Klong Saen Saep Transport Bangkok

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Klong Saen Saep Express Boat Approaching the Pier Slowly Near Jim Thomson House

Featured Image: Klong Saen Saep Express Boat Approaching the Pier Slowly Near Jim Thompson House

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  7 January 2023


Klong Saen Saep

Klong Saen Saep Express Canal Boats, Transport Bangkok

Background

A group of four of us first went to Thailand in 1991 for a month. We travelled extensively, using internal flights and just turned up at the airport when we were ready for the next leg of the journey. (It was the pre-Internet age. You used Lonely Planet to locate the area for cheap hotels and one person searched for a good one, while the other minded the bags.)

We went trekking north of Chiang Mai staying the night somewhere near Fang on the night Desert Storm began in the first Gulf War.

After the trek, we took an amazing long-tail boat from Fang down the rapids to Chiang Rai in the Golden Triangle. This was a great trip. But, not so long previously, Akha tribespeople would occasionally hijack the boat armed with AK-47s and steal everyone’s money and possessions. They shot any tourists who protested.

But, this is long ago and has disappeared along with the Golden Triangle as the wild frontier. In those days Chiang Rai was a small but pleasant market town or rural centre.

We’d arrived in Bangkok knowing little about Thailand. The Hotel we stayed in on recommendation was in the Street behind Khao San Road in Banglamphu. We found the whole area incredibly exotic. Thrillingly so!

It was my second experience of Asia, the first being my sojourn at Rukmini’s flat in Jangpura in New Delhi in 1981/82. I thought the district was unbelievably strange and third worldy, not really realising at all that it was a middle class enclave in the centre of Delhi.

We stayed at Ashima’s place in 1995 across the Jumna River near Mother Dairy. At dusk, Delhi’s pollution was like a thick fog, with orange sodium-lights and fires and smoke it was like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno.

Later in the holiday in Khao San Road Bangkok, we stayed in the New Nith Chareon (the Nith was one of the early backpacker guesthouses). I’m very conservative about good places I’ve stayed in and like to repeat the experience. I stayed at the New Nith Chareon for several years. Denise and I stayed there in 1995 on the way to Pakistan and the Karakorum Highway.

But, after that Khao San Road had become too feral and we moved our Bangkok base to Patumwan House near MBK, the National Stadium, Jim Thompson House and Siam Square in Pathumwan. Pathumwan was a good place to be during the day but tended to close down around 10 pm. Nevertheless, we still stay at Patumwan House regularly.

Transport in Bangkok

I remember the frustration, when one had to exit Khao San Road and Banglamphu in 1991 to go to the railway station Hua Lamphong or Chinatown, because it would usually take at least an hour by bus each way. The traffic in Bangkok was an intense gridlock and taxis or tuk tuks didn’t help. From later experience, motorcycle taxis are the best way to go at peak hour, but only for short distances (a couple of kilometres at most) without luggage.

The BTS Skytrain system was opened on 5 December 1999. It initially had a much lower ridership than predicted, locals thought the tickets were too expensive. This had consequences in funding and paying off debt.

But, by December 2005, 500,000 single trips were made in a single day for the first time. Nowadays, the in central areas of Bangkok the Skytrain is always crowded.

Continue reading “Klong Saen Saep Transport Bangkok”

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Angkor Guide 2023

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Featured Image The Bayon, Angkor Thom

Featured Image: Entrance to The Bayon, Buddhist Temple, Angkor Thom

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 December 2022


Angkor Guide 2023

Introduction

We are thinking of going to Siem Reap and Angkor in Cambodia again as part of a trip to Thailand in January 2023. We went there for the first time ten years ago in 2013.

Over the years, I’ve been to many historical sites representing vanished empires for example Borobudur (9th C) in Java, many Greek and Roman cities, Macchu Picchu (15th C) and Cuzco in Peru, Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan near Mexico city, many historical sites such as Khujaraho (885-1000 CE) and Hampi (6-14th C) in India, Taxila in Pakistan (1300 BCE to 540 CE) and others. And, these are only some of many around the world.

