i took otto (who brought me a bag of bananas) to check his email today and translate letters from a girl who calls him "sweetheart" and sends him money every month. i thought it was quite amusing. otherwise i hung out on my hammock and on the beach preparing myself mentally for the black moon party at the jah bar. it's also chinese new year so the thai people are mostly on vacation and can take a break from their 14 hour a day jobs and relax for once. all day long groups of singing drunk thais have been speeding by in their songthaews.

i ended up at the nature bar which was quiet since jah bar is stealing all the business tonight. i like it much better when the guys there can actually hang out and talk. i stayed long enough to watch joe (my favorite) firedance and then headed to the jah bar with everyone else. at the bar i sat next to an israeli guy named yair. he ended up being really interesting. he is headed to south india the day before i am. otto did everything he could to prevent my talking to him, including being flat out rude. he stared at me all night long, followed me around the bar with puppy dog eyes, gave me a free t-shirt (off his back), made me free drink after free drink, the usual.... at one point when i had been dancing with yair and sharing my sangsom bucket, i thought otto would just knock him out. by the end of the night it was such a ridiculous bad energy that i made robin sneak out with me early and i just went to bed. bit of drama.



my present for the day from otto was ice cream on the beach while all his thai friends made excuses to laugh and giggle and point and say good luck to him. he brought his jambe drum out for me to practice on but i was too shy to do much on the beach in front of everyone. his friend from madagascar gave it to him and it's now his prize possession. he's pretty good.

paid a visit to mr. prasit at his restaurant to keep him on the line in case i decide to stay awhile. it was another off day, probably since i brought robin along, and after smoking a quick joint with his son and playing some gratuitous rounds of jenga with the deafmute girl we excused ourselves to head back before sunset.

i went to bed early to escape robin, who has been one step behind me everywhere i go since he arrived. i like the kid but damn he could use some independence.


lonely beach, ko chang

otto serenading me

mr. prasit at the restaurant in klong prao confessed to me today that he has the same birthday i do. i will have to embark on a quest for a nice bottle of 100 pipers whiskey in the next day or so to give him that day. i spent some time hanging out with him and his deafmute daughter in law, writing back and forth with her (she actually writes pretty good english) and playing with the baby. he still wants my help pretty badly but i can't get him to say how much he would pay me or anything. i have a feeling if i stayed here awhile i would end up helping him but not actually working for him. still, he did say i have free accomodation if i want. the poor guy can't make anything on his menu, and i suppose my cooking skills are better than the thais' when it comes to farang food. i could also teach him some english and help him set up an internet service, help him stock his bar, watch his baby.... the list goes on. there is work here if i want it.

otto from jah bar is making himself a constant presence in my life. he brings me presents every day and since i am his "neighbor" he feels it is ok for him to plop himself down on my hammock and chat for hours on my porch. i don't really mind. he was really nice to me when i had my motorbike accident, and the whole present thing started when he kept dropping by with gauze, tape, and iodine to doctor my arm. today he brought his guitar and sang for me for a couple of hours. it was thai music which i don't like and don't understand but nevertheless it was good. he is a sweet guy, if a little too persistent. i secretly wonder if he just wants a little farang girlfriend because his friends all have them.


my wound

cartoonishly huge grasshopper

at the beach but i can't swim or sunbathe--- big wound, no sun today. robin left bandaids on my doorstep this morning which was sweet of him but otherwise i didn't see much of him. i went for a walk on the jungle road and otto spied on me from above at the jah bar. he called me up to chill out with him. he had a picnic lunch laid out... we had small boiled birds' eggs (delicious), sweet sticky rice with beans (delicious), soft boiled peanuts (delicious), and some sort of nut that you have to peel before you eat (delicious). we talked for about 3 hours. he played his drum, showed me family pictures from his poor boyhood in issan, taught me some thai. he had a street stall on khao san road in bangkok prior to his escape to ko chang. he made and still makes very little money and i believe the bulk of it is profits from selling weed at the bar (they all do it, including the paid-off cops). thai people are ecstatic if they make 40,000 baht a year- that's only $1000! he wants to travel horrendously but it's virtually impossible for thais to do so. he hasn't even seen much of thailand.

someone from seattle taught the boys at jah bar to make a bong from a coke can so they shared their new knowledge with me. they have nicknamed me "nong yim". i think it means "smiley" which is sort of funny and off base, and might be because a lot of the time they see me stoned. pot by the way is so widely available and accepted on this beach- not like the rest of thailand at all. it's almost better than holland here if it weren't for the lower quality of the actual smoke.

same same tonight- from the treehouse to the nature bar for the fireshow to the jah bar to bed.


love those scottish

typical miika :)

crab fights dog

this part of my journal must be unendingly boring for someone not here. sorry, not much to say when the biggest decision you make all day is which beach to wander to next. ko chang is such an ultimate paradise. it's laid back, i know the locals, i have my little routines down. most of all it's just sublimely unearthly beautiful and relaxed.

