Phuket - Sri Lanka

October 2006

THE DEAL:  Holiday Inn Resort Phuket: 1 Baht per Night

This  “promotional rate” was posted February 13, bookable for standard rooms from May through October.

I made 5 bookings of 2-4 weeks each over that period, really only expecting to use one, if the mistake would be honored at all.

A registered letter showed up in the mail a month later from the hotel manager, saying they would honor the rate. Cancelled the first four reservations as each one approached, and I was elsewhere. Finally used the October reservation, and loved the place.

 

THE TICKET:  South Asia Business Class award:  90K UA miles +$62    C# PDN0B6

Searched for Business reward trip direct to HKT via SIN or BKK on UA, but no availability. Did find seats into HKT using SQ or TG *A partner flights. Test-reserved a 7-week trip, assuming I could return earlier, subject to reward seat availability. At ticketing deadline , learned about the no-change-at-all-after-departure rule for *A partner awards. I cancelled the reservation since I needed to be sure of the dates.

After more research, I learned the award was valid to Colombo, with a stopover in Singapore. I had considered Sri Lanka for a few years, and already bought the LP guide. Considering the recently resumed Tamil Tiger war, I thought one week in Sri Lanka would be enough.

Booked AUS-DEN-LAX-SIN-CMB-SIN-LAX-DEN-AUS. UA agent reminded me that NO changes allowed after departure, even in case of emergency. However, the highly-rated SQ LAX-SIN A340 nonstop service for 90K miles is a great deal. With Colombo now part of the free ticket, I stopped optimizing and ticketed.

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TUE SEP 26

Supershuttle 9 AM    ($44 RT)

AUS-DEN       UA #6685      1140-1244

DEN-LAX        UA #0768      1446-1607

LAX-SIN        SQ #0019      2115-0540+2

Allowed a 5-hour layover in LAX in case of delay. Unfortunately the Business lounge was not very nice, subcontracted to Asiana. No internet access, bad seats, crowded, blah, blah….

The SQ super-longhaul was VERY nice. Depart after sunset and for 17 hours fly through the dark with a pre-dawn landing in SIN. The “Space Bed” worked well: I slept for 9+ hours !  The IFE had 80 channels of on-demand movies. F&B was excellent, although I missed some of it while asleep.

 

THU SEP 28

Showered in Silver Kris Lounge, Noodles and Tiger Beer for breakfast, checked e-mail. Bussed over to LCC terminal. There were no immediate flights that suited, so I would head North by train. Took the new MRT elevated subway from Changi to a downtown stop ($0.50), then taxi ($2) to 1920’s Art-Deco-era train station.

Booked Train #2 "Rakyat Express" to Kuala Lumpur 1305-1928 at SGD 68 First Class. Train fare quirk: fare from Singapore must be paid in Singapore dollars, i.e. about US$40. Travelling the reverse route, KL to Singapore, one pays only 68 Malaysian ringits, about 1/3 the cost !!

The train ride was uneventful, with endless vistas of Palm Oil plantations. I read in Economist that many areas are being replanted with Oil Palms. The palms are a very profitable source of Biodiesel, but the break-even point is crude oil at $50/barrel.

The train was delayed about an hour and I missed connection to Train #8 for Hat Yai 2045-1015. So I lugged my too-heavy bags out of KL Sentral and slept at the Hotel Sentral ($20). Totally hectic but exotic scene in the steets outside, all these women with red dots on forehead and yammering steet vendors.

 

FRI SEP 29

In the light of morning, I considered the shortened time to go overland, and Hat Yai-Phuket bus could be painful. Decided to spend the weekend in KL and fly to Phuket on Sunday. Found internet near YMCA, and booked flight KL to Phuket and 2 nights at 4* Crown Plaza Mutiara for $70/night w/breakfast. Took the Monorail from Sentral station to the stop directly in front of Crown Plaza.

VIDEO CLIP:  KUALA LUMPUR MONORAIL 

Very nice hotel, interesting bathroom design: glass shower and large sliding door that opens up into the main bedroom. Connected laptop via ethernet for $8/day. Walked down Bukit Ting road; squid sambal for dinner. Central KL looked more modern and interesting than I expected. The area was packed with clubs and restaurants, and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back for another visit. Went to sleep shortly after sunset.

 

SAT SEP 30

Woke up at 4 AM, surfed internet and Skyped back to USA. Excellent buffet breakfast with more squid sambal, dim sum, beef bacon (not pork!) and much more.

HEADLINE: a Malaysian soldier near Thai border was bitten by a King Cobra, and still in a coma after heli-evac.

Visited Petronas Twin-Towers, tallest in the world until recently completed Taipei 101 tower.

Went over at 10 AM, only to get a ticket for 2pm entry. Back to Crown Plaza for a nap, then made the trip up to the sky-bridge. Still Jet-lagged, I slept uneasily instead of exploring KL.

    VIDEO CLIP: VIEW from SKYBRIDGE

 

 

 

SUN OCT 01

HEADLINE: a Bangkok Taxi driver crumpled his vehicle into a tank parked in front of the Royal Palace. The police said he was drunk.

 

Woke at 5 AM with Skype call from Jamal in Paris, my first video-Skype. Another fine breakfast:  shrimp sambal, miso soup, eggs on corned beef hash. Check out at noon, taxi ($5) to Sentral station, AirBus ($3) to KL Low Cost Carrier (LCC) Terminal.

KUL-HKT        AK #876        15:15-15:30     $60   (Air Asia)

Good flight, big new airbus only 30% full, arrived almost on time. Shared minivan ($4) from airport to Patong via Phuket town, with a fierce rain squall along the way.

