Thursday, February 18, 2010

Samui On My Mind

It's been a while! As you all may have read and heard, with Brandon's accident it's been quite a week. However, I'm very happy to say that he's healing rapidly and well and should be back to drinking and driving in no time. I'm kidding! I think this accident has made him think a lot, and he will take it as a very important lesson. I'm also happy to report that he will stay and continue the trip with us, because for a while we were all convinced he was headed home.

Today is our last day in Samui. We're definitely ready to head out and see new places, but the memories we've made and the people we've met on this island will last forever. It was truly a magical experience and we were blessed to have had it turn out this way. And even though this is only our first time here, we feel like part of the family along with Kob, John who's been here 7 times and the Guernsey boys who are following in the same footsteps. Our last night was fun and much like all the others, we sat around a good bottle of whiskey and laughed and told stories till late hours of the night. Now we're headed off to Koh Pagnang where we will stay a few days to check out the island and take a day trip to Koh Tao, known for it's snorkeling and diving. We leave Samui with a heavy heart, but mostly heavy from all the friendships and incredible moments we've had. And to any of our readers who may ever consider Thailand as a possible destination, i would highly recommend Koh Samui as a must-see :) You may even find us or some of our friends hanging out on the premises of Chu Chi Mansion, surrounded by thick, lush leaves and tall palms.
For now, we'll see you later :)


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ramble on

So the last several weeks have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but altogether experiences that I wouldn't change for the world. With people rolling in and out of our apartment complex everyday, you eventually start to develop relationships with the ones who stick around for a while. I must especially mention our friend John, with whom the four of us have been spending quite a bit of time. John is a 30- year old Swede who is currently on his 7th trip to Thailand. A very soft but eloquent speaker, John has been more than happy to play tour guide for us around Samui for the last week or so. A big part of the appeal of this island is that everyone we have met is so laid back and seems to take life as it comes to them. I'm 22 with little direction and an anxious mind, and I have found spending time with people like John to be extremely cathartic.

With John and his friend Aek, a local hippie, as our guides, we drove deep into the jungle along backroads that were so steep, the little motorbikes could barely handle it. There were literally some points where we would have been going faster walking along side the bikes than actually riding them. Soon after arriving at the restaurant however, it became apparent that our reward justified our perilous journey. As you step out onto the porch of the restaurant, the entire south side of the island is laid out before you. The surreality of the view is enough to stop your heart. At one end of the island, the aquamarine water is striped with long lines of waves slowly coming into the shore. At the other, the sun, tucked away behind a thick mist, is only evident by the light that is reflected off of the water. As the day progresses, the mist subsides, the sun shines through and if you look closely, dozens of small islands, or more appropriately, large rocks, rounded to show their age shoot out of the water. Small fires dot the island and the smoke that climbs into the sky only adds to the islands mysticism. Good friends and good drink accompanied the divine panorama, and as the sun dipped behind the rocky knuckles in the sea, I struggled to think of a better way to end the day.

The next night, we were introduced to one of Samui's big players. A formal mayor candidate and exceptional cook Lung Ruern or "uncle Ruern" is a kindly and sage old man who despite having a massive villa on the island, chooses to live on a small farm deep in the jungle. We were invited by him to enjoy a traditional Thai dinner which was, hands down, the best meal I have had in Thailand. Boiled chicken with leeks and a large vegetable similar to a cucumber stewed all day in a chicken broth was absolutely delicious, perhaps in part because it reminds you so much of back home. Also a fried duck dish with cilantro, lime, and fresh chili peppers that was absolutely second to none. As we sat around drinking and eating, Lung Ruern told stories of his experiences in Thailand, one of which I thought was so funny that I have to tell you.

About thirty years ago, a group of Christian missionaries was sent into the northern jungles of Thailand to teach the hill people about contraception and safe sex. They demonstrated to the men how to apply a condom by rolling one on to their fingers. A chorus of understanding "ooohs" and "ah-has" surely followed. The men then repeated the demonstration and the missionaries believed that their work was done. When they returned to the village three months later, all the women were pregnant. The missionaries were understandably confused. They soon realized that the men were using the condoms, but had taken the demonstration a bit too literally, by putting them on their index fingers during sex instead of their penises.

