So after eight months of working 12 hour days, I finally decided it was time to TAKE SOME TIME OFF and go and see some of the natural wonders that South East Asia has to offer. Specifically Thailand.
And there is no way that I would be so selfish to experience this alone, so my great friend Kim Wienches who graduated with me from Elizabethtown college was my partner in crime during this epic Asian adventure.
There were soooo many amazing things that happened on this trip, that the form of this blog is going to have to take a list/narrative approach just to prevent me from going into an uncontrollable rant about how awesome everything was. Kim and I also wrote down the highlights of each day as they happened, so this post are merely the highlights of an otherwise indescribably journey.
July 31st, 2010
1. Kim Wienches arrived at around 10:30, Saturday night. You would think she would be tired from her 16 hour flight, no? Absolutely not! We go to my apartment, have a glass of very nice chardonnay to celebrate having 3 Etown Alumni in Southeast Asia together, and head out to the nightclub across the street from my apartment to experience some of that crazy Asian nightlife. The main difference between nightclubs in Asia and American nightclubs are the quantity of people. There are waaaay more people in Singapore clubs than back in the US, and about ½ as many people dancing. It's like standing on a crowded subway train, but with Justin Timberlake playing in the background. But all in all, it was good fun.
August 1st (Singapore)
1. What better way to experience a country and culture than to simply wander around aimlessly. We started in Little India (and if you know anything about Singapore, NEVER go to Little India on a Sunday. You’re literally swimming in a sea of brown). We played a game called “Find the no mustached man”….nobody won. Our trip then took us around the heart of Singapore. We saw a couple monuments that were pretty much labeled “Singapore hates Japan.” I got to impress Kim with my Chinese when we ate in Chinatown. Or I could have just been making it up, she wouldn't have known. :-)
2. Later in the day we got all dandied up and went to the Sentosa Casino. Singaporean casino’s are literally the exact opposite of any American casino’s. It was as quite as a library, the only drinks being served were coffee (the casino was actually making people more sober?!?!), and the biggest game was one that utilized the dice popper from board game “Trouble.” However, they still make about hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues a year...weird
3. After the Casino, we saw a giant statue of a 1/2 Lion, 1/2 mermaid and started walking to it. This is the national monument of Singapore called the Merlion. When we proceeded to go inside, we watched the movie of the "Mystery of the Merlion." We then proceeded to go to up into it's mouth and onto it's head, for a birds eye (or lion's eye?) view of Singapore at night.
August 2nd (Phuket, Thailand)
1. We flew out of Singapore very early in the morning and landed 90 minutes later in Phuket. Just to fill everyone in, Phuket is an Island (a little bigger than Manhattan island, with 1/10th the population) on the western border of Thailand.
2. Our first encounter with a Ladyboy (What Thailand is famous for) was the taxi booking agent at the airport. Just to fill everyone in again… here is the Webster definition of a “Ladyboy.” Lady-Boy: informal a transvestite or transsexual, esp one from the Far East. They’re socially acceptable in Thailand and they are everywhere!
3. I almost didn’t get through customs in the Phuket Airport because I got the one Trainee customs Agent spent 15 minutes staring at my passport. Fun.
5. While driving to the Giant Buddha on one of the mountain tops, we got caught in a monsoon and had to pull into a really shadiest gas station on this back road, aka: a man’s garage. We filled up from the gas pump aka: the one liter bottle filled with gasoline. And we both got some refreshing beverages, aka: neon green mango Thai Fanta.
6. After we saw the Giant Buddha, we drove to Wat Chalung which is the largest temple in Phuket. While here we saw all the things you would expect to find at a Buddhist temple…stray dogs, firecrackers, and postcards of elephants “getting it on.” But other than that it was a very gorgeous building with my great paintings and statues
7. After the very diverse temple, we drove to the cape of Phuket only to come across Kim’s worst fear. For everyone who doesn’t know, Kim is not a fan of birds. And who did we find at the cape, but a man with two giant sea eagles that you could take your picture with. Kim was not amused. Haha. We ended up going down the wrong path on the cape and had to scale a wall to get back to the parking lot.
8. We had lunch while watching a Thai Kickboxing practice. Those guys are tiny but I have no doubt they could kick my butt.
