Friday, April 6, 2007

Final look back...

Well, I've finally been home long enough to manage sleeping through the night, cleaning every article of clothing I took with me, and sorting through my pictures. Here's a couple of pictures form my last few days:

This is Sheila and I having our last lunch at Coffee Boat, our favorite little hole in the wall Thai place on Koh Tao.

My little cell to myself in Bangkok, though clean, was kinda creepy. The picture doesn't show that I was at the end of a dark hallway and very loud. But it was cheap!

This is the infamous Khao San Road, home to street vendors, over priced food, backpackers and travelers of all manner and destination, and, of course, people who will give you dread locks in the street for a few hundred baht. I declined.

This me in front of the Death Railroad, called that because so many people died building it. What a fun story, right?

And my friends and I on a bamboo raft on the River Kwai, on our way to Lunch!

At the tiger temple, I had to cover up my red shorts because, apparently, reds, oranges, and pinks can aggravate the tigers. All of the tigers were just stretched out on hot rocks, relaxing in the sun. You can not imagine how hot it was down there, with no shade and nothing but more hot rocks reflecting the sun back!

My Kanchanaburi friends on our last night in Bangkok. Sheila and I left for the airport at 3 am (so about 1 hour after this photo was taken!), and Natty and her boyfriend left the next morning to travel north to Chang Mai.

...and you all know the rest.

Friday, March 30, 2007

My last Thai Night

So I am home. Finally. One the one hand, it's great to be able to wake up not covered in sweat and bugs, eat cheese regularly, and wear jeans. On the other hand, meals now cost more than a dollar, I am back at work, and will probably not go swimming in the ocean again any time soon.

My list night in Bangkok was a little bit hectic. I did some last minute shopping during the day and had my last dish of 20 baht green curry. Walking around Khao San road i ran into a guy I'd gotten to know on Kho Tao, and we made plans to meet for dinner at 7 that night. I went to my cooking class and was 20 minutes early, which ment i had plenty of time to sit and sweat and reorganize my various purchases.
The cooking class wasn't really what i had expected. I should have guessed from the price (1000 baht or about $28), but instead of it being a low key class in someone's home, including my much anticipated trip to a real thai market where i could go crazy and buy tons of spices to bring home, it was a classy cooking school designed for hotel-saying tourists.
I actually felt quite scuzzy, being picked up from Khao San, the hippie/backpacker hangout, in my dirty fishing shorts and tank top, and then riding along as the taxi collected chilled pairs of people in clean, matching outfits. The cooking school was also pretty fancy, but it was nice because we each got our own student kitchen, so we got ot actually make the dishes ourselves. I made Pad Thai, fried fish cakes, coconut and lemongrass soup with chicken, and for dessert, Crunchy Ruby suop, which is made with water chestnuts, coconut milk, and sugar syrup. Everything was Great! Afterwards i bought some curry paste and a knife like the one i used...very nice and very cheap!
I got back from my cooking class late and was late to meet with a friend from Koh Tao. I had also stoped to try to check in for my flight online, to save time, but got an error message telling me to speak to a counter person. Which freaked me out. So, after wandering Khao San road for about 15 minutes looking for my friend, i ran back to my guest house to try to straighten out my flight. Of course everything was closed and wouldn't be open until 8am, at which time I expected to be in the air, so i decided to hell with worrying, and went off to meet my second dinner date of the night, my friends from the Canchanaburi day trip.
We met up and ended up following Natty, the Thai lady, to a little restaurant tucked away off the main path. I decided the fact that the menu didn't describe the dishes in english was a good sign, and let Natty do most of the talking and ordering. She was such a cool person, born and raised in Bangkok, and she really knew her stuff. We had an amazing dinner and a lot of Singha beer!
After a few hours of great food, great beer, and a couple of rounds of pool, Sheila, an older Canadian woman I'd met on the Canchanaburi trip went to check her flight details. It turned out she was on the exact same flight to SFO as me, so we ran back to say goodbye, then ran to our rooms to pack up. We grabbed a taxi at aobut 3am and drove to the airport. We got their early, beat the crowds and got all checked in and set. We had a little breakfast at the airport, a fancy western sandwich with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes. Even at the airport, Thai food is cheap!
The flight was tedious because i couldn't seem to sleep, but only about 6 hours long. Then we landed in Tokyo/Narita for a few hours. I bought some souviners and ate some sushi, which was pretty good for airport food! Then our flight to San Francisco, which i think took about 10 hours.
Long story short (well, kind of short!) I am home now, with a bit of a cold, and back to work and back to the grind. Now it's time to figure out my next steps in life!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm Home!

so i'm going to get some food. I haven't slept in over 50 hours and I've been traveling for 30 hours.
more to follow, promise!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Railroads & Tigers & Bears, Oh my!

