Our top salesman Jerry holding down the fort. Manning the booth is certainly the most enjoyable job I've ever had. It does occassionaly get very busy!
Thursday, June 30, 2005
These kids look pretty happy. Our's is the loft with the mermaid sarong. Our beloved neighbor's, Mitch & Michelle & Co. have the more rustic looking loft to the left. Jerry and I built this thing about 3 years ago. We drove up about 3 weeks before the fair and spent 4 gruelling days on the project. Because it had been raining so much we had to haul all the lumber and tools in on carts. We had to battle the worst mosquitoes I've ever seen anywhere. The last day we had to park outside the gates at 6am and hike in to finish it. We left around 2pm and got home around midnight. What a labor of love!
Friday, June 24, 2005
We Made It!
We finally got to our hotel about 6pm local time last night. Ugh. All in all, though it was a horribly long time to be in cramped airliner seats and almost impossible to sleep and it was a little confusing and stressful filling out the visa forms in Bangkok, the trip went without a hitch. The kids did great! What troopers.
Our ride from the Lai Thai hotel was right there with a sign waiting for us. He took us on a harrowing ride through crazy 3rd world traffic to our hotel. That ride was just a blur of weird sights and frightening near misses with mopeds. The motel is a mixed bag. The rooms are much funkier than I imagined, but the big garden area is incredibly lush and pleasant to hang out in. There are fountains and spirit houses and the pool was pretty good this morning.
Last night we went out for a walk to find some bottled water. It was very much like an acid trip, and maybe a bad acid trip. I lead us the wrong way it seems and we were in a funky dark smelly part of town with lots of scary traffic and most places closed up (at 7pm?). My guts were all messed up too, probably from the bizarre food on the Asian airlines. Anyway we were feeling quite lost when we ran into this super friendly gal from Canada who escorted us into a strange little shop (?) and showed us a cooler with bottled water. 5 bottles for 27 bhat--about 50 cents. She also gave me a little map I've been using today. The first of many Angels we are to meet, I suspect.
So today we've had a swim, a charming lunch and a hot walk along crazy busy traffic streets. We're on the verge of the Old town and hoping to see some tourist sights before much longer.
I think we're about to take our first taxi ride too.
The weather has been pretty good today. It was balmy all morning and only a bit hot this afternoon. Not too muggy either. So far Chiang Mai is much much more congested and dirty than I imagined. But we've barely begun to look about. I'm just glad we made it alive.
I'll try to get some photos up soon.
March 11, 2005
Chiang Mai Day Two
The girls are down the street shopping at tiny dusty little stores full of weird stuff and cool clothes. We just had a really pleasant relaxed lunch at a little place run by some Karen tribesfolk. Super friendly. We're on a very noisy congested street and it's a bit hot and muggy, so we were delighted to be led way back into a pretty courtyard with flowers, kittens and a fan. The girls got chocolate milkshakes that came with orchids stuck in the top! The kittens were very well behaved. Interested in tidbits, but not at all pushy.
On the plus side, all we have to do to get around is walk out front of our hotel and wait 30 seconds and a songtheaw (sp?) will stop to pick us up. I still have that little map the Canadian gal gave us and point then we climb in the back and away we go. It costs 40 baht for the 5 of us (Eden rides free I guess) and they drop us off, all smiles. On the way here we met a delightful young man from the Philippines who is here teaching ping pong (?) and a very pretty very shy schoolgirl who bid us farewell as if we were old friends when we clambered off, even though we'd only exchanged a few awkward sentences.
By the way, a songtheaw is a little pick up truck with a tall covering and seats along both sides of the bed. It's well padded inside and has openings rather than windows and plenty of places to hold on. I have to say it's the most fun public transportation I've ever experienced! Very practical too. I do wonder what it's like in the rain, with those open sides and all.
