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Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

Atlantic Avenue Beach, 1984?

Posted by evankessler on December 3, 2010

Memories, like the corners of my mind. Misty water colored mem- oh, okay enough of that. We’re all painfully aware that if  there’s one thing Facebook is great for it’s reliving the past. A seemingly unending stream of friend requests and photo tags often give way to an overflow of both wanted and unwanted nostalgia. There’s no shortage of people posting pictures from their youth, which also so happens to have been your youth–often to your chagrin. Now, I for one haven’t gotten around to scanning old images from my childhood, but sometimes I’m glad that others have.

This Thanksgiving an old friend from my early childhood summers in the Hamptons tagged me in a photo from those long gone but certainly not forgotten days spent making sand forts on Atlantic Avenue beach with a boyish band of brothers and close acquaintances. The images brought me back to the carefree days when I was deathly afraid to step foot in the ocean and frequented the Beach Treat in search of Marino’s Italian Ices and Pineapple Dole Whips. Ahh, those were the days.

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Escape from New York

Posted by evankessler on July 9, 2010

Fourth of July weekend brought patriotic tidings to the residents of New York City, but those All-American antics were nary accompanied by a cool breeze that might make that star-spangled banner yet wave. Instead the holiday weekend was trailed by a crippling triple-digit heat wave that all but deadened the celebratory spirit. The electric company warned against excessive use of  power fearing outages across the bustling metropolis, shutting down some air conditioning or at least knocking them down to lower settings that left residents gasping for an icy cool liquid refreshment not consisting of something that had just been wiped clean from their brow.

Rather than spend the entirety of the week drowning in my own sweat, I made an executive decision to seek refuge where the air conditioning was central, and  the soothing relief of chlorinated water was mere steps away from my alotted workspace.

Paradise Is Only A Few Steps Away

Paradise Is Only A Few Steps Away

Three hours from my Brooklyn home lie a secret hideaway of sorts, a place that only gets taken advantage of by this foolish city denizen every few years or so when I feel the need to go for a swim.  It was about that time.

It had been three years since I had ventured to the land of P. Diddy white parties, Steven Spielberg, and childhood memories involving the smoking of pretzels in a pool house. Three years was indeed too long. So after an early work shift on Tuesday I hopped on the Long Island Railroad only to be met several hours later by my beaming mother who had long been singing the praises of time spent on the East End.Sure I fancy myself city folk, but it’s really hard to turn down the prospect of free meals and swimming when faced with such a dreadful alternative.

The days since have been filled with a rather pleasant routine. Something along the lines of: wake up, eat breakfast, swim, work, swim, work, swim, work, eat dinner, sleep, rinse, repeat. I can’t say I’ve experienced a great variety of things save for the different strokes I’ve employed in my many laps back and forth in the pool, and a brief jaunt to the beach, but that’s not what I came out here for. The trick was to simply change the scenery. One can only stare at one’s kitchen table for so long and eat the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day before they’re liable to go insane.

Sure the week had some pathetic moments. I was obsessive compulsive about obtaining a suitable amount of exercise, feeling as though doing 20 laps of elementary backstroke in a pool 36 feet in length was akin to a real achievement. Every chance I got I added another 20-25 laps to my total.  I pondered whether or not I could achieve a swimmer’s body with such an intense workout schedule.  There was also precious little human interaction save for parental advisory. In their absence I decided to test my camera timer and take action shots of my solo pool fun, which may or may not be the saddest thing in the world.See below and decide for yourself.

Self Pool Portrait '10: Feel the Excitement

The Creature Emerges Back at the Surface

Pool Fever: Catch It!

Reigning Gold Medalist in the Elementary Backstroke Does A Victory Lap

That being said, this was time I needed. A breeze from Brooklyn was blowing towards the east calling my name and saying “Go East Young Man.” It’s seemed silly not to follow it.

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An EK In The UK

Posted by evankessler on May 29, 2009

I’m not the Anti-christ and I’m not an anar-chist (pronounce accordingly), I’m just me, Evan Kessler, a simple American blogger who just so happened to spend Tuesday through Thursday of this week down in London town.  God save the queen indeed.  My tale is not a cautionary one, nor does it involve seedy characters from a previously unseen underbelly.  It’s merely a story rife with planes, pubs, pints, and once we’re out of the p’s there’s a commercial shoot and an awkward encounter with a hand model.  So without further ado, I suppose it’s time to launch into this as only I can…seeing as this is my little anecdote.

Following the largely alcohol-fueled insanity of Memorial day weekend, I spent the majority of my Monday making sure I was completely prepared for my brief jaunt to the United Kingdom.  Unbeknownst to me, prior to my departure, my roommates had planned yet another BBQ for the actual holiday.  So as I prepared to take off for the airport I did a slight amount of mingling and even partook in a few burgers to fatten me up for the flight.

A little after 7pm I made for the Flatbush LIRR stop, which took me to Jamaica where I caught the JFK airtrain to the American Airlines terminal.  I had given myself a little too much time as check-in was a breeze.  Apparently Monday night is not the most popular time to fly.  I killed some time at the airport sports bar watching the Mets vs. Nationals whilst drinking a tall glass of the King of Beers.  I didn’t want to get too comfortable and too involved in the sport fanfare, so after I was done with my glass I made my way to the gate where I enjoyed some reading.  I did my fair share of browsing my fellow passengers.  I became somewhat fascinated with a man who bore a striking resemblance to one of Harrison Ford’s more famous characters.  The only thing he was really missing was a bullwhip…but if he were the flight marshall, perhaps he had one in his carry-on.

Harrison Ford's Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls Stunt Double Waits For A Flight

Harrison Ford's Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls Stunt Double Waits For A Flight

The flight began boarding an ample amount of time prior to our scheduled 11:30 takeoff and I settled in to my seat towards the rear end of the plane.  For a while, as the plane continued boarding, I had an empty seat next to me.  This seemed too good to be true and ultimately it was.  There were a few large hasidic men mulling about a few rows up not-so subtly eyeing my seat.  I was half-resigned  to the fact that one of these bulky men in bulky clothing would end up in that seat and slightly intrude on my personal space for the duration of the flight.  I lucked out though.  As it turns out, the two men were discussing with the flight attendant how they would rather not sit next to a woman and so the smallish woman was moved to the seat next to me as opposed to one of the bulkier gentlemen.   It wasn’t a fateful occurrence or anything.  We didn’t have an enchanting conversation and fall in love, but I was able to sit comfortably for the duration of my six-hour flight across the Atlantic.

It was around 10:30am on Tuesday when our plane reached it’s gate at  London’s Heathrow Airport.  I was a little unsure what to do once I got off of the plane aside from going through immigration and having my passport stamped.  The only directions I had were to meet my driver at “the J”.  Unsure if this was the name of a place in the airport or the slang name for the pick-up area, I just followed signs past the baggage claim.  Sure enough…I came to an area with people wrapped around what could’ve been a j-shaped area holding signs for passengers.  It was none too long before I happened upon the bloke with a sign reading E. Kessler.  Being familiar with my own name, I surmised that this was for me.

After a brief walk to the car, my driver took me on a left side of the street adventure through what seemed to be the entirety of this historic world capital.  It really does strike one silly, just how clean and well kept a city London is.  Every row of houses has a certain charm, each old building appears to be laden with some sort of history and aged artfulness.  My driver was none too familiar with the area in which my hotel was located.  He gave the GPS a good workout until we happened upon the Hoxton Hotel in East London.

The First Thing I Saw Upon Entering My Hotel

The First Thing I Saw Upon Entering My Hotel

Upon entry into the lobby I was met by an orange shell sculpture of a Lamborghini Countache…not really the type of thing you expect to see in the lobby, yet it was kind of a sweet setup.  Upon checking in at the front desk, I asked the concierge-type person if anything had been left for me in the way of an itinerary.  “No” was the answer to that question.  I was kind of shocked by this.  In my previous experience with the PR company who invited me on the trip there had been a whole host of activities for everyone invited.  This time there was nothing.  I was going to be in London for two whole days.  What was I to do?

My first move was to go up to my hotel room and dump my luggage.  Upon exiting the elevator on the 2nd floor I was greeted by a neon-lit futuristic appearing hallway.  I felt like I was in the movie Tron.  After a few false starts with my key card, I entered a relatively small-but incredibly sleek-looking room, with appealingly modern decor accented by a low-key lighting motif and some unique pillows, not to mention my very own flat-screen TV.

My very first move upon dumping my stuff in room was to find out what my plan of attack was supposed to be.  I immediately removed my computer and emailed my contact, Zaireen.  Despite the fact that I should’ve been tired, I was really eager to do something in London and sent an email to that effect, but I was still unsure if anything was planned on arrival even though no itinerary at the front desk suggested as much.  I was a little hungry as well, and wanted to go have a walk around to find a pub that I could get a meat pie and a pint.  Instead, I waited around my hotel for a bit and waited for word to come.

Soon enough I got an email from Zaireen suggesting that I wait til 3pm when she would be by and we could grab a pint.  Seeing as I didn’t really know where I was and that waiting til 3pm wasn’t so far off at this point, this sounded like an okay idea.

It was a little after 3pm when I met up with Zai in the lobby of the Hoxton.  Having never met before I had to rely on her to recognize me.  It was pretty effortless though and despite having never met in person, there was an overall air of familiarity about her.  Maybe it’s that we had already talked on the phone or maybe it was because she bore a strong resemblance to my friend Marisa who I used to work at VH1 with, but I found that we were off to being fast friends.

We didn’t take an incredibly long trek to find a suitable spot to have a pint.  We settled for just down the road at the Three Crowns.  It wasn’t the most sophisticated of pubs, but it had plenty of suitable options for drinking and that’s all we needed.  I feel ashamed that I can’t remember what I got a pint of, but it was most likely something that sounded traditional and British to me.  We sat for a few minutes inside and got to know one another before moving the festivities outside and enjoying the unusually clear London weather. It was a bit chilly, but I was clad in long sleeves so it was none too much of a bother.

