Friday, 28 June 2013

The mind-boggling idea of Teleportation.

The hardest thing about travelling is deciding where to go next.

For the past two days I've been contemplating, to the point where I can actually feel the synapses in my brain explode with information passing between them about where to go after Australia. Oh that's right, I forgot to mention, I'm in the Land down Under...

I have been thinking a lot about Romania, and how much I love it. I tell people all the time.  Most of the people I keep repeating myself too as if I were a broken record player don't even listen to me any more because they've heard me talk about that beautiful country so many times. I don't know why I have the sudden urge to go back to România though. Am I still seeking something that I might have left behind on the lands soils', or am I wanting to relive an experience that I once felt whilst I was there months ago? Whatever it is, I know that I will be back there one day.

The other idea that I have been stressing on is India. India, India, India. My main intent for coming to Australia was to save money for India.  I have a one year working holiday visa here in Oz, and I'm 'planning' to stay the full year then leave after. I wrote 'planning' with punctuation marks simply because my plans always change. So, what ever I write on here just take it with a grain of salt and put it on your corn. But, yes, India would be fantastic.

As of right now, I still have to make a rough sketch of what I want to do in Australia - what I'd like to accomplish. I have already written that I'd like to save money to continue travelling, but, I think I want to save up money for a van and travel up north to Darwin from Perth as well. I am currently working at Vanya's cafe in North Freo, or North Fremantle to those that don't live here. Realistically all I want to do is see a Kangaroo in the wild.

What else have I done in Oz?

- Eaten Vegemite (I don't mind the taste) ✓
- Eaten a Pie ✓
- Tried Kangaroo ✓
- Seen an Emu ✓
- Been bitten by a spider and survived ✓
- Seen sharks, jellyfish, stingrays ✓
- Have somewhat understood a new language (Australian) ✓

With respect to the last check mark, I continually have to ask people to translate and pronounce things slower for me to understand their Australianisms.

Flashback to Cambodia.

Phnom Penh, what a surprise you are indeed.

Coming from the 4000 Islands in Laos bound for Cambodia's capital city was an adventure, as always. We were supposed to arrive shortly after 7:00PM, but 12:30 is close enough, right? We were supposed to only be at the border crossing for less than one hour, but two and a half is close enough, right? There was supposed to be air conditioning and nice comfy seats just like the brochures promised but what arrived was close enough, right? As I have said throughout Asia, the "joy's of Asian travel". When we arrived there was of course tuk-tuks awaiting ready to grab and call to us like a school girl at a J Biebs concert. I never had accommodation pre-booked as per usual, and I just ask any traveller around me if they know of any good hostels/guest houses and I tend to tag along with them. So, I met Kiya.

Border Crossing with Laos and Cambodia

We found a nice gentleman who would escort us for well over an hour and a half to find accommodation through Phnom Penh. Apparently if you arrive after 5:00PM it's extremely hard to find somewhere to sleep, let alone half past midnight. We roamed the streets, driving through tiny alley ways with the tuk tuk driver as he shouted out to any guesthouses if they had a room in the Khmer language. At about 1 o'clock we found a hotel for $25.00 a night. You learn certain 'tricks of the trade' while travelling. For example: You always tell the Tuk Tuk drivers you reserved a room at a guesthouse that you just searched up in your travel book, a.k.a 'South East Asia on a shoestring'. The reason for it is if you don't tell the tuk tuk drivers this, they will take you to their friends guesthouse and get paid a commission for bringing you there. Pick a guesthouse that is in close proximity to others so you can walk around and find the best deal. This though did not work for us on our first night of Cambodia. We told the Tuk Tuk driver about this hostel we 'reserved', he scoffed obviosuly hearing this many times and flat out told us we didn't reserved, he caught us. But of course, not to break face, we insisted he take us there. We arrived, they had no room. Then the next place had no room, nor the next or the other's following after that. There was at one point, no lie, a time when the Tuk Tuk driver looked at me and said that we may have to consider sleeping in his Tuk Tuk with him for the night... Would make for an interesting night, no? Let me remind you

Tuk Tuk:

 + three grown men?!?!

We opted out.

Phnom Penh was filled with many-a-nights staying in Belle Indochine. A spark ignites in my eyes when I reminisce about Belle Indochine.
The room was immaculate, the host's were beautiful, the price was reasonable. If I were to ever move to PP, then I'd be living here. 

