Friday, February 28, 2003

Another 180!!!

Ok, Courtney and I just did another 180 in our plans. We are NOT going to Nong Khaiew (or whatever it's called). When we talked to this guy (Guy is his name) about the teaching in a hill tribe, he wants to take us on a trek to the hill tribe tomorrow! He had another couple that was interested in doing the trek as well, and while we were waiting for that other couple, a third couple showed up, so 6 of us are doing a 3-day/2-night hill tribe trek, leaving tomorrow morning.

This is the real thing. This would be the tribe that Courtney and I would be staying/teaching at if we go ahead with it. The trek is costing us $45US, which includes everything, even water this time.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is, after talking to Guy, if we like what we see on this trek, let him know, give him a little advance notice, and he can arrange our visa extensions, and getting our own house (hut) built in the village. We would have to pay to have the hut built, but the cost would be less than 2 cases of beer in Canada. But get this: This hut would be ours, forever! Courtney and I would own a flat in Laos, in a hill tribe village!!!! That totally blows me away.

Anyway, Courtney and I have to go pack now, we have a big three days ahead of us. No updates for a while, obviously.

BTW, this trek is just a hill tribe trek. There's no whitewater rafting or elephants or bamboo rafting on this trek. This is a trek to the real, totally untourist section of Laos. Guy was born in this village we are going to, and lives there now with his wife and two kids.


Gone Swimmin'

AFter the internet last night, I was waiting for Courtney outside the internet place with my 2 hour old Beer Lao (now warm), and one of the locals asked me if my Beer Lao was cold or warm. I remarked it was warm, I'd been drinking it for 2 hours (I'm not a beer drinker), he asked me where I was from, told him Canada, then he asked where in Canada, I tell him Saskatchewan, then we asked where in Saskatchewan (he could pronounce it!), and I said Moose Jaw, and he says to me he knows Moose Jaw, he has a girlfriend in Moose Jaw. He spent many years in Canada, and travelled across the country, although he was never in Moose Jaw himself. It's a small, small world, sometimes. We got talking some more, he now does trekking tours, but not organized ones. If you want to do some trekking somewhere, you tell him where, and for how long, and he'll arrange one for you. I asked him about teaching English in Laos, and he said that what he does, and he could arrange something like that. We made arrangements to meet up with him on Friday at 7:00 or so, and we could talk.

AFter the internet, Court and I went back to the guest house and sat around the lobby, and the guy (boy...16 years old) working the "night shift" at the guest house was there, along with a guy from Japan. We sat around, and talked with them, Courtney is trying to learn as much Laos as possible, so is getting his help on how to say certain things. This boy can speak Lao, Thai, English, and more French than Court and I know, and he's only 16. He goes to school in the morning and afternoon, then comes to the guest house to work for the night. We finally went to bed about 11:30 or so.

Our room is in the front of the guest house, facing the street, and it's a very busy street, and there's a school right across the street too, so there's all kinds of racket in the morning, and Courtney couldn't sleep. I was already awake. So, we went for a jog for about an hour, it was actually very invigorating! We jogged through some residential areas of town, there are some nice houses. One street we passed along was freshly paved, and the kids were out there on their roller skates (the old fashion kind), skating up a craze.

AFter the run, we found some breakfast, a nice place not too far away from us, but less touristy, so a little cheaper, and it was very good. We had an American breakfast.

AFter that, we walked around for a while, then back to the guest house, and sat around the lobby for a while, and Jay and Lizzy, a couple we met on the boat were, moving in to our guest house. We had told them about our Siam Hammock we had bought, and they were very anxious to see them, so I opened mine up and set it up in the lobby of the guest house. I think they like them, sounds like they might try and get some.

AFter that, we started walking around again. It was frickin hot today. We walked by a temple, and some monks started chatting us up. They said hi, asked us how it was going, and we asked them what they were doing. They were building a concrete wall (I got a picture). We talked with them a while, then continued to the end of the street, and went down to the river (Nam Khan), and found a swim spot, where a all kinds of kids and monks were swimming in the river, having a great time.

A word about the monks. When I say monks, you may think old men. Not true. There are TONS of monks in Luang Phabang, and 99% of them are young, I'd say between 10 and 20 years of age. And they speak awesome english, we were shocked. It's almost perfect english. They must get put through some real english classes in their monkhood. It's nice.

Anyway, Court and I debated about going back to the guest house and getting our swimming stuff and swimming with them. There were no foreigners at all swimming, it was all locals, so we kinda felt a little unsure about it, but decided to do it anyway. We walked back to the guest house (took us about 25 minutes, it was a long way!) got our stuff, then decided to take a small tuk-tuk back to the swimming hole. This tuk-tuk was a motorcycle with a small carriage attached to the side, barely enough space to sit Court and I. He wanted to charge us 10000 baht to go that short distance, we got him down to 5000 baht though. Still, he made good money off of us that time. Court is also respectful of the Lao culture, and wore a t-shirt and shorts over her bikini, which is the right thing to do. The monks down there were very friendly, saying Hello (Sabadee in Lao) and asking us how it's going, and where we're from. The really young kids swimming were also very friendly, I don't think they get too many foreigners swimming in the swimming hole with them. They may have been mocking us though, as they would sometimes throw seaweed at us, and start spashing us for fun, but it may have been more of a friendly gesture than a mocking gesture. We think the older kids were definately laughing behind our backs at us. One monk asked us if we were married, to which we replied seemed like the right answer at the time. :-)

The current in the river was very, very strong. It was fun. And it went into some small rapids, that you could float/swim through. A lot of the kids had inner tubes, and were going into the water way up around the bend and innertubing down the river.

There river was kind of dirty. Not polluted dirty, but mucky dirty, probably partly because of all the activity, plus the fast current. And we found some pretty strange things floating down the river. First was an apple, I grabbed it, and Courtney and I started playing catch with the small kids, who really enjoyed it. Then a half eaten watermelon slice, came floating down. A little later, a piece of styrofoam. It was all very fun, though.

We went back to the guest house and had cold showers. ONce again, the there's no power in most of the city. It went off about 7:00AM, and it's now 7:10PM, and still no power in most of the city. This internet place I'm using at the moment is in the "wired for business" part of the city. Anyway, after the shower, we exchanged some more money, because it's the weekend, and we won't be able to until Monday now. Then we ate supper at the market.

Tomorrow we are getting up real early, because at 6:00AM all the monks line the main street in town for alms or something, so it should be a good sight. Then we have to head real early to the bus station and hopefully get a bus to Nong Khieu (or something like that, I forget), north of here. I don't know what the internet access will be like up north, so who knows when I'll be one again.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Spectacular Waterfall

We got up and moved to yet another guest house, only $4 US/night. We then walked to the guest house where Oren and Ren were staying, and had the most amazing French toast we've ever had. We're gonna go there again tomorrow morning too!

Oren and Ren woke up and came downstairs to the restaurant while we were eating. Another girl staying at their guest house joined us for the tuk-tuk ride to the waterfall. The tuk-tuk was about an hour ride, mostly gravel road. 15000 kip to get into the waterfall. WOW! This is one amazing waterfall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Probably the most impressive waterfall I've ever seen. Water is crystal clear, and the waterfall is huge, and there are pools of water all the way up. We hiked to the top of the waterfall, and at the top, you can actually stand at the very edge of the waterfall (feet in the water), and look down over the edge of the falls. It's totally spectacular! It's actually very dangerous! There's no way Parks Canada would ever let you get that close to a waterfall in CAnada. It was amazing.

AT this one pool, they have a rope you can swing from a cliff and drop into a pool. It was a lot of fun. I did it three times, Courtney only did it once, but she chickened out, and only did it from the lower cliff (scaredy cat!)

We hiked back up to the top of the waterfall, and Ren broke out is tea pot and little stove and we made some tea (he loves tea!). We sat around for an hour or so, then hiked back down, found Lynn (the other girl that came with us), then took the tuk-tuk back to Louang Phabang. Got back about 5:15. We went back to the Nisha (Nishka?) restaurant, an Indian restaurant, and had some Indian food. Very, very delicious! Yum!!!!

Then we walked around the market for a while. Most people that were out last night aren't out tonight, they must have had a rough night and need their sleep tonight. Losers!!

The town had no electricity today, except our new guest house. They must have a generator. When we left to go to the waterfall, there was no electricity, and when we got back from the waterfall, they still had no electricity, so in the evening, everything is being lit up by candles. Court and I had a romantic candle-lit dinner at Niska's. Haha. What's really neat is the night market all lit up by candles.

About 9:00PM or so, the power finally came back on, so Court and I decided to hit the internet to check out buddies comments about the US starting the bombing campaign. We checked and, and of course, found out it's not true. It's weird, when you're cut off from the real world, you have no idea what's happening, other than from just things you hear on the streets and from other people.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Muggings and Shootings

After supper last night, we ran into Oren and Ren (or Ron or Ran or Run or something like that...from Israel), and we went to a pub and had a Lao Beer for 9000 kip ($1.20 CDN or so). This is no little 300ml beer, this is a BIG bottle of beer, 650ml. Cheap booze here. AFter that we started to head to a disco, then Courtney and I decided we should head back to our guest house because we had an 11:00 PM curfew (they locked the doors).

We got up late, about 10:00AM. They were supposed to have our laundry done at 10:00, but didn't, so we had to wait until 11:00 for them to finish our laundry, then pack and check out. We found another place for $6.00/night (US), shared bath, but still nice. But we know we can still find cheaper.

Went and had lunch at a balcony restaurant overlooking the Nam Khan river, very nice view. AFter that we just walked around, ran into people that were on the boat with us. When we met up with Oren and Ren, we decided to meet up with them at the market at 6:00 and we'd go to the beach and have a fire and whatever. We also made arrangements with them that we'd all share a tuk-tuk to the waterfall tomorrow.

Very hot and humid today.

We went back to the guest house and just vegged for a couple of hours.

About 6:00, we headed to the night market and partook of the vendors food offerings. We started with chicken on a stick, then had sticky rice on a stick (which was actually not very good, IMHO), then I had a chocolate-coconut danish, then I had 2 big waffles with sugar sprinkled on them. Also exchanged some money. I exchanged 1000 baht, which got me 248,000 kip. $1.00 CDN will fetch you 6820 kip.

Courtney swore off of sweets 3 days ago, and to show support for her, I told her I'd not eat any sweets either. Fruit snacks for the rest of the month! We both caved today, she had 2 sugar covered waffles as well. They are SOOOO good! An old man makes them on the street in the market.

We met up with Oren and Ren, and a bunch of others, they were having supper and a beer (or two or three) at the market. We joined them, then went down to a beach on the Nam Khan river, and had a bonfire. Josee (from Quebec) brought her guitar. There were probably 20-30 people there, including one guy who had HUGE dreads. Rumour is, he hadn't cut his hair in 7 years.

