Friday, September 30, 2005
Now I find myself very much perturbed and all that stuff. My tolerance has quickly abated and I definitely need a break. Not that it's all that bad, you know, but added to all the rest it's definitely too much. But again, don't worry (Mother). I plan to have fun until I leave
Booyah. Time for some food, perhaps a beer to settle me down before this afternoon's bus ride. It's only about 45kms, which should be short. But it could take the rest of the day, you never know
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
It hit me as I sat down and began reading last night (a book of Edward Abbey's essays). This reading Ed Abbey bit has me jonesin' even more to get home. I want to get to Utah! It's not impossible that I could get out there for a short backpack before winter really hits, except for the fact that I am still in Asia and all my camping gear is in Chicago.
There are mountains all around us, and boy am I excited to get 'home' and into the hills again!
But, that doesn't mean that I am not enjoying Laos. Somehow I've made it back to being able to enjoy the moment (most of the time). Part of that, I think, is the excitement of knowing I am heading home soon.
All the police-types in Vientiane (almost every corner in the city) were also totin' some serious looking weapons of destruction. Wasn't too disturbing, I suppose. I didn't like it when they had the guns across their laps, muzzles pointed not in a safe direction
Had something else to say. Forget what.
I stink. Very badly.
Today's ride was supposed to be 3 hours. It was at least 6. And hot. Unfortunately, I am hitting my threshhold for people and crowds, and the stirrings of claustrophobia stirred and congealed on this ride. Not fun, especially when dehydration lack of sleep and no food are thrown in.
The bus of course did not drop us in town, so we had to grab a tuk-tuk to the guesthouse. In transit the driver pulled to the side of the road (someone across the way was flagging him, whether a prospective client or the cops I don't know). Seconds later a guy on a scooter smashed his right foot and the side of his scooter against the left-side of the tuk-tuk. Ouch. He pulled over. And get this: neither driver acted angry. In fact, we followed the scooter-dude (SD) to a mechanic to get the brake lever fixed up; gave him a ride to a pharmacy and the tuk tuk driver (TTD) bought him pain creme (the most interesting fix for a potentially broken foot I've ever seen. Duct tape would have completed things) and some pain pills. TTD even applied the creme for SD. Then we took him back to the mechanic. TTD paid for the repairs and slipped SD some cash! No idea what they were saying or who, if anyone, took the blame, but it was great to see. Amazing, concern for a PERSON and going out of your way (even with paying customers in your 'cab') to make sure he's taken care of. Hell of a concept.
No, there is no road rage here. Priorities, ya know?
Tomorrow I'm sleeping in. Maybe a short bus ride, but nothing long. The next few days will hopefully contain a free tour of a nearby coffee farm (this is the coffee region)(no, I will not be questing employment. Unless I get free use of my own personal elephant), an elephant ride, a night in a treehouse guesthouse, then more buses to the 4,000 Islands (very southern Lao, a section of the Mekong River (Delta?) with...yup, 4,000 islands). Not too much time left on this visa. It's been whirlwindy thus far, and that doesn't look to change.
Yeah, I'll be good to go once I land in the States: 2 weeks of constant travel then many hours plane-ing it, busing some more....oofda. Gotta keep me on my toes
One more thing. Once I get back there, I am going to exercise like a maniac. It's been.....at least wees since I did anything. Not pudgy, but I could use some. Badly.
The sun is down and the breeze feels nice (it's been hot as balls here). My future contains a hammock and a cold beverage of some sort...
Friday, September 23, 2005
Tomorrow we leave Luang Prabang, a town I adore.
Six or seven hours later we'll be in Vang Vieng (I hate the town, but we'll be staying [hopefully] on an organic farm outside of town so it should be ok), stay the night, then another long bus ride to Vientienne.
No energy to be interesting. Need to go get a shower so that I can get a massage and then coffee and a $0.50-fill-your-plate-dinner. Awesome!
Thursday, September 22, 2005
For the record, I love Laos. Just adore this place.
Our two day boat trip from the Thailand border to Luang Prabang, Laos ended a couple hours ago. My arse still hurts from 2 days on a wooden bench. And of course I'm dehydrated and just got some food (and a Beerlao) in me (more or less the first food since breakfast).
