Wednesday, February 28, 2007


It seems I just don't have luck when travelling around the world. I never seem to see what I really want. Each time I find a great historic site or just a place of interest, it's sure to be beneath a shroud of scaffolding and laborers.

It happened just the same as it did when I went around China with my parents over the summer. Everything was either closed or being repaired. It disrupted any photos I attempted to take. I got to see a picture of the Palace inside the Forbidden City--it was painted on the fabric encompassing the scaffolding.

This time around, it was Thailands turn to ruin my photographic experience. When entering the Grand Palace, the first thing Jia and I noticed was that many painters were working on repairing the murals. I wouldn't have minded if that was all that I was going on, but there were a great number of Wats that were also being reconstructed.

It didn't end in Bangkok. It was all over Chiang Mai as well. As we took a ride up Doi Suthep, we encountered the wonders of paving dirt roads that lead to campgrounds.

Entrances blocked, all traffic through one door. It never ends in my travels. I'd see wonderful sights if it wasn't for all the damn scaffolding.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Transit Breakdown

[Part of the Thailand adventure]
Trains are an interesting part of the travel adventure in Thailand. During our first few days, Jia and I took a short ride north of Bangkok to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. On the way there, the train was 40 minutes late. We soon discovered on that trip that our seats were not reserved, but rather a bit of luck. Anyone travelling further along the train line was given a reserved seat. So, if you were unlucky enough to pick the wrong seat at the Bangkok station, you had to stand the hour and a half to Ayutthaya. We were, of course, not lucky on that journey.

Our next rail adventure was far northward to Chiang Mai on an overnight sleeper. We paid a little extra to get air conditioning rather than a fan. We regretted it a bit as we froze through the night. Jia had it better than I did as she had the lower bunk in which no light came through. Our car's lights beamed on through the journey and into my eyes. That, combined with the freezing air and the car door next to feet and continuously opened and closed every 15 minutes, didn't make for a restful ride. It also didn't help that I couldn't stretch my legs out fully (and I'm only 5'9").

It was on the trip back to Bangkok that we encountered our more serious problems. We waited for our 5:55 pm sleeper train. We figured it was just late. At 6:30 I told Jia to ask someone about the train as another was expected to arrive at this time to head for the same station. I was a little shocked and angry when she came back and said our train was cancelled.

We went over to the ticket office to make sure of the situation. "The train fell off the track," the man in the window said. I was confused, I didn't want to believe it. "So, what do we do?" I asked.
We were told we could either catch a late bus or the last train for Bangkok. The only problem was, there were no sleepers. "But the seats recline a lot," we were assured.

We should've stayed in Chiang Mai. We waited another three and a half hours for the train. We sat across the street at a food vendor selling kai yang (grilled chicken) just outside the 7-11 where we bought a couple beers in the hopes of sleeping through the night. On the train we struggled to sleep with seats that barely reclined.

We arrived in Bangkok late in the morning and hopped in a tuk-tuk to the eastern bus station and our more comfortable bus that would take us to the ferry to Ko Samet.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spring Festival Redux

Lighted ribbons on a wishing tree.

Giant firecrackers at the community gate.

The lanterns in front of the restaurants; all closed for the celebration.

A local grandfather assisting a child in setting off some fireworks.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Old Dogs and Golden Pigs

Xin nian kuai le!
We had a bit of a party at Jia's home last night. Far too much food and drinks. We found some nice spots to watch the insanity of fireworks being set off everywhere. Some of the people in this neighborhood had some big ones to light. There were some impressive lights and decorations all around as well. We tried going to Green for some beer after we ran out just before midnight. We found Liu a bit loaded at the gate--he was happy to see us, but too drunk to let us drink at the closed restaurant. I got a few photos, but I don't know how well they came out. I'll post those a little later.

A couple new options

This has nothing to do with my Thailand trip... we will return to that a bit later.
Yesterday I decided I might be happier here in Shenzhen if I could find a worthy cause to work with. I sent an e-mail to to see if they had anything I could do. I need to seek out a few other non-profit organizations to see what good I can do for the people. I really want to do something meaningful and fulfilling.
This morning I came to the conclusion that since I have all this time on my hands, I could go back to my idea from the early summer. I can begin work on an online literary journal. I have some ideas for it, but I need to figure out how to implement everything properly.
If anyone has suggestions for either of my endeavors, please let me know. I really want to get these things going.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The trail to Bao'an

Our flight took a bit longer than it should have. After an hour in the air of a three-hour flight, the pilot announced (in Thai, Chinese, and English) there was a problem and said we’d have to return to Bangkok. I was confused, it couldn’t be what I thought I heard through the mumbling announcement, but the stewardess confirmed it. I really thought another airport must be closer than Bangkok. We were wisked by bus to the next plane that would take us to our destination--and we could've walked to the plane faster than the bus took.

