A Travellerspoint blog

The last day in Vietnam

sunny

Spontaneous decision: I'll be flying to Luang Prabang in Laos today. I didn't have that on my list but heard so many tempting things about it that I could not resist. But I don't want to leave this place without writing a little bit about my experiences in the past weeks, since I'm sure there will be a lot of new impressions sinking into my memories very soon and might overwrite something :D But bit by bit.
As mentioned before, my trip to Vietnam wasn't the easiest part of my travels so far.
I was picked up at the hostel in Phnom Penh on time in the morning. The promised route was 2 hours by bus to the border, 2 hours on a boat on the Mekong River to Chau Doc and another 2 hours on a minibus to Saigon.
It took us 4 hours to get out of Phnom Penh because of the local ceremonies that blocked many of the main roads. The ride on the boat was nice, but took only 1 hour. I was the only passenger on the minibus to Saigon and that trip lasted for - 15 minutes. Then the busdriver dropped me off at a local bus company, bought a ticket for me and left. I'm absolutely sure, this was not part of the deal. When I got on the bus, I was surprised in a positive way, since the sleeper buses are not uncomfortable. Seats are arranged in three rows down the bus, upper and lower seat with a single seat for every passenger and (more or less) enough space to stretch out your legs. I was a bit confused about the reason, why I was on a sleeper bus, since the busride was supposed to take only two hours... After four hours I got a bit nervous and found myself close to freaking out when it got dark after 5 hours (around 7 p.m.), since I had planned to arrive in Saigon in the early afternoon and had no idea, where we were going. And noticed, that I was the only westerner on the bus and no one spoke english... I tried to convince myself over and over again, that we would arrive SOMEWHERE and whereever we would arrive, there would be a place to stay for the night. So much about the romantic idea to enter Vietnam on the Mekong River -.-
I was lucky to find an Asian phrase book on my tablet, wrote the question "When do we arrive in Saigon?" down in Vietnamese and handed it to the passenger in the seat next to me. He showed me his watch (20:03) and wrote something with 30 underneath. I responded by writing "20:33?" and he nodded. I didn't care that much about the arrival time, for me it was more important that we would arrive in Saigon at all. The next problem was, that I had no idea, where in Saigon we would arrive. I showed him the map on my tablet where the hostel was marked upon (bless me that I save screenshots from time to time). He tried to help me out by talking to the bus driver (I suppose, he asked him to drop me off at my hostel), but the busdriver just laughed and shook his head. He was trying to tell me something I did not understand, but what I got was that I was supposed to stay on the bus until we reached our destination. Then he got off...
We reached the final destination at 8:50 p.m. and I was not even off the bus when the first taxi driver waved through the open door at me, shouting "You! You! Taxi!". I had the impression, this would be a bad idea... And then it must have been some kind of fate. A tiny vietnamese man stood next to me and told me - in english!- that I had two options. I could go with the taxi driver and pay a high price for that. Or wait for a couple of minutes and could use the bus company's minibus service, that would take me to my hostel for free. I was exhausted, still a bit shaken from all the different emotions I had been running through that day and had no energy left to doubt his words... I just gave in. He took my backpack (I was a bit worried that the 14 kilos might crush him :D) and placed me on a seat in the packed waiting area. I felt a bit uneasy, but better as soon as we got on the minibus. His name was Binh, 24 years old and a student of agriculture (as far as i understood him). He knew, where Belgium is located in Europe, but not, where Germany is, which I thought to be sympathetic somehow :D He accompanied me all the way to the hostel, carried my pack into the lobby and waited until I was checked in - finally. He gave me his phone number and skype contact and I promised to drop him a message as soon as I had a vietnamese SIM-card (one thing I learned in Thailand and can highly recommend if you plan to stay in an area for more than two weeks!). He left with the words "Take good care of your passport. If you lose it, I can take you to your embassy." I thought this to be odd at first, but - yes - Saigon is not the safest place on the planet and I experienced that myself a couple of days later.
When I arrived in my dorm, two young british guys greeted me with the words "Hey, do you want to buy a motorbike?"
This question led to the next big story, which I cannot write about now, but will do for sure later. I had discussed this idea with Henrik before and we talked each other into this a little bit. I was trying to be reasonable about it (I had only one day of experience on a scooter in Chiang Mai), but the idea to explore a scenic country like Vietnam on a motorbike was absolutely tempting.
I did not accept the offer but promised to think about that. Went upstairs to check out the roof top bar on the 9th floor, which was one of my favourite places to hang out in the following days, since the view from up there was amazing and a good place to meet others. And safe compared to the rest that was going on down in the streets at night. Sank to my bed after one beer and slept a well well deserved sleep.

Posted by Augensternchen 00:28 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Finally...

... a new entry :D

Sorry for no keeping this updated in the past weeks, I was way too busy ...
I will just try to write about the most interesting things that happened, which still is a lot...
There is my first night sleeping at an airport to begin with. I went from Pai via Chiang Mai to Bangkok to catch my flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, which meant 15 hours on buses but getting the way done within one day. I arrived at Doung Muang Airport at 1.30 a.m. and thought about sleeping for a couple of hours at the airport hotel (heard they had simple rooms for 10 euro), but the only room available was supposed to cost 120 euro... not an option with a flight at 10 a.m. I get the impression that I'm getting better at making decisions like this - saving the money and accepting to sleep on a bench at the airport. Not complaining about the lack of comfort or considering this to be inappropriate - just shrugging, making the best out of the given situation and doing what my needs tell me to do (I felt the need to sleep and no need to stay awake for 7 hours just to wait for my flight, so this was the most useful way to spend the time).
I tied my backpack to the bench with a steelwire lock and used my daypack as a pillow, put in my earplugs and dozed off for the next three hours. Not the best sleep of my life, but refreshing. When I woke up, I realised that I left my passport photos at home... and I needed one for my Cambodian visa. So I had something to deal with for the remaining 3 hours before the flight left, trying to find a shop to get new pictures. Worked with the help of some locals (probably the worst pictures of me that exist :D) and I learnt later that arriving in Cambodia without a photo just costs an extradollar for the visa... but wouldn't have taken the risk of being turned away.
So I left Bangkok feeling well prepared and arrived in Siem Reap without problems.

