Micah: Unmitigated

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Archive for the ‘Thailand’ Category

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I use this song title since I am watching the KU college basketball contest on TV. My first view of the #1 team in the country. I have missed seeing them play and thoughts of wanting to be around for March Madness and a possible National Championship, may affect future travel plans. If they somehow lose to Michigan today, the title will be changed and this paragraph shall be deleted. So far so good, up 20 after 16 minutes of action. Let’s get to some blogging.

A quick wrap up to my trip: The double Big Mac was delicious. One regret I have now, is that I never got a Thai Massage. I had thought about squeezing one in Friday before my flights, but it just didn’t happen.

At the airport, I was tapped to do a Tourism survey by one of the students that were walking around. He said it would only take 10 minutes, but took me over 30. I think I tried too hard, a few times the kid seemed to be urging me to just fill in whatever. But it was fun to check off all of the provinces I had visited and rate things. Thailand is a country that has it figured out. They know they got the sights, sun, and beaches that travelers want and all at a discounted price. They embrace the idea that tourists themselves can become an attraction and create pockets of Farang oriented bars, restaurants, shops, and markets to keep them happy. They already do a great job but are still trying to be better.

The journey back home was tiring, with me going 48 hrs without seeing a bed. I slept maybe an hour or two on the first flight, but was unable to get any shut eye during my 8 hr layover in Seoul or on the 11 hr second flight.

No escaping the paparazzi

No escaping the paparazzi

(Kansas held on to the lead and was victorious)

The free movies and music are always a joy and kept me entertained. I watched “The Brothers Bloom” and “In The Loop”, and was pleased with both. The later was particularly a delightful romp, with it’s vulgar language and smart political satire. Musically, I was bumping Kings of Leon “Only by Night” and Radiohead “Hail to the Thief”. I love “OK Computer” but have rarely opened my ears to Radiohead’s other work, that will change.

Also keeping me awake, was this stunning view of a sunrise as we were approaching Alaska.

Better: Sunrises or sunsets?

Better: Sunrises or sunsets?

Nice to be home and see family and friends. Adjusting my sleep patterns has been a struggle, and with the drastically cooler temps have led to me feeling a bit under the weather. I miss wearing shorts and my tan is quickly fading.

So what have I been doing this past week? Pictures. I came home with over 2,200 images to go through and trim down. The site is almost ready and can be found at: Picture Pages.(Please people, don’t click on it until you have finished reading the whole post, that is just rude.) There is also now a link on my blog, if you can let yours eyes wander away from my captivating words for a moment, to your right you will notice the new “Photographs” button. It has been a monumental task deciding which of the hundred sunset pics to post. As of Noon PST the gallery is unpublished, but all photos are uploaded, I just need to add captions and solve some formatting issues. 738 images, geographically sorted into 10 albums. I know that sounds like too many to go through and makes you want to just skip it and watch TV. But, I assure you that your viewing will be quick and painless. I am also planning to add some of the 40+ movies that I captured.

Please enjoy the pics and I hope they make you want to visit Thailand. I highly recommend it to even the most novice of travelers. Transportation is extremely convenient and clean, the People are kind and helpful, the Temples are fascinating and peaceful, the Beer is cold and potent, and the Beaches are straight out of your dreams.

นี่ คือ ประเทศไทย

Time To Say Goodbye

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Last post from Thailand. My time here has gone by at a rate of 60 min/hr, so today being the end of my 2 month adventure, seems about right. Here is how this post will go down: First will be a brief catch up, followed by some reflections and final business.

Wednesday: In the morning, I hit the beach one last time before my day of transit to Bangkok. With low tide in full effect, I decided to walk along the rocks and see the smaller cove to the north.  Turned out to be a brilliant decision, as it may be the best on Koh Lanta and was empty. The beach is called Ao Nui and has no resorts due to it’s topography. It has one soda shack in the middle and most people get here by motorbike and a short hike. I had it all to myself, a great way to start the day.

