Archive for May, 2006

even moses would have withered

Friday, May 19th, 2006

the past 24 hours have brought us trials of biblical proportions.

we thought we’d head a bit off the beaten path for a bit before heading for the beaches after bangkok, so we decided to hit khao yai national park for a day or two. to get there, we had to take a bus to pak chong, then take a songthaew to the park entrance, then once inside the park, hitch the last 14 km to the headquarters and visitor centre. riding along in the back of a pickup, we were greeted by gorgeous views and patted ourselves on the back for being so resourceful. our original idea was to hire a tent and do some camping, but upon learning that the campsite area was 10 km away, we decided to make do with the basic dorm accomodation available nearby. the dorm itself was more or less just an empty cabin with no amenities, but we were assured there was bedding for hire from a lady coming by later that afternoon. so having settled outr accomodation (and having left without brekky at 5am) we dropped our packs and decided to grab a bite of lunch before doing an efternoon hike.

and then the floods began.

as we ate, the skies clotted and opened up, letting loose an unremitting rain like i’ve never seen before. torrential sheets of water, cascading over everything with no letup. they don’t call it monsoon season for nothing. we had coffee. we played 7 games of yahtzee. we read. we played a long and involved game of knock-down-drag-out chess. and still no respite. we spent hours and hours waiting for a break, and none came.

then came the famine.

we became so involved in playing our game of chess that we didn’t notice how late it was actually getting. and we didn’t notice the canteen closing up shop at 6 pm. suddenly, we were shit out of luck, as they say. at 7 we started to ponder dinner options, only to discover there were none to be had. everything shut. our one midday meal and the packet of crisps we consumed during chess would have to sustain us for the next 12 hours. we were damp and bored and hungry and it was starting to get dark. however the rain was finally tapering off a bit, after 7 hours, so we could at least head back to the dorm.

then came the plague of locusts flying ants.

apparently heavy rains bring out the flying ants. millions of them. like something out of a hitchcock movie. they hung in the air like curtains, swarming towards any source of light, sputternig, flailing, falling, divebombing. they were in your face and hair. they crashed into walls and legs. they crunched underfoot. giant toads sat int the grass complacently feasting while hoards of monkeys were acrobating about snatching them in midair.

but flies draw lizards and frogs – which draw snakes. and this is cobra country – really. suddenly it was 7:30 and pitch black and the short path through the woods to our dorm was looking mighty dark. having no torch to guide us, and terrified of getting lost, we slowly, nervously and loudly followed the edge of the path all the way to safety by the light of the ipod.

finally arriving at the cabin, we discovered that our bedding situation could be described charitably as “spartan”, consisting of a straw beach mat, a small wool blanket, and a brick masquerading as a bolster pillow. we turned on the cabin lights only to have thousands of flying ants bombard the screens, invade the floorboard cracks, and wiggle through the corner gaps. we were under attack.

a plan of action was needed, so we killed the overhead lights and turned on the outdoor flourescents as a distraction. in macgyyver-like fashion, we strung up the mosquito netting with dental floss and plasters from the first aid kit. setting up the bedding and widening the net, we managed to establish a small “insect-free” zone. and there we hid for the rest of the night – the only light my tiny travel booklamp, the only sound the patter of wings against the tin roof.

it was a long 10 hours til dawn.

we awoke to arguing monkeys outside, feeling not unlike the survivors in a vampire movie who’ve made it to see another sunrise. but with more overcast skies, the prospect of spending another day and night trapped by rains and ants was more than we could bear, so we reluctantly headed back to the safety and smog of bangkok.

hot blooded

Friday, May 19th, 2006

that’s me. the past few weeks have only served to confirm wha i already knew – I am meant for hot climates. i’m at my best tan, sweaty and barefoot and the heat energises me.

my attachment to the snow is purely sentimental.

quick update

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

just in case you haven’t looked recently, new pics in the photo gallery and updated “where we are now”.

here’s the pics of the new ink…

there’s a special place in hell…

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

… for the tuk tuk driver who tried to rip us off by roping us into going to some shady warehouse “just to look”, forcing us to jump out of the vehicle and spend an hour walking back to where we were before.

evil son of a bitch better hope we never cross paths again, because i will not be held responsible for my actions!