Cambodia is completely different than Thailand! Many people speak english, local people make a more or less happy and kind impression, though being obviously poorer than people on the other side of the border. What was a bit annoying in Siem Reap is that you are often asked to take a tuk tuk (a "No thanks" usually ends up in the question "What about tomorrow?") buy a massage and stuff. In general a "No thanks" isn't accepted, people usually try to discuss the matter and don't care about politely meant apologies like "Maybe later". Which probably always has the exact opposite effect than they try to achieve. Entering a market has nothing to do with a relaxed shopping stroll. Never the less the atmosphere in Siem Reap itself wasn't as touristic as in other places I've been to before, it was basicly reduced to the places that many tourists visit.
I decided not to make use of the tuk tuk drivers' offer to take me to the temple (which was pricy in my opinion), but to rent a bicycle and go there by myself. People told me it would be far away. When I asked how far it was, the reply was "7 kilometers". Well... no comment necessary I guess :D
The first day I got a bit lost on the way, driving on roads off the main route to the temple. Which was a really fascinating experience, since I could see with my own eyes how the local people live - most of them in bamboo huts without electricity and running water, children playing on the sandy roads between dogs and chicken. Many of them were waving at me, greeting me with a cheerful "Hello" :) I felt welcome, a bit like a VIP when a mother tried to teach the small boy on her arm to say "Hello" to me and just enjoyed the ride. Got to the temple area a bit late, chose not to buy a ticket for that day and decided to come back the next, a bit earlier.
I chose the three day ticket for the temple complex (it's not just Angkor Wat, the ancient city of Angkor consists of many different temples, non of them alike and it's a shame that even in those three days I only managed to see a part of it).
Angkor Wat is a blast. The temple in Bayon aswell and those were the only two I could see on the first visit (it was f**** hot and exhausting).
On my way back to the hostel I got caught in a heavy monsoonlike rainpour. Usually being on a bicycle in a downpour like this isn't that much fun, but I grinned and laughed all the way back :D it was the warm water from all sides, being soaked to the bone within seconds (it took 10 minutes until someone offered me a raincape - which made no sense at that point anymore) and the locals in the streets on motorbikes that were laughing with me, nodding in respect or offering me raincapes over and over again.
I spent the second day at the hostel until the afternoon, then went up to the temple on the bicycle again to watch the sunset from a temple on a hill - THE place that is recommended for sunset hours - but I didn't like at all. It wasn't that much to see from up there, the place was packed with Chinese that were climbing over the barriers and standing around in every scene that I chose to take a picture of. I left the place before the sun was down and chose other places, which turned out to be the best decision I could make.
Unfortunately I stayed a bit too long in the area around Bayon and when I decided to head back to hostel, it was almost dark... not the best moment to realise that the lights of the bike weren't working. I felt rushed suddenly and made a huge mistake... I didn't bother to store my camera properly in my pack and it took just one bump in the road that I couldn't see in the dark and the camera jumped out of the bag and fell onto the street :'(
I already felt that this was a killer, which turned out to be true later - obviously nothing broken, but releasing was impossible... I made it back to the hostel without problems though riding through the dark without light (at least I wore a white shirt) was more excitement than I could enjoy. And the problem of a broken camera without a store around to get it fixed in one of the most stunning places in the world spoilt my mood for the day.
At least I had my pocket camera that I could use on my last day in the temple area. Not the same and the camera cannot cope with the lightsituation of an overcast sky like the dslr can, so the pictures were a bit unsatisfying but better than none.
Did a couple of smaller temples that day and the so called Tomb Raider temple (scenes of the movie were taken here) and well, with all the trees growing over the place, this one has the greatest atmosphere in my opinion. I couldn't make it through the temple before my camera ran out of energy and while I was storing it in my bag another tourist ran into me... the result was that the camera fell into a mudpuddle. Two cameras in two days, what an average! -.- The red sand was on the lens and the sound the camera emitted when using the zoom told me that it got into the fine mechanics as well... so the only camera left was the one in my phone. With even less satisfying quality than the pocket camera :( I made it through the rest of the temple quickly, in a worse mood than the day before... I tried to clean the camera as best as I could, which made it return back to life at least. But the missed opportunity of taking beautiful pictures in the evening hours with a decent camera was upsetting me.

I left Siem Reap the next day, accompanied by one of the nicest persons I have met so far, Henrik from Sweden. One of the persons you can just sit together with until 4 in the morning, talking about this and that, far beyond the common traveler chats. Well, we had one of those chats until 4 in the morning on the last night in Siem Reap and I thought I could just sleep on the minibus from SR to Phnom Penh, a 3 hours ride that left at 7 a.m. I couldn't have been more wrong, The road to PP is under construction and the bus was more jumping than driving all the way to the capital. Impossible to get sleep but with a very nice scenery all the way.
The capital has a different atmosphere than Siem Reap, less touristic but still a lot of people offering you a ride. This place wasn't mine. When we walked back to the hostel the first evening, we took a parallel road to the main road and were faced with ruins and places that seemed like the red light district, always thinking about just taking a taxi back. Compared to Siem Reap this place felt less friendly and less safe.
We stayed in a 22 bed dorm, something that I would never ever chose again, cause people in a dorm of that size don't give a shit. It was 11 p.m. when you heard the noise of people throwing up in all bathrooms on our floor and it was the night when I finally witnessed people having sex not only in the same room but in the bed above mine, At half past five in the morning. Loudly. While the guy in the bed next to mine asked them to be louder and wanking off... disturbing experience. I was glad to have Henrik with me... someone to talk to about what happened (he heard nothing), which made me just laugh about it - and that felt relieving.
The time in PP wasn't very eventful, except for the last day when a big ceremony was held for the former king that passed away two years ago. I had to remember my excitement, when I saw a monk the first time, in Thailand. Now the whole area in front of the Silver Pagoda was packed with hundreds of them! :D And they lit up the Independence Monument, which extended my way home for hours, trying to capture the beautiful sight with the pocket camera.
I chose to go on to Saigon afterwards to get my camera fixed at a Nikon service store while Henrik decided to move on to Sihanoukville. So we went separate ways, trying to catch up later in Saigon.
I asked at the hostel reception for the different options to get to Ho CHi Minh City aka Saigon. I had heard about the possibility to go there by boat and I loved the idea of crossing the border by floating down the Mekong River. I chose a tour that contained a minibusride to the border for about two hours, a boattrip on the Mekong for about two hours and another minibusride from Chau Doc in Vietnam to Saigon for another 2 hours.
In fact, the whole trip turned out to be a f****** nightmare. It was hard to hear from others later, that simply going by bus would have cost 30% of the price I paid and would have taken me to Saigon within the promised 6 hours. But at least my route was more adventurous, but this shall be part of my next entry. Though this entry contains a majority of mishaps and things that I would like to have avoided, I enjoyed my time in Cambodia and won't forget about the nice things that happened and the lovely people I met.
 

Posted by Augensternchen 07:20 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Don't worry, eat curry

Chiang Mai & Pai

sunny 33 °C

Finally finding time to update the blog, while waiting for my flight to Cambodia.

I took a bus from Nang Rong together with Sean, which made me feel a little less insecure. The ride back to Bangkok took 5,5 hours and the only event worth mentioning was the elderly thai lady next to me, who refused my cookie-offer but took my ornage juice instead and stole the instant coffee sachet from my lunch box when I opened it, wondering what to do with the coffee without hot water and thought at first, she wanted to show me something. Instead, she just stuffed the coffee into her handbag without any sign of thankfulness... Gave me the feeling, I must have missed something :D

I booked the overnight train to Chiang Mai on the same day (I realise a slight preference to covering as much distance and transport as necessary on one day, taking time off for relaxing later) and spent the afternoon in Chinatown. Enjoyed the feeling to be in a place I've been before, and helped myself to another awesome cafe latte at my favorite street vendor.

I left Bangkok with 30 minutes delay at 8 p.m. It remained a mistery to me, why so many travelers are so fond of this trainride. True, it's not necessary to book an accomodation for the night and it's possible to sleep on the train. But I couldn't. The compartment was old, everything was shattering and the compartment shook so heavily that I feared more than once to get thrown out of my bunk. Apart from these inconvenciences, the train was packed with tourists, which somehow spoilt the atmosphere, and the only Thais passing through made a rather creepy impression, which made me feel like I couldn't leave my things unattended for a second. And worst were the toilets. But I have to admit that using a squattoilet at least has the advantage that there is less surfaces to touch with your skin, but trying to keep your balance while the whole compartment is shaking is quite a challenge.

I woke up at half past five, and since my upper bunk had no window, I headed to the board restaurant... Where I found the whole crew lying on the floor and under the tables, sleeping. Feeling like an intruder, I stayed at the open window close to the entrance. Everyone got up at six and I was - rather rudely - offered a coffee, since I was apparantly blocking the narrow gangway. I didn't care and chose a table next to an open window, where I watched the beautiful northern landscape fly by for the next two hours. The coffee was rubish by the way. Brown soup with lacking taste, no wonder they add large amounts of creamer and sugar.

I arrived in Chiang Mai at 10 a.m., got to deejai backpackers hostel without problems and sensed on arrival that something typical for a typical backpackerhostel would happen... I had booked a 4 bed dorm with fan (meaning: one fan for four people) and since there were no lockers in the dorms, I made the guess that some of my stuff would get stolen. Wrong guess.

Mosquitos are a problem in the north and so I hung up my mosquitonet, stringing it to the bedposts with dental floss (I love those little moments, when you realise, how variable the stuff in your pack is). The construction was admired by all of my roommates and I wish I had taken a picture...

I did nothing special that day, just walking around the neighbourhood. Went over to the hostel garden in the evening, which in my opinion is the place to hang out in the hostel. Met others, had a lot of names to learn (I was asked to repeat them and said "Shit" instead of "George", because I couldn't remember his name. Opened all doors instantly, I guess :D) and enjoyed my first night out, exploring Chiang Mai's bar scenery.

