Friday, November 10, 2006

Day fourteen our last day in Bangkok

It was a late night for some of us, as the Hash ended too early to go to bed and we were in Bangkok no less. Headaches were the order for breakfast, followed by a ride to the floating market, yet another fast boat ride and a stop at another Wat and a large orchard plantation. At lunch we visited a large market and ate at a Chinese noodle shop, and then we visited the Royal Residence, before preparing to leave for home.
We had a farewell dinner at a restaurant on the way to the airport, and as it was Loy Krathong, the holiday of floating candles, we placed our own upon the pool before leaving for the airport. It would be a long 17+ hour flight to New York, but we would all have many good memories to think about until we arrived. I would have gladly skipped our time in Bangkok for another day in Cambodia, Laos, Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang. It was a great journey that we'll remember for a long time. Thanks Tinker and Short Shorts, from all of us. I most enjoyed the culture, food and entertainment, and it wouldn't have been the same without all of our new friends and traveling companions....seriously!

Day thirteen back to Bangkok

We gathered for breakfast and packed our things to catch the ferry at 11. Reluctantly, we jumped into a truck that took us from the Sametville Resort to ferry back to Baan Pe on the mainland. We met the van and traveled to Bangkok arriving just before the scheduled start of the Bangkok H3/RIH3 inaugural Hash at Wat Chiang Sing.
Bangkok was just being inundated by the flooding from the north and many of the small canals were overflowing. We met at a restaurant on the other side of the river from the Wat, and had a couple beers waiting for the pack to arrive. The Hare arrived, wet to the thighs, saying that the only water he encountered while setting trail was at the very end. We hopped into a fast boat and made our way along the canals out to the river and ending at another Wat to start the hash.
We were not on trail for more than a minute, when the road we were running on was under more than 6 inches of water, and rising. The trail went through small villages, rice paddies, and farms, and before we knew it, it was dark. It was most interesting when we were running along boards strung over the water, in the dark. We didn't have torches and were running on streets with water over our knees, and still rising. The Hare had pity on us, and gave us a shortcut after some of us got turned around in the dark rubber plantation and rice paddy, where Fuwangii fell on his face, tripping over a bamboo.
We continued on street for about another mile, and eventually ended at the Wat with water up to our crotch. Finally we all made it back in and a circle ensued. Down-downs were given to the Hare, visitors from Scotland, and numerous offenses committed. Then souvenir T-shirts were given out, and we retired to dinner on the river.
An old women selling from a boat passing by, gave us some fireworks that were shot across the river. It was a great time and all too soon we started back to the busy city of Bangkok.

Day twelve Ko Samet

It was still dark out as we managed to gather at 5am for our journey south to Ko Samet. We needed to catch the ferry by 10 or we'd have to take a later one that would drop us off on the wrong side of the island. The ride out was about an hour. All of us enjoyed the sunshine and gentle hum of the motor as we made our way away from the hustle to the beach. We arrived at our destination, and they brought a small landing vehicle out to pick us up, as there was not dock, the boat anchored just off from land. We checked in and found our 6 person guest house on the beach was just fine with the boys, while Julie, Tinker, and SS had private accommodations.
The water was warm, the beer cold and we enjoyed some down down time. I had spied a catamaran as we traveled the coast, so along Oozing, Dry Foot, Fuwangii and I we walked north to the other end of the island. The coast was littered with small villages and guest houses, with a bar splattered here and there until we got to the large beach. Here we found a number of bars, Jet Ski and boat rentals, but no wind. We enjoyed a few beers, and then made our way back to our resort.
At sunset we walked along the rocky coast to sunset hill, nearly tripping on the jagged rocks as the dusk turned into night and all arrived back at the beach for some late night singing in the water. Life is good.

Day eleven on to Vientiane and Korat

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight to Vientiane and walk over the border back into Thailand. Going through the many visa check points was a pain in the neck, especially having to pay going in and then out of country, but eventually we made it through and met Short Shorts waiting with the van. We then drove to Korat and arrived just at dark. There's not much to say about Korat, other than it appeared to be a dirty, busy little town that could have easily been missed, except for the little bar we found after dinner. Interesting points were the 2 lambs in a cage in the lobby of our hotel, open sewers, the Dewar’s girl, and 'First of the Day' toasts. Our hotel room was sparse to say the least, but we were entertained by the dancing ants and geckos. Morning would not come too early.

