Tag Archives: beer

Holiday Season ‘Down Under’

I hadn’t planned on visiting Australia initially because I’d learned from fellow travelers that it was a very expensive country to visit.  However, it was while I was in Malaysia volunteering at the animal shelter that I just happened to receive an email from a good friend of mine whom I’d known back in New Mexico.  We had lost touch over the years despite attempts on both our ends to keep in touch, but alas he found me:)  And as chance would have it, he was living in Sydney!  So of course I had to go see him!!

The timing of it all to this day still fascinates me.  It’s just further proof in my book that everything happens the way it should.  After a couple of email exchanges I made plans to see him and spend Christmas and New Years with him and his partner:)

I arrived in the ‘land down under’ mid-December and was greeted at the airport with the loving embrace and friendly faces of my friend and his partner.  After a quick nibble out, we headed back to their place where I met their two kids, Willow and Bear, two absolutely adorable pups!!  We stayed up quite late that first night (and for the next several nights) with bottles of vino and beer, catching up on all things past and present.  What a truly amazing and still surreal time!

They showed me around all the hotspots of Sydney; Bondi beach (pronounced Bond-eye, not Bondy), the Opera House (of course!), the harbor area, Mansly, the Botanical Gardens and the Watson Bay area where sailboats dotted a quiet bay eclipsed by beautiful homes gently sloping from the water.  It was all so picturesque and beautiful!  We even ventured a bit further out on the weekends for little road trips to the Blue Mountains where we viewed the Three Sisters.

The thing that surprised me about the Opera house was that the roof was made of tiles!  From all the pictures I had seen prior to seeing it first-hand,  the roof simply looked white and I hadn’t noticed anything particularly remarkable about it.  However up close, it was impressive to see that the roof was in fact made of white and beige tiles and that they formed very specific patterns giving each shell a unique and artistic flare.  In addition, again from pictures, I had always imagined that the Opera house was a singular building and each layered ‘armadillo shell’ was part of the design to enhance acoustics for that one stage.  I had no idea that in fact there are multiple stages allowing several productions to occur within the same season.  Just goes to show you that you never really know about something until you get up close and personal with it;)

The Botanical Gardens were absolutely darling!  They seemed to go on forever and though they were basically next door to the heart of downtown Sydney, they had a quiet and calm about them that made you feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.  2016 just so happens to also be the 200th birthday of the gardens, so that’s pretty cool:)

The Blue Mountains too were a surprise as I had no idea such lush green life and landscapes could be found in Oz.  Again, most of the pictures I had seen of Australia boasted the main highlights of the Barrier Reef, the Opera House or the Outback where the land is red and lacking plant life.  But in the Blue Mountains, I could have mistaken us for being in Virgina near the Blue Ridge!  Simply beautiful!

The only odd thing to me was knowing that it was only a week away from Christmas, yet not really seeing any sort of Christmas decorations anywhere!  There were a few scattered here and there, but nothing like I was accustomed to seeing in the States around Christmas time.  However, that didn’t stop us from doing some decorating ourselves:)  J’s mom had sent him a Christmas tree, so on or about the day before Christmas, we got our drinks on (which put us all in a jolly mood) and set up the Christmas tree and other decorations to get the place looking festive!  A few gifts were exchanged, delicious food was cooked, and we all reveled in the joys of being with good friends.

Christmas Day passed and New Years was quickly approaching, so the next big thing was to decide how to ring in the New Year.  We settled on trying for one of the free spots at a park on the harbor (Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair).  The only trouble was that once capacity for the park was reached, they closed it off therefore not allowing any new people in.  And because this venue was free to enter (and honestly was one of the best in my opinion as it had a fantastic view of the harbor, the bridge and the opera house) the lines would no doubt be long.  The chances of getting in at all were unpredictable!

‘A’ (J’s partner) had to work New Year’s Day, so that left ‘J ‘and I to try for a park place where ‘A’ would meet us later.  We made it there around 10am to find a line that wove back and forth and forth and back with what looked like thousands waiting to get in!  We got in at the back of the makeshift line and thus began the slow and arduous task of walking a few feet every couple of minutes, slowly inching our way to the entrance gates.  Luckily we came prepared however with water, snacks and sunscreen.

I should mention at this point that the Norwegian couple I had met back in Kuala Lumpur were also in Sydney for New Year’s.  We had reconnected via email and arranged to meet at the park.  After about an hour or so, they arrived with another friend in tow and they joined ‘J’ and I in line (which still had only moved a couple hundred feet or so, lol!!).  The mood around us was festive and it was funny to see how many people had already started hitting the beers hard!  Personally it was just too hot in the direct sun for that in my opinion, plus having to find a bathroom would have been its own kind of torture!!

