Bangkok Protests

For weeks, we have been dreaming of some rest and respite in luxuriously decadent Bangkok. Sushi at Fuji, the latest 3D films in digital perfection, sinfully delicious chocolate cake at Siam Paragon, a mega-brunch at Taling Chan. However, as many of you have probably seen in the news, the city is going through a rough patch as tens of thousands of protesters challenge the authority of the current government by occupying sections of the city including portions of the old city and the streets around Central World Mall. The latter location is just a short walk from the apartment we stay in when we are in Bangkok. And both locations are quite relevant to tourists visiting the city.

Bangkok Protests

During our stay in Bangkok, the Red Shirts relocated into the downtown area shutting down the enormous commercial centers from Siam Discovery along Sukhumvit Road all the way to Central World. For those unfamiliar with Bangkok, it would be like rolling into Continue…

Link Between Ancient Egypt and Thailand

Always on the cutting edge of cultural discovery, Thomas and I have happened upon cryptic indications of a mysterious link between ancient Egypt and Thailand. While riding a local bus in Chiang Rai, a small rip in the vinyl seat lining revealed that the brushed metal seat frame was covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Innocently adding to the rip a bit and peeking into the hole, I was able to determine that the markings extended down the entire length of the seat back.

Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Responding to the call of my inner Indiana Jones, I cautiously eased from seat to seat eager to avoid suspcious native eyes. Was I about to uncover one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 21st century? Were the people of Thailand secretly hiding their ancient Egyptian roots?

Seat after seat, tiny rips and holes confirmed my suspicion that this rickety old Thai bus was in fact the ultimate Egypto-Thai relic covered in magnificent hieroglyphic messages from the past. If my theory is correct, this may actually be proof of the existence of Atlantis. It just may be that we, Tony and Thomas, will go down in history as having made the greatest historical discovery of all times!

Sally and Peter

Sally, Tony and Peter in Chiang Rai

There are two ways of looking at retirement: a scary void in your life or unlimited time to follow your passion. For Sally and Peter, their passion seems to have always been traveling. And even now, at ages 65 and 70, they are fully embracing their freedom. Yes, the baby boomer generation is quickly aging, but they seem to be aging gracefully, and I love that we are seeing more and more backpackers in their sixties, seventies and even eighties doing their thing. They definitely set an example for Continue…

The White Temple

Those of you who have been following our blog in Laos, might remember from my post on Xieng Khuan that I have a particular passion for monuments designed by oddball geniuses. So when we crossed the border from western Laos into northern Thailand near the town of Chiang Rai, we made a beeline for the outrageous White Temple, officially known as the Wat Rong Khun, created by artist/philosopher Chalermchai Kositpipat.

Rumors and descriptions of this bizarre, modern temple have been swirling around us the entire time we have been in Southeast Asia. The snow-white edifice features gargoyle-like decorative statues, pools of white coy, and gardens of writhing human hand statues reaching up from hell below.

But the White Temple’s piece de resistance is its Continue…

Lao Village Life – Reality Check

If you hope to go to the countryside for some quiet time, you might be in for a surprise. We passed by this traditional village between Luang Nam Tha and Muang Sing in Laos – and it definitely didn’t sound like our dream getaway! Watch this short clip about the acoustic reality of Lao village life.

Laos: What a Dollar Can Buy You

If you are planning your trip to Laos with the latest Lonely Planet guide book from 2007, you are in for a rude awakening. Rethink your budget! Prices have risen steeply in the last three years, and increases by 35 percent are not unusual – if you are lucky. Go to Luang Prabang’s historic temple district, and you may quickly run out of luck. Hotel prices there have doubled and often tripled. Go figure!

Beer Lao

More expensive than accommodation, however, was the cost of food. As in Cambodia, we spent about 40 percent of our monthly budget on food items, which translates to roughly $15 a day. Our lavish breakfasts with our friend Beverly probably had something to do with that. 😉 But not everything is bad news. You can still buy plenty of things for around a buck:

  • 1 ice-cold Beer Lao
  • 1 baguette sandwich with country-style pate, bacon and cheese
  • 1 entry stamp at the Lao border. No entry without a bribe.
  • 4 rolls of toilet paper
  • 2 mugs of brewed coffee or 2 bagels at the Scandinavian Bakery
  • 8 pictures of two different Akha women
  • 16 mid-sized bananas
  • 1 hour of Internet usage (1/2 hour in very touristy areas)
  • 3 liters (3/4 gal.) of water
  • 2 crossings over a foot bridge (I hate tourist tolls and the trolls that guard the bridges)

Lao Baguettes

Cave Collage

Laos Caves

Thomas and I have been crawling (and boating) our way through the caves of Laos, including: Kong Lor, Tham Phu Kham, Thom Pha Thok, Bank Cave, and Kao Rao. The country is full of caves. In fact, quite often while hiking through the forest, we’ve felt huge gusts of super-cooled air shooting out of the growth revealing yet another system of unexplored caverns. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of an organized spelunking infrastructure with experienced guides or caving classes. Too bad, because we would love to really get into this!

Up the Nam Ou

The Nam Ou River at Nong Khiaw

Our explorations of Laos have taken us into the largely roadless eastern Phongsali Province. The main artery into the region is the Nam Ou, a river that cuts through some dramatic karst scenery, stretches of jungle, and a series of river villages accessible only by boat. The region is quite beautiful, although the hideous, smoke-filled skies kill the thrill a bit.

Traveling here is time-consuming and tough, harkening back to the “good ol’ days” when the journey itself was the attraction. Gone are the tourist hordes, instead each turn reveals a riverscape recalling another age.

Our journey up the Nam Ou is taking place very late in the dry season and river travel will be coming to an end at any moment. Our boat pilots were extremely skilled and quite cautiously navigated Continue…