The long-tailed macaques of Kumphawapi monkey park

My hosts knew that I was interested in seeing monkeys, so they took me to Kumphawapi monkey park.

Kumphawapi monkey park
Kumphawapi monkey park

This is just a city park in Kumphawapi district in the southern part of Udon Thani Province, northeastern Thailand that happens to be overrun by macaques (long-tailed macaques I think), but they’re the defining feature of this park. You can find it here on Google Maps.

Mother and baby macaques
Mother and baby macaques

There were quite a few mothers carrying their babies on their backs or clinging to their stomachs.

Mother and baby macaques
Mother and baby macaques

The moms were very busy.

It looks like half of the park is wooded. Surrounded by trees may have been a better space in which to observe the monkeys than the car park. I did watch a lot of juveniles playing in the trees near the restrooms. They’re very curious, and this one hooted at me a bit.

Juvenile macaque
Juvenile macaque

They don’t sit still long, and seem to have endless energy.

Young macaque
Young macaque

Most of the monkeys I saw in the trees were about this size.

My hosts had brought some bananas from their back yard. The monkeys were happy to have them. Vendors at the park sell peanuts for you to feed them, but you need to think about what you’re doing. Tossing it to them is safer than handing it to them, and holding on to it or withholding it can get you bit. I had a lot of fun just watching them, and taking pictures.

Feeding peanuts to the macaques
Feeding peanuts to the macaques

The feeder shown above didn’t have any problems, but disputes did erupt in the form of a larger monkey running off a smaller one as the other little guys scattered.

Display of monkey dominance
Display of monkey dominance

Then one of our party walked too close to the feeding frenzy and was bitten on the ankle.

I’ve heard a lot about unpleasant experiences with monkeys. Fortunately we witnessed no flinging of poo. There were no public displays of monkey passion. But I guess I saw just about every other form of monkey shenanigans I care to imagine. On the other hand, some of the pics on Google Maps show a market in this park, and I imagine they find lots of creative ways to cause problems in a setting like that.

I did see fleeing mothers pursued by shrieking babies. I didn’t see the vain monkey below do any damage, but I’m sure the bike owner would not have been pleased.

Monkey vanity
Monkey vanity

Of course the owner of the truck below was surely far less pleased.

Very bad monkeys
Very bad monkeys

I don’t know why anyone would leave a car here unattended. I like to think I’d take one look at a park full of monkeys, and find somewhere else to park.

Very bad monkeys
Very bad monkeys

I asked them if they realized that they are very, very bad monkeys, but I used my least confrontational tone of voice. Apologies to the car owners, but I didn’t want to risk getting gang-rushed by angry macaques.

I like the way they didn’t bother to taste the rubber until they’d ripped it completely free from the car.

Let’s close with a less sociopathic monkey moment.

Macaque family grooming
Macaque family grooming

Please enjoy the full gallery of 15 pictures below.

Wat Mai Ban Tan, a beautiful white temple trimmed in gold

We saw Wat Mai Ban Tan from the highway and decided to stop and have a look. We were just east of Udon Thani Province, in Sakon Nakhon Province, on .

Wat Mai Ban Tan
Wat Mai Ban Tan

This is a fairly new temple, and I haven’t found out much about it. There’s still a lot of work being done on the outer grounds (those near the temple are immaculate). The temple and immediate surroundings show that Wat Mai Ban Tan is very well funded.

Ground floor interior
Ground floor interior

I took off my shoes when everyone else did, but I forgot about my hat. Everyone there smiled at me and didn’t say a word. Eventually one of my Thai companions mentioned it, and I took it off.

Ground floor Buddha
Ground floor Buddha

This beautiful little temple on the pond would have to wait until we finished inside.

Small shrine near the temple
Small shrine near the temple

The second level looks down on the first from an interior balcony that runs all the way around (see the 3rd pic up). The walls are lined with statues of venerable departed monks. They’re all very well done, and all executed in the same style, presumably for this space. I was drawn to the one below with his snake staff.

Venerable departed monk
Venerable departed monk

Doors on four sides lead out to an exterior balcony. From there stairs lead up to the third level. I’ve seen vessels like the one shown below claimed to contain a bone fragment of the Buddha, but I have almost no information on this temple.

Third level interior
Third level interior
Third level interior
Third level interior

In two corners are small collections of Buddhas.

Third level interior
Third level interior
Third level interior
Third level interior

Outside we got a close look at Buddha riding a three-headed gold elephant. He is flanked by a pair of Phaya Naga that either have very large horns, or are breathing fire (and have very small horns).

