robin on a cyclo

victims and bombs at war remnants museum

yay an update! though it's fairly half-assed since i haven't been able to use my laptop for a week (lack of electrical outlets) and so had to backtrack... i am in vietnam now. saigon is great! i finally feel like i am doing something big! i mean i am actually making this trip! i never expected in my life to be in saigon, and here i am. for some reason this city makes that impression on me more than anywhere else... it's just so weird to be in vietnam! saigon is very french-influenced so there are lots of cobbled streets with roundabouts, colonial architecture, great coffee and fresh baguettes, and little shops and cafes everywhere. i really like it. it still also retains it's asian-ness as well, so it's a strange combination. this morning after breakfast robin and i took a couple of cyclos (a really fun way to see the city, driven by crazy old war veterans) to see the war remnants museum. it was offputting to me. i grew up hearing so much of the atrocities commited by viet cong in the war, and this place was slanted towards the atrocities commited by US soldiers. war, really, no matter who is fighting, is stupid and crazy and wrong. there were lots of pictures of torture and medical defects as the result of weapons and gasses, shells of bombs, examples of tanks and aircraft. the pictures were most impressive, especially since so many of the photographers were killed in the taking of them. it was fairly educational and i think worth it for anyone visiting this city.




typical me, happy world traveller

phnom penh to saigon via bus took about 13 hours total. it actually entailed 2 buses and a border crossing on foot through a rainstorm. it was fun, as after a few hours everyone relaxes and starts chatting and by the time you reach your destination you know everyone on your bus. i love travelling! one cute australian guy got off the bus at a stop before the vietnam border to smoke his last joint. the rest of us stayed on, and ten minutes later when he returned we watched in horror as he fainted and fell facedown in the mud next to the bus. turns out he has had a fever for 2 days and hadn't eaten for 3. ah, asia.

at the border we chatted with the cambodian customs officer for about half an hour before we made a dash through the rain to the vietnam arrivals side. is there any other country in which the customs officers so much as acknowledge your existence? there is an obvious difference between khmers and vietnamese. vietnamese people are more gruff and jaded. two seemingly nice vietnamese men grabbed our bags and took off with them towards where our next bus waited, but of course demanded a dollar once we caught up with them, for the job of carrying our bags.

we heard horror stories about saigon and so were relieved when we pulled in at about 6p to see that it is actually a very nice, rather modern and comfortable city. robin and i followed one of the touts off of the bus and split a very nice room for $5 each, with all the trimmings, in the pham ngu lao backpacker's district. we had a couple of drinks at a hip little bar called lost in saigon and smoked a fat joint (robin realized later he had crossed the border with about a gram and a half of weed in his pocket that he'd thought he'd left behind- oopsie!) in our room...later we fell asleep to asian mtv.


killing fields

we watched the killing fields (movie) at the guesthouse this morning in preparation for our trip to the actual killing fields on the outskirts of phnom penh this afternoon. it was a long dirt road and for future reference, don't try fitting 3 adults on one motorbike no matter how easy the khmers make it look. the killing fields are not much to see but were rather poignant. it's basically a mass burial ground. in the middle of it is a huge glass monument filled with skulls of khmer rouge victims and their clothing remnants. it's pretty crazy to see. i can't imagine anyone wanting to be violent to cambodians- except maybe moto drivers! on the outskirts of the fields were tattered young children begging for money through the fence. we gave them our half drunk sodas which seemed to satisfy them, and they let me take a picture of them.

afterwards we made bunyud drive us to get massages. this poor guy waits all day from 8 am to midnight or so at our beck and call. another reason to feel guilty but i guess he's used to it. he waited outside while we went in for an hour. our masseuses were blind- there is an NGO which sets up parlors like this to help blind cambodians make a living, and i can honestly say my massage was the best one i have ever had! mr. sothy had strong hands and could converse pretty well in english. i gave him a dollar tip which was good but later wondered if he would get it, as someone else must have to tell him how much he earned.

a happy pizza at the 'same same but different' guesthouse and a couple drinks later and robin and i were sort of trashed. we went to the red corner bar and talked to some cute swedish girls which robin has a crush on, and some guys from sri lanka who ran the bar. the cambodian waitress was hilarious. she showed us a picture of her 50-yr. old dutch boyfriend and told us how much she loved him and his money. she wanted to go to holland with him and then leave him for a real dutch man. she kept smacking her lips at robin and giving him the eye all night while the rest of us teased her. i am so glad i was born in the US, is all i have to say.

we picked up our vietnam visas today so we can leave in the morning for saigon. i would have liked to have spent more time in cambodia but once you get to phnom penh it's a hassle to get back to the cool parts of the country, so we've decided to move on.


ugly phnom penh

pretty phnom penh (our guesthouse)

phnom penh is so poor, i constantly feel guilty walking down the street. mothers with newborns, people with missing limbs, and very young children are my sympathetic priority, but the bastards are going to make me go broke! that's the thing with cheap countries like this- if you are a sucker like me you end up paying just as much as anywhere else, once you give out a couple riels and the domino effect kicks in.... argh. i suppose i need to learn that you can't help them all, which really means you shouldn't start unless that is your ultmate goal and you have some sort of financial backing (i don't).

bunyud took us to the central market in town today, where we wandered around looking at the shabby, salvation army quality merchandise and clutching fearfully at our bags. it is not the prettiest part of phnom penh. there are seedy looking characters everywhere and the traffic is suicidal. we only spent an hour there before we made bunyud take us back home.

