February 28, 2004

Timeless Thailand

So my journey is nearing it's conclusion. Today I'm heading to New Zealand for about 6 weeks then (tickets willing) I'll be heading home! Strangely, I'm feeling a little odd about heading back into western civilization. Two main reasons, firstly; I'm used to the Asia travel style -- sounds like NZ will be very different, secondly; it sounds very expensive. However, those two reservations asside, I'm extremely excited to see NZ, the amazing countryside, the people, the cool tourist activities (maybe sky-diving, black-water rafting, and yes the sheep... OK I'm not that excited about the sheep, but it must be a feature of the country with a population of just under 4 million people, and I have heard estimates of as many as 80 million sheep!!! :)

Since leaving Cambodia, I have been hanging out with Wade in Bangkok. Not much to report except that we have enjoyed hanging out. Yesterday, we went out to The Ancient City. Which is a pretty huge park (roughly shaped like the country) with bigatures (large scale modles) of a lot of Thai monuments. It's an interesting way to get a feel for what Thailand has to offer and a great place to take photos. We rented bicycles and meandered around for a few hours. It was opened in 1963, the brain-child of a wealthy business man from Bangkok, apparently he envisioned this park as a means of offering cultural healing to the world. Although I'm not quite sure how... In any case, there were very few tourists, and it was quite an interesting place to spend a day!

Goodbye, Thailand, Hello New Zealand!


-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Thailand to Cambodia

After enjoying an afternoon and evening in Trang (very nice town!), I flew up to Bangkok. I stayed at a great hostel not the cheapest or cleanest place in town (don't assume it is expensive or dirt ;), but definately the coolest place to hang out with other travelers... I spent about a week sorting out a trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and getting my teath worked on every day.... yikes :) I went to a very nice clinic that has very modern equipment and a really nice office. Compared to the US, prices were very reasonable and the dentists were fantastic! Everyone spoke great English and they were really gentle...

So that was probably pretty boring ;) but Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples has been really lovely. I flew from Bangkok directly to Siem Riep, which meant that I completely bypassed the road system in Cambodia, which I must confess gives me the heebee geebees ;) I am staying at a nice B&B in Siem Reap that's run by an English couple... It's their first season, and they already have great staff and a really friendly setup!

My first full day here, I hired a car and a guide for a solid introduction to some of the main temple complexes. We went to Ankor Wat, which is amazing, but I have to admit that I was not quite as awstruck as I thought I would be. I had imagined it bigger and more grand... I guess that comes from going to places like Orchha, Kujaraho and the Taj Mahal in India and some of the amazing temples in Japan... Still it is a very impressive stone mountain and with some really good sculptures. And I was more impressed on my second visit (day 2) when I didn't have the overblown expectations ;) The external stone at Angkor Wat is sandstone, some of which has lasted remakably well over the last 1,000 years. I think the ground are about 1.3km by 1.5km... which is HUGE by any standard. There is a moat that's about 300m wide then a large grass area with two stone libraries and two modern (16th century) Budhist temples. Apparently this area would have housed thousands of dancers and monks and grounds keepers, etc when the temple was in use. Then you get to the main structure. Which basically has several concentric walls with courtyards. The first wall has some really nice baise relief (sp?) sculptures. Mostly stories from Hindu mythology, but also some stories about the life of the king who built Angkor. All over the temples here there are carvings of lovely women called Apsara. There are two forms, either dancers or servers (apparently not servants... i.e. everyone was paid). The structure is setup with it's walls facing each of the primary directions. The top most enclosure has towers on all four corners of the walls and a larger tower in the center. These five towers are supposed to represent Mt. Meru, which is the 5 peaked mountain where the Hindu gods are supposed to live.

