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Sawaat dii ka everyone! (That’s hello in Thai, spelling is butchered
of course!)

We’ve been in Thailand for the last 10 days, and love it. It’s been
an amazing change from clean and sparse New Zealand. Our senses have
been stimulated, sometimes pummeled by all the sights, sounds and
smells (whoowee!). But first, we’ll catch you up on the last of New
Zealand.

1. Last week in New Zealand: We finally crossed over from the South
Island to Wellington on a fairly choppy, wavy day. We hooked up again
by chance with our friend Hans, a 71 year-old Austrian that we’d
crossed over to the South Island several weeks prior. We were all a
little worried about finding somewhere to stay in Wellington because
Robbie Williams was playing two that weekend and all the hostels I
had called ahead were booked. Luckily, one hostel was picking up
travelers from the ferry terminal and we were whisked away.

While Wellington is quite a nice city, we weren’t really much in the
mood for walking around a lot, especially with Rog’s weak ankle
(which btw is doing much better now). We stayed about 20 hours,
managing to see the Te Papa Museum, which is THE museum in New
Zealand, and then headed north back to Rotorua, the steamy, sulfury
town we’d visited on our tour of the North Island about a month or so
before. We happily found our way to a yummy restaurant that we’d
gone to last time with fellow travelers Mark and Stef, from Canada.
The next morning we headed off to Waitomo, where we’d heard there was
great caving and glowworms. We weren’t disappointed! We were let
off the bus at Blackwater Rafting, an outfitter that leads groups
through the caves. After donning wetsuits, helmets with lights, and
innertubes, we were off. The caves were lots of fun, as we tubed and
splashed along the underground river, trying not to knock our heads
against low ceilings, etc. At several points along the way, we all
turned out our headlamps and floated down the river, following the
glowworm lights that speckled the ceiling. It was like being in
Disneyland! The glowworm’s tails secrete an enzyme that causes them
to glow, thereby attracting food. To our eyes it’s a beautiful
little light show.

After we returned from the caves, we set up camp in town, and ran
into friends Sian and Todd, whom we’d met in Wellington — another
set of Canadians who were lots of fun to while away time with. The
next day we slowly made our way back to Auckland, where once again
the Robbie Williams concerts almost put us on the street! We finally
found a dorm room, which was good enough. We spent a couple busy
days in Auckland picking up tickets, buying last minute items that
aren’t easily available in Thailand and sending home our camping
gear. It was SUCH a relief to shed many kilos of gear, knowing that
we wouldn’t need the tent again until South America.

2. First week in Thailand: Our flights were happily uneventful and we
arrived at 1am Tuesday night into Bangkok International, not knowing
exactly how the heck we were going to get a hotel room! The
accommodations desk told us to just take a cab to Kao San Road, and
we’d have no problem. Though still somewhat skeptical, we decided to
try it; the cabby left us off on the busiest street I think I’ve ever
seen at 2am! There were throngs of Thais and western folks ambling
down a one-block stretch of Internet cafes, street vendors, and yes,
dozens of hostels. We managed to get a very shabby room for just
$3.50, grabbed a pad thai and a banana pancake (crepe with banana and
condensed milk – YUM), sent off an email or two, and hit the hay.

The next morning’s task was to find a better place to stay, so we
walked around the area till we found Bella Bella hostel, which is
clean, if not antiseptic. (Sian and Todd, never did find Twin
Guesthouse – oh, well!) Then we headed out to the markets. We wanted
to get away from the Kao San Road area, and hoofed it for about two
hours, stopping along the way to take in some incredible temples,
chatting with a monk, and generally soaking up a new-to-us culture.
We took a river taxi to the Patpong area of town, which has night
markets and good restaurants. We were lucky enough to meet up with
friends of a friend for dinner – Kate and David who are from the Bay
Area now living in Bangkok for a year. They showed us some local
color – including prom-dress-wearing Thai prostitutes! Kate also
helped us out with some key phrases in Thai, including how to say
that we want vegetarian food. Since then, we’ve been set! Another
Thai phrase that we’ve become fairly adept at using is the all
important “mai pen rai”, which means everything from “That’s
enough!”, to “No worries mate” (depending upon the tone) and helps
ward off scam artists and folks hawking taxis, t-shirts, etc.

