October 17, 2010
Sawatdee Khrab from Krabi, Thailand,
17 hour red-eye (the red-est) from LAX to Bangkok International Airport (over the Pacific and carefully outlining the touchy airspace of North Korea); another short flight up to the north…and we arrive in Chiang Mai. Cousin Mike is waiting for my mother, sister, and I as we exit the baggage claim with a sign that reads our last names…not true, but would have been funny. Michael has been living in Chiang Mai for the last six years (pretty much post-college) working and managing what used to be an illegal (up to only a few weeks ago upon getting registered with the country of Thailand) human rights organization. His organization deals primarily with the conscription of children from the (far-too-many) corrupted neighboring countries (Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and more). Kudos to him, his co-workers, and well-intended associates. Anyways, Michael totally made our stay not only welcomed but so so unique and authentic, in the truest meaning of the words.
We explored the night markets of Chiang Mai and ate very well from a variety of street vendors (Pad-Thai, dumplings, and a bunch of other delicious vegetarian Thai dishes…ends up we came during the celebration of Vegetarian Week). We rented motor-bikes and rode for hours through the jungles and villages of Chiang Mai’s outskirts to a remote lake…from there we took a skinny Asian boat to an awesome village of floating shacks…we spent the night here inebriating off of terrible Thai whiskey and Singha Beer; eating, playing cards, and chatting. We fell asleep to the far from melodic echoes of a nearby floating shack… the clamors of a slumbering/stupor-ing group of Thai buddies (partaking in their daily/nightly/24-7-ly session of Karaoke). The lyrics synched seemed to carry a few more R’s than the originals…must have been a screen malfunction or something (too much?). I awoke in the earliest hours of the morning to heavy rain shattering the surface of the lake…I hopped in the hammock and watched the rain fall through low clouds. I felt that surreal comfort come over me…the one you get when it’s raining at home and your next to the fire or smothered in bed sheets/blankets watching…no finishing…a season of some television series you were never quite able to keep up with. The lake was great.
On the subject of weather; it has been as volatile as I have ever seen, raining and pouring in spurts. In Thailand it’s a mid-October way of saying “Sawatdee Khrab homeboi, you’re in the tropics”. It’s pouring right now in Krabi; I could see the beach in view when I started writing this, since then it has disappeared.
Elephants, smart fellas. The chain had fallen off the neck of my sister and mothers elephant and when the Thai guide sitting on the head of the behemoth asked for it back, the elephant swiftly choked it from the ground with its trunk and did so. I can’t believe the elephant understand Thai, its a very difficult language. But really, Thai is one of the hardest languages in the world…up to seven meanings per word/tone compared to four in Chinese (I believe). On this same day we visited a few tribes, hiked to a nearby waterfall for a dip/cleanse, and last but not least…bamboo rafted through the jungle. The rapids were nothing serious, in-fact it would be an exaggeration to even call them rapids…but this took nothing away from the experience. It was like Aqueous Transmission and the Disney Jungle Cruise did the nasty and we were taking their bastard child for a real life ride….minus the choreographed river animals with the incredible ability to spit water directly from their throats every 15 seconds on the dot, and having to keep our “arms and limbs inside the vehicle at all times”. Speaking of Aqueous Transmission…those of you going to Smokeout Fest and seeing Incubus, which I believe is today (California-time)…enjoy, and get some juicy footy for me please! Funny, I feel like everywhere I go in the world has some sort of correspondence with the Disneyworld (movies, parks, etc)….actually its the other way around. Disney offers not only imaginative representations of worlds we don’t know, but life-size ride-able dioramas of our own…past, present, & future. Think about it…Tomorrow-Land, Indiana Jones, The Jungle Cruise, Animal Kingdom (Florida), Autopia (the 405), Space Mountain (Sahara Tent- Coachella), and so much more. Having grown up a child of the Disney generation, making comparisons and testing the validity of Disney’s representations comes hand in hand with traveling (and its not just to Disney).
I have never been one to complain much about bugs & their bites…but dammnnnn. Thai people have a sort of immunity for the bites bites after years of consuming all sorts of chilis and oils….so we are the fresh meat. I feel like a red sour patch in a bin of 61 million yellows (Thailands population, and a completely coincidental racial innuendo). Pretty much all of life can be explained with Disney & Sour Patch Kids analogies.
My sister Sarah crashed one of the motor-bikes and almost got hit by a car…luckily she only has a few black & blue-ies and a 9,000 Baht ($300) bumper payment to show for it. What a dufus. Did I mention how inexpensive everything is? The American remedy for that bumper would have cost upwards of $2,000. Also, the Thai owners of the car were more concerned about her health than their vehicle…in America she would have probably gotten back-handed. They are very, very kind and honest people here….even in the markets. 80% of the population is Buddhist, so go figure i suppose. There is a higher concentration of Muslims here in the south because we are closer to Malaysia.
We went to see a movie, pretty much the Thai version of Batman. At the end of the previews, all of the Thai’s stand and show allegiance to their King Bhumibol during a no more than minute long commercial of his pursuing’s…found it interesting…we stood of course out of courtesy for the culture. I remember my sister and mother looking over at me with excited grins because we felt so immersed….in a movie theatre out of all places! ( Note: Dad, the popcorn is no comparison).
Live for loud, strange, almost carnival-like noises here…the TV sounds like a Bop It with commentary.
Mike also took me to a few clubs on our last night…tables replace the dance floor, and cover-bands replace the the DJ stands (for the most part).
Thanks again for everything Mike…your the man.
As for the south…so so beautiful. Landed in Phuket and drove to Krabi/Ao Nang (the Honolulu of Thailand). Green jungle everywhere, limestone mountains and islands that stick straight up…many times skinnier at the base then the apex…like those in King Kong (dammit, comparing again). We took a day-trip to the Kho Phi Phi Islands…sea conditions very sketch…three meter high waves at times. Great snorkling, gorgeous waters, and even more gorgeous islands/bays…including Maya Bay of the Leo movie The Beach (however conditions were too harsh for us to get there, and it’s not a Disney movie anyway). The highlight of this day-trek would no doubt be when I was swimming away from a lagoon back to the boat and a separate day-trip boat slows right towards me….from about 30 yards away I saw two faces that seemed familiar but there was of course no way that out of 40 boats of 30 people each, in one of hundreds of bays of Thailand that people were traveling that day, on the same weekend, no day, hour, minute, second, that two of my friends (a couple) would be posted on the bow of the boat headed straight towards me (the only one still in the water at that point, from our boat). 100% validity Disney….“It’s a Small World After All”…bump that shiiiiiiit. Once we figured it out…we all kind of dropped our jaws and shook our heads with our eyes if you know what I mean. Evan Hershberger and Josef Behrens. I went to high school with Evan and UCSB with the both of them, they are together studying in Bangkok and were taking a weekend trip. Spend some time thinking about how absolutely nuts it is that we ran into eachother…seriously. It gets so real sometimes. I invited them to dinner with my family and I tonight in Ao Nang.
I feel like I am going on too long…White Russians by the pool, Phuket for a day tomorrow, then off to Cambodia (Siem-Reap) to see Angkor Wat. Then…home.