confused

today i decided to go to kho phiphi, a small island off the coast of phuket. according to my guidebook i needed to go to the pier in krabi to take the ferry there. so i catch the first taxi i see and ask them to take me to the boat to kho phi phi. there’s like 4 people driving the taxi, and only one of them barely speaks english. there seems to be some serious confusion when i tell them where i want to go, but finally we’re off. we end up in some totally random place where some other people tell us we can not rent a boat there. then the taxi driver tells me they can take me to krabi… but only for 1000B (25$) huh?

finally i figure out what the deal is. krabi is not the region that i’m in as i thought… it’s actually a completely different city about 75 miles away from phang-nga. now i’m at a loss as to what to do and have no idea how much it would cost to go there other than this taxi. so i ask them to take me for 800B and they agree. now, 20$ may not seem like a lot of money for a 75 mile cab ride, but here that is an insane amount of money. so as we’re driving i look in my guidebook… and realize that there are buses that go from phang-nga to krabi for only 36B (95 cents).CRAP. so i try to explain to the taxi person that now i dont want to go to krabi, and that i want them to take me back to town. of course, due to the english barrier, my message does not get across.

so now we’re off to krabi. this whole family is in the cab (the driver is the dad, and there’s 3 other kids), and then we stop to go pick up the mom from an illegal gambling casino. so, i definitely felt like i had wasted a lot of money, but the cab ride was kind of fun, with the one english speaking girl trying to show me the sights along the way. she even gave me a good luck charm and we toured the tiger temple on the way.

now i’m in krabi. i went to a night market here and decided i’d buy some lychee fruit. i didn’t really know how much half a kilo of fruit would be, so now i have TONS of fruit. what am i gonna do w/ it all?

so basically, my day has been filled w/ mistakes, misunderstandings, and mishaps. yet, it’s definitely all been an adventure. luckily, thailand is so cheap that even though i wasted money on the taxi ride, and on the fruit, really i only lost $20.25 altogether.

oh yeah. did i mention that thailand bootlegs tons of movies illegally? right now i’m watching “two towers” in the internet cafe as i type this.

-v

similans…

today we took a day trip to the similan islands. unfortunately to do this we had to wake up at 5:30 am. ouch! i’m not a big morning person so waking that early was horrible. we took a taxi to the pier and from there it was a 2.5 hour boat ride to the similan islands. the similan islands are famous for having some of the best snorkeling/scuba diving ever. super clear waters, great visibility and tons of marine life. the boat took us to 2 different dive spots and we got to snorkel for an hour in one spot and 2 hours in the other.

i wouldn’t really say that the diving and snorkeling there are the best. i think that it was better in kho tao, and way better in hawaii. it’s weird, although thailand is very famous for it’s marine life, i’d say that hawaii has way more colorful fish. nevertheless, it was still really cool. other than all of the fish, i spotted a water snake at one point swimming along the bottom. it was silver-blue with black stripes and did not look like an eel really. then, just a few minutes before we left, someone pointed out 2 sharks in the water! these were the small kind of sharks (only like 2-2.5 feet long), but it was still so exciting to see them! i swam around for a while following the sharks, until at one point they both turned around and started swimming right at me. all of a sudden i wondered how prudent it was to swim right by the sharks and i swam away pretty quickly.

on the boat ride home, all of us were pretty tired from being up in the sun all day and from lack of sleep. then a bunch of us noticed that we were really sunburned. doh! i got burned really bad all over my back, my arms, and my legs. crap. how am i gonna carry my heavy backpack on my back now? we went to the mimimart by our hotel to try to get aloe… but trying to describe aloe to the thai was pretty hopeless.