Most of the temples here are Hindu... There are several Budhist temples, but they were mostly defaced, presumably by Hindus, I beleive sometime in the 16th century. Our second temple was Banteay Srey, which is a very small temple that is unique in that it is made from mostly red and yellow sandstone. Also the sculptures are everywhere, and they are really lovely. Although it was small, and we didn't spend that much time there. It was my favorite temple. Again, it is hindu and it has the 5 towers, like Angkor Wat. But it seems to have a lot more of a Hindu mystical spirit enfused in it than any of the other temples (for me :)...

Temple 3 was Ta Prohm, which is famouse because they have not completely removed the jungle, so this is an amazing opportunity to see how nature and time can eat away at someting as fleeting (in eternal time) as a solid strong temple... If you have seen pictures of Angkor with trees growing out of or on temples, they are probably taken here... Also the cover of the Cambodia Lonely planet is taken here... I think this temple is one of the Buddhist temples that was re-apropriated by the Hindus a while back.... So all the Bodhisatvas have been chiseled out and lingas were placed where the Buddha statues used to be.... Quite a shame...

I wish I was here near the end of rainy season, rather than just before it... it's dry, so the trees look like they are having a hard time, and the temples that have ponds or that are built inside ponds... look a little bleak.

Temple 4 was Bayon, which used to have 54 towers, each one with 4 huge Buddha faces (one facing each primary direction) topped by a lotus flower. Apparently there are now about 34 towers... This place is probably my second favorit temple... So impressive, and the faces are so expressive... Fortinately when the Hindu reaction (that's what the guides all seem to call the defacement) happened, they took the Buddhas for faces of Brahman, so they survived... WOW!!!!!!

So that was day one, and I spent two more days looking around, revisiting places, etc. I have seen so many beautiful things over the last few days... however, today I stumbled (with the help of a very nice 12 year old cambodian girl) upon two Apsaras that she called Queens. They were bigger than the others, they were in very good condition, they even had diamond (not sure if they were real) jewels in their belly buttons, and they were stunning.... they were hidden down a few tunnels at a temple called Preah Khan... looked after by an old woman with black teeth... she provides insense and candles for people to pray... what an absolutely amazing, amazing experience!!!! All of it, the young girl, the old woman, the lovely statues, the insense, the praying... wow!!!!

Very much Love,

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 06:13 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

What Next?

It's about time for an update, me thinks! :) So Wade and I made it onto the liveaboard with Coral Grand in Khao Lak, Thailand. We spent a pretty intense four days diving. I really enjoyed getting back into a major diving mode, and it was really sweat having Wade along! We saw Leopard Sharks and Manta Rays as well as: Octopus, Lobster, Cray Fish, Nudi Branc (sp?), Ghost Pipe fish, Eals galore, and much much more ;) Wade and I did several dives, with just the two of us, which was really cool! I'm definately looking foward to finding me some regular dive buddies to dive with, rather than going out with DMs most of the time! The boat and crew were great! The food was mostly great with a few minor exceptions, the other divers were pretty cool. One guy who makes tons of videos who showed us videos in the evenings, and crazy itallian woman who seemed to bounce rather than swim when she was in the water (you go Nico!!!!)...

So after 4 dives a day for 4 days, we made it back to the mainland... Had a bit of a hastle with our room, but got it sorted quickly. Then Wade and I took a minibus down to Krabi town. The town was OK, but nothing particularly special... it seemed to be half tourism and half trade... that was nice... and the food at the night markets was very good... Thanks Ot for the amazing iced tea and interesting conversation! We spent a day at the Tiger Cave which is a Budhist temple that hosts a personality cult for the main monk... was quite interesting, if not particularly inspiring :) There were loads of monkeys (not a pun) so we spent a lot of time taking pictures of them... and some time hiking back behind the temple. We whimped out on the 1200 step climb up to a huge gilded boulder and mini-temple... It was covered in scafolding... but folks who made the trek said the veiw was great (I'm glad for them after that much effort! :) We did not make it out to the Islands near Krabi since Wade was having major aqua-phobia :) actually having vertigo from an ear infection contracted while diving... Understandably, reducing the appeal of doing water based activities...

