Friday, April 28, 2006

More scenes from Luang Prabang

I took something like 1000 pictures on this trip. If y'all are getting bored with them, well, you might wanna just skip my blog for a while!

Besides, I don't really have much to write about for day to day stuff. It has been cloudy and cool here in my little part of Norway the past week, I've started working out again and the job is still on hold. We are trying to figure out the next batch of travel, but first i sorta have to pay for some of my previous might be a few weeks before i have something interesting planned. So, in the meantime, more pictures of exotic destinations past.

Rear view of monks walking away after the alms ceremony. I have tons of monk pictures, that flash of orange is just so picturesque. Look how tiny they are! Just boys!

A woman sitting on a side street in Luang Prabang, sorting rice and feeding chickens. Chickens (and puppies) were EVERYWHERE. No worries about avian flu here, apparently. Isn't that a beautiful cock? (huh huh..)
Luang Prabang is slowly but surely being touristified, but you can find side streets like this where life goes on as it has for hundreds of years. They were just building the nice brick streets during our visit, they have been dirt up til now.

Phousi massage? No, really, thank YOU!

I had to have a picture of this. This was our bathroom in Luang Prabang. Notice the plug right next to the shower head? It was for the bathroom outlet. To plug it in you had to stand on a wet tile floor! I called it the Shower of Death.....zzzzaapp!

People setting out their wares for the night market. The night market in Luang Prabang ROCKED. It was small enough to be intimate, large enough to keep you occupied every night for at least an hour or two. First night you went to get familiar with what was on offer, 2nd night to see what the best stuff was for the price, third to start bargaining. It took over the main road in town for about half a kilometer, right in front of the 'palace'. Unfortunately, the folks on motorcycles were not blocked out and so you had to be careful not to get run over or burned by the tailpipes of stupid kids on motorbikes riding not 6 inches from the items on offer. Between them and dogs, chickens, people and kids running around, it was a crazy scene.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Giving Alms to the Monks in Luang Prabang

This is me in Luang Prabang Laos, waiting to feed the monks. It was 6 am, so yes, I have no makeup on. Note the scarf wrapped around me, my shoes to the side and the way I am sitting, with my feet under me. A woman must always sit lower than the monks and your feet (always bare) should never ever be pointed at anyone. It's considered a grave insult.
About 20 feet away to my left was a line of about 200 monks waiting for the ceremony to begin. About 50 yards away the other direction were more groups of men and women lining the street, waiting to give their offerings. I, lucky thing, was first and had no one from whom to learn by example.

A wat in Luang Prabang. There are something like 33 of them in that one small town. By small, I mean SMALL. About the size of UT's 40 Acres, for you Austin folks.

Men giving alms to the monks. Notice that they get to stand. Why does religion always always penalize women? That really bugs me. That monk in the picture, he was the head guy and he was a bit of a grump.

Me and the line of monks. The rice I gave them was very sticky and very hot. I just reached in the basket and grabbed a gob of it and put it in their bowls. I wondered about the hygienity of it all. I mean, they walk all around town and are given food by about 200+ people. I hope everyone washed their hands.

Local women giving alms.

I really hope that by joining in the ceremony, I wasn't regarded as just a tourist interfering in the local tradition. I fear I was looked at that way, but I really wanted it to mean something and was VERY concerned, even nervous, before hand for fear of fucking up somewhere. I really wanted to feel apart of this beautiful ritual. I just wish I knew a little more about it beforehand, and I doubly wish I had totally told those pushy women who forced extra food and a mat on me to go fly a kite. Apparently, from my research on it afterwards, letting them "help me" (and then make me give them money for their "help") is a common tourist faux pas. and the monks don't appreciate it. Damn.

The vast majority of the monks were very sweet young boys who just wanted to practice speaking english with me and would stop me wherever I went to do so. (They could not talk to me, look at me or touch me during the alms giving ceremony.) Luang Prabang is considered a holy city in Laos. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and is incredibly beautiful.

Monday, April 24, 2006

more angkor pictures

As promised, more pictures. But fucking blogger doesn't seem to want to publish this, and I have been trying for, like, 9 hours now, so you may actually never see this. Which sucks. Cuz it's kind of cool, sorta.

An altar in Ta Prohm. I took alot of pictures of these. So amazing, the way the light streamed in through the ruined walls. Light banishing dark. The bright color against the grey stone. The smell of incense and aged rocks, (and in some cases, pee). It was overwhelming in every sense.

