A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Tried to do a little work in Bangkok


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March 1, 2020

I got to Bangkok in the morning. I checked into my hostel. They put me in a room full of Thai prostitutes. Everytime I came in the room they were pulling their phones out of their crotches, giggling and getting dressed really fast. I wanted to throw up all the time. Sometimes I could even see the inexplicably confident neckbeards on the other end of their video calls. Blech. I'm happy they have each other.

I didn’t have any summer clothes so I had to go to a thrift store to augment my extensive carry-on sized wardrobe. I thought I was going to teach english in Myanmar so I bought 6 dresses for work.

Then I was starving so I went and bought the most Thai thing I could find. I can't remember what it was, it looks like laarb.

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March 2, 2020

I had my first food assignment with an Israeli guy. He told me all about his band and how cool he was all night long. We ate a lot of Thai food, I had some of the best Pad Thai in my life and also the best laarb in my life.
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There was a broken tile and *gasp* some kind of bug in the washroom. It all went in the report!

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One of my dresses I got at the thrift shop.

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At the bar, they were having happy hour so we got double the drinks we would normally have gotten.

March 3, 2020

I finished my report early and I was pretty hungry. I asked the lady that I had planned to go with, if she could come for lunch. She said she couldn't, so I went by myself. I had an amazing flourless chocolate cake. The service was the best I had in Bangkok.
Another dress.
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March 4, 2020
I walked to the Myanmar embassy to apply for my visa and then walked back - 2 hours total.

I went for Italian and, I had eaten so much the night before I wasn’t too hungry. However, I had to do this assignment. I am such a hard worker! Lexi met me there and we had a great time. She was the best person to join me on my last assignment. I wanted her to come to all of them after that, but the other 12 assignments got cancelled due to the corona virus...I was devastated. All my plans went out the window for the 3rd time… That corona virus.
Another dress that kind of looked like a tent.
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And a scratched up bathroom door. How awful.

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March 5, 2020

I wrote my report in the morning and picked up my visa in the afternoon. Another 2 hour walk.

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I had a really great dinner on the sidewalk to celebrate. I was also feeling homesick for China. I missed the little plastic chairs and tables.

March 6, 2020

Since I had nothing else to do, I went to random tourist places I hadn’t seen before in Bangkok. So that means I went around town to places that aren’t really high on the priority list for anyone.

The National Art Gallery was ½ closed for renovations but I still paid full price.
There was an temporary exhibit full of naked ladies. I thought I had seen enough naked Thai women already.

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There was an old water tower in the backyard.
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The National Museum was really great.
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My favourite part was looking at the palanquins. I immediately began recruiting volunteers for my palanquin team. All positions are still open.
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March 7, 2020

I was soooo bored I checked the couchsurfing app to see if there were any events and I was lucky. Some people were walking around on a foodie tour. I had another plate of delicious pad thai wrapped up in an omelette and went to a museum I had already seen.

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I got some Thai tea in a bag and just generally died of heat exhaustion.

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This is also how I met Fanny, my friend from France. She was working in logistics so she was very busy at this time. After our "foodie" tour, we also went to a meetup.com event at Terminal 21. This would become my own private dining room for the rest of my time in Bangkok. It was clean, cheap and good and air conditioned.

March 8, 2020

Fanny lived about 10 minutes walk from where I lived so we got together often. We wanted to go to a flash mob for International Women’s Day but it got shut down by the police. I didn’t know if it was for corona virus or if it was because unsanctioned gatherings were not allowed in public parks. Yesterday, I had seen people in a huge group working out in Lumphini Park, so it didn't make a lot of sense to me. Nobody explained it very well either.

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Posted by baixing 14:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

February 20-22, 2019, Ayutthaya, Thailand


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Liz and I had a nice Chinese breakfast of rice and garlic pork. The milk tea was especially great with steamed milk piled high on top. I saw her off at the sky train station nearby.
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Meanwhile, I went back to nap until checkout time. I messaged Pim, the lady I had met in Ayutthaya and she was ready to meet me at the train station whenever I got there, which was maybe 2:30 p.m.

She picked me up in her cousin's car with her mom and aunt. They seemed to know everyone in town and somehow got all our tickets for free. She showed me the museum with lots of gold stuff that was hidden in the temples when the Burmese attacked 300+ years ago. Her cousin spoke English very well and helped me understand everything. She used to work at some pretty posh hotels in Bangkok for many years.
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Then we went to the Portuguese village. Back in the day, people from different countries lived in little ghettos on both sides of the river. There are some ruins of a graveyard and a church that was flooded about eight years ago.