today i was in pain on my entire right side and spent most of the day reading. i am on a huge irvine welsh kick. otto from the jah bar brought me some antibiotic ointment and hung out on my porch for a bit. i watched the sunset.

i was up on the beach until 3 am with the remaining finnish kids. there was a firedancing competition of sorts in which the farangs jumped in, and later sani from the bar came to entertain us with stories of vampires on ko chang. miika got drunk and was laughing at everything by the end of the night, which was cute since he's usually pretty reserved. the finnish girls don't say much either but they are so pretty i don't think anyone minds. and that was that.



robin arrived in ko chang today which put a weird tilt to the energy here for me but it's ok. i went with him and miika to pick up his bags and get him settled into a new bungalow on the next beach. 3 on a motorbike was interesting. (ack.) otherwise today was same same.... a lot of hanging around on the beach talking to people...watching thai fisherman dig for weird things while we ate our special apple fritters. drooling over the firedancing show...the like.

damn the gorgeousness of scandivanians

damn the gorgeousness of thai bartenders too

i paid 600 baht for my damaged motorbike- a fair price i think. spent some time nursing my wounds and feeling like the town cripple at the beach but i am getting a nice tan.

i went to the nature bar to try to pick up my favorite firedancer/guitarist extraordinaire, joe. joe is quiet and aloof and his flirting with me is shy and minmal so i talked to his friend sani who invited me to go out to dinner with them. i was excited about this until i realized joe has a little farang girlfriend already. maybe if i had come next week instead. :) anyway dinner consisted of a bunch of farangs and a few thai guys including sani who entertained us with stories of the thai army. i suppose all this is boring to anyone besides me but it was fun and i met a lot of cool people tonight and that's all.

juuso passed out on the beach.


my cozy little shack by the sea

i went to bed at about 7 am so i slept most of the day but it was glorious. i finally woke up from a komodo dragon nightmare at about 2 or so. i went to visit mr. prasit at his restaurant but was a little too out of it to be so friendly. he was subdued as well, and i was about to find that it was an off day. on the way back to lonely beach i crashed my motorbike. hard. damn puppies in the street. i have a nice tattoo souvenir from ko chang all down the side of my body now. ow.

i did meet a nice thai guy who seemed concerned about my bleeding hamburger meat arm as i finally arrived at the bridge to my bungalow. otto who works at the jah bar. seems like a friendly neighbor. everyone is so laid back here.

so tonight i put the lazy and perpetually too tired to party finnish kids to bed and headed over to the jah bar. i had a nice wee chat with a british girl who works here which interested me since i am considering doing the same. she made it sound worth it and we got along pretty well despite her being a girl. :) i also met the whole thai staff, all cute, bored, horny as usual. they're funny. i like the jah bar. goodnight.



drunk juuso

today i spent the whole day with juuso (finnish) and a swedish guy. we took our motorbikes all over the island looking for waterfalls that didn't charge the 200 baht entrance fee (thais pay 10, grrr). we found one finally through a coconut plantation and up the jungle a bit. yikes! i don't know how deep the jungle really gets but it felt pretty damn deep. the waterfall was waterless though which was strange so we just relished the natural excellence for a bit then rode back home. it was a 40km ride but a nice one.

tonight was somewhat decadent. i spent most of it with juuso still- we drank too many buckets, smoked a bit too much, but what a gorgeous night we had. we stayed up long after everyone else had left and listened to my new friend joe at nature bar play the guitar on the beach. the moon lit everything up sweetly and when we realized we were the only ones still up on the beach we went skinny dipping in our underwear. the best part was when we found a kayak on the sand which we "borrowed" and zoomed around in in the ocean by moonlight at 5 am. drunk. stupid. funny fun surreal fun.


firedancers at nature bar

i took my motorbike to one of the beaches on the way to white sands and ate breakfast at a little restaurant. it looks straight out of arizona with plants and sand everywhere but it's very thai. i met the whole family.... or in other words they were desperately bored and contrived successfully to meet me. the father, mr. prasit, is in his 40's and his thai girlfriend just left him on his own to run the restaurant, taking a lot of the important stuff with her. he spent the entire 3 hours we chatted trying to get me to come work for him- setting up internet, teaching him a little english, cooking food like tacos which stupidly are on the menu. i could probably make the place a little cooler but it is sort of in the middle of nowhere. he smoked a joint with me and told me to think about it though.

then i hung out in my new hammock.....sigh.

later on i met up with my finnish pals miika, juuso, and arsi in the jah bar. i was very happy to see them. we made the first of many journeys from the jah bar up in the jungle to the nature bar on the beach and watched the very seductive (rrrrowww) thai boys dance with fire. (that is a particular fetish of mine so i was delighted.) all the tattooed thai boys do all day is lay around in hammocks eating thai food and listening to music, then at night they meet a ton of cute foreigners, serve alcohol, dj, and entrance the customers with their "mad skills". all the foreigners do is wander from beach to beach, meeting new people, smoking on mats, drinking rum buckets, playing with cats. i am sorry i feel guilty but that to me is good nightlife. the beach at night is amazing here... i can't believe anyone takes american beaches seriously.


