A Travellerspoint blog

Ladies and gentleman, I present the Islamic Republic of Iran

Hello and welcome back to the drudgery of real life. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season! If you have any good stories, feel free to send me an email, Id love to hear them.

As for me, I had Christmas alone in Bangkok which was a lil weird but nothing to complain about. Thailand is buddhist so they dont really celebrate, but all the shopping malls were all decorated so the expats could get their shop on. Thais think Christmas is funny as well, they wear santa hats and take pictures in front of the decorations on the mall being showing the peace symbol like “haha, look at me im celebrating Christmas.” Its entertainment just watching them.

In other news a new record was set recently... I had my first sober New Years for me since I was probably 13. Spent it drinking tea and eating chocolates at my pops secretarys family's house, but more on this later.... Alcohol is illegal in Iran, and besides that they dont operate on the same calendar (its year 1780 something here, and new years is in the spring) so if you were ever wondering where to get your party on for new years, Tehran is not your place.... Oh yeah, and there are ZERO night clubs/discos. You don’t even need fingers to count how many there are – ridiculous!!!

I think after all this sobriety a trip to Belgium for some beers would be in proper order!!!

Anyways, so I went through one million hoops to get a new passport, and boogied out of Thailand shortly after Christmas to Iran. Im half Iranian and half Polish (or American, depending on how you look at it) and I hadn't been to Iran in 13 years. Part of the reason why its been so long is because if I ever came over I would be arrested and taken to the military for two years of conscription. Well, my pop somehow got me out of this so I figured I would hop over and check it out.

I am really excited to write about my motherland!!! For me as a quasi journalist I am really interested in seeing this place and reporting back to you all that I learn. In my opinion Iran is more misunderstood in the world than any other nation, and hopefully in my next couple of posts I will be able to get into the hearts and minds of these mysterious people and dispel so many of those terrible myths blasted across the world by those son of a bitch conservative media.

Well, that is all I have for now. Unfortunately I cannot make any big posts or upload any photos because all I have is a 34kb dial up connection to the internet. I think even a the dinosours had better internet. Some sort of a powerful antenna would really come in handy right about now... Im not even sure if I am properly receiving emails, and facebook is banned across the country so Im lost as to what is going on except for this shit in Gaza. They have black market satelite dishes here and I can get the news from every country in the world. You name it they have it (Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Dubai, Libya, Kazakhstan, Korea, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, Oman, etc...)

Good news is the Farsi is coming back slowly but surely which maybe is a problem because I think in one ear goes Farsi, and out the other one goes Spanish... I have no idea how some people keep track of 5 or 6 languages. I dont think my mind is built for it.

I still have a post to write about some really crazy stuff in Hanoi, Vietnam, so hopefully I will be able to find a good connection one of these days and get that out there for you all now that you are back to work and have plenty of free time to read when you are falling asleep reviewing R014s, PTRs, ECPs, parking tickets, Delta stuff, MSG HR payroll, boat insurance, tech manuals, dragging anchors or whatever it is (same stuff, different name...and all of it is boring).

Oh yeah, another record was recently set. I have admitted to myself that I have to get back in the game relatively soon. I have slept in chicken coops and have managed to keep spending to a minimum, but running out is bound to happen. I think Iran is the last country where I will be traveling in, and after this Ive gotta get some sort of a job. I bought a suit and some dress clothes so Im ready to hit the ground running in T minus a couple of weeks. So where I am going with this is that if you know of any good stable jobs with a pretty good compensation package and health insurance I might just be interested. My skills include: bungee jumping, eating snakes bugs and other weird creatures, white water rafting down waterfalls backwards, unskilled high altitude mountaineering, fist pumping till all hours of the morning, sitting on shit African busses for 37 hours without a toilet or a chair that reclines, getting through border checkpoints without enough cash for a visa, overcoming salmonella and 106 degree fevers without dying, having enough patience not to knock out Egyptian hawkers, getting bottles smashed on my headw, shooting Russian machine guns, and at least a dozen others I cant remember right now....

Welcome back - B!

Posted by bejuan99 02:10 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

Be prepared for a fat one.....

Alright, I promise this is going to be a good one!!!

Since the last entry I have done a lot of cool stuff, and am really excited to be telling you about it all!!!

But before I get into all that, I would like to start by congratulating Matt Hwalek and his Fiancee Meghan for having a wonderful healthy baby boy. On November 27th, Caiden Mathew Hwalek was born. Congradulations Matt, and good luck entering this new journey they call fatherhood!
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Holler Jim Cullen, whoever you are. If you are the guy who thought I was on drugs that morning I was hungover from drinking a bottle of whiskey the night before, then read up!!! Thanks for subscribing to the post bud!

Hit meter is at 8,932 guys.... Lets make 10,000!!!!

This one is a long one. A special holiday edition, because I am sure a lot of you will be sitting around looking for something to do - so here goes.

I left off at Siem Riep, Cambodia, and this entry takes us through Phenom Phen, Cambodia, into the south of Vietnam, and up to Hanoi in the north.

Cities:
Phenom Phen, Cambodia
Ho Chi Minh City (AKA HCMC, AKA Saigon), Vietnam
Nha Trang
Hoi An
Hue
Hanoi

So, after going to Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, me and Kylie (travel buddy from New Zealand), headed out to Phenom Phen. The main draw there is to go see all the remnances of Pol Pot's regime, and all the destruction that occurred to the country under the Khmer Rouge.

The first place we hit up was S-21. This was originally a high school which was later converted for use by the secret police from 1975-79. Tuol Svay Prey High School, later renamed S-21 (security prison 21) was a real shithole in its day. Of the 20,000 prisoners held here during its heyday, only 7 survived.

Conditions were terrible, and as you go through the place you get a real eerie feeling. There are seperate cells where inmates were chained at the legs to the floor, and if they moved, spit, made a noise, etc. were beaten. Upstairs were large rooms where 40 people or so were shackled at the feet next to one another in a large room, and were not allowed to move or would be beaten.

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Entrance to Toulslang Gang

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Shit is no laughing matter...

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Birdie in barbed wire

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A lot of different torture techniques were used, and of the seven victims that survived, one was an artist, and painted these pictures.

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Weekly (and sometimes daily) prisoners were shipped from here to the killing fields where they were murdered. Most of the time the murder was by bludgeoning in order to save precious bullets that were needed to crush the enemies of the revolution.

At the killing fields there is a really nice memorial for all the victims of the Khmer regime. Inside is 9,000 skulls that were found during excavations of the mass graves at the killing fields. If you take a close look at the skulls, you can see that many have large fractures, or dents (dont know the medical term???) from being bashed to death.

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Outside

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Inside

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On the outside you can see indented areas in the ground where excavations occurred, and signs indicate what is in those areas. Some of the most disturbing is the one grave with 163 bodies who were decapatated, and the one for children and mothers. If you look closely at the ground you will notice that there are areas where the rains have washed away the soil to reveal the clothing of those who have been murdered. Its super eerie.

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I have to say that once you go to S-21, and the killing fields you wont be in the happiest of moods. It will leave you feeling disturbed. You know you are fucking around with bad karma by going to those places. It really makes you wonder how normal people can turn into such vicious monsters.

