Archive | February, 2009

Thailand plans

28 Feb

Real quick, about to catch a 9 hour bus to Kao Tal in 40 mins, and I am in dire need of shower and food.

We have been in Bangkok the past 3 nights and just yesterday decided on what our plan for the remainder of our trip will be. After tossing up whether to head up north to go trekking in the jungle or head south for island living, we have chosen to head south.

The reason for our decision is because we came here to get set-up, to plant some roots for a couple of months. With the restrictions of only having 15-30 day tourist visas we felt we wouldn’t be able to relax up north as we would have time and money restarints constantly pulling us south.

So now we head to Kao Tal, an island that is a diving mecca – a diving factory, but has some amazing diving. It is only second to Cairns for the number of diving certifications that are completed each year. With a cool chilled out backpacker scene Mandy and I will hang out there for a week while we complete our advanced open water diving certificates.

After Kao Tal we will keep heading south calling into places recommended by fellow travellers. Hopefully on our journey south we will find a spot we want to set-up, adopt a stray dog, and get a little house/room to call home. At the moment we are throwing up the options of Phi Phi and Krabi, but we very much open to ideas, so if you have travelled in Thailand, let us know your thoughts.

Gotta go shit and shower, sorry for lack of replies to comments, spelling on my blog etc, but this bloging is like a full time job and I’m on holiday, so will try my hardest. Love getting the comments and feedback.

Nuthin but love Hap  

PS Sorry if this is boring for those of you who haven’t been to Thailand, ie me talking about places names etc, apologies

Ping pong in Bangkok

28 Feb

WARNING: this post contains references to female body parts.

When I think of Paris I think Eiffel tower, when I think of Egypt I think pyramids’ and when I think of Bangkok I think Ping pong shows. OK, so that’s not very cultural of me considering I’m supposedly a bit of a “traveller” and Bangkok is a cultural cauldron.  But temples and museums don’t interest me, like lady boys don’t interest straight men – unless you’re Eddie Murphy.

token-temple-photos

But I have learnt from past mistakes like when I went to Paris and didn’t visit the Eiffel tower – I blame that on Tim and all day happy hour. So I was not going to make the same mistake again. If I was in Bangkok I was going to a Ping Pong show.  Girlfriend Amanda was against the idea, “it’s degrading, and they don’t want to be doing it”. I totally agree with that, but I wanted to experience the sex tourism that is such a big draw card to Thailand for some people, like my Perth airport taxi driver that makes a yearly pilgrimage to Bangkok solely to have sex. I wanted to see the old men with petite young Thai girls showering him in false love and affection, I wanted to see the unenthusiastic dancers, the hookers, I wanted to be see the dark side of tourism, I wanted to be disappointed, I wanted to be disgusted.  

cool-boat

During the day we did the tourist things; getting photos in front of temples, cruising along the river, browsing random markets, wandering the streets of Bangkok. Which by the way, Bangkok has taken me by surprise, it could be any major city in the world when you are riding the sky train into the city, browsing the stalls at the MBK mega mall, walking around Siam Square downtown with the billboards – except the humidity and abundance of electrical wires still reminds you that you’re in Bangkok.

first-world-billboards-meet-third-world-wiring

With darkness blanketing Bangkok, the red lights were starting to glimmer. After a few beers on Kao San road, we passed a row of tuk tuk drivers “hey mister, ping pong show”, it was as though they were telepathic, or maybe it was because this path was so well trodden by the plethora of previous back packers.

sham-our-friendly-tuk-tuk-driver

Next thing we know we were sitting in a rundown go go bar in the Patpong red light district, sipping on overpriced beers having all my expectations satisfied. There were the unenthusiastic topless dancers, the stereotypical gray haired “farang” (foreigner) exploring the bare skin of the young Thai girl on his lap and the token inquisitive couple (that was Mandy and I). My favourite stereotypical client was the young backpacker guy who was way more drunk than anyone else. The girls made the most of him, getting him up dancing; the funny bit was, he was totally oblivious to the excited state of his groin, like the cartoon character on the sex education videos whose pants resemble the big top of a circus tent, classic!

