Tonsai with Joe!

A former co-worker / friend was coming to Thailand so we made plans to meet up.  We also ran into a few people I met in Chiang Mai.

Day 1 – Climbing at Cobra Wall.  Warmed up on Snake Whiskey 6a+.  After the warmup we met a couple girls climbing at the same wall.  One needed some chalk so I gave her some with a promise for a beer later on at Freedom Bar.  She also teaches yoga so we made plans for a yoga class on the beach in a couple days.  Then climbed Old Snake 6b.  I had tried this one before but needed to rest but today I redpointed it.  Feeling strong, I decided to push myself a little bit and try Baby Snake 6c.  It starts off very steep with big juggy holds.  Then it turns vertical and the climbing is much easier with a fun slightly tricky move near the anchor.  I needed several tries to get to the top but was happy I got up it.  This was it for the first day.  After climbing we head over to Freedom Bar to relax and so I can collect my beer.  But yoga girl does not show up 😦

Day 2 – Warm up on Cowabungalow 6b then walked over to Missing Snow 6b+ so I could try for a redpoint. I had to fight for it but I got the redpoint.  Yay!  My first 6b+ redpoint.  Then we walked over to Escher Wall on Pra Nang beach.  But lunch from the boats selling food then climbed Goodbye Salvador 6a+.  This was a pretty fun climb but it’s very weird at the anchor.  Long reachy moves.  Also, stay to the right.  Otherwise you end up on a 7a+ or something like that.  Joe figured it out the hard way and I learned from Joe’s experience.  Thanks Joe!  Glad Joe led it first and hung the quickdraws for me.  Then we walked through the cave and rappelled down Thaiwand wall.  It started to rain so we called it a day and relaxed at Freedom Bar on the beach.  Yoga girls show up and I got my beer.  Austin bought me a beer and I think Joe did too.  I probably bought myself one.  We had dinner somewhere and I’m sure I had beer with that.  Then maybe one more beer relaxing at a bar somewhere.  Somehow I got really drunk.

Day 3 – We planned this to be mostly a rest day and I needed it because I was really hungover.  We met the yoga girls (Megan, and one had a weird name I can’t remember) for a nice yoga class on the beach.  First time practicing on the beach.  It was nice but sandy.  Then we headed over to Eagle Wall with an old guy we met the day before.  I think he was about 70 and talked about climbing 6c’s and 7a’s.  I hope I’m that awesome when I’m 70.  So we warmed up on Where Eagles Don’t Dare 6a+.  Being rather hung over and seeing both Joe and Vince struggle on it a bit I took the easy way out and just top roped it.  Got up without too much trouble so next time I’m over there I’ll lead it.  It’s a nice long route with a good view at the top.  Next we climbed Spiderman 6a.  This is a 32 meter route that starts a few meters up on a ledge.  Well, my 70 meter rope was just long enough to belay from the ground.  By now feeling a bit better so I decided I should lead something and got on the sharp end.  Super long route with another good view at the top.  Rope drag was horrendous.  Enough climbing for today.  Anong and I head back to Ao Nang to have dinner with some friends.

Day 4 – Anong and I wake up early to get on the boat to Tonsai.  We decide to go back to Cobra Wall.  I want to send that 6c.  Warm up on Snake Skin 6a+.  Then try Baby Snake 6c again.  Sadly I did not send.  I peeled off the wall one move away from the easy section.  One or two more tries and I think I’ll be able to get it.  But now it’s lunch time so we meet Kat for lunch then head over to The Nest / Wild Kingdom and climb Banana Hammock 6a+.  This was a really good route.  Can’t believe I’ve been here a year now and have not done this one yet.  Good view and great climbing.

Chiang Mai

A few weeks ago, Anong and I decided somewhat spontaneously to go to Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong.  Since Chiang Mai also has some very good climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress, we also packed the climbing gear and got ready for a week of climbing and Thai culture.    On November 20th, we hopped on the airplane and were off!

Day #1 First order of business was to get checked into our room.  A ฿160 taxi ride from the airport took us to the Yindee Stylish Guesthouse.  The rooms were clean with air conditioning and hot water and reasonably priced at around ฿1000 per night.  There are of course much cheaper rooms in Chiang Mai, as little as 100 to 200 Baht per night but in my old age, I require just a little bit of luxury these days.

