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Saturday, February 7, 2004                                  

Seoul to Siem Reap  

         The start of this trip was essentially the same as how our trip to Thailand began this time last year.  It began with an early morning wake-up followed by a 6:30 departure for the City Air Terminal to catch the bus for the airport.  As before we quickly walked through the cold weather (25 degrees) dressed somewhere between what would be appropriate for that kind of weather and that of our destination (80-90 degrees).  In other words it was a very chilly journey.  We caught the 7:00 bus and arrived at the airport an hour later.

          Before our journey began we were both filled with some apprehension about whether or not we should go (due to the emergence and spread of avian influenza in Vietnam).  After three days in a row of our students bringing in the exact same current event report (which has never happened before) about the outbreak, I was convinced it was some sort of sign that we shouldn’t go.  After taking a poll of some other teachers (all of whom said they would still go) and getting reassurance from the director that she would not hold a grudge against us if we had to be quarantined and miss work upon our return (as happened last year to a teacher who was in Beijing when a travel advisory was issued due to SARS), we decided to go.  Oh yeah, there was also the issue of Stephen feeling a great need to make arrangements for someone to pick up our dogs from the kennel and take care of them until a family member could come for them in case we didn’t return.  With that, the stage was set for our trip.  Arriving at the airport and seeing lines of people at the other counters and not a single sole at the Vietnam Airline counters didn’t help lighten the mood any.

          While waiting for our plane to depart, we ran into Siri (one of my students) and her parents who were traveling to Thailand.  By the time our flight left many more people had arrived and our plane ended up being almost full.  We took off on time and, other than one incidence of turbulence (strong enough that the flight attendants were asked to take their seats) the flight was pretty smooth.  Our lunch choices (according to the menu we were given) were beef, chicken, and fish.  Not surprisingly, when the stewardess came to serve lunch, chicken was not offered as a choice.  One of my concerns with the avian flu (other than the obvious one of catching a fatal disease) was finding food I want to eat while on this trip.  I recently read that the KFC’s in Vietnam were closing down and reopening as fish restaurants.  Great…looks like a lot of vegetarian dishes are in my future.  The movie Matchstick Men was shown after which I, uncharacteristically, was able to sleep for a short while.  The flight (5 ½ hours) didn’t seem too bad to me but Stephen was pretty antsy by the end (enough to reconsider whether he wants to fly home this summer).  Wimp!

          Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh, we had a 2 ½ hour layover.  We sat in the departure lounge watching TV and Stephen got a 30 minute foot massage.  Our flight to Siem Reap was my favorite kind…short (45 minutes) and smooth.  Our guide, Saul, was waiting for us at the airport and we drove the short distance to our hotel, Princess Angkor.  We were on the “highway” during “rush hour” which, in Siem Reap, translates into a two lane road full of bicycles and a few cars.  I was pleased to find out that the two men who picked us up (Saul and the driver) would be our personal guides for the next two days.  It’s nice not to be part of a group and know there’s flexibility in our schedule.  Saul offered to take us into town for dinner later in the evening if we wished but, after a day of traveling, we didn’t want to leave the hotel again today.

          After checking in and dropping our stuff off in our room we exchanged a small amount of money (it turns out the US dollar is accepted almost everywhere here and most prices are posted in US dollars, even at the mini-mart in the gas station) and checked out the facilities.  We ate at the hotel restaurant where we tried to order a chicken dish (thinking maybe Cambodia wasn’t affected as much) only to be told there was no chicken.  This confirmed that chicken would definitely be off the menu for the next seven days.  I ended up having some stir fry vegetables over rice that was very tasty.  The cost of our dinner (at a restaurant in a four star hotel, mind you) was under $15.  After dinner Stephen worked out while I took a much anticipated bath.  (I miss having a bathtub at home!)  Stephen then went to have a massage while I crashed for the night.

 
Sunday, February 8, 2004                                         Siem Reap (Temples of Angkor)   

         We had a wake-up call scheduled for 7:00 this morning but my traveling partner was up bright and early at 6:30.  We got ready and headed down for breakfast.  The breakfast buffet was a mix of Asian and American foods.  Since I’m not a big fan of American breakfast foods, I enjoyed some rice and noodles along with some tropical fruit.  We were picked up by Saul at 8:30 and were off to see the temples.

          Our first stop was the complex of Angkor Thom, a 10 square kilometer area built in the late 12th/early 13th centuries that was the last capital city of Angkor.  We went through a gate with carvings of faces pointed in four directions to the Bayon, the main temple of the complex.  There were many wonderful bas reliefs with amazing details still intact.  The reliefs were made to tell the history of the people and to represent mythical tales of the period.  After walking around the Bayon, we walked along the 350 meter long Terrace of Elephants used by the king as a viewing stand for public ceremonies.  At the end of the elephant terrace was the Terrace of the Leper King.  We walked along a corridor behind the retaining wall where we encountered a man who had lost his legs (due to landmines) playing a flute.  There were several people like this located around the ruins.  We had exchanged $20 for some local currency and gave donations to some of the people.

          Our second stop was at a small temple, Thommanon, built in the late 11th/early 12th centuries.  We learned that small temples such as this were built as practice before Angkor Wat was built.  Thommanon was restored in the 1960’s but, across the street, is a similar temple, Chau Say Tevoda, that is currently undergoing renovation.  After walking around Thommanon a bit we then drove past Ta Keo, the first temple to be built entirely out of sandstone.  Construction was halted on this temple after it was struck by lightening which was thought to be a bad omen.  Our next stop was Ta Prohm, a monument that has been left to be swallowed up by the jungle.  It was very interesting to see how the tree roots pushed through the rocks, causing the walls to crumble and to see the trees growing on top of the walls with their roots stretching down both sides.  I really enjoyed this group of ruins as it made you feel like an explorer discovering ruins that had been hidden for thousands of years.

          We then stopped for lunch at a café near Angkor Wat.  The number of kids trying to sell stuff was very large.  They don’t take no for an answer and try to impress you by telling you they know the capital of your country.  (It was only impressive the first time.) They continued to yell at us while we were having lunch telling us to enjoy our lunch and be sure to see them after lunch to buy their books and postcards.  On one occasion when I did buy something (postcards) I was then swarmed by many more people figuring I was ready to go on a shopping spree.  For lunch I had fried noodles with vegetables while Stephen had a steak.  The cost of lunch was only $7.

          After lunch we went to Angkor Wat, the most well known temple in the area.  It was built in the early to mid 12th century and rises 65 meters from ground level.  We climbed steep, narrow stairs to the top and explored the various levels.  There were many long corridors with bas reliefs telling the history and beliefs of the people.  By now we were hot and sticky so we returned to the hotel to cool down for a couple of hours before heading out again.

          Saul picked us up at 5:00 and we returned to the temple complex.  We climbed a steep hill (elephant rides were available for those who didn’t want to walk) to Phnom Bakheng which was built in the late 9th/early 10th centuries and was the first major temple built in the area.  This is supposed to be a good site to watch the sunset over the lake and see the glow of the sun off Angkor Wat.  However, due to the haze that is prevalent in Siem Reap in the winter, there was not much to see.  We climbed back down the hill and were taken to a restaurant (Bayon II) that Saul recommended.  Primarily Cambodian food was served buffet style and I had several noodle and rice dishes while Stephen had kimchi and bread as not much else appealed to him.  A cultural show started at 7:30 but by 8:00 we were cold (it is winter here after all), tired (it had been a long day), and we had decided the show wasn’t much different than what we saw in Bangkok so we decided to leave.  Our driver was waiting for us and we were back at our hotel at 8:30.  We relaxed a little and went to sleep early.

     
Monday, February 9, 2004  Siem Reap (Temples of Angkor)  

          We received our wake-up call at 7:00 again this morning (not that I was allowed to sleep that late yet again), ate breakfast, and were picked up by Saul at 8:30.  Before heading to the temples we stopped at a bank to get some more cash as we thought we’d be able to charge more things here and our cash supply was quickly dwindling.  We got cash advances on our credit cards fairly easily although the process involved probably 5 different people.

          The first stop on today’s tour was Srah Srong which was built in the mid 10th and late 12th centuries.  These ruins sit on the edge of a baray, or water reservoir, and remains of an island temple can be seen in the water during the dry season.  We then drove to Pre Rup, a funerary temple built in the late 10th century.  There was a good view of the surrounding area from the top of the temple.

          We next drove 20 kilometers to Bantay Srey, the ladies’ temple.  Along the way we passed through several villages and got a taste of what Cambodian life is like.  Bantay Srey was built in the late 10th century and many deep, intricate carvings can still be seen.  It is built of pink sandstone and the name means “citadel of the women”.

          On the way to the last set of ruins we asked Saul if we could visit a local school.  The entire school was housed in one long building with one room for each grade level.  The rooms were open and sparsely furnished and decorated.  Due to the shortage of teachers there are two sessions of school each day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon).  The students learn four languages – Khmer, English, French, and Japanese.  One of the teachers allowed us to take a picture of her with her nursery school class.  The kids were very cute.  Saul then took us to a home in a farming village so we could better understand how the people live.  It is so hard to imagine living in those circumstances but that is how the villagers have been living for hundreds of years.

          Our last stop before lunch was Preah Khan, a monastic complex built in the late 12th century.  Preah Khan means “sacred sword” and was built in dedication to the king’s father.  I really enjoyed this set of ruins as, like Ta Prohm, there are many trees still wrapped around the walls.  Little renovation has currently been done and there are piles of bricks everywhere lending an “Indiana Jones” feel to the site.

          After exploring a bit we returned to the same restaurant where we had lunch yesterday.  We were swarmed by the same group of kids trying to sell us stuff.  One little girl (probably 4 or 5) was very persistent.  She kept talking to us from outside the restaurant and, at one point, told us she’d give us two black eyes if we didn’t buy from her.  In addition, when Stephen told her “No, thank you” in Cambodian (a phrase he had learned from Saul earlier), she replied in English “I only understand ‘Yes’”.  I’m getting a better understanding of the kind of English education these kids get.  The little girl then sat down and drew a picture for us.  We still had quite a bit of local currency to get rid of so we gave her 2000 riel which is less than one dollar.  Within a couple of minutes a girl (6-7 years old) who had tried to get us to buy some of her things yesterday (we ended up giving her 500 riel as we drove away) was glaring at us and crying.  We asked why she was sad and she started yelling at us that we didn’t buy her stuff and only gave her 500 riel while today we gave the other girl 2000 riel.  We tried to rectify the situation but she yelled at us that she didn’t want our money and didn’t want to sell to us.  Her friend soon came to console her and asked us why we made her friend so sad.  We explained what happened and the friend said the girl would accept our money now but the look on her face told a different story.  She may be poor but she sure has pride!  She finally accepted our money as we were driving away but you could tell she wasn’t happy about it.

          After lunch we went to the local arts and crafts school, Les Chantier-Ecoles.  Here villagers who have been identified as having an aptitude for art come to learn wood sculpting, stone carving, and lacquer work.  The students study art at the school for one year.  After observing some of the artists at work we drove to the Silk Farm which is maintained by the same school.  It was very interesting to see the steps of production including the mulberry tree orchards, silkworm breeding, the spinning wheel, and the weaving process.  After the silk farm we returned to our hotel.

          It was still pretty early (around 3:30) so Stephen went for a massage and workout while I read and caught up on my journal writing.  We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant.  I had Cantonese style noodles while Stephen had spaghetti.  We shared a banana split for dessert.  After dinner I went to have my massage while Stephen, exhausted from his earlier massage and workout, went to sleep.  While the massage here wasn’t as cheap as Thailand ($20 versus $8-$10 for a one hour oil massage), it was equally enjoyable and very relaxing.  They have places in Siem Reap where the blind give massages for less than $10 but we decided to stick with our hotel.  Feeling very relaxed after my massage, I took a warm soak and fell quickly asleep around 9:00.

 
Tuesday, February 10, 2004                                     Siem Reap to Saigon   

         Today was an uneventful day of leisure as we didn’t have anything on our schedule other than a 5:00 pickup for transfer to the airport.  We went down for breakfast around 8:00 and then returned to our room.  Stephen went to work out while I took another soak (gotta stock up on these while I can).  After Stephen returned we took a nap for a couple of hours.  Afterwards we both struggled to pack our bags.  Why do clothes always seem to expand when traveling?  We stored our luggage at the hotel and took a tuk-tuk (three wheeled carriage pulled by a motorcycle) a short way down the highway to the Cambodian Cultural Village.  We thought this would be a good way to kill a couple of hours but it ended up being overpriced ($12 a person) and not very exciting.  The grounds were very well maintained (you could tell it was newly opened) but all there was to see was a small museum, some miniature replicas of some buildings in Cambodia, and a re-creation of a small village.  We stayed less than an hour and took the tuk tuk back to the hotel.

          We had three hours until our scheduled pick up so we checked our e-mail, ate lunch, relaxed by the pool, and hung around the lobby.  We were picked up a little before 5:00, driven past Angkor Wat for one last look, and dropped off at the airport.  Our flight left early (around 6:00 instead of 6:25) and, after a smooth flight, we were in Saigon by 7:00.  Getting through immigration was a slow process but our guide, Peter, was waiting for us when we exited the airport.

          The surroundings were much different than when we left Siem Reap.  We have definitely returned to a bustling city.  There were motorcycles everywhere – even from the airplane you could see the congested roads.  Our hotel (New World) was about 15 minutes from the airport.  We got checked in and, after some confusion in finding our room (we were trying to find the number that was on the key but, of course, that was just a code in case the key got lost), got settled in.  It was now 8:00 so we just watched some TV and went to bed.