Not a bad start to the trip. Some nice people on the boat (kind of. Too many people with the attitude that "How come what is around me isn't as nice as I'm used to? And yes, I will treat you like you are mentally impaired because you don't speak my language and should anticipate the causes of my bitching and fix it". Ah well. Patience, right?) and a stunning ride. We stopped last night in a small town on the river and had the best guesthouse. The woman running the place was so nice and cute and the balcony jutted out further than the others around, high above and over the river and what a view! Sunset was gorgeous but not as spectacular as when the moon came up and lit up the surrounding cloud smeared hills and the silvery river and trees.... breathtaking.
The boat ride was 14 or 15 hours in all which gave me plenty of time to finish my book (War and Peace. Perhaps not the happiest or best choice for a hot happy climate. It was good, but the last 40 pages left the novel bit behind and launched into essay-land.). That was exciting.
The last hour or so was water I covered almost exactly 6 months ago in my own boat with my friends. That was exciting. We are staying in the same guesthouse I stayed in back then, and the guy remembers me! He laughed and pointed out that my hair is a lot longer now...good times.
Off to find coffee or beer, I don't know yet.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Instead of getting on a plane in 3 hours like I'd planned, I'll be getting on a bus in 2. Gotta roll with it though, ya know? It's only a slight delay in getting back so I can deal. And since we are going to be quite busy the entire time it'll make that coming day arrive sooner.
But for now it goes like this: today a 7 hour bus ride. Then a 2-day slow boat ride down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang. A day or so there, then maybe 9 hours to Vientienne. A day there, then heading south. In the 15-days allowed by the visas we'll get at the border, the plan is to get all the way to the south of the country. Should be very very hectic and busy. Which means I should be even more ready to head home by the conclusion of this segment.
Wish me luck. Compadre
Oh yeah-when I pulled this site up to post on it, why the damn is everything in French? Now I gotta click on "Publier le message" to post. Sounds more like an invitation for a happy massage, to me. Odd
My grand arrival home has been postponed thanks to a scheduling snafu. I felt the airline should have a flight when they said they agreed to have one, and they disagreed.
The end result is me not getting on a plane out of here until October. A bummer, as I've been looking forward to going home, but what can you do? I could have thrown a fit but my foreign language skills (esp in a relevant one) are suspect to say the least.
While waiting, I'm off to Laos. Enough time has been spent wandering aimlessly in Thailand, and the plan is to head to Laos and make full use of the 15-day visa and then head state-ward.
Stay posted, as details emerge.
Friday, September 16, 2005
It's been nearly 2 weeks since I landed in Asia.
My flight out leaves on Tuesday afternoon and I land in LA a long time after. I hope the greyhound station is close to the airport, as there's only a couple hours between landing and my bus's departure.
What is my plan? Don't have one. I'll hit Denver the night of the 21st and eventually make my rounds of the midwest and northwest (maybe. My plans are more subject to change now more than ever it seems).
What happened? Why am I coming back? Multi-tiered reasons, and I don't feel like delving into them at this juncture.
Simplified reason: I'm tired. Tired of traveling, tired of avoiding life, tired of being stagnant and pretending the rest of the world doesn't exist. It's time to sack-up and get my life moving again. I hadn't realized how stagnant I'd become.
And I'm excited to have life prospects again. No, said prospects are not tangible or even dimly outlined. But life has many, and I plan on taking advantage of some.
As for my travel partners? Well...
D bailed a week ago (I can say this now because his mom knows. He tended to not keep her well-informed and I didn't want her finding out thru me [our 3 moms have been in communication with each other]); he wrote a note and tried to sneak out (being terrible at goodbyes) but C caught him.
C...is none too pleased with me for ditching her in Asia. I feel terrible, but I have to do this for the sake of my sanity. She'll be fine. Traveling solo will be good for her (he tells himself guiltily).
Unfortunately, her travels will be curtailed as a result of this (or so she thinks thus far). And three Indian visas are going unused (for now. They are valid for 6 months so you never know; I do have a supposed 'milestone' bday approaching, and celebrating it somewhere other than a bar could be a nice change...); D never even returned to Bangkok to pick his up. The pain incurred from this would be less had we not paid almost $100 for them! Ah well. So it goes.
Anyway, that is how things stand right now. I predict extreme culture shock in a few days time, and more than a little exhaustion (one day I'll learn how to sleep in moving vehicles!).
Be ready. I'm coming home!