Second order of business was to find the CMRCA climbing shop to get some beta for Crazy Horse.  We found it without not much trouble and picked up a guidebook for the area and got some new climbing shoes for Anong since her old ones will likely be worn out in a few months.


Anong testing out her new shoes.

The CMRCA shop is pretty  cool.  In addition to having lots of gear that can be rented or purchased, they also have a pretty good bouldering wall / training room.  If you’re a climber and in Chiang Mai, definitely check it out.

Third order of business, eat dinner!  Northern Thailand is known for its unique cuisine.  One of the most famous dishes in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi (Thai: ข้าวซอย).  It’s a coconut based curry noodle dish containing egg noodles, chicken (or pork), some vegetables, and topped with crispy fried noodles.  It’s delicious and one of my favorite Thai foods.


First Khao Soi of many in Chiang Mai.  This one was very good.


Day #2, first thing we did was find a shop to rent a motorbike.  Motorbike rental shops are all over Chiang Mai so they are not hard to find.  Chiang Mai isn’t as well known for its motorbike scams as Koh Tao but it still happens so I did a little research before hand to find some reputable shops.  Thai Moto Rent seems to be the most highly regarded shop but unfortunately they had none available.  Another shop named Mr. Mechanic also seemed pretty good and as a bonus they were close to my room.  So I rented a bike from them and we headed off to explore the city.  BTW, other than an empty tank when we received the bike there were no issues with the bike or the shop trying to scam me when returning the bike.  So except for the British helmet, Mr. Mechanic gets a thumbs up from me.


Unfortunately, this British flag helmet was the only one that fit. 😦

Exploring a new city means visiting the numerous temples in the area.  Here’s a few pictures from Wat Phra That Doikham:


And a few pictures from Wat Phra That Doisuthep which I didn’t really like since they charge a fee for foreigners to enter.


Day #3 is what I was stoked for.  Climbing at Crazy Horse!


Since this was my first day at a new climbing spot, we just took it easy.  My goal was to get familiar with the area and climb lots of easy routes.  The first wall from the trail is Crazy Horse Area and it has a few easy routes on it.  So we set up shop there and climbed:

  • Ding Dong 5b
  • The Muppet Show 5b

We met an Italian guy who was just learning to climb and was there with a friend.  They didn’t have enough quickdraws so asked to climb with us a bit.  We were planning to move on to another area but I headed back up The Muppet Show one more time so he could try it on top rope.  Considering that he was climbing in sneakers he climbed it well for a beginning climber.

After he was done, I climbed again to clean the route.  Since I haven’t taught Anong how to clean a route yet, that means I’ve climbed 6 pitches by now.  Once to lead, and once to clean.

Next we decided to go to the Anxiety State Crisis Cave.  The best routes here are above my ability but there are some easier ones.  Beautiful Mess 6a was fun and except for a cruxy section in the middle of the route was pretty easy.  I also put up The Underworld 5c which was also nice but not quite as good as the first route.  By now it was starting to get dark.  After a bit of a panic over lost keys (thankfully found) from our new Italian friends we were on our way home.

Day #4 it was back to Crazy Horse.  This time we climbed at Heart Wall which is pretty new and has lots of good routes.  The goal for today was still to take it easy and have fun but push myself just a little more.  We warmed up on Peuan Jai Rai 5a then moved over to Kuu Jai 5c.  Now time for something a little harder.  Dtok Jai 6a+ relatively easy climbing but then comes a small roof.  Getting up and over this is the crux which I think is a bit harder than graded.  I fell here and it took a couple tries to figure it out.  I was certainly startled when I came to this.  Once past the crux it’s easy climbing to the anchor.  Next up was Duang Jai 6a+ It looked like a fun route with a traversy chimney like section.  I was having fun, trying not to let the exposure get to me and everything was going well until I came to a section of rock covered by what must have been millions of some kind of small beetle that looked like a lady bug.  Even though by now I was only a few bolts from the anchor, seeing no clear path through these insects, I decided to bail off the route.  So I took apart one of my quickdraws and lowered off a carabiner.

On the way down I came to the anchor for Hua Jai Wai 6c+ so I set that up to try on top rope.  It starts off very steep with powerful, overhanging moves on nice big holds.  But then the rock turns vertical and the holds get much smaller and sharper.  Needless to say it took me a few tries to get to the top but it was fun to try something hard.


From the ground, I thought the black stuff on the rock was some kind of lichen.  But no, it’s millions of tiny black lady bug-like beetles.


