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Good Morning Vietnam

I've arrived in Vietnam. Originally, my trip was only supposed to be to Vietnam and Australia before I decided to go flat out around the globe. Already I can see that a few weeks here is not going to be enough to understand it. I don't even know the language but I'm trying my best. I've already learned how to say 'nose', heh.

I slipped into Ho Chi Minh City last night and cruised through the motorbike-congested streets in the comfort of a BMW. I felt a bit disoriented being in a whole new country (and a big BMW for that matter). It was similar to China and Thailand's big cities at first but definitely different. (reminds me of the Thai's saying Same Same, But Different)

At my cousins' house I was met by a dozen faces that seemed as curious about me as I was about them. Still completely disoriented, I agreed that sitting down for dinner was probably a good call. I kind of liked the idea that I'd just finished my sixth month of travel, landing in the 19th foreign country and the food was 'comfort' food. Familiar tastes. Delicious food.

Thanks to Laura, I decided to buy a Lonely Planet Vietnam travel guide to help me sort out my plans. I listened to some music for a bit and started to read but I was asleep within an hour. Thailand had obviously left me knackered. In the morning my cousin Mai took me out on the back of a motorbike to have Pho for breakfast. We went off to the camera shop my cousin's run and since then, I've been wandering around District 1, taking in all of the sights, sounds, and smells (durian fruit! pew!) After searching for an hour, I found this internet cafe with 12-inch monitors and grimy keyboards. There are kids playing computer games around me. I wonder, why aren't they in school?

So far, Saigon's a noisy, hectic place with lots of shopping and cheap eats. I'm going to go find myself another ice coffee and maybe figure out how to get up to the North.

Lack of Time/Net

I've got more things to ramble on about but I need to eat food right now. Starving! Just wanted to report in and say I'm back in Bangkok for a night before I shove off to Vietnam.

By the way, I can blow my nose again! (It's been almost two weeks since I've done that... broken nose and all)


Full Lame Party

Yeah, that party was bunk. Too many drunk stupid people. Thailand, just gets progressively more painful. I've been having the sort of time here that can only be enjoyed in hindsight me thinks. You know, where you're happy to have had the experience but at the moment, it makes you question why, why, why?

The people in Thailand have been really pleasant. Welcoming and hospitable. There's plenty more to explore and I may pop back over next month with a special guest. Ooo.


Full Moon, Empty Heart

It's raining in Koh Phangan right now. Big party tonight. It's 7am and things are really strange right now. I'll be here til Sunday and then it's off to Bangkok and then Saigon.

Miss ya.



The other night, in a very quiet bungalow on the beach, I wrote a very verbose recollection of my time in the ring with a Muay Thai fighter but I think it'll be more interesting to tell you the story in person someday. But here are some excerpts:

...and then came the final kick. Full force to my face. I'd always wondered how those head guards were supposed to protect your face. Well, they don't. If you've ever been struck in the nose, you know it's a bit unique. As unique as getting socked in the gut or kicked in the nuts. Everything goes white. The pain shoots right into your brain. I'm told that I tried to get up and fell back down. I don't remember. Carlien said my nose 'exploded' with blood...

What I remember was getting kicked so hard I couldn't open my eyes. And then I felt my teeth with my tongue. Broken! My teeth were broken! ... I was so angry, the pain from my nose was secondary. I put my glove up and shouted, "That's it, you broke my $%&# teeth, it's over". I tried to get up but by then, there were several Thai guys standing over me, trying to stop my nose from bleeding. I asked them to let me stand up so my friends wouldn't freak out...

When I looked in the mirror, I saw the damage. I was pretty mashed up. My nose was shifted to the right, pointing in a whole new direction. I was a mess. I cursed at my appearance. Broken teeth, swollen eye, smashed up nose. A guy in the bathroom said I'd just fought one of the top Thai boxers on the island. I turned to him and said, "I've never fought anyone before". He told me my nose needed to be reset. I looked in the mirror and said, "Do it."