Today we hired a guide named Poon, who took us around to three beautiful wats (temples). The wats are really walled compounds with at least one amazing temple, maybe a school for monks, lots of dogs laying around in the road. We (meaning the adults) were enthralled by the gorgeous architecture and statuary and ancientness of these places--one of them was 1000 years old apparently. The kids were less enthusiastic after a while. It was pretty hot. We went to a hill tribe cultural center/museum, which was even less interesting for them, although we saw three men swimming in this big lake with horses. Just the horses’ heads above water. Why? Who knows? The traditional Thai greeting is called a wai. We have lots of unanswered whys! Poon also took us to a real supermarket where we could get big jugs of drinking water. That was really fascinating! I bought the kids weird popsicles and they were content.
I've got more to relate, but I want to post this now. Just in case the connection is dicey. Can't really take certain things for granted here.
Chiang Mai is a big city. A big, congested dirty city. I had visions of a quiet sleepy little place sort of like Petaluma, where one could bicycle around and see the sights. Forget it! It can be quite challenging just crossing a street. Oh jeeez, the girls are back and hot tired and ready to go. More later.
March 11, 2005
Chiang Mai Continued…
Ack, I'm on a slow computer with a slow connection. Tried to upload photos...no way. I'll try a different place tomorrow. Joyce and I are out late. She's struggling with an awful sticky keyboard.
I wanted to tell a little about yesterday. We went out walking and found out that it's not a good idea. Too dangerous crossing streets and too wearing. We learned to take a 'taxi' to the rough location and struggle on from there. The first place we did this was a market area. We ended up inside this old old 3 story building crammed with merchandise in little stalls that all seemed to run together. There were clothes and shoes and luggage and cosmetics and semi-familiar stuff, then there were food stands with the most bizarre assortment you can imagine, including French fried meal worms all neatly packaged. There were big bowls of green glop in numerous stalls that seemed to be selling well. A vendor warned Joyce away "very spicy!!!". Not that Joyce was really tempted I think. There were stalls selling crazy toys and supplies for spirit houses (I bought some Hell Bank Notes in 50,000 denomination). Most everything was really cheap and we were encouraged to barter if the price was too high. We were some of the only farang in the place and really felt like we were in a foreign land!
Ooops, time to go.
March 15, 2005
Back From Chiang Dao
Sorry for the lapse. We really were up in the middle of nowhere, (and loving it). We were whisked up to our Chiang Dao Nest resort in a fancy air-conditioned mini van, but the scenery left us exchanging increasingly worried glances. It just got uglier and uglier. It really is dry season here. Not enough greenery to go around and lots of burned places, whether controlled burn or wildfire we couldn't tell. And it all seemed torn up with lots and lots of rubble. I guess a huge highway project is going on or something. The air was thick with smoky haze. You could see there were mountains up there but just barely.
Then all of a sudden we passed elephants. About 15 of them walking about this big property. I think they were working elephants, but there didn't seem to be any people about. The kids sat up for that!
By the time we got to the tiny town of Chiang Dao things were looking a little better, then whoosh we drove past the Cave Temple complex and were turning down a driveway and viola, we'd arrived. It was our Enchanted April moment. (My favorite travel movie).
What can I say? It was stunning. There was a beautiful outdoor cafe area with handmade wooden tables, orchids and beautiful plants everywhere. A truly beautiful Thai woman came to greet us, Pom, and we all of us instantly fell in love with her sweetness and her smile. We had a delightful lunch whilst waiting for out rooms to be made ready. One of the reasons we came to this place is Wiccha, one of the owners. She is an astounding gourmet chef who studied in Europe (where I suppose she met Stuart, her husband, the other owner). The food was perfect. And so cheap!
Anyhow, our bungalows were made of bamboo, with big French windows and cool smooth concrete floors. Simple, but elegant and beautiful, with little lotus ponds out front. I think there were only 6 of them. All down little gravel paths bounded by exotic flower bushes.
It was hot, but noticeably cooler than in Chiang Mai, and indeed for most of our stay the weather was perfect, and actually quite cool a few evenings.
While the kids and Joyce were settling in Krista and I stole away to explore. We ended up walking down the driveway and up the road, sort of in a dreamy haze. We passed a ripe banana tree and huge bamboo, as big as thigh, in sky-high clusters. There was some exotic tree with a smooth straight trunk that soared way way up, no branches until the top canopy, which was raining down lovely pink and white flowers, spiral stars with the feel of orchids. Not in Kansas anymore.
