Beginning of the Return Home

BRG1

Our last day in Thailand was a long one. I forget exactly, but wakeup was something like 4.30 am to begin our escort from Ko Lanta to Phuket (and then from there to Bangkok to Australia to New Zealand). Our driver was a great host and put on some mostly English western music. The one issue being, it was a 3 hour van ride, and the music was no more than 40min long per repeat. Crossing over on a car ferry off Lanta we watched a glistening sunrise as our time away took its final leg.

Up in the plane it was a fairly clear day. I didnt have the window seat, and my 28mm lens is less than idea for capturing the awesome view down below, but I still captured a few images I am happy with:

BRJ2 BRJ3 BRJ4

Boat Tour Thailand

boat trip

For one of our days staying in Krabi, we booked a day trip out to some of the smaller islands. Heading out via longboat, we had three main stops – one for snorkling, one for lunch and one for a few hours swimming.

 

boat trip 1

boat trip 2

boat trip 3

 

One thing that became apparent in Thailand, starting with this trip, was the struggle the country appears to have with litter/rubbish, and dealing with it.

Each of the stops was beautiful, and away from the mainland, relatively free of rubbish. However, stopping at the lunch spot, walking on the beach, I could smell the familiar scent of ash/burnt goods. At the back of the small beach area, it was clear that all rubbish on the island just gets piled up and burnt. Relatively small stuff, but I’ll touch on it again in future posts where the issue was more obvious.

Anyway… Landing at the final beach and being left for the rest of the afternoon I went for a bit of a stroll. Thailand was hit by a nasty tsunami in 2004. This beach paradise, like many other places was hit, with old wreckage sitting in the bush as a reminder.

boat trip 5

boat trip 6

 

boat trip 8

With the Thai authorities estimating that at least 8,150 are likely to have died, the bits of boats and other things around the coastal areas serve as a reminder, and sorts of shrines to remind us of the loss.

From Krabi and back on a boat tomorrow!

 

The Monkeys of Krabi

Monkeys on Sand

Up to this point of the holiday I had not seen any ‘in the wild’ monkeys. I did see a number of pet/trick/show monkeys both in Bangkok and Chiang Mai – but I don’t overly like seeing them chained or roped up as they were in these areas.

Walking around the township I came across this statue:

Drinking Monkeys

A fairly good clue that there might be monkeys around. After talking to one of our hosts, they also recommended we visit ‘the end of the beach’ around lunch or sundown time – the monkeys get fed during those times, no doubt for tourism. We can look at that in two lights – one, its teaching them to eat bad food, and get poor behaviours (more about that in a moment). I guess on the other hand, the monkeys are being opportunistic – good on them…

Walking to the end of the beach, several families appeared.

Dont Feed

Tree Monkeys 2

 

Tree Monkeys 3

Tree Monkeys

 

Watching with amusement, I went and grabbed the other half so she could see them also. No sooner had we arrived back, and the monkeys came down to the beach. This is where the bad behaviour comes in. The opportunistic little monkeys, knowing people come to see them, and often feed them, will run and snatch bags looking for tasty treats. Suddenly one of the little ones ran up to us, grabbed our bag with locally made biscuits (I had wanted to see how they compare), threw away all the uninteresting food (including pineapple) and started snatching the cookies off each other (look closely at the first image for the cookie in mouth).

Monkeys on Sand 2

Monkeys on sand 3

 

More tomorrow (but not awesome monkeys).

The Golden Triangle

The Three Countries

Heading North, the Golden Triangle, we reached the edge of Thailand. Looking out across the narrow straight of water the two neighbouring countries of Myanmar and Laos could be seen. Off far away in the distant centre was also China. Laying on the waters edge of the other two were several very large Casinos. I’m told they are very popular, and people in China take a long all day boat trip to visit them. Boats raced up and down the straight. I wondered how they really police it from an immigration perspective.

Map of 4

Looking from a highpoint above, we saw a small centre island between the countries. Im sure it belongs to someone, but we were told how it was, long ago, a popular trading point for poppy’s (opium).

We then headed over to the road boarder to Myanmar (I think it was that way). The line to get across was massive. Stocks of mostly water came trundling in via bike – some quite comical the load and size. The one in the below image getting the shakes as it rode past. A popular market area for Thai I’m told. I did notice a markedly lower number of tourists.

At the Boarder

On the Road Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai Transport

Compare to New Zealand, the one biggest difference on the road is the motorbikes/scooters. At home, I’m lucky to see 2-3 other bikes on my commute to work. In Thailand, scooters are absolutely everywhere. Helmets, as far as I understand, are strongly recommended, but not compulsory (Actually, I’m not sure about licences for bikes either as I was told I can hire one even without a car licence…). As we headed north on the main highway, I watched out the window as we passed scooter after scooter, sometimes transporting a family of 4 and 5 to work. The speeds for no helmets and multiple passengers, sometimes side saddling was astonishing and on reflection a bit of an eye opener of how safe I am (when at times I feel like I am fighting against our local health and safety ‘rules’).

Hot Springs 2

Entering the Chiang Rai district, we stopped for a local coffee at the highest hot spring in Thailand. Local ladies were boiling and selling hot spring eggs. Turning off the main road was a tall spring (behind the above image). “its just a fake one” our guide announced. Sure enough, I get out of the van and can hear the petrol driven pump shooting the spring up into the air. Amusing if nothing else. I wandered towards the boiling egg part. I think this was a real spring. No pump to be heard anyway.

Hot Springs 3

Walking behind the sign of the above image was a set of stairs. It looked like it went into further spring pools, but was either abandoned, or turned off? – I was the only one looking that far anyway.

