Chiang Mai, Thailand

As I close up on this vacation, I reflect back at the great time I was able to have in this northern city of Thailand. According to Wikipedia, it is the country’s second largest city, but it is so much smaller than Bangkok and so much more intimate. I do not feel the hustle and bustle that goes on constantly in the country’s capital, and it reminds me more of the city that I grew up in. It does not only have to do with the mountains that are always looming to the west of the city, or the slower pace that the city likes to enjoy. But it is the smaller town atmosphere that comes with Chiang Mai. Though it does sprawl along the base of the mountains, it does not feel like you are very far from any place else and if you wanted you could walk across the main parts of the city and come across a few people that you know while you are doing it.

I also have to count myself lucky that I landed in a country that has a variety of cities to go and visit during this uncertain time in human history. Thailand has done a wonderful job of keeping this pandemic out of its borders, but it is doing it by making sure there are strict rules set in place about who can enter and under what conditions. It is also stressed on everybody the importance of frequent temperature checks as well as wearing masks to keep the whole population safe. Things have loosened up every day because of these precautions, and even though wearing a mask is sometimes a little annoying, it is a small price to have to pay in order to enjoy these freedoms.

I also feel lucky that I am able to enjoy the sunsets over the beach towns in the south of Thailand during one excursion and turn around to enjoy the cooler mountain air of Chiang Mai on another one. The temperature out here has never gotten to the point where it is too chilly to go outside, but it was definitely cooler than the oppressive heat that we have been experiencing in Bangkok.

As we head into the holiday season in a part of the world that celebrates it a little differently than what I am accustomed to, it is nice to know that we have moved on from the quarantine struggle at the beginning of the year, to a time where I can go out and enjoy what the holidays have to offer. I still miss the opportunity to take a quick trip to my home country, but I know that as things progress that there will be a day that I will be able to see it again, and it means that I just have to take in stride all of what this part of the world has to offer me while I am here.

Even though it is a part of the world I have been to earlier, and I am already planning on coming back again for the lamps during New Year’s Day, it is nice to be able to take in Chiang Mai a second time around. The first time I was out here as a tourist, trying to experience all of it that I could as fast as I could, but this time around I get to savor the moments a little more. I was able to revisit the places I really enjoyed the first time here, and I got to find new places to look for the next time I am out here. And I found those little things that made it an even better experience, the art that amazed me, the people that made me feel welcomed, and the signs that made me laugh because of their loss of translation. It has been a great trip, and I am happy that I have been given opportunities to take moments like this when they are not always available to everybody.

No matter where you are, things will open up again some day, and we will be able to travel the world again. Until then, make the most of what you have and enjoy the experiences that are given to you. I have, and it has made life just a little more interesting because of that.

Back in the Air

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that on a regular basis I am making my way to the local airport to take a voyage to various places around the world. With a pandemic taking over everywhere, this option has not been made available and I have not been on a plane since last January. Though I do not miss being packed into a tiny cabin with thousands of strangers and trying to find a way to entertain myself while trying to get comfortable, I do miss the opportunity that this minor inconvenience allows me to take. I miss the excitement of travel, going to see things I have not seen before, and eating new food and having small adventures. I get that this is not the way of the world right now, and there are people that are making bigger sacrifices to get through this trying time, but it has been my way of recharging my batteries and getting ready for another long stretch as a teacher. So when the first break came along this school year, I hopped on the opportunity to get out of Bangkok and visit another part of Thailand. Granted I only voyaged to a place where I have been before, Chiang Mai, but it is nice to have a change of scenery.

This was also the first time that I have gotten back in a plane for a long time. It was only a one hour flight, but it was nice to know that this part of my life was starting to boot up again. Of course there were come concerns. Is it safe to be in a cabin with recycled air with so many people? How will things be different? Are they going to be as strict or will there be even more regulations, making air travel even more annoying than it was before?

Would there be some benefits? Would they separate us even more on the plane, giving all of us a little more room? Would they stop with food and drink service because it would require us to take off our masks and it was only a short flight anyways? Would getting off the plane be more organized without people pushing and shoving each other to beat each other off the plane?

