Pinky goes to South-East Asia

Click to enlarge.When we went to Asia in 1999-2000 we arranged to met Pete and Barbara in Krabi town in the South of Thailand. (He's a fellow Canadian from Edmonton whom we had met on Siboya in 1998) The day we arrived was the same day they were leaving to return home... he had been carrying a Teddy Bear named... you guessed it... "Pinky" This was a school project for a little girl back in Canada. She was 8 years old and her name in Kelsey. We had set-up this liaison via e-mail and had agreed to take over the baby-sitting job during our trip. Part of this required that we would be scribe for "Pinky's Diary" written in the first person.

So here goes...

Click here to download a printable PDF

November 26, 1999 - Edmonton

Dear Kelsey,

Hi, how are you? I was so excited on the date of our departure. The flight was an early one... it was to leave at 7:20AM... boy we were at the airport early! Our first stop was Seattle Washington, then we changed planes and went to San Francisco, CA. These two stops were short ones, and then we boarded a really big jet for our trip to Seoul, Korea. It took almost 13 hours for us to get there, and our flight path was up past Alaska, then Russia! On the way we crossed the international dateline, and in doing so, we went ahead in time (1 whole day, 24 hours).

Seoul Korea was a very interesting place! After leaving the airport, we took a bus to our hotel. It's a good thing that Pete and Barbara knew to change our money into Korea money! (I totally forgot) it's not called dollars here, it's WON. And, if something costs 75,000 won - that's about 75 Canadian dollars. After unpacking, the three of us set out to explore the streets of Seoul. There are so many people here and lots of cars and mopeds.

The signs of most buildings are very brightly coloured and cartoon like. It's the same temperature here as in Canada (around 1C). Because hardly anyone speaks English, (and we don't speak Korean) we look for restaurant with pictures of the food so we can point!

We stopped at this one tiny place, and while looking, the owner began waving for us to come in. He sat us all at a table just in front of his flat top stove and gives us some Kim Chi (spicy pickled cabbage) and pickled green onions to start with. Yum! He and the other patrons found it funny that we could eat Kim Chi - they thought it would be too spicy for us! I had a little trouble with the job sticks too, but soon was able to eat by myself. We then had soup with lots of vegetables and noodles. Boy was it good. Peter and Barbara said it's so much better to get away from touristy restaurants and explore (safely) a place you are in... that way you can get a real feel for the city and the culture you're visiting. Also, by smiling and saying thank you a lot, people will be friendlier even if no one speaks your language! We finally decided to leave (we're all stuffed -the owner gave us the onions and Kim Chi) and the bill was only 4,000 won ($4), wow! It's bedtime now. Good night!

November 28, 1999 - Seoul

Good morning! (You see how the date has changed?) We arrived in Seoul at 5:00PM their time, then spent the night at our hotel. So now it's the 28th! (Kind of confusing, eh?)

Went to the airport for the 6-hour flight into Bangkok. To get there, we flew along the coasts of Vietnam and Cambodia - two places that are similar to Thailand in the respect that they are all very tropical and hot!

Bangkok Thailand has a huge modern airport! It has two terminals - 1 for domestic flights in the other for international flights. It's also very hot here! Above 30 C with 100% humidity (I can feel my fur sticking to me already). Bangkok is a very big city too. It has about 10 million people living there, and a very impressive downtown area with tall office towers.

Did you know that Peter and Barbara speak some Thai? Peter learned some when he was here last year (he spent 2 ½ months travelling around). After teaching me the basic "hello" and "thank you" we again have to change our money into Thai money. They use the BAHT (pronounced the same as "bought") and for every Canadian dollar we get 26 baht. (Things are going to be very cheap for us here!)

Peter and Barbara get us a taxi, and we head off to place where we'll be staying, a bungalow called "Shanty Lodge", which is about 1/2 hour away. They drive on the left side of the road here; did you know that? They also drive very, very fast!

We arrived at Shanty Lodge, and everyone remembers Peter from the last time he was here! It's very nice, and a room with a fan costs us $7.50 per night. We also met 2 of Peter's friends whom he met last year, and are finally going home to England tomorrow. They have spent all their travelling around Asia - visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Malaysia. Wow!

