hello! just wanted to appologize to anyone i haven't been able to e-mail in the last 5 days... and to let you know that i am still here, safe and sound and, coincidentally, eating a lot of mangos (i have had 4 e-mails from people mentioning mangos!). i have been on a lovely farm with not much access to anything except plants and chickens. will hopefully get on the internet with some time on my hands (have to leave soon) so i can tell you all about the first two days helping a eccentric old man move all of his belongings (a lot)- i think he's never thrown one thing away in his life... this was a wwoof gig, but not exactly as described. anyway, got out of there and onto this farm just outside of sydney. there are red parrots here eating the sunflower seeds in the morning. more later....


i walked all day, then wandered into a movie, which, LUCKILY, was the one i needed to see! you should all go see "lost in translation" because it is my asia experience (except for being in an unhappy marriage and falling in love with bill murry- that's not me. but the rest, all of the crazy asian mis-understandings, that's perfect) it made me so happy to see all of the every day confusions, being in asia for the first time, put so elloquently.

then i went to a used book store to find a cheap book... UNLUCKILY, i couldn't find anything good. they had garrison keelor but no james baldwin. finally, i saw a sign for "second hand penguins". sounded intreaguing, a whole section of second hand penguin books? but all i could find was "second hand fruit and wine". where were the second hand penguins? then i realized they meant penguin classics. boring. still no james baldwin.

today it is cloudy and cool, a nice change from the 90's on christmas. i am walking again, this time to all the weekend markets, in search of 1 book and 2 shoes.


i was lucky! i got into australia without a visa or onward ticket (which i guess is required but the travel agent didn't tell me and neither did lonely planet). then my hotel didn't come through but there were free phones to call backpacker places and after 6 calls i found one, which is really good. i'm realing about the prices here but i will get over it. i think its even more expensive than SF....
taking a walking tour today. found the fish market (which has more than fish) by the wharf and bought myself a little picnic lunch to take somewhere. there are boat races going on here, in fact its officially "boat day" and everyone is out and about, watching boats and being on vacation.
Sydney reminds me a little of SF so far. only much cleaner, less hectic. great city!


back in bangkok. the island was nice... i was lucky to stay in the last remaining backpacker place among all the development. even though they are getting blackmailed (people burning their bungalows) and have to move to the other (less attractive) side of the island. its sad. i hear the prime minister decided that this island should be immediately developed for tourism and made a rule that all new buildings had to be concrete condo style places... and the lonely planet says there's no electricity! oh well. it was a nice little excursion anyway.

on my way to the post office today, a man started telling me that today was a special day and i should go to wat dee saa to pray to the lucky buddha and then go to wat im to see the standing buddha. he said this is "lucky buddha day, one day only. if you don't go today, you will be sorry for ever!" i'm thinking yeah, sorry forever, since i didn't even know this existed before he told me. but he was very adamant that i should go. he said, "after post office, you come outside, get tuk-tuk with yellow box, not white box. yellow box is government tuk-tuk and white is bad. (i wasn't sure what he meant so he pointed out the yellow box one driving by and i saw he meant a yellow license plate) pay 20B only, no more! today is special promotion. government promotion. one day only to see lucky buddha. you'll be sorry FOREVER if you miss it." i got out of the post office and was debating going to the wat when a government tuk-tuk pulled up . i asked how much to wat dee saa, and the driver thought and said 20B. it was clearly a sign, so i went. it was a buddha carnival at the standing buddha wat im... loud speakers, incense and flowers, tiny birds in cages, etc. i took some photos and left because it was too hectic. wat dee saa was the opposite; there was one small lucky buddha and only one man there, who was very serious about the good luck and really wanted me to pray to get mine. he told me how to pray properly and we prayed.
then the driver wanted me to go to a silk shop. he said he would show me bangkok for 20B if i stopped for him. i went and was a very convincing shopper so he got his gas coupon. then he wanted me to go to another place. he was very insistent so i got out, gave him his 20B and got in another tuk-tuk that would bring me to where i wanted to go.
went to see lord of the rings. 3rd row. very good!
now the question is, am i any luckier? i was lucky enough to find the bus home, but i asked directions, so that's not luck. i'll keep tabs on my "luck" and let you know. i just read my first line where i said i was "lucky to stay in the last backpacker place...." i was lucky already! so if i get luckier, that might be colossally lucky...


