Tag: Market

A Great Day for the Dead

A Great Day for the Dead

La Paz, Bolivia – November 2, 2018

Today was the first time I ever saw Dia de los Muertos first-hand. I chose the La Paz Cementerio General for my visit. I was a little apprehensive because of the unknown and the fact that I was going by myself. Another reason for my apprehension was the odor. One of my work colleagues told me there was a foul odor at the cemetery because the tombs were not airtight. As an ex-cop, used to dealing with bodies that had, shall we say, “ripened,” I knew exactly what odor was being described. Spoiler alert – I did not encounter any noxious odors at the cemetery.

Dia de los Muertos (the day of the dead) is a traditional holiday in many Latin American countries. It is a day for remembering a family’s dead; but, more importantly, it is a time of celebrating the family members return from the afterlife for a visit. To that end, there are many offerings to entice the family member to visit and then to ease their return to the afterlife. The visits occur between noon on November 2 and noon on November 3; however, those times are not rigid.

A family can expect visits at either the tomb or grave of their loved one or at the family’s own home.  In either location, family members place photographs and other items that the dearly departed loved during life.  Additionally, things the loved one liked to eat or drink are also laid out as offerings.  Those items can include bread, cookies, sweets, food, soup, soft drinks, beer, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.; virtually anything the loved one enjoyed.

The bread used for the Dia de los Muertos is interesting because of its many variations. One of the more popular shapes is the t’antawawa, an Aymara word meaning baby bread. A t’antawawa is in the approximate form of a baby’s body with a painted, ceramic face/head. They can range in size from tiny bread or cookies to nearly adult life-size. The food can also be in the shape of animals such as horses. Other bread shapes include the traditional dinner roll size, round loaves, ladders (to aid with travel to and from the afterlife), and crosses. It appears the maker’s imagination only limits the shape.

A work colleague shared with me that when setting up the offerings at home, their place of choice; they receive as many as 150 family members (living) throughout the holiday. That is a lot of people just to have drop by a home.

With that bit of preface, allow me to share my experience of Dia de los Muertos.

I walked out of my front door at 07:00. Green, Sky Blue, White, Orange, and Red. Those colors have nothing to do with the holiday nor are they colors I saw when I walked outside. Those colors just happened to be the five; that is correct, five, Teleferico lines I had to ride to get to the Cementario General.

While on the Orange Line of the Teleferico, I passed over the “illegal” cemetery, Cementerio la Llamita. I do not know if it is, in fact, an illegal cemetery. If it is unlawful, by deduction, that means that the regulations for burial are less strictly enforced. Therefore, it is such “illegal” cemeteries that may be the cause of my colleague’s comment regarding odor. I quickly tried to take a photograph, which is why the focus is not quite right.

A partial view of the “illegal” cemetery as seen from the Orange Line of the Teleferico.

At the end of the Orange Line, I changed to the Red Line. I only had one stop to go to be at the Cementerio General. I got off the Red Line and walked out of the Teleferico building. I noticed right across the street was an entrance to the cemetery. I do not believe that entrance is generally in use, just on select days. Approaching the gate, I saw a few small flower stands. Many cemetery visitors stopped to buy some flowers before entering.

A secondary entry to the Cementerio General (General Cemetery) in the northwest portion of La Paz.

The Cementerio General is the main, and quite large, cemetery in La Paz. The exterior wall of the cemetery is nearly 1.5 kilometers long (4,389 feet or 0.83 miles). That means the area covered by the cemetery is almost 10 hectares (24 acres). On the grounds, there are dozens and dozens of columbaria, some with as many as three levels. The “population” of the cemetery must be in the tens of thousands.

At the gate, Bolivian National Police searched the bags of everyone entering. As soon as I made it past that checkpoint, I faced multiple columbaria. At the end of the columbarium closest to me, I saw a mural with two painted skulls. Then I noticed that almost every columbarium had a painting at the end, even those with three levels. Much of the art was stunning. I did not photograph every mural, but I did capture a lot. At this point, the narrative will cease so the reader can view all of the paintings I captured. At the end of the mural photographs, the story continues.

My first view of the artwork on the end of a columbarium at the Cementerio General. The artist is Ñatinta, completed in 2017. The other name appears to be Llukutter.
A skull mural at the end of a cuartel (barrack) 53. This one is also by Ñatinta, completed in 2016. The other name appears to be S. Cuello.
The artist of this mural appears to be Tuer. The work appears to have been completed in 2018.
An intricate design surrounding a skull. This was done by Osek. It appears to have been completed in 2018.
Psychedelic skulls by Nando Pantoja and Angela in 2018.
A skull of a cholita by Pez Dani, probably 2018.
A collection of colorful flowers and plants, possibly by Tekaz. It was probably completed in 2018.
This work shows singers serenading at the tomb of a young man. Note the t’antawawa’s below the young man’s face. The style seems reminiscent of Picasso’s Guernica. It is possibly by TViore in 2017.
A woman and a young child by an unknown artist.
Some of the largest artwork at the Cementerio General is logically located at the end of the three-story columbaria.
This cholita and skull appear to be done by JP Zdas.
This portrait is by Ricardo Akn in 2018.
She seems to be watching all those who approach.
This three-story piece is done by an unknown artist.
Another psychedelic skull by Ñatinta in 2017.
The banner reads, “no tears for the final rest.” At the very bottom, it reads, “for all of the saints who rest in La Paz.” The artist’s initials appear to be TZV.
Angels with skulls and barbed wire halos. The artist is unknown.
A young person with flowers. The artist is possibly Stfil.
An unusual design by Tekaz.
A stylistic skull surrounded by what appear to be cocoa leaves. The artist is Boos.
Flowers at the end of a columbarium by Ciclope.
A heart. The bottom reads, “the measure of life.” The artist is JP.
A skull at the end of a columbarium. The artist is Decoma.
A neon cholita. The artists are Huyllas and Natinta, done in 2018. The bottom left reads, “your voice will not be erased…my little soul.”
Another flower arrangement by Tekaz.
Some stylized coyotes. The artist is unknown because the name is partially obscured by the ladders.
Another view of the psychedelic skulls by Nando Pantoja and Angela in 2018.
Removing a mask by Mamo and Ñatinta from 2017.
Above this woman’s face are the words to a song often sung during the All Saints celebration. The artist is Willka in 2018.
Flowers growing from a bird held by a woman. The artist is Giova in 2018.
A skull with sunglasses and a hat. The word that continues from one columbarium to the other reads, “perpetual.” The artist is Ñatinta from 2016.
A child playing the violin. The artist is la Gabu.Z.
A zintangle woman? The artist is Nona.
A Bolivian astronaut skull. The artist is unknown.
A blue skull. The artist is Alme in 2018.
Birds and a stylized face. The artist is unknown.
A cholita skull complete with the traditional braids. The artist is BLK from 2015.
A cholita from 2017. The artist is unknown.
Three couples from 2016. The artist is unknown.
A contemporary view of children/teens from 2016. The artists are Bufón81 and Afta17.
A young person’s memories of La Paz from 2017. The artist is Bufón81.
Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The artist is unknown.
A stylized angel embracing a woman above a woman on a bed of skulls. The artist is unknown.
A landscape. The artist is unknown.
A blue skull and candles. The artist is unknown.
A mummy with an apple. The artist is unknown.

Some of the above photograph captions contain the word “cholita.” That deserves some explanation. Cholita refers to the women of the indigenous Aymara and Quechua tribes. In the not too distant past, cholita was a pejorative term. However, today, it has regained a particular popularity and resurgence in use. The cholitas are very distinctive with their bowler hats and long hair braids.

Looking down the aisles between the columbaria, I could see far into the distance. They seemed to go on forever. The columbaria here in La Paz look much different than those that one might see in the United States. In the U. S. each tomb is covered by an engraved headstone bearing the name and pertinent details of the person in the grave. In the Cementerio General, each monument has a glass door, usually with a small padlock. Behind the glass is a void of some eight to ten inches before the masonry seal on the tomb. On the masonry seals are the name and pertinent details of the person in the grave. Often the details include a photograph of the person. Filling the remainder of the void are offerings or representative items of things the person enjoyed in life. In some instances, there are metal holders on either side for vases of flowers.

