Monday, March 27, 2006

Photos are up!!!

Thailand photos are up. For some reason they are posted in reverse order and I haven't yet figured out how to fix it. It sorts properly when you view the set or when you view the slide show... who knows...

IMG_2536 Originally uploaded by archean1.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Chariot Pushing

Originally uploaded by archean1.

Okay, not actually a blog entry here. Just me trying to figure out how to post photos. Haven't quite got my Thailand photos yet, so I'll give it a shot with a Burning Man photo. Erin is steering, Sam and I pushing (both also Thailand travel compatriots). I think Erin should of had both hands on the steering wheel!!

Also, clicking on the photo should take you to my photo website, where I think I'm going to put my Thailand photos. This could change though...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

home alive

I'm home alive and well. The tv's in the back of economy were broken so I had to read, sleep or watch the TV 200 feet up the aisle for the 9 hour flight from Tokyo to SF. But that's pretty well the biggest highlight of the trip home. I got in at 8 this morning (Weds, Mar 22). I left Bangkok at 6 this morning (Weds Mar 22). Go figure! I thought about going to work, but have decided other things are more important. Namely that I only had 42 pages left in my 679 page book, so I finished that up and just in case anybody wants to know, the judge was corrupt but his son burns the disk at the end and the butler was innocent.

I wanted to list a few things that I've appreciated or chuckled at this morning:

1. After a month in places such as Cambodia and Laos, known for civil unrest, mass killings, significant restrictions on personal freedoms, and police corruption, to name a few, the first time I have even heard of any sort of police action is at the San Francisco airport BART station: "All trains will be delayed 15 minutes due to a police action at the West Oakland BART station". Nice to be home.

2. I walked home from the 24th St. BART station with my rolling backpack and another bag strapped on top. I crossed all intersections at intersections with lights. All streets were paved. There were no open sewers large enough to swallow you whole. No scooters or tuk-tuks tried to run me over. I didn't hear a single horn. And every intersection had handicap ramps so my bags never had to be picked up. It was all really quite boring.

3. I very much enjoyed going home and having a glass of water from the tap without worrying about whether the result will be a forced close proximity to the toilet for the next couple days.

4. I went to the bath room and didn't have to bring my own toilet paper and wonder whether there would be a hole in the ground or an actual toilet seat. (note that I also used an excessive amount of toilet paper and disposed of it in the toilet!!)

5. It took me about 45 minutes at home before I made a break for a mid-morning veggie burrito at Cancun on 28th St. The similarities and differences between the Mexican (e.g., salsas) and Thai spices (e.g., curries) are quite interesting. I think both are great, but damn that was a good burrito!! To keep costs under control, I had a glass of water (from a pitcher on the counter with ice, again not worrying about the toilet issue), yet the meal still cost me well over my Thai daily spending allowance for food.

6. Page 3 of the SF Chronicle has a big article about the protests over the Thai Prime Minister and the upcoming elections - I wasn't sure if it was getting any coverage here. Will be interesting to see where this goes...

7. I had a Cafe Au Lait earlier and, now, having changed coffee shops for variety in life, I am having a Chai Latte. These two drinks together cost the same as any of the below:

- an hour long Thai massage
- a typical lunch and dinner in Thailand, breakfast too if alcohol is not ordered
with the meals (breakfast usually has non-alcoholic shakes)
- a good day's wage in Thailand
- a good week's wage in Cambodia
- the cost of my half hour taxi ride to the Bangkok airport yesterday morning
(which was actually this morning in a literal sense)

