Silk and worms

Just uncovered a disk of extra photos from our 2013 Thai adventure. A trip around a Chiang Mai silk farm as part of a traditional crafts day! Apologies for the grainy pictures, it was quite dim inside for the sake of the moths!!

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The production of Thai silk begins with the Bombyx mori, a small silk worm that comes from the eggs of a silk moth. Above Neil inspects the icky critters in various stages of growth.

For their first year, they eat the leaves of mulberry trees before building a cocoon from their spittle.

Below you can see the moth cocoons, the moths themselves and the rather cruel method of extracting the silk by boiling the cocoons.

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In its original cocoon form, raw silk is bumpy and irregular. Weavers separate the completed cocoons from the mulberry bush and soak them in a vat of boiling water to separate the silk thread from the caterpillar inside the cocoon.

Here’s a close up of the pale moths and their eggs. It takes around 380 cocoons to produce 90 grams of silk yarn.

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A single thread filament is too thin to use on its own so the Thai weavers combine many threads to produce a thicker, usable fiber.

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Above and below weavers use a reeling machine to produce a uniform strand of raw silk thread.

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The natural colour of the silk ranges from light gold to very light green. The thread is soaked in hot water and bleached before dyeing in order to remove the natural yellow coloring. It can then be dyed a variety of colours.

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It’s then wound onto bobbins and ready to weave into cloth.

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Here’s another set of bobbins ready to go.

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Once washed and dried, the dyed silk is then woven using a traditional hand operated loom

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Here are some colourful examples of cloth being woven by the patient weavers.

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I love this colour combination.

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Below are some undyed natural silk clothes and some hand painted scaves drying before heading to the shop.

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Here’s some of final high quality silk for sale in the factory shop. Every shade and hue you could possibly want.

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These mouth watering shades of lemon and lime are very tempting but very expensive so alas I left empty handed!!

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Thai markets

Thailand is a veritable market heaven and I always get a little bit giddy and carried away with them!

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Apologies to any “regular” readers (!) as you’ve probably seen a fair few of my Thai holiday pics fairly recently . .  . but here’s a bit of a recap of some of my fav market pics from our two Thailand adventures.

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Sweet treats in Chaing Mai, dried mushrooms and crispy duck are just some of items on sale in Bangkok’s China town district.

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Oooh piles of dried unidentifable food stuffs! My favourite!

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Gorgeous splashes of colour from hill tribe crafts in Chiang Mai, fresh greens in Chiang Rai and a patient market seller.

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Peacock finery and real feather dusters are on offer from this street trader on a dusty back street in Chiang Mai’s Warorot Market.

It’s a favourite place for locals to trade and haggle and is very different to the usual tourist orientated night market and walking markets.

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Freshly prepared street food is on offer on every single street corner, under bridges and underpasses and by the side of every road. Even in the darkest, most inhospitable seeming spot you’ll find street hawkers.

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The markers couldn’t function without the tireless efforts of the sellers themselves however. Forever wheeling, carrying, baking, steaming, cooking and freezing their wares.

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Once again I feel the need to share one of my all time favourite snaps – traditional Thai icecreams in a multitude of flavours in these delightful little metal moulds.

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You really can buy anything, including these unfortunate little critters . . . ready marked up for sale.

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A few more seller snaps, from this epic super sized cart, a woman selling what appear to be little boobies and the amulet market close to Wat Po.

Here’s a few more captured creatures all wiggling, squirming and generally trying to make a bid for freedom.

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And a final trio of hard working market traders to conclude this particular romp through a few Thai markets.

Always worth a nice long browse while in the land of smiles.

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Damnoen Saduak floating market

We had a single day in Bangkok before heading home and wanted to do something we’d not done before. I had fancied visiting a floating market and never managed it during the last trip.

So we headed off to the most famous one Damnoen Saduak which is a fair ole ride out of the city in a very cramped van on a very pot holed road! (equalling one very sore butt . . )
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Now I had heard various reports about the market, namely it was a tourist trap, you got dropped off at the wrong place and had to pay more to get to the actual market etc. In short the usual Thai experience.

In truth it was incredibly busy and full of tourists (more tourists clogging up boats and walkways than actual vendors!) full of people over charging for cheap items, trying to get you posing with a snake and other annoyances.

However it was still fun! Lots of colour, piles of food, spices, wooden carved artwork, fans, buddhas and other items to browse.

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Fancy a grilled banana or a conical hat? Sorted! Ditto a coffee, fridge magnet, tea-towel, boiled dry fish, peppercorns, pineapple, sticky rice and mango and more!

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More of the tiny dried shrimps that seem ubiquitous in Thailand on every street corner, market stall and food vendor.

