March 20, 2005

Thailand, the novel

This will be long. Get comfy.

Day 1
WE'RE ON VACAAAATION! Finally a break and some sunshine! In an effort to make Thailand seem even warmer Jed insisted on wearing a hat and gloves until we left despite the warming springlike temperatures.
We took Singapore Airlines direct from Osaka to Bangkok. Rarely are we ever lucky enough to have a direct flight but the real treat was the airline itself. The stewardesses all spoke impeccable English which is like a vacation in itself. Jed and I sat in a 2 seat row all by ourselves in the back of the plane and each had our own little tvs. I watched 2 movies and Jed divided his time between movies and scoffing at the poor Nintendo techniques of the guy in front of us.
Upon arriving in Bangkok we realized it was the first time we saw sunlight since Anni and Chris were here 2 months ago and our eyes didn't ache in agony. We no longer felt like vampires. Jed giggled about the Thai language (it's tonal) saying that it sounded like they were making fun of Chinese. It totallly does.
We bought our $80 ticket to Phuket for the next day and were proudly on our way into the city center via nauseating taxi. Our hotel was the usual hotel except that you have to hand your key in every time you leave. This tells them that you have left and that they can go into your room and "straighten up". We no likey that. Had I known perhaps I would not have 'scattered' my undies to and fro. Info I am sure you could have lived without.
We poked around the hotel and then took a walk downtown. It was late afternoon and we had been up forever and had little energy which is why our first impression of Bangkok was that of complete nastiness. We forced ourselves to stay up until a remarkable 8pm before finally crashing.

Day 2
We woke up at 6 and I was in a foul mood because it appeared to be raining. Jed later informed me it was only window condensation. Sigh.
We had a mission to find 3 things in Bangkok. Usually we are failures but alack, on this day we were winners. It began with an almost disasterous search for a shrine. The shrine was supposed to be at the Hilton Hotel but unbeknownst to us, the Hilton was bought out by Swisshotel. After a biljillion map checks and walks by the same place we finally broke down and asked for the Phallus Shrine. Happily we found it and to celebrate I made Jed take inappropriate pictures which he will not show. We also loitered by the beautiful courtyard pool.
Next stop was to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest hotel in the world and the tallest building in Bangkok. On our way there we met a lovely Thai man who graciously informed us that today was a special holiday and we simply had to go to the most beautiful shrine which closed in one hour but lucky for us he had the local crappy taxi waiting for us. I told him we had people to meet and he walked away mid-sentence. We loudly thanked him anyway for his kind and not at all a scam offer and then made fun of him for the next hour. The view from the hotel was great considering the fear of death escorting us with the rotating balcony. Jed's pics make it seem like a crappy day but it was quite nice, just a little hazy.
Our last stop was a beautiful park in a less crowded part of Bangkok. We took a paddleboat out on the lake and stalked some cute turtles. We ignored the flag sticking up out of the water and nearly broke the boat on some rocks. Good times. We retreated to AC for the most delicious burger ever at a pub in the basement of a way better looking hotel at the end of the street. Friends recommended this place to us and it was heaven. The incessant amount of free beer caused us to leave a little later than we should and nearly miss our flight. Our taxi driver did his best to speed and illegally change lanes all the way to the airport.
Once there we ran inside to check in and get our seats hoping at best that we could get seats together. The woman laughed at us and then her friends laughed at us and she gave us our boarding pass. We called her names all the way to the plane. The stewardess looked at my ticket and told me to go upstairs. As I made my way Jed insisted I misheard so we asked again and when we found ourselves in first class we took back all the bad things we said about the ticket lady and we wish her a long and happy life. Like the low class losers that we are we became giddy and took photos like we were Japanese. Too bad the flight was only an hour but we made the most of it.
We got to Phuket when it was dark but nearly puked all over ourselves at the sight of the place we were at. Our friends Laura and Jonas had gone down first and filled us in on what to do. We took their recommendation and stayed at this hotel.
Our package was for 5 nights and 6 days at a new 5 star hotel. Prettiest place ever. It included free airport transfers, free enormous breakfast everyday, a free seafood dinner and bottle of wine and a free hour each in the spa. All that for only $600 total! I have no shame, I will gladly gloat about the price. The price was so low because the poor hotel had opened up shortly before the tsunami. I think it was only at 60% capacity during the peak season.
Everything was decadent, except for the insects habitating on the stairway to our room. Everyday I made housekeeping get rid of the nest and everyday Jed congratulated the bugs for rebuilding with more entrances each time. Had Jed not had all the money I might have had to break up with him for his blatent disrespect for my bug phobia. Just kidding!

