We returned from our Southeast Asia trip on November 12, 2018. While traveling, David accepted a job with the Terra Nova Technology Company based in San Diego, CA. We knew that we would not have long at home…just about enough time to get organized to drive across the country so David could begin his job after the first of the new year.
We were in Maine for a month which was long enough to buy a used 2015 Honda CR-V to drive to CA. We decided that although our Honda Accord has really great trunk space, it still wasn’t big enough for the 3 large duffle bags and two small suitcases we were planning to bring. Plus, I wanted to leave the car in Maine so we would have a vehicle when we went home.
Tuesday, December 11th was the departure day. We packed the car and headed out. It was a blue-sky-kind-of-day! In Worcester, MA, the traffic came to a complete standstill on I-495. Fortunately, we were close enough to see why we had stopped…it was for the “Wreaths Across America” convoy that was heading to Arlington National Cemetery to place wreaths, made by the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine.
Coming from Maine, I am very proud of the efforts made by the Worcester Wreath Company to honor veterans, over the holidays, by placing wreaths on their graves.
This tradition has been going on since 1992 when Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company, had a surplus of wreaths. As a young boy, he delivered the Bangor Daily News and through a contest, won a trip to Washington DC. That trip left an impression on the 12 year old. As he grew into a successful businessman, he always remembered that the success of his business was due to the sacrifices veterans had made.
When he had the surplus of wreaths, he decided it was time to honor the country’s veterans and made arrangements to place the wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
After the photo went viral, people started writing to Mr. Worcester to thank him, share their stories, make a donation, request to help with the Arlington National Cemetery project, or inquire how they might be able to get wreaths laid at their State or National cemeteries. Slowly, the project took on a new life. In 2006, wreaths were sent to 150 different locations throughout the states to be laid in simultaneous wreath ceremonies. In 2007, the Wreaths Across America non-profit was formed. By 2014, the goal to lay a wreath at the 226,252 graves in Arlington was reached.
What we saw on December 11 was the tradition continuing. The “Veteran’s Honor Parade” happens every year down the east coast with stops along the way in different communities, veterans homes, schools and monuments to remind people how important it is to Remember, Honor and Teach, which is the mission of the non-profit. I have only touched on some of this organization’s accomplishments, I encourage you to visit the Wreaths Across America webpage – wreathsacrossamerica.org to learn more.
Back when we were first married, taking road trips throughout the United States was part of David’s job. The minute we said “I do,” we were transferred to Atlanta, GA. Our honeymoon was spent driving from Maine to Georgia. This trip reminded us of that time in our lives but to be honest with you, we were a little rusty on the navigating…..even with our GPS. Early in the trip, we made a couple of wrong turns but as time went on, we got better.
Passing through Pennsylvania, we passed by Amish communities and saw the children playing in a schoolyard. Also in Pennsylvania, I was sadly reminded of the abundance of deer that state has as we passed by the dead deer lying on the side of the road.
After driving 438 miles, we spent our first night in Hazelton, PA. Day 2, December 12, we were on the road around 8:00. This must have been a fairly nondescript day as I didn’t make any notes or take any pictures. I did take this one…
I thought it would be fun to take the “Welcome” sign as we passed into each state. If it wasn’t for the name of the governor on the sign, I never would have known what state it was for….Governor Kasich is from Ohio…so this was leaving Pennsylvania and going into Ohio.
Day 3, Thursday, December 13, was dreary and rainy as you can see when I snapped the picture of the Gateway Arch in St Louis, MO.
With the weather as it was, it was a long day of traveling and after driving 530 miles, we stopped in Springfield, MO.
Friday, December 14, was our fourth day of traveling and we stopped to see a long-time friend of mine, Jim Parrish who lives outside of Joplin, MO. We arranged to meet him at the Denny’s in Joplin and have breakfast together.
After we left Jim and Missouri, we crossed into Oklahoma. It was there that we started seeing signs for the historic Rt 66. I don’t quite know why we didn’t see signs before Oklahoma as we were actually following it from St Louis.
There were a couple of other signs on the interstate that piqued my interest. One said, “Hitchhikers might be escaped convicts.” Hmmmmm!!! The other said, “Don’t drive through smoke.” I still don’t quite understand that one unless they have severe grass fires and don’t want people to attempt to drive through the smoke with zero visibility.
