Sunday, June 27, 2010

I might probably bump into you again...

Hey guys, I hope everyone is in good spirits. I want to start off by apologizing for not leaving comments on your blogs. I have been all over the place so I had no time for the blogosphere. Now that I am somewhat settled down, I will definitely have time to read and leave comments on your blog posts. Ok! so I'm trying to remember where I left off. It had to be somewhere around the journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Yeah, somewhere around there. Ok! so I met this really cool guy from Chicago in Bangkok and we did the overland trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The trip was definitely not as scary as I had imagined; in fact, it was quite easy. A lot of backpackers on the internet act as if the overland journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap is like descending into hell or something. Sure, there are a lot of scams and dodgy cops involved but if you do your researh thoroughly, you won't have any problems. Travelfish.org was extremely helpful in my case. They have an elaborate and effective outline on how to successfully undertake the journey. Ok! so my friend and I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia in the afternoon. We were very tired so we found a guesthouse on the corner of this street.



Our room was spacious,had air con, a bathroom, fans and 2 beds. It was only 8 $ per night ( 4 per person). After resting, we found a local place with authentic Khmer (Cambodian)food. To say that the food was delicious would be understatement. The kids in Cambodia are very vivacious, friendly and engaging. A lot of them are from poor families so they will walk up to you and beg for money, food or try to get you to buy something from them. It is very heartbreaking. I met this kid outside my guesthouse and he was trying to get me to buy some books about the Angkor Wat temples. In order to persuade me, he started naming all the states in America. He told me the name of the American president, the capital of Hawaii and he even knew the population of New York. These children really hussle to get by. When I was their age, I was busy jumping around all day and excessively eating well-cooked food my mother made. I tip my hat to these kids...not even adversity can diminish their passion for life. So after the diner, my friend and I did some bar hopping. I just noticed that huge chunk of my posts always involve drinking lol. Back to the story. So yeah, we did some bar hopping but a majority of the bars were very timid. My friend was about to call it a night but I urged him to go to one more bar. We finally made our way to this place called Angkor wat???? bar. It was incredible. It is apparently one of the best rated bars in Siem, Reap and I could see why. The second we stepped in, we met a couple of Canadian girls and a Canadian guy. We immediately started a conversation and before you know it, we were all laughing, dancing and buying buckets of rum/whiskey and coke.



The rest of the night was, um, quite interesting to say the least. I won't go into details but the highlight of the night was definitely being chased by a random hooker on the street. My friend and I got lost trying to find our way back to the hostel so we kept walking into really dodgy streets. This random hooker started soliciting us. My friend ( who was super drunk) was like "no! no! please, stay away from us" and then he started running. I immediately started running after him and the hooker chased us lol. We lost track of her. The funniest part of this story is my friend did not remember anything the next morning. His last memory was us at the club with the cool Canadians right after we started drinking. It's a real shame he forgot everything because the night was quite eventful.The next day, we moved into another guesthouse.



These are my belongings sprawled on the bed. Once we were settled in, we hired a tuk tuk and heading to the Angkor Wat temples. The Angkor Wat temples are one of the great wonders of the world; it is truly the most remarkable thing I have ever seen. Believed to have been built between the 9th to 14th century, it was the capital of the great Khmer Empire. How people in the 9th century had the technology to build such an architectural wonder still baffles me.



The temples are spread over acres and acres of land. Some people even do one week tours. One day was good enough for me. I get bored and distracted easily so one day was just fine for me. Besides, it is soo hot. We finished a cooler packed with bottles of water within hours. So so hot but definitely worth it.



Some scenes in the first tomb raider movie, the one with Angelina Jolie, was filmed here. If you've watched the movie, you would probably recognize the site.



After our tour, we made our way to the highest point where you can see all the temples and the entire view of Angkor Wat. It was quite surreal. This following picture was taken before we started ascending the hill. You can see the elephants in the corner. We paid 15 bucks for an elephant ride from the top of the hill back down and it was friggin scary.