Then we got to the end of the road and it was a big open gate. We'd seen another Nest guest go through so we hesitantly followed and came upon the most amazing white and gold temple glowing in the dusk. Our sense of being in a dream became delightfully intense. It was something straight out of Journey to the Wild Divine, if you know what that is. There was no one at all about. Just us. We followed the path and came to stairs, guarded by the now familiar, but very impressive, Thai Nagas--serpents or dragons. The stairs went up and up and up, winding out of sight.
The next day we went up them with Joyce and Eden. My god what a climb! We didn't follow them to their end, but could see it: A small golden temple high up on the mountainside. It truly took our breath away (even more than the hundreds of stairs). By this time Thai and Burmese monks were passing up, in their saffron robes. One or two actually greeted us! Mostly they aren't supposed to acknowledge women, (and seem indifferent to ridiculous farang men).
Okay, I'd better condense things a bit...
The next day we did the almost obligatory Elephant Ride/Bamboo Rafting/Visit to a Hill Tribe. What can I say? It was a bit disappointing, but I'm glad we did it. For me the best part was visiting the dirt-poor Palong tribe and supporting them by buying lovely handicrafts. I got to go inside one of their homes, which are all up on stilts. It was quite simple I thought, then looking out the window hole (shutters, no glass) I saw a brand new solar panel mounted on a pole!! Turning around I suddenly noticed the old TV set in the corner! Whoa! Under the floor, I could see through gaps in the boards, were chickens and piglets scurrying about. It was a trip. Going down the river (which was often more like a broad shallow drainage canal) we saw lots of Thai kids playing and Thai men and women fishing or working in the fields above us. At one point a bunch of kids, who were loudly climbing up an overhanging tree and jumping in the water, swam over and boarded our rafts!!! They wanted a free ride down the little 'rapids'. Lots of people were friendly and waved to us, or back at us, calling 'sawadeeka', the main Thai greeting.
Our driver 'Mann' was very charming and very funny. He spoke some English and taught us a few words, but mainly made us laugh and laugh. We all adored him, except Eden, who he teased and teased (very therapeutic for her I'm certain).
The next day we visited the Chiang Dao Cave, which is quite an elaborate temple complex. It was my fave. It was clearly a place more visited by Thais than farang. There was a whole ring of permanent markets and 'restaurant' stalls. The markets mainly sold herbal preparations and raw or dried herbs. It was astounding to see the variety. Very exotic! I bought some 'pills' from a very old woman with an unintentionally comical label. They look like pepper corns and will make my hair black again (?), strengthen the sexual and prevent beriberi!
Inside the cave was a VERY impressive temple chocked full of buddhas and nagas and other statues. It was illuminated by daylight coming through a gap in the ceiling. Wow. I won't say much more except that we ended up following a Thai guide, carrying a stinky gas lantern, who spoke almost no English and suddenly we were expected to crawl on our hands and knees through a rather small hole (one of several it turned out). A rather wet and slippery hole too. It was all too harrowing for Eden, who bumped her head, twice. Clearly Krista and Joyce were glad for an excuse to take quick exit. India and I continued on to the bitter end, which turned out to be a very deep chasm! If we understood our guide correctly. And this is after slipping any number of times. Then we turned about and ended up going down the same way Eden was escorted—an incredibly steep slippery 'staircase'. Ack. I loved it. And yes, there were bats, though not so many. One flew by India's face once, inches away.
I could go on. The food was worthy of many paragraphs, but will get none here, except to say that one dark night I walked with the girls down to the resort's Thai restaurant, down near the cave temple. We had a truly excellent meal, maybe the best Thai food I've had (made by Wiccha's sister). But Eden was very tired and did not like walking in the dark. In fact I had carried her about halfway down the hill. Suddenly Wiccha's sister appeared and told us that one of the staff (a very handsome fellow) had offered to drive us back up on a motorcycle! What could we say? Eden and I went first (no helmets!). I was terrified. It was very dark, very windy and there were dogs in the road. But we made it back in just a few rushing minutes and were greeted enthusiastically by Krista and Joyce who had just finished eating, and by Wiccha and a few other guests. Then up comes India, vrroooom. I was worried she'd be freaked out, holding onto some stranger, first time on a bike. She was elated! "We should get one of these things!!” Fun. We had a wonderful time.
