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Bangkok

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Date: Thu, 14 Sep 00 06:41AM EST 

Subject: Labas!

Welcome to the tv-away list. I am sending this to my web address so that I have some addresses to send mail to from Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. There probably won't be very many, so have a great autumn!

Tom

Date: Sat, 16 Sep 00 08:55AM EST 
Bangkok has been fun. Lots of walking and smelling street food. Today was Big Buddha day at the Royal Temple. It's just fun to say. My eyes are burning from all of the fumes.

Keep in touch! tom

Date: Sat, 16 Sep 00 09:00AM EST 
I am thinking, up the Arun to Makalu will be cool. I would like to try Kanchenjunga because the people there sound interesting. I guess we'll figure it out in KTM. Do you know if Lincoln wants to trek? Happy travels. Bangkok is pretty fun.

tom

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 00 06:05AM EST 
we made it after about 30 hours in transit. all is well, jet lag survived, and stomachs so far so stable. this place is amazing. wild to understand how it must feel to be illiterate. not only are simple spoken phrases hard to pronounce, but the written characters are hard to discern. most of the signs here in bangkok have english subtitles which has made navigation possible. i'm wondering what the smaller towns will be like. english is pushed in the schools so many people speak some, that helps too. getting from here to there is most of the adventure. the traffic is nuts. cars and buttloads of small motorcycles (like dirt bikes) and these things called tuk tuks (which are motorcycles with a carriage thing grafted onto the back) hurtle along.

the motorcycles basically ignore all the road rules: blowing through stoplights, weaving through traffic, wrong way on one way streets, riding up onto the sidewalks. riders without helmets, or with helmets on and the chin strap hanging free to flap in their faces (there's just not enough going on for these folks, they need something to keep them awake......) yikes! and they drive on the right with steering wheels to the right -- it messes with us as we run for our lives to get across the street-- where is the traffic coming from any way?! the tuk tuk drivers are pretty pushy about wanting to take us off to our next buddha sighting. but we walk, good way to see the world. and the street food is yummy!

there are internet cafe's everywhere, this one has ac, also yummy. gawd it's hot. more later. hope all is well.

love mona

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 00 06:21AM EST 
we made it in two large healthy pieces. all seems well so far. it's a pretty crazy town, but we've a good place to stay and have been finding our way around without too much trouble. here's to guide books, they are awesome. after 30 hours of travel twas mighty fine to find a place that was pretty decent to sack out. language and written word are nearly impossible, but there are english subtitles to signs and many folks are force fed some english in school so life is doable. temples, called wats, are everywhere. the thai version of budda is slender and somber rather than the fat jolly chinese(?) ones. and they are beautiful (both the wats and the buddas/buddi?) we're off to nepal next week (flying mon 25th). and i'll try to drop you a line once and week or so.

mona

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 00 06:36AM EST 
we've made it to bangkok. after 30 hours travel it seems like quite the accomplishment, wow those airline seats are damn small. and this place is crazy, dirty, tasty, sweaty, amazing. pieplate eyes. it's always big budda day, and the tuk tuk drivers will take you there and sell you all the rubies you want.....should you fall into their clutches. we are dogless of course. mocha would hate it here, being black and incredibly fuzzy. we're just wandering for three months. tom's finished his master's and this is kind of a celebration. we're off to nepal next week and will spend a month there rafting and treking. then on to vietnam (well maybe that's up in the air. okay most of the rafting and trekking part is up in the air too, but we've definitely got the tickets anyhow) so, the mail was to me for my account while we're here, to send myself the email addresses i might want. and i'll be around the email cafes on and off throughout the trip. we're back dec 14. tell me stories.

mushy stuff, mona

Date: Tue, 19 Sep 00 10:31AM EST 
I've read more about Kanchenjunga.  I think that it could be a bit more extreme than perhaps up the Arun towards Makalu. The Arun would be just as easy for us to start from the Sun Kosi take-out point, have less restrictions on agents, and maybe be a bit shorter. We will be in Kdu Monday night. There is a third person, Nick's brother, who is a willing and able participant. Bangkok is amazing. Smoggy, but very interesting. Still undecided on which one, but will try to discuss.

I have to run, but will write soon, Tom

Date: Tue, 19 Sep 00 10:41AM EST 
I finally saw the Matrix tonight at a guest house bar. That combined with Flintstones take Rock Vegas from the flight ought to make for some good dreams. The infamous Khaosan Avenue is all cleaned-up, like NYC, or a rave in Orlando. Just a shopping strip these days. Still plenty of fun walking through the city, finding this and that and sweating balls. Rained hard today and flooded the Royal Palace. Very cool wading through knee-deep to read the Ramayana in wall-art.