After such a terrible morning, me and Kylie went to a shooting range and shot some machine guns to lift our spirits!!! They had a bunch of options on the menu, and coming from the gun thirsty US of A, I had shot most of their options, so I went for a Russian K57 fully automatic belt fed machine gun. The other option was an M60 (7.62mm US machine gun from the Vietnam era), but they said that it jammed a lot, so I went with the Russian option. For $20 more you can shoot a duck or a chicken. For a couple hundred dollars you can shoot an RPG (rocket), and blow something up or throw a hand grenade. If you pay a bit extra, you can blow up a cow. I really really wanted the RPG, but heard it was cheaper in Vietnam, so I waited. It turns out that its not cheaper, so I really missed out.... Oh well – put it on the list. I hear you can do that kind of stuff in some of the ex-Soviet states that nobody remembers their names.

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And then there was this guy who didnt use earplugs, but instead preferred to use empty shell casings as ear protection...

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Kylie wasn't so impressed by my half hour lesson on the history of the Klashnikov...

From Phenom Phen, we headed out to Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon in Vietnam. Saigon was renamed when North Vietnam captured the south, and reunited the country in 1975. In honor of their esteemed leader the city was renamed after Uncle Ho. HCMC is a nuthouse. It has something like 6 million motorbikes, and sometimes you will be at an intersection and will see motorbikes going for 5 minutes, nonstop through the intersection with no stopping. Its a sea of motorbikes.

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First introduction to HCMC. They love motorbikes so much, they never want to leave them. Not even to sleep!!!

We did kind of a lot in HCMC, and started by going to the Reunification Palace. This was the house of the South Vietnamese president up until the invasion by the north. It has been preserved in its original state, and is cool to see. The offices, and meeting halls were ok, but for me I thought the war planning rooms, and the underground bunkers were the best. Sitting in the map room, I could imagine that bastard Defense Secretary Robert Macnamara, or General Westmoreland giving all their shit statistics and feeding a load of garbage to South Vietnamese president Diem.

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There was a bunch of quick escape routes from different areas of the house, and in the basement was a concrete bunker with radio and command equipment. There also was a helicopter that was always on alert in order to fly the president away in an emergency.

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Ramdomly, these hollowed out elephants feet were gifts that the president left behind

From there we went to the War Remembrance Museum, which was interesting to see the Vietnamese viewpoint on the war. First of all, they refer to the war as the “American War”, and the way they portray it is that the US came in, and fought this war all by themselves. They would never portray the South Vietnamese as being in bed with the US, let alone fight against the North. They highlight all the VC who fought hard and were successful as “American Killer Heroes” - thats the name of the medals they were given. They then went into the disastrous effects of agent orange, and how the US knew how bad it was but still used it. After that they rubbed in the My Lai Massacre, where US troops murdered 500 innocent civilians, and some of the other unknown massacres that occurred on a smaller scale. Its basically communist slander at the US, and portrays the South Vietnamese as innocent bystanders, while the powerful North through all its determination was able to defeat the US war machine. It didn't talk much about the French occupation, or the battles of Dien Bien Phu, General Giap's massacre at Hue, or the Chinese occupation either. Strictly US bashing, and I can understand why. The US raped and pillaged South East Asia, and they have every reason to be pissed at us. We fucked them hard and I really feel for them.

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Wow, shes sexy......... haha - talking about the jet.

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I was taught to fear these people...

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Piece of a B-52 wing shot down during the 1972 christmas bombings

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When I was there, they had an exhibition on some of the prisons in South Vietnam, but of particular interest was this 18th century guillotine used by the French on some 200 prisoners during their occupation. Creepie!!!

From HCMC, I went on a day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels. In the Cu Chi district of South Vietnam, they were the staging point for operations within the Saigon area during 1968 Tet Offensive. They are a massive tunnel complex that was used by the VC (South Vietnamese communist sympathizers who fought against the US). There were armament bunkers, bomb shelters, a hospital, kitchens, etc. all underground, hidden from sight. The US soldiers who operated in the Cu Chi area were under constant observation from hidden posts that were the most clever of designs. If the soldiers were able to make it around the area without coming under attack, then they had to make it through all the hidden traps that were in the area. A majority came from pungee sticks (sharpened bamboo spikes hidden below false ground). The people who worked there showed the 30 or so different ways that a pungee stick trap could be made, and what it would do to you if you got caught in it.

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I heart VC!

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Of course hanging out on the end of a tank barrel makes sense!!! Why Not!!! Give me a beer!!!

When I was younger, I was so inspired by the Cu Chi tunnels that I made a small underground room in my backyard with a similar construction to the VC just like this one.

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Before

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After

From HCMC, we went to Nha Trang which is a nice beach town. Unfortunately, when we were there we had nothing but cloudy weather but it was still good nonetheless.

I was so proud that I was able to become a millionaire!!!
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Me with one million dongs...... (not what your thinking sicko – their currency is Vietnamese Dong)

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And then Kylie laughing at me because its really only worth like $50.

It was in Nha Trang that I had my first encounter with snake wine. When I was working in Binghamton, we had a guy from Vietnam in our department, and after he got back from a three week vacation there he told us about snake wine, and I was hooked. I knew I needed to have some. Snake wine isnt that complicated, and is basically wine that has a big ass snake in it. There are a lot of variations on it though. I have seen snake wine with birds, geckos, snakes, starfish, alligators, etc. in it. So when I found it in a restaurant for the first time I gave it a go.

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Before

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After

Other snake wines I found along my journey
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Then we went to this cool monastery.

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And Kylie found her favorite plant in the whole wide world...

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And there were these cool Buddhas.

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This was my favorite, the sitting Buddha

The next day we had to wait for the bus, and it was cloudy so we took a gondola to an amusement park island and rode these funny shitty Vietnamese rides.

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View from amusement island

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Nha Trang port

From Nha Trang we headed out to Hoi An, where we literally didnt do anything because we got sick from our food. Hoi An is the best place in the world to get a suit. For as little as $20 you can get a handmade suit to your body size and type in a matter of 24 hours. I would have liked to pick up some joke suits, but I was saving my cash to shoot a rocket so I turned it down.

From Hoi An we headed to Hue, which was the capital of Vietnam from 1800 to 1945. We went to a cool temple there (Thien Mu Pagoda), which is really important for the Vietnamese, is a symbol for the city, and overlooks the water so its really beautiful there.

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Then it was off to the Citadel, which was the historic city. With gigantic walls, it was the home of the emperor, and was filled with a secret community of concubines, emporers, and their buddies where they partied it up.

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Me and my ten foot cock...

Then the next day I went on a DMZ (demilitarized zone) tour, which was cool, but only if you are a military buff like me. When I was a senior in high school we were asked to write a thesis paper on a topic of choice. The guidelines were that the paper had to be between 7 and 9 pages and the topic had to be approved by the teacher.

I chose the war in Vietnam, and in the end I was told that my paper was the best the teacher had seen in his whole career, and would be used as an example for classes to come, but was chewed out and received an A- for the solely because my 31 page paper didnt fit the length guidelines. Needless to say, I was more educated on the war than most of my Vietnamese tour guides, but it was still good fun.

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We started by visiting this monument to women fighters, and those who worked in telecommunications during the war.

From there we went to the Vinh Moc tunnels, which were just north of the DMZ. They were used by the local people to hide and carry on with their lives during long term bombing operations by the US. It was once used to shelter 250 people, and 17 babies were born underground. The tunnels were a bit more spatious than in Cu Chi (they were in the North, so the tunnels were more used as an underground village than to fight the US), and they even had a meeting room/movie theatre.

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This was a really nice memorial to the war in the museum

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Then I had to get my hands on this Russian AAA gun

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This was the conditions the families lived under while above ground B-52s were dropping massive loads all over the place

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Cool lantern found underground

Then my favorite part of the tour was to head to Khe Sanh. The famous Marine base was the sight of the four month seige by NVA and VC forces in 1968. With 6,000 combined Marines and ARVN troops vs. a staggering 30,000 NVC and VC the Marines were surrounded, cut off, and had no logistical supply. For four months it was like hell living there, and in the end the VC pulled out sustaining heavy losses on the order of 15,000 troops. The place has a lot of history, and holds a special place in all Marines hearts (next to Chosin, Iwo Jima, Belleau Wood, etc.).

