lurkitty: (Default)
The people of Thailand love their king. Even without the stringent laws against defamation of His Majesty King Bhumibol, no Thai person could think of a bad word to say about him. He has spent his 60 year reign working hard to help his people; the epitome of the enlightened ruler. His accomplishments are many and varied, having familiarized himself with the intricacies of everything from aquaculture to economics.

Having said that, the Thai people despise their Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. He said in April he was stepping down, but he has not done so. People are losing hope that he will ever go away. I have rarely heard Thai people wish ill of anyone. When a rumor spread that he had prostate cancer, however, I heard several women hoping he would die. This sort of thing is not said lightly by practicing Buddhists. His government has been so corrupt, in their estimation, that it is better for the world that he no longer exist in it.

International air traffic is still moving through the over-capacity Don Muang Airport. Its replacement, The Suvanabhumi Airport, was supposed to have been finished in 2004. This state-of-the-art facility has been plagued by scandalous delays and construction errors. The new runways developed potholes before they were used as shady contractors scrimped on materials. The airport building developed cracks and holes, and the concession area was swept by fire last year. They say it will open in September. Most lay the blame squarely on the corrupt Shinawatra Administration, and shake their heads, saying he is a friend of Bush and will never leave.

My first flight left Bangkok airport at 1815 Monday, Bangkok time, or 0215 west coast time. We boarded a bus that took us to our waiting plane, and ascended the roll-away stairs with our carry-on luggage in hand. I was out of breath from the exertion and mingled diesel and jet fuel fumes, along with the general Bangkok pollution. The steward was concerned. [livejournal.com profile] miladycarol, my trusty travelling companion, explained to him that it was asthma from the climb and that I would be alright if left to recover or a few minutes. The Don Muang Airport is not asthma friendly.

Fortunately, Thai Airways is very nice. They feed you very well. The veggie menu was delectable! Lots of fruits and vegetables. The plane was nearly empty, and we each had a row of our own to lay and sleep on. Little did I know this would be all the sleep I would get... the 8.5 hour flight was pleasant.

I bid a sniffly goodbye to Miladycarol in Sidney. Twice. There was some confusion about whether I had to go through the customs quarantine area, so we said our goodbyes before then. Maybe she didn't tear-up, but my water-sign was hanging out and I started leaking. I met her again in the customs line, and bid her another goodbye.

4 hours of layover in the Sydney Airport was good. I had a chance to eat breakfast and shop for AU t-shirts - something I hadn't gotten before. The Sydney Airport is a lovely facility in contrast to the airport in Bangkok. Having flown out to Thailand a week or so earlier, I was surprised, however, to find an additional security checkpoint after the x-ray. This was at the entrance to the gate itself, and clearly was intended for our gate only. I realized it was for security for US only. Swell. My fellow passengers and I murmured, "Is this for 06/06/06?" For pity's sake, when will we stop being afraid of dates?

The Qantas flight was nearly full. I counted 4 empty seats on the 747. I was in a back, side row on the aisle, which meant I was near the restroom. There were people going by all the time. Since mine was the back row, they would stand behind my seat, often grabbing it or accidentally kicking it as they stretched in the open space behind me.The man in front of me kept his seat reclined the whole trip. The seats were very close together. I had to swing my leg over the arm of my seat to get out. I could not use my laptop - there was no way to open it. The fellow next to me was nice, but first he got drunk on red wine the first four hours of the flight and spilled it on himself (and a bit on me), and then he spent the last three hours of flight time jiggling his leg jonesing for a cigarette. 18.5 hours of fun.

From this idyllic journey, in the worst of moods, not having slept nor having changed my clothes for some 23 hours, I emerged into my least favorite airport, LAX. It seems LA and BKK have much in common. Rather than send a bus, however, we had to walk the length of a football field from the plane to Passport control. At the end of this trek on the wall above us were the smiling visages of none other than George W. and his pal Dick.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the monumental restraint I exercised at that moment is worthy of a medal. No less than half a dozen snide remarks came to mind, but I lowered my head and pressed on, knowing that there were cameras and microphones everywhere.

My plane was late coming in. I had to collect my luggage, go through customs and get to my next flight in an hour. I had been in the last row. I was last off the plane. I could not run up the causeway. I then had to wait for my dijeridoo in oversize luggage, which put me last in the customs line. I got through it at 0830. My flight was supposed to board at 0840. I walked up the ramp and found that I had to join another cueue for another TSA search. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I'd finally had it. I was licked. A TSA agent said, "Why is that woman crying?"