later on we headed for a couple bars, one of which ended up being a prostitute haven, much to robin's innocent bewilderment. still not impressed with this city.


robin on roof of boat

fishing village at 6am

our express boat left from a nearby fishing village at about 6 this morning. we bought baguettes and water and settled nicely on the roof anticipating a calm ride down the tonle sap to phnom penh. right. after about 10 minutes we were thoroughly drenched in freezing fishwater which our speeding boat sloshed up at us from the side. we sat shivering for about an hour with 30-40 other miserable people until finally this nice gay german man convinced one of the khmer sailors to let us down through the engine room to a small space at the back of the boat to get dry. after an hour we could finally crawl back up to the roof and everyone passed out and slept the rest of the way in the sun. i woke up near the end of the trip in time to catch some gorgeous scenery.

our entrance to phnom penh was not impressive. it's a very dirty, horribly poor, shady-feeling "city". our guesthouse is $2 a night, with a porch overlooking the lake, lots of hammocks, free pool, and a communal cable tv. the motodops (motorbike taxi drivers) are relentless! we finally agreed to hire one as our personal driver for our stay and he rewarded us with a $5 bag of good weed. his name is bunyud and he is very immature for 23 but fairly trustworthy and sweet.


siam reap

today we were lazy and woke up at 1, walked around the market for a bit, had drinks at the butterfly garden, lounged and smoke pot at the guesthouse, played cards, drank and planned our trip to phnom penh at 5am tomorrow. nothing new otherwise. i will be sad to leave siam reap but there is the whole wide world left to be witnessed. i did notice that there are a few web jobs here as well as plenty of english teaching work, which is something for me to keep in mind for the future. visas are incredibly easy to get here too.

ta prohm

my favorite angkor temple is ta prohm. for some reason it is the only one not being restored, so there are piles and piles of ruins and relics, all overgrown with jungle trees and offset with danger signs. there are small birds in the trees which sing in an almost psychotic continuous high pitched drone, and there were snakes in the pond nearby. on the road out there we stopped at a little food stand and talked with a khmer girl about my age. she was fascinated by me, which was sort of embarassing but cool. she kept touching my hair, rubbing my (white) skin, trying on all my jewelry. every now and then a foreigner would walk or ride by and she would take off at breakneck speed to try to lure them to her stand- "hello sir please come!"... but it was all good natured and fun despite her obvious desperation under the surface. cambodians are wonderful people. they are so sweet and naive, and happy despite shocking poverty. anyway afterwards we headed for ta prohm. on the way there we stopped again to watch a cambodian band playing at the side of the jungle path. this is not rock and roll- i don't even know what to compare it to.... instead of guitars and drumsets there are weird ukelele type instruments and homemade bongos. it's a very eery, surreal sound. it was a perfect spot for them, as ta prohm is one of the most dark and ethereal temples of the lot. i made a movie of it with my camera but i am not sure how to attach it to this page... :(

another example of cambodian nature- later we were sitting at a cafe and beside us was a grotesquely fat foreign man. there were groups of women working to fix the street outside (this is done by filling the potholes with large rocks, then smaller ones, then finally covering it with dirt- not especially effective), all dressed in the typical cambodian checked scarf and rice hat. all you could see were their eyes- large and round and totally mystified at such a rare occasion.... there are not many fat people in asia. they all stood in a big group just staring blatantly at him and smiling confusedly. they caught us looking at them and they all looked away, shy and embarassed, and pretended to go back to work. they couldn't help themselves though, in five minutes they had all stopped and stared again....also somehow they also noticed i had a tongue ring, so every one of them in turn came up to me and asked me to stick my tongue out for inspection. cute.

the rest of the evening robin and i hung out on the balcony smoking the guesthouse's stash of weed and listening to music. robin is hilarious. he's one of those people who remembers every joke or funny line in a movie he's ever heard, and he's always singing or making silly noises or jumping around like a kid. we are not especially similar but it makes things interesting. he's taught me a lot of dutch- "konijntjes", meaning rabbit, is a little codeword he's developed when he is bored, along with "lekker kutchie", which i won't translate because it is rather vulgar. :) tonight we went to a lounge called laundry where i have a crush on the little cambodian barboy- lon bun turin (sigh!). i tried shamelessly to seduce him but cambodians are so shy they won't even look at you without a good reason. we eventually became drunk and were joking around with him & got him to open up a little and chat with us for awhile. he taught us quite a bit of khmer. we taught him how old he was (23) by helping him translate his year of birth into our years. unfortunately, i also found out he has a little girlfriend.




prea kheaw

i woke up at about noon due to a slight miscalculation last night of the amount of tiger beer i had drunk and could still drink... robin had been up for a few hours and was probably annoyed at me. it's hard for me to travel with someone else. i connived robin into staying in separate rooms for now (though it would make more economical sense if we stayed in one room for $3 each) and try to escape at least once a day for some personal space but it isn't easy. i am not used to being around anyone so much of the time- let alone a stranger. but he cracks me up and it's a platonic friendship which is a relief. he is an extremely! sickeningly! nice guy and i am glad to have someone good to travel with when all is said and done... there is plenty of time to travel alone later!

