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Thailand 2011
with Pat & Keith Davey
Keith & Pat Davey in a longtail boat, Bangkok
This photobook features the beginning and end stages of
an Intrepid “Indo-China Encompassed” tour that Pat and
I took at the beginning of 2011.
We only stayed for two days at Bangkok and then joined
the Intrepid team to travel into Cambodia.
On the final few days of the tour we re-entered northern
Thailand near Chaing Rai and travelled to Chiang Mai
where the four-country journey finished.
Pat and I stayed on for another couple of days, visiting
some wonderful places in the Chiang Mai region.
Keith Davey
Indo-China Jan - Feb 2011
Pat and I visited Thailand at the beginning and end of our tour to Indo-China in
January 2011. We flew into Bangkok on the 9th January. We arrived two days early
so that we coud look at the architecture, culture and sights of Bangkok before
starting on our Intrepid Tour.
On the evening of the 11th we joined up with our fellow travellers at the New World
Hotel, Sansem Road, Banglumphu, Bangkok. We were going on the Intrepid “IndoChina Encompassed” tour, comprised of three country segments, each with its own
trip leader. Harry (Vanny Mann), a personable Khmer was our tour leader from
Bangkok through Cambodia.
Our group remained at Bangkok for the first evening before travelling to the
Cambodian border and then visiting Siem Reap, nearby Tonle Sap Lake and the
historic ruins of Angkor Wat. At Phnom Pehn we visited the Killing Fields and the
notorious S-21 Museum depicting the the horrors of the genocide that occurred in
Cambodia only 37 years ago. We spent ten days in Cambodia.
Before leaving Cambodia at Kampong Cham on the Mekong River, we were joined
by Tin-Tin (Thinh Bui) our Viet guide. We were also joined by another group of
Intrepid Tour travellers who were doing the Viet and Laos component of the tour.
We travelled the length of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, north to Hanoi.
While on the Reunification Express we travelled with some of the hundreds of Viet
travelling back home to their villages for their family New Year celebration of Tet.
After visiting Thien Buhi’s family for the Tet celebration we turned east towards the
coast to see the spectacular limestone karst scenery of Ha Long Bay. We spent
seventeen days in Vietnam.
After visiting the highlighs of Hanoi we were joined by Ant Mod, a Thai girl who was
to take us through Laos back to Chang Mai in Thailand. With Ant we turned west to
experience the beautiful mountain scenery, natural village life and adventures in
Laos. We went rubber-tubing and hot-air ballooning along the Nam Song River.
A highlight of the journey was to travel upriver along the mightly Mekong River, the
lifeblood of millions of people in all these countries. We travelled upriver for 200
kilometres until we re-entered northern Thailand. We spent ten days in Laos.
In northern Thailand we visited the fantastically modern, but quite weird White
buddhist temple at Chiang Rai. The rich artist that designed this collection of
buildings and sculptures has successfully blended traditional Thai art with
contemporary commercial art.
Our journey ended at Chiang Mai, the capital of northern Thailand. Pat and I visited
an elephant camp where former lumber-harvesting elephants are being retrained to
carry tourists.
The whole journey throughout Indo-China was a gastronomic experience. The trip
could easily be marketed as such. Our food was always wonderfully tasty, with
many local flavours influencing the Asian cooking. There were some bizzare dishes
as well, including snake’s eggs, fried tarantula spiders, crickets, and probably other
things that we had no idea of what we were eating.
All the photographs of this trip were taken on two compact cameras, a Canon G12
and a Canon SX30.
Pat & Keith Davey
This six week trip was a highlight of our lives. We will always fondly remember it as
one of the most adventurous trips we have undertaken.
Keith Davey
Travel to Bangkok
Pat and I left Cardiff Railway Station on the Newcastle Flier
at 6.42am on Saturday 8th January 2011, to arrive at
Sydney Central just after 9.00am, ready to transfer to the
City - Airport Line where we were conveniently dropped
underneath the main Kingsford Smith International Airport.
After a quick cup of coffee we waited for a few hours
before boarding the plane headed for Suvarnabhumi
airport, Bangkok. It was a nine hour flight.
At Bangkok we stayed at New World City Hotel for two
nights. This hotel at 2 Samsen 2 Road, Banglamphu,
Pranakorn, Bangkok, is located quite near the historical
part of the city.
Interestingly, the second floor of this hotel was occupied
by the Bangkok offices of Intrepid Tours, whom we were
going to travel with on their “Indochina Encompassed”
Bangkok is a city of contradictions. Starting as a city built
on canals, called khlongs, and elephant trails, many of these
waterways were filled in to make way for motor vehicles.
Now roads and expressways criss-cross the city in a
manner that does not seem to have been planned.
The city has a population of 15 million people. Bangkok is
an amazing mixture of the old ond the new, where
skyscrapers are built alongside ancient temples and places
of worship.
Cultural Influences of Thailand
Thai people have a natural pride in themselves. Although
ruled by an elected government, Thai people believe that
the monarchy has almost divine power. Over the years there
have been many instances where the popular King
Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) has hauled elected officials
and military leaders in for a dressing down, and they take it.
Both King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit take part in
numerous royal ceremonies that punctuate the Thai year.
Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power and
in the past few centuries it has never tried to conquer a
When you travel through Thai cities you are always
impressed by how modern it all appears, but the past does
shine through with its wonderful ornate temples, palaces
and cultural displays.
At the end of our six week journey, we reentered Thailand from
Laos after travelling up the Mekong River for two days. We then
drove down to visit the spectacular Buddhist White Temple at
Chiang Rai and then onwards to Chaing Mai where we finished
our Intrepid trip. Pat and I stayed on for another two days so we
were able to visit both the Elephant Training Camp and Chiang
Mai Zoo and Aquarium. We then flew home.
Although we commenced our Intrepid Indochina Encompassed Tour
in Thailand at Bangkok, we only spent two days there before heading
to Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia.
Wat Chana Songkram
The full name of this temple is Wat Chanasongkhram Rajaworamahaviharm. It is
located opposite Khao San Road in Bangkok. Inside is the famous Buddha image
called the “Phra Buddha Norasee Trilokachet Mahetthisak Puchaniyachayantakhodom Boromsasada Anaworayan”. It has been associated with Bangkok since
it’s foundation. The name of the temple means “Victory in War” and is easily confused
by non Thai speakers with “Songkran” the watersplashing festival in April.
