WORLDROMPER

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Helen Keller


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Thailand Revisited: Just Another Day on Ko Pha Ngan

Got up, ate breakfast, swam in the ocean, laid on the beach, repeat repeat repeat; had a massage, laid on the beach, swam in the ocean, ate lunch. Wrote in journal, read, sent postcard to grandmother, swam in the ocean.

Tonight I head over to the prefunk for the full moon party on Haat Rin Beach. Someone closeby is playing a ukelele. I smell like coconut.

Right now: back to the ocean, then beach, repeat repeat repeat.

This is the best blog post ever xoxoxoxoxox Shilo

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Thailand Revisited: Salty Sunny Sandy Slathered Shilo aka Don’t Hate Me

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Written in October 2008

I am in paradise.

To get here it took a half hour taxi ride, a 13 hour overnight train trip, an hour and a half bus ride, a three hour ferry, and a half hour songtaew ride over the jungle: 22 straight hours of traveling. Add that to the 13 hour plane ride from Seattle to Seoul, the 24 hour layover in South Korea, five and a half hours to Bangkok airport plus another hour in a taxi into the city to be able to be here, right here, where I am now. And it is worth every minute, every squat toilet, and every penny. I am in paradise.

pa120050If it was easy to get here then it would not exist; this place would be filled with jerks and assholes. You have to make a real effort to get this far away from everybody, from everything you know. Time, effort, money. Will. Courage. You all have these things. You could be here right now; you could be here next year. What do you want in your life? I want paradise.

I am island Shilo. You have never met her. She is an insane brand of happiness, not just happy but content, an emotion which always seems to elude my restless self. I only ever seem to touch it on beaches, in the sun, covered in a magic potion of sunscreen, sand, salt, and coconut oil, with the song of the ocean in my head, hypnotizing me.

pa120069I have not felt this way since I was living in New Zealand, swimming in the South Pacific every day, baking in the sun for hours upon hours. I have stars in my eyes, mosquito bites on my legs, and freckles all over everywhere. I am in paradise.

I am on the island of Ko Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand. Remember that movie The Beach? They swam from here.

Ever heard about the biggest beach rave in the world, the full moon parties on Haat Rin Beach which draw 30,000 people? That beach is around the corner from my bungalow.

pa120057I order Pina Coladas, Sex on the Beach, coconut milkshakes. I wear a pink bikini and sunglasses and that is it. I eat banana pancakes and red curries. The water is a brilliant aquamarine, warm under the hot tropical sun; home to swimmers in speedos, snorkeling boats headed out for the day, softly crashing waves, and fuzzy green islands jutting up towards the blinding white-hot sun. Neon pink flowers drip off trees and onto hammocks where sweaty children sleep; the sand is as soft as cheese. Fresh fish are grilled just steps away from the shoreline; beers go down quicker than you can say ‘Chang,’ and echoes of electronic music find their way up the cove and into my ears. A scruffy mamma dog nurses three puppies- one white, one black, one tan. Mats are set up on the beach for massages, and beach chairs for bathing. I am in paradise.

The moon will be full in two days; it just happened to work out that I am here the right day of the month to go to the legendary beach rave. The party gods smile on me.

How I wish my friends were here with me, to dance. In paradise.

Much love from silly island Shilo whose brain has turned to mango ice cream and sticky rice.

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Thailand Revisited: Bangkok

I think I am in love with the madness of Bangkok. Not Bangkok itself, mind you, but the epic madness of the city, that crazy feeling that permeates everything, soaking through the streets like sweat through my tee shirt.

My friends Jo & Becky in the lower berth

Brit friends Jo & Becky in the lower berth

I took an overnight train back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, complete with “lady-boy” car attendant. Lady-boys are the third gender here in Thailand, not only tolerated but accepted, and with a smile. The train was not bad and actually nicer than overnight trains that I have taken in Europe; the seats fold down for a lower berth, the upper flips out of the wall and curtains close the two beds off, making for a fairly comfortable trip, if you don’t mind the few small cockroaches that say sawasdee-ha (hello) in the morning or the near-inedible food.

The upper berth with straps so you don't roll out

The upper berth with straps so you don't roll out

I love train trips; the slow rocking back and forth, the whistle sounding through the still of night, the silohuettes of trees racing past and the peekaboo moon make for a romantic setting with your lover. Or in this case, me and Coldplay. YEAH I LIKE COLDPLAY AND I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH I GET MADE FUN OF FOR IT. I was teased mercilessly as a child and have skin thicker than you would ever imagine- so go ahead.

The thirteen hour voyage went rather quickly and soon I was back in Bangkok. When I arrived here last week, I arrived after midnight and left very early the next morning and therefore saw very precious little of the city, which I was determined to correct in a day and a half.

Candy!

Candy!

