Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Goodbye's been real

Well apparently there is a coup going on right now but you wouldn't know it. It's been on the news and in the paper, but if you were here and paid attention to neither, you wouldn't notice any difference. That's today. Hopefully things are just as mellow tomorrow when I leave for the airport.

I can't believe that my three months of travel bliss are coming to an end. I've used these past few days in Bangkok wisely and shopped until I dropped. Today I did manage to get to the Palace (above) and see some Wats (temples)featuring an emerald Buddha and a 45 foot gold reclining Buddha. Yesterday I stopped into the Oriental Hotel, one of the nicest and probably the most famous in Bangkok. Someone had recommended to have afternoon tea in the Author's Room, where many literary greats over the last hundred some odd years had paid tribute. Good thing they didn't catch the fact I was wearing flip flops or I wouldn't have been let in. It's one of those places.

There is a couple pictures that I took while in Thailand that I didn't want to leave out:

First, a picture of my friend Katie and I from the other day. We were at this resort where you paid not to eat.

Although no matter how hungry I got, there are a few things I wouldn't eat. These little guys found at the markets as well as durian fruit which looks like a pineapple but smells wretched, absolutely wretched.

Anytime you walk in someplace in Thailand, the shoes come off. Usually we do it at home if someone has nice carpet, but here it is an age old tradition- no matter how dirty the floor of the internet cafe is.

You wouldn't believe the number of places called either Porn's Resort or Porn's Massage. Porntip is a common female name in Thailand, kind of like Shirley.

Sometimes it's three to a bike. What I wish I got a picture of was two to a bike plus a baby seated up front of the moped, happy as a clam.

Cows just don't seem to care if they are standing of the way of you getting to the next temple in Angkor Wat.

A woman crossing into the next village on the trek in Chiang Mai, where I also saw Thai buffalo.

Traveling on my own was a good experience. I had done it for the first time earlier this year in Costa Rica for three weeks but being gone this long was different. It forces you to be real outgoing at times and other times you enjoy being able to retreat to some peace and quiet. I got up when I wanted (most of the time), ate where I wanted to eat, slept where I wanted to sleep and saw what I wanted to see. But that kind of selfish enjoyment never replaces being able to experience something with a friend or loved one because being with that person is just as important to the memory as the place itself. I won't be able to take three months off to travel for a long time. So I suppose for myself, this time in my life was just as important as everywhere I went and one that I will cherish. I am glad I saved up the money and asked for the time off work. Now for the hard part--- going back.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. Hope to see you all soon!


Friday, September 15, 2006

Day #6 With No Food

Today I am on Day 6 of a 7 Day Fast. When I was in Chiang Mai I met someone while I was getting a pedicure who did a fast at this newely opened spa resort on the less traveled island of Koh Chang. I figured since for the past three months I have done a good job sampling the local food and beer and then some, it might be a good way to wind down my trip and set myself on a healthy path. The resort itself is set inland from the beach and there is a pool we can use if it isn't pouring rain as it has been (we were thrilled to finally see sun today). Twice a week there is a van that takes us to the beach area for three hours if we need to buy things in town, etc. It's funny because when we all climb in we feel like we are getting a field trip from an institution for a few days.

Of course it's not that bad but let me describe you what the day is like. At 7am I must wake up to drink my first detox drink of the day that I take every 3 hours, the last one being at 7pm. Sometimes that is followed by morning yoga but then of course another detox drink and then the first colonic. Oh I forgot the pills that start at 8:30 that go every three hours until 8:30pm. Sometimes it can be hard to remember what time to do what. In the afternoon if there is sun, then we enjoy the pool but if not usually reading or watching movies or maybe getting a massage. There really isn't anything else to do around here and in this state, you don't really have the energy for much else. Later, another colonic, another detox drink and then a movie and usually fall asleep around 10. Besides the detox drink we are allowed to drink coconut water, carrot-pineapple juice, and a flavorless veggie broth that you can spice up with Thai herbs twice a day. If you don't know what a colonic is, don't make me tell you. I will spare you the details but it is something my cohorts and I discuss amongst ourselves daily. Ok, moving on.

