Sunday, November 30, 2008

Picture Slide Show - "The Land of Smiles," Thailand 08'

video

If you have troubles viewing this file please let me know, enjoy.

By the way, if you are viewing this at work it has sound.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Well after more than 24 hours of travel I made it back to Raleigh at 11pm Friday night.

My flight out of Seoul went smooth, it was about 12 hours to LAX, which I was awake for about 10 hours. Luckily, I had the window seat and the two seats next to mine were open so I got to lay down for a good majority of the flight.

The benefit to international flights are the selection of movies, which on the two Seoul legs I probably watched nine movies. The best movie on my return flight I watched was "The Promotion," with Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly, absolutely hilarious.

Once I got to LAX I had a four hour layover, which by the time I made it through immigration and re-checked my luggage I had about three hours left until departure. In hindsight, a four hour layover is nothing compared to a 12 hour flight.

After checking my luggage I made my way to the currency exchange to convert my remaining baht to dollars and then I was off to find the Crowne Room. For those who do not know the Crowne Room is Delta's lounge which you need to be a member to use, basically it is a lounge where you can get snacks, drinks and relax while you wait for your next flight. To use the lounge you pay an annual fee, which makes a lot of sense for people who do a lot of business travel. Did I mention I am not a member, however I have a gift for gab.

The reason why I went to the Crowne Room is because they have a shower and I felt disgusting after my flight. I talked to the lady at the desk and I explained that I just got done with about 18 hours of travel and I would like to use the shower, but I was not a member. She said there may be a way I can use it and looked at my ticket, but there was nothing she could do and I would have to pay which would be $30. At that point I did not care and got my wallet out, she must have felt sorry for me and said she would make an exception. I think that was the best shower I have ever taken.

Once I was refreshed I went to get something to drink and made my way to the gate. My flight departed on time and I was off to Salt Lake City. Once I arrived I had about another hour and then boarded the same plane for my final leg to Raleigh.

My flight to Raleigh was smooth and I slept almost the entire flight.

Once I got home I ended up unpacking and finally went to bed around 4am. I managed to get six hours of sleep and then showered and went to run errands and start my laundry.

So for the remainder of the day I am going to watch the Tide, relax and enjoy a couple adult beverages.

Roll Tide.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seoulshine better than sunshine, better than moonshine and damn sure better than rain.

My buddy Matt mentioned that there was a free Internet place in Seoul, well this time I found it. I have some time to kill so I guess I will give you an update.

Last night I made my way to Utapao via the Holiday Inn Limo, which is just a Mercedes but never the less a fine ride.

The main reason why I took the limo is because I did not want to worry about some taxi driver not being able to figure out where he is going. Well my limo driver pulled off into a gas station at one point to ask directions. After we got back on the highway I asked him if he knew where he was going and he said yes. Once we finally arrived, he said it was his first time to the airport, so basically he did not have a clue but we arrived in one piece.

One major issue with Thailand's highways is lack of lighting, I was getting a little nervous, especially when the driver was passing cars with his high beams on. Another quirk with Thailand drivers is the use of the high beam, they tend to use it just like a blinker. Also the fast lane is the right lane so if you are coming up a car going slower than you, just flip your high beam a couple of times and they will move over. I guess the challenge is to try to change lanes while blinded.

Once I arrived at the airport which is not set up to handle commercial flights it was like traveling in the U.S. the day before Thanksgiving. There were probably around a 1000 passengers waiting to check luggage and get ticketed.

After about 2 hours of waiting I made my way to the gate, which was actually just a door with the number one on it, from there we took a bus to the plane.

The flight was supposed to leave at 2:30am but did not leave until 4am, which was not big deal because my five hour layover just became a four hour layover in Seoul.

Here is one observation from this morning, if you are Korean and dating or married you wear matching outfits. I could not believe how many matching pairs I saw, in some cases the outfits were exactly the same and in other cases they were the same design but different colors. When I say outfits I mean everything from top to bottom. I would have had a excellent picture opportunity but I was too lazy to dig my camera out of the bottom of my pack.

The flight was smooth for the most part, I am rolling on about two hours sleep but hopefully I can stay awake until my LAX leg so I can sleep a good majority of the flight.

ㅆ맏 ㅊㅁㄱㄷ,

ㅖㅗㅑㅣ

(take care,)
(Phil) - The wonderful Korean language

Homeward Bound

With a little luck this will be my final entry from Thailand, it has been a fantastic journey but like all good things it must end. I am glad you got to join me on this adventure.

I managed to get a flight out of Thailand, no thanks to Northwest. I was on the phone with NWA and they kept saying that the earliest they could get me out was December 2, of course that is if the airport re-opens. The lady on the phone mentioned that I may want to try Korean Air, it just so happens that their office is about three blocks from my hotel.

Here is the catch, I am on a flight out of U TAPAO International Airport which is about two hours from Bangkok, near Pattaya. The beauty about this flight is that the airport is for military, so no need to worry about the PAD showing up. Korean Air has been re-routing their flights to this airport on an as needed basis, I just so happen to be able to get on this flight.

If everything goes as planned I will land in Raleigh at 10:45pm on Friday.

Here is my flight plan:
KE8654 U Tapao to Seoul - Korean Air
KE017 Seoul to LAX - Korean Air
DL1180 LAX to RDU - Delta

I actually shorten up the legs to this flight but I have a five hour layover in Seoul and a four hour layover at LAX, but at least I am on my way.

I am going to make my way to the airport tonight at 10pm via the hotel car. It is somewhat expensive but I can trust the driver. If I were to take a taxi it would probably be half the cost, however most taxi drivers say they know where they are going when in fact they have no clue.

I hope everyone has an excellent Thanksgiving, I may have mine tonight at Maria's before I leave and get my favorite dish of chicken and egg noodles.

Once I get settled in I will post some other pictures and final thoughts from the trip.

Thank you for coming along on this adverture with me, I will see you on the flip side.

Take care,

Phil

Time to Punt

Dear Phillip McCarty,

Thank you for contacting nwa.com.

Your flight KE8654 has been delayed until further notice as of this moment. As a result of the civil unrest at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport(BKK) in Thailand, Northwest has issued the following exception policy.

