A Travellerspoint blog

October 2008

Going home

As expected, my wake up call goes off at 5:45, Irene is already leaving as I'm just getting into the shower. I answer the door in a towel and tell her I'll see her at the airport. Ha. I go down to the lobby, check out and collect my "breakfast box". Waiting for the airport shuttle, I'm wearing my new custom made Thai suit. I decided to wear it because of my previous strip searching experience at the Ottawa Airport before. I want to look as professional as possible so that I don't have to go through that ordeal again. Anyway, I fail to notice that the tags are still on the sleeve and the pocket of my jacket. I ask a porter to cut them off for me while I'm waiting for the shuttle. Ha.

At the Bangkok airport, I wait in the Thai Air line. I get to the counter and find out it's the wrong one. It's really long. I'm supposed to go to the Nippon Airlines line, which is empty. Arg.

Then, I go and get my VAT refund. A cool 1,200 baht, sweet.

"I'll spend this on some Thai whiskey," I think to myself.

So I head straight to the duty free and pick up a big bottle, as well as a bottle of lichee wine. Wow, looks great. However, the lady at the duty free won't let me buy them because I'll be going through so many security checks on the way home. Are you serious? That sucks big time! I was counting on bringing some back for beer night on Friday! Ahhhhhhhh! That sucks big poopy boo boo balls. Oh well.

Irene and I talk boys and I watch Leatherheads on the flight home. I think someone told me to watch it, but I forget who. It's pretty good.

At the Tokyo airport, I pass out on the bench just beside our departure gate. Wake up, get on the flight and I'm astonished when I find someone with a French Canadian accent. A real, live, blonde lady smiles and says "Hi!" to me. I'm surprised at just how comforting all of this feels to me. I've only been away for 10 days but I can't describe to you just how happy I am to hear the French language and see maple leaves all over the place. This is a new experience, but I like it. After being surrounding by such otherworldly characters, French suddenly seems homey and familiar. For the first time in my life, I'm glad that Quebec is full of French people, and I'm glad that I can at least understand something (twice in a row!) that is being spoken to me. Gooooooooo Trudeau!

Anyway, time to drink some wine and watch Indiana Jones. Maybe I'll come to some conclusions about my time in Thailand. If I do, I'll let you know. For now, I'm revelling in the uniquely Canadian experience of Air Canada.

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Sleeping in and leaving Thailand

I had originally thought we were leaving today at 9 a.m., so I was sleeping when Yui calls me on the phone at 8 a.m. to leave. I don't fully comprehend what's going on, I am under the impression that we are checking out of the hotel this morning. This is not true. Anyway, I pack up quickly and take my time at breakfast. Karen sees me down there, so I assume I'm still on schedule.

"So, we're leaving at 9 a.m. right?" "Um, no, I skipped the out trip today." "Are you kidding me?!" "Nope, everybody's gone." "Come ON, no way! Ahhh!"

I gulp down my coffee and hurry to the front desk to ask how I can get caught up with the rest of the group. They are going to see the confluence of the brown Mekong and blue Mun rivers and I'm going to miss it! The nice man at the desk informs me that I can take a taxi for 1,200 baht and meet up with everybody at the cave paintings. I don't really have a choice in the matter, so I pay the fare and they put me into an SUV and drop me off. Nobody seems very impressed, but what am I gonna do? We walk down the steep cliff to the ancient paintings. You can see images of people hunting, elephants, turtles, maybe a river, a bunch of hand prints and more. The paintings are done by mixing oxidized soil and sap from the rubber trees.

We go for lunch on the bank of the Mekong River and eat a quite uninspiring lunch. However, I really like this deep fried fish they give us. It's just a whole fish, dunked into batter, then deep fried, it's pretty good. Roger says that you can eat anything if you cook it with enough grease and salt.

I buy some more stuff at the little clothing stores set up near the river. This is the place where I got the best clothes. A flowing white skirt, a t-shirt, some shorts and another pair of pants.

We have to be back at the hotel and leave for the airport at 2 p.m., I'm not surprised that Yui is hurrying us along again. We get back with lots of time to spare and at the front desk, they hold me there to make sure I don't go away. I feel vaguely uneasy at this time, thinking maybe I am being accused of doing something wrong by bringing my own wine into the bar area last night. But no, it turns out I paid too much for the taxi ride, and they pay me back 500 baht. To thank them for their honesty, I give away my bottle of Thai whiskey. Wrongly thinking I'd be able to buy some later at the airport duty free. *sigh* The man seems very happy that I gave him the whiskey, I tell him he can only keep it if he shares with everyone else. His smile grows and he nods, "Yes yes of course."

I laugh and start packing up for the long journey home. Opening up my laptop bag, I find little tiny ants crawling all over everything... ohhhhhhh no, ants in my laptop, that can't be good. I shake them all out and find a big huge dead, teriyaki seasoned grasshopper at the bottom. Ha.

We board the bus and I take my usual spot at the back, sleeping across the long couch near the back window. Alan, Liza and Naomi are back from their boat tour of the Mekong River. I ask Alan to see his photos and they are stunning. Too bad I missed it. I attached them to the end of this blog, I hope you enjoy.

It takes two hours to get to the airport, and we left extremely early for our short flight. Someone from the hotel calls Yui and tells him Alan forgot something in his room. It's a big bag of silk scarves and other stuff. We would've had enough time to turn around and get it, but what Yui says goes, and Yui says that we have to get to the airport two hours early for our 6 p.m. flight back to Bangkok.

We wait around for what seems like forever, I buy some thai iced tea which is delicious, and some of my favourite custard buns, which is the best one I've ever had in my life. It's three times the size of the tiny ones that I used to get at the Majestic Grande, and deeeeeeeeelicious. Soft and chewy, the perfect warm steamy temperature, with sweet vanilla custard on the inside. Nyom nyom nyom.

We check our bags, watch the news in Thai. Forensic examiners are now examining the bodies of the protest victims, there have been no conclusions yet. Alan pushes me around on a baggage cart for a while. That soon gets boring. Alan aims me right at Sean and pushes me into his knees. He is engrossed by the television and doesn't notice I'm aimed like a heat seeking missile straight at him.

"Oh my lawd," he giggles, putting his hand to his mouth to stifle his embarrassment, glancing from me, to Alan and back again. We instantly erupt in an avalanche of laughter, unable to control our giggle outbursts. I think we've all gotten too tired to control ourselves anymore.

Soon, it's time to go through more security checks. There is another waiting room that we have to wait for another hour in. I entertain myself by watching a festive parade on TV. I try and copy the dance moves of the elegant Thai ladies, but it doesn't really work.

Finally we board the plane and before we know it, we're back in Bangkok, saying our goodbyes. All the Americans are catching direct connecting flights, but the Canadians have to get a hotel room before their flights back home. So we say goodbye to Roger, Sean, Megan, Mike and Barbara Sloane. Meow, "Teacup", Karen, Alan and Kayla are all staying in Thailand for a little longer, so we say goodbye to them too. Alan gives me a big hug and says, Casablanca style, "Stay in touch, kid." I roll my eyes and then we leave for our shuttle to the hotel.

Liza, Naomi, Irene and I check into the Novotel and immediately go to bed. Behind us in the insanely long check in line are a bunch of Australian retards all wearing the same cowboy hat and talking extremely loudly about getting drunk on buckets. Naomi and I glance at each other with snobbish looks. Oh man, no wonder people hate Westerners.

I have conveniently lost all of my e-ticket information, so I panic a little bit, but go down to the business centre where I find out all the necessary information for the low, low price of 150 baht. Irene is in the room just down the hall and I find out we're on the same flight to Vancouver in the morning. I tell her I'll see her in the morning, and I repack my bag, after emptying the whole thing to try and find my ticket receipt. *sigh*

Mekong River

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Mekong River vs. Liza

Mekong River vs. Liza


Mekong River vs. Liza

Mekong River vs. Liza


Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi

Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi


Liza and Naomi

Liza and Naomi


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Mekong River vs. Naomi

Mekong River vs. Naomi


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Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi

Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi


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Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Silk weaving and the Mekong River

This morning, we are scheduled for a tour of a remote silk-making village. Everyone here makes silk, and it is of the finest quality. They are famous for producing garments for major politicians, even the king and queen. You could pay thousands of baht for one scarf that took a whole month to weave.

We wander around the village, watching the women dye delicate silk thread bright indigo. Others are working at a loom that requires three women to operate it. The wooden apparatus clangs against the frame of the loom, everytime the weaver sweeps her needle across the textile.

Alan randomly walks straight into an errant pice of wood sticking out of a jungle hut. The chunk of errantly placed structure gets him right in the eye. His glasses lens pops out, falls to the floor, and we assume through a crack into the swamp below. We search for the translucent piece of plastic, and predictably, no one can find it. He gives up and then we wander around the village, watching women feed silkworms and boil their coccoons to make fine thread. I buy a few things for my people, and get back on the bus, leaving the small village behind. I feel incredibly uncomfortable hopping on and off this air conditioned bus, parading around a village where people cook and eat over open fires, their faces are happy, but I'm skeptical about them. I want to know if they are envious or resentful of Western-style life. They are stuck here in their village, making silk day after day, many of them do not have the means to travel and see other places, to escape the redundancy of everyday life. Do they watch us and wish that someone would smuggle them onto their tourbus and take them away? Or are they simply happy to sell us their textiles, scarves and purses made out of homespun material (at least that's what I'm assuming).

On the way back home, I sleep some more. The bus stops at the side of the road to take some pictures with water buffalo. I don't even notice, but Alan lets me keep his pictures.

We stop at a local Otop store. These are run by the government. Local villagers sell their crafts to Otop, and then they can sell more than usual to tourists, since Otop operates stores in popular areas, the airport included. I buy some more stuff for people, and a "Yellow Monday" shirt that says "Long Live the King" underneath a Playboy bunny on one side and the king's official emblem on the other. I am in love with the juxtaposition of the two images, so I don't question my fashion instincts today.

I also get some decorations for the new office that I promised. They are the cheesiest ever, I'm not going to ruin it and tell you what it is, you'll just have to find out later I guess. Trust me that they are awesome.

We get home in time for our last dinner together. I've got about 45 minutes to enjoy time in the luxurious pool. I swim around for a bit and then decide to go for a little stroll down the path near the river. There are bushes in between me and the water and on my way to the edge of the property, I notice a man squatting and sort of hiding. OK, that's weird. I get to the end of the little path, and turn back towards my room. The same man is now standing, a little to the left of where he was squatting before. This time though, he's got something dark and metal in his right hand. Slowly, deliberately, he raises his hand to his shoulder. I feel the adrenalin kick in, and my eyes sharpen the image of the tool in the man's hand. There is a distinct glint off of the low light coming from the solar lights on the pathway. Laos is just across the river, I briefly imagine that he is a desperate refugee, or some kind of violent gang leader, coming to take white people hostages. Everything in my consciousness is focusing on the object in the man's hand. My subconscious brain decides that it's a gun. My reflexes instruct my hands over my head, I blurt out "What are you doing!?" with an urgency that transcends language. The man smiles, slowly and turns on... a flashlight. It's just a security guard. My heart is pounding out of control and I laugh, in spite of myself. I want him to know that I'm not scared, I keep laughing and tell him he scared me. I walk, in a way that appears calm, straight to my room, and get dressed for supper, traumatized for life.

