Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Siem Reap, Cambodia Day #1/4

Tom (another roadie) and I grabbed a plane and headed from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia today. We got a flight for about $400 on Bangkok Airways--this was only a 1 hour flight but we got a full meal that was good! A nice change from the nickle and dimming on most American airlines. When we arrived they had a big welcoming party going on. We felt kind of special till we realized we had some government officials on board the flight and it was for them. Apparently the Prime Minister is in town for something so there is tons of extra security all over.
We got a tourist visa at the airport ($20, and yes everyone uses USD here!). We stood in one line to give them our papers for the visa (got on the plane), and my picture (need a passport size photo). If you don't have a photo (like tom LOL) you can pay an extra $2 to have them copy your passport's photo and use that. We waited about 20 min to hand it in and get it back. While waiting I notice this is a really nice airport-it reminded me of the one in Honolulu Hawaii. It a indoor/outdoor one with beautiful gardens all around it, and this one the building was in traditional Cambodian style (I'll try to remember a picture on the way out!).
We are staying at the Tara Ankor Hotel, which we had pre-arranged airport pickup (which I love). The hotel is very nice-got everything we need/want.
Once we got all checked in we took a nap and planned our trip out some.
Then we headed to the Angkor National Museum. Its open from 9AM-8PM and is $12 per ticket. It was nice to learn some history about the country, hopefully we will not be as lost when it comes to the temples. It made us more excited to go also! It took about 2hrs total to walk through, and we read about everything, and watched all the little quick movies they have. I would say go see it if you have sometime before you see the temples.

Then we grabbed a moto and had it take us to the Pub Street. This is where many restaurants are and is next to the Night Market. We ate at Khmer Family Restaurant. Got some fried egg rolls, Khmer style soup, a honey baked duck (GREAT!), wide white noodle chicken dish and some sticky rice for dessert. ALL of this food plus drinks for $21.75!!! It was a great meal, and wonderful people watching location.

After dinner we headed down to the Angkor Night Market (free to walk around). This was a really nice one. Usually people are pushy salesmen and the area are just sticks and tarps put together to form a market. Here is a was an actual structure and the people wouldn't push you much, there was one lady but that was it. I shop so much better in this environment! LOL I got a new bag and a shirt. (pictures latter of them). Also we found a place down there that has Dr. Fish Pedicures, I have been wanting to try one of these since I heard about them. We didn't do it tonight but we ARE going to do it before we leave!!! I will make sure to get video of it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Koh Samet Again!

ook another trip over to Koh Samet this weekend! This time we stayed at the Sai Kaew Villa, it was much cheaper and plenty comfortable! We also had a wonderful dinner and show at the Ploy Thalee Restaurant/Bar on Saikaew Beach (this is the most famous fire show on the beach, and my favorite from the ones we have seen). A statue of the Famous Thai Poem: The poet and the Mermaid:Did the normal beach and party stuff, but this time Tom, Mem, Troy and I all decided to check out the rest of the island since it is a National Park...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Loy Krathong (edited)

Today was Loy Krathong, I'm doing the lazy man link so you can read about it without me having to type it all out. A group of us went out to Beach Road to see what was going on.

Krathongs are these little floating rafts made out of banana leafs, flowers, incense sticks and candles. There are some very simple ones and others that are very elaborate done, the elaborate ones are usually judged in contests. People light the incense and candles on them, some place a lock of hair or nail clippings to symbolize the letting go of the bad parts of oneself. The act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot.

Simple Krathongs-
Elaborate Krathongs-Jeff Lighting the Krathong-Praying/wishing with the Krathong before releasing it into the water (yes he is standing in the ocean)-Putting the Krathong in the water. We were on the beach so many of them ended turned over with the waves. The proper way to do this in the river, but we don't have one in Pattaya.Anther thing that is done in celebration for Loy Krathong is the releasing of the Khom Fai, which are these little hot air balloons... (its more impressive when many of them are released at the same time-but it was to windy for that).
It was windy so some of them ended up in the trees!Some cute kids enjoying the festival-After walking around on Beach Road and the Beach we headed down to the always entertaining Walking Street, which was packed. Here are some pictures of the traditional Thai outfits that people like to wear during this festival. As you may notice even though some outfits are traditional female outfits there are men (ladyboys) wearing them. Transvestits are very common here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween on WalkingStreet

Well Halloween wasn't quite the same here as it is back home. Back home I would decorate my entire house, buy candy and dog snacks for trick or treaters, wear a costume, have a change bowl for any UNICEF boxes, carve pumpkins, watch scary movies, and make pumpkin seed snacks/popcorn balls/carmel apples. Here we didn't get dressed up but we decided to go down to WalkingStreet and see what was going on. So we went to go-go bars and had a few drinks.
Some of the people dressed up-mainly tourists and a few of the locals. There were some interesting people...

