Friday, April 30, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love, man...Eat, Pray, Love"

Yes, I know the similarities.  I'm single.  I'm traveling the world for a year.  Julia Roberts looks just like me.  But come on!  When I was in Singapore, I went to the botanical gardens.  A couple ladies from San Francisco gave me free entrance into the Orchid display and we got to talking.  Inevitably you tell people where you're from, where you've been, where you're headed, how long you've been on the road, how long you plan to be on the road.  It's the same old story, day after day.  I get sick of it actually (hearing myself tell the story). 

These ladies though, they were SO into it.  And when I was done talking, one said, "Eat, Pray, Love, man...Eat, Pray, Love."

It sort of reminds me how when I was in Australia with Teri and people would find out that we were single and not in our twenties...they called us "Cougars".  Come on!


So Thailand is hot, and you always want water.  7-Eleven is the only place that is consistently on most street corners and consistently air conditioned.  So when we see a 7-Eleven we don't even discuss it.  We don't even look at eachother as if to say, 'you wanna?'  We just go in. We buy water, we drink the water in the store, we walk around, we read the magazines even though they are in Thai, and when we finally feel cooled off we give the clerk our garbage and venture out into the hot hot hot heat again.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Somebody is moving into my house

They seem nice, but it makes me very sad.

On June 7th, when I fly into Minneapolis, I will be going to my house, knocking on the door, and meeting these people with their probably adorable baby, their probably very nice furnishings, collecting the rent, and trying probably not to cry.

Summer-isms vol. 3

*Looks at sign, completely in Thai language*:  "Thanks for nothing, sign."

"Look at that human leg."

"This coffee tastes like cereal."

"I am above-average."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Story of the Suitcase

My suitcase scenario goes as follows:
  • Can't zip backpack as it is.
  • Buy a dress and two coats in Melbourne.
  • Cave and buy suitcase, even though "backpacking".
  • With excuse of extra suitcase, buy sweater and long johns in New Zealand.
  • Devise brilliant plan to leave extra suitcase in Thailand with unnecessary items.
  • Shrink wrap bag at Singapore airport.

Brilliant Plan:
  • Leave at storage facility in Bangkok for $3 per week.
  • Summer picks it up when returning to Bangkok in 7 weeks.
  • Summer to bring to Vermont.
  • Nancy to bring to Minnesota. 

Things that could go wrong with brilliant plan:
  • Storage facility closed when Summer flies out at 5am.
  • Recent political trouble in Bangkok may cause problems with Summer returning to Bangkok.
  • Summer may only have one hour in Bangkok, not enough time to deal with suitcase.

Our hotel offered to store it for free, but again, with Summer's tight schedule it seemed like way too much of a hassle to find our hotel, get the bag, etc when she may only have had one hour to change flights.  So we decided to stay in Bangkok until Monday when the post office was open and I could inquire about shipping it home on a slow boat.  This sort of sucked because we have a limited amount of time in Thailand and neither of us really fell in love with Bangkok.  There's also the teensy tiny matter of explosions and red shirt demonstrations and not knowing for sure which parts of the city are completely safe.  But thems the breaks.

We also had to go about the business of buying a train ticket to the South.   We did some research and went out on Sunday and decided to go to the train station and buy a hop on hop off ticket all the way to Kuala Lumpur so that we could stop in south Thailand and also Penang etc on the way to our flight to Vietnam. 

But what ended up happening was we got in a tuk tuk, who told us the train station was closed (a common scam) and we were brought to a travel agency.  We knew about this scam in advance but were not opposed to discussing prices with the travel agency.  We actually found an option that worked for us, taking a night bus (fully air-conditioned) straight to Krabi town for approximately $28 US.  It left at 5pm on Monday night, which gave us plenty of time to deal with my suitcase at the post office.  I had an epiphany in front of the agent that I would ask our hotel...who already offered to store the bag for free...To just deliver it to the airport!  I told Summer I would even offer to pay them like a hundred bucks because I knew shipping fees would be at least $200 or so.  The agent overheard me and said that they would store it and deliver it to the airport.  For $30.  YAY!

We were feeling pretty positive about the whole thing.  Bus ticket.  Check.  Bag situation.  Sorted.  So we set about going shopping at that market where I found those mythical Unicorn Jeans and then promptly lost them. 

The next morning, we went back to the travel agency and I set about trying to arrange the suitcase thing.  The woman was way too nonchalant about the fact that she was going to store my bag.  I wrote on a piece of paper my name, email address and my parents' phone and home address.  I shoved this between the suitcase and the shrink wrap.  The woman charged me $30 and filled out a ticket that just said, bring to airport on June 10th at 3am.  I suggested she take Summer's name down, so they knew to whom to deliver it.  I suggested she give us her email address so that we could arrange the meeting at the airport.  And I asked her how she would know which bag to deliver to the airport on June 10th at 3am.

She looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "the green one."

I have a feeling I'm never going to see that suitcase again.

Clavicle Bone = Skinny

Here is Summer, normal-every day Summer:

And here is Summer after I explained about how the models just jutt out their clavicle bone to look skinny:

The Short Cut, more like the Poop Cut

This was Summer's "Short Cut".  The tiny sidewalk extends for probably about 600 meters, and the green handrail is the only thing keeping you from falling in the muck.

Granted, during the day this "reservoir" looks much less scary.  Picture it pitch black.  It's too bad I couldn't take a picture of how bad it smelled.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Summer-isms, Vol. 2

"How many croissants do you think I can eat?  Nine?"

"I mean, how do they get water?"  (When walking past young girls sitting in front of the 'Nude Ranch'.  Turns out she was talking about street dogs.)

"Remind me that the next time I drink two giant fortys."

"That's not a suitcase, that's a clown car."

