Friday, April 29, 2005

Truck Wreck in China (See story below)

Travels in China

Yesterday, we arrived in a small city in western Yunnan. This city is very close to the Burma border. It was VERY different from Lijiang. Much more Burma/Thai influence. We had a delightful time trying out different ethnic minority cuisine. We found some from the Dai people that was especially good.

This afternoon, we boarded a bus to make the 3 1/2 hour trip to Baoshan. When we went to get on the bus, we found that it actually only a regular passenger van. There were only three passengers so we thought it would be a good trip. We even left 15 minutes EARLY! However, the driver went to another bus terminal and loaded the van up. My traveling buddy was smushed in between me and some old Chinese grandmother.

About 20 minutes out of Mangshi, we had to stop at a checkpoint. (There is a HUGE drug trade in the area and they search EVERY vehicle.) Well, they discovered that there were two Americans on board and, since they didn't have much else to do, decided that they would search us. They took our passports and went somewhere with them. (I never did find out where) They made us open our hand baggage, then demanded that we open our suitcases, too. They decided to really go through my friend's bag, looking in every pouch, inner bag, etc. Well, I thought I might distract them so I showed them a picture of my daughters on my cell phone. I tried to tell them about the girls, but I don't really speak much Mandarin. So, then I decided I would show them how much Mandarin I do speak, so I counted to 10. It captured the attention of the guards and they decided to leave us alone, as they went away laughing!

About 2 hours into the trip, we came upon a wreck. A HUGE transport truck crashed into the ditch, completely blocking the highway. (See the picture above) Finally, some brave folks decided to try to go around the truck. There was a sheer cliff with a 4000 ft dropoff just a few inches beyond the tires. We decided to get out of the van before letting it have a try. We couldn't believe that none of the vehicles fell off the mountain.

About 3 hours into the trip, the Chinese grandmother, now sitting by me, as I changed places with my friend, decides that she can't take anymore of the winding mountain roads and "blows chunks" out of the window. Well, at least she made it out of the window, but didn't make it very far as she threw up all over the outside of the windows and down the side of the van. It was most disturbing!

We made it safely into Baoshan at about 6 pm, local time. We checked into a surprisingly nice hotel and had a very good Chinese dinner.

More updates as conditions warrant.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Village of Shi Gu

100 year old bridge at the village of Shi Gu, China.
(pronounced shur goo)

Yes I Am!

Turn out that I am a "touron" afterall. As it works out, here I am in the Himalayas, it is springtime, and I went out tonight without even a light jacket. Worse than that, I went out in short sleeves. I am a bona fide touron! OUCH!

I did have a really great day today. I traveled to the "first bend in the Yangtze River". That, in and of itself is not really a big deal. But the 1 1/2 hour drive out there was beautiful! We went through beautiful mountains, over rivers, and saw gorgeous vistas. We went into a little village out there and took lots of pictures. It was a really neat time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


My friend gave me a new word today: Touron. It is a combination of "tourist" and "moron". (Unfortunately, today, I am playing a tourist!) The definition of this new word is something like this: when someone, of even above average intelligence, enters the world of being a tourist and ceases to possess common sense, reason, and self-reliance, as evidenced by stupid, obvious questions, impulsive buying, and not being able to read signs to even find out where the bathroom is. How I pray I wasn't a "Touron" today in Lijiang, China!

Old Town, Lijiang, China

A little street in Old Town, Lijiang, China

Rainbow over Lijiang, China

The "Promise" is for China, too!

