Thursday, 29 September 2011

No other way to describe it but livin' the dream - Sydney Part 1...

FINALLY!!!  Team Taylor Down Under together - complete with a
fantastic free-hand sketch of the continent courtesy of Dommy
And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  I'm happy to report that the Bull got back into the gym today, logging 45 minutes (21K) on the bike followed by 3.75K (so just over 2 miles) on the treadmill (20 min on the nose, so it was slow).  The foot was pain free, and I could have run more.  However, with the bike ride on the front of the workout, I was feeling a wee bit tired.  I must confess that I wanted to bike today so I could read more of "Noble House," which is flat out EXTRA AWESOME.  I should probably take a moment to state that, on Tuesday, I finished "The HAB Theory," which is a book that Bob Johnson first mentioned to me when we were Juniors in high school.  He did tell me how it ended, but I have honestly thought about reading that book for THE LAST SEVENTEEN YEARS.  I found it awhile back for $2 at a book store, and I picked it up.  Well let me tell you - IT WAS UTTER DONKEY TRASH OF THE IMPERIAL GALACTIC ORDER.  WHAT A WASTE OF 2 WEEKS OF MY READING LIFE!!!!  Bob - you're killin' me, man!  I thought it was going to be this colossal story of man vs. the end of the world, but it was this utter goat rodeo of affairs, failed marriages, and cheesy love stories.  Oh, the horror, the horror...

And before I kick off with the featured part of the blog, I simply MUST give Terrier a shout out about a GREAT conversation I heard in the elevator last night.  So I get on the elevator with 6 people when I arrive home - 5 guys clearly from Africa and 1 dude DEFINITELY straight out of Britain.  These two groups clearly have nothing in common save for the fact they are working on an oil rig together here (he's got BP on his shirt).  The convo goes like this:

British Petroleum Foreman Dude (BPFD):  "So, have you guys ever eaten at Yang before?"  (Sam suppresses laughter...huh, huh...)

Collective Group of Dudes in Singapore for the First Time (CGDSFT):  "Um, no."

BPFD:  "It's French food.  Do you like French?"  (SIDE NOTE - Why the hell is the FRENCH restaurant named YANG?  Shouldn't it be called "Oui" or "Pret a Manger" or "Toot Sweet?")

CGDSFT:  "Um, we have never tried it."

BPFD:  "Oh, you'll like it.  It's just like English food.  I'm from England, and I can't tell any difference between French and English cuisine.  If you've had one, you've had the other."  (Bull suppresses further laughter and makes mental note to tell Sophie that the Brits have bashed her country yet again).

So there you have it, Sophie - Fish & chips = all the wine, cheese, and tare tare you can handle - don't be hatin'...

So, let's get to the featured bit, shall we?   We took the overnight flight to Sydney on Thursday (actually Friday at 12:35 AM).  You'd think that the airport would be quiet at that time of night, but it's actually heaving with long-haul connectors and flights to India.  Jenny and I cleared customs with 30 minutes to spare and went over to the free foot massage station (OH YEAH, BABY!) and had a 30 minute footrub.  Seriously - it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud.  We then hopped the flight, which was just 6 hours and 50 minutes Down Under.  Now, the good part is that it's a quick flight.  The bad part was that I'd run 10 miles before getting on that plane and I was EXHAUSTED.  However, I couldn't sleep because a) they feed you TWICE whilst on that flight (seriously - coach on Sing Air is a basquillion times better than US Airways business) and b) there was a gal beside me (not Jenny) who reeked as though she hadn't bathed in 17 years.  Seriously  I thought it was the dude in front of me (he looked like "one of those," but when the 4'8" stinkbomb stood up at the end of the flight, I realized who the culprit really was.

We arrived on a bloody FREEZING day - 40 F!  Considering that it was 88 F when we left Singapore at MIDNIGHT, that was quite a shock for us.  We cleared customs and wandered out to find Dommy, whom we hadn't seen since our wedding.  No one was at the arrivals area when we walked through, but literally 30 seconds later, we see a blond gal running into the terminal with a child and a sign in hand.  And sure enough - there they are:  AUSSIES!!!!!! 

This was the first time we'd ever met Charlotte (who, let me warn you now, will be in a BILLION photos in the coming days because she very well might be the CUTEST kid EVER), and she was adorable.  All she knew about me coming into the trip was that "Mr. Sam talks funny," but she actually seemed to understand me fine (shocking, that).  And so, with Jenny in the back seat between 2 childseats and Dommy behind the wheel, we drove over the Harbour (spelled for OSC's benefit) Bridge and into North Sydney (did I mention we saw the Opera House from our window on the descent?  SO COOL), at which point we were reunited with Dean!

We had a quick coffee (flat white - it's soooooooo Australian and soooooooooo yummy) and sandwich, at which point we were introduced to a little thing called "AN AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY ON FIRE."  When Jenny and I were last there, it was just under 1.5 Aussie to the Dollar.  Now their dollar is stronger, and prices have SKYROCKETED.  Seriously - we never got out of lunch for under $50 - even without booze.  But hey - we weren't there to save money - we were there to live the dream!

