The Frenzy After the Calm

January 28, 2008 Monday 11:35am

I want to be lying on the beach with my pineapple, mango, coconut shake, reading my book and soaking up the liquid sunshine of the beautiful Thai beaches.  Instead we are back in the crazy, hectic, sensory overload of Bangkok.

Let me explain, since my last email, we travelled by bus and ferry to the island of Ko Chang.  We decided on Ko Chang not so much because it was a place that called to us specifically, but because our friends from Quebec said they had a good deal on round trip tickets and we hadn’t decided where to go yet.  Ko Chang sounded as good a place as any.  Maybe a little less popular and a little more rugged than the islands of Ko Samui or Ko Pha Ngan, which sealed the deal.

While on the bus to Ko Chang, I happened to get locked in the bathroom.  The toilet was located in the bottom of our double-decker bus.  The door looked like it was made for a hobbit and there was a latch on the outside to keep the door shut.  When I entered the miniature room, I realized there was no light (aka it wasn’t in working condition) so I had to hold the door open to let in enough light to see.  Inconvenient but not enough to deter me.  While I was attempting to hold the door while the bus swayed from side to side creating the same sort of turbulence as an airplane, the door was suddenly forced closed and I heared the latch click.  I was shocked and it took me a few seconds to register what just happened. I thought Malachi must have been playing a joke so I sat in the dark for a few moments in order to not give him the reaction he was obviously waiting for, such as yelling or banging on the door.  I’m not extremely claustrophobic but who really wants to be locked in a hobbit size toilet on a Thai bus, so I told him it wasn’t funny and to let me out.  There was no answer.  My second thought was maybe it wasn’t Malachi.  So I knocked on the door.  No answer.  By now I was completely perplexed.  Why would someone lock me in the toilet?  I kept knocking. I figured that if no one let me out that eventually someone would need the toilet and I would be released.  But if no one needed the toilet it was only another 5 hours, so I guess a dark, cramped, smelly bus toilet was as good a place as any to meditate or attempt to take a nap……. I knocked a little harder this time and voila, someone opened the door.  I was actually surprised, I had almost come to believe that I would be trapped in there for some time.  It was one of my fellow passengers that I think was Italian. I looked up at her and her expression didn’t seem surprised or concerned, maybe even a little peeved as she said “Oh” and turned around and walked back up the stairs. I wasn’t sure how to react. I think my face pretty much said “Yes you just locked me in the toilet and I have no idea why, so please don’t do it again.”  I finished and went back upstairs and sat down.  Malachi was watching “The Rock” which was playing on the bus television.  Everything seemed completely normal.  I told him I was just locked in the bathroom.  At first he didn’t hear me so I said it again.  He said “What? What do you mean?” I explained and I could tell he was genuinely surprised.  It wasn’t Malachi.

Anyway the beach is much more exciting.  When we approached Ko Chang on the ferry, it looked as if we were entering Jurassic Park or maybe the Congo.  The jungle covered mountains rose up out of the sea and gave the impression that all sorts of large creatures were hidden amongst the trees.  We actually meet some of those giant mammals the next day.  We went for an elephant trek where we were able to wash, feed, and ride the elephants.  I think it’s actually a very clever way for the Thais to fool Westerners into paying to do elephant house keeping chores.  It was actually a ton of fun.  The elephants were majestic as always, maybe a little bored, but to someone who doesn’t ride an elephant everyday, it was fun.  I would have liked there to be a little bit more information regarding how the elephants are being saved and protected and how our money was helping that effort, but maybe that is a little too Western of me.  It was enjoyable just being a tourist.

Malachi and I ended up staying at the Treehouse II in Long Beach on Ko Chang for the majority of our beach bumming.  We met Ted the South African, Tania the German living in China, and Boris the Slovakian on the taxi trip to the beach and who were to become our dinner companions.  Taxi I think is much to formal. It was actually a truck with two benches in the bed with a canopy roof over the top.  Not the most comfortable considering the hilliness of the drive.  I sat next to a Spaniard who threw up the majority of the trip and I rubbed his back while he was retching.  The poor guy was miserable. The least I could do, or even think of was to offer him a little comfort.  Thank you Mom for the times you rubbed my back when I was sick.  I think it helped him a little.

Once we got to Long Beach, we dropped our bags in our lovely beach side bungalow made from thatch, and headed to the beach. We went to the restaurant to have dinner that night and as I surveyed the rest of the patrons, I recognized a face and it took me a moment to register who it was.  The woman who locked me in the toilet on the bus 3 days before was there.  A little surreal I guess, but we never ended up running into each other and there was no locks on the outside of the bathrooms so all was well.

