EXPLORING BAGAN ALONE

Before going on a tour I wanted to do some exploring on my own.  I asked at my hotel where I could catch a local bus – they really thought I should call a taxi.  

The first pic is the type of “bus” I caught – but the one I was in was much older and had a bigger load, and more people. I started off in the back, but as the load increased the driver moved me to the front.  He had to get some betel leaf/nut to chew before we left.  I was going 6 km and it took almost 2 hours as we often loaded and unloaded. I wanted to see the river so I got off and walked around that area.  When I went to come home I caught the red motorbike/bus.  Once again I got special treatment – I got to sit on that seat up front by the driver.

Everywhere we drove I saw Pagodas – I can not wait for my tour tomorrow. 

At lunch time I saw a local cafe that was busy. Guys were playing a game outside.  They would shake some small shells into a bowl, then move bottle caps along  a board.  

The cafe sold individual cigarettes and they were in little stands to go on the tables. The tables had lighters, and the napkins were a roll.   A young gal was in charge of the cig $$$ and no one else could touch her basket of cash.  Obviously, not may tourists eat there.  She spoke good English and rushed right over to get me a menu that had nothing in English. I asked for fried rice.  She served it, and I got free pink jello??? for dessert.  It was a good day in Bagan!

WHEN IS A WAT A WAT – OR WHAT?

When I moved into my little bungalow in Chiang Mai I noticed there was a Wat at the end of the block. This is not unusual. I walked past it every day and after a couple of weeks I decided to stop one day and check it out.

It was unlike any Wat I have ever been to – no Buddhas, no monks… There was an older building at the back of the complex, and two new, elaborate buildings that certainly looked like temples. There were also a number of spacious empty open-air buildings. Closer examination made me realize the old building at the back was a crematorium, as were both of the buildings at the front.

One day as I was walking home it was obvious there were going to be a couple of funerals. Both front buildings were decorated with wide ribbon. The empty buildings were full of covered chairs all lined up. Both buildings had countless fresh flower wreaths.

I went home to get my camera in hopes of getting a few photos. There were not a lot of people around and I tried to be as discrete as possible. An older man saw me and told me it was fine for me to come and take photos. He even took me up to see the cremation ovens.

As he was explaining to me some of the traditions, several truck loads of flower wreaths arrived. Several songtaews of monks also arrived. Guests also were arriving. Women all dressed in black, men in black suits with white shirts, and ties.

The man explained to me that even having ashes stored at a Wat now is outrageously expensive. I have seen Wats in Bangkok with hundreds of containers of ashes, with a photo of the deceased. Now ashes of the deceased are thrown in the river, unless you are wealthy and can afford to have yours stored at a Wat.

The coffins both arrived, covered in flowers, in the back of trucks with loudspeaker systems. The man explained the family would consider it an honor that I wanted to take photos. I certainly knew I did not have to leave, but I did not want to invade their privacy at such a sad time.

CHIANG RAI IN 2 DAYS

Chiang Rai is a smaller city just 3 hours from Chiang Mai by bus. It has some amazing sights so Troy and I did some strategic planning in order to see what we wanted in two days.

We caught a morning bus from here and arrived before noon. We dropped our luggage at the guesthouse and went straight back to the bus terminal to catch a local bus to the White Temple. This temple is right out of a fairy tale. It is blinding white with mirror inlays and lots of strange symbolism. As you go to enter the main temple there is a pond with hands sticking up out of it – and one fingernail, on one hand, is painted red. When I visited 3 years ago it was free, now it costs $1 to enter the main temple. People buy small metal discs, sign their name, and hang them in designated places – there are thousands upon thousands of them.

I could not believe the expansion in three years. During my first visit there was only one building that was gold. It was very ornate – it was the toilets. Certainly the fanciest I had seen anywhere in the world. Now there is another gold building. It is the new gallery that displays lots of the artist’s work.

That evening we walked to the big roundabout in the centre of town. In the middle of it is a very large, very ornate, gold clock. Three times every evening there is a light show during which they project different coloured lights onto the clock. We had some dinner and an early night as the next day would be action packed.

Up early and back to the bus terminal for a local bus to the Black House – often referred to as the Black Temple, but there is no temple. It is a large, well-maintained complex. Most buildings are full of ornate tables and chairs. Table covers are made from animal and reptile skins and pelts. There are penis carvings everywhere throughout the complex – no idea what that was all about.