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
This mountain is the Eastern-most mountain in the Himalayas and contains the Southern-most glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. It is 5920 meters tall (19,422 ft). This view is from Lijiang, China

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tsunami Damage in Phuket, Thailand

McDonald's on Patong Beach damaged from the December 26th tsunami waiting to be repaired in Phuket, Thailand.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Phuket Summary

Phuket was a good experience for my family. We got away from normal life and spent a huge amount of good quality family time together. My observations of Phuket:
  • It is more expensive than Chiang Mai, but a bargain compared to Singapore;
  • It is full of tourists;
  • It is a huge island;
  • The tsunami damage is still evident, especially in the Patong Beach area;
  • In another 10 years, it will have out-grown itself;
  • It is a great place to visit, and I wouldn't mind living there.
We were amazed that Patong Beach has come so far in rebuilding, but it still has a LONG WAY to go to get back to normal. You could see rock or concrete block walls still laying on their sides, having been knocked down by the wave. The McDonald's on Patong Beach is still in ruins. I didn't have my camera with me, but I took a picture with my friend's camera. As soon as he downloads it to me, I will post it here. There are many businesses still boarded up. We were surprised that the McDonald's sign hasn't been removed. (Bad for corporate image, we thought) The Starbuck's on Patong Beach was completely destroyed, but had been rebuilt and restored. They had pictures on the wall of the damage it had sustained. I showed my 9 year old daughter and she thought they were too distressing to look at. Pictures from Dec 26 here.

I spoke with some of the locals there and asked them about the tsunami. Several had seen the wave; several had been "caught" in the wave. The waitress at our hotel restaurant said that it completely destroyed the hotel where she was working that day. She said she was at work when it hit, but you could tell she didn't want to talk about it, so I let it drop. There was a T-shirt for sale in the street market that listed the different tragedies like SARS, Bird Flu, Tsunami, etc, since 1999. The last line begged the question, "What's next?"

It was a strange experience "enjoying" a place that has had such devastation. Everyone there, however, kept saying "thank you" for coming and helping to support their economy. Still, as we played in the ocean, we couldn't help but to think of the untold numbers who lost their lives on that dreadful day. I hope they never have to experience that again.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Snorkeling in Phuket

We went snorkeling today on Koh Khai-Nok. (I think). It was absolutely wonderful! The following pictures are but a few of the wonderful sights we saw. Unfortunately, I didn't have an underwater camera.

We do, however, have a scorching sunburn!

I'll post more about it tomorrow, when we get back to Chiang Mai, as I am "dead dog tired."

Tropical Feeding Frenzy

Spend a day in Paradise!

Koh Khai, near Phuket, Thialand.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Visiting Phuket, Thailand

We are currently in Phuket, Thailand, for a couple of days. We are staying at the Surin Beach Resort. Yes, the beach was hit by the tsunami, but the hotel was far enough from the water that there was no damage here. (Pictures here.) In fact, we are up a little hill from the water. Normally, I would be put out that our hotel was not "right on the beach", but, for some strange reason, it doesn't bother me at all.

The resort that we are staying at is truly wonderful. We got a fabulous room rate. The hotel has twin water slides into a huge free-form pool. My kids love it here. Our connecting rooms even have a kitchenette and balconies with ceiling fans and tables and chairs. It is about a 5 minute walk to the beach. We spent the afternoon there in the waves. We are all a little sunburned.

Tomorrow, we are going out for a half-day snorkeling adventure. Due to the fact that it is "low season" and that the Thai New Year's is mostly celebrated in Chiang Mai and/or Bangkok, we will have the boat for our little group and can tailor it to our liking. I am excited about going, since I had my LASIK surgery last year. My wife has had the surgery, but hasn't been snorkeling with her new eyes yet.

The hotel food is pretty good. We attended a New Year's Gala buffet last night. They had balloons for the kids and a live band. We left before the Thai dancers started, but I heard they weren't that great, anyway. The buffet breakfast this morning was very good and I am looking forward to it again tomorrow. We ate at a restaurant on the beach this evening. The food was OK and a little expensive for Thai food. But, we are in Phuket and we are in the tourist areas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

HRC, Singapore

Fun at Hard Rock Cafe, Singapore

We had a wonderful lunch at the HRC, Singapore with our friends, Art & Teresa Tuner.