Gerrard braced both sides of my head while the guy placed his thumbs along my nose. As he shifted it back into place, I heard the crackle of bone...

After a few days of rest and quiet on the other side of Phi Phi island, I left my British friends and jumped on a boat and bus to Bangkok. I had my teeth repaired (2100 Baht/$65 USD, covered by WorldNomads travel insurance). I met up with my friend My one night and my friend Ana the next day. They could hardly tell anything had happened. A week later, the black eye is mostly gone, the nose is still tender and sensitive, but I've got most of my smile back.


Yacktastic Voyage

I had the worst boat ride of my life today. I'd love to tell you about it but the Internet here is wacky expensive. For now, I'll just ask you to recall that scene in Stand By Me where everyone starts vomiting at the fair. You know the one, where the fat guy drinks the castor oil at the pie eating contest. Imagine that, on a boat.

I'm safely in a bungalow in Koh Phangan. I'm going to get to know dry land for a night and see if I can find my British friends again. Friday night is another infamous 'Full Moon Party'. We'll see what that's all about.


10 Out of 12 Mosquitos Love My Feet

I've been spending the weekend in a bungalow at Pak Nam Bay, on the quieter side of Koh Phi Phi. There was no internet, not much of anything really. Electricity doesn't even come on until 6pm. The grass roofed bungalow was steps from the beach where we hung around in hammocks chatting about life and watching crabs scurry around the shore. In the middle of the night, the power goes out again and there's nothing but pitch blackness and the sound of crashing waves.

Aside from the lack of hot water (and lack of chocolate for Steph), the only downside were the mosquitoes who've had a passionate love affair with my feet. On Sunday afternoon I hopped a longfin, boat, and night bus back to Bangkok where I'll be taking care of some visas, some teeth, and meet up with a friend of mine. I've finally torn myself apart from my British travel buddies. But I'm sure they're having a wonderful time lazing about the islands.

P.S.- For those of you in the 'nose', everything's healing nicely so far.


Yo Greg

Greg, the other week you suggested that I get a cheap Thai massage. Well, I happened upon this sign on Phi Phi island (pronounced 'pee pee' by the way) and thought of you. It reads, "FECE MASSAGE". 200 Baht. A bit pricey but I'm pretty sure you can't get fece massage back in Thaiwood... legally, that is.


Flight Change

Quick note about flight changes coming up:

I am now leaving Bangkok, Thailand on Lufthansa 772, Tuesday, Oct 30 at 4:05pm. I arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at 5:40pm.

I will be leaving Sydney on January 2 at 6:10pm, arriving in Wellington, NZ at 11:20pm

That Beach from "The Beach"

My friends and I took a boat ride out to a few of the smaller islands around Ko Phi Phi. The highlights were monkeys and a lie on the beach that was used in that Leonardo DiCaprio film some years back called "The Beach". It's just as lovely in real life, even though Virginie Ledoyen wasn't prancing around in a bikini. The snorkeling around here is supposed to be nice but a slight ailment is keeping me from underwater activities for a while.

The other night we stopped at a place called Tin Tin's and watched a rodeo on ESPN while we waited for the night's Muay Thai fights to start. Here's some footage of one of the fights...

I've continued to enjoy meals of Larb Gai, Pad Thai, Salmon, and Brown, Green, and Red Curries. Thanks again to Erica & Anton, Ben, Ana & Bao, Binh, Kvit, and Seema for their contributions. Just a quick note: I do not depend on contributions to travel. The site started out as an idea I had over dinner with my cousins Carol and John. But as family members asked me how they could get funds to me in an emergency, I decided to set up the site. My hope was to provide a little way for friends and family to be a part of my travel experience. The extra funds give me a little freedom to choose whether I'll be eating veggie rice (cheap) or rice and prawns (more expensive). The concept was to virtually have dinner with you. I'm not looking for fame and fortune. If you know me, you know that I'd rather have money go to a variety of other organizations and causes that I volunteer with or have contributed to. The focus is on fun and good spirits. Traveling the world, I've found joy and I'm trying to share it with you.