Silk cotton trees growing through the ruins of a temple. To me they looked like white ghost skeleton hands digging into the buildings. They were very pale against the rock. Destructive beauty.

My little Cambodian pal. This little girl followed me all through a temple, peeping over walls and through windows, giggling and hiding. I finally 'caught' her by taking her picture and then showing her the picture of herself in my digital camera screen. (This, by the way, is an EXCELLENT way of communicating with folks in other countries where you don't share a language. Ask to take their picture, then show it to them after you take it. Guaranteed smiles. Digital cameras rule. ) Once she saw herself, she wanted to be my model and pose for me. As you can see, she was a natural.

Another shot of the monkey. It's climbing up to the Buddha. I like the balance of man, statue and critter.

Here's the larger shot of the temple, with the Buddha face in the temple tower. This is the Bayon again. Every tower had faces in it. So cool.

We had a fairly restful weekend back here in Norway. Still fighting the jet lag a little, just shows itself in us waking up too early. I went for some brisk walks, I really love it and it ups my mood tremendously. Especially with the iPod in tow. The weather is cool and crisp, the low to mid 50's, which is such a change after SE Asia. Refreshing.......

It's interesting how safe I feel in Norway. Thailand, well Bangkok especially, feels like one of those places where if something bad happened to you, you would just disappear. So busy, so chaotic, so foreign, that you could just get swallowed up in it. No one would know who I was or speak my language, I would just be lost and swept away. It was a bit scary at times and I have actually had a few wierd dreams about it. Back here in small safe antiseptic Norway, I know I won't get run over or die of some strange tropical disease. And I can read the language so I can understand what's going on.

Some of this feeling comes from this book I read called "Forget You Had a Daughter" by Sandra Gregory. She is this British woman who stupidly agreed to carry some heroin out of Thailand, got caught and spent 11 years of a 25 year sentence in Thai and British prisons. Her story is harrowing, unsettling and at times actually painful to read. I read it on the plane back from Bangkok and oy vey, it's stuck in my head.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Random posts of senseless beauty.

Some photos from Angkor.

This is at the Bayon in Angkor. It was one of the few Buddhist (Hinduism being the leading religion of the time) temples built and is very different from the others. It is amazing because there are giant stone 3d faces in the towers. (Pics of those later.) As I was waiting to leave, sitting out in the causeway leading up to it, I saw a monkey amble up to the front stairs. I am really afraid of monkeys, but luckily it was far enough away that I could shoot it using zoom. Which I did. And damn if it didn't turn out cool. I love the way monkey and man mirror each other. I got a few more shots, but by then the monkey had moved on and I mostly got monkey butt shots.

I think this woman is gorgeous. Her face is so peaceful and she mirrors the Buddha so wonderfully. As you go through the ruins at all the sites at Angkor, people have set up makeshift altars where you can leave offerings for the Buddha or burn incense. This was one such altar. She was wonderful. She beckoned me in and I burned incense and she said some words over me. There are female monks in Buddhism, they wear white and shave their heads, however they are not given the exhalted treatment of the monks and are treated "as any other woman". I love this picture. One of my favorites, and one of my favorite memories as well. I got teary eyed many times on this whole trip, my spiritual side was continually challenged and awakened.

Ta Prohm. The most amazing of the sites at Angkor. Go see "Lara Croft Tomb Raider" and you will see it. The trees and the buildings have become one, and now neither can survive without the other. Incredible, the melding of nature and man. This tree was over 100 feet tall.

Cambodian commuters. We saw many trucks like this loaded to the gills with people. Not unusual at all to see 30 in one truck. Packed in like sardines, hanging over the edges. So unsafe, but people there drive pretty slow, so I guess you just hang on and no one falls out.

The shock of returning home.....

I'm back in Norway.

When I said that Norway and Thailand are diametric opposites, I do not lie. It's WIERD being back here.

But also kind of nice.

It's cool and clean and quiet. Our bed is big and soft. (Asian beds are very VERY firm and so are the pillows. No squashy down there. Oy my neck!) The water is yummylicious. The people are all tall and so very fashionable. Of course, no one talks to me here. In Thailand if they weren't talking to me they were staring at me. It's kind of nice to just be one of the masses again. I'm wearing boots and jeans again instead of sandals and skirts. I prefer sandals. Luckily, the snow is melting very quickly and is almost gone, which is a very nice surprise. I can start my walks again! Yeay! I love walking and hiking in Norway.