My journey back up north involved 6 vehicles and 18 hours. Nice personal truck from one travel agency to another, then another nice truck, minivan to small Krabi bus station, sorng-taa-ou to bigger station, big “VIP” bus to BKK, finished with meterless taxi to guesthouse and sleep.

Thursday: Staying away from the main tourist part and near the skytrain, my plan was to shop. I have been holding myself back from making purchases due to concerns about lugging stuff around. No more, I bought a $20 backpack and exchanged my baht for varying items that shall be wrapped and placed under a tree. I am not the best shopper but figured that I can buy anything and it will be cool because it’s from another country. We shall see how my theory holds up on the 25th.

While shopping I got my first glimpse of Christmas, at the mega mall. Huge trees and other symbols were all around and the music was just like home. Also, I hit McD’s for the first time, Samurai Pork burger was enjoyed, but after ordering I couldn’t stop staring at the Double Big Mac. Now that I have typed those words, I am planning my route back to the guesthouse around 1 more stop.

Friday: More shopping with another visit to the Chatachuk Market. Since it wasn’t the weekend, only a few stall were open and a lot were just setting up shop. Still able to find what I wanted. I let the skytrain whisk me around to more malls and markets the rest of the afternoon, while I politely turned down offers for bootleg DVD porn. (“No thanks” , “Not interested”, “I already have that one”) And now I sit here, surrounded by gamers, using my fingers to press keys on a peripheral. 02:30am Saturday is the scheduled launch for my plane, so I have some time to kill. The total transit time will be 29hrs with 11 hours of layovers. Well, I think that you should all be up to speed now.

Reflections and Thoughts: I have really enjoyed writing this blog. After a long day of walking or biking around, I looked forward to sitting in a comfortable computer chair, relaxing, drinking a beer, going through photos, and recapping my activity. Also, with a semi-long trip like this, having all of these words to look back on will help me remember.

My favorite parts are tough to pinpoint. Obviously, the time on beaches was joyous and the Full Moon party will not be forgotten. On the flip side, that time was like I left Thailand, due to the number of tourist and accompanying shops. I rarely used my Thai greetings, for some reason it just felt fake when everyone spoke English clearly. My thinking may be way off base, and I do have a history of rejecting the popular thing to do (ie: Harry Potter, Farmville, Coffee, Pogs, smoking, and working), but it felt more right in the small towns.

The WWOOFing was great and I will be doing it again, hopefully soon. Both farms offered a unique look at Thai life away from the tour route. Every Thai person I met on the farms was kind and funny, and looking back realize how important it is to meet those that are not after your Baht. I have even had thoughts about return visits to both hosts.

I would say that my highlight would be the bike rides around the country sides. Big cities have never been my thing, although my current time in BKK has been filled with markets and street food, which I love. But, getting the looks and waves while riding around, seeing the farm land, and the fresh air are just a winning combination.

Another joy, the bus rides between the small cities with a majority of Thai passengers.  My ride up from the south to BKK was a tourist bus that just didn’t feel right. Stops at the designated rest stops filled with tourist food, the latest “Jacka@#” movie on TV, and everyone exchanging drinking stories from the beach parties on Koh Phi Phi, grows tiresome. The night bus ride I took from Sukhothai to BKK was all Thai’s and the one stop had friendly vendors and bowls of things I did not know. I learned so much about everyday Thai life on my 6 hr ride with revolving clientele. If you can do it, state buses are the way to go.

Anyways, I will continue to write and reflect as time goes on. My unmitigation shall continue as I seek new adventures or as I crash back to reality. Either way, I will try to include pictures.