In Bangkok you can buy anything you want, from perfectly fake California drivers’ licenses or university degrees to a watermelon shake served in a plastic bag (they give you a straw). Men with no legs pull themselves along the pavement hawking squeaky duck puppets for a quarter. The weekend market from which I just returned had 15,000 booths, making it the mother of all markets- the big, fat mother.

From a boat taxi on Bangkok's Chao Phraya River

From a boat taxi on Bangkok's Chao Phraya River

In Bangkok it is easy and recommended to get lost, and getting found again is as close as the nearest taxi or tuk-tuk. Traffic is insane, from the zillions of scooters to the taxi boats on the river- when the long boat gets next to the dock and is bouncing back and forth on the buoys, the driver just says, “JUMP!” and you have to leap from the boat to the shore over slimy brown water that would no doubt land you in the emergency room if it landed in you.

The drivers here have a miniscule idea of the space needed between vehicles, and lane

Market Street in Bangkok

Market Street in Bangkok

markers are merely a suggestion, like helmets for your toddler on a motorcycle. Taxis have multicolored flashing disco lights alongside their brake lights, and the air is hot and humid and 98% diesel fumes. I am traveling on the tail end of the rainy season, and giant drops will suddenly burst from the sky in a deluge, bouncing high off the pavement for ten minutes and then stop suddenly, completely, and in another ten minutes it is as hot as it was before- only even more humid and drippy.

Everyone is selling something and asking five times the amount you ought to pay for it.

Flowers for offerings

Flowers for offerings

Cops wear Johnny Walker emblems alongside their badges- perhaps they are sponsored? And you can get a cup full of crickets to munch on as you peruse the false Adidas, Converse, Von Dutch, fake EVERYTHING for sale. Name your price. There are also huge shopping malls selling real name brand clothes for half the cost of the same in America, but who wants to buy that? Boring.

Much more fun are the open-air markets, which seem to make up 75% of the city. While looking for an amulet market I found a flower market where ladies were stringing

Check out the giant Durian fruit!

Check out the giant Durian fruit!

together bright yellow chrysanthemums to hang in devotion. The markets are the wheels that turn and fuel the madness of Bangkok with all of their unidentifiable fruits and strange smells- smells that at once wash over you like a wave and make you sure you are about to puke- until you are hit in the face by the smell of fresh tangerine juice, or grilling bananas, or the omnipresent street-corner Phud Thai dealer. The best smells in the world and the worst smells in the world mingle together, and that is the smell of Bangkok.

Yesterday I went to several Buddhist Temples to gaze up at the intricate mosaics and glistening altars, tall towers and the serene eyes of Buddha which look down on you every chance they get. Wat Pho held a jolly golden reclining Buddha, chilling out in his vast temple, with feet bottoms of delicate inlaid mother of pearl. Wat Phra Kaew boasted

Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Temple of the Reclining Buddha

a tiny and venerable “emerald” buddha made out of jade and the nearby Royal Palace at one point held the king.

After a few hours of sunny sightseeing in this city of crazy, there is only one thing you can possibly want to do- have a massage. It seems like every time I blog I am either headed to a massage or coming from one. They are cheap and fantastic. The masseuse pulls, stretches, beats, hits, slaps, rubs, presses, pops, sits on, smacks, pushes, and digs her elbows into every conceivable part of your body, including the arches of your feet, in-between your toes, your armpits,

The Royal Palace. Hot as HELL.

The Royal Palace. Hot as HELL.

your bum, your spine, under your shoulder blades, your inner thighs, your temples, your earlobes, your jaw. There is no freaky new-age music for the background, only the occasional sound of somebody getting slapped and the idle chatter of the workers. My back has been popped in ways I did not think possible, and my feet want to dance for an eon.

Massages are simply part of daily life here, like tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks aren’t just three-wheeled little open-air trikes that race around the city stuffed with tourists- they are emblems of

Five Girls in One Tuk-Tuk

Five Girls in One Tuk-Tuk

Thailand itself and carry the driver as well as his personality. Their multi-colored brake lights are the same as those on rocket ships at Chucky Cheese; their dashes are sparking lime green and decorated with stickers from happy-faces to elephants. Hubcaps are red, yellow, green; the bench seat that you sit on is rainbow-striped or fake blue snake skin. The silver rails which you hold on to for dear life are embellished with curlee-cues and from the front photos of the king, Buddha, the driver’s kids or the Thai Britney Spears gaze back at you. Most have a silver plate reading “THAILAND” on the back above their license plates, and you can fit as many people in

Tuk-tuks on Bangkok street

Tuk-tuks on Bangkok street

a tuk-tuk as you can cram- my personal record is six. Tuk-tuks careen around Bangkok, belching diesel fumes into your face to the unmistakable sound: tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk. Taxis here are colorful too; most are neon pink with a few sky blue and lime green ones mixed in. Taxis have AC which is nice, however they can’t compare with the tuk-tuk, every single one of which is different. I want one. I can drive around Seattle yelling “tuk-tuk” at people and charging them a dollar to go across town.