Third level exterior detail
Third level exterior detail

Above the Buddha’s head is the dharmachakra, or “Wheel of the Dharma“. This is the symbol of Buddhism in Thailand. The flag below, alternating with the flag of Thailand, is flown along the way to temples in Thailand – and to Thai temples elsewhere in the world.

The Dhammachak Flag - from Wikimedia Commons
The Dhammachak Flag – from Wikimedia Commons

The elephant is a symbol of physical and mental strength, as well as responsibility and earthiness. The elephant also appears as a guardian of temples and of Buddha himself.

The peacock is a symbol of openness and acceptance. Peacocks flank the four entrances to Wat Mai Ban Tan.

Peacock
Peacock

Flanking the entrance to the smaller temple shown above are one green and one gold Phaya Naga.

Phaya Naga
Phaya Naga

This may be my favorite Phaya Naga so far.

Phaya Naga
Phaya Naga

Inside the temple is a “Naga Buddha”, a Buddha seated on a Phaya Naga. One account I have seen said that a Phaya Naga in the form of a large cobra sheltered the Buddha with it’s hood to protect him from the elements, so as not to interrupt his meditations.  Phaya Naga are often shown as guardians or protectors of the Buddha.

"Naga Buddha"
“Naga Buddha”

On the Phaya Naga’s “hood” is the dharmachakra. This Buddha is very consistent in style with the Buddha in the larger temple.

Back of "Naga Buddha" with dharmachakra
Back of “Naga Buddha” with dharmachakra

Some temples are decorated with collections of Buddhas and other entities and symbols in a variety of styles. At Wat Mai Ban Tan nothing is redundant, and everything fits so well that it appears to have been created specifically for this temple. The exception is the collection of Buddha figures, but those are presented in glass display cases.

Wat Mai Ban Tan temple grounds
Wat Mai Ban Tan temple grounds

Please enjoy the full gallery of 19 pictures below.

Tham Phra Waterfall, a natural waterpark

Tham Phra Waterfall is a great way to spend a day in the heat of Thailand, and a great way to cool off after a visit to nearby Wat Phu Thok. Getting there requires a 15 minute boat ride along the Nam Ning brook.

Nam Ning Brook
Nam Ning Brook

Tham Phra is just one of the waterfalls in the Phu Wua wild life sanctuary about 40 kilometers from Bung Khong Long. It’s really a series of waterfalls, all flowing down over rock overlooked by sandstone cliffs and surrounded by thick green forest. Rock steps take you up to the first level, and you can continue upward from there to reach the highest level. The panorama below shows one of the lower levels nearly deserted as we made our way back to the boat at the end of the day.

A lower level of Tham Phra Waterfall
A lower level of Tham Phra Waterfall

This was when I realized that in Thailand, everything is a temple. Waterfall? Needs a Buddha! Wildlife Sanctuary?  Needs Buddha! There was an actual temple at this spot, but it was moved so that visitors could better enjoy the water.

Two Buddhas
Two Buddhas

I think the falls below are at the highest level. This is where we stopped and finally got into the water. I’m told that in rainier times the whole rock face seen below flows with water.

Tham Phra Waterfall
Tham Phra Waterfall

There are quite a few natural slides like those shown in the pic below.

Slide at Tham Phra Waterfall
Slide at Tham Phra Waterfall

Below is a video of such a slide, shot in 2016. You’ll see many more videos of Tham Phra Waterfall on YouTube.

At about 5:00pm people came around to tell us it was time to leave. After thinking about it, it made sense; the people who run the boats need to shut it down and go home.

At the end of our boat ride back they had pictures of everyone framed and ready to sell. This is the most upset I’ve seen my Tukata, and she let them know directly, accusing them of stealing. No one bought a photo. I don’t have a good guess at when they took the pictures.

Tham Phra Waterfall is a natural waterpark in northeastern Thailand. It’s a great way to spend a hot day, but don’t go to late!

Wat Phu Thok, the temple of the lonely mountain

Wat Phu Thok means “Temple of the Lonely Mountain” in the Isan language. The temple is built on, around and inside of an isolated sandstone outcrop that, in the American southwest, would be called a mesa.

Wat Phu Tok
Wat Phu Tok

I’ll guess that the temple came first, and then the park-like surroundings. There’s plenty of space for a picnic, quiet time in the shade, feeding of fish, or a visit to one of the shrines among the many small lakes.

Entrance
Entrance
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok

I wore hiking boots, but the walkways are very good, and walking shoes would have been better. Most visitors wore some form of sandal. I was still adjusting to the heat, but we took it slow, and soon I was feeling like myself for maybe the first time since arriving in Thailand.

Steep early stairs
Steep early stairs

I was confident in the structure of all stairs and platforms. The stairs can be very steep, so we made use of the hand rails, and occasionally walked sideways down sets of stairs with particularly shallow steps.

