Temples and Elephants – Chaing Mai Thailand

Elephants are a symbol of Thailand. This temple is one of the oldest in Chaing Mai

Elephants are a symbol of Thailand. This temple is one of the oldest in Chaing Mai

It feels a little strange to consider our recent trip to Thailand and all that has unfolded since we departed. In Chaing Mai, there was no evidence of the political turmoil that the people were experiencing in the southern areas in and near Bangkok. However, recent reports in the South China Morning Post indicate that Chaing Mai is feeling the effects of the military takeover. I am sure that tourism will be down. Tourism in Thailand in the last year was already down by 20% even before the current strife. This decline in the economy is sad for a number of reasons . My heart goes out to the four-legged friends we met recently.

The lack of tourists to Chaing Mai is most concerning for the animals at the Elephant Nature Park that relies on tourist volunteers to feed and care for over 39 rescued elephants and 200 rescured dogs and cats as well as a number of water buffalo. Visiting tourists have the opportunity to learn about the situation for elephants post logging in Thailand and to feed and bathe these sweet and gentle animals. It is an enourmous task to keep these creatures fed and the visitors not only help by working, but the fees paid for entry to the park assist in purchasing the food and medical supplies needed to keep the park running.

At the Elephant Nature Park in Chaing Mai Thailand. Home to rescued elephants, dogs cats and water buffalos.

At the Elephant Nature Park in Chaing Mai Thailand. Home to rescued elephants, dogs cats and water buffalos. This sweet girl was the victim of a land mine on the Thai Burma border.

Food is separated in baskets for each elephant. Some have special dietary needs and medication.

Food is separated in baskets for each elephant. Some have special dietary needs and medication. Watermelon is a favorite.

Racks of pumpkin await prepartion.

Racks of pumpkin await prepartion.

elephant 3 steve and andrea with elephant 2

Since logging was banned in 1989, elephants still suffer. The ban left over 3,000 logging elephants essentially homeless. No longer needed, they were left with no purpose. Anyone can own an elephant. They are considered livestock and the homeless elephants were used as sideshows for tourists and until very recently, were used to beg on the streets in Bangkok. The Elephant Nature Park started to buy injured and exploited elephants giving them sanctuary and a quiet home. Some of the elepahnat here are over 80 years old.

Mom and baby enjoy a mud bath. Mud works as a sunscreen.

Mom and baby enjoy a mud bath. Mud works as a sunscreen.

Bath time at the river. Elephants need to bathe daily to keep them cool and to hydrate their skin.

Bath time at the river. Elephants need to bathe daily to keep them cool and to hydrate their skin.

bath 2

Additionally, the park works to train mahouts (elephant owners) throughout Thailand and in Cambodia to work with elephants in humane ways. The process of taming the elephants is a horrific and sinister process. We watched a film that showed the process, and I could not stand to watch or listen. The park founder Sangduen “Lek” Chailert has proven that there are humane methods to train elephants to be with people and is working to spread the word. 

Baby born in captivity with mother and aunt

Baby born in captivity with mother and aunt

Currently the park has raised three elephants that were born in captivity to be released back to the wild. However, the danger of poaching is too great for this to happen very soon.  It is estimated that there are just 1,500 wild elephants left in Thailand.

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Need a Guide in Burma (Myanmar)? – Look No Further

Steve and Mr. Han (in his signature hat) outside a Kachin restaurant in Bhamo, Myanmar

Steve and Mr. Han (in his signature hat) outside a Kachin restaurant in Bhamo, Myanmar

My husband and I just completed a 16-night trip to Burma. It was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime. On planes, trains, boats and cars from Yangon to Mandalay, to Mogok and Began; we experienced the beautiful people and rich culture of this land. Only because of our guide, Mr. Han, were we able to see and experience so much. It is fair to say that Mr. Han might be the most well-traveled guide for his age in all of Burma. As a child, he spent his summer holidays travelling with his father who was a lorry driver for the military. With his father, they covered every road in Burma transporting goods in every direction. For fun, Mr. Han memorized the names of all the villages they were in, in the order they visited and made note of the uniqueness of each place. With these experiences and his pride in his country, he is able to put together terrific itineraries based on personal requests and interests.
One of the things that sticks with me most about our trip is a memory of the request we made when starting to plan. I told him that I wanted to see the country and not just the touristy sites. He said to me, “I see, you don’t want to see a tourist, but you want to be one.” I loved the frankness and he was correct! I can say that, in several places on the trip, we were definitely the only western or European tourists for miles. We were told at the gem market in Mogok that we were the first Americans one man had ever seen there. We had lunch and cooking lessons in private homes and saw the relics of one of the most famous Buddhist monks in Burma.
From hiking the ice mountain outside Patao to river cruises on the Irrawaddy or Chindwin rivers to the dry lands of the temple-rich Began, Mr. Han can arrange it all for you. You will meet and support local enterprises, and villages, spread the wealth to the people in this emerging tourist destination.
One more thing to note, Mr. Han is a dedicated supporter of the National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi. If you are lucky and it is your wish, he might even be able to arrange a sighting of Burma’s most famous and dedicated servant. Mr. Han is amazing and so is the tours he provides!

