Thailand Travels

Thailand Travels
Elephant Ride in Thailand

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mental Over Dental

     A few thoughts after three hours in the dentist chair. Who among you absolutely loves and looks forward to their next trip to the dentist? Ah ha, I thought so. I'm not alone. Let me say first and foremost, I have perfectly wonderful dentists. Just in case he (and she) reads this. I want all my bases covered. No oral retribution, please!
     I do, however, cringe when it comes to my next appointment. Perhaps it goes back to the fact that I've been seeing a dentist on a fairly regular basis since my 'pearly whites' came in. My parents saw to my good dental care. I painfully remember having my teeth straightened (twice!). That was back when braces were not de rigueur. Today they are cool. Brightly colored braces and bands ease what used to be the stigma.
     Not being blessed with rock hard enamel, fillings became a regular thing. I have had 'up close and personal' contact with (a) the dentist (b) the orthodontist (c) endodontist and (d) oral surgeon. I've eluded the periodontist but I know he looms out there somewhere.
     I have more crowns than centuries of the British monarchy. There are more root canals (thanks to the endodontist) than found in Venice. So far, I've not had gold placed on my teeth. To my way of thinking, if I'm wearing gold, I want it around my neck, arm or fingers where I can see and admire it.
     The technology and ambiance in the dental office has evolved dramatically over the years. It's my belief that many magazine publications are only afloat thanks to the waiting rooms out there. I almost want to arrive early so I can keep up with them all. Notice I said 'almost'.
     Regardless of the advances in dentistry there is still the sound of the drill. That high pitched whine is embedded in my subconscious. The simple dental chair has become a plush, multi-function resting spot designed to lull one into submission. It might work except for two things. THE DRILL and THE NEEDLE.
     Some unsolvable mysteries at the dentist's revolves around questions by the professional with his hand in my mouth. Why ask, 'does this hurt, can you feel this, and other such questions that can only be answered by arghh, uh uhn or ehh'. Do you really think he can translate?
     I've thought about 'ending it all' and going to dentures, but the prospect of all those added appointments to reach that stage forces me to keep the choppers I've got. Meanwhile, I'll just live with the 'f' words. Floss, Flouride and Phobia.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Personal Zoo Pt. 6

     At the National Bison Range in Montana we were surrounded by the shaggy critters. And, of course, there was also those humans snapping shots to take home.  They were obviously clueless as to how fast these animals can really move if so motivated. Now that would have been a real picture for the album.
     I'm not sure one can adequately describe the elephants of Thailand. There is nothing quite like sitting atop one as it lumbers down the path ahead. The 'mahoot' or caregiver of his particular elephant scrubs it in the river when they emerge from the jungle each day. To our surprise, our fellow jumped down off the elephant an took off down the path ahead. We wondered who was steering, but as soon as he snapped our picture he was back on board. An elephant related job that I could easily forego was that of the women who stood downstream of the elephant 'carwash' to collect the dung.  Apparently it would be recycled.
     So creatures large and small have entered by life at one time or another. Each one had the ability to educate and amaze. Hopefully my future journeys will afford even more opportunities to add to my 'zoo' list.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My personal zoo pt.5

     On a trail in the rainforest of Costa Rica I saw both the smallest and most beautiful creatures about. Tiny leaf cutter ants carrying burdens many times their size headed across the trail in a single line. They obviously were on their way back to the nest. We carefully avoided disrupting their journey. Crossing our path above was the prettiest butterfly I'd ever seen. This nameless beauty was the size of my hand and the most brilliant blue I'd not even found in a flower.
     The meanest critter of all was the Tasmanian devil. In an enclosed area we witnessed their feeding time and it wasn't pretty. The rabbits on their menu, thankfully no longer alive, were torn apart by rival 'devils' with a ferocity I'd yet to see in nature.
     In contrast, the koalas seemed content to make use of their time munching on bamboo shoots. There were two marsupials on our 'go to' list on the Australian trip. Kangaroos eluded us but their smaller cousins the wallabies put on a show with their bouncing around.
     Alaska's animals were not in short supply. Sadly the only moose we saw lay alongside the train track. Obviously he was the loser in an encounter with the train. We were fortunate enough to stand in one spot in Denali National Park and see grizzly bears, caribou, deer and far above in the distance, dall sheep. The grizzly we watched from the bus was busily digging to reach into the burrow of a ground squirrel. It took only three swipe with its massive claws to be shoulder deep into the burrow. Later we witnessed a sow grizzly with her two cubs along the side of the road. This was at the bottom of a steep hill and we wondered as we watched a cyclist headed in that direction exactly how fast he could pedal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My personal zoo-Pt. 4

