Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

New blog

Hello there.  If anyone is still reading this, I’d like you to know that Greg and I are starting to blog again on http://zantinez.wordpress.com.  The content will be really boring compared to this blog, as we are both now living in one place and working again.  But someday there will be another “Adventures in <continent>”… 🙂

May 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Our Visit to Wat Phra Kaew

This is also know as Temple of the Emerald Buddha and is the most famous Wat in Bangkok.

We made Randall come with us to get some ‘culture’.  It can’t all be beaches and volcanos.

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures inside the Temple that contains the Jade Buddha but, take it from me ;), it is pretty impressive. Actually, the murals in the room were particularly cool. I believe they have been restoring them and they are awesome. I almost got caught sticking my feet out towards the Jade Buddha statue but remembered not to do that just in the nick of time.

Here are some images from around the Wat.

A Demon holding up a relgious object. Kind of like Atlas but there are a lot of them. And demons are much more cool than some huge Titan. Wasn’t Atlas a Titan? I can’t remember now.
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Here is Francie frightening away visitors. I shouldn’t have let her go see the Bourne movie!
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Here are some interesting patterns from the intricate decorations on the temples.
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Part of a Mural
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Greg imitating art
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September 16, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Update: Francie continues to traumatize animals in Asia

As you may remember, I did a post way back in May showing Francie traumatizing animals in Asia. With a reminder from Jen I now want to update everyone…the situation is not good for the animals of Asia…tisk, tisk, but Francie can’t seem to keep her hands off of them.

Exhibit A: Unique Bumblebee dog attempting to escape.

Bumblebee dog

Exhibit B: Exotic bird just hoping to escape frantic petting.

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Exhibit C: Totoro stands no chance.

Francie's Friend

Exhibit D: This horse’s friend is even protesting!

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Exhibit E: Baby Pandas are too small and must submit to her touch!

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Exhibit F: Lingling is behind bars until he lets her pet him.

Francie feeding Lingling

(note that in reality LingLing has a huge habitat to hang out in and only comes here for a biscuit…see previous posts from early August).

Exhibit G: Bruno the Tibetan Mastiff hoping Francie doesn’t bring him back with her to America.

Francie holding Bruno 1

Exhibit H: This poor little donkey…I just don’t know what to say.

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Exhibit I: This puppy was staged…it isn’t even a real dog. Don’t believe everything you see on this blog!

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Exhibit J: For jesus christ leave the animals alone already!!! 😉

Thanks again Jen K for the update reminder.

September 7, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ganden Monastery

Francie and I just got back from Ganden Monastery where we had a blast. We initially went up there to acclimate to the 4600 meter (15,000 feet) altitude but the koras (pilgrimage trail) and Monastery were fun and impressive.

The first day we hiked the ‘high’ and ‘low’ koras to help acclimate and the second day I went through the monastery.

Ganden from atop the ‘high’ kora.
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View from that 15,000 foot mountain top.
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Here is Francie getting closer and closer to the yaks to take photos. One day they are going to hop up and bite her hand! Oh wait, that already happened with a dog in Burma. Actually, the yaks are pretty harmless…

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and closer…
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and closer!
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Here is the window of a building along the kora and a Buddha painting on one of the walls.
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Finally, I tired of Francie’s antics and put her to work!
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The Ganden Monastery is a working Monastery meaning that monks live and study there and do, you know, monk stuff. The Ganden Monastery hasn’t fared too well under Communist China. It housed a somewhat political order of Tibetian Buddhists and the Red Guard shelled the whole place during the Cultural Revolution. It appears to have also struggled after a riot/revolt that occurred when China banned the picture of the current Dalai Lama…

Here are some pictures of the outsides of the buildings.

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Most of the structures have large rooms where the monks use to…well, I guess sit and debate. Maybe they liked to sit down a lot because at 15,000 feet you can’t play frisbee for too long. The Monastery use to house 2000 monks-I bet they are around 250 now.

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Not all areas were lit…but I ain’t afraid of the dark.
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Here are some pictures of murals on the walls. These types of murals are everywhere in Tibet.

Scary mural in the dark!
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Happy mural in the light!
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The Monastery also has a kind of printing press that they use to stamp prayer flags. Here are one of the shelves of stamps and some stamped pages as well.