I'm the only American here besides the Yoga instructor. In fact traveling I have only met three other Americans. There are about 15 other people here and about 8 of us have become friends, almost all of them are from England. We are all going through the same thing everyday and as you can imagine, nearly all of our conversations are about food. After a while we have to change the subject! Everyone has begun their fast on different days so everyday we see someone go and a newcomer arrive. Tomorrow is my last day of the fast and on Sunday I break it. Monday I head of to Bangkok for a few days where I will try my best to put good food in my empty stomach. I am feeling actually pretty good for someone who hasn't eaten. But man, a steak and salad would be great about now. With a glass of good red wine followed by something involving chocolate....yum.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I went to Cambodia for a few days as my visa was about to expire. I had heard from many people both in the U.S. and while traveling that Angor Wat was not to be missed. I stayed in Siem Reap which is home to Angkor Wat- a collection of 900 year old temples and the area is known as a lost city. I had my own tuk-tuk driver for only $15 a day to take me around to all of the temples and to wherever I needed to go. We sometimes had a hard time communicating but he was so very sweet. He was only 18 and had never left the city which is pretty much the standard.

Commercial break: Cambodian monkeys prefer Coke to Pepsi in nationwide taste tests.

I have done my fair share of traveling but I have never seen the level of poverty that I witnessed. There were amputees in the street begging for money, moms with babies with empty bottles of milk who would pitch them when a foreigner would walk by the make them cry, and then there was the kids. I gave one boy who was about 6 years old running naked in the street my leftover dinner and he ran away happily until an older boy grabbed it from him. I was so mad I yelled at the older boy who didn't understand I word I said. I scolded myself later as he didn't know any better either. The positive thing is that these kids have to go to school, it is the law. The more poverty stricken ones I think somehow get out of it though. As soon as they are out, many of them are out hawking postcards, bracelets, you name it out on the street after school. They are quite clever and speak very good english. As soon as I said I was from California, a chorus of them said "Sacramento!" all at once as they were learning their capitals. One day two girls wanted me to buy bracelets which I declined but then asked me to buy them rice and I agreed. Before I knew it there were seven kids asking me to buy postcards from them or buy them food, all yelling at me at once. I had to duck into a massage shop to figure out what to do. I ran back across the street into a bakery, bought some packages of cookies for them to share but then told them they had to go. I had to learn you have to be firm with them otherwise you will be tailed all day.

So back to the temples. Here are some pics of one temple who has trees growing over it, another with faces all around that was super cool and another of one of the beheaded statues due to thievery years ago.

India Jones and Tomb Raider were both filmed at the various temple sites and I half expected a snake to pop out of nowhere. Everything inside the temples is accessible and nothing is roped off unless they are doing restoration. I was glad to visit these temples now as their popularity is increasing so my guess is soon enough they will be harder to openly access.

One of my favorites was checking out a temple surrounded by water. Who doesn't like a moat?

This sweet older lady didn't mind posing at all. In fact I am not sure she realized I was taking a picture.

So right now I just got to Koh Chang, my second to last stop in Thailand. It is an archipelago island that I won't see a ton of because I am staying at a resort and doing a fasting program. Today is day #1, let's see how I do on day #5 without any solid food. I am doing it for seven days in total, don't ask me why. I think I just might be a sadist.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My uncle and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project

After all the rain in Koh Phi Phi I unfortunately left early and wasn't able to see anything. A little rain, no big deal. But when it's dumping, time to move on. I have been in Phuket for the last four days staying in Surin Beach which is north of Patong. The reason I wanted to spend time in Phuket is because my uncle (my Mom's older brother) had lived here for several years before his untimely death 11 years ago. I wanted to come see where he lived especially because he pioneered something of great significagance- The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. If traveling here, you will find it on the Phuket map and mentioned in the Lonely Planet.

This project was started in 1992 by my Uncle Terry (aka TD Morin), and instead of plagerizing, it might be easier for you to read this quick one pager:

Ok so now hopefully you have a bit of the background. The GRP is now run by volunteers and with no help from the government, it is completely reliant on donations from the public. Let's hope the donations are all going to the right place because like many developing countries, Thailand has an extremely high level of corruption.

The other day I visited the project and from the bottom of the trail I could hear the gibbons yelling (they call it singing). You can only get so close to them as the volunteers are careful not to have them interact too much with humans, including themselves, as it is harder to release them back into the wild. One gibbon doesn't sing at all as his previous owner had trained him not to and now he can't mate or go back into the wild. Most gibbons are grabbed from their mother when they are babies because it is easier to train them and the mother is then killed. Other gibbons get killed when they get too big to be cute. Some get badly beaten for insubordination or for biting humans, to the point of limbs being amputated. Hey I know it is not what you want to read but it is true. Just like some of them have herpes, Hep A and B and the volunteers have no clue how they have gotten those diseases.