solo bliss

view of ko chang from motorbike

today i learned the freedom and splendor of having a motorbike with which to explore one's paradise. yeehoo! i must say i feel a bit reckless on it as ko chang's roads are curvy little suicide pits nested in the cliffs. i don't mind. i feel like i am in top gun speeding down the highway...ahem.... well anyway i found a happy little fishing village, did a bit of the ol' shopping (bought a hammock for 200 baht!), and ended up at 4pm being the only person stupid enough to hike through the jungle to see a waterfall. it was brilliant though.... it was remote and black and silent. there was a cool pool at the bottom of the waterfall which i dipped my feet in. i just hung out on the hot rocks for awhile with the first bit of clear space in my head that i've had in a long long time. (i must say it's nice to be away from robin and not to think about 'x'. )

i ran into two of the finnish kids i met in vietnam. that makes me happy. tonight i will check out the few bars along the beach.



my bungalow
bangkok sort of vomited me out on a bus to ko chang with fever and chills as my travelling companions. my friends all out of sight out of mind (including 'x' and robin), i was much later able to appreciate the dizzying, ecstatic crowd of stars above my head....that is after i trekked through the noisy jungle to the pristine beach carrying my backpack for 3 hours in the thai sun being quoted hilarious prices by obnoxious tourists and deskclerks alike....but in the end to a dreamy seaside bungalow (siam beach resort, 400b) where i passed out immediately to rock music from the bar up the hill behind me. oh, i spent some time walking in other people's footprints in the sand too. childhood habit. anyway the rainforest tapped on my roof as i slept and the waves lapped lazily at my doorstep. i had sweaty dreams.

overcrowded khao san road
i am headed south to ko chang tomorrow, which is a nice semi-deserted island where my dutch and finnish friends should be accumulating in the next week or so. it should be a bit of typical traveller partying on the beach before i head off to the more serious india. seeing as how i practically glow in the dark right now i think i could use a bit of a tan anyway. i will try to update again when i return to bangkok, until then "chok dee ka" my friends. (good luck).

turtles at chatuchak

i met robin looking gloomy and bored this morning so i decided to show him around chatuchak market. chatuchak is huge and they have everything you can imagine, including endangered species. it takes an entire day to go through and still i don't think i have ever seen the entire thing. we spent most of our time today in the pet section which is my favorite, because if you hadn't noticed i am a sucker for baby animals. they have baby everything- kittens, puppies, bunny rabbits, lizards, flying squirrels, birds, meese, and of course my favorite, turtles. i have mixed feelings about it though because all of these baby things are piled on top of one another in small cages and kept in very hot, not very clean conditions. it's hard not to want to save them all, and thankfully i am not allowed to buy them since i can't export them anyway- otherwise i would end up with a farm in my backpack.

we also saw a cockfight which to me is very disturbing. it's not legal here but when has legality ever stopped the thais from doing something? i don't particularly like roosters but i don't like watching them being prodded into being killing machines. there were feathers flying, lots of squawking, what i assume was blood, and thai men with furtive sideways glances exchanging bets with cigars in their mouths.

other than that there was the usual clothes shopping (robin bought a shirt that said "metallifuckinca" which was typical) and a nice thai meal in the air conditioned center when we reached the point of exhaustion.

later on we went drinking again with the dutch boys, who left to be surrounded by eight gorgeous girls while robin and i went to a club. i felt bad and told robin to go hang out with his pals while i got lost. poor kid has a hard time meeting girls since they perpetually assume he is gay, so i didn't think he should pass up the opportunity. i also decided i need to stop hanging out with so many guys- it would be nice to be seen as a girl now and then too.


more goofy dutch boys

so i am now commited to india which sort of terrifies me but i gave myself a couple of weeks for a final chillout on the thai islands with friends before i actually take that step. my ticket is for february 6th going to bombay.

bangkok is this weird frenzy of trying to stock up (a.k.a. spending money frivolously), checking out other travellers (somehow they are all sexier and more stylish than i am), and feeling overwhelmed by traffic, noise, pollution, ladyboys, strange food, and what are almost too many options. i have managed to get some stuff done though. today i went to the bangkok nursing hospital before buying my ticket to make sure i had the relevant shots for india. in new york i was quoted $850 for this, and i would have had to wait 3 weeks for an appointment. here i paid a whopping $30 to meet with what must have been the nicest nurse in the world. i walked in and walked out 40 minutes later, looking like a junkie with needle holes in four places in both arms but protected nevertheless. i walked around the silom area of bangkok afterwards, which is ultramodern and yuppie- lots of bookstores and chain restaurants. sort of felt like NY which is somewhat disconcerting, but also fun.

later on i realized i needed to get my visa for india as well and was shocked to find out that americans pay $80 for this and it takes 5 business days to process. ack. dutch pay $55. alas it can't be avoided so i am $80 poorer. harumph.

