Shiny is my click bait

This is our entry in The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Ooh, Shiny!.

These shiny lights were strung above the entrance steps to a shopping center (part of the Night Bazaar)  in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Bright lights, especially shiny colored ones, are guaranteed to distract us and bring out a camera.  Click bait!

 

This photo was taken on February 1, 2016. Specs are:

Olympus TG-4, ISO 200, f/2.9, 1/50 sec, 7.9 mm

Day 29: Phu Quoc Island – At leisure

For the first time on this trip, Pati and BeeBee woke up (at a luxurious 6 am) with no planned itinerary. Last night they discussed a walk on the beach following breakfast, but that’s as far as planning went. According to Trip Advisor, the number 1 attraction on Phu Quoc is the Phu Quoc Prison, which is variously described as “educational & informative” and “terrifying.” It is located very close to where they caught the snorkeling tour boat yesterday, and so is not really a casual trip. The number 11 attraction is Cao Dai  Temple, which is close to the Night Market, and, according to yesterday’s tour guide, is a short 2 km (1.2 mile) walk along the beach. So the morning plan was to walk along the beach to the temple and check out whether the Night Market was worth visiting at night.

They stopped at the hotel reception desk on their way to the beach to get a map and verify directions. The receptionist told them that the beach route wasn’t practical, since there are obstructions on the way. The best route was to follow the main road  to a roundabout, turn left and continue to the Night Market, then walk through that to the temple. Only 3 km (1.8 miles). Do-able, they thought.

After walking for quite a way on the main road with no roundabout in sight, sand in their Tevas from all the construction debris, sweating, they spotted some taxis. For about $1.25 USD, a taxi deposited them at the entrance to the Night Market. More than 3 km!

Walking through the Night Market, they could see some of the types of merchandise that are offered when the market is open for business: mostly pearls and pearl jewelry. They will think about coming back at night.

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Cao Dai Temple, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Turning left after the market, they found the Cao Dai Temple and climbed up thirty-some steps to peer into the small room on top.

Then they walked down steps on the other side and walked out onto the wide paved walkway on the jetty where the river meets the ocean. Breezy yet hot and humid on the jetty, the views were worth the walk.

 

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Dinh Da Temple, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Returning from the jetty, they saw another larger temple (Dinh Da) practically next door to Cao Dai and entered when a local man indicated that they could go in to pray. He went in with them, gave them lit incense sticks, and showed them where the sticks should go (into about ten urns with other lit sticks).

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Fortune #19

Pati placed a donation in the donation box, which resulted in the man reaching him a cup containing numbered sticks (as described for an earlier temple on this trip). Pati ended up with stick number 19, and the man gave him a slip of paper containing his fortune. Perhaps someday someone can translate it. This temple was beautiful and well worth the stop.

Leaving the Night Market again, they immediately climbed into a taxi for a $1.75 ride back to their hotel street. They were pleased to be in a taxi as they recognized landmarks from their earlier trek along the road. They rinsed their dusty sandals under their outdoor water faucet, left them on their porch to dry, and were happy to be back inside in coolness.

After cooling down, Pati enjoyed a swim in the beautiful hotel pool, while BeeBee read poolside (Last Night I Dreamed of Peace, recommended by Mr. Vinh). Neither of them can stand to think about food, and both of them have slightly sore throats from yesterday’s snorkeling. But the breeze is nice and the afternoon is restful.

After this break, they walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch: fish ban mei (in this case, fish and cheese burger with fries), nowhere near as good as the ban mei in Hoi An. They both hope that this isn’t the meal that “does them in.”

After another pool break, they ventured out to find something cool to drink. They went back to Cocobar, where they had had lunch. Both of them have a dry cough and were not ready for food. An American lady was there, from California, so they had a small taste of “home” by talking with her.

Then back to their hotel room for an early bedtime, hoping to feel better tomorrow.

