Monthly Archives: May 2010

Vang Vieng

I slide into the river, pushing off the stone-wall behind me because the rock bottom is jagged and I can see it’s not far away.  I’m trying to hold my beer above water and my shoes are strapped around my wrists so I wont lose them.  I look back to see if anyone else is moving on to bar two.  Above me Bobby the Brit is swinging 25 feet over the water and on the third swing he drops in.  The crowd sitting at bar one applauds his dismount and two guys from Q bar with scorecards give him an “8” and a “show off”.  I spin back around and as I’m floating I try to keep my entire body as close to the surface as possible so I’m not just another asshole with bandages all over me in town tonight.  I’ve passed the halfway point. Now Eric from bar three, Mojito Bar, is throwing an empty plastic bottle at my head.  I duck and grab the rope attached to it so he can pull me in.  I’m sipping on my beer as I reach the platform and let go of the rope to climb up to the bar.  The song is saying, “tonight’s gonna be a good night” and it’s obvious to me how few of these people are actually going to make it out tonight.  Of the scantily clad masses half have red or white headbands or armbands on, advertising Oh-la-la Bar or Sunset Bar, nearly all of them are wearing the daily colored piece of string from some other bar on their wrist, and all of them are either spray-painted or written on by a friend.  The writing is vulgar. “Touch these their real” or “My other ride is your mom” usually misspelled and some fading from days before.  On the platform overhead Tony, wearing an Osama bin Laden mask, is pouring a bottle of Tiger whiskey into a funnel someone at the bottom of the ladder is about to pound, while at the same time two girls behind him take off on the zip line and forgetting to let go before the stopper, flip heels over head into the water.  Buckets are being passed around.  People are dancing on tables.  Another day at the river, same same, moment for moment, the movie Groundhog Day comes to mind.

This town is too much.  Party all day and party all night.  After a few weeks of that you are bordering on all systems failure.  It takes me nearly two weeks but I finally wake up one morning and know, I either get out now or I get stuck here and waste the rest of my three-month trip.  So I walk down to the nearest travel agent and buy a ticket on the next bus out.  I don’t tell Joker Bar I’m leaving, I don’t say goodbye to anyone, I just pack up my bag and step onto the minivan.  As I get inside, there is a guy in the backseat applauding.  It’s Tony from Mojito Bar; He made it out too.  We end up hanging out and sharing a room in Vientiene.  Neither of us really let the Vang Vieng party die for a long time.  It’s a hard habit to walk away from.  Dancing all day and night, raging till the break of dawn.

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Oh Paradise

“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from god.” –Bokonon

Thailand is so fucking incredible. The people there both local and transient are so beautiful.  I started my adventure at a place called Lonely Beach, on the island of Koh Chang.  My bungalow was $4, there was free BBQ at a different bar each night, three beers were 100 baht ($3) or you could get a bucket full of booze for the same price. For $8 you could get a Thai massage ON the beach, with small waves rolling over the rocks below you and mellow reggae wafting from the nearest bar.  After a few hours there I felt brand new.  The small street I was staying on was like a path through country fair, thrown into a jungle, with a bamboo tattoo parlor at each end and a beach just down the way.  There was only half a roof over the shower and to flush the toilet you pour a bucket of water into the bowl.  Besides the simple fact of currency, daily life in Thailand feels like some kind of Bohemian Royalty.  Everywhere you go, the path is lit with colored lanterns, you sit on ornate oriental pillows, red, gold and purple, you eat meals lounging in the open air and watch the sunset with other smiling souls under a palm frond. Needless to say within hours of my flight landing in Bangkok I had found exactly what I was after.  Even though I had three months to enjoy it, the idea of stepping onto my flight home was looking very unlikely.

