Well, I realize I haven’t updated this in two months, and much has happened since. Went to the following places, in this order:
- Koh Chang
- Bangkok (for Songkran, the Thai new year - it was insane)
- Chiang Mai for a week, was fortunate enough that my friend let me stay at his apartment for a whole week! So. Awesome.
- Luang Prabang, where I met some incredible new folks and saw the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen
- Phonsovan, to see the ancient Plain of Jars
- Vang Vieng, aka party central set in the most beautiful of landscapes
- Ventiene, the capital of Laos
- back to BKK to meet up with my friend Brandon who had hurt himself pretty badly jumping off a boat and landing on coral
- into Cambodia, straight to Siem Reap, where the famous Angkor Wat temple is located
- Sihanoukville, a chilled-out beach town on the coast of Cambodia
- Phnom Penh, the capital city, where I spent about a week recuperating/teaming up with my next travel posse, and deciding to go BACK to Laos rather than Vietnam. Happy pizza, Killing fields, S21… oh yeah, and I shot some pretty epic guns (ak47, machine gun, m16) and my friend also launched an RPG and a grenade!
- Kratie, a pretty small town on the Mekhong in Cambodia where we saw the famous freshwater Irawaddy dolphins
- Don Det (4000 islands), an island chock full of French hippies, hammocks, and generators (they only got power 2 years ago!), also home to the largest volume waterfall in SE Asia. Kayaked a full day, it was intense
- Kong Lor caves outside Ban na Thip - took forever to get to and from here, but it was intense - 7 KM river which cuts through a mountain, absolutely gorgeous
- back to Vang Vieng for some cave spelunking
- back to Luang Prabang to ride elephants!
- back to Vientiene so I could fly back to BKK
- Bangkok, at last, my home away from home, where I got a pretty sweet tattoo.
Once I got home, I went on a roadtrip. We went from Tuscon, AZ to the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to San Diego and then Carmel.
So that’s where I’ve been. I’ve been processing the 50 gigs of photos from the last two months, and once I get down to a dozen or so really awesome ones I’ll post them up here. XXXXX
Last night I had my very last class at Insight with one of my favorite students, Dee. After exchanging the typical hello-type-platitudes, she pulled out a giant black box with gold lettering from her bag.
“What is it?!”
“I read your fortune!” she says, “Tarot!”
Best. Last. Class. Ever. Dee had been telling me about her tarot practice for a while, but she’s only ever done it in Thai, so translating the meaning of the fortunes into English was a bit of a challenge for her. AND an excellent practice of the future tense, I should add… hah.
My reading was pretty interesting. The first card, which reveals your current state, said I was strong and liked to travel and had a diversity of interests. The second card, my future, was DEATH.
“Uhhhhhhhhh,” I say, “What’s this all about?”
Dee says I will encounter a problem in one of four areas: love, health, money, or work, sometime in the next month. Later cards reveal that this problem can be solved with patience and restriction of emotion. Apparently, the cards say I have problems controlling my emotions. Holler.
So some other funny things: in the next month, I will meet a dark-skinned, older man over the age of 30, who will try to do something bad to me, possibly rip me off. But on the bright side, I will also meet a young, light-skinned man in his 20s who will be a good friend to me. I must be careful about spending too much money as well, she says. But I will make more money afterward. She says I have someone at home who loves me very much and that will require lots of patience (hahahhaaahaahahahaahaha), but in the end it will be good.
She says I should change careers to something involving food or beauty. And also, I will either get married or have a baby, but not both. My general future looks good she says, with the exception of the one problem I will have to encounter in the next month.
Hahh…. and then she let me ask a general question.
“Should I bring my laptop with me while I’m traveling?!” I said.
She starts laughing.
“What?!?! What’s so funny??”
“Normally people ask about love or family or something, but this is OK too, it works,” she says… and the card is flipped. “Oh, Ok, good, no problem. No steal, no break.”
Let’s hope the cards were right, because I am about to pack this 6-lb beast into my tiny, tiny wheeled backpack before heading out to Koh Chang tomorrow AM. Hasta luego my friends.
anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do, but to hold it together when anyone else would understand if you fall apart, that’s true strength.– leaving bangkok the day after tomorrow, traveling from koh chang to ko kood to chiang mai to chiang rai to luang prabang to vang vieng and back to bkk in a month, my to do list is a mile long, i’m packing my life into tiny spaces, saying goodbyes, giving things away, trying to remain calm, look up, be good to my body, and be grateful for the opportunities i have ahead of me.
I was on a train with my friend Mark to Cambodia. Phnom Penh. A massive, high-rise, space-train, with palace-sized cabins and palm fronds poking in through the windows. Tropical heat and mosquitos outside, and yet it was cool and dry inside. Bamboo beds with soft grey mattresses. But something was wrong - I was overwhelmed by the beauty and terrified by a sense of urgency and doom, as if there wasn’t enough time. So I start running through the cabins at impossibly high speeds.
