Tuesday, 24 April 2018


24th April 2018

Having made comment in a previous post on 'annoying unnecessary announcements' (August 2015), I am now finding some very 'silly unnecessary signs'.

Left: Take this one for starters, on an escalator at Heathrow Airport.

Apart from telling you to take 'extra' care with luggage and children, it insists you must carry a dog. Why should you have to carry a dog to use the escalator? What happens if you don't own a dog or don't have one conveniently to hand? Do they provide one? Anyway, when you are carrying the mandatory dog, especially if it is a socking great big one, i.e. a Great Dane, it would be almost impossible to comply with the instruction to 'hold the handrail' as well which, as far as I can see, is at the edge from which you must 'keep clear'. Who thinks these things up?

I expect to find a few more of these moronic public notices. I will keep you posted.

Wandering around Parliament Square (London) I came across this recently erected statue (left). The only one of a woman in the Square. It is of Millicent Fawcett who was a 'Suffragist' at the end of the 19th century. Not to be confused with the 'Suffragettes' in the early 20th century. Suffragists were peaceful. Suffragettes were violent.

I think she is meant to be a bit of a feminist icon. If so I can't think why she is waving a dishcloth advertising beer. They might just as well have had her behind an ironing board.

Perhaps they will change the slogan regularly. An interesting prospect and asking for trouble in my opinion.

Thursday, 15 February 2018


15th Feb 2018

I am now happily back home, yet again, amidst the fog, rain, ice, wind and general gloom which so characterises our delightful country at this time of year. Whoopee!

The reason I write this stuff is primarily for my own amusement and record. When eventually I sit, immobile, dribbling, and incontinent in the Sunnylands Home for the Elderly and Confused I will hopefully be able to re-read these posts and remember where I have been and what I did. Of course my memory will have gone by then so every time nurse opens up the computer for me each page will always spring out as a complete surprise. It might also give a potential visitor to the places I have visited a sort of light-hearted 'heads up' of what to expect. 

To remind my reader of how to locate a particular location: Click on to 'arrow' next to the relevant year at the blog archive list top right of page. This opens up the months with titles. Then click on to relevant month arrow and that will open up the blogs in that month.
Incidently, if using a 'smartphone', scroll down to the bottom of the first page where you  should opt to 'view web version'. This allows you to select the 'arrows' as above. 

List of Posts


1.      The Beginning
2.      At Sea - Now Antwerp - Belgium
3.      Stranded in Le Havre - France
4.      Crossing The Pond
5.      Noo Yawk, Noo Yawk - USA
6.      Virginia - USA
7.      Washington DC - USA
8.      Columbia - South Carolina - USA
9.      Charleston - South Carolina - USA
10.    Miami - Florida - USA
11.    Fort Lauderdale - Florida - USA
12.    Savannah - Georgia - USA
13.    Boston - Massachusetts - USA
14.    Boston - Post Script - USA
15.    Niagara Falls - Ontario - Canada
16.    Toronto - Ontario - Canada
17.    Winnipeg - Manitoba - Canada
18.    The Canadian - Toronto to Vancouver - Canada
19.    Vancouver Island - British Columbia - Canada
20.    Seattle - Washington - USA
21.    Amtrak. Seattle to San Francisco - USA
22.    San Francisco - California (Part 1) - USA
23.    San Francisco - California (Part 2) - USA
24.    San Diego - California - USA
25.    Tijuana to La Paz - Mexico
26.    La Paz - Mexico
27.    Mazatlan - Mexico
28.    Guadalajara - Mexico
29.    Mexico City
30.    San Christobal de Las Casas - Mexico
31.    Antigua - Guatemala
32.    San Salvador - El Salvador
33.    Managua and Granada - Nicaragua
34.    San José - Costa Rica
35.    Panama City
36.    Flight to Lima - Peru
37.    Lima - Peru
38.    Nazca - Peru
39.    Cusco - Peru
40.    Machu Picchu - Peru
41.    Andean Explorer - Peru
42.    Puno (Lake Titicaca) - Peru
43.    Arequipa - Peru
44.    Panama to Auckland - New Zealand
45.    Bay of Islands - New Zealand
46.    Lake Taupo - New Zealand
47.    Cape Reinga - New Zealand
48.    Russel Birdman Festival - New Zealand
49.    Rotorua - New Zealand
50.    Napier - New Zealand
51.    Wellington - New Zealand
52.    Blenheim - New Zealand
53.    Nelson - New Zealand
54.    West Coast, South Island - New Zealand
55.    Queenstown - New Zealand
56.    Lake Tekapo - New Zealand
57.    Christchurch - New Zealand
58.    Kaikoura - New Zealand
59.    Auckland - New Zealand
60.    Across the Tasman Sea
61.    Sydney (Part 1) - Australia 
62.    Sydney (Part 2) - Australia 
63.    Melbourne (Part 1) - Australia 
64.    Melbourne (Part 2) - Australia 
65.    Tasmania - Australia
66.    Adelaide - Australia
67.    The Ghan - Adelaide to Darwin - Australia
68.    Darwin - Australia
69.    The Red Centre - Australia
70.    Back to Adelaide - Australia
71.    Onwards to Brisbane - Australia
72.    Brisbane to Singapore (Part 1)
73.    Taxis
74.    Brisbane to Singapore (Part 2)
75.    Brisbane to Singapore (Part 3)
76.    Singapore (Part 1)
77.    Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia
78.    Up Country - Malaysia
79.    Singapore (Part 2)
80.    Mozart. Malaysia to Sri Lanka
81.    Colombo - Sri Lanka
82.    Coffee
83.    Kandy - Sri Lanka
84.    Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka
85.    Back to Colombo - Sri Lanka
86.    Galle - Sri Lanka
87.    The Ancient Cities - Sri Lanka
88.    Trincomalee - Sri Lanka
89.    Negombo - Sri Lanka
90.    Tiruchirappalli - India
91.    Kerala - India


