Mut Mee

What is it about some places that bring people together? It’s almost as if there is an energy that attracts like-minded folks to a particular place.

I cant help but wonder, “Is it the place, is it the people, or is it a beautiful combination of both?”


Nong Khai, Thailand took me by surprise. The reason could be described in two words, Mut Mee, A lovely garden guesthouse right by the Mekong River.

I had expected a quite time alone for a week to work on my blog and podcast. I got everything that I had hoped for except for the bit about being alone.


The people of the internet would have thought me a nutter if I had attempted to do an interview-style podcast with myself.


Sitting in the beautiful gardens across from the river, I found myself quickly swept away in interesting and stimulating conversations with the people around me.

I was also happy to find that my company was diverse and often wiser or smarter than myself in many subjects. I don’t mention this in order to stroke egos or to impress anyone, but as a reminder to myself to mix up my socializing often.

A great way to learn is by surrounding yourself with intelligent people and listening to them.


Mut Mee did something else that was fantastic for me.

It reminded me of the importance of gathering.

Like Meccas for pilgrimages, meeting points are important for human connection and passing of ideas and information.

I am reminded of the old use of the word, “salon.”

Good ol’ Wikipedia defines a salon as,

“A gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”


So what was it about Mut Mee?

It was the people, it was the location, and it was the host and owner, Julian.

He not only created a beautiful environment on a riverbank to have people spend the night, he hosted his guests. He got involved in and struck up interesting conversation and made people feel welcome.

I apologize for turning this post into a guesthouse review, but something was done well here.

I encourage others to run businesses this way.

In a world where salons are now known for stimulating hair follicles instead of minds, and most social gatherings are to celebrate intoxication amongst music too loud to talk over, we could use more Mut Mees in the world.

Sharing political opinions, social concepts, groundbreaking theories and ideas are important for society. How are we to make any kind of positive change in the world without talking about it first?

Check out the website for Mut Mee at

World Bowlers

I’m not a fan of bowling, despite it being a favorite pastime of some of my favorite people in the world. The combination of finger food, shared balls, shit beer, and personal let-downs just doesn’t appeal to me.

But the other night I managed to make an exception. It wasn’t because bowling suddenly became fun for me, it was the insanely odd situation I had found myself in that made this Thursday night exceptional.

A surprisingly little known fact: the most bombed country in the world is Laos. A less startling, yet still bizarre, little known fact; Luang Prabang has a bowling alley that fills with foreigners from night to night. And this bowling alley happens to be where I found myself spending my Thursday night in Laos.

Upon arriving, the judgmental hipster in me instantly wanted to hate the place as I entered it.

“Where are all of the locals?”

For me, this was a disgusting display of western drunken influence on an old and beautiful culture. I instantly wanted to distance myself from it.

Stuck there until my current travel companions decided to leave, I soon found myself as a fly on the wall.

There I was, alone in a room full of foreigners from all over the world getting drunk and making fools of themselves. It was disgusting, it was intriguing, it was… Beautiful?… The anthropologist in me was suddenly intrigued.

You see, back at home when entering a busy place full of people who you don’t know, its a bit odd to sit down at a random table and easily join in in a conversation with strangers.
But we were in travelers land!
No one really knew anyone, except the few traveling with friends from home.

Belgium, Argentina, China, England, Australia, Switzerland, Egypt, France… Everyone was from another country! Everyone was getting along, united by the oddity of a bowling alley in a small town in Laos.

This was a beautifully insane thing.

Photo by Victoria from Pommie Travels

Laos Flood

They say that everything happens for a reason. I once believed this with complete certainty. The logic made sense to me at the time.

“A results in B which results in C, so therefore fate.”

But now I wonder if it is up to us to create a reason or a purpose for things that happen.

Which comes first, fate or the egg? Awareness or the chicken?

I may be less certain if there is a divine force guiding the world and deciding our fate, but I am more certain that it is up to us to choose how we perceive occurrences and how we decide to react towards them.

Maybe it was fate for me to choose to stay in Vientiane Laos a day longer to paint a wall. A spontaneous decision which ultimately caused me to be on the same bus as a girl unknowingly facing death, while on our way to a small town which would soon experience a flood. Or maybe it was the unexpected occurrence of finding myself in the middle of a flood, with a woman who needed care, which caused me to feel that it was fate for me to be there.