After finishing our pints and talking for a bit, I told Zai that I was eager to have a walk around.  I wasn’t too interested in doing touristy things, but I wanted to hang around and walk near the River Thames.  Into the underground we went at the Old Street station.  I was a little confused by the complexity of the map and the zones, but Zaireen did her best to help me navigate before actually getting on.  I got myself an Oyster card and joined my new friend on the train to Bank where I was instructed to switch lines to Embankment and get off the train there.

The 2nd leg of my Underground journey was taken alone, but it was none too difficult.  I took the District line to the aforementioned stop and left the station.  When I exited I was in the Charing Cross region, which I quickly realized was one of the more touristy area.  As I walked out of the station and made a few turns I was face to face with the Thames and could see the London Eye and Big Ben all in the not-so-distance.  I wandered along the bridge over the river for a bit trying to take pictures of myself with landmarks in the background.  A kindly British girl offered to take my picture for me.  I took her up on the kind gesture, but I think I ended up liking one of my own photos better.

Keeping An Eye On The Eye

Keeping An Eye On The Eye

After staring at the Thames for a few, I decided to stroll around the neighborhood and see what I could happen into.  I strolled right into Trafalgar Square and the Theater district.  It sort of felt like Times Square with an HMV store and souvenir shops and general chain stores including a TGI Friday’s.  What I really wanted was something to eat, specifically a Meat pie.  However, my first order of business was a quick pee.  The pint from before had left me with an urge to splurge.  I found myself wandering around the London Trocadero, a mall like structure, which luckily happened to have a pay toilet.  It cost me a pound, but it was well worth it since afterwards I felt foot loose and fancy free.

As I wandered through the Trocadero looking to find a way out I saw daylight through female accessories store that may or may not have been a Claire’s.  When I finally got out of the mall and to an outdoor sidewalk I found myself staring at Waxy O’Connor’s.  Waxy O’Connor’s is a pub I first frequented in London eight years ago while on a post college jaunt through Europe with my friend Joe D, Rich M, Matt C, and Sapfest.  I had a bit of a laugh at the coincidence and decided to snap a photo to show my friends back home.

Misty Water Colored Pub Mem'ries Of The Way We Were

Misty Water Colored Pub Mem'ries Of The Way We Were

Several seconds passed after I took the photo.  I started to walk away and then said to myself, “Aw screw it,” and headed in.  I greeted the bartender and ordered a Beamish Stout as advertised on one of the taps, but my request was rebuffed since they were fresh out.  I don’t remember what I requested next, but they were out of that too.  I settled for a Carling and began reading my free London newspaper that I was given in the Underground that was more or less the UK equal to AM New York and the Metro.  I felt odd drinking my pint and not saying anything though, so I looked for a point to open up conversation with anyone at the bar.  I noticed a hefty helping of Budweiser in the refrigerator behind the bar.  This surprised me.  I thought the Brits took a lot of pride in their beer, too much to serve an inferior American brand, especially one with the audacity to refer to itself as royalty in the land of the Queen.  I took this as my conversation entry point and soon enough I was immersed in all types of conversation with the bartender Vivian and a kindly, yet somewhat slightly grizzled man in his late 30’s early 40’s named Gerry with two snake tattoos on his forearms.  We talked beer, football, and general cultural issues throughout the course of three pints. I was probably there a good hour and a half to two hours before finally taking my leave as the sun was beginning to go down.

Vivian Watches on As I Imbibe Yet Another Carling

Vivian Watches on As I Imbibe Yet Another Carling

Still hungry, I staggered out of Waxy O’Connor’s in search of a meat pie to satisfy my stomach.  I had planned to head back on the train and find something near my East London hotel, but before I made it to the Underground station I happened upon The Brewmaster.  On the menu at “The Brewmaster” I spied the item “Beef and Ale Pie.”  This sounded like just what the starving doctor or artist ordered.

I went in and ordered up my culinary choice along with a half pine of lager and waited patiently staring at the window and again uncomfortably browsing through the paper while attempting the crossword puzzle.  Soon enough my feast was on hand and I was ready to savor the deliciousness.

Meat Pie and Mash

Meat Pie and Mash

With a bit of gravy added on, I immersed myself in meat, crust, and gravy accompanied by a generous helping of peas and mash and was able to carry on my evening narrowly averting my hunger crisis.

What I didn’t avert, however, was the confusion of being in a strange city.  I found my way to the nearest underground station, which was not the one I started from.  Nonetheless, I was certain I could navigate my way back.  Before I could do that though, I would have to get my Oyster card to work.  I thought it had enough pound-age left on it to net me a return trip to Old Street, but the turnstile disagreed.  I went to the ticket machine and fumbled with my unfamiliar currency in a slightly drunken state and eventually just settled on getting a new ticket for zones 1 and 2. My route back was slightly different than the one I came from seeing as I had started my return route at a different stop.  That being said, I was able to pick up the route fairly easily once I stared at the map for a few extra seconds.

It was a different story once I exited the Old Street Station.  I’m not sure what exactly happened for when I first got on the train with Zai earlier it looked as if making my way from the hotel to the exit was a fairly straight shot, even though I couldn’t see the hotel from the station entrance.  Walking back by myself was a different story.  I must’ve turned off too early down a street that was just before the hotel that I thought was the actual street my hotel was on or something to that effect, but I spent the next 15 to 30 minutes circling the perimeter around that which The Hoxton Hotel was located. I had to stop into a market or two just to ask.

It was a little frustrating because the entire time I knew just how close I was, but I was somehow avoiding making the correct turn.  Eventually, I saw a green glow emanating from decorations in the front windows or the windows of something nearby and save for a quick stop at the market across the street for some toothpaste, I was back home.

Upon re-entry to hotel central, I attempted to get a little writing done, but promptly fell asleep on my bed directly next to my computer.  This occurred at around 10:30pm.  I woke up around 2:30am feeling semi-well-rested, but with entirely too much time on my hands to kill.  I was still tired, but not overly sleepy.  I turned on the television and came across Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, watching those til what I think was a little after 5am.  The thing that struck me funny about the coverage was that they carried the regular American broadcast, but during the commercial breaks they would cut to two British guys in a studio just discussing the game.  I guess it’s not that odd, but I think I’m just used to being bombarded with commercials at every possible second where sports aren’t going on that analysis during breaks seemed novel.

I didn’t really get a good deal of sleep the rest of the morning.  At one point I looked myself in the mirror and found my eyes terribly bloodshot from the lack of sleep.  I tried to get a little more shut eye, but left the TV on.  I caught a little bit of the famed soap Neighbours, which I found none too interesting save for the man in the corner of the screen translating all of the dialogue into sign language.  I wondered if this was the norm on most other channels.  It would probably prove terribly distracting in moments of serious drama.

The din of the television did eventually coax me into at least a little sleep and when I woke up, I hopped into my incredibly sleek shower to attempt to wash away the crustiness from my eyelids and start the day anew, even though the day had been around 7 hours old for me at that point. I partook in the lovely breakfast provided by my hotel and readied for a full day down in London town.

Zaireen came by the hotel and grabbed me at 11:30 am and we made our way to the shoot.  The weather was exactly what I would expect from London, which is to say cloudy and drizzly.  It wasn’t raining so much that you couldn’t get by without an umbrella, which was good news since I didn’t need one.  The shoot itself seemed to be in a very hip area of London in a bar-type setting.  Upon arrival I was introduced to Zai’s co-worker Mandy, a pleasant, friendly and somewhat cheeky blonde woman who seemed like she instantly took to people and people instantly took to her. We also met up with another blogger named David from City Drinking, an in depth site about all things drinking in the UK, also a good bloke and pleasant conversationalist.

I’m not sure if the location was an actual bar or if it was a warehouse with two sets within, but it didn’t really matter I guess.  We were there for “The Apartment” shoot for the new Bailey’s “Listen To Your Lips” campaign.  Very early into our stay at the shoot we were introduced to James from Bailey’s and Hugh from JWT London.  They were basically the two people at the heart of my stay in London as they’d be the ones providing me with all of the pertinent information on the campaign I was there to write about.  Hugh sort of reminded me of Stephen Merchant, though a little bit older and certainly more distinguished looking, whereas James reminded me of my friend Robert were he older and spoke with a much different accent.

I found their information to be most helpful and their demeanor to be more than friendly.  The set seemed none too tense as the overall feel of the commercial kind of circulated around the environment.  The shoot consisted of models singing along to catchy songs and I found myself humming the music to myself at points or wanting to sing along.

After a bit of shooting, lunch break was called for and we made our way to the craft services truck.  Next to the craft services truck was a grey double decker bus where all of the cast and crew were to enjoy their meals.  It was the same sort of bus where Andy Millman and Maggie would eat while  during many a scene on the show Extras.  There I partook in a lovely meal of Jerk Chicken with some rice and beans and extremely garlicky bread that we all feared would put a damper on talking for the rest of the day.

We stayed at the shoot a little while longer, before I headed back to my hotel for a brief nap.  There was an underlying excitement heading into the evening hours.  Not only was there a plan for another pub outing with myself, Zai, and Jonny whom I had met in Miami last year, but throughout the day there had been a tremendous buildup about a particular sporting event taking place that evening  You could hear talk of the Champion’s league final jumping off the lips of Brits on virtually every corner you walked.  The city was abuzz for the evening’s match that featured Manchester United vs. Barcelona in what was ostensibly the Super Bowl of actual “football.”

I’m not a huge fan of the sport most Americans refer to as Soccer, but I do find it extremely watchable and entertaining in it’s highest form and these were the two best teams duking it out.  So before even meeting up with Zai and Jonny later I was excited to bear witness to some serious English Football fanaticism that I hoped would border on stereotpyical hooliganism.