Leaving for Nepal Monday. 4 weeks there, then some Thai coast, hill country, Vietnam. Ordered a whiskey tonight, and the girl brought a whole bottle. Must be normal?

tom

Date: Tue, 19 Sep 00 10:53AM EST 
we arrive late monday night, the 25th I think. wahoo! Kanch vs Makalu: Kanch will probably be more difficult in general, Makalu maybe less exciting? Think we can actually organize the trek in three days? Kanch requires organized trek agency. I know you're not going, but if you're drunk, maybe you have some ideas...Like buying tix in BKK... Seems the high season in Katmandu is not the best time to look for flights...But that's all worked out. Let's go boating.

happy trails, tom

Thai Royal Palace

Date: Wed, 20 Sep 00 09:35AM EST 
how are you? we've made it here. talk about wiped out. i got pretty wasted on those cute little bottles of liquor on the plane, giggled my butt off, went to sleep, woke up, dealt with the hangover, went back to sleep, then got off the plane..... and onto the next. whee! guess that's one way to stop the drinking and driving thing, eh? and here is amazing. today we've looked at two buddist temples. they're called wats. one had/has the world's largest solid gold budda, we're talking 5 tons. the relic's 700 years old and for some two hundred of those years it was covered in cement stucco---no one knew there was gold beneath. seems budda was to be moved to a new wat and some cement got knocked off in the process, ta da butt loads of gold budda. they think it got covered because the enemy was at the door, cement went on, everyone died, no one left to uncover the big budda. pretty wild. our country is really young, compared to this place.

we also walked our little fannies off. took in some art, rode a few boats along the river. and went shopping. kind of. went looking i guess. saw all sorts of odd veggies. eggplants no bigger than 2cm in diameter, green peppercorns. mountains of greens. all in this warehouse that took up a few city blocks. people everywhere, buying selling, talking yelling. there was a huge iguana (??) or some sort of 5 foot long lizard in a cage. being fed greens and splashed with water by a tiny, wrinkled, toothless, asian (duh, no kidding) man. the next block was flowers, gorgamoose mountains of orchids, lotus, carnation, bird of paradise, roses. some being orchestrated into bouquets, huge funeral type bouquets-others being packed off in bunches onto hand carts and rolling over toes and onto trucks--to market? a kroger near you? hard telling. and the street food. yum, i've been watching all these mom and pop/mom and kids cart operations. putting together the most excellent soups, spring rolls, and nameless dim sum stuff. they laugh at me while i watch, but i'm learning some neat tricks. like don't eat the rind on the bitter melon things-- cause they're way bitter-- that taste'll stay with you for awhile. and tis aswealter here. all the time. the salt on my skin itches. my face shines, my hair's all frazzled--there's this irratating super girl curl on my forehead that will not go away. and so. i am beat. time for bed. hope all is well with you. tell me stories.

mushiness, mona

Date: Tue, 19 Sep 00 11:08AM EST 
Subject: Hallo

Bankok is a hoot! Lots of smog and fumes, but that's how we lowlanders train for oxygen-deprived environs!! Air-conditioned email labs in all the guest houses, DVD's with Pad Thai or curry. Yeah, very cool. Or hot and sweaty. Rained hard today and flooded the Royal Palace. Fun wading through knee-deep cool waters to read murals of the Ramayana. I needed to know a bit more about what was going on there... Gilgamesh, Ramayana, whatever, you still fill in the gaps with your own ideas when it's staring at you in life-size paintings a kilometer long! We went to the Vietnamese embassy to get visa applications. The bureaucracy in all its glory. Decided to let the travel agents handle the rest of it. The plan is to fly BKK to Danang, then a train to Hanoi. Visit a contact there, who will help with explorations, then back to BKK. But first Katmandu, Sun Kosi (river), and trek up to Makalu or Kanchenjunga. That starts Monday. This week on tap is floating market, Thai boxing, and Thai classical music. Oh, and some miscellaneous theorem proving of course. And curry. And little greens-filled fried patties on the street.

Happiness, Tom

Date: Wed, 20 Sep 00 09:49AM EST 
Subject: more ... Labas!

