April 24, 2010
This is the time now when red cacti bloom in our area:
They are most prolific on the bench or mesa on top of Rockville, a “secret place” where Rockvillians go for their walks. And who can say they are not worth visiting and seeing?
The other positive thing about those trails on top – they are prepared for mountain bikes and very few bikes ride there. So it is nice to walk in nature by yourself, with no crowds or noises around. This time I walked with a second time guest from Chicago – Daniel Pyne. And here is what we reached:
It is on the very edge of the mesa over our house, over Rockville, over the winding Virgin river:
Up here it is Rockville, down here it is our house:
And here is our parking lot – a closer look -Andrei is filming me on the top :
This view is from another edge which is on top of Dan McGuire’s house, our house can’t be seen here, it is behind the mountain edge on the right. But someone’s pasture all under water is seen in this picture – that is how we irrigate:
It was scary to stand on the edge…Going back we walked through some rocks where mountain lions may well reside:
And also lots of petrified wood pieces, but one piece was especially big, entangled in sandstone:
And this is already my yard with tomatoes and peppers in pots and boxes – this spring is so unusually cold, it is still dangerous to plant them in the garden:
Tulips and hyacinths bloom so late this year:
And this is how I dress at home and meet my guests :
April 23, 2010
Last Tuesday before the big storm (04/20) we headed to the Valley of Fire – Nevada’s oldest state park, dedicated in 1935. But the sandstone formations from sea dunes over there formed during the age of dinosaurs, some 150 million years ago… There is a complex uplifting, faulting of the region with extensive erosions that made the place special and worth of not one visit:
Several kinds of sand stone – maybe I should say several colors of sand stone there competed well with the spring flowers:
The first canyon we went in was called Mouse’s Tank – it was very red, too red for my eyes . Thanks God there were some yellow flowers here and there and some prehistoric petroglyphs:
In fact, there was a lot of them along the canyon walls, which witnesses the times when the Basket Maker People and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers visited the Valley from 300 B.C. to 1150 A.D. There is little probability they could live there because of the scarcity of water. The Mouse’s Tank was the only little basin of naturally collecting water there:
It was nice to see water after going in that very sandy very windy trail.
Evidently lots of airplanes fly over the valley of Fire – it is only 40 mi from Las Vegas.
The peculiar thing is that this rock looks like letter “F” from the other side…
Then we drove to another stop of interest – it was through Rainbow Vista to White Domes:
There is a pink layer seen on the sides of the Domes. Beautiful colors…can’t get them right in pictures…
I am a fan of roads winding in landscape. It was my “thing” !
Driving back towards the visitor’s center we admired this balancing rock – keeping sturdy at thins angle…
Bye bye Valley of Fire, hello Las Vegas! it is a convenient place for us to sleep in order to do some shopping at Trader Joes next morning. This time we found a really good hotel – i wonder where my eyes were earlier, why didn’t I notice it… Tuscany Suites – on Flamingo Blvd., less than a mile from the Strip. The hotel is only 3 story high, no crowds or stops while you get in your elevator to the third floor, very quiet, no slot machine sin sight – they were in a separate wing. the buildings surrounded with trees and blooming bushes, lots of pink bougainvilleas by the swimming pool which is enclosed from harsh L.V. winds in between buildings. Also – live jazz in the main bar where people were dancing happily. A very intimate atmosphere. For $30/ night – we couldn’t wish for more:
The room was huge – well, it was the suite:
And where did we go in Vegas after taking a dip into the hot tub by the pool (BTW- the pool is open from 7 am to 10 pm – find a hotel with such long pool hours, and i promise – you won’t) and eating? To Bellagio, of course… The fountains were not showing – due to high winds. But the flowers were, as usual. It was a spring theme, and this time i got a little anoyed:
Too many flowers, who needs so many? Too big mixture – is a a good taste to mix spring, summer and autumn flowers all together that you get a chaotic chaos, a “noise in the field of beauty…
I liked the big ants here and there and luscious succulents planted on their mounds,
But the total composition was a disaster (excluding my dress from Thailand ). This big shovel – does it have any aesthetic value? the enormity of gerbera daisy plants pouring from a dull pot – where was their sense of “enough” or was there a goal to use as many plants as possible to get a better commission. See – there are chrysanthemums, together with tulips, hyacinths, poppies, lilies, etc…When seasons are so ignored – it is going against nature…
The snail’s “house” is made of roses, and the bees’ and frog’s bodies are decorated with chrysantemums:
And, of course, there are artificial decors, as usual. But this was the first time I was disappointed in their design. The economy is still not strong. but they are demonstrating this strange excess…What is the point?
