A Travellerspoint blog

Dangerous Animals

Treking up to the fort in CatBa Island

Yesterday I walked around the hill fort on CatBa Island where Ho Chi Min visited. In fact as I write the anniversary of that visit is being celebrated in the street outside my hotel window by the population of the island. There are at least forty tents aligned side by side each playing a different genre of music as loud as possible overlayed by the national anthem on a regular basis. Currently the karaoke tent is well ahead of its rivals in the 'who can burst as many ear drums as possible' competition.

The walk up to the fort was amazing. Peaceful with stunning views of the bays. Best of all my partner and I were the only tourists up there. As we walked up to the summit we passed several signs that advised us that it "was definitely dangerous" and "maybe dangerous". Unfortunately, what harm could befall us was not made clear. We looked up, down, over the scrub at the side of the road, checked the road for enormous boulders rolling down the hill - nothing. The last sign varied its advice and said "see possibly dangerous animals". The writing ended with a smiley face giving the reader the thumbs up. All a bit too casual for my liking. First, anything with fangs, horns, sharp teeth, venom or a nasty temperament is quite definitely dangerous and to be given a wide berth. Second, what kind of idiot on rounding a corner would be happy to come face to face with an animal that can gore, bite or kill. Well gung-ho TV personalities of the Steve Erwin ilk would. But most sane people would back away whimpering quietly or leg it as fast as possible depending upon which dealing with deadly animals literature they had recently read. Third, what makes an animal possibly dangerous? Maybe it has had a bad day and decides to take a chunk out of a passing tourist. Maybe it's just very chilled and just can't be bothered to sink its fangs into flesh. Maybe it has developed a conscious and only kills deserving victims. It's all a bit too ambiguous for me. I proceeded nervously jumping at every rustle in the undergrowth. Fortunately, no encounters of the possibly dangerous kind occurred.

Unlike the time in Thailand when I nearly ended up as lunch. I am not a great swimmer and wear a life jacket when I snorkel. So there I was happily splashing around, looking at the pretty fish and drifting away from the crowd when I looked down and saw two wide smiling toothy jaws with sleek grey bodies heading up towards me. I panicked and swam/floundered/floated back to the boat expecting to feel excruciating pain at any minute. Reaching the boat in safety I flopped on the boards and gasped out "shark". The captain seemed very amused. "You very lucky" he said. "Lucky to be alive?" I asked. "Shark just being curious" he replied. "Curious to see what their lunch would taste like!' I retorted. He smiled. Sadly sarcasm is lost on some people.

Maybe this encounter could be classified as seeing possibly dangerous animals. After all being inquisitive is hardly a menacing attribute. In any event if I ever happen across an animal that could be dangerous I'm not hanging around to find out if it possibly might kill me.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:16 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam island treking humour catba Comments (0)

A Night Out with the Boys

Chang Mai Cricket Sixes Tournament Week

It's Chang Mai Cricket Six tournament week.

A time to meet old and new friends, party late into the night and carry on the next day, laugh until you cry, feast on excellent food, indulge in massages for aching bodies, shop in the night and day markets, raise a heap of money charity and of course, play some cricket.

Despite hangovers, lack of sleep and numerous injuries, players turn up on time and astound spectators with their ability to play in temperatures that would melt the ice in a Margareta in 10 seconds flat. Mitch, my other half, plays with the Malakas team. An institution in this cricketing world beloved by all for their antics, humour, shocking dress sense and the ability pull a last-minute six or take a wicket and get back in the game.

Four years ago I was thrown into this world, floundered for a while, found my place and sat back and enjoyed. Previously I ducked out of the late night drinking/party sessions choosing to retire at a relatively sensible time of 1.am most mornings. Leaving Mitch to do the male bonding thing, watch football, drink himself silly etc. Thus giving myself some time to get up early and shop, pamper, sightsee and do girly stuff without a reluctant male in tow.

This year I went out with the boys on the town and had a ball. I have not laughed so much in a long time. They got home this morning in time to pack and catch their 9.am flight I woke up at 2pm and went for breakfast. Thanks for the excellent company gentlemen I will see you all again next year.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged parties travel mai chang humour cricket Comments (0)

A Sleepless Night in Paradise

Rationality goes out of the window when lack of sleep due to inconsiderate neighbours kicks in

I recently picked up a book on my travels called “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer. The title conjured up visions of a fantasy world dealing with the star wars saga. Not an ideal read but in South America where there’s a shortage of English books I was so desperate that any pulp fiction that happened my way was gleefully read. Amazingly the book was a well written, factual account of the Bush administration and its rendition policy. I carried this precious item all the way to Thailand where I had decided to take up residence on a beach and enjoy every written word. On arrival I settled in under an umbrella and began to read. The unsettling account did nothing to endear me to the American administration or its main players.

