Posts tagged ‘Thailand’

Erawan National Park – Thailand

We took a long deserved family hiking trip to Erawan National park near Kanchanaburi a few hours west of Bangkok near the Burmese border.

It was a great hike up the seven levels of waterfalls. Great weather and beautiful water to jump in when it got a bit too hot.

It was nice to get out of the city and see some nature. We were starting to forget what it looked like!

December 7, 2007 at 4:12 am Leave a comment

A Wet Songkram…

Today is Thai New Year! There are water fights everywhere, people are all in a festive mood and also pretty much drenched from head to toe. A strange and very unique time that most people outside of South East Asia know nothing about. Let me educate you…

The Thai New Year, known as Songkran, is one of the most important and celebrated holidays in Thailand. The holiday is officially celebrated from April 13 to 15, with festivities often lasting an entire week.

The origins of Thai New Year combine Buddhist belief, ancient astrology and the solar calendar.

“Songkran” is a Thai word which means “move” or “change place”. It refers to the shift of the sun’s position in the zodiac, from Pisces to Aries, beginning a new astrological year.

Songkran consists of four days.

On the first day, houses are cleaned and swept.

The second day involves the preparation of food to be offered to monks the next day.

The third day is New Year’s Day and is celebrated by visiting the temple, presenting food and clothing to the monks, bathing the Buddha image with jasmine-scented water and taking part in one of the many rituals believed to bring good luck.

On the last day, homage is paid to ancestors and elders: scented water is gently poured by family members over the hands or shoulders of their parents and grandparents.

Songkran is commonly known as the “water festival” because people believe that water, a symbol of renewal, will cleanse and wash away the bad luck and sorrow from the previous year.

As a result, bathing rites for Buddha images and the monks are performed, as well as playful public water fights.

The most-talked about celebration takes place in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

During the three-day period, people from all parts of the country flock there to enjoy the water festival, to watch the Miss Songkran Contest and the beautiful parades.

April 13, 2007 at 1:41 am Leave a comment

Kao Yai – The Wine Center of Thailand?

I did a day trip to the beautiful region of Kao Yai, about 1 to 2 hours drive North East of Bangkok. My purpose was to check out this now popular “Thailand wine region”. The area has become the “Napa Valley” of Thailand with a few attractive and pricey wineries clustered around the Nao Yai National Park.

Thailand’s wine industry is about a decade old. It started with Chateau de Loei in the north, followed by Siam Winery to the south of Bangkok in the Chao Phraya Delta. However, the area that now seems to be a centre for wine growing is the Khao Yai National Park. Not only does the area produce wine and grape juices it has become the center for wine tourism.

At 350 metres above sea level and the vineyards situated in valleys, the area has all the right microclimate conditions ideal for growing quality grapes especially for wine making. The wine grapes produced in the area of different varieties including Shiraz, Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. A fair amount of table grapes is also grown such as Muscat of Alexandria and Hamburg, Thomson seedless and Perlette.

One of several wineries in the area I visited was GranMonte Family Winery in Asoke Valley, Khao Yai. It conveniently lies adjacent to Khao Yai National Park. Asoke Valley is known in Thailand for the beautiful yellow blossom flower that is special to the region of Khao Yai. The serene atmosphere and truly beautiful surroundings of Asoke Valley, Khao Yai provides a perfect environmental setting for the GranMonte Vineyards.

Next on my stop was a visit to PB Valley Winery, not far from GranMonte. The winery sits amidst a lush 320-hectare plantation, of which 80 hectares is dedicated to growing grapes.

In its sixteenth year of operation, the winery boasts itself as being the birthplace of Thailand’s wine industry.

It has a large-scale wine operation, state-of-the-art technology. We were there a short time and did not try any of the wines, as they were not pouring any at that time. However, we did get to try the most amazing passion fruit juice!

After that, it was a relatively long drive to another winery on the other side of the National park called Village Farm Winery. The winery is very small but quite attractive. The whole area has a rustic feel, which I like, and it also acts as a hotel and restaurant. Again, I did not have any wine as they were sold out!

It was a good day trip but again, I don’t think it is where I will set up my winery. The area is busy over weekends with well to do Bangkok Thais out on the weekend but absolutely dead during the week. I would love to live there for the lifestyle though.

If you ever visit the area, whatever you may think of the wine (and do not go expecting too much), its an interesting alternative day out or weekend away from Bangkok.

February 6, 2007 at 1:38 am 2 comments

Thailand’s Ancient Capital

The other day, the whole family had a day trip to Ayutthaya. It’s about an hour train ride north of where we live and was a great place to visit.

Quite popular on the tourist circuit but not busy at all as there are about 15 main sites to visit which include ruins, major Buddhist temples, ancient capital building and other very interesting sites.

