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Halong Bay, Vietnam – 12 dead

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Downed boat in Halong Bay

12 people have just died in a sinking of a ‘junk-boat’ in Halong Bay.  It really hits home for me, as it’s a tourist site that I’ve placed as my favourite of all time.

Of the dead – 7 were women, 20-25 years old.  Right in my age range.  It sank at 5 am in calm waters – a time on our trip when we were in an alcohol-induced deep sleep.  The boats hull is apparently to blame.

Going off what I remember of the boats, if water comes in your somewhat screwed, but there is opportunity to escape.  You can’t get through the portholes in the rooms, but there is a hallway that runs right through the middle of the boat’s that goes right up to the deck, so theoretically if it starts sinking, you should be able to bust your door open to go out agains the inflowing water (or at least get air)…. If anyone remembers any more specific deck details let me know how off/on I am.

Halong-Bay was truly breaktaking.  The waters aren’t cold (mainly muddy with Jellyfish), and there is lots of islands to swim to.

I remember how relaxing it was sitting up on the deck looking out on the scenery.  I even got to drive the boat through a Chinese shipping lane for 10 mins en-route back to the harbour.

My thoughts go out to the friends + family who lost their lives

Here’s the link to an article on the accidet.

Here are some pic’s from my trip to Halong:

Me at Halong Bay

Here's us on the Junk Boat

My Shipmates in Halong Bay

The view from Deck - Me + Duncan

Categories: Southeast Asia Trip

So we got +1 hr

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, technically, we gained back the hour we lost.  I stumbled across National Geographic article today talking about daylight savings.

Turns out my namesake – Mr. Ben Franklin – was the first to suggest such a thing (well at least first ‘western mind’ to do so.

Apparently Ben + I have alot more in common than our name: i.e. rising early.  He was a little curious as to why the sun would rise before he did on certain times of the year.  He just didn’t know an exact science.

Nope, it was ‘ze germans’ who can take response for daylight savings.  They adopted it to save coal (needed for the way) by reducing the need for man-made light at night by bumping back time.

I’d like to think it does save us energy, only if we take advantage of the revised ‘sleeping when dark’ schedule.  Obviously people on fixed schedules may consume more electricity by needing light at (now) darker hours at the day because they need to be awake for work, but if your time is variable, you do save power.

The article also talked about the health effects, and one thing is eerily relevant to me:

Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said his studies show that our circadian body clocks—set by light and darkness—never adjust to gaining an “extra” hour of sunlight to the end of the day during daylight saving time.

“The consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired,” Roenneberg said.

One reason so many people in the developed world are chronically overtired, he said, is that they suffer from “social jet lag.” In other words, their optimal circadian sleep periods are out of whack with their actual sleep schedules.

Shifting daylight from morning to evening only increases this lag, he said.

 

I’ve noticed it at school to.  All my classmates are just generally tired at different times of the day.  Heck, outside of school, most people are tired.  I don’t think it’s entirely a lack of sleep either.  There are days when I go to sleep for 9 hours, wake up – finding myself tired still, and fall asleep for another 2 hours.  At last, i’ve found the culprit: Daylight Savings!!!

Sunrise Toronto

But i’m not one to complain… I’ve slept in different timezones, gone to sleep (and awaken) at all hours of the day, immersed myself in siesta-following cultures, and fallen asleep in the loudest/most unsleepable conditions.