Several very large columbaria vanish into the distance.
The inscription above this tomb reads “Dear Dad.” The offerings inside are things the deceased enjoyed; in this case, bread, cigarettes, Coca-Cola, and a clear beverage.
This father was obviously a huge Bolivar fan.  Bolivar is a professional footbol team in Bolivia.
A man on a ladder tending to the tomb of a loved one.

The tallest, single-story columbaria I saw contained tombs seven high. The visiting family must use ladders to reach the uppermost graves. With the aid of the ladder, family open the glass door, remove dead flowers and old offerings. Once clean, the family places new offerings into the tomb, and the glass door closed.

A view to the east from the Bolivian Police columbarium.
Several empty tombs at the Bolivian Police columbarium.
Looking to the west atop the Bolivian Police columbarium.
A unique cross placement on a columbaria.

There is an initial fee and then annual fees after that to place a loved one in a tomb at Cementerio General. If the annual fees are not paid, after about three years, the remains are removed, cremated, and dealt with by cemetery personnel.

I did see a few graves in the ground with headstones, but that was by far the exception, not the rule.  The columbaria were the norm within the Cementerio General.

I ultimately made my way to the main entrance of the cemetery. The church is there. The church was lovely inside, but it was not ornately decorated. Of particular note were the statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus and another area with a depiction of Jesus in the tomb.

View toward the altar of the church in the Cementerio General.
A statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in the church at the Cementario General.  The statue is known as the Viren de Copacabana.
A stained glass cross on the west side of the church at the Cementario General.
A depiction of Jesus in the tomb in the church in the Cementerio General.

Leaving the church, I saw a display containing many of the items that families might bring to the tombs of their loved ones. I was immediately drawn to the t’antawawas, probably because I had been given a t’antawawa cookie the day before by a work colleague. Those on display ranged from cookie-size to some made of bread that was approaching three-feet in length. At the exhibition, there was even a t’antawawa made in the shape of a horse. There were other bread designs, including one that reminded me of a colossal pretzel, bread crosses, and bread ladders. Huge onion plants partially framed the display. The families often use those, and large sugar cane stalks as decorations at the tombs.

A display of some typical items brought to the tombs of the departed in the Cementerio General.
The display of offerings is located just outside the church in the Cementerio General.
A detail of some of the offerings typically brought to the cemetery. Note the t’antawawas on either side of the cross. Also, note the t’antawawa in the shape of a horse in the upper left.
The offerings can also include beverages and food.

I sat down at a bench near the display. I stayed there for quite a while, watching the people streaming into the cemetery. Many of them stopped to view the exhibition, some even taking photographs as I did. Others merely walked on by, destined for the family tomb. While I sat there, I saw a couple of men dressed in medium blue clothing wearing hard hats. One, in particular, made frequent eye contact with me. It dawned on me that they were probably masons, available for hire by the families to make any needed repairs to tombs. I ultimately approached one of the men. He confirmed he was, in fact, a mason, waiting to be hired by an incoming family. He was kind enough to allow me to take his photograph. Unfortunately, I was not thinking, so I failed to get his name. Regardless, he was very nice.

Since this was at the main entry point, many people stopped to view the display of offerings.
People looking at the display.
Some people simply walked by the display without stopping to look.
The Bolivian Police checked all packages at the entry points to the Cementerio General.
This mason was kind enough to allow me to take his photograph. I neglected to ask his name.

After my rest on the bench, I continued walking through the cemetery.  I did find a large map of the grounds.  It is truly astonishing just how many columbaria are at the cemetery.

A map of the Cementerio General.

In the eastern portion of the cemetery, I noticed several tombs that had QR codes. If one captures the code with a smartphone, information about the person buried there is displayed. I did not do that, but I did come across two vast tombs that were obviously of revered Bolivians. The first was the tomb of Carlos Palenque Avilés, 1944 – 1997, a famous Bolivian singer and politician. The second large tomb was that of Germán Busch Becerra, 1903 – 1939, a military officer and ultimately a President of Bolivia.

The tomb of Carlos Palenque Avilés in the Cementerio General.
The tomb and monument to Germán Busch Becerra.
A mausoleum in the Cementerio General.
A columbarium with an angel statue in the Cementerio General.
These columbaria do not seem to be so crowded.
The columbarium at the rear reads, “Union Workers Welfare Society, founded on the first of May, 1909.
Two people carrying a ladder while the Teleferico moves nonstop overhead.
An art deco styled angel in the Cementerio General.
Stained glass crosses at a mausoleum In the Cementerio General.
The oldest tomb I saw in the Cementerio General. Note the QR code in the lower right.
A columbarium with high-ranking Bolivian army officers in the Cementerio General.
Various sizes of ladders propped up beside a columbarium in the Cementerio General.
Ladders are strategically placed throughout the Cementerio General.

I found a mausoleum dedicated to those that had fought in the Acre Campaigns.  That was a border dispute between Bolivia and Brazil at the turn of the 20th Century.  Bolivia was the victor in the fighting.

The exterior of the columbarium for the Benefit Society of the Country for those in the Acre Campaigns.
The interior of the columbarium for the Benefit Society of the Country for those in the Acre Campaigns.
Stairs leading to more columbaria.
The columbaria seem to stretch on forever.
Ladders at the ready at the end of a columbarium.
A small, tiled columbarium.
The access alleys to the columbaria begin to fill up with people.
The sun coming over the edge of the roof of a columbarium seems to beckon one to heaven.
Looking through the ground floor level of a three-story columbarium.
The mausoleum of the Dr. Abigail Mendoza family.
The stained glass of Mary and Baby Jesus in the mausoleum of the Dr. Abigail Mendoza family.
Detail of the stained glass of Mary and Baby Jesus in the mausoleum of the Dr. Abigail Mendoza family.

In all of my wanderings in the cemetery, I never saw any sadness. I never saw any family members weeping. The Dia de los Muertos seemed to be more joyous than a sad occasion. I did find out that families can hire people to cry at the tomb. I did not personally witness that. However, I did see families that hired musicians to play and sing at the graves. One of the more noteworthy groups were about ten boys playing drums and Bolivian pan flutes. They did an excellent job and amassed quite a crowd of onlookers. I did come across another group of boys with drums, but they did not seem to be as polished. In fact, a woman walking by the group covered her ears.

A group of young boys performing at a tomb in the Cementerio General.
The group of boys performed in front of a tomb bedecked with offerings of bread, fruit, and drink.
One woman’s music is another woman’s noise.

During my walk, I stopped at one point when I saw a man and his young son.  The man was struggling with one of the ladders.  I asked him if he needed assistance.  He politely declined.

A man and his son renting a ladder.
A mausoleum in the Cementerio General.
One of the more narrow areas between columbaria.
There never seemed to be a shortage of ladders.
A young girl running around while musicians are playing in front of a tomb.
A woman taking a selfie atop the ladder in front of her loved one’s tomb.
Women working together to clean out a tomb in preparation for newly placed offerings.
The offerings consisted of bread, t’antawawas, onions, fruit, and a drink in a thermos.
Another of the endless aisles of columbaria.
A family preparing to go up the ladder with some offerings.

Strategically placed throughout the cemetery are sinks and water spigots. The visitors use these stations to clean items from their loved one’s tomb. Most often, the items cleaned are flower vases. Near each sink are rubbish bins in which the old flowers are placed. Workers come by periodically to police the area and take the rubbish to large 30-yard trash bins. In turn, those are removed from the cemetery by large trucks from the local trash service.