speaking of which, let me tell a little about the town we are staying in. it’s called pa-nga and it’s a small town on the southwest coast of thailand (krabi region). although there are several national parks near here, the town itself has no tourist attractions so everything here is very thai. other than 3 germans, we have not seen any other white people here except for us. it’s really neat to be in a town that is not really geared toward tourism. everything just seems so much more authentic. it’s funny, we stick out so much here, and it looks like everyone is excited/surprised to see us: people wave to us from scooters, others gather around to gawk at us, and shop owners get excited to try to speak w/ us. being here has definitely been an adventure. of course, people here dont speak english as much as other places, so it’s often really hard to get your point across to them, or to ask them something. try explaining a sunburn or aloe without using words. also, this place doesn’t have much in the way of internet cafes, which is why i’ve only posted once in the last 4 days. but… somethings never change, and the local youth here gather in the net cafes and play quake-style computer games against each other. i guess that addiction is universal.

our hotel itself is across the alley from a small thai karaoke bar. and has a little tv outside that we often hang out and watch tennis with the locals on. it’s very chill and relaxing. several nights in a row now, we haag out on the benches, drinking our 22 ounce singha beers by pouring them into glasses and adding ice. back home, i would never dream of adding ice to my beer, but here it’s so hot that unless you add ice, the beer gets all warm before you even get thru half of it. last night we actually ventured into the karaoke bar. everyone from the place totally was staring at us. and when tom started singing along (just at our table, not into the microphone) the people near us were amused.

yesterday was my last day w/ our little group. it’s so sad! although i do want to try the whole traveling alone thing, it’s been so much fun hanging out w/ everyone. it’s awesome traveling and exploring new places w/ jamie and tom. it’s always fun to see people when they are extracted from their natural environment. also, it’s been really fun getting to know the other people in the group. so last night we had our last drink together on the benches.. and this morning they were gone… :(.

so now i’m on my own again. i’m not even exactly sure where i want to explore next! or how to get out of this little town? wow, i’ve spent a whole 12 days here now. most vacation, would be winding down around now and i’d be preparing to leave, but i’ve got a whole 25 days more to go! i’ve only used 1/3 of my vacation so far! i still got so much time to see stuff! so i’m, off!

oh wait, the most random thing just happened. i didn’t mention this earlier, but the farther south you go in thailand, the dominant religion shifts from buddhism to islam. i didn’t notice, but the internet cafe i’m in is right across the way from a mosque. just as i was wrapping up this post… all of a sudden i hear this singing coming from across the street. i guess it must be time for one of the daily prayers. wow. so eerie and beautiful sounding. sitting here and hearing the prayers echoing thru the streets is quite something.

-vlad

Krabi

today we explored to krabi area. krabi is famous for having huge limestone cliffs and beautiful scenic views. we tried to rent scooters this morning, but unfortunately we were only able to get 2, instead of the 3 that we would need for the 7 of us. now that we are getting more and more adventurous on the scooters, we started riding them w/ 3 people on a scooter. totally crazy! but we’ve seen the thai people fit like 4 or 5 people on one, so we figure we should be ok. heh.

we went to 2 national parks today. both were pretty cool. the first one had several caves to explore. the caves were pretty cool, and it was dope cause there were hella monkeys running around everywhere. the monkeys were so funny! they would play w/ each other, hop around, and try to steal food from people.

there were a lot of thai people selling food in the park, so we had a little picnic in the park by one of the caves. the food was good, although we found a bunch of chicken claws in our fried chicken. i guess the people here dont discriminate on what parts of the chicken they eat. at one point, one of the more daring monkeys started approaching us to get some food. we tried to shoo it away by stomping our feet and yelling, but it would just bare it’s fangs at us. i’ve never seen a monkey be this ferocious! then the monkey makes a run for our little area… we all jump up, the girls in our group start screaming and the monkey, with a truly evil look on it’s face, jumps on our food and starts grabbing stuff. at this point one of the food vendors runs up w/ a slingshot and starts shooting at the monkey! the monkey runs off and then the vendor gave the slingshot to us. from then on, whenever we even pointed the slingshot at the monkeys, they would scurry off. i guess they have learned to be afraid of them. heh.

