IndyJunior © Bryan Boyer

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thailand - Come and Gone

What a fantastic country pretty much sums it all up. I don't know what took us so long to go to Thailand but it is a definite must do.

Our 30 day free stay was way too short to enjoy everything that Thailand has to offer. But alas, we needed to move on. For those who don't want to move on, you can just head to a border town, leave Thailand and enter again all in the same day and voila, another 30 day free stay. Padang Besar in Southern Thailand is one such city.

So what's great about Thailand?

Firstly, it is dead easy to travel through Thailand. Almost everyone at the train/bus stations speak english. And there is usually someone on the platforms asking where you are going. All they see is the backpack and they'll ask.

We went from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi by bus and it stopped somewhere in the middle and there was a guy who pretty much herded us into the next bus. No mess no fuss!

Secondly, the people are super friendly. After coming from a country which has a "to each their own" type mentality, it was so different to have people on the street ask where you are going or where you are from. Not being naieve or anything but there will be some of these people who want something else from you and we were mostly skeptical of people who asked us questions, but on one occasion, I had a Tuk Tuk driver ask me where we were going and I thought I'd see if he would try to lure us in. I told him we were looking for the train station (yes, we were lost in Bangkok somewhere) and he simply pointed the way for us without even offering to take us there. Very nice!

Thirdly, the food. Now, my Malaysian better half will say that the best food is in Malaysia, but I think it's a hard choice after eating the food in Thailand. For one, the rice is awesome. I don't know why but Thai rice went down soooooo good! Curries were great too and the hawker food can't be beat. It's a really hard choice as to which is better but keep in mind that Thai food is cheaper than Malaysian food (I never thought that possible but it is!). Maybe that'll tip the scale a bit? ;)

And lastly, let's not forget the beaches. Now, I can't say I have anything to compare with since most of my life has been spent inland, but our week and a half on Ko Phangan was amazing!

The laid back attitude, clear water, beautiful weather all combined to make a great relaxing atmosphere.

The only thing that is a bit annoying is the fact that you pay a surcharge for reading an english menu. At least 50-100% more. But at the exchange rate 1 CDN - 30 Baht, it's not too much. Just more of a principle thing for me.

Needless to say, J and I have already said we need to make another trip back here to do some serious shopping and more beach relaxing!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

31 hours later...

It's a record. We needed to go from Ko Phangan, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and it took us a cool 31 hours in total.

Our last 30 hour run from Shanghai to Hong Kong was a lot easier than this since we only had to stay in the train, but I was actually enjoying our trip down.

We had a 1 hour ride from the beach to the ferry terminal on the island on the back of a pick up truck with 2 benches running along the bed.

A 1 hour wait for the ferry.

Next was a 3 hour ferry ride back to the mainland.

From there it was a 1 hour AC'd bus ride to the train station.

Once there, we find out almost all the trains going north were seriously delayed, but no news about going south! It does turn out that our train was an hour delayed. So along with a 3 hour layover waiting for the train, there was another hour delay.

Our train was going from Surat Thani to Butterworth in Malaysia and that was a cool 10 hours. I'm happy we went for an AC'd sleeper though. I wouldn't have wanted to do the non-AC version again. But in the end, the train was delayed arriving as well so the ride was more like 12 hours.

Once in Butterworth, we needed to find a bus into KL. Pretty easy, but we went with the wrong company and this driver was slow. And I mean slow. All the other busses were passing us and in the end, a 4.5 hour trip took 6 hours, not to mention it left a bit late again.

From the bus station in KL we had to cab it into Subang Jaya. I had forgotten how aggressive the driving is here. Very nutty! At one point the cabbie took a "shortcut" which meant he was driving on the other side of the road! Nice...

In the end: 3:00 pm from Friday to 10:30 ish pm Saturday night was spent in motion.

What a rush...

Relaxing at Ko Phangan

With our 1 month free stay running out, we knew we wanted to head to one of the many islands around Thailand. After many reads through our LP guide, we decided on a small island off the east coast called Ko Phangan. We even knew which beach we wanted. One that wasn't too party like since we heard there are "Full Moon" parties which get kinda crazy (although from the ads we saw, it seems like any moon is a reason to have a party!)

Thong Nai Pan Yai is at the North East end of the island and from what we read, not as busy as some of the others.

So after an overnight train from Kanchanaburi, we got on a bus to take us to the ferry terminal where we hopped on to the ferry for a 2.5 hour boat out to the island.

Bungalows are the standard room types there. Small little wood huts built on stilts each with their own bathroom. We found a really nice one at a place named Dolphin. After settling in and walking around, we felt we got one of the best places on the beach. The owner kept as many trees as he could so it was very natural, unlike some of the other places which were just clear cut to make way for the rooms.