People washing vases while an employee collects the discarded flowers.
Discarded flowers were everywhere.
A man and a mason discussing needed repairs at a tomb.
Ladders at the ready.
A mason with his tools of the trade rounding the corner.
A woman waiting beside a ladder.
Walking to the tomb with offerings.
A woman walking with bags of offerings.
After all of my wanderings in the cemetery, I decided it was time to head home. I walked to the main entrance of the cemetery. Not far from there was an exit. As I stepped onto Avenida Baptista I noticed the street was closed for the holiday. There was a real carnival atmosphere. One of the first things I saw was an art deco building that reminded me of a building in Wellington, New Zealand (see the posting Wellington Museum).
This art deco style building is across the street from the Cementerio General.
Avenida Baptista on the front side of the Cementerio General.

There were a couple of zebras walking on the sidewalk. The zebras are people in costume. The La Paz Zebras were born as a way to help regulate traffic and avoid pedestrian/vehicle mishaps. The Zebras have been around since 2001. As I walked past, they both said buenas dias!

A rare sighting of two Zebras in front of the Cementerio General.

One of the streets heading off from Avenida Baptista had what seemed like dozens of stands of BBQ and other delicious smelling foods.  I wanted to try some, but I did not since Mr. E. Coli had just visited me.  While on that street, I ran into a shoe shiner.  Many of the shoe shiners keep their faces covered because they do not want their friends and family to know that is what they do to earn money.

Directly across from the main entrance to the cemetery is a small mall with nothing but flower shops. While I was there, it was doing a booming business.

A panorama of Avenida Baptista in front of the Cementerio General.
Two women walking toward the Cementerio General.
The young man in the light blue jacket is a shoe shiner.
Some flowers for sale across from some wonderful smelling BBQ.
The main entrance to the Cementerio General.
The church framed by the entry arch.
Part of the flower market directly across the street from the Cementerio General.
People walking by Rebecca’s Flower Shop.

I began walking east along Avenida Baptista. Luckily, it was all downhill, so I did not have to grapple with gravity very much. As I noted above, the street was closed to traffic. Instead of vehicles, the road was packed with vendors of every ilk; ladies’ lingerie, plasticware for children, handmade wooden items, DVDs, ice cream, fruit, etc. It was varied and noisy as some vendors shouted out what was available. Pedestrians choked the parts of the street that were not covered by vendors. I can only imagine the scene later in the day when it would no doubt be busier.

An interesting looking building on Avenida Baptista.
Selling colorful plasticware for children.
A woman selling watermelon slices.
A man and his ice cream cart.
A woman waiting to make an ice cream cone for the man and his daughter.
A cholita perusing the wares.
A girl in a red dress.
A cholita walking through the market.
A woman and a young girl in the market.
Strolling through the market.
A young woman donning her hat.

At the Garita de Lima park roundabout, I stopped to take in the sights.  That is where I saw the Evangelical Baptist Church and the Hospital La Paz.

Two artificial flower vendors at the street market.
View downhill from the roundabout at the Garita de Lima park on Avenida Baptista.
The Evangelical Baptist Church across from the Garita de Lima park on Avenida Baptista.

Departing the Garita de Lima park roundabout on Max Paredes, I saw something that very much reminded me of home, the kitchen gadget salesman. A man set up a portable table in the street. The edges of the tabletop held about four dozen oranges. In the middle of the table, there was a pile of different colored plastic gadgets. The salesman, speaking loudly and rapidly, demonstrated how one could insert the device into an orange and quickly obtain the juice. He had several people standing around watching his demonstration. I am not sure if he sold any to that crowd.

A juicing device salesman on Max Paredes.
The street market met vehicles just east of the Garita de Lima park on Max Paredes.
The mix of vehicles and pedestrians on Max Paredes. Note the van has the Cementerio General as one of its destinations.
It is tight quarters walking this section of Max Paredes.

Shortly after passing the kitchen gadget salesman, the street opened to traffic once again.  At that point of Max Paredes, there were still vendors; however, they were relegated to the sidewalk or curbside.  This area is where the food market begins.  It is set up in specific sections.  There are sections for vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cooking spices, lentils, fish, and meat.  There were even a couple of fabric vendors thrown in for good measure.  Between the vendors, pedestrians, and vehicles, one has to be careful while walking.

A vegetable stand on Max Paredes.
The vendor points and provides answers to a patron’s questions.
This woman was advertising in a loud voice what she had for sale.
Various cooking spices for sale.
A woman preparing a fish for a customer.
A woman at a meat stand along Max Paredes.
Another fish stand on Max Paredes.
Meat for the carnivore.
Yet more meat available near the Max Paredes roundabout.
Women selling lentils along Max Paredes.
Waiting for a customer.
The fruit section of the Max Paredes market.
A cholita walking through the fruit section.
All the bananas one could possibly want.
The vendor tried to entice the young girl with the dog to buy some bananas.
A cholita at a fruit stand on Max Paredes.
The fabric section of the market on Max Paredes.
One of the many Dodge buses operating in La Paz.
This bus is known as The Prince.
This bus is known as Crazy Boy.
The statue in the roundabout at Max Paredes.

After walking nearly a mile (1.3 kilometers), I found Sagarnaga, the street for which I had been searching. That street would take me to the Witches Market and the Basilica of San Francisco. I was quite happy that my walk from the cemetery to the Basilica was downhill.

In the Witches Market, I did a little shopping. I found several touristy items that I could not live without.

The point where Sagarnaga narrows.
The cobblestone Sagarnaga descends to the San Francisco Basilica.
An old building on Sagarnaga.
Sagarnaga continues downhill from the Witches Market.
Traffic and pedestrians share Linares.
A yarn covered light-pole in the Witches Market.
A taxi preparing to turn from Melchor Jimenez onto Linares in the Witches Market.
A newly completed mural on Melchor Jimenez in the Witches Market. The artist is Tikay Marsh Aner.
Searching for bargains in the Witches Market.
A llama mural in the Witches Market. The artists are Sebollin, Jonatan, Marbot, and Ahau Flamma.
A display of items for sale in the Witches Market.
A typical tourist shop in the Witches Market.
A mural in the Witches Market. The artist is unknown.

When I finished shopping, it was lunchtime. I was not that hungry, but I did want to sit down for a while. I found Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub. I asked the man that greeted me at the door if he had a cold beer. He said he did so I immediately sat down! I continued to talk to him as he came by my table intermittently. I discovered he was Tomas Luna, the owner. We had a pleasant conversation. He was kind enough to allow me to take his photograph.

While sitting at Luna’s, I received two unexpected “guests;” Hillary and Leslie. They called me. They were both anxious to hear about my Dia de los Muertos activities. I told them a little bit but added that they would have to wait for my blog to get the rest of the story.

An ice-cold Paceña cerveza at Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
Tomas Luna, the owner of Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
Unexpected guests while I was having my beer.
Tomas Luna, the owner of Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
The owner at the door to his restaurant, Tomas Luna.
San Francisco Basilica is visible in the distance.
Street-level view of a passing van.
Sagarnaga was virtually empty because of the holiday.
From Luna’s, it was just a few blocks down to the Basilica San Francisco. The last time I was there, it was after my CLO walking tour (see the Witches Market post). That time, the Basilica was not open. This time, to my surprise, it was open. I walked inside. Immediately I saw some huge signs. I thought they said that one could not take photographs during mass. A mass was in progress, but I could tell it was at the very end. I heard the priest give the final blessing, and the people responded.

Soon the people were walking to the back of the Basilica to exit. That is when I began taking photographs of the very elaborate and beautiful altar. After about four or five clicks, I suddenly found myself in the company of a Bolivian National Policeman. He was not amused. He said something in Spanish and pointed furtively to one of the signs. In my best Spanish, I tried to tell him I thought I could take photos when mass was over. The officer impatiently pointed at the sign again. I said I was very sorry and beat a hasty retreat to the exit.

The altar at San Francisco Basilica.
The altar at the San Francisco Basilica.
The choir loft at the rear of the San Francisco Basilica.

