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2012 Biennial of the IPS - Part 1: South Thailand Pre-Tour

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Trópico

Tales, visions of a faraway land

of lush gardens, wild jungles,

clouds spilling over rolling hills;

endless fields of rice, gum, oil palm

marching towards temples of timeless splendor

telling stories of a glorious past.

ราชอาณาจักรไทย

This is the story of the 28th Biennial of the International Palm Society held in the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam), as experienced by a first time biennial attendee, myself, and my wife. This memorable trip did not lack on coverage by countless forms of media, as have been seen in these forums and elsewhere, but it did lack an important eye, bigger in size than the one that washed ashore in Pompano Beach: Ryan's camera. So here I am at my hopeless attempt at filling in for him, because this trip deserves a tale well told. But Ryan's camera (and shoes) are far bigger what I can hope to fill, but anyways, here it is.

For us this trip started when we hit the "Checkout with Paypal" button just a day before the May deadline. Wishing, saving, and dreaming turned into preparing, learning, and, yes, extreme anticipation. Fast forward to the "omg, the trip is upon us!" week before, when in a futile attempt at avoiding jet lag, I incrementally went to bed an hour later each day. Palmtalk, palmchat, Learn Thai 123, LOTRO, 24 ounces of caffeine did help, sir, until the night before, the night I did not sleep...

Day 1: September 4, 2012

Should I have started with "Day 0"? Day 1 was actually September 5th according to our Final Itinerary. But as experienced by us, the two days turned into one, and there was no September 4th evening.

8:20 AM (local time) Orlando, Florida: As Kirkman Road Veterinary opens its doors, we part ways with Venus, our dog, for two weeks. Just minutes before her boarding, hours before ours.

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Trópico

10:43 AM (local time) Orlando, Florida:

Lift me up, fly me away

where the sun goes at night;

where palms grow and elephants play

across vast ocean miles.

I want to explore, discover by day

and taste the culture at night;

relax and admire the rare palms sway

in the land of smiles.

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(it's a video, click it!)

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12:22 PM (local time) Atlanta, Georgia: We promptly arrived to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, better known as the Atlanta International Airport, located just seven miles south of the city.

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12:35 PM: As we wait to board our international flight I snapped a picture of our Korean Air aircraft. We were about to board a 13 hour flight from Atlanta, GA all the way to Seoul, South Korea!

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1:45 PM: Just minutes before departure, but way overdue for sleep.

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3:24 PM (ET) Somewhere up there, North American skies: First meal was served, Korean Air style. Delicious ground beef with sliced mushrooms, cucumbers, and noodles with seaweed soup. What I enjoyed most was the spicy sauce for noodles tube. MMMmm!!!

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12:12 PM (Sept. 5, local time) Somewhere in Northeast Siberia: About 10 hours into the flight, I took this picture of my seat's front display, set to show flight details and current status. We flew over the North Pole in a dreaded aisle seat. Needless to say I only took short naps at a time and the "simulated nighttime" only lasted about 3 hours after which they woke us up rolling breakfast up the aisle. The seats are equipped with fairly recent movies selection, videogames, books, music. But 10 hours into a flight and 36 hours without sleep, the eyes hurt really bad.

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5:37 PM: Finally we negotiate our way down to Incheon International Airport. In the foreground the island that holds the airport, which is probably being hidden by the aircraft's turbine. Across the river, the city of Incheon. Seoul can be seen further back. This was probably our 22nd straight hour of daylight.

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11:32 PM (local Bangkok time): The day-night terminator finally caught up with us and left us behind as we overflew Vietnam. Just 11 minutes shy of our 24th hour of travel, arriving at our destination, Bangkok International Airport (BKK).

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(video, click it!)

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Trópico

12:37 AM (Sept. 6th) Bangkok, Thailand: We arrived in Thailand, for the first time ever, and first time ever in Asia, with a vague idea that we had to pick up our luggage and somehow make it to the Grand Four Wings Hotel. But the level of attention characteristic of the IPS Biennial that was just about to start made itself evident to us the minute we stepped out of the door while hearing the pouring rain and feeling the warm air of the arrival pickup point. 'Lift' was holding an IPS Biennial sign, greeted us, and gave us all the information we needed to help us arrive safe at our destination and get ready for next day's scheduled trip. She already had a bus waiting for us. We were the last two arrivals of the Biennial Pre-Tour.

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At that point it really hurt being awake. I knew I had to sleep, but I was terrified about missing the wake up call at 5:00 AM and the flight to Trang...