The hours ticked away as we crept closer and closer toward the finish line… Finally, about 4 hours later we were in!  While there were already thousands of people in the park, it didn’t feel as crowded as I would have thought which I was very grateful for!  We scouted a place to sit under a nice shady tree, then sent one of the fellas to the nearby food and drink kiosks for some cold beers!  We sat around enjoying the cold beers and continued chit-chatting and all was absolutely perfect, save for one thing…

‘A’ was still at work… The plan we had hoped for was that he would be able to get off work a bit early, then head to the park where he could hopefully hop in line with us and make it in before the park reached capacity.  However, at this point it was already past 2pm.  The line that had formed behind us seemed longer than the line we had initially started in, and according to the online information, the park had already almost reached capacity and would soon be closed off.  Not happy news!!  As the time ticked on it seemed less and less likely that he would be able to make it to the park.

Seriously a huge conundrum!!  I didn’t want ‘A’ to have to spend New Year’s alone, especially without his partner!!  But I also didn’t want to leave our park spot.  We debated back and forth what to do and eventually settled on me staying in the park, and ‘J’ leaving the park to be with ‘A’.  In addition ‘J’ had started not to feel so hot, as even though he kept reapplying sunscreen the entire time we stood in line, he still managed to get a pretty bad sunburn!!  So as he wasn’t feeling the best he said he was fine with leaving to be with ‘A’.  Though I know I shouldn’t, I do still feel guilty for having stayed behind because I wanted the three of us to be together for New Years.  But as ‘A’ and ‘J’ said, they had “been there, done that” with Sydney’s firework show.  It wasn’t so important for them to see them again, but since it was a first for me, they said I should definitely see them.

So I hung back with my friends from Norway and rang in the New Year watching fireworks shower off the Sydney harbor bridge and light up the harbor waters.  It was such a beautiful sight!  I love everything about fireworks; the sounds, smells and sight of them.  Being so up close and personal to such a spectacular show was unbelievable.  I’m so thankful for the chance to have been able to be there!

After the show, I parted ways with my Norwegian friends and met up with ‘J’ and ‘A’ and we headed home to comfort the pups.  Though we were not able to spend New Year’s night together, we did have our own New Year celebration a bit later.  Popping a bottle of champagne we wrote down things we no longer wanted to be burdened with in our lives and set them on fire Zozobra style!

On to Summer Camp in January

Back to Australia

Back to Homepage

Advertisements

Koh Lipe Trash Hero!

While on the island of Koh Tao, I’d volunteered to be Trash Hero on several occasions and was tickled to see that Koh Lipe had their own Trash Hero organization as well!

Koh Lipe has amazingly beautiful clean and clear waters surrounding all its edges, which honestly was surprising seeing how many longtail boats (easily over 100 with petrol run engines) were parked along the shores and the amount of trash that could be found washed up along the beaches.

Yes, this was my only critique of this otherwise lovely island.  Trash could be found everywhere on the beaches.  Generally the trash was washed up fairly high along the coast line so you could easily find spots closer to the water free from trash to lay on, but still seeing all the waste was disconcerting.

The Trash Hero chapter on Koh Lipe thankfully is quite well organized however.  They meet every Monday at the start of the Walking Street along Pattaya Beach (if at other locations, someone at the Dive shop there will direct you).  Along with the weekly trash pick-ups on Mondays they offer full day and even week-long trash volunteer programs where you can be dropped off on an island for up to 2 weeks, camp and eat there, enjoy the nature and pick up trash for 4 hours a day!  Had I the time to stay longer, I would have signed up for that adventure, but alas…

I showed up along with 2 other volunteers at the end of the Walking Street on a Monday morning, and we were directed by one of the Dive Shop employees that the meeting location had been moved to the north end of Sunrise beach.  So we headed off and were joined with another 5 people waiting to volunteer.

From there, we hopped on a longtail boat and headed to a nearby island (Ko Adang) to get started on picking up trash. To my surprise, when we arrived, there were at least 5 other longtail boats already there, each carrying at least 5-10 people!  So in total, between the organizers (about 5) and the volunteers, there were probably about 30 of us!  It was amazing to see such a great turnout!!!

We spent several hours picking up trash, then enjoyed a nice break with fresh watermelon and beers!  Volunteers even enjoyed a nice swim at the end some even did some snorkeling 🙂  The amount of trash picked up in such a small amount of space was astounding!!  I would venture to guess over 50 large trash bags worth!  Absolutely unbelievable as the stretch of beach we picked trash from was no more than about 50 meters long.

Once the beers were consumed and the swimming was finished, we loaded the trash into the boats and headed back to Koh Lipe.  From there, the group went to a local bar for some lunch and socializing.

A few things I’d recommend for anyone out there wanting to volunteer for Trash Hero on Koh Lipe: First, bring a camera because you never know where you are going to go and the beauty to be seen!  Second, wear your bathing suit so you can join in with the swimming!  Third, bring money and don’t make any plans after the fact if you are wanting to join the others for a late lunch after volunteering:)

But most importantly, if you are going to visit Koh Lipe, please do your part.  Don’t litter while there, and join in to be a Trash Hero!!

Picture courtesy of Google Images 🙂

On to Don’t Mess with Thailand!

