Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

Hello everyone! Each dawning of a new day, just brings on another adventure. At this point, I'm considering that we're in the running with "Indiana Jones". Up by 5:45am, bathing, and dressing to get to the front of the courtyard, drink a cup of coffee, to be prepared for the shuttle to the casino - pick up 7:13am. Ya'll are not gonna believe this, however, there is no "real coffee" located on this continent!!!! My 3.5 functioning level has gone Kapute! It's instant coffee; I believe I'm gonna start moving to tea, to stabilize my normal intake of caffeine!

Our bungalows consist of "a front porch" - a southern commodity, then a bedroom - not so big, and the bathroom. Now that is really interesting, as I have two buttons in one on the top of the toilet. I've been pressing both, thought it was a sure way to make sure all has gone. WELL, the technology is, you can make a choice. If one, press the right one - 1/2 a tank of water. If two, press the left side - full tank of water. I haven't had any signs of issues, but sure have been giving their pipes a true work out.

At first glance in my bathroom, there is a 17gallon trash can against the wall. (Keg size), with a dog water bowl on top. Thought this was odd, and have been looking for the dawg every since. This is not the case. Again, culture change, as it is used for daily bathroom functions - flush and bathing. Again, I'm overloading the system, as I am taking baths. Some of us here have showers, and some of us have bathtubs. I'm just thankful, as I have hot water.
The casino is having a hard time, as they are rebuilding everytime someone is let go. They had a nice road behind the casino, but have torn it up, as they forgot to place the electrical cables underneath the ground. They have the largest pool in Southern Lao. The nationality height is approximately 5ft. The pool is 6ft deep, and we hear that no one can swim here. Soooo, they are talking about filling it in with rocks. I say, just don't fill it up all the way. But who am I.

Well, a possible international incident was on the horizon. We have changed our currency to Baht. The locals use Kip, so we are constantly being shown calculators, as they are converting from Kip to Baht. The local taxis are called Tuk Tuks. ITs basically 3 wheeled motorcycles with a seating bed on the back. We requested a ride to the market yesterday, "souvenir shopping". Well, we were dropped off at the downtown market. We all knew we were headed in the wrong direction - but agreed to try it out. After a quick walk around, it was mostly food and ladies trying to sell Viagra to the guys, so we decided to go back to the hotel and regroup for another try. Well, the Tuk Tuk drivers will quickly approach you if you look confused and offer a ride. The whole deal on this is "you have to negotiate" how much. I became quickly disgruntled as we could not decide on a price, and communication barrier, we just walked away. One followed us out of the market, and the negotiations began. The price we decided on multiplied by 4 by the time we arrived at the hotel. They put it in kip - then try and convert to Baht - then it gets multiplied. I was not happy, as I negotiated 80 Baht, getting out - it turned to Kip with fingers pointing to all of us... OK - 100 Baht, just paid it and walked away.
When we decided to try this again, we did better, as we negotiated with ANOTHER tuk tuk driver pulled right behind the "rip off artist", for 300 baht - take there, wait for us, then back.
He turned out to be really nice. He took us to the wrong market at first, but we located the right one on the way back. Back at our hotel, loaded with several authentic items to this part of the country, we were happy. Beerlao time!!! Now, just so ya'll know - I have reverted to beer, as if they don't have bottled water, and not too many places have iced tea, so I feel that its safer.
Getting closer to our departure date, we are staying real close to "what we know we can eat", as we have gone through the gantlet of stomach issues. The whole group is tired, and so confused on what day it is..... Everyone of us have awaken to ask, "is this Thursday?". No, its only Wednesday for us. 2 more days, and we're "Leavin, on a jet plane". Again, its nice to have the experience, but there's no place like home. We will be leaving here with alot more knowledge and respect for mankind on this side of the world. The area that we are in is poverty stricken, however, everyone seems to be happy. And very family oriented. So the moral of the story, is.... " You can make it what you want." In the two weeks we've been here, I've only encountered one person on the streets begging. Not so in the US, as there seems to be one on every corner.
Glad everyone is checking on us, and Skype has made life easier for contact with my family. My mother can't go a day or two without hearing from her "Rose among the thorns". That's me!!!! Even though the 13 hour time difference I get to speak to my parents either going to bed or waking up.