i found robin and four of his dutch friends later on in a bar (coincidentally all from his neighborhood and here separately at the same time) and we had some drinks while i sat hopelessly tring to interpret their dutch. i have the requisite bangkok lung infection though so i didn't stay long... i went back to my room where it was horror fest 2003 or something on cinemax. i was scared to sleep by about 2am.


old me

new (old) me
i was sick most of today damnit, so i didn't get a whole lot done in the way of planning my next move. i did check my email though to find out that my ten year high school reunion is being planned (yikes am i that old?), and also that an ex-boyfriend i spent 3 years with (before 'x') died two weeks ago of cystic fibrosis. :(  that threw me into a weird space in my head and i think given the position i am in right now (of being in-between in general), i was prompted to do something different. so i cut my hair. (sigh- girls). i now look like i did 6 years ago when i was with deric, which sort of defeated my purpose of leaving the past behind, but what the hell. maybe tomorrow i'll get a tattoo or buy a ticket to timbuktu or kiss a random stranger or... something. that's the mood i am in. sort of dislocated, unfocused, pent up. i ran into robin and choked down a salad (the only solid food i ate today) with him, left him with his dutch friend who just arrived in thailand and whom he might travel with, and gave up and went back to my cozy room to escape the din of khao san road and the din in my head under the cover of dreamless sleep.

the infamous khao san road, bangkok

back in bangkok where i ditched my 140 baht a night guesthouse room for a 450 baht room as soon as it opened up a couple hours later (so much for saving money). instantly sick, so much so that later i slept on my bathroom floor half the night (glad that i spent the money after all to have a clean place). it's so urban and cosmopolitan here (ha! never thought i'd say that!) that it's almost culture shock all over again after being in such rural areas the past couple of months. i went immediately to boots (pharmacy/convenience store) and stocked up on the things i haven't been able to get for so long (birth control, good shampoo, razors, contact solution, lip gloss, etc.)! that was fun. khao san road is annoying as usual, the travellers seem to think it's all one big fashion show, everything is overpriced, and it's fairly isolated from the rest of bangkok, but again it's easy and convenient. robin and i said a quick nervous goodbye and we didn't see each other all day. i wandered around buying stupid things i don't need as i tend to do here, but that did include a let's go india/nepal guide, which i studied while i sipped a cocktail at good old sawasdee house. i met a nice hippie guy from britain and had a chat. picked up my other bag from where i had stored it to find it safe and sound, and ominously big and full- ack, gotta narrow down my possessions before moving on.

i did meet up with robin later on to take him to the red light districts. after so many stories of the crazy decadence that can be found in bangkok i think he was mildly disappointed, but i couldn't exactly go with him to a blow job bar, a brothel, or a soapy body massage joint. instead i took him to a beer bar where we watched the girls in tight pants and glitter lipstick pick up sloppy men over the pool tables. then to nana plaza where they dance listlessly to pop music in g-string bikinis (occasionally you see a nipple). then through the patpong night market to a couple of the go-gos in the back where the transsexual touts hand you menus (pussy with ping pong ball, pussy with fish, men sex with women, shower scene, etc.) and coerce you into dark corners where you pay extraneous amounts to sip bad beer and watch androgenous, burnt out, and unsexy naked women do humiliating things such as dropping eggs out of their pussies for money. that's bangkok though, take it or leave it. i had fun. robin had a few laughs. we also had a quick and furtive meal at mcdonalds on our way home.


bye vientiane, laos

"it's the end of the world as we know it, and i feel fine". -R.E.M.

so the first major phase of my trip is over. boarded a (very luxury double decker with a/c, bathroom, and t.v.) bus to bangkok tonight where it will all start all over again. i feel very strange about this actually. various things running through my mind include the fact that it seems such a short time has passed- i spent a month in thailand, a month in vietnam, and a month split between cambodia and laos. but it seems like only a couple of weeks and i hope the rest of my trip doesn't fly by so quickly! also i have mixed feelings about leaving my little dutchboy travel partner, robin, and moving on solo. i definitely think this is a good thing, but thinking back on the past two months i must say robin and i have had some amazing times together and he has been an unfailingly patient, kind, and fun travel partner- the best i could have hoped for, especially considering we met on khao san road. i will really miss him in a lot of ways (koninjtes!). and of course there is the feeling of trepidation i get at the prospect of heading to india alone...but the challenge in that is also the allure. some things i will try to do differently from now on... spend less money less recklessly! spend more time in the areas i like instead of feeling pressured to move on. speak to locals more and try to get out of the traveller's areas more often. learn more about the history/economy/politics of the country i am in. seek out volunteer and work opportunities. learn to relax. be more decadent and try more strange things.