Built in the 18th century, the temple has been recently rennovated. I was particularly
taken by the ornate dragon figures, both on the walls and wrapped around poles
alongside the six-sided building. To my untrained eye, the architecture and figures
had a distinct Chinese appearance, but I may be mistaken. This building may have
been influenced by the large Thai-Chinese population that may be found in Bangkok.
Buddhist temples in Thailand are usually distinguished by tall golden stupas. The
Buddhist architecture in Thailand is similar to that found in other Southeast Asian
countries, in particular Laos and Cambodia. Thailand’s culture shares both a historical
and cultural heritage with these two countries.
If approaching the temple from the riverside area, you first pass though the shady
courtyard (and parking lot) of the temple housing (kuti), where both the monks and lay
workers for the temple live. The courtyard also usually has a few stalls for the tourists.
From the kuti, you pass under a bell tower to reach the temple compound. The
ubosot lies in a simple courtyard. If coming from the river, you are at the back of the
ordination hall. The gable ends of the ubosot are beautifully decorated in carved
gilded wood and mirrored tiles.
Inside the ubosot, the altar is quite impressive with its golden
Buddha image in front of a large fan, and ceremonial umbrella
above. Of special note are the elephant tusks, one pair of
which is ebony. Also of note in a side aisle is a small
enthroned statue of King Taksin.
As with temple compounds throughout the country, Wat
Chana Songkhram is used for all sorts of neighbourhood
activities (including car parking and football games). Part of
the temple yard has been appropriated by stallholders selling
secondhand books and travellers' clothes, making the most
of the constant stream of tourists who use the temple as a
short cut between the river and Khao San.
The gables of the sanctuary's roof are beautifully ornate,
embossed with a golden relief of the Hindu god Vishnu
astride his birdlike vehicle, Garuda, enmeshed in an intricate
design of red and blue glass mosaics, and the golden finials
are shaped like serpents. Peeking over the compound walls
onto the guest houses and bars of Soi Ram Bhuttri are a row
of kuti, or monks' quarters. These are simple but elegant
wooden cabins on stilts with steeply pitched roofs.
Thai Temple Architecture
Multiple roof tiers are an important element of Thai temples. Ornamented multiple tiers are restricted
to the roofs of temples, palaces and important public buildings. Two or three tiers are often used, but
some royal temples have four. The use of multiple roof tiers is more aesthetic than functional. Since
temple halls are large, they have massive roofs. Usually, the lowest tier is the largest, with a more
small middle layer and the smallest on the top. Each roof might also have multiple breaks.
Most roof decorations are attached to a bargeboard, a long, thin panel on the edge of the roof at the gable
ends. The decorative structures are called the lamyong, sculptured into a long serpent-like nag sadung
shape that resembles a naga, or mythical snake figure. The blade-like bit that sticks out has both naga-like
fins and Garuda-feathers, ending in a naga-like head that points up facing away from the roof. On top of
the lamyong is a curved ornament, or chofah that resmebles the beak of a bird, or Garuda figure, that
appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Garuda is the mount of the God Vishnu.
Dancing Apsaras
While we were walking about the old parts of
Bangkok, near a fountain we came across a
troup of Thai Classical Dancers. The Thais first
acquired a dance troupe when in AD 1431, when
they attacked the ancient Khmer capital of
Angkor and took the entire corps de ballet.
These dancers were seen as a symbolic link
between nature, earth and the realm of the gods.
The two major forms of classical dance drama
are khon and lakon nai. Note the Buddhisttemple inspired stupa-like hats each dancer is
This group appear to be Lakhon dancers, who
are able to prortray more stories than the more
traditional Khon. Lakhon dance can include folk
tales and Jataka stories. With Lakhon, dancers
are usually female and perform as a group
rather than representing the mask-wearing
Khon Dance forms. In the beginning both the
Khon and Lakhon dance were only court
entertainments. It was far later that the Likay
Dance form evolved as a diversion for the
common folk.
The Scams of Bangkok - Shady Tuk Tuk Drivers
Pigeon Feeding
The first mistake we made was to walk around Bangkok with a map. We were immediately trounced
upon by a super-friendly local offering to get us a “good price” with a Tuk Tuk driver. Although we said
that we wanted to visit the Royal Palace, they both said that it was “closed that morning and that we
should go on a tour of the city instead”. So for 10 Baht we were taken to a tailors and a jewelers, where
the Tuk Tuk driver would receive a small fee for delivering a potential customer, to help with his fuel
costs. Fortunately we didn’t buy anything. Often the “gem-stones” are cut glass and the swiftly-made
tailored suits fall-to-bits or hardly fit. The ride through the streets was one to remember, weaving in and
out between larger cars and turning around mid-road to get where the driver wanted to go. Eventually we
were dropped near the Royal Palace.
As we walked along a street away from the Royal Palace back towards the New World Hotel, we
came across a large group of feral pigeons on the pavement. An enthusiastic and friendly woman
gave Pat and I a bag of bird seed to feed to the pigeons. When we had finished, the woman strode
up to us and demanded, I think it was $5 US each. When we baulked, she became quite
aggressive saying that we had used her food to feed the pigeons and that she wanted to be paid.
Rather than create a fuss, we paid up. As we walked away, we could see the next group of tourists
being conned. I took this photograph of their encounter.
Khlongs and Streets
Because of the importance of the Chao Phraya river and its tributaries, called khlongs, Bangkok was
once called the “Venice of the East”. Even now along the river and canals a large fleet of watercraft
range from rice barges to long-tail boats and paddled canoes. Many homes, temples and trading
houses are oriented to a life alongside the water rather than roads. In the past, the Thais considered
themselves to be jao naan or “water lords”.
The two views on the left are of the Khlong Rop Krung that ran past the New World Hotel where Pat
and I stayed before meeting the Intrepid crew we were going to travel with through Indo-China.
Traveling along the Chao Phraya river you will pass Chinatown, the Memorial Bridge, The Grand
Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, the Royal Barges Museum as well as the Floating Markets.
You can take a two-hour river cruise upriver to the ancient capital Ayutthaya. Although not quite as
awe-inspiring as Angkor, there are many remnants of this fascinating civilisation before the Thais
shifted to Bangkok.
Roads have taken over as the primary way Thais get around. Bangkok streets are not well planned
and due to the large population numbers in the city, there is often gridlock at periods of peak traffic
Thai Buddhism origins
Although it is not obvious in this photo, as you move
around the inverted carving, the eyes of the Buddha
continually follow you in a most uncanny, disturbing way.