We did head out to Koh Lanta, which is a pretty big Island south of Koh Phi Phi. They had 6 resorts about 10 years ago... now they have over 200... we had a hard time getting into a room... hot bothered, hungry, not communicating well... ended up in the place that I walked away from at the start of looking for somewhere to stay... ;) I spent a day snorkeling which was OK, but not fantastic, was just nice being out on the boat and snorkeling for me, and Wade read and slept... Seems like we ate a lot and slept a lot for a few days... then Wade headed down to Malaysia and I moved to some neigboring bungalows (cheaper smaller room for 1 person) for a few more days hanging out. I went diving on Hin Daeng and Hin Muang which are 3 hours boat ride south of Koh Lanta... I dove with Koh Lanta Dive Center because several of the folks from the liveaboard had recommended them, and because I bumped into Rob and Karen who had also been on the liveaboard, we ended up diving together, which was way cool. Hin Daeng was AMAZING, really wonderfull dive! Hin Muang was a dissapointment, but mostly because the current had really picked up so we had to work hard to not get very far and most of the fish had buggered off :)

From Lanta, I headed to an island even further south called Koh Hai. I stayed at Koh Hai Villa, which was nice, but a little too quite... that's why I went there... for quite... :) Had a very relaxed few days, snorkeling, swiming, playing with my poi and even a bit of juggling on the beach... Now I'm ready for civilization.

After an incredibly painfully loud longtail trip, I'm in Trang city... just booked a ticket up to bkk so I can sort out the rest of my trip... At this very instant, I'm thinking about going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then heading to New Zealand for a bit over a month, then heading home... I think I'll goto Australia another time... I'll be sad to miss the diving, but I'm feeling like getting home :)

Posted by binduwavell at 04:41 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2004

Good Lak

So arrived safe and sound, found a cool place to stay near downtown. Spent my first day looking for a charger for my camera and PDA since I blew the old one up my first day in Indonesia :( Then wen't to pick Wade up from the airport... We spent several days roaming around BKK... Shopping, eating good food, riding boats, etc...

Then we flew down to Phuket and got a Taxi up to Khao Lak. Which seems to be overrun with Germans and Sweeds. The crowd here is mostly middle aged, or older... a few families, but not at all the back packer scene that was going on on Koh Tao or Koh Samui.

The main thing going on here is diving and snorkeling tirps out to the Similan Islands. Wade will finish his Open Water course tomorrow evening and we are going staright onto the liveaboard for 4 days and 4 nights (Queen Scuba from Coral Grand). I did two dives from a speed boat the first full day we were here. It was quite nice, but not super fantastic ;) I'm hoping that the liveaboard will rock... well at least that the experience will rock, I'm not sure that the boat rocking too much would be a bonus ;)

Tons of Love,

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2003

Finally quitting Thailand

(And finished "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" :)

The last week in Bangkok was really nice. Did lots of walking around different areas of town, retail therapy (is there a different phrase if you're just looking?), watched a few movies, started reading "Wild Swans: Three Daugters of China", listened to a lot of music...

Yesterday evening I finally made it to China (Hong Kong is China right? :) Had a really easy flight on China Airlines, an hour bus ride into Kowloon (just north of Central Hong Kong) and found a TINY single for $18/night! Ouch! It's very expensive here compared to India/Thailand/Laos... not that I'm complaining. So far it has been a very cullinary experience!

Last night I found a vegie place (you know the kind with all the fake meats).. Had greens with beans :) there was some kind of fake meat that I've never had before, that tasted/textured (is that a word? :) a bit like pumpernikle (sp?)... sounds strange, but was really nice! When I got back to the Guesthouse and checked the news (Did you know news is an acronym for North, East, West South? The order that mail couches arrived in London every morning in the 1800's)... But I digress... on the news they said that there is a grade 1 tornado [update: oops, it was a typhoon, not a tornado] warning... wasn't clear if it was a grade 1 tornado or grade 1 warning... turns out that it's now a grade 8 warning and that there were 140 mph winds in southern Taiwan yesterday from this thing... Apparently grade 8 is pretty dire and most of the shops have closed down... I'm so glad I'm staying on the 14th floor! So far I'm not that worried, it's raining hard out there, but not much wind, will see how things progress. (I'll keep you all posted if it get's freaky!)