We spent the next few days swimming, snorkeling, eating, doing yoga, and reading in or around the water.  At night we had dinner with our new friends sharing stories and eating fish that Boris the Slovakian had caught each day.  Speaking of fish and Boris, one night we decided to go to a little shack down the beach and have seafood.  We picked out our Red Snapper BBQ fish; there is something erie about meeting your food face to face before you eat it.  Then only to open up the tin foil and stare straight into the eye of your chosen sacrifice.  Almost enough to make you become vegetarian.  But if that doesn’t do it, watching Boris eat the eyeballs, lips, cheeks, throat and other various apparent “delicacies that are the best part of the fish” would do it for you.  Suffice it to say the fish was delicious, but I’m moving towards the digestive tract of an herbivore.

We had a blast at the beach and enjoyed every minute of it, but (and this is where I insert my utter detestment of cigarettes) there were smokers everywhere. When I dreamt of spending days at the beach I would never have guessed that the refreshing and sweet air of the ocean would be tainted with cigarette smoke no matter where we went.  I can’t believe how much Westerners smoke.  It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand how you can enjoy the beauty of the sand and the ocean while dragging on a cigarette non stop. Grrr, enough of my rant, but it really was unbearable at times.

Malachi is a little burned (I wore tons of sunscreen) and my sandals are full of sand, but we loved it.  We had a very hard time leaving yesterday, but we are off to new adventures in the North.  I think we’ll be going up to Chiang Mai tomorrow with maybe a stop at Kanchanaburi for the tiger temple. I promise to not be eaten, then on to Lao and back to Bangkok.  We fly to Calcutta, India (it was cheaper to buy tickets to Calcutta than Chennai, only $187 one way!) on Feb 10.  We’ll keep everyone updated. Oh and Malachi put new pictures up with people actually in them.

Thank you everyone who keep writing, I would like to write to everyone individually but I won’t always have the time.

Mom, is it a business week or full 7 day week?? 🙂

Oh and happy late B-Day Joanna, I’m glad you had a fabulous time in Mexico

Grandparents: I’m sorry I cannot write everyday but I am doing fantastic and I will write as often as I can.

And an interesting note for other Psenaks, Boris said Psenak is definitely Czech….or maybe Slovakian I can’t remember which.

Talk to you soon!

Love to you all,

Kenni and (Malachi even though he’s writing his own email too)

Bangkok II

Hello from the heat.

I’ve never really appreciated, or even understood air conditioning until today.  It’s about 95 degrees and beautiful, but crazy hot. The Internet cafe has air conditioning thankfully.  It’s a long way from Alaska.

Anyway, thank you everyone who wrote back.  It’s so cool to be such a long distance away and still be able to communicate with all of you.  Yesterday we saw the real Bangkok: from the back of a tuk-tuk.  Imagine a motorcycle motor with a bench behind the seat and a roof.  Three wheels and a lot of guts.  I can’t believe what a Thai driving test would be like.  The streets of Bangkok are jammed packed and relatively quiet.  Malachi and I sat on the edge of a round-about last night and just watched everyone, as we commented on how Bangkok traffic is ordered chaos.  There is never an accident, but I can’t believe what kind of attention you have to have to follow the traffic patterns.  There doesn’t seem to be as many lights as there should be, and drivers take liberties whenever they are available.  Today I was in a store and a motorcycle came down the aisle as if he had utter confidence that he should be driving through.  Bizarre and amusing all at the same time.  I’m completely charmed by the city. I love the hustle and bustle and the friendliness.  I don’t feel unsafe at all, the only thing I have to watch is being too kind and paying way too much for something that I didn’t really want in the first place.  I have gotten the hang of haggling, it is easier to do with men than women.  Women are more intimidating.  Probably because they are the ones who shop in the market places themselves.  It’s hard to bargain with someone that is good at reducing prices themselves.

Back to the tuk-tuk; when we were wandering through the wat at the end of Khao San Road with Nick the Canadian we met the night before, a couple of guys gave us a lot of travel advice and warnings, and an itinerary of wats to visit.  Probably a standard route, and we probably were ripped off a bit, but it was nice playing tourist and a few cents isn’t all that much in the greater scheme of things.  All three of us piled into the tuk-tuk and stopped at the beautiful gold standing Buddha (which is immense), the Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple), the Lucky Buddha, and a very posh tailor shop.   The tailor shop was recommended by a tourist agent at the Lucky Buddha and it was very professional.  Not even close to being in the same category as the tailor shops on Khao San, more like something you would find in Italy with rooms and rooms of silks and very professional staff.  Considering the fact I will probably get skirts a plenty in India,  I decided to get a dress and Malachi is contemplating a shirt. Not quite the budget of a backpacker but I think the experience is worth the rate.

