Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Well, this is one of the original emails I sent out prior to establishing the the blog. 
From April 8, 2010

***Disclaimer:  This email is super long because I wrote little bits along the way.  Might want to break it up over a few days or something.  Or skim read it.  Or skip it altogether.  Totally won't be offended.  


We just got back from Pai, we rented mopeds yesterday and scootered on up the mountain about 4 hrs took us from 9:30am to 3pm..
It would have been ok but the boys decided to do some "off roading"......Garret bailed pretty harsh as did James the Irish guy that came with us. Garrett is now in a foul mood because he broke his shock proof camera and did some hefty damages to the bike.  We decided to just spend the night up there as we were too tired to drive back home and didn't want to drive in the dark.|This was kind of unfortunate as we had already paid for our night in, and paid for another night in Pai. Fortunately there were four of us so it was cheaper than it could have been.  We left at 6:30 am Wednesday and got back at 10...we drove straight to except one stop for brekkie.  Anyway,  Garrett had to pay a lot of money for the damages to his bike.  They tried to make me pay for some big gouges that they said I did (I didn't, I only took a little fall and the bike landed on my leg, so the landing was soft! ouch!).  Anyway, we had to threaten to call the tourist police because they were saying they wouldn't give me back my passport till I paid, but I didn't want to pay.  Bit of a scam if you ask me! (Later it turns out that this is a well known scam and they warn you about it in the guidebooks...who'd a thunk
it eh!?) Some other traveller just butted in and told them to shove off as even he could tell the damages were old! A crowd started to form because there was quite a commotion between the Thai lady hollering at us and me stomping my foot and stubbornly crossing my arms saying “I WILL NOT PAY!!!!”, to the people all around interrupting to tell the owners of the shop to be fair. In the end after making us wait close to 45 minutes the lady said that I had to pay late charges for an hour, even though we only were a half an hour late, but the contract (written in Thai) said we left earlier than we did. All in all I only had to pay 40 baht, (1.30$ for being an hour late arriving with the bikes). This was an unfortunate lesson learned, but in hind sight we lacked some common sense in renting the scooters without inspecting for prior damage and making notes or pictures of the scratches. I wonder how hapless tourists have paid for the same scratch over and over again!

The night we returned to Chiang Mai
, we hopped on an night bus to take us back to Bangkok. The bus was very uncomfortable for Garrett as he is so tall and the seats are built for the South Asian body type. Slim and short as a general rule. We made it back to Bangkok by 5:30 am, as we drove into the city we say many Police Vehicles heading in as well (like 20-30 in a row!) as there was a large red shirt protest planned for that day. We then took a tuk-tuk to the train station where we hung out for 3 hours. Luckily there were many other travellers that we got to meet up with and chat with. We met one guy from the UK who told us about a spiritual revelation he had after he swam in the waters of Koh Samui. He then investigated numerous religions and ended up deciding that Christianity was the simplest message with the most hope in it, and he said it “made sense”. After this, I told Garrett that we were going to go to Koh Samui (Southern Thailand) and I was gonna forcibly chuck him in the waters. Sounds like a plan to me :P
The next leg of our journey was wrought with potential dangers.
Fasten your seat belt folks, cause here I go!

We had paid extra money for VIP seats on the bus so that we would have more room to move around. Weeellllll
, guess what!??The bus had supposedly broken down. SO the company shoved all of us into a tiny mini-van, but alas, there wasn't room for Garrett and I and another couple, so after reorganizing the cramped van, they shoved Garrett and I in and the other couple into an even tinier car. This was a less than ideal situation, but we didn't say much because there is a chance they could just drive off without you. Anyway, I was waaaay in the back and the floor of the van was metal and burned my feet, I resigned myself to sweating my brains out. Garrett got the roomier position in the front. That part was rather uneventful, except that the roads were in bad condition, so every bump was amplified if you sat in the back.. . My head would thunk the window if I dared to doze off. We arrived at the Aaranyprathet and our guide got our visas for us. We paid 35$ each (later we found out they were only supposed to be 25$), but they had people actually walk through with groups of 5 at a time. It was a fairly painless procedure and we all came out on the other side. I found it bizarre that we had to do a medical screening thing. But it only consisted of us filling out a health questionnaire. The guys in there kept saying to me `Do you know me and I said `No`. Then he answered `I KNOW YOU want me`. These are lyrics to a song played on the radio here. I don't think he understood the context of the song, just the I KNOW YOU part. Then he proceeded to serenade me as I left with `I am so lonelyyyyy, so verryyy loneelyyyy, I have noboddyyyy`. I think this is all he knew of that song. If you don't believe me you can corroborate this story with Garrett. It was a very surreal introduction to Cambodia. 
When I first arrived in Thailand I remember thinking...`Ah, so this is what true poverty is`. Being the spoiled Canadian that I am, I had ignorantly assumed that East Hastings was real poverty. Well this mindset was immediately challenged upon entry to Cambodia. As soon as I walked out of the customs, It was like I had entered a strange universe. There were people pulling carts that looked far too heavy for their emaciated bodies. The carts generally piled high with what looked like rubbish (cardboard?), I don't even know. It was really bad. But it was going to get worse.
The tour company Garrett and I had booked with tried to tell us that we had to bus to Siam Reap (where Angkor Wat is) then over to Phnom Penh. They said it was only an extra 3 hours (later we found out it is an extra 6 hours!!!). I pulled out the stomping foot routine (yes, I know, it is getting old, but it seems to speak universally across language barriers). I said `NO!, we are going directly to Phnom Penh. That is what we paid for that is what is going to happen. I am such a jerk. It worked. They found us a taxi with Air Conditioning. We were to share it with two other people (so much for paying extra for the roomier VIP coach the up sold us on). At this point we had been travelling for close to 20 hours. SO we really didn't care. I was dehydrated because our vehicles didn't have bathrooms and they don't stop much, so I wasn't drinking much...dumb idea. So this is the part where we lived up all 9 of our lives (if we were cats), and also I made my guardian angels cringe and work overtime. Our cab driver didn't speak a lick of English, so we knew there would be no conversation from him. We promptly befriended the Aussie squished next to us. His name was Adrian and he worked for an NGO educating and trying to end exploitation of children here. We had a lot to talk about for 6 hours.

As the driver revved his engine.
I settled myself in the back to sleep. Within 30 seconds, I was sitting up gasping and squeaking with horror. The driver was NUTS! He was swerving in and out of traffic, perpetually honking. He honked at everything! Trees, rocks, cars, scooters, cows, horses, apparitions, imaginative friends, the get the idea. As we neared the countryside, traffic became less. After twenty hours with no sleep I managed to doze off. You know how when you go swimming or are in a boat and when you try to sleep you feel like you are still in the pool or lake? Well, in the past 36 hours I had spent about ten hours on a moped. As I fell asleep, I dreamt my scooter hit a cement post and I grunted and did a full body spasm and jerked awake. It took a moment to orient myself (where am I, who am I...etc.). When my brain was functioning, I heard the Aussie beside me chuckling and politely looking away. So of course I had to tell the stranger about my dream and why I was having them (this was the 2nd night in a row)....great ice breaker, let me tell you. Nothing awkward about that one. No siree.
I start
ed to pay more attention the erratic driving skills of the man behind the wheel. I noticed that he sniffed a lot (Brianna, I wish you had never told me what that means, but it did explain a lot, so maybe I am glad you told me...oh I don't know). And his eyes were REALLY red and bloodshot. Hmmmmm....I thought to myself, Brianna said perpetual sniffing with signs of bloodshot eyes and no cold symptoms is the sign of a drug uses....duhn duh duuuhhhhh. I began to watch the driver more closely. He switched from lane to lane at whim. The 2 lane road would sometimes become four. It soon became apparent that his honking meant `I OWN this road!`. I didn't tell Garrett, because I didn't want to worry him. Eventually I caved though, misery does love company. So here's the weird part. It gets dark quickly here. 6Pm is usually pitch black. It took us a while to figure out what exactly was going on. But here's what it was. As another car would approach, our driver would flash his brights, on and off, on and off in rapid succession. Whether or not the other car was driving with brights made no difference. The approaching car would flash his lights back (of course). As they put their brights on, our drive would rip a hand mirror out and hold it above the steering wheel. This would reflect their lights back into their own eyes. This dude was seriously tripping out. So he played this game as well as the honking game as well as one more. Let`s-see-how-close-we-can-get-to-the ox-and-cart-on-the-side-of-the-road. I aged 20 years in that trip. Then, the driver, sick of our englishy conversation started channel surfing on his radio (on top of everything else, oh yeah, he also answered his phone and would talk loudly in Khmer). He found one with some popular tunes we happened to know. Garrett, Adrian and I (there was a Thai women in the front but she didn't speak English so we couldn't bond) began to sing in moderate tones along with the radio. He let us for 30 sec, than promptly switched stations and played it full blast. It was a Cambodian talk show.
When we arrived in Phnom Penh, the driver attempted to drop us off at a dark train station at 11 pm at night. We wouldn't get out, as once again the conditions of our ticket said a bus station. This is where the Dominguez's said they would meet us (missionaries here). We asked to use his phone but he said he didn't have one although we had just seen him using it. Finally we convinced him through actions that we would not leave until we called someone. He wanted another fix bad enough that he finally let us use his phone. We were then able to call the missionaries and tell them we had arrived. The driver parked illegally on the road then put his hood up to pretend he had broken down. When security came, they didn't bother us much. Anyway, finally Perry came and collected us. PHEW!!!! We had survived!
Anyway, we arrived, showered and fell asleep immediately. In the morning, Garrett and I both had developed cankles (where you calf and ankles become one). Mine because of travel, heat and dehydration. Garrett's was much more serious. His wound from the motorbike had become infected. It was disgusting. It was really red and lots of * gag * puss. Erin is another missionaries wife with many years of experience in the tropics behind her. Upon examination, she pronounced Garrett house bound with rest and no beach for a week. So, we adjusted our schedule. We stay in Phnom Penh till March 29th. One week less in the south beaches of Thailand. We are both bummed out, but this gave me an opportunity to get to know the people, land and language a bit more than I would have, had we stayed only four days we had originally planned. I am thinking about coming back to maybe teach English here for 3 months in the next year. We will see if that pans out or not. You just never know:P
Our very first day in Phnom Penh, we went with Saum and Chorn from the Dominguez's church to S21 (Khmer Rouge Museum, formally a school) and the Killing Fields. I did not particularly relish the idea of going to these places, but felt that it was necessary to understand the people and to pay respect. I was not that knowledgeable about that particular period in history, I never remember hearing about it in school (an injustice for sure), or in media, or just general conversation. General overview is that Pol Pot overthrew the government in Cambodia in 1979 (dates could be argued, might be a little sketchy). He marched in and took over Phnom Penh. He made almost everyone go back to the countryside, as he wanted them to produce rice and remain peasants. He killed anyone who was educated, looked educated (i.e. glasses), or knew more than one language. This to this days of course affects the nation, as they have effectively `dumbed down` the genes of Cambodia. This isn't to say of course that there aren't intelligent people in Cambodia, just that there are much less. Of course you still have the old school generation who hesitate to educate their children as they are afraid it will damage them somehow. Finally the Vietnamese came and liberated the country. By then it was already in shambles and still is. No one from abroad will invest in the country as it is so corrupt and unstable, a company would be foolish to risk it.
The Dominguez's are American. Josie was born in the Philippines however, but everyone here thinks she is Khmer (Cambodian). Her husband, Perry, is American. When they arrived here, there were many things they had to learn. The first is, that there are no jobs for the people. Cambodia has nothing to export. They have clothing factories for say, Old Navy, but these factories generally employ females. Many young men come from families in the provinces. They come to Phnom Penh looking for work because their families in the country can no longer afford to feed them. When they get here, because there is not really any industry in Cambodia they cannot find jobs easily, therefore are often are hungry. IF they have to opportunity to work, it is usually 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week, with maybe one day off a month. The pay is not usually enough to pay rent and eat (estimated 30$ US month). So they
find small rooms for rent and share with many others. I have seen the rooms ( I didn't want to take a picture). They are big enough for a bed ( hard wooden table if they are lucky, otherwise a straw mat on the floor). Maybe 3-5 people share this room. Often whole families. They work, eat, sleep. That is all. Nothing more.

At the Luchkins' church, there were many people who had come in a taxi truck the church rented, they had all worked 14 hours that day, then taxied 45min to come to Wednesday night church. They all had the bleary eyes of over worked people. It was really heart wrenching.
I think that it is difficult to explain poverty. Back in Canada we have all seen those ads for children in Africa, with the extended bellies and big eyes with Celine Dion singing faintly in the background. We know poverty exists, we have seen pictures, movies,
etc., but nothing can really compare to seeing it first-hand. When I was there I felt guilty even experiencing hunger pains, and to leave food on my plate was a crime. As for my jobs, I have never lacked for work, and am thankful that even if my past jobs haven't been the most sophisticated or career-orientated, I have the ability to work where ever I set my mind too. Sometimes 2-3 jobs at one time, but Thank God for the blessing of work.
One of the things that made me chuckle in Cambodia was it was the nation of knockoffs. Apple was everywhere, but the bite mark was on the opposite side of what it should be. Puma was Puna. 7-11 was 6-11. KFC had two alternatives, King Fried Chk (KFC) or Louisiana Fried Chk. It was a source of entertainment the entire trip. These people are ingenious!
We finally departed Cambodia via plane to go to Phuket. Cambodians are crazy! It cost us 35$ visa to get in, then they charged us 30$ just so we could leave the country. It was an airport tax or date, the ten days in Cambodia were the most expensive of the trip.
So, we landed in Phuket, spent one night, then continued on to Phi Phi Island via ferry. I met some cool Thai people who taught me some new vocab. It was a fun ferry ride. We went to Phi Phi and stayed in the Uphill Cottages, named thus because they were “uphill”. I felt safer there in case of a tsunami. We checked out the beaches and hiked around for a bit exploring the island and reintroducing ourselves to the Fruit shakes of Thailand. Soooooo good. Almost as good as the ones Grandpa and I made in Mexico every morning. Keeping with the tradition started in Mexico, I also would have a Thai pancake every morning for breakfast. Delish. On the second day in Phi Phi, Garrett and I went on a large ferry cruise where they took us to a Monkey Beach where we go to see feral looking monkeys. And some other pristine looking beaches that were absolutely fabulous for swimming and snorkeling. We also went kayaking at one of the beaches. It was pretty rad. We met some cool people from Russia. It was really a nice time. We watched the sunset on the south pacific and jumped in over and over trying to get the perfect shot of us in the air with the sunset behind us. I got a good pic on the first try, it took Garrett 4 tries. Haha. They also fed us authentic Thai food with pineapple for dessert. The food was too spicy for me, so I skipped straight to the dessert. Pineapple=God's candy. Superb. The next day we went on to travel back to the mainland, Krabi. I liked Krabi better, mainly because it was 
noticeably cheaper. Also, the streets and beaches were quite a bit cleaner. The second day there we went on a tour on a longboat to a bunch of islands. There were about 30 people on this one. Again, a lot of snorkeling. I got a private tour from one of the guides. He knew the ocean well and pointed out really cool fish. Then he kept grabbing sea cucumbers and making me touch them(*shudder*). One of the sea cucumbers secreted this weird goop all over my hand. The goop glowed fluorescent under the water. I tried to get it off as it kind of made my hand feel numb and funny. I managed to get most of it off only by keeping my and under the water so the goop glowed. It would turn invisible as soon as I took my hand out of the water. Strange. I also go to see some caves and cool fish. I like snorkeling immensely. I was freaked out at first as there are weird things below you in the ocean, and it kind of creeped me out. Especially when I saw a poisonous black and white striped swimming below me. But it turns out the ocean in like our forests. Divided into stratospheres in which if you keep to the top, there are less animals that live and habitat that layer. So it would be like gliding along the tree tops. The dangerous animals like bears and cougars are going to have a rough time getting you way up high. Just like the sharks and jellyfish in the ocean. Well, not really. But it made me feel better at the time. The next morning was to be our last day. So we rented scooters again (wisely this time, we made notes of existing damage). And took off to Emerald ponds. It took about 2 hours to get there. Once there, however it was a nice surprise. It was this crystal emerald (huh!) coloured pond that was serviced by a freshwater stream from the ground. It was so cool and refreshing to swim in. We hopped back on our scooters to get back to Krabi. We had to catch a bus to Surathani to fly to Bangkok. Buuut, the sun was sooooo hot. I imagine it was close to 40-45 degrees Celsius in some spots. I could feel the sun cooking me. It hurt so bad. Of course we had forgot to bring sunscreen. We made an emergency stop to get some from 7-11 and slathered it all over. But still it hurt. I was burned for like 3 days after that! Sick.
So now I am in Perth Australia where I have been bonding with the Aussies. Most of all I like to talk to the kids. Little Aussie kids have accents. It’s so hilarious. I can't get over it because I think my brain thinks that Aussies are faking it, so when a kid talks, I am astounded. I am not sure why I am so amazed as I have not done a full psychoanalysis on myself yet. But this is what I think. They are so cute. But funny!
The only damper on my trip this far is that I lost my camera somewhere enroute to Australia. I have called the airlines, but don't hold much luck in it being returned. I am so sad as there are like 200 pics (including the awesome one of me jumping in the ocean at sunset). Fortunately if worse comes to worse Garrett has some, but his camera broke at the scooter accident so we used mine mainly. I could cry. But I haven't yet as I am that the airlines don't clean very well and it might still be under the seat or something. There is also a possibility it fell out on the bus or taxi. Not sure. But I am very sad. There may be a bout of tears sometime in the future, but for now I am hoping that it will turn up. It was a brand new camera too! Grrr.....
Well, my friends. I guess this email should keep you all occupied for a bit reading it. I must go now as I must create new adventures in order to have something to write about next time.

Well, my friends. I guess this email should keep you all occupied for a bit reading it. I must go now as I must create new adventures in order to have something to write about next time.

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