Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

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

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

The Scam?

Friday, November 6th, 2009

My first day in Bangkok and it is possible I was already scammed. I relate the feeling to losing at poker: It happened really fast and I walked away in a daze replaying every decision.

I will give the details and you can decide for yourself:
So, I meet this guy on the street while taking a picture of this

Water Monitor

Water Monitor

3 blocks from the train station (i know i know, but please wait till the end to make up your mind)

His plane back home to northern Thailand wasn’t going to leave for another 6 hrs, so we walk and talk for a while. I agree to tour with him to see the Giant Buddha, where he did some praying and showed me how to place incense sticks and distribute some coins among cups that represent months of the year. He pays for the taxi ride, then some food, water, and beer at a local spot. Contact information is exchanged, pictures are shared, and an offer is made for me to come stay with his family up near the border with Laos. We take a boat ride through canals and see some cool stuff along the way while he points out wildlife and the contrast between poor and rich lifestyles.

I'm On A Boat!

I'm On A Boat!

After the boat trip ends, I say I will pay since he has covered everything else. The price he tells me seems very high, and then apologetically he asks me if I can cover his portion as well, because he doesn’t have enough cash. I cover and he thanks me and says that now I must come stay with him so he can repay. He flags me a cab and tells them where to take me.

After we part, I can’t help but try to sort it all out. I figured he could have been working with the boat man and went back to collect his spoils. I’ve gone back and forth in my head I still am not sure. Here is an ordered list of pros and cons:

Scam:

  1. He picked me up on the street when I was taking a photo.
  2. He received and made a few phone calls, and got some beeps as well.
  3. Felt almost like a guided tour.
  4. He didn’t seem to say all that much to the boat driver, yet we went places.
  5. Local stop was very small, he bought much beer and kept refilling my glass, and asked me if I was having a good time.
  6. When boat ride was done, he had to go different direction than I, and quickly got me into a cab.
  7. It was a lot of money, and he asked me to cover his portion after possibly looking into my wallet.

Not Scam:

  1. Very nice, average looking, 58 year old man.
  2. Said he worked for the government and was down here because of meeting @ embassy.
  3. Said he was going to visit his son at Texas A&M in December and also was going to head out to San Diego to see a former teacher.
  4. We had boat for almost 3 hours, made the driver wait while we ate at stop, and some of  the rates people talk about online were very close to the rate I paid.
  5. He was very apologetic and grateful.

I know that I have listed more Scams than Not, but I currently am leaning toward the later.  All train ride up north I though scam, but after reading what was posted about rates people have paid, I swung back the other way, partly so I feel better inside. Either way, I wish I had the money back and consider the experience, although fun, not worth the price.

After I send an email to him later this week, I should know more, and may cruise out that way to pop my head into Laos. I do have his name, so if I get convinced that it was a scam, some searching will be done and when I find “Amanda Hugginkiss”, he’s going to be sorry. อาจจะมาตรฐานฉันสูงเกินไป

The Other Stuff

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I have a few random thoughts and events that I would like to present to you at this time. With no rhyme, reason, or mitigation, here they are:

Took a day trip up to Bangkok with the group to do Chatachuk Market. Host and Co were looking for spa/coffee shop items and the Bikers sought out restaurant serving things (they plan on opening a little place in Chicago when they return to states). I did some browsing but was only serious about food. With 5 weeks left, I don’t want to lug anything around, plus I will be back through BKK 3 more times.

The market is enormous, thus we got lost a few times. Favorites from the food section were: These shrimb/crab balls, they cooked in a pan shaped like an egg carton. They would spin them constantly, top with stuff, and serve. Fantastic.

good eats

Good Eats

Out shining the balls, was my first bowl of Tom Yum. A spicy broth soup with ground pork, fish balls, peanuts, noodles, bean sprouts, and more, finding the best in Thailand will be my chore.

Good Tom Yum

Good Tom Yum

I love the style of spoon you see above and will bring some back to states. Mango made a shrimp Tom Yum for my last supper, equally pleasing.