Bangkok Giveth and Bangkok Taketh Away

Do you know about dream jeans? The kind that fit you just perfectly? No frills, no on-purpose holes, no flare. Just your basic straight cut blue jeans. These kind of jeans just don't exist anymore. You can't find them. I know this because I have been searching for about six years. These days, jeans are either too skinny, or too boot cut, or too loose, or way too low riding.

Today I found my dream jeans. In a market somewhere far off the beaten track. It was so hot I didn't even want to try them on, but I did and they were perfect. Zipper fly. Just the right length. Could wear long, or cuff twice. Adorable. My butt crack didn't even try to stick out when I squatted in them. Weathered wash, but not obviously-so, lived-in looking boyfriend style jeans by Levi's. I negotiated the price down to a 'hurts-but-still-comfortable' 600 Baht, or $20.

And then I must have left them somewhere because they are not here where I am right now. I think maybe that they were a mirage, and that this didn't really happen. That I really didn't have to run alone to the 7-Eleven across the street and ask with my hands if I left my bag? Did anybody see my bag? Bag? I had a bag? It's lost? No, my friend doesn't have it. It's lost. Did you see it? My bag? No? No bag? Nobody turned in a bag?

Also in the bag: my whole day's shopping. A dress, two headbands, and my sunglasses.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Khaoson Road

After that night of navigating poop rivers, Summer and I had lots more catching up to do and so we stayed up until like 3 or 4 am without realizing it.  And so naturally we slept until 3pm yesterday.  We ventured out onto the street and got some food.  I must be weathering as a traveler, or maybe even changing as a person because this was the same market where, the night prior, the rats ran amok.  Also a gecko was crawling on the food stand.  I ordered some kind of vegetable thing plus another thai peanut vegetable thing, some sticky rice and it was all for 60 Baht, or $2.  Summer got egg rolls and prawns, tails and eyeballs and antannaes and all.

After that we walked back to the hotel, ate the food, did some internet research, and by then it was 7pm.  Not wanting to waste the entire day we hired a tuk tuk (motorized three wheeled scooter taxi) and headed over to Khaoson Road.  On the way we witnessed a car accident in which a bus scraped the back of a black SUV and they were hung up on eachother.  This was five feet from our faces.  Our tuk tuk driver got very anxious and wanted to get the heck out of there.  His only option was to back up but we were in a traffic jam.  The driver of the SUV got unstuck from the bus finally and then got out of his car and started screaming at the bus driver.  We reversed at a hundred miles an hour and took another route.  I got it all on video.  ha!  Crazy westerner, videotaping car accidents in Bangkok.

I was actually shocked to see an accident happening.  One thing I will give SE Asian drivers is (and I'm stealing this quote from a friend I met in Bali) that they "really are familiar with the dimensions of their vehicles".  In other words, can come within inches of another car whilst driving and parking.  So I was watching this bus get so close to the SUV and was even maybe a little impressed and then CRUNCH. 

Khaoson Road is a tourists dream.  It's basically a big long street with shops and stalls and foodstands lining both sides.  You can get a massage, a facial, bikini wax (ew), or even hire fish to eat the dead skin off your feet (ew).  There is a clean bathroom behind a McDonald's that only charges 5 Baht and they give you toilet paper and there is soap!  The shops sell things like fake Ray Bans, real Nike shoes and fake Birkenstocks.  If your name is on the following list I bought you a present: Josette, Miyo, Kady.  I hope you like your fake Birkenstocks, Josette.  Just kidding.  So some funny things happened.  Haggling doesn't happen like it happens everywhere else in the world.  You say, "how much?"  They say, for example, "350 Baht".  You say, "no, too much.  150 Baht."  They say, "No."  They don't counter offer.  You walk away.  By the end I sort of got the hang of it, and didn't go so low on my first offer.  It's more realistic to get like 30-50 Baht discount than to get half off the asking price.  I suppose I should have looked that up in my Lonely Planet guide. 

I haven't mentioned the DVD trade here.  In Bali, you could go to a store, on the street, and pick any DVD of movies that ARE STILL IN THEATERS and buy them for $1.  They are bad bootlegs, and sometimes were filmed from a seat of the theater, but for $1 you can work with it.  I didn't buy any DVDs in Bali because my netbook doesn't have a DVD drive, and also because I had friends buying them and so I didn't need to.  Well now Summer is here and her laptop has the drive, and so we thought we would buy a movie or two to watch.  So here's the conversation between me and the DVD guy:

Kady: "How much for one?"
Guy: "80 Baht. ($2.50)
Kady: "Too much."
Guy: "What you pay?"
Kady: "How much if I buy more than one?"
Guy: "700 Baht for 10"
Kady: (after flipping through book, and choosing 6 titles) "200 Baht for 6"
Guy: "500 Baht for 6"
Kady: "That's more than 80 for one."
Guy: "Go look for better deal."
Kady: "OK I will."
Summer: to man: "Mai pen rai"
Summer: to me: "Kady, say it with a smile.  Be nice."
Kady: "No, this is illegal, these are crappy videos with terrible quality, he's charging too much."
Summer: grabbing my arm, leading me away, to man: "Mai pen rai"

Obviously I didn't get any DVDs.  And mai pen rai means "no worries".
p.s. I paid $17 to go to movies in New Zealand.  And suddenly $2.50 is too much?  What is happening to me?

And then I ate a grasshopper because Summer did first and she said it tasted like roasted pumpkin seeds, and it did.