I had forgotten how long the trains are out west. They go on forever and ever! It had been 12 years since we left Nebraska and since then, we really haven’t been anywhere out West.
As we continued along, Oklahoma, we started to see more wind farms. I imagine that the flat plains are a good place for wind turbines as there is little to interrupt the flow of the wind.
Day 5 – Saturday morning, December 15, was going to be a long day. We really wanted to make good time so we could arrive in San Diego on Sunday afternoon and not late in the day. We got on the road around 7:30…I think, and headed west on I-40 straight across New Mexico to Flagstaff and then took Rt 17 south to Phoenix. Passing through New Mexico, we saw a Christmas tree decorated on the side of the interstate. A nice reminder that Christmas was right around the corner.
It was pretty desolate across New Mexico. This truck stop was in Encino which is about 75 miles east of Albuquerque. It was an interesting place with lots of Mexican and Native American art, taxidermied animals like a grizzly bear, buffalo and a Dairy Queen if you are hungry. We took a break to wander around and stretch our legs.
I believe it was in Albuquerque that we saw the snowman made out of tumbleweed….a first for us! Then we made it to the Arizona border…
The scenery wasn’t much to look at until we got to Flagstaff. The landscape in Arizona is diverse. Flagstaff is in the San Francisco Peaks Mountain Range. The highest mountain is Humphrey’s Mountain at 12,633 ft high. We saw snow and pine trees while passing through this area.
When we started south, towards Phoenix, it was all downhill and the sun was setting.
After driving 722 miles, we made it to Anthem, AZ which is just on the outskirts of Phoenix. It was good to stop driving and get out of the car. I cannot remember the exact time we arrived but I think it was between 7:30 and 8:00.
Sunday morning, December 16 we were excited! We were only 5 1/2 hours from our destination of Ocean Beach, San Diego. After driving all week, this seemed like a hop, skip and a jump!
We were very happy to finally reach California but the next second, we were kind of bummed as a rock came flying into our windshield and cracked it ðŸ˜! Welcome to California! Fortunately, it wasn’t too deep and we were able to repair it and not have to replace the whole windshield. (The glass is always half-full, right ðŸ˜‰.)
At around 2:30, we arrived at our destination…Ocean Beach, California. We had made it and arrived it safely!
One night, David and I decided to hop a ferry to see the buildings and temples of Bangkok, all lit up. It was really pretty as we cruised along the Chao Phraya River.
We got off at the Grand Palace pier to walk around and see the buildings lit up.
From the Grand Palace area, we walked toward the Pak Khlong Flower Market which took about 20 minutes. There are many night markets throughout all of Southeast Asia. I believe they started in the early Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. They are a popular place for vendors to sell all kinds of goods – clothing, vegetables, food stalls, souvenirs and in the case of the Pak Khlong market, flowers.
Night markets are definitely a cultural experience not to be missed when traveling throughout Southeast Asia. I am not 100% certain why they exist but after experiencing the heat and humidity in the afternoons, it makes sense to sell vegetables and especially flowers in the cool nights. They are a place for social gatherings as well. People meander through the stalls and often will have something to eat. It wasn’t uncommon to see whole families sitting around small tables sharing a meal. Some night markets are out in the open and some are in large warehouse-type buildings with tin roofs. I could only imagine how hot those buildings must get during the day with the sun beating down on them.
There were several buildings for the flower market but around the buildings, there were many stalls selling flowers.
Here are some photos of the beautiful flowers that were on sale at the market. I especially was in awe of the orchids!
Chatuchak Weekend Market
We were looking for something to do one Saturday and I saw in our guidebook that one of the world’s largest markets was in Bangkok and open on the weekends. That sounded like a “must see!” It was a skytrain ride to get to the market area. The guidebook suggested we go early, around 10:00 AM, to beat the heat and the crowds but to expect to spend a whole day there.
We didn’t get there early enough and it was crowded and hot…just like the book said! The place is big! There are stalls inside narrow buildings and the isles can get quite congested. There was the food area for buying vegetables to take home or to grab something to eat while you are there. There was also an animal section but I passed on visiting that area. I could only imagine the kind of conditions they were kept in and just didn’t want to see any of it.