Before I forget, here are some words that Peter and Barbara taught me - they are all spelled phonetically... as you would say them...

It's also very important to show respect, and so would always put her hands together and bow a little when saying hello or thank you, especially to an older person.

Here's a short version of the number system...

1 = neung 9 = gow 40 = see sip
2 = song 10 = sip 50 = ha sip
3 = sam 11 = sip et 75 = jet sip ha
4 = see 12 = sip song 100 = loi
5 = ha 20 = yee sip 200 = song loi
9 = hok 21 = yee sip et 500 = ha loi
7 = jet 22 = yee sip song 741 = jet loi see sip et
8 = bpat 30 = sam sip 268 = song loi hok sip bpat

The Thai people often speak quickly, but with a smile and bow (along with your greeting) they respect that you are trying to speak Thai, and usually laugh and smile with you. They also love to barter for everything; the only time this usually doesn't apply is in a formal department store. You usually start by offering half the asking price, then the bidding begins, with an agreement some where in the middle. It's also important not to ask price (or barter) for something you have no intention of buying!

November 29, 1999 - Bangkok

Boy is Bangkok hot, plus there is a lot of smog! Today is a sunny day though and we decide to visits some Wats. (A Wat is a Buddhist temple) Most people in Thailand are Buddhists, but there are also Christians and Muslims too. The Wats are so beautiful and elaborately decorated, and some are many hundreds of years old. We visited one place where they keep the reclining Buddha, he is 15 meters high and 45 meters long and is made of brick; but he is covered with gold leaf. He's huge! What is also amazing is that he had to be moved during a war, (along time ago) by hand! (like they didn't have cranes or anything) Lots of monks live at the Wats, they wear long robes, usually orange in colour and live a very simple life.

Peter and Barbara tell me that tomorrow we're going to take a train up to a city called Changmai. I've never been on a train before; I wonder what it will be like? Back at Shanty Lodge we have supper, the Thai people like their food "pet" (spicy), but if you ask them to put less chilies in the food they will. They eat a lot of vegetables and soups but the staple in their diets is rice. What's also plentiful is curry. There are several types (green, red and yellow) and it tastes different from Indian curry. I'm sure eating lots!

November 30, 1999 - Bangkok

Wow, the train isn't what I expected. We left that about 5PM, quickly put our stuff away and sat down. We're traveling second-class to Changmai, which means our seats fold into bunk beds when we want to sleep, which will be soon as we had a big supper. The trip will take about 12 hours, it's around 900 km north. The scenery outside Bangkok is beautiful; lots of coconut, banana and papaya trees everywhere. The mountains aren't as high as some in Alberta, but they're all covered with jungle and you can't see any rocks.

Changmai is a beautiful city, lots of green covered mountains in the background. Because we're more north of Bangkok, it's not as hot here; only 20-25C. Peter and Barbara say that Changmai was built in 1200 AD, a long time ago. It has a moat around it used to defend against invaders from Burma and China. In some places the brick wall still stands; it was used for defence! Changmai also has the most Wats per capita in Thailand, and there's a lot.

From our bungalow, we arranged to go on a trek to visit some hill tribes north of us, about 40 Km from the Burmese border! It includes elephant riding and will be 3 days and 2 nights long. Should be exciting, I'll tell you all but when we get back. Bye!

December 5, 1999 - Changmai

Well, we made it back OK. Was it ever fun and challenging! We met up with the other people who were coming with us, a total of 11, most were British, but there was a couple from Japan and from Holland. Everyone spoke English except the Japanese, but we soon were able to exchange names and everyone enjoyed each other's company. We drove north from Changmai for 2 hours, then started hiking into the jungle. So beautiful! After 3 hours, we reached the first hill tribe where we spent the night. These people are called the Akha.

They farm rice and vegetables here, and have been living in the area for the past 60 years. They are very simple people, but are happy living here away from others. The women here wear very elaborate silver headdress and smile a lot. We had our supper in what they call a great hut. It's very big and lit only by candles. We sat on the floor and ate lots of rice and several other dishes, mainly curry dishes with meat and/or vegetables. Afterwards we sat around and talked about other adventures we each have had. This is the best part of travelling, meeting new friends!

