Part 2 – Fishing!

With  laundry done, groceries (including 2 bottles of Gravol), and beer in the camper  we were ready for the next half of this adventure, Fishing.  We left Prince Rupert in, you guessed it,  the rain.   I will admit, I had a little anxiety about our fishing trip.  We’ve been with our  friends to the Work Channel a few times fishing in the past, but I never boated out the  50 or so Km  to the open ocean.  I always stayed in the channel prawning/crabbing and when they went to the open, I stayed at camp and read, hiked, and painted. I enjoyed the peace and quiet! Now the time has come to pull up my big girl panties and give that open ocean a try.  There is a floating camp at the mouth of the work Channel, and we had reservations for 3 nights.  As it is close to where they fish,  I was assured if I got  sick, it would only be a 5 – 10 minute trip back to  camp.

We got to the campsite only 15 minutes before our friends arrived.  It was raining lightly, and much to my delight the Eagles were everywhere.  Once Kevin and Deanna arrived we set up camp, and then launched the boat to set a few traps.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a good haul,  although we did get a taste of prawns for dinner! They had brought some firewood with them, so we enjoyed dinner under a tarp with a nice warm fire burning.  First fire we had on the trip, without dry wood, or a lot of other fuel, no way to get a fire burning in these parts of the province.  The next morning we loaded up our gear for the next few days, sleeping bag, food, beer (hardly enough as I tried to explain to Gary!) GRAVOL etc.  and headed out to find the traps we set the night before.  It was extremely foggy, and having the GPS helped find the buoys we set out the night before.  Again, enough prawns for a snack for us all, didn’t catch many but they were big,  and a few crabs, that were either female, or too small.

Once the traps were pulled, and readied for another spot we headed out to the open ocean.  It was pretty slow going as we couldn’t see much at first, but as we got further out the channel the sun began to shine and it turned into a  beautiful day.

We stopped at the Victory Cove floating camp to drop our gear off, and check out our place for the next three nights.  Its pretty rustic, but has all the comforts of home.  It has just been bought by new people, and they are extremely enthusiastic about their whole venture.  Next week they are hauling the whole camp to Prince Rupert and will do some major renovations to it over the winter.  It should be there by the time I’m writing this, It would have been interesting to see the move, as I know, it can get pretty rough out there.

So off we go, into the open to see if the salmon are going to be any more cooperative than crabs and prawns.   First riggin’ up the rods, and then get them in the water…Gary hadn’t even got his rod into the holder, and got a bite!  Yup brought in a big ol’ salmon.  The next one, only a few minutes later I got to bring in.  They are coho salmon, so apparently don’t fight as hard as others, but it was a thrill to bring in my first salmon, ever!  It was a very successful day, catching 7 with only 1/2 a day out, and that isn’t counting the ones that got away, or were too small.   We did catch a few “bait” fish, and one huge red snapper that we ate, surprisingly it was very tasty.  If 1/2 a day on the boat produced this much, what are 2 full days going to produce?

I was so surprised that I did so well out there.  I did take a gravol, and thought I had it made.  Didn’t feel wheezy at all.  Maybe I would make an ocean fisherwoman after all!  After all that ocean air, we were all pretty tired after supper, so was an early night, and then an early morning to head out to the fishing hole.  Of course the ocean is alive with fishing boats of every description, traveling in every direction.  There are some spots of course that are known for being “good” and those spots are particularly busy.  Someone has always got to be at the helm,  although that job was mostly reserved for Kevin and Deanna, every once in awhile Gary or I would take it so they could haul in a fish or two.  The weather wasn’t too bad today, a mixture of sun and rain, and when the sun was out it was hot.  A lot more rolling waves today, and I did get feeling a little nauseous and was kicked off at camp in the afternoon.  Fishing was a little slower today, although 6 fish were hauled onboard, but as they say, that’s fishin’.    When the fish weren’t biting we were well entertained by the humpback whales.  There were several large pods in the area, and you could see them blowing  just about everywhere you looked.  We were very close to them several times, not that we tried to be, we just happen to be in their path, and the stench they emit when they blow is so rank!  Who knew?  And the noises we heard from the pods on occasion were so strange, almost like a fog horn.  I knew whales “sang” but not sure I’ve ever heard that noise on National Geographic films!   We did see a few totally breach, but of course the camera is never ready for that split moment that it occurs, and if it is ready…you are usually pointing it in the wrong direction!  But, that’s whale watchin’.

Victory Cove has everything you could possibly want for a floating camp. Their covered gazebo comes complete with couches, benches, barbeques and cooking utensils and pots, which we sadly didn’t have to use,  for cooking prawns, crab etc.    They also have freezers in which you could freeze anything that you catch, but it is done on a trust system, and fortunately when we were leaving, our complete catch was there frozen solid!   It was such a relaxed atmosphere, and everyone had stories of the day to tell, although fishing secrets were carefully kept!  Kevin was able to tie his boat up at the back of the floating camp, so was calm and quiet back there.  The dock was a great spot to sit and watch the whales in the evenings.    They would swim up the channel for a ways, and then turn around and swim back in front of the camp.

That night I was able to stay up late enough, that it was dark enough to see dinoflagellates.  These are tiny organisms that glow when the water is disturbed.  That glow is an example of bioluminescence, which is a result of an enzymatic reaction.  It was so interesting to move a stick around in the water, and see the path light up in a green/blue glow.  I’ve seen some remarkable things on our travels, but I was amazed by this.    I was surprised that we didn’t see more bears, but I suppose with the miles and miles of DSCN0453coast line, there are many feeding grounds for them.  We did see one wonder down to the water line, but he didn’t hang around, merely got a drink, and headed back  up the rocks and into the bush.   Any of the bears we have seen are very shiny, I guess to the constant rain, and wet undergrowth, they stay well groomed.  They all appear to be very healthy, and Big!    Ocean fishing was a new experience for me.  I really was enjoying it, but I couldn’t seem to handle the rolling waves.  We did anchor on our last full day out to jig for halibut.  Once again, Gary was the first to pull a small one soon after we set anchor.  But it just wasn’t in the cards to continue.  The wind and rain came up, in what seemed like minutes, and it was a scramble to get the anchor up as the boat swayed from side to side, forwards and backwards in the wind.  Not sure how high the waves were, but a few sideway hits were a little unnerving for me.  In any case, the captain, with his life jacket on, was on the bow for quite some time  pulling the anchor up.  With the wind blowing the boat here and there, it was not an easy task.   Then we headed into a calmer waters to clean the one fish we caught, and head back to Victory Cove to pack up!

Pretty uneventful trip back to the head of the Work Channel.   We loaded up the boat, and got things put down and away in camper, and off we all headed for Terrace.  We stayed in Terrace for a couple nights while Kevin and Deanna headed further down the highway.  My brother was coming in from his ferry/ road (ocean) trip from Port Hardy to Rupert and then on to Terrace, so had a good visit with him as well.  On Sept. 3, we had breakfast with Mom, Brother and cousin and wife, and headed down the highway.  Next stop with friends at Francios Lake.   Having driven past this area so many times in the past, it was a nice stop.   The Lake is 110 kilometers long and is the second longest natural lake in  BC.  Crystal clear, and calm that evening, we were lucky enough to go out on a geezer glider (party boat) and enjoy the evening.

Next stop Chetwynd.  It was a wonderful experience, even the rain had its way to bring  beauty to this  province of ours.  It all adds to the adventure we were looking for.  Of course, I’m sure we would have had just as much fun and enjoyed our time in the sun – but its all part of travelling around on the North West Coast of the Province.  Best advice I could give anyone, be prepared for anything, pack as though its going to rain the whole time and you wont be disappointed with a trip to this outstanding, beautiful part of British Columbia.  Next adventure?  Many ideas rambling around in our brains.  We shall see what comes next for another trip, be it a plane, train, boat, or automobile, or maybe all of the above, it will be an Adventure.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

 

 

Posted in Haida Gwaii & Fishing | 1 Comment

Part 1 – Haida Gwaii

Off on another adventure, this time through our home province of BC. It’s very easy to see how we adopted the theme “Beautiful British Columbia” when you travel across it, and then onto the enchanting islands off the north coast,  Haida Gwaii, aka Queen Charlotte Islands.  Departure from Chetwynd was August 15th, a relatively short drive of 697 km, to Smithers.  Such a beautiful little community, known for their exceptional downhill skiing, glaciers and beautiful rivers and streams.  We camped at the Municipal campground, as we always do, right beside the rushing waters of the Bulkley River.  The next morning we headed further along highway 16 for the 2 hours drive to Terrace, my home town. The highway follows the winding turns, of the Skeena River, through snow capped mountains and flows right through the city of Terrace. There we spent the night with my Mom, and after having a great visit headed out the next afternoon traveling again along the Skeena River for 143 km to Prince Rupert. Unfortunately the entire trip was done in heavy rain, and fog.  We were not able to see all the majestic mountains that line the river. The rain was relentless continuing all day, and night! We went into Cow bay and wondered around the shops, and stopped at the tourist info centre.  We  were treated to beautiful views of the harbor, even in the rain it was beautiful. As well we did some reading  on the history and culture of the city.   The yacht that was docked brought fantasies of luxury cruising to mind, as we left to settle in for the night in our 8 foot camper!