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Then we went to go look at a buddhist retreat that Pim's aunt helped build. It must be a peaceful place to come and contemplate absolutely nothing.
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We saw the sunset at another temple and it was definitely the most beautiful out of the four temples I had visited in Ayutthaya. We also tried to pick up some paperwork at a government office for Pim's visa to study tourism in Spain. It didn't happen though. She wasn't optimistic about it, explaining that Thai bureaucracy is awful. Believe me lady, I know.
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I was very grateful for them taking the time to be so kind to me. After they brought me to my hostel to checkin, I bought them all dinner of barbecue fish and hot pot. The fish was soooo sweet and delicious, it was scooped right out of the river that same day. I was really happy to have spent the afternoon with all of them.
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February 21, 2019
At this point I was mentally ready to go back home. My boss had already sent me my work schedule and explained the premise of the courses I'd be teaching on Monday. I was too exhausted to go anywhere else. I decided I'd get my teeth cleaned and hair cut. It was really easy to do this and the dentist spoke English, so it was better than doing it in China.

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The hairstylist didn't speak English but that was fine anyway.
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On my way home, I bought three huge bags of Thai tea, so I could make the classic drink at home. I met a Peruvian lady and we had lunch together near our hostel. She had just gotten to Thailand, so she was very excited. I was at the end of my trip and tired. It was an interesting lunch to say the least.

The rest of the night was spent chatting with an Irish guy who had Aspberger's syndrome, by my own diagnosis. We watched the sun disappear behind the pollution and went on his scooter out for dinner. I bought a slurpee and filled it with whiskey. Later we had more whiskey sodas on the roof with a couple of Germans. And I learned all about Irish history.

February 22, 2019

I was not motivated at all anymore, but I needed to go out and find a sock thingy to make Thai tea with. I found a small one in the market and then also found some more rain boots just like the ones I had lost the week before. I had some ice dessert thingy and chicken rice and went back home.
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I was tempted to get a manicure or a massage but I was down to my last few hundred baht so I didn't. After a nap, I woke up at 6 or 7 p.m. in time to make a plan to go with Darren to a floating market near his house the next day.

February 23, 2019
I left as early as possible on the train back to Bangkok, but it didn't end up being that early. By the time we got to the market, it was no longer floating. Anyway, we had huge cups of chrysanthemum tea and lunch by the canal. large_IMG_20190223_141151.jpg

We rented bikes and went around the island. There was a park on the other side, so we biked around, climbed up the bird observation tower and hurried back to the ferry. I had to pick up my passport that I had left as a deposit for the bike by 5 p.m. and it was probably 4:15 p.m. So I was a little stressed getting back there. We ended up meeting two ladies from Ottawa who were also hurrying back to pick up their passports, so it was all OK in the end, and we made it back with about five minutes to spare. Phew.
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We took the ferry back and I bought a bunch of food at the market for the long trip back home to China.
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Then we went for a quick, cool swim and Darren was nice enough to buy me a taxi to the airport. I had a plan to sleep for a few hours at a hostel but it was not good when I got there, so I just cancelled the reservation and slept at the airport in a massage chair.
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Posted by baixing 07:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthaya Comments (0)

February 12-19, 2019, Bangkok, Thailand


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It was time to go back to Bangkok. At 9 a.m. we got on a small boat which brought us to a bigger boat and then we finally left at 10:30 because some douchebag was late. We got the good seats at the back of the boat that time though. Then, we were shunted onto a nice van where we met a weird Australian professor getting dental work done in Malaysia. I wasn't too sure about that, if you're a big fancy professor why don't you have a dental plan in Australia? Anyway, the van brought us to Hat Yai train station, where we quickly bought tickets and fruit for dinner, a little apprehensive of the ongoing political violence.

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I had been reading about the terrorist attacks in the south of Thailand lately. People and even monks had been killed every day. When we arrived back in Bangkok we went back to Loftel Station to see our favourite front desk clerk, Troy.

February 13, 2019
We dropped our bags off and I think we took a nap. We went for an early dinner at Varassa which was about an hour walk from our hostel. I wasn't too impressed, but the restaurant was clean and at least I had a pretty good curry and bael juice/tea.
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February 14, 2019
My parents booked a tour which went to the bridge over the river Kwai and Erawan Park, but left very early in the morning. I had a plan to meet with Darren of the former Travel Rants website. We had been colleagues from before when I worked at TravelPod and I always wanted to meet the man behind all the rants. So finally, our travel paths crossed and it worked out. The only thing is I forgot it was Valentine's Day. A little awkward. We met at the mall and then grabbed some fish balls and hot dogs and proceeded to a little park. It had a really nice long rectangular lake which I thought was beautiful and serious cyclists seemed to agree. They made many laps around the oval while we got drenched in the sprinkler next to our bench.
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Then, we went to Lumphini park to have peanuts and beer and before I knew it, it was time for Darren to go back to work.