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Going to underground for a bit, probably starting after this post. Not to worry, I am sure I will have all sorts of exciting shite to relate when I again appear...
Monday, September 12, 2005
Currently we sit in Bangkok. Our train up north doesn't leave for another 5 hours and we are killing some time. Not sure what we'll do up there. C might take a cooking class....that's about all planned. Probably get into Laos in the next week or so.
I'm feeling much more upbeat than I have recently. Plans are coming together in my mind (a new thing for me) and that gray matter is finally back up and running (slowly, but we're getting there) for the first time in a couple/few months. It's potentially exciting!
Wait for it....
On the north end of Prachuap Khiri Khan there is a hill with many steps leading up to a wat. Along the way climbers get to pass by hordes of monkeys: old monkeys, young monkeys, male female screeching teeth baring red anus flashing large testicle swinging bloodied and aggressive monkeys.
Brilliance of ideas is a gift some people have, our gift is slightly misguided; climbing to the wat for sunset seemed a marvelous idea for our last night in town.
Not to be
At the outset there were no monkeys and we wondered at this phenomenon, as swarms have always abounded when our wanderings brought us into the area of said hill. Midway we found them. All of them. Initially we gave in to temptation and snapped photos, moving on when their movements brought them in our direction, when teeth were bared, or when any noise emitted from their maws. As we climbed higher, their numbers grew and we began to feel quite surrounded (probably because you were, idiot). As the top drew into view, the hemming in grew insistent; an old geezer monkey reclined in the middle of a step above us, grunting and causing a commotion. All of a sudden he sent out a call and the hill erupted with screeching and screaming and howling; all the monkeys, in front and behind and on our sides all began running in our direction.
To say the least, this was a bit unnerving.
Fortunately, as we ascended the initial stairs I grabbed a walking stick for additional balance (and to whack my hike-mates at odd intervals.) and this came in quite handy.
The first attack came in from our left. Two monkeys in the prime of their lives leaped from the railing at my head. Sticky the Walking Stick cum Beating Stick flew upwards and was grabbed, one assailant at either end. Bringing forth all I've learned from the incessant kung-fu in China my would-be beaters found themselves getting flung one at a time off to my right (using their momentum against them, of course) and over the stair-side trees into oblivion.
There was no time to gloat over my victory, as the others barely slowed. I moved in and swatted 2 who were attempting to rip away C's bag and leapt down 10 steps to D who found himself getting shoved over backwards thanks to one monkey on his hands and knees (behind) and one shover-dude. Sticky made quick work of those two and like a divining rod seeking out and finding the Dead Sea, I had to grab fast to follow his lead back up several dozen steps to thwart efforts being made to dislodge a Japanese couple from their Nikon cameras.
My labored breathing threatened to topple me, and Old Man Monkey sensed this. Thrusting out his jaw and flinging his arms in my general direction (an amusing motion when performed by monkey-types on tv but quite eerie when used as an attack maneuver against me) I was suddenly over-run by 20 of the bastards!
Lost from view, my companions feared the worst (and began discussing how much they could earn selling my portable library to other backpackers) and turned away to not bear witness to the carnage.
I burst skyward and hovered slightly (I've watched a LOT of kung-fu in the last year) and swatted the hell out of the bastards, coming back to earth with 4 under each foot, their mangy heads being ground into the concrete and dirt.
Sensing defeat, Old Man Monkey called a retreat and his troops fell back.
We exchanged knowing nods, and both moved off-him uphill, and us back down. Sunset would not be seen from on high that night.
At the base of the hill we passed the 15 foot high concrete monkey statue. Another Old Many Monkey sat perched on his head, and all around him were monkeys laying and sitting about, paying him heed. Very eerie
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Being a bit clueless as to the day of the week is fun, as is not knowing the date and sometimes even the month currently occupied.
Sometimes it's good to at least check.
Half an hour into our train ride down here we almost got booted. Our assumption was that our seats had been double booked. The conductor pointed out that our tickets were in fact for the day before. Having not known the actual date, we didn't notice that tho we'd asked for tickets on Sept 8 we'd been given tix for the 7th. Oops.
Fortunately they didn't kick us off but let us sit in the area by the doors (and bathrooms). Not too uncomfortable for the remaining 6 hours of the trip, and much better than having to buy new tickets.