We rented a tuk-tuk for half a day. The driver gave us a whirlwind tour of most places and we had a lovely lunch by the Chao Phraya River.

The history of Ayutthaya is fascinating; here is the “wiki”:

Ayutthaya city is the capital of Ayutthaya province in Thailand. The city was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong and became capital of his kingdom. The king came to escape smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri. Often referred as the Ayutthaya kingdom or Siam.

Ayutthaya was named after the city of Ayodhya in India, the birthplace of Rama in the Ramayana. In 1776, the Burmese army destroyed the city, and the ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya historical park, which is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was rebuilt a few kilometres to the east.

The city is located at the junction of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak. The city is located at the junction of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers, and on the main north-south railway linking Chiang Mai to Bangkok. The old city is on an island formed by a bend of the Chao Phraya on the west and south sides, the Pa Sak on the east side and, on the northern side, the Klong Maung canal rivers, and on the main north-south railway linking Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

What amazed me the most while I visited is the sheer amount of history, culture and spiritual depth that exists in Thailand. This brief visit of Ayutthaya really brought this home.

There are still tons of things we did not get to see, so we will certainly be back soon.

January 28, 2007 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

Floating Vineyards of Thailand

I visited a large winery situated near Samut Sakorn, 50 KM southwest of Bangkok, called Siam Winery. It is a very nice facility and very modern. Their business is thriving in Thailand’s growing wine markets but most of the growth is attributed to exports to Europe. Actually, 80% of the production is exported and ends up at the table of Thai and other Asian restaurants in Europe and the USA.

What has made them popular here in Thailand is its line of coolers called “Spy” which are “drinkable”. Their line of wines is light, fruity and could match spicy Thai cuisine quite well. They certainly have an interesting story and have done a brilliant job of marketing it.

The grapes used to make the wines are from Thailand’s “floating vineyards”. A unique way to grow grapes hydroponically in the very wet flood lands in central Thailand.

This is what I found very interesting and was lucky enough to be given a tour of the vineyards while workers were busy harvesting. Grapes grown vary from local indigenous varieties to Colombard for white and even some Shiraz for red. There are up to three harvests of grapes a year! However, we were told that the spring harvest yields better quality grapes as it is a drier time of the year.

I think Thai grape wine is an interesting and curious product for people outside of Thailand. As the quality increases, so will its popularity. However, in my opinion, the real future in Thai wines lays elsewhere. What is Thailand known for in terms of food and beverage? It is not grapes but its high quality and very abundant tropical fruits. I think making a high quality and well-presented tropical fruit wine is where Thailand can make some real headway in the “global wine world”.

Anyway, it was a very interesting day out and lovely countryside. If you see some Thai wines at your local Thai restaurant, give it a try!

January 26, 2007 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

Visa Run to Laos

Living in Thailand is great. The weather is almost always perfect; the people are super nice to you. Most people are respectful, serene, the food is amazing, and there is always something very interesting going on somewhere.

However, there is one annoying thing that the majority of foreigners living in Thailand have to do every two or three months. That is to leave Thailand….

Most do not leave because they want to. They leave because they have to. It is one of these silly laws by the Thai government that stipulates that unless you are hired by a Thai company and are paid over an “X “ amount of money, are married to Thai person or are just independently rich or own a business, you must leave the country to re-new your visa outside the country. Actually, the law makes perfect sense but it is still annoying to do.

Having freshly arrived back into Thailand after being gone over a month I had to leave Thailand again for the sake of my wife and kid’s visa renewal, which was almost due. They had been in Thailand for just about two months on a tourist visa and now came the time to renew the visa or change it to a “Non-Immigration” visa now that my wife is now employed (this would give her three months in the country).

The country we chose to have our visa renewed was Laos. It is the cheapest and closest country to Bangkok to do this. A trip into the unknown for a wife and three small children can be very stressful so it was decided that I would accompany them there and help with this ordeal even though I did not need to have my visa renewed then. Actually, the whole experience was great! It proved to be a bit of a family holiday and we all loved the capital Vientiane.
We took an overnight train ride to the North Eastern border town of Nong Kai where we went through the border crossing procedures. After applying for a Lao entry visa at the border, paying (US$42 per person…ouch!) and crossing, we all got unto a tuk-tuk and headed to Vientiane.

Not having any idea where to stay the night or where accommodations were located, we ask some locals some good places to stay. One very nice woman who spoke a few words of English was able to direct the tuk-tuk driver to bring us to a general area on the shores of the Mekong River where many guesthouses congregated. Once we go there, we had a place to stay within a few minutes…very convenient!

Vientiane is a wonderful city, a very relaxed, easy going and easy to get around. After submitting passports at the Thai Embassy in Vientiane, we visited a large Buddha park, the morning markets, the Laos equivalent of the “L’Arc de Triumph” and a few of the old French colony neibourhoods.
We met up with John and Libby, our old friends from Tonghua who have moved to Vientiane the previous summer, had a great French dinner, drank wine (it is very cheap in Laos) and learned about Laos’s culture.

