Archive for the ‘2007-11, Thailand’ Category

Music

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Malaysia and Singapore had been like a direct time warp to the 70’s! The Bee-Gee’s were fresh in my mind every night before going to bed, and I heard Barry Manilou’s MANDY more times in that past week than all of my previous life combined I’m pretty sure. Even greats like Chicago and ELO were wearing thin those days… and I really LOVE both of them!

Southern Thailand was seemingly slightly more modern. The North of Thailand had a lot of 80’s pop stuff though. Very weird…. (since not all of it was actually “good” 80’s music).

In Laos at the hotel rest. for breakfast every morning they played instrumentals (mostly pan flute) of old rock/pop songs. Imagine my divine prowdness when Luke and Alex were constantly recognizing the songs, (though not always the artist). The best moment came when after only about four seconds (or ten notes) Alex blurted out the name of the newly playing song and immediately after announced that it was by the Beatles! Luke was only a second behind her. It was especially pleasing to see another tourist a few tables away cock his eyebrows, slightly impressed by the musical prowess of my darling children.

In the more populated (and later visited) areas of Laos we began to hear much more local flavor of music rather than imported old Western stuff. This was nice, but we still didn’t buy any since the disks were pretty high priced (about $4-$5) for bootleg copies. I brought our entire MP3 music collection along on one 2.5″ portable drive. So in Hong Kong the kids and I are looking forward to buying newer, fancier and larger MP3 players for an abundance of musical choices.

hopping along the ……

Monday, December 10th, 2007

bunny trail going to Laus and vietnam,china,india ,kenya,egypt,jordan too Italy,germany,france and U.K were gonna end up in canada Hhhhurray ya . anyway Dad said I had to a Blog so I came up with some things Like the song .(change of subject) We got into laus on december 6 (I,m not big on date,s so consder this lucky) we took a boat to a village/town where the chilldren had wooden tops that you needed string to wind up .the older chilldren were selling things to us. the next day we went to another village/town where all the chilldren where selling things there were many dogs one kept coming up to me so I desided to pet him he took tis as a conpelment and let me rub his stomache . we left shortly after. The money is interesting 5000 kip is 50 cents.
( what I think is amazing is that alex did not write this ) Missing you (espesialy my friends)

P.S notice I was Bitten By all the anamals (even the jellyfish dad forgot to put me on that)

P.S This is in top 4 Things

Goodbye to Thailand.

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

For her last week with us we went to the North of Thailand with Grandma Vi. We flew up to a city cmalled Chaing Mei. We had planned on taking the train up and back with her, but it was a 14 hour trip for 12,500 baht (1,000 Baht = $30) for a first class sleeper bed, (two beds with it’s own cabin). Sadly, a sixty-five minute flight with a discount airline was only 17,500 Baht which made it far more worthwhile, but lacking in that cultural experience category. We made up for it by taking Grandma on a whitewater river rafting trip though! It was over two hours drive just to get to the start point, wheer we had lunch before launching down the river. It wasn’t near as hairy as the trip we took in Costa Rica, but still pretty good for Grandma’s first time EVER. (Never mind her general lifelong aversion to water.) We all got good and wet while having a fantastic time. This one didn’t have still camera pictures available, but they videotaped everyone who went rafting that day and sold the DVD for a very reasonable price (just under $10). Funny part is though, that we didn’t get the video that night or before we flew back to Bangkok the next morning. Instead, I went back to this hotel in a few days once we returned to Chaing Mai on our official GAP tour and picked up the DVD. I finally got a chance to watch it the next day and it was great! Fantastic video of the five of us in some tricky sections and going through chutes and over shelves. All were smailing and laughing throughout though, (even Grandma Vi).

The day previous to river rafting we had take a tour to the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center. There are several elephant camps with a 30-60 minute drive people can get to for a show and a ride for pretty cheap. We had read about the work of the Thai Government sponsored Conservation center though, and opted to pay a little more, (and drive a little further) to see it. They also had a hospital there which was sad and heartening to see at the same time. We were pretty sure that this was the place the Reader’s Digest featured Cowtown “Voluntouring” family had gone to. There was an option to stay there and learn about elephant training (in fact, you star in the shows!) and to care for the anuimals for one or three days. All meals and lodging are included for $80/day, which I thought was pretty reasonable considering the experience one would get. If I had known more beforehand I certainly would have arranged it for us all after Grandma left, (can you guys who know her imaging GV shovelling elephant poop, or riding one all by herself around the neck while it pulls logs and paints pictures in the show???). The show included showing different ways elphants pull, move & manipulate huge logs for the forestry industry, painting pictures with a watercolor brush, and doing various physical tricks, (such as walking along a 7m log as a balance beam, turning around on it and walking back!). We really enjoyed being there, except of course for learning about all of the injured elephants who have portions of their feet blown off by land mines from the war.

