19 February Sunday DAY 86 of trip
I love travel days. Always have. There is probably not a lot of difference between the family dog and me when it comes to the start of a journey. Thinking of when my two sons and our dog, ‘puppy’ (he never seemed to act like an older dog even after he was eight years old so we always called him puppy and never capitalized his name either), would go out to our car, he with great joy would leap in. Expectations? How are we to know what is in a dog’s mind or what they think will happen? Perhaps when we got to the vets his tail would quickly go down between his legs, or when we got to the beach there would be excitement galore in his pant and tail wagging, but at the start of the journey it was just go go go. That is how I am. I have somewhat of an image of where we are headed; depending on whether we have been there before or not but the actual journey, I am just open for it all. Narda does most of the planning details. I just get involved with the big picture; ‘let’s go to Holland, or be in St. Petersburg, Russia for my 70th birthday, visit where my son, Sacha, was born, in Hawaii, visit my mate from the 1960s, Randy, in Oregon. Narda spends days figuring out the flights and where to stay, including a lot of work in getting us a house exchange for a month or more. I am more hands on when we get to a place then I start learning about it if it is a new destination. I am a human embodiment of puppy, always ready to jump in the car, plane, boat, or just start peddling away on a bike. For example, just last week, in Woerden, in the east of the Green Heart (Groene Hart) of the Netherlands, the green zone surrounded by the Randstad, we would get all bundled up and excitingly get on our bikes and head toward Montfoort; but as would start in that direction we would think it was too windy and wow, six kilometres away and it is close to freezing so we would go the other direction with the wind pushing us toward Papekop which was four kilometres. Of course, coming back home facing the breeze was no picnic but getting there was a hoot. We made a video of it at https://youtu.be/OqdDvI2lLNY.
I am an airport person. I could live in an airport; well, not Albany International, New York (international because they fly the hour flight up to Montreal) and definitely not Dalian International, China which we transited 16 times in the three years of living there or any other reginal airport. Singapore or Amsterdam airport I could live in.
Like in The Terminal, Tom Hanks becomes trapped in John F. Kennedy Airport terminal when he is denied entry into the United States (wow, sounds like 2017 in the USA) and at the same time cannot return to his native country due to a military coup. The film is partially inspired by the 18-year stay of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris, from 1988 to 2006. OK, I could live in JFK or Charles de Gaulle airports too. I did live in the San Francisco International Airport for three days back in December, 1969 – long story – read my eBook ‘Leaving Australia’ (http://www.neuage.org/e-books) and yes, it is available through Amazon and Papertrell; eventually we got some money and went to Hawaii.
I love arriving in a new airport especially when I have no idea what anyone is saying and they are all dressed like they are at a Halloween costume party which probably is their national or religious attire. Airplanes are a bit predictable. We got to Amsterdam International, one of the best in the world, after a good night’s sleep at Hyatt Place (they had a special for 70 Euros for a great hotel near the airport and a buffet breakfast that was as good as top hotels in Singapore or Hong Kong) we spent a few hours at the airport having tomato soup and watching the traffic of people and planes.
Our first flight was to Helsinki. Narda, ever the social person, had a good chat with her neighbour, who turned out to be a Dutch ship’s captain. Never met one before. Enjoyed his stories about captaining a freight ship all over the world. He was currently on his way to the next trip, starting in northern Finland, and going all the way past Spain. What an interesting life. He told us about pirates near Somali and how they are really just poor kids, under the control of mafia type crime bosses; these boys risk their lives to commandeer the ships. We talked about social issues and he told us of a book he’d read where the suggestion was made to pay everyone a ‘living amount’, 1000 Euros per month. The unemployed and disposessed young people would be so much better off, with the pressure to earn money, or look for jobs, gone; they would become more creative, perhaps study more, happier and some of the social problems facing communities would be solved. Apparently, this is being trialled in a region of Holland. An interesting and compassionate man.
