Waterfalls, Illness and Saying Goodbye to Thailand…

Just a quick post here as I don’t have a lot of time.  It’s our last full day in Thailand and we fly out to Seoul tomorrow night.  It’s an overnight flight and one I’m not particularly looking forward to, given our recent spat of illness but I’ll get to that in a minute.  First, those waterfall pics I wanted to show you from our trip to the island I mentioned in the last post.

ImageThe walk to the waterfall took about an hour.  We first walked down the same main road we took to get to the beach we had been going to every day.  Then we split off to a quieter road that was pretty much just jungle and rubber plantations…

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There was very rarely a car or motorcycle in sight….

After a while, the road ended and we walked on a trail through the jungle…it seemed as we were arriving, everyone else was leaving and a stream of Thais were coming out of the jungle…finally we reached and area of low flat rocks and a creek with huge boulders….

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After climbing over the boulders, we reached the waterfall, in the middle of nowhere and there were hardly any other people there.  Just a Thai family and their children and a couple of other foreigners….

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The Thai kids were crazy…they jumped off huge boulders and climbed the over hanging tree and jumped off that too….

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The swimming was great.  The water was not cold, but cooler than the ocean and there were a lot of fish attesting to the waters cleanliness.  It was too deep to touch the bottom, but you could swim across and stand under the waterfall.  It was great.

On to current events, once we came back from the island we spent a few days running errands in Bangkok and headed back to Kanchanaburi as my last post mentioned.  The night before we left I had a fever and my body was aching everywhere but I figured I was just run down.  M insisted that if I still had a fever the next morning that we’d postpone the trip to Kanchanaburi in order to be closer to better clinics.  When I got up in the morning, my fever was gone so we went to Kanchanaburi.  Once we got there though, I got more sick with a bad cough and fevers and M caught it too, pretty much by a few days later.  I thought I might be getting bronchitis so I went to the pharmacy and got some cough syrup and antibiotics in case it was a bacterial infection.  I slowly felt like I was getting a bit better, but I am still coughing quite a bit during the night. 

For M, it was a bit harder.  He hardly ever gets sick where I am pretty susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia (I get one or the other every few years, pretty much my whole life).  Not used to having such strong fevers, for so long, and such a cough, he was really suffering.  The fever just didn’t seem to want to go away.  We pretty much spent our whole week in Kanchanaburi in bed.  I went to the pool every day and lay in the sun when I could, but M just felt too shitty and week for most of the time.  He was sleeping most of the day.  We started to get a bit worried about what he might have and why I was getting better and he wasn’t.  As our time was running out, we headed back to Bangkok.

Still coughing and with a fever that spiked usually at the night we went to the clinic.  By this time I was still coughing but I pretty much knew I had a lung infection and it would play itself out eventually.  The doctor seemed to be concerned about possible malaria and that maybe the cough and cold virus was separate to the fever problem so he sent M to the hospital for blood tests where we could get results the same day.  When we got there we saw another doctor who also advised a chest x-ray to see if there was any infection in the lungs.  At this point we were kind of freaking out a bit and M was sure he had malaria.  We started thinking about the possibility of having to postpone our ticket again and how much that was going to cost and the fact that we have no health care when we return to our country (we are non residents, having been away for more than six months so we have to wait at least three months to qualify for medical again when we return…its stupid). 

We had to wait about an hour and a half for the results but it felt like forever.  Luckily (it’s funny I say luckily), he didn’t have malaria, but he does have pneumonia which meant so did I, as I gave it to him.  It’s luckily, because it’s not malaria or dengue and he will get better now that he has stronger antibiotics.  It’s definitely put a damper on our last week in Thailand. I went back on antibiotics myself.

We fly out tomorrow night on an overnight flight to Seoul.  M’s birthday is in five days.  No booze for him 😦 Or me for that matter.  We’re trying to make the most of it with what energy we have right now.  It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to Thailand…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tropical Island Bliss…

Sorry about the lack of posting, my petals! You see, I’ve been on a tropical island with very minimal internet for the past 11 days or so and I just got back to Bangkok the day before yesterday.  Being that we are in the last month of our travels, we have been making the beach and relaxation a top priority! The only reason why we left the island as quickly as we did is because there is no ATM there, meaning we were limited in our stay by the amount of cash we had on hand.  Too bad.  But it was an amazing trip…

First let me share with you a few leftover photos I had from our trip to Chiang Mai…

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This one kills me…

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These are the ten baht coconuts I was enjoying every day.  I am vowing to get sick of them before I leave here.  Those and the mangoes which are now in season and the best I’ve ever had.  When you eat them, you have to eat them outside because the juice runs down your arm making a huge mess.  The best way is to eat them on the beach when you can jump in the water afterwards…

Now onto the island….