Bangkok is also reputedly famous for it’s seedy underbelly and it’s numerous red light districts. I can now confirm this with 100% accuracy. Last night I went to a ping-ping show, and that is all I am going to write about it. For the love of God, my grandmother reads this blog. You will just have to ask me about the show once I return home. Suffice to say:

1. The show involved much more than just ping pong balls,

2. I was totally amazed and completely traumatized, and

3. I will never, ever listen to Lionel Richie the same way again. EVER.

(Shudder, shudder, shaking head and closing eyes. Goose bumps. Shudder. Shudder.)

I am okay now.

By the way, “OK” is the most widely understood word in the world. The second? Coke. But who drinks coke when you can buy a BUCKET of vodka red bull for five bucks? The nightlife is

Sex on the Beach in Bangkok!

Buckets of Sex on the Beach in Bangkok!

certainly banging in Bangkok, and to get over the shock and shame of the ping pong show, a massive amount of alcohol was in order. Nightclubs abound and people set up bars on the street and sell cocktails (in glasses or buckets). And could there be any more freaking psytrance in this city? No, there could not. WTF? Am I in Goa or Bangkok? And why does psytrance go so well with the tropics?

Maybe I will find out in Ko Pha Ngan, the island which hosts the biggest beach raves in the whole world, the full moon parties. I am headed there in a few hours on another overnight train; I stay a couple of days and then will bounce around to some of the other islands. My plan for the next week looks like this: beach, pool, bar, pool, beach, bar, beach, pool, bar, snorkeling, pool, bar, beach, bar, pool, grilled fish, bar, pool, beach, bar…you get the idea.

This is kind of a random, messy post but so is Bangkok. Take care of each other, and remember: knowing is half the battle.

Right on.

Sorry for the typos and spelling errors. And the ping pong show. (Shudder)

DF5K


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Thailand Revisited: Shitfruit, Breaks, and a Jump

Written in October 2008

Ah, adventure! I have three great new ones to tell you about: cooking, dancing, and jumping!

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Fresh Coconut Cream Machine

Yesterday I went to the Baan Hong Nual Cooking School where I learned hands-on how to make Phud Thai, green coconut curry, spring rolls, and Tom Yum soup which is kind of like the Thai version of the Vietnamese Pho. The cooking class started with a trip to the hot local market to buy the produce needed including fresh coconut cream pressed directly from the fruit in this big metal machine- it smelled SO good I wanted to slather it all over myself.

At this huge outdoor market they also sold dried fish, jellied coconut, whole deep fried chickens and durian fruit. Durian is a fruit that is banned from most hotels, trains, and buses because when you crack it open,

Finger Lickin' Good!

Finger Lickin' Good!

it smells like shit.

Actually it smells worse than shit- it smells like raw sewage left to rot in the summer sun for a month and then mixed with vomit and dead animals and then left again for another month. I really cannot describe how disgusting this fruit smells. My question is, out of all the wonderful, delicious, mouth-watering fruits in the world that DON’T smell like asshole, why on God’s creation would you eat one that does? I really don’t understand this at all. One shit-fruit, please!

Gotta Go?

Gotta Go?

Another piece of Asian culture boggling my mind is the toilet situation. Besides the ubiquitous squat toilets (which aren’t bad at all), they don’t use toilet paper (though Westerners tend to carry some at all times). By the toilet will be a hose, and that’s it. So you just wash yourself off and then walk around with a dripping wet crotch for a while. It’s this last bit that confuses me, the dripping part. I rarely admit any sort of cultural ignorance on my part, being all travel-savvy and shit, but this is just really bizarre.

The cooking school was great and I am stoked to know how to cook Phud Thai, complete with oyster sauce and tiny dried

Extra Spicy Please!

Extra Spicy Please!

shrimp. I can’t wait to try these dishes out on my friends. Did you know that most spring rolls contain jellied mushrooms? I didn’t even know that they existed- but they do, and they are delicious.

So last night I was bound and determined to find a dance club that didn’t totally suck- and I did! Great success! From a friend of a friend of a friend I heard of an underground bar on a rooftop by the east gate of the old city wall- called creatively, The Rooftop Bar.

I hopped on a tuk-tuk to get there and as I walk up to the front I hear some really sweet breaks coming from above- thank god, BREAKS! Breaks will work. We went in and climbed up several floors of stairs and ladders, surrounded by all kinds of crazy murals, client graffiti, and party kids. I was starting to get really excited and even twitchier than usual.

The Rooftop Bar!

The Rooftop Bar!

Climbing the last ladder with no shoes (‘cuz you take them off everywhere) I popped my head up into the bar and my heart just soared. “I love breaks!” comes screaming out of my mouth and a weird Aussie girl asks me if I like to dance too.

Yeah, a little bit.