i decided to take my own advice and get out of bangkok. the air is making me sniffle. getting on a bus for 6 hours, a pickup for 1/2 hour, a boat for an hour to get to an island for some snorkeling and sun. allegedly there's no internet there but after all, this is thailand.... so we'll see. back by 24th i think.
i hear a rumor that there is going to be a new baby kangaroo by the time i get there. i wonder if i will be allergic? can you have an allergy to something you have never encountered before? some immunologist out there (ann?) should e-mail me regarding that.
i could just write and write about nothing tonite, but i have food to eat and mosquito bites to scratch.
that movie made me want to go see thai boxing but the tuk-tuk driver told me it costs 800B =$20. maybe that's too much. i don't know if i would even be able to watch. that probably sounds silly but i can't watch real-live violent things usually.
oh yeah... i have a confession. i ate at pizza hut. i felt guilty so i sat there thinking: pizza butt. pizza slut. pizza smut. pizza tut. pizza cut. pizza strut. pizza rut. i am in a pizza rut.
i just wrote the very best blog of all and it got sucked into cyber space. i have no energy to re-write it but, suffice to say it was regarding HMTK (his majesty the king) and all his new billboards in bangkok. 'sigh' you'll have to use your imagination.

saw the beautiful boxer movie which was a very touching thai film about a boy who became a boxer to make money for his parents and ... get a sex change. he started boxing then started wearing make-up (while boxing) and fancy shorts and he was beautiful and kicked butt. i think it was a true story.

the thing about going to the movies here is i can figure out how to catch the bus and get there but when its time to leave, i can't ever figure out where i came in and i can't find the bus to go back (this is the most confusing mall i have ever seen). there are lots of tuk-tuks and taxis so its no problem, but its the principle of the thing! i am going back tomorrow because i missed lord of the rings opening day by one day. 'sigh' maybe i will find the return bus, tomorrow. i was getting very very close tonite (i could feel it-something about another entrance then a skyway was all that lay between me and the bus) but then a tuk-tuk driver said he'd bring me for 20B. i said that is very very cheap and he said i help you , you help me. he wanted me to go to the silk shop and look for 10-15 minutes so he gets his gas coupon. now, you may remember that last time in bangkok, i had an entire day where all i wanted was to get initiated in this way and it didn't happen. so today i thought "ok!". it turned out to be no problem. 1 silk shop, 10-15 minutes and a ride for 20B. i can, in good conscious, call myself a tourist now.


Humans need to wake up, realise, comprehend and embrace the pure, unequivocal depth and beauty of kangaroos.

"Awaken to the superb kangaroo"

got another wwoof "job"!

"Roowena has TWINS in her pouch! That is very rare so she is a clever girl. They are so precious both bundled in their together. they have started getting out of the pouch and their bodies are tiny!"

on another note...

there are apparently a lot of new-age hippies in australia. now, i know things are more complicated than this, but how interesting that in asia, people are self-sustaining because they are poor and have to be, but many would like to be "developed"... in australia, they are developed but many people would are going "back to the land". doesn't anyone see?! CLEARLY all we really need is a little cultural exchange. move the vietnamese farmers to australia and the australians to sapa... : )

i'll get pictuers of australia soon, and we'll see for ourselves where the grass is really greener.


went to the temple of litterature, vietnam's first university circa 1070, and gazed into "the well of heavenly clarity". it was very murky.

regardless of that bad omen, i got a wwoof "job" that i am really excited about... check it out:

its just outside of sydney and sounds like she can take me after x-mas, so i'll probably hang out in sydney for a few days then go to there.