Back to Thailand

The Quiet Sides of Phi Phi

Getting away from the party scene on Ko Phi Phi Don isn’t hard.  The East side of the island as well as Long Beach on the far east side of the southern bay are two great spots to really feel like you are getting away from it all.  Whether you choose to walk or hire a longtail boat taxi to get there is up to you. 🙂

The one good thing about having chosen to stay at Phutawan (technically Phi Phi Hill Bungalows) was the close proximity to the viewpoint.  We were only a short uphill hike to a rather stunning view of the two bays of Ko Phi Phi.  The signs to get up there were fairly reasonable and noticeable.  However the signs on how to get to the beaches of Rantee, Moo Dee or Ao Toh Ko on the east side of the island from the viewpoint was another story!!  To be fair, we were warned in advance (thanks again to a post on Travelfish) that the signs would be sketchy at best!

Other than the signage issue, the hike downhill wasn’t terrible.  The jungle was very thick at times, mosquitos hovered around every pore on our bodies and took to nibbling on us the second we stopped or paused, and at some points it took a little bit of clever maneuvering to continue on, but overall wasn’t bad.  On the other side, the beautiful beaches and quiet greeted us!  Granted, compared to the Lo Dalam, the beaches weren’t as spectacular but they were still beautiful in their own way.

We spent the afternoon snorkeling, having lunch, reading books and of course drinking beers.  Earlier in the day we had the best of intentions to actually hike back up the hill to the viewpoint and then back down to our bungalow again… But of course after a few beers and the fact that the sun was starting to set a little (the other excuse we used to not hike back up, lol!) we opted to take a taxi boat back:)

We made it to Long Beach a couple of days later.  What a difference in vibe that beach was!!  The party scene was transformed into a chilled and relaxed family-type vibe!  No doubt this part of town was where the money stayed as well, as the bungalows and other resorts here were quite impressive!  It was only about a 15-20 minute (very easy) walk from the main town area, but the energy was completely different!!  We found a little alcove on the beach with stunning white sands and lots of easy snorkeling.  There was also a restaurant and outdoor massage area for the ultimate in relaxation!  As we did with all the other beaches we’d been to, our afternoon was whisked away with reading, tanning, snorkeling and…. you guessed it!  Drinking beers! 🙂

On to Monkey Beach Adventure

Back to Thailand

Night with the Ladies

I have to start this post by pointing out that while traveling it’s hard to find an occasion to really dress up for.  Since being on this particular journey I can only think of a few times that I’d made any real effort in dressing up or even in trying to look good.  Putting on makeup seems ridiculous to me as the heat would just melt it off and even shaving legs or plucking eyebrows sometimes goes longer than needed because there isn’t anyone to impress.  The only times I did make an effort on Koh Tao (i.e. put on some earings or wore a clean top with my jean shorts) was when I went to Fight Nights because it was the only time I ever went out at night on Koh Tao (pre Anna visiting…).

This all changed the night Anna and I went to the Lady Boy Cabaret on the Koh Tao walking street however… It wasn’t just me but Anna as well… For some reason we felt compelled to make an effort to look good at the show knowing full well that just about every (and I mean EVERY) one of Lady Boys in the cabaret show would look a million times better than us!!  And the kicker??  Yes, they are all MEN!!!

Lady boys in Thailand do not carry the stigma as they do in other parts of the world.  It is perfectly accepted by the society that a man would rather be and live his life as a woman.  Of course, while it’s accepted socially there are apparently a few kinks in other ways as I’d recently been told about (lady boys can’t hold certain jobs and in general have difficulty getting hired in “normal” positions and have to be registered as male making it impossible for them to leave the country since their ID says “male” yet they show up as a female, etc).  But in general they at least seem to be more accepted by people of this country and not as people to shame.  Yet another lesson to learn from Thailand!  Alas, baby steps…

Going to the Cabaret was another on my list of things to do when Anna arrived so after our kayak to Koh Nangyuan, several pre-party beers, plucking eyebrows and fussing over the best dress to wear we headed out to the walking street for some Lady Boy entertainment.  Neither of us wore any makeup though because again it’s just too hot, even at night in my opinion, to bother!

From previous walks past the cabaret bar I’d noticed the place was always packed so I rushed us out of the house 40 minutes early to make sure we got a seat.  Turned out we were the first to arrive (go figure) so we had the pick of the place and were seated by one of the staff members (who funnily enough is an awesome Muay Thai fighter!!) in the second row center stage.  The first row was reserved apparently… Drinks were ordered and for the first 20 to 30 minutes it seemed that perhaps I had been a bit too hasty in shuffling us there so early as the crowd really wasn’t gaining in numbers.  However by the time the show was due to begin (about 10:30) the place was absolutely packed!  And the people who had reserved the front row didn’t show, so the staff moved all of us from the second row onto the first!!  Yay!!!

