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Category Archives: Thailand

Bangkok and Beautiful Phuket – Thailand

Author: Amy

One of the Long tail boats on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok

We are on our final week in Thailand and we have had a great experience as you have read.  We spent a few nights in Bangkok after Chiang Mai before we journeyed to the beaches of Phuket.  While we were in Bangkok we took a boat cruise through the downtown area on the Chao Phraya River. We were able to see some different temples from the boat as well as some barges and many funky boats.  It was very cool to see the city from this point of view.  We were able to see some homes of some of the locals and some of the huge high-rises. As many of the cities we encounter there are the very rich and the very poor. Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand with approximately 12 million people it is known as Krung Thep meaning “city of angels”.  While Kendal and I kept our eyes open for Ryan Gosling, Steve took advantage of an opportunity to attend Muay Thai fights at Lumpini Stadium and we hit the popular “Chatuchak Weekend Market” which holds an amazing amount of “fakes” of whatever you can imagine.

A little snack on our cruise

One of the funky river boats in Bangkok

Here's Kendal and Keegan with a view from our apartment in Bangkok

Yes we are on a yearlong trip but is it a vacation???  Well our week in Phuket was a real vacation.  Phuket is a small island in Thailand.  It was hit hard by the Tsunami in 2006 but is still luckily a huge tourist destination.  It has been rebuilt and the main part of town is really commercialized.  We chose to stay at a resort north of the main area, which was really quiet.  We lazed away our days pool and beachside.  We completely loved this resort and Phuket in general. The resort had activities which we took part in – yoga, pizza making, scuba diving, Thai boxing, etc.  Other than that we relaxed and did very little.  Our room had a kid area with bunk beds and a PS3 so Keegan was in heaven playing video games whenever he had a chance.  We all joined him from time to time.  The front desk rented movies so we watched some movies as well.  After the relaxing week we are ready to hit China.  Steve has us booked the whole first week for Kung Fu twice a day 2 hours each session.  That will be interesting  .  .  .  .

Here's Keegan teaching Steve some of his skills

Steve and Keegan enjoying the pool

Keegan chillin' in one of the pools at the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket, Mai Khao Beach.

The beach we were on was so beautiful and peaceful

Me and my daughter heading out to dinner on the beach; Phuket, what a beautiful place!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Thailand

 

Muay Thai – Thailand

Author: Steve 

Here's Kendal being taught a strong elbow throw from a trainer in Chiang Mai

Back some 25 years ago I was lucky enough to get involved in Tae Kwon Do while in college. I did this for about 3 years, 2 of those years quite religiously.  My friend, who was the Sensei, invited me to his Dojo.  My main intention of accepting his invite was simply to learn self-defense but I very quickly came to appreciate the beauty of the martial arts.  And since I was a struggling college student my friend not only gave me a good deal but also gave me private lessons whenever I had a few hours to train. Our goal was to make me a more confident fighter so most of our training was in the ring.

That's Keegan being taught the technique of a strong straight kick

I had been training for a few years when I met Amy. When she met me I constantly had discolored and bruised arms and legs and the occasional black eye or bruised face. One day I took a really good shot to the mouth.  I remember everything happening in slow motion; I was sparring and we were instructed to break, I put my arms down and turned to the middle of the ring when I saw in the distant mirror a high kick coming straight to my mouth from my opponent.  All the other students that were watching said it was like a movie, it was a beautiful kick to my mouth, then my head just snapped back and I went straight to ground. That beautifully placed kick ended up cutting the inside of my top lip open.  When I saw Amy that night, my mouth now twice its normal size, she looked at me for a minute and said in a very calm and concerned voice, “I don’t want you to do this any more”.  That was the last time I fought, which was the right decision.

While we were in Phuket we also took a class from a former Muay Thai pro that really knew how to train beginners

Fast-forward 25 years and here we are in beautiful Thailand where the national sport is Muay Thai or Thai-Boxing.  This sport is bigger than soccer here in Thailand.  Instead of the 2-limb contact of boxing, or the 4-limb contact of many martial arts this is the contact of eight limbs. The eight limbs being; fists, elbows, knee’s and feet.  The kids and I decided to take a few beginner lessons while in Thailand; I had forgotten how incredible this workout can be.  I’m sure I would never want my kids to get in a ring without heavy protective gear but the lessons have definitely made them appreciate the beauty of this art and its intensity.

I will never, ever forget taking Muay Thai in Thailand with my kids - priceless!