Once we returned to Bangkok, it was Grandma’s last night for shopping (like we could fit any more in her bags!!) and relaxing before the 26= hour journey home. Luke bag was just a little bit too small, so we packed all our stuff (inc. an abundance of heavy DVD’s) in Luke’s small MEC bag for Grandma to take back as her second piece of luggage. Then we stole Grandma’s MEC larger bag (the same as Claudette’s and mine) and bought her a cheap rolling duffel to get home with. We looked up Cathay Pacific’s luggage weight guidlines on the net and discovered that her two bags were more than double the allowable economy ticket weight. Very nervously we approached the desk and the ever so friendly agent just shuffeled the bags on through without a second glance! One obstacle down one to go… The only other concern we had was her getting the bags througfh customs in Vancouver. Luckily, she claimed $680 of the allowable $750 amount and the “nice little old (but semi spry) grandma” card palyed out well as she waltzed right on through with a few hundred pirated DVD’s and computer software worth about $30,000! (But “Shhhhhhhh”, don’t tell anyone.)

After she left we began our second GAP tour with an immediate upgrade in hotels from a $18/night ultra basic one that we were willing to pay for to a $150/night one with a huge pool, crisp nice sheets and gorgeous decor and furnishings. The internet prices also jumped from about 28 cents/hr to a little over $10.00/hour! Needless to say we checked e-mails and did picture backups down the street at $1/hour. The next day we spent wiuth a great tour guide going through various markets and sights of Bangkok. One of the coolest things was going through a six day a week morning wholesale flower market. The smells and colors were tremendous and beautiful! A few of these pictures are in our on-line gallery. We also toured some well irrigated farms between Bangkok and the Ocean (about a 12km streatch) and then flew to Chaing Mei again the next day. Back in the North we spent the afternoon touring some more Buddist Temples and sights before driving five hours the next day through the town of Chaing Rai and up to the tiown of Chaing Khong on the Meekong River, adjacent to the Laos border. There wasn’t much to see in this sleepy little villiage, but the kids and I found an internet place with blistering fast speeds that we hadn’t experienced for uploading pictures since Australia!

Missing home but Thailand’s great

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Hi everybody Just Thought I’d Let you Know that I am missing home but thailand is Great all though It pretty COLD +35 and it ain’t geten warmer Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Another thing please don’t remind me of Christmas it makes me sad : (

Allmost Vietnam: Airball Jungle Warefare

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Back at the end of Novemeber, (when we were still in Phuket) a bunch of staff from Phil’s company were planning a friendly airball game. Luckily I was invited along and graciously accepted. Airball is a less expensive alternative to paintball, (and the little solid plastic balls hurt less too!). There are some inherrant problems with airball comparred to paintball though. Mainly, bad players with a little bit of pain tollerance can cheat really easily. Over longer distances the smaller airballs lose quite a bit more of their velocity (and hence trajectory) over paintballs. Thus if you shoot an opponent at a distance of more than 15m they can easily shrug off the shot, bite their tongue from exclaiming out loud and tuck in behind cover a little more. This helps them pretend that they were never hit, and that the shot was really “close” and nothing more.

We arrived after a half hour drive to find about 5 Thai guys, 6 American and Canadian expats and 2 Thai kids (around 11) waiting to play. There were two fancy guns which could shoot incrediby rapidly and had accurate scopes attached. When any of us “new” guys tried to get those guns we were quickly told that they were privately owned by two of the guys and we could only use the heavy, slower (and way less “attractive”) rental guns. When it came time to dividing the teams, it somehow went with Thai versus Caucaision except for Phil. This made the teams rather uneven at 6 to 7 but they claimed the kids only counted as healf each. I should clarify here that the kids were in full body armour (heavy padding like an umpire wears) and looked VERY comfortable handling their weapons. I wondered if they slept with them perhaps….