92.    Goa - India
93.    Bombay - India
94.    Delhi - India
95.    Palace On Wheels. Rajasthan (Part 1) - India
96.    Palace On Wheels. Rajasthan (Part 2) - India
97.    Palace On Wheels. Rajasthan (Part 3) - India
98.    Palace On Wheels. Rajasthan (Part 4) - India
99.    Palace On Wheels. Rajasthan (Part 5) - India
100.  Calcutta - India
101.  Rangoon - Burma
102.  The Train To Bagan - Burma
103.  Bagan - Burma
104.  Mandalay (Part 1) - Burma
105.  Mandalay (Part 2) - Burma
106.  Inle Lake - Burma
107.  Ngapali Beach - Burma
108.  Bangkok - Thailand
109.  Siem Reap - Cambodia
110.  Phnom Penh - Cambodia
111.  Saigon - Vietnam
112.  Hanoi - Vietnam
113.  Sa Pa - Vietnam
114.  Ha Long Bay - Vietnam
115.  Beijing (Part 1) - China
116.  Hong Kong
117.  Beijing (Part 2) - China
118.  Mongolia
119.  Siberia - Russia
120.  Trans-Siberian to Moscow
121.  Moscow (Part 1) - Russia
122.  Moscow (Part 2) - Russia
123.  St Petersburg - Russia
124.  Helsinki - Finland
125.  Rovaniemi - Finland
126.  Up To Kirkenes - Norway
127.  Hurtigruten (Part 1) - Norway
128.  Hurtigruten (Part 2) - Norway
129.  Hurtigruten (Part 3) - Norway
130.  Hurtigruten (Part 4) - Norway
131.  Bergen to Oslo - Norway
132.  Oslo - Norway
133.  Copenhagen - Denmark
134.  Hamburg - Germany
135.  Hook of Holland - and Home
136.  The End
137.  Post Script - London
138.  Stand-by For More...


139.  To The Democratic Peoples Republic Of Korea (North Korea)
140.  Pyongyang 1 - North Korea
141.  Pyongyang 2 - North Korea
142.  Kaesong and Panmunjom - North Korea
143.  Back to Pyongyang - North Korea
144.  Pyongyang 3 - North Korea
145.  Samjiyon and Mount Paekdu - North Korea
146.  Daehongdan County - North Korea
147.  Chongjin - North Korea
148.  Hamhung - North Korea
149.  Wonsan and Mount Kumgang - North Korea
150.  Mount Kumgang 2 - North Korea
151.  Mount Kumgang 3 - North Korea
152.  Wonsan Again - North Korea
153.  Back To Pyongyang and On To Nampo - North Korea
154.  Nampo and Back To Pyongyang - North Korea
155.  Train To Beijing - North Korea
156.  The Finale
157.  Impressions of North Korea
158.  Vids From North Korea
159.  Zambia
160.  Battledore Farm - Zambia
161.  Cool Bananas - Zambia
162.  Banana Hazards - Zambia
163.  Back On The Farm - Zambia
164.  Continued Jollities - Zambia