After getting an hour-long Thai massage for $6, we hired another tuk tuk to head back to the hotel.  Summer cracked me up because an old man kept trying to get in our tuk tuk for free and she playfully pushed him out and then accidentally we both held up our feet to prevent him from getting back in.  All while laughing and smiling of course, but then we remembered it's a HUGE insult to point your feet at someone.  We gasped!  And Summer said, "mai pen rai" one thousand times as we drove off.  On the way back our driver stopped to ask a Policeman where our hotel was.  haha

Oh, and a bum was sleeping on our street with a huge hole in the crotch of his pants.  I took a photo but it's not appropriate to post it.  If I were to post it, I would have captioned it, "I used to think you were crazy, but now I can see you're nuts."


"You think you're getting juice but you're really just getting Tang."

"I could use an elbow to my right butt cheek if you're up to it later."

"It never occurred to me that it would rain while we were here."

Friday, April 23, 2010

One Night in Bangkok

Seemed like it took all day, but I finally arrived in Bangkok to an airport pickup and transfer to my luxury hotel ($30 per night for 2 people, $15 each).  I screamed when I saw Summer!  I haven't seen her in 3 1/2 months!  We spent a few hours catching up and then decided to go get some food.  Summer thought we should ask at the front desk but I said let's just go for a walk, we'll find something!

We headed out into the night at about 11pm.  We decided to go left out of the hotel and walk around the block.  Everything was closed and we just sort of kept walking and chatting.  Midway around the block Summer found a "short cut" and started walking down this narrow sidewalk next to some kind of reservoir.  I protested, but she had been here a whole day already (expert, right?) and she really felt this was the easiest way to the other side of the block and so I followed her.  As we walked down this tiny sidewalk, bordered to the left with a high concrete wall and to the right with a handrail preventing your fall into the reservoir I was nervous, but we then happened upon a group of people across the reservoir sitting outside eating and I started to feel more comfortable.  At least if somebody jumped us my plan was to RUN back to that house with the people by crossing the reservoir on the tight-rope of a concrete pass over it.  And by reservoir I mean sewer, or poop trench extending behind a city block.  We walked for quite some time and even at one point had to stand on the hand rail and shimmy past a puddle of poop to continue on.  Just when I said, "hey Summer, what happens when we get to the end and there is no outlet?", we got to the end and there was no outlet.  Summer said, "my bad", and we turned around and went out the way we came in, passing four rabid dogs, one gecko and 4 million gallons of human waste.  As we walked back we laughed and laughed at the situation, and suddenly 10 feet in front of us, a stream of water came pouring out of the concrete wall to our right, at about chest level height.  If we had turned around 5 seconds earlier, I would have been sprayed with pee in my new dress. 
We took a left out of the septic system, and kept looking for a place to eat.  A cockroach darted across the sidewalk.  Still more closed shops.  We passed the train station and made notes about how to get back there.  A rat darted across the sidewalk.  We found a cross street and cut left again.  This one seemed like an alley, but was well-lit and had lots of traffic.  There was a 7-Eleven and so we stopped in and bought two X-large beers for $3.  Continuing on, we encountered what seemed to be a police traffic stop.  They were pulling over every motorcycle going through the alley.  We kept walking.  I smiled at the officer.  He did not smile back.  Another eyed Summer up and down.  We kept walking.  Now we finally found the fool stalls we had been looking for.  (Shoulda taken a right out of the hotel).  The food looked amazing, but we both felt really dirty after wrestling with the handrail to shimmy past the poop and so we decided to go back to the hotel and wash our hands then come back.  But we were still nearly two blocks away and continued passing more and more food stalls.  And then we walked through a market.  At first it was great because it was mostly vegetable stalls and it made me hungry for a nice meal.  But then we heard tons of squeaking, and then I saw the rats.  About fifteen underfoot, and more all around.  Tails and bodies and faces and noses and squeaking.  We pressed on.  More rats.  Then we were at the butcher shop apparently because two men were totally cutting up pigs or something and there were buckets of entrails underfoot.  Blood puddled in the street.  Ribs hung from hooks.  Then we saw the chicken stalls, and huge trays of chicken parts were sitting out in the heat, here a man cutting off feet, there a man standing there picking his nose, here two guys laughing at our presence.  We quickened the pace.  To our left the "Nude Resort", to our right another 7-Eleven. 

When we finally got back to our hotel, we opted to drink the beers and go to bed. 

Travel's Seedy Underbelly. And if not Seedy, at least Inconvenient.

