Thursday, September 23, 2004


As it turns out, we didn't go to Lopburi as we'd planned (after shelving the previous plan of going to Sukothai).

You see, instead of taking us to the train station as we thought, the tuk-tuk driver that was organised by the tour company rep that we booked out hotel through (her name was Ping Pong. No kidding) took us the Chiang Mai bus station instead.

"Ooookay. We'll just take the bus" we said. It then transpired that the next bus didn't leave until 1:30pm. (It was 8am at the time), so we changed plans a little and headed for town closed to Bangkok called Ayuthaya - lots of ruins and stuff, as it was the 14th century capital of Siam).

So off we went on the bus. It soon became apparent that not many people outside the large cities spoke any English. Particularly at lunch where it proved impossible to acquire any sort of vegan food.

It was when we got to the stop for Ayuthaya that things became very interesting. Basically we were turfed off the bus on the side of a major highway (Some five kilometres from town, as it transpired) after a 9 hour bus journey in the middle of the pouring rain.

Fortunately, there was transport at hand! In the form of a couple of guys with motorbikes. So, we got handed a couple of flimsy helmets, our packs were put somewhere (Lisa wore hers, mine was... I've no idea where mine was. It was given to me when we arrived, so I don't care), and off we went at high speed down slippery roads to a destination that I randomly selected from my Lonely Planet. Which fortunately did have space for us. And is very friendly. It's a guest house - in an old teak Thai home. About 80 years apparently. With rock hard beds (no so bad, actually), no hot water (also no as bad as I thought) and no airconditioning (I slept like a log, didn't I?).

We wandered out for dinner and ended up at yet another Lonely Planet recommendation. Very nice food - everything on the menu can be made in a vegetarian fashion, with either tofu or fake meat (also tofu). It had still be raining a bit when we'd set out, but seemed to have stopped by the time we'd finished eating.


Bucketed down on us. And the town is small - most things are closed by ten, and not a tuk-tuk in sight. Almost got savaged by dogs (spooked by the thunderstorm, methinks). We did eventually get offered a lift - 50 metres from the guesthouse.

Today was far less eventful. We got up a civilised hour (unlike the previous few mornings), chatted with a British backpacker and ate a nice breakfast. The we wandered over to the train station to see how often the trains to Bangkok are (the adventure is almost over for me), and took a boat tour around the island the town is centred on. (It's the meeting place for about 4 or 5 rivers, so of which are important shipping routes). Plus we got dropped at various temples along the way. (One of which had the biggest Buddha I've ever seen - the largest ancient Buddha image, apparently. Note the word 'ancient'. I'm a like scared of how big the 'modern' one is)

Now posting from a net cafe which earlier had the Thai dub of Teletubbies playing. *shudder*

Will get to Chiang Mai stuff eventually, I promise.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A Bit Put Out

We were going to go to Sukothai tomorrow. There are very impressive ruins there. World Heritage listed. You really need a bicycle to get around them all.

Except the rain over the last couple of days have apparently made the roads there impassable.


Which has resulted in massive changes in plans.

Tomorrow will either work well or fail spectacularly with us having to sleep on the street. (OK, so that's incredibly unlikely).

I'll post later about the Chiang Mai adventures - which include more night markets, beautiful hilltop temples, a cooking course and running with elephants (complete with hippie geek tour guide. Well, as hippie as Thai people get)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Go North, Young Man!

Hmm. I've probably got an old post with that title already.

Come with me, if you may, back in time to Tuesday evening....

Shortly after my last post, Lisa and I headed off to the Chinatown area of Singapore. They've got a fantastic evening market there - lots of stall selling all sorts of things. Lisa bought me a pineapple moon cake (David, they come in more flavours that you can imagine) and lucky Chinese buns. And fruit.

For dinner, we met up with Daniel Oi for dinner at Orchard Road and stuffed ourselves with yummy Japanese food before going to Clarke Quay to see the river at night time. I also got to see the crabs on leashes that Lisa sms-ed me about a few days before I left Australia. Oddly, the thing we didn't do at Clarke Quay was eat more food.

On Wednesday we flew to Bangkok in Thailand. We were on separate planes that left from separate terminals at different times, so I got to wait around for a bit at the airport in Thailand waiting for Lisa's flight, which was late. Got to explore the airport and find out what happens to uncollected baggage (mine).

Bangkok is a large, noisy, hot and humid city. It's messy and chaotic - on several occasions I gasped a little and backed away from some reasonably dodgey wiring. We didn't do much the first afternoon, except venture out for dinner to a vegetarian restaurant, which came highly recommended by Lonely Planet, and was much further away than anticipated.

Thursday was spent hiding from the heat and organising more things to see later via a friendly travel agent down the road from the hotel. In the evening we went to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Instead of walking, we braved the rail system, using both Skytrain lines and the MRT subway. Lisa was very impressed that I could read maps and navigate.

The night bazaar was great - it had a huge food hall with a live band and beer girls. We had some very yummy food and a coconut and banana slushies, before exploring the stalls. Of which (so the brochure claimed) there was 3700. It was a bit like a weekend market in Perth, but without the produce and with a staggering array of locally produced silks and clothing and metalwork and wood carvings and painting and...