Dinner is an exquisite mix of various Thai dishes, including Pad Thai (finally...we'd been asking for it since we got here and still, never got it). The pad Thai is the best I've ever had in my life. Yui tops it all off with some deep fried ice cream which is also delicious. Kayla and Megan buy us all drinks, I order a special martini, like a regular one mixed with white wine. It's also delicious. The wine takes the dryness out of the martini making it extremely more palatable than usual. Who would've thought of adding wine to a martini? Anyway, doesn't matter, yum.

Some of us stick around for more drinks that night. I order a big bucket of ice and have some of that pineapple wine I bought earlier. Karen wants to learn more about social networking and web 2.0 stuff, so I teach her the basics. She hangs out with me and Alan the rest of the night and we go to bed extremely late.

At 3 a.m., we hear drums coming from across the river. We had been talking about war, violence and the connections we make through the "sense of place". To me, these drums were not friendly. I'm totally freaked out, and immediately want to go hide in my hotel room, thinking that any minute now, an armada of militants will come paddling across the water, angry and ready to capture us as bounty. I find out later that they are part of a nation-wide festival, and absolutely harmless. I don't know what the significance of pounding drums at 3 a.m. is, but whatever, no harm was done.

Foil decoration

Foil decoration


Foil decoration

Foil decoration


Yui and the "silk doctor"

Yui and the "silk doctor"


Dying silk indigo

Dying silk indigo


Dying silk indigo

Dying silk indigo


Drying silk

Drying silk


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Lost glasses

Lost glasses


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Silkweaving


Beautiful silk and Yui

Beautiful silk and Yui


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Beautiful silk


Silk lady

Silk lady


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Beautiful silk


Beautiful silk

Beautiful silk


Silk lady

Silk lady


Silk lady, Yui and Kayla

Silk lady, Yui and Kayla


Yui and silk

Yui and silk


Kitty kat

Kitty kat


Silk village

Silk village


Beautiful silk

Beautiful silk


Beautiful silk

Beautiful silk


Yui on the phone again

Yui on the phone again


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Silk market


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Silk lady


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Silk market


Silk market

Silk market


Carpenters

Carpenters


Carpenters

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Carpenters

Carpenters


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Boiling the cocoons

Boiling the cocoons


Boiling the cocoons

Boiling the cocoons


Boiling the cocoons

Boiling the cocoons


Boiling the cocoons

Boiling the cocoons


Boiling the cocoons

Boiling the cocoons


Boiling the cocoons

Boiling the cocoons


Alan likes to take pictures of dogs

Alan likes to take pictures of dogs


Dog

Dog


Cow

Cow


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Me sleeping in the back of the bus

Me sleeping in the back of the bus


Me sleeping in the back of the bus

Me sleeping in the back of the bus


Yui and cows

Yui and cows


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Water buffalo

Water buffalo


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Water buffalo


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Water buffalo


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Water buffalo guy and Alan

Water buffalo guy and Alan


Basket making?

Basket making?


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Broken sign

Broken sign


Naomi and me vs. morning glory

Naomi and me vs. morning glory


Alan's head is exploding

Alan's head is exploding


Alan

Alan


Don't look directly in his eyes

Don't look directly in his eyes


Giant prawn

Giant prawn


Giant catfish

Giant catfish


Giant catfish and Roger

Giant catfish and Roger


Kitchen

Kitchen


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motorcycle

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motorcycle

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wax sculpture

wax sculpture


wax sculpture

wax sculpture


wax sculpture

wax sculpture


wax sculpture

wax sculpture


wax sculpture

wax sculpture


wax sculpture

wax sculpture


Working on the bus again

Working on the bus again


Glamourshots

Glamourshots


Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa

Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa


Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa

Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa


Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa

Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa


Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa

Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa


Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa

Tohsang Khongjiam Resort and Spa


Me vs. pad thai

Me vs. pad thai


Shrimp

Shrimp


Olive

Olive


Vegetables

Vegetables


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Bell


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Cork


Keys

Keys


Wineglass

Wineglass


Chilipepper

Chilipepper


Bell

Bell


Me vs. fried ice cream

Me vs. fried ice cream


Helping Karen with Facebook

Helping Karen with Facebook


Yui, Kayla, Megan

Yui, Kayla, Megan


Yui, Kayla, Megan

Yui, Kayla, Megan


Yui, Kayla, Megan

Yui, Kayla, Megan


Megan, Yui

Megan, Yui


The moon

The moon

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Getting down in Surin party town

Today was another great day. On the way to Phanom Rung, the site of an ancient temple, I break out the bugs and share them with people on the bus. Only Naomi is brave enough to try a few, but everybody wants to take some pictures. She enjoys them, and everybody else enjoys their pictures.

We find ourselves at an ancient temple, built before Angkor Wat, and just as impressive. Hindu worshippers brought sandstone up atop this volcanic mountain to build a perfect place to honour their god of destruction, Shiva. Twice a year, the sun lines up perfectly in between the front and back doors of the temple. You can see just how precisely the architects planned this sacred place. The same temple was then used by Buddhists and renovated accordingly. This is definitely not the day to wear a tight skirt. I have to hike it up to my mid thigh in order to climb the steep steps. At this point, the cheap sandals that I bought in Bangkok are wearing a little thin. The foam on the bottom has been completely obliterated, and I can now feel every bump and stone underneath my feet. I feel like I should probably buy some nicer sandals soon. I don't think I'll be keeping these for much longer. Also, the hikers that I wore here fell apart in the jungle trek, so I left them in my hotel room, muddy and broken on the floor. It's not a good week for my feet.

I take a little bit of a walk by myself in the nearby forest, watch the kids playing in the fields on this balmy Saturday afternoon.

On the way to the bus, I contemplate what I have just seen, and I realize that world-class astrologer and all-round renaissance man, Mr. David Perez would have been just ecstatic to have experienced this place, so I beg Yui for two minutes so that I can buy him something that he might like. Most of the stuff they are selling is crap, but quickly I find a little souvenir for him.

At lunch, we stop at a cute little restaurant, full of teak and delicious curry. I order a watermelon juice and it is divine. There is also a little pond full of giant goldfish. I play with them for a bit while our dinner is prepared.

From here, we drive to our next hotel, in Surin, Thailand. We arrive tired and sweaty, to a giant table full of coconut juice. Mmmmmm, I fill my belly with the sweet liquid, and trudge up to my room. We've got a few hours of downtime before dinner, so I go down to the pool too update the blog, talk with some ex-Brits and Aussies, who have retired in Thailand, married young Thai women and had babies... I speculate that they are all over the age of 60...at least, and decomposing slowly from the inside out; not so innocent victims of drink and smoke. They sit around the little round wooden table, talking about the state of the Thai roads, and complaining about the price of living back "home". They make mean jokes about their wives, one even calling his beloved "the fat one", to much raucous laughter. She did not acknowledge this comment, I'm not sure if she didn't understand it or if she just chose to ignore it. Another man's son is begging his father to get something to eat, he and his mother have not had anything to eat since breakfast. Daddy dearest lingers over his whiskey and chats some more about their home country. I try not to take part in the conversation, I just came over to use the table and the plug. My laptop has just died and I need to finish the day's blog as well as charge up the battery.

Alan and Naomi go swimming and briefly come by to visit to see what the deal with these old guys are, no doubt. Eventually they leave to get their families some food, and Alan comes over to do a little bit of work too.

After a buffet dinner at the hotel, Sean and I want to go see where the cool kids in Surin hang out on a Saturday night. I look it up on Wikitravel, and find out there are two short streets, in a town of 40,000 that have music, karaoke and dance clubs.

Everybody else hops on a rickshaw to another night market. We just start walking down the street. I figure that Sean knows where he's going because earlier today he went walking and photographing, while I was writing and hanging out with a bunch of old drunkards.

The streets seem deserted and we start to think that maybe we're not going in the right direction. We come to a little congested intersection and try to cross the street. I thought that the light was green in my favour, so I start to get on my way. Yes, it was, but as I glance to my left, I see a giant bus come screeching to a halt to turn left. In my brain, I'm thinking that the bus is slamming on the brakes because maybe I'm doing something wrong, so I run back to the safety of the sidewalk, only to find myself directly in the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Wildly waving my arms and screaming like a crazed maniac, I panic and I think Sean senses my panic too, and we run laughing our heads off in the opposite direction, finally safe and sound.

We decide this must be a sign, so we hail the next tuk tuk and ask him to drop us off in front of Thong Tarin hotel. He seems to drive us in the direction of where we came. Sean is freaking, saying that the driver's taking us to the wrong place. Just as I think he's about to jump right off, the driver rounds the corner and we see the giant marble sign.

"Ohhhhhh my god, we were so lost!" he says. We all laugh again and give the driver a nice tip, since we thought he was probably trying to rip us off and lying the whole time.

We wander around speculating on which girls may or may not be prostitutes, drinking beer at the "Beer Garden" and looking around for some crazy teen Thai action. No, not that kind.

Earlier today Sean was craving chocolate, so we picked some up at a little pastry shop, took it to the Beer Garden and watched a Thai jam band play beside a giant jumbotron screening the latest RAW wrestling match.

We leave, and then find a cool club called Bar Code, inside a pretty girl is singing Evanescence and some Thai reggae songs, it was really great and interesting. Her voice was so much bigger than her body. It was incredible.

Continuing on down the street, we notice there are girls, dressed in the same colours, just hanging out outside the karaoke bars. Putting on our speculation hats again, we decide that these are indeed prostitutes, but they are not officially connected with the drinking establishment. We assume that the potential customer would invite them in for a drink and a song, then they would leave together, and from there what they do together is none of the karaoke bar's responsibility. The bar can wash its hands of everything, and the customers go home doubly happy.

Sean and I split up, because he doesn't want to sing karaoke. He goes to the gogo bar to try and get some photos of the girls dancing there. I find a little karaoke club and sit down with a rowdy bunch of teens, perhaps 20-somethings, who have taken over the centre couch. They are singing and laughing, trying to buy me drinks, one particularly aggressive fellow (missing some front teeth) is trying to force some yellow liquid into my hand. It looks like ginger ale or beer, but who could be sure, really? I politely decline and scan through the songs that they have in English. Before I could choose one, my new friends have already paid their bill and left. All that's left is me, an old man and a girl who's probably a hooker. I settle on singing Leaving on a Jet Plane and Barbie Girl, pretty much the only ones out of the list that I know. They only have about 50 in my native language anyway. My song comes on and it's this weird remix of the original, superimposed on some old wet t-shirt contest footage, taken probably in Miami beach in 1990. So strange. "So kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you'll wait for me" is ringing out while you're watching some women fondle their breasts and shake their soaking wet hair. I couldn't look away from the screen because I was reading the words, right? It was horrible. I was trying to shield my eyes from the top half of the screen, while still being able to read the words on the bottom.

Anyway, by the time I got out of there Sean was waiting for me and we go back to the hotel. It's about 1 a.m. and he's tired. I get back and figure that Alan would probably want to know all about it. So, I call him and he wants to go back out. So we quickly hop another tuktuk and I head back over there with him. Our first stop is Speed 3 this time, I figure it's probably just as awesome as it was last time I was there. Yep, totally. There's this super skinny Thai dude, dressed up like a woman and telling jokes onstage. He sees us standing a few feet away and says: "Where you from? Britain?" "No Canada!" "Ohhhhhhh Canada, hello, thank you, goodbye!" Then he obviously starts talking about us to the crowd in Thai and they all stare and laugh. We can't do anything else but laugh. Next, a rock band takes the stage, and we realize that it's the lady boy, changed into rockstar clothes and singing the songs. Wow. What a show! After that comes to an end, we check out the karaoke bars to see if any of them are still open. None of them are, and the only place still bumping is the gogo dancer bar. We watch a couple of women sing and a group of them dance around in a circle on a big pedestal. You can buy them glittery boas for extra money, and maybe if you're lucky they'll come talk to you after you're done. Most of the women look bored and vacant, but there is one lady who is so expressive and just totally loving her job that it cracks us up. The spectacle is just so bizarre that I can't take my eyes off of it. "It's like the sun!" I yell at Alan, over the throbbing bass and pumping house music. "It hurts so much, but I can't stop watching!"