So the ping pong show. We had the warm up shows, the girl laying an egg out of her vagina, the lady shooting banana’s out of herself and lighting of birthday cake candles. My favourite, the lady smoking a cigarette with her vagina – it would be a great lung cancer campaign, “stop lung cancer, smoke vaginally!”. Ok, once again I digress, the ping pong show. They got the token drunk guy holding a ping pong bat to stand in front of the girl sprawled spread eagled on the stage who then shot balls from her vagina at him. That was it. My warped desires met.

Word of advice from a now experienced ping pong show goer. If a stray ping pong ball is flung your way, its not cool to pick it up as a souvenir, you’re better off buying one of those little Buddha figurines!

One night in Bangkok………..

26 Feb

One night in Bangkok………………you know the song aye?  Well anyway, arrived in Bangkok last night. My god a change in temperature from Korea, the gloves, woolly hat, bath houses have given away to singlets, jandals and cold showers.

Arrived last night, walked around Kao San road (a touristy area with heaps of cheap hotels) just before midnight looking for a hotel room.  Found the cheapest one, and obviously you get what you pay for. Back into backpacker mode now we our out of Korea, no ensuite, no air con, no towels, no fridge in site here. Our room last night was bare bones, a shared bathroom and fan -which is the norm for cheap accommo- no toilet paper, no towels, no sheets, it was literally just a bed -with a concrete mattress- in a room. But there was a complimentary alarm clock thrown in, the jack hammer on the neighbouring construction site right by our heads, haha, classic times, makes you appreciate the nice hotel we had in Korea.

So what now, not too sure. Still undecided as what to do, we bought the trusty old Lonely Planet at the airport, so will have a flick through and see what takes our fancy. Check out Bangkok for a couple of days, then maybe head up north, do some trekking, then head back down south to the islands and try to find somewhere to set-up shop.

Thats it, just thought I would let you know mum that I’m all save and sound in Bangkok, Thailand.

Nuthing But Love Hap

PS, If the spelling and grammar in my posts is worse than usual it’s becasue time is of the essence and Thailand awaits. I would hate to spend all my time in Thailand in an internet cafe.

Goodbye to the land of the morning calm.

26 Feb

Korean is known as the land of the morning calm, but to me there is nothing calm about Korea. The lack of calm is what I love about it. Korea is not a destination that comes to mine as a holiday destination as it lacks natural beauty and space. There are over 50 million people squeezed into a country you can drive across in 5 hours. But what it lacks in beauty and space it makes up for in its colourful, friendly, vibrant, wacky pulse that satisfys a cultural junkys addiction.

The reason I love Korea so much is because it is such a polar opposite to New Zealand where I grew up, it’s just such a contrast. When I lived here it made me appreciate what I had taken for granted growing up in New Zealand.

Those querky little things I will remember about Korea are

  • The street food stalls with the friendly little ladies serving you up all kinds of adventurous food, some great and some that not even fear factor would dish up. 

the-srteet-food-tent

  • The highest denomination of money is $10! You can imagine the stack of money I received when paid 2 million won($2000) a month in cash when I worked here teaching English!
  • There is a shortage of rubbish bins, or maybe there are just none when you are looking for them.
  • Smells, I think Korea is the land of smells, some pleasent like the smell of korean ladies hair as they brush past you in the subway, and some not so pleasent like the smell of piled up rubbish.

korean-styled-rubbish-bins

  •  It’s rude to blow your nose, but it’s fine for the old men to cough up a greeny and spit it on the side walk. (when you think about it,  it is quite disgusting that we store our boggies in our pockets).
  • There is row after row of numbered apartment buildings where people live,  “human filing cabinets”.

human-filing-cabinets

  •  A crowed beach takes on a whole new meaning, (I will let the photo do the talking)
  • When swimming at the beach you are not allowd to go out past a rope that is placed in shoulder deep water. When there are waves -what we call ripples, about a foot high- everybody is called out of the water. The reason for this is because a large majority (around 70%) of the population can not swim. I put this down to there being no widely accessible swimming pools, rivers, lakes etc.