So, here we were about to seemingly recreate the Vietnam war from the 1970’s. Complete with several big burly (or more easily targeted) beer bellied white guys all over or close to six feet high, and several little “Charlie’s” that were tiny, hard to track targets and could scramble around as quietly and as efffortlessly as the most deadly jungle cat. These enemies had guns though. Rapid fire, sleek, lightweight chinese manufactured guns… In the end we did fairly well. At the beginning of the first game Phil was duly sacrificed by his Charlie teammates. He suggested it was miscommunication afterwards, but they told him to go one way where three of us shot the snot out of him very quickly. Meanwhile his teammates all stealthily went the other way once we were all distraced with the high of our first kill. I didn’t make it to the end of that first game, but I was proud in getting a great surprise kill in before I was taken out later. We somehow won that first game and we started to consider that perhaps we had a chance. Then in the second game their overrall plan began to take hold. Our batteries that provided the “Oomph!” in the propulsion system were getting low. I had the key “lookout” position and my rental gun jammed at a very important moment. Naturally I was allowed to go off the course unharmed and perform any nessesary repairs. By the time I returned however our position was severely compromised by an influx of enemy sneaking up along the side that I was supposed to be protecting. We lost that next game, but still did incredibly well considering that our batteries barely seemed to be pushing those plastic beads out at all.

We insisted on charging up the batteries after that in preparation for the second game. Then we enacted our sure-fire stategy. It wasn’t so sure faire we quickly discovered. This is where the rampant cheating came to light in our minds. We had two guys surrounded o twosides and were firing like cazywith no apparent effect. He just didn’t flinch and adjusted his body so that he was just barely protected a little more. We could see each other shooting at him abrely 4m away but he was just taking the shots and pretending he wasn’t hit. (I made a point of lookig at his back when he changed shirts at the end of the games and he was riddled with welts. That gave us a minimal smug satisfaction…)

Thailand – last day for me in Paradise

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

This trip has been fantastic – it’s over all too quickly. We lucked out on the beaches of Phuket – not at all crowded where we were staying and it’s awesome how many fantastic eating places there were right on the beach. The swimming was second to none. After Phuket we went to Phi Phi Island and that was an experience in itself – absolutey no vehicles – just bicycles and carts with very narrow roadways and a b-zillion little shops every which way – I only wish I had more room in my luggage to do the shopping that I would like. Rick will probably post a picture of one of the carts when he gets a chance. The hotels don’t even lock up their front when they all go home for the evening. This is where we went snorkeling – actually it was in the same bay where “The Beach” was filmed – that was a lot of fun even though I was very nervous – but of course, it turned out to be not as scary as I had imagined – it’s all in the mind. We then moved on the Chiang Mai – from here we went to an Elephant Conservation Centre and they put on quite a good show – we also went on an elephant ride – that was an experience that I’ll always remember. The next day we went whitewater rafting – of course I didn’t want to go because I was totally PETRIFIED but anything to please my grandchildren. Luke reminded me how his dad had to force him the first time they went so, in his way (he said) he was forcing me. Once I got over the initial shock, it was quite a lot of fun!!! We’re in Bangkok now – the last leg of my journey. I can’t even imagine the word “snow” but sooner or later reality will set in.

FOUR MONTHS DOWN!!! – Enjoyed Phuket

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The island was very wonderful for a vacation spot. Maybe even to live there! (Guess we’ll see about that one). There were some relaxing places as well as an abundance of much busier beaches & towns. Most of the island is populated, certainly around the ocean touching circumfrance and along all major transportation corridors. There were some pretty exclusive resorts here too. The young Spanish couple living adjacent to the house we rented both worked at very nice resorts. One had individual two story buildings, on stilts, overlooking the ocean for each guest! Oh yeah, and each villia had there own private pool also overlooking the ocean. I have a powerpoint presentation that I will try and upload with a link for anyone who wants to download it and eat their heart out. It is a fairly large file, since the pics are all high resolution. For a few months or so, I have a seperate gallery with a few pictures of the house we stayed at adjacent to Phil & Joy’s in Phuket. There is a neighboring house, just about finished being built, that is very similar in style and is for sale. This new place includes it’s own pool rather than sharing one pool among four homes as the one we stayed in did. The gallery is at:
http://s114284247.onlinehome.us

One night while staying at the house, a bunch of staff from Phil’s company were planning a friendly airball game. Luckily I was invited along and happily accepted. The story on that evening is written as a seperate BLOG post in early December. All in all we had a great time and are VERY thankful for Phil and Joy taking us in (so to speak) and helping out so much with stuff. Joy also helped to arrange for Alex and Luke to attend a day of school with Josh and Kyla at the Thai English public school they attend. They had a great day there, and Luke later met a “classmate” on Phi Phi Don Island where her parents owned a diving company.