It's been a few days in Bankok. What a cool city. Mona and I have walked a large number of blocks and every one of them is full of fun things to see and talk about. Lots of food, little rubber caps for the legs of the bbq grill back home, tuk tuk drivers offering completely useless advice, cabbies honking to give a lift, food, air-conditioned respites with drinks, more food. Food everywhere. Limes, lychees, strips of fish and mammal, jewelry, amulets. Lots of jewelry. Plenty of advice. One day it's Big Buddha Day, the next is celebration of the Biggest Buddha with Buck Teeth Day, anything to get a lift. But the boats are cool. You don't see a lot of big Chevies on the streets. That's because they took the engines and slapped them onto longhull boats with a prop for a tranny. River and Klong (canal) travel is definitely a great way to see the town. Not to mention random guesses at where to go, impulsive turns into alleys clogged with vendors and shoppers, and the occasional leap onto a boat headed in the direction of the rising or setting sun. The traffic is certifiably insane, but you just have to step out into it. Motorbikes drift up to the front of the pack at lights, then keep on drifting in their general direction.

Mopeds drive down walkways and alleys in the middle of shopping clusters and vending areas, with mounds of wholesale vendage on the way to some other vending location. But back to the boats. Hop on a ferry across the river, especially the one they say not to get on. That's the one to the working people's pier. Funny thing is that there's a restaurant on the Chao Phraya River's edge, called Thai Seafood that actually has the best service yet. And you can watch all the boats, from little one-man longboats racing each other against the tide, to the various ferries and express boats, to dinner vessels lit up like the Disco Flotsam, to tugs hauling barges full or empty, and all of them weaving their way through tide, traffic, and time. All of them motorized. It's not the Thailand Bucky Fuller encountered when he devised his theories of the origins of civilization. Well, it might be, if you strap a V-8 onto any and every thing with wheels or hull. But I'm not worried about my daypack being sliced or my wallet being bumped. People are either too busy shopping, or too slow to keep up with Super Tourists. Mostly too busy shopping. We "farang" are just getting in their way, so we best keep moving. Of course, back home in the Khaosan district, we get more attention, but the food there is skanky, the dogs mangy, and the deals all too predictable. Best to walk a few blocks and get lost in big city Asia.

I haven't read much news, so maybe the continent is "falling to pieces," as the AP likes to write it, but down here at the pavement, there's plenty of smog, grease, chatter, and smiles to go around. Back in the home section (Thanon Ram Buttri, near Thanon Khaosan), for those who have missed minor updates, there's email in every guest house, DVD's all night long, and beer in the streets. It's a farang (gringo) haven (nightmare), but no one talks to each other anyway, since we're all trying so desperately to not be farang. Hard to do when you're glued to the video watching Captain Picard spew philosophy, wishing the watermelon guy in the street would quit ringing his damn cart bell. Whatever. Just take a walk, ride a bus, jump into a cab, hop onto a boat, and hurl yourself into an alley filled with people selling a bunch of junk you have no room for, and all of a sudden, you are the invisible person, worth a glance if you stop to smell the soup or touch some random bizarre fruit. Don't know much about the skin scene. Finally ran across it tonight as we hopped onto the wrong boat, which didn't stop at our pier. So we walked up the west side of the Chao Phraya, to our bridge. Saw a few huge clubs with pictures of girls in the window, and a couple of girls on the sidewalk who caught my eye. Not one of them said a word, since I was with my girl. Kind of showed some natural respect, I thought. Of course, it was only 8 in the evening, but it was plenty dark out. The men in the street paid attention to Mona, but not a peep, unlike in certain (all) parts of Central America, and cities in the US.

Enough of that, though. We're planning to hire one of them high-powered longboats for a morning cruise, then maybe catch some Muay Thai boxing, and hopefully see more of the city, since we have plenty of country living in store, in Nepal and Thailand. Hopefully some in Vietnam, too, after we check out Hanoi. We're eating the ice cubes here, as well as the greens that come with dishes, but still brushing our teeth with bottled water. We saw a few of the water storage tanks that most guest houses use, and probably ours too. This exploring is hard work. Lots of hiking and reading. Time to hit the sack. Good night, and we will write again soon, probably from Kathmandu.

Happy Equinox! Tom

Date: Thu, 21 Sep 00 09:09AM EST 
man this place in flat nuts. food and people and stuff and motorized everything and more food and still more motors..... we're headed to nepal for a month monday. then back here for some volunteer time out in the sticks of thailand, then to vietnam. some of our plans are still to solidify. 

we are having an amazing time. what a place, it reminds me of hong kong in many ways but with less english. i wonder what it was like when the first europeans arrived here. tom and i have been talking about that some. how much was "getting to know you" and how much was "we want this or we'll blow something up". and the food is great. we've been stuffing all sorts of things into our faces without being as careful about possible negative food/intestinal interactions. so far so firm.... tom finished his masters by the by. that's what this trip is kind of about. hurrah! paper done, the paperwork filled out, he is so relieved. makes this trip a great deal easier without that albatross hanging over him. now what to do? well post trip of course. ideas tumble about our heads. of course parts of bloomington are more appealing now, though we both miss asheville. more school for me? dunno. but for now we vacate. let me know how you are.

hugs and stuff mona

Thai Markets and Rivers

Date: Thu, 21 Sep 00 09:55AM EST 
Subject: Sawatdee!