A quiet public holiday at the beach!

  • Dogs are treated like dolls, they even have dog clothing stores

Korean Barbie Doll Dog

  • If it’s not dressed up, it’s eaten(I realise this is now becoming more frowned upon by more Koreans). The photo below is me out the back of a dog restaurant in the hills (obviously photo is taken 5 years ago as I look as though I’m 10 years old). It was kind of a weird feeling chowing down on dog stew inside and hearing all the barking outside, probably because your eating mother dog. Some may think this is weird, but if you think it about it, it’s not that weird, as the Hindu don’t eat cow as it is a sacred animal, Muslims don’t eat pork etc.

 checking-out-the-menu

  • The pollution and smog I will remember, it seems that there is never a clear sky day.

another-clear-day

  •  The 3 litre jugs of beer and the complimentary bacteria snack bowls.

working-out-the-biceps

  •  The signs and advertising, it seems that every available space on a building is covered in advertising – who needs windows!

advertising-is-everywhere

  • The neon lights, Korea beats Las Vegas hands down in this department. This photo is taken outside where I use to live in Bucheon, but it is common place all over Korea, even the churches have neon crosses.

the-bright-lights-of-my-quiet-nieghbourhood

  •  The people. Every country has there share of dickheads, and Korea is no exception. There are some people that resent you as being a foreigner, and the behaviour of some foreigners justifies this. But the vast majority are inquisitive, friendly people that want to show you a great time in their country.

reuniting-with-korean-friends-jerry-and-jason

go-bananas

Feet eating fish!

25 Feb

Last night Mandy and I stayed with kiwi friends Tom and Lauren who are teaching English in Korea.  We visited Lauren at her English school that brought back a lot of memories for me, being surrounded by cute smiling little kiddies, but I was also glad that I didn’t have to teach them.

loz-with-her-kids

After work we went to possibly the most weirdest bar I have been too.  Well it had the weirdest concept for a bar, as I think the club I went to in Colombia would take the cake for weirdest, ieit had naked dancing people, dogs walking around, a naked room in which you could only enter if your naked, geese quakcing around, yeah that was crazy.  OK, I’m rambling.

having-a-beer-and-a-fish-pedicure

The bar we went to last night was called Danka Bar. In the bar there is a  fish pond with seats around the perimeter of it. You sit with your feet dangling in the water and fish come up and feast on your dead skin!  It’s quite a funny sensation at first having fish nibbling away at your feet, especially when your a little ticklish and jumpy like myself.  Yes all rather “fishy”, but a unique experience, sitting having a beers with your mates and getting a fish pedicure.

tom-hogging-all-the-fish

After that we battled it out in a mini street game olympics involving baseball (your in a cage and a baseball machine launches balls at you that you hit and score points from), shooting  and  soccer which involves you kicking a soccer ball as hard as possible and see what score you get, great fun!  Ok, enough blogging, off to the airport, Thailand, here we come.

brown-letting-loose-in-the-baseball-cage

tom-dominating-soccer

Korean Bath House Photo Tour

25 Feb

 After my previous post entitled wet naked men, I thought it best I add to this before you think I’m weirdier than I already am.  So I snuck my camera into the bath house where Mandy and I slept the night, wait for it, I was an undercover “Haparazzi” hehe.

So he goes my photo tour of the korean bath house.

The bath house plays a big role in Korean life, they are located everywhere and are usually open 24 hours.  It is a place where you go to relax after work, to get away from the troubles of the day, or an outing for the family or a place for friends to meet, or a place to sleep the night. All for the great price of $8.