Another older French guy joined us later and as I was chatting with him, he remarked that the US had started their bombing campaign against Iraq today. He had seen it on Thai TV. We were shocked, of course, even though we knew it was coming, but still it's a shock when it actually happens.

Court and I left about 1:40. The guest house has an 11:30 curfew, they lock the front gates of the property at 11:30. He told us if we get back after 11:30, just ring the buzzer at the gate. So, Court and I felt really bad about waking anybody up by buzzing, so we decided to jump the fence. I got over fine, but Court got her pants stuck on the spikes on the top of the fence, and near fell off, so I had to stand under her and let her stand on top of me as she made her way over the wall. We did get over ok, and sneaked up to our room. It was fun!!!

We heard some stories today about muggings in Vang Nieng, apparently some tourists got mugged yesterday. Also, apparently some bandits were shooting at busses on teh highway to Vang Vieng. Cool! Court and I wanna head there right away! Talk about excitement!

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Boat Trip - Day 2

I slept awesome last night. The bed was comfortable, the comforter was sooo warm. We hd to get up early, 6:30, we are supposed to be at the boat at 7:30. We had some tea downstairs, picked up the sandwiches we had ordered the day before for the boat ride, then headed down to the boat. Found out that the first boat that took half the passengers yesterday mysteriously disappeared overnight, now all the passengers were going to be on one boat. AFter many complaints from passengers, they finally convinced them to get on the boat, and we left about 8:45AM. Pretty much the same drill as yesterday, except we're packed on the boat, it's a lot more cramped, and the novelty and excitement of the trip we had yesterday has worn of totally. In retrospect, we should have taken a slow boat to Pakbeng, then a fast boat from Pakbeng to Louang Phabang today. It was a long boat ride, the scenery pretty much the same.

Got to Louang Phabang about 4:45. Court and I hopped off the boat and started walking to our chosen guest house, Wat That. We checked out a couple of other places along the way, they were all full, then when we got to Wat That, it wasn't there. It had burned down. We walked to the next street, and found the Vanvisa guest house, they had a double room with a private bath (and hot water, a requirement!) for $10US (450 baht), so I took it. Luxury tonight!!! This is an old French villa, built and owned by a university professor in the 1960's. Our room is a nice size, but exquisite, with nice brick walls, hardwood floor, and a very nice bathroom. They even include, not one, but *TWO* rolls of toilet paper! But, alas, $10US is a lot of money, so we'll stay here tonight then find something cheaper ($1-$3US) tomorrow.

We had a lot of laundry to do, so we took that in.

A little history about Louang Phabang. Laos was at one time a French colony, and Louang Phabang was also teh Royal capital of Laos, so there is a lot of French incluence in Louang Phabang, in their food and their architecture. Louang Phabang is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has strict building codes.

The restaurant we ate at actually had *REAL* napkins! Oooooohh!!! Mom, you can pass that along to Aunt Dot!

Monday, February 24, 2003

Boat Trip - Day 1

Up at about 7:00 AM. I was cold last night for the first time, perhaps because of the proximity to the river, it was damp in the air. We had breakfast and got takeout for the boat ride. We took a pick-up to the dock and had to go thru Thai immigration, and because our visa's expired on Feb 23 (yesterday), we had to pay 200 baht for our overstay. Oh well, only $7.00. We'll know for next time.

We took a small boat across the Mekong to Houie Xay, Laos, and went through Laos immigration, got some baht converted to their money (the kip), then took a tuk-tuk to the boat dock. At the boat dock, they tried to fit too many people on one boat, and some of the tourists mutinied, and refused to get on, they insisted a 2nd boat be used. After an hour or so, the guy who helps run the boats got a 2nd boat, and the remaining tourists, including Court and I, got on it. We finally left the docks at about 11:30, I think. When Courtney got our money converted, we converted 2000 baht (about $66CDN) to kip, just in case we needed it. She got more than 500,000 kip, in bills (they have no coins). This makes the wallet or money belt very, very fat, because the bills are all 5000 kip bills, there were more than 100 of them!

The Mekong River is absolutely beautiful. The seats in the boat are nothing more than a thin piece of wood running along the side of the boat. Near the back, there is a platform, with a mat on it, where a bunch of Laos women are playing cards and drinking Laos beer and gambling and laughing. A couple of tourists eventually join in, and they all share beer, and joke around and laugh (obviously, they can't understand each other, but somehow they got their humor across).

As we go down the Mekong as it winds its way through the mountains, we see locals fishing the river with nets strung up to rocks or trees with bamboo and string. We also wee locals fishing with bamboo fishing rods from the shore, their hooks dangling in the river. Every once in a while, we see a fisherman in his boat out checking his nets. Some of the fishermen actually try to manually net fish, by swinging a net in the water.

After a couple of hours, the boat stops at a "market" along the sandy banks of the Mekong. When we all get off, excited children run up to greet us, and shake our hands, giggling and laughing. One of the merchants had a little pet monkey in his tent.

The Mekong has lots and lots of rocks jutting out all over the river, not unlike rivers and lakes in northern Saskatchewan. We just hope the captain knows the waters well enough to not run into any shallow submerged rocks.

There are at least 8 Canadians aboard our boat, out of about 20 tourists.

Every once in a while, a speedboat (this is the fast boat I remarked about in yesterdays journal) screams by, deafening if it's close to our boat. These fast boats ferry people (tourists and locals) up and down the river. The occupants usually wear crash helmets and life jackets. I read in my Rough Guide that a few years ago, two of these speedboats had a head on collision. Everyone died as a result of the crash. You have to see these little speedboats to believe them. They can hold only 8 passengers, they are fairly long, and not very wide. The occupants look hilarious with their crash helmets and lifejackets, sometimes huddled to help ease either the deafening noise of the motor, or perhaps the fierce wind they must be getting from going so fast. The engines on these things is a Toyota 1200cc car engine. And do they go! WOW!

Boat travel is one of the most commong forms of transportation in Laos. Laos is one of the poorest nations in the world, and they have a very bad road system. Apparently the gov't has started to improve the road system, within the past few years, but Laos has more than 4600km of navigatable waterways, so boat travel will continue to be a staple of the Laos culture for a long time to come. The Mekong is especially busy.

The slow boat trip is a must! It's beautiful scenery and mountains. ON shore, you can see small streams emptying from the mountains into the Mekong. Every once in a while, you see what I would assume would be a hill tribe community, with some buildings, and a bunch of small fishing boats on the shore, sometimes kids playing near the water, or women doing laundry. Lots of water buffalo to be seen near the shore as well. Whether they're tame or wild, I do not know.

At many points along the river, the current is very fast, and with all the rocks, it creates lots and lots of whirlpools, some of them very big. When the boat goes through or near them, you can hear the boat creak and groan and rock back and forth as the currents push and pull on it.

We arrived in Pakbeng about 5:30, and a bunch of locals, adults and kids, were at the shore to greet us. They are all looking for help carry our bags for us, for a tip. Another woman offers us a room at her guest house for 100 baht for a double (baht and US dollars are both widely used in Laos, along with the kip). In the meantime, one of the locals has put Courtney's backpack on, and insists on carrying it for her, he won't take it off (and doesn't understand much english, or at least pretends he doesn't), so Court just lets him take it. We walk with the lady up to the guest house, a fair walk up, and Courtney is glad that she isn't carrying her pack. We ask the guest house lady how much we should tip this guy for carrying the pack, she says probably 50 baht, sometimes 100 baht. We get to the guest house, and it isn't much of a place, in fact, it's a huge dive, but at least the bed linens look clean. I have to keep reminding myself that these people are very, very poor, and they are doing the best they can with what they have. I suspect many of the guesthouses are of similar quality. BTW, on the slow boat, a night stopover is a requirement, as the slow boats do not run after the sun goes down. I can just imagine my mother at this guest house, she wouldn't sleep at all, she would be so convinced there was all kinds of strange and wonderful creatures crawling all over the room and bed!

When we were checking out the room (which was the 2nd floor of this lady's house and business), one of the locals kept saying ganja or something to me, and I didn't understand. He was being very secretive about it too, finally he pulled me around a corner, and stuck his hand in his pocket, and pulled out a small bag of marijuana, he was trying to sell me "ganja". I declined.

Court and I walked around, the town is obviously very poor. We had supper, then went to the Khok Khor Cafe, a used bookstore and hangout joint run bu an Aussie woman. Why an Australian women would want to open a shop in this town is beyond me, but whatever. We started talking to Jason, a guy from Kentucky, and he is going to line us up for some english teaching in a Karen village in Thailand when we return to Thailand in a couple of months.

We met up with a few other tourists after the cafe, including a guy originally from Regina (now in Vancouver), and we all went down to the riverside and started a fire and sang campfire songs. One guy was very good at the guitar, another was an excellent singer.

We got to bed about 11:30.

This is one of the coolest experiences we've had so far. Really enjoying it!

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Off to Chaing Khong

Got up about 9:00, had an excellent American breakfast at the Coconut Restaurant, where we bought our trek and Laos tickets, bought some snacks for our 5 hour bus ride to Chaing Khong, at the Laos border.

As we were packing our stuff, Court remarked that she doesn't mind living out of a backpack...she thought it would bother her, but she's so used to it now, she's fine with it.

Mini-bus picked us up. It's a very rough road, paved, but very bumpy, and the mini-bus didn't have ANY shocks in the back, where Court and I were sitting. Near the end of the trip, the mini-bus was making very strange noises when he shifted gears (deja vu...same thing on that night bus earlier on!) I didn't think the mini-bus was going to make it, I kept expecting the rear end of the van to fall out onto the road.

Mini-bus stopped at the Namkong Guest House in Chaing Khong. All they had left was a 3 person room for 120 baht, so we took it. Cheap!

We booked the slow boat to Louang Phabang (or Louang Prabang, depending on the book you read). The slow boat is a 2 day boat ride down the Mekong River. The other option is a fast boat, which gets you there in one day, about 7 hour ride. I'll talk about the fast boat in a future journal, though.

The guest house we were at was advertising an "ultimate Siam hammock" or somesuch thing. It's a hammock, with mosquito net, a pup tent for soft surfaces, another kind of tent for hard surfaces, and also a "suspended bed". Of course, it has rain protection built-in as well. We are going to use it to do some camping (camping is free on the beaches of some islands, especially national parks islands). We paid 1350 baht for it.

Chaing Khong, from what little we've seen of it, is a very nice city, the main street runs along the Mekong river for many kilometres.

Also bought the Rough Guide for Laos at a bookstore. Somebody told us the Lonely Planet for Laos was pathetic.

Disc 1 of our pictures

The first CD of our pictures is now up on my web site. Some of the pictures will be repeats of ones we had uploaded earlier, but oh well, eh?

(Told you I could do it, Mom! My Mom didn't think I could get all my pictures onto my web site from half way around the world!)

