Step 1 : choose a destination. The initial plan was to go to South America in 2009. (mainly Argentina and Brazil) But a condo purchase puts a serious dent in a girl`s travel budget. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are expensive cities. So I decide to cash in the aeroplan points and go somewhere that offers good value for money. I asked Maurice for suggestions. He first suggested India and then: Thailand, Laos & Vietnam. I opted for number 2 as I have heard many many great things about Laos from others I have met throughout my travels.
Step 2: pick the time. Three countries in four weeks. Since spring is not major project time at work and since I hate being left without a day or two of vacation for the occasional long weekend during the rest of the year, I HAD to go around Easter.
Step 3: find travel mates. I need an easy, worry-free, cost effective way to explore Laos and get from Bangkok to Hanoi. Gap Adventures to the rescue. For $1,075, they will take care of my accomodations and transportation for 14 days. I`ll join a small group (15 people) that will use local transportation (train, bus, river boat, tuk-tuk, songthaew, taxi, cyclo, plane) and stay in small guesthouses. One quick e-mail to Angie (travel agent) and I was signed up with a 5% discount. (note: booking early pays off - the price has since gone up considerably!)
Step 4: book the flight. The real reason why I`m planning so early as reward travel is not always the most flexible. Flight options were already limited in and out of Bangkok. Horrible connections would have taken me three days each way. But flying into Phaoket (I can`t spell that right without getting a language violation from Yahoo!) and out of Ho Chi Minh City was a much more convenient option. Silly silly me for thinking flying in/out of Bangkok, the biggest airport in the area, would be the best way to go !?!?!
Step 5: fine tune the itinerary. I will be on my own the first & fourth week of the adventure (the ideal mix of worry-free structure and self-reliant freedom). And since I`m landing in Southern Thailand (the beach/island area), I might as well start my trip with a couple days of fun in the sun before heading north to Bangkok. I had many islands and beaches to choose from. Although not during the best season for waves, the beach that is most likely to be surfable is Kata Beach. They have board rental shops/surfing schools. I got the taste for surfing in Australia when I felt the thrill of standing up (ungracefully) on a surf board and riding a wave for all of a five feet ...maybe I could manage to "hang ten" feet on some beginner waves this time?
Step 6: secure key accomodations. They can make or break the budget/trip. While most of Southeast Asia offers good value for money, the beaches around Phaoket do not. I could not afford a fancy (or plain) resort, still wanted to be close to everything yet wasn`t up for a party hostel. After hours surfing (on the internet), I finally found what appears to be a really nice small hotel that happens to have one room so small the bathroom is down the hall offered at a fraction fo the price of the other rooms with ensuites. I am very happy with my find and e-mailed the swede that runs to place to reserve said room and even arranged for an airport pick-up! (I arrive at 1:00 am & the pick-up will cost no more than a taxi)
Step 7: arrange for other transport: I noticed a buzz of activity about air asia on tripadvisor and low and behold, they were giving away 1 million free seats over four days in August for travel in April to July 2009. They are a reputable discount airline and so I booked a "free" flight from Phaoket to Bangkok (paid a few $ to check a bag, the taxes and fuel surcharge, of course, no such thing as a completely free ride ;-) But still $35 for a 2 hour flight is pretty sweet....even got a "hot seat" : their version of executive class. No champagne and caviar but early boarding and extra leg room is always nice.
Step 8: arrange secondary accomodation: I was still concerned about having affordable lodgings for my extended stays in Bangkok and Hanoi. I spent hours looking for safe, well located, budget, private rooms with shared bathroom, breakfast included, internet availability etc. I reserved for about 13$/night which is maybe twice what it would have cost of get a bed in shared dorm rooms in the cheapest hostels...I think it`s a very worthwhile expense! Won`t do anything crazy like splurge on private bathroom or AC despite going during the warmest / humidest months of the year but am definitely at a point in my life where the appeal of the shared dorm room has worn off...
Step 9: update trip planner. To keep everything straight, update the "yahoo trip planner" with links and details. Keeps me oragnised and keeps you in the know.
Step 10: buy supplies / cash-in on end of summer sales. I got pants that zip off into shorts and comfort sandals with covered toes (both essential for very warm crowded climates where pants are required to enter Wats (temples) and to deter disease carrying mosquitos.