From there I found my way to Pai, by way of Bangkok and Chang Mai.  We’ll leave out the bus ride and three days of food poisoning.  Pai was incredible (this word comes up a lot in SE Asia).  The synchronicity I found in this part of the world just kept blowing my mind.  I love the part about traveling where you meet friends everywhere and you never feel alone, but I was bumping into friends I met a year ago in Costa Rica while just walking down the street in Thailand.  How crazy is that?  I shared my birthday with a guy who was born on the same day, the same year, in the same time zone as me, and his sister’s name was Molly!  Back to Pai though, one day I was sitting in an internet café looking at pictures of the tattoo I wanted to get, asking for a some kind of sign that this was the time and place to do it, when I stand up and walk out a guy on a bicycle is riding by with the flower of life on his shirt.  Too perfect, too well timed, that is what this whole trip was like.  So I got the tattoo, then I rented a scooter and rode off to a waterfall with some friends.  Then the next day we went and scooted to some hot springs.  The day after that we rode elephants.  What a world where every decision is based on passion and instinct, not reasons.  You will only ever regret opportunities you missed, not opportunities you too readily embraced.  The greatest thing of all about Pai was how much live music we found.  There was a gypsy band, called Asto Na Pai, that played nearly every night at a different place.  One night it was in a open air hut by the river and a troupe of fire dancers performed in front of a Rasta colored tee-pee.  Another night is was upstairs in a little bar with candles melting all over the tables.  The weekend after we arrived was the annual reggae festival in Pai.  It was awesome.  Scootered there, danced up a storm, ate sushi, drank buckets, tossed around glowing Frisbees and spun some poi.  The trip was like being a kid, playing and doing whatever the hell you want, with long bus rides and a few night trains tossed into the mix.

From Pai I made my way to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.  Better known as Saigon. After that I went to the wonderful and wild world of Vang Vieng, Laos.   And then came back to Thailand and went south to the islands.

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Figure It OUT!

Whether it’s flying off to some random country by yourself for a few months, or just picking up a pair of 3D glasses and staring at a paint covered plate: My favorite damn thing in life is figuring it out.  How does that work? I don’t know.

Go figure that shit out!

Why does the moon have phases?  Why does the reflection of the setting sun follow you as you walk? What color looks best next to blue? Where can I go to feel completely out of place? Once there how the hell can I be happy and have a good time?

Exploration.  Take your life by the fucking balls and figure it out.

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Snake Killers

We are sitting around the kitchen in our beach house in Costa Rica when the phone rings. I answer, “Buenos Tardes.”
“Hey I need you girls to come up here right now.”
“Whats-a matter Trace?” It’s Tracy, our sweet Canadian neighbor that lives deeper in the jungle behind our house. But the phone’s gone dead.
Worrying for her wellbeing, the four of us girls run out of the house and up the hundred-meter path with two flashlights. As we approach her cabin she yells from the porch, “Stop right there, don’t come any closer!” we ask what’s the matter, why are we stopping, is she okay? She says there’s a snake on the steps and it just killed the cat. Cali and Carly have the flashlights and shine it on the steps revealing a ten-foot long boa constrictor. The skin blends in with the dirt and shadows, a dark brown and black criss-crossing pattern. It’s as big around as a two-liter bottle of coke. Sure enough it has just killed the cat and is now yawning trying to unhook its jaw so that it can make the constricted kitten into a proper dinner.

Tracy meanwhile is on the phone again, calling the local animal rescue people. They can’t take on a snake that size and say that we have to kill it. This is the third of Tracy’s cats “gone missing” in the last couple weeks and obviously now that the boa knows where to get food it will keep coming back. Furthermore, there is no knowing that next time it wont be inside the house and thus even harder to deal with. Tracy is distraught and still on the phone. I realize that the snake’s head is near the cat on the cement step and its first foot or so of neck/snake body is set against an ideal surface for machete chopping. So I call to Tracy, “Throw down the machete, we have to kill it.” And the girls yell with me, “Tracy throw down the machete, Molly’s going to kill it.”

Well, wait a minute. Yes, this is an ideal opportunity to kill this thing but do I really have it in me to take the life of an animal that large and magnificent. I’m not a lover of domestic predators, especially not snakes but that’s a really large beast to end. Smashing a spider is one thing. Chopping the head off a ten-foot boa constrictor is completely different. Eventually Carly and Brenna run down to the beach for help, yelling “Ayuda! Serpente!” and return with two local Ticos. They don’t speak a lot of English but the older one Chisco says, “It’s no problem. I kill lots of snakes.” They find a concrete dumbbell in the yard and as the younger man stands back with us, Chisco proceeds to smash and remove the head of this great beast while the five of us women shriek and cheer. Tracy gives them a bottle of rum for their services after the snake stops writhing headless in the dirt of her front yard. After all the commotion we go back down to our place, away from the scene of the double homicide, Tracy finally unwinds enough to cry over her cat and we all takes shots of rum before dragging the cat, the headless snake, and its head, into the jungle to bury them.

(this actually happened, but its written in the form it might take in a book I’m writing.)

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