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Today, the base has been taken over by coffee plantations, and there is little more than a museum as a reminder of all the shit that went down here.

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Various parts of aircraft that were destroyed and left behind

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Unexploded ordinance that was retrieved from the nearby areas. Twenty four hour a day large scale bombings by B-52s dessimated the North Vietnamese forces, and have left a lot of damage to the area.

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Lone bunker that has been left behind as a reminder

From Hue, we then headed up to Hanoi. The capital of North Vietnam, this place was the center of the communist war machine. With all the Russian munitions coming in through Haiphong harbor, just a few hours away, they were brought in by rail to Hanoi, then down to the south on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Hanoi was really pretty, and I think we unanimously liked it more than any other city in Vietnam. If you ever make it out there, the area to stay in is the old quarter. It has a heavy French influence, and is really amazing. Just a few blocks away is a really nice lake, where you can walk around and see people doing all sorts of crazy exercises.

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Night pics of the lake in Hanoi

I was super pumped about it, but I'm not so sure if Kylie was, but the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum was really cool. In the spirit of all good communists (Stalin, Lennin, & Mao), we hit up the mausoleum. Unfortunately, 15 armed soldiers ensure you don't take a picture, but it was something to be seen. I never thought I would be interested in seeing a dude who's been dead for 50 years...

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Uncle Ho's resting place

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Just next door is the Indochina governmental palace. This is where the French ruled from.

So, I know all this military shit is getting to be a bit much for you all, so I will keep it short. From there, we went to the Hoa Lo prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton”, so affectionately known by US airmen who spent countless years rotting there.

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Service medal awarded to those who served

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The “central house”, was the most elaborate jail in indochina, and the French made heavy use of it until 1954. They also had a guillotine here that removed the head of some 200 odd people.

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The old layout of the prison until a majority of it was knocked down in 1999 to make room for a 20 story hotel. Who won the war now commies???

The first half of the prison explains how torterous the French were (not at all how almost all the jail staff was Vietnamese), and how the leaders of the revolution were punished here. The second half shows what a good life the US airmen had when being in jail there. They showed the cigarettes, mail, gifts, guitars, etc. that they had. All the pictures were of them smiling, and of the ones who were healthy. They then showed how humanely they were when they gave them first class clothes, and allowed them to return back home at the end of the war. It was a fat load of commie propoganda, but was funny more than anything else.

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McCains flight suit and gear. He was shot down flying his Navy A-4 Skyhawk on a bombing mission of an electrical power plant that was really a decoy for a surface to air missile site. He spent the better part of 6 years in the Hanoi Hilton, and no longer can lift his arms above his head because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of the NVA.

These next photos are of of random Hanoi street life...

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Cant get away from the rickshaws!!!

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Me ghostriding the rickshaw. Told you Id do it!

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Cool lantern store

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So Kylie went to look for a jumper, and the man who owned the store was smoking this bong looking thing, and I asked if I could smoke with him so I did. I wasn't sure what he was smoking at first, but he was doing it on the street so it couldn't be bad. Anyways, I hit it and immediately the whole block started cracking up at me. They thought it was absolutely hilarious, and we all laughed about it for ages.

Then there was Ha Long Bay.... This place is amazing. You really have to go. Its a series of islands that are just a few hours from Hanoi. The best way to do it is to take a junk. Maybe a piece of junk, if you go for budget, but a junk is one of those ancient asian boats thats really cool looking. Im running short on available text so I will allow the pictures to do the talking...

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I would have to say this is maybe one of the best pictures I have ever taken...

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Thats all for now. Gotta run. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! I will be writing my next post from Iran, so till then...

B

Posted by bejuan99 00:20 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Goooooooood morning Vietnam!!!

I just want to thank you all for being so patient with me. I have really slacked off when it comes to the blog, but I have been quite busy taking chicken busses, as well as trying to figure out my future. I have been on the road 6 months now, and unfortunately am coming close to the end. I figure I have about another month or so of travel left before I have to make a decision and stick to it with regard to where I want to live.

In the meanwhile I just want to once again thank you all for reading my entries. I know they may seem boring, or just way too long to read sometimes but there is a reason for this. I know that I have been blessed in this world to be given such opportunity, and that I have made the right choices in life to put me in this position. A majority of the people in this world will never be able to experience anything near what I have been able to see and experience on this trip. Chances are that many of you who are reading are in a similar situation because of other commitments (family, significant others, mortgages, jobs, etc...)

Therefore, I feel like I really want to try and have you experience it like I have. More importantly my goal is that after reading my stories, hopefully it will give each and every one of you to go out there and hit the road and explore all the world has to offer.

With all that being said, since the last entry I checked out these places:

- Chiang Mai
- Pai
- Mae Hong Son
- Katchanaburi
- Siem Riep (Cambodia)

Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai is the largest city in the north of Thailand. The ancient city is about 12 hours by train, or 10 hours by bus from Bangkok. The perimeter is a large square formed by large brick walls that are surrounded by a large moat that prevented invaders from getting in, and is easily walked on foot. It takes only about 20 minutes to walk from end to end. The main attraction at Chiang Mai is the temples. Outside of this, it is mainly used as a gateway point to the Golden Triangle (3 way border with Burma, Thailand, and Laos) and to visit the hilltribes of the north. The golden triangle has forever been known as a large transit point for the smuggling of opium, and as an access point for Burmese guerillas to get supplies and medicine. My main goal in visiting Chiang Mai was to motorbike around. When I was in Nepal I met a man who told me for about 4 hours all about this website (www.gt-riders.com) Golden Triangle Riders, who have made maps and have a website all about motorbiking in asia. It was all started by one man who wanted to motorbike in asia 15 years ago and couldn’t find any legitimate information on it. There was no maps, no info on where to go or distances involved. More on this later.

In the north the most popular deal is to ride an elephant, go on a bamboo raft down the river, and visit the golden triangle. Most people do it on a tour, but you would be waaay better off if you just bought a map from the 7-11 and went on a shitty little scooter motorbike. I never got the opportunity to do so because of a time crunch, but take my word for it – this is the way to go.

When I was in Chiang Mai, I ate up a whole day writing my last blog entry (thank you very much), and then spent the next day checking out all the various temples. Chiang Mai has the highest per capita concentration of temples in all of Thailand. Squeezed within the small city walls are something like 300 temples!!!

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Highway to the Danger Zone!!!

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Offerings to Buddha: toothpaste, socks, toothbrush, bubble gum, money, a bag of potato chips, pen, chocolate, tiger balm, oh yeah, and don’t forget the toothbrush to go with the toothpaste.

Pai – This place is a real stoner hangout. I think the PC term is “counter culture”, but regardless the whole idea of the place is to kick back and do nothing. Im serious, they have tshirts that are real popular that say “do nothing in Pai” that have a picture of a dude just sitting on a couch somewhere half asleep. Its got a similar vibe to Kathmandu, and just about every restaurant is called gonja café, or rasta bar, or something like that. I had high hopes from everything I heard that Pai was going to be amazing, but for me I wasn’t as into it as I could have been. Just a bit too stonerish for me. I did have an amazing chicken burrito at a place owned by a guy from Jersey City for thanksgiving which was nice.