Got back at 2.30 in the morning and stayed in the front garden, when my German roommate Cosima came down to tell me, that the guy in the upper bunk had just thrown up on my bed... Selffulfilling prophecy?! His girlfriend tried to clean up the mess (they had celebrated her birthday and I felt so sorry for her), apologising over and over again. He ruined my mosquitonet and luckily that was the only thing that got into his way. But best of all, I got a spare bed, which was located in a private room with aircon, tv, fridge and balcony and was allowed to keep it for the rest of my stay without extra charge.

Feeling hung over the next day, the only senseful thing I did was to subscribe for a cooking class the next day. Getting around Chiang Mai is best done on a scooter and I heard dozens of stories about people crashing scooters due lack of experience, overestamating themselves or the combination of both. The outcome was visible in the hostel front garden, where the scooters where parked. Which made me feel uncertain if this is the place to give the whole thing a try. Chiang Mai is not a hectic city but most of the streets are one way and there's traffic 24/7.

The cooking class was great fun, at an organic farm where most of the ingredients are grown. It was only me and a chinese "photographer", which was kind of funny, since he interrupted our teachers explanations every two minutes to take a photo. She took it with more patience than I could have offered, and I took it easy, since I was not in a rush amd enjoyed the day on the farm.

I was glad that I talked to Des about my doubts to rent a scooter, because he agreed to join me and visit the mountain temple the next day.

Went to watch the soccer match Germany vs USA in the night, which was fun, since Adam (American) was with us. Everyone was convinced that Germany is going to win the world cup. Don't ask me why, I wasn't.

Scooter rent the next morning. Felt nervous and dropped it at the first traffic light (100 m from the hostel). Fortunately no damage on my body and the scooter, just the lesson not to pull the eccelerator and brakes at the same time while trying to turn right...

Lost Des and another girl, who joined us, after a couple of minutes, which is pretty bad in a traffic system with many one way streets. But they were so kind to wait for me and I was proud that I had mastered the first difficulties myself.

The way up to the temple was rewarding after all the worries and doubts. I think, I will never win a race on a scooter, but I felt safer with every meter and I was happy to lose my scooter virginity, since I enjoyed the feeling of independence straight away. Won't be my last scooter ride for sure.

Learned another lesson on the way back. It's a bad idea to have only one person on the team, who knows the way back to the hostel. We lost Des in the traffic and missed the last opportunity to turn left for kilometers. While Des was back at the hostel after half an hour, it took us more than two to make our way back. But suddenly having other problems on my mind helped me a lot with my scooter riding progress.

I had difficulties with the decision, whether to extend my stay in Chiang Mai or not. I hadn't seen and done everything I wanted to see and do, but some of my hostel mades were about to leave to Pai and that seemed tempting aswell.

Since I got my private for 4 nights and might have had to change the room, I decided to leave with the others. I joined Oli and Twaney and booked the bus to Pai the next morning. Aart went on his scooter and we met him later at the hostel.

The busride was the worst I have had in my life so far. We were sure that our driver was on drugs and he drove like crazy. The 3 hour minibusride to Chiang Mai covers 762 curves, perfect for feeling motion sick. Never a problem for me in the past, but this driver pushed me over the edge. Glad that I had my chewing gum in the handluggage. Nothing happened, I just couldn't enjoy the ride as much as the others did and tried to concentrate on the view through the window instead of having chat with others. Was happy to have Oli on the bus. I just listened, while he was talking to them and his sarcastic remarks made me giggle every once and a while. (I still remember two of my farvorite quotes "The last thing I want to do before I die is to be really unhappy for at least six hours" (when talking about the risk of taking a speedboat to Lao, since they have the reputation to be uncomfortable and lose passangers from time to time) and "I'm trying not to do that many temples. I want to visit Angkor Wat not thinking "Oh look a pile of rocks. And I paid for that."). I suppose, it's the comedy of the situation, which is probably not transferable, but it made me feel a lot better.

Tawney chose the hostel, named Circus school, and it turned out to be a good choice. Not in the center of Pai, but with a beautiful view over the valley and the mountains in the distance. And it was circus school indeed, with artists practising for fireshows etc. We shared a dorm, which was literellaly basic, but different. Sleeping in a bamboo hut on a bamboo bunk bed without solid walls and a free standing floor, made of - guess what - bamboo, was a new experience for me and I found it pretty exciting (as long as you can prevent your younger pyromanic travelmates from burning the place down (and they had lots of ideas, e.g. mosquito coils, candles, inscent coans on a cardboardbox and trowsers, tranked with liquor while Tawney was wearing them).

In fact those little crazy ideas were the spice in my Pai-trip-soup, and since being grown-up somehow and probably way too reasonable, I sometimes envy you guys for your sometimes stupid, but always funny and entertaining actions.

I spent the first afternoon with Oli, Beth and Clare (two girls that arrived on the same bus as we did), exploring one of the many waterfalls in the area. I sat on the back of the scooter, while Oli drove, because there weren't enough scooters available for all of us, and was ever since called the "Copilot". Though I felt like lacking orientation from the first day on, so did a bad job probably :D

We rode through the beautiful landscape around Pai and I felt more than sorry that I had left all my SD-cards at the hostel :(

At the waterfall, we met Jaan and John. It started raining heavily minutes later and we decided to get back to town. Jaan offered us to take us to an indian restaurant, which turned out to be a very good choice.

I gave the reggae festival that night a miss, since I felt worn out after 4,5 hours of sleep the night before and the horrible busride. All the others went and I'm sure that I missed something, but wouldn't have been a good company anyway, so that was alright.

We actually intended to head to a waterfall with pools you can bathe in, but ended up in an even cooler place. Though cool is definetly the wrong word for a natural hot spring. If Oli hadn't told me that he has never been to a hot spring before, I wouldn't have picked that, since we had an airtemperature of 36 degrees. But it turned out to be a good decision. Always being entertaining without wanting to, I slipped on one of the stones and fell in one of the pools >.< Cuts under my toes, but no further injuries.

Ended up in a bar called Edible Jazz that night. Unfortunately, most of the bars closed at midnight. Oli was tired and being the only person I trusted to carry me on the back of a scooter without causing an accident (I can't count the horrible stories I heard and the wounds and bandages I saw. Seemed like crashing a scooter was part of other peoples' bucket list), I followed him home.

We actually planned to do a hiking tour the next day, but the Pai atmosphere made me drousy. It's literellaly a hang out, perfect place for being lazy. Could have stayed in the hammock at our hostel for the whole day.

We made it to town in the evening and ran into John at a restaurant called Burger Queen. You would never expect such delicious burgers in a small town like Pai! Another Oli-comment I remember "You could lose a limb getting between her and that burger". True.

I extended my stay for another night, giving up on the idea to make my way back to Bangkok via Sukothai and Ayutthaya. Went out that night with Chloe, Ruby and John. Took dextrometorphan droplets to suppress the coughing, cause it hurts in the muskles under my right rips. Bad idea to combine them with beer. Felt like standing next to myself half of the evening... Fortunately that effect wore off when we got to one of the few bars that is open until the next morning. Would have missed many funny stories, like the men who didn't notice they were in the ladies toilet, and, even better, the drunk girl that found a very "ladylike" way to use a urinal. Gave the Germany vs Algeria match a miss, which turned out to be another good decision.

Planned again to do a hiking trip the next day, didn't do it yet again. Which made me sure it was time to leave Pai. There's not that much to see and do around there and then doing nothing is quite a waste of time. It was good to take a break, but I felt like I had to cut myself loose from the place, otherwise getting stuck there for too long. And I was glad, I had booked the flight to Cambodia when I was back at home, so I had some kind of appointment to get back to Bangkok.

Unfortunately there was no direct connection from Pai to Bangkok, so I booked a minibus trip to Chiang Mai for the next morning, hoping to find a quick bus connection back in Chiang Mai.

I felt a little depressed on my last day in Pai. It wasn't about Pai itself, it was more about leaving the others. Got so used to their pleasant company in the past week and it upset me somehow, that we would go separate ways soon.

