Thailand

Angkor Wat is very impressive but all of these people need to get out of my picture.

Bakong temple at Ruolos (20km from Angkor Wat)

But with enough patience the big tour buses will leave

Overall Angkor Wat has been really difficult to photograph.  There are people everywhere.  And it is difficult for me to compose architecture photos since I haven’t taken a lot of them.  And we have had the worst sunsets/sunrises.  But I do have some really good photos that will be posted after the vacation is over (too busy now).  Tomorrow (Monday) we return to Bangkok and on Wednesday we fly back to Taiwan.  And I think I’ll need a vacation after my vacation because we have done a lot during the last week.

I’m trying to get caught up on my blog before I go to Laos tomorrow.  I read part of the Laos guidebook on my computer today and it sounds like I might be off the beaten path for the next week.  I’m headed to Vieng Phouka (from Chiang Khong, Thailand) which according to the guidebook doesn’t see many tourists.  And it offers great trekking to both landscapes and less visited hilltribes.

But before I go to Laos I will write about the end of my waterfall tour last weekend. After seeing the big waterfall we stayed at a nearby Karen hilltribe.  The Karen are an ethnic minority (Asian roots) in Thailand and Burma.  Some Karen have moved from the villages to the cities and lead modern lives very similar to the Thai.  Some Karen live in their native villages leading a subsistence lifestyle just like their ancestors.  And there are also many Karen refugees that have escaped the conflict in Burma (to be written about later hopefully).  I will write about our experience in a native village below.

There are a lot of Karen hilltribes scattered throughout out Thailand but I think most of them are near the Burma border.  And each of the tribes are at varying levels of modernization.  The tribe we stayed at is on a heavily traveled tourist route.  10 years ago the small children would run when they saw a foreigner but now more than 100 foreigners stay there every week.  They have a school, motorcycles and small walk behind tractors.  But there are other very isolated hilltribes in Thailand that might only get 1-2 foreign visitors a week.  Below are some pictures that I took while visiting.

In the middle of the village

Children playing and some of the houses

 

Okay, maybe this bus wasn’t that great but I’m so happy be out of the saangthaew (cramped pickup truck).  I actually had to take off my daypack and sidestep down the aisle because my hips are too wide.  Apparently I’m a thick 66 kgs…

My trip was derailed for a day (and slowed before that) but now I am back on track with a completely different plan.  I traveled from MaeSot to MaeSariang (a beautiful area) and was planning on traveling to Mae Hong Son, Pai and Chiang Rai (nearly the entire Thai-Burma border).  But I am sick (tonsillitis) and went to directly to Chiang Mai to see a doctor.  Now I’m loaded up with medicine and headed to Chiang Khong.  At Chiang Khong I will cross into Laos and take a 2 day boat trip to Luang Prabang.  I don’t have any plans for Laos but I always find something interesting.

Here are a few pics of Chiang Mai.  And I have so much more to write about but so little time.  Hopefully I can get caught up soon.

Wat Chediluang (above and below)

If you look close enough that is a large tree shadow on the old temple.

Evening prayer

I had a fantastic trip to the Thee Lor Sue waterfall last weekend.  I traveled with Johannes and Kristen (Germany) who are at the end of their Thailand trip while I’m just beginning mine.  During the 3 day trip we went rafting (flatwater), saw the Thee Lor Sue waterfall and stayed in a native Karen hilltribe village.  Overall the trip was great but it was lacking that truly great feeling since we did a heavily traveled route.  But I would still definitely recommend both the trip and our guide company (Trekker Hill – UmPhang).  Here is part 1 of the trip.  Tomorrow will be part 2 focusing on the Karen hilltribe.

Our peaceful rafting trip down a river that later flows into the Kwai River

Thee Lor Sue Waterfall – The waterfall is dramatically different during the rainy season but it was still incredible

One of the waterfalls up close

For more than 5 hours 20 adults and 5 children sat in the back of this Ford Ranger sized pickup before arriving in UmPhang.  In some ways this is a horrible experience but it’s also very interesting since you’re riding with local Thai’s.  It’s unfortunate that neither of us spoke the other’s language but it was still an interesting experience.  However I’m not looking forward to the return trip to Mae Sot.

Tomorrow I leave for an exciting tour.  We will start with a 4 hour rafting trip and then hike 10 kms to our campsite.  The 2nd day we will see the Thee Lor Sue waterfall and we will return the 3rd day.  I will doing the tour with a German couple and they didn’t want to ride elephants which is alright with me since it will save a lot of money.  And I have a day planned working in an elephant conservation camp in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully I will be able to post some great photos on Sunday.

I had my first spicy Thai lunch today.  I missed the spicy part when ordering and although it tasted good it was a little difficult to talk while eating.  It was verified as spicy by a 2nd traveler and the sliced red pepper was actually the mild part of the meal.

I arrived in Mae Sot and I really like this small town near the Myanmar border.  I don’t think there is any central planning but it has been building a lot of tourism aimed restaurants/guesthouses recently.  And it doesn’t look tacky like some of the touristy places that I’ve been.  I will be leaving tomorrow to go to UmPhang where I can book a tour to the Thee Lor Sue waterfall tour.   The tour should include river crossings by elephant, rafting, visiting a hill tribe and the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia.

While Mae Sot is a nice, relaxing town I haven’t found anything really interesting to take pictures of.  Here are a couple that I liked.

Some boys outside a school

Some of the boys’ faces are actually painted in a traditional style that looks like they are glowing in the above photo.

The entrance to a local temple