After seeing Dean for a bit, we rolled over to Dommy's sister's place to pick up their son Jacob.  Now, with both kids in two, Jenny looked HILARIOUS in the back seat between the 2 of them.  I was loving this - there's no better preparation for parenting than being thrown into the mix for a week!  And so we arrived at their really cute (no matter WHAT they say about it) place, kicked Charlotte out of her room, and relaxed for a bit before wandering down to Manly Beach for a stroll.

This was really exciting for me, as I didn't make Manly last time.  It is an AMAZING area of Sydney called the North Beaches, and it's very close to an area called "The Heads," which is the actual opening to the ocean.  Dean said it best whilst taking the ferry in one day:  "Beyond that, you don't hit land for a loooooooooong time" (that land would be CHILE, in case anyone's scoring).

We had a nice stroll along Manly beach, and it was GREAT - surfers in the water (Tait - I said, "I'm a suhfeeeee frum Peeeeeeeehth" about 18,000 times on this trip - Guy sends his love from Dili, which is also for lovers), Norfolk pines along the beach, and some amazing views.  Dom had to go and move the car at one point, which meant that Jenny and I were all alone with Charlotte for about 15 minutes.  All we had to do was get her to go about half a mile down the beach in that time.  She's got a scooter, so how hard can that be, right?  Well, as fate would have it, it can acutally be pretty difficult if you suddenly run into a PLAYGROUND. 

I mean, tell me this photo doesn't just look like trouble: 
"No, Dom, I haven't seen her.  One minute my fat ass was
on the see-saw, and the next minute she was in orbit..."
After all those exertions, fortune did strike when we stopped for a drink and found JAMES SQUIRE ON DRAFT AT THE LOCAL PUB OVERLOOKING THE BEACH!!!!  Side note - James Squire (which is THE BEST Australian Brewing I've had) was the first (and tastiest) beer T-Bone and I had during out 2003 trip.  It was GREAT, and we enjoyed being in the heat (it was bloody FREEZING on the beach), catching up, and having a fine pint of ale.  It was the first time I'd ever tried to "drink and parent" at the same time, and I must confess - daily during this trip I gained a newfound respect for what parents with 2 kids go through when company comes to town.  I guess we're lucky we'll live in CLT - ain't nobody dropping by for an "exotic beach holiday" in the QC.

After that it was back to the casa, where we spent the evening catching up (and Dean took me to Dan Murphy's, which is like Total Wine in Australia) before getting Indian take-out (which was off the CHAIN) - it had been a long time since our tastebuds had visited the subcontinent, and it was so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud - peppy cheekies.

It was then to bed for an early night, as Team Taylor was bloody exhausted but THRILLED to FINALLY be Down Under.  You'll hear it from me a lot in these upcoming posts, but it is 100% true - that place has captured my heart and imagination like no other (save home, of course), and if it weren't 9,459 miles from Charlotte, we would give serious thought to living there.  But alas, it is 30 hours in the air away and in another hemisphere, so we'll have to content ourselves to (hopefully fairly frequent) visits instead.

Okay, I know that's just 1 day, but it's late, and so that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Hello Family and Friends -

So finally, here is Phuket, which wraps up our Thailand adventure!  We departed on Thursday morning on the 9am ferry.  About 1.5 hours later we arrived, then transferred to our hotel by van.  Check-in was a bit of a long process, but once finally done we were shown to our family suite. 

We settled in a bit, changed and then took the shuttle to Patong Beach.  We got some swimming, sunning and lounging in. We were then treated to a beautiful sunset.

That night we went into Patong, got offered lots of Ping Pong shows, had a great dinner and ended up at Kangaroo Bar (yes, that
was really the name) for some post-dinner drinks.  They rang this loud bell quite a bit, and every time they did, free shots were brought out to everyone in the bar!  Now granted, one did taste like Listerine, but who could argue with free!  :)

Friday we split up - me and Yazz went to Karon Beach and Kim and Matt hung by the hotel pool (which was really nice.)  Karon Beach was gorgeous and there weren't many people on it at all.  We spent the day swimming and reading, me trying to hide from the sun while Yazz couldn't get enough.  :)  Also, Yazz had this obsession with capturing little crabs and having them crawl on her arm.  She got a kick out of me cringing trying to do the same.  Poor little crabs! 
Who doesn't love the Kangaroo Bar?
We all met back up at the apartment and Sam joined us for the weekend!  We all had a nice meal at a Greek owned Thai seafood restaurant (Greek flags everywhere, very bizarre.)  Then went out for some drinks again and where did we take Sam?  Where else but Kangaroo Bar!  (Seriously, they were playing really good music!)