Categories: Southeast Asia Trip

Back Home

September 1, 2009 1 comment

How was the trip?
I always find this question to be mundane.  You can never really explain how the trip really was.  An “amazing”, “great”, “horrible”, or “alright” never really suffices.  Nonetheless I’ll attempt to go into a bit more detail here.
The trip was “amazing” in a way that I can’t say about my previous trips.  There was such highs and lows for me on this one compared to my prior travels.  I’d experienced the usual lows of travel before (i.e. – homesickness) but nothing like this trip’s actual sickness.  The Swine Flu was my low point in all my travels.  First the actual sickness itself was worrisome.  There was the night in Phnom Penh were a numbness suddenly spread across my upper body while at dinner and was pretty damn scary.  Then that night of no sleep where I threw up all-night and sprawled out on the tile floor to keep my temperature was a big downer.  I couldn’t tell you if I was more concerned with myself, or what Duncan would have to do when something happened to me – as I was certain I would loose consciousness that night, and have to go to hospital.  Poor Duncan would’ve had to drag me down the spiraling staircase from the fifth floor.  Second there was the mental low-point of being locked in quarantine for a week.  I’ve never been in that sort of vulnerable position where any form of power as an individual you may have had been taken away.  I was essentially at the mercy of the Vietnamese government, and got pretty much what I expected from a Socialist government: screwed to various degrees.  My passport was taken from me so I couldn’t go anywhere.  I was not given any food/access to food in over 24 hours.  I was given a “promise” that they would contact my embassy giving them my whereabouts/information (never happened – embassy contacted by my father who I got a hold of via email thanks to my friend Minh’s computer in Ho Chi Minh City, along with my fellow border-quarantined friend Vuthy who called up my embassy upon his release).  Then there was the boredom of the Ho Chi Minh City quarantine hospital with nothing to do for all those days.  I spent so much time staring at the ceiling, that I actually pondered my life, “getting things in order” or “putting it all in perspective” so to speak.
Then there was the euphoric high’s encountered.  Duncan’s favorite day (my #2) was the sailing around Halong Bay.  My personal favorite was our private trekking tour (us two along with the guide).  The silence/relaxation of being out in the Thai jungle walking is something all should experience.  It was a pretty grueling walk, which made the end (the waterfalls) all the more enjoyable.  Factor in the fact we had them all to ourselves and it truly was a high I wish everyone could have taken part in.
It was something both Duncan and I had to see in our lifetime and we did.  The only thing that let us down slightly was seeing just how touristy it was.  It soured the experience ever so slightly.  The tubing in Vang Vieng was the eye-opener for us.  While a fun experience, there were barely any locals around.  The entire town was comprised of hippies or frat boys: two types of people that I can’t stand.  Thinking back on it though I don’t think it’s really possible to get a genuine local experience no more.  Everything is a money grab – I’m not using figure of speech here either.  We did not have one experience where a local was genuinely concerned for us.  Everybody had the same motive when interacting with us: get money out of us in some way/shape/forum.  It’s kind of depressing how the people of Thailand (in particular out of the four countries) have literally whored themselves out to the travel industry.  It makes me wonder if they ever appreciate the finer things in life any more, or if money/citizenship is all they ever think about any more.  With all that said there were a lot of genuine connections made with fellow travelers: from the Dutch couple, to our four Toronto friends, to all my “Swine-Friends”, to our fellow passengers on the boat in Halong Bay.
On the whole it did not disappoint and was a really enjoyable trip.  It easily surpassed any of my previous travels.

Knife incident
Since I’ve been back a couple people have asked me about the knife incident in Bangkok (as per my Facebook status change), so I will give a quick little overview of what happened:
We decided to go back to the Red Light District to see one of the infamous “Ping-Pong Shows”.  We had heard they were quite humorous, and I have previously seen one of the sex shows in Amsterdam that was quite funny, so we figured we’d go out of a laugh.
The only warnings we had been issued were in regards to what to expect and what to check for before entering.  Expect a lady to blow darts through a tube out of her Vagina, which would be aimed at a balloon held in your hand (yes, this happened, and we were horrified that she might miss and hit one of our arms with a flying dart)!  Expect a lady to launch ping-pong balls from her (this also happened).  In regards to what to check for, we were only told to make sure there was no cover charge (there wasn’t).
So, after making sure there was no cover charge, up a shady-staircase we walked to an upper floor where the show was to be held.  It was our first in a string of disappointments: it was basically a run down strip-club/bar.  The second atmosphere sucked (only four people in the crowd).  Third, the girls were downright nasty: stretched stomachs, scars on stomach’s from pregnancies, hairy your-know-what’s, chunky girls, and to make matters worse the “ping-pong” lady was an old-wrinkled lady who looked around 60.
We quickly decided the Heineken would be our first and only beer of the night, as we wanted a speedy departure from the establishment.  So as usual in these sorts of establishments, the girls crowded us as asked if we wanted to buy them drinks.  Both of us (multiple times each) said, “No, in no way/shape/forum would we consider buying you drinks.”  Surely enough 5 minutes later they returned with drinks.  Seeing this situation was looking bad we downed our drinks and went to pay for our two beers (priced: 100 Baht each).  The lady behind the bar dropped us a bill for 4000 Baht: 200 Baht beers, 800 Baht “viewing fee”, 3000 Baht lady drink.”  Of course we told her to F-off, in no way would be paying 4000 baht for this garbage.  Then three “wanna-be goons/thugs” stepped forward from the door in an attempt to threaten us.  We told her we didn’t order the girls any drinks, so she called over the girls.  We asked which one of us said we’d buy them drinks, and they all just stood there looking in to space (none of them said a word).  So we turned back to the lady and said that we’d pay our 200 baht and leave.  One of the dudes stepped up to me again as we went to leave.  Then I said “you know what, I think we’ll just call the cops to sort this out”, to which the lady replied “Okay we’ll call mafia”.  Me and Duncan looked at each other with a big smirk on each of our faces, knowing full well these people could only ever dream of reaching mafia status.  So we said “nah, nah, your not mafia, it’s okay we’ll call the cops,” so the dude stepped up again.  Here one of the dudes pulled a knife to show from his pants.  The lady said, “Okay, you pay 2000 baht.”  Me and Duncan huddled up and figured the 2000 baht (our original estimate on what the ENTIRE NIGHT would cost us) would be nothing to avoid either the trouble of having to go to a hospital, or to fight our way out, or to fill out reports at a police station.  So we dropped the 2000 and left the place steaming mad.  We stormed around the market telling vendors/more ping-pong shows where to shove their offers for a while.  We then decided to head back to 7-11, buy some beers, head back to our hotel and drink the night off.  To me the night just reiterated the fact pussies are the only ones who carry weapons on them.

