I’m back in Bangkok now, but I leave tomorrow for Nong Khai on the Thailand/Laos border. It’s a 12-hour train, but it departs at 8:30pm so I’ll arrive the next morning. Apparently I have just a bridge to cross from Nong Khai to reach the Laos capitol of Vientiane. I hear that there are shooting ranges in the heart of Vientiane where you can shoot AK-47’s and grenade launchers. It’s probably not really my style, but what the hell, I will shoot everything they have. In ten days I’ll leave Vientiane, or wherever I am, and come back to northern Thailand to meet Tenzin and crew. Otherwise, today has been a productive day. I went to Golden Mountain temple and visited my monk friend Tony who gave me a 30 minute crash course on Thai pronounciation. I have an instructional book, but my pronounciation is weak at best. He helped me build some basic tenets and fill some gaps of misinformation. I didn’t have any plans for this evening so I decided to walk around on the street. I popped into a 7-11 where they have a wealth of english-language magazines on a rack, so I browse through the latest Time, which of course has a torn-apart New Orleans on the cover. While I’m browsing a Thai guy takes note of the pendant on my necklace, which Tony gave me a few weeks ago at Golden Mountain. He speaks good english and we chat it up for a few minutes; I tell him that I’m looking for internets and we take a walk and he leads me there. On the way, we stop at a night temple which was unbelievable. It was a wat that I hadn’t been to and the place was filled with people. Everyone was chanting, and there was a process there that I hadn’t gone through before. Involving the usual incense and candle, but also a lotus flower. Really beautiful. We walked around, just chillin, and he led me to this internet place where I am now. He’s down the street where I’ll meet up with him and apparently there’s a sweet Thai bar which we’ll hit up. He lives in Chiang Mai but is here for 4 days on business. Let’s see what’s next for this evening.
I was soundly unsuccessful today in my attempt to have the rules explicitly broken by requesting an extension on my Indonesian visa. I didn’t really expect them to break the rules for me, but for some reason my sister did. She manages to get away with absolutely everything, I only manage to get away with most everything. I still have a lot to learn from her.
My flight departs at 4:50pm tomorrow out of Denpasar, the capitol of Bali, and I’m headed back to Bangkok. After that, all bets are off. I don’t even know what country I’ll spend the next week in. My plan is still to meet my friends in northern Thailand (Pai, to be exact; near the Burmese border) at the beginning of the third week of this month, but I’m free to do what I want until then. I have more options than Balinese rupies, but here are the ones I’m seriously considering:
1. Go to the islands and beaches in southern Thailand. The downside to this is that I’ll definitely run into hordes of tourists, it might be expensive, and it almost definitely won’t be adventurous unless I really get off the tourist trail, which could be difficult to find since I don’t have an entire month right now to explore this area like I know I will in the near future. The upside is the most beautiful beaches in the world.
2. Spend two weeks in northern Thailand. Start in Chiang Mai, the major city in the north, and just wander around to smaller cities. I’ve been teaching myself Thai the last week, so I’ll get a headstart, since the northern region has its own slight dialect which is different from Bangkok Thai. This option would support a lot of relaxing since I won’t have much moving to do for a month or so, until I go back to China.
3. Leave from Bangkok for Angkor Wat, Cambodia. My mother recommended this to me. Apparently Angkor Wat is close enough that it can be reached by bus/train and doesn’t necessitate a plane flight, which is a plus. I know virtually nothing about Cambodia; this is another plus. This is the most exotic and adventurous option, but will require the most legwork.
The reason why I didn’t enter Indonesia with a 30-day visa like I was supposed to is because of my father getting me the wrong one, mistakenly thinking that we’d only be here for 7 days. It’s actually been 10 days, and we’ll both have to pay $60 in visa overstay fees at our departure. I didn’t expect him to, but he was generous enough to offer me a roundtrip flight to and from Singapore so I can get sorted with a new 30-day visa and spend the time here that I had planned, but I won’t do that.
I have no concrete plans, and I decided a long time ago that if I was going to do this, I would let the wind take me where it does. Today was a great example of that force in action and tomorrow I’ll be in Bangkok. I’ll wait for a sign to hit me on what to do next.
The computer at the internet place that I’m at is logged into the local network as a username called Jah. The tiny Windows XP user icon is a black and white shot of Bob Marley. Sweet.
End of the second day in Bali now, and I don’t want to leave. So for now, I won’t. I’ll change my flight to Bangkok to give me another two weeks here, so I’ll plan to leave around the middle of September which should give me enough time to explore the island, and maybe Java as well (yes, people have named coffee and internet software after this island in Indonesia).
I’ve taken 500 photos since leaving China, not only with my digital SLR which I’ve finally been reunited with after 3 months of separation, but also the digital Elph which I bought 2 months ago but didn’t actually receive until last week. So, photos everywhere.