165.  Christmas In Darkest Africa - Zambia
166.  Lusaka 1  - Zambia
167.  Lusaka 2  - Zambia
168.  Livingston (I Presume) - Zambia
169.  On Safari - Botswana
170.  Ndola N'Home - Zambia
171.  Onwards To Sarf America
172.  Buenos Aires and The Wedding - Argentina
173.  Around Buenos Aires - Argentina
174.  Jujuy Province - Argentina
175.  Salta - Argentina
176.  Cordoba - Argentina
177.  Mendoza - Argentina
178.  Santiago (Part 1) - Chile
179.  Olmue and Valparaiso - Chile
180.  Santiago (Part 2) - Chile
181.  To Osorno and Bariloche - Argentina
182.  Bariloche - Argentina
183.  Ruta National 40 - Argentina
184.  El Calafate - Argentina
185.  Tierra Del Fuego (Part 1) - Argentina
186.  Tierra Del Fuego (Part 2) - Argentina
187.  Iguazu - Argentina
188.  Buenos Aires - Finale - Argentina


189.  The Saga Of My Nearly Lost Hat - UK
190.  We Wish To Apologise... - UK
191.  Those Blasted Announcements... - UK
192.  Tuscany By Train - France
193.  Mulhouse to Montecatini - Italy
194.  Florence - Italy
195.  Around Montecatini - Italy
196.  Lucca and Pisa - Italy
197.  Venice 1 - Italy
198.  Venice 2 - Italy
199.  Venice 3 - Italy
200.  Turin - Italy
201.  'Nam Revisited - Vietnam
202.  Saigon Again - Vietnam


203.  Merry Keesmah - Vietnam
204.  Up The Mekong - Vietnam
205.  Happy Noo Yeer - Vietnam
206.  Snowdrops - UK
207.  Turkey - An Inspiration
208.  Istanbul Or Bust
209.  Budapest - Briefly - Hungary
210.  Brasov - Transylvania - Romania
211.  Bucharest - Romania
212.  Onwards To Istanbul - Bulgaria
213.  This Was Constantinople - Turkey
214.  Up The Bosphorous - Turkey
215.  The Turkish Bath - Turkey
216.  Up The Kennet - UK
217.  Down The Baltics
218.  Tallinn 1 - Estonia
219.  Tallinn 2 - Estonia
220.  Tallinn 3 - Estonia
221.  On To Riga - Latvia
222.  Around Riga - Latvia
223.  Riga Finale - Stuck Up A Steeple - Latvia
224.  Vilnius...And The Dark Side - Lithuania
225.  Vilnius...The Bright Side - Lithuania
226.  A Damp Day In Warsaw - Poland
227.  Berlin And Bed Bugs In Brussels - Belgium
228.  Cultural Day In Lille - France
229.  Bah Humbug And Chrexit - Vietnam
230.  Laid-Back Laos - Vientiane - Laos
231.  Va Va Vang Vieng - Laos
232.  Vang Vieng Voom Voom - Laos


233.  Luang Prabang - Laos
234.  Luang Prabang And Elephants - Laos
235.  Ariba Ariba and Off to Cuba
236.  Havana Wander - Cuba
237.  Havana Further Wander - Cuba
238.  On West to Viñales - Cuba
239.  Cienfuegos - Cuba
240.  Ye Olde Town of Trinidad - Cuba
241.  Santa Clara. Viva La Revolución - Cuba
242.  Varadero. - Cuba
243.  Guanabo. Playa del Ested - Cuba
244.  Back to Havana - Cuba
245.  Havana Finale - Cuba
246.  Chrexit 2017 - Thailand
247.  Phuket and Beaches - Thailand
248.  Phuket Town - Thailand
249.  Saigon Again - Vietnam


250.  Wats in Chiang Mai - Thailand
251.  A Day Out in Chiang Mai - Thailand
252.  More Chiang Mai - Thailand
253.  Chiang Mai - Bangkok - and Home
254.  Update of Index   

Sunday, 4 February 2018


11th - 16th Jan 2018

Trip up the Ping.
I took a short boat trip up the river Ping which runs through the centre of the city. There were only  three of us on the smallish 'long-tailed' boat, myself, a rather charming Chinese student and the boat driver. The Chinese guy was an IT student living in Seoul and spoke good English. We only went for an hour upstream to a riverside farm which grew all sorts of weird herbs and vegetables and we were given a conducted tour.

