Finally!! Merry Christmas....

Trip Start Dec 08, 2005
Trip End Jan 13, 2006

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, December 26, 2005

Sa-Wa-Tee-Ka from currently sunny Thailand on Christmas Day.

2+ weeks in and we're finally ready to sit down for a good story session.
After much discussion as to how we can do this together (okay...not really) I'll be providing the narrative on this entry. Pen was going to pepper in her bits here and there....but she has decided she has very important business to take care of on the beach.

Allow me to set the scene...I'm sitting in a concrete building that acts as the store/internet/travel agency and home to the owners of our little resort. There is a little guy called Finn who runs around in circles (he's my boyfriend-more on that later) and there is a confussed Rooster who just keeps cock-a-doodle-doo-ing next to matter what time of day it is. Once and a while a truck will go by on the street in front of us blasting ads for Thai Kick Boxing in broken english on a broken PA. Fun....and so we begin....

We are currently on Koh's one of the southern islands of Thailand...famous for diving and, of course, the tsunami. But first things first...back to Bangkok the story train goes.

We spent our first couple of nights in the lap of Asian luxury at a posh hotel in Bangkok called The Landmark. It was chucked full of European men traveling to the city for the "assets." We took to referring to them as a "maitre'd"..(ode to a dude I worked with at The Wharf Restaurant on Cayman 10 years ago who would also travel to Thailand once a year for a six week
shack-up with an "asset" before returning to his life working as the maitre'd). The two of us would get in the elevator and flank a "couple"...usually a little round man and a young Thai woman....the silence was deafening as he would steal a glance at the two amazon women with shame in his eyes.

Before leaving the big smelly but wonderful city, we spent a day in the thick of things. Our visit to the Grand Palace was stunning. (a few of you have heard this short tale already) The whole compound is so beautifully built...with ornate carvings and tile work everywhere. You can't turn your head without making eye contact with one of hundreds of statues. The air is filled with incense and the delicate ringing of bells in the wind. I swear to you, the air pressure changed throughout the place. From the moment we entered, it was tangible.
The Grand Palace is home to one of the treasures of Thailand and Buddism, The Emerald Buddha. Before entering, your shoes come off....then you walk through these HUGE, beautiful hand carved doors into a room unlike any I've ever seen. The walls are painting with what must be the entire history of Thailand. There is a tower of a monument in the center of the room...all gold and gems and charms and pretty things....on top sits The Emerald Buddha. I sat on my knees, being very aware not to point my feet forward (a sign of disrespect) and just took it all in. The energy in this temple was so vibrant and thick.....I had tears spilling out of my eyes and down my cheeks and neck before I even knew what was happening. It was like an all encompassing sense of love and compassion. While there, a monk came and sat in a special area to do whatever it is that they do.....the vibration actually changed. So wild. I finally tore myself away only because i felt I should...truly could have made a home in that room.

In a state of bliss from this experience, we were prime targets to be swindled the moment we walked out of the gates....and so, we were. (hey! first day in Thailand...what do you expect?) We paid 500 baht (12.50 USD) for a "boat tour" of the canals. Our "guide" seemed to have someplace better to be...'cause we tore around that water way at such a clip I think the
locals are still trying to figure out what the red brown-curly-haired-screaming streaks with the cameras were that left them rocking on the docks. We lapped heaps of other long-tail boats as they putt-putted along sipping their cocktails (many of them maitre'd couples). We were lucky to get the lids off our water bottles without showering ourselves. Just incase my tailbone wasn't traumatized enough by learning to snowboard a week earlier & then flying around the globe, that damn wooden boat sealed the deal. We consoled ourselves with full hour foot massages on the way back to our very plush hotel.

From there, we hopped a plane and made our way to Koh Samui.....apparently right at the tail end of the heaviest rainfall they've seen in 50 years. Super.
The roads were 2 ft deep with water all over the island...and needless to say, when the island is flooded like that, the aroma in the air ain't comin' from flower gardens. Think about it.
Anyhow, we found ourselves a lovely place called Lawana Beach Resort (2400 baht per night...about 60 USD). The bungalows were BEAUTIFUL....all lining a garden style walk-way to the beach. The weather wasn't great for our time there....but we did stay a few days longer than we would have normally, simply because we liked the people so much. Plenty of card playing, reading & bed by 9...much to the disappointment of our two new European friends, Stephan & Ari, who were game to hit the "big-city" of Chaweng for a night of bar-hopping with the hot Canadians. This also marks the place that Pen fell in love...with Tom Young Goong soup. 
I too made a profound discovery, while eating my Tom Young Goong soup. I had just enough time to get out the words:
before my body went into full scale Thai-chilli shock. There are no words. It was all Pen could do to keep a straight face while all the sweet Thai gals just giggled. Bastards...the lot of 'em.

