Bits and bytes from our trip to Thailand and Indonesia - 2009-10

 November 16, 2009 - Victoria, BC to Chiang Mai, Thailand
 November 21, 2009 - Chiang Mai, Thailand
 November 26, 2009 - Sukhothai, Thailand
 November 28, 2009 - Loei, Thailand
 December 4, 2009 - Vientiane, Laos
 December 21, 2009 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand
 December 24, 2009 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand
 January 1, 2010 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand
 January 14, 2010 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand
 February 4, 2010 - Amed, Bali
 February 7, 2010 - Amed, Bali
 February 14, 2010 - Ubud, Bali
 April 5 14, 2010 - Back home in Victoria

November 10, 2009 - Victoria

The alarm chimed at 5:45am... that gave us a hour to shower and get the last minute things checked off the list and walk around the corner to catch the number 30 local bus. It's a bit of a milk run out to the airport but only $4.50 for the two of us. Better than $50 in a taxi. Remembered my Tilley hat still sitting in the hall closet half way. I think we have the rest though..??

The lady at check-in was full of questions, having seen our destination was Bangkok. Wanted to know all about the trip. She had been to Ko Samui earlier in the year and was disappointed with the lack of Thai'ness... just another tourist destination now. We filled her in with Siboya info... maybe see her in January..??

This is one of the years we have enough Aeroplan points to fly business class to Asia. As I write this we are enjoying the the Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Seoul in our "Executive First Suites" complete with lay flat beds. The champagne isn't bad either. I must say this is a much different Air Canada than the domestic version... this is as good as any. It's my turn to write (J)... Just love business class. Being able to lay completely flat is such a great way to fly across the Pacific. Showering in the wonderful lounge in Seoul with water jets blasting away at your entire body is also pretty amazing, such a great way to break up the trip. Remind me to never order Asian vegetarian food with Air Canada again (what was I thinking?). I was in the middle of watching Slumdog Millionaire, when my food tray arrived. Unfortunately it arrived just as Jamal jumped through the hole in the outhouse down into the pit and came sputtering to the surface covered in yellowish liquid shift. Later when my second meal arrived I was in the middle of Julie and Julia, a great film featuring spectacular french food... mmm... wish I could have said that about the pathetic meal I received.

And so we are in Bangkok. Staying about 2 km north of Khaosan, near the Thewet Pier at Tavee Guesthouse. Spotless and quiet with lovely staff who are so accommodating. The beauty of this guesthouse is that it's just across the street from a market, so fun to go and have breakfast with the Thais. Last night we walked for about 10 minutes to the river to have dinner at The Kaloang Restaurant right on the river. A little cooler and so interesting to watch the boat traffic. We clinked our glasses (Chang o'clock Byron) and toasted to our good fortune as we watched the red sun set through the haze that is uniquely Bangkok. This evening we are catching a train to Chiang Mai in the the north of Thailand. Time have changed... we were able to buy our tickets online from Canada. All that was available was air conditioned 2nd class sleepers. From previous experience A/C can be terrible... either icy frozen conditions like a meat locker or out of order and of course the windows are locked shut.


November 16, 2009 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai Having fun in this northern city of Thailand. We are checked in to the Vanilla Place Boutique Guesthouse. Very nice people, super clean and convenient. (WiFi included)

Last night we went to the "Sunday Walking Market" where vendors of every description sell hock wares. Well... it was totally awesome to see so many people having fun. They close the street off to traffic for about 2 km including the tributary cross roads and there is everything under the sun for sale. An unimaginable number of unique crafts, art and ethnic wares along with everything else you can imagine. Fire jugglers, Thai dancing, lots of blind and disabled musicians asking for donations and happy Thai locals strolling and shopping for this and that. What a great way to have fun while not really having to spend too much if your budget is limited or conversely spending lots on art, clothing, home furnishings or whatever.

Chiang Mai is a university town and thusly there are crowds of students enjoying life. All along the walk there were many temples that had their courtyards filled with food vendors. Along the way we found the Khao Tom Cafe... great cafe with outstanding views and a great huge fan to cool us down. We sat there and enjoyed watching the world go by as we had fun with the waiters who treated us to squid with garlic and pepper, stir fried vegetables including fresh mini corn and the ubiquitous rice. The Thai words for eating are "kin khao" which literally mean "eat rice". We split a beer and the world took on a hazy and happy feeling. We just love the Thai lifestyle. I left Bob at the restaurant and walked for about an hour while he acted as a tout for the cafe by telling passing folks in Thai that the cafe had delicious food, and of course, the Thai waiters loved him for it. As I walked along I found a neat vendor selling lots of "bugs"! Deep fried everything from crickets, larvae, worms, some variation of large cockroaches etc. mmm...!

More later...
Pop gun mai
Cowboy Bob and Bonanza Jellybean

November 21, 2009 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

We ended up spending 6 days in delightful Chiang Mai.

One afternoon we went with our good friend David Knight to "Dr Fish Spa" where you sit with your feet and legs dangling in a large fish tank while 3 types of wee fish franticly nibble at your flesh... just the dead stuff. The smallest fish kinda vibrate whilst the largest one really nibble away. David and I were squealing with delight like two little kids! It was the strangest feeling but really cool. Thank goodness there were no piranha

David was in town solo for an unexpected visit... his father had just passed away. Sid 75 was married to a wonderful young Thai lady so David was here as the eldest son to officiate and support her at the Buddhist funeral and cremation. We also attended and were met with kindness by the all Thai family and really enjoyed meeting young 5 year old "Om" who lightened the occasion as the innocence of a child does.

After we left the Vanilla Place we moved to the NaInn which was more centrally located inside the old city. This afforded Bob easier walking access to some great little shops and restaurants. The NaInn was also great diggs... maybe not as much hand holding by the staff, but we didn't need that.

