Category Archives: Thailand

Cheeky monkey’s

Eating banana's in the temple in Nepal
Eating banana’s in the temple in Nepal

Whilst travelling through Thailand and Nepal one of the things which captivated me and made me nervous at the same time was the Monkey’s.

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Stealing food from the boat in Thailand!

They were everywhere!!!! And they were so cheeky! From chasing me and my friends off a beach on an Island so they could steal our food, to jumping in the canoes as we were paddling past and stealing fruit at the local temples. These highly intelligent creatures knew exactly how to manipulate, either through fear (they have seriously sharp claws) or through being immensely cute, they had everyone captivated.

Pulling the cute look
Pulling the cute look

Taking food from the locals

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Ubuntu

Copyright Key Image Photographers ubuntu-elephants
Two female elephants protectively prevent the baby elephant from being taken downstream by the current. Photograph taken whilst volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.

I have often written about the connection that I feel to nature. I love being in the woods, surrounded by trees, the older the better. I love sitting in trees and feeling the comfortable swaying embrace of them. I also love being around animals, especially dogs.

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Poppy showing me her “happy face” The wind blew and caught her ears at the perfect time!

I have grown up with dogs. My first dog was there from birth and was my protector, my calmness and my best friend. My little Poppy, pictured above, has been my constant companion and has made me smile when I never thought I would smile again. I have worked with elephants, volunteered with animal sanctuaries and at one point felt I had my own animal sanctuary when I owned a disabled guinea pig and a ferocious rabbit who would chase birds from the garden.

Rascal, the most appropriately named rabbit
Rascal, the most appropriately named rabbit

But what about people? I find people harder to connect with than nature and animals. With an animal what you see is what you get. They are very true to themselves and they show their emotions. I have met many a cat who has shown their distaste at your existence.

People I find more complicated to understand. I can instantly feel when someone is not being true to themselves or when they are hiding something and it places me in a position of unrest in their company. I have met people who are selfish and needy, only wanting to validate their own self worth and, I am embarrassed to admit, I myself have been this way at a point in my life where I wanted someone else to desperately show me that I was good enough.

I have also met the most wonderful and open souls. People who are calm, confident within themselves and who genuinely care about other people. They don’t announce their grand gestures on Facebook or for the world to see, what they do they do because it comes naturally to them. I have been very fortunate to have had these people come into my life.

I have included a video link in this post today. It is from a TED talk by a man called Boyd Varty. He talks about the African term of Ubuntu, which is difficult to translate into English but Boyd describes it as “I am, because of you”

Click on the link Ubuntu and find yourself transported to 14 minutes of inspiration. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Looking deeper

Sleeping in the jaws of the guardian!?
Sleeping in the jaws of the guardian!?

How many times do we look for a deeper meaning in things?

I recall walking around the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This amazing collection of architectural wonder was a photographers dream. Even people who claim they can not use a camera can take awesome photographs here.

While most people took the stand temple shots with their friends and family stood outside in a classic “evidence based” style to prove to the world on social media they were there. I was distracted by a story which spanned across the entire edge of the grounds.

The canvas was the external wall of the palace, marking the edge where the city began the the palace was guarded. It told the story of the the kings of Thailand history and contained what every good story needs….hero’s, fighting, dramatic rescues, war, love, drama and a dash of comedy.

Temple Guardian bridge copyright Key Image

As I followed the story and looked deeper and deeper I saw more and more, like when you stare at the night sky and hidden stars reveal themselves. There was a cheeky juggling monkey who made guest appearances more than once. Or the lovers caught in a passionate embrace hidden from view. I became engrossed at finding the little quirks in the story which made it unique and put some of the artists personality in there. I wondered how many other people had noticed this detail?

Juggling monkey copyright Key Image

Bangkok temple lovers copyright Key Image

If you happen to find yourself in Bangkok and wish to visit the Grand Palace I would recommend it. It is quite expensive for Thailand’s attractions (500 THB in 2014) but you can easily spend a whole day there. The strict dress code in enforced on the door so ladies make sure you have your arms and legs covered, same goes for men and ensure that you have socks with your sandals or closed toe shoes on. Some temples will require you to enter with bare feet only.

One thing I will recommend is to look deeper….don’t take surface value photographs. Look for what others might have missed.

Perspective and depth

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One of the things which I realised at Art College was I had a good understanding of perspective and depth….well not a good understanding, an excellent understanding!

I remember being 10 years old and drawing a street scene using a vanishing point to draw peoples eyes to the centre of the scene.

I hate it when things aren’t straight….seriously I can tell if a picture on the wall is out by a few mm.

As I grew within myself I learnt that perspective and depth are not something which can only be applied to an image (I love photographing in this way) or an object but also to a person.

Different people have different perspectives on the world. Some people choose to focus on the small details, some the bigger picture, some people look at the negative, the faults, the flaws, some find the improvements in everything that can be done. Others choose to see the positive, the worthwhile and the good.

Teams are developed because people bring their own unique perspectives and skills to the same cause. One persons strength is another persons weakness. A team who works together has ascertained their shared goals and agreed a plan of action which incorporates everyones strengths in order to achieve the shared goal.

This is the same for any human relationship and interaction. If you can ascertain your shared goals you can find a way to work together towards them. If you focus on what is wrong and what the other person is not doing to meet your goals then you will continue to experience trouble and strife in that relationship.

