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April 16, 2007

3 Countries in 3 Days

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Sorry its been so long, but I haven’t seen many computers lately.  The problem now is that is difficult to figure out where to begin and I can’t upload pictures on this computer so for now I’ll do a long entry and can adjust them later if I want to.

I’ll start at the end and work backwards.  I’m in Thailand, I came here two days ago to see a doctor for an ear infection I started to develop just before I left Cambodia last week.  It wasn’t getting any better on its own and I is ringing constantly, not to mention the pressure and discomfort.  I saw went the hospital yesterday and after getting checked in and being told their ear specialist is on vacation saw a doctor and got some antibiotics.  Already the pressure has decreased so hopefully the rest of the symptoms start going away soon also.

The hospital looked all too familiar from the US.  It is Thai (Laos, and Cambodia) New Year so I’m just glad they were open.  It took about 5 people to check me in.  Two filling out the paperwork for me from my passport, one with and pamphlet she was reading practicing her and English and two  just watching.  After I got through that the visit and doctor was really good.  Wrote out my prescriptions and they have a pharmacy right in the hospital.  I paid my bill, $31.50, and was out of there in about 30 minutes.  They made an appointment for me with the ear specialist for when he returns and I’ll see if I’m still having problems and need to go.  When I got back to my room I looked at the receipt – $27 was for the prescriptions and seeing the doctor cost my $4.50!  Crazy after seeing all my hospital bills from last fall.

That afternoon I went out for the last day of the new years celebrations.  I have never experienced anything like it.  The was such a genuine exuberance from all the people and it lasted all day.  There celebration is known as a water festival where people line the streets in front of their shops and homes armed with hose and buckets full of water.  Anyone that drives or walks by gets wet.  Then some people have baby powder that gets rubbed on your face, not sure what any of it signifies, but they are all having fun.  Anyone with a pickup truck has it out of and full of people in the bed and a 55 gallon drum or two full of water that they are dishing back to the people along the street and in other vehicles.

I started walking in the early afternoon and lasted about 2 minutes before I was drenched and pulled over to a stall to have a beer poured down my throat.  That continued for the next 5 hours.  Everyone was surprised to see a white person walking around and I was the only one I saw the whole time.  That made them more friendly and curious though which was good for me.  Many of the stationary people had their radios going or a guitar player and singer.  The first one of those I was at was the best.  The guitar player was fantastic.  They were playing songs I knew, but not well enough to sing along despite their and my attempts.  I even got about half of Jimmy Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner when he found out I was American.

At every place I stopped there was always someone who spoke enough English to communicate with.  One lady when she found out I was an engineer ran over and grabbed the microphone there to announce it to the crowd.  When she got back and I asked what she did, she said “Oh I’m a lawyer”.  I tried picturing a lawyer in America running to announce they had met an engineer and couldn’t do it.

This continued on for quite a while as I just wandered down different streets and then would hop in the back of a truck to get back near my hotel and walk in a different direction.  Finally is was dark, my feet tired, and all the beers and whiskeys I’d been sharing were taking there effect so I retired as the parties were winding down.  After being in Sydney for the western new year I have to say they have very nice fireworks, but this was easily the largest and funnest party I’ve ever been apart of.  The only thing I can think of that it would be similar to would be Carnival in Brazil.  If you are heading to Thailand try to get there for the new year and find a town without a lot of tourists, you’ll be a celebrity.

I came to Thailand after two days in Laos where I mainly just hung out in the hammock in front of my room watching life on the Mekong river.  It was a super relaxing island I was staying on (Don Det) that just got electricity last year and still only has it from 6-11pm.  The Lao people all had smiles and said hi everytime you went by which hasn’t been the case in the other countries.  As soon as my ear clears up I’ll be heading back there for most of my remaining time.

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