What’s next?
Life –
I’ve been back for 4 days now enjoying the comforts of home/Canada.  My first run had my lungs burning – they weren’t used to such clean air after the 2 months of exposure to the pollution of Southeast Asia! I dropped 15 lbs on the trip, so I’ve been trying to keep that up with 07:00 runs every morning.  Sleeping in my own bed has been just what I was hoping for (except for the second night back when I woke up in a disoriented slobber-covered panic not knowing where I was).
I figure I’m going to take a week or two off to wind down and get healthy again.  My health took quite the beating on the trip and I had some heath issues even up to the final week in Bangkok.
After that I’ll start the job search (and my introduction to the “real world”).  I’ve decided to turn down the teaching ESL position in Korea.  The experience has shown me I couldn’t handle spending an entire year of my life immersed in an Asian society with all its particular cultural traits (many of which irritate me – namely the infatuation with comics and to act like children through all ages of ones life).  I’m pretty much open to staying in Toronto or moving back to Vancouver.  I wouldn’t say I prefer one city over the other as of now, but it all depends on the job I can (hopefully) get.  If I cannot get a job I really like, then I will likely take a lower-end job for a short while to save up money for more travels later in the year.

Travel –
Duncan has already said he wants to do our originally planned trip within the next 2 years: Central and South America.  The route was to fly into Mexico City, work our way down through to Panama where we would hop on a flight to Bogota.  From there we’d explore Columbia before hopping on another flight (to avoid the rebels/paramilitaries of the border-regions of Columbia) to Peru.  From there we’d explore the rest of South America (spending the greater portion of time in Brazil) all the way down to Argentina, where we’d hop on a flight home.   This trip is probably ranked #1 on my list as of now, but:
#2 – India + Nepal.  We’ve already got a 3-4 week itinerary planned for this one, mainly done by bus and train.
#3 – Africa and/or #4 Middle east – I’m looking at something along the lines of South Africa all the way up to the middle east.
But as far as all of these go, my #1 priority now is a career.  If I get a job I love, and can’t get the vacation time for these trips, the job takes priority.

Thoughts on Blogging while traveling
It’s time consuming.  I liked doing it, but learned there are more efficient ways to do it.  I didn’t bring my laptop, as I didn’t want to be worried about it getting stolen or broken in the wilderness.  With that said, it seemed like everywhere was laptop friendly.  The Internet café’s were horrible to blog at.  First off the connections were horrible, and there was always a 3-7 second delay on typing through the WordPress browser.  Add in the feeling like your on the clock (for the minutes you paid for), along with the fact the keyboards were often broken/sticky and there really wasn’t the ability to legitimately look at (let alone edit) what your typing.  The connection speeds at the net cafes wouldn’t permit the uploading of pictures let alone videos.  Furthermore most of the computers themselves didn’t have access to USB jacks, so you often couldn’t connect your camera even if you wanted to.  I think I’d do it again, but next time I’d bring my laptop.

Pics and Vid’s will be up shortly.