it was temple day and we did the western half of the route on motorbike. i like temples but really it's more about being out in the middle of a wild country, driving from village to village, meeting locals. we saw one very historical temple filled with statuary and solemnity (bayon/angkor thom).... another which was more friendly and cool (prea kheaw). the latter had been overgrown with trees from the jungle, and a little cambodian guy sweetly convinced us to let him guide us through it with a rough history blurted out in broken english and a propensity to follow. we paid him $5 and he would have been our slave for life i think after that. he was all smiles and "thank you sirs". on the way back from the temples we ran into a young khmer family who were transfixed by something at the edge of the road.... we stopped and noticed that there were wild monkeys everywhere. they were hanging from trees, running across the road, and sniffing curiously at our feet.

the nightlife in siam reap is very good, which is so incongruous to the rest of the "city". we visited the 'angkor what?' pub, which is covered floor to ceiling with traveller grafitti. my favorite was sort of trite but nice- "today is a gift, that's why we call it the present". i ended up sitting next to gordon from tales of asia and having an hour-long conversation while robin looked glum beside me. he had interesting views on prostitution in asia, the future of web travelogues, etc. but ultimately i was sort of annoyed by him and thought he was rather pompous. i made robin leave with me when he wasn't looking. we ended up at a khmer-only karaoke joint. they were astounded to see white faces there (at least that weren't looking for cheap sex). we spoke with a young khmer boy who wanted mostly to practice his english but was very friendly.

i love walking home at night here, though it's a strange experience. there are no streetlights and there are endless dirty families camped out on the side of the road. little hands which grab you as you walk past. men on motorbikes offering you everything from a ride to cheap drugs or women. it's all sort of innocent and safe feeling though. siam reap is set along a river- the tonle sap, and it glows at night with the moon. as i walk home i touch all of the statues along it for luck.


siam reap market

angkor wat

today was all about relaxation. siam reap is my most recent favorite place on earth. it feels like we are in the middle of nowhere! our guesthouse (ivy #2) is divine. very homey and friendly- $6 for a gorgeous room with a humongous bed. i was surprised to find that the guy who runs the tales of asia website is in my neighboring room...he's an interesting guy. his very beautiful photographs are everywhere. there is a nice british boy who seems to have run away from home to live here and gave us a few tips and a great coffee/baguette breakfast. cambodian people themselves are so friendly and not jaded like the thais. they have such an innocent air about them.

today- robin and i went and rented a motorbike and within one hour drove up a street the wrong way and were grossly scammed by a stern cambodian police officer into paying a 5000 riel fine (about $1.50, but still)....we drove around, stopping here and there to have drinks and revel in the foreign wonderment. went back to the guesthouse and hung around in hammocks listening to music and chatting with travelers. we drove out and bought a 3-day pass to see the angkor temples...$40 which is scandalous here but ultimately i guess worth it.... we caught the sunset at angkor wat! it's very dark looking but safe and calm feeling. at night they burn something along the perimeter which gives it a smoky, dusky ambience, and the sunset is unreal behind the big jungle trees....later we had a "happy herb" pizza which calmed us down a bit and then got really drunk at a very modern lounge called laundry, where we spoke with another british boy who had run away to live here. the barboy was cambodian and i have a huge instant crush on him. cambodians are so shy and beautiful.

and that was my whirlwind day of blurred bliss.

the border at poipet

hellish roads

woke up at 7 am and hailed a cab to the northern bus station, where we caught a bus to the border town of aranyaprathet. nice comfy bus, air conditioning, not a bad trip right? well that was just the beginning of what was to become a rather nightmarish excursion into the wildlands of cambodia. we took a tuk tuk from aranyaprathet to the very dirty convict haven that is poipet- the entrance to cambodia. once you arrive you are attacked by hordes of touts, who want to do everything for you from hold an umbrella over your head to block the sun, to finding you a taxi (their own, of course, at a very jacked up rate), to processing your visa for you (something you can do on your own in 5 minutes). there are men yelling in your face, dirty half naked kids tugging at your arm and trying to steal your bag, people following you mercilessly wherever you go- they are very very persistent and i would not have survived had i not read the tales of asia site beforehand with instructions on how to make it through the border in one piece! i must say i was a very good negotiator... i fought tooth and nail with one of the taxi mafia until he agreed to let robin and i have the whole back seat of an air conditioned car the rest of the way to siam reap for 550 baht (about $12). and thank god i did- the roads were RIDICULOUS. i wouldn't even call them roads. the potholes were 3 feet deep in many spots and the entire trip was 5 hours of nail biting terror and up-down-up-down nausea through desolate swampland. (not to mention the screeching thai music we were forced to listen to in transit)....yikes. this is indeed a 3rd world country. i would say about 40% of the vehicles we passed were broken down, missing pieces... their unlucky riders sitting forlornly in the hot sun. this is not the place to break down! we were MILES from civilization.

we passed several villages and cambodia is utterly mystical, gorgeous, shocking, primitive, and crazy. people live in grass huts with pigs and cattle in the front yard, maybe a nice lilypad filled pond in the front in which to bathe and from whence to drink. that's it. for hours. motorcycles passed us with dead pigs or chickens tied to the back, pickup trucks overloaded with khmers hanging on by a shoestring... every village has a plaque listing their party name- remnants of communism? there are warning signs of landmines every 3 feet, NO conveniences in any direction, absolute poverty like i have never seen before. i love it.