View from the top of a climb.


The 6c+ and another view of the insects.


Day #5 was a climbing rest day.  We spent most of the day at the Chiang Mai zoo.  Speaking Thai, was able to get the Thai price for tickets.  Screw you dual pricing Thailand!  Here’s some pictures from the zoo:


Ticket prices.  Adults 150 Baht or 100 Baht if you can read Thai.


Got the 100 Baht ticket!



Had to buy another ticket to see the panda bears.  100 Baht or 50 Baht if you can read Thai.


That’s it for now.  The rest of the pictures are on my camera in Krabi and I’m in Isaan visiting Anong’s family and getting ready to go to Laos to apply for a new visa.  So stay tuned for part 2 in a couple weeks when I’m back in Krabi.




Krabi Vegetarian Festival Parade

The vegetarian festival in Thailand is called “Tet-sa-gan Gin Je” (Thai: เทศกาลกินเจ).  It is the celebration of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.  Je (Thai: เจ) is the word for vegetarian.  But it really means vegan with additional restrictions.  Like vegans, dairy is not allowed.  Also not allowed are garlic, onions, alcohol, and sex.  A few days ago there was a parade in Krabi Town.  Parades in Thailand are pretty much like parades in America.


There are spectators anxiously awaiting the start of the parade.  


There are participants marching down the parade route carrying banners for the organization they represent. In this case, one of the 80+ Chinese temples in Krabi.


There are people taking pictures.


There are floats. Though they are not as elaborate as in America. These are just some small statues on top of the cab of a pickup truck.


There are elaborate costumes.


There are cute kids having a fun time.


There is the blood…


And the tongue slashing.

Wait.  What!?  I’m pretty sure we don’t have this in America.  Now that I think of it, parades in Thailand are nothing at all like parades in America.


It was very crowded. Difficult to tell participants from spectators. Spectators would creep in closer and closer. Many people walking through the parade. Then everyone would get pushed back when a float / pickup truck needed to go by, only to creep back in a moment later.


Then there are the piercings. Some are very gruesome as you will see later.



It’s not just the women that pierce their cheeks.


All sorts of objects are used for piercing.


Unfortunately I didn’t get a very good picture but look closely. This guy has two weed wackers! One in each cheek.


Every now and then the parade would stop and the tongue slashers would put on a little show.


Even the little kids get in on the piercing action.


This guy appears to have pierced his cheek with a broken wheel from a motorbike.


Most of the people appeared to be in some kind of a trance-like state.


Plenty of blood.


A little hard to see but they guy squatting down is dancing directly over firecrackers.


Show from another group of tongue slashers.






Knives! And Thread?


He was flinging blood everywhere.


Saw guy again. Really getting into it.


Seems rather tame now.


More costumes.


And an ambulance in case anyone gets hurt.

Well, it was interesting.  I’ve been observing the festival with my girlfriend for 8 days now.  It started on the 12th and goes to the 21st.  Two more days and I can eat a hamburger and drink some beer.



We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming for something completely different.  A few days ago there was yet another mass shooting in America.  Over the last few days without fail people have been using this tragedy to advance their own political agendas.  Democrats are calling for a ban on scary looking guns and magazines with a capacity over 10 rounds.  Republicans are saying it’s not guns but our failing mental health system even though they have no intention of actually fixing it.

So I thought it would be interesting to compare the United States gun ownership rates, murder, and suicide to some other countries.

Country Guns / 100 people Murder* Suicide* Gun Murder* Gun Suicide*
United States 112.6 4.7 12.1 3.55 6.70
United States 1995 8.2
Japan 0.6 0.3 18.5 0.0 0.4
Switzerland 45.7 0.6 9.2 0.23 2.68
Sweden 31.6 0.7 11.1 0.19 1.20
Thailand 15.6 5.0 11.4
Australia 15 1.1 10.6 0.11 0.62
Australia 1995 1.7 13.0 0.3 2.1

*Rate per 100,000 people



United States – ‘Merica Fuck Yeah!  We’re number one in gun ownership.  We have the highest murder rate of other developed countries but despite the high rate of gun ownership we’re about average when compared to the rest of the world.  Suicide rates are similar to other developed countries.

