Archive for August 2007

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So…..after a great time in Chiang Mai, we were off down south. We headed to Railay in the Krabi Province aka the climbers mecca. It has the most climbing routes of any place in the world. It has huge karsts (limestone towers that rise up out of the ground) everywhere you look and most of them have people hanging off them. We were staying at this beautiful hotel which was about a million stairs up hill but well worth it. Our bungalow was really just one giant room with a bathroom off the side and a huge balcony in the front. No one could see in but we had a beautiful view out over the beach and forest. The great part about Railay is that you can’t get there unless by boat so you get to feel pretty isolated. There are 3 main beaches that you can walk to although some you can only get to at low tide. The climbs are spread out throughout the whole area and the best guide to finding them is a guidebook from Wee who owns a climbing school there. The directions to each route are ………interesting. Most say things like ‘go to the end of the beach and lift up the branch that sticks out. Behind that there is a path leading to a log. Cross that and walk about 10 minutes until you see a white rock. Turn there and when you see a wall on the right with a tree in the middle, the climb is on the left’. Easy, eh?

Our days began to get quite a routine – wake up, eat breakfast, head out climbing. Maybe a rest or nap on the beach in the afternoon and then more climbing in the evening. Dinner somewhere out and then back to our balcony to drink beer, lay in the hammock and play cards. I could definitely get used to it. I absolutely loved climbing there. Most routes were pretty empty and even in the heat of the day, most were still in the shade. We were there in the low season so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. There were beautiful sunsets each night and even though the mosquitoes were as big as birds and extremely lethal, I enjoyed sitting out each evening (properly surrounded by mosquito coils). One day we decided to hire a boat to go to a little island nearby that apparently had a lot of good climbs. We got there and hiked for about two hours looking for these climbs. We walked completely around the island and even went through the center! After facing off with the awful mosquitoes, biting ants, monitor lizards (which were huge!) and monkeys, I quit! I’d had enough! I headed back to the beach to swim but I had to change into my bikini first. So I found a large rock and decided to use that as my cover. It worked well until I had my top on, bottoms off and a large monkey jumped on the rock and started baring it’s teeth at me. I had to run into the ocean pulling up my bottoms as fast as I could. Of course it was hilarious once I was safely far away from it!

After a great week of climbing we headed east to an island off the other coast Ko Samui. This is where our friends from SIS Abigail and Jesse were getting married. We weren’t able to stay for the actual wedding day (lobster season you know) but we were there for 5 days leading up to it and got to enjoy some nice chats and dinners with the bride and groom to be.  The first thing I was excited about on the island was hiring my own motorbike. It’s a relatively small island and the roads are never very big. It was great to zip around on one. Especially as we were staying quite a ways down the beach from where the rest of the wedding party were staying (their resort was beautiful just a little out of our price range). One day we found a climbing wall and got some amazing climbs in – the best I did all summer! Then on Marshall’s birthday we headed to a restaurant on the top of the hill in the center of the island. You could see water all round, it was stunning. On the way there and back, we saw elephants roaming! Unfortunately, Marshall was really sick that day and had to spend most of it in bed. Luckily, or unluckily, it lasted only one day – his birthday!

After all this beach time, I still wasn’t done with sun and sand – we were off to the Florida Keys!


2 comments August 26, 2007

The Golden Triangle

Let’s see, where were we?

Oh yes, I had just arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand ready for the bike trip. It was great to see everyone. We all met up at a little restaurant where our guide for the trip, Joe Buscemi (aka Captain Leisure) had ordered lots of great food for us all. Of course he also ordered beers which he said were 2 for 1. They were 2 for 1 but not on the glasses of beer, it was on the pitchers. We suddenly had 2 pitchers per person to use up the night before we all took off on motorbikes. Marshall and I decided to bail on this and get an early night. But I hear the rest of the crew did well!