Step 11: Buy a waterproof camera case. Aside from going to the beach and partaking in water sports, I will be there during Songkram (New Year`s / water festival - where buckets of water are thrown about to cleanse away bad luck - guaranteed to get soaked.)
Step 12: continue to monitor jet star airlines for flight deals from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
Step 13: sort out medical requirements.
Step 14: secure visa.
Step 15: pack.
Step 16: begin adventure.
Now that the holidays are over...nothing to look forward to but the trip....plus the holiday cash I got will come in handy for those pesky visa/health pre-departure expenses.(thanks everyone!)
Step 11: Buy waterproof camera case: done, bought a Dicapac 510 but haven`t tested it out yet.
Step 12: The two hour flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City has been booked. I was monitoring Jetstar for deals but was afraid the regular fare would go up so I booked and paid just over 1 Million Dongs ($75). If only the North American flight market was like the European/Asian ones. Oh the possibilites....
Step 13: Researched recommended vaccines and malaria drugs. Already have most of the vaccines that are highly recommended. I just needed the Typhoid Fever one which semi-paralyzed my arm the next day but all was well within 24 hours. Did a fair bit of research on the "sometimes suggested" ones and, given my itinerary and time of year I was going, I decided it wasn`t worth $700 to protect me from the minute risk of exposure. (Vaccines are expensive!). I also got Malaria pills and a precautionary prescription for Cypro (just in case). Total cost was only $115 this time around. ( I also stocked up on throat losanges that are essential for the larger cities where the smoking and vehicle emission standards aren`t quite up to North American ones.)
Step 14: Visa is not required for Thailand, the one for Laos can be purchased at the border and I sent my passport to Ottawa & secured the Vietnam visa. Total cost: $170.
As much fun a trip planning can be, I am tired...time to go to bed and have sweet travel dreams....
...in Kata, Phuket.
It was a pleasant but long journey. It's 2:30 am here (so 4:30 pm Sunday for most of you - I left for the airport at 4:30 am Saturday).
I just arrived, brushed my teeth and I am off to bed.
PS: It's very hot and humid even at 2 am....
Now that I am rested, I can elaborate a bit on my journey. All went well except for a 1 hour delay out of Vancouver (because the baggage handling system wasn't working and they were doing it the good old fashion way). The captain said it would be at least 10 "airline minutes". Turns out that is = 1 hour ;-) The delay didn't cause any issues for my connection in Seoul since I was scheduled to be there 4 hours. I just needed 1 hour to transfer terminals, wash-up and find my gate which left me with 2 hours to sleep like a log on their very comfortable seats! I woke up just in time to observe a very interesting cultural phenomenon. I only needed the fingers of one hand to count the non-koreans at the gate and EVERY single other passenger was half of a very young korean couple. So I guess Phuket is a good romantic getaway. But what I couldn't get over was that no less than half of those couples were dressed identically. Matching hoodies, jeans and Nikes were the norm. Despite appearing so young, I speculated several of them were on their honeymoon and this was confirmed upon arrival as the only word I could read in the sea of Korean signs was the word "Honeymooners". The only sign that I could completely make out read: "Southern Fried Rice Caroline". I waved to the guy and he started walking to his car and I followed. It was a 40 minute drive from the airport to the Southern Fried Rice Guesthouse. Not much to see along the way. I was glad I had prearranged transportation because I could walk right past the aggressive taxi drivers and this guy knew exactly down what small alley my signless 8 room guesthouse could be found. It was boarded up for the night but a young girl in pyjamas appeared and showed me to my room. The pre-arranged shuttle was a 100TBH cheaper than the going rate for a taxi but since it was so late and my flight was delayed 45 minutes I tipped the driver the 100 TBH, well worth it! Just so foreign to me to have private transportation as opposed to the public buses - but that just wasn't an option here especially not at 2:00 am.
The small guesthouse is PERFECT. I have a private room right next to the bathroom. The other 7 rooms have ensuites so I only share with staff and the occasional restaurant guest. It's not luxurious but certainy less "budget" than my usual accomodations. Had a delighful shower this morning but after walking to the bank down the street I am now stickier than I was after spending two days in airports...not a complaint, just a statement of fact. I don't expect sympathy from Canadians stuck in the cold ;-) I am off to the beach soon assuming my stomach settles. I have a small case of diarrhia and this was after eating airplane food for 2 days and a North America granola bar. I popped 2 immodiums and felt fine. Upon returning from the bank, I had the included continental breakfast : toast, pineapple, watermelon and coffee. I still need to stick very close the bathroom for the time being. (luckily the free internet is right next to my room/bathroom ;-) But I hope to be able to go enjoy the beach this afternoon. I won't risk joining the surfing school today - hopefully tomorrow.