Now we're lazing a bit in this small oceanside town. Haven't done much of anything. Today we're off to see some things and tomorrow morning around 4am we'll head back to Bangkok then up north tomorrow night.
As for me, the cold is way better (I'm no longer hacking all day long) and my arms are healing. They look much better, but today they itch like hell. Must mean the are healing quicker, right?
Got a Thai massage yesterday. $5 for an hour, and it felt good! Can't wait to get another one. Maybe I'll splurge today...
Unfortunately, since I no longer reach the end of the day exhausted from coughing and hacking, the insomnia has returned. It's hella-fun to spend hours trying to fall asleep in muggy heat with itching arms...ch-ch-ch-check it out!
Mind plans keep shifting and morphing and no set plan has been decided upon nor set in motion. Excitement for movement has me quite tittilated.
Asia is still fun and the people here are incredibly nice. Got a free head of garlic in the market (eaten raw is not the loveliest snack, but good for health) and smiles abound. There are monkeys all over this place as well, and they crack me up. Might take one on (a baby, so as to train it from it's beginning stages and indebt it to me for life) as an additional travel companion. Wish me luck
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Yesterday, in fact, I did my utmost to burn the cold out of me. I sat in the lobby of the place we are staying and ordered a hot and spicy vegetable soup. Holy hell was it hot! As I am sure I have mentioned at some point, hot at home does not compare to Thai hot. All the workers were laughing their asses off at me and D (he decided to chip in and help). I was sweating and crying and snotting...it was ugly. But so tasty! And ineffective. It was worth a try though. C sat there and laughed along with the staff at our pain. Builds character though, ya know?
Today has been a non-day. The other two have no desire to get out and about at all so we've spent the morning packing and sitting around. Our train is at 1pm so I guess it won't be that much longer until we leave for the train station, and I am glad. The last thing I feel like doing is sitting around. Even with this stupid cold. Perhaps I will sit on the pedestrian overpass and watch the chaos that is the traffic of this city; cars and numerous scooters and motorcycles weaving their breathless and dangerous dance. It's fun to watch and I'd love to get my own scooter and play in it with the rest of the populace. Maybe that will be my swan song from this trip to Asia...
And to make my physical state that much more comedic, I look like I have the plague. I am allergic to something plant-y, so for most of the summer I wore long sleeve shirts at work to keep from getting the itchy red pus-y rash on my arms that I dread. My lack of attention has done me in. A few days before leaving it began growing, and now my left arm from wrist to elbow is muchly dotted and red (on the underside only), my right arm shows signs, and my stomach also suffers (right at the belt line too, which feels great, let me tell you).
Recap-I am itchy, hacking and stuffy headed, my gear is breaking down (I keep finding holes in my clothes), and I am plotting and not looking forward to a break-away conversation (let me say just now that I am sick as hell of goodbyes. The last year has contained too many and it gets old, ya know?).
But it's ok. I am enjoying being here and I have many ideas up my sleeve that will be exciting and fun (how much fun will be retrospective has yet to be determined).
And believe it or not, tho I have no plane ticket yet, my return date is pretty well known. By me. And no, I won't divulge that information. What's the fun in that?
Another days has passed by in the big city. Well, a partial day. This morning was a rain-filled and anxiety causing day (for C and D). The crowds and size of the city were really getting to the other two today. After getting around and finally buying train tickets out of here tomorrow afternoon (to some beaches. Which could be nice, but beaches aren't exactly what I am in the mood for. It'll be a short stay) we had to sit in a quiet place for a while, get some food, then wander over to one of the large city parks so that they could recouperate a bit.
I don't blame them, it's a bit of a shock to the system coming here, especially from a quiet little farm in Hawaii.
Some potential fatal flaws may have appeared today. D takes and advantage he can to sit down, and when possible he lays down (even in the subway station, clean as it may seem, while waiting for a train). His main desires in life seem to be sleeping, laying down, not moving. C is freaked out by people and large cities. Neither seems to have any interest in doing anything, but would prefer to sit around and watch, lounge around. This city is filled with wats (temples) and markets and the Grand Palace, Buddhas galore. They have seen nothing and have no desire to.
That's all fine and good, and if that's what they like more power to them. But, I do like to take in some of the sights. And while big cities aren't my favorite, they can be very interesting. And in India, I definitely want to spend some time in the big ones, which I doubt will interest them. D is all fired up to head south to Malaysia or anywhere south; not that he knows anything about them, he just sees them as places with beaches to lay down and sleep on.
