Our first leg of our Asia 2019 trip (September) Narda’s notes / Terrell’s notes
When does a journey begin? Perhaps like all of us entering life itself. Conception (we’ll give those details a miss); the conception of this trip I think began when Brendan accepted an offer to teach year four(which turned out to be grade 5 at the Lahore International School, Pakistan. Nine months of planning for whatever is to pop out and challenge the parent’s perceptions of everything possible for as long as the journey goes; in our case the planning, Narda, the master planner, said easily, we’ll go to India for a month or two then cross the Wagah Border at Amritsar, and bingo there is Lahore and Brendan. She had us going up to the foothills of the Himalayas, up to Darjeeling, then a train across to Varanasi and a stay in this or that place. Then bingo… Bloody Hell, who names their baby Bingo? Well it all became unstuck when Pakistan shot down a plane or two and India did the same and India and Pakistan made faces at one another then closed the border. OK, easy, regroup and find another way into Pakistan. More on that later.
Then birth. The first sounds of life on the journey. Well we started early, yesterday to be exact, the 16th of September. We stayed at the new airport hotel. So much easier than getting up at four in the morning, cleaning house a bit, getting a family member, or taxi, or Uber, etc. to the airport. We have spent a week cleaning and setting up the house, tarting up the garden and lawn. We even bought a power sprayer and I spent three full days cleaning the patio bricks, the carport, driveway, footpath, front porch, sprayed the car, windows, neighbour’s cat… a new toy that gives results. The reason for such an extra clean up is that we have a family from France staying for six-weeks, with whom we will exchange in the future.
We got to the airport hotel at four pm. We took the bus from in front of our house and that was the birth of this journey. The Atura Hotel is good. We had dinner and the buffet breakfast that was included – a very good buffet. We were on the sixth of seven floors with the runway view, nice to watch the sun rise over Adelaide. Below photo isn’t the sunrise, night-time – we live at the foothills of the Adelaide Hills in the background about 45 minutes away, or an hour on bus.
Next time we will ask for the opposite side which we reckon is the seaside and sunset. Also, with check-in, next time we will check our bags in when the gate opens at 6.45 am for the 9.45 flight. That way we can walk back to the hotel and have an hour for the buffet, read the paper, get ourselves all worked up about the world’s issues (today was when some unhappy folks sent drones over to Saudi Arabia to bomb their oil wells taking out 5% of the world’s supplies, and Trump saying he would deal with whomever that the Saudi’s (the ones who bombed NYC on 911) told him to do, such as bomb the shit out of Iran. When travelling it is best not to be too alarmed with loudmouths. Anyway, we still would take the extra time for the buffet as we did it in less than half an hour which made me feel rushed. Hey, I am 72, everything makes me feel rushed. The hotel restaurant is a couple of minutes to the check-in gate, they are connected. It has taken Adelaide a long time to catch up and get an airport hotel and it sure is good. Everything is getting better in our little town, which was recently rated as #10 in the most liveable cities in the world.
So we rush through security, Narda is in one line with all our stuff, taking computers out of bags, keeping track of stuff, I am opening my shirt to show my implant, waiting for someone to compliment me on all the gym work I have done in the two months back in Adelaide, no one does, and I get the usual extra Leo treatment, being special and all. Then we must go through another security line in the international area, why they can’t have one security check for both domestic and international I don’t know, perhaps when they do Adelaide will be #8 in the world’s most liveable cities category. Anyway, this time they aren’t doing body checks, just the carry-on crap. I have my usual two items, the backpack with camera, laptop, gadgets galore and my shoulder bag with what doesn’t go in the other bag + my hat. So, we are sitting in the lobby waiting to board our plane being board and I realize I have left my shoulder bag back at the security area. In my usual panicky way, I run back and get my bag. Now I am in the doghouse with someone next to me a bit cross with me wanting to know why this has happened and why I could not keep track of two bags + my hat. I try to explain to deaf ears that I am having a hard transit of my Mercury from Saturn and it’s making me feel a bit loopy. If anyone has ever read any of our other posts, this could be a recurring theme in our travels, me losing stuff and a significant other being a bit cross with me.
I travelled with my two boys in 1985, when they were two and four to New York from Adelaide and again in 1992 when we stopped in Hawaii, LA, and New York to see family and friends then on to Europe. Both times I came back with very little of what we started with though we had other stuff replacing the misplaced somewhere in the world items. Sacha still talks about those trips; he is scarred for life. Buys the best luggage available and does the pack-supreme routine that the significant other next to me has adopted as a way of travel.