Saturday took us to Kata Beach in the south.  This is where Sam and I had stayed last time we were in Phuket, so we knew it was gorgeous. 
Although, the taxi 1st dropped us off in the

wrong part of the beach, so we walked the 15 minutes or so up the hill (after paying for chairs I might add) to the nicer beach that Sam and I remembered.  It was worth the trek because this part of the beach was much less crowded and much cleaner.  We spent the day much the same - swimming, lounging, napping, reading.  Storm clouds started to roll in about 5pm so we figured that was our cue to move on to the next event of the evening - After Beach Bar.

This again was a place Sam and I had come last time and loved it.  Basically it's this reggae bar/restaurant on the cliffside overlooking Kata Beach and facing west so amazing sunsets.  Unfortunately for us the cloud cover was too thick so there wasn't much of a sunset.  But was still a gorgeous view!

We had planned a surprise early birthday cake for Kim, as it is a milestone birthday this month - the big 3-0!  (Tomorrow I might add, the 29th!)  HAPPY BIRTHDAY KIMMY!!!!!!!!  We had a few fruity drinks and some delicious thai food before the pancake birthday cake arrived.  And it was SOOO good!  We all sang and enjoyed the cake.

It was getting late, so time now to move into town for our last night.  Plus we are celebrating Kim's birthday so have to blow it out right?

The girls had a quick shower back at the hotel and met the boys at The Honkey Tonk Bar (don't you just love it.)  At the bar they were playing the movie
Jackass on the tvs.  We tried not to watch but you just can't turn away from the stupidity of those guys.  We got a kick out of that!  We later tried Sunset Bar (next to Kangaroo Bar but thought we can't go in there a 3rd night in a row!)   :)   We had a great last night, so much fun!  Just so hard to believe the trip has already come to an end.  Where did the 2 weeks go?

On Sunday we had to say goodbye to Kim and Matt about 1pm, as they were catching a flight to Bangkok to start their loooong journey later that night back to the US.  Guys, SO glad you could make it and that we were able to celebrate Kimmy's birthday.  It was a trip of a lifetime!  Love you guys and can't wait to be home so we can plan some trips Stateside!

As for me, Sam and Yazz, we spent our final 3 hours chillin' by the pool and trying to take it all in.  We caught our shuttle about 4:30 enroute to the airport & back to Singapore.  We were delayed on Tiger (go figure) about 2 hours which did not make us happy.  So landed back in the Sing about midnight. 

Yazz, it was an incredible 2 weeks and SO glad you were able to make the trip.  I love you dearly and pray for your happiness, whether that is in London or back in Oz perhaps.  I look forward to our next great adventure...VEGAS BABY 2012!?!  :)

So that wraps up Thailand 2011.  Hope you enjoyed!

- Jenny, Sam, Yazz, Kim & Matt

Monday, 26 September 2011

From crowning a champion to rockin' on the Parliament lawn - wrapping the Formula One Final...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  So in a turn of events that will thrill all those of you who feel the blog has turned into a "running journal," you'll be happy to know that the Bull is officially hobbled and grounded.  The last 2 days have been nothing shy of pain EVERY TIME I take a step, and no amount of ice or Advil has staved off the stabbing pain in the ball of my left foot.  Dad, you will be happy to know that I've gut-divorced it as much as possible and even tried to run a few steps, but it's just not happening.  This probably means I'm a scratch for Sunday's 1/2 marathon, which means I'll be stuck on #19 until returning stateside.  Miller - this does not mean, of course, that I won't begin carb-loading for whatever February or March race that pits us head to head - it's never too early to get fat - just sayin'...
"Rubbin's Racin', Cole..."
What I will say is that, despite barely being able to walk and moving at about 20% of my normal speed, I AM STILL PASSING EVERYONE ELSE ON THE SIDEWALK.  Now someone help me please, as I MUST know - WHY DO PEOPLE HERE WALK SO SLOW?  Seriously, I've watched turtles with 3 legs move faster than most of the cats getting food at Vivo City.  I'm not asking for much, people - just show me that you have a pulse. 

Anyhoo, I digress.  Sunday was a GREAT day in the Lion City, as Singapore played host to the F1 Final.  It was a big race, as Sebastian Vettel (some German dude that drives for Red Bull Racing) could clinch his second straight world championship with a win over the field.  I was pulling for Lewis Hamilton, because, well a) he's the ad man for Tag Heuer, and b) he was the only driver I knew coming into the race (and I actually called him "Leonard Hamilton," so clearly I didn't really know the guy too well...).  We showed up in time for the driver's parade, which was actually really cool, as each driver goes round the track very slowing in an old school Rolls or Bentley.  We saw all the big names (as they were explained to me, anyway), and the cars were SWEEEEEEEET.  I did see a couple of Bentley's, but none of them sported the "Poffie's Girl" license plate.