Some words about the Thai restaurant we ate at. My guest Daniel Pyne advised to go to the Lotus of Siam – close to Sachara ave. We found it in a Business plaza – lots of Korean and Japaneese restaurants around there and there was “it” , looking very unappealing from outside. The inside didn’t look modern, either. But there was a crowd and we were amazed how do they find it there – only by word-of-mouth. I looked into their menu – it seemed good, had some fancy fishes, a good selection of wines insa special wine cupboard by the wall. But so crowdy. we had to wait in line and waiting is not our thing So we left and found another Thai restaurant very close by in the same plaza called Komol – it even had “…and vegetarian” in their name. And it was good, it had organic engredients if to believe their menu, they had good coconut soup, non-dairy ice cream and they also had meat choices. It was good enough for us. Was it better than food in Thailand – some was, some wasn’t. So thanks Daniel for directing us there. Next time maybe we will try the Lotus of Siam.
April 17, 2010
While in Chang Mai I decided to buy another trip – to hill tribes. We visited one Hmong tribe on our way from Golden triangle and it was too short for me. The villages are very poor, but they had some good atmosphere that I liked to experience more. So this trip was as if to visit 5 hill tribes, the Chiang Dao cave and the Orchid farm. It was a short trip in comparison with the previous one (only 7h), the cost being the same -900bt. As always – the mini bus came to pick me from our guest house. So here we were taken to a back road, not far from Chang Mai, with a view of some separate hills or mountains that reminded me our Zion NP:
Except that those rocks or mountains were all covered with greens, unlike our dry desert Zion. By the way -during our 24 day stay – there was not a single rain…not a single overcast day, though there were occasional clouds and the skies are not very blue there because of pollution and humidity in the air.
So here we were driven to the end of that dirt road to the very last village of three. It was a White Karen tribe. The women traders from all those three villages saw our bus and just ran to the end stop, or asked their fellows to drive them on motorbikes- so that they could literally “attack” us with their goodies. Which were mostly hand made and embroidered purses, jewelry, hats. I was “the weakest link” in our group, so I couldn’t even follow the guide and group – they surrounded me like hens, little decorated women and were doing a pushy sale of their beautiful stuff:
Shortly I could catch a glimpse of their houses:
and their kitchen with some soup boiling:
The guide said that hill tribe people eat only black pigs, never the white ones…
Their fresh crop of beans:
And they had monkeys, poor creatures, attached to chains for good luck…:
They were ready to put anything they had on me, just to make a sale…:
and when I ran out of money, they directed their attention towards the others from our group:
So we walked down that main street that was a home to three tribes: White Karen, Lisu and Akha. There is a big difference in their cloths, decorations, customs and even their houses. But we couldn’t notice much – those same women were all over begging for a sale. At the very end – I don’t even know which tribe they belong to – with their very distinct bells on their head boxes. There were some quiet ones sitting on their porches with their crafts, but they were almost unnoticeable because of the aggressive ones. But to be completely honest – they were selling rather nice crafts in those villages, except that the silver was not silver at all.
The next stop was at Chiang Dao cave, here is the entrance:
and once you enter – the cave itself is nothing special. I have seen several more impressive caves as for the stalactites. but this cave is sacred to natives and as usual – is full of Buddhas in different poses:
As usual sacred places there are surrounded with old and new temples:
We had a group lunch in one of the restaurants by the cave, it wasn’t as good as the previous buffet lunch but it was still good. Thais have a good taste for cooking.