the second national park was cool too. we took a boat thru these mangroves of banyan trees. it was a nice mellow boat ride and we got to see a lot of cool cliffs and finally, the boat swam under this awesome cave/cliff archway. lots of great scenery.

later that night, after hanging out at the hotel and discussing the merits of the welfare system (go figure), we went out to eat and had one of the better meals we’ve had in a bit…

-v

on the road again..

today we spent pretty much the whole day traveling. in the morning we took this really long boat ride back to the mainland. it was about 3.5 hours and after that we had a 2 or 3 hour long bus ride that took us to the town of sarathani. we arrived tired and exhausted and knew that we still had several hours to go to get to krabi where we wanted to be by night time. we soon found a place to eat, and the food that we got was not very good. actually this whole restaurant was pretty gritty and i wasnt even sure what some weird little seed type things were in my food. we then hired a minivan to drive us the rest of the way to krabi. the drive was fairly long and most of us wavered between sleeping and listening to walkmen on the way. the minivan driver was a maniac like all the other drivers around here and we definitely feared for our life several times thru the trip. one time, when we were going about 60 miles an hour, another van, that was trying to pass us on the wrong side of the road, got within several feet of crashing into us cause it had to swerve away from another truck barreling toward it. yikes!

finally, by night, we arrived in the town that we were going to. it was a long day, and we really didnt get to do hardly anything… but yet is was still kind of cool. it’s weird how i really end up having a great time here no matter what i do. even down time… i just look at it as time spent relaxing in thailand and hanging out w/ friends. i’m becoming so relaxed on this trip that i’m really starting to not care about much. anything that happens is cool, an i just sit back and enjoy it all. it’s all just an adventure right? any adversity just adds to the quirkiness of the trip.

the hotel that we checked into was on the expensive side (at least for here it was expensive 450B, 11$) but the rooms were nice (i.e. hot water, air conditioning etc). after living in little shacks for a few days, it was good to be treated to some of the luxuries of back home. heh.

-v

mission for joey…

it was the night after new years, and we went back out to the cactus club. everything was very subdued and mellow. i guess that everyone was recovering from new years night. it was our last night on kho phangan though, and we wanted to get drunk and have a good time. the night before we had been really jealous of all the people that had been blowing up fireworks. unfortunately none were sold here in haat rin, but dawn had gone to a different town today and bought some. we spent the next half an hour blowing up fireworks on the beach. so fun!! like i have already written a bunch of times, there are hardly any laws here. we were able to blow up tons of fireworks and no one tried to stop us or anything. actually, it was kinda sketchy, cause we were blowing stuff up right near all the bars and tons of sparks etc were hitting the different bars and the forrest behind us. luckily nothing caught fire. phew! heh, actually at one point we lit off a rocket that was supposed to fly really high in the air, but instead, it blew up on the ground and we were bombarded w/ sparks all over the place, and all over us. doh!

so it was getting late and we remembered that we had promised joey that we’d go on a mission for him. he had gotten some photos of himself and other people he was traveling w/ taken w/ the owner of a bar called cafe hiatus. he asked us to drop these photos off to the owner of the bar. we set off to look for it, and it was really hard to find that late at night, but eventually we stumbled upon the bar. unfortunately the bar was pitch black and way closed. we were pretty drunk by then though, so we decided to just venture into the bar and drop off the photos somewhere (behind the bar maybe?). after stumbling about in the dark, all of sudden we hear someone’s voice yell out at us “what are you doing? what you want here?” we look around and finally notice a lady’s head peaking out of a window above the bar. all of a sudden we felt really stupid. we started trying to explaining that we had pretty much broken into this bar to drop off some photos. she looked at us with a quizzical face.. “photos??”. so she comes down all half asleep and tired and we try to explain that we have photos of the bar owner w/ some travelers etc and after showing her the photos, her face seemed to brighten up and she seemed to be in a good mood (i guess she recognized ?her husband?). we left the photos and took off back to the rooms. your welcome joey!