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The beach was practically empty every day, except during Songkran, or Thai New Year when there were many Thai families visiting.  During the day, Thai people do not go on the beach because they do not like to get tanned.  So the beach was usually all to ourselves…

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We were surprised at how undeveloped the island was.  There is only one main road going through the island that has been paved only within the last year or so.  Although we had a beach close to our guesthouse, we preferred to take a fifteen minute walk to the nicer beach you see in the above photo…

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Sometimes I could steal free wifi on the beach from the cliffside cafe you see here…but there was something a little ridiculous about sitting on the most amazing beach ever and checking my email…plus the connection wasn’t good so we usually didn’t bother…the cafe has a gorgeous view of the beach below…

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The water was crystal clear and the snorkelling from the beach was actually quite fantastic.  If you stayed close to the rocks you could easily see many different kinds of fish just below the shallow water.  Even for people who cannot swim (like many Thais), you only have to sit on the bottom of the sea and stick your head in and see a tonne of fish.  If you swam a bit deeper, you can see sea urchins and bigger fish and many sea cucumbers.  Our favourite are always the “long tom” or “needlefish” that make me slightly nervous with their sharp spiky teeth.  They swim up to you and stare at you.  

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Sometimes it rains and you can get excellent reflections of the coconut palms in the red mud puddles…

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Our guesthouse was rustic but great, with a hammock outside…a German man and Thai woman ran the place and they were always friendly and helpful…

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We had a great view of the mangrove jungle outside our window.  One night the power went out and I went to the window to see if it was just us that blew the breaker or if the main building was also out.  The property was silent except for a million crickets and pitch black except for the many fireflies that floated through and above the mangroves…

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One of the best things about the guesthouse were all the animals.  They had chickens and unfortunately a very confused rooster which crowed at all hours of the night.  They also had three sweet dogs.  She was our favourite.  Her name is Jenny.  She was so gentle and sweet.  We were told that in the peak season her head smells of coconut oil and perfume because she goes from table to table in the restaurant, visiting everyone for pets. 

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We got to have a really unique experience hanging out with Chok Dee.  Chok Dee means “lucky” or “good luck” in Thai and I guess that is the story of this little baby monkey.  Her mother was killed for food when Chok Dee was five days old by the Burmese farmers who work on the rubber plantations.  Chok Dee was rescued and is being brought up with people, bottle fed.  She is so remarkably human in so many ways and her facial expressions just kill me.  She is soft, with tiny fingers and she is also a trouble maker and gets into everything.  When she gets in trouble she rubs her eyes and hides her face and runs to her “mama”, the Thai guesthouse owner, to hide her face and hold onto her tightly.  Here she is five months old.  

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During Songkran, the island filled with many Thai people celebrating their New Year.  One night on the beach, we saw three Thai friends lighting a paper lantern to celebrate.  They asked if I could take a photo with their camera and I snapped a few of my own.  I didn’t have a tripod so they didn’t turn out very well…after they launched the lantern they lit sparklers and gave me a pack of sparklers as well…

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Next time I will show you some more photos from this beautiful island including our trip to the waterfall, which was also a very good day.  We are off to buy return plane tickets today-cha-ching! Man, our money is dwindling fast now! And then I think we will go back to Kanchanaburi for a week or so again before we head back “home” via Seoul again.  I hope you enjoy my photos! 

xo

Chiang Mai and Wandering…

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(journal excerpt-March 18, 2012)

This place is slowly warming up to me or vice versa as we’ve been spending each day wandering around a few of the seemingly hundreds of beautiful wats around the city.  One gets the sense of how old the city is compared to Bangkok and some of the wats have chedis which are over 700 years old.

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Walking around the city, you stumble across many examples of ruinous brickwork and ancient wooden structures.  Yesterday we went to a particularly beautiful wat that had very lovely grounds with paths and a forest throughout. 

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Signs of buddhist proverbs were fastened to trees along our walk and the butterflies were everywhere and a few even sat still long enough for me to take a couple photos!

