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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.

Bangkok Trip December 2016

Here, finally, are some photos from my December vacation in Bangkok and Phuket. Below are some I made in Bangkok, and in the next post I’ll feature some Phuket photos.

My friend Nai and I stayed at the Silom City Hotel, which is about a three-star facility, so the price per night is fairly modest, about $40-45, depending on if you want to have the buffet breakfast, which is not that great, but it’s ample. The hotel is in a great location and the staff are wonderful, so it’s become our go-to place when we stay in Bangkok.

We were there for four nights, enough time to do a bit of shopping, walk around at night and wander through Lumphini Park, Bangkok’s version of New York City’s Central Park. I highly recommend Lumphini for some serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Here are the photos. If you’re interested in other scenes of Bangkok from previous trips, just do a search in the search box on this page.

(Please note that my Photo Gallery link on the right side of the page isn’t working at this time. I’ll try to get it back up soon.)

Bangkok Skyline

Here’s the view outside our hotel window up on the ninth floor (out of 10). If you stay at the Silom City Hotel, be sure to get a room that’s 8th floor or higher for a great view.

Ron at fountain at Lumphini Park

Here’s a fellow that looks suspiciously like me, posing at the fountain at the entrance to Lumphini Park. Nai took this picture, but he made everything in the photo look older than it is.

Lao man at fountain at Lumphini Park

This is my friend Nai at the fountain. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll recognize him from innumerable previous posts. What a ham!

Silom Skyline from Lumphini Park

This is near the entrance to Lumphini Park, looking toward the Silom section of Bangkok in the late afternoon. Around this time of day, many urbanites use the park for jogging, strolling, bicycyling and relaxing on the luxuriant grounds.

Nai at lake at Lumphini Park

Here Nai stares across the pond (lake) at Lumphini Park, watching the boaters enjoying the afternoon coolness.

Lumphini Park skyscrapers

Looking across the lake at Lumphini Park with the late afternoon sun highlighting some of the skyscrapers that surround the park. Perfect time to go boating.

Lumphini Park Lake

More skyscrapers around the lake, and one of the fountains is gushing, sending spray on some of the boaters. This is a great place to relax in Bangkok.

Dusit Thani Hotel spire

This is the spire atop the main building of the Dusit Thani Hotel in the Silom Area of Bangkok. I’ve never stayed there (too expensive), but I’ve heard it’s pretty nice. I took this photo at the entrance of Lumphini Park at dusk.

GPF Building in Bangkok.

This is the top of the GPF building in the Silom area. I took this one also from the entrance of Lumphini. The building is not far from the Dusit Thani, but I have no idea what the GPF stands for. I’m fairly certain it’s not a hotel, but it could be a bank or investment firm.

School’s Out Forever

No, it’s not; it just seemed that way. After a 5-week break, we’re back at it. I didn’t do a lot during that five weeks due to all the rain we got. The Mekong is quite high, but it’s not at a dangerous level. We’re nearing the end of the rainy season, so the level should start dropping. I did get into Nongkhai, across the river in Thailand, and I stayed in Vientiane for a few days last week during the ASEAN summit that was hosted by Laos from September 6-8. I was hoping to see some of the high level dipolomats that attended, including President Obama. I didn’t see him, but I did see his motorcade-very large, with about 15 vehicles and an extensive police escort in front and back. I waved, but I doubt that he saw me.

So, classes have started and, again, I’m working full-time, six days a week. It’s not so bad except for the ride in and back, a total of 50 kilometers (30 miles) every day. The pay is quite nice, however, and I need to save up some money for the holiday break in December, when I plan on going to Phuket in Thailand. I’ve already bought the airline tickets because they were on sale a few weeks ago, but I haven’t booked a hotel yet. I’ll do that in a few more weeks, perhaps in October, unless I find some discounts now for booking early.