View from the top



All in all, Siem Reap was exceptional. The next day, my friend headed back to Bangkok to catch the train to Chiang Mai ( in the Northern region of Thailand). I, on the other hand, continued my Cambodian adventure. My next stop was the capital city...PHNOM PENH. I took a morning bus and it took us about 8 hours to arrive the capital. The second I got off the bus, I grabbed my backpack, found a tuk tuk driver and bargained a decent price for the trip to my hostel ( I had not booked in advance but I had written down the name of the hostel on a piece of paper). I got to the hostel and luckily, they had room for me. The hostel was very cheap and basic. "Cheap" and "basic" are perfect adjectives to describe backpackers lol. This is what the basic dorm room looked like.



I had to share room with about 3 other people. Everyone was nice and respectful so I had no complaints. I was really tired when I arrived so I took a long, long nap. That night, I met a girl from England who was leaving the next day. We decided to go and get something to eat at a fancy Cambodian restaurant. I believe I had a chicken curry but I'm not too sure. I do remember that the food was delicious. On our way back to the hostel, I saw a group of people waving at me. I was like what the...do I know these people? they kept waving so I waved back in confusion. As I peered closer, I realized that it was the Canadian girls and guy I met in the bar in Siem Reap. How random is that? so weird that I bumped into them again I walked up to them and we talked for a couple of minutes. I found out that they also just arrived in Phnom Penh and were staying at the same hostel I was staying in. Again, how random is that? the Canadian guy said they arrived later in the afternoon and they even saw me sleeping. The next two days were solely dedicated to site seeing. I went around the city



I visited the Royal Palace



..and this is a picture of me at the Royal Palace doing my signature peace sign pose. I have tried to stop doing this pose but I can't. It is embedded in my genetics. I also realized that this is probably the first face picture of me I have on this blog...I think. What took me so long? Ok! Let's carry on.



Met the army men in the country side. They all waved at me and they were very gracious.



I also went to the killing fields museum. The killing fields represent a very sad time in Cambodia's history. You can read more about it online but essentially the killing fields mark the sites where thousands of people were unjustly massacred during the Khmer Rouge regime sometime in the mid 1970s. It is very heavy stuff. At the killing fields, you can actually see the skulls of some of the victims. You can also see the areas where they were hung or where their bodies were buried. As I said, it is very heavy. I'll just post a few pictures I took at the killing fields without any commentary. Out of respect for the victims, I won't post pictures of the skulls.









I also met a handsome young boy at the killing fields whose grandparents witnessed the massacres. A lot of people who live around the area have family members who witnessed the events. The kid was poor and he was desperately trying to get some money from me by narrating the entire story of the killings. I believe he said he was 11 and he looked very young but he knew so much. He went into specifics and narrated very grotesque events. He asked me if I spoke some French and when I said "yes",he tried to impress me by speaking some French phrases. It's quite ironic because I know a lot of people who take education and so many other opportunities they have for granted. Human potential is a terrible thing to waste and it breaks my heart that children in developing countries around the world would never have the opportunity to prove their worth. La vie, mes amis...c'est tres bizarre. I gave the boy some money and he told me to take a picture of him. He is probably use to tourists taking pictures of him in his shredded clothes as if he is some article. I did take a picture but out of respect for the dignity of this fine young gentleman, I won't post it anywhere. This post is really long no? I'm almost done. I promise. After Phnom Penh, I made my way to the beach city of Sihanouk Ville, in the Southern area of Cambodia. On the bus ride to Sihanouk ville, I sat next to this 20 year old British guy from Manchester. We started talking and decided to save money by getting a room in a guesthouse together. Everything worked out perfectly. First night in Sihanoukville, we hit Ochhuteal beach for a few beach parties.



This guy was lighting up his stick, preparing for a performance.




and then there was FIRE. HEHEHE. The rest of the night was decent. We walked around, drank a little, met people. I met some very interesting characters that night but I will save this part of the story for another time. Sihanouk ville is party central. Lots of bars, backpackers and the beaches are pristine. There is always a party going on and the food is just heaven. I ate too much...which is probably why I had the poop aka running stomach aka diarrhea. Not fun. I spent an entire day in the bathroom...taking dumps. Not fun. I met this really cool Irish lad who gave me some effective medication. I only took one tablet and within an hour I was fine. I didn't go to the bathroom for the next five days. Ok! back to to the beautiful beaches.