At bedtime, we all go to another big hut and sleep. They provided us with blankets because it's quite cold and we slept on a wicker floor (very hard), and makes for a very interesting experience. (Peter says he'll never complain about his bed again!)

Day 2 has us marching in the jungle again, this time to hill tribe called the Palang, who live in Thailand but are actually Burmese! They are farmers as well, and live like the Akha do. After supper, the Village Chief calls for all the ladies to dance for us. What a surprise! They are elaborately dressed with vests and coats, big wide silver belts, ribbons and dresses. They even grab all of us to dance with them. Wow, I never expected that!

Our final day had a shorter hike, because we soon came upon the elephant camp. I, until now have never ridden an elephant! They're big, but very gentle creatures and the Thais have trained them to carry logs from the jungle. They no longer do that, so the elephant's take people for rides. Each elephant has a driver (mahout} who actually sits on top of his head while we sit on his back. Our elephant took orders from the driver in Thai! He would say "faster or slower" or "right or left" in Thai, and the elephant would do it! You can't tell an elephant when to eat though, it just does. Ours ate a 5-foot piece of bamboo!

The rafting part of our trek was peaceful and relaxing. We had bamboo one, and didn't get too wet. At the end, the truck was there to pick us up and drive us all the way back to Changmai. What a great adventure!

Did you know that today, (Dec. 5) is the King of Thailand's birthday? The Thai people absolutely love their King; he's a very educated man who does much for his people. It's actually considered a great insult to make fun of him in anyway. (So we didn't) he's 72. Happy birthday!

December 11, 1999 - Changmai

Another plane ride today! We woke up real early again today and caught a tuk-tuk to the airport. A tuk-tuk is like three-wheeled motorcycle with a driver in front of the passenger sitting in the back on a bench like seat. It's covered and there's not very much room for big people. They're usually decorated with lots of brightly coloured lights. It looks like a rolling Christmas tree and makes a lot of noise too!

We flew back to Bangkok, and caught another plane to Surat Thani, which is way south, and then we got a bus, which took us to the city called Krabi. Lots of travelling, but it's very easy to get to places here. Peter and Barbara say their plane tickets cost a $150 and the bus ride was only $8. That's pretty good considering we just travelled about 1700km! A long trip, but it's good to get all the way to Krabi in one day.

December 12, 1999 - Krabi

We spent the night in another guest house and the next afternoon we got in the long tail boat that took us to our final destination, a small island that not too many people know about, called Ko Siboya. A long tail boat is what most Thais use to get around in on the water. I'll send a picture of one so you can see. They're very sturdy in the water and don't tip easily. They're used to fish from and as taxis.

When we got to Ko Siboya, there were a lot of people there to greet us and they all remember Peter from his stay last year. Everyone is very friendly and help us with our bags, then we are shown the to our hut where we'll be staying. I'll send you a picture of me sitting in a hammock! It's very comfortable.

December 20, 1999 - Siboya

Today's going to be an exciting day! We're going snorkelling! We all get our masks and snorkels and get in a long tail boat. It takes about 2 hours to get to the first place called Ko Phi-Phi Lei. It's very beautiful here, the ocean is a turquoise green colour and the cliffs rise straight up over a hundred feet from the ocean. They're made of limestone but mostly covered in jungle!

I put on my mask and snorkel and jumped from the boat. The water is so warm! (would you believe 30C) Almost like a swimming pool, except it's really really salty! (Yuk) It's so clear too. Underneath the water I saw every type of fish imaginable, like watching a nature show on TV. Lots of different coloured coral too. Peter and Barbara say you shouldn't touch coral because when you do it removes a protective layer, and it can die. They also told me about other things not to touch that might hurt me! Stuff like sea anemones and sea urchins. Small fish actually hide around the anemones, they can sting but the fish are immune. Guess what we saw while we were on the boat? A sea snake!! It was about 2 feet long and covered with silver and black bands. Peter says it's called a sea Krait, they're very poisonous, but not aggressive to people unless you bug them too much. Their poison is extremely potent so it will kill quickly before it's prey can swim faraway. It also breathes air, so it comes to the surface in every 10-15 minutes, then goes back down to hunt. What an awesome day on the boat!

