Friday, February 24, 2012

BONUS POST: The Whole Thing (the place where I stay & a buttload of Instagram fun)

So I've met quite a few westerners who run restaurants around here, including a smart Californian who just opened up what seems to be the first Mexican restaurant in Phuket town (yay, tacos!). And I was talking to Tommy the Scot about the price. Apparently it's against the law for foreigners to own land here, so I asked about the rent. "We'll, it depends on the place, but this whole thing," he says, "is only 9000 baht a month. This WHOLE thing." What that means is that "this whole thing," including the upstairs: enough space for about 12 beds well divided, each with a nightstand and plenty of room to walk, a wall of storage lockers, another whole side I noticed yesterday that I think is just used for extra storage for the store, and the downstairs: a very large space that is an antique store with glass cases full of tiny cars, walls of Beatles memorabilia, and as if it were made for me, LOTS of classic VW merchandise!
***Side Note!...I keep forgetting to brag, but how crazy is it that I am staying at the one place where an entire car club of classic volkswagen owners, all young 20-something Thai guys except for the one beautiful dread locked South Korean guy (I wish I could take his picture without feeling like a stalker, because he's like super model status!) all hang out/work/eat/drink/and occasionally stay?? And I get to see their adorable bugs and buses everyday!
Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, the downstairs also doubles as a cafe/bar so the back side also has the kitchen and in the middle are the two showers, two toilets, 3 sinks, and one urinal...ALL of this is just under $300 a month!!!
That's insane.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Everyday Adventures

Well, I've been trying to wait until I did something exciting before I posted a blog, but this heat is killing me so the only real Thailand activity I've participated in since arriving in Phuket (sounds like poo-ket, not what you were thinking) is getting a genuine Thai massage. But today I ran errands, so I thought I'd tell you about that. Trust me, it will be better than it sounds.
First off, the list:
1.find a place to get laundry done.
2.find a pharmacy
3.find an ATM
4.find the bus station
5.find the market
6.find lunch
7.find my way home
8.write this blog
Obviously, the key word being the hardest part, "Find."
So when I got up this morning, I stumbled downstairs to the antique shop/cafe/bar to find Tommy the Scottish wanderer who managed to wander into Phuket 3 years ago and hasn't left yet. Tommy used to rent an apartment but now stays in the bed next to mine upstairs. Don't worry Grandma, the beds are all separated by sheets like hospital beds. Tommy is also my go-to guy for my many many MANY questions (as well as a very generous joint roller--pretend you didn't hear that, Grandma). Unfortunately, Tommy's accent is a thick mixture of Scottish and English (he lived in England for years and considers that his home) so I frequently ask him questions only to ask again the next day when there's no music playing maybe, or better light, because if I stare at his mouth, I generally have an easier time figuring out what the hell he's saying. Anyways, Tommy gives me directions to the bus station and the market, and I think I kind of understand where he's saying the pharmacy is. I'll find an ATM myself along the way, and he is dropping off his laundry so kindly offers to take mine as well. Sounds easy enough, so off I go.
I manage to find the a pharmacy, I have no idea if it's the one Tommy told me to find, but it will do. I needed a pill that would be like Benadryl to help ease the itching and swelling of the million mosquito bites I've managed to get, and I needed this little green tin Tommy had shown me because it's supposedly what the locals use to stop the itch. I've never seen a local scratching their skin off like I do, so I figured it was worth a shot. Oddly, the Benadryl was the easy part. She gave me some pills called Tofexo which I of course checked out on line before taking, and yup, same thing. But trying to describe the little green tin, that was a challenge. She kept giving me creams which I already have and hate, until finally I spotted a similar container and she then put it together and found me the right stuff. Pharmacy...check.
Now for the bus station. I find an ATM on the way. Nothing too difficult there, you press a button and it switches to English. If only the people all had a button like that, I'd be set. ATM...check. I had to ask a couple times for directions, but since people just kind of wave you in the right direction, it's hard to tell if that's the way they want you to go or if they just want you to go away. I finally find a giant building with a flashy picture of a bus, a bunch of Thai symbols, and the website This has to be it, i'm pretty sure that was the website i saw the schedule on. I walk inside, but instead of a bus terminal, I'm in a tiny office with 4 computers and two women. "Um, is this the bus station?" I ask, confused and sweating profusely from the 91 degree walk. "Where you want to go?" I tell her Bangkok, Saturday night. First class VIP, please." "You go tonight?" "No, I go saturday." You feel like if you cut out a few words maybe she'll understand you better. But she doesn't, "You show me," she says as her silent partner whips a calendar out of thin air. I point to Saturday. She tells me the bus leaves at 7, be there by 6:30. I repeat the details a few more times: VIP first class, because I read that the middle option has no, bathrooms...everyone from every country but America just refers to the bathroom as a toilet (I still feel a little gross every time I say it). 6:30 at night right? Because you have to take the night train so you end up in the safeness of morning when you get to Bangkok. How much? And this is where it occurs to me I'm at a tourist agent, not the bus station because she asked for 75 baht more than the website had said. So yeah, it should have occurred to me when I walked in, but like I said, I was slightly delirious from the 91 degree heat and God knows what percentage the crazy ass humidity is. And frankly, the extra $2.45 was totally worth the 10 minutes of air conditioning! So I paid for my ticket and went on to find some lunch and the market, making a mental note that i need to find the actual bus station before saturday and check with Tommy to make sure the ticket is legit. Bus ticket...check (hopefully).
Tommy said if I got lost at this point, ask someone how to get to Robinson's. It's a big department store near the market, "down by KFC and McDonald's and all that." Tommy, you had me at KFC. Mmm...mashed potatoes and gravy, here I come! I ask the ladies at the "bus station" which way to go and stumble back into the heat. I meander through the market stopping to look at any dress that wasn't size tiny, and trying to keep an eye out for panties and sports bras because I totally didn't count on sweating thru two changes of clothing a day, but the sizes aren't really marked so I figure I'll have better luck at this department store that everyone loves...probably because it's the only department store.
Just when I think I can't make it in this heat, I see my old friend smiling down on me like a beautiful mirage in a sweltering desert...Colonel Sanders, oh how I've missed you! Ok, so I have to point to things on a menu and I have no idea how much anything is until she rings it up, but the important thing is yes, they have mashed potatoes and gravy. The real deal. Lunch...check.
Actually attached to KFC, Robinson's is more like a mall than a department store, with its food stands and an entire grocery store inside. There were at least 3 floors, but when I saw how the prices rose significantly from the first floor to the second, I didn't bother going any higher. Instead, I walked around the grocery store taking pictures of weirdness for all of you. Disposable panties, what the hell? Broccoli juice, seaweed or Peking duck flavored potato chips, and of course the obligatory assortment of dried fish snacks...blech!!!
No luck with the bras and panties. The panties were all cutesy and the bras...well, I don't know what size I am, but it's NOT A-70. What the hell is 70? Probably centimeters, but I'm not about to ask the tiny flat chested salesgirl what enormous number she thinks I'd be! Shopping...maybe some other day, so for now...check.
Time to find my way home, and amazingly I did. Almost entirely by accident and covered in sweat when finished, but nonetheless I made it. Honestly, the most difficult part of what I thought would be a much more challenging day, was trying to ask Nim, the girl that runs the hostel, where I could store my newly purchased wedge of watermelon til morning and then trying to understand where the hell she was telling me to put it. I swear she kept telling me outside, under something, but I think she was trying to tell me where I could eat it. Whatever, it's in the cooler now and hopefully will be in the morning.
And now I'm lying in bed, finishing up this blog post and adding some pictures: the little green tin, the grocery store oddities, a couple dress shops, and some of the beautiful buildings around Phuket. Ok, so this was long and probably not that exciting, but all I promised was that it would be better than you'd think. Write this blog...check.
Night all, peace and xoxo from Thailand.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Bali Tally