To say that our “Trip of A Lifetime!” seems to be gathering great speed and going by very quickly is a huge understatement!!! Grandma Vi is almost due to go home already too, and her three weeks has similarly gone by incredibly quickly. Our original plane tickets were only booked to getting out of China. The ticket stopped in Bangkok though, so we have yet to get some flights arranged onward to Delhi in India. We had originally planned for six weeks throughout India after two weeks in China. We added on four days to the end of China though, and are thinking of lopping off another five or so days from the other end of India to spend five extra days (than the originally planned two weeks) in Kenya nd Tanzinia. That leaves India with just barely four weeks now. This is significant simply because I am almost tempted to spend another week in Thailand when we pass through after China. Claudette probably won’t let that one fly though…

Ella Etty Eather enjoys…

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

eating elephants from earth. That is a poem I made. Any ways :). We went elephant riding! It was lots of fun. Me grandma vi and Mom had to have one And dad and Luke got the other one. Ours was 26 years old!!!!! I can’t remember her (his?) name though. I’m glad we went to a conservation center, not a camp! We heard lots of bad things about the camps. We got to see a little show, then go for a ride, then we went to see the baby elephants. They we’re sooooooooooo cute! We got to feed the moms to,(we also got to feed the elelphants at the show, I forgot about that.) After seeing the babys we went to an elephant hospital. Between 2000 and 2004 there was approximatly 254 sick elephants there. We did a little shopping at the market then came home.

Also we just went for our second white water rafting rafting! I think I preferred the other time but this one was still fun. It is grandma Vi’s first time. Some how she always seemed to get splashed the most :). We just came from Cheing-Mei and now we are in Bangkok.
Nothing else has really happened. Bye bye!
Alex

Having a great time in Thailand!

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Well we arrived in Chiang Mai 2 days ago, after spending 3 days in Ko Phi Phi.

In Ko Phi Phi we spent one morning snorkeling around Ko Phi Phi Ley, which was spectacular. The coral wasn’t as great as the Great Barrier Reef but the fish were way more plentiful and varied. On the downside though, there were a lot of (non-stinging) jellyfish and (stinging) sea lice which freaked Alex out so she really didn’t like it. I think Grandma Vi enjoyed herself even though it had been 30 years she she last went snorkeling.

Last night we went to the Night Bazaar which was like shopping overload, imagine blocks of vendors set up on the sidewalks with hundreds of people trying to get through on a 1 – 2 foot wide sidewalk…. We tried to control ourselves as Grandma Vi already has a full suitcase to take back for us.

Today we went to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center so as to get in our obligatory elephant show and ride. We had decided that we wanted to go there as they are known for their conservation efforts and all funds they raise from admissions goes to the Elephant Hospital on-site. In the end I think the kids really appreciated what the animals can do, and we also got to see a couple of baby elephants.

Tomorrow we are off white-water rafting, I’m not sure how Rick convinced Grandma Vi to go but I’m sure it will be a riot.

The Gods smile down on us.

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Our hotel was fully booked from today and we had to leave. Luckily we found even nicer digs! Story below…

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Upon entering Thailand we went first to Krabbi, only a few hundred KM North of the Border with Malaysia. Krabbi was OK, we were a bit confused as to all the fuss of the travel books. The beach is about a half hour drive from town, but there are an abundance of tours to all sorts of islands and spectacular sights available. After asking around to other travelers, the lure of Krabbie would merely seem to be slightly cheaper accommodation and food prices with the inconvenience of traveling a bit more back and forth to the beach. It had a small market, and lots of GREAT! Inexpensive food so we enjoyed it for a couple of days. Alex got her hair done in a whole bunch of mini braids. This took two and a half people almost three full hours to accomplish! She loves it now, keeping her hair long, but not getting so sweaty and hot in the often muggy weather.

After Krabbi we chartered a large van to take us to Phuket for a week or two. Grandma Vi would be joining us here after a couple days. Claudette found a hotel on the web somehow that had two rooms available. These were pretty basic rooms, with a washroom and a large ceiling fan for about $30/night. These rooms sure smelled musty and possibly mildewy though, so people wouldn’t want to stay there more than a week or so… This place had only 14 of these fan rooms open, but they were constructing another 50 or so units on the same property, (right beside our rooms, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM each day!). There were already 15 or so of these newer rooms (post Tsunami) open, but they cost a minimum of $16/night! We were here to save lots of money, not just a tiny bit. These other rooms had beautiful marble throughout, as well as air conditioning and king sized beds. A couple of them also had private hot tubs for only $165/night.

