Friday, November 23, 2012

Kingdom of Cambodia

I have heard all sorts of horror stories of others' adventures trying to cross the border from Thailand in Cambodia.  So I ignored all the advice on things to do to make it easier so I could have a similar adventure.  I didn't apply for a visa in advance, I didn't check in with the embassy, all I did was by a bus ticket to the border and winged it from there.  And I am sorry to report, that my trip across the border was pretty easy...  No one really tried to scam me into a buying a fake visa, no tuk tuk drivers drove me off in the wrong direction, and even though the border guards did require a bribe, it was about $2.50 so I couldn't even really make a scene over that.   The only issue I had was my own fault.  Like an idiot I was recording with my GoPro in the visa office full of armed guards.  It was quickly taken away from me and I was whisked away into the corner.  Luckily I was able to turn off before they took and I was saved because none of them knew what the heck it was, other than it kinda looked like a camera.  So a few tense minutes later they gave it back, discouraged that they didn't know how to turn it on to see if I had taken pictures or not.  So I got across the border just fine, and found transport to my hostel in Siem Reap.  Most of these photos are taken from a bus, or the back of a moped or tuk tuk.  But I tried to get photos of life in Cambodia.  It seems much more poor here than in Thailand.  A lot more people living in open air grass huts, with livestock walking around the yard, people sleeping in hammocks, naked children running around swimming in the rice paddies.  It was awesome.  Instead of mopeds, bicycles seem to rule the roads here.  Tuk Tuks are actually little two wheel trailers being pulled by mopeds.  The people seem to be a little darker than the Thais, and their language hurts the ears a lot less.  American dollar still rules supreme here.  You can pay in Cambodian Riehl but they get disgusted with you if you try and charge twice as much.   So Cambodia was actually very cool.  Several more posts from this country are on the way!


Cambodian gas station

Goat crossing



public bus


public toilet with manual flush.






Wednesday, November 21, 2012

One Night In Bangkok

My overnight sleeper train journey took me all the way back to Bangkok.  I had to come here for one day to prepare for the next leg of my journey, so I tried to make the best of it.  As I arrived too early to check into my room, I headed off in the direction of China town as instructed by the the guy at reception.  I was looking for a place to get some visa photos taken.  What I found, was just about everything else imaginable.  So far on this trip, this stroll through China town was by far the greatest avalanche of sensory stimulants that I have experienced.  Sights, sounds, smells, and everything else were quite overwhelming.  So much so, that I didn't stay long.  It was a bit too much.  And also begs the question, does every large city in the world have a China town?!  Defeated by my worldly naivety I made my way back to the hostel and regrouped.  I went out again, this time using the city's surprisingly clean, modern, and efficient subway and sky train system to get around.  The sky train offered great views of this enormous city.  I eventually made it to the largest outdoor market in the world.  Sadly though, I did not find any of the strange and bizarre sights, sounds, and smells I had come to expect in Thai markets.  Instead, it was a lot of clothing type stuff.  The people there though, more than made up for the plainness of the goods for barter.  And yes, it was huge, and I got lost.  I really only had less than one day in Bangkok, but don't worry...I'll be back!








View from my room.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the second biggest city in Thailand, and the furthest north I would go in this country.  My blogging creativity has been on serious drought this whole trip so once again, I'll just describe it with photos!

My first day there I decided to skip the tuk tuks and mopeds and do the whole city tour on foot.  Most of the sites were Buddhist temples.  But this city is pretty cool due to the ancient moat that surrounds it, with some of the ancient wall still standing to protect the city.  I also went to the history museum.  Mostly because it had AC, but it was interesting too.
One of the many markets.




Look what I found!

My next day I woke up real early to go on a jungle trek!  Along with and Aussie guy and 6 Belgians I was picked up and put in the back of another pick up truck.  And our first stop was an orchid and butterfly farm.  More of a rest stop really, but still kinda cool.



Then it was a quick stop at a market to load up on supplies and off into the jungle.  Ironically, on this jungle road in the middle of nowhere produced my scariest driving experience as the driver tried to pass another truck at the most in opportune time possible as a third truck was coming the other way.  We clipped both other trucks as they both skidded off the side of the road.  Not cool.  But the hike through the jungle was.  We emerged from the jungle in a little village.


The local gas station.

After several hours we finally made it to the elephant camp.  This would be where we spent the night.  But first we got to go for an elephant trek through some more jungle, and watch the big animals clear some forest and make short work of the bamboo.  Elephants were used to clear forests and move big stuff back in the day.  Then we learned a bit on how to train them.  Took them down to the river for a bath, and even got to ride pistol.  We slept in a big hut on the hill with complimentary mosquito nets.  It was really nice, especially since it was all just our little group and the guides.  In the morning it was bath time again.








The next day we were supposed to hike to a waterfall.  But the Belgians had to catch a plane that night so instead we got picked up in a van and taken to the river where we did some river rafting.  I was quite pleased that the river turned out to be pretty intense, I had expected a slow meander since all the rivers I had seen so far were pretty mellow.  This was fun though, at the end when it did mellow out we ditched the rubber raft for a bamboo one.


Our last stop was a local village.  You know those photos of the people with the gold collars that they have worn their whole lives making their necks really long?  Well it was that kind of village.  Though it was not what I expected at all.  The whole place was built as a tourist attraction complete with a ticket booth.  The people there were just sitting in their huts along a path with heaps of tour bus passengers walking around gualking and taking photos.  It was awkward and I didn't much enjoy it.  It felt wrong.  I still took a picture though.  It was in a very beautiful place...

Cutting the day short turned out to not be so bad.  It gave me enough time to clean up at my hostel and catch the 16 hour overnight sleeper train to my next destination!