The veins in the tops of my feet have been virtually sucked dry. There are 25 mosquito bites on my left leg (most concentrated on my ankles and feet) and 23 on my right leg. The veins on the tops of my feet are bulging and itchy and my tummy is rumbling in a most precarious way. It's a travel day --which worries me-- because I have no clean, comfortable, western toilet stocked with plush t.p. to call my own when the inevitable explosion occurs. There is sweat running down my face and neck and into my cleavage, collecting under my boobs which is uncomfortable and gross. I am flying from Bangkok to Jakarta tonight, and am not really looking forward to it. I want to just be in Bali and be over it. Indonesia is a bit unstable, and according to David (perhaps my new boss-to-be) everyone there is quite shady and will try to take advantage of me as soon as I step off the plane. I decided that instead of show up in an unknown place at midnight with nowhere to stay, I would simply suck it up and stay at the airport hotel and bum around until my flight to Bali, tomorrow at 4pm. It is sure to be a long night.
Jen left on Monday after an amazing and raucous couple days in downtown Bangkok. We stayed at the new Dream Bangkok-a swank hotel geared towards young, crazy partiers. Our room looked straight out of some music video or something. There was recessed blue lighting under the beds and in the walls, a huge flatscreen tv, an ipod hookup so we could blast music and even a chandelier! The beds were big and white and cushy and I doubt I ever wasn't wrapped up one of the big amazing terrycloth robes...even when I was jumping wildly from bed to bed.
We even splurged and went out to a nice meal at a really adorable veg place called Tamarind Cafe. We had sesame covered fresh falafel balls with three different mediterranean dips that were to die for. We also had a potato gratin, a fantastic mushroom pasta and this creamy tofu dish with the tofu fried, thai-style served with a fresh tomato sauce. We also had two bottles of white wine (which were both affordable and delicious) I think they were a Sauvignon Blanc of some sort and Brooke fell down the stairs after we finished the first one and had gone outside on the roof deck to smoke a cig before our decadent chocolate cake arrived (with the 2nd bottle) for dessert. Luckily, she is a pro at falling, because she kept her wine glass in the air and managed to land on her knees and one wrist to save the glass! A girl after my own heart: never allow a drop of wine to go un-sipped!
Now I am off to buy some more books before I go to Indo. I have much more to write about Laos and Cambodia, but that is going to have to wait, I'm afraid. I'll wave to you from the top of a volcano!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
At the moment we are in Laos in a little town called Vang Vieng and the sun has finally decided to come out. Lately it's been cloudy and drizzling everywhere we've been, so now that the sun is out we are renting bicycles ($2 a day) and going to ride out to some limestone caves and then go tubing down the Mekong River. Laos is a lot like Thailand, but there are a lot of French influences because it was a French colony at one point. I really need to study up on my Laotian History! Wow, I can't belive the last time I posted was back when we were on Koh Pha Ngan. Well, after that we took an overnight train to Bangkok (lovely)and then flew to Chang Mai. If we had more time we would have taken the train all the way, but 36 or so hours of train time when we have time-constraints wouldn't have cut it.
Chang Mai is probably my favorite town in Thailand. The old town is surrounded by a moat and there are wats everywhere. The night markets are flush with every sort of food you could possibly imagine, all for about 20 baht for a bag-full. On our first night, Courtney and Joe took us to the market by the Chang Mai Gate and we feasted on sticky rice, a bamboo/straw mushroom soup, Som Tom (Papaya Salad) and fried vegetarian spring rolls. We stayed at an awesome guest house called Julie's where we spent a good chunk of time on the roof deck overlooking the city. We had a very livable room and paid 160 baht for the two of us (about $2.50 each)and rented a scooter to explore the town with. I met a guy named Mike who is studying the Ancient Art of Chinese Nerve Massage which is completely insane. Basically, he is studying under the master of this healing practice and he is unbelievable. Just by looking at my weird curved fourth toe, he knew I had siatic and hip issues. Then he started to move my nerves in my arm around and it was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. Many people say that it is even more painful than getting a tattoo. He did about an hour's work on my arms, and I felt like I was going insane. I tried to concentrate on my breathing and it took all of my inner strength to not scream in pain and let him finish. When he did, I could really feel the difference though, my arms actually looked straighter, and felt way less tense. My fingers are still a bit tingly, and I have bruises on my upper arms, but he said that he undid about three years worth of damage that I did to myself by waitressing; in fact he couldn't believe that I had only been a waitress for two and a half years, from the damage and strain, he would have guessed eight! Unfortunately we were only there for three days, but I am going to have to go back to continue my nerve massage. To look him up, go to www.ancienthealingmassge.com
So we left Chang Mai on Thursday and flew to Luang Prabang in Laos. I guess we really aren't "hard-core budget travelers" after all, seeing as though we'd rather spend money on an hour-long plane ride then spend three days taking boats and buses. I'm sick of all these holier-than-thou self-proclaimed "hard-core budget backpackers" anyway. It's possible to spend a long time travelling and living cheaply without becoming a stuck-up hippy. Isn't being a stuck-up hippy like completely against what a hippy should be? Hippies should be welcoming and friendly and happy that other people are travelling and experiencing different cultures, not pissed that everything is becoming "touristy". Aren't they tourists? What-EVER!