On the other hand, I just spent the equivalent of a Cambodian's statistical yearly income on groceries today. And I had to go to THREE different stores to find frozen chicken breasts. Seriously, what the fuck is up with that? In Thailand there are chickens running around everywhere under your feet, and here I can't find frozen chicken? (Fresh is easily available, but I like frozen so I can just pull it out of the freezer as needed.)

I called my boss about my job and it looks like the new contract with the company we were working for is being negotiated. It ended March 31 with possibility for renewal depending on the next phase of work needed. This means as of now i am out of a job but he told me to sit tight for a month or so until it gets worked out and they determine the new work load and processes. I am, apparently, his trump card employee, cuz, hey, let's face it, I am smart AND charming and a good planner. (The fortune teller at Wat Po told me so, so it's got to be true, right? Even though he also told me I need to learn when to shut up. Like, um, now maybe?)

I have tons of very beautiful Hill Tribe silver and beads I got in Chiang Mai to work with so I hope to be on a creative jewelry frenzy in the next month or two. AND I am going to pick back up at the gym. Me in my swim suit was a sad sad sight. And i need to get rid of some flab. More on that later. (Though why is it that everyone I've ever talked to got some sort of nasty tummy bug and lost tons of weight when they went to Asia, and I get the opposite? Like, I was actually forced to use Correctol once? And I've gained weight? What is wrong with me? Why do I have this iron stomach?) And no I am not posting picks of me in my swimsuit, at least, not full body shots. So just forget it.

I've also been catching up on my favorite blogs again. I am sadly behind. I probably could have gone my whole life not seeing this particular post on Badger's site, and am actually considering either a lawsuit, for the mental anguish she has caused me, or going back to Thailand and getting restung by the jellyfish so that I can get the picture burned out of my mind. Why Badger, why do you do this to me? Sure you win the battle, but why do I have to lose my mental stability by seeing this?

Anyhow, I am determined to redress this pictorial imbalance by posting pictures from my trip. Starting now. Must share beauty to balance the evil that dwells.

Monday, April 17, 2006

facts and fallacies about angkor wat

1) Angkor Wat is just one temple of MANY. Many many many. Angkor (means 'city') was actually a huge city with over 1 million people living there. There's something like 280 temples and the royal city and oh so much more.

2) You know when you think of Angkor Wat and it's all about hacking thru the jungle and finding this immense lonely place of romantic solitude and it's just you and the ancient ruins and the trees and the monks and you can be all Indiana Jones and shit? Try it tihis way instead: It's you and the ttrees and the ruins and ONE MILLION FRIGGING KOREANS ALL GETTING IN YOUR GODDAMN WAY AND CRAWLING ALL OVER THE TEMPLES RUINING EVERY SHOT YOU TRY TO GET. Angkor is the new Disneyland of ancient sites. ANd we hit it directly on the Cambodian new Year celebration and so the Cambodians ALL go out there to celebrate and have it was crowded beyond belief. Trafffic jams, masses of people everywhere, mayhem and madness. We did have a few magical moments of solitude and wonder (mostly when the tour groups were having their lunches at the hottest time fo the day, so we traded sweat for peace), but 85% off the time we were just trying to get around the damn crowds.

3) If you've ever traveled in a country where people follow you around trying to sell you stuff...Cambodia is the absolute worst for people hollering, following and bargaining with you even if you don't want the stuff. I know how rock stars feel now.
"Lady! Lady! Cold water! You want travel guide! Travel guide only 7 dollar! Ok Ok for you 5! Postcard postcard 10 postcard one dollar! Buy ladyyy! Buy! OK, you remember me, you buy from me when you leave!I come find you when you leaave."
They start it from the second the car parks (sometimes before, as they are at the windows) until you get into the temple. Non stop and they come running from hundreds of feet away. This was made more intense by the fact that Rich is very tall and noticeable and I am quite white and I guess I look like a shopper.... Luckily the sellers are not allowed in most temples, but they swarm you when you come inn and out. And the ones selling postcards are almost always little kids. And no one knows what no means.
We bought what we could, to help out as they are so desperately poor, but seriously, how many really badly done sets of postcards can you buy? Everything cost one dollar, leading to Angkor being called "The Dollar Store" by many who visit. There was also a temple where they did allow the kids in to sell, and our tour guide called it the Dollar Temple. Very hard to look at temples when kids hang on your knees and pull at you trying to sell you things, so I am glad that they are not allowed in to most of the sites now. I am not saying the kids weren't for the most part cute and charming and friendly, but we were there to see the sites and it is hard to see things when you are afraid of stepping on a child......

