and towards the western end of the city, an area I’ve yet to visit.

This was shot from the road that runs along the coast. As you can see, Sindeok is not all that big. I’ve been told that this is the one that attracts the most foreign teachers in Yeosu.

Sindeok_Beach_1

Here’s a photo from the beach itself, looking toward the mainland to the east.

Sindeok_Beach_2

Finally, this is from the road just before reaching the beach, which is to the right, off the photo.

Sindeok_Beach_4

I’ll try to get some shots of the other two beaches, Manseongni and Mosageum, next weekend. All three of them are fairly close together, almost within walking distance of each other. Now that beach season is over, they are fairly empty.

This weekend will probably be a good time to visit them since it’s Chuseok, Korea’s thanksgiving. It’s a 3-day affair, Friday through Sunday, so, it’s a short teaching week, and my nighttime classes on Thursday will probably have a small (or no) turnout, as most people will want to get started on the holiday early. Many people, especially my out-of-town students, will be leaving for their hometowns, and I expect the roads to be crammed on Thursday evening and Friday morning with people coming into and going out of the city. The dorm where my apartment is located should be relatively quiet during the three days. Nice.

I’ll try leaving the comments turned on for this entry, just to see how much spam I’m deluged with.

Update

There was a LOT of confusion among the players and coaches about when everyone would be allowed to go home to vote. The voting age here is 18, so most of the Dominican players are eligible to participate in the elections, but they have to vote in their home districts. The main scuttlebutt was that they had an intra-squad game today (they did) and would be allowed to leave when that was completed, but they would have to be back for Saturday morning practice. That would have been a completely illogical restriction, but the final word was that they were allowed to go home after the game today, and Saturday practice was called off. Good news for all, except the foreign players, who, of course, can’t participate in the election. But, I called off English classes today, so the Venezuelans and others were happy about that.

I went into Boca Chica to see if anything interesting was going on, but the place was completely shut down. Almost all the small, neighborhood grocery stores, bars and restaurants on the main strip were closed, but the beach establishments were open for business as usual. As if it mattered, the beach was pretty empty, too. I’m told that tomorrow will be interesting, to say the least, with celebrations, marches, occasional gunfire (!!!), and general mayhem to commemorate the victory of the winning party. I have been warned to use a bit of caution (and I will) if I planned to leave the camp, but I have to go into Boca Chica to see what happens. Going to Santo Domingo would be much more interesting, but since I have to go there on Monday, I’ll just use some of that caution and stay out of the city tomorrow. Hopefully, Boca Chica will be interesting enough–if so, I’ll try to get some photos while avoiding any gunshots aimed in my direction. (Just kidding). 😮

Another Beautiful Friday

Lucky me, it was another Friday off (the final one). There’s no practice tomorrow, so the players were again allowed to leave the camp early to return to their homes. The schedule will get back to normal this coming week, when 40 or so more players will be checking in to the camp. All of the new players will be going to Tampa at the end of February, some for a month or so and some to stay and play minor league ball. Most have been to the U.S. before and have decent English language skills, so I’ll be able to do a lot more with them in class, focusing mainly on Content Based Instruction (CBI). In CBI, the focus is on the subject matter, rather than on the language itself. So, for the players with the higher English skills who have been to the U.S. before, I’m going to teach the historical aspects of baseball, including the race issue, the advent of Latin American players into the majors, the history of the Yankees and more.

For those advanced speakers of English who are going to the States at the end of February but who have not been there before, I’m going to emphasize situations, like going through airports, staying in a hotel, using public transportation, etc. For the guys who will be staying here for the Dominican Summer League, the language itself will be a primary concern in the classroom, mainly conversational English.

At any rate, I’ll have my hands full soon, with the occasional Friday off nothing but a remote dream. Not that I’m off today, of course–I did have office hours at the beach in Boca Chica while working on the upcoming week. One of the waiters at the establishment where I hold Weekend Office Hours told me that Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera and another Major League Yankee player–probably Edwar Ramirez–had ambled down the beach just a few minutes before I arrived. If they had come back, I would have said hello to them and asked them if they knew whether or not the fans in New York City send off their baseball equipment trucks to Tampa with kisses. (For an explanation of this bizarre form of pagan idol worship, read the comments at the end of the previous post. Click on comments. By the way, OGM is one of the few people who post comments on the blog. Forgive her–she’s from Boston and is a very devout baseball and Red Sox fan. (Gag) 😛 Feel free to post a comment, though, whoever you are, if the mood strikes you. Just click on “No Comments” or ” 2 Comments” or whatever at the end of any blog entry.)