Chiang Mai is such a great walking city. Once again I tried to get lost and had fun flirting with Thai men and chatting with the ladies. Thailand truly is the "Land of Smiles" and twinkley eyes. Everywhere you go folks just go out of their way to grin and greet you with big gorgeous smiles and kind eyes. I feel so at home here and so very, very fortunate to once again be experiencing this amazing culture.

While waiting for the train at Chiang Mai a monk who had been sitting across the track meandered over and ask if it was ok for him to sit with me. Of course... mai mee pen ha (no problem) He was very interested in speaking to foreigners. He spoke quite passable english and said he was waiting for his son to arrive from Bangkok. He was very interested in the correct pronunciation of chocolate... was the 2nd "o" silent or not? He confessed to being a huge fan of the Carpenters and immediately started crooning "Why do birds Suddenly appear? Every time you are near, Just like me, They long to be, Close to you." What an interesting guy.

Our day train south was no picnic... the 6 hour trip ended up be 9 and once again it was a meat locker. Way too cold.

A day in our life at Phitsanulok, Thailand

Arrived here last night at sunset and quickly found the LiThai Guest House. Then we were off to discover this small town set on the bank of the Mai Nam Nan river. The night market was in full swing complete with several picturesque bars overlooking the water. Of course everywhere along the river were twinkling laser lights so the effect was quite magical. It seems that most night markets we've been lately have huge recliner chairs and everyone is getting their feet massaged... might try it tonight myself! Gourmet deep fried exotic insects were really plentiful again... mmm, gotta love those larvae!

Spend a pleasant evening and dined on wonderful food in a little cafe with family life going on all around us.

This morning we were up for our free breakfast (included in the $13.00 room rate), so eggs, mystery meat sausages, styrofoam posing as toast and serious coffee... yikes we were now powered on Thai caffeine.

We found a Samlor for transport (something that Darth Vader might have used) and headed out to the Buddha Casting Factory where they demonstrate the lost wax method of casting. Really interesting to see. Felt sorry for the guy who was stoking the fires! hot, hot, hot. So we spent some time watching the process and then it was time for a new adventure.

We sauntered out to the street to look for transport... no Samlors to be found, so we jumped on the first local bus which it turned out was and heading out of town in the wrong direction... oh well... it's fun to get lost and found. The conductor/ticket issuer confirmed that we were on the wrong bus in Thai language (smiles) and that we needed to be on the #1 bus. We showed her our map to indicate where we wanted to go. Later she pointed to the back door and we got off. Kindly she told the next conductor where we were going to. The Thai people are so friendly and helpful and we had fun with a few of the passengers who were wondering what planet we were from. I fit on the seat but Bob had to sit sideways with his legs completely blocking the isle. Later we were able to go to the back of the bus and get thrown around, as most local bus's don't have any shocks. This action usually gets Bob's pacemaker up to about 120 bpm... the "jiggle-o-meter" doesn't know he's on a bumpy bus, it thinks he's jogging... quite the workout!

We eventually arrived at one of the most beautiful temples I've ever seen in my life and let me tell you I've seen quite a few! Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat, one of Thailand's most revered and copied Buddha images. This Buddha is second only in importance to the famous Emerald Buddha at Bangkok's Grand Palace. It was so tranquil... I really felt at peace there. Legend has it that a white-robed sage appeared from nowhere to assist in the final casting in 1357. The image was cast in the late Sukhothai style but what makes it strikingly unique is the flame-like halo around the head and torso that turns up at the bottom to become dragon-serpent heads (on either side of the image). I would love to visit this temple (Wat) again sometime in the future. The huge chandeliers in the Wat gave off a beautiful glow. Later saw some little girls doing Thai classical dancing which was very nice.They were so earnest.

On the temple grounds the Thai Tourism department has a tourist tram which takes you on a 45 minute tour of the city. We were the only "Farangs" (foreigners). We had fun getting to know the passengers as we had a 20 minute wait. Our tour guide was so kind to us. It was oodles of fun and cost a whopping $1.50 each.

So we wandered through town and found a little restaurant for lunch...$1.50 for two. Tonight we are off to eat at a recommended cafe that is written up in the Lonely Planet guidebook. In the book it says the Ban Mai (local favourite) is like a meal at your grandparents with an overfed Siamese cat that appears to rule the dining room. They have unusual dishes like curried smoked duck and lemon grass salad. Stay tuned. We might even venture forth to one of the floating pubs on the river... names like "Wow" and "Woodstock".

Tomorrow we head west to Sukhothia by local bus... it's a very old capital city. (only about an hour away).


PS: Dr HP... so far so good!!

November 26, 2009 - Sukhothai, Thailand

Well... we hired a tuk-tuk and at great expense we had him wait while we had a lovely dinner at the Baan Mai in the great city of Phitsanulok. The menu was totally in Thai, we asked for one in english and they brought another the same... this is going to be interesting. To avoid the inevitable insects or frog parts we restated our request for "English..." another waiter appeared to help us in very limited English and we enjoyed a really lovely meal in a fantastic setting. Usually we eat in little Thai family restaurants with the Patriarch or Matriarch looking on. Kids screaming around the restaurant and Thai life unfolding before us. It's great to connect with everyone and the meals are usually about a dollar each.

Next morning we caught the Orange Crush (nickname for the big orange local buses usually with crushed bits from road warrior encounters) out to Sukhothai. A bumpy ride in the back of the bus... Joann lounging with a Honda 90 and our luggage piled high. It was soon evident that our splurge at the Baan Mai the night before included food poisoning for poor Bob. Ouch!

So we spent a few days in New Sukhothai while Bob recovered. Lucky for us there was a nice terrace and cafe in the guest house so simple broth or veg soup could speed up the process. The TR guest house was great and was only $7.00 a night if you can believe it! I went off exploring while Bob slept for a few days. Went to the temple and had a foot massage. Started really gently...oh... I was saying to myself... this is lovely... then my Thai masseur picked up the tempo... I now have bruises to show but of course it was all worth it! My feet were tingly and fully invigorated.