9. We saw a little naked boy getting the tradition Thai bath from his parents. It was a hose on the street.
11. That night we went out and had a drink at a little….”Outdoor Kiosk” is I guess is how I would label it, and played some Thai Jenga, which is a lot more challenging than US Jenga.
PHEW! Day 1 done!
August 3rd, (Ko Phi Phi, Thailand)
1. 1. We woke up early and took a 2 hour ferry ride out of Phuket to this tiny Island called Ko Phi Phi. (Google it, it’s gorgeous)
2. Our bellhop was a man in a sleeveless shirt who met us at the pier with a giant metal cart for my tiny backpack and Kim’s purse.
3. Our hotel was a little Bungalow that was right off the beach.
4. We immediately went to the beach and rented a kayak and some snorkels. We kayaked for about 1 hour out to Monkey beach (WHERE THERE WERE NO MONKEYS, false advertising), and spent another couple hours snorkeling in some of the clearest water I’ve ever been in.
5. Somewhere around this time, the best phrase of the trip came about. “I’ve got coral in my bikini bottoms.” …Thanks Kim…thanks.
6. We got back to the shore and had a couple drinks on the beach in the most confusing beach bar I’ve ever seen. It was a Bob Marley themed bar, which only played music by The Police; it was full of2 week old kittens running around the floor; it only served Italian food; and to top it all off, there was a table of typical loud Irish guys who only ordered Shmirnoff Ices! If that sentence doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. Also while on the beach, there was a freak storm. We were sitting there in the sun and within about 10 seconds, a huge wall of wind hit the beach, started blowing towels and chairs around, the sky turned black in 30 seconds, and all the boats almost immediately disappeared out of the cove. It was really strange. I took a video of it and posted it on my flickr.
7. The original plan to go out that night, but Kim was covered in bug bites and I looked like an embarrassed tomato from being so sunburn. We were so tired that even the bass music thumping outside on the beach till 5 am couldn’t keep us awake.
August 4th, (Phuket, Thailand)
1. It was another early morning as we met the ferry and took the two hour trek back to Phuket for another fun filled day of exploring the island on our motorcycle.
2. The one thing Kim wanted to do in Thailand was ride an elephant, and today her wish came true. We found an elephant trekking camp, and rode an elephant through the jungle with our little Thai elephant handler sitting on the elephants head and guiding it by going “UNG, and AGH!” Then, halfway through our excursion through the jungle, the little guy got off, told Kim to climb onto the head, and then just walked far behind us as we did a near vertical decent back down the mountain!!! Kim Wienches…Elephant rider!
3. Later we found out what the heck rubber tapping was, after seeing signs all along the island to "Come see the rubber tapping show!" It’s basically milking a rubber tree like how you milk a tree for sap for syrup. Not as exciting as it sounds....not that it sounds that exciting to begin with.
4. For our last night in Phuket, we went and played some Dinosaur Mini-golf that had the easiest holes, but some of the most elaborate special effects I’ve ever seen in a miniature golf course.(I won, 51-50) ;-) Then we went to an extremely nice outdoor restaurant that my company sells wine to called “On the Rocks.” The restaurant rests on the rocks on the edge of the beach. We had a terrific dinner as we watched the waves and could see the entire 5 mile Phuket shoreline at night.
August 5th, (Bangkok, Thailand)
1. The third and final stop on our vacation was Bangkok: Capital of Thailand.
2. We left early in the morning again and took a 45 min plane ride to Bangkok followed by a one hour ride into the city to our hotel from who we think was the city’s twitchiest cab driver in all of Thailand.
3. As you have read, this had been a pretty epic vacation so far, so today was our recovery/relax day. We got to the hotel, went to 7/11 and got caught in another tsunami with the world’s cruddiest umbrella’s, and played cards in our room till we worked up enough energy to go have dinner.
4. For dinner, we went to a nice Thai style restaurant that was supposed to have a traditional Thai culture dance routine. Turns out the dance was a somewhat depressed girl with two fans slowly spinning in a circle for 20 minutes. Entertaining nonetheless. And the traditional Thai cuisine was what made the restaurant great.
August 6th, (Bangkok)
1. Kim and I got up around 7 am and met a van outside of our hotel that drove us about 2 hours outside of the city to the traditional fruit and vegetable floating market. We took a boat down the canal through the market and it was a truly unprecedented experience.
