Monday, January 31, 2011

Across the Nullibor

Null + abour  = without trees.  A giant plain in the middle of Australia that acts as a natural barricade to easy travel between West Australia, where we have just been, and the Eastern areas of Australia that most people visit.  2400 km of usually extreme heat, and a journey worthy of bumper stickers and “I crossed the Nullibor” t-shirts…. And where we were headed next.

The ex-cyclone, tropical depression that brought us the cool weather also gave us a rare opportunity to cross the Nullibor in moderate temperatures.  We left Denmark with a fond farewell to Stu and Chantal, baby Eva, Uncle Rob and cousin Deano, and Gary too, and set out with a new tire on the RV for the trek across to the more populated area on the Eastern half of the continent of Oz.  Rick was excited for the challenge…. All the talk is “you are going to cross the Nullibor?” so the gauntlet was thrown.  How fast can you make the journey?  Well. Away we go.

From Denmark to Albany, over to Esperance, no need to visit the Top Beach in Australia as it was raining.  Then up to Norseman, the start of the “Big Journey”.  We toyed with the idea of a side trip to Kalgoorie to pan for gold, but they had a huge windstorm yesterday, like 130k winds ripping the roofs off buildings… what is with this wacky weather here????  So at 7pm, bellies full of Road Trip Tucker (meat pies and fish and chips) we started out by tailing a Road Train, making miles across the Nullibor.  We can only get 400k with one tank of fuel, so Rick’s strategy was to stop every 200 or so to make sure we are never close to empty, and average out the price of diesel.  We drove 1100k the first day, off to a good start.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Waltzing at Matilda's

A relaxing morning at Rob’s in Denmark, with the girls playing with Eva (Stu and Chantal’s sweet girl) and the boys catching the waves at Ocean Beach with Stu’s brother Gary.  The weather is cool and rainy but not unpleasant after our stint in the hot North.  We tucked our RV into Rob’s trailer in preparation for the storm, but according to the satellite weather, the storm has beaten itself out and been downgraded to a Tropical Low, meaning some showers and cooler temps but not the wind and downpours we might have expected.  All is Good.

Rob returned in the afternoon from Albany to lead us to the local Sunday afternoon hot spot, Matilda’s Vineyards. All summer long, Matilda’s celebrates the season with a local band, today it was Beat-roots, and with a picnic blanket and a glass of vino, we spent a wonderful afternoon enjoying good company in laid-back Denmark style.  Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet, all full bodied and delightful, and soon we were joining the locals on the dance floor, moving to the cool jives of the band….. Denmark is like the Hornby Island of West Coast Canada.

Returning to share a meal at Rob’s we were treated to some wonderful poetry, as Rob is a bush balladeer extraordinaire.  He recites from memory the classics including Man from Snowy River, and also has at least 75 poems of his own repetoire, most the length of the ballads of Robert Service.  We were all entertained by his talents, and certainly would encourage him to publish his collection so they can be shared even beyond his personal performances.  His work is certainly worth publication.   Travis managed to catch a couple of his poems including his own comical ending to The Man From Snowy River on video, and we will enjoy sharing it with Canucks in our homeland once we are home.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Elephant Rocks

After a night of rain, the sun was shining again this morning, and we headed down to the beach for a dip.  The water is much cooler here than in Coral Bay, and a refreshing dip after the hot sun.  The boys managed the swim across the lagoon to the large rock formations, where the rough surf breaks to create this safe little swimming area.  The strong current and knowledge of the Great Whites on the other side was enough to encourage the boys to stay on the quite side of the rocks.

Stu and Chantelle are doing well, and it is great to catch up with them again.  We have been able to share our travel stories, and looking back it is rewarding to see how much our kids have learned and witnessed during the past three months.  They have a huge appreciation for different cultures and landscapes and histories than cannot be gained by simply reading or seeing something on television.  We are very glad we have been able to share this experience with them, as we have learned much through their eyes as well.  And boy, do they have stories to tell.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hooking Up with Old Friends

An email from Stuart Barnes, our dear Kiwi “son”, made our choice of Western Australia complete.  We first met Stu in 1992 when he came as an IAEA international exchange farm worker to live with us soon after Rick and I were married.  As his “parents” we were close in age, and we became very close friends more like family, really.  We have seen him several times over the past years, met all his wonderful family in New Zealand, celebrated his wedding to a Canadian girl in Vancouver, and Rick has visited them in England, where he and his wife call home for at least half the year.  They are an inspiration, traveling the world for the other half of every year.