siam reap is not exactly civilization but it was a relief to get here. the entrance to town is dotted by ostentatious hotels that rent for $1900/night. it looks like vegas and is so horrible to see after driving for so long through the hellish places that people here call home. the city looks very old and very asian- very different from thailand which surprised me. it's gorgeous and has a heavy, ancient but good energy about it. the streets are filled with beggars and when we finally settled in at our very nice guesthouse and had a couple of beer laos (and great pizza) at a cafe, we ended up giving the rest of our thai money to a young girl with a dirty newborn and a man with no legs. it was a weird and disorienting day.


lights on khao san road, bangkok

i have got to get out of freaking bangkok. i have been here for a week now and usually i would never purposely spend more than one day here. so tomorrow is the day, whether robin is ready to go or not. getting to cambodia is a rather daunting prospect. it's a very wild, lawless country full of bandits, horrible roads, and land mines. basically at the border you have to make a run for it or you get hassled and robbed. and i have decided to try to make it on my own (not with a prearranged agency) so it should be even more of an adventure. my first stop will be angkor wat- one of the wonders of the world. i am sure i have described it here before but to recap it is a group of huge fortress temples in the middle of the jungle, full of khmer ghosts and overgrown with trees and spookiness. i am rather excited about that. then on south through phnom penh (site of the killing fields) and maybe a couple of deserted beaches before i move on to vietnam and laos.

tonight robin and i and a few brits were sitting at a cafe, slightly drunk, and decided to try the fried insects from the nearby hawker. i asked for a bag of grasshoppers and he ended up giving me a mix. huge winged cockroaches, slimy black beetles, wormy grubs... we ate them all. even a scorpion. must be acquired tastes, is all i have to say (the grasshoppers were ok, tasted like popcorn). but i can say i've done it, eh? the thai guys thought we were silly and eagerly chomped the remains of our bag o bugs when we were sufficiently sick of picking them out of our teeth.

i am finding a place to store my big bag for the month that i am gone and that may mean i will leave my cd burner behind. so i may not be able update again until i get back (around christmas). but check back just in case and feel free to email me in the meantime. :)


bridge decorated for loy krathong

robin looking mildly retarded :)
today was loy krathong, which is a thai holiday in celebration of nature. the people create "krathongs" which are floating boats made of flowers with candles and incense, and they float them down the river on the night of the full moon. the boat is supposed to take all of the bad energy out of your life and down the river away from you. i bought the biggest krathong i could find so the rest of my trip should be quite empty of bad energy. :) i spent most of the day chilling out, had a marvelous thai massage ($3 for an hour!!!)....met up with robin (my dutch friend), and headed for the park on the waterfront for the celebration. it was sort of anticlimactic since i had seen loy krathong in pattaya before with 'x' (much better on a beach). but there were fireworks and a thai beauty contest and crowds of drunk happy people everywhere. robin and i ended up at this cafe with a whole group of "ladyboys", who creeped him out but whom i find endlessly entertaining. we drank too much and that was that.

sad baby at forensics museum

new friends

today was one of those rare days you expect to be boring and wrong but ended up being pretty fun. i woke up and found a great place to have fresh, wonderful cappucino and flaky sumptious croissants (obviously a rarity in thailand), & decided spontaneously to take a trip to the forensics museum, which i have been meaning to see since the first time i ever came to bangkok. it is at the back of a hospital, on the 2nd floor, not too easy to find but entirely worth it if you are fascinated by the morbid and freaky as i am. some things on display; the naturally mummified body of a serial killer, various deformed fetuses, a criminally botched abortion (in the shape of a baby but chopped beyond recognition), various injuries including bullets in the brain, hemmorages as the result of car crashes, severed limbs (including a hand that had actually been cut off at the wrist by an overeager suicide), fractured skulls, livers with cirrhosis, mangled esophaguses, pictures of hangings, stabbings, axe murders and asphyxiations. i swear i am not evil! i don't know why i am interested in these things but i think it's more the psychology behind them than anything else. the worst things were the babies. i can not even contemplate having an abortion after seeing what i saw today. a new fetus has eyes, fingers, toes, an anus, a spinal cord- it is very definitely alive. it wasn't just that though, just looking at such small helpless things that had no chance at making their mark on the world- i am so happy to have made it 26 years and i realize how delicate the line is between life and death. there were pictures of train crashes, electrocutions- normal people going about their lives and then suddenly time up. death is the one thing we won't ever have power over, that will get every one of us eventually, and it terrifies and fascinates me to no end.

anyway after that i needed some lightheartedness for balance so i took a cab to MBK center again and watched a good safe american movie (sweet home alabama). it's weird because before the movie you are forced to stand for 5 minutes to pay respect to the thai king. they play cheesy music and a video with various montages of the king performing various good works for the people. my natural rebellion is sort of digusted by the blind devotion thai people show their king, but on the other hand he seems to be a good man who helps the people as much as he can.