We had originally only booked for two nights in case it was a dump and we wanted to go elsewhere. This beach we were at was amazingly gorgeous, and very deserted generally. I walked a kilometer or two in both directions and there was nothing better for the same or cheaper money. The problem came though when we went to extend our booking and found out that all but one of the cheap rooms were booked for the next two weeks! So, Claudette and I ended up in a room with two single beds and the kids and Grandma Vi got a king sized bed altogether in another old room that was being renovated, (but that they opened up just for us at $60/night cause it was old but had air conditioning). After Grandma Vi arrived we did lots of relaxing, a fair amount of eating, uploading pics of GV relaxing for all her co-workers to see and some Blog posts (including the invention of Pete’s Blog, linkable from the upper left hand corner of this page). Luke made friends one day with a couple year younger boy who was Canadian and living here with his family. They had even just moved here from Oilberta! They didn’t make it back to the beach for a couple of days, and Claudette got a chance to meet the parents briefly. Close to our last scheduled day there, she gave Phil and Joy a call to try and arrange supper together some evening. This worked out wonderfully and we all had a great time catching up. He was a pilot and their kids attended a Thai public school (with an English program) rather that the English International school that is private. Better yet, they lived in a spectacular! House barely a seven minute walk to the beach, with three bedrooms, stunning marble floors and a shared swimming pool among four homes!!! Now the best news; one of these homes was empty and due for new tenants in another month so they arranged through the landlord for us to stay in it for a week, for the same price we got one two person fan room at the current hotel. Needless to say we jumped at it and decided to stay for an extra week.

I took a bunch of pics of the amazing house we stayed in as well as the deck area, BBQ, massage bed (they book to have them done at home once a week) and the pool. There were three other units almost finished being built in the same complex that were for sale. These all had their own private (un-shared) pools though, and are only priced at CAN$245,000. My mind was clicking away, working out how many other families we would want to buy with at 30, 40 & 50 thousand dollars each. The trouble is that most friends or family that we would trust enough to buy in with, are people that we’d want to go at the same time with. I mentioned this to a few friends with keen interest, but Claudette quickly smashed me back into reality, saying that we wouldn’t be able to continue our trip past Christmas, flights are $2,000 each from Edm, and take a little over 24 hours with layovers each way. Thus the idea has slightly waned… (Certainly NOT died…)

I’D LOVE TO LIVE IN THAILAND!!

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Although I was extremely nervous (probably just the anticipation) I had a very uneventful flight. Everything happened exactly on schedule. I met a few people on the flights (I didn’t even chatter too much, LOL). Cathay Pacific is second to none – definitely the way to go. I thought Vancouver Airport was huge and it really is but Hong Kong’s is even larger. I actually didn’t leave the Security areas at either airport to make things easier for myself and I’m really glad I didn’t. I’m in Phuket and it is fabulous and from what I’ve heard the rest of Thailand is totally a magnificant place – can’t wait to see more of it.
Our hotel is pretty basic but just across the street from the grand Pacific Ocean and the water is fabulous as is the weather.
Hi to everyone and I’ll write again in a few of days after we get to our next town/hotel/or whatever???

Massages…

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

NOTE: spelling errors abound in this post since there’s no firefox 2 browser or word processor to check in. Sorry!
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Even though we actually had a well trained and registered massage therapist in Fort Smith for a few years, I had never gone to one before this trip. Even at Daivik a girl from Yellowknife would fly in for a week or two at a time and offer evening bookings for anyone who could afford her. This all changed in the last month of course…

I woke up one morning in our little Toyota camper van with a pretty good knott in one muscle next to my shoulder blade. This was at about the end of our second last week in Oz, and it got progressively (and uncomfortably!) worse over the next two days. I managed to find a massage place open on Sunday’s (it was a Saturday when I realized that walking hunched over in a very slow and decrepid manner was not a long term option) in Mooloolaba and booked the soonest appointment I could get. She was a fair sized girl. I’d booked in for an hour. The first seven to nine minutes were spent talking about the main problem, reviewing (quite extensively!) my health and body status questionaire, and generally sorting out what I needed. Then the pain! Oh, the sweet pain… I knew it was all for a VERY worthwhile result, but Man! did this girl (all 240 pounds or so of her) ever have some strength and Ooomph! in her. I didn’t call her off once, (sure came close twice though) and she worked out tense stuff I didn’t know I had.