Around 1:00 I felt good enough to head for the beach. About a 10 minute walk to the beach and another 5 to park myself in front of the distinctive white Club Med umbrellas in and amongst a sea of green umbrellas (It would prove very useful finding my way back to my stuff several times).
I started with a long walk to find the surf shop. Found it but no waves today, maybe tomorrow? After walking back, I inflated my bright green air mattress (Julie, I struggled at first - but eventually managed;-) and floated for about an hour and then loundged/snoozed for a half hour before swimming a good 1.5 Km to the snorkel area. Very worthwhile. Saw a wide variety of fish of all colors, shapes and sizes. The corals were nothing special though. I hear there are other worthwhile snorkel sites but would have to take full day tours so I'll probably pass. Must admit I was a bit uneasy in the water given the recent reports of box jellyfish migrating to this general area. But I survived unscaved. I then took another snooze and walked back to the guesthouse.
Bought some more water and have been making good use of the drink crystals with Electrolites and Probiotics. I skipped lunch but had some thai pork, pineapple & mushroom over steramed rice around 7:00, nothing too spicy. For the most part, it's sitting well. I walked around the few lively streets lined with restaurants, shops, massage salons, currency desks, optical shops, travel agents, bars and an elephant.
Time to call it a night.
For the past few months, I've not been sleeping well. 4-5 hours/night if I'm lucky. Not sure if it's the jet lag or the fresh air, but I slept like a log last night for over 9 hours which is unheard of for me. Started my day with the continental breakfast which comes with a won-der-ful (albeit tiny) cuplet of coffee.
I geared up and head for the surf shop and spoke to a lovely lady who was all too happy to show me pictures of what the waves will look like in a month (maybe two weeks?). But she assured me there would be no waves and hence no surfing before the monsoon.(...It's raining pretty hard tonight, I wonder if that qualifies as a monsoon? Probably not).
So I came back to the guesthouse to change and started walking...and I walked...walked...walked all the way to Karon Beach (on the tsunami evacuation route). It was too hot to eat spicy food, so I opted for a Hawaiin Pizza at Al Dente and considering I only allow myself to eat pizza when I travel it was really good as it met my very high expectations. I kept walking into town in the crazy heat and bought several beverages along the way.
I can see a massive buddha pearched atop a nearby hill and tried to negotiate a decent tuk-tuk fare to see it but 900 TBH both ways was the best offer and I was only willing to pay 500 TBH. I have since had the bright idea to ask my ride to the airport to detour past the Buddha and wait for me there a few minutes which won't cost much more than 900 TBH including a lift to the airport. (I have since spoken to Terje - the owner of the guesthouse - and he confirmed that he can arrange this for me. I only need to give him the time tomorrow)
Around supper time, a construction site transformed itself into a market with a very interesting food section. But given the heat, I was not hungry at all and could not bring myself to sample the fare that appeared to be so popular with locals. I then walked and walked trying to find the bus stop. My only clue was seeing it stop up ahead and then standing there until the next one came while ignoring some tailor/dude who finally found Germans to talk to. I also observed moped/food-carts stop in front of me and prepare food on the street for delivery - now that's FRESH delivery! The mango with sticky rice looked delicious, but again, not hungry. Hoped on the open-air bus to Kata beach and then walked on the beach taking pictures, watching kids play soccer and waited for the sun to set over the long-tail boats.
I toyed around with the idea of booking a tour to Phi Phi (pronounced Pee-Pee) Island for tomorrow. Picked up pamphets and got prices from a few places before returning to the hotel restaurant to peruse the offerings. While eating my Green Chicken Curry it started to rain and I don't feel like heading out to book the tour in that weather....but after finishing my update I'll check out tomorrow's weather. No point in going there in the rain...Sadly, the hotel pick-up is at 7:30 so I don't think I have the luxury of waiting until tomorrow although I'm sure if I find an agent open tomorrow morning at the time, a call will probably get me a pick-up! We'll see what I decide to do.
It has come to my attention that some of you are busy shoveling yourself out from under the snow....genuinely sorry to hear that....really...I wish you could all be here enjoying the sun with me.
