Free Resources – Discovered While Genealogying

The Library of Congress has some great online resources… they have far more resources still just in paper form, but they have made great strides in scanning or organizing important pieces of our history online.  In doing my own genealogy research, I would often get sidetracked.. clicking through the volumes of resources available.

This collection at the link below is a project completed in the 1930’s where they collected thousands of oral histories from former slaves.  It’s fascinating to read through and see their dialect portrayed in the writing.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/mesnbibVolumes1.html

You can also buy certain volumes of this project for your Kindle on Amazon.

My Folks Don’t Want Me To Talk About Slavery: Personal Accounts of Slavery in North Carolina (Real Voices, Real History)

Slave Narratives Arkansas Vol 3 (Arkansas Slave Narratives) Kindle Edition – Click picture below

More to come.

Snorkeling in Thailand

While in Thailand, snorkeling is a must!  In Koh Lanta, there’s a couple different trips you can take to go snorkeling.  I signed up for the Four Islands Tour, which includes a trip to the Emerald Cave.  I’d actually never been snorkeling before.  In Thailand, there’s always a choice between speed boat or slow old fashioned Thai boat.  If you really want to cover some ground, take a speed boat.  Going fast on the water is always fun!

Speed Boat

 

In Koh Lanta, the speed boats pull straight up to the different beaches along the island and pick up their passengers from their hotel fronts.  I was the first one on my boat so I got to see all the beaches and hotels along the coast where my fellow passengers were staying.

Slow Boats

We sped past the slow Thai boats.  I had taken a slow boat on my  Mangrove Tour on the other side of the island.

Koh Lanta Coast

I took notes on where some bungalows with a view were located. 🙂

Snorkeling Cove

At our first stop, I eagerly hopped in the water.  I believe this island was called Ko Ngai.  The coral and fishes were not as impressive as the places I went scuba diving, but they had their own laid back charm.  It was extremely relaxing to drift in the cool clear water and admire the coast lines of the various small islands and observe the quiet habitats of the tropical fish.

Snorkeling coral

 

At one point, the guys on my boat threw leftover rice in the water and the fish swarmed me.  It was really cool!  But not a good idea for people who get claustrophobic.

Swarm of Fish

 

I’m very glad I chose to do a snorkel trip.  It was very laid back and a great way to see the different islands.

Back of Boat

Time For Lime, Cooking in Thailand

Thai Food

I decided to take a break from ocean activities for a day and go to a Thai cooking school while I was in Koh Lanta.  Time For Lime is the cooking school to go to on the island.  Proceeds from the school go to support an animal shelter on the island where you can go volunteer and take dogs for walks on the beach.

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The cooking school is on the beach and has this amazing view.  The school also has a beach front bar which you have full access to while cooking to purchase drinks.

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One of the first things is called Taste of Thailand.  You take a leaf and mix all the primary flavors used in Thai dishes in the leaf and eat it.  It’s super yummy!  Some of the items are: chili, lime, onion, garlic, dried shrimp, honey, peanut, and one more thing in the far bowl in the picture above… can’t remember what it was.  I had a couple Taste of Thailand leaf tacos because they were so tasty and my appetite was getting warmed up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is my work station.  The knife was a bit intimidating but the teacher showed us how it’s the only knife you need.  They had them for sale at the shop and I thought about buying one but they were pricey and didn’t want the weight in my backpack.

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The teacher demonstrates the ingredients preparation and then the class follows suit.  We started with making a simple fish dish.  The primary work being in the preparation of the sauce.  An assistant cooked all our filets for us and flash fried basil for garnish as well.  We prepared the sauce.

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Here I am with my knife.  Look out!  Me and the brits in my class were pounding back the beers during class.

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The teacher’s dish is presented on the above and mine is below.  I think I made chicken instead of fish for some reason.  Fun part was plating.  I’d never played around with plating on leaves and sculpting rice before.  Also, I would like to get some wooden planks to use at home, because I think it give the food a natural appearance.
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This is how you make Green Papaya Salad.  Chop up long beens and they grated the papaya for us, but the secret was in the sauce.

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Here I am making pad thai, which has some strict methodology.  You only swipe the egg 3 times: left, right, and down and then let it cook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is my pad thai and green papaya salad plated.  It was super yummy!  And I had a lot of fun drinking at the bar with my classmates afterwords.  I wanted to come back again for another class before I left the island, but they’re super popular and classes fill up in advance.  All in all this class was one of the most unexpected things on my trip.  I didn’t plan to cook or take a class, but I’m so glad I did!  I would highly recommend this cooking experience to everyone and anyone!

