Christine In Asia
Bangkok, Bali, & Koh Phangan
July 23 - August 7, 2001

Mon, 23 Jul 2001 09:16:43 -0700 (PDT)

argh, i just wrote an email but my computer wigged out. bangkok is 12 hours ahead of dallas, 14 ahead of LA. we are staying at khao san road where all the backpackers stay. had a layover in seoul (12 hours LA->seoul) where we had korean food in addition to the korean food on the plane. 5 hours seoul to bangkok.

when we got off the plane, dirik (the capt of the royal police) was waiting for us with 3 guards. they whisked us through customs, and we got to enter bangkok with our own police motorcade. no wonder princess poppy says there is no traffic in bangkok - a police car with flashing lights goes first to get people out of the way, and then we followed in our own car with flashing lights. they took us to a local place for dinner, and then drove us to khao san. dirik and princess poppy were horrified to hear that we are staying at khao san with the backpackers, and the khao san backpackers were horrified to see us arrive with out own police entourage. they even insisted on checking out our room for us first. the place is totally clean and fine and we have a western style toilet and AC. only 600 bhat a night for a double (1$US = 45 bhat), which dirik insists is a ripoff. everythign here is really cheap - a bottle of coke is 8 bhat. karen's contact lens stuff is 190 bhat (for a big bottle). we are checking email for 1 bhat/min, 45 bhat for an hour.

going to the royal palace tomorrow and headed for bali in 2 days. love, christine

Thu, 26 Jul 2001 18:43:28 -0700 (PDT)

am glad to be out of bangkok. it was great for 2 days, but i was ready for something more quiet. thanks to those who sent me birthday greetings via email.

those who didn't, i know who you are. haven't had a chance to open up all the cards as the internet connection is rather slow and unreliable on the island of bali. i am currently emailing at 9am b/c that is the only time you can get on - the internet cafes are PACKED at night.

bangkok highlights :
- shopping. if i had more luggage room, i would come home with a whole new wardrobe. everything is so cheap, and is the same quality as what you get at home (since it is all made in southeast asia anyway). you lose all perspective when you are bargaining between 150 and 100B for a pair of steve madden look alike shoes when you relize you are debating between $3 and $2.
- tuk tuks. they are the modern day equivalent of rickshaws, except driven by a motorcycle instead of by foot. they spew noxious black smoke and make a loud 'tuk tuk' noise. the thai people pile into tuk tuks like you wouldn't believe - i would say that one holds 2-3 people but i saw one with 6 people in it.
- banana pancakes on the street of bangkok - 10B without chocolate, 15B with chocolate.
- monks. they are everywhere. one of our riverboat ferries was practically the monk express. and there are some quite young ones - turns out all thai males are expected to spend a couple years as a monk (shaved head, celibacy, and all) once they turn 20.

bali - we are staying on the quieter north coast of bali in this great place with a gorgeous garden/pools/hammocks, right down the street from the beach (which is made of volcanic ash). we are paying $15 a night which i think is way too much but i cannot argue that the garden is the best we have seen here, and the complimentary breakfast had great banana honey pancakes (the pancakes are thin like crepes). we have part of this bungalow that is quite charming with a great porch complete with teakwood porch furniture. this morning we got on a tiny boat (only holds 4)at 6am and went out on the ocean to watch the dolphins play with the sunrise. the dolphins were everywhere - jumping out of the ocean 5 at a time, about 20 ft from our boat. really a great way to start the day. and no, mom, there were no life jackets anywhere. may go snorkeling on the coral reef later on today. plan on heading back south in a couple days (steph - where did you stay, kuta? i think we are going to avoid there and maybe head further down the bukit peninsula) and meeting The Sliz.

mcc is by far the whitest person i have seen here. well, there was one we saw yesterday. she has managed to avoid getting burnt, although i am starting to get as brown as the natives. and we have both avoided getting food poisoning so far despite my eating off dirty street vendors with the locals in thailand. love, christine

