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.
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.