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Malaysia Visa Run

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Sunday (probably your Saturday) I spent 12 hours ferrying onto the mainland and going in a van 400km to Malaysia and back for new visa stamp. I have a multi-entry year long visa that cost me $120 ($54US) but they still make me leave every three months! Three caravaned vans with 10-12 people in each…and there are companies all over Samui that offer the same runs.  I thought I would get 3 more months but they gave me only 2 because it is all up to the particular border office what they will give you!  Now if I wanted to stay a third month I would have to go to the local Samui immigration office and pay 1800 baht ($54US) for 1 more month! Imagine how many expats all over Thailand or people on long-term stays who are doing the same thing!  Way to bring money into Thailand!  I think if I had flown out and back in I would have gotten 3 months.  But I’m leaving before the third month anyway.

The run was quite an experience as my son Doug who lives here warned me.  I think the Austrian trip leader belonged to the gestapo in another life! Maybe even a cousin of Hitler’s! :) ) Driving 150km an hour (90mph) with only a half dozen near misses, we got only two 5-minute potty stops on the way and on the way back.  And at the border there was a HUGE local week-end market where we were told by the gestapo NO TIME FOR SHOPPING!  But some of the guys (and they were ALL guys) sneaked some food. And on the way back at the last stop we only got 2 minutes because the gestapo wanted to make the 3pm ferry to Samui instead of waiting until 4pm.  At the border office we got yelled at because we were standing as a group, as we had been told NOT to do, and not lined up one after the other like the SS. Wonder what would happen if he tried to do this in China! :) ) Oh well…it was all quite organized.  He knew all the border guards and did a good job greasing the whole thing for us.  And wonder of wonders he pronounced my last name (Goetz) right!  I told him it was the first time ever!  Usually people who don’t know me say Go-etz or Goats instead of Gets! Ha!  But had never been on the Thai side of the Thai/Malaysia border so it was nice to see how tropical it was.  Southern Thailand has been racked in recent years by a Muslim separatist movement but like with all the negative media attention in Oaxaca…no bombers were seen! Ha!

The pony-tailed gestapo trip leader had visited most of the States and worked for two years in Florida as a tour guide. “Did you know Central Florida is the second largest beef cattle producer in the States?”  No! I exclaimed.  This is an interesting phenomenon.  Often foreign tourists know more about the sights than the local people.

I was tucked into the very back seat (seats were assigned by the gestapo) with a young guy from The Netherlands who at one time had a band in NYC…writing the lyrics and producing the music and who now was writing a book about Thai culture and the law to be entitled “RESPECT” targeted to all the young Western guys who are here for “Happy.”  Since he was married to a Thai,  I asked how long he had been living here. “16 months,” he says.  Oh, good, I thought!  And you are writing about Thai culture!  Guys don’t realize how dangerous it can be here, he says. Give a Thai the middle finger, he said, and you will be killed.  And of course everyone should know what happens if you are caught with drugs of any kind.  And 8 people are killed every week on the sandy ring road around Samui. Well, it will be better for young guys than reading “Bangkok 8″ so it may do some good.  I hope.

A Village of Two Houses

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I got “home” late last night from a day trip to a “village” just off highway 304 in Chachoengsao Province about two hours east of Bangkok.  This visit had several advantages.

I got to see my friends Dave and Syy again and meet Syy’s mother, brother and two year old niece who slept the peaceful afternoon away in a cloth swing while we visited in an outdoor covered area attached to Syy’s mother’s house.

I got to see my Vietnamese friend Nick again.  Nick is a flight attendant for United Airlines. I last saw him a couple years ago when he visited me, Doug and Luk on Koh Samui on a quick side-trip on his way to visit family in Viet Nam.  He gave me a freshly minted copy of his memoirs on that visitthat included the story of his escape with his family from Saigon in 1975 when he was 7 years old and subsequently resettled in the middle of Kansas!