I showed them my boarding pass, and explained that it had been 23 hours since I'd slept or changed clothes (okay, so I laid it on thick). She said, "You're not going to make it, take your bags to your carrier," and turned away. Then I really lost it. "Where?" I asked. There were no signs anywhere. I had no clue where to go. I had no idea which terminal I was in. "Where do you want me to go?" The supervisor came over, checked my flight number, and decided they could check my bags after all, and gave me directions to the other terminal.

The LA airport is ridiculous. TSA agents should not be left to give instructions to passengers. There should be signs. After all of that, I had to walk outside in the smog to the next terminal. I went through another TSA screening because I had been outside. I then found the gate I was looking for closed and deserted. I found an agent at the next gate, who informed me that the flight had been moved to another gate in the next room.

I made my flight. Prop jets are still very cool if you have noise-cancelling headphones.

Isn't it sad that we live in what is supposed to be the most free country in the world, yet I had to censor myself in the causeway for fear of being put on a secret list somewhere that would at worst prevent me from flying again, at best subject me to search each time I pass through an airport? There are no laws against defaming King George, but I was gagged as severely as if there had been. Why have we given our hard-won freedom to this man? He has not protected us, he has only made us afraid of our neighbors, and given those who were once allies reason to hate us. He has made a simple trip into a nightmare with half-measures that do not protect, but only inconvenience. We are living in a police state. Take a trip outside and see.

The Thai people love their King because he does not act like a King. We hate our President because he acts like a despot. Wake up! We did not elect a King!
lurkitty: (Default)
Another quick dailup update as I swoop in and check up on everyone. I am encouraged to see that people are hanging in there and I will light some incense at the next Wat for you all. Yesterday we went to the Holiday Market and plan to go again next weekend. It is hard to describe how large this market is. They sell absolutely everything there. We were looking specifically for semi-precious stone beads and found some lovely bargains.

It is the Monsoon season here, so while it is hot and humid, it is likely to rain buckets at any moment. We have witnessed a few gorgeous and violent thunderstorms. The area around Jiraporn's home is lush forest though she is not that far from Bangkok proper. Like Sydney, I wake to the sound of birdsong every morning.

Today we are off to the Royal Palace and to Wat Pho.

Take care!
lurkitty: (Default)
I haven't much time and am on diailup, so will update quickly. I am in Bangkok and have already had some excellent Thai food so far. Tomorrow we go to the Floating Market and will go to the Weekend Market on Sunday.

Plenty of wonders to see. I managed to cajole [livejournal.com profile] miladycarol into accompanying me and could not have chosen a better travelling companion.

Thailand is in the midst of monsoon season and tehre is considerable flooding in the North. People are in dire straits up there and there are television appeals for funds on all the channels.

I will update when I can -- Picspam when I get back next week.
lurkitty: (Default)
The tall spires of Gallipoli Mosque rise majestically above Auburn, one of the most culturally diverse sections of Greater Sydney. We went there to fetch [livejournal.com profile] miladycarol's mother-in-law. Before we left the district, though, we walked a little ways to the shopping center. On the way, we passed a fun little cafe called Sweets on Queen. It was not a candy store or bakery, but a hookah cafe! In the evening it is generally packed with both men and women smoking diverse tobaccos from hookah pipes and drinking tea and coffees.

Milady explained that the Big W here generally had lower prices than other stores in town due to constant pressure by the asian women to make prices close to what they would pay from street vendors in Cabramatta. The shoppers were worth watching themselves in various stages of covering from headscarves to full burkas, chattering in a dozen different languages.

We then made our own way the Cabramatta, aka Little Vietnam. Never having been to Vietnam, I likened the place to a city in Thailand, with numerous small shops and stalls filled to the brim with bargains from shoes to laundry detergent. We proceeded down a little alley to a vegetarian restaurant and had a fantastic vietnamese meal.

The next day found us in Newtown. This district is a bit Haight Ashbury, a bit Robson Street and a lot Australian. I felt very much at home amid the hippie clothing shops, the scent stores and the natural foods stores. I scored a copy of the German Serenity poster at a poster shop!! There were numerous vegetarian cafes to choose from. We found a Thai place for lunch that served a tofu version of larb along with green curry with tofu and massaman curry with gluten chicken. A visit to the Froot Store rewarded me with a rainbow kitty sticker for my Prius. I swilled beer at a real Pub before dining on veggie green papaya salad (almost as good as mine) at a vietnamese place, and finishing it all up with black sesame vegan ice cream from the shop next door.