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We wake up to the rain still falling on the 18th  in the city of Prince Rupert,  aka the City of Rainbows… but with fog and clouds blanketing the hills, mountains and islands the sun didn’t have a hope in shining through, alas there were no rainbows as we boarded the ferry, Northern Adventure at 10 am for the 7 hour trip to Haida Gwaii.

About ½ ways through the trip, the sun made an appearance, although it was still  cold, and windy on the deck we didn’t spend much time there. Arriving at Skidegate on Graham island we travelled  10 km to the village of Queen Charlotte. We found an RV site with full hook ups, The Bunkhouse Resort, we pulled in and reserved our spot.  Maybe we should have looked around!   We headed back into the town to the tourist information centre, where when we asked,  we were advised not traveling the Queen Charlotte Main Road to Rennel Sound due to active logging.   We went back to our resort, and they use the term Resort very lightly.  We were parked in one of only two RV sites, with a couple from Ontario about 2 feet away in their tent trailer. Behind our units stood old building, smaller than our outhouse it was the bathroom!  I’ll just finish this up by saying it was very rustic!  We did go for a little hike down town, and  walked along the beach.  Eagles, to my delight, were everywhere!

The village of Queen Charlotte does not wake up very early in the morning. We had to wait until 9 am to get gas, and then headed out the mainline to Rennel Sound. The trip to the sound is approximately 45 km, however, logging roads are not even close to what we have at home, and it took a few hours to get there, happily we were without rain, and the sites were spectacular. Only a few km into the trip we come around a corner to see our first glimpse at wildlife, a black bear and her cub sauntering along the road without a care in the world.  They didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave the road, and when you see the thick undergrowth, you can understand why.

We did go past several active logging sites, however, being Saturday no one was working so we were not having to dodge logging trucks along the route. Gary was interested in the equipment parked along the road, and more interesting to me , were the size of trees. Once at Rennel Sound we realized that it was a good thing we had not planned to camp at 5 Mile beach.  It was full!  Boats, campers, tents, trailers in every nook and cranny.  We carried on down the road until we came to a reload where we stopped to talk to a fellow cutting firewood. He said that they come out in May, and don’t return home until September, and by the looks of it, most were parked at 5 mile beach doing the same thing.  We parked the truck at the reload and climbed down an embankment to the rocky beach below. Although it was not bright and sunny, it still was rain free, and such a beautiful spot to beach comb.

Back in the truck, and headed out passed the tent city at 5 Mile Beach and back to the Queen Charlotte Mainline road, driving north to  in Port Clements.  The 63 km drive took close to 3 hours!  We did make a couple stops along the way as well, but the road was extremely rough.  We did a short jaunt down an old mossy road to the Yakoun River. Even without the sun shining it was a spectacular place, like being in the middle of a fairy tale.  The moss covers everything here. Huge old stumps from logging past demonstrates that from the old, comes the new; plants and trees growing from the decaying stumps and blow down.

We also walked down to the Fish Hatchery at Marie Lake.  To our disappointment there was no one there, and we did not go out on the dock to the pens, but beautifully place.

Just several km from Port Clements we hit pavement, and with our increased speed, zipped right past the trailhead to the Golden Spruce!  Being only 6km from the Sunset RV & Campsite, we continue our way into Port Clements, and will go back tomorrow.   We stopped at the Tourist Information Centre/Logging Museum but it was only open for another 10 minutes so drove back in the direction of the campsite. We are getting the drift of island life, close early in the evening, open late in the morning!   On our way back we found a little pub along the ocean and stopped for supper and a jaunt out onto Rainbow Pier which juts out from the shore a quarter of a km into Masset Inlet. Beautiful views.  Back at the campsite we went for a short walk along a well maintained trail to the ocean.  A bird watching tower gave us spectacular views of the Yakoun River entering into the ocean, as well as cranes and other shore birds scurrying about looking for food in the mud of low tide.

The next morning we drove back to the Golden Spruce Trail Head. Only the dead tree top is visible hanging over the Yakoun River.  The tree had a genetic mutation that caused the needles to be gold instead of green. In 1997 Grant Hadwin, in protest of the logging industry, went to the site where the spruce stood. Although he did not fall the tree, he used a small power saw to put undercuts in it so as the next wind storm would have it topple over into the Yakoun River. He then proceeded to write a letter explaining his actions, and warning of the impending doom of the sacred and unusual tree, sending copies to MacMillan Bloedel, Green Peace among others. While travelling from Prince Rupert to Port Clements in his Kayak to attend his court case, he went missing, and to this day has not been found, dead or alive.  Apparently there is one other Golden Spruce on Graham Island, but the exact location is not being advertised.

Returning to Port Clements we visited the Logging Museum and spent several hours.  It’s a great stop; I suggest not missing it if going through.  Found the whole museum was set up in a way to make viewing everything so easily.  The first thing that caught my eye was a mounted albino Raven. It was, for a short period of time the mascot of Port Clements, with signs everywhere warning traffic to slow down and watch for the bird, as it didn’t seem to be very concerned with traffic. (I assume because albino animals, birds etc. are generally deaf).  In any case, it was not a vehicle that he succumbed to, but electrocution after, in plain view of many onlookers, it landed on a transformer.

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We really enjoyed seeing all the tools and pictures from logging of years gone by, among other interesting artifacts. Look at those fashions, AND the prices back from 1972 Simpson Sears Catalogue!

This was a pretty interesting find to say the least, I would have been pretty excited to find something like this beach combing!

Back on the road we traveled north to Masset, happily on a paved highway! I was extremely disappointed in both Masset and Old Masset.  There was not a lot to do in either place.  There were numerous galleries and studios that might have been interesting to wander through and shop, but everything was closed. We drove past the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum which was housed in the restored hospital building built in 1914.  It too was closed.

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We headed out of town on the Tow Hill Road, north towards Agate Beach Campground located in Naikoon Provincial Park at the north tip of Graham Island. The trip is about 23 Km, but again, as the road was seemingly not maintained, it took quit sometime to reach our destination. The scenery was absolutely stunning though.

Once we picked our campsite, and met our neighbors we set out to explore.  For no particular reason we headed north along the beach.  It was windy, and cool, but knowing what type of weather we could encounter, we were dressed for it, and it was comfortable.   We ended up scrambling over rocks, and timing the waves so as not to get soaked as they smashed into the rocks below us. These rocks had at one point been part of Tow Hill, but now what stood above us was a sheer rock wall, with plants and moss clinging.  Once on the other side the walking was great on basically flat worn black rock, and we watched as the blow hole filled with water and shot meters into the air. We did join up with the blowhole viewpoint trail, and ended up walking back along the boardwalk, past the trail to Tow Hill, out to the parking lot, and walked most of the way back to the campground via the road.  We did cut through the bush to the beach the last km.  Our short before dinner walk turned into over 9.5 km. But after not being too active for the last several days, it was great to get out and hoof it!  Found many shells and rocks….some of which actually turn out to be agates!

It started raining around 8:30 pm and it was torrential rain all night, and into the morning. Our neighbors apologized for the noise they were making throughout the night as they were out trenching the water to flow around, instead of through their tent. We didn’t hear anything except the rain bucketing down on our roof. I woke bright and early, well it wasn’t bright, still raining…but it was early.  I headed out to explore the beach myself, again I headed north.    There were locals out, literally stomping around on the sand as the tide was out.   I walked towards one fellow, and he explained he was shocking the razor clams to move, and then would shovel them out.  He explained the process to me, and had been doing this for 40 years.  Down the beach a little further about 10 people were digging for clams in a not so traditional way.  They had a generator sitting on a high stand in the ocean, it was attached to a pressure washer and wand which they would stick into the sand and basically float up the razor clams!  It was interesting to say the least.  I was able to walk on the beach all the way to the blow hole, and  right around the point.  I found a couple live crabs in a pond which would have been great for breakfast, but I had no way of getting them back to camp alive! There were a few freshly dug holes in the sand as well, and on further inspection something, possibly an otter, had dug breakfast up!  The day before the rocks were as though they were alive with the water crashing against them, but this morning with a light rain falling and no wind it was like exploring a new place. Pools of water remained in a multitude of carved out bowls and crevices within the rocks, starfish clung to the sides of the boulders waiting for the waters, and food supply to return. Eagles were everywhere, the beach, rocks, perched in the trees and soaring overhead.