I've only been to one other island in my life (Tioman in Malaysia) and I must say, this place was amazing. A crescent shaped beach, soft sand, palm trees and warm waters. We couldn't ask for more.

Needless to say, the 10 days we were there went by fast and I don't think I've ever been more relaxed.

Our typical day was: sleep late, breakfast, lie in the hammock, go lie on the beach, coconut shake (YUM!), lie on the beach, swim, lie on the beach, lie in the hammock, dinner, lie in the hammock, go to bed!


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Toronto and the IMBA

Ok, since this blog is named Huck, Drops and Switchbacks, I thought I would do a quick Mountain Bike blog.

Those who haven't followed the link to Rocky Mountain bikes at the sidebar should go take a look at the sweeeeeeet Rocky All-Mountain Slayer.....droooool...

And if anyone would like to contribute to my Slayer 70 fund, please feel free! ;)

In seriousness though, the IMBA is really active in Toronto this year and it seems like they are going into a lot of the trails to fix them up. Should be really nice to ride on the new stuff they build. I keep getting e-mails on their activities so here's the latest one:


Next Week:
Monday August 28, 6pm - 8pm - Trail Assessment and Design of Pottery Rd. trail access
Meeting in the parking lot at the base of the slope, on the north side of Pottery Rd. just before Bayview Ave.
We will be designing a re-route and identifying key projects for the Sept. IMBA workshop.


Sunday Sept. 10, 10am - 1pm - Trail Work Session - Etobicoke Creek
We will be removing old stunts and making trail improvements in Etobicoke Creek.
Meeting location will follow.

Saturday and Sunday September 16 & 17 - IMBA Trail Workshop
Join us for another IMBA Advanced Trail Workshop! Help us re-route and repair the Pottery Road trail access!
Saturday morning will be in-class, the remaining will be field work. Details to follow.

Crothers' Woods Management Master Plan - Get involved and share your vision for the Don Valley Trails
The Plan will:
Make recommendations for the Don trail network and forest management
Develop construction standards for trails and built structures
Identify guiding principles for natural surface trail management to be applied in other natural environment lands in the City

Public consultations with trail users and other stakeholders will take place. To have your voice heard and be informed of meetings, please let me know.

To register for an event, or if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

I hope you are all having a great summer, and I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming workshops!


Trisha Kaplan-Freed
Lower Don Project Specialist
Natural Environment and Community Programs
City of Toronto, Parks, Forestry and Recreation
tel: (416) 338-5053
fax: (416) 338-1069

Mailing Address:
City Hall, 8th Floor, West Tower
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Office Address:
Don Valley Brick Works
550 Bayview AvenueToronto, Ontario

Other news and info can be found on the Toronto trails website and the IMBA website.

Don't forget the Help Ian to Buy the Slayer 70 Fund!!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Nice Kitty...

There is an animal sanctuary here in Kanchanaburi which was originally started by a Monk to take care of an orphaned Tiger Cub. It would soon develop into a huge area with many more cubs plus a whole range of other animals which were in need.

Every afternoon, when the Tigers are out for their "excercise", people can come in to the excercise area and have their pictures taken with these felines.

When we saw we could do this, we jumped at the chance. When else were we going be get up close to real Tigers! And since I was born in the Year of the Tiger, how cool would that be to get a picture with them.

We arrived in the afternoon and followed a path leading into a large canyon. When we rounded a corner, you can see in the distance about 10 Tigers roaming around, along with people watching them and playing with them.

Now, not to give any false impressions, these cats were chained up to stakes in the ground so I guess if they did decide to charge, you'd get a head start before the beast pulls the chains out of the ground! :)

The area is quite set up for ushering people through a series of about 5 locations with good photo ops set up. A few Tigers would be lying on the ground, and some perched on top of a rock a meter in the air.

A quick spew about what was to happen came from one of the handlers.

"Leave your bags outside the area, there's less for them to grab onto, just in case"; great I thought

"We will have a handler escort you around, do NOT leave his/her side"; uh huh

"Give your camera to another handler for pictures"; ok.

Well, needless to say, Jenni went first! ;)

I watched from the side as she was led by hand to the first Tiger, some pictures taken, then to the second one, which seemed to be a bit pissed and just wouldn't sit still so they bypassed him. On to a few other ones and she was done being led out of the area.

Well, I was up next. Handing my camera over to one of the ladies another guy grabs my hand and leads me over to the first Tiger. Nice kitty I'm thinking as I size up the length of chain holding him to figure out how far I'll need to jump back if for whatever reason he turns and goes for me.

"Kneal down here and put your hand here".