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But there’s more. Pre packed fruit and nuts, plenty of tempting piles of jewel bright morsels.

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There was also a wide selection of traditional headgear in evidence. Including one that appeared to levitate above the wearer’s actual head!

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This style of bamboo-hat is called a ngob and protects from the sun and heat. The space between the hat and head allows air to circulate, keeping the wearer cooler.

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The colourful wares for sale are a nice contrast to the grey, grimy water of the canals.

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While a canny sales man waits with his slippery photo opportunity.

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Snorkeling and freaking at fishes

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We quite like the beach, the water, the waves and the sandy stuff. However it all gets a bit more intense when forced to come into close contact with the inhabitants of the big wet sea place!

Hence the slightly manic grin on my face here. It is partly due to the rather bumpy / terrifying speed boat death ride we’d just endured, but also down to the fact we are about to SNORKEL!!!

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I am not a sporty person.This face says it all . . .

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Snorkeling is no exception to this rule.

However, once I stop panicking and trying to manically breathe through my nose, and squealing at waves, and freaking out at shoals of fish, then I am fine . . ish.

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Like a large, unwieldy, multi-coloured floaty fish I blend in effortlessly . . . just as long as the actual fish stay far, far, FAR away from me. Occasionally some brushed against me. I think they were doing it on purpose.

Look at the beady glint in their tiny little soulless black eyes . . . .

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Neil however is part merman and enjoys a spot of free diving amongst the sinister gilled ones.

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Christmas day at the beach

So, as Phuket is rip off city and the local tuc tuc mafia charge extortionate prices to get anywhere, we only went on one day trip during our week stay.

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That was on Christmas day and was a hair raising (and very bumpy) speedboat trip to Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding islands. Here’s me barely keeping my hair on!!

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We make a brief stop at Monkey Beach in Tonsai Bay. The beach got its name from the crab-eating Macaque monkey colony living here but is littered with rubbish from tourists and was quite a sad spectacle really,

The main attraction of the day was Koh Phi Phi Leh’s Maya Bay – a broken circle of crystal-clear waters surrounded by high vertical rocky cliffs.

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It is here that the Hollywood blockbuster The Beach was filmed. Simultanously putting Thailand on the mainstream map and paving the way for its inevitable downfall.

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The beach is crammed with hundreds of tourists, all vying for the ideal picture postcard snap of white sand and turquoise sea.

It is there of course, as you can see by my very carefully composed photos, hiding the multitudinous masses.

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Here’s some of the traditional Thai fishing boats moored up along the shoreline.

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We also floated past the Viking cave where swifts’ nests are harvested to prepare the world-famous bird’s nest soup.

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The platforms are a rickety looking set up. It’s amazing that anyone can do a decent days work on those.

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We then ate our Christmas lunch overlooking the beach on Koh Phi Phi Don – not bad!!!

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It’s a little bit different to sprouts and roast potatoes!!! Next up snorkeling and more beaches.

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Extortion and beach bums

So we had all sorts of plans for sight seeing in Phuket. All to be ultimately frustrated by the annoyance that I shall term the “tuk tuk mafia”.

Having done a fair old bit of travelling in Thailand, we have a pretty good idea of what is a reasonable rate for hopping in one of the little pollution belching death mobiles.

But in Phuket, and in Karon and Kata particularly, there is an unsavoury racket going on with this method of transport.

Having laughed in the face of the first driver who wanted to charge us about  £30 to travel 10 – 15 miles to see the Big Buddha, we quickly realised that the prices were completely stitched up and everyone charged the same.

Bearing in mind that the same journey in Bangkok would probably have cost about £5 you can see the issue. But tourists who have only come for a fortnight of winter sun are happy to pay the price.

However, it is not only the extortionate cost that was a problem, the drivers have formed a cartel backed up with threats and physical violence to dissuade anyone operating a reasonable alternative.

A cheaper bus service was once trialed years ago but after the driver was pulled from his vehicle and badly beaten it was abandoned.

Apparently the local police and local government are well aware of the problem but dare not address it. It continues to be the biggest cause of complaints from tourists yet no action is taken. It certainly put me off ever returning to Phuket and I would not recommend anyone else visit either sadly.

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So, since we couldn’t afford to see anything at all in Phuket we had to spend all our time lounging on the beach. I know – it’s a hard life!!

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Check out the flabby, pasty blob that washed up on the shore line . .

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Karon beach is a long, sandy curve of white sandy with the obligatory turquoise sea lapping away at the shore.

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From dusting off the grains of sand, to tapping to turn the page of my Kindle, it was sheer slothful idleness!!

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But I did get fairly bored after a while it has to be said! I am not a beach lover particularly, it does get a tad tedious after a while.

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Especially as the spectre of the unvisited Giant Buddha, just ten miles away, hovered in the back of my mind.

