Thursday, November 26, 2009

Same shit, different day

Well, Chiang Mai, bu-bye. Don't get me wrong I had a good time there but man, oh man was I happy to get all my bags packed (now up to 2 backpacks!) and get on the train and get out of Dodge. The train ride was half good, half bad. I didn't have a seat mate this time so I got to sprawl out like a princess but I think that train was overdue for some maintenance. I barely got any sleep because it was one step up from riding on a rollercoaster, just as I would drift off I'd find myself being thrown from one side of the bunk to the other because of the bouncing and bucking of the train on the tracks. Anywhoodle, made it in one piece but I'm not sure how many times I'd ride that train before the odds weren't in my favor.

So Pattaya, again. Eat, sleep, beach, the boy, same same as they say in Thailand. I'm just here til Monday morning and then head off on what in my head is a whirlwind tour of Phnom Phen, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur and Penang but 5 days in each isn't so whirlwind. After being away for over 2 months I've lost all sense of time, it could be Tuesday, maybe Friday and so having to actually plan to be in places with flights and reserving accommodations makes it feel almost, I'd hate to say stressful, how about it feels like real life.

On another good note, Pattaya is busy and it's not so much that old song "The Freaks Come Out At Night" because it's non-stop 24/7. I wish I could have taken a picture at the beach today of the broad (and I use that term in the perfect context) who was head to toe in pink. Right from her pink biker's hat encrusted with rhinestones, her bikini, the chandelier earrings and pierced belly button jewelry. Did I mention saying she was 60 would be kind and that her arm probably outweighed me?

It's fabulous here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

people, Places and Things - Elephant Camp Part 3

O.K., time to wrap up elephant camp! So good day and a not so good day. You know those idyllic scenes you see on postcards or commercials for Jamaica? Well, they actually exist. We took a break one afternoon, hopped in the back of a pickup truck were driven by a maniacal lunatic off road partway up the mountain to to this spot. And by maniacal I mean he was known to smoke ditchweed and every time we were teetering on the edge of a mountain on what could best be described as a cow path, we could hear him cackling like a crazy old woman from the driver's seat of the truck. Anywho, we made it one piece and spent some time splashing around in the probably the nicest spot I've been to on this trip. Also, shirtless, hard bodied Thai boys. Does it get any better than that?

One of the other days, which was not the best one, was the day we went to volunteer for the morning at the school in the local village. Matt, Stacey, Beck and I volunteered for the English class and everything was fine until it dawned on me, everything that had been taught was geared towards conversing with tourists. Where are you from, how long are you here for, do you need a cab. I realized too what some of the other classes were, handicrafts and Thai massage. This is a grade school were talking about, it was a sobering experience to see how few opportunities there are. Anyways, the point of the week was to learn about life here and part of the deal was that it wasn't going to be all mud fights, good food and elephants.

But speaking of food, I know there are a few people who really get off on food porn, so have a look at the northern Thai meal we had on our last night, drool away, it was the best meal we had all week. That or I was finally sick of what we were being served the other 6 days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

People, Places and Things - Elephant Camp Part 2

Thank God I'm heading out of Chiang Mai soon (5 days and counting)....there is absolutely no stone left unturned in this town. Anywho, back to camp.

Yes that's my rustic bamboo hut your looking at. I forgot to take pictures of the equally rustic shower and toilets but at least they had water and there weren't squat toilets. Who am I kidding, after the ballbusting workdays we had, you could have given me a blanket and a concrete floor and I would have been happy. The ongoing argument at dinner every night was whether the sounds we heard on the roof at night were leaves falling or were rats climbing across the roof. I was voting for leaves as it made it a bit easier to sleep. But look! Mosquito netting, how cool is that?

Showering was quite the challenge, there wasn't always electricity for the water pump and truth be told the shower was not up to snuff. So the alternative? There was always a large rubber garbage can filled with cold rain water and a bucket to use. Try doing that at 6:30am. On more mornings than not I would usually just lather up my dry skin with liquid soap and then douse myself with buckets water to rinse off, all the time trying not to scream like a girl because it was so. damn. cold. Mind you after coming in from a hot day of work I will say said bathing was also incredibly refreshing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