Stu and Chantelle and their beautiful daughter Eva arrived in Perth on Jan 27, so we arranged to meet them at the airport and drive together to Stu’s uncle’s farm near the seaside town of Denmark in the South-West area near Albany.  Rob and his son Deano, as well as Stu’s oldest brother Gary, have extended their warm welcome to us as well, so we are happily parked in a farmyard on a beautiful hilltop, surrounded by paddocks with kangaroos and a few beef cattle.  We have brought the rain with us, a welcome relief after so many days of unbearable heat.  And the grass is turning green before our eyes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day

Up early this am for a big breakfast of bacon and pancakes.  When we first arrived, we suited up our home on wheels with 6 chairs, a folding table and a great little barbeque, and it has been wonderful to prepare our own meals rather than struggle with constant restaurant food.  Then into the town of Geraldton to join the Australia Day festivities.

Loads of events on the “Foreshore” (seaside park), with “jumpy castles” for the 10 and under crowd, sand castle building competitions, pirate activities, water fun for the teen crowd, and cake for the kids.  Katie had an Aussie flag and a kangaroo painted on her cheeks, and we enjoyed the costumes of the crowd, with flag bikinis, capes and boxers everywhere.  I think my favorite costume was a “blue man” suit with a flag for a skirt, though she was no doubt really hot under there.  It was mid thirties but the wind kept the heat bearable (unfortunately they had to cancel the parachuting and fireworks for safety sake).

We all bought a sausage from the fundraising stand, and were surprised when one of the boys behind the counter said “hi Derek”…. it was the family our kids had played with up in Shark Bay at the swimming pool for a few hours, and his t-ball team was raising dollars for their trip to the State Finals…. In a city of 30,000 it was great to see a familiar face (as well as quite the co-incidence!)

Our next overnight was a few hours south to Jurien Bay, and the caravan park had the “biggest jumping pillow in Western Australia” so the kids enjoyed the extended fair.  We prepared our Aussie meal of lamb chops and mint sauce, and relaxed  in the shade with the birdsong.  As a bonus in the evening there was a Bushman Balladeer, Buzzer, who shared his guitar and song including Waltzing Matilda, the classic Aussie hymn.  Two young boys on didgeridoos joined in, making the evening truly authentic.  It was a wonderful way to share Australia Day in our home-away-from-home

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


In the distance the ocean waves looked like a great place to play, and the sand dunes didnt really seem that far. Funny how really large things can appear way closer than they actually are. The kids headed off this morning with hats, sunscreen and water to play on the dunes, and boy they were gone long enough that we went off in search of them.... There in the distance, those dots on the top of the really high dune yes, that's them, wow did they ever walk far, and it is heating up out here, yet again.

Rick and I were glad when they finally heard us calling them, and they were pretty tired by the time we met up.... Rick was batting away at any critters in the tall grass, and I was concerned about them getting lost on the wrong bushtrail but Travis knew exactly where he was heading, it just was taking longer than anticipated. They still had water left,but Katie was starting to power out - I guess, I think they went about 5 miles all in.... crazy kids on a walk-about.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dawn on the Road, and Off-Road

We packed up the night before, and hit the highway at first light. Diesel up north hit a high of $1.55/L, and three drinks (like, a gatorade and two chocolate milks) at the roadhouse were $15.... not cheap here. We had 750km under the belt by lunch, and headed to Kalbarri National Park for a look around the canyons of the Murchison River. An innocent request for a picture meant a short side trip offroad, where no RV likely ever went before... ooooh, redneck farm boys. Yes, just like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

We thought we might stay at a Station overnight rather than a caravan park but the two options were closed due to forecasted floodwaters heading their way... geez, Aussies must be a hardy lot with natural disasters a seamingly regular occurance. We kept on the road another hour (total day, almost 1000 km) and made it back to the spot we liked north of Geraldton, with a nice pool, nice breeze, no flies and good wifi.... what more could a family want?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snorkling Trip out on the Ningaloo Reef

We signed up for a snorkeling adventure, a day on a catamaran to get closer to the Ningaloo Reef just off our bath-tub Coral Coast beach. Though it was not quite as expected (a dual-hulled fishing boat, not a cat sailing ship) we still enjoyed a nice day on the water. The day was slightly overcast (thankfully) and it was just our family of six, plus two relief- teachers from Melbourne, Canadians girls (one from Saskatchewan, one from Niagara Peninsula area of Ontario).

