Ahead of us was a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Lahore, Pakistan; leaving at ten pm, arriving four hours later, which due to time change was midnight in Lahore. We knew we would be stuffed by the time we got there which would be two am in our world. But as luck would have it…We received an email from Sri Lankan Airlines saying we could upgrade to business. All we had to do was put in a bid and if it was accepted, we would be travelling like the elderly should, but usually cannot afford to. The bid range was $30 – $90 USD so we reckoned midway would be good. We put in $60 and got business class seats. It turned out that the business section was mostly empty so we could have gotten them for less, but we were happy to have the better seats. Considering the ticket to begin with was $260 each it was good a deal.
Narda’s notes (italics) Terrell notes
My first impressions of Pakistan, after three days, is that the people are very friendly. For example, we can rarely go a block without someone wanting a selfie with us, shaking hands, saying “thank you for coming to Pakistan”. My other impression is from the pollution. My app says 305, Hazardous; avoid all physical activity outdoors. Yesterday it hit 670.
It hangs in the air. Brendan’s house is in a gated community with a lot of trees and I think that helps. We also have machines around the house that are supposed to suck in the bad air. I can taste it when I am outside. In comparison where we live in Adelaide is a breathable 8; . Apparently, it is the µg/m3 reading that is all the rage to know about; Micrograms per Cubic Meter of Air. Bottom line, the µg/m3 should be between 0 & 5. Anything above 35 stay inside and watch Oprah and eat chocolate.
We spent one of our first days at The Badshahi Mosque, built in 1674. Thanks to our amazing guides and Brendan’s co-workers; Sofie and Maryam for this day out. Narda has more of this later.
What stood out besides what we saw, was how many people wanted selfies with us. It is usually Narda getting all the attention
but today, I would say I had a hundred selfies at least. It took forever to get through the temple we got stopped so much, perhaps not forever, because now is now and we are not there, and forever is not over. Fortunately, Sofie and Maryam were patient. The Pakistani people would shake my hand and say, ‘thank you for coming to Pakistan’.
It was amazing. A few weeks ago, at the first cricket game here since 2004 (that year the Sri Lanka team’s buses were fired upon, though no one was killed; but it did stop teams from coming here until now) the Pakistan fans held up signs thanking Sri Lanka for playing here (even though Sri Lanka won).
This story is at https://www.wisden.com/stories/international-cricket/timeline-of-cricket-in-pakistan-since-2009
Pakistan has been treated poorly by the western media; these people are so grateful to have western visitors. I even had women in full burkas doing selfies with me. I didn’t know the protocol in these situations, so I didn’t put my arm around them…maybe next time.
https://youtu.be/s0iyHOJ76WQ our video for our tromping about the mosque.
It has taken me 72 years (yes, I am the same age as Pakistan – 1947 we both came into being ) to realize my Leo potential as a celebrity. Hey, Hollywood I can be a star for a day too.
The Badshahi Mosque is a Mughal era masjid in Lahore, capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pakistan. The mosque is located west of Lahore Fort along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore, and is widely considered to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks.
Brendan’s driver, Imran, took us shopping to Al-Fatah Mall. (https://www.alfatah.pk/): The grocery store, in the basement, has more western products than our local supermarket in Lahore. For example, we got peanut butter, but they were out of tofu. On the third floor I bought a shalwar kameez suit, black $26USD at Al-Fatah.
The dress of Narda’s was from material she bought and had made. We have a video and story of that later. Sales tax = 17% on clothes and most groceries. Milk doesn’t have any tax, yogurt has 10%, everything else at the supermarket had a 17% tax wacked on. We have been told by a few people here that everything costs more since Imran Khan became prime minister, including higher taxes. We thought locals would have a good impression of Imran Khan but so far those we have spoken with don’t think he is doing well. The most general comment is that he is trying to go to fast, ending corruption, changing stuff. For those who don’t know, before entering politics, Khan was an international cricketer and captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. We have liked his speeches we have seen on YouTube and on the news. Especially in relationship to India. We had the same feedback in Sri Lanka in relationship to their head of state, no one seemed to like him. Of course, it is the same in the States, so where does one go to find a head of state that a majority like? I don’t know.
Tuesday 29th October.
Imran took us to Liberty Market alongside Main Boulevard Gulberg. Liberty Market is made up of many individual shops with frontage to the streets. Mainly women’s clothing shops they are small and seem to be owner owned. We got there after eleven am only to find most of the shops closed. They open after noon and stay open until late at night which seems to be the way with markets in Lahore. We did buy a bedspread for about $32USD at Thar Maleer Handicraft shop. Heaven only knows why we would need another bedspread, but I just carry the parcels I don’t seem to understand why we need more. Narda bought another scarf ($4) at a street stall, and a dress for $19. Narda is finding getting a dress that fits her ten-foot frame difficult, even for extra-large. I would joke with the salespeople; one refined shop keeper remarked that she had a healthy body. At the end of a few hours of looking, on our walk back to our meeting with Imran, a dress in a shop widow caught Narda’s eye. She tried it on, it was a bit too small in the shoulder but otherwise what she wanted. The shop owner adjusted the hem a bit to make it fit.
What was interesting was an in-depth conversation with the shop dude. He was quite concerned about westerner’s perception of Pakistan, something that comes up quite often. He said Pakistan in the safest country of all and that Lahore is the safest city in Pakistan. That tourists are given a lot of respect. That it is the United States policy to create tension between Pakistan and India and others. We didn’t say anything as we have heard India’s side often that it is Pakistan creating division. He had recently lived in Belgium for three years and him and Narda could chat in Dutch. This is such a recurring theme here that people are so happy we are visiting, that it is the media creating a bad rap on Pakistan. We just listen. We will say that the people here are extremely friendly. We got a slight reprimand when Narda did a Namaste (a slight bow with paws pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. In Hinduism, it means “I bow to the divine in you”, or to us it is “you are cool too, mate”), and a man said that he was a Muslim and they just did the thumbs up thingy. He was friendly about it but I guess there is some mixing of culture we are not up to speed on. In India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, everyone is bowing and gesturing all over the shop. So, remember when in Pakistan it is thumbs up.
When we got home, we went off to our local market for dinner fixings
and as is so often is the case we were surrounded by folks wanting selfies with us. Firstly, a woman in full black niqab wanted a photo with us and her daughters about 8 to 10 years old. Next, a few young blokes with matching tee shirts, then more of them, then about a dozen, all wanting group photos and individual photos. They were a university cricket team all excited because they had made it to the grand final game which I think is tomorrow. Then there were a few other stragglers along the street that wanted selfies with us.
Just to keep the difference in women’s wear understandable, not that it is even at the best of time, here is something I grabbed off the internet so that I could sort it out somewhat:
The word hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
This is what Narda wears when we go into a mosque, temple, or some place that everyone is doing the same and we think we should be like them.
I even had to wear something on my head at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar in India last year.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close-fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and a tube-like scarf.
For more about what is what with garb see https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241
Narda writes about Brendan’s home below. I will just add that due to being a gated community, the chooks and cats wander through everyone’s yards. They had a routine they kept to everyday. At four pm the rooster followed by several hens and a try-hard rooster would enter our yard, peck around a bit, chase away a cat or two then wander on to the next yard.
It was the first time for the guy in Lahore who processed our visa. A bunch of earnest looking Pakistanis prompted him every step of the way, but despite that we got out and on our way with Brendan and his driver Imran. There was an important looking pollie…I think…who was met by fawning officials with papers to hand him and cameras…who shared business class with us. I think he had some anxiety, his legs moving from side to side for most of the trip.
Right now I’m watching a guy wearing a beige shalwar kameez sweeping our lawn.
He did it yesterday too. The flat where Brendan is living is enormous. Huge lounge with high ceilings, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on 2 levels. All the flats in this enclosed area have leafy gardens; there is a pristine swimming pool and serious security here, manned all the time.
We saw an accident, lots of blood on the road, Brendan told me not to look so I looked. Pretty disturbing; a motorbike rider. We continued our walk and finished up in a little enclave of western coffee and carrot cake. A couple of girls on the way out commented on my Punjabi dress…starting a nice conversation. Turned out that one of them also taught at the American school years back.
It’s a big busy city, reminded us of Delhi; without the cows. Though you do see the occasional cart pulled by a sad scruffy donkey. The road home was completely taken up by the devout at prayers…took up the whole road and we were diverted. I love all this stuff, new and exciting.
Brendan showed us his skills as a crazy driver in Lahore, narrowly avoiding hitting a tuk tuk, a beggar or another flash vehicle. Nicely done! We actually found a place to park, despite my doubts; he paid a guy some 30c to take care of the car, and we went inside a supermarket. Terrell found what he needed to make a nice, unusual veg meal, as we watched the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix. And I have been initiated into drinking Murree beer. First glass, ‘not sure’, but second glass ‘pretty OK.
This morning (Bren still asleep) two of his friends visited; we had a nice chat. It was 8am. They were wearing their bathers, and we were still in pajamas. The only way to make new friends.
Oct 24 Lahore
The top-end furniture guy cleared a couple of VIP chairs and made a space on his desk so that we could enjoy our cups of chai purchased from the local chai wallah. We had an audience of men, watching us closely, asking, with a head waggle, if it was all OK. ‘Sugar? OK?’ For me ‘Yes’. When we came back the next day, we tried sitting on the rough wooden bench, but the whole thing was repeated, as we enjoyed our sweet tea, like Lord and Lady Muck.
It’s about 20 minutes’ walk including dodging and weaving (potholes, tuk tuks, donkey carts and piles of unknown things) to our closest shopping area. We’re quite familiar with all that. We go to Jamals ‘(all air conditioned) for some groceries, some soda water for Bren, try to support the street stall buying fruit, buy some rich coloured chicken downstairs and then head home. Imran, Bren’s man and driver usually does his shopping cooking, irons everything (including underwear I think) and is generally the one to make things happen on a local level…a fixer. He’s a sweet, kind man. Yesterday he drove us to another market area where we bought a bedspread for home.
I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant but we had another experience of Brendan’s driving skills (and courage 😊) as we ate a beautiful Paki meal in a really nice BBQ place, owned by the parents of one of Bren’s students. And lots of leftovers!
Terrell and I are all Paki-ed up.!! He has a real cool shalwar kameez, ($22) in black with embroidery, and I have an amazing red dress with large ‘diamonds’ on the collar, looks really dressy; they had to let it out for reasons I’d rather not discuss, all for the total of $19. (All dollars quoted in USD; gives us the illusion of spending less 🙂
Sophie, Brendan’s friend, invited us to a big day out, going with a few colleagues from LAS for a tour of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort built in 1566. Sean; maths teacher, musician, ballroom dancer and crazy driver, drove us there. Mariyam, the HR person and I discussed the possibility of me doing a short replacement gig at LAS, to Brendan’s horror. Hmmm.
Now we know what it feels like to be famous. We were literally inundated by folks taking selfies with us. Most asking politely; once you pose for one, the next groups are awaiting their turn. It was fun actually. Terrell was accosted on the way home from our local supermarket by a bunch of cricketers, posing outside the shop that sponsored them. They asked me to join too, but that was being polite; he was the one they were after.
The girls (Sophie and Mariyam) did a wonderful tour guide job. The whole place is really worth visiting; at the end of the day we chose having a meal over another museum; that was unanimous. The view from the restaurant was specie; 4 (rickety?) stories up. We ate local food, yummy daal and naan….just like pizza, with some deep fried things….like giant pappadums, which were delicious. Sophie and Mariyam, generous and hospitable girls, paid for us, despite our protests.
‘There’s no way we want to reunite with India’, said the man selling me my red dress. He went on to say that it is the USA meddling that has caused most of the conflict between the two nations. ‘And it is 110% safe here’ he went on to say. ‘Very safe, you are welcome here’. He lived in Belgium for 4 years and was very happy there, even speaks some Dutch (this I could test!). Another interesting thing was that he said that things were getting more expensive in Pakistan since the new Prime Minister started. That the cost of living for his family is 30,000 rupees a month, (about $150 USD) but he can only earn 15,000 rupees. So it is very difficult. Taxes, we heard from others, have gone up a lot, and generally the cost of living. Others have told us the same, including Imran, Brendan’s man.
We have 2 Shalwar Kameez (plural?) for Terrell, a red dress, a bed spread and a whole lot of stuff for Bren’s apartment (that part thankfully funded by him). It’s actually looking gezellig, with plants and pictures on the wall, little table clothes and cushions; all ready for family to visit!!! Even a strange lamp. We bought it at an antique place, thinking this was very unusual, only to find it online in an Ikea store. Oh well. Still looks good.
I picked up a nice writing pen in the stationery store, and asked the price….15 rupees, (9 cents) so I bought a bundle and shared them around. If you’re quick and let me know I’ll buy you some too. 😊
It wasn’t only shopping. Yesterday we had a great breakfast /brunch, at a pretty nice restaurant together with a couple of women from the LAS community, Venla (Finnish) and Saeema (American); both long termers here. We’ve also been dashing about with Sean the calculus teacher (reminds us of Robert from DAIS), who took us to a very fancy western mall, Emporium Market. That’s where Terrell bought his second Shalwar Kameez.