Japan – Has almost no guns in private ownership and also has an extremely low murder rate with 0 murders committed with guns.  Amazing!  It would seem to support the Democrats conclusion to ban guns but what’s up with Japan’s suicide rate?  It’s off the charts.  Perhaps this suggests that banning guns would not do much to reduce the suicide rate in the United States.  If people want to kill themselves, it seems like they will find a way, gun or not.

Switzerland – Pro Second Amendment groups often like to use Switzerland as an example of guns not causing murder.  Switzerland has the second highest gun ownership rate in the world yet the murder rate is much lower than the United States.  It’s also interesting in that Switzerland allows people to store fully automatic assault rifles in their home while serving in the military and gives them the option to keep them when their service is done (after being converted to semi-automatic) yet these scary looking black rifles aren’t indiscriminately killing people on the street.

Sweden – Another country that has a relatively high gun ownership rate yet low murder rate.  It should be noted that Sweden (and I presume Switzerland) have stricter gun control laws than the United States with laws that require licensing and registration but I’m not yet convinced these laws are responsible for their drastically lower murder rates.

Australia – Is interesting because in 1996 there was the Port Arthur massacre.  In the wake of this tragedy the prime minister basically said, “OK, no more guns”.  There was a massive gun buyback and strict gun control laws were put into place.  So this gives us some data to compare the effect of these laws on the murder and suicide rates before and after they were implemented.  Since 1996, Australia has seen a decline in murder and suicide rates but the United States has also seen similar declines over the same period. Yet over this same time period, Australia has actually seen an increase in robbery and sexual assault while the United States has seen a decrease. Before 1996 the murder rate in Australia was already relatively low so I’m not sure how one would conclude gun controls similar to Australia would solve the United States gun violence problem.

Thailand – Oh Thailand!  My beloved “Land of Smiles”, full of kind, gentle, and peaceful Buddhists actually has a thriving gun culture!  Who knew!?  The firearm ownership rate is very close to Australia and has licensing and registration requirements but has murder and suicide rates similar to the United States.  I’m not sure how to explain this one.

To me it seems obvious guns are not the root cause of the gun violence problem in the United States.  It’s not even mental health.  Would stricter gun control and increased funding of mental health reduce gun violence?  Maybe, maybe not.  I picked the countries to compare above because they all have very different cultures.  I believe it is these cultural differences that are responsible for the varying murder and suicide rates.  Not the types of inanimate objects that people own.  When will people wake up and realize it’s not just guns or mental health but the entire culture of the United States?  Gun violence will not be reduced until a meaningful conversation on the root cause of these problems can take place.  I’m not sure what the solution is but it’s not banning guns and it’s probably something more along the lines of better education, eliminating poverty, social injustice, police brutality, and inequality.  Big issues that will take generations to address.  Not passing a feel good, do nothing gun control law.

I’m not confident any real change will take place when the media, society, and politicians are more interested in “calling out”, “slamming”, and “shutting down” other people through sound bytes, click bait articles, and deceptive tactics.

Koh Tao


Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand near Surat Thani.  Since I came to Thailand, I haven’t done much travelling but a friend from home was on vacation there so it gave me an excuse to get out of Ao Nang and see a little more of Thailand.  Koh Tao also has climbing so it was an easy decision to go for a few days.  Anong and I packed our bags and headed out.

Getting to Koh Tao (from Ao Nang)


Just got off the bus. Waiting for the ferry on the pier at Surat Thani.

Koh Tao is kind of hard to get to.  There are a few options.  The first and probably quickest is to catch a flight from Krabi Airport and fly to Koh Samui.  Bangkok Airways does one flight a day for about 3100 baht.  Once to Koh Samui take a taxi to one of the piers then a ferry to Koh Tao.  Total price would be around 4000 baht per person including taxi to / from airports and total travel time around 4 to 5 hours depending on how schedules line up.

The next option is to take a take a Songthaew from Ao Nang to the Krabi bus station and get a bus to Surat Thani.  Find your way to the pier then buy a ferry ticket to Koh Tao.  I’m not sure how much this would cost but I’m guessing around 700 baht and it will likely take all day and might require an overnight stay in Surat Thani depending on how the ferry schedules line up which would eliminate any savings.

The third option and what I think is the best value is to book a tour package through one of the resorts in the area.  I ended up at Slumber Party Hostel because they are close to where I live and they provided me with a package through Lomprayah High Speed Ferries that included pickup in Ao Nang for 1100 baht per person.  Total travel time was about 8 hours.  It also looks like tickets can be booked on their website.