Let’s see, what else has been going on? Mostly, I just sat around reading and putting on weight over the break, and I find myself getting winded going up the stairs at the school, so I’ve decided to join one of the fitness centers in Vientiane, Sengdara Fitness. It’s on my way in to school, so I’ll stop there in the mornings and do some treadmill running and weight training. I’d jog out here in the country except for the dogs that chase me, the large sand and gravel trucks that take up most of the road, the constant flow of motorbikes and the general crappiness of the road that runs through the village. It’s quite a hassle, so using a treadmill is the next best choice. I’m starting this Saturday, after classes, so I can take my time and get a feel for the place.

I also bought a new refrigerator to replace our small, worn-out old one. It’s a good-sized Samsung, but I hope there are no exploding batteries in it!

Despite the rain, we’ve had some very nice sunsets. Here are some photos of recent ones.

sunset

I like the silhouette of the palm trees and part of the temple on the road running through the village against the backdrop of the rays from the setting sun.

sunet

Another closer view of the palm trees and the temple.

sunset

Here’s one from Nongkhai that I took with my pocket camera. I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant near the river. It was getting too dark to hold the camera steady, so I set it on a flat spot on a metal railing and set the self timer to 10 seconds.

sunset

This one was taken the next evening from the same location.

Rainstorm and sunset

From the same spot a few nights later, I took this shot of an approaching rainstorm coming in from Laos. It hit Nongkhai about 15 minutes later and it rained quite heavily for about 10 minutes, then stopped.

The Internet connection out in the country has been complete crap the past couple of months, so being away from the school for five weeks has led to zero posts. Now that we’re back in action, I can use the school’s internet (most of the time, not much better than the one out in the country) to get more posts up. More later.

Bits and Pieces

Festival Time in Laos

Along with the Vientiane Boat Racing Festival (see previous post), there have been a few other celebrations recently.

Just after the boat race, from Nov.23rd through the 25th, was the That Luang Festival, which honors Laos’ national symbol. Below is a night photo of That Luang (not my photo).

That Luang at night. Not my photo, but one I pulled off the internet from an Italian site, www.orientamenti.it

That Luang at night. Not my photo, but one I pulled off the internet from an Italian site, www.orientamenti.it

Next was the huge Laos National Day on Dec. 2nd, kind of like the U.S.’s Fourth of July. This year marked the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. (Why is it that whenever you see an official country name that includes “People” or “Democratic Republic” it almost always seems to be a dictatorship or a Communist country? It’s neither democratic nor does it belong to the people. If the U.S. were named the “People’s Democratic Republic of the United States of America,” don’t you think it would be a completely authoritarian government? /end of opinion)

There was an enormous parade at the That Luang esplanade that involved 15,000 people from 45 different government and private sectors. The Vientiane Times reported that “National Day is a landmark date to reflect on the history of Laos and the ethnic Lao people fighting bravely against foreign colonialists and imperialists to protect their territory and bring independence and freedom to the Lao people.” (emphasis mine-who do you think they might be referring to?)

Along with all the parades and celebrations of National Day, Vientiane city or the Laos government decorated some of the main avenues with beautiful lights in the trees and along government ministry buildings. The lighting is a pale bluish-white color and it resembles Christmas tree lights. Riding my motorbike along the main avenue, Lane Xang (lahn zahng), is like riding in a winter wonderland. Well, except for the fact that there is no snow to enhance the scene, though it’s still beautiful. I hope they keep the lights up until after the New Year holiday.

Laos, a mainly Buddhist country, doesn’t officially celebrate Christmas, but New Year’s Eve and Day are celebrated, with January 1st being a national holiday.

