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Thailand 2017

Thailand 2017

19 February Sunday DAY 86 of trip

19 February Sunday DAY 86 of trip

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

20 February Monday DAY 87 of trip

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.

U-Tiny Boutique Home , Suvarnabhumi , Bangkok

U-Tiny Boutique Home , Suvarnabhumi , Bangkok

21 February Tuesday DAY 88 of trip

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/

Sunny Suites Chiang Mai

Sunny Suites Chiang Mai

22 February Wednesday DAY 89 of trip

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.

23 February Thursday DAY 90 of trip

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.

24 February Friday DAY 91 of trip

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.

25 February Saturday DAY 92 of trip

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.

26 February Sunday DAY 93 of trip

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.

27 February Monday DAY 94 of trip

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.

Wat Huai Plakang

Wat Huai Plakang

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.

28 February Tuesday DAY 95 of trip

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.

1 March Wednesday DAY 96 of trip

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.

2 March Thursday DAY 97 of trip

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.

Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel

Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel

And that is it for now.

Off to Phnom Penh for 18 days.

Embedding Thailand

Embedding Thailand

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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).

Bangkok Railway Station

Bangkok Railway Station

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.

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Hua Hin Train Station

Hua Hin Train Station

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:

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Songthaew, taxi truck Songthaew, taxi truck

Bus to Cha Am

Bus to Cha Am

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.

The Venezia Hua Hin

The Venezia Hua Hin

The Venezia Shopping Centre

The Venezia Shopping Centre

The Venezia Shopping Centre

The Venezia Shopping Centre

The Venezia Hua Hin

The Venezia 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.

don't eat animals they are kool

don’t eat animals they are kool

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)

The lobby of the Hilton Hotel with water falls into a pool and on into the sea

The lobby of the Hilton Hotel with water falls into a pool and on into the seathen we went on to the Centara Grand Beach Resort Hotel

(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.

gardens at Centara

gardens at Centara

gardens at Centara

gardens at Centara – Old Railway Hotel – elephant style

just a random school but I took a photo of it to remind me how easy our school name is to say – Dalian American International School

just a random school but I took a photo of it
to remind me how easy our school name is to say – Dalian
American International School

jetty in Hua Hin

jetty in Hua Hin


 Narda and a local shop in Hua Hin

Narda and a local shop in Hua Hin

Narda checking out a place to purchase so we can face retirement

Narda checking out a place to purchase so we
can face retirement

 

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.

Narda on train to Hua Hin

Narda
on train to Hua Hin


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;

totalhippieawardthough 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.

DSC_5539

DSC_5540

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 –

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant with Jean, Frank, Kay, Narda, Terrell and condom friends

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant
with Jean, Frank, Kay, Narda, Terrell and condom friends

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant – Santa’s little helpers

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant: good cops vs. bad cops

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Now back home shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.

shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.

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.

 

Langkawi wowie

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.

1969 Oregon Coast with Terrell and Desiree

1969 Oregon Coast with Terrell and Desiree

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.

On the road to Trang Thailand

On the road to Trang Thailand

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.DSC_3754Bloody 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.

DSC_3765 Our baggage was tossed amongst the rest – see photo below…DSC_3761Toward 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.

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe

DSC_3775Then 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.

longtail boat from Tigerline Ferry to immigration dock

longtail boat from Tigerline Ferry to immigration dock

DSC_3823My 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.

Thailand immigration dock

Thailand immigration dock

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.

DSC_3814Once 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.DSC_3830All 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.

Little Lylias Chillout Cafe, Pantai Cenang

Little Lylias Chillout Cafe, Pantai Cenang

Sayang Villas Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia

Sayang Villas Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia

road-to-townbeach-sunsetbulldead-wildlifebeach-writerComing 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.

my feet after riding three weeks in the sun with sandals

my feet after riding three weeks in the sun with sandals – the rest of my body is as dark as the dark part of my feet

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/8Osc_Ckmz3E (Phuket)
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Railay) http://youtu.be/0O4WK_fCm2A
(Krabi) http://youtu.be/08hPnWF7PWw
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc

got to tell ya about this

was me

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yesterday perhaps before