We pay our bill and stumble on home, it's not far so it's not a big ordeal at all.

Me vs. bug

Me vs. bug


Me vs. bug 2

Me vs. bug 2


Me vs. bug 3

Me vs. bug 3


Me vs. bug 4

Me vs. bug 4


Alan, confused on the bus

Alan, confused on the bus


Me on the bus

Me on the bus


Me on the bus 2

Me on the bus 2


Shrimp donuts?

Shrimp donuts?


Me vs. watermelon drink

Me vs. watermelon drink


Lunchtime

Lunchtime


Statues

Statues


Alan and Thai lady at lunch

Alan and Thai lady at lunch


Motorcycle vs. ladder

Motorcycle vs. ladder


Kites for sale

Kites for sale


Sean and Yui on the bus

Sean and Yui on the bus


Coconut master

Coconut master


Coconut master 2

Coconut master 2


Coconut master 3

Coconut master 3


Coconut master 4

Coconut master 4


Coconut master 5

Coconut master 5


Me vs. coconut juice

Me vs. coconut juice


Coconut juice

Coconut juice


Surin Majestic

Surin Majestic


Surin Majestic 2

Surin Majestic 2


Surin Majestic 3

Surin Majestic 3


Surin Majestic 4 (see fat old guys)

Surin Majestic 4 (see fat old guys)


Surin Majestic 5

Surin Majestic 5


Market from my window

Market from my window


Market view

Market view


Bicycle rickshaws

Bicycle rickshaws


Kayla vs. rickshaw

Kayla vs. rickshaw


Toys for sale

Toys for sale


Fish on a stick

Fish on a stick


Shoes for sale

Shoes for sale


Motorcycles everywhere

Motorcycles everywhere


Motorcycles everywhere

Motorcycles everywhere


Dog eating something

Dog eating something


Food for sale

Food for sale


Baby and daddy

Baby and daddy


Cute kid

Cute kid


Cute kid 2

Cute kid 2


Yui

Yui


Yui and Liza

Yui and Liza


Yui smiles

Yui smiles


Thai ladyboy

Thai ladyboy


Thai ladyboy 2

Thai ladyboy 2


Thai rock band

Thai rock band


Thai rock band 2

Thai rock band 2


Thai rock band 3

Thai rock band 3


Thai rock band 4

Thai rock band 4


Speed 3

Speed 3


Speed 3 2

Speed 3 2


Speed 3 3

Speed 3 3


Me making a stupid face

Me making a stupid face


Yeah, really bad bar

Yeah, really bad bar


Thai lounge singer

Thai lounge singer


Me and my mosquito bitten face

Me and my mosquito bitten face


Another Thai lounge singer

Another Thai lounge singer


Gogo dancers

Gogo dancers


Sad gogo dancers

Sad gogo dancers


More gogo dancers

More gogo dancers


Even more gogo dancers

Even more gogo dancers


Sima Thani

Sima Thani


Sima Thani pool

Sima Thani pool


Sima Thani room

Sima Thani room


Sima Thani room 2

Sima Thani room 2


Sima Thani pool 2

Sima Thani pool 2


Sima Thani pool 3

Sima Thani pool 3


Sima Thani lobby

Sima Thani lobby


Sima Thani lobby 2

Sima Thani lobby 2


Alan vs. bug

Alan vs. bug


Bugs for you to eat

Bugs for you to eat


Alan vs. bug 2

Alan vs. bug 2


Alan vs. bug 3

Alan vs. bug 3


Alan vs. bug 4

Alan vs. bug 4


Alan vs. bug 5

Alan vs. bug 5


Rearview mirror

Rearview mirror


Rearview mirror 2

Rearview mirror 2


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung vs. Alan

Phanom Rung vs. Alan


Phanom Rung vs. Alan

Phanom Rung vs. Alan


Phanom Rung vs. Alan

Phanom Rung vs. Alan


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Hiking in the jungle and eating bugs

This hotel is a compound, consisting of a cluster of buildings, arranged around a man-made swamp; wide wooden boardwalks snake throughout the facility. To get to breakfast, maybe 200 metres away, you're supposed to call the front desk and get a golf cart to deliver you there. I think it's quite hypocritical to discourage walking in this way, at a place that claims to be so environmental and green. I am repeatedly offered a golf cart ride down to the restaurant. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I got any exercise, so I sprint on over to breakfast for some much needed cardio. I fill my plate up with fresh fruit and an omelette. Some superior coffee is delivered to me and I contemplate leisurely lingering over a beautiful looking breakfast. Once again, our tourguide pushes us way too far. He's like a robot, constantly obsessing over being on time. "OK time to go!" He exclaims as he looks at his watch and abruptly jumps out of his chair. "Are you serious, Yui?! I just got my coffee!" "Let's go, go go!" OK fine, I abandon my coffee, grab a handful of fruit and follow him outside, only he went to the bathroom and now we have to wait for him *eyeroll*. I jog back to the lobby and order another coffee as we hurry up and wait. Something got mixed up and now we have to wait for some more people who are on another tour elsewhere. Soon, we're on the bus again, driving into the park. Looking out the back of the bus, we are witness to amazing forest landscapes we were not even vaguely aware of under the cover of darkness last night. We arrive at the welcome centre where I finallly conquer the squat toilet. Easily finding that delicate balance; both feet planted squarely on the grooved porcelain platform and my hands sweeping my billowing pants out of the way. In the welcome centre, I find some cute Asian things with bad spelling and grammar. I buy some legwarmers that say "Refinement" and a suction cup road sign that says "I like tourist," right above a picture of a menacing tiger. I really can't get enough of the curious way Asian people use the English language, it's so cute. We put on the anti-leech booties (very J-pop, harajuku chic). The mud in the forest is bright red and my feet get stuck about once every 10 steps. Shawn and Liza didn't bring any closed shoes, so they tiptoe through the mess, hoping leeches don't penetrate their sexy muslin booties. We didn't see many animals but we saw a giant millipede, terrifying leeches and a tree scored with bear claws. The bears sleep in the branches, so they need to go up there all the time. Hiking is not really Shawn's scene, so I was just giggling and watching him find his way through the slippery jungle paths. Hilarious. He was walking behind me most of the time, so I kept hearing "Oh dear" from behind me in a sort of pseudo old English lady voice. Everytime, I'd turn around, expect something crazy was happening, and find out he had stepped in a little mucky part of the path, getting his booties dirty in the process. Eventually, we came to a clearing, with prickly grass fronds, coming to about shoulder height. "Oh dear, this reminds me of that scene in Jurassic Park." I turned around and looked back at Shaun. Suddenly, I felt a small tinge of fear, in the back of my brain. I was also reminded of that scene in The Beach, where the drug lords were just brutally shooting down tourists from a nearby cliff. I nervously looked up and around, scanning the mountains and fields for either dinosaurs or crazy guys in fatigues with automatic rifles. Instead, what I found was some butterflies flitting to and fro, and a bright red salt lick, providing essential minerals for the local fauna. Around the corner was a watchtower, a couple of guys in fatigues were resting in its shadow. Oh man, I hope they're park rangers. Haha, of course they were... right? After climbing up the watchtower, and our surveying the scene amidst a blustery wind, I walked back down to try and communicate with them. One of them had an 18 inch jungle knife, so I asked him if I could see it. He whipped it out of its sheath, with a dull glint in the sunlight. I could tell that it was well used by its dull sheen. It looked like it might need a sharpening. I wanted to make sure, so I ran my index finger ever so slowly along the edge of the blade...

"Sssst!" came a voice to my right. I jumped, almost slicing my finger off in the process.

The park rangers both giggled at my astonishment. Quickly picking up the joke, I laugh along with them. Yep, that's a razor sharp knife. I sheepishly give it back and flash my new ranger friends a grin. "What's it for?" "Meat, meat!" "What?! Meat, kill, eat?" I say, pointing to my mouth and miming a chewing motion. "Yeah, yeah, meat!" I run to the tall grass and mime cutting it down to make a joke. They laugh even harder at my obvious ignorance, giving me the thumbs up. They know I'm joking too. "Only meat?" "Yeah, yeah, meat." Our group is just about ready to go, so I follow them and head back to the bus. We get back a little late for dinner, so Yui is anxious once again. "OK, we have to check out after lunch, hurry hurry!" I am determined to relax, have my coffee and take a shower. We just came out of a muddy jungle trek after all. Alan and I decide to take our time, and if they have to wait for us, it's their fault. Honestly, who plans a jungle trek with no time for a shower afterwards? I really am getting upset with the child-like treatment I am receiving. Honestly, if I don't make it to the bus on time, then leave without me, I'll catch up with a taxi or bus if I have to and pay my own way, big deal. It's planet earth, after all, I'm not going to fall off the edge of it. So I take my shower and start to pack up, double checking for all the expensive stuff I bought.

1

2

3

....

wait, where's 3?!#$%#$@

Oh my godddddddddddd... My dad's awesome souvenir just vanished! I panic, pulling everything out of my backpack and emptying everything onto the floor. Not there... As a last ditch effort, I look under my bag, and to my greatest relief, there it is, the exact thing I was looking for. Phew.

Quickly, I head to the lobby, because I'm actually really late now. Yui is there once again, rushing me and pushing me to hurry as I check out. "Everyone is waiting, get on the bus!" his eyes obscured by dark, gigantic bubble style sunglasses. I'm never quite sure just how extreme the situation is, just because he seems to be freaking right out, every time.

Our schedule has been changed again, we are going to an elephant ride before making our way to the hotel tonight in ____ . Alan and I have already been on an elephant ride so we hang out, drinking beer in the restaurant while they have a little adventure. Alan goes around snapping photos while I get the blog up to date. Again, there are complaints about the quality of the public relations crew. I find it difficult to find the spelling of the last Buddha statue we just visited...

Anyway, after that, it's on to Nakorn Ratchasima for a night at the Sima Thani hotel.

We check in without a problem, then go out on the street to get a quick glimpse of actual life in this country. Once again, there are people on the streets selling all manner of things, even in front of the temple. As you probably know, this doesn't usually happen in Christianity, unless you are selling souvenirs at some famous church. I get a bunch of people together to come with me and I buy a Thai comedy CD, as well as what I thought was rice wine, but actually turned out to be cooking and ritualistic alcohol. Oh my. I don't know what I'll be using that for in the future. Maybe I'll light something on fire later.

We meet some interesting ladies at a small grocery store. One of the ladies likes my pants, so we try to communicate a little bit. She seems fascinated by my video camera so I let her try it. You can see the result in the accompanying videos below.

After dinner, we head to the night market, we're on a mission for bugs, the edible kind. You can see my face when I first bite into a medium sized teriyaki flavour cricket. It gets lodged in my throat and I end up choking, all while keeping my hand completely steady. Haha.

We see things like malicious looking pellet guns and tasers for sale. I buy a whole pile of t-shirts, at 49 baht each. They all have bad English grammar and spelling as usual. Eventually, I start to get the hang of eating the bugs and I consume maybe 1/3 of the bag. The market starts to close and we go home, happy to have crossed another weird food off my "to eat" list.