A word of advice from myself:
  • Don't go on the Super Disco ride at the Theme Park in Phnom Penh.If you want to almost be hurled out of a spinning, bouncy vortex of doom then by all means, go on it. If that's not your cup of tea, just trust me.
  • Every Tuk-Tuk driver will ask if you want Marijuana, boom boom or a mixture of the both. Honestly everywhere you look there will be a police officer close to the Tuk-Tuk drivers. Think about it, once you buy from the Tuk-Tuk drivers, the cop arrests you, you pay the cop money and the cop gives a percentage to the Tuk-Tuk driver. Just simply say that not all foreigners smoke or want boom boom 24/7. 
  • Get blind massages in Cambodia.
A day before my 20th birthday I went to the Killing Fields. Words cannot describe the intensity while walking through those fields. The audio tour guides voice was so informative and to the fact, but the tone of which it whispered information into my ear was a nonchalant, soothing voice. I believe that one must see these things that have happened in history never to forget them.

On my birthday I had what I like to call the 'Asian breakdown'. It's when all the chaos, hectic lifestyle going on around you finally gets under your skin and buries its way into your bone marrow causing you to, in all context of the word, break. From the constant beggars with missing limbs, hassling of the tuk-tuk drivers, smells, sights, history both good and bad, people trying to sell me everything from  fried crickets to tires, heat and humidity penetrating your skin hours on end, I broke down. Oddly enough, I miss all of that. I guess one can get accustomed to a certain way of life if around it for long enough.

From Phnom Penh, I travelled up North to Siem Reap famous for the vast area of Angkor Wat. This is something I've always wanted to see and experience since I've heard of it's existence. I remember researching about this place when I was bored at school, just trying to take in all the history that was created here. I do hope that I will see these temples again.

From Siem to the beaches to the less-known beaches of Cambodia - Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), Kep, Kampot.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Bread, sandwiches, croissants, French language, am I in France, or heaven? Well heaven it might be, but it's also called Laos.

After traveling through Thailand for a month, I have left the land of smiles and arrived via two day slow boat down the Mekong river to Luang Prabang, Laos. I stated that I think I am in heaven because I can find sandwiches to eat, and bakeries have their sweet smells lofting out of their doors tempting any backpacker to venture inside. It's quite different to Thailand for that reason, plus many others. I've never realised how much I appreciate bread until I haven't eaten it for a month. 

In Thailand the only place where I could find any resemblances to bread was at one of the thousands of 7/11's that line Thailands soil, and I wouldn't even classify it as 'bread'. It makes me wonder how a loaf of raisin bread, or pre-buttered toast could stay fresh so long while on display. It's also different because of the language - not French, but Laotian. The major thing that I noticed as soon as I stepped off the rickety long boat and headed up land is the Communist flags planted right beside the Laos flag waving freely seeing as how Laos is one of the remaining Communist countries in the world. Here in Laos I feel like I am now in Asia, or some-what of 'real' Asia compared to touristy Thailand.

I'll get to my Laos experience in a wee bit, but first I have to write about my Mae Hong Son loop adventure. And begin!

Day one: Ready, set, g... wait, forgot to take off the wheel lock. Alright, good to go. Why is that car barreling towards me? Oh right, they drive on the left hand side. 

Day one of the Mae Hong Son loop went surprisingly smooth. I left Chiang Mai's busy streets headed down the 108 highway bound for Mae Sariang, my first over night stop. The first few hours were relatively easy, pretty low lying grasslands with temples in the near distances. After three hours or so I started to climb up into the mountains and hit one of the 1,864 curves that the Mae Hong Son loop possesses. I stopped for one of my many rest breaks to eat some Pocky sticks and I heard a low jingling sounds getting closer to my right ear. As I swiveled my head around, a cow was staring at me with one foot kicking to the ground like he was about to charge. Fate would have it that at that moment my scooter wouldn't start. So here I sat, on the side of a Thai highway about to be runover by a cow. Luckily, a truck came by slowing down scaring the cow off as the driver stuck his head out of the window to catch an abnormally long look at me, the farang (foreigner) and what I was doing on the side of the road - he was more interested in me that the road itself. If being almost charged by the cow wasn't enough when I got to Mae Sariang I drove up to a temple on the hill and was chased out of the temple grounds by two stray dogs.
Mae Sariang 

Temple at Mae Sariang. 
Just stopping for some gas. 
The cow that almost rammed me. 
Thailand's highest mountain - I couldn't drive up as my scooter wouldn't make it up the steep roads. 
I have learnt two important things though, I cannot read construction signs in Thai language and just because I am driving 80km/h does not make my skin instantly sun proof - I even have the sun burns to verify that..