First stop was to Asher's Gap (named after our boat captain) and was a guided snorkle to a cabbage coral area frequented by sharks.... ummmm. After our (my) initial hesitation, we jumped overboard and were immediately surrounded by friendly fish of every color, and beautiful corals beneath. A short swim to the "Gap" and the corals opened to a deeper basin, and yes, ShaRKS! Not the shovel-nose variety from yesterday, but Lemons and Black-Tips, and White-tips too, at least ten of them in sight at once, busy "cleaning" below us. After the initial "ahhhhhh", it was really an incredible experience.

Back aboard the boat, and over to the "Northwest Point" area where the Manta Rays were sighted, we then had the chance to chase after these gentle giants floating across the sea with mouths open, scooping up whatever was in the path. Jaclyn particularly enjoyed that, as it was difficult to catch up with the current and the speed of those fish - they can swim up to 24 km/hr and if you are on the wrong side of their turns you are left in the dust, so to speak. She had a great experience and would count the rays as her highlight.

Next stop was another snorkle spot, and the boys again found a shark to follow, with their confidence increasing with each experience. Katie liked the freedom here ofbeing closer to the boat and at her own speed, and she loves seeing all the fish around her - just like being in an aquarium. It is awesome to see her become more confident with each time she goes out.... and she is loving the water even more.

Some Like it Hot

So continuing north from Monkey Mia, we passed the area that flooded a couple of weeks ago, drowning the town of Carnarvon and at least three of its gas stations on the edge of town. From the looks of things, they must have been cut off from the highway access for a few days at least ,and the road was still under water at one point - Rick enjoyed driving through the shallow lake rather than taking the detour, just for video sake. We asked a lady in the local fish and chips shop if the town had much damage, but she said just the places nearer the highway in the old riverbed, and some farmlands where they grow mangos, banana and vegetables. We could see pumpkins floating along the fencelines, quite a bit of damage to the area, but clean up was underway.

The temperature was rising the further north we got. At the Overlander Roadhouse we askedthe temperture, and were told about 42 or 44 maybe, not as hot as last weeks 46....ugh. and with the humidity from the flooding, it was damn hot. We did have some cooling as we ducked back off the highway towards Coral Bay, but 38 is not much cooler. With the air conditioning on full, we were happy to spot the beach.

We were warned back in Busselton that the reason most of the caravan parks were full and busy with summer holiday'ers was due to the horrible heat up north - who would want to go up there mate? but yeah, we couldn't come all this way and not see the sights, whatever the time of year.... but for these Canucks, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. And the sticky flies, well, they just put us just about over the edge.

Friday, January 21, 2011

SHARK!!!glub, glub, glub

The caravan parks in Coral Bay are all along the ocean, with a nice breeze and a spot of shade. The water there is crystal blue, with white sand and shallow a long way out, water as warm as a bathtub, to the point of us wishing it was cooler.

With our masks on, we could see large snapper fish and small spotted rays, and yes, we see sharks! First glimpse and a swallow of seawater later, heart racing, yes, shark body but a flat head like a ray.... mmm.... does it even have teeth? Well, this type of shark is a bottom feeder, moves relatively slowly and didnt seem that concerned with us at all. A dogfish shark, according to the fish chart we saw later in the dive shop.

Travis and Derek both had great fun following it around, and then spotted at least three more of them, one up to three feet long. Katie thought it was cool, once assured it didn't want to eat her like the ones on Discovery Channel. Jaclyn liked the rays better, as they had some personality, looking back at you with there top surface eyes, and calming floating tothe next spot for a barbs on their tails, so very unthreatening. Katie was singing her favorite bath-tub song"Imaging the ocean I can see, waves in the ocean here with me.... I see creatures big and small, lots of fish, I like them all!"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shark Bay and Dolphins at our feet

North from Geraldton, we drove four hours with the temperature raising and the wind gusts increasing.  The roads are good, though passing “road trains” gives a pretty good gust against the motor home, keeping Rick with two hands on the wheel.  The Billagbong Roadhouse was an interesting gas stop, and a good place to make lunch.  We arrived at the Overlander Roadhouse around 1pm, and turned onto the World  Heritage Drive, which leads us onto the double bay peninsula that creates the Shark Bay area.  This unique area is home to over 28 species of sharks, as well as other marine life like dolphins and dugongs.  Dugongs are really cool, one of the two species of sea cows in the world ( the other is Manatees), and a good percentage of the world’s population live in Shark bay.