All that aside, it was phenomenal. The ruins are immense and majestic and everything you would think they would be. The ruins just blow your mind that they were built 1000 years ago (roughly the same time as Westminster abbey and places off that ilk)
It was hot. Once I saw a monkey, which I did actually get pictures of so hooray for me!

It was a whirlwind trip, that is for sure. Left Bangkok at 7 am (up at 4) arrived Siem Reap at 8 on Saturay. At a temple by 10:30, toured most of the day. Collapsed. Up at 5 am Sunday (Easter)for the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Toured until 1pm,, back for nap and lunch then back out from 3 to 7pm. Up early Monday, toured from 8 to 1 then rested packed and back to Bangkok by 8pm. Whew.

Now it's Tuesday and Rich is waiting impatieently to see some stuff here in Bangkok so I gotta get showering. I promise I will post myriad pictures when I get back to Oslo...Thursday morning early early.

Oh and Karla May...the jelly fish sting was not that bad, really. Kind of wierd, but not bad. Luckily mine was very minor. Gone by the next morning. Considering what you have done in your life, you'd be fine. Oh, and i have EATEN an eel, so no worrries there, either.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Today is Songkran, or Thai New Year. The celebration consists of ropes of flowers draped on everyone and then a ceremonial, yet very wet, dumping of water upon everyone you see. It celebrates the end of the dry season and the upcoming wet. Everyone is every charming and friendly, but it is a bit hard to keep dry...and you sort of need to keep dry when you are catching a flight in a couple hours. WE go back to Bangkok this evening. Wet people on planes.,....brrrr.....not nice.

Songkran has other little tradItions, too. They pat powder on your face and arms, as if just getting doused was not enough. Some people use dye in the water, but that is frowned upon as being too extreme in most quarters. I was the inadvertent participant in a wet t shirt contest when I got DUMPED on with BUCKETS of water and was wearing a white tank top. You know one of those with the double layer for "light support"? Yeah, two layers of thin white t shirt material, add 6 gallons of water and hello nipples! All of Railay beach has seen my goodies now. The farangs take the water dousing farther than the Thai. The Thai will leave you alone if you ask, but the tourists and party people here are in it for the mess and they won't let you pass. White folks always take it too far. We've now learned hold up the bag above your head and tell people not to splash it by pointing and saying "camera", but you are gonna get doused no matter what.

So I am sticking close to the hotel pool for now until we leave. I can't bring back a suitcase full of wet clothes. Yeuch.

In other news, ever been stung by a jelly fish? Well, me neither until this morning when i went to the beach for a last swim.

It fucking KILLS.

IT got me right around the base of the neck and oh my god, it's like stinging nettles and burning blisters and bad bad sunburn all in one. And there is no red mark to show my agony, just extreme pain. Luckily it seems i am not allergic as my throat has not closed up and I am not dead. Thank you for small miracles.

Yesterday was SO COOL. I just can't stop thinking about it. Rich and I today noticed a night dive where you can go at 2pm and come back at 8:30, and you can see the phosphorescent plankton they have here, that apparently sticks to you and makes you glow like the stars. How cool is that? Well, we've definitely decided to come back. This place is too wonderful and somehow comfortable to not come back to.

Tonight we go back to Bangkok, then Saturday off to Cambodia and Angkor Wat. I can't believe this trip is almost over.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

PHi Phi Island and little fishies

WE took a boat out today to some of the surrounding islands. Fitting that Phi Phi Island is in the vicinity of the penis cave. Though the penis caves real name is princess cave. )sorry for typos someone mucked up this keyboard and I have no aopostrophes..or parentheses, it now seems...

Anyhow we snorkeled, we floated, we ated, we sunned, we basked and then we burned. We are some white white people with some red red skin. I always think that if I sunburn my fat parts they will crisp up and shrink like bacon, you know_ So far that has not yet happened, but I think I am on to something there. Literally burn away your fat. How great. I think it could happen, and I never lose hope. My butt also acts as a flotation device. If I ever drowned, youd find my ass first. I cant float on my back for long. I tump over and my butt goes straight up for the sun. My own personal floatie..... I digress.....But oh my was the snorkeling wonderful. However, and i sorta knew this, I am a nature girl as long as the nature does not actually TOUCH me, so I freaked a bit when the fish swarmed me looking for food. Ever been crawled on by a fish_ Wiggy.....totally wiggy. Where the hell is the exclamation point dammit_

WE also saw the island where that Leo Dicaprio movie the Beach was filmed... it was not the nicest of all the beaches and it was swarmed with tourists. Go see other beaches, less crowded ones.