In the 6th century B.C. Siddhartha, later known as the Buddha,
urged others to change their focus away from gods and
concentrate on relinquishing the extremes of sensuality and selfmortification and follow the enlightened Middle Way. Buddha’s
assumption was that life is concerned with pain or suffering, which
is the result of craving. Suffering would only stop if desires cease.
The end of suffering will be attained with the achivement of nirvana
(nibbana), defined as the absence of craving and therefore
suffering, leading to enlightenment or bliss.
By the 3rd century B.C. Buddhism had spread widely across Asia
and led to the establishment of several sects with different
interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings. In present-day Sri Lanka
or Ceylon, Buddha’s teachings were written in Pali, a Sanskrit-like
language. These teachings were referred to as the Tipitaka, or the
three baskets, the foundation of Theravada Buddhism.
When the Thai kingdom of Sukhothai was established in the 13th
centrury, Theravada Buddhism was accepted as the state religion.
Historical scholars believe that Sohn Uttar Sthavira, a royal monk,
was sent by Ashoka the Great from India to Suvarnabhumi around
228 B.C., along with other monks and sacred books, to bring
Theravada Buddhism to Thailand.
Records are scant between the 13th and 19th centuries because
most records and religious texts were destroyed when the Burmese
destroyed Ayutthura in 1767, the capital city of the Thai kingdom
up-river from present-day Bangkok.
In 1851 King Mongkut came to power and relocated the capital to
Bangkok. Previously King Monkut had been a monk for 27 years.
He began administrative and religious reforms that were continued
by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) when he came to power in 1902.
Through the Sangha Law of 1902, the King was now seen as being
the protector and supporter of the Buddhism in Thailand.
Golden Standing Buddha
The Golden standing Buddha, Phrasiariyametri, is 32 metres tall.
It is at the Indrawiharn temple, Bangkok.
Now that Thaliand is a constitutional monarchy, Buddhist
institutions and clergy have been granted special benefits by the
government, as well as being subjected to a certain amount of
government oversight. In the eyes of the Thais, the King Bhumibol
Adulyadej, or Rama IX, is almost seen as a God and it is punishable
by law if you speak against or criticise him.
Wat Benchamabophit or Marble Temple
Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, or the Marble Temple is one of Bangkok’s most beautiful
temples and a major tourist attraction. After building his palace nearby, King Chulalongkorn
started construction of the temple in 1899. The building is typical of Bangkok’s ornate temples
with its high gables, stepped-out roofs and elaborate decorations.
The Marble Temple gleams with polished white stone from Italy’s Carrara's quarries, including the
pavement of the courtyards. Unlike the older temple complexes in Bangkok, the Marble Temple
has no central wihaan or chedi. Instead, it has many smaller buildings that combine European
influences, such as stained-glass windows, with traditional Thai religious architecture. The main
bot contains a golden Buddha statue against an illuminated blue backdrop.
Beyond the main bot is a cloister containing over 50 bronze Buddha images in many different
styles (above right), representing various Buddhist countries and regions. Behind the cloister is a
large Bodhi tree, bought from Bodhgaya, where the Buddha found Enlightenment, as a gift for
King Chulalongkorn.
Wat Benchamabophit is an excellent place to watch religious festivals and processions. Unlike
most other temples, monks do not go out seeking alms but are visited by merit-makers from
6-7am. During the early mornings, monks chant beautifully and intensely in the main chapel.
Golden Statue of Buddha in Wat Benchamabophit Temple, Bangkok
Inside the ordination hall, is a Sukhothai-style Buddha statue named Phra Buddhajinaraja. It was
cast in 1020. The ashes of King Chulalongkorn are buried beneath the statue. The marble that was
used to construct the temple was imported from Italy and the temple was designed by the King's
younger brother.
All Buddha statues in the temple were carefully selected. Some are copied from famous Buddha statues
from all around Thailand and nearby countries. The main statue of Lord Buddha sitting in the main hall was
a copy of the famous "Phra Buddha Chinarat" in Pitsanulok province, northern Thailand.
The Royal Palace
The Grand Palace, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang, was the residence of the Kings of Thailand from
the 18th century onwards. King Rama I started construction of the multi-building complex in 1782.
The Grand Palace was home to the King and his court, as well as the entire administrative seat of
government for about 150 years.
The plan of the Grand Palace is based upon the old palace at Ayutthaya. The Palace is rectangular in
shape with the western side next to the Chao Phraya River and the Royal Temple is situated on the
eastern side. All Grand Palace structures face north. The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald
Buddha are open every day, unless there is a state function. The audience halls, containing the
magnificent thrones are closed on weekends.
The palace was the centre of the Rattanakosin government and royal court for most of the Chakri Dynasty
until the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) who stayed at the Dusit Palace. The present King Bhumibol
Adulyadej (Rama IX) with his wife Queen Sirikit, choose to stay at the Chitralada Palace.
The Royal Palace is still used for most formal ceremonies including coronations, royal funerals, marriages
and state banquets. The Palace grounds contain the offices and buildings of the Bureau of the Royal
Household, the Office of the Private Secretary to the King and the Royal Institute of Thailand.
Most importantly, it also contains Wat Phra Kaew, the temple containing the Emerald Buddha.
The Emerald Buddha is Thailand’s most sacred site.
Some versions of the epic were lost in the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767. Three versions still exist,
one of which was prepared in 1797 under the supervision of and partly written by King Rama I.
His son, Rama II, rewrote some parts of his father's version for khon drama. The work has had an
important influence on Thai literature, art and drama. Both the khon and nang dramas were derived
from the Ramakien epic.
The main story is identical to that of the Indian Ramayana, but many aspects were transposed into a
Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described
as being Thai in style. Although Thailand is considered a Theravada Buddhist society, the Hindu
mythology latent in the Ramakian serves to provide Thai legends with a creation myth, as well as
representations of various spirits which complement beliefs derived from Thai animism.
A painted representation of the Ramakian is displayed at Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew and many of the
statues there depict characters from it.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Blessing with a Rose or Lotus
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Royal Palace consists of over a 100 colourful buildings,
golden spires and gorgeous mosaics. The complex dates back to 1782, when Bangkok was founded.
Wat Phra Kaew houses the tiny Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most important and sacred religious icon.
Photography is forbidden inside the temple, so it’s hard to gain a good photo. I wasn’t able to get a
photo of the Emerald Buddha on this trip.
Twenty-five centuries ago the Buddha walked up to a group of followers carrying a rose. He did not speak,
but the Buddha was looking at the rose with such blissfulness, showering so much love and so much
blessing and so much grace on the rose that nobody dared to interrupt him.