Well, all of my questions were quickly answered. It was basically the way it was before, except everybody was required to wear a mask, and we had to wait for them to dismiss our row before we could get our bags and walk off of the plane. I actually liked that part. There are places in Asia where it is ridiculous to get off the plane. As soon as they land, people lose their minds as they try to be the first person off of a plane, even if they are seated all the way in the back row. I have had people shove me out of the way to try to make it one or two rows further up and get off the plane a couple seconds before me. I get the idea of wanting to get off a plane quickly, but I think when you do this, it only slows down the process, and lowers the respect I have for humanity in general.

As for the recycled air, I did happen to watch a piece on the nightly news the day before we left that demonstrated that air travel is actually safe, and even though you are seating right next to a person, they way they move the air through the cabin makes it like you are seven feet away from each other. Basically all of the air is pushed to ground and they are constantly bringing new air in from the top of the plane to replace the air that is being pushed out at your feet. All small air particles are pushed down away from places where you could get infected by a deadly disease. It was reassuring to hear this, but I have gotten sick after many plane long plane flights, and wondered how this explanation could account for that. Luckily this was a short flight, and I can’t recall having the same problem with my health on flights like this.

Overall, it was a quick, easy, and now very affordable way to get to my destination. I am still not able to leave the country because of a fear of being able to get back in, but it is nice to know that air travel is an option if I want to use it. I noticed that many international flights were cancelled yesterday as I looked for where I checked in, and hopefully someday these restrictions loosen up as well. Until I can see other nations of the world, I will continue to explore this great country of Thailand.

Until next time, be safe, and experience something new.

Drive on the Coast

We have made the afternoon for a drive
Over the wooded hills along the coast.
It feels good to get out of the hive
To chase away the collected year’s ghost.
Others are not willing to venture out
And reclaim the civilization’s shore.
Taking their time is what it is about,
And I should not coax them out of their door.
Until then, I am alone on the road,
Breathing in deeply, the wafting sea air
Where, at one time, my memory had stowed
What it had once been like to have been there.
This idea of freedom is fleeting,
But at any chance, it is worth repeating.

The Common Fight

We face this situation together.
There is no way we can reach victory
If we do not look out for each other
By protecting common territory.
I know we live in the land of the free
And our beliefs need to be respected,
But my right to freedom ceases to be
When simple courtesy is neglected.
These are the rights afforded to all men
To feel safe while walking down the street,
But this allotment begins to end when
My rights and your comfort start to compete.
It comes down to a simple thing to ask,
Have the decency to please wear a mask.

A Note about Travel Now – Siam Summer

I have struggled with whether I should be writing this blog about the time I have spent in downtown Bangkok right now. There are many countries in the world that are still under lockdown and many place are only starting to open their doors back to the world to see what it is like out there. A bunch of uncertainty hangs in the air about what will happen next and whether it is safe to go out and enjoy life again. Bangkok is also going through this. They just happen to be a little ahead of other countries with getting back to a daily hustle and bustle, yet there is still a long way to go. There have been a lot of question bouncing around the back of my mind as I wonder who stayed in this place before us, whether the places I have been going to have been taking it seriously, and why do some people believe they are above common safety reason by walking around without a mask. It makes me wonder if we are safe by doing this.

Then I think about the other side of it. Why am I living overseas? I am here to experience other cultures, and travel and see the world. It is the main reason that we made this choice, and if I spend all of that time in a little house looking out at my mango tree and waiting for a soi dog to walk down my street, I am not really living the life that I wanted to. I know that there are many people out there thinking the same way as they spend another day in quarantine, and it would not matter where I was in the world, but I would have to go through the same kind of experience of staying indoors. Though some people might believe otherwise, this is not a problem that is isolated to one country; it is a worldwide problem. It is just some countries did a better job of handling the problem than others, and if I am living in one of those countries, should I take advantage of it?

Thailand is one of those countries that did a great job of containing this virus. It is not completely under control yet. There are still cases popping up daily, but they are so minor, the biggest spike being 17 people one day in the last couple of week with it usually being under five people daily, that it would seem silly to keep a population of people at bay. Like I have been talking about in my last posts, it is not completely opened up yet, but there are opportunities out there, and as long as I take reasonable precautions, I can enjoy my time out here, and still feel safe.

