// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.
BANGKOK I arrived in Bangkok via overnight bus from Cambodia. I had originally intended to spend months traveling all over Thailand, to really know it. Some countries I spend only a little time and see only a few places, and others I try to really dive in, stay with local families, visit points off the beaten path, even learn a bit of the language. But as it turned out, I was exhausted from months of travel through Laos and Vietnam and something about Bangkok did not inspire me. It was brutally hot for one, but it also showcased this frustrating tendency of some Asian cities that even though only a small minority of people drive, the city planners seem to operate under the assumption that pedestrians simply don't exist (amazingly, even Hong Kong tries to pull this trick rather often). So while strolling the smaller streets is pleasant enough (you can see photos of a few below) even a short stroll in any direction eventually becomes a practice in combating impossible to cross highways that have been carved out of what I'm sure were once well connected and charming neighborhoods but are now noisy smog-generating raging rivers of cars that would make even the frog in Frogger have second thoughts. I expect this sort of idiocy from America, but it's sad to see it exported elsewhere, especially in cities where the majority of people walk so only the wealthy few actually benefit.
CHIANG MAI A lover of big cities, but deciding Bangkok wasn't for me, I traveled to the mountainous regions of the far north and arrived in Chiang Mai where I rented an apartment a month to rest. Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the capital of a Tai Kingdom called Lanna. The historic center of the city is surrounded by an ancient wall and moat, most of which is largely intact. You can see a small bridge over the moat in the first photo (my back is to the wall) and you'll also see part of the wall later on. I enjoyed Chiang Mai a lot more than Bangkok. Located in the mountains, the weather was great, and while there were some bad auto-centric planning decisions here as well (particularly the road ringing the moat) it was pleasant enough to stroll around. In the photos below you'll notice quite a mixture of religious beliefs. Though formally Buddhist, there are still quite a lot of little 'spirit houses', a practice which dates back to pre-Buddhist animism. Spirits are given offerings (in Thailand often red Fanta) to coax the spirits to come live in the little houses, which are near real houses or shops. Ancient Vedic influences also mean that several Hindu gods are worshiped by some Buddhists here as well. In particular, the elephant headed god Ganesha is a quite common sight. You can see him in the photos of Bangkok as well. Here you'll see him on a mountain top shrine. Most Hindu gods have a 'Vahana' or mount that they are associated with. Ganesha's is a mouse that he rides. You can see him below too. And finally there is an amusement park representing Buddhist Hell (known as Naraka). Buddhist Hell differs from Christian Hell in that it's not eternal, it's simply the lowest level of existence one can reincarnate into should they be particularly bad at garnering good karma throughout their life. Once here they have to work extra hard to garner enough karma to be reincarnated somewhere better. Buddhists believe souls are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation and with each reincarnation one either moves up the ladder of existence towards enlightenment (effectively breaking the cycle) or down the ladder (apparently to this lovely park in Thailand). There's a lot going on at this park, but just a few tidbits, people who disrespected their parents have to climb trees of thorns while having their heads pecked on by birds. People who were jealous are turned into rabbits (or at least having rabbit heads). People who stole rice are turned into crows (ditto). Drug pushers are turned into cows.