Sunday, March 18, 2012

To The Beach! Hua Hin

We've been pretty busy with various things, so I haven't really returned to my hotel room until after 8pm each week night the last two weeks.  I haven't had a chance to update the blog regarding our trip to Hua Hin two weeks ago but I have a few hours before heading into work to help with an event tonight, here we go!

German Beer Garden, March 2
I can't talk about this weekend without talking about the Friday night before the trip to Hua Hin.  Some associates took Peter and me to the Tawandang German Bewery.  This place was absolutely HUGE.  Easily a thousand people could fit in this place but part of that was because they have a stage with singing and dancing.  Tonight our ears were tickled with American covers and Thai songs.  They had Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, and other impersonators.  They would also dress the part too.

I don't know how many different kinds of beers were here but I do know one thing, when they serve the beer, they serve it tall.

That is three liters of liquid gold.  Toom is such a good model.

Dinner was pretty typical Thai cuisine, at least it seemed to be.  Some of our dinner plates:

Left over pig leg.  Also, Peter working two beers at once.
As you can see from this photo, Thai (and likely, Asian) cultures love their dips and sauces.  There are 9 dips/sauce bowls in the above picture.  That doesn't mean that they just like to flavor the food with whatever, each food has it's own dip to use.  It helps balance the sweet, sour, and/or saltiness of the dish.

Umm.... raw shrimp.  I did not try this but I was told it has a sweet taste.

Much more my style!


The evening was absolutely wonderful.  We probably stayed until 10pm but we took down 5 towers of beer in the process.  I think I did one on my own.  It will be one of those nights that I will remember the most... from what I can remember.

Geal, Peter, Toom, Art, Por, O, Mink, Pom, Crazy Foreigner, Gluay, Nin
The next morning we were to meet at the office by 8am for our trip to Hua Hin, and that came pretty quickly.

Hua Hin
Peter, Esteb, and I met 5 other associates at the office at 8am. This was an overnight trip, so we all showed up with a carry-on to load into the van.  Esteb, being the gracious gentlemen that he is, carried Kate's:

Pink is a good color for Esteb, don't you think?

After about an hour on the road, we arrived at Khao Luang Cave.  It is a cave that contains multiple Buddha images.

It was quite dark and I left my tripod at KC, so the images are a little blurry.

I liked this little guy.  Monkeys have a special presence here, as you'll see in a moment.

A drop from a stalactite.
There were actually a lot of people with tripods setup  to take a photo of this droplet from the stalactite.  I'm not exactly sure if there was some kind of significance but it definitely made great photo for those who were prepared.  The light is coming from a big hole in the ceiling of the cave.

If you look closely, you will see a bunch of little monkeys in this photo.  They were all over the place. In fact, there were a bunch of them on the driveway up to and in the parking lot.


We were warned to watch out for them as they like to take things.... like glasses.  I stayed plenty clear of these little guys.

After the 30 minute visit to this temple, we took off again and found our way to a train station.  While we could have easily finished the commute to Hua Hin in our van easily, we took a train the final stretch.  We ended up waiting over an hour for a commuter trainer to take us the rest of the way but it was worth it.  It was very interesting seeing how people commute using the train system.

This was actually the train we thought we were taking but it was full of kids from a  soccer camp.  That is why we waited another hour for the next train.
As you may have been able to pick up by now from recent posts, there is a Thai price and a foreigner price for many things, especially public venues like the Grand Palace and now the train system.  The Thais are free but the "farang" (Western foreigner) cost 6 baht, roughly 20 cents.  Pretty steep.

When getting on board, I had my 6 baht in coins ready to hand over to someone and then it happened.  I was turning right to walk down the train car after boarding when I felt someone gently grab my left arm.  I immediately thought that this was the person I was to hand over my boarding fee.  I looked down and it was a very sweet old Thai gentlemen.  He gave me a toothless smile through his wrinkly face and looked down at my arm.  I smiled right back and he let go.  Just as quickly as it happened, I was on my way down the train car following my coworkers.

