Chiang Mai

We arrived in Chiang Mai from Siem Reap after connecting switching planes and airports in Bangkok. Timing wise it all went pretty smooth and we basically walked onto a shuttle bus at Suvarnabhumi airport just before it left for Don Muang airport. One interesting thing happened upon our arrival in Chiang Mai, and it’s a good puzzle for you math/probability folk (I know there’s a lot of you!). As we were walking to arrivals, we saw the couple that were staying in the suite beside us at Siem Reap. Out of coincidence, we both:

  • had suites beside each other at Tenai hotel
  • left the same day
  • traveled to Chiang Mai
  • arrived at the same time, but took different paths to get there

Chiang Mai is the largest city in the north but right away we could tell that it was waaay smaller than Bangkok. We decided to stay in the “old city” which is a walled section in the center of CM. This where most of the local sites are , along with guesthouses and restaurants.

WP_20160729_19_36_50_ProWe stayed at SK House 2, which had nice big rooms with a/c and a small pool. Everyone was tired by the end of the day but I walked to a nearby night market for some food. It was a great little meal, I stopped at three different carts for some pork and rice, an Isaan salad and mango and sticky rice for dessert.

WP_20160731_13_17_44_ProThe next 2 days we just poked around the city, checking out wats, museums and more of the local northern food. Everyone liked CM, it was interesting and laid back. Mind you, we didn’t venture out of the old city where things are quieter.

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There lots of tours that people can do here, such as cooking schools, elephant parks, zip lining, a “night” safari and of course the famous hilltribe treks. The zip lining looked interesting but super expensive, maybe $140 each. We’re going to visit an elephant park though, after a short trip to a small town in the hills.

Siem Reap

On our second full day we hung out in Bangkok for the morning, hitting a cracker of a market for food! It was delicious. We then visited the Dusit Zoo and then got ready to fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Driving from Banglamphu to anywhere else in the city is a pain – cars will be stopped for ten minutes at a time to clear a major intersection.

We finally arrived in SR around 7pm I think. Driving through the rural road and then the city gave us a good first idea of Cambodia. We saw the poverty of the people and the backpacking/traveller mecca that SR is.

WP_20160727_17_02_21_ProOur hotel, Tanei Boutique, was really nice. We had a large suite with tall ceilings right beside the small pool. It was only a few minutes walk from the busy action of SR but far away enough to be quiet. Well, sort of quiet. We had major rain in the afternoon (more on that later), which brought out the bullfrogs. They have these frogs that are pretty small, about 7 cm long and 4 cm tall, but they make the loudest noise. At first I thought there were a bunch of moncks next door praying or something. Nope, it was an empty lot full of frogs.

WP_20160727_12_31_46_ProWe spent two days at the Angkor Archeological Site. The first day we had a 9:30 start and returned around 3pm I think. Very hot and tired too. In the way home there was a crazy big rain storm. It put other rain storms to shame. We’re expecting heavy rain every day but this one was crazy. Tuk tuks were getting stuck in 18″ of water. Which reminds me, all the transport in the area is done by 4 seater tuks tuks pulled by 120cc scooters.

WP_20160728_05_27_12_ProOn our second day to Angkor we did the typical “get up at 4 am to see the sunrise” schtick. It was nice, I always enjoy watching the sunrise with 2000 of my best friends with cameras, tripods, iphones and selfy sticks.

It was a quick trip to Cambodia but it had to be done. The Angkor site was impressive and I’m happy to have gone. After our third night in SR we packed our bags and caught a flight to Bangkok en route to Chiang Mai.

First Full Day

Our first full day in Thailand was hot and busy. We are staying in the Banglamphu area which is the oldest part of Bangkok and where most of the best temples are located. Our hotel is the Fortville Guesthouse, which is clean and utilitarian and not too fancy. They’re in the process of building a new cafe downstairs, and combined with their nice rooftop bar, it’s a decent place to stay. It’s about a 10 minute walk north from the games Khao San road, where I stayed 25 years ago.

WP_20160725_09_09_18_ProWe walked along the Khlong Saem Saeb (canal) past the Phra Sumen Fort to the Phra Athit Pier. This was Emma’s first try at walking in her Aircast boot, and combined with the heat and jetlag, it was a bit of a struggle. We made it to the pier though, and got on a river boat to take us down the Chao Phraya.

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first stop was Tien Pier and a visit to Wat Pho. I think everyone really enjoyed this wat, it was the kids’ first look at some spectacular temples up close. From there, we hung out at an air-con cafe for drinks and decided to head back to the hotel to rest. I also needed to contact AirAsia about getting credit for a missed flight (because our trip was delayed a week).

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After eating we were going to go to the Dusit zoo but on our way it started to rain. Rain, as in SE Asia rainy season rain. We went back to the hotel and one by one fell asleep for the day/night after a long hot day with jet lag.

Thailand Itinerary, Try #1

We spent a lot of time coming up with a fantastic itinerary for our upcoming 5 week trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Highlights include a few days in Bangkok, Angkor Wat, lazying about the Mekong in the lesser traveled NorthEast Thailand, and several days in each of Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Ko Phangnam.