Today, instead of the expensive aircon mini bus we took a songtheaw down to Chiang Dao and boarded a real Thai bus for Chiang Mai. This saved us 1000 bhat and gave us a new and very uncomfortable experience (the bus was too full and only Joyce really had a seat). Still it was great.
I need to wrap it up here before midnight. Suffice it to say we found a guesthouse after a long search and walked down to the justifiably famous night market. We will probably stay at least one more night here in Chiang Mai and then take the train down to Pitsonulok (sp?) and bus over to Sukhothai. love
March 16, 2005
More From Chiang Mai
This morning Krista and I set out to find a decent guesthouse. It was actually cool and breezy! Beautiful weather. We must have seen 20 places! All we require is a clean room, a nice green place to hang out, relatively cheap, quiet and in a good location. We finally gave up and went out for breakfast at a cute little cooking school restaurant. While we were waiting I ventured next door and found our place! We booked two nights. We have a lovely balcony overlooking the roi and plenty of space. Best of all, it's clean and in a nice alley street (roi) with cooking and massage schools, plus a few little laundries. We took naps and are now out and about.
Chiang Mai is certainly big ugly dirty and noisy, but the little roi's are great. Much quieter and full of surprises. There are beautiful Thai homes here and there, tiny shops and food places. (An enormous cockroach is traversing the brick wall in front of me, here in the open air restaurant where we're waiting for lunch).
We were all blown away by the craftwork at the night market last night. The Thai make really beautiful and diverse fabrics, especially silks. Trippy shoes, handbags in great organic shapes, wood carvings (we bought Eden a little wooden tuk tuk--the ubiquitous three wheel taxis), I met a guy who made gorgeous hanging lanterns, metal bas-relief images. Lots of hemp things, I bought a new wallet for 40 baht. Then there are the hill tribe women peddling real and fake handicrafts. There are gaggles of Akha women, all about 4.5 foot tall. India got pressured into buying a belt, which actually looks good on her. Several stalls were selling these astonishing soap carvings of flowers. They look absolutely real, glowing in vibrant colors, in these polished lacquer round boxes. Not something we'd want, but stunning work. I can't possibly relate it all. And you have to haggle. At the night market I usually offer half of the asking price, but it's really subtle, which things are way overpriced or not. I bought these little brass phallus totems, which have a lizard perched on them (about an inch long) from tribeswomen. They had a bunch of them, some with tigers, one with a buffalo! I bought an extra one for my friend Danny.
Anyway, our food is here.
March 16, 2005
Evening in Chiang Mai
We really like our guesthouse. The balcony overlooks the quiet roi with a two-story bougainvillea across the way and an old temple. As the sun was setting I sat there with Eden, who was drawing temples and humming 'la cucaracha' while I addressed postcards. The birds were singing and it was hot. Krista is resting, hopefully sleeping as night descends, to be fresh for the night market. I went out to the train station to get our southbound tickets today. The air, especially on the main drags, is pretty bad. If only the Thai could switch to biodiesel! It would cut their air pollution drastically in no time. And I'm sure they could produce a lot of it just with waste cooking oil. I think I'll write a polite letter to their king.
The Thai people love their king and queen. They may even worship him. He has done a lot, apparently, to better the lot of the poor, or so we hear. It's 180 degrees from home!
No one seems to care that we are Americans. It's interesting to try to guess which country the farang we see come from. I'd say Americans are in the minority, although I've met some really nice folks from Oregon, Nantucket, Detroit and Atlanta.
I'll try to get more photos posted soon. But it's damned hard choosing which ones out of (literally) hundreds to post.