s.e. asia has been amazing and i would really like to see more of it, but as i have a limited budget and limited time and i want to see as much of the world as possible, it's time to move on elsewhere. some notes... friendliest people award goes to cambodia; given what they have been through and the astonishing poverty that is their daily reality, the khmers are really an inspiration. siam reap was definitely the highlight of my trip. angkor wat was mystical and wonderful... thailand is the easiest to travel in and the most fun as far as decadence and nightlife is concerned. also it has the most breathtaking geography (especially in the south). it is still one of my most favorite countries and i am now on my 5th or 6th visit here... vietnam was in retrospect the craziest place i have ever been. the people are gruff and hardworking but they occasionally surprise you with warmhearted gestures and once you break them (and yourself) in a bit i think they open up and let you into their culture a little more than the others. it's a very hard country to travel in off the tourist trail, but if you do stay on the trail it is a laid back (other than constant touts in your face) and fun place to meet other travellers...laos is a very chill place, period. the people keep to themselves but they seem to really enjoy having travellers around and taking care of them like they are their own children. i found laos very easy to get lost in. days would drift by before i realized that they had passed. it's beautiful and it's also easy to travel in and very safe. if anyone would like more detailed info on these places feel free to email me.


hmong tribes learning combat manouvers at history museum

colorful noodles

i usually head for the cheaper hotel rooms but i ended up in my default room from my previous visit to ventiane, which has cable t.v. now before i am accused of not being a "real" traveller i have to say that t.v. in another country is part of the experience, and definitely represents the culture of wherever you are. that said, last night i watched the dakar race, which is a crazy trek through the sahara desert starting in france and ending in senegal. the participants drive either motorbikes, semi trucks, or racing cars at breakneck speed for like 14 hours a day straight through absolutely desolate landscapes filled with horrendous sandstorms and a whole lot of nothing else. they all seemed a little regretful and somewhat insane in their on the spot interviews. now that is adventurous travel. too much so for the likes of me i think but it was very fascinating to see.

laos is amazingly laid back, and i find myself periodically in the midst of delerious rushes of happiness and serenity while i am walking around the city. this really is the life. when i contemplate going back "home" (which is a foreign word to me in the first place as i have never really had one) i can't imagine being able to do so without feeling somewhat suicidal. but i think they key is learning to enjoy wherever you are moment to moment, and not think too much otherwise. that is a big lesson to someone as overanalytical as i am, but easy to practice on the road.

robin and i found ourselves feeling like aliens in a lao nightclub last night, sipping our beerlaos in the corner booth. it had a very definite wedding party feel, though i don't think it was one. the girls wore long skirts and heels, and the men wore ties and jackets. they danced some kind of pre-designed dance and sang traditional music. it's so innocent, kind of like a 50's america.

went also to the laos history museum today to see more carnage and manipulaton executed by the u.s.... laos was used as leverage and later left forgotten by our government in dealing with vietnam. i preferred to read about their ancient civilizations and handicrafts. much less horrifying in most cases.



fried chickenbabies

open sewers abound

some gems i culled from the bangkok post this morning---

"kids living off garbage in slums find prime minister's motto hard to digest"
(the motto for children's day being "learning for life, thinking constructively, keeping up with technology".....um, food, motherf***er! shelter! have you looked under bangkok's bridges lately?)

"cakes, gifts aplenty- but mother's in jail!"
(being an article criticizing the fact that babies born to female inmates are forced to live in jail with them, and if you've heard anything about bangkok prison life, you see what they're getting at)

some other interesting things i noticed are that the police in bangkok have been going to popular nightclubs at night, blocking the exits, and giving urine tests to all of the patrons. if they have any trace of any drug in their system they go immediately to jail (foreigners included). i stay away from drugs in thailand so i am safe, but where are the human rights in this situation? i looked at the employment section as well and noticed that in advertising a position, companies are allowed to specify the age, sex, race, and education level of the employee they will accept. sheesh..... the writers at the bangkok post crack me up though. it's mostly gossip and murder, and everyday they seem to find some weird obscure picture to grace the front page. thailand is the most mischievous of the four southeast asian countries i have been to, as well as the most corrupt i think.

today i just walked around ventiane, browsing the markets and sitting in random places and watching lao people in their "natural habitat" (i say that tongue in cheek). saw a few beggars but nothing along the lines of vietnam or cambodia in the way of poverty.

last night with my german friend jules was somewhat ruined by my paranoia that he was some sort of deranged serial killer, but we had a nice mostly sane chat and he gave me a pineapple. he had some interesting opinions on western vs. eastern thought. he made a comment on how since westerners are so focused on the mind and easterners are more focused on the body in their philosophies and medicine, that it makes sense that western men turn to eastern women. he said western women think too much and thus there is no balance, that western men and western women are like two positive charges that conflict, and eastern women provide a more body-oriented negative charge for the men. sounds like misogynistic crap to me but who knows. he proceeded to ask me to "make love", which sort of negated the whole conversation anyway. (i said no). he's a harmless and obviously loony old man (with brilliant moments of lucidity) though so i forgive him. we're meeting up tomorrow for another chat. sometimes in life fate sends you someone who says exactly the right things, who feeds your mind what it needs to hear, and he is that person for me right now. he gave me some insight into some things that i really needed and i am glad he came along when he did.