Anyway, back to food! This morning, the breakfast joint I was looking for had vanished (I want real time updates to my Lonely Planet!) and there was a Starbucks near-by so... damn... had a blueberry muffin.. mmm... note to self, Starbucks in the US has bad tea, same is true for Starbucks in Hong Kong ;) Then while comparing guest houses, I fell upon a really nice tea shop!

I spent most of the morning trying different teas at Sun Sing Tea here in Kowloon. Nothing spectacular, although a couple of rather nice teas. Too bad the prices are the same as they are in the states... I hope the farmers don't charge this much! ;)

Had Dim-Sum for lunch, was a bit hard communicating that I don't eat pork or beef (horror of all horrors!!!) but it was lovely and now I've found a super fast internet cafe just outside my guest-house! And they have web cams and everything!

I'm planning on spending about 6 days here. I need to get a visa for Taiwan so will do that here, and hope to research and experience tea... Already found one place I've never heard of that has an Oolong tea that tastes like Lychees... quite nice!

Hope you are all very well!!!

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 02:14 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2003

My Chaing Mai

Chiang Mai has been really lovely! Spent a couple of days roaming the city, then 4 days learning to cook Thai food... yum! I've also been to the zoo, several markets (including a buffalo market this morning... thanks Caroline!), have visited several temples (including Wat Suthep), went to a Monk Chat and got Laos and China visa sorted out... A really great eight days!

I ran into a couple of the beautifull people from Koh Tao (Jamie and Kathy, hope to see you both in Laos!) Also met two women from England who are working in Thailand teaching English (Caroline and Niki, I really enjoyed meeting you!)

I'm still missing all the folks from Koh Tao, I definately appreciated meeting up with Jamie and Kathy here... What a small world! I've also been jonesing for diving, so it was really great to hear that the weather has been carp on Tao since I left :) Just kidding... Congrats Marie on becoming a DM!!! Hope the 6-way snorkel test is a blast for the current DMTs! You are all bastards for seeing turtles and leopard sharks, but I forgive you ;) Ahem...

Tomorrow afternoon, I'm flying to Luang Prabang in Laos. Not sure if I'll travel around much or just hang there for a couple of weeks. Sounds like there are lots of lovely day trips... and the town sounds like a great place to just be for a while... If it's anything like Chiang Mai I'll be really happy!

I'm also thinking about going into China overland from Laos and not using my flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong.. Will probably head up to Yunnan for a few weaks then wind down to Hong Kong, then up the east coast to tour tea estates. Dragon Well, here I come!

Loads of Love to you all!!!

Posted by binduwavell at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2003

Phoenix Rising

Just a short update: I'm nearly done with the divemaster course. Expect to be done sometime next week. I feel like I have learned so much over the last few weeks. I have quite enjoyed the diving and the school here and I'm really looking forward to diving in Australia when/if I get there.

Will probably head for Laos and the Chang Mai for a few weeks each and then for Hong Kong and the rest of China (having deja-vu, did I say this in a previous post? :) Had a really nice chat with some other travelers last night who highly recomended china and gave me some good advice, yay!

I finally got hold of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix today, so am working my way through this humungous volume! On this account I may not be checking email for the next few days :)

Tons of Love to you all!

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 04:31 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2003

China Oh My

Yipeeeee!!! Just checked and the US state department has officially removed the travel warning to Hong Kong and China!!!!

The dive master course is going really well. I could probably be done in about a week, but will probably stretch it out for another two or three.

Really enjoying being here now.

Lots of Love to you all!!!