You see, in the months leading up to my trip to Thailand one of my coworkers said that I would have people staring at me, kids following me in the street/parks, and people touching my skin.  I knew I'd be the oddball in the elevator but wasn't sure about that last part.  It didn't freak me out but it was an interesting experience.

Kate and Mai enjoying the ride.

The country-side.
I stole this photo from I-Tim on Facebook.  Thanks!

This car is air conditioned!
During the ride there were plenty of people walking the aisles selling food and beverages.  These trains make extremely long runs so it's basically the dining service.  Weep told me that when he was in university he would take a train to northern Thailand that would take 20 hours.  Yikes!

After roughly 30 minutes, we arrived!!!

I-Tim, Weep, Esteb, Mai, Sam, Kate, and Peter
We met up with our van and drove over to a sea side resort for lunch.  It was filled with seafood served in the Thai style.  Peter and I recognized many of the dishes from the night before.  Even the serving dishes matched:

Squid dish.  The squid in my "Squid Face" photo above was served in the exact same style of dish.

Another I-Tim stolen photo.  He's a great photographer!
After lunch we finally had a chance to admire the ocean.

I thought my Dad would appreciate the tractor in this photo.

So pretty.

We made it to Siam Beach Resort but not without some trouble.  The road to the resort was under construction and, basically, I mean it wasn't there.  It was a dirt road but the bridges were concrete, so there was a short but steep dirt ramp to get on the bridge where normally there would be road.  This presented a problem for our van which had low to the ground panels attached.  His first attempt going up this incline actually damaged part of the ground effects.  There were two other vans carrying our team members, so the drivers of those vans got out to help.  One guy found some sheetrock off to the side of the road and used that to make the incline less steep and it worked.  Crazy but great teamwork!

Peter and I were given keys to a beach view villa and we got ready for some fun in the water.  While waiting for others we walked over to to an area that had a couple canopies setup and massage tables.  After a little thought, I decided to hop on the table for a Thai massage.  There were two tables, so Peter had already started a few minutes before me.

I've been told that they are painful but worthwhile.  It was 250 baht (about $8) for an hour.  I guess being athletic has its benefits because I never felt in extreme pain.  I just laid there quiet and enjoyed it.  It was almost like a scene of a movie....  Wind in my hair, sounds of ocean waves crashing on the sand, Peter grunting under the pressure...

Trying not to cry

Water activities were next.  We did a little swimming and then a slightly-larger-than-a-waverunner boat came by with a banana boat attached.  That's one of those long inflatable rocket sleds where 4 or 5 people can ride and hope to not fall off.  We spent about 15 minutes on it and toppled a couple times.  It was so much fun!  However, the time on the banana boat pretty much reversed the relaxing massage.

After the water sports, we went back to the resort and soaked in the salt water pool for a bit before dinner and tried to relax.

For dinner we loaded back into the vans and trekked over the dirt road and bridge to a beach side restaurant.  Actually, it was a beach restaurant.  All the tables were on the beach, it was very neat!

The ocean is probably forty feet from the tables.
Another Thai seafood meal and delicious.  It was about this meal that Peter and I started learning how to eat Thai meals.  I'm not just saying how to break open a crab:

I'm talking about how to pace oneself during these meals in which you may see 10 different plates of food pace your nose.  I've learned that a lot of our Thai friends will put food on our plates for us.  A lot of the times it is because some food (such as crabs) require extracting food from shells or carcasses (fish).  Many of them will do this for us (I'll probably destroy a fish trying to pull the meat off the delicate bones), so I've learned not to take portions on my own.  That has helped me from getting overly full to the point of being uncomfortable.

After dinner we hit up a night market.  It's similar to the JJ Market we have visited a couple times but smaller.  Kate helped us buy some more souvenirs.