With the amount of time we have spent in this place, you would think that we know this island like the back of our hands. But in reality, we really do little else then sit and eat and drink with the friends that we have met so far. Some people may think that we are robbing ourselves of experiences this way. But I wouldnt trade these last few weeks in Koh Samui for anything in the world.
Brandon, on the other hand, may have a totally different perspective of this adventure. After several weeks in Samui, he was taken to the hospital for what Giulia and I initially just thought was a panic attack. We later discovered that he had Typhus fever, a disease caused by a small mite that usually occurs in 'unsanitary and cramped conditions. I think that sleeping four people to a room and two single beds would certainly qualify. He spent the next couple of weeks sober and depressed. Finally, he started to feel better and went out for a night on the town with John and some other friends. When everyone else went to sleep, Brandon wanted to go to an internet cafe to skype his brother, but he never made it. Just outside of where we were staying, he laid his motorbike down and crashed into two others that were parked on the street. He came home, covered in the worst road rash I had ever seen and hysterically asked us for more money so that he could pay off the cops instead of spending the night in jail, this was at about 5 in the morning. Convinced that he was going to jail and still obviously drunk, I was sure that another panic attack would ensue. But over the next hour or so, he calmed down and we even found out that the vast sums of money he would have to pay would be his only punishment for his stupidity.

As it stands right now, the four of us are sitting in his hospital room joking and laughing about what an idiot he was. He is lucky to be alive right now, and I think he realizes that, even though he laughs as though it's no big deal. He thinks that the experience will serve as a wake up call to him, and I certainly hope that is the case, because there are so many people that respect, admire and care for him that it would be a real pain in the ass to get them all together for a funeral.
Until next time, Sawadee Kop

Sunday, February 7, 2010

One Month!

It's our one month anniversary in Thailand today! It still feels like it's been much longer though. I finally convinced a couple of the guys to write on here so hopefully we still have readers, even if it is just our parents :)

I'll begin...We're definitely gonna miss Samui when we leave in less than 2 weeks. Besides our tight quarters and dirty living conditions (not on my part of course haha) we love everyone here and I have a good feeling they like us a little bit too :)

Unfortunately Brandon is in the hospital, he ok though! We had a rough night a couple nights ago...apparently he called a sort of virus or something from a small water bug called typhus and it can knock you down a little for a few days. We sort of researched it and it's nothing serious, but they're taking good care of him. The hospitals here are incredible and besides all the craziness the night we took him there, we had a few good laughs. After me and him got to the hospital at 4:30 am, they were hooking up strange gadgets on his chest and ankles and wrists and while everyone was testing and explaining things to us Bran was like "take a picture" so I'm sitting there snapping kodak moments while he's half breathing, and then suddenly the assistant told us the nurse was his wife and he looked at his watch and realized it was already a new day and told her "Happy Birthday!" and for a minute or two everyone dropped everything they were doing to Bran and starting clapping and yelling "Happy Birthday!!!" haha odd to say the least. But we finally got somewhat of a good night's sleep because those beds are super comfy and we had them all to ourselves. On the down side every time we'd start falling asleep, someone would come in and turn on the lights to check temperatures, or give Bran pills and stuff. Well, now that they've agreed he's gonna be fine they're holding him there a bit longer just for last precautions, so we've visited him a couple times and he should be out of there tomorrow (Monday here) morning or maybe even tonight to catch the Super Bowl. So good thing he's ok, now we just have to see when me and Trevor are gonna end up in the hospital, because we're feeling left out.

Besides that everything's still smooth. We got some new neighbors, very lively fellows, so our Chuchi crowd is very fun at night and we all share stories and laughs over some snacks, beers, or whatever the people here cook. The other night we gave our friend Mai, aka Mai Tai, money to go to the market and she made an amazing dinner for us! She's our age and she's so sweet! She's always laughing or joking around, and it's been fun hanging out with her. Tomorrow she starts her new job so we won't see her as much but we've had a good week with her. Bam (the other girl that works at Chuchi) has this electronic Thai-English translator that sounds words out for you and she speaks with the same intonation as the translator and it's so funny but cute. Singha Minga's a mess! haha She's ALWAYS drunk and she's actually been gone for the last 3 days, who knows where, but she was here today bright and early with a bottle of Singha in hand haha. The british guys from Gernsey tripled, because 6 of their friends arrived last week and they're all staying here as well. Due to this we've all picked up some good sayings like "let's get involved" (as in let's party) or "wrecked" for drunk, "bird" for girl, and many we may come back with a fuller vocab and a Gernsey accent because we can't seem to stop talking in one. We also say "mate" and that's pretty terrible haha.