The Angkor Archeological Park listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site is the equivalent of any of them. It is huge and it is beautiful and certainly a must see, if possible.

Continue reading “Angkor Guide 2023”

Passu Paradise, Pakistan: Our Trip 6

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Featured Image: Corner on the KKH, Passu, Pakistan 1995

Featured Image: Corner on the KKH with the Passu Glacier in the background, Passu, Pakistan 1995

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 June 2022

Passu Paradise, Pakistan: Our Trip 6, 1995

Introduction

This is the seventh article in travelling the Karakorum Highway series. The others are: 1 The Karakorum Highway (KKH), 2 The Lower Karakorum Highway, 3 Besham to Gilgit, the Terrain, 4 Extreme Polo in Gilgit, 5 Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4, 6 Rain Danger, Sust. The Kashgar Sunday Market article is also relevant.

If the Hunza Valley is paradise, Passu in Gojal, Pakistan is a little bit of paradise. I covered Hunza my second last article the Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4.

In my last article Rain Danger, Sust I said that we passed though Passu in the rain it: looked like the end of the earth and one wondered why anyone would bother staying there.

On our way to China, the whole area was wet and dismal and no mountains were to be seen. But, on our return to Passu on 14 June, 1995 not only could we see the scenery but the weather was hot and with little wind over the three days we stayed there. Continue reading “Passu Paradise, Pakistan: Our Trip 6”

Rain, Danger in Sust, Pakistan: Our Trip 5

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Featured Image: Featured Image: Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m, 1995

Featured Image: Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m, 1995

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 May 2022


Rain and Danger in Sust, Pakistan: Our Trip 5, 1995

This is the sixth article in travelling the Karakorum Highway series. The others are: 1 The Karakorum Highway (KKH), 2 The Lower Karakorum Highway, 3 Besham to Gilgit, the Terrain, 4 Extreme Polo in Gilgit, 5 Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4. The Kashgar Sunday Market article is also relevant.

In my last article Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4 I said that we left for the border in the rain. We’d had rain in Gilgit and were fortunate that we saw the best of Karimabad before the rain began again.

We took the last places almost in a Wagon from Gilgit to Sust. We left at 10.30 am and the trip (70km) was much longer than anticipated — four hours — we arrived at Sust at 2.30 pm. Because of the rain the rocks looked grey and dreary, Passu in particular looked like the end of the earth and one wondered why anyone would bother staying there. We had lunch at a Hotel up near the border post. It was a surprisingly excellent goat and dhal dish (they called it chicken). Some of the goat was white meat and some on the bone was brown but tasted bacony like a ham hock (although in the present company of hajis, it wouldn’t be polite to mention this).

We’d known of the dangers of rain whilst in Gilgit and we were very careful, when walking around the irrigation channels on the outskirts of Gilgit, that we kept away from the edge of the hills. Rain loosens rocks that can come thundering down from above. Major landslips are also common in the rain. My journal continues:

The rain continued heavily all day and we were a bit worried about landslides up the highway. We’d crossed two recent landslips. On the way up and near Sust rocks were falling onto the road in several places (the ones we saw were small), which was quite harrowing. It was worse for the conductor of the wagon, who had to rush ahead into the rain and remove the larger ones so that we could drive through.

A Near Death Experience (31 May, 1995)

A near death experience, not ours fortunately, as my journal relates:

That night, at the Mountain Refuge, we met the foreigners who’d tried to go to China that day. Sam (Dutch), Ilse (American — Swedish Passport), Al (American), Ben (Dutch) and Jason (English). Jason was wrapped in a large blanket because he’d left his gear on the bus.

Continue reading “Rain, Danger in Sust, Pakistan: Our Trip 5”

Postcard from McLaren Vale

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Autumn Vineyard Feature
Autumn Vines, McLaren Vale

Featured Image: McLaren Vale Vineyards

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 April 2022


Postcard from McLaren Vale

Other Postcards are from: Boudhanath StupaDubaiViennaRock of CashelLake Tabourie, Tongariro Crossing and Tupare Garden.

