I’m not quite finished yet…

Alright folks, I’m back in the US but am not quite done with my travels yet. Blogging still to come: Vancouver BC, Portland, the redwoods of NorCal and much more. Now that I’m back in the US and have regular, reliable internet as well as a way to charge my laptop wherever I go posting should be much easier. 

passageways 

Flexibility

I’ve been taking the slow route on a fair amount of my travels so far. Intentionally packing very few things in to my daily itinerary. Often taking an entire day, sometimes longer to get from place to place. My recent travel from the islands of Thailand to Cambodia are a prime example. I was set to leave an island on 2 January by ferry at 1pm. The ferry left around 5, which was not a huge issue. What as a difficult is the rain. Sheets and sheets of it, and the provided shelters provided room for about 2/3 of us waiting.
Once the ferry ride was over (4.5 hours), it was on to a bus ride to Bangkok. my original arrival was slated for 1am with the intention of catching a 6am train to the border of Cambodia. The bus arrived at 610 which meant I had few options other than staying overnight in Bangkok, which allowed me to get some errands done. Next was the 6am train to Cambodia - left on time but arrived at least an hour late. Crossed the border, which was nearly a 2 hour process.
Next I had to arrange transport to phnom penh as I had arranged to meet up with some friends of a friend on Denver. I had missed the most recent bus and found a shared taxi. Myself, the driver and 3 Khmer (Cambodian) folks in the back. 6 hours on mostly paved roads. Along the way there were carts, pulled by oxen, horses and these odd modified tractors. Also spotted in the middle of nowhere were mormon missionaries. No one spoke to me until we stopped at some roadside stand for a bio and food break. I was just happy that we all made it on one piece. Traffic flow is markedly different in cambodia. 4 streams of traffic alternating directions if room allows.
The taxi had no idea about the location of the place I had hoped to stay and dropped me off in the center of town.

catching up on the news…

From a story in the NY Times: “The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, consumes about 23 percent of the world’s daily oil production, according to American government figures.” completely blown away by this.

Really can’t beat this.

Completely amazing landscape. Never mind the fact that it’s been turned in to a haven for drunken backpackers

on the rails

I had one of my most epic journeys ever the last 24 hours. See if you can keep up. Flew solo from Chiang Mai @1730 back to Bangkok to meet up with a new travel friend named Jenny. Jenny and I had only given ourselves 90 minutes from when my flight landed to when an overnight train to the Laos border took off. travel time between airport and train about 40 minutes in the best of circumstances. well, my plane left about 20 minutes late, arrived about 25 minutes late and of course baggage took forever. by the time i met up with jenny it was 1930. Jenny had already figured out that there was no way we were to make our train if it left on time. we were resigned to take the local train to a stop about 10 minutes from the main train station and see what can be done. arrive at the train station.. can’t find my wallet. shit, double shit. Jenny calmly suggests I check where we got out of the taxi. There my wallet is everything still intact. major crisis averted.

Now to sort out the train situation. Our train, for which I had arranged a nice comfy air-conditioned first class sleeper compartment had left 30 minutes earlier. our options: take a 3rd class seat on the 12hr (a kind estimate) ride in the next 20 minutes or wait another day. Jenny and I said screw it, we’re here for adventure. hopped on the 3rd class train car (which is almost exclusively used by Thais) and was welcomed to a scene that was frankly worse than that of a greyhound bus. bench seating with a few inches of padding if we were lucky. Air conditioning? zilch. a nice breeze from the window in our seating area? Nah, wouldn’t open. overhead lights that didnt turn off. vendors loudly hawking food and drinks til at least midnight or so. luckily jenny and I were each able to have our own benches to sleep on - sleeping with my knees bent as far as they would go so I would fit on the seat.

Train ride was supposed to be 12 hours, which isn’t the most terrible thing. what was really awful was the additional 3 hours the ride took. the train stopped at every village with a train station along the way. upon arriving at our last stop we knew that we had to travel a few km to the border checkpoint with Laos. hopped in a version of a tuk-tuk with a mom driving and her daughter on her lap. went thru thai exit immigration, then hopped on a bus to the Lao immigration check point. some paperwork and $35 later we were in another tuk-tuk in to Vientiane. We weren’t dropped off in an area that was great for finding a place to stay so we had to hitch yet another ride. hotel found, collapse in to pile on bed. 

Scenery of the train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It was quite hard to believe how lush the landscapes were after being in the concrete jungle that is BKK.

Out for a spin

I’ve definitely been neglecting this new little blog project of mine for the past few days. I’ve gotten sucked in to the alternate universe that is Bangkok and the area around Khao San Road. Equal parts fun, frustration and at this point British. Bangkok (from here on out I’ll refer to it as BKK) is complex, textured and at times down right out of its’ mind. Traffic can be lined up for miles, yet scooters, motorbikes and other two and three-wheeled vehicles weave their way to the front often driving on the wrong side of the road. 

I consider myself one of the more adventurous eaters I know, and yesterday was the first time I felt comfortable eating something random off the street. Food vendors are everywhere, on the sidewalk, down side alleys, walking up and down in the street pretty much just everywhere. Fish, raw meat, fruits, vegetables are everywhere. As a foreigner or “farang” it’s difficult to make a decision as typically the street vendor has a nice line or people are behind me and prices often arent listed anywhere.  I’ve touched on pricing briefly before - there really isn’t a way to properly evaluate what in the world is going on with how things are priced. Example: I went to watch a Muay Thai fight thursday at one of the two premier venues in Bangkok Time of event - about 2.5 hours. Cost: about $33US. The overnight sleeper train I leave on later today takes ~13 hours and was less expensive than the muay thai fight. 

Meeting and spending time with new people has definitely been my favorite activity while here in Bangkok. Thanks to the lovely internet I’ve had amazing people to hang out with nearly every day/night. I’ve befriended about 10 English folks a South African, a Dutchwoman, and have really only had one significant interaction with another American.