Back again so soon. First a few administrative errands. Bangkok probably has "g" in there. We welcome all news from the other parts of the world! I might not get to reply to all messages - hopefully these updates will suffice, and thanks for writing! "Labas!" is Lithuanian for "Greetings!", or "Sawatdee!" in Thai.

OK. Super Tourists. heh heh. These notes are not even the journal notes that are hopefully being kept for each day on old-fashioned paper. Those are a little dull, just the facts. But I'll try to use them when writing these novellas. I write again so soon to add a few facts. India-town bleeds into Chinatown in one big market. That was the highlight of the street scenes. Longboats are actually called long-tail boats because of the tranny sticking way out into the water from the big V-8 with the little prop spinning on the end. In the Wats, or temples, we are reverent, regardless of the amusing methods practiced by drivers to get us to hitch a ride to see them.

Which brings us to recent news... We rented a longtail boat this morning. 300 baht each for an hour, supposedly, but when asked about renting the whole boat - 400 baht per hour. So we rent two hours and ride up the Klong Bangkok Noi on the west side. I am dying to see the Royal Barge Garage, where the King's fleet is kept. No motors! Roughly a crew of 50 oarsmen and a few superiors each. Amazing prows on these craft. Vishnu riding Garuda. Arasu, (or some little ogre with a similar name), and on the Royal Barge itself, a giant dragon. All of them in gold, on red barges. It seemed like every boat full of farang on the klong just slowed down as they peered into the garage, through slatted metal. Mona and I actually walked along each barge and admired the craftsmanship. Super Tourists so cool.

We jumped back onto our barge and cruised up the klong. The water is very high. Not just high tide, but plenty of rain recently. Makes for harsh riding with the high chop. But we have two hours, so we amble along. Admire a bronze Buddha, this one in the image of Siddhartha Gautama himself (looks like Gandhi), rather than as the ideal Buddha. Sitting, he is about 40 feet high. Further up the river, houses on teak stilts and the water so high that the benches on their porches appear to float in the soup. We pass a klong going south, then under a highway, under the railway. At a floating market, few boats actually there. Cute boats though. Little two-person craft flat and wide, powered by little paddles. Sweet older women paddle up to us, selling standard goods for the not so super tourists. We pass. Then she offers a cold beer. Now we're getting somewhere. 60 baht, but we get them for 40 on the street. OK 50. But I only have a hundred baht, sorry. "I make change for you." OK. Then, instead of change, perhaps I would like to buy a beer for the pilot. Good idea! And no change necessary... Super.

On up the klong to the next intersection. As we near it, we check the map. Thanks to Mona's sister Anne, we have a cool plastic folding map of the city and greater Bangkok. We see another wat coming up, according to the map, Wat Chalao. We mention it to our pilot (and his wife, who had discretely stowed the unopened beer), and they say, "Yes, very good Buddha!" We feel like they are going so slow to make the two hours pass somehow easier, so we decide to see the wat. This was a day of destiny. At first, we went to the pier near the guest house. Mona didn't like the guy offering a ride, so we ditched him. I must remember to follow Mona's keen instincts, for I am generally a blundering fool in street deals. After discussing the merits of her amazing powers (read - near disaster), we walk down to the next pier, where the tourism authority is (Sawatdee Super Tourists). We read about the boating situation and found a cool map, then hired our pilot with some idea of the current rates. Destiny. We see the Royal Barges. Then, at Wat Chalao, we amble among the vendors until we see the temple. They are reconstructions of the Royal Barges in concrete, also 40 feet high! Not quite finished in gold paint and china tiles yet, but the concrete is all done.