Australian outsiders often don’t think of South Australia. But, South Australia is an amazing tourist destination.

We came to McLaren Vale to house-sit a vineyard, a dog and two horses in early May for 5 weeks in 2021 between Covid lockdowns. We have a big family reunion over Easter in 2022 and have returned to house-sit the same place for around 5 weeks from 24 March to near the end of April in 2022.

McLaren Vale

45 minutes south of the city of Adelaide. The McLaren Vale wine area is a unique protected region just south of the Adelaide suburbs. With the Onkaparinka Gorge and surrounding rural area on the north, the beaches of Port Noarlaunga, Maslin’s, Willunga and Aldinga to the west, the Adelaide hills or Mount Lofty Ranges to the east and the rest of the Fleurieu Peninsula to the south (Victor Harbour and Goolwa/Coorong about 40 minutes away), McLaren Vale is an idyllic gem of sustainable vineyards and native bush.

The size of McLaren Vale is slightly variable the official size is 59 sq km but doesn’t include Willunga. My estimate is about 75 sq km or 7500 hectares. McLaren Vale is small by comparison with other wine areas. The Barossa, for example is 912 sq km. Hence McLaren Vale is very manageable for visitors.

Continue reading “Postcard from McLaren Vale”

Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4

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Lady Finger and Hunza Peak, Karimabad, Hunza, KKH, Pakistan 1995

Featured Image: Lady Finger or Bublimating (6000 metres) and Hunza Peak (6270 m) above Karimabad, Hunza Valley, Pakistan. Ultar Peak (7388 m), Bojahagur Duanasir II (7329 m) are within 5 km. Rakaposhi (7788 m) and Diran Peak (7266 m) although around 27 kilometres away dominate the horizon across the river and the Karakorum Highway, KKH, May 1995.

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 18 January 2022

The Hunza Valley, Karakorum Highway, Pakistan: Our Trip 4

Introduction

In my first article about the Karakorum Highway I said that I’d been always fascinated by the Hunza and Nagar Kingdoms since I first heard about them in obscure books about South Asia and 19th century British India many of them out of print.

However, there are still many terrific books available about the Karakorum Highway and associated areas referenced in my articles, which are either still available in print, or historical books available as downloads on the Internet.

This is the fifth article in travelling the Karakorum Highway series. The others are: 1 The Karakorum Highway (KKH), 2 The Lower Karakorum Highway, 3 Besham to Gilgit, the Terrain, 4 Extreme Polo in Gilgit.

I found Hunza a magic place from my reading and had wanted to go there from quite a young age, before I persuaded Denise to make her first trip to Asia in 1995. The actuality of Hunza was not disappointing. It met expectations and fantasises.

Continue reading “Hunza Valley, Pakistan: Our Trip 4”

Extreme Polo in Gilgit Pakistan: Our Trip 3

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Shandur Pass Polo, photo by Shipton TrekkingFeatured Image: Shandur Pass Polo Festival, photo by Shipton Trekking, the polo ground is at 12,300 feet (3800 metres) and the mountains rise up to 8,000 feet higher

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 August 2021

Extreme Polo in Gilgit and surrounding areas on the KKH 1995: Our Trip 3

This is the fourth article on our trip up and down the KKH. The first is The Karakorum Highway, the second The Lower Karakorum Highway and the third Besham to Gilgit the Terrain.

We arrived in Gilgit on 18 May 1995 at 7pm in the evening after a long day’s travel from Besham and were snagged or touted at the bus stop by the delightful Mr Ibrahim owner of a new lodge called the Mountain Refuge (more of whom later).

We enjoyed our stay in Gilgit marred only slightly by intermittent rain. We even hired a motor-bike. Though the state of the roads meant that we could not travel as far as we would have liked and bits kept falling off the bike, sometimes making the travel uncomfortable.

