Azalea Trail #3, Azaleas & Spring Flowers

I was told the first thing I needed to see was the Pyron Home Garden, located on Dobbs in Tyler, before I saw any of the other houses on the Historic Azalea Trail. After my visit to this illustrious home and garden I completely understand the thought. I have seen many beautiful homes and gardens, but I am not sure I have seen the level of artistry displayed at this particular home, at any time in my past. As I walked to the side, to enter the back yard I talked with the owner briefly. He was redoing the entry walkway and adding stones that would extremely enhance the entrance. He was a nice chap, but wanted to work rather than gab. I can appreciate that and walked around the house. I took a few steps around the house to the rear and enjoyed this view.

 

Back of the Pyron Home

Back of the Pyron Home

 

Across the canal that ran through their house’s backyard and their neighbors, was this nice patch of grass. Please notice the detail of the canal. I am not sure if the city did this or the homeowners, but the result was work very well done! It blended in with surrounding yards and had beautiful walkways back and forth made from the same rock and stone. I was impressed with the craftmanship.

 

Back Area Along the Canal in the Pyron Home

Back Area Along the Canal in the Pyron Home

 

I then walked as far as I could to the rear fence and took another photo. I tried to capture the depth and size of the backyard. It was amazing. Not to mention the different sitting areas completely equipped with tables, chairs, couches, benches and of course a nice BBQ grill. I would spend many an afternoon in his area, if I lived in this house.

 

View of the Pyron Home From The Farthest Point

View of the Pyron Home From The Farthest Point

 

As I walked the yard the Azaleas popped out from one side to the other. I was approximately a week early though. I am guessing the week afterwards was excellent and more blooms would have been coming out.

 

Red Azaleas

Red Azaleas

 

I wasn’t aware that so many various colors existed with azaleas, Even the different colors had assorted variations. For an example I must have seen at least 10 different shades of pink and approximately 12 shades of red. Everywhere I turned I saw a different azalea.

 

Pink Azaleas

Pink Azaleas

 

This area of town, is known as the historic Alzalea Trail District. As I walked the neighborhood I ran into various assorted plants as illustrated below. I must have taken over 750 photos. It was hard to narrow down exactly which photos to put in my posts. This city is a royal garden of flowers and other blooming plants and trees.

 

Red and Pink Azaleas

Red and Pink Azaleas

 

This set of flowers were located at 1411 South Chilton and was The Hardin Home, one of the Old homes on the Historic Tyler Tour. I am not entirely sure what type of flower this is. I found it beautiful and had to take a photo.

 

Beautiful Flower (Code For I Am Not Sure of The Name)

Beautiful Flower (Code For I Am Not Sure of The Name)

 

This group of flowers were located in the same neighborhood along side of one of the sidewalks. Again, I fould this extremely attractive and wanted to share my photo.

 

Beautiful Flower (Code For I Am Not Sure of The Name)

Beautiful Flower (Code For I Am Not Sure of The Name Again)

 

This close up is from a Dogwood tree, outside the house behind the Pyron house. I love these trees and was lucky to find it blooming.

 

Close Up of a Dogwood Bloom At The Home Behind The Pyron Home

Close Up of a Dogwood Bloom At The Home Behind The Pyron Home

 

This is an example of one of the plaques in the neighborhood, as designated by the Department of the Interior. It is also designted as one of Tyler’s Historic Landmark’s. Quite an honor in my humble opinion.

 

An Historical Plaque at One of The Homes on The Azalea Trail

An Historical Plaque at One of The Homes on The Azalea Trail

 

Another lovely section of azaleas and other blooming flowers captured, as I walked through the neighborhood. I could have spent several days just taking photos and touring this neighborhood on foot.

 

Several Colors of Azaleas

Several Colors of Azaleas and Other Flowers

 

As a future reference, Tyler is known for their rose’s and the Tyler Rose Festival is held each year in October. You have plenty of time to make plans to attend. If I wasn’t going to be in Italy and Thailand in October 2015,  I would certainly spend a weekend touring the rose gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of my stay were in association with the City of Tyler. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Hard Road to Travel

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

I set out in February of 2013, after a Christmas present from my then wife Kim, of enough cash to start a Travel Blog. I have loved to travel for over forty years and began as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the early 70’s. I would spend two months a year in SE Asia and dealt with family manufactures, in many countries. Our days were usually long (over 12 hours) and we really only took one day off our first trip. We hit fourteen cities in nine countries and I was hooked. In addition, my Father was a journalist (a real one not the pre-fab attention getting farces of today). I am sure he is rolling over in his grave at the ridiculous charade called journalism today. I learned to write through his guidance.

 

I was surfing the Internet in regard to somewhere I might be able to afford to retire, as there have been a couple of financial fiascoes in my life and I wound up with no Golden parachute or nest egg after 50 years of laboring away. One day I came across a video from Barbara Weibel of “Hole in The Donut Cultural Travels“, in regard to Ecuador and I instantly thought “I could do that”! I became mesmerized and started making contact with travel bloggers and two stood out as Texas friendly and were amiable to this old man. They actually responded to me, when I posed a question and both became my mentors in design, name and advice about my Travel Blog to be. I cannot thank these two enough for giving me the courage and aid needed to launch the Nomadic Texan. Thank you kindly Lauren DiMarco and Leah Walker Puckett from the bottom of my heart! Of course it didn’t hurt they both were from Texas.

 

Lauren DiMarco of "Where in The World is Lola"?

Lauren DiMarco of “Where in The World is Lola“?

 

 

Leah Walker Puckett of "Leah Travels"!

Leah Walker Puckett of “Leah Travels“!

 

 

After setting up my Blog I cam across a very intelligent young man, with a big heart and a great mind! In addition, he always tells it like it is, regardless of your position or if it might slight your opinion or feelings. My type of man. He graduated from The University of Texas, served in our country’s Air Force and has started a charity for inner city kids that he asked me to help with. Does this young man really know me (I know you are asking that)? I of course said yes immediately and will help Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad walk through fire if I have to. He has become a true friend and confidante, ever since I was an hour late to eat Thai food with him in Austin and conduct my first interview. I was highly embarrassed and he just laughed it off. One of my closest friends in social media for sure! Hook ’em Horns Prince!

 

 

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

 

Let me tell you, I’m all alone, this lonesome road, I roam
I’ve got no love to call my very own
Oh, the river gets deeper, the hills get steeper
And the pain gets deeper every day, yeah

 

After two weeks in Cuenca Ecuador and a three day weekend in Tijuana building a house for an indigent Mexican family in Tijuana last year, I headed off to my first Travel Blogger Conference in Toronto and was completely blown away from the networking and Speed Dating processes. Because of my Panama Hat and apparently my overall brand, created in just under two months. A multitude of bloggers introduced themselves and strolled across the room at parties and functions just because they recognized my hat. Of course at my age I was only able to identify a few and tried valiantly to observe their name tags, without alerting the bloggers to the fact I had no idea what their name was. I recognized faces, as I have always been able to do, but names escaped me in many cases. At the conference I also made contact with a man who was destined to help me enormously and fast became a confidante and mentor, Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy. I can’t thank Stephen enough for his help, his mentoring and his friendship. He is a class act!

 

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

 

As I left the first night’s event I had to use the facilities and was accosted by Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted from Chicago. He was one of those people whose face I immediately recognized, but I struggled to recall his name. I had no alcohol either! We hit it off immediately as we both have a sick sense of humor and love the outdoors. I more so in my younger days! At one of my Speed Dates in Toronto, SATW had asked to meet with me. They told me I had to have 10, 000 followers on Twitter to qualify. I had around 2, 000 at that time and I asked why the appointment. They told me with 2,000 I could qualify as a photographer. I just laughed and thanked them. I did make it a personal goal to attain this number as soon as humanly possible, but I wanted to do it legitimately and not “purchase” followers, which some people do.

 

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago)

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago) Friend and Mentor

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

The months rolled by and I was asked to visit Palestine Texas for a weekend and produce a post that covered the city’s attributes. I wound up writing eight posts in total and fell in love with this charming small community. I still broadcast on social media for the town and this has led me into a couple more visits next spring of Tyler and Nacogdoches, both historic and beautiful Texas Towns. I can’t wait to visit each and cover their sites, via my Nomadic Texan blog.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine My Hostess

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine, My Hostess

 

One more thing, I dream of a home, far beyond the sea
Where there is love and peace and joy for me
Oh, in my eyes, I see troubles and danger for me
But destiny where it leads me, I must go, hey

 

One day about a month after I finished my obligations with Palestine, a post went up in a Facebook travel group, announcing a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I was drooling and couldn’t submit my application fast enough. It was to be a 12 day adventure aimed at 5-star hotels, restaurants and spa activities. Anyone that reeally knows me understands this was my cup of tea and I hit the send button within seconds after finishing my application. It was announced that there was going to be a quick turnaround and they were going to choose the travel bloggers quickly. I couldn’t sleep.

 

The stars must have been aligned and God was in my corner. Bingo I was very fortunate and became one of three travel bloggers chosen along with three freelance writers. I had died and gone to heaven! I have loved SE Asia every since my youth and the first time I set foot on this continent’s soil way back in 1973, as a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks. In addition this trip established friendships that I cherish to this day, not to mention the social media benefits I received from starting my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, which have become fantastic platforms for my blog. Had no idea what I was missing.

 

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

Upon my return I went to work and produced somewhere between 25 to 30 posts even though a significant less amount was all that was required. I genuinely cared for the sponsors representatives and made what I what I hope to be lifelong friends. These four individuals are some of the funniest people I have ever traveled with and were a joy to be around on a daily basis. Can’t wait to travel with them again! Thank you kindly #Tourism Authority of Thailand, #Thai Airways and #Tourism Malaysia USA. You are all wonderful human beings!

 

Help me somebody, somebody please

 

I returned generated my posts and my life unraveled. After 36 years of marriage my wife and I decided that we could no longer live in a toxic situation and it would be better for the both of us to divorce. I was devastated and still am. I can find no way to unravel the mental anguish I go through on a daily basis. It is like a fog that surrounds my body and never disappears. Thank God that I have social media and my blog, or I am fairly certain I would not be here. Of special note is a Facebook and Travel friend Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid who through the divorce and through my growth as a travel blogger, has always been there and helped this old man immensely. I finally had the opportunity to meet him in person recently in Austin prior to moving to Dallas. I was thrilled to say the least!

 

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dada 1 Kid

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid

 

Through it all I have struggled and worked to attain that magic number! I can remember a little less than a year ago how elated I felt when I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter. I knew with a little help and perseverance, eventually I would hit that magic number and qualify for the SATW! It has not been easy and I have worked until the middle of the early morning more times than I can count, but my efforts finally paid off and on November 24, 2014, @VacaRentalz of Vacation Bargains became my 10,000 follower on Twitter! Thank you kindly, to all the young women and young men who follow this old man on Twitter!

 

CLIFF, JIMMY

*** Lyrics By Jimmy Cliff from 

 

Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Photo of The Day #77, You Think You Have Obstacles in Your Life???