December 29, 1999 - Siboya

Today was a big day. Barb and Peter are going back to Canada tomorrow. We are leaving all our new friends at Ko Siboya... at least Barb and Peter are. Me, I'm meeting some new people, Bob and Joann. (Peter met them on Ko Siboya last year) They are arriving in Krabi today and are going to Ko Siboya to stay in their own house. Bob and Joann live in Victoria, British Columbia most of the time, but come to Thailand in the winters. We all met at a street restaurant in Krabi. Bob is very big, I think he's more than 6 feet tall and has a shaved head and 2 earrings. Joann has short red hair and blue glasses. I also met three of their friends, Glenn from New York, Wuane from Massachusetts and Tiki from Australia.

The big news is that, at the beginning of February, Bob and Joann and Glenn are going to Penang in Malaysia to and then Madras in southern India, and, they said it's okay if I come with them... till then we're going back to Ko Siboya to relax some more! Is that going to be hard to take, or what?

January 1, 2000 - Siboya

THE party of the century was last night... FANTASTIC, UNBELIEVABLE and WOW! At around 3:00PM we all met at DD's (his real name is Didier but the Thais call him DD) garden for tea and biscuits. All the children played croquet and fished for toys in a tin tub. A local carpenter (Mr. Son) made a portable bar from bamboo, so lots of the adults were crowded around having tequilas. DD and his family are from the south of France and come to Ko Siboya every winter the same as Bob and Joann. At about 6:30PM the sun set and we went to the restaurant. Mr. Chung and his friendly staff had spent all-day preparing a huge buffet. There was fried fish with more garlic than I've ever seen at one time, barbecued chicken with the spice called turmeric, (It grows fresh here) many Thai Curries (I'm starting to really enjoy the spicy food, good practice for India) and to finish with some very strange fruit called Rambutan. They're the same size is a kiwi fruit but they have many long hairs. They looked like they're covered with Velcro hooks. Inside the skin is a fruit very soft and fleshy, Bob says it's a lot like a Lichee that are available in Canada at some Chinese grocers. At about 9:00PM everyone slowly moved to big grassy area next to the restaurant, it's in the middle of an old Coconut Plantation. It was so exciting! The area had many coloured lights and some black lights were strung between the palm trees. Day-glow paint was put on some of the trees and in designs on the grass; some of the children even had it in their hair. It was like a fantastic carnival. DD was in heaven, as he loves to play DJ. He brought many hours of Mini-Disks from France and he rented a big stereo from Krabi. Some of the children sang songs in their own language and so did some of the adults. DD's wife Marie cajoled Bob to go up to the mike to sing. He sang a song about a very famous bear, Smokey. At midnight fireworks were very big and loud and bright. It was beautiful, everyone shook hands and hugged and kissed then the dancing started again. I lasted till about 12:30AM, but the next day when I got up to have breakfast, the party was still going and finally ended at 7:00AM. What great time, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd be celebrating the New Years and the Millennium in Thailand.

January 7, 2000 - Siboya

Glenn and Wuane are going to Bangkok today, so Bob and I took the trip to Krabi with them. It's fun to go around all the shops, cause Bob knows so many people in town and he introduces them to me. They're very surprised to see a bear from Canada. We say goodbye to Glenn and Wuane, but Glenn will be back in one week. Wuane has to go back to Connecticut to work. Too bad, we don't.

January 15, 2000 - Siboya

We're up early this morning to go have breakfast with some of the Thai villagers. About 1km from the bungalows, we came to Mr. Son's house. At the front of the house, under a lien-to roof was a table and food prep area. Many of the locals have parked their motorcycles in front yard, and are enjoying cup of coffee and breakfast of Kunum-gin (rice noodles and fishy curry sauce) no one speaks English, but pointing and acting out what you need is fun and gets everyone laughing. While we're sitting eating, several workers walked by with pails across their shoulders, carrying two, 15gal pails of white milky liquid.