After the tuk-tuk we wandered around and happened to stumble upon a British couple who were coming out of a beauty salon where the woman just had a facial.  She was raving about her skin and how soft it was.  They said it wasn’t a tourist place, it was where Thais themselves went.  Her skin was absolutely beautiful, so we stopped in and I did a facial while Malachi had a foot massage, and the only other customers where Thai.  I fell asleep half way through listening to a Thai soap opera on tv.  It was the best facial I’ve ever had. I wish I could have seen what she did and what she used.  When I got up Malachi was passed out in the chair where he had his foot massage.  It took awhile to wake him up and the masseuse thought it was hilarious.  She didn’t speak any English but  He was completely out of it but obviously enjoyed his foot massage. We decided to call it a night and headed back to our room.  A very calm night to a jammed packed day.

Today has been more wandering.  We’ve decided we need to get out of here asap, so we should be heading down to Ko Samui maybe Sunday.  Beaches, beaches, beaches.  I can’t wait. We’ll probably be there for close to a week and then perhaps head up to Chaing Mai  and fly out of Bangkok.  Nothing is official yet.  We’re playing it by ear.

Love to all of you,


PS. We tried fried worms yesterday! They tasted salty but you would never guess it was a worm. Something more along the lines of a hallow chip. Oh and Melea we’ll try to find the Happy House. And we did find the banana roti vendor, if we weren’t so tired last night when we did, Malachi would have been all over that.


January 17, 2008 Thursday 11:24 am

Malachi and I have made it to the metropolis of neon lights and tuk-tuks, also known as Bangkok.  We spent 21 hours getting here from Cali and when we finally arrived we lost a day and threw our internal clocks off.  We flew in at midnight on separate flights from Tokyo and amazingly enough we found each other in customs right away.  The crowd of people yelling out taxi rates in front of the airport was a sensory shock.  All of the cabs are bright neon colors and about the size of a small sedan.  Pink cabs and green cabs pelt by on the amazingly pristine paved roads.  We split a taxi with a young guy from Vancouver, Canada and an older couple from Quebec.  It cost us about $4.50 each to drive the 45 mins to Khao San Road.  That gives you a bit of a gage on the price of things.  Cheap. Cheap. Cheap.  We wandered around Khao San Road for about 45 mins until we found a nice budget guest house tucked out of the hustle and bustle.  It was clean and quiet, perfect by our standards even if the toilets reeked of backed up sewage.

Khao San Road is known as the backpackers’ haunt of Bangkok.  You see more white faces here then any other part of the city.  Even at 1:30am, the road seems like a permanent carnival.  Lots of bars and late night snack food. Balloons being sold to drunk couples stumbling out of bars, and young women sitting on the sidewalk amidst rubbish cooing babies to sleep.  Dogs lay in the middle of the street and cats roam free, unconcerned about the people or auto traffic.  It’s all rather surreal.  We haven’t seen the real Bangkok yet, but we have plenty of time.  I’ll post pics tomorrow.  There is an Internet cafe downstairs from our room.  Right now it’s time to go eat. I had fresh pineapple this morning from a street vendor and it was delicious. ( clean street vendor, for those of you who’s first thought was nasty bacteria…. you know who you are).  There are beautiful things everywhere, hopefully we’ll have room in our bags for everything. If not, Mom and Dad you’ll be receiving packages.It’s hot and sunny, last time I checked it was 85 degrees and humid. I think it’s comfortable, wonderfully warm.  Malachi is dying already and our first shopping stop is for a pair of shorts.


Mom and Dad: we are safe and healthy, we’ll keep you posted on where we are heading. For now we’ll be in Bangkok for a few days.

Love to you all,

Kenni and Malachi

The Rolling Stone Starts to Pick up Speed

The one way ticket has been purchased. The 10 year Indian visa still rests safely in the pages of my passport, and the rush begins to get all of my ducks in a row.

At the top of the list is finalizing research proposals. Although I will be physically out of the country, I will still be enrolled in school for the Spring semester. I am using the richness of this trip to influence my academic research. Both visually and written. Not only will I be documenting my trip through the written language, I will also be toting along a video camera. I am hoping to produce some sort of video diary/ documentary compilation of my adventures and misadventures. I know there will be at least a few.

The list that must be whittled away at before December 28th is long, but the butterflies in my stomach are starting to flutter in their familiar harbinger of the Unknown to come.

Excitement. Lots and lots of excitement.