Holiday Inn Resort Phuket, 52 Thaweeewong Road, Patong Beach  tel: 011-66-76-340608. The lovely receptionist found my reservation, and remarked “Oh, you are very lucky, you have the 1-Baht rate !”. She escorted me to the room, and explained the mini-bar is empty as guests prefer to stock it themselves from the hotel’s mini-market, which has supermarket prices.

First impresion of my room #217 not overwhelming. Located off to the side with laundry bins piled up out front, and two beds when I hoped for one king. I took a peak at other rooms later; they are much the same. Good CATV choices, including CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, HBO, Cinemax, Star, etc. Bought 2-hour WIFI pass for $6. I was fascinated that Skype and https://www… connections bypass the hotel login screen, but e-mail and browsing still require paid password.

 

MON OCT 02

First look at Patong oceanfront today, very windy and choppy sea. Black clouds above are scattered remnants of Typhoon Xangsane which hit Manila a few days earlier, their strongest typhoon in 11 years. Checked out the two large pool complexes, but haven’t been swimming yet. Bought another 30 hours of WIFI access for $33, which is cheaper than local internet cafes, but I hate to spend more on internet than the room !

Researched Flyertalk for Sri Lanka tickets and Colombo accomodation. Tasty noodles for $1 across the street, then walked into town for some bar-hopping. Patong looks fine, no evidence of Tsunami at all (except TSUNAMI VIDEOS for sale). Late night Skype with Mom.

 

TUE OCT 03

Started Picasa photo-editing, but a Flyertalk Deal took my attention for most of the day:

Vancouver BC to Bucharest, Romania on NW/KL for $230 all-in, upgradeable B-fare.

Skyped RobBob in Austin, I asked him to alert Glenn Glover. The deal soon looked dead, but then resurrected itself on nwa.com.  Glenn, RobBob, and I now have  matching Bucharest itineraries May 10-20th.

I can spend a week in Oregon May 20-28 before the second Vancouver-Bucharest trip. Added a third trip in July to match 12 days booked at London Howard Swisshotel July 7-19. Made a 4th booking, but it conflicts with Grand Canyon trip, so will probably cancel. Bought 3 vouchers for Holiday Inn breakast buffet ($8 each). Walked around exploring area near the hotel, then napped.

 

WED OCT 04

Raining early morning, enjoyed breakfast buffet at Busakorn wing, many exotic fruits and veggie dishes. Skype chat with Peter in Manila, where the electricity is still not back on at his office after typhoon Xangsane. He said it as bad as he has seen it in Manila: trees and billboards downed everywhere, wrapped in electrical wires.

Sun now coming out, the para-sailers are back flying on Patong beach. Spent afternoon at Main Wing pool Reading Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game. Met Flyertalker “seanthepilot” (next door); we used our welcome drink coupons. He works at Empress Hotel in Victoria, and speaks Thai ! Discussed pros/cons of UA 1K status and CMB-LAX-CMB business class run. Skyped Jay Jensen to  discuss Grand Canyon raft trip next April.

 

THU OCT 05

Overcast at sunrise, becoming sunny. Breakfast at SeaBreeze restaurant perhaps nicer than Busakorn with a breeze, sliced ginger, and shrimp tandoori !  Tweaked www.mrhalliday.com a few hours, then walked full length of Patong Beach to rocks at north end. Then back to Holiday Inn through town.

Joined Sean for grilled squid dinner ($9 with beer) and explored CMB-PDX run for 1K status. He is going up to Khao Lak tomorrow. Skype with Mom-Dad about xferring UA miles so I can get UA first class transpacific.

 

FRI OCT 06

Skype with RobBob. Expanded some 2006/2007 trip reports, and studied UA 1K CMB-PDX status run. Thought I would go to the bar, but worked on trip reports until 3 am.

 

SAT OCT 07

Sunny ay 11AM, Skype with Mom, tweaking Skype options, alerted RobBob to DEN-AMS run on FT, but it is already dying. Flat-Rock rain for a while, then I walked Patong Beach end-to-end, about 2.5 miles RT. This is fun; I see something new every day, and recognize more landmarks. Back to website stuff: re-worked minor trip reports into new “2006 MASTER BLOG”.

 

SUN OCT 08

Slept in late; no breakfast buffet. Perfectly clear day, the first one. First 30-hour WIFI ticket expired,  bought another one.

Sean next door called; he is headed back early to Victoria for work. I joined him for an ocean swim; nice breakers for body surfing. Then explored the elegant Busakorn wing pool with swim-up bar. Chatted with some Aussies, then found a smaller cold-jacuzzi pool in an alcove. It has four elephants squirting strong jets of water overhead, great for a head and shoulder masage.

                              ELEPHANT POOL VIDEO CLIP  

Joined Sean again for lunch, large whole fish, basil squid, green veggies VERY hot and spicy. Napped a bit, then sunset beach walk as beach boys pull the jetboats and jetskis out for the night.

Stocked up on noodle cups at supermarket. Bought Skippy and Smuckers PB&J; about double US prices as they are imported. Walked through center, most annoying prize goes to tailors trying to get you into their shops. Most unusual prize to trinket-vendors dressed in traditional garb from Dalian, China. It is exotic looking, and certainly catches the tourist eye, but definitely nothing to do with Thailand!

Stopped by travel agent to pick up laundry: $1.50 for five shirts. Back in room, FT deal for AUS-FRA for $600 RT may be alternative to CMB-PDX run being considered. Not business class, but can be done non-stop on November weekends from Austin in about 30 hours. Two of those (Nov 1-2, 18-19) would finish the 1K status quest. Cost totals up to about the same either way. Depends how much I want a week in Sri Lanka. 1500 people killed there since February.

