From the travelblog.org website, you can create your own map showing the countries you’ve visited.
There is also a map just for the United States on the douweosinga website, if you’ve not roamed quite as far.
The boondoggle that is Suvarnabhumi, the four decades in the making new Bangkok international airport, continues its wobbly course towards its “if-and-when” opening set for September 28th of this year. You may recall that last year at this time, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra promised that the airport would be open by September 29th (2005). Construction delays, cracks in the runways, and other problems conspired to keep that from being a reality, although to save face the PM constructed an elaborate public relations event in which two plane loads of journalists and political luminaries were flown from the existing Don Muang airport to the new airport, where they landed, parked at a gate, and were given a tour of the facility. Then, complete with souvenir suitcases, they were “checked in” for the return flight to show that all systems were working, then they proceeded “through security”, boarding their flights and being flow thirty minutes around Bangkok and landing back at Don Muang.
Behind the scenes, I suspect that hundreds of young army conscripts were personally running each bag to the gate and ensuring that the system was flawless. Of course, two PR flights for the PM does not a functioning airport make.
So this year there has been our share of political intrigue and new dates have been set by different government officials for the airport’s opening: July. No, August. No, September for sure. October, guaranteed.
The airlines responded by saying something to the effect of, “Hey, how about we don’t open it until we know it is really ready and how about you give us about six months’ of advance notice so we can prepare?”
Finally, Shinawatra, who at one point supposedly stepped down and then didn’t and is supposedly a “caretaker” PM awaiting new elections in October, announced that all flights would start using Suvarnabhumi as of September 28th of this year. Additionally, he announced that six Thai airlines would participate in various test flights in advance of that date.
Well, some details were finally set on the test flights and it turns out that on July 29th, each of the airlines (THAI, Bangkok Airways, Orient Thai, Thai Air Asia, and Nok Air) will operate two or three domestic flights out of and into the new aiport, flights that are not usually timed to carry passengers connecting to or from international flights.
One of the airlines, Orient Thai, offered a special package that includes a morning departure from Don Muang landing 30 minutes later at Suvarnabhumi, a fully airport tour from Airports of Thailand officials, and a return flight mid-afternoon. The price is 1999 baht and all proceeds will be donated to one of the King’s projects.
So I traipsed down to the Orient Thai (also known as One-Two-Go here in Thailand) ticket office which is about a half-kilometer away from the apartment and waited patiently as an agent made all sorts of phone calls to secure a ticket for me. Her computer was showing that the outbound flight was full, but the return flight had available seats. However, the flights were only sold as a package so there was no way I could just buy the one-way ticket!
I would imagine that several of the seats on the outbound flight are being held for various VIP guests who don’t want to be bothered with flying back into Don Muang.
After about twenty minutes of exploring options she apologized and offered to take my name and number if anything came up. Oh, well. And here I was all excited at the opportunity to be one of the first to see the new airport and to get to walk around before it was fully in operations.
If any of you have connections with one of the Thai airlines, let me know!
Wednesday arrives and it is surely hump day. My Thai class breaks down into sheer sillyness halfway through, our khruu trying to keep us together while laughing out our lame attempts at humor, mostly plays on words caused by the different tones in Thai. Students often make silly and potentially embarassing mistakes.
For example, the word for “to ride” and the word for “excrement/dirt/ashes” is the same (khii), differentiated only by the tones. Low tone is the first, falling tone the second.
So if you say “khii chaang” you could either be saying “to ride an elephant” or you could be talking about the elephant’s droppings… and not in a polite way, either.
Thais really like potty humor, I’ve discovered.
On an entirely unrelated note, Tawn was doing some yoga at home this evening and has discovered that he can do the splits now, but only on when side. When he turns the other direction, he isn’t as flexible. The benefits of yoga.
For dinner this evening I hollowed out some yellow tomatoes and stuffed them with a Thai-style chicken salad that I made a few days ago. The flavors have intermingled very nicely. The salad is from a recipe in the San Francisco Flavors cookbook compiled by the Junior League of San Francisco.
It is a cold version of chicken larb that you find on many Thai restaurant menus, but minus the mint (which I was supposed to add and forgot!) and the toasted, ground rice.
Very tasty when served on a bed of Boston lettuce with sesame dressing.
This one covers my recent trip to Hong Kong and focuses on the aviation portion of the trip.
For you aviation enthusiasts (you know who you are), you can find it at this link.
With no further trips scheduled, that may be it for a while.
Receiving the following paragraph in an email from a friend, it set me to thinking about the nature of boredom:
“I believe our souls gets bored eventually if the situation stays the same all the time. A healthy soul should have the yearning to want to learn more and more and don’t stop until we die. That is why we are always challenging for new experiences and environments, we have to, otherwise we are dead. Well, at least for me, if I am not excited or inspired any more at one point of my life or another, I feel that I might as well die.”
Was up quite early for a Saturday morning to prepare for a bike ride in the countryside. This customized Spiceroads tour was 45 km starting in Min Buri, a northeast suburb of Khrungthep. We rode with a couple we’ve recently met, Tam and Markus, and Tam’s younger sister Poun. Coincidentally, Markus is from San Francisco, too.
Our guide was the same one I had on my last Spiceroads trip, and once again we had a fun adventure. It was sunny most of the day and clouded up and started raining only once we were in the canal boat on the way home.
Pictures for your enjoyment – I’ll add some video clips soon as we saw a few things that really need movement to be properly conveyed.
Above left: Tam and Poun engaged in a struggle right out of a Greek myth. Above right: Tam, Markus, Poun and Tawn pose as our bikes are assembled. Below: The gang is ready to go: Tawn, Chris, Markus, Poun, and Tam
Left: Along the way we stopped and walked about 50m back into the jungle to see a large nest of bats. They were everywhere and quite active, flying from tree to tree. I shot some video and will include it in a later post.
Below left: Tawn at a rest stop, a pavillion overlooking the rice paddies.
Below right: Lunch! We stop for traditional central Thai food at a roadside restaurant. Dishes include an omlette, deep-fried fish, stir fried prawns, and tom yum goong soup. Yummy.
Above and below: We arrived at one temple to find a procession of about 100 villagers including a jazz combo that would have been at home at a New Orleans funeral. The lively procession was leading three young men through the steps to becomming monks. The young men are wearing so-called “naga” robes, named after the nine-headed serpent that protected Buddha from evil spirits. They will don the saffron robes in a ceremony tomorrow. Note the shaved eyebrows.
Above: We met a long-tailed boat take us about 45 minutes back to the mosque from which we originally set out. Below: Back at the mosque, tired and exhausted, we pose for a few more pictures. In the final picture, our guide is on the right.
Sunday afternoon Tawn and I drove up to Ayuttahya province, about an hour north of Bangkok, to the country estate of Pim’s parents. Pim, Tawn’s friend since high school, is the mother of a adorable one-year old who serves as my surrogate niece here in Thailand since my two nieces are 8,000 miles away.
The estate, called Khum Tawan, means “Estate of the Sun” and is a very large complex with a lake, a canal, large gardens, and an entertainment villa overlooking the lake. It is very nice.
Here are some pictures and a video segment I shot.
Left: Tawn and Pim Right: Tawn and Chris Below: Tara and her nanny play with her mobile phone
Above: Mom, Grandpa, Grandma, Tara, and Dad. Below Left: Tara and her cake Below Right: Tawn, Tara and Pim with Tara’s birthday present from us.
The video is quite large, about 13mb.