Posts Tagged ‘Southeast Asia’

Leeches – They Really Suck

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“Leeches,” calmly said Ian, the manager at our lodge in Khao Sok, Thailand, in reference to hiking at the nearby park. “Bring DEET to get them off.”

“No problem,” I thought. “If I stay out of the swimming holes, I’ll be fine.” I figured they would be at least six inches long so easy to spot and avoid.

IMG_1422frog

Friendly park wildlife

My friend, Sabrina, and I had come to Khao Sok because the lodge we picked was within walking distance from a national park full of waterfalls and wildlife. We’d wanted to hike in Thailand for weeks now but hadn’t found an easy way to get to places without paying for a tour or renting a motorbike.

So after breakfast and a pep/prep talk by Ian, we set out to hike in Khao Sok National Park. I was counting on some dips in waterfalls and careful immersion in the swimming holes so wore water booties, shorts, and a shirt over a swim suit.

We had a map of all of the waterfalls and swimming holes, and the farthest was about 7 kilometers (a bit over 4 miles) so seemed like an easy afternoon walk.

It had rained most of the night before so we walked through some mud and puddles while enjoying the shade of the trees. The scenery was very much as claimed, like something out of Avatar, with vines and tall canopies of trees amidst the strange calls of critters of maybe birds, insects, or larger animals. The signs claimed there even said there was wild elephants and tigers in this park!

About half an hour into our hike, Sabrina happened to look down at the crocs she was wearing and saw a little wiggly worm hanging off of her pants above the shoe. Yelling “leech!,” she knocked it off. Then we stared in horror at the culprit bouncing around on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Stalker Taxi Driver in Koh Pha Ngan

We dragged our weary bodies and heavy bags off the ferry at Koh Pha Ngan after half a day of mini-vans and busses. (Unfortunately there were no handicap ramps, elevators, or helpful men around to get our heavy luggage up and down the long flight of stairs so we were especially tired by the time we staggered onto the pier!)

So we emerged in the hot sun of Koh Pha Ngan, this island paradise in Thailand, and were immediately swarmed by questions such as “where are you going?” and “where are you from?” Most were songtaew (Thai taxis in the form of open-air trucks) drivers looking to charge us a bundle to take us to our resort, which was on the north end of the island away from most of the tourists and nightlife.

They wanted 150 Baht (about $5) for the ride. That seemed really high since we had just paid 550 Baht of travel (5 hours!) to get to this island.

So we refused all offers and dragged our luggage many blocks looking hoping for a bus or cheaper ride.

As walked from one street to the next, we noticed that this one woman seemed to really want to “help” us. We’d go around a corner and there she would be jabbering about her brother being part of our resort so our ride would be free at 150 Baht each (around $5 a piece), and how hard this trip would be on her truck due to the many hills. She showed up three times on three different streets and just wouldn’t seem to take “no” for an answer.

Finally we thought we had gotten lucky after seeing a van with our resort name on it. No such luck! Unfortunately our stalker got to the driver first, so he ignored our frantic waves and drove away.

Now we were even more determined not to hire her for anything! But she wasn’t done with us yet! We soon found stalker woman was heading off all taxis up the street so none of them would stop for us. Geez!

Seemed like we’d been black-balled by her!

IMG_1197ourbeachFinally we flagged down a nice couple in a songtaew and paid them the $150 Baht to the resort, which was actually about 30 minutes away up and down many hills. We didn’t save any money after that adventure, but were so happy to get to our destination where we found our own almost private beach with palm trees, warm water, and ocean breezes!

Not sure how to avoid being blackballed again in Thailand, but guess that’s what can happen to a stranger in a stranger land!

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Mystery Asian in Southeast Asia


MaryThreeQuarterWhere you from?” I was asked repeatedly while in Bali and Thailand for the last two months. Strangely enough, my two friends (two obviously not Asian types who, like me, were from America) rarely got asked this question.

Japan?” “Korea?” “Thailand?” the guesses came. “Nepal?” “Peru?” came more guesses everywhere I went! (Strange how very few guessed Chinese!)

People seemed fascinated that I looked Asian, but  had an American accent and acted like a tourist. For some reason, the concept of an Asian-American seemed so foreign.

Where did this mysterious Asian come from?! That seemed to be the burning question in almost everyone’s mind!

Eventually they would nod in understanding if I felt sorry enough for their puzzlement and told them that my parents were Chinese.

“Ah, Chinese!” they would say, as a their foreheads smoothed out and they happily sighed with relief from having solved this modern mystery.

Unfortunately, my patience wore off so I left some still wondering about my origins. (They shouldn’t feel so bad since even my parents think I look like a Korean!)

What do you think? Where do I look like I’m from?



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Fish Pedicures

IMG_0462myfeet“What, fish feeding off the dead skin on my feet?” Ew!

Well, it looked harmless enough and I didn’t see teeth like on a piranha or shark so why not?

Seems like this is the new thing on islands around the world. I saw this offered first in the Dominican Republic and now here in Thailand. Some go by the name of “Dr. Fish” and in Thailand can cost from around $2 to $7 for 15 minutes of “cleaning.” I’ve also seen this packaged as part of a tour.

We were lucky to find the low-season price of 60 Baht ($2) for 15 minutes in the Krabi Night Market. Of course, we tried to bargain for an even better price, but failed. (Later we found out what a deal we’d gotten, as it was a lot more everywhere else in Thailand!)

After rinsing off our feet, we gingerly placed them into our own private glass-walled aquarium. Before we even submerged our feet, the fish were eagerly swarming to the top of the water!