Wat Phu Thok
Wat Phu Thok

After climbing stairs through the rock (see the pic above) we arrived at the first significant flat, open area. It contained shady places to sit and rest, water faucets, and a small temple below a rocky overhang.

A small temple
A small temple

Here I saw the first of two cable conveyances for building and other supplies.

Cable conveyance
Cable conveyance

There are seven levels on Phu Thok which represent the seven levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy.

View from Phu Thok
View from Phu Thok

If you look closely at the pic below you can see walkways at three different heights, each probably representing a different level.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

This is very interesting use of the rock, and I’m sorry we didn’t see whether it leads somewhere other than the next level. We never visited any actual interior spaces.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

The small roof along the rock at the top of the pic below causes water to drip down onto the walkway rather than flow along the rock to dampen the spaces below.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

The same rocky overhang shelters a host of monk statues. A pair of visitors we met counted 58 and 59.

58 or 59 monks
58 or 59 monks

Another level up we encountered a small rocky peak that contains a small temple.

Rocky peak
Rocky peak

That wall is pretty thin.

Small temple
Small temple

Here we got our first good look at the back of the larger peak.

Back of Phu Thok
Back of Phu Thok

There are great views of the surrounding area, including another mesa nearby.

Another lonely mountain nearby
Another lonely mountain nearby

The walkway along the back of the mountain started out with rock underfoot…

Walkway along the back of Phu Thok
Walkway along the back of Phu Thok

…but soon became much more interesting.

Walkway along the back of Phu Thok
Walkway along the back of Phu Thok

The structure still inspired complete confidence, but there was just enough difference in board height to create the possibility of stumbling. Looking at where I was walking meant looking between planks at the ground below, which made things all the more exciting.

Along this walkway  we found several wild bee hives. At the same spot there was a cave whose entrance was barely visible, but from within we heard the constant chirping of bats.

Wild bee hive
Wild bee hive

In my favorite of Phu Thok’s many spots for quiet meditation, a gold Buddha reflects on the sweeping panorama.

Buddha enjoying the view
Buddha enjoying the view

I’m not sure where we ascended to level six, but it was somewhere on the back of the mountain. Determined to leave no stone unturned, some of us climbed to level seven, the top of the mesa.  There we found trails, rather than walkways. The going is still not precarious, but there are no railings.

Top of Phu Thok
Top of Phu Thok

We took a different way back to level six, and I realized that Wat Phu Thok is a bit of a maze.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok

It took a while to find our way back to the rest of the group.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok
Phu Thok
Phu Thok

When we found everyone, we headed back down.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok

Wat Phu Thok is located in Na Sabaeng Subdistrict, Si Wilai District, at the center of Bueng Kan Province. It’s just a little over 10 miles to the Mekong River and the border with Laos.

Monument to a departed monk
Monument to a departed monk

My little Tukata’s youngest son frequently drives the local monks to temples in Udon Thani and surrounding districts, so he knows many of the most beautiful wats in northeastern Thailand. With Wat Phu Thok, might our guide have peaked early? Stay tuned!

Actually, he is good at taking us to a second destination after the highlight. This post ends here, but our day out did not – tune in in two days to see how our guide followed Wat Phu Thok.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 43 pictures below.

Wat Kham Chanot, temple of the Phaya Naga

Wat Kham Chanot is a Buddhist temple that is very focused on worship of Phaya Naga. It is located in Kham Chanot forest,  believed to be the border between the human world and the netherworld. Both forest and temple are located on an island in Kut Kham, a marshy lake in which a Phaya Naga is said to live.

The temple complex has expanded off of the island, and includes a large standing Buddha and a permanent country market.

Standing Buddha and market
Standing Buddha and market

Among the many items for sale are offerings to the Phaya Naga. The likenesses below are mostly constructed of folded banana or coconut leaves. The products of this art vary greatly, mostly in the quality of the heads. These are among the best I’ve seen.

Banana/coconut leaf Phaya Naga
Banana/coconut leaf Phaya Naga

Of course there are also temple buildings adorned with Phaya Naga.

Temple with Phaya Naga
Temple with Phaya Naga

The bridge to the island was once very small. The new one is a fairly recent improvement. The entrance is flanked by a pair of 7-headed Phaya Naga.

Wat Kham Chanot is usually busy, so there is a police presence. At the entrance to the bridge an officer told me to remove my hat, suggesting that the entire island is considered a temple. An earlier clue that I had missed was that we had removed our shoes.

Bridge to old Wat Kham Chanot
Bridge to old Wat Kham Chanot

The bodies of the Phaya Naga extend along the entire length of the bridge, all the way to the island.