March 19, 2005
It was a long hard slog to get here. Krista came down with food poisoning last night and had some rough hours! She felt just enough better to go with us tonight on a tour of the inner city. We ditched her this morning and toured the outer city (actually we left to give her peace and quiet to recover). Our chosen mode of touring is in this mini songtheaw pushed by a fellow on a motorcycle. The handlebars and front wheel of the cycle being replaced by our little open air two wheeled cart, with padded benches and an awning. Lovely! It gave us a delightful breeze and all the exhaust goes out behind. And it really is hot here. We're in the central rice-growing region of Thailand and it is very humid.
Lucky for us we found a lovely guesthouse/resort run by a charming Italian ex-pat Paulo and his Thai family. It has a lovely pool and an air conditioner (which works on the downstairs. Krista and the girls fairly roasted last night upstairs. Oh well. As seems usual in Thailand, the beds are rock hard. I read that you know you're in Thailand when the whole bathroom gets wet when you take a shower, and when you get a bruise sleeping on your side.
We are truly in a little village here, very different from even Chaing Dao. I love it. Tonight is the weekly night market, it being Saturday. We get to try it out on the way home.
Oh, the food just arrived. I didn't tell you about the majestic awe inspiring historical park!! Next installment. If the travel gods smile upon us, we'll be able to catch a flight out of her tomorrow to Bangkok. Pray for us!
March 20, 2005
Low Point, Bangkok
The travel gods must have been displeased with us. Our plans were all awry and we ended up in Bangkok very late and the well-reviewed hotel I'd booked from the airport was hideous. I declined But it took me about 45 minutes to find it, after our taxi driver had dumped us off on the sweaty hot party streets. Imagine us hauling our luggage down this crowded street, Krista carrying a drooping Eden, hoping that The Wild Orchid was ahead (some Thai girl had told us it was). We got to The Orchid (even worse than the wild one) and said 'no, this CAN'T be it'. We're in dingy flophouse land. I parked the family at a little restaurant and went scrambling about. The staff at the modest restaurant were so concerned that one of the gals led me about to try to find a place. Everyplace was full. Finally I found the Thai Cozy House which boasts a slick polished lobby, all marble tile, with an elevator and all. The room (on the 5th floor) looked great, at least to my tired frantic eyes).
It took some schlepping to drag our bags and Eden over, and then it turned out that they only had one room on floor 5 and the price was 750 not 350, which is what I'd thought I heard. Money no problem. But we got to our second floor rooms and they were icky. No window, stuffy, no top sheep (which, to be fair, is common here) and heavy on the mosquitoes. The bathroom was done in Early Eeeewwwww. India refused to bathe. If I hadn't been so exhausted......but we were. It was awful. Were down in the lobby now, about to order breakfast. Then out into the streets, me at least, instead of sight seeing, trying to find a decent place for our last night in Thailand.
Wish me luck.
March 21, 2005
We're okay. We found a very sweet little corner of Bangkok, Rambuttri street near Khao San Road, much quieter but still quite lively. It reminds us very much of Saturday night at the Oregon Country Fair. Pretty lights, lots of mellow cafes, street vendors--many of whom are selling actual crafts they've made. I bought pad thai from a woman with a little cart who woks it up right there to order. It's great.
Today, once we moved into our nicer (much nicer) guesthouse (has a pool on the roof terrace and is actually clean) we dragged ourselves out in the heat to find the water taxi pier. It's easy walking distance. We ended up hiring a longtail boat so as to get to the Grand Palace before the gates closed at 3:30. Jeeesus what a ride. Not safe! Lots of spray hitting us! Yikes! But we got there and hit the gates around 3:10 (it stays open inside till 5pm). Krista had to borrow a sarong to cover her shorts and India socks and shoes to cover her feet. It seemed like an enormous hot hot sticky hot hassle, but once inside we were floored.
I'm just so glad we didn't go here first! This place is the Disneyland of wats. I've never seen such opulence. I really can't describe it. Ornate, delightful, over the top, astounding. It makes even the most splendid wats we've seen look shabby, and it just goes on and on. I'll try to get some photos up.
We hired a tuk tuk and all crammed in to take us to Wat Pho to see the reclining Buddha. The Thai version of the statue of liberty. Even though they were dead tired and starting to complain, the girl's faces lit up with delight and appreciation. Eden got positively excited.
more later. maybe.
I'm trying to get some photos up.