This 'farm' had an extensive restaurant and bar, and I believe tourists stayed here. The restaurant (left) had tables made from small canoes and could cater for large parties.

The menu looked quite interesting; especially item #93, the 'deep fried chicken knobbly knees'. 
I had eaten earlier and so resisted the temptation. There were indeed several chickens knocking about the place but they didn't appear to have knobbly knees....which is presumably why they were not on the menu.

Left: There was an interesting gents loo. The urinals and sinks are made out of carved tree trunks. Quite original, but I can't think very hygienic. 

Right: Another boat tethered alongside was kitted out for a cruise with dining. 
We were told that the river contained many large black and yellow coloured water snakes (in fact I saw one on the river Taing when we were on those rafts), but they are not venomous, apparently, and eat fish or perhaps slow witted knobbly kneed  chickens. 

On the way back, about 15 mins out from the farm, we had a total engine failure. After a bit of tinkering the driver gave up and dropped anchor. Fortunately he had a mobile phone and summoned rescue. We were passed by another boat (left) whose passengers gave us a cheerful, if unsympathetic, wave.

A rescue boat duly arrived and towed us back to the farm where we tetherd the broken one and then set off back to the city. My Chinese companion was getting a bit worried as he had a flight to catch back to Seoul in a couple of hours.

There are long stretches of tiered seating along the banks in the city, as there were on the river Wang in Lam Phang. I asked why and was told it was for spectators when they had frequent (rowing) boat races. And by the way, nobody here believes in  wearing life-jackets.

OK, not a particularly exciting voyage, but a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and thankfully the river Ping didn't pong after all.

After several blogs I can't think of anything else of general interest to record from Chiang Mai; a pleasant enough place as it is. Apropos of nothing, I asked myself 'why do the majority of younger western tourists here (as in Phuket and maybe other warm locations), who mostly wear those knee length 'cargo pants', have tattoos down their lower legs?' Am I missing out on something? Talking of which, I saw a young man in a bar here (of unknown language/nationality) with 'VOLE' and 'HATE'  tattooed on left and right knuckles respectively. There can be few more irritating experiences in life than being inscribed by a dyslexic tattoo artist. 
Finally, the poor old dog which went missing from the Guesthouse on New Years Eve never showed up again.

I returned to Bangkok by sleeper train; a 13 hour overnight journey. It was quite comfortable with a fold down bed made up for you by a steward with, unusually for this part of the world, a surprisingly soft mattress. I slept very well. Although there were two bunks I fortunately had the cabin to myself. Fortunate, that is, for any possible 'sharer' who would have got no sleep at all due to my 'alleged' mega-decibel snoring which has been likened to a maddened starving pig at feeding time.  The restaurant car was no great shakes and, as with all rail/bus services, did not serve alcohol. Also as with the rail/bus services that I have used here, it was all relatively cheap and on time.

I had three, or was it four, days (a bit hazy here) to spend in Bangkok and was mostly, and generously, entertained by a French ex-colleague and his family who live there. His wife had to go with their children to a house they own on the south-east coast which allowed her husband 'off the leash' for a couple of days. So I have nothing much to report, or willing to report, on a fairly debauched few 'soirées'.

One place I did visit, only because the description in my Lonely Planet tickled my curiosity, was the Siriraj Hospital Museum. This is situated amongst a vast hospital complex (some of the best hospitals in the world are in Bangkok) on the western side of the river Chao Phraya. I walked there from Silom and it took me nearly 2 hours including a ferry trip across the river. I had underestimated the distance, but it took me past the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which I would have visited had it not been for the scrum of tourists and packs of ghastly unofficial 'guides' hassling you for a 'special tour' and undoubtedly trying to rip you off.