I took a motorbike out in Pai, and cruised around. For $2.50 a day you can rent a 125cc manual scooter/motorbike and cruise. Pai has really beautiful countryside, and that is where I spent most of my time. I went to an old WWII bridge, Pai Canyon, some hot springs, a cool mountain temple, and to a Chinese village. When I was there I went to a bookstore, and on my way out these Thai guys offered me whiskey so I drank with them. It turns out that the one guy Ten, who owned the bookstore just published his first book and was looking to sell it at the upcoming movie festival in a few days time from when I was there. He was worried because he had to make a quota, but Thai people don’t like to read. The only time they go to the bookstore is to stand in front of it and to take a funny picture like “hahha, look at me – im at the bookstore. Im reading, hahaha” like it’s a big joke to read. Long story short I mistakenly told him that if I worked selling for him that he would no problem make his quota, and I really wanted to help him out, but I had to boogie out and never did it. I think I really let him down. If you are reading this, Ten – I wish you the best of luck buddy!

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Pai Canyon – This place was pretty sweet, and had these really weird walkways where everything else around it was eroded.

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Cool WWII bridge. Unfortunately I cant tell you more than that.

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Funny ferris wheel of sorts powered by people at Chinese village. In typical fashion they had really loud and fast techno playing and girls who had little charms hanging from their mobile phones.

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Chinese village

Mae Hong Son (MHS) – I would have to say that of the places I visited in the north, this was my favorite. A bit bigger than Pai, but smaller than Chiang Mai. The town is situated on a really beautiful little pond, with a really sweet Buddhist temple as the centerpiece of the town. They have a really good night market with many handmade goods that come from the local hilltribes. It’s a lot better to buy directly from the person making it rather than in a market in Bangkok where there is 7 other people to pay off, and the profits are mafia controlled. Because of the close geographical location to Burma Mae Hong Son attracts some interesting people. No matter where you go in Thailand you will see older white guys who go for the Thai women (mostly the rejects because they could never score back home), but in Mae Hong Son you don’t see so much the sex tourists or the guys who have legitimate Thai wives, but rather ex-military types. I didn’t figure out what they were doing there until I chatted it up with this guy (I will withhold his identity because he asked me to) who grew up in Riverhead who told me all about the different underground organizations that run out of MHS that funnel supplies, munitions, medicine, intelligence etc. into Burma. They also take care of the hilltribes in Thailand and make sure the ones who are on uncle sams payroll get fair and just treatment for their service to the US DOD intelligence network. Just because of the way I was talking he asked if that was what I was in search for, but I turned him down. Long story short this guy gave me the skinny on Burma, and just about everything that is going on in this long forgotten part of the world.

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Also while in MHS I went to a bar where it was just me and another guy, and we started to chat it up. I saw he had a Golden Triangle Riders shirt on, so I asked if he has ever done some of the rides up in the North. It turns out that I stumbled upon the legend!!! This guy in the bar, who was drinking a whole bottle of Ballantines to the head was the originator of Golden Triangle Riders, the original SE Asia motorbike man. Anyways, I went to another bar with him and got absolutely tore down until I met a guy who worked for the Department of Homeland Security and we drank another bottle of whiskey in the street (damn that was a rough night). The INS (no longer the name) is in north Thailand processing paperwork on some 10,000 IDPs (internally displaced peoples) from Burma. Some have served the US as guerilla fighters going back as far as Vietnam working as CIA operatives deep within Lao and Cambodia, and some are in search of a new life.

Katchanaburi – This place, 3 hours west of Bangkok is pretty sweet. The highlights are The Bridge on The River Kwai, Erawan National Park, and the Tiger Temple. I went to Katchanaburi with a kiwi friend Kylie, who I met in the south of Thailand a couple of weeks earlier. She was working in Bangkok as an English teacher, but wrapped that up before hitting the road with me.

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Me and Kylie in Tuk-Tuk around town.

Katchanaburi was the last town in Thailand I was going to check out before hitting the road for Cambodia and Vietnam. That makes my Thailand experience longer than any other country I have been to.

Towns visited:
- Phuket
- Ko Phi Phi
- Krabi
- Ko Tao
- Bangkok
- Chiang Mai
- Pai
- Mae Hong Son
- Katchanaburi

The Bridge on the River Kwai is most famous because of the Hollywood blockbuster by the same name. Unfortunately I have never seen the movie, so I cant say anything about its truthfulness with all that I understand. Regardless, the bridge was built by Japanese prisoners of war during WWII. Its purpose was to connect Burma with Bangkok, and the conditions were so terrible that 17,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Seamen and Marines from England, Australia, US, and Holland died alongside 100,000 captured workers. The conditions of the workers were terrible, and if you go to the museums you can get a good feel for what a miserable life it must have been for the prisoners. The original estimate for how long it would take to build the railroad was 5 years, but with the accelerated pace of the war and the use of a prisoner workforce it was completed in only 18 months.

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Thailand was initially neutral during WWII and didn’t want to have to choose sides, but was essentially forced by the Japanese war machine to sign a pact saying that they would not intervene in military affairs, but that Japan would be able to operate freely within its borders. That’s why the Japanese were building a bridge in Thailand.
At night the town puts on a light and sound show during the first week of December every year for all the survivors. It was kind of a joke initially, but then it got better as the story unfolded (in Thai) about the Japanese occupation, the laborers conditions, and eventually the Allied assault on the bridge. At the end was a fireworks show as the original Japanese train crossed the bridge. My favorite part was when a remote control B-25 Mitchell (the original plane used in the allied attacks on the bridge) all lit up with lights flew around shooting fireworks that blew up at the bridge. I don’t know why but I thought that was really cool.

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The next day me and Kylie rented a motorbike, and drove all around. First we hit up Erawan National Park, which is most famous for their waterfall. There are 7 major waterfalls, and about 15 little ones which are equally unique. The place is so amazing, that it almost looks fake, but its all natural. The water is pure blue, almost as if the source is a mountain glacier. Its really beautiful, and if you are ever in that part of town you should def hit it up.

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On the way back, the strap on my helmet broke, and while going 100km/hr it flew way up in the air and almost hit a chicken truck. When I went to return the bike, the girl was confused at how I could have a helmet that was smashed to pieces, but that the bike was all ok. I think I am the first person ever to crash only the helmet, and not the bike.

The Tiger Temple was expensive ($12 to get in), but worth it. It originally started as a Buddhist temple where people from the town would take wounded baby tigers, and eventually the monks got good at taking care of them and so people brought more and more animals until one day they needed the expertise of western zoologists, and now its more zoo than temple. They have roughly 35 tigers that range from 4 months to full grown adults, leopards, pigs, buffalos, peackocks, huge crazy deer, some crazy fire breathing eagle, etc…

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Finally found the chanchito!!!

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Me

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Buffalo sunning itself

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Pterodactyl

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Leopard

The thing about the tigers is that you can go and pet the tigers if you are up for it. When you see them for the first time you cannot believe that they are not drugged. They are just lying around, sleeping most of the time, and it just seems so unnatural. After chatting it up with some of the western staff they do their best to convince you that there are no drugs involved and that the only reason the tigers are so tame is because they spend their whole lives around people. At night when they feed it is very dangerous, and they have to be caged. Tigers by nature are nocturnal animals, and I can say that from my experiences in the African savannah from seeing truly wild big cats (Lions, cheetahs, leopards, etc. ) that they really just sleep all day, but even then you cannot predict their behavior, and they still will eat your fucking face off if they feel like it.

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I wasnt much of a cat man up untill a couple of months ago, but how could you deny that face???

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Oh shit!!! I killed the tiger!!! Oh wait, its just on elephant tranqs....