Bridge to old Wat Kham Chanot
Bridge to old Wat Kham Chanot

Golden frogs can be seen in the marsh on either side of the bridge.

Golden frogs
Golden frogs

Located right at the end of the bridge, the shrine on the right, below, had a constant line of people passing through. We didn’t wait in that line.

Temples on the island at old Wat Kham Chanot
Temples on the island at old Wat Kham Chanot

Phaya Naga can take human form, like the one seated on the altar below. Note the many offerings.

Phaya Naga in human form
Phaya Naga in human form

Phaya Naga sometimes appear with the upper body of a man or woman and the lower body of a snake – or in the case of the figures below, upper bodies of both humans and numerous (or multi-headed) serpent-form Phaya Naga.

Phaya Naga at Wat Kham Chanot
Phaya Naga at Wat Kham Chanot

The font below is said to flow from a spring. People anointed themselves with the water.

Font of the Phaya Naga
Font of the Phaya Naga

The many small shrines are built among some really cool old trees.

Wat Kham Chanot
Wat Kham Chanot

Paya Naga are also said to live in the Mekong River and estuaries. People of Laos and Thailand attribute the naga fireball phenomenon to Phaya Naga, along with standing waves, damage to vehicles and objects, and serpentine tracks that are frequently found. Scientists compare these and sightings of Phaya Naga with those of bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

Wat Kham Chanot
Wat Kham Chanot

“Naga fireballs, also known as bung fai paya nak or Mekong lights, are a phenomenon said to be often seen on the Mekong River. Glowing balls are alleged to naturally rise from the water high into the air. The balls are said to be reddish and to range in size from smaller sparkles up to the size of basketballs. They quickly rise up to a couple of hundred metres before disappearing. The number of fireballs reported varies between tens and thousands per night.” – Wikipedia

Wat Kham Chanot
Wat Kham Chanot

Recently a festival was held on the Mekong River. On TV I saw fireworks being launched from underwater to simulate naga fireballs. This is something I’ll try to learn more about.

Off of the island we visited a variety of small shrines, like the one below to some respected and deceased monk.

Shrine to a venerable monk at new Wat Kham Chanot
Shrine to a venerable monk at new Wat Kham Chanot

There were a number of large gongs available, and visitors could try various approaches to getting interesting sounds from them.

There are many ghost stories and hauntings associated with Wat Kham Chanot. Phaha Naga are said to sometimes go to the houses of people near the temple when they need something. Although people ask them for favors, they are very afraid of them.

After leaving the busy Wat Kham Chanot we stopped by an unfinished temple populated only by workers.

Unfinished temple
Unfinished temple

I find this temple exceptionally beautiful, and I like the open air design. There is something vaguely Nordic about it.

Unfinished temple
Unfinished temple

These Phaya Naga are some of the coolest I’ve seen, and I couldn’t resist using them as the featured picture for this post, in spite of the fact that they are not found at Wat Kham Chanot.

Phaya Naga
Phaya Naga

The inside too is simple and beautiful.

Unfinished temple
Unfinished temple
Unfinished temple
Unfinished temple

This temple has a paddock for deer. Wat Kham Chanot is said to have a small zoo of turtles, but I didn’t see that.

Deer
Deer

Please enjoy the full gallery of 20 pictures below.

The Buddhist country temple in Thailand

The Buddhist country temple is often more modest than those found in Thai cities, but in them very interesting features, and a wide range of styles, can be found.

Most visitors start in Bangkok, where I expect the most extravagant temples in Thailand are located. I’ll start you off where I started, with a couple of country temples in the Ban Dung district.

Ban Dung district country temple
Ban Dung district country temple

We arrived at both temples via red dirt roads. The first has an area of worship that is, from the outside, just a building.

Ban Dung district country temple
Ban Dung district country temple

The inside is very modest as well.

Ban Dung district country temple
Ban Dung district country temple

The newest and most outstanding feature of this temple complex is this unfinished school for new monks.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

Pre-fabricated concrete buildings must be a relatively inexpensive option for creating an impressive temple. I’ve seen several, usually in poorer areas. Government buildings also seem to often be built this way.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

The decorative features of this roof are among the coolest I’ve seen. They include a number of intertwined Phaya Naga, with 3-headed 2-bodied Phaya Naga at the top of each roof. People here pronounce that “pa ya na”, but I suspect that the pronunciation might vary.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

Thai … folklore holds the Phaya Naga to be semi-divine, demi-creatures, which possess supernatural powers as has been described in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology.” – Wikipedia

Phaya Naga show up frequently in temples, with varying prominence. Very soon I’ll show you an island temple complex in a forest believed to be the border between the human world and the netherworld, and home of the Naga.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

Although the walls are clearly unfinished, with rebar still sticking out, the shutters and doors are beautiful. I wonder if they were salvaged from an older temple.