On returning to the camper Gary met me at the beach with a cup of coffee and we sat and enjoyed the views as the clouds started to dissipate and the sun was making an appearance.  After breakfast we walked south along the beach We did a fair amount of rock scrambling on this side as well, but when we got around the point, it was another stretch of beach.  I could have gone for miles more, but we were also going to hike Tow Hill, so headed back towards camp.

Hiking Tow Hill is pretty easy as it is mostly boardwalk, and a lot of steps.  Its a climb, but its easy going.  The first stop was a view point about ½ ways to the top. From there we were presented with beautiful views of the crashing waves onto North Beach.  The sun was almost shining!   We continued to the top where we were offered yet another stunning view of Agate Beach.

It was turning out to be a good-looking, sunny day.  Once back down we drove across the Heillen River bridge, parked and walked a couple km down that beach.  There were a few people out in the water trying their skill at surfing, and several campsites set up along the beach – just above the high tide mark.   It was a very successful beach combing, and hiking day.  I found many shells, some rocks, some agates and Gus found a bottle!  The cap was still intact, although there must have been a crack somewhere as the liquid was gone.  Not sure exactly where it came from, but writing on it made us believe it came across the ocean!

Once again, the rain started at 8:30 pm, and poured all night.  Thinking about our neighbours in their tent, we were thankful for our solid roof and walls. The next morning, August 22, we left Agate Beach and the soggy surroundings for Masset.  Again, even in the rain, the harbors are beautiful.

 

The rain continued until we headed southwest of Masset towards Tlell. By the time we reached our Campsite at Misty Meadows RV Park the sun was starting to shine!  It was still early enough to go on a hike, so headed out to the Pesuta Trailhead.    One sign at the start states its 5km out and then back… It was still early enough to go. The other sign, like all the other trails said there were bears in the area.   The tide was high, so we took the high trail which was a great deal of up and down and around but was relatively great hiking, and again the surroundings were so unlike what we are accustom to.  We got our first glimpse of the Pesuta before picking a spot to head over the bank to the river below.

Once we were able to get down onto the beach we came across a flock of mergansers sunning their selves, we got quite close before they headed into the water.  By the time we reached the wreck, the sun was shining bright, and we sat and enjoyed the views up and down the beach.  This log barge ran aground at the mouth of the Tlell River in 1928, and it amazed me how much still remained with the waves crashing into it, and the extreme humid conditions it endures year after year.

Once we headed back we did meet several other hikers, but because of the distance, and the density of the trails it’s not like other trails that you are continually in contact with others.  We were able to follow the Tlell River most of the way back as the tide was receding. There were millions of Jelly fish drying out in the mud and grass!

A few Km from the Trailhead it was getting very muddy, and tall wet grass which was  making it difficult to walk. We knew the trail was just above us, up a mossy cliff of rocks, and deadfalls so we started to climb.  Gary reached the top first, and helped me up over the last couple of rocks, then as we turned to continue our hike we spotted the bear!  Was a pretty big , shiny black bear only a couple hundred feet away, right in the middle of the trail! We yelled, waved our arms and jumped up and down until it ambled over the bank we had just climbed up!  By the time we walked to where he went over, we could see nothing over the bank, however, a couple more steps down the trail we came across some steaming bear scat! Between the fish, berries and massive slugs  I believe the bears are well fed here,  however, with that said I do worry about startling a bear, or coming across one with a cub, and we were literally feet away from coming up the bank right at his feet.

The hike took much long than what we had anticipated, and although we did some stopping, looking and enjoyed the hike, our technology stated that it was 16.4 km. round trip… not 10km like the sign said, however the sign about bears in the area pretty much hit the mark!  I found a video of someone on this hike.   They also  made a scramble for the top when it got muddy.

The next morning, as usual, we woke to the rain.  It wasn’t hard, more of a mist. But we donned our rain gear and hiked out to the beach from the campground.  Tide was out, so we were able to find many interesting things on the beach, and rocks.  Seem to be many more star fish in these tidal pools  than any other place we were.

After we roamed  on the beach and sand we wondered back to the camper, with over 13 km under our belt and headed for the ferry terminal to catch the next ferry from Skidegate to Alliford Bay (Sandspit) on Morsbey Island.  Along the way we ran across this balancing rock, not sure why the high tide and waves don’t knock it over!

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On arrival in Skidegate, we sat in the ferry line for only 1/2 hour before the next 20 minute sailing to Moresby Island.  Still the rain was pelting down  but a calm sailing across.

DSCN0230We drove the 15 km into Sandspit where we fueled up, and  headed for the tourist information centre which is located at the airport at the other end of town.    As with most of the tourist information centres we’ve encountered, it is more of a gift shop, but we did get a few questions answered. Sandspit is the only community of Moresby Island, with a population of approximately 1000 people.   We headed out on Copper Bay Mainline on what is considered another well maintained 21 kilometre active gravel logging road. I’m not sure what the not so well maintained logging roads are like,  but you could loose a small car in some places on this mainline!  Once again, the time limit to travel  21 km exceeded our estimated time of arrival, but all was good along the way. We went past Copper Bay, where I believe people move into cabins during fishing season.  Some of the cabins have been there for many years, but I think they are mostly all still used during fishing season.

Once we set up, which is pretty quick to do with a camper, we were off to explore the beach in the warm sun that finally made an appearance again.  We strolled quite a distance to the south, decided we would just go to the point and then return.  Our hike was cut a little short as we saw a black bear on the beach over turning rocks looking for food.  IMG_1595So as not to disturb him we turned around and headed back to the camper.  We grabbed a cocktail and headed back to a log on the beach to watch the sun, and storm clouds in the distance before heading in for supper.   When Gary had brought the cocktails out, he had seen a strange looking frog, so when we headed back to the camper we were looking on the ground so we didn’t step on it, and when I looked up there were two deer standing not 10 feet away from us.  They didn’t really care that we were there, and continued eating as we took a photo and headed the few steps left to the camper.

The next morning the sun was shining on us as we left for our hike along the beach to the north.  Again so many interesting things to do and see.  Yes, we ended up doing some rock scrambling again, but it wasn’t too bad.  We were going to go around the point and see if we could find Secret cove without driving to the trail head, but alas, the bush was so dense, and the tide was coming in – which eventually would cover the entire rock point we were walking on.  We never did get to Secret Cove, but we did find some interesting things along the way.

So came the time to head back towards Alliford Bay to catch the next ferry back to Graham island.  Wasn’t raining on the way back, but rain seemed to be everywhere around us.  A fellow who had worked the ferry for over 20 years said he has never seen a ship as big as this in the harbor off of Queen Charlotte.  Its called The World.  You can purchase rooms, and sail around the world on it.   Check it out here .

Once we got back into Queen Charlotte we went straight to the campground on Cemetery Road.  We didn’t realize there were only  6 spots at the Hayden Turner campground which is run by the municipality.  We turned around at the cemetery gate, and on our way back out a couple stopped us and asked if we wanted to share their spot!  So we backed in to this wonderful spot among the old growth trees, and went for a walk out to Bear Skin Bay and then through the cemetery.  So many people put so much thought into how they celebrate their loved ones.  Or maybe, it is those that had died that made the special requests for their place of rest.

On the morning of the 25th I woke up early to a very angry Eagle screeching!  I got out of bed, dressed, and went for another walk around Bear Skin Bay.  Although it was still raining, I enjoyed the peace and quiet the morning brought, other than the angry eagle, there was no noise except the lapping of the waves.

After breakfast we drove  back  Skidegate to the Spirit Lake Trail Head.  It is a short 3km walk, on a very well groomed trail. There was  1 other vehicle in the parking lot when we left, so a quiet hike I would have thought.  There were some beautiful carvings at the trailhead.  The Wasco is a giant sea monster, half wolf and half killer whale that had the ability to move on both land and in the sea.   I have to admit I loved reading the myths the Haida’s had written about at many of the stops we made.  They are truly entertaining, and imaginative.  If you are interested you can read some of them here.