     Dogs. Yes, they figured in my travels as well.  Underfed, not happy looking ones roamed the streets of Playa de Carmen in Mexico.  One of my fellow travelers had brought dog food along with her on the plane and did her part for the many that naturally followed us down the streets. Other street dogs in Bangkok, Thailand seemed to have an easier lot. These staked out territories on the street awaiting their meal from people who lived in the properties along the way. It seemed the the dogs and the people had an ongoing arrangement.
     The most well-trained and intelligent of the canine kingdom I ever saw was in Ireland. These border collies seemed eager to perform their tasks for their owners. It was amazing to witness that with the wave of a hand or pitched whistle, they could herd the sheep exactly where they were wanted by their master. Years of training went into the preparation for the tasks given. Other dogs that eagerly went about their business were the sled dogs in Alaska. Even in summer weather they happily awaited being hooked up and given full rein to run. One gem of wisdom from the musher was, 'if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes'.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Personal zoo-pt.3

     What I would call 'Mexican squirrels' were the many iguanas that appeared everywhere we went there. Most were content to simply 'chill out' in the sunshine. Quite a different reptile was the 'Jesus Christ lizard' in Costa Rica. The name rightly comes from its ability to walk on water.  Actually, they ran at a fast pace ahead of our boat, perhaps leading the way downriver. Maybe they were simply trying to escape the cayman that lounged on the nearby riverbank. Geckos skittered along walls and floors of an outdoor restaurant in Maui, Hawaii. The largest cockroaches I'd ever seen made their appearance too. Do geckos eat cockroaches? And what was that stuff in our salad?
     Dolphins, killer whales, gray whales, seals and a barracuda all made their presence known for the camera. My most memorable dolphin encounter happened when one followed alongside our boat back to shore after I had descended from a trip aloft while parasailing in Mexico. Other dolphins were found both off the Southern California coast and in Mexican waters. A barracuda was a scary surprise as I was finishing snorkeling on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. It was less interested in me than I was of him. I made a hasty retreat to the nearby dock. Killer whales followed our cruise ship on the Inland Passage of Alaska. Seals lounged the beaches of California as well as the area of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.
     One of the more fascinating 'critters' on our travels was the Magellanic penguin of Puerto Arenas, Argentina.  We were able to observe them at very close range. Nicknamed the 'Jackass penguin' because of their constant braying, they made their presence known with gusto.  We watched them digging out their underground nests, waddling under the boardwalk where we stood and going for a swim in the chilly waters. Their small size was in no way diminished by their raucous calls to one another.
     Fish of every size and color paraded before me while snorkeling in Hawaii. My best fish story ever (I have the pictures to prove it) was the fifty (yes 50) pound catfish I caught while traveling near Bangkok, Thailand. Admittedly, this was in an enclosed area, but still, fifty pounds! In Alaska it was possible to actually walk across the backs of spawning salmon in the shallow streams. With their bright red color, they were easily spotted by dining bears and eagles.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Personal Zoo pt.II

     What l would call 'beggar birds' were the pigeons of St. Mark's Square in Venice. Quite at home with the photo-taking tourists, much like the incoming tide, they flood the area looking for an easy meal. I was told that at night, nets are used to capture some of the scavengers in an effort to keep the population down. They are definitely not an endangered species.
     When it comes to birds, Costa Rica boasts of having more species than anywhere else in the world. We witnessed the Oronoco bird working on  its nest high in the trees. The interesting thing about them is that the nests hang from the branches, swaying in the breeze, looking much like purses that have been flung on high.  Heard, but not see up close were the parrots that darted about in the canopy overhead.
     We observed the ravens who are the legendary birds of London's White Tower. There are always six 'on duty' so as the centuries old myth goes, they keep the tower from crumbling to the ground.  With wings clipped by the ravenmaster, they are well fed and not perturbed at all by the stream of visitors to the tower.
     White peacocks and pheasants were seen in the gardens of Isola Madre, an island off the northern coast of Italy. Again, more peacocks along with swans and guinea hens roamed the gardens of Leeds castle in Kent, England. Peacocks seem to be 'the bird of choice' among the landed gentry worldwide.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My personal zoo