Due to our time restraints, we called a Grab car (Thailand’s version of Uber) to take us to the aptly named Blue Temple. I loved this place. As usual, it was over the top ornate. Such a great place to take photos.

A quick tuktuk ride took us back into Chiang Rai so we could go on the free trolley city tour. I had also done this during my last visit, but they had made many changes since I was here. The first stop was a display of the former royal carriages. I would have loved to ride in any one of them! Of course, we stopped at several Wats. One had an exact replica of the famous Emerald Buddha from the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Photos are not allowed there. We were thrilled to be able to take some photos and we were proud to be told it was made of jade from Canada.

Our day ended with our bus trip back to Chiang Mai. It had been a busy couple of days, full of wonderous sights.

THAI VILLAGE WEDDING

The organizer of a travel meet up that I have attended for several years was getting married to a Thai gal in her small village.  We were invited. I had not planned to return to Thailand this year, but that was an opportunity I did not want to miss.

I flew to Bangkok directly from Vancouver for the first (and last time).  It was a 13-hour flight to Shanghai, then a race to be fingerprinted, clear immigration and security (even for a connecting flight) and get back on a plane for another 5 hours. 

Once we arrived at the bride’s house the groom was required to pay for us to enter each of the three doors.  We were then in the room where the ceremony would take place.  The bride was ushered in.  She was wearing a beautiful sari.  The wedding party (including our group) had rented attire from a shop in Bangkok.  There were many cute little traditions.  At one point a circle of string was placed on each of their heads, and the strings were joined.  That is also a tradition in Greek weddings, and the groom is of Greek heritage.  They exchanged rings and then each wedding guest tied a piece of string on the bride’s wrist, then the groom’s.  Local people had tied money into the strings.  They will wear the strings for a week. 

There was a break so everyone could rest before the reception.  Gals appeared to redo the hair and makeup of the Thai girls in the wedding party.  They certainly made us Canadians look pretty scruffy!

The reception that evening was held in the school, and once again the entire village was invited.  Tables were set and endless trays of delicious food kept coming, as did the Thai whiskey.  Entertainment started with a female Thai dancer doing a traditional dance.  Singers followed and then the parents and the bride and groom were ushered onto the stage.  The family dog thought he should be included – so he just walked up onto the stage and into the middle of everything.  The bride was wearing a traditional Western wedding dress for the reception.  

After the speeches, the bride and groom went to each table to greet their guests and have photos taken.  Music played and some people danced.   We had a good looking young man with us and it was so much fun to watch the Thai girls try to get up the courage to ask to have photos with him.  There was a lot of giggling involved.  I can only imagine how proud he will be to show his friends at university those pics.

Bt 10:30  everyone was tired.  The village does not have any hotels so the girls slept on the floor at the bride’s home, and the guys were next door at the neighbours.  It was another early morning as we had to be up to catch our flight back to Bangkok.  

It was an incredible, amazing experience and we are all so grateful for Jim and Nootzara (now Mr. & Mrs. Michelis) for inviting us. 


TRAVEL IMMUNIZATIONS

Before going to Africa in 2009 I was required to get numerous vaccinations.  Fortunately, I was in Austria, staying with my friends who are both doctors.   I am now getting ready to leave for another adventure.  I will be going to Thailand to attend a wedding in a small village – no hotels – villagers will take in wedding guests.  After the wedding I will spend a month in Thailand, then go to Myanmar to meet my Irish friend for a couple of weeks exploring that country.  I will end this trip with a month in Bali.  Some of the other wedding guests from here were checking out getting needed vaccinations.  I recommended getting a rabies shot – I did not know about this preventative shot until I got mine in Austria.  Since then I have met too many travellers who have not had the shot prior to going, and been bitten, scratched etc by a dog, cat, or monkey.  Someone here just checked and told me the cost for that shot in Canada is $400.  I have heard from many travellers it is worth the trip to Bangkok just to get shorts required for any trip.  I thought I would post this – I found it very interesting to say the least.

