On the bridge at Punta Pirulil - Chiloe Island, Chile.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dad's Journeys

This is a photo of my dad (Mark C. Espy, Sr.) as a boy, standing in front of a world map in his bedroom in Headland, Alabama (circa 1951).  During his lifetime he did a significant bit of traveling, both in the U.S. and internationally.  He saw virtually every US state, including Alaska and Hawaii. Countries he visited: Canada (3), Honduras, Brazil (2), Argentina, Chile, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Haiti, England, France (2), Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Finland.  And I am probably missing two or three.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Asheville, NC

If you love fruits, Sri Lanka is a fabulous country.  I made this video on a visit there.  Be sure to see me drinking a coconut.
And click here for my experiences with coconuts in Thailand.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Christmas in Bangkok

Dec 2000

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kade & Sibs on Vacation

Kade, Nan, Oba
circa 1983

Kade in back

Caring for elephants in Thailand

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Briton killings in Thailand recreated

I vividly recall being at Kade's that first couple of years I was in Thailand and watching the news one particular night.  They were reporting on a big murder, and the police had taken the assailant back out to the crime scene to walk through a reenactment (like in the above video).  Perhaps this was a part of the state's building of a case and was a common legal procedure.  Not exactly sure.  But I remember thinking how bizarre it was that a reenactment was part of the process.  What disturbed me the most, though, was that the people in the community where the crime took place, and perhaps some of the family of the victim, were out there too.  And they were angry and hysterical, of course.  They themselves wanted blood!   It was like the investigators and police were given them a chance to lash out at the murderer.  I just thought it was so unnecessary - the reenactment, the tipping off of the reenactment so a mob could turn out, etc..  Just weird.  And I'm pretty sure I said to Kade, "Gosh, couldn't imagine this playing out like this in the USA."  But the more I lived in Thailand, and the more I reflected back on my year in Tashkent and summer in Alberta, there were many moments like this when I make quick criticisms of the strange land I was in without always having the full picture in front of me.  Travelers and tourists do this.  And you might even learn later that what you'd seen was taken out of context or there indeed was something akin to it or worse in your own country.  Just proved to me how blind we could be, I could be. 

"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable."   - Clifton Fadiman

Friday, September 16, 2016

Rajabhakti Park - Hua Hin, Thailand

This is a newly-constructed park in a relaxing beach town about three hours south of Bangkok.  It was built to honor seven great kings of Siam.  See if you are impressed as I am.  Truly, what human beings can conceive of and put into action, when there's the effort, the money and the will, is truly awe-inspiring.  This coming year, when I encounter an individual, family, community or business that seems "stuck in a rut," I am just going to tell them about Rajabhakti Park.

To discover a bit more about the Thai beach town Hua Hin and some experiences Kade and I had there, click here

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MJ Wear

my Michael Jackson t-shirt 

To see how I made this MJ shirt purchase, just see the video below.  Start at the 7:30 mark, when I buy an iced coffee.  At outdoor markets in Bangkok, you must know how to haggle. 

wearing my shirt in Hendersonville, NC

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We Want Beer

You thought only Ashevillians loved beer?!??   Thais love beer too!  And so do Americans and Israelis!  Several years ago Mosh and I joined Kade and her friends/colleagues at Bangkok's& German beer hall!  You'd think you were in Bavaria! Established almost 15 years ago, Tawandang Microbrewery was named by Time Magazine as "the world's greatest Thai-German bar and restaurant."  Of course, you can't have a good beer without delicious food.  And since you're in Thailand, would you expect this beer hall to go solely with German cuisine?!?  Oh, no.  It's East meets West in Bangkok.  Just take a look at their recommended dishes.  Tawadang seats 1500 rebel rousers accommodates 2000. That's about all of Headland coming in to dine every night!  Although Thailand produces one of the best beers around, Singha Beer, let's see if Bangkok made it into Zane Lamprey's 25 Best Beer Cities In The World.  See any surprises?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vineyards in Thailand

Thailand wine tours: Where to spend a weekend in the vineyards
About 20 years ago Thailand took to wine producing with its characteristic defiance of international norms, rejecting the age-old traditions that say wine grapes can't be grown further south than Cairo or Lhasa. Breaking those rules, vineyards across Thailand's three distinguished winemaking regions now produce quality wine 1,770 kilometers further south than old school thinking dictates.

For a more comprehensive look at Siam Winery, click here.  And for an inspiring look at a wine tasting at a wheelchair-friendly bistro at the Hua Hin Vineyards (Thailand), go here.   If this man's pursuit of living does not move you and motivate you to overcome your own circumstances, perhaps it's time to check your pulse.  When you finish with these winery videos, I'd encourage you to go to his YouTube channel just to see how he - and he's a foreigner there - enjoys beaches in Thailand, and how he maneuvers his wheelchair in markets, and around the city of Bangkok and at tourist sights all around the country.

To learn more about Khao Yai Winery, click here.