 


 

Cambodia 2004

 

Ankor Wat
The Princess Angkor Hotel was our home away from home for our stay in the Angkor Wat area These are the local Tuk Tuk taxi drivers hanging out outside the gate of the hotel waiting to take tourists where they need to go A view of the drive of our Hotel and believe it or not the main highway running through Siem Reap.  You can see the Tuk Tuks just beyond the grassy knoll Our hotel room in Siem Reap The main highway running through Seim Reap, and we do mean the MAIN highway This was our guide Saul.  A very friendly man with a good sense of humor Carrie sitting in a local Siem Reap Tuk Tuk.  This gentleman gave us a ride to the local Living Museum theme park.These statues line both sides of the road leading into the Angkor Thom.  On one side is the angry statues (evil) and on the other the happy (good) statues.  This is a picture of one of the angry statues.  Also in this photo you can see the surrounding moat
 
Another view of the angry  statues Angkor Thom.  These are examples of the typical Khmer temple 'peaks' with the four faces facing N, S, E, and W. Angkor Thom.  A closer shot of the faces on the temple One of the more humorous photos.  A local girl standing behind a Danger sign eating some candy another tourist gave her.  But from this photo you'd think she was a dangerous zoo animal.  :) Angkor Thom - The Bayon. Intricate carvings on the temple walls.  This one is telling the story of a war between the Khmer and the Islamic Muslims from the south Angkor Thom - The Bayon      Another carving above an entrance to one of the rooms of this particular temple.  I believe our guide said it was of a Nymph Angkor Thom - The Bayon.    A nice shot through a door way onto the face of one of the all seeing Buddha God image Angkor Thom - The Bayon A very nice photo of one of the temple peaks framed in the leaves of a tree
 
Angkor Thom - The Terrace of the Elephants.   The elephant parade grounds where the king used to survey his military might via a parade and celebration Angkor Thom.  Through this gate was the king's house.  It was made of wood and no longer exists.  All the stone buildings were devoted to the religion...everyone else had wooden housing..even the king Angkor Thom - The Terrace of the Leper King.  This gentleman was known as the 'Leper King.'  You can notice even in the statue his fingers are missing to accurately represent him.  It is said he caught leprosy from one of his concubines 3 children hanging around Angkor Thom Temple Ruins We had stopped to take a picture of a typical rural Cambodian house.  This girl and her child came out to greet us along with her mother.  More photos of her house are on this page This man, injured from land mines, plays a flute for tips in one of the corridors next to the Terrace of the Leper King Being teachers we asked our driver to stop at a local school in the rural Siem Reap area.  Their teacher allowed us to take this photo.  Although the kids are cute I really wanted to show what the classrooms were like as well. Same children as above but with their teacher.
 
This is an outside shot of the school we visited.  The car in the photo is our tour car This is Lak.  She drew this picture in hopes that  I would buy some of the postcards she is holding in this photo...short of that she said she would give me a black eye if I didn't buy from her...how could I resist :) Thommanon.  This is a small temple still in good condition that was built as a 'practice' before Angkor Wat was constructed Another picture of Thommanon Some of the really large trees within the Angkor temple complex.  These would compete with the sequoias in California The entrance to Angkor Wat.  You can see many monks wearing brightly colored orange robes in this picture These are photos of Angkor Wat itself.  The most famous of the temples in the Angkor complex. Here you can see the complex with it's reflection in the pond This is a bathing pool within the temple....there are four of these that make a big square in the center of the temple
 
View from one of the upper level of Angkor Wat looking down into the temple complex Carrie and Saul climbing up to the top of Angkor Wat.  Notice how steep and narrow the stairs are Looking back towards the entrance to Angkor Wat Reconstruction of one of the statues in Angkor Wat.  It's head was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge Srah Srang, sitting on the edge of a baray (water reservoir).  The remains of an island temple in the middle of the lake can be seen during the dry season when the water is low Bantay Srey, the ladies' temple. The literal translation of the name is 'Citadel of the Women'.  The temple is built of pink sandstone and is filled with many intricate carvings Bantay Srey.  Intricate carving over one of the doorways Bantay Srey.  Closer photo of the intricate carving over one of the doorways
 
Bantay Srey.  This is a picture of the wall surrounding Bantay Srey Ta Prohm, a complex that has only been partially cleared of the jungle overgrowth.  Gives you a good feeling of what the ruins looked like when they where first discovered Ta Prohm.  One of the trees growing on the wall of the temple Ta Prohm.  Tree growing over the doorway of the ruins Ta Prohm.  Another example of the jungle taking over the temple Stèphen Pretending to be Indiana Jones This picture is to show the scale of the trees as compared to a normal person...well if you can call Carrie normal  :) The many vendors located near the temple complex. Often the children were given the task of selling postcards, books, etc. in the hopes of gaining sympathy
 
A nice road in Cambodia leading to some of the temples.  Notice the dust covered trees and bushes A typical home in a Cambodian village.  They do not have any running water or electricity The family pet....or perhaps dinner someday Another picture showing the living conditions in the village Another picture showing the living conditions in the village Traditional Trade School. These pictures show the various steps in the process of  making silk from silk worms.  Here the silk worms are fed a diet of mulberry leaves Once they reach the pupa stage they spin a yellow cocoon for them selves.  Here is a traditional 'nest' for these pupa cocoons Next they are baked in the sun to kill the worm and then boiled in hot water to loosen the silk strands which are spooled with this machine
 
The silk spools are dyed different colors and spooled again according to color of the silk.  The have a mechanical machine to do this work but because these girls are trainees and do not have machines back in their villages, they must learn to do it by hand Later the dyed silk is loomed into scarves, blankets, and raw textile material This is a brief snapshot of another area of the traditional trade school.  Here young men are keeping alive the art of stone carving

 



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China 2002 and 2005

 

Bejing 2002
Xiushui Silk Market.  Shopping in China is a lot of fun.  The general rule is you counter with 25% of the asking price and expect to pay 30%.  The vendors know it's a game and you can get some really good deals. Buddist Temple.  This is a view inside one of the rooms in the temple.  There is a large Buddha in another room that is 75 feet tall and carved out of a single piece of sandallwood.  It is in the Guiness Book of World Records. A Lion statue guarding the entrance to the Lama Temple Temple of Heaven.  This temple was built where it was believed to be the exact meeting point of Heaven and Earth.  It was built in 1420 Looking across the street to the West side of Tiananmen Square.  This building is The Great Hall of the People, China's national hall of Congress East side of Tiananmen Square.  This building is the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Revolution Carrie Standing in Tiananmen Square.  The entrance to the Forbidden City can be seen in the background Gate of Heavenly Peace.  This is the entrance to  the Forbidden City and is located directly across from Tiananmen Square
 
Gate of Supreme Harmony inside the Forbidden City.  The Forbidden City is the largest palace enclosure in China with 9,000 rooms and a surrounding wall made of 12 million bricks (Left to Right) Brian, Carrie, Mike and Lance standing on the Great Wall.  There are 4 main locations from which to view the wall.  This section is at Badaling, 42 miles northwest of Beijing The Great Wall at Badaling. You can see some of the watchtowers along the wall.  This section of the wall was restored beginning in 1957.  The wall averages 24ft in height, 21ft wide at it's base, and 16ft wide on top. Carrie standing on the Great Wall.  The wall is 6.200 miles long and covers a distance of 2,484 miles. More than half of the Wall has been demolished and much of it lies ruined
 
Bejing 2005
Ming Tombs.  These tombs are located 50 km northwest of Beijing.   There are 13 emperors buried here.  This is the Changling Tomb Entrance to the Ming Tombs Carrie and Kyla outside the entrance to the Ming Tombs The Great Wall at Badaling Crowds of people on the Great Wall at Badaling Nancy on the Great Wall Grams, Carrie, and Kyla on the Great Wall at Badaling Gate at the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is located 15 kilometers from Beijing.  It was built during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234)
 
Marble Boat at the Summer Palace.  Originally built in 1750 and rebuilt in 1893.  The boat is 36 meters long and made of wood painted to look like marble Marble Boat at the Summer Palace.  Originally built in 1750 and rebuilt in 1893.  The boat is 36 meters long and made of wood painted to look like marble Seventeen Arch Bridge.  This bridge was built during the Qing Dynasty (1736-1795), is 150 meters long, and 8 meters wide.  It is the largest bridge in the Summer Palace and contains 544 lions carved out of white marble A building in the Forbidden City, now known as the Palace Museum. Grams, Carrie, and Ky in the Forbidden City Nancy standing across the street from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the first gate you go through when entering the Forbidden City from the South Grams, Carrie, and Ky at the Temple of Heaven.  The grounds of the temple are larger than the Forbidden City but smaller than the Summer Palace.
 
Shanghai 2005
French Concession District of Shanghai.  This area has a lot of shops and restaurants Grams, Carrie, and Ky (sleeping) on a very foggy day in Shanghai.  The Shanghai skyline is seen across the river.  The building on the far left is a TV tower Yu Yuan Garden.  This bridge, called the Nine Curve Bridge, was designed so you could enjoy the garden and the surrounding area from many viewpoints as you entered Yu Yuan Garden.  The garden was finished in 1577 and occupies an area of 20,000 square meters (about 5 acres) Nancy in the Yu Yuan Garden Yu Yuan Garden, also known as the Garden of Peace and Comfort The Yu Yuan Bazaar, located across from the gardens, has over 100 shops and China's oldest teahouse The Yu Yuan Bazaar.  Starbucks really is everywhere isn't it?
 
Entrance to Jade Buddha Temple located in the western part of Shanghai.  The temple occupies 800 square meters and contains 299 rooms The Recumbent Buddha in the Jade Buddha Temple.  This Buddha is 96 centimeters long and lying in a position called the 'lucky repose' Another Buddha in the Jade Buddha Temple Figures in the Jade Buddha Temple A teahouse in the Yu Yuan Bazaar.  We go to sample several different kinds of Chinese tea.  A round brown 'pod' was placed in a glass and, when water was added, it opened into a flower
 
Xi'an 2005
Grams and Ky in the garden at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an.   This is a holy place for Buddhists located 4 kilometers from the downtown of the city.  It was originally built in 652 and stands 64.5 meters tall A sample of dumplings from a dumpling dinner we had in Xi'an More dumplings from our dumpling dinner.  The pig shaped dumpling was stuffed with pork, the bird shaped dumpling with chicken, and the nut shaped dumpling with a sweet nut paste Part of the collection of the 8,000 strong terracotta army buried in front of Emperor Qinshihuang's tomb to defend him in the afterlife Terracotta Warriors.  These figures were buried in 210-209 B.C.  The army was discovered by a farmer in 1974 when digging a water well Terracotta Warriors.  This is Pit 1, the largest excavation pit.  It is 230 meters long and 62 meters wide.  There are 2 other pits that have been excavated Terracotta Warriors.  The warriors are life-sized and vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle according to rank

 


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The People
The Koreans have been really nice to us.  Of course you'll get your occasional bad experience but overall they have been very accepting of us and our dogs.  Koreans  tend  to  view  people  they  do not  know as 'non persons', this isn't to say that you are a nobody in general but just simply a nobody to that individual.  This is often interpreted as rudeness and at times I guess it can be.   Koreans have what I tend to refer to as a lack of common courtesy but great personal courtesy.  What I mean by this is that in public they can be quite rude and insensitive at times but on a personal level they are very gracious. So, once  you  get to know a Korean on a more personal level they are quite nice people.  Our landlord (Dr. Lee who has adopted the English name of Richard) and his family have really taken care of us.  They have taken us shopping, mountain hiking and have given us one of their TVs to use.  You'll also find that Korean's, like others, tend to be shy of stranger especially if they don't speak the language.
 
Pets and Animals
At first, we were concerned about bringing our dogs with us to Korea due to the Koreans being infamous for eating dog. but to the contrary we found that Korea is quite dog friendly. To our surprise, there are lots of dogs in Korea as well as vets and small mom and pop pet stores. Most Koreans have small toy dogs which can be annoying but this is mainly due to the fact that most Koreans live in high rise apartments. However, larger dogs are now finding popularity here and our beagles have been quite the conversation piece since most Koreans have only seen beagles on TV or in movies. Kenneling is no problem in Korea although I will probably be staying over the summers to take care of them while Carrie returns home. As for Koreans eating dogs, yes its true, although the custom is dying. They have a specific breed that they raise for this (For more info on traveling with pets... check the Dog Page.) 
 
Transportation
The subways here in Korea are clean and easy to use  although  you  might find yourself fighting for a seat with a little old lady as they tend to cut  in front of you and rush onto the subway in search of a seat.  They are often quite rude about this activity but its a cultural thing.  Subways cost change but at this writing it is about 800 Won (.90 cents) and are the easiest way to get around Seoul. Taxi  service in Seoul is relatively inexpensive (W1600 for the onset). However, flagging one down can sometimes be an Olympic event. (note:  taxis with their roof light or window light on are available, supposedly.) We haven't decided if this is prejudice or simply common place for everybody.  Buses in Seoul are an adventure to be had. For whatever reason they feel it necessary to fully accelerate only to go a few feet and then slam on the brakes, much to the amusement and aggravation of those inside.   They often roll  through  red  lights  and block  city  traffic.  Some bus information for those new to Seoul, just because you're standing at the bus stop doesn't mean the bus will stop.  Often bus stops are for several routes and if you don't flag the bus down it will continue with its route leaving you standing there wondering why.  Travel by car in Korea is hectic. Traffic is often quite bad and Koreans in general seem to have a different sense  of  distance  perspective as  they will often come quite close to you   You will have to fight bus drivers for  the right  of way  and often  lose, as  well  as  dodge  and  wait for  pedestrians. But in fairness, Most Korean drivers are quite good, but then again to drive here, you have to be. Ah to be the pedestrian in Seoul.  Now that is an adventure.  You know the phrase 'Road Rage' well here in Seoul you could develop 'Pedestrian Rage'. (Although I have to give it to these Koreans I've never seen it from any of them.) In Seoul, as a pedestrian you often have to not only avoid other pedestrians but other cars and even motorcycles as you walk, and that's just on the sidewalk.  You can thank lack of city planning for this as there are more cars than parking places and so you will often find cars driving and parking on the sidewalks. Most people on the side roads actually have to walk in the road as cars block the sidewalks.  Motorcycles  seem to have a free for all and you really have to watch for them as you walk down the sidewalk, or step off a bus. I have come to affectionately call them Kamikaze riders.  Most are delivery boys who quite apparently think they are invincible as they dodge between bus and car and you dodge them on the sidewalk. Most are careful around pedestrians but some will speed on by like you are irrelevant.    
 