I sprint out to the cabin deck and I’m stopped by a metal bar like someone has just slammed on the front brakes and I’m about to go flying out the windshield. Except when I look down, there’s the most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen, just below my toes - they are moving quickly towards me in circular shapes. Sometimes one circle, sometimes two, always approaching. I suddenly remember, “Oh! Mike told me about this. He’s been here before.” And so I get my camera out, the clunky SLR, and I’m taking photos, incredible swirling photos of these clouds, and then my camera dissolves into my hand into clumps of squares, like tetris blocks or a rubiks cube, and I realize that I don’t know where Mark is, or when the train is arriving.
I scurry inside, find him, and realize we have long overshot our destination - Phnom Penh. When we finally get out, we walk down a dark, empty street for several minutes before I realize I’ve left my bag several hundred meters behind, on the street. I turn around and run back to grab it, and as I do a man on a motorbike comes screeching down the street with my bag in his hand. He spins the bike around us and throws my bag into the air and it plops onto the ground. Mark picks it up and hands it to me, and I look inside. My camera is still there.
—- after going back to sleep, had another dream where i visited the nikon factory with my little sister and her boyfriend, and we were reading the giant inspirational quotations written in white letters on the side. i realized i was dreaming but was enjoying it. seconds later, i was floating inside what appeared to be an abandoned hospital except the water was mixed with blood, and there were mattresses and broken tables drifting all around me. i was no longer enjoying the dream, and i woke myself up; when i did, i couldn’t feel my arms and i was paralyzed in my bed for a moment, my brain still inside the hospital but my body in my bed.
**** i told my students, later, about waking up and not being able to move, and they told me that it’s a thai belief that when this happens to you, it’s the ghost of a dead person sitting on your chest while you’re sleeping. creepy as fuck.
jo and ronit, two INCREDIBLE people i had the blessing of meeting while here. i met jo down in koh phagnon a few months ago, and he stopped through bangkok with his girlfriend ronit a few weeks ago. love them :)
welcome to my last 7 days, or so, i’m not going to format this right, or try hard, i am tired and busy and there’s a million things on my mind so whatever i write, i write, so deal with it, or don’t deal with it :)
my weekend - well, 3 days - was consumed by consumption, not to sound trite. but seriously. there was death spewing from my orifices. sometimes both at once. not that you needed that visualization. fever, chills, fever, chills, awake and asleep and awake and asleep. here, i will give you this picture of a monkey drinking cola so you can have a better image in your head while reading this.
thought maybe it was from raw fish — a student took me to sushi — but he was not sick — so who knows, could just be from some water or ice or being in overly crowded subways with people coughing and holding rags over their mouths and picking their noses then rubbing their hands on the bars (saw this today, internally gagged)
on the bright side, the whole time i knew i was going to be fine, i just had to sleep and sweat through my sheets and suffer and suck it up because you know what?!!? LIFE IS SUFFERING. thank you buddha for that noble truth number 1, mother fucker.
this sickness was a lot better than the neck injury: always better to know you’ve got some horrible, painful, yet curable malaise than having know idea why you’re hurting or why your fingers have suddenly gone numb.
oh! and to top it off it was my 25th birthday weekend and i was home alone sick, and i didn’t really care to be honest, i was sad my friends went out and i couldn’t, and would normally have been a bit more sad about not having anyone there to help me shuffle off to the store and get water and toilet paper and bread, but i didn’t want to bother anybody. and hey i didn’t poop my pants on the whole 5 minute walk downstairs and next door to the family mart, so that’s a happy memory eh? growing up! but my mom & dad sent me some shirts and one of those nifty inflatable neck pillows you see people with on the airplanes, so now i can travel in style. ty mom and dad, you are the best.
and i bring up these terrible things, yet i swear there’s been so many more good ones… and i swear i’m not trying to sound like a martyr but i probably do, uck. anyway. good memories:
renting a karaoke room with the co-workers, singing pop songs for hours, trying really hard to get jordan to sing…
seeing a thai band cover the pogues on st. patrick’s day, hoarse voices and all…
“hanging out” in my neckbrace while i was still wearing it… that was always a laugh… man, there was a moment i shared with an old thai man sitting across from me on the subway, and he looked me in the eye, with his hand on his cane, and was just chuckling at this young girl sitting across from him in a neckbrace, and then i was chuckling, and he winked at me, and it wasn’t even creepy.
ah. and here’s a good one, a classic moment from my business class, oh jeez.
i had a classic “lola” moment. classic.
one of my sweetest students, this girl, comes into class each time, 10 minutes early
sits with me and talks about life, her boyfriend, her apartment, my weird bug rashes, where to buy clothes, the weather, good movies, bad music, whatever
so for five months — FIVE MONTHS — i am teaching her
before i realize, in the middle of the class, she is actually a he.
i was asking the students about the thai equivalent of “scouts” — you know, for kids — i ask the boys, “how was boy scouts?!” and they tell me about digging and camping and lighting fires and whatnot, and then i look at her and say, “how was girl scouts?!”
