Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

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W is for Wandering- #AtoZChallenge

W” is for wandering. Something I do love to do. When I was younger, I used to ride my bike all over the place. I would ride up and down every street, just to see where they went. I would ride around the neighborhoods and stop and talk to the people I saw (usually started by asking where I was). I got to meet a lot of cool people. I knew everybody. 🙂

When I moved to Texas, I kept it up. I got a car after a couple of years so I could expand my familiar ‘territory’. I used to cruise down every old backroad I could find. I would stop in country stores and old hole in the wall beer joints and play a game of pool. I wandered all over the county and then some. Then the gas prices got so expensive, and I got so busy doing other things, that I just pretty much stopped going out anywhere around here.

Now I mostly save my wandering for when I’m traveling on vacation. I really love to wander through the woods, or a park, or the beach. I love to go up to Washington or Oregon in the summer. The weather is gorgeous, nice and crisp and cool. I can enjoy being outside, unlike here in Texas in summer when it’s hot, humid and buzzing with mosquitos.

I’ll pick up a map and just start walking. I usually have a camera with me and I’ll take photos of all kinds of stuff. Trees, weeds, flowers, buildings, details, patterns, rocks, water, squirrels, sky, (occasionally) people, etc.  I never know where I’ll wind up. It’s always somewhere interesting. 🙂

People always ask me if I worry about winding up in ‘the bad part of town’. Or if I fall down a mountain or get eaten by a bear?

Nope. I don’t. I just go. I’ve never had anything bad happen to me while wandering around like that. Not in all the years I’ve been wandering around the world.

I seem to be pretty good at it. I never get lost (even without a map). I always manage to find my way back home (eventually). 😉

Color Your World: 31 Shadow

Today’s color for Jennifer’s Color Your World challenge is: shadow. Another one I had no idea what it looks like. Here’s a reference in case you want to join the fun. 😉

Here’s my best match.

Got a great match to the river water! I took this photo a few years ago. I was traveling in Thailand and had spent a couple of weeks in Chiang Mai and visiting the ‘Hill Tribes’ around there. I decided to take the ‘slow boats‘ down the Mekong River, at least to Luang Prabang.

I really would have loved to stay there longer. It was a nice little town, lots to do, friendly people, and so relaxed and peaceful. I would have loved to take the boat all the way down the Mekong to the delta, with stops in Vientiane and along the way. I ran out of time and had to fly back to Bangkok.

This picture of the river was from up the hill at Pak-Beng where we stopped for the night. I enjoyed the slow pace of the ride, watching the scenery pass by and the daily activities of the local people. It was interesting to see the turnout at stops we made, to transfer passengers or cargo.

There was an amazing variety of people on the boat. People from all over the world and all walks of life. It made for interesting conversations and a fun trip. I highly recommend it if you have the time. If not, try the long-tail boats. They’re much faster! Just as much an adventure (maybe even more), but maybe not so dry either! 😉

Writing 101: Ship Scenes

OK. I’m behind again. I’m trying to work through this Writing 101 challenge (again). I tried it before when I was at work and just could not keep up. Real life is once again interfering with my time in the blogosphere.

I’m doing the best I can but ya’ll are going to have to just bear with me. 😉

So, today I’m working on the assignment for Day 2. It’s actually Day 7. 😦

The assignment is to write about a place, describe a setting. They ask you if you could be anywhere you wanted to be, where would you be ‘right now’?

I’m having a hard time winnowing that down. I could imagine myself at the top of Macchu Picchu or chillin out in Ubud. I could put myself under the sea on a dive in the Great Blue Hole off Belize or the atolls of the Pacific Ocean. I could imagine myself at home with my family when I was growing up in Florida or sitting around the gangway on my old ship with some great friends.

But I think I’m going to go with a cruise. I can hardly remember a better time than I spent as a kid on those sailing ships. I had such a great time. It was such a fantastic adventure.

Yeah, I was probably my usual self at the time, bitching about having to holystone the decks on Sundays or having to do laundry by hand. But I’ve very rarely had as many awesome, intense, all encompassing feelings of exhilaration and pure joy. Of just being fully and completely ALIVE and in complete harmony with myself and my surroundings.

I remember sailing on the Ariadne across the Atlantic Ocean. We left La Gomera in the Canary Islands and sailed for Martinique in the West Indies. We had a couple of weeks to make the trip.