I tell you what, those ladies put on such a fun show and looked amazing doing it!!  They really do put most real women to shame in their beauty and though I know that some are surgically helped along, they still are absolutely stunning!  In fact, there was one Lady who if put next to Ariana Grande, I would seriously have a VERY tough time figuring out which was the real Ariana!!  And I swear that at least two of them could seriously be Victoria Secret models!!  The show was fun and energetic with the crowd getting into each song, singing along, clapping and hootin’ and hollerin’!  The lead ladies in each number were spot on in their performances (especially the “Christina Aguilera” lady who not only “sang” perfectly but had the attitude and moves to match) and it was impressive to watch them dancing their hearts out in 6 inch stiletto heels!!

The show consisted of about a dozen or so songs being “sung” (lip-syncing) by a lead Lady with her accompanying dancers but at one point a brave young man was plucked from the audience, sat on a chair, blindfolded and had some naughty acts “performed” on him.  That act REALLY riled up the audience with laughter and cheers!  It was seriously a great show and honestly better than the show I’d seen in Key West during my time there.

When the show was over the Ladies offered the crowd to take pictures with them for 100 baht a pop (a girl’s gotta make a living!!) so of course Anna and I had to get ours taken with one.  This show is definitely one I would absolutely recommend to attend!  Admission to the show is free but they require one drink purchase per person which is quite a bit more pricey than other places, but then again their pour is nice as well.  I can’t tell you how long the show went, but when we left it was energizing enough that Anna and I ended up staying out till 3am sipping “Pink Ladies” poolside at one of the pool bars called ‘The Office Bar’ (the only one open at that hour in honesty!) not far along the walking path from the club.  Ah, such fun nights!!

On to Through the Looking Glass

Back to Thailand

 

Hiking Khao Lommuak

Jo and I rose early to meet a local and her son who had invited us for a hike to the top of Khao Lommuak.  We had met Ploi and her 13-year-old son Noi Noi several days prior to the hike at a restaurant called Da-DoDo (by Dubai) that she and her husband (a native Italian) run.  From the first time Jo and I had gone to Da-DoDo, the reception was unbelievably welcoming and warm.  The food was also very delicious, and since it was only located a couple of doors down from where we were staying, well obviously, we had Italian more than just a few times, much to the dismay of my waistline, but NOT my taste buds! 🙂

We really weren’t all that keen about having to get up so early (we met Ploi at 6am) but knowing how hot it gets as soon as the sun rises around here, it made the most sense to get the hike started as early as possible.  We hopped in to Ploi’s car and headed out to Khao Lommuak, one of the tallest of the islands in Prachuap that divide Ao Manao and the Prachuap bay.  It really was a good thing that we had gone with a local because though Jo and I had already planned to do the hike at one point, we would have gone to the wrong place for it to begin with!  See, we had already walked to the Ao Manao beach several days earlier and had spotted signs for the National Park just before reaching the beach.  But this entrance is NOT the entrance to the hiking trail… So had we gone on our own, we would have been very lost as to actually finding the place.

In any event, once we arrived at the hike entrance, we were greeted by some lovely monkeys that live at the base of Khao Lommuak.  I had never seen this particular primate before and came to learn they are called dusky leaf monkeys or spectacled leaf monkeys!  They were quite the friendly bunch and eagerly accepted any food items we gave them.  I had some peanut butter crackers I had bought for breakfast and as a snack on the way up the hill, but of course ended up giving them all away to the beautiful monkeys!  Apparently, while the adults have a brown/black coat, the babies have yellow fur until they are about a year old, then it changes to the adult color:)  We didn’t see any babies during our first visit, but were fortunate enough to see one when we came back down.

After about 20 minutes playing with the monkeys, it was time to get the hike on!  The hike in total was 6 kilometers (round-trip) to a height of 240-ish meters from sea level.  Honestly I was shocked to hear how little of a height that was, since it seemed a lot higher as we climbed up and looked down!!  We started up the trail which first was just a series of steps with Noi Noi in the lead.  I can’t recall now exactly how many stairs there were, but generally to keep myself distracted from the pain of climbing stairs I simply count.  If memory serves however it was over 500!  We were all taking breaks of course to catch our breath, drink water and collect ourselves before moving on.  And of course I had to use the excuse that I needed pictures in order to rest a bit 😉

It was just before the stairs turned to a natural dirt and rock path that little Noi Noi decided to turn back.  He had done the hike the day before and wasn’t up for doing the whole thing again, so he headed to the car.  I had gone ahead up to the end of the stairs and started to climb up the rock path until I reached a little cave.  Not sure of whether anyone else was going to join me however, I headed back down a bit to see what the plan was.  Ploi also had apparently gone back down and Jo seemed uncertain of how far she would make it since Ploi had described part of the trek as ‘only using ropes to hoist yourself up to the top’…  She was game to try as far as she could, but wasn’t certain yet how far that would be.

I was determined however no matter what lay ahead so I continued on.  The natural path was outlined the entire way by a rope that clung to trees along the path.  Honestly, as you can see from the picture above labeled ‘safe and secure’, the rope really didn’t seem to be all that secure (though it felt secure enough) because sometimes the trees that the rope was attached to were barely thicker than my ankle and they were rooted on the cliff edge!  Kinda scary, but again it did feel secure enough.  Up and up I went, at times literally feeling like I was rock climbing with the rope as a guide and assistance at times but otherwise just feeling my way up the rocks (which were really petrified coral so very sharp at times!!) until the next area to rest a bit.  As I climbed, the views became even more spectacular as the vistas opened up to a panoramic view.