Without question, getting out of your little town (like Headland, AL) or out of your big city (like NewYork) and going to new and different places exposes you to a broader range of ideas and ways of living that you can incorporate into your own life, and into your own community, when you return back to it.  I think of the Asheville family that owns several properties downtown.  One huge benefit the city has received is that members of this family live in Vancouver, BC (Canada) part of the year, and they have been active in enlivening Asheville's downtown with concepts they see working in Vancouver.  Anyone who knows Vancouver, knows that besides being considered the most beautiful city in all of North America, it has a vibe and quality of life that wows people.  I don't think it's a coincidence that Asheville, a city with a downtown that just thirty years ago was bleak in many respects, has experienced an incredible renaissance.  This family has played a big part, as have  other visionaries who saw great potential here and made things happen.  So when I see the vineyards in Thailand, I wonder what more Asheville can learn from this, and I wonder what Headland (my hometown) and Alabama can learn from this.  And if we're not able to dream big like this and we're not able to act on those dreams, what are the roadblocks?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Great Escapes

Where do you go if you're looking to escape the city?  Why not an English country farm (actually, commonly referred to as "the New Zealand of Thailand") just a little over two hours from Bangkok.  If you don't want to fly to New Zealand or if you can't fly there, create it in your own backyard. The owners of this property had a vision, and it's been a popular hit, especially for Thai tourists.

This is a helicopter ride above the property.

Bow, a Bangkok friend of mine, decided to visit The Scenery with her friends.

Here's a good write-up (w/ pictures) of a visit an American made to The Scenery Farm in Thailand.   Adjacent to The Scenery is a property whose theme/design is a Swiss valley.  Here's their resort site.  And to further show you the popularity of exotic themed resorts in Thailand, scroll down for a look.

w/ Bow on a visit to Bangkok

Friday, September 9, 2016

If You Build It

 If you suddenly were dropped down into the middle of this scene, where would you think you are?
Would you think, here???

This promotional video was shot shortly after it opened; shows the inside and out of the village.  Quite unique!

Here's an aerial shot of Palio Khao Yai, they say.  Although, to me it looks like the village in miniature.  Or could this be Instagram?  Here's their Facebook page showing more images.

And the Italian theme doesn't stop here.  In the Thai beach town Hua Hin, this has just opened.  Here's another look.  Geared heavily towards shopping.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What if?

you had some land in a Thai town where there's a beautiful beach, and you had a chance to develop into something?  Do you go with the ordinary or do you go with the unique and the bold?

The town is Cha-Am, a couple of hours south of Bangkok - incidentally, a place where we loved to visit on weekends.  A lady selling som tam (green papaya salad) and grilled chicken on beach road, right out front of a 7-11, won me over with food and service.  So, you've got the beach.


Hua Hin town and beach , to the left, and Cha-Am town and beach, in the distance.  Click to enlarge.

You have the land, and now your vision takes shape.  
The concept:  a Greek town modeled after Santorini, outfitted with restaurants, shops and rides. 
An artist creates a rendering of your big-picture idea.


And then you work out more intricate details.

Next step:  Clear the land.
And then you construct it.  For this photo and for more showing the construction process, click here.

When all done, promote it on Thai TV.  Thai tourists will supply the bulk of your customer base.

Visitors arrive.
One of my former students (and current friend) enjoying some R&R at Santorini Park Cha-Am.

Website:Santorini Park Cha-Am

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Foreign Currency

When I travel I always try to keep a few small notes as souvenirs.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Gift from Colombia

Our friend from Colombia gave us this item from her country.  Once I get more information about it, will add it here.  Based on a little research I have already done, it appears to be a replica of a pre-Colombian artifact.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sexy Handicrafts

My cousin purchased this for me on his stopover in Cozumel, Mexico while on his Caribbean cruise. Other stops they made were Grand Cayman and Jamaica.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Start of Journey

Use the map to see our itinerary.  You can open a new window, enlarge, zoom and click on sites for details.  We arrived in Santiago, ready to go.  Our checked luggage didn't make it, however.  It was lost in Miami!   Fortunately, it was recovered and sent to our apartment in Santiago the next day. Anyway, we were picked up at the airport by our driver (holding a funny sign!) and taken to our Airbnb apartment. Spent the first afternoon walking a bit around the neighborhood (in Providencia) and stocking up on some essentials for the kitchen.  Enjoyed seeing all the rollerbladers and bicyclists out having a good time.  It's an active city, I could quickly tell.  The time difference in Chile was not significant - just two hours ahead of us in the Eastern USA.  

My cover was immediately exposed!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Venturing Out

On our first full day in Santiago we headed to the city's main square (at least for tourists!) with the idea of joining one of the city's free walking tours.  We looked and looked for the tour guide holding up a sign at the designated hour, yet couldn't find them.  I had a particular tour company in mind, and had researched them thoroughly on the Internet long before we even arrived in Santiago.  We searched all over, but we couldn't find them.  After asking for some help, we then walked down to another possible meeting spot, and yet still no luck.  I was frustrated, and it was very hot.  I was already thinking about the negative review of the tour company I would put on TripAdvisor!  We ended up walking by ourselves, in the direction of San Cristobal Hill, and just made the best of the day.  Now the funny thing is, sometime the next day or the day after, we realized our smartphones, which we rely on for keeping up with the time, did not automatically reset once we arrived in Chile. We were a full two hours off!  And that explains the mix-up with the tour company.  Thank goodness I did not send in that review!