A Beautiful Automobile

I was cruising down the main road along the Mekong last week when I spotted a gorgeous blue and white automobile. I couldn’t take a photo of it (ain’t gonna try that while riding a motorbike), but as I got closer I saw that it was a Rolls Royce. Later, I looked on the internet and found that it was probably a Rolls Wraith. Here’s a photo from the ‘net that looks exactly like the automobile that I saw. (I dare not call it a “car.” That seems like the wrong description of this beauty. “Automobile” sounds classier, and I suppose I could also call it a “motor vehicle.”) As I rode alongside it (it was parked), I told myself “Don’t scratch it. Don’t hit it. Don’t even breath on it.”

Totally awesome-looking automobile.

Totally awesome-looking automobile.

Down to Bangkok

The school term finishes in a few days, so Nai and I are travelling down to Bangkok for several days on the 22nd of this month. We’re going to take the overnight train from Nong Khai and are staying in a mid-priced hotel in the Silom section of the city, withing easy walking distance of the Sky Train and Underground system. Hope to have some fun, but have to be careful with the money. I don’t get paid again until January 29th. (An exception to spending too much is in the next section of this post, below.)

The Cosmos Beckons

With the beautiful weather we’ve been having lately, the clear night skies have reawakened my interest in astronomy, one of my main hobbies when I lived in the ‘States. However, I don’t have a good pair of binoculars to satisfy my star gazing hunger. So, while I’m in Bangkok, I’m going to see if I can’t find a pair of binocs or perhaps even a small telescope. I know of a couple respectable places in Bangkok to go shopping. I want a pair of Nikon 7x50s or a pair of Celestron 15x70s or 20x80s. They’re all relatively cheap, so any of the three would be nice. A good 4 or 5 inch ‘scope would do nicely also, but I’ll probably have to stick with the binocs, unless I can find a good price on a telescope.

Final Day of Finals Weeks

At last, today marks the end of the semester, the end of assessments, the end of all the paperwork involved that’s been required for the past couple of weeks. I have one more class at 2 o’clock (just 30 minutes from now), a short class in which I’ll show the students their final scores for the class and have them sign off that everything is correct. Then, it’s the start of a three-week vacation for the English teachers!

I’m not going anywhere; just gonna hang out in Yeosu, try to stay warm (i.e., stay in my apartment). It wouldn’t be so bad, but the wind seems to always be a bit more than a stiff breeze. We had a few lonely flakes of snow earlier today, but a friend in Seoul reported that they had 8 inches up there overnight. Better them than us.

I don’t usually take many photos this time of year, so maybe I’ll go back and sift through some that I took earlier this summer and spring and maybe post them here. Stay tuned.

Bangkok Skyline

We had an old-fashioned, rip-roarin’ thunderstorm claw its way through Yeosu earlier today, a nice respite from the bland, misty weather of late. It brought some brief, but heavy rain and cooled things down a bit, though it did nothing to relieve the miserable, high humidity. This is probably the worst time of year to be in Yeosu, July and most of August.

The storm brought back memories of Bangkok and some of the heavy rains that occasionally hit the city. In my previous post, Nai and I left Nongkhai, headed for the City of Angels. We checked into the same hotel, Silom City, that I had stayed at during the first part of my vacation. I had booked a room for 3 nights, unsure if we wanted to stay in the same area for the remainder of our time in Bangkok. The room we had was similar to the one I had earlier, with the same view out the window.

We decided not to change hotels, so I asked the front desk if we could book the room for another 4 nights. They said the basic rooms were full, but they could move us into a deluxe room for about the same price, if I’d want to forego breakfast. Sure, I thought, why not. Well, the 8th-floor view from the new room was incredible. We had a small balcony with a floor-to-ceiling view of the Silom area skyline, one of the best views of Bangkok I’ve ever had. I stayed at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel way back in 2004, in a room on the 65th floor or so. That, of course, had a fantastic view, but this one ran a close second. Here are a few shots.

Bangkok at night

Bangkok at Night

Bangkok at night

Bangkok at Night

Sunset over Bangkok

Sunset Over Bangkok

Several of the tallest skyscrapers in Bangkok are in this area. Here are a couple of (not very successful) panoramic shots.