in an internet cafe in hanoi, listening to britney spears (full volume of course- everything is full volume in asia) for the 5th time since yesterday. the stragnge thing is i want to hear it more. oh britney. : )
the street is again full of motorbikes, horns, the smell of si chwan oil and rice, banana sellers "hey!hey! you want to buy a banana? hey! hey! very beautiful!" people are always saying "very beautiful" at odd times. white skin = beautiful. i will pass someone and they will giggle and say "very beautiful". vain local women go to quite an effort to cover most fo their face durring the day. pharmacies sell skin whitening lotion, skin bleach, powder. trying to discuss internalized racism is no use, for maybe its more complicated. i begin to think of implications of people in the US laying on the beach, tanning. tan=leisure time=status=beauty. in asia, white=not an outdoor/hard-laboror=status=beauty. have i said all this before? i can't remember....
asian (male) covering ABBA full volume. "i believe in angels! something good in everything i see..."

rick uploaded them for me so here are some favorites from the last 3 months.... if you click on one you might get a title/caption to explain. enjoy!


just reading about australia and thinking how expensive it was going to be... then i had this brainstorm that $2 Aus = $1 US and everything costs half what i thought yesterday. whew!!! that's better. why didn't i think of that before? anyone with good australia tips should write to me about their favorite places (especially heather!).


i can go to NZ after if i still have money!
ok! if you didn't vote, you are too late.

grams is going to sydney. got a good student ticket x-mas day. that's a dumb day but a good price. i am excited now that i have it figured out. new zealand would have been better but $1000 or something crazy like that.

please send me electronic christmas love (when the time comes)!

now i can enjoy hanoi and maybe plan some wwoofing! i might even get to surf before new years!
ok, if you are a blog reader and i know you are... hee hee

this is a call for a vote about where sarah goes next!!!

here are some options, but there are many more:
i prefer to stay in asia.... train to china (getting chilly but ok in the south), tibet (too cold!!!), nepal (war and chilly but could be possible), plane to china (via hong kong- i want to go there some day!), train to malaysia (less exciting to me but easy and good national parks and scuba), india (scary, but like nothing else), japan (expensive, but so is new zealand), new zealand (not asia, expensive, but i probably wouldn't regret it), australia (want to go there someday too, barrier reef,etc), bali (surf's up but monsoon's a comin, friend is there... rumor's of lou reed surfing unless that just means "junk" surfing) does anyone know what i am saying anymore? so send me an e-mail and vote. i need help deciding!!!


just got back from the national park. there are rumored to be many animals but i think they don't want to be seen. the walking was beautiful and i did get to go deep into a cave, and saw some flying squirrels. while there i decided to go to nepal. i had talked to that guy on the train who was just there 2 weeks ago. he had no problems with the political situation... so now i am here and i did a little more research and found that in the last two weeks the cease-fire ended and there has been about 4 bombings inside kathmandu including many tourist spots. so i guess i won't go. i go back to bangkok in 3 days but i am not sure where to go from there... i want to get excited, but don't feel it yet. want to be somewhere fabulous for christmas! malaysia or china would be the easiest, but not the most exciting to me... we'll see. i'll decide soon!


made it and it wasn't arduous at all! i did, however end up sleeping on a board (even though the nice man told me there would be a mat. youtake what you can get. i met a guy at the train station who had a ticket for a seat, so i was happy to at least get horizontal. we bonded over our whiteness and i soon learned that he was irish but living in san francisco (about 5 blocks from where i used to live). once on the train he found that his chair ticket wasn't ezactly as described, either. when speaking to one of theconductors, he was told if he paid another 100,000 dong ($9) he could have a sleeper (the conductor's of course). he paid and everyone was happy. anyway, i got to my car to find a father, son, and another family consisting of a mother, father and baby. the first thing i noticed was that the vietnamese people in 3rd class make themselves much more at home than the tourists in 1st class. which means the parents had a basin of hot water where they were soaking little towels for the baby as well as bottles and dishes. water is poured from a thermos and mixed with a little cold, checked for temperature and then the baby is bathed. the others were making faces at the baby, but soon pulled out a table to start a game of chinese chess. i watched and pretended to know what was going on. i spoke my best vietnemese "i am a vegetarian" and was met with stares. oh well. my friend came by and we all gathered aroud his pictures of nepal. outside the cabin everyone was leaning out the window with radios trying to get reception for the very exciting thailand-vietnam SEA games football game. every so often there would be a yelling (game updates) and cheering. i was offered mystery vietnam railways dinner in 5 tiny foil-covered containers. i declined but decided to skip the "i am a vegetarian" excuse this time. the baby is exceptionally well-behaved. she breast feeds in the cabin with 6 men who take no notice. i wonder if they are being polite or they actually don't notice. soon its time for bed and i get "comfortable", trying to figure out how to lay without getting bruises... i slept some then all the men woke up at 5am and started reading the paper. made it here by 9, got to my hotel at 9:01 and took 2-hour bath. i'm planningto stay in the national park for the next 2 nights so no e-mail!

