Pai, Thailand

Well, as usual, it’s been a bit since my last update. Since I’m no longer a “newbie” to Thailand, there’s less and less new stuff to tell you. So, this is just turning into an update when something cool and/or interesting is happening in my life.

Last weekend, there was a Buddhist holiday, so we had a 4-day weekend. My friends Don, Becca, Cody, Leya and I decided we would make a visit to Pai. Pai is a mountain town north of Chiang Mai. We had two options for the trip: 1. Take a van, which promises carsickness and vomiting, or 2. Ride motorbikes. We decided to go with the latter choice. So off we went, driving… and driving… for four hours through the mountains. It was such a fun bike ride, but I can’t imagine riding a bus or van on those curvy roads!!

The weekend was quite relaxing. Pai does get it’s share of tourists, but it’s still a bit off the trail for most backpackers. We stayed at a nice place called Villa de Pai. Like most accommodation in Pai, it is a group of bungalows just off the river. We went on a couple mototreks while we were there, trying our hardest to get lost and off the beaten track. I’ve found that this is when you see the most beautiful scenery and get a true taste of culture. Here are some photos:

Just one of the many pups I made friends with on this trip!

 

My roadmates: Leya, Cody, Don and Becca

 

This captures Pai quite well.

 

We found puppies on the road!! It took forever to try to herd them into someone’s yard!

 

This man was very proud of his rice field… As he should be!

 

I’ve now got my own motorbike, however it’s a bit of a complicated arrangement… Nelson (my current motorbike) has had to go into the shop a few too many times for my liking. I’m trying to negotiate with the people I bought it from to get a better bike. We will see how that goes, considering we converse through written Thai. As in… I’ll have people at work write what I want to say in Thai, then I’ll take the paper to the shop, they’ll read it and respond in Thai, and then I get to go find someone who can translate for me…. I think you can see how I mean it’s a little complicated!

This weekend is a 3-day weekend in honor of the Queen’s birthday. No plans for travel as I’m saving up for my next big adventure: PERU! Yes, you read that correctly. In October, I’m going to Peru for two weeks to meet up with my friends Chief and Si. If you remember from my previous post, they’re globetrotting. I’m quite excited for this and today marks 8 weeks until I leave, aka 8 weeks until the end of the semester! It’s crazy how time drags and flies all at once.

Not sure when my next update will be… Until next time!!! xx

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S-21 and The Killing Fields– Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I’d like to start off by warning you that this is going to be very different from my normal posts. It will not be happy by any means, and the images posted are quite disturbing. I am going to attempt to describe the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. This was a horrific case of genocide that I did not learn in my history classes growing up. It was never brought to my attention until I arrived in Southeast Asia. Visiting the Killing Fields (admission $5) and S-21 (admission $2) is definitely something I would recommend to anyone and everyone, though I know I will not be able to visit them again due to the effect it has had on me. I will, however, tell you more about the genocide that was committed.

The Khmer Rouge, let by Pol Pot, ruled in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The goal of Pol Pot’s party was to eliminate all external influences within Cambodia and start at “year zero”. This created a movement of killing and enslaving intellectuals (lawyers, teachers… educated persons of all likes) or anyone else who was against his movement to begin a new society where everyone works for the greater good. His idea of a “degree” was to learn plowing, digging canals and other manual labor.

S-21, Tuol Sleng Prison

To the left is an image of Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh. Looking at it, it looks similar to images I’ve posted of the school I taught this past semester at. That’s because it was a high school turned prison. I’ve told you the nickname Thai’s in my city gave me, coincidentally, the white flowers on the tree are, in fact, Leelawadee. During the four years of it’s operation, about 17,000 people were imprisoned, tortured and killed here. Looking at the same photo, you’ll see a wooden structure with three large clay pots beneath. I immediately thought this was the remains of gallows, however, it’s use was far more cruel and drawn out than a hanging. Prisoners being interrogated were bound and hung upside down until they passed out, then lowered into a mix of smelly water (often manure) until they regained consciousness. This process was repeated until the prisoner either died, or answered the questions the guards were asking. The reasons for interrogating the prisoners varied. Some were questioned to determine if they were working for the CIA, while others could have stolen a cup of rice and just drawn attention to themselves. When you walk into the compound, you see a translated list of rules that must be followed by all prisoners:

Victims of S-21 were all documented when they arrived at the prison. They were not only Cambodians, but among the 17,000 who were imprisoned were eleven westerners (4 from USA, 2 from Australia, 1 from New Zealand, 1 from England, and 3 from France).