Woke up early to an overcast sky...but the sun came out eventually. Thus I decided to get ready and hit the streets but no tour agents were open. Not much going on at all at this hour (7:00 am) in Kata. I did see a few shuttles full of Phi Phi bound tourists but had no way of getting on. So I'm back at the guesthouse to change and go snorkeling locally. I'll come back for breakfast and then maybe head into to Phuket Town today. My sources tell me Sunday's Amazing Race was filmed there so I best go check it out before I get home and watch the episode. (I leave for 4 weeks and the AR and the ER finale are the only shows I taped - yes, I'm still using an old school VCR....I'll look into getting one of those new fangled digital recorders all the kids are using when I move.)
Happy April Fool's Day
I walked to the beach very slowly to minimize the flip flop blister damage. Regular walking sandals are great - I love my privos! Sandals I feel comfortable leaving on the sand unattended for hours are not so fine! The sun was shining bright and the water was a particularly enchanting array of blues today. I walked all the way to the snorkeling end but the waters were a little choppy and the visibility in that area was minimal. 5 feet at best. While I could see some beautiful schools of fish within my 5 feet perimeter they were not amazing enough to mitigiate the extreme uneasyness of not being able to see beyond 5 feet. I used to have a paralysing fear of marine life - I'm much better since Australia but still...I need more than 5 feet visibility to enjoy myself. So I started swimming back in the clear waters and felt an itch here and there and now it was my jellyfish paranoia that got me out of the water noce and for all. I prefered my relaxing walk along the shoreline.
I came back to the hotel and showered and did a bit of laundry. Went downstairs for the American Breakfast and was waiting for a bus by the side of the road by noon. I was melting in the sun until I noticed some shade 10 feet away (remember the hair cutting incident in Longueuil Natacha? I had one of those moments ;-). I hopped on the open air bus for an unexpectedly long ride to Phuket Town. I'm glad I went, it was nothing like Kata and Karon. Not the areas I explored anyway. I was attacked by tuk-tuk drivers as soon as I got off the bus but asside from that and a few travel agents here and there I didn't see any other sign of tourism. I was walking in and amongst thai people going about their business. Some in pretty desolate (almost deserted) markets and alleys. (Funny how I felt completely safe and relaxed here and not in the water ;-) I was wandering somewhat aimlessly when I noticed the grey skies rolling in and took out the map to align myself back towards the bus station when the skies opened up like a faucet. I sought refuge under an awening and recalled seeing a couple selling sticky rice and mango a block back and the awening coverage would take me there relatively protected. Lunch! But it was so much more than lunch! Another patron helped the vendors understand that I wanted a single serving and not buy by the kilo as she had done. She helped my understand that would cost 50TBH. I watched the women pack a white and a greenish type of sticky rice in the bottom of a foam container and expertly peel and chop a mongo over top and wrapped it up with an elastic with a bag of sweet coconut milk for topping. She put my goodies in a bag and I gave her the money. It was still raining and the gentlemen had finished putting the plastic covering on their cart and offered me a seat while I waited out the deluge. This meant the women would finish her noodle soup lunch and peel her mangoes while sitting on the floor. I was happy standing under the unbrellas. But it seemed very important to him and his wife to be hospitable so I graciously accepted. Most people in tourist areas are aggressively trying to scam you or make money off you and I have to be rude to get by....but these people were so so so kind. We could only communicate with smiles and hand gestures as we watched the rain fall fr 15 minutes. I think our meeting will likley be one of the highlights of the trip. (I later secured a spoon at a market while buying water and the concoction was deeelicious. But still a bigger treat for the soul than the palette).
I went to the local market just before hopping back on the bus and bought a couple sesame balls - one filled with the traditional lotus seed paste but the other had a yellow granular paste of unrecognizable flavor. Good tough - very good! The market was small but it had meat , flower , spice, fruit and vegetable sections. I observed a woman touching the meat with her bare hands and then handing it to the butcher...why can't you just point to the meat? Anywhoo....I bought a Pomelo to keep me feed (and occupied) at the airport tomorrow after check-in for my flight to Bangkok and before departure.
I came back "home", had a siesta, woke up to more rain (which has a welcomed cooling effect) and will likely just go downstairs again for supper after I signout as I have done every night. It's good, it's here and it's well priced!