The last portion of my journey was several blocks downhill from the Basilica to the Light Blue line of the Teleferico.  Between that line and the Green line, I made it back to my neck of the woods and ultimately home.  I arrived at my house at about 14:00.

A mural at the Mercado Camacho near the Celeste Line of the Teleferico.

Next year, I will return to the cemetery.  I will probably go at a different time to see how that may change my experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day.

A skull along via 33. The artist appears to be Zamir. The brilliant color indicates it was completed in 2018.
Witches Market

Witches Market

La Paz, Bolivia – September 4, 2018

After ten days of living in La Paz, Bolivia at 11,180 feet (3,404 meters), it was time to bring my lungs on a walking tour of parts of the city.  The Community Liaison Officer (CLO) organized a walking tour on the Labor Day holiday.

About 20 people met at the U. S. Embassy to begin the adventure. A station on the light blue line of the Teleférico (Linea Celeste) was a little more than a block beyond the starting point. It took several gondolas to get the group to the end of the light blue line. Once at the end of the line, the group transferred to the orange line (Linea Naranja).

The orange line “flies” quite high above the never-ending city of La Paz. The views of the town are stunning. It is impressive to see just how many homes and businesses are packed into an area delimited by steep hills and cliffs. It seems one can look in any direction and see hundreds and hundreds of red brick structures clinging to any area of soil that seems as though it may support a structure. Some look rather doubtful, but that does not seem to deter the owners and builders.

The density of La Paz is like no city I have seen.
View from the orange line of the Teleferico.

In our direction of travel, the orange line drops passengers off near the old train depot.  While it is still known as the train depot, no trains originate from the depot.  For some reason, service was suspended years ago.  The only remnants today are the old building and a couple of train cars sitting on display on tracks that lead nowhere.

The orange line of the Teleferico deposits one near the La Paz train station, seen here in the background.

Departing the orange line terminus, the group walked along Avenida Buenos Aires.  In front of a building under construction, there were a half-dozen burros.  It is uncertain for what they were being used or whether there are others in the city.  These are the only burros I have personally seen here.

Burros at the side of Avenida Buenos Aires.

A few bends along the Avenida later, CLO announced we were at our first destination. The destination was not readily apparent. CLO pointed to a small opening off the side of the road and proclaimed, “There is the entry to Uyustus Market (Mercado Uyustus).” At first sight, it did not appear that it was an entry to anything. But, sure enough, once through the entrance, one found all sorts of shops on both sides of a tiny aisle. The aisle could not have been more than three feet wide. Regardless, it was open to travel in either direction. There were not many people in the market when we arrived. Several of the shops were not yet open. Some experienced people in the group said the aisle was very difficult to traverse when all the shops are open, and the market is packed.

The narrow slit between the white tarp and the yellow/orange shop is the entry to the Uyustus Market.

Walking through the market, one passes numerous shops. Some of the shops are no more than a stall about eight feet by eight feet (2.4 meters by 2.4 meters). One can buy shoes, backpacks, cosmetics, underwear, shirts, pants, electronics, household appliances, and more. Now and then there was a small opening between shops. Walking through those, one entered the ground floor of the buildings which line the street. That was entirely another maze of shops offering everything one can imagine. If an item cannot be found at Uyustus Market, it is not something one needs anyway.

A quarter-mile (434 meters) up the market road, thankfully at the end of the upward march, both my lungs began to complain about the 12,300-foot (3,749 meters) elevation. I was happy to stand still and search for available atoms of oxygen while my companions looked for bargains. Looking up, I saw the tangled mess that delivers power, cable TV, and telephone. I am not sure how one could decipher where to begin if one of the utilities stopped working at a nearby home.

Above the ground floor shops were another four or five floors of apartments. Probably 95 percent of the buildings appear to be unfinished. In other words, the exterior is frequently just red brick. The interiors are finished and undoubtedly livable. One Bolivian told me there is no sense in making the exterior walls “pretty.” They are outside.

View of the Uyustus Market.
This mannequin must have been five percent off…
Typical apartment homes above the ground level shops.
The main portion of Uyustus Market is quite crowded.

Soon it was time to walk back downhill toward Avenida Buenos Aires; hooray!!

In the middle of Calle Uyustus was a sleeping dog. Since this is a market street, the majority of the traffic is pedestrian. The dog was unfazed by any of the activities. On that note, there are thousands of dogs roaming throughout the city. Some are turned out by their owners for the day. Regardless, it makes walking dangerous. Not because of packs of dogs growling at passersby, but because of the “gifts” left behind by the dogs. Picking up dog feces does not appear to be in vogue in La Paz. Therefore, when walking, one has to be constantly aware lest one acquires an odorous gift on the bottom of one’s shoe.

Let sleeping dogs lie…

This situation reminded me of our time in Madrid. While living there, the city faced a similar problem of people not picking up after their dogs. The city’s campaign designed to turn the problem around was simple. They put up signs throughout the city that stated; bolsa caca. Loosely translated, it means to bag the crap! Maybe a similar campaign could gain traction in La Paz.

The other hazard when walking in La Paz is uneven terrain and holes. By rough terrain, it is not a reference to the broader terrain of the steep hills and cliffs; but, rather the sidewalks and streets. There is any number of trip hazards in every few yards or meters one travels. It is unsafe to walk and look about at the sights. It is much safer to pay attention to the path to ensure one does not encounter holes, unexpected curbs, sudden inclines or declines, and the occasional dog gift. If one wishes to see the sights, it is best to cease walking and then look.

Back on Avenida Buenos Aires, it is impressive to see the amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Often the cars and the humans are separated by mere centimeters. Luckily, there were no mishaps spotted.

A Dodge bus on Avenida Buenos Aires.
A red Ford bus on Avenida Buenos Aires.
An approaching Dodge bus that was just not quite as fancy as the first.
A family of three on a moped on Avenida Buenos Aires.
Literally, a little old lady walking along Avenida Buenos Aires.
A Bolivian woman wearing the traditional bowler hat.
Some nuns in the back of a minivan.

On the way to the Witches Market, we walked through yet another market along Pasaje el Rosario. There were many shops open; however, it was not overly crowded with people. Interestingly, there are so many shops in the area. They seem to be sectioned off, for example, one area deals primarily in sewing and knitting supplies. Another area features mainly electronics and appliances while yet another deals in aquariums and aquarium supplies.

Another small market on Pasaje el Rosario.
There are many things in the market competing for one’s attention.
A Bolivian woman in a bowler tending to a shop in along Pasaje el Rosario.

We walked into another such area, the “Home Depot.” This street has every type of hardware or hardware related item one can imagine. There is a similar area near where I live. This particular street with the shops is a busy road. It is a one-way road. The vehicles have to negotiate with shoppers while being inconvenienced by a car stopping to take on a large load of something. That sets off the horns on the other vehicles for blocks.

A portion of the road, Isaac Tamayo, is the local “Home Depot” of this area of La Paz.

Not long after the “Home Depot,” we made it to Calle Sagarnaga. That meant we were very close to the Witches Market (Mercado de las Brujas). Finally, at the intersection of Calle Sagarnaga and Calle Linares, we found ourselves in the middle of the Witches Market. The market is so named because, in addition to selling the standard tourist fare, one can also buy many spells and potions. I did not buy any tourist items or medicines, preferring to defer my purchases until I return with Leslie and Lorraine. However, upon my return, I doubt any potions will find their way into my shopping bag.

View north along Calle Sagarnaga toward San Francisco Basilica.
The intersection of Calle Sagarnaga and Calle Linares.
Bolivian women tending a street shop in the Witches Market area of La Paz.
In the Witches Market, looking south along Calle Linares.
The entry to the inti-illimani shop in the Witches Market.
An entry point to another area of the Witches Market along Calle Melchor Jimenez.
A woman walking along Calle Linares.
One of the very colorful street displays found throughout the Witches Market.

About an hour of shopping later, the group met for lunch at a Cuban restaurant. I opted not to join the group. I had to return to San Miguel to go to the Tigo store.