Day two: 

I recently read a quote which goes like:
         "Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey"
                                                                                                 -Babs Hoffman 

I couldn't help but repeating that phrase to myself through some of the sections of road from Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son. It's not that I 'worried' about the potholes, but I more or less had to be conscious of them or else my scooter would break into two as I went flying from the pavement up into the air and both of the wheels simultaneously would go in opposite directions. On day two, I passed by villages, some touristy, some not. I figured I was getting closer to the Burmese border when I started noticing woman had towels wrapped around their heads which apparently is typical for the type of tribal woman who came from Burma.

Half way through day number two as I was driving through the middle of the jungle I noticed the red indicator getting nail-bighteny close to 'E'. I road through a small village of no more than ten homes and noticed a police officer off to the side of the road. I pulled over, said 'sawatdee kap' to the officer as I put my hands together and bowed down but upon raising my head up again I noticed he was carrying a huge knife - maybe as a way to show he was the boss. Of course he didn't speak any English, but he understood quite well when I pointed to my gas tank. The nice man, knife and all made me follow him to this gas station.

I added I would say about 300 more curves to my trip because I took a side detour to a waterfall. Now my advice to anyone is if a sign says 'Waterfall' with an arrow pointing left but does not indicate how far that waterfall might be, chances are it's a good two hour journey away. Here I was winding my way to an unknown waterfall up the steepest roads I could have found with the throttle full speed as I was watching my speedometer go downwards instead of the opposite direction. Some how, whether it be fate or my leaning forward, Jimmy, as I dubbed my scooter, made it to the waterfall.
Easy to read... right?

The city of Mae Hong Son is the capital of the Mae Hong Son province (go figure) and what a remarkable town it is. Every night across the lake in the middle of the town they have a night market filled with delicious foods and handmade craft. The temple closest by sells the white candle lanterns and each night hundreds of them filled the sky imitating twinkling stars, and eventually I couldn't tell the difference between the lanterns and the stars.
Mae Hong Son

Day four:

I don't know if I can legally say this - but I was cold in Thailand. The morning i had two shirts on and my sweater, and if that wasn't bad enough I did the unthinkable - I wore socks... and sandals. Just imagine the tragedy if Paris Hilton seen me dressed like that. So at 7:00 in the morning I left with my teeth jittering, hoodie over my head and my sweater barely covering my hands I made for the journey to the hippie town of Pai. As the sun came out around mid-day, I suddenly missed the cold I had experienced only hours ago

Pai made me think that if Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were to grace Thailand's land back in their days, this is where the would go. I seen dreadlocks worn by hippie Thais and foreigner alike, Bob Marley posters and his respective flag waving while his music softly strum out of the health bars and hip cafes. Advertising to 'find oneself' and 'come and join our peace family' stuck out on the telephone poles like a white man wearing a monks robe in a Buddhist temple. I figured this would be a good place to ring in 2013.

Day seven: 762 curves left.

Practically all teeshirts in Pai reminded me that I still have 762 curves left to go until I would reach Chiang Mai. I don't think I was on a straight patch of road for more than five minutes on the drive. With all the 'Sharp curve', 'Slow down ahead' signs my head was spinning.

The highway leading me to Chiang Mai was a good indication as to why people always wear the face masks due to the pollution. The moment I hit that highway, I missed the clean mountain air I had been breathing in the whole week. Well with two smoke induced lungs, a helmet full of bugs (and even some in my pearly white teeth) I made it through the whole Mae Hong Son loop!

Ahhh feels much better to have that written and out of the way.

From Chiang Mai I boarded the bus to head to the border down of Chiang Khong, and with just a mere 8 hour drive, and one flat tyre later, the bus arrived. I was herded up like a flock of sheep onto the awaiting guest house owners pick up truck and shipped away, cage, and all, to their place.