When I was in Thailand this last November one of the tours we ventured out on, as guests of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways, was the James Bond Island tour. We wound up back at the Koy Panyee Sea Gypsy Village in Phang Nga Bay for lunch. After a wonderful meal of lobster, fish, shrimp and a dessert of fresh pineapple, we were allowed to walk through the complex of various gift shops, food outlets and an elementary school for the village children.

 

Panyee Village Elementary School

Panyee Village Elementary School

 

Near the school was a structure floating in the ocean and at first I couldn’t figure out what it was. As I walked nearer I recognized nets and soon discovered it was actually a soccer field for the kids to use, as the amount of raw land wasn’t sufficient to have a normal soccer field. I thought this was a wonderful and amazing idea. Little did I know the real story behind this pitch!

 

Panyee Floating Soccer Field

Koh Panyee Floating Soccer Field

 

Yesterday I shared a photo of this field on Instagram and Facebook. A fellow travel blogger and friend Vanessa Workman attached the video below, from TMBbrand’s channel. They have launched a new brand vision “Make THE Difference”, by making films that would inspire people to start thinking differently. I sincerely hope you take away as much as I did from this video.

 

A Taste of Thai Food on The Cheap, A Guest Post by Agness Walewinder

Believe me or not, but I don’t know anyone who traveled to Thailand and didn’t like Thai food. It simply does not happen. Everyone seems to love the local dishes here as they are refreshing, full of flavours, fresh and perfectly spiced. Thai cuisine is a perfect combination of old Eastern and Western flavours combined with a dash of tropical fruits. What I love the most about Thai food is a perfect balance of all ingredients. It’s never too spicy, never too mild or never too sweet…

 

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

 

Another great news is that Thai dishes are extremely affordable, even in Bangkok. Do you have one dollar or two? Great. That’s more than enough to have a delicious lunch or dinner. No, I’m not joking and here is what you should do to dine out in Thailand on the cheap:

 

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

 

#1 Street vendors are your best friends.

 

Yes, street food is not only healthy, light and delicious, but also affordable. Thai cities are filled with pad thai stands and small food vendors from where you can grab some grilled chicken, pork, any kind of veggies and of course famous salty bugs and scorpions. The prices start from $0.50 and you should never pay more than $2-$3 a meal. Otherwise, it’s a scam!

 

Various Grilled Meats

Various Grilled Meats

 

Grilled Corn

Grilled Corn

 

Fried and Salty Bugs

Fried and Salty Bugs 

 

#2 Go for fruits and veggies based meals.

 

Meat is a bit expensive in Thailand, so dishes based on pork, chicken or duck are much more pricey than the ones filled with exotic fruits, veggies and rice. Just to give you an example, you would pay around $1 for a sticky mango rice whereas chicken noodle soup costs over $2,50. Besides, fruits and veggies are extremely healthy and nutritious, so cutting down on meat will be also beneficial for your health.

 

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice 

 

#3 Say NO to busy Western restaurants.

 

 

You are in Thailand so take the advantage of it and stick to traditional Thai meals which are yummy, light and refreshing. I often saw foreigners digging into burgers and pizzas when in Bangkok like they couldn’t have some Thai noodles, papaya salad sprinkle with nuts, grilled veggies or chicken soup. Western food is so pricey, full of fat and sugar and it will make you feel bloated and tired. It’s good to have it from time to time in your home country, but not when you are on a short trip in Thailand surrounded by fresh seafood and delicious smell from local restaurants.

 

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

 

#4 Visit local markets.

 

Farmers’ markets are the best places for your daily grocery shopping on the cheap. You can buy here a lot of fresh and organic products – honey, jams, bread, milk, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices as well as ready meals. I simply loved Thai markets. They smell so good, they are loud and overcrowded with tourists and locals. People scream and bargain with each other. Sellers sell their products from their boats, everyone smiles and wave at you. Great experience, that’s for sure! Apart from food, you can also purchase some souvenirs here – postcards, handmade wooden baskets, hats, etc. Thai markets are also surrounded by small local restaurants from where you can order a take-away meal. By the way, did you know that you can spend a day at Damnoen Saduak floating Market in Bangkok for less than $25? Yes, you can and it’s so cool!

 

Fried Noodles with Veggies

Fried Noodles with Veggies 

 

#5 Share the food with others.

 

The portions of food in Thailand can be sometimes really massive. For a girl like me, a plate of pad thai is way too much so I often shared it with Cez- my travel companion. In this way, we could both feel full without paying much. If you are like me and you prefer having a bit of everything when eating, ask fellow travelers to join you for a lunch or dinner. You can order small plates of different food, a couple of Thai beers and a nice dessert that you can split into 4 pieces.

 

Agness and Cez of etramping

Agness and Cez of etramping

 

#6 Try out your bargaining skills.

 

Bargain hard or go home – that’s what I’ve learnt in Thailand. Thai locals love to haggle for food, clothes and souvenirs with foreigners, so try out your skills when ordering some food. In order to do it properly, learn some basic Thai words – numbers, polite questions and requests, food vocabulary so you can impress not only yourself, but also locals around to get some food discount!

 

After visiting Thailand over 3 times, nobody can convince me that Thai food is expensive. Just the opposite. Apply these 6 rules and you will feel the difference in your wallet and around your waistline!

 

Have you ever tried Thai food? What was it and how much did you pay?

 

 

 

Agness and Cez

Agness and Cez

 

We are two adventurous tramps, best friends – Agness and Cez, from Poland. We call ourselves tramps, because we live without permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011. While travelling the world, we find the time to write about it, share the tricks to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same. Come along with us at etramping.com!

Read more about Agness
Read more about Cez

 

***All photos supplied by and credited to etramping.com.***

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 13, Wat Arun Temple of Dawn

As we boarded the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok shuttle on the Chao Phraya river, my curiosity intensified. We were on our way to see the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun. It was our first day and we had a full schedule. Tour Wat Arun. Tour a portion of the backwater khlongs. Have lunch. Tour Bangkok Chinatown. Get a massage. Inspect a hotel and eat at one of the top 50 retsaurants in the world. This was on the back of a 27 hour three-legged flight for me and about three or four hours sleep. At first it appeared huge, but a drab grey in appearance and I wasn’t sure if it was going to really enjoy the tour.

 

Photo Approaching the Temple of Dawn

Photo Approaching the Temple of Dawn

 

As we disembarked and walked toward the Temple of Dawn, named from the morning light reflecting off the Temple, I began to change my impression. It’s a magnificent architectural structure in my humble opinion and one cannot visit Bangkok without devoting an hour or so to strolling through it’s grounds. It has so many various segments, stone statues and ornate trimmings that I couldn’t stop taking photos. I was simply shocked by the close up appeal, after viewing what I thought would be a drab Temple from far away. I was not prepared for what it contained.

 

Central Prang of Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Central Prang of Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

As you enter the Ordination Hall is off to the side and is a remarkable structure in design and appearance. You can’t help but go that direction first and investigate what lies inside the gorgeous building.

 

Ordination Hall

Ordination Hall

 

Walking toward the Ordination Hall you pass this portrait of the King of Thailand and several more. I am curious though since the government overthrow has transpired, if any of these portaits remain, were defaced or if they were removed to avoid damage. If you have been since the coup please leave a comment below and let us know. Sawadee!

 

Before the Coup

Before the Coup

 

Rounding the corner and heading towards the Ordination Hall you are met with this rather imposing set of guardian figures, ornately decorated with vivid colors, unique accessories and elaborate adornments of a warrior genre. I was hypnotized by these majestic figures. They towered over the visitors attending and I took way too many photos trying to capture the demeanor of the imperial sentinels, as they watched over all that entered. I truly hope in some small way, I was successful.

 

Yaksha Guardian Figures at the Entrance of Ordination Hall

Yaksha Guardian Figures at the Entrance of Ordination Hall

 

As I grew closer and scanned the apex of the entry I again was mesmerized by the architecture and how detailed the design was. I will have to become more of a historian and be able to interpret the symbolism behind all the various trim and palatial work. Thailand has over 31,200 Temples and I was just beginning to realize the talent behind their construction.

 

Ornate Top of Entrance to the Ordination Hall

Ornate Top of Entrance to the Ordination Hall

 

Throughout the grounds I came across various and sundry stone statues, figurines and artistic structures that were stunning to view and diverse in design, purpose and placement. Again I took photos of what seemed hundreds of stone characters and had to limit my inclusion in this post to the more distinctive, at least in my opinion. I sincerely hope you enjoy the photos, but highly recommend a visit if given the chance. I would not want to tangle with this individual in real life.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

Nor would I have any inkling to become combative around this individual in real life. Although he is immobile in his present form I am positive he would do severe damage to my body if we engaged in some type of duel or combat.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

“A covered passageway, phra rabiengkote, lines the walls around the ubosot. The passage is lined with 120 Buddha statues in the sitting position. These statues were cast in the reign of King Rama II. The remains of deceased are kept in cubicles below the statues.”  This is a quote taken directly from a post on Tour Bangkok Legacies and explains the shrines below.

 

Buddhas Inside the Temple

Buddhas Inside the Temple

 

Additional stone figures are scattered throughout the grounds and some are regal in nature as compared with the warrior/guard figures at the entrance. They are both intricate and detailed in design. I was fascinated by the sheer numbers of figures and their various themes.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

These ferocious stone carved guardians resembled dogs to me and were present right at the entrance to the Temple area. It would make sense that these sentries were positioned to announce wayward or stray people animals or evil trespassers.

 

Stone Sculptures in Wat Arun Complex

Stone Sculptures in Wat Arun Complex

 

As I approached the entry to the Temple I glanced down the side and caught this structure’s opening with two stone almost obeliscal formations. I thought it was cool the way the front structure framed the stone towers in the back of the area.

 

A Unique View On the Side of the Hall

A Unique View On the Side of the Hall

 

I removed my shoes and walked into the Temple and was completely caught off guard by the array of wall paintings, chandeliers and artwork present inside and displayed for all to view. It really was beautiful and I am afraid I didn’t capture the true essence of the shrine. I hope that you can at least partially comprehend its magnificent beauty!

 

Inside the Ordination Hall

Inside the Ordination Hall  

 

As one walks into the actual main Prang area this gentleman awaits you and the sign portrays what is acceptable dress and what is not acceptable for the ladies. It also had a directional sign for the restrooms. My bladder was about to burst, so Sammy our guide and I went and paid our $.10 to go. Ha!

 

Guardian Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Guardian Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

This cherubic Buddha waited outside the entrance to the large Prang greeting everyone and bringing great luck and prosperity. He gladly accepted donations to ensure your tour was favorable. The lady on the right thought it was funny that I was taking this photo and grinned at me. I would bet anything she or her boyfriend/husband took one also!

 

Laughing Buddha at Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Laughing Buddha at Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

When you first see the porcelain tile applications it puzzles you, as you do not expect this decoration to be so beautiful or well defined. I was impressed at the mount of detail put into the overall structure and cannot begin to capture what it looked like in person. I am definitely not that good of a photographer. I do hope that a sampling is conveyed and you can realize the extreme work that went into the construction of this facility. The following photos are of various sections and appliques on the Prang and hopefully convey the quality of work involved.