The surrounding “jungle” where even tigers live – I wouldn’t call it a jungle… , looks more like a park:
The next stop was at a Long Neck – Karen village. The Long necks and Big ears are not Thailanders. They come from Burma (Myanmar) as refuges and are not legal in Thailand, have almost no rights, are even more poor than other tribes. This is how their village looks:
it is mostly stalls with scarfs and my guess is they live their simple lives in the back:
The little girls already have their rings on necks based on how old they are, poor babies…The rings press very hard on their collar bones and also on chins. I guess they loose their appetites so they are all slim:
Big Ears have rings only on their knees - to make it hard for them to run from their husbands, but they have things in their ear lobes:
And they sti there and weave. The things they weave didn’t impress me at all in comparison with what the other tribes had…Maybe their creativity is bounded by those terrible rings…
As you can see – I had no money in my pockets left. So I could spend my time admiring their beauty and taking pictures:
They are so soft and pleasant, that my heart was very saddened by their situation in this world:
The oldest one sang a song with her guitar:
So those were Long Neck Karens. By the side of their stalls another tribe had their stalls -a Palong tribe, a very colorful one:
So that was it, as if we saw 5 tribes, just very superficially. And it is enough, for they are people with their own traditions,own styles, what is the point of getting to a closer encounter – it makes you feel more weird about how unfair life is for their women…or at least it seems to us, westerners.
We finished the trip in an Orchid Farm:
Orchids everywhere in Thailand, not only in farms, grow hanging in the air. The little pots just hold the root bundles. So they are sprayed often with water and fertilizers constantly. Not so very healthy to walk around that farm…And for the last note – Ginger flowers:
(there will be more)
April 16, 2010
I have to make a break in Thailand blogs and describe the events here and now, in Utah. it was almost a historical event – at last we managed to find the right day, the right weather and only light winds and go to Brian Head – to ski. The first and last time in two years. The fact is that either we have to wait for guests when the weather forecast for the ski resort is good, so we can’t go, or the weather is really bad, which happened there most often. I can’t imagine how they make money, so many bad days they even have to close the lifts, the winds there are usually unbearably high. So here we managed at last to get there on April 14th! Almost no cars…they extended their operation for a week because of the amount of snow we all got in this spring. And the student holidays are now over – maybe that was the reason there were almost no people. Rather strange but I should say -comfortable. Like the mountain belongs only to you and all those guys on both ends of the chair lift are here to help only you:
Andrei couldn’t ski, his knee is still not very strong after he twisted it in Thailand, but he took me there and took also his PC so that he would not waste his time, in a cafeteria in this building:
And I also tried not to waste my time, up and down almost non stop. I land from the mountain and just “swish” into the chair again, getting the rest while going up.
To tell the truth it was funny after two years break to get on skis. I felt as if preparing to go into cosmos. Digging out my ski suit, putting on those heavy boots, gloves, cap glasses – here we are almost in summer clothes and over there it is still winter:
One can see how desolate the slopes are – but how nice! The trails are well prepared with that special car, some of them had still their virginity. So comfortable, I never remember such a good skiing there…
The temperature was around 12C and in the sun some parts of snow were a little wet, but didn’t cause problems because there are still frosts at nights over there. And here is the view from the top of the lift – and of that mountain:
You can’t put a price on it!..
And here is the view from Toquerville -the town that we have to pass on our way from Rockville to Rt. 15, toBrian Head:
And yesterday, which was April 15th, we went on a trail from the town Virgin. It took us 8 years of living here to figure out such a nice trail only 10 min drive from home…
We crossed the river on a bridge there and walked along the rather steep and high edge that Virgin river has created during many years:
And there are also inlets with scarce water, some slim waterfalls, but you can’t cross them, too steep, just follow the mountain bike road:
Then we drove to the La Verkin overlook – it has even a sign on highway but we never had a chance to drive those couple of miles and see for ourselves how amazing the view is:
You don’t need to hike up or down – you are here on top of a mountain -where can you find such a comfort?
To the right is Toquerville, to the left – Hurricane and St. George.
And here is our pear tree two weeks ago:
and the peach blossoms…
April 10, 2010
The owners of hotels, guest houses usually have a folder with a selection of trips, which pictures of happy tourists while on trips. It is a good way of advertising. You buy a trip from your owner and make him happy – they get a commission, and then the next day the mini bus comes directly to your door and picks you. So we picked a trip to Golden Triangle via hot springs and Chang Rai. The price was very right – 900 bt each, a whole day trip lunch included. We were picked rather early and drove out of Chang Mai, a rather spread out city, through hilly landscapes with their so called jungle being very spacious, not crowded with trees, full of calm light that reminded me of our Lithuanian forests in September, if not to notice some banana trees here and there. The first stop was Hot Springs, I don’t even know which ones :
We had only a half an hour, only to immerse our feet in a specially done pool by bus stop. No time to go and take a real bath…but there were woman, as always, selling a basket of 10 quail eggs or two regular ones so that tourists can put the basket into a hot spring and gettheir eggs boiled:
Yes, couple of minutes and the eggs were done. A good snack.