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He was doing software testing for an American company, so he worked at night. I went back and took a nap and my parents probably came back at 8 or 9 p.m. and then they went to bed too.

February 15, 2019
We wanted to see a Thai dance show, so we bought the expensive tickets for the Hanuman thing at the royal theatre. In the day, we went to buy some stuff at the supermarket we saw the night before. On the way back, we stopped at the Bangkokian museum, which was really nice and a breezy way to spend the morning.
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We walked over to the theatre and had some street noodles with bright pink sour soup. We also picked up some steam buns for dessert and ate them while watching people do tai chi in the park.
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The show was pretty good, but the subtitles died in the middle of it. Twice. And no one moved a finger to try and fix them. So, I got up and asked for a refund. I was surprised they gave it to me, I was expecting a partial refund. 2400 baht was too much to pay for broken subtitles. We went home a little disappointed but also glad we saw a small part of the show for free.
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February 16, 2019
We went to Chatuchak market in the morning, where I bought a huge bag of purple sweet potato chips and mom finally got her coconut ice cream.
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It was way too hot and crowded, so we bought some fruit and ate it in the adjoining park instead. We were exhausted so we went back to the hostel and had another nap. We walked slowly to Sky View 360 where we were having mom's second birthday dinner. Ha. Reiko and Masao were supposed to meet us there, but they didn't see us until the last second. We had gone down two floors to get some drinks before dinner and the hostess failed to tell them we were already there.
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Then we had an overpriced meal as we rotated around the city. Of course Reiko didn't like the meal. I guess it was too expensive but you know what? You don't go to these kinds of places for the food.
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I also learned that she never takes the subway. But I couldn't for the life of me ascertain why, and she wasn't going to make the effort to translate it for me.

February 17, 2019
We took the first train of the day to Ayutthaya. Reiko and Masao surprised me when they actually showed up at 5:30 a.m. for departure time. They followed us around the rest of the day. We invited them, but didn't think they'd actually come because their hotel was so far away. But then, Reiko announced she would not ride a bicycle. Ugh. So we had to lumber around in the extreme heat all because of her. Shouldn't have invited them. Again.
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The ruins were really great, I thought. They reminded me a bit of Angkor Wat. But alas, we really needed a bike to get around the huge area.
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We had some really cheap and sad noodles for lunch and of course Reiko loved that meal. I bought some rubber boots and then we met a Canadian lady who sent us on a wild goose chase to a non existent floating market. After we gave up looking for it, I bought a pineapple and a slushee and all was right with the world again.

Mom and dad sat down at a hostel which had a clear sign saying that the restaurant was closed. They ordered two pops anyway. When I came back from the store I was bewildered about why they would do that, and then I sat down with them anyway, completely spent. I put my boots down beside me and then forgot them there. It started drizzling a little bit and it was so long since I'd seen the rain, I guess I just panicked. It's too bad, those were nice boots for five dollars.

While we were waiting for the train back to Bangkok, some students asked us to do a tourism survey. After I finished, we exchanged details and the students invited me to come back after my parents went back home. Of course I agreed. It seemed like forever until our train made it back to Bangkok. We watched as Reiko repeatedly readjusted her reclining seat. "There's always a problem isn't there?" my mom said. I sighed and knew that she finally understood my pain.

Once back in Bangkok, we bought some street food, including papaya salad and went straight to bed. Troy even gave us some ice and plates without us asking for it. Whatta guy, that Troy.

February 18, 2019
It was mom's birthday and therefore, time for them to go. Our dorm roommate had already left and woke us all up in the process. He couldn't pack up the night before, of course, he had to make a huge racket with his plastic bags and tent he had erected around his bed. Ugh.

I left my parents at Makkasan station confident they could make it back home on their own. For me, I wasn't sure what to do for the rest of the five days I had left. I sat down in the metro mall and dcided to check in to my hostel and meet Liz the following day. She had an overnight layover in Bangkok, so I tried to plan something for us to do. I wanted to save a few baht, therefore my hostel was shitty. Only 107 baht doesn't get you much, so I can't complain.

It was a Monday and that meant all the air conditioned museums were closed. I decided to go to a temple with amazing murals downtown. There happened to be a service in progress, so I sat down with everyone else and closed my eyes. I know you won't believe me but I had an out of body experience. I felt like my body was floating in an endless abyss and my consciousness was completely somewhere else. That chanting stuff really works. Or else the heat and dehydration were getting to me. One or the other.
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Another thing open on Mondays was the golden mountain. A strange collapsed stupa that had been rebuilt as a mountain many times over in the last 200 years. I climbed to the top to see Bangkok all around but it didn't compare to the tower a few days before.
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I went to another temple. This time it was the one the king had been ordained as a monk at. Pretty interesting I guess.
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At that point I was starving. I found another slurpee and an onigiri and a riverside park. All was well for the day.

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I went home, picked up some curry in a bag on the way, but then found out there was no kitchen at the hostel. Even though a shared kitchen was clearly stated on booking.com. I ate my curry out of the bag. The guy at the front desk told me to buy a bowl at 7-11. I was lucky I had my own spoon.

February 19, 2019

I waited most of the morning for Liz to message me about the plans for that night. I got up very slowly and ate another bowl of the amazing soup just outside the hostel that I had the day before. It had bean noodles along with blood cubes, pork and chicken feet. This time I noticed the woman making the soup remembered I didn't like chicken feet, so my soup was chicken feet free. What service.

I went over to the canal part of Bangkok to see the "artist house", but I wasn't feeling it, so I took a quick bus over to examine the royal barges.
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I was pretty lucky I thought, because a team of about 15 artists were refurbishing the fleet. They were hand gluing small pieces of coloured mirrors and gold leaf onto the dazzling vessels. I didn't want to think about how many hours of labour it would take to complete that project.

I made it back in time to catch Liz at the airport online, she was just getting ready to board. We made a plan to meet at the light rail station and then go up to the top of Baiyoke tower. It was really busy up there because there was a full moon and also a Buddhist holiday. We chatted and went around the revolving observation deck probably four or more times.
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After coming down, we tried to find somewhere to eat and have a few drinks. The street food was too expensive around there and I wasn't that hungry anyway, so I decided to wait until we got to the blues club. Turns out it was closed because of the same Buddhist holiday that caused the tower to be full of Asian ladies dolled up in ill-fitting dresses they must have bought on Taobao.

So then we wandered around hungry. Liz was sure we'd find some bar open somewhere, but I wasn't. Last time I was in Bangkok there was an election and the same thing happened to me. No drinking anywhere, period. But of course, I let her have her dream. I followed her around until midnight. Finally she gave up and we bought snacks at 7-11 instead. We walked back to my hostel and went straight to bed. It was a nice night for a walk anyway.

Posted by baixing 07:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

February 9-11, 2019, Koh Lipe, Thailand


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We bought tickets to go way south in Thailand to Koh Lipe, so we had to leave at 6 a.m. that morning to get to the boat on time. I was attempting to get away from some of the crowds by going closer to the muslim terrorist attacks. In the end it didn't help, but we had a good time on average. First we took a bus to Pak Bara and then a speed boat to the island.
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We arrived at around lunch time and went directly to the beach with our snacks and drinks. It was very pretty and there were noticeably fewer tourists, especially the dirty old men one usually finds on these islands. We swam there for a bit and then had a light dinner up the hill. A little kitten sat with me while we waited for our meal to be prepared.

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We also watched the sunset with some crazy Aussies on the same beach later.
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That night, we stayed at a hostel with no air conditioning and the smell of sewage wafting through the window at two minute intervals. There was the sound of a machine and then we would smell a wave of putrid disgustingness. I don't know what was going on, but I couldn't spend another night there. I didn't sleep more than two hours that night.

February 10, 2019

That morning, my brain was totally fried. The hostel owner wanted to give us our refund for the second night, but I was too tired. I couldn't remember if I actually put it in my wallet or not. I was going crazy and felt like I might have been tricked. There happened to be a 1000 baht bill on top of the others in my wallet, so I assumed it was right and he didn't trick me, but when I tried to add up all our expenses, it didn't make sense. I was just too tired. On top of it, my parents had "no idea" how much money we had spent.

Anyway, they had already found another hotel for us, so we dropped off our bags and went to another beach for the day. Finally, we went through all of our expenses and realized that everything was fine and I probably didn't get conned out of 35 dollars. It's not a small amount, and it made me so frustrated that the general atmosphere of Thailand is just trickery all the time. It's so bad, that I started to mistrust everyone. On top of that, their fake smiles made me feel even sicker to my stomach. Ugh. I was done with Thailand at that point. We spent the rest of the day in the shade but I went to bed feeling sick while mom and dad had street food satay for dinner. I had a low fever and stomach cramps as well as a headache and who knows what else. Probably as a result of inhaling all that fecal matter and not sleeping all night.

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February 11, 2019

I felt a little better in the morning, so we went to Sunrise Beach for the whole day. Mom and I jumped in the waves for hours, until I saw a huge fish and had to get out.

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I didn't put on enough sunscreen, so I got badly burned like every other big dumb idiot waddling around the Andaman coast. We went out for dinner but it was full so we walked around waiting for 8 p.m. when I figured most people would be done. We grabbed some delicious sausages and sat down by a strange sign. A whole lot of people were taking pictures with it, so I took one too in the same style. It's blurry because an amateur took it for me.
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Anyway, dinner was fantastic. We had some beers and curries and mom had more satay with vegetables. 850 baht. Crazy. Not as expensive as Bo.Lan, but honestly it was better. I didn't sleep very well again because of the massive sunburns on my thighs. I couldn't sleep on my side and my back hurt if I tried to lay on my back. Awful.

Posted by baixing 05:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged koh lipe Comments (0)

February 7-8, 2019, Ao Nang, Thailand


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Mom decided she'd be OK to continue on to Railay beach, so we took a fancy bus to Krabi. I sat with a really happy Italian guy who had just started his one year trip around the world. Mom and dad had to chase some Russians out of some seats. They had their bags all over the place and there were no seats left on the bus.
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One hour into the bus ride I had to pee really bad. I figured I wasn't the only one, so I asked the bus driver to stop. He didn't really want to, but a bunch more people asked and then he finally did. He was yelling at us to run and go faster the whole time. Ugh.

Then, when we arrived he dropped us off 1.5 km outside of the town of course. So instead of buying another ticket from these jerks, we walked to the pier.

I had bought some breakfast but we didn't eat it on the bus. We found a little park and had a picnic before overloading the boat to Railay beach. They kept shoving more and more people on the boat, it was so terrible. It was the worst boat ride of my life, hands down. And I have been on a good many boats in my life, I tell you what.
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Then on Railay, I thought we could possibly walk to the rock climber/hippy part of the island. It was not that easy. Mom sent me to go scout it out, but I thought it would've been too difficult with her ankle so swollen. There wasn't even a door to get into the hotel. Just a crappy bamboo ladder perched on top of the wall that surrounded the whole place. Every time you wanted to leave, or go home, you'd have to climb over the wall. It's easy for rock climbers but probably not for an old lady with a swollen ankle. Clearly they were trying to keep the masses out of there as part of their marketing scheme.
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So I went back and we tried to find another place to stay. After climbing up and down the steep stairs to five or six places, we just gave up. We went for a swim while dad had a coconut and then hopped a boat to Ao Nang. Railay beach was really overhyped and way too expensive. I am noticing an overhyped and overpriced trend in Thailand, aren't you? Do not recommend.
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Once in Ao Nang, after a normally loaded boat ride, we quickly found a cheap small hotel, which my mom was overly excited about because of the towels folded like elephants and two normal sized windows. We went to find a restaurant on Trip Advisor, but found it was closed. So, we settled on pork and sticky rice with coconut water and Thai whiskey.
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February 8, 2019

We didn't do much all day besides sleep on the beach. Dad brought us some smoothies and we walked around looking for lunch. Finally we settled on cheap pad thai and dad got shrimp cakes. The waiter at the restaurant told dad to come back for dinner in a kind of whisper that is normally reserved for selling prostitutes, so that was a little more than weird to me. After that, we got more smoothies and watched the sunset on the same beach.
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The red colours were really beautiful and we amused ourselves by watching stray dogs run off with people's shoes while they took hundreds of selfies in front of the sun. We laughed and didn't help them when they found one of their shoes was missing. One poor little boy even got yelled at for five minutes straight by his ignorant parents for losing his shoe. Then his dad found it all the way down the beach in the middle of a pack of dogs.

Mom and Dad went to watch a fire show at some overpriced bar that night and I went to bed early. I've seen poi before, it's not my thing, thanks.

Posted by baixing 05:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged ao nang Comments (2)

February 6, 2019, Surat Thani, Thailand


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Our train left in the morning at 8 a.m. so we made a coffee in the lobby and just walked over to the station. Our ticket said "special express", but so was our last train and the meals were crazy expensive that time. This time, we made sure we had enough snacks for the eight hour journey. It turned out that this time we really did have special tickets. They made us coffee and gave us a little lunch. What a surprise. Living the high life in Thailand.
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The train ride was uneventful. We were about an hour and a half late for our scheduled arrival time, which gave me tons of time to catch up on my journal. We pre-booked a place near the train station that was easy to find, so we went over there and tried to figure out what was wrong with my mom's swollen ankle by emailing Rachelle, the doctor I met in Vientiane. We had our extra food for dinner in our room.

Posted by baixing 04:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged suratthani Comments (0)

February 4-5, 2019, Bangkok


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We stayed in the room as long as possible and then walked back to the train station. We stopped at the flower market first.
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And then we stopped at another regular market and had a bunch of stuff for lunch. I had a nice crepe with some peanut mixture inside of it and something like a red bean samosa with Thai iced tea. Mom cried because her parents had a hard life just like these people in the market probably also did. I figured it was about time for her Asian culture shock breakdown to begin and there it was.
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We got to the train station early, but just in time to see a platoon of women soldiers waiting for their train. They seemed happier than another platoon of male soldiers I saw later in the trip. When we got on the train, some rude French people stole dad's seat and even though we had a ticket, they wouldn't move or look at our ticket until their tour guide told them they were in the wrong seats. Ugh.

We met a nice Chinese guy named Quinn who had been doing the work/travel thing in New Zealand for the past couple years.

February 5, 2019
After freezing on the upper bunk again overnight, he followed us to our hostel and managed to convince the front desk guy to let him use the wifi in the lobby until his flight to Vietnam left in 12 hours. Weird. However, we were not tired so we went to see the temples and things in the main tourist area of Bangkok.

It was blazingly hot and miserable. I had already been to the main sites 11 years ago, so I just waited at the exits until my parents were done. We took the water taxi to the various spots. They are all concentrated in a relatively small area of the city.
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It was nice at Wat Pho, because there was a little park with a working water fountain and a nice pond to stroll around. I sat there with my journal for a while and wondered what it would be like to be a tour guide, sitting here and waiting for my customers to stroll around glittery temples every day, meanwhile making pennies an hour.
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The Royal Palace was crazy busy and by the time we found the entrance, mom and dad realized they couldn't get in. Dad didn't have full pants on and mom wasn't allowed to use her shawl to cover her shoulders. The price was a little steep also, so we just went back home and it was only 2 p.m. when we got there. It's really great to get such an early start to the day.
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It was perfect timing to check back into Loftel Station hostel. I also called Bo.Lan restaurant to try and get a table. I had booked one earlier for Jan. 30, but my mom made me cancel it so we could go to the flower festival. They told me they were booked up until March 5, but a few minutes after I got off the phone, I received an email saying they had a cancellation. I was not really in the mood for it because the whole day had been kind of confusing and annoying to me, especially the water taxi system of transportation. It was overloaded and even more confusing than the ticket booth for the Royal Palace. So I was grumpy even after downing an entire strawberry slurpee on the walk back home. However, I knew this would probably be our only chance to have a Michelin star meal anywhere in Thailand, let alone Asia, so I tried to make myself more optimistic, but this was in vain. The subway system was overloaded that day as well. It took 20 minutes just to buy our tokens. The trains weren't even as full as I've seen them in Beijing. There just weren't enough token machines. Unacceptable. So the grumpy came back.

Now I want to explain Bo.Lan. We had already watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix all about this place. It seemed like the owners put a lot of effort into their dishes and ingredients. Even the sugar was hand made. So, OK, sounds good to me. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the whole thing came off as extremely overhyped. If I had been alone I would've turned right around as soon as I saw the 4.50 dollar charge for filtered water. What. You sell your restaurant as organic and sustainable etc. etc. but then punish people for drinking unbottled water? I went in against all my instincts and stayed. I had brought my parents all the way here, so we couldn't back out now. They were so excited and it would be so wrong to try and get them to follow my stupid principles. Gut feelings though, aren't baseless.

Anyway, we went into the kitchen to try a beautiful mangosteen and some of that handmade sugar with toasted coconut and rice. We met Dylan, the chef on the TV show too. That was a little weird. I'd rather not. Something felt like he was Mickey Mouse at a meet and greet. I'm not complaining about this place, it WAS really really delicious and awesome. Everything was well prepared and extremely fresh with top quality ingredients for sure. You can definitely taste the care and work they put into their meals. I just didn't get the feeling that the meal was a piece of art as it usually is at these places, and therefore not worth the high price tag. I felt that the dishes were not really planned to fit together. I was expected to put everything together myself. The meal was served family style and they put a bunch of food in front of us but I didn't know what it was. That's what I pay the chef for, darling. I want the chef to put together unfamiliar flavours on my plate for me because he or she is the expert, not me. I felt like the tastes were just jumbled up in my mouth together like a bag of miscellaneous leftovers some roommate from another planet left in the fridge. That roommate told me I could have it, but didn't explain what it was, where she got it or even with what utensil I should eat it with. The servers made a feeble attempt at explanations, but when they brought it all out Asian family style, it just became a big mess.

I have a lot of experience with Asian food, and I know this is the traditional way to eat in this part of the world, but when I spend more than 150 dollars per person, I want the chef to plan out a specific taste experience. I don't want to be the one responsible for creating the tastes myself. Cooking really is art and I want to experience someone's art that they have crafted over years of training and dedication to the craft. I don't want a jumble of stuff I happen to put on my inexperienced plate.

I think the way they present the meal, although it is in the traditional way, really hides the talent of the chefs. All the work they put into the meal is negated by an inexperienced person such as myself plating it out on my own. In other words, even though a restaurant can charge 150 dollars doesn't mean they should. I would happily pay this price for a nicely plated meal but in family style, I just don't think it's worth it.

On top of this, the air conditioning was on so high that it was dripping on my mom. So much for "sustainability" AND I could not for the life of me turn on the sink in the bathroom because the tap was shaped LIKE A SQUIRREL. ALSO, the cheap looking art on the wall, a woodburnt style portrait of a midriff baring Thai woman put another cheesy element into the mix. THEN at the end of the meal we were brought back out into the lobby again for a small dessert. They put some perfectly good peanut brittle under a glass dome full of temple incense??? I mean come on, that's lame. The peanut brittle just tasted burnt and inedible after that. Blech.

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Posted by baixing 03:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

February 1-3, 2019, Chiang Mai


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It was too early to check in to our hotel in Chiang Mai when we got there, so we strolled into town slowly. We stopped at a little cafe for breakfast. A nice lady was running it.
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We even found new glasses for dad because he managed to stomp on them the night before on the train somehow. They had a cute little dog in the shop that we played with while he looked for the new frames.

When we got to the hotel, it was still a little early, so we had lunch at another cafe with some nice juice and things. Then the room was ready and we all had showers and I made a fruit salad out of mangosteen, jack fruit, papaya and mango. Then we took a nap because it was too hot to go out again.
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The festival had some really cheap show on a little stage, so we watched that for a while.
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We had a bunch of street food for dinner and ate omelettes and pad thai with a man who looked and talked like Bill Clinton and his wife. I think the festival was nice and cool at night. It was probably the least busy time to see the flowers in the park as well.

Later, we found the main stage just in time to see the two Miss Flower Festivals crowned. Lucky us. There were separate contests for Thai women and foreign women, so that was interesting. We also saw the electrical wiring catch fire outside the public washrooms. Yikes.

February 2, 2019

On Saturday, there was the big parade. It was a dream come true for my mom. She was very excited to see the colourful floats, which were mostly comprised of natural elements like shells and of course flowers. We found a nice place to sit and I just watched from under my umbrella as the strong sunlight beat down on us relentlessly.

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I was amazed to see some of the performers walking in bare feet along the parade route. They must have had first degree burns on their black soles after five minutes of walking on that tarry asphalt. I was also really happy to see that even native Americans were well represented in the parade. They led a red, white and blue marching band down the street in faux chintzy headdresses, neon face paint and sparkly leather regalia.
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Oh and after half the parade had gone by, the marshalls let a bunch of cars go down the street, thus making uninformed tourists believe it was over, and thus completely ruining the festive atmosphere of the whole thing.

We went back home for a little lunch and another short nap, then headed out to see some temples, including the ruin of a giant Khmer style stupa. That was nice to walk around, even though a couple of drunk or mentally impaired Americans were screaming a conversation at the top of their lungs as they were standing right next to each other. I really liked the elephants that were carved into the sides of a lot of these temples.
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After that three or four hour tour, I think we deserved a nice massage, so we headed over to the ex-con massage centre. There were seven branches all over the city and these strong women provided a really nice experience. They washed our feet, massaged our whole bodies in what I would say was a light Thai style, as well as daubing our skin with hot herbs at the end. All this took two hours and cost about 35 dollars. Amazing.
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My masseuse was really funny and she made me laugh a lot. Especially when she jumped on my back and made my tongue and eyes stick out, similar to a flattened frog run over by a car. I couldn't get this image out of my head and I laughed until I almost peed my pants. She spoke almost zero English, so she had no clue why I was doing that, but she laughed along anyway. So fun. I think these massage places are a great way to rehabilitate criminals who need a useful skill after they get out of jail.

At night, I tried to get my mom to try some overpriced durian, but she couldn't get it past her nose. Earlier in the day she bought a durian popsicle and barely finished eating that too.
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February 3, 2019

My parents really wanted to see silk being made, so they took a tuk tuk all by themselves to the edge of the city. I stayed in town to visit the museums, which were all very well done, but quite similar to each other. I really enjoyed the museum about the founding of Chiang Mai, because it was a full body immersive experience. It really felt like travelling back in time as each room contained a different environment, such as rice fields and mountains etc. So that was a relaxing and also informative day.
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When I got back, I took a nap while my parents went to go see the flowers one last time. Then we were too tired for dinner, so we ate a bunch of snacks in the room and went back to bed.