There was a bbq here the other night and some older french people that are staying here too are in a band (folky/americana/type) and they had banjos and trombones etc. so we had a lot of fun and Bran even played the banjo for a while...not bad I must say! Steve also brought some friends and we might go out with them one of these nights. Then there's Ket who lives here, she's Thai, and she's very intense and mysterious but also very cool. She's been here 4 months and we've rarely seen her around the mansion, but she came out of her room a few days ago and we loosened her up and it turns out she's a badass and probably part of the Thai mafia, because she doesn't work, she loves gambling and soccer, and is possibly the best pool player I've ever seen. So yeah, intense, but very nice! Today we finally got our room cleaned and I think the lady that cleaned it will have to recover for a few days, because she was in there for like 3 hours and she looked like she climbed everest rather than cleaned our room when she came out. We're just gonna take it easy these last days we have on Samui and try to enjoy them fully before we head on to Pukhet.

Miss you all much!



After leaving the suffocating congestion of Bangkok, it would an understatement to say that everyone was thrilled to reach the comparatively calm city of Pattaya. As we drove into the city, small glimpses of the sea could be seen from the highway.For me, it was pacifying to see the ocean again, it had been nearly five years since I had seen it last. Something about seeing those faint glimmers of sunlight shimmer off the gently undulating water puts the mind at ease. Seeing the size and power of the sea makes you contemplate your relative insignificance in the universe, but in a pleasant way that somehow makes you feel as if you are an important component of it.
Immediately after we reached the beach we were greeted by a family friend of Giulia's named Enzo. Enzo is a middle aged man with skin like a baseball glove, a youthful smile, and a stunningly beautiful Thai girlfriend. With his help we were able to secure a room for the night and get settled a little bit. A few hours later, as promised, Enzo reappeared at the Bungalow and told us he wanted to take us to a place called Walking Street. After the frenetic pace of Bangkok, all four of us were ready for a nice quiet night on a quaint and unassuming shopping mall in a small Thai beach town. None of us could have been more mistaken.

Walking street attacks your senses long before you actually see it for yourself. The thunderous thump of club music, the smell of fresh Thai food emanating from the streets surrounding Walking Street attempt to prepare you for the onslaught that is about to ensue. As far as the analogy goes, Walking street is very similar to the strip in Vegas, except there are fewer lights and infinitely more opportunities to sin. Lady boys and scantily clad young women crowd the streets, handing out flyers and tickets for free drinks. Giant neon signs offer what are referred to as "short-term hotels" for very reasonable prices Behavior that would normally be resigned to seedy back-alley establishments in the States is generally accepted and, especially towards the end of the night, also encouraged. To the uninitiated traveler, the entire experience is repulsive, unexpected but also admittedly curious. And while our sensibilities ultimately prevailed over the Walking Street, the entire experience is impossible for fat, white, dirty old men, (which the vast majority of the population consists of) to resist.

The next day, the four of us were finally presented with an opportunity to decompress a little bit. As we sat on the beach soaking up the Thai sunshine, there was a tangible sigh of relief among the group. We were promised a Muay Thai lesson by Enzo as well, but thinking that the experience would be very basic, we were content to relax and let our blood pressures return to a healthy level. As the sun reached its hottest, we were greeted once again by Enzo and taken on a brief taxi ride into town where the gym was.

The Muay Thai gym was fairly small and inconspicuous, its patrons, however, were not. Gargantuan men from Germany, Russia, and even an MMA fighter from the US were training hard, creating sonic booms as they hit the stationery bags with their legs and fists that reverberated along the entire street. To stumble across this scene as a first-timer is, obviously, a bit humbling. But if one has a good attitude and a decent level of fitness, it is pretty easy to get into the swing of things.