later tonight i met up with my new friend keng. we met via the lonely planet message board. he is a web developer and has his own little site like i do. we talked back and forth and decided to have drinks while i was in bangkok. he came with his very sweet, very intelligent girlfriend aom, who negated most of my preconceptions about thai girls. i was very happy to meet them. i also met a dutch guy named robin who wants to come to cambodia with me as his travel partner has just fallen through. he is a nice guy but now that i have the opportunity i am not sure i really want to travel with someone else. i hate feeling obligated to people. (i guess when i say i don't like travelling alone i really mean i don't like travelling without 'x'). anyway we are supposed to hang out tomorrow for the loy krathong festival and then move on the next day to cambodia. we'll see if that happens or not. :)


patpong night market- seemingly innocent but behind those tents are some seedy nasty go go girls

it's hard to keep an online journal like this. i mean it's hard to know how honest to be, or if anyone really cares to hear details, or if i am going to regret saying things or if i am boring. but like i said before travel is still real life, and real life is made up of routine and redundancy and awkwardness at times. & well i am honest by nature so give or take me (and my life)- it's your choice whether or not to read. :)

specifically a routine (or trap) that i can't seem to get out of (but is a goal for this trip) is the one with 'x'. you can't read about my day to day life without hearing his name, and i need to change that i suppose. 'x' is my only weakness. i realized today that he stayed on the other side of bangkok so as not to run into me while he is here. i don't know why i am so disappointed but well... devastated would be more apt and i have been wandering around, crying off and on all day. i know everyone's life story has a lost love. so maybe you all can understand a bit my lonely position. in every relationship (which ends) there is a point where you cross a line, and from that point on you relate as strangers. you can no longer show affection or be intimate. you can no longer be honest because honesty is not accepted, only pretense of normalcy and peace... there is no peace in my life when it comes to 'x', and i am not very good at pretense. for five 1/2 years he has been all i have- my only friend and confidante, my lover, a father figure, a brother, a teacher... he has filled all the roles in my life of isolation and now that he's gone those roles are empty and i am still isolated.

anyway it's hard to have the self confidence needed to set out to see the world on days like today, and hard to find the beauty and novelty and adventure in a solo expedition. i am in a weird space, being through with thailand (which i know well) and being about to move on to wilder, harder places like cambodia (which i don't know). i feel like i am running in place in bangkok, and have to admit i am a little afraid to proceed. i guess the only thing to do is to relax and get better, be depressed in my undies in front of cable for awhile if that's what it takes, and buy some books and start planning. but i do need to move on, in more ways than one. forgive me if i backtrack now and then but i won't give up, i swear.


if i can help it you will never see me wear these in real life

woke up feeling 80% better this morning so i guess my doctor was for real after all. 'x' had emailed me saying he'd be back in bangkok today so in betrayal of all my vehement admonishments to myself i kept a hopeful eye out for him all morning. for some reason i had the shopping bug so also against my better judgement i walked up and down the open air stalls on khao san road looking for things to waste money on. i bought a cute paul frank shirt and a pair of... how to explain.... thingys that you twirl like firedancers do but without flames (?). i also inexplicably purchased an outfit to wear when i go to india in a few months (my entire wardrobe will eventually have to be revamped as you can not wear "boob shirts" in certain areas of asia). i later picked up my glasses which make me look horrendously, hilariously bookish and nerdy, and make me rather dizzy as well but i suppose are handy to have.

i feel guilty for not leaving khao san road today as it is not the "real" bangkok. it's where the travellers get together and drink western beer and watch western movies and talk about how much more well travelled they are than everyone else. but sometimes it's nice to just be around westerners too. i met an old man from israel who tried every trick in the book to try to get me to come back to his hotel with him but i'm getting really good at fending people off. besides that he was nice and he gave me good tips on cambodia, as well as a free drink.

i haven't been able to go out for about a week now between being sick and taking antibiotics (no alcohol), so i really want to go dancing and playing voyeur in the notorious patpong district or go watch some muay thai kickboxing or something(!), but alas i have resigned myself to watching superman on cable and drinking only green tea with jasmine (a new addiction) in my room.


mmmm, fried cockroach? anyone?

i left samet early this morning without saying goodbye to anyone because i was so thoroughly disgusted with my entire experience there. on the way out a songthaew (cab) refused to pick me up and take me to the pier so i started to hoof it, dragging my bags through the sand and knowing i would never make it on time for my ferry. finally another one came and severely overcharged me but got me there on time.

at the other end of the ferry ride i was waiting on the minibus to leave for bangkok when a mean old thai lady kicked me off and made me move to another one since i was the only solo traveller and a group of friends wanted to travel together. argh. i had gotten to the tour co. early and snagged the best seat in that bus on purpose, but was moved to the worst seat in the other one. (a minibus is actually a minivan that is crammed with 12 people and in all seats except the one directly behind the driver there is no legroom and no air). whatever. i sucked it up for the next 4 hours knowing i would soon be in the relative comfort of bangkok.

got to bangkok, ran happily to my hotel and told the desk clerk i had a reservation. at first i thought she was deaf but then i realized she was ignoring me. finally i got her attention by yelling my name and she huffed and puffed, very put out that she had to look me up. she threw the key at me, i gave her a nice smirk right back and voila... i had made it. my room has a/c, hbo/cinemax, a pool, and even room service, and it is only $8 a night, cheaper than i thought. i fell into bed, feverish but happy.

woke up later and headed for the doctor's office. he was ancient and i didn't trust him at all until i saw his degree from a school in baltimore. still, fake degrees abound in bangkok... anyway he seemed nice enough & looked me over, said i had bronchitis, strep throat and conjunctivitis, gave me erythromycin (supposedly stronger than the course of amoxicillin i just finished), seriously overcharged me and sent me on my way.

headed for the optometrist's office, where i was scandalously overcharged for a pair of glasses. 4700 baht. i almost cried.

had a drink at sawasdee house and went to bed, feeling very unfriendly towards the vultures that thai people can be.