People, Places and Things - Elephant Camp Part 1

Sweet baby Jesus, my back hurts, I can't get my feet clean and I'm afraid to open my backpack because it's contents probably smells like a sewer. Oh, by the way, Best. Week. Ever. I don't even know how to write about a week at elephant camp, I was originally going to do a day by day entry, I even was keeping a journal so I could remember what I did but it just doesn't seem to work.
So the people, what a mix. We had 25 volunteers there for the week and it was the widest assortment of types, ages, shapes and personalities you could imagine. The largest contingent was Australian, a few from the UK, one lonely American, 2 Canucks and a few French gals. Right, and a German. A German doctor. A loud, annoying, opinionated German doctor. Well there has to be one in every group, the guy who gets on your last gay nerve in the shortest time possible. Luckily it was also a bonding experience for the rest of us. We thought he was on staff but shortly found out he was just starting his second week as a volunteer. Why did we think he was staff? You'd think so too with the way he was bossing everyone around and walking around like he owned the place. All it took was catching someone's eye as they gave an eyeroll or you'd hear them mutter under their breathe "O.K. Adolph we heard you the first time" and a laugh would be shared and bonding would happen. Anywho, enough about him, the best part of the whole experience really was working, eating, laughing and having fun with the rest of the crew.

Our day started with breakfast at 7, chores, and by chores I mean cutting down 10 foot highgrass with machetes, unloading pickup trucks filled with fruits and vegetables for the elephants, mucking out the elephant pens (or poo patrol as we called it), elephant feeding, bathing, more eating, more chores, more eating and in bed by 10 at the latest to get up early and start it all over again. Don't worry though we had fun. Cleaning out the elephant mud pit would end in a mud fight, elephant bathing resulted in water fights and playing a card game called shithead means there was much hooting and hollering and laughing and talking.

I'll be writing more over the next few days, probably until you're sick of hearing about elephant camp. Just wanted to say hey, I'm alive and I think I lost my gay card in the elephant mud pit because no sane gay man would ever post a picture like this one.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I just called, to say....

I'm heading out of town for a week. I'm off to the wilderness to volunteer at elephant camp. So, no email or internet, there may be cellphone access......if I don't post the week I get back you can assume that I either got lost in the jungle, trampled by elephants or lynched by the other volunteers for my sarcastic comments about their poor choices in hats.

Other than trying to figure out how many articles of clothing to bring (they recommend 1 set of clothes per day plus 1){this was obviously not determined by a gay man which would be 2 per day minimum}, I've been finalizing my last 6 weeks or so in southeast Asia. It's funny because I did plenty of research but never actually made any type of itinerary, completely forgetting that things like flights and accommodations might actually need to be done in advance. So once I get back, God willing, I just have to fire off some emails and hit up a travel agent in town to get everything finalized. It's working out roughly to 4 days in Pattaya to see Jay, 10 days in Cambodia (Phnom Phen, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville) and then off to Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia for another 10 days. After that, Vancouver.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Give me 5 minutes, I'm sure my mood will change

So, in my head I had a long blog, o.k. a rant, about how bored I am, I'm ready to leave Chiang Mai and within a few short hours all gone. Why? Well I heard from a guy who I've been in touch with but hadn't yet met and with some arm twisting he got me out of the house and off to the final night of Loy Kratong. Yes there was arm twisting because I was ready to just settle in, be cranky, eat junk food and bemoan the fact that I was in Thailand. I know, my life sucks. Truth be told, if I was to do this again I would stay in Chiang Mai a shorter period of time and also make sure I had more cash in the bank. I'm living cheque to cheque right now and it makes me damn anxious always wondering how much commission will be coming in. Right now I have enough to last me til my next payday so keep praying for me that the next 2 weeks are good ones for money coming in.

Anyways, I digress. So, arm twisted I hopped on the back of D.J.'s scooter and we tore off down to the centre of all the action down near Tha Pae Gate. Parades, fireworks and crowds of people. None of these would usually appeal to me but things are different here, the people actually have manners. No elbowing, pushing, feet being trampled by obnoxious bimbos wearing high heels. They do it right here, orderly, well mannered and gracious. For the first time ever I actually enjoyed going to parade.

The best thing of all is the launching all night of thousands of paper lanterns fuelled by candles, something we would never be able able to do in the west. Fire hazards? Of course they are, there's a reason there are teams of guys armed with 20 foot poles running around whacking the damn things out of trees and power lines. It's up in the air whether the power failure at my apartment last night should be attributed to a lantern gone astray or errant fireworks but it's 6 of one, half dozen of another at this point because the lanterns are pretty cool.

Anyways, I'm almost halfway done my trip. I know, right? While I feel like I've overstayed my time in Chiang Mai a bit, my week at elephant camp is only 5 days away. When I was at the camp office today I heard there are 10 other volunteers this round so I have 10 new people to contend and get along with in addition to the rustic setting north of Chiang Mai complete with bamboo huts, mosquito netting, squat toilets and rainwater showers. You know I'll have plenty to say about all of it when I return.