It was closer to 7pm, I believe when Zai and Jonny met me in my hotel lobby.  My first thought was that we’d eat at a pub that would have the game and plenty of rowdy fans shouting either in support or disdain for Man U.  Instead, we settled on making our first stop solely a dining outing at Pizza Express, a chain sit-down pizza establishment where one orders gourmet personal pizzas.  I was a little surprised at our restaurant choice as I was hungry for Football atmosphere, but I was also hungry for edible food.

Soon enough the three of us were immersed in conversation and thin crust.  We discussed everything from work to technology, to just general catching up stuff all the while downing two bottles of wine.  This was a welcome respite from the pint after pint pace of the day before.  A relaxing meal amongst friends was no match for screaming hordes of football fans.

Jonny and Zai Before Banoffee Pie

Jonny and Zai Before Banoffee Pie

Jonny and Zai seemed to finish their meal in a flash.  I surmised this must’ve been on account of me doing so much talking, but once my pizza slate was wiped clean rather than make for the pub to check the action on the pitch, we eased into dessert.  Zai got the chocolate cake and Jonny and I each got a slice of Banoffee Pie.  The ordering of Banoffee Pie led to me sarcastically remarking that everything was named so creatively.  I also made a motion that name Banoffee Pie was misleading since it could easily be mistaken for Banana and Coffee flavored, when it was in fact Banana and Toffee flavored.  I suggested a compromise of Tofnana Pie.  That way both flavors win and everyone knows what they’re eating.  Naming aside, the Tofnana Pie was delicious.

Tofnana Pie with Ice Cream

Tofnana Pie with Ice Cream

With desert in our stomachs and the bill paid, it was off to the pub to partake in more pints.  Unfortunately, one member of our party was dropping out.  Zai decided she was tired and with that Jonny and I set out for the rest of the evening.  Our first attempted stop was The Old Blue Last, which from the outside looks like a traditional booze joint, but according to Jonny has since become a trendy pint place for the stars.  He recounted a story about a none too pleasant encounter with Kelly Osbourne and a member of the Arctic Monkeys involving an accidentally spilled pint, no apology and an unforgiving bouncer inside said establishment. The previous incident apparently hadn’t completely turned Jonny off to drinking there, but the fact that they had no TV on to display the match certainly put a damper on our quest.We settled on a pub none to far away, just down the road called The Nelson’s Retreat.

IMG_9696

Upon entering The Nelson’s Retreat we found just what we, or at least I, was looking for.  The pub was packed with football fans screaming intermittently at the action going on on-screen.  Unfortunately, we had missed a good deal of the match as it was around the 60th minute of play when we arrived.  Fans were into the game though as Barcelona held a 1-0 lead over England’s Manchester United.  The majority of the crowd though seemed to be pulling for the foreign element as I had sort of figured out that Man U can easily be equated with the New York Yankees as a hated rival in many league circles.  They even had their own A-Rod type character in Cristiano Ronaldo, who I instantly grew to hate when his extreme arrogance emanated through the screen the first time I saw him on the TV.  He even sort of looked like A-Rod, which just brought about bad feelings.  Shortly thereafter he was given a yellow card for a somewhat dirty tackle, which had the crowd up in arms against the Man U superstar.

Some Football Celebration Going On On The Pub Screen

Some Football Celebration Going On On The Pub Screen

Several minutes into our stay as I downed another Carling while Jonny sipped on a Tiger, we bore witness to Lionel Messi’s game clinching header, that gave his Spanish squad a 2-0 lead.  From then on things seemed to die down in the pub.  Jonny and I eventually got a seat at the bar and closed the place down talking about our Miami trip the previous year and doing an increasing amount of catching up, much of which included talk of his expensive purple convertible he had been coaxed into buying by his ex and his impending move into his new apartment.  I was sort of jealous of his profitable station in life, but glad since from all I’ve seen of him, he is a deserving guy.

The night had one last stop after we left the Nelson’s Retreat and that was back at the jolly old Hoxton Hotel.  We sat down for one more beer at the hotel bar and ended the night on a high note talking about Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris and various other stars of the ouevre.  Yes, my final night in London was quite the fine time.

I had set a wake up call the following morning as I had to pack up and check out before being met by Zai in my hotel lobby to head out to the final day of shooting.  I had already gotten the meat of information I needed for my JoshSpear post, but I had forgotten my camera the previous day.  So on this go round I could try to grab some quality snaps of the shoot while soaking in the uncharacteristically warm London sun on a 75 degree day while camped out on a rooftop, watching models and directors do their thing.

On Set With Bailey's

On Set With Bailey's

Craft Services Line

Craft Services Line

Grey DoubleDecker Bus: It's Where To Eat

Grey DoubleDecker Bus: It's Where To Eat

While being joined by a similar cast of characters in Zai, Mandy, and much of the same creatives from JWT and Bailey’s, there was also a blogger named Cate who ran a site called BitchBuzz.  The lot of us had a rather good time taking in the sites and enjoying the shoot.  At one point we became fascinated with the fact that there was in fact a hand model on the shoot.  We watched as she daintily held her digits deflecting against all contact.  She seemed to keep them hid aaway from harm in her pockets and just taking extra care as to not doing anything foolish like get them caught in a  blender or mangled by any non-existent bandsaw.  We couldn’t help but stare waiting for her prized fingers to show themselves.  I made a few attempts to get good photos of her but never really succeeded.

Later in the shoot day, after again eating at our Extras-esque meal base, I noticed Zai was sitting next to said hand model.  I calmly approached with the rest of our group and just as I was going to covertly snap a shot an awkward situation was created.  Zai basically confessed our fascination to the hand model, putting me on the spot by telling her I had something to ask her when all I really wanted was a photo of her hands.  Mandy and I scrambled for a good question to ask her regarding hand modeling, but all we came out with was something along the lines of “how do you get your hands ready?”  That was pretty weak and the model was kind of standoffish, asserting that she hadn’t been booked as a hand model before walking away. Oh well.

So much for our dream about knowing everything there is to know about hand modeling.  Oh well, we got over it and went on to watch even more of the shoot for the next couple of hours.  However, the time soon draw near for me to leave for the airport and myself, Cate, Zai, and Mandy headed out for one last pint at a place called The Big Chill Bar.  There didn’t seem to be a heaping helping of English beers there and instead I ordered a Budvar.  While we only had 45 minutes or so to shoot the shit at the end of our busy day, it was certainly enjoyable.  I felt like it was the fitting end to 2 wonderful days in London.

Just like that, I was on my way back to the Hoxton Hotel with Zaireen to pick up my bags and head off to the airport.  As the driver pulled away from the Hotel I had this overwhelming feeling that London was a place that suited me.  Sure I hadn’t stayed a month and I didn’t have to pay rent or navigate the underground on a regular basis, but there was a certain comfort to being there.  I felt welcome there and I guess I have the folks at Immediate Future, Bailey’s and JWT to thank for that.   I guess my only question now is, when can we do it again?

Posted in Advertising, blogging, Making Friends, Travel, vacation, work, writing | 2 Comments »

Funnier Died

Posted by evankessler on February 17, 2009

thumbs-down-colOn the heels of my Thursday evening post, I regret to inform my friends, family, and loyal readers that my in-flight pickup lines par excellence failed to conquer the comic behemoths at FunnyorDie.com and the sky savvy souls at Southwest Airlines.  It seems that my wonderfully witty and somewhat sleazy pickup lines were not deemed as good as two others.  The winning lines read as follows:

1: “roses are red, violets are blue, I’m in Group A, can I sit next to you?”

and

2: “Girl, why you be waiting in boarding group B like that? I thought angels knew how to fly.”

While I like #2, my ego will not allow me to concede that either of these are better than my best effort…which was arguably the “Snakes on A Plane” one.

I made my disapproval known by posting a Twitter comment aimed at both Funny or Die and Southwest Airlines.  My displeasure did prompt a response from the Southwest Airlines representative who assured me that he/she “really did like the ‘snakes on the plane’ reference!” and then offered to send me up some runner up swag if I were to send them a video of me actually using that line on a member of the opposite sex.   However, due to the fact that I am nobody’s monkey, and I was only in this thing to be the best, not for some measly swag in the form of a t-shirt, I declined the offer.

Plus, it wouldn’t make much sense to use an in-flight pickup line with a specific plane reference in a bar…unless of course it was Flight 151 in Chelsea or Idlewild on the Lower East Side.

Que Sera Sera.

Posted in comedy, FAIL, humor, Internet, Travel, vacation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Back In The U.S. of A

Posted by evankessler on January 12, 2009

usa_flag_mapAfter spending the last two weeks of gallivanting around southeast Asia, I’m back in the good ol’ U.S. of A and not a moment too soon.  I returned on Saturday evening at 6pm as my plane landed at JFK International Airport, ending a day of travel that began as my plane took off Saturday morning at 9:15am Bangkok Time (9:15pm Friday New York Time).  With a quick 2 hour stop in Tokyo I was on my way back home and despite a seemingly above average amount of turbulence, I returned home safely to struggle with a twelve hour time difference and impending jet lag.

Despite American Airlines attempt to throw off my internal clock by serving me a continental breakfast at 5pm an hour prior to landing, I’d have to say I’m dealing with the readjustment quite well.  My first day back I fell asleep at 1am and last night I conked out a little after 11pm even though I had been ready to say goodnight sometime around 8:30.  I haven’t been sleeping quite as long as I’d like to, but I’m more or less on schedule.

Now comes the hard part.  Responsibility.  Two weeks on another continent spent not thinking about anything important other than “when are we going to eat lunch?” and “should I go for a swim or get a massage?” has left me somewhat ill-prepared for the heavier questions that I enjoyed ignoring for that time.  It’s a rude awakening to return and be faced with the problems that previously plagued you.  I’m back to thinking, ” man, I need to get some work” and “am I doing the right thing with my life?”