off to exercise my chopstick muscles.


more vientiane, laos

i realized today that some money i had kept in a locked compartment of my bag is gone- $250 worth is no small drop in the bucket... so the day started on a sour note. i met a nice crazy german man at breakfast though, his name is jules. he seems brilliant in an idiot savant sort of way... kind of new age-y too.... he started out telling me all about myself before i had given him any information at all. he guessed that my major flaw is both my biggest strength and my biggest weakness, which i won't divulge to my random audience but it happens to be quite true. he guessed my age, star sign, and position in life correctly. i only spoke with him for about 20 minutes but i have made a date with him to walk around the wat and have another fortunetelling session at 6p. he was one of those people who can't help but cheer you up. smiley and zen.

robin and i rented a motorbike and went to the morning market in central vientiane later on. it's nice to watch all the people from surrounding areas pulling up in their trucks with handcarts and stocking up. the market is fairly basic, spools of cloth, laundry supplies, thai cds, fresh vegetables, cheesy clothes, cheap jewelry and various relics. we ate a delicious bowl of noodles and practiced a mixture of lao/thai phrases on the giggling girls at the counter. we returned to our bike to see that the tire was flat so we had to walk it back to the guy we rented it from, but it was a nice walk through some of the peripheral neighborhoods and along the mekong river. lots of smiling children waving "hello" and little shops filled with weird things- one had antique cartoon county-fair-ride cars for sale. another was full of beautiful statues. ventiane is a really calm, friendly place, as is seemingly the whole of laos.


bye vang vieng

i get a lot of mail about my site, usually positive. people seem to like the fact that i just freewrite about whatever i did during the day instead of big extensive analyses of southeast asian economics, politics, whatever. and since i gear my site towards friends and family it makes more sense to write simply.

today though i got a couple of messages from strangers accusing me of being too self indulgent, a drug addict, not a "real" traveller, boring, whiny, and seemingly uninterested in the authentic culture of whatever country i am in....not to mention some silly personal attacks along the lines of "no wonder your boyfriend left you for a life of whores"... hmm. i agree with the self-indulgent aspect (wouldn't you be on your world trip?), and i admit to anyone who cares to ask that i smoke pot on a daily basis with no intention of stopping (as it does not affect my life adversely any more than getting pissed affects a large percentage of the world adversely)....but the crap about my not being a "real" traveller, being too "safe", not being interested in local cultures, etc. is just that---crap. i am travelling because i love to travel, pure and simple. i like the uneasiness of stepping off of a bus onto a crowded street filled with colors, smells, and sounds i am not used to. i like the challenge of communicating with locals who speak a language whose letters i can't even recognize. i like having to negotiate my way from place to unknown place. i like the little differences (shampoo bottles and chewing gum) and the big ones (mammoth caves, hair raising tuk tuk rides, even sex for sale). i am starving for information, experience, novelty. i do whatever i can to stay off the tourist trail (though with a travel partner it's not always easy). i enjoy doing with my day whatever the heck i feel like doing with it, wherever i am, and i don't think anyone who isn't in my shoes can judge whether or not i am travelling "correctly".... like i said before it is your choice whether or not you read this, so if you are bored to tears, violently disagree with my opinions, or are offended by my descriptions of drug use on my trip, kindly fuck off. otherwise please do me the favor of posting your personal information in public likewise so that i might do a little critique-ing of my own.

back in ventiane today, off to bangkok soon. and then ?...


bartering live chickens

i had planned on hiking to a cave with a small blue lagoon and a rope swing from which to jump into it this afternoon, but it ended up being a 6 km walk away and, well, i am just too lazy to see another cave. i settled for a nice $3 herbal massage and a final walk through the market and through the unfailingly gorgeous residential area by the river. the village is so laid back and friendly. the people stop what they are doing (pounding rice with a mortar and pestle, gathering chickens, suckling infants) to stop and say "sabaidee" and smile... i noticed some weird food in the stalls- nicely filleted rats on a stick (head still on, eyes rolled back in sockets), live black hissing beetles, chicken guts.... but i must say they also make nice dried bananas, good beer, & delicious organic mulberry shakes.

we bought '006' (our orphan shadow) some noodles today and learned that he has a mother and father who abandoned him and went to vientiane to live. he has been wearing the same clothes for the 10 days we have been here, and i don't think he has bathed. he has lightning reflexes & if you make any move in his direction he flinches as if you are about to pound him, and he won't speak at all, even to lao people. it's just sad. i gave him 20,000 kip tonight when i patted his head and said a last goodbye, but i don't think he will be able to stretch it for long or avoid getting it stolen.

robin & i decided to accept our coin-toss fate and head back to ventiane, so i paid for bus tickets leaving tomorrow. i can't believe we are finally escaping. leaving vang vieng is like leaving a nest. there's such a maternal feel to this town.


trail to cave

"i'll be watching you"

i am january the eighth i am... january the eighth i am i am.