As we left we passed this amazing looking building, almost complete

Hot Springs1

Now, to the untrained tourist eye (me), it looked like a new temple. I asked the guide what it was? “Oh, it was going to be a luxury sauna for the tourists. The locals protested it would take all the water and they were not allowed to continue”. I guess its just going to sit abandoned, almost finished. You’d be kicking yourself for not getting the tick from the local community before sinking money into that!

Off down the road we headed for the boarder. Thats tomorrow.

Chiang Rai

Walking Chiang Mai

CM walk

Ive sort of thrown together a handful of images from my walking around Chiang Mai today. Not much flow between each of them sorry.

One thing I noticed more in Chiang Mai more than other areas of Thailand was the uneven pathways (if there was a pathway). It appears that each shop has ownership, or is responsible for their bit of pathway to the road. So many areas on my walk had uneven sections, stepping up and down between businesses. Some concrete, some tiled…a few rubbly dirt. Its more of a interesting (or uninteresting) observation than a criticism – unless your in a country where the business might get in trouble if you fell!

CM walk 1 CM walk 2

I often head out fairly early morning when out on walking treks. In Thailand I learnt that means many shops are still closed. With the night markets, and general heat in the day, so many people do their business in the evening. Heading out early morning, things are not yet open and going. That being said – there is still plenty happening.

CM walk 3 CM walk 4 CM walk 5

There was a bit of working going on in the river/open drain (once was river?). A little amusing to see this weighty digger using a log on the back section to prop it up.

Some more from the Northern region tomorrow!

Destination Chiang Mai

Off to Chiang Mai

Our next stop had us heading to Chiang Mai – the “New City” (replacing the old one Chiang Rai). Im sure pilots get used to the view from above the clouds, but I always enjoy looking at the whole ‘new’ world that appears when I’m in a plane. The perspective of mountain ranges, valleys and planes all formed in clouds are a view I can stare at for hours (with a window seat anyway).

Arriving in Chiang Mai is a bit of a shift in perspective for one just coming from Bangkok. Its the largest northern provence city, but pales in comparison.

Chiang Mai Sky 1 Chiang Mai Sky 2

But as above, thats simply a perspective thing. I think the whole trip, as future posts will show, was from big city to eventual small township/island sort of thing. Driving from the airport I observed both what looked to be new developments in the works, and old unfinished developments – an indication of previous economic ups and downs. The temperature was warmer and more humid.

Chiang Mai Sky 3

One thing, amongst many, to do in Chiang Mai as a tourist is to visit the night markets (more on that another day). They also offer numerous tours to the boarder, and animal based tours.

To be continued tomorrow.

 

Fo all those who recognise Easter – Good Friday to you!

Maukatia (Maori Bay)

Maori BayTodays shot is of the southern side of Maori Bay (more properly titled Maukatia). Shot from the souther hilltop of Muriwai, Maori Bay is a popular stop for surfers, offering nice waves and little of the swimming crowds that places like Piha (another west coast beach) offer.

I tried to look into the history behind Maukatia/Maori Bay and its name change, but didnt really find much. For those of you reading from overseas, you may have noticed from time to time I discuss New Zealand and its dual names of places – owing to the fact we have three official languages (Maori, English and Sign). I found record of some treaty settlements in recent history that rename Maori Bay back to its likely original name of Maukatia. Im not sure on the definition/translation of Maukatia. My usual dictionary does not list it. I can only assume it was called Maori bay from some observation of locals way back in the past?

With the car park high above the beach, surfers and visitors alike get some amazing views out to sea. Visit at low tide and you can also explore the natural tunnel on the northern end of the beach.

So thats Maikatia/Maori Bay. Some more from the Muriwai area tomorrow.

 

City – Devonport – Rangitoto – Beyond

Rangitoto

A beautiful clear day it was, todays image sees us looking out over the lower part of the city, across to Devonport on the North Shore, and beyond that Rangitoto Island (also a different part of the country way past that).
Rangitoto, a volcanic island, stands out in the Auckland landscape as the island that looks almost the same from any angle of Auckland. Its name, Maori, translates to Bloody Sky. Estimated to have largely formed 550-600 years ago (although possibly also over 1000 years intermittently). This recent forming (in the grand scheme of things), lives in the memory of local Maori, and evidence of human footprints between Rangitoto and its adjoining island Motutapu have been found.
Move forward a few hundred years from its creation, and into European settlement time, Rangitoto was purchased for the grand sum of 15pounds by the crown in 1854, and by the late 1800’s had become a popular day trip location (and a growing batch/alternative community). Further building was banned in the late 1830’s, and today only a small number of houses remain in this park area.
A great place to visit while one stays in Auckland – if you do go, remember to take a water bottle with you. Naturally sparse in water supply, walking up the volcanic path to the summit (unless you get the tractor) the climate is often hot and dry.

That concludes my wider views from the Sky Tower for now. Really a must do for visitors to Auckland – simply to soak in the views of the countries largest city.

Mountains beyond the Grass

Hills beyond the Grass

 

Looking over one of the blogs I regularly follow, I was inspired to have a look back, and reflect on my trip to the South Island in December 2011. My second time travelling from New Zealands North Island to the South Island, I cannot express how beautiful parts of our wonderful little country are.

Todays image was shot somewhere in the region of the Routeburn track (a stunning 32km track down the bottom part of the South). What takes ones breath away when down near the Souther Alps is the shear size and enormity of this great mountain range. Its something that simply must be on your travel list if you come down to New Zealand.

Shot on the Ricoh GRD IV, resized and bordered in Gimp.

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