Anyway we are now in Vang Vieng, and Laotian food is not as good Thai food, but more like a Vietnamese and HIll-tribal Fusion sort...sticky rice with every meal, lot's of scallions, lime, lemongrass, chilis, moss (!) and even water-buffalo thrown into the mix. We just got back from a two-day trek into the Laotian jungle where a guide took me and Jen into little Hmong and Khmu(?) tribal villages up in the middle of NOwhere. We did a pretty intense hike (about 5 hours) up a mountain where we spent maybe 15 minutes wandering around a tiny (40 family) Hmong village and then set off down the other side of the mountain which was extremely muddy and slippery and dangerous. Jen was only wearing flipflops and almost slid all the way down the side of the mountain! But our stoic guide stuck his foot out and caught her. I slipped twice and by the time we arrived in the larger Hmong village to eat and sleep we were absolutely covered in red mud. But that didn't stop us from befriending the village teenagers and we proceeded to get them drunk off of lao lao (laotian whiskey) that came in a large lable-less jug and only cost about 15 cents. That day we also rode on elephants which was amazing and I was happy to see that the elephants looked very healthy and well taken care of. Yesterday we left the tribe and hiked for another couple of hours, swam in gorgeous waterfalls, then kayaked back to civilization for about 3 hours down the Nam Khan River. Tomorrow we are going back to Luang Probang, an absolutlely adorable little town where we can explore some more vats (buddhist temples) and buy some hand-made crafts from the hill tribes that come down for the night markets. On Tuesday we are flying to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see Ankgor Wat -- the mother of all wats and after that back to Bangkok. It's really sad that I don't have more time to really get to know all of these places, but that just means I'll have to come back! See you soon,
Friday, October 26, 2007
We arrived in Koh Pha Ngan at about 8pm on Wednesday after being en route from Koh Lanta since 7:30 a.m. Travel in Thailand takes a while. A van picked us up at Where Else? (our sweet eco-chic rustic bungalow) at 8:30 am and there was a little mix-up with our receptionist (if you could call her that...more like some young girl who showed us to our room) because she thought we were booking our trip (3 vans +3 buses + 1 ferry +1 songthaew) through her so that she would get the commission. Unfortunately, we had wandered around town and found a cheaper deal from a little travel agency...so this girl became rather annoyed. It was the first time I saw a Thai roll their eyes in disgust.
Along the way, we bounced along muddy roads with massive pot-holes. It was impossible to read, and I was dying for a sports-bra after about 15 seconds. Luckily, Jen brought us some nuts to munch on because we didn't have any breakfast, and at one point we stopped at some crappy rest area while we were waiting to transfer to another van and we grabbed some panang curry and rice to tide us over a little longer. Little did we know that would be all we would be eating until midnight! At one of our rest-stops there were disgusting soi dogs with scabs and sporadic patches of hair hanging around us, and one had a whitish viscous substance hanging off of his balls. It was enough to make me dry-heave, so, naturally, I had to alert jen to its existence--much to her dismay. Our final bus ride before arriving in Suratthani where we boarded the ferry was plush and pink and fabulous. We watched Sin City and drank beers and reclined allll the way back.
