Reflections in Malaysia - Time is Ticking

I found myself back in an Irish bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, and I wish I could bring together friends from days of old to join me for a toast.

I have meetings to attend to later tonight and need to get some work done prior, so there's no drinking for me...but if my friends were here-we would share a cold one. That's what friends do, right?

I don't typically feel the need to have a drink when alone, maybe it's a deep-seated fear that I will love it too much and turn into a drunkard faster than you can wipe the spittle from my chin, or maybe because I hear someone's voice in my head telling me I'm "more fun when I'm drunk", or maybe it's the ever-present calorie count shouting out how many calories are in each beverage (though I snuff that voice well enough when it comes to cherry coke), or maybe it's just that I don't LOVE the taste of most alcoholic drinks.

Anyway, here in this lovely open-air Irish bar, my friends from days gone by would all sing along to the 60's American music playing (odd), we'd make up rules to the cricket game playing on the tvs, we'd whisper about the waiters hovering nearby who always appear to have NOTHING to do and just stand around and wait for you to beckon them over, and then we'd discuss what it could possibly be that waiters in our country do that make them so busy all the time when waiters in SE Asia seem to be on stand-by for your every need. We'd join the older British couple at the table next to ours who are softly signing "bye, bye, Ms American pie..." and soon, the entire bar would be singing along and there would be smiles all around.

But for now....this is where I am:

The emptiness of the restaurant can slightly be attributed to the fact that it's Ramadan and the sun is still up, so 80% of the population is still fasting at this time of day.


But only for two more days, and then I head to the airport for a ridiculously long journey home!
I'm certainly not miserable traveling...but I am ready for my own space, my own foods, my handsome sons smiling face (or irritated face when I start singing "bye bye, Ms American pie..."), and my little furbabies-one of whom has spent almost the entire month of July hiding under the bed or cowering in the corner.

Adventures in Thailand - Photo Edition

This was pretty common to see in the business district - the trees are bound and gagged and forced to grow straight. It's hard to tell in the picture, but they have posts and wires and all kinds of contraptions that are drilled into the trunk of the tree and adjusted to stay with the tree as it grows at the correct angle. It made me sad to walk by this every day, trees don't need to be tied up!

This might look yummy to some people. My supervisor and coworkers loved it. I had trouble even allowing any part of it in my mouth. I can't describe it in any other word other than: slimy.
Also to note, people in Thailand only eat with a fork in the left, spoon in the right. The fork is used to push food around and onto the spoon, you actually eat the food on the spoon. Noodles and meat are cut with the side of the spoon. I didn't know this trick for about half a week and I bent almost EVERY fork I ate with. None of the forks could take the pressure of just cutting so I would eat with one tine bent quite inwards. Knives were never present.

This is at Mr. Donut in one of my favorite malls. Mini-donuts on a stick attracted me into the store (not because I wanted to eat one but because it was ridiculous), but then I saw the name and realized that the name wasn't the most ridiculous thing about this scenario. For the record, these cost about 48cents each. I can't vouch for the taste but they look yummy enough. And who wouldn't want to eat a holething for a snack?

This was our afternoon snack - we had something similar every day. They all came in these individualized boxes. There was almost always one little sweet bread thing and then one bread/dough thing stuffed, either with a different kind of tuna, or pork.

On the left is a durian, which is a very popular fruit. Its VERY heavy and has very thick, hard spines covering it. If it falls on your head, it could kill you, so you don't just go wandering through a forest of durian trees. If you cut it open, it smells like the worst fart imaginable (this is not an exaggeration -they are banned from most offices).
I'm not confident on the fruit on the right, I like to think of it as AlienFruit based on the design.

At the floating market. My guide insisted we arrive early, which was genius. Within an hour, this canal was filled with boats and you had to just sit and wait and wait and wait for others to move. You just sit in the boat, the owner will paddle wherever you tell her to, so if you want to shop at one of the stalls on the far left, she'll paddle that way, and then you just bargain away. I would love to shop by boat every single day for every item I need.

This is outside of one of the million temples that are in Thailand and every time I passed by one I always thought to myself: Free Shoes!!!!

This is in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It's a Buddha statue made entirely of jade. SOLID JADE!!!