 

Amazing Porcelain Tiles On Wat Arun

Amazing Porcelain Tiles On Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

As I turned around to leave I took this photo. I did not climb the steps past the first level and I have no idea how many steps there are, as every web site I viewed on Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn did not have this information. I Googled it and still could not find my answer. If you take a close look you can tell how steep the steps are by the way the people are holding on for dear life as the descend. I knew in that instant I was not going up to the top!

 

The Long Walk and Steps to the Top of Wat Arun

Part of The Long Walk and Steps to the Top of Wat Arun

 

At the bottom there is a traditional market filled with stalls selling every imaginable souvenir one could associate with the shrine, Thailand or its history. It was very interesting and slightly cooler than being out in the Bangkok heat and humidity!

 

Souvenir Stalls

Souvenir Stalls

 

A sample of local snacks that one could purchase. Not sure if they were healthy or not, but they were unfamiliar to me and I held back on testing anything new, as we had a wonderful dinner planned later that night At one of the to 50 restaurants in the world.

 

Snacks for Sale

Snacks for Sale

 

This stall had many wood carvings of elephants, Buddhas and other items we found at every shopping place we visited. I am not entirely sure, but I hope the “tusk carving” wasn’t real ivory. Elephants represent good luck throughout Thailand.

 

Various Souvenirs for Sale

Various Souvenirs for Sale

 

The mango stand was unique and I really wanted to buy a bag of mango to snack on, but against any concept of appetite I passed. I really, really wanted to sample it, as I love Mango. Fortunately I ate my fair share later.

 

Sliced Mangoes for Sale

Sliced Mangoes for Sale

 

This stand was selling coconut water and a few of the members our group tried it and stated that it was the best they had ever consumed.

 

Coconut Drinks for Sale; Some of Our Group Said It Was the Best Coconut Water They ever Had!

Coconut Drinks for Sale; Some of Our Group Said It Was the Best Coconut Water They ever Had!

 

 

My initial impression of Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, from a distance was so ill conceived I was embarrassed. I thought I would be bored to tears and not really interested in seeing this vast complex. It just goes to show you the best laid plans of men and mice go astray! I cannot stress enough how important it is, if you visit Bangkok you absolutely have to visit Wat Arun. The Temple of Dawn. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 12, Thalang Road Phuket Old Town

As I sit here this morning writing this post, I feel pensive and have a deep concern for my friends in Thailand. It appears that the Thai Army, unknown to the Thai Government, has declared Martial Law and is imposing curfews and roadblocks around the perimeter of Bangkok. I love Thailand, its culture, its fabulous food and most of all its gentle people, who appear to smile 100% of the time.

 

I am worried this will escalate into a coup. Hopefully the assorted media campaigns are just being sensational as usual and have blown this completely out of proportion. The civil protests were just beginning when I was there in November and I can’t help but be apprehensive for my friends that reside in Thailand.

 

We flew from Bangkok to Phuket, a short flight and as we were approaching, I could see islands faintly out the plane’s window from Phang Nga Bay. I had no idea how wonderful our stay in Phuket would be.  We left the airport on a bus operated by the Sweetland Travel & Tours Company in Phuket Thailand and Old Town. At one  time Old Town Phuket was the center of gambling, prostitution and opium trades. This was centered around the flourishing tin-mining industry, maintained by labor from the Siamese, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and various sea gypsies.

 

 

The tsunami of 2004 stopped the aggressive upgrade to this gorgeous city on the Andaman Sea,started in the eighties. There remain, many wonderful beaches and the shops are in varying stages of refurbishing. This video is all about the historical Thalang Road with it’s century old “Shophouse” architecture. We parked the bus a street away and had “10 minutes” to shop and see the area. Of course that was impossible and we wound up staying there for 30 minutes.

 

Side Street off Thalang Road

Side Street off Thalang Road

 

As we sauntered down the side street we came upon this barber plying his trade and giving a local his haircut. Notice the sparse accommodations in this shop and the fact that only a fan spins above the client’s head.

 

A Local Barber Cuts Haif

A Local Barber Cuts Hair

 

Another shop we walked by, had this chart in four languages; Thai, English, French and German. It illustrates the various pressure points of Reflexology on the foot,  an alternative medicine or pseudoscience involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet.

 

Pressure Points on a Reflexology Sign for the Foot

Pressure Points on a Reflexology Sign for the Foot

 

We found this refurbished wonderful house on the side street, the balcony  loaded with plants. Notice the TV satellite dish matches the base color pink.

 

Old Architecture

Old Architecture on a Side Street

 

As we turned onto Thalang Road, we found the architecture outstanding and a majority of the antique homes had been remodeled. This was along with the shops which sold a plethora of goods.

 

Bolts of Silk Material in a Shop on Thalang Road

Bolts of Silk Material in a Shop on Thalang Road

 

Shop after shop offered their silk wares and although we had mostly secured our silk needs in Bangkok, we did stop, chat and discuss things with the shopkeepers. They were all friendly and were all asking if we needed anything. Thankfully it wasn’t a heavy sell approach.

 

Old Architecture on Thalang Road

Old Architecture on Thalang Road

 

We continued along Thalang Road, the main thoroughfare and home of all the historic buildings and original center of commerce. I must have taken 50 to 75 photos of the houses and balcony areas

 

 

Old Architecture on Thalang Road with Character

Old Architecture on Thalang Road with Character

 

The “Shophouses”, named this a result of the fact that the front portion is an actual retail establishment of one kind or another and the remainder is their home. Some have intricate gardens and patios that are not visible from the main street. An interesting detail, is that all the “Shophouses” have a “five-footway” front, that provides shade and protection from the in-climate weather.

 

Colorful Old Architecture on Thalang Road

Colorful Old Architecture on Thalang Road

 

This shop was an illustration of the various clothing and Burkas worn by Muslim women. A  Niqaab or face cover, is not required of most in Thailand and this portion of Asia. Additionally you can see rugs, packaged scarves and other clothing.

 

Clothing Shop on Thalang Road

Clothing Shop on Thalang Road

 

Before we knew it they were calling us back to the bus, to continue on to our resort and get checked in. As stated in the video, the shops were closed on the following day and I felt lucky to have this experience even though it was brief in nature.

 

I highly recommend you stay at the Keemala resort, located in the rainforest of Kamala Phuket and close to Patong Beach for those seeking a fun time. It is a great resort for a romantic get away and has a spectacular spa. The resort has numerous holistic activities and one can feast on an assortment of foods that will satisfy your wholesome needs. Whether you desire a villa, pool cottage, or pool house Keemala will placate your thirst for personal treatment.

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 10, Bangkok’s Best Shopping Center for Haggling #Asiatique

I am sure if you travel very much you are enamored as I am with visiting markets and haggling over prices. Its expected in a large majority of the world and when we were in Thailand recently they took us to Asiatique, a shopping center located at Charoen Krun Soi 72 in Bangkok and on the Chao Phraya river. It is located around an enhanced rebuilt pier originally constructed in the early 1900’s and has an entertainment park atmosphere, complete with a Ferris wheel.

 

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

Asiatique Ferris Wheel

 

Asiatique has many stalls and offers a myriad of shops with clothing, shoes, bags, luggage and a large amount of silk items. Additionally, it has  food court is like the old Night Market and one can find great inexpensive Thai food. If you are in the mood for a higher end menu with air conditioning there are a couple of upper end restaurants like the one we ate at. In addition to a fabulous meal, we had entertainment with dinner at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre, which I will write about in another post.

 

We were driven in vans to the shopping complex, but one can take the Skytrain an above ground rail system in Bangkok to Saphan Taksin and catch one of Asiatique’s free ferries across the river. The ferries run from 5:00 pm until 11:00pm every night. As we pulled into the parking lot it was lit up and very beautiful.

 

Parking Lot at Asiatique

Parking Lot at Asiatique

 

As we approached the entrance to the restaurant it seemed a little like Christmas at home with this green tree lit up and displayed in the center of the mall.

 

Entry to Asistique

Entry to Asistique

 

We watched the show at Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and gathered to begin shopping. It appeared that all were very exited, as we separated into groups and hit the booths. It must have taken all of about 10 seconds for the various groups to break away and start shopping. I was amazed at the speed of my tour group!

 

Abha Wangpaichitr (Thai Airways) by the Large Elephant

Abha Wangpaichitr (Thai Airways) by the Large Elephant

 

I caught Abha Wangpaichitr, a Marketing Coordinator for Thai Airways, posing at the large golden elephant outside the restaurant. Elephants are considered very lucky in Thailand and one can purchase various souvenirs from T-Shirts to wood carvings to porcelain statues of elephants and take a little luck home with you.

 

Ladyboy Posters

Ladyboy Posters

 

Entertainment at Asiatique has a varied approach and includes a long running Transvestite show,  the Calypso Cabaret. Having seen these “ladyboys” up close in Phuket I was astonished at how much some of them resemble beautiful women. A few of the women on our tour were taken back at how pretty some of them were. The show is a bit expensive at around 1000 baht. I did not see it, so I cannot review the show.

 

Fish That Eat The Dead Skin Off Your Feet

Fish That Eat The Dead Skin Off Your Feet

 

In addition the shopping center has spa options, which include these small fish that eat the dead skin from your feet. I tried it at a resort and spa in Malaysia and it tickles like crazy. It is kind of freaky at first, but you get used to it. Our fish at the spa, were in a large pool and not contained in a small aquarium like this. I feel this, besides maybe being a little unsanitary possibly, is not exactly good for the fish.

 

Silk Scarves

Silk Scarves

 

I intended to purchase a few silk items for Kim and looked at many a scarf and wrap and became more and more confused as the night wore on. I was taken back by the quantity and choices affordeded us. We could have shopped all night for just the silk scarves.

 

Various Silk Items

Various Silk Items

 

Not only were silk scarves an option, the selection of silk pillow covers were massive and thank goodness I only was looking at scarves. I might have had to come back the next night and resume my shopping. A couple of the ladies I ventured out with did purchase the pillow covers. There was booth after booth of just silk products.

 

A Young Band Performing

A Young Band Performing

 

As we came upon a crossroad in the shopping center and began a new lane, we came across this young and very talented small band. I was blown away by their talent and laughed at some of their laid back dress style!

 

Various Bags

Various Bags

 

If you were in the market for a bag for yourself or your wife you could look at buying a small assortment for a very cheap price. I think these groups ran like $3.00, $5.00 and $7.00 US dollars, after translating value from the baht amount. I was amazed.

 

Various Coin Purses

Various Coin Purses

 

I did wind up buying Kim a new coin purse that was the size of these clutches and I think, if memory serves me correctly it was a whopping $.85 US dollars. I just bought a black single with an elephant on it of course.