Weather
Seoul (and Korea by default) has four distinct seasons.  We arrived during the Summer and since we came from Houston we felt we were prepared for the worst Korea could offer.  Well, if the Koreans used air conditioning of any kind on a consistent basis that might have been true.  However, we found ourselves sweltering and sweating in the oppressive humid heat of the Seoul summer with little escape.  Back in Houston you simply went from an AC house to an AC car to an AC Mall.  Here you go from an AC house (maybe, if the house is new) to a bus that may or may not have the AC on to a building that may or may not have the AC on. One odd thing about Korea is that on a certain day of the year they stop using AC.  I think its around Sept 17th and it doesn't have anything to do with outside temperature, so if its 95F on Sept 18th, well too bad. Needless to say I was tired of being sticky by the time Fall arrived.  Fall in Korea is great.  Not only does the weather cool down but the color of the leaves here put New Hampshire to shame. Millions of Koreans take vacations at this time and travel to many of the country's National Parks to take in the beautiful vistas that are offered by nature this time of year.  Winter  in Korea  can be  very cold  and in our case  the  Koreans  seem to  be just  as stingy  with the heating  (see Business section below).    It can also be very windy in the winter  time making the cold even worse so be sure to bring thermals. It does snow in Seoul and in the higher elevations of Korea so if you're a ski buff there are places here to keep you entertained. We haven't experienced spring here yet so I'll have to keep you posted on that.
 
Public Safety
Public safety in Seoul seems to be an oxymoron. There isn't  really a strong legal means of  retribution  in Korea and  most Koreans  take it upon themselves to deal with what happens to them. Case in  point,  the  city bus system, the pedestrian situation and lack of traffic enforcement mentioned above. Other issues that I've noticed (mainly because where we live is a major construction area at the moment) is the lack of pedestrian precautions by the building sites. Most just simply have scaffolding around them but nothing to protect anyone below from falling debris.
 
Public Service
Public service in Korea is a dichotomy.  As mentioned before public safety and the bus drivers could almost make you think that all Koreans are rude and uncaring.  However, it is quite the opposite in department stores, restaurants, hotels, etc.  Korean's have the 'full employment model' for their economy so in exchange for businesses not having to pay any kind of social security tax they are required to hire redundancies in their personnel.  As a result you often find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of personal service and attention you receive when shopping, especially in the larger department stores of Lotte pronounced (Lo-tay) or Hyundai.  Restaurants are the same even in the transplanted American chain restaurants such as Chili's and Outback.
 
City Frustrations
Who has the fastest reaction on earth? Gary Cooper drawing his gun in "High Noon." Right? Wrong! New York City cabbies, who honk at you from behind the split second the traffic signal changes from red to green. But that answer is wrong again, too, I dare say; whoever said that has obviously never seen Seoul drivers - taxi drivers, bus drivers, even ordinary motorists - with itchy palms that are ever ready to honk at the driver ahead to hurry up and start moving even before the traffic signal changes. The fastest draw - er, I mean the fastest honking in the East - doesn't take place only at intersections, of course. Korean drivers are so fond of honking that you get the feeling they think carmakers must have installed the horn not only for use in emergencies, but to draw the attention of other people as well as to protest against anything and everything.  In fact, you can't help suspecting that taxi and bus drivers in Seoul wouldn't be able to work behind the wheel if they couldn't honk-mostly at other drivers who they think are slowing them down, while they themselves are nonchalantly violating or ignoring every traffic rule. I have seen some motorists driving on the sidewalk and imperiously honking at pedestrians to get out of their way.  I don't have to point out that the needless honking by hundreds of thousands of drivers at any given time is one of the main culprits causing the insufferable noise pollution in this overcrowded and stuffy city. It is no exaggeration to say that Seoul is one of the noisiest cities in the world. Honking in the city usually starts early in the morning. When drivers whose cars are blocked by other cars in overcrowded parking lots in apartment complexes, for example, honk continuously until the owners of the blocking cars come down to move out of the way. Even on Sundays, churchgoing drivers honk to call their friends to come and go together. The fact that there are hundreds of other people sleeping, probably, at that hour, simply doesn't register in their thick brains. Or, do they care?  Then, on the city streets, each driver, taking a self-righteous attitude, honks loudly at others the moment they feel their right of way is violated or ignored. To make the situation worse, there are traffic cops with their whistles who like to communicate with drivers by blowing them shrilly for hours on end, adding their ear-splitting and nerve-wracking noise to the hubbub of city streets, that includes the thudding and pounding from the construction that seems to be going on in every other block these days. Then there comes the procession of hawkers of vegetables, fruit or fish in their pickups equipped with loud speakers blaring the cheapest price for each of their goods. The sounds from their speakers echo through the valleys of high-rise apartment buildings. I don't know the results of any scientific research that show how high the city noise level should reach before it starts causing headaches or other adverse effects on our health, but even a laymen like me can easily tell that it is already too noisy to carry on a normal life, as with the choking smog that envelopes this great city almost every day. Sure, there is nothing, as they say, that humans can't get used to. But we must do something about the noise pollution in the city, if we are to maintain a modicum of normalcy. You don't have to be a Freud to figure out that the environment in which we have to endure these insufferable noises day in and day out, has something to do with our mental health - more specifically, the rising number of violent crimes caused by emotional instability of city dwellers.  I have recently moved from the center of the city to an area near an amusement park on the bank of the Han River, hoping that I would have a little quiet here. But I could not have been more mistaken. In addition to the ceaseless honking of cars going into and out of the park, practically around the clock, there is apparently a bunch of insane youngsters, mostly high school aged kids, who drive around on their motorcycles with deliberately broken mufflers and funny sounding horns, screeching wildly, in order to keep everybody in the neighborhood awake throughout the night. What amazes me more than those crazy kids on motorcycles are the signs of infinite tolerance, if not cowardice, of the grownups in the apartments in the area who, like me, apparently are forced to spend these hot, wakeful nights, tossing in bed, listening to the roar and deafening sounds of motorcycles every night. Unable to endure any more, I called the police in the middle of the night the other day while this motorcycle race was going on through our neighborhood streets. But the police, answering my call, simply confessed that they couldn't do anything about them "because they are moving too fast for any patrol cars to catch up with them." Besides, he added, they are just kids. Why shouldn't we suffer a little so that they can burn up their energy while having some fun?  The outcome of my phone call - need I tell you? - was that I was even more upset over the attitude of the dumb, irresponsible and incompetent police than I had been over the crazy kids on the motorcycles. My only consolation, while I tried desperately to doze off into a fitful sleep, was that I dreamt about rounding all those kids up single-handedly, bringing them to the town plaza in broad daylight and giving them a public flogging for disturbing the peace.

 
Doing Business
Public service in Korea is a dichotomy.  As mentioned before public safety and the bus drivers could almost make you think that all Koreans are rude and uncaring.  However, it is quite the opposite in department stores, restaurants, hotels, etc.  Korean's have the 'full employment model' for their economy so in exchange for businesses not having to pay any kind of social security tax they are required to hire redundancies in their personnel.  As a result you often find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of personal service and attention you receive when shopping, especially in the larger department stores of Lotte pronounced (Lo-tay) or Hyundai.  Restaurants are the same even in the transplanted American chain restaurants such as Chili's and Outback.
 
Medical and Dental
There is good English medical and dental care in Korea, at least in Seoul.  One of my former students father is a dentist here in Seoul who lived in America for 11 years and has all the modern equipment and techniques you find anywhere in America.  (Dr. Wonhi Yoo:  011-82-2-514-5575 whyoo@chollian.net)  We had all or most of our medical care at Samsung Hospital in Seoul, which has an international wing with English speaking doctors and staff.  They are very good and very modern and if anything they are overly through.  (http://www.smc.samsung.co.kr/english/ihs.htm)
 
Food
For centuries, the Koreans have eaten the the products of the sea, the field, and the mountains. Because Korea is a peninsula its distinguish climate makes these types of foods more abundant. Korean foods are very special, exotic, and particular. The most distinguishing feature of the Korean food is the spiciness. The basic seasonings-red pepper, green onion, soy sauce, bean paste, garlic, ginger, sesame, mustard, vinegar, wine have been combined in various ways to enhance Korean foods. Favorite side dishes are beanpaste soup, broiled beef, fish, cabbage "kimchi", and steamed vegetables. "the full course Korean meal "is called "Hanjoungshik". It is composed of grilled fish, steamed short ribs, and other meat and vegetable dishes with steamed rice, soup, and "kimchi" "Kimchi"is the best known Korean food. It is cabbage dish, highly seasoned with pepper, garlic, etc. It is served with every Korean meal and it stimulates the appetite like pickles.  Large quantities of "kimchi" are usually made in late fall or early winter for the winter season. This time is called "kimchang". Kimchi contains large amounts of vitamin C, and fiber.  Koreans also like meat dishes although to the westerner it is not like the meat you are use to. Bulgoki (otherwise known as Korean Bar-B-Q) is the most famous of these meat dishes.  It is marinated in a sause made with soysauce, garlic, sugar, sesame oil ,and other seasonings, and cooked over a fire in front of you on the table. For the other meat dishes there isKalbi the short ribs of beef or pork. The recipe is similar to Bulgoki.  The Korean Soups ,"guk" and "cchigue"  vary in taste and potency. Throughout its history, the soup culture was developed because of famine or cold weather.  When Korean ancestors were short on food, they made soup with small amount of vegetables and beef bones.  Also the hot soup could play a role in protection from the cold . Maeuntang is a spicy, hot seafood soup that includes white fish, vegetables, soybean curd, and red pepper powder. Twoenjang-guk is a fermented soybean paste soup with baby clams in its broth.
 
Restaurants

As with any large city there is a variety of food from all over the world.  However, for those of you interested in American food in Seoul can rest assured there are plenty of name brands to give you the comfort food you need. (as of Summer 2006)  There are also plenty of Chinese, Thai, and of course Korean Restaurants to chose from.

 


South Korea 2002 - 2006

Seoul
Most Koreans live in high rises.  No wonder Seoul is so crowded.  However, this is a step up from the dirt-floored huts that a lot of Koreans lived in only 40 years ago. Thus they tend to think nothing of 'the projects' styled living conditions. This is Seoul Tower.  It is located on top of a mountain in the center of Seoul.  There is a restaurant and observation deck at the top Aerial view of Seoul.  Those building in the background are the same buildings you see in some of the backgrounds of the shots from the KIS school page. Looking South Aerial view of Seoul with the Han river running through the center of town. Looking East Downtown Seoul Typical subway station.  This one is the one closest to our house.  This is Seollung Station.  They now have glass walls with sliding doors to access the trains as people were committing sucide by throwing themselved in front of oncoming trains.
 
A poster put up in the subway by the Anti--American crowd here in Korea.  This was over an incident where 2 Korean girls were accidentally run over by a US tank during military maneuvers. You'll see this quite often on subways...and these people are complete strangers to each other....although this appears humorous it is comforting to know that you can do this without fear of being mugged Korean Gas Station.  You'll notice the pumps on the ceiling in the background..& no those aren't for oil changes. I thought that was quite a unique concept. By coincidence there was an American car filling up You'll notice the two ladies on the left walking with arms around each other.  This is a common practice and has nothing to do with homosexuality The COEX From a Distance.  The tall glass building in the center of the frame is the world trade center that sits on top of the COEX MallIf you live in our area this is where you'll see most of your movies.  Luckily they are in English with Korean Subtitles.
 
Another look at the COEX Mall.  The COEX is an underground mall located under Koreas world trade center Another look at the COEX Mall.  The COEX is an underground mall located under Koreas world trade center Seoul city bus.  This is at our bus stop on the backside of our school....We usually take bus 63, which was later changed to a Blue 143 bus What it looks like inside the buses...this is our 63 bus The Seoul City bus tour bus.  A great way to see Seoul. Local school girls crossing the street...around 4 in the afternoon there are hundreds of them around.  This shot was taken from our morning bus stop.
 
Some traditions die hard...local salvage collection...picking up paper to be recycled. Korean Riot Police...Here in Korea everyone male and female are required to do military service.  These young men (22 yrs old) are standing outside the US Army Base gates to ward off protesters.  Protesting is in the Korean culture The place where we went for Korean Language lessons for only a short while Primary school on a field trip to the zoo all dressed alike to better keep track of them. Seoul Time Capsule to be opened in the Year 2394 on Seoul's 1000th anniversary Map of the National Assembly area on Yeouido Island
 
Korea National Assembly.  Same as our Congress Cherry blossom at the National Assembly Library Carrie and Nancy taking pictures of the cherry blossom on Yeouido Island near the National Assembly Spring time around the pond near the National Assembly Art Deco clock at the pond near the National Assembly Our chapter of the USO.  We can eat American cooked meals here as well as book travel arrangements and get advice and information on living in Korea.  It is open to ExPat's
 
The Itaewon Shopping district most popular with foreigners because of its proximity to the armed forces bases.  Its a place where the full diversity of exotic fashion comes together A bit of insight into the Korean Psyche Korean Chapel.  This was the chapel setting for KIS teacher Yeon Sung The Bride and Groom.  Korea is 1/3 Christian if not more and a lot of wedding are very similar to those in other western Christian countries Here some traditional Korean ideas are introduced into a western wedding.  The brides mother is in Pink and the grooms in Green (or sometimes blue) Our dual birthday celebration at the HardRock Café.  Since we both have birthdays in November we  split the difference and celebrate between the two days
 
Typical Korean Meal.  Everything is served at once like this and there is often a stir-fry pan located at your table to cook thin slices of meat. Carrie and Nancy giving it a go at Korean food BUGS FOR SALE!!!  I think that says it all but if you need an explanation those brown things are boiled beetle larvae and I have no clue what the gray-white stuff is.  As you can see she wasn't too happy about me taking her photo. Fried Squid...they even make pancakes out of them as you can see on the left. Decorations for Budda's birthday Korean Traditional dress (Han-Bok)
 
Korean extended Family in Traditional dress getting ready for a family photo Our friend Evan Hale had a pass on to the US military base in Seoul so we always tried to catch a ride with him.  This is the Food court area on the base where we ate Taco Bell. Rob, Kate and Ben checking out Bens camera I took this picture for what it shows. Here, a Korean familiy and friends are picnicking on the seashore.  However, you'll notice the barbed wire fence and guard tower there to prevent invasion from the N. Korea The Pier at Oido. Most of the shops in the background or seafood based restaurants where front men try to entice you to dine at their shop Two Korean women selling their catch on the pier in Oido.   Not sure what it is but they are waiting patiently for the next customer
 