As we neared the loop end, and going to join back up with the original trail we spotted another sign …  It didn’t give any distances, and we knew it wasn’t going to be a hard packed trail, but I don’t think we expected what we actually ended up going through.  We were up and down over deadfalls, walking through marshy wetlands, going up and down steep banks, and at times really hunting for that next ribbon to show us the way.  A couple times we heard people behind us, but then there was nothing, we thought they had turned around.   We came to a hill (bank) that had ropes to assist a person down, and we were thinking about turning around when out of no where the 3 girls that had been behind us showed up.  They were going to push on because “it couldn’t be far now”.  We didn’t have to be at the ferry until 8 that night, so we too pushed on.  I have to admit, now, the views were spectacular.  Although now we could see we were a long ways away from the camper!   We came out of the bush across the highway from the Museum, and walked back to the trailhead along the highway.   I was very thankful that the rain didn’t start until we were just about off the hill!   Adventure, that’s what its all about!

We stopped at ate, a well deserved lunch, at JAGS!  It was great food, and very hospitable people.  A Ma and Pop and kids operation, which are few and far between.  Only complaint is I thought I had earned an ice cold beer….and they didn’t serve alcohol. In any case we found a spot to pull over along the highway, it was actually a gravel parking lot next to the helicopter pad for medivacs.  A fellow stopped and told us that we couldn’t set up camp there, and when we explained we were catching the 10 o’clock ferry, he figured we’d be alright to stay there until then.  Sat on the bank overlooking the ocean, and The World Cruise ship, wondering why they were still sitting there when the weather was so poor!  We got onto the ferry at 9:10 and we went to our sleeping berth, which was extremely comfortable.  There was even time to each have a long hot shower before we left the terminal…which I’m sure was easier than trying to shower while going over waves.  I think by the time the lights of Skidegate disappeared, I was already asleep.

Arriving in Prince Rupert around 6 a.m. and nothing opened, we went to the Walmart parking lot, and had a great snooze before reserving a spot at the RV Campground again.  Although we felt we had slept well on the ferry, we both slept another couple hours!  Then it was time to stock up, an get organized for  the Work Channel for our fishing adventure.  Stay tuned for Part 2 – Fishing!

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The Trip Home

March 10th, and time to leave this beautiful city, and adventure and head home. It has been such an experience from start to finish. We left the hotel for Suvarnabhumi Airport  relatively early, due to potential traffic problems we thought better early than late.  No problems at all so we were not in a rush when we got to the airport, which is always nice. No issues going through security and finding the departure gate so we were able to appreciate all the art along the route.  It is a very modern terminal, finished in 2006.  It is impressive boasting the world’s tallest free standing control tower at 434 feet, and is the worlds 4th largest single airport terminal at 6,060,000 sq. feet.  In 2012 it had 53 million passengers pass through, making it the 6th busiest in the country (12 in the world).  In 2012 the terminal had more photographs taken and posted to social media than any other airport in the world.  Having been there, I can understand why!  It is beautiful, AND it has a DQ!

Once we found our gate we wandered back to the DQ and had ourselves a small blizzard! Not the Mango Sticky Rice!    The trip to Hong Kong was uneventful, and with only a two hour layover we were onto an Air Canada Flight to Vancouver.   It was only around 7:30 pm, but it looked horrible outside.  Wasn’t raining, it was actually very warm out,  so think a little fog, and a whole bunch of smog! It wasn’t quite as fancy as our flight over on All Nippon Airlines.  The All Nippon had the new windows in their planes, changed color automatically to help with the jet lag, Air Canada made everyone shut their blinds, and played around with the lighting!   One steward actually got angry with a kid that opened his blind to look outside!  It was daylight, why wouldn’t a kid or adult for that matter, want to see what’s below, land or ocean.   It was basically daylight from the time we left, until we landed in  Vancouver.  I Guess we were going back in time!

A couple hours before we landed Vancouver we were served breakfast and coffee etc.  Again, a strange concept to me as the local time was getting on to supper.  But I again, its to help with the jet lag! Maybe if I get to be a seasoned traveller this will not be quite so odd for me.   After 11 and a half hours in the air we landed in Vancouver, BC  Canada!  We only had a a couple hours lay over, which was taken up mostly  going through customs, and we were off to Calgary for the night.  We stayed in the same hotel as when we left Canada, and I highly recommend the Clique Hotel.  Can’t say enough good about it, exceptional service, room, restaurant/pub and a very affordable stay!  We will definitely stay there on our next overnight in Calgary. Kendal and Kyle were arriving in Calgary sometime around 6 am on their way to Las Vegas.  We did not meet them at the airport, we didn’t have to fly out until  11 or so.  They had taken our car to the GP airport, and locked the keys inside!  We have programs on our phones, so as long as they worked, it would be no problem.  Yes…arrive in GP and the phone started the car, and opened the doors, so we were good to go out to Ashley’s.  No headaches on the way home, so happy for that.  Our luggage was with us the whole time, never lost it once, which was awesome.  Although again we found we packed an over abundance of cloths!  I believe we could have made due with much smaller suitcases.  As we travel more, I will maybe get used of it, but laundry was very inexpensive in all the hotels we stayed,  so next time I would probably make do with a carry on, and a big purse with toiletries!    Not surprisingly we saw how much different things are on the other side of the world, and how spoiled we have become in terms of everyday “things” that we possess, possessions really are over rated in North America. We spent a good deal of time on buses and our CEO was very forthcoming with rituals, customs and daily life in this part of the world.  So much different that what we are accustom to, yet so much less stressful.  I wanted to share a few photos that we thought were interesting.  (And don’t forget, if you click on a photo, you can enlarge it after its opened, just scroll down and open “view in full size”    Some of the photos throughout this blog  (signs, and palaces, temples etc) it is much easier to see the  intricate details.)

We had so many experiences on the adventure and we took thousands of photos, and only posted a handful.  There is nothing like being there and experiencing all of these things yourself, good and bad.   The smells,  customs,  religion, history, and the people are memories not soon forgotten.  I would go back in a heart beat, although, this world is  large, with many places to visit  and people to meet and learn from, we’ll likely head in another direction next time.

 

 

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Bangkok – Grand Palace

Once again, keeping fit while exploring another part of the world, we walked the 4 km to the Grand Palace.  I realize its not that far,  but in the heat and continually dodging around street venders it is exhausting.  Nearing the Palace we came across the Ministry of Defence Building.  The Gardens were  in spectacular shape, and I loved the well manicured topiary. They started building it in  1882 and was officially opened July 1884. The Building and the grounds have been kept in immaculate shape.

As we got within a couple blocks of the Palace a guy comes up and asks where we are going, we told him the Grand Palace, with which her replied, “it is closed right now, but…” and I just turned and continued walking.  I had read about this scam, and wasn’t about to get caught up in it.    A little further down the road we had to go through a check point.  There were a lot of people around and tents set up everywhere.  Not sure what was going on at the time, but we got searched and went through with no problems.  Just before you turn down the street to the entrance of the Palace  a statue sits in the middle of a roundabout. Its a huge statue of three, three headed  pink elephants holding up a gigantic lotus flower.  It was given to the King on his  84th birthday. The three heads represent three major Gods in Hindu mythology.  Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the Keeper and Mahesh  the Destroyer.  The Lotus, represents purity and beauty.  There is so much mythology and customs that are shared throughout SE Asia. 

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There is a dress code at the Grand Palace, as most temples and palaces in Thailand.  Although I did wear pants below my knees I wore a tank top, and brought a  scarf  to cover my shoulders, which was fine elsewhere, but not here.   I was turned around at the gate, and had to purchase a shirt from a vendor that was much too pleased to assist in selling me an “appropriate” shirt that would allow me passage into the  complex. I think it was $1.50.  So now I am a proud owner of a Thailand touristy shirt with elephants on it!    The Palace consists of many buildings built behind a wall at the heart of the city, and has been the official residence of the all the Kings of Siam (later named Thailand) since 1782. The combined complex area is 218,400 square metres or 2,351,000 sq ft, so there is a great deal to see once inside.  There are three main courts, the outer, middle, and the inner courts all having specific buildings and uses.  The inner court, which was a city unto itself, was complete with shops, schools, courts, warehouses and were all controlled by the women.  This inner court was  reserved specifically for the king and his queens, and what are sometimes referred to as “forbidden women”.  The King’s children also lived here, although once boys reached the age of puberty they were sent outside for their education.  Polygamy ended early in the 20th century.  If men were to enter into the inner court, such as a repairmen, doctors, carpenters etc. they would be watched very closely by the female guards.  There are no longer inhabitants at the Inner Court.  The  buildings are no longer used and the entire court is closed to the public, yet guard’s do standby to protect.