Breathtaking. I took the boat ride to nearby islands and for some snorkeling adventures in the middle of the ocean. Scary but fun. I'm an ok swimmer but due to some miscalculations by some guy I almost drowned at sea. Can you believe it? Crazy. Another story for another day.







The captain of the boat. ARRRRRRrrrrrGGGH



Snorkeling. This coral reef was dead so I was able to step on it without any injuries. Another random event happened. So one day I was sitting in front of my guesthouse, reading a book. I looked up and I saw this boy walking around with a heavy backpack, trying to find a place to stay. Why is this random? I had met this boy before...in my hostel in Bangkok. He was also living at the hostel when I was there. How random is that? funny how you bump into people. Sihanouk ville over all was great. Amazing people and amazing food. The place is like a tourist trap. It sucks you in and never lets you go. Everytime I said I was going to leave, new people came and then I'll be like maybe I will go tomorrow. Then you end up saying the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day. I just had to put my foot down one day and say "I NEED TO LEAVE, LIKE NOW!!!!!!!". If you are looking for a few days of parties, craziness, good beaches then make a stop in Ochhuteal beach, Sihanouk ville. My next stop? SINGAPORE!!!!!! I boarded an afternoon bus from Sihanouk ville to Phnom Penh.


bus station

I went back to the hostel in Phnom Penh I had previously stayed but they were full. The manager, a foreigner ( I believe he is English), was kind enough to tell the tuk tuk driver who works at the hostel to help me find a place. It was late at night so I appreciated the extra help. We drove around for a bit and finally found a place. They only had a single room left with a private bathroom and shower, TV with cable, fan etc. It was a little pricey (for Cambodian stadards) but after a 10 second deliberation, I was like fuck it! I am taking the room. After being crammed in dorm style hostels and cheap guesthouses, I felt like I deserved one night of luxury don't you think? lol. It was seriously like 10 dollars. Don't LAUGH OK?. After weeks of paying 4 bucks for dorm style hostels, 10 dollars seems like a lot of money. This is a small fragment of the room by the way.



My next morning, I had to check out before noon which I successfully did. I didn't think I was going to make it because I stayed up all night watching movies. I carried my backpack and walked around the city. Went to a few cyber cafes to burn time. I believe my flight to Singapore was at 8pm so I took a motorbike to the airport at around 6pm. After waiting around, I finally boarded. I flew with jetstar asia and they are shockingly inexpensive. My ticket from Phnom Penh to Changi Airport, Singapore cost me 70 US dollars. The only thing is Jetstar does not serve free food on the plane. However, it was like a 2 hour flight so I had no complaints.Once in Singapore, took a bus to my hostel. It was past midnight so they wouldn't let me in. I ended up walking up and down streets at around 2 past midnight looking for a place to sleep. I finally found a good but overly pricey hostel. I had no choice so I just had to sleep there. I woke up the next day, left for my hostel. I checked it and did some sight seeing.







Singapore is very beautiful and VERY CLEAN. You will get slapped with a huge fine for dropping dirt on the floor. At my hostel, I met some more cool people. I met this 19 year old couple from the UK and this really cool guy from Holland. The couple were heading to Australia and the guy from Holland just came from Australia. He had been backpacking in Australia for 10 months. Crazy right? so we all hung out, watched movies, went out to eat etc etc. We had a blast. The couple from the U.K left for Australia the next day and my buddy from Holland and I hung out some more. One day, we left for Chinatown to watch the Germany vs. Serbia world cup game. As we were walking by a bar, my buddy from Holland met a couple he had hung out while he was in Australia. How random is that? they just bumped into each other and he was like "hey!" The couple was cool.


...the bar in Chinatown. World cup Fever.