No... this is NOT  a sign to the red light district.  Do you seriously think I would post my picture of that?
After this shopping adventure, we went back to the resort for some late evening festivities with our Thai friends.  We sat out on a picnic table with some adult beverages until about 2am.  It was so much fun!  I provided some music background with my iPhone.  Adele and Florence & The Machine were the predominate artists for the evening. I don't think they would recognize that much from my music selection.

It was really interesting sitting on the sidelines watching our bartender Weep, Sam, Mai, Fluke, Tam, and others talk to each other, ending in a burst of laughter, all while Peter, Esteb and I would wait for the translation.

Floating Market, March 4, 2012

Getting loaded up for the trip north to Bangkok.
The next day we had brunch at the resort and were on the road by 10:30am.  Our next stop would be about an hour or two away for lunch.  It was near a fishing town and the restaurant was over the water.  It was very cool.  Again, another wonderful Thai seafood meal;

I believe the building in front may have been the kitchen but the buildings with green roofs were the dining area.
Kate, Mai, Weep,and Sam

After lunch we were walking back to the vans and noticed these interesting fish in the muddy water.

Fish that crawled in the mud!  I made the Thais promise we didn't eat one of them.

Our next stop was one of the famous Floating Markets in Thailand, Ampawa.  On the way to the market we drove by a couple interesting sites:

The top photo is of a salt farm harvest.  They pump in the seawater and let it evaporate to collect the salt.  They transport the sale to large "barns" for storage. The second photo is someone prepping an area for the salt water.  It appears to be a dirt ground that is packed down to hold the water.  It's very neat to see.

The above buildings are also farms, of sorts.  It took some time for the Thais to translate this for us because it was a concept that was hard for me to understand too.  These are Swift bird houses.  The swift birds will fly into the small holes and make a bird nest.  The interesting thing is they will use saliva and even their own blood to build the nest.  People will harvest these nests and actually make soup out of them.  It is a chinese delicacy.

We finally made it to Ampawa and walked around the floating market.  This market reminded me of something I might see in Venice.  The buildings appear to be fully cemented into the ground but there are waterways that contain boats for tours, boats as kitchens as patrons will sit on very small tables along the walk ways, and boats selling goods.  It was Sunday afternoon and extremely crowded.  Most of the Thai associates purchased food to be taken back to Bangkok and possible eaten at work the next day.


We only spent about an hour here because of the time necessary to get back to Bangkok.  We got back in the vans and off to Bangkok.  We finally arrived around 7pm (remember, we left at 10:30am) and then back to our hotels.

The weekend was absolutely wonderful.  Our hosts (about 25 of them) took such great care of us and I'm glad we were able to spend it with them.  They organized transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment for us and did a fabulous job.  They know how to have a good time!

Bonus Photo

This is Mai holding up the receipt from our meal on Saturday afternoon after we arrived in Hua Hin.  Now you know what I mean about these people know how to eat!

More bonus photos and videos found on Flickr here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Race Report: Thai - Japan Mini Marathon 11k

As mentioned in my announcement post, this race came up pretty quickly in my schedule and it went by just as quickly.  I'm going to hold back on my usually long winded post to give you the lowdown of the day.

Alarm went off at 4am.  As usually, I didn't sleep that well but I held back taking an Ambien last night (I've only taken one since I have arrived) but I did take a melatonin.  Breakfast was eggs and a banana.  Time to suit up!

Yes, the Vasoline is replacing the Bodyglide I forgot to pack.
Weep called me around 4:50 and asked me to head to our meeting point.  They were ahead of schedule, so I took off for Soi Tonson and jogged to the corner where it intersects with Sukhumvit.  I arrived about 30 seconds before the taxi.  I told Weep that I'd be wearing a sleeveless green shirt but that seemed kind of silly.  I'll likely be the only 193cm foreigner on the corner.

We rode the 2 kilometers to the National Stadium where we got settled in and checked a bag of our belongings.  First time I've had to do that since I usually have my faithful spectator with me to watch (so sad!).  So here is today's crew:

Ben, Weep, and Guin!
The start was on the track of the Thep Hatsadin stadium, which is used for some soccer football matches.