After signing off last night I went downstairs for supper for the third consecutive night. Am I ever glad I did! The Pad Thai was wonderful. Just wonderful. The woman (who I swear works 24 hours a day) was prompting me to use condiments and I didn't want to mess with perfection! A little squeeze of lime was all I needed. After supper I settled the bill I had been running since I got here: about $14 for 3 suppers, a diet coke and an upsized breakfast. Not bad for the tourist area. Then went for a walk down the now very familiar streets of Kata for about an hour. The colorful bar with the "Elvis on Wednesday" sign had...Thai Elvis. No bigger dissincentive to patronize I have even seen/heard. But not all agreed as the place was fairly busy. I think he was signing the Thai version of Teddy Bear...that is: the chorus was english and I couldn't make out the rest.
After walking past tons of shops offering massages, foot rubs, manicures and pedicures....I decided to come back to the room and give myself a pedicure/manicure. A necessity after spending three days at the beach. Then fell asleep to the sounds of the bar down the street and the humming of the fan. It was particularly warm last night but I slept until 6:30 am and did some internet research on the bus to take from the airport in Bangkok. Correction, I already knew what bus to "take", it's knowing when to "get off the bus" that required a little more research. The convenience of having three available computers just outside my door will be missed. And hence, my updates wil be fewer and far between as the relaxing portion of the trip comes to an end the hussle and bussle of Bangkok beckons....
After getting my stuff together by 11:00, I had time for more Pad Thai for lunch before the driver arrived at 11:30. The owner and staff all appreared to send me off....what a great place! This place in Bangkok is not quite so charming. After spending no more than 5 minutes in the room I can already tell you I wouldn't stay here again and you all know I have no standards ;-) I'll manage...it's not THAT bad. 7$/night. Location is great though. I walked around Khao San Road for a while buying cart food for supper: Mango, sticky rice, sweet corn and banana peannut butter pancake. Not sure that's what one called a well balance meal but it was tasty.
The taxi driver detoured to the Big Buddha before bringing me to the airport as promised. All in all he spent over 1:30 driving/waiting. I ended paying as much for the taxi ride as I did for the flight ($35/each) but it was worth it...the views up there were spectacular - not to mention the Big Buddha. It's been under construction for 5 years and won't be completed any time soon.
The flight was on time. I had a "hot ticket" which allowed me to skip the queue - if you can call 100s of passengers rushing the gate a queue, but I digress. I slept most of the way and am now thinking the malarone (anti-malaria pills) are what's making me a little tired. I read the fact sheet and it's a possible side effect. I'm sure the heat accounts for some of it too. We waited for what seemed like an hour for the bags at the carrousel. Here's a fun fact: there are 176 connnected metal plates in the conveyor belt number 4 at the Bangkok airport. Finding the bus & the hostel was a breeze.
Time to go look into travel details for tomorrow: Floating market and cultural park.
After posting last night I returned to the sauna (aka room 506). Luckily a thunder and rain storm ensued and I openend the window to let some refreshing air in....but as rain ended so did the refreshing air. I managed to sleep well until about 3:30 and then the sounds of the metal spatula hitting against the wok from the food stalls 5 floors below was driving me crazy so I listened to the MP3 for a while. I then started my day by scouting out a decent shower on another floor since the one that works on the 5th just won't do. (And I'm no princess - some of you may not know that I take great pride in having stayed multiple times at number 1 & 7 of Tripadvisors "Top 10 dirtiest hotels in the US") In hindsight, air condition may have been a good splurge.
By 6:00 I was downstairs eating my pomelo (don't want to tempt fate by eating a scented fruit in the room....who knows what that might attract ;-). The alley was very lively at that early hour. Plenty of backpackers walking around with bags and delivery trucks etc. I returned to the room to get ready and I was off to the floating market by 7:00. I opted to see the busiest one: Damnoen Sadouak about 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok. The mini-bus dropped us off along a major canal where I took a motorized long tail boat into the heart of the action where I transfered into a smaller rowed boat. Boats are traditionally operated by older women. Mine was. But nowadays there are also few young men padelling tourists around. The souvernir vendors line the canals and the food vendors are also floating around on boats through the congested canals. What a treat for the senses. Fruit, beer, stir-fries, noodle soups, juices, coconut drinks etc. I didn't buy anything but it was certainly a feast for the eyes. I took tons of pictures! It used to be where all the local commerce took place but now it's 90% show for tourists 10% local shopping.
