This is Cowboy Bob & Bonanza Jellybean's Adventure of the Millennium !

Dec. 26th - Victoria - Today is Boxing day in Canada... I think that's a British tradition. I've heard different versions of the origin... "The day after Christmas when everything needs to be boxed up till next year... boxes of nice things are given to the staff in wealthy homes..." don't know which is correct, but it's a holiday and I'll take it.

We flew to Vancouver and began our luxurious trip in the Business Class lounge at Vancouver International. "Bloody Lugshury..." so this is how the other half fly... just hang out and be pampered till they call your flight. We were seated in the upper deck... I could barely reach the pocket in the seat in front of me. All food served ala cart... no foil wrapped TV dinners

The lounge at Cathay's home airport in Hong Kong is Sooooo nice.

Jan. 1st - Siboya - THEE party of the century was last night... FANTASTIC, UNBELIEVABLE and WOW! At around 3:00PM we all met at DD's (his real name is Didier but the Thais call him DD) garden for tea and biscuits. All the children played croquet and fished for toys in a tin tub. A local carpenter (Mr. Son) made a portable bar from bamboo, so lots of the adults were crowded around having tequilas. DD and his family are from the south of France and come to Ko Siboya every winter the same as Bob and Joann. At about 6:30PM the sun set and we went to the restaurant. Mr. Jung and his friendly staff had spent all-day preparing a huge buffet. There was fried fish with more garlic than I've ever seen at one time, barbecued chicken with the spice called turmeric, (It grows fresh here) many Thai Curries (I'm starting to really enjoy the spicy food, good practice for India) and to finish with some very strange fruit called Rambutan. They're the same size is a kiwi fruit but they have many long hairs. They looked like they're covered with Velcro hooks. Inside the skin is a fruit very soft and fleshy, Bob says it's a lot like a Lichee that are available in Canada at some Chinese grocers. At about 9:00PM everyone slowly moved to big grassy area next to the restaurant, it's in the middle of an old Coconut Plantation. It was so exciting! The area had many coloured lights and some black lights were strung between the palm trees. Day-glow paint was put on some of the trees and in designs on the grass; some of the children even had it in their hair. It was like a fantastic carnival. DD was in heaven, as he loves to play DJ. He brought many hours of Mini-Disks from France and he rented a big stereo from Krabi. Some of the children sang songs in their own language and so did some of the adults. DD's wife Marie cajoled Bob to go up to the mike to sing. He sang a song about a very famous bear, Smokey. At midnight fireworks were very big and loud and bright. It was beautiful, everyone shook hands and hugged and kissed then the dancing started again. I lasted till about 12:30AM, but the next day when I got up to have breakfast, the party was still going and finally ended at 7:00AM. What great time, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd be celebrating the New Years and the Millennium in Thailand.

Jan. 7th - Siboya - Glenn and Wuane are going to Bangkok today, so Bob and I took the trip to Krabi with them. It's fun to go around all the shops, cause Bob knows so many people in town and he introduces them to me. They're very surprised to see a bear from Canada. We say goodbye to Glenn and Wuane, but Glenn will be back in one week. Wuane has to go back to Connecticut to work. Too bad, we don't.

Jan. 15th - Siboya - We're up early this morning to go have breakfast with some of the Thai villagers. About 1km from the bungalows, we came to Mr. Son's house. At the front of the house, under a lien-to roof was a table and food prep area. Many of the locals have parked their motorcycles in front yard, and are enjoying cup of coffee and breakfast of Kunum-gin (rice noodles and fishy curry sauce) no one speaks English, but pointing and acting out what you need is fun and gets everyone laughing. While we're sitting eating, several workers walked by with pails across their shoulders, carrying two, 15gal pails of white milky liquid.

