Monday, November 30, 2009

Poetic Locomotion

What was now, is now has been
And what's to be is soon enough then.
All that's coming and going is but a dream,
so that all that matters is the now in between.

PLAY ME!
video

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blessings and Flip Flops

We got blessed on Tuesday. We visited a temple and got shown around by a monk. He took us back to his room where we prayed and then got his blessing and bracelets for good luck. The good luck had a short expiration date, however, because that night Miles and I went to another moon party (half moon this time) and we BOTH had our flipflops stolen. This time I was paranoid about keeping my footwear, so we took extra care in picking our hiding spot. We trudged off into the woods and stowed them behind a tree under some palm fronds. We had to make a mental map, remembering landmarks and such to make sure we'd be able to find our way back. Again, when light began creeping in over the horizon, we went back to our hiding spot found nothing there but scattered palm fronds. I'm beginning to lose my faith in footwear here. In fact, we both went a day and a half before we broke down and bought new sandals, because our feet were getting too raw and dirty for our liking.

Losing my shoes wasn't enough to cloud all my good memories from that night. One stands out to me of dancing with a big, bear-like man. I saw him come out of the crowd like a yeti emerging from the woods. When we saw each other, we had a sort of understanding and started dancing with all our might. I had never danced with such abandon. The crowd even stood back a little both to give us enough room and for their own safety. When we were through, we both hollered and embraced one another in bear hugs, celebrating our new brotherhood.

Miles and I are back in Bangkok now to pick John up from the airport. It's comfortable coming back to the same place twice, even if it is Bangkok.
Happy Thanksgiving, by the way.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Plunges


My favorite part of a dive into water is the rise back to the surface. It starts after plunging down to the trough of the dive, and I give my upraised arms one breast stroke to my sides to send my arced body upwards. In those few feet of water, I remain still as water flows over me and washes the dirt from the day, and the clutter from my mind. I feel like could be there forever, perpetually floating to the surface, and I could be content. But breaking the surface is inevitable, and it makes the fleeting rise from the depths all the more special.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buckets and flipflops

Fucking Cheap Bucket

So they have these things called buckets here. You all probably think you already know what a bucket is, but in Thailand, the word carries extra meaning. In the West, if someone was like, "Hey, man. Do you wanna split a bucket?" You'd be all, "I have no idea what you're talking about." But here, people will say, "Yeah, man!" because here a bucket is a small plastic pale filled with ice, a flask of liquor, a can of soda, and a Red Bull, thus creating a utilitarian cocktail to go. They're the unofficial national beverage. Beach fronts or streets known for their night life are filled with vendors selling the exact same buckets for the exact same prices, and all you have to go on to choose a seller is the vendors' decorations and the volume of their voice. Beers can get expensive here, so for the frugal traveler, buckets are the popular, economical choice.
My flipflops got stolen here on a night when Miles and I were indulging in the national beverage. As I've said before, the island we're on is famous for full moon parties, but for those of us on the other side of the lunar cycle, they also throw black moon parties with the same spirit. After dinner and a bucket or two, we arrived at the party around 1 a.m. (things get started really late here), and since the dancing was on the beach, we hid our sandals to enjoy the night barefoot. Our hiding spot was pretty decent. When I tucked them behind an out of the way bungalow, the thought didn't even enter my mine: "Is this hiding spot good enough?" I had total faith that I would be leaving the party with footwear. But alas, I was wrong. We danced the whole night without a single worry, but when light began creeping in from the east, we went to get our flipflops, but only found one pair--Miles' pair. The real bummer is that I really liked my flipflops. I sent my tennis shoes home. because I was so confident in the comfort of my flipflops. And Miles didn't really like his flipflops. He was even thinking of buying a new pair here, but his were the flipflops that weren't stolen. I've already got a new pair. They're alright, but I take them off half the time, because my bare feet are just as comfortable. I'm over it now. It's all just a part of travelling.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Island Hops and Hopes




The Thai islands are both not what we expected, and exactly as we expected. They're very beautiful and very crowded. We weren't prepared for how crowded they actually are. In the land of understatements, to call the tourist path here "beaten," is king. Our plan was to rent climbing shoes in Railay, and "climb every day for the next two weeks." What actually happpened is that I got ill again, we never went climbing, and then left Railay after three nights. We did, however, meet two Coloradoans there, and Miles and I decided people from Colorado are pretty cool. There also must be some sort of unexplained attraction between Coloradoans, because without making any plans, we kept running into this couple for several days in unlikely places.