-v

New Years!

when we were about to leave kho tao, we realized that a lot of the roads here were totally flooded. usually this wouldn’t be a problem (we could just take a taxi) but we needed to return our mopeds back to the pier. so we would have to brave the roads. also, i had dropped off my laundry at a place, and needed to get it back before we left the island. since it was raining, the laundry place hadn’t finished my laundry yet and for some bizarre reason the lady started screaming at us when i asked for the laundry back. she also gave us the nastiest scowl i’ve ever seen in my life. it’s so weird cause i’ve never seen any thai people act like this. i finally got my laundry back, clean but not dry, and didn’t realize till later that night that the lady had stolen (or forgotten) my shorts. damn!

so as i mentioned, the roads were insane and honestly i’m amazed that we were able to drive on them. at one point we went thru this stretch where the water was a foot deep, and we actually had to lift our feet off of the pedals so they wouldnt be submerged under water! when we got to the pier we told the ticket lady that we already had tickets for the 3pm ferry, but she tried to tell us that the boat was full so we couldnt go. no matter how many times we told her and showed her our tickets, she wouldnt budge. at this point we started to panic. it was the 31st, and if we couldnt get a ferry to the huge new years party on kho-phangan, we would be stuck on quiet kho tao for new years. finally we were able to talk to another lady who fixed the problem for us. it’s a shock how disorganized so much of the stuff here is. the ferries get canceled all the time, and the non-canceled ones are often late, hotels are often not sure how many rooms they have vacant, and basically everyone just goes about their jobs w/ not too much concern for the customer or anything else.

back on kho-phangan, all the hotels were completely booked up for nye so i ended up sharing a room w/ jenny and eric. their room is one of the nicest rooms i’ve seen so far: good water pressure in the shower and an actual flush toilet (it’s amazing how much you start valuing the little things in life). after enjoying a delicious dinner, we went out to start celebrating.

new years was so much fun! the whole beach is lined w/ bars, and all sorts of crazy day glo decorations. also there are makeshift bars set up all over the beach itself. there are tons of sound systems blaring music up and down the beach and everyone is rocking out. here you can get these buckets filled w/ whatever hard alcohol you choose, and the buckets have like 10 straws so you and all your friends can drink at the same time. soo much fun! the buckets are about 300B (7.50) and have tons of alcohol in them. needless to say, everyone out that night was drunk as hell.

being here to celebrate new years was so crazy. imagine the wildest party you’ve been to, times a hundred, mixed w/ 8,000 people from all over the planet, all set in a gorgeous tropical setting. people were also setting off fireworks all over the beach, and there were people spinning fire etc. we bought a bottle of champagne and when the clock hit midnight, we shook it up like crazy, sprayed it everywhere and drank what was left. i guess there’s some tradition where people are supposed to kiss on nye or something and several times through out the night random girls just came up to me and started kissing me, which was pretty cool. we spent the rest of the night dancing and partying until about 4:30 in the morning.

the next day was pretty mellow. woke up fairly late cause we were tired form the night before, and then i spent the rest of the day hanging out w/ jenny and eric. i didn’t know them at all before this trip and didn’t know what to expect from them, and they turned out to be hella cool and we had a good time hanging out. although usually i’m super shy w/ people i dont know well, i’ve felt very at ease w/ them.

we got a thai massage today, and it was sooooooo good. this one put the other one i had to shame! all 3 of us could barely walk after it was over. tonight is the last night here on kho-phangan, and tomorrow we’re leaving to go to krabi, on the west side of the south of thailand.