 

Asiatique Stand

Asiatique Stand Commemorating 1945

 

This little stand commemorated the original pier built in the early 1900’s and was associated with the train system and somehow a passport stamp, as shown at the bottom of the sign. My apologies for not studying enough on the meaning and significance of this stand. I did research the stand, but couldn’t locate anything. I wrote the shopping center so we will see if they respond. If they explain its significance I will post it on a later date.

 

Prada Lookalike Bags

Prada Lookalike Bags

 

The ladies in the group I shopped with told me the Prada bags were very good copies, but had small fatal flaws that could be detected, if viewed up close. I wouldn’t have known one from the other! One of the ladies was told first price was $80.oo US Dollars. I told her under my breath to come back with $40.00 US Dollars. The vendor just laughed and said “No way could he afford that price as the bags cost him more than that”. So we asked how much he could come down. He told us about $10.00 US Dollars to $70.00 US. I told her let’s walk away.

 

He came running after us and said okay for you a “special price” $60.00 US. I laughed and grabbed her arm and we started to walk away. He asked “What you pay”? I said , for the second time, $40.00 US. He grimaced and sold her the bag. I am guessing we were at his bottom limit. We were told ahead of time to pay about 50% of what they originally quoted and we found that to be true, throughout most of the market.

 

Colorful Candles

Colorful Votive Candles

 

These candles were fascinating and so colorful. I liked that the actual votive candle could be switched out for new scents, or if the wax had burned off. Really almost bought a couple for Kim, but I had to leave room for the silk items, bag and the huge assortments of Batek material for her to sew with, I would purchase in Kuala Lampur.

 

Carvings, etc.

Carvings, etc.

 

This was also very tempting and I wanted to purchase an item or two for my sons, but down deep I knew they would appreciate a T-Shirt more and the item from this selection would just sit and collect dust in their homes!

 

Wonderful Elephant

Wonderful Elephant with Brass Hands 

 

I turned a corner and looked down a booth to the other end. These elephants and brass hands were staring back at me. I think someone or something was trying to tell me I was very “lucky” to be on this trip. No worries I was already very aware of that!

 

 

Various Flip Flops

Various Flip Flops

 

Okay who doesn’t like flip flops or sandals. I couldn’t get a photo of the entire stall, but this booth was filled with every color and style of flip flop you could imagine. They were being offered at a reasonable price, but again I had limited space so I passed!

 

Dog Sleeping with Sunglasses

Dog Sleeping with Sunglasses

 

Okay this was just too funny to pass up. This dog was sound asleep with people walking all around it by his owners stall and he was wearing a pair of sunglasses. It cracked me up and brought a round of laughter to us all. This was definitely a first for me and the rest of the group!

 

Small Convenience Store

Small Convenience Store

 

After 30 years in this industry, as a retail exec what do I run into in the shopping center, but a slimmed down version of a convenience store and my gosh was it busy. The line to get in was regulated and very long. Maybe I should open up a second one and see if it would be profitable? Ha!

 

Another Young Group of Musicians

Another Young Group of Musicians

 

We were on our way out and ran into a second band of young teens playing what looked like harpsichords, drum box and a guitar. Great music and we stopped and listened, as we had a few minutes left before our meetup at the front to catch our van back to the hotel.

I love seeing local markets and haggling with the vendors and do this in every city I visit. This particular shopping center was opened in 2012 and took the place of a few night markets. It is clean and well operated and I recommend you visit #Asiatique, but make sure you have several hours to shop and roam, as it is a very large complex. I guarantee you will have a blast!

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

>> http://www.pingmylink.com

Photo of The Day #65, #NomadicTexan #Thailand #Travel #Temples

 

As you travel the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok and see Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn in the distance, you realize it is an imposing structure. The Temple has played a part of the history and culture of Thailand for centuries. As the boat docks and you disembark you have no idea what you will be exposed to when you see the Temple up close. It is am amazing feat of construction in my humble opinion and I was overcome with awe, when I saw the elements of its architecture in detail.

 

Mosaic Guardian Figures on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Mosaic Guardian Figures on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

The exterior design is built with hundreds of thousands of mosaic tiles arranged to form themes and brings significant attention to the overall pattern and layout. I was astonished by the quantity of tiles and how they were put together to create the overall scheme. It had to take many, many years and a plethora of man-hours to complete the Temple.

 

 

If you find yourself in Bangkok and want to visit a Temple of renown significance, I highly recommend you visit Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Plan on allocating several hours, as the complex is not something you will want to rush through. More than likely it will mesmerize you and make you think about its origin and construction. In the end you will realize how absolutely beautiful the Temple is and be very glad you went!

 

 

Mosaic Trim on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Mosaic Trim on Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 9, Bangkok’s #1 Tour Guide

When we arrived in Bangkok we worn out and needed a place to sleep. We were met at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport by a smiling individual that welcomed us like old friends, even though it was midnight his time. His name is Mr. Sompol Kutapand, Tour Operation Manager for SBY Travel and he goes by Sammy.

 

He immediately made us all feel comfortable and I knew we were in good hands. Sammy gave us a brief overview of what to expect that evening and the next morning. He helped us all with our luggage and I was fortunate enough to have him in our van on the way to the hotel. He commented on sights, as we made our way and kept us awake just long enough to get to our rooms.

 

Sammy Talking About Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn

Sammy Talking About Thailand on the Way to The Amita Thai Cooking Class

 

I learned very quickly that Sammy was very organized and thorough. He was was genuinely interested in seeing us have a great time, along with receiving an education about his country. He incessantly discussed the history and facts in regard to each and every destination we were to visit.

 

I have never learned so much in my life on any other tour, in any other country. I am not sure, but I think that Sammy felt I was a kindred spirit or he was just sorry for the “Old Man” of the tour. Regardless we formed a great bond and talked alone many times.

 

Sammy talking about Wat Arun, The Yemple of Dawn on The Way

Sammy talking about Wat Arun, The Temple of Dawn

 

Of course after we toured the Chao Phraya river and saw a few sites we landed at the dock for the Wat Arun tour and the morning coffee was coming through quickly. Sammy helped me locate a restroom, as the others began their tour. Always there to help me and he was always smiling and laughing about my very weak bladder! After three fabulous days in Bangkok with Temple tours, a cooking class and various shopping outings it was time to leave.

 

We caught a plane to Phuket and Sammy turned the tour over to his representative from the area. He still accompanied us and made sure we all had a great time and things were on schedule. He ensured we ate great food, took tours we would remember our entire lives and educated us on the attributes of his wonderful home country of Thailand.

 

Outside the Phuket Yacht Club Sammy poses for Me!

Outside the Phuket Yacht Club Sammy poses for Me

 

As we toured Phuket late at night after we celebrated Loy Katrong, I told Sammy I wanted a souvenir T-Shirt for my two youngest sons. It was late at night, yet Sammy was moving very fast and checking with locals. He asked everyone it seemed, where we could buy the shirts. It turned out to be too late at night.

 

Of course I had to use the restroom. I think I have the world’s smallest bladder. He quickly located one and we used the facility down some back alley. Had to pay the guy at the door roughly a dime, but it was much better than messing my jeans up!

 

Sammy Shows His US Patriotism

Sammy on The Way To James Bond Island

 

I was fortunate enough to catch an example of Sammy and his typical spiel on one of the bus rides. He was always educating us on the many facets of Thai life and his wonderful country. I really think there isn’t a better ambassador for Thailand. Thank you my friend, from the bottom of my heart. You made our trip wonderful. I learned so much from you and I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts.

 

 

 

If you find yourself heading toward Bangkok and are in need of a great tour guide, you have to look up Sammy and I guarantee he will treat you better than any other tour guide has ever treated you. His company SBY Travel is located at 402 Sukhumvit 63(EKAMAI24), Klongtonnua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110. Their local number is 02-961-9160. Try them out and ask for Sammy!

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 7, The Royal Chulan Hotel Review

As one enters the Royal Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lampur Malaysia, you are reminded that it is a 5-Star accommodation, as the various views overload you with affluence. The winding staircase, the sitting area and this magnificent atrium of tropical plants all bombard you with opulence. You are temporarily memorized and seduced by its charm.

 

Entry Way

Entry Way Atrium

 

As I entered my room the first thing I noticed was that even though it was 90 plus degrees Fahrenheit outside, the air conditioner was not turned on. I gasped at the heat. I immediately turned it on and waited to no avail. I called downstairs and they stated they would be sending someone up to repair the A/C. The room accommodations, including this King Size bed were very nice and as expected high end.

 

King Size Bed

King Size Bed

 

Traveling through Thailand and Malaysia one thing that struck me was the amount of space and luxury they devoted to the bathrooms. This one was no different and had a glassed in large shower, glassed in toilet and this wonderful spacious sink.

 

Shower and Sink Area

Shower and Sink Area

 

This bathroom, as in one other hotel bathroom, had a view from the tub area to the bedroom. I would venture it made it easier to roll out of bed and climb directly into a warm bath. Sorry I am not going where you are surely thinking right now!

 

Bath With View from Bedroom

Bath With View from Bedroom

 

We had a hotel tour scheduled and I left the room to partake in the tour. We saw several rooms that were similar in nature to mine, but the other side of the hotel had a spectacular view of the pool and spa entrance area. Definitely request a fourth floor or higher room to secure this view and your private balcony.

 

Pool Area from Balcony of Fourth Floor

Pool Area from Balcony of Fourth Floor

 

The walkway beside the pool at ground level was filled with fountains, plants and various flowering bushes and trees. It was simply stated, gorgeous!

 

Walkway Beside Pool with Fountains

Walkway Beside Pool with Fountains

 

We walked around the pools, as there are three. The large swimming pool, a children’s pool and a massive Jacuzzi. As we turned the final corner we faced the Telaga Bunga Spa entrance and I found the spa very enchanting. and unique in some ways.

 

Telaga Bunga Spa

Telaga Bunga Spa

 

The spa has your normal massage areas and pedicure/manicure stations along with facial applications. The most unique experience we were shown was the couples massage area. It was equipped with dual tables, a tub sink and just about anything you could think of for using after a massage. It was huge and I was blown away. I want to do this!

 

Couples Massage Room

Couples Massage Room

 

The couples massage room included this huge shower. I am sure it could have held our entire group. Just to be clear we did not all walk into the shower to validate this. It was just an observation by yours truly.

 

Huge Shower in Private Spa Room for Couples

Huge Shower in Private Spa Room for Couples 

 

We then went to the restaurant for dinner. I was starving and did not take photos of all the elaborate stations. They had Italian, Japanese, American, French and many more types of food in their buffet. I had sushi that was out of this world and a few other various items. Of course as always, I had to try their desserts. Funny how I remembered to photograph this area.

 

Dessert Box

Dessert Box

 

Tired and full I retreated to my room and was very surprised. My air conditioner had not been repaired and the technician had left a mess in my room. I was still perspiring profusely. Luckily they have a hose system that is like a bidet and they have men come by to validate the toilet area is clean every night.

 

When he knocked on my door and saw my issue with the air conditioner he immediately had me transferred to another room and waited to see if the A/C worked in my new room, along with securing me another adapter for my laptop. The service this young man gave was outstanding and indicative of what I visualize the hotel’s desire to please is.