But this is not the worry that I have while writing this blog. My thought is about all of those people who are reading this still stuck at home while I am out there enjoying life again. I know that I have a lot of readers in America and they have been going in and out of quarantine. I understand your suffering because just like many other people in the world, I have gone through the same experience. It was not fun, and the walls of my place started to beat down upon me and I felt like I would never leave that place. But the time I spent in near isolation paid off as the causes of the disease died down and Thailand is now a safer place to live in. Yes, there are a couple of inconveniences. I have to wear a mask when I go out and I have to be aware of my proximity to other people. They ask that I check in as I go into stores so if there is an outbreak they can contact me about the way I have been exposed, but this is a minor problem compared to the bigger ones that could happen if I contract the disease. It is then that I become a danger to other people, and I do not know if I could have that responsibility on my conscience.

This whole summer has been great to see Thailand without all of the tourists. I have been lucky that way, despite the fact that things were not always open the way that they usually are. I know people are suffering right now, but it is nice to see that things are starting to turn around for them, and the economy is starting to pick up again. But know that just like you, it has not been an easy journey, and they is still a long way to go to fully recover from this. But they understand that everything is very fragile right now, and another outbreak could cause everybody to revert back to the devastating lifestyle we had to endure earlier this year. I hope that never happens, but I am also doing my part to prevent this for coming back as well.

I guess the reason that I wrote about my travels this summer was not to cause you frustration and anger because somebody was able to do something that you were not, but instead I wished to give you hope and inspiration that if you do the right thing, that travel could be in your life again as well. It may not look the way that you had thought it would, and many opportunities might not be available to you, but make the most out of the situation, and you will still find that life can be rewarding. Just know that it will happen again someday, but until then, do you part to help mitigate the problem and you will enjoy that reward even more when you finally achieve it.

A Phuket Sunset – Siam Summer

The sunset from Kata Beach on Phuket Island, Thailand

Most of yesterday was spent traveling and getting situated in our new place. We opted to stay in a Condotel this time around. Yeah, I had never heard of them either, but basically it is a small apartment that is treated as a hotel so you can have a small kitchen and a living space. It is nice to have a kitchen again, and we went to the grocery store so we did not have to eat out for every meal. There was also the washing of clothes that needed to happen on these longer voyages, and a little bit of down time. By the time we got to a place where it was comfortable to go out and explore, it was time for the sunset.

The view from the southern tip of Kata Beach

Considering I have spent the last few nights going out to watch the sunset, it seemed like the right thing to keep up the tradition. This time around we had to walk fifteen minutes to Kata Beach in order to catch it. The walk over reminded me that Phuket is still trying to get up and running again. Many of the places around town were closed down except for the occasional bar, massage parlor and convenience store. It depressed me a little to think that there was still much to endure in this tourist destination and I wondered where all of the people might be found.

People coming back to the beach

Coming to the beach helped me see that there were people out there ready to take advantage to the beautiful weather and the rising surf. It wasn’t as busy as I suspect that it gets normally this time of year, but it was nice to know that things were starting to pick up again. It also made enjoying the beach perfect. I did not have to jostle around to find a spot to relax, and there was enough space to stroll up and down it leisurely. It made for a great spot to watch the sunset.

The Surf House across the street from the beach opening back up for business

There were also a couple of business that had opened next to the beach as well. I counted at least five restaurants that were getting back to helping the small amount of tourists that have arrived out here from other parts of Thailand. Granted, they were still not at full capacity, but it was nice to see that they were open and the whole town wasn’t closed down completely.

It gives me hope that my time out here will be fun and I will get to experience a little bit of Phuket’s culture. At least it will be an educational experience to see what a tourist town is like during the down parts of the year and they grapple with the same problems that the rest of the world struggles with. It is nice to know that things are heading in the right direction, and I hope that wherever you find yourself that they are doing the same thing for you as well.