i made robin flip a coin and decide where we should vaguely head to next and it came up ventiane. all of the sudden i feel great about staying in vang vieng a few more days. i am starting to know all the people in the restaurants, bars, on the way to the caves. i know their pets too. (there is a myna bird... er i think...hanging by the market which says "meow". the dogs run around fucking each other continuously and getting the crap kicked out of them by lao kids. there is a creepy blue headed turkey who slams into me with his feathers on the bank). i have learned to deal with the painfully psychotic orphan boy, the mobs of jewish guys, i barely hear the chickens in the morning. i know how to order happy shakes (finally the 3rd one worked, just a little) and noodles, kap jai lai lai.... i know the lyrics to every single bob marley/70's cheese song, heh heh. i am no longer afraid of squat toilets or insects, i know how to climb mountains in flip flops and not die when i look back at the heights. i know how to cross the footbridge to the other side of the river with my eyes closed. i know my way through the jolly market past the entreprenurial rats.

lao people sleep in little tents outside the guesthouses at night (and all day long too), same as cambodia and vietnam. it makes me feel extrordinarily guilty because i am living in a gorgeous room with wood floors, hot water, and a real bed that they work 12-14 hours a day to upkeep. the restaurants and bars are very busy but they are run by small families that live in the back so one or two people do everything all day. the more affluent families have little plots like in a subdivision... except there are entire farms on each plot. cows, chickens, pigs, dogs, rats and family all sleep together in harmony under one roof. some of the people have great jobs though like collecting money at the caves and pulling boats in from the river to their little stands. guarding rice fields with rifles (?), making you pay 2000 kip before walking through their house to cross the bridge over the river. mothers pull their babies off them in the hammocks and wake up smiling to make your snack.

my room is haunted though. the shower turns itself on full force at night. and then it goes away. perhaps the lao people know something i don't.



i am running out of money, robin already owes me and is otherwise also out of money (no atms or machines that accept mastercard here), and still we have made no plans to leave vang vieng. this place is the twilight zone. no matter what i do i can't seem to wake up before 10 am, not a plan will allow itself to be formed in my head. we spend a lot of time eating & drinking, since there are so many cafes to sit in. we have managed to do some other things in the lovely outdoors but nothing that requires a whole lot of mental exertion (just a bit of physical- ow).

much bemoaned is the decision of where to move on to next--- luang prabang? ack, mostly temples and once you have seen one you have seen them all. to the villages in the north of laos? maybe. though i've read they are mostly hmong tribes and hmong are the least interesting to me. bangkok? i could do with a few conveniences but bangkok can be a loud dirty hassle and i spend a lot of money there. india? too cold now. myanmar? no laptops allowed, no internet access any longer, and you can only travel in some areas. (!!!)..... i would really like to find some work and stick around til winter ends, maybe in siam reap doing web stuff. a decision doesn't seem to want to be made though. blah blah.

robin and i met up and walked a bit out of town to a park that was a bit "samsonite" as our friend says, with caves and freshwater streams and quiet buddhist alcoves. it didn't take us long to also see the spiders, who were out in full force. lao has some creepy arsed spiders. they are about 6 inches in diameter and thoroughly evil, in that they seem to materialize just over your shoulder or in front of your face when you least expect it, dangling off of expertly woven thick- roped so as to catch you walking by webs. we left and i dropped robin off to go tubing down the river and came back to my room with the intention of getting organized and planning my next move, but that meager plan failed as soon as i hit the bed. ah, perpetual relaxation. this is, after all, one of the reasons i have decided to travel.

oh, i did get up and go to a little goodbye party with the irish kids, a local lao family, and some israelis. let's just say i was happy to hit the bed again tonight.


woke up late, stumbled to the noodle stand and had some lovely noodles, stumbled further to the river and had a "happy shake" (which if you want to know i seem immune to). read, watched the lao babies playing and the fisherman boats pass. hung out with robin in a "bar" on mats.... probably catch a movie later, get drunk with the irish kids. same same. vang vieng is sort of ridiculous and fake but fun.


our friend '006' , a.k.a. the dirtiest most pitiable creepiest orphan i have ever seen... with his bamboo gun and sly party tricks coming out of his pockets... is following us everywhere. i feel like i should buy him something but he seems to just enjoy our presence in a sick behind-the-shadows way. lao people are so family oriented i am sure an orphan gets taken care of somehow...? this kid definitely has the isolation stamp on his forehead. or maybe he can just smell money.