After Railay, we went to Koh Phi Phi pretty much because it's obligatory for tourists to stop there. It was stunning. Both in landscapes and the sheer number of foreigners in such a small space. Everything is done in excess there: partying, drinking, tattooing. The girl from Colorado saw my tattoo and asked if I got it here. I felt a sense of revulsion at the idea and gave her a stern, "No, I got this in America!" I'm painting a grim portrait of these places, but it's actually easy to have a good time here. On Koh Phi Phi, Miles and I rented a kayak and went around one side of the island. The currents were in our favor, so we were able to rest whenever we liked, and we still drifted by the limestone cliffs toward our destination. We made landfall on the opposite side of the isthmus from where we rented the kayak, so we hired a cart pusher to push our kayak on his cart to the other side. That night we were going to go out at one of the beach parties, but I still wasn't feeling well, so I went to bed and left the partying up to Miles.
Now we're on Koh Phangan, where we actually plan to stay for the 10 days until we pick John up in Bangkok. I'm feeling good about this island. I'm feeling the best about this place since we left Lake Toba and Pulau Weh in Sumatra. It's a big island with lots of wilderness in the middle, and the city of Haad Rin, which is famous (or infamous?) for the full moon parties. We won't be here for a full moon, but that makes little difference here, because they also have half moon, and black moon parties (the black moon is tomorrow night). Basically they're partying all the time. This would normally wear us down, but we have a place at the very tip of the penninsula from where it's dark, quiet, and you can't even see any signs of civilization. From our secluded retreat, we can decide if and when we want to partake in the island's offerings. I've been traveling for nearly two months now, and I embrace any place that can feel something like a home.

Railay


Two Thais fishing up the beach from where we're staying. Over that rocky bit in the background is Haad Rin.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tick on my Butt


Yup, I got a tick on my butt. I first noticed it on the plane ride from Sumatra to Kuala Lumpur as a sore spot on my left check. Miles confirmed it for me, and then once we knew how, he removed it too. At first we were going to burn it off with a smoldering piece of incense, but then we decided to read up on it first. After looking at some tutorials of how to remove ticks from dogs, we learned that it's best to just use tweezers, so tweezers we bought and then went to work. Miles spent several minutes face-to-cheek, examining and then tugging at the tick that didn't want to let go. Even now, after having it out for a day, the spot where it dwelt is still as sore as if I still carried it with me.

We've spent three days in Kuala Lumpur. This city is famous for shopping, and I can't actually believe how many malls this city can support. There are major malls right across the street from other major malls. Some of them are 10 stories high. There were a few things we each needed to buy, but even more things we wanted to send home. We sent a 7 kilo box of miscellanea home on the slow boat for about $30. Now our packs are lighter than ever as we head back up to Thailand tonight on the night train. We're going to a beach town called Rai Leh, which is famous for its rock climbing. There are huge limestone cliffs on the mainland, and monoliths of rock shooting up from the sea. Though we're several months out of practice, Miles and I are going to get some shoes and climb every day for the next two weeks.



Including the driver, we fit four on a motorcycle taxi.

One of the crazy malls.

Tonight will make the third night we'll have eaten at this restaurant where you eat with your hands off a banana leaf.


We were very tired from a long day of walking.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Time Keepers


A jungly waterfall on Pulau Weh

Of water we have five gallons; of money we have two million rupiah; of reading material we have 400 pages. We've decided that when the first one of our three assets runs out, we'll leave this island. We've toured the major tourists spots and partaken in the popular activities, so now we're living the lives of the locals. Actually we probably look hasty compared to the locals, what with our book reading and frequent swimming. I'm not all that sure what the locals do here. The only activity I can catch them in the act of is lounging, mostly. I have seen them doing laundry too, and motoring to and fro in their little boats. But lounging is their principal past time. Miles and I are mere amateurs at the sport. After an hour or two of it I get restless and go swimming, or walk from the bungalow forest to the small village to have tea. We're becoming familiar faces in the small crowd of locals and tourists. There are only 3 restaurants we go to, and we're greeted as regulars at them all. We've already been here long enough to see groups of tourists come and go while we remain. But at the same time there are people who have lived this spartan life for months or years. Some people come here for months at a time, and only leave to go earn money in a wealthier country, only to come back here. I couldn't do that. At least I don't think I could--It would take some practice. Or rather I'd have to unlearn some of the work ethic from college. Already, though, I can feel that slow change. Today passed with surprising swiftness, yet when people asked what I did today, I struggled to name more than two things: swimming and reading. After this we're flying to Kuala Lumpur. I'm afraid I may melt under the stress of a big city, but at the same time I think I'll be ready for a change of pace.