After breakfast we follow one of the workers to a small bamboo shelter in the middle of a rubber Plantation. A lady is pouring the pails of white liquid into 3" deep pans. We discovered that what we are seeing is the harvest of latex. The sap is collected at certain times of the year. The bark of the trees cut very early in the morning while still dark, and the sap runs down the angled cut, into a small bowl. (Sometimes they use a half of an old coconut shell) Then it's all collected in the pails. That's what we saw the man carrying. After about four hours the latex in the pans has hardened like jiggley silly putty. The pans are turned out onto a piece of vinyl. Then someone walks on it to flatten it down to big bath mat size. Next, they run it through steel ringer rollers to make it flat and even. The final thing is to hang the mats over a bamboo polls to dry and cure. After a week or so the mats have gone brown and smelly. Real smelly; imagine 50 times as bad as an old unwashed sneaker. Yuk! Now they're taken to a central collection co-op and sold for 24baht per kilo (that's one dollar Canadian). It's very strange to think of bicycle tires and elastic bands coming out of a tree.

January 20, 2000 - Siboya

I've been feeling very sick for the last 4 or 5 days, with headaches, very strange dreams, and this morning with a temperature just under 40C. Joann and Bob have a very good medical book, and it looks like I've got all the symptoms of typhoid fever. To be sure we have to go to the hospital for a blood test. That means we have to take the boat to Krabi. The hospital is quite new and nurses are very friendly. After checking in, I had to wait to see a doctor to take a blood for a lab test. Many people are waiting; I don't think they've seen many pink bears here. After a couple of hours I get the results back and it shows a mild case of typhoid. So the doctor gives me some antibiotics to take for the next seven days. I must have eaten some food or water contaminated by a typhoid carrier. I'm lucky to detect it soon and treat it.

January 25, 2000 - Siboya

I guess the medicine worked; I feel much better, no headache and the fever are all gone. I'll have to be much more careful especially when we go to India in 2 weeks. Today I met a Swedish couple that are getting ready to build a house here on Ko Siboya. They had called the man with a chain saw to cut down 3 palm trees. These are very old in palm tree years, maybe 40 or 50. When they cut them Bob has asked the man to save the palm heart so that kitchen can make a special curry. (You know when you get a bunch of celery and pull off all the stocks? The part left is the celery heart) It's the same with palm trees. It tastes little like very tender almonds when it's raw. Mmm.

January 31, 2000 - Siboya

It's a secret because Bob didn't want anybody to fuss. Today is his birthday; he's 53. Just another lazy tropical day.

February 1, 2000 - Siboya

Wow, what great dinner last night. The kitchen must have remembered Bob's birthday from last year. They made a big feast; red snapper with chili sauce, sweet and sour chicken and mixed stir fried vegetables. After dinner we had some Thai snacks called me-an-kum (you have to make them up from the pieces that come in the bag) you taken leaf about three inches and folded into cup. Inside goes a small piece of lime, ginger, onion, chili, dried shrimp, peanuts, some toasted coconut flakes and topped with a special sweet sauce. The leaf is rolled into a ball and popped into someone else's mouth. You're not allowed to make your own. What an amazing taste, every bite is a different flavour.

February 3, 2000 - Siboya to Penang

A long day of travel today, we had to get a special boat to Krabi at 8:00AM (goodbyes to everyone, many new friends) a mini bus (Toyota Van) at 11:00AM takes us to Hat Yai. (The largest city in southern Thailand) we change to another mini bus to take us south across into Malaysia to the city of Penang. (That's not quite true. Penang is an island province of Malaysia and the city is called Georgetown but nobody calls it that) we arrived at the Swiss hotel at 9:00PM. Luckily, Bob's telephone reservation worked okay. (When you travel budget style, you never know if reservations will be kept) we were especially lucky because Feb. 5 is Chinese New Year and all the hotel rooms are booked solid.

February 5, 2000 - Penang

Happy New Year - the year of the dragon. Having fun in Penang, dim sum (Chinese hors d'oeuvres) for breakfast and dinner. Everything from rice noodles, shrimp dumplings, many types of minced pork snacks and chicken sweet, it's so good... mmm. I'm finding the chopsticks are little tricky though. Just when you think you have a grip, it squirts across the table.

February 7, 2000 - Penang to Chenai [Madras]

The flight to KL (Kuala Lumpur) only took 45 minutes. Then we had to wait for 1-½ hours for the next flight to Madras. At 10:30PM we took off for the 3-½ hour flight to India, what an adventure this will be. The Madras airport was full of East Indian people, (I guess that's what I should have expected) so many, so crowded. We hired a taxi to a hotel recommended by some German travellers back in Penang. The 30-minute drive was in an old Ambassador taxi; they haven't changed the design of these simple looking cars since 1956. The streets have big holes and there are no rules for traffic. Everybody just honks their horns and the loudest wins. Madras has 6 million people. It's like living in the future; the streets are very dirty with many piles of garbage everywhere and many poor people, and many beggars.