1. You must answer accordingly to my questions–Don’t turn them away.
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that. You are strictly prohibited to protest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t tell me either about your morals or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashed or electrification you must not cry at all
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

Clearly, the guards within S-21 were harsh. In 1979, when the Khmer Rouge fell, there were only seven survivors in S-21’s cells.

For those prisoners who survived torture at S-21, they were blinded and tied, told they were being transferred to another site. These prisoners were taken to Choeung Ek, formally a Chinese cemetery, but now known as The Killing Fields. When you arrive, you are given an audio headset that explains what you are seeing. The buildings have since been torn down, but signs tell you where they once stood. It was also mentioned that loud music would be played to cover the sounds of prisoner’s screams as to not alert waiting prisoners of their upcoming demise. The photo to the right features sunken holes. These are where mass graves once were. The bodies of the victims have since been exhumed in many of the locations, however there are still a large amount of mass graves that have not been touched. Though the bodies are no longer there, when it rains and as the soil settles, the remaining ties, blindfolds, teeth, clothes and bones in these areas will surface. I saw many articles of clothing and some ties (that bound prisoner’s hands) as well. There is an area where recently surfaced items are placed and kept as a memorial. Some people had found teeth and a shoe, which they graciously placed on top of the memorial.

Probably the most disturbing site in this tour is called “The Killing Tree”. When you approach it, you notice the abundance of bracelets, flowers and trinkets that have been placed at the base of the tree’s trunk. There are also teeth and small bone matter that have been placed there as well. The specific use of this tree was to kill infants and children. The audio tape graphically described the method of execution. Guards would grab the child by the legs, and hit it against the tree. The majority of the time, the child was taken straight from it’s mother’s arms and the mother would watch this happen shortly before she was executed. According to the Khmer Rouge, it was better to “kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake,” and “to dig up the grass, one must also dig up the roots.” The thought process behind this was that if they let the children survive, they may become revengeful in the future.

At the end of the tour through The Killing Fields stands a Memorial Stupa. Within this memorial, there are 17 stories of bones that have been exhumed from the site. These bones belong to over 9,000 of the victims killed at Choeung Ek. It was quite chilling to look closely at the skulls of those who had died, because many of them had scars which told you of their horrific deaths.

I took many more photos, which I will post to Facebook once I get back to my own computer. Many more posts about Vietnam and Angkor Wat to come. I apologize this was not in chronological order, however you can imagine that this is something that would be quite disturbing.

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Cambodia is still struggling to bounce back after the horrific loss of it’s people. The country is poverty stricken, I can only imagine what Cambodians are going through in outlying cities. While at The Killing Fields, I bought four big bottles of water. None of which I had any of. It was for the children who were just outside the fence, standing barefoot and half naked. The first time, I poured a bit of my water into one of their bottles. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the six of them share that small bit among themselves. They were not greedy with it, even though you could tell they were all dehydrated and thirsty. In the states, we take for granted the fact that we can drink water straight from the faucet. I know I’ve bought bottles of it plenty of times. It’s environmentally unfriendly and financially insane. Yet, here, they don’t have clean water to drink. I’ve filled so many small and empty hands with water, food and money in the last 48 hours, and yet I still can’t fill enough.

Although I am speaking about Cambodia in this post, and this began as a recollection of my tours in Phnom Penh, this is a problem that is occurring in more places than it should be. Children should never be in want of water. We should never see bulging bellies or sunken eyes. I think back on all the useless things I’ve bought that I never really needed. The money I spent on petty things that could have gone to give a child somewhere food, water or shoes. I can only do so much now, but in the future, I really want to do something to help these kids. If you’re interested, there are many organizations you can give to. Feed the Children is one of them. You can sponsor kids from all over the world. I am doing what I can to help them over here, but one day, when I am not helping them directly, I will be giving to them somehow.

