Aahhh, the joy: Denver to Thailand in 8 easy steps

Trip Start Feb 29, 2004
Trip End Apr 12, 2005

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Sunday, March 7, 2004

Well, this is lovely: another warm, humid, tropical morning on the island of Ko Samet (in the Gulf of Thailand southeast-ish of Bangkok), sitting here listening to the surf and the insects chirping happily away in the surrounding national park (and the occasional annoying jet ski...).

It's my first few days on my first trip to Asia and so far it's fab! I'm more or less recovered from being (to put it mildly) a bit ding-y (and dingy as well) after travelling about 36 hours straight to get here from about-to-be-snowy Colorado by car, plane, 2 buses, boat and sawngthaew (a pickup truck with benches in the back used as a taxi) and finally feet, but it was all worth it. At some point I figured I'd travelled almost exactly one hour for each of my years (I arrived on my birthday!) to get here, so that seemed fortuitous somehow, although my math skills have been known to be very...creative, so maybe someone should verify those numbers. :)

Some quirks have happened already along the way--maybe because it all began on Leap Day??--starting with stupidly crying my eyes out in the back of the car while mom and dad drove me to the airport. I've never done that before any other big trip or move, but this time I couldn't help it--my big bud Nash kept putting his head in my lap and looking up at me with those gorgeous brown eyes of his--I'm gonna miss all of you!!! ;) *sniff* (No sleep for the 36+ hours before that probably didn't help...)

Nash and his wedgy pillow--how can you resist a face like this?!?

my wonderful family--I couldn't do this trip without you!!

Another funny episode happened as soon as my flight touched down in L.A from Denver. No fewer than 7 people around me whipped out their mobile phones to call a ?loved one?, but no, not to say, "Honey, I'm home, I'll be there soon", and no, not "Hi, I've just landed, can you come pick me up?". No sireebob. Every single one was only interested in the Oscars which were in progress at the time, and the urgent communication was only about Best Picture, Best Director, how was Lord of the Rings doing, etc.-- only in L.A.!! And to drive home the point that we'd landed in the City of Stop-and-Go (and Stop-and-Stop), we were promptly in some kind of traffic jam on the runway and had to sit there for at least 10-15 minutes before we could go on to the gate. I was instantly transported back to the hours and hours (and days and days) I spent on the highways when I lived here way back in the 20th century...

The L.A. International terminal is chaos personified. People speaking every language and from every nation and in every type of clothes were walking around, trying not to lose their children while desperately trying to find out where to go to stand in line for 45 minutes to be practically strip-searched by security before narrowly making their inter-continental flights. As I stood in line I had a lot of time to watch the flights posted on the boards--to Dubai, to Sao Paulo, to Sydney, to Beijing. Airports are such centers of possibility, and I get rushes of smiles and ideas every single time I'm in one. Someday when I'm rich and have loads of time and a little more adventurousness, maybe I'll show up at an airport with a wad of cash and a die (the Vegas kind, not the death kind!). I'll stand under one of these international boards and with one roll of the die will decide where to go. Could be fun, but how do you pack?!?

After building up a healthy appetite giong through the rigors of security, I had a quick bite to eat in a bizarre timewarp lounge (complete with people drinking martinis on faux leopard and zebra skin sofas) somewhere deep inside the bowels of the waiting area before heading off to the EVA plane (a Taiwanese airline).

With complimentary gorgeous little sea green styrofoam slippers that reminded me of hospital shoes (of course I took them when I left the plane!), a Cosmopolitan magazine (in Chinese) and an empty seat beside me (aaaahhh, the joys when you're tall and need the leg room to sprawl out in!!)), I proceeded to pass out and sleep most of the way to Taipei, only waking up long enough to eat noodles, more noodles and then I think noodles. I guess staying up all night in Boulder before I left had its advantages, as I normally can't sleep sitting up, but there was absolutely no way I could have stayed awake at that point. It's official: procrastination CAN be beneficial!