Right now, I am keying away on Malaysian Airlines, MH138; Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur with a one-hour pit stop then up to Bangkok.
The last blog, USA2019, took a couple of months to complete. A couple of months after the trip. Narda had said, not again, she edits, keeping some of my more stupid/silly/ridiculous/too wordy stuff from getting too out of hand, and adds the intelligent stuff. So, the mandate is to complete this soon after we get home in the middle of November, nine-weeks after birth of this journey and my corny metaphor. Plus, a month after we get home is getting close to Christmas time and we are expecting everyone to visit. You will probably visit too. We have the four boys and family; Sacha and Georgia driving over from Melbourne, Chris – Jessica – Liam here from Washington DC, Brendan from Lahore and Stu, Clare and the girls from the next suburb over. We have a lot to do before then. I even want to paint the house and cover a section of the patio that is too open for Adelaide’s hot summer. Then we are out the door again with a three month stay in the Netherlands, January to April 2020, and two lots of home exchanges from there staying at our house, six weeks each. So, what doesn’t get written on this trip will never be shared, lucky for the reader who skims this. And that is the introduction that you could have skipped to get to the actual trip.
Hopefully we will be able to add to our magnet collection. Narda’s rule is that we had to have stayed at least one night at a place before qualifying for space on fridge. There is still room…
18 September Wednesday
Thailand is our first stop on this trip. The changeover in Kuala Lumpur as usual was smooth. We had a couple of hours between flights and took the shuttle train over to the international departures. Note: if you are hungry and in search of a meal, there are more restaurants in the main terminal where overseas flights arrive plus there is the great tropical rain forest to wander in. To go international from KL hop the aerotrain over to the Satellite Building. There is a Starbucks and a local eatery. We grabbed a couple of quiches on the go as we did not have much time for our two-hour flight to Bangkok. We were served good meals on the flight so the rush to grab a bit was not necessary.
We made a bit of a mess getting to our hotel in Bangkok. Thinking we could get there by the metro from the airport we navigated our way onto the train and happily headed off into the night. To the end of the metro line as we believed our hotel was across the street from there, in the rain. The stop that we had thought was our stop was the Bangkok railway station, unofficially known as Hua Lamphong station, and not the stop we wanted. Bangkok has less English-speaking people than other places we have been in Thailand and it took us quite some time to get tickets to wherever it was we thought we were supposed to be going. Needless to say we got the next metro stop confused and got another metro line, eventually getting within walking and grumbling distance of our hotel by ten pm. A couple of hours of wandering lost around Bangkok in the rear-view mirror. Tip: take a taxi from the airport.
We stayed at the Hopeland Hotel (1110, 5 Sukhumvit Rd, Khwaeng Phra Khanong, Khet Khlong Toei, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110) http://hopeland8.com/ The website looks a lot better than the place itself. The many girls behind the counter when we arrived seemed more interested in their cell phones than in serving us. Narda rang down immediately when we got to our room saying the bed was too hard and we could not sleep on it, could they bring us a mattress topper, which they either did not have or could not be bothered with. We were so exhausted that sleeping on a hard bed didn’t matter by the time next morning arrived. We paid the USD $22 for two buffet breakfasts which was good. The swimming pool is outside the dining area. We wanted to go in, do our aqua-fit/Zumba exercises we do three mornings a week back in Adelaide, but to be thrashing about in front of people eating seemed like an idea to miss. We paid an extra 1000 bahts ($33) to keep our room until 6 pm. I found an exercise-weights room which we both made use of; well I used the equipment and Narda did the vibrating electric chair exercises.
It was a long long drive in gridlocked traffic to the train station to go Chiang Mai. The station is full of homeless folks living there permanently. It was nice to see a bunch of volunteers distribute food in little take away containers to them. We had lots of time to spare, so we ate a meal in a hotel opposite the station. Pretty nice food, and a view. We almost got caught in a sudden monsoonal downpour on the way back to the train. Really hard rain with strong winds! Blimey.
Not knowing how to get to the ticket office from where we were dropped off at the train station we marched across the road; big multi-lane roads, three of them, dodging traffic to get to the DOB building where the likes of us get tickets. Narda had paid for them online and we had to collect them in person. Note: Book ahead by months to get a train as they fill up, like in India where we had to book three-months in advance to have any hope of getting a train. Boring story short, there is a tunnel, from the train station to the metro to the other side where the DOB building is that we found to get back to the train station then back to the other side to eat. Note: Don’t expect to find a good meal at the train station, there are a couple of coffee shops and a very local suspect looking eatery. Narda spotted a restaurant at the top of a hotel so we trudged off in search of a feed and ended on the 12th floor of the Prime Hotel Central Station Bangkok, see photo below. The food was good, expensive, but it was a good place to spend more than an hour away from the crowded train station.