I apologize that this post has turned into a solicitation. That is not how it was meant to be at all. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Visiting S-21 and The Killing Fields was haunting, and I’ll never forget what I’ve learned here.

Good Morning, Vietnam!

I’d firstly like to apologize for not updating in, what I’m now realizing, about two weeks. I’m currently writing this post on my iPhone, so I’m not sure how long it will actually be!

When I last blogged, I was in Bali having an awesome time on Kuta Beach. After Bali, my friend Matthew and I went back to Singapore. He had to go back to work, and I had a few extra days to spend before heading off to my current destination, Vietnam.

For now, I’ll be brief about Vietnam, but rest assured, I’ll give you the full story once I’m back in Thailand and have a computer to sit at.

I flew into Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) and met my friend Tim in the city. We spent a day sorting out our plans for where we want to go with the time we have, and have successfully taken the most awesome and least efficient path. We booked an open bus ticket to Hue, which is right (maybe just south of) where the Demilitarized Zone was during the Vietnam War. The open bus ticket allowed us to go from Saigon to Nha Trang to Hoi An and then Hue. We were able to spend as long as we wanted to in each city because of the open ticket. I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people. The people I’ve met on this trip have dictated the amount of time we have spent in each city. The plan is to head back down south tomorrow. This is where the inefficient route comes about. My friend is also a teacher in Thailand, so we have both got to get back for work. Except, as you know, I’ve still got to find work. Best to apply in person in Thailand. Right, so, going to head back down south, living on buses to make the quickest route, and then make our way into Cambodia.

I really like Vietnam. Aside from a woman at the market force feeding us food we didn’t ask for and slapping us with a ridiculous bill, everything here has been quite nice. I’ll have to give you more details (and photos!) once I get back.

Speaking of photos… My camera decided to stop turning on. That’s not too convenient when you’re traveling. I’ll have to sort out something when I get back to Thailand I think. It’s funny… The necessities when you live abroad, especially in a third world country, are much different than when you are back home.

Ok, writing on my phone is a bit bothersome now. I’ll try to post again soon!! xx

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ADVENTURE

Thus commences the beginning of a strain of boring, photo-less posts. Since I’m traveling without my laptop, I won’t be putting any photos into my posts. My apologies in advance.

Right now, I am sitting in the Kayun Hostel main room alternating between slouching and leaning backwards in order to regain some sort of function in my muscles before we go out this evening. I should probably mention I am in Bali. Yesterday, I went white water rafting. It was fantastic, I’ve got loads of pictures on my camera, but you’ll just have to wait for those. Sorry, for the tease. Foolishly, I scheduled to have a surfing lesson today. I’ve also got pictures of me attempting that venture. I do understand the concept of “board shorts” now that I’m nursing lovely surfer rashes on my legs. I picked up an ointment on my walk home from the beach. Like many things I pick up from the pharmacy, I’ve no idea what it actually is. I only know that it burns intensely when I put it on my legs. OUCH. Though, I’ll gladly take the surfer’s rash in lieu of the broken finger a fellow backpacker got only seconds after getting in the water to attempt the same.

I’m hoping to make it up to Ubud tomorrow for a tour. I think I’ve had enough active experiences for this trip, so I’ll quite enjoy a day of sightseeing. No physical exertion required.

Alright, yep, short and sweet. Once I get back settled, I’ll put pictures on my facebook. I’ve been told I need to update this, so here ’tis! Back to Singapore on Friday, and then Vietnam next Thursday (April 12th). Going to visit with my new friends before we head out for the evening.

