Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Koh Tao - Diver's Paradise

Koh Tao (Turtle Island) is a small, happy, little island in southern Thailand whose only dream in life is to provide a peaceful home for the people who like to explore its surrounding waters. This is a dream which Koh Tao is fulfilling beautifully! In the past two days I was able to explore some beautiful underwater cities during the day, and relax in our quiet beachside bungalow at night. Tara, unfortunately, got a bad case of seasickness on our boat trip from the mainland, and spent the first day recovering and avoiding the water! Today she was at least able to sit by the shore and read while I napped after my early morning dives.
Anyway, hope she's feeling better tomorrow because we're off on another boat to Koh Samui where we will spend the next 4 nights (including Christmas Eve and Christmas night).

Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays now!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Ringside at Muay Thai

A few notes from "The City of Angels" (known to non-Thai people as "Bangkok"):

Last night I had a ringside seat at a Muay Thai match (that's Thai kickboxing); literally close enough to be sprayed with the sweat of the boxers. From the starting some clarinet-like instrument begins playing and bongo drums are pounded, creating a heart-pounding atmosphere. The crowd is electrified with excitement, and cheers loudly with each landed blow; louder still for 3 successive hits. I was surprised to see that many of the boxers were only about 12 years old!
I did take some video of the event, but unfortunately I won't be able to upload my videos to the blog until I'm back in Canada.

Tom yum kung (spicy Thai soup) will burn a hole through you like the fires of hell.

There sure are a lot of lady boys here!

My internet time is up!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saigon - Siem Reap - Bangkok


I have been waiting for new pictures to make a post, but we have had trouble uploading pictures to the internet. Unfortunately still no pictures today, but I promise the AMAZING sights of Angkor Wat coming soon. Here is what we've done since the last entry:

After leaving Mui Ne in Vietnam we spent a few days in Saigon (which has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City after their famous communist leader). The city was dirty, noisy, and so full of motorcycles that you couldn't see the roads. We spent a few days there anyway because we met up with some other friendly people, but when we left we knew that we wouldn't miss Saigon.

We toured the CaoDai temple one day, which is a very interesting religion based in Vietnam. It is formed from many different religions, believing that all religions are formed of the same origin. Here are some images I pulled off the internet:
This is the temple that we visited.

Inside the temple the image of a single eyeball is everywhere, representing the all-seeing eye of God.

Inside we were able to observe the CaoDai people in prayer. At the back of the temple very atonal music was played and young women sang prayers as rows of these seated people sat quietly in prayer. The different coloured uniforms represent different religions.

Later on the same day we visited the CuChi tunnels, where Vietnamese (or "Viet Kong") guerilla soldiers escaped American bombing. There they had a firing range where one of our friends fired an AK-47 rifle.
I think the CaoDai temple and CuChi tunnels are close together so they were included on a single sightseeing tour, but it was an odd combination.

From Saigon we took a long tiring bus ride (about 14 hours including a few breaks) all the way to Siem Reap, the city closest to the famous Angkor Wat temples. I can't describe it, so you'll have to wait for the pictures.
I was pleasantly surprised to find AMAZING food in Cambodia - spicy coconut soups, curries, pumpkin puddings, and more. In fact, I think we had the BEST food that we've eaten so far on this trip, but sadly we were only in Cambodia for a few days.

Next we hopped another long bus ride to Bangkok. While Cambodia impressed me with its food, it proved to be hopeless in the bus department. We spent hours on a hot, cramped, old school bus with backpacks piled on every extra seat. After our lunch break we drove for about 1 minute before getting having to stop and have a flat tire replaced. The roads were dusty, bumpy, and awful, but at last we made it to the Thai border. Mercifully after passing through customs we were loaded into a spacious, comfortable, air-conditioned van on the Thai side, and transported for several hours more into Bangkok.

Despite what you may have read in the news, there doesn't seem to be any trouble here at the moment. There are many tourists, and people are going about business as usual.
"Business as usual" in Bangkok is a crazy 24-hour circus of intriguing characters. Should make for some fun in the next few days!