No Buddha. We stroll. I see some monks and some buddhists in a large gathering place, so I assume we found the Buddha. I take off my shoes and peek inside. They are welcoming. I step in, stay near the back. They smile. I kneel. They motion me forward. Actually, they motion me all the way to spot between the people, the monks, and the shrine. They offer lunch. Mona steps up to the door, and she is welcomed in. We are late for dinner, but we are offered many dishes of the best food in town. Tom yam khai, crispy fishes, beef stew, this, that, the other. And that, too. A few monks are speaking english, and all are offering food. Then there's is prayer time, but since we are late, we are offered a few dozen dessert dishes, and it turns out, all by the main monk. (I am not up to snuff on the Buddhist lingo, obviously.) Not the dishes. They are all by the visitors. But the offerings are all coming from our new friend, leader of Wat Chalao. His business card is in my pack, so I don't have his name here. We are even offered some to-go items, including a bag of cheeto-like crispy fries. We say a few closing prayers, then it's time to go. We visit with him in his office, a small temple, with phone and daily business of helping visitors. His assistant gives a tour of the ships, where we finally see the Buddha. Good Buddha. The place has hit hard times, because of the slow economy, and maybe the free parking and the free market at the Wat. Hopefully, the wat will be finished. It was all built from a vision of our friend, whose name and position I will send later. The assistant knows english well, and is very friendly. On top of that, he is on the air daily! Either on Ami Radio or ham radio, whichever he said, at 7:30pm. Boats and radio, my kind of Wat! Worthy of a donation for the fine lunch and friendly accommodation.

Well, we're pretty late getting back to the pier, and our pilot has come to fetch us. They are kind to us and laughing, even though they know we are late. The good thing is that they finally hit the gas and we cruise in style back to the Chao Phraya! A nice tip for our crew settles any hard feelings, and we disembark to the pier through a humongous river lunch vessel. Back on the street, back home for a nap. Then a huge rainstorm, and later, a walk through the drizzle to a favorite dinner spot. Still working hard on this super tour... Not exactly enlightened, what with the incredible eats, but definitely enlivened.

Glad tidings Tom

Wat Chalao

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 00 22:44PM EST 
Subject: here we be

tell me stories about bloomington? i don't miss it yet, though i have begun to miss my garden and my kitchen. sounds pretty domestic i guess, but there's something soothing about both. here is really city, impossible to escape. we're walking all over taking it in from dawn to dusk. i love the markets, watching the street vendors cook, watching the incredibly nutball traffic, the art museum was excellent, tai chi in the morning along the river is cool (i do wish i weren't such a complete clutz), the wats, okay just about everything---but i am looking forward to the river and the trekking coming up,i'm about maxed on the city noise and cement. tom's emails have probably covered what we're up to well enough.

the wat we visited a couple of days ago was the most interesting. most of the ones we've visited have been old old. i'd somehow begun to imagine they were all ancient. but the big boat wat (chalao) was still under construction and to be invited to share lunch and meditation was singular. the food was amazing, i've read that the community feeds the monks. at this half moon festival there were some fifty families on the floor with bowls of food everywhere. after sitting down with them (and i have to admit, when tom walked into the middle of the building i was hugely embarrassed, wanting to disappear, he is so much more.....oh i can't think of a good word...but i'd of never walked into the middle of their celebration and we'd have missed out on an excellent afternoon) they pressed some 15 different dishes on us. smiling and nodding, and passing still more food. 

when we finished with the main courses the monks (who sit up on a platform stretching along the back of the room) started pushing over bowls of dessert. so then we tried some ten different sweet things, before begging them to stop (stuff i'd never thought about trying, if it isn't chocolate or fruit i don't do many sweets. lots of coconut custardy things). after the "scripture" was read (do buddists do scriptures?) the father, or spiritual leader of the wat took us into his office/temple. small dark, smokey place packed with buddas of all different sizes, a fridge, old dingey cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, a few fans here and there, a telephone (ringing), 5 or 6 members ofthe community (on their knees, asking questions), frayed carpets, water purifier (a britta i think), various offerings to budda (flowers in all stages of decay, food don't even try to imagine it-- complete with flies), a few monks hustling around on the cramped platform on their knees answering the phone, handling questions from the people below the platform smiling at us offering us water everyone hinging off the father who sat in the middle of it all looking serene. he'd walked us over the the temple from the hall holding tom's hand trying out his english.

so cute. i finally figured out that monks are indeed celibate -- i offered my hand to help the father down from the platform and the monk who spoke some english told me that they were not allowed to touch women. suddenly this odd little interaction on a ferry became clear...there were a number of monks sitting on a bench along the ferry's middle and as the seats filled a woman plopped into a small space between two of the monks. they both instantly jumped up and stood along the railing. the woman offer them a seat, obviously saying please sit, the monks grumbled. ahhhh. any way as the scene in the office became more and more involved the english speaking monk took us off on a tour of the boats in progress. tom ate it up, to stop at a wat whose father had visions of boats housing their budda, what could be better? and the english speaking monk also has a radio show(?)-- funny how well it all fit. and it's about time to go a walking-- not sure what our goal for the day is, further wat bagging?