I won’t lie, there were some times while climbing up that I honestly questioned how in the heck I would get back down!  Ploi had told us that the day before there had been a class of 40 students and a teacher doing the trek and all I could think of as I lay flat against the rock, trying NOT to look down and freak myself out, was that if we were in the States, there would be NO WAY a trek like this would be allowed for students to do without all the proper safety measures in place!  It was quite impressive to think of, especially for the fact that it was 40 or them scrambling along the teeny path!

Finally, the end was in sight as the teeny Temple that stands at the top of Khao Lommuak began to come into view.  The view from the top was absolutely incredible and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat, it was well worth the climb!  I hung around enjoying the views for about 10 minutes or so, but since I didn’t know whether Jo and Ploi were behind me or whether they had gone back to the car, I didn’t want to spend too much time at the top making them wait on me.  I was just about to start heading back down when both Jo and Ploi rounded the corner!  Happy day!  Now we could all enjoy the views and chill for a bit!  As we relaxed and enjoyed the rest, more and more people started to show.  It was nice to see that no matter the age or fitness level of the hikers, everyone was dripping in sweat as they climbed to the top (so it wasn’t just me being out of shape, lol!!).

I will say it was quite impressive to watch the locals walk around the top of Khao Lommuak.  It was just their comfort level being up there!  While I kept being very cautious of where I stepped and not getting too close to the edge, the locals just walked about and went freely to the edges as if they were walking on sea level.  I was amazed and in awe of their bravery!  At one point, an older falang made it to the top and stomped rather hurriedly past us to get to the Temple to ring the bell.  He stayed for all of a minute, then headed right back down the path.  Ploi explained to us that that particular gentleman did this hike 3 times EVERY DAY.  Every day!  Up to the top and back down 3 times in a row every day…  His speed was remarkable as during the time that we were heading back down, he had passed us on his way up for the second time, down for the second time and up again for his third!  Absolutely unreal!  And he wasn’t a spring chicken either!  He claimed the only reason he did the hike was to keep in shape so he could drink more beer… I can relate to that!  Lol!

After all the pictures were taken and our energy was refueled by rest and water, we headed back down ourselves, stopping again to feed the monkeys (Noi Noi had spotted a baby this time!) some fruit purchased from a nearby fruit stand.  It was only about a quarter to 10am, so instead of going back, we opted to head to the Ao Manao beach for some R&R.  Though I did get a little R&R, and while the water did feel great on the muscles, I was exhausted more by the beach time than the hike!  Little Noi Noi (who doesn’t speak a lick of English) and I came up with game after game to entertain ourselves and each other while playing in the water.  First it was a hunting game where I stalked him pretending to be a shark, his only defense being to splash me, to which I would immediately retreat.  Then we became hunters of the sea life on the ocean floor finding all sorts of crabs, hermit crabs, and huge clams!  Of course everything was returned to the ocean floor, especially since Ploi kept saying things like ‘oh, those clams are really great to eat!’.

It impressed me that even without speaking each others language, Noi Noi and I were able to communicate and play for hours on end in the ocean.  Just goes to show you how unnecessary the spoken word really is.  We left the beach in the late afternoon (they had to get back to open the restaurant) and of course ended up having Italian for dinner that night.  It was such an amazing day!  The only ‘downfall’ was that the blister on the bottom of my foot that I’d gotten the day before popped open during the Khao Lommuak hike and stung like crazy as I swam in the ocean.  But heck, for a day with so many other blessings, I can’t really complain!

On to Ao Manao

Back to Thailand

Songkran 2015

When we first arrived in Prachuap, we had only paid for 2 nights because the owner said that for the 13th (what would have been our 3rd night) all the rooms were booked.  You see, Songkran, the Thai New Year (also known as the Water Festival) was just around the corner so many Thai’s were traveling to their favorite vacation spots to celebrate the occasion.  So while for the first day here was simply spent lounging on the beach, the second was dedicated to trying to find somewhere else to be for the night of the 13th.  As we wandered the main road trying to find accommodations for the 13th (and were constantly told ‘no space’) we kept thinking more and more outside of the box with suggestions like “well, if it’s only for that one night that there’s no availability at the Ban Thai Hut, then we can just ask if we can store our bags there and sleep on the beach!  No worries!”.

As fate would have it however there WAS space at our hut, it was just that the price was going to be increased for the nights of the 13th and 14th.  Of course for Holidays they would up the price…  Even though the price hike was annoying, it was really a God-send that we didn’t have to go anywhere because on the morning of the 13th (when we would have had to pack up and move locations) we woke up to an absolutely HUGE thunderstorm that rocked on with lightning and thunder for most of the day.  We kept laughing at the prospect that we had thought to sleep on the beach… Lol!