The lotus is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhist teaching. A lotus’s growth signifies the
progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience into the bright
sunshine of enlightenment.
Sitting under the Buddha Tree
Yaksha Guardian, Wat Phra Kaew
Next to the building housing the Reclining Buddha is a small raised garden featuring a bodhi tree that was
propagated from the original sacred tree at Bodh Gasya, in the state of Bihar, India. Siddhartha Gautama, the
spiritual teacher later known as Gautama Buddha sat under the Bohi Tree while waiting for enlightenment. The
Bodhi tree, a fig, is recognised by its prominent heart-shaped leaves. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent a
whole week standing in front of the tree, unblinking, gazing at the tree with gratitude.
Yakshas are towering guardian figures that flank all the main entrances to the
complex. These protective warriers, decorated with rich colours, ornate patterns
and tapering crowns represent the demonic characters from the mythological
epic the Ramakien. They can be identified as distinct individuals and serve in a
benign, protective role.
The Reclining Buddha and Wat Pho
The reclining Buddha is 15 metres high and 43 metres long
with his right arm supporting the head. It is displayed in Wat
Pho, named after a monastary in India where Buddha is
believed to have lived.
The Buddha’s feet are 3 metres high and 4.5 metres long.
They are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, divided into 108 patterns,
displaying the auspicious symbols by which the Buddha can
be identified. There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor that
indicate the auspicious characters of the Buddha. People
donate coins to bring them good fortune and to help the
Monks maintain the Wat.
Wat Pho is home to more than one thousand Buddha images,
as well as the famous Reclining Buddha.
Wat Pho is split into two walled compounds divided by a
street, Soi Chetuphon, that runs east-west. The northern
walled compound contains the Reclining Buddha and the
massage school. The southern walled compound contains a
working Buddhist monastery with resident monks and a
Outside the temple, the grounds contain 91 chedis that are
stupas or mounds, four hivarahs or halls and a central shrine
bot. Seventy-one smaller chedis contain the ashes of the royal
family, while twenty-one larger ones contain the ashes of the
Gold leaf on Buddha statues
Throughout Thailand gold in the form of a thin sheet is valued for its purity as a
religious offering and for its power to placate spirits and request favours.
Postage-stamp sized booklets of gold leaves are always for sale along with
incense, flowers and candles at temples and shrines.
A way in which Thai Buddihists show respect is to make merit by affixing small
squares of gold leaf onto images of the Buddha or other sacred objects.
Even the act of making gold leaf earns merit for individuals. Sheets of gold are
hammered into extremely thin sheets, usually by two poundings using wooden
mallets. It takes about five hours of hammering to flatten half a kilogram of gold.
The job then passes to the delicate hands of young girls who slice up the
flattened gold into 2.5 centimetre squares and place them onto waxed paper and
stack them into booklets ready to sell.
Buddha Images
Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest
wats in Bagkok and has been rebuilt and
added to by many kings since the creation
of Bangkok.
King Rama V brought 1200 statues of the
Buddha from all over south-east Asia and
India to Wat Pho. There are now 400
Buddhas displayed in different styles and
postures around the outer cloister.
These Buddha images represent the erastyles of each of the great Buddhist
cultures and empires that rose and faded
over the more than two thousand years
since Buddha lived. Buddha lived in India
in the 6th Century before Christ.
Almost every Buddha statue displayed is
covered with gold leaf, but occasionally
some are displayed with their bare metal
awaiting reburnishing with gold.
An image of the Buddha seated cross-legged in
the attitude of subduing himself by fasting.
This image shows the Greek style of Gadhara
sculptures that were cast after a stone original
kept in the museum at Lahore, Pakistan.
A standing Buddha in the attitude
of calming the ocean in the style of
Ayuthhaya Period. Found at Wat
Yai, Phetchaburi.
An image of the Buddha seated cross-legged, in the
attitude of meditation. It is in the style of the
Dvaravati Period, cast and enlarged from an ancient
original found in the bed of the Mun River at Wang
Palad, Korat Province.
An image of the Buddha sitting cross-legged in the
attitude of subduing mara, in the style of the Chieng
Saen period, Found at Chieng Mai.
Boating on the Khlongs
A khlong or klong is the common name for a canal on the central plain of
Thailand. These canals are attached to the Chao Phraya, the Tha Chin
and Mae Klong rivers and their tributaries. The Thai capital Bangkok was
crisscrossed by khlongs and gained the name “Venice of the East”.
Khlongs were used for transportation, floating markets and sewage.
Today, most khlongs have been filled in and converted into streets,
although Thonburi still retains several of its larger khlongs.
Along the river and the canals is a varied fleet of watercraft, ranging
from paddled canoes to rice barges. Here, many homes, trading
houses and temples remain oriented towards life on the water and
provide a fascinating glimpse into the past, when Thais still
considered themselves jao naam, or water lords.
An exploration of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya is a journey through
Thailand’s watery artery. Hulking barges transport sand upriver, or
long-tailed boats ricochet from one bank to another, kicking the
muddy water into a boil.
Long-tailed Boats
Floating Markets
Across the river in Thonburi are several functional canals, including Khlong Bangkok Noi and Khlong
Bangkok Yai, both of which offer lovely leafy scenery. It usually costs 700 Baht for the entire boat for
one hour, excluding building admission prices and various mooring fees. There are other similar
services at every boat pier and most operators have set tour routes, but if you have a specific
destination in mind you can request it. Some operators quote rates for chartering the boat and others
per person. We had a boat to ourselves for our one hour tour.
Floating markets are like living museums where you can immerse in the local culture and way of
life as it once was before the arrival of consumerism. Lively and chaotic, small khlongs are filled
with flat boats piled high with fresh produce, each jockeying for position and paddled by ladies
ready to stop and bargain at a moment’s notice. It's colourful, noisy, touristy but great fun. During
the long-tail boat ride to market, you’ll pass orchards, traditional teak houses and local people
going about their lives.
As we alighted from a longtail boat after a one hour tour of Thonburi’s khlongs, we saw a group of
three mermaid statues near the pier. There were bowls in front of them, used to collect coins and
other gifts. The only mention I can find of mermaids and Bangkok mythology was that under the
direction of Ravana’s mermaid daughter, fish and mermaids carried away stones from Rama’s
bridge. There are mermaids in a painting at the Emerald Buddha temple.