There’s a white Buddha seated on a lotus flower nearby.

Buddha on lotus flower
Buddha on lotus flower

Spirit houses are also an important feature of temples in Thailand. They’re also found outside of businesses. Spirit houses are intended to provide a shelter for spirits that could cause problems for the people if not appeased. They’re often placed along an edge or corner of the property. There’s something different about this one; the fact that it appears alone, and away from the edges of the property, but my little Tukata tells me it’s just another spirit house. On the signs are the names of people who have passed away.

Spirit house
Spirit house

I was initially told not to photograph spirit houses, or really to take any notice of them. At first I hesitated, but I find them far too interesting to not take pictures. Like a true Buddhist, my little Tukata doesn’t try to change what she cannot control.

I like the spirit houses that look more like small houses or temples, like the one below, photographed at a different temple.

Spirit house
Spirit house

Pictured below is not a spirit house, I’m told, but a monument to a respected monk of the temple who passed away.

Monument to a departed monk
Monument to a departed monk

The second temple has much more typical Thai temple architecture, including a gate covered in Phaya Naga.

Temple gate with Phaya Naga, from inside the complex
Temple gate with Phaya Naga, from inside the complex
Phaya Naga on temple gate
Phaya Naga on temple gate

The temple looks to be another pre-fab concrete building, although this one is finished.

Buddhist country temple
Buddhist country temple

It has some nice Phaya Naga flanking the steps.

Temple Phaya Naga
Temple Phaya Naga

On the gable is a figure that I haven’t seen on any other Buddhist temple: Garuda, dancing with a pair of Phaya Naga.

Buddhist country temple
Buddhist country temple

“The Garuda is a large legendary bird, bird-like creature, or humanoid bird that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Garuda is the mount (vahana) of the Lord Vishnu.”  The phoenix is considered to be a contemporary representation of Garuda. –  Wikipedia

Garuda dancing with Phaya Naga
Garuda dancing with Phaya Naga

Next to the temple above is another temple in a very different style.

Buddhist country temple
Buddhist country temple

In the foreground above we see Phra Mae Thorani, the Buddhist Earth Mother.

The Bodhisattva was sitting in meditation on his throne under the Bodhi Tree, Mara, the Evil One, was jealous and wanted to stop him from reaching enlightenment. Accompanied by his warriors, wild animals and his daughters, he tried to drive the Bodhisattva from his throne. All the gods were terrified and ran away, leaving the Bodhisattva alone to face Mara’s challenge. The Bodhisattva stretched down his right hand and touched the earth, summoning her to be his witness. The earth deity in the form of a beautiful woman rose up from underneath the throne, and affirmed the Bodhisattva’s right to occupy the vajriisana. She twisted her long hair, and torrents of water collected there from the innumerable donative libations of the Buddha over the ages created a flood. The flood washed away Mara and his army, and the Bodhisattva was freed to reach enlightenment. — A Study of the History and Cult of the Buddhist Earth Deity in Mainland Southeast Asia

Buddha summoning Phra Mae Thorani to come to his assistance - from Wikimedia Commons
Buddha summoning Phra Mae Thorani to come to his assistance – from Wikimedia Commons

Phra Mae Thorani often appears at Thai temples, and in my experience is always shown wringing water from her long hair.

Across the paved path is a gold Buddha seated between two Phaya Naga, and a building in which I suspect communal worship might normally take place.

Buddha and a country temple
Buddha and a country temple

Next to the other gate to the temple complex is a whole village of spirit houses.

The temple's village of spirit houses
The temple’s village of spirit houses
I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at these two temples.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 22 pictures below.

And now for something completely different – Thailand!

One of the most remarkable things I’ve found about New Zealand is the absence of the kind of security I expect at airports. Experiencing that again at Hawkes Bay Airport was the first step in a long trip to Thailand.

There’s nothing separating the baggage check area from the gates. There are no full body scanners, or even metal detectors. Carry-on bags are not checked in any way. Your family can wait with you at the gate until you board your flight. When you arrive they can be waiting for you when you get off the plane. Do you remember what that was like?

Hawkes Bay Airport, Napier
Hawkes Bay Airport, Napier

The fact that Napier’s is a small rural airport has to be part of the reason for the casual, friendly atmosphere. But surely it helps that the staff aren’t asked to treat everyone as potential terrorists. International airports have the expected security of course.

Uber worked great from the Auckland Airport. A new tunnel means that you no longer need to travel on surface streets to reach the city center.