My proudest moment came near the end when she casually commented on how much I had taken. “Most Aussie guys are absolute whimps, and will call me off after only a bit of pressure. It’s very frustrating when if they’d just take it a little more, I know that I get get them all sorted out in one or two visits, rather than a string of eight or ten visits over two or three months. I’d rather help them more efefctively and work myself out of some work. You have taken more than any of my customers in at least five years!” Whew, so I was tougher than most Aussie business executives who could actually afford such regular treatment, hardly something to be extroirdinarily prowd of…

The weirdest part was that she seemed to focus slightly more on my oposite shoulder muscle that I had mentioned to her. When I brought this up (casually of course) she insisted that it was in much worse shape, and liable to “go” at any time. Confused I just accepted this. I had gained instant respect for her earlier though when she quickly identified that I had had a shoulder seperation on my left side over 10 years ago (it was 20) and she quite accurately described the scope of severity. She had used her elbows and massive forearms quite a bit throughout, and near the end, those rounded blunt objects of death midway in her arm found their way into my thighs to some nerve I had never heard of before. (Leesa-Maree told me but I’ve erased that “full-on” experience from my memory.) Once again she kept going longer and longer, and I refused to say “STOP! No more please!!!” until she saw the tear starting to form in my eyes and gently let up. The second one on my right side was absolutely worse cause I knew what was coming this time. Like the dreaded spanking that a child doesn’t get right away, (he gets to think about it and dwell on the scope of severity for a few hours first) I almost cried knowing the excruciating torture I was about to endure… Sure enough she held this one longer! Truely a sadist (in such a good, well meaning way of course) I suffered gleefully at her hands knowing (in my heart at least) that it was all working towards a tremendous benefit (me joining the last fourty thousand generations of mankind in walking upright). At the end, as I was getting dressed, I asked her how many marriage proposals she received from first time paitients. She had an instant reaction of slight panic, until she saw my laughing eyes. Then I further commented that I had to get my wife a year off of work and send her to massage school for a couple semesters. She then gave me a couple addresses of two on the East Coast of Oz, but I reluctantly (and very sadly) threw them into a rubish bin outside knowing Claudette would never have the slightest interest in such a thing as a “more than a five minute massage” never mind actually having to go to school for it.

After that first time I was naturally hooked. The difficulty was in how to absorb the astonishing (yet VERY worthwhile) $75/hour fees. Luckily we are travelling, and economically repressed areas represent a repreive from said “Western” styleized fees. At the entry to Malaysia, when we were killing several hours at a huge shopping mall until our train left for KL I had my second massage. They had nine chairs lined up for doing pedicures and foot massages, but only one body massuse. I had to wait three hours from my enquiry time until there was a free booking. He was a little 145 (or so) pound guy, and I was the last hour of a twelve hour shift for him. It too felt really great, especially since he did my feet quite thoroughly first. The hour long combined back, arm and foot massage worked out to be about CAN $23. I even snuck Luke into the chair for five minutes of a back rub since he was sore after wandering around town for several hours too. This little guys pushed, massaged and bent my muscles very effectively (and wonderfully) for 46 minutes before he stopped and said I was done. I looked at my watch wondering about the remaining eight minutes that I had pre-paid for. He just sat there looking quite exhausted himself saying in very broken English while looking at his hands, that “there’s nothing left, I am out of power”. I let him off (“white devil” that I am) since he had very reluctantly fit Luke into my time. Not to mention I guess that he had done a pretty effective overall job, (with the exception of bending my RSI entranced thumbs back way too far). Claudette continually declines my offers (and strong recamendations!) for a massage herself. I will keep offering just to ensure she doesn’t have amunition to consider me too much of a selfish bastard spending the family money on such luxury.

My third massage was last night. Ummmmm, the memories come flooding back. There are quite a number of massage places on either side of the beach road, and we are in a VERY uncrowded area of Phuket. Many of these are just open air places with basic beds or even mats on the floor. On the inland side of the beach road there are a half dozen or so in buildings with actual walls. I had heard of the “special” massages available in Thailand from many people back home, and from other travelers we’ve met along the way. An English guy we met here (Dan) had told us about a busier area they had been to last week where there was a huge string of massage parlors along the roads. In this, the much more populated area, the signs were actually labeled occaisionally (every forth or fifth one he said) with “No Sex” for the parlors where the girls were gaurenteed NOT to hassel you at the end of the main one.

I went to check e-mail and type in the start of a BLOG post last night, but was actively canvased (being late at night) to come in for a cheap massage at various places along the way. I started thinking how nice such a gentle rubdown would be after a long day (it was almost 10:00 PM, and all other family members were in bed). I headed to the little sideroad that the internet cafe was on. This also had a pathway to a tremendously nice (and crazily expensive!) resort. I figured that the more reputable places would be adjacent to this resort’s beach entry path, and picked one there. The prices seemed amazingly reasonable (if not downright bloody cheap!). A twenty minute foot massage was (all prices converted to CAN $) $4.50; a half hour back rub $6; a sports massage (meaning vigerous?) was $10; an all over 60 minute body massage was $9; and an all over 60 minute “oil” body massage was $12. I opted for the 60 minute oil one, and then sent me to the open air roof with a little 120 pount thai lady who knew very little english. She gave me a 65 minute wonderful workover everywhere but “there”… (thank gawd!) and I felt compelled to still tip her another 100 Baht (equivelent of $3, since the original massage price was only 400 baht! or $12).