Our first stop in the area was Shell Beach, where shells have been piling for like 4000 years or so…. 10 meters deep and about 3 miles long by 300 meters wide, that was a lot of shells.  They are mining in one small area, using the shell as chicken feed additive for laying hens.  The water there was ankle deep for  perhaps a kilometer out, and felt slippery with the lime of the decaying shells.  Reminded us of the Dead Sea water, stinging our skin.  Next was Eagle Bluff, with an awesome view of a sea cove below, and we managed to spot about 10 sharks swimming below, as well as manta rays and some other large fish in the clear, shallow water, very close to shore.  Okay, forget about swimming in Shark Bay, I mean, you could, if you were so inclined, but we felt we would rather find a caravan park with a pool.  Those sharks may be harmless, but really?  What if they were really hungry, or just curious? Denham’s Shark Bay caravan park, complete with pool, it is.

Dinner was a wonderful seafood assortment, a treat of the local delicacies - crayfish, oysters, snapper, calamari, prawns.  The restaurant was a hand-cut shell block building, very unique, and the sidewalks paved in pearl shells…..nice little windy town.    Woken by a cackle of wild parrots this morning.  And an early dawn visit to Monkey Mia meant we were able to have a private visit with the local dolphins before the irritating park rangers arrived.  Seriously, they started hassling visitors the minute they arrived - don’t stand there, you must move your car, you are camping illegally, don’t touch anything, wait on the boardwalk, gather here, move back, etc, in high pitched bossy voices ( Derek‘s comment was we didn’t need to go on a catamaran to find the sea cows)  …… very glad we arrived early enough that they didn’t wreck the entire visit to the dolphins, who themselves were extraordinarily friendly..  They played in the water for at least two hours close to the shore and genuinely interested in checking out the people - amazing experience with wild creatures of the sea.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bottle feeding a kangaroo

Today was a super day in the Land of Oz.
We woke at dawn, packed without waking the sleeping foursome, and hit the country roads heading north before the heat of the day set in.  Sure enough, about ten minutes up the road we spotted an emu with six roo buddies, grazing under a gum tree.  Katie has been bugging us for days to see a kangaroo, and last night's spotting expedition was a bust.  So we hit the brakes, woke the kids, and pointed into the distance as of course, the roos bounded away, wondering what was with the tourists in the motorhome.... Did you see the kangaroo, Katie?  "I think so", she said as she rubbed her tired eyes.  No.
Well, getting desparate enough for a zoo at this stage, I found just the solution in the next caravan park.... beach, shade, pool, and "feed the kangaroos", really?  mmm, worth a try.
Up the highway from Gingin 4 hours north to Geraldton.  We grabbed a quick pub lunch at the Freemasons Hotel and Tavern (not what Rick was hoping), which is no longer the $5 meal it was in the 90's.  Good thing we are cooking our own meals now or we would be back in Canada before the January thaw.  A little further to the caravan park in Drummond Cove, and yes, they have vacancy, and the kangaroos come out at six....okay, just a little more to wait.
But well worth it.  Three roos, one a Big Red that has been bottle-fed since a joey (now going on 12 years old!) and "tame as".  All of the kids got to feed him, and pet him (very soft) and ride him around the paddock (okay, not really, but Travis would probably say he did, lol)
Day 5 in Australia, played with a kangaroo, check!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


So first thing on the agenda was getting a place to call our own, on wheels.  Transport and hotel in one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Landing in Perth

Flight:  Virgin Blue (had to buy an extra one, x6) Bali to Perth, Western Australia, 3.5 hours
Accomodation:  The Ambassador hotel, downtown Perth, booked at the airport on arrival.