So here we were, on either side of the bride and groom holding the lacey cover over their heads. Wow; this is so trippy.
I felt hopelessly inadequately dressed. I actually wore my black thongs (flip-flops for you shocked Americans!) and my new red diamond studded dress, but boy, do theses guys go all out. Gorgeous stuff, all trimmed and beaded and glittery. It was the niece of Brendan’s man who invited us, and we were indeed fussed over.
This was the 1st day of a 2 day-long reception, first day for the bride’s family, second day for the groom’s. I sat for short while I (didn’t want to push it) at a table with the men drinking whisky…or gin…not actually sure, but it was sweet and good. Brendan was also dressed in traditional clothes with an added vest, very smart…..and some strange shoes which he might show you.
Halloween was big. We attended a ticketed event at LAS, lots of security getting in. Bren had his class stall, where they made and sold ? sticky goo. All the kids were elaborately dressed up, and the music was excruciatingly loud; I was assured (by Brendan, my chief critic and advisor) that this was the way things are in Asia. All very interesting, we got a good look at the school and Bren’s classroom.
‘I’ve lived here for 57 years’, said Lulu at the International Club, where we went after the school event. Lulu (from somewhere else) and Franz (from Holland) were the coordinators of the club, trying to keep it viable. I enjoyed the chat with these folks, as the young ones, with Terrell, went to the bar. Aron and Sophie joined us at a table for a really good buffet, Turkish themed. Yum.
Lahore is surprising. You see folks from Biblical times, and then Gloria Jeans coffee places. Folks sleeping in the back of tuk tuks or in the park with their children, to shining, pristine shopping malls. I usually get annoyed at these malls in parts of Asia with their bullshit designer shops that nobody can shop at. This however is much nicer. More (still somewhat high end) shops with local style clothing, very stylish and for us anyway, affordable. And more people.
But the air is a worry. Last week the pollution index topped 500; today it is about 200 and most of last week it was in the 300’s and 400’s.
Nov 7, 2019 Lahore
Today, our last day, Brendan got what is for us a ‘snow day’. The head of school texted the whole community; a high of 650 was predicted (hazardous) and the school was closed. BONUS! So we get to relax, pack, have a lunch kindly donated by one of Bren’s TAs from last year.
Last night we could only just see the top of the Pakistani flag and the sun was orange/red. Imran took us to the Wahga border (sp Wagah, Wagha, Wahga????). Google assures us it’s the first one, but we see local signs with one of the others. It was a feast. We saw the Border Closing Ceremony once again (last year from the Indian side). We got VIP seats 4 rows from the front. I stuck wet tissue balls in my ears (we were dangerously close to the speakers 😊) and we had a ball. The guy dancing on one leg was still there; I even got the chance to thank him personally.
Imran knows a guy who knows a guy who got us onto a list. Called a “protocol”. Not quite sure of the precise meaning of this word used here frequently. So we got to drive right up to the stadium.
Cantt stands for containment. This means that there are army bases all over the place that do not want foreigners in them. We found “Food Street” but we were far too early, so no food.
This was a strange messy day (bit like this strange messy blog entry). Our driver took us part of the way, then got stuck with road closures, so we transferred ourselves to to a tuk tuk, which went a little further (this all in pursuit of ‘Food Street’) The tuk tuk driver also got stuck when a large demonstration (I think it was…people everywhere, many sitting down) appeared at the end of our road, also completely blocking it off to traffic. He turned around to us to explain this in Urdu or Punjabi. Luckily a young lady walking by put her head into the tuk tuk and translated for us. He was happy to continue, perhaps wait awhile, but we had to pay him $1 more.
Finally got there, no food, so we wandered around the old town, discovered the music street …pretty cool, lots of drums and guitars being made, and the shoe sole street, which speaks for itself. I have never seen so many shoe soles in one area in my life. OK, by then (the reader is getting exhausted) we had accepted that there was no food. So we got an Uber to take us to a mall. Always a safety refuge for us. The traffic was almost at a standstill. So the trip to the far away mall was long.
Now I am getting back to ‘containment’. We entered a military zone in the bloody Uber. They pulled us over and demanded our passports, which of course we ‘no have’. ‘Who goes shopping with passports’, demanded Terrell angrily from the gun-slinging soldier. Hmmm. They took him away, leaving me in the Uber. After what seemed a long time, maybe 15 minutes (seemed longer) he was duly returned, and we resumed our journey into the banned mall. A day to remember. I was a bit cranky; I must confess. All this protocol.
I had pizza with 4 cheeses and a nice thin base last night at a nice restaurant. Bren had Moroccan chicken, and Terrell had a creamy pasta dish. All good.
Lahore is a trip!!! Where else do people (complete strangers) come up to you and say ‘welcome to our country, it is an honour for us that you are here’.
Wagha Border video https://youtu.be/0AD8cmi1Ujo
General Lahore videohttps://tinyurl.com/rqayfep
Just to add to Narda’s wonderful narrative above; first some photos (we have over a thousand if you want to invite us to your home and we will sit and show them all – let us know)
This is Narda with the bride (the bride is on the left) – I call it ‘Narda giving Australian/Dutch wisdom to the newly wed’.
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
This is an average family photo. We have seen more on a motorbike but this sums it up; of course, no helmets, and they weave through traffic – all a bit terrifying for the likes of us.
I like this photo – I captured it as we drove with Brendan’s servant/driver one day. Friendship, best mates.
I am always impressed by how much people carry on their bicycles.
The police are everywhere. I like this shot and think of how this would go in the nanny state of South Australia; no seat-belts, gun hanging out of the window…
We did try to keep some of the pollution out of our lungs, though I don’t think we succeeded. We would have been better suited as outlaws in a cowboy flick.
It takes a lot of money to live in Lahore. A thousand rupees equals $6.44USD ($9.44Aussie bucks). Of course, $6USD goes a long way; for example a couple of meals.
No one likes to pose for tourist shots; especially us…well maybe once.
The poverty hits one hard. We all live in such rich countries and we visit these places. We did give beggars money but there is no end to it all. Near us is a park with several tuk tuks parked; families live in them, 3, 4, even five children sleeping during the day in them.
Narda is always so ready to get on the next transportation and head out. When she was four her family was getting on a ship in Rotterdam to migrate to Australia. They drove from their home in Utrecht to Rotterdam, about a three-hour drive. When they got there Narda said ‘it is really a long way to Australia’. Those three hours to the next place have become many decades long.
At the airport. The sum equation of all that is Lahore, or at least our experience of it. Enormous clouds of crowds everywhere. All so foreign. So as usual a person shows up, he has a badge, I didn’t trust him, he escorts us quickly past the crowds, we show our passport and ticket, get past a few islands of security, put bags through big scanners, and get to the Thai ticket counter and our helpful dude wants money.
So today we had a snow day. Bren’s school was cancelled for high pollution levels. 635 was expected (Adelaide has about 20) So Bren had the day off, which was a last-minute gift from the gods. As it turned out the pollution was ‘only’ about 130. Another gift. Packing, talking, Bren driving us to the local market, and then Imran made 2 airport runs, first run for Bren heading to Bahrain for a conference, the second 3 hours later for our midnight departure.
Passport was a hassle, we stood stationary for about 45 minutes as folks pushed in ahead of us, all dressed in white. Later we realised these folks were headed to Mecca, where all people wear white so that there is no distinction between rich and poor.
Arriving in Bangkok at 6 am we actually felt pretty exhausted. Bought some Thai sim cards and then took a shuttle the nearby Novotel for a great buffet breakfast. Worth the money!
Ahead of me I see temple spires, a phone tower, a restaurant with plastic lawn (they have good food!) and some quiet streets. I am sitting in the kitchen of our tiny modern, clean and secure little flat in the building in Udan Thani called The Base. 14 stories, with a rooftop garden, a swimming pool, gym and comfy bed.
I bought 5 sets of glitzy earrings at the Friday night market which covered several kilometres (no exaggeration).
Also some bits and pieces for the grandies. We observed small children gleefully eating a plate full of deep fried and spiced bugs. They looked like hornets and crickets. (see one-minute video of market and bugs https://youtu.be/t74hNiB9VCs )
Sizzler still serve that cheesy toast. Do you remember? This was in Central Plaza, a 10 minute walk away. No movies that suits us. Bummer. But we had a nice Sizzler buffet and got caught up on salads and veggies.
Now I’m sitting a home with a large lump on my head and left knee. I walked into the glass door of the Crocs Shop. You may well laugh. They were offering 15% off. No more squat toilets for me for a while. The knee has lost some function. Oh well. Not serious.
One of the most colourful festivals of the year in Thailand is Loy Krathong; full moon festival. This is when people go to their local waterway to float small bowl shaped containers called Krathongs in Thai. Inside are three incense sticks, a candle and usually a few coins. They float the Krathong to ask Mother Nature for forgiveness for polluting the rivers but also to thank her for water that brings life. Most people also take this opportunity to make a wish for good luck in the future. As they watch the krathong float away, they hope it will also take any of their bad luck.
Watching our little reed boat sail off into the lake was the highlight of Monday night’s Loy Krathong Festival. Everyone was there, all 150,000 Udonis. Incredible. Our reed boat had 3 sticks of incense, one for Leigh, one for dad and one for mum. See video at
An Irish guy named Martin gave us the low down on why Undonis don’t talk to us. Well actually he didn’t know why, but in the 12 years he has been living around here, they don’t talk to him either.
This is a strange thing and a complete contrast to the friendly Pakis. We are completely ignored. It takes a little getting used to, until we remember that’s why we are here. No hustle, no offers of tuk tuk rides. When you walk into a store you actually have to grab the sales person by the scruff of the neck to get some action…….almost.
And these folks are SO tidy! Not a scrap of rubbish on the ground, anywhere. Even when 150,000 of them are tromping, clockwise of course, around the market. Never seen this before. The dirt is all in the air, with an average reading of about 150 at the moment (remember, Adelaide is about 20). Furthermore, there is NO English. Well, maybe a tiny, tiny bit. Local restaurants have menus that are completely undecipherable. It is really hard to act out a dish you want. Try acting our Chicken with cashews, or worse still Pad Thai with no meat.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
AND THAT IS ALL FOR THIS LITTLE ASIAN TRIP… from Thailand https://neuage.me/2019/10/08/thailand2019/ to Sri Lanka – https://neuage.me/2019/11/15/sri-lanka/ to Pakistan
our next blog will be from The Netherlands where we will be mid-January 2020 until mid April 2020
in the meantime
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Thoughts in Patterns 7 (https://tinyurl.com/y3p5lggf) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (170 pages). As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Our first leg of our Asia 2019 trip (September) Narda’s notes / Terrell’s notes
When does a journey begin? Perhaps like all of us entering life itself. Conception (we’ll give those details a miss); the conception of this trip I think began when Brendan accepted an offer to teach year four(which turned out to be grade 5 at the Lahore International School, Pakistan. Nine months of planning for whatever is to pop out and challenge the parent’s perceptions of everything possible for as long as the journey goes; in our case the planning, Narda, the master planner, said easily, we’ll go to India for a month or two then cross the Wagah Border at Amritsar, and bingo there is Lahore and Brendan. She had us going up to the foothills of the Himalayas, up to Darjeeling, then a train across to Varanasi and a stay in this or that place. Then bingo… Bloody Hell, who names their baby Bingo? Well it all became unstuck when Pakistan shot down a plane or two and India did the same and India and Pakistan made faces at one another then closed the border. OK, easy, regroup and find another way into Pakistan. More on that later.
Then birth. The first sounds of life on the journey. Well we started early, yesterday to be exact, the 16th of September. We stayed at the new airport hotel. So much easier than getting up at four in the morning, cleaning house a bit, getting a family member, or taxi, or Uber, etc. to the airport. We have spent a week cleaning and setting up the house, tarting up the garden and lawn. We even bought a power sprayer and I spent three full days cleaning the patio bricks, the carport, driveway, footpath, front porch, sprayed the car, windows, neighbour’s cat… a new toy that gives results. The reason for such an extra clean up is that we have a family from France staying for six-weeks, with whom we will exchange in the future.
We got to the airport hotel at four pm. We took the bus from in front of our house and that was the birth of this journey. The Atura Hotel is good. We had dinner and the buffet breakfast that was included – a very good buffet. We were on the sixth of seven floors with the runway view, nice to watch the sun rise over Adelaide. Below photo isn’t the sunrise, night-time – we live at the foothills of the Adelaide Hills in the background about 45 minutes away, or an hour on bus.