it's hot! i must shower about three times a day, no ac for us. we splurged the first two nights while sleeping off the jet lag. now we're in a fan room. so shower in the morning, and then rinse off after walking for 5-8 hours, and once right before bed. hit the sheets dripping wet and push the fan onto it's highest setting and pass out. and yeah you'd better hop when the boat hits the dock..... we've a good map (bought it at border's in indianapolis of all places....) , there are english subtitles (thank all that colonization and/or the tourists i guess-- we'd be hurting if we had to match their characters with those on the map-- literacy is a true gift) and with two heads (often bumping) we do well. okay tom says it's time to go, and he wants to read this--- hope all is well with you. tell me stories from home.

love mona

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 00 21:48PM EST 
Mona and I are flying from Bangkok to Danang around the first of December. We plan to spend a couple/few days to get to Hanoi, then we'll check out the city and the northwest. We have a bout two weeks before we fly from Hanoi back to Bangkok. I hope we can meet. It would be fun.

cheers, Tom

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 00 21:54PM CST 
Our flight leaves BKK 8pm monday evening, sep 25, and we arrive KTM sometime around 1am. It might be busy, so we were hoping one of you could buy our room for that night. We'll take a taxi there and pay you in the morning. We prefer chrysanthemums over lotus flowers on the pillows.

thanks, tom

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 00 22:21PM EST 
It changes daily. Presently 43 baht to the dollar and rising...

We're going to fly from Hanoi back to Bangkok, due to travel restrictions in Vietnam. We return around the 11th or 12th. Details later. Remind me to show you Wat Chalao, if I forget. Not a Royal Temple, like some of the wats, but cool place. Thai boxing is ok, and I'd recommend you see it (Lumpini Stadium, friday nights, among others) but I won't go again. Kind of boring after the first few.

see ya, tom

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 00 03:34AM America/Knox_IN 
Thanks for writing, we love to hear what's going on back home!

Mona is very interested in a Thai cooking school, 2 or 4 days, with accommodations and - - - great food! We are also going to certify in scuba, finally, after all these years, out on an island way out to sea. What else. Did I mention that I will be rowing the gear boat on our river trip in Nepal? Probably did, but pretty cool, huh? 8-9 days, across two thirds of the country. Then 3-4 weeks trekking in the Himalayas. Back to Thailand, in the eastern portion (Ubon Ratchathani), for a two week volunteer work camp in sustainable agriculture - rice and buffaloes. That's to ease our yuppie guilt and to get to know some people for real. Then we fly to Danang, Vietnam, near the old demilitarized zone, take a train to Hanoi, and explore for a couple of weeks.

yippee-i-o-kay-ay, time to beat the bricks, Lots of love, Tom and Mona

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 00 09:54AM EST 
i ate something gruesome for you today. there is photographic evidence. twas a fist size (kid you not) fried cockleroach. now i know i'd have to be starving before i could subsist on those. perhaps if they were chopped up......though this one was deepfried with hot pepper flakes and fish sauce. i thought i could pretty much eat shoe leather if it were deep fried.... more later

mushiness mona

Ayutthaya

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 00 22:21PM EST 
Subject: Fwd: hallo

here is amazing. tom's diatribes are covering a lot of what is happening for us. but i wanted to say hello. this place is all city, can't get away from it very easily. yesterday we took a boat along the chao phraya river to a terminal for the speed train. they can't have subways here in bangkok, i think the limestone isn't thick enough beneath the city....though i'm not sure....did i read that somewhere? can't remember. at any rate they've begun a monorail like train aboveground. there was cityscape as far as we could see. i like looking down to see how the city streets spread out, quick glances into another way of life. land is precious, there are few green spaces. there was a golf course hemmed on all sides by bustling streets coated with buildings---and around the course was a horse track complete with the huge stands along one edge. i'm not much for either, but i thought it was a good way to use the available space. we were off to the weekend market. WOW! twas huge, 100foot narrow long sheds with multitudes of plastic awnings stretched out connecting the rows into a vast glom of tin and plastic.

from the train we could see it covered a vast space. once in the market there was everything for sale, orchids pulsing with color, parrots, fighting cocks, marble stone, clothing, shoes, beautiful funky curtains, socks, kitchen goods, fruit, food thai style, seeds, dogs, you name it . and the crowds all bumping and shopping. you can't move fast. and you can't see the sun. the aisles were maybe 5 feet across. and labyrinth. once i'd looked at a few things i was lost as to where the end of the sheds had gotten to. finally after a couple of t-shirts, some seeds of a few odd veggies i've been eating and admiring, a stingray sunglass case for tom, a lesson in the thai alphabet, a bowl of soup (yummy and spicy), a sour pork sausage (not so good to me- though the thai love them), a blue crochet hat, and the plan to return and gift shop at the end of the trip we made our way back towards the train station. but wait, there were fried insects offered up for snacks along the road. i'd been talking with a friend of mine about subsistence on bugs in some cultures now was my chance to check out how fesible that might be.... so we bought a fist sized cockle roach--deep fat fried, with chilli peppers and fish sauce. and in a corner of the bus station we partook. can you say waves of nausea? thought you could. i'd have to be really skinny.

