BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for June, 2006

« Home

Asian Markets

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

I picked up a book to read in the hostel the other day, and it has probably one of the best descriptions of an Asian market ever laid down on paper:

“Like many people on the island, Joe’s does not yet possess a refrigerator. Perishable foods are stored in buckets or boxes of ice. When the ice melts, the food perishes – and in hot tropical climates ice melts pretty damn fast. Consequently, we all go to the market nearly every day to buy fresh, perishable food that hasn’t perished yet.
The market generally opens around five in the morning, and by seven most of the ice has melted. The food, however, is a good deal fresher to start with than you’ll likely find in a modern air-conditioned supermarket. The plucked chickens are hanging from hooks, and their throats were cut only an hour or two before going on sale. In some markets, they’ll cut the chicken’s throat while you wait.
That’s fresh chicken.
Being so-called ‘free-range’ fowl that Western health food fanatics are so fond of, but seldom ever eat, means that these little darlings might well have been rummaging through your garbage pit only yesterday. In other words, you may have been eating bits and pieces of the same meal for a long time. Sort of like what the Spanish have been doing with sherry for hundreds of years.
The vast majority of seafood is also fresh. Swimming around minding their own business a few hours earlier, suddenly the fish are all screaming, ‘The sea is rising! The sea is rising!’ Of course, the sea wasn’t rising for the fish anymore than the sky was falling for that silly chicken. What was rising was a fisherman’s net, and then, lo and behold, the fish are on the deck of a longtail boat flopping about like fish out of water. Some of them are packed on ice, and others are put in pails of water. You can buy them dead or alive.
So far, you may be thinking these open-air markets should be closer to home. Maybe you’d like one in your neighborhood. Well that’s because you ain’t seen the flies. They’re all over the fresh dead flesh. You ain’t seen the rats scurrying along the open drainage system. You ain’t seen the scurvy dog gnawing on a buffalo bone, and you for sure ain’t seen the blood and guts of various animal kingdom creatures splattered all over every which-a-way.
The best advice when shopping at one of these markets is to get there early, get your grub, and get out. Go home, wash all the fresh meat with clean water and a little vinegar, pack it in ice, knock back a shot of whiskey, and pray you’re hungry before the ice melts.”

Morgan McFinn – Out of the Loop: Scenes from Samui and Other Seascapes

Ready… set… Action!!

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

So far on this trip I’ve helped build houses in Auckland, went whitewater rafting in Rotorua, bungy jumped in Queenstown, climbed Mt. Kinabalu and went snorkeling in Borneo, and ran a marathon in Thailand. Now I can add acting in a movie to the list. The BBC and HBO are here in Phuket filming a movie about the tsunami that hit SE Asia in December 2004. They’ve been recruiting westerners to be extras in the film, so I went to the set last Monday morning and ended up working all week. How crazy is that? I’m in Thailand on holiday, and I end up being in a movie. I knew I was going to have some cool experiences on this trip, but that’s definitely one thing I didn’t expect.

[read on]

I finished!!!

Sunday, June 18th, 2006


One of the mantras of the independent traveler is “No Expectations.” It was with this in mind that I ran in and finished my second marathon. This time it was the Phuket International Marathon in Phuket, Thailand. It was a pitiful performance to say the least, but considering I’ve only ran 4-5 times since I left the U.S., and never longer than 3 miles, finishing was definitely an accomplishment. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 50 minutes, or over an hour and a half slower than the Portland Marathon last fall.

[read on]

Paradise Found

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

As with most things, you get what you pay for, and paradise doesn’t come cheap. But it does go on sale every once in a while. I’m now staying at Bangtao Beach, on the northwest coast of Phuket. The Bangtao Beach Resort is part of the Best Western chain, and was one of the recommended hotels for the Phuket Marathon. It’s expensive by backpacker’s standards, but at $45 USD a night it’s still a steal. And I figured since I’m running a marathon this weekend, the least I could do is reward myself with air conditioning and a comfortable king-size bed. Along with the great room, the resort also has two pools, a spa, a great outdoor restaurant, and is about 20 meters from the beach.