For passengers originally booked to travel from BKK between November 25 and December 1, Northwest will waive any normally applicable change fees in cases when the rescheduled travel is completed prior to February 28. For travel on or before December 11th, we will rebook on a cabin-to-cabin basis without regard to the availability of the appropriate booking class. For travel between December 12 and February 28, the appropriate booking class must be available or the appropriate fare difference will be collected. For travel rescheduled after February 28, all normal fare rules will be applied.

Instead of rebooking, passengers originally booked to travel either to or from BKK from November 25 through December 1 who have not yet begun travel may be issued a refund.
For immediate assistance, please contact our International WorldPerks Department at 1-218-254-7546.

I trust the information provided will assist you with your concerns.
Thank you for choosing Northwest Airlines, now part of Delta Air Lines. We value your patronage and consider it a privilege to serve your travel needs.

Sincerely,

Lucas

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Still Closed

Here is the latest, the airport is still closed, however I am supposed to be on Korean Air flight number KE8654 at 1:30am on Friday, which will be Thanksgiving in the U.S., hopefully.

I mentioned that I talked with someone at Northwest (NWA), the main problem is that it was their office in Bangkok. The lady failed to mention that my flight was rescheduled, so hopefully if I ever make it to the airport I will have a seat on the flight. I found this out after emailing NWA.

I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they respond to emails. In one of my emails to NWA I asked them if they do not re-open the airport soon what are my alternative options, hence, what is the closest airport I can fly out of. Here is the response, "Phillip, I have e-mailed your itinerary to you. Unfortunately, we do not know when the civil unrest will subside at the airport," thanks for all your help Josh, way to think outside the box.

The latest information regarding the airport is that it may re-open tonight. Yesterday, General Anupong talked with Prime Minister Somchai and asked for a compromise, that entailed a new election to end the protest. Of course that was rejected by Somchai at the PAD still remains at the airport. Another issue is that General Anupong is refusing to get the military involved, for the simple reason that he does not want to appear to be taking sides.

I am not sure if I mentioned that there are still passengers at the airport, a total of around 5000 are stuck in Phuket and 800 in Samui airport. I would hate to speculate how many are stuck in the Bangkok Airport considering that Thai Airways alone serves 30,000 passengers daily through the airport. At least I am not at the airport.

The big issue is that I do not know when I will be leaving, so basically I have to sit around the hotel and wait to see what happens with the flights. If I knew a departure date I would at least go and train, unless that departure date was tomorrow morning.

Yesterday when I was going to get dinner I ran into a British couple I saw on the elevator when I was attempting to check out. They asked if I got my flight re-booked, which I said yes. It turns out that they were supposed to be on a flight going to Koi Samui. The man said it is funny how the people just took over the airport and said he would have liked see what would happen if they tried that at London Heathrow or better yet somewhere in the U.S.. I think we all know the answer.

If I do not get a flight out soon, I am going to look at alternatives on how to get out of Bangkok. Hopefully I will be home this weekend.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

PAD Update

I never thought that would be giving you updated coverage on PAD but here is the latest.


I mentioned previously that the PAD was at the airport last night, well today they have taken over one of the towers. So what this means is that my flight that was supposed to go out at 1am is now canceled and wait the story gets better. I just got off the phone with the airlines and they said that the earliest I can get out is December 6, hopefully that is not the case.


Here are the problems. First, the airlines can get me out of Bangkok to either Seoul or Tokyo, but all flights to the U.S. are currently full, thanks to our friends at PAD. Second, no one knows when the airport will re-open. Finally because I booked a reward ticket this process becomes an even bigger pain in the ass.


So my plan is to figure out how to get back home, hopefully before December 6. I have heard several guests at the hotel talking about driving to Phukett or taking a train to Chiang Mai to get a flight out. Another option one guest suggested is to get a car and drive to Malaysia and fly out from there. My current plan is to fly out of Bangkok.


Hopefully my next blog will be an update on how I re-booked my flight. Keep your fingers crossed.


Signing out,


Dan Rather

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The PAD

I did not want to mention anything earlier, but here is what is going on it Thailand. The PAD, the peoples alliance for democracy has been protesting throughout the city. By protesting they are attempting to make the prime minister step down, of course he is refusing.

So here is what has been happening, I wake up each morning and read the paper to find out where the PAD will be that day and avoid that area. The reasons are that there have been several gernades thrown during these demonstrations and as of late the police have begun shooting warning shots.

Yesterday the PAD rallied at Don Muang, which is one of the two airports in Bangkok, the other is Suvarnabhumi. Last night the PAD decide to show up at Suvarnabhumi which is why you are hearing about all the travel cancellations, which also happens to be the airport I am flying out of tonight.

So here is the plan, I am going to check to see if my flight is still on, if so I am going to make my way to the airport around 11pm and hopefully avoid the PAD. The perk to the PAD is that they tend to move around and not stay in one place for a long period of time, so hopefully everything will go as planned. Another great feature of the PAD is that they wear yellow so they are easy to identify, it is hard to miss thousands of yellow bodies.

I will keep everyone posted as to what is happening, there is nothing to worry about. It's all good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sleep and Silk

Well Sunday was quiet, I spent the day doing much of nothing. I decided to sleep in and after breakfast I made my way to the pool. The pool is located on the sixth floor of the hotel, the main problem is the you only have so much sun time because the hotel is situated between two high-rise buildings.

Basically Sunday went as follows, breakfast, pool, shower, lunch, a little walking, dinner and sleep.

Today however was a little different, although I managed to sleep through breakfast because I ended up staying up too late and watching "Saving Private Ryan." Once I was up and running I made my way to get lunch and figure out how I was going to spend my day.

Here is the problem with Bangkok, many of the tourist areas, for example the National Museum are closed on Mondays, so you are somewhat limited as to what you can do.

I went to the lobby to talk to one of the concierges' I have made friends with, he is probably one of the most knowledgeable people I have talked to about Bangkok. He suggested that I go to the Jim Thompson House. This guy is on point, another fantastic suggestion. I will spare you all the details of Jim Thompson but click the link if you are interested on learning about him.

