First things first, I’ll acknowledge the humbling defeat the Giants suffered yesterday. Good game, but pretty disappointing. If Armstead’s interception return for a TD isn’t called back, or Lewis doesn’t break that kick return for a TD right after Dixon scored for the Giants, it could have been a different outcome. Even though the Ravens’ fourth quarter touchdowns came after everyone had already packed it in, they definitely deserved it. That defense is incredible. So, as you may have figured out by now, I managed to find a place that was showing the Super Bowl here. More on that story later.
Thailand, at last. Our original destination, the one that put all our plans in motion, and it took us nearly four months to get here. I guess Indonesia really grows on you, kind of like some nasty virus, or heroin. It’s only been a few days but already we’ve seen that Thailand is a whole new world. Better transport and better food (they have milk); also more expensive and more crowded with other tourists. Right now we’re in Krabi, one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. We’re guessing that some of the places we go after this will be a bit cheaper, and a little quieter. You could definitely say that we are at the lower end of the wealth scale here. Lots of rich folk. Or maybe just people like us on a two-week holiday instead of seven-monther. It is kind of nice not being the focus of all eyes for a change. Just like at home, though, you can still make yourself the centre of attention by making a drunken fool of yourself. More on that story later.
Now, back to Indonesia briefly. The second night before we left Medan we were walking through our hotel lobby when suddenly I’m doing a double-take. You’ve gotta be kidding! Jeff? 15,000 miles from home and we run into Jeff Wasylak. I’ve been wondering when something like that was going to happen. It always seems to no matter where you go. For those of you that don’t know him, he spends the summers working up at Elk Ridge, a golf course near Waskesiu. That’s how I know him, anyway. So we all went out for a few beer (just a few…..this time; more on that story later) and swapped stories for a few hours. It was good to talk to someone from home. The following morning he headed off to spend a month in Sumatra, hitting a lot of the places that we had just come from. After that he’s back up to Thailand to cruise out the last of Saskatchewan’s winter.
January 23rd. We’re up bright and early to catch our ferry to Penang, Malaysia. Our expectations are high, since the “high-speed ferry” is not only fairly expensive, but partially Malaysian as well (sort of a mongrel ferry). Easy there folks, you’re not out of Indonesia yet. The charter bus to the harbour left half an hour late. The ferry itself left an hour and a half late. Ah, to be so predictable. Fortunately for us, during the delay, presumably to keep the wait from becoming tedious, we were treated to some of my all-time favourite jingles off of “Hindi Hits: Vol. 12″ (I’m dead serious). And that wasn’t the only perk; we also got to see the videos that went with the songs. Most featured Indians dancing rather enthusiastically in a way you might, might, term “American-style”, or at least you would have during the Reagan era. I say “some” because the CD (or, more likely, cassette) only played about two and a quarter songs, at which point it would start all over again. And again. And again. And again. For nearly two hours. The quarter of a song was an Indian remake of the American crowd-pleaser, “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me, Don’t Hurt Me, No More)”. Sweet. One of the other two songs managed to lodge itself in my head for about, oh, a million hours. It was set to the beat of, “We Will Rock You”, except that they took it to the next level by adding a lot of whistles and numerous shaker-things. The chorus itself referred to some mythical – and surely overworked – creature called a Galley Ho’. I think I may have met one at the Pat once. Once they finally wore that disc out it was movie time. And, since literally 80% of the passengers were elderly Muslim women, the choice of movie was obvious – Coyote Ugly. A bunch of scantily-clad babes dancing on the bar in a bar in New York. Some of the women really seemed to enjoy it, I have to admit. The one lugging her Indonesian shopping haul – a monstrous wooden clock and a ragged-looking bag of corn – looked like she had a bit of a wild streak in her. After that movie ended they showed Independence Day, but stopped it halfway through, forcing us to spend the last hour and a half in dreary silence. No explanation was given.
Five hours after leaving the dock we reached Penang and made our way to the end of an extremely long line at Customs. Apparently to ensure that we came away with a good opinion of Malaysia and their impressive bureaucratic efficiency, the guard made us go right to the front of the line, pushing indignant locals out of the way as he went. Despite my mediocre attempts to perform the universal action for apology and confusion (the ever-popular palms-up shrugging motion) towards the people we bumped, they continued to glare disgustedly at us. I even tried adding a sheepish grin and raised eyebrow. They remained unconvinced.
