Thursday, April 30, 2009

small car shenanigans

well i made it to the island of santorini, after a seven hour ferry ride, which left at half past seven, for which i had to get up at quarter past five in the morning. guys were still out heckling even though it was alarmingly early in the morning. but the boat trip was smooth and uneventful and i managed to keep from being ill, just drank fruit juice and read and slept slumped over in my chair. when i got to the island, the clouds present at the crossing were drawing away, the sky was clear and all the houses were whitewasshed and idyllic. and when i showed up at my hostel, suprise! there were my three british girl roomates from hostel aphrodite in athens. along with their friend from turkey, phil of the fluffy hair, we formed the perfect sized group for wanderings and excursions and planned on renting quad bikes and scooters the following day to see the island (which is small enough it can be done in a single day) however, upon getting our things together in the morning, we discovered that we could not in fact rent the bikes, as i was the only member of the group with a drivers liscence. so we moped for about ten minutes and then realized we could rent a car and split five ways, it would end up being less than the bikes for a day. so we got a darling little pewter gray mini-mobile with a meep-meep horn and me being the only person who could legally rent the car, i was the driver for our island adventure. we piled in, and it was suprisinly roomy and a joy to turn as there was nothing in the back and we headed out deciding every stop by shouted popular vote. first to the red sand beach (where we had and impromptue parprika chip picknick and i accidentally stubbed my toe on a peice of volcanic rock and ripped a huge chunk of skin off) and then the lighthouse, then we drove all the way to fira, the capital, which was picturest to the extreem. and then we headed over to other side of the island and found a sign for ancient agora or something of that nature and decided to brave a terrifingly rough looking cobblestone road that wound alarmingly up a hill, or more like a mountain rather, until we reached a museum that was closed, and the most outstanding veiw down the whole island, you could see the sea on both sides from our lofty vantage point. it was glorious. and the amazing thing was, there was no way we could have made it to this place on the bus, nor would we have even found it, if we hadn't had 'toby' as the car was christened, to guide us. and now i must return the car and know that once again, i've gotten rather attached to, and bonded with, a rental car. which is a bit strange but seems to be forming a pattern.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

some greek lessons

things i've learned about greece (possibly europe in general) in the last two days.
1. it's very easy to feel like a local, for instance after fourty eight hours, i now know which metro stations can be used to traverse safely from one side of a busy street to another while avoiding the cars-speeding-in-every-direction and guys-honking-load-at-every-girl-they-think-is-pretty.
2. magazines with full frontal female nudity are displaced at the newspaper kiosks on every street corners. yet to see male nudity.
3. if you wish to appear european it's all about what i've christened the b.t which stands for big hair, and tight pants
4. greeks seem to have no regard for the lining up/queuing system in the slightest and a propencity to walk in front of anyone if they do not feel inclined to wait in line.
5. reeses peanut butter cups do not exist and therefor i have an intense unfixable craving for them
6.boys cultivate their heckling/whisting skills from very young ages. i was yelled at by a group of boys hanging through the bars of their grammar school fence, and a kid in a stroller whistled at me from across the street and pointed energetically. nor is
the skill lost with time or age. elderly men in fact have the privaledge (or so they seem to think) of being able to wink at or grab or pat anyone whom they choose, which is pretty much everyone.
7. they have someone who comes into the park every day to feed the pidgens.
8. hand gestures are the most effeciant means of communication, the larger the better

and now post musings i will leave you wiht a photo of me being a statue at the parthanon and ending up-as per usual-just looking foolish.