We left Gilgit on 27 May when the rain seemed to have set in permanently. Surprisingly, at our next stop in the Hunza Valley the rain stopped and we had delightful weather during our stay there, though the rain began again immediately we left and we saw almost no scenery up to the Pakistan border post at Sost.

Whilst in Gilgit, one of the things we most enjoyed was the series of polo matches in a tournament several of which we managed to see. These matches would eventually lead up to the famous Shandur Pass match in July.


History of Polo

Polo probably began as a simple game played by Iranian equestrian nomads in Central Asia. In time polo became a Persian national sport played by the nobility. Women played as well as men.

The first recorded tournament was in 600 BC (between the Turkomans and the Persians – the Turkomans were victorious). The name is supposed to have originated from the Tibetan ‘pholo’ meaning ‘ball’ or ‘ballgame’. Although all of this is debatable.

Polo Persian Miniature 1525-30, MOMA New York
Polo Persian Miniature 1525-30, MOMA New York

The modern game was derived from British tea-planters observing it in Manipur (located between Burma & India). The first official rules were not created until the 19th century by an Irish Captain in the 13th Hussars and the modern International Rules are based on them. The size of the polo pitch (nearly 10 acres in area; the largest field in organised sport) has not changed since one was built in Isfahan Persia in the 1500s.

Each team has four players and each player must have at least one spare horse. The game is played over 4, 6 or 8 chukkas. Each chukka lasts 7 minutes with a break of 3 minutes between chukkas and a five-minute break at half time. More chukkas normally require more spare horses.

Polo mallets are made of wood. The head is of a hardwood called tipa and the shaft of varying types of wood and flexibility. The mallet must be exactly 2 foot six inches in length. The ball was originally bamboo, then wood and has mainly been fibreglass since 1990. The object of the game is to score goals by hitting the ball through the goal posts. The game is fast, furious and exciting. There are a range of tactics, strategies, allowed manoeuvres and fouls.

As with most equestrian sports the need for a number of horses and equipment make polo an expensive sport to play.

This is the same with polo played in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The upkeep of the horses is expensive. Although less horses are required.

Denise used to play a game in Australia called polocrosse (a cross between polo and lacrosse) which is more widely played and is less expensive than polo because it requires only one horse. Another similarity with extreme polo is that the game is also played with six players on a smaller ground. Continue reading “Extreme Polo in Gilgit Pakistan: Our Trip 3”

Besham to Gilgit the KKH Terrain: Our Trip 2

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Indus Valley from Alai Road Looking Towards Besham

Featured Image: Indus Valley from Alai Road Looking Towards Besham

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 July 2021

Besham to Gilgit, the Terrain on the Karakorum Highway: Our Trip 2

This is the third article on our trip up and down the KKH. The first is The Karakorum Highway which gives an overview of the terrain on the whole journey. The most difficult section to construct was in Indus Kohistan, which includes part of the area described in the second article The Lower Karakorum Highway: Our Trip 1.

We drove from Besham to Gilgit in a long day. Being stuck in a wagon all day, I did not get the opportunity to take photographs and need to fudge by showing other photographs from around Gilgit and Hunza to give you some idea.

The Gorge Country

The gorge country begins below Besham and continues after Besham for some time. One can see from the featured image a view of the Indus Valley from the Alai road the beginning of the difficult terrain in Indus Kohistan. One can imagine I think from that photograph that this is only the beginning of the mountains and that things are going to get worse rather quickly.

In the two articles, I said in the Karakorum Highway:

From Abbotabad on, the KKH winds mostly through narrow gorges on the Hunza, Gilgit and Indus rivers, which flow into one another down from the Khunjerab Pass. There are many bridge crossings across seemingly endless tributaries. The deepest and narrowest gorges are on the road from Abbottabad to Gilgit. The gorges open out somewhat above Gilgit. The climate at the bottom of the gorges is unbelievably hot and oppressive in summer.