Sun, 29 Jul 2001 03:35:55 -0700 (PDT)

so last night/this morning i think i did the most amazing thing that i have ever done in my life. we did a climb starting at midnight up the tallest volcano in bali, mount agung (>3000m) to see the sunrise at 6am. the climb takes 6 hours. it was me, mcc, and this australian guy tim who is the brother of the owner of our place (he (the owner) married a balinese woman 12 years ago and they started up the rambutan cottages where we are staying). this idea was something that i had gotten out of the lonely planet (of course) and when i started asking about it, it turns out that very few people do it b/c there are always tourists who die doing it every year (but i think that is b/c they try it without guides and then plunge into a crevice to their death). richard (the brother/owner) and teena (his wife) hadn't even heard of someone climbing it, and richard has lived here 12 years. anyway, teena found us a guide (a 16 year old boy who apparently guides people up there about once a week for the past 2 years). we started at this temple where the guide prayed and gave the gods an offering, and then started going up. in the dark. with flashlights. through a rainforest. straight up. no switchbacks. no flat areas. no places for rest breaks except balancing on an uneven surface. mcc got altitude sickness and started hyperventilating and didn't make it much past the temple and had to head to the car.

we just kept hiking up and up and up. not too difficult (as far as challenging) while we were in the forest, just an endurance test. however, the last 2+ hours above the timberline was all volcanic ash rock. and the last hour was real rockclimbing where you are on this incredibly steep slope heading up the crater, and you're grabbing on with your one hand and steadying yourself on two tiny rocks on your feet and then using your other free hand with the flashlight to try to figure out where to climb to next. in the dark. no ropes. no rockclimbing gear. and i was in tevas b/c i didn't bring hiking shoes or tennis shoes. and the rocks were also ashy and had a tendency to fall loose when you grabbed them. the air was really thin, and we hadn't slept, and we hadn't eaten, and the whole thing was so surreal. everytime you would lean back to survey the rocks, the wind would blow (it was in the 30-40s up there) and it would feel like it was going to blow you off. tim actually freaked out for a while and refused to go any further. i myself had a few episodes of thinking that facing my mortality on this volcano was a very definite possibility (and i am not a very imaginative person).

reached the crater right as the sun rose at 6am. unbelievable. we were way above the clouds and could see the surrounding islands from where we were. then your turned around and there was this huge crater with cold lava. the sun reflecting off the clouds and the volcano and the colors in the sky were breathtaking. it was incredibly quiet and serene. we stayed up there for about 2 hours and ate breakfast to the sunrise. the most awesome sight ever. definitely worth the 5 hour climb. the guide gave another offering to the gods and burnt incense and prayed. it definitely made you believe in a higher power, it was so amazingly gorgeous and beautiful.

getting down the volcano was not so smooth for me - you know, i'm just not good with getting down steep surface, whether it is mountains, rainforest jungles, temples, or volcanos. took us about 3-4 hours to get down. not as much sliding on my butt as i had expected but still very slippery. also, i learned that tevas actually are pretty good going up rocks but not so good going down. my legs are screaming in pain. the staff at rambutan were asking me at the pool this afternoon why i am limping like an old lady. however, i am pretty impressed that i was still in good enough shape to make it (a thought that ran through my mind as we were driving to agung last night).

tomorrow we may go snorkelling off this island that is supposed to have the best reef in bali. or mcc may go white water rafting (since she missed out on the climb and spent 12 hours in the car instead) and i may lie by the pool and writhe in pain. love, christine

Tue, 31 Jul 2001 23:52:38 -0700 (PDT)

back in bangkok for < 24h, killing time before our overnight train (leaves at 5pm) for koh samui. nice to have fast internet access as well as hot running water again. i have decided to start wearing sunscreen (spf 8) b/c i have been asked repeatedly over the past few days if i am thai/balinese/indonesian. i like being tan, but i think this may be starting to get a little ridiculous.

i am still limping from the climb up agung. i did go on a snorkelling trip the next day (from 8am-4pm) to mangenjen island, and then packed my stuff and headed to kuta (home of the australian surfer boys) that same night as liz had summoned me there with an urgent SOS -- as she put it, it would be a crime for us to both be in bali and not have a Sliz and Ho night in kuta. it was kind of like being in cancun, except with cute australian surfers instead of american frat boys. what i can't believe is the stuff that they think that americans listen to - the clubs play the cheesiest music - ie, the grease mix, jump by kriss kross, and of course when they played 'down under' by men at work the dance floor went nuts. the americanization of the world is prevalent everywhere - when we were at this seafood place in lovina, the were blasting britney spears over the loudspeaker and the bartender (who didn't speak english) was singing and dancing along. anyway, for those who care, The Sliz is doing very well. i can't believe the amount of stuff she has - like 3 huge backpacks, and she's been sending stuff home all the time. anyway, steph, i told her about you staying in LA, and she said that she didn't know that (i thought you emailed her?) and later when mcc asked her where she was living when she gets back in sept, she said, 'oh, i have a place in san fran.' so there you go.