There were some beautiful murals on some of the walls, but they were roped off and we couldn’t see them that closely.  Not absolutely sure what the signs said about it being roped off, but as we came across another roped off area, filled hundreds of people dressed in black, it became apparent they were there to pay respects to their King who had passed in October 2016.    As soon as the King passed, the country was put into one year of mourning.  Any joyous occasions were cancelled, including sporting events, and everyone wore black.  Sporting events,  joyous or fun activities, etc were allowed to continue after one months time, although people still wear black, and the kings photos, shrines, and special monuments are all over the city and country.  People are still coming to the Grand Palace in droves  to  wait their turn to pay their respects. Tents are set up outside the palace which allows the tourists room to see the area, and keep the mourners comfortable under tents, away from the blistering sun.   We really enjoyed the visit, even with the thousand of tourists, its well worth the time but remember to cover your shoulders  as a scarf is not appropriate at this palace. Fascinating buildings, architecture and history behind the walls of the Grand Palace.

The famous Emerald Buddha is housed in a temple, with its name at the Grand Palace. It is not made of emerald, as the name suggests, but is made of imperial jade.  I expected it to be larger, but it was only 26 inches high, but is shown magnificently atop a stand of gold colored stands and gems.  The Emeralds Buddha has a long history, having been discovered in  1434 in Northern Thailand. It is indicated that the discovery was made after lightning stuck a Bamboo Monastery, which then revealed a stucco covered Buddha.   It was kept in the residence of the abbot who later discovered a green interior where the stucco was flaking off the nose of the Buddha.  All the stucco was removed to reveal the beautiful Emerald colored Buddha.   It was housed in many places before finding its final resting place in its own temple at the Grand Palace on March 22, 1784.   Shortly after we saw the Emerald Buddha we left the palace, exiting  through a huge set of doors.  Maybe so big so the elephants could maneuver through easily back in the day?

We continued on and passed through the security check again, we noticed there were hundreds of people, all dressed in black sitting in rows under the tents, waiting their turn to go in and pay their respects to the King.    We started to wined our way back towards the hotel.  We took a trip through the China town market, and it was so crowded you couldn’t see anything, and hardly move. It took some time to find our way back out onto a street, and then try to navigate to a street we recognized.    But we made it and found a street side pub that we had stopped at before and settled in to rest our feet and have a nice cocktail.  (really it was a beer, but it was as cold and good as any cocktail I’ve ever had). I am ever intrigued by the complexities of these people lives, and how the new and the old work so well together.  Of course like any country/nation there are idiots out there, and we did see some examples here too.  As we sat resting an elderly gentleman tried to get onto a bus.  He was pretty crippled up, hobbling  with a cane, but he was moving in the direction of the stopped  bus. He waved towards the driver, but only 2 feet from getting on the bus pulled away.  Almost brought tears to my eyes.  But a younger fellow came along, and was told the story and when the next bus arrived he  held his arm, and assisted him on the bus, then he walked away!   So, it did remind me, there is kindness in this world.

 

Back at the hotel we had a quick dinner and headed out for a night cap, and to watch the sun set one more time from our perch.  Unfortunately, the Monks were not chanting this evening, and I have to say I was a little disappointed.  Finishing our beer we headed down to our room to get packed, and ready to leave in the morning.  To say its been a wonderful trip would be an understatement!   Tomorrow….the trip back home!

 

 

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Last days in Bangkok

Wednesday March 8th – another relaxing day for us, once we were able to get Gary’s debit card out of the ATM!  The ATM kept it yesterday,  and so it sat there overnight as we were not able to contact anyone until this afternoon, but its back, and no problems with its sleep over in the machine. I finally went for my Chrysanthemum Soothing and Sweet Almond 90 minute Massage  –  for a bargain price of  1,200 Baht. (approx. $42. Canadian).  Treated like a princess the moment I walked in the door, and offered a purple colored cold tea drink. I’m not a fan of Lemon Grass in anything, and I could tell there was some in the tea,  but wanted to know what made the color.  The flower from the  Clitoria Ternatea plant, more commonly known as the Butterfly Pea flower,  are purple flowers are shaped like a human female genitals, thus the Latin name.  Its the leaves that are said to give the tea  its various said qualities including memory enhancing,  anti-stress, antidepressant, tranquilizing, and sedative properties. If I remember correctly, I only had a couple sips, I don’t remember if it did anything to relieve my stress of returning to the snow in a few days.  Of course you fill a form  before going in the back, and thank God I checked – medium pressure. All but about 10 minutes was perfect.  I actually fell asleep, but then….I think she forgot I wanted only medium pressure, and she went to work on my back and I bout went through the roof.  But I endured, and felt better for it in the end! I was so relaxed by the end I hated to go anywhere after that, but always things to see and do.  When we left the hotel we stopped at the central train station. We saw it from our hotel room, and walked past it several times a day going from and to the hotel.  This station opened in 1916, after 6 years of construction.   It is just beautiful with wooden beams and stained glass everywhere.  The size is large enough to accommodate over 130 trains and approximately 60,000 passengers daily.  In 2004 connections were made to also provide the passage of the Metropolitan Rapid Transit subways, and is also the terminus of the Orient Express. A city always expanding to supply transportation to the millions of residence, and tourists that visit this city each year.

We continued our short tour to the  Wat Traima temple which is only a few blocks around the back of our hotel.  The temple always in the centre of our sunset photos from the hotel. The main attraction at this temple is the 3m-tall, 5.5-tonne solid-gold.  With todays gold prices, it is estimated to be worth over 250 million dollars! The body is about 40% pure gold, while the area between the forehead and chin is 80%!  The hair, and topknot are a whooping 99% pure Gold!  It is visibly different than the other statues, and gold paint ( leaf) that decorates the rest of the temple. The value of the  statue was discover about 40 years ago, by accident.  It was covered in a plaster, with glass decoration which masked the worth.  When they attempted to move it, it dropped from the crane, and plaster broke off, and that is when they discovered the gold. The statue is now kept in a 4 story marble structure at this temple. Having walked past, and looking at the temple for several days, it was nice to go in and walk around the many buildings and artifacts.  It is truly a wonderful example of the artistry of the Thai people.

Next on the agenda was to go to a sky bar for a cocktail. We headed out, with a Tuk Tuk. It didn’t take long before we realized he wasn’t sure where he was going, but he finally stopped and got directions, and delivered us to the right place, although when we finally arrived we didn’t think we were at the Bayoke Sky Tower. In any case, we got there in time for the sunset, which is what we wanted to see.  It still boasts being the highest building in Bangkok, however there is one taller now. We went to the 83rd floor in the elevator, then sat and had our free cocktail, which wasn’t really free because they charge you to go up. What a spectacular view from this height. Just before the sun was going to disappear we walked up to the 84th floor, and got on the revolving observation deck that took us around the building several times.  It was very windy up there, but with the heat of the day still present, it was hardly even cool.  After the sun set we went back down to street level and found another Tuk Tuk to take us back to our hotel.  He was an older fellow, and got us straight back without getting lost, a bonus. Had another wonderful meal along the street, and know I am going to miss the food.

Tomorrow, our last full day in Bangkok, and  it’s gone much too quickly!  We will embark upon the Grand Palace tomorrow, which apparently is not to be missed on a trip to Bangkok.  

 

 

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River Kwai & Burma Railway

We had made arrangements for a tour to the River Kwai and the Burma Railway (Death Railway) which is located in Kanchanabur.  We had to catch a van at 7:30 in the morning, which then took us to the tour companies main transfer station  somewhere in the city.  After we got a little purple stickers, that allowed the tour guide to know which tours we had paid for, we were off  through the city, out onto the open highway touring past  many small villages, and through several toll booths.   It was approximately 2.5 hours trip to the river, but as usual so much to see.  Our driver was a bit of a speed demon, which was at times scary.  He didn’t get us to our destination any sooner  though  as getting pulled over for speeding, not once, but twice only added to the length of the trip. In any case, we did get there in one piece.  The movie  “Bridge over The River Kwai” is a fictional story that made this area famous.  It is a beautiful place, and of course has been transformed into a tourist destination with a great deal of memorabilia, although again, easy to stroll through as the merchants are always busy on cell phones! We did walk across the bridge, and the river looked so inviting in the heat.  It appeared to be more clean than anything else we’ve seen on this adventure, but I suspect it is still filthy.  The  Kuang Im Chapel,  a Buddhist temple sits on the opposite side of the river, and although we didn’t have time to explore it, we did get a closer look when we walked across the bridge.  It was so nice to be out of the city and surrounded by some Thailand nature.  As we neared the opposite side of the bridge we heard a strange, to us, bird.  We stood for a moment looking for it, and Gus was able to capture a wonderful photo.  I’m not sure what its name is, but it truly was a wonderful song it was singing.