Last note of business: Mother and Father, I arrive to PDX, Saturday Dec. 12th at 3:50 pm PST. All others, I beg of you, please do not show up at the airport with banners and gifts. I am a shy man and that would be too much. Just thinking of the raucous crowd and the noise and security issues that would create, make me nervous.  So, the rest of you can show your love at one of the many homecoming parties which are disquised as Christmas events. ขอ ขอบคุณ และ พระเจ้า ให้ ศีล ให้ พร อเมริกา

Blister In The Sun

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I found it. It was the last one I saw, but I found it. After 2 days of boat tours and island hopping, it was closer than I thought. If I only knew it was there before my last full day in the south, I would have made multiple trips and maybe even an overnight stay. My 1 hour glimpse will have to do for now and these photos and words are all that I can offer to you:

Monday: One day romp around Koh Phi Phi (the H is silent so pronounced Pee Pee). After a ferry ride, we hopped a long tail boat and the tour began. Saw beautiful rock formations and snorkled in perfectly clear waters. The colors on the fish reminded me of the Full Moon Party. They were very friendly and often seemed to gather around me in curiosity. After we snorked for a while, we made a lunch stop at Maya Beach on Koh Phi Phi Lei. I had highly anticipated seeing this “Top 10  Beach” and it was stunning. Lots and lots of boats and people, but enough space to take it all in.

"The Beach"

"The Beach"

Our ride to "The Beach"

Our ride to "The Beach"

As you might be able to see, the water is extremely clear and the sand is softer and whiter than the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. One sight is good enough, and I was satisfied.

We proceeded to snorkle some more and then were dropped back at Koh Phi Phi Don, the bigger of the Phi Phi’s and the only one with development. Another dazzling yet overcrowded beach, where I swam and relaxed.

"The Other Beach"

"The Other Beach"

I enjoyed watching the parasailers take off, and once saw a guy take out a girl on a kayak while trying to rise up. She escaped unharmed, but returned the kayak and argued for her money back.

Ferry ride back to Koh Lanta, sunset meal at another beach establishment, then sleep.

Tuesday:  The boat rides were quicker for the 4 Island Tour. This time I traveled south in a long tail boat, with only 4 other tourists. I was begining to consider myself the Snorkle Master, until we dropped off one of the Thai guys on our boat, just off some rocky coast, with mask, fins, net, and a spear gun. We jetted to snorkle it up and see the “Emerald Cave”. I am getting decent at the “Dive down and blow out”, and can’t get enough of floating and looking down 50+ feet to the sea floor. An awe-inspiring sight which I highly recommend to everyone.

Next stop: water cave. We strapped on some vests and our guide grabbed a flashlight for the journey. A short and sometimes pitch black swim, led us to a small beach, surrounded by rock walls. Like being inside a volcano filled with plants, sand and water. Very, very cool.

We boated it back to pick up our speargun toting friend, 2.5 hours after we dropped him. He had a sack full of goodies: 2 lobster and I think 5 assorted fishes.

Pinchy and I

Pinchy and I

Our last stop was the island of Koh Ngai and my perfect beach. It had been in my dreams, but I was beginning to feel like my eyes would be left wanting. Long stretch of sand, shallow calm water, nice sandy sea floor, views of neighboring rocky islands, a strip of coral within reach, and very few people (oh, how I loathe people).

I

I

this could be yours

this could be yours

There are only a few resorts and they are not backpacker cheap, but this is the place I would stay next time. The views and space are what seal it for me, best beach, no contest.

A smooth boat ride back to the main island and yet another meal with sunset view for entertainment. My last night on the island, as tomorrow I begin the long series of bus rides back up to Bangkok. I regret not seeing Railay beach and in hindsight would have done a 1 day trip there from Krabi, but am very pleased with my time in the sun. And I have not actually blistered yet thanks to my new belief in sunscreen. I had always feared that the stuff would hurt my bronzing, I must be getting old and sensible.

ฉัน รู้สึก ว่า เรา เกาะ ทั้งหมด – ใน ทะเล ทั่วไป.

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Micah

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Saddened by the Beaver’s loss to the Ducks, I drowned my sorrows in the clear blue ocean waters off the coast of Koh Lanta. The beaches have been beautiful and the days have been relaxing.

Friday Afternoon: I arrived at my accommodations around 4pm and had just enough time to stroll down to the beach for a quick dip. Upon returning to my rugged bungalow, I noticed that I had no running water. Alerting the staff caused them to errupt in laughter. I joined in, though mine was of the nervous variety and not a joyous chuckle like the theirs. The room was already not the prettiest of sites, but now I was beginning to wonder whether it had been condemned and the yellow tape was removed before my arrival. A man went under the structure and was able to turn the water back on, but the shower pressure was a mere dribble.

