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Willie Weir : November 30th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 30 — Off the Pavement

We decided to give up the easy ride on pavement for a secondary road. It was only 45 kilometers, much of that downhill, but it took us all day. The muddy, rocky road wound its way through coffee plantations and small villages. Not many large vehicles take this route. So heavily packed scooters act as mobile stores. You can buy bread, snacks, popsicles, or even kitchen supplies. Just listen for the honking of the hand horn (like the ones the clowns use in the circus) and head out to the road. I suppose if you are a repeat customer, the scooter store will drive right up to your front porch. -w

pod 11-30
Getting off the main road and on the dirt track has so many benefits, but most of all, it’s the chance to get up close with local people. We passed a school yard and children flocked to wave and say hello to the falang (foreigners). The held back just beyond the fence until Willie reached into his bag and then they poured over the fence and surrounded him. I’m sure they all hoped he had a giant bag of lollies to hand out, but they laughed and were like kids at a circus as he did his juggling routine.

Willie Weir : November 29th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 29

Lunch stops continue to be a window into the lives of the local people. We found this little roadside kitchen after visiting a tranquil waterfall swimming hole a couple of kilometers off the main road. The basket of sauces and chili on the table, fresh greens, and giant pots of soup are sure signs of a good meal. Here we even got a language lesson from another diner for all the tasty add-ins to make it just the way we liked it. This was a fabulous soup and true locals place not in any guidebook. -k.

The Bolaven Plateau has plenty of coffee and waterfalls. Lao produces some of the best and most expensive coffee beans on the planet. It’s hard to capture a perfect cup of coffee in a photo, so here is Tat Yuang. As we are entering the dry season, I expected the falls to be less than spectacular. Standing at the bottom of these twin falls, with the mist and cool wind tickling my face, I was impressed, but mostly giddy with delight. -w

Willie Weir : November 28th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 28

In Thailand, we met a French family of six, traveling by bicycle. Sometimes the logistics of travel can seem daunting, but for parents cycling with four kids (ages 5, 9, 11, and 13)?! We found it hard to imagine. So when we met with them again, we asked if we could travel with them for a day. I was impressed by this family, but after spending a full day with them, my admiration skyrocketed. In this photo we have stopped by the side of the road for some lunch on the way up to the Bolaven plateau. -w

Claire the amazing bicycle superhero pedals with us out of Pakse, Laos. We met 9-year old Claire and her family who have been traveling mostly by bicycle for the last 7 months. We were happy to have the opportunity to pedal with them and get a taste for life on the road with 4 kids. Henry and Isabella are giving their children a year that will shape them in unimaginable ways and it’s been a great inspiration for us to know them. Four months into their trip, Claire’s parents asked her what she had learned so far, she answered that she learned that she had the power to do it. Brava! -k.

Willie Weir : November 27th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 27

We weren’t going to make it into Laos yesterday. We had already decided to hang out at the border town so we could cycle in cooler weather. But an email informed us that our cycling friends Sergai and Adrienn had just pedaled into Pakse, only 40 kilometers away. That was motivation enough to cross. We celebrated today with a dinner at a Mekong riverside restaurant. Never thought I’d put ice in my beer, but I have to admit, it tasted really good. Of course, with a view like this, anything would taste good.-w

This is a common site in any hotel room. There is some strange and likely dangerous electrical configurations for the lights, fan and outlets, then we plug in as many electrical devices as we can. Most rooms only have one outlet, but we brought a big, 3-outlet multi-plug with 2 USB ports and the standard round-prong, 2-pin adaptor. It’s working surprisingly well to keep our notebook, tablet, iPhone, 2 cameras and kindle charged and ready. Ridiculous really. -k.

Willie Weir : November 26th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 26

The Thai road toward the Laos border at Chong Mek rolls up and down lush green hills. We turned off the main road to see a waterfall. While we were cooling off, this group was hard at work feeding tapioca root into a gas chopper and then spreading it out onto the smooth rocks to allow it to dry. -w

We encounter the first of many waterfalls as we leave Thailand and enter Laos. It’s early in the day, so only a quick splash before pressing on to the border crossing at Chong Mek. -k.

Willie Weir : November 25th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 25.