Palces and Temples
Map and tour guide for Changdeokgung Palace. She was quite the character.  This was the palace for the last dynasty in Korea which ended in 1910 A photo of the paint work within the Palace grounds A shot of the guards along with the traditional ceremonial Drum This are old traditional Korean games.  The basket and the ball made of straw is a game played with the feet only. The other is where you throw those rods into the vase like containers. One of the main interior gates leading into the Royal living quarters of the palace I believe the royal court
 
The secret garden within the palace walls The secret garden within the palace walls The royal throne Meeting and ceremonial area Yours truly with one of the royal guards.  I tried to get her to give him a kiss but she wouldn't do it Carrie and Nancy standing with the royal guard
 
Photo of Beautiful Pine tree within the Palace Path leading back from the secret Garden Courtyard of the library One of the interior gateways.  Cant remember where this gate is leading to Map of the Gyeongbokgung palace Grounds Built in 1867 is the Pavilion of Far -Reaching Fragrance
 
Temple on the palace grounds and home to the National Folk Museum of Korea Korean totem poles on the palace grounds. Statues.  not sure what for or about, but cool none the less Photo of a Korean taking a photo of the palace grounds More of Korean architecture inside of the palace This is Gyeongheoru.  Built for holding banquets greeting foreign envoys in 1392
 
Changing of the guard ceremonies at the palace The main entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace Another part of the Palace grounds Map of the traditional Village located in Seoul A view of the interior of the villiage View of the courtyard for a typical royal family house
 
Chimchi Pots used for fermenting Cabbage and spices to make Chimchi Korean Buddist Temple on Deasunsan just south of Seoul One of the  burial mounds in the parkTemple  at a park near our house but as you can see it's located in the center of the city This shows some of the ornate woodwork and painting on the temples
 

Our Apt

An outside view of our Building / House Outside our front door. Apt 303 This is the street running in front of our building.  This shot is facing east down the street. 2002 This is the street running in front of our building.  This shot is facing west down the street. You can see two buildings under construction in this photo (the green wrap around the scaffolding).  Many new buildings are going up here The view out our bedroom window facing south. You can see the bulldozer in the lower right...yet another building being built...This view didnt last long however as a building was put up about a year after our arrival. Korean Trash bags.  But these are not just any old trash bags.  These are the only trash bags the trash man will pick up as they are restricted to our neighborhood.  Any other trash bag is ignored.  You must also separate your trash.

 
The Main door to our building.  This is Craig and Carrie standing out front. As you can see another car parked on the sidewalk.  :) This is our kitchen.  As you can see it's a new kitchen but it does have it's shortcomings.  No Oven.  No garbage disposal...We could buy these things if we wanted but we make do with what we have as there is no reason to buy. This is our computer room...or as our other less fortunate fellow teachers call...our 'West Wing'.  It is nice having the 2 rooms especially when we need to escape for a while.  Although I'm usually the one in here  :) The new chest of drawers we bought here.  We tried to find the cheap put it together yourself kind of furniture but that doesn't really exist here.  The chest of drawer weren't too expensive and we like them Picture of the bed in the bedroom with Adie contemplating suicide seeing how we're on the 3rd floor This is our laundry room right off the kitchen.  As you can see there is no electric dryer so we have to dry clothes the old fashioned way on a clothes air dryer
 
Our Evac Pack in case the North decided to invade This is the park where we take the puppies for the bathroom breaks...there are usually a lot of the local children here and they love the dogs Our Vet...They also kennel here and this will most likely be where we leave them when we go on our trips
 
Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun (nom-deh-moon) Market...600 hundred year old market is a Korean traditional shopping place.  Anything for everyday living can be bought here Vendor at Namdaemun selling his wares....in this case watches The market has many levels.. .some of which are under-ground and some of which are several stories above ground As you can see it's similar to a giant flea-market but the things they sell are new Turtles and Eels waiting to be bought for the dinner table Umm Pork
 
This is the entrance to the Namdaemun Black Market (2002).  Here they sell a variety of American food products.  As you enter the gate you head downstairs This is a view of the market as you head downstairs
 
Playing Soccer in Seoul
World Cup Stadium Seoul Riding the escalators from the subway up to the World Cup Stadium. Outside shot of the stadium from the top of the escalators Inside shot of the stadium Game action Seoul FC Kyun Min and I sit in the FC Fan Club section of the stadium which is behind on of the goals
 
Kyun Min sitting alone as I wander to take photos Ky with the team captain. These are shots of the 2nd team I joined in Korea called DaeJung.  These guys basically just play pick up games on Sundays.  Most of the player are from Jeju Islans.  Im ashamed to say I dont know most of their names.Guys from the team The guys taking a break between games Choi and ??? watching as the ball is passed between them Choi taking a break between games
 
Guys from the team Typical start to the game as everyone waits for everyone to get ready :-) Guys from the team Guys from the team My good friend Kyun Min...getting ready to play our regular Sunday game Another Good friend names Gadori
 
This is the first team I joined to play soccer.  The team name was called the UK ExPats (often called the SexPats) Most of the guys from the soccer team...as our membership seemed to change every week... I don't really know the guys names unfortunately. David (11) Trent Anderson taking control of the ball with Darren (32) and Justin (20) looking on Guys from the team The UK ExPat's Soccer team captain Darren Bernardo driving the ball down field
 
Mnt Climbing in Korea
A hike up a local mountain just on the outskirts of Seoul. ...Nice of them to put stairs huh? Mr. Lee, Carrie and Stèphen at a resting point on our hike Some scenery along the way up the mountain Group photo...  Craig, our neighbor, is also in the picture Everyone at the Seollung Subway station ready to head of for the big adventure Everyone at the Suraksan Subway station buying last minuet details and backpacks etc.
 
The beginning of our climb up.  This was the first and last time Rick was in the lead :) Rest break before the hard part of the climb.  Here Carrie and Roger take in the view and laugh at those slower folks still on the trail below. Finally they catch up and its group photo time.  Now its time to head off up the mountain The rope may make this seem benign but its a lot steeper than the photo makes it appear Ahh the view Darn Koreans...always slowing us down.  :) Actually, we were quite impressed with the older Korean who climb this mountain
 
Yeaaa almost all of us made it to the top.  We lost a few no the trip us. Terry, our fearless leader telling us of the wonderful view.  Showoff! Not to be outdone...Terry decides we should take a path less traveled on the way down.  'Path' being the optional word here A map of the Taedunsan Mountain complex We arrive, bus parked and everyone getting ready for the adventure ahead A view from the parking lot of what lies ahead of us,...us, and 10,000 of our Korean neighbors that day..
 
A stone sign at the base of the trail.  Not sure what it says Typical scenic view of this climb.  Photos just don't seem to do it justice though Suspension bridge that crosses a ravine Crossing that bridge when we got to it After the suspension bridge comes the suspension ladder.  This one was quite wobbly Climbing the ladder that leads up to the summit of the mountain.  Its not necessary to climb this ladder but its more fun. :-)
 
Taken from the summit you can look back down on the bridge, ladder and the parking lot off in the distance And of course the summit itself with all your fellow Koreans taking pictures of their conquest This photo is large at 2048 x 1536 but it shows, in pretty good detail, the trail behind us including the suspension bridge and the suspension ladder Whew we made it.  This is the Korean flag at the highest point of the mountain
 
CQB Training
Eric (Brit who grew up in OZ) and Honorio  (Philipino) from CQB....the tallest to shortest in the class James (Kiwi) signing his life away to join the class Honorio putting his Voodoo on me Rob and Bo checking out the CQB Books Rob Davis (USA) our fearless CQB Insturctor and Kate (Korean) another student who's never tried to kill anyone before Bo practicing her knife edge strikes
 
Themeparks in Seoul
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów Seoul Grand Park Map where Seoul Land is located but as you can see it is only about 1/4 of the entire park Seoul Grand Park Map where Seoul Land is located but as you can see it is only about 1/4 of the entire park The Black Hole Roller Coaster at Seoul Land Another look at Seoul Land Black Hole Roller Coaster
   
  Carrie waiting to ride the Sky Flyer at Seoul Land Stèphen takes aim....too bad there wasn't something more challenging to shoot although I don't think it would have really mattered as he had a hard enough time hitting the still target These were pretty cool...They are called Sky Cycles although I think they where a cheap way to get paying customers to do all the work Carrie rides again....only this time it's the Top Spin....and man does it spin you...that's why I opted out since I tend to get motion sickness these days
   
 
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów Lotte World.  A shopping mall with an indoor amusement park much like that of the Mall of America in Minnesota Lotte World.  An Arial view from the balloon ride. Lotte World.  The ice skating rink at Lotte World Lotte World.  Part of Lotte World is outdoors.  This is the haunted house.  It was pretty lame actually
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów Map of the tradition Korean Folk Village.  243 acres and more than 260 houses from the different regions of the 6th century Yi dynasty in Korea Typical street scene in the Korean village...I was lucky to get this shot without people in it This is an outside shot of a Nobleman's house
   
  This is a shot of a house that was built for a 'dutiful son' whatever that means :)  The shot is taken looking across the garden area and into the side wall of the house complex A Korean traditional Dance performed in an outdoor amphitheater Art time....I thought this looked like a good shot.  Basically corn and herbs being sun dried for the winter season Traditional Korean paper making.  the angled 'stand' behind her is a drying stand....there is a fire built underneath
   
  Another shot of the house with the sun dried corn and such...this obviously is a wider angle shot of the farm house....where the bride rides around in a box...much like a present to be giving to the groom Early Korean advertising....actually I'm not sure what this is but thought it looked cool Another shot a local street scene at the village.  This part of the village makes ceramic pots.  In the background are the Kiln houses
   
  Traditional Kiln Shot of a side street running back toward the Kiln houses Farmers house A friendly local resident of the village
   
  Local man selling honey taffy Traditional Korean fishing boat Local craftsman selling smoking pipes Traditional wedding where the groom rides a horse at the front of the processional and ....
   
  Traditional dress during the Yi Dynasty.  A photographer was setting up this shot for himself so I took advantage of the setup gateway leading to the village Buddhist temple This is the village fortune tellers house.  I'm not sure of the significance of the flower looking hanging pots but I thought it would be a nice photo A couple visitors trying their hand at a traditional Korean game.  One person jumps in order to send the other person high into the air and vise-versa.
   
  Korean totem poles Crafts market in the village the steps up toward a Buddha set on the side of a hill in the village
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów Our visit to the Seoul Zoo.  These are the sky chairs that are an option of transportation to the zoo entrance Children's Zoo.   This is a free zoo for younger kids.
   
 
   
  Botanical Garden Botanical Garden Botanical Garden
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów he very slow moving Ferris Wheel at Everland.  It was actually quite relaxing go round Swing Boat in American land at Everland. Botanical Garden at Everland Another view from the Ferris Wheel showing the swinging boat and another rollercoaster in American Land
   
  Korean version of Its a Small World Another view of the Botanical Garden and the theater stage in the background A couple of the rollercoaster's at Everland as seen from the Ferris Wheel A better view of one of one of the rollercoasters
   
  This was an interesting ride.  It the bobsled ride but you ride down on wheels coasters on this metal track to give you the feel of a real bobsled track Carrie coming in for a photo finish...photo by me of course :-) Grizzly Bear from inside the Safari bus at Everland Getting a close up view of a loin at the park.
   
Seasonal Photos of Korea  
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów
   
 
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów
   
 
   
Karolina Zieliska and Tomasz Bielanów Korean version of Its a Small World Another view of the Botanical Garden and the theater stage in the background A couple of the rollercoaster's at Everland as seen from the Ferris Wheel A better view of one of one of the rollercoasters
   
  Korean version of Its a Small World Another view of the Botanical Garden and the theater stage in the background A couple of the rollercoaster's at Everland as seen from the Ferris Wheel A better view of one of one of the rollercoasters
 
Pusan 2005
Korea's bullet train, the KTX.  We got upwards to 190mph or 300kph on the way to Pusan and you could hardly notice Seoul Station where we got our tickets We're 2nd on the list just waiting to board the fastest train in Korea A view of the 1st class seats on the KTX.  You can see Nancy peaking around the seat toward the middle of the car Shot taken from the train to show the Korean countryside Shot taken from the train to show the Korean countryside
 
Shot taken from the train to show the Korean countrysideShot taken from the train to show the Korean countryside Marriot Hotel in Pusan on the beach at Haeundae.  Stayed in room 1138 View of the beach from TGIF in Haeundae Another view from TGIF in Haeundae Another view from TGIF in Haeundae
 
Small amusement park just outside Taejongdae park Cliff along the circular road inside Taejongdae park Cliff along the circular road inside Taejongdae park Pusan is a major port city for Korea and here you can see a lot of ships waiting to be let into the port.  Taken from the circular road inside Taejongdae park A shot of the observation pavilion as well as a shipping beacon on an island just off coast Entrance to Taejongdae park
 
Small amusement park just outside Taejongdae park
 
DMZ 2002-2005
Statue at the War Memorial of a South Korean solider helping a wounded  North Korean soldier... perhaps a brother I think this turned out to be a great photo.  The writing is painted on that fence and not something I added to the photo....I just hope America can remember this like the Koreans seem to The main entrance to the memorial museum.  As you can see they had a special exhibit on the DMZ Planes from the Korean War era on display Korean Naval ship of days gone by...this was referred to as a turtle ship...I'm guessing because of the enclosed crew area and the spikes on the surface A sign at a memorial park outside of the DMZ area.  This sign is posted next to a memorial for those families who were separated after the DMZ was created so they could come and pray for relatives lost forever into North Korea
 
The actual memorial for families  who wish to pray for their relatives in the North most of whom will never be seen again The Freedom Bell.  It was not put here because of the DMZ but has been used for centuries to ring in honor of peace agreements.  Koreans hope at some point it will ring again for unification and so they relocated it here Also located at the memorial park is a reproduction of the freedom bridge where POW's were exchanged during and after the armistice Sorry for the picture quality on this one but it was taken from the bus at speed. This is simply showing some troop movement on the high way in and around the DMZ Check Point Bravo on the way to the DMZ. This was taken from inside the bus window. Also taken from the bus is the bridge obstacle course that we had to drive through after going the Check Point Bravo in the picture before this one
 