The short story on the Jim Thompson is that he helped revitalize Thailand's silk industry and built this house to reside in, which he did for about six years and then disappeared, never to be heard from again.

The house was amazing and was filled with statues, which some date back as early as the 12th century. I will post some pictures when I get a chance.

Before we started the tour they collected our backpacks, which now just dawned on me as to why, it was to prevent knocking over any pieces in the house by accident. We also had to take off our shoes, this is because Thai's usually eat on floor.

Another interesting fact I took away from the tour is the reason why all Buddha Statues have long ears. The Thai's believe that long or big ears mean you will have a long life. Also, if you have a long back it means that you are lazy and like to sleep all day.

After going on the tour and taking pictures I made my way back to the hotel to get my gear and go train.

Training was grueling today, I think partially because it was warmer than usual. I did six rounds of pad work and around 12 rounds of shadow boxing and bag work. Not to mention 10 minutes of jumping rope and 200 sit-ups. Needless to say I am sore as a MF.

Well I am off to get some dinner.

Its been real, its been fun, but it hasn't been real fun. Out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sweet Home Alabama

It seems that in any part of the world you can hear the sweet melodies of Lynyrd Skynyrd in any local drinking establishment, I would have not guessed that I would have heard a Thai band jam out to Sweet Home in Bangkok.

Last night I decided to have a couple of drinks since I am not training today which works out because they are free from 6-8pm in the executive lounge. I usually go to the lounge every night for the free finger food and just to kick back and relax. Usually you will see the same people and I have gotten to know a couple of them.

I met this man named Frank who is from Bonn, Germany. He is an interesting character, he has been staying on and off at this hotel for many years on. He is here on business and from what I can tell he is a project manager that oversees the construction of manufacturing plants. We have had several interesting conversations.

During drinks in the lounge we ran into a man named John that Frank knew, he is from Australia and is here on business as well. He brought his wife, Jane and her friend Elanna for the trip. Last night was Jane's Birthday so we went downstairs after the lounge closed to have a couple of drinks at the Irish Pub.

From some reason all of the English speaking foreigners keep asking me what I thought about the election, as did Jane and Elanna. I am not one to usually talk politics but I give them the quick and dirty and leave it alone. I am on vacation and the last thing I want to do is get into a political debate. Frank also asked me about the election well as a guy from Israel who I met at the gym.

Not much happened yesterday other than going to the gym to train. Mr. Why decided to increase my sit-ups to 200 which is great seeing that I cannot feel my stomach. I only have about two more days of training left, I do not think I am going to train on Wednesday unless it is in the morning, but doubtful.

The trip is getting close to being over, like all good things it must end. I fly back to the States Thursday morning at 1am. This will be another long trip, I depart Bangkok and arrive in Seoul. From Seoul I go to Japan, then Detroit and finally Raleigh. I will be back at 3:30pm on Thanksgiving Day. The nice part is that I will have a couple of days to recoup until I join the real world.

For the next couple of days I am going to try to finish up seeing a couple more sights and pick up a couple of souvenirs, but that is about all on the agenda.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Take me to the River

After I got back from training I decided to check out another form of Thailand's transportation system, the water taxi. I am about 10 minutes away from the Sathorn Pier so I made my way on foot.

Once I got to the pier I purchased my ticket for 15 baht and jump on board. I did not have any particular destination so I was along for the ride. I mostly saw the sights of the river life and took a bunch of pictures.

After about a 45 minute trip we made it to the last stop so I got off to see where I was and walk around for a little while. I did not really do anything, just looked around and got back on the boat after by my return ticket for 19 baht.

The trip was very peaceful on the way back down the river, the sun was beginning to set and the temperature had dropped about five degrees. I just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the sunset until we made it back to the pier.

The one bonus of taking the boat is that you do not have to deal with rush hour, however the sidewalks are loaded with people, but the nice thing is that the crowds continue to move in one direction.

Once I got back to the hotel I made my way to the lounge for some finger foods and a couple bottles of water. That is definitely a nice perk at this hotel.

As I was sitting there my back was in knots, which in not that different from any other day but it had gotten worse. So finally I got sick of dealing with it and made my way over to Silom Bodyworks, which is located about a block away from the hotel, as opposed to going two blocks up from my hotel to a place called Happy Massage. I was in need of getting my back fixed immediately.

I decided on the hour massage because the place was only open until 10pm and it was almost 8:45pm. They did a sport massage which is the whole body, I got talked into this by one of the ladies because she said I need the whole treatment to fix my back. So for 800 baht and an hours time my back was restored, not bad for about $20.

I think after training today I am going back for the 90 minute version sport massage.

Take it easy.

Wat Po Pictures



School on the grounds of Wat Po, one of the many temples, Wat Po and that sign is posted as you exit Wat Po.....thanks Thailand!







Training Day Two and Three

Well yesterday was semi unproductive, I decided to sleep in and take it easy. I had a grand idea to go to the pool for a little while and relax before I headed to train, but that fell through because I did not feel like laying in the sun.

I ended up going downstairs to talk to the concierge who I have had several conversations with, he basically fills me in on the hot spots of Bangkok and the sights to see. He recommended that I go to some club in the Patong District, he said it was basically a bunch of clubs in one building and in the same sentence he also recommended that I watch out for the "lady-boy." I will probably pass on that idea, there is no way I can drink and then train the next day. He also mentioned that I need to go see the river which I can see from my hotel but had not been there, so after he gave me directions and I headed out.

I made my way to the river and found out about the other form of transportation in Bangkok which is the boat. I looked at the prices and for an all day pass it is 150 baht, there are a bunch of stops so I may head out today.

After going to the river I made my way back towards the hotel so I could get something to eat. I have been eating at a place called Maria's, actually an Italian joint, but they have Thai food. I have discovered a dish they serve which is chicken and egg noodles, for some reason there is a flavor in the dish that is addicting. I have eaten the dish twice already and will probably stop there for lunch before heading out today.

After lunch I went back to the hotel to get my gear and head out to train for another grueling two hour session.

