One night in Bangkok....

Trip Start Aug 25, 2003
Trip End Jul 18, 2004

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Yes, we're all the way to Bangkok and no travelogue update; I know. Well so far the only dissapointing thing here is that I have yet to hear "One night in Bangkok" blaring out of a single bar, bus, cybercafe, car, or taxi. Oh well, at least I got to enjoy "Kung Fu Fighting" on one of the busses we caught in southern Thailand.

So I will try as best I can to give the highlights since we left the Cameron Highlands. We made a few stops on our way to Georgetown, Malaysia, both of which were worth the stop. "Kellie's Kastle" (that's right, with a "K") near Ipoh was built by a Scottish plantation owner "Sir(?) Iforgotthename Kellie." (I know my memory is baffleing, isn't it?). The Kastle was never finished and left to be retaken by vegetation until word got out that it was becomeing a bit of a tourist sight. The grounds have been cleaned up and there's an entrance fee, but structure itself was fun to explore. The whole experience was made more surreal by that fact that scattered throught the grounds were cages for a few sets of animals, the most noticeible was a group of deer who's barking (as best I could desribe it) could be heard over most of the grounds. I guess that's not to unusual, and I guess the Peacock and other smaller bird cages thrown in weren't either, I guess it was the Ostrich cage that made the place seem that much more bizarre.

We did have a great experience getting back from Kellies Kastle to Ipoh. We had gotten off the bus back to Ipoh (wanting to stop to check out a Buddhist monestary - guess who forgot the name?) and found that for some reason no busses were stopping to pick us up again. We weren't far from our place, only a few kilometers, so after deciding to walk it someone had pulled off to see if we were OK. He ended up giving us a lift into town (don't worry mom and dad, Sarah and I were both sure we would be safe) stopping once because on the way to our place and getting us both sodas (in unopened cans, mom and dad) for making us have to wait and then taking us directly to our hotel. His name was Das (yes, Im sure I remembered that!) and he wouldn't accept anything stating "God had given him the chance to help us."

After that extremely uplifting experience we headed off the next morning to Georgetown, stopping at Kuala Kangsar to see the very striking Ubidiah Mosque. This stop was also worthwile as Kuala Kangsar had very picturesque paths along the river, somewhat reminiscent of Stratford, Ontario. The Mosque itself was incredible, even Sarah thought so despite not finding a bathroom there after really, really expecting to find one. Really.

After all of this good luck it was bound to balence out a bit. On the ferry to Georgetown we both noticed that the weather there looked, from the mainland, to be much cloudier. Knowing, as we so well knew, that it was not monsoon season on the west coast of Malaysia we though it must be some fluke or trick of the eye. It turns out no, in fact Peneng Island (where Georgetown is) has, for some reason, it's own distinct rainy season, and we managed to catch it on day 2. So, besides seeing a decent amount of movies, eating the last bits of Indian food for awhile, and doing some rainy sightseeing (of some places I don't remember the names to) that was the basic extent of our stay in Georgetown.

Thailand. After getting over the initial culture shock of not being able to read most signs, not even the letters (they use a version of Sanskrit), and having a larger percentage of the popluation not able to speak English we settled have settled into Thailand. It helped that on our first stop, Trang, while walking to find a guesthouse to stay at, we ran into another very helpful person Han. He was a westerner who left (I'm guessing Germany) to set up a book shop in Trang. He first gave us a good tip on a great place to stay, then later as we walked by his shop again he gave another tip on a goo place to eat, still later that night he suggested we check out the night market for sights and a sweet snack. Sarah had a crepe there that she talked about for days!

After Trang we hopped around the southwestern section of Thailand stopping at Krabi, Ko Phi Phi (where "The Beach" was filmed) and Phang Nga. This is what I like to refer to as the "Awesome Seafood" setion of the trip. Krabi was another small town which didn't seem like more than a stepping off point to many island resorts. We headed to Ko Phi Phi which is actually two islands Phi Phi Li and Phi Phi Don. Not remembering which island is which, suffice it to say we stayed at the one with lodging. The other island is reserved for birds nests "farmed" for birds nest soup (it's the bird spit that gives it it's flavor) and is therefore protected and totally uninhabited, unless, apparently, you have a Hollywood film crew. Sarah and I did hire a private boat where we could get dropped off on a kayak and kayak around some of it and then snorkel at certain spots. What makes these islands and much of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia so picturesque is the limestone cliffls that jut out of the land or sea - this area would be a rockclimbers dream (I'm talking to you, Jeremy). From Phang Nga we caught another "tour" of the area by boat. What I enjoyed the most was the extremely long trip through the mangrove forest that we had to take to get to the sea. I have never been through a mangrove before, the whole tangling of branches up to leaves and down to roots was very mesmerizing. We did stop at "James Bond Island" as well (where "Man With The Golden Gun" was filmed) which was one of the quainter tourist traps we've seen, still, I did not have the heart to buy an elephant made out of seashells.

We had one more stop before Bangkok, Chaiya. This little town had a surprising nice hotel (surprising because it was the only one in town and still very nice.) The reason for the stop was to investigate some ruins but the best part about it was that it was such a laid back and untouristed place. When we arrived (this time by train) we walked out into another very nice night market where the sizzle of frying food was everywhere. After getting settled and taking another look at the night market we noticed a larger night carnival down the street. This was a different kind of carnival. Besides the Thai boxing ring set up off to one the main attraction was a series of floats built by buddhist monks from different temples. Yes, these were actual floats. Yes, the were mobile. Yes, they did drive. No, we didn't see them being driven but they had steering wheels. Trust me, a steering wheel doesn't exactly blend into the theme of most monk floats. And that was Chaiya (ooh, plus some really good noodles).

Now in Bangkok we have just come from the final rehersal of the Royal Barges practicing rowing and chanting down the river in preperation for an APEC summit. This was incredible, 52 barges of different sizes each manned by at least 25 people by my count. The rest of the river traffic was shut down for the rehersal. So despite no "One Night in Bangkok" yet, it has been really cool. This may seem to jump around a bit, but I had alot of catching up to do. That's it for now.
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