 

MON OCT 09

Another nice sunny day. Polished Baku-Cairo trip report. Talking heads on CNN/BBC now cranked up as Korea news comes in. Went back to Elephant Pool and read four days of Bangkok newspapers that have piled up. Some notable stories:

HEADLINE:        RUBBER TAPPER AND SON LATEST FATALITIES

A rubber tapper and his son were shot dead yesterday by suspected insurgents on a pickup truck… Songkhla was jolted in the middle of last month when six bombs rocked the commercial center of Hat Yai, killing five people including two foreign tourists, wounding about 60 others.

HEADLINE:        YEAR-OLD BOY SUVIVES STORMY RIDE

A 13-month old boy in Vietnam survived devastating Typhoon Xangsane after flying away in his cradle over a two-story building. Le Ngoe Dong was sleeping in a cradle hanging from a roof beam when the typhoon hit Danang city. His Father saw the cradle flying away above a two-story school building nearby. The flying baby boy was found stuck in waterplants in a pond 150 metres from his home. He suffered from very small head injuries. Dong’s family is now staying in the hospital as the house was completely destroyed.

HEADLINE:        THAILAND HAS ITS “HITLERS”

Prem Tinasulanonda said yesterday Thailand has people like Hitler who were greedy and made people fight but the guardian spirit always guarded the country.

HEADLINE:        US, CHINA DIFFER ON COUP

United States: Thailand’s image in the eyes of the world and US-Thai relations will suffer until Thailand returns to its place as a democratic leader in Asia. China: Warm congratulations and best wishes….The people of China and Thailand are like each other’s relatives with friendly feelings.

HEADLINE:        GREATER MEKHONG REGION ARRIVALS INCREASE

Visitor arrival increasess for the last six months, compared with same period the previous year: Cambodia 19%, Laos 15%, Burma 7%, Vietnam 7%, China 6%, and Thailand 47% (rebound from tsunami). The novelty of visiting so-called new destinations will continue to drive eye-catching growth for the Mekhong region…..

HEADLINE:        NEW DELHI SWEPT BY DENGUE FEVER

…the death toll from an outbreak of dengue fever rose to 38, including 15 in New Delhi. More than 2000 dengue cases have been reported across India in the last six weeks.

HEADLINE:        HUN SEN SAYS COUP WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE

Hun Sen will be in Australia next week, and warned against any attempt to topple him during his absence. “Let me remind everyone that it will be impossible…Do not be mistaken about the current situation in Cambodia. It is different”.

HEADLINE:        PHUKET’S  PREMIER HOTELS AWARDED

AWD presented leading hotels in Phuket with Appreciation Awards to recognise their success on www.phuket.com. The winner was the Holiday Inn Resort which had more than 5300 nights booked directly through Phuket.com at an average room rate of more than $100.

HEADLINE:        BANGKOK THIRD FAVORITE CITY

Bangkok was scheduled to receive “Asia’s Best City” award from Travel and Leisure magazine for the fifth consecutive year. People, culture, arts, and value for money were the criteria. Florence and Rome won first and second place in worldwide ranking, with Bangkok as third, and Chiang Mai as fifth.

HEADLINE:        HYGIENE NOW CRITICAL ISSUE WITH 140,000 FALLING SICK

The Public Halth Minister warned flood victims to avoid wading through ground-water, as many have become ill with water-borne bacteria and parasites. One Sing Buri man was hospitalized after wading through chest-high floodwaters. A parasitic leech needed to be removed from his anus. “He’s now safe, but we would like to warn children not to play in floodwater”.

HEADLINE:        BEIJING: FATTER PASSENGERS PRESSURE AIRLINES

Chinese airlines are under pressure to install wider seats as Chinese waistlines are spreading. More Chinese are complaining of cramped conditions on planes, which have triggered violence in the past, Xinhua new agency said. To address the problem, China Eastern Airlines plans to increase the number of seats on its new Airbus 321 planes by about 20.

HEADLINE:        POLICE LOOK FOR PECKER IN THIEF’S PANTS

Police in Australia are hunting for a thief caught on a pet shops’ security camera stuffing a lorikeet down his underpants. Pet shop proprietor Justin Westaway said that what was worse than the theft of the $300 bird was the manner of its abduction. “The way that man shoved that lorikeet inside his pants is animal cruelty”.

The hotel WIFI system has been down for a while; wen’t across the street to check e-mail. Kasun in Sri Lanka confirmed I must overnight there to buy ticket. I prepaid the $60 14-day-advance non-refundable rate at Colombo Holiday Inn for Oct. 23rd.

 

TUE OCT 10

HEADLINE:        AYUTTHAYA TO BE ‘SACRIFICED TO SAVE BANGKOK’

HEADLINE:        DALAI LAMA DEFENDS MUSLIM COMPASSION

The Dalai lama warned against portraying Islam as a religion of violence. “All religions have extremists, it is wrong to generalize about Muslims.  Talk of a ‘clash of civilisations’ between the West and Muslim world is wrong and dangerous.

 

Overcast calm morning. Breakfast outside by pool at Busakorn wing. Added links to Video Clips to this report. Started raining outside, so I began Picasa-editing photo collections. They have apparently fixed some of the problems that caused me to lose work in the earlier version. However, they are unforgiven.

On Cinemax watched “White Hunter, Black Heart” (1990) starring (and directd by) Clint Eastwood as a film director shooting in Uganda. They were delayed by the rainy season, just like my beach walk is today.