Next I went to the market as it's always fun to browse. Kinda like a primitive department store. There is the hardware dept, food galore, clothing, meat market and everything else under the sun! I spied a table full of children's clothing with two cute cats all curled up in little circles snoozing away. I asked the Thai woman how much for the cats? and it took her a moment to get it, but then she cackled and I grinned and turned to walk away. As I took a step a huge fury thing (oh my god it's not a cat it's "the giant rat of Sumatra") scurried across my path and it seemed to take forever for the tail to disappear. Rat tailed combs anyone. Well... if you are in a market with meat there are bound to be giant rats. Yuck.

Next I sauntered around town looking for a pharmacy to buy some Saline solution to help flush my sinus infection I got when I traveled on the refrigerator car (train). I finally met this great gay pharmacist who was going to visit San Francisco in a few days and he wanted to improve his English so I helped translate a letter he'd receive. It was fun... words like "harsh" "clam chowder" etc. People are so friendly.

Finally Bob was feeling better so we hired a weird vehicle kinda like a motorcycle Tuk-Tuk. All day for $18.00. So we were off to the World Heritage site... in the famous old capital of Thailand... Sukhothai Historical Park. Wow! The ruins are so impressive. The first temple, Wat Chang Lom, was outside the old city walls and the base has 36 beautiful elephants adorning it's perimeter. I was given a small bottle of herbs at David Knight's dad's cremation and as it was so beautiful and peacefully there I slipped the bottle behind one of the carvings.

We really had fun with our driver "Doh" he was a great help and he loved our simple Thai speaking.

Next I climbed up about 300 metres to see a standing Buddha. There was a Thai family there all dressed in black and white who were honouring the 2nd anniversary of the murder of their 2 year old daughter at this site. There was a framed photo of the little one and as I bowed to wai I wished this small child a better reincarnation and felt sad for the family sitting nearby. I guess it also brought forward my sadness for David, Jenny and their Thai family especially David's stepmother, Am. Wat Mahathat was pretty spectacular. It was completed in the 13th century and is surrounded by a moat that is believed to represent the outer wall of the universe and the cosmic ocean. Supernatural temples with serene Buddha's.

After our tour of the temple complex, Doh took us to way off into the country to see his family farm where they work very hard and grow chili peppers and a bit of tobacco. Back breakingly hard work. Takes about a month to grow a plant to maturity and the reward is about 1 kilo of Thai chilis that sells for 15 Baht or about 50 cents. The he took us to his house which houses the whole extended family. The house was on stilts and everyone was there in the living room... I mean the dirt floor under the house. His mom cracked a smile to expose her red stained beetle nut teeth and all were extremely kind to us. When we first arrived they all looked like deer in the headlights... who the hell has Doh brought home now. When worlds collide. So lucky to have met them and will send lots of photos we took as I am sure they don't have a camera. What a great cultural experience. When we come back sometime in the future we will see him again. It seems our friends are scattered all over the world.

So my friends, wherever you are, we are next heading up into the cooler hills to the small town of Loei which a good friend recommended. Lonely Planet said don't bother (hmmmm?).

Stay tuned.

November 28, 2009 - Loei, Thailand

Hello friends,

Well we found our way to the small town of Loei. Our magic bus didn't have any shocks left so we bounced and leaned around all the curvy mountainous corners. Funny how you kinda find yourself leaning the opposite way at first as if that would help. It's much cooler up here in the mountains near the Laos border. We cruised through miles and miles of flower nurseries, lots of eye candy including roses and poinsettias. So incredibly colouful. Our "orange crush" bus driver was actually quite good at driving the mountainous road... although many times we had to come to a complete stop on some of the hills as he didn't have syncromesh into first gear. So different to the southern bus drivers who are speed maniacs and usually high on yaba (amphetamines) and love to race other vehicles!

Loei doesn't see many tourists, in two days we've seen only two other "farangs". So as we meet the locals here they are super friendly and quite curious about us. We've found that our southern accent is of no use here and we have to struggle, but who cares... we don't... and the friendly locals just love to teach us a few words here and there. They seem less interested in learning English. It's kinda fun to be out of your cultural comfort zone.

We had dinner at the night market tonight and everyone recognized us from last night. As we ordered from the various vendors we felt quite at home. Eating in the cool evening under the moon and stars... what more could you ask for. It's much cooler here... about 23 C in the evening and morning and boy the Thai's are bundled up in ski jackets and fleece. Actually even the dogs here are found to be wearing T-shirts to keep them warm... go figure! Bob found a cool children's hat yesterday and we ordered it in Bob size and he was able to pick it up tonight. He will look way cool on his scooter as he zooms around Victoria. We met the woman who made the hat too! Bob does like playing the fool... what does that say about moi?

We are in a fabulous hotel that has been newly renovated. Marble, granite, big fluffy duvet,satellite TV, a/c, wonderful staff and only $15 here at the King Hotel (500 Baht). This is definitely the nicest hotel we've stayed in in many years in Thailand. My goodness it even has a talking elevator... in english too. (We have been quoting costs a lot as some of the blog recipients are newbies who are traveling and will be interested in the small details.)

Just called down to Ko Siboya ( and oh my goodness with the addition of electricity this year they now have internet!!! That sure made Bob happy... me too!

We will be on Siboya on Dec 7th for about 5 weeks of country living. Meeting old and new friends and generally goofing off. (that great lost art).

Anyway, tomorrow we will continue our trek towards Laos and visit Nongkhai, a small town on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. Supposed to be quite pleasant but will definitely be more touristy as this is the major entry point to Laos via the Friendship Bridge.

November 29, 2009 - NongKhai, Thailand

Arrived in Nongkhai after 6 1/2 hours on a couple of buses... we've had worst trips.

Nongkhai really is a Thai border town. The Friendship Bridge to Laos is at the north end of town and the place teaming with Thai tourists. It's is also the end of the line for Thai Rail's Northeastern line.