Philosophical reasoning aside, the last few days have been quite an adventure.

Nugget had already made her way north when I last met with her in Lauang Probang, Laos. She had told me to visit a fantastic cave in Ban Kong Lor, which I decided was a fantastic idea.

From the capital city, Vientiane, I hopped on a bus to arrive in the small and beautiful valley where the cave was located. There were only a handful of other travelers with me, one of them being a woman who told me she was feeling ill. We all checked into one of the only guesthouses in the area with plans to see the cave in the morning. Our plans became a fantasy when the torrential rains began to pour.

I woke up in the morning to find the roads slightly flooded and the power down. We were told that the caves were too flooded and we would need to wait a day for the rain to stop and the water to recede.

We stayed the day, but the rain never stopped.

It was that evening when myself and another traveler became aware of the sick woman’s severe condition. Still unknown to me, she had multiple severe infections on her leg which were giving her blood poisoning, a life threatening sickness. I had assumed at this point she had Dengue Fever, still life threatening but not as critical.

By the next morning it became clear that we weren’t going to see the caves, the weather was only going to get worse, and we needed to get the girl medical attention.

On day two we negotiated a simple plan with a couple of local guys who owned a tuk tuk and a boat. It would be simple, we would take the tuk tuk as far as we could, hop in the boat, and we would get out of the flooded valley in a few hours. We were all wrong on it being a simple process.

The first half of the plan worked out smoothly. The farther we drove out of Ban Kong Lor, the higher the flood waters got. It seemed a fun novelty at the time. The locals were taking advantage of the extra rivers and were fishing in the roads. Soon the time came where the tuk tuk could no longer drive through the water, so we brought out the boat.

There were ten of us trying to get out of the town that day, and the boat only carried 5. It was decided that the sick woman would go first, and I happened to get included in that group of four other travelers. As we started off, we were in awe of the amount of water that covered the rice fields and road.

Only two days before we had driven a bus into the town where we now required a boat to exit.

After about an hour on the boat we came to a small bit of high ground which formed an island of road and houses. The driver couldn’t find a way to go any further so he dropped us off with instructions to walk as far as we could and wait for the second group to join us. By this time our patient wasn’t doing so well, she was hardly able to step out of the boat let alone walk for very far. It was with her pant legs rolled up to avoid getting them wet where I first saw the sight of her infected legs.

A couple of weeks before I had googled information on staph infections, confusing Staphylococcus with ring worm at the time, and I had seen pictures of mild and severe cases. This woman’s legs were undoubtedly on the severe end of the spectrum, and I knew the severe end of the spectrum meant deadly.

Thanks to my nurse mom, I also knew that Staphylococcus and other wound infections required antibiotic treatment. By the look of her legs, coupled with the presence of a scary high fever, I knew that she needed antibiotics immediately. The damp wet environment we were in would only worsen her condition, which was already life threatening.

But we were stuck on a small bit of island with cows, rain, and chickens, but no medications.

Well, except for the antibiotics in my pack which my nurse mom sent me off with. Fate? I don’t know, but I do know that the antibiotics didn’t hurt the situation, nor did my awareness and decision to be concerned for a fellow person.

After waiting for 2 hours, we found another boat which would carry two people out of the flood and possibly to safety. It was quickly decided that the sick girl should take the opportunity to leave, accompanied by someone to help her. A new friend of mine who had also taken the girl under his wing opted to join her, while myself and two others stayed behind. We waited another two hours before officially deciding that the boat wasn’t coming to get us.

A small part of me almost wishes we chose to stay on that small island with a nice local family who offered their home to us for the night. It would have been a fun story to tell. But perhaps it was fate whispering, because we decided to walk forward despite the warnings from others that the water only got higher further on and we would be swimming by nightfall.

With our packs lifted high on our backs we trudged through the shin deep water, then the knee deep water, which quickly became waist deep water. Just as we were realizing that we were crazy for doing what we were doing, our boatman finally found us.

The hour long boat ride from our pickup point is one that I am unlikely to forget. The water quickly appeared to rise higher and higher the further through town we got. The rain never stopped and unfortunately my camera became too fogged to capture the images I witnessed.

Entire houses under water, families on roofs, cars submerged, boats filled with electronics, water buffalo drowning, people clinging to bamboo, and all of the smiling faces.