I walked down Sagarnaga toward the San Francisco Basilica.  I would have liked to have gone in, but I had to keep my errand in mind.  Walking from the basilica to the Teleférico, I caught several glimpses of Mount Illimani.  That mountain is about 21,122 feet (6,438 meters) high.  It is visible from many of the higher points of La Paz; including from the Teleférico.

The main entrance to the San Francisco Basilica.
Mount Illimani in the distance.
Riding on the light blue (Linea Celeste) of the Teleferico, apparently destined to Mount Illimani.

I still had to settle my bill for cable and internet after the previous facility manager departed. I took the Teleférico back to the end of the green line. From there I taxied to Tigo. Once I paid my bill, I decided to walk home. As I walked, I passed a dentist’s office. It was apparent they were trying to use a clever combination of the words teeth and health. Unfortunately, in retrospect, maybe the “H” should have been lowercase… I’m just sayin’.

Maybe the “H” should have been lowercase too…
Even though the city is so dense, there is new construction nearly everywhere one looks.
Looking down and to the east along Calle Uyustus.
Near the top of Uyustus Market. The light pole seems to be a starting place for electrical, cable, and telephone spaghetti.
Walking back down to the main portion of Uyustus Market.
Nearly back to Avenida Buenos Aires.
Buses traveling up Max Paredes.
People mix freely, but cautiously, with the traffic.
A paint store at the intersection of Calle Sagarnaga and Avenida Illampu.
Pedestrians were able to cross the intersection.
Walking down Calle Sagarnaga to the north, toward the Witches Market.
A partial view of the Plaza Major de San Francisco. The traffic jam is on Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.
The bell tower of the San Francisco Basilica.
Looking to the southeast beyond the Plaza del Obelisco, following Avenida Camacho, one can see Mount Illimani in the distance.
Pedestrians waiting to cross the street.
From a bridge on Calle Bueno, looking to the southeast along the light blue line of the Teleferico. Mount Illimani is covered with a few clouds.  Note the Batman and Wonder Woman restroom sign.
Marvelous La Paz.
The Marvelous La Paz sign is visible in the City Park.
The Linea Celeste drops in elevation to the point that one can no longer see Mount Illimani.
Departing the next to last station on the Teleferico Linea Celeste.
Preparing to pass under the bridge.
From the last station on the green line of the Teleferico looking back toward the northwest.
Wats Everywhere!

Wats Everywhere!

Chiang Mai, Thailand – February 5, 2017

I arrived at the airport in Singapore with plenty of time to spare.  I cannot stand to be late.  I do not like the drama that comes with being late.  It was lunchtime.  I opted for Sweet and Sour Chicken at Central Thai.

With my belly full, I went through passport control and then sat down to wait for my flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was on my way to a training class. The seating area was in the concourse as opposed to at the gate. There was an unmanned security checkpoint at the gate. That meant no one could sit in the waiting area. Once the security team arrived, I went through and sat in the gate area.

While I was waiting for my Silkair flight, a woman wearing a non-descript uniform approached me to ask if I would participate in a survey.  I agreed.  She read the questions to me from her iPad.  In total, the survey took about five minutes.  At the conclusion, she gave me a box containing a very nice pen engraved with “Changi Airport,” the name of the airport in Singapore.

Onboard the plane, I found my exit row aisle seat had more legroom than I think I have ever experienced.  I did find it odd that those sitting in the exit row cannot place anything under the seat in front of them.  All carry-on items went into the overhead bins.  The second thing I found odd was one of the flight attendants sat in the exit row aisle seat across from me.  I think it is much more common to see the flight attendants sitting in jump seats.  Regardless, the three-hour flight was uneventful.

The Silkair flight arrived in Chiang Mai at about 17:40 local time.  I quickly went through passport control and customs.  With my baggage in hand, I arranged for a taxi.  The taxi boss said the cost for the trip from the airport to the Le Meridien Hotel was 200 Baht (just under US$6).

The driver did not speak English. I certainly do not know the Thai language. Luckily, the driver had a translation app on his cell phone. He spoke into the phone in Thai, pressed a button, and I heard the question or statement in English. I responded in English, speaking into his phone. He played that back in Thai. We had quite a good conversation on the way to the hotel.

Elephants are a symbol of good luck in Thailand. These were in front of the Le Meridien Hotel.

About an hour after landing, I was at my hotel. Here comes the snobbish part…my room was lovely; but the room, bathroom, and entry area could have all fit within just the bedroom I had in Singapore.

The view from the room was generally to the west. The air quality was not good. Through the haze, I could make out Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep near the top of a mountain in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Periodically, various commercial jets rose diagonally across the face of the hill; ultimately rising above the horizon.

View of Chiang Mai, Thailand from the Le Meridien Hotel.

One afternoon, a group of us decided to walk to a Buddhist temple.  I thought we would walk to the temple, go to a restaurant, and then return to the hotel.  Little did I know the adventures that lay ahead.

A few blocks from the hotel, we arrived at the Tha Phae Gate that allows passage through the ancient wall that surrounds the old city of Chiang Mai. The wall provided protection, and the accompanying moat added to the level of security. This gate only allows for pedestrian traffic. Other portals allow vehicle passage.

This is one of several gates allowing entry to the ancient walled area of Chiang Mai. It is on the eastern wall.

We continued west along Rachadamnoen Road.  Although it was not our final destination, we stopped for a quick look at Wat Phan On.  A wat is a Buddhist temple.  In Chiang Mai, there are around 300 wats; literally wats everywhere.

Entering the wat compound, one immediately sees a gilded chedi.  A chedi is a burial structure.  Those buried in the chedis are in a seated position.  The chedis become a place for meditation.  The chedi at Wat Phan On is directly across from the main temple.  We took a quick look at the temple and left to continue our journey.

A gilded chedi at Wat Phan On.

Our 2.5 kilometer (1.5 miles) walk concluded at the wat we sought, Wat Phra Singh ( วัดพระสิงห์ ).  I included the Thai spelling because it is such a beautiful and unique alphabet.  The wat dates from the mid-14th Century.  It is one of the most revered wats in Chiang Mai.

The beauty of the wat is stunning. One of the things that immediately caught my attention was the gilded dragon (nāga) at the entry to the main temple (viharn luang). The level of detail and ornamentation are incredible. An interesting point about this dragon and others I saw during this trip; they emanate from the mouth of another dragon.

Another view of the dragon in front of the main temple at Wat Phra Singh.

In the main temple, the gilded Buddha was huge and imposing. I must admit I do not fully understand the Buddhist religion, so a lot of the items and décor in each wat left question marks above my head. Regardless, the beauty was such as I had never seen before.

The Buddha in the main temple at Wat Phra Singh.

When we left Wat Phra Singh, we began walking east. I thought we were heading to dinner. I was wrong. Along Arak 5 Road we found Wat Inthakhin Sadww Muang. The wat is very small. That did not deter the decoration. Although tiny, it was beautiful inside. At this wat as well as at many other locations in Chiang Mai, one saw portraits of Rama IX Bhumibol Adulyadej the King of Thailand. The King died on October 13, 2016. The country was still in mourning during my trip. I believe the period of mourning lasts for one year.

A woman on the floor in front of the Buddhas at Wat Inthakhin Sadww Muang.

At Ratvithi Road and Ratchapakhinai Road, we came to 48 Garage. It was like a German beer garden plopped in the middle of Chiang Mai. My mates and I ordered a beer. While we sat there, a woman came to the table holding dozens of woven fabric bracelets. Those on display were country names; like Canada, U. S. A., and Sweden. However, she also twisted by request. One could select nearly any word or phrase, and she would weave it into a bracelet. Her work was fascinating. She completed a bracelet in about ten minutes. I did not get one. Many others did get bracelets with words and phrases that I will not bother to list here.

A bracelet maker at a beer garden in Chiang Mai.

