Saturday, March 16, 2013

Offers Discount ...

Mae Nam Neighborhood Temple 

Sidewalks w/Carved IN Storm Grates
I suppose at one time or other when traveling, we might need to take a walk to find a pharmacy.  For me, I developed a little infection on one of my ear piercings (not a new one) a few days ago.  I asked around for directions, took a walk to the pharmacy, picked up some rubbing alcohol.  I think that's what it is.  It's aqua, smells like rubbing alcohol, only a bit sweeter.  The infection is ebbing.  I don't know, maybe I should taste it?  Anyway.  It was a nice walk, ended up being a couple miles, just because it felt good
to walk around the neighborhood and explore.

Spirit House
Walking back to my little hide-away at the Hutcha Resort on Mae Nam Beach,  I decided to make a stop at the corner travel office.  There's one on almost every corner in Thailand where you find tourists.  I was thinking of going to two different areas on the island, and needed a bit of help getting there.  Contrary to my initial mind-game that I play with myself, I decided on a couple of tours.  I can't be on my own always, can I?  'Not much fun in that.

Nice lady in the office.  Very helpful.  She began to explain, in English, the tour to Angthon National Marine Park, which I was interested in, having read of it in my Thailand Travel Guide.

She picked up the full color brochure, graced with beautiful pictures and bullet points of many amazing activities to fulfill my every desire.  I asked how many Baht?  She wrote 1500 on the brochure edge, smiled and told me, "Discount for you, Madam," as she writes 1300 Baht.  LOL.  Sign me up.

By this time, I was nice and comfy in the sturdy little teak chair parked at her desk.  In walks the fellow  who runs the internet cafe with an adjoining entrance to the travel office.  He pulls a Singha Beer out of a cooler in the corner while he glances over at me.  Well, of course,  I asked him, jokingly, "Where's mine?"  He laughs, makes some comment and says to me, "You from Russia?"
"No, not Russia..."
"No...not Italy, America! California"  (That usually gets a good response...)
"AHHH, America!  B a r a c k  O b a m a !!!"  He goes on to say, "I'm not so good with language."  And off he walks, laughing, chattering, by which time we're all laughing.

All Aboard to Boat #7 via the Long Boat
Next up, I ask about the 'Giant Buddha on the hill', another place I would like to see.  "Ahh, the giant Buddha!  Yes..."  She gathers yet another full color brochure with lots of beautiful photos and I sign up for that one, too.  Angthon, Friday; Giant Buddha, Monday.  That'll work.  I have to space these things out.  Otherwise, when will I get to laze around the beach??

Angthong National Marine Park
Well, well, well.  Now I've gone on my first tour.  AND, I had a fantastic time!!

When all 35 or so of us first landed on the boat taking us to the Park, of course we didn't really know each other, we were all a bunch of strangers, a bit quiet, just looking around for a friendly face.  An English speaking conversation would be a bonus.

A young couple, turned out to be not a couple at all, but brother and sister, were close to me on one of the several large wooden bench/tables placed on the deck, under a large canvas covered tied down to provide shade.  We began talking, had a couple Chang beers, and by the end of the trip, were good friends.  They're on a 2-week holiday to visit friends who live here on Samui.

Lisa and her brother, Matt from Gatwick, England.  Matt works as a baggage handler at the Gatwick airport, has a grand fascination with all things wild - crocodiles, tigers, elephants, great whites and Thai boxing.  Young guy, already planning the millions of Euros he will make in Real Estate, leaving a fortune to his children.  I think he told me his dad is in Real Estate at this time.
Lisa and Matt from Gatwick

Lisa studies at University in Manchester to be a Social Worker.  She told me with a little frown, saying some of her friends think it's a 'bad' thing to be a SW. "'taking away people's children and all."  She wants to work with youth, with young people, to help them.  Good on her.  When not in school, she lives at home in Gatwick, close enough, she says, to see all the air traffic coming and going.  She has the travel bug bad, has had incredible adventures.  She totally cracked me up.  

All in all, we sailed the high seas, hiked the hills, laughed and laughed and told stories like we'd known each other for a lot more than a few hours.

Luncheon is Served 
We were all served a tasty Thai buffet lunch and all the watermelon and fresh pineapple slices we could eat.   Usually any fresh fruit or vegie that comes in a thick skin is healthy enough to eat, since you peel away any germy stuff anyway.  That's my rule, anyway.  A young Indian couple joined us for lunch; they're visiting Thailand for the first time.  Sweet people.  They told us they don't swim, but they did take snorkeling gear and I later saw them walking in the shallows off the beach, with him balancing her under her waist, so she could bend over and look under the water.

