Wednesday, April 26, 2006

26 April 2006

Back in Switzerland. Thailand and Myanmar were amazing, on land, at sea, and underwater. 26 dives. 4 massages. Dozens of mosquito bites. Lots of fish and coral. Countless mangoes. Here's the beginning of an update, but there's too much to fit in one week's entry, so Part 2 will come later. Pictures are up, as well, and there are a lot of them, but they were gleaned from about 1,000.

From the time I have spent in Asia, as well as the time I have spent, um, as an Asian-American, I have cultivated a love for strange food products and English usage ("Engrish"), both together and separately. One night in Thailand, my dive buddy (Sarah) and I decided to get ice cream. I was particularly intrigued by one that had cartoon illustrations of corn and green beans happily exploding out of a Popsicle. Truth in advertising, as it was indeed a mild coconut-flavored Popsicle studded with corn and beans. Convenience stores also carry the requisite hot dogs and meat pies side-by-side with corn or pineapple pies. So yes, you could go to the 7-11 and have a corn pie for lunch and corn ice cream for dessert.

Apparently, wooden planks are the duct tape of the East. Dangerous pothole? Put a wooden board across it. Floor of the car rusted through? Get a 2x4! Not enough seats in the back of the truck? Nothing like a piece of wood to make a bench! Speaking of which, I have never seen as, er, thorough usage of transportation vehicles as we saw in Phuket. Vespa-style scooters that generally seat one (two if you're dating) were used for entire families of four. Add on a sidecar, and you can cart eight people with one scooter! Helmets are only required for the driver, so Mr. Scooter wears one, but Mrs. Scooter, Scooter Junior, and Baby Scooter go without, since scooter accidents couldn't possibly be injurious to passengers. Pickup trucks, which in the States would seat three people if someone takes the middle seat, were used to transport entire workforces, with over a dozen people squinched in the back, sometimes standing, sometimes seated on wooden planks.

I sometimes forget how hot and humid Asia gets, and April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand. Daytime highs around 90F (32C) and nighttime lows around 78F (26C), and the humidity pushed the heat index over 100F (38C) most days. Sarah and I spent our days on land walking slowly between air-conditioned shops, taking breaks to get hour-long foot rubs, which including tip, cost about $7 each. The shopping was cheap, abundant, and aimed at tourists. (Cheesy trinket? No, thanks. Oh, two for a dollar? I'll take four!) I spent a significant amount of mental energy on the lookout for lizards, because they are cool and were all over the resort, and millipedes, because they are disgusting and were all over the resort.

Most of my physical energy on land was spent shopping, sweating, and eating mangoes (grocery store mangoes just don't live up to the real thing). Given our inability to do anything but sweat through our swimsuits and shorts in that kind of heat and humidity, imagine our surprise when we hung out with one of our dive guides, and he showed up in jeans and hiking boots, then told us that on his days off, he usually goes long-distance mountain-biking. He works his butt off for eight days on a boat, then goes and nearly kills himself biking in heat wave conditions in order to relax??

Got back to Zurich at 6:15 in the morning on Monday, went home, dropped off my bags, got Fiver, and came into the office. Monday was a half-day because of Sechseläuten (Swiss version of Groundhog Day with an exploding snowman; why is it that every time I really want to sleep here, there are marching bands outside of my window??) Next Monday is Europe's version of Labor Day, and we're going to Ljubljana for a long weekend, so next update (Thailand and Myanmar, Part 2) might be on Wednesday again.

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