Photography from Thailand’s Secluded Mountains (Update Part 18)

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My last two weeks in Thailand were rife with incredible caves, rewarding teaching, fascinating hikes, and dreams of chewy, cheesy pizza. So much happened that it’s easier if you look at photos instead of falling asleep reading my endless rants. Just the ride down the mountain could have me blabbing for days on end, involving almost crashing, getting stuck in mud, being laughed at by locals, passing incredible waterfalls, surviving when we rode off the cliff (kidding–we only came close to doing so), marveling at the karst caves and jungle rivers, and so much more. So here, much like my Nepalese episode, are some photos from my last few days spent in the gorgeous mountains of Thailand. [click any photo to enlarge]

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It’s real

 

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Celebrating with my awesome fellow teachers. Well, the real ones who (sort of) work hard every day (of the workweek) and live in the mountains (except on weekends)

 

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That’s my rather large posterior on the right, rice farming. Well, I’m doing the rice farming, not my buttocks.

 

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One of my students–an old soul


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The most beautiful bug I’ve ever seen. Legendary for its good luck and something else I didn’t understand. And no, no editing program ever came into contact with this photo–these are its natural neon-like colors

 

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Another of my young students, happy as could be at 7AM

 

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My last shot taken while standing alone on the moutain road, waiting to be picked up by my friend. Goodbye, mountains

Thailand is for Taunters (Update Part 17)

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As you all know, I am quite the critical person. I am a tough judge when it comes to people, food, places—almost anything. But man, I have nothing on the people of Thailand: The Land of Smiles. During my many weeks there, especially those spent living in the secluded northern mountains with fellow teachers and Sanit’s family, was tough. Even though most knew no English, they still managed to memorize phrases or actions to notify me of my (multiple) wrongdoings. They railed on me no matter what I was doing, and the very second I did something correctly, I was ridiculed (with smiles, of course) for doing two more things wrong.

I put my spoon in my bowl wrong and offended people.

The sticky rice balls I rolled were not of the proper shape.

I wrung out my laundry wrong.

The rice I planted was not of the right depth.

I apparently offended someone because my buttocks was too high up in the air and pointed in her general direction while I was planting rice. Now I need to have policy-checking eyes on the back of my heinies, too? I can’t even farm right.

I made a mistake while hoeing the rubber saplings and left a ½”-wide, ¼”-deep cut. They somehow immediately found it and chastised me.

I ate things in the wrong order. Wait, how was I supposed to know that a bowl of a cut-up vegetable is dessert?

If I sat on the floor with my legs to the side, it was a time when I was supposed to sit cross-legged. When I sat with my legs crossed, I was scolded for not sitting with my legs to the side.

I put my boots in the wrong place and made a whole army of farmers shake their heads in disapproval.

I took the wriggling maggots out of the eggplant wrong.

I washed the edible thorn plant wrong. Though even when washed correctly, those thorns still hurt an awful lot while being swallowed.

I hit the kids wrong with my stick. No, I’m kidding on that one.

I know what you’re going to say: This is all they’ve ever done, so they’re good at it, and they’re not used to foreigners, so they’re not sure how to deal with me, and that this is my first time doing all these things, so of course I won’t be good at it. This is all true, but it sure doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, in a really vindictive way, I almost wish some of these people could come to America just to realize how it feels to be corrected all the time. Wow, I’m a mean person. But that’s how you’d feel if you were here, too.

Then, as I’m sitting and trying not to express my true feelings, auntie comes walking in and starts pawing through my belongings. She finds everything endlessly fascinating. She unfolds almost every article of clothing to look at it, so once again I have to fold it back up and re-pack. Thanks, auntie. Oh well. I guess it uses up more time, time that would be spent with me getting criticized for washing mushrooms wrong, mopping wrong, or just, you know, living wrong.

It takes a lot to offend me and even more to make me feel dejected, but when you’re being criticized, talked about, and judged18 hours every day (even the method with which I entered and exited the mosquito net, for example, was wrong), it gets to you. They break you down. There’s no one to listen to you vent. You can’t explain the situation to anyone. Even now, you have no idea what it was like. Well, I asked for it, and they’re all good people—they’re not TRYING to break me down, after all. And really, the experience, scenery, wildlife, and everything else outweighed the fact that I cried myself to sleep every night. No, I didn’t do that.

Despite my massive sarcasm, honest feelings, and downright evil personality, I still can be counted on to write the truth. And Thailand is, honestly, still my favorite foreign country. Nepal is a close second, though. Aside from my near-vomituitous experiences with most of the food here, and the constant criticism, I really just absolutely love the countryside. I’ve been exploring backyard caves, slipping down muddy roads, hanging out in awkward situations, walking down random paths, and just loving what I get to see every day. The mountains here may be my favorite place I’ll ever go, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep coming back for the rest of my life. With MREs, of course. 