accropolian smooch-attacking

oh the glories of anciant ruins. really difficult to call something a structure or temple if it's a few toppled columns so i stick to ruins for technical purposes. second day in athens (really first whole day) yesterday and i decided to do the tourist attraction circit. it's fairly inexpensive and one ticket includes all of the sights. so i joined three english girls staying in my door and we ventured out of the hostel, and in completely the wrong direction for a good forty minutes before succesfully consulting a map and making our way to the metro.
side note: i'd just like to say that i LOVE the athenian train system. last night at dinner i heard some turkish kids on spring break griping about how it's the most difficult city in europe, bad signage and all that and i SO dissagree. i think i may be because they had the olyimpics here and had to have everything be tidied and clear and all. with english options all the time. cause the metro is perfectly organize and ful of wonderful greek/english signage. they even have little neons which demonstrate which direction the escalator is currently moving, up or down. and all the stops are announced by a calm female voice on the train and there are signs. and it is awesome.
so anyway, we got off at the acropolis stop only to discover that the entire street was being ripped to shreds by burly workman, who i might add lost no time in heckling us as we walked by. i question this practice as it seems ridiculously non-discriminatory. they will cat call you ALL the time, even when i was harrowed and haggared and hampered by a turtle like backpack. could they at least limit it to when you look nice, or mininally, clean? otherwise it seems rather disingenuine. anyway, after wandering around in a haze of confusion and motercycle exhaust we managed to locate to one acceptable entrance to the acropolis and got our tickets or in the girls case just flashed id that proved they were under nineteen. oh to be young and get free admission....anyway. they unfortunate thing is that the acropolis and the parthanon in particular are heavily under construction/renovations. so every photo was wreathed in scaffolding. not exactly picturest. i mean it was beautiful and awe inspireing to see these structures which seem impossibly massive, and the view of athens extending on forever was mesmerizing, but it's sort of one of those places that i hyped up in my head so much, and saw SO much in beginning western art history or ancient cultures classes, that it's not quite as exciting as it ought to be. the walk was beautiful, the sky was clear and the marble was shining (and slippery, there were several close calls, where i almost lost it and splattered myself all over the steep steps or uneven paving stones, good traction in ones shoes is a must) and it was lovely. as were the other sites we visited. at one point we climbed to the top of a rough rock outcropping, which turned suddenly into a precepis over looking gardens, and were met by a swarthy middle aged man who spoke with a thick accent. he told us that he would take our photo together, so we obliged. then he demanded we all removed our sunglasses so he could judge who was the most beautiful, his favorite, and we sort of looked shocked and weirded out and exchanged glances and then he chose rachel and handed her camera to me and told me to take a photo of them together ('stand real close' he told her) and just as i was about to take it he tried to kiss her full on and she turned and he got the side of her face and i managed to capture the look of started bewilderment awash over her features. brilliant moment. way crossing a line though. and then as if he sensed that lingering was not the best of ideas, he scampered away across the rocks towards a woman walking causiously and offered his hand in assistance and the whole thing began again. crazy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