The photo below is of the males bath house which contains numerous pools and saunas of varying temperatures and healing properties. Usually it is full of naked men, but I took this photo on a Monday night at 11pm when it was quiet.

one-of-8-hot-pools-in-the-mens-section

After showering and bathing, you then don your styly pyjamas they give you, and can go into the unisex meeting area where you can sleep, talk, read a book, play a video game. In this area there are different types of hot rooms, an internet cafe, TV rooms, singing rooms, smoking rooms, a gym, an indoor pool and a restaurant.

in-the-unisex-meeting-area-where-you-can-sleep-aswell

If all this relaxing is too much, then you can go sit down for a beer! (You can see my old apartment building where I use to live in the background).

a-refreshing-beer

You can also get stoned. They have various hot rooms with differing kinds of flooring, this particular one had perfect circular heated round stones.

lying-on-a-bed-of-heated-stones

Mandy and some old Korean dude enjoying the massage chairs. NO boys, the chairs do not give happy endings.

the-massage-chairs-i-wonder-if-they-give-happy-endings

If you want to catch up on the latest Korean soap, there are plenty of TV rooms, just pull up some floor space.

relax-and-watch-tv

When your finished doing all this, you can find your own piece of real estate on the floor and set up camp for the night. Just make sure you don’t set up beside a snorer, as last night I had to unleash a few pillows at the vacuum cleaning whale beside us.

if-its-all-too-much-you-can-just-curl-up-on-the-floor-and-sleep

Korean wedding.

24 Feb

What an occasion, 56 friends of Ben and Mia traveled from 12 different countries to attend the wedding in Sang Dong, Bucheon, Korea.

the-korea-wedding-crew-pre-wedding-celebration

It was a special moment for me personally, as it was through me that Ben and Mia met.  Ben who I met playing soccer at university, after that teaching in Korea and Mia was a fellow co-worker at my Korean English academy. The seed of Ben and Mia was planted when I invited Mia to my apartment for drinks with my mates, and the seed was sowed.snowboarding-5-years-ago-with-ben-and-mia

So it was pretty crazy that 5 years later, we were back in Sang Dong across the road from my old apartment where they had first met and now they were getting married. It was great to be back in my old stomping ground, but I will write another blog post about that soon (if I have time).

It was classic getting ready before the wedding, disorganised was definitely a word to describe it.  trying to organise 20 guys with no cell phones to meet in one place.  This sums it up, 5 of us turned up to the reception area of the wedding hotel wearing no shirts (a late rush to get our shirts ironed saw us getting the hotel linen cleaners to iron our shirts) and one member no shoes (apparently lost in the week long festivities). But we made it bang on time, 5pm sharp, looking darn right handsome.

western-ceremony

First of all they had the western wedding which was predominantly spoken in Korean, luckily for Ben he is now completely fluent in Korean so he knew what he was getting himself into.

Following the western ceremony there was a tedious photo ceremony where a very authoritative photographer barked orders like a drill Sargent. It was quite funny when he was shouting at us in Korean and someone shouted out “just do what he’s saying”, haha, the photographer hadn’t quite grasped the concept that foreign looking people don’t speak Korean. Poor Ben and Mia won’t care if they don’t have another photo again.

ben-and-mia-in-traditional-dress

Following the photo drill, a great spread of food and booze was put on for all.  Then it was time for the Korean ceremony which is usually conducted in a small room and only open to family. But they kindly had it in a large open room so all the foreign visitors could experience it. 

piggy-backing 

The Korean ceremony was quite entertaining, it involved Ben and Mia sitting on the floor around a table, bowing to family members, drinking some shots, throwing some stones onto a blanket to tell them how many children they were going to have, Ben piggy backing Mia around the table, then his mum, and some more drinking of shots.  Now that’s a wedding ceremony, sounds more like a university drinking game, but I’m sure there is a lot of meaning behind it all.

the-haka

Then it was onto the after party at the Jazz and Bones club (some of the Korean bar names are rather hilarious, my favorite is bar free beer) that had been hired. A few speeches, and as a tribute to Ben and a cultural experience for the Koreans we performed the haka, much to the delight of the Koreans. The rest of the night was spent making the most of the open microphone and bar. 

open-mic

 Cheers to Ben and Mia for a great time, and what a great couple!

ben-and-mia