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This one was a freakin animal. He was probably at least 7 or 8 feet long, and nothing but solid muscle.

From Katchanaburi we headed back to Bangkok where I had to take care of some administrative type stuff, and then we headed out to Cambodia. The bus ride from Bangkok to Siem Riep is about 12 hours, and isn’t too bad, but the border is quite shitty. Poypet has a reputation for being a real shithole, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. The most interesting thing about this travel was to see the difference from the Thai side to the Cambodian side. The difference is immediate.

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Cambodia is poor, disorganized, chaotic, a bit more dangerous, and the people have a different philosophy than Thais. Their country has been ravaged for the past 30 years, and for only the past 8 or so years have had their borders opened for what I would consider mass tourism (pretty sure you wouldn’t though). The people have done their best to forget the horrors of the past, and are moving on in search of a better life. There are no real jobs in Cambodia, and it’s a real hard life. There are a lot of beggars everywhere (mostly victims of landmines), and the people are really pushy to beg or sell you anything you can imagine. The countryside is unspoiled, and it was a good experience for me to get back into a shithole. When I went from spending one month in Nepal, to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia it was a surreal experience to be back in civilization with clean streets, ATMs, starbucks, a postal system, safe roads, traffic lights, etc. and I never got back into the filth, grime, and poverty of Asia until Cambodia.

To go quickly into the history of Cambodia, it has been historically the center of the Khmer empire. It is most famous for its massive temples, most notably Angkor Wat which is so important to the nation that it is the centerpiece of the Cambodian flag. As a part of Indochina (the French colonies of Cambodia, Lao, and Vietnam) there is a definite French influence, and a majority of all street signs, restaurant signage, etc is in Khmer (language) as well as French. Baguettes can be found nearly everywhere, and French pastries are sold by just about everybody and their mother on the street.

The most important piece of recent Cambodian history is the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge which left the country in shambles, and over 2 million Cambodians dead. I will go into depth on this in the next entry when I talk about S-21 and the killing fields.

The general name Angkor Wat is loosely used for all the different temples in the Angkor Wat complex, but really Angkor Wat itself is only one of a series of about 40 or so temples with a 10km radius of Siem Riep. The major sights are Angkor Wat, Hit Ta Prohm, and Angkor Thom which inside is Bayon. It’s a pretty big area that can be covered in anywhere from one day to an entire week, and is best covered by bicycle or tuk-tuk. You can hire a tuk-tuk for $10 a day and the driver will drop you off and wait for you as you cover the temple, and then you move onto the next one. Its makes for a real nonchalant day, and is a lot easier in the heat than peddling the distance.

Angkor Thom – This is a major complex surrounded by a huge moat that has a lot of cool sights. First head to Bayon, then check out the Terrace of Elephants, and the rest of the lot.

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Kylie at terrace of elephants

Bayon – 216 faces like this in one of the highlights of any tour of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat – Built in the 1100s, this is the largest religious building in the world, UNESCO site, and is simply amazing.
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Shoutouts…

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I really like this one

Hit Ta Prohm
– This place is crazy. Its filled with trees that have engulfed the temple and have become one with the stone structure. The archaeologists like it because of the cycle of life it represents as man conquered nature to create, and nature conquered humans to destroy. Countless movies have been filmed here including Tomb Raider because of how awesome it is.

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Band of dudes who are landmine victims. All are missing limbs or eyes. My favorite is the guy who plays the leaf. No, that’s not the name of a fancy shmancy instrument. Its just a damn leaf from a plant.

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Crazy tree

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Random

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At sunset you go up to the top of this one temple which has a pretty good view, but the steps up are so steep and narrow, you have to use your arms and legs. Some people who were out of shape struggled.

After hitting up all the temples, we were wore out so we went to an all you can eat buffet and pigged out for the only meal of the day and enjoyed a Cambodian traditional dance show. The dancing is only partially accurate, and is mostly for tourists, but is still cool to see.
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That’s all for now. Don’t give up hope on me just yet. I have a couple more entries to go before I finally get my bearings in life and finally figure out what I want to do. Till then, cheers!

Posted by bejuan99 07:16 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Damn this place is coo

Alright, so its almost been 6 months of traveling, and Im still here!!!

The blog has over 7,500 hits! Ive really got something to party about...

I never mentioned it, but something like 17 years ago (damn Im getting old!!!) I visited Thailand with the fam. This is why I took a sissy picture with Johan below, so relax.
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So, from Krabi:

Went from Ko Samui to Ko Tao
Hung out in Ko Tao for awhile
Went from Ko Tao to Bangkok

Ko Tao is absolutely amazing if you are coming from Ko Samui. Its a totally different vibe which is amazing. Its low key, but has a cool bar scene for those who take their partying serious. When we first got there we went out for a night, then started diving. Apparently Ko Tao has the highest number of divers that are certified by PADI than anywhere else in the world. Something like 5% of all divers worldwide get certified in Ko Tao. This means that some of the dive sites can get crowded, but its an ocean out there and giving a friendly wave and passing a couple of fellow divers has never been considered such a bad situation in my book.

I had done something like 12 dives up until this point, so I went for my Advanced Open Water, which involved 5 dives which were all unique on their own. The purpose of the advanced class is to make someone a better diver. There are 2 mandatory and 3 elective modules that you do for this. The mandatory skills are night diving and navigation. The electives that I chose are: PPB (buoyancy control), a dive where you hone skills in recognizing fish, corals, and invertebrates, and a deep dive (18 - 30 meters).

There are other ones for underwater photography, a session just on fish identification, boat diving, etc... They are all found at PADI.com. I didnt get nitrogen narcosis on the deep dive (23 meters max depth), but it was cool. Nitrogen narcosis is something divers think is cool, but its basically when your body reacts to the pressure by acting drunk. Its like the adrenaline, or high that they get similar to skydivers, or any dangerous and thrilling hobby.

If you have never dived, a lot of this may not make sense - so get out there and dive!!! Ko Tao also has pretty cheap rates, and when you consider that you get free accommodation when you or a friend book a dive course, you can see why its so popular. There is also a good set of bars there. You've got Lotus bar, where they have fire dancers with some being as young as 6, Choppers which always has an English Premier League match playing and has really awesome food, and then for late night beats head down to the bar at Banz dive center which keeps it thumpin till 5:30 or so and makes for an interesting next day when you have to go diving early. I wouldn't know anything about that, but so I hear...

Pics we (me + Elina) took during our dives:
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Moray Eel

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Clown fish and anemone

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Butterfly fish

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Blue spotted slug

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Going deep!

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Our instructor, Charlotte is directly related to Gene Simmons

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Getting ready to get off this damn seasick boat!

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Triggerfish

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Beautiful anemone

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Lionfish

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Red breasted harte fish

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Surface on the way up...

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The reef at the dive site pinnacle

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Clown fish and anemone 2

I will spare all the details about the diving, but it was pretty sweet. I was taking the course with a Dutch girl, who hadnt dived in a long time and our instructor, Charlotte was a real tighfist so she didnt have mutch patience with the Dutchie. It rained for 6 full days on Ko Tao, and one night the rain was so hard that on the way back from the bar at half four, I had to put my wallet in my mouth and hold the umbrella with two hands because the water was above my waist. Just about every day we went out for a dive the boat would hit 2+ meter waves which made a lot of people sick. It was then that I learned I wasnt invincible to sea sickness. I never actually got sick, but when its rocking and a rollin and you see other people get sick around you the natural reaction is to feel a bit sick yourself. When me and Johan eventually left Ko Tao the high speed catamaran ferry was getting tossed so much, nearly 70% of the boat got sick and these Thai dudes just went up and down the aisles passing out and picking up bags of puke. Man, and you thought you had a shitty job!!!