Besides 48 Garage, there were several other bars and street food vendors.  A couple of my favorite names were New York Pizza and Tacos Bell (yes, there is an “s”).  Some of the guys ate various fare from the food vendors.  I opted out.  I had no desire to have a run-in with a runny tummy.

This stand, at first look, may be a Taco Bell. Actually, it is TacoS Bell. The “s” is very important in differentiating.

We went into a bar across from New York Pizza.  What drew us in was the live band.  Of all things, it was a Reggae band.  The group consisted of three guitar players, a keyboardist, a trumpet player, and a drummer.  They played very well.

A reggae band performing in Chiang Mai.

Leaving the bar, several of my mates spotted a bar touting a “Shot Gun Beer Can Competition.” Much like the bracelet incident, I opted out. The bar employee willingly prepped beer cans for anyone wishing to compete. The preparation was putting a small hole on the side of the beer can, near the bottom. The competitor places their mouth over the small hole while holding the beer can upright. Then, pulling the tab open, the beer shotguns through the small hole and into the mouth in a matter of seconds. For those keeping score at home, the U.S.A. is in the lead with 322 cans downed. Several countries; such as Cyprus, Gambia, and Armenia, are tied for the last place with one can each. This is a popular sport. The leader-board tracks a total of 64 countries.

This tally board keeps track of the claimed national status of those that take on the shotgun beer can competition in Chiang Mai.

Continuing in the general direction of our hotel, we ended up at the Tha Phae Gate again.  This time, the plaza on the east side of the gate had a didgeridoo band playing.  Much like the Reggae band, they played very well.

About a half-block down the road from the plaza, we found the THC Rooftop Bar. THC is one of the chemical compounds in marijuana. I was a little worried that we might encounter a marijuana haven. We did not.

Had I been by myself, I am confident I would not have gone in, but… The front door to the stairs had a low head height. Many of the flights of stairs were a long way from OSHA safety standards. Regardless, we made it to the level below the bar. There, we found something more akin to a ladder than stairs. Making this all the dicier was the nearby sign; “SHOES OFF PLEASE If you have expensive shoes, take them upstairs with you! We take no responsibility! THANK YOU.”
One is required to take off one’s shoes before reaching the rooftop THC bar.

In addition to the sign, there was some wild graffiti on the walls.  One of my mates and I stayed at that level for a few minutes.  One of our other mates came back to the top of the stairs/ladder and coaxed us up.  As I took off my shoes and climbed the very uncomfortable stairs/ladder, the horror of completing my walk to our hotel in my stocking feet continued to play over and over in my mind.

Graffiti at the THC Rooftop Bar.

Having risen those last few feet, we were at the bar level. Much to my chagrin, to get to the final level, we faced one more stair/ladder. As if that were not enough, once I reached the last level, I saw dozens of small tables about 18 inches above the floor. To use the tables, one sat on pillows on the floor. As I squatted down and left my fate to gravity, the next horror show played in my mind; wondering how would I possibly get back to my feet.

When we prepared to leave, somehow, I made it back to an upright position. My mind was not on the very uncomfortable rungs, but rather on the actual location of my shoes as I descended my favorite stair/ladder. I could not have been happier if I had won the lottery; my shoes were still there!

From the THC Rooftop Bar, we began our walk again. Surprise, we stopped at yet another bar; the Baba Bobo Music and Restaurant Bar. Luckily, I recognized the street was the same one on which our hotel was located. Since it was well past my regular bedtime of 20:30, the entertainment value of our trek was waning. I decided to hit the eject button and walk the final 800 meters (one-half mile) back to the hotel.

Later in the week, I decided to walk to Wat Chiang Man.  It is one of the oldest in the old city, dating from the late 13th Century.  My planned walk was about four kilometers (two and one-half miles).  On my way, I walked by Wat Mahawan.  I walked through the wat quickly and went on to Tha Phae Gate.

That day at the gate, there were many sights; tuk-tuks waiting for fares, a divey looking bar (probably one of the best places in town), and monks walking through the plaza.

Some tuk-tuks waiting for passengers.
Five Buddhist monks walking through the plaza at the Tha Phae Gate.

After passing through Tha Phae Gate, I walked to Wat Phan On. For those keeping track of what’s wat; Wat Phan On was the first wat I visited during this trip. It is the first wat I had ever seen. On my own, I had much more time to wander through the wat compound. It is beautiful. A few items I saw there that I had not seen in any other wat included small brass bells near a chedi, two large gongs near a chedi, and several inspirational signs. The signs are in both Thai and English. I think my favorite is “Self-winning is pretty good.”

Some additional inspirational signs at Wat Phan On. The sign on the left is a little difficult to read. It reads “Self-winning is pretty good.”

It was a warm afternoon, so I was hot when I arrived at Wat Chiang Man.  At the main temple, as was the case with all the other wats, one had to remove one’s shoes before entering.  At this temple, there was a guard dog of sorts.  Actually, “guard” may be a bit of a stretch.  The dog lay on the marble, not paying much attention to shoes or people.  Odd, but at the temple, I did not have the same feeling of dread with leaving my shoes behind as I had at the THC Rooftop Bar.

People are expected to remove their shoes before entering the Buddhist temples. This is at Wat Chiang Man. Note the sleeping dog on the marble floor.

I thought the Chedi Chang Lom was fascinating. It is the oldest structure at Wat Chiang Man. That means it was built in the late 1290s. The many elephants emerging from the chedi at the base are all full-size.

This chedi is the oldest structure on the Wat Chiang Man compound. It dates from the late 13th Century.

The small side of the temple had two very beautiful dragons alongside the stairs. They are every bit as ornate and beautiful as the dragons at Wat Phra Singh.

The golden dragons guarding the side entry to a smaller temple at Wat Chiang Man.

I walked back to my hotel and took a nap. Shortly after waking up, a friend and his wife invited me out for dinner. We went to a food court about two blocks away from the hotel. I did not do any of the ordering, but I certainly helped with eating. The main course was a huge seafood boil served on some new paper used for printing newspapers. Rubber gloves helped one stay somewhat clean while eating the boil by hand. It reminded me of the meals I have had in Louisiana. To say it was delicious does not do it enough justice.

While I sat at the table with my friend, his wife and her friend continued bringing different fare from the various food vendors at the food court.  If I had known the Thai street food was so good, I would have joined my buddies eating during the night of the “death march” and shotgun beer competition.  I enjoyed every morsel of food I tried that evening; and best of all, no runny tummy!

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for some shopping at one of the tourist bazaars. I found a wood-carved dragon that I had to have. I think it cost US$10. I bought several other gifts; such as embroidered bags, and various small, painted, ceramic elephants. My friend’s wife is Thai. That made it easy to “negotiate” with the vendors. They all spoke some English, but I am sure the back and forth in Thai helped make things easier.

Colorful entry to a tourist bazaar.

For my last afternoon in Chiang Mai, I decided I would see something different; the Flower Market.  I set out from the hotel on a sunny afternoon.  Before going too far, I walked by Wat Upakhut.  It was not “different,” but I am glad I decided to go in and explore.

In the main temple, two or three monks were wearing plastic gloves. They were mixing something in some large metal bowls. I am not sure what it was, but it must have been edible. From the ceiling hung what must have been donations. Ribbon-like holders were hanging from the ceiling. They each contained varying amounts of Thai baht. Each also had a card at the bottom with something written in Thai, possibly a prayer.

Monks at Wat Upakhut mixing something, apparently edible. Note the dozens of collections of Thai Baht hanging from the ceiling.

I took some interesting photographs in the compound.  I think one of my favorites was that of two men working on restoring one of the dragons at the entry to the main temple.  I enjoyed watching their handiwork in plaster.

Two men working to refurbish one of the dragons at Wat Upakhut.

I walked on to the north. As I approached the Flower Market, I found several gold shops. There was so much gold jewelry for sale; it was hard to see the individual pieces because of the bright glare.

The Flower Market was in a structure that one might liken to a department store. The flower vendors were on the Ping River side.