Mr. Why and I did about eight rounds of pad work working on punches, kicks, knees and elbows. After the pad work I worked the bag for two rounds until Pette grabbed me for some flow sparring. Talk about a little intimidation, flow sparring with a guy rank at Lumpinee. The sparring was very controlled and relaxed. He was smiling and talking in Thai the whole time, basically I think he was messing with me.

Near the end Mr. Why introduced me to the tire, basically you jump up and down while one foot goes forward and the other goes backwards in a scissors motion.

Finally I finished up with stretching and he increased my sit-ups to 150 and decided to come over and beat my stomach with a Thai pad for the last 20.

Today I decided to train in the morning to get it over with, basically the same story as usual, a lot of pad work and conditioning. Today he made me hold two pound weights and shadow box and then back outside to the tire with my weights. He also added in the clinch today, which I need a lot of work on and some leg sparring. I finished up with stretching and sit-ups.

One thing I found out is that Mr. Why has had 150 fights and from what I could make out he was a champion at Lumpinee. He also metioned that he wants me to have him come to the U.S. to teach a seminar, I am pretty sure that was what he was alluding to, his English is very limited.

Well I am off, have a good day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wat Po & Muay Thai

I can finally add Wat Po to the list of sights, although no thanks to my cab driver. When you catch a cab unless you get dropped off right in front of your destination they will point you in the direction you need to go. Well he pointed me towards the Grand Palace, home of the infamous Emerald Buddha, not to mention the Grand Palace was closed that day for another ceremony for the Princess who passed away.

I walked a couple blocks only to find out I was heading in the wrong direction and as I mentioned before there are not too many good signs that get you where you need to go.

As I was walking a Thai man approached me and asked me where I was from, this has happened a couple of times. I have not figured out the catch to their approach but usually they just welcome you to Thailand, tell you where you are and what sights are you are near. He told me that I was heading towards the Grand Palace and that it was closed and pointed to where Wat Po is housed and made mention of what I have heard a couple Thai's describe as "big standing Buddha." I have seen several "big standing Buddha's" so I am not sure if that is the one they mention.

Once I found the entrance I made my way in, but not before getting bombarded by vendors selling all sorts of prints and novelties. I actually listened to one man's pitch and heard the whole story of King Rama. Needless to say I negotiated for seven of his cloth prints at the bargain price of 600THB, then made my way into the Temple.

I went to purchase my ticket which was 50THB and proceed to make my way to see the reclining Buddha. Once I made my way into the Temple where he was housed, it was not what I had envisioned, I thought the Buddha would be laying on his back, maybe perched up against something. This was not the case, he was laying on his side with his head on what appeared to be a pillow and was more than 140' long, very impressive.

After viewing Wat Po I made my way through the grounds to look at the other attractions. There are nine wonders of Wat Po, which were mostly Temples with Buddha's housed in them. I would estimate that I spent about two hours just walking through the grounds and taking pictures.
I decided to leave and make my way back towards the hotel since I could not view Emerald Buddha and I had seen most of the sights near the Grand Palace, with the possible exception of the infamous "big standing Buddha."

Traffic was terrible around the Grand Palace because they were beginning to block off roads in preparation for the ceremony. I attempted to hop in a cab and make my way back, when I say attempted it took me three tries. The first driver would not turn the meter on and kept saying 130 baht, I had enough of him and got out, the second attempt failed because the driver did not know where the hotel was but I think it was more like he did not want to turn the meter on and finally I found a cab but here is the catch. I heard that cab drivers try to scam you without turning the meter on, which basically means the trip is negotiated, against my better judgement I stayed in the cab. He kept saying 150 baht and I stuck with 100 baht, I knew my price was good since I had travelled to the area several times, finally he said OK. Once he dropped me off before I handed him the money he said "tip, tip," I figured what the hell and tossed him 10 baht.

I made my way up to the room and started getting ready for my second half of the day, Muay Thai. Once I grabbed my gear I caught a cab to the gym I am going to train at, needless to say I was a little nervous, mainly because of the heat, however before I left for my trip I began preparing by training with layers of clothing on, good decision.

When I arrived I paid my money for one week and began to unpack my gear. My trainer met me and handed me a rope and took me outside to begin jumping for around 10 minutes. While jumping he asked me my weight, luckily I happen to have weighed myself on a scale in my hotel room which said 93kg (205 lbs.). I am not sure if I believe the scale but I will take it.


After jumping rope I wrapped my hands and got in the ring with my trainer to do pad work. He began immediately fixing my stance to traditional Thai. After he liked my stance and my jab and cross he moved on to my kicks. He made some minor adjustments and we began working. I would guess we went about five rounds, everything kind of started running together. He made a bunch of minor changes to my knees and elbows as well, I was rather amazed how quickly he dialed everything in. One thing he kept saying the whole time was "relax," which sounds more like "wewax." After the pad work I went to work the bags, anything from hands to kicks to knees. Again I cannot remember how many rounds but I would guess around 10 and I would also guess it was 3-5 minutes per round.

When I was working knees one of the other instructors, Pette came over to fix my knees. Pette is no joke, he has had over 200 fights and was ranked 2nd at Lumpinee. By the way my trainer is Mr. Why, no clue on the spelling but that is how it sounds.
The two hour session ended with what the Thai's call exercise (stretching) and 100 sit-ups.

Well today will be filled with R&R and Thai Boxing, signing out.

Signs, Signs Everywhere are Signs





Here are just a couple of the signs you may encounter when strolling through Bangkok.












Here are a couple of pictures I thought came out well, maybe I need to quit my job and become a photographer?















Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Grand Tour

I thought I had Tuesday planned when I got up, however that went out the window shortly after I ventured out. My plan was to go check out a couple of gyms to train at, go see Wat Po (reclining Buddha) and possibly train that afternoon. I accomplished one of the three, I did find a gym.


After looking at the gym I was about a mile from Lumpinee Stadium so I headed back in that direction, mainly because I am somewhat familiar with that area. When I came upon the stadium I noticed that all the shops were open, as opposed to the other times I was in the area. As I was walking towards the Twins shop a young boy approached me and asked me if I wanted to go inside the stadium and have a look around, I said yes. He was dressed in a red Twins Cornerman's Jacket so I figured this must be legit. I asked him if he fought and he said no that he was still training, I would guess he was about 12 years old.

