MontanaRon

Just another ordinary English teacher eclectic expat blog about nothing in particular.

Month: July 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Off to Laos, Photos

Today is Buddhist Lent in Thailand, Laos and elsewhere, and it is probably the main reason I couldn’t get a train ticket to Nong Khai until today. At any rate, I leave this evening at 8:45 and arrive in Nong Khai at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

I forgot to mention that I left my big camera, the Digital Rebel, back in the States. I love the equipment, but it tends to get to be a bit much to haul around after awhile, since I hate leaving it in guesthouse rooms, susceptible to theft. So, while in Montana I bought a new Canon Powershot SD800 IS, a small point-and-shoot that’s very portable. I’m also able to upload photos to the blog because I purchased a memory card reader here in Bangkok (only about $4). Hopefully, I’ll put up photos as I go along. Unfortunately, they may not be as high quality as I like, but I think they’ll be acceptable. 🙂

So, here’s one of all the rain we had, taken while I was sitting on the veranda of the Suk11 guesthouse.

Suk11_Rain

Speaking of the Suk11, I’ve mentioned how quirky and eccentric it is. Here are a couple of inside photos of its dark, mysterious interior.

Looking down the corridor to my room.

Suk11_1
One of the nooks and crannies in the corridor.

Suk11_2
Another interesting corner.

Suk11_3

The day before yesterday, I did a lot of walking, mainly to go to the Panthip computer plaza to look for a card reader. Along the way, I stopped at Central World Plaza (aka World Trade Center), a huge, upscale shopping mall that I hadn’t visited before. This area of Bangkok is filled with shopping malls, including the previously mentioned MBK mall and the extremely upscale Siam Paragon. Here’s a shot of the outside of the Central World center, with the Amari Watergate Hotel and the Baiyoke Sky Hotel in the background.

Central_World_2

Inside the mall, the Bangkok International Film Festival is running (ends today), and the central corridor is suitably decorated.

Central_World

Also along the way is this interesting clock. What time is it, anyway?

Thai_Clock

Ok, I’ve had my fun for the day, uploading photos and killing some time before the train leaves in 6 hours. Hopefully, I’ll be able to show you more photos as I travel around over the next few months. Keep your eyes peeled. More later.

Eating and Sleeping (and Everything in Between)

Take a look at the time stamp at the bottom of this post. If you add 11 hours to it, you should come up with a time of about 6 a.m. Actually, I was up about 3 a.m. this morning, after finally succumbing to jet lag around 5 yesterday afternoon. I’m feeling pretty good today, so far.

Yesterday, I got checked into the guesthouse ok and after cleaning up, I went next door and had a nice, relaxing Thai massage–NOT! Good Thai massages are not relaxing, since you get pushed and pulled, twisted and turned, kneaded and prodded. I opted for a 1 1/2 hour massage, and checked to make sure that the masseuse, a young lady, could give a strong massage (and no hanky-panky, if you know what I mean). She could and did. Though it wasn’t relaxing, it sure helped relieve some of the muscle tension built up from the long flight over. During the massage, a vicious thunder and rain storm broke out. It sounded like it was directly overhead, the lightning flashing and then followed by almost instantaneous cracklings and boomings of thunder. The rain lashed the city, and the side street the guesthouse is on was ankle deep with water. It was an astonishing display of nature, but not all that unusual this time of year.

After the massage, I went to the Sizzler Restaurant in Mahboonkrong Shopping Plaza to take in the salad bar. I made a couple of trips to the greenery and when I left, I found myself very tired, in a sleepy drowsy way. Still, I had to make my way to the Hualamphong train station to buy my ticket to Nong Khai. Once there, I found that the train was already full until the 29th, so I have to delay my trip until then. I’ll get into Nong Khai on the 30th, instead of the 28th, so that gives me a few extra days to goof around in Bangkok. After purchasing the ticket, I went back to the guesthouse for some much-needed sleep.