Most bizzarely though, on my way back to the hotel I was canvassed again. Here I was still outrageously reeking of linament oil, and with my skin all glistening, and she wanted to offer me a massage??? I kindly explained that I had only just had one and began walking away. She called me back suggesting that I might need a “special” massage now. I then realized that she must have seen me come out of the “reputable” place and figured I was disappointed or something??? So, mildly curious (nothing more than curiosity, HONEST!) I asked how much. She asked how much would I pay. I was growing impatient and wanted to go, so I exasperatedly replied that I had no idea since I’d NEVER had one before and was just curious, but really wanted to go to my hotel and get to bed. After more talking among the two girls, the English speaking one replied that a “specail” massage would be 1000 baht. She asked more in a negotiating tone of voice expecting me to come back lower I guess. Naturally I said thanks, bid them a good night and ended up somehow at Les & Tina’s room (Dan’s In-laws) swapping stories over a beer for another hour. I have no idea what “special” is: being full on, or just a hand; don’t care either… But I know there are many readers who would be “curious” to know the price. So it’s 1000 baht, or CAN $30 and is most likely negotiable down from there…

Grandma Vi is gonna get one (or more if she gets hooked like me!) tomorrow at the reputable place. Just for fun I might send her to other place and tell her to ask for “special”. But, knowing Grandma Vi, she would be slightly suspicious of my wry smile, and then Claudette would spill the beans. I’m sure that the massage girls would just laugh at her anyways… At least, I hope so! (Eeeeeewwwwwweeeeee!!!!!!)

GV: our first visitor from home

Monday, November 12th, 2007

A wonderful (and faithful) blog reader suggested that: “We could start a new game called “where is Grandma Vi”” Well… neat idea, but that’s a little ahead of the game. She’s probably over the Pacific right now, about an hour or two your side of Hawii still. She doesn’t land here for another 15.5 hours! Since there’s no doubt that she’ll be plenty tired, we’re planning very little for her first afternoon and evening here. After that though, it’ll be GANGBUSTERS crazy busy! We have tonnes of stuff planned: like relaxing on the beach, relaxing by the pool, relaxing at the beach front restraunts for three meals a day, and then occaisional leisurely strolls down the beach once we build up our strength. Agh……..

Actually, we have two “busy” activities planned while she’s here with us in Phuket. One is an evening spectacular buffet and elephant (50 of ’em doing stuff) and acrobatics show. The other is an all day (8:00 – 5:00) guided slew of activities including: whitewater rafting, (YES! we’ll post the pics of her screaming) an elephant ride through the jungle, an ox cart ride, posing on a water buffalo, 4×4 backcountry tour and swimming in a warm jungle waterfall pool. Their websites are: www.islandsafaritour.com and www.phuket-fantasea.com

After Phuket we have no idea specifically where we are going. We just plan on heading North up the coast to Bangkok and then Cheng Mei and seeing what happens?

I wonder if my Mom took one of her computers over to grandma’s house so she can still read the blog postings and see the pics? Maybe someone else is printing ’em off for Grandma, Idaknow…

We still have plenty of itinerary left for anyone else who wants to meet up somewhere… Start planning.

Phones

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Telephones & telecommunications the world over (so far) are an interesting thing. In Central and South America, everyone had cell phones. Not just one per household even, I mean almost all individual family members over 16 it seemed. The best part for us was that the internet WIFI VOIP phone worked in many many places, so we made many fun calls to various family and friends that were dirt cheap and quite a reasonable quality (considering!!!). Thanks gawd for Robert & Leesa’s home internet connection for making calls while we were there. Other than that, I only found one place with an open connection fast enough for us to use in a little strip mall a few weeks into our travels there.