As we were heading out of the stadium he asked me if I wanted to watch a fight and I told him that I was thinking about it at some point. When we were in the stadium he did make the recommendation that I should sit ringside, because you can take photos.

Before I left the stadium he told me that if I come I should plan on Friday because it is one of the better nights and then gave me a voucher. He told me his name was Pon and pointed to where he would be sitting the night of the fight, he said if I bring the voucher I would get 10% off, which would make the ticket 1800THB instead of 2000THB. I think I may try to plan on Friday to watch a fight.

Before I left the Stadium I went into the Twins and King shop to look around, I ended up picking up a couple of t-shirts after talking myself out of getting another pair of gloves. I have heard good things about the King Gloves, so maybe before I leave I will look into getting a pair.

After my tour I made my way to the Q House to get something to eat at Im Thai Noodle. After lunch I made my way back towards the hotel and stopped by a huge mall I had seen but have never been to. For those interested in shopping, Thailand is the place. I saw some jeans for under $20 and Nike Shoes that would be $90-$100 for around $60.

Well I am going to take a stab a Wat Po, have a good hump day.

ธฟา แฟพำ,

ญ้รส

(take care,)
(Phil) - Just learned how to write in Thai on the keyboard.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Rush Hour

Yesterday began with the normal routine, wake up, shower, eat breakfast and figure out what to do for the day. One place I wanted to see is Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium, that and Lumpinee are the two major stadiums in Bangkok, basically the two meccas for Muay Thai.
I got a cab over to the stadium and realized that it was right across from the Grand Palace, which was where I was at for the princesses procession. I went inside the gate to see the store, I tried to catch a glimpse inside the stadium but I had no such luck. I went into the store to look around at the gear, I ended up picking up a new pair of Raja Boxing Gloves, wraps and a t-shirt. I was in dire need of a new pair of boxing gloves because the Velcro has been shot on my Windy's for about 6 months. I paid under $40 for the gloves which is good considering for decent gloves in the U.S. you will pay in the range of $60-$110.
After shopping I started walking around to see the sights. I have not quite figured out where the Grand Palace is, but there are a couple of suspect locations. I have noticed that in Thailand there will be a handful of signs in English, mainly for local attractions, however sometimes when you follow them they take you nowhere or the site is miles away.

After taking a bunch of pictures I stumbled upon the Marble Temple. That is usually the way my days work out, I plan to see one sight and then explore what else is in the area. I went to the admission gate to pay to get in which I think was 10THB, basically a quarter.
The area where the Temple is located is surrounded by wrought iron fencing and it also has housing for the monks. I will post some pictures of it later, it is hard to describe.

I went in the Temple and the main feature was a 15-20' golden Buddha. The Temple was designed with ornate architecture. The area outside the Temple was like a small park with a river dividing the center.
After the Temple I made my way to see the King's Palace, which was a huge compound and surrounded by a moat. If I had to guess I would say the compound is probably 2 square miles. I did not really get to catch a glimpse of anything because the area on the other side of the fence was overgrown with trees, however I did get to see the guards on the other side of the moat standing with what appeared to be an M-16.
After trying to catch a glimpse of the Palace I stumbled upon the Dusit Zoo and figured why not take a look. The admission was a little steep, 100THB, just under $3, but I decided to splurge. I cannot say I have been to an actual Zoo in the past 12-15 years. The Zoo was very enjoyable and after about an hour I started making my way back to catch a cab.
I left the Zoo around 4pm, needless to say I did not make it back to the hotel until 6:30pm, traffic was grid-locked throughout the city. I ended up paying the cab driver when I was about 5 blocks from my hotel and got out and walked the rest of the way. I have been in some major cities during rush hour but I do not know if I have ever seen traffic like that before.
Well, I am off to plan today, by the way the weather here has been in 80-90's during the day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lazy Sunday




Sunday was not too productive, I was not feeling up to par. I think it has to do with the doxycycline I am taking, in general antibiotics kick my ass for a couple of days. However, I think it was the first night where I slept almost the entire night. I have been going to bed relatively early because I am exhausted from the day, it is nice to be in bed by 11pm for a change.


Once I got moving and ate breakfast I caught a cab to check out a couple of camps I am thinking about training at, however I need to rethink that plan, they are nowhere near the city. Today I am going to try to find a couple that are closer. I know of a couple that are good camps and are in downtown.


After looking at the camps I made my way back to Lumpinee to check out some of the shops, when I was there Saturday the majority were closed. I ended up going into a place that made Thai shorts and picked up a couple of pairs. My next mission is to find some new boxing gloves, however I did ask the guy in the short shop where I could find some but I could not understand what he was saying so I headed back towards Lumpinee Park.


I stopped by the park to check out what was happening, apparently Sunday is aerobics day in the park. The walk ways were lined with rows of mostly Thai's, spaced out on the side walk were the instructors and they have a speaker system set up playing dance music. It was quite the spectacle, I probably sat there for 30 minutes just watching. The picture does not do it justice there were probably 60-80 people working out.



Another entertaining feature of Thailand is the rain, let me explain. As I mentioned when I arrived the cab drivers are on a mission to set a track record, this all goes out the window when it rains. I saw two cabs wreck within 5 minutes of each other, I guess they do not know how to steer out of a skid. I watched one driver slam into the curb and another rear-end another car which collected two others.
After the excitement I made my way back to the hotel and went to the lounge for a couple Singhas' and finger food that they put out from 6-8pm.
Have fun in the rat race this week.
























