It was an absolutely grueling week. The culmination of three weeks of research and preparation was a four-day intensive tutorial on "Web Design" taught to two groups of twelve. Though I had designed the course to be fairly hands-on, I was required to lecture for a good 4 hours per day and be able to find intelligent things to say while at the same time remaining entertaining. By the end of each day I found myself so thoroughly drained that I was asleep at 9PM regularly.

Hindu Idol

Aside from the one guy who was droopy-eyed by the mid-point of the second class, my students were exceptionally awake, participatory and quick to catch on. Well actually, to my surprise, not everyone was as quick to catch on as I'd assumed coming in and I found several areas that will need to be improved before I do the course again. (which will be as a consultant at Singapore Polytechnic. My flatmate scored me a pretty sweet gig re-reaching the course as a freelance lecturer.)

In particular, I found that relying on detailed handouts was inefficient and confusing for the students who spent some time keeping up with me. By the 1/4 point of the first class, I realized that it was best to have the students turn off their monitors while I lectured, provide only quick-reference command/description handouts and rely totally on improv and whiteboard examples. Also I noted that ten small exercises which built upon each other was far better than 4 or 5 medium sized ones. It was better to break up lecturing as much as possible and let the students play and experiment.

At any rate, I now have a week to finish the fourth day of the sister tutorial "Web Programming" which will be taught to a more technically-oriented group and cover more advanced topics such as CGI and Java programming.

Eastern Gargoyle

This will surely be my proving grounds. If I can actually teach advanced Java topics such as multi-threading and network programming, then I can be sure that I have moved beyond the beginner level and can finally feel worthy of the title of "software engineer" and not think of myself so much as bullshit artist supreme.

At any rate, by Thursday my body was so drained that I was poppin' the chewable vitamin C's as if they were Dave's happy brownies in the line for "It's a Small World". Yet regardless, by 7 or 8 PM I was officially down with a case of the flu. So I curled up, cranked up the new Greatest Hits album from the CURE and did my best to beat the bug with relaxation and sleep, for by early afternoon of the next day I would be several longitude lines away in Bangkok.

The next day was the second day of the new Singapore. Monsoon season has stopped Indonesian deforestation by fire in ways that the police simply could never do. So Singapore is bluer and brighter every day. In fact, the equatorial sun is quite ruthless now on my walk to the bus stop each morning. But with El Nino fading into the 1997 Farmers Almanac, rainy season has begun as well. Thus the weather shifts erratically from clear blue to torrents so thick that it is hard to see the hood ornament on your car.

Golden Story

Well, at least that is how hard it was raining in the cab ride to Changi airport. The entire freeway literally stopped in place while the storm passed. But with a good night's sleep, a full stomach and a new pair of climbing shoes I'd bought at lunch, I was off. Fortunately, my psychology was overcoming my body and my flu was apparently going to give me a break while I traveled to Bangkok.

Actually, I was not in Bangkok for very long. Friday night was the once a year Lagatong festival in which thousands of Thai float candle boats down the rivers at midnight in respect for the River Goddess.

Soy had reserved a very romantic table for two at a swank outdoor restaurant outside of Bangkok. The seats were very fancy shmancy and we could easily see the stage performers while we gazed down upon other guests and the lake lit by dozens and dozens of little fires. Further off, the river flickered its way towards Bangkok. I felt very sorry for whoever it was that was going to have to clean up that mess!

The meal was superb. It was a buffet with a broad selection of 15 main courses and several desserts, appetizers and an open bar. I took the opportunity to experiment and found that I liked most of the food so long as they were not too seafoody.

Lagatong Lanterns

Coincidentally, one of Soy's friends, Bee, who I'd met in Washington DC was also there. It was nice to say hello. I will see her again soon because she well attend the trip to Krabi early next month.

After dinner we floated our (fully biodegradable) lanterns down the river, made our wishes and watched the lanterns dance their way into the flow where the candles were anti-climactically blown out by the steady breeze.

Meals polished off, lanterns left to stray downstream and guests thinning, we decided to do as much driving as we could towards Kanchanaburi near the Thai/Burma border where we were going to spend the weekend. We drove for about an hour and a half (1/2 way there) and found a decent hotel. Because of the Baht devaluation however, we were able to get quite a fancy room for $10/each.

The next day we arose with the sun to complete the rest of our drive into the countryside.

Lagatong Lanterns

The city of Kanchanaburi itself is much like the suburbs of Bangkok; less drab, less grimy but still rather smog gray and downtrodden. However, as we made our way into the countryside an entirely new Thailand opened up before us. This Thailand had yellow and black "elephant crossing" signs, lush and green with vegetation as tightly packed as the Parisian metro during rush hour, and deep blue rivers slicing through steep valleys. In the Lonely Planet guide it says that the drive from Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlaburi is one of the most awesome drives in Thailand. Thus, we stayed at the Bridge over the River Kwai and other tourist traps only long enough to take snapshots. Instead, we began where most of the tourist buses out of Bangkok turn back.

Sai Yok Noi, a multi-stepped waterfall just off the main road was our first stop. The falls were robust as rainy season had just ended and drainage out of the highlands is turned op full blast. Yet the division of the falls into so many layers mellows the torrent and by the lower steps, the water velocity was slow enough that I could climb up the falls and into the natural limestone caves behind the water curtain.

Still early, we were not burdened with the crowd of weekend escaping Bangkokians who would arrive in an hour or two. So after playing in the falls for awhile, we grabbed some BBQ chicken and sticky rice with great sweet and spicy sauce which made me realize how awful Singapore is for Thai food. They serve about a zillion Chinese dishes, but very few plates of Pad Thai.

