Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Bangkok and have Ticket home

The trip to Bangkok from Don Det went well. I caught a boat at 11 and then went to Pakse from the dock, then went on a bus through the boarder to Ubon, and finnaly had a overnight bus to Bangkok getting into the city at about 5:30. All in all I actually slept on the bus and got to Bangkok relatively rested. In the morning I just had some coffee waiting for things to open.

When places opened I checked out a bunch of places but nothing was cheaper than what I had found on the internet so I just bought the ticket from the internet. So now I have the ticket and get into Seattle at about 12:30 pm on Thursday. Its funny because Dharma gets back just one day before me on the exact same flight, if I had just bought the ticket originally from the internet then we would be on the same flight home.

After dealing with the ticket thing I figured out that Dharma was getting into Bangkok today, and then called Moo to hang out. We met up here at Khao San and had some food, and then went to the big shopping mall to go see a movie. I don't have much energy so that sounded perfect. The theaters are different too because you choose your seet, not first come first served, and the seats are almost like recliners. We saw Angels and Demons and it was pretty good.

Then after the movie we went to JJ market to see Moo's artist friend that works there because it was Sunday (JJ market is only on the weekends). That was really fun. We just hung out with the artists and drank a bunch of beers. Then people wanted to go to this one neighborhood that is very well known as the gay area of the city. I said I go if Moo was there with me. So we went and it was interesting. Of course because we were with artists the one place we went to was an art gallary/bar. Then we just had some noodle soup before going back to Moo's place.

This morning Moo had to work so I got up with her but then relaxed for a few hours for the trafic to die down in the city. When it was 10:30 or so I got a taxi back to the Khao San area. When I got here I took care of some stuff and then saw Dharma was on the internet so we connected and I went over the the internet cafe he was hanging out in. We caught up a little but he had to check into his guest house still and shower so I'm going to meet him in a few minutes for some lunch and who knows from there. I know Moo wants to hang out again and meet Dharma so thats probably going to be what happens.

I have been really surprized how comfortable I am in Thailand. I know what food is good. I know more words than any of the other places I've been, and the roads and stuff are practically as good as home. Its nice that I feel comfortable here. Thailand is a really nice country with an interesting mix of western and eastern cultures. Anyway, thats all for now and my next and last blog might be from my house in Seattle. Peace and love to all!

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm on my way home

I'm in a beautiful island on one of the largest rivers in the world and all I want to do is come home. I just feel drained and like I don't have the energy to go and see anymore tourist sights. I wanted to try to see a temple thats near here, a plateau thats said to be beautiful and one of the largest waterfalls in southeast asia but I just don't have the energy. I don't want to go see some sights and not appreciate them because I'm too drained and really should be home resting for the next adventure.

I'm not planning on quitting my travels all together. At home I am going to festivals, camping, going on hot springs road trips, and whatever else comes my way. So I'm going to continue my travels just within my own country and doing activities that I know I love. Also I do plan to continue traveling every winter as long as possible, and continue to write blogs about every place I go. I think I will be a better traveler and have more fun when I'm re-energized and ready for new cultures. Maybe next year I can make it 6 months.

I haven't done much on Don Det due to the lack of energy and general lack of interest to go see some sights verses swim and read. I've made a routine of waking up and going to one of the restaurants next to the beach and ordering an iced Lao coffee and reading. Then ordering breakfast when I'm hungry enough, and go swimming at the beach when I'm hot and sweating. I still go to the reggae bar at night, and its always packed every night until they shut off the lights at 11, or 10:45.

The water buffalo relaxing in the water agian

I like being in a place that has limited electricity. It attracts a certain kind of crowd that I really get along with. Plus I don't really need the power, during the day you can swim, and after 11 you hang out at the beach with a fire or at bungalows with candles. But they are installing power lines right now to bring 24 hour power to this island. The lines are actually already up and complete and power is said to be here anywhere from 2 weeks to 5 months. It makes me sad because I'm worried about how this place with change, but also happy because I got to experience it.