Coming back, I was able to book tickets online through Seatran Discovery that included drop off at my room in Ao Nang for around 900 Baht because they were discounting tickets for some reason.  Standard price is 1100 Baht.

Where To Stay


Sairee beach.

Sairee beach has the highest concentration of resorts, restaurants, and things to do.  I’ve also heard it can be very loud at night with many bars playing loud music all night.  I ended up staying about 1 kilometer past the end of the beach at Koh Tao Hillside Resort.  It was nice and quiet but I probably wouldn’t stay here again since my room was rather run down and not very nice for the price paid.  But the pool was nice and the restaurant had pretty good food.  If I go back, I might try staying on the other side of the island where it’s even quieter and more secluded.


Getting Around


Depending on what you want to do / where you want to go you’ll need your own transportation.  Taxi’s on the island are ridiculously expensive.  I heard one couple was quoted 400 baht (just over 11 dollars) to go from Sairee beach to the pier which is about 5 minutes away by car and only 2 or 3 kilometers away.  But a quick search online shows motorbike rental shops are notorious for scamming tourists and charging outrageous fees for small scratches on the bike that were already there at the time of rental.  But be careful.  If you’ve never ridden a scooter or motorcycle before, Koh Tao is a bad place to learn.  It’s hard to believe but the people on Koh Tao drive even worse than the people in Krabi.  On top of that, the roads are filled with potholes, covered in sand or dirt, and some of the roads are extremely steep.  I had heard good things about Oli’s Motorbike Rentals and that they were an honest shop.  So I took my chances and rented a 125cc Honda Click from them.  I also left my passport with them even though it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.  The bike was had just enough power to get Anong and I with our climbing gear to the top of Mek’s Mountain where we went climbing.  No incidents while driving and Oli’s is indeed an honest shop.  If you find yourself on Koh Tao and need a motorbike, use Oli’s.

What To Do

The main activity on the island is diving.  From what I hear the diving is very good and PADI diving certifications aren’t very expensive.  But I wasn’t stoked on the diving.  Instead, Anong and I found some other things to occupy our time.

Go Climbing!

The island is littered with massive granite boulders and some cliffs so we hired a guide through Good Time Adventures to show us around.  It’s not necessary to hire a guide but since we were only there for a few days I didn’t want to waste time finding the best climbs.  We went climbing the first day with Good Time Adventures then two days later went back to Mek’s Mountain on our own.


Try Something New

Good Time Adventures also gives flying trapeze lessons.  I’d never tried it before but it looked like fun.  It was lots of fun but one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.




Eat and Drink A Lot


Lap Gai from some unnamed Thai restaurant on the side of the road.


Som Tam Thai from the same restaurant.

There are lots of good restaurants on the Island.  A few I recommend are:

  1. tHAITA iTALIAN RESTAURANT.  Simple Italian food prepared with fresh ingredients.  The best dinner I had on the island and it was reasonably priced.



  2. The Gallery.  Fancy Thai food.  I only had a drink and an appetizer here but based on what I saw I’m sure everything else is also delicious.
  3. Le Petit Palace.  European / American food.  I had a hamburger here that was very average.  But I liked the place anyways because they have a good but pricey selection of beer.  I had a Deschutes IPA for the first time in 9 months and it was delicious!
  4. Thai-Riffic.  The Thai food here is sort of westernized but it’s still pretty good.  But the real reason to come here is for the dessert and baked goods.  They are delicious.  Finding this place was extremely difficult.  It’s not on the map where Google says it is and asking local Thai people where it is doesn’t work because they only hear “Thai restaurant” and say oh, there are 3 on this street and point you in the completely wrong direction.  But we persevered and eventually found it.


    Pad Grapow Moo


Practice Yoga

IMG_7791We went to Grounded Yoga two times while we were on the island.  I though the teachers were good and drop in classes are fairly priced at 250 baht.


Pre class warm up with high plank.


Yoga students after class.

Get A Massage

There are many massage shops all along Sairee beach.  Standard price for a one hour Thai massage is 300 baht.  A bit more expensive than Ao Nang but not too bad.  We went to one place and got ok massages.  The next night we tried the spa at our resort and got a much better massage but it was 100 baht more.  I’d say it was worth it for the better experience.

