Saturday, September 29, 2007

Its been a long time..but here is everything about Thailand

Sept 10, 2007:

So yesterday I left for Thailand. I haven’t slept since the 9th (had to stay up all night and pack and do laundry). I was a little nervous when I got to LAX. My family left and I realized that I was really doing this by myself. It was a little rocky at first and my timidity was apparent to others but I slowly overcame. Getting my boarding pass and luggage checked went fine. I met a Taiwanese student in line who seemed to just want to practice some English before he went home. I got to the airport early so I burned my time taking random pictures and walking through the terminal shops. Once I got on the plane I was very anxious to land in Bangkok. The plane flight was a breeze. 4 movies and a total of 19 hours later (not to mention my upgrade to business class on my flight from Taipei to Bangkok…free beer J), I was in Bangkok being picked up by my co-student Amara.
My first reaction to Bangkok is that it was extremely hot and humid. At first I figured, “this isn’t that bad,” but then realized that it was only 1 in the morning and the sun wasn’t out. Amara’s family drove me to their house where we will spend the night till we fly out to Surin tomorrow. My room is quaint and my bed is about 80 years old, but I have the only air-conditioned room in the house so I am thankful.
Amara also introduced me to the family cockroach Rupert. He lives in the sink in the down stairs bathroom. He is about 6 inches big and won’t die. They throw him out and he comes back, so they have learned to live with him. Strange?

Sept 11, 2007

Today, I started out my day with a small tour of Amara’s Families side of Bangkok. We went to the local pharmacist to refill Amara’s prescriptions. This was my real first encounter with the Thai language. Amara tried to teach my “hello” yesterday, but I still have a hard time. After this we went to the mall to buy some eyeglasses. I got four pair for about 5,600 Bhatt (160 USD). I was totally excited except for the fact that my credit card wouldn’t work due to my international presence. After buying our pirated software (about 3,000 dollars worth for about 60 USD), we ate a quick lunch and rushed to the airport.
Flying Air Asia to Ubon was a different experience. There was no assigned seating, just first come first serve. We had a quick hour and a half flight to the province where we met some administrators from the university. We had a nice long 3 hour drive to Surin form Ubon where I couldn’t really talk because I was the only one who didn’t speak Thai. We got a little tour of the university and had a quick dinner and then went off to bed.

Sept 12, 2007

Today our two escorts mainly took us around Surin. They first showed us our office and then took us to run some errands. We went to the C Market, which is basically their Wal-Mart. Everything was really cheap and they bought me a 12 pack of coke for my late night designing. Also, something they have here that they don’t in the U.S. is flavored milk. Like fruit flavored and sweetened milk. Tastes more like juice than milk but absolutely delicious. My breakfast was great, eggs/sausage/toast, but my lunch was nasty. It was like fondue, but with water. They brought out a bunch of vegetables and raw fish and put in the bowl of boiling water on the table. Everything was real mushy in texture and ha a fishy taste. I just swallowed everything...too painful to chew. But they feed us real good.
Next we went to their farmers market where all the farmers sell there crops on the street...super cool, but nasty and crowded. Totally felt like Thailand. They take these “busses,” really pick-up trucks with built in seats and a roof, and they sell all their crops. Reminds me of the farmers market in corona. As far as dinner actually skipped because we were both so full.