The floor of this bar is bamboo and covered with brightly colored mats, making for a bouncy dancing experience- quite fun. Around the edges of the

WE DO NOT SELL POT HERE

WE DO NOT SELL POT HERE

big room are low tables and cushions holding all kinds of people drinking and smoking as well as a couple of dogs running around. The decor consists of bright paper lanterns, strobing Xmas lights, black-light murals and the Chiang Mai stars and moon. Peering over the edge of the bar you get a good view of the old city wall. There are funny signs all over saying things like Tribal Hertage Conservation (Get it?) and “We do not sell pot here.”

THIS is the place I have been looking for, and the best music I have heard since I arrived in Asia, for sure. Times ten.

The drink special is a passion fruit mojito, and I’m not talking passion fruit flavored rum- the bartendress scoops out real passion fruit, seeds and all, to mix with the fresh lime, mint, sugar, dark and light rums, etc. to make a glorious concoction that tastes like an island sunset and goes down like druggy koolaid.

THC!

THC!

By the bar the DJ is straight tearing it up and I notice one last CD for sale for 100 baht, or $2.89. The cover is hand-drawn in marker and just says “Breaks Vol. 1.” I was like nah, that’s too expensive…just kidding! I bought that shit for sure! I can’t wait to bring back some DJ Bank to the states! I said hi and told him it was the best music I had heard in Thailand yet; he smiled and kept cutting it up, playing a few familiar tracks and a lot of new ones.

I hung out for a bit dancing and talking to some Brits who had been traveling for a year and still have a year to go. When traveling I rarely meet other Americans; we just don’t travel like the Brits, Canucks, Aussies, Kiwis, or Continentals do. They consider it a rite of passage; travel is just something that you do to explore your world. Of course you have a passport and you travel. Other English-speakers are always SHOCKED to hear that 1) the US has no national health care plan and 2) Americans only get two weeks paid vacation IF you have a really good job and 3) in most states waiters and bartenders live off their tips only.

I love hanging out with new friends, strangers one moment and secret-sharers the next. The best part about traveling is not the temples or the jungles or the ruins or the beaches or the mojitos but rather the people you meet- other travelers, intent on going and doing and moving and shaking. My type of people. And The Rooftop Bar was my kind of dance club. Hell yeah.

Wimpy little crane jump

Wimpy little crane jump

Last night was great and today has been even better. After an American breakfast I headed out for a BUNGY JUMP! My grandmother describes me to people by saying, “she likes to jump off things,” and she is right. The Xtreme sports center is about 20 minutes outside of Chiang Mai and also offers off-road buggies, zorbing, go karts, and paintball- but I was there for the bungy.

I have jumped twice before, once in 1999 from a cable car in the Swiss Alps- at that point it was the highest one in the world. Last year I jumped from the Nevis bungy in Queenstown, New Zealand, the extreme sports capital of the world and the birthplace of bungy. At 134 meters, the Nevis is presently the third-highest in the world (the first is in Macau by Hong Kong, second is in South Africa).

3...2...1...BUNGY!!!

3...2...1...BUNGY!!!

Comparatively, the one in Chiang Mai is a puny 50 meters from a crane. But it is really cheap as far as extreme sports go ($40) and you get to dunk your head in water on the fall, which I have never done. I AM STOKED. There is nothing like bungy jumping; you are sure you are dying and you jump off that ledge thinking, wow, I am fucking crazy, what is wrong with me? I think bungy is a bigger rush than skydiving; something about seeing the ground RIGHT THERE really freaks you out.

I rode out to the sight with a van full of Israeli guys, a real fun-loving bunch who were celebrating the holiest day of the year (today is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement) by “torturing” themselves with the bungy. Once there I volunteered to go first, because I like being in the front and have an irrational love of heights (and turbulence, and airplane food). I was told I was too light to be able to dunk my head, but they would try; the wrapped up my legs and soon I was soon on the ledge with the weight of the rope pulling me forward. Right before you jump they let off an air raid siren right behind you, which really settles your nerves. Yeah right.

3…2..1..BUNGY!

And like a fool I jumped off a ledge 50 meters in the air. As you fall things go much slower than they should, and you just plummet towards the ground thinking, this is it. Goodbye world. Also going through my mind was hmmm, I wonder if I will hit the water, I wonder if I will hit the water, I wonder if I will…

A wee bit of water in my ears, and nose, and eyes, and mouth

A wee bit of water in my ears, and nose, and eyes, and mouth

KAPLUSHHHH! I am submerged into the water head-first up to the bottom of my rib cage. Whoa. Water is pushed into my eyes, nose, ears, and brain. My tank top, now heavy with water, almost flies off my head and somewhere in between holding my top on and catching my breath I remember to look up and smile at the camera (because you KNOW I bought the DVD). I bounce and bounce and

I have the video too!

I have the video too!

spin and spin and laugh and laugh. Previously when I bungy’d I screamed, but this time I am just laughing and trying to keep from flashing the spectators.

Bungy is so awesome. You feel free afterwards, buzzing, high. I wanted to dance, to run, to skip to the moon and hug everyone I saw. I am still all psyched out and up and a little shaky; I have a smile on my face that is not coming off any time soon. Back on the ground

The water = 100% clean! Just look at it!