Lopburi, Thailand: Monkeys, Ruins and Sunflowers

This past Monday was MLK Day back home, but here in Thailand, it was Teacher’s Day which meant I got a two day weekend! So, with my additional day off, I decided to take a trip up to a city about three hours north of Bangkok called Lopburi. My students had all warned me about the wild monkeys that ran around town, but I assumed they (and my Lonely Planet) were exaggerating. I’ll get into Lopburi adventures just after this quick little story:

Saturday I had to teach an M2 Smart Class… I had a student who had a small furry thing sitting on her neck. When I asked her what it was, she went to grab it and it scurried into her shirt. What I thought was some sort of toy actually turned out to be a baby squirrel she had bought from the Krathumban Market. The thought of this made me sad, as this baby squirrel was clearly too young to be away from it’s mother. It’s ears had just barely opened. Like many things in Thailand, I’ve had to come to the understanding that, because I live in a third world country, things are much different here than they are at home. It’s perfectly normal for them to sell baby squirrels as pets at the market–even though they do not survive to see adulthood. Regardless, I was blessed to be able to hold this baby for the entire class and he was just adorable. Unlike the frantic little thing he was with my student, he was extremely calm and comfortable with me. He just slept the entire time with me. In my hand, on my lap, on my tum, in my pocket…. Quite cute.

LOPBURI, THAILAND

Lopburi is a town pretty much built around remains of centuries old temples. My students weren’t lying about monkeys being everywhere. There were gangs of them. Literally. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had markings that distinguished them from one another. Immediately after arriving, I noticed them dangling from power lines and mobbing the streets and nearby ruins. Since most of my friends had three day weekends (very few have to work Saturdays now), I had invited my friend Mike (Missouri) to join me on this adventure. While I was very excited and open to the idea of wild monkeys all over the place, I quickly learned I was the only one who was. I made very many monkey friends, one who even decided he would take my hair clip since I no longer had seeds to give him as food.

As I had mentioned, there were many ruins spread about town. It was hard not to cross them at any given intersection. They were absolutely breathtaking. It’s amazing how much detail has held up throughout the years. At this point, I can’t even describe the ruins with words, so I’ll just post pictures for you….

Ruins at Prang Sam Yot

Ruins outside Phra Narai Ratchaniwet (Former Royal Palace)

Ruins at Wat Nakhon Kosa

Ruins at Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat

As you can tell, the ruins in Lopburi are absolutely beautiful and worth a visit if you ever get the chance to go….

Lopburi is not only known for it’s monkeys and ruins, but also it’s abundance in sunflowers as well… Just outside of the city by about a 20 minute tuk-tuk ride (8 baht) plus a 30 minute bus ride (17 baht) you reach a stretch of road that has many fields of sunflowers. If you get off the main road and walk back a bit (about 15-20 minutes or so), you reach fields and fields of yellow. It’s so serene and absolutely gorgeous. You can only see this if you go between November and mid-January, though. Otherwise you will just see fields of dead. While I did see many dead sunflowers, there were still plenty of lively ones for me to frolic amongst. I’m out of words for Lopburi… Here is me in the sunflower field:

So I mentioned how to get to the sunflower fields. That was easy. It’s a little more complicated getting back. Well, not really complicated, more like  you don’t know whether a bus is going to come or not because you’re out in the middle of nowhere. So I can’t really give you advice on how to get back. Fortunately a lovely woman by the name of Mas saw us sitting on the side of the road waiting for the bus that may or may not have come and picked us up in her seafoam green pickup truck as she was headed back into town. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I love Thai people, they are extremely kind.

That’s all for now!! Not sure where my next adventure will be to, but I’ll keep you posted! xx

A Very Thai Christmas

Christmas week was quite busy at school. Devon and I spent our class time having students listen to Christmas music and color decorations for the Christmas program. It was probably my favorite week of classes. I did notice that my “smarter” classes tended to be more creative than my “other” classes, but that aside, all the students really got into coloring their ornaments and devoured my colored pencils! Between classes and after school Devon and I helped decorate Christmas trees and teach some M6 students carols. She stayed at school helping out a bit longer, as I had to get back home in the afternoons to tutor Fay in English. Then, on Friday we had our Christmas presentation. I’d been in the sports hall when assemblies were taking place, but never on stage helping lead them. It very much reminded me of camp, if camp were on steroids–possibly in part because I opened up by screaming “Merry Christmas!!!” until the entire student body exploded in cheers and/or laugher at my ridiculous gestures. We read a story about Christmas, gave away prizes and had students both singing and dancing. It was very festive. Funny story: When we were giving away prizes to the students and teachers, it was a “lottery” type setup. I was in charge of holding the box with the names in them… The student drawing was fair, but when it came time to draw teachers’ names, they only put the names of the teachers they wanted to win the drawing in the box. My conversation with Ajarn Prawnee went something like this:

(Ajarn Prawnee selects a name and reads it over the microphone.)
Me: Ajarn Prawnee, this is a rigged system.
Ajarn Prawnee: Yes.
Me: Well, at least pretend to stir some names around.
Ajarn Prawnee: Oh, yes! Good idea. (Waves hand in box, calls another name.)
Though I wasn’t able to spend Christmas back home with my family, I was so fortunate to be able to have work off this past Saturday to go visit friends and celebrate in Sungnoen. Sungnoen is located about 30 kilometers outside of Korat. What should have been a 4-hour trek for me turned into 8-hours because I think the nam tuam  (flood) is getting bad again. It’s typically supposed to take about an hour to an hour and a half to get from Krathumban (where I live) to Bangkok, but the combination of detours and Friday afternoon traffic caused it to take about 3.5-hours. I’m not typically in any hurry when I travel, so it doesn’t really bother me–especially when there are only five people in the minivan–but while I was laying in my seat, the guy in front of me decided he wanted to recline his seat… It didn’t quite work out in my favor. His seat broke and I got a lovely smack in the face. Fortunately my nose is alright, though it was sore for a while. Finally, I made it to Sungnoen late Friday evening. Only a few of us arrived on Friday. We spent the evening out on Melissa and Steve’s balcony catching up, admiring their decorations and talking about the weekend’s activities.

On Saturday morning, more people began to arrive. Someone thought it would be a good idea to write directions to Steve and Melissa’s house with chalk on the road, and since Michele and I were the ones who found chalk, we took it upon ourselves to graffiti the town–at least from the 7/11. Since most of us had to travel back home Sunday to work on Monday, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. It was a fun evening filled with friends, caroling, feasting, and white elephant.

I spent a good portion of Christmas Day in transit, but I was in good spirits, so all was well! Wore my Santa hat all day, which came in handy when I wanted to sleep, as I just pulled it down over my eyes a bit. It didn’t take near as long to drive back home from Bangkok, which was pleasant. Once I got home, I went to Tesco and bought myself a “Christmas pizza” which was a veggie pizza I thought looked Christmas-y. Then, I got to Skype with all my family which was the best part of my day. Since my dad got a webcam, I can now see them which has become very entertaining.

That’s all for my Christmas update! Stay tuned for a New Year’s one soon!

P.S. Check out the goodies I got in the mail!

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Hello!

After leaving Pattaya, my friend Colin and I took a trip up to see Kanchanaburi. This city is best known for its death railway. The Bridge Over River Kwai movie was created based on the railway that POWs built during WWII between Kachanaburi and Burma. We were told that for every

slat of rail laid, one man died. Knowing this put things in perspective when walking across the bridge. From the bridge was an amazing view of the Kwai River. We also went to a war cemetery for all the POWs killed. It was a sobering walk through, as there were many who were my age and younger that died. There were no US soldiers, though, because they were all sent home to be buried.

Even though there is a movie created based on this city, the area itself is pretty low key. We did meet an eclectic bunch, though! Including a 60ish year old English author named Geoff who was staying at the same guesthouse.

Me: Geoff, what do you do?
Geoff: I’m an author.
Me: Really? What do you write?
Geoff: Oh, nothing you would read.
Me: What is it, like, science fiction?
Geoff: No, I write porn novels.

Geoff was quite an interesting man. He was also very helpful in giving Colin and I directions around town.

We also met a bunch of people at a local bar. At our table, we had two Americans, one Dutch, one Italian, three French and one Thai. It was a great mix of people. We sat chatting until the sun came up and went to get breakfast two nights in a row. As exhausted as I was, and as much as I’m trying to catch back up on sleep, it was such an amazing trip.

Our trip was cut a bit short because I received an email saying I had another job! So, Colin and I had to go to Bangkok where we met up with a bunch of my friends. I didn’t realize it had been so long since I had seen anyone from my program, but it had been over a month! It was good to catch up and visit.