I’ve finally finished posting the remaining Laos photos to the Gallery, so I should be adding Montana photos soon, as time permits. I’ll let you know.

Speaking of Laos, I read an article this morning about the continuing efforts to clear the country of unexploded bombs (UXO) left over from the Vietnam War. A short quote from the article:

“Laos is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world, suffering from intense ground battles and aerial bombardment during the Indochina War.

More than 580,000 bombing missions resulted in more than two million tonnes of bombs being dropped during the 10 year period of conflict. About 30 percent of these did not explode on impact.”

Read the rest of it here. Very tragic and so completely immoral. More later.

No More Big City Living

I arrived back at the baseball camp near Boca Chica on Sunday morning, and it felt great to leave all the noise, pollution and chaos of Santo Domingo behind. I dropped my bags off at my room at the camp and took my taxi, which waited for me, into Boca Chica. I had to get a haircut and buy some REAL coffee for the Mr. Coffee machine in my room. (I’d been drinking Nescafe Instant for the last 6 weeks. 😥 Of course, I could have done these tasks in S.D., but I needed an excuse to go to the beach!

I was happy to find that the multitude of young shoe-shine boys has doubled or tripled. I don’t wear dress shoes, but they can also clean tennis shoes, so they don’t have a reason to bypass me. I’m gonna have to start wearing flip-flops when I go into B.C., since I’m sure they would insist they could clean sandals, too. They’re cute kids, 7-9 years old, but they can be quite the pests when you’re in the town. I hardly ever see them on the beach; thus, another reason to spend time there, soaking up some sun, writing lesson plans and notes for the blog.

So, it’s back to work. Basically, I goofed off while I was in S.D., except for a couple of workshops I conducted earlier, which was not a problem because I get 20 working days off. The embassy didn’t have anything for me to do; it was holiday time and the schools were out, so I looked at the time as a vacation. Some of you have indicated that I’m on perpetual vacation. (And you know who you are.) Not so! //sarcasm on// I miss the foot-deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures of Montana winters. //sarcasm off//

Below are a couple of photos. As you can see, the view from my apartment in S.D. was less than ideal for photographing sunsets.

Sunset-1-10-08

And one from the camp just last evening.

Sunset-1-14-08

Nagua

I returned to Santo Domingo from Nagua this past Saturday after conducting 12 hours of workshops to about 20 teachers. My focus was Communicative Language Teaching (don’t worry, I won’t go into details here–click on the link if you’re interested.), a methodology meant to be yet another tool in a teacher’s instructional toolbox. About 15 teachers and teachers-in-training attended, and everyone thought the time was well spent, including me. I always seem to learn as much from teachers (and students) as they learn from me. It’s pretty much a two-way street.

Nagua is a small beach town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic situated at the neck of the Samana Peninsula. It’s still untouched by tourism and the concomitant all-inclusive resorts that dominate the beautiful beaches here. The day is fast approaching when the sun-seekers and hotels will arrive, and the small town will be altered, for both good and ill.

Christmas lights and Santas and nativity scenes are up all over Santo Domingo, which is a far cry from other countries I’ve spent this time of year–Thailand, South Korea and Morocco. Korea has a sizeable Christian population, but in smallish Andong there just weren’t that many decorations or other signs of the holiday. Of course, in predominantly Buddhist Thailand and Muslim Morocco, Christmas is barely a blip on Santa’s radar screen, except in tourist areas, where the consumer aspect is emphasized over the religious. Anyway, Santo Domingo is aglow with the spirit of the season; all that’s lacking is a foot or so of snow.

Finally, I’ve learned the difference between merengue and bachata music. Bachata features a guitar, whereas merengue has no stringed instruments–only horns, drums, and accordians. I’m sure there are other more subtle differences, but the difference in instruments helps to distinguish the difference in musical styles. Now, if I can only discriminate the sounds of rumba, salsa, reggaeton, mambo, etc.