Fish soon nibbled between our toes, at our heels, at our legs, and pretty much everywhere that was underwater. Kind of tickly, but not painful in the least bit! The most popular spot seemed to be my friend’s right heel! They pretty much swarmed there non-stop!IMG_0469 Sab fish feet

Afterwards we were shocked to find that the tough skin on our heels was actually gone and our feet and legs felt softer! Much easier on the skin than those pedicures where they scrape a ton of dead skin off with those rough boards!

We looked on the web to find out more about this fish pedicure experience. Here’s what we found:

“These fish have no teeth, use their powerful sucking lips to suck away dead skin, which can stimulate acupuncture point and modulate nervous system to relax your body and releases your fatigue.”

Also:

“Garra rufa live and breed in the outdoor pools of some Turkish spas, where they feed on the skin of patients with psoriasis. The fish only consume the affected and dead areas of the skin, leaving the healthy skin to grow… (From the Wikipedia)

Wow! I needed to get some of these installed in an aquarium at home! Sounded cheaper than spa treatments and visits to dermatologists! Read the rest of this entry »

 

Thai Tuk Tuk Takes Us for a Ride

tuktukIMG_0226Ever ridden a tuk tuk? If not, it’s an experience to try at least once.

These three-wheeled open-aired taxis are a common way to get around in Thailand. We tried one of these motorized rickshaws after finally arriving in Bangkok after 20+ hours of travel, followed by a few hours of confusion navigating out of the airport to take the railway to our overnight home in Khao San.

I made the mistake of getting in one without agreeing to a price so probably got charged double for this error. Being tired and feeling overwhelmed by the traffic, I thought I could negotiate after I got in the vehicle. Unfortunately he started moving forward very quickly, partially perhaps because he was being chased and chastised by an official on the street. I suspected later that it was because the official was trying to keep us from being ripped off. Instead, we took the excuse that the fare was twice as high as the estimate given at the airport because of really bad traffic.BKK _tuktuk

So we zipped down many side alleys, dodged bigger vehicles, hung on to ourselves and our luggage, and eventually arrived at our destination. In total we only spent under $7 and were too tired to care by then, but knew better than to give the guy a tip!

We later learned that most taxis (the real kind, though in Bangkok often hot pink for some reason) have a meter that helps keep them honest.

Within a week we found that tuk tuk drivers often quote one number and then try to charge you for much more after you reach your destination, making it seem as if you misunderstood the charge or acting like you’re trying to cheat him. One driver glared, scowled, and muttered at us in Thai for over 10 minutes before giving up since we weren’t paying him any more than we heard.

Riding a tuk tuk can be a risk to the wallet, especially if you’re not a good negotiator or don’t have a good idea of the going rate to your destination.

So go for a ride in a tuk tuk, but don’t be taken for a ride by a tuk tuk.

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Planes, Airports, and Toilets – Oh My!

Taiwan toilet SOS

On my way to Southeast Asia, for the first time I noticed the impact cell phones has had on airports. Now a proud owner of a smartphone, I was among the many looking to charge my phone for one more time before boarding a plane. To my delight I found that most airports now have free charging stations!

I had just suspended my cell phone service (to avoid unintentional exorbinant roaming charges) and was going with the idea of using Wi-fi to connect to the Internet, with hopes of finding lots of free Wi-fi in airports at the least. As a smartphone addict, I was visualizing this method would work as well as promised by a friend. (So far it has worked great! Thank you Los Angeles and Taiwan airports for the free Wi-fi, and to my friend for the Wi-fi and smartphone idea!)

At the Los Angeles airport, Samsung-sponsored plug stations were scattered around various boarding gates. (My friend almost left her phone plugged into the charging column, as we got in the boarding line shortly after midnight. Convenient charging, but not if you leave your phone and fly away!)

We were on EVA Air, my first flight with this airline. What an impressive menu (chosen when you book) and individual seat-back selections of a variety of movies, television shows, and more. (If can’t sleep on a plane, you will find lots to keep you occupied for a while!)

Two of my meals came with the coolest lime plastic utensils. We liked them so much we kept a pair as a souvenir. These have since come in handy during our travels. (We did not, however, keep the flossing tool that came with each meal.) Read the rest of this entry »

 

Adventures in Southeast Asia – Hodge Podge Photo Montage

Kayaking at Bor Thor - caves and mangroves!

Kayaking at Bor Thor - caves and mangroves!

Sawadee! It’s June and we’re in Southeast Asia in southern Thailand at a cool place called Krabi. So far my friend Sabrina and I have been in Thailand for almost a week, beginning with a ride to Los Angeles, a long 13-plus hour flight to Taipei, and shorter flight to Bangkok, followed by wandering around in the confusing multi-floor airport (maybe the jet lag didn’t help), a ride on the railway, and a ride in a tuk tuk  (a tricycle rickshaw of sorts) to our home for the night (in the Khao San area, where you can get your 1 kilogram of laundry done for about a dollar!). Almost 24 hours later we were finally able to crash at our air-conditioned room at Queen Suriya’s Castle in the Khao San area.

The next day after one taxi, railway, plane, and bus (last one of the day!) later, we arrived after dark at our resort in Krabi, the Aonang Cliff View Resort, happy to be done traveling around for a while!

It’s the beginning of monsoon season here so we’ve had rain every day, with awesome downpours coming with hardly any notice. Despite the rain, we’re having no problem having fun. So far we’ve gone kayaking at Bor Thor (full-day tour under $30!), gotten two Thai massages ($7 for an hour!), eaten yummy meals (under $5), gone to the Night Market (meals for $1!), and taken a long tail boat ride in turbulent waters (and collided with an anchored boat)! That boat was suppose to take us snorkeling at four islands but was canceled due to weather after a few hours of being sprayed with salt water and bouncing up and down on the ocean! (Was a fun ride, though wish we could have gone snorkeling!) Read the rest of this entry »