So there is an unglamorous side to travel. And that unglamorous side is actual travel itself. Getting from A to B. The days when you have to repack your backpack and suitcase for the thousandth time, strap it on your back, get on a bus or train or hail a taxi cab, get to the airport, carry your stuff up to the impossibly long check-in counter line, wait, wait some more, and then carefully negotiate boarding with the check in counter representative.
Malaysia Airlines for example allows (per their website) one checked bag at a maximum of 20kg. I have two checked bags at approximately 16kgs each. That puts me at a total of 32kgs. When I checked in at the Bali Airport, the woman told me that I was 5kgs over the limit, and that it would be $7 US for every kg over, or $35. I expected this because I have two bags and not one. But then I got real cheap and decided there was a bag inside my backpack filled with chargers and adapters that is quite heavy and so I pulled it from my checked luggage and moved it to my carry-on luggage. It couldn't have weighed more than 2kgs. But I figured that was $14 saved. Once I took it out, surprise! No more being overweight and she didn't charge me anything. It's so confusing and arbitrary. Like since when is 32kgs only 5kgs over the limit? According to what information source are you allowed 27kgs? ARGHHHH...
So today, I am flying from Singapore to Bangkok, via Kuala Lumpur. I was fully expecting to be hassled at the counter and pay excess weight fees. This time, nothing. No mention of excess weight, or excess baggage.
But I'm getting a tiny bit ahead of myself. You'll recall that I bought a suitcase in Melbourne because I was having trouble zipping my backpack shut? Well, it was pertinent at the time, and I appreciated it in New Zealand where I ended up having to buy long johns and a sweater, and borrow woollen hat and mittens. But now that I am heading into SE Asia to meet my most miserly friend, who is only bringing carry on luggage, it's just not going to be possible to lug it around on 10-hour bus rides and bring it to the hostels we plan to stay in. So, my mission in Singapore besides finding good food was to repack my bags in such a way that I could drop one in Bangkok. The plan is that I will bring it to a storage facility, pay $3 US per week until my friend goes back through Bangkok 7 weeks later on her way home to Vermont. She will pick up the bag, fly with it, and then Nancy will bring it from Vermont to Minnesota for me. Brills, eh? *IF Bangkok doesn't go supercrazy and decide to shut down the airport due to rioting and whatnot, but that's a whole different story.* So I loaded up the suitcase with more than 75% of what I brought on this trip. I just didn't need most of it. Add to that the fact that I got sick of my clothes. So sick that I went to Chinatown in Singapore and bought 4 dresses and 3 shirts for less than $100 US. I wore one of the shirts out of there and asked the shopkeeper to throw the one I was wearing away. Ew.
So, because I have decided to store my suitcase in Bangkok for 7 weeks, and because I can't be bothered to figure out how the built-in lock works, and because I'm more than a little concerned about the safety of its contents, I have to become one of those people that I hate. You know, the ones who shrink wrap their bags at the airport? So the taxi cab drops me off at Terminal 2, which is where I am flying from. But I can't find a shrink wrap machine. Lady at info counter says shrink wrap is only available at Terminal 1. Where is that? I ask. You can take Sky Train, she says. So I stop at snack counter, buy curry chicken rice and iced coffee for $6, eat all but the chicken (suddenly I'm a vegetarian) and then head towards the Sky Train for Terminal 1. But the sign says the Sky Train is not operating. So I find the walkway to Terminal 1, which is basically through a car park, and is not a "walkway" at all. It's a 600m walk, in the hot 37 degree (approx 100 Farenheit) weather. When I am halfway there, I look up and notice that yes, the Sky Train is fully operational. By now my back is wet with sweat under the backpack, my right bicep is going to explode from being fully engaged pulling/pushing my suitcase on wheels, and I have to go pee really bad. But, I got my bag wrapped! For $10 US. Then I took the Sky Train back to Terminal 2, checked it all in, did NOT have to pay any excess baggage fees, and then finally went to the bathroom.

I had $33.85 left in Singapore dollars, and was planning to go to the money change, but on my way I stopped and checked out the book store. I'm kind of desperate for a new and very good book. My friend K. mentioned the Scarlet Pumpernickel wait Pimpernell, yes the Scarlet Pimpernell on facebook and that is what I wanted to find, but of course they don't sell that kind of classic literature at the airport book store. So I scanned the shelf through Jennifer Wiener and Sophie Kinsella, and that's when I spotted this guy:

*And yes, that is me, sitting in a reclining airport lounger.

I LOVE Dave Eggers. I didn't even know he had a new book out. Or maybe it's not even new. I don't know. I haven't seen it before. I was so excited I ignored the price tag. Books are crazy expensive here. I got it up to the counter and the total cost was $33.35. I gave him all the rest of my money and pocketed the 50 cent piece as a souvenir for my nephew Miles. Oh well, at least I didn't have to go to the money changer. If you're interested in a book suggestion, read What is the What? by Dave Eggers.  Remember I read it back in 2008.  I'll let you know how this one turns out.

And now, it's time to get on a tiny little tube whose ventilation is such that only recycled fart air will enter my lungs for the next 4 hours, a tube that will hurtle me through space and time to a city called Bangkok, where at least five explosions happened this morning and one Western woman was killed.  But that might not be true because there are also reports that it was two foreigners and they were only injured.

Who knows?  Love you mom and dad!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Singapore

So this will probably be pretty deep for some of you, but today I came to an obvious realization.  One that is so obvious we forget to remember it all the time. 

People in other parts of the world aren't so very different.

I decided this today on the public transportation system.  I was staring at a little girl of Indian descent, dressed in a pink little dress with Dora the Explorer shoes on.  She was gab gab gabbing at her dad, and repeating everything the announcer said.  She reminded me of my little niece Miyo, and a thousand other little kids I know back home.  So then I started staring at other people.  There were grandpas and grandmas.  There were teenagers on the way home from school.  There were pregnant ladies; emo early-twenty-somethings with their headphones on so loud I could hear the music; old dudes picking their noses; business people on cell phones. 

Singapore is not so diverse a city as, say New York City.  It's people are mainly of Malay, Indian or Chinese descent.  There's not a ton of Western folks, but there are a few.  I know, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy.

It's true that lots of things are illegal here.  Meaning, you can be fined for breaking certain rules, like chewing gum, eating or drinking in the train, spitting on the sidewalk, not flushing the toilet (seriously).  Today I bought some rolls at a yummy bread place.  I was totally eating them in the train station, up and down the escalators, up and down the corridors.  Later I heard an announcement that it's not allowed to eat or drink in the trains or in the stations.  Oops. 

There's a magnet that has all of the illegal things, and then under it, it says: "Singapore, a 'fine' city".  I didn't get it for a whole day.  Get it?  Fines for everything. 

Oh, and yesterday, I went to Chinatown. I walked around this indoor shopping area for a while and then decided to leave, cross the street and explore a little bit and that's when I ended up meeting those girls who were stuck here in Singapore until the Ash Cloud over Europe blows over. Anyways we were having some Tiger Beers and chatting and then this terrible burning smell blew by. We got up and looked over and the whole shopping center was billowing black smoke. Apparently one of the storage units on the top floor caught on fire and it even made the news here in Singapore. I'm going to add this entry to my 'near death' experiences, because, well you never know.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Low Can You Go?