The people of Thailand are very fond of gambling and the government run Thai Lottery is the only kind
of gambling allowed in Thailand. As you walk around Bangkok, on certain street corners and in
shopping areas many retailers sit behind large tables full of numerous sheets of paper covered with
numbers. You select your own set of six numbers. These lotteries are drawn twice a month, on the 1st
and the 16th. Each ticket costs 80 Thai Baht. The numbers are drawn live on national television. If you
have chosen the only set of numbers that won, you will receive 2 million baht. If others have selected
the same set of numbers as you, you share the prize.
Democracy Monument
The large, art deco Democracy Monument was erected in 1932 to commemorate Thailand’s
transformation from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. Italian artist Corrado Feroci designed the
monument and buried 75 cannon balls in its base to signify the year Buddhist Era (BE) 2475 (AD 1932).
Before immigrating to Thailand to become the nation’s ‘father of modern art’, Feroci designed
monuments for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In recent years the ‘Demo’ has become a symbolic
spot for public demonstrations, most notably during the antimilitary, pro-democratic protests of 1992.
There have also been riots here, with many people kiled by the police and military.
Garuda & Guanyin
The Garuda, left, is a lesser
Hindu divinity, usually the
mount of the God Vishnu. It is
the eternal enemy of the Naga
A Garuda charm or amulet is
used to protect the wearer from
snake attack.
Guanyin or Kwan Yin, right, is
also known as the Goddess of
Mercy. Guanyin is revered by
Taoists or Daoists as an
immortal. She is revered and
worshipped by the Chinese
Some Buddhists believe that
when one of their members
departs from this world, they
are placed by Guanyin in the
heart of a lotus and sent to the
western pure land of Sukavati.
Because of her compassion, in
East Asia Guanyin is associated
with vegetarianism.
Gun Street and the Golden Mount
As we walked towards the Golden Mount we came across streets of shops
selling all sorts of firearms that would not be allowed into Australia. There were
high-powered automatic rifles, hand-guns, pistols including tiny guns for female
self-protection. Both Pat and I felt most uncomfortable here.
Golden Mount is a man-made hill right in the heart of a very flat Bangkok.
Views of Golden Mount
This artificial hill was created when a large stupa, built by Rama
III, collapsed because the soft soil underneath would not support
it. The resulting mud-and-brick hill was left to sprout weeds until
Rama IV built a small stupa on its crest. Rama V later added to
the structure and housed a small Buddha relic from India, given to
him by the British government, in the stupa. The concrete walls
were added during WWII to prevent the hill from eroding.
Every year in November there is a big festival on the grounds of
Wat Saket, which includes a candle-lit procession up to Golden
Mount. At the peak, you’ll find a breezy 360-degree view of
Bangkok’s most photogenic side.
Final Views of Bangkok and the
Intrepid Team leave on their journey
On Tuesday evening, 11th January 2011 we
met up with our first Intrepid crew that we
would travel with through Cambodia, then
Vietnam followed by Laos.
As we came to each country’s city, our team
would change composition as participants
would join or leave the group depending
upon which parts of the journey they were
booked on.
We met our team leader Harry (Vanny) Man
who was to prove one of the best guides that
we had the pleasure to have met.
After going out for our first evening meal
together as a group, we had to rise very early
next morning to head for Cambodia and our
first stop, Siam Reap.
We had now started our journey in earnest.
Julie Rea, Christine Wilkinson, Pat Davey and Vanny Mann
Anne Du Sault
Team Heading to the Thai - Cambodian Border
The Thai - Cambodian Border
As we came to the Thai - Cambodian border, Harry told us that it was important to put our cameras away and
to not photograph any military installations, police or military officers, customs agents, etc.
The authorities meant it.
To a photographer such as myself, I felt a bit annoyed. I could easily see that you could get yourself into quite
a lot of trouble if you persisted. So I grabbed a few long shots when I could, but didn’t spend much time
trying to get better images. I didn’t really want to get apprehended by the authorities when I was clearly
warned not to take photographs too close to the border buildings.
It didn’t take too long to go through the formalities of checking our passports through the border. Our
baggage had gone on before, hauled by a worker on a cart across the border to be loaded back onto our
mini-bus on the other side.
There was lots of official stamping of passports going on, and as long as you had the necessary visas,
everything went according to plan.
I was amazed just how much produce was dragged across the border on carts hauled by peasant workers.
Some of the loads were massive. It wasn’t just men hauling the loads either, there were many young girls
straining to pull their cart along the road.
We began to notice that many of the young people were wearing face-masks. Initially we thought that this
was to protect themselves from the smog of dusty, smoking vehicles that drove past them. It wasn’t until we
reached Vietnam that we were told the real reason for the face masks and the long-sleeved and legged pants
that many young people wore. It was to stop them from appearing to be tanned, so that they didn’t look like
they had worked or come from a rural village labouring in the rice fields. It was a social behaviour.
That afternoon we arrived at Siem Reap, ready to begin our journey through Cambodia, a country of extreme
contrasts, ranging from the wonderful Angkor Wat to the horrors of Pol Pot’s genocide.
Northern Thailand
Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai
Pat and I re-entered northern Thailand from Laos on Friday 18th
February 2011 after travelling up the Mekong River for two days by
a powerful river-boat from Luang Prabang, Laos to Huay Xai, on the
Laos -Thailand border. This city has been a cultural cross-roads
between Siam (Thailand) and China for centuries.
We then travelled to the surrealistic and very weird White Temple,
or Wat Rong Kune, at Chiang Rai, built by the eccentric but very
wealthy artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction began in
1997 and is ongoing.
We then travelled to Chiang Mai where we bid our fellow Intrepid
travellers farewell.
We had decided to stay on for a few days since Chiang Mai has a
number of interesting attractions that we didn’t want to miss. These
included the Elephant School, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang
Mai Zoo and the associated Chiang Mai Aquarium.
The five locations we visited in Northern Thailand
Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple of Chiang Rai
The Aquarium at Chiang Mai
The Buddha’s birthday at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Zoo
Maesa Elephant Camp at Chiang Mai
Wat Rong Khun or The White Temple
Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple is the most unusual, intriguing but disturbing religious
construction we have ever seen. Ajarn Charlemchai Kositpat, an excentric Thai artist, is designing
and building his life’s dream as an an offering to Buddha and creating a unique national art
The millionaire artist spent his own money to built this complex without asking the government for
contributions. As you enter the grounds, the morbid, frightening statues and figures warn about
the dangers of excess alcohol and smoking.
The pure White Wat is covered with whitewash and tiny mirror chips that make it glisten with
purity. The amount of planning and design that has gone into every minute feature of the complex
has to be seen to be believed.