8. The thought of work tomorrow is quite depressing...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

about to leave :(

Laos was great!! I switched my flight so I could stay a day longer in Luang Prabang and less time in Bangkok. Vietiane was nice (I think my last post covered that? I guess I could have checked...) but Luang Prabang was way nice, like totally dude. It was much quieter than many other places with everything 100 percent shut down by 11:30 PM. It also had the feel of a small French town with loads of little shops and bakeries and cafes lining the streets. There are a lot of French here as it was a former French colony and they still use it as a hangout. I spent 4 nights / 5 days and had a great and relaxing time. Met a Canadian (Kelly) my first night and we hung out for the entire time (we both left the same morning, but in different directions). The 2nd day we did a day boat trip to some caves with buddhas and such in them. Also stopped off at some little villages on the river. The next day we did a day trip to some waterfalls that you can hike and swim through - there's a bunch of different levels each with pools, and rope swings and was incredibly relaxing. The next day we were tempted to do a biking and kayaking day tour, but decided to just walk and explore and take it easy. Not very ambitious but a nice way to spend my last full day in Luang Prabang...

Just got back into Bangkok last night and am flying out tonight in about 10 hours, well, actually, that's 6AM tomorrow, which means I'll just stay up late and go to the airport at 3AM... a good enough reason to party late!! After getting into Bangkok last night I went to the Shanti Lodge (a guesthouse that Justin was fond of but kind of out of it) around 7 to pick up an abandoned piece of luggage. I've been travelling with only my day pack and a shoulder bag for the past three weeks. Needless to say I haven't had an extravagant wardrobe, but it sure has made travelling easier. But after all the purchases in Laos - a quilt with matching pillows (will need filling, ummm, Mum?), several stitched silk tapestry type things, some little purse type things for, say, certain nieces, shirts, etc. etc. So the load has definitely increased. And while at the Shanti Lodge I met a Swiss girl who was meeting up with a friend-from-home's Thai friend (a blind friend date?) who ended up being two cute girls. They took us out to some live music and dance clubs, but I was worn out and went home early - what a horrible night to be tired and a lame ass!!! And tonight I'm hanging out with an Australian - it's ridiculously easy to meet people because so many people use Bangkok as a launching pad for other places in Asia that there are lots of solo travellers, such as myself at the moment.

I'm back at the same guesthouse I stayed at with Sam for simplicity and since it seemed very safe and I now have a bunch of stuff. I've yet to be robbed or molested though a couple really young (and poor looking) kids in Siem Reap gave it a go (pick pocket that is). Usually it's quite the opposite with people leaving cell phones, bags and such lying around and nobody even seems to think of taking stuff. A certain Mr. Smith (aka Justin) even left his bag containing most of his essential possesions (i.e., passport, money, camera, etc.) in a tuk-tuk at the airport and managed to get everything back an hour later - that's somewhere between amazing, lucky, and a medical miracle (the miracle being how horseshoes were surgically implanted up his butt). And I haven't had any bouts with the toilet either, so all has gone quite well. I'll just keep knocking on wood.

I'll be back in SF in two days. Then off skiing with my sister and the rotten Jack & Emma in a week, and then back in Canada a day or two after May 1 I'm a guessing. Of course, I prefer to have ideas rather than plans.... Hope to catch up with you all soon!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

in Paris??

Okay, I feel like I'm in Paris at the moment, but more about that in a bit...

I'm on my own now and things are still going very well. The morning after the last post we took an early morning shuttle to the border (felt like we were being smuggled as it was almost literally the back of a pickup truck an hour before sunrise) and then a boat into Cambodia to a small town on the coast called Sihoukville. No doubt it will be an up and coming resort town, but for now it's still a town in the making. We got a nice place with a wicked wide and winding teak staircase up to the second floor and a tuk-tuk (half cab, half scooter, half ATV - ooops, that doesn't add up, does it?) driver that hung out with us for much of our stay (he no doubt gets big comissions when he brings us to restaurants, etc.). We hung out on the beaches, ate good food, rented scooters and caused troubles. Mr. McGeehan and I shared a scooter and he nearly killed me taking a high speed turn onto a gravel road (didn't know it was gravel until well into the turn) and wisely decided he was going to fast for the turn and went into a lockup and skidded to the edge of the road. He drove slower after that... Other highligts were meeting 3 Canadian girls and going out to a dance club where we were the only farangs (foreigners). The local girls would come over and dance with the girls and the local boys would come over and dance with Sam and I... very strange!! All in all, quite a poor town, though some folks from the club left in a decked out Hummer - probably 10,000 times the average annual income.