 

The hotel is superior and it is unfortunate that I had the air conditioning issue, but I would certainly go back and would recommend the Royal Chulan to all tourists and businessmen spending time in Kuala Lampur. Next time I will take my wife and we can let you know how the Couples Massage is!

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 8, Jadi Batek

All trip long I had been waiting to visit the Jadi Batek factory in Kuala Lampur Malaysia and buy Kim Batek material. I have know our entire 35 year marriage that she loves Batek and she has many blouses and dresses from Batek. She told me four different colors to look for and to buy 2.5 yards of each color. As we traveled through Thailand and Malaysia I encountered many other souvenirs that were of interest, but this was my main objective and as we went there our last day I was getting nervous I would not attain my goal.

 

Various Batek Material

Various Batek Material

 

As we entered I saw that front of the store’s width did not do it justice. It went on and on and had many areas that displayed the art and a retail side. I could have spent thousands of dollars on their goods and was almost overwhelmed with the myriad of choices available. I wanted one of everything and had to keep slapping my face to wake up and realize I couldn’t buy that much!

 

 

Rolls of Batek Material. I bought 13.7 meters worth!

Rolls of Batek Material. I bought 13.7 meters worth!

 

There it was. The stacks and stacks of material that I could choose from. I was astonished at the choices and how many shades of the colors that I was to find existed. If you look close the red and white roll above, third one in on the top of the bin on the floor, was my choice. Kim loves red and that was the first color I was to look for. Not a surprise. The clerk was very helpful and unrolled each and every choice to see if I like the overall pattern. Great customer service I must say!

 

 

Batek Shirts

Batek Shirts

 

I walked by the men’s shirts already sized and sewn. Man I loved a certain green one, but knew that Kim could probably make one or two for me, as I purchased twice as much material as instructed with two of the colors. Maybe next time. It had the Nomadic Texan written all over it and would have gone great with the green pineapples and palm trees in the hat band on my Panama hat!

 

 

Various Batek Materials

Various Batek Materials

 

Another section had wall hangings from the material and I was very tempted to buy one or two as the fascinating designs and colors drew me in. I wanted them badly, but my credit card was screaming “No More” you old man!!! Besides which wall was available at our house and where would we put it. Wasn’t to be this time.

 

 

My Batek Artwork

My Batek Artwork, Even Autographed!

 

As we entered one of the shop managers gave us a tour and led us through the assembly area where I learned this is all still done by hand and not made by machines. I was totally flabbergasted and couldn’t believe this. It really hit me how much time and effort go into this process. Then I learned we were going to do our own Batek print. We were given a choice of various designs to paint ourselves. You must know I am not talented or patient and I looked at this process as more than a challenge. I really didn’t think I would complete it. You use various sized brushes to apply the paint depending on where the paint is applied and what size the area is.

 

If you apply too much it bleeds over into the next section and thankfully a process can remove most of the mistake. Obviously yours truly did this many times, so I kind of learned how to correct my mistakes. I was given a one on one instructor to “help” me. Thank God she had patience! A Japanese film crew was there and filming interviews with various shoppers. They interviewed me and the held a camera of mine to record my video. As usual the Japanese people were awesome and so nice. This is my first attempt at placing a video in my blog. Please do not laugh too much. It is rough!

 

 

I would rate this experience as one of the top 5 things I did in Kuala Lampur, even though the tour only takes about an hour. The factory is a great place with an assortment of goods that will take a good day to look at, if you really are a “shopper”. I highly recommend you attend but watch out, you might blow out your credit card. It would be easy to do!

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

Photo of The Day #60

One of the things that struck me as unusual in my recent trip to Thailand and Malaysia, was the amount of monkeys everywhere we went near forests or jungles. I am not used to that in Texas. We experienced more monkeys though, at locations where Buddhas were present and I am guessing it is a natural instinct to adapt to people feeding you and having excessive trash near. Its kind of a guaranteed system of meals for these primates.

 

This photo is from the Batu Caves and we were sternly warned that feeding the monkeys at this temple could cause a lose of a finger or an attack. Neither was something I desired. The monkeys were sitting above the entrance to the restrooms at the shrine and I for one was just a little nervous that they might not like another bearded primate invading their space. Take a close look at the one on the right and tell me you don’t agree!

 

 

Monkeys Watching the Toilet at The Batu Caves

Monkeys Watching Over the Toilet at The Batu Caves

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

Photo of The Day #58

Mosaic Above Upstairs Doors

Mosaic Above Upstairs Doors

 

One of my favorite events on my recent FAM tour to Thailand and Malaysia was visiting The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang Malaysia. It is located in the Georgetown section of the city. The house was built in the 19th century and has wonderful brocade wood work along all the staircases and windows.

 

One aspect especially caught my eye and that was the myriad of mosaic structures above the doors and windows of the second story. They were more visible from the balcony overlooking the front yard and stone wall. This one particularly caught my attention with all its intricate detail and design.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 5, The Amita Thai Cooking Class Review, Recipes Included

As we approached the dock to enter the Amita Cooking class from the water or Khlong, or as its more commonly called a canal, I saw this friendly and energetic lady waiting to greet us. We each exited the Long Boat. I love to eat. I love to cook. When I travel I go out of my way to participate in cooking classes and learn local ways. Our agenda informed us that our FAM trip would be oriented towards a food and spa theme. I couldn’t have been happier!

 

Tam with an Assistant

Tam with an Assistant 

 

The Amita Thai Cooking Class is hidden in the canals that spring out from the Chao Phraya river in old town Bangkok. The lady that created this wonderful program and class is named Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon. Tam originally received her Bachelor’s degree in Law at Thammasat University, which is Thailand’s second oldest institute of higher learning. Her turn to this area (conducing cooking classes) is an interesting story and can be found on the Amita Thai cooking Class web site.

 

Class Apron

Class Apron

 

Tam’s English is excellent and she began her class with an introduction and tour of her grounds including her spice garden, fruit trees and other various ingredients that she provides with her green and organic approach. She made us feel at home immediately and commented that she lived in the house that occupies a good portion of her lot and has another six or seven family lodgings located adjacent to hers. She employees several family members in her overall operation. Who really knows how big of a Samaritan she is and how many in her family she helps in life. Her personality is magnetic and her training skills are golden. I absolutely loved every minute of her class!

 

Pea Eggplant

Pea Eggplant

 

I had never heard of pea eggplant, but it is used in many Thai preparations and as described before, she literally picks what she needs from her bushes. She conveniently has the spices and other items labeled to help students understand her approach. As you walk among her gardens she defines the many uses of each component and  allows everyone to sample or taste the spice leaves, if they so desire. Being naturally curious I tried each item. When in Rome!

 

 

Pea Eggplant Pods

Pea Eggplant Pods

 

One of the items that I faintly recall in prior cooking discussions was the Kaffir Lime she grows. It has a very heavy lime flavor and you cannot use as much as you would from an ordinary lime. Personally I am a huge fan of limes and use them in place of lemons wherever I can. She told us the leaves would be used in our Curry Chicken Dish. They tasted a little bitter when I sampled them, but I proceeded with an open mind.

 

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir Lime

Cutting the Kaffir Lime

Cutting the Kaffir Lime

 

Thai cooking employs a plethora of various peppers, each with varying degree of heat potency. I think somewhere along the trip each of us accidentally bit off more than we could handle and wound up with a sensation that would not stop flaming, or at least it felt like a fire was actually in our mouth.

 

Red Chili Peppers

Red Chili Peppers

 

Thai cooking uses a great deal of coconut milk. I learned that it has an abundant quantity of various essential vitamins, antioxidants and helps fight heart disease. I am all in! I might add that it was cool watching her team make fresh coconut milk. They first ground out the white meat from the husk using a very labor intensive procedure.  They take a half of a coconut and rub it on the tool pictured below until the white meat is extracted as shown in the pan.

 

Tool Used to Grind Coconut Meat

Tool Used to Grind Coconut Meat

 

The white meat is then placed in this wicker basket and heated water is poured over the meat making the milk flow through the basket. Afterwards they take a cloth and push the remaining meat down and the liquid through the basket into the catch pan underneath. The result is fresh coconut milk that can be used immediately for cooking or refrigerated for a brief period.

 

Making Coconut Milk

Making Coconut Milk

 

The process was for Tam to discuss the ingredients, illustrate each dish’s assembly and let us sample what it should be after correct preparation. This took a considerable amount of time and in reality we ate each course after she had finished with discussing the items needed and its mixing, cooking or construction. I had no idea what was in store for us as I was getting full just nibbling on her display dishes.

 

Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Ingredients

Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Ingredients

 

The first course was the Khao Mun Som Tum or Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad.

 

You will need Coconut rice which is 1 cup of long grained rice (jasmine rice) washed, 4 teaspoons of sugar, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup pandanus juice (pound 6 pandanus leaves with 1/2 cup of water, squeeze only juice). 1) Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Add salt and sugar, stir until dissolved. Add panadanus juice 2) Add rice, cook over a low heat for 30 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

 

Second you need Papaya Salad which is 1 cup of grated green papaya, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp, 1 fresh dried red chili, 4-5 cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup of yard long bean cut into 1/4 inch increments.

 

Third is the dressing which is 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar and 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste.

 

1) Combine all dressing ingredients together and set aside 2) Pound garlic, red chili, dried shrimp and yard long bean in a mortar 3) Add grated papaya and cherry tomatoes and slightly pound 4) Pour dressing in and toss well 5) Plate the salad. Topping with toasted peanuts coarsely ground and garnish with lettuce. Makes 1 serving.

 

Khao Mun Som Tum, #Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad

Khao Mun Som Tum,
#Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Finished Product

 

The second course was Khang Keaw Wan Gai or Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk. The items needed are 120 grams of sliced skinless chicken, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of green curry paste, 1/4 cup pea eggplant, 2 green or red chilies with seeds removed and sliced lengthwise, 3 Kaffir lime leaves torn in half, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup sweet basil leaves for garnish.

 

To make the green curry paste you need 6-8 fresh green chilies, 2 tablespoons chopped lemon grass, 1 tablespoon chopped coriander root, 1 tablespoon chopped shallots, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon galangal, 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, 7 white pepper corns.

 

Toast all the ingredients except the shrimp paste in a wok over low heat. Pound or blend all the ingredients together. Add the shrimp paste and grind to a smooth paste.

 

Khang Keaw Wan Gai, #Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk

Khang Keaw Wan Gai,
#Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk

 

1) In a wok heat oil to medium 2) Add green curry paste and stir constantly for 1 minute. Little by little add coconut milk and stir gently. 3) Add chicken, Kaffir lime leaves and stir until cooked. 4) Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and stir constantly until it bubbles. 5) Season with fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir occasionally. Simmer for 5 minutes. 6) Add pea eggplants, chilies and sweet basil leaves. 7) Garnish with sweet basil leaves before serving.