After arriving at Camp Bolivas ( I think that's right) We had to change from civilian buses to UN buses One of the first buildings you will enter - I refer to it as the propaganda building (mind you both sides have them).  This building doesn't produce propaganda but rather is an ultra modern very ritzy building in order to show the North how much better off the South is To counter the picture before the N Koreans evacuated this town long ago and rebuilt it with their version of modern buildings and the worlds tallest flagpole.  They broadcast over loudspeakers N Korean Propaganda.  They keep this a secret from their people Keeping a close watch on the neighbors This is the building where you are first debriefed on the history of the DMZ and what you can and cannot do in the J.S.A. (Joint Security Area) The actual JSA (Joint Security Area) where both sides are allowed to freely go, but after several incidents (see photos below) they had to redivide the compound. One incident was an ax murder of 2 US Officers in 1976. Another was the defection of a Russian
 
This is a mock up of the place where the N and S do their talks.  If you'll notice there is a black rope that runs across the floor and then across the table...this is the Demarcation line and each side stays on their side In contrast to the previous photo inside the War Memorial Museum.  This is a photo of the actual room located in the JSA. The two S. Korean guards in the background stand in a modified Tae Kwon Do stance to intimidate Stèphen posing with the guard.  We were told not to talk, touch, or walk around behind them North Korean Observation post.  Notice the open window?  It opened up as we were in the area and North Korean soldiers were filming us and watching us through their binoculars This soldier too was watching us through binoculars but remained at his post in front of the building Some more N. Korean Propaganda. It's mounted on the hillside much like the 'Hollywood' sign in Hollywood, California. It says 'Our General is the Best General'
 
Taken from inside the bus.  This is 'The Bridge of No Return.' It's called this because after the war POW were lined up on both sides and were allowed to chose which side they wished to stay in. However once their decision was made they could never go back 1985 Incident. There use to be a sunken garden here but one day a Russian diplomat ran across the border to defect which caused a fire fight between the two Koreas within the JSA.  After the battle 4 N. K died & 1 S. K but the Russian Survived 1976 Incident. This shows the observation post next to The Bridge of no Return.  This post was in line of sight from another US observation post except a tree was obstructing the view.  When 5 men (2 US, 3 Kor) went to trim the tree they were ambushed. Our tour guides through the JSA Our tour was allowed to eat lunch on base and so here we are lining up for some good ole American Food This the Korean version of the DMZ tour.  This building is a debriefing room about the DMZ as most are not allowed into the actual DMZ area. It is also a listening post
 
This is just outside the debriefing room.  All photos had to be taken from behind the yellow line.  I do believe this is a Korean joke as you can see nothing can be photographed from here except the backs of heads This is the entrance to the S. Korean access tunnel.  It was dug to intercept the N. Korean tunnel once it was discovered that the North was digging these tunnels.  No photos were allowed inside so this was the best I could do. Korean monument to uphold the wish of Korean unification
Videos
 
 
Seoul Airport  
 
 
Our Apt
 
 
Seoul FC Tribute
 
 
 
 
 

Photos


Korea International School

Kids playing at recess.  you'll notice the city within a city being built in the background. The Lunch Room at KIS.  This picture has a few of Stèphen's kids in it. The KIS building from the far end of the soccer field Coke Float Sale 3rd grade had to help the flood victims of a 2002 typhoon here in Korea.  The sale raised W230,000  which is equal to about $212.00 at the current exhange rate KIS dismissal and children leaving to return home on the bus.  BUT its not as bad as it sounds as they have TV, A/C,  and reclining seats.  One other thing they  have that US school buses  do not is seat belts. The KIS building is shaped as a hollow square.  The interior courtyard is used by another school.  You can just see the playground equipment.  Carrie's room is at the end of this hall
 
The KIS Playground as viewed from the 4th floor teachers Lounge KIS from the top of Deasunsan just south of the school KIS Library.  It started small but grows every year and is staffed by a wonderful group of ladies. Library check out time Robin, Mike and Lance eating in China at a 'Hot Pot' restaurant.  This is where you put what you want to eat into a boiling pot and than serve yourself when its done In trouble.  Oh the agony of not being able to play soccer during recess
 
2002 - 2003 School wide photo.  Or at least an attempt at one Some of the KIS staff that attended Yeon's wedding KIS School Buses Several of the KIS staff meeting in the subway on their way to Yeon Sung's Wedding. In photo are Terry, Carrie, Ana, Lucy, Wade, Hana, Debbie. Craig Gilman doing his GQ pose 3 troublemakers let loose on the subways of Seoul. Carrie, Ana and Lara
 
Meeting for Diner.  Yeon, Terry, Lucy, Carrie and Trevor. 100th day Ice Skating Party (2002 2003). The beginning of a long day of fun Which way am I suppose to go? 5th Graders Isabelle, Sarah (background) out skating us all KIS Elementary Ice Skating Party Jan 24, 2003 Elementary Writers Cafe.  Young authors sharing their writing with other students
 
Writers round table.  Here each person write the same beginning sentence for their story but then passing it on to the next person to add one sentence to it Scavenger hunt for students.  All the writings that the students did for the writers fair are spread out and then students are assigned questions that they need to find the answer for KIS Sports Day.  Mixing of Teaching staff with the business staff. KIS 100th Day Elementary Skate Party at the Hyatt (2003 2004) PE Softball PE Bad Mitten
 
Here the kids are spelling out letters with their bodies.  each are assigned a group and race to create their letter.  This photo is them spelling out KIS for the year book. This was a display of Chinese Children Gymnastics.  These kids were no more than 2nd or 3rd graders but they could do amazing stuff.  Many of whom were orphans I'll let the photo speak for itself I'll let the photo speak for itself I'll let the photo speak for itself KIS opened its new campus for the 2006 - 2007 school year.  These are a few photos of the campus and building before its opening
 
The new turf covers soccer field The covered parking parking garage Squash courts Shower room right off the soccer field Swimming pool.  25m in length Elementary playground
 
Fully equipped theater Control room for theater.  with large display screen Cafeteria Sample Classroom with sample desk styles to chose from All classrooms have their own bathrooms.  This one is for elementary with a miniature toilet. HS Girls soccer team after the first game on the new field.  We lost 2-1 in a heartbreaker in the last 30 sec of the game
 
Girls Soccer team relaxing after the game HS Boy playing their first game on the new field after the girls. Group photo of both KIS and SIS teachers who played in the First Annual KIS - SIS game Javier goes for a ball as it head out of bounds Brian holds up the interschool Cup trophy after we win 5 - 3 Our loyal fans cheering us on
 
Yours truly making a pass Rich boots one downfield.
 
Videos
 
 
Farewell to Staff at KIS  
 
 
Days Work at KIS
 
 
 
 



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Monday, February 3, 2003                                  

Seoul to Bangkok  

          Well, I’m off on another adventure.  It feels strange knowing that I’ll be writing about an experience shared with my husband rather than my mother.  Hmm…come to think of it I didn’t have any “pre-flight adventure” to write about this time.  Could it have something to do with my choice of traveling companion?

            We got up early this morning and headed out at 6:15.  Not wanting to be laden down with cold weather gear once we left Seoul we quickly made our way (walking) to the City Air Terminal inappropriately dressed for the weather which we approximated to be in the 20’s.  The walk took about 15 minutes and, upon arrival, we purchased our tickets for the 6:45 bus to the airport.  There wasn’t any traffic to speak of and we were at the airport less than an hour later.  We quickly checked in and headed to our gate to wait the 1 ½ hours until our flight left.  About 10 minutes before boarding 3 of our fellow teachers (who were also traveling to Thailand) arrived and we chatted with them until it was time to board.

            Upon boarding (economy class – maybe those pre-flight adventures are a fair trade off for traveling business or first class?) we settled in for the 5 ½ hour flight.  I immediately flipped to the section of the airline magazine dealing with in-flight movies only to discover that, out of the 15 plus movies listed for different routes the only one I’d seen (Men in Black II) was the one showing on our flight.  Of course, the fact that I soon discovered that the movie scheduled to be shown on our return flight (Spy Kids 2) was the one I’d least like to see out of all of the remaining features, didn’t help matters.  Nor did the experience of passing through First Class and seeing all their individualized TV screens.  Lunch was served shortly after take-off (chicken, rice, vegetables and several unknowns).  Typical airline food (although bad versions of food you like is better than bad versions of food you don’t really care for in the first place i.e., Korean food).  I really am missing First Class!  The flight was smooth and uneventful, my favorite kind of flying experience!

            Upon arrival at the airport in Bangkok, we exchanged some money, cleared immigration and customs and found the representative from the tour company.  He got us situated with our ride and 20 minutes later we were at our hotel, Century Park.  We made the mistake of not offering a tip to our driver (as our guidebook said tipping was not customary in Thailand) but quickly learned (from the expectation on our driver’s face) that the people here haven’t read that book and tipping is apparently expected.  We checked in and Stephen headed for the fitness center while I headed for the pool.  I mean, come on, we’re on vacation here!  Not wanting to get too much sun my first time out (and the first time feeling warmth on my skin in several months) I only stayed out by the pool for about an hour.  During that time I observed that the hotel seems to attract an older crowd and there were not many young people around.  However, since we were visiting at a time that didn’t coincide with a major school holiday, I guess that makes sense.

            After sunbathing we decided to do a little exploring.  One of the hotel taxi drivers persuaded us to go to the “Government Market” which was basically a large jewelry showcase or, as the sign proclaimed, the “world’s largest gem factory”.  (We later discovered that there aren’t any government sponsored jewelry shops in Thailand and calling it such is just a way to get tourists to visit.)  There was high pressure salesmanship and we weren’t interested in shopping for jewelry anyway so we quickly made our escape.  The market had free shuttle service so we got a ride to Patpong, a night market area with lots of shops and restaurants.  There were quite a few street vendors out when we arrived but I don’t things really hit full swing until several hours later.  We walked around looking for a place to eat.  I wanted Thai food which would seem like it would be easy to find but we saw many more Japanese and Western style restaurants in the area.  Of course, not knowing how to read the language, there were probably signs for Thai restaurants all over the place but nothing in English to indicate this.  We finally found a noodle restaurant that had a wide variety of dishes.  I had spring rolls and rice noodles with chicken while (out of at least 30 dishes to choose from) Stephen ordered spaghetti with meat sauce!  Not surprisingly to me, he didn’t get quite what he expected but was able to eat enough to appease his hunger.

            After eating we decided to walk around the area some more.  Stephen got talked into a foot massage by a woman on the street.  He had a relaxing (and inexpensive…$5) one hour massage.  By then it was 8:30 (10:30 our body time) so we decided to head back to the hotel.  We easily got a taxi and returned to the Century Park.  After a soak in the tub (I miss having a tub at home!) we decided to call it a night.

 
Tuesday, February 4, 2003                                         Bangkok  

         This morning I woke up (or more accurately was woken up) around 7:00.  I guess some things don’t change with a change in traveling companions.  We lounged around watching TV for about an hour before heading down for breakfast.  We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel with American style breakfast foods.  After eating Stephen and I headed for the gym and pool respectively and relaxed for another hour.  We then returned to our room to get ready for our afternoon tour.

            We were picked up at 12:15 and taken to a central gathering area from where the tour bus departed.  We were then taken by tour bus (along with 14 other people) to the Grand Palace.  There is a strict dress code to enter the grounds including no T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, or open heeled shoes.  There are clothes available at the entrance to the site for those who need to borrow them – some places charge a small rental fee while others loan them for free.  After taking care of everyone’s attire (we were forewarned and appropriately dressed) we began our tour.  The temple and palace grounds were very beautiful.  Inside one of the buildings is the Emerald Buddha (actually carved from jade).  It was kind of funny because this large, elaborately adorned room houses a Buddha about two feet tall.  We continued our tour of the grounds until it was time to head back to the bus.  On the way we were assailed by street vendors selling postcards, umbrellas, and other souvenirs.  We decided to buy a set of postcards and an umbrella (to use as decoration in our house).  While Stephen managed to do some bargaining he didn’t have the training that my trip to Beijing provided me so we didn’t get as good a price as we should have.  The tour bus then dropped us off at the same gem market we visited yesterday.  We have determined that most tours end here and you can’t really avoid it.  We bypassed the gem store and immediately headed for the shuttle area to get a ride back to our hotel. 

            Although we were both tired and hot we decided to change clothes, head out for dinner, and return to our hotel for an early night.  (We had earlier contacted the hotel in Kanchanaburi and found out that we were going to be picked up at 6:30 the next morning instead of 7:30 as our itinerary showed.)  We took a taxi to Siam Square, a large shopping area and mall complex.  We ate at a café in the mall where I had a chicken, basil, and noodle dish while Stephen had a tuna and spaghetti dish.   Both dishes were very spicy but good and, once again very cheap…about $5 for both of us.  After eating we got some ice cream at Dairy Queen and walked around the area.  After exploring a bit we got a taxi and returned to our hotel.

            We re-packed our bags (after a bit of a struggle after realizing that the clothes we wore on the plane – jeans, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, sneakers, etc. – took up more room than the shorts and T-shirts we were planning to wear on the next leg of our journey).  After finally getting everything packed, I relaxed with another nice bath, watched some TV, and went to sleep.

     
Wednesday, February 5, 2003 

Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

 

          Today we began the portion of our journey reminiscent of the movie title “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”.  (We would be on 7 different kinds of transportation in 2 days.) We got up at 5:15, checked out of the hotel, and had breakfast before being picked up by a van at 6:30.  We picked up 2 more people at another hotel and then went to a random spot (random to us anyway) where a large tour bus picked us up and we joined a larger group of people.

            We drove for a couple of hours before arriving at the JEATH War Museum.  The acronym stands for the countries that had POW’s in the war camps in World War II – Japan, England, America/Australia, Thailand, and Holland.  The museum is pretty simple – it is housed in a reconstructed POW hut and contains artifacts and photographs from the construction of the “Death Railway”.  Our next stop was a few minutes away at the War Cemetery.  Over 6,000 POWs are buried there.  The grounds are meticulously maintained as evidenced by the several Thai workers tending to the gardening.  It is a very beautiful cemetery in tribute to those who died constructing the railway.