Enjoyed the last night out with them never the less. Got back to the hostel at around four in the morning. Oli offered me a lift to the busterminal, but since we were both pretty drunk, I changed my mind about this the next morning. Everything around Pai is within walking distance and I felt like I needed the motion to sober up a bit.

Still not used to letting go I have to admit, it was hard to say goodbye. But I think I got the most honest hugs in my life :)

I will finish this entry at this point, because I want to thank you guys for giving me such a great time in Chiang Mai and Pai! Will miss you dearly and hope we can stay in touch somehow and meet again maybe one day. Safe & happy travels to all of you, take care of yourselves and your stuff (especially you, Aart ;))

Posted by Augensternchen 06:56 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Honey, Rice and Koh Lanta

semi-overcast 26 °C

Getting from Pak Chong to Nang Rong wasn't that eventful as I thought it would be. The resort offered me a free transport to the Pak Chong bus terminal (I couldn't shake off the impression that they were relieved I left - can't remember any misbehaviour though), I bought a ticket to Khorat and sat on the bus half an hour later. At the Khorat bus terminal I was chased aroubd a little until I got to the right bus, but that happened, because the Thai didn't know the words for the busnumbers.
Another half an hour later I sat on the correct bus to Nang Rong. And it was already sensable that this would lead into something far different from the big city life. It started already before we left. I was lucky to get one of the last empty seats, but noone wanted to take the empty seat next to me. That felt horrible... things got worse, when a monk got on the bus and there were no other empty seats except the one on my side. And I realised straight away that women sitting next to monks was obviously a no-go. The ticket-collector solved the awkward situation by chasing a young man up from his seat and made him sit next to me... mouning the guy obeyed. I sank into my seat and would have liked to crawl underneath it. More and more people got on the bus until the whole gangway way crowded. I thought they would just take a short ride out of Khorat, but most of them spent the next two hours standing in the gangway of a bus with fans instead of air con and loose shock absorbers.
Concerning monks I ran into the next faux pas, when two of them, a young and an older one entered the bus on midtrack. The seat next to me was empty meanwhile (obviously nobody else wanted it), and trying to be polite, I asked them if they wanted the two seats. The young one looked at me with shocked disbelief... I had completely forgotten that I was not supposed to talk to monks :( Felt even more awkward, but the ticket collector arranged them elsewhere and I sank into my seat again, feeling ashamed.
3 hours after departing in Khorat I arrived in Nang Rong, glad that I made it that far. I had made a reservation the day before at a place called "Honey Inn", run by a retired Thai english teacher. I read different things about it before and can confirm actually all of them. I think it depends what kind of preferences you have if you like the place or not. First of all: they welcomed me in very warm way! And the family-homelike atmosphere wasn't just on arrival but all the time through. But (!): if you have high expectations considering the room itself, this is not the place to pick. The toilet is western but instead of a flush, there's a waterbucket next to it. And after spotting cockroaches for the first time in my life (my goodness they are huge!) in the kitchenarea, I was far away from eating anything - here and for the rest of the night. Never the less I had an awesome time here and even decided to stay another day (since watching the soccer game Germany vs Ghana until 4 in the morning, going to the ruins at 10 and then taking a 6 hours bus to Bangkok would have been a bit too much for a day). And I have to say, that I could cope with the first impressuons quite well and had a pleasant stay.
I met Florian from Böblingen in the afternoon, he stayed at the Honey Inn, too (which is quite funny, since Nang Rong is far from being touristic anyway and especially in the rainy season the place seemed deserted). We had a chat with Sean, an American, who is married to one off the staff members and has a cute 1.5 year-old boy named Lanta, who was chasing after a ball around the front area. His parents met four years ago on Koh Lanta, one of Thailand's beautiful catalogue-like islands. And so they named their son Lanta. A real sunshine, always doing nonsense, especially when he had the audience's attention.
In the evening, Florian and I went out to get dinner somewhere and ended up in a place that served Thai barbecue. Had some difficulties with reakising how it was supposed to be done in the beginning, but with a little help from the waitress, we did quite well I think. It was pretty much fun and delicious, too. And best of all: it was completely local, nothing made up for tourists.
At the inn I was offered a driver for the next day to get me to the ruin. It was 600 Baht (= 15 Euro) for a whole day! My own driver, who would pick me up on his motorbike, taking me to the ruins, waiting outside until I was finished, taking me to the next ruin, waiting for me again, and all together for 15 Euro... of course I accepted. The other option would have been to rent a motorbike myself for half of the price, risking physical damage on the mainroad (never driven a motorbike before) or being caught by the police for not being allowed to drive in Thailand (must have been some kind of fate that they did a driver's licence control on the main road today)- or both. And that was not an option.
Meeting Florian afterva short nap at two o'clock downstairs in the kitchenarea was nice, watching the match together, too. Far better than watching the game alone a hostel rooftop.
I got up on time this morning, my driver was on time aswell and with a shiny pink helmet on, he took me to the ruins. I think I won't become a temple pilgrim around Asia. It was alright, but most of all, because people around here are obvioisly delighted to see western travellers around, bringing out the few english or even german words they know,
After I had finished the ruins, the driver took me around the area on what felt like hidden tracks. In this part of Thailand, most of the everyday life is happening around the main road. When you look beyond that, you see shiny green rice fields, banana plantages, straw huts, chickens running around on the road and ochses with huge horns. A different world :)
My day out lasted for 5 hours, then I was bet. Waved my driver good bye (who couldn't say more than bye bye in English I suppose, but we got along quite well without talking), and sank to my bed for a nap.
Went out for a stroll around the local market with Florian later, had yet again some very delicious local dinner and fruits freshly from the market. He is moving up North tomorrow, where he's volunteering for spring construction project. I've decided to head towards Chiang Mai, taking a bus to Bangkok first, then getting on the overnight train (which will end up in 24 hours without sleeping in bed without wheels under it).
Nang Rong is definetly (and will probably and hopefully never become) not a tourist hot spot. I don't regret having stayed here for two days, just the opposite. It was absolutely worth taking a look at how life is beyond the big cities. A bit shabby, different from what I am used to, but welcoming and nice. Though I think I won't miss the dogs remembering their wolf genes in the middle of the night or the neighbour's rooster screatchung at half past four in the morning ;)
By the way: with the best internetconnection so far I managed to upload some pictures, visible in the galary. It's just the pictures from the poket camera (the whole uploadprocess is quite effortful), will see if I can get some from the big one in the next days. And I will link them with the blog entries when I find the time for it.

Posted by Augensternchen 11:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged nang rong Comments (0)

Just a short note

rain 25 °C

I spent my day with sleeping, chilling at the pool and making tough decisions. My coughing isn't any better yet (which is possible, the doctors @ home told me), which makes it senseless to move on to Koh Chang for a diver's license. Since getting there from where I am right now is quite a big effort, and I would probably be reminded all the time for what purpose I actually had come for and couldn't enjoy my stay anyway, I decided not to go.
I will move on to Nang Rong further East tomorrow and visit an ancient khmer ruin instead, afterwards probably heading North towards Chiang Mai.

Posted by Augensternchen 09:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Second try

The last entry was incomplete >.<

semi-overcast 30 °C

And it was worth it after all!

After waking up in the hotel I ended up in the day before yesterday, I addressed my guidebook for other options. The next one on the list was Khao Yai Lodge Garden Resort. I purchased a SIM card at the 7 11 (yes, I have a Thai mobile number now), called them and booked a room with ceiling fan for less than 10 euro/night. They offered to pick me up for free at the busstop, which I accepted thankfully (wish I had called them the night before), and when I arrived at the resort I almost fell out of my shoes. This is a green paradise! The room is basic, so is the shared bathroom but since there is noone around to share it with, I have the whole bungalow, bathrooms, swimming pool and resstaurant for myself. Unbelieveable, in rainy season there is nothing going on here, but the employees are keeping the place spotless.

Unfortunately, they don't offer tours to the park for single travellers, but I found a German tour organisation (or frankly spoken, they found me - at the busstop), and was allowed to go on a tour with them though I didn't book their accomodation. And it turned out to be a very good choice.

