John and Jane in Thailand

J and J have escaped the hurly-burly of life in the USA.

In Hot Water

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By now you have probably all heard there is a world-wide problem of coral bleaching in our seas. And you have probably heard El Niño and global warming are two major contributing factors to this phenomenon as they both cause the ocean’s temperatures to rise. To quote NOAA, “When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. When the coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.” The duration of overly warm water will determine if the coral dies. The areas we dive here in Chumphon were hit hard when temperatures climbed to 34C (93.2F) degrees; our usual is 28-30C (82-86F). The temperatures are now back down to summer normal but we don’t know how long the high temperatures lasted because we were in Italy when it started. Our fingers are crossed as we wait and hope to witness the revitalization of our corals.
It has been fascinating diving during this bleaching event. Sad and worrisome, yes but also quite beautiful and intellectually interesting. Why do some corals bleach (stress out and expel the algae) while the same species right next to them don’t and why do some species of coral seem to be more resistant/hardier than others? It is not just corals (hard and soft) that bleach – anemones, corallimorphs, and giant clams also bleach; they too have symbiotic relationships with zooxanthellae algae.
As I said, it has been fascinating and I want to share that experience with you through my photographs in the hopes it will make a rather abstract concept a little more concrete.

CORALS

CORALLIMORPHS

ANEMONES

GIANT CLAMS

Written by Jane Estes

July 17, 2016 at 11:54 am

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Italy

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Italy 2016 0704In April/May, John and I went from Bangkok to northern Italy with our Italian expat friend and his family for three weeks.  (the photos are all in thumbnail mode, click to enlarge)

It was a most remarkable, wonderful trip.  The advantages of going with a local are too numerous to describe, but the non-tourist/regular life aspects are priceless.

We covered 3000 kilometers to visit mountains lakes, ancient cities castles, famous sites I’ve known about my whole life, and great neighborhood hangouts.

We saw how to make true Balsamic vinegar (900 y.o. tradition), Parmigiano-Reggiano (800 y.o. tradition, and olive oil (well over 2000 y.o. tradition).

We visited the Luciano Arduini Vineyard to learn about the whole wine making process and drink a bottle of their award winning wine _ Best of Italy 2016.

We partied with Italian friends we know from Thailand (Armonia Village Resort) and made wonderful new friends.

It was an ideal holiday – thank you Devis, Ju, Giada, Stella, Lina, and Adriano!!!

Written by Jane Estes

June 8, 2016 at 11:03 am

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And there be dragons

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John and I spent ten days in August on a dive-boat in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. The Ondina is an amazing boat and the areas we dove in have some of the world’s most abundant and diverse sea life. And to add to this bounty of new creatures we saw for the first time, twice we had the opportunity to view the Komodo Dragons in the wild. These few photos represent a very small part of what we saw but they will give you an idea of the wonderful dives we enjoyed so much.

Written by Jane Estes

November 1, 2015 at 3:28 pm

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Into the Blue

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As most of you know, John and I moved to Thailand primarily for the diving. On first arriving we went out with the two local dive outfits. When opportunity came to form a boat club using the traditional Thai long-tail, we took it not only for the reduction in the cost of diving but for the independence it gave us. A year ago we took another big step up; we bought our own dive boat. It is also traditional Thai but a fishing boat that was converted for use with tourists. Our partners in this venture, Ju and Devis, own the Armonia Village Resort and though they are not divers, they love being on the water and realized it would be a great resource to offer their customers. Perfect, paying guests cuts the cost of our diving way down for all the club members and we get to meet some very interesting people from all over the world.

Diving is the boat’s primary function. The islands we dive are about an hour and a half away; the ride is part of the pleasure of going out. We see the most amazing scenery and then the details are so often incredible. Scuba diving is truly like visiting an alien planet yet we don’t even need to leave home.

We also have the added fun of having our very own wreck to explore. It was deliberately sunk three years ago to create an artificial reef. It didn’t take long for the sea life to discover this WWII relic and it is now home to all manner of creatures including corals.

Snorkelers are a welcome addition to any trip out to the islands. Many of our dive sites offer amazing opportunities for snorkeler’s enjoyment. This area is so rich in diversity of fish and corals; it never ceases to amaze snorkelers and divers alike.

On each trip we always do two dives which requires that we stay on the surface for at least an hour before heading down for the second dive. We always eat a light Thai food lunch but this is also a time to have fun.