Lumpinee Park, Princesses Procession, Q House, Princesses Procession, Lumpinee Park, Thai Boxing Stadium, Seoul

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday in the Park

What an amazing day I had.
I have often talked about many firsts I will experience on this trip but how about something you may only experience once in a life time. That experience I am talking about is the Princesses Procession.
I made my way down to The Grand Palace at about 8pm last night by cab. Before I made my way I was talking with one of the concierges at the hotel to find out what to expect and briefly attempt to discuss the potential rules. The scenario played out like this, keep your wallet in your front pocket and wear black or white shirt. Easy enough considering my wallet is always in my front pocket and I brought plenty of black shirts.
When the concierge hailed my cab he talked to the driver to find out how close he could get to the ceremony and explained that he was not sure because there were over 100,000 people there already and they had several roads blocked off.
I jump in and he got me close as he could and pointed in which direction to walk. When I stepped out it was like moving through a crowd at a football game or concert. I made my way up a couple of blocks basically just following the crowds. I figured they knew where they were going and it would have been almost impossible to ask directions. After about 5 minutes of walking I came upon a massive intersection, this is where the procession would take place. The street was about 50 yards wide, probably one of the biggest intersections I have ever seen and it was lined with people on both sides mainly on the sidewalk area and about 10' off the curb.
To help keep order with crowd control there were probably 2000 guards/military and police officers.
This is where it gets interesting. About three minutes before the procession was getting ready to begin the guards shuffled us down to the street and made us sit on the pavement while they stood to keep watch. I happened to be sitting on the end of the row in front of three guards and a group of Thai Children. The guard began to have some issue as to the way I was sitting and they started talking to the children since they spoke no English. The children started to point to their legs to show me, I then went to Indian Style. The discussion continued because then they started pointing at my hands. At this point I was not sure if they were messing with me or if they were looking for a reason to kick my ass. Then a light bulb went off in my head, I remember reading that you need to have your feet pointed away because it is disrespectful. Thai's consider the feet to be the dirtiest part of the body. I changed my position so my feet were pointed behind me and the guards were satisfied.
The procession began with about 20 - 30 Mercedes driving by, the only sound you could hear were that of the cars. Everyone sat in silence with their hands together infront of their face. It only lasted a minute or so then everyone was allowed to get up, the guards actually thanked me, probably the only English they knew. I thanked them back and proceeded to make my way down the street.
The walk back was amazing, everyone was beginning to start the celebration, mostly they were taking pictures of themselves at the event.
I was going to stay for the celebration, however I was exhausted from the day so I started making my way back in the direction hotel so I could catch a cab. I will try to download some of the pictures, I did not get any of the procession simply for the fear that I might have been beaten, not to mention I did not see anyone else taking pictures.
Earlier that morning I made my way by cab to Lumpinee Park. Lumpinee Park was made for the people by the King so they would have a place to use and enjoy. It was absolutely breath-taking. The park was beautifully landscaped with winding rivers cutting paths throughout the park and all sorts of artistic statues throughout the park. There was a calm in the park like there was not a care in the world. The park had a variety of people there for different reasons, some for group activity, socializing, exercising and even napping. It is very hard to describe but when you walked through the gates there was a calm in the air.
I stayed at the park for a couple of hours mostly walking and taking pictures. Later I made my way to Lumpinee Statium to look around. There was not much going on because they were getting ready for a fight that night, which I was going to attend, however I decided to attend the procession. I can actually get tickets at the hotel, which are about $55 for ringside seats. The lady also mentioned that they allow you to take pictures and you get to meet the fighters. I may look into that next weekend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Can't you Smell that Smell

Well day two was pretty mellow for the most part. I made my way out amongst the locals and noticed the smell that floats through the city. I am not sure exactly how to describe it, from what I can remember it is similar to the smell in New Orleans.
The recap of yesterday is pretty uneventful. I went walking around the Silom Road area which is where my hotel is located. I went into some sort of mall which was mostly art and jewelry shops. After that I continued my walk and looked to see what the local street vendors were selling, basically anything from food to clothes. During my walk I questioned my choice of shoes, which happened to be my flip-flops. The sidewalks are a sprained ankle waiting to happen, well at least where I was. The walk was more like a hike up in the mountains.
Along with the slogan of "The Land of Smiles" it should also include "and Salesmen." Just about every Tuk Tuk driver tried to lure me in for the 1 hour tour of Bankok. I decided just to walk, although there was guy that almost earned my business, I know right where he is at so maybe today.
After my adventure I made my way back to the hotel to get some lunch and relax. The jet lag is still kicking my ass. I had lunch in the lobby area of the hotel where they had a guy playing piano who was fantastic. At lunch I decided to taste one of the local brews which is Tiger Beer, it was pretty good.
After lunch I made my way up to the pool and relaxed for about a hour and then went up to my room to lay down.
I fell asleep at 7pm until about 11pm and then got up to take my contacts out and watched a little Cricket on TV and fell back asleep. I was up around 5am but did not get out of bed until 7am. I took a shower and made my way to breakfast which is always good.
I have to figure out today's agenda, I think it will mostly be sight seeing. I did find out that tonight there will be a Royal Ceremony for Princess Galyani Vadhana which will mark the end of the mourning period. It is going to be some event, they are having three stages in front of the Grand Palace which starts at 7pm and ends at 6am. It is going to be a variety of orchestras, "Nang Yai" shadow puppet plays/masked plays and another stage of puppetry.
Well I am off to breath that crisp air.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Begin Day Two