April 14th was the official day to celebrate the Thai New Year.  However in most places, especially larger cities such as Chaing Mai and Bangkok, they choose to celebrate for an entire week.  Songkran, as mentioned above is also known as the water festival, and is aptly named because for the duration of the celebration days of Songkran people go crazy with water fights!  Buckets of water are thrown on passersby, cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, basically anything with a pulse (though they don’t target the dogs thankfully!! :)).  If you aren’t hit by a bucket of water, you will be hit by a hose, or a water gun, or by a truck driving by with people in the bed of the truck chucking out water all around.  It’s absolute water mayham!!  I loved it!!!!

There are a couple of confusions surrounding the Holiday however…  Well, the first isn’t a confusion as much as a concern really.  But apparently the number of motorcyclist deaths DOUBLE each year during Songkran because of crashes related to people chucking water on them while they drive!!  I did see a news report from Bangkok this year however saying the death toll was down more than 20% from last year, so that’s good…

Getting into the actual confusion bit about the Holiday; Songkran is the Thai New Year.  Yet on January 1st, their year turns over.  They went from the year 2557 to 2558 on January 1st.  So………..  The question remains in what way is Songkran the Thai New Year?  I have yet to have this explained to me nor to find anyone who actually knows the answer to this (and I refuse to Google it just yet as I’m curious to actually find someone who knows).  What I have heard from some is that Songkran is more of a “last chance” for water “festival” meaning that mid-April marks the beginning of their dry season where not so much rain can be expected for months until the monsoon season hits…  Still confusing is that they also celebrate the Chinese New Year… So essentially it seems in Thailand that they celebrate the Western New Year (January 1st) when their physical calendar year also changes, they celebrate the Chinese New Year, AND Songkran which is their “actual” New Year and/or perhaps just a water celebration before the dry season…  Anyone else confused?

Moving along, the actual day of Songkran (April 14th) was overcast but not rainy and in this sleepy little town of Prachuap, it was rather low-key.  About a 5 minute walk from our place were 5 kids set up on the side of the road equipped with a hose, large buckets, smaller buckets (for use to chuck water) and several water guns.  When there wasn’t any traffic to pummel with water they simply turned on each other or scooped up small buckets of water to pour on themselves, lol!!  It was great fun watching them and all the smiles on the faces of those going by who were hit with water.  And it was even more fun watching the random truck pull up and start a water fight from the bed with the kids on the street.

We watched this activity for several hours drinking beers and chatting in between.  At one point I went back to the hut for my camera and saw some guys painting each other up with some festive paint (a new part of the Songkran tradition apparently) and after asking if I could take their picture, they proceeded to give me the blessing of slathering some paint on me too 🙂

Back at the bar where we were drinking, we met a couple for the UK who had been living in Prachuap for a while, and they invited us to “the wall” for some more drinks.  The Wall is literally the sea wall along the main road of Prachuap on the South side of the pier that splits the bay.  We had yet to go to that side, so took the opportunity (in our already quite intoxicated states as we had missed eating breakfast and lunch) to go.  We hoped in the bed of the truck and headed over to the wall.  I was furiously trying to take pictures along the way and totally neglected to think about the prospect that while the Songkran celebration was quite docile along our little local strip of the bay, it would potentially not be the same on the other side of the pier where it was known to be more touristy.

Just as we pulled up in the heart of the area we had to stop in the road because of traffic.  It was then that I realized how much celebration was going on and tried to as quickly as possible to put my camera away when I was hit from head to toe with a bucket of ice-cold water!!  Yup, they don’t care what you have on you, what you are wearing, what precious things you have that you may not want to get wet; if you are out and about, no matter your state, you will be soaked!!  They even have special bags they sell for phones and tablets so you can take pictures but keep them dry, lol!!  I was soaked and my camera also got hit through, but in the spirit of it all (I was warned it could happen) all I could do was laugh and enjoy the great cheer!  But needless to say the picture-taking came to an abrupt end!!

We got some more drinks and I purchased a roll of toilet paper to dry my camera with and simply sat on the wall chatting for hours!  The conversations lasted long after the sun went down until we were past the point of being in any way sober and were then in desperate need of food!  We parted ways with our “wall” friends and headed to find food and pass out accordingly.  Good times!  Another Happy New Year it was! 🙂

On to Wat A Cave!

Back to Thailand

Arriving in Hua Hin

The bus ride to Hua Hin was mainly uneventful.  I say that because I had gotten a wee bit tipsy before meeting Jo at the bus station and therefore don’t recall most of the trip.  However, at one point between little naps, the inevitable sensation that always creeps up when one drinks started to kick in… Yes, I REALLY needed a bathroom!!  I had heard that the trip was only a couple of hours, so I figured I would be ok…  But just like all mini-bus journeys in Thailand: whatever time you are given for the trip, double it!  However, given that, what’s also nice about the mini-buses is that they inevitably always take a bathroom break about halfway or just an hour shy of reaching the destination.  Thank goodness for this!!