 

Thai Travel Clinic

Hospital for Tropical Diseases
Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University

Available vaccines in our clinic and Price list

 

 

Vaccine Cost in Baht
Cost in USD 
Cholera vaccine (Dukoral®) 
759 $23
Dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia®) (Read this first) 2,930 $87
 New JE vaccine SA14-14-2 (CD JEvax®, Imojev®) 498 $16
Inactivated JE vaccine 438 $15
Hepatitis A+B (Twinrix®) 1,065 $32
Hepatitis A vaccine (Avaxim®) 
1,473 $43
Hepatitis A vaccine (for children) 800 $25
Hepatitis A vaccine (Live attenuated MevacA®)
704 $22
Hepatitis B vaccine(Euvax B®) 376 $11
HPV vaccine (Gardasil®)  
2,464 $72
Influenza vaccine (Quadrivalent)  
369 $11
Meningococcal conjugate (Menactra®) 
2,435 $71
MMR (Mump-Measles-Rubella) vaccine 
192 $6
Pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar®) 2,360 $69
Pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax®) 1,114 $33
injectable Polio vaccine (IPV)  420 $13
Rabies vaccine (Verorab®) 347 $11
Tdap (Bootagen®, tetanus+diptheria+pertussis) 
1008 $30
Tetanus + Diphtheria (dT) 62 $3
Typhoid vaccine (Typbar®)  319 $10
Varicella vaccine(Varicella vaccine-GCC®) 893 $27
Yellow Fever vaccine (Stamaril®)
1,200 $36
Zoster vaccine (Zostavax®) (Contact us first) 4,942 $145
Rabies immunoglobulin (ERIG) depend on body weight

Update 3 December 2018

Note:
–  Doctor fee (100 Baht) (Will be 200 Baht on 2 Jan 2019), Hospital fee (70Baht) are not included in price list
–  Price is per one dose of vaccine

–  Some vaccines need >1 shot to complete

–  More info on: Schedule and duration of protection of travel vaccine

–  Prices are subject to change without notices and price in US dollar are calculated as 1 USD=34 Baht
–  If you visit us in our Extended service hour, the doctor fee and vaccine cost will be higher (more info)

 

Vaccination Process:

  1. Our client should bring his/her vaccination certificate (if any)
  2. You can make an appointment for your convenience. Please specify your name, age, sex
    and type of vaccines requested, and your prefered date and time.
  3. Counseling with qualified doctor, discuss risk and benefit of vaccine.
  4. Sign the informed consent.
  5. Vaccination is given by qualified nurse. Doctor will complete your vaccination record.
  6. All clients must be observed in our clinic at least 30 min after being vaccinated.

You may want to read this useful article “FAQ about cost of vaccine in Thailand”

If you want to make an appointment or contact us. Click here

 

Thai Travel Clinic, Hospital for Tropical Diseases,
Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Copyright © 2005-2018 Thai Travel Clinic. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Services. Privacy Policy.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

I am a healthy senior.  I have taken the same mild blood pressure medication for 20 years. It is the only medication I have ever taken. I have only been hospitalized to have my children, and once due to a car accident.  I have never needed to go to an emergency room, and I have never needed to take antibiotics.

While I was married I always had amazing international health coverage included in my husband’s contracts.

My trip to Central America was the first trip I was making on my own.  When I started looking for quotes for coverage I was stunned.  Medical coverage was going to cost more than my trip!!

Someone advised me to check out IAMAT.  I became a member and donate $100 a year.  I have never needed to use the service but it will give me access to an English speaking doctor at a reasonable price anywhere in the world – help with local medical services, and a ton of valuable travel medical advise.

I am making my first trip to America in a long time.  I will not go to America without medical insurance.  I went to BCAA and their quote for $10,000,000 coverage with 0 deductible was $336.44 for 15 days

My local insurance office offered $5,000,000 coverage with $0 deductible for 15 days for $371.05

I bank with Scotiabank.  I bought a policy for 15 days $5,000,000 with 0 deductible for $112.    If I had changed to $1000 deductible it would have cost $93.

PACKING FOR FIVE MONTHS

 

 

BACKPACK:
I use a Tortuga backpack. It fits me well, has a good waist strap, good zippers, and a cover for the straps when I check it. For a typical 5 month trip it weighs 7 kg fully loaded. I have to carry it, so I have strived for efficiency to travel with minimum weight.

I try not to have anything loose in my pack. I use packing cubes for clothes and mesh pencil cases in various sizes for meds, odds and sods, kitchen supplies etc. I get the mesh bags at a dollar store.
The only things loose are flip-flops, cup, bowl, plate, and a foldable bag.
When I take something out, I leave out the case it goes in. I then know that something has to go back in it before it goes back into my pack. I do not meet many people who have had things stolen, but many people have lost or forgotten things.