February 10, 2000 - Chenai [Madras]

The bus drivers in India are the wildest ever! They have the loudest horns and they don't care who they push off the road! We took a very crowded very rickety local bus south for 136km Pondicherry, and that took 3½ hours. What a long hot ride. Pondy, as the locals call it, is an old French Colony. Many of the old houses are still there... it's very strange, a canal/sewer runs through town, one side is like India and the other side like you just stepped to somewhere in Mediterranean France 100 years ago. Except that there are still Indian people everywhere. Well, I haven't had very much Indian food yet. Pondy has lots of French restaurants so we've been eating French crepes. They're like real thin pancakes with mushrooms and cheese, etc.! Bon Ar?e!

February 12, 2000 - Pondicherry

Today we went to a paper factory. It's a very special kind of paper made entirely from cotton rags. They collect old rags or remnants and shred them in a big grinder. Then the whole mess gets washed, bleached and rinsed; then it goes into a big machine like a cement mixer until it's all mushed into a cotton porridge; then they add the colour they want and keep mixing until the porridge is just right. (But I didn't see the 3 bears or Goldie Locks) The correct amount of porridge is ladled onto a fine screen on a frame; turned over onto a mat and pressed and peeled off. Another separator mat is laid on the sheet just made and the process is repeated until the paper sheets and mat separators are about two feet thick. Then the whole pile is wheeled into a big press and all the water is squeezed out. After separating and drying, they have made a very high-quality low acid paper, which is favoured by artists for painting.

February 14, 2000 - Pondy to Tanjore

We're on the move today... caught the local bus (crammed in the back of an old wreck of a vehicle that coughed and sputtered, but the very loud air-horn worked great) to Cuddalore train station. (36km in 1-½ hours) The station had homeless beggars sleeping on every bench, and during the two hours that we had to wait for the train to Tanjore they all eventually woke up and filed past asking for money. It's so sad to see so many hopelessly helpless people. It sure makes me thankful to be from Canada and able to return to its safety net.

In Tanjore, we checked into the Valli Hotel. What a strange toilet. Bob and Joann say it's very normal for Asia and much easier once you get the hang of it. It's like the toilet is flat on the ground, you don't sit on it, you squat with your feet either side on the footplates. AND, are you ready? Bob and Joann say that in most of Asia, people don't use toilet paper, can you believe that! Instead, it's the left-hand rule... wash yourself with the ever-present plastic bucket of water and your left-hand. (Toilet paper is very expensive $1.50 per roll. That's more than millions of people in Asia make in a day; and the sewer systems are not developed enough to handle paper) So from then on I made sure I only shook peoples right hand.

February 15, 2000 - Tanjore

Today we went to an old Temple. How old? It was built in 1010AD. It's called the Brihadishwara Temple and is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It's one of only a very few in India that is World Heritage Listed. At the top of the granite Temple, 13 stories high, is the dome carved from a single piece, weighing an estimated 80 tons. In front of the Temple is a carved Brahma bull from one 25-ton stone. When we went through the main gate there was an elephant that was blessing people by placing his trunk on their head for a contribution put in the his trunk. The end of his trunk felt very bristly and a little wet with hot breath. Bob asked if I knew that the elephant is the only animal in the world with four knees... strange thought but true.

Around town there were so many interesting and different things; we saw a little delivery truck with the back full of flats of eggs and written on the back of it was "Eat eggs or die". Weird! I think what they meant to say was, "Eat eggs to stay healthy".