Sept 13, 2007

Quick summary... today we didn’t do much work. Took inventory of all the products we need to design packaging for. About 10 more products from massage oils, to toothpaste, to wine wicker holders. Also set up our meeting with the administration. There is also a school on campus for grades k-6. Amara wanted to help out with some kids, so we are teaching 3 classes some English during there English learning sessions. Should be pretty fun. Ate lunch today in little street side market in a garden in bamboo chairs and tables. I’m going to see if I can buy some of the chairs and ship them them and their sturdy. The food was super spicy and I loved it...strangely. They also brought out a fish, head, bones, eyes, and all, but it was also delicious. Now comes the sad part of my day...
Amara was trying to get some of her prescriptions filled so we had to go to the hospital. It felt like our DMVs on a bad day times ten and with a bunch of crying babies and disarranged elderly people. It smelt of alcohol cleaning solution and was so hot. Strangely, there was a live band playing assuming to entertain the people. Our escorts from the university said that the elderly people will be there
for days, because the lines are so bad and it takes them for ever to figure out the system. I guess their children and grandchildren leave town to pursue opportunity and there left to fend for themselves. I wanted to cry. Reminded me of Africa. I guess their health insurance is about 25 Bhatt a year...less than a dollar. Also their lottery jackpot is 30,00 Bhatt....about 860 dollars, but this is the sad thing. They said that if someone was to win half, just 15,000, they would be extremely wealthy.

Sept 14, 2007

Today was a busy day. We had our typical breakfast and then went off to our work. We taught kids today some English at the local elementary school. It was kind of rough considering we were limited I our Thai. They really spoke English very well, but they didn’t take instruction very well in English, but we are going back next week so hopefully it will be better. After lunch we had the opportunity to see a silk village that is run by one of our escorts family. It really is amazing to see the complexity of their patterns. We were given Thai style hats to walk around the village, hilarious cuz I looked like a cowboy, but everyone was extremely welcoming. They all gave us desserts to take home. The sad thing is that these people get paid only 10 dollars a week and they work at the silk after they farmed all day. Once we were done with our tour, we took some pictures with her family and then they gifted us a piece of silk. It was amazing to see how someone with so little can be so generous. I wanted to pay her, but that would have been insulting. I was honored.
After we went back to the hotel to clean up we went to the night market for dinner. Basically one of the main parts of Thai culture. All the food and trinket vendors come out to one street and fill it with their carts. The roads are full of parked scooters and there are people everywhere. We had dinner and mingled. Was really neat and really got to see how Thai people enjoy their nights. They are all about this social event and were very lively. On the way home I had my first encounter with a Thai elephant. We were driving home and on the street was just a man riding a elephant with the baby elephant following closely. We stopped and took some pictures and then bought some bananas to feed them. So strong and big. I will never forget.

Sept 15, 2007

Today was Saturday and basically a day for fun. We took a trip to the elephant sanctuary to see the show and get a ride. We went with our two escorts and a German exchange student named Herman. Scrawny 16 year old German kid with the voice of a 300 pound man. Herman entertained us the whole way their talking about his trilingual education and his interest in science and math. Total brain. One dead dog and 2 hours later (yeah we hit one on the way) we arrived. Absolutely amazing. There were elephants everywhere and an endless amount of opportunities to interact. I got picked up by a trunk, walk under the belly, rode on top on a saddle, rode on top on the neck bare back, and was part of the show. I volunteered to go out into the arena and they had an elephant walk over me. They played a joke and the elephant kind of massaged my butt. I got a free painting that an elephant painted. Supper cool.
After the elephant sanctuary, we went to the main silk village in Surin. It was basically what I saw yesterday, but times 10. There were about 20 old women weaving silk under a huge roof. Still amazed at the complexity of their designs. We did a little shopping and got an authentic boba. (Iced drink with tapioca balls…delicious).

Sept 16, 2007

Today was probably our busiest day the whole trip. We were asked to critique a Textile Degree curriculum and also write a design review report for the president. We were able to meet with the president, which took up most of our day. We wrote our reports most the day because it was needed before we met with the president at 3pm. We also had to set up all our packaging in a way that was presentable. It was an extremely productive meeting. We finalized the logo, the tea/coffee/rice designs and made way on the magazine. We stayed up most the night to finish the last revisions on the logo and then I SAW THE BIGGEST FREAKIN BEETLE EVER IN MY LIFE. I was in Amara’s room finishing the logo and when I walked back to my room there it was. The thing was huge. Total typical beetle that you would think of when you hear BIG BEETLE. I had to have been at least the size of a pair of sunglasses. About crapped my pants because I almost stepped on it, but I gained my composure and took some good pictures.