bye samet
false alarm- optimism spoke too eagerly. woke up this morning and added to my laundry list of symptoms a fever (i broke my thermometer a week ago but the hellish chills tipped me off), severe back pains (kidneys?), and a swollen throat. still blind in both eyes and still coughing like a geriatric smoker. ACK. ko samet doesn't want me here. i suppose i have been under a ton of stress lately and it's catching up to me as well. i decided if i can still get tickets to make a break for bangkok in the morning and see a real doctor at the hospital. i am going to make a reservation at a comfy hotel with hot water, a/c, and cable tv even though i feel horribly guilty about the $13 a night it will cost me.

my tan (i thoughtfully cropped out the armpit hair) :)

what goes down must come up eh. this is my 3rd day of blindness and i now believe it is a sort of subconscious self-imposed penance...perhaps... my immune system forcing me to be alone and do some heavy thinking that maybe otherwise i would not have done (?)... today i feel really peaceful and self confident and balanced (um, yes i am bi-polar). in a way it is nice to be half blind... since you can't see anything other than color and light the subtleties of both are more evident and impressive. in other words i notice more by the absence than i do when all is clear. the water is a gorgeous convolution of various blues, the sand pure sparkling white, the people fuzzy laughing rainbows. i can't see the lecherous drunks eyeing me on the beach or the thai kids begging for money or anything but myself and my very immediate surroundings. i have done a lot of reading, a lot of reevaluating of my situation, and am well rested. i feel great. (so there fate.)

i think in addition that my rat and i have come to terms. i tried moving bungalows but they seem to be all full, so i resorted to throwing every object in my room at every scurrying scratching sound in the walls that popped up and i think he knows now to steer clear until i leave. (well maybe at least until i fall asleep). now if only the mosquitos would do the same.... i am also a deep dark glorious tan, probably the tannest i have ever been in my life, which was my (shallow maybe) goal in coming to samet in the first place. ;)

tonight i "watched" a couple american movies which they screen every night at various bars and had a delicious barbecue dinner on the beach... and if i can manage to keep at least one contact in for a couple of hours i think i might go dancing.


samet is pretty though

papa told me there'd be days like this- or something. i am so miserable today i want to just give up and go home. i suppose that is to be expected occasionally on a long haul trip, but fate seems to be toying with me on this one. i woke up and my lung infection is back full force despite my antibiotics, and now BOTH of my eyes are a shocking bloodshot red and swollen almost shut. i can't see a thing (i am holding my laptop up 4 inches from my face to type this), i am stuck in a crappy rat-infested bungalow with only intermittent electricity for hours with nothing to do but pity myself, nobody to talk to or sympathize, and i am sunburned on top of it all. ....sorry for venting, i guess travelling is still real life despite my idealistic expectations. i am realizing that i really dislike travelling alone thus far, even despite one or two situations i wouldn't have gotten into with a partner. i am feeling bitter, confused, and not sure what to do next. i suppose as soon as i can see again i will escape back to civilization (or as close as bangkok gets to it) and decide. tomorrow is another day.



my friendly neighborhood eye infection paid another visit today, arrgh. i paid $2 at the health clinic (i love that place) for antibiotics but in the meantime i am again blind in one eye. kind of throws the whole day off into a slant. i also feel sort of bad today being surrounded by so many frolicking happy couples. i miss 'x' a little and don't understand why he is so dead set against being one of them. though it's moot i suppose, as i have firmly resolved to move on with my life and forget him. i spent most of the day lying in the sun and not talking to anyone. i won't likely go out tonight. the next couple of days i will focus on my tan and then i am blowing this joint. next; a toss up between cambodia or myanmar...hmmmm which will it be???

sangsom bucket partner #4932

nothing much different to tell today. i was awoken at about 3am by a huge rat in my bungalow, which freaked me out sufficiently so that i got little sleep. the weather was gorgeous though and i am getting gloriously tan. i hung out with the thai boys all day, drinking and flirting. the way it works here is they watch all the loads of new tourists pull up, pick out who they are going to sleep with that night, and flaunt themselves shamelessly in front of them until it happens. it's pretty funny- the sluts. they live the good life sitting in their bar on the beach playing music and meeting people from everywhere. thai boys (like thai girls) are unfailingly healthy looking and in good shape. and they can be very funny in a naive way. i personally won't touch them with a 10-foot pole because of the STD factor, but i enjoy hanging out with them and getting all the gossip on their escapades and picking up bits of thai here and there. later tonight i went to silver sands(bar/club on the beach) alone. it was dead because everyone was watching a futbol game. which left a nearly empty dance floor. i met an australian guy and we drank buckets and danced all night with various people. later on we were sitting on the beach and i was stung on the head by some random angry thing, which made me paranoid enough not to get any sleep this night either.




hrmm. ko samet is disappointing so far. one good rule of travelling (or life for that matter) seems to be not to revisit a place. it is never what you remembered and you are guaranteed not to have the same experience all around. none of my friends are here, though apparently one is on his way. (this means no ganja to smoke or no rum buckets to share). it's cloudy so there is no tan to be had, and no beach to lie on anyway since the tide is so high. there are not many people here for some reason, and the ones that are here seem to be couples or drunk irritating older single men. arrrgh. maybe i just need to give it a day or two... otherwise there is not much to say about samet really. it's not so authentic or cultural, it's just very mellow and pristine and a good place to unwind.

i paid a visit to the health center here at long last. it was $6 for a doctor appointment and a prescription for amoxicillin (for bronchitis). how is that for affordable health care.