Sukothai (Aug 5-6)

August 16, 2009 Leave a comment

The 5.5 hour bus ride to Sukothai was a little shakey.  After our Laos bus crash we were rather pessimistic on the driving abilities of Southeast Asians.  The bad roads mixed with crosswinds gave the bus a wobble.   I though we would tip a couple times, but we managed to arrive alive.

Sukothai had the most limited selections of rooms yet.  The only things offered to us were tiny rooms with a shared bathroom.  We opted to splurge and get a bungalow.  Spacious, with a patio and private bathroom for 400 baht.  It had only 1 bed so I paid Duncan an extra dollar and he opted to sleep on a mattress on the floor.  We weren’t iompessed with the restraunt selection in town so we decided to sample various roadside foods: a fried dough, sticks of beef, and soup with chicken friend rice…all for a cool 45 baht.

Duncan headed top a bar, whil I picked up some Beer Chang and headed back to the Bungalow patio.  Duncan returned and we attempted to read magazines while sipping beers on the patio but the mosquitto’s got the best of us and we had to pack it in early.

The next morning we headed to the ancient temples.  We hopped on the local songthaew which took us there in 20 minutes.  Once there we rented bikes to explore the ruins.  These buddhist ruins in my eyes were up there in beauty with the ones of Angkor.  The only thing setting them apart were size, and the fact there were less temples put on a smaller plot of land.  We stoped to explore the handfull of ruins before heading back into town.  We grabbed a microwavable lunch from 7/11 before picking up our bags and heading to the bus station on a funny looking (reversed?) tuk-tuk.  We got to the station at 11:57 for the 12:00 bus and just made the connection for the  6 hour ride to Bangkok.

Chaing Mai

August 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Here’s another attempt at the failed post.  After my last Chiang Mai post we headed back to the good old Supreme House to chill out with some cold Chang Beer’s.  We looked through the trekking tours offered for a bit.  All seemed to include bamboo rafting and elephant riding.  We already saw the chained up elephants at Angkor and didn’t really want to contribute/partake in that unethical form of tourism.  Add in the fact we wanted to do more trekking, and it boiled down to us going with the one trip offered that was exclusive trekking.

After heading out for dinner we decided that night would be the night we would check out the infamous Thai go-go bars.  Basically it was a go-go bar, not a “go-go bar” (AKA strip club).  Beers were 95 Baht )(small bottle of tiger).  The atmosphere was really shady so we headed out after the 1 beer.  It’s a bunch of dirty-old men enjoying a chat with the Thai dancers.  Soon one of the dancers started having a jab at us on stage by calling us babies “so young, me show you lots,” while rocking her hands (the baby gesture) on stage…she persisted even after telling us she was younger than us (21).  So we promptly downed the beers and headed to a legit bar street side to finish out the night.

BEST DAY OF TRIP: Aug 4.

So August 4th would ranks as my personal best day of the trip: our scheduled trekking tour.  We were early to rise with a 07:00 wakeup.  I immediately knew I was in for trouble if it was going to be the least bit physically demanding, with aches all over my body from a limited sleep.  we had a rished breakfast where I could barely finish half of my banana+chocolate pancake.

Then things got really weird.  First the guy out front of the hotel who sold us our tour tickets came to inform us there would be a 30 minute delay because the passenger cab on the back of the truck fell off on the way to pick us up, so they were bolting a new one on before picking us up (thanks…very reassuring).  I then went back to working on my pancake when I heard the clicking of a bicycle.  I turned my head to see this big kid (I suspect with downs-syndrome) coming towards us wearing a cloth with his face covered in large patches of white powder.  It was really an odd sight.  As quickly as he appeared he was gone.  This threw me and Duncan into discussion as to what the heck was all over his face (note: turns out Thais prefer white skin and believe this powder when rubbed in helps give them whiter appearing skin *cough*WTF*cough*).  Less than 5 minutes after riding off this little old lady who we had seen before (all 4 feet of her) wandered in.  The tour guy then turned to us and pointed to the lady and said “my son.”  I didn’t know what to say.  I figured he was having a jab at me, so I simply said “Oh, your son?” and went back to my pancake…then I did an about face…It wasn’t an old lady afterall! It was a dude!!! (albeit a “runt of the litter” as they say).  The son (like 30-35) then tried chatting with us and started high-fiving us.  After making friends he whipped out a bottle of iced-tea from his back pocked half-full of a clear liquid (booze).  Not even 08:00 and this dude was well on his way to being piss drunk.  No wonder why he looked so haggard.  He then joked around with his father, who smacked him across the head a few times.  After another 5 minutes of awkwardness our ride finally pulled up.