Lunched on salt encrusted and roasted Mekong river fish and papaya salad at a small Thai joint right edge of the Mekong looking across to Laos. This is Thai food... delicious!! The Mekong is big and muddy, very reminiscent of the Fraser river in BC Canada. We are here for two nights before crossing into Laos and staying in the capital city of Vientiane, about 15 km up stream from NongKhai.

December 4, 2009 - Vientiane, Laos

Crossing the Friendship Bridge from Thailand into Laos was pretty much a non-event... took a tuk-tuk from our guesthouse in Nongkhai (Thailand) to the Thai departure... stamp, stamp... hopped on the waiting bus and was whisked across the bridge to the Laos entry point... fill out the visa application... pay US$42 per person... stamp, stamp... wheel your bag through to waiting transport... buses, tuk-tuks, mini-vans, taxis, whatever your flavour. We choose the taxi for 300 baht (yes, you can use Thai baht) and immediately an old Mercedes taxi trundles us the 18 km to our hotel in the center of Vientiane. "Viola, morceau de g√Ęteau!"

Vientiane is such a great little city! This old French Indochina Capital of Laos has a population of about 220,000. Many of the beautiful old colonial buildings are being revitalized along with modernization and economic development everywhere. Business seems to be booming. Very compact easy walking city making everything just around the corner. It seems to be a very popular place with expats. Of course having the cost of a large BeerLao being only just a little more than a large drinking water may have something to do with this. That's not to mention that there are literally hundreds of restaurants everywhere. French, Italian, Japanese, Indian and of course Lao. It is a gourmands delight so it suites us to a tee. There are also a huge number of wine bars, a legacy from the French. Bakeries are everywhere... western style coffee bars serving great muffins, sandwiches on really good bread and the like. No Starbucks or 7-eleven's yet unlike Thailand where there are thousands of 7-11s. Every night the road along the river-front transforms into what is advertised as a beer garden. Unfortunately at the moment there are earth moving machines renovating the entire river-front, 24/7 creating an unsightly, noisy, dusty situation. More like a beer dust storm. We walked down to take a look... lot's of seafood on the menus, but did a quick about face.

We are splurging on accommodation a bit... our Hotel The Malinamphu is a whopping US$35/nite including breakfast served in the tropical courtyard. How bloody civilized. Tomorrow's breakfast choice is waffles or ham sandwich on a baguette, exotic fruit and tea or coffee. On our first night here we ventured into China Town to sus out a famous Vietnamese restaurant. The Vieng Sawan is a bustling open-sided place that is a real Lao experience. It specializes in naem neuang (BBQ'd pork meatballs) and many varieties of yaw (spring rolls), usually sold in sets with fresh veggies. The deal is to build your own wraps... you take a pliable rice wrapper square and layer lettuce (washed with who knows what), then add a little bunch of rice noodles, star fruit, green plantain, sprouts, cucumber, garlic, ginger, cilantro, unknown plant leaves, a bit of mystery hot sauce and viola. You pop it into your mouth all in one piece and enjoy! We also had a squid hot pot. Fantastic!

As we strolled back to our hotel we passed many of the evening street vendors. Cool drinks of gelatinous mystery goops, coconut cupcakes... how about some donuts. Maybe you'd like to have your fortune told by a card reader.

While I've been hanging around the hotel nursing my tropical cold, Joann has been exploring the entire city and reporting back.

On Sunday the 6th we cross back into Thailand to catch the overnight train to Bangkok and then a Monday flight to Krabi. We should be enjoying dinner later in the evening.

December 21, 2009 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand

Well we finally made it back to Siboya...

Our exit from Laos was no sweat... the new train service from Tha Nalaeng Station outside of Vientiane started back in March of 2009, but nobody in Vientiane knows anything about it. When it leaves or how much it is, nothing! But we persevered and found it. A very short 9 minute ride that runs back and forth between Tha Naleang station in Laos and Nongkhai station in Thailand; and at first glance this seems like a waste of time; and maybe it is if you are really mobile and just have a small carry-on bag. From my point of view though it was much less hassle than the normal circus transiting the Friendship Bridge, getting on and off whatever transport 3 times with ALL your luggage. Using the train, you clear Laos customs at Tha Naleang and get stamped back into Thailand right at Nongkhai station. No fuss, no muss, and the overnight rain to Bangkok is right there waiting for you.

The train to Bangkok, now that's a story... they must use all the best rail cars on the runs up to Chiangmai not the Nongkhai run... our 2nd class fan sleeper was VERY grotty and the ride was the worst bumpitty bump, crash bang, rock and roll night we've ever encountered on a Thai train. We did have a celebrity sitting across the isle from us though... it was none other than Imelda Marcos or at least her twin. My god, about 50'ish with back-combed jet black hair piled high and adorned with jewel encrusted hair baubles. False eyelashes, tons of makeup and lacey clothes etc. I said to Bob that I could hardly wait to see what she looked like in the morning but alas when I crawled down the ladder from my top bunk she was gone!... we guest she went poof at an earlier stop... or was she just an aberration?

Once in Bangkok, the transition to Suvarnabummi Airport (BKK) was seamless. We just breezed through. And being the small world that it is... we bumped into Michael and Annette who were just catching a standby flight to Krabi. They have spent the last 3-4 weeks cycling around northern Thailand... this ride was a piece of cake after their 2000+km trek from Eastern Europe through all the K'stans then through western China and finally into Pakistan. Finally hopping a plane to Bangkok from Islamabad. So how do you spell intrepid?