Amy, Kendal and Keegan did not want to come with me to see live Thai boxing at Lumpini Stadium while we were in Bangkok. Lumpini is “the place” in Thailand to see Muay Thai!  This stadium is world renown for its Muay Thai fights and I couldn’t imagine not checking it out while I was there.  While we were in Bangkok Ryan Gosling (Amy and Kendal informed me who he was) was there preparing for a movie where he will compete in Thai Boxing.  For a second I thought they would end up coming with me just for the odd chance of seeing this guy but they didn’t, I guess he’s not ALL that.

I’m not sure if you heard the news reports of the terrorist bombings in Bangkok but we headed to Bangkok the day after the bombings so we were even more alert than usual on being smart about where we went and when.  I decided to go to the early bouts at 4pm instead of the later ones to be back to the apartment before 8pm.

Every Muay Thai fight is preceded by a "Wai Khru" where each fighter visits each corner of the ring claiming it as his own. Then they perform a traditional dance called a "Ram Muay" where the intention is to display respect for their opponent and their camp as well as appreciation for their teachers, family and their religion.

It was very interesting; I got second row seats and watched 9 bouts. The bouts are 5 rounds of 3 minutes or until some one gets knocked out. Surprisingly all the weight categories were around 100 pounds give or take 10 pounds. The main event consisted of 130 pounders; which you could really appreciate the skill and power of this fight after the first few minutes. The fighters all seemed to be an average age of about 17 years old. The 9th fight was a couple of really young boys who looked to be about 10-11 years old.  All the fighters fight with a mouth guard, boxing gloves and a cup, no other protection. So to see these young kids going at it for 5 rounds is utterly amazing and at the same time a little unsettling for a dad.  I say unsettling because of all the loud and aggressive gambling that takes place during the entire fight. I did an Internet search before I went so I knew that was to be expected.  The men screaming and betting throughout the fight and giving instruction to the fighters didn’t surprise me but what surprised me was the fighters looking over to the betting crowd for direction on what is needed for the bet.

Fighters wear a "mongkon" (a traditional headband) and a "Prajiad" around their biceps both intended to provide good luck. Live traditional Thai music is played through the entire fight.

Here's a shot of some of the action, notice the sign with a message to the ladies.

I’m not judging, I’m just saying . . . maybe they should be allowed to fight their own fight without this continual barrage of betting involvement.  Nevertheless, the Lumpini Stadium is run by the Royal Thai Army on behalf of the Thai Government (all the judges were government officials) and gambling is allowed.

The whole family took a beginner Kung Fu class in Chiang Mia as well . . . next up, Kung Fu in China!

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Thailand

 

Cooking Class – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Author: Keegan

Me in the Kitchen!

One of our activities in Chiang Mai was taking a Thai cooking class. The school picked us up from the hotel in an overcrowded pick-up truck but all the people who were taking the class in the truck were really nice.  They first took us to one of their local food markets to teach us about all the ingredients we would be using to make our food. After the market they drove us out to this farm type location in the country to do our cooking class.  While we were in the truck we got a list and we checked off what meals we wanted to make. Kendal and I shared a cooking station and we made Pad Thai, Chicken and Cashew Nuts, Green Curry and Banana in Coconut Milk for dessert.  (I preferred the Chicken and Cashew nuts). Our chef (her nickname was Pineapple) that taught us how to make the food was SUPER nice and funny! A few times Pineapple brought out her telephone and played American music and sang along to it.  She knew all the words and told us she loved to go out dancing.  We got a small tour of the property and saw a lot of the different vegetables and spices that they grow right there. It was really fun to make the Pad Thai because we got to use a special pan and our instructor showed us how to toss the noodles in the air (sometimes some noodles came out of the pan).  That day I felt like a professional chef; chopping, dicing, frying it was a really fun time!  The day we did the class was on Valentine’s Day and Pineapple always found a way to fit “love” in a sentence! We had some other people that did the class with us.  There were 10 cooking stations with our one instructor.  They came from a lot of different places such as England, Ireland, Holland and Russia.  We made so many different meals it was a lot to eat.  My mom brought back her spring rolls that she made so we could have them as a snack for later and MAN were they good! My mom also made mango sticky rice – that was the days favorite dessert.  Well that was our cooking experience in Chang Mai!

At the market learning about the Thai spices - that's our instructor Pineapple.

In their garden - checking out the veggies and herbs.