Flipping around the tube Bloomberg ran a segment on Walmart de Mexico. I researched a bit and placed an order at the opening bell. Cancelled order when I learn that online quotes do not work for this ADR.

Had some noodles, then walked along beach road and went into Banana Disco, $5 includes 2 drinks. Pretty crowded, but had an amazing 30-ft tall-wide Bayon-Head overlooking the dance floor. Music was standard “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Gasolina” style. Some Ram Wong (Thai country) was tossed in, along with a frenetic Gamelan-rap sound that was totally new to me. Big rain when I left, so tuk-tak back to Holiday Inn.

 

WED OCT 11

HEADLINE:        PALM OIL PRODUCER TURNS TO BIODIESEL

Thailand’s largest palm oil manufacturer will penetrate the alternative-energy market with palm-oil based biodiesel. Chumporn Palm Oil planned to raise its production from 350 to 650 tonnes this year. “We have 500,000 plants ready for production. Our customers have expressed interest in ordering palm-oil based biodiesel as a substitute fuel”.

HEADLINE:        RAINS FLOOD BANGKOK, PARALYSE TRAFFIC

The rain started about 3 pm and by 5 pm many roads were under 80 cm of flood-water.

Overcast day. Stock up at Big One Supermarket and ATM. Reading “Great Game” by the pool. Picasa-editing. “Catwoman” on HBO with Halle Berry. Catwoman drops everything when it starts to rain, hides in a doorway, hisses…”I HATE the rain !”

 

THU OCT 12

HEADLINE:        TV AS SHACKLED AS IN THAKSIN DAYS

Contrary to popular belief, television news is no freer now under the junta than under Thaksin. “In the past, we employed self-censorship. Now we can’t investigate the junta. We’ve been cordoned off by the military”. Soldiers are still occupying Channel 11 three weeks after the coup.

Overcast again. Reading “Great Game” by the pool, the skies darkened into a downpour, guests fleeing the pool. I escaped the cold rain in the Elephant Pool, but only for a while. Finalized CMB-PDX “D” ticket 1K-qualifying mileage-run with Kasun in Colombo. Ticketing OK for day of departure. Skyped Nigel Peters at Sai-Taan to arrange visit next week (9 eurocents/min to cell phone).

Watched “Bewitched” on HBO. Will Farrell says “We think Samantha lived happily ever after …..although we’ll never know because the show was cancelled”. I don’t remember the character “Uncle Arthur”, must watch a re-run of the original.

 

FRI OCT 13

HEADLINE:        CAMBODIA SLAMS AIRLINE ‘MONOPOLY’  

Cambodian tour operators have stepped up their fight against Bangkok Airways monopoly on flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap. Under an agreement signed by Hun Sen in 1997, Bangkok Airways controls this route until 2009. The price of a ticket from Bangkok to Siem Reap averages $280, while Bangkok to Phnom Penh is $156. Bangkok Airways declined to comment.

E-mail farming for expanding 2005 Ruta Humboldt and Moroc trip reports. Reading magazines at Elephant Pool for an hour until driven away by drizzle. Walked through “O-Top Shopping Paradise”; found cluster of small open-air restaurants at back. Spicy chicken curry rice 80 cents. Beef noodle soup $1. Bread and cheese at Big One Supermarket. Black bank of clouds moving in at dusk; heavy rain until 11 PM.

 

SAT OCT 14

HEADLINE:        TOUR BOATS ANGER RESIDENTS

Flood victims along the Bangkok Noi canal called on authorities to stop tour boats from cruising through their community. “The boats end waves that are threatening to damagre our house”. Some tourist guides and tourists laughed when they saw houses being shaken by the floodwaters as they cruised by. On Wednesday night a seven-year-old girl drownd in th Chao Phya rive when a pasing cargo boat causd a big wave that wept her away.

Sunny Day, reading Great Game by Elephant Pool: British Force of 16,000 massacred as they try to leave Kabul over Khyber Pass. Only one man makes it to Jalalabad to tell the story. Skype from Mom, she reserves LAX hotel for me.

 

SUN OCT 15

          Skype with Mom and Dad discussing new Picasa web page feature. Sunny afternoon at the Elephant Pool reading magazines. Spicy chicken-garlic-chili at small O-top restaurant run by arabic owner. Walked along beach at sunset:

VIDEO CLIP: PATONG JETSKIS                 

VIDEO CLIP: PULL FIVE JETSKIS with TRUCK

 

MON OCT 16

HEADLINE:        CONNEXION BY BOEING SERVICE TO CEASE 31 DECEMBER

Connexion by Boeing (CBB) has announced that it will withdraw its onboard wireless internet service on 31 December 2006.Singaporre Airlines announced the service will be made available at no cost, to all customers, from 3 October until its closure.

HEADLINE:        FOUR MORE KILLED IN SHOOTINGS IN SOUTH

Violence contnued in the deep South over the weekend as four people were killed. A police informant was shot by a man in the crowd as he shopped at a local market. A Peace-Building Command employee was shot dead while riding his motorcycle on an errand. A rubber tapper was shot dead as he worked, his face hacked beyond recognition. Late on Friday two men dressed in black walked into a noodle shop and shot dead a 43 year old man. In Pattani, a defence volunteer was shot in the eye while riding his motorcycle home from a Mmosque. The attacks followed the beheading of a Burmese worker, whose head was used to lure an investigating team before detonating a bomb. No one was injured.

HEADLINE:        SIX FLUNK ‘KORAN TEST’

Indonesia’s Aceh province disqualified six candidates running for top office after they failed a reading test of the Koran. The elections are part of a historic agreement between the government and the Free Aceh movement, which ended 30 years of conflict.