I met someone from Texas who teaches in Burma )myanmar) and is from Longview and thinks she knows Karla Mays mom. Small world or what_

Anyhow today was another good day. With so many great days and moments that I tell myself I absolutely MUST not forget, how am I going to remember them all_ The girl next to me just asked me what day it was...I think its wednesday. ....its that sure sign of a holiday when you donät know the day.

This computer is making me look like an idiot. Ill post this but sorry for the crappy post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

some pics while I can

Close up of piled up penises. Seriously, how often can you use a phrase like 'piled up penises'?

Beautiful beach. And the water was not too hot nor too cold. Aaaahhh.....

Oh yeah. Penis a plenty.

Me and the long necked Karen women. The one in red was a real flirt...she totally flirted with me and Rich. Funny girl. That's her mom on my other side. Yes I do look huge compared to them..

bbq, long necks and penis beach

Another day another badly typed missive. Yes I know my tyuping sucks but don't have time to proofread at these prices!

And now that I have the word penis writ large on the blog, I guess it's time for the google masses to come out to play, eh?

OK where did I leave off.

Chiang Mai. Me likey.

From Chiang Mai we caught a puddle jumper plane to Mae Hong Son. Very small town near the Burmeses border. You can drive there over the mountains from Chiang Mai in about 8 hours, but it's one of those drives where they give you barf bags at the beginning and a certificate when you reach the end, as it is 8 hours and 1300 curves, twists and turns. Guaranteed barf-o-rama, apparently. We chose the less barfy route.

Half hour flight later got to Mae Hong Son and found a tour to take us up to the Karen Hilltribe village, home of the long necked women. They are refugees from Burma (sorry, Myanmar.) They are all very beautiful and gracious ladies, very patient for photos, and obviously also wanting to sell stuff to us in exchange for the photo ops. Those neck rings are HEAVY. I tried them on.....

To get to the village we took a fast boat on the river Pai. Just a guy, a wood boat and an outboard motor, pushing that boat up the rapids. Exhilarating. The water was low but he was a great driver.

Then we went to a cave with fish. Sounds cheesy it was beautiful. Large blue carp in these holes in the rock, leading into streams and ponds, flashing blue everywhere. Lovely gardens as well.

Colleen was uncomfortable, she has a pinched nerve and it is making walking difficult, so we went backt o the hotle so she could rest and Rich and I could cool off with a swim. Then Rich and I went into town where we had The Best Meal Ever. Mae Hong Son has a little restaurant called the Lake Side Inn. It was full of locals doing Thai Table top barbecues. It was 65 baht each for all we could eat. We were a little nervous as we weret he only farangs there and we had no idea what to do, but hey, we're in it for the cultural experience, so we dove on ine to the nightlife.

So for Thai BBQ, You take little bits of marinated meat (beef chicken pork) and you cook them on this curved surface under which are very hot coals.. The curved surface goes down into a lip, like a little reservoir, and into this reservoir the waitress, helping us clueless farangs, put water and some herbs. The fat from the meat and the herbs steam in the water to make the most delicious broth. So we grilled and had broth and rice and hot hot sauces and stuffed ourselves silly. Oh my God it was good. Grand total for that including two very large Chang beers and two bottles of water, and enough food to feed one very large man and one increasingly larger woman? 8 USD. Gottal ove Thailand.

Yesterday was a bit crappy, we flew all day on three flights Ryan Air style, which meant we could not check our luggage thru but had to collect at each place and re check. SUCKED! And Colleen was not comfortable, and you don't realize how big airports are until you have to walk them with someone who is not at her best. I was very worried. She'll be ok, it's just a big holiday here and her doctor is not she has to soldier thru until after the holiday.

Anyhow, finally got to Krabi, a car picked us up and took us to the boat that took us to the island we are on, Railay. Well, not an island, a peninsula..... Is it any surprise I fell out of the boat and into the water upon arrival? No I thought not. Talk about making a splash.

Today was just lazy beach day. Gorgeous. You have seen this beach before, I know. It's world famous. If not from pictures of its beauty, then from tsunami all happened right here, folks. There's still bits of roof tile and stuff all over.

