July 29, 2005

Mount Kinabalu From a Distance

Well, there was more rubbish than wildlife to see at the bird sanctuary, but there was an amazing view of Mt. Kinabalu! In the distance was a line of mountains and a cluster of white clouds above, which I thought included a darker cloud. The rented binoculars finally came in useful at that point when I realized it was the mountain peaking out and up from behind. It's the highest mountain in South East Asia standing at over 4,000 metres tall. It's shape doesn't ascend to a single peak like a regular mountain shape. It has several angled granite slabs cutting into the air. Almost every traveller who comes here is going to hike the 2 day climb. I hear it's much harder than the volcano I climbed in Nicaragua which I found difficult. I've decided to decline this once in a lifetime opportunity and admire it's beauty from below. Tomorrow I'll go, take a few pictures, maybe paint one too and think about what the exercise could have been like while skipping that part and going straight to the hot springs! Actually I would really like to do it but I had decompression sickness from diving and the effects are still lingering. If anyone was to get altitude sickness it would probably be me! I would also love to be diving as well as I am passing through the best diving sites in the world. However my body seems to prefer air pressure at ground level :) P

July 28, 2005

Kota Kinabalu

Lately there has not been too much to say because I've been in transport on many buses, taxis and a plane the last few days. Now I'm in Borneo! The amazing view from the short flight over looked like a painted map. The small islands were solid green with a sand coloured border outlining each shape. I'm in the capital, but still tiny city of Kota Kinabalu. I've already seen all the markets (lots of dried sea cucumbers that I have seen snorkling), museum (beautiful costumes of Sabah's tribes), art gallery (a bit uninspiring) and the clock tower. It is so refreshing to be back in Malaysia, the people are so friendly, they talk to me for no reason. I was crossing the street and a young guy passed and said "Have a good day mame". The waiter at the restaurant offered to show me around the handicraft market during his break between 2 shifts. A couple of the girls on a school trip at the museum saw me sketching a costume and said "HI!" When I replied with my hi, the rest of the class individually said hi to me and I ended up repeating the word as many times as there were children in the group. They were so excited and ended up doing the same thing when I approached the stairs to go down and was followed with a chorus of bye, bye, bye!!! That really made my day actually!

And more wildlife to report. I was a bit annoyed to be stuck on a top bunk, but was completely grateful this morning when I woke up to the entire bed trembling. I asked the girl down below if she was ok, and she said that a mouse just ran across her. On closer inspection there was a huge rat running amongst our stuff on the floor! He ran away once the door was opened, but hopefully will not return. Oh, and I still feel a mild guilt for the cleaner who will discover those 2 cockroaches under the pail in Koh Phangnan! P

July 26, 2005


Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

In Toronto, there will be 500 paintings by 500 different artists... check it out! P

July 21, 2005

It's war!

Last night I came home to discover a new cockroach, much bigger than the other, scurrying around the bathroom. There is a step down onto the tiles which made it run in circles unable to escape. There is a bucket of water with a smaller pail inside which is used to pour water down to flush the toilet. I grabbed the small pail and dropped it upside down to trap the thing inside. I heard it bump into the plastic a few times before it stopped, realizing there was no way out. Then another one came! It looked like the culprit that bit me the other day and he seemed to be in search of his friend. Tracing the familiar smell, he located the bucket and circled it. His slow pace gave me the opportunity to trap him inside too!!! So who knows if they're mating and making more, or fighting each other, dying of starvation, or just sleeping. I'd like to get the pail back to make flushing a bit easier but I think it's more important to teach those guys a lesson! AH HA!!! No more messing with me, I win, you lose, I'm in control, don't fight back or you will DIE!!! I have a plan that is "thoroughly thought through" (The Star's Tennis Balls, Stephen Fry). Ah ha ha haaaa... I think I'm losing it, the sun is getting to me or that book really messed with my mind. P

July 20, 2005

Beach Bums

I have decided that I cannot leave Koh Phangnan without experiencing the full moon party. So I will be living the beach life amoungst immature, drunk, drugged, early twenty-somethings for a week. Although there are a few who have surprised me by straying from the usual groups of girls who all wear the same frilly mini skirt or sarong wrapped exactly the same way. Or the boys who lie on their towels pretending to read, but really getting a long glimpse of the topless sunbathers. It's all so much funnier when you have someone to laugh about it with. Thank God for Angela who caught me wandering aimlessly and asked me to join her for drinks at her empty table. I've never agreed to anything so fast in my life! Finally another single traveller! I'm convinced all the girls make a pact with eachother to never be seen alone or to talk to girls outside their group. Angela and I like to believe it's because they don't want our competition. Haha, got to make yourself feel better somehow in difficult times! We took the Magic Reggae Boat Tour yesterday and found out Reggae wasn't referring to fun music on the boat, but some freshly rolled smokes passed around. I've heard there are tonnes of undercover cops looking to make arrests the night of the party, so I'm not risking anything.