There were another 7 people to pick up before we finally headed out of the city.  There were 3 Frenchies (one who wouldn’t shut his piehole for any longer than 1 minute), a couple from NYC, and this one weird couple: a balding Scandinavian guy who blinked a lot and looked like some psychotic serial killer along with a really ugly looking Thai farmer/peasant lady missing the greater portion of her teeth).  15 minutes out of the city we made our first stop (not even listed on our itinerary) at an orchid farm.  Me and Dunc not being ones too big into flowers or butterflies breezed through this in 8 minutes (5 minutes of which were spend admiring the framed scorpions for sale in the gift shop) before sitting and waiting for the others while speculating on whether the lady would kill only his lady companion, or the entire tour.

We were off again for 10 minutes before stopping at another unscheduled place: a market.  We had already wasted 1/2 a day and hadn’t even got trekking yet (pessimism creeping into our bones).  Finally we were off, and started driving through the jungle.  We stopped for lunch at a roadside shelter (given rice).  We enjoyed a convo with the NYC couple (Chinese backgrounds) before being told we were the only 2 people on the 1-day exclusive trekking tour.  Everyone else was doing elephants and 2nights.  We loved this for 2 reasons:

1 – If the serial killer decided to kill the entire camp and not just that Thai farmer lady, we wouldn’t be part of the death toll.

2 – We were getting our own private tour guide.

So our guide was about our age and spoke pretty damn good English.  We left the others behind at the lunch shelter and headed out up a dirt road.

Having the ability to go at our own past (over 2 hours faster than a regular tour) a and the scenery all to ourselves made us feel like we were on a VIP trip.  Nice and peaceful.  Turns out the guide does the hikes 7 days a week…good in the fact he knew the route to a T, but bad for the fact his physical conditioning was deceiving.  He was really skinny, wore jeans and a hat.  Turns out he didn’t even break a sweat out whole trek, whereas me and Dunc were sweating balls.  Anyways the trek:

Our first real sight was up a gradual slope that had an amazing view of a lush-green farmers hillside.  The road was lined by banana trees.  Once at the summit we hit the end of the road and the start of the trail.  Our guide was telling us about the previous days trek and the excessive amount of wipeouts on the downhill portions of the mud-trail.  We lucked out with some dry weather, so for the most part it was a dirt trail for us.

Our second stop was an amazing looking cave.  We didn’t have torches so we couldn’t venture too deep.  Even if we wanted to we were warned there were lots of snakes in there, some of which were venomous.  So we rested, admired the bates, snapped some pictures and continues on down the hillside.

The path was dugout dirt steps, with scattered rocks and bamboo handrails on some really steep places.  I bailed a couple times here, but managed to save my camera.  In the next valley we stopped at the local village.  We were able to relax on the porch of a stilted house.  A kettle emerged from overtop an interior fireplace, and we were poured some tea to drink out of bamboo shoots.

After this we saw a deformed chicken (bald with its wings upside-down) running around town.  Once out of the village we started hiking the steep dirt steps of a mountainside.  here I really started falling behind Duncan and the guide.  After much struggle I emerged at the plateau to catch up with the others to rest in the farmers field.  For 15 minutes we admired the view before heading off.  Out guide was happy to inform me that was the last uphill part of the trek.  We walked another 20 minutes along this hilltop to snap a few pictures in a ricefield.  We then started down a gradually-sloped trail that took us further into the jungle.  After a while we passed through a long bamboo Forrest which was pretty cool.  The bad part was this was a rather wet path.  On one downhill part I grabbed a large bamboo shoot to brace myself, which promptly fell from a tree and narrowly missed Duncan and the guides heads.  We then walked through a creek and it started raining making the rock-infested mud slopes all the more dangerous.  We weren’t the only ones falling either.  Once our guide began falling we knew we were in for an uphill battle.  Finally we emerged in a grassy field to hear the bells of oxen ringing.  We walked through some thick bamboo trees before hitting a trail alongside some pace paddies.  Our guide pointed out the camp and hammocks where the 2 day tour people would be sleeping (the side of a massacre on the part of the Scandinavian psycho?).  It turns out those tours take the same route and see most of the same things we do.  We finally emerged to a road (early/fast for tour standards) which we cross to get to the waterfall.  We were literally soaked in sweat (but not our guide), so seeing this was like seeing a mirage in the Sahara.  Even better we were the only ones there.  It was a multiple-staged waterfall with a bunch of rocks at the top and various pools at different levels.  We rinsed off our clothes before jumping in. At the top  we climbed among the rocks to nab the massage-like feeling of rushing water over our aching muscles.  Our guide then showed us the rock to jump from in the deep pool.  I found that pretty fun as it was a tricky narrow jump point which you had to get good distance on to hit the deep spot…Although even the deep spot had a giant rock in it, so you had to tuck in your knees once you hit the water to avoid a broken leg.