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2003

High tide for an update

So I'm still on Koh Tao (turtle island) in Thailand. I completed a bunch of scuba courses, wasn't sure if I was going to do the dive master course or not, so went and dove some. The visibility has been really bad for the last couple of weeks, so I have been focusing on skills rather than the lovely life under the waves (most of which I haven't seen while diving.) I have been out snorkeling 3 or 4 times, it's lovely! Much freer than scuba in someways... and less free in others ;) and I have been able to appreciate all the fishes that are not visible when scuba diving.

I have to figure out my visa situation, but assuming I can get it sorted, I'm planning on doing the dive master course, probably starting in the next few days. I have been mostly doing nothing (reading, watching movies, eating, sitting on the beach :) and I finally figured out yesterday that I'm waiting for something, but don't know what... and that pissed me off... Had a few ideas about what I might be waiting for... passion seems to be the most obvious thing... Other things too... mostly it feels like a habit... So, I'm going to sort out some stuff to do. Still leaving myself time for reading, movies, hacking, etc... just want to get a little structure around my time... seems like as much as I don't like structure, some is good...

I feel like I'm rambling... not just in this email, but inside... In some ways I feel really lucky to have space to ramble inside :)

I have a small photo gallery of my first week here to which I will add some footage of my open water course (up top and underwater) and I promise (really) that I'll get it posted in the next few days (I'm not really promising any of you, I'm promising myself so I dont' have to think about it anymore ;)

A couple of Nancy's friends were on an island near here and came to visit for a couple days. We had a lovely time! (Props to Zoe and David!)

I've been thinking about Nancy a lot, 'cuz she's revising and I know how much that sucks. Lotsa love to you darlin!!!

Internet here is super expensive, but I finally found a reasonably priced place near my hut so will try to keep in touch a bit more. Although I'm not posting here much because there isn't much going on...

Posted by binduwavell at 02:27 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2003

Advanced Open Water + Nitrox

So I finished my Advanced Open Water and Nitrox certifications. Had a blast for a week diving, and learning. Now I'm feeling pretty worn out so am taking a day or two off from diving.

It's quite an amazing experience being underwater for an hour. I was a little dissapointed that there weren't more fish, more corals, more color... My fantasies about the unknown can get very wild :) On the other hand, seeing and being in the real environment is amazing, and different each day. I have been to a few dive sites more than once and they seem very different each time. Because the visibility, currents, animals, etc are different every day.

So far I've seen some pretty cool stuff: Some 2.5m reef sharks up close, A giant (actually wasn't technically a giant, but was quite large) turtle, box fish, 1.5m groupers, moray eels, rays, tiny neon blue jelly fish, foot ball sized jelly fish, schools of baracuda, a sea snake, my buddy even got attacked by a couple of trigger fish on our first solo excursion... Then lots of small fish that hang around the reefs.

One of the Dive Masters In Training graduated a couple of days ago, and as a consequence, he had to complete a snorkel test last night. It was quite funny, they put a dive mask and fins on him then put a snorkel in his mouth. The snorkel is rigged up to a big bucket into which is poured a nasty concoction of hard liquer and beer... He drank the whole lot! and managed to stay standing for a few hours!

Even though its gorgeous here, I haven't been in a photo taking mood, so I grabbed a bunch of photos from my dive buddy, Gray, and I'll post a gallery in the next few days.

Lots of Love to you all!

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

Quick First Update from Thailand

Several people have emailed and asked if I'm OK, since it has been a while since my last update. I'm in Thailand on Koh Tao, doing great. I spent my first week here in Bangkok with a nasty cold... which gave me lots of opportunity to watch movies and shop, but did get old after a while. I flew to Koh Samui and then took a boat over to Koh Tao. I just finished all my dives for my open water certification and have to go take the written test in about 10 minutes. I'm planning on going straight into the Advanced course so that I can try some different skills, like deeper dives and nitrox ;) I'm having a really good time, learning a lot. I haven't had much time other than school, eat sleep for the last 4 days and expect the next 2 or 3 to be the same. Then I hope to be able to catch up with folks a little more.

Hope you are all doing very well!


-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)
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