 Waitemata Harbor from The Sebel Quay West Auckland

Waitemata Harbor from The Sebel Quay West Auckland

We enjoyed the awesome view of Waitemata Harbor, the Harbor Bridge and Rangitoto. The weather was great, but that would change. We had dim sum with old friends. It was windy, rainy and absolutely miserable for the walk home.

Our stay in Thailand will be 48 days. The tourist visa-on-arrival is 30 days. The lovely lady at the Qantas check-in didn’t want to stop me from boarding, and when I told her that we’d be leaving Bangkok right away for the north, and travel into Laos to get a second Thai visa, she was satisfied.

The layover in Sydney was very short, about 1.5 hours. We went through security again for some reason.

Sydney to Bangkok was a Qantas flight operated by Emirates. Emirates was really exceptional.

Suvarnabhumi Airport,Bangkok Thailand - from Wikimedia Commons
Suvarnabhumi Airport,Bangkok Thailand – from Wikimedia Commons

I traveled with two Thai people, neither of which had much experience with flying, or great English skills. I told my little Tukata that soon we would be in Thailand, where she would know everything, and I would know nothing.

But for some reason I still insisted that our landing cards would ask us the value of the gifts we were bringing. I was wrong. Thailand didn’t need to know.

At immigration my companions asked if I could accompany them through the line for Thai citizens. The initial no changed to a yes after just a few more words. They actually sent me to a line that was separate, but close, for immigrants who are elderly, handicapped or pregnant. I didn’t see anyone in that line who looked elderly, handicapped or pregnant.

Bangkok at night - from Wikimedia Commons
Bangkok at night – from Wikimedia Commons

Bangkok is huge. We didn’t see anything like the pic above. It was a long gray drive through industrial Bangkok to our hotel, but the taxi driver was very friendly.

Even at 1:00am, it was hot and humid.

It was another long drive to Bangkok’s other airport the next day.

Don Muang International Airport, Bangkok - from Wikimedia Commons
Don Muang International Airport, Bangkok – from Wikimedia Commons

Before this trip it seemed that buying tickets all the way to my destination was the cheaper way to go, but this time I saved several hundred dollars by booking 3 flights separately. Previous experience with Fiji Airways made me very cautious, so I still spent several hundred more to fly Qantas instead of Asia Pacific. I’d fly Asia Pacific next time, although I would consider spending more to fly Emirates – the service really was excellent. To avoid missing a flight due to delays of the previous flight my plan involved staying the night in Auckland and Bangkok. Fortunately any delays were very minor.

In the morning we flew to Udon Thani, and at Udon Thani International Airport I began to meet the family.

Udon Thani's Fountain Roundabout
Udon Thani’s Fountain Roundabout

Then we got into the car and drove north, to one of the poorest parts of Thailand.

There are stray dogs everywhere, many of them playing, resting and even sleeping in the road. They’re very casual about getting out of the way. Soon enough a dog who was playing with his friend jumped back right under our front tire.

Thai street dogs - from Chiang Rai Times
Thai street dogs – from Chiang Rai Times

Street dogs, commonly soi dogs (in Thai soi means “side-street”, “lane”, or “alley”) in Thailand, are ownerless, free-ranging dogs. These dogs are sometimes rounded up and sold as meat in Vietnam and China.[1] It is estimated that there are about 8.5 million dogs in Thailand, of which about 730,000 are abandoned by their owners.[2] Bangkok alone is estimated to have over 300,000 street dogs.[3] Few have been vaccinated against canine diseases.”Wikipedia

“In the 1990s, more than 200 dogs were euthanized each day. In 2000, however, the Animal Guardians Association campaigned against the practice, which they argued violated Buddhist principles. They launched a sterilization program in Bangkok. The campaign generated substantial public outcry against the euthanasia, and the city adopted a pro-life dog policy.” – Wikipedia

On the links above you can read more about efforts to get Thailand’s street dog problem under control. I’ll save further culture shock for future posts.

After a long drive through the countryside of northern Thailand we arrived at the house of my little Tukata. My journey to Thailand was over. I was home!

House in Thailand
House in Thailand

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Napier, Art Deco Capital of the world

No other city has such a great variety and concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s, including Spanish Mission, Stripped Classical,  and especially Art Deco. Napier is known as the Art Deco Capital of the world.

The Soundshell, JT Watson, 1935 - Art Deco Capital
The Soundshell, JT Watson, 1935
Soundshell at night
Soundshell at night from Wikimedia Commons

The Art Deco Capital is situated on one of the world’s most active tectonic fault lines.

The Colonnade and Plaza, JT Watson, 1936-1939 - Art Deco Capital
The Colonnade and Plaza, JT Watson, 1936-1939

New Zealand’s deadliest earthquake took place on February 3rd 1931, killing 258 people and leveling many of Napier’s buildings. The 7.9 magnitude quake broke the water mains, and hours later fires destroyed most of the remaining buildings.