As you walk up the bridge of the “Cycle of Rebirth”, you feel disturbed by the hundreds of hands
reaching up from hell, symbolising the overcoming of cravings to reach happiness. The visitor is
now at “The Gate of Heaven”, guarded by Rahu who controls men’s fate on the left and Death
who controls men’s life on the right. After crossing the bridge you have reached the ubosot or
White Bot, the abode of the Buddha.
Ajarn Charlemchai would not allow himself to be confined to traditional beliefs and art. The temple
walls are adorned with a mix of traditional Thai Buddhist art and contemporary art scenes such as
a wide range of modern super-heroes and comic characters.
This is one of the most unusual and interesting places of worship we have ever visited, with every
feature and embelishment full of deep spiritual meaning, but expressed with a wild creativity.
Bizzare Artwork
What is interesting about the artwork created
by Ajarn Chalermchai is the strong contrast
between the bizarre statues that surround the
White Wat and the serenely beautiful paintings
that hang on the walls of his studio.
“I painted the murals portraying the coming of
the Lord Buddha from the edge of the
universe in Nirvana, or heaven. I want people
to feel peace and happiness and to envision
the kindness of the Lord Buddha towards all
“I want to be the only artist in the world who
can create anything with utmost freedom. I
don’t want to work under anybody’s influence
or thought processes. No-one in the world
can order me to do their bidding, because I
do not accept any monetary donations from
sources including government officers,
politicians or millionaires. Money can give the
donors power to influence the takers, much
like many artists who work as employees.
I, then, need to find fundings to build the
temple by myself’.
Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat
Ornate Architecture
At Wat Rong Khun there is no admission fee. Even the ornate golden toilet above is free to enter and
Since starting the project, which Ajarn Chalermchai expects to take 90 years to complete, he has
reduced taking painting assignments that have earned him his name and wealth. Ajarn can be seen
at the site every day ensuring that every architectural plan and design is created and executed in
minute detail. He rises at 2.00am, meditates for an hour, then creates, sculpts, plans for his day and
corrects the work of his students. Arjan looks after everything from organising the planting of trees
and collecting garbage, to cleaning the compound.
Ajarn Chalermchai wished to build a heavenly garden, representing happiness, for humans to stroll in.
“I want all visitors of whetever religion to have a feeling of peace, happiness and at the same time to get to
understand the meaning of Buddhism that can be seen all over the temple whether it’s in the architectural,
the drawings, or the moulding works”. His plan is to have a team of architects, painters, designers and a
committee who will continue his work, even after he passes away.
The Artist - Arjan Chalermchai Kositpipat
Arjan Chalermchai was born into a Chinese-Thai family.
He attended Silpakorn University, Thailand’s primary visual arts
school, graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in Thai
Art in 1977. He commenced painting movie billboards, but
early murals mixed traditional Buhhist temple art with modern
commercial images.
In 1988 Arjan Chalermchai was commisioned to paint murals
for Wat Buddhapadipa in London that took four years to
complete. He got complaints from everybody - from the Thai
government, from monks and other artists who complained
that what he was doing was not Thai art.
Over time, his work became more accepted and he became an
extremely popular artist. Today, Arjan is a milionaire and has
devoted his life and money without other financial assistance to
designing and creating Wat Rong Khun, an extremely ornate
white Buddhist temple being built at Chiang Rai.
Work started on the temple in 1998 and continues. Together,
with more than 60 followers, they have devoted their efforts
and energy to make this structure their life work.
Arjan Chalermchai escorts the Thai Minister for Arts on a guided
tour of the temple complex.
Cashew Nuts
As we drove down from Chaing Rai to Chiang
Mai we stopped at a small village that
specialised in “Condoms and Cabbages” as
well as processing cashew nuts.
We had no idea how dangerous, poisonous
and labour-intensive cashew nut processing
Extracting cashew nuts from their tough outer
shells is a laborious and dangerous job. The
outer shell contains a burning sap. The
traditional way, as seen in the photo on the
right, shows how the worker cracks open the
shell with a hammer, punch or machine, while
wearing protective gloves.
Unbelieveably, each husk is cracked open
one at a time.
Cabbages and Condoms
The Population and Community Development Association was established in the remote provinces of
Thailand. Initially it worked with lowland populations, but quicklty expanded to include hill tribe communities
with high rates of mother and child mortality due to poor health conditions and a lack of access to basic
medical services.
In Chaing Rai, the main office is located alongside the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant. The restaurant is
PDA’s public-benefit restaurant used to promote family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention in Thailand.
At the peak of their family planning service promotion work, an army of 12,000 volunteers worked in sixteen
thousand villages across Thailand, covering about a third of the Kingdom.
Through its grassroots actrivities and education programmes Thailand’s rural growth rate was reduced from
3% in 1974 to 0.6% today.
You may wonder how the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant got it’s unusual name. Mr. Mechai (aka Mr.
Condom) said that, “you can go to any shop around Thailand and find cabbages. Condoms should be like
cabbages, everywhere”. And so the name Cabbages and Condoms (C&C) was conceived.
One thing that Intrepid Tours consistently fosters is the patronage of organisations and activities that serve the
local good for the indigenous peoples of a region. Whether it be restaurants that hire once disadvantaged
workers, or promote the sale of tourist goods by people with physical handicaps, it was always obvious that
Intrepid Tours and their staff were always seeking to give back to their local communities that we visited.
Arrival at Chiang Mai
Phra Mae Thorana
Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. It is the capital of
Chiang Mai Province, a former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna (1296 - 1768) and became part of
the Kingdom of Siam in 1775, being the tributary Kingdom of Chiang Mai between 1774 - 1939. It
is located 700 km north of Bangkok, situated in very mountainous country. It is a favourite
destination for tourists due to its many attractions and pleasant hill-top climate.
Images of Phra Mae Torani are common in shrines and Buddhist temples of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and
Laos. According to Buddhist myths, the Bodhisattva was siting in meditation under the Bodhi tree. Mara, the
evil one, tried to drive the Bodhisattva from his throne.The Bodhisattva reached down and touched the earth,
calling forth an earth deity in the form of a beautiful woman. She twisted her long hair and torrents of water
created a flood, washing away Mara and his army, allowing the Bodhisattva to reach enlightenment.