After Ko Tao I was supposed to go to Ko Phangan for the full moon party on the 12th, but because of all the flooding in Ko Samui I figured it would get rained out. Turns out it didnt!!! Nobody knows why the full moon party exists, but around the world it is known as one of the crazier party's out there in existence (and I missed it!). Oh well, looks like I will have to come back to Thailand. Its weird, but a lot of the travellers I have met here, and especially those in Bangkok seem to have been here at least a half a dozen times.

From Ko Tao, the ferry takes you to Champorn where you catch the 9 hour bus to Bangkok. Me and Johan posted up near Khoa San Road, which apparently is pretty famous in England. The road is about two city blocks long, and is packed to the gills with filth and booze. Anything is possible on Khoa San Road. They have bars on the street which are just a small cabinet filled with liquor, and stools so you can buy a drink and just sit down. The area is well trodded by the backpacker crowd, so this is a pretty popular option as opposed to paying more at the actual bars. The cheapest and best way to party there is just to walk up and down the street and go from 7-11 to 7-11 buying beers and drinking them on the street. They sell everything there - booze, cigarettes, patches of all the countries you have traveled to (popular with backpackers), tshirts, wallets, necklaces, tattoos, giant sized zippos bigger than your head, cigarette dispensers, prostitutes, 6 year old girls that sell flowers and bet you in thumb war and rock paper scissors all night long, fake ids, fake diplomas, ping pong shows, piercings, and a partridge in a pear tree... One of my nights as a resident on Khoa San I had the pleasure of witnessing a ping pong show, and I will not elaborate here as to exactly what went down but I will say that they are interesting. There are tons of mafia hawkers who smack their lips as you walk by on Khoa San which is almost the code word telling you he can take you to a ping pong show.

In Bangkok I rode a tuk-tuk, which is the standard touristy thing to do. Tuk-tuks arent for Thais because they are all mafia owned and are a huge ripoff if you ever decide to hire one. They have so many scams, that if you go for a ride it would only be 10 baht ($.2) for three hours of sightseeing, but then they hit you with the gem scam, or take you to a silk, suit, or other factory "only to look", and it wastes plenty of time and money. Me and Johan never fell for it, but they have slick talking non-Thais approach you and tell you they are a teacher or something like that and ask if you need any help. Then they try and give you good advice and tell you that all the temples or whatever you are looking for is closed today and that you need to go to these other ones that are farther away, but that if he helps you that you can get a good rate with a taxi and then next thing you know - boomshakalaka, your toast bud!

In Bangkok I pretty much partied for a bunch of days and met a lot of great people. Since Bangkok is the transit hub of SE asia you get all sorts of characters here that are staying from one day to years. Bangkok also has a really high concentration of sex tourists as well as expats who fancy Thai women. You will see heaps of white men everywhere, and if you approach them and they are married 99 times out of ten they have a Thai wife, and decided to leave their country and make a life new here.

On the third day that we were in town, there was a massive ceremony for the Kings sister. Thailand has a king and queen which are held in the utmost regard. Everywhere you go you will find "long live the king" plastered up, along with pictures of the man with his wife. Nearly every street has a store where you can buy king paraphernalia (posters, paintings, flags, etc.). At 7-11s you can buy wristbands similar to the livestrong ones that supposedly give long life to the king.

The royal family is held in such high regard that when the Kings sister died earlier this year it was decided that they would wait to hold the funeral processions untill a massive temple would be erected. Well, that they did. A 10 acre park was entirely covered in flowers, temporary buildings that held exhibits on the woman, and about 500,000 people showed up to mourn the countries loss. For the most part all of Thailand shut down for three days, and transportation went to a screeching halt. All the TV channels showed the processions, and all streets within a 10 block radius were shut down. Every soldier in Thailand must have put on their dress uniforms, and performed in a parade. It was quite elaborate. It was a pretty massive event, with free food given out at dinner time, and a certain flower with a pungent odor given out in the early morning to keep people awake if they chose.

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Temple for the Kings sister. She actually died in January, but it took untill November to complete the building that you see, which holds her cremated remains.

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Just to prove that I was there...

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Sooo many people paying their respects. It was a sea of black.

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People would put flowers in these trays, and there was a ceremony that the police would have to put out new trays for people to place the flowers in.

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View from afar

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View of mourners just outside Grand Palace

There is no doubt that the Thai mafia are strong. They definitely control almost every aspect of life here in Bangkok. The beggars are owned by the mafia, similar to a pimp they have to hand over all their earnings and are in turn given a small "salary" for their efforts. There are fake monks which go around begging, and these as well are owned by the mafia. Public transportation covers a majority of the city, especially with the introduction of BTS skytrain (like a Tram), but none of it reaches out to Khoa San road or the vicinity. This forces tourists to use taxis and tuk-tuks that are owned by the mafia. All the taxis here in Bangkok have meters, but mafia taxis arent allowed to use them. A normal everyday tourist may not notice all these aspects of control, but if you stay here long enough you see how even your life is controlled by the mafia.

So the main highlights of Bangkok are:
1) Temples - there are tons and tons of temples. Get yourself a good map, and just walk it out between the major ones: emerald buddha, marble buddha, standing buddha, gold buddha, and reclining budda. There are many more, but these are the highlights

Wat Intrararam-

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45 meters high - snap, this thing is tall! For good luck you can release birds from a cage at its base for $2, and you can sign roof tiles that will adorn any one of a number of new temples going up across the city.

Wat Arun -

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Outside of Wat Arun

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cool statue

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We saw these queer sailors and they really wanted to take a picture with us, so we let them come over and they were really into it! So much so that this one dude felt obliged to give me a hug around the waist...

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Before

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After

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Temple outside of Wat Arun

Wat Po -
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Stone man at Wat Po

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The architecture at Wat Po is amazing

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Cool war guy at Wat Po

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People praying to Buddha

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Head of reclining buddha. 46 meters high x 15 meters tall - this guy is fucillo huge!!!

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Long ways

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Close up of hair

Wat Sakrit & Golden Mountain -

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Temple just next to golden mountain. I think Wat Sakrit...

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Ceremony for a man to convert to being a monk at Wat Sakrit

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This is the most touristic thing ever, but I like how this pic turned out

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Cool buddha at golden mountain]

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Closeup of golden monk

Wat Traimit -
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Golden Buddha. It was originally covered in stucco, untill 50 years ago they went to move it and the stucco came off. It is solid gold, weighing something like 2.3 tons and was covered to prevent its theft from invaders.

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Nothing to do with anything, but RB - this one's for you!

2) Take a trip down Khoa San road and revel in the mayhem at the heart of SE asia

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Farewell pic. Go AFA!!!

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Gavin, Johan, Me - Khoa San rd. crew

3) The Damnoen Saduak floating market.
There is a market two hours from Bangkok that requires you to get in a boat, and float down the river to visit all the areas of the market. There are stores that line the waterway, and if you are interested in any of their products they hook you in, and then the bartering begins. A lot of the products can be found in Bangkok, and they are similar from shop to shop, but the experience is more the draw than what you can purchase. There are many boats that linger around that sell anything and everything. You can find the hat boat, the banana boat, the fruit boat, the boat with drinks, the boat making pancakes, the boat making kabobs, you name it they have it. If you can do it on land they can do it sitting down at the convenience of their own little boat.

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Souveneir boat

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Restaurant boats

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Lemon boat

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I own this. When you put it under hot water it pees! A must have!!!