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Trekking - Day 3

Last night Courtney was talking in her sleep. Here's how the conversation went:
Courtney: Buddy leads quite a life, eh?
Todd: What? (just waking up)
C: Buddy, he leads quite a life, eh?
T: What do you mean?
C: I don't know, just......
T: You mean just the way he lives?
C: Ya, that's it.
T: Which buddy do you mean?
C: You know, buddy.
T: You mean trekking buddy?
C: Ya, that buddy.
Conversation ends, for about a minute, then I say:
T: Can you hear me?
C: (silence)
T: Courtney, can you hear me?
C: Ya.
T: Are you sleeping?
C: I don't know, but I sure am tired.

I told her about it in the morning, she was laughing and laughing, she doesn't remember it at all. We both laughed pretty good.

Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs and toast. Court at 5 pieces of toast, then remarked: "I can't believe I ate 5 piece of toast. I usually only have one and I'm full."

Court also remarked this morning how much she was enjoying the trek, and she didn't want today to be the last day.

Oh, a note about yesterday: We were crossing a small bamboo foot bridge, and the pathetic handrailing fell off just as I got to the other side. The Korean lady was in the middle of the bridge, and almost fell into teh stream! I was surprised she didn't, so was she.

We hiked for a couple of hours in the morning, most downhill, had a few breaks along the way, usually at hill tribe "stores" where you could buy handmade crafts. Courtney bought a recorder (musical instrument, Mom), and I bought a slingshot. Each was 50 baht.

We hiked to a pickup truck, a real one this time, and stood in teh back as it drove to a restaurant, about a 10 minute drive. It wasn't very good, some sort of gross noodles.

AFter lunch, we drove to the bamboo rafting, and rafter down the river, quite a few simple rapids. I got to use the steering stick at the back of the raft, I almost took a dip a few times. It was a blast. No one else fell in either. Took about an hour, it was quite a lot of fun. Bamboo rafting is where it's at!!!

AFter the bamboo rafting was done, Court and I were all sad. We didn't want it to be over. 3 days was not nearly enough. Next time we'll try for a 7 day trek. We can't wait to get to Laos and do some trekking, 85% of Laos is mountainous.

After the rafting, we took a songtheaw back to Chaing Mai, which dropped us off at our travel agent, we got our packs, and went back to the Paradise guest house and got a room.

When we went to get our packs, the guy who sold us the tickets asked if he could have some of our pictures from our trek. He wanted to use them in his advertising! So he took us to a photo place, and he transferred a bunch of pictures from our camera's to a CD. That'd be so neat to have our pictures (and pictures of us!) in his advertising!

Anyway, all-in-all, trekking was a blast. I'd trade the concrete and cars and motorcycles of Chaing Mai for a tribal village any time, it's just so different there from here.

Anyway, Courtney uploaded some pictures, mostly trekking pics to her web site, check it out. Don't know the address, but it's in an earlier journal entry (one of the first few, I think).

Our first CD of all our first batch of pictures has arrived at my parents place, so hopefully if all goes well, there'll be a huge photo album with all our pictures on my web site soon. Check it!

Oh, by the way, the Trek cost us 1200 baht, about $40CDN. So cheap!!

Friday, February 21, 2003

Trekking - Day 2

Slept nice last night, my toes were cold in the morning, and I had to piss like a race horse, but was too lazy to get up and go pee. Court froze again, despite the toque and the whole charade she does. It was unbelievably quiet last night, considering all the pigs and cows and roosters and ducks around, they were all quiet most of the night.

We got up about 7:00, had breakfast about 7:30. Breakfast was boiled eggs and toast (lots of toast).

BTW, we had six people on our trek when we started, Joe and Penelope from Australia, and a brother and sister from South Korea. Joe and Penelope were only on a 2 day trek, so they left about 8:30 with their own guide. Me and Court and the Koreans left about 9:30 with Mr. Ton, our guide.

AFter breakfast, as we were leaving the village, we saw the oldest lady in the village (88 years old) talking with some younger women. She sure didn't look 88 years old. We then walked to the house of the oldest man, and he was outside spinning thread from cotton, very active fella still, has excellent eye sight (and hearing). All the houses are on stilts, and they have ladders to get up and down, and he scurries and up and down like a kid. Amazing. Mr. Ton explained a lot of the customs and ways of life, he was a good guide. As we were watching the old man spin thread, he was telling our guide about WWII, and all the Japanese bombs going off around the village.

AT one point in the hike, Mr Ton stopped, he heard a snake in the jungle, he tried to go and find it, but it was gone by that time. He tells us the hill tribe people eat the snakes, they're not poisonous.

WE hiked to another village, took a break, then hiked to a small rice farm for lunch. WE arrived about noon. The facilities at the farm house were limited, they had an outhouse (squatter toilet), and the shower was outdoors, a little bamboo hose directing water from a stream or spring into a little ditch. You had to sit or squat under the hose. They also had a little clothes line so you could hang your clothes while you bathed. I felt the water, and it was actually quite warm, so Court and I decided we should bathe, since we didn't know when we'd get the chance to again. And the water was awfully warm, compared to the frigid shower at the village. You could see the shower from the farm houses, but couldn't see much, as it was hidden a little bit. I've never showered outdoors before, it was very nice.

The Korean lady made soup (Korean soup), andthe guide made Thai soup for lunch. (BTW, the Korean lady might be about 20, the brother was young, couldn't have been over 13 or 14.) At one point during lunch, a chicken jumped up to where our backpacks were and started pecking at them.

AFter lunch, we hiked to another village and watched (and helped) a 16 year old girl separate the rice from the husk. Takes about 1 hour to separate enough rice for one meal. Very hard work.

We hiked about 2 hours to a waterfall camp with bamboo huts. The waterfall was about 2 minutes from the camp, downstream. When we got the top of the waterfall, we could see other trekkers at the bottom of the falls. We got the camp about 4:00.

We had supper about 6:30, and caramel popcorn (home made!) for dessert. Yum.

For the first time since we got here, we finally found a rooster than cockadoodledoo's properly! He doesn't sound like he's broken!!! Although he still doesn't do it at the break of dawn. This rooster is tied up, dunno why, maybe he's special, or tries to run away or something.

After supper, Court and I practice hackeysack. Courtney getting very frustrated!!! We want to get real good before we get back to Canada. WE played some cards with the Korean siblings, then sat around the campfire and listened to Mr. Ton play/sing.

Oh ya, at supper, Courtney's trying to give me some vegetables, and I told her I had enough on my plate, I didn't need anymore. She's like, "C'mon eat some vegetables for me, please?" What the heck????? I get enough of that in Moose Jaw! Anyway, I did eat the vegetables. Also after supper, the Korean's heated up some dried squid of something (it was like squid jerky). Courtney had a piece, and kinda liked it, she starts trying to get me to have some, so I tried some of hers. GROSS! I did not like that at all.

- A lot of the hill tribe people have black teeth. They actually eat some sap from certain trees that makes their teeth turn black, but actually preserves their teeth. The old lady that died last year had only lost 2 teeth all her life.
- When we left the village this morning, this dog followed us all day (Rambo was his name). He's been following the trekkers for years now, and he really seems to enjoy it.
- Hill tribe life seems to calm and peaceful. No worries.
- They handweave a lot of their clothing. They use different bark from different trees to get different colours.
- They also used the bark from a certain tree to wash elephants. It turns into a soap and also acts as an anti-septic.
- Put a bunch of leaves on a termite hill for good luck!
- Hill tribe people have alters at their rice fields for a good growing season.
- It's "autumn" in Thailand, the leaves are changing colour and falling off the trees. It's probably more to do with everything being too dry than with cold weather coming, though.
- Seeing all these chickens and roosters and everything got me to thinking: What the heck is the difference between a rooster, a chicken, a hen, and a turkey???? Can anyone explain????

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Trekking - Day 1

Up at 7:30 this morning, and had breakfast, and waited for our trek truck. It was a little late, but he showed up. It was a songthaew (sp?), which is that truck-turned-taxi by adding seats to the back of a truck, with a roof. And no, there are no seatbelts. Our guide introduced himself quickly, them off we went. Drove south of Chaing Mai for about 20 minutes, stopped at a market for half an hour. I tried some Thai milk (low fat), and it was good, pretty much the same as Canadian milk, but it wasn't cold, just cool. Then we drove for about another 30 minutes to the elephant trekking. This was quite fun, spent an hour or so on an elephant. The elephant kept spitting snot on us from his trunk, Courtney was getting very disgusted. The elephant trainer was a kid, no more than 12 years old, and he would get off and let the elephant go on his own, yelling commands at it every so often. It was only when the trainer wasn't on the elephant did the elephant snot us. I thought it was fun!

After the elephant trek, we hopped back into the songthaew and drove for about 20 minutes to the start of the hike. About a 10 minute hike, to a nice waterfall, where we had lunch, which was fried rice in a baggie, and a banana. BTW, all of our meals were covered as part of the cost of the trek, it was all inclusive, except our drinks (water, Coke, beer, etc.). Spent an hour or so at the waterfall, everyone napped except Court and I, we dangled our feet in the cool river pools.

Did a tough hike, almost straight up, then took a break, then hiked some more, another break, then a final 45 minute hike to a Karen village. We arrived there about 4:00. (I think the guide called the White Karen village.) As we walked into teh village, we walked past the school, where all the kids were standing outside listening to the teacher.

The village was a total step back in time, cows, pigs, ducks, chickens all over the place. No english, except for our guide, and one of the teachers spoke a little english, our guide told us later. The kids are very curious, but very friendly. They can say "What is your name?" We fell so out of place in the village, taking pictures and gawking, but they probably get that every day.

Our sleeping quarters are a communal sleeping area on bamboo, with a mat, sleeping bag and blanket.

Women wear red (or other bright colour)if they are married, white if they are not married. They typically marry about 14 or 15 years old. The female picks a male she likes, and asks him to marry her, but he can refuse (he will usually say something like "ask me next year", or put it off, instead of outright rejection). After marriage, they live with the wife's family for 5 years before going out on their own. They have a 1 month honeymoon. At the wedding ceremony, they put a pigs head on a stake to fend off bad spirits, the rest of the pig is for everyone else to enjoy. The wife pays for the wedding.

The oldest woman in the village dies last year at the ripe old age of 120. They had a 3 day celebration after her death. The oldest woman right now is 88 years old, the oldest man is 94.

The tribe (as most hill tribe people are), are animist (that's a religion, for those not so informed). Opium is still a big problem, but not in this village anymore. They queen visited the village at some point, and the villagers made a promise to not do/deal drugs anymore, so they are clean.

At school, they learn Thai and mathematics, and they learn how to live off the land.

This village had 139 people, soon to be either 140 of 141, one of them is pregnant, and they don't know if it's one or two children she's having.

Before supper, Courtney and I walked around, and waved at the children, took pictures (there's one real nice one with Courtney and about 4 or 5 children), and just observed. Life is sooo slow here. They do have an emergency satellite telephone (powered by solar cells), and there are a few motorbikes around, to get in and out of the village with, but other than that, there's no technology here at all. Court had a cold shower (in an outhouse), and I walked to the school, and looked around, it's just a wooden building with wooden chairs inside, 3 rooms, and a few "teaching aids" on the walls, and a donation box outside, with english asking for donations to buy school supplies and whatnot. I put in 10 baht. I went back and had a shower, holy frickin cold! Yikes!!