Jennifer with a brief interaction wiht Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Jennifer having a brief interaction wiht Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Mr. Han Travels & Tours.
Address:No.162 /164 ,3rd Floor,Mahabandoola Road,Pazuntaung Tsp,Yangon,Myanmar.
Hot Line:+95 9 42102 3653,Tel / Fax: +95 1 9010403.
Email: mrhantravel@gmail.com or mr.han1000@gmail.com
Website: www.mrhantravels.com
www.vacationmyanmartour.com,www.myanmartravelservices.com

Southwest Roadtrip

My Driver

My Driver

Being confined in a boot, unable to drive and directed to stay off my feet is frustrating. I am trying my best but by the end of the week, a girl has to get out of the house. So, I got my driver to take me on a Southwest road trip.

Southwest desert straight roads

Southwest desert straight roads

Phoenix to Las Cruces, New Mexican was the plan. Getting out on roads that we have not traveled before and eating really good New Mexican food…red and green chile. Also experienced the best pozole I have ever eaten!

Possibly the best pozole I have ever eaten from

Possibly the best pozole I have ever eaten from Luchador in Las Cruces, NM. Also, cool invention of “holey” plate to serve the soup!

Luchador food truck at Las Cruces Saturday Farmer's Market

Luchador food truck at Las Cruces Saturday Farmer’s Market

We arrived in Las Cruces late in the day and took a quick trip to Mesilla. Light was beautiful and the public square is very sweet with the Basilica and Mary watching over all.

Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla, NM

Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla, NM


Mary against a beautiful sky.

Mary against a beautiful sky.

A Long, Hot and Sticky Summer With A Fun End That Was Still Hot and Sticky

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThings have finally returned to what is now normal for us in Hong Kong. After five weeks of geographical separation (for Steve and me), three weeks of touring Kam around China, Vietnam and Hong Kong and typhoon Usagi, Steve left for his regular commute to Shenzhen and I settled down to plow through the hundres of photos taken over the summer.

It has been a very hot summer. During the month of August andwhile I was in the US, Steve reported very wet and humid weather. It continued to be hot and humid in September, but we did not have near the reported rain. As much as I wanted to, we had headed out every morning only to return sweat-drenched and thankful for air conditioning.

We did not waste any time when Kam arrived and set out to tackle a fairly long list of activites: Disneyland; Danang, Vietnam; egg tarts; Hue, Vietnam; Celestial Lady Pagoda on the picturesque Perfume River in Hue; vegetarian lunch with the monk; ghost city of Vietnam; visit to schools in Vietnam; sunrise at China Beach; Long’s coffee; a visit to “my school” for Lantern Festival; Ocean Park roller coasters; pandas, egg tarts; monkeys; Sham Shui Po; the Great Wall; Forbidden City; the best breakfast ever in Vietnam for $1.75 USD; Lama Temple; egg tarts; planes; trains; taxis; great Chinese food in Beijing; watching a “foreigner” eat a roasted spider;shopping in Lo Wu; Dum Sum lunch; meeting the all the ladies; mahjong; winning in Macau; eating as much as we could; a trip to The Peak; Star Ferry; hydro ferry ;Fernando’s; really bad air in Beijing; Ozone bar on the 118th floor; Peking Duck; Tiananmen Square; the gate of heavely peace; finding Kam’s “favorite restaurant in the world”.

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Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees

Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees

 

Panda at Ocean Park

Panda at Ocean Park

By the way, egg tarts were a hugh hit with Kam. She ate them in several places, including the elevator. Her verdict on who has the best…..Tai Cheong Bakery on Lyndhurst Terrace in Hong Kong. She picked them for the buttery crust. I prefer the egg tarts from Macau at Margaret e Nata alley cafe. I love the flaky crust and the carmelized custard top.