mcc came down to kuta the next morning (she had to wake me up) and she and i headed to ubud, the culinary, cultural, and artistic capital of bali. liz headed to meet her friend at the four seasons in jimbaron b/c she somehow had weaseled a free massage at the spa there (go figure). ubud was awesome, but the weather was not great for the first time (overcast). we did go to this monkey forest that was hilarious. we did not carry food b/c the monkeys were attacking the people who were (even the baby monkeys are very aggressive, and we saw one who poo-ed on the girl he jumped on. i do not like poo. i am not that kind of doctor). anyway, they go right up to you and jump on you if they smell food on you. and they have sharp teeth. we also had the best meal of our trip in ubud - samosas, seafood ravioli, balinese duck pate, and some indian food platter - we barely made the $10 minimum so we could charge it as we were running out of cash (steph - the rupiah is now 9500 to the dollar b/c right before we got there they overthrew the old dictator and now the old VP megawati is in power - the rupiah went from 11000 to 9500 to the dollar overnight, so things weren't as cheap as we had expected).

took a trip to the floating market today - you ride around in a paddle boat in this really narrow river and there are all these vendors in their boats paddling around and lined up along the river, and you paddle over to where you want to buy something. they had fresh fruits and VGs, and you could buy meat and seafood and all sorts of stuff. part of it was touristy but at least it was a real authentic floating market (i don't think too many tourists buy whole raw dead ducks off a boat in a river).

for those who asked:
1) i return the afternoon of aug 6 (mon). i start work again the next morning at 7am.
2) i booked a ticket back to dallas for the marcus/ashley/wendy/duchene wedding bonanza. get in that fri night and leave sun late afternoon. and no, i hadn't heard anything about the wheeler/duchene party changing the time of their shindig - that was news to me.
3) i also am planning on going to RJ's wedding in oct. that is going to be one of my 2 weekends off while i am at childrens. i plan on driving up fri night.
4) mom, there was not really any life threatening danger as long as you were with a guide. i think if i had lost footing, the worst that would have happened is that i would have slid down for a while and broken a leg or something on the rocks. you should at least be glad that i didn't tell you about it until after the fact. love, christine

Sun, August 05, 2001 11:11 AM

ah, we are finally nearing the end of our trip. got into koh phangan after a 12 hour overnight train ride, a bus ride to a pier crowded with smelly backpackers, and a 4 hour ferry ride to koh phangan island. it was worth it - liz had scoped out a great place for us, definitely the nicest bungalows on the island with the a correspondingly high price - 700B/night ($15) - the most we have spent on accomodations. however, we did have the best view in the place - our own bungalow, right on the beach with a seaside view of our own private beach. liz's sister's friend paul was staying there too (graduated MIT '92, number 6-er, now lives with benny who went out with nancy junior year) so we hung out with him. turns out that he parties with jen tang in NYC too (i guess they go to model parties together or something). small world.

we pretty much spent out entire time on the beach (well, paul and i did, and mcc sat on our veranda in the shade) and the nights on the main beach - the full moon party (which i will now abbreviate as FMP) was last night. they say that 5000-8000 people are there in july and aug. even though it had been monsooning, there were at least 6000 from what i could estimate, all partying on the beach. not everyone stays at koh phangan - a lot of people ferry over from koh samui for the night. it actually was tamer than i had thought it was going to be - maybe b/c all the hard core people passed out - there were all these bodies lying everywhere in the sand. very funny. and good music too. this morning when we were walking along the beach after lunch, there were still people partying from last night.

so now we are at direk's house. he picked us up from the airport in bangkok at 9pm, and our flight doesn't leave for seoul until after 1am, and he was hospitable enough to invite us over the shower and eat. his kid is really cute and he and his family live in a really big house (even by US standards).

we have a 9 hour layover on seoul tomorrow, so we plan on going into the city during the day to see some places and eat korean food.

it is depressing that this vacation is ending. love, christine

Sun 8/5/2001 11:14 AM

paul, hey, here are my emails back home from reverse chronological order. i think the one about agung is next. i insist that you did not experience the real bali and that you must amend your previous negative comments about such a hospitable, beautiful, culturally rich island. hope everything is going well - you were right about the ferry boat - i sat at the front to avoid getting seasick, and i got totally soaked!

Wednesday, August 08, 2001 12:52 AM

ugh, i hate work. got in at 7am and left at 7:15pm today. still haven't finished doing my laundry . . . . mcc packed the skin so soft in a ziploc bag. that stuff is definitely the bomb. you can order it on the avon website if you don't have your own personal avon lady - yawn! jetlag is a bitch - i hardly slept last night

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