Narda found Dunkin Donuts and bought us each one which unfortunately I sat on when we were on the train, so they were merged, flat doughnuts, paper thin.
The train trip was very scenic. We both hit the sack, me on the top bunk. I slept pretty well considering; rocking and people talking a lot, and the fluros on all night. A friendly conductor tried to teach me some essential phrases in Thai. He said, “You are a teacher?” Not sure what to make of that??? It’s a slow train, but well worth the trip. You do need to rug up because the aircon is pretty cold.
video of the train ride over at…. https://tinyurl.com/y69zv9ry
The train left on time at 10 pm and arrived 12.30 the next afternoon. Narda got settled quickly, I stayed up writing and playing with photos I had taken. It all seems secure; our main bags were outside of our cubby house along the hallway. We kept our bags with laptops, cameras, phones, etc. in our sleeping areas. There is a first-class train with individual cabins but that left earlier and arrive six am. We wanted to see the last section, through the mountains and only the second-class train did that. The bed was comfortable, softer than the previous night’s hotel. We were both up at five am then slept a bit more, then off to breakfast which was eggs, toast, coffee, and Narda had the roadkill, probably whatever the train hits along the way fried up for meals. The lower bunk, my bed, folds back in to two seats.
According to the internet – “Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.”
It’s cooler today; been pretty hot and humid. The last few days we walked around the area, discovered the Ping River, a China town nearby where I bought 3 metres of nice material to make something. Not sure what yet. The dentist was all good, no cavities for either of us. My kind of dentist! I’ve been bitten by mozzies despite my best efforts. Big inflamed bites. But it’s only 1% that become Dengue fever, so the odds are ok, I guess. Yesterday we saw a cool movie Ad Astra. Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.
We rarely don’t go to the same place for meals but the restaurant across the road has such a good breakfast. Chedi Home (22/5 Chaiyaphum Rd S. 1. (chedihome.com) 100 Thai Baht ($4.82 Australian / $3.28 USD). First a fruit dessert like thingy; todays was purple substance wrapped around banana and rice in a banana leaf, yesterday’s was something else quite good and the first day was banana in a sweet milky substance. Then there are two plates of various fruits that we mix and match, and Narda gets eggs, toast, salad, roadkill and I get three eggs, toast, salad. We eat at 7 or so and not again until noon we are so full. Our Airbnb doesn’t have a cooking area so all our meals we eat out. It is a bit of a challenge for me as I have been on a low-carbs diet for years and here it is impossible, so I am just relaxing and letting my blood sugars go nuts for a while. View from our balcony.
Narda does an early morning coffee run across the street. We even take our own cups. The coffee lady opens her stand about 6 am and her official hours have her there until two pm. However, we have found that she nicks off about 10. No doubt because she runs out of coffee by then. Narda says that she brings the boiling water with her and brews at in her stand. The longer one waits in the morning the cooler it becomes so we get ours early. Here is a one-minute clip from our balcony of Narda doing the coffee run. https://bit.ly/333T1ep
We took a songthaew, the Thai pickup taxi truck, (The songthaew takes its name from the two bench seats fixed along either side of the back of the truck) to Maya Shopping Mall – SFX Cinema and saw the flick ‘Ad Astra’, which Narda reviewed above (Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.) 450 baht, for the two of us, about $7.50 USD for the luxury seats. The price has doubled since we were here last (February 2017). We are paying seven bucks Australian, seniors’ rate, for movies in Adelaide in luxury seats now so not such a great deal. We find the eatery in the basement the best place to eat. There are many vending stalls and I loaded up on sushi at five baht (sixteen cents USD) each. We left the mall at 2.30 thinking we would go home and have a bit of a nap. We got home at 5.30. A series of missed directions a couple of songthaews and a tuk tuk finally got us home. It took us twenty minutes to get to the mall and three hours to get home. And yes, that is with GPS using maps me or some such app. We were so fatigued we didn’t go back out for dinner and had crackers and cheese for din din which didn’t sit well during the night. See, even at 72 years of age one doesn’t do everything correctly in life.
And a video of our tuk tuk rides; https://bit.ly/2nhHkSb
In the evenings we ate dinner at local dives/eatery across main road. One we did not like and we would say to give a miss was Sompetch Kitchen, I had mushrooms in sauce which was OK, Narda had Pad Thai which she didn’t like and the spring rolls were coldish and yuckish.