Scuba Diving in Koh Lanta, Thailand

I had always wanted to go scuba diving, but never took the plunge.  What better place to learn than Thailand?  It is one of the best spots in the world for diving, so I’d heard.

Upon arrival in Koh Lanta I started walking the streets and browsing the dozens of dive shops.  A friend had highly recommended 2 shops.  I walked to the first one and started asking questions.  The girls in the shop seemed kind of pushy and I had some questions but they were Thai with poor english and didn’t quite understand me.  So I walked to the other shop and there was a british lady working who I was able to ask all the questions I needed so I felt comfortable.

I signed up for a discovery dive, because I only had 5 days left in Thailand and didn’t want to waste 2 days in a classroom and pool getting certified.  Discovery dives are for uncertified divers and are more expensive because a master diver takes you by the hand practically the whole time.  It’s a great way to see if you like diving before you invest in the certification.

My first day of diving was to the island group Koh Bida.

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On every trip, they post the dive list and important information on a wipe board.  Nai and Nok dives were around this group of islands.  Hin is a tiny jut of rocks that pop out of the water depending on the tide.  Hin is where leopard sharks like to hang out.  We didn’t get pictures on that final dive, but let me say it was amazing!

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Here is a picture of the island group of Bida.  There are coral reefs all around these little islands.

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This is where everyone gets suited up and then you just waddle off the back of the boat.

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The cool italian photographer snapped a shot of me during the hour boat ride while I was daydreaming.  Having grown up on a boat, I enjoy staring off into the horizon listening to the engine.

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My master diver was a nice british guy and the other discovery diver was a dude from Sweden.


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Ready to go!

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I had an OH SHIT moment before the jump because this is where I realized what I was doing.  It was too late to back out, so I took that first step.

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Megan is a diver!  Good divers put their hands behind their backs all the time and just use their legs, but I had my hands out for my comfort.

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These are cuttlefish.  I had never heard of them before.  They’re like an octopus-squid.  They were super cute!

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There I go.

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Here I am.

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Sea cucumbers were my favorite creatures to find.

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Me and a puffer fish.IMG_6899OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I survived!


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At the stern, they pull all the divers in.

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Here is Hin where the sharks hang out.  The current was strong but it was a great dive site.  I saw a very large leopard shark chillin on the sandy bottom.

By the end of this dive trip, all I wanted to do was go again and again!  When I got back to the shop I learned that they were booked the next day, so I signed up for discovery diving a different set of islands the day after next and went back to my A/C room to rub aloe on my sun burn from the day and relax with a bottle of Leo beer.

Mangrove Tour in Koh Lanta

When I arrived in Southern Thailand, of course I wanted to go to the beach, but I wanted to make sure I saw more than just a beach.  Because you can see white sandy beaches a lot closer to home as well!  So I signed up for a Mangrove tour in Koh Lanta where I was staying.   They picked me up and drove me to the other side of the island, where there were no beaches, just mangrove forests.

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I got out of the car with the driver and we walked along a series of docks and boardwalks through the swampy mangrove forest.  This picture above is a boardwalk that shot off to the side that I was very glad was NOT the direction we were going.

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Along the way he pointed out some very colorful crabs that live in the mud.  These are yellow claw crabs.  Very cute and colorful in such a mucky environment.  They are tiny by the way… I had to zoom in.

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Here I am ready to get started on my mangrove adventure using the longboat behind me.  The squares in the dock I’m standing on are fish farm areas.  They had a couple giant fish and one square was full of cute tiger striped fish.  The big fish were fat and ugly!

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As I was sitting there waiting to get started, I noticed the beautiful contrast of the orchids with the mangrove ecosystem.  I was 20 minutes away from some of the most idyllic beaches, but I found it just as beautiful.

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Here I am alone on the longboat.  It was just me and the driver!  I ended up getting what was meant to be a group tour all to myself.  I was actually quite happy about it.  I love being on a boat no matter what!

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We left the mangrove forest and headed out across the open water!  I was super excited to see all the other surrounding islands on the horizon.

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He took me to this small island pictured above.  I had it all to myself for an hour.  I went swimming and ran around taking pictures.  I asked the driver if he would take a picture of me with my camera and he sort of grunted no.  But that’s OK… I like arm-length pictures of myself.  It’s my signature style of photo.

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Here I am testing out my water-proof camera.  It turns out, it really is waterproof!  What a relief.

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Megan’s private island in Thailand!

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There was a hawk on the other side of my island, looked like a bald eagle.  He was eating stuff out of the puddles on the rocks.  When he noticed me, he looked at me and cocked his head before flying away.  He was beautiful!