 

Satay (Moo, Gai or Nua) Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

Satay (Moo, Gai or Nua)
Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

 

The third course was Satay Gai or Satay Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce with which you need 150 grams chicken or other meat product, 1/2 teaspoon roasted coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, pinch of salt, 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon palm sugar, 1/4 cup of coconut milk,1 tablespoon vegetable Oil 8-9 Satay sticks, for brushing 2 tablespoons of coconut milk. Make sure and keep a pinch of ground cumin and coriander back for use later.

 

1) Use a mortar and pestle, grind coriander and cumin seeds. Then pound together all ingredients until mixed well. 2) Pour mixed ingredients in a bowl with coconut milk 3) Add meat strips and marinate overnight or at least 3 hours. 4) Thread meat strips with Satay sticks. 5) Grill Satay on charcoal stove over low heat. Turn them regularly and brush them with the remaining marinated sauce and coconut milk while turning. 6) When Satay is cooked serve with spicy peanut sauce and cucumber relish.

 

Spicy Peanut Sauce is 2 tablespoons of roasted (unsalted) peanuts, 1 tablespoon Massa Man curry paste, 6 tablespoons of coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste, 2 teaspoons of palm sugar and a pinch of salt.

 

1) Grind or crush the peanuts to a fairly fine paste and set aside. 2) Pour coconut milk into a pan over medium heat, add Massa Man curry paste and stir time to time until the sauce becomes smooth. 3) Combine them with the remaining ingredients. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or coconut milk.

 

Cucumber Relish is 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, (a pinch of salt, mix well with white vinegar and set aside), 2 tablespoons of sliced cucumbers, 2 shallots sliced and 2 chilies thinly sliced. Mix all ingredients together and pour on top of sliced cucumbers, shallots and chilies in a sauce cup. Makes 8-9 sticks.

 

Khao Niew Ma Muang, #Mango Sticky Rice

Khao Niew Ma Muang,
#Mango Sticky Rice

 

The dessert course was Khao Niew Ma Muang or Sticky Rice and its recipe is 5-6 ripe mangoes peeled and sliced, 2 cups of glutinous rice, soak overnight or 5 to 8 hours and drain, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar. Topping is 6-7 tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt.

 

1) Boil 6-7 tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt over low heat. Set aside for topping. 2) Wrap the glutinous rice in a clean towel and place in a double boiler steamer. Steam for 25 to 30 minutes. 3) Dissolve the sugar in the coconut milk over a very low heat. Add salt. Stir well. Remove from the heat. Put the cooked glutinous rice in a bowl. Gradually blend in the coconut milk. Stir with a wooden spoon, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Tam added several “Butterfly Pea” flowers to the water to make the water blue and it really made the dish come out attractive. Serve with mangoes.

 

Cooking Stations for the Class

Cooking Stations for the Class

 

We were assigned a work station and each had an assistant help with the preparation of our own dishes. That way I couldn’t fat finger a portion or overcook a course. It was really a hands on class and one that I learned a great deal from.  When we finished we were taken to the veranda and had the chance to eat what we had prepared. It was way too much, but it actually turned out rather good.

 

Finished Meal with Satay (Moo, Gao or Nua), #Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

Finished Meal with Satay (Moo, Gao or Nua),
#Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

 

The class has a media board off to the side that is filled with Tam’s interviews in print and I was blown away by the amount of major magazines that have visited her establishment. I felt honored to attend and thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for including this in our program.

 

Bon Appetite Article on Amita's Cooking Class

Bon Appetite Article on Amita Cooking Class

 

Vogue Article on Amita's Cooking Class

Vogue Article on Amita Cooking Class

 

I have always loved Thai food as I am drawn to spicy foods and learning new areas of cooking. Attending Tam’s class was a highlight of my trip and one I will never forget. If you find yourself in Bangkok and are looking for a fantastic way to pass a half day, than I cannot recommend any thing more satisfying or tasty than the Amita Thai Cooking Class!

 

Tam and The Nomadic Texan

Tam and The Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 4, The Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok Review

We hit the ground at around 11:45 PM local time in Bangkok on November 13, 2013. This was after being in the air or airports for a whopping 27 hours and I was exhausted. There are times I can fall asleep quickly and there are times my body fights every effort to dose off on airplanes. I couldn’t manage more than about an hour or two’s sleep on the way to Asia. So I was eager to get to our hotel.

 

As I have written in a prior post our destination was the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Given the late hour I thought it might have been a little disorganized. I was very wrong. We arrived at the hotel and were given our keys. Our bags were taken separately and arrived approximately 5 minutes after I did. Score a 10 right off the bat! My room was awesome and was more than I anticipated.

 

King Size Bed (I loved It)

King Size Bed (I loved It) Comfy Slippers Also

 

Given it was 3:00 PM at home there was no way I could sleep, even though I gave it a valiant effort. I decided I would skip breakfast, as I knew if I slept it would only be minimal. The first morning was uneventful and I arrived slightly early and checked out the lobby. Much to my surprise there was a lobby full of beauty contestants for the Miss Grand International contest and I found out they would be there our entire stay.

 

It was kind of by coincidence, but I met Ms. Ecuador and had to have a selfie! Beautiful young lady from Quito and originally from Esmeralda on the coast. We headed out for the day and I learned our hotel inspection would be the following afternoon by Sommai Yocapajorn, the hotel’s PR Manager.

 

Ms. Ecuador with The Nomadic Texan

Ms. Ecuador with The Nomadic Texan

 

Ms Grand International Bus

Ms Grand International Bus

 

Malaysia Tourism Board Member Irni Nor with Ms. Malaysia

Malaysia Tourism Board Member Irni Nor with Ms. Malaysia

 

The hotel is a exquisite place to stay in a quiet neighborhood and far enough away from any freeways that one does not hear any traffic. I loved the fact I had my own balcony and it was very good size. The night time views were extraordinary.

 

View of the Chao Phraya River at Night from a Chatrium Balcony

View of the Chao Phraya River at Night from a Chatrium Balcony

 

The room we occupied was a Grand Suite One-Bedroom and comes equipped with a very nice bathroom with separate shower and bath, a small kitchenette with dining area and a large living and entertaining area. The room is 70 square meters. These rooms are above the 17th floor and cost around $100 a night US. That is a fantastic deal, given it is a 5 star hotel. This price requires a three night stay. Its slightly higher for a single night stay.

 

Living Area

Living Area

 

A Two-Bedroom Grand suite is 120 square meters and only runs about $185 Us Dollars. Both bedrooms have work desks and WiFi and all the benefits of the one bedroom are present. This includes the luxurious shower, tub and kitchenette, along with a dining and living area. Not to mention the large balcony. All rooms are equipped with safes, coffee, plates silverware, cups glasses, cooking ware and utensils if you are inclined to stay in and cook. Again the price requires a three night stay.

 

Kitchenette Area

Kitchenette Area

 

The top of the line rooms are the one, two and three bedroom suites located on the 31st through 34th floor with private dining quarters and business office. The One-Bedroom suite is 125 square meters and has access to all days snacks and evening cocktails. A full breakfast is also included. We toured all room examples and I was impressed with the pricing and size of the rooms. You would have to reserve specific dates for a quote on the Chatrium Club rooms as these are known.

 

#35th Floor Decoration

#35th Floor Decoration

 

Chatrium Club Dining Room with Abha Modeling

Chatrium Club Dining Room and Waiting Area

 

Business Office for Chatrium Club Members

Business Office for Chatrium Club Members

 

Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet style set up that includes every type of item one might want to eat early in the day. My friend from Thailand ate a bowl of noodles with vegetables almost every day and I ate plates of fruit, egg dishes, bread and tried various Asian dishes. The breads have an entire room dedicated to your choice or type of wheat, rice or corm flour based product. It was a challenge just to decide this, much less egg dishes or other healthy offerings as he main course.

 

External Photo of the Dining Area

External Photo of the Dining Area

 

The hotel has a wonderful pool area that is spacious and on the 6th floor away from all noise. It is a very nice facility and has a pool bar and changing rooms. If the weather had been nicer I probably would have jumped in.

 

Pool Was Huge

Pool Was Huge

 

Pool Bar

Pool Bar

 

Overall I have to rate the Chatrium Hotel Riverside as a top notch facility. I had no issues except learning how to turn the shower on. A funny story and as I must be thick between the ears I took a completely cold shower the first day before learning that the hot water was in the opposite direction of expectations. I can only say that I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only one and the names of the individuals involved shall remain nameless.

 

Shower for All Rooms (Push Back for Hot Water)

Shower for All Rooms (Push Back for Hot Water)

 

If you find yourself in Bangkok and are searching for a nice hotel with all the facilities of a 5 star complex I would recommend the Chatrium Hotel Riverside for its, service, cleanliness and its economic pricing. The fact that it has its own shuttle to make your way across the Cha0 Phraya River to Wat Arun, the Asiatique shopping center or numbers of other attractions also doesn’t hurt. Try it, you cannot go wrong in my opinion. A huge Thanks goes out to Adrian Brown the General Manager and our host at the hotel.

 

Chao Phraya Shuttle from Hotel

Chao Phraya Shuttle from Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 3, When is a Khlong Really Not a Khlong

I first traveled to Thailand in 1973 as a buyer with Six Flags Amusement parks. I was just 23 and the world lay before my feet, or so I was brash enough to think! We all know when we are young we are invincible and nothing can stop us. I felt that way when I first went to Bangkok. I wanted to try and do everything that was laid out for us and I wouldn’t say no to any opportunity. When they asked us if we wanted to take a Khlong ride, I jumped at the chance. Mind you the structures were completely different back then and Bangkok wasn’t as notorious as it is today for their party atmosphere. It was just another SE Asia city except it had a wonderful allotment of canals, hence the nickname “Venice of the East”.

 

Typical Khlong in the 70's

Typical Khlong in the 70’s

 

Forty years ago is a long time and I know that most of you doubt I can really remember that far back. I can and there are three things that stand out from my first visit to Bangkok. The first thing was the Golden Buddha and all of its beauty. It has since been relocated and yes we visited again on this trip. The second was a restaurant that is no longer in operation named Nick’s Number One. It reminded me of the movie Casablanca the way it was decorated. It had the best steaks in Bangkok. The third item was our Khlong ride in the canals with floating markets. Khlongs are the vessels used to navigate the canal system in Bangkok and they have changed a great deal. When I saw my first Khlong I just about turned around and headed for higher ground. You had to be kidding me. I was supposed to get into this thing?

 

Typical Khlong Used by the Thai People

Typical Khlong Used by the Thai People

 

Well they finally got me in and we ventured out running into Floating Markets everywhere and all kinds of vendors pulling up along side our Khlong, hawking various wares and foods. It was actually a wonderful experience and I soon lost all apprehensions about how tiny the boat was and how unstable it was. I decided to enjoy the ride. Today’s Khlongs have changed dramatically and do not resemble the “canoes” we rode in. They now are covered and can sit several people across like this one below.

 

Present Day Khlongs

Present Day Khlongs

 

The first thing one notices when they walk outside in Bangkok in August is the humidity. It surrounds and envelopes you like a platonic shroud. As I entered the street I was completely over taken by how much I perspired and it made me feel like I hadn’t just taken a shower! Riding in the Khlong was better, as the breeze caused by the boat’s movement helped provide a little coolness. We set out for the day and I was excited to see how much remained the same and how the canals had changed as I remembered them. One thing for sure is poverty never changes. There were issues back in the 70’s and there still are.