The next day we saw the Grand Palace and Wat Po, incredible examples
of Buddhist temples. We were awe-struck. Wat Po also has a
traditional Thai massage school – and of course, we indulged! For
about $6, we each had an hour-long massage, and left feeling relaxed
and ready to deal with smog and traffic as we stepped out of the
wat’s sanctuary. We were thrilled to find a vegetarian restaurant
we’d read about, and happily accepted heaps of food from a matronly
Thai woman who ran the hole-in-the-wall. Green curry is fast
becoming our staple diet! We finished the day with a little more
Thai culture with a couple rounds of Thai boxing. It wasn’t that
exciting, since we’re really not into watching people pummel one
another, but we got into figuring out the scoring and enjoyed the
little ceremonial warm-up dance the fighters do prior to their rounds.

We then headed southeast to Trat (a fairly non-descript town) on our
way to the lovely island of Ko Chang. We spent four days lounging in
the sun on a beautiful white sand beach. We choose a pleasant little
place called Porn’s (it seemed apropos for Thailand) with a great
outdoor bamboo deck/restaurant/bar and comfortable woven bamboo
huts. It was quite luxurious to stay in one place for a while,
especially when Roger got the first round of Montezuma’s revenge
(We’re sure it won’t be the last). Thankfully, while violent in
nature, the sickness lasted only about 12 hours.

We returned to Bangkok in time to spend yesterday at a sustainability
training course for new Thai mayors that focused on energy
conservation and urban greening, sponsored by Thailand Environmental
Institute (TEI). It was great to see such initiatives underway, even
though the subject matter was at such an introductory level.
Today we just ran into Hallie Bahr, a friend from San Francisco
proving to us again that the world is indeed a very small place,
however daunting it may sometimes seem.

Next up we’re going to head to the Damnoen Saduak floating markets at
Ratchaburi and then up north to Chang Mai to take some vegetarian
cooking classes. Hopefully somewhere in there we’ll also spend some
time checking out a community forestry project or some reforestation
efforts, but logistics are not yet worked out.

Hope all is well in your next of the woods.

All the best,

Rog and Jen


Hey all,

It’s about time for another update although we don’t
have tons of exciting stories to tell. Here’s the
index of the update below:

1) Getting off the Grid (Organic Farms)
2) Franz Josef Glacier
3) Hiking and kayaking in the Fjordlands
4) Random musings

1) Getting off the Grid (Organic Farms)

We have been really enjoying being off the
grid and out of the clutches of modern society in a lot
of ways. We also had intended to take a permaculture
course that would have started several days ago, but we
found out a week ago that it got cancelled.

After WWOOFing (being Willing Workers on an Organic
Farm) at Fiona’s, we spent almost a week at a very cool
yoga retreat center called Anahata that was totally
solar, had cool gardens, a yurt with walls made from
cob (a straw-mud plaster), a round straw bale house and
some wood frame straw insulated houses that were under
construction.

All the WWOOFing that we’ve been doing has made us
really rethink our whole life strategy and we’ve been
ruminating about buying some land, setting up a
permaculture farm and building a straw bale house on
it. After visiting an intentional/ alternative
communities here called Tui Communitiy, we’ve thought
some about what it would take to start up our own
little eco-village, both people and material (funds)
wise.

