Friday, March 18, 2011

Photo Updates

My slow integration after returning home included many hours of going through our 2500 something pictures. I picked out something like 650 pictures to group by country and post for anyone to poke through. Please enjoy some of our top pics picks taken by both Asiana and I.

Location:Denver Colorado

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Journey Back

Our boat ride from Turtle Island was mesmerizing. Sliding through swells of water not bothered by wind, looking like smooth jello, then through the rippled patterns when the breeze turns to mold the sea surface. Flying fish zip out from under our boat floating over the ocean fleeing from the huge, loud, frightening vehicle. Three hours later we pulled into the small port where we we're supposed to wait five hours for our bus. Nothing there but a place selling cheap rice and fried noodles to the crew of tourists waiting for the connecting train or bus.

There was not one person on our full bus that was not under the impression that the night ride to Bangkok was to take off at 9pm. We were all a little surprised when we were called aboard a couple hours early. Its not like we wanted to stay there because it was so great, we were only worried about arriving in Bangkok too early. Minor fears realized, but getting into Bangkok at 3:30 am sunday morning is not that bad. A block away from the drop off point we found ourselves in a very traveler friendly establishment that Asiana scoped out weeks earlier. It stores luggage and lets travelers sleep on their cushions, free internet, serves drink and food. Perfect place to use as home base for the twenty hours we had to kill in Thailand's capital.
We were joined by a French girl who travels the world working at various SCUBA shops as in instructor. She worked at the outfit we dove with in Ko Tao. Not only was she a fun person to spend the day with, we also got some great downloads on diving around the world. The three of us ran around Bangkok doing all the last minute shopping. All the stuff we wanted, but didn't want to carry it around. Now we can bring it all home.

We were walking through the airport like the living dead. Exhausted from such a long day with no sleep and trying to stay awake to catch a 1am flight. As soon as we climbed on the plane we were out. Only awoken by the sunrising over Beijing as we came in to land.

The Beijing airport from which we spent ten hours starting this journey feels just the same. We feel different. That adventure is behind us. We are quiet, still tired, not ordering bloody mary's now, just some coffee. It always seems like the return trip takes longer.

I have run out of books to read. I am running out of things to write about. This journey is running out of time. The next journey is going to begin. It may be more familiar, but it will be with family and friends and I am looking forward to it. It's all a journey - just a different chapter - new blog.


Traveling with Asiana

As this trip comes to a close, I thought I'd give a quick mention about my partner and travel partner, Asiana. Like in the rest of life, we travel quite beautifully together. It's not always easy in the chaos of movement to be graceful all the time. I think we did exceptionally well. We were both understanding and patient. We were always open minded about each others ideas, directions, and basic needs. Yet, since we are two different people we had to collaborate and sometimes even separate. I can't think of anybody I could make this journey with that could compare to Asiana. I am blessed to have such a good companion.

Thank you so much!


One of the best side affects of this journey for me is all the reading I enjoyed. It seems like I move through books slowly at home. A full day of reading a computer screen and then getting to work my way through less inspiring material, like Data Warehousing Concepts keeps me from getting around to the literature I want to read. The book I want to read sits by the bed. At the end of the day I open it, read a page, fall asleep.

It was such a luxury to work my way through novel after novel. Books I wanted to read. Of course I read plenty pieces from Lonely Planet about each area we visited. I read most of that before leaving or on the planes. Not so ironically I read a lot a quasi-travel books varying greatly in humor and approach. I few of them I downloaded, others I ran across at guest houses, or found at book exchanges. Once the Kindle died, I ended up going back to paperback.

I probably made my way through books in three months that would take me three years to finish.

Lost on Planet China
A Cook's Tour
Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?
Sex Lives of Cannibals
Heart of Darkness
Shopping for Buddhas

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beer Tour

Everest - Nepal
Kingfisher - India
Angkor - Cambodia
Tiger - Vietnam
BeerLao - Laos
Batang - Indonesia
Chang - Thailand

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sleeping Under the Stars

The stars were bright with the moon hidden by the earth. It was our last night in a real bed and we spent much of it on the beach, watching the sky, drifting in and out of sleep. Listening to the insects shake their moraccas excitedly and water rushing over the sand. A couple shooting stars. Big Ocean, Big Sky, Big Universe!