Day 3
Breakfast of eggs cooked to order any way you want and loads of fresh fruit followed by lounging on the beach sipping fresh mango smoothies and fresh coconuts cracked open to order. Snorkel only steps from shore. (Or wear goggles and cling to Jed who now permanently bears marks from my nails, and periodically put my head in the water.) Boogie board. Lunch at the neighboring 'Millionaire's Row' beach hotel followed by a dip in the pool. Exhausted, I lay on the lounge chair placed in the pool and read while sipping on another fresh mango smoothie. Shower, go to the spa for a massage and/or facial (I fell asleep and snored during the first one) eat an amazing dinner (charge it to the room please), take a late night swim (24 hour pool), shower, lounge on the day bed on our private balcony overlooking the pool, go to sleep in our oversized bed with really squishy pillows.

Day 4
Read Day 3. Only this time we had room service which Jed ordered then fell asleep feeling sick and dehydrated. I had to suck it up and eat both our dinners and one dessert. Life is tough.

Day 5
Not at all tired of the lovely routine we created but we needed to experience a bit more before we became comatose. Laura and I found a terrific adventure program that we had the hotel book for us (and charge to the room). I make a very good princess.
The day began with a nice long car ride where Jonas bragged about going to the first Toronto Blue Jays game in 1977 and then I bagged back by telling him Jed and I weren't even alive then. Good times. We picked up an old couple wearing matching "safari khakis" from a fancy hotel they probably paid full price for (the horror!)
Our first visit was to the elephants. We rode an elephant for about 30 minutes and I felt sad thinking that the elephant probably wished he were doing something else. She was a good girl and I loved her. Our guide was gentle and nice to her and after our ride we noticed the elephants got a nice long break and bath in the pond. That made me feel better. We watched a baby elephant show that might have been the cutest thing ever in the world. I was picked to recieve an elephant massage and I laid down on my stomach while the elephant patted my back with his foot. Then he gave me a big wet kiss with his trunk (no tongue). So much fun. I could have kissed that elephant all day. When they needed a male volunteer I did not hesitate to volunteer Jed. I knew he would love it so I tried to ignore the death threats I felt eminating from him. He laid on his back and got a tummy massage. The elephant tried to "find the banana" and according to Jed was not shy in the least. Then Jed got a kiss. He was so moved by the experience he bought the elephant 2 baskets of literal bananas. You give the elephant money, they pay the people at the stand, bring you change if necessary as well as a basket of bananas. Then you feed them.
I wanted to play with them all day.
We then saw the rubber tree. Not that I have ever put a great deal of thought into it, but I had ZERO idea that rubber came from trees. I thought it was fake, like plastic. Now everyone is going to pretend they knew but seriously, I know you had no clue. It was very neat.
We met evil monkeys that attacked but they were on chains and so I understood as I too would attack people if I were kept on a chain.

Then we took a long boat to get to the place where we would ride sea canoes. Someone (who we horribly forgot to tip) paddled us all around the beautiful islands. We went through caves and mangrove trees and even paddled a little ourselves before I decided I was sinning against my oath of laziness and gave the paddle back.
We had lunch and shopped and somehow ended up in a school on a floating village followed by a longboat trip to James Bond Island. I don't watch those movies so the island had little significance for me but it was still cool.
We returned home and repeated the previous days activities.

Day 6
Read days 3 and 4. This time we made it to the sunset on the beach.