In case you ever have to use an Eastern squatter toilet...this is how low you should go.  I met these ladies after shopping in Chinatown.  They were both stuck, along with husbands/boyfriends because they couldn't get a flight back to the UK.  Apparently a volcano erupted and is causing all kinds of flight delays.  Anyway I'm not sure who suggested it (me) but we decided to pose like this.

This was $2

Like Anthony Bordain suggested, I went to the fast food stalls, which are healthy yummy fantastic food stalls that just happen to be fast prepped.  He suggests going to the one with the longest line, but I hate standing in lines, and ordered from a medium sized line.  Delicious.  Fantastic.

Also, I had sugar cane drink.  Yummm. 


Sometimes I become obsessed with an idea or more accurately fascinated by it, and one of those things is hanging laundry out to dry.  In Singapore at least, one of the first things I noticed is that most people live in a highrise of some sort and there are just a zillion highrises everywhere, and out of the apartments of those highrises hang loads and loads of laundry, which brings me to my fascinating point:

The same sun that tans the skin of the party girls in Bali, and fades the bikinis for sale in San Diego, and bleaches my hard wood floors back in Minneapolis is drying the clothing of millions if not billions of people all around the world.  Trippy huh?  The sun. 

So why hasn't the U.S. picked up on the availability of this free clothes drying service?

Remember This?
And This?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


At least that's what you would be if you wanted to buy a car here.  Before you can even buy the car, you have to bid for an win a "Certificate of Entitlement."  These can go for around $28,000 US.  There are a limited amount of Certificates available, because they are based on how many people scrap a car and turn in their Certificate.  You can only own a car for 10 years here, and once you have, you turn it in for scrap and return your Certificate to the government, who in turn place it up for auction.  If it was yours you have to bid for it again, in a sense. 

Then you have to buy the car, and the government taxes them by 250%.  So if a fair market value of a Toyota Camry is $30000, the dealer has to pay the government $75000 to sell it to you for maybe $80000.  You pay $98000 for the car and the Certificate.  The dealer makes $5000, the government makes $73000, and you only get to keep your car for ten years.  On top of this there is road tax of approximately $2000 per year. 

This is an effort to keep cars off the road.  I think it's pretty brilliant.  If you have an excellent public transportation system, and a ballooning population (currently at 5 million), you kinda have to take car-reduction measures.  What would we do if it became this difficult to own a car in the US?  Oh, also I just read a website with stats from 2006 and it was reporting that 70% of all cars on the road were less than 5 years old.

Laundry, Meet Singapore

This is a first.  Seven stories up, holding a stick out the window, weighted down with jeans, etc., hoping you don't drop it on those pigeons down there, taking out all of the downstairs neighbors' sticks in it's path.

What to wear when you're doing laundry. And you hope nobody comes home, or sees you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Malaysia - In the News

Volunteers picked up rubbish along the seafront off Penang's Gurney Drive in conjunction with Earth Day.  6.4 tons of rubbish from a refrigerator to a bulldozer tire were collected from the island's beaches.  Volunteers also picked up 51 condoms, 128 diapers, 222 tampons and 53 syringes during a four-hour clean-up.

I love that they counted the condoms, diapers, tampons and syringes.  Do you think there was a special tampon bucket, diaper bucket, etc?  Or do you think they just mentally took a tally?  Or do you think at the beginning of the day, the organizers said, "now remember to note how many condoms you pick up today."

Also, there were allegations that candidate Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had, in his past, drank.  He owned up to the mistake made in the past, but said that his drinking days are over.  He also said he knew of leaders who had done this and that but he would not name names.  "If the Hulu Selangor people punish me for being sincere, then I will accept the punishment," he said.

I was wondering...

You know how sometimes you just couldn't be bothered to wash that vegetable?  You're busy, it 'looks' clean, you're starving, what have you?  Well, next time picture how it got to the airport, and imagine your piece was in this guy's armpit, or next to his gas tank, or touching his flip flop, or in his crotch.


Why oh Why do they always sit me next to the Fartinest Farter on the plane?

I just had to endure 3 hours of intermittently finding out exactly what was going on inside my neighbor's colon.  EW.

We had a nice chat, however and he explained that he's a Canadian, but living in India for about 6 months out of the year in a town called "Auraville".  It's mostly US and British expats who sit around and meditate and love eachother and whatnot.  He did mention that he really regrets not having traveled more as a younger person and I did take away from the conversation that yes, it is better to be traveling around the world now then to have waited until I retired.  Also I stole the airline map out of the on board magazine so I can stare at countries while I wait for my connecting flight to Singapore.  But instead I found free internet and a scrumptious meal.  Curry Potato Toast and coffee.  The price on the menu was 10 whatever-they-have's in Kuala Lumpur.  I don't know the exchange rate since I'm only here for about an hour, but I decided to throw caution to the wind.  My VISA receipt said $3.25 US.  Woo hoo!   Plus free internet and a comfy couch to sit on.

Oh, and I walked all the way into the men's bathroom.  All the way right up to the point where the men standing and peeing turn around and look at you with confusion (my hair is quite short at the moment) before I realized my mistake.  If I only had a square of toilet paper for every time that happened in my life, I wouldn't have had to use dirty old money in that ol' McDonald's in Rome a few years back.  On the way out of there, I laughed and laughed so that all the men going in would see that I KNEW what I did, and it was all just a big misunderstand and see how funny life can be sometimes?  And then I saw the universal symbol for men, you know the little man in pants.  To my left and right and above the doorway.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bathroom scare

Last night I went into my favorite toilet in the dorm share/pool bathroom.  It's my favorite because there usually aren't geckos in it, there's usually toilet paper, and because of this I overlook the fact that there's usually about a quarter-inch of water on the floor and the lock is really hard to operate. 

