August 2003 Archives

All of the literature about Kao Yai says to visit during the rainy season because that's when the waterfalls are at their best. But, a warning always follows saying be careful of the leeches who want to suck your blood.

Sure enough, when we arrived at the visitor's center (after paying respects to the spirit of Kao Yai of course) we were advised to buy anti-leech "socks" for 70 baht ($US1.80) a pair. The socks were supposed to be worn in your shoes and over your pants all the way to your knees. Piyawat wore his, I figured my hiking boots with my long pants tucked in would give me enough protection.

I was wrong. After a short 1 KM hike through the woods, we returned to the visitor's center, had lunch, and got back in the car to go to the campground. Halfway there I felt something crawling up my leg. I reached down and to my horror realized it was a leech heading towards my .... !

Piyawat pulled over and I quickly took off my shoes and now-bloody socks. I found two other leeches who were drinking blood through my socks and one leech on my waist. Ewww!

After removing the leeches we headed to the campground, rented a tent and set it up. Then we drove to a nearby waterfall called Heaw Suwat. The waterfall is a famous one, as it was used in the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, and it was as beautiful as advertised. Since I now was wearing the leech socks, we headed back into the steamy jungle and hiked to another nearby waterfall. We returned hot and sweaty and very dirty, but with big smiles on our faces (and no leaches!)

Chok Chai and Pak Chong

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Tonight after work, Piyawat and I drove a couple of hours to Nakorn Ratchasima province to visit Kao Yai National Park for a weekend birthday celebration (his birthday, not mine)

On the way we stopped by the famous Chok Chai Farm and Steak Restaurant. I have been looking forward to eating here ever since I saw it by the side of the highway on the way to Isaan. I haven't had a decent steak in Thailand yet, but I figured that maybe since this place was so famous, and the cows were raised right there on the farm behind the restaurant, then this would be the place.

To make a long story short, I am still looking for that first good Thai steak. My New York Strip was expensive, tough, and overcooked. The service was terrible, the room was freezing, and worst of all, I left hungry.

In any case, Chok Chai is very close to Kao Yai, but since it was already late by the time we finished eating, we got a hotel room in nearby Pak Chong. That was an adventure in itself. Judging by the big lobby of the Landmark Hotel, the 800 baht (US$20) price was good deal. The first room we were given was down the hall from the meeting rooms where a huge loud party was going on with Thai people dressed up like Cowboys and Indians (the scene was amusing in itself, but I want to get some sleep tonight!). The second room was on the top floor but when stepped off the elevator we were in pitch darkeness because all of the electricity on that floor was turned off. Finally we saw the room but it was very musty and a little scary because no one ever stays there. The third room did not have a hot water heater. Finally, the fourth room was acceptable. After all, we are paying 800 baht so we want the best!

Tomorrow we drive the remaining 30 KM to Kao Yai. I am really looking forward to doing some hiking and seeing some wild life (and I don't mean "Cowboys and Indians" style!)

Mars Through the Pollution

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Last night I did my duty and stepped out onto my balcony and looked up at Mars at the exact moment (give or take a few hours) of its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years. It looked like a big star to me. But then I remembered that I am in Bangkok, a huge city of 8 million people with a lot of light pollution and air pollution.

Once I made that realization, I was more impressed by the brightness and clarity of Mars. When I looked at the rest of the sky, I was able count the number of stars visible -- I'd guess there were about 50. So from my view, Mars was by far the brightest object in the sky.

I am expecting the view this weekend will be a lot better. Piyawat and I are heading for a weekend getaway to Kao Yai National Park and from there, I hope we see much more than 50 stars.

My Future

I think I have come to a new place in my mind concerning what my near future holds for me. As I have mentioned here before, I have recently been putting a lot of thought and time into the idea of getting a PhD in Educational Technology, perhaps starting as soon as Fall 2004.