We've been here 10 days now... so tranquille. It's like slipping into the countryside. I have decorated a sort of a pine tree outside my door, which is now pretending to be a Christmas tree! It's tres Charlie Brown complete with twinkling fairy lights. Every night we watch the staff and some of the guests play soccer and tackraw at 5pm, then it's time for a G&T and watch the sunset. Along with the spectacular sunset show, we often get the treat of watching one of the local men going fishing at the end of day along the shallows in front of our bungalow. It's like watching a ballet... he moves in slow motion, pointing his toes with each step so not to make any splash as he stalks the elusive minnows. When he's ready, he skillfully tosses his circular net and sees if he caught any. It's a great show. About 15 minutes after the sun has set we usually see a huge owl fly over us. It's so quiet here, you can hear the wings of the birds swooshing as they fly by. We are blessed to be staying at such a lovely place and our Thai friends are so wonderful to us. We feel humbled by their kindness.

Took a quick overnight trip into the local town of Krabi recently and that was fun. Stayed at the City Hotel and got the "Tony" discount. It was Friday night so we went to the new night market. Sort of like a open air beer/food garden. We sat under the stars enjoying the company of some Swiss friends Tony, Jacqueline and Daniel. The varieties of food that were offered by the encircling street vendors was unbelievable... the Thais love to eat. Later that evening we went to another night market for a delightful coconut curry dinner. Then we found a sidewalk coffee/tea place with about 30 tables of laughing Thais eating little roti snacks (pancakes) and struck up a brief friendship with the next table.

Shopped for supplies like gin, air mattress',pillows, etc. Just before we left I went to the nursery and bought some gorgeous orchids... soft white with a blush of pink... $1 each! They had loads of Poinsettias but we had no extra hands to carry them home. We did buy a bucket with lid but on the boat trip to Siboya it flew away into the sea... my pen lai.

Took my bike tire into town also for fixing, so now I am ready to ride... easy rider! Also went Christmas shopping for 4 of the Thai children here. Was fun buying the cute little baby dresses... the kids are between 1 and 4 years old and are so unbelievably gorgeous. We have a 9 year old french boy here who is so polite and respectful so he has been helping us hold our Canasta cards and we are slowly teaching him some English. He goes to a Montessori school nearby so he is learning Thai and English along with his native French. His parents own a house here on Siboya.

That same afternoon we bought mangos and found a street stall selling roti and tea. So we had some "sock tea" (the tea strainer is a long cloth bag) and ate the best mango in the world. Just great to sit and watch life go on around entertaining.

Yesterday we saw three huge Brahminy Kites (sea eagles) mating in the air, twirling in circles! We have also seen the usual assortment of creatures like monitor lizards (prehistoric) walking across our back lawn, orange stripped butterfly lizards, talking myna birds, snakes (no cobras..yet), geckos, monkeys, a myriad of colorful birds (so sweet to listen to), Siboya's new resident kitchen kitty cat (a good ratter we hear), and lots of fish while snorkeling.

I am sitting here drinking tea and typing away... this is the first year we have had internet/electricity. It really hasn't changed the flavor and culture of Siboya which we are thankful for.

Mr Chung just asked what we might like for food for the Christmas Feast... we said that anything he chooses will be just perfect as it's always been.

Merry Christmas to all CB&BJ

December 24, 2009 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand

Merry Christmas to all,

It's Christmas eve morning and I rose early to beat the heat. Hopped onto my trusty bicycle and went to different little village for breakfast.

Had some strong black instant coffee and a wonderful homemade donut with crushed coconut and palm sugar in the middle. Of course the Thais had a problem with me ordering black coffee without oodles of sweetened condensed milk... "just black" I say and I can see them thinking who would want black coffee alone? Thais love sweet everything. Yes, it came with sweet milk!

Today the kids were dressed for school in their Boy Scout or Girl Scout uniforms and they looked so cute. Normally they wear a navy blue and white school uniform. Was fun to sit and have small conversations with the locals... when world's collide! Took a few photos of some of the very primitive houses along the ocean and even though they are so simple they are dressed up with gorgeous flowers. Almost ran into a rooster who crossed my path while I was speeding down a hill.

Continued along on my circle tour of the island waving at Thai friends along the way. Such simple lives here and the main industry is harvesting rubber from the tall shady rubber trees. I can't imagine how the island folks would survive otherwise. They supplement their diet by fishing.

So I arrived home covered in sweat! Now it's time for a cold water shower... I find it's better to start with the water down the back first... starting at your feet and working up seems like cold water torture! Once you finish screaming it's not too bad!!!

So I arrived back at Siboya Bungalows and ordered some nice tea and sat talking with friends. The restaurant is such a social scene with people from everywhere on the planet. While we were talking a Thai woman who had been harvesting some crunchy seaweed (with little coffee bean shaped bulbs) walked by and Mr Chung bought some for me. He will prepare it with toasted coconut, lime juice, chilies and other spices. Sounds interesting.

The staff are now busy working to build an artificial Christmas tree. They have selected a palm tree and will use it as a base. They have cut bamboo already and will cover the skeleton with palm fronds, then lights, ornaments and tinsel... VOILA!. We are anticipating a fantastic buffet tomorrow with king prawns, barbequed duck, chicken satay, squid, tropical fruits, vegetables in curry's etc... and all prepared with love by the kitchen staff who we adore. After that there will be dancing under the miniature palm trees. (Chung planted them about 15 years ago and now they are about 20 feet high-perfect!) Dancing on the white sand with a half moon above us is such exotic fun. There will be about 40-50 of us for the Christmas celebration and then we get to do it all over again for New Years, lucky us!

Hope Santa finds your chimneys!... and we wish you all peace, happiness and joy with friends and family.

Jellybean and Cowboy Bob

January 1, 2010 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand

Happy New Year

As we walked down the dark path to the restaurant Bob lurched and spun around... "what's on my head!?" he said. The worst thing that can happen to you is the fear of the unknown... what is it? I shone my torch on his head to discover a harmless baby gecko who had fallen out of the tree and was no doubt freaked out himself!! So we laughed and headed in to a fabulous Christmas dinner buffet! Chung and his staff sure know how to throw a party! Lots of music and dancing outside till 5am.

