Simian Madness

A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I decided to take a week off, for a short trip to one of my favorite quiet tropical beaches around the Cambodian/Thai border, just a few kilometers away from the beach I wrote about in “Beach Beyond The Guidebooks” We decided to go to this beach, because the Beach Beyond The Guidebooks beach did not have any water or electricity, and this time I was determined to be conveniently clean, and be able to recharge my laptop.

It is a very beautiful beach with many types of restaurants within walking distance, usually cooked by the nationality themselves, things like French Food, Chinese, Italian, Cambodian, Mexican, Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, American, and there is even a Canadian restaurant, I never knew such things existed!

The beach itself has a white powder like sand, the kind of sand that sort of jumps up and separates as you step down on it, there are lots of little crabs running around, who will run and hide in their sandy holes as you approach. The sand continues right deep into the ocean where on stormy days, waves decent enough to surf on, break in the shallow bay.

The two of us ended up renting a normally vacant, thirty year old or so teak house part way up a cliff facing the beach for about twelve US dollars per night, it was clean, had air con, electricity, hot water, and also a very large balcony, with a beautiful sunset facing view, below you can see exactly what I saw from my patio every day. I found I spent a lot of time there on the patio, every morning, afternoon, and evening was a stunning one, but all was not perfect in our little the house on the hill.

View Of The Beach From Our Balcony

View Of The Beach From Our Balcony – Click to Enlarge

Now as you can see in the image, everything pretty much from the water up is covered in virgin rainforest, the kind of stuff that is hard to see these days, because it is first growth, ancient, rainforest, that has probably been there since before the dinosaurs. The area around and above this house was all ancient rainforest also, and in that forest not only are there foot long grasshoppers, centillions of ants, giant moths, scorpions, crocodiles, huge lizards, pythons, cobras, bear, boar, deer, and wild elephants, but there are also some little, annoying, chaotic, but always amusing monkeys.

Monkey Behind Us On The House

Get Off Our Turf

The house had been vacant for a while before we got there, and I think the troop of monkeys that fed daily around and above the house had pretty much decided that we were invading their turf. Mostly they just left us alone, and we hadn’t had any real problems with them, we watched them each morning for a few days, and listened to them calling at one another from a distance in the jungle, but on the fifth day, while returning from a swim on the beach, we found them around and on top of our house, some of them were actually standing right in front of the door. They are fairly large and a few of them together defiantly demand some respect. We approached them slowly and they backed away from the door slowly, eventually we could get in the house. As the monkeys were still running around on top of the house and around the doors we decided to stay inside a bit until they left.

After a while we went out on  our balcony and looked around to see where they were, I brought my camera to take some picture if I could. Some of them were on the trees above us, and some of the others had run over to another house down the hill a bit. After a short while there was a huge bang on the roof, a very large branch had dropped a hundred meters or so from the trees above us where some monkeys were, onto the roof, putting a fairly large hole in it, after a while we went outside again to try and get some pictures, and look what decided to come down and inspect the freshly made hole.

Monkey On The Roof

Are You Seriously Going To Blame Me For This?

There was quite a bit of movement on top  of the house again, so we took shelter back inside, after a few moments, they dozen or so monkeys started screaming, then things started banging all over the house, as the monkey had all decided to throw  branches and fruit at the house for a while. After a  couple minutes of this, all calmed down, and we were once again able to go outside, they had finally moved on.

Later that evening when we were heading out for dinner, we discovered they had stolen one of my girlfriends shoes. We looked around for it for quite a while but it was no where to be found. The shoes were not very expensive, and thankfully she had brought another pair so it was not that big a deal. We enjoyed our evening  and went to sleep to the sound of the monkeys occasionally fighting with one another in the trees.

In the morning I woke up itching, to my horror I soon discovered fire ants all over the bed, I jumped out and onto the floor only to find out there were millions  more all over the floor also, I had never experienced quite so many ants running all over me in my life, nor seen so many in such a small area as I did that morning, and fire ants are some of the worst ants around as they are very aggressive. I jumped in the shower and quickly got the ants off me, then turned on all the lights so as to see a safe passage through the house without getting too many more on me. I went outside on the balcony to see the reason for the invasion. The fruits the monkeys had pelted the house with had attracted all the ants. It is amazing the amount of trouble a group of monkeys can cause in just a matter of minutes. We left later that day, as was planned, though I am sure the monkey were all high fiving each other as we left, thinking it was a victory well fought.

I will return to the beach a few more times over the next couple of years, although the monkeys were an occasional pain in the behind, they provided entertainment, and I am glad they were there. I plan on staying in the same house, and we will probably see them again soon. They probably won’t be there much longer however, as there has been some roadway development on the bluff, someone has begun building condos on a hill, and a five star hotel is being built right in the center of the beach, so soon the trees will be gone, and with it the monkeys, the beach will become spoiled, and in order to find an unspoiled beach, we will be forced to go back to Beach Beyond The Guidebooks once again, hopefully by that time they will have running water.

Pictures From My Recent Holiday In Lao 2010

Recently I returned from a short trip to Lao, it was good, we had a fantastic hotel room with hot water, air con, satellite TV and everything for only $14 per night,  the rooms were cleaned every day, and the sheets and towels all changed etc.