firedancers on beach

my solo trip officially started when i left 'x' in chiang mai but today is the first day i feel really free. on my way to samet i kept getting those "wow i'm in paradise" rushes and am very excited about the coming year. when i got to the island i grabbed a cozy bungalow at tok's little huts, bought some candles and incense, and took a nice cold shower and listened to my music. let my hair dry in the breeze and sat on my porch watching the very blue sea. this is the life. i wandered to the village for lunch and, deciding to try someplace authentic, went to a little hole in the wall to get a dish of noodles. immediately regretted it when a man there called over his must-have-been-nine-years-old son and told him to make me my food. i thought he was kidding but alas he was not, and for the next half hour i was forced to choke down an entire plate of the worst pad thai i have ever had, while father and son sat staring at me in silence. at least i only spent 40 baht, which is less than a dollar, but still--- only in thailand.



downtown bangkok

my cough was so bad today that i thought i might have to go to the hospital. when i breathe there is a nasty rasping sound. i kept having coughing fits that lasted 10 minutes or so (until my sides and stomach ached and i couldn't breathe) but did not produce anything or make me feel better. bangkok is a horrendously polluted city. the traffic is nightmarish and there are no emissions standards. the tuk tuk drivers and even just normal people on the street wear surgical masks to breathe. i braved the traffic anyway though and took a cab to panthip plaza to stock up on blank cds (so i can upload these entries) and pirated software. it was a much huger place than i expected; four floors of pc games, mp3 collections, and any kind of software/hardware you could want. i bought the whole MX collection for about $3.50. that's a freaking deal in case you didn't know! i also got a dozen cute CD-Rs with japanese pictures on them for about $2.

afterwards i headed towards the siam center area to shop at MBK. it's a weird mall in the center of bangkok, with 5 or 6 floors of cheap cool stuff that you can only find in thailand. the place is overrun with young thai girls in tight jeans, high heels, and midrift tops. i have been told that it's another pick up joint for prostitutes. all i know is that girls in their late teens here do not like western girls, and are not friendly in the least. not sure if it's jealousy or just brattiness? whatever. i didn't buy anything like a good little girl but i like to just wander around and look at all the drama. it is hard for western girls to like thai girls either after being here for any length of time. as the british guy i met tonight said "all those thai birds are ruthless prostitutes". it does seem after awhile that every girl here is for sale. in some areas it's sad because it is out of desperation, but in bangkok especially they are just seedy and trampy, too lazy to make money any other way and very materialistic. most of them are not well educated and they have nothing else going for them other than their t & a, which western men (ALL of them i must say, except the few who just aren't attracted to asians) fall hook, line and sinker for. after awhile it feels sort of shallow and gross all around.

went drinking/dancing later with a german d.j. and said horny british guy who kept begging to do shots off my breasts. they eventually left me to go to a blow job bar when their offer of skinny dipping and a threesome was politely declined by yours truly.

forgot my camera today
this time around i really enjoyed bangkok. i found a great guesthouse that is brand new and has a/c, hot water, and breakfast for cheap, which is a rare thing in the "traveller's ghetto" of banglamphu. i slept most of the day in the coolness (still freaking sick!). woke up in time to go out and headed for sawasdee house, which has a great porch along a busy sidestreet- excellent for having a mai tai and people watching. i ended up hanging out with a british kid who was very young and an avid mountain climber (he was headed for railey in the south which is known for that) and a swedish guy who surprised me by being friendly and laid back (and a little crazy), unlike some other swedes i have met. by the end of the night (after many drinks) the conversation stopped making sense and we said goodnight.

soul train
the train back to bangkok was definitely better than the one going to chiang mai. i got the express one for one thing, so it took about 12 1/2 hours instead of 16. the car was pretty empty except for a bunch of older french people and a cute danish guy at the other end. i had just settled into my book when he came and asked me to join him for a drink in the dining car. that drink turned into 3 or 4, and the dining car was turned into a sordid disco by the silly drunk french people and a couple of thai kids. so soren (storm, another great last name) and i drank and talked and danced and eventually cuddled up in my bunk and had fun sex with the window open on the asian countryside and the brilliant stars. i am not normally a one night stand kind of gal but i really liked him (we sort of clicked even beyond the physical aspect) and it was a great way to kick off my (solo) trip.
rainy days don't make for very interesting journal entries. neither does the fact that i woke up horrifically sick today. i have had a cold for about a week but this morning i couldn't breathe out of my nose at all, have a deep hacking cough, and feel generally like shinola. here's a nice picture of my hotel room for you, as that's where i have spent most of my day. they promised me hot water but alas there is none. tepid maybe. :( i bought a ticket leaving from chiang mai to bangkok tomorrow and plan to go south from there to meet my happy friends on the island of ko samed. great fun is forthcoming.

flooding chiang mai

there is life after 'x' after all (i forget). today rained and flooded and rained some more so the day was made up of catnaps, horrific mtv (top 20 countdown), cartoon network in thai, and more catnaps. finally the sky cleared and i ventured out. i had pad thai and watched a cute thai bluegrass band perform such favorites as "take me home country road", "sweet chariot" (groan), and my (really) personal favorite "you are my sunshine". one thing i have noticed about thai people is that they have no creativity. zilch, zero, nada. all of the music you hear here (besides the standard five or so traditional thai songs which i practically have memorized) is english ...and 3 years old at least. they seem to have a fascination with songs from the vietnam era and the late 70s- music my mom used to play in the car on weekend trips through the mountains when i was a wee lass. the art is the same, paintings of bob marley or horrid watercolors of elephants. american movies in the theaters... there is no style at all in this country, no individuality- i suppose that's due to the fact that they live such a traditional lifestyle.

