Pak Huay Chalong - Monday, June 29

First day teaching grades K-6. Lots more good pictures to come, but from today's shots I think this one of Molly with her new friends sums it up well.


PAH LEURAT - Friday, June 26

Following our Friday morning visits with the elephants, and lunch with Richard Lair, we drove the remaining three hours from Lampang to Uttaradit, arriving at our home in Pah Leurat just in time for dinner. We were greeted by dozens of smiling kids, each with bouquets of fresh flowers for their new teachers.


I will flesh this out as time permits so please keep checking back...

LAMPANG - Friday, June 26

I'm writing this from our home in Pah Leurat, where we don't have a fast enough Internet connection to upload many hi-res images, but here are a few samples of treats to come.

After two days and nights in Chiang Mai, we set out early Friday morning to visit the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang.


There we visited with Richard Lair, a close friend and a Californian who has lived and worked with these elephants for thirty years.


We were all intrigued, and Cam fell absolutely in love with the animals, particularly with this one baby boy.


CHIANG MAI - Wednesday, June 24
Written June 25, 2009 9:30 AM

Ahhh, Chiang Mai! The air is cooler here, the pace slower, and the food, to my taste, even more delicious. Best of all, this, the city where Boosaba and I met and where Benyapa was born, feels more like home and a lot more like Inside Thailand.

After a not-too-uncomfortable night on the bus, we arrived here in a gentle rain at 6:30 Wednesday morning. Of course the irony is that the train strike ended up resolved by 6:00 PM Tuesday, which meant that we could have used our original itinerary, but it was important that we be here on time so we stuck with the bus as a sure thing.

While Boosaba and Benyapa joined the group for breakfast, I took off to fine-tune some recent truck repairs. Complications began when the mechanic who took our Isuzu for a test drive got busted for what the police claimed was a smog violation. They took his license and issued our Isuzu a citation.

To begin with, there is nothing wrong with our truck which would easily pass a smog test in California, but the police here are unregulated and greedy. The usual way of dealing with them is to pay a bribe rather than a fine, but the bribe price for farang is way higher than for Thais, so Boosaba went to deal with that while I returned to the Galare Guest House to look after the kids.

Boosaba insisted upon — and actually received — a receipt for her 500 baht (US$15) bribe, and then gave the police a stern talking to for having hassled our mechanic with such a bogus citation. By noon everything was settled and we were off to meet with Phramaha Boonchuay, a remarkably progressive Buddhist monk who is also Vice Chancellor of the Buddhist University in Chiang Mai, a friend of Tich Naht Han, and an acquaintance of the Dalai Lama.

Our talk with him deserves much more attention than I have time to give right now, so I will come back to that later. For now, I will leave off by saying that all enjoyed yesterday evening at the Night Bazaar, and are looking forward to lunch today, Thursday, with our journalist and historian friends.

Friday morning we will meet the elephants in Lampang, and then drive home to our village in Uttaradit. You may look forward to some less hurried and better illustrated posts from there.

June 23, 2009 11:25 AM

The bus it is. Boosaba went straight to the bus station this morning
and returned a couple of hours later with ten tickets on a VIP bus
that has essentially the same departure and arrival times as our now
stranded train, so we're back on schedule with just the one mode of
transportation change.

-- Mac

On Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 8:05 AM, Mac Bakewell wrote:
> Here's an unexpected challenge... We're set to leave for Chiang Mai
> tonight but it's hard to imagine 450 miles on a bus. We're definitely
> Bangkoked-out and not sure what we will do. Stay tuned...
> -- Mac
> Nationwide strike halts all trains
> Many passengers left stranded
> Full story

BANGKOK - Sunday, June 21

The group's first day in Thailand began with a smooth flight and an early arrival, 35 minutes ahead of schedule, at Suvarnabhumi International. As soon as everyone had successfully drawn their first Thai baht from the ATMs, we took a van to our first hotel, ideally located near the river and the Skytrain, and within ten minutes of the train station.

The 14-hour time difference had most everyone feeling a little dazed, but because the most efficient way to get past that is to force oneself into the current time-zone, as soon as everyone had showered and changed we set off on our first outing -- a Skytrain trip for lunch at the new café recently opened by Cate and Inside Thailand alum, Tae Vichit-Vadakan.

Mac, Cate 1965; Tae, Cate 2002; Denali, Cate 2012 at Tae's Ohana Café

I had expected Tae's Ohana Café to be pleasant, but was even more delighted to hear myself calling it "easily the most civilized place in Bangkok." Beyond offering what is certainly the best coffee, fettuccine, and music (from Miles Davis to Jack Johnson) that I, as a connoisseur of all three, have ever found in this cosmopolitan metropolis, Tae has created a miniature eight-table oasis of absolute serenity in what is certainly one of the most chaotic cities on earth. If the Ohana (Sukumvit 24) were closer to our hotel I would be writing this there now.

Even though Sunday's weather was relatively mild, none of us is quite used to the heat and humidity, and most of us were happy to turn in early. Must be something about Midland, though, because after a swim Tammy and Chloe spent the early evening exploring the local neighborhood.

Today, Monday, our program officially begins with a visit to the temple across the street where we will chat with a friendly monk in his guti, receive a blessing, and then set off on a river boat to explore some of the sights.

No promises, but I will do my best to update this journal as regularly as possible. Please stay tuned...