Beach life...(is the life!)

So perhaps I spoke too soon (and perhaps a bit generalized) in my last post re:traveling vs. vacationing. Where have I been the last 4 days? The beach. How do I pass my days? Chess, juggling, swimming, and reading. What are my plans for tomorrow? Kayaking to a geocache, chess, juggling, and swimming. How many of these endeavors involve local culture or any sort of worthy pursuit? None. But that's okay.

Ryan and I have lucked out on places to stay out here on Ko Chang. Our first hut was a great little one on the beach about a 20 minute walk down a dirt road. There was a huge lawn for juggling, a great beach for swimming, and hammocks all around for reading and chillin'. The downside was the surly dude that owned the place took an immediate disliking to us. And while we can't prove anything, a large number of fleas and ants did end up in our beds. Perhaps coincidence. Anyway, after a scratchy and sleepless night, we've moved down to the Lonely Planet-recommended Treehouse bungalows. Pictured to the right is my current digs, a tiny hut that will prolly have the porch over the water at high tide. Good times!
Tuesday November 21 2006File under: Thailand, pics

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Travelling vs. Vacationing

There is a subtle difference between travelling and vacationing, but it seems to come up a lot. Every traveller you meet has a different balance of taking in a new culture, geography, etc. and comforts and pleasure. For some, exemplified by those who choose all inclucive resorts in the Caribbean, the balance is towards comforts and pleasure. For others, the balanace is extremely the other way. Think of hauling a big backpack through the heat of the jungle and the chaos of local buses to see the ruins of some religious something or other.

For me, the balance is usually towards the less comforts, more culture side, (although I don't dis the resort life at all (case in point)) This eye opening and sometimes back-breaking pursuit is what I call "travelling". Well, travelling can wear on you. It takes a lot to wade through the challenges that throw themselves at you in a typical traveller's day. So I decided to take a vacation from my travels. Yes, I know. Right now you are saying, "your whole trip has been a vacation". Well, I assure you that there are definitely trials and tribulations that I've been omitting in this blog.

Anyhoo, the vacation: Ryan and I found ourselves in Pattaya, Thailand, a beach resort of some disrepute. (We found out the reason for the disrepute after visiting, and it is safe to say that I will never go back there again. Long story.) Anyway, what the town did have going for it is that it was geared towards vacationers. So for my vacation, I chose a movie in the cinema (James Bond in Casino Royal), a couple of rounds of minigolf, an air conditioned room, and an all you can eat breakfast buffet. Needless to say, it was great! Although I lost 300 baht on the golfing (10 baht per stroke. I'm far off my best), and prolly gained 15 pounds or so (I also upped my daily icecream limit from 1 to 3 for my vacation), it was a much needed recharge with western comforts after my time in China and before tackling Cambodia and Vietnam.

So now we are back in travel mode. We are in Trat, with plans to head out to Ko Chang tomorrow. Today, we took 3 local buses totalling 6 hours, part of which was so hot the sweat just poured off, another part of which was done standing in an oversold bus. Culture at its finest, I guess.
Friday November 17 2006File under: Thailand, pics

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Haiku Challenge

Back on the beach

Sand between my toes
Crashing waves to frolic in
It's good to be back

Okay folks, there's my haiku. I don't think it will win any awards or move anyone to tears, but writing in such a structured way can be fun from time to time. Now have your go at it. Any comments to this post should be posted in haiku format (5/7/5). Have fun!
Wednesday November 15 2006File under: poetry, travel

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What I do for geocaching

What would you do with 3 hours in Macau, a city that is unique in its combination of European and Asian cultures? Maybe take a cultural tour of the city, or at least get a cab to drive you to the major sites? Well, I got off the ferry and went straight for the only geocache...by foot. You laugh, but I think I might have a serious problem. In Hong Hong, I tried for 4 caches but only found 2. But I suppose, in its(/my) defense, it is a good way to see some of the off-the-beaten-path sights. And it is a way to make Saxtor jealous.