But the more I research and read about this topic, the more I realize I don't know. (Funny how that works.) Usually that is not a bad thing, since it encourages me to keep learning. Also, the field of Educational Technology is new and therefore chaotic and disorganized. This also is a good thing, for it makes it an exciting field (for me).

But being uniformed about an ever-changing, developing field makes me want to be very careful about any big decision I make. If I am going to decide where to go to graduate school, I feel like I need to be better informed about what I actually want to study. I want to make sure that if I really do go through with this idea, then I pick the absolute perfect school for me. Best facilities, best faculty, best research, best reputation. I want the best, dagnabit!

So perhaps I will finish up my two year contract at my school (to end December 2004) and make a move then. That will buy me at least a few extra months. Of course, only time will tell...

New Orleans


Dinner last night at Bourbon St Cafe on Sukumvit Soi 49 in Bangkok was as good as I hoped for. Mark, Piyawat and I finished off big plates of red beans and rice, jambalyla, fried popcorn shrimp, and blackened chicken breasts. We were all pleasantly surprised that the food was quite authentic, albeit pricey by Bangkok standards. The total bill (with 3 beers as well) came out to about 1000 baht ($US25).

The experience was so good, that Piyawat and I headed back there this morning for beignets and coffee. We were hungry (it was already 1 PM) so I also had a plate of SOS. I've never seen SOS on any menu in Thailand, so I had to order it as soon as I saw it. It was delicious ("just like Mother used to make!" heh)

Another Dentist Appointment

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My third trip in one month to the Bangkok Christian Hospital on Silom Road went very smoothly today. I am especially happy about that, since I was getting cavities filled. Ouch! Actually my dentist was wonderful and I hardly felt any pain at all. (As opppsed to the nightmare dentist across from Pantip Plaza.) Just the right amount of novocaine too, so that after a couple of hours, I was feeling back to normal. (Again, as opposed to not having feeling in my face for a couple of days like last time!)

I have felt a bit lightheaded this afternoon, though. I came in to do work in the office (on my off-day) but my brain has been OFF the whole time so I have been completely unproductive. Plus, the pain killers are starting to wear off a bit now, so that's no fun. The good news is that Piyawat and I are going to try the only "New Orleans Style" restaurant in Thailand tonight.

Jambalaya here I come!

Swim Meet

So this was the weekend that I was supposed to be in San Francisco at the swimming competition with my friends. I have to admit that I am a bit sad to not be able to go. I guess that just means my Christmas trip will be all that much more special.

In any case, best of luck to all my friends competing this weekend! Swim Fast!

W&L: Party School

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Every day I scan to keep up with the latest news. One article that caught my eye this morning was Univ. of Colorado parties to top of list. I always find these "Which Schools Party the Most" lists amusing.

The Top 5 this year:

1. University of Colorado
2. University of Wisconsin-Madison
3. Indiana University - Bloomington
4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

And Number Five:


I'm so proud! But come on, really? Washington and Lee's student body of 1,500 students parties more than #6 UT-Austin or #10 Florida? But then again, one of the big factors in the ranking was "popularity of fraternities and sororities", to which I am sure W&L ranked #1 since almost ALL students are involved in the Greek System.

So I graduated from school #5, attended #10, and might apply to #2 for grad school. Hmm....

Busy or Not?


I haven't posted anything in the last few days mostly because not much has been happening. I'm not saying I haven't been busy -- I have been. But I think this website has been boring lately, simply because I haven't gone on any trips lately. At least that's what I find most interesting.

That may change soon though. Piyawat and I have been talking about a weekend trip to Kao Yai National Park in a few weeks. Plus, Mark has been threatening to drag me back to Ko Samet next month.

In the meantime I have been spending most of my time getting organized for teaching this semester. It's the second time around for one of my courses, so that definitely makes life easier. My free time has been spent on the Internet reading about grad school programs and researching future paths for myself. Going back to the US for grad school is still looking very appealing. It is just going to take me a while to find the perfect place for me.