Then when for lunch on a riverside barge type restaurant followed by a trip to the Rose Garden Thai Cultural Center. This place is 100% show for tourists. It's very very well done. Started by walking around stations with demonstrations of thai crafts such as: garland threading, pottery, rice cultivation, vegetable carving, umbrella painting etc. Then watched an elephant show....it was neat. They are much much cuter than I thought even from a non-animal person such as myself. Sadly the finale that got a roaring round of applause: an elephant taking a dump & piss on command. The highlight was the cultural show. Featuring thai boxing, sword fighting, a few variations of ceremonial dances, a wedding ceremony and a young man entering into monkhood. The music was enchanting and the costumes magnificent. Very well done! Also, kudos to them for handing out cold facecloths. Very nice touch!
About to head out to Khao San Road again for supper, it's known as the largest backpacker road in the world. It's full of farangs (aka white westerners), hostels, guesthouses, restaurants, bars, vendors etc. It's very lively. I was there in the early evening last night and after taking a snooze both in the mini-bus on the way back into town and upon returning to the room, I'm geared up for a somwhat later night tonight. Not too late though because tomorrow I'm heading out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market very early to be back in time for an afternoon cooking class.
I woke up early and devised a plan for the day. I wanted to be at the Monk Bowl Village by early afternoon and see Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) at sunset. I thought I would start by taking the bus back to Chatuchak, then take the skytrain downtown, have lunch, bus it to the Monk Bowl Village and walk to Wat Arun before dusk and take the ferry back. Pretty good plan I thought....here's how it actually played out:
First thing out on the streets, I saw interesting coconut mini-puddings cooking on a cart with corn and green onion toppings - had to try them. Deeeeeelicious! Hope the find the same cart at the same spot tomorrow morning! I then bought a bunch of lychee at the market. A little messy to eat...so I only had half the bag. I walked around the market some more and got lost. Found some lovely zipper pulls for a few of my handbags but they didn't accept my "walk away" offer so I had to walk away. I was not happy with the way that played out. The walk away strategy only works when there are tons of vendors selling the same stuff. This shop was unique and I was too proud to go back until I figured a way to save face "buy many - better price". But the point remains....I was lost in the maze and it was starting to get a little too crowded for my liking. I finally found the skytrain. I foolishly didn't keep my bearings because I figured the "elevated" skytrain would be visible from almost anywhere and that just wasn't the case.
Once found, the skytrain ride was a pleasure (I think because I was sitting in air condition! It was at least 35 with 90% humidity all day....stickeeeey). Got off at Siam station and walked around a fait bit before finding MBK where I expected to find curry for lunch. Silly silly me, 100s of food stations and Thai Curry was nowhere on the menu. Found indian curry but no thai curry. It was just as well because the coupon loading and refund payment system seemed excrutiatingly byzantine. Again, this place was like a Las Vegas casino....easy to get it but couldn't find my way out. I eventually did and found a place selling red curry which was not as good as the curry I made myself (sort of) yesterday!
Then fought my way to the bus station (the sidewalks were being used for everything except w-a-l-k-i-n-g!) I still don't understand why that bus ride was free. I tried to pay the woman but it was a free ride for everybody...I took the same bus later and had to pay??? Oh well. I started to walk to the Monk Bowl Village (Families who live in this area are apparently the only people still making the bowls by hand. The Monks walk around with (now mass produced) bowls in the morning to collect food offerings for their day.) As I was walking towards the village the skies opened up again and I sought shelter under the awenings of a closed medical clinic and ate the other half of my lychees and watched traffic and listened to the incredibly loud and frequent thunder strikes for the better part of an hour. The sun was shining bright in the morning and I didn't bring the umbrella or raingear. It was now getting late....these people welcome you into their homes....can't really show up looking like a drowned rat at supper time. So I aborted that mission and decided to head back to the hotel, drop my bag and take the ferry to Wat Arun but the ferry's last run was at 5:30 and I just missed it. At least I scouted out where my next hotel is for the transfer tomorrow and mapped out the shortest route through the narrow winding alleys. Anyone want to guess how many times I get asked if I want a tuk-tuk or taxi tomorrow as I drag my bag over there? I'm guessing 37.