travel terrors and small victories

well again i must say sorry for an unacceptably week-long gap in travel posts. i was without non-wireless internet and the only thing my glorious ipod cannot do is commune harmoniously with my blog. the two seem not to get along and so i just can't post unless i've got a real computer. you know. with a keyboard and larger than three inch screen. anyway, i'm back, to quote the terminator. and the good news is not much has happened since my last post and therefor, there isn't a whole lot of new adventure to catch up on. apparently i left my last post with a cliffhanger, a where is max going next sort of thing, and that was not intentional. i'm in greece people. i had a distictly unglorious time getting here though so let me tell you. first, i spent the afternoon of sunday the 19 wandering around bangkok focusing on not spending my money, as i remembered the expense of my taxi from the airport and wanted to make sure i had enough money to make it.
at about 8 pm i bid goodbye to my dear freinds from the suhkumvit soi 1 guesthouse and departed via hot pink cab to the airport (which i might add is an archetectural wonder, all vaulted glass and white metal, very modern and full of light, or glowing like some sort of phosforecent deep sea creature if you are veiwing it at night like i was. very modern) only to discover that the ride was over half as expensive going to the airport as coming from, maybe it had to do with the time too i'm not sure. but this meant i had a pocket full of baht which would have bought be an armful of sundresses and some funny obama t-shirts not to mentions a few sequined elephant wall hangings, if i had been on the streets of bangkok, but which barely was enough for a disapointing dinner and a 200 page paperback in the airport. at least i was able to get an emergency row seat and check in was fairly unharrowing. passport control was worse. turns out there is a form i was supposed to fill out and no one told me and there were no signs saying this, but when i got to the front of the line they told me, and i had to leave, fill out the form, then get back in line and wait all over again. felt foolish.
waiting, security (where they took everything out of my bag and searched it after running it through the x-ray machine seven times, and still were unable to detect what was causing the problem, then handed it all back to me in a messy pile and shooed me off without even allowing me to stuff it back into my bag-charming customer service that) waiting, boarding, waiting, taxing, taking off. once the plane was airborn the flight attendents decended in all their calm polite jewel toned sweetness, offering hot towels and light snacks and beverages. handing out headphones and menus (in thai, english and greek) and speaking in whispers. they never stumbled or bumped into anyone. never dropped a drink. it was like watching a dance. i love that airline. the meals were uneventful and the movies were none to exciting, to the point where they almost managed to lull me into sleep. i succeeded in snatching a few patchy hours sometime around the halfway point of the flight, but even with being able to streach my legs out all the way i was still uncomfortably aware i was sitting in a tight chair, and was unable to see this environment as condusive to comfortable sleeping. they brought the lights up for breakfast and and stealthily delivered more hot towels and toothbrushes to everyone who was awake. we landed smoothly and i did the math and realized that after a fourteen hour flight, it was about eleven in the morning in my head and not quite seven at the athens airport. what's better after exiting the plane, picking up my backpack and walking through customes without so much as a 'can i see your passport' (odd) i had the glorious pleasure of settling into the arrivals meet-and-greet area for a few hours to wait for my greek contact to meet me. i got coffee and i went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and attempt to comb my hair (i gave up when instead i broke off half the plastic tines) and read almost my entire book before i was delighted to be met by laurie and one of her daughters and shuttled out of the city by taxi.
and for the last week i have been in hiding, outside of athens, in a beautiful white house full of windows, covered in twining roses and succulents with seven turtles crawling with alarming swiftness across the grass (one is rather gimpy-only has three legs) also populated by several exhuberent dogs and a cat. i've been sitting on the porch and reading, or writing or just drifting off and pondering a bit while looking at the impossibly blue ocean down the hill. i've been picking up rest while i had the chance, without seven roomates to wake me up at six fifteen with their zippers and their plastic bags. it was calm and relaxing and i feel like i am finally rested. and then i was time for some adventure.
so i took off for athens and that was an adventure in itself. first the bus, where the driver was absent as it sat parked at the curb and you just walk on, where sweet looking greek grandmas dressed all in black spoke to me rapidly assuming (since i look so greek) that i spoke the language and not understanding 'sorry i don't understand' spoken in english, as explaining my situation and lack of understanding what they are saying, but continued on, just with more excited hand gestures. after an hour or so of that with only a vague idea of where everything was in a city i had never been to, i got off at the end of the line, at the akademia, or the athens university, and walked across the street to the metro where i bought a ticket and found my train (thankfully all the signage was is english as well) and got to the station closest to the hostel, which is located unhelpfully far from all the major attractions but has free internet and a basement bar, and anyway was where i was staying. and then i walked to the hostel, without a map, without a cell phone, without sidewalks, or good directions or any sence of where i was going. down streets where the name was only vaguely close to what i had writtin down but i had to assume was the street i was supposed to turn at. without a clue. and i found the hostel. and i did it on my own. oh praise the victorious max!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

goodbye sweat/sand/spicyfood

it's been beautiful and fun but it's time to get moving to the next stop, next city, meet some new people.
had a great time since my return to bangkok thursday. spent the whole of friday morning battling through the scammers outside the temple walls adamently advising us that the temple was closed but for a small price they could take us to one that was open.
we took the water route as a well, and were vastly amused by the boat as it went under the lowest bridges. it would look as if it were impossible to pass through and then the roof would start to sink around us as the boats top collapsed and we crouched down laughing at how odd it all was. saw the palace and the emerald budda. all of those guilded towers and shiny stuff, colored mirrors etc. made me salavate. unfortunmatly it was blisteringly hot, and very humid. not that i should expect anything else from thailand but still, it made the enjoyment of such beautiful structures more difficult. however we did amuse ourselves by competing to take the most funny and unflattering self portrait possible, and many were taken making faces at the statues in the halls and from odd angles. became quite silly really but if you can't make fun of yourself then that's eliminating a lot of good times. we also visited the massive reclining budda and marveled at his stature and serene gaze. and the fact that his feet were taller than me. now looking at the prospect of leaving thailand i wonder what i have gotten from this place, other than a deep love of rum spritzers and chocolate almond ice cream bars and the wonderful fun to which they always seem to lead. an apreciation of odd foods, acceptence of how sweaty it is possible to become (and stay) i suppose. seeing how much one can be thankful for small things like soft toilet paper and a cold drink. as well as a belief that one could find anything in this city with a bit of pacience and a good deal of bargining. over all i feel that i have just scraped the surface of what this country has to offer and know that i must come back to uncover more of it's delightful secrets. because there is always something new hear right around the corner. you just have to look