Dad getting busy in the kitchen - he will be an excellent chef by the time we get home. When Dad was putting in all his red chili peppers, because he likes it spicy, Pineapple said, "spicy good today but tomorrow I can not save you"!

Busy, busy and so much fun!!

We all ate together after we made each dish.

Fun in the kitchen - wish you were here!!

Yep, Kendal and I made that - so yummy!!

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Thailand

 

Countryside Bike Tour – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Author: Kendal

On one of the real hot days that we were in Thailand we went on a bike tour around the countryside of Chiang Mai. Our guide picked us up from our place at around 8:30am. We started at a temple with a huge reclining Buddha.  Everywhere you go in Thailand there are temples and Buddhas.  We learned there are seven positions the Buddha statues are in one for every day of the week. Once we got situated on our bikes we were off, we toured different places of business in the countryside. These were very unique types of handicrafts that people did for a living. First we got to see them making metal designs by hand. The sound was excruciating! It felt like my eardrums were going to fall out! We could tell that they were working hard to make them all perfect; we even got to see some of the awards that they had earned for their craftsmanship so that was pretty cool. After the first stop we headed to our next destination which was a hand made vase area. We got to see how they turned a boring piece of a mango tree into a beautiful masterpiece; it was awesome to see all the transitions of the wood from tree to vase. Then we stopped for a quick snack break to keep up our energy. Our guide brought us fruit and bamboo filled with yummy sticky rice.  Like a Thai granola bar!  After that we continued riding in the country, where we saw all the rice fields. It was just like the movies with the people wearing the big straw hats and water boots picking up the rice. We even saw the random cow/buffalo (not quite sure which it was) being pulled somewhere with its owner leading the way. We stopped at a rice warehouse and our guide showed us the different types of rice there are but to my dismay (and my mom’s) our favorite tends to be the most fattening. In total we biked for 40km. it was a tough but fun ride – too bad for Keegan because his gears didn’t work on his bike so it was difficult on the uphill climbs.  Our final destination was some hot springs.  We had lunch at a restaurant there then we did what you do at hot springs in Thailand – we hard-boiled some eggs.  They sell small baskets of eggs and you place them in the hot water to boil.  Another fun day in Thailand – wish you were here!

As we were watching one of the metal finishers we could hear them pounding the medal on the other end of the workshop, it was so loud!

This is a different stop we made to watch the mango tree vase makers.

Here we are on the bike tour stopping to get an education on the rice fields.

The rice fileds.

Getting an education on rice.

Here we are in front of a Buddha. The Thai culture is based on the younger generations providing for their elders as time goes by; which is why you see all the large sticks supporting this aging tree.

As we road our bikes we saw this brush fire - not really sure if it was set or it was a random burn.

At the hot springs we found out the you need much more than 15 minutes for hardboiled eggs.

There's Keegan boiling our eggs with the hot springs rising in the background.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Thailand

 

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Jungle Flight – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Author: Keegan

HI PEOPLE OF THE WORLD CAN YOU HEAR ME “Test, Test hello is this working yes okay well here we go then!!!” I want to make sure you hear me because we are pretty far away from the place I call home.  While we were in Chiang Mai, Thailand one of the day trips we took was to a place that did zip lining.  It was called Jungle Flight! We took a van to the mountain area of Chiang Mai, it took about an hour or so to get there and then we got our equipment on which included a harness, a breaker (which helps you slow down when going on a super fast zip line) and also a helmet. Then we went through safety instructions. They told us that we don’t do anything except have FUN! There were a total of 23 zip line obstacles. On one of the zip lines it was like 45 meters off the ground and I was really scared so to calm myself I started yelling my voice away (screaming) there was a super long one that was 130 meters and I went really fast! On one of the zip lines the guide went with me and he started going upside down and all of this crazy stuff I felt so scared for him! There was also abseiling where they just drop you down and it’s a huge drop.  The guide would go-slow THEN FAST you could feel it in your stomach –everyone was yelling, oh what good times! We had a great lunch that was a part of the tour with eggs and rice and curry and all of these good things! I really liked the tour guide because he had a good sense of humor and when I told him my name was Keegan he kept looking at me curious (I don’t think he ever heard this name) and kept saying “chi-ken, chi-ken?”  Throughout the whole day he kept calling me chicken – it was funny because other people in our group (from Germany I think) kept correcting him.  I think he just kept doing it for fun.  One thing I learned about there that I never knew existed was cock fights… if you want to know details you can ask me the next time you see me.  What I did learn is when they fight each other and whichever chicken loses… well lets just say they make a good B-B-Q.