There are people which think these tours are exploiting the survivors and  those that lost their lives while the railway was being built.  However,  my opinion is innocent people make a good living through various jobs with the operations of the trains and tours. Some only know this bridge and river from the movie, which again is fictional.    I feel its important that people see what went on during the war, and in some cases it may cause people to feel differently after the experience of being and seeing first hand,through the photos and memorabilia. Unfortunately the tour company we used for this tour seems to get tourists to the  sites, but no information was relayed to us.   We basically see what we want to see, and do what we want to do, and then be back to the  van at a specific time.   Done at the Bridge, we were off to a train station that would take us on a 45 minute (5 stops) railway tour. Once we got to the station we  had a 10 minute wait before the train pulled in, and it was here that we encountered the rudest person on our entire adventure.  In reality,  I don’t think we encountered any rude people, until now. Really it was a joke, and I actually laughed out loud at the feeble mindlessness of this woman.   We were told to sit on the left side (River Kwai side)  if possible.  We found our seats, facing each other. Gus sat facing back, and I sat facing forward –  with another passenger.  Even though she had her cameras etc. on the seat between her and the window, the seats were large enough to fit three people each, so it wasn’t like I was crowding the her. The train starts to chug along, and we are enjoying the view, it was so beautiful, again going through villages and the very fertile farmlands.  We stopped at a station about 15 minutes into the ride. The couple sitting across from us got off the train.  It was another 15 minutes when I  realized we were along the famous part of the railroad where we would be going over a bridge, with the river on one side, and a rock wall, inches from the window on the other.  I stepped across the isle  to take a photo out the opposite window, and when I turned to sit back down she had moved over, leaving me very little room to sit.  Rather than ride backwards; you know motion sickness and all, I stayed on the other seat.

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I couldn’t believe the audacity!  At one point everyone from the right hand side of the train got up to see the view of the river on the left hand side.  It was spectacular, and I know this because  I got up –  like everyone else and leaned out her window…I think she may have got my portrait in all her pictures with the River Kwai below us!  So happy we could share our holiday with such a wonderful person, no wonder she was travelling alone.   In 1885 The British Government surveyed the route for a railway between Thailand and Burma. At that time they  viewed the route to be too difficult as they would have to pass over many rivers, and the jungle terrain. However in June 1942, as the Japanese invaded, they found using the sea was too dangerous, and made the ships too vulnerable to attacked by the allies. A railway from Thailand to Burma was a more reasonable option.   They began building the railway 1942, and was completed in a record amount of time in October 1943.  But the price that was paid were thousands of lives.  There is always conflicting stories, but in general the consensus is over 180,000 civilians , and over 60,000 POW’s worked on the railway.  Thousands died during that time, thus the name, “The Death Railway”.   There are many accounts of how the “working” men of the railroad were treated, but one thing remains constant,  they were beaten, tortured,  overworked, and underfed. Living conditions were atrocious and no medicine for the sick.  Many succumbed to malnutrition and disease.  If you are interested in more history of this railway, there are 6 videos  here that have a great deal of information.

We disembarked the train at Wang Po, where we were shuffled onto the van for a short drive to a Resort on the River Kwai.  Resorts in Thailand are not quite what one from the west would imagine.   It was a little worn looking, and I almost slipped going down the steep sidewalk, but caught the handrail.  The floating café was built very simple, and you could see the water through the floorboards, although good for cleaning crumbs off tables and or floors, the floor boards were warped and uneven, so you had to watch your step!   It was a buffet style lunch, and the food was very good, even went back for a second helping of noodles! The washrooms were a little on the used side as well, and although you could see the water line going to the toilet, you did not see one that would take any away, it was a western toilet though, so I was thankful for small things.    A couple of girls that on our tour were staying here for a few nights, touring the area.  As peaceful as it was,  I was happy we were returning to Bangkok.  Several of the people had booked a bamboo raft trip for after lunch, and so as they prepared to leave those of us who didn’t,  loaded back into a different van and, happily with a different driver.  Although the van was older and not as nice as what we arrived in,  the air conditioning worked and we headed up to the Sai Yok Waterfalls.

Being the dry season the falls were not quite as spectacular as what I had imagine.  But it was still very nice, and peaceful in the country.   Of course I read several signs warning  about the rocks being slippery, but on the way back down I crossed the creek, using the same rock I used going up, but this time wasn’t so lucky.    Yes, landed on my left hip.  Fortunately, only a bruise – that went from red, to purple to green/yellow! At least I wasn’t going to be tempted to go swimming at a pool at the hotel! We wandered around, enjoying the shade and all the flora and fauna.  Then stumbled upon a train at the top of the hill which is one the  Japanese used to haul supplies during the war. 

With our self guided walk over, we were back in the van and headed  towards Bangkok, with one more stop.   One lady on the van was a little annoyed with the stop as they had stopped here on the way to the River Kwai, understandably, she sat in the cool van while the rest of us got out to see the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.  It is the main cemetery for the  Prisoner  of the Japanese that were  imprisoned, and consequently died  while building the railway. There are three memorial cemeteries in Thailand.  The commonwealth graves commission does the upkeep on this cemetery, and I have to admit, it was not what I was expecting.  It is a beautiful tribute to those men, some very young men, who lost their lives during this horrible time in history.  There are several registry books at the gate you pass through, and you can find the plots to anyone you might be trying to find very easily. Strange, you couldn’t leave anything out like that in North America, it would have to replaced every day, however here…it appears the books have been there for quite some time.  

We were able to wander for about 20 minutes.  Despite the fact that it is a beautifully kept cemetery, the haunting reality comes back when you see the ages of many of the young men rested here, those that succumbed to the brutality of the Japanese. Obviously we didn’t look at ALL the tombstones, but those I did had ages ranging from 22 to 35, young men just beginning their lives, those with young families back home, so sad this was their fate. A little somber getting back into the van to continue our trip back into the city.  I felt much safer returning to the city, the trip was uneventful, with no speeding tickets, cutting people off, or going around the block to avoid going through a red light!  Another long, hot day under our belt!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining…tomorrow will be another day in paradise! That night we went to a noodle hut on the street for dinner.  The soup I ordered was HOT, not sure what was in it, but it was so good, I couldn’t stop eating it.  Back at our hotel we had our usual nightcap,  over looking the church, discussing the day, listening to the monks chant and watched yet again a beautiful sunset.

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With only a couple more days before we depart for Canada, I need to still get my massage.  While I was able to convince Gus to have a foot massage in Hue, I don’t think he will be persuaded to go for a 90 minute message here.

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Days in Bangkok

 March 5, Day 17 of our tour, our first day to travel on our own.  The holiday has been great in terms of time,  but we took advantage of no plans and just lazed around for the morning.   It was going to be another hot day, and as it didn’t appear to be far, we slathered up with sunscreen, and headed out to find Jim Thompson House. He was a highly educated American Architect, with a love of the arts, and he fell in love with Thailand and the people while stationed there during the war. He swore when he was released from the army he would return, and settle in Bangkok.  His wife did not move with him.  He became a mogul in the silk industry, reviving the this art all over the world. His pieces landed on Broadway’s  “The King and I” and other such shows.  He disappeared Easter weekend, 1967.  His body was never found, and to date nothing has turned up to indicate any foul play. The man had a keen eye for art, and transformed his house, into nothing less than a gallery with pieces from all over the world.  He played host to countless parties and dinners in the 22 years he lived in Bangkok.  His story, and his house are equally interesting and I highly recommend going to see this historical place.  The property is a little oasis in the middle of the city with a canal running down the side of it.   If you are interested in the legend of this incredibly talented man, and how he revived the art of silk in Asia, you can find more here.

We walked many km today…in the hot humid city of Bangkok.  After seeing Jim Thompson house we searched the map for a route to the Victory Monument.  It seemed like an easy, and short route, so we off we went.  The problem was, several km later, Gus checked his phone GPS, and it actually had us going in the wrong direction, so we turned around, and walked back the way we came, again several more km of back tracking, we checked, and again, it appeared we were still going the wrong way, so we had to resort to the old fashion way, and brought out the paper map! Fortunately the walking was relatively easy.  We had easy walking as we basically were following under the LRT.  There were four lanes of traffic, then a walkway above that, and the LRT above that, so we were actually in the shade while walking back and forth. Finally a nice Thai lady stopped and asked if she could help us – and gave us directions, but did we follow them? Not so much!  Thought we would take a short cut, down off the walking path, and a few alleys later, found ourselves walking away from the monument again. We did get to the monument eventually, then grabbed a tuk tuk back to the hotel – after 17 long, hot, sweaty Km.  Enough was enough.  We saw more of the city than what we intended but was great seeing the contrast in buildings,  how they’ve left the old and introduced the new is very impressive.