Ok, I promised the Thai Air menu in my last post, so here it is:

Dinner:

Thai Salad with Chicken Sausage and Garnitures

Beef Bourguignonne with Steamed Parsley Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables OR Stir fried Seafood with Garlic and Pepper and Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice

Roll, butter, cheese and fresh fruit

Breakfast:

Fresh fruits and yogurt

Creamed Scrambled Eggs, Chicken Sausage, Fried Gem Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes OR Chicken Yakitori with Yakitori Sauce, Japanase Rice, Sauteed Mixed Vegetables Oriental Style

Roll or croissant, Danish Pastry, butter, cheese

Snack:

Mixed green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing

Spaghetti Napolitan with Meat Ball Tomato Sauce and Green Beans OR Thai Fried Rice with Shrimp Paste, Dried Baby Shrimp and Chinese Chicken Sausage

Roll, butter and assorted petite fours

Very delicious and just listing these has started to make me very hungry. Breakfast is on the way. Well, actually I have to go to it. I think I’ll head over to Crepes and Co., which makes a marvelous, huge and expensive breakfast. I’ll need to get stocked up, though, for all the potential activities to do: cruise the river, take in a wat or two, go to Chinatown, get another massage (perhaps at Wat Pho), eat real Thai food instead of Sizzler and Crepes & Co. stuff (like at the Suda restaurant, an outdoor eatery on Suk Soi 14 that has a huge menu of cheap Thai and Chinese goodies), etc. Too much to do and not enough time. Better get to it. More later.

Back in the LOS

After a very long flight (17 hours), I finally arrived in Thailand at 6 o’clock this morning–that would be about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Montana time. (Ignore the date stamp at the bottom of my posts for the next two months–just add eleven hours to it to get the correct time that I’m making the entry.) I can always tell I’m in Thailand by the smells that greet me when I walk outside the airport to catch the bus into Bangkok. Mostly it’s gas, diesel and airplane fumes, mixed in with a bit of a sewer smell, especially in Bangkok. In the Big Mango itself, I’m surrounded by the smells of the various foods being cooked by the street vendors–grilled chicken, beef and seafood, corn on the cob, noodles and other Thai delicacies. There’s also the exhaust from the traffic, but also the sounds–a steady noise from all the automobiles, buses, tuk-tuks and motorbikes, sort of like a background white noise, always there. There are also the human noises from the densely packed sector of the city in which I’m staying, Sukhumvit, as I’m accosted by tuk-tuk and motorbike drivers, vendors trying to sell me shirts and what-not, beggars on the sidewalk, and others. Chaos incarnate. I love it!

I left for all this madness on Monday morning, Missoula time. I made a last minute stop at the bank to buy some travelers checks, and the haze from the past few days had dissipated somewhat. I had a one-hour delay in Salt Lake City, so I “only” had a 6-hour layover in Los Angeles. The Thai Airways flight was about half an hour late getting started, but we arrived in Bangkok right on time, 6:10 a.m. It was exciting to be in a truly international airport (LAX) once again, surrounded by different languages and clothing. The new Thai airport, Suvarnabhumi, is also quite interesting and beautiful, a step up from the older Don Muang Airport. I don’t feel as affected by jet lag as I did last year after flying from Bangkok to Montana. Hopefully, though, I’ll get a good night’s sleep later.

I was going to write down the menu we were offered on the flight over, but I seem to have left my complimentary copy back at the guesthouse. Yes, everyone was given a menu to choose from, with two choices for each of the three meals we had. I’ll post it here later if I can find it. I also had a choice of about 25 movies to view and, between catnaps I watched “The Last King of Scotland,” “Blades of Glory,” “Disturbia,” “The Incredibles,” and a Thai movie. As always, more later.

Next Stop–Land of Smiles

After having to do much paperwork, getting a physical and going on numerous shopping expeditions, I’m finally getting packed to leave for Thailand tomorrow. I’ve had a great time in Montana, short as it’s been, hanging out with relatives and friends and visiting some old haunts. The temperatures in the state are comparable to those found in tropical locales, but without the accompanying humidity, so the heat is not unbearable. Here in Missoula yesterday, though, the skies were extremely hazy, due, perhaps, to the forest fires that have popped up around the state. Despite that, my friend Randy, who lives in Arlee, Montana, and I drove 67 miles up to Elmo, on Flathead Lake, to take in the Elmo Powwow and then drove back down to Missoula to watch the Missoula Osprey baseball team lose to the Casper Rockies, 6 to 3. Missoula has an almost-new ballpark on the banks of the Clark’s Fork River, a very nice location to watch a game, though the seating is a bit tight on the legs. We had box seats right behind home plate, thanks to our friend Susan, who gets complimentary tickets from the bank where she works.