February 17, 2000 - Tanjore to Madurai

Today we took 2 trains. The first, 50km to Trichy was 2 ½ hours. The second, 161km to Madurai was 5 hours. Madurai is a city of 1 ½ million people. It's one of the oldest cities in the south of India and resembles a huge continuous bazaar crammed with shops, street markets, temples, pilgrims, restaurants and small industries spilling onto the streets. We took trishaws (trishaws are three wheeled bikes with a seat in the back for customers to ride in, like a taxi) all over town. There were lots of beggars, goats and cows, just anywhere and everywhere, sleeping, eating and going to the toilet. Boy is it dirty. Everyone seems to just ignore it and carry on with whatever they're doing. Bob and Joann and Glenn went to the old Temple bazaar (part of the city Temple built in 1500) to buy some material at one of the many cloth merchants and have its sewn into an Indian pajama suit by one of the hundreds of tailors who set-up business with just a treadle sewing machine. The sweet smells of the incense and a very humid heat make the market seem even more intense.

News Flash! Big dosai Festival at our hotel... and it seems to have attracted people from all parts of India. Dosai is a very thin rice flour pancake cooked on one side only and served with many curry sauces. Special for the Festival, they made one 3' round and carried it out on two plates. Remember the left-hand rule!

February 20, 2000 - Madurai to Kollam

After checking the bus and train schedules and prices, we decided it would be faster, easier and more comfortable to hire a cab for the next 350km trip to the city of Kollam on the West Coast of India in the state of Kerela. And with three people (I rode for free!!) sharing the cost, it worked out about the same as a train. Boy what a long hot ride, it took 12 hours. As we rounded one corner up in the Western Ghats (Ghats is an Indian name for foothills and mountains) we came upon heard of Brahma bulls on the road and just as we pass them, one gave the car a hip check right into Bob's door. Man was he every lucky he didn't have his arm out the window. It tore off the door handle and made a big dent. (The bull didn't even blink)

February 21, 2000 - Kollam to Alleppey

Today we were tourists. We took a boat trip for 8 hours to Alleppey. The very slow and relaxing trip wound all the way on lakes and canals. ("Kerela Backwaters") All along the canals you pass Indian life going on in this very green and tropical area. It was like watching a National Geographic special. We saw so many Brahmanny Kites (Sea Eagles) catching fish or cruising the tops of coconut trees, looking for a mouse dinner.

February 22, 2000 - Alleppey Backwaters

This morning we went down to the canal to see our boat. It was a 30-foot rice barge that has been converted into a houseboat. Standard equipment included, 2 men with real long bamboo poles, 1 at each end. They push the old barge along at a very quiet leisurely pace. The houseboat had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a lounging area at the front and a small kitchen right at the stern where the 3rd man, our cook, cooked all our meals for the next 24 hours. Just before sunset we anchored out in a small shallow lake. After the boys took a swim in the lake, dinner was served. It was a scrump-deli-icious feast on "Kerela rice" (big fat grains) and three different curries. Afterwards we sang some songs then went to sleep to the sounds of lapping water. Like on a big waterbed.

February 23, 2000 - Alleppey to Cochin

As we floated down the canal you could see quite a few "Hammer and Sickle" flags flying. The state of Kerela is strange; it has a democratically elected Communist government. It also seems to be the cleanest and most affluent area of India that we were in.

As we left the houseboat we took another hired car north 60km to the old port city of Cochin. Joann went into a big fancy store to try on saris. (Indian wraparound dress) We met one customer from New York who was looking at one sari that cost $14,000; it had real gold thread in it. Saris are made up of a little top and a skirt; then six yards of material wound round and round with the end put over your left shoulder. Joann bought a beautiful blue and gold one (not real gold) and Bob took videos of her learning to put it on. There were so many amazing bright colours of fabric.

It was so hot during the day, up to 33C and so humid that it felt like a steam bath. Then at night it would cool off beautifully with an ocean breeze as we ate dinner on the roof top restaurants around town. Ah yes, it's a rough life this travel game!

February 26, 2000 - Cochin to Mysore

We hired another car for the 400km trip up and across the mountains to Mysore. Again, the train and bus trip would have been 2 days and no cheaper. Besides with the car we got to go across the top through the tea plantations. The tea plantations are nothing like I expected. I don't know what I expected but at the top of the mountains they have all the tea trees (bushes) grown in rows, like hedges. When they get to be about three feet high they're ready to harvest. As pickers walk along the rows, they pick off the nice young top green leaves without damaging the bush and throw them over their shoulders into bags on their backs. Then it's dried and processed.

