14 June

A picks me up early and we head to Bobís hotel. Its Saturday morning and we have an appointment at the Weekend Market (JJ Market), a huge open air affair with hundreds of stalls all covered haphazardly to keep out the sun and rain. Bobís incredible, amazing, wonderful, and very beautiful wife Sandy was there. And, completely unrelated to the adjectives above, she brought me 4 tins of Altoids! I had run out about a week earlier and had to eat horrid little Fishermanís Friend Peppermint Lozenges. Additionally two of Bobís (and Sandyís) daughters showed up. Everyone looked chipper. We set out in the street and walked a couple blocks. Bob knows the Sky Train very well and that will be our main conveyance to the market. The sky train is an elevated (about three or four stories) light rail system. It runs smooth as silk, very efficient and clean, but currently it only makes about 15 stops, they need many more lines to cover the city. Only 10 baht to go to the next stop, we all clamber in, zoom, and clamber out.

 

We had a couple of hours to wander around the market. I got some stuff for people, A got a huge bag of stuff that Aea had "ordered" and the Sites Fam got things as needed.

We all bustle back on the train and head back to the hotel... by way of an internet cafť! I had already checked my email that morning, so I played camera boy.

A drove me back to my hotel and I took a wander around the block (which is about a quarter mile on each side). I got a picture of a mailbox on the street. Apparently there are only two places in the world...

Finally I got some time to update my logs and post another page on the web. It may not look it, but it usually takes 4 to 6 hours to write logs, prepare pictures, and then put the web page together.

 

15 June

Today the Sites Fam is headed to the floating market. A worked it around so that the tour van would pick my up after they picked up the Sites Fam. My pick up time was to be 5:45am. I asked the girls at the front desk for a 5:15 wake up call. It came and I was downstairs dutifully waiting at the street side for the van. Traffic was very light at such an ungodly hour and the Tuk-tuks were screaming by. About 6:43am I gave up, perhaps they forgot, no worries, I went up stairs for some rest, emptied my pockets, and fell on the bed. 6:47 I get a call, theyíre downstairs, trouble with the vans AC.

OH, I forgot, when I got up, bleary eyed and wobbly, I spied that one of the dragonflies that I had been raising had finally emerged!!! So I have another association! Very good news for me.

The first stop was at a stature and park dedicated to the first Siamese Twins. Well, the ones that gave the condition its name, at least. Remember that Thailand used to be named Siam, they changed the name to Thailand when they changed from an absolute monarchy to a democracy in the 1940s.

We all loaded into a "long tail boat", which is a long skinny boat with a very long straight shaft motor. They shoot you along canals that people live along (its like a little Venice) and finally you come to a T intersection rife with tourist shops on the shores and people selling all sorts of stuff on boats.

I broke from the Fam and wandered on my own. I had gotten a few things and was down to 13 or 14 hundred Baht. Everyone bargains here, little kids would run up with post cards and say "100 Baht", and they show you their hand with 100 written on it. When you say no thank you, they instantly flash the other hand with 50 on it and say "50 Baht". It is a game and there are rules. You can inquire as to the price of things, but then you have to say no thank you profusely and move on quickly to get out of it. Donít bargain with anyone unless you intend to buy. You can get out of it if you come to an impasse in price, but this takes a long time. The other way to get out of a bargain is to name an impossibly low price from the start, this saves time, they understand, you part company and everyone is happy. Well, Mikey starting drooling over this very large box full of big insects. I just had to ask what she wanted for it, but knew I couldnít afford it. The bidding started at 3800 Baht. All the money I had would be an insulting offer. I said no thank you, but she wouldnít let me go. "How much you pay?" over and over. Finally I said, "all I have is 1000 Baht", this is about 60% below the best deal you could ever hope for on a box this big. I was hoping she would let me go. Oh no, she saw I had some Dollars. 1000 baht and ten dollars - no - and 6 dollars - no - 1200 baht - no. Ok, 1000 baht. I never even said yes, she just started wrapping it! Even Bob (some people might call him... frugal) said it was a good deal!

Time was almost up, I wander back toward the pick up point and find myself near a stand where they take your picture with a digital camera and print it on a T-shirt. If only someone had an embarrassing picture of someone else, in digital format, then one could have a T-shirt made with said embarrassing picture right there on the spot! I love technology.