 The race itself was AWESOME.  Seriously - the actual competition was way cooler than the qualifying.  We watched 15 laps with Emma and her fella Marcus (who's a HUGE fan) at one of the big turns (not the most famous turn, which is Turn 10 - "The Singapore Sling") before wandering over to the Esplanade Bridge, where we saw those guys absolutely FLYING.  Seriously, the noise was so loud that I had to push my ear plugs DEEP into my ears to avoid this splitting pain every time a car zipped by.  GC - it was ALMOST as loud as the night we went to that dance club Pascha in Victoria.  You remember that night, right?  The night you told me you'd "spot my cover charge" and then faked shock when the gal said "Cash Only" and I had to drop 80 quid?  Yeah, just thought I'd get that shot in there while I could...

The evening really was a blur, as the race went by REALLY fast (2 hours for 61 laps).  The second it was over, we were then treated to a GREAT fireworks display just off the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (which the announcer reminded us TIME AND TIME AGAIN cost 8 billion to build) which ran for about 15 minutes or so.  But since it's Singapore and everything runs like clockwork (of course, lah), the show stopped promptly at 10:15 because the MARQUEE event was kickin' off just across the way on the Parliament Lawn.  What, dare you ask, was more important than seeing Vettel crowned as repeat World Champion?  Why, LINKIN PARK LIVE IN CONCERT, OF COURSE!!!!  OH YEAH, BABY!!!!

"Everything you do to me, takes me one step closer to the edge..."
Linkin Park gave a MASTERCLASS of a concert.  They played for 90 minutes straight, and they rocked ALL of their hits (save "Crawling" and "Leave Out All the Rest," but I'm not complaining).  Hitman - this concert was right up there with the O2 - talk about a great night out.  There was no mosh pit, but the crowd was electric and the band was blasting it out.  It was the last stop on the World Tour, and it really felt like they were leaving nothing on the table.  It was the perfect cap to a really perfect night and weekend in Sing Sing, and I must give the city full marks for putting on a GREAT spectacle - good atmosphere, great race, terrific bands - the F1 is something I would DEFINITELY recommend to anyone living here and to any racing fan.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


(Hop-a-long) Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Shakira, Speed, and Shaggy - summing up the first half of the Singapore Grand Prix...

And a good Sunday afternoon to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City  Team Taylor is fresh off crossing off another Singapore to-do, having a burger at The Foundry.  And whilst I must confess that I had food envy when comparing my bacon burger to her pesto burger, the garlic fries and hot wings more than made up for my loss. :-)

Hot Muffin Puffin beside the Esplanade Bridge, where
drivers hit speeds in excess of 240 miles per hour.
We tried to get a photo of them - IMPOSSIBLE.
So yesterday was definitely a first for Team Taylor.  As most of you know, motorsports are big throughout Asia, and the pinnacle of motorsports on this side of the globe is Formula One (Rice, don't worry - I've already told everyone that Rusty could kick all their asses and THEN crush a case of tall frankie's WAY before they could even get out of the pits - I think my comments were somewhat lost in translation).  As fate would have it, Singapore plays host to the only night race on the circuit and the only street circuit in Asia.  That, sports fans, is what Sam and Jenny went to see yesterday.

We had purchased the "Walkabout" tickets, which basically means "Yep, you're a pretty cheap bastard but still want to experience the action.  So we'll let you stand right by the track when they go past at THREE HUNDRED KILOMETERS AN HOUR and see if you still have any hearing left when it's over."  You do buy earplugs as soon as you walk in, but in typical Sam Taylor fashion, I didn't put them in at first.  I commented to Jenny that I wanted to "see how loud it would be."  Um, that was a mistake. 
It was like a scene from "Pretty Woman" - "Those things
corner like they are on rails..." (and yes - I did just quote "Pretty
Woman" - after all, I'm the King of Wishful Thinking...)

The first race was the Porsche Carrerra series, which was AWESOME.  These dudes are running flat out at just under 200 mph, and trying to get a photo of them is harder than trying to snap a picture of Sammy at any one station  during Calhoun's all-you-can-eat-and-drink rib night - nothing's staying in any one place for too long.  And the noise?  WOW.  But the porsches were NOTHING compared to the F1 cars.

This is at the end of a stretch before they pass one of the
grandstands - they are slowing from 150 mph to about
50 mph, and then throttling so loud your chest hurts.
We saw 2 events - the practice session and the qualifying, and let me tell you - IT IS LIKE A VOLCANO ERUPTING TEN FEET FROM YOU.  The street vibrated as they moved past.  Empty bottles and cups in your hands vibrated.  Your chest even rattled a bit.  And the speed at which they moved was just amazing.  Coming into it, I couldn't tell you a single driver (and can now only tell you 2), but it was really something to see.  Qualifying is WAY different than NASCAR, and it had a very interesting racing element to it.  The actual race is tonight at 8, and dare I say, I'm really looking forward to it.

However, the races weren't the only activity for us, as the F1 is really a big street party for Singapore.  Consequently, there are tons of bands, and the 2 featured artists last night were Shakira and Shaggy.  Now let's be honest, I wouldn't necessarily have paid money to see either of these folks, but I must say - they gave good performances.