I seriously was starting to worry whether my poor bladder would hold up!  I kept asking the driver “hong nam??” (room water literally) in hopes he would hear the absolute desperation in my voice and make a potential emergency stop just for me.  “Ha nittie” (5 minutes) is all he kept saying as I kept praying that THIS time it really would be ‘ha nittie’…  Sure enough we did (eventually) make a stop at a gas station for food, drinks and bathrooms (hooray!!!).  Fully content (and about a quarter less body weight in water) we continued on the last little bit to the coast.

It’s amazing how much you miss something and don’t ever recall that you do until you are faced with it again… I speak of the ocean.  We pulled up at a random junction near the clock tower (which is really a HUGE poster of the King with a teeny clock at the top) where the driver said to us “falangs” (foreigners) and pointed for us to get out.  True to my style (and thankfully Jo’s too) we didn’t have any place planned to stay just yet.  Jo used her phone to track down a potential place to stay and we headed off in the direction It showed, which was also in the direction of the water.

About 10 minutes later we hit Naret Damri Alley, a bustling tourist street full of every possible worldwide cuisine restaurants that you could possibly imagine.  I mean they had German, French, Spanish Tapas, Italian, Norwegian, Swiss (seriously!!), Greek, American, Indian, Finnish, and more!!  Having come from and lived in the small town of Sangkhlaburi where the most exciting thing was pad thai or fried rice, we just about fainted when we saw all these delicious food options!!  Keeping ourselves in check (wiping the drool from our chins as we walked by each place) we first found a place to stay.  Memory Guesthouse just down the street from Dechanuchit Alley on Naret Damri Alley was where we decided to settle for 400 baht a night.  We paid for 2 nights, settled in and then headed out for some FOOD!!  We opted for an Indian restaurant just across the street and dined as if we had never had food before!

At this point the sun had already set so going to the beach wasn’t an option as far as tanning was concerned.  So instead we got a couple of beers and headed out just to scout where the beach actually was from us.  First we went the wrong way down N.D. Alley to basically a dead-end, along the way checking out and continuously being shocked even more so by the array of differing cuisines available.  We turned around and went the other way down N.D. Alley, past our guesthouse toward the Hilton.  We reached what looked like another dead-end (a parking lot near what looked like a Chinese Temple of sorts) but continued on as I was determined that there HAD to be a beach nearby!

 

Luckily, just around the corner from the Chinese Temple, the land opened up and a vast beach lay ahead of us.  The water was severely choppy and there was absolutely no way to swim in it, so we just dipped our toes in for a bit (gloriously warm water!!) then sat on the beach drinking and talking.  We watched the moon rise, a fabulous red-orange glow coming over the horizon through bits of hazy clouds and eventually headed back for some rest.

On to Hua Hin Days

Back to Thailand

Ode to Water

Refreshing and cool, clear and crisp,
Water should always be at the top of my list.

It’s just what the body hungers for first,
And for workouts or hot days, it’s the best to quench thirst.

It satisfies and nourishes in so many ways,
You’d think it’s what I’d reach for at the end of my days.

Alas, I must confess that instead what I do
Is reach for water turned into a brew.

It’s always the same: “Just one for today”
But as soon as it’s consumed I get carried away.

As the cans begin to stack and the fun buzz begins,
The memory of the hangover starts to sink in.

And though I am reluctant and try to not care
I know in my head I better prepare!

Guzzling some water at first is a chore
As the plain taste suddenly seems a bore.

But as the beer buzz is gently washed away
And sleep comes comfortably to bring a new day,

I think just how good that water did taste
And the miracles it worked in avoiding the next day being a waste!

Leaving Sangkhla

Back to Thailand

Gecko Hallucinations

I thought of calling this post “Tales of Two Tails” but came up with ‘Gecko Hallucinations’ first, so I thought I’d go with that.  Just to clarify, I wasn’t on ANY kind of drug at the time, only about 900 mls of beer WITH food, so it wasn’t even like I was THAT drunk!

As I was sitting at my table enjoying some dinner the first night at the hostel, I noticed a gecko making his way across the table toward me.  He was quite the brave little guy as he just kept coming closer and closer and closer, wiggling his little body back and forth with each cautious yet determined step.

Short Tail
Short Tail

Seeing how close he was getting, and not wanting to scare him away I stopped all my movements just to watch and see how close he’d actually come.  A few minutes later he made his way to my beer bottle… Hmmm… Maybe he was after the water condensing off the bottle?  At the beer bottle he lifted his head as if to look the entire length of the bottle up and down, trying to decide what his move would be.  He then moved his head to the table where some water had pooled and, well didn’t really drink, but looked like he was sniffing it, lol!!  I know this sounds nuts!!  I was quite humored by this however!!

I made a movement with my hand to get an itch on my nose and he recoiled back about half way down the table.  I know you should never feed wildlife, but I couldn’t help it!  I threw over an itty bitty piece of egg from my plate and he immediately attacked it as if it were a bug that just landed.  I ended up throwing a few more bits of egg his way when suddenly another gecko was on the table.  This gecko only had half of his tail however, so needless to say they were named “short tail” and “long tail”, lol!!