The view from my bungalow

One very strange thing that has happened is that there is another Andy from Seattle here at Don Det. He actually left this morning but the odds of two Andy's from Seattle that don't know each other at all being in Laos are slim to none. It came up because a guy I met the day before said "Hi, Andy from Seattle" to me and I came over the beach and started hanging out with him, and then the other one just walked up and said "I'm Andy from Seattle what do you want". I've hung out with him a bit and he's a good guy, strange coincidence though.

One day I did do something here and went tubbing down the river. It really was not that exciting but it was nice to do something. At my usual coffee and breakfast place in the morning some travelers asked if I wanted to go and I said it sounded great. A boat took us up the river and then we floated down near one big island. We basically floated back towards Don Det and the beach and the guy in the boat just waited till he saw us and zipped in the boat across the river to pick us up.

I've been hanging out with different people almost every day because I've been with people that have been here for a while and are leaving. So each day I meet some new people and hang out with them periodically throughout the day. I've gotten tired of all the normal travel talk because its all the same. So I just hang out and don't talk much, speak up when the conversation is interesting but otherwise just relax. Its still nice to be with people though and most people understand how I feel because like Cambodia many of the travelers here have been out for several months.

Sunset tonight from the Indian food resturant

So today I bought a ticket for Bangkok tomorrow. I'm just going straight there and buying a ticket home. The boat leaved at 11 am tomorrow and I get into Bangkok at 6 am the following day. Then I'll just take care of the ticket thing as fast as possible and hang out with Moo until I fly home. Thanks to everyone that have followed my blog, its been a nice place to express my opinions and tell my story. Until Bangkok, peace and love to all!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In Don Det in Southern Laos

I finally arrived in Laos to Don Det. All in all I was 9 days over my visa and it was 5 dollars a day so I payed 45 dollars to get out of Cambodia. The border was a bit of a joke. There was one gate with a small shack on the Cambodian side then another 20 meters away on the Laos side and that was it. There was hardly any trafic and we had to wait for an hour for our bus and only one van came to cross the border. The trip was good up to the border. I left Phnom Penh at 7 am almost missing my bus because I stayed up too late. Then I stayed one night in Stung Trung in Cambodia and left the next morning 2 hours late for the border.

The boarder

Don Det is a cool island in the Mekong. Its in an area called the 4000 island group where the Mekong gets really wide and there are several small islands throughout the river. In the dry season (which it is in water levels at least) several of the smaller sand islands are exposed and there is said to be over 4000. I can believe it because you can see 20 just looking out into the river in any particular direction.

When I arrived here I just got a bungalow on the sunset side (but I can't actually see the sunset from there) and then went to the little beach. The beach is where the boat dropped us tourists off and it kinda looks like a fake bit of sand put in the center of the bars and resturants but maybe its real also. Several people just hang out and swim and drink beers. There is also a water buffalow that hangs out and gets into the water at the beach or rests on the sand, he is so relaxed he doesn't care if people grab his horns, or jump on him or anything. There is also a parret that flys around and I've seen locals call him over and it land on their shoulder.

The water buffalo hanging out before and after the sunset

The sunset from the beach

I met some cool people on my first night and had dinner with them. That night I actually got sick from the indian food but I still went to the same place the next night with them because they really like the place. I spent the whole next day with them just relaxing and talking. Today two of them left and I have spent most of the day reading. Now I'm here and just ran into the third person I've been hanging out with and we may go to the Reggae bar to hang out after the internet.

There is only electricity here in the evening from the time the sun goes down until 10:30 or 11. Its like the small Koh Chang in Thailand in that way. I like it in places like this because it attracts a good group of travelers. Here on Don Det it seems like what most people do is hang out in the Reggae Bar until the power goes out and then move down to the beach for a bon fire. The first night there was a bon fire but it was funny because people had a very hard time starting it. Eventually it was lit and it was a nice fire with a lot of people around it, maybe 40-50 total. Last night it rained so there was no fire, we will see what happens tonight.