We ate mostly french food but went to the local all you can eat Barbecue for $4 a person most evenings. The food was good.

The are pictures from a Buddhist park outside of Vientiane Lao.

Millions of tourists every year, cross the bridge within bike riding distance of these two places,  and don’t even know they exist.

Lao Temple Life Heaven Hell

Into The Mouth Of The Giant

Lao Giant Of Death

Giant Carries the Dead to the Next Life

Wold Eather Lao

World Eater

Multiheaded Lao Divine Figure

Divine Figure Watches All

Payana Faces Giant Of Death

Five Headed Payana Faces Giant Of Death

The pictures below are the  only pictures I have with me currently  from the Thai temple in Nong kai that were built by the same monk, after he built the Lao temple.  All though I do have more,  they are in Canada and I am currently in Malaysia. I do plan to travel back to Nong kai in a few months though to take photographs of it.

Thailand Buddhist World Eater

World Eater

Buddha Sits On Piyana, Rising above the Jungle

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If you have any questions or comments  please add them below.

Mercenary for the Man

Although almost two decades have past,  my time employed with a  large North American electronics company, still deeply effects my perspective on corporate  life. I started out as a simple salesman, but over time  moved myself up through the various positions the company offered, and by the age of twenty two I had a hundred and fifty people below me on the corporate ladder, and only two above. I was making myself quite a decent income.

During my last two years with this company, I found that my boss had started to ask me to take over more and more responsibility. I was told that if I did the work now, great wealth would follow, as time went on, I gave more and more of my time and energy to the company, sixty plus hours a week was pretty normal, often with business trips thrown in, where I was basically “at work” 24 hours a day.

After a couple of years,  I began to go beyond asking, and demanded the raise they had promised me, there were various long winded “reasons” why it could not be given to me, but the truth was, that the pay of my non-owner boss above me, would have had to be slashed to pay me for all his work I was doing for him.

The incredible work hours of the last two years, had taken a huge toll on my social life without helping my financial status at all. They had me working my ass off for nothing. I was “chasing carrots” I would never be given.  I cant believe I let them do this for me for almost two years.  I had been given much more responsibility, and many more headaches,  but no reward. My corporate slavery had distanced me from my close friends,  and ended up losing me my girlfriend. My work had become the unhealthy centre of my life.

Disgusted at how the company had strung me along for two years, and heartbroken over my lost love, I quit the job, though they tried tossing money at me to get me back, I had already lost my faith in them, so off I went. I took the money I had  saved from working there for so long, bought myself a backpack, and began to travel around the world.

Sixteen months later, while hanging out on a beach in Thailand I ended up meeting five English teachers on vacation from their work in Korea. We spent a few very fun days together, since I was starting to run out of travel money, but didn’t really want to go home, I began asking them about their work in Korea. They all agreed with one another that they didn’t like the job, and even went on to say they didn’t like the country, the people the boss or anything.

I was a bit taken aback by their unanimous dislike for their job, and asked them “Why on earth do you work there then?”

One guy said something that has stuck with me to this day, and I have often considered just how much I agree with this, he said: “I don’t work for companies, I work for myself, I do it for money, I am a mercenary.”

Obviously he wasn’t a real “mercenary”, he was an English teacher, but I liked his idea. He didn’t do what he did for his company, or his boss, he just did it for the money.

Since that time I have always approached work this way. I don’t care what a jerk my boss is, or if I like the company, and I don’t do things to help my boss or the company for free, because in the end, the company and the boss only care about the money, they don’t care about you. They only want you to do things for free, because it saves them money.

Of course I still do my work as well as I can, you need to do a very good job to be a demanding employee, but if people ask me to take another responsibility, I will ask if there is an immediate raise involved before i agree to do it. My loyalty now has a price.

I also became a mercenary for the man.

Bathing Beauties

I have just returned from a relaxing visit to Ko Samet, Thailand with my girlfriend and son. I had been there before, but found myself greatly disoriented on arrival with all of the development over the years. As I was walking around looking for a place to stay  I met an English guy that had lived on the island for the last fifteen years, coincidentally, the last time I was on Ko Samet was also fifteen years ago.

I said to him, “This place has sure changed, I can’t recognize anything.”

To which he replied “People don’t come here the same way they did before, everyone now is on one week and two week vacations, and the people aren’t like the people that came here before either.”

I remembered back to the old Ko Samet,  most of the visitors back then were in their twenties, often many already months into their world travels, Samet was usually just a place people did a stop over to wait for a visa from an Embassy in Bangkok to go somewhere more remote. There was open pot smoking in the restaurants, the men were mostly long haired and unshaven, the majority of the women were topless, Frisbees were being tossed around, and the locals played soccer on the beach. Now it was mostly overweight clean shaven business people laying around trying to get a tan on lawn chairs while consuming alcohol.

One morning way back then, while waiting for my three hippie friends, a french lady, and two British ladies, to wake up and join me for breakfast on the beach, I wrote the following poem:

Bathing Beauties

Bathing beauties on the beach,
I look at you my manners breach.
I want to look but if I’m caught,
My name is Mud instead of Scott

What is this game you play with me?
Drop your tops so breasts I see,
but see them not must say to you.
Escape this madness cannot do.