Low Standards


School continues to be fun and challenging for me, although since this is my second full semester, things are definitely easier this time around. (So far at least.)

It hasn't been all fun and games, though. Today, for example, was a bit of a disapointment for me. I turned in the final number grades for my pass/fail math class, but didn't turn in letter grades because it wasn't my job to decide where the pass/fail line would be drawn. Throughout the semester I tried to encourage my students to do as well as they could, insinuating that 60% would be a good cut-off for passing the class. Once the scores were tallied at the end of the semester, I looked them over and figured that maybe 50% would be an OK passing grade based on how my students performed.

Today I found out what was needed to pass the class. Want to guess? All you needed was 35%. THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT! The final exam was multiple choice so if you answer "C" for every question you have 25% already! So really all you have to do is know how to answer 10% of the questions correctly and pick C on everything else. Unbelievable. Needless to say I was disapointed, disheartened and unmotivated. Why try when all you need is 1 out of 3? Don't get me wrong, I don't want students to fail. But how can I encourage them to do their best when the standards are set so low?

One student (a good one) had to drop out of the class after the midterm. He made a "B" on the first test and a "C" on the mid-term. He didn't attend class after the mid-term, didn't do any homework, and didn't take the final. He still passed the class even though he has no idea what we talked about in the second half of the semester. Good for him, I suppose.

First Week Finished

My first week of the Fall semester is now over. And after finishing grading the final exams for my summer math class today, that will be finished as well. I'm definitely glad the math classs is over and done with (and I'm sure my students are as well!)

This semester will be very busy for me as I am teaching 14 periods every week. But my 6 sections are from only two classes, one of which I taught last year. That means that the workload will (hopefully) not be too bad and I will have some time to continue my grad school search...

San Francisco Real Estate

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Congratulations go out to one of my very best friends back in America (who just happens to be Thai and was the one to convince me to visit Thailand in the first place) for getting his real estate licence in San Francisco. So if anyone is looking to buy a house in Northern California, give Manop a call. Believe me, I'd have him searching for a house for me if I could afford one!

If you are interested, you can email Manop here. (Manop, do I get a free dinner now? haha!)

Mother's Day

Today was a very quiet day. It's the Queen's Birthday (and so it is also considered to be "Mother's Day"). I had the day off and I spent it as leisurely as possible: breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, lounging by the pool at the gym reading a book about Educational Technology, sketching some designs for my new TypePad weblog (I'll be moving everything over to the new site soon), walking around the neighborhoods near my house.

Speaking of TypePad, I still have a bunch of 20% discount coupons available. If you ever thought about starting a weblog, now's the time to do it. So far only one friend has taken me up on the offer: Piyawat and so far he says he loves it.

Update (April 1, 2006): Unfortunately Piyawat doesn't blog any more, but you can see my website at Typepad

Taking Happiness with Me


Ever since recovering from being sick last week I have been riding an emotional high. The past few days have been nothing special, except that I have been unmistakably deliriously happy. What's up with that?!

Seriously, what is it about my life now that makes me happier than I ever have been before? My life up to this point has been good. I especially enjoyed living in San Francisco -- every now and then I would have what I called "San Francisco Moments" where I'd be walking down the street or riding MUNI or just hanging out in a coffee shop and I would stop whatever I was doing and think, "Wow! I am so lucky to be living in a place like San Francisco."

But now, instead of "San Francisco Moments" I have "Thailand Weeks". For weeks at a time I am so happy and so content and so glad to be here that it literally makes me dizzy.

I hope all this happiness is not obnoxious. I say all of this just to try to figure out why I feel this way. Leave it to me to analyze everything.

So what is it? Is it Thailand itself? Maybe. Yet the more I stay here the more I learn about the not-so-nice side of Thailand. So it's more than just "Thailand".