            After the cemetery we continued on to the Bridge on the River Kwai.  We walked across the bridge and returned to board the train a short while later.  It was kind of precarious walking on the bridge as it is rather narrow and people are walking in both directions.  We rode the train for about 2 hours.  The scenery was beautiful – dense forests, sugar cane fields, rivers, and more.  We got off at Nam-Tok Station, the last station of the Thailand-Burma railway in Thailand.  We were actually quite close to the Burmese border at this point.  Our bus was waiting for us at the station and, 15 minutes later, we were at the River Kwai Village Hotel.  We checked into our room on the Raftel, a floating portion of the hotel.  The room was very simple with the only disappointment (for me) was no bath and (for Stephen) no TV.  Oh well, we can “rough it” for one night.

            We met up with the group for lunch at the hotel restaurant.  We had some kind of chicken soup, rice and 3 dishes (all of which I think were chicken but I can’t be sure).  A traditional Thai meal contains dishes representing each of the 4 flavors:  sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.  One of our dishes was similar to sweet and sour chicken, one was lemon grass (I think), and one had a slightly fishy taste (the salt they use is fish salt).  It was pretty good and in a beautiful setting overlooking the river. 

            After lunch we explored the hotel grounds a little bit.  The landscaping is really pretty and they have some nice pools.  At 3:30 we re-joined the members of our group that were staying the night for a short long-tailed speedboat trip upstream the Kwai Noi River to the Kaeng Lava Cave.  We had quite a multinational group – people from Thailand, America, England, Taiwan, and Russia.  We exited the boat and climbed up the side of a mountain to a cave housing a Buddha.  Two monks live in the cave but they weren’t there during our visit.  It was strange to see this large Buddha in a cave along the river in such a remote location.  The cave had interesting stone formations inside and we were able to explore a little.  After visiting the cave we traveled further upstream to see some water buffalo and bamboo raft houses.  We then returned to our hotel, wandering around and relaxing until dinner time.

            We went to dinner at 7:00 (which appeared to be the time dinner began) and had a buffet dinner with a wide variety of Thai dishes that I really enjoyed.  As we were finishing eating, one of the couples we had met earlier (from England) arrived and we chatted with them for a while before heading to the lobby for the massages we had arranged earlier.  Massages in Thailand are very cheap ($5-$6 for a regular massage, $10 for an oil massage, both lasting an hour).  I opted for the regular massage while Stephen chose the oil.  It was wonderful and very relaxing.  The masseuse used many parts of her body (hands, elbows, chin, legs, etc.) to apply pressure and contort my body in different ways.  This is considered a traditional method of Thai massage, combining acupressure, muscle kneading, and chiropractic manipulation to achieve a total sense of well being.  I actually think I’m going to be sore tomorrow but it was well worth it!  (And much better than working out at a gym!)  After the massage I was very relaxed and ready for bed!

 
Thursday, February 6, 2003                                     Kanchanaburi to Bangkok  

         I fell asleep easily last night after my massage but woke up many times during the night.  Stephen said there was a loud clanging noise that woke him up but I had earplugs in and didn’t hear it.  We got up at 7:00, re-packed, and went to the restaurant for breakfast.  The hotel had a small buffet with American food.  We walked around a bit and were picked up for our tour at 8:30.

            We were with the same group of people as yesterday.  We rode in the back of a truck to the Hellfire Pass Museum.  We walked down to Hellfire Pass where the POWs toiled with hand tools to cut through the mountain.  Many people died during the construction of this section.  The railway has been removed but there are still traces of some of the old railroad ties.  We spent a little time in the museum before returning to the hotel.  We then boarded the short long-tailed speedboat again for a ride downstream to the elephant camp.  We rode the elephant for about 45 minutes, most of the time spent sitting on the elephant as she ate.  It was amazing how strong she was – she would reach up, wrap her trunk around a tree branch, and snap it off as if it were a twig.  Her speed of movement, in contrast, was less than remarkable.  We only traveled in a small circle.  After a short while, our guide got off the elephant and Stephen and I both had the opportunity to ride directly on the elephant’s head.  Personally, I preferred riding in the seat but am glad I had the opportunity to sit directly on the elephant.  After our ride we had a box lunch (fried chicken, hard boiled eggs, a ham sandwich, oranges, and cake).  We then boarded a bamboo raft and floated down the river.  It was very peaceful and beautiful.  We traveled for an hour, got off the raft, crossed a suspension bridge and got on the truck that was waiting for us.  We were taken back to the hotel where we transferred to the bus that would return us to Bangkok.

            We left the River Kwai Village Hotel at 2:45.  The ride back seemed very long.  We got to the outskirts of Bangkok around 5:30.  We stopped at a gas station and were put on a van that would take us back to our hotel.  The traffic in Bangkok was very bad.  It was another hour before we arrived at out hotel.  We checked in and decided to try and walk to a restaurant nearby that we had been told about when we checked in.  We found it easily but I didn’t really see anything that appealed to me on the menu.  We walked a little further and found another restaurant.  After sitting down and ordering our drinks, I discovered that they didn’t have any of the noodle dishes on their menu (which is what I wanted) so I decided on chicken and basil with rice.  It turned out to be very good.  I continue to be amazed at the cost of food here.  The portions are small (compared to typical portions back home) but sufficient and our cost for dinner tonight was only $3.  We returned to our hotel where Stephen and I both got what we didn’t have yesterday (TV and a bath, respectively) and, since neither of us slept well yesterday, called it another early night.

 
Friday, February 7, 2003    Bangkok to Phuket  
          I was woken up this morning at 7:00 by a watch alarm that somebody forgot to turn off.  I drifted in and out of sleep for another hour before giving up and deciding to get up.  We went down to breakfast at 9:00.  We had an 11:30 pick-up so I relaxed out by the pool for an hour before returning to our room to re-pack once again.  We were picked up on time and taken to the Bangkok airport where we had a couple of hours before our flight.  We went to an internet room at the airport and cleared out our e-mail accounts of much of the accumulated junk mail. 

            Our flight left Bangkok at 2:00.  The one hour flight was a little bumpier than I like (which would be no bumps of course) but it wasn’t too bad.  Upon arrival in Phuket we were picked up and driven about 45 minutes from the airport at the northern tip of the island to our hotel on the southeastern tip.  We were staying at the Evason Resort and Spa at Rawai.  We were greeted with refreshing towels and large coconuts with a straw to drink the milk.  I was pleasantly surprised at the taste – not at all what I think of when I think of coconut flavor.  The resort is absolutely beautiful, located right on the water.  There is also a private island owned by the hotel that we plan to explore tomorrow.  Our room is wonderful as well – it overlooks the water and has a large canopy bed with a duvet and large cushiony pillows.  All the small details (handmade paper, wooden furniture, paper lamps, etc.) add to the peaceful, natural environment.

            As it was already 5:00 by the time we got settled and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast (save a small snack on the airplane), we decided to explore the hotel grounds and find the restaurants.  Because of the location of the hotel we felt we were limited to the onsite restaurants unless we wanted to take a taxi to another part of the island.  We stopped at the spa where Stephen made an appointment for an after dinner massage and then we checked out the three restaurants.  We decided to eat at the Thai restaurant (the other options were an Italian style buffet or ‘fusion’ style food).  I had paht thai which I had wanted to eat since arriving in Thailand while Stephen had a Thai style steak.  (He had to have 3 different sauces made before finding one hot enough for him!)  We ate on the sand overlooking the water.  It was very beautiful.  I can tell I’ve become spoiled by the restaurants in Bangkok as spending $20 on dinner seemed outrageous after our $3 dinner last night!

            After dinner Stephen went to have his massage while I returned to the room to relax.  Stephen returned at 9:00 and we went to sleep.  (I guess early nights are another thing that don’t change with traveling companions.)

 
Saturday, February 8, 2003    Phuket  
     

            We got up around 7:30 this morning, got dressed, and headed down to breakfast. The buffet had some American breakfast foods but also a variety of other foods (rice, spaghetti, salad, etc.). We were picked up at 9:00 for our morning tour. Our first stop was at Wat Chalong, a temple near our hotel. The area around the temple was filled with a flea market which really detracted from the beauty of the temple. Our second stop was at a cashew factory. I was surprised to learn there is a cashew factory on the island…I didn't know Thailand produced nuts. It was interesting to see how the factory workers cracked open the nut pods one at a time to get the nut out. The workers only earn about 150 baht ($4) a day. 

We got to sample some of the different flavored nuts (garlic, chocolate, spicy, among others) and they were all very good.

            We next drove to the Thai Village to see a cultural show. They performed a variety of dances and demonstrated some Thai fighting techniques. After the show we saw some elephants that had been trained to perform a variety of tricks. The whole thing was very touristy. To top things off our tour ended, once again, at the "world's largest gem factory". There seems to be a chain of these stores across Thailand. We did not go into the store and waited for one of the courtesy vans to return us to our hotel. We decided to try and find a restaurant on the main road before the turn off for our hotel to avoid the high prices at the hotel. We had the van drop us off and we found a place to eat. I had fried chicken with cashew nut which, once again, I found very delicious. 

            We returned to our room and quickly changed clothes so we could catch the 2:00 boat to Bon Island, the resort's private island. We stayed on the island for 2 hours during which time I got way too much sun which I'm going to be paying for tomorrow. (But I also got a new cute sundress so maybe the tradeoff is worth it?) We returned to the hotel for a refreshing dip in the infinity pool, a beautiful pool on the edge of the hotel grounds overlooking the water.

            We relaxed in our room for a while before heading down to one of the hotel's restaurants. We ended up eating at the same place we have breakfast. They serve primarily European foods for dinner. I had tomato and basil pizza while Stephen had a steak. After dinner we walked just outside the hotel grounds to a massage place we had seen earlier. The price was 300 baht ($7) for an hour massage compared to $50+ for a massage at the hotel. There was only one lady there but she said she was going to call her friend to massage me. She started Stephen's massage and, 10 minutes later when her friend still hadn't arrived, had her son come out to help. She switched to massaging me while her son worked on Stephen. I enjoyed my massage but, unfortunately, the son didn't seem to know what he was doing so Stephen didn't have a very enjoyable experience. We've determined that anyone who wants to can put a sign up offering massages and you just have to take your chances that you get a good one. It was now 9:00 and since we had an early morning pick-up again decided to call it a night.

 
Sunday, February 9, 2003    Phuket  

            We got up at 6:45 this morning, got dressed, ate breakfast, and headed to the lobby to await our pick-up. We were picked up at 7:45 and driven an hour to the northern end of the island. We were taken to Laem Sai pier where we boarded a small boat for the short ride to the larger boat we would be traveling on. Stephen began to worry that he would get seasick (even though the water was very calm) so he made a last minute decision to get off the boat and skip the tour. I decided to continue on as planned.

            We cruised for about an hour before passing Panak Island with its beautiful outcroppings over the water. There are caves and lagoons on the island but they can only be explored on canoes. We then continued on passing Hong Island. We passed many small islands and the views were very pretty. Our first stop was Phing Kan Island, also knows as James Bond Island as the movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" was partially filmed there. The island, like the temple yesterday, was basically an excuse to set up a multitude of souvenir shops. The island was pretty but overly crowded with several large tour groups.

            After 30 minutes we re-boarded the boat for a ride to Panyi Village, a 150 year old Muslim fishing village built on pillars. Our restaurant was a seafood restaurant so I filled up on chicken soup, rice, and the one vegetable dish that was served. We had some time to walk around the village which consisted of one shop after another (at least the part I saw). At 1:00 we left for Lawa Island, about 1 hour and 15 minutes away. We had an hour on this beach island which, like our previous stops, was overly crowded. We got back to the pier around 4:30 and boarded the van for return transfer to the hotel. Traffic was kind of bad so it took 1 ½ hours to get back.

            Stephen was lounging around in the room when I returned and, after a refreshing shower, we headed out to dinner. We decided to walk up the hill and find a restaurant outside of the hotel grounds. We found a Thai restaurant nearby and decided to eat there. I had chicken with cashew nut. Once again, good and cheap! After dinner we returned to the hotel and re-packed (for the 4th time). Once again anticipating an early morning pickup combined with the fact that TV viewing was very limited we went to bed early.

 
Monday, February 10, 2003    Phuket to Ko Phi Phi  

            This morning was another early morning wake-up (6:30). I've decided that if I ever open a tour company it's going to cater to those who, like me, think the only thing mornings are good for is sleeping! We got dressed, ate breakfast, and checked out of our hotel (neglecting to turn in our keys which we discovered several hours later on our boat trip to Ko Phi Phi). We were picked up at 7:30 and driven 20 minutes to the pier where our boat was waiting to take us to Ko Phi Phi. The sea was kind of rough today and I was worried about how Stephen would handle the 1 ½ hour ride to the island. I chose to stay out on deck for the ride over as I know I do better in fresh air and there was a strong diesel smell inside. The ride over was a little rocky but not too bad and Stephen seemed to survive all right. We first pulled into Maya Bay where part of the movie "The Beach" was filmed. (It is on the smaller island, Ko Phi Phi Leh.) We then traveled a short distance to the larger of the 2 islands, Ko Phi Phi Don. We docked just off shore and were taken by smaller boat to the shore.

            The beach was beautiful…white sand, turquoise water, and lush foliage. There were boats taking people scuba diving but we opted to find our hotel and get checked in. On our way to find the hotel we ran into someone from the P.P. Princess who helped us transfer our luggage (in a wheeled cart) to the hotel. Our room (or more accurately, bungalow) wasn't ready for us yet so we left our luggage and headed back to the beach. We relaxed on the beach a while before re-joining the boat group for a buffet lunch on the beach. We had spaghetti, rice, and fried chicken.

            After lunch we returned to the hotel as our bungalow was now ready. The grounds of the resort are very pretty and peaceful. We got our stuff arranged and went for a short walk along the beach. It was very hot so we went for a swim in the hotel's pool overlooking the beach. We cooled off for a while and then returned to our room to rest and take a short nap.