When my uncle arrived in Phuket in the late 80's he discovered that instead of hearing the gibbons singing in the jungle, they were at bars and restaurants (i.e. pet the monkey for a dollar). He and two others developed a project and had a hard time getting it continuously funded until finally it achieved success. Now it has been taken over by W.A.R. (Wild Animal Rescue), whose merits the jury is out on. I can say for myself that the facility looked good and the gibbons were well looked after and that is the most important. I am very proud that he took the initiative to get these animals out of bars and restaurants and back to the jungle. He and his collegues definitely made a difference and a contribution.

I thought I would try to meet some friends of his while I was here. I heard about this Aussie ex-pat that went by the name Diver that had a little bar on Surin Beach. So I had a taxi drop me off before the sunset so I wouldn't be roaming around in the dark and happened upon a bunch of ex-pats sitting around a table drinking beers.

Sure enough, one of them was Diver and upon realizing I was a relative of his old friend, he immediately welcomed me into the group. Within 5 minutes they found me a place to stay. This guy Diver is a legend for continously pulling people out of the surf, I guess he has done about 150 saves. Which is miraculous because he always has a beer in his hand. I reckon he wakes up at about beer thirty, drives on his motorbike to his bar and then goes for a swim. He gets yelled at by his Thai wife Bani and as soon as she is done scolding him (and she should because I doubt he did what she told him to do), his friends show up for happy hour. He hangs out in his banana hammock (don't know the proper name for that swimsuit) until it gets dark and then dresses up in Addidas shorts. They continue to tell the dumbest jokes until they all go home and do it again the next day. Livin' the dream, I tell ya. He was friends with my uncle for years and lived with him for a period of time. Every time he introduced me to people as his relative, people had either heard of or met him which was cool.

My visa is running out so I need to go out of the country and come back in. So next up is Siem Reap, Cambodia. For more info on the GRP, please visit

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Pouring in Koh Phi Phi

After Koh Tao, I took an hour ferry ride south to the island of Koh Phan Nang, home of the world famous full moon parties where 10,000 people gather every month on the beach of Had Rin.

It seems that although there was not a full moon, there was always an excuse to have a party. There were signs for half moon parties, black moon parties and even if those weren't happening, the music on the beach went until about 6am. I know this because I was up at this hour yesterday to catch the ferry (then bus and another ferry) to Koh Phi Phi. You would have think I would have been one of the people partying but I wasn't really into it. I honestly didn't care too much for Koh Phan Nang. I think it was the combination of really liking the atmosphere of Koh Tao and enjoying Rachel and Darren's company and because it was so commercialized and crowded. I had stopped in Koh Samui prior to Koh Tao and also found it commercialized, the only difference being that it wasn't a constant party and if for some weird reason you are craving McDonald's you can find one there.

Yesterday was a long day of travel and on my way I met this really cool Irish couple, Brian and Karen. I was so exhausted last night after we had dinner and wanted to go home but they persuaded me to stay out (as you know how the Irish can be) and I am glad they did. Did you know St. Patrick's Day is a national drinking holiday in Ireland and nobody has to go to work? It is absolutely pouring as I write and it looks like there is no chance of the rain letting up. Here is a picture of the beauty of Koh Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee) despite the rain.

Koh Phi Phi was one of the places hit by the tsunami and from what I can tell, rebuilding is going well. I really can't tell that there was a disaster nearly two years ago. It is also one of the more expensive places in Thailand but well worth the surrounding beauty. There are no cars allowed on the island and you have to get everywhere by your feet or by a longtail boat. It is also known for great diving and snorkeling as well as the water is incredibly clear. Right when I got off the ferry landing, I looked over the side and saw tons of tropical fish milling about with really good visibility.

So that is all I really have for now as when it is raining, it is hard to get out and do things!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kicking it in Ko Tao

Ko Tao is incredibly gorgeous. What a beautiful earth we have!

This same sandbar is covered by water by around 4 or 5pm.

Snorkeling location from a snorkle trip around the island the other day.

I met up with Rachel and Darren on Monday after inadvertantly missing the boat on Sunday, therefore staying in Ko Samui an extra night. Depending on where you are in Thailand, communicating is either fairly easy or sometimes a bit trying. I am not used to having communication difficulties as I tend to travel to Spanish and English countries so it was a good lesson on what other people have to go through. Rachel is someone that I worked with at Citrix that I have been friends with for a few years. She and her husband are moving back to the U.S. from Australia and traveling west, making stops in Thailand, China, South Africa, Europe and Costa Rica before heading home at Christmas.