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This guy is restoring Buddha! Well, working on some of the statues anyway.

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Here are the ‘basic’ rooms we are staying at–note random donkey on the left.

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And some non-monks who worked there and made really, really terrible food.

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For all you travelers out there…I really recommend Ganden!

August 30, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2 week old Panda

These are some pictures of one of the twins that were recently born to Hua Mei at Wolong.  Some of you may know that Hua Mei was born at the San Diego Zoo (I think in 2001).  The keepers/vets swap out cubs with Hua Mei every 3-5 days.  You can see the pink skin and where the black markings are (ears, eyes, and stripes) present.  The cub’s white fur is just starting to come in.

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2 week old being fed

2 week old baby panda gets fed

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An interesting aside–one of the interns that works with the one year olds told me that the fur from one bear to the next is really different. I have noticed that Lingling’s white stripes aren’t very…well, white. He looks rather older than his nine years compared to a nine year old female who has really pure-as-the driven-snow white fur. The intern (Dana) said that some cubs can just run through the mud and come out looking perfect. Apparently, nature plays favorites with Panda cubs too.

August 3, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Banyan Tree Hotel

Francie and I had a great time at the Banyan Tree hotel. It was super duper nice, especially after living in the equivalent of a dorm room for months. Here was our room at the Banyan Tree

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They try to be all five star-ish but they loved us anyway despite our backpacks.
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Nice view from our window.
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This was also a place we ate in the hotel with a pond containing lots of goldfish and nice turtles who spoke french.
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We also ate lots of great food (Italian, Dim Sum, French) but Vertigo, on top of the 60 floor hotel, had an incredible view and the bar was amazing…but they shouldn’t let people drink that high in the sky. Here is a slightly dark picture of the bar area.
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Tomorrow we will try and post a little on China.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Oppression-3, Democracy-1

In about 10 days we head off to China.  We realized that of the four countries that we will have been to only one has a government elected by the people, for the people.

Which do you think it is?

A. Thailand
B. Lao
C. China
D. Myanmar

If you chose B, or the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, you are correct.  Although the people of Thailand are getting more than a little ticked off by the current detour from democracy and I think that general what’s his name is realizing that running a country is more difficult than he expected. 

April 30, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kalaw, Myanmar

We are in the Burmese hill country which is much cooler than Bagan (80 degrees).

One interesting thing about Kalaw is that there are a number of Indian and Nepali families here–many who came as scouts or workers with the British army after WWI.

There is a lot of British architecture and two great places to eat. It is a nice town so we are staying here a while.  We are staying at the Golden Kalaw which has a nice view down into the town.  $8 a night.  Sweet.  We have also found some great deals in the market and have met some people from one of the Ruby mines.  Burma is one of the places with the best Rubies and Jade.  More on all this later.  Don’t worry–we weren’t scammed into buying some Rubies.

Tomorrow we are going hiking for two days to a famous viewpoint and to see two caves with paintings on the walls from the Bronze Age (about 6000 years ago).

Francie just beat me in Scrabble by 200 points.  It makes me sad.  I would just go read a book but we have exhausted all the English books we brought with us.  I finished Beloved, Seabiscuit and History of Love on this trip.

April 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The PS2, 25 cents an hour, and Capitalism

I think that everyone knows my feelings about Sony (did I hear someone yell ‘liars’?) and the Playstation game consoles but…

We are at an Internet cafe in Bagan (there are very few of these in Myanmar).

The people here started a business a year ago with one PS2 and a copy of Winning Eleven. They charged locals about 25 cents an hour to play. The entire extended family had to pool their money to purchase the PS2. Now they have built that one PS2 into six PS2 units and this small internet cafe. Amazing. I am sure this makes them one of the richest families in the area.

I asked the guy if he liked Winning Eleven and he said he is horrible at it and, instead, likes Guitar Hero (even though they don’t have guitar accessories). As celebration of their one year anniversary they had a Winning Eleven tournament with first prize being 50,000 Kyat–that’s $45. Wow.

April 17, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Look! Monorails do exist in the world!

I find it amusing that Thailand, what some consider to be a developing country, can have a monorail but Seattle can’t get its act together after three referendums to successfully build a monorail. 
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April 8, 2007 Posted by | SE Asia, Thailand, Uncategorized | Leave a comment