HEADLINE:        BAD ACTING LANDS SMUGGLER IN SOUP

(Cairo) An Egyptian woman pretending to suffer from labour pains gave such a poor performance at customs that a quick hand search revealed her “bundle of joy” to be 48 mobile phones, valued at $17,000. A customs officer checked her passport, and was surprised by the number of stamps it held, showing too much travel for a woman “in her condition”. The “mother” was arrested.

HEADLINE:        PILOT REUNITED WITH HIJACKER AFTER 25 YEARS

A former pilot met this weekend in Bombay with the man who hijacked his aircraft in Seychelles 25 years ago. Captain Umesh Saxena was piloting Air India 701 from Zimbabwe to Bombay when South African Peter Duffy and 43 others entered his aircraft on the ground at Mahe, Seychelles Nov. 25, 1981. Duffy was part of a group of South African mercenaries in Seychelles to overthrow the government. The men entered the aircraft and took all onboard hostage. “Duffy ordered me to fly to Durban”, Saxena said. When it landed the men were taken away by the police. “Duffy, however, turned to me and said ‘We must meet someday’. But it was only two weeks ago that I realized Duffy was serious about meeting me”. Television footage showed Duffy and Saxena seated on a sofa, smiling and shaking hands.

Slept in late, noodles and coffee in room while editing trip reports. Cloudless day, afternoon at Elephant Pool finishing photography magazines. Walked beach end-to-end at sunset, 70 minutes nonstop. Group of boys using a throw net, but after three poorly-aimed tosses the catch amounted to one three-inch fish. About 15 minutes after sunset the entire sky turned a bright irridescent purple. Haven’t seen that sunset color since the Orinoco. Drum circle starting up on beach as I return to Holiday Inn. CNN: Sri Lanka not looking good; another truck bombing. The violence remains far away from Colombo though …so far.

 

TUE OCT 17

Watched “JFK” on HBO:  “..the National Archives says the President’s brain has disappeared.”

Another sunny day, back to Elephant Pool reading The Great Game:    

1848: “With the horrors of the Afghan adventure still fresh in everyone’s minds, there was an acute reluctance to meddle again in the affairs of the Muslim states of Asia, even by invitation. This cautious new approach was to become known as the doctrine of ‘Masterly Inactivity’, in sharp and obvious contrast to the aggresive ‘forward’ policy which, with such disastrous results in Afghanistan, had preceded it.”

Edited Baku-Zurich-Cairo trip report. Downtown for some beers at Space Bar, walking home in rain.

 

WED OCT 18

Skype with Mom and Dad, then a 2-hour walk eastward to the hills behind Patong, then south along Nanai road, and back to Patong beach from the South. Stopped at Mae Ubol market: lots of interesting spices, fruits, meats, and a bin with live turtles poking their heads around. I guess there is a big demand for pet turtles?

Walking past the “Internet and chill-out cafe”, pause at a fruit stand to buy a banana bunch and pineapple. Reaching to stuff the pineapple in my bag, leaves and all, the lady says no-no, asking me to sit while she prepares it. With surgical precision, first removing the outer skin in flat cuts, she makes spiraling cuts removing the “eyes” remaining from the first cut.

Finally back to Holiday Inn, pick up laundry from travel agent across the street: 3 pieces 80 cents plus 25 cent tip for sewing a button back in place. Cool down in room with a beer, then to supermarket to re-stock frig with Chiang beer, yoghurt, and fruit juice.

Damn! CNN reporting the first Tamil Tiger attack in a tourist area in many years, at the port of Galle, listed in LP guide as a highlight.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Tamil Tiger rebels attacked a naval base in the southern port city of Galle. Two sailors were killed in heavy fighting, with 12 others wounded.

Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe appealed for citizens to remain calm in a television address. However, riots broke out in Galle following the fighting. Shops belonging to the minority Tamil community were targeted by the majority Sinhalese. "We have instructed the police to bring it under control," one officer said, adding that a curfew had been imposed. Navy officials said five boats loaded with rebel suicide teams attacked shortly after dawn. At least two of the Tamil boats detonated, damaging a naval patrol craft, as well as coastal patrol boats.

Sri Lankan Air force helicopter gunships searched the seas off Galle to locate rebel vessels. Residents and workers reported seeing buildings in the port on fire. As the government declared an immediate curfew in the area, police urged civilians to evacuate Galle and areas around the naval base as reinforcements prepared to move in. The naval base in Galle also houses a large military hardware storage facility belonging to China's weapons manufacturer Norinco.

Galle is located 72 miles south of Colombo and is a popular tourist destination. The attack could be a major blow to Sri Lanka's tourism industry, with peak season about to begin in Galle and its nearby beaches. Wednesday's fighting was the first time in the nearly two-decade long separatist war that Galle has come under heavy attack.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people were killed before the 2002 cease-fire.

This should not affect my Sri Lanka plans, which have already been reduced to overnight at Colombo Holiday Inn. However, if I had stayed with original plan for a week in Sri Lanka, I would be cancelling at this point.

 

THU OCT 19

Noodles and coffee in room. Taxi to Laguna $11, 45 minutes, nice drive passing Kamala and Surin. Found Sai-Taan entrance, then driver dropped me at Laguna Sheraton about 11:30. Walked through the resort, along the beach, and back through Dusit village along road, arriving Sai-Taan at 12:30.

 http://www.sai-taan-phuket.com/index.html

Met Nigel Peters and Filipina wife Annie. Chatted for a while, walked through one Sai-Tan Villa at the back. Seafood pasta lunch at local spot, then caught truck back to Phuket town, which is now filled with yellow flags for the vegetarian festival starting this weekend. Connected to another truck, climbing west over the hills to Patong, $1 for both rides.