Day ten Luang Prabang, Laos

Some of us had an easier time getting up than others, but the sun was up and Tinker and I found ourselves by 6am watching a line of monks, the length of a couple blocks, gather food donated from the old women seated on mats, along the road. We walked over to the ancient Wat Xieng Thong at the junction of the Mekong and Kahn Rivers. Inside was a long dragon shaped trough used during the water festival, and though it was very old and patched, it was impressive and was a good 30 foot long. We found a building holding a huge carved boat that has only been used 3 times to carry the body of the dead that would have been sitting upright in a large urn in the center. Evidently these monks were pretty important, as they'd have to take the front of the building off (2 1/2 stories tall) to get the boat out.
We then walked around the old city bumping into our travel companions and enjoying breakfast, and the wonderful sights along the Mekong. Around 10 am Tinker and I got a ride to yet another Wat in a small village away from the city to set our own Hash trail. The pack, including 8 visitors from other Hash kennels, mostly Brits who were joining the Post Lube in town later. They joined us at noon, and we were off, as a new monk celebration was going on in Wat. It was an interesting combination of dirt road, bushwhacking and river paths ending along the Mekong for beers and a lively circle. Down-downs to the Hares and visitors as we stood in the Mekong. The fast water made it difficult to stand very deep, but fishing beside us was a small boy. He had a face mask on and stood bent over, with his head in the water trying to shoot an arrow at fish. I didn't see him catch one, but he was persistant.
We made it back in time to change and join the Johnny Johnson's Laos post lube at the Villa Ban Lao. There was plenty of beer and food for all, with entertainment of Laos’s culture lasting for some time. It was to be another late night before making our way back to our Saynakmkham Guesthouse and sleep after another long but interesting day.

Day nine the Road to Laos

We were supposed to get up at 5 am to make the plane to Laos, but fortunately the flight time was pushed back a few hours. This allowed us an opportunity to explore this wonderful village before continuing on. We were awakened by the crowing of what seemed like a hundred roosters in every corner of this small valley starting around 3am. I guess they don't watch the clock, or because there was little electricity save the few solar panel dispersed throughout, they just didn't care.
I tossed and turned until there was enough sunlight to venture out and kick a few chicken butts, but found the valley covered in a thin mist, lightly veiling the mountain peaks. We sat on our little wooden balconies watching the sun rise slowly over each peak in turn, and little by little the valley floor turned a brilliant green.
After some instant coffee and eggs from our guests, Oozing, Dry Foot, Fuwangii and I walked down the narrow paths toward the rising hills until we were on the opposite side watching a sleepy village awake for another day. Some fields were planted with corn and others cabbage. No sign of the poppies that they still grown in this corner of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, the Golden Triangle, as we were told it is hidden in secret notches of these mountains.
It was all too soon that we had to leave, and we jumped in the back of the pickup to take us down from this mountain paradise. What a great experience we had here. We'll miss it but we will have many good memories of our short stay.
The trip to Chiang Mai airport went quickly for the short flight to Luang Prabang, and before we knew it, we found ourselves walking the streets of this beautiful ancient city. We had dinner at a quiet restaurant, and completed the evening visiting a couple bars in a livelier section of the city for Halloween celebrations. Morning would arrive too early, I'm sure.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day eight Doi Chang Dao and the Lisu Hill Tribe

Our van left early, heading north from Chiang Mai towards the third highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Chang Dao. It's an impressive limestone ridge up to 2225 meters, where we were to spend a night with the Lisu. We arrived at our initial destination, a small private compound, where they were to guide us on an elephant ride, followed by a river raft adventure before starting up to our nights bivouac.
It was my first elephant ride, and our guide let me drive the beast. Thinking that an elephant is fairly wide, it was much more difficult than expected. My bony butt on the elephant’s neck vertebra was not as easy to stick as I'd thought, but it was fun. Then Dry Foot had his try and did pretty well. Next we visited a small village and had some beer and beetle nut before going to the river rafting.
The rafts were 12-15 foot pieces of bamboo tied together in a flat floor with a higher square for us to sit on. Our drivers used bamboo to push us down stream and we were off. The river was fairly high as we traveled leisurely down to a beer stop with box lunch. Then it was off to the hills.
We rode in the back of a pickup truck most of the way up the mountain, until it became so steep that we'd have to walk. The trail up to our destination was modestly steep, as it switch backed up the mountain, eventually ending at the Lisu village.
Beers were popped and food was enjoyed, as we were entertained by the locals with dancing and rustic instruments playing. There was a group of 6 from Bangkok, who were musicians. They pulled out their guitars and we sang and danced well into the night. Interestingly, one played Thai music, while the other had a great repertoire of American folk songs. The most popular was Paul Simon's the Boxer. "When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy, In the company of strangers, In the quiet of the railway station, runnin' scared. Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters, Where the ragged people go. Lookin' for the places, only they would know.” How apropos.