The water is brilliant blue, the cliffs and rocks are stunningly huge, and the sand is white and soft.

And the penis cave is right by the beach. I thought it would be a trek, but it's not. I guess it got hurt in the wave, as the penises (penii?) are not stuck in the sand as I had read, but piled up in a corner. I guess they got knocked over. Still it's a crazy place. Penises everywhere......right at the mouth of the cave. Rich was all about the genital symbolism of it all. He was discoursing intellectually and I was all, "huh huh...dicks. Cool. huh huh." I got some good, ahem, big head pics. And lots of other pics as well.

All for now.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Chaing Mai

Greetings from Chiang Mai. so sorry I have not posted as of late, but it has been balls to the wall busy for us and i literally have either not had time to get online, or have been too tired. And me, being a cranky old bitch, I needs my beauty sleep.

Rich got to Bangkok on Tuesday, a few hours before Colleen and i got back from luang Prabang. WE all met back op at Colleen's flat. Colleen is a holiday SLave Driver, so it's been up at 7 and to bed late every night. I feel like Billy Crystal in that stupid cowboy movie he did where he is on the runaway horse screaming "I'm on VACATION!!!"

Colleen has had fun taking us on sightseeing tours in the morning and then to very posh places for lunch. Since most of our sightseeing involves massive amounts of sweat or smelly things, you can imagine how attractive we feel showing up at the Oriental Hotel, Bangkok, one of the best French Restaurants in the world, covered in sweat and goo and looking like we've been thru a smell tornado. Or, as happened here in Chaing Mai, we went elephant trekking and I got in a tussle with a frisky baby elephant, who wanted my water bottle, drank most of my water, then snorted it back out all over me with the added ingredients of mud, goo and baby elepant snot. Directly after that we went to the Four Seasons for lunch, me covered in elephant snot, Rich dripping with sweat, and Colleen looking cool as a cucumber in her floaty summer dress. It's hard being a tourist.

Chiang Mai is great. I Really like it. We are staying at this funky little hotel on the River Ping called the River Ping Palace. It is a 130 year old teak house with about 12 rooms. It's funky as hell. The owner is a friend of Colleen's. The traditional Thai house is kind of a shack, basically, but a very stylish one. Staying at the River Ping Palace is like bing in the most stylish shack you've ever been in, with bathrooms that have a personality of their own (you never quite know WHERE the water for the shower will come from), windows with no glass but screens and shutters, and the sound of geckos calling in the night. The upstairs rooms have very high cielings (you are under the eaves of the roof and you can see the roof tiles and the wood slats) and the beds are very tall four posters with mosquito netting. I highly recomend it. Also teak houses such as this are very rare and to stay in one is a true treat. They are all being knocked down. And Esther (the owner) is one HELLUVA cook and we had some Thai food she made us that was incredible. WE didn't even order off the menu, just ate whatever she brought us, and it was GREAT. If you ever come to Chaing Mai, let me know and I'll give you contact info the for the hotel.

Yesterday we went to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. It's this huge temple on top of the mountain. Legend has it a white elephant died there after carrying relics of the buddha. The elephant is buried there. It's one of the favorites I've been to here. And, in a thrilling moment for me, I got blessed by a monk. It was SO cool. i was watching the people getting blessed and enjoying the simple ceremony of ti, and the monk saw me and waved me over. I was already on my knees (your head should never be higher than a monks', or Buddha's) so I sorta knee walked over and copied the other folks, hand in prayer position, head down. He splashed me but good with water and chanted. I think he enjoyed getting the farang extra wet, though I am being teased it's beacuse i am evil and i needed extra water. AFter the dousing, a guy tied a white string around my wrist and said that i would now have good fortune and good luck. I tell you, I was kind of verklempt afterwards. Not being a religious person, that little ceremony moved me. Anyhow, I wear the string til it breaks, they tell me. That's cool to me. I like having the reminder of a very special moment. So far Buddhism is the religion I would consider follwing. Any religion where you can go to the temple, do your praying, have a chat with a monk and then get a massage on the premises (as at Wat Pho in BAngkok) is alright by me.