Watch The Sunset


This is the resort next to the one we stayed at. It looks very fancy and much nicer. I checked online and it was about the same price ! 😦


Windy and cloudy but still very nice sunset dinner at Aminjirah


Go Explore

Driving around the island is also fun.  There are several large hills / small mountains and driving up to them provides beautiful views.  There are also some temples and shrines on the island that we visited.






Thai Buddhist temple.


My best impersonation of Alex Honnold


Well, that’s about it.  5 days on the island and I was ready to come back to Ao Nang.  But it’s been raining every day since I got back.  I might need to go on another vacation to a less rainy part of Thailand.



A friend of mine from work was coming to Bangkok so Anong and I booked some airplane tickets to visit her (thanks for the hospitality Jackie!).  During the day Anong and I explored Bangkok, visited temples, and sampled the many options for food in the city.  In the evenings we met up with Jackie and her friends for dinner and drinks.

On the 17th, we arrived in the afternoon.  Getting from the airport to the city isn’t too difficult but it does take some time…  We flew into Don Mueang Airport which means we had to take the A1 bus to the Mo Chit Bus Station which connects to the BTS (Sky Train).  Once in the sky train station it was pretty easy to figure out how to get to Jackie’s place.  I think it took about 2.5 hours to get there though.  Once we got off the BTS is was a 20 minute or so walk.  It didn’t take us long to find some street food.


If I go to Bangkok again I think I will try flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport which I think connects to the subway and BTS which would save lots of time by avoiding the bus ride.  A little later in the evening we all went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant then met some other friends for drinks at a place called Small’s Bar.   They had a pretty cool rooftop seating area.

The next day was a gruelling tour of all the wats (temples) in Bangkok.  Well, not all of them but we went to 7 or 8 wats and a couple other shrines so it felt like we went to all of them.  But first Anong and I went to a yoga studio for a nice morning workout.  It was interesting trying a new yoga studio with different teachers and a different style of yoga.  Anyone in Bangkok should check out Roots8Yoga.


Now for the wats!  I think the first place we went to was called Chao Pho Suea Joss House.  I can’t recommend going there.  Once we got close to the entrance a few ladies selling incense, candles, and other things start quickly talking to us and showing a price list of various things.  Anong is discussing various things with them.  This is all happening in Thai so I’m not really sure what is being discussed.  I don’t have a good feeling about this but I thought I’d just let Anong do her thing since it’s important to her  and it seems they agreed on an offering tray with a few things on it for around ฿200 which didn’t seem too bad.  So we go in side, light the prescribed number of incense sticks at each spot, burn some candles and do our thing.  Meanwhile some dude is talking over a loudspeaker and some lady is following us around seemingly explaining various things to Anong but this is all unusual to me so I ask why is this lady following us around.  Not getting a clear answer I just go with the flow.  About 10 minutes later we walk out and back to the stand that sold us the tray of things and they tell us it’s ฿790!  What!?  Being in a little bit of shock I just pay it unsure of what service they provided for 10 minutes that was worth ฿790.  After explaining to Anong that I don’t like being taken advantage of and that we can not spend ฿790 at every wat we go to we were on our way.

For any visitors to Thailand, here’s the standard operating procedure when visiting temples.

  1. You can bring your own incense and candles.  But if you use the incense and candles at the temple, they usually suggest a donation of ฿5 to ฿20.
  2. More popular temples will have vendors selling flowers outside.  Flowers will cost between ฿25 to ฿100 but none of this money goes to the temple so skip it.
  3. When going inside the temple, take off your shoes.
  4. When inside, light incense, say prayers, burn candles, take pictures.  Pictures are almost always ok.  Just be quiet and reverent.
  5. There are usually 1 or 2 monks inside the temple.  It’s ok to talk to the monk and you can get a blessing from the monk.  It’s not required but a ฿20 donation is appropriate.
  6. There will be other donation boxes inside the temple.  Donate any amount you feel is appropriate.

The next stop is Wat Phra Kaew.  It’s inside the Grand Palace and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city.  Outside they have a recording that plays every minute or two to remind people the palace is open every day and to be suspicious of anyone approaching you.  Apparently a big scam is to tell tourists the palace is closed today then take them on a tour of gem and tailor shops with high pressure salesmen.  It’s nice to see something being down to cut down on the tourist scams.  The price to go inside was ฿500 for tourists!  Thais are free.  Thanks Thailand for yet another reminder that although you are happy to take my money, I am not really welcome here and do not belong.  Still feeling sick from the last experience it was an easy decision to wait outside while Anong went in.  It was so crowded that Anong wasn’t able to take any pictures so I feel like I didn’t miss anything.  Here’s a couple pictures I got while I waited.