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The heat during these hottest peak ours of the day has been insane (36c-37c) and now that we’re in the dry season, the humidity is low and it feels even notter.  The wat and it’s shade was a welcome break from this.  We drink litres of water a day and still cannot get fully hydrated.  Another downside to this season is the haze.  This is the time of year that farmers burn their crops off, not only here but in neighbouring Myanmar and Laos and the smoke wafts into the city.  Apparantly it was much worse before we arrived but today when I stepped out of the guesthouse  for breakfast, I could actually smell the burning and the air along the street is quite bad making my tired defective lungs whine a bit.  Given that we did so much walking in the heat the past few days, I think we’re going to take it a bit more easy today and do some writing indoors to take a break from the air. 

Actually, the other day was like this when I got up in the morning but by afternoon it got windy and it blew away quite a lot of the haze.  For our break from the heat we stepped into a bar run by two expat Bits in their 70’s, both with young Thai wives.  One dudes wife was a year younger than one of his daughters and just had his baby.  Despite their questionable proclivities, they seem to be nice guys and we talked to one of them and rank and tried to learn about Thai property law and the ins and outs of all his prior properties and current building repairs!

The reason why I mention this is we also found the bar to have rooms for rent and we are losing our room where we are now, tomorrow.  We booked online and I mentioned we’d probably want to stay up to aweek or more but that we’d just reserve 3 nights for now, and low and behold it was booked out from under us.  So we have to move.  So the pirate bar may have a room for us or another place we looked into.  Ahh well! Can’t get too comfortable anywhere I suppose!

Photo post! Bangkok and Chiang Mai…

Some photos of what we’ve been up to lately…

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I ate this in Ho Chi Minh actually.  Lovely matcha green tea mochi.  This one had a cream filling and was soooo good! 

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We walk around a lot and look at houses and whatnot.  I particularly like old wooden traditional Thai houses…

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We have drinks sometimes…IMG_2385

And listen to music at cool cafes…IMG_2384

Hang with celebs…IMG_2387

And take photos…IMG_2398

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Chiang Mai

(journal excerpt-March 16, 2012)

Didn’t write more on the train-too difficult with the rocking and swaying.  Instead we drank a bunch of beer and listened to music and talked to the woman who came around selling stuff on the train.  We learned she only works on commission and only ten percent on a ridiculously marked up 140B beer (they are usually anywhere from 55-90 baht in a restaurant!) But of course, once we finished all the cans we bought off the train platform it seemed like a good idea to buy a couple of hers, especially since she was so annoyingly persistent.  Her son is 19 and her daughter only 9 and she lives in Nakhon Si Thammarat (in the south of Thailand) and very far from Chiang Mai.  She works the BKK-Chiang Mai line back and forth non stop for 6 months at a time and sleeps on the train from 11pm-5am.  She taught us some Thai words (now forgotten of course) and demanded I open my snacks so she could eat them (which of course I did) and then we eventually got shushed by some French lady at 9:45pm.  Shushed!!

I eventually tried to sleep around 1am but for me, its nearly impossible-I don’t know how people get into their beds and pass out as soon as they come around to set them up.  Sleeping pills? It’s the same people that sleep sitting upright on long distance bus trips over rough road.  How do they do it?? I can’t sleep sitting up in any vehicle and laying down in the train is not much better.  Still, I can’t fault rail travel in Thailand.  For a third world country, they have their shit together.  The staff are friendly, the train is clean (except for the bathroom, of course) and it’s not that uncomfortable of a bed either!

Anyway, we are now in Chiang Mai after that long trip and our guesthouse is mostly lovely apart from the fairly noisy location and the packs of stray dogs that roam around here at night, barking all the time.  We haven’t had too much time to look around here yet.  We were mostly exhausted after the train and the midday heat was also pretty intense so we just walked around a bit.  We’re within the walls of the old city which used to be surrounded by a massive wall but now only a few pieces and the huge brick gates remain.  Within the walled area of the city is most of the backpacker accommodation and restaurants etc and there seems to be an abundance of vegetarian restaurants here as well as yoga studios and meditation retreats and other conduits of well-being.  Had an awesome veggie burger and fruit smoothie last night (banana, coconut milk and mango-so good!) Otherwise, so far, Chiang Mai isn’t really what I expected (there go those expectations again!) I expected it to be a city more in a valley or something with mountains all around.  I’ve since learned that there are mountains around us.  The problem is the slash and burn method to farming around here has left the city in a thick dark haze.  It may be more scenic than what I’m seeing but so far it’s pretty urban with quite a lot of traffic.  I thought the area would be more…arty? I don’t know if that makes sense.  More local art and indigenous people selling things in street stalls etc.  However, I think all of that will be reserved for the weekend markets which I’m very much looking forward to and I’ve read a lot about.  I came here with the hopes of buying a particular type of bag made by the local hill tribes, cheaper than what I’ve seen in Bangkok, so hopefully I’ll catch a good bargain at the market!

