Tales From A Broad

My year of teaching English in Japan is up. Next mission: backpack Asia before going home to the U.S.A. Currently HOME!

Happy Year of the Dog!

Monday, January 30

I should've posted this a month ago, but what can I say? I'm a procastinator. So, Happy New Year to you guys back home and I hope this one's even better than the last! As for me, no new year resolutions. I'm just going to keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. I spent the holiday on Koh Phanghan and I must admit that it was the best New Year's I've ever had. There were thousands of people spread out on the beach dancing, walking from bar to bar, watching the locals throw flames in the air, and a certain someone who I "disappeared" with. (*_^) Too lazy to write the details of the night. I'll just let the pics speak for themselves.

Koh Phangan: Pick Your Poison

Sunday, January 29

Koh Samui is only a 45 minute ferry ride from Koh Phanghan, the island that parties are made of. Notorious full and half moon parties, jungle and waterfall parties, and the biggest New Year's party in Thailand. Like other hedonistic backpacker havens (see Goa, Ibiza and Amsterdam), Koh Phanghan proves that it can stand the test of thousands of cheap flip flop imprints and beer bottle caps. A Dionysian dream.

Koh Phaghan by day...Koh Phanghan by night...These "Buckets of Joy," as the Thais like to call them, are plastic buckets filled with your choice of toxic Thai whiskey, Red Bull, and/or Coke. Seemingly harmless, one sip of this lethal potion made it clear that it would be a looong night. The lax regulations on how many amphetamines Red Bull in Thailand can have made sure that we stayed up until sunrise practically every night. This was more like "Buckets of Liquid Crack," my friends, and they cost less than a bottle of water.Eating, drinking, sleeping on the beach...Fire limbo and alcohol: a winning combination.Mellow Mushroom "Bar" in the back...guess what they sell?

Koh Samui

Thursday, January 26

This is the infamous island off the southern coast of Thailand where lady boys are proudly on the prowl for new blood and Scandinavian families flock to scorch their pale skin under the sun. David and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Luckily for us, we only stayed there for a night and half a day...enough for me to scope the beaches. Some English chick told us about athe “Grandfather Stone.”...a.k.a the penis stone, so David and I went on a frantic search for it. She was right. After a few pictures, my job in Koh Samui was complete. Koh Panghan, here we come!

Welcome to the Jungle

After Bangkok, David and I headed north to Chiang Mai. BTW, I haven’t formally introduced David. He is an Irish JET who I traveled with the most. Despite the relentless rounds of light-hearted American bashing vs. leprechaun jokes, he’s the man if you want a good laugh.

Chiang Mai is known for its jungles and over 300 wats. We went with a group on a 2-day trekking trip through the jungles. The 8 of us—2 French, 3 Koreans, 1 German, 1 Irishman (David), and 1 American (me)—hopped on the back of a raggedy pick up truck that took us to a remote market. This was our starting point.James and Nat were our local guides who knew everything about the wildlife, hill tribes and vegetation in the jungles. They were hysterical. James was my fave (the guy on the right) though because he gave French Titi and me a fake tat from coal and tree sap.Trekking wasn’t too hard…we passed spiders, rice paddies and water buffalos. We swam in waterfalls along the way... We finally reached the hill tribe that we were going to be staying with for the night.Besides trying to sell us handmade necklaces, village kids hung out with us, drawing fish pictures until it was their bedtime. They were cute, but probably jaded by new people, especially tourists.After dinner, we hung out around the fire and fell asleep in our makeshift cabin.We did most of our touristy stuff the next day. We were hiking most of the time stopping only to eat, ride elephants and go bamboo rafting. At the elephant camp, I rode on one called Poko.Unfortunately for him, he was really hungry and kept stopping every minute to eat the banana trees on the sides of the dirt path. With each curling trunk reaching over the sides, the little local man on Poko’s head would grunt, kick his skull and dig his Grim Reaper-esque dagger in its ears. This didn’t discourage Poko from eating, so his ears were bleeding by the end of the trip. Me, the unsuspecting tourist, had noooo clue that this is how they discipline the elephants…I will never do that again!I bought a bundle of sugar cane and fed Poko with them for a job well done.The trip was almost over, but we still had to do one more thing—bamboo rafting! It was more like bamboo floating because the river was pretty tame.Filthy and exhausted we headed back in Chiang Mai in time to make it to our evening flight down to the southern islands. Next stop: Koh Samui baby!!!!

Curry, Markets and Backrubs

Wednesday, January 18

It all started in Bangkok.

The wild rides in the back of tuk tuks, a glorified lawn mower, in the impossible Bangkok traffic. My favorite driver was Essid (not pictured) who took me to 3 different wats (temples in Thai) and an imposter jewelry shop because there was a “big sale.” Traitor.

The hour-long, full-body, traditional Thai messages that twist--practically break--and realign your bones back into place. Even if the masseuse was a tiny little Thai with hands no bigger than a lotus bud, I could rest assured that it would be the best 150-200 Baht (less than $8) I had ever spent.

The relentless bargaining for everything all the time, not just in the markets:
 Guesthouses: I lowered the cost of my first hole-in-the-wall hostel down to about $5 per night.
 Already dirt cheap, bootlegged stuff like Cd’s, DVD’s, purses, jewelry, tazor guns (!!), books (would suck if your job was to stand in front of a Xerox machine to make them), and, dare I say? Viagra!
Tuk tuks, taxis and any other form of transportation.