Dave, Syy and I were imagining Nick lounging in first class on his flight from LA to Bangkok this time too.  But alas we gave him our appropriate condolences when he revealed that the flight was full, he got the flight attendant jump seat all the way from LA to Tokyo and a middle seat in coach seat from there to Bangkok!  We truly hope that he got a better seat on his return flight this morning….having spent only one night in Bangkok!

And I got to find out how to catch a van to outlying areas.  Skytrain to the Victory Monument. From the skytrain platform, look for one of the figures on top of the monument of a sailor holding a torpedo.  Walk in the direction that the torpedo is pointing.  Take an exit off the platform to the right…to a small street named Ratchatewi 11 that runs parallel to the raised BTS walkway above.  About half way down that street look for a restaurant called Pong Lee.  Next to the restaurant is a sidewalk desk to buy a ticket for the desired van.  Show them a piece of paper that says in Thai (presumably you have found someone to do this for you) Pratchinburi/Klong Rang/Tawa Ravadee Hotel so they can direct you to the right van in a very long line of white vans lined up on the street.  The fee for us was 130 baht one-way…or $4.00.  (But Dave said it should have been 120 baht so we don’t know whether to blame Nick or me!)

Dave wrote a little description of the “village” for his email list that I think I will lift for this post because his description is much better than mine would be. He says:

<em>the village is composed of two adjoining houses, Na Tit’s abode and Syy’s mom’s old house. Syy’s moms house is now an empty shell housing a few relics of the past including a clock stuck at 5:30 and memory filled photos on the wall reminding one of an earlier time. The house has been gutted of all inner conveniences and last night I was forced to sleep on the hard wood floor, waking up with an ache in the back or maybe an ache in the heart for the old home.

The days are warm and mild, the chickens wake us up every morning at 5. Now we have to make the long walk through the overgrown remnants of what used to be a garden but is now planted with thorny eggplants to Somsak’s home for our tri daily meals. Since we were here last, Somsak has built 2 small adjoining rooms on the estate, one for mother and one for Far. Somsak and Duen’s small room was slammed with lightening not long ago which tore out their AC unit.

Ants and papayas seem to be the big cash crops this year. The backyard is filled with recently planted papaya’s already loaded with young green fruit. The homes that were removed this year from the village have been completely replaced by the tropical vegetation and now you can never tell they were ever there. As a result, there is a new natural feel to the village, having lost its human component, and has been replaced by a veritable green paradise.

We started our meal last night with a bang, eating big green and white ants with enormous abdomens that literally pop in your mouth, making a sound akin to popcorn bursting into action for the first time on the bottom of a hot grease filled frying pan.</em>

As I sit here writing this, I hear fireworks. It seems very familiar.  Then I realize I am in Thailand not Oaxaca Mexico!  I step out onto my small 8th floor veranda and see the sky between the buildings alive with light and sound. I feel right at home because I have no idea what the occasion is…just like most of the times there are fireworks displays in Oaxaca! :)   This is the 3rd fireworks in a month here.  Last couple fireworks I figured was in honor of the King’s birthday.

This time…Christmas?!!

Almost Didn’t Make The Plane To Kunming

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Hard to believe I was in Beijing for two weeks. But you know what they say about stinking guests if they stay too long. So today I flew to Kunming in Yunnan Province in the south ... [Continue reading this entry]

International Driving

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007
Don't know if it's just Oaxaca or maybe it's the whole of Mexico. However, my dentist says that drivers in Oaxaca are worse than in Mexico City! But in Xalapa they were ever so polite...big fines meted out ... [Continue reading this entry]

Market In Tlacolula

Monday, June 19th, 2006
oaxacacentralmap.jpg Yesterday my friend Sharon and I hopped a diesel-spewing bus for the hour ride to Tlacolula, southeast of the city, where vendors from multiple little villages around the Oaxaca Valley come on Sundays to ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tuk Tuk Tour

Saturday, April 15th, 2006
After the Lao Cotton Company party, Villa, the driver, took a nap in his tuk tuk while we rested in our room. Later that night we toured the city under the lights. Villa, it turns out, is not just ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sabaidee Pi Mai Lao!