We probably stayed about 3 hours and decided we had enough. Since it was the beginning of our trip, we didn’t want to purchase anything as we would have to carry it for the next 7 weeks. Some of the sights and experiences we had at the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Have I mentioned how hot is was during our time in Bangkok? The humidity made the warm days that much hotter. Before we left, we went to the nearby Chatuchak Park to relax a little before making our way back to the apartment.
You never quite know what you will come across while walking around a new and different city. These are some random photos that I took of things I found interesting.
I hope that I have done the city of Bangkok justice. The next city we visited was the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.
For the two and a half years,David has been working in the desert of Saudi Arabia building a copper mine.In June he turned 60 years old and for whatever reason, the Saudi government will not renew a work visa for someone who is 60 or older.Davidâ€™s contract was through December 2018.So, that meant he would be off of the project at the end of the year.He had â€œcompensation timeâ€ coming to him of over 100 days that if he didnâ€™t take it, he would lose.Those 100 days started September 17, 2018.
Due to the tax laws for someone working outside of the United States, he needed to stay out of the US until November 12, 2018.If he returned early, he would have to pay more in taxes.We decided, rather than pay the taxes, we would take advantage of the time he had off and travel throughout Southeast Asia, a part of the world that we had never been to.
We really didnâ€™t make many plans for this 2-month adventure.We were able to arrange our flights so that we met at the Dubai airport.From Dubai, we flew together to Bangkok, Thailand where we had arranged to stay for 6 nights.The only other plan that we had for our trip is that we were flying back to the states from Hanoi, Vietnam on November 12th, 2018.
Thailand – Bangkok
We landed in Bangkok around 8:00 AM and got a taxi to our Airbnb apartment.For all the traveling I have done in my life, I was totally overwhelmed by this city.We seemed to take so many different twists and turns on highways to get to our place thatI didnâ€™t know if I would ever be able to get my bearings.
After a day or two, the city made a little more sense and we were able to get around on the Skytrain system and the river taxis.I believe that we stayed close to the Silom and Riverside area.We were close to the Saphan Taksin (Central Pier) on the Skytrain and were about a 20-minute walk to the river taxis docks.
We did see several popular sights that Bangkok had to offer.I must say though, that the temperatures were so very hot and humid.The week that we were there, the temperatures were easily 90-plus degrees Fahrenheit (about 33 Celsius) and the humidity about 100%.After spending a day outside, we were totally drained.
One day, we took the water taxi (15 cents per person) to Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace. In Thailand, â€œWatâ€ means a type of Buddhist temple.
We stumbled on this temple quite by accident.It was our intentions to visit just Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.When the water taxi stopped at this temple, we hopped off thinking that we were close to our destination.I am glad that we made the mistake.This was a beautiful spot.
Originally, it was known as Wat Makok after the Bang Makok village that it was situated in.After the fall of the ancient capital, Ayutthaya in 1767, King Taksin moved the capital to this area in 1768.It is believed that he arrived at dawn after sailing down the Chao Phraya River.He renamed the temple after the Indian god of dawn, Aruna to honor the symbolic and literal founding of a â€œnew Ayutthaya.â€
We didn’t actually visit the temple but just walked around the prang (tower) that is done in the Khmer style. We were afraid that we wouldn’t have enough time for Wat Pho and the Royal Palace.
The prang stands 270 ft (82 meters) high and is very impressive. It is decorated in shells and pieces of colorful porcelain that were from the ballast on boats from China. It didn’t always stand this high. During the reign of King Rama II (1809-1824), that the king had it raised about 230′ (70 meters). At the corner of the main prang are four, smaller satellite towers. I just don’t feel that my words will give this magnificent structure the true appreciation it deserves, so I will stop rambling and share my photos with you.
One of the satellite towers.
Chinese soldiers and animals are used to decorate the prangs.
An example of the broken pieces of porcelain used to decorate the prang. Just a work of art!
Looking back towards the Ordination Hall (Ubosot).
Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what the main prang looks like with the four satellite towers.
The gate entrance to the Ordination Hall guarded by Yakshas. Yakshas look imposing but they are believed to be benevolent creatures who strive for goodness to prevail over evil.