 

Day 10: Vientiane – City Tour

This morning, Pati stepped out onto the balcony of their hotel room, looked south, and saw the Mekong River and Thailand beyond.  The huge Night Market of last night is gone, leaving only a strip of pavement that looks very small now. Across the street, to the east, is a large temple complex. Below the balcony, four floors down at street level, is a small black poodle in a sweater. Such is the morning view of Vientiane.

Pati and BeeBee started their official day at 9 am, meeting their guide in the lobby. This is their latest morning start so far, but they have been told that there is not much to see in the capitol city of Laos (!) and they will spend only half days with him.

The first area they visited included Wat Sisaket (the oldest major sight in the city), a temple with thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, that previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha.  Since the Emerald Buddha has been in Bangkok for many years (taken by Thailand when they conquered this part of Laos), Wat Prakeo is not truly a wat (temple) any more, but is known as the House of the Emerald Buddha.

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At one of their stops to look at a small garden of exhibits, there was a very large jar under a protecting roof. This jar was about 4 1/2 feet tall and several feet across. It had been broken but repaired. On the bottom inside it were coins and paper money, dropped there for luck. The guide explained that this was a jar from the famous Plain of Jars, an Iron Age site which was bombed during the Vietnam War. American soldiers stole the jar and transported it to an airport, intending to load it on a plane and take it home with them. They were stopped from doing that, and so the Jar stayed in Laos. Laos would like the Plain of Jars designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as Luang Prabang is), but it is still not cleared of fallen bombs, and until it is, it cannot be developed as a tourist site.

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Next they drove to see the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, which contains a bone fragment of Buddha. This huge gold stupa is the symbol of Laos. They also visited the National Cultural Hall, which contained elaborately-painted walls and ceilings illustrating stories of Buddha.

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On the way back, they stopped at the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. Pati and BeeBee walked to the top (fewer than 200 steps) to take pictures of the city from the top.

They decided not to visit Morning Shopping mall, which, from the guide’s description,  seemed more like what they would see at home.

 

The guide recommended that they eat lunch at Makphet restaurant, which was one block away from their hotel and actually shared a back wall with it. This restaurant teaches its students how to be waiters, and any tips collected go toward helping the students. The guide’s brother is actually a student there, and is learning English also so that he can interact with tourists. But the guide was not unduly influenced by his brother; the restaurant is actually the number 2 restaurant in Vientiane, according to Trip Advisor. Their meal was very good.

 

Next they caught a tuk-tuk to go visit the COPE unexploded ordinance (UXO) museum. During the Vietnam War, bomber pilots returning from Vietnam to their base in Laos dropped any remaining bombs on designated areas in Laos, because it was dangerous for them to land a plane carrying bombs. More bombs per capita were dropped on Laos than on any other country in the world. (Google “America’s ‘secret war’ in Laos”.) More bombs were dropped on Laos than in all of World War II. These bombs were still live when they fell on villages and farms.

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Sculpture of mother and child, made entirely of metal from bombs

Over the years, many Laotians have been maimed or killed when they accidently set off a bomb by plowing, digging, touching, or setting a fire on top of one.  COPE helps UXO victims as well as those injured by accidents or natural causes (e.g., birth defects). Trip Advisor rates a visit to the COPE museum as the number 1 activity in Vientiane.

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After some internet time back at the hotel, Pati and BeeBee walked to dinner at Chokdee Cafe and Belgian Beer Bar, which is a French restaurant that is rated the number 3 restaurant in Vientiane by Trip Advisor. They had spaghetti bolognese, an Italian dish in a French restaurant in Laos. It was very good.

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While they were waiting for their food, they could hear what sounded like a parade coming down the street. The sounds veered off the street toward the Night Market, and not long afterward they could see a procession heading through the middle of the market. After dinner, they walked over to the Night Market to shop and, hearing the sounds again, followed them to an area in front of a grandstand full of people. There was a circle of people surrounding the source of the sounds. Inside the circle were two dragons dancing around! Pati and BeeBee realized that they were celebrating Chinese New Year.