Photos will be coming up soon, I haven’t had a chance to upload any for a bit.  Later sweet pertaters!

One year for Japan

                                                             Source: dribbble.com via Alexandra on Pinterest

 

 

As you know, I’ve been talking about Japan a lot these days.  We waffle back and forth weekly in our decision to either go back home for a “stint” or move back to Japan and this week we’re leaning towards the “go back home for a stint” side of things…it will probably change back to the “move to Japan” side within the next few days.  But as some of you may know, Japan holds a special place in my heart.  Not only was it a place where I lived for almost two and a half years, it was where we were “wedded” at a city ward office in the suburbs of Tokyo.  Unceremoniously, a Japanese marriage need only consist of some paperwork filled out at a city office, I think you pay around 3$ for the paper copy of the certificate and they send you on your way.

M and I were elated when we got the paperwork done.  We were married! And we got married in Tokyo! Our naive excitement lead us to the nearest bakery where we picked up cakes and pastries and brought them back to the city ward office to thank them for helping us with all the confusing Japanese paperwork and helping us do something that made us so happy! We wanted to celebrate! This whole idea is hilarious to me now as I think about the look on their faces and how this must have been perceived to them.  It didn’t even occur to us at the time (again, the naiveté) that this gesture which seemed so innocuous to us, could in fact be perceived as bribery and they were, in fact, only doing their job.  They tried to refuse the pastries in typical Japanese horror/modesty and we insisted.  They eventually took them reluctantly and THEN we went on our merry married little way.  Man, that story makes me laugh now.  Anyway…

That same winter, we took our first vacation since arriving in Japan and went to Thailand.  We arrived on Xmas eve and were in Krabi for December 26, 2005, one year after the horrific earthquake and tsunami that hit that region of the country.  Evidence of damage was still very evident despite the fact that the tourist season buzzed along, pretty much as per normal.  A year and a half after this event we were back in Thailand, actually celebrating our marriage with our friends and family with a proper ceremony and party.

So both countries are pretty big parts of our lives and our history.  And I thought about Japan a lot yesterday.  I don’t really have anything particularly profound to say about this.  I just thought about Japan and felt sad and thought about going there and thought about what I could do to help if we did go there. I thought about how soon it will be hanami (cherry blossom viewing season) there and how if we go there, I’ll probably not get there in time for this.  I thought about how important hanami is for the Japanese as a time to reflect on the transience of life and fragility, and on renewal. 

As I develop various ideas in my head for a future website and online shop I think about ideas of how I can incorporate this want to help.  I have some ideas about this, but we’ll have to see how the whole website idea materializes within the next year or so…

In the meantime, I wrote my ex-boss a short email to let him know I was thinking about him and his family and his country that I love.  It’s not much, but it’s something…

Sharon Salzberg and the 28 day Meditation Challenge (getting your ass on the cushion!)

                                                                                                                                                Source: vi.sualize.us via Chandi on Pinterest

 
It’s now the weekend and we have no choice but to wait until Monday to work on M’s passport application which means we can’t go to Chiang Mai yet.  Further to that, we need M’s parents to send a scan of his birth certificate from the passport office back home and they won’t do that until there is a case number, which we can’t get until Monday!
We are definitely moving into Southeast Asia’s hot and dry season.  I can’t remember the last time it’s rained although I was woken up by thunder this morning.  It’s becoming quite difficult the past couple of days to just do our daily wandering around where we stay outside for the whole day.  Either that, or we’ve become slightly de-acclimitized from our time in Vietnam having air-con all the time.  Now we have fan only and no hot water in the most basic of rooms for 290B.  At night, there is a slight breeze so we must keep our curtain open till daylight or you can’t get any of it.  Since one must sleep completely ‘au naturel’, I only hope that while I’m asleep, someone doesn’t check in across the way, but I’m usually too hot to care: “Meh, they’ll be European-they’ve seen boobies before!”