 

FRI OCT 20

Flyertalker MCI777 (Rob) arrived early afternoon. Beers at Busakorn pool swim-up bar discusing itineraries. He also flew Business Class to Thailand, but the hard way: 150K miles via Europe, then intra-Asia 30K award.  10 PM visited Space Bar, then Soi Tiger and Tiger disco.

 

SAT OCT 21

 1 PM joined Rob for lunch at O-top shopping paradise: Basil Squid and Thom Yam soup. Another FT deal, full Y-fare MSP-LGW $550-600 kept me busy through afternoon, booking tickets for myself and Mom-Dad for London Swissotel next July. 9 PM: BOGO coupon for drinks at HI front bar. Walked downtown, had more squid, noodles, and soup. Soi Eric, Banana disco, and home to sleep.

 

SUN OCT 22

Wake up late, coffee and noodles, to pool, read last 6 days of stacked up newspapers. Pack up bags, buy a few food-souvenirs at supermarket, cancel one and buy two MSP-LGW tickets; to bed 8pm for early departure to SIN.

 

MON OCT 23

         

HKT-SIN        TR# 153        08:05-10:50       C# Z3DEBH         Tiger Airways $111

SIN-CMB        SQ# 468        22:45-23:50

Woke up early at 4 AM and reworked many of my MSP-LON tix to stick Aus in the middle. This way I sleep in my own bed in the middle of each leg of the run.

5:30: no taxi, so "took tuk-tuk" to Phuket airport THB 600, nice open-air ride in the fresh dawn. Departure tax THB 500. Good flight on Tiger airways, had a whole row to stretch out, having carefully positioned myself in the middle seat to scare off interlopers during the open-seat boarding process. But 2 instant coffees did cost $3.

Singapore hazy, the LCC terminal lets you know you landed on the cheap: no skybridges and long corriders without AC before immigration. Good bus back to main Changi terminal, repack my bags to lighten my backpack, checked bags containing camera and laptop which is not my standard procedure. Got boarding pass, and inside security registered for the free 2-hour city tour. Silver Kris lounge, Spinach Canelloni for lunch until 2:30 call for the 3-5 PM tour. You deposit your passport with the guide and don't get stamped into the country, pretty clever. Nice AC bus and free 20-minute boat ride ($8 normally) trip on the Singapore river, surrounded by towering banks and hotels. Historical British-era buildings painted up, the old old post office is now a fancy hotel. The river boats have eyes just like I saw in Mekhong Delta earlier this year.

Back to the airport and SQ Kris lounge, check e-mail and flyertalk. The MSP-LON deal finally finished, the one-way full Y-fare returning to its normal $2193 after being on sale for $219 for almost three days. Watched BBC, checked seatguru and improved my seat to Colombo. Showered, then enjoyed the red wine (2004 Wente Syrah from Livermore) and Soy Chicken with a banana-leaf full of yummy sticky-rice for dinner.

Once onboard, flyertalker ACFLYERDE (Chris) came up to me having noticed the bright flyertalk tag on my carry-on. He took the seat next to me, and we discussed the CMB deal for much of the 3.5 hour flight to Colombo. He is on a paid RTW ticket from his company, heading to Houston for insurance business. He put a CMB-YVR-CMB ticket in along the way for points, and on arrival at Colombo boarded the same plane back to SIN. This is what I will do in a week, so it was comforting to see him quickly get boarding pass at transit desk inside security.

 

TUE OCT 24

Arrived Colombo on time around midnite, (2.5 hour time diff to SIN...Whats with this half-hour difference? It's like India is all...)  Anyway, easy immigration and customs check, no visa, just stamped in.

Holiday Inn Colombo  $60 prepaid
30 Sir Mohamed Macan Markar Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Found the Holiday Inn desk and took a taxi for $20, which is double what was needed through the normal taxi rank. Saw interesting flashing-neon-enhanced Buddha temples along the way, like what I remember from Burma 30 years ago. Stopped 4 times enroute to hotel at Military checkpoints, big sandbagged emplacements and steel barricades in roads.

Holiday Inn was OK, but better to stay at Hilton next time. Slept OK till noon, checked out, left bags at hotel and walked along seafront to downtown, military emplacements everywhere. Walked past Parliament building which was bombed a few weeks ago.

Pick up ticket from:

Kasun Amarasinghe, Sales Executive         (kasun@goholidays.lk)
Go Holidays (Pvt) Ltd.
Level 1,West Block/2, World Trade Centre, Echelon Square
Colombo 1, Sri Lanka Tel: 546-4646 FAX: 234-6096

US$= 105.3 Sri Lanka Rupee

Route: Colombo/Singapore/Narita/Los Angeles/Narita/Singapore/Colombo

Economy: LKR 113,300        ($1078 Inclusive of taxes)

Valid 4 months; only on Sri Lanka, Emirates, Cathay Pacific & United only.

                   Business: LKR 203,100         ($1935 Inclusive of taxes)

Valid 1 year; stopover in Los Angeles only

Then to World Trade Center, had a Barista Grand Cappuchino $2, checked e-mail at Hilton, found Kasun's ofice in lower podium area to right. Bought the CMB-PDX-CMB ticket easily, took maybe an hour with a trip up to UA GSA on 6th floor east tower to run the credit card and paper ticket. SIN-NRT upgrade to First ready, Upgrade transpacific still waiting. He gave me a nice printout of itinerary with notes highlighted about the hotel in Singapore.