We had supper (rice with chicken and potatoes, vegetables and tofu, a vegetable mix (Morning Glory, the guide called it), and watermelon. It was very tasty. One things for sure, you'll never starve in Thailand, especially on a trek. They provide so much food, it's unreal.

AFter supper, Mr. Ton explained the tribe and their customs (all that stuff I mentioned above), and told us they would build a bonfire, and all the children would sing to us, then a big bowl would be placed in front of us, and we could donate some money to the village. The bonfire got built, and we moved to the campfire area, and all the children were standing around, and once we were seated, the children started singing. And they sang, and they sang, and they wouldn't stop, and we started feeling uncomfortable, because we didn't know what to do. Should he clap? Hold up money? Just sit and wait? And they sang, and they were getting tired, and they were running out of songs, and it became almost a chore for them, it seemed. Finally, they brought out the bowl, and we all put in some baht.

AFter the singing, Mr. Ton played songs on his guitar for us, for more than an hour. Got to bed about 10:30.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Back to Chaing Mai

Court was up early this morning, she was cold and couldn't sleep. Her toque fell off. So, she got me up about 7:15. Very chilly morning, we can see our breath, yes we can, very much so. We go and have breakfast down the street, said goodbye to the waitress (Jip) there (she was soooo friendly), she gave us hugs, then back to the huts and sat around with Johnny for 45 minutes, practised counting from last night, and Johnny taught Court and I a bunch of other useful Thai phrases ("How much?", "Too much!", "Lower price!", "My name is...", "You are very handsome.", "You are very pretty.", "I like you.", "I love you", etc.) Of course, I remember nothing, but Court actually has a very good memory, and remembers a lot of it. We walked down the street to the minibus.

Johnny told us when were talking with him we could get a free ride to Chaing Mai with someone else that was going to Chaing Mai that day. Unfortunately, we had already bought our ticket. Too bad. Johnny also gave us his phone numbers, and he tells us to call him amytime if we have any problems with anything. We're his friends, and he wants us safe and happy, and if we have problems or trouble, call him, and he'll do whatever he can to help.

On the bus trip back to Chiang Mai we got stopped by a Thai police checkstop (we also got stopped on the way up to Pai, but I didn't journal it). Thailand started a new war on drugs in the beginning of February, and they are probably doing checkstops to try and catch drug dealers or something. I remember one of the police officers checking the bag of one of the hill tribe people in the minibus...the hill tribe people are big drug dealers, as that's the only way for them to make money. The main drug is opium.

We got back to the Chiang Mai about 1:30. Courtney started taking out her hair extensions. Took her 4 hours.

More notes:
- Chickens walk around the restaurant and kitchen of a lot of restaurants. Especially in the smaller towns. It's funny to see a chicken dogding the steps of the cook as she's frying up rice or eggs.
- a pack of cigarettes about $2.00 here.
- Northern Thai people wear toques and scarves in the evenings and mornings.
- I'll have everyone know, I've eaten more vegetables in the last month that I've eaten my whole life. Yes, I am eating my vegetables. Courtney sounds like my mom. "Eat all your vegetables, Todd." "C'mon eat up." Knowing my mother, she probably e-mailed Courtney and told her to harass me about it.

Anyway, it's about 7:30 on WEdnesday, we're off on our trek tomorrow morning, a 3 day trek, so we won't be online for a few days.

See ya.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Last day in Pai

Yesterday Courtney made a remark after supper about not eating any more dessert, it was becoming too much of a habit...a bad habit. So she was going to refrain, and to provide moral support, I was going to not eat desserts either. Well, later on in the evening, Courtney couldn't help it, we went and had dessert. So much for will power, eh?

We walked back to the guest house and no one had a fire going, so we walked downtown to Be Bops, the local nightspot. It was very busy, there was no place to sit. It's a very small place, they do have a live band (apparently the same one for weeks on end), and they play jazz/blues-type of music. Since we couldn't get in, we walked and got dessert our dessert, then back to the guest house, and asked Johnny if we could make a fire. He said for sure, he'll grab a piece of bamboo fence for burning, and asked us if we had a lighter (we didn't), so he rounded up a lighter, and the three of us had a campfire. It was sooo nice in the cool Pai evening. Suzie from Germany joined us for a while. It's kind of humourous to listen to two people who's first tongue is not English try and converse, they don't understand each other half the time (Johnny and Suzie). Anyway, Johnny is such a nice fellow, we talked and campfired for almost 2 hours, and finally went to bed just before midnight.

It was very cool again last night. Court even got another blanket from Johnny, and got all dressed up to go to sleep, just as the night before, and even with the extra blanket, she was still cold. I slept awesome again, in just my long underwear and a flimsy blanket. Courtney looks like some huge, gargantuan monster beside me in the bed, all wrapped in and covered from head to toe. If she rolled over, I'd be a goner for sure.

In the morning, we had breakfast, rented a motorcycle and went out to the waterfall. Johnny told us to bring our swimsuits, we can swim in the some of the pools of the waterfall. We managed to find our way there, and felt the water. FRIGID COLD!!! There was a few locals, mostly kids, jumping into the pools from rocks, and having a great old time. None of the tourists would go in, though. It was like ice. Finally I decided I was gonna sit in it, at least for a photo opportunity, so Court snapped a picture just as I cringed with the cold, cold water hitting my bum. It's a funny picture. AFter I did it, Court decided she would sit in it too. Once you get used to it, it's not THAT bad. Johnny didn't tell us it was that cold!!

Back to the guest house, Court ate (I wasn't hungry yet), then we motored to find the canyon, but couldn't find it. We drove along all kinds of gravel roads, to no avail. Giving up, we headed to Cafe Del Doi for supper. Cafe Del Doi is an open air restaurant outside of town, that faces west, and we were told to go there for the sunset. We got there, I ate (Court wasn't hungry yet), they Kirk and Donna showed up (, and we sat for a little while. Very nice sunset. It went down at 6:15. AFter a few pictures, Court and I headed to the hot springs, which were just up the road from Cafe Del Doi. I wore my bathing suit, because I knew I was going to go in the hot stream. As soon as the sun sets, the temperature starts to go down, so it was getting cool. Courtney had decided earlier that she wasn't going to go in the hot stream, so didn't bring her bathing suit. I slowly went in, and it was HOT. Once I got used to it, it was very nice, then started to feel just warm. Courtney had shorts, so she just walked in upto her shins or so. So we moved upstream a bit, upstream of the old Thai couple bathing in the stream (I didn't want their gross bathing dirt on me!), and tried to go in again. HOT, HOT, HOT! It felt soooooo nice. I slowly lowered my body in, it felt soooo good. Court saw me enjoying myself, and decided she would sit in it too, with her shorts. She brought a pair of extra long pants anyway, so we both enjoyed the hot stream. If we had tried to move upstream anymore, it would have been too hot for us.

The hot springs closed at 7:00, so we headed out and back to the huts, and sat around with other travellers and Johnny. Johnny taught us to count in Thai. Lots of Canadian's. Lisa from outside Toronto, Melissa from Winnipeg, Taz from Israel, Steve from New Zealand, Gil from Israel and Court and I all sat around for a while, then we all went to Be Bop. We sat down and were joined by a few more people. Court and I stayed for about 1.5 hours, then wandered back to the hit.

It's not nearly as cool this evening as previous evenings. That'd didn't matter to Court, though, she still covered herself up. She even tries to give me part of the extra blanket she got from Johnny the night before, but sometime in teh middle of the night, she steals it all from me.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Cold and hot

Very cold last night, maybe 10 degrees.

Here's a little irony for ya. Courtney put on socks, long pants, a shirt, a sweater, a toque, and tied the hood up over the toque, and had her bed sheets, and her towel, AND the heavy blanket they provided, and she was frigid all night. She hardly slept. I was in my long underwear, nothing else, other than the 2nd blanket they provided, and I slept like a baby. It was sooooo nice to sleep in some cool weather. I left sorry for Courtney, though. Oh well. She did manage to get a little bit after the sun came up a little, from 6:30 to 9 or so. Oh ya, and there's, like 50,000,000 roosters in Pai, and they all cockadoodldoo all frickin night long. I swear, none of the roosters over here know when or what sunrise is. And then the Muslim mosque started going about 4:00 in the morning. I remember it happening, but pretty much slept through it all.

We rented mountain bikes (70 baht/day...we got two of them), and rode out to the natural hot springs, about 6km out of town. They very much reminded me of the natural hot springs I visited in northern BC in 1999 (mom/ can provide the name, I can't remember). Very, very hot where it's coming out of the ground, boiling. We can see the steam, even in the heat of the day. There were quite a few locals bathing/swimming in teh streams, but it would've been too hot for us. It'll be really nice to go there in the cool evening, which we plan on doing tomorrow evening.

We then biked a little farther to Cafe Del Doi, which is supposed to have the most awesome sunsets. The cafe is built facing west, so you can see the sun setting over the mountains. We biked more an 12 km today.

Came back and had a shower. *COLD*! Holy moly, was it cold. Did I mention it was freezing cold???

Walked to town and bought a mini-bus ticket back to Chiang Mai for Wednesday. Back to the guest house, and relaxed, Court practised her poi's, and kept smacking herself in the head. Fortunately there was another girl there who had been doing poi's for about 5 years, and gave Court a few lessons. It'll still be quite a while before Court's ready to set them ablaze, though.

I was talking to Hiro, from Japan, at the outdoor lounge area, and I made a remark about "buddy", and a girl who was passing by said, "Excuse me, where are you from?", and I said Canada, and she said, "I knew it. You said buddy". I guess buddy is a Canadian thing. She was from Nova Scotia, Halifax.

A little later, we met our first Saskatchewan traveller, from Regina. He was born there, but he doesn't live there anymore.

My stupid CD player stopped working, it wouldn't play any CD's. I was ready to ditch it, and Court suggested I try some new batteries. I did, and it worked! Whew!

We went for another bike ride around Pai, then back to the hut, relaxed a bit more, then headed out for some supper, then hit the internet, and here we are.

It's now 9:00PM our time, and I imagine some buddies have a campfire down by the river, so we're gonna go check it out.

See ya later.


Court said I looked like a monk last night, with my shaved head, and my blanket, which is the exact same colour as the robes the monks wear. She got a kick out of it.

AFter getting up, we walked down the street, and booked a cheap 3-day/2-night trek for 1200 baht for Feb. 20-22, and also booked a mini-bus to Laos for the 23rd.

Walked to an internet place, back to the guest house and waited for our bus to Pai.

On the bus, we met Kirk and Donna from LA, and Mark and Neena from Nottingham, I believe it was.