In Helsinki, we had a couple of hours so not enough time to explore as we did on the way to the Netherlands when we spent a day wandering in the below freezing cold and snow. On the way back to the airport from downtown we fell to sleep and missed our stop and had to wait in the freezing weather for a train back to the airport but it all turned out well and here we are, off in another place already.
We each had an aisle seat in the nine-hour trip. Narda usually takes the window as it is easier to curl up to but this was a full flight so we had no choice. We were on Finnair’s new Airbus A350-900. There are only 67 in service so far in the world, with a two-year track record. Finnair has for their slogan for this craft, ‘experience the next generation of flying’. Not sure how that equated to us, still little room for us in peasant class. They say it is quieter, which Narda commented on, then there is some spiel about good petrol mileage, which really, who cares when you are a passenger? And what this some bragging about their food? Good golly I hope not. Narda liked her dead animal fixings but for a vegetarian; wow, a scoop of mashed potatoes with a kernel of corn and a pea or two, really folks I would love to show you how to cook a decent vegetarian meal. And would I dare say I am on a low-carb diet too? I did that a year ago, on a flight from Australia to Thailand and got a plate of raw vegetables.
I had a yummy meal of pork meat loaf, with mashed spud and a salad mad of sauerkraut and something nutty. The other thing about the new aircraft is that the air is completely replaced every 10 minutes; or so I was told by my Finn companions, who were on their way to learn Thai boxing in Hua Hin!!
Their web site for this shows how wonderful it is to fly business and first class, https://www.finnair.com/lt/gb/a350 of course any moron will tell how wonderful business and first class is. We have only done it three times, all given to us: Seoul to Singapore – a flight cancelation and Narda pushed hard to get us business on the next flight because of our stress of waiting a few hours, Bangalore to Hamburg – got because we gave up our seat on a flight for an overbooked flight, and last year Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Adelaide because of Narda’s injury from falling off her motorbike. Here is their ad for economy. OK, time for fact-checking: all planes now come with 11-inch touch screens, all have lots of movie choices, most have Wi-Fi and it is expensive, and of course if you pay a lot more you can get Economy Comfort seats – most planes have this; and of course, my complaint, improved Economy Class meals. What? I would hate to think of what a vegetarian meal looked like before. Maybe just a carrot. Saying all this, Finnair was a good experience. The people were all really good, service was good, and I would recommend them. However, if you have a ‘special’ diet take your own food. There was no more leg room than any other economy flight.
Video to Bangkok Airbus A350-900 https://youtu.be/ByAcY3JP6tA
20 February Monday DAY 87 of trip
Arrived to Bangkok 7.30 am stood in line two hours for customs. Blimey, that was a bit hard after a long flight. Still, chatting to some Indians in the line, who understood very little English, and copying their head waggles, helped pass the time. We got organised, bought a local sim card ($17) and took the shuttle to U Tiny Boutique Hotel.
A great little place, with a swimming pool, pretty comfy beds, large rooms and a real family feel. We met up with a Dutch couple…..they are EVERYWHERE…..had some nice chats in the pool, and over a meal or two.
21 February Tuesday DAY 88 of trip
To Chiang Mai – Sunny Suites arrived four pm Off to Chiang Mai. A shuttle back to the airport, said goodbye to our new Dutch friends who’s names we never did get, took and airport taxi (150 Baht, plus 50 B tip….nice bloke) and checked into Sunny Suites…again, same as last year. We both slept very badly, oh well, no harm done.
22 February Wednesday DAY 89 of trip
Terrell slept in until 9:20 me until 10:30. Rang Agnes re. going to Chiang Rai Saturday. Went shopping at Mall booked Sunny Suites for when back from Chiang Rai and to able to leave suitcases here. I bought some groovy red thongs (flips flops for you Americans) to replace the plastic white thongs I have been wearing for 5 ½ years, since buying them in Dalian on one of our first shopping trips with Sean and Jean and Kay and Frank.