The next morning I was stamped out of Thailand faster than a bullet could hit Forrest Gump's buttocks, paid my 40 baht (just over $1.00) to take the 5 minute boat ride across the Mekong river to the Laos side. I never expected the difference between two counties to hit me as fast as it did with Laos. I was in a new world it seemed. So, with my new visa application written out I handed the immigrations officer my US $42.00 and headed on my merry way to the awaiting tuk tuk. Just a cheap ride of 24,000 kip ($3.00) to the Slow Boat ferry port I paid my 220,000 kipp (just under $30.00) for my two day adventure.
First glimpse of Laos

With 70 car seats aboard the slow boat, 100 of my closest friends (literally) boarded the boat and set off. We were briefed roughly about the do's and don't's like : "Don't accept drugs from anyone, don't allow anyone to help you with your bag(s) when deporting, don't fall off..." now that I think about it, I didn't actually hear any Do's.

The boat arrived in a village assembled for tourists just 8 hours after we left. It was an odd contrast to see that much civilization after only catching glimpses of little huts, built up on their timbers, preparing for the imminent floods that would happen in the rainy season in the nearby distances for the trip.

Another 8 hours the next day and I arrived in Luang Prabang.

A lot of people marvel at Luang - I did not. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but there was one enjoyable thing there - the cheap food. For breakfast I went to a locals favourite, a little corner shop that served up the best rice pork soup and tea. The first day I went there the price was 10,000.00 kipp ($1.25), by the fourth day the owner was waving to me from down the street before my arrival and sat me down with my rice soup, pastries, and tea moments later. The best part is that the price dropped 3,000.00 kipp!

From Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng.

On the road to the blue Lagoon

Now, I won't say I was scared at this moment in my life, but I was more or less cautious of everything that was going on around me trying to avoid being shot.
- I'm okay, obviously, but before I give my family a heart attack I'll start from the beginning.

I met a Scottish woman and an English bloke in the guest house and we decided to rent bikes and ride our way to the 'blue-lagoon'. It was a bumpy 6km away down dirt paths that had rocks jutting up tempting my tires to ride over them and pop. Well, we took a wrong turn and instead went to a different lagoon. We paid our 10,000.00 kip for the entry and when we seen the water standing still with bugs everywhere we didn't hesitate to keep our clothes on. A simple man came over to us and grunted with one hand pointing to the top of a mountain where the cave was. He would be our tour guide. We followed him up and suddenly a little Lao boy came out of the bushes and trailed behind us. At the top the cave was so narrow I could feel my stomach turning into a little tube at the sight. The kid looked at us and demanded 20,000.00 kip, we told him we would give him the money at the bottom of the mountain (knowing they could push us into this cave and leave us there, plus we paid our entry fee already so I felt no need to give a little kid more money!).

When we climbed our way down again after sweat laced our shirts, the kid now held a gun. He asked for more money. We told him our money was with the bikes, smiling of course like nothing was wrong. When our arses hit the seat of the bike, rode out of there faster than the roadrunner zooms away from coyote. In the distance as I looked behind me the kid held the gun pointing it directly out direction. If that wasn't enough, on the way back a little five year old boy was walking down the street as I rode past him. He looked at me, held up a knife like he was going to throw it straight at me but I just kept on cycling with my legs pressing down further into the petals.

The actual blue lagoon, kid and gun free. Farang free? Absolutely not.

In Vientiane. In my opinion it's the worlds slowest, chilled out capital city on the globe.
Arc De Triomph - Vientiane

- an important note I read on my hostels wall was : please do not walk by the river after 11:00 pm due to plain clothes cops arresting foreigners and demanding a bride of 1,000,000.00 kip (around $120.00) just because they think we're escaping to Thailand.

Vientiane - savannakate - Pakśe.
The Bolevean Plateau in Pakse

As of right now, I'm just in the capital city of Cambodia.

Laos is a tough country to travel due to the fact that somedays it's hard to decided whether to lay your head pointing north in the hammock or south.

Some of my photos from Pakse. 

Playing a bamboo instrument

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

You know those moments when one can find themselves asking "What am I doing?" Well, I just had one of those.