Next time we will ask for the opposite side which we reckon is the seaside and sunset. Also, with check-in, next time we will check our bags in when the gate opens at 6.45 am for the 9.45 flight. That way we can walk back to the hotel and have an hour for the buffet, read the paper, get ourselves all worked up about the world’s issues (today was when some unhappy folks sent drones over to Saudi Arabia to bomb their oil wells taking out 5% of the world’s supplies, and Trump saying he would deal with whomever that the Saudi’s (the ones who bombed NYC on 911) told him to do, such as bomb the shit out of Iran. When travelling it is best not to be too alarmed with loudmouths. Anyway, we still would take the extra time for the buffet as we did it in less than half an hour which made me feel rushed. Hey, I am 72, everything makes me feel rushed. The hotel restaurant is a couple of minutes to the check-in gate, they are connected. It has taken Adelaide a long time to catch up and get an airport hotel and it sure is good. Everything is getting better in our little town, which was recently rated as #10 in the most liveable cities in the world.
So we rush through security, Narda is in one line with all our stuff, taking computers out of bags, keeping track of stuff, I am opening my shirt to show my implant, waiting for someone to compliment me on all the gym work I have done in the two months back in Adelaide, no one does, and I get the usual extra Leo treatment, being special and all. Then we must go through another security line in the international area, why they can’t have one security check for both domestic and international I don’t know, perhaps when they do Adelaide will be #8 in the world’s most liveable cities category. Anyway, this time they aren’t doing body checks, just the carry-on crap. I have my usual two items, the backpack with camera, laptop, gadgets galore and my shoulder bag with what doesn’t go in the other bag + my hat. So, we are sitting in the lobby waiting to board our plane being board and I realize I have left my shoulder bag back at the security area. In my usual panicky way, I run back and get my bag. Now I am in the doghouse with someone next to me a bit cross with me wanting to know why this has happened and why I could not keep track of two bags + my hat. I try to explain to deaf ears that I am having a hard transit of my Mercury from Saturn and it’s making me feel a bit loopy. If anyone has ever read any of our other posts, this could be a recurring theme in our travels, me losing stuff and a significant other being a bit cross with me.
I travelled with my two boys in 1985, when they were two and four to New York from Adelaide and again in 1992 when we stopped in Hawaii, LA, and New York to see family and friends then on to Europe. Both times I came back with very little of what we started with though we had other stuff replacing the misplaced somewhere in the world items. Sacha still talks about those trips; he is scarred for life. Buys the best luggage available and does the pack-supreme routine that the significant other next to me has adopted as a way of travel.
Right now, I am keying away on Malaysian Airlines, MH138; Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur with a one-hour pit stop then up to Bangkok.
The last blog, USA2019, took a couple of months to complete. A couple of months after the trip. Narda had said, not again, she edits, keeping some of my more stupid/silly/ridiculous/too wordy stuff from getting too out of hand, and adds the intelligent stuff. So, the mandate is to complete this soon after we get home in the middle of November, nine-weeks after birth of this journey and my corny metaphor. Plus, a month after we get home is getting close to Christmas time and we are expecting everyone to visit. You will probably visit too. We have the four boys and family; Sacha and Georgia driving over from Melbourne, Chris – Jessica – Liam here from Washington DC, Brendan from Lahore and Stu, Clare and the girls from the next suburb over. We have a lot to do before then. I even want to paint the house and cover a section of the patio that is too open for Adelaide’s hot summer. Then we are out the door again with a three month stay in the Netherlands, January to April 2020, and two lots of home exchanges from there staying at our house, six weeks each. So, what doesn’t get written on this trip will never be shared, lucky for the reader who skims this. And that is the introduction that you could have skipped to get to the actual trip.
Hopefully we will be able to add to our magnet collection. Narda’s rule is that we had to have stayed at least one night at a place before qualifying for space on fridge. There is still room…
18 September Wednesday
Thailand is our first stop on this trip. The changeover in Kuala Lumpur as usual was smooth. We had a couple of hours between flights and took the shuttle train over to the international departures. Note: if you are hungry and in search of a meal, there are more restaurants in the main terminal where overseas flights arrive plus there is the great tropical rain forest to wander in. To go international from KL hop the aerotrain over to the Satellite Building. There is a Starbucks and a local eatery. We grabbed a couple of quiches on the go as we did not have much time for our two-hour flight to Bangkok. We were served good meals on the flight so the rush to grab a bit was not necessary.
We made a bit of a mess getting to our hotel in Bangkok. Thinking we could get there by the metro from the airport we navigated our way onto the train and happily headed off into the night. To the end of the metro line as we believed our hotel was across the street from there, in the rain. The stop that we had thought was our stop was the Bangkok railway station, unofficially known as Hua Lamphong station, and not the stop we wanted. Bangkok has less English-speaking people than other places we have been in Thailand and it took us quite some time to get tickets to wherever it was we thought we were supposed to be going. Needless to say we got the next metro stop confused and got another metro line, eventually getting within walking and grumbling distance of our hotel by ten pm. A couple of hours of wandering lost around Bangkok in the rear-view mirror. Tip: take a taxi from the airport.
We stayed at the Hopeland Hotel (1110, 5 Sukhumvit Rd, Khwaeng Phra Khanong, Khet Khlong Toei, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110) http://hopeland8.com/ The website looks a lot better than the place itself. The many girls behind the counter when we arrived seemed more interested in their cell phones than in serving us. Narda rang down immediately when we got to our room saying the bed was too hard and we could not sleep on it, could they bring us a mattress topper, which they either did not have or could not be bothered with. We were so exhausted that sleeping on a hard bed didn’t matter by the time next morning arrived. We paid the USD $22 for two buffet breakfasts which was good. The swimming pool is outside the dining area. We wanted to go in, do our aqua-fit/Zumba exercises we do three mornings a week back in Adelaide, but to be thrashing about in front of people eating seemed like an idea to miss. We paid an extra 1000 bahts ($33) to keep our room until 6 pm. I found an exercise-weights room which we both made use of; well I used the equipment and Narda did the vibrating electric chair exercises.
It was a long long drive in gridlocked traffic to the train station to go Chiang Mai. The station is full of homeless folks living there permanently. It was nice to see a bunch of volunteers distribute food in little take away containers to them. We had lots of time to spare, so we ate a meal in a hotel opposite the station. Pretty nice food, and a view. We almost got caught in a sudden monsoonal downpour on the way back to the train. Really hard rain with strong winds! Blimey.
Not knowing how to get to the ticket office from where we were dropped off at the train station we marched across the road; big multi-lane roads, three of them, dodging traffic to get to the DOB building where the likes of us get tickets. Narda had paid for them online and we had to collect them in person. Note: Book ahead by months to get a train as they fill up, like in India where we had to book three-months in advance to have any hope of getting a train. Boring story short, there is a tunnel, from the train station to the metro to the other side where the DOB building is that we found to get back to the train station then back to the other side to eat. Note: Don’t expect to find a good meal at the train station, there are a couple of coffee shops and a very local suspect looking eatery. Narda spotted a restaurant at the top of a hotel so we trudged off in search of a feed and ended on the 12th floor of the Prime Hotel Central Station Bangkok, see photo below. The food was good, expensive, but it was a good place to spend more than an hour away from the crowded train station.
Narda found Dunkin Donuts and bought us each one which unfortunately I sat on when we were on the train, so they were merged, flat doughnuts, paper thin.
The train trip was very scenic. We both hit the sack, me on the top bunk. I slept pretty well considering; rocking and people talking a lot, and the fluros on all night. A friendly conductor tried to teach me some essential phrases in Thai. He said, “You are a teacher?” Not sure what to make of that??? It’s a slow train, but well worth the trip. You do need to rug up because the aircon is pretty cold.
video of the train ride over at…. https://tinyurl.com/y69zv9ry
The train left on time at 10 pm and arrived 12.30 the next afternoon. Narda got settled quickly, I stayed up writing and playing with photos I had taken. It all seems secure; our main bags were outside of our cubby house along the hallway. We kept our bags with laptops, cameras, phones, etc. in our sleeping areas. There is a first-class train with individual cabins but that left earlier and arrive six am. We wanted to see the last section, through the mountains and only the second-class train did that. The bed was comfortable, softer than the previous night’s hotel. We were both up at five am then slept a bit more, then off to breakfast which was eggs, toast, coffee, and Narda had the roadkill, probably whatever the train hits along the way fried up for meals. The lower bunk, my bed, folds back in to two seats.
According to the internet – “Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.”
It’s cooler today; been pretty hot and humid. The last few days we walked around the area, discovered the Ping River, a China town nearby where I bought 3 metres of nice material to make something. Not sure what yet. The dentist was all good, no cavities for either of us. My kind of dentist! I’ve been bitten by mozzies despite my best efforts. Big inflamed bites. But it’s only 1% that become Dengue fever, so the odds are ok, I guess. Yesterday we saw a cool movie Ad Astra. Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.
We rarely don’t go to the same place for meals but the restaurant across the road has such a good breakfast. Chedi Home (22/5 Chaiyaphum Rd S. 1. (chedihome.com) 100 Thai Baht ($4.82 Australian / $3.28 USD). First a fruit dessert like thingy; todays was purple substance wrapped around banana and rice in a banana leaf, yesterday’s was something else quite good and the first day was banana in a sweet milky substance. Then there are two plates of various fruits that we mix and match, and Narda gets eggs, toast, salad, roadkill and I get three eggs, toast, salad. We eat at 7 or so and not again until noon we are so full. Our Airbnb doesn’t have a cooking area so all our meals we eat out. It is a bit of a challenge for me as I have been on a low-carbs diet for years and here it is impossible, so I am just relaxing and letting my blood sugars go nuts for a while. View from our balcony.
Narda does an early morning coffee run across the street. We even take our own cups. The coffee lady opens her stand about 6 am and her official hours have her there until two pm. However, we have found that she nicks off about 10. No doubt because she runs out of coffee by then. Narda says that she brings the boiling water with her and brews at in her stand. The longer one waits in the morning the cooler it becomes so we get ours early. Here is a one-minute clip from our balcony of Narda doing the coffee run. https://bit.ly/333T1ep
We took a songthaew, the Thai pickup taxi truck, (The songthaew takes its name from the two bench seats fixed along either side of the back of the truck) to Maya Shopping Mall – SFX Cinema and saw the flick ‘Ad Astra’, which Narda reviewed above (Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.) 450 baht, for the two of us, about $7.50 USD for the luxury seats. The price has doubled since we were here last (February 2017). We are paying seven bucks Australian, seniors’ rate, for movies in Adelaide in luxury seats now so not such a great deal. We find the eatery in the basement the best place to eat. There are many vending stalls and I loaded up on sushi at five baht (sixteen cents USD) each. We left the mall at 2.30 thinking we would go home and have a bit of a nap. We got home at 5.30. A series of missed directions a couple of songthaews and a tuk tuk finally got us home. It took us twenty minutes to get to the mall and three hours to get home. And yes, that is with GPS using maps me or some such app. We were so fatigued we didn’t go back out for dinner and had crackers and cheese for din din which didn’t sit well during the night. See, even at 72 years of age one doesn’t do everything correctly in life.
And a video of our tuk tuk rides; https://bit.ly/2nhHkSb
In the evenings we ate dinner at local dives/eatery across main road. One we did not like and we would say to give a miss was Sompetch Kitchen, I had mushrooms in sauce which was OK, Narda had Pad Thai which she didn’t like and the spring rolls were coldish and yuckish.
Narda watching Thai television in Thai wondering if the narrative is worth understanding in some soapy soap opera, while waiting for our takeaway Pad Thai meal.
This was my second shot at Pad Thai; a local takeaway place and it was the best I’ve ever tried.
Of course, the real reason, we tell ourselves, that we are in Chiang Mai is to go to the dentist. We have been here a few times with the most recent being in February 2017 – https://neuage.me/2017/03/10/thailand-2017/ our dentist says we should come more frequently. Hey mate, Australia is a long way to go every six-months for a teeth clean. Which is all we needed this time, thankfully. It set us back 1200 Thai Baht, $39.38 USD, about a tenth of the Australian price. Yes, we get free medical stuff (not prescriptions, they are set at about $5.60 Australian/month/script) in Australia, scans, blood tests, doctors visits (including the many specialists I go to), everything except dental and glasses. The last time we needed fillings, crowning and etc making it quite worth the while. http://www.chiangmaidental4you.com/ They are top notch, having the latest crap to drill around with. Our friend Frank had implants there a few years ago and said the cost was a tenth of what it would have been in the States. It is our fourth time to the dentist.
We spent a week in Chiang Mai, thinking we may have to go back to the dentist after our first visit, but lucky us, we just got to hang about for a week. We were staying outside the walled old section and we did the usual, went to a modern shopping centre (nice air conditioning on a hot, as every day is, day), got a massage at the local Women’s Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners for about eight-dollars each for our hour’s labour. Narda got the full body massage, I got the foot massage for an hour. Very good, highly recommended. Do so every few days to stayed tuned into something or the other; the cosmos, inner Self, afternoon nap… http://www.dignitynetwork.org/womens-massage-center/
We did do some shopping, nothing significant. Narda saw some material she went ga-ga over so we bought it, realized once home we didn’t want to drag it around Asia for the next few months and trudged off to find a post office to mail it back to Adelaide. The local river, The Ping River, is a lovely shade of brown. Here is Narda going across it. My concern, after seeing some fish, floating haphazardly on the top, was that perhaps eating fish here was not the best idea.