So anyways you have to push the door shut, putting your left hand next to the bolt action lock, and use your right hand to JAM JAM JAM JAM JAM JAM JAM it until it closes.  And even then it only sort of just touches the other part of the lock slightly and so you have to worry that somebody will bust in anyways.

I really jammed my finger last night.  But that happens every time.  So I decided to squat and not sit, even though it's totally a sittable toilet.  I just didn't happen to be in a sitting mood.  As you squat you look at the floor and as I looked at the floor I saw three drips of blood.  I totally panicked for obvious reasons, one being that I totes wouldn't be allowed into any temples:

And then I noticed that my finger was gushing blood and laughed at myself out loud in my favorite toilet stall.


Yah!  You know it!  I finally got off my massage-getting, book-reading, new-friend-chatting, temple-visiting, fire-dance-watching, muscle-stretching, internet-surfing, around-laying butt and signed up for a surf lesson.  I had planned on spending all eight days in Bali learning how to surf, but all of the above just sort of got in the way.  Well.  Today I went!  And I stood up a buncha times!

First we had to put on a long-sleeved shirt and shorts in 198 degree weather.  Next we had to lay on mats and do some stretching and learning about how to enter the ocean and which way to point the board, etc.  Then we got to go out into the water, and basically 'boogie board' back to shore.  We would learn how to stand up later.  It was fun.  I have tried boogie boarding and it didn't really work and I never learned how to ride a wave.  This time though with a big fat surf board I was riding waves all the way home.  Shifting my weight, turning left and right.  It was a blast, but it sure takes a lot out of you. 

So then it was time to take a water-drinking break.  So we all brought our boards up on to the shore and lined them up.  Mine wasn't quite lined up with everybody else's and so I picked up the tail end of it, and smooshed the nose forward.  Which caused a bunch of sand to collect and it didn't work.  My Balinese instructor shook his head and said:

"I am adult.  I can see *points to his eyes, then to the nose with sand on it* best way to move board.  I don't use my body to do something that can't be done."  Then he picked up the nose and moved the board. 

I was like...

"hhahahahaahahhahaahhahaahaaa"  nervous laughter.  "I have no energy left."  "hahahhahhhhhaaaaaa."

He wasn't being insulting at all, but of course I wanted to die. 

Later we learned how to Pop up! and then when we were in the water I totes did it.  Here the waves come every like 5 seconds or so and they were HUGE.  It was pretty rough just trying to get out far enough and decide which wave to ride in.  But I was told that in some parts of the world you have to wait 20 minutes for a wave and there are tons of people trying to ride it and it's pretty tough.  So in those terms Bali is probably a pretty good place to learn how.  I think it's a big surfing destination actually. 

Oh, and I didn't think about sharks.  Not even once!  Take that, shark-fear!

This totally reminds me of me

Monkeys look for bugs on their friends and eat them.  Looks a lot like me, looking for zits, and pinching them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This is me, thinking about getting my picture taken next to this monkey.

Here I am yelling "Quick!  Quick!" to the girl with my camera.

And this is me, running away from the monkey.

I just hate animals!  I don't trust them.  I don't think they're safe to hang around and play with.  I'm not talking about your beloved pets right here.  Just like wild monkeys in Bali for example.

I don't want them coming anywhere near me.  And if they do, I scream and run away.  One of the monkeys had a tiny baby on her and it was SO cute, and so I put out my camera to take a picture and she HISSED at me.  Then she kept eye contact with me until I left.  I don't trust monkeys, no-sir-ee.

One of the girls that was with me bought bananas to feed the monkeys and as soon as she got the bananas from the lady who sells them, a big monkey jumped up and stole the whole bunch from her, before she had a chance to pull one off and give it to him.  Later, another monkey grabbed her shoe with both hands by the toe and pulled it toward his mouth like he was going to eat a sandwich.

Also these monkeys are anatomically correct:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grossed Out

So a couple nights ago I went to dinner at a restaurant that offered most of their dinner options for 15,000 rupiah or so.  This works out to be $1.66.  Also their 750ml beers were only 25,000 rupiah, or $2.77.  So I was very stoked but after the beer I had to go pee so bad that I couldn't wait for the walk back to the hostel.  I asked if I could use the bathroom at the restaurant. 

The first thing I noticed was that there was no sink in the bathroom, and therefore no means to wash your hands whatsoever.  I have gotten used to sink/no soap in Bali, but no sink at all in a restaurant?  Meaning the workers are preparing your food without having washed their hands?  Kill me now.  The next thing I noticed was that there was a tiny little basin on the floor with a bucket inside, and it was filled with water.

So I found a way to go pee without getting my hands dirty whatsoever.  There was no garbage can, and so I took that to mean that it would be OK to put the toilet paper in the bowl.  I took another piece of toilet paper in my hand to push the flusher for the toilet.  The flusher went around and around and there was no flushing action at all.  It was broken.  I thought about just leaving it and not flushing, but then I remembered something horrible that I had read from a borrowed Lonely Planet book.  In SE Asia, the basin/bucket next to the toilet is for flushing.  So I had to reach my hand into the basin of water, grab the heart-shaped bucket and pour it down the toilet to flush.  So now my left hand was no longer clean. 

I sort of held in in the air like a surgeon all the way back to the hostel, where I promptly poured acid on it and then cut it off completely.