The drive to Pai is only about 130 km, but it takes more than 4 hours because the road is super twisty and up and down, lots of hairpin corners all the way. Halfway to Pai, we stopped at a little store, and switched busses. Seems we're always switching busses, but we always get to where we wanna go. It seems to unorganized sometimes, but I guess they know what they are doing.

Pai is a small town, population about 3000. We arrived about 6:00. The mini-bus driver took us to the Sun Hut, recomended by Let's Go, but they were full, so we tried to get the driver to take us to another one, the Blue Mountain, but he couldn't understand us, and took us to one called Riverside 2. We unloaded our stuff, and the bus took off, and while Court waited on the road, I went and checked out the place. I went to the reception area and the guy introduced himself as Johnny (yes, he was a Thai guy). He had one hut left, for 120 baht, and I checked it out. Very basic, real bamboo hut, on stilts, soft bamboo floors that fell like they'll break under your weight, with just a flimsy matress on the floor, and two blankets. I loved it!!!! I went back to the road, and explained to Courtney. I didn't think she'd like it, but she just said, let's take it, so in we go with our stuff, and we run into Johnny again, and Johnny introduces himself to Court, and he calls himself Johnny Possible...because "anything is possible", he says to us. He they says to us, "You stay on night, if you like, you stay two or three months or one year, ok?" We started laughing. This guy is funny!!! We dropped our stuff in the hut, then Johnny took us to the washrooms. Outdoor toilets and showers, with bamboo and leaf walls, and a small roof covering the toilets. And these toilets are real flushing toilets, stuck right into the ground. This is great!! He has one big shower and a couple of smaller showers. He tells us the smaller showers are for one person, but if you like to shower with 2 or 3 or 4 people you use the big shower. It's designed for that, then laughs. He points to the river, and says we can build a campfire bu the river is we want.

It's getting cool by this time, we put on a sweater, Court puts on some long pants too, and we go for supper. Total cost of supper and a shake: 30 baht...$1. Woohoo!! Things are getting cheaper as we go along.

We walk downtown and run into Mark and Neena from the minibus, and we go to a reataurant and have dessert.

By the way, Court has a new favorite...Banana and Coconut shakes.

After dessert and visitting, we walk back to the guest house and Johnny tells us they have a campfire down by the river, we go down there. Court and I walk down there, and there are 6 or 7 people around a campfire, some drunk. Johnny joins us a little later, and he is soooo funny. He absolutely loves visiting tourists.

He told us a story. When he was a kid, he was very poor, and would look at a map or atlas and would wish he could have a friend in another country, but he knew that he never would. Now, running the guest house, he has friends in many countries, and he is so happy. He is soo funny too, always joking around in his broken english. "Same, same, but different" is another popular saying from him. The landowner can't speak any english, so they pay Johnny to take care of the resort and keep tourists in line.

We went back to the hut about 11:00. Very cool this evening, I remember I could see my breath when we were standing by the campfire.

When we were in the restaurant with Mark and Neena, we had to write down our own order! The waiter dropped off menus and a pad of paper and a pen. We thought he would come back and get our order, but didn't, so we wrote it down, then he came and got the piece of paper. Weird.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Chiang Mai...pretty nice.

After we booked the room this morning at 5:30, we had a nap, and got up about 11:00, had some breakfast, then walked into town. Took a wrong turn, and it ended up taking us quite a while to find the downtown area. Chiang Mai is a city of about 150000 people, a little smaller than Regina. The old (ancient?) part of the city is surrounded by a moat, that is, at at least one gate, more than 700 years old. I imagine different parts of the moat, and the different gates are of different ages. Now the moat has park area all around it, with fountains in it. Quite nice.

We hit an internet place, and Court looked up information on getting glue out of hair...nail polish remover with acetone! So, we hit a pharmacy and bought some.

I hit a hairdresser, and had her shave my head. She used a number 0 on the shaver, which is the closest to the head you can get. It left a little peach fuss on my head, but it's pretty bald. Took her less than 5 minutes to do, and cost me 60 baht.

We walked to the market section of town, stuff is way cheaper here than in Bangkok. Court bought 2 shirts for 150 baht ($5 CDN). The market we went to is very much a market for locals, not tourists, which would explain why it's so inexpensive. Court and I were the only tourists there.

Across the street from the market is the "Night Bazaar" market. What a change. Very tourist oriented, lots of tourists walking about. It's only afternoon, so not much is happening here at the moment, so we'll come back in the evening. They also have a free show at the Galare Food Centre in the Night Market.

While we were in the local market, we had some home-made coconut ice cream...very, very tasty. Lady on the street was selling it out of a huge metal ice cream maker jug.

We walked back to the guest house and booked a mini-bus to Pai for 2:00 tomorrow. We wanted a morning bus, but it was all full. We went back to our room and Courtney started dabbing her hair glue into the nail polish remover. Nothing happening with her hair yet.

We walked back down to the night bazaar area and went and had supper at the Galare Food Centre. Neat setup. You have to buy 100 baht worth of tickets, then you use the tickets to buy food. If you don't use all your tickets, you can exchange your unused tickets back for baht. AFter eating, we went to the stages and watched two shows, the first was a cabaret put on my Thai lady boys, the second was some Thai boxing (Muay Chai, I think is the term for it).

The cabaret was pretty amateurish, but what can you expect for free. It was soo funny, too, because some of the lady boys had breast implants!!!! They would come out in all kinds of fancy dresses and gowns, and dance and sing (lip sync) to songs. It was actually quite fun to watch. AFter the cabaret, the dancers would come down to the audience and try to get you to take pictures of the cast for money. We didn't, but the one girlboy looked very attractive, but when (s)he came to our table, had a very low voice, obviously a guy. If you're wondering how we know they had breast implants, and that they were not really women, some of the acts were topless, so we saw their boobs, and Courtney said their boobs were too perky to be natural, they had to be fake. What kind of guy would get breast implants????

The Thai boxing was fun, but wasn't the real thing. It was more of a "sparring match" between to Thai boxers, like they might do while practising, but was interesting, nonetheless. They would hit pretty hard, but they wouldn't hit very hard with, for example, a knee into the chest, which could be very hurtful. We'd like to see the real thing next time we're in Bangkok. Lane told us he went to see it in Bangkok, and it was pretty violent, guys getting knocked out by elbows or knees to the jaw or head.

The evenings here are quite nice, somewhat like a nice Saskatchewan evening, not too warm, not too cool. Days are still damn hot though, but not nearly as humid. Like a hot Sask. day, I suppose.

After the cabaret and boxing show, we walked the bazaar a little more than walked back to the guest house.

I look fine with a shaved head. My head is normal. (Although my brothers will disagree on this statement.)

Friday, February 14, 2003

Valentine's Day Part Deux

So, I ended off telling you about my experiences getting an exchange on my CD player.

For lunch today, Court and I visited the street vendors. Court had Pat Thai (everyplace spells it different), and I had a chicken omelette on rice. It was sooooooo good.

The minibus didn't come to pick us up for our trip to Chiang Mai. Instead a guy came and made us walk to the big bus, about half a kilometre away. That was the first time we've actually had to carry our backpacks any distance. Bus left about 8:00PM. It was cold on the bus, as per usual. Court was freezing, she was covering herself head to toe in blankets. She had her own blanket (the bus company supplied them), and had half of mine wrapped around her, including her head. I wish I had a picture.

We got to Chiang Mai about 5:30 in the morning. The bus stopped at the Paradise Guest House. When we got off, we could feel the cooler air of the night compared to the hot and stuffy feeling down south. Paradise Guest House is NICE. Swimming pool, warm showers in every room, and only 200 baht/night. We're giddy with excitement about having a hot shower, the first one in about 4 weeks!! We did plan on going to Pai right away, and not staying in Chiang Mai, but changed our plans after seeing the guest house. Plus the fact that we didn't sleep on the bus, we decided to book a room at the Paradise, and we'll head to Pai tomorrow.

Court thinks she's going to like northern Thialand, it's a lot cooler.

More notes:
- the Thai people seem to be very family oriented (as I think most Asian cultures are).
- no greeting cards to be found anywhere!!! Nothing! Maybe I just wasn't looking in the right spot, but I couldn't find a Valentine's card at all. I had to make my own.
- but, they do celebrate Valentine's Day here!
- we ran into Lane from Lethbridge again last night. We first met him in KL a few weeks ago. Weird how you keep running to people you've met earlier.
- Advice for anyone planning a trip to SE Asia. DO NOT bring any clothes, other than what you're wearing. You can buy clothes so cheap here, and , if you're a natural shopper anyway (like Court), you'll end up buying lots of new clothes anyway. People told us before we left not to bring a lot of clothes, but we didn't heed their warnings, and ended up sending stuff back or just leaving it behind.

That's Valentine's Day in a nutshell!

Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

I got up about 9:00AM and went for a walk. All week I've been banging my head against a wall trying to figure out what to get Court for Valentine's, as anybody that know's me knows, I always do something for the women in my life. :-) She's my Valentine this year, I have no one else! Because of our situation, I couldn't really do/get anything "romantic", per se, it had to be more practical, because whatever I got her, she'd have to carry around with her. I had been thinking about a roll of toilet paper all week, as toilet paper is not a common item here, and she's always wanting some. But, I needed something else. As I was walking, I remembered she kept talking about getting this certain CD, by a group called Blue, so I bought her a ripped off copy of that CD along with the toilet paper. When I got back to the room, I had to hide it from her, and I started writing her a little Valentine's note/poem. As I was sitting there writing it, she asked me what I was writing in my journal, because she knew I had written about everything we had did the previous day last evening. She couldn't figure out what had happened overnight that would require that much writing in my journal. I just told her I writing "stuff".

We had breakfast, picked up our laundry, packed, move our bags downstairs, and just walked around. Met up with buddy from Ko Samet (known as curly hair buddy). Court started talking about buying this Blue CD, the same one I got her for Valentine's Day, so I had to take her back to the guest house and give her her Valentine's gift early. I was saving it for the bus trip later. She was very happy, and loved my dumb poem (although she tells me my poem's are not dumb), but she felt bad that she didn't get my anything, but I reassured her, it was no big deal.

Went back to the market, and I bought a Sony CD/MP3 discman with 45 second anti-skip for 2950 baht from some guy on the street. Then Court and I bought about 12 CD's. We decided to head back to the guest house and listen to our new CD's, so I opened up my new discman, and it worked. It's definately not a Sony, no serial or model numbers on it, the graphics and writing on the CD player are not "straight", totally a rip off, and came with a Panasonic AC adapter. Oh well, I paid less than $100CDN for a CD/MP3 player, I ain't complaining. Oh, and the AC Adapter will only do 220 volt, I can't use it in Canada. No big deal.