The Siriraj Hospital Museum boasts several 'departments' dedicated to anatomy, pathology, forensic science and entomology. It is, for the most part, fairly gruesome. Lots of dead bodies and, preserved in formaldehyde, babies and children with extraordinary birth defects. The forensic science part was particularly entertaining with graphic photos and stories of a variety of horrendous deaths, including murder victims, occasionally mummified and displayed in glass cases, murder weapons and the like. One particular exhibit of curious interest was the murder of a victim by a dildo!
The entomology display was no less worrying. I hadn't realised that there are so many horrendous and disfiguring diseases caused by tropical worms and insects. I won't bore you with painful descriptions of the exhibits but, suffice to say, I will now be jolly careful where I go for a swim.
Photography was strictly forbidden, for good reason perhaps, so I only managed to get a quick snap in the anatomy section.

Although Bangkok has a serious traffic congestion problem, one of the city's impressive features is its intra-city rail transport system. It is fairly new, and therefore state of the art, and consists of a skytrain (BTS) and an underground (MRT) which are still in the process of expanding. It puts our London Underground to shame (what doesn't). It is cheap, quiet, no unnecessary announcements, reliable and generally very passenger friendly. If you are a 'Senior Rabbit', ie half-price, (see right) a single ride to most places will not cost you more than 40p, often less.

On one MRT (Underground) trip the inside of the carriages were strewn, full length on every hang-strap, with an advert to go and see Liam Gallagher perform at some stadium in the city. The cost of the lowest 'standard' ticket was £100 (equivalent). I hadn't realised that Bangkok was so desperately short of musical entertainment. I can think of numerous things I would rather do with £100, indeed I would probably pay something not to have to listen to Mr Gallagher.

Right: A final excerpt from a menu in my hotel. Somewhat politically incorrect perhaps.

Well, that's it for now. Flight back to UK via Bahrain with GulfAir was uneventful and comfortable enough with most obliging cabin crew (much better than the flight to Havana with Iberia). Of course, it was so nice to be welcomed back to London Heathrow in the cold and damp and not a recognisably British person in attendance. I much enjoyed my 'Chrexit'. Where next? I'm thinking.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


8th - 11th Jan 2018
Thai kick-boxing
I met up with friends who live in Chiang Mai. Their whole extended family (19 of) were visiting for Christmas and New Year. Interesting bunch; one of the wives runs a successful jam and chutney enterprise based in Chiang Mai ( I plug; littlespoonthailand.com), and her husband runs a series of fitness centres (gyms to you and me). Another wife is a professional singer/pianist and her husband is an artist (see okdavid.com). There are a lot of ex-pats, mostly British or American, who have emigrated to this part of the world which I hadn't realised beforehand. I was told it is cheaper and there are more opportunities to set up businesses and, of course, the weather is pleasant.

Anyway, one evening we, the boys, decided to go to a Thai kick-boxing event. This had added interest because a lady called Val, from Wick in Scotland, who was living with one of the couples, was competing. She was a cartographer in her previous life but had given up on the rat-race in UK and was now in full time training as a Thai boxer. She is quite powerfully built.
Left: Val in action (red gloves). Poor pics because the lighting wasn't great and they just wouldn't stand still!
PS. The pic at the top is not mine you won't be surprised to learn.

Val won in a closely fought 5 three-minute round bout. She sustained a couple of black eyes and looked absolutely knackered afterwards. We met for lunch the next day and she was quite interesting about this Thai boxing system. As she explained, at one level it is seriously professional. At 'tourist shows' like this it is somewhat contrived. The boxers tend to be impoverished students who get paid £50 per bout, win or lose, so there is not a great incentive to win. In fact, she told me, that it is often better for a boxer to 'take a dive' in the first two rounds because it involves less effort by both parties, they get paid the same, they will be fit enough to fight again sooner and it amuses the crowd. Makes sense! In fact the first two bouts here were over within two rounds and the stricken boxers lay for dead before standing up and staggering around a bit for maximum effect. In a later lightweight girls match neither boxer ever appeared to lay a glove, or foot, on their opponent. They just walzed around and held onto each other. Val said that they were being very careful not to inflict any damage to their good looks. Val did not have this cop-out option because she had the home team cheering her on. She definitely fought to win and her opponent (a rather masculine looking lady) was forced to defend herself vigorously. They also had a 'special' bout involving four (rather overweight) fighters who were blindfolded. They rarely managed to hit anything other than thin air, and the referee.