One of the best ways to celebrate the new moon is to appreciate the stars that she revealed - how much more of the universe she has allowed us to view just by sleeping in the shadow.

Location:Ko Tao Thailand

New Moon Departure

We are scheduled to take the long trip back home beginning tomorrow. Tonight is the new moon. The beginning of the cycle, poised to grow and wax into it's full potential. Time to start again. We started this journey exactly four new moons ago. Three perfect lunar cycles later we are starting our journey home. We are the tide.


Paddle Ball Wizard

I found that my innovative hustle and cat like reflexes acquired from years of office ping-pong has translated well into beach paddle ball. I would be totally kicking ass in the whole bay here if that were the object of the game. Instead, my shots are to land somewhere in the sweet spot (if there is one) so my opponent, I mean teammate, has a good opportunity to successfully attempt a return... from which I chase down and dive after only to place it perfectly again.

Disclaimer: Asiana is a great paddle ball opponent, I mean teammate. Even without the benefit of daily ping-pong at the office, she rocks the beach.

What a meditation, in the zone, single point of awareness.

Location:Ko Tao Thiland

What's Not Happened

So many things happened on this trip. Most of it will never be able to be captured in a blog-journal. I have written and never looked back. Hell, I may have been repeating myself the whole time and not known it - ALL PLAY AND NO WORK MAKES ME A FUN BOY - ALL PLAY AND NO WORK MAKES ME A FUN BOY...

Anyway, I thought I'd write about what didn't happen.

We were not robbed or victims of theft. I guess that would also imply that were we also not kidnapped, taken hostage, tortured, held for ransom, or sold into slavery. At the most were were ripped off with bloated prices, usually by local travel agents. It's almost unavoidable.

We were never in a threatening situation. We didn't have to run through back ally's to get away from creeps. At the most we scurried along to clear away from pushy vendors.

Unbelievably, we didn't get sick. Okay, maybe a touch, but nothing that that really affected our trip. Asiana had a head cold for the first few weeks getting use to the dust and there was a nauseous moment for her in Bombay. India gave me a parting gift with a slight fever on the plane back to Bangkok followed by a day of me being very aware of how close the toilets were. All in all we were as healthy as you can be for this type of movement.

Most amazingly, I have not found myself limping around on crutches or sporting a sling cuz I wrecked myself doing any of the numerous things that cause me pain from high impact. At the most I bumped my head over and over in countries planned for little people, mostly Vietnam. That's okay since I don't use my head much anyway. Of course, Asiana hit the water ferociously giving her ribs enough trauma to remind her she is in a body. A little role reversal for us. And... I'm not home yet. There is a big rock complete with a rope to climb sticking 25 feet out of the sea just begging to be leapt from...

What else didn't happen? Well, I don't know. I have not kept up to date on what is going on in the world. At least relatively. I am aware of some major political changes. eg. Egypt... I have seen and read of events taking place at any current location, but usually only browsing at a newspaper on a plane. Outside of the occasional emails from my father sending news of the dangerous goings on at my location, I have no idea what is happening outside of what is immediately in front of me. I have no idea who won the super bowl. Geez, I don't even know who played. I know it happened only because a whole town of tourists, mostly Australians, were disappointed they could not watch since the entire village was without power. I only know what is happening with my family and some friends. Everything else is happening without me knowing it. And me not knowing made no difference.


I am so grateful to have had is opportunity to travel. I have been amazingly supported by my family and work. I am totally looking forward to getting home and squeezing Indigo, hanging out with my parents, playing with my friends, and visiting Blythe. At the same time I wonder when will I get more.

Isn't that just like me. So fortunate to taste part of the world and wanting to eat more. It feels weird to be perfectly content with such a wonderful life and still looking forward to what is next. Satisfied but always wanting. I suppose the day I don't want more is the day I cease to exist.

I have run across many youngsters from around the world spending huge amounts of time roaming foreign lands. Emailing grandma to get another couple hundred bucks to stretch their journey another month or two - another country or two. I laugh at myself when I think, "I wish I could do that", followed by, "I did that - I traveled and resided around the world from ages 13 to 21 - thanks mom and dad".

I have seen many retired folks. Spending six months here and six months there. Happy to be warm - happy to be on the water. Maybe I'll get to do that too.