Is it Bangkok? No, definitely not. This is a very uncomfortable city with the noise and pollution and crowds. But even with all the negatives of Bangkok, I still like living here.

Is it the fact that my life is a little less stressful than my days in the high-tech world? Perhaps. I'm not pulling all-nighters and I am not having to (figuratively) fight my co-workers to get things done.

Is it because I have a job that I really like? Could be, but why do I like it? (We'll save that for another post.)

Is it the people I know? Not really. Besides a few exceptions, I haven't made very deep connections with people here (for various reasons, which again I will leave for another post).

Does living here make me grateful for what I have simply because most everyone around has little-to-nothing? Yeah, that might play a big part of it.

Is it the good, cheap Thai food? It's not the only reason, but it definitely helps!

To be honest, I have no idea what it is. I just know I like it. Why is this important? Because more and more I am thinking about going back to the United States, perhaps even to return next year. But before I go, I have to know in my heart that I can take the way I feel now with me back to America. Otherwise, it's simply not worth it to leave.

New Glasses


newglasses.jpgI am typing this now with the aid of my new set of eyeglasses. The last ones I had in San Francisco somehow didn't make it to Thailand with me and one year later, I have finally broken down and bought a new pair. I think it had to do with all the reading I have been doing lately; my eyes get tired very quickly without a little help.

This pair is quite different from any other glasses I have ever had and to be completely honest, I am not sure what I think about them. Getting used to wearing glasses again will be an adjustment in any case.

Legend of Suriyothai

The new Francis Ford Coppola version of the Thai blockbuster Legend of Suriyothai has opened in Thailand, and tonight Piyawat and I went to see it. In short, I liked the movie. I'm very interested to see how it will play for American audiences, though. There is definitely enough violence and gore involved but the plot is tough to follow for viewers who have no idea who the characters are and the pace is therefore quite slow at times. And to top it all off, there are those pesky subtitles.

As soon as I got home I picked up the book I am reading (David Wyatt's Thailand: A Short History) and looked up Queen Suriyothai in the index. Sure enough, on pages 91 and 92 the plot of the movie is basically outlined. Very cool!

So for those of you in America, go check out Legend of Suriyothai if you get the chance. The beautiful cinematography and care for detail in showing traditional Thai architecture and customs are alone worth the price of admission. Just be prepared for a lot of reading and a lot of blood!

TypePad Plug

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Many people have asked me how to start a website like this one. I have always told them that I use Movable Type. I can't say enough good things about the system; works great for me! The only problem is that it takes a bit of knowledge about Unix and FTP to set up correctly. And that seems to keep people from trying.

But now the creators of Movable Type have created a new system called TypePad. It basically allows anyone to set up a website just like this one. No UNIX or HTML skills needed. I have been testing it out and in case you missed what I said about it earlier, I love it!

So, if you have been wanting to create a weblog for yourself, check out TypePad. If you want to give it a try, then let me know, I have twenty 20% off coupons for "friends and family", so tell me if you want to take advantage of this great deal!

Food Poisioning Again


I had a 9:30 AM appointment to visit the dentist yesterday morning, but ended up going to the hospital at 5 AM instead. The problem was that I wasn't there to see the dentist, I was there to be treated for my third round of food poisoning. Ugh.

So after getting medicine, I spent all day yesterday in bed. I am feeling a little better today, but my body is still very tired. Unfortuantely, though, I am scheduled to talk to the incoming freshmen at 2:00 today so I had to come in to work. Ugh (again).

Time to go to Bangkok


Ok, now no one can use lack of money as an excuse to not visit Bangkok. The Cathay Pacific "Deal of the Month" for August is a round trip ticket from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Bangkok with a stopover in Hong Kong for US$549. Can't beat it!

So hurry on over to the Cathay Pacific website and by a ticket to come visit me!

Pictures from Saturday's tour of Bangkok and the Thonburi Canals can be seen in the Pictures of Bangkok Photo Album.