     I have been fortunate enough in my lifetime to encounter on various trips in many places the creatures in the nature of God's creation.  From the smallest leafcutter ant in the rainforest of Costa Rica to the magnificent elephants in Chiang Mai Thailand I've seen  a wide variety of wildlife. I'm not referring to what is found in a zoo but rather mostly in natural habitats. Photos and occasional notes have kept those creatures fresh in my memory.
     A river trip in Costa Rica brought us 'up close and personal' with howler monkeys. Yes, they do rightly earn their name. Lounging lazily in the surrounding trees, they commented loudly on our passing. In Thailand, small monkeys gathered round us near a Wat (temple) in their role as professional beggars. We were warned not to feed or encourage them, as biting was high in their bag of tricks.
     There is nothing quite so amazing as the albatross and its life at sea.  Standing on the deck of the cruise ship, we watched them sail along, taking advantage of the wind currents, all the while many miles from shore. Their trips to land were infrequent, as the sea was their home. We did however see a colony of royal albatross in New Zealand.
     Also in New Zealand, seen in a darkened area was the elusive kiwi bird. Nocturnal by nature, the only way to actually view them is in such an enclosed setting.  They sleep twenty hours a day. By contrast, the rhea, as a flightless bird seemed to roam the area of Patagonia at will. Large in size, they are actually a close cousin to the ostrich and emu. They are quite capable of outrunning most predators.
     The bald eagle of Alaska soars above, searching out their next meal. At home in both the salmon filled rivers and open ranges, they seemed relentless in their quest.  The wide wingspan allows them freedom to hunt the air currents at will. The Inside Passage of Alaska was awash with birds nesting along the banks that could only be called 'precarious'.  Kittiwaits and gulls put out a cacophony of sound occasionally topped by the crash of ice calving from the glaciers.  Condors with their enormous six-foot wingspan sailed over the plains of Patagonia.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

'Crafty in Ireland'

2011 is 'The Year of the Craft' in Ireland.  Festivals and events are taking place throughout the Emerald Isle.  Breathtaking scenery, a country steeped in history and the worlds' most friendly people remain ones' first impression of this land. The history buff and hiker are welcome. For now, crafts rule.
Crafts cover a wide spectrum of interests ranging from commercial ventures to local entrepreneurs. On a large scale are the stunning pieces of crystal from the Waterford factory. Skilled craftsmen work with precision in the blasting heat of their furnaces. Tours are given. It must be noted, there are no 'seconds'. Imperfections are tossed.
Two other commercial ventures requiring the skill of a craftsman are the beer and whiskey facilities. Tastings are more than welcome. Both Guiness and Jameson give tours as well. Lace making from the local to the commercial appear everywhere. Hand knit sweaters and wide variety of uses for the mountains of sheared wool abound. Crafted jewelry featuring Celtic designs temp the traveler. Claddagh rings and the ubiquitous shamrock-inspired pieces can be purchased.
Traveling to Ireland can involve everything from individual itineraries to guided tours Unless one is proficient in driving 'on the wrong side of the road', a tour guide could be the most expeditious way to go.
No matter how much or how little you immerse yourself in this culture it will hands down likely be that you will come away enriched by this 'crafty' experience

Monday, March 7, 2011

How do I share my profile?

Travels of Dee Prom

How do you describe the elephants of Thailand? They are revered by the Thai people and their images appear everywhere. The experience of riding atop one of these magnificent creatures down a jungle path goes beyond adequate description. The mahoot (caregiver of the elephant)works one on one with his particular animal. He even scrubs the elephant in the river before the day's journey begins. A surprising aside the ride involves the mahoot leaping from his perch atop the elephant, jogging down the path to photograph his passengers. There is a 'green' aspect to the elephants that comes with the recycling of their dung. While the mahoot is washing the elephant there are women with large baskets standing downriver of this 'carwash' to gather the remains for future use. Everything from picture frames to writing paper are made use of. Another talent of the elephants that have been trained was their ability to play soccer or paint a picture for the visitors to the reserve.