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March 6, 2007

Same Same (but different)

The boy behind the desk at reception held up a piece of paper that said "Paeder". "Same same?", he enquired. I looked at the paper nodded and repeated the mantra, "Same same." (... only different...) I took a pen and wrote out "Heather". The paper was taken back for inspection and passed around to other hotel staff who had gathered to watch the farang (foreigners) attempting to check-in. The paper was frowned at and I began to wonder why I was even mentioning the difference of a few letters when it might put my ability to check-in at risk. It was 7:30 am and Kelly and I had been in Bangkok for over an hour and a half trying to find a hotel or guest house that had space for us. We were exhausted after taking the excessively air-conditioned overnight bus from Sukothai to Bangkok. This hotel told me on the phone they had one room available (with hot shower and air con!!) and if Paeder isn't me then he (or she) is about to lose his (or her) reservation because there is no way I'm giving this room up after trekking all the way over here with our bags. The boy held up Paeder's name again and I smiled as reassuringly as I could manage and repeated, "Same same". The magic words worked. Overjoyed I took the key from an outstretched hand. Soon we were blissfully dragging our exhausted bodies and belongings up the stairs to our room for some well-earned napping.

That was Thursday Feb. 22nd. Today is March 6th and it is my last night in Bangkok (for now). Tomorrow I wake up early and hop on a bus to Cambodia, but before I leave Thailand I wanted to catch you up on the adventures of the past month.

Let's see, when I wrote last, Kelly and I were enjoying island life on Koh Tao. Definitely my favourite Thailand island so far. Kelly did her Open Water and Advanced dive courses and I finished my Advanced and did some fun dives (what they call a dive when you're not training).

In between dives we also took some time to explore the island and do some snorkeling. Sadly my under water camera is an actual film camera (unfinished and undeveloped), so I'll have to wait to post those photos, but here's some shots of the island.

Koh Tao's yearly World Underwater Festival got underway on our last day in Koh Tao. It was well worth sticking around for.

On Feb. 10th Kelly and I boarded the ferry to Ko Pha-Ngan for a couple of nights. For those of you wondering, yes that is the home of the infamous Full Moon parties which Kelly and I were more than happy to give a skip after hearing very few positive things about. But the island itself is well worth a visit.

If I lived in Thailand I think I'd have a ridiculous number of pets within a matter of days. When the strays look like this, I don't know how anyone could resist.

Of course some strays would be quite easy to resist.

While we in the mood to island hop, Kelly and I hopped on another boat (high speed this time) for a tour of Ang Thong Marine Park. Which was beautiful but not quite as wonderful as the pictures led us to believe. All the same, it was worth the 2000 Baht (60 CDN) for the adventure, some snorkeling, and the kayaking.

On Feb 14th Kelly and got on yet another ferry and hopped back to Koh Samui (my least favourite island) to kill time until our very early morning flight (6 am) to Chiang Mai. This is the island we started our Thailand adventures on, and really for a least favourite, its not all that bad.

This last photo is thee only one I'm posting from our last day on the islands. This boy was meant to be selling me flowers, but instead we hung out and played with my various gadgets for awhile.

In between Koh Samui and Chiang Mai, was a brief stop at Bangkok's new international airport. A lovely piece of architecture. Too bad its has proved to be a very disorganized airport for travellers.

Chiang Mai is a treasure trove of markets, restaurants and Wats (Temples). We spent 5 days there but it went by very very quickly. Partly because I slept through about 2 and a half days before Kelly dragged me to the hospital. I had gotten the Thailand special... Parasites... Not fun. Picked it up on that island that I don't much like. Kelly had all the same symptoms but was able to recover from it more quickly than me. I've been informed by the Doctor that I am not allowed to eat fresh vegetables for the rest of the time that I am here. If I was a kid and a Doctor told me that, I likely would've hugged him. As an adult and a serious vegetable lover, I wasn't so pleased to hear the news. But I did recover. The doctor was great and should you ever get sick in Chaing Mai I highly recommend the Ram Hospital. Very nice and clean with English-speaking staff and likely the cheapest doctors bill I'm ever likely to receive. 780 Baht, including prescriptions! That's about $26 CDN. I was impressed.

The photo below was taken on Kelly's first Tuk Tuk ride. An initially terrifying experience that quickly becomes more fun than you ever thought possible.

A 20 minute drive out of Chaing Mai can bring you to the beautiful Wat Suan (originally built 1373 and restored in 1932).

On Feb 20th, not entirely ready to leave but wanting to see more of Thailand before Kelly's time ran out, we boarded a bus headed south. We were in the direction of Sukothai to see the ruins of the old capital of Thailand but along the way we stopped to meet some of Thailand's "wildlife".

Elephant Home is a government sponsored park for out of work elephants. Really. They don't do logging in the same way anymore and so they have to find new work for the elephants, like entertaining tourists.

Yes that is an elephant painting. And the one below is the finished work. They also play musical instruments, in case you were wondering.

A not so subtle request for a tip after taking Kelly and I for a ride.

After that is was taxis and buses to our guest house in Sukothai. The next morning Kelly and I rented bicycles to explore the ancient city.

Another day later takes us back to where this entry began, napping in Bangkok. And after the nap Kelly and I headed off the the Grand Palace, one of Bangkok's top tourist attractions and one that I managed to miss my first time in Bangkok just over a year ago.

Below is a mini version of Ankor Wat, which I should be seeing in its full-sized glory tomorrow or the next day!

Not ones to stay in one spot for too long, on the 25th Kelly and boarded a bus to Kanchanaburi. Home of famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

This is the Thailand-Burma Railway built by the POWs (Allied prisoners of war) and Asian labourers in WWII is nicknamed Death Railroad due to the incredible number of workers who died during its construction (90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs). This section is called Hellfire Pass. Not only was it incredibly difficult to cut through the rock, but the workers had to work all night with torches lighting up the area.

It is incredibly hot here. 2 degrees hotter than anywhere else in Thailand. I could barely walk up the steps to take this photo of the view, I have no idea how anyone did intense labour in this kind of heat. It was about 39 degrees on this day. In April it sores into the 40s.

It felt quite strange to get on a train to have a ride along a length of track when you know what kind of hell it was to build, but we got on for a ride all the same.

On a lighter note, there is also a beautiful 7 tiered waterfall that 's an incredible spot to visit. You can swim in several different spots, but weirdly enough the fish will try and eat you. A very freaky feeling.

The next day it was back to Bangkok for some over-priced drinks and a stunning sunset.

Some open shutter photos from a tuk tuk.

On March 1st I was sadly parted from my travelling partner. I was going to head straight off to Cambodia, but instead I extended my visa for a week and spent some time relaxing and catching up with some friends from New Zealand. Of course we had to do a day trip and so went to Damnoen Saduak home of the famous floating market, yummy cake shops ...

and my all time favourite hotel bathroom.

The name of the hotel is Noknoi, meaning little bird. And yes, there were always birds chirping around the hotel. They wrote down my reservation as "Seather", which is really pretty good when you think about it. Same Same. The hotel was also good enough to arrange our own private boat to for visiting the market.