Sep 14th, 2005, 04:55 AM
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The Jan Morris books is wonderful folr history but it describes a Hong Kong of years ago -- much of what she describes has been lost. That said I agree with others that it's still a fun city and for free I'd go back in a second.
glorialf is offline  
Sep 14th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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FREE ACCOMODATIONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!go LA what r u waiting for !when u get there dont forget to spent $2 for the train and have a check about hk island after that <forget the MTR> take the ferry to kowloon for shopping<not TST but NATHAN ROAD> and after that go to NEW TERRITORIES for sea food...etc! just go, im sure u like it!........LA
kooler is offline  
Sep 14th, 2005, 01:54 PM
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Again, thanks for the comments on this subject.

Can you recommend any places not too far from Hong Kong that I might look at for warmth and relaxation. Nice setting, not expensive - spas and the like not necessary.

Recommendations of places/countries to consider close to from Hong Kong or in an around Hong Kong would be appreciated. We’ve been to Penang - my husband got denque fever there! We'll go to Macau, and I’ve been looking at Bali and Singapore as they are on the Cathay Pacific All Asia route. (If we go we'll probably travel Singapore or Cathay Pacific Airlines for their superior service.)

This information gathering is educational even if we don't get to Hong Kong. I've learned some interesting history and will try to get the book recommended.
michi is offline  
Sep 14th, 2005, 06:14 PM
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In January and February, you will be pretty much spoiled for choice in SE Asia, as most of it will be in fantastic weather for beaches and touring etc. A short 2 hour flight away is Thailand,, which is in great weather and offers beaches, mountain areas and of course Bangkok. Northern India is perfect in January and February, and Cathay has non-stop flights to Delhi. The beaches of Goa and Kerala are at their best then too. Further south, Sri Lanka is good this time of year as well.

The beaches of Koh Samui and Phuket are both excellent then, you will probably find prices in Phuket higher than most places. I believe Cathay has flights to both. Kalimantan/East Malaysia (still erroneously referred to as Borneo by a lot of people) also has good weather. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, they are all good places to visit then.

Bali and places in Indonesia like Yogjarkarta in Java are unfortunately a rare exception as it is the rainy season there. Same with northern Australia like Darwin.

Take a look at weatherbase.com and worldclimate.com. Weatherbase.com even has a feature called "Vacation Finder". Enter in the month you want to travel, and the minimum acceptable temperature. It will show you where you can go. (You also then have to check rainfall)
Cicerone is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 02:49 AM
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Thanks Cicerone,

I think I'll take a good look at Thailand. Is there any place in particular, keeping in mind cost? We also have to consider dengue fever since once a person has had it, the chances of getting it again are greater.

Any thoughts on Taiwan?

michi is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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Taiwan will be cold. As for Thailand -- depends what you want. If it's a city with a huge amount to do, luxurious hotels at cheap prices with pools etc, go to Bangkok. If it's a beach go south. If it's a more rural environment with culture, hilltribes, gardens and scenery go to northern thailand (maybe Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai).
glorialf is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 06:22 AM
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You just ruled out Taiwan for us since we would like to get away from the cold and damp in Toronto.

On another post there were mentions of northern Thailand. While I'll read up on it, do you have further comments and suggestions.

Also mentioned was a place called Shan State/Inle Lake? Can anyone comment. Sounds like somewhere we would like.

We would spend at least a few days in Bangkok.

While I would like some warmth, also interested in off-the-beaten tourist track places that don't require heavy hiking.

In the south, can you suggest somewhere warm, quiet but interesting.
michi is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 06:31 AM
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Well, Taiwan may be cold by SE Asia standard (as it's not really SE Asia), but it'll be very warm compared to Toronto. It does have some pretty tall mountains, and of course it'll be colder there. It snows in the higher elevation, but not in the cities.
rkkwan is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 06:39 AM
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Shan State and Inle Lake is in Burma.
Personally, I don't find anything particularly interesting in southern thailand but I'm not a beach person. I always feel I don't need to travel that far to go to a gorgeous beach.

From what you describe in terms of your interests northern thailand might be perfect. If you want more off the beaten track read my long post on that subject. I spent almost a month in northern thailand a few trips ago.
glorialf is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 06:48 AM
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Michi-- here's my northern thailand post.
A couple of years ago we spent a month just in northern thailand. We were particularly interested in learning more about the burmese refugee situation in Thailand (we had been in Burma the year before) and also wanted to learn more about the various ethnic groups. I had been to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai several times but wanted to get off the tourist route a bit. We had an English speaking driver for the entire trip. Here's where we went.