At the same time new occupants moved into the apartment next door to ours. They were American. Now I have good friends originating from the states who are articulate and politically aware and therefore I should know better than to stereotype. But having travelled for many years I have found that there is a misguided perception of the American traveller. Insular, brash , loud, abrasive, always talking about money, likes to share their conversations and thoughts with anyone in near proximity. The latter is of course done effortlessly as they have a volume controlled vocal chord switch that is permanently set to loud. Their dress sense is ..... interesting. Knee high socks, colourful tops that hang artfully to cover the beer belly, shorts, loafers and squishy hats. With, of course, the obligatory camera hung around the neck. The only nation that could possibly outdo the American in this area is the British package tour tourist with their white pallor, even squishier hats, baggy shorts, ankle high socks and sandals.

Many years ago I travelled to the outback in Australia - Cooper Pedy to be precise. Where men are tough with leather hard skin and flint stone eyes, have very few social skills and are probably hiding from the law. All seeking opals that will make them rich. It was my luck to take a tour with a bus full of middle aged Americans. Cameras whirred, shouts of ”GEE, AW MY GOURD, GODDAMMM” punctuated the air throughout the guide’s commentary. Descriptions of breakfast, Norma’ s bowel problems, Hanks piles and other trivia were belted out during the guide’s silent moments. I suspect these were due to him having a quick drink in order to fortify himself for the rest of the day. When not talking, they applauded. Every marvel, site, piece of information that was imparted or pointed out by our host was met with enthusiastic clapping. Everyone was having a great time apart from me.

Finally we stopped at the mining field where two Finnish guys demonstrated how they prospected for opals. This sophisticated technique consists of lowering one person down a hole no more than 2 ft wide whilst standing upright in a bucket with a rope tied to the handle. The other end of the rope is attached to a hand winch. Once the bottom of the shaft is reached he then takes said bucket, crawls along a hand dug 2 ft tunnel, fills it by hand and sends it back to the surface. After working in a dark, airless, baking atmosphere for hours he swaps places with his partner. Punishing stuff. To be able to endure these kind of conditions these guys had to be well hard, not give as shit about social graces and be, as far as I was concerned completely insane for risking their lives every day over a bit of rock. So imagine their expressions when the tourists in a show of joint solidarity gave them a round of applause. Disbelief coupled with a look that said you of bunch of idiots. It was a priceless moment.

Anyway, back to Thailand. So here I am reading an appalling account of American behaviour when eight females, aged about 24, move into the apartment next to ours. What you need to know at this point is that the apartments are designed for a maximum of 3 people, they magnify sound to such an extent that the slightest whisper from the other side of the wall sounds like someone is talking into your ear and the owners were not aware of the overcrowded situation. Marry that with the behaviourisms already described (all 8 conformed), the consumption of several bottles of Whiskey before they went out and you have the makings of a sleepless night for all their neighbours. I won’t go into the depressingly shallow conversations I endured – suffice to say that it was inane, peppered with obscenities, shagging was on the agenda, they planned to get hammered and that they were teachers in training (god help the education system).

Throughout the night they staggered backwards and forwards from the beach, throwing the weak stomached into their room leaving them to vomit the night away whilst they went back for a top up. Finally about 3 am in the morning the ones left standing settled on the porch with a couple of Thai’s who claimed to be big shots in the bar scene. Now if you have been to Thailand you will know that Thai men often exaggerate about their status and will claim to own or run an establishment. This is as likely as Thai prostitutes claiming their husband (who, by the way had a great job) died in a car crash. Therefore, they had to go on the game to support their kids. It amazes me how many men who fall for this line.

Having established that the Thai guy was “godamm amazing at speaking English” and “should teach it himself” he proceeded to regale them with all the swear words he knew.

“Best one is what English speak – my favourite but don’t understand. What is fucking mal pet mean?”

“Mal pet, mal pet, mal pet” the girls chorused “Never heard of that before”.

Translate mai pet from Thai to English and you get - not spicy. I guess “you not fucking spicy” could pass for an insult as in you’re not hot but does seem a bit convoluted. They all pondered the meaning of this for at least ½ an hour. Delirious with lack of sleep, I flung back the sheets, leaped out of bed and wrenched the door open. “Muppet you fuckwits, fucking Muppets” I screamed. Of course this all took place in my head as I was far too light headed from sleep deprivation to move.

Several hours later the last of them hit the sack and the whole neighbourhood cried in relief before they tried to get some sleep. Unfortunately, an hour later the owner appeared and woke us all up as he hammered on their door demanding to know how many people were in the room. Four, he was told. Then why he replied were there 8 pairs of shoes outside the door. Smugly satisfied that the neighbours had just admirably demonstrated what fucking muppets were, I got up and went for a sleep on the beach.

Posted by travelhappiness 17:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel humour ko sterotypes samet.neighbours Comments (0)

A Whale's Tail

Whale watching. Mirrisa, Sri Lanka

Mirissa, Sri Lanka has it all. Lush tropical interior, a beach that puts the ‘a taste of paradise ’ in bounty bar’s old advert to shame, good food, a laid back low-key vibe and cheap whale watching trips. Having never seen a whale in its natural environment before, I was keen to go on a tour. We booked into an old house off the beach which had a great garden, nice rooms, good views, very friendly hosts and planned to check out boat prices the next day.