A portion of the flower market in Chiang Mai.

After all of my walking over the last few days, I was tired. I spent very little time in the Flower Market. When I emerged, I flagged down a tuk-tuk. I took my first ever ride back to the hotel. It was entertaining.

Riding back to the hotel in a tuk-tuk.

That night, I went back to the food court by myself for dinner. I arrived a little early, so I partook of a Thai foot massage. At times, it was much less than relaxing. A 30-minute foot massage was 120 baht (US$3.43). In Auckland, the only other place where I have seen Thai foot massages advertised, 30-minutes go for NZ$45 (US$32.64); ten times the price!

For dinner, I tried some of the grilled items.  The pork and chicken on a stick were delicious.  I had two of the pork on a stick and one of the chicken on a stick.  To wash it down, I had one liter of Leo beer (a Thai beer).  The total cost of my dinner came in at 220 baht (US$6.29).

Some of the available grilled items. The pricing is in Thai Baht. From the upper left 20 to the lower right 120, the U.S. equivalent is $0.60 to $3.53.

On Saturday, I caught my 200 Thai baht taxi back to the airport.  From there, it was back to Singapore for another rest stop before flying back to New Zealand.

Pedestrians waiting to cross the street.
A statue at Wat Upakhut.
A man sitting on his trike outside Wat Upakhut.
A family traveling through Chiang Mai.
Monks crossing a footbridge near the flower market.
Monks crossing a footbridge near the flower market.
Traffic maneuvering near the flower market.
The Ping River near the flower market.
Some of the traffic to the side of the flower market.
A very detailed bird at Wat Upakhut.
One serpent devouring another at Wat Upakhut.
Some of the intricate ornamentation at Wat Upakhut.
It was apparently laundry day when I visited Wat Upakhut.
Several praying statues at Wat Upakhut.
A niche at Wat Upakhut.
Several painted goddesses at Wat Upakhut.
A fully refurbished dragon at Wat Upakhut.
A line of praying statues at Wat Upakhut.
Additional ornamentation at Wat Upakhut.
The monks’ laundry hanging to dry at Wat Upakhut.
A VW van that doubles as a bar at the food court.
At night, the street fills with vendor booths for blocks and blocks.
The very detailed ornamentation at a small side temple at Wat Upakhut.
A carved wooden elephant was hidden out of the way at Wat Upakhut.
A closeup look at some of the intricate detail in front of the small side temple at Wat Upakhut.
Inside the small side temple at Wat Upakhut.
A double-decker bar at the food court.
Some of the hundreds of mini Buddhas on the walls of the small side temple. Each has something different written along the bottom.
The Buddha in the main temple at Chiang Man.
Looking along the side of the main temple at Wat Chiang Man.
Door detail at Wat Chiang Man.
Two young girls posing in front of the ancient chedi in the compound of the Wat Chiang Man.
A little gray elephant and some other elephants in front of Wat Chiang Man.
Purses for sale at a stand across the street from a Burger King franchise.
A man moving his refrigerated (iced) cart to a new location.
A beverage stand next to a grilling stand. For dinner, on this particular evening, I patronized both.
Some bells near the stupa at Wat Phan On.
A niche at a chedi at Wat Phan On.
A gong at Wat Phan On.
A bilingual inspirational sign at Wat Phan On.
An inspirational saying at Wat Phan On.
A gong at Wat Phan On.
The long temple at Wat Phan On.
The Buddhist temple of Wat Phan On.
A secluded area at Wat Phan On.
Inside the main temple at Wat Phan On.
Two guard-lions at Wat Phan On.
A guardian lion at Wat Phan On.
Detail of the door relief at Wat Phan On.
The golden Buddha at Wat Phan On.
Two Buddhist monks checking the price with a taxi driver before boarding for their destination.
A closed Buddhist temple at Wat Mahawan.
A chedi at Wat Mahawan.
A rather dilapidated bar, the Inter Bar. That means it must be a GREAT place.
A dragon at Wat Mahawan.
A worship niche at a chedi at Wat Mahawan.
A side temple at Wat Mahawan.
A statue in front of the main temple at Wat Phra Sing.
The gilded chedi at the rear of the main temple at Wat Phra Singh.
A golden elephant at the rear of the main temple at Wat Phra Singh.
A very ornate building near the front of the main temple at Wat Phra Singh.
A woman facing Buddhas at Wat Inthakhin Sadww Muang. The portrait is of the just-passed king.
The Tha Phae Gate at night.
A didgeridoo band performing near the Tha Phae Gate.
The very, very low entry to the stairs which lead to the THC Rooftop Bar.
It is not unusual to see motos for rent throughout Chiang Mai. However, by actually renting, I am certain one is really taking a chance with the crazy traffic.
Some typical businesses. I am not exactly sure what the Sexy Poompui Bar is all about…
A more detailed view of the town from the Le Meridien Hotel.
A small home in Chiang Mai.
The main temple at Wat Phra Singh in the old city of Chiang Mai.
A very ornate dragon at the entry to the main temple at Wat Phra Singh.
Two women in front of the Buddha in the main temple of Wat Phra Singh.
On the Way to Yesterday

On the Way to Yesterday

Tamanu, Tahiti, French Polynesia – March 21, 2016

We left home around 05:00 to make our early morning Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. The Mount Victoria tunnel was closed. Because of that, our taxi driver took us along Oriental Bay. Even though it was dark, it was stunning.

After checking in, we had coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Then it was off to the gate, onto the plane, and on to Auckland. It was smooth sailing all the way.After our uneventful arrival in Auckland, we walked to our next gate.
There was some delay in boarding the aircraft. One of the gate attendants told us it was because they were trying to load a stretcher on-board. There was someone in Papeete, Tahiti that was waiting for evacuation to New Zealand.

Once we got on the plane and pushed away from the gate, everything was fine.
Our trip to Tahiti is one of the oddest trips I have ever made, for one reason in particular; our travels took us to yesterday! We left New Zealand on Monday morning. We arrived in Papeete, Tahiti on Sunday evening. That is what happens when one travels to the east across the International Date Line.
Well before our trip began, we applied for and received French visas. We needed the permits because I was traveling to Papeete for business (indeed a sentence I never thought I would write).
The plane landed around 16:00 Tahiti time. When we arrived at passport control, we went to the Diplomatic line as usual. The immigration officer did not speak English very well. Leslie and I speak nearly zero French. As his questioning began, I knew it would be a problematic entry because I was having a challenging time hearing him. At one point, he asked if I had a military escort or an entourage waiting for me. I assured him all I had waiting for me was a taxi.

I could tell he was getting frustrated. I assumed that it was because of our language difficulties. At that time, an Air New Zealand employee happened to walk by the booth. The immigration official called out to her in French. He emerged from his booth, continuing to speak to her. Soon, all four of us were huddled in a group. We both used her as a translator. Finally, after numerous questions, he stamped our passports and allowed us into the country.
When we finally had our luggage and emerged into the terminal area, we spotted our driver. As we approached, she placed a beautiful flower lei on each of us. I put our bags in the rear of the van. Within 15 minutes or so, she delivered us to the Le Meridian Hotel.

The “newly” weds at the hotel.

At the check-in counter, the attendant immediately offered us a small glass of cold mango juice. It was both refreshing and delicious. After receiving our keys, we walked to our room. Our baggage was already there. I grabbed my camera and we walked down to the bar near the beach. The sun was just setting as we arrived at the bar. The views were absolutely stunning.

Sunset with palm and the remains of a pier.

We transitioned from the bar to a table by the ocean for dinner. The beautiful setting, the food, and the wine made it one of the most romantic dinners we have had in quite some time.

Ready for a seaside dinner for two.

