Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mr. Pong II

Just to expand on a bit of Michele's most recent post, I must tell the tale of Mr. Pong II (not to be confused with Mr. Pong I - who operates Dubble Duke seafoods on Haad Salad on Koh Phangan).

When we were last in Surat Thani a week ago, we'd just been taken by the mini-mini bus driver from "Holiday Travel" to a bogus stop at restaurant (where we thought we were going to catch the minibus to "Little Rangoon", but instead were just suckered into buying lunch before proceeding to the actual minibus station), when we managed to get in touch with Kae - the proprietor of the Haad Beach Koh Island "resort" at which we wound up staying. Kae confirmed that they had 2 bungalows available.

The problem, however, was that our minibus would arrive into Little Rangoon right as the last boat headed off the north coast would be leaving.

However, Kae informed us that her husband - Mr. Pong - the Chief of Police would meet us at the minivan.

So we depart in a pounding rainstorm, twisting through beautiful tropical mountains, Frank, Rebecca, Michele and I (and 6 of our closest friends) all scrunched into a Toyota minivan.

As in all such cases, our minivan was met in Little Rangoon by a sea of faces offering taxi and other services. Bags our getting pulled out. People are going this way and that. Somehow through the mini-throng, a smiling face appears and we realize in that magic - somehow I know you're the guy we're looking for way - that it's Mr. Pong.

Bags are tossed into the back of his truck. Michele and Rebecca get in up front, Frank and I dive into the back and he hits the gas. We tear through town, passing on the right, left and straigh up the middle. I see myself in the rear view mirror and I look like a dog in a pickup on the freeway as I watch scooters and pedestrians dive for the shoulder.

We get to the dock (not quite a Starsky & Hutch power slide, but damn close), throw our bags on the longtail boat that's been kept waiting a half an hour for us and with a quick wave goodbye, we're off into an exotic estuary of mangrove & fishing boats.

And that was the last we saw of Mr Pong II.

This time...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Re-entry into "civilization"?

We just spent the most incredible week in a remote island that has no cars or roads, electricity for 4 hours a day, and empty beaches with 80 degree water. This place is so incredible that we can't even tell you where it is out of fear it will someday become "discovered" and overrun with resorts and people to ruin it; however, we promise to tell you the name of it if you ever plan on being in southern Thailand, close to the Burmese (now Myanmar) border. The people were so lovely and kind, and even the tourists help out with carrying luggage, blocks of ice, and food deliveries from the mainland when longboats pull onto the shore. It is the closest place I have ever encountered so far that is an unspoiled paradise and hope it never changes.

Last week sometime (I have lost track of dates at this point) we left Koh Pha Ngan on an early 7 a.m. ferry to Don Sok, boarded a cramped bus to Surat Thani and had to wait around for a bit until we were able to find a minibus to transport us and some other people to "Little Rangoon". From Little Rangoon we boarded a longtail boat to the island which can't be named and had to rush like mad to get on board, as word was sent ahead of time to wait for us since it was the last boat leaving the mainland for the day.

Not to sound corny or anything, but it was a pretty heartwarming sight when the boat pulled into different areas of the island to see both tourists, residents, and even dogs wade out into the water with big smiles to greet the boat. Everyone chipped in to help (except for the dogs), regardless of their age, to help ferry supplies, luggage and sometimes people ashore. It was definately a great welcome to the island to see such enthusiasm.

Today we all sadly left to come back to the mainland as it seems like time to explore new things. Our intention was to make it to Chiang Mai by this evening, which of course was overly optimistic on all counts. Back in Ranong we learned there are no flights 2 days out of the week to Bangkok so we hired a taxi to take us 3 hours back to Surat Thani, where there would be flights out of that airport. One flight had already left, one was cancelled, and the other was completely booked, and standby was a waste of time. Back again we piled into a taxi to the Surat Thani train station where we booked overnight 1st class sleeper cars that depart in 3 hours to Bangkok (12 hour trip), and from there we will hopefully fly tomorrow to Chiang Mai in the north. Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city, and from there we will travel up to Chiang Rai and continue travelling north into Laos.

More updates to follow when we arrive in Chiang Mai!

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Spicy now, good long time!"

Well, we made it out of the US finally!

We flew directly to Tokyo from Seattle for a 3 hour layover, then flew to Bangkok, arrived at the hotel around 1 a.m., fell asleep around 3 a.m., and woke up at 7 a.m., completely wide awake. We had a few hours to walk around by our hotel, bought a few things, and was back at the airport 12 hours after arriving at it the day before!