On the bright side,I’ve been able to pick up where I left off with all of my friends, spending a good deal of Sunday with the people I’ve been without for what seemed like an eternity.  And even with the sobering reality of return I can look at the calendar and say, “it’s 2009, a clean slate.” A new year with new possibilities and as cliched as this last sentence has been, a new outlook.  Feeling fine in 2009.  Well that’s not the official slogan.  The official slogan is “Wine Me, Dine Me, 2009 Me,” but that’s hard to say on a regular basis.

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Cambodia/Thailand Day 14-16: One Wild Night In Bangkok

Posted by evankessler on January 9, 2009

Two weeks in Southeast Asia are mercifully (or mercilessly depending on who you ask) coming to an end.  Though the accompanying feeling is a bittersweet one, I’m excited to return to playoff football, but not so excited for freezing weather and snow.  Funny how I always liked the winter, but the returning home to icicles and ice cold has lost some of it’s appeal thanks to a fortnight in a more comfortable climate in the midst of a deep freeze in the United States.

I certainly am not heading home feeling unfulfilled as each day seemed to provide a new, unexpected, and unique experience, solely for the reason that you were doing something you’d never done before with each passing second.  The last three days were no different in that respect.

Andy, Jeff, Morwin and myself closed out our stay in Cambodia on Wednesday night with an authentic Khmer meal at the Angkor Palm restaurant on Pub Street.  For those of you not familiar with the Angkor Palm, it was named Siem Reap’s best restaurant of 2006 by a publication.

A Tasty Khmer Dish

Lok Lak: A Tasty Khmer Dish

Not content to end our evening there Morwin, Jeff and I had a beer at a Mexican restaurant as more Cambodian children attempted to peddle their wares while showing off their high IQs. One child tried to sell books by wowing us with his U.S. knowledge.

“Washing-tone Dee-See is the Ca-pee-tal of the United States…I know how many people live there.”

“How many?”

“Three hundred and five mill-ee-on minus three, because you are here.”

We had to give him credit for that one, but we still weren’t buying his travel guides.  We really had no use at this point.  Another girl drew up a tic-tac-toe game and told Jeff that if she won he would have to buy some of her bracelets and that if he won she would leave us alone.  We egged Jeff on saying that he should be confident enough to beat a little kid in tic-tag-toe, but he didn’t take the bait.   Neither did I for that matter, as she briefly tried to lure me into her game of deceit.

On our way home from getting the one drink, we walked to the market and bought some Cambodian souvenirs and subsequently found ourselves in a commerce filled alley where we happened upon a particularly disturbing postcard to send to our friend Suli.

With that it was bedtime.  Our time in Siem Reap was drawing to a close, but our flight out wasn’t until 1:45 the next afternoon. The next morning we all went out to a delicious breakfast at a place called The Soup Dragon and stopped at the market one last time for additional souvenir-age.   I bought two traditional Cambodian scarves (Krami) from the same woman I’d bought shirts from the previous evening.

One Appropriately Disturbing Postcard Coming Right Up!

One Appropriately Disturbing Postcard Coming Right Up!

Post-market we stopped by the postcard shop to mail out our disturbing postcard and returned to the Guesthouse to get our gear together and check out.  We saw our tuk-tuk driver Phearom , who apparently told Andy that he and Jhom had made up after the previous evening’s controversy.  All’s well that ends well, though not quite.

Before leaving for the Airport we got into a long and heated argument with the manager of our lodging over a broken toilet seat in our room, which he maintained we had broken.  We had certainly not broken it, it was more than cracked in half when we took the room days earlier.  In all fairness, we probably should have reported it after the first night, but in my haste to go out that evening had forgotten.  After that I just figured it wasn’t worth complaining over since a large number of the country’s inhabitants squat over a hole instead of  sitting on a toilet.  It felt like a petty complaint to make, but in the end a slightly costly one as the argument brought out stubborness in both sides and Jeff played the hero by quashing the issue with a $10 handout to the manager for a seat that wasn’t worth $2.  On the plus side, we were able to make it to the airport on time and leave Cambodia.

The flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok was rather uneventful unless you count the fact that pre-takeoff and post landing were marked by the cheerful din of Christmas music blasting through the cabin speakers of our Bangkok Airways jet liner. It seems like it’s always Christmas in Thailand…or at least from Novemver to February.  The flight itself was another hop, skip and jump and we arrived back in Thailand around 3pm with plenty of the day to waste.  But before we did so, we had to get to our hostel, downtown in the Silom area.  That was a bit of a mini-adventure as our driver overshot a bit and passed the road where it was.   We did manage to get there, however, with very little additional interference.

Once checked in at the ultramodern (at least if the shared bathrooms were any indication) Lub*D hostel, the four of us went for a walk in our neighborhood in search of food.  We found a bustling alley with several vendors who offered seating. Andy was somehow able to bargain the price of his Pad Thai down to about 60 Baht.  We knew you could bargain for the price of goods, but a meal?

After grabbing a bite, we made back for the hostel, me a bit slower than everyone else as I was still hobbled by my bum tendon.  We sat around and made a few phone calls with Jason and Kayvalyn before arriving at a plan to meet at the night market.

At around 7:30 or 8 we headed over to the Lumphini Night Bazaar, where I had spent a portion of my first evening in Bangkok, nearly two weeks prior with Kayvalyn’s cousin and the husband wife duo of Andy and Tracy.  This time we met up with the newlywed Jayvalyn, Jason’s parents, and his sister Gina.

We walked around for a few hours gathering up some final gift items before returning home; t-shirts, scarves, and what-not.  One of the booths had two tiny monkeys hopping around.  It was a markedly different experience from my previous go round.  I saw much more than just the t-shirt section.  We also stopped at the food court where I helped polish off a small tower of Chang.

Li'l Monkey In Action

Li'l Monkey In Action

It's Never Not Chang Time!

It's Never Not Chang Time!

Leaving behind the commerce-hungry commoners at the Night Market, we opted to make our next stop a high-class one.  Jason and Kayvalyn took the group to Sirocco, the rooftop bar on the 64th floor of Bangkok’s State Tower, offering exquisite views of the city and beer ranging in price from $9-$12.  I’m not quite sure what the other spirits cost as I didn’t sample them.

The View From Top of the World in Bangkok

Sirocco: The View From Top of the World in Bangkok

Andy Enjoying His Time On Top

Andy Enjoying His Time On Top

Our time hobnobbing in a swank setting was short but sweet. We certainly stopped to smell the fresh air and admire the impressive view from above the Bangkok Skyline, even taking a few photos along the way although as I understood it picture taking was not exactly permitted.

With the experience of how the upper-echelon of Thai society spend their evenings under our belt, we quickly brought ourselves back to the ground floor reserved for the proletariat, whisking ourselves away to a less pricey neighborhood. I don’t quite remember what the street we went to was, or what the bar was called, but Kayvalyn announced that it was the area she used to haunt during her high school career. We all took a seat and enjoyed a drink or two as the DJ blasted dance music and the live drummer beat along.

Just A Few Friends Enjoying Some Drinks in Bangkok

Just A Few Friends Enjoying Some Drinks in Bangkok

At one point Jason’s dad came up to me telling me that he though he saw a good looking girl at the front of the club and that he thought I should talk to her.  I had only seen one other person in said bar that wasn’t staff  and it looked like a woman, but Morwin had previously tagged her as a ladyboy.  I told this to Jason’s dad and with that he went outside and checked.  He promptly reported back saying that he was talking about the girl working at the door and that he didn’t think she was a ladyboy.  This didn’t exactly inflate my courage.  Instead, I just told him that I thought he was referring to someone else and went on drinking.

It was getting pretty late, too late for Jason’s parents and sister .  They soon turned in and we moved on to look for more Bangkok nightlife excitement. We walked further down the alley looking for another bar and after a fruitless perusal we made for another lively alley. Our first turn ended up being the gay alley.  We knew this from all of the pride flags and the fact that there were guys as far as the eye could see.

Next Kayvalyn led us over to the Phatpong road or, if you will (and you will), Bangkok’s infamous red-light district.  As we walked down the road a man followed us trying to sell us on the idea of going to his club, but instead our first stop was a place with a live band.  Before I could grab a beer and enjoy the music, a trip to the bathroom was in order for a light sprinkle.  The last thing I expected in this place was a men’s room attendant, but there he stood.  Mind you I didn’t see any mints , but there was a tip tray and he did turn on the water.

Once my hands were washed and toweled off, said attendant swiftly grabbed my arms in a somewhat friendly yet surprisingly dominating manner as I had never been manhandled by a men’s room attendant before.  He proceeded to crack my neck in two directions and my back by giving me  what amounted to a bearhug.  Strangely relieved and simultaneously confused at what had just occurred, I tipped the attendant 40 baht and walked out.

As I returned to the bar to find my friends, the band leaped into a  cover of “Jump Around”, which seemed alternately odd and amusing, yet definitely entertaining. Before I knew it, I was putting my drink down unfinished and following the rush of our crowd led by it’s most recent bride and the man who had been haranguing us earlier towards the bar across the alley, sporting the name “Pussy Collection.”

I Ain't Lyin'

I Ain't Lyin'

I don’t think you have to guess twice what sort of bar a place called “Pussy Collection” in Bangkok’s red-light district is.  Just in case you can’t it’s a strip bar where sexual favors are frequently given in exchange for money.  Upon entry we were immediately sat in a corner and charged around 450 baht for entry and our first beer.  As soon as my backside was against cushion, one of the stripper/prostitutes sidled up beside me.  She began to kiss my cheek and attempt to seduce me into paying for some sort of favor which she used a hand motion in concert with a tongue in her cheek to make abundantly clear in any language, just what favor she was proposing.