Panorama of Silom Area

Panorama of Silom Area

Panoramic of Silom area

Panoramic of Silom Area

Anyway, I certainly recommend the Silom City Hotel, especially if you can get a deluxe corner room.

That about wraps up my posts from my recent vacation. Stay tuned for some other stuff later, though I’m not sure what!

Another Nongkhai Attraction

Just one more thing about Nongkhai before I do a Bangkok post. Another small attraction in this laid back, small town is the wall around Wat Si Chom Chuen (I think that’s the name of the temple, though I could be wrong.) Lining at least one section of the wall are murals (stucco) with scenes of traditional, daily Thai life. They’re quite interesting and well-done. Now, it’s possible that there may be more of these around the other walls, but I didn’t get a chance to explore them all. I’ll leave that for next time or for you to do.

Here’s the temple in question; it’s just across the street from the Danish Baker restaurant. You can see a few of the murals by the motorbike in the lower right corner.

Nongkhai temple

Nongkhai Temple

Here, then, are some of the murals. I didn’t get all of them, so, if you’re ever in Nongkhai, try to check them out.

Nongkhai mural

Nongkhai Mural

Nongkhai mural

Nongkhai Mural

Nongkhai mural

Nongkhai Mural

Nongkhai mural

Nongkhai Mural

Nongkhai mural

Nongkhai Mural

Nongkhai mural

Nongkhai Mural

So, that evening, Nai and I set out for Bangkok on the overnight train. There were some impressive clouds building up near the train station, but they eventually drifted into Laos. Here’s a shot I took and converted to an HDR photo, just playing around–probably with not that much success. It’s fun trying, though.

Storm coming

Storm Coming

I’ll soon do a final post of my most recent visit to Bangkok, including some beautiful (I hope) night shots of the skyline.

Two Riverfront Parks-Nongkhai and Vientiane

Both Nongkhai, Thailand, and Vientiane, Laos, have nice riverfront parks along the Mekong. Whereas Nongkhai’s park is more of a walkway, Vientiane’s is a large park and walkway, and is frenetic with activities, in contrast to the sedateness of Nongkhai.

I like the quiet of Nongkhai. It’s a small town that shuts down about 11 p.m., except for a handful of mostly expat bars near the river. I’m sure there are other venues that Thai people frequent later at night, but I’ve never been to any of them, except for a hotel karaoke now and then. The river walk reflects that quiet. Here’s a shot I took of it a few years back, to give you some perspective.

Nap time at Nongkhai river park

Nap Time

New to this walkway and off to the right are some added items of whimsy that I found amusing–lawn ornaments. Here are a few of the new denizens of Nongkhai’s river walk. There are several more, but I don’t want to spoil your fun should you ever get there.

Lawn ornaments in Nongkhai river walk

River Walk Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river walk

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Here’s a fella I found who was caught between a rock and a hard place, between two dragons. Hey, guy, are you another lawn ornament?

Nai at Nongkhai river park

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In contrast to the Nongkhai walk, the Vientiane River Park is busy, busy with activity during the evenings. Here’s a short video showing a small slice of the action along the Mekong–aerobics classes, the night market, kids doing tricks on bikes and skateboards, and families out for a stroll. For once, it wasn’t raining.

Vientiane, Laos, Mekong River Park from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

Whichever city you visit, be sure to take some time to amble along the Mekong. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself.

A Temple Visit

I’m back in warm, humid Yeosu, working (hardly working, actually–we don’t have that many classes right at the moment). Kind of dull, so let’s continue with my recent vacation in Thailand and Laos.

On one of my final days in Vientiane, Nai needed to visit Wat Si Muang, a Buddhist temple, where he wanted to pray with a monk. One of his brothers is going through a rough time, and Nai wanted to seek the help of Buddha. Nai went into the main temple building, and I waited around outside for him. I took these photos while waiting. (I also have another post about this wat from 2010.)