This is one of the many palaces for the King. The King of Thailand has over 100 homes all over the country. I'm not sure how the entire population of Thailand loves their government SO MUCH that they aren't even a tiny bit bitter about the crazy amount of properties. It's not like the palaces upkeep themselves...and land is VERY valuable! I was a little bitter and it's not my country.

hahahaha, monks with phones??

A Nike guitar??? I regret not buying it because it MUST be a collectors edition.

Peace.

Um, people suck the little meaty worm things out of these....I was offered the chance to try them but I had to pass. See previous concern over slimy food.

Every single sign at this Buddhist temple has a pepsi logo on it!!! I was disgusted.

This can be filed under pet abuse.

These are spirit houses and are present at every house and office. Even if you move into a condo or an apartment, you would have one of these on the roof. It protects over your home and wards off the spirits. Some of them are really elaborate. The average price is about $80.
Every day to get to work, we crossed this road. You can see there is a pedestrian overpass at the light, but most people play Frogger and just weave between cars. I love this game!

Grand Palace - it's literally lined with gold!! It's the most elaborate building I've ever seen in my entire life!

Walt Disney would not approve of these tshirts!

This was my favorite place to go! I can't wait to get back there later this year. This trail of people is headed to the weekend market, which is this massive space of booth after booth of anything you could ever want or need. I had the most fun here bargaining a day away.

Me at yet another temple.

This was the most delicious thing I tasted - it's a dough like thing, filled with a salad like thing, with cucumbers, onions and some spices across the top. DELICIOUS!

Adventures in Thailand - Five Days Remaining

I have only been away from home for 10 days?? Is that possible? It feels like longer in some ways.

I've done a LOT in 10 days in Thailand - visited lots of temples, a palace, gotten lost all over the city, eaten lots of different foods, learned a handful of key words in Thai, bought tons of super-cheap souvenirs, had a foot massage that literally left bruises on my leg for four days, crammed into a skytrain so close to people I didn't even need to hold on to anything, nursed my feet of blisters all week long, played Frogger crossing this super busy crowded street in rush hour, etc etc...it's just crazy.

(These are all pics from my phone, as I still don't have a cord for my camera)

Riding the sky train at 6pm leaving the business district.

 


Amphawa Market - the place to go to try tons of different types of food.


The view from my hotel
 
 
This is in a mall. Like with real stores-expensive stores-fancy restaurants...and then a clinic on the main floor where you can go from an exam room to the treatment room to the xray room all in 5 feet!

This is my view during the day for about 7 hours. Except for 6 of them, they are all staring at me. I really like every one of these people!!


 
Tomorrow I might just lounge about and read for a bit. It's the first day in 7 that I haven't had to work about 10 hrs and I'm really looking forward to it. In the evening, I'm going to dinner and a market with some coworkers. Sunday...who knows.
 
And then Wednesday afternoon I'm off to Malaysia!!

Adventures in Thailand - Lost in Bangkok

I made it to Bangkok!!
This is how I got here:

2 hrs early to the airport - and I needed 1.5 of them to get through the international check-in process and security.
10.5 hrs - flight from Portland to Narita (where I found the dirtiest airport bathrooms you will ever encounter)
almost 2 hr layover
6 hrs - flight from Japan to Thailand
40 min - customs & baggage claim
35 min - drive to the hotel

Quite the journey!
It really wasn't so bad. My first leg I had three seats to myself so I was able to lay down for a bit. It sounds great and all, until you try to make yourself fit in three airline seats comfortably. You can't hang your feet out, so your knees always have to be bent. And where do your arms go? It's just an awkward attempt at sleep. I think I only laid down for about an hour total, and then slept sitting up a bit as well. It was really nice having all the space to spread out though.
The second flight-TONS of turbulence and I didn't take my anxiety pill cause I felt like I would be totally fine, just like I was on the last flight (um, where I actually did take the pill). But by the time I realized I really wanted it, I realized it was in my bag up in the luggage bin. I had a window seat and the turbulence was really bad so there was no way I was getting it.
About halfway here, I started sneezing. Not just a couple sneezes here and there, but like a couple sneezes every 15 minutes. The guy in front of me probably thought I was deathly ill. Funny thing about that - I didn't see him at the Japan airport, but when I got my seat on the second flight, he was in front of me AGAIN! What are the odds of that happening?? Esp given that the first flight was only half full and the second was completely full. Anyway, I sneezed behind him for 16.5 hours. Sorry!!