Yakshas are important in Thai art, literature, and architecture. Throughout Thailand, these large giants are used as guards at the temples.
Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha)
This is a model of Wat Pho to give you an idea of the many buildings in this temple complex. To the left are the temples and to the right is where the monks reside.
To get to Wat Pho we hopped another water taxi to ferry us across to the other side of the river where this temple and the Grand Palace are located.I read somewhere that this reclining Buddha is the third largest in Thailandâ€¦I cannot imagine a larger Buddhaâ€¦this one was very big!
This temple also boasts having the largest Buddha statue collection and was the countryâ€™s earliest center for public education. Here are a couple of photos showing some of the many Buddha statues that were located throughout the complex.
There are different sections of this temple that sits on about 20 acres of land (8 hectares).Most of the tourists’ sights are on the northern sections, the monks’ facilities are located on the southern side of the grounds.The temple compound is also the center for the teaching of traditional Thai medicine and Thai massage.This was mandated by Rama III when they were in danger of extinction.Today, you can get a massage at one of the two massage pavilions.A Thai massage is highly recommended if you need to be revived from a day of sightseeing!
The Phra Buddha
This Buddha image is one of the best known and one of the most popular icons in Thailand.It is 150 ft (46 meters) in length.From the base of the statue to the topknot, it is 49 ft (15 meters) in height.The feet are 16 ft (5 meters) long and 10 ft (3 meters) high.The feet are decorated with mother-of-pearl inlaid patterns depicting favorable signs from The Buddha.
The mother-of-pearl inlays on the statue’s feet.
A close-up of the art work on the statue’s feet.
This statue of Buddha reclining represents the historical Buddha during his last years of illness. He was close to death and about to enter parinirvana, which is nirvana-after-death for those who obtained nirvana during their lifetime.
The backside of the statue showing Buddha resting his head.
This reclining Buddha is revered and worshipped by Thai and foreign Buddhist who believe that this image can bring them peace and happiness.
As I was walking around looking at this remarkable statue, I heard this “plinking” sound. It was consistent and in a rhythm….”plink, plink, plink.” What on earth was it? Along the back wall, I saw the source of the “plink.”
People had purchased 108 coins to drop in these iron bowls. It is to bring them good luck. I didn’t participate because I guess I was already feeling very lucky and blessed that particular day!
Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn
This group of four large chedis (also known as stupas they hold relics and are a place for meditation) honor the first four monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty. The Chakri Dynasty is the current royal ruling family in Thailand and has ruled Thailand since 1782 when the city of Bangkok was established as the capital. King Rama I was the founder of this dynasty.
One of the chedis was built by King Rama I to house the remains of a Buddha statue from the ancient capital Ayutthaya. It was burned, to remove the gold, when the Burmese army destroyed the capital. image of Buddha brought from the Royal Palace in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. There is a chedi built by King Rama III to honor his father, King Rama II.Another chedi is for King Rama III.The fourth chedi was built by King Rama IV for himself.
Along with the four main chedis in the complex, there are 91 smaller chedis throughout the grounds.
Phra Buddha Chinnasri
This seated Buddha is protected by the seven-headed naga.In India, a naga is part of the semi-divine race and is part human and part cobra.This statue represents the time in Buddhaâ€™s life that Buddha spent seven weeks in euphoria.During the sixth week, while seated under the Mujarin tree, that there was an off-season rainstorm that lasted for seven days.At this time, a naga named Muchalinda saw Buddha in meditation and wound his body and expanded his hood about the Lordâ€™s head to protect him from the rain.After the rain subsided, the naga unwound his body and turned into a young man to worshipBuddha.
Phar Buddha Lokanat
This statue came from the Grand Palace in Ayutthaya.King Rama I had it brought to Wat Pho.This image is in the standing position with the right arm lowered and the left is raised to the chest level.The story behind this statue is that King Pasenadi was missing Buddha when he traveled to see his mother in Tavatimsa heaven.The king ordered an image of Buddha to be made out of sandalwood.
Guardians of the temples
Throughout the complex, there are these large Chinese statues guarding the gates to the various temples. Some of these statues have European features. These statues were originally used as ballast on ships that traded with China….even back then, there was recycling going on in the world from using ballast statues to the ballast ceramic that was used to decorate the chedis.