Thursday, April 13th, 2006
Lao New Year (and in Thailand) is a time to encourage young people to absorb the spirit of cleaning their temples, houses, stupas of their ancestors and apparently the bodies of anyone, especially the foreigners they come across. The purpose ... [Continue reading this entry]

Phousi Market

Sunday, April 9th, 2006
LKcJ5S1GCDOhltUeaMWmZw-2006185144552848.gif I discovered today that the Talat Dala Market that used to be up the street toward the river has moved to the outskirts of town and is now called the Phousi Market (pronounced "poosi ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lao “Disco”

Monday, April 3rd, 2006
ySKKSpbtXBjgyhP6z8LuC0-2006217035001655.gif Last night a lively 50 year old woman that teaches kindergarten in Alberta Canada, a young woman from California who is a consultant to a California educational testing company, an even younger woman from ... [Continue reading this entry]

Luang Prabang Lao

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006
DSC00495.JPG Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Faithful Tuk Tuk Driver

Saturday, March 25th, 2006
eWCBF9KYWi73omUCUHRffw-2006185115650300.gif Nice to have someone faithful to me. I trust Supoat, in his 50's, with soft face and warm bright eyes. I call him when I need him to drive me somewhere in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Motorcycle Serenade

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
Last night I hopped a motorcycle taxi at the corner. "Where you from?" the cute young driver asked. "America," I said. "America Pie" he sang to me all the way to my dentist appointment. "I used ... [Continue reading this entry]

More On Mao

Friday, December 23rd, 2005
We are grounded by the subway strike so have been reading more of the biography of Mao by authors Jung Chang, the author of the wonderful three-generation epic "Wild Swans," and her British husband Jon Halliday. What is especially interesting so ... [Continue reading this entry]

“Taxation Without Representation”

Friday, November 4th, 2005
Taking a fast sleek train, we are visiting our country's capitol city for a few days. "Taxation Without Representation" is written at the bottom of D.C. license plates here in the District of Columbia. Don't know why DC's ... [Continue reading this entry]

Washington Heights

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005
The "F" subway line, if you take it to the very end at the northern tip of Manhattan Island, lets you off in a Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. Everyone on the streets and in the stores were Spanish-speaking giving ... [Continue reading this entry]

Stories Of The Bangkok Street

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
Ten baht (25 cents) for a motorcycle taxi gets me to the American educated dentist down the soi and around the corner in little more than a minute...scared to death that the trucks, cars, motorcycles, light poles, ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Harley in Viet Nam

Saturday, June 18th, 2005
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171162818157.gif June 10, 2004 While I was in Bangkok Bob flew to Vietnam. He wrote to say he had difficulties accessing the web today and spent most of the day traveling. His emails: Now in Da lat ... [Continue reading this entry]

“Oh New Shoes Lost Me!”

Monday, May 16th, 2005
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171163517229.gif After a flight from Bangkok on Bangkok Air, I have been enjoying my 26 year-old daughter-in-law on quiet Khlong Muang Beach in Krabi Province the last couple of weeks while my son Doug is ... [Continue reading this entry]

Inconsistent Thai Values

Thursday, April 28th, 2005
After nearly a dozen visits and about six months time in the city, over the last several years, we have gotten to know Bangkok a little. In this city with a population of over 9 million people we can ... [Continue reading this entry]

Trekking Northern Thailand

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005
gatQye8keZlS3vpnwrOvxg-2006186163905868.gif As soon as we returned to Bangkok from Bali Bob took a train to Chiang Mai for a trek in northern Thailand near Mae Son Hong. I stayed in Bangkok to have some ... [Continue reading this entry]