And the sneezing has continued. I sneezed all over Bangkok today.

I found a little convenience store at one point when I was lost and wandering the streets near the Grand Palace and went in to find none of the workers spoke English, so I tried to explain to the girl what I wanted by showing her my tissues and pretending to wipe my noise, and she offered me some tissues. So I said, "achoo achoo" and the three girls behind the counter laughed like it was the best joke ever. She gave me a red packet of pills that look like Tylenol. They didn't help. I later found a pharmacy and the woman did speak English and offered me something for colds. She opened the box right up and sold me just enough for four days. I took some shortly before coming back to the hotel (I had a deadline to meet for work) and within an hour, my eyes were closing. typically cold meds don't make me sleepy but it's possible the meds and a little jetlag were what did me in. I woke up in a panic and somehow got my work done on time.

Half of my first day was nonstop walking and boy can you tell by the blister on my foot. And I think I sweated out 2 pounds of water. But I had some great adventures - I took the metro train, it's a really cool subway that is 2 stories and runs all over the city above the streets. I got to see a LOT of it because I was lost almost every other hour. I also took the water taxis - who knew Bangkok was like Venice?? Not me. I love the water taxis. And they are super cheap, so when I got on the wrong one and had to go back to another one, it wasn't expensive! And then I got lost when I came off the subway-train-thing on my way back to the hotel and had to take a taxi, which cost me the same amount as my combined train and water taxi rides to go about 6 blocks (he was supposed to turn the meter on, he didn't and just started driving and later quoted me a price-I should have fought harder on paying him!). Three local forms of transportation in one day! A great way to explore a new city.

I took tons of pictures already, but alas, I forgot my cord to upload them so they will have to wait. I will have to try to take some with my cell phone so I can share.

We had a thunder storm that may have been the most severe one I've ever seen -lightening striking everywhere, the rain was just pelting, the sky was so gloomy, and the thunder was SO LOUD. Luckily it started right before I sat down to lunch and it somehow magically ended right after I finished. Just like I planned..hahaha. I took a video which I might be able to upload, but not tonight.

I'm off to bed so I can try to get some sleep before my 630am tour in the morning. It'll be nice to have a guide with me so I don't gain any more blisters just by being lost, though if I hadn't gotten lost, I wouldn't have made some girls so entertained with my achoo achoo. And I would have probably been caught walking in that horrible storm.

Good night from Thailand!

Moral Dilemma - Level: Elephant

I'm ridiculously busy getting ready for my work trip to Thailand and Malaysia. There's so much to do when you're going to be away almost a month! Like figure out all the little things you need to write down for my son in the hopes that he will take the utmost care of my home and cats while I'm gone. And plan touristy things to do for 3 free days before work begins. Oh, and create and edit a 150 page powerpoint and prepare myself to present that monster powerpoint to a team of 5-8 people who weren't born speaking my language and who are going to look to me to be the expert and maybe I'm not really the expert and they are going to unmask me and I will get fired and have no where to stay and no way to get home and I will have to swim off to the island where The Beach was filmed and find a rogue group of tourists to live with until we get kicked off the island by the drug lords...but Leonardo DiCaprio will be there to catch fish for me and I'll play beach volleyball and lose loads of weight and maybe live a happy alternative existence all the same.

 
 

Back to my main dilemma at hand - in Thailand there are a couple different elephant farms where elephants have been brought in and live as a way for locals to make money. You can pay a small fee and find yourself riding on the back of an elephant through the jungle, you can ride them to their watering hole and help bathe them. Fun right? Fun for us anyway. But is this a good life for the elephant?

I spoke to a native Thai person here in my city and she agreed with me that it IS sad for the elephants. However, they aren't horribly mistreated. They just don't live their life as an elephant should (in theory). But also, if tourists didn't go to visit these elephants, the locals would do other things with their elephants to make money, like bring them to the edge of the city and set up a temporary camp to make money in a less humane way. And she reminded me that the people of Thailand are very poor and tourists coming to visit is what allows the locals feed their families.

There is also a tiger sanctuary run by monks where you can feed baby tigers and watch them eat and just hang with the young ones all morning. Same moral issues with that place...

I suspect I will end up doing at least one of these. But my conscious feels heavy for those animals all the same.

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