Oh so much to tell. I also got my fortune told by a fortune teller. As i suspected, I am very lucky and protected by Buddha. I will live a long life and die a natural death, though at around age 76 I will have an accident, but not, as he said " a bye bye accident". I am a good communicator, good personality and clever, but must think before I talk. can get emotional and should watch the money. I should also exercise, meditate and take care of my lungs. My lucky color is red, blue not so good and the number 6 is bad. Friday is not my lucky day either. I thought the fortune telling was very interesting and very close to horoscope reading I have had as well.....

Today we are catching a quick flight to Mae Hon Son for one night to see the tribes people where the women have the long necks. You know , where they put the brass rings around until their necks are like a foot long? Then tomorrow we go from Mae Hon Son back to Chiang Mai,then back to Bangkok and thence to Krabi beach, where i can collapse for a few days. I have decided that my own personal nirvana is laying on the beach, drinking a mai tai, having a massage and reading, all at once. If someone would feed me prawn crackers and retouch my sun screen every so often, that would just about cap it off perfectly. I migt like a few extrea minions for a variety of beking and calling, but really, one cannot ask too much, now, can one? Oh, and at Krabi we get to go see the Cave of the Penises....yes, I will keep you informed.

photos to be posted later, as internet and computers allow....

Monday, April 03, 2006

tithes, tits and phousi

Good news: Internet here costs 1.5 cents a minute, so about 90 cents and hour.
bad news: It's SLLLOOOOWWWW.........

Last night in Luang Prabang. Sigh. Just had a foot massage...aaahhh.....

Got up at 6am to feed the monks. I was a bit nervous about it as I didn't want to do anything insulting or wrong, ettiquette wise, but it seemed fairly simple. The hotel provided us sticky rice and so we went down to the street with our baskets of sticky rice and waited for the monks. WE were accosted by the "alms vendors", these women who sell the stuff to give the monks to falang like us. There was no way we could say no. AT first I thought they were just being nice, showing us where to sit, etc., but then they gave us extra food...and I knew they snared us. If you have ever been in a country with touts and street people, you know the feeling...they have you before you know what's what. Anyhow, they gave us extra bananas and some wierd candy to give the monks as well, since we already had rice. And gave us a mat to sit on. (I found out later that the monks don't appreciate this food, as it is considered taking the easy way out, but how the hell would I know that? And we did bring our own rice! Really! It's just we got accosted by those touts and they took over!)

WE waited for the monks to arrive, and boy did they...they lined up over 100 of them. They started walking by and we would grab little gobs of very HOT sticky rice and put it in their food bowls. It was kind of hard work because they were going FAST and the monks are not allowed to talk to us, so it also felt a little rushed and thankless. Here we are giving them their daily food and they can't acknowledge us at all? What was strange was before all this, there were some monks waiting to get going, young boys of about 16, and they talked and laughed with us, but the minute the food thing started, it was all serious faces and no talky. Almost dirty looks even. The old monks were not nice at all.....but I am wondering if they saw the stuff provided by the touts and dismissed us as taking the easy way out. WE promise we didn't.

Tourists were massed up and taking pictures. I feel a bit sorry for them, they wanted local culture and instead got a bunch of white women interfering in their quaint local ceremony. I guess I will be in Gunter's photo album. Wish i had worn makeup.

Anyhow , we finished our rice (we gave bigger gobs than the local women, cuz seriously, who wants to sit on their knees for an hour giving three grains of rice at a time?) and managed to get some pics ourselves.

AFter the feeding, we crashed for a bit, then went to the waterfall outside of town. We hired a driver to take us there. It was gorgeous, turquoise pools of water, rocks, swimming ponds, cool cool water. Colleen has bad knees and so is not much of a hiker, but I wandered around some in the woods and took some pics of the different pools and the large white people floating around in them. Boobs boobs everywhere. White people just look so large and squishy compared to the lithe, lean people here.

AFter the falls we checked out a Hmong village. Well, our driver sort of dragged us there. It has unfortunately become a sordid tourist trap, with dirty children being trained to make the foreigners feel as guilty as possible if they don't buy the bracelets the kids offer up in their grubby little hands. Kids no older than two or three, shouting prices at us, "Buy Buy! 10000kip! Ok,ok 5000!"! The parents should not do that to their kids. If felt very calculated and very uncomfortable. I think they all had much nicer houses at the very back of the village and saved the huts for the front. Sorry to sound cynical, but we met up with some other folks and we all felt the same.

Anyhow, back to town after that, and to a small lunch where I tried the BeerLao dark, which was actually quite good. Crisp, dark amber ale, a bit malty, yummy. Not bad for 75cents. I like it better than the lager.