Today, I’m going into Missoula to have lunch with Susan and another friend, then it’s back to Arlee to finish packing and doing some last-minute laundry, and finally, a short trip to a nearby Raspberry Festival. Sounds interesting, eh? It’s been fun, but I can hardly wait to arrive in the Big Mango, Bangkok. I hope to post as often as possible in the next few months and I may try to upload some photos. I’m leaving my Digital Rebel behind and taking my new, more portable Canon SD800 IS along. Everyone have a great summer! More later.

Back in the USA

Yes, I’m back in very hot Montana. The temperatures here in Great Falls and elsewhere in Big Sky Country have been over or near 100 degrees for a week now and the long range forecast isn’t calling for much relief. Global warming? Is there any doubt?

Still, it’s pretty nice. I was worried about the effect of the higher altitude on my jogging efforts, but actually, I’ve been able to jog longer with less effort, knocking off 52 minutes at a stretch with ease. I think it has a lot to do with the much lower humidity. Maybe I weigh less farther from the earth’s core. 🙂

I’ll get my medical results back this Wednesday, and then I’m hitching a ride to Missoula with my mother. The plane for the Land of Smiles leaves there on the morning of the 23rd. I’ll get into Bangkok early in the morning of the 25th, a time that suits me better than my usual 11 p.m. arrival time. Unfortunately, in order to catch that particular flight on Thai Airways, I have a 7-hour layover at Los Angeles International (LAX). Doubly unfortunate is that in order to arrive back in Missoula in September at a decent hour, I’ll have a 9-hour layover there on the way back. To top it off, almost all of the reviews I’ve read about LAX give it very low scores as an airport to be spending any time in. (Some representative reviews can be found here, and here). In other words, most posters at some of the relevant websites write that it should be avoided at all costs! Yuck. Well, I think I’ll manage. More later.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

One last posting before I leave the Dominican Republic in a few hours. It’s been a bit sad saying goodbye to all the staff and players at the baseball camp even though I’ll be returning in a few months. Everyone has been very kind here, making me feel right at home. I wish all the players luck with the Dominican Summer League and with their careers. No doubt that this is the last time I’ll see some of them, but when I return in October for the Instructional League, most of the faces will be familiar.

The flight leaves Santo Domingo at 10 this morning, and I’ll arrive in Great Falls at 10:35 tonight, with stops in Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul on the way. I brought along a book to read, one that I read several years ago while I was in the Peace Corps. It’s titled “Perfume, the Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Suskind. Excellent book, which I couldn’t put down the first time I read it. (Thanks, Rusty Duncan, for recommending it to me.) You can read a review here.

That’s all for now. The next post will be from hot, hot Montana, “the good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.” More later.

Jogging

It’s only a few more days until I return to Montana for awhile. I’ve been jogging for an hour every day, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the early evening. Now, this is jogging at sea level, thick with oxygen. I plan to continue running in Montana, but at 3000+ feet, I wonder what my endurance will be like in the more rarified atmosphere. At least high humidity won’t be a factor–90% here, but more like 30% in Montana.

Looks like Great Falls and Missoula have been having some very high temperatures lately, well over 100 degrees. Still, without the high humidity, I think I can handle that, though the forecast calls for temperatures to drop into the 80s and low 90s by the time I arrive. No problem, but I hope I don’t lose my acclimation to high humidity and relatively high temperatures that I’ve gotten here in the D.R., since after a few weeks in Montana, I’ll be experiencing those conditions again in Thailand and Laos, especially the humidity.

I still have lots of paperwork to finish up, but some of it I can do while I’m in Montana. However, I do want to get as much done as possible while I’m here. I’ve got a busy few days ahead of me. More later.