Leaving Paradise – Siam Summer

The bigger pool at Santhiya Resort getting ready to open up in the next couple of weeks.

I was able to talk to the head manager of Santhiya Resort today, and it was not because I wanted to complain about anything. There was nothing that I could complain about with this part of my trip. He was just at the dock to see us off when we left and while we were waiting for our boat to dock, he was telling us about the current status of the resort. Everyday, they were able to open up a new aspect of it, and they were seeing more and more guests as things moved forward. He expected that by the end of the month, they would be fully operational. It was just a matter of the guests returning.

The view from the dock at Santhiya Resort

This seemed to be moving in the right direction as well. On our first morning here, there were only three or four other couples having breakfast at the buffet, but by the end of our stay, it was hard to find a spot where we could have a meal. It even caused the coffee to be delayed when they made it, but we survived and got to enjoy a couple of cups before we had to pack up our bags and head for the dock.

One of the fishing boats now starting to travel out into the bay

The bay also started to pick up. On the day we came in, we were the only boat that we saw as we made the voyage from Phuket to the dock at Koh Yao Yai, but the way back, we had to weave through many fishing boats. I don’t know if this is because they wait until Sunday to fish this part of the bay, or if this is where they found the fish today, or if it had to do with the fact that more and more people were making their way to this part of Thailand, and the demand for fish was starting to grow again, and they needed to get the boats back out there to help with the demand.

Another amazing wood carving found on the grounds of Santhiya Resort

Everything was pointing to an economy that was jump starting itself once again. It has been the bigger theme I have witnessed everywhere I have gone in Thailand this summer. They are not back to 100 percent yet, but they are taking it slow because they do not want to screw this up. I know that I have enjoyed my time out here this summer, but this is not the height of the tourist season for them, and considering a lot of the economy is based on that, they want to make sure that it is safe for everybody when the reach that time of year. I think of right now as a test run to see what they would need to do if Covid popped up again someplace and if they could contain it before it destroyed all of the places in their land that could be affected by it.

I have seen it happen at least once, and I do believe that they did a great job of containing it. But this is not only the concern of the government. It involves everybody doing their part. If one person slips with their responsibility, it could mean the end for everybody involved. So the temperature checks keep on happening, and people still wear their masks when they are in public.

Moving out to get on the boat back to Phuket

And with that in mind, it is with a sad heart that I need to leave this part of my journey this summer. Koh Yao Yai is truly a magical place, and I do hope to come back to it some day. Sadly, I do not think it will be the same experience the next time around though. The crowds will surely be back, and it won’t feel like the place belongs to only me. I did enjoy all of my time here, but I enjoyed it more when there were less people. It is still an amazing place either way, and it will just be a different way to experience it when everything is opened and there are more options available.

The view from the rooftop at my next place next to Kata Beach on Phuket Island

This is not the end of my travels this summer though. It is just a change of pace. We left Koh Yao Yai behind, but find ourselves at a different part of Phuket island. I know it has not been that long, but it feels weird to be back in civilization. But I am looking forward to this leg on the trip. It looks like I will spend a little more time taking in the culture of the area, and less time lounging around a pool waiting for the next amazing sunset. I hope you join me as I deliver the goods on this part of Thailand as it slowly starts to open up as well.

Until next time, be safe and treat each other well.

It’s No Rayong – Siam Summer

Santhiya Resort on Koh Yao Yai

One of my friends at the school I am working at probably would not like me mentioning the joke that we use now when talking about the places we visit. We make reference to one of the places we visited earlier in the summer when we talk about the place we are staying. We may talk about the beautiful rooms, the expansive pool, the gorgeous beaches, and the way it just calms the nerves yet never be satisfied because, “It is no Rayong.” Rayong is the city that sits across the from Koh Samet, and many people only visit it long enough to catch a ferry over to the island. It is a nice place, but it is the great vacation place that Koh Samet is. We spent a couple of days there waiting for the island to open up, and though we had fun, it was not a place I would go back to for vacation.