The street carts brimming with Pad Thai noodles, sliced papaya, watermelon, pineapples, etc. Yet, the quintessential street cart delicacy was the banana pancakes drenched in chocolate sauce and sweetened condensed milk. Hands down, some of the best meals I got in Thailand weren’t in a restaurant, but from a short lady behind a street cart. You can forget about ambience. Your utensils were sometimes only a toothpick and your table was the street curb. This is truly fast food in every sense of the word. I bet if you pitted a local Thai and her cart against a McDonald’s employee of the month, the Thai would whip up the fastest, healthiest and tastiest meal. Booya.

The interesting backpackers, expatriates, hippies and locals I met. Some of the coolest people I hung out with was was this sibling trio from Seattle.

The lazy dogs that are so jaded by humans. They aren’t’ companions in the Western sense. No leashes. No doggy bowls of food and water. No showers. Just feed ‘em and forget ‘em.

The “Ping Pong” shows in Bangkok. Well…I actually never went to one, but I figured that the live sex show I saw in Amsterdam was enough hilarity and degrading entertainment to last me awhile.

Christmas with the Monks

Thursday, January 12

****I've finally uploaded all my pics from my trip! Click on my website to the right (Beware: I took A LOT of pics) to see them.****

It just wouldn’t be Xmas without being blessed by Buddhist monks; transvestites lip-synching on a boxing ring; a nice German dinner with 2 Israelis (Happy Hanukkah!?!), an Irishman, and an Ozzie; opium fields; a drunk Thai planting a wet kiss on me; a hardcore tournament of “Connect Four;” and a celebratory Muay Thai boxing match that left one guy coiled on the ground in the timeless fetal position. I don’t know if anyone could have possibly had a more random holiday than me, but as dysfunctional as it was, it proved that it doesn’t matter where you are; you can still have a kick ass time if you’re in good company—and I was!

David and I spent the best part of the day visiting a wat on a mountain top, overlooking Chiang Mai. We stopped by a hill tribe on our way up. Even in the middle of the rural mountains, the village kids were putting up a fake Xmas tree outside of their school. Other kids were flying kites while the adults were busy trying to push their souvenirs on unsuspecting tourists. There wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about this hill tribe except for one thing: there was a vast poppy field. Since the tribesman aren’t officially Thai citizens (many of them are Burmese, Chinese, etc.), there’s not much the local government can do about them using opium, and I don’t think that they necessarily care either.We then made our way to the wat. Despite the cloudiness, I still could feel the distance to the ground. Like every other wat in Thailand, it was elegantly decorated with gold, large spires, rows of antique bells and massive statues of Buddha: the man, the legend, the uncontested Supreme Being in Thailand. And yes, he is holier than thou—shut yo mouth!

Since I couldn’t really be doing the whole Jesus thing in Buddhist Thailand, I opted to get my quick holy-fix from the local monk in the temple. Right…well, women aren’t supposed to make direct contact with the monks, so I nudged my bribe for holiness (is 20 baht enough to slide my way into spiritual stardom?) to his feet, stayed on my knees and remained bowed over my legs. From there it was a blur. I remember indecipherable chants, sprinkles of water on my head, and before I knew it, he was tying a thick white string around my wrist. “Leave this on for 7 days,” he commanded, and for 11 days I did (I figured a few more days were good in case Buddha forgot about me. There were a lot of people in line that day).

Xmas night came and David and I met up with Justin and 2 Israeli girls he met. After gorging in a German restaurant and doing a bit of shopping in the night markets, we went to a big square surrounded by tiny bars encircling a proper boxing ring in the model. With a drink in one hand, and the other strategizing where we’d put the next chip in the “Connect Four” games on the tables, we pissed the night away. Highlights of the night:

1.) The drag show on the boxing ring. The lady boys in Thailand are everywhere and have gotta be the most convincing and beautiful lady boys in the world. Need proof? More sex change operations are done in Thailand than anywhere else in the world and it shows! I heard countless stories of innocent guys (I won’t mention any names, but you know who you are! hahah) trying to hit on these “women” or being picked up by them.2.) The Muay Thai boxing match after the drag show. For those of you who don’t know, Muay Thai is considered to be one of the most dangerous forms of combat because you can punch and kick.3.) The drunk Thai guy dancing on a bar stool and the drunk English bartender who couldn’t even read our bill straight. It would’ve been too easy to walk away with a forced, sloppy kiss and without paying for our drinks at all, but only the former happened.

Taipei, Taiwan in 8 hours

Back from my vacation and what can I say? No blog post could do justice to the country (jungles are neighbors to the beaches), it's people (the land of smiles) and the food (did u know fried bugs are packed with protein?). So, I'm going to have to write seperate posts about it throughout the week.

I left Fukouka, left the cold, the over-the-top politeness that makes Japan Japan, left my schools and students without looking back. I had an 8 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan, enough time to ditch the airport and do some speed sightseeing. But, I only made it to Taipai 101, the world's tallest building, because there were so many shops.Nohting particularly memorable happened in Taiwain except that I was hunted down by a group of teen girls for a "picture with the--probably stupid--American" and autographs. It felt so weird.Note the girl left of me pretending to kiss me. Oh yea, why is it that Koreans, Taiwanese, and Thai people--all more poor and, supposedly not as developed as the Japanese--able to speak English 5 million times better than the Japanese? Yet another moment in my life in Asia where I'm left with my arms in the air, muttering, "Nani (What)?!?"