Notes along the way

Notes along the way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monkeys too!

He immediately came over to check us out. Yes. That's blood on his beard. And the fabulous alien eyes? It's not eye makeup.

He is bad ass all the way.

He has family to protect and he's very serious about it.

The Dude
I doubt he'd mind teaching us a lesson if he thought we needed it. But we didn't. We just took a lot of photos, which didn't seem to bother him. In fact, I suspect he rather liked posing.

The mamas and babies by the road barely seemed to notice us at all. Lucky for us.We snapped away and they went about their business.

We saw two kinds of monkeys in Khao Yai, macaques and gibbons. These by the road are macaques.

Just doing what monkeys do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yes! An elephant!

Khao Yai National Park.

YES! We did see an elephant in the wild. One. And, after repeated reminders that it not a given, one was one more than any of us thought we'd see. Khao Yai is a huge park and the elephants there roam free.

There are no elephants for people to "pet". There are no elephants for people to ride. The park rangers do put salt blocks and some hay out by the road in hopes of occasionally attracting them into view but, for the most part, they are off on their own in the tall grass and forest deep.

We just got lucky. One of the guys in our group, Paul from Wyoming (the guy in the blue shirt), spotted him from the back of the truck as we were driving. Then we all started shouting at once. I pounded on the roof of the cab. Our guide immediately stopped, threw the truck in reverse, backed up, pulled off the road and parked.

Everyone, including the guide, jumped out, cameras in hand, and started running up the path after him. Of course rule number one is don't harass the wildlife and we were good. In spite of our excitement, we did keep our distance.

It was a lone male returning from the road after enjoying the salt block, ambling slowly along the path through the tall grass heading back to the forest.

We all managed to get a few photos before he strolled up over the hill and out of sight.

Our guide explained that because elephants in the wild can graze all day in the delicious tall grass they are, in general, much fatter than elephants in captivity. This fellow certainly proved his point.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Elephants, maybe

We're leaving in the morning to spend a day and a half at Khao Yai National Park where we might, if we're lucky, see some elephants. I'm not getting my hopes up. The elephants in Khao Yai are wild, not prisoners in some cruel roadside petting zoo. I hate things like that. But, regardless of what we may or may not see, it will also be nice getting out into nature for a bit. Bangkok is a fascinating city but it's also like being rumbled around in the very noisy gut of a gigantic beast.

We'll leave about 9 am. It won't be fun rolling our suitcases to the sky train. The sidewalks are very irregular but we've done it before plus it's only a couple of block to the station and there's an escalator. Then it's two stops to Victory Monument which functions as the hub for vans and buses going all over the country. There's no escalator back to the street we want so, when we get there, we'll have to bump our suitcases down three flights of stairs. That'll suck but, again, we've done it before. We booked a tour with Greenleaf and that's where we get the van. Then it's about a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok to Khao Yai. When we get to the park, we'll drop our bags in our room, have lunch at the guesthouse and then they'll take us out for the afternoon to see what we can see. And we'll be out all day next day. M. Lee, who did this tour a few years ago and didn't see any elephants, assures me it will be a very long, very bumpy day in the back of a pick up truck. Can't wait.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Morning report

I can't figure out exactly what's going on at Villa Ratchathewi, the place we're staying in Bangkok. Don't get me wrong. I love our apartment and our host. The apartment itself is wonderful, quiet, airy, well lit and I love the view of the city from the bathtub. Plus, our host immediately replies to our emails. It's another fantastic find via airbnb, It's just that the lobby seems more like a student lounge and study hall than the lobby of an apartment building. We almost never see any adults around here. It's not that expensive by US standards but how can these kids afford to live here? Other than the old Chinese lady in the gym, who is perpetually walking on the world's squeakiest, most rickety treadmill, it seems there are almost no other adults in the building, and by adults I mean people over, oh say, twenty or twenty-five. And no. It's not because Asians look young longer than Westerners. Trust me. These are kids. So what exactly going on at Villa Ratchathewi? It's all very odd.

Clearly, the old woman is up to something. Whenever we go to the gym, she's there grinding away on that goddamn treadmill. She's there when we arrive and still there when we leave. I suspect she is the one who powers the Reality Generator at the hub of the universe and is responsible for maintaining the entire Cosmic Show. There is no other explanation. If she were to stop walking we'd all disappear. Don't worry. We'll never notice we're gone.

Frogs doing it in a mall pond

The other notable thing about this place besides, like I say, the bathtub in the window, is the mosque which we can see from all the windows. The first chant is before sunrise. It's really more like an open throated yell. The first few days, when we were still jet lagged, it was really annoying. It felt like 2 AM and neither one of us could get back to sleep. Then I got accustomed to it and one morning I actually got up and checked the time, 5 AM. Not so bad really. In the yoga community where I used to live, we started at 4 AM. According to a national survey at the time, our Society was ranked the most despised neighbor in America. People dreaded living near us more than they dreaded living near gang members. Anyway, the following morning, when the chanting began, I awoke to the charming mental image of a lone desert Mullah chanting in the courtyard of an outpost white stone mosque as a gigantic orange desert sun rose over the vast Sahara, its rays streaming across the horizon into the otherwise indelible silence. Then last night, we realized the chanting is a recording. Talk about buzz-kill. Plus, I just noticed that I dropped one of my ear buds in my coffee.

Bangkok massage parlor

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Red pants and tennis shoes

One happy, very fashionable little lady

Saturday and Sunday we went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. aka the JJ Market. Bangkok is full of big glitzy and and some very high end malls but, among them all, the Chatuchak Market is legendary. It's one of the largest markets of it's kind in the world and the first time or two wandering through, seems infinite. These photos are misleading because the street is still empty. I took them early Sunday morning before people started arriving but every weekend, without fail, thousands attend. Even as we were leaving on Saturday afternoon, throngs of people were still streaming in*.

She and her "mom" are vendors at the market

We spent a lot of time at the market last time we were in Bangkok and it's the first place we headed when we got back. There's good people watching, a vast, eclectic array of goods and great prices. And this is a big plus, the Chamlong Asoke's Buddhist vegetarian outdoor food court is near the market so we always go there for lunch. The population is 97% Buddhist but it's hard finding vegetarian food in Thailand.

JJ Market coconut water man

In the comments, Mr. Donut posted an interesting detail about the Chatuchak Market. Thanks Mr. D.

"It's more than a hundred thousand visitors per day or something like that, but it feels at times like a million all trying to cram into a closet."