Narda watching Thai television in Thai wondering if the narrative is worth understanding in some soapy soap opera, while waiting for our takeaway Pad Thai meal.
Of course, the real reason, we tell ourselves, that we are in Chiang Mai is to go to the dentist. We have been here a few times with the most recent being in February 2017 – https://neuage.me/2017/03/10/thailand-2017/ our dentist says we should come more frequently. Hey mate, Australia is a long way to go every six-months for a teeth clean. Which is all we needed this time, thankfully. It set us back 1200 Thai Baht, $39.38 USD, about a tenth of the Australian price. Yes, we get free medical stuff (not prescriptions, they are set at about $5.60 Australian/month/script) in Australia, scans, blood tests, doctors visits (including the many specialists I go to), everything except dental and glasses. The last time we needed fillings, crowning and etc making it quite worth the while. http://www.chiangmaidental4you.com/ They are top notch, having the latest crap to drill around with. Our friend Frank had implants there a few years ago and said the cost was a tenth of what it would have been in the States. It is our fourth time to the dentist.
We spent a week in Chiang Mai, thinking we may have to go back to the dentist after our first visit, but lucky us, we just got to hang about for a week. We were staying outside the walled old section and we did the usual, went to a modern shopping centre (nice air conditioning on a hot, as every day is, day), got a massage at the local Women’s Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners for about eight-dollars each for our hour’s labour. Narda got the full body massage, I got the foot massage for an hour. Very good, highly recommended. Do so every few days to stayed tuned into something or the other; the cosmos, inner Self, afternoon nap… http://www.dignitynetwork.org/womens-massage-center/
We did do some shopping, nothing significant. Narda saw some material she went ga-ga over so we bought it, realized once home we didn’t want to drag it around Asia for the next few months and trudged off to find a post office to mail it back to Adelaide. The local river, The Ping River, is a lovely shade of brown. Here is Narda going across it. My concern, after seeing some fish, floating haphazardly on the top, was that perhaps eating fish here was not the best idea.
And there are many temples and shrines all over the place, well worth the wander through. We didn’t do temples this time as we have before, though we know they maintain the happiness culture of the Thai people in Chiang Mai. I enjoyed watching the monks each morning stopping at the restaurants and food stands in front of our house collecting stuff from the locals. For example, two adolescents from the restaurant in front of us would each morning stand in front of their place with bags of apparently consumable stuff, when a monk would come they would be on their knees, the monk saying stuff, probably singing a Dylan song from the 1960s, give him their bags of goodies and then go off chatting as any two adolescent girls would (oh dear is that sexist? Millennial Me-2ers shoot me).
24 September Tuesday
25 September Wednesday
OK time to move on. We checked out of the nice little air bnb and all of its mozzies. I think we finally got control of them; our electric Indian mozzie plug, plus the spray on, plus me wearing long sleeves all the time, plus the tennis racket slapper…seemed to do the job and I did not get bitten again.
We took a red songthaew to the bus station, way too early, and enjoyed our business class bus to Chiang Rai (VIP Green Bus!) Big seats that almost recline to lying down; there are 3 across the bus, 2 on one side and one on the other. Nice.Tim and Agnes were waiting at terminal 2. We had a lovely reunion with our dear friends, so nice. Lots and lots to talk about.
We always get inspired by them; their generous life and attitude to others. We might try some of their ideas. Online courses in just about anything for free. One of the courses is about the human biodome, which I think I would like to do. Also courses of health and the human body. And perhaps this new diet that some folks are doing, where you eat for 8 hours a day then fast for 16. Not sure if I have the stamina for it. It is supposed to rejuvenate your cells and hence your body.
They had a nice meal prepared for us and we (Tim and I) drank beer.
The second day we had a relaxing morning, an interesting lunch where we made our own fresh spring rolls, then went for a nice drive around the countryside; saw some beautiful views and different areas of Chiang Rai we had not seen before.
Then in a nice lake setting we had afternoon tea, and Tim and I made some good headway on our beer drinking. In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant belonging to people they were friends with. I had chicken satay, they all had mystery vegan stuff.
Dinner at Give Green Farmhouse Restaurant
Then off to the airport and a short flight back to Bangkok; the other airport. In the Amari hotel now; just ate some expensive but good pizza. The hotel actually joins right on to the airport which was wonderful. A 4-star place for sure.