Day 7
We tried to extend our stay but couldn't so we sadly had to go home. The staff loved us because we were their age and obviously not the usual 5 star type and we will miss them, except for the one who told Jed he should get a Thai girlfriend. The day was the same as 3, 4 and 6 but no dinner. No first class accident on the way home either. Sadness overtook us as we felt our luxury and upper class status slowly slipping away.

Final Thoughts
The tsunami recovery is going nicely and our beach was very lucky to have sustained very little damage and zero deaths. The beach next to us, however, had significant damage and I think some fatalities. We saw no damage and people seem to be returning to life as best they can. We were happy to save money and encourage tourism to return.

Bangkok is a vibrant and wonderful city. It is loud and filthy and smells bad in parts but it is alive and the people aren't afraid to speak to you. It is everything Japan isn't, which basically means we liked it a lot.

Thailand overall is a paradise. We liked everything about it. The food was incredible and the people were amazing. We felt a bit out of sorts initially, which made us realize how much of a home Japan has become. We also realized how lame Japan is. The people are too afraid to speak, they are entirely robotic, the food is horrendous and makes us sick on a regular basis, everything closes early and there is zero passion for anything with perhaps the exception of shopping and pachinko. There are far more interesting places in Asia than Japan and you'll experience a whole lot more. The people will let you into their culture and lives and good or bad, everything you see is real, not a brand-name attempt at a plastic image. Japan is interesting and by no means a horrible place and I do not regret my decision, but going elsewhere after living in another country has opened my eyes to the world in a way that a web-novel can never explain.

Hope I didn't bore you to tears. I didn't even begin to crack the surface of the effect Thailand had on me but it will always be with me.

Next up: South Korea in mid-April.

Posted by karen at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)

March 05, 2005

What to do, what to do?

I've been having a problem.

There is this absolutely lovely woman at work with whom I've become good friends. We're not close enough where I feel comfortable correcting this mistake but we are close enough where I feel embarrassed to let it continue.

She calles Jed, 'JEB'.

It REALLY bothers me but I don't have the heart to tell her she's been calling him by the wrong name for 7 months. I've tried working him into to our conversations so that I can call him by name and stress the D in Jed but it doesn't seem to do much. His name tag shows but to no avail.

None of this seems to bother Jed.

I would hate to embarrass her, especially at this point where I should have corrected her back in September. But everytime I hear it I just think of some hillbilly wearing overalls and nothing else, living in the plains of Missouri, chewing on some thing of wheat, with a big gap-toothed smile, likely a relative from my mother's side.

I'm stuck. What should I do?

PS...Thailand in 5 days!!!

Posted by karen at 05:37 PM | Comments (2)

March 02, 2005

Planning Ahead

Jed and I are busily preparing for our trip to Thailand next week. And by busily, I mean working 6 day weeks and then not doing much else. We've become vampires, only seeing the light of day under rare circumstances and I am a little creeped to say, the sunlight really, really hurts our eyes.

Anyway, I did have a nice day out yesterday minus the massive delay in getting home due to a suicide on the train tracks. Not sure what counts as many in a situation like this, but there have easily been a handful of these particular suicides since we've been here, although this was the first that I have been impacted by. Luckily I saw nothing and was too sleep deprived to know what was happening.

Anyway, my point is that in a week we will be in Thailand and a week after that we will be back in Japan and I can't help but ponder where to go on our next vacation. Because we pretty much want to go everywhere I thought I should conduct some sort of open poll. Here is the question:

Where should we go?

Here are the guidelines before placing your vote:
1. Answers including anything remotely connected to CT or New England will be immediately thrown out.
2. We are only able to go for about 5 or 6 days total.
3. No camping, cold weather, or North Korea.

With those in mind and many other freakish guidelines I have in my head, we will gladly mull over your suggestions as to where we should trek next. And, of course, by trek I mean, fly on a nice airplane from hotel to hotel, not leaving far outside city limits.

I hope you enjoy the poll but really I am just trying to satisfy my boredom while Jed rearranges the apartment and I stay out of the way. By the way, I set the paper towels on fire the other day while attempting to cook pasta. Perhaps this is why staying out of the way is the best way I can help.

Okay enough of this.
Please vote!!!

Posted by karen at 02:04 PM | Comments (2)