It was a cloudy day when we visited Wat Pho so it was challenging to take photos and not have the color come out “flat.” I love this photo of the young monks for the way their orange robes just “pop” in this picture!
These whimsical statues were in the garden. I just liked them and wanted to share them with you….
The Grand Palace
The Royal Palace is situated on approximately 55 acres (approximately 23 hectares) of land. The layout of the palace grounds resembles the grounds of the Grand Palace in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. There are 4 courtyards, forts and a variety of buildings for religious and government purposes.
From 1782 to 1932, Thailand was ruled by absolute monarchy. The Grand Palace was used as the official residence, government and religious center. After the revolution in 1932, the government of Thailand was by constitutional monarchy where the monarch has to rule within an established legal system. Today, the Grand Palace is the ceremonial residence of the royal family as well as a museum and major tourist attraction. Their private residence is the Dusit Palace which is located about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is divided into three sections. The Outer Court, Middle Court, and Inner Court. The Inner Court is not open to the public and was once used by the King and his harem. The practice of polygamy was stopped by King Rama VI (reigned from 1910-1925).
The Outer Court
The Outer Court is probably the most visited area. It houses the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand – Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Wat Phra Kaew
The front of The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The decorations of the outside walls of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Can you imagine the hours that it took to complete this?
The Emerald Buddha, which is actually made out of jade. Sorry that this is blurry but flashes were not allowed for taking photos.
The origin of this statue is not known. Some believe that it was made in the 14th in Thailand, others believe that it came from India or Sri Lanka. For a while, the statue was housed in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. It was taken to the area where Luang Prabang, Laos is today by Prince Chao Chaiyasettharthirat, when he ascended the throne, in 1551. In the 1560s, it was moved to the new capital of Vientiane where it stayed for 214 years until King Rama I removed it and took it back to Thailand and installed it in a shrine at Wat Arun. When the palace was moved across the river to the current location, the emerald Buddha was moved, with great pomp and ceremony, to the Wat Phra Kaew, where it remains today.
These yakshas appear to be guarding the entrance to the Ramakien Gallery that surrounds the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Ramakien Gallery has a mural that tells the story of good conquering evil. The statues are facing the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to make certain no evil spirits harm it.
In this picture, you see a corner of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Rising up behind the wall that surrounds the Outer Court are 8 towers or prangs (only four are shown here). Each prang is a different color and they were erected by King Rama I and represent the eight aspects of Buddhism.
Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn and Phra Mondop
Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn, The Royal Pantheon, on the right and Phra Mondop, the Buddist Library
This is a close-up of the mosaic decorations on the column of the Royal Pantheon.
This building is located across from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It was built in 1856 by King Rama IV, who intended to house the Emerald Buddha in it. Once the construction was completed, it was evident that this building was too small to hold ceremonies in. In 1903, due to faulty wiring, a fire broke out. During the reign of King Rama VI, the restoration was completed and he determined that the building be used to honor the previous Kings in the Bangkok period. There are 8 statues of the Kings who are enshrined inside the building. The building was closed when I was there. I am not certain if it is open at other times.
To the right of the Royal Pantheon is the Buddhist Library, which was built during the reign of King Rama I in 1789. The description says that the King built the library to house the Buddhist scripture in the mother-of-pearl bookcase. This building was closed as well, so will have to believe what the pamphlet said.
Odds and Ends
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
On just about every other corner in Bangkok, there is a temple. It is hard to see how they can support them all. Most of the temples are Buddhist but occasionally, you come across a Hindu temple. I had forgotten how colorful and intricate in their decorations that some Hindu temples are. We came across the Sri Mahamariamman Temple walking along the street. I love the colors and decorations!
Wat Yannawa – Temple of the Junk
The Temple of the Junk is an old one that dates back to the Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767). No one really knows the origin of it but it is a Buddhist temple that was originally called Wat Khok Khwai (temple of the buffalo stables.) During the rule of King Rama III (1824 to 1851) trade with China thrived and Chinese boats, called “junks” were used to transport goods between the two countries. King Rama III feared that the junks were disappearing and ordered a monument built so that other generations would know what the boats looked like.