The whole set up was really good. Eight people with 6 dirt bikes. Plus we had a jeep (from here on called the Cat) which either Denise or I drove. The Cat carried all the gear and was always the last in the line so that we would be there for any problems that occurred. We even had cell phones between the Cat and the lead bike. So, all nice and safe mum and dad! Our first day we headed out of Chiang Mai up towards the border. Each night was in a different hotel in some small border town. Unfortunately, the border towns here are like in most other countries – not very nice. Luckily, we were only there to sleep. During the days we would ride for about 4 hours to get to our next place but it wasn’t always in the most direct line. If there were good detours such as waterfalls, temples or scenic routes, we would take those. So, I had a lot of ‘firsts’ this vacation. First time swimming in a waterfall, first time seeing temples, first time riding on a dirtbike. It was all really exciting. Some of the highlights were driving on these beautiful mountain roads, all very windy, sharp turns, steep hills and amazing views. Almost every day it rained but we were usually able to get to a stopping place before that and then, right as all the rainbows came out, we would continue on. One day, I was on Marshall’s bike and the rain hit. Hard. I have never been so wet, you could barely see the road in front. Everyone took it super slow and I thought it was great fun until we got to the hotel and realized that the Cat with all our dry gear was quite far behind. Sitting around in wet clothes was definitely not fun.

The whole point of our trip was to make it to the Golden Triangle. This is actually a really big area but they have a little town where they have the sign marking it. The Golden Triangle marks the area where Thailand, Laos and Vietnam meet (and further up, China). As you ride up to the town you start to follow the Mekhong River and suddenly you look up and see a huge, golden buddha sitting out over the river. It really is enormous and I wish I had the CD so I could show you some pictures!! Anyway, we all took our photos beside the sign proving we had been there and then headed to our next nightly destination nearby called Chiang Khong. On the way, we took the scenic route along the Mekhong with Laos just on the other side. It was amazing and so beautiful. We stopped many times to take photos and shoot some video (which I hopefully will turn into something soon for you all to see).  Each night we were on the road, Marshall would desperately hope that the place we were staying at had cable so that he could watch Wimbledon. He was lucky enough to catch the men’s and women’s quarterfinals and semifinals in the various towns but his luck ran out in Chiang Khong on the night of the men’s finals. Not a single place in the whole town had cable! It didn’t help that the following day he read on the internet that it was one of the best games of the tournament.

Right at the end of the trip, Captain Leisure and some of the others headed back to Chiang Mai while the Knochels, Marshall and I chose to spend another night out in the country. We drove for a while and finally found a place called the Princess Bungalow Resort. Sounds nice right? We drove up and it was a nice looking place with a good central bar area. The owner and Aaron negotiated a good price for us to use the big house but decided she was too tired to cook us dinner. Instead, we had to drive around the countryside looking for anyone who had a stove out that was willing to cook us some noodles! Eventually we found some and headed back to the house to play cards and hang out. But, when we got back , the deck of the house was literally covered in ants. We couldn’t even see our shoes that we had left outside the door. So, we ran as fast as we could indoors to find that there were almost as many spiders inside! Aaron and Denise were so disgusted by their bedroom that they hung hammocks in the living room and slept there! Luckily Marshall and my room wasn’t as bad and, with the exception of some ants in the bed, we were able to get a good nights sleep. Right as we were all bedding down for the night, we heard the front door open and in came the owner. She came upstairs, showered and went into the 3rd bedroom. Apparently the big house we had negotiated for was actually her house!

We were eager to get out of there the next morning and roll back into Chiang Mai where we knew we had a nice hotel waiting for us. After returning all the bikes, properly showering and sending off our stinky clothes to the laundry, we all met up for dinner at a little BBQ joint in the night market. We had all had enough random Thai food and were looking forward to something we knew. I think our stomachs needed a night off from spice as well. After dinner the boys went for a drink while Denise and I decided we had earned a foot massage. It was so relaxing! On the way to the bar to meet up with the guys, we decided on the spur of the moment to have our cards read. We paid about $3 each and it was the funniest half hour I have ever spent. According to this lady, Denise is going to get married this year to a Latin man. She has been married 7 years to a tall, Scandinavian. The fortune teller also told her that even though she isn’t pretty, she is very happy! Next it was my turn. She started by telling me that I look like Victoria Beckham (maybe the only white lady she knew with short hair!). Then, she looked into my face and said “Your eyes are perfect, your face is perfect, your body………two years ago it was perfect, now you just eat!” So, apparently I need to do a lot more exercise so that I can look good enough to meet my future husband who will be rich and famous. Oh, and I have a super ego which means no man has ever understood me and no one has been good enough or been able to stay with me. But not to worry, God is sending me a man to lift up my life and teach me that everything can change. Good to know eh?