Day seven InterHash Sunday

We rose early again, none the worse for the late night before, and had our breakfast at our favorite noodle shop. Some wanted to go shopping before the hash and joined Tinker and Short Shorts on the van. I walked along the river and back alleys to see a quieter way of life, away from the hustle of the main streets. We met again at noon for the ride to the stadium and on to the Sunday run. Oozing, Dry Foot, Hoover, me and most of the Happy Valley H3 joined us on #20, as it promised great trails through rice paddies and rubber plantations, a river crossing, and a sunset view from a mountain top. Unfortunately marketing doesn't always deliver, as there was no river crossing, but we were to end atop a mountain at a Wat with a thousand steps. Fuwangii took another and joined Mr Rogers as he was a co-hare on an evidently less popular run.
At the second check I found myself far off left of the pack as they called OnOn, but continued up a ridge line as it looked like it might join with the pack further up the mountain. I was with a hasher from Bangladesh, Rent Boy (I think), and we continue on until we saw the pack leaving the ridge line in the opposite direction. Thinking we could still shortcut, we persisted until eventually we were bushwhacking on a very steep cliff, in high grass with bamboo falling sideways down the valley. It became real scary so I grabbed an 8 foot piece of bamboo to check the footing before taking each step as we ventured into the grass. It would have been a simple slide down hundreds of feet to the bottom, and I'm sure we wouldn't have come out of it in good shape.
Finding some intelligence, we backtrack downhill and finally found a lesser grade, this led to a hillside farm. The locals pointed the way to the Wat and we eventually found trail again. At the road to the Wat, one of the hares asked us to sweep as we were last and asked if we had seen Tinker. Seems he'd been out but hadn't been seen in some time and not heard from. We continued up the steep road to the Wat where we bumped into Swamp Bitch and Oozing. Then we all went down the 1000 steps to the OnOn. Tinker finally did arrive, not looking to good, but surviving and then it was more beers and the circle. Tinker was suppose to be a GM for the circle, but didn't have the strength or voice for it. Others jumped in to cover and the DD's and antics carried on for some time. Then it was off to the stadium for food, beer, skits and closing ceremony.

Day six InterHash Saturday

There was to be 22 run sites, each day, of which there were a couple of distances to choose from. We decided to join the Bangkok H3 on their medium length, and would find that just long enough. After a leisurely breakfast and quick tour of the city, we made our way over to the pick-up site. This run was popular and finding room on one of buses was difficult. The drive to the start was about an hour and dropped us off at a crossroad. Hares pointed the out trail after a short explanation of marks, and we were off. The trail was a fun, but longer than expected and quite high with temperatures hovering around 90. Breathing was difficult at times after running uphill through the bamboo and rubber trees, but I got lucky and found myself with about 6 others who had gone left at a check and continued on down a small road to join the trail again. We were well in front of the pack, from this shortcut, until we hit a check that had us going deep into a ravine that went nowhere. The guy in front of me ducked under a branch and found another one just at his forehead. There was blood gushing everywhere. At first I thought he got it in the eye, but luckily it just punctured his skin. After applying some pressure, to stop the bleeding, we started back to the check and the pack. The trail ended at a recreation area on a lake where cold beer and crap sandwiches were waiting.
The circle was great, with a lot of different GM's taking control, finally ending with Noretaga abusing as many as he'd like. Tinker was invited in to run the activities and brought the RIH3 into the circle. We sang Pubic Hairs to the ladies in fine fashion and were applauded for our part. The buses took us back to the stadium where plenty of food and beer awaited. It was also the start of the skits, so we grabbed some food and drink and sat down before the stage. Some were lame and others less so, but the best was the Camel Toe. Good time had by all.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Day five Thinking Drinking Hash House Harriers trail