We walked around and used the bathrooms before we started lining up for the start.

One thing that was interesting is that they requested we line up at 5:45 about 20 meters from the start line. We then started moving forward to the start line but someone was marking our bibs.  I suppose this was to insure someone didn't jump on the course.  This race was not chip timed.

A few minutes later they did a countdown (Saam, Soong, Neung!) and we were off!

We stuck together until we hit the road and then it was just Weep and me.  As you can tell from the pictures it was 6:00am at the start and it was dark.  I was actually concerned about the condition of the roads and sidewalks but they were in great shape.  No tripping.

The course was a rectangle and was fairly flat except for a few bridges
In my mind this map is up-side-down.  The top of the map is actually south.  My hotel is near the #8.
As you can see there is a bridge between the 3 & 4 kilometer mark.  That is the only elevation on this route.  Bangkok is a naturally flat city.

The course was mostly closed off.  We either had one lane of a 4 lane road or half of the road.  There were places were we had to contend with traffic where we would cross paths.  Kind of scary but there were police there to stop traffic if needed.

After about a mile I decided to kick it up a little so my heart rate picked up.   It was near 180 for the entire race.  Probably not wise if I was making this a training run!  Temperatures were 84 degrees and it was humid, so naturally I had a hard time cooling down.  I dumped about a quarter of my water cup over my head at each aid station to cool me down. It was mostly successful.  I ticked miles 2 & 3 at 8:00 pace but it started to range between 8:30 and 9:00 for the rest.  After a while I decided to just enjoy running in the city.

Eventually Weep caught up with me with about 2 kilometers to go but I stayed on his tail for the rest of the run.

One thing about running the streets of Bangkok is that the city doesn't really stop for you.  You still have plenty of traffic and plenty of street vendors.  This brings a completely different element... the exhaust from the cars and smells from the vendors made this an experience that will likely never be duplicated.

I don't know the exact time but when I finally looked at my watch at the end, it showed 58:00 on the clock, an 8:39 minute per mile pace.  I'll take it considering my conditioning over the last month and a half!

After the finish we walked around waiting for Ben and Guin.  I needed something to drink as I was beginning to get a little lightheaded and my heart rate was still high.  We walked over to the other side of the stadium and found some liquids.  I don't know exactly what it was but it was some kind of lemon grass drink.  It tasted really good, which kind of surprised me.  It was just the right amount of sweetness.

Gotta use the straw!
I decided I need some solid food too so I got in the line for the food and bottle of water.

I have been very curious what the post-race food would be like.  I'm used to fruit, bagels, donuts, chocolate milk, etc.  Well, here you go:

Sticky Rice and Pork Jerky (as I would describe it)

Coconut gel, red beans, something else in a sweet syrup with ice.  It hit the spot!

This came out of a package.  Kind of a Twinkie with strawberry filling.
It was a great time and I had been excited for this once we decided to do it.  The medal and t-shirt will definitely be cherished when I am back in KC.

As for the race itself, it was put on extremely well.  This was a first time event with 3,000 participants. They actually had a full morning worth of activities with music, give aways (they were giving away an iPhone 4S), and Thai boxing.  I'm not sure where the Thai boxing was but it was to start at 6:45am, which would be before I finished.  I figured maybe the race winners had to box each other?  Good thing I was slow.

The roads were well marked and aid stations (only water) were well manned, although you had to pick up water off the table yourself but that was fine with this size of crowd.  Plenty of police and volunteers on the street keeping the runners safe.  The only bathrooms I found were the stadium bathrooms but never saw a line.

Swag: T-shirt, Medal, Fan

Pre-Race: Ben, Weep, Guin, and Me

One tired crew

Prepared for anything.

It looks like they use a video camera and people recording finisher times by hand.
Garmin Data: The final stretch had trouble with GPS because we were running under the BTS, Sky Train.