March 21, 2005
I wanted to add...I feel really really safe here. There are certainly many Thai who are maybe grumpy or not interested in farang. We've even seen a few drunks and crazy folk. But no one wants to hurt us! No one seems resentful even, which is amazing considering we are SO wealthy by their standards, and are no doubt trampling on their lovely etiquette. This absence of fear is one of the things I really wanted to experience. I love it.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I think we'll do really well this year. Krista is out in the studio right now, painting some little 8" by 8" treasures. We'll have lots of little originals, mostly 11 by 14, that will be more affordable than the big works. And hopefully we'll have our 30 silk wall hangings from Bali. The sarongs we were to get (from a different batik 'factory') never materialized. Those folks just flaked out on us! Too bad, 'cause those images are fantastic! Maybe next year.
If you've never seen Krista's work check out www.devaluna.com .
We'll also have imports from Bali and Thailand to peddle at the 'barter fair' that happens on the heels of OCF. There are lots of folks who've been importing stuff for years and years. They have big booths totally stocked with gorgeous stuff from Bali, India, Africa, Nepal, you name it. We'll be pretty small potatoes! But I have wonderful carved drums, assuming they made it over intact. Our shipment is in Oakland waiting to be x-ray'd or something. Hopefully we'll have it in the next few days.
Sorry this is such a mundane posting. I've just added some more Thailand photos. Probably the last from Thailand. I hope you enjoy them.
This fellow picked us up at the guest house and drove us all about the ruins. He's sitting on an old Honda motorcycle with the handlebars and front wheel replaced by the contraption we're sitting in. His hands are on the 'steering wheel'. This was fantastic for us, as the breeze cooled us off and all the exhaust was behind us. Really really fun, too.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Pretty much every Thai house and business has a spirit house. We really wanted to purchase one for our own home, but Paulo, our host in Old Sukhothai, informed us that it's quite a process of siting them and sanctifying them. Basically you need a priest to do the job! He also pointed out that there are different types for home or business (which had escaped our notice till then) and so his guest house actually had both. They were all so ornate I thought maybe they were cast out of plastic. No way. These things are heavy! Made of plaster and/or wood.
A truly astonishing place! Very few farang when we were there, and oh so hot and humid. Three plus floors jam packed with every thing from packaged fried meal worms to luggage, cosmetics, shoes and clothing. And big bowls of green glop. Joyce asked a vendor "food?". "Yes, but not for you! Too spicey!!"
We came back here to buy clothes for the trip.
And that red vehicle is a songtheaw (sp?) Looking back, we all feel such affection for both of these modes of transport. So cheap and easy to use! We really missed them in Bali. We bought Eden a little wooden toy tuk tuk at the night market--a treasure now that we're back home.
I wish you could see this place! It was glorious. A broad shelf in the cave and niches up in the walls hold installations of sacred statuary and carvings--they are illuminated by sunlight slanting through an opening in the roof. Here again, there were very few Westerners--this is a holy spot Thai people like to visit.
We arrived at this tiny village on elephant back, as part of an arranged tour. The women were waiting for us to try and sell their woven goods and other stuff they either made or imported. Luckily for us they were very polite--we'd heard that some villages give you a real hard sell. We felt very silly buying 'souveniers' that seemed useless and whimsical at the time. We bought out of desire to help these poor folk, rather than genuine desire for the crafts. Now that we're home these odd purchases are real treasures!
Note the bare earth around this home. The whole village was bare earth and I wondered what happens when it rains? Note also the TV antenae and I saw a few solar panels there.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
In some ways it's really great to be 'home'. Home being a 400 sq ft art studio and Krista's folks house. And beautiful Summery Sonoma County. Just having access to real Mexican food is making me happy.
This weekend we saw lots of old friends at the Health & Harmony Festival here in Santa Rosa. That was Krista's plan, to return just in time for the festival and have a nice two day reunion to help us ground here. It was a good plan! The hard part was getting asked over and over 'so, how was your trip?'. After a while I'd simply say 'good'. And this was enough for some of the askers! Of course, I felt like yelling 'what?! you didn't read my blog?!!'