I jumped into the cold shower as soon as I got back. Even in the pouring rain it was still hot today. I walked around a bit tonight. Had street pad thai for super again and found an air-conditionned internet cafe (as opposed to melting at the guesthouse like the last couple nights.) I did laundry in the shower last night (no way my unmentionnables or any mentionnable is touching those sinks) and it workout well as I wrapped the cold shirt around my neck for a an hour or so....very refreshing! Then I made sure there was a plastic bag between my shirt and the scuzzy scuzzy wall. I may have to soak a shirt in cold water tonight again.
Tomorrow is a holiday here and I am planning on visiting some temples. My research tells me they are supposed to be open. In fact, one in particular only opens a certain restricted area on April 6th. Hope my sources are right and hope the crowds aren't too crazy!
I think the heat made me a little delirious last night. I woke up and was convinced a man by the name of Rodrigue was trying to get me to help him deliver a telephone fashioned of bologna to my sister. It was imperitive she get this phone as everyone was fleeing Shediac because of the floods???? I was willing myself to wake up for 5 minutes so this madness would end. I shook it off and took the last shower in that Hell Hole. I have taken to walking around with a plastic bag so I don't have to touch anything, especially my room key and the curtains. The bed sheet appeared fresh (yes that's singular - sheet, not sheets) when I walked in the room so the bed was my sanctuary. I touched the pillow twice. Once to drop it on the floor when I walked in and again this morning to throw it back on the bed. I'm glad I had my own pillow. I didn't bother looking under the bed as I usually do when I check-out of a room. Anything of mine that may have gone under that bed can very well stay there. In it's defense, the place was very well located and safe, which are my two top criteria.
I dropped a few items off to be laundered (paid about 1.25). I fetched more coconut puddings for breakfast and walked to the new hotel. It's appropriately named the "Royal" Hotel as it certainly feels like a Palace to me. I was able to get in the room to drop off my beg before heading to Wat Phra Keo by 9 o'clock. What an impressive place....so ornate! I was impressed by the Giant Guards and Monkeys holding the Chedi. I filled a memory card! Foreigners are treated like second class citizens though even though we pay a handsome fee to get in and the Thais don't. It's alright I suppose....I'm the "intrudor". I observed the many rituals involving candles, incense, eggs, flowers and a ritual I had never seen before: worshippers applying a gold leaf on a statue. Applying gold leaf requires a delicate touch and many did not have such a delicate touch so it made for an interesting effect. I bumped into my "friends" Adam and Kirsten from the cooking class a few times. It was very warm...I sought cold water a couple times to moisten my towellette to freshen up. But by 11:00, I didn't need to seek water anymore as the skies have opened up again to dampen me and my spirits. I was prepared today though. I popped the umbrella and walked back to Khao San Road the long way and found a place to eat that had a fan and wasn't full of smokers. The place was called "Pad Thai". Ironically, after eating pad thais for 5 days straight, this was going to be a pad thai free day. Luckily the restaurant served Masaman curry which was not spicy at all....it's supposed to be the mildest of the curries but should still be a little spicier than it was. It was tasty though...I lingered there for a while journaling and ventured out to find internet.
I might go see if my laundry is ready a little early and will probably head back to the Royal. I need to be there for 6:00 to meet my tour mates. My time in Bangkok will soon be coming to an end. We check out of the hotel early tomorrow morning and are busy all day touring the klongs (canals) and Wat Pho etc. before catching an overnight train to Chiang Mai. We will only be there two days and are then heading to a border town one day before going into Laos. Laos is not by any means an industrialized country. In fact, one of the places we are staying while floating down the Mekong won't even have 24 hour electricity much less internet access. I may be able to post updates from the larger cities but am not expecting internet to be as widely available as in Thailand and Vietnam. I'll be in Hanoi in a week and a half and will likely only post a few times from now until then. Don't shy away from writting though....just know it may take a couple days before I read your messages.
We started the day with a wonderful long tail boat ride through the Klongs and went to Wat Pho (The largest temple in Bangkok) The Wat was spectacular, it's claim to fame is a massive Golden reclining Buddha. But it was more than that.
Then I crossed the river to check out Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). Also impressive.
Catching the overnight train soon for Chiamg Mai.
made it from Ho Chi Minh City to Nanning to Beijing to Toronto to Saint John in 36 hours
hasn`t slept horizontally in 57 hours.
showered and is wearing clean PJs!
is looking forward to laundry, groceries and photo uploading tomorrow, assuming she doesn`t sleep through the day ;-)