Kirimaya morning

Kirimaya morning


Kirimaya morning 2

Kirimaya morning 2


Kirimaya morning 3

Kirimaya morning 3


Kirimaya morning 4

Kirimaya morning 4


Kirimaya morning 5

Kirimaya morning 5


Kirimaya morning 6

Kirimaya morning 6


Kirimaya pool

Kirimaya pool


Kirimaya tent

Kirimaya tent


Kirimaya pool 2

Kirimaya pool 2


Kirimaya pool 3

Kirimaya pool 3


Kirimaya morning 7

Kirimaya morning 7


Bus to Khao Yai National Park

Bus to Khao Yai National Park


Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park


Squat toilet

Squat toilet


Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park


Guy on a motorcycle

Guy on a motorcycle


Our trekking guide

Our trekking guide


Me pointing?

Me pointing?


Me looking out the window

Me looking out the window


Me looking out the window at Yui

Me looking out the window at Yui


Me and Yui

Me and Yui


Trekking, with hot boots

Trekking, with hot boots


Guide, Irene, Megan and Kayla

Guide, Irene, Megan and Kayla


Stick bug

Stick bug


Stick bug 2

Stick bug 2


Stick bug 3

Stick bug 3


Stick bug 4

Stick bug 4


Stick bug 5

Stick bug 5


Weird tree

Weird tree


Tall tree

Tall tree


Tall trees

Tall trees


It's a leech!

It's a leech!


Megan

Megan


Sean

Sean


Mud

Mud


Mushrooms

Mushrooms


Guide and Megan

Guide and Megan


Bear claws

Bear claws


Bear claw marks

Bear claw marks


Tree

Tree


Me and trees

Me and trees


Megan and trees

Megan and trees


Megan and more trees

Megan and more trees


Roger, Naomi and Yui

Roger, Naomi and Yui


Naomi

Naomi


Mushroom or butterfly?

Mushroom or butterfly?


Naomi in the grass

Naomi in the grass


Naomi in the grass 2

Naomi in the grass 2


Naomi in the grass 3

Naomi in the grass 3


Naomi in the grass 4

Naomi in the grass 4


Naomi in the grass 5

Naomi in the grass 5


Naomi in the grass 6

Naomi in the grass 6


Me and Yui

Me and Yui


Naomi in the grass 7

Naomi in the grass 7


The salt lick

The salt lick


A motorcycle

A motorcycle


Me on the bus back

Me on the bus back


Me and Sean

Me and Sean


Me and Sean 2

Me and Sean 2


Me and Sean 3

Me and Sean 3


Getting the scoop

Getting the scoop


Getting the scoop 2

Getting the scoop 2


Getting the scoop 3

Getting the scoop 3


Getting the pepper

Getting the pepper


Getting the pepper 2

Getting the pepper 2


Getting the pepper 3

Getting the pepper 3


Roger and Liza on an elephant

Roger and Liza on an elephant


Dog on a bench

Dog on a bench


Dog on a bench 2

Dog on a bench 2


Dog on a bench 3

Dog on a bench 3


Monkey

Monkey


Elephant dung

Elephant dung


Elephant dung and urine

Elephant dung and urine


Elephant poo

Elephant poo


Naomi on an elephant

Naomi on an elephant


Naomi on an elephant

Naomi on an elephant


Michael and Barbara on an elephant

Michael and Barbara on an elephant


Karen on an elephant

Karen on an elephant


Funny Engrish

Funny Engrish


I don't understand this t-shirt

I don't understand this t-shirt


Dog for sale

Dog for sale


Stuff for sale

Stuff for sale


Motorcycle

Motorcycle


Dog on the street

Dog on the street


Karaoke bar

Karaoke bar


Me vs. curry (I think)

Me vs. curry (I think)

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

To the jungle!

Today we shoved off and headed for Khao Yai National Park. It was about a three hour drive away and it went by like a breeze, since I had once again claimed the backseat couch as my own. I laid down and typed up my blog, it was nice to actually get some time to write and rest for a while. Note to public relations officers at other tourism organizations. Journalists do not like to be rushed through their trip, they need time to think, write and analyze. Their stories will remain superficial and meaningless if they are constantly herded through local tourist traps like so much mindless sheep. Maybe they already know this, and that's the plan, I guess I couldn't really say.

We stopped at a roadside fruit market, and I found a bottle of pineapple wine. The label was very old and worn, so I was kind of leery of buying it. I also didn't know if it was pineapple wine for sure, so I asked one of the native Thai speakers in our group to translate for me. Meow (nickname) said yes, this is pineapple wine, it's 80 baht each. What a freaking deal, I bought two, one for beer night at the office, and another one for my dear, sweet mother. I won't be trying it before I get home, so I'm hoping the wine tastes good by the time I get back. I play with a couple really cute kittens, who are obviously malnourished. One of them really likes me, and keeps rubbing up against my ankle, I scratch her cute little neck and contemplate smuggling her home. I decide she's too meowy and that I would be found out probably tomorrow. Also, I realize that I have no idea how I would deal with her peeing and pooing all over my luggage and hotel room, so I pet her goodbye and hope that she can find something to eat today.

The bus continues along the road to a giant Buddha statue built in the 1960s. It's the biggest in this region of Thailand, absolutely striking from far, even more impressive up close. We don't have enough time to hike up to the top, but we get close enough to really appreciate the juxtaposition of the extremely bright white against the dark green of the jungle. It's made out of stucco, but from so far away it looks just like precious ivory. The name of the statue is...wait for it... Pra-Phut-Tha-Sa-Kol-Sri-Ma-Mong-KolWe drive up to Wat Theppitak, another temple, with a whole bunch of chickens wandering about. People buy them pieces of bread, and it is supposed to give them good luck. I climb up the stairs to the top of the temple, and then wander around the grounds. I hadn't been told where exactly to go, so I walk all the way around, where I see no other people. There are some beautiful statues. Plated with gold leaf, and a whole bunch of ancient bronze statues. I'm sorry that I don't have my camera, but I'm having such a peaceful time in there, that it doesn't really matter. To my left is a small temple with bright red doors, I decide to get into some mischief and try and open them. They are bolted shut, and I'm out of luck. All of a sudden from about 100 metres behind me I hear, "LOUISE LOUISE! NO NO NO DON'T DO THAT!" I spin around and see Yui waving his arms frantically, "DON'T GO IN THERE!" He screams like I'm going to be struck down with lightning, the wrath of the gods will come down and immolate me until I am nothing but a smoldering ember, burning brightly and inevitably snuffed out. So much for metaphors. I slowly, and sheepishly walk out of the temple, still unsure of what exactly I have done wrong. I figure I shouldn't have been climbing up the temple steps, but no, that's not true, what I have done wrong is walked into a "monk-only" section of the temple. Which would explain why it was abandoned.

Anyway, I went to go feed some chickens with the rest of the people and that was cool. They pecked gently around my feet and it tickled a lot. Soon, all the breadcrumbs were gone, and we had to go.

Lunchtime, we head to a grape winery in the middle of the Khao Yai national park. I mean, what's the point of growing grapes in a country that is overflowing with rice? I don't really understand the point. It just seems like another European-type activity to keep us occupied and out of trouble.

We sit down for some overcooked salmon, the multitude of fish bones, lodging in between the crevices of my teeth. We have a discussion on politics, the Canadian election and the Thai protests. Kayla mentions that Bangkok is a giant city and that a few thousand people protesting in the street is not a "big deal". Yeah freaking right. New York City is bigger than Bangkok, and if 5,000 people were organizing every night in the streets of New York, you're damn right it would be a big deal.

Then, we are escorted onto a trolley to the wine-making part of the grounds, there are grapevines all around, nothing that I haven't seen in Niagara or Okanagan, so I'm still not getting the point. Anyway, we are shown around the facilities and I ask about rice wine. The oenologist says that yes, the Thai make more rice wine than regular wine, and my fears are concerned. Once again, it's another promotional ploy to get them to talk about their winery in my blog. Well guess what? I'm not going to do it! I can't remember the name of your winery! I know it's a good one, and it's won a bunch of awards, but what I'm concerned about at this point, is the traditional Thai lifestyle, not some European imitation that they have adopted because they think it's more refined. I think Thai culture is refined as it comes, to be honest with you. Their personal tourism service is impeccable, if you're into service and personal tour guides and butlers, of course. I'm not, but that's beside the point. If you want great service come to Thailand. Yes, I will concede that point. If you're a backpacker, don't go to the places that I stayed, that's for sure. You'll feel confined and stiffly unnatural in a place where everyone, yes everyone, shows subservience to you. And when you offer to meet them half way, they insist on doing everything for you. For example, our guide will not eat at the same table as we do, everywhere I go, someone pulls the chair out for me before I sit down. I know that this kind of service comes with money, and I'm sure the Thai government has shelled out way more than necessary, so we are getting prime service. Accordingly, if you shell out the same amount of money, please expect this same kind of service. If I was traveling alone, there is no way I would expect, or even require this type of service. There is no way that I would personally pay for this level of service. If you want to, more power to you. I hope that you have a great trip, and I hope that you find everything you are looking for. Me, nope, not my style.

Anyway, we get back on the bus and make our way to the home for the night. Kirimaya hotel, in the middle of the national park. It's an eco-lodge, in the middle of the park. Everything is organic this and green that, low flo toilets and showers, solar panels and economic heating and cooling design. Everything you would expect. We had an excellent dinner, one of the best Thai dishes of the trip so far. There was red duck curry, vegetable stir fry, a delicious fried vegetable appetizer and more. There was even a woman singing sans amplification, with a man and an acoustic guitar. It was more American music from the sixties and seventies, but honestly, it was the best so far. It had the feel of hanging out at a campfire. I sang along to cheesy James Taylor covers and other things. It was pretty awesome. By the time dessert came around (bean custard with carmelized onions) I hardly had time to finish my coffee, when I was once again, being shoved out the door. It was time for our night safari and Yui said we couldn't be late.

I carried my coffee out to the bus (more of a jitney than a bus, colourful with open windows and no back door). I had only worn a sari and tiny sweater to dinner, not thinking it could get that cold. I boarded the rickety old vehicle and climbed a little metal ladder and thought nothing of it. I totally forgot that we were in the mountains, the air is much drier and cooler up here, in the midst of the clouds and barrelling down a windy mountain road at 80 km an hour. I remembered the stars are different in this hemisphere, but I couldn't recognize them anyway, so it didn't matter. Roger pointed out that we were closer to the stars than normal because of the altitude and I burst out laughing, in total disbelief. Does 2,000 metres make a difference when the tiny suns are lightyears away? Sounds fishy to me. Anyway, I was just freezing, needing to pee and also really super tired. I tried to sleep a little bit and it worked marginally well. Finally, we got to the park, climbed up onto another even more rickety bus/truck thing, outfitted with a giant spotlight in the front seat on a swivel, operated by a man with a blue poncho and matching helmet. So we take off into the pitch black, the sound of cicadas ring out into the darkness, the pungent diesel fumes from the bus mingle with the intoxicating ancient aroma of lush vegetation. Driving around in the dark, there aren't many animals actually nearby. Most hide deep in the jungle, until it is giet enough to venture out to the salt lick or graze in the fields or scavenge in the trees. So we saw many species of deer, one monkey/sloth creature, a couple of civets and a terrified porcupine, frantically running away from the road with all his quills engaged and ready to attack.

Frozen to the bone and almost shivering, finally we get back to the hotel, it takes me about two hours to upload a video, and then I go to bed, the sound of cicadas buzzing in my ear, lulling me to sleep.