It's not easy summing up 3 months in 4 different countries/cultures. "Good". I notice much of the interest so far is in New Zealand. So many of us are secretly pinning hopes on that pretty little nation.
The most shocking thing about being back so far is the political atmosphre and the fear. It just seems to permeate everything and everyone is afraid or angry, consciously or unconsciously. This is a major undercurrent that seemed to be missing abroad.
I think part of it is that corruption in, say, Indonesia, is so open and long standing that it's taken for granted there. They're kind of relaxed about it. Here we have this crumbling fantasy of being the moral leaders, the shining light on the hill, the beacon of hope and liberty, etc. etc. So many people are just waking up to the hideous truth of what 'we' are up to and are in shock, or very angry, or just trying to resist the decay and destruction. And of course the corruption here has been rapidly accelerating.
Oh well, enough ranting.
I really just wanted to let you know that I'll be posting more photos soon and hopefully more travelogue.
We have, literally, thousands of photos to go through. I'm hoping to put on a 'slide show' and a talk with a question and answer session, for folks around here. Maybe in a few weeks. Let me know if you'd like to come. I'd like to promote Bali and Thailand as great destinations for travel, and many folks want hard info about New Zealand.
love and hugs
Friday, June 10, 2005
Monday, June 06, 2005
I managed to get a sunburn today, snorkling off the beach here at our hotel. This is our fourth spot since we got to French Polynesia--and let me tell you, it is VERY French here! I'm really enjoying saying 'bonjour'. Farang again!
Our first night was just a stopover in poor ugly Papaeete, Tahiti's only real city. We were handed flowers, coming off the airplane, by two beautiful Polynesian women, while being serenaded by 3 more Polynesian men playing guitar and ukelele. Our best welcome. And the guesthouse had a taxi driver there waiting to pick us up!
We had a nasty shock the next morning when we went to open our new big suitcase and discovered we'd grabbed the wrong one! We had Marie Antoinette's big bag and our's was at the airport. Somehow we managed to set it straight and still catch the ferry over to Moorea, thanks to the taxi driver--the airport was all closed down and she had to speak rapid fire French through a little speaker to get us in.
Next was a quick ferry ride over to Moorea. We stayed at the Residence Linareva for two nights in a lovely bungalow right on the 'beach'. We were greeted with coconuts to drink and eat which staved off starvation till I could bicycle over to the little store for provisions. On the way to the store I think I must have stopped 12 times to take photos of the gorgeous mountains, all jagged and powerful.
The Linareva was pretty nice. The only real drawback was the 'beach' which did in fact have sand--probably shipped in, but only to the water's edge. After that it was rocks or coral, so no swimming from the beach. Sand castles only. Instead it has a resturaunt in an old ship on the end of a pier (which was too expensive to take the kids to!) and we could go snorkling off the pier which was cool. Too cool actually. I didn't realize that Tahiti has seasons! Yes it was Winter there and for some reason the weather has been much much cooler than usual. It never got hot. It never got cold either, but was barely warm enough to go in the water except midday. The water is much cooler than I expected. Rather disappointing actually. Oh well.
We enjoyed watching the fish from the pier and did a wee bit of snorkling, but were actually happy to be moving on.
TheVillage Faimano is a family run 'pension' with little bungalows, and much more of a polynesian experience than any hotel--which was mostly good. There was a big Polynesian family right next door and they played all day on the beach and were a joy to watch. Except that they had a truck on the other side of the fench, about 5 feet from our bungalow and played the radio in it all day. Just that first day. But it freaked us out and it took quite a while for the magic of the place to reach us. Also, it was a really funky little bungalow, very small with no way to close out the mosquitoes, of which there were many at dusk and dawn. We hadn't been there 5 minutes when I had two big bites on my leg.
Actually, the place had no real windows at all, with glass I mean, just plywood 'windows' we'd prop up with notched sticks. There were holes in the plank floor and all the cooking pots were cast aluminum. There were 3 framed photos of handsome Polynesian women, but the glass was covered with fly shit. And the beds were somehow just a bit too small.
It was thatched, as is our fancy bungalow we're in now, and I love thatched roofs. But the thatch came down so low you could only see out when sitting down, which lent the place a claustrophobic quality!