Now, I am currently sitting in my new home for the next few months! It’s a really nice studio apartment, and the internet is really quick! As soon as I learn my address, I’ll post it here. Devon and I are the only white people here so we get a lot of stares! I start work on Monday teaching conversational English to

M3 and M6 (high school). We toured around the campus and walked back to the river behind the school yesterday. The water level in the river is incredibly high and my town floods everyday. The school is really relaxed, and everyone is so incredibly nice. The head of the English department, Ajarn Cho, really likes Crosby, Stills & Nash and Bob Dylan. Everyone has taken such good care of us. The first night we were here, we couldn’t find a place to stay, and a teacher who didn’t even know us offered up her room for us to sleep. Everyone has been buying us food, and last night I was invited to a homemade dinner by another English teacher. She made macaroni soup and it was delicious…. my first home-cooked meal in two months!

It’s really nice to have all my things back in one place and to not live out of a backpack. Even better that I have my computer and fast internet.  Thanksgiving is this week, and Devon and I are going to get a chopped chicken and do our best to make sides since we have to work and don’t have an oven. Then I think this weekend we are going to go to Bangkok and meet up with people for another Thanksgiving meal! I’ve already cracked out the Christmas music… I’m so ready!

Until next time!

Pattaya: Walking Street, Loi Krathong

Hello!

So when I last left off, I was in Bangkok. I ended up only staying one night because my friend Joe (who is from Austin) had the hookup in Pattaya. I’m always up for meeting new people, and with the flooding situation, I’ve definitely been in need of saving money. So off I left the next day. Like I’ve been doing lately, I had no ticket–no plan really–and just went with the flow of things. I walked myself down to the public bus stop where I asked for directions to be written in Thai of how to get to the Mo Chit bus terminal. Then I took two buses costing in total about 30฿ and at the bus terminal got a ticket for the next bus Pattaya bound at 113฿.

After a 2-3 hour (I took a nap so I forget how long exactly) bus ride, I arrived in Pattaya. I found a map of the city, scoped out where I was going and began looking for a ride to take me there. I think at this point, I’ve proven to be a cheap-o, because I chose to walk five miles with my hiking backpack and small backpack, rather than pay 70฿ for a ten minute moto ride. But, I finally made it! Pattaya was a very interesting city, especially its main attraction, Walking Street. I don’t even know how to begin talking about Walking Street. First off, it’s raunchy as all get out. But, I can’t decide if the women are being exploited or if they’re really the clever ones by weaseling nasty old men out of thousands of baht. Either way, I wasn’t quite ready for this area. They did, however have a fantastic array of food carts and one night I tried a larvae. I don’t know that I’m too fond of eating bugs, but my friend Kate was devouring them so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Pattaya also had a nice Tuesday/Friday market. This place was sprawled out and anything you needed you could get here. They also had a big variety of food carts–fried coconut, fried bananas, fried sweet potato balls… It’s like a miniature Thai Texas State Fair when it comes to the foods and I was in love! The market itself is located right in front of a wat (temple), which I found a bit odd, but I’m getting a bit hungry talking about the market now, so…. moving on!

I was in Pattaya for Loi Krathong, a Buddhist festival when they send lanterns into the sky and set small banana leaf boats into the water. The acts of doing each of these things is very symbolic. When you send off a float into the water you are setting free your sins, and to send up a lantern is to bring you good fortune. Joe, Colin and I sent up a lantern… Hopefully it brings us good fortune by way of employment over here.

Now onto my job situation. I received an update from my contact at Kasintorn Saint Peter School saying that the water out in front of the school is still chest high. I don’t quite know what to think of this, as we were told the start date of school would be the 21st. I’m feeling a bit uneasy with this news, as I didn’t intend on merely traveling about Thailand and had hopes of teaching English. I’m hoping my lantern from Loi Krathong makes all the water disappear. It’s a longshot considering the government has build barriers to keep water out of Bangkok, coincidentally keeping it in Bang Bua Thong. I met a man last night who works at a school in the same area. He said it’ll probably be the first of the year before we can start working. I hope that’s not the case….