Next morning... Bob and I began Christmas day sitting at the seashore table, having a marvelous breakfast of roti and mango (for Jo) and Thai rice soup with ginger and chicken (for Bob) ...mmmmm! We opened our gifts to each other and grinned about our good fortune to be on Siboya. The resident kitty cat was out stalking crabs on the beach and a sea eagle (Brahminy Kite) was crash diving for some delectable fish. A turquoise blue Kingfisher was squawking and flying around us. Dragonflies were everywhere. Mother Nature on your in your face.

Fast forward to Dec 31... Tonight will be a full moon and a "Blue Moon" for New Year's eve. We are about to experience yet another party complete with a totally gastronomic feast prepared under the direction of Chung, Keow and Sow. Our Thai friends have been working for many days. After our dinner we get to dance outside until the wee hours with our friends from all around the world. There are several well behaved children (Thai and "farang") here now and quite delightful. "Im" (Mr's A's daughter) who is 9 years old will be doing some Thai dancing tonight, how lucky for us.

New Years day... Well, the party was a roaring success and ended for some in hammocks at 5am. Bob and I were up till 2.30am. We had such fun. The music really was excellent and dancing was had by all.All the young children danced or played in the garden. Nice to see kids getting along famously when they have no common language. We had lots of Thai music too and we loved it! At midnight everyone stopped to go to the water's edge to light the paper lanterns (hot air) and let them go drifting up into the starry sky. So utterly fantastic. When they were really high they looked like new stars. The moon really was bright and the moon shine on the palm trees was awesome. The last Blue moon on New Year's eve was nearly 20 years ago.

Wow... a brand new year 2010... when we kissed everyone on the beach at midnight all had heartfelt wishes for a wonderful new year full of good health, friendship and good fortune. The Thais wai'd and all the "farangs" gave kisses on the cheeks. Bob and I wish you all a wonderful new year and if we could we would give you all big hugs under the moonlight or bow our heads and press our hands together to honour our friendship and love...

See you in 2010
Jellybean and Cowboy Bob

PS: Bob and Mr. A have created and new Facebook entity... viola!!! "Siboya Bungalows" so everyone can be a "friend" and contribute their photos and input on this amazing island. Our friend, Barbara Hauser has a great website with paintings of some Siboya's people including Chung. ( Chung's painting has been used on the new facebook site.

January 14, 2010 - Siboya Bungalows, Thailand

Hello friends and family...

Went for a wonderful long walk down the beach in the early morning. For several miles... no one in sight other than the long tail macaques (monkeys) who were digging up the beach looking for crabs. (A friend of ours who is staying at the last house on the beach was surprised by a monkey war a few days ago. Two troops were in the trees around the house and spilled onto his verandah. About a hundred of the devils, screaming and fighting all around everywhere! Armed with a broom he faced some ugly sharp teeth! Darren said he was terrified. Reminded me of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. Flying monkeys!) Reminds me of a plaque that I've seen... "I have monkeys and I'm not afraid to use them."

Anyway I kept my distance to the gang of forty or so monkeys. We are encroaching on their territory, more rubber trees and less natural forest for them. So we are seeing more of them in our space.

After a quick cold shower (screaming could be heard under the spray) I headed in to meet friends and partake of a great breakfast... yogurt and papaya. My goodness... is it time for my massage now..!! I had a most relaxing time while Ann, our Thai masseuse gave my body an invigorating one hour oil massage. (250 Baht or about $7)

Poof, where does the time go... it's time for lunch, Canasta, and then watch some soccer or takraw at about 5pm.

The 7 young men from a Swedish semi-pro soccer team have returned for 10 days so now we can again enjoy some outrageous games against the Thais. The Thais have some advantage as they are used to running around the palm trees and roots that liter the grassy field... instead of into them!

6PM is the most wonderful time to be completely in the moment and watch the sunset. Nature's gift to us all. Tropical sunsets are so amazing. At about 7 we get out our torches and head down the waterfront path into the restaurant for yet another feast with friends from around the planet.

Then much later we slip under our mosquito net and listen to the frogs, crickets and night birds and drift off into dreamland. Speaking of slimy creatures... we have "homing toads". It seems like most days we find one hiding behind something in the bungalow... we (Bob... apparently this is a blue job not pink) scoop him up in a plastic bag and carry him out and release him/her somewhere else... but it seems like they keep returning. Must be the same one, right? We like to keep toads and frogs away as they can attract Cobras. Don't need them hiding under the bed. Last night we heard the deep croak of a returnee somewhere under the bed... search is till in progress. Years ago a friend had a similar issue with a toad croaking loudly all night long. Eventually it was discovered astoundingly under his pillow. Still makes us laugh.

Living on Ko Siboya really forces you to convene with Mother Nature. The insects are huge, colorful and wild!! Had to dispatch a large black scorpion yesterday. He had taken up residence under our storage trunk. Hate to kill creatures, but this will speed up his reincarnation. The birds have such exquisite music and the lizards, cats and you name it struggle to kill or be killed. Several of us were sitting in the restaurant the other day when I spied an unbelievably small hummingbird (seemed about 4cm) flitting and feeding around the bougainvillea. A search of the web said... "There are NO hummingbirds in Thailand, what you are seeing is Hummingbird Moth

Went into Krabi town the other day for an overnight trip. We stayed at the City Hotel. Was lots of fun even with a few monsoon rains hammering down on us. Went into the night market for dinner and marveled at all the food choices. Thais just love food and Bob and I are included in that description. Bob has been getting new recipes from the kitchen the last few days so website will soon be updated for those of you who like to cook Thai.

One week to go before we depart Thailand and head to Bali and Lombok... we are going to places we haven't been to before and are looking forward to new adventures... stay tuned.