The White Temple of Chang Rai was the next stop. Is is being built now, not finished yes, one wall inside still to be decorated. But from the outside it looked amazing. It is not particularly my style of architecture, but it still looked amazing…
I particularly liked the two sculptures or “icicles’” by the entrance to its grounds:
On the left there was a devil with several faces with a whiskey bottle!!!
The other one on the right also had devil faces and lots of hands around the sign, with real cigarettes, cigarette boxes, matches holding them!!!
We asked the guide whether it is considered bad to smoke and drink alcohol in Buddhism. Yes, it is , that is what the warning signs meant. But…their Buddhism is very “user friendly”, everything is is upon you. Your afterlife is your business, your responsibility and nobody would ever despise the ones who don’t follow the rules in order to enjoy this life more.
Going to the entrance of the Temple you cross a bridge over a small “pond-hell” with the hands sticking from the depths of it with desperation…temples are supposed to remind us sinners about the hell’s existence and the architect did a good job to show us that. For good luck – toss a coin into a prepared jar…
And then there is this long white path to the entrance, with symbolic nagas -snakes on the sides. They start with two sculptures – a male and a female:
This comes from the hill tribe’s tradition to have a male and a female signs on both sides of their gates to the village. Only those in villages are super primitive, here they are more elaborate:
You can spend a lot of time in this Temple, analyzing each sculpture or painting. But we had only half an hour…The most astonishing part was once we entered the Temple itself and turned towards the back wall. They don’t permit to take pictures there, so sorry, only my interpretation of what we saw. First of all you see the front – the altar as we call it. there is a wax monk sitting there and the wall behind him is the description of Heaven. Just as one can imagine – everything is romantic, forms, colors, shades, but this is the most uninteresting wall and who can remember what it was depicting…The side walls show people in boats swimming towards Heaven, also nothing particular. But the back wall, as you already guessed, is Hell – and what a Hell it is…Painted in surrealistic style there are very decorative heads of devils, on the background, but still prominent. And on the foreground in brighter colors are some main characters of American popular animation movies, some bad heroes, police cars, lots of rocket-bombs and the main point – 9-11 in New York! Yes, the twin towers collapsing, one airplane already stuck, another approaching and the juices that fall from all this are in gasoline pipes dripping straight into the mouths of devils…The artist gave a lot of thought while doing it…
In and hour or so we reached the Golden Triangle where two rivers and three countries meet -Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. The main river is Mekong, looked very wide to me, but the guide said it is at its lowest level because of the dry season. And you can see that – the water line is very low down the slopes or steps, depends on where you look. Our group took a boat ride to Laos market, we stayed. Too short to enjoy. 1 hour total, 300 bt. There was enough to see on this side, the place where opium trade once flourished. The markets are everywhere, wherever the bus stops and there are always beautiful things to buy that you can’t resist… That is their way of life, I guess, to sell, sell, sell. And temples are also everywhere. So during that hour we managed to see only one temple on the edge of the bank – made into a boat with Buddhas sitting on top and elephants posing, too:
Then a stop in Mae Sai -for a buffet type lunch, boy, it was good! Under those bougainvilleas:
And here is the border with Myanmar (Burma):
The whole street leading to the border is a humongous market, as usual…
They say there is a lot of Chinese goods sold there, but to my eyes they were all the same, too much to even distinguish.
At the end of the trip we visited one hill tribe village, if i remember correctly it was Hmong tribe:
The visit was too short to make more pictures. In short – it was very poor…people living with pigs almost together…but some of them had even motorcycles and among this poverty – there were tables with things for sale – arts, crafts, silver…
The whole trip was long, it took us maybe 3 hours to return and it was late in their standards, around 8 pm. Totally – it was a 12 hour trip.
(to be continued…)