Keeping Body and Soul Together

Friday, April 1st, 2005
In Bangkok we got a good deal for a month in a beautiful completely furnished apartment on a dead-end street in the upscale Saladaeng area...close to the Skytrain and the new subway that is running again after a recent accident. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Vibrant Bangkok

Friday, March 11th, 2005
Bangkok Air From Koh Samui to Bangkok again. Not a pretty city but it's vibrant. The populace, as with much of Asia, lives outdoors-almost all 10 million of them. It is increasingly cosmopolitan and this year seems ... [Continue reading this entry]

Miao Village In Guizhou

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171171225701.gif In Shanghai, exploring the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree web site, I noticed a query from a young woman from Kaili in Guizhou Province who was offering to arrange a homestay in a Miao minority ... [Continue reading this entry]

“No Foreigners Allowed”

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004
East China.gif Travelled last p.m. from Tengshau to Yangzhau--train left at 7 p.m.--reported to be a 10 hr ride--however was aroused at 2 a.m. by the train mother that it was time to get off--so ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lao Shan Mountain Climb

Sunday, October 31st, 2004
East China.gif Spent 3 days in Quin Dao...one in new part of town, one in old town and one on a mountain north of town called Lao Shan--subsequently took train to Tai'an and climbed Tai ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kindred Spirits in Quindao

Saturday, October 30th, 2004
East China.gif Walking by the Foreign Language Bookstore in Quindao, just up the street from my comfy clean hotel room that a tout from the railroad station led me to...80 yuan she says..that's about ... [Continue reading this entry]

Overnight Train to Xuindao

Sunday, October 24th, 2004
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171174607989.gif Xuindao is also spelled Quindao From Beijing, I take an overnight train alone to Quindao. Quindao is a weekend getaway for well-to-do Communist party cadres and the train is brand spanking shiny new. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Last Leg Through Mongolia

Thursday, October 14th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Out of the train window, just before departure from Ulaan Bataar to Beijing on the last leg of our trans-siberian train trip, we watch about 30 Mongolians...brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents and who ... [Continue reading this entry]

Message from Ulaan Bataar

Saturday, October 9th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Greetings- Have been in Mongolia for the past week--initial few days in a ger bordering on a national park--lazy, relaxing days with hiking and Mongolian pony riding (when on the horse my feet nearly reach ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lingering Images of Russia

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Siberian countryside with endless kilometers of grassland and golden pine and white birch trees... small wooden, weathered, unpainted, picturesque, single story bungalows throughout Sibera with blue painted shutters-the banya (toilet and shower) in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Grueling Border Wait

Friday, October 1st, 2004
The wait at the Russian-Mongolian border is a grueling 5-6 hour wait for customs to go through each carriage and take our passports, return to the office to fill out forms and then return with our passports. Olga takes ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Tajik and Olga

Thursday, September 30th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif The Tajik and Olga In Irkutsk, when we find our seats on the train to Ulaan Baatar, we find a good-looking 40 year old Muslim man from Tajikistan in our cabin. He has studied ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanging Out On Olkhon Island

Sunday, September 26th, 2004
Urr0g6ZfQ7ttYL19duYJfg-2006170133924757.gif After hanging out a couple days...glad to be off the train...Gregory, a former University teacher of German, drove Bob and I, three Germans and a Pole on a half-day excursion to the north of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Patagonia

Thursday, December 18th, 2003
teXZAa4IijhKtuKuptSO5g-2006170183159840.gif Bob begins his Patagonia leg...making his way through through Baliroche and Califate Argentina. He visited the Los Glaciares National Park by bus, which is an area of exceptional natural beauty, with rugged, towering mountains ... [Continue reading this entry]

Big Noses In The Back Again!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Bus to Dali As we pulled ourselves up into the luxury express bus we felt that we were living large...we wouldn't have local color but we would have comfort for a change. Jana, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Westerners Go In The Back