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

happy new year

sorry as there is still not a single photo from thailand. am taking billions, just not able to make them magically jump from camera to computer. when possible will flood you with images i swear.
it's still in full swing of thai new years celebrations. even though the actual day was yesterday. but walking to town for lunch this afternoon was still drenched with water and covered in baby powder. groups of happy thais danced outside shops and resturaunts with waiting buckets. has been going on since saturday. have take to lining purse with plastic bag in order to keep belongings from gettting soaked. has been quite helpful.
i have developed a koh chang routine after a few short days which goes like this: wake around the eight o clock hour to strange bird noises, or yowling cats, or if lucky, bells ringing around bungalow cows necks. shower and apply copious amounts of sunscreen and bug spray (note: when traveling alone, buy spray on sunscreen as there are just some places on ones back one cannot reach on ones own unless one happens to be a contortionist. which i am not) and heading out for morning museli at 'resort's resturaunt. then, stake place on beach under trees, where will remain shady longest. read, sleep and swim intermitently until late afternoon sun (about two) drives away all shade. walk into town of lonely beach for lunch (at we cafe where they have free wireless and i do all of my emailing without paying per minute) and fanta (am oddly obsessed with orange soda here though it helps it's served in a cool rippled glass bottle with a straw no less).
perhaps look through shops though everythings cheaper in bangkok and i don't feel like carting it around so i'm not likely to buy anything. have spot in a gnarled tree right next to the water that i will sit to do a bit of writting, but usually i return to my bungalow (shack on very shakey legs with steps about to fall off any day, doesn't seem right to call it a bungalow, sounds far to fancy) and open all the windows and climb into my mosquito net for a post-lunch nap. wake around five to go sit on communal porch and watch spectacular sunset (yet to let me down) and eat dinner and read a bit. don't usually talk to anyone unless to order food or tell vendors wandering the beach that i am not interested in their wares. have forgotten sound of own voice. oddly comforting silence though. allows alot of time for mental processing.
today i have been traveling for one hundred days. that sounds like a mighty big number but need i say the days have flown? perhaps it's because there is something new and different to see/hear/smell/taste experience each day, so much to take in that it keeps me running and not noticing the passing of time. i do sleep remarkably well while traveling, despite time differences and unbearable heat. i guess every day is so busy, so full, that there is no need to count hours days or even weeks. and then i look up from my calender, trying to pin down some dates for next week, and see the number 100 that i marked there in december, long before this even began, and am honestly a bit stunned. it feels like such a big number and yet it's passed with a magnificent swiftness. over half way and still so much left to see. and do. it's like an impossible race.
so here's to 100.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

happy new year

day three on island paridise and it's raining, thus i decide to write. the local children are a bit put out because this is thai new year and tradition allows them to throw water on everyone but the rain makes that almost pointless. it was especially fun to watch them spraying passing motercycles with colorful plastic water guns.
friday night i did go for my night swim, to thunder and lightning no less! the sky would brighten so much it looked like daylight and the waters strong waves made you feel like you were being rocked to sleep in bathwater. though a very salty bath it would be. and yesterday was my first full day on the island, which started with a walk into town and a ham and cheese omlette, then a whole morning and afternoon spent alternatly lying on the beach, reading/writing/sleeping, with occational dips into the water to 'cool down' but rather more for some variety. around four steff and i woke to find ourself hungry and walked into town to scrounge some food, decided to be brave and got enchilladas at a mexican resturaunt (the menu was in spanish!) not too bad either. and then more sitting around, making and writting postcards. my bungalow played host to a large bug which i squished with my book, and there are ghekos living on my ceiling. there are also hoards of sleek good natured cats and dogs running wild over the island. yesterday afternoon a small wiggly puppy with blue eyes joined me on the beach for company, and spent several minutes chewing up leaves and spitting them on my book before growing tired and sleeping beside me. and this morning i had museli with watermellon and pineapple, and orange soda for breakfast and it's still raining so i suppose i will sit and read some more. it does put a damper on sitting on the beach, this rain, but it keeps the tempature a bit more reasonable.