I didn’t get many a clear look at my assailant as I was trying to avoid giving any indication that I might be interested in her services.  She was probably the best looking girl in the bunch as most of the ladies seemed haggard at best, though one or two were semi-attractive maybe.  Overall, I found the women in Cambodia to be impossibly more attractive than those in Thailand.

Anyway, my “Pussy Collection”  saga continued as this persistent semi-vixen continued to attempt to work her magic on me, showing me her breasts and taking great care to tempt the occurrence of an erection by stroking over said area of my pants and grabbing it several times, all of this in plain sight of my friends. It was awkward to say the least.

Alongside My New Best Friend.  Not Referring To Jeff

Alongside My New Best Friend. Not Referring To Jeff

Kayvalyn repeatedly looked over with concern asking, “Are you okay?” and pleading with the willing party, “be gentle, he’s innocent.” Frankly, I was a bit insulted by this notion of utter innocence, but not to the point where I’d do something to prove just the opposite.  I cherish my body parts and would prefer if they didn’t fall off at the behest of getting my pride hurt in front a Thai hooker.  I don’t want people I know to look at me as the guy who got serviced in Bangkok or their friend with chronic Gonorrhea.

At one point, our lovable, ever-persistent Miss Harlot started to get handsy with the outside of my pants pocket after she had been hounding me to buy a beer or buy her a beer.  I’m not exactly sure what she meant. Not wanting to know what might’ve happened if I gave her 100 Baht, I didn’t take the bait.  But as she fondled my pocket, she felt what might ahve been some paper currency.  I felt what she felt and was confident it was probably a few receipts.  I was half-right.  There was one receipt and one 100 Cambodian Riel note.  She grabbed the latter and flaunted it and took it for her own as if it was some sort of bounty.  I didn’t care in the least seeing as 4000 Riel is the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.  She made away with about 2.5 cents.

We sat around the club for a bit longer hoping to maybe see a famous Ping-Pong show, but to no avail.  We did however see a few beer bottles opened by the lady nether region.  They weren’t just cracking it open either. Bottle caps whizzed past our heads with some velocity.

The lady of my night stayed by my side kissing my cheek a while longer hoping to coax some monetary reward.  At one point  she managed to slide an almond sliver or something into the side of my mouth with hers without me even opening my mouth intentionally for it.  I think I was saying something to one of my friends at the other end when she slipped them in.  It was fairly odd, but all relatively harmless fun.  The club soon closed down and our group filed out.  As I made for the door, I was hugged by two ladies, who slipped me the club card and despite my apparently irresistible nature or the fact that maybe they pegged me as an easy mark, I continued out the door.

Our night amid the seedy red hue and marquees promoting talented female body parts was not over just yet.  We made one more stop at a place called King’s Camelot where it was less about the ladies pressing you with their flesh and more about showing off their goods on stage so you could pick which one you might desire for boom boom. Thankfully, I didn’t attract any focus at that more crowded establishment.  I was a ghost, but I think Andy and Jeff got showered with a good deal of attention.  To tell the truth though, I did sort of miss it.  It was more fun and odd to be someone’s center of attention even in such a house of ill repute. We weren’t at that bar for too long.  It was around 3am when we made it back to the hostel.  Andy and Jeff wanted to stay out later, but Andy had to leave for the airport in less than three hours to go back home, a fact that he didn’t seem to grasp.

The next morning I awoke at 9:30am feeling quite the haze of hangover.  I had a bit of a continental breakfast at the hostel to fight off the effects.  To conquer the issue completely, Morwin and I took a walk to Health Land for a final turn at a traditional two-hour Thai Massage for the low, low price of $13.  It took a while to actually reach the spa, as we thought we were looking for the same one we had been to earlier in the trip, when in actuality the hostel had given us directions to a closer Health Land.

At 1pm we finally stumbled upon the right place, which was even nicer than the one we had been to two weeks before.  The massage while still as through, seemed to induce more pain that the last time, though it still seemed to iron out the kinks just as effectively.  Morwin didn’t feel the same about his as his masseuse left him with a bit of a limp.

When the massage ended my body was absolutely exhausted.  I just wanted to collapse.  Morwin and I headed back to the hostel, where we made a few calls and got in touch with Ken, who had arrived in from Chiang Mai earlier in the morning.  He met up with us at 4pm and we found ourselves a spot to eat down the road.

I was ready to fall asleep while we were eating, but held off slumber for a subsequent walk to show Ken where we had all gone out the previous evening, but in the daylight. Ken soon split off and I wanted nothing more than to go to bed…That’s pretty much what I spent my last night in Bangkok doing.  My body famished, I had one last meal of stir-fried Morning Glory, before shuffling off to my room early, in preparation for my flight.

I’d love to have gone out with a bang instead of a whimper, but there were plenty of good times between the bookends to last me quite a while…and plenty more to be had on the solid, yet slippery ground  of New York City.

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Cambodia Day 13-14: Ankle Deep in Siem Reap

Posted by evankessler on January 7, 2009

It’s early afternoon on my final full day in the historic city of Siem Reap, Cambodia and instead of exploring scenic regions of the world previously unknown to me I’m sipping from a pineapple shake with an ailing foot/ankle, having minimal pressure exerted upon it.  Not the most admirable form of soft adventure, but it’ll have to do for now.  If I have any hope of enjoying my final 2 or 3 days in Southeast Asia.

I’m not sure what exactly brought on this massive helping of hurt, but it was probably aided by yesterday’s hectic temple touring schedule.  At 5am Andy, Jeff, Morwin and myself met our drivers Phearom and Jhom in the lobby of Popular Guesthouse for a sunrise rendezvous with Angkor Wat, one of the famed man-made wonders of the world and the Khmer people’s main source of national pride, not to mention it’s top tourist attraction.

We arrived at the temple, the sky still dense with stars.  I gazed upwards hoping to catch a glance at a shooting one to wish upon, but to no avail.  We were a little too early and still had plenty of time before the sun came up, but we weren’t the only ones as the tourist masses descended upon  and through the gates of the aged expanse. We stubbornly held a spot on the bridge leading up to the gates for quite a bit, falsely surmising that we would have the best view at sunrise, unfettered by the throngs of clueless foreigners.

A View From The Bridge @ Angkor Wat

A View From The Bridge @ Angkor Wat

After snapping a few shots in the slight dawn we came to a realization that perhaps we were the clueless foreigners.  There was probably a reason all of those people were positioning themselves inside. It would probably be better to have a photo of Angkor Wat at sunrise rather than the gate of Angkor Wat.

The lot of us soon shuffled inside amidst hundreds of other shrine visitors.  We repositioned ourselves several times before settling near the pond with the throngs of tourists.

Despite the sheer volume of onlookers in this main area I was surprised that we were each able to get clean looks at this truly awesome sight/site.  I like the fact that for the rest of my life I’ll be able to say I’ve seen the sun rise over Angkor Wat.  I don’t necessarily know what it means in the long run, but it certainly felt special to me.  That is certainly more than could be said for a few twenty-something British lads a few feet over from us, who rather than focusing on their remarkable surroundings were busy ruminating over the ability to self-fellate as a direct result of rib removal.

The Sun Also Rises At Angkor Wat

The Sun Also Rises At Angkor Wat

When the sun had fully risen a large number from the crowd exited the site and made for breakfast.  We, on the other hand took this as our cue to explore the ruins even further, unfettered by the congregation of families and fellow travelers.

The Empty Pool Pits of Angkor (Or Whatever They Are)

The Empty Pool Pits of Angkor (Or Whatever They Are)

The temple was an impressive monument indeed.  Several pool type structures marked the area where we first entered.  We bounded around the edges examining the surrounding contours and delved deeper inside the great structure, exploring towers and chambers, before reaching the principle sanctuary known as Bakan. This area was absolutely humongous, yet unfortunately roped off (perhaps wisely) to visitors due to restoration.

That's One Impressive Structure

That's One Impressive Structure

Another Stunning View

Another Stunning View

Angkor Wat or Canyon of The Crescent Moon (Alexandretta)?

Angkor Wat or Canyon of The Crescent Moon (Alexandretta)?

More Wonderful Angkor Wat Scenery

More Wonderful Angkor Wat Scenery

We wandered the outsides snapping photo after photo of the impressive construction work around the aged Kingdom including the Bas Relief, Churning of the Sea of Milk whose description had many typos.  All in all we were at the the site for about three hours before heading off to our next spot.

Churning of The Sea of Milk bas-relief

Churning of The Sea of Milk bas-relief

Typo

Typo or Perhaps Just A Misspelling

Who Parked This Horse Here?

Who Parked This Horse Here?

Phearom and Jhom brought us to a nearby restaurant for breakfast where I had some delicious pancakes with banana and pineapple.  I can’t seem to get enough fresh fruit in Southeast Asia.

On the way to our next stop we dropped by a roadside market/petrol stand.  They sell gasoline in 2 liter botttles of soda here in places that also serve as food stands amidst roosters and broken down wagons, with children running around.  It seems like every family makes a living here just selling the same things just outside their village.

Fill 'Er Up

Fill 'Er Up

The next stop on our temple tour de force was Pre Rup.  It sort of reminded me of Ta Keo in that it had three towers and required a little climbing, but it wasn’t nearly as steep.  It was as if Ta Keo was built just to show whomever built Pre Rup that they were a much more powerful king.  Then again it seems like 90% of the temples we’ve seen were built by the same guy, one Jayavarman VII.

Enter Pre Rup

Enter Pre Rup

Andy Hanging Out Atop Pre Rup

Andy Hanging Out Atop Pre Rup

From Pre Rup we took our tuk-tuks out to the countryside.  Phearom and Jhom brought us to Banteay Srei…which according to Lonely Planet is considered to be “The Jewel in Angkor’s Artistic Crown,” and if I do say so myself there were plenty of impressive design intricacies though I’m no architectural expert.  I did notice some numbered components on the side that were almost certainly marked for their piece in the restoration puzzle.