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17 years ago when I was in Thailand I went to the cobra show, and it was cool. Unfortunately I didnt have enough cash or patience to see it this time.

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Cool temple after floating market

4) The bridge on the River Kwai. I have not done this yet, so I cant say for sure what it is like but apparently there is a stretch of railroad track that was built to link Bhurma with Bangkok and the area was so treacherous that 100k prisoners of war during WWII died trying to assemble that area. More on this in the next post.
5) The tourist thing to do is to take a tuk-tuk. Never do this. Its entirely a scam that is too lengthy to spell out here. It involves silk, gems, suits, and petrol.

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Inside of a tuk-tuk. These things suck, and their drivers are even worse.

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But me and Johan are Bangkok vets, so we can still smile about it.
6) Chatuchak Weekend Market. This place is cool, and has cockfights...

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Making tea at Chatuchak (known as JJ by expats). This guy is really famous in Thailand, and for $.75 you can get an ice cold tea that has defied gravity over a dozen times. At JJ they have cockfights, and all this other craziness. You can find anything there, all you have to do is look.

B

Posted by bejuan99 04:49 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand - more like ladyboyland

So I think where I left off was Langkawi, Malaysia. From there till now:

1) Headed from Langkawi to Phuket
2) From Phuket to Ko Phi Phi and around
3) Ko Phi Phi to Krabi
4) Krabi to Ko Samui

Phuket -

Phuket is the southernmost city on a small ithmus on the west coast of Thailand. Its pretty well known for having great beaches, and being the tourist center of southern Thailand. I traveled from Langkawi to Phuket with by British friends Tim and Gareth, and my Belgian buddy Johan. We got settled in a clean hostel with aircon (woohoo!!!) which was a relief from the fleabag spot we were at in Langkawi.

When we got to Phuket we did a little exploring and then went out to a bar. For some reason its cheaper to get bottles of Johnny Walker in the bars than it is to buy a round of beers, so its not uncommon for a table to have two or three bottles at a table like they are VIP, but are really the budget drinkers. The four musketeers (Tim, Gareth, Johan, and me) got a bit pissed, and around two we split up. Johan and Gareth went home, and me and Tim went out to another bar.

At the second bar we made friends who drove us on their motorbikes to another bar. It was there that we had our introduction to ladyboys. Me and Tim made a run to the lou, and there was a smoking hot chick standing up peeing at the urinal next to us. It kind of took us aside, but on closer inspection the adams apple was sticking out clear as a bell. The damn ladyboy was pestering us too to check out our junks, which was super weird too. We were pissed so we made friends with him and then partied with his friends. Some were hideous, and looked like a man with a wig and lipstick wide shoulders and narrow hips, and some were so hot there was no way you could tell it was a man unless you put your finger on their adams apples.

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Tim and his future wife

I dont really have the skinny on exactly why Thailand has more ladyboys per capita than other countries, but I can say that for those who feel they need to make it happen its a hard and dangerous life for them. The average life expectancy of a ladyboy is 35. The hormones that they take are incredibly hard on the system, and eventually lead to heart failure. To be one of the better ladyboys, they have to pluck their facial hair for about a half an hour ever day, take an insane amount of hormones, and fork out 60,000 baht for a rack of boobies, and 250,000 baht to get their junk tucked. This is all coming from a woman I met on the ferry who had a lot of friends who have gone through it so it may not be 100% accurate, but its as good as any other information I could get my hands on.

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Since they dont eat, the price is between a woman and a man

We danced with the ladyboys and were taking funny pictures with them, and were dancing with our buddies, but around 4 we headed out. Im not sure exactly what we did wrong, but after heading a meter out of the bar some dude came out of nowhere and smashed a bottle of johnny walker on my dome piece, and started hitting me and Tim. We boogied out of there, and I have had bottles smashed on my head before so it wasnt all that traumatic, but we weren't taking any chances of those guys finding us again so we must have ran into the next town. Some of them even tried to find us on motorbikes, but we used our ninja tactics to lose them. Our buddies from earlier on in the night came and got us and were so disappointed in their countrymen and were super nice. I think it was just because we were the only westerners there and were making so many friends and maybe some of the Thais got jealous. Whatever it was, we were able to laugh about it all the next day, and now in perspective id say that it almost made the night better.

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Legitamate friends who helped us, and drove us around on their motorbikes, and drank with us

Phuket has a reputation for being a bad bad place, and it definitely lived up to its reputation....

The next day the four of us headed out to one of the beaches, and it was really nice. About 15 minutes outside of Phuket are some really cool beaches, and we just laid out and didn't do anything all day. That night we watched stepbrothers, the new Will Farrell movie. Its really funny. Just about on every corner in Asia is a counterfeit DVD store for cheap. You can get anything, even movies that have just made the theaters. I don't know how they do it, but they also have games for Xbox.

After Phuket we headed to Ko Phi Phi, which is just south of Phuket. Phi Phi is super beautiful, and after being wiped out in the 2004 tsunami, the whole island has been rebuilt giving it a fresh feeling. The habitable part of the island is really just a small stretch that is flanked on both sides by huge limestone cliffs covered in forestry. The beaches there are absolutely picture perfect, and the bar scene is amazing. The primary reason to go to phi phi is to party, and if you go there its pretty much impossible to take it easy. The Rock Backpackers, where we all stayed at is a damn mess. I really dont need to go into any details of what went down, but I will say that of all the places I have been and all the parties that Ko Phi Phi is definitely world class in terms of partying.

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Overlook of Phi Phi at sunset

The bars are amazing. After the first night we set our nightly routine which started by sippin a few beers at the hostel while getting ready, then going to reggae bar, and then finishing the night off at Apache bar. Reggae bar is so effin cool. They have a huge boxing ring in the middle, and are probably the most well known spot in Thailand for buckets. Thats buckets of booze - not like a sandcastle bucket. What they do is take a small bucket and make a huge drink in it and add a shit load of ice. Its like having 4 or 5 spirits in one portable container. For Bighamtonites, it would be like putting a scorpion bowl (plus red bull) in a bucket. Oh yeah, and to boot - its buy one get one free at Reggae bar. Oh yeah, and when the clock strikes midnight you go upstairs to the dance club for free shots and buckets. Like I said before - the place is a real shit show. They have muay thai boxing in the ring for everyone to watch, and if tourists are up for it they can fight other tourists with pads and gloves on. I have seen some westerners get the shit beat out of them, and all for a free bucket of booze - fools. Oh yeah, and in between the pro Thai guys fighting eachother and the westerners they have 6 year olds fight each other. Its so cute, and they have a 6 year old referee. Since they are so young, they are really uncoordinated and basically punch untill they fall over or spin around and then fall over.

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Muay Thai, intoxicated, in front of a huge crowd is the best idea for a bar. Why didnt I think of that?

Apache is just a cool bar thats on the beach with really good DJs. Usually you are so smashed when you get there that dancing untill 6AM becomes the regular. Oh yeah, and it was at Phi Phi that I really got to be intimate with all the energy drinks of Thailand. For some reason red bull has become synonymous with Thailand, but im not really sure why. There is red bull, shark, green buffalo, M-150, and about a million other ones. They come in small medicine bottles which makes it a little weird, but man are they strong. If you have two M-150s your heart goes out of control, and you wont be able to properly sleep for two days. Rumor is that there is amphetamines in it, but nobody knows for sure.