Shakira was first, going off at 8 PM, and she really was GREAT.  That gal plays the harmonica and the guitar, and let's be real clear - she can move.  I mean, she's nowhere near as hot as Muffin Puffin, but to quote Shakira:  "those hips don't lie."  She ended with "Waka, Waka" (theme to the World Cup), and the crowd was electric.

Mr. Bombastic kept the crowd quite entertained, but I'm
pretty sure placement of the microphone around his genitals
so frequently will ensure "Mr. Lover" isn't invited back to
Singapore anytime soon - just sayin'...
Shaggy went on after the Qualifying, so he didn't start until 11:30. The crowd was smaller, and we had a GREAT spot to check him out.  CP - he rocked all of his hits - it was just like riding in your truck in the college days listening to "Hot Shot."  And T-bone - I just about lost it when he was singing Angel and said, "I wanna show the nation my appreciation."  And I must say that his new song, "Sugarcane," is fantastic.  I think that will be an -i-Tunes pickup soon.

The only bad news to report is that, with just 8 days before my next half marathon, the ball of my left foot is hurting something AWFUL.  Right now I can't even walk on it, so I'm icing it and will take the cane to the F1 today (but I will refer to it as my "pimpstick" as loud as I can to everyone around me at 3 minute intervals).  Miller and T-Rowe:  get ready for another GREAT round of "Sammy bashing," as I predict next week's "East Coast Half" is gonna be much worse than the previous one.  Who's excited about the volume of Advil that will be required for that run?  THIS GUY....Hitman - I'm REALLY glad you sent us that packet of a thousand...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Voyage de la Vie...and some really bad advertising...


And a good Saturday afternoon to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  The Bull and Striker did something we haven't done in AGES today - slept until noon.  Man, it was SOOOOOOOOO guuuuuuuuuuuuuud, and we feel much better because of it.  We also skipped the workout today in favor of a massive breakfast at (where else?) Boomerang, but dare I say that, despite a 5 week hiatus, I might officially be "boomeranged" out?  Shocking, I know, but I think I might have hit a wall with our favorite breakfast place.  Muffin has arrived at the same conclusion, which left us with an even more serious dilemma - where to eat if we don't go to our fave Aussie hangout?  Oh, such times that try men's souls...

Food Republic - where the fat get fatter and Sammy
grows his dunlap to 2010 proportions...
Anyhoo, in a bit of a break from the Thailand action (only 1 more post to go on that front, for the record, and then we'll pick up with Oz), I wanted to catch you up on the only real activity of the week for Team Taylor.  On Wednesday we crossed off a pair of to-do's:  dinner at Food Republic, and seeing "Voyage de la Vie" at Sentosa.  Tackling each in turn, Food Republic is basically a glorified Hawker Center, but there are TONS of options, and the food is simply delish.  I munched on enough fried rice to kill a mule, and JT rocked tons o' noodles and beef.  We then met our friend Ellen, at which point we hopped the monorail over to Sentosa, stepping off at the first stop for "Resort World."  There, nestled in the midst of the "Integrated Resort" (which is what you call something in Asia when you don't want to call it a CASINO), is a theater playing host to "Singapore's longest running show" (which is 11 months in case anyone's scoring - don't think that they're gonna threaten "The Mousetrap" in the West End anytime soon) - "Voyage de la Vie."  Billed (as usual) as "one of the most spectacular shows in Asia," I'd been wanting to see this since we first arrived here, as it definitely has all the trimmings of a Cirque du Soleil type show.  And with that level of expectation in mind, we rolled in for the 8:30 PM show.

The theater was practically empty, but we had EPIC seats.  Seriously - Muffin Puffin did a GREAT job picking them out, as we were about 9 rows off the stage and DEAD center.  The one problem was this pair of Singapore women who COULD NOT STOP TALKING THE ENTIRE SHOW.  Now honestly, I have tried to get used to this, as with EVERY SINGLE SHOW in Singapore, every person in the audience talks the entire time.  I snapped in the Lion King (as in a few other shows), but since this one was all stunts and music, I let it pass.  That being said, I was simply AMAZED - I mean let's be honest, what IS there to talk about for 90 minutes?  They just blabbered in Chinese for 5 minutes at a time until the trick was reaching its zenith, at which point they would ALWAYS say in English:  "Oh, no!  Oh NO!  OOOOHHH NOOOOOO!!!!  Whew - he safe."  I mean seriously.  SERIOUSLY?  Have you ever actually been outside of your house?  Dodging traffic in this city is riskier than some of those stunts...

But on a positive note, some of the stunts were really cool.  There was a great sequence of acrobatics, a terrific juggling sequence, and one dude even using a crossbow on some pretty serious shots.  On the whole I did really enjoy it.  It wasn't "O" (Mum - you really should give that another shot) or "Mystere," but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. 