A view of the resort that overlooking the bay

The place I have ventured to right now is no Rayong, but it will do. It is a resort tucked on the island of Koh Yao Yai all by itself. It is a paradise. Everything is made of teak wood including the song tols and there is a pool that is a hundred meter walk from the door to my room that overlooks the bay and gave me a beautiful sunset to watch last night. It is a five star hotel and we are getting it for a steal right now because they are trying to attract any person to come out here and enjoy their time. They have been hit just as hard by Covid-19 as many other places in the world, and they are starting to get things running again, but are doing everything in their power to be extremely careful so they do not have to backpedal later.

She told me she was smiling for this picture

This is the reason that I am bringing up Rayong, and the lesson that can be learned from what happened their recently. It turns out that an ambassador’s daughter broke her quarantine early to go out and party with her friends at one of the bars in town. She later found out the she was infected with Covid-19, and now because of her inability to follow the rules, she has caused problems for many people. First, there is the group of people she exposed to the virus. Hopefully, they do not have any health concerns because of this, but no matter what, they will not be able to go back to normal life until they can prove that they are not going to affect other people and cause the disease to spread again.

The marina in Phuket that we had to visit to be taken over to Koh Yao Yai

Secondly, there is the town of Rayong itself that has been affected. The school have been told to close down until further notice. The businesses are going to also have to shut down, and even if they were willing to break that request, there are people who are cancelling their plans to the area so they won’t have the customers they would have had if the outbreak had not happened there. The island of Koh Samet is a great example of going through this problem. As soon as the news came out, many people cancelled their reservations, causing them to slip back into the slump that they were trying to get out of in this first place.

There are many consequences to someone be selfish and not doing what is asked of them. I know that this person was given a special privilege due to their prestige considering that most people who come into Thailand have to quarantine in certain hotels that are closely watched, but the rules are in place for a reason. This disease does not care about who you are or your social status or your political leanings. It does not care about international borders or what timely thing that you might be missing out on. It functions under the laws of nature, and all we can do is the right thing to make sure that we are mitigating any potential of this spreading further and causing more disruption to our daily lives.

We took our masks for a second so we could get a picture on our song tol made completely of teak wood

Life does not have to be miserable and we do not all have to live in our houses if we play it smart. I am lucky to be in a place right now that is letting me have a vacation during my summer months, and I appreciate that. But I know that there are some things that I need to do to make sure that my loved ones, those who I come across and I are all safe. It is as simple as keeping a certain distance from people, wearing a mask while out in public, and if I do get sick, not to go out and try to grab a little bit of fun because I am afraid of missing out on something. If we all do our part, we can all enjoy life until we can discover that vaccine that will keep everybody safe.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you stay safe and think of others around you as we fight this pandemic together the best way we know how.

A Walk Through the Neighborhood – Siam Summer

Overlooking the old part of town of Phuket

I know that I was getting back into the groove of life after my last two trips. Things were getting back to normal, and I was getting used to donning the face mask as I walked around. The bars were still not open, but I never frequented them that much to really care anyway. So I was brought back to the reality of the situation when I finally made it to Phuket. This was one of the places that was hit the hardest during the first wave of the pandemic, and even though, it has been awhile since there has been a new case here, it has taken a little bit of time for it to open up again. We went strolling through the old neighborhood last night looking for a place to eat, but most of the restaurants were not opened up and it took us awhile to find a Tex-Mex place, Amore Cafe and Bar. We were lucky to have found it too because they made some great spicy margaritas, and it was easily the best Mexican food I have found since I have moved to Thailand.

The quiet streets of old town right now. This place is usually packed with tourists.

Though things are really quiet, it does not mean that I will not be able to enjoy my time out here. In fact, it might be the best time to visit Phuket. The throngs of tourists that usually come out here to visit are gone right now, and I get to have the streets to myself. The tourist sights seem to be closed right now, but I am sure I will be able to find a couple of the more natural settings in the area to enjoy. I might have to search a little bit longer for a place to eat, but when I find it, they will be so happy to have customers that they will give me their best service and show me what they can really do with food.