All the CD's we bought were burned CD's (not the real thing), and a lot of them include extra tracks...for example, I bought Nickelback, Silver Side Up, and it has 21 tracks on it, they put a bunch of tracks from their first CD on this CD as well. I also bought the old and the new Coldplay CD's. Ends up, the new Coldplay CD, they put 5 tracks from their first CD on the second CD to fill it up. We sat in the lobby of the guest house and listened to music, and I found out my CD player won't play some CD's very well, in fact it wouldn't play the Nickelback CD at all. Court tried the CD's in hers, and they worked fine. Great!!! I took the CD player back to street buddy, and he tried the Nickelback CD in his player, and it worked, then he tried it in mine, and it wouldn't play. He kept trying, telling me that it was a sophisicated player, it takes longer to play, but we waited and waited, and nothing. Finally, he got another CD player like mine, and tried the CD in there, and it didn't work in that one either. He then grabbed a higher end CD player (one that plays Video CD's as well), and tried it in there, and it worked fine. He wanted me to pay more for the new CD player, and I told him no, because I was never going to use Video CD's, so I'm not gonna pay more for somethign I'm not going to use. So, he ended up giving me the better CD player at the original price. He said he was sorry, it was his fault, and he mentioned that he ended up losing money on the deal. I'm happy, and it's neat, even the street vendor's selling ripped off goods are good guys to deal with.

Anyway, have to finish updating today later, gotta go catch a bus!

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Back to Bangkok

Last night I made a startling realization. My really bad sunburn yesterday? Well, I realized I just experienced my first major side-effect of the anti-malarial drug I'm taking. One of the major side-effects of Doxycycline (sp?) is your skin becomes much more sensitive to the sun. And I started taking the drug a few days ago, so obviously it's kicking in. Had I remembered that, I could have put more sunscreen on!!

Our beach hut here at Naga resort has geckos in it! They scurry around the walls and floor, eating bugs and other insects. They're so cute. And they make a helluva a noise. It's hard to believe such a loud noise could come from such a small lizard. They are neat to watch, though.

It rained last night, it was a nice change, cooled things down a little.

We packed our stuff up this morning, and walked to the townsite with our packs, and got a taxi-truck to the dock. The fare from the townsite to the dock is 100 baht, so the more people you have, the cheaper it is. We decided to wait a little while to see if others would come by that were looking for rides to the dock (we were early), and another guy came, and hopped in, and he wanted to go right now, so decided sure, that's only 33 baht each. When we got to the docks, the other guy said to us he'll pay the whole fare, not to worry about it. Nice gesture, nice guy! Thanks buddy! Caught the boat to the mainland, and got to our tour operator, and waited a bit, then we were pointed to the minibus we were to take. Minibuses typically carry 9-11 people, there were 9 of us on this trip, so we all piled in, and the whole bus was infected with hundreds and hundreds of mosquitos. Everyone started slapping, trying to kill them, then they all started pouring out, refusing to ride in that bus. A couple of other girls complained to the tour operator, asking for another bus. The tour operator obliged, and told us to get on a different bus instead. Through all this, we met up with an Australian girl called Yvette. We talked with her most of the trip, and got back to Bangkok (BKK for short) about 2:00. We walked to the guest house area, and we made plans to go out for supper and argella at 7:00. Funny thing is, Yvette has travelled to Turkey, and loves Argella too, she owns one as well (Court owns two). She had a different name for it, but the same thing.

We tried checking into the Merry V (same one we had before), but it was full, so we tried the one next door, the New My House Guest House, and they had a room for 250 baht, so we took it. This place is quite a bit nicer than Merry V, a tad more expensive, but oh well. We settled in, and then did some errands, booked our bus ticket to Chaing Mai, 200 baht. We looked at a sleeper train, but it was quite a bit more expensive. It's a 10 hour, overnight bus ride, and picks us up at 6:00PM tomorrow evening. Yvette suggested we go to Hai as well, more north of Chaing Mai, so we'll probably head there after we get into Chaing Mai. But you know us, plans change rather quickly!

We took a bunch of laundry in, we went to the post office and put a bunch of stuff in a box and mailed it back home. I brought WAY to many socks and underwear, Court sent back a bunch of clothes, along with a few other things we don't need over here, or don't want to carry with us anymore. Courtney's backpack has been bulging at the seams, she couldn't fit her bra's in her backpack when we left Ko Samet, so I had to carry those for her. The package took take up to 3 months to get to Canada. It's been shipped ground, the cheapest, it cost us almost 1300 baht (a little over $40CDN) to send back. We also air-mailed our first photo CD, separately, to my place, when it arrives, I've asked my dad to put it in my computer, and I'll generate a photo album of all our pictures thus far, for you all to see.

Courtney's hair extensions keep falling out, pulling her own hair out. 4 or 5 of them came out so far. She's getting stressed about it. We walked around to some hair dressers around here to see about getting them removed, but no one will do it. While she was in one hair dresser place, I was waiting outside, and the lady who sold us our bus tickets to Chaing Mai (she sells tickets on the sidewalk in front of this hair dresser place), says to me, "Why you hair like that?" I laughed. She said she thought it was sort of new fashion trend. I laughed again, then explained what had happened. Too funny.

We went to pick up our visa's (and passorts) for Laos and Vietname at 6:00 today from another travel agent, they were supposed to be ready by 6:00 today. We got there, and she told us she didn't have them yet, come back in 30 minutes. So we left, and came back about 6:30, and there was a guy there that said he had them, he would just be 5 minutes, and he'd be back with them. So we waited, about 10 minutes later, he came back, and handed a passport to the travel agent lady, and she said to him, no, that wasn't it, Laos and Vietnam visa's and two passports. So we waited some more. About 6:50, we told the lady we had to leave, we had to meet Yvette at 7:00. The travel agent told us they were open until 10:00, so we said we'd come back before 10:00.

We met up with Yvette, and had supper, then went and did the arghella (well, Court and Yvette did most of it, my throat get's irriated after a little bit). About 9:30, we went back to the travel agent, and sat down, and she had our passports, but she said there was a problem with the Vietnam visa. She told us that the Vietnam embassy forgot to stamp our passports, so we didn't have visa's for Vietnam yet. Laos was all taken care of (which is good, that's the most important one for now). She told us we could get the Vietnam visa done in Vientiane (capital of Laos), or we could leave our passports with her, and when the Vietnam visa's were ready, she could send them up to Chaing Rai, and a guest house owned by her (or someone she knows) would hold them for us until we got there. Chaing Rai is where we'd be crossing the border into Laos. We weren't terribly comfortable with having our passports floating around Thailand like that, so we told her we'd think about it, and come back tomorrow. The travel agent did refund our money we paid to get the Vietnam visa, so we're not out any money. When we left, Yvette said she believes we can get visa's for Vietnam right at the Vietnamese border.

We said goodbye and safe journey to Yvette, and I did a little reading in the Let's Go book, and we can get our visa's in Vientiane, but we can't at the border. So, when we're in Laos, we'll get our visa's in Vientiane. And, just as I was typing this, this is maybe a blessing in disguise. We're not on as much of a date-specific schedule anymore, we have a little time in Laos to decide how much time we want to spend there, and can judge our entry date into Vietnam a little better now.

Court made a phone call to Julio, then Court and I went walking around the market a little more, and Court bought some poi's, which are things you light on fire and twirl around. She has to learn how to not start herself on fire now.

I'm probably going to buy a fire stick. It's a bar that you light both ends on fire, and twirl around. Most of the bars/resorts have people doing these things in the evening, on the sand, as part of the entertainment, and it's quite fun to watch.

We finally got to bed about 11:30.

That's our excitement for the day. I can just see my mom's expressions when she reads about us not getting our passorts, she'll be freaking. Mom, it's never as bad as it seems, people over here are not thieves, and not out to get you. Don't worry about us!!!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


I woke up about 6:45 this morning, I can never sleep when I've had a fair bit to drink the night before. Finally got up about 8:30, and took a long stroll down the beach, while Court slept. I got back, we had breakfast and headed to the beach. Holy HOT!!! The sun is sure beating down on us today. I got a bad burn. And some huge swells today too. Awesome!!!

Before the beach, we bought mini-bus tickets to Bangkok for tomorrow. We have to catch a boat to teh mainland at 9:00, then the bus at 10:00.

I got a burn today. It shouldn't be that bad, but Court keeps telling me how red I am. And I can feel it. STrange that I would get a burn today, I didn't use any sun-tan lotion the last two days, and I've been fine. Oh well, such is life of a beach bum.


Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Bad Day!!

I slept crappy last night, the bed is hard. Slept in until about 10:00. At breakfast, I had an omelette, and after eating it, there was the big piece of chocolate cake (Naga Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake to be precise) sitting in the bakery section calling my name. It was 50 baht, but worth every baht!!! I don't think I've ever had chocolate cake for breakfast before!

Anyway, here's my bad day: We went to the beach, I walked down the beach to by a frisbee, and also bought a pair of goggles. I put my change (bills and coins, more than 300 baht) in my back pocket of my swimming trunks and forgot about it. When I was using my new goggles, they broke, then I remembered about my money, checked my back pocket, and all the bills were gone, floating out in the sea somewhere, more than 300 baht worth. That's only about $10 CDN, but still. Oh well. After the beach, when I went to shower, my sunglasses fell off my head and smashed into 2 pieces in the shower. Jeez, eh??? Good thing I had that big piece of chocolate cake earlier to ease all my worries!

Also today, I walked to the townsite (Court didn't want to, she wanted to lay on the beach) to see a 14-metre tall Buddha. 14-metre, my foot. More like 14-feet tall Buddha. Must be a typo. It was only a 15 minute walk, so no biggie. Went back to the beach after that. Big waves in the sea today! Awesome for body surfing, and it's fun to float up and down in the swells as they come to shore.

We showered up and ate supper, played a game of pool, then bought a Sang Som bucket (I think I called it a Sangstrom bucket earlier...Sang Som is the proper booze name) for ourselves (we shared it), played cards on the beach for a while. Then at 10:00, we got another bucket, because earlier in the day, someone had given Court a coupon for a free bucket at the Naga bar. We shared that one too, and when that one was done, we boguht another one. Anyway, it was a late night, and we're pretty tired today. We can't keep that up anymore. No more alcohol!

Oh, yesterday Courtney cut my dreadlocks out. I was getting really annoyed with them. (BTW, mom, they cost me 1200 baht to get put in, about $40 CDN). Because they were glued to my real hair, she had to cut out the glue, which was pretty close to my scalp. Well, let's just say, I have a totally hack job of a haircut now. Court keeps telling me it looks ok, but I know it looks really funny, parts of it are long, other parts are cut right to the scalp, I have holes everywhere. Everyone was making fun of my hair tonight at the bar, referring to Court as the hair hacker of Ko Samet or something like that. We got a picture of my new hairdo, but when we hit Bangkok on Thursday, I'm gonna get my head shaved completely bald. I've always been curious to see what my head looks like anyway.

Monday, February 10, 2003

No hangover!

It's a good thing I walked last night. I woke up feeling fine, at about 6:30 this morning. I laid in bed for a while, and finally got up, and had breakfast at 9:30. Court slept in. We checked out of the Sea Breeze, and checked into Naga Bungalows, half the price. Pretty basic, small hut, shared washrooms/showers.