And there are many temples and shrines all over the place, well worth the wander through. We didn’t do temples this time as we have before, though we know they maintain the happiness culture of the Thai people in Chiang Mai. I enjoyed watching the monks each morning stopping at the restaurants and food stands in front of our house collecting stuff from the locals. For example, two adolescents from the restaurant in front of us would each morning stand in front of their place with bags of apparently consumable stuff, when a monk would come they would be on their knees, the monk saying stuff, probably singing a Dylan song from the 1960s, give him their bags of goodies and then go off chatting as any two adolescent girls would (oh dear is that sexist? Millennial Me-2ers shoot me).
24 September Tuesday
25 September Wednesday
OK time to move on. We checked out of the nice little air bnb and all of its mozzies. I think we finally got control of them; our electric Indian mozzie plug, plus the spray on, plus me wearing long sleeves all the time, plus the tennis racket slapper…seemed to do the job and I did not get bitten again.
We took a red songthaew to the bus station, way too early, and enjoyed our business class bus to Chiang Rai (VIP Green Bus!) Big seats that almost recline to lying down; there are 3 across the bus, 2 on one side and one on the other. Nice.Tim and Agnes were waiting at terminal 2. We had a lovely reunion with our dear friends, so nice. Lots and lots to talk about.
We always get inspired by them; their generous life and attitude to others. We might try some of their ideas. Online courses in just about anything for free. One of the courses is about the human biodome, which I think I would like to do. Also courses of health and the human body. And perhaps this new diet that some folks are doing, where you eat for 8 hours a day then fast for 16. Not sure if I have the stamina for it. It is supposed to rejuvenate your cells and hence your body.
They had a nice meal prepared for us and we (Tim and I) drank beer.
The second day we had a relaxing morning, an interesting lunch where we made our own fresh spring rolls, then went for a nice drive around the countryside; saw some beautiful views and different areas of Chiang Rai we had not seen before.
Then in a nice lake setting we had afternoon tea, and Tim and I made some good headway on our beer drinking. In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant belonging to people they were friends with. I had chicken satay, they all had mystery vegan stuff.
Dinner at Give Green Farmhouse Restaurant
Then next day Terrell and I went for a really nice walk first thing in the morning, in the cool mist. We explored the area around the rice field.
Then off to the airport and a short flight back to Bangkok; the other airport. In the Amari hotel now; just ate some expensive but good pizza. The hotel actually joins right on to the airport which was wonderful. A 4-star place for sure.
26 September Thursday
Our video clip below with Agnes and Tim and how to make Butterfly Tea and so much more is at https://tinyurl.com/yy8rmbhf
27 September Friday
As so often is the case of life with Narda, we had a major, perhaps minor, incident at the airport. We checked our bags in and went through security. I did my usual sidestepping to avoid the radar due to my implants and Narda’s bag set off the alarm. OK, she forgot to take her precious Swiss Knife with all the gadgets out of her carry-on bag and put into her checked in luggage. They tried to confiscate it with Narda pleading to keep it. Finally, they said she could put it into her checked in luggage if it was not already on the plane. She went back to the check in was told in no uncertain terms that they would not retrieve her bag to put the bloody knife into it. Narda said, as only she is capable of saying, ‘No, is the wrong answer’. Which of course confused everyone present. She asked for the supervisor’s supervisor, getting someone saying that if the bag was not already on the plane they would go get it from the trolley headed to the plane, which they did, as Narda had already pointed out that no was the wrong answer. She slid the Swiss back into her bag and triumphantly returned through customs to tell me her good news. She would never have gotten away with such antics in Australia or the USA or anyway else in the world for that matter. We have many stories over the years like this, my favourite being the, ‘Do not take my Vegemite’ story, https://neuage.me/2013/08/11/do-not-take-my-vegemite/, where some mean official-acting people tried to take Narda’s jar of Vegemite from her at an airport in China.
There is an adequate series of restaurants on the top floor; Narda had another Pad Thai, her fourth in a week and she put this as number two of OK Pad Thais. I had some stringy vegetarian slop, that like all food in Asia makes my blood sugars go up and up.
As we had the paid equivalent of ten bucks more for upgraded seats on the Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok, we were in the first rows. The plane was full, from row five back meaning we were the only ones in the first five rows. We could see why no one had paid the extra ten bucks, the seats were the same as the rest of the plane except for a red cloth on the headrest. There was no more space between the seats, and they were not wider. However, we both had a row with the three seats to ourselves and I took another zillion photos of clouds to illustrate my writings with.
We arrived at Don Mueang International Airport at 4 pm, staying at Amari Hotel connected to airport $60 USD/night including buffet breakfast. It is a four-star hotel with a gym and swimming pool. We had dinner there choosing Western meals; pizza and beer for Narda and spaghetti for me. Both were quite expensive for Thailand. Narda liked her pizza and beer, my meal was quite average and definitely not low carb. As we were a few minutes from the terminal we went over and checked on our early morning flight and paid eleven bucks extra for seats in the first row of the plane as we were told these were the best seats.
We were up at five am and at the check-in counter for our flight to Colombo by 5.20am. As were the first people in line of no one else (then I suppose it is not really a line) we had our bags checked in and we were headed back to the hotel by 5.30. The buffet breakfast did not open until six; but when did silly time rules apply to us? Seeing there was already food set up we went in and started filling our plates as several people came running toward us to say the buffet begins at six. Too late mate we already have food on our plate. We were very polite though firm as we are when we know we are pushing boundaries in order to get what we want. At St Lukes School in the village, New York City, where Narda worked for five years the staff have a saying, ‘what would Narda do’ and the verb, ‘I will Narda that’. Even new staff members who never had met Narda sometimes use that term, we were told. (It means that sometimes it is easier to get forgiveness than permission and , and sometimes ‘no’ is simply the wrong answer). We did say our flight was leaving early, the buffet was included in our hotel price and besides they should have opened at 5.30 for people catching early flights. We did compromise and sit in a section of the restaurant that was not visible from the front. By the official time of six arrived, and folks came in to hurriedly eat breakfast before their flight, we were almost finished. BTW, the Amari Hotel at Don Mueang International Airport is the best breakfast buffet we have ever had. There were so many islands of so many foods and drinks that we left quite full.
By 6.30 we were through immigration and sitting in the waiting section for our flight which left at 7.55 feeling quite full and content with our front row of three seats which had more leg room then the rest of the plane and we had the middle seat to spread our crap out on. I got to take another zillion photos of clouds and we arrived in Colombo three hours later.
As I have done since the mid-1960s, when I used to call my work picture-poems; including years as a street artist in New Orleans (1972-74)/ Honolulu(1980)/ Baltimore, Maryland (1977 – 1979 (/Adelaide, South Australia (1994 – 1996). I write on to illustrations and photographs: now my stuff is called ‘Thoughts in Travel’ and I update them often daily on Twitter, Linkeden, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr
Or all of September’s are over at Behance
We are now in Sri Lanka and will post that one at the end of October.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
2018 – 2019 Thoughts in Patterns
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Thoughts in Patterns 7 (https://tinyurl.com/y3p5lggf) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (170 pages). As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
I love travel days. Always have. There is probably not a lot of difference between the family dog and me when it comes to the start of a journey. Thinking of when my two sons and our dog, ‘puppy’ (he never seemed to act like an older dog even after he was eight years old so we always called him puppy and never capitalized his name either), would go out to our car, he with great joy would leap in. Expectations? How are we to know what is in a dog’s mind or what they think will happen? Perhaps when we got to the vets his tail would quickly go down between his legs, or when we got to the beach there would be excitement galore in his pant and tail wagging, but at the start of the journey it was just go go go. That is how I am. I have somewhat of an image of where we are headed; depending on whether we have been there before or not but the actual journey, I am just open for it all. Narda does most of the planning details. I just get involved with the big picture; ‘let’s go to Holland, or be in St. Petersburg, Russia for my 70th birthday, visit where my son, Sacha, was born, in Hawaii, visit my mate from the 1960s, Randy, in Oregon. Narda spends days figuring out the flights and where to stay, including a lot of work in getting us a house exchange for a month or more. I am more hands on when we get to a place then I start learning about it if it is a new destination. I am a human embodiment of puppy, always ready to jump in the car, plane, boat, or just start peddling away on a bike. For example, just last week, in Woerden, in the east of the Green Heart (Groene Hart) of the Netherlands, the green zone surrounded by the Randstad, we would get all bundled up and excitingly get on our bikes and head toward Montfoort; but as would start in that direction we would think it was too windy and wow, six kilometres away and it is close to freezing so we would go the other direction with the wind pushing us toward Papekop which was four kilometres. Of course, coming back home facing the breeze was no picnic but getting there was a hoot. We made a video of it at https://youtu.be/OqdDvI2lLNY.
I am an airport person. I could live in an airport; well, not Albany International, New York (international because they fly the hour flight up to Montreal) and definitely not Dalian International, China which we transited 16 times in the three years of living there or any other reginal airport. Singapore or Amsterdam airport I could live in.
Like in The Terminal, Tom Hanks becomes trapped in John F. Kennedy Airport terminal when he is denied entry into the United States (wow, sounds like 2017 in the USA) and at the same time cannot return to his native country due to a military coup. The film is partially inspired by the 18-year stay of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris, from 1988 to 2006. OK, I could live in JFK or Charles de Gaulle airports too. I did live in the San Francisco International Airport for three days back in December, 1969 – long story – read my eBook ‘Leaving Australia’ (http://www.neuage.org/e-books) and yes, it is available through Amazon and Papertrell; eventually we got some money and went to Hawaii.
I love arriving in a new airport especially when I have no idea what anyone is saying and they are all dressed like they are at a Halloween costume party which probably is their national or religious attire. Airplanes are a bit predictable. We got to Amsterdam International, one of the best in the world, after a good night’s sleep at Hyatt Place (they had a special for 70 Euros for a great hotel near the airport and a buffet breakfast that was as good as top hotels in Singapore or Hong Kong) we spent a few hours at the airport having tomato soup and watching the traffic of people and planes.
Our first flight was to Helsinki. Narda, ever the social person, had a good chat with her neighbour, who turned out to be a Dutch ship’s captain. Never met one before. Enjoyed his stories about captaining a freight ship all over the world. He was currently on his way to the next trip, starting in northern Finland, and going all the way past Spain. What an interesting life. He told us about pirates near Somali and how they are really just poor kids, under the control of mafia type crime bosses; these boys risk their lives to commandeer the ships. We talked about social issues and he told us of a book he’d read where the suggestion was made to pay everyone a ‘living amount’, 1000 Euros per month. The unemployed and dispossessed young people would be so much better off, with the pressure to earn money, or look for jobs, gone; they would become more creative, perhaps study more, happier and some of the social problems facing communities would be solved. Apparently, this is being trialed in a region of Holland. An interesting and compassionate man.
In Helsinki, we had a couple of hours so not enough time to explore as we did on the way to the Netherlands when we spent a day wandering in the below freezing cold and snow. On the way back to the airport from downtown we fell to sleep and missed our stop and had to wait in the freezing weather for a train back to the airport but it all turned out well and here we are, off in another place already.
We each had an aisle seat in the nine-hour trip. Narda usually takes the window as it is easier to curl up to but this was a full flight so we had no choice. We were on Finnair’s new Airbus A350-900. There are only 67 in service so far in the world, with a two-year track record. Finnair has for their slogan for this craft, ‘experience the next generation of flying’. Not sure how that equated to us, still little room for us in peasant class. They say it is quieter, which Narda commented on, then there is some spiel about good petrol mileage, which really, who cares when you are a passenger? And what this some bragging about their food? Good golly I hope not. Narda liked her dead animal fixings but for a vegetarian; wow, a scoop of mashed potatoes with a kernel of corn and a pea or two, really folks I would love to show you how to cook a decent vegetarian meal. And would I dare say I am on a low-carb diet too? I did that a year ago, on a flight from Australia to Thailand and got a plate of raw vegetables.
I had a yummy meal of pork meat loaf, with mashed spud and a salad mad of sauerkraut and something nutty. The other thing about the new aircraft is that the air is completely replaced every 10 minutes; or so I was told by my Finn companions, who were on their way to learn Thai boxing in Hua Hin!!
Their web site for this shows how wonderful it is to fly business and first class, https://www.finnair.com/lt/gb/a350 of course any moron will tell how wonderful business and first class is. We have only done it three times, all given to us: Seoul to Singapore – a flight cancelation and Narda pushed hard to get us business on the next flight because of our stress of waiting a few hours, Bangalore to Hamburg – got because we gave up our seat on a flight for an overbooked flight, and last year Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Adelaide because of Narda’s injury from falling off her motorbike. Here is their ad for economy. OK, time for fact-checking: all planes now come with 11-inch touch screens, all have lots of movie choices, most have Wi-Fi and it is expensive, and of course if you pay a lot more you can get Economy Comfort seats – most planes have this; and of course, my complaint, improved Economy Class meals. What? I would hate to think of what a vegetarian meal looked like before. Maybe just a carrot. Saying all this, Finnair was a good experience. The people were all really good, service was good, and I would recommend them. However, if you have a ‘special’ diet take your own food. There was no more leg room than any other economy flight.