I was not too well. Coughing heaps, then I had pain in my chest and coughed up some blood. So we went back to the RAM Hospital on the north western corner of the old town; same hospital that changed my dressings daily on our trip last year when I burned my leg on the motorbike. My Blood pressure was 139/69 and the doctor gave me anti-biotics and cough pills for Bronchitis. I went to be early, at 8.30 and slept like a baby until 7.30 the next morning. Terrell stayed up writing until 11.30. The coughing, I think, is exacerbated by the high level of smoke in the air caused by the seasonal burning off of crops. We saw this in a documentary sent to us by Tim and Agnes, the pollution is extremely high at this time of year; the effect on people is the equivalent of smoking 2 cigarettes per day.
We ate at a street mall. Only a few blocks away, a very busy place. I got some stir fried stuff that no doubt was picked up in the local park or perhaps in a field along the way. I think it was morning glory but it was too spicy so I gave it away to a girl sitting at our table. On the spot socialization with passing folks is always good to write about because they will never see what I wrote. So here we go… the girl, a bit of a loud mouth from San Francisco is teaching English in a local high school. Teaching English is a back-packer special. She was loud, oh I said that, she had lots of opinions about useless to know things. Narda and I reckon we are smarter than young people not because we have better brain structures (most know that I did everything I could to erase every part of my brain in the 1960s and 1970s) but we believe we are smart from wisdom. We know shit because we have been on this planet for so long. Just an example, Narda mentioned that her son teaches in Cambodia and the girl’s response was ‘they don’t need any degree to teach in Cambodia’, not the fact-checking statement to shine in Narda’s perceptions of one. Especially after knowing all the years Brendan worked to get degrees including his teaching degree and that he is at an actual certified school teaching third grade with an American curriculum; ok, not quite Finland with their best in the world learning models but still he did a lot to get to where he is going. So, we bristle a bit at this idea that foreigners go to Southeast Asia and we ain’t got no learnin’ to pass on to the locals. Anyway, to break up the boisterous California cool chick we had another one join our table. He went to sit down and missed the stool and landed on the floor. A good start to the socialization process. Someone brought him a proper chair and he settled in looking as stoned or drunk or a combination of the two as one could be. He informed us that he was 66. So what? I am 69 and I can at least get my sorry ass into a chair. He repeated his same stories about four times, as if he forgot that he had just told us he was from ‘way up north of New England’, that he had gone on a road trip and left his car in Florida, and that he had flown to London to visit his daughter and just ended up in Bangkok last week. He wasn’t too sure of what was going on though he had been in Chiang Rai the day before and tomorrow he was taking a bus north into the countryside but he wasn’t quite sure where. He told about some LSD trips he had taken, then the loud-mouth girl told about LSD she had recently taken; incidentally, I kept quiet – perhaps, with some difficulty. Narda is not feeling well and I am starting to get a scratchy throat so we went home and left the weirdos behind who probably said to one another that we were weirdos.
23 February Thursday DAY 90 of trip
Finally posted our blog from Holland. Took longer than we thought to do it. Actually these things take a large amount of time which we have not allocated for in our let’s-just-chill-and-see-the-world mindset. And the videos? Wow! Maybe it is just me being old and slow and lacking a few brain cells that I traded in for a good time back in 1966 – 1978 or was it longer? But I take a long time to do a video in Adobe Premier. A two-minute video can take me a few hours and a couple of the 5 – 7 minute videos I have spent many more hours. I reckon I spend about one-hour per minute of video. Images? If I get into a real photoshop mindset I can spend a long time fussing with a photo too. And of course we have no idea if anyone reads these either. They are mainly for our future reference for when we get older and MORE forgetful (help) to recall what we did when we were not at home babysitting or planning our next trip.
We went to our dentist, it is well worth it, about one-fourth the cost of Australian dentistry. Last year I had heaps done and Narda had a crown – Queen Narda – and the savings helped us pay for our ticket from Australia to this part of the world. Last year we cooked some meals at home but this year we are only eating out.
We found a nice dinner place last time, call it the ‘Green Door”. Our Dalian friends will appreciate that reference; thanks Sherry! Then we went next door and had nice foot massages. This massage place is a charity run for ex-prisoners.