As I reach down to rest my hand on the back hindquarters of the cat, the muscle twitches as my hand lands there. Phew...

Cool, I'm petting a Tiger.

A couple pics and we're off to the second grumpy one and again, he's not happy so we move on to the 3rd and 4th ones.
Most of them were too busy knawing at a bone or just sleeping so it was actually pretty safe to go through the motions. Not sure if there have ever been any injuries but I would think not.

Still, it was so amazing to be standing so close to one of these animals. There skin was so warm to the touch. Just one indication of the amount of power laying underneath there I guess.

Afterwards, the Tigers were to be lead back up into their cages and everyone, if they wanted, could have a picture taken with one of the Tigers as he headed back up. I was a bit more worried since the Tiger could easily knock down the handler holding their chains but what the heck. I gave my camera to someone, walked up behind the kitty and gave him one last pet. Jenni did the same but I guess he was a bit grumpy and they moved a bit faster and unfortunately, the shot was more of her chasing the cat instead of walking behind it.

All in all...very cool and well worth the 300 Baht each donation to help support the sanctuary.

Our Day Tour of Kanchanaburi

Yes, for some reason we decided to go on another package tour of the area around Kanchanaburi. I guess we were getting lazy again. Or maybe a bit cheap since the two things we wanted to do, if we did them separately, would have cost more than this day trip everyone advertised. I guess we figured that we get to do both Erawan National Park and riding the elephants as well as a couple other things we thought would be a bonus.

First stop was Erawan National Park, which is home to a 7 tiered waterfall. Sounds nice? IT WAS!

Picture all the movies which are in a lush tropical setting. You see a shot of a nice 20 foot waterfall into a pool of bluish green water.

You see two people swimming in the water, standing around and under the waterfall itself. Relaxing, laughing all that good stuff.

Kinda cheesy if you ask me...but this place was just like that. Tiers 2-5 were big enough to swim in and we took a walk to see which one we wanted to go into and it turns out #3 was the best! A nice high waterfall into a large pool. A small rock island beside the waterfall, and a rock slab the water falls onto. Nice.

We were lucky to be here in the rainy season and the falls were nice and wide. Check out Jenni's blog for the pictures.

Before we headed up, we were warned that there are fish in the ponds and not to worry if some of them come up and bite you. They weren't pirrahna's we were told. Great...

It is such a funny feeling to have these little guys nibling on your feet and legs and arms...really weird. I kept thinking I'll start to feel pain but it wasn't too bad. It was just so weird that everytime it happened we both started flinching and scared them all away.

Well, it was a great time there. It started to pour rain just as we were finishing up. Definitely could have used a couple more hours there, but we were on a tour so off we went.

Next stop, elephant riding and a bamboo raft down the river.

We get to the elephant camp I guess, and we're told we'll do the raft first. No problem. They hustle us down to the river side and we see these "rafts" coming to dock and the first thing I notice is the pontoons supporting the bamboo! WTF is all I have to say. On top of that, they have a boat to tug you upriver about 500 m then let you go. WTF again? Why bother.

Anyways, back on shore, we head off to do our ride. The elephants are big, but not as big as I would have thought. Either way though, it was a long way to the ground if we fell off and there's no seat belts or anything. But strangely enough, I felt safer doing this than our camel ride in China.

The ride was ok I guess. We went in a big circle around this park. I don't think I would have called it a "trek" though. But it was fun. Their kinda cute animals. And the guide let Jenni get on in front for half the trip.'s Jenni trying to hold on, our guide has one thumb and forefinger holding her shirt (Yeah buddy, like you'll stop her fall like that!), and me sitting back in my seat taking all these pics.

All in all...not bad, but again, a little more would have been nice.

Next stop is this cave which has a Buddha in it.

Yup, that's all it was. Next.

Our train ride on the death railway. This line was built with a lot of POW's and local people in WWII and a lot of them died making it. It's got a lot of history and I thought we'd be getting on a special train which would give us a bit of info on the line and such but as the train arrived, it's a regular local train. Except that it was jammed packed with tourists and we ended up having to stand in the little space between the cars where there are no windows. Nice.

Well, that was pretty much it. On our ride back, we both felt a bit ripped off but I guess that what these tours are like. See a bit of everything.

Hopefully we'll remember this experience before we go with these day trips again.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pimp MY Ride!

West Coast Customs has got NOTHING over whoever does up these buses here in Thailand. We started to see some cool hippie style buses in Lopburi. Big chrome tailpipes and some psychedelic paint schemes, but nothing and I mean nothing can compare to this awesome bus we saw here in Ayutthaya! It was amazing. We were walking down the bus station road, and there's all these buses lined up and ALL of them are done up in some way or another.