Our Video to Bangkok Airbus A350-900 https://youtu.be/ByAcY3JP6tA
Arrived to Bangkok 7.30 am stood in line two hours for customs. Blimey, that was a bit hard after a long flight. Still, chatting to some Indians in the line, who understood very little English, and copying their head waggles, helped pass the time. We got organised, bought a local sim card ($17) and took the shuttle to U Tiny Boutique Hotel. http://www.utinybangkok.com/
A great little place, with a swimming pool, pretty comfy beds, large rooms and a real family feel. We met up with a Dutch couple…..they are EVERYWHERE…..had some nice chats in the pool, and over a meal or two.
It is easy to spot the Dutch. They make us look short.
To Chiang Mai – Sunny Suites arrived four pm Off to Chiang Mai. A shuttle back to the airport, said goodbye to our new Dutch friends who’s names we never did get, took and airport taxi (150 Baht, plus 50 B tip….nice bloke) and checked into Sunny Suites…again, same as last year. We both slept very badly, oh well, no harm done. http://sunnysuiteschiangmai.com/
Terrell slept in until 9:20 me until 10:30. Rang Agnes re. going to Chiang Rai Saturday. Went shopping at Mall booked Sunny Suites for when back from Chiang Rai and to able to leave suitcases here. I bought some groovy red thongs (flips flops for you Americans) to replace the plastic white thongs I have been wearing for 5 ½ years, since buying them in Dalian on one of our first shopping trips with Sean and Jean and Kay and Frank.
I was not too well. Coughing heaps, then I had pain in my chest and coughed up some blood. So we went back to the RAM Hospital on the north western corner of the old town; same hospital that changed my dressings daily on our trip last year when I burned my leg on the motorbike. My Blood pressure was 139/69 and the doctor gave me anti-biotics and cough pills for Bronchitis. I went to be early, at 8.30 and slept like a baby until 7.30 the next morning. Terrell stayed up writing until 11.30. The coughing, I think, is exacerbated by the high level of smoke in the air caused by the seasonal burning off of crops. We saw this in a documentary sent to us by Tim and Agnes, the pollution is extremely high at this time of year; the effect on people is the equivalent of smoking 2 cigarettes per day.
We ate at a street mall. Only a few blocks away, a very busy place. I got some stir fried stuff that no doubt was picked up in the local park or perhaps in a field along the way. I think it was morning glory but it was too spicy so I gave it away to a girl sitting at our table. On the spot socialization with passing folks is always good to write about because they will never see what I wrote. So here we go… the girl, a bit of a loud mouth from San Francisco is teaching English in a local high school. Teaching English is a back-packer special. She was loud, oh I said that, she had lots of opinions about useless to know things. Narda and I reckon we are smarter than young people not because we have better brain structures (most know that I did everything I could to erase every part of my brain in the 1960s and 1970s) but we believe we are smart from wisdom. We know shit because we have been on this planet for so long. Just an example, Narda mentioned that her son teaches in Cambodia and the girl’s response was ‘they don’t need any degree to teach in Cambodia’, not the fact-checking statement to shine in Narda’s perceptions of one. Especially after knowing all the years Brendan worked to get degrees including his teaching degree and that he is at an actual certified school teaching third grade with an American curriculum; ok, not quite Finland with their best in the world learning models but still he did a lot to get to where he is going. So, we bristle a bit at this idea that foreigners go to Southeast Asia and we ain’t got no learnin’ to pass on to the locals. Anyway, to break up the boisterous California cool chick we had another one join our table. He went to sit down and missed the stool and landed on the floor. A good start to the socialization process. Someone brought him a proper chair and he settled in looking as stoned or drunk or a combination of the two as one could be. He informed us that he was 66. So what? I am 69 and I can at least get my sorry ass into a chair. He repeated his same stories about four times, as if he forgot that he had just told us he was from ‘way up north of New England’, that he had gone on a road trip and left his car in Florida, and that he had flown to London to visit his daughter and just ended up in Bangkok last week. He wasn’t too sure of what was going on though he had been in Chiang Rai the day before and tomorrow he was taking a bus north into the countryside but he wasn’t quite sure where. He told about some LSD trips he had taken, then the loud-mouth girl told about LSD she had recently taken; incidentally, I kept quiet – perhaps, with some difficulty. Narda is not feeling well and I am starting to get a scratchy throat so we went home and left the weirdos behind who probably said to one another that we were weirdos.
Finally posted our blog from Holland. Took longer than we thought to do it. Actually these things take a large amount of time which we have not allocated for in our let’s-just-chill-and-see-the-world mindset. And the videos? Wow! Maybe it is just me being old and slow and lacking a few brain cells that I traded in for a good time back in 1966 – 1978 or was it longer? But I take a long time to do a video in Adobe Premier. A two-minute video can take me a few hours and a couple of the 5 – 7 minute videos I have spent many more hours. I reckon I spend about one-hour per minute of video. Images? If I get into a real photoshop mindset I can spend a long time fussing with a photo too. And of course we have no idea if anyone reads these either. They are mainly for our future reference for when we get older and MORE forgetful (help) to recall what we did when we were not at home babysitting or planning our next trip.
We went to our dentist, it is well worth it, about one-fourth the cost of Australian dentistry. Last year I had heaps done and Narda had a crown – Queen Narda – and the savings helped us pay for our ticket from Australia to this part of the world. Last year we cooked some meals at home but this year we are only eating out.
We found a nice dinner place last time, call it the ‘Green Door”. Our Dalian friends will appreciate that reference; thanks Sherry! Then we went next door and had nice foot massages. This massage place is a charity run for ex-prisoners.
Terrell had a filling done today; pretty good considering how much work we both had done last year. I guess that means they’re not over servicing? We enjoyed a movie, Hidden Figures, at the MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center. http://www.mayashoppingcenter.com/ Great movie, about a bunch of African American women who used to work for NASA as “computers”. These women where under-recognised, brilliant mathematicians and engineers and it’s a great story of hope and celebration. A very timely movie, given the current dark political climate.
I was feeling better – we packed up and left our suitcases at Sunny Suites took — to bus station at 10 am with Agnes and Tim. Great to see them again, just fell easily into our friendship of years ago, when we spent some happy years together in Dalian. Went to the local market; a really colourful place, and enjoyed dinner, which Agnes cooked, with our friends.
Terrell was feeling very poorly today, raised temperature. I went down the road with Agnes and had my hair washed….nice! I’ve been on a course of antibiotics, so gradually getting over my bronchitis. Got 11 hours of sleep, blimey! Went to the local hot springs, a government run establishment; good sulphur laden hot water to cure us. The a great lunch at Pizza Jazz. We watched an episode of Black Mirror….eek….very violent, poor Agnes made herself scarce.
The house Agnes and Tim have is really nice, large open areas, light filled, with a great peaceful view over the rice fields. I can easily imagine living here. Bed also very comfortable.
Tim organised a driver for the day and he took us to the Giant Buddha, Wat Huai Plakang. It’s a pretty remarkable structure, 25 stories high. We got into Buddha’s head, taking the elevator up 25 floors. They are still working on it as our video shows. The view through the Third Eye shows the countryside. We were the only ones who went into the head. Perhaps because they charge about four bucks to go up and the non-European tourists don’t want to pay such high fees, or perhaps they are afraid of heights or maybe they don’t want to be inside of Buddha.
Then we met Ann Boey at Plaza and she introduced us to the new Bethany Children’s home. They have started on a new property, some 40 mins drive out of Chiang Rai. It’s an improvement, with room for veggie growing, also a dam which can be fished and more room for volunteers to come and stay. They were expecting a bunch of American teenagers ; 12 volunteers, to come for some weeks of working on the property. The accommodation was a bit rough, just a room full of mattresses on the floor, but I guess they’ll have a good time in a group like that.
That evening Tim and Agnes got quite ill and went to be early. Unfortunately I think we infected them with our bugs, which we seemed to have been carrying around from quite a while.
Feeling better, got up at 7 and took nap 10- 11. Tim and Agnes still feeling pretty ill.
This morning we stayed home, everyone feeling a bit poorly. Tim told us about his research into micro-organisms and how they make up 70% of our existence. Really interesting stuff; we’re planning on watching some Ted Talks, and reading more. This is a whole new field apparently, and a really important new understanding of how we live and stay healthy.These microbes can be charted to show each individual’s makeup; Tim showed us his chart.
At around 1pm we got a driver to take us into Chiang Rai, had a bit of lunch at the Bakery again (BaanChivit Mai Foundation) http://www.childfriend.com/baanchivitmai and then walked to the bus station. The trip to Chiang Mai was easy and uneventful. Terrell worked on his blog, and I slept So sad that we had to leave our dear friends feeling so crook!
We checked back into Sunny Suites, this time room 4. Actually a better room, it is easier to walk up the stairs. We walked over the road for sandwiches and just chilled.
Next day I still had a bugger of a mouth sore, now the 6th day of it, so we went to Chiang Mai dentist and got some cream. On our way back we walked along the wall, which was an interesting new walk. Then we ate at the Green Door again for dinner.
To get a good taste of Chiang Mai’s Old City it is good to walk around the wall. Probably takes about an hour or two hours if with a shopper.
Today we checked out of Sunny Suites, and took a Songtoew to our new digs at the Lotus Hotel, near the old shopping Mall. It’s a huge hotel, quite amazing actually, completely in Thai style. We had a large room with a sitting area, overlooking the city (see above, today pretty polluted from burning off agriculture). It was a pleasant experience, we hung about in the old mall, listened to a band as we had dinner (some guys doing Billy Joel, golden oldy music)
Then there was Elvis right there in Chiang Mai. Of all the stories in the USA media, which by the way I no longer view or read, not even on Facebook or any other media – I actually am giving the USA a miss totally until they get a proper government again. With the current clowns in office I use only my Australian passport so I have no idea what is going on there but I will begin to engage in a few years when they sort themselves out and become a proper nation again – oh, so the story not being broadcast, that I know of, as one who no longer follows the news, is real-news, Elvis is in Chiang Mai. We saw him. See above video for proof.
We also paid a visit to the Chiang Mai RAM, just for old times, to get some better mouth sore cream, which seems to have done the trick.
Our return to this hospital was not a good past memory. We were there quite frequently last year after Narda fell off of her motor-scooter in Cambodia and got third-degree burns on her leg which was all quite serious but that was last year’s story. We only went to this hospital this year twice, once due to Narda being quite ill from some possible lung infection and again for some mouth-ulcer cream We don’t plan on going to hospital again.
And that is it for now.
Off to Phnom Penh for 18 days.
home Blog Index previous blog
train to Hua Hin http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk
King of Thailand passing by http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ
Bangkok at night and the Chao Phraya (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) River http://youtu.be/ykrkrZ06zH8
Cabbages and Condoms and Bangkok protests http://youtu.be/3lXhsVCd19M
Three years ago our school, Dalian American International School, gave us our spring break unfettered. Professional Development, as a Common Core (a favorite buzzword at our school) active-learning-function, should be embedded within school-time, according to values held amongst staff, was separated from holiday time. Professional Development of course is part and partial of instructional education and as the name implies (professional development) is a segment of what enhances the teaching environment which is what people pay to send their darlings to our school to learn. Three years ago the EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) conference was in Bangkok and as usual went from Thursday to Saturday. Spring Break holidays followed the next week. As our school gives us a thousand dollar stipend for PD we usually use it for a conference and the thousand dollars US comes close to paying the airfare, the conference, and the hotel. So naturally when the conference is during school days prior to a holiday why would we not combine them? which we did three years ago and about half the teachers pissed off on a Wednesday went to a conference in Bangkok then on to holiday the following week. I think we went to Viet Nam that year after the conference. Which made sense as our airfare was paid for most of the way by going via Bangkok.
Not to worry we made do and Friday right after school we were on the way to the airport, one hour away, with Jolly from our Jack-controlled fleet of drivers. Being five o’clock in Dalian add a 45 minutes but we were in flight and arriving in Guangzhou before mid-night. We chose to get out of town thinking we would get to our sea-side town by Saturday noon and to have five-days before being burden with the great mind minds in the educational world; should not be sarcastic here as there are always a few guiding lights at these conferences though a large quantity of ‘look at how great I am‘ presenters too.