also re:not-so-great pictures of the thai king, check out this website


decided to take the train north. because of the sea games, everyone in asia is going that direction and the only available class was "hard bed". the nice man described it as a thin mattress with 6 people/ cubicle (rather than the 4" mattress and 4 people /cubicle which is first class). but as i was weighing the flying vs. train option, i remembered that only hours earlier i was re-writing the lonely planet in my head. "how to travel and experience culture". 1. get rid of this book. 2. if you still have this book, rule one is talk to people. seems obvious but its not always. 3. eliminate barriers by: taking public transportation everywhere (and talk to people on it), staying in cheap guesthouses not hotels, walk everyday, eat on the street, volunteer, travel alone....
so although the 16 hour hard bed might be uncomfortable, i am going for it. stay tuned for the result. could be good could be bad.

here's mom's last and second bLOG:
rule 4: realize that you are pretty funny (pretty funny looking, too)- and laugh a lot. People love it. Example: Bicycling in a crowd of school kids today, a couple hopped on the backs of our bikes - we were the center of very amused attention from everyone. It's nice to hear snickering behind your back here.

Sorry to be leaving Sarah, but I've loved being here, had a great few weeks. Bye to tropical breezes, hello to Christmas (hard to believe).


took a tour today. i momentarily forgot that i am anti-tour... but there isn't many ways to do what we did, so the tour was it. piled on a big bus. drove and honked for an hour until we got to the Cham ruins (ancient center of worship that was unfortunately vicitm of massive bombing durring the vietnam-american war). they were OK. nestled in a beautiful valley, but almost nothing left except brick rubble. after the ruins, we were led onto a boat, for a nice ride down the river to a pottery village and a woodworking village. this was definately the highlight (i like to see how people live). as you might imagine, the ergonomics are horrendous... the potters wheels are on a wooden disc on the floor with the potter crouching all day. i am getting the impression that many of the jobs here involve crouching all day! anyway, the village has a few huge kilns which are constantly firing, people who are constantly gathering wood, and clay from down river and other people who are constantly crouching and making pottery. still, they village is one of the poorest. the woodworking village was interesting, too, although we only got to see one workshop. the work was beautiful (more crouching and dangerous chiseling) and intricate. i asked about the wood which looked yellow and was told it was jack fruit, also used to build the 300 year old bridges and houses.

i ordered another pair of shoes. couldn't resist. mom ordered 3 full outfits, 3 shirts and a pair shoes. no more shopping for me!

going to bed now.


we made it to hoi an. food poisoning episode #2 over. recovery complete.

rumored cool city is actually... very cool. the beautiful colors of the buildings are accented with the natural black mold and green moss. we were enthralled and walked throught the small alleys taking pictures until it got dark.
the center of the city is a bustling contrast between the old and the modern. there are many art shops, woodworking shops (i like!) and shoe stores. everything is handmade to order. i am a sucker for shoes, so i have already ordered a pair. my feet were traced, measured in 3 places, i was told i was funny, was told to pick out my favorite colors of leather and come back tomorrow. $12 and very cute! they have doc marten-like boots made of asian silk but that's not what i got.

we are very busy for the next four days since the EVIL FLAN cut our time short. i am trying to convince my mom to go volunteer at an orphanage here, but i think she thinks i am joking. there are angkorian ruins nearby and a village of woodowrkers (who also build boats which is my favorite). we got a hotel room overlooking some beautiful rice paddies, complete with cows (the paddie, not the room).

there is a woman here on the phone yelling "I AM CALLING FROM VIETNAM!"... (just a little ambiance for you) and about 5 motorbikes/second beeping by. somewhere nearby i can hear the SEA games theme song....