Without having any clue (nothing new there), we happened to roll (or float) into Penang on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Well, whadda ya know? It kind of ruined our chances of trying out some of the Chinese food that Penang is so famous for since all of the restaurants were closed. And then we were too tired/lazy to go out and take part in any of the festivities. For shame. Maybe subconsciously we didn’t want to have more fun on Chinese New Year than we did on our own, and by breathing we had almost accomplished that already.
The very next day we took a mini-bus to Krabi. Since we didn’t exactly see a lot of Malaysia (none, really) it would seem to be unfair to generalize the entire country based on one guy, but what the hell, that’s my choice and I’ll live with it. Our Malaysian driver (for the first half of the trip) was the worst I have seen in SE Asia (at driving that is). Gas, brake, gas, brake, gas, hard on the brake again. Jerk the wheel to the right, yank it back to the left, there’s a car coming about two miles away. And then we had an argument about some chintzy “passport processing fee” at the border. Actually, I argued, he just ignored me until I paid it. And, besides all that, he was a real asshole. Even Laynni agrees with me on this one (I’m always much more easily irritated). So, until further notice, Dean hereby generalizes Malaysians as rude pricks that can’t drive. You can bet they’ll be shattered to hear it.
Eventually we made it to Krabi, which turned out to be a nice little city on the west coast of Thailand. Nice rooms, great food, decent levels of traffic. We spent a day there and then headed out to Laem Phra Nang, a small peninsula near Krabi. There are three separate beaches there, two of which are incredibly gorgeous, Railey West and Phra Nang – which was featured in the movie “Mortal Kombat”. The third, Railey East, had very little beach and basically became a mud flat at low tide. This was the cheapest beach and (surprise!) it’s where we stayed. Not a problem, though, because it was only a five minute walk to either of the other beaches where the water was crystal clear, the sand soft and white, and the women……gloriously topless. Some great views…..of scenery……as well, but since it was such a popular tourist area it turned out to be a bit too expensive for us to stay long.
There was one other factor in us leaving after just a few days; the Super Bowl was scheduled for six o’clock Monday morning (not exactly prime time over here) and I couldn’t seem to get anyone to show it that early. Never mind that there are always dozens of people wandering around talking, singing and spitting at the crack of dawn. Turning the TV on sounds like far too much work. So, after sacrificing my manhood by begging unsuccessfully at various establishments, we headed back into Krabi on Sunday night. Once there, it only took me about ten minutes to find a place that would show the game. As a result, we could be found the following morning at 6:00 A.M., sitting in a bar. Just the owner in her ragged housecoat, and Laynni and I, drinking Changs and watching the goddamn Backstreet Boys sing the national anthem while the sun comes up. A little different Super Bowl party than I’m used to. The rest of the day, however, turned out eerily similar. My team lost, we drank a ton of beer, bought a big bottle of cheap whiskey to finish the job, and then I capped off the day by making a complete idiot of myself. Sound familiar, anyone? My “Poor Decision of Super Bowl Sun…..Monday” this year was going back to the bar (once I woke up from my “nap”) to drink more beer and do some e-mailing. Sounded like a good idea at the time (to me, not to Laynni). Somewhere in there we may have forgotten to ingest any food or, more importantly, water for the past eight or ten hours. Unconcerned, I staggered off to the pub and propped myself up in front of a computer. Unfortunately, the Internet was incredibly slow (which happens quite often) so eventually I gave up and stood up to leave. Next thing I know, I’m sitting in a chair at the front of the bar with some foreign guy force-feeding me water, one lady waving smelling salts under my nose and another fanning me with a menu. The back of my head and, later that night, my right ass-cheek hurt like hell. Ah, good times. Then they wouldn’t let me leave and made me tell them where Laynni was (in our room about three blocks away) so that they could go get her. After a few minutes she comes cruising up on the back of this moped to find me slumped in a chair with one girl still fanning me, and the other standing guard with her smelling salts poised and ready. It was a proud moment. Anyway, I finally ate some food (don’t ask me why I chose that moment to try the squid), drank a lot of water and, eventually, was able to get started on my first Thai hangover. Yes, Bryan, my very first Changover. The early results aren’t too positive, but I’ll keep working on it.
One semi-interesting note about the game: some other people did actually show up to watch “America’s Game” after a while – five Canadians and two Americans.
There you have it. We started off our Thai experience with a bang and now we split up for a few days. That’s going to be pretty strange. We’ve barely spent five minutes apart the last four months. I’m heading to Koh Pha Ngan while Laynni goes to Bangkok to meet her parents at the airport. After a couple days in the big city all three of them will make their way down to Koh Pha Ngan where I’ll be waiting with bells on (and probably shorts). I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, and in-between time………