Today was amazing!
let me start over; last night was weird and surreal, leading up to today, which was AMAZING!

After dropping Sheila off on the airport bus, i walked around a little bit dazed. It was weird not having my travel buddy/activities director with me! So i wandered the streets and made sure i knew how to get from my travel agent on Khao San to my guest house and back. I bought a few things here and there, making a few trips back to the guest house to unload so i didn't look like a walking money purse. I had a small and slightly over priced meal on Khao San, which made me miss the cheap family joints on th e islands, and then had a beer and went to bed. The three things worth mentioning were

1) how freaking cool it was to watch Khao San switch from day market to night market. Half the people closed up shop and went home while even more came int o replace them!

2) This old Thai blind woman who kept walking up and down the street with a karaoke machine strapped to her back, singing. Honestly, it was soo cool I didn't even think to check if she was begging until after the third time i saw her.

3) 25 baht spring rolls. I had two dishes of three, home/hand made by ladies on the street, cut up for you with large tooth picks to eat them with. Heaven.

Today I went to my travel agency at 7am to meet for my day trip to Canchanaburi. It took about two hours by mini bus (van for you Americans) to get to Canchanaburi, where we first stopped to see the War Memorial. It was basically a large cemetery for dead soldiers from world war II, but the cool thing was that the soldiers were from all different nations, all laying beside each other. Next was War museum and Death Bridge, which were also WW II related. It was all pretty cool, looking at the exhibits and picking up tidbits of history. I had no idea the Japanese played such a strong role in Thailand's past. Then the Death Railroad and bridge, which was basically a public works project started by the Japanese that hundreds of POW and Thais died constructing. Yay! Later on, after my Elephant trek, I actually road on the Death railroad, which has a gorgeous view of the River Kwai.

On the way back from the death railroad bridge, i bought some noodle soup to go, which meant in a plastic bag with no utensils. Luckily the man i bought an orange drink from (so i could try to eat with a straw) gave me some mini chopsticks/extra large tooth picks. Then we took a bamboo raft up the River Kwai, which was really cool. I mean, when i say raft i mean a bunch of bamboo strapped together and some bamboo benches on top to sit on. An older man and a little boy paddled us slowly up the river, and every time a real boat came by I lifted up my backpack to keep it dry! We stopped at the guest house where the people doing a 2 day trip would stay and they had a lunch all set up for us, which was great. Then we took a truck to the Tiger Temple!!
Wat Pa Luangta is outside of Canchanaburi, and apparently it was a monastary for a while when a cub, orphaned by poachers, needed someone to take it in after a botched attempt at stuffing it (yeah, that's right, the rich a**holes tried to have it stuffed alive, but the poor thing survived). Basically, the monks, being good Buddhists who want to minimize the suffering of all creatures, took in this cub, and then others until the temple became a sanctuary for the tigers. We went in and walked around, meeting peacocks, wild boar, water buffalo, cows, horses and wild roosters before reaching the tiger area. We got to watch some cubs play with their older brother, and then walked down to another area where we got to have pictures taken petting the tigers! So cool!! They were all quite calm and really didn't seem to care about us people sweating to sit next to them for a few seconds. Pictures to follow I promise!!

After the Tiger Temple I went on an Elephant trek, which was actually a little disappointing because the elephant didn't go very far and was under suck excellent control that nothing of extreme interest happened. I did have a great time, though, getting to know some of my companions: a Canadian woman named Sheila who was in Thailand on her way home from Japan after working there for the last 5 years, an Austrian couple who kept entirely to themselves, and a Swiss guy and his Thai girlfriend, whom i had so much fun with but deffinately was in possession of an Adams apple. They tried to convince me to break my plans and stay on another day in Canchanaburi, but i left after making plans to meet up with them for drinks tomorrow night.