Thursday, November 21st, 2002
YUqE3FCf1Hd9CjfG1qqmt0-2006171132705308.gif Video Thursday November 21 2002 Reading "The Coming Collapse of China," a book written by a Chinese American economist...a dissenting opinion...he gives China five years to get their banking system in order...which he doubts will ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanoi City Tour

Wednesday, September 25th, 2002
Wasn't excited by the city bus tours so spent an entire day riding behind a motorcycle taxi guy to visit the One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and the Martyrs Monument erected to those who died fighting for Viet Nam's ... [Continue reading this entry]

Nyaung U

Friday, August 23rd, 2002
Burma.gif The largest village in the area is Nyaung U about 5 km up the Irriwaddy River from the Pagan Archeological Site and you can visit the market and food stalls there by taking a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Skytrain Tuk Tuks Cycles & Boats

Tuesday, August 6th, 2002
The SkyTrain is an air conditioned jam-packed elevated transportation system financed by the World Bank that can scoot you quickly from one part of the city to another but for some reason, probably due to corruption, is in the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Rickshaw Driving Lesson

Wednesday, July 31st, 2002
After dinner, Bob entertains the nearby date sellers by dickering with another rickshaw driver who makes the mistake of saying to Bob "You are rich man-why can't you give me few extra rupees?" Bob shot back that "I have ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bargaining for a Rickshaw

Tuesday, July 30th, 2002
Our last night in Delhi before taking the train to a cooler Shimla in the mountains for a few days, we strike out in the worst part of the day for traffic to have dinner in Old Delhi. Bob ... [Continue reading this entry]

Traveling India Bob-Style

Saturday, July 27th, 2002
The Indians have a wonderful sense of humor so Bob takes advantage of it and manages to turn everything upside down wherever we go. In addition to an auto-rickshaw, India has bicycle rickshaws-a three-wheeler bicycle with a seat for ... [Continue reading this entry]

Four Taxis to Dinner In Mumbai

Thursday, July 18th, 2002
In Mumbai one night it was so ludicrous we just had to laugh...afterward. Taxi number one only got us to the end of our street before Bob, realizing the driver didn't know where the hell to go, jumped out of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Asane’s Taxi Tour

Thursday, July 18th, 2002
In Mumbai, we took a three-hour government sponsored tour in an Indian-made Ambassador car with "Indian A/C" which is a fan that sits on the dashboard. While we were waiting for Bob to run back to the hotel for the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Table Mountain & District 6

Tuesday, June 25th, 2002
S12J2pKbmw6zVZyRvmb7L0-2006193181305721.gif The geographical configuration of the city of Cape Town at the foot of Table Mountain is as beautiful as everyone has said it is. We took the cable car to the top of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Otjiwarongo Cheetah Camp

Wednesday, June 5th, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193172914229.gif June 5, 2002 The next morning James drives us back to Outjo, the small predominantly German/Afrikaner town we had stayed in before and we buy apple strudel and real drip coffee in the bakery and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ombinda Country Lodge

Sunday, June 2nd, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193172914229.gif Sunday June 2, 2002 near Outjo Yesterday the truck broke a spring so we stopped in the Afrikaner town of Outjo to find a mechanic and pick up some groceries. James drove us to ... [Continue reading this entry]

Diamonds And Plastic

Friday, May 31st, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193161808725.gif On the way back to Maun Botswana in the Safari truck, Rod explains that the area around Maun is in the fastest growing area in the southern hemisphere because of the discovery of diamonds ... [Continue reading this entry]

Okavango Delta By Makoro

Wednesday, May 29th, 2002
The Makoro Trip through the Delta By the time the 1300 km long Okavango, southern Africa's third largest river, enters Botswana from Angola, through the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, it begins to spread and sprawl as it is absorbed by the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Victoria Falls & Rafting The Zambezi In Zambia

Saturday, May 25th, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193164953338.gif Sun May 25, 2002 Up at 5:30 for the sunrise micro-light (motorcycle with wings) ride to view the falls and the geologic formation left by them over thousands of years. The half hour ... [Continue reading this entry]