The Lester File

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Our day in Krabi

Today, Jennifer, Sandrine, and I went on a little adventure by ourselves. Meghan, Lindsey, and the Brads journeyed to a beach while we went on a journey through the city. Krabi is not a large town, but it is full of surprises. For instance, Sand, Jen, and I woke up this morning fairly early and went in search of money and food. We stumbled upon a restaurant called M & M that advertised everything from Mexican to Schnitzel. It was just something we had to see for ourselves.
It was an open faced restaurant, so there was not a door to walk through. We left our shoes just outside and sat down at a small table for 3. The menu boasted a 2 page breakfast menu complete with both American and European versions of toast and eggs. Omeletes and toast, yoghurt and fruit, pancakes and french toast... that was just breakfast. For lunch and dinner they had veggie burgers, sandwiches, spaghetti, lasagna, bratwurst, chicken, melted cheese on toast, pizza, masala, Thai curry, Indian curry, nachos, enchiladas, burritos, beer... i mean the list goes on. Needless to say: we were in HEAVEN. We ate there for both breakfast and dinner.
OK, nevermind food... what did we do for the day? Besides eat? We just sort of stumbled around until we found ourselves staring at the two large limestone mountain.. things.. jutting out of the ground that look as though they are guarding the entrance to the town of Kabi. There are two of them, one on either side of the ocean inlet that borders Kabi. Thick mangrove forests cover the small islands and high ground on the other side of the small body of water. We began walking from Kabi towards the limestone giants because we saw something glistening on another hill just behind them. We decided,based on previous experience in Hong Kong, that lone shiney things on tops of hills in Asia are most definitely statues of Buddha; therefore, it was our mission to see it for ourselves. The Buddha is gold and it glistens sharply in the morning sun. We began to walk. We walked for nearly an hour and found ourselves making little to no progress in reaching the blessed statue. Of course, we stopped sporadically for water... and shiney things that called to us from the many store fronts that line the central road.
Then, we found ourselves a taxi and off we went towards whatever it was that inhabited such a prominent spot on the top of a mountain. Once there we saw immediate confirmation that we were dealing with Buddha... monks. Lots of them. Oh yes, and a huge statue that depicted Buddha, but monks as well. I began to take pictures and Jen and Sandrine began to take pictures and before we knew it... we'd lost each other. Well.. mostly I'D lost them. I began walking around looking lost and I stumbled upon some stairs that led up. I was fully prepared to climb them and reach the shiney Buddha that surely lay ahead, but I was thwarted by MONKEYS. We've had problems with monkeys in the past and I was terribly wary of them.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we went to the Batu caves which is a large Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Murgan a son of Shiva. Devotees and tourists alike go to the caves to experience something holy, but we found monkeys. Mean monkeys that wanted to bite us and YOU KNOW those monkeys were infected with RAGE or the HIV or something. Anyway, they chased us out of the caves practically and ever since then, we've had bad feelings about monkeys.
Back to the thwarting... the monkeys made it impossible for me to pass because they kept creeping towards me. One of them actually made like he was going to swing from me like a tree and I had to get out. I ran into the others while making a break for it and we all agreed that we weren't going to let monkeys keep us from seeing the Great Shiney Buddha. This Buddha rests on top of a monastery/cave system called the Tiger Caves. Monks live and pray in the caves. Every cave has a statue of Buddha as well as small crawling spaces perfect for silent and introspective meditation. Some of the caves go so deep into the limestone that it seems as though no normal human could fit into them... let alone feel at peace. But, these particular practitioners' main goal is to shut out those material things that distract them from their true spiritual nature. At one of the platforms hugging the limestone face, a human skeleton stands next to a large statue of Buddha. This is meant to remind the monks of their own physical vulnerability and ultimate demise. With this truth, the monks are free to occupy their minds with the infinite possibilities of the spirit.
So we climbed those stairs and pretended not to notice the disease infested mongrols as then attempted to descend upon us... NO! However, when we got to the top of the stairs, we were met directly with another set of stairs... going down. I was confused. We pressed on in spite of the strange attitude given by the staircase and found ourselves in a truly magical place. Monks everywhere were going about their daily rituals... laundry, prayer, reading, and hair cuts/shaving. We followed a few paths that led to some magnificent old trees that had trunks that looked more like webbed feet. The roots jutted out towards the top of the tree and the bark just sort of hung down like sheets hanging from a clothesline. It was really beautiful and we were the only people around. We explored the small caves and came away feeling as though we'd touched something sacred.
If you're wondering... no we never saw the shiney Buddha, but we don't feel in any way short-changed. We spent an entire afternoon searching, finding, and then not finding it, but the journey was probably just as cool as the Buddha.
HOWEVER, spelunking and flip-flops are not always a good mix. My feet have never been so dirty.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Thailand and stuff about before Thailand

Today is Saturday and I am sitting in a guest house, which is a fancy way of saying hostel, called the P House in Kabi, Thailand. The place is beautiful and the rooms are much nicer than the other places we've been. Hong Kong was nice enough, but it was community showers and bathrooms. JP didn't like that very much! Well, not like we were all showering together, but the two showers were used by all of the people staying in the dorms... and some of them had been there for MONTHS. eew. they smelled wretched.
In Macau, we stayed in a small hotel in an alley that was reccommended by the Lonely Planet... which is an excellent travelling companion. That was sort of awful. Thank God we only stayed there one night, cuz the pillows smelled like urine. Oh yes... urine. Everybody's pillows smelled like that, not just mine. Then, we stayed with Aunt Kathy in Malaysia.
BUT NOW, we're in Thailand in this beautiful open lobby with blooming flowers, sunlight, and a little baby snoozing in a cradle. The weather is beautiful. Very cool, but not cold, yet hot enough to walk around in a bathing suit. We ate at a small restaurant last night near our hostel where you must take off yours shoes and climb up to sit on pillows around a small table. We ate curry and rice. My curry just happened to be the hottest one out of everybody's and I have the lowest tolerance of it. Despite the very spicy nature of it, it was delicious.
We're probably going to be moving again today, so I'll try to keep updating as the days go by. We're going to be hitting some of the places that were touched by the tsunami in the next couple of weeks and we'll eventually end up in Bangkok to try and catch a ride back to Wuhan... ICK! The thought of returning to a place that's cold, rainy, and forever dirty is almost torture, but that's why they call it vacation!