The entire wedding party (about 25 people?) flew from Bangkok to Koh Samui (1 hr. flight) where all of our luggage was piled on top of a truck with nothing to secure it from falling off. Despite how potholed and bumpy the roads were, nothing fell off en route to the ferry (1 hr. ride), which took us to Koh Pha Ngan. Here we all piled onto the back of pickup trucks which took us out to our bungalows overlooking the ocean (Gulf of Thailand). It was a long day of transport and I still couldn't sleep well due to the jetlag, even with 10mg. of Ambien. However, I was somehow awake enough to get up at 7 a.m. to do yoga for an hour.

The whole wedding party went on a dive/snorkel trip to Koh Tao and Tong Nai Pan; really fascinating underwater scenes straight out of the Nature Channel or something. Lots of coral, reef, brightly colored parrot fish, and sea urchins. I really want to learn how to dive while out here if possible.

I had my first Thai massage ever yesterday, and this tiny woman who gave the massage was really powerful. Just what my body needed after lots of travelling, snorkeling, swimming, and yoga--ouch! The massage therapist could hear me grunting as my body was pulled like taffy as smashed back into alignment, and she laughed and said, "Spicy now, good long time!" If you have never had a Thai massage, I highly reccommend it--very intense; kind of like doing passive yoga as your body is squashed into different positions and pulled on simultaneously. "Thai massage like Thai boxing", she said. "Same thing--hurts!"

Yesterday was Rebecca and Frank's wedding in a small fishing village called Chaloklum in this beautiful bar called Shisha; very laid back and comfortable, right on the beach. (Side note: I tried Mackerel for my first time this week, and I heard there was Barracuda served a few nights ago but I'm not sure if I got any of that). The food last night was amazing, and it was quite the romantic spot to pick for a wedding. Paul's comment to me was, "How are we going to top THIS?" and I know he was joking of course; but just so you all know, don't be surprised if we try and lure all of you out to Antarctica for our wedding, ha-ha!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Kitchen - Before and After

Much of the effort involved in this grand scheme of "paint/pack/move" involved redoing the kitchen.

Here are some before and after pix so's you can see the difference.

No escape yet!!!

Escape had been scheduled for Sunday Feb 12, but Brooklyn had other plans.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The moving machine hath cometh

On Tuesday the 7th a moving crew came in to pack up our stuff and put it in storage, and it will eventually be hauled across the country to our new home in Portland.
I slept terribly the night before as my camping mattress sprung a leak. We were hoping to hang on to the futon until the end of the week but this woman wanted to purchase it immediately, so we are now sleeping on the floor.

So this moving crew invades at 9am and the cats immediately hide in the closet. Things are getting crammed into boxes left and right and we have to stay fully cognizant of what the movers are doing as certain items are marked off for them NOT to move. My travel clothes instantly get packed and luckily I was awake enough to jump up and save them from being put into storage for 4 months. I felt kind of bad hovering over them the whole time, but it seemed necessary to avoid having things handled poorly and broken. I was surprised at how careless the whole operation seemed, and I know the idea is to get in and out of there as quickly as possible, but I'm just hoping at this point that half of the fragile stuff survives.

I stupidly forgot to set aside a winter coat and so all of my coats got swept up in the moving maching. Of course now it is finally cold outside and I have to wear 5 layers under my fleece to stay warm and look like the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man.

Somehow the movers thought it would be a good idea to pack up a crusty, filthy cat litter scoop and the gross rug that was under the litter box. For all we know it got tossed into a box with our cycling helmets, hats and coats, and won't that be a nice surprise when we unpack?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Last day at the nuthouse...

...and one week left in Brooklyn! While I am relived it is my last day, I am sad as well---like I am the bad therapist who is abandoning her clients, which I guess is essentially what is happening. And it makes me feel worse to see some of them cry and ask,"but why do you have to go?" I want them all to be happy and get out of here as well-this is such a hard place to work in; living here must really be a nightmare. I give the women who live here a lot of credit--I don't know how long I would last mentally and physically if I were stuck in this place, with no family to help me out.
But overall it has been one amazing learning experience and it has been quite the challenge.

Somehow Paul and I have gotten most of the stuff done that we have been freaking out about; there is just a bunch of furniture and other things left to Craigslist or give away to friends, so it will have to get done in the upcoming week. We are taking relatively little with us; mainly clothing, books, a few pieces of furniture, kitchen supplies, and computer stuff.

I am alternating between tinges of sadness for leaving Brooklyn (which has been my home for almost 9 years--the longest I have lived anywhere in my adult life thus far) and being excited and anxious about embarking on an adventure. It doesn't seem quite real yet that we are leaving, and that in two weeks we'll be on a gorgeous beach in Thailand.