Staying at the Pullman Hotel at Guangzhou Airport, a five minute walk away from the entrance to Gate A – International is the best way to start a holiday. Yes, there are soft beds in China and large soft pillows. Even at top hotels we find hard beds waiting for us but not at the Pullman and five thirty Saturday morning came just too soon for the comforts one craves at any age. We got to Bangkok and taking the Airport Rail
Link (06:00-midnight) that connects downtown Suvarnabhumi International Airport with Bangkok we were at Hua Lamphong Railway Station (สถานีรถไฟหัวลำโพง – ah the joys of cut and paste), or for those of us who struggle with any language of any sort, the Bangkok Railway Station.
(my youtube video for this is at http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk).
The train station is a typical older big city Asian place. The toilets are horrible (bring your own tissue – and be prepared to squat if squat action is what your body needs to do), there are restaurants, we ate at one upstairs that was very grubby but the tofu stew I had was fine though I suspect that like most meals was heavily laced with MSG which makes me more hyper than usual which is fine after a cup of coffee and a long train ride. The noon train was fully booked and the only place left on the next train at 2.30 was first class sleeper which sounded groovy and comfortable and elitist and we bought on for those moments of merging with the chosen and higher echelon of whatever social grouping we were to be embedded with. Eventually we were off to Hua Hin; promoted as the closest beach resort of Bangkok, located 281 kms away.
The photo of the Hua Hin Train Station below is the next day.
We brought snack food with us which was good because I was unable to eat the dead-animal-laced meals that were on offer but we did have drinks in the restaurant car and a good view of the landscape which was mainly flat and rice fields (see the video). The upper crust we were on board with looked pretty working class or below which probably coincided with the fare of about $15 US. So this was not Amtrak and the sleeper car definitely was not what we expected (see image above) but was actually our seats folded down with a pull down bunk on top and a thin mat on top and curtains. OK so it was mid-day and we did not need sleepers but we thought it would be a hoot (I think it was me that was thinking in turns of ‘oh boy this will be kool‘) to get the beds made up and I went off to find a porter type of dude who made up the beds with pillows and sheets and the half inch piece of foam that would serve as our mattress. Of course as we live in a world of ‘hey they are doing it so we should do it too‘ and of course with us being the only westerners on the train obviously we knew what we were doing so the people across from us did it. They had a child of about five who thought it was all a big Cubby House and chattered the whole trip (six hours, two hours longer than the advertised time) and climbed between up and down bunks.
Then the next seat did it and soon as shown above the whole car was one big sleeper and it was only about four in the afternoon. Not to be a trend-starter for no reason I climbed up on the top bunk and promptly fell to sleep for about an hour and I was not even sleepy to begin with. But I tend to relax and go to sleep quite easy. I do it on airplanes; often being sound to sleep from starting on the runway to waking in the clouds – maybe something about my level of consciousness being played out there. One of my stranger times I suppose was going to sleep whilst the dentist was drilling a few months ago, they woke me up a couple of times. And forget massages – Narda will tell me that soon after they start I am snoring. The bad part of my sleeping habits is that I awake a few hours later, like around one or two in the morning wide-awake ready for the day and I just lay there, usually quite frustrated for a couple of hours before going back to sleep. I tend to fall asleep always within half an hour before it is time to get up.
Nevertheless we got to Hua Hin station about 8.30 PM with the people who we had arranged our airbnb waiting the extra hours for our arrival. In contrast to our smartypants idea that leaving Friday night would have our toes in the warm waters of Thailand and away from the still freezing weather of Dalian was quite in error in judgement as some others left our school Saturday morning and once at Bangkok Airport took another flight and got to their beach side resort early Saturday afternoon with us leaving a dozen hours earlier and getting to our destination hours later than the others.
We stayed in a small apartment owned by a Dutch couple@ the Tira Tiraa Condominium (http://www.tiratiraahuahin.com/). The whole joint is full of Northern Europeans, lots of Danes and Germans who live there for several months at a time and of course Narda was thrilled and the word retirement came up multiple time. (It sound like an echo off of a distant mountain filtered through many layers of resistance in my brain stem scratching against the reptilian part of my brain.). Good western restaurants and we went to the ‘S & S Indian Restaurant’ which is listed a Ranked#9 of 348 restaurants in Hua Hin in Tripadvisor and we ranked it as number one of three restaurants we ate at which of course is a higher ranker but not as credible because we are no-body. We had several eats at ‘I Rice’ which was only a block away and we ranked it as number two out of three though Tripadvisor Ranked it as #70 of 348 restaurantsin Hua Hin. Forgot where we ranked number three, I think it was where we had breakfast.
The Tira Tiraa Condominiums have a wonderful large swimming pool and we made use of it and a gym which I made use of everyday. The rest of the time we wandered around, took a random bus to Cha Am which is a distant extension of Hua Hin and is full of Northern European tourists beneath kilometer after kilometer of umbrellas. See below:
As we usually do we took random tuk tuks to places we did not know including this random bus that went to the next town, Cha Am. The town centre is nowhere as nice as Hua Hin so we started down the road to the beach (see umbrella infested shore photo above) on a very hot day and fortunately were able to hail a taxi truck (“songthaews”) most of the way. We walked all the way back to town which was miserable, taking an hour in the noon-day sun.
We got the bus back toward Hua Hin but being the tourists that we are and having read about The Venezia Hua Hinwhich online (http://www.theveneziahuahin.com/) and on our tourist map boasted its significance: “The Venezia Hua Hin: The inspiration of this magnificent project came from the charming of the world famous river city named ‘Venice, Italy’. Venice is known as a city that massively uses water transportation by using the canal as a traffic channel through out the city. In addition, the Venice has also preserved traditional stores with beautiful sculpture surrounding of the canal area. These charming can be compared to one of the most charming in Thailand, Hua Hin.
Hua Hin is the major tourist destination and long time famous city in Thailand. As of the fact that Hua Hin is currently regarded as the prime tourism potential in terms of rapidly and steadily growing in the business and numbers of both Thai and foreign tourists. As the distance between Hua Hin and Bangkok, it is very convenient to travel as same day trip between Bangkok and Hua Hin; It takes less than two hours by car. Hua Hin, the city of relaxing place for living and visiting supported by surrounding many major attractions. Of course, huge buying power of over 65 million people across the country and oversea visitors.”
We loved being in Venice and all the other places of Italy we have wandered about in so a day at a Venetian Shopping Centre – of course, why not?
Holy Cow! The shopping centre had to be the most tacky and ill conceived place I have ever seen. To make it even more idiotic they charged 50 baht to get in; OK so it is only $1.50 US but the nerve… Surely it was built by the Chinese as I doubt any other country could have come up with such a stupid concept. Due to the heat being in an air-conditioned mall was a relief but what a bunch of stupid shops. Everything was so overpriced and the place so empty.
There were mixed styles; some I think were suppose to mimic Italy in someone’s twisted dream and some just did make sense. I think they were a Thai copy of Disney, not sure. There was a sort of Christmas theme happening too I think even though we were in the middle of March.
A Christmas theme in the sense that there were reindeer or horses with horns and trees with lights and packages beneath. I doubt whether the builders/designers had ever been to Venice. It was even more tacky than the The Venetian Macao (see my blog of Macao @ http://wp.me/pcHIf-iz). We discovered that we needed cash and the ATM did not take our Chinese Union-pay Card (most countries and ATMs do including in Hua Hin, Bangkok, Burma and etc) but not at this strange place which was good as Narda had found some wings she was buying for her two-year old granddaughter and a soft sheep. We had just enough cash to get on a bus back to Hua Hin.
Once we had dragged our sorry asses out of the air-conditioned mall and alongside the sun-killing highway we waited and waited though it was only 20 minutes for the bus. There was no shade and I tried entertaining myself and Narda (she was not entertained) by making fun of a bullock in the paddock next to us.
Not to worry we got home had dinner at ‘I Rice’ and had a swim in the pool and Narda talked about retirement and I checked out the bandwidth which needless to say was a lot better than what we get at Campus Village back home in Dalian which is close to non-existent. I am not sure whether it is funding cuts at our school that has gotten us less bandwidth or the fact that the Internet mainly filters through student housing first to keep them happy or if it is because of the government. No one is enlightening us on why our Internet in China is so much worse than it was two years ago. So I hastily uploaded YouTube clips of our travels so far on this trip. And of course posted to and read Facebook and Twitter and other sites banned in China.
We walked along the beach in Hua Hin stopping at the Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa because when one wants a proper toilet a western hotel is the place to go. The Hilton did not let us down and we rested in their beautiful lobby overlooking the sea (picture below)
(http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/centaragrand/chbr/) which was formerly the Hua Hin Railway Hotel (when it was affordable). The lawns are amazing with sculptured bushes and all the old world charm in the lobby before whatever bad-tastes-tourism’s wrecking ball has done to the beautiful places of the world. If we were not staying at the Tira Tiraa Condominium and had three-hundred dollars per night to spend on
lodging we would have stayed at the Centara Grand Beach Resort Hotel. Narda says we will stay here for a week to celebrate our twenty anniversary of when we did the ‘M’ thing back in 2001 so we have seven-years to save our coins in a jar and by then if the world has not gone on some crazy end-of-the-earth bang we will stay at the former Railway hotel.
We went off to grab a photo of the train station and inspect more of funky Hua Hin – which is good at this moment in time because it is not filled with tourists like the other resort areas in Thailand.
There are the retired and semi-retired who have homes for months at a time (Narda’s direction for us – just make sure there is fast Internet and I will be OK) but for packs of tourists, not yet. Narda had a bag she bought in Yangon a few weeks ago that needed repair so we stopped at a sewing place. I looked down the road and saw all the traffic stopped two blocks before the one round-about in town. Walking to the one round-about in town I saw traffic was stopped in a directions and the road crossing town was empty except for police and military lined up. Not having a clue as usual I went out to the centre of the round-about to take photos and video and cops from several directions came running toward me waving to stop filming so I went down the street and behind a pole began filming again; see http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ, turns out that the King of Thailand was going to his summer palace which is just outside of Hua Hin. The people lining the street were chanting and waving Thai flags. It was all rather quaint. Narda was nervous that I would be arrested. Actually I am a bit of a journalist as I have a BA in Journalism from Deakin University in Melbourne and having never really had much chop at using it in a real world situation I thought this would be a good time to get a story but in actual fact there was no story to get as apparently the king spends a lot of his time at his Hua Hin home.
Narda always says we need to live somewhere beautiful, it does not matter whether it is in a poor area or – well I think a poor area is what we can afford and Thailand is so full of beautiful places but it is gradually, like the world itself getting overrun by… well I suppose it is people like us. We all want to live in a beautiful place and not in polluted choking places like most major industrial areas. But we bring our industrialized values with us which is stuffing up the once beautiful places. I don’t know what will happen to this planet in the next couple of decades but from first hand viewing it does not seem as going too well. Of course we would just be happy with a reasonable shack with some solar panels, a veggie patch and some chooks on a beach somewhere in Asia but then the water rises and a tsunamis comes or radiation from North Korea or everyone is running out of drinking water and food and gosh…
We took a bus back to Bangkok. It was a 22-seat-coach to Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport, comfortable and less than four-hours. A lot better than the train. I slept most of the way, not sure why as I was not sleepy when we got on at noon but I seem to sleep wherever I am.
We arrived Bangkok in the evening and caught up with Kay and Frank our neighbours last year here in Campus Village and recently our host at their home in Yangon, Burma and a few others grabbed a foot massage, I fell to sleep and snored and Narda in the next seat woke me and the next day Thursday we were at the EARCOS conference.
I of course attended the tech ones such as ‘Innovate now or become irrelevant’ and about Digital Badges which has merit but after digging around in it there are too many companies just in it for the money. Of course education is about money and when you get into private schools and narrow that down to international schools the flow of money overrides it all. I attended too many sessions that were in essence a sales pitch either to take a course to get credit but of course these are paid courses and what more do I want to add to a PhD I am not sure but this is perhaps where open badges comes into play. That we can get cred for whatever we do. But then again to issue badges costs money. Ryan our elementary tech person is working on it and has already issued me with a badge;
though somehow I think it misses the educational systems hierarchy of sustained learning. I in turn made him a badge with something about educational rapping as he is our local rock star (Cronkite Satellite) and in fact I filmed the video for one of his songs for a you-tube clip – http://youtu.be/sOide6Bf140 and I have been doing some chroma-screen (blue screen) work with him for projects in our video suite at school.
Back to the conference – so presenters seem to be focused on selling their courses or selling a web-based program. The venders all line up in the lobby but all we do is taking pens, thumb-drives, bags and other crap on their tables. One presentation I went to was identical to what he presented at the last couple of conferences I have been to. The good part of these events is to hear the lingo I suppose, though I do not feel I moved forward with anything useful. I have known about digital badges and questioned their usefulness years ago. I am on-board with them and once we figure the java scripting for them I will issue some for my film class. Of course they will not have the currency that one issued by a university or the United Nations will have but I will at least have my students mindful of earning more in life than grades.
Narda and I took a river cruise and of course as usual got lost.
