From Singapore to Mumbai

Monday, September 23, 2002
Singapore is fine! That's a joke here actually... you get fined here for so many things that lots of people say "It's a Fine City!" That's my kind of humor! We've been here a few days now. Our first stop was the Hash where we got to see some beautiful scenery around the island, and went inside a historical house... at least that's what the taxi driver said about the starting location of the run. We went to the zoo and to the Night Safari and they were incredible! I might even go as far as to say that they were better than the San Diego Zoo. No guinea pigs though, like the Cairo Zoo!

We also went to another hash last night, but somehow we were late to the start of the run and they had left by the time we got there. So, we following the marks until about 3/4 of the way until the end where we lost the trail. We may never had made it out to the touristy island of Sentosa, but how many visitors can say they have been inside a Singaporean sewer?? They are pretty clean, as far as sewers go, not that I really have a basis for comparison. And, not only did I START the run late, but I left early as well. I had booked tickets for the opera, so Carla trekked back to the hash and I went to the opera. I was an invisible visitor as far as the Lion City Hashers were concerned since they never even would have known I was there unless Carla told them!

The opera was really interesting - it was an introduction to Canonese Opera; which usually last for 6-8 hours. That's why I went to the "introduction" which lasted less than two. I like opera, but not that much. The evening was also the start of the festivities for the Mooncake Festival. There were street vendors everywhere, giant karoake areas set up and even an acrobatic display. The acrobats were young local children who easily could have been part of the Cirque du Soleil. It was amazing... and I just happened to be walking by. The waterfront here is beautiful, as is the rest of the city at night. I'm at the airport now and off to India in an hour!


Okay, I wrote that at the airport before I left Singapore, but never got a chance to send it. I'm in Bombay at the moment and Carla and I are heading off to a movie shoot soon. We were recruited to be extras in a party scene for a movie! They are going to pay us $15 each. It will be my first day of employment since I got laid off seven months ago! Bollywood is what they call Bombay since millions of movies are made here. I watched one on the plane actually - they are dramatic, a bit tacky, and always involve lots of drama and singing.

We arrived at the airport and never found our friend from Wisconsin, but by chance we did run into our Canadian friend who we didn't think we were going to see until we got to Goa. Good thing for the coincidence too, because Brook (where are you?!?!) made the reservations and we had no hotel booked. Fortunately Micheal had 3 beds in his room because his 2 friends weren't coming in until the next day.

The number of people we have bumped into around here is amazing! Every tourist is a hasher! We met 2 Norwegians on a ferry boat ride out to Elephanta Island that we emailed a long time ago, but never met. I finally met the Boston Hasher that I never met, just by chance the first night in the bar where Ozge, our Turkish friend was meeting us.... and the list goes on! I didn't realize I had met so many people on this trip. All the official activities start up tomorrow and I can't wait! I'll keep you posted, so until then... ciao!

Love, Alison

Hello from Malaysia!

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
We left Chiang Mai, Thailand on yet *another* overnight bus to Bangkok. We spent the day in Bangkok, where I spent the day checking out all the silver shops. Just as we we about to leave, I found out about the big warehouse that's somewhere in Bangkok, it caters to wholesale jewelry selling and that means me!! I'm dragging Carla to it when we spend another day in Bangkok next month. We pass through there one last time on our way to Australia.

We were hoping to spend some time on the Thai and Malaysia beaches (because you know, 3 weeks in Greece and Turkey weren't enough) but Mother Nature had other plans. The early start of the rainy season was still upon us!! In the midst of all the rain, we went to a place called Grabi in Thailand anyway. I just can't believe the way it rains around here. It never really just rains, it pours!! But we lucked out and the day we spent on the little boat touring around the islands turned out to be sunny. Carla even got a sunburn. The "port" where we picked up the boat was really just a small beach with more crabs than boats, but it was also where they make these type of boats as well, so that was interesting. We spent they day anticipating this place called the Fairy Caves... we must remember that caves here in Southeast Asia are really just another name for tremples... and we keep forgetting that! Carla silently put away her spelunking headlamp we checked out the beautiful scenery instead. All in all it was a random experience in Grabi, fun, but random. We found out what low season is all about.... at times, we thought we might be the only people in the ENTIRE town. The room rates were slashed to 1/20th of the original price and we paid seventy five cents each to share a room. Now there's a bargain!