An extra night in Bali at the fifth hotel we tried - it is much busier here than it was in Thailand, with mostly Australian visitors (school summer holiday right now).  Nice spot near the beach, I dont remember the name of the neigborhood, but near the airport and good breakfast included, all good if you don't count the rat Rick saw swimming in the "water feature" in the lobby....five star!
Flight from Bali to Perth was 3.5 hours or so, definately budget plane this one.  We were expecting something nice (at least as nice as the South American airlines we flew) from Virgin and Richard Brampton (or whatever his name is) but honestly, like a cross between Westjet for friendliness but Delta for cheap!  Couldn't even get a glass of water without paying extra, and credit cards only, even for $2 transactions.  Wouldn't recommend Virgin.
Landing in Perth, we were rather upside down.  We had planned to arrive in Sydney, New South Wales, not Western Australia, and having done no research and little internet access, we had no clue where to go or which way to head when we arrived.  The tourist bureau helped us find a hotel (central city?) called the Ambassador, but it looks like internet is going to be an issue in Australia.  They handed me a cord when we arrived....mmm, same kind of internet access as Canada, eh?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Changing Plans

We went to the airport early on Wednesday evening to see what options might be available. According to the Virgin website, we could get full reimbursement to cancel or no few for changes, but of course in Bali the local staff had no idea of the state of affairs in Brisbane....mmmm.  So, after much "rigamaroll" we managed to cancel our trip to Sydney/East Australia and reroute for the next available flight to Western Australia.... Perth it is.  That way we can still do the motorhome thing and not get stuck in the mud.

While we were at the airport, the people on our original flight to Brisbane started to "queue", looking anxious and worried about what they would find once they got home.  One young traveller got stuck in the line with us, asked to pay over-weight and extra baggage fees to the tune of "one million dollars" (actually, ruppee, but still over a million!)  He was going to say stuff it, and leave the luggage in Bali, as he didn't have any more cash and they wouldn't take credit cards, he was really upset with the whole process.  We were glad to help him out - and hope that he doesn't have a worse surprise when he arrives at home in Brisbane to a flooded home.  He might need that suitcase, after all.

So unfortunately, our rendez-vous with Mom was not to be, but Perth was a better option for our next six weeks.  We are disappointed to be missing the Great Barrier Reef, and our thoughts are with our friends in Boggabilla as their town is next to be hit.  The weather is wicked - worst flooding they have ever recorded even with the new levy's and dams... not a place for tourists, for sure.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mom!!! There's a Lion in the Toilet!!!

Katie could write a very thick book on her bathroom experiences on this trip.  Let's summarize by saying we are grateful she is a trooper with a great sense of humor.  One of the best stories was here at Bali Safari, where our delicious dinner is accompanied by the lions of Africa, listening the roar as they talk and mostly sleep on the rocks at the restaurant.  But Katie, off to the restroom as soon as the meal arrives, had a "close encounter" of her own.  Happy to have determined which of the Balinese words meant "ladies", she was confident in her choice and went about her business (also happy there was a real, porcelin toilet and an easy-to-figure flush mechanism).  Rounding the corner to the sink, she reached for the lap to discover she was face-to-face with Lion #4, who was leaning with his nose pressed against the 2 inch glass right at the sink.  Startled (!) and shocked, she left the tap running and came tearing out of the washroom yelling through the restaurant "MMMMOOOOMMMM! There's a lion in the the toilet!!!".  Of course, big brothers to the rescue ( Travis with the camcorder in hand) JC not far behind, all four headed back to the scene (Ladies room or not) to see the Lion up close.  She was right.  There was a lion in the bathroom.  Right beside the sink.  Best bathroom yet.

Bali Safari, Two Continents in one

Flight:  Thai Airways, Phuket to Bali, 3 hours
Accomodation:  Bali Safari Park, near Ubud, Indonesia

BINGO, hit it big on this pick.  This place is amazing (I think I may have said this before, but wow, great experience).  The park is like in the Indonesian jungle, surrounded by rice pattys (we can see the workers from our room), quiet and safe.  Our African style family-size hut is on stilts, with a view of rhinos and deer and wildebeasts.  Our room came with a bucket of carrots to feed the zebra and deer, is spotless and cool, and is in the middle of the 80 acre safari park, with exotic animals from Asia and Africa, too - like safari minus malaria (we are SO excited!)  Africa was the area of the world we didn't explore, and this is the best rolled into one.  Safari passes and breakfast, and foot massages included.  Sweet.
How can I add all these animals to our lists?  The Komodo dragons are unreal - glad there is a thick glass between us.  The pythons are on both sides of the glass... baby orangatans to hold, white tigers to feed, lions over dinner, zebras while we swim, honestly the pictures are the only way to share this super place, and I will add more details with better wi-fi service (only drawback so far!)