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This Isn't an Island

I'm still traveling with my new British friends, Carlien and Steph, through Thailand. After completing our Advanced Diving course, we hopped a night boat to Sura Thani, then a bus to Krabi Town, and finally a long boat to Railey Beach. It's another beautiful Thai beach where we've been completely lazy. The water is warmer than I've ever experienced. Warmer than the showers I took in Ko Tao. I've had a few moments where I've just felt so blessed to be able to stand in the ocean and look at the karsts rising from the palm trees... thunder booming in the background.

A moment ago I watched a nine-year-old Thai kid juggle fire in a bar while Jackass 2 played on a big screen in the background. I'm definitely in a tourist zone. White people fill the restaurants, shops, bars, and beaches. But we support this area. 18 countries traversed in five or so months. You'll understand the journey, you'll envy it, you'll think it's a waste of time. It doesn't matter because I'm living. I'm appreciating our existence on this planet.

It's overwhelming. It's beautiful. It's life.


Advanced Open Water Diver

We finished our Advanced Open Water Diver course the other day. We had some amazing dives- Navigational, Buoyancy, Naturalist, Night, Deep (30m!). Incredible stuff. Sharks, snakes, rays, puffer fish. I paid an absurd amount of money on our Open Water dive video so I've put up six minutes of it on YouTube:

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Celebrating with Erica and Anton

The dive groups got together last night and went out to dinner in Sairee beach last night. I had lobster and marlin (speaking of Marlin, I found Nemo at the bottom of the ocean on my last dive as well as the whale shark. Clown fish, just as cute as Pixar's version) and a banana pancake with ice cream to celebrate. Tasty tasty. I'll try to find more food on a stick, guys. Stay tuned.

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BBQ on the Beach- Thanks Seema!

Hey Seema! After I went out on my first ocean water dive, my friends and I went for a meal at place called Whitening (I don't know why they call it that but in Asia, I keep running across 'whitening' creams... sometimes I can't find sunblock that doesn't 'whiten' while it protects). After diving, I get these burps that taste like plastic (from breathing scuba air). Pretty gross. I had a nice BBQ meal and a stroll around town before some dessert. No more plastic burps. Thank you so much for the support. A good meal was exactly what I needed after the exhausting dive.

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Whale Shark of a Good Time

I've officially finished my PADI Open Water diving course. I got an official little card and everything. (Dear Mom, watch out for my permanent diving ID card in the mail sometime in the next couple of months)

Today's dives were much more fun than yesterdays (I'll tell you about that in my next Thank You blog). There were at least a hundred divers in the water today as word got out that a Whale Shark had been spotted in the area. We were told that it's rare to spot one. Let me tell you that it was magical to swim along side this massive fish (4m long). He had about eight little pilot fish following along, feeding off of his scraps. Swimming along at 15m/50ft below the surface was such a new sensation for me. A completely different world.

I wish it wasn't so expensive to dive elsewhere. I'll have to see what I can scrape up to dive in Australia and New Zealand. We're off to celebrate our completion of the course tonight. Tomorrow we rest and the next day we do five more dives for the Advanced Open Water certification (30 meter dive!). Man, I'm tired... and sunburned.


Thanks Kvit!

Hey Kvit, Thailand's been great and your support has gone far. I've been enjoying cheap breakfasts before diving and wonderful noodle, rice, and curry dishes. One of my favorites is massaman curry at Pranee's Kitchen here in Ko Tao. We've been diving for the last few days and in the evenings we're completely worn out. Sorry for the laziness in the following video but hanging out at the bottom of a swimming pool and doing classroom time gets exhausting. At least at the end of the day, there's a beautiful sunset to look at and the peace of a tropical island to help us unwind. Sorry about the comments getting out of hand but you obviously know that people who hastily post responses without seeing the full picture get things mixed up. I hope none of you caught up in that comment chaos feel hurt. Let's just get back to living life to the fullest and enjoying every moment.