Another Singapore Pic

Boyne and Kluver families at one of the Coffee Bean shops near Border's Bookstore on Orchard Road in Singapore.

Rick & Randy in Singapore

We had a DELIGHTFUL (but quick) trip to Singapore. We got to spend some time with two sets of friends; one we haven't seen since 1998 and the other set good friends from college. Randy was a gracious host (as always). We had a fun time with his family, then he and I hit the town. We didn't paint it very red, however, because it was raining to beat the band. But, we managed to kill a couple of hours at one of the many Starbuck's on Orchard Road.

All in all, my impressions of Singapore are:
1) very clean,
2) very expensive,
3) the definition of what happens when lots of paranoid, anal-retentive Asians take control of their own destinies,
4) very beautiful,
5) very expensive.

I am ready to go back when I have more time. In fact, I can't wait to get back to Singapore.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Singapore Bound

Well, I'm hauling the whole family down to CNX to board Tiger Airways to go to Singapore for a couple of days, then back to Phuket (in Southern Thailand) for a few more days. We are looking forward to getting away for a little bit, but looking more to seeing some friends in SG. From here on out, it is going to be a busy year, at least until October. Lots of travel; lots of events.

It sure is hot here in Chiang Mai right now. It is getting up into the upper 90's or low 100's everyday now. The nights cool off a little, but not a whole bunch! Last night was around 80.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Subway Sandwich Survey

I am playing receptionist here at the office since all of our Thai staff are off for a couple days. Someone ordered some subs from Subway. While it is good, it seems awfully expensive, especially by Chiang Mai standards. It was 109 baht or at today's exchange rate (39.11) $2.79 for a 6" BMT, no drinks, no chips, no cookies.

So, lets take a little impromtu informal survey. How much does a 6" Subway sub cost in your neck of the woods? Please respond in the comments with the price in US$ and your location.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Wow! Rain in the dry season! What an unexpected blessing. All day Sunday it looked like it was threatening to rain. Then, sure enough, last night about 6 or 7 pm, it started. It lasted all night last night! It was raining when I drove to the office this morning, but it looks like it might be done, although it is still kind of dark outside.

Last week, the temps were getting to around 101 degrees. Yesterday, it only got up to 89. It got down to 73 this morning, which made last night's slumber very nice indeed.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Death Watch & Landmines

I am wasting Saturday morning by watching the CNN Pope Death Watch. I realize that he is the spiritual leader for millions if not a billion people and I know that many people will be sad at his passing. On Larry King Live, some guy sang "Amazing Grace". People are being interviewed about his life and now, his death. Many of the Pope's beliefs differ from mine. There are many common things we believe and I wish I could have met him.

While watching this unending tribute, the satellite TV system that we use here in Thailand, aired a PSA from the UN against landmines. (The Prime Minister here has outlawed foreign commericials because they don't pay airtime tax into his, I mean, the kingdom's accounts. So, UBC has decided to air some of the most rediculous PSA's I have EVER seen in my life. UNICEF announcements preaching the "rights" of children, eg, to express their own opinion, to be free from abuse, to be protected from this and that. It is not that I disagree with these statements; it is that they are a horrible waste of resources and really poorly made. Well, in the past couple of days, they have switched from these horrible animated shorts to live action portrayals against landmines. One of them is some poor farmer talking about not being able to plant crops because of landmines in his fields. It is well done and a welcomed relief from the cartoons. Today, there is a second one that really caught my attention. It was of an American 6th grade girl's soccer game. It shows the parents being so proud of their daughter as she makes a goal and all the fun that goes with kids' games. Then, as the young girl celebrates the goal she just made, she steps on a landmine in the soccer pitch. The scene is really traumatic as she is killed and many others are injured. The mother is overwhelmed with grief and the father runs to his daughter, and holds her lifeless body. The scenes fade and these words are brought up on the screen: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere?" I was really taken back by the violence and impact that it had. It actually gave me chill bumps!

You can go to the landmine website here and download the video.