Fiesta, Letting Off Steam

I’m back from the July 4th party at the embassy, and it was quite an affair. There were probably at least 200 guests, most of them Dominicans who have done or are doing business with the embassy, including staff members. There were also many Americans–the embassy Marines in full-dress uniforms, the visiting navy guys (who came to play softball at the camp last weekend, as I mentioned in an earlier post), embassy personnel, and yours truly. There was a receiving line of dignitaries to greet each guest when we arrived, the lineup consisting of the Charge d’Affairs and his wife, the Marine commandant, and other embassy people and, I think, a few Dominican VIPs.

There was a lot of food, all of it from local fast food vendors, such as Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Tony Roma’s and others, including some Dominican food. Also lots of alcohol and other beverages, but only American brands were being served (Budweiser, for one).

Providing musical entertainment were a blue grass band from the States, Big Hillbilly Bluegrass Band, who are touring the D.R., and an a capella quartet of Dominicans, TES-A-T, who were quite good. To top it off, there was a great fireworks display, set off to the accompaniment of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Very stirring, and a fitting end to a fine evening. The party broke up about 10 p.m., and Rex, from the embassy, gave me a ride back to the Atalaya Apartment building, where I stayed for the evening.

While I was gone, the Bombers lost two games and the Yankees won two. Today, though, was very interesting. A week ago I was talking to Brendan, a college senior from Ithaca, New York, who is completing his degree in Sports Management and is interning here for a few months. We were discussing the fact that we had never seen an argument involving the umpires, like the kind you see in the U.S., where the manager or players come storming out of the dugout to argue calls, sometimes getting tossed from the game. We hadn’t seen it until today, that is.

One of the Bombers was trying to score from second on a long single to rightfield, and he would have easily made it, except that the thirdbaseman from the Dodgers obstructed him (basically, crashed into him) from getting to home. He walked toward the umpire to argue, but no one had called time out, so he was tagged out. The Bomber manager, the third base coach, and the bench coach were all over the umps, giving them hell. Eventually, the umps held a conference and ruled that the guy on third wasn’t out, but he had to go back to third base, refusing to allow him to score. This really set off our manager, and he was finally given the heave-ho. At any rate, that left the bases loaded, with only one out, and the guys on the bench and in the stands, who weren’t playing today, got very fired up, lots of shouting, cheering, clapping and whistling (me too), urging the upcoming batters on. There was still a good chance to score a bunch of runs. The next guy up, with a 3-2 count, slammed a pitch that headed for the left field fence–it had Grand Slam written all over it! Alas, the wind pushed it foul. Then, he struck out, as did the next batter. The team ended up losing the game, 7-3. But, we got to see a huge argument, at least, and had a bit more excitement than usual. More later.

Happy 4th

To all Americans, Happy 4th of July. If you’re not American, have a very nice day anyway. I’m taking off for La Capital in just a few moments to partake of the Charge d’Affairs’ Independence Day fiesta later this evening. I’ll probably do a little souvenir hunting this afternoon and tomorrow morning before coming back to the camp tomorrow afternoon.

I still have lots to do before leaving next Wednesday, reports, packing, etc. I THINK I’ll have it all done in time. 😕

More later.

Contract Date, Shaved Heads

We got the contract start date ironed out. Sept. 15th is the start date, but I don’t have to report back to the Dominican Republic until October 6th, as I expected, so that all worked out well. Now all I have left to do is take the physical on July 13th and get all my paperwork turned in on time, then it’s on to Thailand and Laos on the 23rd.

The weekend restriction on the players seemed to work for the Yankee squad, as they knocked off the front-running Cincinnati team, 8 to 3. However, it looks like the Bombers want to spend another weekend at camp. They got spanked by the KC Royals, 14 to 7, in a game which took more than 3 hours to complete, very unusual for a 9-inning game down here. I hope they can pick it up a notch or two soon. About half a dozen of the players got their heads shaved. If it was for luck, it didn’t work. It made it hard for me to recognize a few of them right away–I had to do some head scratching before I figured out who they were. The joke going around is that now they look like me! 😐 Very funny. More later.

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