We load up with our treasures and head to a teak carving place. Teak is a very desirable wood, very hard, weather resistant, has a good grain and texture. The live tree looks almost exactly like Catalpa, but without a certain wave to the limbs. Very expensive, and beautiful furniture is made of teak. Remember the carving I showed you earlier, well here is one in progress, and a close up of another. Supposedly, and Iíll believe them, this is but a single piece of wood. So everything that is hanging over other things is actually carved beneath, not glued on. Most of the larger murals were on the order of 5 to 12 thousand dollars. The most ornate (of which you have a close up) took two masters 9 months to complete. Very impressive.

I havenít mentioned it, but this is actually my second trip to Thailand. The last one was as a tourist seven years ago. Both trips were fantastic, but being a bit older, wiser, and already initiated, this trip has been amazingly informative. The family that I stayed with low those many years ago still remembers me and today I was finally able to get in touch with them. I grabbed a taxi and went for a visit. Their house is still amazingly beautiful, and the kids I knew are now adults. They were interested in what I was up to, when would I come back to Thailand, and do I have a Thai girlfriend yet? (Because theyíre the best, you know). They treated me to a movie and a very nice dinner. Hereís a picture of us after dinner. If you remember Sesame Street - "One of these things is not like the other..." LOL.

The nicest family in the world!!!

End to a great day.

 

16 June

My first day all to myself!! Up late, none of this 5:45am stuff. Breakfasted and was on the street by 9:30. The taxi that took me home the night before had driven past the zoo, so I knew where it was, only about two blocks away. Iím at the zoo before 10. Great fun.

It was a nice size with lots of animals. A big lake in the center full of thick green brown water. Occasionally a huge boil would erupt and a big tail fin would sink back under the water. I think it is some sort of catfish and they all look to be between twenty and forty pounds, or maybe bigger I still havenít seen a full one, just tails.

They had a extraordinarily good reptile house with many different types of turtles, big lizards, and snakes.

There were Pigeons, and English Sparrows, but the coolest pest bird were big black Crows. Hoards of them. When I got my meal I put in on a table and then went to get drink. When I came back there was a lady with a slingshot standing near it eyeing the crows in the trees. I got pictures of some of the different animals, and an unusual tree with flowers on its trunk.

They had a good collection of big Hornbills. These birds are as big as an eagle with a huge beak and beautiful plumage. I was shooting from a long ways away through the cage, but this one caught a starling like bird and is probably about to eat it.

I was standing on a bridge taking pictures of some turtles when the Loch Ness Monster started swimming across the water in the distance. I got some pictures and then another one started swimming across. As near as I could tell they were big monitor lizards, about 4 or 5 feet long! I started watching the lake and they were all over the place! Just wandering around loose. So here is a bunch of Lock Ness pictures I took, and a good shot I finally got. A few days later while taking a taxi ride I saw another of these on the bank of a canal in the city, so I guess they are all over! Amazing.

I filled both cards in my camera and finally made it back from the zoo around three.

 

17 June

Up early, got a taxi to the road upon which were was a business with which I had reserved a tour. I was there early and decided to get an iced tea in a restaurant. There was only one other person, a farang, and he invited me to his table. English, he had been traveling for a few months. He had just graduated from university and gotten a good job. He explained that that was why the trip was so short, if he hadnít gotten a job he would have traveled for a year. Apparently this is common in Europe. I waited on the van next to a young lady named Clair. She said Thailand was the end of the road. Sheíd been traveling for four months throughout Southeast Asia and after a couple weeks in Thailand she was headed home. We made it into the van and I met another European lady named Liz. She was married with 4 children, the youngest was 17. Now that they were old enough to fend for themselves, she had decided to travel, leaving hubby behind to deal with the kids. She had started out on a charity trek along the Great Wall of China, but SARS sent her back home, then everything reconvened in India. Much more traveling through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and now Thailand.

Another English lady, Sarah perhaps, was much the same way, a couple months off to travel. She was a lawyer. She told me that when she told Americans that they usually recoiled, but in England its not evil to be a lawyer. She was a prosecutor, I told her we donít have any of those in America. There was also a man, Paul from New Jersey. Traveling for a couple weeks in Thailand, then a few days in Singapore, I think. And there was a young man from Japan, his English seemed pretty good, but he didnít say much. Great fun.

Iíll show you a picture of the group, but the story of the rest of the day shall have to wait. As must the stories of my journey to the Ancient City, which is 40 years old, my adventures whilst geocaching, and the police raid that set back my DVD shopping.

Mike