Over the Emerald Lagoon (see it??)
At the second beach we pulled  into, I went out swimming to the farthest point within the buoys, where the water was clear and didn't see much at all.  We had been warned that snorkeling here wasn't all that great because of the tides and everyone swimming around in the shallows.  I took a mask with me anyway.  On my swim back in, I did see several yellow black and  blue striped Mollies, some dark gray ones, a few eels on the sand and loads of coral and seaweed growing and swinging in the current.

As I reached the shore, a young Japanese couple were bending down looking into the water with their snorkle masks, near the shore, where everything is stirred up.  I asked them, "Do you swim?"  "No, no" they replied.  Happy helper, me, I showed them with few words and many hand gestures that if they just walk out a bit, they will see some beautiful fish.  So they turned and walked out that direction.  I turned around, put my mask on for a last look beneath the waves, and OMG!!  There were dozens of striped yellow, blue and white, black striped fishes just in front of me.  And I just sent those fine people away!!  I felt bad.  When I looked out, they were having a good time, though, looking at something down there.
The Three Amigos

At this same island, Matt took the big climb of the day, 400 meters.  Lisa and I did 80 on the first island stop of the day, that was enough for us.  We did a short kayaking around about at the first island, too.  Fred would have been proud.  My brother, big time rafter/kayaker who's taken me on at least one long rafting trip.  I paddled and steered with the best of them, the front-'man' in a 2 person kayak.

The guy sharing the kayak with me was on his own for the tour.  We laughed, shared a few directional tips; he was a strong paddle man.  Not bad looking, either.  We managed paddling beneath some rock outcroppings without just a few crashes into them.  Slight crashes.  Tiny ones.

View from our Boat #7: Fishin for a Livin
Alis, our Tour Guide was an excellent communicator.  He gave instructions to the entire group, and then to small groups, so everyone would understand what would be happening.  English as a second language.  There are many, many, many tour groups out there, and I'm sure they don't want to lose anyone, or have someone get on the wrong boat.  So we all knew, when he called "Boat #7!!", it was time to pay attention.   We were provided life jackets and waterproof boat bags for cameras and such.  Good stuff.  Just after I had booked this trip, I read some negative comments about this tour company on one of the well-known travel websites.  I'm going back there and post a good reference as soon as I am able.  The negative ones were a few years old, so I was willing to check it out.  And I'm really glad I did.

After we boarded for the trip home, about and hour and a half I think, we were waiting for a bit to get started.  One of the tour guides opened up the side rail and let us know if anyone wanted to dive or jump in and swim around, it was okay to do so.  A 20 yard jump into the sea!  YES!!  Matt was the first one in and I wasn't far behind him.  There was the cutest little 6 year old German kid, Michael.  He and his dad would jump in one after the other, he was just the cutest little froggie-boy!!  I think Lisa got video of me jumping my last time.  We'll see when we catch up later; hopefully we'll see each other again when I'm in their neck of the woods in just a couple months time.

Good times, good food, cold beer, cool water and a hot sun made for a beautiful day with lots of great pictures.  Lots of different boats on the sea to see, islands everywhere we looked, shifting cloud formations, the sea the color of so many shades of blue and green.  The waves, the foamy drifts off the boat.  The sea air.  Ahhh.

Sir Paul
As we were lounging around on the boat trip back to Samui, I noticed what I thought was this huge yellow and black bumblebee.  It mezmorized me, flying around the left side of the boat, my side, over the top and back again aft.  Flying and swirling and flipping over and over again.  Darn, if didn't want to get a picture of it.  I tried and tried.

Lisa told me, 'You ARE going to get a picture of that, don't you know."

 Just about when I'd given up, the little thing landed at a post right where we were sitting.  It was a BEETLE!  Right then and there, he was named Sir Paul.

Our Tour Guide, Alis, with the End of the Trip Tip Basket
The Boat ride back was nice and mellow.  Such a change from complete strangers, quiet and alone to becoming good friends, or at least friendly.   It's a lovely thing.

With all this fun and such, I did manage to get my first (minor) sunburn on this current 'holiday'.   Just enough to stay indoors for a bit.

I'll get back out when the sun is a bit cooler in the late afternoon.  Happy Hour time at the Pool and the Beach Bars.  That's one thing about Hutcha Resort.  Three different bars within one small space.  Iced tea or coffee, Chang, fresh drinkable water, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Pina Coladas.....

So yes.
.You can find discounts.
. Just about anywhere.
Just Hop Aboard.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Six Handy Helpers on Holiday

1. Keep My Ear Plugs Handy
Always carry a few tiny packs of little foam ear-plugs, the mold to the ear ones.  Now that’s what I call an earplug. They’re like having a few million extra Thai Baht.

2. When Possible, Take Advantage of My Very Own Bidet.
Oh, not the fancy ones that you install in a bathroom that look like a second fancy toilet.  The ones that are really, just a long kitchen sink squeeze faucet, usually white, hanging in a little holder on the wall next to the toilet.   Nice, fresh cool water, just where you like it!