We started off at 7.20 this morning, when the guide picked me up at the resort. I was in a group with two young lovely ladies from Belgium, Joline and Lilly, and that matched perfectly!

We had an open truck that took us to the park (25 km from the resort, no other chance to get there), and carried us over the many routes. It was like entering a different world, everything in bright green colours, exotic animal sounds around, starting from cicades, that made noise like somebody is cutting wood (so loud I thought I was at a construction side every once in a while), to different kind of birds and (!) gibbons.

When we heard them the first time houling from high up in the trees, the truck stopped and Ben took us into the jungle for the first time. The many entrances were blocked by hand-sized black and yellow spiders, which were not poisonous but whose bites would hurt horribly... I was disgusted and did my best to avoid all the webs... We saw some gibbons, but only high up in the trees, where they were swinging from branch to branch like circusartists. No chance of taking a proper picture, and they never come down to the grounds, Ben told us.

We moved on to a viewpoint, where Ben handed us our leechsocks - basicly nylon socks that prevent leeches from attaching to trouserlegs and making their way underneath them to suck themselves full with blood. Though looking stupid with these things on, we were all glad to have them. I had one leech attached to my trousers once and after snipping it off it wouldn't want to let go off my fingers. Another disgusting animal around. But Ben convinced us that we had picked the better season since leeches don't carry any transmittable diseases. In dry season they have problems with ticks and the diseases they transmit.

We made our way to the visitors center, where others might have gone for the museum, I just went for the insects. Dancing butterflies in various colours, fluffy caterpillars, ants and so on and so on.

After our short break we started out to our jungle hike, which led us 5 kilometers into the wild and I'm sure Ben does this trek only with small agile groups, since we had to cope with steep slippery pathways, climb over fallen trees or bend deep under down hanging lianas, always trying to avoid the webs of the huge spiders.

Ben knew a lot about the area, the plants and animals and their behaviour. I liked the way he explained things to us so passionately, stopped to pray for serveral seconds before we entered the jungle and picked up small branches every once in a while to replace them somewhere they could root and add even more life to this vivacious ecosystem. His dignity was touching.

After our trek we had lunch together, then made our way to a warterfall that was visible in the movie "The beach". I can't tell, but it was the only place that was actually crowded, with airconditioned minibuses in the front, waiting for their passangers to carry them around the park so that they would have to take as few steps as possible themselves. We thought, our way of getting around had a far more adventurous style. Lilly and I were also invited to an Asian photoshoot... So the waterfall wasn't obviously the only attraction around.

And then we saw what we had actually come for. Standing in the bushes next to the street was a huge wild elephant. And here comes the point, that I just don't get: The Thai have such an awesome green heaven on earth that is protected, with rare animals like these elephants, and for more convenience they have roads and are allowed to use motorbikes and cars in there (which in my opinion already undermines the idea of a national park), and those idiots -I'm almost sorry to say so- misuse the trafficfree routes as some kind of racetrack. It only took two fast cars and a loud motorbike for the elephant to flee into he bushes.

Our guide was furious, since he had called our driver to approach it carefully.
But being a smart young man, Ben was connected via a walkie-talkie to other guides in the park and we only had to wait for 15 minutes until our elephant had been spotted elsewhere. Off we went and there he was, walking in a steady mood through the bright green grasland (I still don't understand why people perfer this place in the dryseason).

He dug at a saltlick, then moved on to the next. More than once he showed us that he was aware of our presence, but marched past our truck with slow heavy steps. When he turned towards the road, other spectators fled into their cars while our guide assured us over and over again, that the elephant wouldn't attack (visible by it's relaxed hanging ears). I have to admit that there were moments when I was not so sure that the bull wouldn't change his mind any second.

After the elephant looked like he had enjoyed his show, he vanished into the woods and we made our way to the highest viewpoint in the park (1000 meters above sealevel).

With me being afraid of heights I was kind of surprised by my own reaction when we entered the small cliff. I sat down close to the rim and let my feet dangle over it. Thought I was out of my mind for a second. But the view was so overwhelming, that I forgot about what I was doing instantly. The sight could have been taken from an advertising spot, with clouds gliding through a green forrest valley, tropical birds and insect sounds around, butterflies dancing in the air above the abyss. Had the song "On top of the world" by Imagine Dragons on my mind and was filled up with today's beautiful pictures.

On our way out of the park, we met our thickskinned friend once more, this time being all alone with him. He stood next to the road, calmly stuffing gras into his mouth (with half of it falling out again while he was chewing). But I had my today's best shot already, was happy when we made it out and Ben dropped me off at the resort.

I decided to stay another day, hang out a little and prepare the next days porperly.

Will give the picture upload another try tomorrow, too

Posted by Augensternchen 02:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Life begins at the end of your comfortzone

overcast 30 °C

And I got kicked out of mine yesterday..

But to start at the beginning.

I finally made it to Grand Palace! And since it was our last day under the same roof, I was happy to spend it with David, a young man from Columbia I met on the second night upstairs and I really like as he -though being tired- is always surrounded by an aura of cheerfulness :)

I met him at the Marine Department speedboat station and felt a bit ashamed. Those who know me better will confirm that I'm usually late... Well this hasn't changed since I left home :S But he was sitting there, just smiling like he always does.
We took the next boat up the river and the long way to the entrance. To those who might get there one day: the stories about touts telling you the palace was closed, the monks would be praying inside, you cannot go in there dressed as you are etc are true. I had to grin, when they managed to keep David's attention, firmly gripped him by the wrist and dragged him away.
We finally found the entrance, got in without problems and I'm still relieved that it's off season. The place was crowded, but I don't even want to think about how packed it must be in the main season.
I was a bit disappointed of the emerald buddha (which isn't made of emerald, but jade; when it was found, jade wasn't known in this area and since it is made out of green stone, they called it "emerald"). After seeing the huge buddha statues in Wat Pho, he seemed even more tiny. I think, these temples are most impressive, when you see them for the first time (like I did in Wat Pho), but the effect wears off quickly with the following ones.

We seperated afterwards and I felt like going back to the hostel and chill a bit. Went to a shopping mall at Silom station instead. Without needing anything and knowing that I would be punished for every useless gram purchased (for being extraweight in my pack), this turned out to be a waste of time.

Had dinner with David later in the restaurant just across the street from the hostel. And what am I supposed to say: it was delicious! I really enjoy the thai food, especially for being rich in taste but still light. Had a green curry with prawns. The sauce was spicy, but still bareable for my sensitive tounge, with lemongras and mint in it.
And then it was time to say goodbye to David who had to catch his train to Chiang Mai. I thought I would be through with goodbyes after leaving home, but this might be something I can learn to take more easily during the trip...

I decided to watch the Germany vs Portugal match on the World Cup upstairs on the rooftop, didn't feel like going out to watch it somewhere else. Like so often I was up there all alone and began to miss my home and my friends... But tried to make the best out of it by staying in touch via Facebook. Was very happy to see Pan (my Chinese friend I met the other day) answering my comments, too :)
Nina kept her promise and joined me later. The commentators were as passionate as if they were commenting on a chess duell so we almost missed the goals, since we were chatting happily as ever.
After a short photosession, I got to bed at 3 in the morning (I think I never made it to bed much earlier since I've been here) and got up late, when I had to check out. Bad idea.
I didn't take the time to pack properly, so the backpack felt quite unbalanced later. And I didn't take the time to prepare my onwardtrip to Khao Yai nationalpark, which was even worse.

I wanted to take a minibus from the Victory Monument station, but when I arrived there, I couldn't find anyone to offer such a tour. Would have been easy to go to Pattaya or Chaing Mai, but Khao Yai seemed to be unworthy... Imagine you have almost 14 kilos on your back and 4 kilos hanging on your front, 30 degrees and humid air, sweat running down your face in streams. I was so desperate that I asked at the tourist information. She wrote the destination down in Thai for me and sent me to the next street. I showed the paper to the tourvendors, but they directed me further to the right, to the other side of the street. When I showed the paper there, people were laughing at me, sending me even further to the right, under the highway. I was annoyed and my back hurt, but I was still sure that it was worth the effort , I might be the idiot who just didn't understand and moved on. Same thing there. Laughing, pointing to the right. The plaza around the Monument forms a circle and they virtually send me around a full course -.- After getting back to where I had started, I was so frustrated that I gave up the idea of going by minibus. The bus terminal was only three stations away by skytrain, so I decided to go for a more reliable solution instead (I would pick the train the next time...).

