Archive for July, 2007

Chiang Mai

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Back (Utrecht) Forward (Chiang Rai)
Chiang Mai
See http://thailand.ournews.mobi (photos/video)

Riding the bus to Chiang Rai (Chiang means city). This is a luxury bus and very comfortable. Even has a hostess who handed out a large pack of Oreo cookies (Super Chockio) to each of us, It is a three-hour trip through the mountains which are lush and tropical. Narda is reading a book on Cambodia and is on the health section which is listing the vaccinations one should have before entering the country – oh dear, we should have read that section before leaving Europe. So if come back to Australia with lots of weird fungus and spots on our face it is probably from petting the local chooks – or is that Asian Flu? We also just learned (or I did through Narda’s reading  – I only read the sections on tipping and temples and etc.) that we need to get stool checks as soon as we get to Australia to see if we have worms – kool. And there is the section on mosquitoes describing all the nasty things one gets from those little wonderful God’s creatures great and small.

Chiang Mai was awesome as a young person would say – we old people just say ‘kool’. The highlight was riding an elephant. I forgot our elephant’s name – perhaps Narda will remember in her section. It was a she and an adolescent (fifteen-years old according to our guide) and too young to be pregnant – she had a bit of an adolescent swagger to her – passing the older elephants. She was quite demanding wanting sugar cane (Narda was worried about her adolescent teeth) and bananas. It is an expensive setup – every so often (too often) there are stands some ten feet off of the ground selling bananas and sugar cane for 30-bahts each (close to a dollar each) and anyone who has hung around with an adolescent elephant would know they are always hungry. We managed to get away with buying only six batches on our one hour journey.

The ride was as good as any carnival ride. Going down a mountain side one could easily think they would fall off and our elephant, being young, did the walk a bit too fast as she rushed toward the river that we crossed to climb to the next food stall which of course she had no problem stopping at.

We saw an elephant show where the elephants painted pictures of elephants – we are not sure how they did it but Narda thinks their guides pulled their ear to guide them – see our video – though not on youtube which the Thailand government has blocked along with other sites to protect the morals of the Thai people.

We had about an hour ride on a bamboo raft, visited an orchard farm and that was our day in Chiangmai. We went shopping in the evening to add to our clothing collection that we began in Scotland. Our new large suitcase that we bought a week ago in Scotland is so full that we are stuffing our carry-on bags with new crap. Sunday, July 01, 2007

I think the elephant ride has been a highlight of the trip for me. I just loved it. We were a little dubious abut it at first, thinking that the elephants were probably mistreated to get them to perform tricks for us, but we really did not see that. Which of course does not mean that it does not happen. I guess there must be some pretty powerful incentives for those huge creatures to dance, bow, drag stuff, paint pictures with a brush held it their trunk, and even play harmonicas…and then carry us heavy western passengers up steep mountain paths, and across rivers. But I can see how you can really get into elephant conservation. They are so majestic.
Chiang Mai is a city where I think I could live awhile. Terrell says I say that about most places, but I’m sure this is not true! It has nice leafy streets, though we both got scratchy throats from the pollution. The food was good too. I had travellers’ diarrhea in Holland, but now, touch wood, it’s gone. And I’m so into Dutch food.
So here we sit, bus business class on the road to Chiang Rai. Might take a nap, it’s 3 hours.

Scotland 2007

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

See photos at
http://scotland.ournews.mobi/photos/index.htm
We are unable to put up our videos now as we are in Cambodia and there is not enough band width. The same when we were in Thailand – by the way Thailand blocks youtube.
Here we are, summer 06/07, finally’ out the door’ again. There was a delay leaving because of thunder storms. When we arrived in Frankfurt, there were major delays for many people, and as a result the airport was pretty chaotic. Luckily we had boarding passes to Edinburgh and our next flight was also delayed. But here’s our first big adventure! Our luggage did not arrive. Nor did it the next day…so…life is hard…we had to buy a whole new wardrobe. The airline promised to pay half (and all toiletries) and we discovered some really cool stuff in Scottish shops. So now I have a new colour scheme with lots of brown. Brown is the new black so they say. I feel so very trendy. Terrell looks a treat, in navy, with splashes of red. Hmm …might even go out with him!
Anyway, I can’t really keep writing about our new clothes. We did do some good touristy stuff. Checked out the odd castle, stayed at lovely B‘nBs. The road led us north to Findhorn, a little village way up there. It was misty all the time, but hey, this is Scotland, and we enjoyed the reprieve from the hot humid weather in NY. My favourite meal was in Edinburgh, tomato soup with coconut, so salty and so yummy! Findhorn is where the old hippies live, but Terrell will have more to say about that. Driving across the top there, we turned left at Inverness and followed the Loch Ness. Beautiful scenery! As we came further south past Fort William the scenery dramatically changed to huge mountains with big sweeping valleys, no tree, .very stark. Impossible to describe and quite breathtaking. So here we are at Arvorlich House on the shores of Loch Lomond, having a lovely rest. We decided on 2 nights, so today is ‘down time’, with a million dollar view of a mountain and a lake.

Rarely being in a shopping mood – whatever is on the floor of the closet is the right thing to wear for the day – I found a surprising aspect of my personality that either was repressed or was there all along but had yet to find the time to come out and play – the shopper within.

When we discovered the airlines had separated our unfortunate luggage from its cheerful owners (us) whilst we were dressed for the 90-degree weather in New York City and it was rainy and quite cold in Edinburgh we had no choice but to liberate clothing from their imprisonment at the local shopping centre. Many times in my repressed shopping past, Narda would say I should buy a new pair of this or a quad of that or whatever but I would just reply that I was not in a shopping mood and the clothing would stay on the rack. Edinburgh was different – there is a shopping aura that quickly and firmly drew me in – it was almost spiritual. A new sports coat (within 45 seconds of being in the store I felt the draw to the rack of coats), then socks, various under garments – even pajamas – something I never would buy (Narda had bought me some in some desperate and hopeful fantasy of a well trained and civilized husband but I had never worn them).