Don’t ask me how one gets lost on a river but we did it. We were told we could get off wherever we wanted and catch a river-taxi back. After an hour I was busting for a loo so we got off at a stop that looked useful and that was large enough to catch one back to the Shangri-La Hotel where the conference was. Off of the boat we realised we were kind of nowhere and we after walking found a bustling centre of whatever suburb we were in and after using the loo and sitting on the pier until the sun set we asked a chap about when the next boat back to the Shangri-La Hotel was. OK so there was none because the last boat stopping there was the one we were on and the ones we saw going by were only stopping somewhere where we were not. The man write out what buses to take – and as all people do with us either because we appear to be old, and possibly are, or because they think we are deaf they say the instructions louder over and over. Saying stuff louder in a foreign language does not make the meaning any clearer.
This happens often in China, people just say stuff slower and louder like we would understand it. So we dragged our sorry-asses to a bus stop asked some people where to get the bus got on and rode for a very long time until we got stuck in traffic and grabbed a taxi. We were rushing to get to the Shangri-La Hotel because they were having their conference dinner at the pools and by the river night. We have been to these before and the food is not too bad; a little light on the vegetarian crap but for meat loving Narda there was plenty. And of course it is free tucker and we figured we would catch up with the rest of the 18 teachers from our school and others that use to work at our school and are now elsewhere but still being sent to these conferences being in Asian schools and all but we saw like two or three people. We ate as much as could shove in, had a few
drinks and that was it.
We went to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant with a group – see below and that was good. The restaurant at 6 Sukhumvit Soi 12, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok 10110, is a bit of a condom crazed place. Their profits go to help poor people and it is all very interesting. We gave our condoms back that they give at the end of the meal saying ‘look at us do we look like we need them?’. Some interesting things are shown below –
Now back home shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.
We have twelve weeks left here before our little three-year journey in China is over then we go to Hong Kong to check my four stents put in awhile back and on to Laos for a couple of weeks and back to Australia after a twelve year absence. We went to New York back in 2002 for a couple of years but that turned into nine years and then three here. I am sure we will be back in some other country within another year or two.
Today was good; Sunday the sixth of April. I practiced softball with the Taiwan team this morning as we get ready to go to Shanghai for our
tournament in two weeks. We had a whole school bar-b-que at Campus Village; something we will miss in the future. Last night I had the whole gym to myself and shot baskets whilst listening to the Delta Blues station on my iphone. Being a fan of anything from my New Orleans era of the 1960s is incredible so many years later. Yes, I will miss this place. And even better, tomorrow, Monday, is a holiday; tomb sweeping day. Yes, I will miss this place.
video for Langkawi at http://youtu.be/xjsETcPNtNI
Not to be confused with Maui wowie or anything to do with Hawaii except what a great place Langkawi is.
Left home. Home was back there. Back there was Ao Nang. We had made ourselves at home so quickly. Like within hours. We left the motor scooters out front where we got them two-weeks earlier. I re-read the local tourist magazine ‘Passport Magazine’ again paying particular attention to the section about ‘motorbiking in Thailand’ as I had ignored it before we rented our motor scooters; “Statistically, Thailand is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive (or ride)’… the article goes on to say a lot of scary stuff about how many people get killed a day, especially tourists riding motor scooters. Not to worry. We survived for two-weeks on country roads and highways with others who seemed to have little regard for us or who cared whether I stayed alive to write this blog. After all I had survived heart surgery in Hong Kong two months ago and I have survived three major car accidents any of which I should have been killed in and I survived the 1960s and 1970s and of course the following decades but it was the 1960s that was the most challenging as all people in their 20s come to realize that if they can get past their 20s they will make it a bit further.
Narda got our home from searching on airbnb.com and it was one of our better finds. The price was reasonable; a whole house for $22 US a night and the scooters were six dollars US a day. Of course we did not pay for insurance for the motor scooters. What could go wrong on a little thing like that? The house was basic but being in a quiet forest area at the bottom of a cliff we found it our kind of home. There were a few things that were different than living in Campus Village back in Dalian; such as the huge rats that would run along the rafters and clang around the roof at night until I would throw something at the metal roof then they would quiet down for a bit or until I put in earplugs then they would not seem so bothersome. We learned on the first day that no food could be anywhere not even a crumb. Ants of various sizes and the red ones do bite would be so quick to be there – like spontaneous combustion – well that is a stupid analogy but they did appear suddenly. Of course anything edible would bring forth the rat families. They even chewed up the sponges we washed dishes with no doubt being tricked by some foot smells on them of course there were spit out chewed up bits of sponges further down the way; stupid rats.
The frogs were OK though the first time I heard them at night when I went outside to the loo – well not outside outside but outside to the loo that was attached to the outside of the house; I thought someone was saying hello in a deep voice so I kept saying ‘hello’ back until I realized there was no one there. After a few nights of freighting myself in the middle of the night I realized it was not a human saying ‘hello’ but a frog I stopped saying it myself to no one at all but to frogs. It is the dumb things we do in life that no one knows unless of course we tell them, which I would never do, that are funny but they are only funny to ourselves if we do not tell someone else and a problem I have is that I will tell someone something that I think is funny and they don’t so after many decades of being a self-appointed-comedian I am thinking about call it a day with my humour and I will learn to laugh at other people’s jokes instead of my own that no one else thinks is funny.
And there are the cats who live nearby that hang out at our door for affection or food or maybe even both but who are too lazy to chase away the rats or who are afraid of them as the rats are the size of the cats. They must have been given attention by the previous tenants as they believe; there are three, that they can just waltz into our home when they want and meow. We did not feed them during our two weeks thinking they would go away but they didn’t. This morning I gave them a bowl of sweetened condensed milk as we had a tin left. We developed a taste then an addiction for sweetened condensed milk back in Hanoi a few years ago and now only drink coffee with it in. Narda said they would get sick from such rich milk but I gave them the tin full anyway. The kitten of the trio took to it right away but the older cats only had a bit. Blimey, I am getting bored with writing this…
This is always a writing dilemma; keep my audience, which is me, interested, at least to the end of the paragraph. I do not believe in astrology and I have written about this in length before, but as a non-believer I will just add that part of my writing dilemma is having Mars conjunct Uranus at 25 degrees in Gemini. (really very interesting is that Uranus was discovered when it was at 25 Gemini in 1781 and here I have it at its returning point in 1947; holy cow – see http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0000270.HTM for the meaning of Uranus) I suppose that if I said and that conjunction is in my 8th house you would say ‘well this sentence is dead in the water’. Get it? 8th house being the natural house of Scorpio, a fixed water sign. My 8th house is ruled by Taurus and I have my Moon in Taurus there as parts of my fixed cross between Moon opposite Jupiter all square my four planet conjunction in Leo in the tenth. Go figure! So all that is why I no longer believe in astrology; of course it is obvious with my Neptune in the 12th and Neptune rules my 5th house which is the natural house of Leo. I once gave presentations at astrological conferences on ‘The fifth house and self-realization‘. Thus is life; a series of miss guided belief systems we cling on to try and explain why something or why we are the way we are.
Our house, probably a shack by some definitions; had lots of open windows, all without screens. So besides the rats and the talking frogs and the ants and cats we had heaps of mosquitoes. Fortunately we slept under a mosquito net and we had lots of mosquito coils and mosquito spray to slow the bites. I showed a picture of my knees well bitten on the previous blog ‘next’. Obviously with everything we could do we could not keep from getting bitten. Not to worry if we were getting any diseases from them I am sure we would have them now.
We did like our little house though. We had a lazy time. We even developed a routine of walking to the main road, about twenty minutes, to get coffee at a local outdoor ramshackle bamboo hut then across to a market for a liter of water each and back home to get our scooters then off for a bit of a ride.
In the late afternoon we had a swim, and either we would go out for dinner or make something at home and watch a couple of episodes of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ which I find rather dumb, predictable and over acted but we have the series with us. There were other routines too such as the rats having a party at two or three in the morning – I would throw something at them, whatever I could find, so there were often shoes or other items that flew out the window when I missed the ceiling and there was the call-to-prayers about 5.15 every morning. What is that about? Considering we live on a country road with a house on both sides and one across the road then nothing for a long way why such a loud production each morning? I am not a music person like Narda is a music teacher and musician but to me ever who was doing it seemed really off key. It did not sound as musical as what I have heard when we were in Istanbul or KL or other Muslim entranced places. Nevertheless I never had a good sleep so part of my routine was taking a nap every afternoon. Narda saw this stay as a trial toward retirement but I hope retirement does not have so many rats, mosquitoes, stray cats and talking frogs and ants and calls-to-prayer.
Really. Do those prayers really change anything? As a researcher of many belief systems and a down-to-earth human being I would say nope.
And the king, what is up with him? Photos of him everywhere sometimes doing various activities and of course he is on the paper money. We learned this from a previous time in Northern Thailand a few years ago that it is best not to even mention the king. I think of the prime minister of Australia and how everyone just makes fun of him or her or whatever is in office. The same with the president of the US everyone seems to have a go at him. And the king and queen of the Brits get dissed often in Australia but not the king of Thailand. My favourite photo of him is on their one-hundred baht bill with him holding a camera. Maybe he is a photo buff as I have seen large paintings of him with a camera around his neck. It is a Cannon and I have a Nike so we are on a different page. He probably was not a hippie either nor does he hoon around Thailand on a motor scooter or stay at $22 US a night digs with rats. What is the point of a king? But the people of Thailand seem to think he is an OK chap. We have read and been told that if you drop paper money with his image on it and it starts to blow away do not run over and put your foot on the money to stop it as one can get a fine or go to jail for that.
Our lives are governed, controlled? By turns taken. We are sitting on this crap ferry because of a direction taken not meant to be taken or at least by the conscious part of what we think we use to control the directions we take in life; our brain. We researched and decided to take a train from nearby; probably Trang, down to KL; about a day and a half. What we have read was that the overnight sleeper through Thailand is great but the train through Malaysia is air conditioned and quite cold but we still wanted to do the ride. We rode our scooters to Krabi Town – half an hour from home, to purchase a ticket. We had read we could buy one in Krabi Town. When we got to Krabi Town we came to an intersection that we could not get across nor could we turn right which was the direction to downtown where we wanted to purchase our train ticket to KL. After sitting too long and getting freaked out by the traffic, and remembering the article about Thailand being one of the most dangerous countries to drive in, we went left thinking we could make a U-turn and get our sorry-asses downtown. There was nowhere to immediately make a U-turn and in fact there was a foot high barrier in the midst of Utarakit Road for a kilometer or two.
When we did get to the U-turn we thought it was another one of our synchronous moments because right there at the U-turn was the Government Tourism Office. The dude in there printed out a train timetable for us and in the midst of our excitement over getting a train all the way to KL he rang someone whom he sent us to so we could purchase our fun ticket. I wrote about our Muslim travel-agent chick in the last blog, ‘Next’ so I will leave it to the fact that she was not sure how to get us a train ticket but she could get us on a ferry to Langkawi and from there a flight to KL. She made it all sound so groovy and pleasant we left singing her praises – me singing off-key like our neighboring call-to-morning-prayers chanter or whatever they are referred to as.
So here we are sitting on the Tigerline Ferry. What a horrible little piece of junk it is. A fast ferry? Not sure about that. The webpage and brochure shows a two level deck and the ticket lady that convinced us to go this way instead of by train said there was a café on board where we could order food. All that is close to that is some deck hands selling beer and water from an esky at the front of the boat. We are sandwiched into our narrow row – four seats on either side of the row with little leg room on the first level with scant air conditioning. There is a pool of liquid in front of the loo door coming down the aisle. The second level is upstairs as all second levels are – but it is outside with a small covered area. They have sold twice as many tickets as there are seats so the top is covered with folks sitting on the deck in the glaring sun. it is also very loud as the motor with two smoke pipes pouring out thick polluting smoke are up there too. The boat is old, rusty and filthy. There are a lot more people than there are life jackets and we have noted where the kick-out-windows are in case this thing goes down. The ferry we took from Phuket to Ao Nang was first class compared to this. The ferry we took from Dalian to Yantai was more like a small ship had state rooms and was cleaner than this. This boat should be condemned and sunk or used for target practice for the military.
Maybe it is because we are old and get grumpy over things. I do not see anyone complaining, just Narda and me. We started off with a mini-bus from Ao Nang to Krabi. When we got on the Tigerline Ferry mini-bus there were already six people on it and we collected four more in Krabi. They were all in their 20s. A different mix than when we took a mini-van tour in Phuket with a van full of folks from India. These kids were quite the mix: three males from South Africa, a couple from Denmark, two girls from Briton, a girl from Germany a couple with an accent I could not work out and us wherever we are from. Young travelers are good and they just accept the way things are. Young people just think of sex and beer no other part of the brain has kicked in yet so conversations are limiting usually. Travelers are a little easier to speak with but with large signs advertising ‘beer pong tonight’ in the backpackers where we collected some I think all people in their twenties are pretty much the same. Narda said I was an original hippie from San Francisco and the British girls seemed impressed. One asked if I wore flowers in my hair. I am not sure about that but I did have hair to my waist and I did live quite the hippie life in San Francisco at the end of the 1960s. And I suppose at other times along the way.