Our bus

Our bus


Klang Dong fruit market

Klang Dong fruit market


Dog at Klang Dong fruit market

Dog at Klang Dong fruit market


Dog at Klang Dong fruit market 2

Dog at Klang Dong fruit market 2


Klang Dong Fruit market

Klang Dong Fruit market


Dog at Klang Dong fruit market 3

Dog at Klang Dong fruit market 3


Dog

Dog


Wat Theppitak

Wat Theppitak


Wat Theppitak 2

Wat Theppitak 2


Wat Theppitak 3

Wat Theppitak 3


Wat Theppitak 4

Wat Theppitak 4


Chickens at Wat Theppitak

Chickens at Wat Theppitak


Feeding the chickens

Feeding the chickens


Me exiting the "monk only" area

Me exiting the "monk only" area


Wat Theppitak 5

Wat Theppitak 5


Wat Theppitak statues

Wat Theppitak statues


Me and Irene feeding the chickens

Me and Irene feeding the chickens


Me feeding the chickens

Me feeding the chickens


PB Winery

PB Winery


Yui

Yui


Yui on the phone again

Yui on the phone again


PB winery tour

PB winery tour


The guly in charge of the wine

The guly in charge of the wine


Wine tasting

Wine tasting


Me vs. wine

Me vs. wine


Alan vs. wine

Alan vs. wine


Kirimaya

Kirimaya


Kirimaya 2

Kirimaya 2


Kirimaya porch

Kirimaya porch


Me on Kirimaya porch

Me on Kirimaya porch


Me on Kirimaya porch 2

Me on Kirimaya porch 2


Me on Kirimaya porch 3

Me on Kirimaya porch 3


Kirimaya 3

Kirimaya 3


Kirimaya 4

Kirimaya 4


Kirimaya porch 2

Kirimaya porch 2


Hotel "tents"

Hotel "tents"


Kirimaya washroom

Kirimaya washroom


Me vs. vegetable appetizer

Me vs. vegetable appetizer


Me vs. curry

Me vs. curry


Night safari

Night safari


Yui on night safari

Yui on night safari


Night safari 2

Night safari 2

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

A pretty awful day

Grand Palace Everyone else in our group of 14 showed up last night, so we had a little city tour the next day. We were bused together to the Grand Palace, to look at the gold leaf stupas and intricate carvings of Hindu gods. We saw the emerald Buddha statue, which changes with the seasons, right now, it's the rainy season, so he was wearing a leses intricate robe than in the other seasons.

Canal ride I asked Kayla if I could skip out of the riverboat tour and she said probably, yes, since she was the one that scheduled me my other boat tour earlier in the week. Our schedule had been changed so that we wouldn't have to drive the bus near the protests. Yeah, I guess they were worried about our safety, but I'm thinking they were more worried about the message going out in the paper later. So they were really reluctant to let me go. However, I left my money and bag and everything in the bus, but we were not going back to the bus until after the river tour, so I couldn't leave. After about 30 minutes of convincing time, I didn't even get to go out on my own anyway. They fed me every line in the book. "Oh, you don't want to disappoint our tourguide by not showing up do you?" and guilt tripping me into taking the same boat tour. Honestly, I learned way more about life in Thailand on my own on Saturday and at that protest on Tuesday. I don't see how shuttling us around to fancy restaurants and spas is going to teach us anything positive about this place. So, anyway I went on the boat with everybody else, seeing the same thing that I saw before. They gave us bread and I fed the catfish again.

Mediocre lunch We got off the boat near our lunch place, it was OK. There was a particularly good prawn in chili sauce side dish that I enjoyed. As well as lemongrass soup. A lady was singing with a piano man, songs like "Let me Call you Sweetheart". I had a really great lemon ice drink, with an orchid stuck in the top.

Awful spa Later we came to the S Medical Spa. It was pretty horrible. I really enjoyed my Thai massage earlier in the week, but at this place, a Thai massage wasn't even on the menu. We could choose from Japanese, Swedish, or detox massage. *eyeroll* What about all the typical Thai stuff we are supposed to experience? I don't know. I felt bad that everyone who got here yesterday will only experience this much of Bangkok. Their whole memory of Bangkok will totally suck. I think mine is a little bit more detailed than theirs, but I don't know really. Anyway, I had the detox massage which was nice. When we were supposed to change into our robes, I didn't know we weren't supposed to change in the locker room so I just started doing it, everybody else around knew what to do but here I am all naked and stuff, being a retard, changing in semi-public. Oh well. They wanted me to wear this disposable thong underwear and I really didn't get the point, why be 99.9 per cent naked and uncomfortable while having a massage when you could be 100 per cent naked and comfortable while de-stressing.

New dress By the time we got back to the hotel, it was about 4:15, only fifteen minutes before the tourguide shows up. I went to the bathroom, and literally did not have time to wipe my butt before the delivery man was ringing my telephone. Oh man, when does it end? My dress is MUCH better now, it looks great, and fits perfectly, like I imagined it was supposed to. Yeah, I think it was a pretty good way to spend $600, I would recommend visiting a tailor in Thailand, if you have a few days, definitely check it out. Five minutes, and I have to get on the bus to the convention centre for the party tonight. I had no idea how huge it was going to be. They told us that the time of dinner had been changed, and now we had to get there an hour earlier. This means zero time for relaxing, checking out the pool, or anything personal that we decided to do. Ridiculous. I wanted a nap, I was not looking forward to this dinner. On the way there, I talked blogging with a couple of older women, who barely had a clue. So yes I once again plugged TravelPod and perhaps convinced a few people to switch over to our site. Maybe.

Dinner We got to the convention centre WAY too early and just shuffled around, looking at demonstrations of Thai culture. People stringing jasmine garlands, playing music, giving massages and dancing. You could even get your picture taken on a blue screen which would be superimposed in front of some famous Thai landmarks. I thought the purpose of us being here was to actually experience those landmarks, but whatever, I got one done anyway. I got extremely bored doing this, and found my way outside, promotional bag in hand. I went through the piles of crap that they gave us and threw 80 per cent of it out. There was some nice soap and a notebook in there, but that was about it. Breathing in the warm night air, and watching the night go by, I tried to imagine that I wasn't where I was. A teeming mass of humanity in business suits, networking an handing out business cards. One Asian man named William asked me for mine, I said I had forgotten them, it took him a split second to withdraw his handshake and turn around to find someone else who was more obviously worth his time. Everyone was getting restless, and eventually we were let into the huge convention hall. Probably 1,000 people shuffled into their seats. All these dignitaries were there, completely ignoring the carbomb that went off killing those two people in the process. They continually referred to it as the "incident", barely acknowledging that anyone was hurt or traumatized by the actions of police. It was extremely disappointing, once again. I started to get the same feeling that I got when I was bawling my eyes out at Sandals at Tara's wedding. I was just overcome by the extreme wastefulness on display at this convention centre. There was too much food, too much drink, ridiculous, neverending, cheesy entertainment. Before dinner, I noticed some of these Thai dancers were chowing down on white bread sandwiches... typical Thai hypocrisy. I had begun to realize that the money the government stole from the people, is being used to directly finance my trip to Thailand. I was being used as a tool for the Thai government, a stooge to perpetuate the idea that Thailand is a wonderful place to visit, with no social hardship, or frustrations.

Losing bag Well, I had moved seats and stupidly left my bag beside my chair. I had been seated at a table full of strangers, and I wanted to eat dinner with people I knew, so I came over to sit by them. Periodically, I would check for my bag, and it was always there. I looked away maybe, for 20 minutes and when I looked back, it wasn't there anymore. Immediately, panic set in. I figured that the workers had thought somebody left their junk-filled bag and left. So they probably threw it out. I told them to quick check for my bag, and they did, but they said they couldn't find it. I filled out some bullshit form, and they said that if it got returned to the convention centre, they would contact me. Honestly, I don't believe this could happen. I called Kayla to see if she could do something to find it. She asked one of the porters to send around a letter to everyone in the hotel who had been at the dinner. It said something like, "Please check your Amazing Thailand bag and see if there is a camera and notebook in it. If there is, please call 39490023" or something to that effect. But the message got a little lost in translation and the letter was pretty much unintelligible. By the next morning, no one had called Kayla.

Crying all night, canceling Alan was so nice, and he waited me while I was going through all of these lost item formalities. I had been frustrated before, but now I'm just totally freaking out. This is really the last straw, the political situation, the wastefulness, the excessive consumption... and now...my camera and notebook are lost, because everyone's stupid marketing bag was exactly the same. I got back to the hotel, immediately called Kayla and started bawling my eyes out on the phone to her. I didn't mention all my political ideas, for fear of really getting kicked out of the country before I was ready. I told her I was going home, and she had said that I should sleep on it and tell her tomorrow. I tried to call my mom, but no one was answering, I was really at a loss for what to do. I just totally broke down, crying so horribly, curled up in the fetal position hugging my pillow to my chest. It was a bad bad scene. I also called Aor and talked to her for a minute about the situation, I assumed she'd have something profound to say, and she did. It was simple but effective. "Don't do anything you don't want to do," she said. Yeah, that was something I needed to hear. I fell asleep with my computer on beside me, in case Keith happened to be up and saw me online.

Siam@Siam

Siam@Siam


National Stadium

National Stadium


Bangkok from the sky

Bangkok from the sky


Bangkok

Bangkok


Soldiers at the Grand Palace

Soldiers at the Grand Palace


Grand Palace

Grand Palace


Grand Palace 1

Grand Palace 1


Grand Palace 2

Grand Palace 2


Grand Palace 3

Grand Palace 3


Grand Palace 4

Grand Palace 4


Grand Palace 5

Grand Palace 5


Grand Palace 6

Grand Palace 6


Grand Palace 7

Grand Palace 7


Grand Palace 8

Grand Palace 8


Grand Palace 9

Grand Palace 9


Grand Palace 10

Grand Palace 10


Grand Palace 11

Grand Palace 11


Grand Palace 12

Grand Palace 12


Grand Palace 13

Grand Palace 13


Grand Palace 14

Grand Palace 14


Grand Palace 15

Grand Palace 15


Grand Palace 16

Grand Palace 16


Grand Palace 17

Grand Palace 17


Grand Palace 18

Grand Palace 18


Grand Palace 19

Grand Palace 19


Grand Palace 20

Grand Palace 20


Grand Palace 21

Grand Palace 21


Grand Palace 22

Grand Palace 22


Grand Palace 23

Grand Palace 23


Grand Palace 24

Grand Palace 24


Grand Palace 25

Grand Palace 25


Grand Palace 26

Grand Palace 26


Grand Palace 27

Grand Palace 27


Market

Market


River tour

River tour


River tour 2

River tour 2


River tour 3

River tour 3


Catfishes

Catfishes


River tour 4

River tour 4


River tour 5

River tour 5


Lemon drink

Lemon drink


Colon cleansing

Colon cleansing


Four-handed massage

Four-handed massage


Four-handed massage 2

Four-handed massage 2


News

News


News

News


Show

Show


Dinner

Dinner


More show

More show


More show

More show


Me in the subway

Me in the subway


Me in the subway with new dress

Me in the subway with new dress


Me in the subway with new dress

Me in the subway with new dress


The subway

The subway

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

War, death, elephants and sedated tigers....