[read on]

People unclear on the concept…

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

I went for another run this morning, this time to the top of Phuket Hill. On the way back down the hill as I was heading back into town, a taxi driver actually honked at me. There I was, wearing nothing but shoes, shorts, and a watch, and this guy thought I might need a lift. I guess I did look like I was in a hurry…

Anyway, less than 72 hours until the marathon. I hope I make it. 🙂

The other side of the tracks

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

This morning I got up early (first time in a while) and went for a run around Hua Hin. The streets in Asia are narrow, some with sidewalks and some without. And if you find a sidewalk it is probably cluttered with vendors, scooters, and dogs. 🙂 So finding a place to run can be a challenge. The only solution is to pick a time when there’s not much traffic and run down the middle of the street. So that’s exactly what I did.

Aside from the main street in Hua Hin, most of the streets seem to be pretty short. I cobbled together a route that went from my guesthouse up the beach past the fancy resorts, crossing the main road and heading toward the train station where I had arrived into town. There wasn’t much going on at 7:15 in the morning, so the run was pretty easy going. It only took me about 7 minutes to get to the train station, so from there I had to make up the route as I went. I decided to cross the tracks and run toward the hills. Once I crossed the tracks was when I got a taste of the real Thailand. The homes were all quiet and there were much fewer vendors around. Cattle were roaming about, and I passed one bull that was nosing around in the roadside garbage can. The school busses were making their rounds and it looked pretty much like any other small country town. Except for the fact that I was the only westerner around. I did get a couple of curious looks, but for the most part the locals seemed to ignore the beet-faced and sweaty white guy running by. It was vastly different from the touristy beach side of town, with it’s open-air bars, shops, and massage parlors. It was a nice change of scenery. I finished my run back where I started, and walked out to the fishing jetty too cool off. There were several men out on the jetty searching the water for signs of fish, ready to cast out their nets. A couple of boats were launching out sea, and it made for a nice morning.

[read on]

Lessons on Life, Vol. 1

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

After three months of traveling, I’ve come to the conclusion that what makes a trip really worthwhile has very little to do with the places you go, and has everything to do with the people you meet. Sure, I’ve seen and done some really amazing things, but take my time in Taiwan as an example. If you’ve seen one or two temples, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Some are larger and more spectacular than others, but when it comes right down to it, a temple is a temple. And I suppose a pub is a pub too, but the things I’ll remember most are talking with the Taiwanese rockers and playing Liar’s Dice with my new friends who spoke almost no English. Turns out, the things I’m enjoying most while traveling are the are the same things that make me happy when I’m at home: hanging out with my friends, hiking, listening to live music, eating good food, etc. I guess the difference now is that because I’m “on holiday” as they say, I don’t have to worry about making the time to do all these things. So I guess the lesson is, holiday or not, take the time to do the things you enjoy. Try leaving the office on time for once, letting the laundry wait until tomorrow, and enjoying today.

Scooter craziness, Taiwanese rockers, and more bloody steps…

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Well, I guess it’s been a few weeks since I’ve checked in. I’m in Hua Hin, Thailand right now, about 200Km south of Bangkok on the Gulf Coast. It’s a pretty nice town, very clean and tourist friendly. I came here specifically for the Hua Hin Jazz Festival that is happening this weekend.

I spent much of the last few weeks in Taichung hanging out with Kristen, my friend from Eugene and one of the people I traveled to Borneo with. She’s been living in Taichung and teaching English for the last year. She was awesome enough to let me crash on the floor at her place for two weeks, and it was nice to take a little break from the traveling and chill out in one spot for a while.

The first thing that struck me about Taiwan was that almost everyone drives a scooter. When I arrived in Taichung at 12:00 in the morning, Kristen came and picked me up on her scooter (me and my forty-plus pound pack). The scooters outnumber cars in Taiwan. Several times, I saw an entire family on one scooter: mom, dad, two kids, and some times a dog. It was pretty funny. But given the amount of traffic, it really makes sense, as it is much easier to get around on a scooter, and it’s much easier to park. The scariest thing I saw was the guy driving around with two large propane tanks strapped to the back of his scooter. (Just like most other Asian countries, Taiwan also has a lot of food stalls, and I imagine that all of them use gas stoves to cook on.)

[read on]