One outside pocket has a rain poncho

OUTSIDE ZIP COMPARTMENT:
3-4 plastic bags, various sizes
Traditional road map
Small thin world atlas
School sized notebook

SHOWER BAG:

 

 

10” X 7” Plastic with three waterproof compartments
small baby shampoo (washes me, my hair, and my clothes)
Black plastic soap holder. Inside is a bar of soap in a bag, and under it is a bank debit card in a RFDI protector sleeve.
Matching black plastic toothbrush holder. Inside is $200 emergency funds in cash
comb, deodorant, nail clippers, tweezers, flat sink plug, small sun screen, razor, facecloth

I only carry small sizes and once I get somewhere I will stay for a while, I buy larger sizes

ELECTRONICS BAG:

Plug and cord for computer
Plug and cord for IPad
Cord for phone
External hard drive and cord
Powerbank and cord
Camera battery charger and cord
2 USB storage sticks
Memory card reader
Nano USB drive to transfer photos from android phone to Mac computer
2 Electrical plugs for USBs
Digital voice recorder
2 adaptor plugs

MEDICATION BAG:

Polysporin
Bandaids
Rehydration salts
Pepto Bismol Pills
Tylenol
Anacin
Imodium
3 pkgs Neo Citran
Gravol
Tums
Tiger Balm (also use as insect repellant)

I take all of the pills out of the containers and put them in little zip bags. Each bag has a little piece of paper with the name typed on.

BEDSIDE BAG:

Doorstopper

Flashlight
Blood pressure meds
Restless leg meds
Chapstick
Toothbrush and paste

 

KITCHEN BAG:
Good quality camping plastic knife, spoon, and fork
Steripen (to purify water)
can opener/corkscrew
teabags
Splenda sugar minis
3 in 1 coffee tubes
Immersion heater
Paring knife ( do not take if you are taking your pack as a carry on)

PANTS CUBE:
2 pair lightweight cotton drawstring waist capris
1 pair long leggings
1 pair below the knee leggings
1 pair long athletic shorts
1 sarong (can be used as a dress-up skirt)

TOPS CUBE:
3 short sleeved Merino wool t-shirts
1 long loosed sleeveless top
1 short sleeve knee-length cotton dress

UNDERWEAR CUBE:
sleep shirt
3 pair panties – Tilley brand, quick dry
1 bra
1 sports bra
1 swimsuit

ODDS & SODS CASE:
AA & AAA batteries
spare luggage lock
zap straps
safety pins
paper clips
elastic bands
markers
highlighters
small craft zip bags
1 large, 1 small carabiners
1 pair spare glasses
space blanket
PADI dive card
copy of passport
copy of IAMATA card
business cards
passport photos
copy of my prescriptions
International immunization book

SLING BAG:

 

 

Instead of a day pack, I carry a sling bag. It is hands-free and sits on the front of my body.

My sling bag has a padded shoulder strap with an inside zip compartment where I store $200 emergency cash.

When I travel it contains all the important things:
my computer
my camera
my wallet (with just the money for the day) copy of my passport, contact info
a clear zip case with my passport, airline ticket, accommodation reservation
chapstick
kleenex
steri-wipes
earbuds
gum

WHEN I TRAVEL I WEAR:
I wear a homemade money belt when I travel, it does not have a zipper
long sleeved merino wool t-shirt ( I am usually cold on a plane or bus)
short sleeved merino wool t-shirt
long yoga pants
socks
hoodie
sketches shoes

Once I arrive my computer is locked in the outside compartment of my pack, also my money belt and passport get locked in there too. My pack is small so I lock it to a chair or the bed with a metal coil and lock (like many bicycle locks)

GIZA AND THE PYRAMIDS

I saw many changes in Egypt since I had visited 22 years ago.  The pyramids have not changed.  They are as impressive as ever and still inspire awe as you stand at the bottom and look up.   The first time I went we had a young gal from Oregon with us.  As we arrived she said  “You know you have to ride a camel around the pyramids”.  I told her I did not think that was a necessity, but she insisted so we did.  I remember that ride as being uncomfortable and stinky.

This time a friend from Vancouver had joined me, and he had never been to Egypt before.  He too thought that camel riding was an intricate part of the experience.   We were at the gate when it opened and managed to beat the tour bus crowds.  We were alone with the Sphnix.   As we got closer to the big pyramid he decided he would like to go inside one.  I had “been there, done that” so had no desire to do it again.  We met an old camel guide and were talking to him.  He told Troy not to waste money to go into the big pyramid – had would not see anything, and the ticket to the smaller one was much cheaper.  Troy had to walk back to the entrance to get that ticket.  I stayed to talk to the old camel guy.  He had been a guide for 45 years.  He told me when he first started someone had given him a card. He did not know what it was, but took it home and kept it.  He continued to get them, and someone finally explained they were business cards.  He decided to keep them and put them in a book.  He told me he now had a big book, and he invited me to come to his house to see it.