Louis picked Alan and I up at our hotel and we went for our death and wildlife tour. Japanese museum We first stopped at a small museum, built out of bamboo and rain stained, that featured an exhibit with paintings done by a former POW who was forced to build the railroad to Burma during the Second World War. There were wild dogs running around, and some were "making new dogs" in the museum, I had to avert my eyes from the spectacle every so often. Alan wanted to take a photo, but I had to remind him we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. I found the sinks outside to be interesting. I was also intrigued by the various implements, bomb remnants, and railroad-making equipment on display near the exit. War cemetery There is a cemetery nearby which holds the bodies of foreign soldiers who died in WWII. This includes soldiers of British and Dutch origin. It's a peaceful place to come for a brief moment of reflection in a busy world. On our way out, Louis bought us some fried banana. MMMmmmmm sooooooo good, they are made from finger bananas so they are extra tasty and delicious. These are one of those things that you feel like you could eat forever and ever. But then you realize your co-traveler has snagged the last one without informing you, and then you don't have to worry about eating too many anymore. Hellfire Pass Next up, a trip to Hellfire Pass, an especially deadly section of the Burma-Thailand railroad. They say that one person died per "sleeper", this means one person per wooden piece, used to put the track together. There was a brand new museum at this location, built by the Australian government. It was beautiful and also extremely moving. A movie plays on loop, featuring footage taken from the POW camps during WWII. Some of these captured soldiers were Australian, forced to work under completely inhumane conditions, many died from cholera, dysentery and other terrible, awful things. After their original uniforms began to rot and decay, they were forced to wear loincloths made from the shredded remnants of their original clothes. Sometimes they would steal food sacks and use those for their clothing. The Australians have built a beautiful nature walk, with teak wood boardwalk amidst the mountains. It reminds me of Mexico and Cuernavaca, probably because we are at a similar latitude in Thailand. Elephant Ride Louis took us to an elephant camp for a ride through the jungle. We sat on a little metal seat behind a 15 year old boy who directed the elephant by using his feet, kicking the elephant under his ear lobes depending on the direction he wanted the giant beast to go. He listens to an iPod and talks on his cell phone while taking us on our jungle tour. Our first destination with the elephant was the river, we descended down a muddy embankment, slipping quite a few times through the muck. Alan laughing his head off while I scream and freak out every time. The elephant takes a drink and then heads over to the trail. We cross the road, can you imagine? An elephant crossing the road? Traffic stopped because an elephant had to get to the other side? Incredible. Anyway, we ramble through the forest, winding our way past extremely primitive huts (the homes of the elephant drivers usually) and their children. A group of the kids run after us yelling "Hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye" at us, most likely looking for a handout of some sort from the rich white people. The forest is just a mess of vegetation, vines and lush, fertile flora twist and entwine themselves all over, creating an atmosphere of utter chaos and confusion, I can't help empathizing with the trees, feeling a little chaotic and confused myself in this faraway country. As our elephant ride comes to an end, the driver takes our cameras and then takes a million photos. Finally Alan waves his arms and just says "Enough! No more photos" "You give me big tip now?" "Yes, yes big tip". We get off the elephant and sit down for a little show. It's not too humiliating of an ordeal for the animals, but for me, I still find it annoying enough. They dance around and some people lay down on the ground for an "elephant massage". Alan volunteers to go and gets his testicles gently prodded by an elephant's foot, to much laughter from the crowd of course. Animal humour to me, is the equivalent of fart jokes. I find they insult the intelligence of the viewer and hardly ever do I find this an enjoyable experience. On the way to lunch, I wanted to take a picture of the monkey x-ing sign, I found that hilarious. Just down the street, true to the sign's word, there it was, a whole herd? of monkeys, hanging out and waiting for banana handouts from people getting off of tour buses. Awful lunch Next, we are ushered into a buffet style lunch, serving what else? Spaghetti and barbecue chicken? Wow, this is western food, once again. The spaghetti is bland, the satay is pretty good and yes, we have some more fried banana. I chow down on the banana and we hit the road for the tiger temple. Alan and I are feeling a little confined by the whole experience already, and we are struck by the blandness and routine nature of the tour. It will only get worse as the day goes on. On the way out, I notice a bunch of tour guides actually eating Thai food in a little cluster at the back of the venue. Tiger temple The tiger temple was one of those things I did NOT want to do. If I was here on my own, I wouldn't have gone at all, but since it was being offered to me, I reluctantly followed along. I had read countless TravelPod blogs on the tiger temple in the past, saw the cheesy pictures of people caressing what look like drugged up animals and taking pictures. We walk through the grounds and see some peacocks, water buffalo and baby tigers, gently pawing at tourists, drinking milk from bottles and playing with each other. I think this is the cutest aspect of the tourist attraction. We walk down to the tiger canyon, where the large cats are lounging around in awkward positions, tolerating smiling tourists, who squat next to them, placing one hand on their backs, or for the bravest, placing their heads in their laps. They are lead away (by the hand) by workers in bright yellow shirts. I can't bring myself to partake in this display of foolish voyeurism and exploitation. The elephant ride is one thing, but to me, the tigers look sedated (wihtout their consent of course) and that's just not right. Right now, the temple is under construction, and I can see the pieces of a plastic tiger oasis gradually coming together. The temple is nowhere near wheelchair accessible, but I'm sure that it will be soon. Louis says that he doesn't agree with the business practices of these monks. They are working with a large comapany to create an entertainment complex out of their sacred space. It doesn't strike me as moral or ethical either. Ride home On the ride home, we stop at a gas station and Louis buys us chocolate ice cream, yum. I try to go to the squat down toilets. It's got about a couple of milimetres of water on the floor and there's a scoop full of yellow coloured liquid sitting beside the "toilet". I am so nervous about not toppling over into the mystery liquid, that I suddenly can't convince my bladder to "go" anymore. With a heavy heart, I leave the washrooms, once again missing out on an authentic Thai experience, urinating while squatting in a filthy porcelain dish. Protest Throughout the day, we would engage Louis in conversation about the current political unrest and protest situation. This morning, about 100 protesters were sent to the hospital, some with fatal injuries from being shot at with tear gas cannisters from riot police. What we didn't know at this point, was that at 3:45 p.m., a car bomb went off and killed two people. I don't know if this is registering in your news source right now or not, but there are giant protests (over 5,000 people) in Bangkok every night. This has been going on for a while, and the gatherings keep getting bigger as time goes by and as the government in power continues to exercise its power. I didn't have a chance to go down to the parliament buildings until tonight to see it for myself. Two people died in a car bomb incident this morning and there was lots of tear gas distributed throughout the day. I went down there with Toronto Sun reporter Alan Parker, it was just incredible. We were welcomed with open arms (we were the only white people there, does that mean I'm smart or dumb? I don't know) We were given food, drink and prime spots at the speeches and concerts, even though we couldn't understand a word. I got shivers watching all the people together, doing what they believe to be the right thing for their country. I'm still not sure which side I stand on, but I'm pretty sure that this many people, camping out in the streets for weeks on end, because they believe so strongly in a single cause, can't be wrong. Everyone there was incredibly encouraged to see someone from the "outside" interested in what they had to say. Whether or not we could fully understand was not of their concern. Two highly influential members of the political party challenging the current government's leadership were arrrested and the violence will probably be escalating in the coming days. You'll be glad to know that I probably won't end up back in Bangkok at the parliament buildings for the rest of my trip. So I just wanted you to know that I'm safe, and that the assemblies here aren't as violent as they may (or may not) seem to be on the news. Here's an article from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/10/07/thailand.political/index.html?iref=newssearch Probably the most moving part of the event, was when a man got up to speak and after 30 seconds, half of the crowd was in tears. Their eyes shimmering under the harsh fluorescent lighting, some gently wiping away the remnants of sadness from their cheeks. After this speech, the rest of the crowd all sang together the King's Song. Later I was told that the words were similar to God Save the Queen. Tuk tuk rip off Alan and I walked straight to the protest from our hotel, about 5 km. We were hot and tired, so we hopped a tuk tuk to our hotel. We told him the name of it, and he seemed to understand. We paid 200 baht, a freaking fortune for such a short ride, and got off where I instinctually thought was the wrong place. Alan seemed to believe this was the place, but we quickly found out that it wasn't. We asked people how to get to the skytrain, and looked at the map, we were really about halfway home. *sigh* We bitched and moaned the whole walk home, sweaty and miserable. On the way inside the hotel, we heard a really bad Thai cover band doing songs like Stupid Cupid and Oyo Como Va. So we sat down for a well deserved Singha, buy two get one free, but the bottles cost twice as much as one jug on Khao San Rd. Oh well, I was too exhausted to care.

Article in the newspaper this morning

Article in the newspaper this morning


Meklong River

Meklong River


Outside sinks

Outside sinks


Tiny handcuffs for POWs

Tiny handcuffs for POWs


Giant mallet for building the railroad

Giant mallet for building the railroad


Various artifacts found

Various artifacts found


The bombs used to bomb the bridge

The bombs used to bomb the bridge


War cemetery plaque

War cemetery plaque


War cemetery

War cemetery


Cross at war cemetery

Cross at war cemetery


Died after the war was over...

Died after the war was over...


Be nice!

Be nice!


Me vs. fried banana

Me vs. fried banana


Alan vs. friend banana

Alan vs. friend banana


Louis on the way down to Hellfire Pass

Louis on the way down to Hellfire Pass


Termite nest

Termite nest


Former railroad track

Former railroad track


Crazy parasitic vines

Crazy parasitic vines


Alan pounding the dirt

Alan pounding the dirt


Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass


Railroading implements

Railroading implements


Railway cart

Railway cart


Pretty landscape

Pretty landscape


Pretty landscape 2

Pretty landscape 2


Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass


POW art

POW art


POW sculpture

POW sculpture


Me and Alan

Me and Alan


Our elephant driver

Our elephant driver


Elephant

Elephant


River

River


Me and Alan 2

Me and Alan 2


Huts

Huts


Crossing the road on an elephant

Crossing the road on an elephant


On top of an elephant

On top of an elephant


Baby elephant

Baby elephant


Alan and Me

Alan and Me


Me vs. chicken satay

Me vs. chicken satay


Monkey X-ing

Monkey X-ing


Monkey

Monkey


Monkey 2

Monkey 2


Peacocks

Peacocks


Peacocks 2

Peacocks 2


Tiger

Tiger


Construction at the tiger temple

Construction at the tiger temple


Sedated tigers?

Sedated tigers?


Tigers on drugs?

Tigers on drugs?


I don't think they are sleeping

I don't think they are sleeping


Bridge on the River Kwai

Bridge on the River Kwai


Bridge on the River Kwai 2

Bridge on the River Kwai 2


Bridge on the River Kwai 3

Bridge on the River Kwai 3


My foot is this close to falling off

My foot is this close to falling off


Bridge on the River Kwai 4

Bridge on the River Kwai 4


Bridge on the River Kwai 5

Bridge on the River Kwai 5


Bridge on the River Kwai 6

Bridge on the River Kwai 6


Urinals at the gas station

Urinals at the gas station


Earnest English

Earnest English


Protesters

Protesters


Speech-makers

Speech-makers


Protesters 2

Protesters 2


Protesters 3

Protesters 3


Protesters 4

Protesters 4


Speech-makers 3

Speech-makers 3


Speech-makers 4

Speech-makers 4


Protesters 5

Protesters 5

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Excessive luxury and piety, all in the same day

Today was super busy. I left at 8 a.m. to go for a riverboat tour of Bangkok. Louis pointed out a whole bunch of old temples to me and they all started to just blend together. Yes beautiful, but not unique. The boat turned down a quiet canal, and I saw some traditional style Thai houses, up on stilts, made out of teak. Nowadays, people build their homes closer to the water, but this is a huge problem, as the canals and rivers have a tendency to flood during the rainy season.

I fed some crazy catfish with some bread, and they were jumping everywhere...sooooooo gross!