Before Wat Phra Kaew we saw this:


Mother Earth Squeezing Her Hair. A shrine to Queen Patcharindra who set up access to clean water for the people.

And this:



Next was Wat Pho.  ฿200 to get in (free for Thais).  No thanks.  Here’s a picture of the ceiling over the bench I sat on while waiting outside.


After Wat Pho we went to Wat Arun.  Wat Arun had lots of interesting things to look at.  Most of which can be seen without paying a fee.  There is one section that does have a fee but it’s a more reasonable ฿40 so I ended up paying that and got a few more pictures.











IMG_0858After Wat Arun we bought some boat tickets and rode up and down the Chao Phraya River (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) and saw a few more temples.  Note the “Ch” is pronounced with a ‘J’ sound.  At this point all the temples started looking the same so here’s a few more pictures:








Done with the temples!  Here’s another street food picture.  They are making Kanom Krok.  My favorite Thai snack / dessert:


On the 19th, I went to yoga in the morning.  After yoga we relaxed then headed out on the BTS to explore Bangkok a little bit.  We did a little shopping at MBK but didn’t buy much.  Walked around, and ate some food.

On the 20th, we went to see the Erawan Shrine.  It’s a statue with four faces.





Then we went to China Town.


Durian Gan Yao!


Of course we went to more wats!



Painting on a ceramic pot.


This is a solid gold statue of Buddha. This picture cost me ฿40



The temples in China Town reminded me of Hong Kong.


The durian was delicious.






Then we ate pizza at Via Vai.  A guy we were with is friends with the owner so we got this extra fancy pizza.  We drank red wine and ate some more normal pizzas.  Best pizza I’ve had in Thailand so far.


 And on our last day, we just went to the airport.  Back on the BTS to Mo Chit.  Then take the A1 to the airport.  It was a bit of an adventure finding the bus station and the bus.  I learned that Thai people are happy to give you directions even when they don’t know the location of where you are trying to go.  The bus stop didn’t list the A1 bus so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to come here.  Anong asked someone and they said walk up to the next spot about 100 feet away.  Still no indication that the A1 bus would come here and nobody can explain to me why it comes here when it’s not listed as stopping here.  Eventually a #29 bus comes.  I’m not sure how but Anong quickly figured out it also goes to the airport and we confirmed it with the bus driver.  So we get on the bus and about a half mile up the road pass another bus stop with clearly marked sign for the A1 bus.  Eventually we made it to the airport and got to the gate 20 minutes before boarding.

Bangkok was a fun city.  I’d like to go back to sample more of the street food and see some of the other areas.  I was really amazed at how much food is in the city.  There are many restaurants but the sidewalks are packed with food vendors at all times of the day.  I was also pleasantly surprised with the taxis.  I’d heard horror stories about taxis not using the meters, over charging, and refusing to take you to where you wanted to go but the couple times we took a taxi we did not have any of those problems.

One Phrase Every Visitor to Thailand Should Know

Thailand is a beautiful country but it has a trash problem and most of the people here do not respect the environment.  I think this is slowly starting to change though with the Trash Hero movement.  There is also a local chapter in Ao Nang that I participated in a few weeks ago when they went to Koh Poda.  It’s nice to see locals and tourists working together to keep the beaches clean.  The amount of plastic, styrofoam, and other garbage picked up just this one day from the beach was staggering.  I think it was over 1000 Kilograms.  It’s not just the beaches that have problems though.  Many roads are littered with trash.  I think most people don’t really see it because almost nobody walks along the road so it’s not seen as a problem.  Most of the trash is plastic bags, water bottles, straws, and styrofoam containers used for takeout food.

I’m not sure why but Thailand really loves plastic bags.  I’m no environmentalist and thought the plastic bag ban in Seattle was silly but even I can see the use of plastic bags here is excessive and damaging to the environment.  It’s not uncommon to see somebody buy a bottle of water at 7-11 then have the cashier put the bottle in a plastic bag with a few straws then as the customer walks out the door throw the plastic bag and straws in the garbage can then drive off on their scooter.  That plastic bag was used for about 3 seconds.  Such a waste.