The only other comment to note is that, now that our gym has been revamped, they've added some new posters all over the place.  1 of them is EVERYWHERE, and it's a constant reminder to "never neglect your hair health and always monitor your daily hair fall count."  Who the @#$# knows how many hairs they lose in a day?  Really?  But more to the point - they are advertising some kind of "hair regeneration and strengthening workshop" that you can attend for the BARGAIN price of $388!!!  I mean, COME ONE - You're a gym, not a beauty salon.

The other picture (which is really creeping me out) is posted right as you go into the changing room.  It's got 2 ang mo's (one dude, one chick - both FIT) taking their clothes off and laughing.  She is dripping wet and is clearly about to get BUCK NAKED, and his shorts are practically off whilst he's reaching for his shirt.  The caption?  It reads:  "There are no strangers at Fitness First - only friends you haven't met yet."  I think it should really say:  "There's no audition for Eyes Wide Shut Part 2 - we just have a Roman Orgy Daily in the shower room."  I mean COME ON, MAN!  But seriously, I can't believe they didn't ask me to be in that photo...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ko Phi Phi

Hello Family & Friends -

So we awoke on Tues morning to no rain and the sun trying to break out!  Woo-hoo!  After breakfast we were all ready for our 10am pickup, as we were told the boat to Ko Phi Phi leaves at 10:30.  A few minutes to 10 we confirmed with the most competent lady at the desk that it was truly 10.  Yes, yes she said - "Not 10 yet."  At 10:10 we were getting a bit concerned, and politely interrupted her dealings with some other not-so-happy customers, and she says "Oh, you're still here?"  Yes, we're still here, where's our pickup, we can't miss this boat!  After much confusion and 5 phone calls, she confirmed the boat is actually at 11 and the pickup is 10:30.  Great, thanks for that.
We ended up having a very scenic 2 hour boat ride to Ko Phi Phi and found our accommodation no problem on arrival.  We were right in the middle of both bays, about a 2 minute walk to the beach.  Nice!  We spent the day swimming, lounging, napping.  Tough life I know!  We booked a 1/2 day trip tomorrow to Phi Phi Leh where "The Beach" was filmed.  We had to prepay in full and afterwards we all felt a bit uneasy with that, esp given our "receipt" was hand-written on a piece of notebook paper.  Bao, you had better show up tomorrow!  :)

Dinner was at Tonsai Seafood and everything was so fresh and delicious.  We all split this huge red snapper, massive fresh prawns, mussels and crab.  A feast!  After dinner we found this bar called Hippies with a fire show going on.  It was a cool atmosphere with some people sitting up front in the sand.  Until one of the fire sticks flew into the crowd...I was glad we were in the back!  :)  Later that night we found the backpacker area and the wild & crazy danceclubs on the beach.  We were so glad our place was far enough away we couldn't hear the loud bass thumping.  As we approached our room that night however, turns out there was a bar right next door to us blaring the music til all hours of the night.  UGH!  Lucky for me I can sleep through anything and Yazz had her earplugs.  Not sure if Kim and Matt fared so well.  :(

The next day we showed up at 9 to meet Bao, our longtail boat driver.  He showed up about 9:10 thankfully.  We had given up on him appearing, since he had our money and all.  Esp too since the others at the kiosk were very uninterested in helping us. 

We got onto the longtail and made our way out to Phi Phi Leh, the island where The Beach was filmed.  Upon getting off the boat we were greeted with someone asking for 200 bhat each for the park entry fee.  Of course nobody mentioned this!  Luckily Matt had some money on him and covered us.  Thanks Matt!  :)

We took a million photos because the area was gorgeous.  We had a swim in the crystal clear aqua water and within 20 minutes about a thousand more tourists were dropped onto the beach, which was just a sliver of sand.  It was pristine but the sheer # of people detracted slightly from the experience.

Next we rode out a bit a did some snorkeling.  The masks were leaky and there weren't too many fish to be seen except about 20 feet down.  But luckily visibility was good and you could see some of the tropical fish below.

We were done snorkeling about 30 minutes later and thought Bao was also ready to go.  When the engine wouldn't start we knew there was a slight issue.  He spent the next 20ish minutes tinkering with the engine while we sat there.  I guess it's par for the course.

We next went to a gorgeous lagoon and swam.  There weren't as many boats in this one, so it's probably the highlight for me.  We were diving and flipping off the boat.  Good times!

We were supposed to stop at the Monkey Beach to see loads of monkeys, but when we got there the tide was in so there was actually no beach.  And no monkeys.  Sorry Kim and Matt.  :(  We also didn't have time for the cliff jumping.  Maybe if your boat would have worked we could have done this activity.  Oh well, overall it was a really good 1/2 day trip.  Expectations were just a little bit skewed from reality.  Again, to be expected I guess.

Back on shore we hit the beach and swam and lounged the rest of the day.  Dinner that night was at another great seafood place.  After dinner we hit up Reggae Bar and saw some Thai boxing which was really cool.  They also had a "special" going that if anyone from the audience got up to box they'd get a free bucket.  The buckets were just that - a bucket you'd build a sandcastle with filled with alcoholic concoctions.  We did see 2 girls fight it out as well as a few guys.  It was pretty funny I must admit!  And to say we'd tried a bucket, the 5 of us did split one.  5 ways it's not so bad, but everyone you passed on the street each had their own.  You can only imagine the chaos.