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And after the island, on our way back my driver swung by the monkey colony in the mangrove forest.  At first I smiled and exclaimed, “Monkeys!”  But then he got closer and they started jumping on my boat… and I started screaming!  Ah!

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He was feeding them watermelon peels out of a big bag he brought.  He tried to hand the bag to me, but I shook my head with visions of rabies shots in my head.  So he just laughed and walked around the boat feeding them.  The monkeys were cute from afar but this was just too close.  With their long tails they reminded me of New York City rats.

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But they do have an endearing way of sitting next to you and looking innocent.

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But I just kept my hands to myself and shot pictures.  Some of the big male monkeys would steal food right out of the smaller monkeys mouths.  Their social rules and etiquette intrigued me.  They were kind of mean to each other.  But I could kind of tell when a male and female were a couple.  I even saw a mom with a baby that stayed in the trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo our boat was taken over by monkeys for a while, but when the bag was empty and the engine started they jumped back to their trees or swam back.

As we drove back to our dock, I had a huge smile on my face.  I got to see monkeys up close and personal and swim on my own island.  This mangrove tour was a lot better than I anticipated.  I recommend it to others.  There’s an option that includes kayaking as well, but I was feeling lazy that day.

Pai Canyon in Pai!

Let’s start from the beginning.  When I hired a private driver to show me all the major sites of Pai… I didn’t know I was going to see this!
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Here’s the beginning.  My driver opens the door for me and points up this ramp.  He says walk up 200 meter and you see the canyon.  I just turned and started walking with no real idea of what to expect.  When I got to the top and realized what it was, I said out loud, “Oh my fucking God!”

DSCN4944This is where I really started cursing.  On both sides of the narrow path are sheer drops!  No railing, no safety harness!  Nothing!  I was in my sandals .. and I just sort of scuffled in a circle and went back…

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This is a view of where that path leads.  This canyon makes a circle.  I decided to try going in the other direction.  My vertigo was kicking in full force.

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As I walked along the right side of the ring around the canyon, which is a much wider path, I saw a girl walking along the other scary side!

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This is a picture of the right side, the narrow part right there isn’t so scary because the drop off to the right was shallow.  But I still shuffled carefully in my flippy flops.

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Along the right side of the ring you are provided with great views of the valley of Pai.  I tried to focus on this temple in the distance.  It was just beautiful!
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Another shot of the other scary side…

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At the end of the trail, it started dropping down to a bridge that connects you to the other side… and this is where I happily turned around.

No thank  you!  I was done.

I have a few friends who would have totally walked the full ring and you all know who you are, but that’s just not me!

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And back at the main entrance to the canyon is a sort of look-out tower, so here’s a pic of me enjoying the view!

Hiking in Doi Suthep

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Me and an Elephant Tree. If you looked further up it sort of looked like an elephant trunk coming down with it’s legs being the rest of the trunk.

I decided to do some hiking while in Chiang Mai so I found a mountain bike company that had an activity where you hike up Doi Suthep and then ride down.  I wasn’t too keen on the ride down, but very excited about walking up.  One thing I failed to check was the distance.  I knew the mountain was tall and they listed the hike as 1400 meters ascent.

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Beautiful foliage in the jungle

What I learned at the end of my hike is that with the uphill and the downhill we had travelled 40 km.  Less than half was the uphill but not sure by how much.  Our guide didn’t understand when we asked.

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Kilometer marker sign for the waterfalls.  We went right, but only saw one waterfall.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Found this waterfall.  This is before me and my small group hit the difficult part of the hike.

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Yay!  I’m all happy at the waterfall before I had to climb up, up, up!  I was totally the slowest one in the pack, but that’s OK.  I had a forgiving group that waited on me.  I could not breath in the humidity.

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Cute little bridge over a creek.  I hopped the rocks, but I appreciated the covered bridge just the same.

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Here’s our group with the tour guide guy in the middle.  Behind the camera is Marie from Ireland.  This is a hill tribe village at the top of the mountain that fed us and gave me strawberry fanta for like a nickel.

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On the way down we stopped by some beautiful views of rice paddies.

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View of the mountain from the bottom.  I was just glad to get out alive!

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Me relaxing at our lakeside hut for lunch.  I got there early cause I decided to skip biking and ride down in the truck with the nice Thai guy that spoke no english but tried to hold a conversation with me the whole time anyways.

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Here’s the whole gang with a basket of beer and soda, waiting on our well-deserved curry.

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We all met up later that night to grab drinks and dinner.  Marie and I stuck it out late at my friend’s bar The Playhouse and proceeded to get slightly hammered… not quite drunk.

All in all, a good day!  But exhausting!