3. On a Long Trip, Don’t Be Afraid to Use My Electronics
Ipad, Iphone or Laptop.  Write easily with a full keyboard, upload photos as I go along.  A three week trip without a laptop is one thing, three months is another.  Turn off the phone when not in use, save the battery and the data plan.  Use In-Country SIM cards.   If  I don’t know how to use something in my room, ask.  If it looks like a radio, it might be a radio – and a whole lot more!

4.  Always Have My Sleep Sack with Me.
Silk, the color of a beautiful gray-green ocean day.  Like a little sleeping bag, only silk.  Use is as a cover on top of a bed, or getting into it inside the sheets, too.  As a shawl in a pinch. 

5.  Thai Massage?
            Take it.  And another and another and another….

6. Biggest Rule of All.
Pack like Jack Reacher.  I’m not there yet.  Not at all.  I’m working on it.  You wouldn’t know it to look at my stuff.


You Can't be Too Safe...

For some reason, I enjoy starting my trips out of town on the local bus to the ferry to the airport.  So this afternoon, I did just that.  Just as I was seeing the #10 bus arrive (my bus), I realized (by reading the sign on the pole) that it wasn't MY bus.  Because... a while back, the local transit district had a facelift.  Oh, yes, I skimmed the story in the paper.  But I wasn't taking the bus then, so the details eluded me.  Hence, my not knowing the #10 doesn't go to the ferry anymore!  But, ah, the #11 does, and it was just another 1/2 hour wait.  Just long enough to walk into the Kentucky Fried Chicken right behind me for 3 chicken strips.  Cooked fresh, just for me.

So _____ called, popped over to say goodbye, brought her one-hitter and also hit me up for one of those chicken strips.  Of course.  Sure, I'll share my chicken, she shared her one-hitter.  After all, I'm on my way to the airport, going on a long trip.  Who knows when I'll see that bit of herb again?  'made for a relaxed and entertaining trip.

When the ferry floated up to the Ferry Building, we were in for a treat.  While waiting for the ferry, I read an article about the new lights on the new edition of the Bay Bridge.  Wow!  Amazing - a real light show.

I get to the airport, here I am standing in line, of course, another line, to the ticket counter.  'surrounded by travelers with huge boxes and assorted packages of belongings and gifts I am pretty sure they are 'taking home' to their families.  I'm on China Airlines, pretty easy generalization.  I watch this 79-year old looking man, maybe 5'6", 180#, pushing one of those airport luggage carts to the counter piled with high three giant suitcases.  Then he leaves the cart at the counter, lithely sprints back to where he left something, and comes walking back to the counter - with his walker!

Since the last time I traveled out of country, a new step in the anti-terrorist plot has taken hold.  Now they swipe our hands 'for chemicals'.  I asked, "what chemicals", and the young TSA woman told me, almost in a whisper, 'for explosives'.  REALLY???  I could feel my good mood slipping away.  But no, there was more.

Then they had to test my knee brace for chemicals and have me patted down.  I swear, REAALLY???  The nice lady behind me said, "Well, I guess you can't be too safe."  So lest I lose my excitement, I found the bar, had a double shot of JD, some fruit, a few crackers and cheese and I was on my merry way.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Window Seat

‘Sitting in the window seat, one seat between the Big Guy on the aisle and myself.  ’thinking, wow, maybe I’ll have a little space on this long flight halfway around the world. 

Instead I have a new friend.  Her name is Chasti, she’s a Filipina RN, working in the States, going ‘home’ for a month to visit her family.  We sat together and shared a bit of our lives with each other from the west coast of California to Taipei in the East.  Her husband is a Firefighter/Emergency Services guy, works alongside her.  They have a one year old son, who lives with her birth family when she and hubby are off working on the Carnival Cruise ship based out of Florida.  No, she wasn’t on the boat that broke down a few weeks ago.  Her husband went home a few weeks ago, and she’s following.  She told me her contracts are a written up differently with their dates on and off.

I asked her about her work on the Cruise Ship.  She told me there are three RNs who rotate around the clock, 2 always on, 1 off.  Two MDs on the ship.  I asked her the types of calls they get.  I wondered.  People with chronic conditions that flare up? 

In rare circumstances.  ‘Most of the patients she sees are fools.  Vacationers who look at all that food (that they already paid for), thinking now, “it’s free”.  Gluttony kicks in, they eat more than they can handle, get sick and “Help, help, I need help!” 

Or the couple at the bar, when the lady slips down the oak to flirt with some other guy.  Then HER GUY, drunk with madness, starts a fight! 

I suppose it should come as no surprise.  A few years in Isla Holbox, a tiny island off the tip of the Yucatan, I came across a little medical clinic.  Of course I went to check it out.  The Doctor there told me just about the same story.  Drunk tourists who fall down the stairs, break their leg.  Get in fights and fall down.  People, what are you doing out there??