Kasun pointd out one can buy a F ticket all the way to LAX for $750 more, which also generates more miles, probably better than using miles to upgrade, as he has seen plenty of flyers do this. Kasun said it was NOT a good idea to walk around Colombo today, with all the security alerts, anything could happern anytime. He lives in Galle.

Back through connecting bridge to Hilton business center to update blog. Checked ual.com and the status has gone from "not ticketed" to "voided". Though sounding alarming, it also showed this same wording on my original free ticket AUS-SIN-AUS after issueing paper ticket for multi-carrier itinerary.

Rain starting, took tricycle to Galle Face hotel, looked around but security was a problem. Walked back to Holiday Inn in rain, reclaimed bags and ordered up a taxi, $16, heavy rain and traffic on way to airport.

 

 

WED OCT 25

CMB-SIN        SQ# 469        01:15-07:45

Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel

50 East Coast Road, Roxy Sq (via Marine Parade Rd), 428769 SINGAPORE          

Tel: (+65)-6344-8000     Fax: (+65)-6344-8010            

12:15 AM here in lounge in Colombo after hanging out for 3 hours for check in. Bought Sri Lanka Cashews, then Araliyeh lounge, good computer and food, boarded at 1 AM.

Flyertalker TRACON identified me onboard via bright yellow FT tag on my backpack. He is an air traffic controller, lives in Vancouver, and on a CMB-YVR-CMB run. When we get to Singapore, he asks about hotel, and I explain the SPTC service that Colombo agent had arranged for me. This is a free hotel on stopovers for holders of full fare premium tickets. Unfortunately it has to be arranged in advance, so he could not get the free room.

TRACON is routed via HKG, so says "see you in Narita", as I catch the hotel bus to Mercure Roxy Hotel. Check in 8 AM, get lunch and dinner vouchers, sleep til 2 PM, nice lunch buffet, wasabi dip salmon and prawns. Walked around the block, through local shopping center attached to hotel. Dark clouds turn to heavy rain; Sleep until 8 PM, dinner buffet, Laksa noodles and more wasabi and seafood, watch opening bell on CNBC, and sleep again !

 

THU OCT 26

SIN-NRT        UA# 838        07:20-15:25

NRT-LAX        UA# 890        16:55-10:52

4 AM wake-up call. Leave my 2 bags with bellman, prepaid taxi to Changi T1. First class upgrades have cleared for both NRT and LAX segments; 30K miles deducted from account. UA premium customers get a pass for SATS Premier lounge, which is rather uninspiring with no computers or showers.  

Nice flat bed seat in First Class, and once again I sleep pretty well. Shower at Narita RCC upstairs, cant send email as computer is locked up in Katakana. TRACON finds me as we exit the lounge, we can't chat on this flight as he is upperdeck and passengers are not allowed up there unless seated there. The cockpit is up there.

Arrive LAX, find TRACON in the jetway, we get seperated at Customs where they triage me to secondary. Two CBP amigo agents provide a thorough bagoscopy and waterboarding.  Amigo Senior:   Hmmmm... a LOT of stamps in your passport, I see.............(What was the question?)  .....only that one small backpack?   ....You were gone 5 weeks?...What does a Geophysicist do?....after 20 minutes they finish, agent Amigo Agent Junior types 2-3 paragraphs of notes into his NSA computer about our interview... surely just recording how cooperative I was, how pleasant it was to meet me, how creative my itinerary was, etc..

LAX-PDX        UA# 6488      12:44-15:05

DOLLAR Car Rental              Kia or Similar 

2 Days @ $17.49/day +tax= $43.98 total

Flight to PDX on schedule, pick up dollar rental car, some chevy called a HHR, never heard of that before. Drive to Salem, traffic not too bad, visit with Mom and Dad til sleep at 9 PM.

 

 

FRI OCT 27

          Salemtowne: 10 AM to Costco in rental car, buy rolling duffle ($36) and upgrade to Executive membership. At home use spray cement to stick jigsaw puzzle on poster board. Try to upgrade Mom and Dad's MSP-LGW tickets, seems to work, then CO calls back and says they will not upgrade these "mistake" fares, redepositing my miles.  5 PM drive to Oregon City, Karen's gives me a tour of new house. Pizza and salad at Izzie's, then to sleep by 9 PM.

 

 

SAT OCT 28

4 AM drive to PDX, gas up rental car and return, sunrise flight to LAX,

PDX-LAX        UA # 323       06:13-08:30

Another useless UA Red Carpet lounge: no computer, no showers. Telephone to Salem, Mom helps check seat choices via Seatguru, as I could not get into the 747 upper deck. Seat 26B was fine.

LAX-NRT        UA # 891       12:38-16:00+1

Slept quite a bit in the non-flat seat, to my surprise. Made some progress on Bangkok 8 novel, learning about Thai Buddhist hungry ghosts:

I awake to a familiar ghost gnawing at my feet. It is male, about nine feet tall, with the round shape of a tic, tiny feet and legs. His mouth is the size of the eye of a needle, just as the tales stipulate. I have seen his kind too often to be truly frightened....but we are all alone in a primevil space, this hungry ghost and I. He is the spirit of one who was greedy and selfish in his lifetime and must spend a thousand years with that tiny mouth which can never take in enough food for that huge body.

The hungry ghosts are the most common of our indigenous ghouls, of which there are many varieties. We all believe in them, by the way, even those who would deny it to foreigners. To many people, especially in the country, the undead are a serious pest. One of their more disgusting tricks is to appear late at night on quiet lanes holding their heads under their arms, although the more common posture is a dead-eyed flabby-lipped stare from the foot of the bed. They bring bad luck and the only repellent is a visit to the temple and some expensive exorcism by the monks.