The water = 100% clean! Just look at it!

with my top half soaking wet I celebrate with the guys from Tel Aviv who are eating ham and cheese sandwiches and laughing too. I didn’t think about being so wet so I buy a tank top that says JUNGLE BUNGY for $5. Life is good. You know what I want to try next? The whole squirrel suit thing where you jump off a cliff with no parachute, nothing but a bit of material between your legs and arms and torso, and you fly. Ever since I saw Let’s Go Outside’s video from Italy, I have been wanting to, badly. And don’t worry Mom, I won’t tell you until it is over with and I am safe on the ground! If I was rich I would do this shit every day.

Adrenaline, the best drug

Adrenaline, the best drug

I am back in Chiang Mai now and will catch an overnight train to Bangkok this evening; the trip takes 13 hours- good thing I love trains. Once there I plan to shop like mad and see the sights and go dancing, of course- Bangkok is one big swirling party; then I will head down to the islands for a little more R&R (‘cuz I am SO stressed out). Remember that movie The Beach? That is where I am going in a couple of days. Right now? Time for another massage.

Your world is so beautiful, and much smaller than you think. The people are nice and the food is fantastic. I am already trying to figure out how I can take another trip this spring and where in Asia I want to go- because I have the travel bug, and I have it BAD.

As always much love to you my friends,

Shilo


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Thailand Revisited: Bizarre Bazaar, Johnny Walker, DJ Hungry and I Am Too

Written in October 2008

Every night in Chiang Mai they have a HUGE bazaar from sunset to midnight (the days are way too hot to do anything besides get a massage and have a banana milkshake) and pa070409you can buy all kinds of randomness: colorful carved soap flowers in painted wooden boxes, genuine fake Rolex’s and Chanel bags (and any other name brand you can think of), birds in little straw cages (to set free), shiny gold bikinis, silver toe rings, slick leather satchels, multicolored silk robes, intricate carved teak wall hangings, long strands of beads, embroidered blankets, Fanta baseball caps, egg and banana crepes, and MC Hammer pants (of course).

And then about a billion other things. It is almost so overwhelming you don’t want to buy anything- almost. After a dinner of pineapple and prawn fried rice with a giant Chang, the local beer, I hit up the market and discovered something new about myself (Reason # 898 why you should travel: to discover new things about yourself). I am an expert haggler. Now I am sure these cats are still making money off me, but I get the price I want every time, whether it is for a pair of fisherman’s pants or a ride on a tuk-tuk to a dance club, and it is usually 1/4 of the initial offer. And it really is all about the walk-away. My favorite line that the hawkers use: “GIVE ME MORE MONEY!” It must work sometimes!

pa100009Tuk-tuks are little three-wheeled vehicles with a seat in the back for transporting tourists, named after the sound their sputtering diesel engines make. You can fit six fit females in one. The drivers laze about in the back and as you walk by say, “Tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk?” Even if you have just walked past a line of fifteen tuk-tuks saying no thanks, the next driver will still say it: “Tuk-tuk?” I will be hearing that in my sleep.

It was a tuk-tuk I took (ha) to track down some techno with some girlfriends last night; I hate to say it but my mission was unsucessful- though NOT for a lack of trying! The clubs here are crazy, of course. You usually have to pay 100 Baht (a bit less than $3) to get in which comes with a free drink ticket for a Blue Hawaii or some shit like that; many are full of tourists and pump out super-crap Top 40 mangled mixes. My recourse in dance clubs like this which seem to proliferate around the world to a sad degree is a failsafe request: “Outkast, please“. It almost always works and I get a little Big Boi or Andre to keep my mind on right.

After several of these junky clubs, we headed to Lonely-Planet suggested “techno club” called Fashion (GOD HELP ME) which was about mile away in the old town area, hiring a tuk-tuk to get there once I got the price down to a reasonable level. This place was in a new hotel and styly-slick, all red and black with a stage up front and a circular booth in the middle. In between were little tables packed with what must be the ‘beautiful people’ of Chiang Mai- hot young Thais having fun and getting ripped. The music, however, was not techno, rather some tropical-trance-hip-hop mutant, a genre which will not be making it’s way across the pond ANY time soon. Let us all hope, anyway.

Even weirder than the horrible music was the fact that I tried to order a vodka-soda only to be told that the bar only served bottles of Johnny Walker. What? REALLY? A second glance around the tables confirned this: sure enough on every table was a bottle of Red Label, surrounded by small glasses- no wonder everyone was freaking wasted. It reminded me a bit of New Zealand where they serve this concotion called ‘Diesel’- premixed bourbon and coke from the tap, served in pint glasses with no ice for two freaking dollars. TROUBLE.