Next to Phnom Penh (via the bus) for a few days and nights... PP is the capital of Cambodia, but nothing like the neighbouring Thailand... more a slower, less affluent capital. There were some fun bars and had a good time, but only spent 2 days here as we had high expectations for the next destination.

Next and final destination in Cambodia was Siem Reap / Angkor Wat. SR is the city and Angkor Wat are a bunch of old Wats (aka temples). Each one is incredible and there are literally dozens scattered around over many kilometers of roads and trails. We rented 2 tuk-tuks for the first day and they drive you around to ruins and wait for you while you go wander through the ruins, climb the Wats, etc. The 2nd day we did similar but we rented electric bikes and toured about on our own. Siem Reap is also quite nice with a miniature Ko San Road (bar/restaraunt strip in Bangkok). We had some really good food here and were big spenders and split a bottle of wine. This was also my last night with the gang as the next day everyone left early in the AM to catch the sunrise and Angkor Wat while I jumped on a plane to Vietiane in Laos.

So now we get to the Paris thing... Vietiane is the capital of the former French colony and as such, has an Arc de Triumphe, a Chanse D'Elysee, and more bakeries selling pastries than I've seen in the past year. There are also loads of Wats and walks along the Mekong and I think I walked 20 km during the heat of the day (yes, I didn't really know where I was for much of the walk, but I also didn't try to figure it out that much). I met a Quebecois guy during the day and then an American girl from Sacramento in the evening and we went out and partied it up. Alas, I was only in Vietiane for 1 afternoon, 1 night and 1 morning as this was technically a stop-over on the flight to Luang Praubang.

So I'm just finishing up my 2nd day in LP and having a great time. Met another Canadian last night and we hung out and then did a slow boat trip today to some caves and a couple towns up the Mekong River. A nice relaxing day. I'll give more details on LP in a couple days, but right now I've exceeded my writing time, a Beerlaos is calling my name, and I must make it to the bookstore to exchange the 3 books I have read since I have no more :(

Hope all is well back home. I seem to get very few emails so either people:

A. are not reading my blog

B. find my blog completely impersonal and aren't enthused to reply or email in response

C. have forgotten about me after only 3 weeks

D. all of the above


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

sitting in a hammock

Hello from Trat! It's been a rough many days of sitting on a beach (Lonely Beach, to be specific, in Kho Chang, aka Ko Chang, aka Koh Chang). Koh Chang is an island in the southeast of Thailand (near Cambodia). Very nice!! Has touristy sections on the island and our beach was a quiter area with no real resorty type things in the immediate vicinity. Mostly young backpacker (and rich children types) spending ~$5 a night for a private hut on the beach. Loads of diving, palm trees, sand, hot weather... you get the idea.

We just took the ferry back to the mainland (to Trat) this afternoon after 4 days and 3 nights living in the bamboo huts on the beach, swinging in hamocks, and not much else. The first two days I literally did nothing but eat, drink, swing in hammock and read. Turns into a bit of a party at night and hammocks are put away :( Two books down in two days. The third day a British girl did drag me out for a walk on the beach and then swimming (this seemed like an incredible amount of energy expenditure at the time). She had also just taken a Thai massage course and needed people to practice on. Me being such a considerate person, I made myself available. I know, I know, I should receive some humanitarian award. And then the fourth day a Sweedish girl had rented a scooter and we went to the port in Bang Bo for an afternoon. Had an incredible Indian curry prawn dish. mmmm....

But the hammock really was my home. In fact, I had two choices: my hut had a front porch with my own hammock and then there were a handful of hammocks in the big central hut where food, drink, etc. was served. Anyway, we weren't going to stay for that long, but it was a tough place to leave. Did I mention the bbq each night with various fishies and incredible thai food. My favourite was the red snapper. mmmm.....