Sept 17, 2007

Today we had more work today. We woke up and went directly to the Elementary school to teach the kids English. We bough some candy earlier I the week to give out as prizes today. We played hangman with them and it went real good. Our last day teaching will be tomorrow. After our session with the English class we went back to the office to sketch more and get our presentations ready for tomorrow. Were going to meet with a bunch of graduate students in a bunch of different fields. Basically just sharing our background and experience in college in the U.S. Probably going to go to dinner and get to bed….super exhausted. I’m so glad for the experience I have had here but I’m definitely ready to go home. I completely miss my beautiful fiancĂ©. Makes me sad. I’m super tired and really just want her by my side. Absence really makes you realize how much someone means to you. She is my everything. I need her. Excited for Bangkok but, can’t wait to get home.

Sept 18, 2007

Today was an interesting day. We started off the morning with breakfast at the restaurant with the bass that speaks English. We went there to get a picture before we leave and he stuck some poses for us. Great. Then we went off to teach for our last time at the elementary school. It was fun as always and we also had the opportunity to take pictures with all the children. I was super excited today because my family and Erica were able to call me through there calling card. It was nice to hear everyone’s voice.
After teaching we went to lunch, which was filling as always. After lunch we went straight to our presentation. There were about 30 students and about 5 administrators. It went very good, but the students were hesitant to participate in the question and answer. At the end the faculty awarded us with a Thai gift. I received a necktie, which I was hoping to get anyways before I left. Sweet. Our presentation lasted about 2 hours and then we went back to our office. Just wrapping up the logo designs for the submittal for the logo to the trademark & copyright office. As usual we will go out for dinner and be fed more than we can eat.

Sept 19, 2007

So today…. After a night spent with German Herman (he spent the night in my room)….we went on a drive to the silk village of our escort. We went to the elementary school to teach English like we did at our university. We thought we were going be teaching one class but turned into about 200 kids. We had to improvise, so we split up the whole class into 4 groups and each group would have to guess a letter. We did the games for about two hours and then took pictures and ate lunch.
After lunch we got back into the van and went to the ancient Hindu temple of the area. This temple was amazing. After we drove through one-hour monsoon, we drove up this mountain to get to the temple. There was a great view and beautiful lush green gardens. The temple was approximately 3000-4000 years old. It was like I was walking through one of my art history books. Took many pictures… loved it.
Following our long drive home, we took showers and got ready for dinner. We are at this beautiful restaurant with an open setting. We had a formal thank you from the administration and then went to karaoke. It was so random. I thought it was going to be in a bar with karaoke, but it was in the same building as a bowling alley. We sat in a room with two couches and a TV, and then we sang random Thai songs. The only song in English was YMCA and Simon Says? It was completely awkward but absolutely entertaining. German Herman was hilarious. Then went home and went to bed. Night.

Sept 20, 2005

So today was my last day in Surin. It was mostly a travel day. We had to go to the office early and finish some stuff up, but we left around 11. I finally got my drum from the president….absolutely amazing. We had a long drive after all the administrators said goodbye, and our plane left around 3. We landed around 4 and the awaited Amara’s uncle for our ride. We were shortly on our way to the house and getting ready for dinner. Amara and I went to get sushi at the local mall, which was fabulous. After dinner we went to the massage salon on the corner. I got an hour full body massage for approximately 6 bucks. Amazing. I’m addicted ad definitely going again before I leave. Peace.