Yeah, you read that correctly, the people were grinning. I don’t know how, I can hardly comprehend why, but the people we passed in our boat were smiling. Their fields were ruined, their homes trashed, their animals dying, but they still had time to laugh.

Perspective, a beautiful lesson on mood.

We eventually arrived to high ground where after a 6 hour adventure we finally met up with the rest of the group, our sick patient included. From there a tuk tuk brought us to the nearest town.

I could write another whole blog post on the conditions of the hospital we eventually brought our ill friend to, but I’ll sum it up with telling you that it seemed safer to leave the hospital than be there. After consulting a doctor in Australia, it was confirmed that her condition was indeed life threatening. We were told to get her out of this country or to get her immediate antibiotic treatment through I.V.

One person alone wasn’t enough to convince the doctors at the Laos hospital to give our friend the treatment she needed to save her life. They kept insisting we wait one week for the test results, but the frightening reality was that she might not have had one week to wait.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s to avoid the need to visit Laos hospitals.

Maybe I was meant to be in that flood to give our sick friend antibiotics and to then provide needed backup for further treatment. But I personally would give more of the credit to a girl named Ally, who helped me back in Thailand when I had food poisoning, an event I wrote about in a previous blog post. She reminded me of a simple human lesson; we should look out for each other.

Even with cause and effect, it’s up to us to shape our perception and reactions. Awareness and movement is more powerful than fate alone.

By the way, those are power lines.

Dedicated to Vanessa and Greg. Love you guys.

Guilt of the Lazy Traveler

Leaving my hostel to the bus station I was told to pay no more than 30 baht (.96 cents) for a ride, any higher I would be getting ripped off. I was also given the advice to go to the main road and catch a blue truck, which Chiang Rai uses as public transport. Armed with this advice I headed out into the heat with my backpack; but my plan was quickly thwarted by the sudden appearance of a tuk tuk driver on the sidewalk, blocking my way.

Not wishing to walk any more in the heat with a heavy pack, I decided I would at least check the price. If I could match 30, no need for the blue truck. After a couple of rounds of a see-sib, sam-sib duet (40, 30) I was able to get him to agree on sam-sib baht, or 30 baht.


Except that this was before my slow realization that the tuk tuk was not a tuk tuk at all, but a good old-fashioned ricksha. And the driver happened to be a little old man who was smaller than myself. As he struggled to peddle my heavy bag and self to get started on our way, I realized I had made a horrible mistake.

With each valiant effort of my driver to peddle me to my destination, I began to feel more and more like an ass-hole tourist. There I was, a white middle class tourist paying a little old Thai man pennies to wheel me around.

Before we had even gone one meter I had agreed with myself to pay him his original 40 baht he suggested.

Whenever we came upon traffic or a slight incline upward, forcing our momentum to be lost, his bicycles wheels would lock, forcing him to struggle even more. With each moment this happened I silently told myself I would give him more.

“Ok, 45 baht…. No, 50. This deserves 50.”

I couldn’t back out, it was far too late. I had agreed to pay him money and he was determined to follow through no matter how shaky his legs got.

The apex of the situation was reached when we came to a stop light in front of traffic. As the light turned green motor bikes zoomed past us and cars waited patiently for us to get going.

We weren’t going.

I watched some pedestrians smile and chuckle as I silently put a leg out to help push the rickshaw forward. I was shamefully reminded of my youth, health and laziness in this moment. Why couldn’t I have walked one block further to the main road? This tiny old man was out-doing me by a long shot.

One hundred baht I decided then. This crazy old man was getting 100 baht.

Before handing him the 100 baht upon arriving, I asked for a photo which he proudly posed for. Before putting my camera away I handed him the 100 note, signaling to keep the whole thing. When I looked back up he had his hand stretched out for me to hold. I obliged and was surprised when he didn’t shake it, but held it firmly with both hands.

It was clear in his eyes as he looked into mine, that he was very grateful. I wish I could say it made me feel like a saint but 100 baht is only 3 USD and it was given partly out of guilt. I can’t say it was all out of guilt, however. That amazing old man peddling my 160 lb. bag and self through the streets of Chiang Rai undoubtedly earned my respect.

– Zazz

Finding God

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found God. I know who he is, I have met him.

I had the wonderful opportunity yesterday to meet a modern religious guru while in Pai, Thailand. The lucky guy knows god, and you can too!

