Sunday, January 28, 2007

Let there be...

In the beginning
Back in nineteen fifty-five
Man didn't know about a rock 'n' roll show
And all that jive
The white man had the smoltz
The black man had the blues
No one knew what they was gonna do
But Tchaikovsky had the news
He said -

"Let there be light", and there was light

"Let there be sound", and there was sound

"Let there be drums", and there was drums

"Let there be guitar", and there was guitar

"Let there be rock!!!"

(Apologies to Bon Scott, Buddha and all Buddhist followers everywhere for all cultural insensitivity)

Friday, January 26, 2007


So... in 1993 (14 years ago, my god!), my good friend Doctor Rob lent me an album by American Music Club called Mercury. Mercury is plausibly the most depressing album ever written, its filled with tales of heartbreak and bitterness set to slightly off kilter pop tunes that scratch as much as sooth. Of course, being the 90's and being a little ball of blonde haired angst, I loved it. Its an acquired taste and many I've foisted it upon have returned it in confusion or disgust, not quite knowing what to make of it. I still think the lyrics are some of my favourites of all time and any album with a song named "What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn't Found in the Book of Life" has got to be a winner.

So what the fuck has this got to do with anything? Well the cover of the album has always been one of my favourites and I was somewhat fascinated by it. At that young age, I didn't know what or where it was but I knew I had to see it someday. You can see it here. Well today, I achieved a dream of sorts. I'm not sure if I found that exact location but I visited a number of Wats around Ayutthaya with these kind of relics that I feel that some little part of my dream/life has been fulfilled. I have loved that cover, loved that music and today I have loved having walking amongst similar icons whose images have been such a strong part of my life.

Now that picture on the sleeve might be in Cambodia, it could be anywhere in South East Asia but let's not ruin the illusion for me. I took a gazillion photos and had an odd little smile on my face.

The thing about these Wats, their histories, their beauty and for most their eventual destruction at the hands of stupid men waging war or stealing, is just how sad it is to see figure after figure of headless buddha. I guess the album cover, which seemed oddly disassociated with the music, finally makes sense to me.


On that, gazillions of photos have been taken and as promised I will attempt to put some up soonesque, next week probably. By the way, anyone waiting for the Recount Part 2 will be sorely disappointed (all none of you). When I wrote badly "Trust me, it get more interesting" I was being ironic but I'm not sure that humour comes across... or maybe its not funny to begin with.

Off to Chiang Mai tomorrow on a ten hour train trip so I probably won't write for a while. Having an internet cafe two doors from my guest house here was a luxury but its all over. tear. Oh yeah, but that American Music Club album, the songwriter Mark Eitzel could use the money x.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Silly Farang pt 2 + The Recount pt 1

Hiya, I just wanted to qualify my last entry by saying they were just some base observations but in no way meant to be an all encompassing assessment of Thai culture. Obviously there is a certain sense of the unknown in all this and through whatever interactions I have around the world I can only get a glimpse of the lives of others and I cannot base any assessment of an entire culture on that. As the saying goes "Forget it Jake, its Chinatown" if you know what I mean. I'm just trying to enjoy it all and I find the nicest interactions are often the smallest like the guy who said we could lock our bikes to his front fence when we were trying to cross a busy road with them to get to a market or the bar owner who helped us find the a guest house. The small stuff is the best.

The Recount Part 1

Right then: I have heard that the worst thing you can do in a blog is describe everything in extreme detail, the biggest sin being describing what you had for dinner, here's a blow by blow account of the trip thus far for Zac who wants an update.

Day 0. Leaving Sydney. After last minute packing, I turned up at the wrong terminal in Sydney (Domestic 3) but somehow checked my bags through. Said goodbye to Ilya, Steve (the champ) and Ruth's family. Turned up for our transfer at Singapore with ten minutes to get to our connection. Yes we had to sprint through the terminal Amazing Race style to get the plane and yes, we were the arseholes who held the plane up. Ruth's luggage didn't make it to Bangkok but somehow mine did one a different flight (I thought that was illegal but whatever). Got to the hotel at 1pm which meant I'd effectively had 22 hour day.

Day 2. Wake up after having five hours of sleep. Not feeling the best and the heat and pollution has an intensity that I haven't really encountered before. Decided to ease into it by taking a walk in the street where we happen upon Leo, a good natured tuk tuk driver whose life story is laid before us. He is 46, his daughter went to University in Melbourne (RMIT and she's 27) and he loves Australians and kangaroos. We're tired but its all nice, the hard sell is on but we decide to go with it. We strike up a deal for a boat ride to see some sights and a floating market ("very intimate"). Of course, not being quite down with currency conversion we got a pretty great deal (actually we spoke to some tourists who paid a third of what we did - we got shafted badly and it wasn't in that a few cents per baht way, we were pretty stupid but that's the way it goes, no harm done.) The tuk tuk ride was great but on getting to the deserted boat dock it got a bit scary as a little boat pulled up (fortunately bigger than the one we initially though we were getting on). It ended up the trip (where "I shouldn't tell other tourists what a great deal I got" haha!) was just for Ruth and I but I didn't expect it to be the equivalent of canoeing around the Cape of Good Hope. I decide that my learning to swim was a bad thing because its made me that much more aware of how easy it is to drown. As the boat rode the waves of the much bigger tourist boats, slamming up and down and rocking precariously from side to side, I thought this could be the end. We slowed for the floating market, a single row boat peddling beer, and then made a hasty return to where we started as we were flung about the boat getting nicely sunburnt and water churned. We decideed to go home. Back at the Hotel, Leo came screaming by in his tuk tuk with two tourists in the back saying to us "Hello, my best customers..." The tourists smiled serenely as we looked on with little but admiration for Leo's style.