So far I like Laos. I can feel the difference even in this short distance into the country. I can't put it into words quite yet but its nice in Laos, less hectic then Cambodia. I still don't know how much I'll travel in Southern Laos. I'm here so I feel like I should see the temple near here and a plateau near here but I don't know if I have the energy. Whats the point in seeing something if I'm just seeing it so I can leave and not soaking it up. But I'm down here so I will probably go see a couple things before leaving. Anyway, thats all for now. I'll add pictures later because I don't have my camera now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finally leaving Cambodia

So a week ago when I was leaving Siem Riep I found out there is no direct bus to Kratie but I would have to change buses in Phnom Pehn so I decided just to go to to city. I traveled with a friend Rich from Scottland that I met at Garden Village and spent the entire last day hanging out with. We took the bus to the city and then came directly to Same Same.

Coming back to Same Same was like a big welcome home party. At first there wasn't anyone there but then one after another people I knew came out to hang out and say hi. All in All there were the Cambodian tuk tuk drivers, Mr. Hi, Mr. Paul, and Mr. T (he has never heard of A-team), then John the baptist, T-bo, and the Swiss guy (Claus), Rich and me. It was nice because we all new each other and hung out like old friends for the next few days. People thought we were traveling together then when they found out we were all from different countries they were impressed to see a group of 5 solo travelers from different countries all hanging out together.

hanging out on the deck and watching the sunset

Looking out the deck at the lake, and into Same Same at the hang out area

I really like Phnom Pehn, or really just Same Same but the city is nice too. I spend my time just relaxing around the guest house with different people. There is always someone to hang out with. One day the group of us went to the shopping center so we could take pictures from the top, but thats the only real activity we did. One night the rest of them went out to Candy, a girly bar, but I stayed back that night. It is so strange that a full week has gone by here in the city again but I like it and let time slip.

View of the old market (used to be a bus terminal)

You can see the lake on the left (all big buildings are under construction like that one, and see all the cranes in the distance)

Now I have overstayed my visa by 7 days but finally booked my ticket today to leave for Laos tomorrow. Everyone was making fun of me yesterday because they all got tickets to leave this morning but I didn't get my ticket yesterday so I was spending one more day here. I've said one more day for the last 4-5 days, but today really is my last day. With all the western friends gone I have more motivation to actually leave the guest house and get some things done, like the internet right now.

I wish I had more to tell you about the last week but really its just been nice relaxing here where I feel like a bunch of people know me. Don Det should be nice in Laos but then thats probably it for the traveling this year. But also at my pace right now it could be a month until I'm home and all I see is Don Det. All in all I like Cambodia. Its a tougher country with the good and the bad all mixed up together. But the good is really good and the bad is really bad. It reminds me of Guatemala with all its beauty but also a war torn country with extreem poverty, but Cambodias history is even more bloody than Guate's.

It is strange how everyone loves Hun Sen even with how evil and money grubbing he is. The people love him because they credit him with stopping the fighting. They say he is the one who made it so Cambodians stopped killing each other, so no mater how much money he takes, or land he steals, he is loved. I can actually understand that because people here still feel the anger from all the killing and just don't want to ever see a gun again. They will work hard and long hours for next to nothing as long as there is no danger of being killed.

Another strange thing about Cambodia is that the travelers are different. In Siem Riep and Sihanoukville they were normal holiday tourists and travelers, but not so much in the rest of the country. The travelers are either like me, as far as being more adventerous and being able to handle the extreem poverty. So those people travel around for a long time and spend a lot of time getting to know the country and people, maybe even volunteer for a while. Other travelers (besides the NGO workers) are trying to excape from something. Tons of people are here because of legal problems at home and you can get away with anything here. It has become known for that, and its true, so drug addicts and other people with problems come here to live the rest of there lives. These travelers add a strange aspect to the country because in some cases they are worse that the begging locals.