After breakfast we follow one of the workers to a small bamboo shelter in the middle of a rubber Plantation. A lady is pouring the pails of white liquid into 3" deep pans. We discovered that what we are seeing is the harvest of latex. The sap is collected at certain times of the year. The bark of the trees cut very early in the morning while still dark, and the sap runs down the angled cut, into a small bowl. (Sometimes they use a half of an old coconut shell) Then it's all collected in the pails. That's what we saw the man carrying. After about four hours the latex in the pans has hardened like jiggley silly putty. The pans are turned out onto a piece of vinyl. Then someone walks on it to flatten it down to big bath mat size. Next, they run it through steel ringer rollers to make it flat and even. The final thing is to hang the mats over a bamboo polls to dry and cure. After a week or so the mats have gone brown and smelly. Real smelly; imagine 50 times is bad as an old unwashed sneaker. Yuk! Now they're taken to a central collection co-op and sold for 24baht per kilo (that's one dollar Canadian). It's very strange to think of bicycle tires and elastic bands coming out of a tree.

Jan. 20th - Siboya - I've been feeling very sick for the last 4 or 5 days, with headaches, very strange dreams, and this morning with a temperature just under 40C. Joann and Bob have a very good medical book, and it looks like I've got all the symptoms of typhoid fever. To be sure we have to go to the hospital for a blood test. That means we have to take the boat to Krabi. The hospital is quite new and nurses are very friendly. After checking in, I had to wait to see a doctor to take a blood for a lab test. Many people are waiting; I don't think they've seen many pink bears here. After a couple of hours I get the results back and it shows a mild case of typhoid. So the doctor gives me some antibiotics to take for the next seven days. I must have eaten some food or water contaminated by a typhoid carrier. I'm lucky to detect it soon and treat it.

Jan. 25th - Siboya - I guess the medicine worked; I feel much better, no headache and the fever are all gone. I'll have to be much more careful especially when we go to India in 2 weeks. Today I met a Swedish couple that are getting ready to build a house here on Ko Siboya. They had called the man with a chain saw to cut down 3 palm trees. These are very old in palm tree years, maybe 40 or 50. When they cut them Bob has asked the man to save the palm heart so that kitchen can make a special curry. (You know when you get a bunch of celery and pull off all the stocks? The part left is the celery heart) It's the same with palm trees. It tastes little like very tender almonds when it's raw. Mmm.

Jan. 31st - Siboya - It's a secret because Bob didn't want anybody to fuss. Today is his birthday; he's 53. Just another lazy tropical day.

Feb. 1st - Siboya - Wow, what great dinner last night. The kitchen remembered Bob's birthday from last year. They made a big feast; red snapper with chili sauce, sweet and sour chicken and mixed stir fried vegetables. After dinner we had some Thai snacks called me-an-kum (you have to make them up from the pieces that come in the bag) you taken leaf about three inches and folded into cup. Inside goes a small piece of lime, ginger, onion, chili, dried shrimp, peanuts, some toasted coconut flakes and topped with a special sweet sauce. The leaf is rolled into a ball and popped into someone else's mouth. You're not allowed to make your own. What an amazing taste, every bite is a different flavour.

Feb. 3rd - Siboya to Penang - A long day of travel today, we had to get a special boat to Krabi at 8:00AM (goodbyes to everyone, many new friends) a mini bus (Toyota Van) at 11:00AM takes us to Hat Yai. (The largest city in southern Thailand) we change to another mini bus to take us south across into Malaysia to the city of Penang. (That's not quite true. Penang is an island province of Malaysia and the city is called Georgetown but nobody calls it that) we arrived at the Swiss hotel at 9:00PM. Luckily, Bob's telephone reservation worked okay. (When you travel budget style, you never know if reservations will be kept) we were especially lucky because Feb. 5 is Chinese New Year and all the hotel rooms are booked solid.

Feb. 5th - Penang - Happy New Year - the year of the dragon. Having fun in Penang, dim sum (Chinese hors d'oeuvres) for breakfast and dinner. Everything from rice noodles, shrimp dumplings, many types of minced pork snacks and chicken sweet, it's so good... mmm. I'm finding the chopsticks are little tricky though. Just when you think you have a grip, it squirts across the table.