Our room rate included a daily continental breakfast. One morning, we decided we wanted a hot breakfast. We went to the breakfast buffet to get eggs, bacon, and potatoes. That was the last time we did that. Breakfast cost us the equivalent of US$75. When we complained about that; the staff responded that it was an “all-you-can-eat” buffet. They were not interested in reducing the price. For the remainder of our stay, we kept ourselves to the continental breakfast side of the restaurant.
The restaurant was a beautiful setting. Along the oceanside of the restaurant, there was a large pond containing koi and water lilies. On the other side of the water was a large stone patio. Beyond that were palm trees partially obscuring the ocean view ocean. It was very relaxing to sit there and enjoy coffee in the mornings.
The beach at the hotel sloped gently into the ocean. No waves were striking the beach because of the barrier reef. The reef and breaking waves were about a half-mile offshore. The water was warm and crystal clear. In the water, there were large clumps of coral. Several types of fish swam around the corals. It was beautiful to behold.

The le Meridien Hotel and pool.
The over-the-water huts at sunset.
Some lilies in the pond.
Lily detail.

On one of my days off, we took a morning shuttle from the hotel to downtown Papeete. Our guide parked at the ferry terminal. We walked from there toward the tourist information building. From there, she led us across a busy street for a block until she pointed out the market. The walk was close to one-half mile.
The market was very clean and nicely done. In addition to some tourist trinkets, the ground level housed fruit and vegetable stands, butcher shops, and fishmongers. The upper level housed an assortment of tourist trinkets, clothing, jewelry, and artworks. I bought a couple of Tahitian shirts. On the way back to the vehicle, we stopped in another store where I bought some more shirts.

A woman shopping at the Papeete Market.
The Papeete Market sign.
The main market in Papeete.

When we walked back to the ferry terminal and port, we had some time to kill. The most impressive yacht we saw was the Arctic. Doing a little research, I found the boat began life as an icebreaker. It is nearly 88 meters (289 feet) long. It accommodates 12 guests and 25 crew. I guess that would be an OK way to travel the world.

The 88 meter Arctic yacht.

Later that afternoon, I used the hotel’s plastic kayak. I paddled nearly halfway to the barrier reef. It was during low tide, so periodically, the bottom of the kayak scraped slightly against the tops of the coral. I could look down on either side of the kayak and see the ocean floor. It was not very deep, probably eight to ten feet. Looking down, I saw all of the fish. The whole experience seemed surreal.

One morning we walked to le Musée de Tahiti et des İles (The Museum of Tahiti and the Islands). Similar to downtown, the walk was about one half-mile. For a small museum, the displays were numerous and well done. The vast majority had descriptions in English as well as French.

When we left the museum, we walked about 100 meters to the sea wall. There, the ocean waves crashed against the wall. There was not a barrier reef at this portion of the island.

A wave crashing at the breakwater. Moorea Island is across the way.
Moorea Island seems to always be cloaked in clouds.

Our afternoon highlight was sitting in a chaise lounge, enjoying a glass of wine, and watching the sunset. The sunsets we saw were just stunning.

This is my favorite sunset shot from our visit to Tahiti.
An amazingly colorful sunset.

The highlight of our trip, by far, was the Polynesian dance show. The show happened on the patio near the restaurant. The dinner buffet was a part of the price paid for the show. The performers included about ten men and ten women dancers. The drumbeats during the various dances seemed to reverberate right through our abdomens. If only I could move like the dancers, I probably would not be fat!

The costumes were very ornate.
Looking right at the camera.

We woke up early and departed our hotel. We arrived at the airport at about 05:30. Getting out of the country was much more manageable. The passport control officer quickly stamped our passports. We breezed through security and sat down at the gate to await our flight.
We boarded the flight a few minutes late, but we did take off on time. During the trip, there was some turbulence, but nothing too severe.
We arrived in Auckland a little late. The Air TahitiNui pilots taxied the plane to the arrival gate and switched off the fasten seat belt sign. Everyone stood up and began removing items from the overhead bins. While that was happening, I noticed I could still hear the sound of the jet engines. I also noticed the plane’s door was not open. We stood there for twenty minutes. Finally, one of the pilots announced we were waiting for gate personnel to respond. We stood for an additional 10 or 15 minutes before the engine finally stopped, and the door opened.While we were standing, Leslie and I were getting nervous about making our connection to Wellington. Waiting for us when we finally got off the plane was a wheelchair attendant for Leslie. We informed him of our tight connection. While he nearly ran through the terminal, he told us the reason for the delay is that the engine had not stopped. That did not make sense to me. Regardless, the race was on to the Wellington gate.
When we entered the duty-free area of the terminal, people packed the central pedestrian aisle, of course. The wheelchair attendant veered off and rushed us through the paths of one of the duty-free stores. Shortly after merging back into the central aisle, we arrived at passport control. The immigration officer quickly stamped our passports.Our focus turned to the baggage claim area. We all rushed there. We waited and waited at the baggage claim carousel. Soon, there were just a few bags left on the belt, but we did not see ours. The wheelchair attendant asked for a description of our baggage. We described our bags. He quickly moved to the access-controlled door, went through, and within about a minute, he emerged with our bags.
An oddity of the Auckland International Airport is that the international terminal and the domestic terminal are not connected. There are two ways to get from one to the other; a free bus or a 10 to 15-minute walk, following a green line painted on the ground. The bus runs approximately every 15 minutes. We were lucky when we emerged from the international terminal; we could see the bus arriving. We boarded the bus with our luggage.The bus has to travel on public streets to get from one terminal to the other. Of course, that means traffic and traffic lights. It seemed we would never arrive. We still had to re-check our bags and make our way to the next gate. When the bus finally arrived, we dashed inside, found an Air New Zealand employee, and told her our following flight number. She broke the news that we would not make that flight. Luckily, Air New Zealand has multiple daily flights from Auckland to Wellington. She booked us on the next flight.
We made it to our gate, waited about 30 minutes, and boarded the flight.
Our 65-minute flight to Wellington was uneventful.

We arrived, retrieved our baggage, and hopped in the Corporate Cab for our 30-minute ride home.

An outrigger canoe just before sunset.
The time for the sunset is approaching.
A billowing cloud.
Some people enjoying a sunset dip in the warm waters.
We were treated to this beauty nearly every evening.
The over-the-water huts at night.
The butcher shop at the Papeete Market.
View of the ground floor of the Papeete Market.
The sun is down for another day.
The calm, colorful colors of the water on the beach-side of the coral reef.
The long-boarder and the person behind continue south as the sun has nearly set.
Clouds over Moorea Island.
A person on a long-board with someone following behind.
The over-the-water huts.
Looking up.
An outrigger canoe.
A tall palm tree.
The 117-meter Aranui 3.
Possibly a tugboat in the port.
Containers in the Papeete Port.
The colors could change quite quickly.
A wider view showing Moorea Island.
A somewhat muted sunset.
The evening view from the beach.
The sun is barely visible behind the clouds.
Sunset from the beach. Moorea Island is in the distance.
Two of the dancers in one of the first dances.
A very intense look.
The group!
The smile shows she was having fun!
Two of the dancers.
A line of women dancers.
The grass skirts swayed and swayed.
Two of the dancers.
These were the most colorful costumes of the night.
This was another fearsome dance. One can only imagine encountering the Polynesians for the first time when Europeans were exploring the Pacific.
A moment during the first dance.
Another pair of dancers.
A moment of rest during the dance.
High motion!
This man danced through the women dancers.
The two dancers.
Two dancers.
Another group photo of the women.
Another group photo of the men.
The beads of sweat indicate just how difficult the dancers worked.
Group photo of the men.
The main dancer of this particular dance.
Group photo of the women.
The young women were stunning.  Leslie tells me the young men were too…
This was a rather fearsome looking dance.
Looking at the audience.
Members of the musical section.
Telling the story through song and gestures.
One of the opening dance moments.
Another costume another dance.
The shot may look still, but the motion is evident by the lei moving through the air.
The two main figures in the dance.
An over-the-shoulder look from one of the dancers.
The stare!
The final pose of the women.
If I dropped to my knees like these guys, I would need medical attention to get back to my feet.