Getting safe for our Jungle Flight

Our crazy guide is upside down!!

Mom and Dad flying high!!

A few times we had to hike some very green and clean trails which led to the next platforms.

Kendal grew wings!

Our guide kept saying, "Oh my Buddha! (which is like oh my God) Mama, be free, just let your hands go!" She finally did and loved it!"

 

The whole group at the happy ending

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Thailand

 

Elephant Nature Park – Thailand

Author: Kendal

Just feeding my friend.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be putting my hand in an elephants mouth in Chiang Mai, Thailand I would have thought you were going nuts! But here we are in February 2012 and it happened.

Dad being brave.

The other day we went to the Elephant Nature Park (ENP). The ENP is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center, where volunteers come from all around the world, to help care for the elephants and to learn all about the elephant lives from their past to the present. The ENP was established in the 1990s, despite extreme financial difficulties Sangduen Chailert (Lek) was able to found the Park in 1996, with her husband Adam. While we were there we got to feed, bathe and hangout with the elephants. The first time we were feeding them we fed them bananas and they used their trunks to put it in their mouth so you could even hear them breathing through their trunk! It was pretty amazing. Currently there are a total of 35 elephants living there; most have a nightmare background (that I prefer not to write about), but now they are finally in the beautiful elephant haven.  One even kissed us for a banana! Mom said it felt like when you put your hand under the pool vacuum cleaner. For those of you who haven’t done that yet, it’s like a suction cup. When we were bathing them in the river we had to throw buckets of water on top of their backs to get off all the dirt that they had thrown on top of themselves with their trunks to keep themselves cool.  Then we would rub their sides with smooth rocks.  But once they got out of the river they just put more dirt right back on! One elephant was holding water in its mouth and started spraying it at us! It was a really fun, in the moment experience and I would recommend it to everyone.

The beautiful mountains of Thailand!

Bath Time!!

Keegan and our guide got into a heavy water fight after we bathed the elephants!

Mom getting a kiss.

Just getting dirty - cooling down.

Me and my mom taking in the great view from on top!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Thailand

 

Fun in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Author: Amy

We very quickly came to enjoy our time in Thailand.  Even though the Chiang Mai Metropolitan area has a population of close 1 million people it has a slower more appealing pace than what we initially thought we would experience. The people are so polite and respectful and always have a smile on, you can’t help but be happy.

Here we are at our art class.

Things are so inexpensive we were able to enjoy many classes that we might not have done if the price was higher.  Whenever you approach a place (business, market, etc) the people are always smiling and so happy to have you there. The prices are great so you want to stay.  We had the kids teeth cleaned – it was too booked for Steve and I.  We also took a painting class from a wonderful artist in town.  It was so much fun – we went 2 different days for an hour and a half.  I don’t really see a future for any of us but it was a great, relaxing way to spend some time.  We also had our share of massages.  Massage is a huge part of Thai culture, everywhere you go people are getting massages.  We took advantage of this on our first day in town and throughout our time there.  Such an amazing luxury for such a great price, we couldn’t resist.

Just one of the MANY massage establishments.

Something you often hear about in Asia but is hard to comprehend is the transportation.  Throughout Chiang Mai there are loads of motorcycles, scooters filled with people and families – it’s not strange to find a family of 4 or more people on one scooter.  We relied mostly on tuk-tuk’s and songthaews to get us around town.  Our hotel was a bit out of the center of town and we usually paid about $3-$5 USD to get all 4 of us across town.  The vehicles are called tuk-tuk’s because of the sound their motor makes.  They are basically a motorcycle with a back seat that fits all 4 of us.  Sonthaews are red pickup trucks with 2 rows in the back that are basically a shared taxi.  Our first tuk tuk ride was a great experience – our hair in the wind driving through the city.  By the end we were always looking for closed taxi’s.  The amount of pollution in the air is a huge challenge and waiting at the stoplights is just miserable.  Steve got to be an expert at haggling with the drivers – you can never take their first price – Steve hates haggling and often would get the price down and then when we would get off he would give them the original price they asked for.  He’d say to me – “you don’t think that was worth another 65 more cents?”

The tuk-tuk

One of the drivers asked Keegan if he wanted to ride up front with him - so here's what it's like to ride shotgun in a tuk-tuk!

A Sonthaew - just hop in the back!

Steve negotiating our best rate!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Thailand