Our trip to Bali was only two nights, three days, with Day 3 being a late flight to Australia.  We had an Australian TV channel in our "hut", so we watched in despair at the state of Queensland.... major flooding in Toowomba with 15 or more deaths and over 70 missing, and the flooding heading to Brisbane city with the worst expected Thursday morning....about the same time our flight was due to land.  The Prime Minister came on and boldly stated that all travel to Queensland should be avoided, as water resources and electricity were a major concern.  The last thing we wanted was to land in the middle of the zone, and miss a connecting flight..... PLAN B?

When in Doubt, Add a Country - Off to Indonesia

When putting this trip together, the first half was relatively easy.  We traced Ancient Civilizations from South America to Spain, then the Roman Empire and into Greece, off to Ancient Egypt and a detour to Petra, Jordan.  Then Thaliand for Christmas and some time of rest.  Where to next?

Well, Austrailia and New Zealand, but where to start?  The weather in Queensland is frightful right now - 1 in 100 year flooding in Rockhampton and Bundaburg (two must-see's on our list) and our plans of seven weeks in Oz mean flexiblity so, where is the best flight path?  Mmmm.  After a full day on the computer, looks like we can fly for half the cost if we stop for a couple days in Bali, so decision made - Bali it is!

Now, with our pitiful Canadian SE Asia geography education, we truly no nothing of Bali, or the rest of the Indo-Pacific area either.  We located in island of Bali on a map, read some tripadvisor reports, and picked a Jungle Safari park as a good location for a three day, two night trip.  True, not enough time to see Bali, but a quick taste of the island and wow, this park looks awesome, so Bali Safari it is...
Three hour flight, one hour time change, humidity of 99%, butterflies, flowers, birds and snakes.... welcome to Bali, Indonesia!

Shopping in Thailand

Must add a note about this....

Big Fight, Tonight (MuayThai Boxing, that is)

I'll leave this one for Rick and the boys to fill in....

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Fish Market

Easier than the fishing part, Mark and Donna invited us to share Janelle and Scott's last night in Thailand with them at Chewang pier.  Richard and Megumi (our dive instructors) led us to their favorite "bring you own fish" restaurant, and with bags of clams, squid, and giant tiger praws in hand, we sat down together for a feast.  The kids enjoyed the experience of picking out their own meal while it was still swimming - and with the barbeque hot and steamer ready, we ate until we were more stuffed than a fish on a wall.
For dessert, we headed to the Sunshine Bar (when in Thailand....) complete with pole and a secret drawer, with a  "magic teapot" for shots - mmm, what is in that stuff?  Even Travis got a nip of the "Sunshine Shot", some vodka with crushed Fishermen's Friends cough drops mixed in.... can't see why that hasn't caught on!!!
As for the pole, well, let us say it was still early enough in the evening that the kids got first go, and Katie loved ringing the bell - we are so in trouble with this girl in time to come....  The first group headed back to the hotel, and the second lasted slightly longer - hi to new Canadian friends met at the bar, a teacher from Ontario teaching math/science in Indonesia and his mom from Canmore!  (I won't mention names, but Rick had fun helping "Mom" up the pole by the end of the night, too!  Mom, you ROCK!)
No tuk-tuks to be found on the street a little later, we managed to rescue a Thai taxi driver from a rather heated fare dispute with some un-friendly tourists, who refused to pay the agreed amount after they arrived at their destination.  Not sure why, but there seems to be a lack of understanding about the barter process by the tourists who come here from Russia.  In this case, Rick was able to help extract the Thai man from a head-lock position, with the tourist complaining "This is a bad man" - Rick stood up for the driver which evened the odds out somewhat, and the three men did fork over some cash, though less than was agreed.  Once they left (with an unnecessary salute) we did secure a ride with the thankful Thai, and were left wondering how long Thailand will remain the friendly place it is when they are having to deal often with tourists such as these.  Sure wish Team Canada would have won the gold today.... ooooh those Russians.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fishing in the Deep Blue Sea