Hmmm... seeing that I've spent so much time in a hammock lately, I'm not sure what else there is to say. As I mentioned, I could have gone scuba diving or snorkling for a very very reasonable amount of money... now that would have been fun! There were elephant rides... pretty good!! But did I mention the hammock? And fruity drinks? And really good food brought... yup, brought right to the hammock! So, I decided this was the lazy part of my trip and did as little as possible. And when I did go out, I just ran the scooter off the road. Okay, I was good and safe when driving fast up and down the crazy hilly roads with center lines meaning little, but when trying to turn around with 2 people (and the other person moving to the side) and hitting the gas at an inappropriate time, it seems the scooter will navigate off the road. All this happened at 1.8 mph (~2.5 kph) and into a puddle, but worth a good laugh (and unfortunately there were many people around to see). So the moral of this story... hammocks are safer than scooters!!

Tomorrow morning (like 6AM type morning), we're taking a van to the Cambodia border crossing where hopefully we'll all be admitted (yes, I've been cleared of all my outstanding charges, I think). Then a 4 hour boat ride to Sianhouk Ville (I really spelled that one badly, but am too lazy to go back to google it). S Ville is supposedly an up and coming beach area, but very much undeveloped relative to Thai beaches. Not sure how long we're staying there... I guess it all depends on whether we like it. Travelling with Sam, Justin, Erin and Nate right now. From there to Phenom Phen (the capital). Trat tonight is a nice town, but nothing too special.

So I did go to google to find some photos or stuff. Here's a few random links:

Some Koh Chang photos:

where we did stay (the Tree House) and what my website and photos would look like if I ever created a website for photos (note: I have no idea whose web page this is, but google is wonderful):

Can't remember, but I put the link here:

where I didn't stay on Koh Chang (but still on Lonely Beach):

Thursday, March 02, 2006

and back in Bangkok...

Seems Bangkok was too much fun, so after a couple day stint up north in Ayuthaya (just a couple hours north by train), I'm back in Bangkok. Sam and I had some troubles getting out of here in the first place because he had to get a visa for Bangladesh and it's easier said than done (delayed departure by a couple days, but it is "almost" taken care of now). We had a good time in Ayuthaya visiting loads of temple / wat ruins, listening to a cheesy but reasonably good Thai band doing Clapton and Hendrix songs, finishing my first book (The Moscow Affair or something like that by Robert Ludlom?) and renting & cruising the town on scooters (mine only did 95 km/h, Sam's with an extra 25cc did more like 110 km/h, but his speedometer didn't work so I'm only guessing based on the blur as he flew by). Temps are still quite warm though tolerable - have been cheap lately opting for $8/night room ($4/person) without air conditioning but with good fans. The sun is hot and I contine to be a night owl whenever possible (sleep has actually been entirely avoided twice including last night, which yes, for the record, does make me more irretable).

Justin and Erin arrived in Bangkok last night from Ton Sai (the area I was going to climb at). They're both doing great and having a great time. And since I hadn't seen them since they got engaged, there was an obvious need for celebration. Today, needless to say, we all had a rather easy day with only a trip to Chinatown via the river ferry, some good Indian food in Indiatown (?) and some shopping (bought a purse, ummm... bag and new sunglasses, not because I lost the old ones but because I'm trying to support the Thai economy and as a capatilist I must lead by example. Two other friends are supposed to show up this eve (maybe they already have?) and there will obviously be need for more celebration (seems every night has a reason for celebration, hmmm...).

The plan for tomorrow is to head off to Kao Chang (an island of the southern coast) on the way to Cambodia. Sam & Erin are off trying to figure the details of this as I type. I've had a great time in Bangkok, but also time to move on. I should get a chance to spend some time here before the flight out if I so desire. Thailand is very easy to travel in and feels extremely safe - much better than Oakland! Cambodia isn't nearly as tourist friendly and probably won't be as relaxed, though bound to be rewarding in other ways.

That's about it to report right now as Sam and Erin are back (they just brought me a beer to the keyboard - what great people). Hope all is well back east, or is it west, or is it both? Wow, something to contemplate.