anyway later on i ventured out to the night market and bought a hand carved silver ring from the hill tribes that i have been searching forever for. and as it was 11pm i thought it was prime time to head for bubbles disco, under the porn ping hotel (porn is a common thai word that i have yet to define but i find amusing). i was embarrassed to have been the only one in the club for at least a half hour while the staff gawked at me and surely called me a stupid "farlang". i pretended to watch the soccer game on tv and got drunk as quickly as possible. (on a side note, i can be bedridden for days puking my guts out in the US over a drink or two, whereas i can drink half a bottle of thai rum and be totally kool. hrmm- mindset or chemistry?)

finally the crowd poured in... ah, the drama of a thai nightclub. i would say 50% of the girls were...ladies of the night, 50% of the men their desperate clientele. the rest were real, sanuk-loving thai folk and assorted tourists. an hour into the night i got in a fight with a very drunk german man in his early 50s. he kept leaning over me to talk to his friend and nearly knocked me out of my chair 3 or 4 times. finally i elbowed him in the side as hard as i could and told him to stop freaking pushing me (liquid courage).... he freaked out, started screaming at me, spit in my face, and finally ran tattling to the staff and tried to get me kicked out. luckily he was obviously a drunk arsehole so he just looked like a fool. some really nice thai girls noticed the scene and invited me to come sit with them. i ended up dancing with them for hours. one of them (lek maybe?) could not keep her hands off of me. i was flattered because she was beautiful but i couldn't tell what she was after. thailand is one of the few places you have to wonder if the person hitting on you is after payment or true fun. it ended up being the former i think, as she eventually went home with a very pathetic european kid with thick glasses and acne. i felt like paying her to not go with him but i suppose she deals with this nightly and as with the dogs in thailand, you can't save them all. the rest of the night i fended off 3 israeli kids and one italian who kept begging me to come smoke up with them at their hotel afterwards. as they had a thai gal on each arm and i personally can't stand israeli men, i decided to sneak out when they weren't looking. as it turned out, i was drunk enough to take a tuk tuk back to the hotel and fell asleep to a story about dangerous snakes in thailand on cable. mmmm vacation.


buddha says "be cool"
my bus ride to chiang mai was not exactly an adventure, unless you count the fact that the driver was a hopped up maniac who took the curves at gut wrenching speeds. the boy from singapore in the seat in front of me puked loudly on our bathroom pit stop, while the lady behind me leaned over me to throw her own full makeshift plastic vomit bag out the window. we arrived almost 45 minutes early, white knuckled and exhausted. on the way we ran into a funeral procession, which was interesting. the line of people held up a large framed picture of the woman who died, decorated with flowers, followed by her coffin. it looked more like a celebration than a solemn occasion. i arrived at my guesthouse feeling sort of lost and dizzy. it always takes me a few days to get over leaving 'x'. i am in fact rather depressed. i walked around a bit, ate at the combination thai-mexican-italian place (thais just don't get it), and finally gave up when the skies opened up and dumped their wrath all over me. i was disappointed to find out that the cable in my room is all in thai (the better rooms have english channels, i'll move in the morning), so it will be a quiet rainy night of reading i think. alone again.

(note how my entries have been reordered... expect updates about every two weeks when i am in the back country, more often when i am in cities. if you care.)

bye 'x' & elocin

bye sad dog
so the wind changes again and my tour of north thailand is suddenly over. partly to be honest this has to do with constant tension between 'x' and i. we love each other like soulmates, are perfect travel companions, and rarely fight about anything but there is always sort of an imbalance. in the five years i have been his girlfriend he has refused to give up his fiercely independent "bachelorhood" and admit that he is with me (and me alone). and though i don't exactly want to get married at this point in time (ewww), i have a hard time being "cool" with the situation. there are problems in any relationship when the opinions or feelings of both sides don't sync up and we both know it's probably best for each of us to travel alone until they do. i am very sad about it though, and spent most of the day wandering around mae hong son in a teary haze. finally i bought a bus ticket leaving tomorrow to go back to chiang mai.

i know 'x' is not happy either so we met up for drinks later at the corner bar and avoid the subject pretty admirably over a game of foosball in which i kick his white arse 36 to 25. :) we both got fairly drunk and staggered to the motorbike. drove around sort of aimlessly, stopping to feel heartwrenched over a couple of flea bitten puppies and a very mangy dog. thai people have no qualms about letting their dogs suffer visibly from various ailments. the streets are literally teeming with strays- starving, broken legs, their intestines falling out in some cases, all fleabitten and mangy and miserable. if there is anything severely lacking here it is some sort of humane society. being drunk our concern was a little magnified and we bought some hot dogs and sausage rolls at the 7-11 and fed it to one sad dog in particular. we set off a domino reaction and were surrounded by pleading whining dogs within five seconds. unfortunately you can't help all of them.

later there was the awkwardness before we said good night, knowing that i was leaving in the morning. 'x' invited me into his room, and we talked about our plans for our trips. it's hard now that we are here with all of our money to decide what it really is we want out of our travels. sort of like when everything you touch turns to gold it loses it's value. neither of us really know where to go or what to do next and we both feel sort of confused and unfocused on top of the instability between us. we sort of left it at that and i fell into a fitful sleep just in time to wake up again and catch my bus south.


2000-2002  elocin

mail | guestbook