Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Treacherous Whale Shark

The biggest fish in the world! Sleek fins, large swishing tail, menacing gills, huge gaping jaws.....but no teeth? Whale sharks are like the old folks of the shark species, they swim slowly and aimlessly around with their mouths open, toothless. Whatever tiny marine life they plow through is drawn into the mouth funnel and filtered. They don't chase prey or rip anything apart. They cruise harmlessly  just below the surface. And when one comes up on you they are massive. You stick your face and mask in the water and watch the spotted beast slowly pass below you like the enormous battleship in Star Wars.

 friends, not food!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Crazy in Cabo

Los Cabos, Mexico is not authentic. It's a hustle.

It's a place where you can buy junk made in China, peddled  by inexhaustible vendors rushing to you all at once..."hey beautiful ladies, 50% off special deal only for you"

It's a place where you need to keep a wad of one dollar bills in your pocket to tip the persistent and pervasive mariachis and table side serenaders.

Also a place to create your poker face in a high stakes game of Hold 'Em.

We also found the beauty that the hustle can't corrupt. The ocean was beautiful and the idyllic rock arch still held it's mystery

We escaped the hustlers and participated in the pursuit of a giant beast of nature that only few see. Somewhere out in the Bay of La Paz swims the whale shark. Barely beneath the surface we catch a glimpse of a dorsal fin and then a large, slowly approaching shadow in the water.  We dive into the bay and try to find this massive creature, and when we find it we swim along side it.

searching for the gentle giants which live in La Paz Bay


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fat Foot Syndrome

It happened to me. After a long sit on a plane for an obscene amount of time, I arrived in Thailand with elephant feet. I could feel them tingling with tumescence. I had to squish them into my flip-flops like meaty sausage. Later, when I took my shoes off there was an indent carved into my skin, like meaty sausage... I've seen this condition before; in old women with circulatory problems and generalized "oldness" symptoms. They are told to wear pressure socks and take diuretics to keep fluid from pooling in their 70 year old feet. But since I had just been sitting for 24 hours with my feet low I figured I would just walk it off.  After three days of walking the streets of Bangkok I still had these bloated stompers. The older women in the group complained of swollen feet but I never once admitted that I too was suffering. That would just be humiliating!

So I went through my whole vacation with inflated balloon feet, elevating them at night, semi-concerned that I may have a persistent condition, like forever. But after arriving back home to the desert my feet mysteriously deflated to normal within a couple of hours.

tropical foot
(my bones and veins and tendons are buried)                                        
dry climate foot: sinuous

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Great Shrinking Lake of Cambodia

Wet season, Dry season It's a big deal! There is a massive yet shallow lake in central Cambodia which provides fish for all of South East Asia. In November, after the rains, it swells up and leaves the trees and roadways submerged. During these times a fisherman might only have to climb 10 steps up to his house which is perched on stilts. His only way of transportation is his fishing boat. Then as the months progress the lake dries up and almost disappears, causing a river to reverse it's flow and  the folks who live in floating houses to seek wetter wet. The stilted houses are on dry land and a fisherman must climb 30 steps up to his house. Now the rice farmers take over. There is a lot of trade going on.
Great Tonle Lake, Cambodia

This fisherman moves his house to where the fish happen to be, soon the lake will be 1/4 this size

Next Up: Why Cambodia is my favorite

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016 Cambodia: So Old...Yet So New

From Northern Thailand to Cambodia!
I know that most people think of Cambodia as an unknown nation, a blank space in the world. There is good reasoning for this. Until 1992 this country was scary! Civil war, genocide, starvation, land mines, unspeakable brutality and torture to human beings. This happened a mere 20 to 30 years ago.
Every single family in Cambodia has experienced tragedy and untimely death. They are a solemn people. Yet they are thriving. Tourism is bringing back prosperity and hope and happiness. Siem Reap, Cambodia, home to the famous ancient ruins of an amazingly flourishing past, is a testament to the remaking of a happy Cambodia.
Angkor Wat
This is the largest religious complex in the world, 1000 years old and one of the Seven Wonders. Built of solid stone blocks which were quarried 20 miles away and intricately carved and placed specifically to depict the sacred mountains and the history of the Khmer Dynasty. 

There are other such complexes, although smaller, which have been reclaimed by the Cambodian jungle. These have been practically untouched, unrestored and left to our imaginations. Ta Prohm is such a place. When the jungle is not kept at bay it will destroy all that is put in it's way. A seedling which sprouts in a roof tile becomes a massive tree, sending it's roots to seek soil. What once was a magnificently carved edifice becomes encased in the tree's roots and is therefore the jungle itself.

 Ta Prohm: My favorite ancient site of human endeavor

mossy, ruined, amazing

And then there are the places which make a person happy and proud. This next ancient site is recognized for it's remarkable face carvings of the tranquil and effervescent Buddha. All is well, all is good. 

Beng Melia, Cambodia (constructed 12th century)

Next Up: Cambodia and the reverse river

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand

Chiang Rai, Thailand:  home to elephants and jungle covered hilltops

One of my favorite days in Thailand was the playful interaction we had with the elephants. We got to touch them and feed them bananas and sugarcane. All tamed pachyderms have a single, lifelong human companion who cares for them and trains them. The elephant and Thai "mahout" live together and interact daily with each other for their entire lives. Each mahout's verbal queues are unique to their forever elephant friend. These animals are trained to do a variety things.  Some do hilarious tricks and then saunter over to the applauding tourists in hopes of money, which they promptly grab and hand up to the mahout. To touch an elephant is an exhilarating experience. Their skin is surprisingly rough, thick and wrinkly.  Their trunks are powerful and kinda gross.

yes! this elephant painted this picture 

Sitting atop an elephant was not as smooth as I thought. With it's lumbering walk we were often violently thrown from side to side.

Next Up: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2016 Chiang Mai/ Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Busy little city in northern Thailand, great night-market and foot massage!

After a few sweltering days in Bangkok we flew north to the mountainous region of Thailand. This is the land of jungle, cloud forests, elephants and opium. Chiang Mai is a densely populated city surrounded by rice fields and subsistent farms. For a few days we mainly explored the rural countryside and tribe villages by boat and by local truck. Crops are planted and harvested by hand. I am amazed by the substantial amount of work it takes to put rice on my plate. There is an eleven step labor intensive process that has to happen before rice is eaten. In the poorer regions this is done entirely without machinery.

We took a boat ride into the rural jungle and waved to local fishermen on the river

Rice fields

 In the city of Chiang Rai we went to a recently built temple (2004) called the White Temple. It was white, ALL WHITE. Tiny, reflective mirror tiles were liberally included in the architecture and sculptures. The thing practically glowed in the sunlight. Again the detail of the design was breathtaking and overwhelming.

The modern features of this temple complex were strange
to say the least

Next Up: Chiang Rai/Chiang Mai