24 February Friday DAY 91 of trip
Terrell had a filling done today; pretty good considering how much work we both had done last year. I guess that means they’re not over servicing? We enjoyed a movie, Hidden Figures, at the maya Shopping Mall. Great movie, about a bunch of African American women who used to work for NASA as “computers”. These women where under-recognised, brilliant mathematicians and engineers and it’s a great story of hope and celebration. A very timely movie, given the current dark political climate.
25 February Saturday DAY 92 of trip
I was feeling better – we packed up and left our suitcases at Sunny Suites took --- to bus station at 10 am with Agnes and Tim. Great to see them again, just fell easily into our friendship of years ago, when we spent some happy years together in Dalian. Went to the local market; a really colourful place, and enjoyed dinner, which Agnes cooked, with our friends.
26 February Sunday DAY 93 of trip
Terrell was feeling very poorly today, raised temperature. I went down the road with Agnes and had my hair washed….nice! I’ve been on a course of antibiotics, so gradually getting over my bronchitis. Got 11 hours of sleep, blimey! Went to the local hot springs, a government run establishment; good sulphur laden hot water to cure us. The a great lunch at Pizza Jazz. We watched an episode of Black Mirror….eek….very violent, poor Agnes made herself scarce.
The house Agnes and Tim have is really nice, large open areas, light filled, with a great peaceful view over the rice fields. I can easily imagine living here. Bed also very comfortable.
27 February Monday DAY 94 of trip
Tim organised a driver for the day and he took us to the Giant Buddaha, Wat Huai Plakang. It’s a pretty remarkable structure, 25 stories high.
Then we met Ann Boey at Plaza and she introduced us to the new Bethany Children’s home. They have started on a new property, some 40 mins drive out of Chiang Rai. It’s an improvement, with room for veggie growing, also a dam which can be fished and more room for volunteers to come and stay. They were expecting a bunch of American teenagers ; 12 volunteers, to come for some weeks of working on the property. The accommodation was a bit rough, just a room full of mattresses on the floor, but I guess they’ll have a good time in a group like that.
That evening Tim and Agnes got quite ill and went to be early. Unfortunately I think we infected them with our bugs, which we seemed to have been carrying around from quite a while.
28 February Tuesday DAY 95 of trip
Feeling better, got up at 7 and took nap 10- 11. Tim and Agnes still feeling pretty ill.
This morning we stayed home, everyone feeling a bit poorly. Tim told us about his research into micro-organisms and how they make up 70% of our existence. Really interesting stuff; we’re planning on watching some Ted Talks, and reading more. This is a whole new field apparently, and a really important new understanding of how we live and stay healthy.These microbes can be charted to show each individual’s makeup; Tim showed us his chart.
At around 1pm we got a driver to take us into Chiang Rai, had a bit of lunch at the Bakery again (BaanChivit Mai Foundation) and then walked to the bus station. The trip to Chiang Mai was easy and uneventful. Terrell worked on his blog, and I slept So sad that we had to leave our dear friends feeling so crook!
We checked back into Sunny Suites, this time room 4. Actually a better room, it is easier to walk up the stairs. We walked over the road for sandwiches and just chilled.
1 March Wednesday DAY 96 of trip
Next day I still had a bugger of a mouth sore, now the 6th day of it, so we went to Chiang Mai dentist and got some cream. On our way back we walked along the wall, which was an interesting new walk. Then we ate at the Green Door again for dinner.
2 March Thursday DAY 97 of trip
Today we checked out of Sunny Suites, and took a Songtoew to our new digs at the Lotus Hotel, near the old shopping Mall. It’s a huge hotel, quite amazing actually, completely in Thai style. We had a large room with a sitting area, overlooking the city (see above, today pretty polluted from burning off agriculture). It was a pleasant experience, we hung about in the old mall, listened to a band as we had dinner (some guys doing Billy Joel, golden oldy music)
We even returned and sat on the lobby with a hot chocolate and heard the band again.
We also paid a visit to the Chiang Mai RAM, just for old times, to get some better mouth sore cream, which seems to have done the trick.