The guy is from Germany and his girlfriend is from France. Four of us got a table and the beers kept coming lol. We were all rooting for Germany but unfortunately Serbia won. Regardless, it was a good night. What is also interesting is that my buddy from Holland has a German girlfriend he met when he was in Australia. When I was in Bangkok, I met this really cool German guy who was dating this really cool girl from Holland. They both met in Australia too. So anyways, my buddy from Holland and I had to head back home before midnight because the subway stops at midnight. Despite the fact that we were both drunk, we stumbled our way into the subway and eventually got to our street. We stopped by an Indian restaurant and got some delicious food before heading back to the hostel. I had to get up at 8am the next morning because I had another flight to catch. I was up early, packed, took a shower, woke my buddy from Holland up and we said our good-byes and then left for the airport. Next stop? back to Bangkok. I flew with Tiger airways, another budget airline, and my flight cost me 70 US dollars. Not bad at all. I got to Bangkok, went to the hostel I had stayed in the last time I was in Bangkok. It felt like I was going back home. The hostel is so clean, comfortable and has a home feel to it. It is a little more pricey than the standard hostel in Bangkok but trust me, it is worth every penny. It's called NapPark and it is 2 blocks away from Khao San Road. So my plan was to stay at NapPark just for one day to unwind, relax and then continue my journey. The following day, when I was about to leave, I bumped into this British lad I had met the last time I was in Bangkok. How random is that? he had also come back to the hostel to unwind for a while and then head out south. I ended up staying an extra day so that we could hang out. We also met two cool Scottish girls so we all hung out together. I also met an African American pilot from Atlanta who was vacationing in Thailand for a few days. How cool is that? he was so down to earth and hilarious. It was a blast. So the next day, almost everyone headed down to the Southern islands for the full moon party while I headed up to the Northern region of Thailand. When we were saying our goodbyes, th British lad was like "goodbye, travel safe..." etc etc. I was like "I might probably bump into you again buddy". Considering how I randomly bumped into people I met in earlier destinations, I won't be surprised if I bumped into him again. Not at all. caught the over night train because it is a 14 hour journey. Traveling at night is a much better option because you get to sleep. I got a first class sleeper with a bed and I had to share it with this 40 something drunk from somewhere in Europe who could not stop drinking, yelling and cursing. THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE TRAIN RIDE IN MY LIFE!!!!! wait! this was actually my first train ride lol. Anyways, here are some of the sleeper room in the train






my infamous blue backpack.

I finally arrived at my destination, which is Nong Khai. Nong Khai is a city in the Northern region of Thailand and it is a lot more traditional. It is also about 5 minutes from the country Laos. In fact, from where I live I can see Laos across the river. How cool is that? what am I doing here? I am volunteering at this amazing organization called Isara. It is COMPLETELY FREE. You don't have to pay a dime. Of course, you pay for your own food and travels and that is not a problem because transportation and food here are extremely cheap. Why am I volunteering? because I want to take a break from the parties and do something meaningful and helpful. It's good to party when you are on vacation but you won't really experience the culture of a country if all you do is party with Westerners. Being a volunteer is giving me the opportunity to interact with Thais and learn more about their culture. I am also taking free Thai lessons offered at Isara. How cool is that? so excited. What kind of volunteering? teaching English to kids, teens and adults. Also, helping out with cleaning and recycling projects. I've only been here a few days but the experience has been amazing. The founder of this organization, Kirk Gillock ( an American from Texas who has lived in Thailand for the past 7 years) is very inspiring, hard working and down to earth. I will definitely do another post just talking about the Isara organization. If you are ever in Thailand and you want to do some good, then definitely head over to Isara. As I said, I will talk more about Isara in a separate post dedicated solely to volunteering. This post is a mess. It has gone on for too long. Can you believe I have been typing for over an hour? Ok! I'm heading out now. Take care guys and as I said, I will dedicate this week to reading and leaving comments on your blogs. Bye!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason. Cliche? absolutely right...but you know what? it is sometimes true. Everything DOES happen for reason. So much has happened and I don't even know where to start. I am currently in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in a shitty cyber cafe with shitty internet service but let's fastfoward a few days back. A day or two after my last entry, this really cool Australian guy came to the hostel. Since I had been in Bangkok for a while, I went exploring with him and showed him how to get around. We did those amazing boat rides again.