The rest of Day 1 was trying to have some semblance of normality but to be honest, I was just very tired. We did a bit of the sky rail thing and tried to get a feel for the city but the constant offer to go to the tourist office wore us down in the end and we ended up heading back to the hotel. Ruth's luggage eventually turned up. Day 1 ended up with lots of dozing and an early night.

Oh yeah and I had Vietnamese for dinner as the hotel didn't sell Thai food (too tired to go out). It was terrible.

Continues later... Trust me, it get more interesting...

PS May I congratulate Mary Watson on the birth of a new baby girl. Hopefully the appropriate measures have been put in place to prepare the world for another Watson lady (y'know terror alerts etc...) Much love to you guys x

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Silly farang

Morning Troops,

just thought I'd check in from downtown Kanchanaburi for some quiet time, just you and me. Its officially day six of the teenage rockin' road trip and it already feels like a month in both a good and a bad way. I entered this trip thinking I was prepared but I'm not and I guess I'm a little bit surprised by that. Every nuance you take for granted in either language or custom has to be thrown from a large bulding and then set alight AND then have its ashes scattered to the seven corners of the earth. I'm speaking honestly here because even though I've been cultivating a laid back attitude and an easy smile, being a tourist is hard work. And I am a tourist because in the places we are, Thailand has cultivated a tourist culture and no matter how much you try to get around it I'm still deep fried farang (tourist). That said all my interactions have been lovely except for a few in Bangkok where they could spot a jetlagged farang with sucker tattooed on his forehead from about the five kilometres away.* How an early morning walk around the streets ended up in a expensive boat ride tour of the river in the tiny boat of death, I'll never know. As I gripped the sides as the water slammed around the boat and I questioned my mortality, I could smile when I thought of the guys who organised the trip high fiving and celebrating a very good pay day.

But that said, its nice to be walking around and everywhere you look is somewhere new, curious or weird. There are those strange cross cultural crossovers like being in a night market and hearing PJ Harvey being played really loudly - on closer inspection it was on the soundtrack to a badly Thai dubbed Samual L Jackson movie playing on a big tv of a pirate dvd stall. I'm still counting the levels of irony in watching a bit of Lost in translation in Thai. The two hightlights thus far have been the Erawan Fall outside Kanchanaburi which seven levels of waterfalls which cascade into clear blue water filled with fish that kiss your toes. Did I say kiss? That's what a guide told us, more like eat your toes but even that was beautiful in a disconcerting way. The other thing I enjoyed was the freedom of bike riding. I was bit too chicken shit to ride in Sydney but my childhood love the bike has returned. I think I looked good, seeing the sights, wind blowing in my hair, sweat pouring from me in the mild 36 degree humidity. I dig it. Everything else, the bull ant invasion of our toilet in the night, crazy backpackers etc has been fun fun fun.

Anyhow, in that way of not sounding like a patronising tourist, the thing I love about Thailand is that some of it is kind of ramshackle, an OH&S accident never quite happening but it is contained within a culture of order and reverence. Superficially (and I can only be superficial being a tourist) the Thai people ascribe meaning and ritual to every part pf their life which is a stark relief to Australia where nothing means anything unless the individual is ok (I blame John Howard of course - fucker!). I guess I feel this double when I see tourists have little interest or want of understanding the Thai people, they just want cheap beer and tshirts. Did I mention beer is cheap and tshirts are like $5! Silly farang.

Today Ruth and I are off to Ayutthaya, the old capital. So I'll try and think of something meaningful to write then. Laters. Postcards are coming, promise (non-core).

* by the way, even though there is only three hours time difference, I get jet lagged travelling from NSW to QLD during daylight saving. Lightweight, total lightweight.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Just a quick update. To use "Australian Idol" vernacular, we're down to the business end of the competion but I feel this journey is such a blessing and all I want to do is sing for my fans. Whatever. After an all too brief vist to my folks in Queensland for Christmas, I'm trying to get everything sorted before take off on the 17th. As per Sunny's request for pictures, this is my current view:

I have come to the conclusion that while I'm good at organinsing other people's lives, any attempt to do is personally is shambolic and kind of lame. For example, all my stuff has to be transported to the parental homestead tomorrow. Despite having packed twelve boxes, I'm stalling on the last one, lucky 13. I have been packing this box for approximately three days while it took me half a day to pack the other twelve. For some reason, I can't get motivated and I suspect writing this post is yet another form of procrastination. However, once the boxes are gone, I think I'll be in a better space to finish everything else off... you know, visas, malaria tablets etc... just minor things like that.

Anyhow, just thought I'd check in and say things are progressing and hopefully there will be some witty observations of my travel from the 17th.