Anyway all is good here and I'll write from Laos when I get there. Peace and love to all!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Angkor Wat was Amazing

Now I've been in Siem Riep for about 5 days and have been to the temples 2 full days. A full day of temples makes you very tired so it is difficult to do two full days in a row, but there is so much to see. Angkor Wat is one temple but the whole area is over 50 temples. I decided to go to a bunch of smaller temples around Angkor Wat one day by tuk tuk with a friend, and another day on bicicle for the center big temples. Each temple is pretty different than the others so every one was interesting. I'll try to label all the temple pictures with what temple it is (and there are a lot, now 1/3 of my pictures are from 2 days of temples).

The first day I was there I just relaxed all day. I met a very nice french guy (his name is T-bo in english but its really spelled Thibault), who ended up being friends with John from Same Same in Phnom Penh. We hung out with a dutch guy all day and talked. T-bo and I made plans to go to see the smaller temples the next day by tuk tuk because he already saw all the big ones. It is very easy to spend all day at the Garden Village because you can choose your own music from a huge selection, get whatever food you want, check e-mail (if your ok with 30 min waits between pages), play games, and relax freely talking to cool people.

The next day T-bo and I met up in the morning and got a tuk tuk. The ride was fun and we saw a lot of cool temples. The best temple of the day and maybe my favorite of all was one we had to pay the tuk tuk extra to go to because it was off the normal tourist track.. I'll let the pictures do the talking for the temples because I could go on and on. In a lot of places its all about the carvings, just amazing and all over the place. And in other locations the size is so big but you can never really capture it on camera.

Prasat Kravan
Banteay Kdei
Srah Srang reserviour

Pre Rup

Banteay Samre (My favorite, I think)

riding between temples

East Mebon

Ta Som

Neak Pean

Preah Khan
Sunset over the outer Angkor Wat wall
After a full day of temples, I relaxed again for a full day. There is not a lot to say. I was with a group of 4 danish guys a lot, T-bo, and a Sweedish guy. T-bo and the Sweedish guy were going to Battambong the next day and then going to try to get a train to Phnom Pehn. I guess there is one shipping train every two days on the railway but no passanger trains and they want to ride on top of the shipping containers. I wonder how that has gone for them.

The next day I rented a bike in the morning and headed off for the big Angkor Wat. I met a Dutch guy when I was renting the bike and we traveled together to the temples. He was a cool guy and we had a good day together. Because I missed the main temples and he was only there for one day we both wanted to do exactly the same temples. These were bigger and more fantastic but I liked being in cool places where there weren't a lot of tourists. Angkor wat was not my favorite but Bayon in Angkor Thom was amazing. Anyway here are more pictures to do the talking for me.

Wedding Ceremony outside Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Ta Prom (the tomb raider one)

restoring the temple at Ta Prom

Ta Keo

Thameanon and Chao Say Thevada

riding between temples

Victory Gate of Angkor Thom

An active temple in Angkor Thom

random ruins inside the walls of Angkor Thom

Bayon in Angkor Thom

Sunset from Phnom Bakkheng
Yesterday I just relaxed again all day, recovering from the bike ride and temple walking which took a bit out of me. This time I hung out with a guy from London, a girl from Canada, and a New Zealand guy with a Czech girlfriend. I didn't do much again just watched football and talked, and looked into what I want to do in southern Laos. Later we all went out for some stall food at night.

Today I'm here and am planning to go to Kratie tomorrow, its a town on the Mekong between Phnom Pehn and the Laos boarder. Today is the last day of my visa so I will overstay it a few days so I can spend a few days in Kratie before I go to the boarder and the 4000 island group, which are a bunch of islands on the Mekong right on the boarder with Cambodia. These temples really have been amazing and the Garden Village guest house is great so all in all Siem Riep has been a wonderful experience and I'm ready to go to Laos!