Land of Smiles

I haven’t moved from Bangkok yet for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. I think one good possibility is that while in New Zealand I became accustomed to staying in one place for long periods of time (about 1 month.) The only problem with that here in Thailand is that I only have one month I’m allowed to be in the country before having to move on, this is mostly due to the fact that I planned my trip into Thailand poorly and didn’t apply for the 2 month visa which I wanted to do.  The good thing is I will probably come back to Thailand since it is a major airport hub which would mean it’s cheaper to fly out of here than elsewhere.

The nickname for Thailand is the Land of Smiles in case you were wondering, often abbreviated as LOS when reading about it online.  At first I thought it was some sort of marketing for Thailand and didn’t really believe it but since getting here I have come to see why it’s called the land of smiles.  I don’t think you’ll find service like this anywhere else in the world and such genuinely happy people.  A good example of that is the person who might be opening a door for you to a mall or a hotel, they look really happy to be of service you can’t help but smile with them.  When I look into the eyes of these people I see actual mirth behind them, it’s quite infectious.

I went on what will probably be my one and only tuk-tuk ride the other day, it turned out to be a practice in patience.  I went to two tailors, one travel company, and one jewelry shop mixed in with loads of more Temples (wat) and all I really wanted to see was the Palace.  I knew it was going to happen this way and I figure everyone that comes to Thailand has to at least do it once so it was an experience.

I decided to get out of here on up to Chiang Mai by train tonight, 14hrs on a train when I hear you can do it 6 hours shorter by bus but I figured it would be kinda neat to go by train at least once, and it comes with a bed.

Tuk Tuk Thai

New Beginnings

Current Location: Bangkok, Thailand

The final person I talked to in New Zealand as I was leaving the airport happened to be a person doing surveys on the tourism.  Funnily enough she wanted to know how long I had been there and what towns I had spent at least one night at.  1 hour later I was still going strong on what should have been a 15 minute survey.  I couldn’t stop laughing at every town I had to spell for her and the sheer size of the list.  After we finished the list of towns she wanted to know everything I did in each town, we both laughed a lot and towards the end as they were calling for my plane it started all going down on post-it notes with a promise to put them in the system after I had left.  Of all the people she could have picked she picked the one who cycled around the country, unreal.

For the life of me I can’t get onto Thai time, each night at around 7pm I get really tired and force myself to stay awake until midnight at least which would make it 6am kiwi time.  The only problem is that when midnight rolls around I’m no longer tired and spend the night tossing and turning, it’s getting pretty old fast.

On to what I’ve managed to accomplish in the first few days.  I’ve figured out how to use the skytrain and subway system here in Thailand, it’s very similar to the one run in Hong Kong except the HK system runs a wee bit faster.  I’ve manage to cross the road without being run over, but that’s really a daily tribulation rather than something to be accomplished.  I’m not talking about crossing little two lane streets, I’m talking about 8 lane no zebra stripes, cars flying every which way, motorcycles deftly zigging and zagging, people standing in between lanes, praying not to get run over.  Very exhilarating.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time in the mall getting kitted out with some new duds as most of the stuff I had with me went the way of the wwoofer plus I hadn’t bought new clothes since the cycle trip started so everything was extremely loose.  Not my idea of a great time, but it’s a necessary evil.

I’ve also got my first Thai massage, something I promised myself I would get after finishing the cycle trip.  I now see why it could be called the gumby massage.  These little 90lbs girls use whatever leverage they can to bend your body in ways you never imagined.  I think the trick is to relax completely when they get to the end because that’s when they tend to get creative and do all the spine straighting things.  Bonus to the massage is for 1hr it costs 10$us, it’s a deal if I ever heard one.

The food has been worth the wait, if I tried to calculate how much Thai iced tea (it’s called that in some places even here,  you would think it would just be iced tea) I’d be scared to know, but it’s just so good.  I’ve had a fair amount of the standard thai food, it’s time to move onto the more exotic stuff soon and street vendors.

Now that I’ve got the skytrain and subway sussed out I’ll start doing some sightseeing tomorrow


Current Location: Auckland, Aotearoa

Where to begin when it all comes to an end?  The list would be too long to name everyone to thanks who I’ve met and has helped me along the way here in New Zealand, which isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for I truly am to everyone.  The people I’ve met have made this trip for me without doubt.  While New Zealand is naturally quite beautiful the people make it a magical place to be.  I’ve done so much this trip that trying to list it all would be quite the arduous task which I’ll not bore anyone with, suffice to say that it wouldn’t have been possible without the wwoofing hosts.

Someone found this webpage using the search term “is wwoofing a good idea?”  I would have to answer with an emphatic yes.  I have had nothing but good experiences and good times with the people that have opened their houses and lives to me.  I wrote once about making yourself at home in a strangers house, an idea I still find wonderful.  Living the life of a hosteler you are somewhat removed from the true kiwi experience while the life of a wwoofer you are immersed in the kiwi way of life, if you let yourself go.

A sometimes added benefit of wwoofing is getting to really meet other travellers.  I’ve spoken to some people about the transientness of hosteling, always having the same conversation over and over again with each new roommate it sometimes gets tiring.  While wwoofing really allows you a false sense of permanence which allows you to really get to know your fellow wwoofer.  Without wwoofing I would never have met Alex, Anne, Jack, and Elizabeth for which my life would be poorer.