Just as I was going to take a picture of one of them, this thing rounds the corner and stops right in front of us. Of course I had to get a picture.

I am speechless. This thing is just awesome!


Now, this by no way makes my failure at the WWII Ammo Dump geocache any better. I'm still feeling the hurt from the comments... :(

But we did go out and look for another one today and yes, I am happy to report that we did find it.

We are in Ayutthaya, Thailand and this island city is well known for its old ruins which date back to the 14th century, and unlike most of the historical heritages, we are able to get up close and personal with them.

We had rented bikes for the day and saw a few other ruins before heading out to look for this cache. It was really close, only about 30 mins ride away and once in the general vicinity, it took us about 10 mins to find. Hidden under some bricks in the corner of one of the ruins. Very cool.

We stole a Travel Bug, which looks like it came from Utah, and it's goal is to have its picture taken with as many dogs as possible. Go figure huh? Anyways, there's tons of wild dogs here in Thailand but I don't think I'll be trying to get any pictures of them. We'll see if I can find any to take otherwise, I'm dropping this guy off at the next stop.

We left one of the Twoonies we brought with us. But since it was an American who started the cache, I think he may be a bit disappointed with what we left. :) It's like us getting the American quarter in Qingdao.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The monkeys have taken over!!!

Our next stop was to head north more into central Thailand to a small town named Lopburi.

It is one of the oldest towns in Thailand and it's very well known for it's monkeys. They are supposed to be everywhere, running on roofs, stealing food, smearing poo on windshields, etc...

How cool is that. So we hopped onto a train from Bangkok and arrived in Lopburi 3 hours later.

We were initially disappointed to see only a couple monkeys on the power lines but thought, tomorrow will be better.

Well...tomorrow came and we set out to see some cool ruins around town but upset to see no monkeys. Jenni ended up making a comment about not seeing any and about 5 seconds after she said it, I see a whole gang of them running up the street. I pointed them out to Jenni and we started to do all the picture taking we could get.

After a few shots, we ended up walking over to and old temple which must be their stomping grounds because they were everywhere. It's amazing how close you could get to them. Of course, we had a bit of hesitation. Are they going to attack us? We weren't sure how close we could get. But we still took as many pics as possible.

At one point, I was just standing around when I feel something grab on to my pant leg. Oh SH#T, I'm being attacked...I was preparing to feel sharp claws or teeth sink in to me somewhere but I guess they have hands pretty much like ours and their nails weren't sharp at all. I wonder who clips their nails???? At the same time, I think another monkey hopped on as well but I wasn't too sure since I was still kinda freaked out as to what they were going to do to me.

The little bugger started to climb all over my day pack and I'm wondering what he's doing when all of a sudden I hear big splashes of liquid hitting the ground.

"Great, he's peeing on me now!" I thought! But I am glad I was wrong. The guy hopped off me with our water bottle in hand (upside down mind you with all the liquid splashing onto the grass) and ran off.

Somehow the second guy got off (I think a local helped me get him off) and he ran off. Whew...what an experience. But it wasn't over....

We're inside still taking pics of the little babies, some squabbles between the group etc, when another cute little guy comes up and hops right on. He climbs up and start noseying around, pulling on this and that, trying to bite my watch and clean my ears out apparently. Very cute and friendly, until it came time to get him off. He didn't like Jenni trying to shoo him away and would hiss from his perch on top of my head everytime she tried. So I ended up taking off the day pack which he went for (thank god he couldn't lift it otherwise it would have been gone) then I flailed my arm and went a bit aggressive, which got me a hiss and I lost the friend I just made.

It's better that way anyways. He was a wee bit TOO friendly.

I managed to get a video of the fiasco, but arm shot videos are a bit hard to take. It is kinda amusing though.

As a final note, to show maybe I shouldn't have let them get on me in the first place, we saw a lady in a tour group who had gotten bitten by a monkey. You could see the teeth marks, but no blood. Not sure what happened to provoke it but I guess, in the end, these were still wild animals and we need to realize that they could be territorial and you never know what would set them off.

I hope she's ok. Me; I went home and showered...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What's in a Mall?

After a hot morning of wandering around the largest "Open air" market in the world here in Bangkok, we thought we'd cool off by walking through some nice air conditioned mall.

Hopping onto the skytrain, we headed into the center of town and randomly chose the Siam Center mall to hang out in. Who knew it would be such a good choice. Looking at the directory, they had an auto area and to my surprise, it was a pretty sweet auto area.

BMW, Maserati, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Ferrari...yeah, not bad I guess.

Of course we headed up there and was happy to see the cars were right out in the open and you could get up close to them all (except the Ferrari which was roped off...BOOOOO!).

Now this is what I call an Auto Mall!!!