Feb 052004

Tony and Amy on the River Kuai

On Saturday we went up to spend the night on a houseboat on “The River Kuai”. The same river which is in the movie. I don’t think I saw the movie from start to finish…and I didn’t see the bridge. The river was cool. We didn’t do much but hang out and talk. And we had some pretty serious conversations. But it was good. Our room didn’t have lights; we used a lantern.

Sunday we came back from the river and then had a buffet at the Sheraton. The food was good. We paid very little for it because Amy is well connected. But, like in China, better food can usually be found in cheaper places. At night I saw “Rules of Engagement” on DVD. Horrible movie – don’t see it.

Monday we flew to Phuket. Thai airlines commuter flights have more leg room than Eastern China Airlines (and most American carriers). The flight was easy and comfortable. In Phuket, we went down the West coast to a beach called Bang Tao. We stayed in a one-and-a-half star bungalow hotel 5 minute walk from the beach. After we checked in, Haga and I went to the beach and there is where we stayed. The beach at Bang Tao Lagoon was good…not as good as other beaches we saw, but I was so happy to swim in the warm ocean.

At night we went to the Muslim restaurant night market. In general, Muslim food in Thailand is the same as non-Muslim food: spicy bean-sprout mango salads, spicy shrimp curry, fryed stuff. Muslims in Thailand seem slightly more observant than Chinese Muslims…but that is not really saying anything. BangTao seems mostly Muslim. There are prayers played on public loudspeakers 5 times a day (I sort of like that). But no one stops to pray, or closes shop on the Sabbath. Some people wear head-coverings (for men and women) and some don’t…and there does not seem to be any issues between people because of what they wear.

In the night market they sell foodstuffs, sandals, shorts, sarongs, army clothes, etc. I noticed that Thai people seem to like military clothes. I believe that Thai people are very proud of military service and fetishize military equipment (like I secretly do), although they are generally not supportive of militarism.

Tuesday I rented a scooter and we went to a beach 5 minutes away. There we hung out all day. I swam and read a book on the beach. We pee-ed in the ocean. We ate deep-fried sweet-potatoes and bananas.

Riding a scooter is very fun. I drive slow and I get nervous around cars. There are some rice farms close to the bungalows. I will not forget riding the scooter, with Haga on the back, passing rice farms on the sides… warm wind… full moon.

Wednesday we went on a snorkeling trip.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,

a tale of a fateful trip.

That started from this tropic port,

aboard this tiny ship

We left at 8 am to the other side of the island, where we boarded a boat. There were other passengers:

Millionaire and His Wife/; Taiwanese family – 2 very cute little college girls who couldn’t swim, father who spoke Japanese and Chinese with us, mother who wore clothes over whole body to keep out of sun

Movie Star/; 1 single traveling alone Taiwanese girl – she cut her foot open somehow on the boat’s propeller)

The Professor: an old German tourist

The Skipper: 14 year old Thai boat boy who made Micah “I’m board” faces the whole trip.

Mary-Ann: that would be Haga

Gilligan: who do you think?

Extras; 2 Italians -one of which was allergic to tomatoes; an American middle-aged guy with rented Thai girl; and a good looking mid-western young American couple.

“for a 3 hour tour. A 3 hour tour”

(Actually it was more like 8 hours)

We took the boat to Phi Phi island. We snorkeled or swam five at five different stop-points. The scenery was beautiful. One of the places we went to was where they filmed the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” (I never saw it). On one of the islands was an Indian film crew filming a musical / romantic segment of a movie. The actor was wearing a sleeveless shirt, mirrored sunglasses, pompadour, and scruff … He was an Indian Don Johnson.

The Taiwanese family kept saying the water was deep, but I didn’t feel it was deep – I could see the bottom about 20 feet below. I dived down about 10 feet and grabbed hold of rocks and coral. Unfortunately, I stabbed my figures on a vicious spiky sea urchin on one of my dives.

I’m not sure how healthy the coral was. Most of it was grey. The fish were incredible. All bright fluorescent colors. I saw puffer fish, eel like fish, star fish, small fish, big fish, etc.

We came back at 5:30 PM. Somehow I dosed off during the return trip, even though the boat was skipping on the swells. At night, I went out with Tony to a local bar. We met up with 5 girls; Tony’s friends whom he met previously. None of them spoke English, so I didn’t really talk with them. It made me appreciate how much more enjoyable traveling is when you can speak to locals in their language. The bar-band was cool. They played a lot of punk rock. We bought a bottle of whiskey for our table, and somehow the waiter kept filling up my glass without me knowing it…so I became rather sick.

On Thursday a slept on the beach and rode the scooter around.

Friday morning, Haga and I rented a boat to go to a local snorkeling spot. The boat was a “long-tail” – a long shallow boat with car engine on the back. We went to a little rocky island off-shore…there were no other boats or swimmers around. Afterwards, we slept on the beach. We ate fried banana fritters, spicy salads, and noodle soup. All good.

Friday night Amy arrived. We hung out at the beach next to the bungalows.

On Saturday Amy and Tony checked into an fabulous expensive resort Hotel- “The Cheti” (Amy got a huge discount because of her connections). Haga and I went to the beach with them by their hotel. Their bungalow had hard-wood fixtures and paneling, ocean-view, fruit basket, modern-art decoration panels, free use of the catamaran boat (not that Amy and Tony know how to sail…and there was no wind in the afternoon…and they were too chicken to let me sail).

I swam out to a water platform about a half kilometer from shore and sunned myself for a 1/2 hour. I’m pretty burned now.

I gave swim lessons to Amy and Tony. I think I forgot how to swim and I definitely don’t know how to teach it anymore. I thought I would be able to teach both of them how to swim within an hour…I think I would have needed at least 6 hours to teach them how to swim well. They seemed to appreciate my instruction though. I primarily taught Amy, focusing on breathing techniques and timing. Amy seemed exhausted, but she demanded I continue lessons, so I wound up teaching her for about 2 1/2 hours. There was some improvement. Tony didn’t want too much swim lesson. But actually Tony doesn’t need much. He has a powerful kick, but his breathing timing was off (and, of course, breathing timing is everything in the water).

At 6PM we got on a taxi for the Phuket airport. We flew from Phuket to Bangkok at 7. We waited until 2:40 AM to fly to Shanghai. Arrived in Shanghai at around 7AM. Took a taxi from Putong. The driver missed our exit and I yelled at him. We got home at about 9AM. Slept until 12:30PM, when we went out to get some Wonton soup. Had to watch out for drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians. It was 45 degrees F in Shanghai.

So now we are back. I’m looking for a job. I’m going to start teaching English classes in the mean time and start up teaching University of Phoenix Online classes. I have some interviews with a French company this week; I don’t know how that will turn out…they seemed sort of weird and antagonistic when I talked to them on the phone. We like it here in Shanghai even though Thailand is sort of like an enlightened, clean, slightly boring paradise. No cars to run you over or people to argue with there. Overall, this was a great vacation.

 Posted by at 11:06 am

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