Adventures in Lovin’

It’s February 14th, 2014 and we all know what that means: It’s Makha Bucha Day!!

You know, Makha Bucha Day…the day when Buddha gave an important sermon to 1,250 monks? That’s why there’s a big, red 14 on my Thai calendar and my favourite restaurant is closed. That’s the big holiday today, right?


I think something else is happening today too. Give me a minute, it’ll come to me…

…I’m sitting here in my pajamas, munching a piece of chocolate and typing away at 11:30 on a Friday morning, so it must be something special. Oh, wait. I’m a freelance writer – that’s kind of what every morning looks like.

I know, I know, it’s Valentine’s Day – and for the record, I’d like to offer big thanks to the friend who pointed out it might be unwise to title this post Adventures in VD. Oops!

I don’t know if you’ve been anywhere near the internet today or not (I mean, someone could have printed this post, stuck it in an envelope and mailed it to you…that’s still a thing, right?) but it’s mayhem out there on the Yahoo. Mayhem!

The Best Romance Films on Netflix! The Worst Romance Films on Netflix! The Top 5 Ways to Avoid Being Single on Valentine’s Day! The Top 5 Ways to Love Valentine’s Day If You’re Single! The Top 5 Reason’s To Hate Valentine’s Day If You’re Single! Watch This Video of Cute Cats and Forget You’re Single!

Well, that last one is clearly a winner, any day of the year.

I’ve never wanted to join that fracas. There are just too many exclamation points for my taste. Besides, my feelings about Valentine’s Day oscillate wildly from year to year, so I’m reluctant to commit to anything in writing. Jealous loathing, arrogant disdain, studied indifference – those aren’t feelings I wanted to hold on to long enough to write about, much less be reminded of years later.

Also, it’s because neither David Tennant nor Benedict Cumberbatch have ever sent me bunches of flowers or boxes of caramels covered in dark chocolate and sea salt (hint, hint)…that would kind of be worth writing about.

But this year, despite the lack of random gifts from famous people I’ve never met,  I’m ready to say it loud and clear:


Now why would a chronically single woman who is only a few years (and a few cats) away from being the Quintessential Spinster Cat Lady suddenly decide she likes Valentine’s Day?

Because it’s a day. And I like days. In fact, I’ll take as many days as I can get.

I’m not even talking about those fancy vacation days where I can watch the sunset on the beach or stay in a posh hotel with fragrant little soaps, hot water, and an actual bathtub. I’m talking about regular days.

  • Days when I can sit in my pajamas ’til noon, sipping a coffee and reading (or writing) a good book.
  • Days when I actually put on pants and go outside.
  • Days when I learn new things.
  • Days when lunch comes with an ominous warning.


  • Days when I talk to my elderly Thai neighbour and can understand at least 1/10th of what he says.
  • Days when the grocery store tapes snacks together with this pretty orange tape:


  • Days when friends gather to share some laughs and make these super-fancy gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Judging by the title of the article, the recipes were clearly custom-made for Cheese-Loving Spinster Cat Ladies like myself.

I’m happy to say that after years of Single-Lady angst, I can now quite unabashedly celebrate February 14th along with all the other 14th’s of the year.

So to you, wherever you are, whomever you love, and however you like your grilled cheese sandwiches, I wish you a…

…Happy Makha Bucha Day.

…Happy Valentine’s Day.

…Happy Birthday**

…Happy Friday.

…Happy Day.

**Some conditions may apply. See Birth Certificate for details.

Adventures in Loi Khratang

The heavens proclaim the glory of God, 
The skies display his craftsmanship.
– Psalm 19:1 – 

Tonight’s Loi Khratang festival was an incredibly magnificent ending to an otherwise rough week.   A few of us rode about 10km northeast of the city, and followed the traffic to an open field.  In good Thai tradition, we picked up some snacks on the way in and settled in to munch on some chicken satay and sticky coconut rice steamed in bamboo.

The field was dotted with rows of citronella candles on pikes, and some large decorative lanterns.

 Since Loi Khratong is a Buddhist festival, there were a lot of saffron-robed monks leading some chants before the lanterns were lit.  When it was time, people lit the burners (slices of toilet paper rolls dipped in flammable stuff) in the big paper lanterns with the citronella candles, and held onto them as the hot air produced by the flames filled the lanterns. 

When the signal was given, everyone released their lanterns at the same time.

The sky was soon filled with thousands of lanterns.  It was incredible.

As throngs of participants “oooooohed” and “aaaaaahed”, a few matters of practical concern quickly became apparent.  Some of the lanterns released in our area drifted up into the overhanging branches of a tree.  Soon, chunks of flaming lantern started to fall on the crowds below.  When moving out of the path of descending flames, we also had to be careful not to back up into one of the blazing citronella spikes.  Amazingly, no one was injured, and a very good time was had by all. 