Court isn't feeling well today, she's not quite sure why.

After we got settled in to our new hut, an awful scream was heard overhead. A fighter jet just went screaming by!!! A few seconds later, I could here another one, I ran outside, and another fighter jet (F-15-type of jets!) screamed by and dissappeared!! WOW, that's the last thing I expected to see and hear here!! I grabbed my video camera, and ran outside hoping to see more flyby, and sure enough, another one went screaming by, followed by a fourth seconds later. They were soooo loud!! It blew me away! Maybe Thailand and Cambodia are going to war, and Thailand is sending in fighter jets! Haha.

We went to the beach about 1:30, until about 4:00. Had a blast. Court and I are getting used to the not-doing-anything-but-relaxing thing. And we save a lot of money when we don't do anything too!

We headed back to the hut, and showered, and laid down for a while. I was getting really tired by this time of day, I only slept for 3 hours last night, and I knew it'd catch up. I had a short nap, and we went down for supper, then hit the internet.

The guest house we're at has a bakery in it. They bake all kinds of fresh breads and cakes everyday! We're gonna go have something from the bakery once we're done at the internet.

Incidentally, many, many guest houses in Thailand show english movies in their lobbies in the evenings. That was popular in Bangkok, and it's no different with the resorts on Ko Samet. They all have TV's and good sound systems, and you can sit and watch a movie for free (well, they'd probably prefer you to buy something, food, or a drink or something). But, the interesting thing is, some of the movies are brand new! One of the guest houses was showing "Catch Me If You Can". Heck, that movie certainly isn't out on DVD yet, it's probably still at the theatre in Moose Jaw, yet they have a copy of it, and are screening it in their lobby this evening. Too weird.

Anyway, until another day.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Ko Samet

We got up at 6:30, for our 8:00 minibus to Ko Samet. Courtney has a cold (or something), she's sneezing and sniffling, but feeling good other than that. I feel totally exhausted and weak today, don't know why.

A minibus came and picked us up at our guest house. The nice thing about SE Asia is you don't usually have to carry your backapcks too far, as the buses pick you up at your guest house most of the time! Nice.

The minibus driver was very strange. He kept fidgetting and making weird noises the whold 4 hour trip, and his legs were shaking the whole time. I thought he was tired, and was trying to stay awake, but his eyes weren't closing at all. Maybe he has "other" issues.

Once at Rayong, the minibus driver dropped us off, and we had to catch a boat to Ko Samet. Once at Ko Samet, we had to take a taxi-truck to Ao Phai beach and found a place for 500 baht, so we took it. Other places were all booked up. It's hot and hard carrying a backpack on a tropical island, so we didn't look too much, and took one of the first bungalows that we could. AFter moving in, we went to the beach for a while, and walked around and found some beach huts nearby for 250 baht. They didn't have any left for today (plus we had already payed for our 500/night room), so they told us to check back the next morning, and if they have something, we'll move.

The island doesn't have any power during the day, unless the resort you're staying at has a generator! We had no electricity in our bungalow until about 5:00PM.

The sand on the beach where we are is soo nice, it's whitewhitewhite, and very fine. Sooo nice!

We had supper and walked around a bit, watched a movie (and had dessert) at another place (movie was called Witchblade), then we came back to our hut and got ready to go out to the Half Moon Party that is happening tonight at a few of the bars/resorts. Some of the islands in Thailand have these "Full Moon Parties", whenever there's a full moon, and I guess some of the parties are huge, 5000-8000 people on a beach, partying all night long.

So, this island has Half Moon Parties. We went to Naga Bar, and we each bought a bucket. Mine consisted of vodka and Red Bull, Court had what's called a Sangstrom bucket, which is rum and Coke and Red Bull. I signed up to play pool, and when it was finally my turn, more than an hour later, I won my first game, so got to keep the table, then lost. Those buckets have a lot of alcohol in them, and I couldn't see straight anymore. I had to go walking around for a couple of hours for the booze to wear off. We finally got back to our place about 3:30AM.

Court actually met a guy that she had met while she was in Jordan at the party! What are the freakin' odds, eh??????

Fun was had by all.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Not much today

I slept great last night! We had breakfast, and took some laundry in to get laundered, burned all our pictures to a CD, bought tickets to Ko Samet (180 baht). Courtney wasn't feeling well today, feeling very sick to her stomach, so she laid down for the afternoon, and slept for most of the day, until about 5:00. I walked around tot he Grand Palace and Wat Pho (impressive...from the outside), and spent 250 baht for supper, very, very expensive supper. I didn't go in, just looked at them from the outside, but couldn't see too much, as they have big walls around them.

AFter supper, Court was feeling much better and we walked around in the evening, looking for soap and shampoo.

We started taking our malaria pills today, apparently Ko Samet has a slight risk of malaria, plus in the near future, we'll be getting into malaria areas.

Our new look!!

Check out my web site, and check out our new look!!! Let us know what you think!!!

Friday, February 07, 2003

3 weeks!

Last night we had supper at a dive of a restaurant, and as we were waiting for our supper, I saw a big rat run across the floor, and duck under a Coke machine! And the food wasn't that good to boot! I ordered spaghetti, and got a tiny plate of it, barely an appetizer. So, after that, we went to another place and ordered a big plate of french fries ("french fried" they call them here).

Today marks 3 weeks from the day we left. It honestly seems like 3 months or longer. Canada just seems like a distant memory. It's hard to believe it's only been 3 weeks!!!

I had set three alarms to wake us up this morning, for our trip to the floating market and the Crocodile Farm. We didn't hear the first one (at 5:30), and I just barely heard the 2nd one (at 6:00), then the third one (at 6:00 as well) woke us up for sure. Ended up my watch had fallen under my bed, and I could barely hear it. The first two alarms were set on my watch, the third on a little alarm clock I had bought before we left. Good thing for it!!!! We got up, rushed to have breakfast, and waited and waited. Our experience with other bus tours was, the bus was always very early, so we were rushing to be ready. Ended up the bus was late, it didn't come by the guest house until about 7:05. We thought it had forgot about us or something. The bus was actually a mini-van that seats 10, plus the driver and the guide. We stopped at a coconut sugar factory first, which was kinda neat. Sugar from coconut tastes a little different, but good.

The we got the floating market. Well, this floating market was cool, but totally commercialized now. 75-80% of the people there were tourists, floating around on the boats, and most of the shops sold tourist knick-knacks. Not really what we were hoping for, but I did expect it to be very touristy. Darren/Mavis: I assume the one you guys did in Vietnam is very different, as I remember Darren making a remark about how he was the only white-boy in the whole market, and he left out-of-place taking pictures of all the locals doing their daily routine. I can't wait to see that one.

The long-tailed boat we took to the floating market was cool, speed up and down the canals. These long-tailed boats have motors, and ours went slow, because it was full of tourists, but alot of the empty long-tailed boats were flying at high-speed through the canals, creating great waves, it was actually pretty fun!

We then headed to a wood-carving place, where they make everything from little wook knick-knacks to huge pieces of furniture. Everything is hand-made. This was a cool sight to see too. They had a show-store area, where you could buy stuff, and there was this one huge dining room table, it sat 10 (came with chairs), that had an exquisite carving in the table, covered by a huge piece of glass. It had been sold to a guy from Saudi Arabi for just under $10,000 US!! It was very nice!

After the wood-carving, we had a traditional Thai lunch served for us (included in the price). A traditional Thai meal is where everyone sits at a table, and placed on the table are all kinds of Thai dishes (sweet-and-sour chicken w/vegetables, just vegetables, chicken in cashew nuts, etc.), and everyone gets their own plate of rice. Then you just scoop whatever you want onto your rice, from what's placed on the table. It was very tasty. Thai food is quite good, but some can be pretty spicy, and the spicy stuff gives me the runs!

AFter lunch, we headed to the Crocodile Farm and Zoo. The guide ushered us to the stadium area, where they were doing a magic show. It was pretty good, no David Copperfield, but quite funny, and some of the stuff they did was very good (and I couldn't figure it out!) Right after the magic show was the elephant show, where they paraded a bunch of elephants into the stadium, doing all kinds of things, dancing, kicking balls into a net (a'la soccer), they re-enacted a traditional battle involving elephants, like how it would have happened centuries ago. Very interesting, and I did get the impression that the elephants were treated well here. They indicated during the show that an elephant/trainer relationship is somewhat like that of a dog and his master. They become very close, and each loves each other, and would help each other if any harm would come to either. Very interesting stuff, and it was fun to watch. We got to touch the elephants, and later on, Courtney fed some of the baby elephants, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

AFter that, was the crocodile show. Typical, I guess, if you've ever seen it on TV, the guys get the crocs to open their mouths, then they stick various body parts inside the mouth (hand, arm, head), and hope the croc doesn't close. This was pretty funny, even though the whole thing was in Thai, we could get an idea of what was going on from the announcer.

AFter the croc show, we had the opportunity to browse around the rest of the zoo. Many of the elephants are free to roam around, and not tied or chained down, and you could go up and pet them and whatever. A few did have leashes around their legs, probably because they're not totally trained to not wander away, but most just wander around the area, and now where they can and can't be. It was neat to see them not in cages, but just wandering free.

WE got back to Bangkok, and had supper. AFter supper, we ran into Lane, a Canadian we had met in KL, and a friend of his (Heinrich) from Sweden, and the four of us went to the Patpong district, where they have a market and one of the red-light districts. Yawn. The market wasn't nearly as big as the one near our guest house, and the red-light district was nothing like the one in Amsterdam. This was more like a bunch of strip-joints, with guys (or girls) trying to entice customers to go in. At one bar/stripclub, then even had a little girl (perhaps 10) outside trying to entice customers in. We couldn't believe it.

The bus ride to Patpong was all of 3.5 baht, which is just over 1 cent! It was a 45 minute ride. Holy cheap!

After we got back, we were heading back to the guest house, and we ran across a dude selling bugs again! I ate my grasshopper (and got the picture to prove it!) Tasted crunchy, and that's about it.

And that's about it for now.

Tomorrow we are going to head down to some more islands/beaches (Ko Samet, and maybe another one farther south), then come back to Bangkok to get our passports/visa's, before heading north to Chang Mai.

We're doing laundry today, and are going to burn all of our pictures to a CD, and mail the CD back to Canada. Once it makes it's way there, I'll put all the pictures on my web site for you all to enjoy.

Bye Bye!

Thursday, February 06, 2003


Well, I had a little too much last night, I woke up not feeling that hot. Not feeling sick, but realizing that I can't eat anything. And the room was spinning when I woke up about 6:30AM. Court was feeling fine when she got up (about 9:30), but she deteriorated quickly after having breakfast. She didn't think she was drunk last night, but she's thinking she maybe had more than she thought! Needless to say, today was a pretty lazy, slow day for us, we're both trying get the "poison" out of our system. That's what it feels like, we both don't drink that much, and when we do, it feels like the alcohol is a poison, coursing through our veins, and making feel achy all over. No more drinking for us! Well, until next time anyway.