We pulled into a little canal lock, and then stopped at Wat Arun, (Temple of the Dawn). The steps were incredibly steep, and the sun beat down on my head, heating up the handrail, probably giving me first degree burns on my palms as well. There is a great view of the city from the top, and some pretty incredible carvings.

Next up, we got back in the boat and headed to the flower market. There were all kinds of nice flowers, orchids, hyacinths, and lots of arrangements for funerals and things. Louis bought me a jasmine garland on the way to the wholesale food market. We looked around smelling fresh herbs and looking at more weird fruit. Then we called our driver, and got back in the nice, airconditioned car. It's one of the only times in my life I can remember feeling glad that I had air conditioning.

We walked around at Wat Pho, Bangkok's largest and oldest temple to see the giant golden reclining Buddha statue. It happened to be "Buddha Day" so there were important monks at the temple today, and lots of Thai people were there to hear them speak.

There is also a school of Thai massage at this temple, and you can see the paintings teachers would use as sort of a blackboard to show important reflexology techniques and human bone structure. I had forgotten my camera in the car, so all you're getting are videos of this temple, sorry folks. It's kind of a good thing because while you're observing the reclining Buddha statue, all you can hear is clinkclinkclinkclink from somewhere. What is it? Ohhhhhhhh hundreds of people are dropping one coin in 108 alms bowls. It's a pretty amazing sound, and probably one of those sounds you won't hear anywhere else.

OK, so Louis took me to a little restaurant for some real Pad Thai, which was yummy, less greasy than I'm used to. I like it better in Thailand than in Ottawa. We also ate coconut milk with some weird jellied green things in th bottom for dessert. Sorry I forget what they were called. Also delicious.

So from extreme piety to extreme excess, I travel in a Camry with A/C and leather interior to the Gems Gallery. The self proclaimed "largest jewelry store in the world". I'm not quite sure, but hey I'll go with it. I watch a lame-o video on the semi-precious gem industry and spend way too much money here, but um, yeah I think it'll be worth it. (Shhh, don't tell the people who are getting fancy gifts)

Thailand is famous for sapphires and rubies, so I bought myself a GREEN sapphire, something I have never seen before, inlaid with a pretty shiny star in a little white gold ring. I thought it was unique, I couldn't help it. I did not however, feel good about the 34905483 tons of earth that had to be displaced to provide my little finger with such adornment... *sigh*

Next, time for more luxury and excess at the tailors, I go for the fitting for my jacket, pants, skirt and dress. It all looks pretty good. I really like the suit, but I'm not too excited about the dress really. I guess I'll see how it looks tomorrow when it's finished. They are delivering it straight to my room.

After this, Louis drops me off at a Thai massage place, and it's actually a really invigorating experience. I put on some pyjama type clothes and the lady who barely speaks a word of English pushes and pulls every single one of my joints in different directions. The confusing part comes when I have get naked and she starts mopping up my body with an herb infused BOILING HOT WAD OF HELL. This is the "herb treatment" part of my 1,200 baht 2 hour ordeal. At first I think my body will also have 1st degree burns like my palms (from the temple) but soon it starts to feel good and I begin to drift off to sleep. Nope, not so. Soon, the lady starts standing on me and pulling me around some more, twisting me up in all kinds of weird shapes, all while totally buck naked. Yeah, can you say uncomfortable? I guess it's not my culture...

I walk from here to the hotel. Louis has graciously dropped off my bag already, so after a little bit of language confusion (again) I find my bags in the "Executive lounge" check in to my room, and go back to the lounge for some (free) drinks and h'ors doevres. Wow, not used to being schmoozed like this since I was working at the Sun.

Speaking of the Sun, my Quebecor buddy, Alan Parker has just arrived from Toronto, he'll be going to see the Tigers and the Bridge on the River Kwai with me tomorrow. That's exciting. I get all bubbly and start talking about mutual colleagues, people that left Ottawa and went to Toronto mostly. I'm sure he doesn't want to hear any of it, he's just been on a plane for 24 hours and boy do I know how that feels. But anyway, that's the way I do.

Back in my room, I do some laundry and eat the fresh plate of fruit waiting for me. Life is pretty good.

Chao Phrya River

Chao Phrya River


At the dock

At the dock


Louis and me in the boat

Louis and me in the boat


River tour

River tour


A Chinese temple?

A Chinese temple?


A barge and famous place

A barge and famous place


Wat Arun

Wat Arun


Canal

Canal


Some houses along the canal

Some houses along the canal


More houses along the canal

More houses along the canal


Garbagemen in the canal

Garbagemen in the canal


Entering a lock

Entering a lock


Catfish!

Catfish!


Catfishes!

Catfishes!


Catfisheseses!

Catfisheseses!


Tom Yum Gung

Tom Yum Gung


Wat Arun

Wat Arun


Bangkok from the top of Wat Arun

Bangkok from the top of Wat Arun


Steep stairs at Wat Arun

Steep stairs at Wat Arun


Carvings

Carvings


More ceramic mosaics

More ceramic mosaics


Smaller prang at Wat Arun

Smaller prang at Wat Arun


Kitty at Wat Arun

Kitty at Wat Arun


Yep, it's tall alright

Yep, it's tall alright


Flowers

Flowers


Me at the flower market

Me at the flower market


Funeral arrangements

Funeral arrangements


Chili stand

Chili stand

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chatuchak market and getting lost again

Well, I woke up even earlier today, at about 4:30, but this is probably due to my neighbour's constantly ringing telephone. It goes off periodically at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 and you guessed it, 4:30. I decide to get up and write the blog and take a swim. Definitely worth it and a very nice, salt water pool. I sit down for breakfast, yogurt, fresh fruit and hot pot, plus my favourite custard bun. By the time I get back, Keith's already online so we chat a bit too. I have about an hour to kill before Louis meets me in the lobby. He calls me at 8:30 sharp, so I meet him downstairs and we head off on the skytrain to the giant market. I buy some stuff for my dad and boyfriend, and also pants and a shirt for me. There is a large section for original art, so I buy a red painting of what Louis calls "real Thai art". Sounds good to me, plus it'll fit really well with my living room. Maybe I'll take all the crap down behind my couch and put these two matching paintings up there instead.

Louis and I stop for a snack of satay, Thai tea, pineapple and sweets, it's really delicious, nothing like anything I've had called "Thai" in Canada. There is a passing resemblance, but really, everything...totally different. The sweets are also delicious, made from banana, coconut and tapioca, also indescribable. Another snack is sticky rice with pepper and cocunut, not my favourite, but it's still pretty good. We walk through the food market, I almost lose my breakfast just walking past the fish section. I see crabs, desperately trying to rid themselves of the elastic keeping them from escaping the selling block, giant prawns, all kinds of random fish I can't name, and it smells...disgusting. There's also meat hanging on hooks and lots of different kinds of fruit to buy. You can get durian, four different kinds of mango, papaya, longan, a whole bunch of spiky fruit that I can't remember the name of.

Louis says that I should get a tailored dress and suit, so I agree, I can't really leave without getting one, can I? Plus, I have to look good for the welcome reception on Wednesday right? I pick out a pretty halter top dress and an amazing looking suit jacket with pants. The lady also talked me into a skirt:

"You can't just buy a suit jacket, you have to have matching pants and skirt!" she says to me. OK fine, so I ended up paying almost $600 for everything. More than I've ever spent on any clothes in my life, but whatever, it's Bangkok. Louis tells me James Tailor is one of the top 10 custom made suit places in the world. I pick out some fabric, medium blue for the suit and brown, pink, blue, yellow polka dot for the dress. The print is nicer than it sounds, trust me. So tomorrow, I go back to the store for a fitting, and then they deliver a whole new wardrobe to me the next day at my hotel. Wow, is that service or what. Honestly for that price, I don't think you could do better than that anywhere else on the planet.

Next, we head to the James Thompson house. He's an architect and credited with bringing the silk manufacturing industry to Thailand. He's got a nice house with a jungle for a backyard in the middle of the city. It's a very nice place, but I was confused by the significance. Apparently he just disappeared one day, tired with his life, he took a walk and never came back. The official version is that nobody knows why he left. So I guess I'll leave it at that. There was a modern art exhibit on top of the store, and really expensive silk for sale downstairs.

I wanted Louis to get back in time to vote for governor. The big election is taking place today, and he's pretty interested in getting "Number 5" (the incumbent) to return for another work term. So we went back to the hotel on the skytrain, I will see him tomorrow at 8 a.m.

I remembered a girl wanted me to call her to hang out tonight, so I did and she kept saying she would meet me at the McDonald's at "Ploem Chit" what I thought was a skytrain station. Nope, turns out it was right down the street from my hotel, not a whole skytrain stop away. I got on the train, went to the "Phloem Chit" station, couldn't find a McDonald's there, so I just went right back. I called K. from the McDonald's near Phloem Chit and she couldn't hear me speaking on the crappy pay phone. I didn't have any more change and I was too lazy to go and get some, so I just went back to the hotel, hoping she'd still be waiting there. When I got there she wasn't, so I just turned around and bought some more pants. I went through a little touristy night market, paid too much for the pants and bought a fake Thai porn CD, I know, I know, judge all you want. It's hard to resist in Bangkok and night. You kinda get swept up in the immorality just floating around in the air around here.

When I get back to my room, I find some notes from K. under my door. She was so sweet, coming and waiting for me to come back, she thinks that maybe I am lost or in trouble or something I think. I just thought she left and went home! Aw. I remembered my free drink coupon for the bar, so I go down there, order a guava juice (still no alcohol for sale in the city) and pack up my stuff to change hotels in the morning. Hurrah.

Touring around with someone is really easy, but I feel like I missed a lot of the "little things". For example, I had a lot to say yesterday, because I saw and experienced things on my own. Louis was translating for me the whole time, we never got lost, he knew exactly where to find things. It was helpful and everything went faster, but still I like being by myself a whole lot better and figuring it all out like that. I feel like I just "skimmed the surface" of things today. It was nice to "do everything" but I miss being confused and bewildered in a strange place. It probably sounds weird, but that's what made up half the fun of my day yesterday.

Pool at Majestic Grande

Pool at Majestic Grande


Lady who makes omlettes

Lady who makes omlettes


Delicious fruit

Delicious fruit


Longan fruit...ooh arty

Longan fruit...ooh arty


My favourite, custard bun

My favourite, custard bun


Skytrain

Skytrain


Louis and Louise

Louis and Louise


Louis at Chatuchak market

Louis at Chatuchak market


The guy who made my painting

The guy who made my painting


Food market

Food market


Me vs. mango, sticky rice and coconut sauce

Me vs. mango, sticky rice and coconut sauce


Art installation at Jim Thompson house

Art installation at Jim Thompson house


Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House


Very nice garden

Very nice garden


Election poster

Election poster

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

TravelPod meetup on Khao San Road!

Today I woke up early, at about 6:30, I don't know why. I go around trying to get my survey sheets printed out for the TravelPod meetup tonight. That was an ordeal. They had the wrong version of Word, so it didn't work until like an hour, and then the lady didn't know how to photocopy on double sided paper. After about an hour doing that, I went to breakfast. Wow, they had a ton of stuff. The fruit was not very good, except for this lichee type thing. I ate a bunch of Asian looking food, an omlette and some crazy delicious juices.