I’m currently in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I’ve been a bit distracted trying to sort out travel arrangements back to Bangkok, so I apologize that this post is lacking in description and length. I’ll try to update soon and let y’all know how this place is. So far, so good! 

I would love to have my computer and stop using internet cafes…… And also put pictures in my blog posts. All text no pictures makes Lindsey’s blog a dull read.

 

Laos: The Land of Snake Whisky and Sandwiches

Hey Y’all!

I apologize for not updating in a bit. I normally have internet access wherever I am through my phone, but in Laos, my Thai sim card is no good. And now, I’m finding it hard to begin this post….. We will start here:

WARNING: If you are not interested in how much it costs to get to Laos, please ignore the next paragraph.

Last post, I was boarding a VIP bus to Laos with my friend Tom. Tom’s my English friend who I met on a bus headed from Koh Tao, and he was my travel buddy throughout Laos. Our bus left Bangkok I believe around 8:00pm on the 22nd. We didn’t realize that the picture of the bus they showed us at the station would be exactly what we were paying for (Thai culture has a nack for embellishing things…), but we were pleasantly surprised. Because we booked through the bus station, though, and not a travel agency, we were the only westerners on board. Needless to say, it was quite confusing when the bus stopped and they were telling us we had arrived in Nong Khai in Thai…. From Nong Khai, we bargained with a tuktuk driver to take us to the Laos border so we could get another bus to Vientiane–He tried to charge us 200 baht each, but we negotiated to 50 baht total. Once we were at the Laos border, we had our passports stamped for 1,500 baht, then boarded the bus to Vientiane (I forget how much that was, sorry!). We were contemplating staying in Vientiane for the night, but decided to man up and get another ride to our true destination of Vang Vieng. That bus trip cost about 60,000 kip, so about $7.50 USD. It’s really interesting how time works in Southeast Asia. They gave us the time our bus was going to leave, but we ended up waiting about an hour before it actually got there! Finally, though, we boarded the four hour bus ride to Vang Vieng and the fun was soon to begin!

The city of Vang Vieng is quite small, and very westernized. There is not one place you can be standing along the main street where you can’t hear Friends or Family Guy playing at a local lounging restaurant. I call it a “lounging” restaurant because there are no chairs and all the tables are one-sided. It’s very convenient for lazy westerners recovering from a day of tubing. Which brings me to the next topic…. Tubing is the main attraction in Vang Vieng. Really, though, there isn’t much tubing involved. It’s mostly a collection of bars lined up along a river, and when you are floating by, they throw you a line and reel you in. Like the full moon party, there are buckets galore, but all this is happening between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 pm, not am. If you were to go tubing by yourself, you’re guaranteed to make at least five friends at each bar. NOTE: If you are going tubing in Vang Vieng, don’t waste your money on renting a tube. They cost 55,000 kip to rent, a 60,000 kip deposit and you don’t get your money back unless you bring it back by 6:00pm. NOTE NUMBER TWO: If you have a sandwich craving, Laos is the place to go. They are delicious and there’s no shortage of mayo. I met quite a lot of friends in Vang Vieng. A couple girls, Lucy and Finch, went to Cambodia, but some others, Ashley, Becci and Donna came to Luang Prabang with us. We stayed at a treehouse style hostel in Vang Vieng called Spicy Laos which cost about 30,000 kip a night—less than $4 USD. Since Spicy Laos is a chain in a couple places, we decided to stay at the other Spicy Laos in Luang Prabang–our next destination.

Luang Prabang is much more relaxed than Vang Vieng. They have an amazing night market, and you can get all you can fill your plate with food for 10,000 kip! That’s really good when you’re a budget backpacker. We took a day to go see the waterfalls, went to the pool, but the best thing we did in Luang Prabang was go on an Elephant Mahout day trip. On the way, the bus stopped at a rice whisky store where families had made whisky and wine (from rice of course). They put all sorts of crazy stuff in their whisky…. snakes, lizards, scorpions, bees….. It’s quite barftastic. And I have to say, I tried the snake whisky in Laos….. Yea, I might have tried it twice just so I could say I did. No more of that! You can see bits of snake floating around it. YUCK. Anyway, after leaving the rice whisky farm, we went to do our Mahout trip. We got to ride the elephants, train them and bathe them! I really liked giving my elephant a bath. I asked the guy what his name was, and couldn’t understand exactly what he was saying… It sounded like Tom Cruise, so that’s what I’ve been referring to my elephant as, Tom Cruise. Then, we went to the Buddha caves, which is pretty much two caves that have been shrined to Buddha and are covered in statues.