I had a giggle when I learned how to pronounce "Phousi". There is a Phousi Hotel, a Phousi Restaurant, a Phousy Market and....Phousi Massage. Go ahead, you know how it's pronounced, don't you? Leave out the "h".

Yeah. Good town for Phousi. I could use a Phousi massage about now. Luckily Rich comes to Bangkok tomorrow.....

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Sabaidee means hello in Lao. If you ever come here you will learn it very quickly, because everyone who comes near you, walks by or catches sight of you will say it. Sabaidee!

Now about money.

1usd = 10,000 Lao kip
1usd = 40 Thai Baht.
1 Thai Baht = 25 kip.

You can pay for things in baht, kip or dollars, whatever you got. Almost NO ONE takes visa, and there are NO and I do mean NO ATMS in the COUNTRY. So you gotta get here with dollars and baht galore, and then they try to give you change in kip, which are worthless anywhere else and laughable deflated. So today I bought some bugspray and water that was priced in dollars, paid with 1000 thai baht and was given 186,000 kip in change. My brain stll hurts from the math on that. With the 186000 kip she gave me a rubber band to hold it all together. I felt like one of those mafioso that carries hundreds in rolls, you know? Crazy. They sell wallets here that are actually little baskets with lids, to hold all the money. I am doing my best juggling all the currencies, and am working two wallets.

So yesterday we left the Grand Luang Prabang and moved into a little auberge in the town, looking out over the Mekong. Luang Prabang town itself is absolutley charming. Chickens and chldren play in the streets, there are no busses or traffic lights. Every rides bikes or motorcycles. They just installed a new water system here and are very proud of it. The hotels all advertise "modern amenities...shower, toilet, electric, hot water". (The toilet in our hotel looks like a throne, all ornate with gilding, and it is labeled "Falange" which is also the word for foreigner. I got a good laugh out of that.) It is just getting used to tourists, and doing its best. The people are so freindly, they all want to talk and know where we are from. There is a good selection of restaurants, and there is not one chain of any sort anywhere. This place is free from Western commercialism. There are some pizza joints, and a french bakery. Some "fancy" hgh end restaurants where the main dishes go for 6USD. And a creperie. I had crepes with strawberries and lime for breakfast and it was exquisite.

The town has 33 Wats (temples) almost all stunning. Monks are everywhere as they live on the grounds of the wats, and they are mostly little boys, aged 12 and up. Women should not touch monks, and should be respectful of them and not stand higher than them, but when they are twelve year old boys playing soccer n the yard of the wat and they run up to you to ask you questions so they can practice their English, it's hard to show the proper respect. Or squat low enough so you don't have your head higher than theirs!

Today we lucked out and saw a Buddhist ceremony in one of the wats. All the boys in their orange sarongs, singing and chanting. I took no photos, disrespectful, but I will never forget the calming sound and glowing burning colors in the temple...all gold, orange and red. Spiritually, Buddhism calls to me more than any other religion. Something about it is so peaceful, with its emphasis on wisdom and patience and sharing. Very nice. It's so hippy-dippy in the US, when you see white folks being buddhists, but here it is just such a way of life, it's so natural.

Tomorrow Colleen and I will join in the offering ceremony. The monks are given their food for the day by the women of the town. For the women it is a spiritual offering, a tithe if you will, and for the monks it's a way to eat. This is the only food they get for the day. So all the women line up, on their knees, sitting on their feet, and the monks walk by and you give them a bit of sticky rice in the bowl they hold. We can't touch them (seems every religion has got something against women, ironic that these guys are reliant on the women for food but we are still lower than them). Luang Prabang is famous for its offering ceremonies. We will get up at 5 am to do it.

But tonight and last night we hit the night market, and ladies, let me tell you, it's heaven. Heaven heaven heaven. Row upon row of cheap, lovely gorgeous textiles and bags and carvings and buddhas and jewelry and bed linens, all hand done and gorgeous. I got 10 silk placemats and a silk table runner for 15usd. A purse for 2. A bunch of hand done wallets with little people on them for 1 each. A dolla (Lao for dollar) here is big money. It's crazy. I have no idea how I will get it all back to Bangkok, much less Oslo. And I got a bunch of Beer Lao t shirts, they will be the new Austin Status symbol.....

I've taken about 350 pictures and am almost out of memory on the 2nd card. You'll see some of them when I can get them downloaded.

This is long, so I'll sign off.