-v

it never lets up…

so the rain here just wont let up. as much as i love it, it would be nice to have at least one day to be dry. we spent last night walking around in the rain trying to keep dry and looking for a bar. at one bar we ran into this guy who had just gotten here form Laos. he spent two weeks there and told us all about how cool it is. hearing all his stories made me really excited that i’m gonna go there in a few weeks. he even showed us photos on his digital camera.

actually, speaking of digital cameras, we had a pretty funny moment in a restaurant last night. tom was taking a photo of us eating in the restaurant, and all of the thais that worked there got super excited that the digital camera showed the photo as soon as it was taken. pretty soon we were photographing all sorts of the people that worked at the restaurant, w/ people pouring out of the kitchen to crowd around and look at the photos of themselves. they were so excited! interacting w/ thai people here has been so great. for the most part they are all so truly friendly, smiley, and nice. it seems like they are always laughing and have this aura of kindness about them. and the thing is, all of it seems very genuine. not like back home when you get a nice waitress and you know they are just chatting you up in hopes of getting a good tip (there are no tips here btw).

today i did my final dives and got my diving license. i’m now certified and can dive anywhere in the world up to 60 feet deep. shweet!

-v

massages, diving, and more

so, yesterday i decided to get a thai massage. everyone had always talked about how great they were and how relaxed they made you. so i went to go get one, and it’s only 200B(5$). so, the thai massage is pretty hard to explain. they basically bend you in all these really weird positions. pressing on random parts of your body, tugging on other parts, and hitting you all over the place. so it actually did turn out to feel really good and was really relaxing. oh and they even stand on you and walk all over your back at one point. once they were done, my whole body felt so loose. great!

when i had dinner tonight, i ended up having this really long conversation w/ this british dude. when i told him that i feel lucky to have this trip cause most people in the US only have 2 weeks of vacation a year, he looked at me in horror! really, he just couldn’t believe that and said that this was unheard of! every other country gave their people about 5 to 6 weeks off. he really just couldn’t understand how people could live like that… and honestly all i could do was agree with him. i mean really, you work your job so that you can enjoy the free time you get in the end… and if that free time is only 2 weeks out of 52 a year?? is that really a life? we spent a lot of the rest of the conversation debating how i should move from the states to somewhere else.. anywhere else… and although i cant say i’m totally convinced, it really gave me a lot to think about.

today in the morning it was pouring again. it took me hardly any time at all to realize that riding a moped in the rain on gravel roads isnt very safe: the whole bike skidded out on a turn, and it was only thru an amazing stroke of luck that i didn’t crash. it also didn’t take me hardly any time at all to realize that riding the moped thru the rain is really really fun. i’m coming to terms w/ the fact that i’m gonna spend a lot of this trip wet, and it’s ok.

in the afternoon i went on my first dive. so dope!! we went out fairly far from shore and dove down to only about 30 feet deep, but it was still so cool. tons of cool fish down there and the coral is amazingly beautiful. also there are these tiny fluorescent plants that stick out of holes in the rock, if you swim by them, the plants dart backwards into the holes somehow. swimming down in the depths is so amazingly peaceful and tranquil. other than your respirator, it’s completely silent and you just slowly float around observing the life around you. it’s weird to be able to just float there..like you’re in outer space…. actually.. i’m hoping that sometime i’ll be able to do a night dive while i’m here. that would be really trippy.

after my dive, jamie and tom met me by my bungalow. they’re spending one day here on kho tao. it’s really fun to be able to share traveling stories. each of us have had our own unique experiences here in thailand, and it’s really cool to see how the other’s trip has been going. when we went to a store looking for flip-flops today, we saw that they sold fireworks. werd! we are planning on buying a bunch and lighting them off on the beach. unfortunately, after we went swimming tonight, we tried to light one and it was bunk.. but there’s plenty more where that came from.