Sept 21 & 22, 2005

So last night we got back into Bangkok from Singapore. This is going to sum up two days really because we never really went to sleep. On the 21st we went shopping more with Amara's cousin to all the electronic malls. They are huge, bigger than any shopping center I have ever seen. They have anything from software to keyboards to whole computers. After we burned some time and money it was off to the airport. We caught a taxi and arrived on time. Unfortunately our flight was postponed two hours so we had some more time to burn at the airport (luckily there are a lot of duty free shops and i found a really good map of Bangkok for when I'm by myself. We boarded our plane like normal, but this trip was extremely different. We went to Singapore with only a backpack and a camera. We figured it would be a waste of money to stay in a hostel and sleep when we arrive at the airport at midnight.
So basically we stay up all night in the Singapore airport for 6 hours and actually had a lot to do. This airport was ridiculous. There was a movie theatre; pool and spa, free massage chairs, multiple lounges, and free video games. We had no time wasting time but looking back at it we probably should have just slept in the airport.
The next morning we head off into Singapore. It very interesting there, everyone speaks English and it is probably the cleanest city I have every seen, it was a lot like America. We started off our day going to the island right off of Singapore. You can take a cable cart over so we did. There we saw a huge Merlion, there symbol...basically a lion head on a mermaids body, and also went to the southernmost part of continental Asia. Pretty dang beautiful. It would have been much better if I could have shared this beautiful place with my beautiful girlfriend, instead of some random student friend.
After the island we went to walk around the downtown of Singapore. It was also quite amazing. we went to the market where they sell a bunch of trinkets and nock off designer stuff. I was crazy busy and so much I wanted to buy for everybody back home. So I did! After that we went to another mall where they have the worlds largest fountain. Pretty amazing also...I’ll show you pictures when I get home. Last place we went and my favorite was china town. There we got to see a Buddhist ceremony in a temple, which was super interesting. We walked around the shopping market there where I bought my favorite thing so far this trip (I’m going to keep it a surprise till i get home). After china town we had to bolt back to the airport and catch our flight home. We got there with ease and had some more time to burn in the airport. I actually got into a conversation with so locals who were going to Bali for vacation. They we commenting on what a good deal i got on my secret purchase. We then got into a discussion about my generation and materialism. Went into a talk about my faith (because she said I had a perspective of a 33 year old) and I was extremely stimulating. It was so cool to talk to someone from a different country and have a common ground.
So after two crazy days, walking more than I’ve ever thought possible, no sleep, and a bunch of good shopping we flew home completely exhausted. Unfortunately i think i got a sore throat and a mild fever. We are supposed to go shopping at the weekend market today and a bunch of sight seeing so I’m probably going to get some medication. I guess it was a little too much activity for two days, but i will never forget it.

Sept 23, 2005

Today was shopping day. We started out the day with a quick stop to the pharmacy to get some antibiotics for my flu. It was only four dollars for about one weeks of medicine. After I was drugged up, we went to the weekend market with Amara’s cousin to get our great deals and finish up our souvenir shopping. This place was crazy. It was full of people and extremely hot. The first white people I’ve seen in a while also. You can buy anything from couches to necklaces, from soup to a foot massage. We were there for the majority of the day and got a lot of great deals.
Still completely exhausted from our Singapore trip and day of shopping, we finished it off with some amazing sushi. Good as always, we couldn’t resists another massage before we went to bed. Amara and I both got a one-hour Thai body massage ($4) and a one-hour oil massage ($10). The oil massage was more expensive but I liked the rough Thai massage where they step all over you bend you like a Gumby toy. Regardless, I was completely relaxed and went back home to sleep.

Sept 24, 2005

Today was the day for Amara’s flight home. We woke up real early to get to the airport by 6 a.m. As Amara checked in I talked to the attendants to try and move my plane ticket ahead. The earliest I could get a flight out was Friday. Perfect for me, because I still got a couple days to tour the town and still get to come home early to see my family and Erica. Amara went through security and then Amara’s cousin and I went back to the house. I went to the electronic mall with her other cousin to get our external hard drives fixed and then I was on my way to my hotel. Unfortunately, Orbitz jacked up the address of my hotel and luckily Amara’s cousin was able to get me to my place. After I checked in, Amara’s cousin, well call him Jim, took me around the town by my Hotel.
This whole part of Bangkok was completely different than the rest. This is definitely the tourist part of town. all Europeans and Chinese people. I was completely frustrated about the whole hotel thing and didn’t even want to be here. I was tempted to just stay in my hotel room till Friday. But as I walked around with “Jim” I warmed up to the area. I just had to re-adjust my plans. Jim brought me to Wat Pho, the reclining Buddha. It was truly amazing. After the Big Buddha, we went to get dinner on the river. It was a good time, and Jim was extremely entertaining. He told me his life story and has been all over the world. At dinner he wouldn’t stop buying beer but were there long enough to burn off the buzz. After dinner we took a cab to my hotel and I had a good night sleep.