I left the station and found a map. Looked like the bus terminal would be within walking distance, but I seem to lack the ability to estimate this correctly in Thailand. I walked for about an hour and thought my backpack would crush me every second.
But I made it. I think my body is going to hate me for that one tomorrow and I should get used to taking taxis around here though I never do at home. At least things worked out the way I wanted to at the bus terminal and 15 minutes later I seat in a usual public transport bus with many locals and noone like me.
My eyes were open until we left the station - sleeping on transports is something that I never could during the last 30 years. I was soaken wet from sweating and woke up about an hour later because the aircon made me shiver. Nothing but my raincape to wrap around me, but that helped a little bit.

I started to feel uneasy, as I had no idea how long the trip would take (I estimated, 2-3 hours, it was 4 in the end), and had made no reservation for a place to stay. Worst idea ever and I'll never do that again if I can avoid it. All I knew is that I would end up in a town called Pak Chong with no idea how to get to the park from there. It was five p.m. when I left Bangkok and it's pitch dark here at seven. Made me feel even more uncertain as I hate to arrive in places I don't know in dark evening hours.

At half past eight the driver told me it was Pak Chong and I was supposed to get off. He left the bus and talked to a woman at what seemed to be some kind of tourist information. I had no clue what they were talking about, but obviously I played a major role in it. She barely spoke english and just could manage to tell me that a taxi to the place I had found in my guidebook meanwhile would cost 300 Baht. But there was no taxi anyway and she sent me down the street to ask for a mototaxi in front of the 7 11. I already knew, where this would end (I could see the shop and there were no motorbikes or scooters) - nowhere -and for the first time I was deeply disappointed that people just try to get rid of you by sending you away to anywhere.

I kept a grip on myself, tried to ask people if there was a taxistand or hotel around but noone would understand me. Even one of my most useful items (a tiny "nonphrase"book with images to tap on) didn't help that much but came in handy later.
Finally stumbled into a supermarket, where a young thai girl greeted me politely. She spoke no english, too, but I showed her a piece of paper with the telephonenumber of the place I planned to stay and she phoned them for me. I talked to the receptionist myself and he told me they were full for the next five days. That felt like a slap in the face - with a chair - but I had to accept that this was my own fault.

The girls must have noticed that I was desperate and did their best to comfort me. It was overwhelming. They told me (via google translator ;)), there was a hotel around, took off my backpack, placed me on a chair, gave me water to drink and even refused payement for it (cut yourself a slice, Norwegian Airways!). They asked me to wait for a moment, then one of them went to fetch her scooter and drove me to the hotel. It was such a nice gesture and I didn't know how to thank them for it because they virtually saved me!

The hotel is definetly below European standards, but I have a place to stay for tonight, a comfy double bed (just chose to use my own towels and sheet) and for 700 baht wasn't that expensive.

With those words I finish for today and hope for a better day tomorrow.

Posted by Augensternchen 23:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Even more Bangkok impressions

semi-overcast 28 °C

I'm planning to stay in Bangkok one more day, since there's always things interfering with my plans. Which is good though.
I actually wanted to visit Wat Pho and Grand Palace yesterday, but the temple was so amazing that I spent the whole afternoon getting lost in it and loving it for that. Though I still don't know if it would be alright to ask a monk to take a picture of him (as far as I know, women aren't allowed to talk to monks and being the respectful person I am, I just don't want to start running around taking pictures of people I haven't asked before). So I went for the templecats instead. I was lucky, since it had started raining heavily before I arrived at the temple and when I entered it in bright sunlight, I found the place deserted. It was so far beyond what I had expected things to be like here, so impressive, all these tiny mosaics on the collums. Must have been meditative to put them all together. And I think those experiences which are dragging me into a completely different culture and lifestyle pay a large credit to the fact that feel like I've been away from home for four months instead of four days.
It was late when I left the temple, lost directions, stumbled into a streetmarket, had yet again great street food and went into a 7 11 to ask for the way to Hua Lamphong station (=Metro back to the hostel). The girl starred at me like I had asked her for the route to the Milky Way, told me it was very far and advised me to take a taxi. First driver that stopped (you don't have to stop them yourself, they would use the handbrake in the middle of a highway if you looked like a foreigner that needed a ride) wanted 200 Baht, which is cheap compared to home, but a rip off here. So I declined and the next driver offered me the ride for 60 Baht. They do have a meter here, but refuse to use it or can take you on a trip around the neighbourhood, if you don't ask at least, what it might cost.
I went with 60-Baht-Adul, who was one of the best choices I could have made (and whose number I have safely stored in my pouch in case I need a ride again). He barely spoke English, I barely spoke Thai. He made the best out of the situation by rummaging through his glove compartment (with half an eye on the crowded street O.O), finally tearing out a CD, which turned out to be some Thai-English lessons. We were both laughing about each others attempts to repeat the sentences and when he dropped me off at the station and the meter stopped at 57 Baht, I gave him 70 (and felt ashamed afterwards, that I hadn't given him 200, because he would have deserved it for his honesty).
Even though it was Saturday night I skipped the option of heading towards Khao San road and decided to do that later. Spent the evening with Nina on the rooftop instead (my favorite place in the hostel, I almost thought about sleeping up here cause it's sooo comfortable).
The only sign of jetlag I seem to have is that I'm not getting tired, no matter how long I've been out during the day. Just like now.
I decided to do the Grand Palace and Wat Arun today, went up the Chao Phraya by speedboat and changed to the ferry to the other side. On the ferry I saw a Chinese taking pictures, so I asked him, if he wanted me to take picture of him in front of Wat Arun (and got my own one in return). We started talking, and this talking went on for next couple of hours. We spent all the sunny hours this day had to offer in the shadows of the temple's entrance area, chatting and discussing about the different lifestyles of German and Chinese. Fascinating and a good preparation for what's coming up soon! When we decided to climb up, it sarted raining. So we went back to our shelter again and continued our talk. I didn't know for example that the majority of Chinese have no confession. And this has an impact on many forms of crime being commited as there is no ethical bottom threshold... quite shocking. Even without believing in the bible we know how to respect life and that you shouldn't kill (to summon things up).
We finally made it to the top and the view over the skyline was just awesome (the steps up were so high and steep that I wasn't sure if I would be able to get back down again though - not recommandable to those being afraid of heights). Seeing a monk taking a picture with a tablet was another sweet sidekick. What we saw from up there was sensable mintes later... a really heavy downpour. I thought that I would know a lot about rain with Hamburg being the rainiest city in Germany... but that was "slightly" different. So no Grand Palace today, too.
Soaken wet I took my first ride on the skytrain, met my roommates the sesond time today (weird in a city that crowded), got my shower and went - like every evening- to my favorite place in the house.
Found some nice company in Tim from Vancouver. But I promised myself to be more careful with offering a "Yes, I've just turned 30"-beer in the
future ;) I might keep that in mind for my 40. birthday though :D

Posted by Augensternchen 11:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