Donna Klipper & Brendan Williamson
Pat & Keith Davey
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a Theravada Buddhist Temple located 20 km from Chiang Mai. It is a
sacred site to many Thai people. According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera had a dream
where he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. He found a bone, which many claim was
Buddha’s shoulder bone. Initially the relic displayed magical powers, but then split into two. King Nu
Naone placed the smaller piece on a white elephant’s back and released it into the jungle. The elephant
climbed Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times and died on the site. King Nu Naone ordered the
construction of the first temple on the site. Because it is sited on top of a mountain, it is quite a steep
climb from the car-park to the temple complex. Mod Ant, our Intrepid Leader was exceptionally keen
for us to visit this Wat, because the official celebrations of the Buddha’s birthday were being held.
Left Photo: Donna Klipper and Brendan Williamson, the USA members of our Intrepid team.
Right Photo: Pat and Keith Davey.
Buddha’s Birthday, Enlightenment & Death
Ant Mod, Intrepid Leader through Laos and
northern Thailand was very keen for us to visit Wat
Phra That Doi Suthep to observe the celebration
and religious observance of Buddha’s birthday,
enlightenment and passing away.
On Vesakha day, devout Buddhists and followers
are expected to assemble in their various temples
before dawn for the ceremonial hoisting of the
Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns in praise of
the holy triple gem, The Buddha, The Dharma his
teachings and The Sangha, his disciples.
Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers,
candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their
teacher. These symbolic offerings are to remind
followers that just as the beautiful flowers would
wither away after a short while and the candles and
joss-sticks would soon burn out, so too is life
subject to decay and destruction.
Devotees are expected to listen to talks given by
monks. On this day monks will recite verses uttered
by the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, to invoke
peace and happiness for the Government and the
people. Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony
with people of other faiths and to respect the
beliefs of other people as the Buddha had taught.
Vesakha Day
On Vesakha day devotees are expected to make a
special effort to refrain from killing of any kind. They are
encouraged to eat vegetarian food for the day.
Devout Buddhists undertake to lead a noble life
according to the teaching by making daily affirmations
to observe the first five Precepts. However, on special
days, notably new moon and full moon days, they
observe the eight Precepts to train themselves to
practice morality, simplicity and humility.
The Buddhist eight precepts are;
Abstain from taking life.
Abstain from stealing.
Abstain from Speaking Unnecessarily.
Abstain from Sexual Activity.
Abstain from Taking Intoxicants.
Abstain from taking Meals at Inappropriate Times.
Abstain from Entertaining, Dancing, Singing, and the
use of Beauty Products and Perfumes.
Abstain from Seating on High and Luxurious Chairs and
Some temples also display a small image of the baby
Buddha in front of the altar in a small basin filled with
water and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to
pour water over the statue. It is symbolic of the
cleansing of a practitioner's bad karma, and to re-enact
the events following the Buddha's birth, when divas
and spirits made heavenly offerings to him.
Ant Mod & Pat Davey
Ant Mod, Kylie Stevens, Kylee Morgan, Donna Klipper & Pat Davey
Walking Around the Shrine
Ant Mod suggested that we purchase some joss-sticks and flowers and walk
clock-wise around the central stupa five times. Hundreds of Buddhists and
people from other religions took part in this activity of religious observance.
Celebrating Vesakha means making special efforts to bring happiness to
unfortunate others like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. Buddhists
distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable groups throughout the
country. Vesakha is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by
pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as
decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes
from the life of the Buddha for public display. Devout Buddhists also vie with
one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to followers who
visit the temple to pay homage to the Enlightened One.
Before he died, The Buddha saw
his faithful attendant Ananda,
weeping. The Buddha advised him
not to weep, but to understand the
universal law that all compounded
things, including even his own
body, must disintegrate. He
advised everyone not to cry over
the disintegration of the physical
body but to regard his teachings,
The Dhamma, as their teacher
from then on, because only the
Dhamma truth is eternal and not
subject to the law of change.
The Buddha stressed that the way
to pay homage to him was not
merely by offering flowers, incense
and lights, but by truly and
sincerely striving to follow his
teachings. This is how Buddhists
are expected to celebrate
Vesakha. They are to use the
opportunity to reiterate their
determination to lead noble lives,
to develop their minds, to practise
loving-kindness and to bring
peace and harmony to humanity.
Looking out over Chiang Mai
Doi Suthep is a mountain located in Chiang Mai Province,
Thailand. It is 1,676 metres tall and is one of the twin peaks of a
granite mountain located 15 kilometres west of Chiang Mai city
centre. The vegetation below 1,000 metres is mostly deciduous
forest, while it is evergreen above this height.
The Doi Suthep - Doi Pui hill is part of the Thanon Thong Chai
Range, the southern-most subrange of the Shan Highland
system. There are spectacular views of Chiang Mai city and its
surroundings from the top of this mountain.
The Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple is on top of the hill. This
Buddhist place of worship dates back to the year 1383 when
the first chedi was built. It is an important pilgrimage spot for
devout buddhists and on the day we were there was visited by
thousands of devotees and international visitors.
It had been fine but overcast during the whole time that we
visited Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, but as night fell, the drizzle
This mountain is part of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The
park was established in 1981 and has an area of 261 square
kilometres that includes the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple as
well as Bhubing palace, placed among flower gardens.
Last Night at Chiang Mai
After checking into Tapae Place Hotel for a quick
refreshing shower and clothing change, we all set
out for the Kalare Night Bazzar to our final dinner
together as an Intrepid Tour group.
On a central stage in the bazzar this small group
of performers were dancing a modern-version of
Thai traditional dancing, with the intricate hand
and foot movements. The dancers really enjoyed
their performance and so did we.
While the group dispersed next morning to go
back to their homes in whatever countries they
came from, mostly various cities on the eastern
seaboard of Australia, Pat and I decided to stay
on for a couple of days to see some other
attractions of Chiang Mai.
Donna Klipper & Lola Kassim
Saying Farewell to Ant Mod
Saying farewell to both Ant Mod and the other members of the Intrepid crew
was a sad occasion on our final evening at Chiang Mai. There were lots of tears
all around. Everyone had been really impressed with the dedication and
attention to detail that each of the Intrepid leaders had shown us.
Chiang Mai Zoo
In 1950 the U.S government sent
military advisers to train tribal police
along the border of Thailand. Among
them was Harold Mason Young, son of
American missionaries, who had been
born in Burma.
Young started helping injured animals,
and his collection started getting
visitors. The Chiang Mai provincial
government set aside 9.7 hectares at
the base of Suthep Mountain and the
facility was opened to the public in
When Young died in 1974, the property
was taken over by Chiang Mai
province. The zoo was expanded to its
current 81 hectares, transferred to the
Zoological Park Organization under the
patronage of the King of Thailand, and
opened as the official zoo of Chang
Mai province in 1977.