There are families that just saved up, packed up and decided to spend a few years camped on the beach or at a cottage on a river. Do I have to wait another ten years, twenty years to do this again? How about the people I know that never do this - never have the opportunity? How about all the people I don't know who's country I just traveled through. Most never leave their country. Plenty never venture beyond their village or island. Do they want more?

Can I be the most spoiled person in the world, blessed with everything I ever wanted and also be the most grateful and still want more? Does that work?

Same Same but Different

Same ocean, same beach, same sounds, same smells, same view, but different. Different since it's our last day of being here... out last full day of being anywhere for a while.

We will be spending the next four days and three nights making our way back to family and friends. It's time for the final journey home. After what will be 17 flights, 15 long bus rides, 5 boats, 4 epic train trips, and countless taxis, rickshaws, tut-tuks, minivans, motorbikes , and scooters we will have made it full circle. Wow!

I have done my best to write a bit about each place, to give a basic outline of the day, and even sometimes spill a few thought and feelings while recalling interesting moments. Yet, the juice of the journey is in the details. The thousands of conversations had with hundreds of people, both travelers and locals. Each meal, good and bad. Witnessing every event from the slow sunrises to the crazy monkey-dog fight. From the kids playing on the sidewalk to the forests of butterflies. From the colorful lizards making it's way across the hotel wall to the brutal motorbike accidents. It seems like I was present for every bit of it. More present than I am at home.

Can I return and embrace moment to moment existence? Is it just an excuse that I think life is too fast? I have not heard my cell phone in three months. No text messages or instant chats. Emails have been extremely brief and few and none concerning work. Oh yea, work. I have not thought about one snip it of code. No "server down - batch file errors - reports aren't running". I have not been pacing around on my back porch trying to come up with a solution to another of the never ending challenges of how to make things run for my company.

My mind has been very still. I am not even distracted by other conversations since I don't understand what's being said. There are no other stories besides the one that is happening right now. Now! Now! Now!

Location:Ko Tao Thailand

Waking Up to Water

There are some mornings that you bypass your usual routine just because there is an ocean a few meters away. Rather than a cup of coffee and the newspaper, or even meditation and morning yoga, there is nothing like rolling out of bed and running out to float in the sea. Thank you wonderful world.


Double Dive on Turtle Island

We dove with the one other dive shop that is here in our bay, Black Tip Diving. Not only were their boats still floating, but it was the target shop we were aiming for when choosing this part of the island and the crew was super sweet.

I understand that at this time of year this side of Thailand has poorer visibility, while our other dives in Kho Phi Phi had the clear water. This switches each season. While it is true, the visibility is poorer than I have experienced, the marine life is abundant. The great heads of coral are loaded with creatures that must have been an inspiration for many of Jim Henson's Muppets. Florescent pom-pom mops would retreat into their holes and large purple mouth monsters would purse their psychedelic lips when we got too close for their comfort. There is even the excitement of swimming with trigger fish, who will aggressively attack when you enter their territory. Again, the wonderful variety here makes up for the more limiting visibility and we were thrilled to spend the day under the water in the "other world".

We have a couple more days here at a perfect bay to soak up our trip and digest the journey. The next real bed we sleep in will not be for four days while we navigate our way back to Colorado. Grateful as ever!

Location:Ko Tao Thailand

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No Dive Today

I took a short walk down the beach to see if this dive shop had room on the boat. Answer: "Problem with boat today".

I spent the next half an hour helping a group of guys trying to pull the submerged ship up to the beach. Yes, a small problem with the boat - it sunk to the bottom of the bay. Okay, it was not the big dive boat. It was the small wooden vessel that shuttles equipment and passengers to the dive boat. None the less, the gods have spoken, they said, "No Dive for You Today!"

No big deal, we'll try tomorrow. Today I will enjoy getting thai massage on the beach while Asiana practices her newly acquired skill set. Life is still good!


What's All the Buzz About?

The slow chat-chat-chat gains speed. As the tempo quickens, the staccato chirps morph into a hum. The forests here have an insect that creates a hum that can be almost deafening. It sounds like some sort of locust or jungle cricket. I have not seen one in action, but I feel it is a type of beetle. At moments there are hundreds of going off. When one starts, it's slow engine takes some revving up to catch up to the group hum. When it has joined the others the stereo drone is so heavy the thick with frequency it feels like it could lift you off the ground.