Friday found us waking in Chiang Mai and walking to a quiet noodle shop for breakfast. Then I had a leisurely stroll with Tinker, as my personal guide through the back alleys to visit a few temples. At one, Tinker decided he'd wait outside as I went in I noticed a large number of people praying. I felt as if I was intruding and that I'd stepped into some private ceremony. An old woman was kneeling before Buddha as I placed an offering. She touched my arm and said I was welcome to join her in meditation. I explained that I had someone waiting outside and thanked her for the offer. Short Shorts later said that was a good sign. I like good signs.
We made it back for the van ride to the busses and were off to the Thinking Drinking H3 Trail. We were dropped off at a university pretty far out in the county, and we all grabbed some water for the run. The day was super hot and humid, as trail started out crossing a couple small streams then headed uphill through thick brush and narrow trails. Not many were running as for most of the start of the trail we were in queue, until we found our way back downhill and to the road around some rice paddies. We crossed a farm that had some surprised cows crowding us and then crossing a paddy, and eventually making our way back to the university, where the circle began.
The hares were invited in for down-downs as well a few others for various reasons. Then Tinker was invited in and he showed the ladies how to get out of a bra, before getting his DD. Then all the ladies were given their T-shirt and invited to put them on. This was followed by the guys getting their shirts, along with some abuse from the ladies. Hoover soaked Tinkers sock in beer and had an easy time slapping Dry Foot Fuwangii and me with it. Good fun and beer and food followed, before driving back to the arena.
The evening's event was a huge welcome party at the Soccer Stadium, complete with elephants, cultural events, and plenty of food and beer. The event lasted well into the night and each of us made our way back to the hotel for a good nights rest. This was going to be a very busy weekend of events.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Day four Off to Chiang Mai InterHash

We rose early to drive up to Chiang Mai, stopping along the route at a number of heritage sites. We decided that we'd be late in joining the Red Dress Run later that day, so we enjoyed the ride and scenery along the route. We visited the Sukhothai temples we viewed the night before in the dark and couldn't fully appreciate this grand place. We then later stopped on route and had lunch at a roadside noodle stand along the river. We stopped in to view one of the oldest and best kept Wat, the Pratartlampangluang Temple.
We arrived in Chiang Mai in late afternoon, and decided to register for IH before checking into our hotel. We ran into a few old friends among the 6000+, including Watergate, but didn't have time to talk much at the moment, and didn't bump into here for the rest of IH. We had a couple beers while opening the backpack and T's we received, before going to the hotel, showering and off to tour the town. We rode a tuk tuk out to the street market for some shopping and dinner, followed by touring the city before slowly heading back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Day Three the Train Rumble Hash

We started out for our meeting with the train rumble arriving today from Singapore to Chiang Mai, at Sukhothai. The rivers were still swollen and caused us to divert around them, causing us concern about missing the run. Our driver Ooo found a short cut and made up the time. We arrived about 15 minutes before the train arrived, and long enough for a beer and a stretch of our legs.
The train was enormous, with a birth car every other, that seemed to carry on down the tracks for about a half mile. The hashers seem to be weary of the journey, as they've been on the road for well over a week, and according to reports, there had been problems with timing arrival at the events.
The governor had a large group of his folks, complete with band and kids giving out gifts. We quickly got on the buses and head out to our run site. We rode with Enos, who was as always entertaining and we had lots of singing along the route.
The trail ran along old ruins, back roads, a lake and rice paddies, and a farm complete with cows chasing us, and ending at night at the historic Sukhothai heritage site. They had dinner waiting for us on mats, as we watched a great show, by what must have been most of the townspeople. They were in typical Thai costume and the story told of the history of this once capital of northern Thailand. The mayor gave a speech and was given a down-down, along with the hares and GM's. It ended with hundreds of lanterns floating off in formation, first going left, then catching winds aloft and traveling right, as if traversing up a mountain. Great food and entertainment by these gracious people, then it was off to our Thai Village Resort for the night.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Day Two Siem Reap