For Gareths birthday same day as halloween, we got all dressed up and had an amazing time. Tim, Johan, and Gareth were 80s exercize guys and I was captain america. I had a bandana with a huge eagle on it labeled "eagle", a speedo over my shorts (in proper superhero fashion), a wife beater with "OBAMA 08" on the back, and these slitted American flag glasses. All the crew from our hostel got tattooed up with rave paint, and we were like a pack of wolves. It was hillarious. When we hit the bars about 30 deep, people wanted to join the Rock Crew, but "access denied" with a giant thumbs down was our response.

I also got a Thai massage at Phi Phi, which was cool but I have always been a little uncomfortable with people giving me massages or touching me so I was a little on edge.

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Found this at a piercing studio in Phi Phi. God this is hideous, but is a fine example of what Blakey Holmse's kid is going to look like.

The other cool spot at Ko Phi Phi is Phi Phi Lay, which is a small island just to the south. The island is quite picturesque, and is most famous for being the inspiration for the movie The Beach. The funny part is that it couldnt be further from isolation. All you have to do is hire a longtail boat from Phi Phi for about $4 to take you over for the day, but nonetheless is cool. There is no development that has happened there, and apart from a few walking trails the island is deserted. There are no gonja fields like in the movie, and the actual areas of land that dont make up the limestone cliffs is quite small.

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Me, Tim, and Gaz at the beach from "The Beach"

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Inlet on one side of Phi Phi lae

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Monkey beach. At least a half a dozen people a year get rabies here from the monkeys. Fools...

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Cruising around, just before Mayra Bay

In Phi Phi I went for two dives which was quite nice. Thailand is right up there with the big boys in terms of world class diving. With good weather, and plenty of sunshine water temperatures of 30-32C and visibility of 20 meters is not unusual. I had a great time, and going with Johan and Gareth made the experience even better. The highlight was spotting a giant octopus just hanging out in one of the reefs. I already have my PADI open water certificate, and my buddies didnt so our max depth was only around 18 meters, but it still was good. As I am writing this in Ko Tao I am in the process of taking my Advanced open water, which brings me one step closer to getting my divemaster.

From Phi Phi I went with Johan to Krabi, which is a coastal town just south of Phi Phi. The whole point of going there was just for rock climbing. The rock climbing at Railey Beach (just next door) is supposed to be some of the best in the world. They have bolts in the rockface, and for about $30 you can have a full day session with a guide. All the climbs are on the limestone cliffs that flank the beaches. When you are up there, if you have a second or two to catch your breath and look around, the views are absolutely amazing.

We started on some fairly easy ones (class 5+ with 8D being the highest), but even after just doing one or two 15 meter climbs the forearms and shoulders nearly give out. Its easy to get stuck and just not be able to keep going no matter how hard you try. I really have a new found respect for rock climbers, because it is really - and I mean really hard work. Even the ones that I call fairly easy are damn near impossible, but were nothing compared to what we did in the afternoon. In the afternoon we went climbing through a cave - without a torch for some reason. It was pitch black in the cave, and we had to ascend about 100 meters in pitch black to come out at an opening on the other side. We then abseiled (basically rappelling) down, and then started the afternoon climbs which were all rated at 6A difficulty. You really had to be spider man to make it to the top of one of those climbs. The guides would help you choose your route, but even then you still would get stuck being like "dude, there is no possible way to go up any farther" at which point they would tell you to reach your hand about 5 meters above your head and stick your thumb in a 1 cm hole, and then put your right foot above your head (a bit of exageration), but it was totally ridiculous. There was one brit in the group who was able to get one of the routes, but his buddy got stuck at this area where you could use your legs to do a split in a .5 meter cave, and then there was a huge overhang that you had to jump up and pull yourself up with all your upper body strength. The second brit got stuck and his muscles froze, and when I went I knew I had to make it up. I yelled, and grunted, and gave it all that I had and on about the 7th try I got it. I was so proud!!!

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Johan on the last climb of the day. Fuck this was hard...

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Me, Johan, and Bus - our guide

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View of the beach looking out of the cave that we climbed through. From here you abseiled down to start the afternoon climbs.

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Again

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Fav pic of Railey Beach

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Me on the first climb of the day. This one was duck sauce compared to the others.

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Another pic of Railey.

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Johan at about halfway up the warm up climb.

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Other people on 30m climb

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30m climb

The next day me and Johan went around on motorbikes, and we started off going to the National Park. We started a 3 hour trek through the jungle to a waterfall, when about 20 minutes in we saw a huge monkey (or maybe baboon) in the distance attack another one, and I think he killed him. This was all going on right next to us, and there was all sorts of creepy jungle animals that we were sure were going to come out and eat us. So, about 2 hours into the trek my damn flip flop shit the bed, and I had to walk out with one bare foot. I got those sandals at Ron Johns Surf Shop at Cocoa Beach, FL on spring break in 2004 with Peter D. and Jeff K. Those sandals were close to my heart, and I almost shed a tear when I broke them. On the way out was a cool waterfall, and we sat around and took a dip in one of the pools overlooking the jungle.

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After about an hour of walking with only one flip flop on jagged rocks, we got to this waterfall which was nice. Never go on a trek in the jungle with flip flops.

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Johan on the upper waterfall

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Cool temple on the way back from the national park to Krabi

At night in Krabi there was a festival with all sorts of good food, and weird things for sale. It was good fun.

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Bug man = Jims Busy Bee of Thailand

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Closeup

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Started off with the worms. Not bad, but were a tad overcooked

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This thing was definately the nastiest. I had the fried version as well, but this thing was just vile. When you bit into it, it exploded in your mouth with some nasty goo stuff. Just the sight of them is nasty.

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The fried version which was much tastier

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And then the grand finale...... GIANT CRICKET!!! The head was for some reason hollow, and came off before I even bit into it. It was crunchy, and with a little lime was quite good.

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Oh yeah, and then the dried squid. For 10 baht (.25 cents) you get 4 or 5 on a stick. They are quite chewy, so the guy runs them through this roller thing to soften them up. With a little lime and some chili sauce they are quite good, although La Parm calamari still reigns champ.

From Krabi we headed off to Ko Samui which is alright at best. If your going to the east coast, id suggest skipping this island in favor of Ko Tao or Ko Phangan. Ko Samui is filled with agressive hawkers, and package tourists which the combination of the two make it a real turn off. Everything is expensive, but for some reason me and Johan were able to score some accomodation with aircon and really clean beds which was nice, so we ended up staying a bit longer than we probably should have. Oh yeah, and Ko Samui is really skeezy. Throughout Thailand you will find proper massage parlors with women who have perfected the drawn out "massssssssaaaaaaaggggggggeeeeeeeeee", and are totally legit. Ko Samui is the type of place where old men go to the massage parlors that have bars inside, and pink lights on. During the day you can see balding dudes toting their young "girlfriends" all around the place and taking them out to eat. There was no love lost once we left that place. Id have to say the best part about Ko Samui was that me and Johan were able to be reunited with Tim and Gareth. At Samui Tim's sister Lauren met up with them after flying from London. Shes a pisshead like the lot of us, so we had a great time going out.

Thailand is nuts. There are ladyboys, super strong energy drinks, booze in buckets, hookers everywhere. I have to say that this place has a super good party scene. After going out night after night it wears on you, but for sure Thailand, and especially the southern islands should be on everyones to do list. Coming from Nepal - Malaysia, Thailand, and for sure Singapore are all in my eyes first world countries. Getting around is a breeze, its not dangerous, and you have all the modern conveniences at a fingers reach (toilet paper, good coffee, air conditioning, tv, etc...). Join the bandwagon - visit Thailand. The rest of the world is jumping on, and you wont be dissapointed.

Posted by bejuan99 20:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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