Feb. 7th - Penang to Madras - The flight to KL (Kuala Lumpur) only took 45 minutes. Then we had to wait for 1-½ hours for the next flight to Cheni (Madras). At 10:30PM we took off for the 3-½ hour flight to India, what an adventure this will be. The Madras airport was full of East Indian people, (I guess that's what I should have expected) so many, so crowded. We hired a taxi to a hotel recommended by some German travellers back in Penang. The 30-minute drive was in an old Ambassador taxi; they haven't changed the design of these simple looking cars since 1956. The streets have big holes and there are no rules for traffic. Everybody just honks their horns and the loudest wins. Madras has 6 million people. It's like living in the future; the streets are very dirty with many piles of garbage everywhere and many poor people, and many beggars.

Feb. 10th - Madras -The bus drivers in India are the wildest ever! They have the loudest horns and they don't care who they push off the road! We took a very crowded very rickety local bus south for 136km Pondicherry, and that took 3½ hours. What a long hot ride. Pondy, as the locals call it, is an old French Colony. Many of the old houses are still there... it's very strange, a canal/sewer runs through town, one side is like India and the other side like you just stepped to somewhere in Mediterranean France 100 years ago. Except that there are still Indian people everywhere. Well, I haven't had very much Indian food yet. Pondy has lots of French restaurants so we've been eating French crepes. They're like real thin pancakes with mushrooms and cheese, etc.! Bon Apete!

Feb. 12th - Pondicherry - Today we went to a paper factory. It's a very special kind of paper made entirely from cotton rags. They collect old rags or remnants and shred them in a big grinder. Then the whole mess gets washed, bleached and rinsed; then it goes into a big machine like a cement mixer until it's all mushed into a cotton portage; then they add the colour they want and keep mixing until the portage is just right. (But I didn't see the 3 bears or Goldie Locks) The correct amount of porridge is ladled onto a fine screen on a frame; turned over onto a mat and pressed and peeled off. Another separator mat is laid on the sheet just made and the process is repeated until the paper sheets and mat separators are about two feet thick. Then the whole pile is wheeled into a big press and all the water is squeezed out. After separating and drying, they have made a very high-quality low acid paper, which is favoured by artists for painting.

Feb. 14th - Pondy to Tanjore - We're on the move today... caught the local bus (crammed in the back of an old wreck of a vehicle that coughed and sputtered, but the very loud air-horn worked great) to Cuddalore train station. (36km in 1-½ hours) The station had homeless beggars sleeping on every bench, and during the two hours that we had to wait for the train to Tanjore they all eventually woke up and filed past asking for money. It's so sad to see so many hopelessly helpless people. It sure makes me thankful to be from Canada and able to return to its safety net.

In Tanjore, we checked into the Valli Hotel. What a strange toilet. Bob and Joann say it's very normal for Asia and much easier once you get the hang of it. It's like the toilet is flat on the ground, you don't sit on it, you squat with your feet either side on the footplates. AND, are you ready? Bob and Joann say that in most of Asia, people don't use toilet paper, can you believe that! Instead, it's the left-hand rule... wash yourself with the ever-present plastic bucket of water and your left-hand. (Toilet paper is very expensive $1.50 per roll. That's more than millions of people in Asia make in a day; and the sewer systems are not developed enough to handle paper) So from then on I made sure I only shook peoples right hand.

Feb. 15th - Tanjore - Today we went to an old Temple. How old? It was built in 1010AD. It's called the Brihadishwara Temple and is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It's one of only a very few in India that is World Heritage Listed. At the top of the granite Temple, 13 stories high, is the dome carved from a single piece, weighing an estimated 80 tons. In front of the Temple is a carved Brahma bull from one 25-ton stone. When we went through the main gate there was an elephant that was blessing people by placing his trunk on their head for a contribution put in the his trunk. The end of his trunk felt very bristly and a little wet with hot breath. Bob asked if I knew that the elephant is the only animal in the world with four knees... strange thought but true.

Around town there were so many interesting and different things; we saw a little delivery truck with the back full of flats of eggs and written on the back of it was "Eat eggs or die". Weird! I think what they meant to say was, "Eat eggs to stay healthy".