Day 1-4: Mae Sot: Mae Sot is a true frontier area, replete with smuggling, refugee camps, and occasional border skirmishes between Myanmar’s government troops and the Karen or Kayah insurgents. a. Among the sights in Mae Sot are the main market behind the Siam Hotel and the border market on the Moei River. About 7 miles northwest of Mae Sot on a 1000-foot hill is Wat Phra That Doi Din Kiu - a forest temple, reminiscent of Myanmar’s Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. We also visitied Sukothai from here

Since Mae Sot is in a major refugee area, we spent a lot of time visiting some of the refugee camps as well as Dr. Cynthia’s Mae Tao Clinic. About 60 kilometers southwest of Mae Sot is the border town of Waley. On the way is the Mawker Refugee Camp as well as several hilltribe villages. On the way to Mae Sarit, you can find Mae La, a Karen refugee center. Nearby is also the Mae Salit refugee camp. Visiting the refugee camps was fascinating and very moving. We also realized why some of the thais resent these camps as they are actually nicer than many of the nearby villages . Dr. Cynthia’s clinic is inspirational.

Day 5: We drove 140 north to Mae Sariang. In addition to stopping at refugee camps along the way, we went to the Mae Kasa Falls and the huge limestone caverns at Tham Mae Usu. The road passes through Mae Ramat, Mae Sarit, Ban Tha Song Yang, and Mae Ngao, crossing from Tak Province to Mae Hong Son Province. Most of the villages along the way are Karen, although there are also Hmong and Shan.

Mae Sariang itself may well have been part of an overland link through Burma to the Gulf of Martaban. It has two Burmese style temples – Wat Jong Sung and Wat Si Bunruang. Accomodation here was very basic.

Day 6: We drove to Mae Hong Son today. Enroute we stopped at a couple of hilltribe villages but the highlight was Ban La Up, about 15 miles off he highway. It is a Lawa village known for its cloth and silver. We spent several hours there and had a great time. They only see a few tourists a year so we felt like we were actually seeing how people live. Right before Mae Hon Song we stopped at Thailand’s highest waterfall, the 820-foot Mae Surin Falls which is near the town of Khun Yuam,. Khun Yuam also has a charming Shan temple – Wat to Phae – containing a well-known Shan tapestry.

Day 7-10: Mae Hong Son Lots of people have talked about this lovely area. We thoroughly enjoyed the town, the lake, the temples, the market and the laid-back feel of the place. We also went visited several hill tribe villages in this area.

Day 11: Went to Pai via Soppong which has a wide variety of ethnic villages – Shan, Karen, Lisu, and Lahu. We also went to the place where the fishes and caves are.

Day 12:: Drove to Mae Salong. On the way, we visited some more villages. Mae Salong was established originally by the Kuomingtang’s 93rd regiment. Opium cultivation is rife in this area, and the drug warlord Khun Sa had a base in the region until the early '80s. In the early days, it is said that the U.S. paid the Kuomintang people to grow opium, hoping to destabilize the Communist Chinese regime. Later, the opium was sent to Vietnam and used by our soldiers. Many of the older local people we met talked about how they often worked for the CIA. The Doi Mae Salong mountains of the area are noted for their indigenous Akha hilltribes. In the Akha villages, the women work in the fields, while the men stay home, smoke opium, and care for the children.

Day 13-15 We spent these days visiting the local tribes in the Mae Salong area and around Ban Terd. Doi Mae Salong itself is a Chinese Haw village, located along the Thai/Burma border. This beautiful mountain area is home to many ethnic minorities - Lisu, Akha, Musser, and Yao. There is also a wonderful local market. Not to be missed are the local alcohol shops, selling a potent rice whiskey laced with snakes, herbs, and lizards. In addition to opium, the area is famous for its gems, the money often going to finance the Burmese government. The Queen Mother has made great efforts to help the hilltribe people get their goods to market and the government has been encouraging the hilltribes to grow tea, coffee, corn and different fruits. The tea factory in town, selling the Mae Salong teas is one example of the government work.

Day 16 - 18: Chiang Rai – had a respite with some luxury and spa experiences. Went into town a bit and did spend a day at the Queen Mother’s fabulous gardens but this was really just some time to have a bit of self-indulgent luxury.

Day 19: Today we went south to Phayao. Archeologists believe that the history of Phayao goes back to the Bronze Age, not impossible, since the Ban Chiang ruins in the northeast date back to that time also. In 1096, Phayao became the capital of the kingdom of Chiang Saen, and later of Mengrai’s Lanna kingdom. The Burmese invasions forced evacuation of the city, but Lampang residents reoccupied it in the mid-nineteenth century.

The high point of Phayao is its freshwater lake, measuring about 9 miles in circumference and supporting more than 5,000 acres of fish farms. We walked along the lake, took a boat out on it and ate some delicious seafood. We also went to the Phayao Fishery Office which is interesting. Believe it or not, this is the place where the first artificial insemination of the giant catfish took place. In the exhibition room, various Mekong fishes are displayed and the general area has been designated a fresh water animal park. The most important temple in Phayao is Wat Sikhom Kham, containing a 400-year-old Buddha image – Phra Chao Ton Luang. This is a “real” Thai town. No tourists. But the same wonderful people. Walking around we felt like we were really seeing how people live.