I guess you really have to go away to appreciate what you have. Family, friends, home, as one of the items I can't wait to do is drive my SUV!!! Go through a drive through, ice tea, cutting my grass, go left at a light, from the turning lane!!!, go to Walmart, and..... Lay on my couch, and watch "anything I want!"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lounging in Laos

Sabai-Dee! (Laos for Hello!) Yep, the weary travelers have arrived!!! Completely worn out with 24 hour plus travels of...."Planes, trains, and automobiles". It was exactly as such, as we have completely flown nearly half way around the world, negotiated with other nationalities to be "shuttled" from one spot to the next", just to get to where we're going. The first flight was 12 hours. The 2nd flight was the toll - as it was another 5 hour flight. All 3 heads were dropped, like a moment of silence, for about an hour or two even before the wheels even came off the ground. Arriving in Bangkok, we were extremely out of it - as chuckles sounded out through the not so populated airport on a glimpse of a sign stating the corridor to get to Krabi." Yes, I told ya.Changing our monies into Baht, Bangkok currency, to negotiate pricing to be delivered to the other domestic airport across town. All our luggage loaded, we began our travel through the city. I'm not sure, however it seems that they shut the lights out in the town, not much scenery. We did pass a building that was sparkling in the nite - it was a temple. Really cool as we couldn't determine its source of light, "Tom Bodet didn't leave any lights on." Something you wouldn't see down south. That airport had an opportunity to experience a girl down south, as we were waiting for the airport to open, I pulled out my speakers for my iPod, to start blasting Peat Low, Low, Low. Hmmmm, I can imagine the thoughts going thru those peoples mind as I was dancing to it.One last flight - just an hour - Arriving in Ubon Ratchathani we were back on our game to negotiate for not what we were expecting. It cost us 2000 Baht to be hand delivered to the Mukadan - MUUUK a dan - phonics bus station.

My first experience of European bathroom facilities in of all places - a 7 eleven. They do not have toilets!!!! It's holes in the floor with trenches all around, passing the extra expelled water through out the building and outside. (Gosh, I am truly hoping it was just the spill over of the water flowing in the Womans bathroom.) Needless to say, I took one look, and decided I really didn't have to go that bad. The sites of this country is humbling, as it is really poverty stricken. Motor peds are the main transportation. And the site of a family of four riding down the road on a motor powered bicycle, started my giggles. Its the WeeeGooo model!Now, the bus station to be transported over the border was our breaking point. Our luggage sitting out on the curb, awaiting the arrival to place under the bus. The bus pulled up, and several, it seemed like 1000 Thai ladies and men, telling the bus driver to throw their 40lb bags of rice on the bus, and other household items quickly filled up the understorage. There is no rooms for our bags!!! Now what are we gonna do. Oh did I mention that trying to tell the guy - we have to get across the border WITH our 60lb bags are just as important, and we were in line first in English got us nothing but Thai interpretation of something, but it did come with hand signals pointing to another bus across the parking lot. Oh by the way, we did buy a ticket for this adventure - what are we gonna do with it? I think we all wanted to turn around, say forget it, and go back home!!! Again Bus drivers pointing and talking in Tai, starting to cause a scene in the middle of the parking lot, the original bus driver took pity, and ended up pulling around, placing our luggage in the back of the bus. OK, now 2 redheads happy, RC just relieved, and we're headed for the border.Giving away our extra passport pictures like we were rock stars, FINALLY crossing the Friendship bridge - we are almost there! We again got to laugh, as we are standing in line to pay for our Visas, that RC realizes his pictures are in his briefcase on the bus that is already rolling across the border to await our arrival. Peggy and myself just couldn't pass up the our interpretation of "Run Forest Run". Realize its over 24 hours since we said good-bye to the US, but blessed with our international travel experience we are dropped off to find a white van with "our names printed on a piece of paper! Someone FOUND us!!!! Yeeaaahhh!Another short ride to be delivered to the property - tired, worn out, and hungry - we went to the buffet, grabbed a meal, met our constituents, and preceded to the hotel of our temporary residence. The girls have been placed in the VIP rooms - wwwhhheeewww. We quickly jumped out of our 3day travel attire to shower, and start sipping on the National Beer of choice - BeerLao. It's in a bottle the size of a fifth of alcohol, the best thang we've tasted in acouple of days.We await the arrival of our compadres to determine our dinner arrangements. (Guess who's losing weight for 2 weeks? You got it - mode of transportation now is - footsies!)Everything is hilarious now. Get ready for the next edition, potential title - Bathing in Lao!Take care everyone, and will send more later.