After walking through every part of the Night Market, Pati and BeeBee headed back to their hotel, just across the street from the market, to rest up for the next day.

Day 7: Pakbeng – Pak Ou – Luang Prabang

This morning Pati and BeeBee packed and left their cabin early, so that they could access the internet from the main reception area of Luang Say Lodge. After breakfast, they walked down to the boat for the second day of travel. As before, their larger luggage was carried to the boat by two strong young women.

Before 8:30 am, everyone was on board and the boat set off down the Mekong River again. Several hours later, they had a buffet lunch, and soon after that,  the boat stopped for a short  visit to a hill tribe village. Every woman in the village, it seemed, had laid out their handmade scarfs for sale on either side of the path that the tour group had to follow.  Since they all used the same type of equipment and thread, their products were remarkably similar (identical, even). A man of the village had a primative still set up, and the group watched the traditional process of Lao whiskey production. While the women sold a good number of scarves, the man also did a brisk business selling small bottles of Lao rice whiskey.

This day was colder than the day before, and everyone on the boat was soon cold from the wind and from the spray of water coming over the sides of the boad. The guide handed out colorful ponchos, and everyone huddled inside them. One of the ladies at Pati and BeeBee’s table had brought her Bananagram game, and she taught Pati, BeeBee, and another lady at the table how to play. This provided entertainment for the players and onlookers and diverted their attention a little from the cold. Everyone also consumed many cups of hot Laotian coffee .

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cave of a thousand Buddhas

The boat continued on to Pak Ou village at the mouth of the Nam Ou River. Here they climbed hundreds of irregular steps to visit the Tam Thing Caves of a Thousand Buddhas.

After this stop, the boat continued for several hours, arriving at Luang Prabang pier before sunset. Here again, there were steep steps from the river to the higher street level, and male porters carried the heavier bags  BeeBee noticed that these men seemed to find their job harder than the young women at Luang Say Lodge, who walked much farther on a more difficult surface. Perhaps they were just showing off for tips.

Pati and BeeBee’s new guide was waiting for them at the top of the steps. After stowing their luggage in the new van, the driver took them all to their new hotel, where the guide assisted in the check in process.

Since it was still daylight, Pati and BeeBee walked to the large Night Market, where they looked at the merchandise for sale (again, many duplicate offerings) and had dinner at a restaurant nearby. Walking back to the hotel after dark, they took advantage of the free wifi in their room and spent some quality internet time before sleep.

Day 2 extra: Sparks fly in Chiang Mai, or, don’t hire this electrician

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As described in the Day 2 post, Pati and BeeBee were present at the kiddie fairgrounds in the Night Market periphery when power failed to the ferris wheel and blow-up slide. Pati had hoped to take some night pictures of the lights of the turning ferris wheel, but had just managed to adjust the camera settings when the lights went out.

They decided to wait for a few minutes to see whether the ferris wheel would be restarted. After a few flickering mis-starts, a man with a few tools began to work on the thick power line running along the ground from (somewhere?) to the ferris wheel. Taking a large wire stripping tool, he began to work on the end of the power line nearest the ferris wheel. That appeared to be unsuccessful. A second man began pulling power lines from the merry-go-round to the ferris wheel. No one was riding the merry-go-round, and the ferris wheel was attractive and visible from farther away. Now all the rides were dark and disfunctional. This tactic didn’t work, or perhaps it was a precurser to the next step. The “electrician” then carried a tall stepladder across to a pole carrying a thick bundle of power lines about 12 feet above the ground. Taking the end of the line that he had just stripped and a tool, he climbed the ladder and calmly connected his line to something in the bundle. Meanwhile, a child climbed into the ferris wheel bucket nearest the ground and waited.

A few minutes later, and success! The ferris wheel began to turn. Propping himself and the camera cautiously against a metal pole, Pati got the shots he wanted.

(For the faint-of-heart: the photo above is a time-lapse shot. The buckets and child did not go spinning out into the night.)