After eating the spiciest food in Thailand (at a joint called Bernies Place, no less) we left Meric at the seaside and we took off to go to Malaysia. Now, as any person who has crossed the border of a country knows, you spend all your loose change before you leave. No point in wasting that last dollar or two... and we are no different. (Much later in the day we found out about the "border tax". Good thing for the retired American couple, thanks!) We bought some soy milk and pringles with our change and happily sank into our shared taxi ride in Thailand... so we thought!! The town of Grabi had other ideas. Apparently it was school vacation week and in Thailand, that means parades. Everyone in creation had turned up to march, sing, dress up or meander around the town, therefore blockading us from arriving at the bus station in time. The few kilometers took hours and we missed our bus. In fact, we were so late, we were just in time for the NEXT bus. Fortunately, we were on good terms with the ticket taker since we gave an "interview" to her niece a few days before. They were doing some class assignment, and we were the first English speakers to descend on the station in days! So, anyway, she allowed us to change our tickets for no charge and we were off once again to Penang, Malaysia.

Penang is this island city, and it's pretty cool! All the roads and around the buildings are what I like to call "mini moats". It rains so much here that there has to be a place for the rain water to go, but they are so big sometimes they look like moats! In Malaysia there are so many types of people and *so* many languages too. People speak Malay (Bahasa), Chinese, Portguese, English and sometimes Arabic. Some people speak one or two of then, others speak them all! Most people speak English to each other if there's any question about what language to speak.

One of the days in Penang we took a rick-shaw to the post office just for kicks. The guy peddling was AT LEAST a hundred years old. He was asleep in the passenger seat before we woke him up. You'd think he was new to the city since his knowledge of the streets was so bad. Carla became the navigator. Good thing that there's not much road rage around here, we were blocking traffic in every which way possible! While Carla was navigating, I got to check out the sites. I found the "Two Ringitt Store" (aka the dollar store!) as well as these signs posted everywhere that said "Follow Me!". Even after 3 days in that city, we never found out what that meant.

We also toured the Tropical Fruit Farm where coincidentally, one of the hashers actually works at! We also went to a hash. It was straight uphill for 2 hours. It wasn't really running, it was hiking. Given my ever slower pace, it was pitch black by the time I finished. It was really fun though! Afterwards, we got to know some of the Malays and met a few who we will see again while in India.

We headed off to Kuala Lumpur and only AFTER we left, did we realize that they have the tallest building in the world. I knew they did, but I forgot. Oh well, I always wanted to go, but too late now!! We spent only a day there but we went running with the hash and checked out some more temple caves where the main attraction were the monkeys that were everywhere! All the female monkeys has little babies with them, they were so cute!

Now we are in Melacca, Malaysia and everything is closed. Literally everything, I kid you not. Everything is "closed for renovation". We trekked out to Mini Malaysia and Mini Asean all for not. We spent 3 hours trying to go and do some sightseeing, to no avail! Oh well, it's been a good excuse to chill out a little. Our hostel has AC like it's WINTER in Boston and they play free movies every night before we go to bed.... so nothing to complain about here!! Headed to a hash tonight and Singapore tomorrow!

Bye for Now! Arison

Sa Wat Dee Ka from Thailand!