Our first night in Edinburgh was interesting in that we stayed at such a typical Scottish bed and breakfast. A stocky shortish couple with such a strong accent I seldom understood a word they said so I agreed with everything they uttered. We had a great breakfast and the host walked us to the door and wished us a safe journey. We found the Scots so friendly and hospitable everywhere we went – such a change from the rude and pushy people in New York City. I never did quite get to understand much of what was said. One shop (we sort of shopped our way across Scotland due to the lostness of our baggage.) the check out chick (I was told in New York that was a sexist line but we are in Scotland so I assume it is OK here) was asking if I wanted a bag and she must have said it four or five times. I thought she was asking if I wanted to go to the bar – which with a wife next to me I thought was strange. I had read in some tabloid or was it one of the racy telly shows that I once saw? that there were some kinky going ons in the British Island but… eventually Narda enlightened me that she was saying ‘bag’ and not bar. She had asked if I wanted our stuff put in a bag not whether I wanted to go to a bar. Gosh!

After leaving Edinburgh we rambled through various towns in the central of Scotland. At the northern point we stopped in at the Findhorn Foundation in Findhorn. I was on my way to Findhorn at the end of the 1960s. At the time I was in some cult Order in Hawaii when I was hearing about this spiritual place in the North of Scotland and that it was the next great place to go after the hippie migration to India to find one’s guru. But somehow I ended up in other places on the mainland (Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit Michigan, Syracuse New York, Baltimore Maryland, then to Australia for the next twenty-two years) and it was not until the mid-1980’s that I heard of Findhorn again. At the time I was making tofu in Adelaide and I rented out the front of my tofu factory to a couple (both named Robin – one was a male) who had met at Findhorn at the end of the 1970’s. They were into one of those religious cults, the Church Universal and Triumphant (Summit Lighthouse) of Elizabeth Clare Prophet. It was even more nuts than the Order that I had been in. Reading something I wrote about Findhorn at that time made me want to visit the place if I ever got to Findhorn:
“Looking up today’s community news on the Internet for Findhorn we read that,
“Crystal the Cat moves Into the Light: Many of us mourn Eileen’s cat Crystal who died earlier this week.” [13 Feb 2004].
That just about sums up my knowledge of the place, something about animals and humans and all entering into the light.“Findhorn

view from opur bed and breakfastView from Ardvorlich House B & B at Loch Lomond
Well here we were at the Findhorn Foundation. There is a community here – it was like a retirement village for hippies – lots of self built houses, a bit of a hippie ghetto and they make their money off of running spiritual guidance courses. Narda bought an expensive dress at their shop that we hope the airlines will pay for as they lost our bags for a week. I looked at their books; the same books I use to purchase decades ago on astrology and reincarnation and enlightenment and yes there was a book on cats, something about how to communicate with your cat on a spiritual level. It was when I was reading about channeling a cat that I realized I had changed and these people had not. We stayed at a very nice bed and breakfast, went to a near by town and bought some more clothes and a suitcase to put all our new stuff in.

The next day, Saturday 24 June, we drove through Inverness where I bought a red jumper with Shetland ponies on it (see photo of horses on a red background somewhere in this blog). The jumper gets added to our list of clothes bought because Lufthansa did not get our bags to us and we are in Scotland where it is bloody cold and raining all the time. This will surely test my macho self-image I have but then again who notices an aging person these days anyway?

We drove around Loch Ness and past all the trashy shops selling monster images and to our next bed and breakfast place on Loch Lomond (see photo below or next or somewhere near these words taken from the front porch).

Loch Shira at Inveraray
We went to the Inverary Castle.
The significance of this place is that I got my first senior discount by saying I was 60. The person at the counter did not believe me so I showed my drivers license which showed I was born in 1947 – I put my thumb over the month as I am not really 60 for another six weeks. We learned something about Dukes as the 14th Duke of Argyll lives with his new wife and some babies – they let us tourists in to raise funds to mow their huge lawns and clean their vast castle.

We got our rental car back to the airport with three miles left of petrol in the tank. We had paid for a full tank and we believed we had given enough money to the rental people already. We recovered our two lost suitcases at the airport and now we have a third suitcase full of new clothes, perfumes, facial scrubs and all the things one would need on their journey when the airlines misplaces suitcases for a few days.

The plane was late as has been our experience all along the way and when we got to Frankfurt for our connection to Amsterdam we missed that connection. Ms. Gabriel, the mean lady at the Lufthansa counter said we should have made the flight and would not put us on the next flight. She told us to go buy a new ticket. We already had been quite upset with Lufthansa for losing our bags and now Gabriel (not related to the archangel that we know of) was giving us stress. We went to another counter and a very nice woman, who incidentally was from New Jersey, had married a German, who had left her for another woman – the things one learns at an airlines ticket counter – was a bit upset with Lufthansa (she said the company “operated like a plumber sent to a job without a wrench” and got us on to the next flight which got us to Amsterdam and we took the train to Utrecht which stopped somewhere in the middle of Holland for half an hour because something was in the tracks and we got to Rienk’s house at about one am – some five hours late. Rink waited up for us and now, Tuesday morning, we are looking forward to riding bikes around Utrecht for the next couple of days. This is our fifth year in a row that we have stopped here. The main two differences is that it is cold and raining (just like Scotland) and usually it is very hot and the Internet café I always use is closed down so I may not be able to post this until we get to Australia in two weeks.