As we first approached the Mekong River near the town Khong Chiam, we saw yet another wat. We fought the urge to just pass it by. Glad we did. Wat Tham Khu Ha Sawan is a beauty. Stairs lead down to a cool tile floored cave with Buddhas, dragons, and the preserved body of a beloved monk in a glass case. You don’t see that every day. -w

Islands in the Mighty Mekong took on a warm glow as evening turned to night. Several boats filled with local men paddled in unison as their voices marked time. -k.

Willie Weir : November 24th, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 24

Back in Ubon Ratchathani for a bit of nostalgia. We ended our bike trip here seven years ago, and took the train back to Bangkok. Kat and I have so rarely returned to a place we’ve been (too many other places to discover), so it was nice to be pulling into a city that was somewhat familiar to us. I wandered through the night market as they were setting up. The guy who was selling all sorts of sweets from his cart was inundated with bees. Not just a few, but thousands. It looked as if they were going to establish a hive right around his cart. His calm reaction made me believe that this is a normal situation. He went about his business, brushing the bees aside when he needed to, getting ready for the Saturday night crowds. -w

The Candle Parade float replica towers above the central park of Ubon. The gold glows against the night sky while locals picnic, play football (soccer), practice their swing dance steps and enjoy the cooler night air. -k.

Willie Weir : November 23rd, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 23

I love trains. Always have. A big train station with many tracks shooting out into the distance to “who knows where,” scream out to all of those with a bit of wanderlust. We were looking forward to booking a 2nd class sleeper on the train from Bangkok to Ubon, but all those tickets were sold out. So we ended up with just 2nd class seats. -w

We had such good memories and high hopes as we planned our overnight train from Bangkok to Uban Ratchatani. We took the reverse trip 7 years ago and were charmed by our 2nd class sleeper accommodations as each seat became a bed complete with starched, white sheets and pillow and little privacy curtain. It was with great sadness we boarded the 2nd Class “You No Sleep” train. No sleeper births available. No lights out. No comfy bed. No white sheets. We were upright with glaring bright lights and decrepit fan swirling to beat the band, but doing little to relieve the thick night air. -k.

Willie Weir : November 22nd, 2012

Photos of the Day — Nov 22

Our plan for high culture at the National Theatre of Bangkok was inexplicably canceled, so instead we opted for a stroll around the Silpakorn University art department and several of the galleries on campus. The school had an impressive foundry workshop where many of the great historical sculptures of Thailand were created. Seeing this sculpture class at work as they molded clay based on the model brought the history full circle. -k.

If this photo doesn’t say “Thailand” to you … then you haven’t been there. Almost seven thousand 7-Elevens can be found here. At least half of them are in Bangkok. So if you are looking for a bag of shrimp chips, a cold beer or soy milk, or a supersize Ovaltine out of the soda dispenser … they are never far away. -w

Kat Marriner : November 22nd, 2012

Giving Thanks

Bathing at a community well in Mandalay city.

I reach for the faucet to rinse my toothbrush and cup a handful of water to swish in my mouth, something I have done nearly every day of my life. But I stop. Just in time. I’m in a part of the world that doesn’t have purified water running in the taps. They don’t use potable water to wash their hands, clean their clothes, flush their toilets or polish their cars. Clean water in such abundance is a gift. Something I am truly thankful for, and something I think about every day I rinse my mouth with bottle water.

Water is a life. Water is health. Clean water is a given in most of the United States, but not so around the world. I see families bathing in the irrigation canals or local wells, hoisting buckets of water from open tanks, filling drums of water carted on rickety racks hauled by bicycles, oxen, or pushed by hand. None of this water is safe to drink, first it must be boiled. A pot of weak green tea is on every table, boiled and ready for drinking, free for any and all to take. This a gift from the people for the people. And this is daily life in Myanmar — the cities and the villages.

Carting water from a well to home.

I marvel at what we do have in the States. We had the political will long ago to build treatment plants, lay pipes, create an infrastructure for each and every city. It’s no small feat. The cost must be astounding, and the miracle of clean drinking, washing, bathing water happens with hardly a thought.

Usually this time of year I take stock of my life and give thanks. This year, my thanks is for water. I wish us all an abundance of safe, healthy, life-giving water and the political will to help those without.