            We got up around 4:30 (after somebody managed to blow a fuse causing the air conditioner to stop working) and headed out to do some shopping. We walked around for a while before stopping for dinner. I had paht thai and spring rolls. I was really surprised to find that, even though we were on a resort island where tourism is the main industry and goods have to be brought over by ship, prices were still about as cheap as in Bangkok (and just as good). After dinner we went to an internet café to check our e-mail. We then returned to a massage place we had checked out earlier. We both got oil massages ($10 for an hour). This was the first oil massage I had and was a little surprised by how little of my body the massage didn't cover. Let's just say you couldn't be modest to get one of these massages. Now I'm beginning to see why Stephen has been getting one almost every day. Nice and relaxed we returned to our room to watch some TV. It was nice going to sleep knowing there would be no wake up call awaiting us the next morning.

 
Tuesday, February 11, 2003    Ko Phi Phi to Phuket  

            How nice not to have an alarm waking us up this morning! However, having the phone ring at 9:00 didn't help. It was the front desk calling to see if our air conditioner was working fine (after the blown fuse we had reported yesterday). We decided to go ahead and get up and have breakfast. Breakfast was buffet style on the beach. Of all the places we've stayed I was least impressed with this breakfast. After eating we went on a wild goose chase to try and find Stephen's snorkeling gear which he thought he had lost. We re-traced our steps from yesterday but didn't have any luck.

            It was only after returning to our room that I thought to ask Stephen if he had checked the closet (which he hadn't) and that is where we found the missing gear. Since we didn't catch the boat for the return trip until 2:00 and the sun was scorching, we opted to hang out in our air conditioned bungalow until we had to check out at 11:00. After checking out Stephen went to have his final Thai massage of our trip and I headed to the swimming pool. Stephen joined me a short while later and we hung out by the pool until 1:00. We decided to have lunch at the hotel before heading for the boat. I had fried chicken with cashew nut again.

            After lunch we got someone from the hotel to wheel our luggage down the beach. We ferried out to the boat at 2:20 and left around 2:40. I stayed inside this time and actually managed to sleep for most of the boat ride back. Upon arrival in Phuket we were taken by van to our hotel, Karon Villa. We were greeted with cool towels, a drink, and an orchid. We were then taken by golf cart to our bungalow. It was nice but not as nice as the Evason where we had stayed before. We spent several minutes trying to resolve the situation regarding us having the keys from the Evason. It was finally decided (after several phone calls and the help of the bellboy) that the tour agency would pick up the keys when dropping off a customer and return them to the other hotel when they went out there.

            We explored the hotel grounds and Stephen got in a quick workout at the fitness center. We then headed to one of the hotel's restaurants for dinner. I had fried noodles with chicken. I'm really going to miss Thai food! After dinner we returned to the room where I took a refreshing bath. We watched some TV before going to sleep.

 
Wednesday Thursday, February 12-13, 2003    Phuket to Seoul  

            Well, the pre-flight adventure that was lacking at the beginning of our trip was replaced by an end of trip event. Today was a very long day. I was woken up at 8:30 (not by choice) and we had breakfast at 9:00. After eating we returned to our room where we re-packed (for the 6th and final time) and relaxed in an air conditioned environment until the last possible minute before checking out at noon. We then had 6 hours to kill before our scheduled ride to the airport.

            We put our luggage in storage and went exploring. We walked down to Karon Beach and explored some of the shops in town. We then returned to the hotel and sat in the lobby to cool own. There was a strong breeze blowing which felt very good. Of all the days to be overcast and windy, this was the best one. After a while we decided to take a taxi to Patong Beach, the main beach on the island. We walked around a bit looking at the shops.  There were a lot of places selling PC software and Stephen bought a game (which, not surprisingly, didn't work upon installing at home). We also bought a carved wooded elephant to decorate our apartment and represent our trip to Thailand. Bargaining in Thailand is apparently like China. With little effort we got the price reduced from 1900 baht ($50) to 1200 baht ($30). We probably could have gotten a better deal but were happy with our purchase. Our taxi driver returned at 4:00 to pick us up as we had arranged and we returned to the hotel.

            We sat in the lobby for a while killing time. While in Patong I had developed an upset stomach but attributed it to pre-flight nerves. It seemed to be getting worse as the day wore on. Around 5:15 we retrieved our luggage and went to the hotel's changing room to get ready to leave. It was no fun putting on jeans again! We were picked up at 6:00 for the one hour drive to the airport. The airport was very crowded and I really wasn't feeling well. I took an anti-nausea pill (those who know me well know I always travel with a complete pharmacy) in the hopes it would settle my stomach. We got checked in, cleared immigration, and made our way to the gate. We waited about 20 minutes before boarding. The one hour flight to Bangkok was very smooth (the airplane ride that is; inside my stomach it was a different story). I kept getting really hot and light headed and felt really sick. I rushed to the bathroom on several occasions but nothing happened. Finally (right when the fasten seatbelt sign came on as we were beginning our descent) the strongest wave of nausea hit and I made it to the bathroom just in time. The first time I threw up in 9 years and it had to be now! I felt a little better after that but Stephen felt the need to buzz the steward to ask if there was a doctor at the Bangkok airport. I didn't feel that was really necessary but, by the time we landed, I was feeling nauseous again and wanted something to prevent me from getting sick on the 6 hour return flight to Seoul.

 

 

 

Thailand 2003

 

Bangkok
The skyline of Bangkok from the hotel room Another shot of Bangkok.  This is their tallest building This was the hotel we stayed at in Bangkok.  It was very nice The pool at the hotel in Bangkok. Century Park Hotel The hotel lobby Hotel Room Tuk Tuk (Toook Toook) is the national symbol of Thailand.  Even though they are noisy, polluting, and can be dangerous the citizen of Thailand hold on to this traditional means of transportation City Street scene as taken from the tour bus on the way to the Grand Palace.  There are a lot of flower vendors on this street as flowers are a common offering to Buddha
 
City Street scene as taken from the tour bus on the way to the Grand Palace.  This is Chinatown Siam Square is a popular place for local Thai teens to hang out much like their American counterparts.  As for tourist s it is a good shopping place to visit if you need to find things more familiar to you The Grand Palace in Bangkok.  The King no longer lives in the palace so it is open to the public to view.  The King currently lives in the Summer Palace located on the coast in the south of Thailand Temple within the Grand Palace Temple within the Grand Palace Temple within the Grand Palace Temple within the Grand Palace Temple within the Grand Palace
 
Chinese statues within the Grand Palace to show the close relation of Thai Buddhism to the Chinese version of Buddhism The golden Chedi within the Grand Palace Gate guards.  This is the gate the King uses when going to the Temple or to have official meetings This shows the importance of elephants to the Thais.  To have them included within the Temple shows they are revered animals and considered good luck One of the more recent buildings within the Grand Palace.  The architecture of the building is a mix of European and Thai.  It is often said it looks like a European gentleman wearing a Thai hat Carrie standing next to a Palace Guard
 
River Kwai
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.  Here lie the remains of many of the British, Australian, and Dutch  who died building a railroad as Japanese POW's Looking out onto the peaceful cemetery from the end of one of the rows Even to this day the Thai people keep the cemetery in immaculate condition Family members and those who choose to remember visit the cemetery This is the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai.  Built by the POW's as part of the Death Railway into Burma. So named because of the great loss of life during it's construction A 1945 Photo of the bridge after it was bombed by Allied bombers Visitors can walk the length of the bridge which is still in use today.  As you can see in the next photo we took the train across the bridge and further into Thailand These are Thai longboats.  They have 4 cylinder car engine in the back with a long driveline out to the propeller.  I never could figure out why they are setup this way, but im sure there is a reason
 
A better view of the long driveline out to the propeller A longboat in action Our ride in one of the longboats. Luckily this one had a covering so it wasn't quite so hot from the sun The train that still operates on the Death Railway.  It no longer continues into Burma The train is of the old fashioned type with no AC.  All the windows are open.  You can see Carrie sitting on the right with the black shirt and white shorts A look out the train window as we head further into Kanchanaburi A small village house along the rail route The end of the line at Ban Nam Tok station
 
What is left of the old railroad pass known as Hellfire Pass.  This portion of the railroad was chipped through solid rock with pick axes used by the POW's.  Very little dynamite was ever used and many died who did use it. The actual Hellfire Pass.  Some of the old rail ties are still in the ground but now a solitary tree grows as if to defy any train to pass on what is considered by many to be hallowed ground A dog tag (of one of the POW survivors who later died in 1971) which was placed here as a constant reminder to visitors but also for this man who survived to somehow still be in touch with his fellow comrades. What is left of the old rail line that passed through the Hellfire Pass.  The Thai government closed this portion of the line and rerouted  a new rail line around it to honor those who died here Entrance to a Buddhist Temple as well as to the small village where the JEATH open air Museum is located.  JEATH stands for the names of the 6 countries involved in the Death Railroad as master or slave.  (J) Japan (E) UK (A) USA & Aust (T) Thai (H) Holland Entrance to the JEATH Museum that is designed to be like a POW's living quarters Our tour bus waiting for us at the JEATH Museum village The beginning of our elephant ride.  Here the elephants are walked up to a second story platform where we climb aboard
 
This was our trusted elephant 'captain' who controlled our wild beast but only for a short time, after which he got off and let us ride the elephant alone Two friends we met from Great Britain.  As you can see here from the photo, our elephants were more interested in eating than entertaining foreigners Proof that all they wanted to do was eat.. :) One of our elephants with his trainer.  The bridge leads over to the 'loading' platform where we mounted the elephants Payment is demanded....luckily it's in bananas Stephen playing King of the Beast. Carrie's turn. Our raft captain.  This was a leisurely floating trip down the River Kwai Noi.  It was quite relaxing and gave you a sense of how life was like on the river before modern boats became available
 
Photo of our Tawainese friends on their bamboo raft which was the same as ours so you can see what the entire raft looked like Local water buffalo cooling himself in the river as we pass by This is a suspension bridge we had to cross at the conclusion of our raft ride Photo of a river house.  This is a typical house for the locals that live along the river Another shot of the river simply showing how people live on the river as opposed to building on the banks of it Some unique hanging rock formations along the river The Princess Angkor Hotel was our home away from home for our stay in the Angkor Wat area The Princess Angkor Hotel was our home away from home for our stay in the Angkor Wat area
 
A Photo of our Raftel.  Our floating hotel on the river.  It was quite unique but as there was a lot of creaking and banging from objects bouncing into the pontoons of the bungalows I wouldn't recommend it if you want a good nights sleep The inside of our Raftel room One of the swimming pools at the River Kwai Village Resort where our Raftel was located.  This particular pool had a great high pressure water slide Photo to show the lushness of the resort grounds at the River Kwai Village Another pool at the River Kwai Village Resort.  This one had a water fall running into it. Another view of the waterfall running into the pool Photo of an elevated walkway above a garden pond with many goldfish One of the locals irritated by our intrusion of its dinner
 
Scenic vista of Thailand from the beginning of the Hellfire Pass Museum A Thai Tuk Tuk, although this one is human powered.  Looks as if the 'owner / operator' needs a rest Our tour group.  We were a diverse bunch.  from Left to Right.  Scottish, Taiwanese, Taiwanese, Thai, Russian, Scottish, Russian, Russian and of course us Americans. Our trek up a hill to see a Buddhist temple inside a cave along the river banks The Buddha statue inside the cave.  At least two monks live here at all times with a 3 month rotation
 
Phuket
The Evason Resort where we stayed our first 3 nights in Phuket The main lobby of the Evason Resort and where you first pick up your keys.  On either side of the infinity pool are desks with huge couches and where you are given coconut juice fresh off the tree A photo of our room Another angle of the room The view out of our room window This is Wat Chalong, the largest temple on the island of Phuket.   Although it does house some of the neck bones of Buddha I'm not sure if Buddha was a real person but the Thai guide assured me he was. An interior view of the temple.  Not sure what the safes are for.  The temple was 3 to 4 floors with the bones of Buddha being on the top floor.  This photo was taken on the stairway up to the next level. Another building on the temple grounds
 
(Phang-Nga Bay) Carrie took a boat tour of the surrounding islands of Phuket.  I didn't go from fear of getting seasick but as you can see from the photos it was a beautiful trip Another shot of the surrounding islands.  There are over 40 islands covering an area of 400 sq km This is James Bond Island as the 1974 movie 'The Man With the Golden Gun' was filmed here in part Some local villagers floating in font of the rock formations at the bottom of the tower cliffs of these islands Ko Panyi is a Muslim fishing village built almost entirely on stilts.  During the day large numbers of tourists visit to eat at the many seafood restaurant and shop at the souvenir stalls. Looking in between two houses in the village.  There are 200 homes on the island and approximately 2000 residents.  There is a mosque, health clinic, and school This was our second resort on Phuket.  This is Karon Villa., and this is the bungalow  that we stayed in One of the pools at Karon Villa Resort
 
Stèphen and Carrie on Karon Beach.  A bit windy that day Inside our room at Karon Villa Resort.  It took us a while to figure out how to get English TV ChannelsPatong is the largest and most visited beach on Phuket.  This is a shot of the street scene where all the shops are located Beach scene in and around Phuket Beach scene in and around Phuket. This one showing Thai longboats
 
Phuket after the Sunami (2005)
Phuket after the tsunami hit Phuket after the tsunami hit Phuket after the tsunami hit Phuket after the tsunami hit
 
Ko Phi Phi
This is a map to show you where Phi Phi is located in relation to Phuket. This is an aerial photo oh Phi Phi Island.  You can clearly see the two back-to-back horseshoe bays with great beaches on both sides Our bungalow at the Phi Phi Princess Hotel.  It was a very lush surroundings right on the beach The big beach on Phi Phi.  If you look at the aerial  photo in the second panel this beach is the beach on the right. Thia longboats on Phi Phi island.  They use these boats as water taxi's to other more secluded beaches on the island. A sneak peek through the trees The small beach on Phi Phi.  If you look at the aerial  photo in the second panel above, this beach is the beach on the left Shopping on Phi Phi is readily available.  Although we had mixed feelings about it.  It did provide us with alternative entertainment but at the same time seem to take away from the beauty of the island as it was very 'touristy'
 