We weren’t quite up for a whole bottle of whiskey (pussies) so I went to talk to the DJ (I never met a DJ I didn’t meet) to see if I could influence his music choices. On a napkin I wrote my laughable requests: Modeselektor? Glitch Mob? Yeah right. So NOT happening. I tried one more, an easy one: Snoop Dogg? DJ Hungry’s reply: “If you want drum and bass, go to Monkey Club.”

I can’t make this shit up, people.

Anyway I was like SWEET drum and bass let’s go!!! I said my goodbye to DJ Hungry and slipped him one more note with the Glitch Mob’s Myspace address followed by: “…will change your life”. Who knows? Maybe Chiang Mai will become the next big center for grimey bass?

I was down to try and find the next club on our adventure, but the other girls were ready to call it a night, and I knew a lone blonde chick really didn’t need to be exploring at 1 AM around a strange city with a few drinks in her. This is the only point ever in my life that I wish I had the guise of a male, because although it is not fair, it is what it is- traveling solo, men have more freedom than women. I usually get around it but sometimes you just have to know when to call it a night. So I did.

This morning I had a horrible breakfast at the hotel which I promptly threw up. Gross but better out than in, right? Called my happy parents for the first time since my arrival in Asia, had another amazing foot massage, bought some baby powder (this honkie’s new best friend- I swear the Thai people do not seem to sweat at all, and it just waterfalls off me) and then grabbed lunch at McShame. I KNOW, I know, but sometimes you just want some deep fried potato sticks and a dinky little cheeseburger in your belly. And it was GOOD.

I am off in a few for a Thai cooking course, and pretty excited because I love Thai cuisine- the spicier, the better. It is kind of cool to be back in a bigger city with all the crazy bustle going on; during my massage this morning I just watched the street scene as grandmas hawked candied papaya slices, men wheeled out booths from the market by grabbing onto the frame as they drove along beside on a motorcycle, Thai girls giggled along in their blue and white school uniforms, and tuk-tuk drivers slept in the shade. I am REALLY REALLY excited about something I am doing tomorrow but I can’t write it or my mom will freak out. Just know Mom that it is nothing dangerous AT ALL- nothing more dangerous than riding in a tuk-tuk, anyway.

Speaking of danger there has been some violent government protests in Bangkok, with pa090004hundreds wounded and one dead- I saw it on the Australian news along with a bit of the most recent Obama-McCain debate (McCain is SUCH a douche). My hotel room is super posh with AC, TV, and minifridge. Anyway, the unrest will most likely be over by the time I return to Bangkok (tomorrow) and besides I am a smart cookie who would never get involved in something like that (in a foreign country, anyway). I will stay very far away from any of it, so nobody worry. My mama didn’t raise no fool. I have felt very safe in this country so far and it is like 100 times more dangerous driving on Interstate 5 in Seattle on any given day. So no worries, yall.

Thank you all so much for reading my updates and especially the great comments (I love you Carter!!!) and Tim: yes, they have a whole lot of happy endings here. Woman and child prostitution is a huge problem all over Thailand. For you however I would suggest The House of Male which boasts “inside-outside service by men for men”– whatever the hell that means.

Much love and peace out! I miss you Seattle! I wish all of you (well okay some of you) could be here with me sharing this experience. Once you start traveling though, it is a complete mind-fuck, you will catch the travel bug and just keep going and going and going- it does not work any other way and you become a rabid avid traveler like moi, insatiably hungry for your next adventure. Mine: how to make the perfect Phad Thai. I’m out.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Shilo


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Thailand Revisited: Yet Another Best Day of My Life

Written in October 2008

Wow, where do I start? Thailand is amazing. Thailand means Land of the Free, BTW, and man do I feel free right now!

pa040114SUNDAY began with a bicycle ride around the ruins of Old Sukhothai, many of which are from the 13th century when Siam was rollin’. Now I am not Buddhist; though I do appreciate the philosophy, the one piece that always grabs my mind and stops me is the basic tenet that life is suffering. I am a very very lucky girl, that’s why, and have had little suffering in my life, comparitively speaking.

That said, when I stand in front of a centuries-old stone Buddha, it’s pothead eyes gazing down on me and elegant fingers with golden nails beckoning my thoughts, a sense of calm descends upon me that I cannot describe. Maybe it is the smooth curving lines of the stone, maybe it is the ancient handiwork of humans, or maybe it is Buddha on my shoulder but I get overwhelmed. This is Sukhothai.

pa040112It is as HOT AS TEXAS here- no wait, it is hotter. And the hot season does even not start until November. Sweat drips off my ears, my nose, my chin, my elbows, my eyebrows; it pours off in gallons, marring postcards. I stand to buy a coke and walk away leaving a puddle of salty Shilo. It is the tropics, though the Thai people do not seem to sweat at all. Americans do, oh my God. The good news is that having your laundry done is as cheap as everything else. I had a delicious picnic lunch on the grounds of the ancient ruins (along with long-eared cows, kids swimming in ditches, a gaggle of puppies and fishing grandpas in speedos) then hopped a bus further north to Lampang.