Kam's favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery

Kam’s favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery

Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau

Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau

On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam

On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam

The photo above shows Kam in the window of the 7th Level at the Celestial Lady Pagoda. This was a rare treat for a vistor. We were allowed to climb all seven levels of the pagoda. the top was about 2X3 feet with this small window. It was a very lucky experience for us thanks to our friend Duong in Vietnam and the kindness and interest of the senior monk. We also were invited to lunch.

 

 

On the Road to Burma (Myanmar) Part I – Yangon

Rainy Yangon St.

Rainy Yangon St.

I was relieved as we approached the the International Terminal at Yangon airport. We could see from the taxi that our overloaded luggage cart was still there. After a busy, stimulating, inspiring, beautiful week-long visit to Burma (Myanmar), we hastily had left our baggage out in the open at the airport security desk in Yangon for more than four hours. We had planned to check our bags at the airport and go to dinner at our guide, and now friend’s, flat about 12 miles away. Our flight did not leave until 1:00 a.m. and we arrived from Began at 6:30 p.m. fully loaded down with bags.The Dragaonair ticket counter did not accept checked luggage before two hours from departure. We had done our very best to spread our money around in Burma and we had a lot to lug and show for it, too much to haul across town in a taxi.  At the assurance of two well-meaning English-speaking travelers, we left our baggage cart and headed for a taxi. Airport security had agreed, through our volunteer translators, to watch our bags. Not thinking twice about it, we jumped in a taxi and sped away. Only after we were in the taxi a few silent minutes did it sink in what we had just done. We left our bags without a ticket or a name or anything but a nod and smile. Oh well, worst case scenario would be that it was all gone when we returned. I could live with that.

Found safe and sound in the Yagon International Airport

Found safe and sound in the Yagon International Airport

So ended a fantastic trip to Burma (I will continue to call it Burma at the behest of Aung San Suu Kyi). It is a wonderland for those wanting to see an authentic and emerging country. Tourists are finding their way to Burma, and it will change dramatically and quickly. The Burmese people are anxiously awaiting the changes and hoping for all good things ahead. After the visit of President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Burmese are eager to welcome American travelers of which there are very few compared to other nations. Never did we feel unsafe  and the Burmese people are welcoming and genuine. Obviously we felt this safety and friendliness as we did not hesitate to leave our belongings so easily.

We started our time in Yangon. We had a recommendation for a guide that had worked with other Americans traveling from Hong Kong. Mr Han (mr.han1000@gmail.com) is a treasure. He works for a local tour company, but is on the cusp of operating his own operation independently. He is well organized and plans well and he uniquely tailors your visit with your interest and considers safety in food and lodging above all else.

Swedagon Paya, The Strand Hotel, Feel Myanmar Food, the ferry to Dalah, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters, Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, Inya Lake were some of the many destinations in Yangon.

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

Monks on the way to meal break in Yangon.

Monks on the way to meal break in Yangon.

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Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda Reclining Buddha in Yangon

One of the many roadside stalls for tea or meals in Yangon.

One of the many roadside stalls for tea or meals in Yangon.

Chili, sesame, pickled tea leaves, ginger, peanuts at Feel in Yangon

Chili, sesame, pickled tea leaves, ginger, peanuts at Feel in Yangon

 

 

The crowing event, and one of the most exciting and humbling moments of my life, was when we were present at NLD headquarters when Daw Anug San Suu Kyi, appeared. Being in her presence was palpable. She exudes grace, determination and peace. I was totally unprepared when she stopped and made eye contact with me directly and asked me “Where are you from?” Tongue tied, I managed to say the USA and how much of an inspiration she was to me and the world. She then extended her hand to me and replied, “Welcome to Burma.” With that, she was whisked down the stairs and into a waiting car. Wow……..my brush with greatness, I will never forget it.

Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

More Things I Love

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Travel is easy from Hong Kong

Oyster pancakes at the outdoor restaurant at Temple Street night market

Mahjong

Macau

Almond cookies from the great little bakery by Red Market in Macau

Red doors and window shutters

Laundry hanging outside

Wokking on Wednesdays

I can now give accurate directions to foreigners traveling in Hong Kong!