I am exhausted and hungry! Tomorrow is my Thai cooking class, and then I leave for the airport at 4am. Soon cold showers will be an option!!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Back to Bangkok!

Sheila and I are back in Bangkok, which is great because the food is really the cheapest and best here. After paying 50-60 baht (just under $2) for mediocre Pad Thai on the islands, I get excellent Pad Thai from a lady with a street cart for 20 baht (about 60 cents). love it. For an extra 25 baht I got fresh squeezed tangerine juice. I can't imagine wanting anything more from a street cart for breakfast!We left Koh Tao yesterday afternoon and took a ferry and a very long bus, which got us into Bangkok at 3am, a few hours after the estimated arrival time of midnight, but that's kind of how things go.

On our last full day in Koh Tao, Sheila and I rented a kayak for a few hours and made our way up the northern coast of Sairee beach. There are so many bungalows and resorts lining the coast line, even beyond the dive resorts in the main beach, which i am sure account for the fact that Koh Tao, unlike Koh Pa Ngan, had people of all different ages on it. I saw a very old man, probably in his 80's, walking down the beach with a cane in a speedo. He was quite a sight!

We also went out to a fancy dinner with some friends, which was really nice. After weeks of curries and pad thai, it was actually great to have a bit of cheese! After dinner we all went to a party at a 'castle', which was really quite cool.

Tonight Sheila leaves for India and then Kenya, where she begins her safari, so I'm on my own for the next few days. Tomorrow I've booked a day trip to Canchanaberrie, which should be really cool. We are going to a war cemetery, a tiger temple where I've heard you can hang out with the tigers, and an elephant trek! Very cool, and it will be nice to have something to do early in the morning. Apparently backpackers (sheila included) are not big fans of waking up early, so Kaoh San Road doesn't really wake up until afternoon.

I'll be home soon, which is so surreal. I am, though, looking forward to wearing jeans and eating cheese. Oh, yeah, and seeing you folks again. that too. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Last night sheila and i met up with this guy Nick, who is here getting his master's diving certification. He and a friend went fishing and brought back 6 Baracuda sharks to BBQ. It was so fun! We went to a restaurant that cooked them whole for about 60 Baht eash, less then $2 and then gave us a few different sauces and some salad to eat the fish with. Baracudas have ugly ass faces! Thay actually reminded me of Pike in Lake Wawasee. It was very good but, unfortunatly, we could only finish 5 of the 6 fish, so we gave the last one to some other folks.
I love the food here!!!

Today it rained again, and it is such a relief to have a break in the heat. I've found that i actually do enjoy the rain, apparently Arcata has had an affect on me!

Lots of love to everyone!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Photos at last!

I am too lazy to write today, so I am going to stick a bunch of pictures up instead! I did finish my open diving course and am now PADI certified! On my last dive i saw a white eyed Moray eel and got pricked by a Sea Urchin, which was cool becasue it's a neat thing to say and because I got to watch the blood flow out of my finger at a depth of 16 meters, where the red color is absorbed, so it looked like I was bleeding green!

This is a picture of me with a three legged dog in Koh Pha Ngan. Sheila named him Tre.

the great thing about dogs around here is that they walk around the towns beholden to no one, like they've got their own business to attend to and don't need some dirty human's patting to feel validated. They're very anthropomorphic!

This is Sheila and I on the beach in Koh Pa Ngan, dancing at one of the many nightly beach parties. It;s a great way to forget to go to sleep!

This is me on a boat taxi in Bangkok

And this is the view from our bungalow on Haad Rin beach. all this for about $4 a day!

We're off now to a BBQ with fresh caught Baracuda!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Too much Curry

So I am now in my third day on the island of Koh Tao, on Sarie beach. Gorgeous. Today I had my first two ocean dives which were AMAZING! I saw more fish than i can identify, including clown fish, trigger fish, Angel fish, and a cleaner fish which helpfully but painfully cleaned one of my motorbike accident wounds!