pa050180In Lampang I stayed at a guesthouse right on the river, made completely of teak- so beautiful and chocka with bright purple bougainvillas, straw hammocks, and manky little dogs. Looked for some nightlife and was told down the road there was a club playing music. “What kind?” I asked. “Disco crap.” was the reply. I went to bed, sleeping beautifully on a very hard bed which seems to be standard here- my Dad would love it- like sleeping on a plank.

pa050218MONDAY, yesterday, was one of the best days of my life. Breakfast included banana jam and dragonfruit, which has a delicious neon-fuschia flesh, spotted with black seeds. Took a songtaew (the open-air truck) to the Elephant Conservation center where I got thisclose to the elephants, from 4 year-old babies to 50 year-old grandpas. Elephants once were used for logging in Thailand but after the practice was banned, many of the poor pachyderms were abandoned as useless or became beggars in Bangkok or even meth-heads. Now the Conservation Centre is trying to help them. I saw a big elephant bathing party; watched pa050233them show off their logging skills, xylophone skills, and painting skills- no shit. These amazing, ancient, gentle creatures paint flowers and trees. I bought bunches of tiny bananas (the only kind here) to feed them, and of course, took a ride through the jungle where I held on for dear freaking life- my elephant was spastic, kind of like me. I also checked out the world’s only elephant dung paper factory where elephant shit is turned into all manner of notebooks, albums, and gift wrap. I bought my brother a souvenir from the dung factory, and myself a sweet piece of elephant art done by a 14 year-old female who is “naughty and likes to eat.” My kind of girl!

pa050242Next door is the Elephant Hospital where sick or wounded animals from all over Thailand can get medical care for free. Many elephants have been severly injured by stepping on landmines on the Thailand/Myanmar border; it is SO sad. Fucking humans. It always hits hard when I am traveling how you can be so inspired and disgusted by human nature all at the same time- like seeing shit graffiti on ancient columns in Rome.

pa050273Elephants live here in the Conservation Centre with a leg blown off, thanks to this one amazing woman has dedicated her life to providing care for these smart creatures, including prosthetic limbs. The older elephants have a hard go of it, but a younger two year-old named Mosha walks around on her fake leg, painted grey with toenails and everything, like a three legged dog who has no clue something is wrong. I was so inspired by this silly animal, sassy and energetic, who would beg for rice cakes and get them. There were many other elephants there at the center; all with the same life span as humans- they fill your heart and break it all at once.

pa060288I made a quick stop by some mineral pools which were lukewarm; much better was the foot massage I got poolside. The masseurs rub sticks in- between your toes, up and down and twisted all around. It is so good you want to run away screaming!

Then another songtaew trip (many of these songtaews are just pickups with benches along each side) to the village of Mae-Ohn where I stayed with a family in their home, dotted with pictures of outings to the beach, Buddhas with sunshades on, and photos of Elvis. The family pa060300served a feast including pork and tomato curry, zucchini and egg, pork rinds and KFC. During the meal the family played traditional instruments; Dad led the band including nine children. Then even more kids came out, and more- many Thais live in extended families which is SO better than the nuclear family and in fact the way that humans have lived for most of our existence. That way, if your mom and dad turn out to be total freaks, you have options.

After dinner was a music lesson on traditional Thai instruments (I am pretty good on the sunt) then outside to see the girls do nail dancing (as in fingernails). The young boys also performed a dance which translated into: kick your brother in the ass and try not to get yourself kicked in the ass. It was pretty fun, and quite the workout- maybe the next cardio fitness fad? Ass-kickin’ cardio!

pa060338The young girls came back out and started twirling swords! Hell yeah! All the crowd freaked out and scooted back, not me though- because I know when you pick up a sword to twirl it in the air, you know what the hell you are doing. ‘Cuz I twirl swords too, and freak people out on a regular basis.

The night was capped off when uncle #3 lit on fire a giant paper lantern, about 8 feet tall, attached a long tail of fireworks and let it go into the sky, and we all stood there and ooh’d and aah’d like a gang of five year-olds. Everything was burning and exploding and crackling in the starry sky; they obviously don’t have the same pa060344fire codes in Thailand as they do in the US!

I slept under a mosquito net on a mat on the floor, very very well. The mosquitos here are viscious- I have been bitten three times since I have been typing this post, and I have gobs of bugspray on.

Tons of other exciting things happened, of course, like a fire starting outside the home; I saved the day by running over barefoot and putting it out promptly- but I gotta save some stories for when I get home, right?

TUESDAY: Woke up at 6AM, had the most delicious Sanka of my life and then went to the temple to give alms to the monks. The temples are ridiculously ornate and colorful, and even more so inside, with bright murals, big gold Buddhas. and multicolored mirror mosaic altars. The novice monks wear bright yellow and orange robes; alms today were bags of fried rice and pa060366slices of watermelons. Being female and dirty dirty dirty I cannot touch a monk or even hand anything to him; I must place it in a bowl and take care not to touch the rim with my polluted self. It’s all that techno music that has made me so damn filthy, I just know it!