A big part of our desire in coming here was to get in a whole whack of diving. Unfortunately, the storms around Samui made for zero visibility under just changed our plans. (LOVE that) After we had grown tired of the storm watching, we jumped another plane. This time bound for the Adaman Coast via Phuket.

Upon arriving, both Pen & I were quietly taking notice of the tsunami effects on the city. At first, neither of us really acknowledged that we were....but you almost can't help yourself. The energy in the city was really different from any place else we had been sofar. The day's journey continued with a death defying taxi ride across the city to a ferry bound for Koh PhiPhi. It was another somewhat stormy there were some pretty healthy sized waves. We both tried to close our eyes and snooze amongst the cockroaches....although at one point the boat rocked so intensely, that the vending machines fell over....on top of our bags.
After thankfully getting off the titanic & climbing over three other boats to get to the pier, we experienced swindle #2 in booking a 3500 baht per night bungalow.

Here's the thing....we both arrived with a whole lot of ideas of what phi phi was s'post to be and what it may have become after the tsunami. It was one of the most profoundly affected places in Thailand....and the remnant energy of that powerful. Unfortunately, the people at the resort were just plain miserable. They had huge chips affixed to both shoulders...and weren't shy about showing their contempt. Strange....they want the tourism so that life can begin to return to normal...yet they harbor so much bitterness and's just not the place that we needed to be.
So we got the heck off....
And thank our lucky stars that we did...because we found Koh Lanta.
This island is so much of what we dreamt Thailand would be. The people are really friendly...(although they still try to take you for all they can with every purchase-it's just the way it's done). Before we got on the ferry from PhiPhi, we were approached by a woman called 'Eat'....At first she said that she was on PhiPhi for the first time since the tsunami...that she hadn't been able to return until this day, as she had lost friends there. And then she miraculously pulled out a binder full of pictures of her resort and letters from former guests. Pen & I had the same reaction and looked in each other's eyes with a "oh no she didn't just use that tragedy to try and sell us" She then told us all about her family's place, Lanta Nature Beach Resort.

As we boarded the ferry, we were ACCOSTED by over 20 reps from different resorts trying to book guests for the full one hour crossing. At first we humoured them and spent a little time talking to each one....but it got tired fast. It got to the point where I put my earphones in and started having to be quite rude just to get the swarms to leave us alone. One actually shoved my bag over and made herself comfy on the seat as she told me all about her life at the resort. If only she had been looking at my eyes in that moment...she would have seen exactly what I felt about her.
After the swarming....we both went with our instinct and followed Eat to her truck. This would mark the first of many "taxi" rides on the backs of trucks in Asia. Although I must say...there is nothing like your first time.
Hol-Y Shit.
The lines on the road aren't there so much as to denote lanes....there more of a, as in, 'yes, you're driving on a road. anywhere you like is just fine' We learned quick to keep all limbs closely tucked at all times...and for the love of God, DON'T POINT AT ANYTHING.
We arrived a Nature Beach slightly harried...and grateful that we had clearly made the right choice…as the melodies of Jack Johnson filled the ocean air. The whole restaurant is sheltered by a thatched roof...and sits at the edge of the beach. The bungalows are all clean and have washrooms with hot water showers and real honest to goodness toilets. We're paying 550
baht per night (about 14 bucks)....kind of puts all the other places in perspective.
The food is really good (save the banana pancake) and the staff are all friendly and kind. I've got myself a little boyfriend...two, actually. One is Eat's 3 year old son, who won't give me the time of day, but damn if I don't want to stash him in my bag for the trip home. The other is 'Coke" (everyone here goes by nic-names) of the little Thai dudes who works took him 5 days to gather up the courage to ask 'shayla...i come with you to canada?" Sure Coke....I'll stash you in my bag with the little one. " have bouy-frnd at humm?"
How sweet is that?
There is another guy who works here, 'Rambo', who does a fire show on the beach every night at 9 pm. Really cool looking. He's the little stud of Nature Beach...also a Thai boxer. We asked him where he lives, and he pointed to the bar. For real...each morning when we're having our breakie, Rambo will sit up from under his blanket on the floor of the bar and rub his eyes.
In our week here, we've given nic-names to all the other guests at our hotel. These include the Bionic Couple, Smelly Dude, T.D. (for thunder bay...he could also go as The Lurker), The German Couple, Prince William, The Friendlies, The Bird Lady, Freckle Face Boy's Family, The Dragon Lady and her Bitch (boyfriend)....the list continues. Penelope has been given the nic-name 'Peanut' (which I honestly has nothing to do with) and I've been labelled 'Chick'

So....since on Lanta, we've learned to barter pretty well...taken a full day cooking course at a place called 'Time for Lime"...where Penelope learned what her love is made of (i refer to Tom Young Goong of course) and we perfected the art of the spring roll....And a couple of days ago we went on a snorkel trip.
Keep your pants on. It wasn't as fun as it may seem it should have been.