Above: Mountain time

Below: Town time

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PHOTOS – California-Oregon Camping Road Trip Part 1 (California)

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I decided that I might want to move out back to the west coast one day, so I headed to California (where I was born) and Oregon (where I’m interested in living) for some outdoor fun. I ended up loving both states, but really fell in love with California more than Oregon. The folks of Portland, in particular, were so nice, but a bit…well, stoned all the time. California definitely struck my fancy. I traveled with a Couchsurfer for the first half of the trip and we camped, hiking, climbed, and ate up the coast (while meeting other interesting folks).

Not pictured are other climbs, such as one in Malibu that took place on the ocean amidst pelicans flying by and dolphins cruising by. Or the hummingbirds that flitted around our hiking paths, showing off their rubies and greens. Or the amazingly sketchy (un-kosher) camping spots we picked off the main roads.

Admittedly, we were on a very popular stretch of road that is well-traveled by tourists. Sorry to disappoint! Some spots, however, are worth it, and as a friend said, everyone should drive up rt. 1/101 at some point in his/her lifetime. It’s incredible. And while we did several toursity things (what, we’re not going to drive through the redwoods?), we also did some pretty great things that were told to us by friends, locals, and other knowledgeable folks. It was all wonderful.

I hadn’t been back to the west coast in 20 years, so I had an absolutely fantastic time.

Enjoy!

Photo captions below, by number:

(1) Deena belaying at sunset

(2) Joel climbing. Shirt optional.

(3) If you look closely in the middle of the rock face, you can see a bright green shirt. That’s moi. And while it doesn’t look too steep a climb from here…

(4) …from the bottom it ain’t so easy.

(5) Look ma, no hands!

(6) This is a huge rock that was stunning alone, but the curved fog that came in, along with the bright blue sky, made for a crazy landscape.

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(8) The landscape is a li’l different in these parts.

(9) Julia Pfeiffers State Park, home of the waterfall onto the beach. Just a little bit pretty.

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(11) Before the sunrise at a hidden surfer’s beach.

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(14) Monterey!

(15) We stayed with Kaye in San Fran, and ate sandwiches out of the back of the truck for breakfast. What a trooper.

(16) At a beautiful cemetery overlooking the ocean. These two markers stood out to me.

(17) I’m not sure which is more disturbingly awesome–the fact that this color actually occurs in nature, or the fact that Deena owns a skirt of the same color.

(18) It’s actually one hunk of a plant called Unicorn Kelp. There were two spires on this one. Does that mean I’m extra special?

(19) We did quite a few jump shots up the coast. I think I could do it for a living.

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(21) Another jump shot through the Chandelier Tree!

(22) Redwood National Forest, Avenue of the Giants.

(23) The guys we stayed with had this giant beanbag chair. Giant as in about four times the size of a normal one. So we jumped onto it many, many times.

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(25) Red Bull DOES give me wings, Heather. And I didn’t even spleak!

(26) It looks like a toy, but it’s actually a huge Victorian house in Eureka, CA that only allows members of its secret society in its doors…

(27) Jump in front of Paul Bunyan! Yes, it’s fairly weird. Also, there was a guy on a loudspeaker who creepily watched you when you walked up to this thing. He yelled something offensive as we jumped.

(28) After hunting for agates in a lagoon, we drove through a temperate rain forest and came upon this elk.

PHOTOS – Southeast Asia Part 8

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Taken in central Vietnam.

Photo captions below, by number:

(1) A farmer in the rice fields. Those are caskets buried in the fields. The Vietnamese believe that one’s body belongs in the fields one worked, so they bury their dead right there.

(2) A beautiful part of the countryside.

(3) A more realistic view of the countryside.

(4) A girl and her dog.

(5) I never thought Vietnam would look like this.

(6) Such a unique landscape! You had to be there with the storm rolling in and the waves crashing further up the coast.

(7) I hereby title this one, “Man with Water Buffalo.” Not original, I know, but I love the water buffalo’s expression.

(8) I don’t think the buildings were made for people my size…

(9) This was a hidden village I biked past. It appeared out of nowhere in the valley. It seriously reminds me of Capri, Italy.

(10) It was a weird day, but I didn’t complain. I ended up getting a private bike tour…

(11) …but then my guide (on a moto, not a bike), whizzed way ahead and I was all alone. Awesome.

(12) This was what I biked around.

(13) I was looking up beautiful places and found this place, but once I decided to go I found out it was a big tourism spot. I went anyway, and was actually pretty happy. Even due to the fact that I had to jump on the back of a random businessman’s moto and ride for 30 minutes to catch up with the bus that forgot me.

(14) Coming out of the first grotto on the boat trip.

(15) Catching dinner.

(16) Little Boater, Big Cliff.

(17) If these faces don’t say, “We’re having the time of our lives!” then I’m afraid I just don’t know how else their joy could be expressed.

(18) The end of the boat ride. Rather than letting everyone out in the middle of the brush/mountains, they turn back and harass you so you’ll buy the food and table runners they’re selling. Because when I’m out in scenery like this, all I can think of is what I’ll serve the guests dinner on when I get back home.

(19) I just clicked to highlight a bit of the already black-and-white photo, and it came out looking like a bunch of cartoon cowboys rowing towards a completely different Asian picture. I like it though!

(20) A husband and wife catching a meal.