A few other notes: the bathroom door was too big for the doorway and didn’t close, bathroom had many openings for leaves and things to fly in, no electrical outlets, and the roller chair/stool had only 2 wheels. The complex is placed up on one of the hilly outcoppings which made walks to the beach and shops a bit of a hike.

sun down go

sun down go

The bar/restaurant did have a sweet view of the sunsets and surrounding coves. I am just stating things and actually would have stayed if the shower would have been decent, since it was dirt cheap.

Saturday: After a full day spent on the beach, with the entire town powerless due to wind, I decided on a new venue. I booked a slightly more expensive bungalow in the next cove south, to spend my final 3 nights.

Sunday: The new place is better, shower dribbles harder, and I am satisfied. The beach is only about 50 skips away, smaller, quieter, and more swimmer friendly.

view good

view good

I spent the whole day snorkling and although it was only average conditions, had a blast. Another stunning sunset and scrumptious meal at a beachside eatery.

I can't get enough

I can't get enough

I have sightseeing trips planned for Monday (Koh Phi Phi, setting for “The Beach”) and Tuesday (Koh Lanta National Park 4 island tour).  Both should include snorkling, caves, and rejoicing. The weather has been perfect the past 2 days and I am slightly sunburned.

I had stressed most about this part of my trip, hoping to find a nice beach for a reasonable price, while not missing out on the best that Thailand has to offer. After about 3 days, I have to say that I am at peace with my choices. รักษา สิ่ง ที่ มี น้ำ เกลือ – เหงื่อ, น้ำตา หรือ ทะเล

Moonlight Sonata

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Sitting on a computer at my guest house, watching ESPN’s gamecast of the Civil War (football game between Oregon State University and Oregon), and wating for my ride out to the island, I figured I could write some things. The outcome should be decided before I finish typing, so there may be some random outbursts. Here is my take on the events of the past 3 days, or is it 4: (USB not working, pics will be added later)

Tuesday: Started with some fun on the rocks. There were huge boulders strewn atop a point, which provided Dan and I with some tests of our manhood. (Come on, protect the quarterback!)

The boulder was blocking our view, so I moved it.

The boulder was blocking our view, so I moved it.

Great views of our resort and neighboring coves.

The cove, with our place on the right

The cove, with our place on the right

We were able to get a quick swim in when we got back, until the rain started. A little bit of a downer, but still relaxing.

Wednesday: With our sights set on getting the full Thailand island experience, we hoped a boat to Koh Phangan for some lunar event. Hat Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach) was the best I had seen yet. A beautiful, flat sandy beach with waves to frolic in. (D-fence!, D-fence!) Many, many tourist walk the streets in this small town, with anticipation in the air for the nights festivities.

Every time the night light in the sky reaches it’s most circular shape, a shindig is thrown. The “Full Moon Party” can pack in crowds as big as 30,000 and covers nearly the entire beach. (Oregon cheated!) We decided to see what all of the fuss is about, and adorned our bodies with the appropriate accessories. Namely neon paint, necklaces, and wristbands. I went with an Orange and Black theme as you will see when I post a picture in the space below:

Striking a pose

Striking a pose

and another

and another

Booths selling buckets full of a Redbull, liquor, and soda mixture, line the beach aggressively trying to get you business. Bars have huge speakers to blast the latest in dance music and fire twirlers to get your attention. Dan and I made a failed attempt to get into fire jump rope action, but no scars to prove it. We mostly cruised up and down the beach, occasionally stopping when the music compelled us to express ourselves through body movement.

Us

Us

The scene was safer and cleaner than I expected, music was decent, and drinks were dirt cheap. Food stalls were widely available to satisfy cravings, although I still felt the need to stop and get a cheeseburger at 3am on the way home.