The beach was really nice, just a bit of reef and coral but mostly shallow sandy tourquoise water, so crystal clear you can see all the fish, and there were many. It also had a huge old tree leaning out over the beach and dropping dew and beautiful yellow blossoms all day. That was what finally won me over--the blossoms floating on the still water at sunset.
Of course there were dogs all over, usually flopped on their sides looking dead (just like Bali and Thailand!) and chickens (actually all three places have chickens) and little kids who (sadly for shy little Eden) only spoke French. The Polynesian families next door spent all day in the water. The big mama would sit out there, up to her waist, in a plastic arm chair. Cleaning fish, or hanging out. I'll never forget seeing her friend float out two tall wine glasses, filled with dark red French wine on a little boogie board. Very elegant. We'll have very fond memories of that place, but it was also funky and we decided to bail out after two nights and we landed at a really swanky resort with supposedly the best beach on the island. Strangely enough, it's not that much more expensive, but much much nicer (although the one english keyboard has a broken spacebar which is why this is so hard to read. sorry).
This is the sort of place with two resturaunts and lots of activities on offer, free snorkling equipment, etc...the classical idea of a south seas holiday. And the snorkling today was sublime. I felt I was in a happy and beautiful dream! so many lovely fish, right there at arm's reach. India was my buddy for most of the afternoon and it may be the most fun we've had together for years. maybe ever. They also lay on an incredible breakfast buffet, with French pastiries and an omlette chef right there to take your order. Included in the price! This basically kept us alive, since the resturaunts were SO expensive there was no way in hell I'd take the kids, and no way in hell they'd let us go without them. Bring on the bagettes.
We're existing on what I call the 'bagette diet'. they have excellant French bagettes, delivered to the stores twice a day, and good Fench or NZ butter and French cheese here, yum. And that and chocolate are about all we're eating. Oh, and good NZ apples. It''s like two picnics a day! Lunch and dinner.
Anyway, speaking of NZ, I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to write after Christchurch. We really enjoyed having Kaytea part of our crew. She was so positive and so great with the kids, who we are ready to murder about half the time. We dropped Kaytea off at the rental car place we'd got our car from and she was loading her duffle into a cute little red honda, about to tackle the Northland, and justifiably scared shitless by the horrible Auckland traffic. The rental car fellow, a nice guy from India, assured her she could by-pass it and reach her planned destination in about 45 minutes. Brave Kaytea. The traffic wasn't that bad except that there are no damned road signs and they planned the roads by getting a herd of goats drunk and then building a road wherever the goats went. And of course drivng on the left didn't help. I hope she's okay. Actually she flies home about the same time we do. Maybe we'll see her up there and can wave. On the way, over Krista told the kids maybe we'd see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang out the window. We didn't.
We had some good adventures that last bit in NZ. We stayed in a 'Hobbit Unit', built into the side of a hill with round door and windows. The kids loved it! We got there at night and the round windows were lit up. It was pretty cool. We had the choice of staying in a train car unit or in a big old airplane unit. The fellow who built all this also does some sort of show with trained animals. There were several big black pigs wandering about. one was very very friendly. And a huge 12 year old cow. All set in beautiful countryside near the Waitomo Caves.
I should mention that the 'hobbit' hole looked out over a man made 'lake' lined with tires and laid out in the shape of a figure 8. Apparently folks who come for the 'show' can also rent a jetboat to do laps around the lake. jeezus. That's NZ.
The glowworm caves were indeed awesome as billed. But our hobbit host had sent us out in the dark and rain the night before to a glowworm grove or grotto along the banks of a river. We felt like total fools driving there through pounding rain (which mercifully stopped) and pitch dark. Then stumbling with our dim flashlights he'd provided along a muddy path. But when we finally caught sight of them! I can't explain why, but seeing them was so magical. It was like suddenly seeing into the Faery realm. One of many real high points on this long strange trip. Of which I'll write more when we finally get home. And so sorry not to have pictures in so long. Tahiti may be paradise, but not a cyber-paradise. Sorry.
love to you all