Luckily, after some huffing and puffing to get up the hill (with my heavy backpack), I found the cache quickly so I had enough time to stroll through a few of the narrow streets and see a few of the gorgeous building facades. I didn't, however, get a chance to check out any of the casinos. But for a traveller on a budget, maybe casinos aren't the best idea.

Anyway, my time in both Macau and Hong Kong were way way too short, but there might be a revisit in the near future. Stay tuned for details.
Monday November 13 2006File under: Macau, travel

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A conversation with Hong Kong

HK: Welcome to Hong Kong.
me: You speak English! I'm so glad to be here. That bus ride was a bear. Those beds were not made for 6' Westerners. It really makes you appreciate train travel.
HK: Technically, you're not there yet. You first must fill out this form and go stand in that line.
me: No problem.
HK: And then this form and that line...and then that line over there.
me: What's the deal with the customs. Aren't you still part of China?
HK: Yes and no. It's complicated.
me: Hmmm....
HK: Oh, and you need different money. My dollar is far superior to the RMB.
me: (yeah, but .01%)
HK: What was that?
me: Nothing. So how much should I get out of the ATM? I'm only here for 2 days. This ought to be more than enough.
HK: Ha!
me: We're not all here to shop for Gucci, you know.
HK: Have it your way. Where are you staying?
me: I was hoping you could help me out with that. Any particular district you recommend?
HK: You mean you don't have a guide book?!? Well, all my districts are nice.
me: Alrighty then. Thanks for the help. I'll just roam around in the heat with my big bag until I find something.
HK: Well, enjoy your stay. (And maybe you should stop by to see one of my many tailors, grubby)
Sunday November 12 2006File under: China, travel

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Democracy Works!

No, I don't mean the mid-term elections back there in the U.S. (whose hubbub I'm so glad I've mostly missed out on). I mean the BdW poll and its results. Thanks to some great investigative work by you, dear readers, I've just had 3 great days to wind down my time in China.

I've spent my time in Yangshuo which is just outside of Guilin. It is the "independent travelers" area, while Guilin caters more to the package tourist. The touristy atmosphere has been a pleasant change from the big city hustle and bustle I've experienced so far. Menus in English, other travelers, and activities out the wazoo are all assets Yangshuo's got going for it.

First and foremost, upon arrival, I immediately climbed Green Lotus Peak to get the area's only geocache. In the evening, I enjoyed more steamed dumplings at the hectic night market. (I had to pass on the dog, frog, eel meat this time around.) On the second day, I rented a bicycle and toured the local countryside. Riding through rice fields on a path 2 feet wide where there is no one around but the water buffalo and farmers stooped to hand reap the harvest will forever stay in my memory. I couldn't have asked for a better counterpart to the cities I've mostly seen so far. After a bamboo ferry ride across the river, the bike trip finished with a trip to Moon Hill.

The Li River is one of the things that can't be missed, so I didn't. Yesterday I took a trip that puttered up and down the river where we pretty much just gazed out at the scenery. Quite pleasant (oh, ignore that dude in the front with goofy looking birds on his shoulders and just bask in the scenery).

Friday November 10 2006File under: China, travel

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Numbers (a.k.a. BdW's Index)

I had some down time at the train station the other day, so I thought it might be fun to run some of the numbers of my trip so far. Now I know most of you are muttering "nerd" under your breath. To that, I reply, "Yep!" So enjoy it if you will. Or not.

Nights away from home: 56
Nights spent on some form of moving transportation: 9 2 on a place, 6 on a train, and 1 on a boat (I'm only counting 1 night on the cruise because we were docked the majority of 2 nights
Hours spent on a train: 87 most of which have occurred in China
Postcards sent: 24 (if you haven't gotten one, e-mail me your address, then wait 6-8 weeks for delivery)
Countries visited: 3
Countries legally visited: 2 Russia, of course, is non the wiser to our visit
Maximum paid for a hotel/hostel: $22.50 (in Chongqing, China)
Minimum paid for a hotel/hostel: $2.00 (in Chaing Mai, Thailand)
Average cost for a hotel/hostel: $5.30
Median cost for a hotel/hostel: $4.00
Books read: 10
Geocaches found: 8 but one was a virtual cache which almost doesn't count
Wednesday November 8 2006File under: travel, China

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Yangtze River Cruise

The cruise was everything I expected, both for the good and bad. It was 3 nights and 2 days of being pampered and fed, but having everything planned for you. You woke up to music on the intercom, had assigned seats for all meals, and were given an iteneray sheet the day before, so you knew what to expect. Anyone who has been on a cruise probably has a similar story.