These little guys react to changes in light. They strike up the band over and over as clouds pass. The dusk and dawn have symphonies extraordinare surrounding the bungalow. At the first hint of light you are lifted into the trees as these insects call you awake to watch the sunrise.

Location:Ko Tao Thailand

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Last Call

This is our last call... or at least our last port of call on our three month trip through much of Asia. We could not have landed at a more perfect bay to spend the last few days of our journey decompressing. Tanote Bay, is a little cove on the east side of Ko Tao. It has maybe five different outfits letting simple bungalows. Each has it's own cafe-resturants-bar and dive shop. Lush hills surround the private white sand beach bookended by sets of large granite rock and a and handful of boulders peaking out of the ocean.

We were dropped off before sunrise. In fact, before anything had risen. The sun came up then slowly some of boys setting up the the days SCUBA dive started dragging tanks out to the boats. I don't know if we have had a quieter morning the whole trip.

Each place had available rooms, mostly decent huts up the hills and back in the forest, but we got extra lucky when a bungalow just under the trees on the beach became vacant. We got the best spot in the best spot. Later, as people came down to the beach, we were complimented on our luck getting the perfect blugalow - barring a Tsunami of course.

Ko Tao is known for it's world class diving which we planned on signing up for, but after renting some snorkel gear to flipper around the bay, we were blown away. Expecting a few fish zipping around the rock, we were thrilled to find a complete coral reef loaded with amazing aquatic life. There was a huge array of fish. So many different colors and types we could have stayed out there the whole day. I took three different trips out. This beats a lot of the dive sites I've ever been to. I think we ordered the perfect drink for last call.

Location:Ko Tao Thailand

Getting to the Gulf O' Thailand

VIP bus to an overnight sleeping boat to Ko Tao (turtle island) on the other side of the Thai peninsula sounded like a fairly simple journey. Maybe it's because we are nearly done with this trip and made it through the trials and tribulations that suddenly show up when moving this way. I forgot that things don't go as smoothly as expected. I forgot to expect anything. I got lazy and thought we were in the final inning with a huge lead.

The VIP bus was a mini-bus that we have ridden in many times before. They look fine, but have virtually no padding. The half hour trips are fine in one, but many hours can be an ass killer.

Theory: Since most of the local folks weigh a hundred pounds less than me, they are unaccustomed to having such pressure bouncing on hard seats for long periods of time. They don't understand the pain in the ass.

We were taken to the town were we were supposed to catch the boat, but not to the pier. We waited at the little bus depot for the different ride to our boat for about an hour. There was no hurry since we had five hours to get there. A real VIP bus shows up to gather folks heading to Bangkok. Once the others were loaded, they decide to usher the eight of us going to Ko Tao into the double decker vehicle. We figure they are giving us a lift o the pier. Placed in the belly of the monster with no view we all doze in and out of sleep kind of thinking the pier must be pretty far.

Two and a half hours later Asiana was waking me up - "did they forget about us?". Something went wrong. Not long after that the bus pulled over, (I believe after a few cell phone calls by the operators) and dumped us on the side of the road where two tuk-tuks showed up to take us partway back. Rather than taking us all the way to where we were supposed to be, since that would have taken so long and we'd miss our boat, we were taken to a closer port where a wooden cargo ship was getting ready for us. By getting ready, the young boat workers were laying out grass mats on the upper deck. This boat was not for tourists. The boat was fully loaded with beer, soda, and water to stock the island. None of it was available to us. Begrudgingly, they sold us one large water from one of the cases so we could survive the overnight voyage. We rummaged through the ship and found some life vests we could use as pillow and made ourselves as comfortable as possible with those and whatever our backpacks offered.

I think it was probably a funner experience than the normal tourist shuttle would have been. Our groups was made up of mostly Germans and a couple from Los Angles. It was adventurous and even a bit romantic, not the African Queen, but uncomfortable and exciting non the less.

We were awoken from our restless sleep by the familiar call from the landing pier, "Taxi! Taxi!" at 5:30 am. I don't think there can be a worse alarm clock sound. Four of us wanting to head to the remote east side of the island loaded into the back of a pickup truck and bounced our way over the hills to our destination.

Location:Ko Tao Thailand