With that, we ended the bike trip. It was so much fun and I can’t wait to get my video done!

Next week: Off to Krabi for some awesome climbing.

Add comment August 19, 2007

Rain, rain go away

I know I should be writing something very upbeat and positive reflecting my relaxing summer and energy for the new school year but…………I’m sick to death of the rain!

I’ve been back for almost 2 weeks now and I think I’ve only seen the sun for 3 hours total. I know it’s monsoon season so I was expecting some rain, even some heavy rain. But I wasn’t expecting heavy rain that continues for 7 hours straight, takes a half hour break and then starts all over again. I am constantly wet!

Enough complaining now.

I would love to be able to post all my fabulous photos from this summer of adventure but somewhere in that great adventure I lost the CD that had all the photos. Oops! Luckily Marshall has a copy in Hong Kong but it does mean about  a 4 week delay in getting those photos up on this page. So, in the meantime I will have to entertain you with some great stories.

Are you sitting comfortably?

I started off in Aberdeen with my wee sisters Kat and Anna. It was nice to be back even if I did spend most of my time cleaning kat’s flat in order to get it ready to sell. Kat has a new form of exercise though that she introduced me to – Pole Dancing. Now, I did get some shots of me attempting this but I’m not quite brave enough to put them out there for all to see. I’ll tell you that it is pretty hard and uses muscles that you forgot you had. And not to toot my own horn but I did manage some great spins and even went upside down a time or too! Following my 2 weeks of relaxing at Kat’s, we took a family vacation to Italy. A little village called Pieve a Presciano. If you’ll remember, this was supposed to be the wedding week but instead my family, Roy and Neva, Meg and Brian, my aunt Mary, cousin Shelby, uncle Jim and his girlfriend all came to Italy and had fun. The villa we booked was amazing. It had 3 apartments in the one building with huge panoramic views out of the windows, beautiful balcony areas for eating out and a horizon pool that was exclusively for our villa. It was wonderful. Not only that, but the estate that it was on made their own wine and olive oil. We had a standing order at the main house and I can tell you our final count (not including wine tastings or our dinner out) was 36 bottles of red, 32 bottles of white, and 6 bottles of champagne. I’m not sure whether to be impressed or embarrassed!

I spent most of the week relaxing by the pool and catching up with sisters and cousin. Oh, and working on my tan of course. The few times I did venture out, it was to visit a little town called Montalcino. The wine produced there is called a Brunello and it has recently become the hottest thing in wine. The town is a beautiful  little city with a fort jutting out, lots of windy cobblestone streets and amazing views across an almost never ending valley. For the first time, I got to try wines from different vintages. I was amazed at the difference in taste.  I was feeling pretty good about my wine knowledge until Mary decided to do a blind tasting at dinner one night. Shelby and I were convinced we had it figured out. Turns out we only had 1 right! So much for our newfound confidence.

It was a wonderful week with fabulous dinners outside each night, lots of great conversation and of course great wine. During this week I also discovered my new favorite drink – Vin Santo. It’s actually a dessert wine, which I’m not normally keen on, however you eat it with cantuccini (fancy word for biscotti) and it is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t fancy my chances of getting it in Korea.

On the Thursday we did acknowledge the reason we had all come to Italy. We held a “Wake for the UnWedding”. Dad showed me where we would have had the ceremony and the reception. I have to say that for having planned this all from Korea, it would have been beautiful. That night we went out for dinner to a little Osteria in the village. With 12 of us we just about took over the whole place.  The food was, as expected, amazing. I think our favorite dish was the risotto with pears and pecorino cheese. The lobster pasta and truffle pasta were close seconds. I finished off this amazing meal with tiramisu and vin santo. Aaaahhhh, let’s all take a moment to revel in the splendor of this meal.

Sadly, my time in Italy had to end and I was off to Thailand. Not that I was sad by any means because it meant meeting up with Marshall. I met up with him and about 7 others in Chiang Mai ready to head out for our bike trip around the Golden Triangle. And……….

………you’ll read about it in a few days, cause I need to head to bed! It’s okay, just think of it like a mini series!

1 comment August 16, 2007

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