happy birthday

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

to mum. i miss you lots and love you even more. thinking of you today…


shabby chic

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

as we drove into bangkok yesterday evening, there was a distinctly noticable warm glow over the city which i attributed to the setting sun dropping down the horizon. but in truth, bangkok needs no sunset – it emanates a golden haze all its own – a gentle shabby elegance that shimmers. somehow the usual din and dirt and bustle combine with the reflection of glistening wats, the buzz of the heady neon flowers, the curling grace of the writing and architecture, to give off a strange kind of comfort. shrine incense and roasting bananas perfume the street air, and the puttering tuk tuks and sizzling woks provide the soundtrack. in whiling away a day lazily shopping and snacking, or drifting into night at a candlelight sidewalk bar with talk of beer and beaches, it’s easy to see how people can lose themselves here. it’s slow and sweaty, a sultry seduction.

it’s easy to understand because i lost myself recently – forgetting the days and the dates, and i am thoroughly ashamed to admit … i forgot j’s birthday. for two whole days. those who know me well, and know the importance i place on birthdays will find that hard to believe, but it’s true. i could defend myself by saying it was the day after our 30 hour train trip, and j had been ill, etc., but the plain fact is that there is no justification for such a grievous sin. i feel like the world’s biggest jerk, and probably will for a long time. but today, j finally got his b-day present: a big old tribal tattoo that he’s been wanting for a while. and i joined him to commemorate the trip – an elephant on the inside of my wrist. elephants never forget.

goodbye china, hello thailand

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

moving on now to thailand, and i feel ready for another country, another time zone, a change of custom and language and scenery, a change of money and pace. it’s not that i’m tired of china, but that i am eager to see what the rest of asia holds.

but here are some snapshots of china that i wish i could have taken:

the bobble-headed mario lemieux doll in a random shop window in xi’an

hodling my own in a “chinese queue” at the bus station ticket window (liberal use of elbows involved)

the phone-relay conversation with the datong cabbie and his one english speaking friend on the other end of the line acting as translator

the national obsession with meat-on-a-stick

the praying monks at wutai shan

the sign which read “please protect your valuables – keep them with you in your head space.”

the hilarity of “point and pray” dining

the pure joy of a solid 2 hour all-english movie, with popcorn on a rainy day

twelve sales clerks for every one customer

coal factories everywhere

the sight of us traipsing down the dusty highway in pingyao with trucks whizzing past us

all these and more will have to stay imprinted on my memory… until next time.

happy mother’s day!

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

to all the mother’s (and mother figures) we’ve known and loved. mum, mom, kate, cat, lee-ann, carey, and catie.

hope you all have a wonderful day!

hong kong

Friday, May 12th, 2006

arriving in hong kong, i am blown away. i don’t know what i was expecting, but it wasn’t this.

hong kong is unabashedly everything that mainland china is not: modern, efficient, brash, stylish. the skyline is a daring testament, a statement: we’re brave and powerful, and we’re putting our stamp on the world. it’s less conservative than new york, less traditionalist than london. hong kong has chutzpah and moxie – it’s chasing the cutting edge with abandon.

drawing near to the city, there’s that feeling of excitement when anythign is possible – there’s an energy beneath the neon, an undercurrent, a buzz given off by people doing big things.

physically, hong kong is like manhattan mashed into san francisco – the funky hills and character filled districts. there are still vestiges of the colonial times (”mind the gap”, double decker buses, driving on the left, Mr. softee ice cream) but hing kong is asain through and through, make no mistake. it’s what london could have been if londoners were’nt so damn provincial. it’s bold, it has vision – things happen here in the way that only people with money and drive can make them happen. the people who inhabit the city by day are urbane and sophisticated. they like their $20 coffes and imported cuisines. but they develop, they deal, they sell. they’re fast movers bringing the city right along with them. and that hum? it’s the kinetic energy, the force of forward motion, of people pulling a city towards the 22nd century, creating a beautiful electricity that’s altogether something dazzling to behold.

a matter of trust

Friday, May 12th, 2006

trust is an important lesson in travelling. it means learning to go with the flow even when you have no idea where that flow is taking you. you’re continually being lead by people you don’t know, following directions you don’t understand, and trusting that they will get you where you want to go in one piece. for example, we just had to change buses in the middle of the highway – why, i don’t know, but i have to trust that someone else does. people sell me tickets i can’t read, food i can’t identify, products i don’t recognise. and i have to trust them.

even more than learning to trust others, you have to learn to trust yourself – trust your own capabilities to deal with whatever strange, difficult, and wonderful adventures may present themselves. because we head off blindly with all our intentions, and only the vaguest notion of how to get there or achieve them. and leaving it to the hands of fate and strangers, we somehow arrive safely at the other side.

a minor miracle, trust is, when you’re a stranger in a strange land. yet the most essential first step for undertaking any journey.

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