On the first night of our stay the worst storm in years hit the area. Thunderbolts crashed into the garden and short circuited the electricity, wind smashed debris against the buildings and a deluge of water poured down from the skies. Our bedroom roof leaked badly and soon there were streams of water running down the walls, out the door and along the balcony before cascading down the stairs to the ground. It was a regular Victoria Falls. Paddling around the room in the dark trying to rescue anything at floor level and place it on the beds I discovered they too were very wet. So unable to sleep due to thunderous noise, a fear of being struck by lightning and beds that were too damp to sleep on (we did try) we hunkered down on the balcony and watched the storm play itself out. The next day, tired and damp, we sloshed downstairs to find blackened trees, blasted bushes, flattened flowers and shrubs. A vacant guest room had been struck and a black line ran down the wall ending in a hole in the marble floor. We had been wise to stay undercover. As a consequence of being wet for hours I developed a severe head cold which was persistent and took days to recover from. Whale watching was put on hold and I spent time recuperating on the beach. Over a period of several days we struck up conversations with different people including a German guy who had sourced a reasonably priced, good quality whale watching trip. This trip was unique in that it guaranteed if no whales were spotted the first time they would take you out again for free. Never one to pass on a good deal, despite having blocked ears and still feeling a bit crap, I signed up.

Walking onto the ship, the captain asked me if I got seasick. Now, I’ve been on ferries in storms where most of the passengers were throwing up, sailed yachts and speed boats in bad weather and ridden a boat in such bad conditions I thought we were done for and have never been ill. So I replied that I was a good sailor in a rather superior manner. An hour out and one meal down, the captain who was a whale nut and loved his job produced sea charts, pictures and gave a very comprehensive talk on the whales we were likely to spot. The boat stopped and started to roll in the waves. I started to feel unwell and rapidly went downhill when the captain ,with a wide grin on his face, asked me if I wanted an omelette. It was payback time. I lay down at the back of the boat and was joined over the ensuing 4 hours by various passengers and a member of the crew who were beginning to feel the effects of a combination of roiling boat and egg based food. As they started to throw up (including the crew member) I started to feel a little less of a wimp.

The captain who was by now enthusiastically following a whale and her calf in an attempt to give us as much exposure time as possible, lost track of time. Under any other circumstance an extended trip would have been a plus but being dog sick I yearned for solid ground. Six hours after the journey began I was granted my wish. Staggering off the boat, I vowed not to be so cocky in future. The captain realising that I’d not seen any whales due to my inability to stand in the boat without throwing up offered to take me out the next day and try again. Blanching at the thought I assured him that I had seen a whale tail or two, declined the offer and headed for my bed.

Posted by travelhappiness 17:52 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged travel humour whale watching mirrisa Comments (0)

101 things to do with a Panama Hat

Because my hat had been snaffled by some sweet old thing I have had to think about replacing it. Not because I want to make some kind of fashion statement but because it is so hot in Vietnam I don't want to suffer from sun stroke. I had the misfortune to get this in Denver, and was really unwell. At the time the girls in my dorm were not concerned because they thought I was drunk. I was at various stages crawling around the floor, rambling incoherently, passing body fluids, normal stuff for a bout of excessive alcohol. So I do understand where they were coming from. It took the high temperature and lapse into unconsciousness spur them into action and throw me under a cold shower and to call a doctor. Therefore, I started to look for a replacement hat.

In Vietnam women tend to wear either a conical hat or bright, floppy hats in primary or dayglo colours often decorated in flowers, rhinestone and lace. Don't you just want to go out now and buy one? Women here also wear clothes that are reminiscent of the pajamas I wore as a child and if I am going to be honest, still do on a cold night. Not sexy or alluring I admit but then I have no intention of trying to be when it's less than minus 1 degree and I have no central heating.

I was tempted by the conical hat as it is used to keep the sun and rain out - dual purpose and a money saving apparel - I liked that. It could also be multi-purpose rather than dual. A 101 things to do with a hat (did you read 101 things to do with a cat?). A bowl, water carrier, a bailing out implement for boats, a baby rocker. I kid you not. Attach a couple of long ropes to it, hang it from a meat hook and baby's asleep. I've seen the prototype in Indonesia. Unfortunately, I would look like such a tourist in it! I decided to go dayglo and am now the proud owner of a wide brimmed neon pink cloth hat with a swirly flower trimmed in black ribbon stuck (yes glued) on the side. All for the princely sum of "two dollar". What I love about this hat is that anywhere else in the world I would look ridiculous and you would not lose me in a crowd. Here, in my bright pink neon hat, I blend in.

Posted by travelhappiness 17:42 Archived in Vietnam Tagged people travel humour hats adaptability Comments (0)

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