*sigh* Life is good.
lurkitty: (Default)
I learned yesterday that the chinese word for basil means "would not trade it for gold". I hereby declare that Tuesday was a Basil Day. We went to The Koala Park. I highly recommend it. As wildlife facilities go, it is a nice one. I'm not in favor of keeping animals all locked up. But many of these animals were once pets and have no business in the wild. Some are injured and rescued and the rest are captive bred. The handlers are knowledgeable and let the animals wander off when they don't want to be handled any more. Better that people come to a place like this than try to approach genuine wild critters.

[livejournal.com profile] miladycarol tried to further improve the life of the kangaroos by teaching them a game.

"This means rock"

Read more... )
lurkitty: (Default)
Looking out the window of my room in Sydney, I am greeted by sights that are not so foreign as I had imagined. First, I should explain that I am not really in Sydney proper, but in West Ryde. Only an Australian would recognize the distinction, however, in much the same respect as only an Oregonian would really recognize Hillsboro as separate from Portland. It is an important distinction, however, when navigating homeward on the train.

As large cities go, Sydney strikes me as similar in many respects to Vancouver, BC, save for the lack of mountains. Lush greenery abounds, and the city sprawls like a fat man on a barstool. What is most striking is the constant presence of wildlife. From tiny skinks to flocks of birds, all you have to do is choose a direction and you will see a living creature when out of doors. Even in the city proper, I was hard pressed to find a time when I could not see an animal.

Sydney is similar to Vancouver in other respects as well. Since Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule at the turn of the century, Asians have dominated the population, becoming the largest ethnic group. The city is extremely ethnically diverse. Then there is the harbour. Both great cities possess lovely harbours. Gazing out over the sparkling water in the cool autumn air and watching the sailboats and ferries go by, it could have been the same city.

I realize I was quite wrong in my preconceived notion of Australia as a hot, dry, desert-like environment. The weather is cool and the grey clouds above presage rain.

That, in itself, says home.
lurkitty: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] miladycarol and I had a discussion the other day. It concerned the difference between the mentality of living in scarcity vs. living in abundance. To live in scarcity means to adopt an attitude that you must obtain your needs/desires before the next person gets them, because there is always a limited amount of "x" and if the next person gets it, you will not. It is a fiercely competitive way to live. If the stakes are high enough, any means are justified to obtain your needs/desires. You may be motivated by the best of goals, eg. feeding your family, and nothing will get between you and that meal.

Life in abundance is a different approach. It means having a basic faith that "x" is not scarce, and the you need to move yourself closer to the source of "x" if your needs are not met. If anyone uses "x", it doesn't matter to you, because there will always be more "x". Life in abundance is not competitive, and is less rushed because it is not necessary to always act upon the opportunity to obtain a commodity. Sharing occurs more frequently.

I came into Australia in abundance mode. I have no desire to wear myself or anyone else out using every last minute seeing all the sights at once, because there is time in abundance. I want to absorb Australia. It is as important to me to awaken to the birdsong in the morning, to gaze out over the skyline and observe the differences between the tree canopies here vs. home, as it is to walk the tourist shops. Some people may think I am crazy to spend thousands on a ticket and spend time in a living room knitting. But the living room is in Australia.

The hospitality shown me by [livejournal.com profile] miladycarol and [livejournal.com profile] george1shop is a beautiful example of life in abundance. They share all that is theirs, there is never a question. If the concept of abundance of all things is too difficult to conceive, apply it to one. Love. Love exists in abundance in their home. They are not frugal, and it is a tonic to a slightly battered soul.

Enough mush. I give you pic spam! Lurkitty photoshopped into Sydney Opera House pix (for those conspiracy theory lovers out there):
Yay picspam!!!! )

To do

May. 7th, 2006 09:09 pm
lurkitty: (Default)
Today I went to see Pink Martini in concert with the Eugene Ballet. We were rather skeptical as to how the band would fit with a ballet. But it was beautiful, especially at the end when they burst into Brazil. Wow.

Gadget whore that I am, I just had to get a Bluetooth earpiece for my Treo. I have no idea how I survived without one until now. It is so sexy. *is such a freak* *facepalm*

I leave for Sydney this Thursday and have much to do:

-Buy a digital camera
-buy a larger suitcase
-set up travel blog (there are folks outside of LJ that want to see)
-meet with lawyer
-sort clothes into what to take and what to leave
-set up a new user for Mom
-Take computer to Mom's
-revise resume
-make copies of resume

That's what I can think of now. I'm certain there's more.

"So little to do, so much time... scratch that, reverse it" -- Willy Wonka

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