We just kinda walked around a bit, then back to the room, and laid down for an hour, then walked a bit, then sat and watched a movie in one of the guest house lobby's (The Ring...scary!), then the internet. We also booked a Floating Market and Crocodile Farm tour for tomorrow. Bus picks us up at 7:00AM, so tonight is going to be an early night.

We're just sitting at an internet cafe right now.

I think we're going to head a little south of Bangkok, to some beaches for a few days, and be back in Bangkok to pick up our passports next Thursday, then head up to Chang Mai.

Sorry, but Court gave up on the pictures, too slow. We have soooo many great pictures to show you all, of our snorkelling trip, and beaches, and eating bugs, but alas, it'll have to wait.

I guess that's it for now. Until later.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

One Night In Bangkok...

I got up about 9:00AM, Courtney about 9:40, we had breakfast, and walked to the Grand Palace. We weren't going to go in, just look at it from the outside. There was a friendly Thai man hanging around, and he started chatting us up, he was a teacher, and he started talking about the King and Queen, and how nice the Queen was, she likes to give to the Thai people, and whatnot, and then he asked us if we'd seen any of the sights yet, and we said not really, and he asked as about the Ancient Buddha, Standing Buddha, and Marble Temple, and we said we hadn't visited them yet, and he was kinda shocked. He told us that because of Chinese New Year, tourists could go in for free (usually 200 baht for each of the them), and the tourists didn't need to cover up either. He told us we had to visit them, they are must see's for tourists to understand the Thai culture and Buddhism and stuff, so he drew a little map for us on how to get there, then he remarked about this place called "Broadways", which is the tailor that makes all the Italian fashions (Armani, etc.) He said we had to stop there, it was the last day of a promotion for visitors, we could buy an expensive suit for cheap, and we were kind of intriqued and interested. He then flagged down a "tuk-tuk" (pronounced toque-toque), and talked to the driver, and showed him the map he had drawn. The tuk-tuk driver said 40 baht for both of us to go to these four stops (just over a buck Canadian), and the tuk-tuk driver spoke a little English, so all was well.

So, off we go in our little tuk-tuk, weaving in and out of traffic, and we get to the Ancient Buddha and temple, which was pretty neat, and the tuk-tuk driver kind of acted like a guide, taking us around and showing us stuff. He bought some food and started feeding it to the fish in the river, and they swarmed up like hungry pirhana, it was pretty neat. Our tuk-tuk driver went back to his tuk-tuk and he'd wait for us while finished looking around. Inside one of the temple was a security guard-looking person, who spoke good english, and he started chatting us up, he was from New York, going to university there, taking Law, and he was back in Thailand for the month to take care of his father (no social net in Thailand), and we showed him our little map that buddy had given us, and he saw the Broadways on there, and he was shocked how we had heard about that place. He reiterated that we HAD to go to Broadways, because of this promotion, and get, like 75% off of designer suits, and become a member, so we can order from them for the rest of our lives. He was a member, he showed us his card, and he told us he orders suits from New York from them, and they ship them to him in New York, as he needs nice stuff, being an attorney.

So, we're kinda stoked, and we go back to the tuk-tuk, and we try to ask the tuk-tuk driver to take us back to our guest house so we can get more money. He doesn't quite understand, he thinks we want to quit, so we forget about getting more money, and off we go to the Standing Buddha. This was cool, a huge, perhaps 4 story gold Buddha, very impressive. We walk around the temple complex for a bit, then back to the tuk-tuk. The tuk-tuk driver then takes us to Broadways, and it's just a small tailor shop, they do all the fashions for the Italian designers, but if we buy from them direct, we get great deal. Instead of paying $2500 for a suit, we can get it for perhaps $1000. It was at this point that we realized that we were part of the "scam" that the tuk-tuk drivers partake in. (Mavis, I'm sure you heard all about these when you were here.) Anyway, we sit and listen to the spiel, and he tries to pressure us into making a deposit, because we didn't have any money, but we insist we'll think about it and come back. So, we spent maybe 15 minutes in there. We go back to the tuk-tuk driver, and he informs us that we have to visit this "factory", and that we should go inside, and take our time looking around, so off we go. It's a gem factory, where they try to sell jewelerry (sp?) at inflated prices, which of course, we have no intention of buying. Once the sales people here realize we have no intention of purchasing, they quickly usher us out of the building, back to the tuk-tuk we go, and he asks us to just go in this other fashion store and look around for a 15 or 20 minutes. This time he's honest with us, and the driver tells us that he gets paid if we go in and look around, so we oblige for him (he was a nice guy!), and we go inside, and they try their sales pitch, but of course, we're not buying anything. We try to stretch out our time to about 15 minutes for tuk-tuk dude, but I think we were probably out of there within 10 minutes. It was at this point that Court noticed that the tuk-tuk driver had a "Broadways" sticker on the dash of his tuk-tuk!

Anyway, that's it for the sales pitches, the tuk-tuk driver takes us to the Marble Temple, which costs us 20 baht to get in, but after we pay, the temple protector dude doesn't want to let Courtney in because of her attire, so she tells me to go in, and she'll wait, so I walk in, then protector dude tells Court to go in anyway. Inside, there are a lot of other women with tank-tops on, he was discriminating against Court. Oh well. After the Marble Temple, the tuk-tuk takes us back to our guest house (within a block, which was fine), we pay him the 40 baht, and shake his hand, and we're done. That killed about 2 hours, and costs us next to nothing, except our time, which we have plenty of anyway.

It was about 2:30 now, so we decide to check out getting Visa's for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. There are lots of agents in the guest house area that arrange these for you. Ends up we can't get a Cambodian visa from them right now, but I'll explain that in a bit. We do order Laos and Vietnam visa's, though, we're giving ourselves 1 month in Laos and 1 month in Vietnam (at the suggestions of Mavis and Darren and one of Court's sisters friends, who very much enjoyed Laos). It cost us 3280 baht for those two visa's, we pick them up next Thursday. Of course, we had to indicate the entry and departure date into and out of Vietnam, so we're entering on March 20, and exitting April 19. For the first time, we're on a timetable! Ack! This sucks!

Anyway, about the Cambodia visa. When we were in Krabi, one day I was checking my e-mail, and I get e-mail updates daily from the Canadian gov't on travel advisories. They had one indicating that Cambodia and Thailand are upset with each other, and while there was no threat to Canadian's in Cambodia, to be aware of public anti-Thai demonstrations in Phnom Peng (sp?) and stay away, in case of violence. Then, in the Bangkok Sun (I think that's the name), I was reading it at the guest house one day, and Thailand and Cambodia are mad at each other. You probably never heard anything about it over in North America, but both countries are on the brink of war with each other. They are amassing troops and artillery on the border, ready to go ad it. Hence, each country has closed their embassy's in the other country, so we can't get Cambodia visa's. The travel agents tell us we can get the Cambodia visa when we get to the border, no problem.

Of course, I know my mom is probably having a heart attack after reading that. I exaggerated somewhat in my description, they are not going to war or anything like that. The embassies are closed, that's why we can't get our Cambodia visa, but we're told it's no problem to get them at the Cambodia border when we get there. In the Bangkok Sun, apparently this little spit between Thailand and Cambodia started when a Thai TV star made a comment how he thought that the Angkor Wat temple complex should belong to Thailand, and that Cambodia had stolen it from Thailand. That set off both countries, and I guess there are some anti-Thai demonstrations in the streets in Phnom Peng now. Our travel plan at the moment is Laos for a month, then Vietnam, then get back to Thailand through Cambodia in a few months. Hopefully things will have settled down there by then.

Anyway, things are falling into place for Laos, Vietname and Cambodia. We're going to spend another couple of weeks in Thailand before going to Laos, we're going up to Chang Mai (northern Thailand), and will get into Laos from there.

Anyway, we had supper then got ready to go out on the town. We bought a bottle of rum from a street vendor, then hit 7-11 and bought a couple of Coke fountain drinks (for the cups!), and added in some rum, and started walking around the markets with our rum and coke. We walked down a back alley (there are small stores EVERYWHERE!), and we came across a lady selling "arghella" (pronounced ar-gee-la). Arghella is a fancy pipe system that they use to smoke flavoured tobacco. Courtney did it a lot in Jordan (everybody does it there), in fact Court brought two arghella's back from Jordan with her, along with 4 pounds of tobacco. This stuff is not bad for you, like cigarettes, there's no tar and nicotine or any other chemicals in it, it's just tobacco, with flavouring (apple, orange, honey, whatever). Courtney was ecstatic, because she had been talking earlier in the day about really wanting to do some arghella, she was missing it, and being in SE Asia really reminded her of Jordan. Anyway, we sat down, got our own arghella, and got apple flavoured tobacco, and Court went at it. I had some too (I had tried it at Court's house after she got back from Jordan as well), but after a little while, it just starts making me hack and cough, so I had to quit. Court was in her glory, though. Sitting beside us was a guy from Japan (Susumi was his name), visiting Thailand for 3 weeks. AFter finishing up our arghella, and emptying the rum, we decided to find a bar (disco), so we went to one called Airway, on top of a building, but there was no one there, so we found another one, called Gulliver's, that Susumi knew about. It was packed with male travellers and Thai females.

The bar closed about 1:45 so the three of us left, and walked around the market some more. There was a bunch of guys breakdancing in the street, which was cool, then we came across some lady selling cooked insects. Another guy had just bought the last batch of "small worms", and was offering them to us, Susumi took a few, he had had them earlier, and liked them, and tried to get us to try them, so we did. Whether it was the alcohol or just being a different culture/country, but we popped a few small worms, and guess what. It wasn't gross. They were crunchy, and very salty. In fact, it was like there were no guts of anything, just the outer shell. Not too bad! (I can see my mom gagging right now!) They lady also had small grasshoppers, and big-ass grasshoppers, and some big worms. Susumi asked her if we could sample the grasshoppers, and she said ya, so Susumi grabbed one, and enticed Courtney to grab one, which she did, and I got a pictures of both of them sticking theses cooked grasshoppers in their mouths! I have to admit, I regret not trying one, just because I had the opportunity, and I passed it up. DAMN!!! Eating worms and grasshoppers is something I know I'd *NEVER* do in Canada, and that's why I wish I would have sampled the grasshopper. Oh well, maybe another night.

Courtney was giggly the rest of the night..."HeeHeeheehee, I can't believe I at a grasshoppers! Heeheeheeheehee!" We got back to our guest house about 3:00AM.

AFter she jumped in bed, she said to me again..."Heeheehee, I ate a grasshopper, I can't believe I ate a grasshopper! Heeheeheehee!"

Courtney is in the process of trying to upload some pics, but it's very slow going, so I doubt we'll get anything up.

So far, Bangkok is pretty much how I imagined Bangkok to be. It's actually quite amazing the city runs as well as it does, considering how chaotic everything seems.