February 28, 2000 - Mysore

Wow, this morning we had breakfast at a real palace. The Lalitha Mahal Palace. It's a hotel now, but a Raja had it built for him in the 1920s. The super-suite rents at CAD$1400 per night. As we were leaving, an Indian magician put on a little show on the hotel steps. At the end of the show he opened a small blocks and out popped a Cobra. Yikes, my fur stood on end! And the man asked if I wanted to hold it, no way. Some of the other people did but not Bob and Joann.

We've all taken a vote, and it was decided that since we've been fitting in all hot spots on our list, (it's been much easier by car) rather than go to the beaches in Goa, (an old hippie Mecca) we're going to go back to Thailand and hang-out at good old Siboya bungalows.

March 1, 2000 - Mysore to Hospet

It was a real long hot day on the drive to Hospet. (400km north of Mysore) Nearby are the ruins of the 600yr old city of Hampi. Before it was conquered, there were more than one million people there. It's so weird to see all these huge walls and boulders out in the middle of nowhere.

March 4, 2000 - Hospet to Badami

Joann stayed at the hotel while Bob, Glenn and I went to see some temples that were carved right out of a mountain. On the steps going up for a bunch of monkeys playing and bothering the visitors, but when they saw me they stood back and stared nervously. I don't think they'd ever seen a bear before, especially a pink one! When I said boo! they all ran away.

March 6, 2000 - Madras

Well here we are back where we started 30 days ago. We've travelled 2300km and seen so many things, already I can't remember them all, it's all blended together. It's been the most amazing adventure. The first thing you notice is the awful filth, (I don't think people clean anything) and the garbage. The next thing are the cows. In India cows are sacred. That means people worship them to or something. Anyway, they are allowed to just wander around everywhere and anywhere! Downtown, on highways, on sidewalks, in front of hotels; absolutely everywhere. And they don't seem to belong to anyone. Go figure. Then there are the ladies in their saris. You can see them doing anything and everything from sweeping garbage to selling food in the market in their bright and always clean saris.

We're going to fly back to Penang tomorrow then go back to Thailand for a whole month on Ko Siboya. The Indian food was really great at first, but they didn't seem to have as much variety as in Thailand. I think I like Thai curries better than the Indian curries.

March 25, 2000 - Siboya

Well we've been back at Ko Siboya for two weeks now. It was sort of like coming home. Everyone was glad to see us... fuss, fuss. It was nice to the back at the seashore, we hadn't been swimming for more than five weeks, and it was very nice. The smell of India was in my fur, too. All the incense smells were still there.

April 4, 2000 - Siboya

Today we went with Mr. Chung to his grandfathers house in Trang. It's a nice small city about 150km south of Krabi. All his extended family were having a memorial service to remember his grandfather. Everyone brings food and burns incense and light long strings of very loud firecrackers.

After awhile we went to look at a waterfall nearby. As we slowly drove into the park we saw a huge Cobra that was just about across the road. As he saw us pass, he became startled and scared I guess, busy stood up and opened his hood to say, "Hey, see me, better watch out or I'll bite you". Lucky for us we're in the truck. He was huge, about three feet standing up and Bob said they usually raise about one-third of their length. So that means he was about 12 feet long, Yikes. As he calmed down, he dropped and slid away. It looked like butter melting.

April 7, 2000 - Bangkok

Took another train last night. I really like trains, and this ride was even better as we had a first-class cabin. It was great, very clean and quiet and comfortable. We even had our own sink to wash up and brush our teeth.

Bangkok is 38 degrees today and at lunchtime there was the biggest thunder and rainstorm I've ever seen. It's just like being in a steam bath.

April 10, 2000 - Bangkok to Victoria

Guess what? The flight back to Canada was a treat... Bob and Joann had business class seats. Wow, big comfortable seats, private TVs, in the food was so good. The flight time back to Canada was only 13.5 hours because we had a tail wind most of the way. It's called the "Jet Stream". It blows from west to East all the time way up in the sky about six miles.

So now I'm back in Canada, in Victoria where Bob and Joann live. The area is so fresh and lots and lots of flowers are blooming. Everyone says it's been a warm winter here.

Well I guess I'll see everyone soon. My next trip will be with Canada Post back to Edmonton... another adventure. Bye bye to Bob and Joann.

Yours truly... Pinky.