I woke early to find the monks already begging for food. They'd walk door to door and they would be given gifts of food in a daily ritual. I walked further up our road and found what looked like a nunnery. All of the women were dressed in white standing around a large richly ornate building, while music was being played somewhere in the yard. Banners were stung around between the buildings and it look like some sort of celebration.
It still being very early, I started walking towards the river and away from the hustle of the small cars and motorbikes darting off to work. Walking the streets at this time of day can be challenging, yet it's amazing we haven't see an accident with the congestion and speed they travel at.
I stopped at a small roadside vendor by the river and had a coffee and noodles, while watching people go about their daily business and children off to school. I walked further along the river and finding that nature was calling, I found a toilet and quickly learned how the cleaning up goes when there is no toilet paper. Other than hotels and airports, most facilities are pretty sparce. It consists of a hole in the ground for squatting and often you rinse out the bowl with a cup found in a bowl of water. Cleaning you is even more interesting. The use of the left hand does most of the work of the paper with help from a spray, if there is one, that's conveniently place beside you. Testing the pressure before using is suggested unless you are in need of an enima.
I arrived back at our guest house and found the group enjoying coffee or tea before we rented bike to tour the city. We visited the old market place first. It was a huge complex of small shops selling everything from buddha's to live fish. The food area was most interesting watching the vendors keeping the fish alive in shallow trays. They'd have their feet in about 2 inches of water and would accossionally splash water on them, as they wiggled back and forth.
Everyone was pushing their wares as the cheapest, but haggling was the order of the day. Most things could be had for half to two-thirds the asking price. US $ or Thai Bhatt are accepted and most speak enough english to understand us. Oozing seemed to be best at getting the most for less, or is he just cheap??
It was lunch so we went to a small shop on the main street. All of the people we've met have been friendly, but the shop owners were super. Helping us out with the language and different foods. We then traveled along the river to a small village along a winding dirt road. The houses were not more than shacks on sticks with grass roofs. Most had some tarp or other material to stop rain from falling through holes, but eveyone was cheerful despite the poverty.
We arrived back at the guest house to pack for the ride to the airport. The tuk tuk quickly made there way along airport road and shortly afterward we said fairwell to Cambodia.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Day One Siem Reap

It was 11pm the night before leaving, that Hoover, Oozing, Dry Foot, Fuwangii, Tinker and Short Shorts, and Bondo joined at Chez Basket for a post-trip dinner. We had a few beers and crashed where ever there was room. We'd be off at 5am for the drive to JFK. The drive down was uneventful, save having to retrieve Oozing who didn't bring his gear, but traffic was light and we arrived at 9am. Calls to Sawr'Squat had her joining us by 10 and we were off on time.
17 hr 40 minutes later we arrive in Bangkok, somewhat tired and happy after many beers, wine and 3 meals.
We were concerned that making our way through the new airport would cause us to be late and miss our connection to Siem Reap, but all went off without a hitch. We arrive at Siem Reap airport about 8pm, when we found Mr. Rogers waiting for us, pitchers of Angkor Beer in hand. Our van was already waiting, so we were off shortly. We quickly showered at Two Dragons Guest House, our accomodations, and haggled a couple Tuk Tuks to drive us to the Red Piano. The drive down was reminscent of Viet Nam many years ago, with motor bikes and cars traveling at high speed on the narrow roads.
The bar was neat and the beer cold, so we made ourselves comfortable and had yet another meal. Not sure what we ate, but it was all local fare. We started back around 11 for some much needed sleep, but it wasn't going to happen after 35 hours on the road, we were all too tired to sleep well. The heat and humidity was stifling and we were all up early in the morning, bags under our eyes and looking for our tour guide, Mr Rogers with the van to take us to the temples.
Our first stop wa Angkor Tom, and we were all amazed with the intricate carving and many buildings in this complex. I'll be posting picture on my return. The next temple was Bayon, then on to Prea Kahn, Angkor Wat and finally Phnom Bakhend (sunrise hill) to catch the setting sun reflecting off the ruins at the top and lower valleys.
At night we went back to the Red Piano to meet up with Mr Rogers and his wife Lilly, and Ice Pick and wife L Shirt, a couple Brits we had met earlier. The pre-lube from Phnom Penn was in town and we had hoped to join them, unfortunately they were either crashing after their bus ride or at another bar. We then went in search of them and tried Angkor What and Dead Fish. We had more beers and food, before settling in for a well needed rest.
Stay tuned for day two...