Jellybean and Bwana Bob

February 4, 2010 - Amed, Bali

Our transition from Thailand to Bali was seamless... AirAsia from Krabi to KL, overnight at the TuneHotel (a newish ala carte hotel right at AirAsia's KL terminal) then AirAsia to Bali. Made, gracious as ever ( was there to greet us and deliver us to our first stop, Padangbai. This is a pretty little fishing/diving village set in a picturesque bay. The shore is lined with very colourful traditional Balinese outrigger fishing canoes that evoke a water spider look. It is also the terminus for the ferry to Lombok so there's never a dull moment.

We stayed here 6 days at PB Billabong (IRP100,000 including 2 full breakfasts) where our balcony looked out at the busy working bay. A short 10 min walk lead us over a promontory to a wee azure bay, The Blue Lagoon. Sounded too good to be true, but for being so close we were surprised to find the snorkeling the best we've seen in Bali so far. The evenings would find us with our G&Ts sitting on little shoreside gazebos communing with the locals also enjoying the sunset... they were so approachable and friendly. The fish dinners, did I mention the fish dinners? Tuna steaks, Mahi-mahi, Barracuda and Marlin... amazingly wonderful fresh and grilled to perfection... you only needed a fork. We had our fill.

We scrapped going over to Lombok. The local feedback at all the dive shops indicated that any worthwhile coral at the Gilis is only accessible for divers. Anything above 15M is in very poor condition due to the last El Ninio. So instead we headed back down to Sanur to rent a car. We met an Oz couple who are doing volunteer work in Bali and they turned us on to a very reasonable rental situation.

We spent 2 days enjoying the many amenities in the well established Sanur area and the accommodation at Flashbacks. While meeting width Made for website updates we talked about his family and the little known fact that Balinese children are treated with God status for the first 630 days of their lives. During this period the child does not touch the ground... blankets are ok, but being pampered and carried is the norm and sometimes not even out of the house for the first 3 months. Then there is an ceremony where the child's head is shaved and they become "earthly children". Made was showing us some photos of his son Rayann who was wearing a silver locket that held the birth placenta as part of this ceremony.

We hit the road in our cute little Suzuki Karimun (toy car). It's small, but it has all the room we need for our stuff and us... and it's got A/C. Bloody luxury for IRP2,300,000 per month. In Bali small is very good... driving on the narrow pot holed roads here is not for the faint of heart. We headed up towards Sidemen onto the roads less traveled. The monsoon is very late this year, still dumping daily down pours making the slopes of Mount Agung a mass of raging torrents. While we were driving around the eastern slope of the mountain in the heavy rain, water was gushing out of the over flowing aqueducts and flooding the roads. There is nowhere to get off the tiny roads... white knuckles for me (J) and Bob looking very serious. The Sidemen area was just too wet to enjoy staying so we carried on to Candidasa.

It's not hard to understand why Gunung Agung is Bali's most revered mountain. Being right on the lush slopes of this 3124M volcano is awesome. The crater at the summit is a about 700M across. In 1963 Agung blew it's top. The catastrophic eruption killed more than 2000 people and destroyed entire villages. 100,000 people were left homeless and streams of lava and hot volcanic mud poured right down to the sea. The entire island was covered in ash and crops were wiped out everywhere.

In Candidasa we stayed at The Temple Cafe & Seaside Cottages. The owner Shirl is an Oz expat whose been here for 20 odd years. Fabulous staff and great jazz all day.

Went up to the very old village of Tenangan, renowned for double ikat and ata grass basketry. We bought a couple more very fine items from the same old man (older now) we saw back in 1988.

We are now farther along the east coast in the Amed area staying at Kusuma Jaya Inda. It's very quiet all over Bali now in the low season, here in Amed it's quieter than most. A bargain room with an open air garden bathroom, very nice restaurant (breakfast incl) over looking the sea shore, a great swimming pool and superb snorkeling literally right at our doorstep. (J just came up the path dripping from an hour snorkeling... big grin)

Lounging on our spacious verandah is great. We are swarmed by the best bird life ever. (not counting the odd rooster) If I was to wake up anywhere I've been in the world and NOT know where I was, I would immediately know this was Indonesia from the raucous crowing roosters... cock-a-doodle-do.

Love and Hugs

February 7, 2010 - Amed, Bali

The roosters started at about 2 this morning...

We are still at the mercy of the late rainy season so we had a wonderful lightening and thunder storm last night at sunset! One feels so insignificant when the thunder shakes your chest with it's rumble. Of course the lights went out. We grabbed our flashlights and headed back over to the "C'est Bon Cafe" across the road from where we are staying. The previous night we had ventured there for a fabulous dinner of Mahi-Mahi... we were their only customers... we're going back for more tonight.

The area we are in is called Amed but is actually a series of small poor seaside villages. The locals fish for Mackerel in their beautiful outrigger canoes with triangular sails. There are almost no tourists here as the economy has been devastated by first, the Bali bombings in 2003/2005 and now the global recession. It's really sad to see so many cafes and bungalows with no one there but the smiling Indonesians hoping you will visit them.

Our first visit to the C'est Bon Cafe (nothing french here but the title) was marvelous. We were serenaded by Rusty who was definitely talented with guitar, harmonica and voice along with Koman who sang. They asked us what kind of music we liked and we said Indonesian (they love "we be jamming man", Bob Dylan, John Denver and the Beatles) and so they sang to us with huge smiles. They were so ernest and later the girls from the kitchen joined in and the waiters too! We sat there and marveled at our good fortune to enjoy their hospitality. We are often humbled by the generosity of spirit of the locals. What a magical evening. To make it easier for them to shop as we expected to be the only customers the following evening we ordered our dinner in advance for the next evening, more Mahi-mahi. Off to bed until a cricket woke me in the middle of the night with a small bite to my hand. It's always unnerving to feel something in the dark, find the flashlight under the pillow (a must) and then search the bed for whatever!