“uh… i went to boy scouts”
(awkward silence, then she says something in thai, laughter, me turning red, swallowing hard, trying to carry on the conversation, so embarrassing)
now, if i see a ladyboy in heels and a tight skirt i can usually pick her out right away. but this girl has been under my nose for five months, six now actually, with subtle makeup and stylish business casual clothes, and i had no. fucking. clue. it wasn’t until that VERY second when she says “umm…” awkwardly that i realized she had an adam’s apple and i had missed it.
at first i was worried she was offended, but then realized it was actually quite a compliment and she had taken it quite well (i was the one embarrassed, really).
now that it’s “out” it changes the whole dynamic of the class, in a good way.
last class we were talking about strange products. for some ungodly reason i asked why they sell “nipple cream” in the chain pharmacies, and she says its to make your nipples look pink, and before you know it she is going on about how she has tried every brand of nipple cream and none of them work, and we are all laughing so hard we are crying and it takes me a good three minutes to change the subject from nipple cream.
ack. i must return to my room, the piles. the piles!oh. i just got offered a job teaching teachers in lopburi and i think i am going to take it. it is only 11 days long, may 1-11 (working 9 of those days) and it pays well, includes food and housing, and it is located in a city infamous for monkeys. i’ve always wanted to go there. although i doubt i will see monkeys feasting on watermelon as shown in this photo, i imagine that i will befriend at least several before the gig is over and we can perhaps have a girl’s night out, or maybe stay in, have a few, watch titanic, talk about how much we hate leonardo dicaprio, whatever, you know.ok uhhjhfsdkjsdfhkfsdfhjsjhdkjsdfhskjd.sorry. good night! what am i doing. i have too many possessions. i am currently trying to create a giant pile of items to give away to my classes tomorrow. i will miss my students… love them all.
The free bird leaps on the back of the win and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still and is tune is heard on the distant hillfor the caged bird sings of freedom The free bird thinks of another breeze an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own. But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom. - Maya Angelou
Its a maya angelou kind of morning. it’s a new day…
entangled buddha head
waiting for a student
dessert of kings
Spent two nights in a hotel to get away from construction noises and to sleep on a decent bed for a change.
Its too bad I’m already back in my stinky little apartment. Oh well, it’s got its charms. Like the binder clip that’s magically keeping my toilet chain in place, the shower that takes 5 minutes to explain to someone how to properly use (but I’ve unlocked its secrets), and the receptionists who love to say “Hello!” in English about as much as I like to say, “Sawadee Ka!” enthusiastically in return every time we see eachother. The cute little kids who run around the block and jump on me, the lady who makes my coffee every morning, the weird French guy with the bugeyes who keeps trying to get me to go clubbin, the Bacardi Breezers for sale at the end of my hallway, the beautiful pool I never swim in, the fitness room that also serves as a sauna because its so hot, the scale outside Family Mart that plays a loud jingle when you weigh yourself, the enormous but rock-hard bed, the internet that works for 5 minutes at a time (but those 5 minutes are so great), the horrible SAW 5 flourescent lighting that makes the place feel like I’m about to get slaughtered, the airconditioning unit that’s older than I am, the 7 year old deaf Burmese kid who works for the building restaurant, the catcalling neighbors who wave when I’m on my balcony, the people who work at the bar who enthusiastically say, “KAH-TEE!” every time I walk by, trying to convince me to stop in for another shot of homemade whiskey. You know. Little things. Sigh.
It’s sort of funny, in a ha-ha-nature-sure-fooled-you kind of way, to think that just a week ago I was making travel plans. Backpacking plans - something I have been looking forward to for years! - just around the corner, finally, at last, a few weeks away, the grand finale to a 6-month teaching contract in Bangkok…
Now, I’m wearing a neckbrace, going to physical therapy every day, and trying to figure out the best ways to alleviate the pain and numbness in my neck, shoulder, and fingers. Sorry for sounding like a bewildered Californian bro, but seriously, what the fuck, dude?
Wish I could undo all the backbends and headstands and shoulderstands in yoga that I thought were actually strengthening my body, the countless hours I spent looking down at books and papers, the weird ways I sprawled out across my bed at night.