Right: Archer's Restaurant on Ratchaphakhinai St. owned and managed by an Essex boy called Mark Archer who originally worked for the Midland Bank. He has been here for over 10 years. It is definitely worth a visit and does a proper English style Sunday roast lunch (including Yorkshire puddings of course). Delicious.

A few sights from the Night Bazaar.

Left: This little (real) dog was 'driving' a mini-car around the busy street. It must have had a lot of faith in the remote control operator.

Right: A colourfully attired bead seller.

Left: This blues/rock group was performing on a roof bar inside the bazaar. I'm not really into this sort of music but they, especially the guitarist, were very good in a 'Jimmy Hendrix' sort of way.

Right: This wee lad was singing and 'strutting his stuff' on stage. Impressive performance. I'm not sure why it was considered necessary to have a 'no dogs' sign (if indeed that was what it was).

Again with aforementioned friends, we visited the Royal Project botanical gardens in the National Park to the west of the city. Left: This palace/wat was the central feature.

The gardens cover a huge area with a large variety of features. Some more well maintained than others. It is the brainchild of the previous King. A bus tour is available, although many visitors seemed to be whizzing about the place on bikes. We walked.

It includes an extensive orchid garden which was another popular venue for pre-wedding photographs (right). At another location there was even a large American chap, from Florida, posing with his Thai 'Qatar Airlines' stewardess fiancé. He was wearing an extraordinary costume of Thai origin, trying to look like the King of Siam I suppose. I had an interesting chat with him and then forgot to take his picture (he will be relieved to hear).
Just prior to this we had met up in a pleasant retaurant for lunch. I am always a bit suspicious of Thai dishes as they, unlike the Vietnamese, tend to present meals already spiced up with, sometimes, very powerful chilli seasoning. I ordered what was advertised as a 'non-spicey' dish; trout soup. It was excellent and no spice until half-way to finishing it I unwittingly spooned up a mouthful containing the mother of all chillies. I nearly exploded and must have somehow, when trying to dry my weeping eyes, wiped them with chilli. I was then blinded for some time. 
Swear words were uttered, vociferously. Why do they do this? Were the waiters hanging around to watch just for a bit of a giggle? Bloody annoying, and painful.

There are a few museums in Chiang Mai and I was encouraged to visit the Lanna Folk Museum in the old town. Frankly it was rather boring, consisting mainly of Lanna Folk handicraft, clothing and woven fabrics. It also cost 300 Baht to get in which was poor value for money in my opinion. I just mention this in case you are tempted.

Left: A model of a traditional Lanna folk music group making whoopee as only they know how.

I decided to go on a day trip, by train, to the town of Lam Pang, about 80 miles south-east of Chiang Mai. This sign (right) was in the Chaing Mai station. The service was indeed very polite and efficient, and cheap (about 50p one way) on a local 3rd Class slow 'stopping' train with no air-con, but cool and breezy with the windows open. It took about 2½ hours.  

We stopped at many stations through the hilly Doi Khun Tan National Park area. They were all beautifull maintained as per this one (left), Lamphun I think, and the station staff all wore splendid uniforms. The Thais obviously take pride in their little railway stations.

Lam Pang is 'quite'  an interesting town which is divided into 2 parts. The railway station is in the 'commercial' part and it is a 3 mile walk (which I did to avoid taxis and to get some exercise) to the more attractive part lying along the River Wang.  

I passed this rather strange arboreal umbrella display (right); unless there had been a sudden blast of wind when several umbrella wielding pedestrians were walking nearby and taken by surprise

.....and of course there was the inevitable wat. Left: This one with a large Buddha outside it was quite impressive.

Right: Down towards the river there were many of these horses and carts.......

......which were often in long convoys taking tourists for a ride (probably financially as well), but going from where to where I couldn't think. There was really no beautiful part of the town that I could see. I suppose they just wanted a ride in a horse and cart.

The only civic construction of any note that I saw was this clocktower on a main intersection........

.......before arriving at the riverside.
Here there is a very pleasant guest-house, called, imaginatively, The Riverside Guest House (left). It had some lovely balconied rooms overlooking the river, and a very charming bar and dining area. I think it is run by a French lady. Nice place to stay if you want to look at a river.

Almost next door is the equally imaginatively named Riverside Inn. Again, a very pleasant place at which I had lunch. Fish and chips if I remember correctly, and they had a good selection of beer and wines. These two places catered exclusively for tourists.