Not all trips out are for diving and snorkeling. There is the occasional fishing trip and in the evenings there is squid fishing. The boat is rigged with special green lights which attract the squid to the boat area; it is just a matter of dropping a line (no pole required), bobbing it a little, then low-and-behold you’ve got a squid. Ju is an expert chef who will gladly cook the fresh squid when the boat gets back to shore.

So, when you make your trip to Thailand, come dive with us.

 

 

 

Written by Jane Estes

March 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm

We’ve Moved!

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We’ve moved! Still in Thailand and still in Thung Wua Laen, our little beach village. Although we had a great house and the world’s best landlords, we needed a place that could be called “ours” from the ground up. A place where the comfort and aesthetics are under our control. When our friends Ju and Devis decided to develop the land behind their resort (Armonia Village), we jumped at the chance to design our own house. In partnership with John’s sister and her wife, who will use it as a holiday home, we have a beautiful, spacious, indoor-outdoor life style villa complete with a separate guesthouse/studio. If you had decided against a trip to Thailand to visit us, you might reconsider once you look at the following images.

Written by Jane Estes

November 25, 2014 at 11:33 am

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Borobudur

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We traveled to Java, Indonesia for the express purpose of visiting Borobudur Temple in Central Java, a mountainous region of many volcanos one of which erupted this past February. Borobudur, built approximately from 790 to 860CE, is the world’s largest Buddhist temple: the base is 403.5ft x 403.5ft and the highest point is 115ft above ground level. I won’t weigh you down with the specifics of the architectural design but if you are interested, Wikipedia covers the subject quite comprehensively. What is important is that Borobudur is an amazing ancient monument and I feel privileged to have spent time on this wonderful temple.
We arrived to check in with the Manohara Centre For Borobudur Study at 4:30AM to be part of the sunrise experience; it was definitely worth waking up at 4 o’clock. We were each given a flashlight and sent off through the pitch black to find our own way to the temple. As we approached, the whole of the structure only appeared as a dark mass. It wasn’t giving up any secrets artificially; we would have to wait for daylight. By the glow of our flashlights, we climbed and climbed some more until we reached the top level. We waited in the dark as more and more flashlights ascended. Most people settle down facing East to await the sun – I went exploring. I feel like I got to know the temple from the inside-out as the forms and then the details were gradually revealed with the coming of the light.

The clouds weren’t cooperating to produce the perfect sun rising from the horizon but many who got up so early were determined to see the disc itself so they waited patiently until the sun broke out of the clouds.

Each of the 72 “openwork” stupas contains a seated Buddha.  As you can see, one of the stupas was left open for educational purposes during the last major restoration. The Indonesian government and UNESCO began a complete overhaul of Borobudur in 1975; upon completion, UNESCO listed the monument as a World Heritage Site in 1991.  This was not the first attempt at restoration.  Sometime between 928-1006CE, the capitol was moved to East Java, perhaps because of frequent volcano eruptions, subsequently the temple was left unattended and eventually forgotten as it was covered in volcanic ash and reclaimed by the jungle.  While under British administration, Thomas Stamford Raffles heard about a monument in the jungle and “recovered” Borobudur in 1814 and the modern interest began. Following the 1975 UNESCO renovation Borobudur is once again used as a place of worship and pilgrimage.

In total there are 504 Buddha statues; they are in stupas, in niches, and lining walls.  There are remarkable relief sculptures too – 2672 panels!

One of the pleasures of coming to Borobudur so early in the day is watching the surrounding countryside gradually appear in the mists of morning.

As we descend we see the monument become bigger and bigger around us and we watch the ground level “rising” as we make our way to the base. Remember, we saw none of this on our way up; it is interesting to discover this remarkable place in reverse.

BOROBUDUR

(don’t forget to enlarge the images, these are just thumbnails)

Panorama B

Written by Jane Estes

October 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Italians embracing Thai traditions

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Move over New York City and Boston, Thung Wua Laen has a Little Italy too. I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned “the Italian village”; the resort’s name is actually Armonia Village but all the locals call it the Italian village. The founders/owners are an Italian/Thai couple who have become very good friends of ours. I have been doing photography for Ju and Devis for almost as long as we’ve lived in Thailand.  Last week I had a rather unusual photo assignment: two Italian couples renewing their marriage vows with a traditional Thai wedding ceremony.
I thought you might enjoy seeing some the photographs from this Italian/Thai fusion event. You will see the early morning feeding of the monks and their chanting; water blessing by friends and officials; and visiting a temple and the sea. A buffet breakfast and dinner were also part of the days events. I’ve only put up a smattering of the photos but they are in chronological order to give you a feel for the day.

Written by Jane Estes

September 14, 2014 at 5:02 pm