The Ariadne was a large, 3 masted schooner. She carried a German crew and a few passengers and our entire school of fairly rowdy teenagers. I was 16 at the time. I remember long lazy days split between classroom, projects, and learning the ship.

I remember lying in the itchy, rough manila net under the bowsprit. Looking out for ships, weather, loose containers or anything else of interest. I would cheer on the dolphins as they sped along with us. No sound but the bubbling champagne rush of the sea along the sides of the ship and the waves lightly slapping the bow as the ship sliced through the slowly heaving blue-green swells.

The sun shone brightly in the perfectly clear, china blue sky and made the infinite depths of the ocean glow with stars of vividly bright patterns in so many gorgeous colors: neon green, canary yellow, turquoise, violet, wine, maroon, and purple.

Not too hot and not too cold. The days were warm and the sweat dripped in my eyes as I worked to sand down the pinrails.The nights held a chill, just enough to appreciate my wool watch cap. The winds were fair and powered us along at a steady rate as we worked the ship to get the best speed we could out of her with sails alone.

The winds brought the smell of salt and seaweed, yet it was somehow so FRESH. Sometimes the light, clean, crisp smell of rain and dew in the mornings. We would find flying fish dead- or almost- along the bulwarks sometimes, as we made our way forward to the galley for breakfast. We collected them for the cook who might fry them up for us or pass them on fresh to Whiskey the ships shaggy grey and white mutt.

Breakfast was served family style with fresh bread, butter and jam. Ham, cheese, eggs, fruit and milk (while they lasted). Helping the cook wash the dishes and prepare the meals was another way we passed the time. Peeling potatoes was a daily chore, everyone liked french fries. Hot and salty, crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy inside. Just perfect, every day. 🙂

We spent 4 hours on watch divided between helmsman, lookout duty and odd jobs. Then another 4 in school tending to our studies in Math, English, Cultural Studies, Oceanography, etc and things like Celestial Navigation, Marlinspike Seamanship, Sailtraining, etc. The shipboard schedule was the same as the traditional worldwide merchant fleet: 4 hours on, 8 off, 24/7.

Night watch in the middle of the ocean is like nothing else. It’s just amazing to see the black velvet sky, awash with those STARS like blazing diamonds. Nothing else around you. Occasional sounds of a creaking line or a sail luffing in the wind. The ship is dark except for the running lights which are purposely made as so not to interfere with your ability to see at night. Listening to the soft hiss of the swells as they pass down your side as you gaze in awe at the night sky.

Tweaking out the constellations from the abundant array of twinkling stars normally masked by the bright lights of town is a challenge. Remembering the stories of those star clusters is another way to keep your mind at play. Acting lookout is a wonderful way to calm yourself. You can take the time to really THINK.

It doesn’t surprise me at all how many famous artists (writers) were seaman at some point in their lives. There’s just something about it. “It gets in your blood”. I’ve never had another adventure like that one. I’ve been hoping to ever since.

I’ll never forget it.

 

Maritime Monday for September 30th, 2013: Movies About Sailors Part 5; Sailor’s Luck

Maritime Monday for September 30th, 2013: Movies About Sailors Part 5; Sailor’s Luck | gCaptain

Yeah, I know I’m late. 😉 I’ve been so busy, I’m falling WAY behind in my emails, etc. I had hoped to be able to catch up a little bit this weekend but STILL just SO busy. I’ve only got a couple of days before I have to go back offshore and not sure what kind of access I’ll have to the internet, so trying to post a few now to keep my loyal followers happy. 😉

Here’s another from Monkey Fists’ great series on Maritime Movies. Movies About Sailors Part 5: Sailor’s Luck looks like another great batch of movies to while away a lazy afternoon.

I haven’t seen ANY of these movies which seems like something I’ll need to fix one of these days. Some of them look pretty good. I would like to watch the Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea starring Kris Kristofferson and the Sand Pebbles starring Steve McQueen (he got an Academy Award nomination for this role).

Some of the other movies look pretty good too, like Sinbad the Sailor with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Anthony Quinn and Maureen O’Hara. Should Sailors Marry? starring Clyde Cook looks interesting. Of course Sex and the Single Sailor would be high on the list. 😉

I hope Monkey Fist continues to come out with these great posts of maritime related movies. I’m saving them so if I ever do get some time to just relax one of these days, I’ll be able to just look back at my old posts and find the perfect one for my mood. Adventure, romance, comedy, drama, its all there. I hope some of you will get a chance to watch soon. I think it’ll be a while for me. Enjoy! 🙂