Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Bangkok

OK, folks, I've been here in Bangkok for a few days and have a few photos to share. It's Christmas Day here, but sure doesn't feel or look anything like any of mine previous. On Saturday morning I'll be heading over to Cambodia, hopefully making it through the border without too much difficulty, to spend a few days at Angkor. On the penultimate day of 2008 I'll start a huge marathon of flights and layovers, and will hopefully get back home with a few hours to spare before the new year rolls into town. I'll try to get in at least one or two more postings before I get back to the States, but will make no promises. Enjoy the photos!

The Bridge on the River Kwai:

Yours truly with a 20-something-pound jackfruit near the River Kwai in Thailand:

A floating market in Thailand:

A fighter warming up for a kickboxing match in Lumphini Stadium:

The chedi (bell-shaped tower) of Wat Saket, a.k.a. "The Golden Mount" in Bangkok:

Wat Theptidaram in Bankok:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Leaving the beach today

Well, I finally have a chance to catch up online from Ao Nang, Thailand. I've been here the last few days, and it has been nice to put down roots for a little bit longer than just two nights at a time. Our first full day here we did a motor boat cruise out to some of the islands, including the Ma Ya Beach used for the movie "The Beach". It was a little more crowded than as portrayed in the movie. We stopped and snorkeled at a few other islands, and had lunch at Phi Phi Don. It was interesting there, since they are still rebuilding from the Boxing Day Tsunami that hit this part of the world so hard several years ago. The next day I went on a short elephant "trek", which was still interesting, despite the short duration. I think the last time I might have ridden on elephant might have been way back in my childhood when a circus came to my hometown. I remember a great picture with me and a few other boys all lined up along the elephant's back.

Anyhow, today we're just waiting until 2 o'clock to catch our ride to the train station a few hours away in Surat Thani. There we'll get on a night train, which will carry us up to Bangkok by morning. Bangkok's my penultimate place of temporary residence until I get home in less than two weeks. I think my body will thank me greatly for finally bringing an end to my travels.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catching up in Penang

OK, so I'm now up in Penang after spending 2 days in Melaka, Malaysia. It rained most of the time, and we happened to be there on a holiday, so a lot of things were closed. We then went up to Kuala Lumpur, and had a jam-packed couple of days. The Petronas Towers were lovely outside and in, though the queue started awfully early to visit the sky bridge between them. We then moved on to the Cameron Highlands, which were a nice break from the horrible air quality in KL. We visited a tea plantation and got a little time in green space after being in big, dirty Asian cities for so long.

Unfortunately, my body seems to be fighting off some sort of cold/flu bug, and I've been feeling a bit lousy for a few days. I feel somewhat better today, though there are some lingering symptoms. I guess that's to be expected after living for a year in an essentially sterile environment.

We made it up to Penang (still in Malaysia) today, though the bus we expected to take us all the way out to the island didn't actually go further than the ferry terminal in Butterworth on the mainland. So, we caught a ferry and a taxi and made it to the hotel early in the afternoon. We're here tomorrow, and then that's all for Malaysia as we head up to Ao Nang in the Krabi province of Thailand.

Merlion mascot of Singpore:

Some little pedi-cabs at night in Melaka (sorry, it's not the best picture):

The Petronas Towers at night (from the KL telecom tower):

Tea plants on the BOH (Best of Highlands) Tea Plantation in the Cameron Highlands:

A pitcher plant in the jungles of the Cameron Highlands (about 6 inches long):

Friday, December 5, 2008

exploring a bit o' Asia

Sorry, no pictures are possible from these free computers.

The Battle Box was indeed a worthwhile stop yesterday morning, if only for the slightly creepy animatronic British officers they had to convey the story of the ultimate decision to cede Singapore to the Japanese without continuing to fight. I then walked down to the not-so-clean Singapore River and spent quite a while in the Asian Civilizations Museum. It was pretty interesting, but didn't seem to spend much time on the Japanese or cultures in Mongolia and points northward. The former I can understand, given events of the last century. I then strolled over and looked at the waterfront from Merlion Park at the mouth of the river. The Merlion is some weird city mascot (think lion's head on a fish body) that gets about 5 billion pictures taken of it every year with tourists posing on its pediment. It was pretty hot, so I decided to cool off at the Raffles Hotel. Unfortunately, I don't think my wallet was fat enough to be welcome inside the lobby of the hotel. So, for a slightly less snooty alternative, I bought some snacks and ate on the rooftop terrace of my hostel. It has a good view over the downtown skyline, which I would have tried to photograph last night, if not for another thunderstorm. Pesky things.

Tonight at 6pm the tour group is meeting, and I'm interested to see just what sort of demographics are represented. Odds are I'll be the sole American, which won't be a surprise. Anyhow, I need to go get out of my current room so I can check back in this afternoon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

33 on 6

Countries on continents I've visited, that is. I'm in Singapore OK, and managed to make it from the airport to my hotel intact. I'm hot and sweaty and tired, but here. We were delayed by a thunderstorm in Darwin for about 30 minutes, but I still haven't gotten to actually see lightning since returning from the Ice. I'm not entirely sure what I'll see tomorrow, but I might go see the bunker complex the Brits had here circa WWII. It has the nifty name of "Battle Box", which naturally would catch my attention. I'm also going to eat 3 meals tomorrow, which will be nice. I'm right on the edge of Little India, so there should be plenty of curry and samosa with my name on it just down the hill a way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Darwin, heading to Singapore

Oy! Well, I emerged from the Outback last night to the bustling city of Darwin. Talk about humidity! I don't have very ambitious plans for my single day here, and will be winging off tomorrow afternoon to Asia of all places.

My drive up from Alice Springs was long, hot, and very nice. It reminded me a lot of the US, and road tripping out west. We stopped and saw a lot of great little wide spots in the road with various gimmicks to attract travelers off the road. Highlights were paddling a kayak in the Alice River canyon yesterday morning, and seeing thousands of flying foxes at the thermal pools in Mataranka. I also attached pictures of a few acrobatics at Devil's Marbles and a roadside stop to inspect some termite mounds (they're super hard).

I'm feeling pretty healthy, though am probably a little under-hydrated. I've gotten some color back in parts of my skin, but am still transparently pale from my time at Pole. Hopefully I can manage not to get scalded up closer to the Equator. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn just about 30 km after leaving Alice Springs, which was interesting. Anyhow, there's another installment from your man (currently) in Darwin.

Fair winds, happy trails, and all that jazz.