The ferry was much grosser. It made me a bit sea-sick and there was a disgusting amount of smog being released into the atmosphere--billowing black clouds that occasionally blew back in our faces. It is quite unnerving how much people litter and pollute the islands here. The longtails run on car-motors that have been juiced up and and create an insane amount of smog. There is also a LOT of construction going on everywhere. Huge fancy hotels and resorts are choking out all of the smaller backpacking joints and I think the cheap- and quaint-ness of the Thai islands might soon be a thing of the past.
When we finally arrived in Koh Pha Ngan, we hiked around in the dark, in circles, in search of lodging. Because of the full moon party, every little crappy bungalow was way overpriced and not worth it. We took a songthaew to the west side of the island (further away from all the partying) and found nothing. We eventually ended up back where we had started on the east-side and got a bunglow at Pilada Lodge(sp?) in the back by a swamp and completely surrounded by mooing bullfrogs that were so incredibly loud we couldn't hear each other when we spoke in a normal tone of voice. Then, just as we put down our shit and were about to go eat dinner, we noticed a huge leak--basically our floor was caving in--so we had to go switch rooms. At this point I am about to keel over and die of starvation and when we were finally are on our way to go eat, it started pouring on us and then the island went completely black! I was really worried that I wasn't going to get to eat my pad see ew if they weren't able to cook it, but eventually after watching the storm outside and the palm trees swaying madly in the darkness, and after driking a couple of Changs, the food came out and we feasted! Vegetarian no-names (fried vegetable nests served with a sweet chili sauce, seafood pad see ew (drunken noodles with veggies and prawns and squid) vegetable spring rolls, two orders of rice, green curry, hot and sour chicken, and a broccoli, tofu, and mushroom broth soup crowded our table. We feasted and then we slept. And we were so exhausted that even those damned howling bull-frogs couldn't keep us awake.
The next day we decided that we don't have to live like stinky hippies the entire time we're backpacking around, so we splurged on a really nice, clean, air-conditioned room. Cool tile floors, a huge lovely bathroom with a western toilet that flushes and comes complete with toilet paper and a hot shower...heaven! We realized that after a long night (or three) of full moon partying, we would probably need a nice clean place to crash in, complete with mini-bar full of water, gatorade and Chang. We also have an infinity pool in the shape of a club that looks out over the sea.
Koh Pha Ngan is a party haven for young westerners looking for drugs, loud techno, and other travelers to mingle with. Most of the restaurants here show movies or American TV alllll day. There is one little alley where literally every bar/restauant blasts Friends. Different episodes, different seasons, but all at full blast. Last night we found an amazing bar called Mellow Bar which is situated up on a hill overlooking the sea. It is built into the rocks surrounding it, but does not destroy or take away from the natural beauty of the area. It creativly works it's way into the nature, with lots of steps and different levels to hang out on. There are curving patios with cusions and low tables to lounge around, and really good djs as well. From this high place you can also hear all of the loud music coming off of the beach and see the flashing lights and neon body paint writhing around on the sand below. I drank a happy shake for 500 baht and we spent the night hanging out with some crazy irish kids and enjoying the scene.
Monday, October 22, 2007
So here I am in Koh Lanta, Thailand. Jen, Courtney and I got here last night after having a mildly annoying day of travel from railay. basically, our driver who was supposed to take us from krabi to koh lanta (an hour's drive) decided to do all of his personal errands and take us around Krabi for an hour and a half before taking us to our destination. finally after he exchanged a hair straightener, went to the hardware store, got gas, dropped off a box of worms at some lady's house, and did something with a cell phone, we started getting fed up and courtney confronted him about it. Shrugging her off, he finally started to take us down the correct road...as slow as humanly possible. even tuk-tuks were shaking their fists at him...but we eventually made it and after a couple hours, found acceptable lodging (cheap, adorable and clean bungalows with a roof deck, outdoor shower and western toilet!)
But let's start at the beginning: a week ago today...