Bangkok impressions

semi-overcast 30 °C

I woke up at seven this morning, when I was promised to get my backpack back. No phonecall from the reception. Maybe a bit late, I tried to convince myself and went back to sleep after a half liter of water (couldn't believe you could get such a dry throat in such humid surrounding). Got up at nine - still no backpack. Got breakfast - nothing happend. By ten I decided to head out and forget about it instead of wasting a day pacing around the hostel. I went with the small camera and saved the space in the daypack for my hiking boots which I planned to replace by flip flops as soon as possible. Picked up a cheap pair for 65 Baht (1,50 euro) and headed to Lumphini Park.
The different bird songs, giant (!) reptiles, open air gym, open air ballet, seniors doing their exercise were a delight to the senses. Sun came out and only the 50+ sunscreen I had carried in my handluggage protected me from further damage (which I can see now by the red forehead that I must have forgotten).
Went further down Rama IV Road towards Chinatown (what looked like an one hour walk on the map turned out to be a three hour one, but was worth it after all). Ran into a nice senior, who was amused by the way I was trying to cross a street without being run over by buses/tuk tuks/motorbikes/cars and everything else that has at least two wheels and an engine. He showed me how to do it right and since that point I was crossing almost every street with confident steps instead of looking like I was running for my life- which was true in some way up to then.
He spoke good English, had been to Heidelberg (because of it's castle, it's very famous all over the world except to Germans) and we walked and talked a bit. Until he dropped me off at a ticket office. Every nice chat around here seems to take that turn at some point, at least that was my impression today. But what I really appreciated on the way is that when you smile at people, a kind smile is usually returned. And a slight nod with the head seemed to be appreciated by Thais even more.
Reached Chinatown, saw my first Wat from the outside but coudn't decide to go in and went for a stroll around the streets instead. A very rewarding decision. The food from the street vendors is excellent, same counts for the cafe latte which was brewed in what was labeled an Italien espressomachine! A situation that caught me (and which I didn't dare to take a picture of) was a blind Chinese walking in the middle of the narrow way of a street market, a loudspeaker hanging around his neck from which a sad Asian song spread through the rather quiet area, a microphone in his hand, singing to it, begging for change. Some sort of karaoke. The contrast of joyful entertainment and a sad act somehow cut. Felt guilty that I had left my last change at the coffeevendor...
I stumbled into some kind of monk school rather by accident but it seemed open to public, so I went on. A door lead into an open room where the monks were singing. Breathtaking. I tried to take a picture without rising attention, but the pictureupload doesn't work that well right now, so I'll upload that later. I don't know if a monk's life is either boring or exhausting but it seemed odd that these young men couldn't help but yawning every other minute, using their songbook as a shield (which didn't work for the audience's perspective) ;)
When I decided to leave, 5 buses full of young monks just arrived in the front area. Around 100 monks were walking past me, most of them staring at me curiously like I was an alien... felt a bit embarassed.
On my way out I thought about what I would need in the first place in case my backpack hadn't arrived at the hostel. USB recharger for my mobile sprang to my mind. And Chinatown was the best place to buy it. Definitely fraud, 3 different USB plugs but looking steady. For 150 Baht.
Felt worn out and my feet hurt from the cheap flip flops (prayed that my sandals had made their way to the hostel meanwhile). Rewarded myself with a metroride back to the hostel, where I - finally - could embrace my backpack. I have never been soooo happy to see it. Raincover "slightly" ruffled up, by some knots that I was sure hadn't made myself assumed that it had been opened, I made sure nothing was missing. Good decision not to place any backup money in there. Slipping into some fresh clothes after a cold shower was today's greatest sensation! The ones I started in in Germay were starting to smell a bit...
One of the hostel owners taught me my first Thai basics. Forgot, what "Thank you" means >.<
Have a roommate now. Her name is what we would pronounce as "Nina", but as I cannot write any Chinese I cannot give you the precise spelling. We have been chatting for hours and it was the first Chinese girl I met that freely talked about their culture, boyfriends & marriage, having to pay for using facebook and so on. She had been around Thailand for some weeks and got a tan on her arms and shoulders that would turn every European green with jealousy, but upset her clearly. So paleness being a desired beauty aspect in Asia is no myth at all. And she worried about how long it would take to get rid of the - in my opinion beautiful - colour...
Going to do some usual sightseeing tomorrow, will be carrying the big camera instead. Point-and-shoot is alright without any other option, but for proper pictures, I will always prefer a dslr.

Posted by Augensternchen 12:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

The way to Bangkok

rain 28 °C

Sitting in a cosy armchair on the rooftop of my hostel in Bangkok, I can announce that I made it here in more or less good condition, not feeling jetlagged actually.

Some words to my way here.

I spent my last night in Hamburg at my parents house organising things until four in the morning, then sleeping like a baby until seven. My mother and me started to the airport around nine and got stuck in the typical Hamburg traffic jam only twenty minutes later. My adrenelin level was skyhigh in seconds, as I wanted to be at the airport by ten, so we left the motorway at the next exit and went on by train, which would have been the better way to go anyway.

My mother got off at Barmbek to fetch the only pullover I wanted to bring along, but left hanging on the wardrobe in my flat the evening before :(

I went on to the airport on my own, where I met my sister and father and checked in my luggage. I felt well prepared and as I did all the check-in stuff a lot in the past years, it wasn't that exciting. My mother met us some minutes later (which was honestly a relief) and when looking back, my pullover was a really precious item on the flight. Would have arrived here stiff frozen without it.

We kissed and waved goodbye and I could hardly suppress my own tears when my mother started crying. It weren't the first tears in past 2 days that I had seen and I am quite happy by now to hopefully not see any for the next weeks. It made me feel guilty and I will always prefer to make people laugh instead of making them cry.

I spent the next 15 hours in the hands of Norwegian Airways, and what they call "service" is worth some stories.

We were boarding when our plane should have been in the air already, the pilot apologised that they had a five minutes delay when arriving in Hamburg (why this caused a 30 minutes delay to take off again didn't make sense to me, but anyway), I felt a bit nervous, because according to schedule I had only 80 minutes in Oslo until the connection flight to Bangkok would take off. And those minutes were melting away like an icecube in the desert.

When we arrived in Oslo, I hurried to the gate and had just the time to go to bathroom before boarding started, punctually at 14:20.

I was seated next to a young Norwegian couple, chose to sit close to the gangway this time as I hate to wake up people next to me when I needed a pee. Was a good choice after all, as there wasn't that much to see outside anyway.

What I still don't understand was the following: scheduled depature was 14:40. Instead of taking off at that time, our plane remained grounded for 1.5 hours without any obvious reason. And it's obviously not Norwegians politics to keep their passengers informed whats going on. But with no connection flight to catch this time, this wasn't by far the biggest problem I had with them. As soon as we took off I fell asleep as if someone had hit me on the head.

When I woke up again 2 hours later, I felt dead hungry. No wonder with one bun in the morning and a half peppermint chocolate bar on the flight to Oslo being the only food so far.

Something I had missed when I booked my ticket, was that when you go with Norwegian, you have to preorder a meal. Otherwise you don't get anything- not even a drop of water- until everybody else who ordered one got theirs (which takes about 2 hours). And what you can order then, is well described by the word "snack" but for, well, Norwegian prices. I ate the other half of my peppermint chocolate bar, thinking about how to cope with the next 10 hours. A former friend told me that the tabwater in aircrafts is actually of drinkable quality but for a reason I forgot about, they are not allowed to label it lake that (and for Norwegian there is obviously no reason to do so as there is only water supply in return for money). Correct, even on a twelve hours flight you don't get anything without payment. Not even a smile from the cabin crew. When I saw the stewardess refill the brand waterbottles from the trolleys with - guess what, tabwater from the boardkitchen- and found no sign, that the tabwater in the bathrooms is not drinkable, I refilled my collapsable waterbottle in the bathroom. Hehe. And survived it without any problems. The hunger problem was solved by purchasing a 250 g milkchocolate bar from the on board duty free for 6 dollars. Probably the best calories per dollar deal available on board. The same chocolate from the "snack bar" was 40 g for almost the same price...

Yet not the biggest problem I had with them.

After watching Black Swan and 5 more hours to go, I decided to take another nap. Not that easy with a child two rows behind me changing between sleeping and screatching in unbelievable decibels every five minutes. And what did I do, being a well prepared pharmacist? I popped half a pill of zopiclone and within 15 minutes passed out completely. Would always do that again, because when I woke up 4 hours later I felt refreshed and relaxed.

Soft landing in Bangkok with half an hour delay, made it through the passport control without any problems. Nobody cared about my onward travel ticket, which I had booked to skip the need for a tourist visa (40 dollars from Bangkok to Siam Reap on July 3rd, of which the 50% airport fee are refundable. Will decide later if I'm going to use it).