The Veronica Sunbay, JT Watson, 1934
The Veronica Sunbay, JT Watson, 1934

The HMS Veronica, an Acacia-class sloop of the Royal Navy, was in port at Napier on the day of the quake. She radioed Auckland for help, and her sailors helped with rescue and salvage. The sea bed rose up beneath her, so she was docked for inspection. She and her crew are commemorated by the Veronica Sunbay, above. This is actually a replica of the one built in the 1930s.

The Kirk Sundial, Louis Hay, 1933
The Kirk Sundial, Louis Hay, 1933

Napier began to rebuild as soon as possible, in part to inspire optimize in her citizens after the disaster.

The British - South African War Memorial, 1906
The British – South African War Memorial, 1906

Three characteristics were important in the new buildings – they needed to be safe, modern and inexpensive. Art Deco was perfect for this.

The Masonic Hotel, 1932
The Masonic Hotel, 1932

Art Deco eschewed the kind of ornamental details that were first things to fall into the streets during the 1931 earthquake. The Masonic Hotel, above, is one of two buildings in Napier with parapet ornaments, and they were built to be earthquake-proof – at least by the standards of the time.

The T&G Building, 1936
The T&G Building, 1936

Art Deco architecture was the successor to and reaction against Art Nouveau, a style which flourished in Europe between 1895 and 1900.

ASB Bank, 1932
ASB Bank, 1932
ASB Bank, 1932
ASB Bank, 1932

Consider the Art Nouveau architecture of Casa Batlló, remodeled by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol (1904–1906).

The Casa Batlló, remodeled by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol (1904–1906)
The Casa Batlló, remodeled by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol (1904–1906) – from Wikimedia Commons

It’s real different from buildings in the Art Deco style.

The Central Post Office
The Central Post Office

“In 1905 Eugène Grasset wrote and published Méthode de Composition Ornementale, Éléments Rectilignes,[45] in which he systematically explored the decorative (ornamental) aspects of geometric elements, forms, motifs and their variations, in contrast with (and as a departure from) the undulating Art Nouveau style of Hector Guimard, so popular in Paris a few years earlier.” – Wikipedia

Bennets (HA Westerholm, 1929) and Blythes (1933) Buildings
Bennets (HA Westerholm, 1929) and Blythes (1933) Buildings
Blythes Building (1933)
Blythes Building, 1933

Grasset stressed the principle that various simple geometric shapes like triangles and squares are the basis of all compositional arrangements. The reinforced concrete buildings of Auguste Perret and Henri Sauvage, and particularly the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, offered a new form of construction and decoration which was copied worldwide.[46] ”  – Wikipedia

The Criterion Hotel, EA Williams, 1932
The Criterion Hotel, EA Williams, 1932

Hawkes Bay Chambers is an excellent example of the Art Deco style.

Hawkes Bay Chambers, EA Williams, 1932
Hawkes Bay Chambers, EA Williams, 1932

“Art Deco was associated with both luxury and modernity; it combined very expensive materials and exquisite craftsmanship put into modernistic forms. Nothing was cheap about Art Deco: pieces of furniture included ivory and silver inlays, and pieces of Art Deco jewelry combined diamonds with platinum, jade, and other precious materials.” – Wikipedia

Smith & Chambers Building, Alfred Hill, 1932
Smith & Chambers Building, Alfred Hill, 1932
Smith & Chambers Building, Alfred Hill, 1932
Smith & Chambers Building, Alfred Hill, 1932

The style became more simplified by the 1930s.  And Napier didn’t really need luxury , she needed inexpensive buildings fast, and buildings that she could be proud of.

I need to make a point of going back to see as many building interiors as I can. I suspect that I’ll find some touches of luxury.

30's boy
30’s boy

A boy from the 1930s waves to his mother across Emerson Street.

30s mother
30s mother

In 1922 Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb. This sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, and Egyptian motifs showed up in the decorative elements of Art Deco architecture. Hotel Central Provincial Hotel, below, is a great example.

Hotel Central Provincial Hotel, EA Williams, 1932
Hotel Central Provincial Hotel, EA Williams, 1932

Zoom in for a close look at the ziggurats, the lotus and falcons on the capitals, and the sunbursts and the zigzag patterns.

Hotel Central Provincial Hotel, EA Williams, 1932
Hotel Central Provincial Hotel, EA Williams, 1932

Colenso Chambers, below, has a nice Spanish Missions style.

Colenso Chambers, EA Williams, 1932
Colenso Chambers, EA Williams, 1932
Colenso Chambers, EA Williams, 1932
Colenso Chambers, EA Williams, 1932

The Provincial Hotel, below, is another example of the Spanish Missions style.