Banteay Srei a.k.a A Jewel of A Temple

Banteay Srei a.k.a A Jewel of A Temple

Now, Where Do These Go?

Now, Where Do These Go?

The temple tour monotony was broken by an utterly sobering trip to the Cambodian Landmine Museum, which featured tons of landmine specimens from Cambodia’s war-torn past; many of whose brothers and sisters are still occupying the country’s mine belt.

Land Mine Museum Sign...Obviously

Land Mine Museum Sign...Obviously

One thing that has struck me funny or maybe a little bit disturbing about the whole land mine thing is the tacky shirts many Cambodian vendors sell that read, “Danger! Landmines!” obviously aimed at tourists.  To me that’s like Jews selling shirts that say “Danger, Nazis!” or Africans selling shirts that say, “Danger Lots of Our People Have AIDS!” on a colorful shirt.  I hope proceeds from at least some of those shirts go to Land Mine victims.  All that aside, the museum was a very effective monument to a still relevant problem.  A relevant problem that Angelina Jolie enjoys tackling head on.  Good on her!

Once the Land Mine museum was a thing of the past, Phearom took Morwin and I on a shortcut through a small viillage to our next stop.  We saw plenty of children playing along the dirt road and the striking sight of a mother with a baby slung over her shoulder riding a bike.

Mom and Baby Bike Along The Road

Mom and Baby Bike Along The Road

We pulled up at what I think was Eastern Mebong Temple and non-chalantly wandered through.  The most impressive parts of the site were the four large elephant statues guarding the four corners.  That was a rather brief stay.  Afterwords we stopped for lunch, during which we tried to discuss our day three plans, but couldn’t since the child vendors were completely harassing us and I could barely pay any attention to Andy as he was trying to tell me what he wanted to do.

An Elephant Guards Eastern Mebong

An Elephant Guards East Mebong

Unsure of our next stop we pressed on via tuk-tuk to the Ta Som Temple.  It was here Andy, Jeff, Morwin, and I had a pow-wow of sorts to decide whether or not to hire our guides for a third consecutive day. Jeff was out for the flooded village.  Morwin was on the fence, Andy and I were in.  Andy pointed out the oddity we had parked ourselves for our itinerary discussion in a Thousand-year-old temple.  How often does that occur?

Ta Som Temple

Ta Som Temple

After reaching this conclusion we arrived back at the tuk-tuk where Jhom announced two more temples.  We were somewhat shocked seeing as we’d been up since 4:30am and thought this would be an early day.  It was already nearing 3pm.  The last two temples, despite being sites of worship, of which we had grown increasingly tired, were well worth it.  Beside the fact they were interesting, they helped me realize I had hit a wall and would be fine, perhaps better off if I didn’t go sightseeing the next day.

The Former Fountain At Preak Kean

The Former Fountain At Prasat Neak Pean

I began to waver from my initial decision about seeing the flooded forest the next day while staring at the beautiful former fountain at Prasat Neak Pean and reached a solid conclusion while roaming the glorious grounds at Preah Khan.

At Preah Khan

Our Final Stop on Temple Row Preah Khan

When we arrived home at around 4:30 we notified both Phearom and Jhom in two separate meetings that we would not be requiring their services the next day.  They both took it well and talked with us for a while after.  We asked Phearom to recommend a good place to grab a few beers.  He told us to go to Pub Street.  We had already been to Pub Street and didn’t really want to go some place that American, but rather preferred the Khmer nightlife experience.  He gave us the name of a bar near the Angkor Health Hotel and we insisted he come out to drink with us.  He politely declined and then said he’d have to clear it with his wife first, being the responsible family man he is.  So things looked doubtful.  The same invitation was extended to Jhom, to meet us at the bar at 9pm.  Jhom agreed.

From the Guesthouse Restaurant we decided to spend a few hours of leisure around the area.  I made a quick trip to the Internet Cafe with Jeff, returning to the room at 7pm and promptly falling asleep.  I awoke at 7:40pm, finally being roused from slumber after Morwin had apparently spent ten minutes knocking at the door.  I hastily left the room in a daze, not paying much attention to any of my actions, save for making sure my shoes were on my feet.  Our group of four met in the lobby and walked for ten minutes before deciding on a street restaurant for dinner.

Midway through the meal I became paranoid that I had left our door unlocked.   After dinner, despite being halfway to our bar destination we all walked back.  The door was locked and I had made us walk back for no reason.  Jeff took this opportunity of being back at the guesthouse to turn in.  Andy, Morwin and I continued on to meet at least one of our new Khmer friends at “Treykoun Sra Priel Beer,” the bar Phearom had so kindly recommended to us.

During the lengthy walk to our destination I started to feel an increasing amount of ankle pain, probably due to the fact that the ground was largely uneven.  My tendon strain from a couple of years back was acting up.  I fought through the beginning stages of pain and after taking one wrong turn and asking directions from two people, we finally arrived at the bar.

Alas, We've Reached Our Destination

Alas, We've Reached Our Destination

Upon arriving we glanced around the premises looking for one of our two friends.  We saw neither of them and were about to be seated when Phearom spotted us.  He was with his friends and yelled over to us.  We should’ve gone over to join him, but instead we took a seat and he split time between us and his friends.  It probably would’ve been a whole lot easier to just go over where he was, but we completely misread the situation.

Morwin and Andy Knocking One Back

Morwin and Andy Knocking One Back

A few minutes passed and we were enjoying a few beers.  Phearom had gone back to his friends, but he was soon back at our table with a rather worried look on his face.  He told us that Jhom was angry with him for bringing us to the bar.  Phearom was worried about his job being contracted out by the guesthouse and of further conflict with Jhom.  I thought I heard him say that he might have to fight him, but he might have meant they were arguing.  Though I sort of think it was the former.  It didn’t really make sense.

Jhom then called to speak to Andy, but Jhom hung up on him.  We told Phearom that we’d straighten things out and that this whole thing must be a misunderstanding though we weren’t really sure we understood.

The problem was either:

A) Jhom was upset that Phearom took us to or recommended a bar for Khmer people.

or

B) Jhom thought we would meet him at the Guesthouse at 9pm and go over with us and was mad at Phearom for taking us, which he did not do.

I sort of think it’s option A, but either way I felt bad for creating a rift in the #1 tuk-tuk duo in all of Cambodia.  They’re like the Riggs and Murtaugh of tuk-tuk drivers.  They showed us a great time around Siem Reap and I hope they settled their differences.  We walked home after a few beers and hoped to see Jhom so we could settle them.  Along the way we had many tuk-tuk drivers offering us rides to “sucky-sucky,” “boom-boom,” “lady” and “happy endings”, but by the time we made it back Jhom was gone and we went to bed having resolved nothing.

I woke up this morning excited to see Siem Reap without sightseeing.  We walked around for a bit, stumbled into a street market and into an internet cafe to book a room for our last two nights in Bangkok.  By that time I was hobbling around and had no recourse but to call it quits rather early.  Oh well, sipping pineapple shakes and people watching ain’t so bad.

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Cambodia Day 11-12: Siem Reap and Ye Shall Sew

Posted by evankessler on January 5, 2009

Sua s’dei beloved readers.  This update is being written from yet another exotic Southeast Asian location.  This time the hotspot in question is Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrived at about 7pm yesterday evening after jumping a few puddles in a Bangkok Airways propeller plane from Thailand’s capital city.

 

This Thing Jumped A Few Puddles On It's Way To Siem Reap

This Thing Jumped A Few Puddles On It's Way To Siem Reap

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about our hop, skip and jump over the Thai-Cambodia border due to the nature of our mode of transport, but the flight ended up being a rather brief and somewhat pleasant, if a tad uncomfortable affair, thanks to seats that were uncontrollable when it came to keeping them in the upright and locked position.

Also, in front  of me sat an obnoxiously loud American woman named Imelda who wouldn’t shut up about her bag of souvenirs in the overhead compartment and how no one back home was getting gifts from her.  The best part of the flight was the attentive stewardesses, who despite the mere one hour of flight time, managed to provide us with an ample meal and some in-flight tea; proving much more attentive than their American Airlines counterparts though not half as adorable as the red suit-clad vixens of  Air Asia.

 

The Box That Housed Our Delectable Snack

The Box That Housed Our Delectable Snack

We landed at the Siem Reap Airport a tad before 7pm.  The touchdown was a bit odd as it seemed like we were landing in an invisible town with no landmarks on the ground aglow to guide air traffic in safely.  It felt like the plane was feeling around for a place to land before gingerly making contact with the runway pavement.

Upon our exit onto the tarmac we were greeted by a small pagoda-like terminal which we soon filed into to meet with Visa officials who then charged us $23 U.S. for entry.  Upon feeding them our payment and our passports, we were told to receive them in another line.  It was a few minutes before I held my passport in hand again as it had to go along an assembly line of Cambodian officials who sat in a space that made it appear as though they were holding a congressional hearing on the validity of all of the passports coming through. Once this ordeal ended I waited on the line for customs where I encountered a soberingly humorless individual  who looked over and eventually stamped my papers.

There was a baggage claim carousel, but it wasn’t employed as the luggage for the 70 passenger flight was placed alongside of it instead of wasting that valuable electricity. I grabbed my pack which was sitting next to Morwin, Jeff, and Andy.  Andy joked about how funny his customs official was, saying that they had made plans to grab drinks later.