I had planned to tell people I'm 24 if they happened to ask. Just so I can blend in a little more and avoid the "Oh my God, you're so old!" expressions. But the ones who know me a bit better have already seen my slightly older mannerisms. They even guess more than 18 to 22. More like 26 now! Is it possible I'm looking more my age? Oh no! P

July 18, 2005

More Ugly Creatures and a Thought

I had the nastiest wake-up call this morning at about 3am. There was a tiny pinch on my right side and I immediatetly searched in complete darkness for the light switch behind the mosquito net. Beside me twitched a brown cockroach, ew, yuk, ah! I yelped (been doing that a lot lately with all these crazy bugs and animals) and stood up and scared him away behind the bed. There was no use in getting him outside because the little bungalow huts always have gapping holes everywhere to the outside. Out came the electrical tape and I patched every little hole I could find. I was so freaked out from ugly sudden awakening that I tucked the net under the mattress just to be sure nothing could crawl inside. Drapping the net over the bed just isn't good enough anymore! I kept the light on for the rest of the night.

I have written a lot about my problems, scary events and negative situations on this trip. The only reason being, these are the most interesting things to tell! In retrospect it is usually funny (except cockroaches which are never amusing), or a learning experience. On the other hand, I wonder if I do not write enough about the amazing people I meet, the genuine acts of kindness or the beautiful landscapes in every city? I have found that traveling is not like a vacation. It's just like living at home except I'm in many places, where I cannot escape the personal ups and downs, goods and bads, satisfying and frustrating situations. I just do not want to give any of you the wrong impression of the countries I visit. This is only one opinion. I only hope to entertain you with my story of stories. P

July 16, 2005

Koh Phangan

Oppositely from Koh Tao, I placed myself in the middle of the most touristy places in Thailand. A beach town that has become famous from it's full moon parties that started as a birthday bash back in the 80's. I went to the beach where all the people lay and all the people kept to themselves. I am among many people but still have nobody to talk to :( Oh, except for the Thai guys handing out flyers for FREE LADIES NIGHT and a ROCKIN BOAT RIDE. I swam in the water and felt prickly all over. Heard there are some little bugs that swim in schools and bite you, I wonder if that was them calling on me? Then I started reading my new book which is really exciting! I drew some boats but got bored of that because I did that yesterday. My feet got figity and started playing around in the sand. The mound grew into a turtle and he turned out pretty cute. I hoped this was my chance for some charming young man to come over and distract me from my sand sculpture. No, but there were many women trying to sell grilled corn and a boy who passed by several times saying 'mango, watermelon, pineapple'. I think he started getting bored because later in the day he was making the perfect imitation of a motorcycle motor! P

July 15, 2005

Tsunami Photos

Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

New photos to see! Here is an example of the destruction of the tsunami. Also some sketches...

July 14, 2005

The Lizards and I

I am jealous that the guesthouse next door is full. I'm in this strange situation where the owner, Pu, has decided to go to her hometown for a day and 2 nights. She made an appointment with the bank in Saran Thani. She even invited me to go with, to a temple and hot springs, but I will end up there eventually, and didn't want a repeat of the KL incident (I'm doubtful of that though). She said her lady-boy friend would come in the morning before my taxi arrived to take care of the place while she is gone. He never came. Either did my taxi. The free service is offered with the accommodation since it is so far out of the way of everything. But only until 5pm, which I discovered my first evening when I ended up having to pay 400 baht to get back. So I called her and she arranged for a new pick up, but it meant a 3 hour delay in my plans. Plus the water isn't working for the 2nd night in a row. I just had to wash off 2 days worth of sea salt, sun block and bug spray, so made the trek and used the neighbours shower.

So my only company are the lizards. I like them, they are cute. Pale little bodies stuck flat against the white walls. Four fingers on each leg, spread wide apart. Stone still figures in an elegant curl. This one behind the computer is fixed upon the small moth that buzzes past. The tail lifts up and stiffens like a cat about to pounce. The head is alert and quickly jerks back and forth. He got it! In the mouth, chew, chew, chew, savour, swallow. He's on the hunt for more, still hungry. The largest one I've seen so far is on the beam behind me, maybe more than a foot long with the tail. I was talking to him and asked if he could make a sound. He just stared back. I stared too. Then explained, "I am the only one here, there is nobody for me to talk to except you. Please make an indication that you understand." He walked a few inches away from me. "How do you sound?" Stare, walk, stare. "You're boring". I heard a small one, it's between a chirp and the sound your tongue makes against the inside of your front teeth. Are you doing it?! P