 

Typical Homes Along the Canals

Typical Homes Along the Canals

 

Not as

Not as Illustrious as One Might Think

 

We saw these yellow boats on our journey around the canals and I had to inquire what they represented or what the deal was. It turns out the government is highly concerned about the appearance and tourism approach of the canals and has these boats gather the trash and weeds that exist in the canals. I think that is a great idea and should help the environment.

 

A Government Boat That Works for The Government

A Government Boat That Works for The Environmental Ministry

 

The canals serve as a method of circulating and balancing the tides as they roll in and out. At most entrances off of the Chao Phraya River there are gates similar to these to hold back flooding in the canals. When  a typhoon or storm approaches they are closed and efforts are made to protect the people who live on the canals. It works sometimes and sometimes the forces of nature are just too strong.

 

Dam Gates

Dam Gates

 

One never grows tired of the ornate structures that exist along the canals and are used for worship by the local population. I am always intrigued and cannot get enough of the Thai Temple construction. They are both beautiful and magical in my opinion. One has to appreciate the fact that 95% of the people practice Theravada Buddhism and are a very reverent society. Not once did I see any of our representatives pass a Temple without offering a sign of respect, by clasping their hands together and bowing towards the structures. I am impressed with the strength of their religion and how they treat the shrines with appropriate honor.

 

Temple Along the Canals

Temple Along the Canals

 

What I did not expect or remember was the plethora of Monitor Lizards that abound in the canals. We were told that sightings are extremely rare and group gatherings are almost impossible to view. We saw this one swimming in the water and it was a little too close for the comfort of yours truly. We then saw a group of five sunning on the banks and our guide stated that the Thai people considered this a very lucky event. Who knows maybe I will win the lottery!

 

Water Monitor Swimming by the Khlong

Water Monitor Swimming by the Khlong

 

As we turned a corner and came upon the dock I thought I saw another Monitor Lizard sunning himself. My photo may not do it justice, but it seemed to be about 150 to 175 pounds and more than likely could eat any dog, cat, rodent or small child that got in its way. It was damn scary!

 

Water Monitor Lizard Sunning on a Dock

Water Monitor Lizard Sunning on a Dock

 

Just when I thought I had seen everything we came upon this. I was flabbergasted that they actually used street signs and had names for the different canals. I guess it would help if you really didn’t know your way around, if by some chance you had your own vessel. Really caught me off guard and I found it humorous to an extent.

 

Street Signs in the Canals

Street Signs in the Canals

 

As we came to an intersection in the canals I noticed this boat docked beside the canal. I am not sure what it is used for or how they would even get it through some of the narrow areas, but it caught my eye and I thought I should share.

 

 

A Long Boat if I Ever Saw One

A Long Boat if I Ever Saw One 

 

As we ventured down one canal we came upon this beautiful wood house and I asked our wonderful guide Sammy what type of wood it was. He stated Teak. I am not sure if I have ever seen this amount of Teak and he told me it had to cost a fortune, but would last a substantial amount of time. I believe it!

 

Teak House

Teak House

 

Right before we disembarked at our cooking class we came upon this group of school children honoring Loy Katrong, a Thai festival celebrated annually.

 

Thai Children's Lanterns are Set Free After Making a Wish

Thai Children’s Lanterns are Set Free After Making a Wish

 

There could be no better way to end our Khlong ride than seeing the smiling faces of these children. They were genuine smiles and they all waved and expressed their joy at seeing us on the canal.

 

Thai Children Celebrating Loy Katrong

Thai Children Celebrating Loy Katrong

 

I have a confession to make. For forty years of my life I have always thought that the boats that traveled the canal systems in Bangkok, were named Khlongs, as they were called Khlong boats in 1973 when I first visited. This trip I learned that in reality a Khlong is the Thai word for the canal and not the boat. So the literal translation from that trip is “Canal boats”. I guess its true that one learns something new everyday. It was definitely a “Duh” moment!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 1, Thai Airways

I recently participated in a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I have been to Thailand many years ago, but never to Malaysia and I always get excited when my destination is SE Asia or that part of the world. I love the people, the food and the culture in this part of the world and was profoundly enthusiastic over the impending trip. I received my itinerary and saw that we would be visiting many 5-star hotels, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. The basic theme was culinary and spa events. My cup of tea for sure! Our Airline of choice would be Thai Airways. Its slogan is “Smooth as Silk”. Little did I know that this airline would soon capture my heart!

 

Thai Airways Logo

Thai Airways Logo

 

I flew my old stand-by American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles and the service was typical and fairly unremarkable. One does not fly this airline to be impressed. If you live in Texas as I do, then you more than likely fly American, as many cities are hubs for American and American Eagle in smaller towns. Such is the case in Austin. The majority of the flights out of Austin are on American Airlines.

 

I landed at LAX, gathered my bags and started to walk out the door towards Tom Bradley Terminal, which houses the International flights and bumped into Mary Jo Manzanares, one of the other Travel Bloggers going on the trip. She is an elite blogger, director of #TBEX and a stewardess in her spare time. We walked together and made contact inside the terminal with our group.

 

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

 

I learned the group would be three travel bloggers, three print media writers and a representative from Thai Airways, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Malaysia USA and Saeshe the advertising company that put the trip together and organized the itinerary. We were quickly whisked upstairs to the Star Alliance Lounge. Having visited many Admirals Club locations I was knocked over by the offerings and easy access to WiFi at the Star Alliance Lounge. This was my wonderful Thai lunch with my choice of noodles, veggies and chicken.

 

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

 

I boarded in Economy for the first leg of our flight to Seoul from LAX. I was surprised, as the width of the seat was comfortable and had to be at least three to four inches wider that my usual seat in economy in American. All seats had video screens for viewing movies, playing games, etc. The seats leaned back with hardly any intrusion into the seat behind. I love that aspect of the plane.

 

I absolutely hate it when the passenger in front leans so far back that you cannot get out of your seat to move around. Given the 12.5 hour flight to Seoul South Korea; we had the opportunity to eat three different meals, but I could only handle two. Prior to the meal the stewardesses and stewards hand you a very warm washcloth to clean your hands and face with. It is very stimulating I must say. This was my first meal in economy, a curry pork dish with a shrimp appetizer.

 

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

 

Remember this is in Economy. It was fantastic and I ate every bite, as if I hadn’t eaten just before boarding at the Star Alliance Lounge. One of the first things I noticed on Thai Airways is the smiles of their people. I am not used to this on my domestic flights with airlines in the US. The majority of the stewardesses and stewards are just going through the motion and appear to be waiting for retirement in most cases. Not only do you visualize the smiles on Thai Airways, but you get the idea they are genuine and the employees really want to help you.

 

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

 

They continually walk the aisles and ask for your needs, unless you are sleeping and they respectfully leave you alone if that is the case. Another factor to consider is that all alcohol is no charge if you are 18 or older, regardless of seating class. I couldn’t believe this given what my old stand by airlines charges for one beer. Many passengers took advantage of this, but I did not see any that became inebriated, so I am guessing they “control” the flow to a certain degree.

 

One’s drink service (mine was water and Coca-Cola) is continuous and non stop as long as you desire. Its not like my normal American service where you get your one drink and the airlines personnel sit for the remainder of the trip, consuming first class meals and all the beverages they can ingest. The Thai Airways people work their rear ends off the entire flight. We landed in Seoul. South Korea has a strange policy and all passengers have to deplane and go through customs and security. I don’t get it but it is what it is!

 

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

 

On the first leg of our flight from LAX to Seoul I got the short straw. I rode as stated previously, in the Economy section. On the second leg from Seoul to Bangkok we all traded out, as there were several spots in Business class, that we used on both legs. This leg I flew in Business Class. Thank you Thai Airways for this experience. Business class is a drastic difference and the seats are wonderful. You can get a massage with one of the seat settings or adjust the seat to your liking and lean back as far as you like, without intruding on the people behind you. This is a photo of the controls. Notice the very front icon states bed. They really mean it, as your seat folds down completely and turns into a flat bed. Oh so good on long flights with major time zone variances.

 

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

 

So what were the meals like in business class you ask? Each passenger had an appetizer, an entree, a cheese and fruit tray and a desert. Not just once but twice on the longer legs. I was fortunate and received the Business class allocation for the return trip from Seoul to LAX. It was heaven. This is just an example of my dishes and courses served.

 

My appetizer in Business Class

My appetizer in Business Class

 

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

 

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

 

Desert in Business Class

Desert in Business Class

 

As the flights transpired I noticed that the Thai Airways personnel remained very active and were always there to pick up your empty glass or food tray. You didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes like on domestic airlines, to have someone retrieve your finished product. They never stopped working and passengers were all treated like royalty, regardless of the seating class I was in. This wasn’t my expectation, given normal transgressions on domestic flights in the US.

 

I have saved my finest point until last intentionally and one that may or may not effect you personally. Traveling frequently and consuming as much as I do with drinks and food, its only natural that I have to use the facilities. The good news is there are ample amounts of facilities, regardless of seating class on Thai Airways. As you know on domestic flights one has to literally wade through the swamp, referred to as a bathroom on flights. You know what I am talking about and how bad they get on flights over let’s say 3 hours long. What did the Thai Airways personnel do you ask?

 

I will gladly tell you as I saw this with my own eyes. They literally clean the restrooms from top to bottom on a regular basis. I am not talking every four hours or so. I am talking like almost between every passenger or as quickly as possible. They take a sanitizer and clean the walls, the toilet seat, the sink and yes even the floor. I was blown away when I turned the corner and saw a stewardess with plastic disposable gloves wiping down the floor of a restroom. They even fold the toilet paper just like in hotels.

 

Thai Airways may charge a little more than other airlines, but if you consider their service, their warm friendly personnel, the amazing food in all seating classes and the free alcohol, I think that their premium is not that much to ask. It is offset with your comfort and well being. I know this, I have found a new airline that I will go out of my way to fly from now on. They are far superior to any other airline I have ever flown in my forty plus years of flying. Thank you Abha Wangpaichitr for allowing me to experience your wonderful airline and for showing me that good old fashioned customer service, is still alive in the airline Industry! I will fly you again and again, when the opportunity arises.

 

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Like Me

When I was younger, oh so much younger, a book by John Howard Griffin entitled “Black Like Me” was published in 1961. I read the book around the age of 13 and became dramatically impacted by the issues Mr. Griffin brought to light. I grew up in Texas and had no idea that racism existed, as I always went to school with many Hispanic children. I knew no difference until I started high school and became a part of the first racially integrated class at Arlington High School, as ASID desegregated in 1965. I bring this up as it was discussed yesterday in my interview with Minority Nomad also known as Erick Prince-Heaggans.

 

Nomadic Texan with the Minority Nomad. It was a Pleasure Senor!
Nomadic Texan with the Minority Nomad. It was a Pleasure Senor!