But it wasn't bad. The Three Rivers Gorge is really beautiful. There were guides to point out the elephant eye and moon goddess in the various rock formations (although they pretty much all looked the same to us). We did a couple of excursions off the boat to little touristy things along the banks, only one of which is worth noting because there was a geocache there!

I suppose you all don't really care about that stuff, though. You just want to hear the of the bum shaking incident. Well, the last night, there was to be a talent show. Since the boat was 90% full of chinese folks over the age of 60, I felt it was my duty to represent the U.S. with style. And since I have lugged these juggling clubs everywhere, I might as well. Otherwise I would have prolly skipped the whole thing. So, I get all practiced up and make friends with the MCs for the evening. It turns out that there are no other passanger performers, just the crew, so I felt a little silly. All their stuff was very well rehearsed. Anyhoo, one of the bits they had set up was a game in which 2 audience members come on stage, get belts with a box full of ping pong balls tied around their waists, and have to wriggle them out into a box on the floor. Well, of course I got called up, so wriggle I did. And I won too! I don't think my face has been redder in a long time. Afterwards, I did my juggling bit to much applause. Hopefully I will have pictures being e-mailed to me later.
Tuesday November 7 2006File under: China, travel

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Guilin it is!

Thanks so much for all the votes and information! Perhaps I should just leave my whole iteneray up to ya'll. I'm so glad you overwhelmingly picked Guilin (sorry mom, but I already got shanghai'ed in Beijing by some tea ladies). On my fancy cruise, I got the impression from talking to other passengers that Guilin is really the place to go. Sorry to all the runners-up in the poll. I still appreciate your votes. And who knows, I have a double entry visa to China so maybe I will be back to hit up that whole Shanghai area after my time in SE Asia is done.

So now I am off to figure out my way south before it gets dark and the wolves comes out. Once I get to where I am going, I'll post a little about the cruise. But a few teasers: beautiful scenery, contrived cultural demonstrations, breakfast buffet, Wren shaking his bum on stage, and so very much more. Thanks again for all the info!
Monday November 6 2006File under: China, travel

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First official BdW poll!

I've got myself a bit of a dilemma here. And rather than figure it out myself, I thought I have myself a little poll. I'm getting on a boat here in a few hours to cruise down the Yangtze. It drops me off in either Wuhan or Yichang. As you can tell, I don't really know what is going on. The dilemma part is what to do next. I've got to be in Hong Kong on the 10th to meet up with a friend. From there, I head back to Bangkok on the 13th. That leaves me with approximately 4.5 days to kill between, let's say, Wuhan and Hong Kong.

That is where you come in. I'm leaving it up to you, dear readers, as to what I should do. Being that I only have a dinky little book with hardly info besides history on the various possibilities, everyone of you is as qualified to lend a suggestion as I am. A brief look at a map reveals these possibilies:

A) HANGZHOU - Known for its famous West Lake
B) SHANGHAI - Modern City with a mix of cultures
C) GUILIN - Beautiful Scenery on the Li River
D) NANJING - Old capital built to rival Beijing
E) GUANGZHOU - Cultural city with some good eats

So hop to it. Do your research. Support your choice with helpful info for the would-be tourist. Place your vote in the comments or in an e-mail to me. Extra credit for any not listed suggestions. Remember, I don't have a ton of time, so ease of accesibilty should be considered.

Thanks for your help. I look forward to the results.
Friday November 3 2006File under: poll, China

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