July 12, 2005

Koh Tao

I am the only guest at my guesthouse. I have my own cute hut on a cliff looking into the rocky bay below and there are steps leading up to it made of green, upside down beer bottles. I've already spotted a spider and am not looking forward to a night alone in there. It's a little bit at the edge of nowhere, it took me an hour to walk into town. Pu is the cook, cleaner and all the associated jobs with running the place. Sometimes it is so busy and then today there is just me. She liked my portrait of Conor and asked if I could teach her to draw. I'm going to try! Not really sure where to start but will see how it goes tonight. P

July 11, 2005

Visa Run in Ranong

A few bus trips lately, so not too much to report except for my exciting visa run. Decided to stay longer in Thailand. I've been avoiding the motorcycle taxis but ended up on my first ride when arriving in Ranong. The driver sensed my fear and gave me his helmet. Backpacks and everything, we were off. He drove safely so I'm ok with motorcycles now and even let him wear his own helmet again. From the police station to the pier, took a longtail boat to Thai immigration and further across the bay for about half an hour. I stepped onto Burma! Immediately I was greeted by a few smiling guys in long sarongs, including Ali, brother of the boat driver, who led me to get my passport stamped. Then said I am to be in Burma for 20 minutes. Naively, I follow them around the block while they try to get me to buy whiskey, cigarettes and viagra (the necessities!). I buy some water and go back to the pier to see my boat driver yelling at Ali. Thai immigration closes in 30 minutes! And then they tally my bill to 100 Baht for my 5 minute tour of convenience stores. I imagine myself sleeping on the dock by the small, stilted office for the night. We make it back to Thailand and my book was stamped at exactly 6pm.

My night ended with an echoing scream in the bathroom as I unraveled some toilet paper and a thick, black spider the size of my hand, crawled out of the holder. AHHHHH-HHHH-HHH-HH-H...!! P

July 09, 2005

Khao Sok

I don't really mind the little lizards crawling on the walls of my room, or the occasional frog resting on the mosquito net. Even the moths are quite elegant and the ugly grasshoppers amusing. But today, a long, black snake about a metre long squiggled past my path. It appeared so suddenly and moved so quickly the only reaction was to run away backwards. But that is the path to my hut, which I must use several more times.

Yesterday, exploring Khao Sok National Park, we discovered the place infested with leeches. I thought they only existed in water! But these ones crawl somewhere among the damp leaves covering the dirt path. Like an inchworm, they grabbed onto my shoe (while I was walking) and moved up towards my ankle. The first little bugger was noticed when I felt large ants biting me. The next 2 didn't get a chance because I was watching my feet more than the jungle surrounding me.

But these are the things I see, how much is out there that has not caught my eye's attention? I have fished out tiny ants in my soup and dirt in my jam and avoided the honey jar with a layer of ants inside. What am I really eating? How true are the "CleanFood Good Meals" signs? How many puddles I step in are infested with waterborn parasites? How many mosquitos that don't mind my repelant and bite me have malaria? What lives in the river I went tubing in? Is the fish okay that came from the sea where so many lives were taken? What caused me to be ill in all ways a couple days ago? I will never know! P

July 06, 2005

Khao Lak

A couple hours north of Phuket are a string of beaches called Khao Lak. There is one road that runs through it with the beach off to the west. The land is very flat which made it the most effected place in Thailand by the tsunami. The wave washed in 1 or 2 km from the shore. Like PP, all the Thai's and a lot of volunteers are rebuilding and doing various projects. Unlike PP, there is no tourism at all. In a place that used to be as busy as the islands on the East side of the country, there are no boat trips, no diving, no vendors on each little side road and not one person on the beach. I thought my shock was wearing off, but it just happened all over again.

Through John, the person I met on my first day in PP, I had the pleasant opportunity to meet Chatchada. She is an art teacher running a camp that allows orphans to paint their thoughts of the tragedy onto canvas. Tomorrow I hope to meet more children, but today I worked with the women making purses they will sell for funds. There were square foot paintings hung all around us, each representing a different version of one event. Some of these will be made into other products. I tried a couple myself, and ended up with the most dramatic abstract painting I've ever made... actually haven't done many abstracts before :) I later noticed I had been in a trance, swashing large strokes up and down. Blue for all the water, green for the trees and everything in it's path, red for the lives it took and black for the grief that continues. With a white top and a sandy bottom, I created a huge wall of a wave which looked as powerful and mean as what I imagined it to look if I had been there on the beach that day, watching it come towards and down on me. P