 

 

SUN OCT 29

NRT-SIN        UA # 887       17:30-23:59

Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel, 50 East Coast Road, Roxy Sq (via Marine Parade Rd)           

428769 SINGAPORE      Tel: (+65)-6344-8000     Fax: (+65)-6344-8010                   

Arrive NRT, to lounge, shower, but computers full. They are asking for people to downgrade from Business to Economy on flight to Singapore. I remained flexibly indecisive, by the time I got to the gate they were offering $600 voucher, and I still could have sat in E+ for the 6 hours, but I held out for an economy seat with nobody in adjacent seat. This wasn't working, so I lost the chance to get paid $100/hour to be in a narrow seat. I didn't play that one well, will have to forgive myself somehow. It is hard to get it right everytime, but there was no excuse for this failure to grab free money for little pain. Huge immigration lines on arrival at SIN, at least 30 min queue.

 

MON OCT 30

SIN-CMB        SQ# 468        22:45-23:55

Found Mercure hotel bus eventually, check-in 1 AM, sleep to 9 AM, breakfast, more sleep to 1 PM, lunch buffet salmon wasabi ....yuuumm. Had to checkout by 2 PM, repacked boring old duffle into shiny new rolling duffle, hotel bus to Changi, put 2 checked bags into left luggage office ($6), to Silver Kris lounge and update blog.

 

TUE OCT 31

CMB-SIN        SQ# 469        01:10-07:35

SIN Airport Ambassador Transit Hotel, 8 AM-2 PM      US$ 38

          SIN-LAX        SQ# 38         16:00-15:30 arrival LAX

watched Johnny Depp as pirate and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther. Great food and service, Lobster Thermidor, Sushi, Dim Sum.

Finished Bangkok 8, some notable quotes:

Nong watches while the nurse changes my dressing, then bursts into tears. "The person who did this to you will not make a good death." I'll have to explain that won't I. ...you have to consider the inevitable karmic bill: you think this lifetime has been tough? See that legless guy on his trolley begging on the sidewalk? Last time around he wasn't nearly as bad as you've been, why, he was a saint compared to you.

With us, the lifting of the egoic veil at the moment of death reveals the working of karma in all its pitiless majesty: see that clubfoot in your next life, thats from when you fouled your best friend on the football pitch; see those buckteeth the size of gravestones, that's your cynical sense of humor; see that early death from leukemia, that's your greed.

To make a good death is to proceed gracefully into a better body, and a better life. The consequences of a bad death are hard to look at. You will not make a good death is a power curse; it makes Fuck You sound like a benediction.

----------------------

They say an old dog can't learn new tricks, but I take a more buddhist view: by learning new tricks you stop yourself from turning in to an old dog!

------------------------

Gautama Buddha was the greatest salesman in history. He was selling nothing. That's what nirvana means: nothing. He prescribed a rigorousd course of meditation and perfect living, with nothing as its final reward. D'ya think anyone on Madison Avenue could sell that? But the whole of the Indian subcontinent bought it at the time. Today there are more than 300 million Buddhists in the world and growing.

 

 

5 PM, Comfort Inn & Suites LAX Airport, Century Blvd, using 8000 points from Mom                 

 

WED NOV 01

LAX-DEN        UA# 336        12:35-15:53

Wake up 6 AM, hotel breakfast. Skype with RobBob and Mom, shuttle To LAX, return to useless RCC lounge, my 12:30 flight is mechanically cancelled, confirm on earlier flight at 11:15, a very nice overwater 777 to DEN. Beautiful flight over southern Utah, could look straight down into Hall’s divide and see where, maybe 25 years ago, friends and I hiked up onto the waterpocket fold to look down into Steven’s Canyon.

DEN-AUS       UA# 738        18:46-21:45

Supershuttle to Home

 

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MILEAGE YIELDS:                       O/W DIST          1P 100% BONUS RDM     D-RDM(150%/125%)      EQM (150%/125%)

CMB-SIN                                   1710                 0                                  2135                             2135

SIN-NRT                                    3330                 3330                             4995                             4995

NRT-LAX                                    5440                 5440                             8160                             8160

LAX-PDX                                   834                   834                               1250                             1250

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                9604                                         16540                           16540  

RT                                            19208                                       33080                           33080

(54K RDMs=$1080)+ (3P gift=$300) +(6 SWU=$3000)+(CR-1s/500s=$200)= $4500 (?) Valuation

Current EQM= 59166+33080K= 92246 +1536 (Den)= 93782 +1960 (VISA)= 95742 +5000 (NEW VISA)= 100742= 1K

****************  DING DING DING !!!  *********************

???        972+500 (ORD-BUF)

???        +Double Promo= 19208 EQM

Sean: Good news. Fare, Upgrade, hotel... all coming together. Here's the HNL thread from past:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=495034 ,

and the original thread about CMB that many DO NOT LIKE to have bumped up:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/show...86&page=1&pp=20

I also see CMB-YVR Y fare at $1287++ and M fare at $767++ (guessing the 1100 econ fare is that 767++) $1472++ for UA C (YVR fares can route through LAX/SFO and even stop in PDX, but YVR fare can be issued outside of Sri Lanka (ie internet), vs the USA fares which must be issued in Sri Lanka. As per United.com you'll get 150% EQMs even without the promo (250 with) on a D fare, The Y fare is upgradable for 30K r/t and acrues the exact same miles too 150%+100 for promo. http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,1177,00.html SQ segments earn 100% in Y and 125% in Biz.  Have fun