Happiness is...
-a tall cold Bintang (local beer) on a warm night
-a chocolate banana milkshake on a hot day
-finding cheddar potato chips amongst the many fish flavored ones
-seeing thousands of Balinese gather together in their finest sarongs and head wraps to celebrate Kuningan Day
-cuddling the little guesthouse kitty, because I miss my Disco.
-holding an orangutan at the Bali animal park
-multiple days, multiple beaches
-getting a massage IN MY ROOM for less than $9
-Facebook...enough said
-an air conditioned Internet cafe
-watching the sunset on the beautiful rooftops of Ubud from my balcony
-swimming in a waterfall
-watching the women weave tiny baskets for their daily offerings to the gods every morning, then seeing them EVERYWHERE
-living within walking distance to a giant supermarket
-finding Dove conditioner at said supermarket because I have no idea if "hair fall" is the same thing
-being able to smoke a cig...ANYWHERE (sorry, Grandma)
-riding on the back of a scooter past rice fields, palm trees, mountains, and beaches
-finding the best tacos I've ever Bali!
-fulfilling my "new dress addiction" for $8 a dress at the outdoor market
-moving into a new guesthouse and instantly making AWESOME new friends
-a plate of watermelon and orange slices for breakfast, because the guesthouse owner knows they are my favorite
-having my camera handy and going slow enough on the scooter to catch the family of geese casually crossing through traffic
-watching the Balinese children find so much fun without any fancy American toys
Happiness isn't...
-riding on a scooter down a mountain for nearly 5 hours in the freezing cold rain
-waking up before 7am each day, thanks to paper-thin walls and the screaming baby staying next door
-nearly getting run over by a family of 5 all on one motorbike
-the German boy constantly commenting on my refusal to eat the cheap Balinese food...sorry, but rice, fish, and veggies are the same to me in any country...gross
-potholes! The scooter riding is killing my ass!
-trying to buy plane tickets to my next stop online and having my card declined for no apparent reason
-finally getting my ticket and then having the guy at the Internet cafe say "machine must be broke" when my ticket doesn't print and not being able to explain to him that maybe it just needs paper or ink
-ants and tiny spiders...everywhere! I try not to think about how many I must have eaten
-being embarrassed to admit I'm from the same country as the Guido from New York at the end of the bar
-trying to download a movie in the dark outside my first guesthouse and getting barked at by one of the scarier Bali dogs. Stray dogs are everywhere here and I passed on the rabies shot
-@#%^ roosters!
-saying goodbye to new friends
-the keyboard on a German laptop
-running through the rain to retrieve the electric converter I left at my old guesthouse
-French guys...they fulfilled every stereotype
-a new mosquito bite every day
-losing my breath after a few flights of stairs. Heat, altitude, and smoker's lung...not a good combination
-squat toilets
-leaving Bali, but...
Happiness is...
-moving on.