Map of Southeast Asia


64ThaiPictures.jpg Since this is my "week off" (i.e., no classes but I still have to go to work) I spent this afternoon working on a collage of 64 pictures. The idea for my collage is that the 64 pictures in a 8X8 grid are placed as they would on a map of Southeast Asia. Pictures from Saigon and Cambodia are in the lower right (SE) corner, pictures of Samui are in the lower left (SW) corner, Chiang Rai is in the NW, Laos and Issan are in the NE, and Bangkok is in the middle.

I got the idea from a the 800X600 Project that I found online this morning and it turned out to be a pretty fun little exercise.

(Click on the thumbnail to the right to get the full-sized version.)

Again today, on another one-day-weekend, I knocked a few more things off of my "To See" list, compliments of Piyawat's car. We drove across the river to Thonburi and parked the car at Wat Arun. As with many tourist spots in Thailand, there was an admission fee for foriegners. I refused to pay it (even though it was just 20 baht) and so we just looked at the temple from the other side of the fence. As my friends have told me, the temple is much more impressive when viewed from the river than when standing next to it.

In any case, we headed over the river back to Bangkok on a ferry, then boarded another boat to Tha Chang pier at the Grand Palace. From there we figured out how to take the boat taxi up the Bangkok Noi Canal. I had tried to do this with Rupert a year ago, but this time it helped to have a Thai person along. Even with Piyawat, it took us a while to figure out the system.

In any case, the ride up the canal on the Thonburi side was wonderful. All of the frustration with the crowds and the farang fees melted away on the river. After just a few minutes, it was hard to believe we were still in a city of 8 million people. Houses on stilts lined the wide canal and old men and women slowly padded small canoes selling food and other goods door-to-door (or, in this case, dock-to-dock).

The canal ride ended an hour later. We got out, found a nearby street vendor and had a delicious pad thai lunch. We then got back on the boat and headed back to Bangkok, enjoying the scenery and waving to children swimming in the canal as we went.

Once back to the car, we drove over to the Phra Sumeru Fort, one of the two sections of the old wall of Bangkok still standing. There is a nice park there now with an excellent view of the modern Rama VIII bridge over the river.

And, as always, pictures coming soon!

Thailand Anniversary


Today I am celebrating my one-year anniversary in Thailand and what an amazing year it has been. When I left San Francisco on July 31, 2002, I wondered to myself what my time in Asia would do to me. Would it be an interesting diversion? Or would it be a life-changer? I guessed it would be the latter, and I think I was right.

Today, after one year, I can look back and see that I have changed. Not so much in my personality (although that has probably changed some as well) but in my knowledge about the world and my view of my personal life. Now that I have been here one year, I am, for the most part, completely used to life in Bangkok. It is no longer exotic to me. I know my way around, I know the food, I know a lot of people, I have had 300 students pass through my classroom in the past eight months. It is getting harder and harder to find things that are new. The honeymoon is over.

Last year, I saw Thailand through the eyes of a tourist as a relaxed, easy-going, beautiful, welcoming place where there is a lot of opportunity. My Thai friends often said that everything in Thailand is not as it seems. One year later, I am slowly learning what they mean. The power of the government (and the lack of power of the people) and the very fast change to a Western-style conusumer economy has caused many problems that will be very difficult to overcome.

In my own personal life, a year ago I was intent on climbing the corporate ladder in the hectic high-tech world. In my job as a project manager, I was trying to balance my interests and my skills as someone would work with both art and artists and technology and technologists. But now I am increasingly seeing myself finding that balance not in the corporate world, but back in the academic one.

I have no idea what the next year will hold, or the years after that. My life direction is still changing. I am slowly approaching the crossroads, but I am not at the decision point yet. I think this year will answer a lot of these questions. I can only hope that it was as wonderful and challenging and horizon-expanding and fun and educational as the past year.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2003 is the previous archive.

September 2003 is the next archive.

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