Well needless to say I am exhausted. I was up at 6:30am this morning after about 5 hours of sleep. Today will envolve doing very little, I just got breakfast out of the way so lunch and dinner are left along with napping.
So more on the trip over, as I mentioned the only snag was the possible medical emergency. The flight from ATL to Seoul was about 14 hours, which was not that bad. I watched a bunch of movies to pass the time, "Indiana Jones 4, Baby Mama," and something with Sarah in the title, I cannot remember. I also watched Frank Caliendo, listened to a handful of CD's and took cat naps.
I think for my next adventure, it may be Seoul. I could not believe how clean it was, well at least the airport. It kind of reminded me of landing in California with the mountains surrounding the horizon. I had about a two hour layover there and spent the time walking around and taking a couple of pictures. From what I saw it was very beautiful, especially the flight out of the city with the view of all the islands surrounding Korea.
From Seoul it was another 6 hour flight to Bangkok on Korean Air. I cannot say I remember much of it because I slept the majority of the flight. I did tempt fate on the plane, they brought some ice cream and decided to eat it, the whole container was in Korean so I could not figure out were it was distributed from, hopefully not in China after the recent scare with the melamine in the dairy.
After we landed I made my way through immigration and converted some currency. So here is where I fall for a scam. I got roped in by the airport taxi service. They offered me a limo to my hotel for $70, luckily she showed it to me on a calculator. I borrowed her calculator and did the divison to find out how much it actually was, this 35:1 thing is kind of a pain in the ass. Needless to say I declined the limo but found out they had a car as well. Long story short was I paid about $35 for the ride. I know I could have got a better deal but I just wanted to get to the hotel without worrying about cab driver screwing me.
The ride to the hotel was interesting. I was not aware that they are training Thai's to take over NASCAR. We drafted several car on the way to the hotel and at one point I thought the driver was going to utilize bump-drafting. Our speeds ranged in excess of a 140km/h range which is 85mph.
When I got to the hotel I tipped the driver......also the guy who carried my bag to the taxi. One thing about the drivers is that they will ask you for a tip. I gave them 40THB which is just over a $1. I am not sure what the tipping procedure in Thailand is but I guess something is better than nothing.
When I got to the hotel I went to the front desk to check in and the lady had me follow her to the elevator. Because I am on the executive level I had my check in on the 23rd floor, sweet.
After getting settled and taking a shower I went downstairs to find a watering hole. As luck would have it, there is an Irish Pub attached to the hotel. The biggest attraction of the night was listening to a Thai Band perform "Islands in the Stream," originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The band was actually very good and they played a variety of music. After several Kilkenny's I made it up to my room at 1am and went to sleep.
One thing I found out was there will be a big to do in Thailand for the next 3 days. The princess has died so there will be a big ceremony. I may try to figure out where that will take place.
I see why it is called the land of smiles, everyone does smile at you and the people I have met so far are excellent. They seem not to have a care in the world, this is a very beautiful place.
One final note: Koh Coon Crap means thank you in Thai. However, the spelling is probably wrong but that is how it is pronounced.

Made It

Greetings from "the Kok," I have made it safely to my hotel which is kick ass. The executive level is awesome for the money, I figured I am going to be exhausted so I should relax is style.

So here is the low down on the slow down. I left RDU at 8am and made it to ATL after a delay, go figure. When I landed I had about 20 minutes to make my connection, which most of you can appreciate if you have ever flown into ATL. I made my flight with about 10 minutes to spare. We left on time from what I can remember. About 1 hour into the flight the captain came on and made us aware of a medical emergency aboard. Needless to say, two doctors were on board and after they cleared the passenger and we kept on.

I am going to get more into the details tomorrow, I have about five minutes before the hotel business lounge closes (11pm). I am off to get a beer, it has been over 24 hours of travel and about 5 hours of sleep.

I hope all is well, peace from the Southeast............Asia that is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

12 Hours and Counting

Well the time is almost here to board and get the bird in the sky. I will be departing RDU at 8:15am for an 1 hour and 30 minute flight and after a short connection in Atlanta I will be off the Seoul. I have never been to Seoul so it will be one of the many firsts' that will take place.

Did I mention that this is only my second trip out of the U.S., my first trip was to Mexico, which my buddy from college Matt and I went deep sea fishing in Ensenada. There was no 23 hour flight, just 6 hours out to Ontario, CA and a four hour drive to Ensenada. We survived driving through Tijuana and an 8 hour fishing trip with a captain and deckhand that were drinking Tecate at 4am, and yes that is am. If I were a betting man, I would hedge that our captain had not been to bed that night, needless to say he went to take a cat nap at 2pm and let Joe, the Mexican deckhand navigate us back for a little while. So I should be fine in Thailand. As a side note, the picture on my profile is a Mexican street performer that rocked out a 6 song blistering set while we were eating on a sidewalk patio. There is nothing like the broken English version of "C'mon Baby Light my Fire" by the Doors.

There will be many more firsts' on the trip which I will document along the way.

So what I am looking to get out of the trip? Mainly perspective, I have the opportunity to see and learn about a culture that few have or will have the opportunity to experience. With that said I guess it will be a new chapter in this book called life and I am glad that you get to read it with me.

Well I am going to finish packing and attempt to get some sleep tonight. I will try to let everyone know when I arrive, I should be at the hotel around 11pm Thursday night, if not look for something Friday which will be Thursday in the states.

Keep it gangsta.

Monday, November 10, 2008

One Day Left




Well I am almost ready to leave. I have a few things to take care of at work tomorrow and then I will join the rat race for the evening commute. From there I have a couple of things to pick up and then begin packing to make sure I bring enough crap for 15 days.
Luckily, I overheard some mention that Veterans' Day is tomorrow, needless to say I hauled ass at 4pm to make it to the bank so I could get the cash for my trip. If I would not have been paying attention I would have had to make a lot of trips to the grocery store purchasing some small items so I could get cash back or one trip to the ATM to withdraw the max amount. The one bad deal with going to the bank is because of the time constraint I went to a bank that is closer to my work, needless to say that bank has screwed me more than once, mainly screwing up my deposits. I normally travel an additional 5 miles because that branch has been good to me and not screwed up my account.
Well it is time to crawl into bed, this lovely weather has taken a toll on my sinuses. Hopefully the congestion will go away before my trip, if not I have to start my doxycyclin tomorrow and maybe that will help knock it out.
In case your wondering what the weather will be like it is looking good so far. My concern so far will be Sunday when I have to make my 2 minute walk to Sor Vorapin because the road may be too small for the cab. Hopefully there will be a tuk tuk close by so I can hop in with the driver and take it off some sweet jumps.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Roll Tide Roll

The Tide put the beat down on LSU......well some what, thanks Tiffin for screwing all Tide fans. I do not care who your dad was but you can still kiss my ass. I cannot believe you kicked it into the o line. Anyway, oh well, you are horrible. Thanks to pecker head we are still fine. I hope we roll on but you can never tell. My sugesstion is to keep fighting the good fight and keep Tiffin out. I hope everything works out but it is hard to hold number one when you get into the top ten. Well am off to bed, goodnite.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Less talkie-talkie more workie-workie.....