Last thing of note from the market, random painting of Mark Ruffalo, especially since all other works were regular museum art. I am a fan of his work but did not pull the trigger on the purchase.

Mark

Mark

On the way home from BKK, we stopped at a rest area and patronized a KFC. Tidbits: I sampled the Shrimp Donut, pretty much as you would imagine, shrimp and things molded into donut form, breaded and deep fried. Host ordered the Shrimp and Cheese balls, like the donut just different shape. I figure these are Thailand specific menu items, although I haven’t been to one of the Colonel’s establishments in some time, due to his wee beady eyes and that smug look on his face.

Went on a 15 min bike ride to reservoir last week to swim. Fun being stared and pointed at by Thai’s, saying “look over there, there is a white man in the water” (loose translation, my Thai is still limited). One kid swam up to me with a big smile and said hello, when I replied in kind, he swam back to his friends and told the story of his encounter. Group on the shore waved, laughed and said “Hello!”. I then biked the rest of the way around the reservoir which took an hour. Fun being on small streets, waiting for water buffalo to cross, and getting more stares. No pics, my camera randomly tweaked out on me, saying “card unreadable”. Have enjoyed riding the farm bike around, been years since i’ve rode this much.

Addition to the food pics, a close-up of me chomping on a cricket. I actually enjoyed the taste, although I will eat anything that’s fried.

It was either him or me

It was either him or me

(Note: I was posing for the picture and didn’t really have that rage in my eyes while eating.)

That is about it for the randoms from my stay here. Today I hop a train to my next adventure. I imagine I will come back some day to see how my projects have finished. They say I am welcome anytime. The rest of Thailand awaits, stay tuned to see what crazy adventures Micah gets into next. วันนี้ฉันฉลองวันประกาศอิสรภาพของฉัน

The Journey

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

All has been relatively smooth so far. I enjoyed flying over Alaska and getting to see Mt. McKinley. Also enjoyed 3 movies and 3 1/2 meals.

Mt. Denali

Mt. McKinley

After not seeing a driver from my hotel, I got a “taxi” ride from 3 women in an unmarked car. A little sketchy, but I was confident that I wasn’t going to be driven down an alley and robbed.
The next morning: I hopped a bus to Bang Phra thanks to a map I showed 5 people, figured out how to make a 3 cent phone call, and got picked up by my host on the side of a busy street.
Nice place, 7 other WWOOFers here right now, no actual farming yet, amazing meal on coast with constantly full beer glass.

Last Exit To Bangkok

Monday, October 12th, 2009

The time has come. Tuesday morning, I will board the first flight in my 3 legged journey to Bangkok. I have been talking about traveling to distant lands ever since I delivered my resignation letter to FedEx Ground. A trip to Peru in July was a nice taste, but now I want some extended time overseas.

A few weeks of internet searches revealed an opportunity to volunteer on an organic farm in Thailand. The organization is called “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” aka WWOOF.  WWOOF has many branches and is also sometimes listed as Willing Workers On Organic Farms. I signed up with the WWOOF Independents group because of the number and variety of countries they list hosts for. From the list, I chose Thailand as my destination, due to the number of hosts (14), tropical climate, and inexpensive goods and services.

farming

The tentative schedule for my 2 months is as follows: 3 weeks on a farm an hour SE of Bangkok, 1-2 weeks on a farm just outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, and then 3-4 weeks of tourist activities. I will be joined in The Kingdom by my friends Dan and Alicia for a week, beginning on Nov 27th, which I am excited about.

I decided to start a blog so that I can let family and friends know when I get into the snake trading business and drive a boat of missionaries into Burma. As the title suggests, I will try not to mitigate myself, after I figure out what that word means. I can already tell that it may take me a while to write each post, so in the future I will butcher the english language even more trying to crank them out. Thus I would like to apologize to all of those bloggers that I have secretly mocked, it was obtuse of me.

Well, it’s time to start packing, catch you on the flip side.