We saw some of the crazy beach dancing and joined in for a few dances before calling it a night.  We had a great time in Ko Phi Phi and it is gorgeous, but I was ready for the next location.  It was a lot busier and overrun with 20 year-old backpackers than I expected.  I guess that is typical of cheap, exotic, gorgeous locations.  Stay tuned for the last destination of our Thailand adventure...

 - Jenny and "enjoying his vacation from the blog" Sam

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Hello Family & Friends -

As Sam said, we bid him farewell at the Bangkok airport and set off to start the island portion of our trip.  We were super excited for some fun in the sun!  Well, as we approached Krabi, the color of the sky said it all.  It was the darkest, dreariest weather I'd seen in a long time.  And it was pissing it down.  So we could only hope this would pass.
 We collected our bags and got a taxi, which we had to pre-pay which felt a bit dodgy.  Then the driver proceeded to tell us the weather had been like this the past 5 days and would end on Tues (the day we leave Krabi.)  We assumed he had no idea what he was talking about.  At least we hoped. 

The drive was quite long and on lots of dark, winding side streets.  I think we all were a bit on edge.  But we arrived at Phupimaan unscathed.  Yep, the name of our hotel was pronounced (we think) Poo-Pee-Maan.  Haha, we got a kick out of saying that a lot.  :)
During check-in we received a welcome fruit drink and tried to understand what the dudes were explaining to us.  We thought he said they needed to take a deposit so I handed him my card for mine and Yazz's room.  Well that was a mistake as they proceeded to charge the total for both rooms, both nights on my card.  The English level was pretty non-existent.  I don't expect it to be great, given we are in Thailand.  But all of the other places I've stayed, you could at least communicate.

Anyhoo, we dropped our bags and set out in the shuttle into town for dinner.  The rain had stopped and we were so excited.  We were walking along the street trying to find the famous "Seafood Street" when the heavens opened.  It was like in the movies when it just comes out of nowhere and you know it never happens like that.  Well it does in Asia during wet season I can confirm.  We were drenched and took cover under an overhang.  We weren't in the best of moods.
We finally found the restaurant and had a great meal (thank goodness) and even got to see the Thai Elvis show us his magic tricks.  Let me tell you how excited Yazz was!  :)  Meanwhile, behind us on the ocean there was a raging typhoon with horizontal rain blowing the lamp completely parallel with the ground.  Details!  I'm sure it will pass!
We ended the night with a drink in this cool little bar playing music with US license plates all over the wall.  We got a kick out of that!  Walked home praying for the rain to hold off!
Monday we awoke to blue skies and sun???  Nope, it was still a hurricane out there.  We grabbed breakfast and tried to figure out what to do today, as our original plan was to get a longtail boat over to Railay Beach and do some cliff jumping and hiking.  We decided that wasn't going to happen.  The rain did take a break for a bit and we were able to swim and take advantage of the great pool at the hotel.

After our swim we went into town and got some lunch from a street vendor.  Is it sad that this is one of our highlights?  Pad Thai for just over $1 USD?  :)  It was so good!!!

We then wandered down to the beach where we were still able to get some good shots.  Luckily the rain has stopped by now!

Then we split up and me, Kim and Matt went to get twisted and cracked in a traditional Thai massage and Yazz did some shopping.  After the massage on the beach Kim and Matt ran into their favorite animal - a monkey!!!  I saw the dude up ahead and I'm thinking, "Just keep walking, don't look at him, I don't want to pay to hold a monkey."  But Kim and Matt clearly did!  LOL.  It was hilarious!  I mean, it was only about $3 USD so I guess you can't really argue too much.  We did have a scare when Matt couldn't find his wallet and we thought the monkey yanked it.  But luckily it was just in a different pocket!  Phew!  :)

That night we grabbed Indian for a change from Thai and it was excellent!  We stuffed ourselves and then had a quiet evening in to pack and get ready for tomorrow's adventure to Koh Phi Phi.  Hopefully the weather will clear up.  Fingers crossed!

- Jenny & "hard at work" Sam

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

FINALLY - Meeting the one and only Matt...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  That's right, sports fans - the Bull and Striker are hitting you with a one-two punch and giving you 2 blogs today.  But since I didn't blog a single time Down Under, I guess we owe you all at least that much. :-)  So let's get back to the retelling of the Thailand Adventure, picking up with the most overdue activity of 2011 - FINALLY meeting KJ's boyfriend Matt.

