Archive for March, 2002
Is today Easter? Well I think it is, so Happy Easter then. (They don’t much follow Christian holidays in a Buddhist country). Biggest thing coming up here is Songran, which is the Thai New Year (another New Year, I know…still feels like Tet (Vietnamese New Year) just passed). Anyway this New Year is to celebrate the birth of Buddha. It’s a 2-3 day celebration happening later this week.
Yeah. So, I’m in Krabi now, having just come off the boat from Ko Lanta. I’ve decided to spend a couple days in Krabi to 1) try to vivist Noi, the Thai girl that I met while traveling to Halon Bay in Vietnam, and 2) to see Ao Nang and Railey Beach which are supposed to be really beautiful and are 2 places that I haven’t been to yet. So after I get through here I’ll get on a sawngtaw (bus) and take to 20 minute ride over there and try to find a decent place to stay.
I have also booked a one-day diving trip for this Thursday back on Ko Lanta. I wanted to go with an easier dive spot since it’s been almost a year since I’ve been diving. Also, this will give me some practice if I then decide to do a liveaboard 3-5 day trip to the Similan, Surin, or Burma Banks. So on Wednesday I should be heading back to Lanta for a few more beach days.
My friend Noi owns a kayak touring company so I REALLY hope that I can set up some kayaking through the limestone cliffs of Railey with her. That would be GREAT! I’m actually starting to get a little sick of sitting on the beach all the time so maybe this side trip will jump start me into more phyical activity than moving from the bungalow to the hammock to the beach to the bungalow. It’s been a blast but the wondergimp’s getting itchy feet.
Noi and I having some great Thai food
Drinking at Nois bar in Ao Nang
The longtail boat ride to Railey Beach
March 31st, 2002
Back on the beach again.
So good to be here! I’m back in my old bungalow, and enjoying the beach and the sunsets and the food all over again. All of the Thais here remembered me – what a great feeling to come back to a familiar place. When I arrived yesterday, I went to the restaurant at my bungalow and the guy said.’One water?’ just like I had never left. (That’s the only thing I used to buy there.) Then I went to the Sanctuary and Hassan remembered me and the other guys too – they said’Jennifer! Would you like the same-same? (That’s the som tam, or spicy green papaya salad which I ordered there on a daily basis.) I said Yes!!! But they were out of papayas and were so apologetic that it was funny. I said don’t worry I’ll come back tomorrow.
This morning I went for breakast at the Andaman Sunflower where every day I had a mixed fruit juice and fruit, musliex and yogurt, and they too remembered me! They shook me hand and said welcome back and we’re so happy to see you again. It’s so cute!! It’s nice to be here.
The weather is different though, it’s hotter and more humid than before, almost to the point where it’s uncomfortable. All of the grass and trees are brown from the heat and lack of rain. The tourists are gone though – it’s almost the end of the season with only another month or so to go. So the beaches are even more empty than before and it’s quiet. Just the way I like it!
There are still 4 long-timers here who were here before when I left over 2 months ago. One of them is Joe, my American friend from New York. We played some cards today which was great because I haven’t met any good card players in awhile. He was very tan when I left before, but now he’s extremely tan, almost looks Thai!
So I’m here for a bit, probably not as long as before (5 weeks), but you never know. I’m thinking a week or so should do the trick and then perhaps I’ll wander up and down the coast to check out some other places. But for now I’m enjoying it…the sunsets are still incredible and it’s full moon tonight so it’s just amazing out there. Going to go enjoy the view…
every sunset on Ko Lanta is a winner.
March 28th, 2002
Am I ever getting out of Bangkok? YES! I am leaving today actually, on the night train to Trang. I think it’s about a 15 or 16 hour train ride to the south and from there I will take a boat to Ko Lanta…so if all goes well I will be back on the beach tomorrow!
I’ve had a good time here in Bangkok these last few days. I managed to see a few more movies (In the Bedroon, John Q, Life as a House), and do more shopping as well. I finally checked out the famous weekend market in Bangkok but must admit that I was not impressed. I found it to be TOO big, too hot, too crowded, and lacking real bargains. I was there for almost 5 hours and still saw less than a 1/3 of what was there. And there were just too many vendors selling the same exact thing – I mean how many Chang beer t-shirts, chopsticks, and thai silk cushions can you really buy?
That was Saturday. Sunday I was going to go back but could not muster the strength to deal with the crowds and the heat again so I hung out in the air-con shopping malls instead.
Yesterday I finally met up with my American friend Brent and his brother who had just come back to Bangkok from a liveaboard dive trip in Phuket. Brent is leaving tomorrow after having spent almost a year travelling in SE Asia. And get this, just before he left last year, he broke up with his girlfriend of 12 years and quit his stiff Wall Street job of over 6 years to travel the world by himself. If that doesn’t show you that anyone can break free from the corporate world and ties at home to do what they really want then I don’t know what!
Anyway, last night Brent, his brother and I went to see some Thai boxing where they basically kick and punch the shit out of each other. There are no’above the belt’ rules in Thai boxing so it can be pretty full-on. Three fights was more than enough for me.
After that we went to the famous Patpong district of Bangkok. I’m sure all you men at home have heard about it, but for the ladies, well that is the most famous sex bar neighborhood in Bangkok and possibliy even the world. You have to go just to say you went kind-of-thing. Well, it was interesting I have to say. We saw several of the live shows – involving ping pong balls, darts, firecrackers, bottle openers and bottles of soda, raw eggs, and razor blades. Sorry but you will have to use your imagination for the details. There were a lot of’katoys’ in the shows – men who had gotten a full sex-change operation, and I can tell you that the doctors seem to be doing a pretty good job. We spent most of our time discussing which ones we thought were katoys and which ones were real women.
Another great thing about the Patpong district is the night market and I did find a some good deals there. That is THE place to buy your fake Rolex, Tag, Cartier, or Gucci watch in addition to your fake handbag, wallet, and sneakers. I found a nice Mont Blanc pen for $6 which I thought was a pretty good deal considering the guy started me at over $30.
So now it’s a few last minute errands and then off to the train station for me. I am hoping for good weather and no crowds in the south. Can’t wait to see another sunset on Ko Lanta!!!
Watch out for the motorbikes at Charlies, an outdoor bar in Bangkok
Charlies is known for having the cheapest beer in town!
March 26th, 2002
So, I survived the food poisoning, made it out of Trat (by bus), and have been in Bangkok for almost 2 weeks now. Lots to catch up on – where to begin? Well, for starters, I managed to meet up with Peter (my cycling partner in Cambodia) for a nice reunion in Bangkok before he went home to Sweden. We settled our differences through a few emails after Sihounakville and we both felt bad about the way things ended and wanted to meet again to set everything straight. It’s good to know that I didn’t lose him as a friend after all and we might actually cycle again together someday. And, well, there might be a little bit more to that story but I am changing the subject now…
So Peter left last weekend and I wasn’t planning on hanging around Bangkok too long but I’ve managed to keep myself pretty busy and the days are flying by. I’ve been shopping a lot, seeing films, and frequenting the beauty salon on a daily basis. It’s the only time in my life when I can afford such luxuries – a pedicure for $2, leg wax for $4, hair color for $15 – who could resist such bargains? I also had my bicycle tuned at the bike shop in town and it is safely in storage for when I leave Bangkok to head south.
I had a fun evening out the other night with a friend of the family who is living and working in SE Asia. I won’t divulge any further details about him because of the information I am about to reveal…yes I could be deported for what I’m about to tell because it’s ABSOLUTELY forbidden to say anything bad about the King (of Thailand that is, not Elvis), but all the more reason why I can’t keep it a secret…Are you ready? Well, rumour has it that the King only has one eye! That is why he’s always wearing dark glasses in photographs. Well, from what I’ve been TOLD, he lost his eye in a car accident in his youth while fleeing the royal palace with his girlfriend at the time. This is only so fascinating to me of course because it’s such a huge secret! Well now you know.
Other than that, I’ve been keeping to myself and generally trying to avoid the dirty backpacker Khao San Road scene. I was looking at t-shirts yesterday at one of the street vendors and there was a backpacker there – an American guy, telling the vendor how he’s been drunk for 4 days and how he’s been in Bangkok 10 times and nothing bad has ever happened but he was in a cab and had his passport and wallet in a bag and got out to use the ATM and when he turned around the cab was gone. Now he’s drunk and has no money or passport and is stuck in Bangkok. Freak! This is not an isolated story mind you…Bangkok is full of penniless drunk outcasts from Western society. It’s really weird. I guess the guy thought he was the cool, experienced traveller having been here 10 times, but how could anyone be so stupid to leave their passport anywhere, yet alone in the back of a taxi? Please.
Now my main task at hand is sorting out travel plans for the next 4-5 months. I have to admit that I’m not so keen on making plans and buying tickets so far in advance because the whole point of this trip for me was not to have a plan. But it’s getting into the summer season (ie high backpacker volume worldwide – ALERT) and it’s going to be difficult to book tickets later because everything is filling up fast. I’ve agreed to meet my family in Cairns, Australia in August during a piece of the Happy Family Vacation so I know I’ve got to be heading that way in the beginning of August. (Despite how it sounds I am looking forward to seeing them). But other than that the next 4 months are wide open. There is no better feeling than to be sitting in a travel office, looking at a map of the world, and saying hmmm, how mush is a ticket THERE? I am having a blast just toying with all the possibilities. Hope to have forged a plan over the weekend and have tickets and dates sorted out by Monday. In the meantime I am hitting the big weekend market tomorrow and hopefully meeting up with my friend Brent and his brother here in town on Sunday. Then, on Tuesday it’s off to the south to hit the beaches!!
River view of Bangkok
The infamous traffic
March 21st, 2002