The good old stand-by, I just but a headband...She was a statue doll that only moved when tipped!...Witches of WalkingStreet...I think he just likes to wear women's clothes...Most clothes I have seen the go-go girls wearing!...Not sure what he is suppose to be?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Koh Samet Island (Ko Samed)

(All Photos Here)
This last weekend a few of us got together and decided to go to the island of Ko Samet, which is just off the city of Rayong where some of the other crews are staying. The island is technically called Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet (Ko samet national park), and so there is a 200 Baht fee to "enter" the park. Even though its a national park most of the coast on the west side of the island has hotels/resorts, restaurants, etc on it. And I was told one part on the east side is also a little developed. Its a small island and you can walk around the whole thing in 3-4hours.
We didn't have much planned in advance besides leave for there on Saturday and come home Sunday night. So once we got to the pier in Rayong (there is 3 we found out), we rented a speed boat for about 250 Baht each to take us to Sai Kaew beach. Its the largest beach on the island and we were told has the soft sand in the world! The translation is diamond beach or crystal beach.

Sai Kaew beach-
The speedboat took about 20 min once we left port to get us there. When we did get there, there was no port so they just "landed" the back end of the boat on the shore and we had to jump out to get to the beach. This was fine for us but kind of entertaining for the people with luggage! Once we got there some Park Rangers came over and collected our entrance fee of 200 Baht and gave us a little receipt. We were feeling pretty lazy at this point so we walked up to the first place we saw to sleep and rented rooms a the Grand View Resort. We later found out we just book the most expensive place on the beach, but it was only 2800 Baht (less then $100/night) so we didn't really care. Next time we will plan ahead (I know I always say that and we never do LOL). So we got checked in to our nice little private bungalows (had hot water/ac/tv/fridge/the works). Then off to the beach!!!

Our bungalow (Alex had the other half).The people in Thailand (and most of Asia) don't want to be dark in skin color. The lighter skin color the more beautiful you are. So I have never seen a Thai person laying out in the sun working on their tan. I rarely see on in a swimsuit either, if they swim its with full clothes on and they usually are covering their faces at all time with hats/umbrellas. Due to this there are hundreds of beach chairs with umbrellas over them covering on the beaches. Our resort has its own section of free chairs we could use. If you don't have a local hotel you can rent one chair for the day for 30 Baht (about $1).

Our home on the beach-On this island the best part was that people are walking around trying to sell you things. They do that everywhere but here there is only a few so its not annoying like it is in Pattaya. So we sat down with our local rum (SangSom) and then just bought cokes/food/ice cream/henna tattoos/blanket/sarongs/etc for the locals. Also we sat next to a group of women who offered manicures/pedicures and many types of massages--most of us got one of those! Each cost about 200 Baht (yep $6!) for an hour on the beach.

Bottle of SangSom (this was the little starter bottle)-
Dan getting a $6 pedicure (REAL men care for their feet!)My $6 massage-Troy's henna tattoo (the symbol in the middle is the sign for "om" like when you meditate you make the sound ommmmmm)-Tom getting his henna tattoo-
Our chicken salesman! (note how they cover up when in the sun-its in the 90's)-While on the beach we had come prepared to play! We brought with us a Frisbee, beach ball game, football (soccer ball), and an American football. So there was tons of activity.

Alex (from UK) playing American Football-
Seth (USA) playing football (soccer)-
Dan (USA) playing football (soccer)-

After spending all day on the beach and playing games till the sun set we went back took quick showers and go dressed to go to the bars. Well turns out there aren't really bars here. We found one little place where we sat and drank and played connect four (its BIG here), Jenga, cards, and dice.

All cleaned up and ready to go out-(left to right-Seth, Alex, Dan, Troy, Me, Tom)
Then we had a nice BBQ at a the Korn Restaurant, you can pick out the food there and they grill it up for you-fresh. The fish was wonderful!!!!

Boys at dinner-
After dinner we headed to the one club we knew about-SilverSand Club. It was on the beach near ours so we took a songthaew (bahtbus) down there (cost about 10 Baht). The club had a few different levels to it...you could sit out on the sand with mats and table thrown down, or there where tables and chair and booths you could sit at. We stayed out on the beach with the mats...this is where they have their free fire show every night. I met with the guys after the show and apparently they teach classes!!!! So I am sooooo going to try to do that before I leave Thailand. After the show we sat around and drank, danced and talked with all the other tourists that were there. Overall a great night!

Fire show-

The next day....well we poured ourselves into bed about 5am so the next day came early. LOL. We all just sat under the umbrellas and nursed our hangovers while on the beach. Eating plenty of the chicken that got walked by us. It was a pretty relaxed day. And at 4pm we caught a speedboat back to Rayong.

Us on the beach-
Seth napping after a long night-
Me and my beach chicken-