26 September Thursday
Our video clip below with Agnes and Tim and how to make Butterfly Tea and so much more is at https://tinyurl.com/yy8rmbhf
27 September Friday
As so often is the case of life with Narda, we had a major, perhaps minor, incident at the airport. We checked our bags in and went through security. I did my usual sidestepping to avoid the radar due to my implants and Narda’s bag set off the alarm. OK, she forgot to take her precious Swiss Knife with all the gadgets out of her carry-on bag and put into her checked in luggage. They tried to confiscate it with Narda pleading to keep it. Finally, they said she could put it into her checked in luggage if it was not already on the plane. She went back to the check in was told in no uncertain terms that they would not retrieve her bag to put the bloody knife into it. Narda said, as only she is capable of saying, ‘No, is the wrong answer’. Which of course confused everyone present. She asked for the supervisor’s supervisor, getting someone saying that if the bag was not already on the plane they would go get it from the trolley headed to the plane, which they did, as Narda had already pointed out that no was the wrong answer. She slid the Swiss back into her bag and triumphantly returned through customs to tell me her good news. She would never have gotten away with such antics in Australia or the USA or anyway else in the world for that matter. We have many stories over the years like this, my favourite being the, ‘Do not take my Vegemite’ story, https://neuage.me/2013/08/11/do-not-take-my-vegemite/, where some mean official-acting people tried to take Narda’s jar of Vegemite from her at an airport in China.
There is an adequate series of restaurants on the top floor; Narda had another Pad Thai, her fourth in a week and she put this as number two of OK Pad Thais. I had some stringy vegetarian slop, that like all food in Asia makes my blood sugars go up and up.
As we had the paid equivalent of ten bucks more for upgraded seats on the Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok, we were in the first rows. The plane was full, from row five back meaning we were the only ones in the first five rows. We could see why no one had paid the extra ten bucks, the seats were the same as the rest of the plane except for a red cloth on the headrest. There was no more space between the seats, and they were not wider. However, we both had a row with the three seats to ourselves and I took another zillion photos of clouds to illustrate my writings with.
We arrived at Don Mueang International Airport at 4 pm, staying at Amari Hotel connected to airport $60 USD/night including buffet breakfast. It is a four-star hotel with a gym and swimming pool. We had dinner there choosing Western meals; pizza and beer for Narda and spaghetti for me. Both were quite expensive for Thailand. Narda liked her pizza and beer, my meal was quite average and definitely not low carb. As we were a few minutes from the terminal we went over and checked on our early morning flight and paid eleven bucks extra for seats in the first row of the plane as we were told these were the best seats.
We were up at five am and at the check-in counter for our flight to Colombo by 5.20am. As were the first people in line of no one else (then I suppose it is not really a line) we had our bags checked in and we were headed back to the hotel by 5.30. The buffet breakfast did not open until six; but when did silly time rules apply to us? Seeing there was already food set up we went in and started filling our plates as several people came running toward us to say the buffet begins at six. Too late mate we already have food on our plate. We were very polite though firm as we are when we know we are pushing boundaries in order to get what we want. At St Lukes School in the village, New York City, where Narda worked for five years the staff have a saying, ‘what would Narda do’ and the verb, ‘I will Narda that’. Even new staff members who never had met Narda sometimes use that term, we were told. (It means that sometimes it is easier to get forgiveness than permission and , and sometimes ‘no’ is simply the wrong answer). We did say our flight was leaving early, the buffet was included in our hotel price and besides they should have opened at 5.30 for people catching early flights. We did compromise and sit in a section of the restaurant that was not visible from the front. By the official time of six arrived, and folks came in to hurriedly eat breakfast before their flight, we were almost finished. BTW, the Amari Hotel at Don Mueang International Airport is the best breakfast buffet we have ever had. There were so many islands of so many foods and drinks that we left quite full.
By 6.30 we were through immigration and sitting in the waiting section for our flight which left at 7.55 feeling quite full and content with our front row of three seats which had more leg room then the rest of the plane and we had the middle seat to spread our crap out on. I got to take another zillion photos of clouds and we arrived in Colombo three hours later.
As I have done since the mid-1960s, when I used to call my work picture-poems; including years as a street artist in New Orleans (1972-74)/ Honolulu(1980)/ Baltimore, Maryland (1977 – 1979 (/Adelaide, South Australia (1994 – 1996). I write on to illustrations and photographs: now my stuff is called ‘Thoughts in Travel’ and I update them often daily on Twitter, Linkeden, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr
Or all of September’s are over at Behance
We are now in Sri Lanka and will post that one at the end of October.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
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.