We have really been enjoying our week as you can imagine. A day at the office goes a little like this: we roll out of bed and get breakfast then read for a few hours. After lunch we find a place to go swimming or snorkeling and check out some pretty fishies. The water is very shallow so it means you have to walk very far out in order to swim (see middle pic) or walk to a neighboring bay. It also means in the afternoon when you first step in, it is literally hotter than the air outside. The further you walk out though, the nicer it gets. Nobody is complaining here as we would have hot water over cold water any day.

The other day we decided to go snorkeling at a place called Shark Bay where there are white tipped reef and nurse sharks. Seeing as I have an insane fear of sharks it would seem as good of an idea as a claustrophobic shoving himself into a refrigerator. But they convinced me that they were incredibly harmless and because they dive quite often, I know they know what they are talking about. Fortunately or unfortunately we did not see any sharks. But we did see some Parrot Fish and Chevron Barracuda (images borrowed as my underwater camera pics are yet to be developed).

as well as butterfly fish, scorpion fish, angel fish, clams and many others. Other people on a snorkel trip I went on the other day were able to spot a small octopus but I missed that one. The coral down here is very cool to check out as well. You must not stand on it in order to protect its health (and you very well might cut yourself in the process). Nearly everywhere I have been snorkeling has been relatively shallow but you are still able to see quite a bit.

Later we return to our rooms to wash up, meet up again for happy hour and cheers the fact we aren't at work. We figure its best every minute to realize and absorb our good fortune while we still have it. Pictured with Heather and Rachel are pina coladas and Chang, one of the local Thai beers.

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We are staying in bungalows at the southern end of Ko Tao. There are many different bungalows lined up along the beach and each has its own bar out front to pick from. So we just go to one of those places for dinner and drinks and then after a day in the sun we usually don't stay up past 10:30. Hopefully tonight we can make it up past 11 as Rachel and Darren leave tomorrow.

The coolest thing we saw yesterday was a double rainbow stretching over the bay. I have never seen a rainbow end before and thought it to be quite lucky.

Sunday I go to the neighboring island of Ko Pha Ngan for a few days.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Wats Up

Before leaving Chiang Mai, I was able to visit some of the well preserved wats (Buddist temples) that are around the city. On the outside of the abbey the sign said Welcome so I took off my shoes and started to enter before I saw about 10 monks eating in a circle so I quickly ran away. It is a good thing I did because I learned that they only eat once a day at 11am and I nearly interuppted their meal. I went back later and walked into the foyer.
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A Thai woman was communicating with one monk while kneeling on the floor and the other monk in the room sat cross-legged. He was quite old and I believe he was meditating because he didn't seem to see me. He had this very serene look on his face with a slight smile, it was a look of someone who had reached nirvana or some high degree of enlightenment. It would be wonderful to have such peace of mind. Before I forget, I want my sister Chelsea to know that I observed a monk talking on a cell phone while crossing a busy intersection. I guess they are allowed modern conveniences after all, or at least some are.
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Friday I was trying to get myself to Ko Samui in order to get to Ko Tao where I will be meeting my friend Rachel and her husband Darren for a week. They will be diving and might talk me into taking classes. All of the flights were booked and a train would have been 16 hours. I decided to fly to Phuket and take a bus to the other side of the island so I could take a ferry over to Ko Samui in order to get to Ko Tao. A friend that I met trekking was going to be staying at a posh resort in Phuket called the Banyan Tree and said that I was free to stay there that night. Seeing as that I wouldn't get to Koh Samui until very late, I accepted his generous offer. I mean, why not stay in a beautiful 5 star resort? We went out last night in Phuket to an area called Parong Beach which Matt kept calling Pooty Tang because he kept forgetting the name of it. It was like Bangkok meets Waikiki, a very crazy and different party place. One neither of us would have hung out for long if we were on our own. First we went to a place called The Expat Bar where Matt the youngest male by about 25 or 30 years and I was the only non Thai female. I have observed many couples in Thailand with these demographics, it is no wonder it is such a cliche. We were walking around and I suggested we cut through this alley. We realized we had found ourselves in the gay section of Parong. Now Matt is gay himself and was a little intimidated by the environment so I told him I would be his shield. We walked into one bar just to see what it was like. It was a bunch of 19 year old guys on stage standing in their underwear looking quite drugged out so we got out of there right quick. We then thankfully found an Irish Pub called Scruffy Murphys and hung out there for a few drinks. I just love how you can be anywhere in the world and find an Irish pub. In front of the pub out in the street I managed to find myself some Australian male Playboy Bunnies.
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From monks to people in their underwear, I have got it all for you. Currently I am writing from Koh Samui and tomorrow I leave for Koh Tao.