Legian Beach, Bali, Indonesia

So I made it here.  It only took a 3 hour flight to Brisbane from Christchurch New Zealand and a 6 hour flight from Brisbane to Denpasar, Indonesia.  The flight was through Virgin Blue and not even water was free.  I watched two movies on the plane (at $7 each) and bought 4 of those mini bottles of wine.  Whatever it is, the altitude, the wine, the move, I don't know, but I always laugh extra loud at the funny parts and cry extra hard at the sad parts in movies. Click here to read about when I watched Kit Kittredge: An American Girl on the way home from South Africa

Anyway when I arrived, I was scared to see a big sign that said: DEATH PENALTY TO THOSE WHO CARRY DRUG INTO BALI.  I remembered all of the scary stories you hear of people who have drugs planted into their bags and then they get busted and spend the rest of their lives in dirty rotten prisons for something they didn't do.  And so I twisty-standed in line to go through customs, just in case anybody wanted to touch my backpack.  I pretended like I always do the twist when I stand in line and kept a straight face.  Normal, right?

Then I had to get my checked bags off the conveyor and find my ride, who would be holding sign with the name of my hostel on it.  Easy.  You can't believe traffic here.  It's insane.  The roads are very narrow and there are one million motorcycles everywhere.  They dart through traffic and also drive in front of and behind you to get to the other side of the road.  It looks very dangerous. Also there are very narrow walkways that the motorcycles ride through:

It's very HOT and HUMID here.  But the atmosphere is laid back, and I have already had three massages in three days.  The first one was $9 US and was two therapists.  It's called four hands massage.  The other two have been at my hostel and are $7 US.  The woman is fantastic.  I'm going to write more about the massages later because they are stories in themselves.

Back to gecko country.  I didn't think about it and even forgot all about the geckos in Samoa.  So naturally when I was in the shower and accidentally looked up to find a gecko crawling across the wall, I freaked out.  Later a guy in my room said he was going to the bathroom and one fell on his head.  When I heard this, I said I need to go home right now.

It's so refreshing to pay only 33 cents for a huge 1500 ml bottle of water.  Dinner is $3 for amazing vegetable curry.  Internet is free.  My hostel is a tad expensive at $25 per night, but I'm saving so much money everywhere else I'm Ok with that.  Plus this place is pretty darn clean and offers free breakfast with tea.  There is a yoga studio upstairs and I used my free session today.  So my agenda for today was:

9:30 get up and have free breakfast
10:00 facebook/email
11:00 walk to beach with two girls from hostel, watch surfers
2:00 get lunch for $4.50
3:30 hour long massage for $7
5:00 stretch class
6:30 get dinner for $15.00 (this included 3 drinks)
9:30 facebook/blog/email

Chilled and relaxed and loved it.  I'll leave you with a funny story:
A girl that I met today from the hostel is from Minneapolis, so we chatted a bit and she told me that she just came from India.  Somebody she met from Switzerland shared with her a terrible story of riding a bus all day in India and feeling very sick.  She was puking into a bag, and trying very hard not to poop and pee her pants for four hours.  Finally the bus reached its destination and she ran to a restaurant across the road.  She begged for the bathroom and the man at the door said, 'yes, right this way' sensing her urgency.  Then he turned around and looked at another man, who must have been the manager.  He shook his head no.  She was in an emergency situation so she bypassed the first man, ran to the manager man and said, 'please please I need the bathroom NOW!'  He still said no.  And so she went out front of the restaurant, and diarrhea pooped right there in the street.  She felt good about it too because the man was so mean to not let her use the bathroom, but was very surprised at how long it actually took to do the pooping.  All the while this man was yelling at her.

6 Vocabulary Words I Learned in New Zealand

"Sussed out" -- figured out. Like if somebody wants to know if you have the rest of your trip planned, they might ask "Do you have it all sussed out?"

"Sweet as" -- Cool. This means somebody is happy with the decision you just made.

"Wrapped" -- Excited. As in: "I got over to Kiri's house and she bought groceries. I was wrapped."

"I reckon" -- Use this phrase anytime you think something might be true. "I reckon it's gonna be cold outside tomorrow."

"" -- Whatever the first word in the phrase might mean. As in, "cool as"..."tight as"..."old as"

"Gutted" -- Upset. As in: "We couldn't get tickets and we were gutted."

Pronounciation Techniques:

Anytime we might use the 'i' sound in English, substitute the 'eh' sound, and vice versa. For example, the words Bitter and Better would be pronounced Bettah and Bittah. In the exact opposite way and meaning.

"Classic Hits" = Clessek Hets

"Hair Dresser" = Hee Driss Ah

"Yes" = "Yiss"

"Excellent" = "Ick-Sillint"

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Massage

I’m leaving for Thailand, the land of the $10 full body massage. Why spend $110 NZ on an hour in a tourist town like Rotorua? I was sick. I was sore. And I hadn't had a massage in months.

Across the street from our hotel was a massage center, boasting the AIX Massage, (ironically pronounced "aches”.) It's the only one of its kind in the whole world. While you're being massaged, thermally heated naturally occuring mineral water is sprayed onto your entire body using a contraption made up of eight shower heads.

I waited in the lobby. Down the hall, a customer was walking toward me wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. He was putting on a robe. Mmmmmm…I was feeling relaxed already. I took my seat in the lobby to wait for my appointment. Then, the man in the robe walked into the lobby and introduced himself to me as my therapist. Eek.

He showed me to the changing room, where I undressed, threw on a towel, and then met him in the AIX shower table room.

He started the water, and had me get up onto the table, face-down,my towel still in place. He pulled the shower heads just over the table so that they sprayed my back, butt, and legs. It felt so amazing -- I wondered why I hadn't invented laying down in the shower. He explained that he was going to remove my towel. According to the brochure, all therapists are trained in "towel placement", so there was no reason to fear exposure. I assured myself of this, yet I felt the surest sensation that I was completely naked. Later I was able to discern “towel placement” as he continually adjusted my towel thong by pulling it tight up into my butt.