Their approach seems to be much more lounge-based than mine.
Given that the last four months have seen me do little but lounge, I want to move around and do/see stuff. And Malaysia and other countries south of Thailand hold very little interest for me right now.
What this means is, we'll see what happens.
I am not sure D wants to do/see anything but beaches. C and I were talking (while D read) after buying our train tickets for tomorrow; our discussion was about when to head back north to northern Thailand. I have some friends who will be up there around the middle of the month that I'd like to see. We asked D how long he'd like to stay on this beach, and what day we should come back up. Our thought was to buy tickets up north to make sure the train doesn't sell out of the cheap sleeper seats. He was against this idea (a strong-ish reaction, something new for him) as he wants no schedule at all. Not that I want much of one either, but that ain't much. I guess in the first round of travel, R had to deal with my lower planning lever; now I deal with D's even lower. Should be interesting. We/I might be heading off without him/them pretty quickly.
Could get interesting quicker than expected.
In that park, however, we saw some cool animals. Squirrels with pointy, evil looking snouts. And several very large komodo dragon-looking lizards. Watched an old Chinese-man plod after one to make it run, and some older white dude chase one in circles for half an hour (we walked past a couple times, we didn't spend the time watching him I swear!) taking pictures. I was cheering for the lizard to attack, but it never did. Maybe next time.
It's now almost 3pm. C and D are decompressing in the apartment. Hopefully we'll get out later to find some cheap Thai massages before dinner.
On that note, there are 2 parlors right nearby on either side of the busy highway we're situated on. Their marquees are huge and neon and have 30-foot tall pictures of women. Walking back last night we ran into 3 of the 4 people we know in this city and I asked the guy what they were. He said they are massage parlors. Of the 'happy' variety. I guess you go in and pick the woman your desire out of an aquarium looking thing. Welcome to Bangkok!
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
I am tired, so this will be relatively brief. I have sleep to find.
Our layover in Honolulu was fun. Met up with a buddy from college. Swam in the ocean at approximately 2am, then again around 4am. It was great seeing him (even though he kept calling me Fabio) and his wife (though she went to bed early).
China Airlines? Awesome. Our plane from Taipei to Bangkok was the nicest plane I've ever been on. For gosh sakes, they had a camera showign the view from the front of the plane for landing; unfortunately I didn't notice it on all the big screens until we'd taxi'd a while. Yes, they gave us food. Lots of it. Tell me again why US based airlines suck so badly compared to other airlines?
Met a buddy's cousin who lives here, so we're staying with her. She's great tho I don't know how much she enjoyed sitting in the Indian Embassy for an hour today
One shoulder strap on my small backpack broke at the Honolulu airport (upon landing).
Found a hole in the front of my main pack when I was packing. Duct tape is holding it together right now.
When I retrieved my big pack in Bangkok, I found it broken. There is a strap that runs from the body of the pack to the top of the pack, holding it closed. It broke off, which means I have no secure way to close it off. I'll figure something out, don't worry.
My travel pants, which I had made in Vietnam, ripped earlier this summer. I fixed them the morning of the day we left. I tore the crotch wide open again (guess I should have used more stitches) getting into the truck to leave the house we sat for. In Hawaii.
Do all these broken thing problems mean anything? I wonder...
It's very polluted here. Has me a bit phlegmy. Not fun.
Culture shock doesn't seem to be much of a factor for me this time. I've fallen back into things very easily. That seems to reassure C and D, which is good. D for sure is a bit overwhelmed, but in a good way?
It's really hot here. I am sweating a lot. But I smell wonderfully I am sure.
I've been reminded what it's like to wander a foreign city, not knowing the language, in a desperate search to find something before it closes (the Indian Embassy). It's fun stuff!
Not much else has happened, really. I need to get a lot of reading done because once again I have entirely too much backpack space taken up with books. Ah well. So it goes, right?
Time for sleepy. Don't worry, more adventures are sure to follow...
Friday, September 02, 2005
Ok, it's not time yet. It's still 2 days away, but we're close enough. This means that this silly blog may be semi-interesting once again.
My ideas for this trip are changing and changing. But don't you worry, I'll be safe as always.
But wish me luck. Can't hurt, right?