i've been asking around to see how people here feel about americans in light of the war... the guy next door who faught as a commander in the south vietnamese said "we try to forget the war". he had a friend (a US commander) that he was in contact with until a few years ago. after the south lost, the new govt took him out of university and made him go to a "re-education camp" for 7 years of "hard work". it seems that he has more restentment towards the viet cong than the americans.

the area we are in right now is close to the DMZ (demilitarized Zone) and so ahs seen a lot of action and bombing. on our little motorcycle tour the guy said that after the war, the viet comg came through and had a little rampage of ruthless killing. somewhere nearby they burried 10,000 people-alive.

the kid who drives us around, says that he is neutral about americans. if they pay him a lot, he likes them. then he says, "just kidding". (he thinks i am a 19 year old boy. he shrieks when he finds out i am a 28 year old girl.)

other people appear to feel the same. the woman at the cafe says that her father was killed in the war "by your government", but she is friendly and doesn't seem to hold a grudge.

considering how people feel about their own government, here, i think there are a lot of people who mentally seperate the american government from the american people. if only our country could do that!
ms grams and mrs erickson got food poisoning. we are not officially healed, but feeling better. the culprit might have been some very tasty flan from tropical garden restaurant in hue, vietnam. don't eat there.

the past few days have been mostly watching SEA games on tv. at the moment the vietnamese soccer team is playing indonesia and people are gathered en mass around tvs all over the city. every once in a while there are city-wide cheers and jeers which we like to hear.

mom just piped in that the women's vietnamese team is really much better than the men's team!

tomorrow we will be taking the tourist bus south to the cool city mentioned earlier. we have less time because of that flan, but it should be great. mom leaves in about 5 days, then i will stay for a week on my own before heading off in to the nether regions. which means i don't know what i am doing, but probably taking a train from bangkok to malasia then over to malasian-borneo then indonesia...


hee hee check out this link for a very vietnamese quote from ho chi minh circa 1946 and a picture of him lifting wieghts.


i especially like the part where he says "Every unhealthy citizen weakens the country; every healthy citizen helps to make the country stronger.
Therefore, doing exercises and building ones’ strength is every patriot’s duty."

this is regarding the SEA (south east asia) GAMES which are happenning here now. they are sort of like the SEA version of the olympics. i especailly want to see championship ping pong! but the tickets might be sold out...

the motorbike ride was really cool. as soon as you get out to the countryside, its beautiful and much more interesting than the city. went to some sights, but the ride was really the best part of the day.

the cruise in the bay was beautiful and posh! it was a christmas present from my mom, something i wouldn't have bought for myself, and very fancy! it was really nice to relax for a few days.

this morning, we flew south to an (forgive the lonely planet-esque wording) uninspiring town. its hard to do anything here yourself with out booking a tour.

that said, i think we have found the best tour to take, with a woman named thu and her 10 brothers. they call it "tours on thu wheels". we'll do a little motorbike ride around the countryside and to all the major sights here. after that, maybe we'll hit the road, go south to the place everyone says is their favorite city in vietnam. hopefully it will be more interesting.

that being said... we walked through the market here, which is a very good one. i'm not sure if i have mentioned that a walk through the asian markets is probably one of my favorite activities. you'll walk past cages of ducks, chickens, a man killing and plucking a chicken (in front of the other chickens-and still i think they have no idea), baskets after baskets of vegetables, fruits, onlions, garlic, ginger, stinky piles of rotten veggies, people cutting meat, people eating, people cooking meat, huge bowls of fish, snakes, toads, stands devoted solely to medicinal herbs (which here include flattened lizards and starfish), watches, clothes, paper, inscence, soap, diapers, chilies, seeds, nuts, shoes, and basically anything else you can imagine (or can't).

i ate some adventurous vegetarian plate which contained "spicy-beancurdeas" and a vietnamese chicken-bean taco (also vegetarian).

on a different subject:
got some good news from worker's comp the other day which i think means that i get some money each month as well as medical care if necessary. i had thought that it was medical OR money and so i thought i would pick "medical" and have a very hard time finding a job i could do when i came back. suddenly i have options! so i am an excited girl. it gives me 2 years flexibility, but i already had a little plan (which could change next week) ;) so it works out well.