Tonight, for the first night since I've been here, sheila and I are actually going to go out and drink and dance for a bit. Having diving classes early in the morning has put a bit of a damper on my night life, but was totally worth it to get certified within 4 days! I have also tried to break up my steady diet of curry for breakfast, noodles for lunch and curry for dinner, by adding some harder to digest food because, apparently, being in all of that salt water acts as a natural diaretic. Whee!

It has also been nice to slow down and stay in one place for a bit. I've gotten to know the people in my dive class quite well ( all 4 of them!) and we've got some really gret neighbors who, even though they stay out until 6 am, manage to not wake me up! Also, the place where we are staying is really, really nice.

There is actually a ton to do on this island, but it seems like most of the people who come here do so for diving. A lot of folks come and stay for a month or two to get their Master Diving status. There's also fishing, kayaking, paint ball, bowling and mini golf. Also, it seems like a lot of folks come and get tattoos in Thailand, because tattoo shops dot the coast line as consistently as internet cafes and motorbike rentals.

Tomorrow I have my last two dives, then a party to celebrate completion of the diving course. The next day Sheila and I are planning to leave and go back to Kho Phan Ngan for a day, then on to Bangkok and Canchantaburry. Apparently there's a monkey school there where monkeys learn skills and triciks like playing basketball. Though it's probably an eregious infringment on animal rights, i can't wait to see it!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Deep Sea Andrea

Right now I am on my lunch break from diving class. After debating it back and forth, weighing the cost against the experience, i finally decided that i would be a fool to pass up such a cheap and amazing opportunity. Or, as i put it to another traveler, not taking the dive course would be a waste of the plane ticket that got me here.

Koh Tao, the island we're on now is smaller and quieter than Kho Pa Ngan. There's a larger variation in the age of the tourists, and a lot more to do besides drink and sit on the beach. Also, it's a lot cleaner and better manicured. And it is full to the over flowing with Sweds. So far, everyone i've met here is either brittish or Swedish, apart from my french dive instructor. But subsequently;y conversation is fairly easy because everyone's English is very good.

I have to get back to class; more to follow!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Thrills and Spills!

Today I woke up early, by backpacker's standards, appartently, because i was about the only anglo walking around! It was great because it hadn't gotten too hot yet, and i could just wonder and inhale the smell of other people's breakfasts. Yum! I think it is fair to say that food is half of my entertainment on this trip!
I went for a short swim this morning and bought some tangerines. Then Sheila and I wandered down into the central part of town to rent some motor bikes. We decided to live dangeroulsy and rent one each instead of sharing, and bargined the woman down to $350 baht (about $10) for both of them, and i got a quick lesson.
NAturally, within about 10 mintues of leaving and before actually getting outside of town, I crashed. Don't worry, no seriouse injuries, but a couple of rasberries here and there and some road rash on my hands. What I was most worried about was the bike. A very nice school teacher came out and helped me look at it, and everything looked okay, so after debating wether I could be trusted to continue on I decided to live dangerously and drive slowly, and we took off on our bikes with a new sense of caution. It was amazing! We drove half way around the island, hugging the coast line most of the time. I saw near by islands and a forest of palm trees heavy with coconuts. We eventually stopped at a beach on the north side of the island of Kho Phangan to rest and enjoy the view. It was amazing to get sucha feel for the scope and size of the island. Also, Once I got the hang of driving teh motor bike it was very easy, although we did keep our speed safely low.
This other beach, Hat Yao, was much quieter than our beach and cleaner as well. While our beach is filled with younger backpacker types and kids looking to party and drink, this beach had a lot of older travelers and couples. The food was more expensive (naturally, Sheila and i waited until later to eat, being the 2 cheapest girls on earth), but the bungalows and resorts looked much nicer.
After a while we drove back and are now in a larger city in the island, the port we came into on our boat just a few days ago. We walked around a few markets and sheila had an amazing dish of aquid and pinapple over rice. As an added Thai bonus, the little outdoor restarant she ate at was run by three transgendered women. I've decided that, by having the best of both worlds helped make the women amazing cooks!

Tonight we are going to lay low, maybe meet up with some brittish travelers we hung out with night before last, and then tomorrow leave for a new Island! As soon as i get my bearings it's time to move, but I'm looking forward to the next island, which will be smaller and have fewer tourists.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fun by the Bucket-Load!