Beaches and epic hotel!

So after the cool greenery of the north we head to the busy beach resorts of Phuket for a spot of vegging over the festive period.

We chose Karon as our base as it was not as hectic as Patong but had a long, nice beach and proximity to other places to sight see in (or so I thought…..)

Before all that though, I have to devote this post to our wonderful accomodation Phuket Club Resort

Set part way up a hillside, about ten minutes walk from the main beach and town, this was a little slice of affordable paradise, complete with amazing roof top pool!!!

No apologies for the following slide show of us in said pool!!

It had a wonderful view over Karon and towards the sea. We spent many happy hours just lounging on the roof terrace, ordering pool side snacks and dipping in the pool when the relaxing all got a bit too much!

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The pro tanner is out making sure that all his bits get an even roasting. . .

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There is also a cute little outdoor spa pool in the hotel grounds and a steam room over a little bridge (you do have to mince past diners in your robe though, but heck!!)

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Here’s us steaming gently . . .

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Not really sure if I am aiming for sultry or seductive in this final image. Either way the overall effect is that of a lobster giving you the evil eye . .

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Plug for Street Pizza!!!

After our arduous few days in the mountains I felt that I deserved some lovely tasty dough based food.

Hence a pit stop at the best pizza restaurant in Thailand – Street Pizza! I have to say, hand on heart, their pizza was actually better than some we’ve had in Italy . . .

It’s tucked down a little back alley, all bare brick and chalk board wall simplicity. (We got to write on their wall, so our witty thoughtful feedback is probably still there . . . )

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Then having scoffed our faces on pizza we headed onto the final Saturday market before we left for the beaches of Phuket.

Here’s some final glorious market shots!!!  Here’s my favourites of the bunch – traditional Thai ice cream in dinky little metal moulds.

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Plenty of flavours from the recognisable such as lemon, cola and orange to more exotic such as green tea, Custard Apple and Durian!

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Then there’s the adorable little baby shoes in every colour of the rainbow and a spectrum of gorgeous light shades.

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Then there’s always the meat in ball format, all types of animal on a stick. And Neil braving it . .

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Wat Chiang Mun

Ohhh found another Chiang Mai temple I had forgotten about! The beautiful Wat Chiang Mun with its incredible, multi coloured wall murals.

P1150182  Photo frenzy!!!!!! The temple has gorgeous delicate red and gold paintings.

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The murals were repainted in 1996 and depict the founding of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

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Chedi Chang Lom is the Elephant Chedi – the oldest construction within the temple complex

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The more modern, colourful murals in the second smaller wiharn in Wat Chiang Mun depict the Lord Buddha’s life and the last ten lives in the Jataka Stories.

These are stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear in them as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he shows some virtue that the tale  explains.

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The murals are a technocolour riot of fun. Here’s just a few snapshots of them in all their glory!

Finally here’s a painting of Phra Setangkamanee on the left of the outer wiharn wall and painting of Phra sila on the right of the outer wall.

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Umbrellas. Just umbrellas.

We took a brief trip to see one of the traditional crafts of the Chiang Mai area – umbrella making! So the man had to try and look even vaguely interested in this particular outing!

Here’s one of the workers mashing up the mulberry pulp to make the actual umbrella shade.

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Creating the bamboo spokes that pop the umbrella open.

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And here’s the next stage where the spokes for the brolly are put in place, it all looks very sculptural!

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The wooden bamboo spokes make very striking photos. Naturally I had to be bodily dragged away from them . .

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There’s every colour and pattern to be found in the umbrella warehouse, from traditional birds and flowers to stark, modern skulls.

From plain white brollies, these patient ladies transform them into flights of colourful fancy.

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I particularly enjoy this lady’s choice of work wear – a purple shower cap!

P1140921And here’s where the brollies get packed up and shipped off.

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I enjoy this shot where the umbrellas look like giant crayons! Plus these grinning colourful skulls are a slightly sinister souvenir.

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You can also get a traditional design painted directly onto an item such as a t-shirt or bag. Here’s my little Khao San bag getting the make over treatment!

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It took FOREVER for me to pick “one or two” trip mementos . . . so so many colourful bulky items to chose from.

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P1140982 Garish but just delightful!!! These fans are an eye watering riot of colour. Why can’t I have them all!!!

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I ended up with a fair few of the lovely little painted fans, a lime green brolly with flowers and a very bulky suitcase.

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And of course, being as there was a photo opportunity, we never miss the chance to humiliate ourselves in public  . . . .

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Having a nightmare trying to get these pictures to sit in the right place, stupid wordpress theme!!! Or maybe stupid me

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Next up, Phuket, beaches, epic rip offs and tuc tuc mafia!