2. We then walked along the canal looking at all the stalls of people selling things to tourists and Kim had her first negotiating experience trying to buy some Tiger Balm. You should have seen her, she was cut throat, bargaining the price lower and lower, until the woman nearly gave her the balm for free… haha, jk. The woman grabbed Kim and started giving her a message as innocent Kim walked by. Kim proceeded to try and get away and in the struggle, the woman dropped and broke the glass jar of balm. Kim’s philanthropic heart took over and she immediately purchased another jar for the woman’s obviously overpriced asking price. Hope that is some amazing tiger balm :)
3. On the way back to Bangkok, the van stopped at an Elephant/Monkey center and we saw a monkey show where we were literally the only people in the audience besides an Indian couple. The show was about 10% entertaining, 90% cruel.
4. Afterwards we went to the Antique and Woodcarving center of Thailand and saw some of the most ornate, decorative wood pieces and furniture we have ever seen. There were life size wooden elephants that were carved out of a single piece of wood!!!
5. Kim and I then stopped at the largest emerald & ruby store/refinement center in Thailand…or the world…can’t remember. Needless to say, we saw some BIG shiny stones.
6. After we got back to Bangkok, we got dropped off at Khao San road, which is the big tourist street in Bangkok. Kim tried flexing her negotiating arm again and got a nice pair of sunglasses for pretty cheap.
7. Following that, we got in a taxi and sat in traffic for about 45 minutes and moved only about 10 feet. So we decided to pay two guys on motorcycles to take us back to the hotel. These two guys apparently must have been daredevils by night because we were speeding through Thai traffic , weaving between cars and racing Tuk-Tuks (a motorcycle with a carriage on the back). I’ve bungee jumped, went deep sea fishing for sharks, dove off cliffs in Mexico, but this was without a doubt one of the scariest moments of my life.
8. Say what you will about ladyboys, but one thing that they can really do is put on a fantastic Broadway Caberet Show. I'll let you check out the videos on my flickr page and decide for yourself. Just remember that THEY ARE ALL GUYS!!!! I had to keep reminding myself too, so don't worry.
9. Later that night, Kim and I went out and experienced a little of the nightlife that Bangkok has become infamous for. You can ask me about the details of that in person as this blog is family friendly.
August 7th, (Bangkok)
1. It was the last day of the trip and coincidentally the first day where we could actually sleep in. Well deserved.
2. Later, Kim and I took a taxi to the largest river running through Bangkok. Once here, we paid a woman with a boat to take us up the river stopping at a couple of the largest temples in Thailand and ending at the Grand Palace.
3. After exploring the Grand Palace and the museum of royal artifacts we left and Kim was so confident with her bargaining now, that she bought a fan off a woman on the street for practically nothing. Kim also finally convinced me to take a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel. Fun fact, people over 6 feet tall, DO NOT fit in Tuk Tuks.
4. For our last meal, Kim and I made reservations at the seafood restaurant on the 78th floor of the tallest building in Thailand. The great food was only heightened by the random Thai Clown, Thai Charlie Chaplin, and Thai ‘Stomp’ walking around.
5. Afterwards, we went up to the ‘space’ bar on the top floor and I beat Kim in yet another game, darts. We then went up even higher to the 360 degree revolving platform on the outside of the top of the skyscraper and witnessed a breathtaking view of Bangkok at night. The perfect ending, to a perfect vacation, with a perfect Etown friend.
1. Happy B-day to me!
2. Kim flew back to the USA at 6:30 am and I flew back to Singapore at 8:00 am.
If you want, you can take a look at my flickr page to see the pictures of the trip, the temples, and the Thais Here…
OH…! One last thing! The Great Durian Mystery: Kim and I noticed there were signs all over South East Asia banning eating Durians (a large fruit) in public places, elevators, near elephants. We even tried to buy one at the floating market and the old woman on the boat refused to sell it to us. The plot thickened! We finally got our hands on one in an alleyway on the last day and solved this nail biting mystery of why you’re not allowed to eat them anywhere…..they taste bad and smell 10 times worse than the taste. If a Cantaloupe and a stink bomb had a baby, it would be a Durian.
Mystery Solved, Vacation Complete. See everyone in December :-)