Thursday: The day after the revelry, we parted ways: I set sail to the mainland and the Andaman Coast, and SalazMeyer caught a flight back to Bangkok for their journey home. It is sad to split after an enjoyable 6 days, but I am excited to get back to my solo adventures. I would not have wanted to do these sites and events by myself and needed the socializing. After arrriving in Krabi around 8pm, I crashed.

My next destination is Koh Lanta, with a goal of sun, beaches, and quiet reading on my bungalow porch. The mini-van ride is almost here, so I will leave you with these last words: The Ducks got lucky!

Posse On Broadway

Monday, November 30th, 2009

The last few days have gone by quickly and I will try to make this blog go by even quicker. With SalazMeyer in town, I don’t have the usual lull in my day to write. This resort offers a fleeting wireless connection, so this iPod post will have to do. Pictures will be added later. Here is the rundown:

Thursday: After remembering that my guests weren’t arriving until Friday, I booked another night in Konchanaburi. With my extra day, I took a 34 km round trip bike ride south of town, to see 3 hilltop temples. A flat scenic ride along the river and a lot of climbed steps, were rewarded with dramatic views of the valleys and surrounding mountains.

something

something

They had been on my list and I was glad I had the time to check them out.

Friday: Slow bus ride to Bangkok, where I saw an insane number of farang (foreigners). Th Khao San is a strip of guest houses and bars that draw crowds from all over. There is a Pad Thai stand every 10 meters, as well as a funny tee-shirt booth. My place was about 2 blocks off the drag but had it’s own selection of agressive vendors. Met up with SalazMeyer about 10 pm and had drinks at neighborhood establishment. Then we walked around and bought thought provoking upper body clothing.

Saturday: Toured the Grand Palace,

Palace

Palace

then hit Chatachuk market for lunch. More shirt purchases mixed in with 2 pairs of swim trunks for myself. Supper at great local seafood place followed with drinks at Moon Bar (Thanks Emmo).

Sunday: 3 am wakeup to catch 6 am flight to Koh Samui.

inside the flying machine

inside the flying machine

2 hour ferry ride to paradise (Koh Tao).

Koh Tao

Koh Tao

Swimming in picturesque long, shallow, clear sandy beach.

me in water

me in water

Toss in a little frisbee throwing and water side eating, and you have my first day on a tropical island. Finished with stroll down shore and fire twirlers. (cool pics forthcoming).

Supper stop

Supper stop

fire

fire

Monday: Moved to other side of island via 4wd truck, to be beach side and secluded. Amazing place set in small cove. Snorkled most of day, never tried before, spectacular!

the spot

the spot

SalazMeyer depart Friday, so we are debating how/where to spend the other nights. I will hang south for another 10 days and may try to see the western beaches. Feels like a whole nother trip now that I have company. Will try to post again soon, but think that my activities wont change much. Time to get the sand off my feet.
Go Beavers!

Of Monsters and Heroes and Men

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

After one long bus trip, surviving Bangkok’s northern terminal, and then one shorter bus trip, I arrived at Kanchanaburi around 8am. Luckily, my floating raft room was available to accept this road weary vagabonder.

Tuesday: Began with a brief nap in the most comfortable bed I have had in the past 6 weeks. With 2 nights reserved, I settled in and rented a bike to explore stuff. First stop was a temple with caves, about a 1 hour big wheel ride south of town. An interesting site, that had several chambers with Buddha’s and some cool rock formations.

On the ride back to town, I stopped by the Chung Kai Allied War Cemetery. Resting place  to nearly 1,800 prisoners of war, who died while constructing a railroad bridge over Khwae Yai River for the Empire of Japan during World War II. Some of you may know the book/movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” which tries to depict the brutal living conditions the workers endured.

My next stop though was the larger, main Allied War Cemetery, back in town. It contains the graves of 6,982 POWs, mostly British, Australian, Dutch and Canadians (The few Americans were repatriated). Japan needed a faster and safer way to get supplies to their troops in Burma, which they took control of to cut off China’s supply line. An estimated 160,000 people died during the railways construction, with the majority being Asian civilian workers.