Feb. 17th - Tanjore to Madurai - Today we took 2 trains. The first, 50km to Trichy was 2 ½ hours. The second, 161km to Madurai was 5 hours. Madurai is a city of 1 ½ million people. It's one of the oldest cities in the south of India and resembles a huge continuous bazaar crammed with shops, street markets, temples, pilgrims, restaurants and small industries spilling onto the streets. We took trishaws (trishaws are three wheeled bikes with a seat in the back for customers to ride in, like a taxi) all over town. There were lots of beggars, goats and cows, just anywhere and everywhere, sleeping, eating and going to the toilet. Boy is it dirty. Everyone seems to just ignore it and carry on with whatever they're doing. We went to the old Temple bazaar (part of the city Temple built in 1500) to buy some material at one of the many cloth merchants and have its sewn into an Indian pajama suit by one of the hundreds of tailors who set-up business with just a treadle sewing machine. The sweet smells of the incense and a very humid heat make the market seem even more intense.

News Flash! Big dosai Festival at our hotel... and it seems to have attracted people from all parts of India. Dosai is a very thin rice flour pancake cooked on one side only and served with many curry sauces. Special for the Festival, they made one 3' round and carried it out on two plates. Remember the left-hand rule!

Feb. 20th - Madurai to Kollam - After checking the bus and train schedules and prices, we decided it would be faster, easier and more comfortable to hire a cab for the next 350km trip to the city of Kollam on the West Coast of India in the state of Kerela. And with three people (I rode for free!!) sharing the cost, it worked out about the same as a train. Boy what a long hot ride, it took 12 hours. As we rounded one corner up in the Western Ghats (Ghats is an Indian name for foothills and mountains) we came upon heard of Brahma bulls on the road and just as we pass them, one gave the car a hip check right into Bob's door. Man was he every lucky he didn't have his arm out the window. It tore off the door handle and made a big dent. (The bull didn't even blink)

Feb. 21st - Kollam to Alleppey - Today we were tourists. We took a boat trip for 8 hours to Alleppey. The very slow and relaxing trip wound all the way on lakes and canals. ("Kerela Backwaters") All along the canals you pass Indian life going on in this very green and tropical area. It was like watching a National Geographic special. We saw so many Brahmanny Kites (Sea Eagles) catching fish or cruising the tops of coconut trees, looking for a mouse dinner.

Feb. 22nd - Alleppey Backwaters - This morning we went down to the canal to see our boat. It was a 30-foot rice barge that has been converted into a houseboat. Standard equipment included, 2 men with real long bamboo poles, 1 at each end. They push the old barge along at a very quiet leisurely pace. The houseboat had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a lounging area at the front and a small kitchen right at the stern where the 3rd man, our cook, cooked all our meals for the next 24 hours. Just before sunset we anchored out in a small shallow lake. After the boys took a swim in the lake, dinner was served. It was a scrump-deli-icious feast on "Kerela rice" (big fat grains) and three different curries. Afterwards we sang some songs then went to sleep to the sounds of lapping water. Like on a big waterbed.

Feb. 23rd - Alleppey to Cochin - As we floated down the canal you could see quite a few "Hammer and Sickle" flags flying. The state of Kerela is strange; it has a democratically elected Communist government. It also seems to be the cleanest and most affluent area of India that we were in.

As we left the houseboat we took another hired car north 60km to the old port city of Cochin. Joann went into a big fancy store to try on saris. (Indian wraparound dress) We met one customer from New York who was looking at one sari that cost $14,000; it had real gold thread in it. Saris are made up of a little top and a skirt; then six yards of material wound round and round with the end put over your left shoulder. Joann bought a beautiful blue and gold one (not real gold) and Bob took videos of her learning to put it on. There were so many amazing bright colours of fabric.

It was so hot during the day, up to 33C and so humid that it felt like a steam bath. Then at night it would cool off beautifully with an ocean breeze as we ate dinner on the roof top restaurants around town. Ah yes, it's a rough life this travel game!