Quaint Little Pai

The road to Pai from Chiang Mai is very windy through the mountains with a lot of switchbacks.  I was riding in a mini van with a bunch of other backpackers going the same place.  The Thai driver was very funny.  When we saw water buffalo crossing the road, he said “Oh!  Thailand Elephant with tallons!”  And the next time we saw a dog in the road he said “, Oh Hyena in Thailand!”  I giggled both times.

The van dropped us at the beginning of a street that was walking only and full of food stands and things for sale.  It was quite crowded and all lit up.  So I walked down the street with my backpack and tried to follow my map to my bungalow overlooking the town.  It was dark, but I crossed a bamboo bridge and walked up a scary dirt road and then when I decided I might be lost, I called the lady at my guest house.  She had a french man with a scooter come pick me up… turns out I was 100 meters away just around the bend.

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I woke up to this view from my bungalow.  I’m sitting here now enjoying the afternoon after a long day of touring.

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Turns out someone has counted the number of curves on the road I took.  This drive is not for the faint of heart.  If you get motion sick, sea sick, or nervous when your driver passes a slow truck on a blind turn, then don’t go.  Or bring a barf bag!

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This is the cute bamboo bridge I crossed in the dark.  It’s the quickest way for me to get to town from where I’m staying.  It’s creaky and scary but I love it!

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After breakfast, I hired a private driver in a brand new truck with AC to drive me to all the major sites around Pai.  Here is a place I had him stop in the countryside so I could take a quick picture.  It was lovely!  I’m going to do a separate post about Pai Canyon because it was amazing.  Here are the rest of the places I went:

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This is called the World War II Bridge.  Originally the Japanese built a bridge here to get over and attack Burma.  When the war was over, the Japanese destroyed the bridge, but Thai people rebuilt it because it was so helpful.  Then there were some floods that knocked the wooden bridge out, so in the 70’s the locals asked to have a steal bridge brought from Bangkok.  The sign made it sound like this is a recycled bridge.  Anywho, the wood floor on the bridge is very creaky as well.  There is a real concrete bridge next to it for the actual road traffic.  The bridge is just a symbol of the history of the region now.

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This is the Chinese Village outside Pai.  I think it’s just a tourist trap but I’m not sure.  In this picture, I’m standing on top of what I think is the Great Wall of China.  It was cute to walk around, just a bunch of chinese food places and tea shops.

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Here I am with a golden Chinese dragon near the entrance of the village.  It was cute to be around Chinese decor while in Thailand.

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This is part of Mor Paeng waterfall.  It’s a beautiful stretch of waterfalls and the water has carved through these rocks in a funny pattern of dips.  In the upper falls people were swimming and playing around.  Looks like a great way to spend a hot day and reminded me of a waterfall near my home in Maryland.

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This is the view of Pai from a beautiful temple called Wat Mae Yen.  It’s situated up on the side of the mountain with great views of the valley.

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Walking Around Chiang Mai – Part 1

Chiang Mai is a great city to go for a walk.  The old city has a square moat and ruins of a wall around it.  Within the old city there are roads and little side streets called Sois.  Every day I go for a walk and discover something new here.  Image

This poor dragon statue is split down the middle, but it makes a pretty cool effect.Image

Found the Starbucks and all the westerners were chillin inside.  Image

This Tattoo shops sign was almost pretty enough to convince me to get one!  There are lots of tattoo shops to choose from.  And I’m told you can even get an old fashioned one done with bamboo by a monk.Image

Beautiful gate to one of the many temples in the city.Image

I often find myself drinking a Leo on a sidewalk cafe table watching the world go by.  There are 4 beers to choose from: Leo, Chang, Singha, and Tiger.  Chang is called a lottery beer, because it can have anywhere from 6-11% alcohol, every batch is different!Image

Corner of the moat near my hostel.  Do not go swimming in the moat.  People do all sorts of things like pee and throw trash in there.  Just giving you fair warning.  Image

This is the Soi near my house that has my favorite breakfast place called Breakfast World.  They have German, English, and American style breakfasts.  It’s super yummy and I always order too much food!Image

In Thailand, you see elephants every where you go.  I really like these elephant statues in particular.  They’re facing the moat.  Image

This is the Tha Phae Gate.  All the gates have names and they help you find your way home.Image

One of the many beautiful shiny temples.  Image

Pretty designs on the side of a temple.ImageThis statue is awesome.  It’s a lizard eating a dragon, guarding the entrance to a temple.

I have lots more pictures from Chiang Mai that I’ll post later.  Tomorrow I’m hiking up a 1400 meter mountain to see a temple and then biking down to a hill tribe village on a lake for lunch.  Hope I make it that far!