The pain started in December, but it was just a small pinch in my left collarbone. I attributed it to frequently carrying my camera bag on my left shoulder. Throughout January and February, I noticed pain when lying on my back, but figured it was nothing serious, just a pulled muscle. I resumed going to yoga anywhere from 1-4 times per week. Last Tuesday, I performed several headstands before yoga class, and asked my teacher after class why my neck and arm were hurting. She said I’d probably pinched a nerve. By Saturday the pain was so great I came home from work in tears, and went into the hospital the next morning.
As you can see from the black blob in my MRI, I have a C6-7 disc herniation that is putting considerable pressure on my nerves - the white channel - which is why I constantly feel like my left hand is asleep. If left untreated it could result in loss of motor function in my left hand and potentially in other parts of my body.
As far as the healthcare system in Bangkok goes - I don’t think its anywhere near as bad as some might imagine. For one, its cheap. Though I don’t have health insurance here, it’s only about $275 for an MRI and physical therapy is $10/day for cervical traction and a heat compress. This is probably what some people co-pay for the same services in the US, no? The downsides to the Thai hospital system are multifaceted: a) I question if these doctors know what they are talking about (I had one doctor contradict himself several times with regard to whether I could exercise, and also rather cluelessly count my vertibrae out loud because he couldn’t figure out which one was herniated from the scan), b) I haven’t seen the same doctor twice (though this is because most of them only come in a few times per week) c) the appointments are short and quite rushed (haven’t spent more than about 7 minutes with a doctor, and I’ve had to guide the conversation in order to get him to keep talking), and of course, d) the language barrier is difficult. Fortunately I am pretty adept at communicating with ESL speakers so this last one hasn’t presented too much of a problem. While I wouldn’t consider anything like surgery here, I think given the plethora of resources on the internet, the cost of treatment, and the easy access to specialists, its pretty good overall.
I also have a plastic bag full of pills now, like some kind of drug overlord. I’ve accumulated quite a variety of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, b-vitamins, pain killers, and other mysterious-looking pills that mostly just make me extremely tired. I’ve been taking the anti-inflammatories and b-vitamins (supposed to promote nerve growth) and usually one muscle relaxant per day, but haven’t taken painkillers in a few days so I can at least feel what’s going on in my body. While it was getting a lot worse for a few days, I think it’s actually improving a bit now, and I haven’t been having such insane difficulty trying to sleep.
I usually have a somewhat bleak outlook, but with this, I’m really trying to stay positive. Trying to find the grace to deal even if it means giving up my grand plans so that I can go home a lot sooner than anticipated. And hey, who knows, maybe this is all a ruse, and I’ll end up fine in two weeks and can resume my original plan. I would also love that, though I don’t think it’s very realistic at this juncture.
So I’m turning off the sad songs and trying to keep a fresh set of eyes every day, to see the beautiful, glittering mess around me in this massive, sweaty city, since I know my time is likely going to be cut considerably shorter here. Goodnight Bangkok, our love-hate relationship is coming to a conclusion, though its not exactly the one I had in mind. :)
I’ve been constructing a vague travel plan for the upcoming months. It is overwhelming. Take Indonesia for example. There’s 17,000 islands. How am i supposed to decide which ones to visit?!
Anyway. Here is a rough plan I have going. Basically it consists of 4 trips out of Bangkok to various locations. I will be leaving most of my belongings in BKK with a friend, but between each trip I should have access to them as I plan to set up base camp in the ol’ B-Kok. You know. Laptop, clean clothes, shoes, books.
Trip 1) Northern Thailand/Laos (2 weeks)
train or bus to Chiang Mai for Songkran (maybe stop in Sukhothai on the way?). Possibly to go Chiang Rai with a friend (and possibly cross into Myanmar for one day whaaat)
somehow make it to Vientiene by bus/boat, then Vang Vieng, Phonsayan, Luang Prabang
…or possibly in the other direction, depending on where I cross into Laos.
bus bus bus bus back to BKK
Trip 2) Myanmar (10 days)
As far as I know, I gotta fly over there and back… military junta is pretty picky ‘bout where you can and can’t go.
Rangoon OR Mandalay to Bagan (temple central)
Trip 3) Cambodia & Vietnam (3.5 weeks)
10 days in Cambodia by bus — Siam Riep, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, wherever else.
2 weeks in Vietnam by bus, train, boat — Ho Chi Minh, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi Anh, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay.
Fly back to BKK!
Trip 4) Singapore —> Indonesia (2 weeks)
Still very confused about this one. It will involve volcanoes, ruins, and beaches. This much I know. Nothing certain yet.
So. Theoretically. I should be able to do this in 9 weeks. Plus some days in BKK in between. Theoretically. I may end up changing plans entirely, but I figure its probably a good idea to come up with some sort of rough sketch before I pack up and leave, eh?