The Provincial Hotel, 1932
The Provincial Hotel, 1932

Trinity Methodist Church was built in 1876. It’s a great example of colonial wooden church architecture. It’s now the only church in Napier’s city center built before the 1931 earthquake.

Trinity Methodist Church, 1876
Trinity Methodist Church, 1876

The Public Trust Office, below, is a Classical Revival design, not really in favor by the 1930s. It’s solid mass allowed it to survive the quake.

The Public Trust Office, 1922
The Public Trust Office, 1922

The term Art Deco was coined for that style only in the 1960s. During rebuilding the people of Napier only knew that they were building one of the most modern cities architecturally in the world.

Madisons, 1932
Madisons, 1932

Much of Napier, today’s Art Deco Capital of the world, was rebuilt in just two years.

Scinde Building, EA Williams and HA Westerholm, 1932
Scinde Building, EA Williams and HA Westerholm, 1932

Of 164 buildings built between 1920 and 1940, 140 stand today.

Thorp's Building, Louis Hay, 1932
Thorp’s Building, Louis Hay, 1932

The Art Deco Capital is a well preserved relic of that time period.

Parker's Chambers, Louis Hay, 1932
Parker’s Chambers, Louis Hay, 1932

County Hotel was the second reinforced concrete building in Napier, which probably helped it survive the quake.

County Hotel, 1908, extension 1935
County Hotel, 1908, extension 1935

The earliest sections of the Hawkes Bay Museum & Art Gallery were completed between 1936 and 1937.

Hawkes Bay Museum & Art Gallery
Hawkes Bay Museum & Art Gallery

Pania was a beautiful sea maiden who fell in love with a Maori Chief. Their love couldn’t last, and Pania was drawn back to the sea to become the Pania Reef. Her statue in the Art Deco Capital is one of the most photographed sights in New Zealand.

Pania of the Reef, 1954
Pania of the Reef, 1954

This is one of my longer posts, but there are a lot of great buildings in the Art Deco Capital that I haven’t shown you. Many more are included in the full gallery of 80 pictures below.

Trees of the American northwest in Holt Forest

The Holts were inspired by a year working in the conifer forests of the American northwest to create their own “forest of fine trees” in New Zealand. They spent over 45 years collecting and planting over 500 species of indigenous and introduced plants. In 1962 Holt Forest was designated a wildlife sanctuary and gifted to the people of New Zealand.

Holt Forest
Holt Forest

A map at the carpark helps you find your way around, and to identify the trees.

Map of Holt Forest
Map of Holt Forest

I followed the sign for the toilet, rather than following the road in, and ended up on the track marked 5.

Entrance
Entrance

It showed recent work, which is a good sign that the forest is tended. Holt Forest is in the middle of nowhere, and I saw no signs that other people were there during my visit.

The forest was immediately reminiscent of the American northwest. New Zealand bush usually looks very different.

Conifers in Holt Forest
Conifers in Holt Forest

The work only went so far along the track however, and it didn’t take long before it became very difficult to even recognize as a track. I found this to be true of many of the tracks, which are shown on the map as dashed lines.

I retreated to Multnomah Road, cut over to Low Road past The Lake, and continued along Hill Road.

The Lake
The Lake

Along Hill Road the trees are identified with signs, so I can tell you that those in the picture below are mixed cedars.

Mixed cedars
Mixed cedars

The most imposing giants in this forest are this pair of Eucalyptus obliqua, commonly known as Australian oak, brown top, brown top stringbark, messmate, messmate stringybark, stringybark, and Tasmanian oak, a hardwood tree native to south-eastern Australia.

Eucalyptus obliqua
Eucalyptus obliqua
Eucalyptus obliqua
Eucalyptus obliqua

Algae covered pools seem to inhabit most of the low areas of this hilly terrain.

Algae covered pool
Algae covered pool

The beautiful setting below is where the connecting road from Hill Road meets Low Road.

Low Road
Low Road

Here you can see the striking contrast between New Zealand and North American forest as the fern trees thrive beneath the sparse canopy of the much taller pines.

Fern trees and conifers
Fern trees and conifers
Fern trees and conifers
Fern trees and conifers

The fork of Low Road and Multnomah Road also shows interesting contrast.

Low Road and Multnomah Road
Low Road and Multnomah Road

I could spend more time in Holt Forest, enjoying the tall trees in quiet solitude, and exploring the wilder tracks.

Getting there is very enjoyable as well.  The landscape is pretty epic, and I get the impression that local farmers are by far the most frequent travelers of these roads.

Tangoio landscape
Tangoio landscape

Please enjoy the full gallery of 20 pictures below.