About 400 animal species are
displayed in the zoo.
Chiang Mai Aquarium
The Chiang Mai Aquarium is located
within Chiang Mai Zoo. It is an
extremely modern, beautiful and well
designed aquarium. It maintains some
8,000 specimens of 250 marine and
freshwater species.
It first opened its doors to the public
in October 26th 2008.
Both Pat and I were quite impressed
with the quality of both the freshwater
and marine displays and the range of
species there. It was a nice touch to
include some submerged temple
motifs from prior south-east Asian
civilisations as back-drops for the
Some of the fish and certainly the Nautilus were
displayed in extremely small tanks, which did not seem
I’m unsure about the jellyfish illuminated by
coloured-lights. However, they did provide for
some very interesting-looking photographs.
Maesa Elephant Camp outside Chiang Mai
Maesa Elephant Camp is in a beautiful lush tropical valley twenty minutes drive from Chiang
Mai. The camp’s founder, Choochart Kalmapijit’s understanding of the deep intelligence of
elephants inspired him to establish Maesa Elephant Camp in 1976. It is home to seventyeight elephants.
Staff of Maesa Elephant Camp have become experts in the fields of elephant breeding,
training, healthcare and sustainable tourism. Asian elephants have long been used as beasts
of burden by man - transportation, timber logging, or in war.
Once you enter the show ground, 20 elephants will parade to welcome you to their show.
There are demonstrations of how to get on and off an elephant by experienced mahouts, as
well as a musical performance and dancing by the elephants. Other displays show how
elephants sleep lying on their side at night, play football matches, paint abstract and realistic
pictures. We also saw an elephant stick picking-up competition, a dart game by the little
elephants and logging and lumber dragging.
Elephant Health and Conservation
The wellbeing and nourishment of the elephants is of prime
importance at the Maesa Elephant Camp. A total of six tons of grass,
bananas and sugarcane that go to feed the elephants daily are self
grown. Staff also grow special grasses and herbs which are combined
with the other food to assure the health and well being of the
Of great significance is Choochart Kalmapijit’s founding of the
Association for the Thai Elephant Procreation to encourage breeding
so that the future of the Asian elephants is assured. At the turn of the
twentieth century there were over one hundred thousand elephants in
Thailand, one hundred years later there are less than five thousand.
Some of the camp’s health care projects include Estrous Cycle and
Heat Detection and the study on the Developing Semen Freezing
Technique for Artificial Insemination Project for which the camp was
selected as a centre for the study by the Institute of Zoo and Wildlife
Research, Berlin (IZW) and the Smithsonian Institute, National
Zoological Park, Convention & Research Centre USA, with the
cooperation of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai
University, Mahidol University and Kasetsart University.
Maesa now has a very successful breeding programme. Only the best
bulls and cows are selected for the procreation programme which has
led to the birth of many healthy baby elephants. A major aim of the
Maesa Elephant Camp is that the elephants in their care, and across
Thailand are, and always will be, mentally and physically healthy.
Elephant Riding
Protecting the Culture
There is great debate whether elephant riding should be fostered or not. It depends upon whether the
elephants are being hurt or exploited by the activity. Certainly elephant riding brings in the tourists
and their money. It is this money that funds the long-term sustainable health, training and breeding
programmes of the various elephant training camps. Across south-east Asia and Indo-China
elephants have always been seen as a beast-of-burdon, much like horses and cattle that we use to
aid us in goods and people transport, timber harvesting or in ancient times, weapons of war.
Northern Thailand’s original peoples are Lanna in origin, with different cultures, foods, music, arts, ways
of life and languages. Some hill-tribe groups are the Tai Yai originally from Burma, Akha from Tibet and
Southern China, Lahu also from Southern China, Karen who live along the river valleys, Hmong from the
highlands of Southern China, Tai Lue who live in tall-poled single-roomed wooden houses, Lisu also
from Southern China and Tibet and the Yao who live and grow crops on the mountain sides, but are
skilled blacksmiths, silversmiths and embroiderers. It is exceptionally important that tourism fosters the
continuation of these cultures rather than corrupt or destroy them.
Summary of the Thailand section of the trip
Although Pat and I had started and finished our Indo-China tour in Thailand, we only spent a
couple of days with the Intrepid Tour group there. Fortunately we had added a few extra days at
the beginning of the trip in Bangkok and a few extra days at the end in Chiang Mai.
These extra days allowed us to visit a number of tourist locations that were exceptionally
interesting and we were both glad we hadn’t missed them.
We were so impressed with Thailand’s beauty and it’s culture that we decided that we would
come back and visit Bangkok as soon as we could. Again, we’ll spend a few extra days to visit
some old favourites and go and explore some new locations as well.
All of the photographs in this photobook were taken with
two Canon compact cameras. My main camera was a
Canon G12, while the backup camera was a Canon
I only shot RAW files on the G12 which I downloaded
into Aperture, an Apple program, for initial filing and
image enhancement. I then transferred a few files into
Adobe Photoshop CS5 for extra improvement. I only use
an Apple iMac computer. This photobook was created in
Apple Aperture.
© 2010 Keith Davey
Thailand -2011
Pat and I visited Thailand at the beginning and end of our tour through Indo-China in January 2011. We flew into
Bangkok on the 9th January. We had arrived two days early so that we could spend some time looking at the
architecture, culture and sights of Bangkok before we started on our Intrepid Tour, “Indo-China Encompassed”
visiting Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Five weeks later, in northern Thailand we visited the fantastically modern, but quite weird buddhist temple Wat
Rong Khun or the White Temple at Chiang Rai. The architecture, statues and paintings have to be seen to be
Our journey ended at Chiang Mai, the capital of northern Thailand. We visited an elephant camp where former
lumber-carrying elephants are being retrained to carry tourists as well as take part in breeding programmes to
ensure the future of the Asian Elephant.
The whole journey throughout Indo-China was a gastronomic experience. The trip could easily be marketed as
such. Our food was always wonderfully tasty, with many local flavours influencing the really tasty Asian cooking.
There were some bizzare dishes as well including snake’s eggs, fried tarantula spiders, crickets, and probably
other things that we had no idea of what we were eating.
This six week trip was a highlight of our lives. We will always fondly remember it as one of the most adventurous
trips we have undertaken.
Pat & Keith Davey