Next time you are faced with a confronting situation and person, ask yourself “What are our shared goals?” It is from this point of understanding that you can base your responses to that person and improve your relationships by reaching a win win solution.

Bertie the Bear’s top 12 tips for travelling in Chiang Mai

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1. Use the red trucks for transport. They are the Thai equivalent of a bus. Agree a price for where you want to go first before you get into the truck. Usually anywhere inside the city is 20 THB and just outside is 40 THB. A trip to the airport is between 150 THB and 200 THB. (2014 prices)

2. Get a pre-pad SIM at the airport so you can keep in touch with friends and family while travelling through Thailand. The counter staff will set your phone up for you. You can buy a cheap sim without internet quite easily or splash out on unlimited internet for 30 days and 100 THB of calls for 850 THB. (2014 prices)

3. Everywhere has wifi. The codes to access the wifi are usually written inside cafes and restaurants. Most staff will help you with wifi codes if you ask. Downside….wifi can be slow!

4. A Thai cooking class is a must! It is a fantastic way to learn more about the culture and you will walk away so full you won’t need to eat for a day!

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5. Barter, barter and barter! Haggling is fun especially at the night markets. Half the price which the stall holder quotes and work your way up from there.

6. Buy food from the street stalls. It is safe to eat and delicious. Make sure that it is cooked fresh in front of you. Do not buy food that you have not seen being cooked.

7. Smoothies come laden with sugar, ask for no sugar.

8. Taxi’s are very expensive. Although you can hire a taxi for the day to take you to agreed places around the city. Prices usually start from 1000 THB. Alternatively negotiate with the Tuk Tuk drivers. They usually ask for 300 THB for 2 hours service.

9. Visit the Sunday night market! It is an awesome place to pick up great deals, cheap clothes and cheap food.

10. Crepes with banana and Nutella are a must try and at 50 THB on most stalls are a complete bargain.

11. Use Tiger Balm on mosquito bites. The locals recommend it and it helps with the itching. If your bites swell up really badly you can buy anti-histamines from most of the Pharmacy’s relatively cheaply.

12. Thailand has loads of temples to visit. Chiang Mai has 300 alone. When visiting a temple please dress respectfully by covering shoulders and legs. Some temples have an entrance fee, although these are usually the bigger ones.

Bertie’s tips for getting to Pai

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Yes, you read that correctly, Bertie is not talking about food and has used his spellcheck. Pai is a small and friendly town near the Myanmar border, in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province. It is about 50 miles/80 km north of Chiang Mai and lies along the Pai River. It is well worth a visit, having a relaxing atmosphere and friendly feel, simple to navigate streets and amazing food stalls all of which add to the hippy charm and character of the place.

How to get there: 

Catch a bus from Chiang Mai. Be prepared for a bumpy road journey on a steep and winding route. Take a book or take a friend! Buses and mini buses usually take a break half way through the journey. Expect the journey to last about 3 hours and to cost in the region of 180THB (Prices correct March 2014) Mini bus transport can be arranged at many of the travel agents stores located within Chiang Mai.

You could choose to fly, which will take about 30 minutes and can easily be arranged online or in one of the many travel agents within Chiang Mai’s city. Or some brave backpackers will hire a motorbike and complete the journey themselves.

Leaving Pai:

To arrange a return is easily done at the bus deport in Pai itself. However, take note as most of the services stop at the Arcade Bus Station, located in the northeastern region of Chiang Mai. From here you will have to catch a red truck to your accommodation or next stop.

Coming next: Bertie’s top things to do in Pai

Balancing Act!

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Procrastination and Reality!

Bertie had noticed that he possessed a particular skill. It was not necessarily a useful skill and one that he had never associated with himself so far. He had discovered that when it came to making decisions or changes in his life he was the master of procrastination!

In fact, if he had been give a decision to go travelling he would have probably procrastinated about it for a while. Thinking it all through and going over every little detail.

He also realised that the opposite of procrastination is reality.

They first introduced themselves to him as the conflicting voices in his head. Procrastination would provide him with excuses as to why he should not do something. It was really helpful in giving him alternative things to do, to focus on and tasks to complete so that he could avoid thinking and proactively doing what it was he was procrastinating about.

Reality was the voice of reason. Reality argued against procrastination and reminded why he needed to focus on the thing(s) he was avoiding. Reality gave him real time scales to work towards and brought him back to what he should be focusing on. Reality reminded him of the truth of the situation whether he wanted to face it or not. It also pointed out when procrastination had taken over….

Bertie began to observe the two voices quietly arguing and manipulating in his head were not so much fighting against each other but striving to reach a balance. The balance where priority was given to what needed to be completed for that moment in time, to not use the time to dwell on worrying and “what ifs”. Procrastination helped distract from the what if questions and reality kept the balance by helping him to regain focus when he needed to.

The trick was, firstly, not to get too concerned that Bertie was hearing voices in his head. Secondly, was to identify when the balance was tipping and adjust accordingly.

Bertie decided that neither of these tasks were easy ones and may take some time to accurately implement. The reality of the situation was that he had observed and noticed what he was doing, his task was to no longer procrastinate at taking action to maintain a balance of the two.