Alas, it was not to be.
Emma broke a bone in her ankle 11 days before our departure and we decided to postpone our trip by one week to ensure that Emma has a proper recovery. She was instructed to not put any weight on her foot until seeing the orthopedic doctor and we have to stick around until we see a doctor.

No fear though, as we have come up with a 4 week itinerary that is still pretty great. We decided to cut out the NE Thailand portion, which is a bummer for me because that is one area that I have not visited. However, the NE is probably the least “exciting” of our plans and it makes sense to cut it for the rest of the family. Oh well.

Fall Memories

TN8-13 AnnSo Hunchuli at ChomrongI stepped outside this morning and the crisp, sunny air and the neighbour’s incense instantly triggered a memory for me. Days like today always remind me of my trekking in Nepal.  I don’t think a fall day passes without me thinking about my trip there in 1991.  Well, as long as it’s a fall day without rain.  I don’t recall getting any rain while I was in Nepal.  This morning the reminder was stronger because the incense that I smelled was one that I remembered from Nepal.  I don’t know the name of it and I can’t remember exactly where in Nepal I smelled it, but I’m sure it’s the same.  It’s amazing how strong “smell” memories are.

Windsurfing – It’s Back

So I’m sitting there, wondering about kiteboarding. I’ve heard that the equipment is easy to carry around, it’s pretty easy to learn, and you can kiteboard in all sorts of wind from weak to strong. I had been thinking about kiteboarding for while, mostly since I saw some people do it on the beach north of Puerto Vallarta two years ago. It seemed like a great vacation sport.

How much does it cost to get gear? How often would I use it? Where would I go? And then it hits me. I’m a teacher now. Summers off. And there are consistent winds up at Squamish during the summer for windsurfing and kiteboarding and I still have all my old equipment. Now that my kids are getting older, I can leave them at home and take off for several hours. So after about 18 years of not sailing, it dawned on me that now was the time to start again.

Before I went to Squamish for the first time this year I wondered if my equipment would work. I figured my sails might fall apart, maybe my board would delaminate, who knows what could happen. I also wondered if other windsurfers would be older than me, younger or around the same age. My guess was they would mostly be older. I checked out my gear and everything thing looked to be in good working order, in a 1990’s sort of way.

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My first trip to Squamish was on a Tuesday. I get there and it’s a lot busier than I thought it would be. It was sunny, the place was full of kiters, and it was WINDY. When I first arrived, I spoke with a fellow that just finished his day on a 5.3 sail. He was heavier than me but advised that it would be an ok size. I was looking for advice because I hadn’t really had to judge wind speed for a very long time. The anemometer read 23 knots with gusts to 26. While I was trying to rig my sail, I noticed it getting windier. 20 minutes later my 5.3 went back in the van and I was rigging my 4.7. By the time I had all my gear ready and wetsuit on, the anemometer was saying 27kts with gusts to 30. I was getting a bit nervous. Squamish has a few unique features that make it a great place to sail but also a tricky place. First, the launch is on a very long and narrow spit that sticks into Howe Sound at the mouth of the Squamish river. If you launch a windsurfer on the lee side of the spit, you can get a big wind shadow. If you launch on the river side you have to deal with a strong current that flows downwind. This current forces your board straight upwind. It’s very difficult to “beach start”, because you can’t hold your board across the current, it will flip over. As well, if you get the clew of your sail in the water, the current will sweep over your whole sail. You don’t want to spend too much time in the water because it is only around 6C I think (glacier and snow melt fed river). On the plus side, the Squamish Windsports Society has decent facilities there to help with rigging and fixing up the launch areas, and they have rescue boats if you get into trouble.  Kiters all launch on the lee side of the spit since they don’t have to worry about the wind shadow from the spit itself.  They also would have problems launching with an onshore wind, which there is if you launch on the river.

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I decided to launch on the lee side of the spit and I didn’t have any problems getting enough wind. I was pretty nervous entering the water because I knew it wasn’t going to be some leisurely sail. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that I was way over powered. My older sails don’t have as much range as newer sails, so my 4.7 works best in maybe 23 to 26 knots. Newer sails work across a much wider range of wind. I think if I had a modern day 4.5 sail it would have been perfect. I’m guessing that a new-ish Sailworks Retro 4.5 would work 2.3 to 30 for me.

I only sailed out and back a few times. I didn’t make any of my jibes (turns), of course. Each fall results in a bit of swimming and maneuvering, and fighting with the rig. It all takes its toll on arms that haven’t done much exercise in 18 years or so. With the strong winds and not having my rig tuned properly, I was pretty exhausted after only 45 minutes.

All in all it was a good day. I had likely gone faster on my board that day than I’ve ever gone in the past, it’s a fun feeling. By the end of my short session I was getting my gear tuned a bit better by improving my harness line positions and mast position. I returned to Squamish 2 more times last week and each day things went smoother and smoother for me. I sailed on my 4.7 these days as well, in winds from 23 to 26. It was pretty much the sweetspot for me and that sail.  It’s been a good total body workout for me too, much different from running and cycling.

I’m hoping to get up to Squamish at least 5 more times this August, but the more the better.

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