After this refreshing experience we were told we were really fast on the walk, so our guide was going to take us to see the elephants. A 15 minute walk along the road brought us to the roadside elephant place.  First we were able to pet the baby (2 year old) elephant named Bobo.  I actually found this quite depressing.  The little guy was basically chained to one of the building columns under the house and away from the other elephants.  You could tell he was tugging at the chain trying to get away.  The other elephants (roughly 10?) were 50 m away in a sort of clearing-all chained up.  I’m glad we didn’t ride these poor animals.  There was a walkway to the river for the elephants where one of the handlers took an elephant for a wash.  There was a wooden bridge across the river that led to another area where the elephants could go (I presume taking people for a ride).  After being warned I was too close to an unchained feeding bull we were soon picked up and driven to a longneck village.

The longnecks are the people who put metallic rings around the necks of females at an early age.  The weight sinks down their collarbones giving them the appearance of having long necks.  They are not actually Thai’s but rather refugees from Burma.  The village was a bit of a letdown.  They have sold themselves to the tourist industry, and you don’t sense any real authenticity in them…It just seems like people dressed up in costumes.  Kind of like those people who dress up as superheroes outside that theater in L.A.  The village was basically a bunch of stalls selling trinkets to tourists.  After 5 mins we were out of there.  They kept asking if I wanted to take pictures, but I shrugged them off only snapping one of a skipping young girl (who already had the rings/stretched out neck!)

Our private shuttlebus back to Chiang Mai ended up picking up another couple on the way back. Their tour was an ATV’ing one and included Tiger Kingdom (something we planned on doing the following day).  So on the way back we ended up stopping there thanks to them (not originally on our itenerary) to see the tigers.  At Tiger Kingdfom you get to go in the cages and pet the tigers for 15 minutes.  There were 4 options: babies (most expensive), small, medium, and large tigers.  We opted for the medium-sized tigers for 350 bath (after our guide mistranslated, telling us there was only 1 large tiger in the large tiger cage if we selected that option.  None the less, we got in the cage with the mediums.  The cage has 2 tigers out at a time (another 2 caged away from the tourists).  They alternated the 4 tigers throughout the day to avoid putting too much stress on the tigers.  Two Thai handlers are in the cage with the guests along with two english-speaking volunteers (for us a Dutch couple).  Rules were simple: slow movements, don’t step on their tails, approach from behind, and pet them firmly (a light petting tickles them and they think it’s playtime and may bite).  Wo we were in there for a good 20 minutes.  The only close call was when me and Duncan posed for a picture together and the tiger got a bit crankey.  I was pinned between the tiger, it’s taiul and the electric fence, so I had to do a quick jump over to avoid trouble.  After this we walked over to the baby cage.  The babies didn’t have their stripes yet.  Nobody else was around so the handler let us get up and close with the 2 babies.  We then looked at the other sizes before checking our their pet camel and heading back to Chiang Mai.

After unexpectedly knocking off our final “to do” item in Chiand Mai we decided to catch the next days (Aug 5) noon bus to the old historial Thai Capital of Sukothai.