The landscape in Laos is by far the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. If you are in need of a vacation, go there.

Then there is the night life in Luang Prabang. Everyone goes to this bar called Utopia. It’s really cool, they have a lot of games there, volleyball, bizarre documentaries playing… It’s very much a neat place to be. But, like most things in Laos, it closes at 11:30pm. So from there everyone goes to… are you ready for this…? THE BOWLING ALLEY. Yes, it is legit. We made so many more friends there, as well. Laos is the place to go for friends.

After Luang Prabang, Tom and I decided to go with our friends Olivia, Ali and Rachael back to Vang Vieng….. What we were thinking, I’ve no idea. But we definitely wanted to spend halloween in a fun place! So on halloween, we went tubing, again, and then came back and dressed up as a bunch of bats. Turns out, there weren’t many people who dressed up. When you are in a city that has two main streets, you’re a bit limited in your resources. Regardless, round two of Vang Vieng was very, very fun!! But yesterday, we all parted ways. Olivia, Ali and Rachael went to Vietnam, Tom and I came to Bangkok, Tom went to Cambodia and I’m going to head south.

I can’t stand Bangkok. I miss Laos.

Which leads to more news about my school…. Since Bangkok decided to redirect flood waters, my city of Nonthaburi is still underwater. The organization I am working through is trying to find me another placement as backup, but I’ve decided if I am unable to teach here I’m going to go to travel in Vietnam and Cambodia and meet up with friends. And then, I am going to go to Australia and make loads of money doing random things at $20 an hour. HAHA. I’m hoping it will all work out though.

To conclude, I’m at an internet cafe right now and the 16 year old looking Thai girl on the computer next to me is skyping with an old white man. It makes me want to barf, so I’m going to end my blog post with that.

Talk to y’all (hopefully sooner rather than) later!!

Flooding in Thailand? Travel!

Hello, friends!

Sorry it’s been a bit since I last updated.

After full moon party, we went to another part of the island, Koh Phangan. This part of the island was much more secluded and pretty much isolated from the rest of Koh Phangan. The place we stayed, called Mai Pen Rai, was gorgeous! We had an awesome bungalow and an amazing view of the stars at night. I would post pictures, but I’m updating from my phone since Internet isn’t free here. I have lots of pictures on my Facebook, though!

Following our island experience of Koh Phangan, me and a couple friends decided to go to Koh Tao, or Turtle Island. This was the clearest water I have seen since being in Thailand this round. My friend Alycia and I decided to go diving with a company called Big Blue. If you are in Koh Tao and looking for a place to dive through, I highly recommend this company. I paid 3,500 baht (about $115) to go on a full day trip that included all my gear rental, breakfast, snack and lunch, three dives and an overall awesome experience and chance to meet new people.

On Wednesday night, I boarded a night ferry to go to Bangkok. This was my first trip alone this whole time and it went very well! I met a lot of new people and a couple of English folks on the bus that I have been hanging out in Bangkok. It’s really nice to meet all these new people! Expat life is an amazing mix of origins, cultures and personalities.

Today, I have decided to go to Laos. My school is underwater, and it’s expected that Bangkok is going to be flooded tomorrow or the next day, so I’ve decided to escape it before it comes. I bought a hiking backpack at the market today and a bus ticket for tonight’s trip to Laos. If you are wanting to travel somewhere by bus or train, I recommend going directly to the station ahead of time and purchasing it, rather than going to a travel agency. The travel agency said that it would be 1,500 baht, but I went to the bus station and it is only 600 baht for a VIP ticket! So sorting it out on your own is the way to go!

That’s all for now! I just got on an awesome bus headed for Laos. I’ll update with more adventures hopefully fairly soon!