FINALLY at the Grand Palace...
in some really cool pants...
So as Jenny said, I arrived in a TOTAL MONSOON on Friday night, but honestly - the sideways rain ("Forrest Gump" style) was the least of my concerns on the flight over (Mum - turn your head away for the rest of the paragraph).  You see, being delayed is one thing, but when you get the "cabin crew - stations for landing" and hear the landing gear drop, all the frustrating tends to die away.  Then you see the runway, and you feel the excitement building - I'm about to see my baby!  But then, suddenly, the plane picks up speed like Usain Bolt in the last half of the 100m and you climb STRAIGHT UP off the landing field.  What's worse than that?  DOING IT TWICE.  And then, finally, the captain says, "From the flight deck - the wind is actually too strong to allow us to land, so we're gonna fly to the other runway and try again."  GREAAAAAAAT.  So the captain (who was actually an AMAZING pilot, as it was CRAZY turbulence the entire time) flies us basically to New Guinea before turning around, at which point we land hard enough to crack asphalt.  Throw in a driver with a rigged meter (BURNED ME FOR $50 USD on the cab vs. the normal $30 - SO ANGRY) and then the fact that the streets in BKK make NO SENSE when you're trying to read directions, and I arrived slightly frustrated at the Amber Boutique hotel.  However, after a night of 3 entrees at the Jazz club (Miller - maybe I am like Jabba the Hut on the platform) and some "Sweet Home, Alabama," all was right with the world.

The highlight of the weekend for me was not the sites we hit, but rather a) seeing Muffin Puffin, of course, b) hangin' with Yazz "Gut you like a fish" Klarin, c) seeing KJ for the first time in 8 months, and d) finally making the acquaintance of KJ's fella - Matt.  I'd heard so much about this guy (he's a Tar Heel, in case anyone's curious), and I'd even talked to him once on Skype, but in their more than a year of dating I'd never actually met him.  All that changed Friday night, and even if my brother-in-law opinion doesn't count for much, I will say that I highly, HIGHLY approve.

We got up about 9 AM on Saturday, and whilst we'd originally planned to visit the ancient capital of Ayutthua (I'm sure I butchered that), we were dog ass tired and decided instead to cross off the one big "to-do" that JT and I missed last time - the Grand Palace.  There was no stoppin' us this time (minus eating like KINGS at the street vendors along the way), and we rocked up to find it actually OPEN - who saw that comin'?  I was so excited I almost wet my pants, which I was wearing because otherwise they won't let you in.  I'd actually walked up there in pants, unlike Brother Matt who dropped his trousers on the GRAND PALACE LAWN to put his jeans on - it was AWESOME.  We spent about 2 hours at the Grand Palace, and whilst it was really, really cool, it wasn't nearly as impressive (in this humble redneck's opinion) as Wat Pho.  Also, the "Emerald Buddha" - really?  REALLY?  I'm expecting an absolute SLAB of green stone in there, and all I get is a 1 foot high Jade Buddha?  Sick and wrong...and we didn't even get into the throne room, as there was a big sign out front that read "Practice for Funeral Choir" - sounds charming...(just like Plumb Island Animal Disease Research Center - name the movie...).  But fret not - a couple of closures didn't slow down this fearsome fivesome, as we had plenty of cracks at amusing ourselves at the expense of local culture.  I mean, if there was ever a time for somebody to hit me with their prayer book...

Those aren't REALLY storm clouds...
After that it was a GREAT lunch before heading over to Wat Arun.  This was GREAT, as we got some really good shots with a CRAZY sky as a backdrop.  At one point, Kim commented about how dark the sky looked, and I responded "Oh, don't worry - it's always like that.  That storm is a good 30 minutes away."  About 5 minutes later, it is POURING on us like few storms I've ever witnessed.  And so there we are, 4 Ang Mo's standing on the highest tower on the river in the middle of an ELECTRICAL storm, all holding our steel umbrellas above our heads.  And when we decide to step down the INSANELY STEEP Khmer stairwell, water is flowing off that thing like Niagra falls.  AWESOME.  But we did make it down, and we got back to the palace in time to knock back a few brewskis before heading out for dinner, during which time Yazz SCREAMED BLOODY MURDER as rats the size of Volvo's scurried in front of us (But Wesley, what about the R-O-U-S's?  "Rodents of Unusual Size?  I don't think they exist...).  We had a GREAT meal and sacked out about 2 AM (again - see a pattern here?), exhausted but thrilled with the efforts.

On Sunday, we were all pretty lazy, but we finally hopped the famous Skytrain and rolled over to some weekend markets.  I was hoping for some great food at this joint, but we ended up settling for hot dogs covered in mayo (NOT exceptional) and a sweet corn pie from McDonald's (yes, that's right - but it was just $1, so I couldn't argue).  It poured AGAIN this day (just like it did on Sat night), but it was all good, as the markets are basically a covered rabbit warren of goods.  The only problem was that these cats WOULD NOT negotiate AT ALL.  I tried every technique, but in the end I didn't buy anything because no one would budge even 10 bhat - RIDONKULOUS!

It was then off to the airport, where I said farewell to Muffin Puffin and the gang before hopping my flight to Sing Sing.  They, however, continued on their merry way through Thailand, but that is another adventure for another time (like tomorrow).

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny