April 27, 2002

Back in Philadelphia...

I am back at my parent's house. The first thing I noticed is silence. At
night there are very few cars, and those that do run have proper mufflers.
No motorbikes or buses or longtail boats. No chickens or pigs or frogs. No
lound music from far away. No people either for that matter, since this is
the first time I've been in a single family house for quite some time. In a
few months there will be cicadas, but for now it's strangely silent.

The trip here was dreadfully boring. Either the longest day I've ever had,
36 hours, or more accurately, the two shortest days of 18 hours each, both
the 26th of April. Narita was the first place I've seen large numbers of
Americans for a while, it seems that all the Ameirca bound airline flights
(AA, UA, NW) left from the same place. A small lunch was $7, not far off
from what you'd pay in the US at an airport. And internet was only 100yen/10
minutes, about 3.5 baht/minute, though I had no 100yen coins to try it. Back
in Philadelphia, United managed to screw up as usual and put my luggage and
the luggage of a few others of us travling Tokyo-Chicago-Philadelphia on the
next airplane, so we had the opportunity to hang out in the baggage claim of
the airport for another hour.

But now I'm here. What am I doing next is the question everyone asks. The
answer is... I have no idea. Probably go to my 10th high school reunion in
two weeks, but before or after that is undecided.

--Matthew

Posted by MBlain at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2002

Ritual Annointment Gone Mad

Songkran is the Thai New Year and stretches for a few days at the transition
of the dry to the rainy season. It is the time when homes are cleaned, some
novices enter the monestaries, and so on. Traditionally, Thais show respect
for their elders by sprinkling water on the shoulder or hands of their
elders, and also pouring scented water over buddhas. But it's become a
little carried away and is now a full on three-day water fight. Everyone on
the streets is armed with some sort of weapon, be it just a plastic bucket
or a squirt gun or a super soaker or a simple 2'x1" water piston. The moat
surrounding the old city is the major area for the water war, as there is a
ready supply of water. (Green, but they actually empty and refill the moat a
month before so it's mostly clean.) And it's also surrounded by a road, so
you can go cruising around all day long in your pickup truck, the back
filled with a 50 gallon drum and lots of people. It's truck vs. truck, and
people along the side vs. trucks, and people vs people. At least it's all in
good fun--it's the westerners who cause the biggest problems, aiming at
people's heads and squirting people after dark, but it's not really a big
deal.

Yesterday was the big parade of the buddha images from the temples through
town, and tomorrow is supposedly the last and most crazy day... two more
days of being soaking wet, wanted or not.

--Matthew

Posted by MBlain at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2002

random thoughts from bangkok

i'm in bangkok right now... some random thoughts.

1) Even though the south of thailand is beautiful and I did various
activities (diving, snorkleling, kyaking), for some reason i'm not really
inspired to write about it.

2) Sleazy tourist oriented bus operators are a pain and never tell the
truth. The air-con bus ride from Krabi, upgraded to VIP because they were
being nice, was an example. Three hours of it was stuffed into a tiny van
and the VIP bus and the normal aircon bus were just that, a normal aircon
bus. But it got in on time and the drop off point was right in front of my
guesthouse.

3) But I'm a sucker. Tomorrow I go to Chiang Mai during the day time, this
time with a free night's lodging at some dodgy guesthouse with some
questionable transit company. But since it's currently peak holiday travel
season, I don't feel like going to the bus station and standing in the aisle
of some bus for 10 hours.

4) Because on Monday I'm signed up to do a massage course. With a big
operation, but it's the one which offers a formal course with methodolgy.

5) Some pictures, including the sunken boat, should be posted on my web site
by the time you read this. ( try
http://communities.msn.com/mblain/seasia.msnw?Page=13 )

6) Do not call my cell phone. It's not mine any more. Nor is the SIM card
which has my phone number. I don't know who you'll get, maybe the guy who
runs the store where I bought the phone and had it serviced and just sold it
for a little money.

7) I wonder what the King of Thailand thinks of the traffic in Bangkok?
Coming back this evening there were odd things going on--cross traffic was
stopped 50m back from the intersection, lots of police poking around,
including people in dress uniform. Eventually it became totally silent
(unheard of) and a big motorcade went by, including the king and other
members of the royal family. Some of the crowd bowed twice, once when he
went past and once for someone else (the Queen? I couldn't see). He waved
back at those of us at this intersection, then after the motorcade passed
everyone went back to their business.

Next update hopefully from Chiang Mai...

--Matthew

Posted by MBlain at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)