Which are extremely phenomenal during a sunset



It takes you under this bridge with an equally amazing view




We visited a lot of sites, including a beautiful buddhist temple. Here I am trying to have a spiritual connection with Buddha



We also visited the Anantasamakom Throne Hall which is an architectural wonder.



We explored uncountable places within two days. Not long after that, a guy from France arrived at the hostel and we all went out. While bar hopping, we met a guy from Belgium who works in Thailand full time. He was with his thai girlfriend and her friends. We all sat on one table and the Belgian guy would not stop ordering rum for us. We insisted on paying but he (and his girlfriend) wouldn't let us spend a penny. They were very hospitable. We ended up super drunk of course



and my Bob Marley shirt insisted on taking a picture during my many runs to the bathroom



The next day, more amazing people arrived at the hostel: a girl from Netherlands and a guy from Germany. We had so much fun exploring and getting into all kinds of trouble. Not long after that, we met another amazing guy from Israel who has been backpacking for TWO FULL YEARS. How crazy is that? TWO FULL YEARS. He started off in Australia/New Zealand, made his way through Asia and then he headed to Europe after two days in Bangkok and he would eventually end his journey in South Africa. I was in complete awe of his adventure spirit. TWO FULL YEARS? speechless I tell you, speechless. Anyways, the adventures continued in water



After the water adventures, the guy from Australia had a flight to catch to Austria. This was a Thursday evening and I was leaving for Cambodia on Friday morning. I had to wake up at 4am in order to catch the 5:30am bus from Bangkok to the Cambodian border. My plan for the night was simple: laundry and then sleep early so that I can wake up early. Before heading to sleep, my friends from Germany and Netherlands invited me up to the roof for some drinks. It was my last night with them so I couldn't turn them down. As I went to my room to grab my wallet so that I could buy some beer, a guy from Britain, who had just arrived at the hostel, walked into our dorm room. His bed was close to mine. He was introduced himself to me and I told him to come up the roof to drink with us. At the same moment, another new guy from Germany also arrived so I also invited him to the roof party. Walking up to the roof, I walked past this guy with glasses who had also just arrived. When I got to the roof, I saw one British guy and girl who had arrived at the hostel the day before. Immediately, we just started talking. Within five minutes, everyone was on the roof including the guy who walked past me with glasses. As we all talked and drank, I found out with the guy with glasses is from Chicago. My German friend suggested that we all go out to a well known club in Bangkok. Everyone was so pumped about going but I couldn't because I had to wake up early to go to Cambodia. The guy with glasses told me that he is going to Cambodia on Saturday. He told me to go out with them, stay an extra day and then we could both travel to Cambodia together. Everyone was enthusiastic about the idea and they told me to stay an extra night so that we can all go out. You know I can never turn down a good party so of course I stayed an extra day. While we were going out, another British girl was checking into the hostel. She seemed really cool so I invited her to join us. She accepted. So about 10 to 11 backpackers walked out and headed to the town for an adventure. It was an PHENOMENAL NIGHT. We got to the club at around midnight and we were told that the party doesn't start until 2pm. We bought drinks at a local store and drank it outside. Before 2am, we were all plastered. We negotiated a decent cover fee and got into the club. It was definitely worth the wait because the club was SICK!!! The pictures from the club are quite scandalous so I would leave you with just this picture of my friend being serenaded by some tattooed chick who emerged from nowhere.



We also checked out the sky club which is the tallest building in Bangkok. You can see the entire city from the top. Here's a picture.



So I definitely have no regrets about staying an extra day because it was all for the best. Saturday morning, my friend with glasses and I headed out to Cambodia. Everything worked out perfectly because we both split the cost of transportation and taxis so the journey ended up being cheaper.As I said, everything happens for a reason. We both went our separate ways today. He took the train to the north of thailand and I took the 7 hour bus to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. I just arrived in Phnom Penh about 3 hours ago and I am still settling in. My friend with glasses and I had a lot of fun in Siem Reap, Cambodia but I will save the stories for my next entry. I will leave you with a picture at the border between Thailand and Cambodia.



Until next time friends,
...a boy from another planet