Don’t worry everyone, I’m not being serious. In all actuality, there is something about hearing that statement which is really frightening to me. It’s so matter of fact, so confident, so end of the line, so… arrogant.

Reel ’em in with laughter, simple truths, dancing, orange robes, a shaved head, and a strong presence. After everyone’s smiling and soaking everything up like children, throw them the pamphlet about the course. The 7 day, articulately planned out course on how to be a better person and learn the truth.

Not a free course of course. But the holy man wouldn’t bring that up quite yet.

You see, I know a salesman when I see one, I’ve been a saleswomen myself. If there is anything I have learned in my life, its to be alert around the people who claim to know things with certainty about god. Be wary of the person who’s trying to sell you something.

I should have started out the post this way:

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found a wolf. Yet another person trying to sell you god. Yet another fisherman reeling in hungry fish, casting nets into the ocean of people and taking what money he can get.

All in all, he seemed a fantastic guy with possibilities of becoming a bit of a cult leader. You know, those types of people who have followers who go to seminars in fancy hotels in cities like LA. They know the secret to happiness, (so they say) and they’ll teach it to you for a fee. He is already holding seminars for large groups of businessmen, and I came across him tonight by a compelling situation of chance.

I’ve been looking for teachers, someone to teach me about Buddhism, meditation, Taoism, yoga, and pretty much anything related. And ‘lo and behold, this Russian Baba, who’s flying into town for a seminar in Bangkok, decides to be a day late so he could show up here in Pai, to speak with us. Not on purpose mind you, but by chance. Because he dressed like a sheep at an airport, and someone spotted him believing they’d be getting the real wool. Lucky us! I know I was fooled at first. His appearance in my life, just as I was getting into town, seemed like fate at first, and he seemed so wise and aware.

Perhaps I’m being a bit too cynical towards this guy. He was knowledgeable in eastern philosophy and religion, far, far, far more so than I am. More than 85% of what he said was great advice as well. Simple and beautiful truths that everyone needs reminding of now and again. Like, don’t be afraid to smile, be humble, remember to love, and all of those other great sayings you’ll find on cheesy Facebook memes. He had passion for what he was teaching, he was engaging, musically talented, and he could very possibly have had nothing but good intentions.

But… There’s that but.

And that, but, farted out, ” I know who god is, I have met him.”

I wish I could show you all my own picture of this guy and his companion. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera on me when I went to this bahajan/satsang gathering. He was dressed like a monk, sang hare Krishna, and preached of Jesus Christ. My reaction at the end if it all? Sorry dude, I was a Mormon once, I am fully experienced with people who claim to know and see god. Maybe many who claim it, believe it, and there is nothing wrong with that. But my opinion is that to claim to know, with certainty, anything related to the unknown, is stunting towards growth of actual learning.

My conclusion so far after this experience? God is still hiding, or maybe god is everything and nothing. whatever the case, people are still longing to connect, love, and experience life. There will always be charlatans and preachers and prophets who claim to know things, many of them do know great things, but always take it in with a bit of open-minded cynicism. Or don’t, it’s totally up to you. 🙂

Hare Krishna,


Assume It’s Illegal

Originally posted June 2013

Nothing like stepping out of the airport, smelling that sweet sweaty smell of Bangkok and promptly obtaining your obligatory five mosquito bites in the first five minutes.

A drastic change from the clean idealistic city of Singapore. A city where you can’t walk longer than five minuets without seeing someone scrubbing away at an already spotless window, fountain, or floor.

A city where it’s not only illegal to jaywalk, eat food on the streets and litter; it’s illegal to chew bubble gum in public. No seriously, it is.

Singapore has a plastic look which resembles the inside of a themed Vegas hotel, an atmosphere and attitude of stepping into a city scene of a Disney Channel original movie….and has the death penalty.

Singapore is a glorious place, but don’t just take my word for it. Let me share with you all a lovely song which Nugget and I were lucky to hear while on the perfect island of Santosa.



Potted Plant

Originally posted May 2013

I would like to take this moment to say farewell to the potted plant outside my hostel door, for it will surely die from all of the stomach acid that it has consumed today. I am terribly sorry plant.

Today was a day from hell for Zazz. It all went by in a horrible blur of vomit, sleep, nausea, embarrassment, and other dreadful experiences that I’m sure no one Continue reading “Potted Plant”