You get the idea.

I purchased three new t-shirts from a stall that specialised on anime styled shirts for the princely sum of $18. So now I have an Astroboy, a Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets and a Transformers t-shirts. I'm such a fanboy.

We didn't leave the bazaar until close to midnight and skytrain had finished running, so we took a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel. Taking a tuk-tuk is supposed to be part of the quintessential Bangkok experience. It's a three wheeled motorcycle essentially, with a roof. It's pretty much open air and can corner at high speeds. Quite exhilarating, but I'd hate to be stuck in Bangkok traffic in one.

On Friday, we explored more of the local shops (we did eventually discover somewhere you could get groceries, but you really had to look)and then made our way to the train station to catch a night train to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand.

Chiang Mai is about 750 km north of Bangkok - just over 13 hours by train. I'd never gone anywhere very far on a train before and certainly never in a sleeper car. A very different experience and quite fun. Chiang Mai so far seems like a smaller version of Bangkok, but much less polluted. We haven't been hassled by tuk-tuk or taxi drivers (yet) and outside our hotel it's actually quiet.

We're here until Tuesday - I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


I'm in Singapore today. I arrived yesterday to discover a very hot, humid city. If I was Emma I would be a small pile of goo on the pavement.

The plane arrived a little earlier than expected, and hardly anyone on the flight from Perth actually got off at Singapore, so I breezed through immigration and Customs and was on the street by 6:30am. Lisa was supposed to meet me at the airport, but due to my earliness, hadn't left for the train station yet, so I caught the train to her. The Singapore rail system is very neat. Ask me about it sometime.

After a bit of time reacquanting with each other, Lisa took me to Funan - the IT mall. 5 floors of geeky paradise. And a food hall in the basement labeled 'Food For Geeks'. I asked Lisa to get me a coconut drink like the ones we have in Perth when we go out, and she came back with one. It's served in the coconut. You basically cut off the top and put in straw. Sitting in a food hall, surrounded by business people and cans of coke, me sipping at my coconut felt weirdly lotech and out of place. Not that it was. It's absolutely normal. (For Lisa's take on the this incident, check out her blog.)

After retiring for a nap (I don't sleep in planes, so midnight horrors kill me), we went out again for dinner to a Hawker strip in Newton. I also got to try freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. Yum! Will try another with lemon juice later. We then walked down to Orchard Road before heading back to the hotel.

We got up very late this morning and headed out to Little India, which is the Indian quarter. We had a very nice lunch at a vegetarian Indian restaurant, before taking in the sights and smells. Very busy - lots of jewelry and clothes shops. Continued my foray in to traditional desserts by having a strawberry and logan and shaved ice thing for afternoon tea. (I seem to be talking about food alot. Food is important here. I now understands Lisa's obsession with food.)

This evening we're hoping to head out to Chinatown and maybe take a river tour.

Tomorrow, we're off to Bangkok!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Fun with Puppets

I went to a course on puppetry for television at FTI on last weekend.

I had a ball.

I love puppets. There was a time where I wanted to be a puppeter when I grew up, but it seemed to have gotten shelved along with the rest of my theatrical endevours when I discovered I was quite good at mathematics and science. I guess I've been lucky enough to rediscover such things as an adult.

Anyway, Grant told me the course was on and that he thought it might be neat idea to go so that he could recommended us as puppeters to himself when it came time to cast the Executive Bunnies. And it was an opportunity to mess about with puppets under the watchful eye of someone who knows all about it.

The course was run by Ian Tregonning. He started off in the Spare Parts puppet theatre troupe before moving to London and has since worked on feature films like Doctor Dolittle, The Little Shop of Horrors, Labryinth and A Muppet Christmas Carol and is now back in Perth. He's a really nice guy and his love of the art really came across in the two days.

I was a little bit late to the first session - it had taken longer at the travel doctor's than I'd anticipated. That's right. Before I went to course that involved lots of arm work, I had intramuscular injections. At least I was smart enough to get the tetanus shot in my left arm.

During the introductions, I felt a bit out of place. Pretty much everyone who was there was either an actor, or worked with puppets. One woman had even interned on Sesame Street. None of that really mattered though.

The bulk of the exercises we did involved us improvising short pieces and performing them for the class, from behind a playboard, but with a monitor, so that we could see what the camera could see. All the monitors we could see as puppeters were flipped - so that when we moved right, the puppets moved right.

I ended up with two favourite puppets - one was a green monster type puppet, with a very muppet like head and a glove-like hand built into its 'skin', so basically it's hand was your hand. It ends up being very expressive.

The other one was a dead-on muppet look-alike. Purple head, large mouth and sunglasses. A very cool dude indeed. I got him to sing the blues for one of our pieces with a generic blues song I made up on the spot.

Something that Grant and I discovered, that we'd never noticed before (which suprised us that we hadn't) was that television cameras have no sense of depth whatsoever. Which we then used to out advantage to do a 15 second commercial for a growth drug, in real time.

Anyway. I had lots of fun, learned heaps and got a certificate in the mail.