Yesterday was a really eventful day, spent mostly at the Elephant Cave and the Monkey Forest. Both beautiful places. The Monkey Forest was especially great. This place has hundreds of monkeys all over the place, apparently just chilling and having fun. People come in and give them bananas and food (you can buy bananas to feed them at the entrance), and they’re very sociable and friendly. When I walked down the narrow pathway to the wide center of the forest there were about 30 monkeys here and there just hanging out, eating bananas or whatever. They’re not afraid of humans at all; they’ll run right up to you and grab your leg and climb up on you, relentlessly trying to be cute and get free bananas. I took a lot of photos, but the conditions were difficult – the jungle is so dense in there that foliage prevents direct sunlight from actually hitting them during the day. The forest itself is unbelievable, and as we walked along the path a small group of monkeys came along with us, most of of them swinging through vines and jumping between tree branches. They definitely have that shit down to a science. Seeing monkeys up close like that isn’ something I’ve ever had the opportunity to see, but one thing that was really apparent to me was how human-like they are. Their eyes, movement, and their appendages are very human-like. It’s actually a little creepy being face to face with a monkey. You can sense the intelligence by how they move and interact with people and with eachother. This was nothing like seeing glazed and sedated sleep-all-day monkeys in a zoo.
I’m at some internet place in Ubud now sitting near a girl who looks just like Amy Owens. Except French, apparently. I didn’t know what nationality she was until she evidently lost an email and started cursing in french. The only word that I could understand was merde, and I think that I learned that in Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure (when Napoleon slips and falls into the lane while bowling). Clearly what happened was she lost an e-mail that she had put some time into. The same thing happened at the internet place that I was at the other day; the guy directly across from me started getting progressively irate. It reached a summit when he was saying things like “OH GODDAMNIT, SON OF A BITCH”. It was fairly amusing, but then I asked him if I could help him with something. I’m sure the employees at these internet cafes are more than familiar with the averate computer illiterate user who loses an e-mail. Occupational bullshit.
More importantly, my sister is now married (again), and my ex-boss David is now my brother in law. The wedding was beautiful and went off without any real problems at all. I took a lot of photos and they came out beautifully. I might post some here if I find the time. They checked into a new villa today at a different resort which is outrageous. I heard it was only $250 – I’m sure anyone who could see the place would agree that’s dirt cheap.
I have more pressing matters at the moment, specifically my Indonesian visa which is set to expire tomorrow. I listend to my father and got a 7-day visa on arrival which will expire two days before when I’m scheduled to depart. And I actually want to extend my stay here by 10 days because I have an insanely excellent place to stay for free here in Ubud. Tomorrow I’ll call immigration and have it sorted – worst case scenario, tomorrow I fly to and from Kuala Lumpur and get a new tourist visa. It might set me back $100.
Hey, this internet place is playing Marley. We’re jamming now.
Well, this is certainly one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen in my life.
I arrived here yesterday afternoon from Bangkok, although shortly after my last blog I escaped Bangkok for Ayutthaya which is the old capitol of Thailand (before it was burned down by Burmese). I had never seen ancient ruins like that before; these were the kind of landscapes that I had only seen in exotic photographs. Nothing in that city looks to be less than 500 years old. The wats (temples) there are constructed with super decayed stone blocks and bricks and are adorned with often headless Buddah figures (vandals have stolen the heads, evidently). I got fantastic headless Buddah photographs.
The flight from Bangkok to Bali was four hours long, and I had no idea that Bali was so close to Australia. I believe I’m a three hour flight from the closest Australian international airport. I’m not sure if there was even a single Thai person on the flight, which was pretty much filled to capacity by white tourists which was pretty disappointing. But then I find that they’re all going to Kuta, which is the southern most beach in Bali where all the resorts are. Thank you family for not being sucker tourists; we’re staying 80 minutes from the airport in central “jungle” Bali, about an hour from any beach. The largest road within a half an hour of where we’re staying is a tiny two lane road filled with people on scooters; cars are very rare, and I think that I have yet to see car which is less than 10 years old.
This place is lush beyond my wildest imagination. It’s bright green and fertile, but somehow not overgrown. The temperature is perfect, but ocassionally it’s slightly humid during the day. The entire island smells of the sweet fragrant flowers, and everyone is as nice as everyone in any one place could possibly be; very similar to Thailand. No one hassles you to buy anything (I’m looking at you, China). On the way to where we’re staying we drove over a bridge which is several hundred feet over a pretty large river; I was instantly and vividly filled with the thought that I’m in an Indiana Jones movie.
I have more to write, but no time. I will write about the Monkey Forest, the Cave of the Elephant, the incredible place where I’m staying, and the other places and things I’ve seen when I get some more time.
The tour is finished and I left Nanjing this morning at 8:50am and arrived in Chengdu just before lunch time.