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Walter John

This is great Frank, looking forward to the next installments very much...

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bgl

Frank,

Wow, great photos and excellent coverage! :) I really look forward to the rest! :)

Bo-Göran

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Cindy Adair

Yes, more! more!

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Kim

Way to go, Frank! I am loving this!

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Trópico

Day 2: Thursday, September 5, 2012

Grand Four Wings Convention Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

5:14 AM: We managed to hear the alarm, then the wake up call, and were up by 5:00 AM surprisingly rested and refreshed. As quickly as we could, we prepared ourselves and we made sure our luggage was ready. The Grand Four Wings Hotel was glad to keep part of our luggage, the one we intended to save for the main Biennial part of the trip. We took with us all of the exploring gear, beach attire and the more comfy clothes for the Pre-Tour.

This business style room offered a comfortable place to spend the night, and sadly leave in a hurry. A surprising feature, the bathroom window!

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6:08 AM: Our first breakfast of the Biennial! Here we got acquainted with new flavors and dishes like the rice soup, the burrito shaped omelets (yummy!), and most other Biennial favorites. We also started to get familiarized with the approx. 23 faces that enjoyed with us the Biennial Pre-Tour.

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6:26 AM: After finishing with breakfast we hung around the hotel lobby waiting to board the bus that took us to the Don Mueang airport. I snapped a couple of pictures of the lobby and we used the soft evening hues reflected on polished floors as a setting for even more pictures. This is how the lobby looks like without 200 biennial attendees that arrived a week later...

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7:00 AM: The departure of the bus from Grand Four Wings Hotel marked the beginning of the Biennial Pre-Tour. One of our two guides, Ron, introducing himself and briefing us on the upcoming tour. We did not have police escorts this time.

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As you can see, and we certainly did, it was pouring outside. I was mentally preparing to accept the fact that this was how the weather was going to stay like. It was monsoon season, after all. And we in Central Florida sure know what that does to traffic. Add that to the reputedly persistent bad traffic conditions in Bangkok.

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Our second guide, Steven 'Ukkrit', gave us a little geography class in Thailand. He marked on the map the places that we were going to see in each part of the tour. No, we did not go to Laos, Cambodia or Chiang Mai, but why toss an otherwise perfectly fine map? Our destinations are marked by the individual solid dots: Trang, Phang Nga, Phuket, and for the main Biennial, Pattaya.

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Just before arriving at Don Mueang airport, we spotted the Wat Don Mueang. We were awed by its beauty and tried our best to get a good picture but out of five or so this was the best one, trust me.

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8:31 AM: As we walked a long corridor to the gate we spotted the Nok Air aircraft that took us on an hour long flight to Trang. This airline travels domestic only. Nok is the Thai word for small bird.

By the way, Don Mueang international airport is among the world's 18 strangest airports, guess why? Right smack in the middle of the two runways is an 18-hole golf course! The building seen in the background is part of this golf course. According to our guide Steven this airport was completely underwater a year ago, when Bangkok sustained major flooding.

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9:42 AM: Not long after takeoff we got Nok Kanom, a complimentary Nok Air snack served with a smile :)

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Walter John

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Nok Air also offers cute souvenirs and refreshments. I picked this collagen drink for us and did not taste bad at all.

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10:24 AM: Just minutes before landing, I took this aerial shot of rural Trang province. Line after line of oil palms and gum trees dominate the landscape.

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10:30 AM: We arrived at the Trang Airport, located in the Mueang Trang district, just 7 km south of the city of Trang. Far above, clouds are putting their act together.

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Members slowly made their way out of the airplane and into the building for baggage claim. Upstairs above IPS Director Don Martin and his wife can be seen negotiating their way out of the aircraft.

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As soon as the last member was done picking up the luggage (that was me of course), we boarded a couple of small buses that took us to lunch at a local restaurant. Along the way we saw a Wat (temple) every now and then, or a more elaborate complex with a not less impressive street entrance.

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A typical house with a gold accented gate, beautiful tile roofing, and spirit house (left center of the picture).

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Errata #001: In post #21, the person exiting the airplane which I named Don Martin is actually IPS Director John DeMott - my apologies, too late to edit! Now I really begin to appreciate the monumental job that Ryan does... see? first attempt, epic Fail :floor:

continuing on...

11:30 AM: Members arrived at the Ban Suan Sudaporn local restaurant (no, it's pronounced "Sudapawn"). Ban Suan means "garden house". What a pleasant start, especially appropriate for the food and palm hungry crowd.