So I’ve started refusing plastic bags every chance I get.  I also got this sweet stainless steel food container that I use when I want to bring food back to my room to eat.  So, before the cashier has a chance to put your items in a plastic bag say this: Mâi sài tǔng ná kráp / ไม่ใส่ถุงนะครับ.  It means “Do not put in a plastic bag”.  Note that women should say ká / คะ instead of kráp /ครับ. When the cashier looks at your like you are crazy (because nobody ever asks for this), you can say: Mii tǔng léao / มีถุงแล้ว.  It means “I already have a bag”.  Then the cashier will probably smile and happily let you put your items in your bag.

It’s not much but I’m trying to be more mindful of the amount of plastic I use.

Don’t Take a Dump

It’s always fun reading signs that are in Thai and English.  I haven’t seen any horribly bad translations but there are definitely a few that have raised an eyebrow.

  1. From a roadside fruit stand near my room in Ao Nang.  Here is a sign selling pineapples.  ฿15 per pineapple or a little bit less than 50 cents.  Pretty good.  No apples or pies were to be found.
  2. This is a sign in the Krabi Immigration parking lot.  The Thai script basically says “Parking lot for people who come to contact the government office”.  May I suggest simply “Visitor Parking”.
  3. IMG_7178Here’s a sign on Poda Island.  I find this very funny for childish reasons.  A mostly literal translation of the Thai script says “It is forbidden to dump trash of all kinds within the national park.  People who infringe will be penalized according to the law”.  Also note the oddly placed comma after “law”.  A better translation would be “It is forbidden to dump trash.  Violators will be prosecuted”.  Or simply “No dumping!  Violators will be prosecuted.”
  4. IMG_7105Here’s a sign at Wat Sai Thai.  I haven’t translated the Thai script yet but I really want to know what this marine transgression was and if the sea has been properly punished for its crimes.

Speed Limit


Old sign on the left. New sign on the right.

There’s a big new speed limit sign on the road through Chong Phli where I usually go climbing.  It’s interesting that they increased it.  I think the two signs confuse Thai people though and instead of going 60 km/h or 40 km/h they add the two together and go 100 km/h


Isan (Thai: อีสาน) is a general name given to the northeastern region of Thailand.  Anong and I spent 9 days in Nong Bua Lam Phu (Thai:หนองบัวลำภู) province for the Songkran festival, plus a couple days for travel.  Isan is bordered to the north and east by Laos and Cambodia.  Ethnically and culturally the people are Lao though Thaification has reduced the influence of the Lao culture (the people still drive like idiots here though not as bad as in the south).  The dominant language in Isan is also called the Isan language.  Luckily for me it is very similar to the Thai language and the people of Isan are generally bi-lingual in Isan and Thai so I was able to have very basic conversations with Anong’s family who does not speak english.  Conversations mostly consisted of me saying “Wannee aga rawn mak mak” (Today the weather is very hot), “Phom mai kao jai” (I do not understand), and “Kap khun krap” (Thank you).  It was nice to meet them and they seem like nice people.

The food is also different in Isan but I didn’t really notice because Isan food has permeated the rest of Thailand and central Thai cuisine has also made its way to Isan.  One big difference though is meals in Isan are usually served with sticky rice instead of long grain white rice.  I was impressed by the Isan persons ability to consume sticky rice.

Isan is the poorest region in Thailand  though economically it is also the fastest growing.  Agriculture is the dominant sector of the economy in the region.  Most people grow rice or sugarcane.  The countryside is very beautiful and the pace of life there is slower than in Bangkok and southern Thailand.


Typical view in Isan.

There are also many temples in Isan.  Look at my previous post for some pictures.  Here are a couple more of Wat Tam Erawan (Thai: วัดถ้ำเอราวัณ).


All the best temples in Thailand require walking up many stairs. In this case about 600 steps.


View from the top.


Big Buddha at the top.


Bang the gong 3 times.


Enter the cave and walk through to the other side.


Coming back from the other side. The rocks in the cave were amazing. I really wanted to climb them but that would be frowned upon.


View of previous staircase.


The roof of the cave has a hole in it that I thought looked like a certain part of the female anatomy.


Near the front entrance. Lots of rocks stacked on top of each other. My camera made everything look lighter than it really was.


Entrance at the bottom of the stairs.

The only thing I didn’t like about Isan is the lack of sport climbing.  Next spot for me to visit will be Chiang Mai which is known for it’s unique Thai culture and also has very good sport climbing.  Not sure when that will be though.