I don’t know why this great-looking car was parked in front of the temple. Was it for a blessing? Did someone get married and leave the car outside while they went inside for a blessing? It seems a bit incongruous, the old and the new together.

Car at temple

Car at Temple

Here are a couple of shots of the details on one of the outside walls of the temple. It’s interesting to wander around any Buddhist temple and discover all the intricate little things that you might not notice at first glance.

Temple wall

Temple Wall

Temple wall detail

Temple Wall Detail

Temple wall detail

Temple Wall Detail

And the statuary is also fascinating. I believe these are mainly supposed to protect the temple from evil spirits. Here’s one of them.

Temple statue

Temple Statue

Next to the main temple, I spotted this building, which might be an administration building or the living quarters of the monks. I didn’t dare go inside; there weren’t any signs forbidding entry, but it looked like more of a private place than one open to the public.

Adjunct building

Adjunct Building

Our trip to the temple finished, we went to one of our favorite eateries, an outdoor restaurant near the river. I can never remember the name of the place, so I should write it down next time I’m there. It’s the something something Beer Garden, if memory serves me correctly. The lady and her family who run the place are all very friendly, and the food is pretty decent, too. Just outside the restaurant is this jackfruit tree. One of the large fruits had fallen off, and the owner had cut out the fruit. She gave us a generous dish, on the house. I didn’t take a photo of the fruit, but below the first shot is what it looks like. (I “borrowed” the photo from the internet, where it appears on several other websites.) And, no, I’ve never seen any birds in the cage hanging from the tree.

Jackfruit tree

Jackfruit Tree

Jackfruit

Jackfruit

Hey, what are you smiling at, buddy?

My friend Nai

A Smiling Nai

After leaving Vientiane the next morning, we went to Nongkhai to spend a few days before heading down to Bangkok. I’ll have a few photos from Nongkhai in my next post. More later.

At Nai’s Home

Well, it’s off to Nai’s home outside of Vientiane, but first, an obligatory shot of the sun going down over the Mekong. This one’s from Nongkhai looking into Laos.

Sunset over the Mekong

Sunset Over the Mekong

New Household Members

Nothing much new at Nai’s except for these new additions to the household. They’re quite a handful, as you might expect. They don’t have names yet, so I’m calling them Puppy 1 and Puppy 2.

Puppy

Puppy One

Puppy

Puppy Two

Puppies

Puppies One and Two

Cute, aren’t they. All the kids, of course, love them. Here, a young niece and a nephew have fun with the pups.

Kids and Puppies

KIds and Puppies

Kids and puppies

Puppy Love

Lao Snacks

Snacking throughout the day is a normal activity, but, oh, what snacks. Here, Nai is frying up a batch of crickets. Most Lao folks eat these like popcorn, dipping them in a spicy sauce for added flavor. I think I’ll pass this time.

Cooking crickets

Cookin’ Up Crickets

Fried crickets

Fried Crickets

Run out of crickets, you say? No problem. How about some nice juicy grasshoppers. Nai, nephew Kim, and sister Nui cull some grasshoppers caught by one of Nai’s brothers.

Picking grasshoppers

Picking Out the Juicy Ones

Here they are, getting the fried-in-oil treatment. Again, I’m not really that hungry, thanks.

Fried grasshoppers

Fried Grasshoppers

All is not lost in the snack department. Nui thinly slices a Thai vegetable (or fruit?). I don’t know the name, but it’s slightly sweet. Fried in oil (what else?) and salted, it resembles potato chips.

Slicing a vegetable

Slicing Time

Here are the grasshoppers and pseudo potato chips with a few sauces and some cucumber for your enhanced snacking pleasure. Dig in!

Lao snacks

Lao Snacks

Finally, a glance out the window shows that the sun is actually out for a change. Writing in hindsight, I know that there is plenty of rain to come, though. Much more, in fact, later.

Laos Landscape

Nai’s Backyard