so onto the train and on to sukumvet rd. where condoms and cabbages the restaurant, and incidentally the red light district lay/lie. the restaurant was started by a doctor--the profits go toward educating the thai about safe sex, and sustainable agriculture. and dinner was excellent, the place was gorgamoose, and all for about 10 us dollars. (a couple of beers, 4 new thai dishes, dessert and coffee-- this place is pretty inexpensive once airfare is out of the way) then more train. then our second tuk tuk ride. tuk tuks are motorcycles in front with a carriage like two seater grafted onto their ass end. and the traffic here is completely nuts. the lane markers are only a suggestion, even the double divisions between oncoming traffic-- motorcycles and tuk tuks drift about in moving traffic squeezing into any availalbe space. i could ride with my hand on cars and buses beside our tuk tuk without stretching my arm........oy! a palpable thrill.

then we walked along the last few blocks. where hey what does that guy have on his back up there? oh....that's not a guy that would be an elephant.... an elephant?! what's an elephant doing in the middle of traffic? oh, they're selling bananas to people so they can feed the elephant. the elephant's trunk snakes among the people seated at the small tables set up by the food vendors that line all the streets here. searching for the bananas held up by children, it trumpets if not fed quickly enough, its slow swinging gait ignored by the rushing traffic along the road. tuk tuks and motorcycles collect behind the slow elephant blatting their impatience. so what an elephant, get moving. wow, an elephant in the states would i think stop traffic even on a highway---not here though. crossing the street here is unnerving, not only is the traffic nuts, but it's switched sides. i can never remember which way to look for oncoming traffic. and finally home. to sleep. and more that enough email for today. hope you made it...... and i hope this finds you and that it finds you all well.

hugs and mushy stuff. mona

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 00 22:24PM EST 
Subject: more ... Sawatdee!

Hello. Write you email.

English on the streets. We're finally set to leave Bangkok. Taking the train to the old capital of Ayutthaya this morning. It is raining. Might make for good audio recording, and definitely some good postcard scribbling. The last couple of days still plenty of big city fun. We walked up to the largest teakwood mansion in the world. It was the royal mansion for roughly four years! Then it was on to the next pad for the royal family. Touring Vimanmek was like touring the Biltmore house, very pretty, plenty of art, but we kind of felt like we'd been there before. In fact, much of it was in the European style, as that was fashionable at the time. Then to the Dusit Zoo. DO NOT GO. Depressing. Then we caught a cab to the Lumpini Boxing stadium. Muay Thai boxing is a bit like pro wrestling. Lots of pomp and circumstance compared to the international boxing style. Flowers, prayers, stretching, respects to the coaches, and best of all, drums and horns! The beat is always the same, but it's a battle cadence that gets everyone all stirred up. The boxing includes strikes with the elbows, knees, and feet. A fun spectacle, much more fun I am sure when you place bets like most of the crowd was doing. After a few events, it's not quite so amazing, and I would not go for another night. Funny though, to see some American lads stroll in with the Muay Thai ceremonial headdresses on. It seemed kind of disrespectful, but as long as someone is making money off of the tourists, no one is offended.

The next day we wanted to catch a boat up to the pier for the weekend market. We returned to the tourist authority, to find out about that and today's train ride. The last thing our advisor mentioned was that we should ride a boat downstream, instead, and the catch the skytrain. Skytrain. mmmmmmmm. Air-conditioned, brand spanking new, not even in the newest guide books or maps. Skytrain good. It's about six stories up and covers a good chunk of the city, and quite affordable. Goes well with boats. So we rode the train up to the north end, and walk down the stairs, straight into the weekend market at Chadu Chek Park. It is a huge collection of buildings housing everything imaginable, and packed with vendors and shoppers. Plenty of food to choose from, clothings, rocks, plants, wood, leather, toys, curtains, soaps, furnitures, and the occasional portable tv with the olympics - boxing, swimming, and track mostly. I didn't get to see any kayak races this week, but the Thai boxers are doing pretty well. The market is a two-day event, and we will be back. There are some nice marble boulders I had my eye on.