Ko Phi Phi after the Sunami (2005)
Devestation from the 2005 Tsunami that hit Phi Phi and Phuket Devestation from the 2005 Tsunami that hit Phi Phi and Phuket Devestation from the 2005 Tsunami that hit Phi Phi and Phuket Devestation from the 2005 Tsunami that hit Phi Phi and Phuket
 

 

 

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004                                 

Saigon (Cu Chi Tunnels/City Tour)  

         It seems that all tours in this region start at 8:30! I guess I shouldn't complain, however, because I've been many places where I was picked up much earlier. We once again got up around 7:00, got ready for the day, and headed down for breakfast. The selection of food at this hotel was larger than at our hotel in Siem Reap and also served a mix of American and Asian foods. I opted for a more American style meal this time – bacon, hash browns, pastries, and one egg roll thrown in for good measure. Peter picked us up at 8:30 and we were on our way.
        Our first stop today was at the Cu Chi tunnels, built by the Viet Cong in the 1960's. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the tunnels, largely due to all the motorcycle traffic. Our tour of the tunnels started with what would best be called a propaganda film. It told of a beautiful, peaceful village (Cu Chi) that the Americans ruthlessly attacked. It showed young girls firing weapons to protect their city and receiving awards for being a hero (for killing Americans). After the short film we were shown around the area. We saw an original entrance to the tunnels that was extremely small. It is hard to believe that the VC were small enough to fit through there! We were then shown several tunnel entrances, foxholes, and man made termite hills built to hide the tunnels' air holes. We were shown some of the traps the VC built by hiding sharpened bamboo sticks in a hole covered by foliage. We stopped at a shooting range where Stephen enjoyed firing an AK-47. I fired one shot just to say I've done it. We then went down into one of the tunnels. It was very narrow and low-ceilinged. We had to walk through in a stooped position. It was very uncomfortable and I can't imagine doing that for very long. We saw some of the rooms the VC used such as a meeting room, hospital, and garment making room. We saw men making shoes out of tires. On the way back to the car there was a shop selling snake oil which is supposed to be good for your back.
        We then returned to the city for lunch at a restaurant called Chateau. I had pork spring rolls (very good) and Stephen had beef kabobs. As in Cambodia the meal was very inexpensive – under $10. After lunch we drove to Cholon (Chinatown). We stopped at Binh Tay market, an area selling all kinds of things that reminded me of Namdeaemun market in Seoul. Our next stop was Thien Hau Pagoda built by the Cantonese in the early 19th century. Our last stop was the Central Post Office (that looked like a train station) and Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1877 and 1883.
We returned to our hotel around 2:30. Our room was being cleaned so we killed some time talking to a man we met in the elevator on our way down to the lobby. After our room was ready we changed clothes and Stephen went to work out while I went to the pool. (Enough with the working out already, we're on vacation after all!) Most of the time it was cloudy and windy outside which made the heat bearable but not too conducive to getting a tan. We returned to the room around 4:00, watched some TV, and then headed out to find something to eat.

       We first stopped at an outdoor restaurant that Stephen wanted to eat at but I was leery of the sanitation conditions with the food being stored and prepared outside. We walked around for a while down past City Hall but couldn't find anywhere we both wanted to eat. We decided to return to our hotel and eat at the restaurant there. We went up to the room for a minute and, on our way back out, Stephen realized the digital camera was not in the case on his belt. Thinking back he realized that earlier, when he had been swarmed by a small group of kids trying to sell him things, one of them must have grabbed the camera while he was distracted by the others. We spoke with someone at the hotel and asked if anything could be done. They brought us a police report and then escorted us to the police station. The police didn't seem to want to help (as that would involve getting off the couch and working) but eventually one got up to go with us to where the incident occurred. Not surprisingly the kids were nowhere to be found but at least we could say we tried. The man from the hotel (who went with us to the police station) apologized and told us that the police didn't believe our story. There wasn't much more that could be done at that point so, after looking around a little more, we returned to our hotel. The whole experience killed our appetites so we just returned to our room. We watched some TV and went to sleep around 9:00.

 
Thursday, February 12, 2004                                         Saigon (Mekong Delta)  

       This morning we followed our normal ritual of getting up at 7:00, getting ready, and heading downstairs for breakfast. We left the hotel at 8:30 for our trip to the Mekong Delta. It took about an hour to get to the city of My Tho, located along the northernmost branch of the Mekong River. Along the way we stopped to see some farmers harvesting rice. It was interesting to see but something seemed not quite right with all these tourist groups lined up along the side of the road taking pictures of people doing their job; it was almost like the people were on display in a zoo.
Upon arrival in My Tho we boarded a boat for a ride on the Tien River. We passed by a floating fish market, went around Dragon Island (a fishing village) and stopped at Turtle Island. We walked a short way to an area where we were given a variety of tropical fruits (including pineapple, banana, papaya and some others) and some local musicians came to play for us.

       We then boarded the boat again for a short ride to a coconut candy workshop. We saw the process used to make the candy and were given some samples. We walked a short way through beautiful lush foliage and flowers. We boarded a motorbike cart for a ride down the "highway" (narrow dirt road) through town. We stopped at another small place for some honey tea and some snacks. We rode a rowboat down the Chua Canal back to the boat that returned us to the city of My Tho. The ride back to Saigon seemed long and we arrived back at our hotel at 2:00. We arranged to keep our room tomorrow until 9:30 p.m. (for an additional $45) which was a huge relief to us as we were not looking forward to trying to kill the time between checkout (noon) until our 9:30 pickup. In addition to my previous idea to open a travel agency that does not start any tours before noon I'm also going to be sure to keep people busy on the day they're due to depart instead of leaving that as the free day when they can't have access to a hotel room.
        We decided to try and find a Thai restaurant that was mentioned in Lonely Planet. We were going to walk there but a cyclo (rickshaw pulled by a bicycle) driver told us we were going the wrong way and offered to take us there for 20,000 dong (about $1.25). We agreed but, after an uncomfortable ride, found out the restaurant was closed. The "pedaler" then took us to two more Thai places but they were also closed. It seems many restaurants close between lunch and dinner. It sure would have been nice for the guidebook to tell us that! We decided to just return to the hotel and eat there. I guess we're just not meant to eat anywhere in Saigon other than our hotel. When we got back to the hotel we offered the driver 50,000 dong (twice the 20,000 one way fare plus a little extra). He started complaining that he worked very hard and we should pay him 100,000 dong. He talked about how hot and sweaty he was and he kept mentioning there were two of us. Stephen retorted with the facts that a) he knew there were two of us when he picked us up and 2) he knew how hot it was. We ended up giving him one extra dollar which he accepted. We later read in the guidebook that the majority of the cyclo drivers were doctors, teachers, or journalists before the war but, afterwards, were punished for siding with the Americans. After the cease-fire they were sent to re-education camps and it is technically illegal for them to be in the city. What a life some of these people have lived!
        We both had hamburgers for lunch (or, by this time, early dinner) at the hotel restaurant. We then returned to the room to relax. Stephen went to work out and get a massage while I watched TV. I made an appointment for a massage at 8:00 hoping it would relax me again for a good night's sleep. It ended up being one of the worst massages I ever had. The lady seemed to just be going through the motions, repetitively doing the same thing over and over. She also tried to do some chiropractic moves that I did not particularly enjoy. I was actually relieved when it was over. I took a bath when I got back to the room, watched TV, and went to sleep at 10:00.

     
Friday, February 13, 2004 

Saigon to Seoul

 

         Today was a nerve racking day.  For some reason each time I fly lately I get more and more nervous.  My own feeling of butterflies in my stomach combined with my earlier feeling that maybe we shouldn’t take this trip and now Stephen having a nervous stomach as well only added to my sense of unease.  Of course everything turned out fine but it didn’t make for an enjoyable day.

            We got up around 8:00 this morning and headed down to breakfast.  After breakfast we decided to walk to the War Remnants Museum, a museum that documents the atrocities of the war through photographs and military equipment.  Walking around town proved to be quite a challenge.  Crossing streets is like playing a live action game of Frogger.  Nobody stops, you just have to weave in and out among the cars, motorcycles, and cyclos.  Crossing at a light rather than a crosswalk gives you a slight advantage as at least the cars seem to obey the red lights but it’s still a risky situation.  Fortunately we made it to the museum in one piece.  Some of the photos were quite disturbing but it was interesting to see.  After the museum we returned to the hotel.  We lounged by the pool but, after an hour, we’d both had enough of the heat.  We went to our room and napped for a couple of hours.  When we woke up around 3:00 we were hungry so we headed to the hotel restaurant (getting our camera stolen and driving around aimlessly trying to find an open restaurant quenched our sense of adventure for heading out into the city).  I had fried noodles while Stephen had spaghetti.  A few definite patterns have emerged on this trip.  Stephen exercises while I take baths; he eats American food while I try and sample some local fare.  And I thought I was a picky eater!

            After lunch Stephen went to sit in the park across the street to people watch while I returned to the room to watch TV.  Stephen returned a short while later and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening relaxing in the room.  We were picked up at 9:30 for our ride to the airport.  The airport was very crowded – I was surprised so many people were flying out so late.  After checking in (which included two security checkpoints, a customs line, an immigration line, and a departure tax line) we found a seat to wait the two hours before our flight left.  Around midnight we went through one more security checkpoint and boarded the plane.  Take off was smooth but we hit turbulence about 20 minutes later that lasted the rest of the flight.  Definitely not the best thing for a nervous stomach.  I think I’ll try to get some valium for the next time I fly!  The movie Seabiscuit started an hour after takeoff.  Thanks in part to some Tylenol PM I slept through most of the movie after which the plane lights came on and breakfast was served.  We landed in Seoul (after fighting some strong winds upon approach) around 7:30 Saturday morning.  We got through immigration fairly quickly and went outside to catch the bus.  It was no fun being back in the cold weather again!  We had to wait about 10 minutes for the bus to arrive.  I slept most of the one hour trip to the City Air Terminal.  We took a taxi home, dropped off our luggage, and had the taxi take us to the kennel.  The dogs were very happy to see us and we got quite an earful (especially from Adie) expressing dissatisfaction at being left for a week.  We later found out that when one of our friends and fellow beagle owners, Justin, stopped by mid-week to visit the pups, Pop greeted him enthusiastically and then proceeded to walk over and pee on the check in counter.  At least he didn’t shred his bed to pieces this time!  We walked (with the exception of Adie who ran) in the cold wind to the subway station and returned home.  Since I hadn’t slept much for over 24 hours I stayed awake long enough to unpack and eat lunch and then crashed until dinner.  It will probably take a couple of days to get my body’s clock back in whack but it was well worth it.  I wonder where my next adventure will take me?

 

 

 


Vietnam 2004

Saigon
This is the New World Hotel in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) and our home for 3 days.  Its really a high class place and where US dignitaries stay when making official visits These are the homes of the middle class in Vietnam.  Most are narrow and about 4 stories tall.  many have business on the first two floors.  Most of the time you will find several generations living together Very typical street scene of the chaos on the street in Saigon. If you want to cross the street you just have to wade across and keep you head on a swivel. The Main Post Office in Saigon.  Many westerns think it is a railroad station.  This is easy to do because inside and out it is design liked one Typical Saigon street scene.  These are school girls wearing their white uniforms.  We saw many of these girls riding back and forth through the city. The People's Committee building in Saigon - the most photographed building in Vietnam Local Street kids...most likely related to the ones who stole my camera. Grrrr :( Just before going to Vietnam there was an outbreak of the avian flu...a bird flu that is fatal to humans.  Several people had died in SE Asia prior to us arriving in Vietnam
 
Across from our Hotel was a park.  These parks were used by local schools as their Physical Ed. areas.  Here you can see a high school girls class getting ready for PT. Local man resting on his cyclo next to Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon Another shot of the Notre Dame Cathedral Although not a great photo.  Its the only one we had of the little restaurant that our guide took us too.  Although I think they take quite a few tourist here. Vietnam market place Literally snake oil.  It supposed stings the skin when applied and used as a medicinal body rub Vietnam market place. Buddhist Temple in Saigon
 
Carrie sitting in the Cyclo that moved us around Saigon.  Most of these guys were friendly to Americans during the war and so they have been marginalized from society.  This is basically there only means of income and even this is being phased out Buddhist Temple in Saigon.  Here spiral prayer incenses burn above and standard incenses burn on the table Tam and Peter our tours guides for Vietnam. This was/is the main 'highway' on one of the island communities in the Mekong Delta area.  Its basically a little wider than a typical US sidewalk. Here you can see farmers harvesting rice from the fields.  Now that Vietnam has better irrigation system they can grow rice year-round instead of only in the wet season Local fisherman fishing no the Mekong River Local farmer bringing his goods to market along the river Houses along the Mekong River The walkway from the boat dock to the island where we had local fruits served to us
 
The local fruit of the islands.  All were delicious.  I cant remember all the names. But there is Pineapple, mini-bananas, some sort of melons, etc... As we sampled the local fruit we were entertained by this lady and the gentlemen playing traditional instruments of Vietnam. Here some of the islanders make a honey brittle from the local honey bee industry on one of the islands Part of the island tour is a ride down one of the canals the locals uses as roads This was at the same location where the honey brittle was being made.  Not sure of the connection only that it was fun to play with the snake. :) Carrie and Tam smiling as we are taxied down one of the canals to our main boat Another shot of the Canal Taxi ride The remains of a US Tank.  I don't remember the model type of the tank
 
A series of photos I found on the internet that has a map of a typical tunnel complex with photos of the various rooms This is one of the secret entrances to the tunnel complex.  As you can see its quite tight and many American soldiers could not pursue the enemy down these holes These are two mannequins dressed in the Vietcong uniform although many wore civilian clothing to mix in with the local population An example of one of the booby traps the Vietcong designed during the war.  Its a rectangular hole about 4 feet deep with a wooden lid that pivots in the middle.  Bamboo spikes are placed on the flooring Another view of another entrance to the tunnel complex Stephen firing a Russian AK-47 at a  range in the Co Chi tunnel complex.  It was a $1 a bullet.  Carrie even braved shooting a round The golden Chedi within the Grand Palace Crawling through the tunnels.  Its hard to get a perspective in this photo but you had to squat walk through these.  At the time of the war there were no little lights to help you find your way.