This evening, while washing off the day's sweat and sand, i discovered that I did, in fact, get a sunburn after piling on the heavy duty sunblock and then swiming for under an hour. THe sun down here is not meant for the pale of skin!
Tonight, after a very tasty dinner of eggplant with tofu, Sheila and I went to the beach to dance the night away. Well, maybe just half the night. We met up with a guy she met at an internet cafe in Bangkok and his friends, who are all here from Italy. two of them did not speak much english, but one did speak Spanish, so I got the opportunity to practice! YAY!
I learned I am capable of discussing food, but not knee surgery. So know i know what to work on. That and verb conjugation, which i would honestly rather avoid! Before the dancing started, the bar that was 'hosting' the party on the beach (there's a party on the beach every night!) ran a few rounds of musical chairs for grownups, with beer and buckets of mixed drinks as the prizes. I have never seen grown people play musical chairs, but they took it very seriously. I suppose the stakes were fairly high....

I also made froends with a litle Thai boy and chased him around for a while, until sheila took over. Everyone is just so happy and ready to have a good time. It's lovely!

Tomorrow, we are renting morot bikes and going snorkling and, hopefully, to see a waterfall. This sure beats making copies and issuing marriage liscences to 16 year olds!

Sun Burn!

Today is our second day in Kho Pha Nagn, a beautiful island in southern Thailand. We got her yesterday by boat and i arrived with bright red legs after spending part of the trip on the outside of the boat. I sat on the edge of the boat and danggled me legs out into the the air, which was so nice! After being cramped in a buss all night with some very loud Finnish men it was like heaven! I know mom, i should have used more sunblock! Unfortunatly, i think my target brand sunblock is as Anglo as I am, and is not quite up to the task. I have been layering the sunblock on, though. repeatedly.
I had some great Pad Thai yesterday, and last night Sheila and I met up with to other travelers and had dinner down the street, fantastic muslim currt with chicken and potatoes and later on some Thai whiskey. We danced on the beach until the wee hours, and it was amazing! Unfortunatly, I am a bit sluggish today as a result.

Today I've spent a ton of time on the beach, swiming in the ocean. The water is almost too warm at times, and when a big wave comes in I can feel the slightly cooler water from the deeper ocean travel it. I's crystal blue and very salty. I could probably stay in that water all day. Tomorrw i think we are goingt o rent moter bikes and drive around to a more seculded beach, maybe even do a bit of snorkling.

We've planned out the rest of our trip which includes some jungle action and several more islands. While looking at my calader, though, I realized that my trip is about a third over! I really don't understand how that can be, considering I just got here, but i guess that's the way vacation goes; it's all stretched out before you until it's not.

Everything's still quite touristy here, but it's a nice transition. I am looking forward to some actual jungle, though!

all my love and more to follow!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


At about the time everyone I know was going to work or school, I was flying from Tokyo to Bangkok! I arrived at about 11:30 pm local time, or 10 am Monday to those of you in California. When I landed the temperature on the ground was about 80 degrees, which needless to say is hotter than i have been in months!

I took a taxi into the 'backpackers' part of town and met up with sheila. We walked around Khau San road for a while, then crashed. Today we went to a huge 7 story mall and have probably sweat about 20 pounds betweent the 2 of us! I had some amazing fresh squeezed orange juice and a yummy bowl of broth, noodles, and wierd fish puffs. We took a boat taxi, which cigar shaped boat with low sides that sped through the canals from one side of town to the other. It was super fun and way cheaper than a regular taxi! Tonight we take a bus and boat to a southern Thai beach, though I can't remember the name of it right now. Tomorrow, it's sun and sand for a while, and I can't wait.

More details and pictures to follow, but it's already amazing!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Preparations continued...

Last night I got a hand-me-down camera from Jillian, my roommate's sister and one of my favorite people who just got back from traveling herself, so now I am all set to document trip events to my heart's desire!
As soon as i buy a memory card and some batteries...but both of those together are cheaper than a new camera!


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Ready Set....

Today I did almost all of my packing for Thailand. I'm all ready to go! Now all I have to do is get through one more week of work...