I'm writing this from probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Right now we're in Krabi, a small town in the southern part of Thailand about two hours from Phuket (a place you may have heard of from the Tsunami back in 2004). Specifically, we're staying nearby Tonsai beach, a small stretch of sand lined with thatched hut restaurants, shops, and bungalows. This particular area is a major rock climbing destination; in fact, world renown for its amazing climbs. It's not difficult to see why: there are gorgoeous, steep, towering limestone rock faces everywhere. Many of the faces are lined with lush tropical vegetation, making them even more impressive. It's really spectacular and bascially I need to post photos to give it any justice. I'll be sure to do that before we leave.
So, we've been here in Krabi for about four days, during which I've been on about 4 climbs. This is the first time I've ever made the attempt and it's an absolute blast. I can definitely see how it takes a while to build up the stength, endurance, and finesse to become a good climber, though. I'm relatively strong, but after a couple climbs it's difficult to keep going without a lot of fatigue. However, it's a great rush and requires a lot of concentration, so when you've completed a climb there's a strong sense of accomplishment. This is also the first time I've seen Anna climb, which was very cool. She's a fantastic climber, even after having taken a long hiatus while out in the Pacific (where there is little or no climbing due to extremely sharp, crumbly limestone). It's obvious that she'll be amazing after getting back into it for a while. She already has strength and remarkable flexability, but she'll be a lot stronger after climbing more this summer. David, Anna's brother, is also really impressive to watch climb. David is part of a company that does a lot of aerial dance and acrobatic work, so he's in phenomenal shape, making it that much easier to climb. Ryoko, like me, hasn't done much climbing, but she is doing very well. You can see that she'll pick it up quickly. I feel like a sloth in the land of monkeys :)
Speaking of monkeys, they're everywhere here- macaques mostly. However, there are also some more reclusive, fruit-eating monkeys that have been visiting Anna and I every morning. And by "visiting," I mean grouping in the tree above our bungalow and throwing their heavy fruit scraps on the tin roof. Like clockwork, we awake with a jolt every morning to the "BANG!" "CLANG!" "CRASH!" ("Holy monkey projectiles, Batman!") of fruity grenades above our heads. We then have to go outside and yell, "Hey, you! Hey, Monkey! Go away!" Remarkably, they do leave pretty quickly, but not after dropping a few more chunks for good measure.
Last night, we hung out at a beach bar and listened to the soothing beats of 80's rap, Euro-reggae-techno-krap, and some other such craziness. It was also an open mic, so I got up on the drumset for a while and basically played along with the DJ to several songs. The music began with reggae, but then morphed into funk and hip-hop as we kept playing. The drumset itself was hilarious, but not much more could be expected from a small beach in Thailand (I was amazed that they even had set). There was one, extremely cracked and dented 14'' crash cymbal, a set of "hi-hats" (two 10'' splash cymbals) held to their stand by duct tape, and a bass drum beater that kept falling off. However, one of the local guys quickly came up with a leatherman-type instrument so I could secure it. There's nothing worse than trying to play James Brown with no bass drum.
Before I completely neglect that leg of our trip, we did spend several days in Bangkok before heading down here. We stayed in a small hotel nearby Khoa San Rd., which is a major stopover for young travelers from all over the world. It was insanely packed with 20-somethings, neon-signs, music, street vendors, and all sorts of stuff. Mostly, we toured the city, checking out the many Buddhist shrines throughout the city. The shrines are so beautiful. Most are incredibly elaborate, ornate, gigantic structures that obviously took a lot of time to create. The most impressive for me were the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha. The Grand Palace is a series of many buildings whose construction began in the 1700's. There are hundreds of golden Buddha statues everywhere, enormous detailed painted murals, towers, glass decorations, and tons of gold. It's quite the contrast to the more simple Christian churches I'm used to seeing back home. The reclining Buddha is this gargantuan statue of Buddha laying on his side housed snugly within an equally huge building. It's about 150 feet long and 50 feet high. Just a small weekend project to create, I'm sure.
Well, there's much more to tell, but hopefully I can do it better justice later on with some photos. Until then...
This morning, 7:20am, we left Guam to begin our travels within southeast Asia. Currently, I'm writing from the Northwest elite lounge (special thanks to Dwayne Minton) where they have free internet, comfy chairs, and free snacks, too. There isn't a great selection of food, but, hey, it's free! We'll be staying here in the airport for several more hours. At 11:45pm, we arrive at the Bangkok Int'l Airport, which is about 25k from the city center. We're hoping to stay somewhere on Khao San Rd., which is near most of the action. There are many places to stay, so with some luck we'll find a decent vacancy before feeling the strong desire to pass out from exhaustion.
We're planning to stay in Bangkok for a few days, while awaiting the arrival of Anna's brother, David, and his girlfriend, Ryoko. She'll be arriving first, followed by David on Thursday. From Bangkok, we'll all fly to Phuket and then onto Krabi, which is (finally) our final destination in Thailand... at least for a while. While Anna and I wait in Bangkok, we're hoping to make it to a climbing gym so I can get a little practice in belaying, climbing, and just getting a start on the basics. It will be interesting staying in the city, but I know I'll be looking forward to leaving there in order to see some nicer areas. However, I don't mind waiting around since it means we'll have a couple great travel companions to join us for part of the journey.