(pictured above - your author [who decided ...
Trip Start Jun 24, 2001
12Trip End Aug 30, 2001
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The number one complaint I've heard regarding the travel updates I've been posting thus far this summer is that they are too long; that the 'busy' days many of my friends have been spending in offices can not accomodate a 5 or 10 minute break to read what I've been up to on the other side of the world. For those people, here is the 30 second ESPN highlight package of the past couple days: fighting off vicious orangutans (who trailed me to Malaysia), bareback rhinos and crazed manatees; visiting a society of hippie backpackers on an outlying island of Thailand (but don't tell anybody...it's a big secret!); and a recent encounter with the devil child himself
Hopefully, that got you past the first paragraph, and now you can settle in for the longhaul. As you can see, I'm now in Bangkok, a little more tanned and a little more relaxed (although the hot air, pollution and general chaos on the Khao San Road has undone some of what was accomplished over the past couple days). What was accomplished over the past couple days? Well, in a word, absolutely nothing. I travelled from Penang over the border to Krabi, in Southern Thailand. I spent the night in Krabi, and caught a Thai longtail boat the next morning to Rai Lei Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand (or so I've heard). I can definitely vouch for it's beauty though - like most of the western coast of Thailand, Rai Lei is surrounded by huge limestone towers, standing like small islands out in the middle of the watter. Rai Lei is situated in between several of these, and their sheer faces are ideal for rock climbing - more on that later. Between lies a beautiful white sand beach which - unfortunately, like most of Thailand - is populated with large European outcroppings, usually of the Speedo or Thong variety. But, squished somewhere between, I found my little piece of beach, and lay there for the next 4 or so days, pausing only briefly to gorge my face with pineapple, papaya, or whatever other fruit sprouted legs and waddled past my towel.
Oh, but there is one interesting excursion that took place. (This, by the way, is the inevitable crazy/moronic adventure that I seem to take every few days, primarily to give my dear mother heart attack after heart attack. That I've survived this long without breaking anything must be some sort of miracle.) One aformentioned limestone pillar, within easy walking distance of the beach, contained a lagoon hidden within
Now, the word lagoon has historically conjured up images of clear blue water, surrounded by palm trees, naked Polynesian women, and bars serving cool beer - or in my case, Sprite. The person who named that a lagoon has definitely not been reading the same books I have. I would have called it more of a mud-brown pond, which was definitely anti-climatic after the stupidity I just put myself through. But in the name of adventure (or the name of George Jetson), I gathered up my spirits and headed up again, and then back down - my previous realization that going down might be a tad difficult ultimately coming to fruition. Anyway, that was a great way to kill a morning, and I was quite enthusiastic to return to my spot on the beach - where I noticed that my bodily groove was still present. Several days later, as I look my face in the mirror, I'm still slightly unsure whether it is sun or mud that causes me to be as brown as I am...maybe I should consider taking a shower?
But why shower when you can spend your time frolicking in the ocean - and boy did I frolic. Being in the Andaman Sea was like being in a nice, warm bath - it was nice and warm. Seriously, the water temperature was hotter than anything I've ever been in, and sometimes getting out of the water cooled you down more than getting in it (go figure). I spent several days enjoying, playing frisbee with Canadians and Thais alike, jumping off overhanging cliffs, and chilling out. I had grandiose plays - including visiting the locations of The Beach and The Man With The Golden Gun, but a little sun always actively ruins even the most well laid plans. Again, I had fallen victim to the curse of stagnation - I beg for your pity.
But greater things called me. I began hearing voices in the corn fields - "If you build it, he will come." (No trademark infringement intended). Like a tornado to a trailer park, I was drawn north, to Bangkok. My mission was unknown - all I knew was that I would be met by a guide to accompany me for the rest of the trip, someone who wouldn't shut up for 3 weeks. Someone who would talk all the time, even when sleeping, eating, or watching movies. Even when his traveling companion was trying to update his webpage. I thought of searching far and wide for this person - but then I realized who this mystery guest must be - the only person I know who can talk without breathing - my brother, Jeff.
Arriving in Bangkok yesterday, I set out to enjoy my last hours of silence before Jeff arrived. Bangkok, however, is the wrong place to do that. The Khao San Road, the biggest backpacker area in Bangkok - and probably Asia - is packed and bustling 24 hours a day. Lined with tons of shops selling everything from bead necklaces to fake clothes, CDs and other pirated electronics, the Khao San Road is White Person Central. But it is also the center for cheap accomodation, so I set my many many preconceptions aside, and found a nice cleanish place just off the road, and waited for Jeff. We met, said our hellos, had dinner, and then did, predictably, what most young brothers would do upon arriving in Bangkok - head off to the hanky panky district.
Everyone has a good Bangkok story, and here is mine - although I'll try my best to tone it down to just AA rated. We went to Patpong Night Market, a huge bazaar filled with the usual Thai chatchkas, filled with families of all kinds - and plenty of 'dance clubs', each with their own promoters standing outside, waving a show program, and actively trying to push you into their individual club. We selected, er, were pushed into one partiuclar club, were told there was no cover, and then were charged 300 baht each as we sat down. A fair bit of bargaining took place, and, just as we were about to turn our attention to the show, we were confronted by several Thai girls (or boys...who can tell?) who not so subtely indicated their chosen form of making money. We respectfully declined - well I declined, they didn't really bother Jeff, telling me that they "thought he was gay" - and turned our attention to what was happening on stage. These were definitely trained professionals. Using some sensational skills, they demonstrated several tricks, some involving birthday candles, ping pong balls, fishing hooks, cigarettes and yards upon yards of flourescent fabric. My favourite trick was their unbelievable abilty to puncture balloons from several feet away, using nothing but some spitballs, a straw, and their, um, apparatus. Their aim was fantastic - the result of many hours of practice, I'm sure. Luckily, Jeff and I escaped unscathed - although slightly violated by legions upon legions of Thai...well, whatevers.
This morning, we checked out some of Bangkok's historical monuments - the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha - which seems to have caught European Monument Disease - like most of Europe, it was covered in scaffolding. This evening, we're taking the night bus way north, and plan to cross into Laos tomorrow. You'll hear from us soon - or you'll hear from me, informing you how long it took before I killed Jeff and directions to where I've buried the body.