Never running out of things to do or explore

Macau – First Trip

I had pretty much made up my mind that I was in no great hurry to visit Macau. Known as the “Las Vegas” of Asia, I had no desire to experience. But, after talking with a friend here in Hong Kong about the fun she and her husband had in Macau and being that it is just a 60-minute ferry ride away, we decided to give it a visit.
Boy, was I wrong about Macau! It is a great place to visit, and you never have to set foot in a casino. The architecture is interesting, there are a bunch of World Heritage sites to visit and the food is outstanding! This is a place we will visit again, and we will bring our guests.

The ruins of St. Paul World Heritage Site

The ruins of St. Paul World Heritage Site

Old and new at Monte Fort and Macau Museum

Old and new at Monte Fort and Macau Museum

The Macau museum sits a little to the east of the runins of St Paul’s church. It is on the top of Monte Fortress. It is a beautifully organized and interesting museum explaining the history, folk art and customs of the Chinese in Macau. Also it is a World Heritage Site.

Red door of a private home.

Red door of a private home.

This private home sits near to the ruins of St. Paul tucked just in along the small streets that line the side of the hill. We met the gentelman that lived here. He was coming home with a big bunch of flowers in his arm.

Door on Rua da Felicidade

Door on Rua da Felicidade

The Rua da Felicidade is a gorgeous street with all white-washed buildings and red doors and shutters on windows.Once the red light district of Macau, it is now full of bubble tea shops and small restaurants. Kind of an “eat street” of Macau. Get there early in the a.m. for photos of all the red and white. Return later in the day for excellent noodle dishes.

Rua da Felicidade

Rua da Felicidade

A trip to Macau can easily turn into a food fest. There is incredible Portuguese food. East meets west bakeries and tea houses.

Fabulous bakery to the side of the Red Market

Fabulous bakery to the side of the Red Market

This bakery is run by a husband and wife team. They crank out the cookies to locals. We spotted the cookie counter tucked in just to the side of the red market. I had to take a photo and we bought a cookie too. We returned three more times for almond cookies, sesame cookies and savory peanut clusters. The locals were flocking here and assuring us that these were the best cookies in Macau. I believe them! Also, the photos that came from this visit are some of my favorites. There is no English name I can give for the place. We even asked the staff at the hotel and they were at a loss. The closest I can get is Wong Fong Kee.

Steve enjoys a cookie from the bakery.

Steve enjoys a cookie from the bakery.

For lunch, we took at taxi out to Hac Sa beach in the village of Coloane to Restaurante Fernando. Recommended by several people, we were not disappointed. This is an established Portuguese restaurant favored by locals and toursts alike.

BBQ sea bass with an incredible herb sauce that you pour over. Delicious!

BBQ sea bass with an incredible herb sauce that you pour over. Delicious!

Steve found us a gem of a hotel.  Pousada de Mong Ha  is an educational hotel at The Institute for Tourism located on the hillside of a former 19th century Portuguese fortress. It has lovely views and wooded gardens and excellent rooms and serivce. It is an easy bus ride on the #12 bus or taxi ride from the ferry pier.

 

The front porch of Posauda de Mong Ha

The front porch of Posauda de Mong Ha

We still did not get to do everything that we wanted to do. Next time….egg tarts, pandas, the village of Coloane and more.

Friday Night In Shenzhen

Steve made a fourth trip to Shenzhen this week with me.  The office invited us for a welcome dinner at a traditional Chinese Hot Pot restaurant.  Hot Pot is communal eating.  A boiling pot divided in two sections with one being mild and the other being spicy (quite spicy).

The start of the meal.

Generally the meal begins with meats; pork, beef, chicken, lamb, frog, cow stomach I and cow stomach II, cow esophagus, chicken feet and duck intestine.  This is then followed by many kind of vegetables; greens, melon, potato, fresh water chestnuts, cauliflower and mushrooms.

Everyone dives in to cook in the hot pot or take their favorite item. See the corn. We ate it with chopsticks!

I think the most fun was when the staff tried to explain the English name of all the animal parts that we were presented.  iPhones were consulted as they pointed on themselves where the organ would be.  It was a little like charades.  Steve was our diplomat trying all, but I abstained from all innards.  The veggies were terrific and the spice was peppery and addictive.

Preparing to cook the vegetables.

After asking about all the different items, we were told “in China, we just try everything even if we don’t know what it is and if you like it then it is good.”  A good time was had by all.