Posted by baixing 03:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiang mai Comments (0)

January 28-31, 2019, Bangkok, Thailand


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It was travel day to Bangkok. I had a late breakfast of red curry because Liz told me I had to and then slowly packed up and left.
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The same ferry man took me back to the other side of the river. I think he was surprised to see me again. I hoped he wouldn't tip the boat over out of spite from me running away the day before. I caught a horrible mini van and then an equallyhorrible bus to Bangkok.
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The border crossing was very easy. There was no visa to purchase any longer. Last time I went to Thailand, I think it was 20 dollars. I had some green herbal soup to eat and then we arrived at probably 4 a.m. I found the hostel I booked very easily across the street from the railway station.

January 29, 2019

I slept for a few hours and paid for early checkin. The hostel was near Chinatown, so I wandered around the river area there for a while. I felt very claustrophobic and lost, until I found a Chinese shrine with lots of red lanterns. It gave me a sense of relief and peace for just a moment. I walked around until I got really tired.
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For lunch, I went to a nearby vegan restaurant which was full, so I sat with a group of women who were au pairs in Australia.
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It was interesting talking to them because I had no idea that it was a thing westerners did in other western countries. It seemed like a pretty shitty life though. The parents give them a small salary and they eat and sleep in the family's house. Sometimes they are expected to cook and clean as well. One woman said that the mother she worked for stayed home all day and just stared at her. Yikes.

January 30, 2019

My parents' flight was delayed for a day because of a major snowstorm. They had a hotel in Cambridge for the night. So, I just stayed in Chinatown for the day again. I followed the tour in my guidebook, I think it was Insight Bangkok. I wandered around lost among a bunch of junk for sale.

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There was a gold shop with a small museum on the top floor,
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a temple with a live crocodile and lots more other temples.

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The Chinese temple was really crowded because of Chinese New Year coming up. I went back home for dinner and had overpriced pad thai near the station.

January 31, 2019

I woke up crazy early in the morning, took a shower and dressed but forgot to look at the flight status of my parents' plane. I picked up some Thai iced tea for everyone and breakfast for myself, but then realized this detail when I got to the airport train station. Luckily there was a screen with the arrival times on it. Unluckily, the screen suddenly turned off before it showed me the flight coming in from Paris I was looking for. I tried to get help from a janitor, but a nice English speaking lady saw me and checked the flight status for me on her phone. It had definitely left Paris, but there was no guarantee they'd be actually on it until I checked my own email when I got to the airport. Who knows if they made their connection with all the delays and everything right? I found the exit they were coming out of and waited there for a couple hours. Finally, they saw me and we went back to the hostel to store our bags for the day.

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I thought they'd want to take a nap or something, but they weren't tired, so we walked around crazy Chinatown like I did the day before.

Our train didn't leave until 7 p.m., so we had a leisurely dinner also at the same place I was the night before, right next to the station. We boarded our train on time and this horrible passive aggressive woman was in the bed beside me. She tricked my dad into putting her bag up on the rack for her.

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"Two months in Asia is a long time you know," she said humbly bragging. Yeah lady, everyone here is also on a two month vacation, you're not special. Also we managed to do it with a smaller bag than you. Did you have some problems with that? I thought in my own head, gloating to myself. I found out she was a doctor's secretary back in Ottawa, so that explained everything about her. She just spends all day every day bullshitting and covering her ass. Gross.

Sleeping on trains in Thailand is not very good. The lights are on 24/7 and the air conditioning is cranked. On top of that, the blanket they give you is very thin and not warm enough. The bottom bunks however, are cozy and dark, but I was suffering on the top.

Posted by baixing 03:11 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok 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


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Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi

Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi


Liza and Naomi

Liza and Naomi


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Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River vs. Naomi

Mekong River vs. Naomi


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi

Mekong River vs. Liza and Naomi


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River


Mekong River

Mekong River

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


Dying silk

Dying silk


Dying silk

Dying silk


Dying silk

Dying silk


Dying silk

Dying silk


Silk

Silk


Lost glasses

Lost glasses


Silkweaving

Silkweaving


Silkweaving

Silkweaving


Silkweaving

Silkweaving


Silkweaving

Silkweaving


Silkweaving

Silkweaving


Silkweaving

Silkweaving


Beautiful silk and Yui

Beautiful silk and Yui


Beautiful silk

Beautiful silk


Silk lady

Silk lady


Beautiful silk

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


Silk market

Silk market


Silk market

Silk market


Silk lady

Silk lady


Silk lady

Silk lady


Silk lady

Silk lady


Silk market

Silk market


Silk market

Silk market


Carpenters

Carpenters


Carpenters

Carpenters


Carpenters

Carpenters


???

???


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


flower

flower


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


Cows

Cows


Cows

Cows


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Water buffalo

Water buffalo


Water buffalo

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


Street

Street


motorcycle

motorcycle


bus

bus


street

street


street

street


bus

bus


motorcycle

motorcycle


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


Bell

Bell


Cork

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)

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