The Delay

August 15, 2009 Leave a comment

First off the delay.  I had a pretty wicked post written up on wordpress in Chiang Mai, only to have it all wiped with no edit/undo option with the online blog posting.  It took some Buddha-like self-control on my part to bite my lip and not throw out profanities at the net-cafe full of Thai’s.  If you ask Duncan I did whisper out a few F-Bombs.  Needless to say that dampened my blogging-optimism for a while.  It’s really inconvienent to blog at net cafes, especially ones that can’t upload pics or HD-Vid’s from my camera.  I was just going to wait until getting home to upload and post everything through my Mac (note-to-self: Must-take on my next trip), but yesterday (Aug. 14) was a chill day in Patong, and walking through the mall i decided to pick up a notebook to “pre-write” my posts.  Oh, and yes, it is only possible to buy little childrens cartoon notebooks here in asia.  I’m writing in a “do good in class” (w/ little cartoon characters down the side). It’s the Asian cultures unhealthy obsession with childrens cartoons…  “Hello-kitty-syndrome” if you will.  I mean where else is it really acceptable for a 40+ year old adults (women + Children) to pass time by reading comic-books (no offense comic-book-geeks, but it’s not really acceptable in the western world past age 10).  Tack  that one on to my pet-peeves of Asian culture list. But I digress.  Back to posting.  Here’s some catching up today:

Back in Thailand – Chiang Mai

August 3, 2009 Leave a comment

After writing the last entry and awaiting the end to the rainfall (didn’t come), we headed back to our guesthouse to do – well nothing.  The rain kept coming down, so we figured to read books and listen to ipods on the patio.  We had dinner at a place on the main strip serving Lao Cuisine.  Duncan opted for the fish – a really bad call in lieu of the fact there was a little kitten wandering the resteraunt.  Not just any kitten, a really crafty one.  It kept jumping up onto Duncans lap trying to get at the fish, so Dunc had to eat with his body angeled.  The cat then got smart and went around the other side of him, climbed a pole, and was trying to jump from there onto our table.  It was quite an interesting meal.

After that we waited at our guesthouse for an hour or so before we saw our Dutch friends for the third time this trip (it’s a small world) Jinko and Anoek.  So we hollered down at them, and tagged along for their trip to dinner.  We caught up over dinner (me and Duncan already ate so opted for a course consisting of Beerlao’s), before heading over to the other side of the mountain to have some drinks at a bar.  Complementary Lao-Lao’s (mixed w/ Kool-aid?) hit the spot before we all went back to our guesthouses.

The next day we got up at 9, picked up our laundry, then nabbed some coffee and muffins.  The night previous we arranged for a 40,000 kip tuk-tuk to the airport for 11:00, and he thankfully showed.  The guy took us to a currency exchange where we rid ourselves of kip, and picked up some Thai Baht.  The airport was the smallest one I’ve ever been to.  They do the security/bag check at the door to the building.  There are approximately 4 check in counters (only about 10 daily flights at the airport).  We sat in the main lobby for a bit watching TV, before heading through the border control place and waiting at our gate.  There were 2 Lao Army Hercules aircraft parked on the tarmac outside our gate, and a army guard was wandering about with an Ak-47 strapped around his shoulder.  15 mins later a Lao Airlines plane touched down, which was followed by ours 10 mins later.  We walked accross the tarmac and boarded our first flight ever on a Turboprop.  We were right beside the propeller’s so it was kind of loud, but other than that the aircraft was nice.  I figured the accelleration would be minute compared to jet-engines upon takeoff, but it wasn’t.  Aside from descent it was one of the smoothest rides I’ve been on.  They even gave us lunch (yes LUNCH) on the 1-hour flight… Take that Air Canada!!!

We shared a tuk-tuk from the airport in Chiang Mai with a fellow Canadian named Trevor (from Stoney Creek, about to move to Victoria).  A quick wander around and we opted to stay at the Supreme House.  We opted for seperate rooms since they were so cheap (150 Baht/night).  We did a quick walk-around (and stocking up on water from 7-11) before having dinner at a place called “The Local.”  We then went back to our hotel to have a beer and chat to kill time.  Duncan wasn’t feeling well after so I headed out around 22:00 to check out the Sunday Night Market.  It went for a few blocks, and was jam-packed with tourists.

This morning (Aug 3), we slept in before doin ga quick 2-hr walk of the sights.  We saw 4 Buddhist temples along with the  3 kings monument and the womens prison (where we will be getting a massage from inmates on Wednesday…yes you read that correctly).  I just had some 45 baht Pad Thai (better than My Thai in Ontario) along with a coffee shake that hit the spot.  We’re chilling at a net cafe with pretty much nothing else on the plate for today (aside from booking a trekking tour).  We’re likely going to stay here another two days (1 day of trekking, 1 day to visit tigers and get a traditional Thai massage at the womens prison) before heading down to Phitsanulok for a day or two, then heading to Bangkok for my bday.