So, I am attempting to get everything squared away at work before I leave, but the vacation Gods are against me. The past couple weeks have been hectic, I am trying to get everything taken care of at work so the buck will not be passed too much while I am gone. My main goal is to wrap up any existing jobs and take care of anything crucial, which is an excellent concept if I could stop getting bombarded with phone calls and knock out my remaining jobs. If you are in sales you can probably relate to these statements. Vacations, all though needed, can be one big pain in the ass.

So back to the trip, I do not know if I mentioned that I will be making this trip by myself. This will make it an adventure in itself, I guess similar to the Amazing Race, minus the travelling companion and the prize at the end. A lot of people questioned why I am doing it by myself and I guess I do not have any real good answer, other than why not.

Many people have asked if I am excited about the trip and I would say maybe a little. It is a weird excitement, coupled with nervousness, followed by anticipation and accompanied by fear of the unknown. I think some of the feelings stem from not knowing what to expect other that what I have read in books or seen on TV or the Internet. It will be an eye-opening adventure to say the least and I am looking forward to what I will learn.

As I mentioned I should have the rest of the rough itinerary planned this weekend and the only other travel planned known is my return flight. My return flight will consist of four Thanksgivings in four different countries. I depart Bangkok at 1am on November 27, my connection in Seoul will take me to Tokyo, onto Detroit and finally arriving at RDU at 3pm Thanksgiving day. All though I will probably hedge that turkey will not be served on the flight, unless it is on the Tokyo to Detroit flight.

I guess this years Thanksgiving will be one to talk about for the years to come.

Here are some other camps I am thinking about training at:
Fairtex
Phuket Muay Thai
Tiger Muay Thai
Various Camps
Porparmuk if I go to Pattaya

Most of these camps would be sort visits, probably one training session, with the exception if I go to Phuket.

Well I am going to keep on keep'in on.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Half the Plan

So here is the deal, I am not positive what my itinerary will look like but here is what I currently know. I am departing Raleigh on November 12 at 8am and will connect in Atlanta, from there I have a 15 hour flight to Seoul which I will arrive on November 13 at 4pm. My final leg will be another 6 hours to Bangkok which I will get in at 9pm.

From the airport I am 20 miles from my hotel, which the hotel site says will take about 40 minutes by cab. I am staying at the Holiday Inn Silom until November 16. I decided to splurge and stay on the executive level for the bargain price of $119 a night. The price is a little steep but it includes breakfast everyday, unlimited soft drinks all day, 30 minutes of Internet in their business lounge a day and my favorite perk free booze from 6-8pm everyday (high five). I figure I am going to need a couple of days to relax so why not relax in style.

During my stay at the Holiday Inn I am going to do the tourist thing. My short list of things to do will include seeing the worlds largest reclining Buddha, Lumpini Stadium, Rajadamnern Stadium, Fairtex, maybe a couple of temples and possibly looking into some sort of group tour if the price is right. I did see a day tour to Pattaya which is about 60 minutes South of Bangkok located on the Gulf of Thailand, however I am not sure of the cost. I guess I will figure it out as I go.

On Sunday I am going to Sor Vorapin 2 to train for about a week. Part of the reason I am making this trip is for the Muay Thai training. I have been kickboxing for a couple of years now and I am taking it to the next level. The training in Thailand is very affordable and top notch, for my week in their top room with an air conditioned bungalow, two meals a day and training twice a day will cost around $225. I actually emailed the camp last night to check a couple of details, they do not train on Sundays so I had to make sure I will be able to get checked in on Sunday. They said there will be some there to assist me. The guy also gave me his cell phone number in case the cab driver gets lost which I hear happens more often than not. He also dropped another bit of information on me, he mentioned that the cab may not be able to get to the camp so I may get to enjoy a refreshing 2 minute walk. He also said if while walking I have problems finding the camp I can ask someone and they will know where it is located. I am guessing that the people near the camp speak English?????

So that basically gets me through one week. The second half is still up in the air. My current thought is to fly to Phuket and train and hang out at the Indian Ocean for the rest of my trip. I looked into a flight and it would be around $160 including taxes for a round trip. I would like to check out Krabi Island, but I still have not made any final decisions.

My plan this weekend is to tie up the final details which will include, buying travel health insurance, making copies of my passport, picking up bug spray, buying a new hat, doing laundry, starting the packing process and finally watching the Tide hopefully roll over LSU.

Until we meet again..........

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Blog El Numero Uno

So you are probably wondering about the title? This title was coined by visitors to Thailand and later the slogan was popularized in travel guides which I felt would be appropriate since I will be departing for Bangkok on November 12.


So why Thailand? There are several reasons: the sweet exchange rate (34.9THB = 1USD), you can refer to Bangkok as "the kok," the national past time is Muay Thai Kickboxing, Tuk Tuks, tom yum soup, the Thai Massage and broken English.

In reality, I was thinking one day that I have not really been on a real vacation in probably the past 10 years so I figured I was overdue and started the planning process. I thought in the past my vacations consisted of long weekends or extending business trips and were usually incorporated with some event like a wedding. Inevitably the vacations that were more focused on R&R were usually interrupted by a phone call from work by some dumb ass that could not read an email saying that I would be out of the office on vacation. Anyways, this brought me to a decision, I would be leaving the U.S., traveling to a country where I would not get killed on the exchange rate because of the weak U.S. Dollar, finding a destination that I could afford for two weeks and finally finding a country where my network could not follow me even though I am with Sprint - you get the picture. Enter Thailand.

The basic planning process began, I got my passport, paid $70 to cash my airline miles for my flight, got some shots (typhoid and Hepatitis A &B), got a couple prescriptions (doxycycline and ciprofloxacin), bought a Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand, bought a sweet backpack (Osprey), got suckered into a pair of Merrell Chameleons because the guy at the Walking Store said "these are the same shoes Bear Grylls wears" and setup this sweet blog for you to share in my adventure.

In future posts I will get into the details of the trip along with the itinerary, I am still shooting from the hip. I just booked my hotel room last night and will be doing some better planning in the next couple of days.

So enjoy for now and keep looking for updates........fist pump!