Working feverishly, he rubbed oil into my calves and hamstrings. It felt SOOOO good. Add to that the pounding of the water into my back and I was in heaven. He asked if it would be OK to work my gluteous muscle, in order to loosen up my hamstrings. As he said the names of the muscles his hand touched them. "Go for it," I said. I've had a thousand massages. I'm even certified to perform them. With an elbow in my glute, he grabbed the corresponding foot in his other hand. He then began rotating my foot, which caused sharp pains to shoot through my hip. "Just relax", he said, and I tried to figure out what had betrayed me. He couldn't see my face, my hands weren't clenched...but I couldn't say the same for my butt cheeks.

"That's tight," he said, and for a moment I forgot myself and took it as a compliment.

I really don't know how he got me flipped over without seeing all of my body parts, but he did. You may be familiar with the massage phenomenon where your sinuses drain when laying on your stomach. Moreso when you’re totally sick. With all of the water spraying everywhere I didn’t notice it until I was rolling onto my back, when a huge chunk of snot stretched from my nose to the towel. I wasn’t able to ‘get it’ properly without him noticing, and so it stayed there and I prayed that he just wouldn’t look at my face. Mercifully, he announced that he “didn’t want me to drown”, and put a towel onto my face.

The massage continued. And continued. I don’t know how, but this one hour massage felt like three hours. I felt drugged. Drunk with relaxation. Mr. Massage, ‘man-in-towel’ had to lift me off of the table.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Hitchhikers

So I finally checked out of my free luxury hotel room and decided to go to the Art Gallery and the World's Steepest Street in Dunedin just so I wouldn't miss them.  There was a neat exhibition of the "hidden and unfamiliar" in the United States which included photos of KKK members, an inbred mentally retarded white tiger with a pug nose so it had a hard time breathing, etc.  The world's steepest street is definitely very steep.

On to Omarama.  Sounds a lot like Obamarama to me.  They have towns here called Clinton and Gore, so why not Obamarama?  I'll see about speaking to the mayor.

And then on to Mount Cook! It's really pretty, and is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. it has a very snow-capped top, and is usually shrouded in clouds, but not when I saw it! It was very beautiful. On my way out of there I decided to take the trip all the way to Lake Tekapo and stay there, since it's one hour further down the road. Saw another couple of hitchhikers, this time a girl and a guy, the guy was only in a T-shirt and it was freezing out. It was totally dark. Turns out they locked their keys in their car and needed to get to Lake Tekapo. We ended up all going to the same backpackers hostel and I shared my food with them. Sorry, guys, you'll just have to endure ONE MORE DAY of me having a car and the possibility of being murdered by a hitchhiker. I leave for Bali on Sunday!

This was the view from the mountain lodge I stayed at in Lake Tekapo.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sometimes a Hitchhiker Can Save You

So.  The other day I went out to Milford Sound.  It was quite an amazingly beautiful drive.  Super twisty-turny and up up up and then down down down.  I took the boat cruise onto the fjord and it was beautiful.  It made me miss my cousin Ross, because it was a lot like the fjord cruise we took in Norway...just as cold, but not as sunny.  It was clouded over, but gorgeous anyway.  Also there were tons of Japanese people on the boat, just like in Norway.  If you want to read about that fjord trip, click on 'Scandinavia' and rifle through those posts until you find the ones about the fjord cruise. 

After the cruise, I started the long journey back to the town of Te Anau, (pronounced like the Keanu in Keanu Reeves).  On the side of the road I saw two nice young men with a sign that said Te Anau and so I picked them up.  They were early-20 something French dudes.  They didn't stink fortunately and we had a nice drive all the way back to Te Anau.  There we went to a pub and spent 6 hours drinking beer and chatting.  They are both computer type guys who are on a working holiday Visa.  This is for people who are under 30 (dang!) and they can go someplace and work up to a year.  It's pretty easy to get one.  So they were working in a lettuce factory in Perth for a month and they made $3000 Euros.  They're using the money to tour around New Zealand in a tent.  After the pub, I dropped them at their 'campsite', (a field) so they could free camp.  Free camping is not OK, but everybody does it.  You can get a fine, but it's rare and so a lot of people take that risk.  They sleep in their cars, their camper vans, and tents and it costs nothing.  They try and get free showers when possible, and the French dudes told me that about every third night they rent a hostel room.  Anyway we got along so well that I agreed to let them ride with me the next day all the way to Balclutha, where they were to get out and free camp all through the Catlins on their way back to Christchurch. 

So here's how they saved me.  First, from dead bored driving by myself for hundreds of miles, and second: 

We stopped at a grocery store and bought food.  Then we headed out of Te Anau and I wanted to stop for coffee. I was hoping to find something on the edge of town but didn't.  So I gave up on that idea and decided to wait until Gore, our next destination.  Just then, Antonin reminded me that I promised to play him a Ramona Day song on my laptop.  So I decided to make a U-Turn, go back for coffee and play them the song.  We got to the coffee shop, and I realized I had no wallet.  We searched the entire car, and I thought it just had to be at the grocery store.  I went in and asked at the register.  "Nope." She said, and so I went back out to search the car again.  10 minutes later I went back in the store, thinking it just didn't seem right.  I decided to ask at the information desk.  They had it!  Thank goodness.  And if Antonin didn't ask to hear my song, I would have had to drive all the way back from Gore to get my wallet. 

What would happen if you lost your wallet on a trip?  Gosh, I hate to even think about it. 

Blog Clean-Up

Thank you Sarah Lindahl.  And I hate you.

I just spent HOURS and HOURS labeling and tagging old blog posts, like you did.  So now, hopefully it will be easier to read my archived posts.  Just look to the right of the blog, under "What I Write About".  Then you can click on a subject that interests you, such as "fart" or "tampons".

I hope 'all my reader' appreciates it.  ha!
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