Erewan Park

After breakfast we continued up towards Sai Yok Yai (Yai meaning large and Noi meaning small) the larger of the falls which empties into the Kwai Yai River itself. It was a short trip that ended in a longtail boat with a guide for about $5/person for a two-hour jaunt.

The longtail boat buzzed down the river between the intricately carved and overgrown cliffs on either side which were eminently climbable. Deeply wrinkled overhangs jutted out far above us and the deep blue water promising the friendliest of cushions for the inevitable slip.

After about half an hour or so, the guide stopped at a beach and let us swim and relax. I had the chance to swim over and climb for a half-hour. The limestone was a bit sharp since I was climbing with bare feet but I was able to make it higher than I thought i would and probably a bit higher than I should have fallen from. So I backstepped my way down to a more divable height and returned to the boat.

Erewan Falls

The guide herded us back in and we headed up river towards Sai Yok Yai. Actually, due to the season, there were plenty of upstart unofficial falls that shot out of the forest and down to the river at different spots. In fact, in retrospect, there were several more impressive than the "official" year round Sai Yok Yai.

The guide would drive us up close enough to catch the spray and then continue up. At Sai Yok Yai, the guide let us out again for another break. I was quick to scale the falls and carefully make my way over to the lip of the falls where I could dive down into the foam below. (Don't worry mom, I checked for rocks and stuff before I climbed up). It was awesome to climb up the face of the falls being bashed in the face by the cascade. The rocks were perfect for climbing...absolutely no moss and littered with stalagmite-like fingers looking like icicles falling off the lip of the falls. Actually, I never actually made it all the way up. The force of the falls would knock me off long before I made it half way up. Ah well, back to the chin up bar.

Erewan Falls

But we were in a rush. So I could only play for half an hour while Soy hiked up the river to look around and then sat and read in the sun.

The guide returned for us and ferried us back to the dock directing us to our next destination, the Dawadueng Caverns.

The caverns were not too hard to find but required an endless climb up which made me sweat so much that I was entirely drenched again. However, the sweat attracted butterflies so that was nice. At the top we caught the cave guide as he prepared to lead another couple down into the mountain. He spoke only Thai so Soy translated for me. This man of about 50 explained that he had discovered the caves some 25 years ago while following a porcupine. He'd come back and explored later discovering 8 large rooms connected by squat/crawl spaces and home to dozens of small bats, mammoth, ugly, hairy, scary-looking, still-freaking-me-out-spiders and all sorts of other creepy crawlers. However, the rooms themselves were monstrous vaulted areas with fractal limestone drip creatures hanging from the ceilings and growing out of the floor.

Inside the Caverns

As we went deeper and deeper and farther and farther down I realized that if this guide were to fall over and die and knock out the lamp, we'd be in deep trouble because by the second room I was already totally disoriented.

Fortunately, the extremely spry guide had no trouble and we made it out where for an hour I kept feeling spiders in my hair!!!! So, in the end I discovered that caves were very cool but that I was too much a girly-boy to be a spelunker.

By the time we got down off the mountain, we were both totally exhausted and it was getting close to sundown. So we made our way to a resort recommended in Soy's TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) guidebook.

Erewan Falls

The place was very cool. They offered floating houseboat rooms with a fan or riverside bungalows with air con. Fearing that I may not sleep well without AC, I asked Soy if she would not mind sleeping on dry land. She agreed so we went with the less romantic bungalow.

We were both very hungry and were happy to hear that we could get a catered dinner as part of our $10/person rent. We had several dishes, soup and drinks and were pleasantly plumpified in no time.

Outside a pack of local kids hunted a gecko which I saw was about the length of my elbow to top of fingers. I would have loved to chase it too but their intent was to beat it to death so I hope they failed but figure they didn't as boys are particularly cruel, persistent and able hunters of small creatures the world around. At any rate, I did finally get to hear the "Tooookat" sound that geckos make. Sounds just like a bird really.


The next day was another early day and began with a walk into the Erewan national reserve which housed a seven tiered waterfall (basically like the Nevada/Vernal falls combo in Yosemite in which you have to hike from one falls to the next).

These falls were way, way, way, way more impressive than those of the day before. Each had its own personality. Some were Yosemite-style gushing cascades and others were stepped falls like the ones we'd seen in which the falls were broken into dozens of long steps of heights ranging between 2 and 12 feet. The lips made fractured coastline curves forwards and backwards, sometimes stretching for 50 yards across.

The former type of falls would usually crash down into a deep oval well of unnaturally light blue colored water with huge fish darting everywhere (Fishing was illegal but the fish had a wealth of insect delicacies which were thoroughly repelled by my layers of repellant. Hey, if I could not bring hooks, I could at least introduce slow killing poisons into the area).


In the case of the later, each step would hide dozens of small wading pools where one could easily crawl up to the edge and look down.

The water, which came from rainfall instead of melting snow was always a pleasantly cool reward after the oftentimes 80 degree angle trail past which only those who were prepared to get dirty and climb up dangling root networks could go.

By the fifth falls the crowd had been thinned by the rigors of the trail to only a few groups who were determined to make it to the top. And what a top it was. Spending so long underneath the canopy makes you get so used to the shade that when you finally break through the sunshine is so much more spectacular.


The final falls is not the top of the mountain of course, but it is the end of the human traversable portion of the landscape. When you climb up out of the foliage the monster falls looms large in front of a v-shaped background of cliff face carved into the shape of a three headed elephant (hence the nickname of Erewan for those of you who remember my discussion of the Erewan mythology from Bangkok).

It was getting late by the time we got back down again and we had a huge lunch and set back towards Bangkok. On the way back I drove which was pretty exciting since it marked my first real right hand driving side long distance drive. At least now I know that when I finally do get around to getting my Singaporean license, i will actually be able to drive safely.


Selena's Home | Travel Page | Creations | Seleves | Photo Gallery | Resume