I think I love New Zealand, it wouldn’t take much to get me to move here.  I find it very difficult to say goodbye, more so than when I left Hawai’i.  Probably because I knew that I would return there soon, if the future holds New Zealand for me I can’t say.  I’ve already considered coming back on a tourist visa but only half-heatedly just to soothe my mind.  Doing New Zealand by bicycle was my way of doing this uniquely which is what scares me about SE. Asia which I take on the title of backpacker.  I read an article about backpacking recently about how nothing is unique anymore, it’s like legions of lemmings all armed with their lonely planet guide books all doing the same things, staying in the same places.  Where is the sense of adventure that existed 40 years ago?  I left my lonely planet guide book back in Christchurch in favor of getting lost where possible and the chance to ask random people for advice when I needed it instead of relying on a book.

I’ve done over 8000km in New Zealand.  My bicycle computer broke around Wellington, the second time around, and I couldn’t be bothered to fix it.  I know what my average speed is so I know how long each days cycle ride should be which is good enough for me.  Most people are gobsmacked when I tell them how far I’ve ridden or what I’ve managed to accomplish in New Zealand.  To which I reply that what I’ve done is nothing special and there is no reason they can’t do the same thing.  It’s something I truly believe at this point, it only takes the will to finish something, the body will follow where the mind goes.  I’m not sure anyone believes me when I tell them this but anyone can do this, it’s that simple.

Wwoofing has me thinking a lot about the intersections in life and where the road takes you.  Superman posed the question “2 years ago, did you have any idea you would have been doing something like that right now?”  In all honesty I would have to answer no to that question, I had no clue what my last 18 months would have held for me.  I’ve tried to stick to the philosophy that I take any opportunity that presents itself to me and I think it really has done me well.  I’ve enjoyed staying at wwoofing gigs for an average of 3 weeks each place, it gives us the opportunity to really get to know one another, which is good and bad as it makes leaving all the harder each time.

I leave with a list of random things regarding New Zealand.

Favorite Cities in New Zealand:

  • Big City: Christchurch
  • Mid Size: Rotorua
  • Little: I’ve liked most of the little towns but I’d have to say that Pongaroa was the most charming.  Good people abound in the small towns

Favorite Place: Up until a month ago it was the Coromandel Peninsula but my time in the Bay of Islands was simply amazing.

Favorite Camping: Fantail Bay, Coromandel Peninsula.  Incredible place.

Things I Won’t Miss:

  • Sandflies: good riddance to them
  • Magpies: attacked twice, Damn birds.

Most Unusual Item I’ve Seen a Backpacker Carry: A compound bow, by a hunter crazy canuck.

Favorite Hostel: Purple Cow, Wanaka.  Immaculately run and a great view.

Favorite Stretch to Ride: Caitlins, South Island.

To sum up New Zealand, “Sweet as, bro”

edit: last batch of pictures added for New Zealand.

Empty Alley

Last Leg

Current Location: Paihia, Aotearoa

I sort of said goodbye this morning to Alex, Miranda, and the silly Austrian Elizabeth.  Alex and Miranda had the next set of wwoofers come in last night as I had been planning on leaving the day before that on my way down the coast but postponed it to get a decent day sailing on the boat.  It probably turned out to be the right decision as we got to go fishing yesterday and I landed about 5 fish the largest one being 10lbs.  We had an absolutely amazing day on the boat with perfect weather and enough fish to feed 7 people and my big one left to smoke this morning before I left.

The day before that we went on a horse trek with Miranda and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is an accomplished rider unlike me so had a much easier time than I did. We got to ford some rivers and gallop up hills this time.  I managed to do much better this time and stay on the horse the entire time and had much more control than the last time thanks to some tips from Elizabeth.

The reason I ‘kinda’ said goodbye to Alex and  Miranda is I’m sticking around in Paihia until Wednesday night to go sailing on Mr. Wolf in the club race.  So I’ll be hanging around Paihia for a few days, mostly because I’m in no rush to get back to Auckland sooner than I have to.  Tentatively the plan is to leave on the 20th to Thailand which it turns out isn’t that far away, fortunately it should take me 2 or 3 days to make it back to Auckland leaving me one or two days to sort everything out and get ready for the next leg of the trip.

At the Races

It has continued to be a pretty fun time here at Roseburn farms.  I’ve extended my stay here by a couple of weeks to see the boat job completed.  We took the boat out of the water the second day of my stay here and ever since then I’ve been down to the boat just about every day.  I’ve done a fair amount of sanding on the boat and painting along with other miscellaneous tasks.  The only real problem working on the boat is finding enough fair weather days to get the job completed.  So far I think in the last 20 days  we’ve probably had 3 good days of weather which has gotten really frustrating for Alex.  But the job is almost done, we should be back in the water by Saturday if everything goes to plan; something I wouldn’t count on at this point.

I also got to go for my second horse ride, this time I’ve learned that galloping up a hill is tons of fun once again, but galloping downhill is a lot more scary and lead to my first fall from a horse (that I can remember.)  Yacht racing has also been on the agenda for the last few Wednesday nights and a Friday race.  We’ve been sailing on the Kantime, a friend of Alex and Miranda, sails that boat but they need the extra crew so we’ve been pretty welcome.  Our first race we came in 3rd, on the second race we came in second, and this past Wednesday we came in first.  My main goal during the race my main goal is to not get thrown off the boat and not to be garroted by the ropes flying around.  I’ve really only been successful at the ropes one.  I managed to almost fall out of the boat on the first race, we did a tack and I was a bit late getting over to the other side of the boat, we got hit by a gust of wind and the boat went at a 45 degree angle while I was trying to clamber over and my feet just went out from under me, fortunately the railing caught me and I pulled myself over to the other side.  The other neat thing about the sailing is we actually get to do things, I’ve hoisted sails, jibbed, and cranked sheets till my shoulders hurt, super fun.

Anyway, New Zealand is just about done.  I’ve added a few more pictures.

Kite Sail