Day 20-23:We drove to Nan which was established in 1368 by migrants from the Mekong River region, Nan was part of the old empire of Sukkothai and later of Lanna. From 1558 to 1786, Nan was under Burmese sovereignty before being ruled by hereditary princes. From 1931 onwards, Nan was controlled by Bangkok. Nan is known for being the site of the 1933 film King Kong!

One of the days we were there was Children’s Day so we spent a lot of the time watching the festivities and the games and connecting with children and their families. But we did to the Nan National Museum, which is in the Ho Kham Palace. The palace itself was built in 1903 by Prince Phalida. The museum has ethnographic displays, explanations of the history of Thai art, and a highly valued black elephant tusk. Across the street is Wat Chang Kham Vora Viharn, built in 1547, and containing a pure gold walking Buddha, discovered in 1955 when the plaster covering the image was broken. Architecturally, Wat Phumin, dating from 1603, is one of the finest examples of Northern Thai construction. The cruciform pattern of the central viharn and the four Sukkothai style Buddhas at each of the cardinal points is highly unique. The carved doors of the temple are among the finest in Thailand. On the wall are murals painted by Thai Lue artists that represent the Thai society of 100 years ago. Wat Suan Tan, with its Khymer style spire enshrines a 12-foot bronze image of the Buddha, cast in 1449 by the king of Chiang Mai after his conquest of Nan. Wat Prathat Chae Heng, just outside of town, is a 14th century shrine with a spectacular golden chedi and viharn in the Laotian style. The oldest structure in the region is said to be Wat Prayawat with Sinhalese-style Buddhas and an altar reminiscent of Laos. We are both interested in murals so we went to visit Wat Nongbua outside town in Tha Wang Pha District. Done by the Thai Lue artists, these frescoes, depicting legends from the Candgada Jataka, are in excellent condition and considered to be the finest in the region

: We also took a day trip to visit the Mrabi Hill Tribes. Called Phi Thong Luang by the Thais and nicknamed the “Spirits of the Yellow Leaves” because of the color of the leaves used in building their huts, the Mrabi are nomadic hunters. There are fewer than 200 of them still living.

Day 24: Leaving Nan, we drove to via small roads that cut through the hills to Lampang. ,Lampang’s history goes back to the 7th century and Queen Chamdevi of the Haripunchai Kingdom. With the rise of King Mengrai, the city became part of the Lanna Kingdom before coming under Burmese sway in 1556. When Thailand was finally unified in the 18th century, Lampang was brought back into the fold. The town was a center for teak trading and still today has many lovely old temples and mansions. One of the finest is Baan Sao Nok or the “House of Many Pillars.” Lampang’s main temple, Wat Pra Keo Don Tao, briefly housed the Emerald Buddha and has a distinctly Burmese influence. Although there are many other spectacular temples in Lampang with both Burmese and Lanna influences, about 13 miles outside of town is we felt was one of the most gorgeous temple in all of northern Thailand --the 11th century Wat Prathat Lampang Luang. Once part of the walled city of Princess Chamdevi of Lamphun, the temple has extraordinary artwork and architecture.

Day 25: Today we went to the elephant training camp and then headed to Chiang Mai for 3 days before returning to Bangkok,
glorialf is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 12:33 PM
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Dear Glorialf,

I've read your trip report in northern Thailand and was exhausted just reading it. I thought I had mentioned - but couldn't see it - that we are 73 and 79 years old, and although in good health but I guess you can understand that we are not up to the kind of trip you took.

I have a niece (nurse) and her husband who worked in refugee camps in areas similar to what you described and I think they would be interested in your report -- they are in their early 30s!! The husband is studying in Oxford this year and will be a specialist to do with water. Following that they will be back in Thailand doing the work they love.

Having said all that I hope you won't think me a wimp, but I will have to ask for more gentle recreation having just recovered (very well) from a total knee replacement with the other giving way slowly.

But I did read your report and wish that I had the youth to make such a trip. Again, an educational insight even if I don't get there. And your post might attract others who wish to know more about this area.

Nothing lost and lots gained. Thanks.
michi is offline  
Sep 15th, 2005, 01:17 PM
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It actually was a pretty easy trip because we took almost a month to do it. Had a private driver and did no treking.

However, you can certainly do the things in Chiang Mai, and either Chiang Rai or the Mae Hong Son area.
glorialf is offline  
Sep 16th, 2005, 12:00 PM
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Thank you so much for your suggestions and comments. I will consider them carefully.
michi is offline  
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