Saturday, December 5, 2015

New Name

It's been a few months since I've posted here.  It seems that despite my best intentions, once we were home again, life got in the way and I never posted a final post summarizing our trip to Thailand last year.  Rather, this poor blog was left kind of hanging and was definitely looking neglected.

Having given some thought in which direction I'd like to take the blog, I started by giving it a new name.  As I plan to write about future travels to various locations, "Traveling to Thailand" was rather limiting.  Hence the new name, "Roads Well Traveled".  I chose this name because this phrase is what my sister and I put on our father's gravestone as it described him so well.  He was a man who enjoyed traveling, seeing the world, trying new food and talking to people.  While he loved his family, we often joked that he should never have settled down because there were so many places he wanted to visit.

He did manage to see a great deal during the time he served in the Canadian Navy and later as a heavy equipment operator who worked on construction sites in the United States.  After he retired, he and our mother saw much of Northern America on the many road trips they took.

I seem to have inherited his wanderlust and, now that I am retired, there are many places my husband and I wish to see.  Thailand was just the beginning.  Which takes me back to the name of this blog.  Because I want to write about all of the places we plan to visit, it did not make sense to call it "A Trip to Thailand".  It was either start a new blog for each trip or re-name this one.

In an effort to organize my entries, rather than post them one after the other on this main page, they will now be listed in the sidebar (under the pages section) at the right of the page.  It is my hope that doing it this way will allow me to order the entries in a way that makes better organizational sense than one chronological entry after another, which while in date order, may not be the most logical placement of posts.

If you've followed me this far, we have now begun our second trip to Asia.  The first trip of December 2014 - January 2015 involved six weeks spent in Thailand and we had such a good time we found that we weren't ready to come home at the end of the trip.  After discussing it, we decided to return for three months and in addition to spending time in Bangkok, we will also be traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and possibly Laos.

Stay tuned - there are a lot of exciting adventures coming up in the next few weeks!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park is a 142 acre oasis in the middle of hustling, bustling  Bangkok.   Often compared to New York's Central Park, this land was originally set aside for the exhibition of flowers and Thai crafts by King Rama VI in the 1920's.  Today it is enjoyed by park visitors as a green haven to relax, meditate, commune with nature, walk, jog and bike.

Situated in the heart of the main business district, it is an easy walk from the Saladaeng BTS train station.  The MRT Subway Silom or Lumphini Stations are near the park entrance as well.

A statue of King Rama VI stands at the southwestern entrance to the park.

Once inside, there are numerous walking paths displaying the lush, green foliage that thrives in this tropical setting.  Taking a stroll down these paths is incredibly relaxing.

Pavilions are situated along the paths where one can rest and take in the scenery.

It is not unusual to see monitor lizards near the water.  They can grow to 5-6 feet in length and have long necks, powerful tails and claws.  They are rarely aggressive and when not swimming tend to hide in culverts or under bridges.  They often come on shore to sun themselves.

This one was stalking a white crane and stealthily followed along behind the bird while it was feeding along the shore.

At the last minute, the crane spotted the lizard and flew away.  Lucky for him, not so lucky for the lizard.

The water is also home to large catfish.  Can you see the whiskers?

Lumpini Park has many species of beautiful and colorful flowers that are grown in the park's on-site nursery and tended by the gardeners on staff.

The gardeners work hard to keep the park looking pristine and they do a fantastic job.  These are some of their tools.

While strolling through the park, there are visual delights around every corner.

I'm not sure what type of birds these are, but they reminded me of the magpies at home.  These guys were looking for a handout.

As we prepared to leave the park, we were greeted by this fountain in the middle of the lake.  Note the skyscrapers in the background - it's easy to forget one is in the middle of Bangkok while in the park.  Even the city noise disappears.

Spending a day at Lumpini Park was a wonderful experience and one I will not soon forget.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Spirit Houses

All over Thailand and Bangkok there are Spirit Houses.  They can range from quite small to very large and elaborate.  Spirit houses serve as shrines to protective spirits.  The spirits are thought to protect homes and businesses from misfortune.

Spirit houses are usually placed in a favorable location chosen after consultation with a Brahmin priest, often in a corner of the property that does not get shade.  Normally in the form of a miniature house or temple, spirit houses are often mounted on a single pillar or on a dais.

This spirit house was situated on a roof and was visible from the train as it passed by.

The elephant is an important symbol in Thailand - animal representations are often included as part of a spirit house.

The spirit house provides shelter for spirits that could cause problems for the people if not appeased. The shrines often include images of people and animals.  Offerings of food, drink, incense and flowers are left to nurture the spirits.  In return the spirits offer protection and good fortune.

On this particular day, the spirits must have taken the form of pigeons when they visited the spirit house to accept the offerings of food and drink!

 While walking around Bangkok, it was interesting to note that the spirit houses come in many different sizes and shapes and range from very simple to very intricate and complex.

 The spirit houses are also another example of the contrasts found in Bangkok.  It's an ultra modern city of sky scrapers, high rise apartments and some of the best medical care in the world, yet a multi-million dollar construction project can't or won't proceed until a spirit house has been properly established on the property.  Failure to do so could bring unimaginable bad luck. 

These contrasts or ironies are also a major part of Thailand's charm and appeal.  It's rather cool that there is room for both modern progress and ancient beliefs in this amazing country.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Given that 95% of the population of Thailand is Buddhist, it's no surprise that there are an estimated 40,000 temples in Thailand.  Thai temple complexes usually include a temple or wat, feature a tall bell-shaped stupa which is a place for relics and the ashes of monks, ordination and sermon halls, a space for shrines and Buddha images and a residence for the monks.

The public is welcome at most temples.  When visiting the temples, please show respect by observing the following guidelines:

Take your shoes off before entering the temple.

Make sure shoulders are covered and wear long pants (or long skirts for women).

Remove hats and sunglasses, don't chew gum or smoke and speak quietly.

After entering the temple, sit on the floor with your feet under you and try not to put yourself in a position where you are higher than any Buddha statues or Buddhist monks.

It's ok to take photographs unless there are signs forbidding it, but don't use a flash.

With their ornate appearance, the temples are easily recognizable.

These are peaceful places, and even if not Buddhist, one may feel the urge to reflect or meditate while visiting.

Beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers adorn the interior of the temples and they are spectacular:

The interior of the temples are dominated by Buddha statues.  Buddha statues are made out of many different materials from gold plate to stone to wood to clay.  One famous statue, the Golden Buddha (not pictured below), was thought to be made of plaster until it was being moved to a new location in 1954.  Ropes supporting the statue snapped causing the statue to fall to the floor.  The fall resulted in some of the plaster chipping off allowing the gold surface underneath to be seen.  After carefully removing the plaster it was discovered that the statue was solid gold.  It is believed that it was covered over with plaster in the 1700's to prevent theft, although at 5.5 tons stealing it would be a daunting task!

The interior of the temples include beautifully embellished shutters and ceilings.

Detailed murals cover the walls:

Buddhist monks live a simple life with few material possessions.  They rise early in order to go out and collect alm which is the giving of food to the monks by lay people.  Monks are not allowed to have contact with women, therefore, any food offered by a woman must be handed to a man and then passed to the monk or put in a bowl left on the ground.  Monks are allowed to eat each day between sunrise and noon.

A walk through the temple grounds is a visual treat:

Many of the temples are surrounded by park like areas making them a quiet oasis in the middle of the city:

Bangkok is a very large, very busy, very noisy place and an afternoon spent at a temple is a nice way to have a few hours of restorative quiet time before heading back into the hustle and bustle that makes the city so exciting.