Friday, April 10, 2009

brass knuckle bazaar

and still it is soooooooooooooooo hot here. one must just come to accept stickiness as a part of life. i spent the last two days treking through the city of bangkok with friends i met at the guesthouse. gigi, and robbie, the canadians, and ellie, sweet little 18 year old english girl, and a rotating supporting cast. we didn't hurry as it was just to hot to do so, we did some leisurly but thoruogh exploring of the street and outdoor markets, where they sell everything from obama tee shirts and linen pants and carved elephants, to silk bathrobes, tazers and brass knuckles. switchblades, throwing stars and designer brand makeup were also popular items. we tested the 'street meat' (food stalls all along the sidewalk) and had coconut icecream served in a carved out fruit. we went to the famous night market, six people squished into a taxi (the majority of which are hot pink) and, exhaused from heckling and barganing, kicked back in the stadium sized beer garden and watched a parade of tiny thai girls and boys performing american popular music with very curious costume choices. we bought wine and rum spritzers from a man across the street from our house, who knew us well enough after two days to keep several in the cooler waiting for us to drink immediatly (less expensive than water at 20 baht) and took the skytrain, crammed in with hundreds of others into the blissfull airconditioned train, to go to the mbk shopping center (also air conditioned) which had a whole floor of indoor market/fair. watches with animals instead of numbers and abercrombie and fitch sweatshirts. the stuff that falls off of trucks. paid what amounted to $10 for a one hour oil massage that left me so relaxed i felt drunk and wobbly in the leg and last night we drove all over looking for a club cause some wanted to go dancing, only to discover that at 10:45 no one goes out, till 12 at least. and ended up getting snackfood at the 7-11 next door and eating on the steps just out of the rain that was falling all afternoon and into the evening. even made the power go out in a whole block for a few hours.
this morning i woke early to catch my bus to ko chang island. didn't get the the ferry until three in the afternoon, and they insisted on playing movies for us throughout the duration of the journey but at the lowest volume possible without being on mute. the ferry only took a few minutes and then we were fully tropical at the dock of ko chang, me and steff my bus partner (aussie) who joined me in hopping a truck taxi to find accomadations on the beach, which took far too long and far too much walking around in excruciating heat wearing backpacks and being told over and over that the beach was stoney and the sand beach was two miles that way.... finally found a place though, right at the sand, and two minutes out side of the civilization of lonely beach and it's internet, motercycle rental and resteraunts. the individual bungalows have a 'bathroom' and fan and mosquito net, plus mine comes with a delicate spotted cat who sits on my porch waiting for me to pet her. and now we will go for a night swim in the bathwater that is the ocean here....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


dubious greetings from the land of thai.
it's sweltering hot here and hard to notice much else. i have spent the whole day traveling, from wellington to auckland at 7 am and then hours spent wandering the airport and making goodbye phone calls before boarding my thai airlines flight to bangkok. the interior of the plane was lavender with beautiful alternating gold, amethyst and magenta seats. the hostesses changed outfits three times, always in semi-alarmingly bright combinations like turquoise and hot pink, but beautiful thick brocade gowns. i scored an emergency row seat, it was super spacious and i was comfortably sprawled all flight, and they presented all of our drinks delicatly perched on small silver trays. it was beautifully gracious service. i watched five movies in swift succession in an attempt to distract myself to no avail.
upon arriving i was greated by a thick wave of damp heat. and a barage of bantering taxi drivers all offering various prices. and offers of service. it seems almost like any other city, particularly in the dark. could be la except all the signage is in thai and my taxi was passed by a new ford truck with about ten small children perched in the bed. already i crave gold leaf and jewel toned textiles. and now, i will attempt to decrease my sweat output, and sleep off my jetlag. oh time change. how i have not missed you.