Sept 25, 2005

Today was a rest day. I really needed to get over my sore throat. Just sat in my room and veged. Truly needed!

Sept 26, 2005

Today, I went out into the city alone. Felt so cool. I love the feeling of walking around a completely foreign city with just a camera and a map. I started out my day with a boat ride down to the central part of the tourist area. The boat was very interesting and cheap. It seems to be the main form of public transportation here on this side of town.
When I arrived to the central boat station street vendors and tuk-tuk drivers bombarded me. Everyone wants to take you somewhere when you can mainly walk everywhere. I went to the royal temple and saw the temple of the emerald Buddha. It was very interesting to see all the Buddhist culture and see how they worship, plus there is lot on incense (I love the smell of incense). After I browsed through the Royal temple with all the other tourist I did some shopping on the streets (Had to pick up some stuff I forgot at the weekend market). After shopping I caught a tuk-tuk to my hotel, just to say I rode in one (there expensive). I showered and took a nap. Got ready for dinner and went back into town.
I went to Banglumpoo where all the backpackers and hippies hang out. It’s kind of like the Hade and Ashberry Street of Bangkok. I went to Gulliver’s Travelers Bar, where I got some good ol’ fish and chips and some Budweiser of Thailand, Singha. It is definitely the place everyone goes to drink and have a good time. I tried to get a coupe of tuk-tuks home but they all wanted to stop by a mall where they get free gas if they bring “falang’s (white men)” there. After two of these guys I gave in to the third. He gave me a good deal and said that we would only have to stay for 5 minutes and then he would take me to my hotel. We got to the mall and I had to walk around a cheesy Thai Silk Suit story and shoo off a bunch of half-English speaking salesmen. Turns out the driver I met was a real nice guy. He said he didn’t speak good English even though it was better than most drivers. Apparently he grew up on a farm in Surin, where the university was where I worked. He knocked off 10 Bhatt on my fare and shook my hand. Good day. One day left. L

Sept 28, 2005

Today I was going to go back to Amara’s families’ house to pick up some stuff that Amara got. Turns out I didn’t need to go and besides that I didn’t have much planned. I was already ready to go so I figured I would go browse around town. I took the express boat all the way down to the central station. I was a good tour of the city on the river. Once I got to the last boat dock I caught the sky train to Siam (the main shopping area). I walked around for a while a grabbed lunch by the mall. After lunch I got back on to the sky train and went Silom (another big part of Bangkok). I also walked around there for a while and then went back to the boat station. I caught the same boat all the way back to my dock (#16) and went to my room for a shower (this humidity makes you feel nasty). I laid back the rest of the night. Got dinner down in the hotel and went to bed, Have to wake up early and pack. Going home tomorrow. Excited to go home J.

Sept 28—again?

So I basically get to live the 28th twice. Its 10:19pm in Taipei and I land at 7:45pm today, after a 16 hour flight…weird. Anyways, today I just took a shower and packed. Once I checked out of my Hotel the bell men offered me a cab ride to the airport for 1000 batt (30 USD). I kindly laughed and said that I would catch my own. Like every morning, there were plenty of taxi drivers waiting outside the hotel gates to wave white people down for a ride. I got a ride to the airport for about 300 batt (with toll road fees) and checked in. Because I had to check out of my hotel by noon and my flight didn’t leave till 5, I had some time to burn. I basically had lunch, then a beer, and then spent the rest of my time on the FREE WIRELESS!!! My flight went like a breeze and now I’m sitting on the floor in Taipei waiting to board. Only 16 more hours to go. Can’t wait to get home. Of course if I don’t, You know I love you all. Ha. Anyways, till next time..I love you Thailand!

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