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Now let's see if I can get this one right: member Barbara Van Derveer and IPS Director Don Martin just arrive at the Ban Suan Sudaporn.

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Oh, the palms! The PALMS! Here they come!

One of the entrances to the group dining table is framed by these two magnificent Licuala grandis. Member Yenny seizes the opportunity for a great palmy picture.

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A view from the main entrance. Towering Areca catechu palms line the passageway.

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Drizzle turning into rain washed the leaves of this Arenga hookeriana leaving its surfaces shiny.

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Disclaimer: I'm bad at people's names, and possibly worse at palm species names. I will do the best I can to not put bad tags around, but if there is an error, kindly point it out! Thanks.

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Members had the opportunity to stroll the passageways, admiring and taking pictures at and/or with the palms. There was enough appetizers for the eye while we awaited seating.

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All I know is that the name of the restaurant is written in there.

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The various palms, the many forms of art, and the trickling water upon tranquil Koi fish ponds created the perfect atmosphere for this restaurant.

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The rain really brings out those colors! Cyrtostachys renda.

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You saw the visuals, now immerse yourself in them... (click on video)

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Licuala species were numerous throughout the South of Thailand Biennial Pre-Tour.

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Small Kerriodoxa elegans, another feature species of the Biennial Pre-Tour.

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bgl

Frank,

You're doing a fantastic job of documenting this! Really enjoying it and looking forward to more! :)

Bo-Göran

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Jeff Searle

Frank,

Your doing a great job! Your pictures AND video have me thinking I was (wish!) there. And what a way to start off at lunch with a beautiful setting that you all were at. I look forward to much more.

Jeff

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Cindy Adair

I'm so jealous! However, your video and photos bring your adventure to life. Thanks!

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Trópico

Thanks everyone! And I wish more of you were there with us! Maybe next time... I'll try to share our experiences in this amazing start of a great Biennial as best as I can. I am too thinking and wishing I was back there!

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11:25 AM: Slowly the promise of authentic Thai food made members gravitate towards the table that was set for our group. The Staff and restaurant crew were probably briefed as to the time us palm people were going to take to finally sit down.

Clockwise from left, members Barbara, Jacques Page, David Tanswell, Yenny Lozada, Tony (TonyDFW), and Jim, among others.

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Singha beer and Chang water. The size of that beer was considerably larger than the familiar 12 oz bottle.

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BS Man about Palms

Frank, I wanted to wait a bit to let you get it rolling... FANTASTIC my friend! an excellent job of documenting your trip!

I look forward to your future installments!

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Trópico

Lunch was served semi-buffet style, one large dish for about 4 people close to it. First came the egg (roll) then the chicken: one tasty dish worth of a picture, probably (I'm no expert) a type of Thai red chicken curry.

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Add white Jasmine rice where it fits (on top) and tofu soup (Tom) made using some of the most aromatic and essential herbs in Thai cuisine: lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves.

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Trópico

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While members are wrapping up delightful enjoyment of delicious Thai dishes, David Tanswell and Anders engage in a conversation...

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...while me and my wife used up the remaining minutes for a few after-meal pictures of the restaurant.

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Trópico

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I immediately noticed this palm in beautiful pearly white seed. I'd appreciate an id!

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Areca catechu in seed towering over Licuala peltata var. sumawongii.

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Before the bus ran away without me, I snapped another shot of the Cyrtostachys renda by the brick wall. I can't get enough pics of it.

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Another feature palm of the Biennial Pre-Tour, Borassus flabellifer.

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The Three Wise Monkeys. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, trace its origins in Ancient Asia, and represent the opposite to their western counterpart (ie: "to not dwell on evil thoughts" rather than "lack of moral responsibility by looking the other way"). They are a popular Thai street gift shop souvenir.

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I'm not saying what evil I did in Thailand :innocent:, and she will hear no evil :rolleyes: .

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12:43 PM: Lunch came to an end and we were back on the road en route to Ton Tok Waterfall. On the lookout for rare palms, we got rare dog instead.

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Thai scooters are a popular transportation medium, even for the entire family.

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Thai script, which consists of 44 consonants, 15 vowel symbols, and 4 tone marks, is fascinating. It is not a true alphabet, but a writing system in which consonants may invoke an inherent vowel sound. The consonants are written horizontally from left to right, with vowels arranged above, below, to the left, or to the right of the corresponding consonant or in a combination of those positions (do I hear JRR Tolkien's Tengwar?).

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