Friday, September 6, 2002
Cooking classes, temples (wats), traditional messages, hilltribe trekking, and an elephant ride are some of the things we've done since we arrived in Thailand! We spent a few days in Bangkok before heading off to Cambodia, then we went up north about 800 kilometers to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is great! We stayed in this funny little place called the Banana Guest House. They organized our trek, too. The place is owned by this couple and the wife is Japanese.... and there are tons of Japanese tourists here in Thailand, and at our guesthouse. We were practically the only English speakers in the whole place... which seems to be rare nowadays. On the trek we took too - everyone single one of the other participants was Japanese AND they were all boys about age 20. An interesting mix! Who knew I'd be learning Japanese phrases while spending the night in a hut in a remote Thai village?!

The best part of the trek happened a mere 10 minutes into the 2 day journey... Carla fell into the rice paddy! She somehow lost her balance, and the next thing I knew she was no longer in front of me. She was gone. I heard her screaming, "HELP!!" from the depths of the paddy. From then on we called her Carla Croft. She lost the game at Level 1, please play again. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen. She was holding on for dear life to some reeds so she didn't fall into the water. Instead of helping her out... I just took a photo. Nice friend I am! She was trying to avoid getting wet so early in the day, but as it turns out, the monsoon season started just as WE started. It pours practically from the second we started and never really stopped until we left Chiang Mai last night. It didn't really matter too much though, it would downpour for 20 minutes, stop for an hour and then start again so at least we had some reprieve.

Like I said, it rained a LOT on the trek, and in the morning we woke up in the village our guide stepped outside and pronounced, "PUCKIN LEN!" (fucking rain!). We've been saying that ever since and it gets funnier and funnier every time. Neung also found it funny to imitate the English expression, "Oh my God", but being Buddhist he would insert Buddha for God.... Oh my Buddha! He learned English just by listening to tourists, and like most Thai people he can not differentiate between the letter R and the letter L. With that in mind, some words they say really crack me up. Quick quiz, try to figure these out, answers at the end: Plice List, Srippily, Riry Pads, and Celemonies.

Another interesting thing to do in Chiang Mai is go to the Night Bazaar. It's very popular, and it's where they sell tacky souvenirs side by side the Thai handicrafts. It's really cool and pretty fun, too. But if any of you remember my history with markets and large crowds, I tend to get lost. Often. I don't know what it is, but it always seems to happen! I got lost in Spain at that weekend market and had to take the train all the back to Valencia before I found my friends, I got lost on Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras and had to go to the hotel to reunite with the girls, and just the same at the Night Bazaar. Five minutes after arrival at the bazaar, IMeric and Carla were never to be seen again. Or, perhaps it was ME that was never to be seen again?! Oh well, Carla knows the drill by now and we just met back at the guesthouse a few hours later after our shopping was done!

One of things people warn you about here is about the tuk-tuks (the golf cart-like taxis). We heard that sometimes when you take a tuk-tuk the driver ignores your destination and takes you to a store where he gets a huge commission. We've been here for 2 weeks and managed to avoid it, but it happened yesterday. Carla and I wanted to go to the street full of tribal crafts, but he had other ideas. Soon enough we were at some tacky umbrella store. We thought it was funny enough and we humored him. Then we went to ANOTHER commission store... we'd had enough. In our sternest faces we insisted that he take us where we wanted to go; and miraculously, he listened and the saga had ended.

Some random facts about Thailand:
  1. You say hello by saying, "Sa Wat Dee Ka". To be really polite you hold your hands up so it looks like you are praying. In fact, it is supposed to look like a Lotus Flower which is what Buddhists give as an offer to Buddha. Buddhists do not smell the flower, they claim they are not worthy, only Buddha is worthy of it's smell.
  2. According to the Thai calender the year is 2545. Buddha died at Year Zero.
  3. In Bangkok we are staying on a street called Khao San Road. It's the place where Leonardo Dicaprio stayed when he found out about the utopia beach in the movie, "The Beach".
  4. There's a gekko in every shower in every place we stay in! We should really name him one of these days.
  5. In the Karen hilltribe language there is one word for hello, goodbye, thank you and please. You say, "Da Boot".
The L & R Quiz Answers: Price List, Slippery, Lily Pads, and Ceremonies.

Until next time, Sayonara!