Back on the skytrain to the southern end, which is the Sukhumvit district. We had a quick snack of beetle and grasshopper before descending to Thanon Sukhumvit. Here are the girls of the night. Accordingly, here is also where you find polo shirts for sale on the street. We read about the really good restaurants here, and chose Cabbages and Condoms. This place is part of the vasectomy and condom center of Bangkok. All proceeds to further reproductive and sexual education in Thailand. Every kind of condom imaginable on display. The food was very very good. Spicy papaya salad, steamed chicken and onion dumplings, thai chili dip with green beans and cabbage, and roast pork in gravy with greens. Of course the large white guy near us chose the deep fried platter, but he seemed to enjoy that too. Back onto the street, up to the skytrain for one more jaunt to the center of town, down to the street, and along Thanon Ratchamdari. We walk with an elephant for a while who is begging food and donations from people eating at sidewalk stands. Then we flag down a tuk-tuk, which is a three wheel motorcycle with a canopy, and we haul ass through town to the Democracy Monument. From there it is a short walk to Thanon Tanao, and we recognize Thanon Khaosan one block up by the bright sign for My Mom Bar. A quick stroll along Khaosan, the farang hangout, which is insanely loud and crazy on the weekend, towards home, the New Siam Guest House. We have checked out a number of guest houses and hotels in the area, and New Siam seems to be one of the nicest. It's off a quieter alley, big clean rooms, and they keep the cafe's TV and stereo at calm volumes, unlike the rest of the district.

It is time to check out, ride a train to Ayutthaya, hang there for the night, then the train back down to the airport, where we fly to Kathmandu. We are ready for the change. Bangkok has been fun, and probably a great way to warm up to Asia, but we need to see some country.

By the way, I never mentioned this little traveler's tip. Be careful when cleaning up the yard before you go not to grapple with poison ivy. After a week, I am recovering, but it would not have been pretty had I been in a place with lots of itchy bugs and plants to complicate things!

cheers, Tom

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 00 00:31AM EST 
we've moved along to ayutthaya the ruins of thailand's old capitol. lots of big fat wats with all the stucco(?) and glitter burned off by the burmese in the 1800s. these were made of brick, pretty wild to see the structure. we took the train up here. very few farang on the train and we've come to a place with very few english subtitles. the maps become a little more of a challenge. but the town isn't very large so the guidebook's map still keeps us mostly oriented. oh yeah it's hot, we walked from the train station with pack on. that was maybe a couple of miles (fending off tuk tuks the whole way--they are a different style here, i wonder if each town has a shop that manufactures their tuk tuks?) and we arrived dripping. walking gives us some control over where we end up- rather than the tuk tuk drivers uncle henry who has a shed out back.... there is a huge park in the middle of town where folks were out picnicing and playing soccer, amidst the ruins. really nice. we also watched 24 elephants walk along the edge of the park. to where? complete with terribly cute babies running along behind. not to mention the vast piles of elephant offel. behind the train were people on motorcycles pulling carts with a partner to run along side with a shovel....they made off with the (awful) offel. ummm... yeah.

brenda, our housesitter, sounds like she's doing well with mocha and crusty. she's actually running with mocha. that takes some guts, i've taken a couple of flights when mocha decided to switch directions suddenly (that is, a rabbit or squirrel has run across our path) ..... but i was relieved to hear from brenda--- we'd forgotten to get her e mail and were contemplating calling her to ask if all was well. then we were having trouble figuring out what time it was or even what day it might be. not to mention this smaller town doesn't have phones that we can use for international calls... we're renting bikes this afternoon to check out the town. and then flying to nepal tonight. talk to you later.

love mona

Date: Mon, 25 Sep 00 00:51AM EST 
wow you're brave. i've taken some whippers over mocha's back running with her. something crosses the path and she lunges for it while i am suddenly airborne due to tripping over her back. (then of course she looks worried, but hey look mona's face is at my level so i'll lick it, now why is she so cross...?) you go. glad to hear you're doing well, we were thinking about calling you last night (your sunday morning i think) but we couldn't figure out time, day, then none of the availalbe phones would do international calls. eat all you want of the carrots, potatoes, and anything else (leeks) you want.

the loofa when the vines die-- probably the first frost-- pull the gourds off and set them on the table thing in the shed to dry. what you don't eat of the carrots can just stay in the ground-- the potatoes should you dig them need to dry out on the table in the shed, covered by some cloth (light makes them turn green and that's supposed to be poisonous) for a week or so then bring them in to the kitchen. i keep them in a basket beneath the sink. feel free to throw more stuff in boxes if you need more space. and eat whatever you want in the kitchen. hope all is well. thanks for keeping us posted, ever the worried dog/cat parents. mushiness mona




 
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