After scouring the many streets with the mid-day sun beating down on me,  I finally found a motorbike shop to rent a scooter for four or so days. The beauty about the rental shop is that I didn't have to give away my life, my soul possession for my travels - my passport. I gladly gave them my 'operators license' after explaining to the Thai lady that 'operators license' is the same as a drivers license (but I don't need to have a drivers license anyway). I have come to the conclusion that for my Christmas present to myself I will be taking the Mae Hong Son loop through Northern Thailand. 

With just over 600km starting from the bustling, yet highly pleasant city of Chiang Mai, circling clockwise to Mae sariang, Mae Hong Son, and finally passing through the 'hipster' town of Pai before returning to Chiang Mai. Of course the route can also be done in the counter-clock wise direction if one chooses to do so, but I have been informed that it's best to go to Mae Sariang to get a feel for the road before descending on the 1,864 curves that the whole route claims to possess. Sounds exciting right?! After three times on a scooter here in Thailand, I feel I can conquer this. 

Christmas in Thailand was definitely different. Considering that the majority of the population are Buddhists they don't celebrate Christmas, so for them, Tuesday was just another day. I seen the occasional 'Merry Christmas, Happy New Year' banners hung up over the Thai restaurants catering to westerners. The Deejai hostel that I am staying at did a fine job at the Christmas party here.

They, the hostel owners, hired a local Chiang Mai jazz band to play live music for us, while the Thai dinner consisted of spring rolls, curry rice chicken, mixed veggies and to top it all off, turkey was served for dinner. What a contrast of flavours that was, and for dessert I had cake... then roasted worms. 

Some photos of my Christmas Day

+33 degree temperature. 

I think I see some snow... wait, no

The hostel Christmas Tree

Saturday, 22 December 2012

To feel the wind on my face a plume of black smoke clouds the view in front of me as it billows out of the truck a cars length ahead, and as the inevitable fate would have it, we soar right through the middle. Ah the sweet joys of a motorbike taxi in Chiang Mai.

After a nice air conditioned five and a half hour bus ride costing a mere 237baht ($7.50), I suddenly forgot about the nice peace and quiet I had experienced from the lone bus ride as soon as I stepped off the bus in Chaing Mai. I could barley get my backpack out of the compartment in the bus as the hoards of Tuk Tuk drivers and Taxi drivers rushed over as if we were a freshly caught basket of fish for the seagulls to chow down. "My friend, Tuk Tuk?" "Where you go?" "I 'av air conditioned taxi, best price!" I've made a lot of friends already on my trip.

A kind motorbike taxi driver came up to me and asked where I was going. I told him, he gave me his best price of 70 baht, so I strapped my backpack to my back and he put my little back between his legs and off we went. I don't think I've ever held on so tightly to a piece of plastic handle as we rushed in and out of the traffic. I definitely looked like a 'Farang' or Foreigner on the back simply because I was holding on with white knuckles. As families would pass by on their mopeds/motorbikes, the wife would be on the back texting in one hand, holding the groceries in the other hand while her legs dangled off of the side - the kid? Oh they would be between the mom and dad laughing away. With that being said, I made it safe and sound to the hostel after nearly being hit, twice.

If that wasn't enough, a day later I heard about a temple on a hill about an hour drive from Chiang Mai. I convinced three others to join me, and we decided to each rent a moped to do the journey.

My Moped.
After navigating throughout the traffic in which I have to drive literally a meter away from another car, even when the cars are stopped at a red light I must keep driving to get to the very front of the line through a little narrow gap they, the cars, left me between them and the sidewalk, we made out of the city. The hostel owner drew us a map of the road leading up to the temple, and I don't think he put enough curves in his map. The road up there was phenomenal. In the spots where the sun could pierce through the think forested landscape I felt the true Thai heat, but in the shade it was refreshingly cool. The road up had turnoffs where one could stop for a dip in a waterfall, or pray kneeling down, feet away to the Buddha.  I can honestly say that after driving through the traffic here, I'm confident about driving anywhere.

Temple at the top.

300+ steps to the top.

At the temple I walked into a room where the Buddha statue towered over me, and a monk sat cross legged on his chair. I sat down, pointed my feet away from the Buddha and smiled politely at the monk. Soon after, a few Thai locals joined me in sitting and praying and then the monk dipped some straw tool into holy water and said blessings as he splashed the water over us.

The pictures below are at the temple half way up the hill - we had the place all to ourselves minus the monks.