Fried rice for breakfast is the bomb, and food here is so so so good, like Jai Thai except FUCKING GOOD and NOT crap. Pineapple abounds everywhere.

I took a bike ride around the little village I had stayed in past about 3 billion more scratchy little inbred dogs to another temple, this one even more decked out than the last. These Buddhist temples put the Vatican to shame in gaudiness and exuberance, wow. I pedaled past rice fields and distant purple hills, by jungles and more pa060383temples to a mushroom farm (picked some for lunch), a sewing shop (purses for $1-2), then to the best stop of the day: an elementary school, where I helped teach the little five-year old urchins how to speak English.

GOOD MORNING. HOW ARE YOU? I AM FINE. THANK YOU!

I don’t know who liked it more, me or the kids! We sung the alphabet song, counted on fingers, did the hokey pokey and the chicken dance, played with blocks and then I taught pa060398them the high-five, a winner with six year-olds worldwide in my experience. It was amazing. Staying with the family was the best experience of my trip so far; they opened their home and shared their food, their children, their bucket shower with me, all with the smiles that characterize the Thai people.

After yet another home cooked meal with the best curry I have ever had, fried bananas, sweet and sour vegetables, and about six other dishes I hopped yet another songtaew to the big city of pa040092Chiang Mai where I write you now. (Funny, one blog post ago I couldn’t remember the name for songtaew; at this point I will never forget it!). I took a shower, shaved my legs and washed my hair and feel like a million baht! Then I had another massage though this one was a little pricey- $7 for an hour. Oh well, city prices.

I love to travel but you know what makes it even better? Having friends at home who you care about to come home to. Thank you.

Tonight we are in the big city and it is time to PAR-TAY. Last night’s entertainment was Jenga so I am ready for some dancing. If Lonely Planet is correct, there are quite a few techno clubs here and I am HELLA excited to sample the Thai flavor of techno- I bet it is spicy!

Much love my friends! I am writing these posts and not even rereading or spellchecking them, so forgive me for any errors.

Have fun and hold it down for me!

xoxoxoxoxox

Shilo


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Thailand Revisited: $5 Massage, $1 Beer, Free Sunshine

Written in October 2008. Apparently I took no pictures this day.

Yesterday I hopped a train heading north from Thailand towards Sukhothai, where I am writing you from now.. The five hour train ride was hot but not too bad (remember I like shit like this) and all along the way out the windows beyond the farmland, beyond the long-eared white cows, past the swampy land and over the colorful villages you see Buddhas popping up on the countryside, overlooking the surrounding area. My favorite was huge and shiny gold- it must have been 50 meters high.

The ride was relaxing and I read over half of ‘The Beach’, did some writing, listened to a lot of Modeselektor and ate the train-provided meal, a spicy lemongrass-chicken fishball and rice affair.

From the train I jumped on an open-air truck-thing called a Songtaew cruised in the very hot air to new Sukhothai. Every little village you pass has a giant temple inlaid with intricate pieces of gold, red and pink that just dominates the town. Everything is so colorful here- the food, the dress, the people, and the land itself. The hour long ride in the air was nice- got off the truck soaking wet, sopping, after ripping my legs off the vinyl seats.

I checked in to my sweet guesthouse and hit the pool. It is absolutely amazing how quickly 5% Singthai beer goes down in the insane heat. The pool reminded me of Texas- almost too hot to swim, like bathwater. It was fantastic. Dress here is modest so even in the heat I am wearing sleeved shirts and below-the-knee pants or skirts.

After two hours in the pool I got a traditional Thai massage, where they do not use oil, just pull you and stretch you out, for an hour and a half. It was the best massage of my life, and I have been massaged beachside in Fiji. I feel so fantastic and happy.The massgae took place in this barn-type building with geckos all over the ceiling, pretty cool to look at when I wasn’t drifting out of consciousness. The Thai massage’s focus on limbs did wonders for this girl who dances and writes- I want to get one every day. Twice. It cost $5.

Food continues to be excellent, usually spicy which I love, with rice, fresh veggies, and a lot of seafood. It is HOT AS here as they say and I revert to travel Shilo who cares nothing about her appearance and wears one item of clothing only. It is such a refreshing break, although the lack of makeup means I look about 12 yeras old. I am a Pisces with many facets of personality, but this is the truest one, and I try not to walk around with a big shit-eating smile on my face. I will live in the tropics one day.

This morning I am heading to Old Sukhothai which was the capital of Siam in the 13th century and whose ancient ruins span over a 45 km area- a lot! I am going to rent a bike, ride around, sweat my face off, have a picnic lunch, and then will grab a bus further north tonight.

Much love everyone! Sorry I cannot respond to every message individually (even my Mom’s). I am off to breakfast and another quick dip in the pool.

Thailand rocks!