Know as "Death Railway"

Known as "Death Railway"

I later stopped by the bridge museum and then biked down to see the Death Railway. A big tourist attraction, they were setting up for the light show they do this time of year. The center of the bridge was damaged by Allied bombing and has been reconstructed, with only the outer curved spans being original.

The somber afternoon ended with a view of the sunset from my back deck and a stroll through the night market for nourishment.

river

river

boat in water

boat in water

Wednesday: The much anticipated Erawan Waterfalls was on the agenda, and it did not disappoint. A 90 mintue bus ride away, in Erawan National Park, the falls contains 7 levels of  water tumbling over limestone. With a 1.6 km hike up to the 7th level, I was hoping to get away from the European speedos, but they were everywhere. After reaching the top, I made a goal of sampling each one on the way back down. The crystal clear water rolling over the colorful limestone boulders, made for some spectacular scenary. Enough words, let’s have a look at what I am talking about:

level #1

level #1

Level ?

Level ?

In the picture below: The hairy, buff, Eastern European looking man in the falls, is not me.

Level #3

Level #3

Level #5

Level #5

The water was spilling out before I got in

The water was spilling out before I got in

Proudest monkey

Proudest monkey

Although a bit challenging, I have enjoyed finding ways to take pictures of myself. In the picture above, I am imitating the monkeys that I saw near the top level. Except they were throwing things down at the tourist. Carp were the other one of God’s creatures that were prominent. They had an irritating habit of nipping at my legs which made swimming less fun. The only other disappointing thing about Erawan, a lack of clear sunshine spots to lounge in, everything else was amazing.

Another rewarding stop in another breathtaking part of Thailand. The city also reaffirmed a belief I have long held, “SE Asian women love me”. Case in point: just walking down the main street, groups of them standing outside empty bars are calling to me and asking where I am from. I was of course flattered and a little curious, but I found their behavior to be a bit too desperate. I think men and woman should meet in the more traditional way, on the day of their pre-arranged marriage.

Next Up: Meeting SalazMeyer in Bangkok on Friday. ถ้วย ของ ฉัน ทำงาน ผ่าน

Der fröhliche Wanderer

Monday, November 23rd, 2009
The city I am currently in is known as New Sukhothai. Not all that impressive of a place, but it does serve as a fine base for trips to Sukhothai Historical Park and Si Satchanalai Historical Park. These parks are Thailands “Machu Picchu” or “Angkor Wat”, but much less dramatic or touristy. My park adventures shall be laid out before you in this photos montage with a few words sprinkled in.
———
Sunday, Sukhothai Historical Park: A fairly popular stop for people on their way up north to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. I figured Sunday would be somewhat busy, but it was not that bad. The park is a short, cheap bus ride from town, but covers a large area. Almost everybody rents bicycles, which allow you to see all of the site while rolling peacefully down tree lined streets. Brief history: Sukhothai was capitol of the region during the 13th and 14th century, contains many remains of Wats (temples) which inturn contain many “Chedis” and “Buddhas”, many of the ruins are ruined but some are in very good shape and you can make out how majestic they were in their time. The old city is surrounded by a series of large moats and walls, in a near perfect square. The prime Wats are mainly in the center, but outside the walls there are a few gems.
Take a look for yourself:
Cruisin'

Cruisin'

Chedi is big pointy thing, remeber that.

Chedi is big pointy thing, remember that.

The main Wat in center of park

The main Wat in center of park

Me again

Me

Buddha

Buddha

Me

Me again

My guest house is a nice quiet place, a little ways out of town. I am staying in a bungalow for the first time since it was only $10. Only problem I had was with the creature that scratched at my roof at 4am. I had to tell myself that it wasn’t going to get through and fall into the room. It also sounded as if it was being chased around and at one point seemed to be crying.  Now back on more of the normal tourist route, I met a few people from places. On the bus ride out to park, I talked to a nice couple from England. They were staying at the same guest house as I.  On the bus ride back, a friendly solo traveler who has lived the past 5 years in Ashland, OR. He is trying to find work in Thailand. Good chats.