Troy went inside the smaller pyramid – said it was a waste of time and money.  We then rode the camels out into the dunes in order to look back at the pyramids.  Once again it was uncomfortable, but this time the camel did not stink.

After Troy left I call the old guy and he came to meet me to take me to his house.  He only lived a couple of blocks from where I was staying, down a winding little alley.  He opened the door to his house, and there was his camel’s ass.  We walked past the camel and a couple of feet from its head his wife and daughter were seated on the floor preparing food for dinner.

HIs Grandfather was also a guide

We went into an adjoining room with carpet and big pillows on the floor.  Everything was spotlessly clean.   His daughter brought us tea as he smoked his shisha and showed me his “big book”.  He knew it inside out and could find cards within seconds.  He also showed me a photo of his grandfather with his camel at the pyramids.  He walked me home and thanked me for visiting.  I kept his card to bring home with me.  I do not have a big book to put it in, but I will always treasure that memory.

A Business Card I will keep

 

 

The Big Book

LUXOR – ASWAN – ABU SIMBEL- GIZA

 

Nubian Guesthouse

Police Lookouts

Years ago when I visited Egypt, I took the train from Cairo to Luxor.  I had read Egypt had bought some new trains so I was excited to “ride the rails’.  The train I rode the first time was old and dirty.  I am sure it was the same train this time, only older and dirtier.  Oh well, part of the adventure. I stayed in a Nubian guesthouse in Aswan – certainly the most colourful place of this trip.  I took the train to Aswan as I wanted to visit Abu Simbel.  Vans full of tourists leave Aswan early each morning for the 3-hour drive to Abu Simbel. The desolation of the desert was interesting.  We did pass one oasis and the green colours were electric against the endless background of sand.  Abu Simbel consists of two temples that were moved when the new dam was built as Lake Nassar flooded.  They simply cut the temples into blocks, numbered the blocks, moved them, and put them back together.  They are amazing, and  I saw more tourists than any other place I had been in Egypt.

Abu Simbel

 

Amazing Temples

I left Aswan by train to go to Giza.  It was a long trip but interesting all the way.  The train was old and dirty, the passengers were warm and friendly.

 

Inside a Temple

The Train

 

HISTORY LIVES IN LUXOR

Luxor Temple

Karnak Temple

Luxor has been called the greatest open-air museum in the world, and I would have to agree.  Luxor was at its best between the 11th and 16th centuries BC.  Coming from a country that is 150 years old, I can not even comprehend that amount of old.  The city of Luxor is built on the east bank of the Nile.  The Valley of the Kings is across the river.

Hatshepsut Mortuary Temple

Luxor and Karnak Temples are the dominant structures in Luxor.  Both complexes are huge, and both are well preserved and the reconstruction is ongoing.  Many parts of both places are in their original state and it is incredible to see how they have withstood the time and elements.

Both temples can easily be visited on your own.  Doing some research before your visit will greatly enhance your time.  I so enjoyed wandering around trying to imagine what things were like when they were built – and also how they were built.  It is so unfortunate the tourism industry in Egypt is currently suffering hard times.  Often there would only be 2 or 3 tour buses in a parking lot that could hold 100.  I felt so fortunate to be able to spend so much time almost alone.

Taking a tour of the West Bank is the easiest option to see the Valley of the Kings, and some of the lesser known sites.  The Valley of the Kings is really just a big gravel pit, but once you enter the tombs the colours and details of the paint is beyond belief.  A 6-hour tour that included transport and guide was less than $3. and none of the admission fees cost more than $6.

I also got to visit Hatshepsut’s, Mortuary Temple.    I felt it was best just seen from a distance. We also stopped to see the two huge Colossi of Memnon statues and Medinet Habu.  The latter was certainly one of my favourites as there was a lot of very well preserved hieroglyphics.  How many man hours did it take to create that incredible work?

Hieroglyphics

Exterior paint that lasted 3500 years Temple. 

I rode a felucca on the Nile to see the sunset, and a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings to see the sunrise.

Luxor was a great lesson in history, and the best part – there was no test after.