A day on the ocean spent with friends and drinks, eating a free lunch fresh from the sea, what's not to love?  Well, the waves for starters.  Ohhhh, forgot for a moment that I am not a good sailor.  Gravol for everyone!  Good news was none of us actually lost our cookies, though it was close, and with a second round of drugs (one is good, two must be better) I was able to enjoy a Breezer with the fresh caught lunch.  Then I slept through the whole "deep sea" fishing for Marlin part, but apparently didnt miss anything. After the trip, we were told it isn't Marlin season (of course, lol) I would love to spin a great yarn about the huge fish we caught, but not being a seasoned fisher-woman, I will say that each of the boys were able to reel in a tuna (think a full can worth, at least) and we had at least a dozen fish to count at the end of the day.  Life is good.
Even sweeter, the day was Scott's treat and we had wonderful company getting re-acquainted with Janelle, Tyler and Tara, Ashley and Scott's family, the Manicon's from Southern Ontario. The girls stayed behind and played on the beach all day, very wise choice in retrospect - I am sure they would not have enjoyed the seasick part....Janelle has a keeper with Scott, too (not that it counts, but we are with Donna, you have our blessing!).  We hope to visit them in Toronto and hear their adventures of Borneo, which is where they are spending the next four weeks... I'm sure there will be many tales to tell there!  Thanks again Scott from Travis, Derek and I for the great day at sea.

Ko Samui for a change of scenery

With our wonderful Swede friends away the beach was a little lonely.  Definately time to shake it up a bit, and Klaus and Carola had just the side trip in mind.  They were headed up to Ko Samui to meet other friends from Germany and welcomed us along on their journey.  It was wonderful to have a small itinerary planned out for us, and we certainly enjoy their company as well - great people and friends, from Frankfurt.  Klaus owns a security firm (he is a gentle giant of a man, who played NFL football and works for the NFL Europe league when not guarding high level diplomats and movie/rock stars) and his wife Carola is super-sweet, and clearly adores him.  And highly organized, too!
Our explore took us north away from the Indian ocean to the other side of the Thailand elephants trunk, where the Gulf of Thailand is situated, I think in the Pacific ocean... technically.  They have a slightly different wet/dry season so it was still "wet" though pleasant enough.  Our hotel in Lamai was beachfront but though the postcards showed a bathtub, the ocean was more like a washing machine, with strong undertow.... we didnt swim there (in the rain....) We did enjoy some fabulous food at the recommended German/Austrian restaurant, and met more wonderful travellers, friends from Frankfurt Malou and Buschel.  Malou being a chef, knew just where the best eats were, and she did not steer us wrong.
At Ko Samui we swam in the waterfalls and fed the elephants, watched the monkeys pick coconuts from the tall trees on command, and enjoyed great massage - hard to pass a Thai oil massage when it is one hour for $10..... ahhhhh, kop koon kaaaaahhh.

2554, with a BANG!

New Years on the island of Phuket is really quite a show... thousands of fireworks all over the towns, but especially on the beach, lasting for HOURS.... wow.  The beach was more crowded than during the day, with all families, tourist and local, releasing "wishes" on paper laterns high into the sky, and lit by the BOOM of thousands of sparklers in the sky.  Caron Beach, quieter than Patong, was still a zoo, and we were glad we lit our contributions to the show at 11pm, for fear of hitting some wayward surfwalker later on.  We did see one palm tree on fire, and Rick helped douse those flames before it became a bigger situation, Thai people are so laid back, smiling quietly, and are not one to panic even in emergency..... what is their secret, truly?
Being Buddhist, the year is not 2011, but rather 2554, and according to their traditional calendar is does not change until April, but they have adjusted to the western dec 31/jan 1 to align with their tourist guests and I suppose business trading as well.  Kids did not have Christmas holidays (no christmas for Buddha) but most seem to have the week following new years off school as break, and they exchange presents on new years eve.  And celebrate, even opening the beach bars for the night of revelry.  Smart, and very happy to please.  Thailand is a very nice place to visit, because the locals still want tourists here.  At least for now.