The pancakes available at Pancake Corner and Coffee Club

Besides the Mexican restaurant we found last night, there was also a pancake place, Pancake Corner and Coffee Club, we discovered for breakfast that had some amazing food. I am not really into pancakes because there are too many people that screw them up and they turn out doughy instead of fluffy like they should. This place knew what to do with them though and my favorite thing was they served a side of homemade vanilla ice-cream with the pancakes that added the perfect flavor to this meal. It seems to be a regular condiment that comes with many breakfasts out in Thailand because this is the third place I have been to out here that has served this with either pancakes or French toast.

A statue I found as I wandered towards the end of the street in the old part of town in Phuket

Though it may not be the ideal way to travel, I still cannot complain. At least I have landed in a country that was able to get the Covid-19 problem under control, and I am able to venture out to explore this country. There is enough out here to make it an exciting adventure even if I can’t experience it to the full extent that is available. Also because I have my car with me, I will be able to explore little corners that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had to do everything on foot. I do have a lot of time out here, so I am sure things will loosen up as well as time goes by. It just will have to be slower than I am used to, and considering the patience I have had to endure over the last couple of months, I think I am okay with doing that right now.

Independence Day – Siam Summer

I have traveled all around the world, but most of the time, I am in the United States for Independence Day. It is a great time where family and friends gather together to eat and enjoy the freedom of being away from work for a day. If it falls on a long weekend this feeling is amplified because they know that they will not have to work the next day as well. It usually wraps up late in the evening with the echo of fireworks still ringing in the night sky. For the most part, it is a great celebration.

But there have been a few years where I have not been in the United States and the day does not take on the same meaning. Sometimes, a bar or restaurant will try to capitalize on the fact that there will be Americans abroad, and cater to them in order to make a little extra money, but I have found that this is usually not the case. The rest of the world forgets about the day, as they should.

During my first time I found myself out of the country on this day, I tried to make the most out of it, and celebrate my independence, but I looked like an arrogant fool who was not being considerate of the country I was in. Later, I acknowledged what the day was, but spent it looking at the smaller things and events that presented itself during the day. It wasn’t the American way of celebrating, but it still made for a nice day.

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of vitriol spewing from the social media sites from many of my friends back home in the United States, most of it centered around the loss of freedom and how one party or the other party is responsible for the situation concerning Covid-19 in that part of the world. I do understand that it is an election year, but it is still weird to see how this has been turned into a political argument. I have been forced to spend the summer in Thailand because of this pandemic and I have been reading how other countries have taken extreme measures to ensure the safety and health of their citizens. It does require some sacrifice on everybody’s part and because of their efforts, Thai people and many other places in the world have started to enjoy their freedoms once again. Yes, there are simple measures that people take such as social distancing and wearing masks, but in the greater picture, these are small steps that we can all take to make sure everybody is safe. Because of this, Thailand has not reported the transmission of a case in over thirty days and the only cases that have come into the country have come from Thai people moving back into the country. Due to these measures and the facts that have come out, I feel safe, secure and most importantly on Independence Day, free.

It comes to the statement that I have heard uttered by many Americans over the years, “Freedom isn’t free.” That statement is usually uttered when talking about the armed forces of the United States, and the sacrifice they have made for the nation. But the key to that statement is sacrifice. In order to have freedom, people need to work for it. They need to prove that they have earned it. Sometimes this means making painful sacrifices to ensure not only their freedom, but the freedoms of everybody within their society. This is a time for that sacrifice, but it is not coming from people serving in the armed forces this time. Guns and bombs will not be able to solve this problem no matter how much people want it to. It will only be solved by taking the precautions that will eradicate the Covid-19 virus until a vaccine can be discovered. The sacrifices that are being asked are not absurd. Wearing a face mask and respecting other people’s space in not hard to do. When that happens, then freedom can return. The restriction will be lifted because the safety of the people can be guaranteed.

I am enjoying my freedoms right now, but I would love to go home some day and see the mountains of Colorado and visit my family and friends. I know it might sound a little selfish, but I hope the people of America can make that sacrifice so I can have this happen. But I also hope that they can make that sacrifice for their freedom, so they can enjoy it again without this terrible disease hanging over them and controlling their freedom, so what they are enjoying is not really freedom.