After one day, i was offered a (real) and fucking sweet job--working for the same company that brooke works for in bangkok as a writer and researcher for an online educational company. if i take it, i would be working in bangkok for 3 months, then sf or wherever else I wanted for 3 months, etc... so that was huge, especially after only being in town for 24 hours!
i stayed in bangkok with brooke and her parents in their sweet ass house with a lovely maid who made us breakfast and dinner that was fucking insanely good. one night we had pumpkin curry and fresh mangos off the tree outside of her house. i had my own room and we rode mopeds all around the soi (neighborhood) she lived in. there are semi-mean soi dogs everywhere though, so we had to avoid streets where they ruled the school. i ate delicious street food (chicken satay and papaya salad) and drank the water within the first day and my belly was fine, so i was extra happy about life.
we were in bangkok for 3 days and then met up with courtney correll and jen at bkk (the airport in bangkok) where we (and brooke's new boy, Jeff) all flew down to Krabi. leaving bkk I got my carry-on confiscated because I tried to hide my hair products, sunblock and bugspray (all over 3 oz). "Come on!!!" I pleaded, "can't i at least keep one?! I freckle, I fro, I get eaten alive!" the airline people giggled and shook their heads no. Somehow I got the idea in my head that i would spray allllll of the bug spray all over myself (and jen) if I couldn't carry it on. So right there, I ripped off the top of the can and sprayed a huge cloud of bugspray all over the place, even in our mouths!! then the airline staff started really cracking up and as jen and i were coughing and spitting out bugspray all over the floor. i was pretty shocked that they actually let us do that.
once in Krabi, we noticed that there were no taxis allowed into the airport area, only very expensive vans. So we walked out to the street where we caught a songthaew (a truck with a cover over the back where people sit on benches) to the docks. There we haggled for a long-tail boat and took it (during an amazing sunset) to Railay.
We stayed in Railay for only 3 days, but it seemed much longer because life goes so slowly there. there are no cars or mopeds, only long-tails and feet to carry you around. there were bioluminescent flagellates in the water at night and as you moved your hands through the water, it looked like you were climbing through the stars. amazing. One night courtney taught us the half-moon pose which we did on the beach under the half-moon in the sand which was as soft as finely ground flour. some local guys crouched nearby, watching us curiously, so we waved at them to come join us. We tried to teach them how to do it, but they kept falling over and laughing at us in the moonlight
there is so much more to write about but internet is kind of slow and expensive so I will write more when we get to Chang Mai in the north. Once there I am going to take a thai cookery class and courtney says it is a really cheap and good place to get dental work done, so maybe i'll get my teeth cleaned or something...i got a great thai massage on Ton Sai ( a beach on Railay where all the rock climbers go) and as the lady was massaging and stretching me out, another lady went to smack a giant flying bug on the ceiling and like 5 bugs fell out of the ceiling and onto my face. i screamed and everyone in the place started cracking up. after that broke the ice (and the ceiling) all the ladies started joking around and one told jen she was sexy ( as translated by brooke) and they all crowded around her to gawk at her belly button ring. Then one lady proceeded to lift up her shirt to show us her rolls and tell us that she was "too fat for a belly button ring." We started dying after that and couldn't stop laughing through the entire massage, but it was still really amazing (and only about 6 bucks for an hour!) I think I'll go get one today too...
i'll put up some pictures and write more once i have better internet connection (the power just went out and luckily, this blog was saved!!)
Monday, October 8, 2007
In exactly one week I will be drinking a glass of red wine on my plush cathay pacific aisle seat (#56K) eating my Indian Vegetarian Meal that I ordered over 5 months ago.
But how many books to pack? I really don't want to weigh myself down--I'll already be lugging my allocated two bottles of booze--but I hate not having adequate reading materials on a vacay.
Speaking of reading, I really want to read Mexico's ex-president Vicente Fox's new book Revolution of Hope.
Since Thursday I have been house/pre-teen-sitting for my little brother, Hunter. He was really worried that I was going to make him eat salad every day, and I don't want to our time together to be spent arguing over vegetables. He made a good point though, which was that potatoes are vegetables, so we've been gorging on mashed potatoes at pretty much every meal. So much for dieting before Thailand.
So, what's up with Columbus day? The bank and post office are closed, is that all? Hunter still had school--what a dumb holiday. I dropped him off at 8am and then after I got home I realized that maybe he would be the only kid there because I couldn't remember if schools were in session or not. I sat in mom's minivan for like 8 seconds, pondering whether I noticed any other little pre-teens skulking around the vicinity of the junior high when I dropped him off 10 minutes earlier. I assume there was because when I picked him up later, he didn't seem any more annoyed with me than he usually is. For example, this morning when I came downstairs to make breakfast I exclaimed, "brrr! it's cold in here." And he responded with "DUH, it's called 'morning'."