After 3 days of stinking hot sun, we signed up for a day cruise to Koh Haa for Penelope's first tropical snorkeling adventure. When we rolled outside, the skies were dark and stormy...although not raining and windy...yet. We were picked up for yet another death defying ride...this time at 7:30 am. By the time we got on the boat with 35 others, the skies had opened up and The Perfect Storm had begun.
Then the waves came. And came. And came. I took a seasickness pill in the hopes that I could keep the nausea at bay. No such luck. Thanks to being pushed to edge by people's cigarette smoke, I spent the full day downwind from the diesel exhaust curled into the fetal position when not heaving into the great big blue waves.
Needless to say, 11 ft swells are not ideal conditions for ANY snorkelling, let alone someone's first time. We managed to get into the water in the hopes that we'd feel better off the God-forsaken boat than on. The two of us were the only ones in the group who were snorkeling instead of diving..(a grave error in judgment) we made our way out of the path of the current
towards a little tiny white beach. Paradise on a sunny day, I'm sure.
Unfortunately, it was the scene of our sad state. Two bikini-clad women lying flat to the sand...trying to cover ourselves in globs of sand in an effort to stay out of the wind and a little warm.
It's a damn good thing we have such great senses of we chose to laugh instead of sob. "here we are" (Pen & I have established a whole list of code phrases & words for this of them is 'here we are' whenever we think it's a moment to sit back and take in and appreciate the environment)
Then it was back on the boat for another 2 hours of feeding the fish from the back of the boat.
Good times.

Yesterday we treated ourselves to a day on the chi-chi resort up the beach called Sri Lanta. It's just one of those places right out of the brochure....picture perfect Thailand...SO, we walked over and spent the day under a palapa sipping cold drinks....and getting a two hour reflexology massage in an open-air building draped with silk sheers and beads. Magic.

On the walk home (up the beach) we were taking in the sunset when a hulking-roar of a noise started towards us from the tree line and people started to run....before we knew what was happening, an elephant was ripping out of the woods...being ridden by his trainer. It wasn't as out of control as it sounds...although Pen did consider running into the sea before she knew what was happening. All the little teeny kids were going bananas with excitement....and I was going bananas taking pictures of them. So amazing. It was hard to see this beautiful beast doing tricks for everyone's entertainment...but also truly remarkable and powerful.

We arrived back at Nature Beach just in time to take showers and get back to the beach for Christmas dinner. It was WONDERFUL. All the guests we sitting at a huge horseshoe table...we feasted on a Thai buffet of home cooked goodness...then we all played games for hours. Blind-folded boxing for the kids was a highlight. Mayhem. Pen took part on a balloon-stomping was the funniest thing I've ever seen....she kept lobbing from foot to foot keeping her
knees up around her waste....laughing hysterically while she did an impression of popcorn popping. We were siting with our new pals, the we all start chanting for 'Ca-na-da! Ca-na-da!' You'll all be happy to know that Pen was the last woman standing. (she even beat the Bionic Woman)

So.....that brings us to today. We've booked another two hour massage at Sri Lanta for later as a Christmas present too each other. Nice.

Pen has turned into a radiant sun-Goddess....she's a pretty golden brown. Mama-you'll be happy to know that I continue to be the sunSCREEN-Goddess clinging to the shade & I stay true to my white-girl roots. Although Mother-Sea did give me a mysterious rash yesterday....I call it sea itch from my days in the Caribbean. It's darn sexy.

We have a couple more days on Lanta...Melissa & Larkin, two friends from home, arrive this morning. Soon, we head north through Krabi to the hub of Bangkok and board a train for Chaing Mai for some elephant trekking. Then hoping to hit Koh Chang for a little more beaching on the way to Cambodia. least that's the plan as of today. Who knows where we'll really end up....

Merry Christmas to all....I send you a love-Love-LOVE, white light and wishes.
xox Che.
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