The fact that you can buy fresh French baguettes, croissant and excellent coffee on mornings anywhere in Vientiane for just a few pennies was a great plus for us. Therefore, after picking up our passports with new Thai visas the next day, we headed back into Thailand and home to Bangkok and we vowed to come back to Laos’s semi regularly. If not for a holiday, certainly for another Thai imposed “Visa Run”….

January 20, 2007 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

Now Living in Thailand…

Greetings from the “Land of Smiles”!
I have not written in my blog since mid October. Wow, that is ridiculous!

Well, quite a few things have happened since then and it will take me quite a while just to get this up to date.

You can now tell from the changed blog header that I no longer live in China. I presently live in the “City of Angels”, that’s Bangkok for most people.

Why did I move? Well the reasons are a bit complex, but they did involve a lot of thought. The simple reasons such as “I can’t face another winter in -25’C!” helped a bit in choosing Thailand as my next stop but this was obviously a very small part of it.

I really enjoyed my time in China for the last four or so years. I could write volumes on the interesting things that have happened to me there and will certainly be back as often as I can. On the other hand, however rich the culture in China is, it will never be my own and I can never be fully attached to it. I have lived in the rich areas of China as well as the poor and have visited almost every corner of the country. I just felt, at this point in my life that it was time to move on, see different things and experience life at a different pace.

I am now in Thailand to pursue some very interesting and exciting business opportunities, more of which I will explain later.

It has been a very fascinating, busy and mind-expanding few months here in Thailand and I will attempt to record a few of these events in the next few days. Check back here soon!

January 8, 2007 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

Finding “True” Love in a Tropical Paradise?

One thing that seemed very obvious in places like Samui is the amount of young (and older alike) men that are accompanied by young Thai women. Samui is a wonderful place and very family friendly but it certainly has a reputation as a sex tourism destination. I can see why. Clare and I were amazed by the amount beautiful and young usually unilingual Thai girls clutching at fat, greasy German or Austrian men that probably can’t find a wife/girlfriend in their own country. Very interesting…

Young Asian women certainly have an allure to many western men and vise-versa. This was very apparent here in Samui.

Obviously white men and the majority of Thai women that are with them both have different objectives in their relationships and that seems to suit them well. I found this interesting (and funny) website that can graphically explain this whole subculture of white men living in Thailand for its many exotic pleasures…

February 17, 2006 at 7:16 am Leave a comment

Koh Samui!

We have arrived in Koh Samui, a small island paradise in the Sea of Siam. Hot weather, sunny skies and clean beaches. We are in heaven!

We have rented a nice bungalow in the town of Chaweng about a 2 minute walk to the beach. Some beaches are a bit crowded but we managed to find some excellent deserted beaches where we were the only ones around.

Samui is a great place that can be easily toured by motor bike, friendly people, lots of restaurants and bars, lots of quiet and spiritual places and not yet spoiled like many other sunny destinations.

For us, it is the ideal place to be. Now I just have to find a way to not have to leave!

February 17, 2006 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

R&R in Thailand

After a very busy time in the last few months, it is now time for some good relaxation and spending some time with my family.

We have decided to spend Chinese New Year in Thailand, get away from the cold, get a tan and forget about work for a while. To make this trip even more interesting, my father has decided to come and live with us for a couple months. He will spend the first part of his time with us on our Thailand holiday.

We have all set a meeting place in Beijing where we will start our journey. My father flew from Montreal to Beijing, my wife, kids took the 17-hour train journey from Tonghua, and I flew from Vancouver via LA.

After a day of sightseeing in Beijing (Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven), we all took our flights to Bangkok via a few hour stopover in Hong Kong.

The hotel in Bangkok (The Siam Beverley) with great as it had a wonderful roof top pool, which the kids took full advantage of. The first night was spent getting our bearings straight and going out to a fabulous Thai restaurant.

The next day while Clare and the kids stayed by the pool, my father and I dealt with getting the kid’s Chinese visas sorted out (so that they can get back into China after this trip ends) and book our flights for Koh Samui. Then it was taking boat trips down the Grand Canal and visiting a giant Buddha.

The day before we left for Samui, the whole family visited the Grand Palace which is absolutely breathtaking, did some shopping and had a great dinner with my friend Sally who I have done business with a few years ago in Bangkok. Clare and my dad are falling in love with Thailand and I do not blame them for it.

We all look forward to the next 7 days by the beaches of Koh Samui!

February 16, 2006 at 7:13 am Leave a comment

About Me!

Lover, father, global winemaking consultant, winemaker/exporter, hobby farmer, author and modern-day nomad...

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