We are quasi serious in thinking about getting off the
grid and building our own little eco community. It is
fun to dream about, but we do keep coming back to the
particulars of how we would actually do it. Where it
would be would dictate what we could actually do for a
living to support ourselves, etc. How could we finance
it? (It does take money to build composting toliets
and put in solar panels, herb gardens and fruit trees).
Also, would we be satisfied with that kind of local
individual action rather than trying to change society?
Is there a way to mix the two and be telecommuting
activists from our farm/eco-home or village?

2) Franz Josef Glacier

After leaving Anahata in the Golden Bay on the
northwestern end of the south island, we headed south
along the west coast of New Zealand. The weather was
wet, wet, wet as could be expected in spring. We did
do a lovely day hike overlooking the Franz Josef
Glacier on the Roberts Track. It rained most of the
way, but we were in a temperate coastal rainforest and
the canopy was so thick that not that much actually
made its way down to us. It is really quite incredible
to be hiking in dense forest full of lush verdent green
fern and moss and look accross at a blue and white
glacier several hundred yards away. The Franz Josef is
an amazingly fast moving glacier that cruises along at
2-3 meters a day and is riddled with crevasses and
icefalls. In my mind rainforests and glaciers should
be incompatible which makes seeing them nestled
together wonderful and cool.

3) Hiking and kayaking in the Fjordlands

We headed further south and into the Fjordlands
National Park at the southern tip of the south island.
There are many great hikes in the Fjordlands equiped
with backcountry huts to make the tramping much easier.
The Kepler track has more of the great thick
rainforest that we found up the coast and some amazing
views of huge steep peaks sweeping down to saltwater
fjords or freshwater landlocked lakes. The first day
it started raining (it rains alot -especially on the
west coast) very soon after we started hiking and by
the time we reached the hut 5 hours later and 1000
meters higher, it had turned into a fierce gale force
blizzard. When we arrived at the huge, sixty-bed
Luxmore hut we couldn’t see it until we were 50 feet
away!

That night we warmed up and dried out and so did the
weather. The next morning the views were fantastic,
which turned out to be perfectly timed, because we
would catch most of the best views that day. The peaks
were snow dappled and the sky was crystal clear. The
trail was a bit slushy as it wound its way around the
ridge line. It was truly spectacular.

Our last day on the Kepler was equally wonderful, but a
very, very long hike. The route was mostly flat and
brought us to the white-sand beaches of Manipouri (sp?)
Lake. We wished we’d brought enough food for another
night!! Instead, we ambled on, as Rog’s ankle got
pretty strained.

Thankfully our next day allowed Rog to stay off his
ankle, as we took a guided sea kayaking trip to Milford
Sound, a gorgeous fjiord further west of the Kepler
area. We had a great time, but were a little taken
aback by the number of planes and helicopters overhead
— unfortunately they were incredibly loud and
sometimes made it hard to hear our guide. Still, it
was great to see a penguin clucking over its nest of
eggs, and a brown fur seal lolling around on the rocks.

4) Random musings

It’s been a great trip so far, and we’ve learned a lot
already about what individuals in New Zealand are doing
to try to make their corner of the world a better
place. We’ve also learned a few travelling lessons,
like not buying expensive bus tickets way in advance,
as it allows us to be less flexible in terms of where
and when we want to go places.

With only about ten days left in New Zealand, we’re
already looking to the next phase of our trip in
Southeast Asia. We think that we may have some
volunteer work set up in Thailand with a reforestation
project. We plan to attend a sustainability summit in
Delhi in February, and hope to do some work in Nepal
with Helping Hand Nepal. If any of you has any
contacts/friends in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, India,
Nepal, Brazil, Bolivia or Chile, we’d love to hear
about them!

Thanks to all of you who have been giving us your
updates. It’s great to know what’s happening back at
home — we really appreciate it!

Take care, and lots of hugs,
Roger and Jen

Rog and Jen’s travels – some old stuff, some new stuff

This blog has a collection of the travel update emails that Jen and Rog compiled during our 2001-2002 round the world trip. We're off to do a bit more trekking around, and thought it would be nice import those old emails. Enjoy!

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