you would think i'd learned my lesson by now about lao caves, or expeditions here in general. it's not the easy partitioned off wildlife you find in the states or even in thailand, and my wardrobe is thus far fairly inappropriate. definitely adventurous though. today we rented mountain bikes for a dollar, rode a few kms out of town where i stopped to be transfixed by a lao graveyard full of cows. across the road we noticed the entrance to the cave. well, across some rice fields marked with plastic bags so you don't lose your way and through a creepy brambly forest, over the river on another bamboo footbridge made for people a lot less heavy than me. up the mountain where your foothold would crumble beneath you and you would slip and almost slide off the mountain with every third step. and behold there was the entrance to the cave. a lao guy and his smiling rifle-laden friends gave us prospecting helmets with lights and dropped us off at the rim. we crept in, a bit nervy by this time because we'd had more exercise than in the past month alone today, and we started feeling our way with our headlights (which entails many horrific bumps on the head from surprise stalagmites). all the sudden the bottom dropped out of the cave and there were bamboo ladders hanging down the sides. gulp. we climbed down one story (our feet dangling over a black pit of mud) with slithering things around our head and turned to see in our headlights the most horrific gem-laden spiders we have ever seen. hanging everywhere, staring and glinting at us......

yeah nice cave, bye bye. back down the path pedal pedal pedal hi irish couple, hi happy shake, goodnight.



still in vang vieng, though i have paid up the hotel and told robin he's on his own from now on. he can still travel in the same direction as i do of course but separately. i want to fix up my site, listen to my music, be healthy and, well, different things happen when you are alone and i tend to like it better. i have much more to learn from this trip than robin alone can teach me. he seems cool with that.

the riverside here is comfy. i spent the afternoon on a hammock watching the sun go down and screeching back at the baldheaded chickens dodging my feet.

balance in vang vieng is hard to come by.... it's a lazy place with late mornings and not so late nights. but i don't mind walking or sitting somewhere in the sun, dozing in front of a random movie on the floor of a bar next to the cute australian guy i have been following silently through asia. playing with stray kittens. looking at pictures on my laptop. smoking up my room. reading. being disconnected. the process of getting used to a place is uncomfortable at first, but fun.

i do think pretty soon i have to do something though.


i did absolutely nothing today. you hear me? n.o.t.h.i.n.g. and i loved it. sat on the riverbank and read irvine welsh. made fun of robin's new nazi haircut. ate some yummy noodle soop (they bring you piles of fresh herbs, lime and chilis to put in it). bought a notebook with a cartoon dog holding a bone on it under the words "bone me"... watched titanic (not on purpose), talked to some kids we met earlier...blah blah. innocent fun.

there is an orphan kid who follows me around here (i am a magnet for them and for little animals). he is dirty and crazy and i wouldn't want to run into him on a dark street alone at night but he seems to like robin & i- he lets us hold the gun he fashioned expertly from bamboo shreds anyway. he slurped his noodles and stared menacingly at us from the edge of the table tonight while the lao party we had stumbled upon got progressively drunker. the lights kept flickering out and in the darkness the "ethnic monority school, you visit monday" teacher puked over his shoulder at robin and ran off into the wilderness night. chickens kept scuttling through under our feet and robin tasted a chili for the first time in his life. i thought he was going to choke to death and was entranced. the grandpa lao started telling jokes and we were blasted by laughter and automatically refilling glasses of free beer. i waved to a friend passing. life at the corner food stand seems good.

lao people have no sexuality at all. as a side note. maybe that explains the lack of nightlife here though by the size of their families there has to be a lot of it going on. you can't go five feet without stumbling into a baby or three, the mother two steps behind suckling yet another newborn. they seem to be really private people so maybe all the decadence is just behind closed doors. all i know is they are very prompt about getting to bed by 10 pm.


hit balloon, win beerlao

it's weird when you travel to run into people from everywhere you have been. it's like we're on some big codependent journey or something. i see in every new city people we met previously, in siam reap a month & a half ago, or nha trang, various bus trips... sometimes it's great, you nod to each other passing the pool table in a bar, you run into them splashing behind you at a waterfall....vang vieng though, (rant alert) seems to be filled with travellers you didn't quite click with on the road. the australian girl who invited me for a random walk when mama hahn's boat stopped over in vietnam doesn't acknowledge i exist, and the dutch girl from cambodia with the tall sick boyfriend- same same but reversed. i really don't like most people, they distract me from getting to know a place..... ah well beer lao is good. robin and i drank too much of it last night with a really cynical irish couple who mercilessly trashed everyone who walked out of the room, a jolly english bloke (all about futbol with them isn't it?), and a very chemically dependant belgian chick...............!yeah yeah yeah movies music drugs- where's the real information here? where am i, america?....

travellers bore me when they are obsessed with getting drunk or stoned & where the next party is. (granted if you read my christmas entries you will see that i can be one of these travellers at times.) does that make me arrogant? maybe too focused on my experience. but i don't want my trip to become about western people's gossipy sex starved sloppy drunk company. i know nothing about laos. i haven't yet left a set of 3 streets....

vang vieng is that kind of place. crowded, white, normal.

with a beautiful backdrop nevertheless. and fun trips to take in the sun. (when it comes out).


happy 2003. it will be indeed. this is a post for me thanks but if you want you can look at it.

i read x's november/december updates and was thrown into a little bit of sad oblivion. the sex page is especially interesting/mystifying.

i am not a resolutions type of gal, but i did honestly spent a lot of today thinking about the past year and trying to set goals for this one, including... [secret access]... amen buddha.




2000-2003 elocin

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