Before we went up to the room we decided to find a cold place to have a beer. Although in a busy enough area, there didn’t appear to be very many watering holes so we wandered around for another 20 minutes or so.  I noticed several guys sitting along a store front and one was drinking something out of a can!  I looked closely, but couldn’t tell if it was pop or beer.   They notice me looking as we were walking past, and a fellow came up and asked if we needed some help!  Always a little leary about someone offering when not asked, but we told him we were looking for a pub where we could get a cold beer.  He started giving us directions to the waterfront, and walked across the street to a round about with us.  He told us about a little place, on the second floor overlooking the river,  and if we wanted to eat, they also had great food. After our LONG walk I was hoping it wasn’t a scam and I kept asking the distance. Apparently, not far but he started looking for a tuk tuk, but a specific one, pointing out to he ones that might scam us, and the ones that were legit; yes, it was beginning to look like a scam!   He flags a tuk tuk over, and  gives directions to the new driver, and obviously words of how to direct us to the right place when we arrived, we got in and waved goodbye to our new friend.  Two dollars and about 7 blocks later we arrive at the waterfront, and the driver does sign language to go around the corner and up the stairs.  We arrived at the Chinatown Riverview & Seafood Restaurant, what a wonderful place, it was just what the doctor ordered.  We only intended on a couple cold ones, and then would head back to the hotel however, the food that was being brought out to other tables was looking so good that we ordered dinner as well.  We were not disappointed and it was the perfect ending to a long blistering hot day.  As the sun set we went back down the stairs, out into an alley and started to look for a tuk tuk, wanting to make sure we got one of the “good” ones. It wasn’t long before one stopped and agreed to take us back to our hotel for another 2 dollars!  Would have loved the opportunity to thank our new friend that got us to such a wonderful spot, but of course we didn’t see him again!  Unfortunately we never did get back to that Riverside Bar/Restaurant.

When we got back to the hotel we had a night cap, and watched the sun disappear into the smog.  Although I’m sure not healthy, it does make for a beautiful pictures.  An early wake up tomorrow for the  River Kwai and the Burma Railway tour.

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Cambodia/Thailand Boarder & Bangkok

Again, we walked across the boarder from Cambodia into Thailand.  It was  busy, noisy, very hot and dirty, but we got through without a hitch.   There were the usual markets set up on both sides selling everything from fruit to spiced spiders, clothing and tools,but we pretty much pushed through to the other side and found an ATM at the 7-11, everyone needed some Thai baht before we loaded into a van to continue our journey into Bangkok.

Arriving at our hotel, the Centra Central Bangkok Hotel, we found out it was a little strange as that we went up to the 12th floor to the lobby in one elevator, then went down to the 8th floor in another elevator where our room was located.  Either way, it was a nice hotel, with nice patio/bar area around the pool – which really was not so much a pool as it was a reflection pond. And then when you went around the side of the ball room, a beautiful deck overlooking a temple, and the rest of the city.  We loved sitting there in the evening, although hot, the sunsets were always beautiful, and the monks were always chanting below. Except for our last night, there was no chanting on our last night!

The last censes done was in 2010, there were 8.2 million people that called Bangkok home.  I’m sure that number has risen considerably in the last 7 years!  It is a mixture of old versus new. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and was the capital back in 1785 when the country was still named Siam.  It has blossomed into one of the major cities in Asia and in the World in the past 20 years. There has been huge economic growth, which has led to the construction of skyscrapers,  shopping centres, parks and many beautiful parks.   There is contrast around every corner with the new meeting the old. Even in the chaos it is a beautiful city, the temples,IMG_3206 shrines, churches everywhere glimmering in the sun.  Such a history, and the stories are all told in the people, and their culture.  There are vendors everywhere selling their goods, and making a living for their families, although they are cracking down on such street life, it is still a way of living, and they are everywhere.  I think taking that away would ruin the whole atmosphere of the city, to say nothing of people loosing their livelihood.  I have to admit, I have been to other countries which street merchants are relentless in their selling techniques, grabbing, yelling at you across streets, following you down the street.   I didn’t witness much of that in Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand, it wasn’t like that.  They seem to leave you alone unless you showed more interest other than just passing by and looking. Yes, there were a couple times that I would say we were “harassed” to purchase something by a child coming into a restaurant, or a mother coming into a bar with a baby begging for money, but considering the amount of people that make their living this way, it was nothing!  I don’t know if it has always been this way, or if its the introduction of cell phones!  I say this because I don’t know that I saw anyone without a cell phone, either in hand, or propped up on something as they watched their favorite video/movie/etc.  Either way, it was great to be able to go through the markets and the streets, although some VERY crowded and not get hassled in all three of these countries.  All the markets are extremely crowded, and stalls are packed to the roof and all around so little room to move, but its still interesting to see.  The old and new of it, you will see in many the photos taken in and around Bangkok.

The day after we arrived in Bangkok several of us boarded a traditional long boat and went for a cruise on the Chao Phraya River which weaves itself in and around the city. There is a great deal of traffic on this dirty river, industrial as well as water taxis, dinner cruises and sight seeing tourist boats.  You do not go very far in Bangkok without seeing temples, and along the river was no exception.  Many of the Khlongs (another name for canal) were not only used for transportation, they were used to dump sewers as well, but most have been filled in around the city. In central Bangkok one main Khlong remains.  The Khlong Saen Saeb is still a vital transportation link in a very traffic congested city. That’s the one we got to tour. There are locks on this canal which keeps the water at a specific level during the rainy season.  As you can see, some of the houses and shops would not tolerate much fluctuation in the water levels.  There are Water Monitors live in and around the canal. Now I have two reasons to not go for a swim!

It was a great way to see part of the city, although with the rough water, especially in the river, it made getting in and out of the boat was a little tough on a few docks.   We stopped at the Wat Pho temple a Buddhist temple. It is the number one temple out of 6 in Thailand classed as the highest grade of Royal Temples. King Rama the first built this temple on the site of an older temple.  It is said that some of his ashes are in a shrine here.  The Whole complex is more than spectacular, the size being greater than 800,000 sq. meters.   There is residential buildings for monks that live within the complex, as well as a school.   There are over 1000 Buddha images, with the largest at 150 feet long.  Although I’ve seen photos of the reclining  Buddha before, the immensity standing next to this statue is mind boggling.  Between the amount of people, the tight space, and the restoration that was occurring, it was difficult to get a decent photo.  So much to see at this complex, I’m sure we missed lots of it.  The intricate tiling of the stupas, the hundreds of statues.  These craftsmen were so skilled it what they did to create such wonderful art and history for all to appreciate.

After our boat tour we ended up back at the hotel where we would meet up with the rest of the group to go for our last dinner together as a group.  Again, not sure of the name of the place that our CEO took us, but through the dark, dirty, wet back alleys, we enter, and climb the stairs to a wonderful bar/café.  I hardly took the time to look at the menu, we were only up 3 stories, but the view of the river and its life was breathtaking. Many landmarks could be seen from here, but the one that got the biggest applause was  the Sky Bar and Sirrocco Restaurant, State Tower  which was used in the movie, The Hangover Part 2.  Having not seen that movie either, we decided not to go.  Lots of photos were taken that night, as the group was slowing dispersing that night, thru until the next morning for Ireland, London, further exploration in Thailand, Germany, and so on.  Gary and I now on our own will have to discover our own  wonderful little spots to eat.  Yiks!

Well I have to admit, we have seen some wonderful sunsets since we arrived in Asia!  But unfortunately its all because of the smog, it has been very thick in all three countries.  I didn’t notice any problems with breathing, but someone with sensitivities would likely have problems. Lots of people wear masks, and then there are those that wear the masks, and then slip it off when they have a cigarette!  Too funny!  We saw some pretty strange things happening on our travels, and I have to say “safety” is not a number one priority anywhere.  Welding with no helmet/face shield is very common…although we did see one guy wearing sunglasses!  All their little shops spill out onto the sidewalks, so it was typical to be walking down any street and see the flashing of a welder, no screens, no anything, just get the job done. Work boots?  I didn’t go look for any, but I don’t believe there is such a thing.  The most common foot attire would be sandals.  Doesn’t matter what they are doing, working in the rice fields, climbing a bamboo ladder on hydro poles, which is a mess in itself, tearing down a buildings, or delivery  appliances- they all wear sandals! Just a couple of my observations as a former Safety Coordinator!  Tomorrow?  Just us two alone is this big old city, no plans to do anything but have a day of relaxation, maybe a massage will be appropriate?