I had a good wander around the area and, as far as I could see, there was absolutely nothing else of great interest.
In fact these two places were the only establishments that I could find that sold alcohol or offered a 'western' standard meal. There may have been a posh hotel somewhere or other which I didn't see.
Walking (3 miles) back to the station I passed numerous chemists, hardware stores, schools, health food shops, car spares shops and other rather technical and medical outlets, but with the exception of a couple of small basic cafés, absolutely nowhere to relax, eat and have a drink. I have gathered that the Thai government has a rather prohibitive attitude towards the purchase and consumption of alcohol. Even in the large open air markets, there is no alcohol on sale. They make exceptions for this in 'tourist' areas, but even these have a 2pm to 5pm curfew on the sale of alcohol, although I certainly didn't notice this in Bangkok. I was sweating hard and dying for a cool beer when I got back to the station. None on offer in the local market but, just before the train departed at 5.30pm, I found a local 'Tesco' store which opened at 5.00pm and I got some beer. Phew! The fire was extinguished.

Although I believe there is a national law which makes the wearing of crash helmets on scooters and motor bikes compulsory, I have noticed that outside the main cities (ie Bangkok and possibly Chiang Mai) that this is seldom enforced. It is  as good as voluntary. I reckoned in Lam Pang that about 20% of scooter/motor bike riders wore helmets. 

Now, I am the first to agree that wearing a helmet  when riding a motorbike is a sensible thing to do. I always used to when I rode a bike, and a good helmet at that. However, I am a great believer in the view of a famous politician/philosopher (whose name I have completely forgotten...and a prize for anyone who reminds me) who advocated that laws should only be made to protect you from the actions of others. They should not be made, and you should not be legally penalised, to protect yourself from your own choice of action, however stupid (or words to that effect).  I think I may have mentioned this somewhere before regarding the use of helmets, seat belts, life-jackets etc. if, in a private capacity, you choose not to. There is no end to how many laws could be passed to protect you from yourself. Think about it! Not long ago a lady was sadly killed in London when a brick fell from a building and hit her on the head. How long before there is a law to enforce the wearing of helmets on all occasions!......and seat belts on bar stools, etc. etc......

Anyway, I caught the 'luxury express' train back to Chiang Mai. It was indeed much faster, with comfortable seats and boasted a  powerful air-conditioning system. So powerful, indeed, that I was  almost hypothermic by the time we got home.

Just found it. John Stuart Mill, British philosopher,  political economist etc., 1806 - 1873 suggested:
"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant".
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_stuart_mill_169399.

These old boys displayed a modicum of sense in those days. I certainly agree with his philosophy!

Just a little bit more to come from Chiang Mai when I took a short cruise up the River Ping and then the return to Bangkok.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


3rd - 7th Jan 2018

Elephant crossing.

Off today on a day tour in the foothills north of the city. I joined a minibus containing a guide, a jolly driver and nine Chinese girls, student types from Shanghai.

Our first stop was at the charmingly named attraction 'Elephant Poopoopaper Park'. A place where they demonstrate making paper from elephant shit. I've seen it before in Sri Lanka, but any elephant country nowadays likes to show off their eco-friendly use of elephants doings.

There are no elephants here but the pathways were elegantly decorated with piles of raw material.
There was even horse and cow shit on offer for manufacture of, perhaps, 'higher' quality paper.
They offered a 'do it yourself' service in the 'Poo Fibre Shed' where you could mash up your own bleached lump, colour it and spread it on a rack. There were, surprisingly, a few takers.

.......and leave it to dry in the sun (left). The trouble with this sort of paper is that it is crap (if you'll forgive the pun). The finished product is like thin  hairy cardboard and pretty useless to write on. 
A stall stocked lots of (not cheap) notebooks and other tat made from it which, again surprisingly, seemed to attract qute a few customers.

After that excitement we moved on to an orchid garden with, unsurprisingly, many colourful orchids on display.

Then on to a butterfly farm where, inside a netted aviary, there were lots of gaily coloured butterflies flitting about. There was a chart stuck on the entrance itemising different types but, not being a lepidopterist, I found it impossible to identify any because they had an irritating habit of flying away when you went to consult the chart.

Next up was Maetaeng Elephant Park. Our visit here started with an elephant show. All very touristy but quite amusing nevertheless. Before the show several volunteers were hoisted up by a couple of elephants. My new Chinese friends liked this as it was good for photo opportunities. 