Feb. 26th - Cochin to Mysore - We hired another car for the 400km trip up and across the mountains to Mysore. Again, the train and bus trip would have been 2 days and no cheaper. Besides with the car we got to go across the top through the tea plantations. The tea plantations are nothing like I expected. I don't know what I expected but at the top of the mountains they have all the tea trees (bushes) grown in rows, like hedges. When they get to be about three feet high they're ready to harvest. As pickers walk along the rows, they pick off the nice young top green leaves without damaging the bush and throw them over their shoulders into bags on their backs. Then it's dried and processed.

Feb. 28th - Mysore - This morning we had breakfast at a real palace. The Lalitha Mahal Palace. It's a hotel now, but a Raja had it built for him in the 1920s. The super-suite rents at CAD$1400 per night. As we were leaving, an Indian magician put on a little show on the hotel steps. At the end of the show he opened a small blocks and out popped a Cobra. Yikes, my fur stood on end! And the man asked if I wanted to hold it, no way. Some of the other people did but not us.

We've all taken a vote, and it was decided that since we've been fitting in all hot spots on our list, (it's been much easier by car) rather than go to the beaches in Goa, (an old hippie Mecca) we're going to go back to Thailand and hang-out at good old Siboya Bungalows.

Mar 1st - Mysore to Hospet - It was a real long hot day on the drive to Hospet. (400km north of Mysore) Nearby are the ruins of the 600yr old city of Hampi. Before it was conquered, there were more than one million people there. It's so weird to see all these huge walls and boulders out in the middle of nowhere.

Mar 4th - Hospet to Badami - Joann stayed at the hotel while Bob and Glenn went to see some temples that were carved right out of a mountain. On the steps going up for a bunch of monkeys playing and bothering the visitors.

Mar 6th - Madras - Well here we are back where we started 30 days ago. We've travelled 2300km and seen so many things, already I can't remember them all, it's all blended together. It's been the most amazing adventure. The first thing you notice is the awful filth, (I don't think people clean anything) and the garbage. The next thing are the cows. In India cows are sacred. That means people worship them to or something. Anyway, they are allowed to just wander around everywhere and anywhere! Downtown, on highways, on sidewalks, in front of hotels; absolutely everywhere. And they don't seem to belong to anyone. Go figure. Then there are the ladies in their saris. In the ladies of bright colours and you can see than doing anything and everything from sweeping garbage to selling food in the market in their bright and always clean the saris.

We're going to fly back to Penang tomorrow then go back to Thailand for a whole month on Ko Siboya. The Indian food was really great at first, but they didn't seem to be as much variety as in Thailand. I think I like Thai curries better than the Indian curries.

Mar 25th - Siboya - Well we've been back at Siboya for two weeks now. It was sort of like coming home. Everyone was glad to see us... fuss, fuss. It was nice to the back at the seashore, we hadn't been swimming for more than five weeks, and it was very nice.

Apr. 4th - Siboya - Today we went with Mr. Jung (Siboya bungalows manager) to his grandfathers house in Trang. It's a nice small city about 150km south of Krabi. All his extended family were having a memorial service to remember his grandfather. Everyone brings food and burns incense and light long strings of very loud firecrackers.

After awhile we went to look at a waterfall nearby. As we slowly drove into the park we saw a huge Cobra that was just about across the road. As he saw us pass, he became startled and scared I guess, busy stood up and opened his hood to say, "Hey, see me, better watch out or I'll bite you". Lucky for us we're in the truck. He was huge, about three feet standing up and Bob said they usually raise about one-third of their length. So that means he was about 12 feet long, Yikes. As he calmed down, he dropped and slid away. It looked like butter melting.

Apr. 7th - Bangkok - Took another train last night. I really like trains, and this ride was even better as we had a first-class cabin. It was great, very clean and quiet and comfortable. We even had our own sink to wash up and brush our teeth.

Bangkok's 38 degrees today and at lunchtime there was the biggest thunder and rainstorm I've ever seen. It's like being in a steam bath.

April 10th - Bangkok to Victoria - Guess what? The flight back to Canada was a treat... business class seats. The flight time back to Canada was only 13.5 hours because we had a tail wind most of the way.

Home again.