Everybody got their luggage except for- well- me. I had feared that would happen, it was left behind in Oslo, since there wasn't enough time to transfer it, I was told. Didn't understand it, our airplane had been standing around there for 1.5 hours doing nothing. They offered to deliver it to my hostel the next morning. Best thing about this is that I didn't have to carry the 13 kilos to the hostel myself. I looked down at myself, wearing transperent compressiontights underneath my zipoff trowsers in hiking boots...looked weird (especially after zipping off the legs), but thought I could live with that for one day and since losing my temper wouldn't have made my luggage reappear, I decided to take things as they are and not let my actually good mood be destroyed by this instance.

I hit the first 7 eleven I could find to help myself to some kind of breakfast (guess my need for chocolate is cured for the next weeks), took the trains to the hostel, found it instantly and was allowed to check-in though being there 3 hours too early. I sank to my bed and woke up only once when the room was being cleaned. Not knowing where I was, I must have looked pretty shocked at the woman. But she just smiled and said "sleep". And so I did.

I have decided to go slow today and get aclimatised to the (really!) humid air. Strolled around the hood in the afternoon and did some shopping at the 7 eleven. What makes me sad is that you can buy drinks only in cans or plastic bottles (which I actually wanted to avoid). Only found one brand of water which is sold in (tiny) glass bottles :( and I'm looking forward to having my reusable shopping bag (safely packed in my luggage -.-), because for those couple of items I bought were packed in three plastic bags.

Right now looking forward to my first thai beer (Chang). So cheers everybody and read you soon.

Btw: to those who haven't noticed yet, there is a "Subscribe" button on the right. If you leave an email address, you will be informed as soon as there is something happening here. Probably won't do such detailed reports every day ;)

Posted by Augensternchen 06:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok_start Comments (0)

30

... and just two more days to go

sunny 16 °C

I have turned 30 today. Apart from the even deeper pride that I feel when thinking of the people surrounding me, I can't notice any changes so far ;)
This was truely a night and day that I want to keep in memory for the whole trip. To know that I have such awesome friends - which I'm going to miss really badly - and an incredible family - which even after 30 years knows how to put a smile upon my face and a tear in my eye- is by far the best support I can think of.
This day meant a lot of good byes, too, which I didn't imagine to feel so emotional about. I was overwhelmed by the many wishes to take good care of myself and to come back home for sure after the trip. And of course by those wishes to have an awesome time, get to know nice people and places and just enjoy it :) Which I promise, I will!!
Those times we're living in, with all it's technical possibilities, distance is actually just the lack of being there in person.... never the less, if you feel like someone is missing, I'm just a couple of written words away. And be assured that though not being at home with you, my thoughts will be with you every other day.

Posted by Augensternchen 19:00 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

One month to go...

... The list

rain 11 °C

Today's Mai 11th and so far I'm really satisfied with my plannings. Gear is not yet completed, but with parcels flying in almost every day I should be done with this by the end of next week. And I think it's pretty good to have time on my side to sort those things out, which will have to stay at home :/

I have started to create a list in my head, what aims I want reach and things I want to do on the trip. It's not a promise I'm going to do them all (espacially those associated with spiders :D) but I'll give it a try and going to keep you updated.

1. Getting an Open water and Advanced Open water diver's license (probably Thailand).
2. Giving something good back to every country I'm visiting (volunteering for s.th. etc.)
3. Learning to cook a typical meal in every country I'm visiting
4. Learning (at least) how to say "Yes", "No", "Hello", "Thanks" and "Please" in every language I'm confronted with
5. Visiting at least one person that I met during my former travels
6. Getting a (small) tattoo
7. Climbing the Machu Picchu
8. Taking a boat on the Li river
9. Visiting Lhasa (when possible)
10. Sunset @ Angkor Wat
11. Taking a selfie every week (to see myself changing :D)
12. Reducing flights to the minimum and taking trains/boats/buses instead
13. Reducing litter by using refillable containers/reusable items
14. Diving @ Great Barrier Reef and on the Galapagos Islands
15. Improving my spanish
16. Travelling to the end of the world
17. Couch Surfing
18. WWOOFing
19. Learning how to surf
20. Meeting awesome people :)
21. Combating my fear of heights by covering at least 100 height meters (up-> down) within max. 30 minutes (skydiving/bunjeejump/paragliding etc)
22. Combating my fear of spiders by having a big one sitting on my hand
23. Jumping down a waterfall
24. Seeing (touching?) a wombat (favorite animal ^^)
To be continued...

Posted by Augensternchen 12:40 Archived in Germany Tagged list Comments (2)

An idea being born...

(Something really personal)

overcast 13 °C

Watching a documentation about travel photography in Madagaskar on telly right now, I'm thinking about how I got here...

I've been travelling on my own for years by now. Copenhagen, Istanbul, Edinburgh, to name those, which I travelled to alone so far. European, not so differnet from what I am used to back home, for reasonable periods.
The original idea to go on a whole year's trip came with my ex boyfriend - well, when he was my boyfriend. After splitting up two years ago and a short period of rearing up (when I thought that I wouldn't need anyone or anything at all to do it), I let go of the thought. Weakend in my self-confidence, I couldn't imagine to cope with all this on my own. It's a huge difference to manage a week off alone in Istanbul compared to a whole year being on the road far from home. What I needed in the end was time.

I made a joke once to spend my 30iest birthday far away from home on Madagaskar, as I see no sense in celebrating that you cross another age border... like being old an grown up from one day to another.
This joke somehow tranformed into something serious, when I started to look up guided tours to Madagaskar. Then other destinations started to tempt me (again). Like Myanmar, which had been on my Top destination list since the first thoughts about travelling the world. New Zealand, or the Galapagos Islands...

When you've got five weeks off work per year and only can take 2-3 weeks at a time, you finally realise that this won't make a satisfying trip, no matter, which destination outside the European borders you pick. You won't have enough time to leave your everyday-life completely and - considering guided tours- will spend a lot of money on being carried around a country on a sightseeingbus to make the maximum out of the trip. Like paying the enterance fee for the zoo, have a walk aroud, shortly gaping at things and move on, going back home afterwards.
Considering a journey, this would surely lead to a bunch full of new contacts with your travelmates, those with which you are stuck in a tin box for some days and can't get out of their way. Those "friends" you can't chose for yourself.
As you can see by those harsh words, that's not what I want and not what I'm travelling for. I want to experience a country, in my own pace, and not only cross the main attractions off a list. Get into natural contact with others, make real friends where possible, nothing constructed, see, taste, feel a surrounding (which is honestly best done, when you go alone!).

So far, Hamburg has been the center of my universe. This is where I was born, my home... my family and friends live here (or whats left of them), I found a great job in a nice pharmacy with awesome colleagues... but somehow...
I'm sure that I'm going to miss my everyday-life soon, but I think it's a good decision to leave all this behind for a while. Things are "allright", but don't change a lot round here, that's why it's called EVERYDAY-life. And when the baseline only swings to negative every once in a while, when you feel somehow misplaced in a surrounding where people get married and start to have children, while your own family plans are not even in sight (and might never come), it's time for some changes.

So my idea on being a year off is to experience new things, push myself out of the comfort zone, meet new people, open my mind to other positive things in life, see different surroundings, see surroundings differently.

Posted by Augensternchen 07:07 Archived in Germany Tagged home Comments (2)

Getting prepared....

overcast 11 °C

Wooohooo, another point to cross off my gigantic to-do-list :)

So here it is, my travel blog, hopefully be filling up soon with comments, pictures, thoughts... not only mine, but yours, too :)

What am I up to at all?
I'm going to start on 11th June 2014 on a one year trip through Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Southamerica.
My first station is Bangkok, from where I'm going to explore the North and Northeast of Thailand, make a short stopover in Cambodia,
spend a month in VIetnam and moving on to China, where I'm planning to stay for 2 months. The whole trip isn't planned through yet
(which is my purpose;)), so you have another good reason to peek in here from time to time :)

With two months still ahead, there's quite a lot of things to organize here at home. Done today:

- Get an international driver's license
- Get a second bank account
- Realize that a visa for Thailand is not necessary :)
- Setting up a travel blog
- Sorting things out with life insurrance etc.

So far I'm satisfied :)

Posted by Augensternchen 12:11 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

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