-v

here comes the rain…

last night it started raining and it would not let up. i’m not talking light showers, i’m talking about a hardcore downpour. pretty soon the streets were all flooding and you were walking thru water as you navigated the city. luckily we were able to grab a few umbrellas, and tom bought this hella funny looking “raincoat” which looked like a cheap trashbag but bright yellow. being in the rain here is awesome! i’ve always really loved it when it rained back home. there’s definitely something fun and exciting about it… but it’s always really been too cold to enjoy. not here. here you can walk around, and it’s warm and wonderful and you can really enjoy the rain to it’s fullest.

we spent most of the night just walking around town, eating a few times, and getting drinks. heh, at the bar we were at, they didnt have vodka on the menu so we asked them what kind of hard alcohol they had. they said bacardi, so we asked to get bacardi mixed in w/ a fruitshake. little did we know, that bacardi actually meant bacardi breeze (those wine cooler things)… the outcome was quite weird and had practically no alcohol in it.

the bungalow i stayed in last night was pretty jacked. it wasn’t really sealed from the outside well, so there were all sorts of bugs flying in it, and a huge ugly spider. and the bathroom… well…. um… lets just say i had to shower at tom and jamie’s place the next morning instead of at mine.

it turned out that the ferry back to kho tao was at noon, so i had to leave early. just as i got to the ferry dock, it really started to pour. i didnt bring my umbrella, and there was no cover or rooftops anywhere nearby, so along with the rest of the ferry-bound passengers, we all just stood in the rain and got drenched. completely drenched. for like 15 minutes straight. buy you know what, it was actually really nice. standing there on the docks, dripping w/ water in the warm clean air, looking at the lush hillside of the tropical island… is definitely gonna be one of those moments that stand out in my trip. one of those mental snapshots that are so vivid and clear that you can pull them out again and again later in life to enjoy…

back on kho-tao, i rented another scooter and was off. it’s so weird.. i’m really starting to get the hang of this traveling stuff. another weird thing is that every single morning so far i have woken up in a new bed in a different place. it’s so funny to wake up and spend those first few seconds trying to comprehend just exactly where you ended up and how. tonight, i’m staying in the same bungalow as before on kho tao, so this’ll be the first time i spend more than one night in a place. so this place almost feels like home now.. heh.

-v

ko tao day 2.. and ko phangan

sleep was difficult tonight in the bungalow. after falling asleep, i was woken up by a crunching sound. it was LOUD and would not stop. i finally turn on the lights… to see the hugest cockroach of all time. great. it was on a shelf, so i had no way of stepping on it, so i just had to let it keep crunching away. luckily, my bed has mosquito netting all around it, so i tucked the netting around my whole mattress so no roaches could attack. yikes!

i wake up in the morning to a crazy sound that’s coming from all directions. it keeps starting, stopping, ad echoing from all sides. it takes me a while to figure it out, but it turns out that it is the crowing of hundreds of roosters coming from all sides of the island. what a way to be woken up!

let me tell ya about the inside of my bungalow. there’s a bed, covered w/ pink frilly mosquito netting and about 2 feet of space between the bed and the wall… and that’s pretty much it. this bungalow is TINY! the whole thing is built out of sticks and plywood and really looks like if you hit a wall, the whole thing would disintegrate into a pile of rubbish. then there is a door that leads to the bathroom. the weird thing about bathrooms here, is that the whole bathroom is also a shower. so basically, the toilet and sink are there in the shower w/ you. technically (although i have no idea why you would) you could shower while on the toilet, or while brushing your teeth at the sink. also, no hot water. only cold. did i mention that the toilet has no flusher? doh!

after waking up i take diving lesson number 2. we go in a super shallow part of the ocean and practice the basic skills. very easy and quick. no fish yet.. that’s next time. even though the sky is overcast, the ocean is still sooo nice and warm! awesome!

later, i take one last moped ride, and then head for the ferry. i take the ferry to kho phangan cause that’s where i’m gonna meet up w/ jamie, tom, and their friends. the ferry ride is fine and soon i’m on the next island. i go looking for “mr chicken”, the restaurant where i’m gonna meet them and end up running into them elsewhere. turns out there is no mr. chicken. oops! so lucky then that i saw them. if i had ended up going to this island and not meeting them, that would have really sucked.

now it’s POURING! it’s really really coming down. the roads are turning into rivers and it just looks like a mess outside…

-v