This is the blog for Matt Hollingsworth. I'm from Ojai, California. I've worked in comics for 22 years as a color artist.

This blog will largely be used to show my daily life as I live in Samobor, Croatia and as I travel around the region. Lots and lots of photos! Leave me a comment, will you?

All content on this blog is copyright 2013 Matthew Dale Hollingsworth and cannot be copied or used for any purpose without my consent.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It being winter, we're missing the Thailand trip we did last year to escape from winter weather. What a great vacation!

Anyway, on with the blog posts about the Thailand trip.

After the elephant center and hospital we continued on towards Chiang Mai and stopped by a natural hot spring on the way.

The park around the hot springs was pretty nice, so we stayed for a while.

Politically incorrect bathroom signs at the hot springs.

This area is obviously where the geysers rise up and spray out of the ground. There's an area near there where you boil eggs. They sell you eggs here with a little basket which you hang into the hot water to cook. We had duck and quail eggs. The quail eggs were really great!

After that we went and had a soak in a large private room. We rented one for the boys and one for the girls that were next to each other. The girls kept throwing cold water over the wall at us, so a sort of battle erupted over that wall. Like I said before, we had a great group who were fun to hang out with, so we enjoyed ourselves.

After that we continued on to our homestay near Chiang Mai. Our homestay was in a little village and was my favorite part of the tour. There was a family there who had a sort of family complex of houses and huts and such. The boys stayed in one room and the girls in another but we only slept in those rooms. We spent all of the rest of the time hanging out, doing activities or being entertained by our hosts.

We arrived at the homestay well into the day, so we just threw our bags into our rooms and then joined our hosts for a great dinner and entertainment. Local musicians played for us as we feasted on some tasty food. The music was interesting, but as you can hear below it might not be for everyone. They played for maybe 45 minutes or something. The food, like nearly all of the food we had in Thailand, was tasty. Afterwards, they showed us their instruments and had us each play some small bit on each one.

After that, we headed outside where they entertained us more. They performed some traditional Thai dances and had us do some playful fighting with the younger boys. It was all really great and the fights were pretty funny as the little boys were giggling and playful about it. We wrapped up the activities with this candle lighting ceremony below. We all wrote our names on this paper lantern then lit the candles and watched the lantern sail away into the sky. It flew pretty high. And towards the end of the night our group hung out and some of us drank a lot of beer!

In the morning we got up very early to go make offerings to the monks at the local temple. We gave them various kinds of foods that our host packaged up for us so this was an easy process. The local people do this with the temples, supporting them so that the monks have what they need to live and on this day we took part in this process which was pretty cool.

After that, we went on a bicycle tour around the village, starting off at another temple. We went inside this one and took a look around. On the walls of temples there are often paintings depicting daily life in the area. In the detail below, if you look closely, you can see a guy under the tree vomiting from too much drink the previous night. Nice!

After the temple visit, we rode around the countryside near the village for a while enjoying the natural scenery. We went to a local mushroom farmer and did a little tour. And we selected some mushrooms for our host to include in our lunch which she would cook later.

Those are plastic bags that the mushrooms grow in. Inside the bag is a nutrient mix and mulch for the mushroom along with their spores. They grow sideways out of holes in the bags and are harvested from there. When they're harvested, new mushrooms grow and go out of that same hole and this repeats until the supply of spores and nutrients is exhausted at which point new bags are placed in here.

We also stopped off a local crafts shop with all sorts of scarves, purses and clothing items. It was all local handcrafted stuff.

Thailand has a lot of dogs. Everywhere you go, you see dogs on the sides of the road or on sidewalks, sleeping like this fellow here. In some areas, the Thai also like to put clothing on their pets, so if the animal is owned by someone, you often see some clothing on it, whether it's a dog or cat.

Eventually we went to a local school where we helped teach English for an hour or so. We then went outside where football and volleyball were played with the children.

After hanging out at the school we went back to the homestay and had another great meal prepared by our host. It included those mushrooms that we'd harvested too.

Monday, February 01, 2010

After that, we headed to Lampang and our hotel, which was listed somewhat romantically as being on the river. Well, as it turned out, while I guess it was a river, it was sort of like being on the Los Angeles river. Like a concrete aqueduct. The hotel itself looked decent enough but everyone in our group was complaining of bed bugs the next day. We weren't there long anyway, though. I wouldn't personally recommend Lampang to anyone.

After breakfast we headed towards Chiang Mai and stopped at an elephant park on the way there. The main elephant park had elephant rides, elephants painting and such and was an overall educational park all about elephants.

Elephant painting.

Now if only we can teach them Photoshop!

At the start of our elephant ride here, not that you can see the elephant in this shot!

They also make paper out of the massive amount of elephant dung that's generated by the park's residents. Seems pretty eco friendly and the proceeds go to the park.

Mmm mmm. Poop!

Near the elephant park was an elephant hospital. They showed us a film to educate us about what they do and introduced us to some of their elephants. In the area around the border with Myanmar, people illegally use elephants to haul timber. And in that area, there's a ton of landmines. Once in a while, an elephant gets their foot blown off or is otherwise injured. And this hospital helps those elephants.

You can see his injured foot.

We donated some money to the hospital, bought some shirts and such. And otherwise, we had a pretty nice day. The elephants were pretty cool. Sad to see the injuries sustained by the hospital residents, but nice to see the hospital taking care of them!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More about our Thailand trip:

The hotel we stayed at in Bangkok, the Viengtai, was also the meeting point for the Intrepid tour that we had booked to start off our vacation. I also booked us time in the south, on Koh Mook and Koh Lanta. So, we'd have some nice, warm beach time with sun and swimming and such. For the tour, we decided to head to the Northern part of Thailand so we'd see a bit more of the country rather than just the islands.

We decided to take the tour called Treasures of the North. This took us around the north a bit, starting with a train taking us up towards Sukhothai. After the train, we switched to a songthaew for transportation to Sukhothai. The songthaew is basically a small pickup truck that's been converted to carry tourists in the back. They range from moderately comfortable to totally uncomfortable depending on the seat structure and how low the ceiling is. Anyway, this carried us to Sukhothai where we checked into our guest cottages.

The guest cottages were pretty decent. If memory serves, we then headed off for a Thai massage at a local place (which was great! Maybe the best massage I had on this trip.) and returned to the cottages where we had some tasty dinner and drank beer for a while to get acquainted with the group we were touring with. As it turned out, we had very good luck with our group. It was a mixed group from Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada and Luxembourg (and Croatia and America counting us). For the most part we all got along great on the whole trip and had a lot of fun together. And our tour leader, Toon, was really great. I'd recommend these guys to anyone after this experience.

The next morning, we headed off to see Sukhothai National Park, which was quite a sight to behold. We took a songthaew to get there, once again, then rented bikes for touring around. Our tour guide was fantastic, explaining a lot of the history of the place and really showing us around. And she made us some amazing lunch too that she brought with us for a picnic. Our tour leader was not really our *guide* per se. She did a great job of getting us around and helping us, but in each location we had local guides who really knew the area. That was the case here as well.

Our tour group.

Further reading about the Sukhothai Kingdom:

Sukhothai Kingdom.