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Moments in Thai

A double decker bus and a ferry got us safely to Ko Tao yesterday. We're staying at the Crystal Dive resort where we'll be doing our Open Water and Advanced classes for the next week. We're all pretty excited to be on an island and a beach for that matter. Laying in a bean bag chair, on the deck of the beachside bar, I stared out at the water and had one of those moments where you just have to appreciate everything grand in life. For all of life's little complications and downers, there are simple times where nice surroundings and good company snuggle up together and provide some comfort.

[And now to bring us back to reality, a note to my mom: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 55]


Dining and Diving, Thailand

I ran out of blank pages in one of my passports so I took a taxi to the US Embassy today. I got there at 2:05pm. American services ended at 2pm. Aggravating. Fortunately, the Vietnamese Embassy next door hooked me up with a 'non-sticker' visa. I didn't know I could get one of those.

My friend Kvit has sponsored several of my meals here in Thailand and recommended checking out a mall food court called MBK. Since things went so well with the Vietnam visa, I had myself a Vietnamese lunch. Later in the evening I took a bunch of ladies out for dinner at the Siam Paragon Food Court. This isn't your American mall food court. This is gourmet. Everything you could want. Delicious. For dessert we all bought a slice of cake and did a nibble rotation. It was crazy good. Anyway, this cafe is closing so here's the vid. Thank you Kvit and Ben. More to come.

Tomorrow, Carlien, Steph, and I are heading to Ko Tao to get our diving certification. Wish me luck.

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Three Cities, One Big Blur

Hong Kong came and went all too quickly. The other night the group had one last outing at the night markets. We ate at a Dai Pai Dong on the street (Big thanks to Ana and Bao of for another mini-feast). I was a bit upset that day as I lost my Braun 7505 Syncro electric shaver (Mom, that's the model number....hint hint), I got a terrible haircut from some Hong Kong stylists who thought I could pull off a do which made my hair short in front and long in the back, and the charger to my laptop stopped working. We were rationing battery power for two days while I scoured HK for a replacement (I found one, so expensive! Now I have to decide whether to carry the old one for two months until I can get an AppleCare replacement)

The next day in Hong Kong was a bit more pleasant. I explored some of the posh shopping near Central and spent a nice afternoon strolling around the Stanley Market on the south side. A bunch of us headed to the Harbor at night to catch a huge fireworks show. We feasted on Indian food at a joint called Taj Mahal (also sponsored by Ana and Bao).

Hong Kong was a nice, westernized Chinese city. It's comfortably foreign if you will. A lot like London except with more people blowing snot rockets on the street. I really wish I'd given myself another day to explore but it was off to Beijing the next morning.

I walked through Tian'anmen Square one last time and worked my way past what seemed like 75,000 people gathered together for laser shows and other National Day festivities. It was very strange to be in Beijing with this feeling of familiarity. Except I was alone again and all of my senses were on alert. Much different from the comfort of the tour group.

And now I've made it to Bangkok, Thailand. I'm booked in an Inn on the famous Khaosan Road. A few of the girls from the tour have also ended up here and we're all in a daze of disbelief, seeing each other in a new and different place. Last night, Steph, Carlien, and I wandered the street checking out trinkets and clothes. Guys constantly approached offering tuk tuks, massages, and the infamous 'ping pong' show. The streets are filled with white people. Young and attractive backpackers. After a noodle dinner we watched a Thai trio perform a bunch of cover songs in a rooftop bar. Travelers from Holland and Norway scribbled down travel tips on napkins for us. Today, we've got to decided where all of us are headed. The Brits, the Swedes, and the American... going our separate ways. ::sigh::

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Location: United States A 29 yr old filmmaker from California traveled through Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia/NZ over ten months from April 2007 to March 2008.

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