Monday, Si Satchanalai Historical Park:  The lesser known and visited site, the place is about 57km north of Sukhothai and requires you to catch a bus heading north and request a dropoff. Plans worked out and I was dropped at the park entrance along with a jolly German couple, whom I enjoyed chatting with during certain walks. I did rent a bike when we got to one section, but the park can be done on foot. There are a few Wats outside the city walls that really aren’t required viewing. Brief History: I don’t really know, I think the same time frame as the last place, just not as large or important. Much more of a park like feel, with very few other people and venders. Most of the time I had the Wats to myself, which made for a very enjoyable viewing experience. I hope these photos portray that:

Bike

Bike

a Wat

a Wat

looking down, imagine a roof

looking down

a good one

a good one

You can see the one other tourist at this Wat

You can see the one other tourist at this Wat

Clothing is not the original from 13th century

Clothing is not the original from 13th century

Zie Germans, did not rent a bike but I ran into them multiple times throughout the park. We waited about an hour at the bus stop together, for a ride back to Sukhothai. Thay have been to Thailand 10 times, yet still find new places to explore. I enjoyed the past 2 days very much and was glad to see sites other than the more common and recently built city Wats.

Currently in my pocket, I have a bus ticket to BKK with a 22:40 departure. The trip is 7 hours, which should line up good to catch another bus out to Kanchanaburi (3 hours west). I can get a good chunk of traveling out of the way during the dark hours, and have a floating raft room reserved for Tuesday night (still just $10). So, I am headed back into the mountains and waterfalls for 2 nights before I meet my friends SalazMeyer in the “Venice of the East”. บน ท้อง ถนน อีก ครั้ง

Different Names for the Same Thing

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Now, I know that all of you have been on pins and needles, waiting to hear about my adventure into Myanmar (Burma). But, my plans did not come to fruition, which all shall be explained in this semi-interesting story.

Saturday: I have discovered a new alarm, I was awakened by the playing of the national anthem at 6:50am. After the music, a womans voice comes on and words are said for what seems like another 10 minutes. Maybe it was the location of my guest house, possibly right next to a speaker, but it was loud. An early wake up was in the plans anyways, so I proceeded with my day as scheduled: Stroll to bus station, check on departure to next town, mosey back to guesthouse, check out, and store backpack.

As I was checking out, the owner of the place (a Thai teacher) asked me where I was from. Upon hearing that I came from the U.S.A., a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district, she politely asked if I could tutor one of her students. They had a big Spelling Bee tomorrow and she would really appreciate a native english speakers help. I told her that I wanted to make a run to the border, but could postpone it a few hours. So, I grabbed a bag of breakfast noodles from the market and returned to the house. The student showed up a few minutes later, and I was handed this list of Spelling Bee words:

The List

The List

There were actually 2 lists, each with over 200 words. I basically just tried to read the words as clearly as I could, and watch to see if she wrote them down correctly. The student was in the 10th grade, I think, and had much better handwriting than myself. She cruised on some words, probably the ones that she remebered from past sessions, and others were a struggle. The biggest difficulty was hearing which vowel to put in and especially how to finish words that end in “tion”, “sion”, or “ious”. It was a good learning experience for both of us, and a chance for me to talk a lot after a quiet past couple days.

After all the spelling, the Teacher also thought that one of the rounds would be “fill in the blank”. I told her this would be impossible, imagine a Thai person trying to fill in the following sentence: “Discrimination of any sort is ___ in a civilized society.” Answer: Abhorrent. Yep, How do you define abhorrent to a Thai 10th grader? I barely know what it means, but the teacher tried to define every word in the sentence above to the student. I humored her for a bit, but opted to just read some more words and create my own phrases. Mostly using my goto one “The Man/Woman was ___”.

The teacher told me that their current English instructors are getting on in years and that they could use a handsome, intelligent, and elloquent speaking man, like myself. (That is not word for word, her english was a little broken so I had to assume some things) My initial thought “Me teach English, that’s unpossible”. But, I gave her my email address, so we shall see what happens.