I talk with Keith for a little bit on Skype (it's the only thing that works on my computer) and then I try and make reservations for the party tonight. About 20 people are supposed to come, so I'm pretty excited about that. I have to meet Aor in a few hours at the Burger King on Khao San Road, so I decide to see how close I can get by walking. It doesn't look that far on the map, but I know I'm probably wrong. I take off in the exact wrong direction, and about five minutes into my walk, it starts to rain. There had been all kinds of lightning that I could see from my window earlier, but I thought that maybe this was something normal. So I end up standing under an overhang for about 15 minutes while the rain dies down. I walk on what I think is the main road for a while, until it comes to a sort of T. Trusting my instincts, I turn left, and end up in a terrible shanty town. People are eking their living in the outskirts of the city by selling street food, and a small number of shacks are sprinkled along the road, selling a small selection of cheap clothing and other miscellaneous stuff. I even see some guy just peeing into a pile of garbage at the side of the road. I am in complete disbelief, I turn my head and pretend I didn't see him, but he either doesn't notice, or knows I did and doesn't care. I can't believe that anyone could tolerate life in these situations, underneath the shadow of the skytrain and all of Bangkok's sky-high freeways. Later Aor tells me that they are probably former ruralites, who have come to the city with too much false hope, dreaming of a better life. It's terrible, and my brain immediately wants to fix the situation. But what can I do, as a single person? I decide (maybe for my own well being) that really the best thing is to just spend money and hope that some of these people receive the trickle down benefits themselves. I don't know, is there a better answer than that? As I'm walking, at least 10 tuk tuk and motorcycle taxi drivers stop and offer me a ride. I have this conversation 10 times:

"Where you go?" "Oh, nowhere really." "I give you a ride." "Oh, no thank you I like walking." ".... (long pause) Where you go?" "Nowhere, I just like walking." "I take you there!" "No thank you."

Until the driver gives up and just leaves. They are more persistent than you would imagine.

I get lost any number of times, asking people where I am on the map. They look at it like it's plotting my course on a distant planet. Later, I find out from Christina, that maps "don't work" in Thailand. I'm not really sure where I was walking at all, what seemed like a simple "straight" walk to Khao San Rd. shoves me into a maze of stalls full of designer knockoffs, cheap silk, and any number of knicknack emporiums. At one point, I see the intersection I think I should be travelling straight through, but I have to make a detour, because what used to be the pedestrian crossing has been blocked by overzealous vendors, competing for valuable space. The food stalls here, in contrast with the ones I saw in the outskirts of the city, smell amazing. The scent of padthai and barbecuing kebabs is everywhere. What I guess is fresh squeezed juice, and "Japanese crepes" are also sold at about every 20 paces.

Finally I figure out exactly where I am, the streets are usually not labelled, so I have to ask everyone that looks friendly and that looks like they might speak English which street I am on. They usually reply with something that sounds like "Pamajamathama" to my ears. Finally, I find something I can work with "Rama I Rd." Thank freaking GOD. I was walking in approximately the right direction after all. A nice lady who is dressed in probably authentic designer clothes, asks me where I'm going.

"Oh, Khao San Rd., eventually." I look at my watch, oh crap! I'm meeting Aor in 30 minutes! The next person that asks me to drive them somewhere, I'm saying yes, I don't care if it's on an elephant, I'm taking it. I'm still about 2/3 of the way there, so I don't even know if 30 minutes is enough time to get there. Wouldn't you know it, another tuk tuk driver asks me if I need a ride. Earlier I had told Keith that I refuse to ride in a tuk tuk. He bet me that before the end of the day, I will probably end up in one. Funny how your values change when you're getting desperate.

"How much to Khao San Rd.?" "80 baht." "What, really? It's close though." "80 baht."

Eighty baht is about 2.50 or so, so it's a good deal for my overpriced Ottawa standards, but I had been led to believe that this place was cheaper than that. I know that tuk tuk drivers usually rip you off (according to them) so I get in the tuk tuk anyway of course. He snakes the little rickety golf cart-like vehicle in BETWEEN lanes of traffic, sometimes cutting off tiny speeding motorcycles and other taxi drivers. You wouldn't believe it, but at this point, I was not in fear for my life. I had experienced traffic like this before, in Mexico City. It's amazing how developing countries on opposite sides of the world can be so similar. Oh and did I mention this is a J-walkers' paradise? So many times, I have just crossed at any point in the road, wherever traffic is slowing due to bottlenecks. Even if the traffic is not so slow, drivers always slow down or at least show they are aware of you by swerving out of the way with a little friendly tap on the horn. Ha. I'm quite the aficiando of J-walking, so I felt right at home, even downright comfortable with this feeling of pedestrian empowerment.

I get to the Burger King on Khao San Rd., and Aor is there to meet me a few minutes later. Her husband told her that foreigners like to be on time, so she said she did her best to get there. Someone even called her right at 3 p.m. and she was afraid it was me (it wasn't). I was about to, but then I couldn't figure out how to use the payphone. Funny how stereotypes are played out, sometimes even in the most unstereotypical (at least I like to think) kind of people.

The lady on the phone at the restaurant kind of hung up on me, so I didn't know if she actually understood the reservation I made today. Aor asked her in Thai, and she said yes, she remembered, of course. The restaurant was a little bit difficult to find, back in behind some buildings, in a leafy courtyard.

We went to Silk restaurant after that, ordered some salads, and a jug of Singha beer, and just chilled out, watching all the hippies and foreigners walk up and down the street. Aor is really interested in the online travel business, even starting up her own social bookmarking website, ggberry.com. So we have been chatting pretty frequently up to tonight's meetup. It was nice, almost like meeting an old friend. I have a giant bag full of TravelPod t-shirts and notebooks on my back, so I'm grateful to put it down for a while. Soon, we decide to go do some tourist stuff, look at the things for sale, and perhaps buy something. I need some sandals so I buy some imitation Birkenstocks. (They are already starting to smell *eyeroll*, you get what you pay for)

I look around for some stuff to buy people back home, but I can't make up my mind. It's all just a bunch of crap amongst the novelty t-shirts being sold around here anyway. Suddenly I see a store full of shiny things. Necklaces, earrings and stuff. Lots of it looks really nice, but ah, I'm just not sure what people will like. I'm going marketing tomorrow, so at least I got a good idea of the kind of stuff they sell here.

We get to the restaurant early, and I start stressing about whether someone will show up or not. I decide that if I can fill one table of 10, at least, I'll be happy. About 15 people manage to make it. It's really exciting, because only two people showed up to the last meetup. I dole out the new t shirts and thank everyone coming. I think everybody has a pretty good time. So that makes me happy.

After the meal, people go out to find a place that is selling alcohol under the table. Tomorrow is an election, so most venues will not sell any drinks to anyone for any reason. Aor offered me and Christina a ride home tonight, so it's too irresistible to turn down. While drinking ill-gotten alcoholic beverages is just my kind of fun, I reluctantly have to turn the offer down. Louis is picking me up early in the morning for a tour anyway.

Aor has a beautiful car, just like a limo, wow, and she drops me off in grand style at the hotel. I wave goodbye to everybody and take a shower, heading straight to bed, with a crazy full day behind me, looking forward to the next one.

Khao San Rd. at night, very sober

Khao San Rd. at night, very sober


Some canal...

Some canal...


Me on a tuk tuk

Me on a tuk tuk


Me and Aor

Me and Aor


Me and Kirsty

Me and Kirsty


Travelpodders

Travelpodders


More Travelpodders

More Travelpodders


Yep, more

Yep, more


Annnnnnnd, that's it

Annnnnnnd, that's it


Aor, Anne and her new shirt

Aor, Anne and her new shirt


Group picture by the fountain

Group picture by the fountain


Some guy walked into my pictures

Some guy walked into my pictures

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Finally I get to Bangkok

Finally managed to spatula myself out of the airplane, and wander around zombie-like in the Tokyo airport.

I am not in the state of mind to comprehend the directions for the Tokyo toilets. They are very complicated, it takes me a while to figure out that I don't actually have to do anything different than usual. However, if you want a spurt of perfume on your bum, or maybe an automatic bidet spray, it's up to you to figure out which buttons to press.

I have always wanted to try real Japanese sushi and right now, airport sushi is the closest I'm going to get. So I head over there and buy some tuna rolls. There are some pilots queuing up for the fishy treats, so I assume that I'm at the right place. Turns out, not so much. Don't get me wrong, the sushi at the airport is pretty good, better than most sushi I've had in my life, but it's not life-changing or anything. I briefly consider buying some Japanese stuff at the duty free but then reconsider, since I'll have to carry it around with me the whole time. Probably, I won't have a chance on the way back home, but that's the chance I'm willing to take.

I pass out on the bench near Gate 46, and then wake up just in time to leave for Bangkok. On the plane, I sit beside a nice man who is helping start up a glasses lens factory in Thailand, he is going back home after visiting his daughter in Tokyo.

The best in flight service you can get, is on Thai Air. Oh my goodness, what a nice meal they serve, and everyone is really nice and friendly and there is LOTS of leg room. Alejandro told me all about it, but I didn't believe it till I actually witnessed it. So now, you have two unbiased, objective opinions. Thai Air, seriously good flying.

So I sleep a little bit on that flight. I get to the airport, pick up my bag, exchange some money into bahts and then meet Louis, my tour guide outside of the baggage pickup. Him and his driver take me straight to my swanky hotel, the Majestic Grande, and we drive through the Muslim area of town, down a street that doesn't look anything like a street, however Louis says it's a "shortcut" so it's OK. I mention to Louis that I saw some monks flying in first class on the way here! He says, yeah, some rich people probably paid for them, because these monks can't touch money. I thought it was strange anyway, and maybe a little hypocritical. Louis used to be a "temple boy" for 10 years, arranging such things for monks at the temple he worked at. He had to cook them meals twice a day, because they aren't allowed to do it themselves, and they also aren't allowed to ask for food. After checking me into the hotel, Louis says that he'll make reservations at the restaurant for the meetup tomorrow, and call me in the morning.

Tokyo toilets are complicated

Tokyo toilets are complicated


Here are the directions

Here are the directions


Me vs. Tokyo sushi

Me vs. Tokyo sushi


Thai Air meal, delicious

Thai Air meal, delicious


My swanky bathroom

My swanky bathroom


My swanky bedroom

My swanky bedroom

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Flight to Bangkok from Ottawa

I wake up five minutes before my alarm goes off. Wow, I got to sleep in. I catch the plane to Toronto, then increase my credit card limit (I'm sure I'll be needing it) at Pearson and stand in line to get on the plane headed to Tokyo. It is the first time in my life I have felt tall. Honestly. It's maybe the second time in my life I've ever felt like I was in a minority. I am already adjusting to life in Asia, without even leaving Canada. I smile at the false panic that sets in as the stewardess calls out departure instructions to the impatient travelers waiting to leave. The line is huge and it's not moving, so I decide to take a pee. When I get back, the line is the same. Finally I get to my seat, I'm in the middle of an exchange student and elderly Japanese lady sandwich. Keichi, my 15 year old neighbour is interesting. In the middle of his school year, he found out that his grandmother is very sick. He is on his way back to Sapporo to see her, probably for the last time before she dies. He plays Pokemon on his Nintendo DS while I write this. The lady on the other side of me is intensely watching some teenage drama, and periodically spazzing out, so I don't bother her. I've already had three drinks, it's 4:30 and I'm ready to fall asleep.

I liked this

I liked this


Express walkway

Express walkway


Toronto airport art

Toronto airport art


Line to Tokyo

Line to Tokyo


Food on flight to Tokyo

Food on flight to Tokyo


More food on Tokyo flight

More food on Tokyo flight


Yep, food.

Yep, food.


Even more food on Tokyo flight

Even more food on Tokyo flight

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)