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Seim Reap – Silk, Quads & Food

Day 15 already.  The tour is coming to an end too quickly.  Today is a day of leisure in Seim Reap, and with a full day of looking around temples yesterday,  several of us decided to head out to the Silk farm about 20 minutes out of Seim Reap.  Artisans Angkor is known as one of the finest silk producers in Cambodia.  They have 23 shops in Siem Reap, however only one is open to the public. Artisans Angkor set up the centres as a way to bring back the Arts and Crafts after the wars basically destroyed that culture.   In essence  we were able to see how silk is made, from the mulberry bushes,   to the finished products in the shop.  Artisans Angkor is a company that was initially started to  assist young rural people to find work near their home village. Its aim is to provide skills to communities and villages that have no, or little educational system.   It was a very interesting, and I think its fair to say we are now experts on silk worms, and how beautiful garments are created from their cocoons. Those hungry little worms feed three times a day on the mulberry leaves, once they have made the cocoon, they are thrown into boiling water, and the worm dies, and the silk is then retrieved off the cocoon.  A very plain scarf with one color will take about a day to make, while those with patterns and several colors may take up to a week.  If you get templed out in Siem Reap, the Silk factory is a short, maybe 2 hour tour including driving and shopping time.  Yes, there is a fantastic shop attached to the farm, and they have beautiful things to purchase.  The prices are higher than in the markets, but here you know what you are getting.

Back into town we had time for a beer at the hotel, and then met up with the rest of the group to go for lunch at the New Hope Training Restaurant, of which G-Adventures is a sponsor.  New Hope started operating the restaurant in 2010  in which traditional  Khmer food is cooked and served by the students, under the supervision of a former head chef of the Foreigners Correspondence Club.  The idea of the program, which has been extremely successful, is to educate the students not only in the art of cooking, but also other aspects of the hospitality sector that will benefit them and their families for years to come.  I have to say the food was exceptional, and I encourage anyone going to Siem Reap to find this place, you wont be disappointed!

After lunch Gary and I went to find the market and pick up a few things!  Always so interesting in the markets, and somehow we always find the food section. I did try some bartering, but I am not very good at it!  I think we probably saw justfull_img_2855_1474347835 about everything imaginable so picked up some batteries etc. and headed back to the hotel to enjoy another cold beer, and a quick dip in the pool.  We only had two hotels with pools, and this was the first time I utilized one. There was just always something else to  do and see.  It was refreshing though, and now know we should have taken more time to laze about this pool.   Bangkok was a little disappointing on the pool side of things!   5pm was quad time! We actually got to drive them ourselves, after we went for a short trip with a guy on behind so he could  make sure  you listened to the instructions, and that you could operate it safely. With helmet and mask on, we headed out single file down the road, across a few busy intersections and out into some fields. I got singled out at the end of a line and had to go “slower” than I wanted to, but…that’s alright, we were all going to end up at the same place anyways.  There were about 3 guys on dirt bikes with us , and they all had 3-4 of us that they were “responsible” for, so I just puttered along behind, and actually got to look around and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  I stopped to take photos a couple times because I knew I could catch up, and he would turn around on his dirt bike and come roaring  back to check on me!   He finally realized I could drive a quad, and off we went through a field and caught up to the rest of the group!  Was too funny!  We stopped in a field and then waited for the sun to set. Beautiful hardly describes it.

Yes…Gary and I jumped, I think we were just too far ahead of anyone else so it appears we barely made it off the ground!

On the way back into town, once again I had the urge to stop and take a photo… DSCN2775My guy came ripping back, I’m sure he thought I was crazy for taking a photo of the water buffalo, but I explained, its not something we see every day.  Then we raced along the path between the rice fields to catch up with the others, the wind sure felt great on that hot muggy evening.

Once we got back to the hotel and got the dust cleaned off,  we headed down to Pub Street with our CEO.  Apparently this is the place to go.  Although we had seen it a couple of times, we never did get back down to it in the evening.  Apparently its the number 2 (behind Angkor Wat) thing to see when in Seim Reap!  What a busy place it is.  We went to the Red Piano Bar/Restaurant which apparently is very well known as Angelina Jolie’s haunt while filming “Tomb Raider”.  Have to admit that bit of trivia we were not aware of.   After this many days, we were not surprised, it would be a wonderful spot to eat.  Again, on the second floor we were able to observe all the happenings on the street below.  And there were a lot of people, locals and tourists alike.

So ends our last night in Siem Reap.  Back to the hotel, and get organized for another bus trip across the Cambodia/Thailand Boarder in the morning.

 

 

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Three o’clock in the morning is early where ever you are in the world, and there are few things I will get up to do at that hour, but visiting Angkor Wat is one of them.  It was a short drive, only 5.5 km from Seim Reap.  We did bring a flashlight for our trip, however at that hour, we didn’t think to bring it with us!  It was dark when we arrived at the temple, and it would have been good to have the light  on the uneven grounds, and walks.  Either way, made it to the pond where we would sit to wait.  We listened to the monks near by chanting, and the birds were waking, it was a beautiful and serene time of the day,  I was so pleased we went that early.

 

I have used this photo below so you can see the magnitude of this complex.

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Photo source

Angkor Thom which means “Great City”  was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer Empire. Within this city are many temples, with  Angkor Wat Temple being the most famous, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest religious monument in the world at almost 163 hectares. It was built by a Khmer King, Suryavarman II in the early 12h century as a Hindu state temple, but was later changed to a Buddhist temple nearing the end of that century.  The temple was built with 5 to 10 million sandstone blocks, each weighing approximately 1.5 tons. It is believed  they used elephants and rafts to haul these  blocks along rivers and canals from Mount Kulen,  over 40 km away. The moat obviously was built by hand, which was a huge endeavour on its own.   Each and every surface, including the beams, columns and roofs are covered in carvings  of  winged dragons pulling chariots, warriors, unicorns, dancing girls, elephants with men atop, and warriors.  One gallery wall has over 1000 sq. m. of carvings. Much of the scenes and carvings include the  7 headed snakes, adopted from the Chinese by the Khmer. In 1860, a French explorer discovered the temple(s) that were being eaten up by the thick jungle.  The view from the top of the temple was spectacular. Photos never do justice.

Much work was needed to restore Angkor Wat, and the other temples.  Vegetation had taken over and it had to be removed meticulously. During the time  the Khmer Rouge were in control, work ceased and they actually used remaining wood from the temple for firewood as they camped in the area. There is a also damage from a stray American shell, as well as bullet holes due to the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge having gun fights in the area.  However, it wasn’t until after the wars that the real damage began.  During the period of the late 80’s and 90’s  thieves entered the complex and knocked off, and stole most of the  statues heads.  Unfortunately many of the treasures from all the temples were stolen.    There are many temples  here, and we did see several.  The gates to the temples, and the bridges crossing the moats are all pieces of art as well, with the same intricate carvings, works of ancient  beauty all over this area.

The Bayon Temple, just north of Angkor Wat, is  a spectacular temple. There are  four faces carved on 54 gothic towers and  each tower is topped with a lotus flower, which is common in Buddhism as the lotus flower represents purity, spiritual awakening and faithfulness. Each of the faces looks in a different direction – north, south, east, and west. Charity, compassion, sympathy, and equanimity are the four states of Buddhism, of which each face represents. The 54 towers are said to be a representation of the Lunar Calendar having  54 days , and I don’t think it was acoincident that the Khmer Empire of King Jayavarman VII had 54 provinces.

The temples seem all the same, yet are so different in so many ways. The last temple we visited was the Ta Prohm.  It was made famous in the Tomb Raider movie,  we hadn’t seen it.  It is a great example of how the jungle can take over the beautiful architecture that man has made, totally destroying anything in its path.  We also made a quick stop at the Terrace of the Elephants.  Much of this was made of organic material, so has long disappeared, however the retaining wall and the foundation platforms remain. The wall is over 300 meters long.  Bas-relief sculptures of elephants, horses, beautiful dancers, and of course warriors.  It was used by the King to watch his army returning from battle, as well as  parades and religious ceremonies were held on the grounds.

Touring all these temples was fantastic.  I know there are many more, and we did get the chance to go to others, but for today, it was enough, and time to head back into Phnom Pehn as we had tickets to go to the Phare Circus that evening. This circus is Cambodia’s answer to Cirque!   I highly recommend not missing this event.   Without a doubt one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen!  Without words, only music and acrobatics they told the story of a young girl growing to an old woman through the horrific history of Cambodia.   There are many videos on Youtube, and you can check out the trailer to the show we saw, Sokha   here. 

It was another successful day in Cambodia, a great deal learned as we toured through temples and the streets of Seim Reap.  Tomorrow another day in paradise, and a tour of a silk farm.

 

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