‘It is like an oven’ said the gloomy bank manager from Dasu who travelled with us on a ‘Wagon’. The heat radiates from the cliffs thousands of feet above and is reflected down into the bottom of the valley. Although heat rises, it does not rise quickly enough. We met some walkers who had walked down from Fairy Meadow near Nanga Parbat base camp to the Raikot Bridge. The soles of their boots had melted on the black rocks. They regretted not paying for the jeep.

And in the Lower Karakorum Highway:

The canyon walls were high and slide prone for the first part of the trip. We were mostly in dry country at the bottom of chasms, but we saw all that there was to see of the river fans of the tributaries we passed over and small plateaus of cultivation above and near the edge of the river. We passed Chilas, the Raikot Bridge, the turn off to the Astore Valley and Bunji, but were not versed enough in history to pay much attention. We did however, stop at Talechi and viewed the largest number of snowy peaks viewable from the KKH, including Nanga Parbat (8126 m) behind us and Rakaposhi (7790 m) ahead of for the first time.

I also mentioned in in the first article about falling rocks. How these are the major cause of death for locals on the Pakistan side of the Karakorum Highway. And how rocks rained down on our wagon not long out of Besham.

Continue reading “Besham to Gilgit the KKH Terrain: Our Trip 2”

Clarice Beckett Painter, 1887-1935

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Clarice Beckett Feature

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 June 2021

Clarice Beckett Australian Painter, 1887-1935 rediscovered in 1971

Introduction

We are house-sitting in McLaren Vale in South Australia for three-and-a-half weeks. I have covered house-sitting before in Germany and England in earlier articles.

House-sitting is a great alternative to tourism because it takes you to wonderful places that you probably wouldn’t go to otherwise, sometimes off the tourist track. You have a chance to experience culture and lifestyle different from one’s own. This, of course, has been the driver for most of my travel in Australia and overseas.

Because, I left behind certain materials I can’t continue with my Karakorum Highway articles until I get home.

In the 1970s and early 1980s several feminist friends were of the firm opinion that women artists in Australia as with overseas had been neglected because of the male dominance of the arts. Yet, in those days they were struggling to provide anything more convincing than anecdotal evidence. Continue reading “Clarice Beckett Painter, 1887-1935”

The Lower Karakorum Highway: Our Trip 1

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Featured Image: Harvesting Wheat Taxila, near the Museum & archaeological site, lower KKH, 1995

Featured Image: Harvesting wheat, Taxila, near the Museum and Archaeological Site, Lower KKH, 1995

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  3 May 2021

The Lower Karakorum Highway: Taxila, Abbottabad, Khagan Valley and the Alai Valley

Background

I wrote in the last article The Karakorum Highway why it was still important to write about a trip undertaken in 1995. It was soon difficult and dangerous to travel the KKH after 2001 until not that long ago. The landslide in 2010 that created Attabad Lake closed the KKH and made it difficult to travel on the KKH for some years. The changes in Kashgar covered in another article on the Kashgar Sunday Market and China’s repression of the Uyghur population have made Xinjiang problematical for the responsible traveller. And, eventually the new upgrades to the whole KKH may make the trip no longer adventurous. The towns mentioned are no longer the same, whereas in 1995, they still retained some of the flavour of the 19th century British colonial entry into the region.

As I concluded in my last article, 1995 was a more innocent era and we need to remember rather than to lose reminders of our recent past.

The Trip

We flew to Lahore from Thailand on 28 April, 1995. I’d encouraged Denise to undertake the KKH when we took a year of in 1995. As I said in the last article:

I‘d done this firstly because I’d always been fascinated by Hunza and Nagar kingdoms when I first heard about them in 19th century British colonial writings. Although not in Tibet, they symbolized a sort of Shangri-La beautiful, remote and exotic. Subsequently, I’d heard about the Karakorum Highway or KKH and thought it would be marvelous to travel up it to China.

Naran, Looking Upwards
Naran, Looking Upwards

We both subsequently read William Dalrymple In Xanadu for inspiration though we didn’t stay with British ambassador’s or the Wali of Swat while setting out.

Continue reading “The Lower Karakorum Highway: Our Trip 1”