Back From Ko Samet

I just returned from Ko Samet in Thailand. This is my first visit to the island in approximately fifteen years, and wow has it ever changed.

About five days ago my girlfriend packed her new swimsuit , I packed my bags, then got my eight year old son all ready to hit the beach and off we went. First we went by taxi to Ekami bus station, the 40 minute ride, in the 2006 Toyota Carola with Air Con cost about three US dollars, then we jumped on the 5 dollar per person trip from the bus station to the pier which took us to Ko Samet.

The tickets for the boat were about $4.00 per person for the one hour ride, my son traveled for free. The trip itself was quite nice, very slow and casual with lawn chairs on the upper level for us to relax in.

All of this had so far been very familiar, the bus station hadn’t changed in a very long time, the buses were similar to what I was used to. They played a Thai Comedy DVD on the bus for our entertainment, which are not exactly my taste, but I must admit sometimes the slapstick humor made me giggle a little on the inside.

Once we arrived at Ko Samet from the pier, we were greeted with a view of some dilapidated concrete beach bungalows that may or may not have had residents in them, some were defiantly too far gone for most people to consider staying there.

After getting off on the Pier, I no longer knew where I was, I was faced with a winding concrete street up a hill, and storefronts all along the way, There were five truck taxis waiting to take people to their various destination, each one would sit about ten visitors, it was all very well organized and friendly, I must admit I hadn’t asked any questions at this point and was just following the crowd. On the taxi I asked some people where they were going and they named beaches I was unfamiliar with.

Normally I first read my lonely planet before I go to a place so I have some basic idea where I am going, but this time I thought, since I had been here before, and had two fluent Thai speakers with me, as well as my own very poor Thai I should be able to figure it all out…

Well I couldn’t I was confused. We were dropped after a short taxi ride in front of a cobblestone road, with lights and palm trees on it, and a big entrance way with a park ranger waiting there to take a park fee from each of us.

Now I was really confused, the last time I came here, we took a truck around the island and were dropped at a beach, there was no park entrance fee. I was suspicious we were being dropped at a resort entrance, with a cobblestone pathway , I tried talking to the ranger but his English was very poor, from his Thai I began to understand that most of the Island is a national park now.

We paid the entrance which wasn’t very much, I’m not sure if I paid the Thai prices or it was the off season or the guy gave me a break or something but it was about $6US for the three of us for five days.

We walked around a bit looking for the cheap rooms and I found the area was absolutely packed with tourists, it was a huge disappointment to me how this had changed, I found myself wishing I had gone to Ko Chang or even Pattaya instead. I went to the taxi drivers and told them this wasn’t what I was looking for and asked if there was some nice, quiet place we could go, they told me that around here I was lucky to find a room under $30 a night, I asked them if they could take me to the furthest away area, and they did, after a few minutes the paved road became mud, and we continued for about ten minutes on the dirt roads, to the very end.

We got off the truck taxi and headed down a path leading from the road. it was still quite busy, but not so bad, we dropped our bags and I let my companions know that I would be back in a while I was looking for a room for us.

Sunset in the tropics is very fast, you can actually watch the sun move down below the horizon, It was already twilight and soon would be dark, when my hiking over the rocks and through the trees found a little beach right at the end of the path, I will not share its name with you, it is one of my only little piece of paradise left. I’m sure you can really find it if you tried, I mean the three resorts on the beach are full of others that found it also. Its not hard if you try.

Anyhow we found a little bungalow just up the hill and off the beach, the for about $20 per night with no hot water or air con. I know this isn’t every ones cup of tea, but just so you know the luxurious ones with air con, televisions, satellites, nice balconies with expensive padded deckchairs etc are also on the beach, if you looking to spend a little more money.

I was quite happy with the bargain, and the quietness of the beach. 80% of the people staying there were Thai.

The people that ran this particular cottage did not smile at us, they were not overly friendly, there was a baby and its diaper was being changed right on one of the restaurant tables. Although my first impressions were poor, by the end of the four day stay they had warmed up to us quite a bit, and were all extremely nice.

The other guests of the resort were all very nice and friendly, their kids played with my son, as did quite a few Thai teenagers. (Generally I find Thai all very kind and nice to children, the teenagers are very much like a large group of good volunteer babysitters.)

One gentleman that makes and sells jewelry on the beach, made a very nice shell necklace for my son, and gave it to him for free, very kind considering he must have put a couple of hours of work into it.

Sometime on the third day I was able to find one landmark that let me remember where I used to stay, there is a mermaid on the rock that was there way back when, and I found the hill above the Muay Thai Gym and bars that I used to have a little cottage on way back when, on stilts on the rock.

All in all it was cheap, the people were nice, the beach was fantastic, and the rooms were clean.

Exactly what I was looking for.

Anyhow now we are all back in Bangkok, itching our mosquito bites and wishing we weren’t so badly sun burnt.

It was a good trip, though, I wish I could have afforded to stay forever.

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