The training itself is incredibly different than I anticipated. Like any good work out, the first step is to have a good long stretch. followed by some light cardio. Enzo also showed us the basic stance, movements, and techniques that are fundamental to Muay Thai. The work out regiment itself is set up just as a bout would be. You train very hard for three minutes, then you take a one minute rest. While this may seem easy at first. At the end of an hour and a half session, the sweat poured from us as if someone were constantly dumping a bucket of water on our heads. We thanked the very amiable, and incredibly still energized, Enzo before heading back to town, crawling for our beds and falling into a deep sleep, where pleasant dreams of the sloth and lethargy that would describe my next few days danced through my head.
More to come very soon!
-Vern the Worm

Monday, February 1, 2010

Let's Get Involved

I finally got Bran to write something so now you probably won't hear back from him for another 3 months lol. So yeah we're definitely getting used to things, besides drinking (which we've all decided to take a little break from). Yesterday we laid low all day and then went to this bbq place that was 140 Bht per person and it's all you can eat and you get a big cooker pot thing at your table and you cook your own food. Delicious really! There was all kinds of meats and veggies and seafood and yum! We went with Sean, and Tome (two of the british guys we hang with) and Bam and Mai (her friend that comes and hangs out at the mansion sometimes).

So my birthday was incredible! Much more exciting than I was expecting. After I cameto the cafe and posted that last blog I was supposed to meet up with the guys on the beach, but I was in here so long that I missed them by minutes. So I went and hung on the beach for a couple hours and then headed back to hopefully find them. On my way back I ran into Tre who had a scooter, which they had gotten so we could go to Chaweng for my bday dinner, and he took me back up to the mansion. We all got ready and headed to Chaweng to get a nice dinner, but ended up having one of the worst dinners ever! It was so expensive and our food tasted like a tv dinner pizza. So we came back to Lamai and all split a large one at our fav Italian place here in Lamai (yeah I know we're eating like gringos, but you gotta cut us some slack, we've been eating rice and pad thai for a month now). After that we went back home and Steve was there to surprise me with the peeps from the mansion. They had all bought some whiskeys and cocktails and they boys found me an ice cream cake at Dairy Queen! believe it or not. So it was a great time and we all had fun.

The next day we relaxed again, and I went into town, where our friends at the massage parlor gave me all these good luck bracelets and a necklace and a ring and they got me a little cake. How sweet! They're such nice girls. We hung out with them most of the day and then it was back to the bars at night. We all kinda got separated, until much later and I found Tre and Bran stumbling around headed to the beach. We hung out for a while and then I went and said hello to my friends at the restaurant where we met Jonas (the Swedish guy). I had some curry with all of them and then headed home.

The next day was the Full Moon party on Koh Phanang, which we had all planned on attending, but from the morning the guys all decided they were partied out and didn't feel like they could make it. I still really wanted to go, but I was a little nervous about heading out there alone...I knew about 10-15 people that were going, but we're talking a 30/40,000 people rager on the beach. I thought about it all day long, until about 6 pm. By then the guys were still passed out and Than was in no mood to do much, so I decided to go and see what happened. I headed into town and found the cheapest taxi to the pier and got on a speed boat without thinking about it too much. I got to Koh Phanang around 8 or so and I got a little panicked. Swarms of people EVERYWHERE filled the streets and you couldn't tell right from left. I began following a crowd, to try to find the actual beach where the party was. I weaved in and out of streets following random crowds for a good 15 minutes until I found the beach. There was already people dancing and partying and some Thai jugglers were doing tricks with big fire sticks. I started heading down the beach searching for a familiar face, which I was almost certain I wouldn't find. Not even 5 minutes later I hear my name. I turned around and it was Chris, Nick, and this guy Anthony we met on the plane to Bangkok. Ridiculous! I still can't believe I ran into those guys. We ended up hanging out all night. The party was a lot of fun and a lot less scary than anyone was expecting. Here and there you got offered something, but most people just stuck to their drinks and danced all night. We also met some other cool people. It was definitely worth one more night of craziness to see it, but the morning after I was so glad to have a boat to take me back to Koh Samui where it is peaceful. I think the guys were a little worried I wouldn't make it back, but I was very happy to prove them wrong.

We're still recovering from last week, so we're taking it easy today as well. Chris and Nick headed this way too, so we're gonna try to find them today or tomorrow and show them around Lamai. In a couple days we might try the mountain hike again to see if we can get to the top this time.

Big hugs to you all and I'm out!