On the ground in Macau we breezed through airport customs and were swept by the bus to the Zhuhai crossing--it was nice to be back where things tend to run on time. It was quick on the Macau side, but the China side of customs was a mess. The lines were out the door. It took an hour and a half to get through the foreigner line. Jia was through a good half hour before me. My line’s customs officer was a little slow to say the least. She took her sweet time examining all the passports and all the pages in them. She checked my photo four times. She flipped through every page and even tried to read the page that states, “These pages were added…” We were all convinced that she didn't know any English because she didn't seem to say a word to anyone who passed through. It wasn't all bad as I made a couple friends in line as I talked with a Kiwi and a Dane. The Kiwi sold race horses to wealthy Chinese for the tracks in Hong Kong. I'm not sure what the Dane did, but he had some stories of traveling through many former Soviet republics. He also recommended that I travel to Mongolia. I told him he should try Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We managed to catch the last ferry to Shekou at 8:30. We got to the port a little after 8. I noticed it was windy when we landed in Macau, but the water reaffirmed that view. The boat rocked in port. I was wondering if I should grab a life jacket as we hit some hard waves and swayed significantly to the sides. I was reminded of the line from Ulysses “Puking overboard to feed the fishes.” And I was lucky my stomach had been empty for several hours. By the time we arrived at the port in Shekou, we decided it’d be faster to just grab a taxi back to home. It sure was faster at 120 km/h with the speed limit set at 60. We made record time with about 30 min on the road.

It all felt good to relax and sleep in my own bed after 12 days of travel. My tired eyes looked about my surroundings and I thought how nice it'd be if we could find jobs and live in Chiang Mai.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

return to sender

I have returned to Shenzhen.
It was a great vacation in Thailand. I saw tons of wats and other sites. Most of the journey was fun and exciting, but there were some disappointments and aggravations.
I will post some stories and photos soon... this will not be chronological as my brain doesn't function that way. You'll have to piece together the journey in whatever order I post it.
Coming soon: Wats, fruitshakes, leftover Baht, false hope, and the train that fell off the tracks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


And things I forgot in the last post(s)...
Thanks to my friend calling me a "crack fiend" for not making this announcement earlier... I got engaged a few days ago. We're quite happy and we have no plans yet so don't ask.

Another Yahoo rant: I signed up for Yahoo voice since my new apartment has no phone and I'd like to talk to my parents. I put some money on it to dial out. I thought I'd try it out and call my grandparents. I'm not sure if it's the crappy headset/mic that's giving me problems or the bad internet or if it's just Yahoo. Either way, I can hear my grandparents pick up the phone but they can't hear me. I'd like to get Skype, but it just won't download in China... I've tried half a dozen times.

And I'll be on hiatus for a few days. We're leaving tomorrow morning to catch the ferry to Zhuhai and then on to Macau to fly to Bangkok. I'll be back Feb. 15 in time for Spring Festival celebrations. Very strange how the taxes on the flights are more expensive than the tickets themselves. Two tickets to Bangkok are 1112 MOP (Macau Patacas). The taxes are 1148MOP. Still those are some cheap tickets.
Mr. W took us out to a KTV in Bao'an last night for some fun before my girlfriend and I leave for Thailand tomorrow. He's been more than helpful in my quest to stay in China.
I'm pretty sure this is a new KTV (or maybe just remodeled). They have a nice buffet for dinner... although I couldn't figure out what a few of the items were because I haven't learned to read those characters yet.
My girlfriend decided to coax me into singing with them. I'm certainly no singer (think Bob Dylan, but less melodic), but after a few beers I took a look through the English catalogue. I was impressed by the near 2000 English songs. Well, that number is a bit lower due to repeated song titles that are simply misspelled. There are also quite a few Chinglish titles that made me laugh. I tried to do The Beatles' "Revolution" (spelled "Revolutin"). Strangely, one line was messed up in the song... and it wasn't the one about Chairman Mao. I was later tempted to sing one of the two versions they had of "Funkytown." I'm glad I decided against that.