Maybe I have gone full cycle or full semi-cycle. Life is cyclic often and we do end up where we were though we should be at a higher place on the circle than we were the first time around.
I dropped out in the 1960s as many of us did; tune-in, drop-out, turn-on then kind of tried to integrate myself back into society raising children and teaching in universities and K-12 schools for the past 15 years or so and now we are dropping back out gradually. I think some refer to it as retirement.
Kids today; not sure how different they are. We all had long hair and dressed quite colourfully in the 1960s and now the thing is to have tattoos and piercing. People in their twenties have lots of tats. At the beach it is so noticeable of course as these are not Muslim kids but Western kids in a Muslim area thought no one seems to care. Some tats are picturesque but some are look like a drunken sailor had a go with some needles and ink. And the piercing; belly buttons, lips, eyelids, ears, tongue, checks, and probably some areas that were barely covered. Other than the tats and piercing and the music adolescents or whatever the next stage is now are the same as they/we were in the 1960s.
Before my generation there was not much happening for folks in their twenties, just wars and farm or factory work. The main difference now is that these kids are not part of a big war movement like we were in the 1960s and the protest movement has moved from the streets of developed countries for the most part to developing countries like in the middle east. There seems to be a big protest movement in Thailand or at least in Bangkok but as I only have seen glimpses of headlines for the past two-weeks I am not sure what the beef is. Where we are there is no protest and all the westerners are out having a great time. It seems that a large number of people in Thailand want to shut down the country on January 13th. We left Thailand two days ago on the seventh so we are good.
My son has a huge tat across his chest and probably by now lots more. He turned 33 a couple of days ago and in my opinion is now too old to get tats. I Skyped him and told him I got married when I turned 33 and had him; he may do the same this year following in my style though hopefully with a better marriage experience than I did when his mother and I got hooked up for some unexplained reason.
I have told the story before so will not get into it again; we met at an astrological conference in Sydney, she visited me in Maryland a few months later – we hated each other from the get-go but being young as acted and still in our twenties even though we were in fact in our 30s and thought of little more than sex and beer as all twenty years think only of… so she went back to Adelaide in March of 1980 (after the two of us drove across the USA from Baltimore Maryland to San Francisco drinking huge amounts of hard liquor as we drove for four days and at the end I deposited her at the SF Airport; which should reinforce the message not to drink and drive because the results can be disastrous) and I went to Hawaii to hang out with Randy Dandurand whom I first met toward the start of 1969 in Laguna California and knew from too many trips (I will not elaborate on what that exactly means) and who at the end of 1969 I ran in to in Honolulu and who got me into the cult order I ended up in for a decade. Again in Hawaii, again with Randy Dandurand and again stuck – this time in June 1980 when I got a phone call that started with ‘guess what?’ and not to repeat the whole story again, that was 33 years ago and that was Sacha on his way. I have my Moon descendant line or is it the MH line? going through Hawaii so that could explain my two interactions in Hawaii; joining a cult order and getting married, neither of which worked out. Fortunately I no longer believe in astrology so that of course is all nonsense.
I was just saying to Narda yesterday the thing about learning is not the learning but what is being learned. I studied astrology for 40 years and I know all the interpretations and calculation systems and heaps of crap all of which I wish I had never learned because it is all nonsense. I am not sure why I think it is nonsense but I know for 40 years I used to make decisions based on where the planets were and almost all those decisions were stupid, ill founded, mistaken, crap. I have not followed astrology since 13 August 2003 and life outside of the event that caused me to stop believing in it or looking at it anymore has been OK. I think I make a lot of decisions based on common sense and they tend to be good whereas I use to make plans and decisions based on astrology and they did not work out.
Nada says I assemble together too many words to say something. So in fewer words or simple thought I wish I had learned a language instead of learning astrology. Which simply put as a life learned lesson do not learn stuff that you will never use in the future but of course how could we know that at the time on embarking upon the learning? Then again learning, anything anytime anywhere no doubt is good for the brain muscles. Some things we should have learned along the way but did not because we did not see the importance. For example in boy scouts I did not go for the orienteering badge and yesterday we got helplessly lost coming home from downtown where we are now. After that – the next time out – Narda drew a map of every street and turn and building along the way so we would not get lost again. Of course that was not needed as we got a ride home the next time we walked to the downtown area of where we are now by the owner of where we are living but more of that later. The price we paid was that after walking for more than four hours in the sun along a country road Narda, having one of those Northern European types of skin, got burnt and I became darker.
After the first half hour and we were out of Krabi the Thailand countryside was well worth the trip. It was about two hours to Trang and most everyone was asleep except the driver and me when we got close – which was good. I listened to my 1960s music: Dylan, Joplin and the likes so I would keep perspective on my life. Thailand has really beautiful countryside. The last hour we were along the coast passing through small fishing villages and large palm tree plantations on our narrow country road.
At the Port of Trang we waited for the ferry that was to arrive at 12:30. It arrived at two pm. I sat on the pier with the kids from our mini-van; three South Africans and the girls from England and Germany. Narda found an old couple; well probably our age, from Holland and stayed with them. What do young people see when they look at me? I feel at about the same level as them feeling youthful and liberal and free and though I have invisible tats and non-piercing piercing I have them psychologically and I am sure I could win at beer pong except for the fact I don’t drink beer but psychologically I feel intoxicated. The Brits said I was really kool whatever that means in their language. Probably like my “my granddad is your age and he is really kool”. “I mean he has a pace-maker and sits in his wheel chair all day in front of the telly and he drools and wets himself but for the few moments he is conscious every day after a bit of gin and a smoke he says some funny shit…” so that is about the level they see me. “Hey girls I was quite the stud in my day… I could tell you stories.. wait here comes my wife…maybe later I will tell you about living in a commune in San Francisco in 1968 – 1969 or the time I lived on a nude beach on the island of Maui in 1971 (Makena Beach) or… damn old age where is the toilet around here?” Actually we had a chilled time waiting for the luxury ferry and then there it was.Bloody ferry should be condemned. The whole Tigerline Ferry should be closed down. We got into the main cabin – well actually there was only one cabin, and it was packed. Luckily we managed to find two seats left but the 40 or so passengers that also got on at Trang had to go up on top. The ferry had come from Phuket and was full.
Our baggage was tossed amongst the rest – see photo below…Toward the end of the day we got close to Koh Lipe. Those of us headed for Malaysia were herded to one side of the boat and the majority on board going to Lipe got on the other side. We were put onto a Longtail Boat – much like we rode in Ao Nang and in Krabi. No one, or none of us, knew what was happening. Someone joked we were going to Malaysia in it but of course that seemed impossible. There were 14 of us with the hundreds of others getting on another ferry and headed to the nearby beautiful shore of Koh Lipe, a young person’s paradise so of course it was only fit to send us away.
Then they took our passports and the teenager that took them made jokes like ‘bye bye’ after collecting most of them. All except Narda and mine which she was not going to turn over until we realized we were not going any further until we did. Apparently this is immigration, Thailand style.
Koh Lipe with our boat heading toward us (really). As the sun began to set we got off at the floating immigration and our passports were taken to some other boat that said Thailand on the side.
My biggest concern was that there was no toilet at immigration and another person said wait until sun sets in a few minutes and go over the side. With more than a dozen people standing around I thought I needed to get over myself and my being old and wait until we got to Malaysia which we were told was only an hour and half away by fast boat when the actual boat arrived.
When the boat arrived and we got in and took off everything changed. I sat in the back taking a zillion photos as I do and as the sun set our boat with its two 250 hp motors took us onto a journey like I had never been on before.
Once it became dark and my camera was away I just watched the darkness with only the waves from the back of the boat visible. Here we were riding very fast in an open sea; the Andaman Sea. Riding between two countries we could have been smugglers, James Bond types, anything; even ourselves. I wondered what would happen if we saw a boat coming at us and stopping us a gun point and taking us hostage. There are kidnappings and extremists wandering around Southern Thailand and Malaysia. I thought maybe I would throw my US Passport overboard but Narda thought maybe the Yanks would be the ones who would rescue us and me being the only Yank on board, I use my Australia Passport all the time and only use the US one when I enter the States, could get us all saved. The rest on the boat were from Australia, Holland, Poland and some non-definable, though Western, countries. The driver and his mate looked like adolescents and surely were not over 20 so what they would do to protect us I am not sure. Narda said she was thinking how it could turn out if the motors stopped and we drifted to one of the islands along the way and no one found us and we became like the people in the series, ‘Lost’. After half an hour I just stopped thinking and plugged my iPhone into my ears and listened to Dylan, Creedence, ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominos (often voted on radio stations as the greatest rock song of all time) and just chilled like I have never in my life. This became the greatest ride of all time for me.All because we could get across Ut Tharakit Road back in Krabi Town and ended up at the government travel bureau that directed us to some small tourist centre where the chick there could not figure out the train ticket to KL from Trang or did not want to and hooked us up with Tigerline Ferry. She told Narda that at one time the brother or cousin of the owner of Tigerline Ferry wanted to marry her. Not sure how the dialogue got to that point but Narda and her had quite the tongue waggle and Narda said “you are quite the character aren’t you?” Whether the Muslim chick had a clue what Narda said or not I have no idea but even though her English was limited (not Narda, the other chick) they seemed to hit it off.
Narda is a social creature whereas I just look around for a place to get onto the internet – ‘hey what is the password?’
For example, we were riding our scooters around the back roads of Ao Nang and Narda wanted to check out real-estate of all things, something about coming here for six months when we retire soon; good grief. So we came across streets with nice little houses with for rent or sale signs in front and if there was a European hanging about Narda would end up in conversation. I would sit a few meters behind looking for the way out. We spent one afternoon doing this. Of course we have now found another place Narda wants to retire to; Ko Langkawai. I imagine Ko means island as it is front of every island name.
We did get to Langkawai; proof is that I am writing this from there, and everything where we docked was dark except for one light in a building which we once again turned over our passports. Narda went off to find an ATM to get some Malaysian ringgits and I stayed behind guarding our crap and waiting for our passports. We started off with bag each so how we ended up in Malaysia with seven bags I am not exactly sure but I think we have more crap to put into storage when we get back to Australia after we leave China in six months. Of course the amount of stuff we have in China to send to Australia will fill a container vessel by itself. Now I know what the difference between the twenty-year old backpackers we see everywhere and us. It is not their youthful tattooed-pierced bodies barely covered and their sole thoughts of beer and sex that differs us but that they travel with a backpack and that is probably all they own in the world and we lug around cargo ships of merchandise.
Once we had our passports and ringgits and seven bags lined up we saw all the rest of the folks get into the three taxis that were there. A man said he would take us for 40 ringgits (about $12 US) to where we were going but he was not an official taxi driver. Another couple was left behind and they were going to the same area as us so we negotiated at 30 ringgits per couple and piled in. OK what not to do in a foreign country in the dark with no one around; get into a car with someone who speaks a few words of English and head out into the night. But we have found ourselves in sticky places in Guatemala, Mexico City, Cambodia and heaps of other places and we lived in Jersey City for three years being the only white people in our area so we go through life taking chances and living in the moment. Narda had the phone number for where we were going so that helped and the driver actually found our way out of the way place and at 10.30 pm we arrived at this beautiful house.
Home now is much different than our rat infested shack back in Ao Nang but we are paying four times more and there is a bit of downside. We really are in the country. The next morning, yesterday, we looked out and saw the paddocks and the little bike width road to town. ‘Only about 20 minutes” people staying in the next cottage said. So we walked it and half an hour later arrived onto the main street of town and across to Pantai Cenang Beach. We had been there the night before at 10:30 PM. When we arrived in Langkawi we were very hungry having had only a couple of sandwiches that we had brought with us for the day. The owner of the place we are now at sent us by taxi to her café which is on the beach, an incredible and beautiful place; white sand tables on the beach and really good food. We ate there the next night, last night too.
Coming back home yesterday we got lost and walked for three hours along a country road and burnt Narda and me we were not impressed. We got this place the day before we left Ao Nang as we thought we were taking a train and never having heard of Langkawi.
We had a good stay howbeit the long walk to any place to buy food was off putting and the beach was a half hour walk but the swimming was great.
All in all our three-week winter holiday was relaxing and now at two AM we are waiting for a plane in KL to get us to Shanghai though not fun being so tired and all I must say it has been good. This could be our last trip during a school holiday as we may not work after this school year and where we will be next year to start 2015 will be as much of a surprise that we will not know about until we are in the moment once again just like we had no idea we would be out to sea on a fast boat between Thailand and Malaysia until we got on to the boat. We never even had heard of the fantastic island of Langkawi until a week before we went there. So life goes forward taking a turn here and a twist there and if we just can perfect the letting go and enjoying where we are being taken all will be fine.
Of course some things never change. When we got back to Dalian low and behold they lost two pieces of our luggage. Once again. Just like the times before. Thanks China Eastern you make life so predictable.
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc