Wednesday, 29 December 2010

get robbed in Thailand

I even don't know when and where it's happened. But they must have had loads of time to do that, as they've taken only one of my cards even thought they were in one place and the same with money, they've left some so that I would not discover it to soon. They must have dig through all my stuff and be able to open bag, which was in bag, which was in another bag.
And indeed I did not discover it until next three days probably. Just before leaving from Bangkok to Vientiane. So imagine how surprised I was to find out that I'm 400$ short and my Amex is gone.
Luckily I've managed to deactivate it, but that was a bit of challenge as well, as my phone was locked in another room, where I temporarily had no access, so I had to find someone to do it for me from Poland. Kinga as always was helpful and managed to call them and even get some details on transactions performed. Which was 300$ in Tesco in Thailand.
After I got my phone back I gave them a call once again to ask more details, like which Tesco or what time the transaction took place, but the only thing that they knew was time - 21 American time on 24th of December, which here is about 9a.m. on 25th of December.
I've arrived to Bangkok by bus very early morning on 25th and took a cab to the guest house, where I went directly to bed and locked my valuables before. Maybe it was my mistake not to check it before, but still that probably would not help, cause my idea is that the robbery occurred on the bus.
Many people say that it happens very often on the bus. They spread something to make you sleepy via air conditioning system and than go through your bag.
So my journey to Laos has started in a bad mood. I also started to be suspicious and maybe paranoid sometimes. I've lost this security that I had so far.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Traveler's stories

When in Siem Reap in a bar a guy came to me and said - Your name is so and so and you are from there and there I was surprised to find out that it was Krzysiek with whom we've been trying to arrange traveling together, but after a while of planning we've decided that actually there is no way that we'll manage to organise our travels in a way that they overlap somewhere. So we gave up. And than I meet him in Temple bar in Siem Reap. Ok, things like that happen...
... but when in Bangkok, in the middle of the night I walk furious at KhaoSan Road, I pass by a group of guys, who check me out. I check them out too, but I keep walking. One of them follows me and asks me if I'm religious. But I look into his face and I know where he's going with that. I suddenly know who he is. It's Matt, Aussie who I met in Taize in France something like 6 years ago. How possible is that?
I even do not say about whole bunch of people who I met somewhere in Hanoi, Phnom Pehn, Siem Reap or Mui Ne and meet them just by coincidence in Dalat, Koh Phangan, Hoi An etc. And actually if you name any two places where I've been there is very high chance, that there will be someone who I've first met in the first town and than in the second one mentioned.
One more quite funny example. Yesterday I was sitting with Poles. Friends of friends, some of them living in BKK, some traveling. We chat, laugh and we come to the topic of western guys dating Thai girls. So I start telling about my cousin who dates this girl who is an actress in one of the Thai TV series and whom I had the pleasure to meet and who I really think is nice, pretty and smart girl. So one of the guys there, one who works here in Bangkok says, but I know them. He speaks some Polish but he's not fully Polish. And that girl is like 6 years older than he's. Yessss man! That's them I'm talking about.
This is how paths of random people cross now and then. I wish that my paths cross again with some of the people that I've met. Not necessarily here and now, but one day somewhere.

I've spent couple of days in BKK. This time I've been staying in hostel. Phiman Water View, recommended to me by one German girl who I've met in Hanoi. It is really different place. About 15 minutes walk from KhaoSan Road, which is main travellers' place, directly at the river bank, lead by artists. Gay artists. Which makes things even more interesting. They are so open and willing to talk to us, sometimes drink and go out with us. Like the other day when it was Maymar gay boy,\ who works in hostel, NiNi, Thai girl - friend, and her sister who looks more like a boy, Ex - guy from Peru and me. We've just had really good evening and night together.
To get to the hostel you have to go through small streets, flooded sometimes by either river water or water that they just pour out, inhabited by Thai families, their door open. A little bit like hutongs in Beijing. This gives some insight into life of locals. They are very friendly, telling hallo every time I pass by.
After all together 3 days in Bangkok I've managed to do some sightseeing. Finally. I've seen Grand Palace, where I had to rent skirt and shirt, cause you are not allowed to enter there in shorts and top. At least rent fee was 0. I had to leave deposit only.
Grand Palace itself made very good impression on me. I did not have any expectations so I was nicely surprised. It is complex established in 1782 and is a royal residence with throne halls and number of government offices and a Temple of Emerald Buddha. Everything is build very posh and packed one next to another which makes it a little bit too much, but still all the buildings are amazing. Borom Phiman Mansion which is build with great taste and made me want living there, mini Angkor Wat all statues etc are just beautiful.

Ex, Me, Nini and her sister


Somewhere within Grand Palace

Somewhere within Grand Palace

Bormo Phiman Mansion

The Phra Maha Monthain Group

Roofs somewhere within Grand Palace

Somewhere within Grand Palace - Mini Angkor Wat in the front

The Grand Palace
Phiman Water View Guest House

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Life on the islands

Koh Tao - Turtle Island located at the Gulf of Thailand and is main destination for divers. It is supposed to be pretty cheap in here and conditions are also wonderful. If it were not for my ear and breathing problems I'd be in, but the farthest as I can go is scuba diving which makes a lot of fun too.
So just after I've arrived (on the choppy and wet overnight cruise from Shurat Thani) I wanted to escape from all taxi and hotel people so I went for a breakfast and WiFi to Cafe del Sol. It was random choice, but very good random choice. Good food and decent internet speed made me stay there prolly 3 hours, when I was having my time after one week without free internet. I'll find my place later, especially that I had some friends over here where I could leave my bag and go for exploration.
Exploration was quite successful, even though I was rather phlegmatic, I've managed to get room for 250B in Lotus Resort (if anyone asks you how much you've paid tell them 300B. Don't tell anyone that you are paying 250B only).
After I've moved in with one of the guys that I've met before in Cambodia we've went to that posh hotel and spa where some other people were staying who he met on a party and apparently they were inviting everyone to join theirs' facilities.
It was challenge to get there, as road was very bumpy and steep and not like the on you would imagine to lead to the most expensive place on the whole island. Especially that on the first day we were two on one motorbike (on the second day I rented my own). Not even motorbike, but scooter (btw, here I do things that I'd never imagined to do so poorly equipped, like hiking in flip-flops everywhere to access rocks, riding motorbike in extreme terrain in flip-flops). But it was worth. After we got there it was high life. Swimming pool, private beach with private boat driver to take you there, snorkeling equipment.
This is basically how I've spent two of my three days in here. Third day was similar with the difference that in another posh place where I've went to, there was no swimming pool. But still I enjoyed my day in hammock with a book in hand.
Today I take a boat to Kho Phangan, where Full Moon Party takes place. The only little problem is that I'm sick. My idea is that it's from the air conditioning on the boat to here couple of days ago. Runny nose and stacked sinuses are not what you want for Full Moon Party.
Posh life
Private beach

Those boys performing fire shows were amazing

2 days after...
In some magical way, even though I was not in perfect mood for a party, tired, with painful sinuses, a little bit down I was making an effort to have good time. I've bought Full Moon Party vest, necklaces, painted my body, I've flushed flu pills with Gin bucket, hang around with people, did my best in painting some of my friends, walked whole beach up and down in order to find the best place to be. To start dancing was some effort but in the end it all was worth it. I've had great night. I've been in a groove. My mind absent, my body following the rhythm, just me and the dance beach. It was so nice to feel it again, after quite a long time. I guess that might be partially because if you make to much party you stop enjoying them that much, although I must say, that recently I had rather calm evenings, so maybe that made it. And some good company that I've found in the end.
After all I've seen sunrise, returned home about 11 probably with two hours of sleep in between. Quick breakfast and back at the beach. To take more sleep. In fact I was not able to fall asleep, so when evening came I was that buggered that I barely could walk, so I've made my way directly to bed.

Full Moon Party venue

Full Moon Party venue


I do my best to paint Marcus

Ton Sai trio

Live art


Orange kiss

Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party - mirror view

Saturday, 18 December 2010

TonSai Beach

As usually I've stayed in Railay longer than I've planned.

After first night in Railay West I've moved to different part on peninsula - TonSai Beach. And this one is definitely climbers' paradise. After retrospection the day before I knew there I want to be to give this place a chance: Saithong Bungalows. 150B for single, very simple bungalow with bathroom it's the best what you can get in Railay. It's the cheapest place, but also the coolest one. At the top of the hill, in forest, with mosquitoes and relaxed atmosphere. Just after I got there I've met people with whom I've been hanging around whole week, climbing, kayaking, building sand castle, partying, having breakfast. I've just joined them at the table when they were having breakfast during day of rest.

They were group of random people who just met there couple of days before. Climbers and non-climbers, better and worse climbers. Crowd from different countries. This is as always something that makes group unique and very much rock'n'roll. And of course climbers society, which is chilled and relaxed.

Right away I've joined them at the beach, where we've started to build sand castle. It was Brad's idea and actually everyone liked it so much and got so involved, that we've spent prolly about 3 hours designing and building. I don't remember when was the last time that I did that, but certainly it was loads of fun.

Next day we've went climbing and kayaking. Plan was to kayak to Happy Island and climb there, but as planes were changing every 5 minutes in the end we've kayaked another 30 mins to reach Ko Poda, where we were struggling again to find rocks, but eventually we've succeeded.6a+ But the problem was that everyone was so buggered after paddling and it was so late that we did not do too much, but still the whole day was cool. 10 people on the kayaking, climbing trip, that must be fun. I was paddling only on the way back, cause we had 2 doubles and 2 triples, and person in the middle seat in the triple is not supposed to paddle, so girls were changing and paddling less than boys, especially those who were climbing.

The following days people were leaving and new people were coming, we've been making new climbing friends, so there was always someone climbing similar level as I do (as usually I've started to regret quiting climbing) which currently is very low. 6a+ is was I managed to do top rope and I was struggling. Funny thing though I had the feeling that I have better sense of balance and that I know better where to step for optimal performance. Maybe indeed I had talent and I've wasted it. I hope to do some more climbing in Chang Mai or Van Vieng (or both) if I manage to organise it with Meike and Todd with whom I'll be meeting tomorrow in Kho Tao, as they left one day before me.

Sand castle designers and builders

Sand castle designers and builders

Patrick in work

Sand castle almost ready

Kayaking trip to Kho Poda

Let's light some mosquito coils


Sand castle, two days later

Todd in action. High tide is coming.

Shot from the top

Half moon party in Chill out Cafe at TonSai Beach

Beth charms the DJ

Another view from the top - East and West Railay. At the far background: TonSai

Sunset in TonSai

Mr. Pancake in action

Bas hanging in his 7a+ project

Climbing at the beach

Climbing at the beach

Merry Christmas everyone ;-)

My 150B bungalow

Beth - Little Mermaid

Friday, 17 December 2010

On the road again

Last day in Siem Reap we've spent again in temples, but temples which are further away. Day before was kind of wasted. Everyone was tired after one week of going out in the evening, drinking, going late to bed, so we decided to make one day break and go somewhere to the swimming pool, not make any big party and get up earlier, so that we have all day for sightseeing. It worked somehow. We did not go out, but we stayed in rooftop bar in guest house. Adrian i Julka - friends from Warsaw come over so we were sitting there, relaxing and chatting till late at the night in the end.
Butterflies farm

Butterflies farm

Landmines museum

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei

Waiting for the tuk-tuk driver

Still, we've managed to leave around 11, which was early. This time we took tuk-tuk (Banteay Srei is 30km north-east from Siem Reap) and on the way to the temple we've stopped in butterfly farm (nice but nothing spectacular) and Landmine Museum - too propaganda for me.
Banteay Srei is pinkish and is one of the few temples around Angkor not to be commissioned by king, but by a Brahman. On the way back we got caught by huge rain, I was so sorry for tuk-tuk driver who had to drive in that rain, but on the other hand if it were not for the flat tyre we wouldn't have been waiting for him to change it and we would not have been caught by the rain.

Next day was kind of sad, as we've spllited. Martin stayed in Siem Reap for another day to leave to Bangkok, Hugo went to Phnom Pehn to meet later on with Tom in Sihanoukville, who on the other hand went with me to Battambang.
Battambang is fourth tourist destination in Cambodia, but actually you do not really feel it that way. It was almost not touristy at all, which was really nice in fact, and that meant also cheap hotels with quite high standard. For a double we've been paying 8$/night (but no hot water and not A/C), and it was almost brand new hotel.
In Battambang itself there is not too much to do, except going to the temples which we've decided to skip and to rent motorbike and ride around the city to explore some temples and ruins there. First we've been to Phnom Ek which is just ruined temple with a lintel showing the Churning of Ocean of Milk. And in fact these are very gorgeous ruins with very charming atmosphere.
Next we rode to Phnom Sampeu, where are killing caves. I did not like that bit, except the riding part, where Tom did very good job, driving on quite bumpy and dusty road.
The last stop was Pnom Banan (where I did good driving job in marvelous, bumpy surrounding) which some people claim was inspiration for Angkor Wat. And indeed it reminds of Angkor. This place is also a little bit scary, as all the way around are signs "Danger, mines!".

Tom ready for blinds massage

Phnom Ek - Sea of Milk

Phnom Ek

Cela, the motorbike rider

Phnom Banan - Danger!! Mines!!

Phnom Banan
Next day was sad and long. I had to tell good bye to the last person that I knew (I guess that we've met another two times in Battambang waiting for our buses) and head to Bangkok. Of course bus was late, everything took so much longer that it was supposed to take, that in the end I've ended up in Bangkok after 10p.m.and I was hoping for 8p.m. But luckily mini bus stopped at Khao San Road, which is main backpackers place and very close to there Sebastian stays, so after quick Pad Thai (basically fried noodles with vegetables, chicken/beef/shrimps and nuts) I took motorbike to drop my bag at his place and go out with him and his girlfriend.
Bangkok was nice to me, even though I did not spend there too much time it was friendly and familiar place from the same beginning. Maybe the fact that I've been staying at home and not in the hostel made it. And the luxury of having bathroom only for myself.
Now after another 14h drive I'm at Railay, which so far is a little bit disappointing. It is supposed to be one of the top 10 climbing destinations. That part might be true, but it's so expencive in here and feels somehow strange, that I'll prolly try to stay here one more night and if I still do not like it I'll go to Ko Phi Phi. Which makes me worried - what if there will be the same? Additionally bearing in mind, that bus ticket from Bangkok to Prabi was 350B,and boat from Railay to Phi Phi costs 400B....
Bangkok form Sebastian's window