Last night was a blast, but it’s actually really great to be back. We celebrated the last night of the tour together like we had meant to the whole time. Kim, Kimmy, myself, and new recruits Nina and Rob. We chilled at the Xinjiang barbeque place I went every night just down the street from our hotel. I said goodbye to the guy who fixed me the barbeque every night that I was in Nanjing; tried to get him to write his name in my journal so I could remember it, but he couldn’t write at all. Kim and Kimmy wrote a page or two each in my journal, in yearbook style. “It’s been a fun 3 months, etc”. Kim wrote his in Norwegian though, which makes it pretty special to me.
I actually had a number of epiphanies last night. It most likely had something to do with smoking bud for the first time in almost 2 months, but I reflected on the tour and made a few observations that I hadn’t been focusing on when I had my mind on other things. Coors says there’s another tour in November for 3 months and said that there’d be a position available for me if I want it. It allows me to set a good goal; I have to have my infrastructure up and running by November. If I don’t, maybe I’ll do the tour again.
I leave for Bangkok in 14 hours. Tingting is a asleep just a few feet away and I’m trying to type as softly as I can so I don’t wake her. I’m going to pack as lightly as I possibly can for Thailand and Bali. A weekends worth of clothes, my camera equipment, and hopefully a mini external hard drive that operates on a laptop hard drive that I can buy tomorrow before I depart. If not, I’m worried about running out of space for digital photos since I definitely don’t want to bring my computer with me. Too heavy, too expensive, too much hassle. I don’t picture northern Thailand being the type of place where you need a laptop. I don’t even really know what I’ll be doing there, but I picture it more to be swimming in rivers and hiking in jungles than on AIM or checking gmail.
I guess I haven’t written about tonight, which is what my original intent was before sitting down at the computer after arriving home.
I knew that I had only one night in Chengdu and I only had time to see a few friends, but I went to Scotty’s place and met Tenzins friend Jovian from San Francisco. Kimmy is also staying at Tenzins place for a few days. We walk down the street to meet up with Scotty who’s eating on the street with a table full of Xinjiang guys. They’re all speaking Xinjianghua and I cannot understand a word. It sounds like Arabic to me. We’re drinking beer, they’re getting sloppy off baijiu. Scotty and Jovian drink baijiu with them and get fairly wasted pretty quickly, but it was a pretty enjoyable cultural exchange of sorts.
Scotty is definitely the biggest pothead I’ve met in China (he has 12 year old dread locks), so of course he had a pocketfull of hash. He invited the Xinjiang guys back to his place where the living room is full with like 8 people, half of them looking like they’re from Kazikhstan. We smoke some hash and as if on cue, a guitar comes out of nowhere and these guys are jamming the fuck out, singing and everything in whatever language they’re speaking. Jovian pulls out an MPC-2000XL (hip hop production hardware), loads a bay of samples, and sits Scotty in front of it. It’s hard to describe what followed, but it was like a terrible car accident of a rhythm, but was hilarious because the situation and the atmosphere of what was happening was so extremely bizarre. They jammed out for an hour or so, passing the guitar around, all these guys could sing (almost more like a wail) and play guitar simulatenously. I thought they sounded like Gypsy Kings. Pretty fast rhythm on the guitar with a slower, almost raspy vocal style.
New country tomorrow!
I’m still in Nanjing, but there are only 5 days left. They aren’t sure if we’re going to Beijing before finishing or not, but I’m out on the 23rd regardless. For the last 3 weeks I’ve been trying to figure out short term plans to make, because I have a flight from Bangkok to Bali on the 27th, but I have too many bags with me now to go directly. I have a plan now though; leave for home (Chengdu) on the 23rd, drop off my bags and relax for two days, and spend two days in Bangkok before leaving. When I get back to Bangkok in the second week of September, I’ll go to Chiang Mai in north Thailand and meet up with Tenzin and crew. That’s as far as I’ve planned, but I’m looking forward to everything, especially seeing my family.
Last night wasn’t an outrageous blast, just really eventful. The DJ actually played kick ass music, and he passed off a few CD’s to me which I copied in my laptop. I didn’t get the really vulgar techno song which I wanted to get off him, though. I said thanks and told him my name, and when I asked what his was he just said “HEY MY NAME IS DRACULA” Okay dude! He looked a little vampirish also. Tall lanky guy dressed in black with a wicked overbite and a long black goth-like pony tail. Respect! Next there’s a fight in the club which I don’t actually witness. Suddenly everyone in the club is looking behind me, and when I turn around I see this guys face completely covered in blood. He was either slashed with a knife or hit with a bottle, but regardless, he was walking out all nonchalantly like nothing had happened. I can’t even make up an explanation for that. The elevator up to the club (it was on the 11th floor) had blood all over it also. Afterwards I realized that I missed my chance to scratch the needle across the record and then let the room bask in horrified silence as this guy covered in blood just walks through. Tonights club looks like something out of Austin Powers. It’s got stained glass windows, trippy couches, and cheesy/classy over the top chandeliors all over the place.