                                                                                                                                                    Source: google.com via Christie on Pinterest

Anyway, ahem…a little over one week ago I responded to a Tweet by Kimberly Wilson of fabulous Tranquility du Jour fame, calling out for book club suggestions.  While travelling, I haven’t always been able to get my hands on her book club selections so I’m not always “present” but I love the idea of an online book club-great for people who travel and I love that it brings people from all over the world together for a common purpose!  Admittedly, I also like it because, believe it or not, I’m a bit of an introvert and public speaking (even if a book club circle) is nerve-wracking for me! (I’m aiming to conquer this within the next five years-Toastmasters or something…)  So I was thrilled when Kimberly Wilson chose my suggestion for Sharon Salzberg’s book “Real Happiness“, her 28-day meditation “training manual”.  A follower of Sharon Salzberg for a while, keeping tabs on her Twitter and website and whatnot, I have been travelling with this book on my Kindle for a while now and I have yet, despite several attempts, been able to get past the one week mark.  I thought that having this book as a club selection, I would be presented with a bit more accountability.  I began March 2nd and I am officially past the one week mark.  Yay me!
I don’t want to make it sound like meditation is a chore but I do believe it is definitely something you must practice to the point of habit in order to make it stick or see any results.  This book is not my first foray into meditation.  I’ve been interested in Buddhism since high school or so.  My early interest in alternative philosophies and religions at the age of 14 or 15 or so lead me to Wicca and occult type books (my mom had a Wiccan friend that lent me some books and my mom had a pretty wide library herself!)  It was from my Mom and Dad’s book collection that I then read Carlos Castenada and from there, because of my love of Beat literature, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, the Beatles, TM which finally lead me to seek out Buddhism.
By university, I was using most of my elective courses for philosophy and eastern religion, delving into Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam philosophy as well as a bit of art and architecture of Asia and the Middle East.  By this time I was also attending the odd day-long meditation retreat and lectures by prominent Buddhists (Tenzin Palmo!) and I then discovered Pema Chodron and devoured all her books.  So I have read a lot on the subject, but through the course of all of this, I have learned that it all amounts to nothing if your ass is not on that cushion! I have since had breakthrough moments on the cushion, usually in day long retreats where I’ve sat there long enough to finally ease the incessant chatter in my brain.  At home, before leaving for travel, I was, on occasion, getting up before work 30 minutes earlier for a pre-work sit.  But travelling has presented itself with a new list of challenges that has thus far, prevented me from getting a daily habit down. 

                                                                                                                                                     Source: kweeper.com via Mary on Pinterest

 
However, for me, I also realize that no excuse is good enough and it’s precisely these challenges that make a daily practice worthwhile and now a perfect time to really get into it! These excuses include such things as: not much alone time (M and I sharing one room in a hotel or guesthouse) so I’ve been meditating when he is sleeping in the morning or when he is having breakfast.  the heat (oooh! the HEAT! ) Such a lame excuse seeing as this whole thing started in Asia-land of oppressive heat, before the time of electric fans!, our ever-changing locale (all the better to overcome since peace comes from within, right?)
Anyway, so here goes nothing again! I will be doing my best to check in weekly to let you know all of my observations and any progress.  In the first week, my mind has been all over the place.  I probably got about four “sits” accomplished but my first couple were 15 minutes, not 20 as the book suggests.  After the first couple of times, I realized I needed at least 20 minutes to get those moments of stillness, so I upped it.  Such topics in my money mind this week have included:  my mom, friends, the plane journey I had to take that day, M, crafts, design ideas, my blog, breakfast, etc., etc., etc…
Practicality wise, I usually sit on the bed these days but I do find that a pillow just under my tailbone works best so my knees are lower than my spine.  Otherwise my back gets tired and I start to slouch.  Counting my breath has been extremely useful when I can’t otherwise  focus, as is labelling my thoughts as “thinking” when I need to pop the thought bubbles!
So I accept all of this as being totally normal progress and I look forward to more sitting this week with the hopes of even better results! I’m a work in progress! I would love to hear other ‘learning to meditate’ experiences with this book.  Head over to Kimberly Wilson’s website to check out her book club, there is always a great book recommended there each month, usually on the subject of yoga and well-being. 
Thanks for reading!