Part of me wonders whether I, Micah, should be teaching English to others. Let’s be honest and put it all on the table: English was not my best subject in school, I can barely understand it, I rarely read anything other than sports stories, and my pronunciation leaves much to be desired. I know I butchered a few words while reciting them to her, and even skipped many so as not to irreparably damage this young mind. With all of that, if the offer comes, I will have some thinking to do.

The clock struck noon, and the lesson ended. Discussing my border plans further with Teach, a Visa concern came up and she made some calls. Upon return to Thailand from Maynmar, tourists receive a 15 day extension. I have 21 days left on my 60 day visa, and 3 weeks to go. The lady on the phone made it seem that my 60 day would be nulled and I would be left with the 15 day they give me, leaving me short of my departure day. I don’t know the truth, but considered this a possible outcome. Plus, I worried about having time to catch my ride east. Thus, the husband of the Teach drove me to the border, so that I could see the “Friendship Bridge” and what lies across it, then dropped me off at the Bus terminal.

From there: lots of waiting, squeezing my legs into the minivan, going through checkpoints, and finally arriving in Sukhothai for supper. Also, I had a realization that it is good to be a man of average height and weight, and no longer dream of having an NBA or NFL type body. Travel like this would be near impossible (although if I was rich, I could roll in style). So, to all those kids out there, work with what you got. If you are short: travel is easy and you can get into the McDonald’s playland ball room. Tall and hairy: you can get into R movies and buy alchohol. Average height and looks: well, we just tend to blend into the crowd and thus can get away with minor looting during riots. ไป ลูก ๆ ของ ฉัน ด้วย การ ให้ ความ สุข ของ ฉัน

Livin’ On The Edge

Friday, November 20th, 2009

I knew that the 6 hr sorng-taa-ou ride from Mae Sariang to Mae Sot, while hugging the border with Myanmar (Burma), would be interesting, but was happy to learn all of the reasons why.

Picture me rollin

Picture me rollin

Friday morning, I boarded the open-air bus at the station with only 2 other passengers, and began the long journey. Random pickups and dropoffs were constantly made, and we even accepted cargo, such as a motorbike and 6 banana tree trunks.

The most interesting passengers: a group of about 15 school children (roughly 10 years old) that piled onto the back, most just grasping the outside rail. While the driver slowed for their stop, one of them actually fell off. I think he was expecting the driver to stop sooner and released his grip prematurely. I just heard the noise and turned to see him face down on the gravel. He slowly got up, looked at his elbow, and dusted himself off. One of his friends paid his fare for him and went back to check his status. He was able to walk away but seemed a little confused.

The views were always stunning, as we climbed passes and dipped through valleys. We cruised through numerous small farming villages, where the driver would honk multiple times to alert all to his presence. The most fascinating section was a 3 km stretch past the largest Burmese refugee camp in Thailand, called Mae La.

Best one I could get

Best one I could get

It has an estimated population of about 60,000 who have been displaced by the ongoing civil war across the border. We were constantly going through military check points armed machine gun carrying soldiers, but I wasn’t expecting to see the thousands of huts lining the valley. A loose barbed wire fence acts as the barrier to the road, while the other side is protected by a rather steep range of cliffs. There have been threats of violence to this site made by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) as recently as this past July.

I was the only passenger who made the full trek and estimate that we had roughly 50 different passengers throughout the full run. My current city, Mae Sot, almost feels like another country. The look of the town and the people is drastically different than any other place I have visited. The local market is vibrant and diverse, due to the large number of Burmese residents. It was a shame I had just eaten.

I did not sample

I did not sample

Market

Market

And, the few Wats in town actually showed me some things I hadn’t seen before.

He seems content

I know the feeling

The city is about 57 km south of the refugee camp and is home to many NGO workers. Being only about 7 km away from the border, I am going to attempt to cross over tomorrow. Don’t worry Mom, it is an open route that many tourist take to renew their visas. I will be going to take advantage of the 1 day access they allow, just so that I can say I have been there. To be safe, I will leave my soap box at the guest house and avoid any large lively gatherings of people. ทำให้ รัก ไม่ใช่ สงคราม