I felt pretty good after my sleep when we arrived in Taipei early in the morning. I had a couple of hours to wander around the airport (VERY clean, VERY quiet, VERY organized-- makes L.A. look like Baghdad!). It was a nice, gentle way to ease my brain around the fact that I really am in Asia. The food in the souvenir stores was totally new to me (but I'm sure it's very normal here) -- lots of Japanese stuff that looked like seaweed and every kind of what I think was dried fish (but who knows???), cans of dried, shredded pork 'For age 1-6', packages of all sizes and colors and shapes of 'dried been curd', and a sign that assured me, 'Please! Feel easy to buy!'. Uh huh. A kitschy(sp?) souvenir store (across from the Bonjour Patisserie, where Dad will be proud to know I paid 4 crisp dollar bills for a small mocha!!) had various Chinese stuff (Made in Taiwan of course!! :)) and a hilarious series of little notebooks with a large bubble cat drawing on them (is this Hello Kitty??) and this text:

'I am BooBoo Kitty. I like Smily.
Big Red Apple. I like it.'

cool. :) Along with people hunched over steaming bowls at the noodle bar next to my gate--at about 7:30 in the morning, I guess noodles just ain't fer dinner round here-- and the meditation area just down the perfect blue carpet, complete with Five Rules posted to be Better in Mind and Spirit in the Buddhist Way, I was beginning to grasp an inkling of what might be in store for me in the coming months.

Nothing much of note happened between Taipei and this gorgeous little island, except that by the time I'd gone thru passport control in Bangkok and got my big backpack, I became dully aware that my feet hurt. Upon closer inspection, I was horrified to see the unrecognizable, fat sausage-like lumps at the ends of my shins. WHAT THE HELL ARE THOSE??? my soggy brain tried to comprehend. I guess sleeping thru 20+ hours of flying without much walking around the planes isn't the best for the old footsies. And to compound matters, the plumpness had clashed with my sandals, creating--BISTERS--THE HORROR!!! Not on my bloody first day!!!! Oi..... So I bandaid-ed myself up (ya know, with plasters) and walked out into a blast of hot, humid air--I have arrived! With a smile on my face, found out right away how easy it is to travel in Thailand by painlessly getting to the bus station to catch my ride to the ferry pier in Ban Phe, a city on the coast about 3(ish) hours away from BKK.

So here I am, among the breeze-blown trees and softly crashing surf. After several showers and meals and hours of sleep and chilling out (and finally figuring out how to 'flush' the toilet by pouring a bowl of water into it--DOH!), I feel very relaxed and happy to finally be travelling long-term after so many years of only dreaming about doing it, and of course living out my favorite motto, 'When was the last time you did something for the first time?", which I shamelessly stole from the fab Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation . So here I am, doing something new virtually every day (I usually sit on a different patch of sand, or read a different book, walk to a different beach, talk to different people, try a different beer or curry...hey, that all counts, right?!).

So you get the picture-my days are spent exactly as I was hoping for my first week; that is to say I've been doing nothing but lounging and lazing on the beach, either in the shade of a tree (and under the stealthy, dropping and furiously biting little red+black ants--I call them the Little Bastards) or splurging on a chair and umbrella (50 cents), reading, dozing, watching people, talking to them, buying freshly cut mango or pineapple from the beach vendors (they're soooo nice, but what a crap job to walk up and down the island all day, every day, in the sun, selling fruit and sarongs to the lazing farangs--Thai for foreigners/westerners...). Yesterday I actually got off my duff and did a bit of exercise and walked down to the southern tip of the island. It seemed to take me forever (something like 5 km over a lot of rocks and hills), but the different beaches and coves are so beautiful, especially the furthest one south, and it was really nice to do something more physical than sitting or lying down all day. I even got a massage on the beach for about $2.50, yet another new experience and one I'm likely to repeat...

Evenings are usually spent hanging out with Joan, from the Faeroe Islands. We ran into each other (literally, with our big backpacks!) in a little store in Bangkok at the bus station before finding ourselves on the same bus to the coast, and sort of faked our way onto a boat and over to the island, as you do when you're new to a place and really don't know what you're doing or where you're going. It's fast becoming a Ko Samet tradition to have the hard-to-resist yummy, spicy Thai curry soup with coconut milk and equally tasty (but not spicy) Thai beer with various other people before heading off to sit on the beach at a cafe/pub and drink rice whiskey while having a good girlie chat and watching the fire show (gorgeous, shirtless Thai guys twirling fire staffs and fire balls on chains--it's magical and very hypnotic!) . Life surely ain't too bad...

Along with Joan, I've met some really great people already, and also some very...unique people, as you do on most beaches I suppose. And I'm sure I'll meet loads more--one of the great pleasures (and sometimes great pains) of travelling is the people you meet who challenge your thinking and open your brain up a bit more by helping you see or do things differently. And with that deep thought, I'm off to have another amazingly relaxed day on the sand. :)

Btw, if you want to see more pics, email me and I'll send you a link for my online cache with loads more.

Enough rambling now for my first entry--more later from ??????????
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