As some of the lanterns burned out, and their empty white husks drifted back to earth, I was reminded that as beautifully breathtaking as the event was, things made by human hands are so fleeting and temporary.  The lanterns placed when the skies were formed – like the hands that formed them – will last a great deal longer.

Adventures in Cambodia
Part II: Shihanoukville

[I forgot to mention that after our 3 days of cycling in Siem Reap, we spent an extra day there relaxing, and visited a silk farm which was very interesting and informative. It’s part of an initiative to preserve Khmer artistic traditions, provide skills training and fair working conditions in rural areas. I have some photos of the whole process, so if you’re interested in ’em, let me know.]

Early Saturday morning, we boarded a bus for a loooong day, but between dozing and being mesmerized by the scenery passing outside the window, it wasn’t so bad. We finally arrived in Shihanoukville around 6:30pm and headed to our arranged accommodation, which we thought was 2 bungalows. Instead, we wound up with 1 hotel room. The next day, we did a little searching and found a lovely place right on the beach that had a 4-bed room, so we could all stay together. That afternoon, we went for a walk to explore our environs, and came across Scuba Nation. The next thing I know, I’m in a swimming pool wearing a tank on my back and flippers on my feet…and enjoying myself! I signed up with Jen and Annelie to go on a full-day scuba adventure on Tuesday.

Before going scuba diving though, we had also arranged to go snorkeling for $10 through our hotel. The BBQ fish-on-the-beach lunch that was provided made the trip worthwhile. The rest was, ah, let’s just say it was memorable. We started the day wading out into the surf to climb aboard the swaying boat. We puttered our way out to sea, and the captain pulled up near an island and just stopped the boat. We selected our masks and snorkels from a bag of badly battered gear, and, along with the rest of the passengers, just jumped off the boat and started looking under the water trying to see some aquatic life. In about 2 minutes time, I realized that the current seemed awfully strong. I had my face underwater, and was swimming forward…but according to the rock below me, I was actually moving backwards. I looked up and realized that the boat was now very far away. I gave up looking for sea life, and started swimming back towards the boat. Annelie, Jen and Tracy were nearby, and we all noticed our dilemma around the same time. We all started swimming for all we were worth. Annelie and I, both hampered by our life jackets, were getting nowhere. Tracy (a very strong swimmer, by the way), was hampered by her broken mask and snorkel and wasn’t faring much better. Jen, swimming flat out for maybe 20+ minutes finally made it back to the boat, and got him to come and pick us up. In the meantime, the three of us huddled together, had given up trying to swim, and were bobbing along towards Vietnam. The boat finally came to fetch us, and we spent the next 2 hours lying in a hammock on a beach while lunch was prepared and eaten. (That, I think, was the best part of the day.)

What a difference a day makes. The next day we left our snorkel experience behind us and headed out to sea again. This time, we were on much larger boat, and went much farther afield. (asea?) We went on two dives (with lunch in between) and I absolutely loved every minute of it. (Except when I thought that maybe we had lost Annelie, but we didn’t. Not really.) According to more experienced divers, visibility wasn’t that great, since it was a windy day, and the bottom was getting churned up. However, since I was just so excited to be breathing underwater, I didn’t mind. While I saw some pretty blue fish, and some brown ones, and some coral, I mostly just tried to make sure I could still see my diving instructor. He was awfully patient and handsome, so I wasn’t all that interested in the fish anyway. (Just kidding, the fish were nice too.)
Anyway, you can see from the picture that I had a great time. I couldn’t wipe that grin off my face for the rest of the day. I finally found a watersport that I can do without getting a sunburn or sunstroke, and allows me to hang-out on a boat for hours getting to and from the dive site! It’s ideal.

The next day, we just kicked around on the beach and did a little exploring. We also got to know Ha and Han better. They were two women who worked on the beach during the day offering massages, threading, manicures, pedicures, etc. We had met them a few days earlier, and when business was slow, they would come and talk with us for a while. We chatted with them and saw pictures of their kids and shared some laughs. For the most part, the Cambodians and the tourists move in very different, very separate spheres. It was nice to spend some time interacting with some Cambodian women about my age.

The following day, our bus left Shihanoukville around 2pm. Around 1:30, my stomach started feeling a little queasy. Just a little. Around 1:59 it was definitely getting worse. 10 minutes after the bus pulled away from the station, the chicken sandwich I’d had that morning struck back with a vengeance. I’ll spare you the details of the next 4 hours, but I will let you know that (a) I’m glad we spent the extra $2 for a bus with a bathroom on it, (b) I sincerely apologize to the other 39 passengers on board, and (c) it’s a good thing the hostess on the bus came armed with a full can of air freshener.

That was the condition I was in upon our arrival in Phnom Penh and was led, carried, steered, and ushered to the hotel by my helpful and sympathetic friends.