Despite all of the visa and customs business, getting into the country was actually a breeze.  Walking outside we spotted the driver from our guesthouse holding a sign that read, “Mr. Andy.”  We followed him to the parking lot and he beckoned another driver to follow.  I think his name was Jhom.  Andy and Morwin packed themselves into his vehicle, which was not a taxi like we had falsely presumed, but a tuk-tuk.  Ditto for myself and Jeff, who took our places in Phearom’s identical mode of transportation.

 

The View From Our Tuk-Tuk Upon Arrival

The View From Our Tuk-Tuk Upon Arrival

With my bag balancing in front of me on a cushion in the open air of our tuk-tuk, we sped along the roads of Siem Reap; roads that not only were lined with nice hotels, but were also thriving with life.  Motorcycles cruised alongside of us, music occasionally filled the air.  There was a certain bustling excitement that I hadn’t felt or seen in the vast expanse of Bangkok or the relaxed atmosphere of Koh Lanta.

Before we knew it we had arrived at  the Popular Guesthouse, our accommodation ’til departure on the 8th at the wonderfully economic rate of $9/night for each room.  So what do we get for all of that?  2 beds, a private bathroom, hot water, cable TV.  It’s actually quite the steal.

Once we settled in we met with Jhom and Phearom to discuss hiring them as tuk-tuk guides for the next two days.  They’d chauffeur us to all of the sites and do minimal tour guiding for a total of $90 plus tip between the 4 of us.  Perfect.

Everything was falling into place so to celebrate we went to look for some authentic Khmer food.  We walked around and found Pub Street, essentially Cambodia’s version of Backpacker’s row-like Khao San Road in Bangkok.  We made a few turns off of that street and eventually stumbled into Khmer Kitchen, a restaurant recommended by my good friend Jaime W. and her husband.

 

Tasty Angkor Beer

Tasty Angkor Beer

Mmm...Borr Borr.

Mmm...Borr Borr.

We got right into ordering as soon as we sat down.  I was all for sampling the local Angkor beer and between us we ordered a variety of tradional Khmer dishes and went at them family style.  There was a Khmer curry, a rice porridge called Bor Bor, and sauteed Morning Glory with tofu. All of the fare tasted surprisingly delicious. After our meal we wandered to the night market where there was an odd area in which people were having there feet massaged by fish who were eating their dead skin. We found the rest of the market to be largely unremarkable and with that we went off to bed.

 

Fish Will Eat Your Feet

Fish Will Eat Your Feet

This morning we had an early wake up as we met our drivers at 8am in the lobby. We had a full day of sightseeing at Angkor Thom ahead of us. After a decent tuk-tuk ride through town and a stop to get our tickets we made our first stop inside the walls of the once great kingdom at the Temple of Bayon– a breathtaking Hindu temple built around 1200 by Jayavarman VII. Unlike most look-but-don’t-touch tourist sites in the U.S., Bayon seemed like a historical playground.  There were barely any ropes or barriers discouraging contact with the surrounding environment in efforts to preserve them. It felt wrong scaling the dated stone steps held together by mere placement.

 

At The Gates of Angkor Thom

At The Gates of Angkor Thom

Morwin, Jeff, and Andy at the Gates of Angkor Thom

Morwin, Jeff, and Andy at the Gates of Angkor Thom

In Front of Bayon

In Front of Bayon

The lower level was peaceful and serene and the painstaking detail of the relief carvings was absolutely astonishing.  The second level was a different story as a glut of Japanese tourists posed with people dressed in costumes from the period of the temple’s origin.

Meanwhile some of the same tourists were scaling the few barriers put in place to protect the aging ruins for the sake of a photo.  In a ten second span I saw a worker yell at one Japanese man for climbing atop an arch for an impromptu pose and a woman of the same nationality accidentally knock over a wooden barrier without regard for the fact that she probably should not have been sitting on it.  A bunch of savages in this town– and you thought American tourists were bad.

Once we finished viewing the impressive expanse of Bayon we walked over to the Baphuon– a temple that had been taken apart in order to be put back together before Cambodia’s civil war. Unfortunately, the records on putting the puzzle back together were stolen and they’re now in the process of recreating the magic for what I think is at least the third time. While we couldn’t exactly explore the area it did have an interesting history.

 

Walking Into Baphuon

Walking Into Baphuon

With our first two stops on the Temple tour de force over, it was about 10:30am and we met our drivers nearby at food stand #17, which we thought we were stopping at for an impossibly early lunch. We sat down and ordered without thinking that perhaps we weren’t supposed to.  As the closest white people in sight, our table was promptly surrounded by four Khmer chidren peddling their craft wares and books on Cambodia. Even our waitress joined in the act. We were able to rid ourselves of most of them and enjoy our meal, but two persistent little girls hung around for the majority of the time.  One of them mostly stood to the side, while the other had our undivided attention.

 

Andy Playing The Capital Game With His New Friend

Andy Playing The Capital Game With His New Friend

The main event couldn’t have been older than nine, yet she was incredibly sharp and fun to converse with. She began by trying to sell us bracelets, but she soon shifted into trying to guess where we were from. Her first guess was Sweden, eventually making her way through Europe (all the way to England)  in an effort to relate, show off and perhaps make a few sales. She began to ask us if we knew the capitals of most countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Andy learned the capital of Brazil is indeed Brasilia and we managed to teach her a few, but I would put this little girl up against any American student  her age in a Geography contest and I’m sure she would beat the pants off of 95% of them.

 

A View of Thommanon

A View of Thommanon

Our friend finally tired of us not buying worthless bracelets and we were sad to see her go, but it was off to see more temples for us. Next up was the Temple of Thommanon, yet another amazingly detailed temple good for taking wonderful photos in, but not the most remarkable specimen we were to see all day.  That title would have to be split between the next two sites on our agenda–but before getting to those we stopped along the way to admire the remains of a bridge built in 1200’s.

 

Ye Olde Bridge

Ye Olde Bridge

 

The Impressively Daunting, Yet Unfinished Ta Keo

The Impressively Daunting, Yet Unfinished Ta Keo

Our next and most adventurous of temple experience was at Ta Keo, a massive incomplete pyramid built by Jayavarman V sometime in the late 900’s. I was originally a little hesitant to scale the extremely steep stairs to the  top, but gathered the courage in my loins and more or less engaged in a bit of a rock climbing feat of strength in order to admire an impressive view from the top alongside my cohorts.

I was rather proud of myself for scaling the treacherous stretch of steps.  If this had been me five years ago, I probably would’ve wussed out on the grounds that sometimes I don’t trust my physical ability, but I summoned my bravery and climbed the highest peak to join my friends in the thrill of certain accomplishment.

 

The View From Below

The View From Below

The View From The Top

The View From The Top

It's A Long Way Down

It's A Long Way Down

Our next stop was not as treacherous, but it was probably the last place I’d want to be if an earthquake hit.  Ta Prohm temple just so happens to be one of the locations from the film Tomb Raider, but in spite of it’s reputation as a Hollywood film set, it just so happens to be an incredible site in its own right. It is a beautiful ruin where nature has more or less overtaken the architecture.  Loose stones can be climbed over and trees have grown in on top of roofs, causing them the appearance of  caving in.

 

Tree Trunks Overtake the Centuries Old Temple At Ta Prohm

Tree Trunks Overtake the Centuries Old Temple At Ta Prohm

There are plenty of unstable fragments to climb up and over, but moreover it’s an entirely impressive site if just for the trees that have become rooted in and grown around the structure over hundreds of years.  There was actually a tree that grew over another dead tree.  It was all pretty eye-opening .  There were also errant stones that looked as though they were once part of something impressive, but were now mere stepping stones.  Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Our second to last stop on the Angkor Thom Temple row was Banteay Kdei, by all means an interesting temple, but not as towering or well-preserved as some other.  However the child sales squad was in full swing and badgering green-shirt clad Andy.  They must’ve figured his green shirt denoted big money.  At one point, as we exited, another traveler surrounded by seven children pointed to Andy shouting, “That guy in the green shirt will buy stuff from you!”  Luckily, the kids didn’t bite and Andy escaped unmolested.

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Heading Into Banteay Kdei

After Banteay Kdei we headed for our real lunch at a place called Khmer Family and had another tasty meal before stopping at one more temple.  I’m  not sure what it was called but it may have been Sras Srang.

 

Sras Srang

Last Stop: Sras Srang

It had been a long day of temple viewing and with us set to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat at 5 A.M. we made an early night of it.

We got a few beers at the Shades of Angkor Restaurant and some dinner on the street, as well as dessert at a place called The Blue Pumpkin before making one more stop at the Night Market.  Anyway, bedtime calls as it’s only a few hours before I have to get up.  Goodnight.

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Thailand Day 11: Asian Flavor

Posted by evankessler on January 4, 2009

Asians have the most remarkable snack choices and the knack for capturing the essence of the most astonishing flavors within them.  It couldn’t get any tastier than the ham & cheese flavored pretzel sticks or the pork spare ribs flavor of Lays Potato Chips.  They both taste exactly as advertised. It’s remarkable.

Behold THe Ham And Cheese Pretz!  And No, It's Not In My Ear.

Behold THe Ham And Cheese Pretz! And No, It's Not In My Ear.

I can’t decide if having these things in the U.S. is a good idea or a horrble one.  Would eating spare ribs chips cut down on your need to eat both spare ribs and chips and thus make you skinnier or would it just leave more room for a big Philly Cheesesteak afterwards?

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Thailand Day 9-11: Live From The Airport…It’s Sunday Morning!

Posted by evankessler on January 3, 2009

As the East coast of the United States gets ready to hear the words, “Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night!” I’m sitting at gate three at the Krabi, Thailand airport next to Andy and across from Ken.  A good deal of the rest of our party is here minus Andrea, Meghan, Miller, Lauren and Rosario.  This is more or less ends the group relaxation portion of our vacation.  It’s the point of dispersion where a few of us will split up into smaller groups or carry on as individuals into new unexplored arenas for adventure…but first that road goes back through Bangkok.