Left: The handlers/mahouts demonstrated being given a leg-up, either front or back, by the elephants.

Elephants kicked footballs into a goal with surprising force and accuracy.

A mahout lay on the ground pretending to be asleep, a few times actually, and an elephant gently stood on his stomach to wake him up. I wondered how many fatally squashed mahouts there had been before this act was perfected.

Amongst many other tricks they built walls with heavy logs and even had four elephants advancing in line playing mouth organs (trunk organs perhaps).

Probably the most impressive act was this elephant (right) painting a picture. It was handed a brush for each colour, but apart from that did the whole thing unaided. Fierce concentration  showed in its eyes. Extraordinary. After drawing an outline it very accurately coloured it in.

Left: The finished article was impressive. I have seen many less skilfully produced works done by humans displayed in galleries and worth mega-bucks. (see Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Blog Sept 2015).

I don't know how they train elephants to do these tricks; probably with violent electric shocks and beating them half to death with clubs for all I know. But it must be preferable to pulling logs around the jungle all day which is what their existance consisted of in the old days (before tourists). At least they get well fed and are topped up by numerous bananas and sugar cane fed to them by us tourists (30 Baht a bunch)....and the occasional camera.
We then were taken for a ride. Not too uncomfortable and resulted in lots of happy screams from the Chinese girls especially when going up or down steep slopes or steps. You had to hang on quite tight. There were a couple of pit-stops along the route at which we were strongly encouraged (ie cruel to refuse) to buy bunches of bananas and sugar cane (30 Baht) to refuel our elephant on the move. Their trunks were constantly reaching behind their heads for another banana, or whatever.

The selfie-stick with smart-phone on the end is essential equipment for the Chinese tourists (and others I expect). It is almost a natural extention of their arm. They photo themselves non-stop. This led to a 'nearly' hilarious occurrence when one of the girls was selfie-photoing herself feeding an elephant a banana. The elephant grabbed the smart-phone and she was left holding the banana. How she screamed...it was like having her arm amputated. I suppose the elephant thought it was a lollipop. Anyway, the alert handler managed to rescue the phone just in time. What a pity! Which reminds me of a video clip where this actually happened to a Japanese girl tourist. The elephant did  swallow her phone. There was much screaming and jumping up and down. She was told to wait a few hours. The elephant duly discharged a large shit and the handler rang the girl's phone number. The ring tone sounded from the pile of dung, the phone was pulled out, wiped down and was in perfect working order. A happy Jap!

The next entertainment was an ox-cart ride down some dusty lanes (right) with one of my new Chinese friends. Selfie-stick at the ready. We even had to stop half-way to buy more bananas to feed the oxen. I didn't know they liked bananas, until now.

This led us back to the river on the bank of which was a restaurant where we were treated to a very decent lunch.

Then paddled on by raft down the river (River Taing) for a sedate and seemingly endless trip to be met by our mini-bus. 

Next stop was a village populated (I suspect for the day only) by those Muong tribe 'long-necked' women. They were busy trying to sell us colourful fabrics. I had previously seen similar near Inle Lake, Burma where I was concerned about what would happen if they fell into the lake. Would the metal rings take them straight to the bottom? No water danger here but I was given some of the rings to handle. They are solid brass and very heavy! One of the ladies was wearing 25 of them which, I was told and believe, weighed about 10kg (22lbs?). You would not want to go swimming in those. Free-style deep-diving perhaps, but not swimming!

Encouraged by our lady guide I had my face painted here in Muong traditional style. Good for the complexion I was told, but thankfully I don't have a photo of that. It amused the Chinese girls.

Left: Our guide having her face painted.

The next, and final, port of call was another Wat or, to be more exact, seven separate Wats and I've forgotten what the place is called; somewhere north of the city. Each of these opulently decorated Wats is dedicated to a different Buddhist country, ie Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Wales etc. I'm afraid I've rather lost interest in Wats.

Back on the bus with the selfie-stick wielding Chinese and return to the city. I was thinking that as they have 'stick drill' in the British army we could instigate 'selfie-stick drill' for the Chinese. Maybe they already do it.

More to come from Chiang Mai. I'm off with some friends to a Thai Boxing evening tomorrow which features a friend of theirs, a Scottish lady boxer from Wick. Should be interesting!