After My Beer??
After My Beer??

Long tail noticed short tail’s arrival and immediately started twitching his tail back and forth all while giving off short little chirps.  Everything seemed friendly enough but all of a sudden long tail scurried over and started biting (or something) short tail on his side!  Short tail didn’t seem in any sort of pain however since he wasn’t going anywhere, but long tail kept on for about 20 seconds.  Then he ran off as short tail remained.

The tables somehow seemed to have turned because though long tail seemed to be the dominant one (since he was the one attacking) it was him that was running off and short tail that remained.

Getting Closer
Getting Closer

Short tail started to come toward me this time so I threw him a few bits of egg.  A few minutes later long tail came back on the table and started coming toward short tail again.  At this point short tail started twitching HIS tail and chirping, but instead of another spat, long tail simply ran off again, lol!!  And that was the last I saw of long tail that night…

Believe it or not the second night was the same!  Long tail showed up first, then a little while later short tail came by.  Long tail tried to show dominance by even raising up on the pads of his feet, arching his body in the air to make himself look bigger (or something!) but still it was always short tail who won out without any real effort being put forward by him, lol!!

Brave Gecko
Brave Gecko

The pictures taken are only of the short tailed gecko as on the third night I never did see long tail… Hmmm…

On to What IS That?!!?

Back to Thailand

Scots in Italy??

The reason I had been traveling through Europe so fast was so I could make it back to Italy by mid-October… I got news while in Berlin that Anna (my neighbor in Costa Rica who I visited in Glasgow) and her friend, and now my new friend Morna were coming to town for the week!!  Yay!! But, that meant to push the gas on the pedal for my other travels.  Hence, after visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle I booked it via train through the Alps back to Florence to prepare for their visit:)

Preparing for their visit is really just code for stocking up with lots of wine, lol!!  I believe during their visit, my dad got 20 liters of wine and between the two of them, they probably went through 12-13 liters… LOL!  But hey, I can’t blame them, they were in Italy for crying out loud!  If you aren’t going to enjoy yourself while here, why bother at all?

I met them in Pisa and we stayed the first night and the next day doing all the tourist stuff, i.e. getting a picture taken holding up the tower.  Morna didn’t want to get in on that action, but we got her later when we were in the top  cupola of the Duomo in Florence cupping another dome of Florence… I Should now mention that all the pictures in this post were taken by Anna and her camera.  Gotta give credit where credit is due:)

In any event, our time after Pisa was spent hanging out at my dad’s place eating delicious home cooked Italian food; getting tipsy on wine and beer and chatting about good times both past and present; taking hikes in the National Forrest to Vallombrosa and Secchieta; going into Florence about 3 separate times trying each time to get into the Duomo but failing until our last try (which we then ended up walking to the very top for a panoramic view);

Going to see Michelangelo’s David, of course!  (the picture below is of my favorite part of David… (no, not THAT part;)))

My favorite part of David
My favorite part of David

Making a wish at the porcellino;

Wishing on the Porcellino
Wishing on the Porcellino

And staying after dark in Florence to watch night life a bit.

Night Artists
Night Artists

Probably the most humorous time for me was the hikes… The first day we went, not more than 3 minutes after we left the house it started to pour down rain.  Did we turn back?  Naw, it was just a bit of rain and we were SURE it would stop soon.  Thankfully I had brought an umbrella and poncho “just in case” since it was a bit cloudy, and while I caved and took out the umbrella for shelter after about 10 minutes of walking in the rain, Morna and Anna were still braving it with the light jacket/sweater they brought for the walk.  About 20 minutes later they were drenched!!  They took the poncho, which was large enough to share and onward we went.  Along the way we spotted several deer!!  And that was probably only because the deer figured “no human in their right mind would hike in this downpour!”  They were wrong, lol!!

We eventually made it to Vallombrosa all cold and quite wet.  Thankfully there was a teeny bar on the side of the road:)  We had cappuccino’s, a sandwich, some wine, beer, some more wine and beer… Then shots to warm up a bit more (we were still chilly) then another shot or two until it was starting to get too late and dark to walk back down, so we called my dad to pick us up, lol!!

The second day of hiking was much less wet, but still cold and windy!  We did make it all the way to the top to Secchieta (where we had planned to go the first day) and once again at the end of the trail, what was there to meet us??  You guessed it, a bar!  We brought our own lunch that day so we just purchased some cappuccino’s, two wines and a beer:)  We behaved that day knowing we had to walk down but not entirely… You see, along with sandwiches for lunch, we also packed about a liter and a half of wine to sip along the way:)  We did behave on drinking it however because we barely cracked into it until we were heading down:)  Ah, good times!

More Florence pictures- notice the very artistic pictures on the Ponte Vecchio done by Anna:)

The three of us posing as stereotypical Italians (Mamma Mia!)

Acting Italian
Acting Italian

On to Venice

Back to Europe