 

Erick and I met online, as we are both residents of Austin when we are not traveling and came across each other on Twitter. We decided to meet at Madam Mam’s on Anderson Lane and I soon discovered why. For reasons I will not go into (old age) I was approximately 45 minutes late and Erick thought it was funny. I was totally embarrassed. We ordered our lunch and I got down to the interview as agreed upon earlier.

 

 

Question #1 What made you start traveling?

I have a project that is near to my heart and I needed to find a way to fund it. I want to inspire young Afro American Blacks, Latinos, LGBT community and other Diverse groups to travel and to let them know the world is a diverse and wonderful place. We as a country have about a 36% passport ratio, which lags substantially behind the rest of the world. I want to move this needle to at least 50% by the time I pass. I want us to shed the “Cul de Sac” mentality. I loved that quote and completely understand it”.

 

 

Question #2 Which country that you have visited did you like the most overall?

Without a doubt its Thailand. It has such an acceptable approach to diversity and tourism. I was treated like a “Rock Star”!”

 

 

Question #3 What type of food, in a country you have visited, did you favor the most.

Thai food is my favorite (okay now I know why we are at Madam Mam’s).”

 

 

Question #4 What country’s people that you have met, did you like the most?

Swedish, Finnish and other Scandinavian populations if you want an educated discussion. If you are talking friendliest, that has to be the Balinese. They smile all the time and are genuinely happy to see you, do things for you and ensure you stay is a wonderful thing. If you are talking fun to be around (Code for Party Animals), the Brazilians are a blast and I could hang with them for a long time! If you are talking people you meet on the road it has to be the Canadians and Germans. They are frequent travelers and I constantly run into them on the road. Plus they are fun to be with. Rounding out the discussion he stated the Eastern European people of Poland, Budapest and Hungary are the most genuine and you always know where they stand even if you don’t agree with them.”

 

 

Question #5 What culture have you liked the most in a country you have visited?

Thai for sure. They appreciate family, faith, diversity and most agendas I believe in.”

 

 

Question #6 If you were to do long term volunteer work which country would you go to? 

“If it was for educational purposes, it would have to be central Africa. They do not have the “Oil” or “Tourism” industries to support their needs and are struggling more than other African countries. If it was more to help the people, I would have to say Liberia, as we have made this country a mess. Even though it is probably the most dangerous and yes I would be scared to go. It needs our help more than any other country at this time.”

 

 

Question #7 What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on the road?

Well (stutter, as he wasn’t sure if he should share it) two of the gentlemen that went with us were crazy Aussi’s. VERY over the top and already three sheets to the wind. A quarter ways through the show three beautiful Thai women brought put a massage mat and asked for volunteers. The Aussi’s started goading me into volunteering and making fun of Americans. Being the person I am, I agreed. How bad could a massage be. Well once I got on stage the three women stripped me naked, stripe naked themselves, and proceeded to give me a naked massage in front of 150 people.”

 

 

Question #8 What is the worst thing that has happened to you on the road?

Well it has to be getting arrested in Buenos Aires. I went to a bar with people I met where I was staying (2 Italians, 3 Brazilians and me). I only had one beer and paid for it when I arrived. The Italians drank heavily and walked their tab. The server brought me the tab and I said it was their bill not mine and he should have collected from them before he kicked them out for fighting with local Argentineans. The server then called the police. The police officer  asked for my passport and I said I left it at the place I was staying, in a secure place. The officer told me I could be arrested and deported since I wasn’t carrying the passport as required. I told him that was not really a law. The officer said I was in deep trouble for trying to skip the bill and not having my passport. I had to spend the night in jail. The next morning the Captain, who spoke excellent English, listened to my story about the Italians and my passport. He laughed and told me I was lucky and he gave me a small fine and sent me on my way. Left a very bad taste in my mouth for Buenos Aires.”

 

 

Question #9 What is your least favorite country?

No question it is Russia. I was denied entrance twice (my military history) and resorted to a dock entry at a port and got in serious trouble. They questioned me hard for about an hour and a half. Funny, I will tell you later, why I now have Russia on a good list also. By the way since my incident in Buenos Aires, Argentina is near the bottom also.”

 

 

Question #10 What is your least favorite food?

Italian food in Buenos Aires. The cheeses have the consistency of gum!”

 

 

Question #11 How long will you travel?

That’s easy. I will never stop!”

 

 

Question #12 What is the one item you cannot do without on the road?

Have you read Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? As he states, a “Towel” is the most important item you can have. It has a myriad of uses. If you are talking electronics, its my camera. I love photography and try to shoot about half raw and half with minor editing. I am not a fan of “over-editing”.”

 

 

Question #13 Where has prejudice been the largest issue and how did you handle it?

St. Petersburg Russia and Buenos Aires Argentina (endured for 30 days) are the two worst countries over and above any other.”

 

 

Question #14 What advice would you give minority or diverse travelers, if they are traveling?

I would tell them to do their research and make sure it is the latest information available. Do you know that 76 countries have laws against gay couple associations and it is very illegal in them? In five countries (Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran) you can receive the death penalty.”

 

 

Question #15 What has been your favorite “Tour”?

A walking tour in Warsaw, narrated by a fellow that worked at the hostel I was at. He was the event and social planner and knew the city literally backwards and forwards. Best of all it was free! I also took a tour on the Baltic Sea on a ferry from the St. Petersline over five days, that left a lifelong impression. It circled the Baltic sea, hitting all the Scandinavian countries, Russia and Poland. The ferries they use are frequented by dock workers and you find many workers in cabins on the boat. I had a couple of Russians, one on each side of my cabin and a Hungarian guy across from me. Over the next five days my impressions of the Russians grew worse each day.

 

 

One night the guy on the right of me starts pounding on my door at about 2:00 AM. He was very drunk and looking for his friend. He then kept apologizing, when he discovered his mistake. The next night his friend Igor starts knocking on my door late at night and had been drinking also. He gets apologetic also when I open the door, but he carries it a little farther. He starts touching my and his hearts and saying “America/Russia”! “America/Russia”! “Governments don’t like each other not us”! He gave me a huge hug that must have lasted two minutes or so. I almost was brought to tears by this and really then knew that all the people around the world are the same down deep!”

 

 

Question #16 What is your next “30-Day” adventure (He polls his subscribers with about 10 choices of what adventure to fulfill next)?

I am learning to Ski in Chile (August), Muay Thai fighting in Thailand (October), Brazilian Jui Jistsu in Brazil (December), Crab Fishing in Alaska (January). That’s what my subscribers voted for.  (Me-Are you crazy that’s absolutely the worst month to go?)”

 

 

Question #17 What is the country you would settle down in if you decide to stop traveling?

Thailand (what a surprise!), as I love its culture, its people and its food. Now if I was on an unlimited budget, it would definitely be Japan. I can’t tell you how much I love Japan. (Really, I can tell you, as its probably my favorite also, just can’t afford it these days!).”

 

 

I learned that Erick is a very compassionate and intelligent man. He has his life’s agenda set. His desire to help the underprivileged and center city kids struck me very deeply, especially after my recent visit to Mexico and how I was impacted by the Homes of Hope project. I was so energized by Erick and his agendas and told him of my travel desires and my wish to help young children in Ecuador or wherever I may be. I must say this young man has his head on straight and I think he will serve the world very well, in his capacity as a mentor, for the impoverished of the world. I can’t begin to realize or understand the issues he has faced, as a Black American growing up in the projects of Cleveland Ohio. Safe Travels mi amigo and I hope you get to that 50% ratio soon!

 

All I Want to Do is Go Home and Get Some Sleep

The young man appeared gaunt and his eyes wore deep dark shadows. He was obviously very tired and stretched to the limit. I felt sorry for him to be in this disarray at such a young age. His recent odyssey with Adecco has obviously pushed Turner Barr to the limits of human ability. He is worn to a frazzle and completely fatigued in my humble opinion. His smart-phone went off incessantly. First a reporter from German called. Then a reporter from Australia called. All the while Turner was trying to balance the social media and information flow. I am not sure I could have handled the amount of pressure he was carrying or the expected interaction from his supporters, journalists and news personnel.

 

Nomadic Texan with Turner Barr aroundtheworldin80jobs.com

Nomadic Texan & Turner Barr aroundtheworldin80jobs.com Photo credit: Stephen Oddo

 

“When this is all over I just want to go home and get some sleep”! “I am so tired”. I really don’t think that any of us can appreciate what Turner has been though. This battle has been going on for six weeks, beginning with phone calls back and forth when he was in Laos and Thailand. He interrupted his trip to come home and battle this issue.

 

I asked him what he wanted to say to his supporters. He welled up a bit and said “I want them to know that I am humbled and honored that they stood tall behind me,  stood up for me and I would not have been able to go this route without them”. I am learning this young man is indeed a very humble and gentle soul and is so appreciative of the groundswell from the weekend, he has a hard time expressing his feelings.

 

I took the interview in another direction.

 

What was your favorite job?

Definitely it was being the Krampus in Austria. I mean where else can you dress up like a monster and drive through the Alps in a 4-wheel vehicle looking at all the beautiful snow scenes?

 

Who was your favorite character in the travels around the world? 

No question it was Lek, the Elephant Whisperer. When she had the elephant stand over her with its paw in her face and grabbed its trunk to sing a lullaby I was overcome. She could have been dead in an instant, but she completely trusted this elephant and he trusted her. It was amazing.

 

What was the most difficult job you performed?

Probably I would have to say it was the Agave harvesting job. It was outside all day in the sun. The work is eight straight hours of hard manual labor and you work with a “coa” a sharp blade on the end of a stick that the individual swings back and forth. After about three hours you start losing your concentration and if you are not careful you could hack your toes or feet off. Its that sharp!

The second hardest was Rice Harvesting job in Thailand. It was so hot!

 

What was your favorite country overall?

I would have to say Colombia or Mexico. “They have the best looking women”.

 

What was your favorite food?

1) Thai…it was consistent everywhere and was excellent. 2) Italian I could eat forever. 3) Mexican is always great.

 

As our interview progressed Turner got up and answered as many calls as he received and maintained his composure. He really  is a very laid back guy and is so appreciative and humbled by all the support that I think he is a little overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t be? After all he has worked for two straight years to build his brand and in an instant it was tainted!

 

Turner it kills me that some are changing their stance and not speaking up still as a result of your being quiet. I have seen first hand the amount of pressure you are under and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I am also having a hard time biting my tongue, since I am aware (overheard your conversation my friend) that there may be a resolution very quickly that you cannot talk about. I hope that you get what you are asking for and it was my pleasure to interview you and have lunch with you in Austin. Safe Travels mi amigo!

 

Epilogue: The interview was conducted the day prior to Turner settling with Adecco. His requests were met by Adecco and the company stepped up and made it right. I think in large it was a result of the massive response from the blogging community and Turner’s friends campaign over the weekend. The Internet was overwhelmed with push back on many social media platforms and Adecco learned this community of bloggers is a vibrant, zealous and compassionate group, willing to fight for what is right!

 

 

 

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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