The best way to communicate we’ve found, is by gmail chat. It is an instant messaging (IM) piece built directly into their online webmail page. No extra chat software need be downloaded and installed (like MSN, yahoo chat, ect) since the google chat works directly from a browser window after logging into a free Gmail acount. Quick & easy! And you can see people logged in and start chatting immediately! For anyone who wants to sign up (or has an account already) go to:
http://www.gmail.com and our user name is james.rick@gmail.com

As cool as the WIFI internet phone was, it proved to be pretty much useless in Australia as I mentioned above. At least we used it quite a bit in South & Central America before I lost the darn thing in Singapore. Instead, in Malaysia we bought a new cell phone. While this is something I always believed (and said occasionally to some people) I would avoid, it just proved to be absolutely invaluable while traveling. Throughout practically the whole East coast of Australia that we traveled, public payphones were few and far between. Most campgrounds had one, but they were a pain to use! They were often vandalized and required specific coins (which we didn’t have eight of to call around to different campgrounds or tour operators to check availability and pricing) or not giving change for the larger coins that we did have an abundance of. It was also incredibly useful to be able to make calls while driving to make arrangements for a couple of days ahead, but during business hours.

In Australia I bought the cheapest, most basic phone (Vodaphone) that I could find (for about CAN$50) to use there. The rates were OK, mostly about AUS $0.30 per minute (I think?) to call around within the same State, and AUS $1.50/min to Canada. I had planned on using the WIFI phone throughout Asia and didn’t worry about getting a more versatile cell phone. That turned out to be a huge mistake of course, since the Vodaphone was VERY expensive per minute to use in Asian countries, and (EVEN WORSE!) it didn’t work like they said it would in Singapore and Thailand. That’s a $50 credit I will likely NEVER see again from Vodaphone. Worse yet, their customer service numbers can’t be reached from any phone so far here, so I can’t even demand a refund… Live and learn.

After the vodaphone hassle, I did some quick self education on cell phones and bought the cheapest tri-mode one I could get in KL. It was only about CAN $110 and included tonnes of fancy options! Somehow I restrained myself from getting the Nokia E90 messaging phone (about CAN $1,200 in Malaysia) which was about the coolest thing ever! All phones over here have removable SIM card for changing providers (and as a result, phone numbers) in different countries that you travel to. This is incredibly uncommon in North American cell phone models. We seem to get completely screwed by the providers there! (And I haven’t even talked about rates yet!) The versatility of giving the consumer choice with changeable SIM cards is such a fantastic idea, yet we don’t even know about it or consider it. We just eat up the crap and garbage that the huge money making cell phone corporations feed us. Most phones here don’t seem to have nasty, locked in, incredibly expensive plans either. They are mostly all pay as you go with incredibly friendly and adaptable plans and rates. Even in Australia the pay-as-you-go plans were nice. The vodaphone let us pay $29 for $139 of credit that expired in thirty days, (but could not be used to call from other countries). For $30 we got $60 of credit that expired in 90 days (and could “supposedly” be used overseas). Or for $50 it was $100 of credit for 90 days. In Malaysia & Thailand the rates are even better! While the vodaphone was “locked” and couldn’t use other SIM cards, these phones here (in Asia) are completely open to change around cards at the wonderful whim of the owner. A SIM card here (so far in Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand) costs between CAN $8 and $15 which usually includes about $2 to $3 of “starter” credit. After that, “top up” cards can be bought for $3 to $10. These allow the user to just enter an unlocking code and “poof” more calls.

In Malaysia the local calls were very cheap, and even calls to Canada we calculated out to be about 30 cents! (Yes, Canadian cents!) Thus, we were making calls to Canada like crazy at the train station trying to use up our $15 balance. Even after three long calls, we still have a $9 credit on that SIM card that doesn’t expire for another two months. Way cool!

In Thailand, the calls to Canada seem marginally more so far (about CAN $0.33 per minute) but local calls are also so quick and easy! The one bad (sorta) thing about the Malaysian SIM card we bought was that text message sending capabilities (plain or multimedia SMS) required a separate VISA registration and charges, whereas the Vodaphone in Australia was just AUS $0.50 per 160 character message sent. I haven’t looked into yet for Thailand since we only just got here yesterday afternoon, and picked up the new SIM then.

So, sadly a tri-mode cell phone is something we would probably consider a necessity for traveling on your own (not an organized tour), when traveling for more than two months or so. I have no idea what we’ll do with the phone once we get home since we really have no use for one in Fort Smith, (never mind the fact that Northwestel only has analog service!). I’m not even sure if we can get a “Mobility” SIM card in Canada?!?! The cheapest tri-mode phone that I could buy in KL has a video/still camera, push to talk, and all kinds of other features. We might sell it (privately or pawn shop? who knows?) or I might just keep it for when the travel bug hits again!

For anyone who wants to send us an SMS (since we rarely have the phone turned on to receive calls) the number is:
+66-085-790-0565

Although someone told me that the “zero” preceeding the area code is only used when dialing within Thailand. If this is true then the number will be:
+66-85-790-0565