The cafe last night had sound amplification and surprise... we even had 2 other customers from Australia, two gray haired ladies who loved the John Denver songs. When we were asked for our choices of music, we asked to hear again Rusty's song of how he got caught in a rain storm a dozen years ago and stopped at a Warung (Indonesian food stall) and ordered coffee from his future wife) along with a song about taking his grandfather out to eat an ice cream cone. Honestly... we were so impressed with the fact that everyone in the restaurant embraced all of us there. We had 4 seniors, 2 children (one asleep), a couple of middle age waiters and the young girls from the kitchen. We all had our feet tapping and our grins grinning!

Tonight we are headed over there again but tomorrow night we are off to a different cafe where we often hear drumming!

My goodness we just heard our phone ringing!!! It's been awhile... who could it be? Ah... just a text message ad. We really don't have much internet here at all. When we get to Ubud we expect to be able to send photos and maybe Skype.

Yesterday we spoke to a lady who has a collective of 6 masseurs here. For Rp70,000 or about $8.00 you can have an oil massage for an hour. Well... my goodness... I have never had a better massage in my life and today both Bob and I are going to have one. It's good to support the locals with some business and we get to enjoy their strong hands. In Bali some of the older woman still go topless so there's no discreet sheet over your breasts while laying on your back during this process.

It's raining today so I will go swimming laps in the pool anyway. I read in the Jakarta news this morning over our great breakfast (included: of poached eggs on whole wheat toast (imported from another city), Bali coffee and fruit salad) that the President has banned water buffalos at rally's for "safety reasons". I guess it has nothing to do with the fact that he wants to ban rally's and that at a recent protest someone put his picture on the ass of a water buffalo.

The whole paper is about scandal and corruption. The head of one "anti-corruption" agency is accused of murdering someone. The leader of Malaysian Opposition is also in the news accused of buggery. Anwar was accused in 1998 as he was about to topple the government. Evidently the President and his wife actually met with his accuser! He was accused of this offence in the past and spent 6 years in jail. There are stories of Sharia police raping innocent young homosexual girls in Java... and on and on. It's a cruel world for some. Even read about our Canucks and the Olympics in the paper, unreal.

February 14, 2010 - Ubud, Bali

Earthquake...! Suddenly at 2.45am we were very wide awake... our 4 poster bed was shaking like crazy... except it wasn't the bed, it was the whole building. It turns out we were in the middle of a 6.6 earthquake. The epicenter was about 135 miles SW of Bali. It was quite frightening... it was in the middle of the night and you know things are much scarier then!!! Things that go bump in the night. As we were on the 3rd floor of an Asian building I felt unsure of the quality construction (smiles). We waited for aftershocks but lucky everything seemed to calm down. All the recent earthquakes in the news kinda makes one a little jittery!

We've zoomed around the coast line of Bali and really have seen a lot of the countryside. Done some great snorkeling. Saw a lot of rural poor areas and lots of fantastic vistas of rice paddys and coastlines. The mountains/old volcanoes here are hugely impressive. Encountered frequent wild wet weather too. Driving in the wet monsoon is quite the experience, let me tell you! Flooding roads and absolutely unreal drivers coming at you every which way... reminds me sometimes of those Video games we all love to play except it's real here.

Right now we are ensconced at one of our favourite residences in Ubud, Narasoma. We find the location excellent and the accommodation with two balconies to catch sunrise and sunset. We overlook the revered Volcano Mount Agung in the morning at sunrise. Just before sunset we see flock after flock of White Egrets and Herons flying home to roost in a nearby village. We took a trip to the village and there were birds absolutely everywhere... lots of young ones madly flapping their wings getting ready to fledge. We are really loving having the car to explore new areas around Ubud and it also affords us the opportunity to venture out and find new restaurants.

Bob usually rises early and works on two new websites for struggling entrepeneurs. Later I crawl out of my sleepy bed after listening to the birds and looking at the sky through our french doors and Bob arranges for Made or Wyan to bring our breakfast up to us. Then a quick shower and we may do a little laundry or whatever.Then we head over to the Ubud Fitness Centre (yes, we've joined the gym) for a workout. They are so nice to us there... their level of service is unbelievable... friendly and informative. Today as it was raining so one of the guys escorted me to the car under an umbrella.

This morning we went over to Tutmak (great cafe with free WiFi but no Skype) and watched the opening of the Olympics. Loved the fact that kd Lang sang with no shoes on. We hope to be able to watch more events in the following days.

We are just hanging around doing a little shopping or perhaps a trip in the car to a small village. Then before you know it it's time to watch the sunset again and head out to a wonderful restaurant somewhere. Last night we went to an ex-pat hangout called Naughty Nuri's and had the very best rare tuna steak we have ever had in our lives... it's a Thursday special and we plan to be there every Thursday from now on!

Meeting lots of travelers from around the world and loving it. Our new Indonesian friends have made us feel really welcome in their gorgeous country.

PS: Had some sad news recently... those of you who know Sompong (husband of Lek at Pine Bungalows) should know he recently died of a Cobra bite.

April 5, 2010 - Back home in Victoria

So... farewell Bali and Indonesia. We've had a most marvelous time. Bali has such a peaceful way about it. The Balinese have somehow managed to embrace a tourist economy but still maintain a detachment from it in their eveyday lives. Balinese life goes on as always, yes they a very busy commerce but because they live their faith, their culture remains. Turn left at the corner and you only ned to go a 100 meters off any main street and you back in old Bali. It's delightful!

Our return to Canada transited the best airport in the world, Changi in Singapore. We discovered that for only one night it was so much easier to just stay in transit at the Transit Hotel for 2 blocks of 6 hours each. Another great thing about Singapore Airlines is that they allow you to check in foryour flight up to 24 hours in advance. We got rid of our bags and had dinner in the BusClass lounge... had a great sleep in the on site hotel and came back to the lounge for breakfast. The food was gourmet... absolutely the best we've ever had.

Arriving back in Victoria was a little chilly at first, but it is so nice to breath in the fresh air. We live in a great place, it's so nice to come home. All in all a wondeful winter away... already planning for next November.

Bye bye all.