In spite of us going our separate ways, we haven’t been led to do so by conflict or unpleasantness, merely by previous planning.  In actuality, the last few days after New Year‘s have been both delightful and relaxing.

The entirety of the 2nd (friday) bore an almost uncanny resemblance to the previous day in that it didn’t consist of much feverish activity.  The only main difference being that I wasn’t hung over.  It also made my outlook much sunnier.  I was also surrounded by more friendly faces, unlike the previous day as no one was on a snorkeling trip.  We all sat in the covered boat lounger by the beach bar at Relax Bay for a good deal of the morning.

 

Lounging By The Ocean

Lounging By The Ocean

For lunch, myself, Kavalyn, Jason, Morwin and Andy went to the road to continue our never-ending tour of authentic Thai food.  The place we went to was across the street from the Relax Bay entrance and had a rickety bamboo plank at the entrance. The spot, though appearing somewhat unsanitary and being entirely fly-ridden was one of the best culinary finds on the trip so far.  My Phad Gai Praow was extremely spicy and Kayvalyn ordered a soup that ended up being too spicy even for her Thai tongue.

 

That's One Spicy Soup!

That's One Spicy Soup!

When our taste bud adventure ended we headed towards the Seven-Eleven to hit the ATM and while standing outside we happened upon a motorcycle with a rabbit in its basket.  The rabbit had demonic eyes that would seem to suggest that it might have once guarded the Holy Grail and attempted to protect it from Arthur, King of The Britons or Graham Chapman and John Cleese.

 

The Demon Rabbit On The Motorcycle

The Demon Rabbit On The Motorcycle

Once our wallets were filled we walked back towards Relax Bay but were intercepted by Jason’s parents who had just returned from a kayaking-cave exploring adventure.  Agreeing that this sounded like a fun activity, we discussed booking a similar tour with a company down the road.  After going over our options with the manager we were more or less had our hearts set on this soft adventure , but when we returned to the beach it turned out Andrea had already booked a different kayak trip.

That got straightened out rather quickly out of the reach of my less than watchful eyes. The rest of the day was spent lounging around until dinnertime…when it unceremoniously began to rain.

 

Andrea Shows Off An Impressive Array of Shells

Andrea Shows Off An Impressive Array of Shells

Ken and I ran back to our room to take quick showers and were followed by a black beach dog we had encountered earlier in the day after the canine’s conflict with three other beach dogs spilled into our shady space.  Andy gave said dog the uncomplicated moniker of “happy dog”, whereas for the duration of the time I referred to the other dogs involved as “Mean Dog” or by varying number’s (i.e., Beach Dog #12, Beach Dog #38).

 

Miller Amidst His Dog Friends

Miller Amidst His Dog Friends

When we left our room after the showers, Happy dog was still waiting outside our door and followed us back to the beach bar where we were meeting up for dinner.

The original plan was to all get dinner together, but it began to rain harder and several of us soured on the idea of leaving the premises, especially if a lengthy wet walk was involved.

Lauren and Rosario sat down to eat at the resort restaurant; Ken Judy, Justin, Ruthie, and I followed suit at our own table, and from there the newlyweds chose to have their own private dinner at the very same restaurant, while the rest chose to eat at a creatively named restaurant on the road called simply “Thai Cuisine.”

Despite not venturing out for dinner I went for my own form of culinary adventure.  I ordered the Hawaiian pizza.  I know Thailand isn’t the place to experiment with such a distinctly New York delicacy, but I had never really understood the combination of Ham and Pineapple on pizza before.  However, since I’d been enjoying the two ingredients separately during most breakfasts on this trip, I figured it made sense to combine them…on a pizza.  And you know what?  It was delicious.  For dessert our group split 2 flambéd Bananas Foster with Vanilla Ice cream that was absolutely delicious.

From there Ken and I went back to Ruthie’s cabana to drink a few beers on the balcony until everyone got home.  Then we took in one more brew on the beach before bedtime.  It was only 11pm, but getting drunk would’ve been a bad idea with an entire day of kayaking and soft adventure (as the brochure referred to it) ahead of us.

The next morning I awoke at 7:30am ready to take on the high seas with some dual sided oar action.  I really enjoy kayaking, but I had not been since July of 2001, when I paddled along the Coast of Corfu.  Jason, Kayvalyn, Andy, Jeff, Ken, Eric, Morwin, Mena, Justin, Meghan, Andrea, and I all hopped in the back of a truck and were transported to the dock for our day activity.  Along the way we saw a few elephants and Jeff lost his hat as we sped down the road.

Once we made it to the location we crossed over a rickety bridge that reminded me of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, despite not involving any rope.   The dock to the longboat we took was on a steep incline and also seemed none too stable.

 

The Rickety Bridge

The Rickety Bridge

The lot of us split up on two longboats and raced out to meet another that was towing our kayaks, but before doing so we stopped to feed some monkeys in the Mangrove Forest.

Normally, I’m not for feeding monkeys in the wild.  I don’t like giving handouts for mother nature’s needy, but I was having a great time tossing them bits of pineapple as I did my best Eli Manning impression yelling at my simian receivers to run button hooks, post patterns or simply go long.  They would have to fight hard for the pineapple if you didn’t hit them directly, so I tried to be as accurate as possible.   I had one of the monkeys wide open behind all his other primate buddies on higher ground and whipped that sweet fruit in his direction hitting him right in the numbers.  Unfortunately, he dropped it.  Other than that, I was very precise in my passes.

 

Monkeys Love Pineapple

Monkey Touchdown

After the monkey meal our boat took us out to a beautiful island of limestone cliffs for us to kayak around.  Morwin and I paired up in a boat.  I sat in the back to steer and generally take charge because he had never ridden a kayak before and I was more than enthusiastic to do so.  Kayaks had always been my favorite vessel for water-based transportation in my time at summer camp.  Morwin on the other hand had brought a New Yorker with him to read during the ride, though he only stopped to read it when prompted to do so for photo opportunities.   Morwin indulging in the New Yorker has been his modus operandi throughout the entire trip.  There is a collection of photos of him at sea or in the sea reading.  It was kind of amusing and could make for a fun photo essay.

 

Morwin At Sea

Morwin At Sea

Kayaking felt like a great workout, but after our first stretch we took a breather, stopping for a swim at an awe inspiring inlet surrounded by lush mountains and steep precipices.  From there it was more rowing around the island including one incident where my semi-errant steering almost  slammed Morwin into some rocks up front, but in my defense, he was rowing so sporadically that sometimes my steering would be brought slightly off-course when he decided to dip his paddle into the water.

All in all there wasn’t as much kayaking as i had hoped for but it was still great fun.  We pulled into a cavern and i posed in front of a big stalagtite (mite) and our final leg took us to part of the island where we ditched the kayaks for our longboats, but not before seeing a mass of bats in flight in the sky high above our heads.

 

Me In A Cave

Me In A Cave

The longboats then steered us to beautiful Bu Bu Island for a traditional Thai lunch, which I think was Pad Thai, a curry dish and some fresh fruit.

 

Welcome to Bu Bu Island!

Welcome to Bu Bu Island!

We hung around the Island another hour or so exploring the wilderness to a small extent and peeing in the sea since the bathroom on land would have cost money and most of us had not brought any with us.

 

Kayvalyn Takes In The Sights on Bu Bu Island

Kayvalyn Takes In The Sights on Bu Bu Island

At around 2:10 pm we hopped back in our longboats making back for the docks where our journey began.  The view was beautiful, but the ocean spray tasted nothing like the combination Cranberry and Grape juice.

We made one last unplanned stop in the Mangrove Forest as our driver and the boy in front wearing a shirt that read “Maleeehuanna” saw some monkeys congregating  and pulled the boat right up in front of them.

The monkeys, eager to be fed approached the boat with curiosity.  We only had one watermelon or two that we had been given upon our arrival.  One more than aggressive fellow actually jumped on the boat.  This may have been cute with any of the other chimps, but this particular one was sporting an open wound with flies feasting on it.

There he sat probably two feet from myself, Andrea, Meghan, Lauren and Rosario in essence demanding some food while the majority of us cowered in fear of our evolutionary ancestor.  Andrea held firm trying to instruct him to get off the boat but to no avail.  I wasn’t about to get involved.  I’ve seen the movie Outbreak.  Therefore I know that’s how global pandemics get started.  It only takes one infected monkey to spread an ebola-like virus and only Dustin Hoffman faced with Rene Russo on her deathbed is capable of finding that antidote.

Luckily we tossed the remaining watermelon up to the driver and he cracked it open to satisfy the population of ravenous mammals.  A few of the animals scooped up and fought over the hastily halved fruit, but the diseased specimen didn’t quite get enough and spent some more time trying to appeal to the more charitable side of our boat’s patrons with no success.

After a prolonged encounter our driver saw fit to push off from land and get rid of our afflicted furry friend. Moments later we found ourselves at a dock near the one from which we had launched, only it wasn’t the incline that was daunting this time.  On this occasion the walkway was not connected to the dock and in order to get to it you had to balance yourself on a thin beam suspended over a mud pit.  I was a little nervous seeing as I was wearing flip-flops, but with a little assistance I was golden.

Following the kayak trip we all returned to the hotel and resolved to have one last dinner before everyone took off for different destinations today.  We went back to Thai Cuisine, where the majority of people went the evening before.  This time we were lacking Judy, Jen, and Justin.

 

Authentic "Thai Cuisine"

Authentic "Thai Cuisine"

Kayvalyn arranged the entire menu after a brief conversation with the  chef and we ate like kings and queens of Koh Lanta for one last evening.  When the dinner was over some folks went out on Long Beach while others called it a night.  With travel being a certainty early the next morning, I went back to the resort and had ice cream with Ken and Eric and the lights went down on our tropical fun.  On to Siem Reap!

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