A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Bangkok - Hilarious, Fun Times With Friends

sunny 37 °C
View Travels on KyleMac's travel map.

We were dropped off just outside of Khao San road – the main tourist district. Literally 5 minutes of being in Bangkok I was approached and offered ‘sucky sucky’… twice. This is even while wearing my full back pack and discussing with Kirby where to find a good cheap hotel – Bangkok certainly doesn’t disappoint! We struggled to find any reasonable hotels/guesthouses/hostels that were less than $20 per night. We had to settle for a windowless (though nicely furnished with an ensuite, it also had air-con but that was necessary as much for cooling as it was for accessing oxygen – refer to ‘windowless’) concrete box for 450 baht ($14) per night.

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^^ Insane traffic

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^^ A Bangkok alley :)

We were pretty tired by the time we arrived, found a hotel, and ate so we just checked out Khao San road quickly. It’s definitely the place to be if you want fake I.D’s, fake university degrees, dodgy tattoos, dirty prostitutes, drugs, or corrupt tuk-tuk drivers; A real culmination of all the uncivilized things that years of gross backpackers bring to a district, and we can’t wait to share it with Ellie and Steven in 2 days :)!

We missed our first morning in Bangkok because our pitch-black, windowless, air conditioned hotel room fooled us into thinking it was still night time when in fact the clock was proudly in the PM.
After brunch..? we made our way to the tourist information centre to see if we could pick up a bus timetable. Apparently there is no bus timetable, and you are just meant to know where the bus is going according to the number and colour of the line painted on the side of it – so no buses for us. Luckily the taxis are cheap (around $3 to anywhere in the main part of the city), the trick is to make sure they turn the meter on; otherwise they will demand some extortionate amount when you arrive at your destination. Upon stepping outside of the tourist information centre we were greeted with a freckled, 70 something, homeless bum…literally. An old homeless man was completely naked doing a shit, into a green bucket…thank you Bangkok, thank you.

On the 27th we headed across town to the Indian Embassy to apply for our Indian Visa’s, this was also the day that Steven and Ellie were arriving so we were very excited to soon have someone else to talk to, haha :). The crap part of the day was that when we arrived at the Indian Embassy we found out that we were supposed to fill out the visa forms online, print them, and then bring them to be processed! Pain in the arse. Feeling beaten we decided to not waste our trip all the way across town and instead checked out a couple of the massive shopping centres. We ended up in Centrepoint Shopping Centre (which I think we also have in Aus?) and watched the new X-Men movie (a real version, not pirated- who’d have thought in Thailand, right?).

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^^ A fort....I forget what it's called

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^^ Tuk Tuk

That night, after a quick feed at a local street stall back at Khao San we prepared our Indian Visa apps for the next morning and met up with Ellie and Steven; Woo hoooo, familiar faces! Things quickly got out of control as the ‘buckets’ disappeared into us and we went clubbing in Bangkok until 4:30am.

Three and a half hours, a quick spew, and a raging headache later, I found myself handing my Indian Visa application in at 8am. Wow, clubbing was a bad idea!

We didn’t have long with our friends so I had to embrace the hangover and do the touristy thing. We walked through the street market outside of their hotel, apparently it’s the popular place to pick up a dildo and some Viagra, literally on the footpath, once again Bangkok living up to its reputation.

Ironically we also visited the Buddhist temples; Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, and took an hour cruise through the canals of Bangkok for 200 baht per person ($6.50), I dunno if that’s a good deal but it sounded alright so we just did it.

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^^ Beautiful temple architecture

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^^ Amazing mosaics on this stupa

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^^ Change a couple baht into a million coins - each coin is a prayer

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^^ Gong!

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^^ The giant lying golden Buddha

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^^ Climbing the stupa

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^^ Bargaining for the canal ride

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^^ Houses line the canal

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^^ Ellie and Steven :)

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^^ Feeding the fishys

We then caught a taxi to Gold Mount where we enjoyed beautiful views and watched a lightning storm roll in from the horizon. We should have known that with giant clouds full of thunder and lightning, it would also rain. But like deer in the headlights we sat hypnotised by the storm until it started pissing down rain all over us and there wasn’t a taxi in sight! Idiots!
I volunteered to wrangle a taxi and stood out in the rain. After I was sufficiently soaked a taxi pulled up to where the rest of the guys were waiting in the dry, didn’t I feel like the good Samaritan, once again..Idiot!

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^^ Praying for hangover healing

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^^ Murals decorate the walls

All in all though the day was awesome, the hangover wasn’t too intense and after a hard day site-seeing we headed back to Khao San and feasted like Kings (and Queens). I hope the rest of our time together is as good as the first night/day :).

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 03:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged markets taxi thailand bangkok friends san fun wat_pho wat_arun khao homeless tuk buckets fake_id fake_degree prostitutes gold_mount Comments (2)

Goodbye Cambodia


View Travels on KyleMac's travel map.

Cambodia turned out to be well worth a visit after providing us with our very first land border crossing, surprising us with its metropolitan cities, moving us with the Khmer’s recent struggles against genocide, intoxicating us with its fun backpacker beachside scene, allowing us to feel like explorers in Battambang’s rural countryside, and seeing us off with an awe inspiring finally amongst Ankor Wats spectacular ruins. We have definitely enjoyed our stay and would recommend a Khmer massage to any weary traveller who does themselves a favour by visiting the Kingdom of Wonder.


^^ Cambodian Travels

You’ll never never know if you never never go ;)

Kirby

Total cost of 1 month in Cambodia = $900

Posted by KyleMac 05:24 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

rain 35 °C

Siem Reap is not what we expected. It is the ancient capital of Cambodia and boasts temples like Angkor Wat that are over 800 years old, and as such you imagine an old looking town. First of all, it is no older looking than any other city we’ve visited, secondly Pub Street is about as hip as it gets in Cambodia. The whole block surrounding Pub Street is a bustling tourist trap full of restaurants, night clubs, massage parlours, and bars.

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^^ Siem Reap at night is especially beautiful

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We had some time to kill here as it was our last stop before heading into Thailand to meet Ellie and Steven and we didn’t want to enter too early and waste our short Thai visa. So, what better to do in a city that boasts a ‘bar street’ than enjoy a few of the bars?

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For the first 6 days we didn’t really do anything. First of all it was raining pretty much non-stop and when the rain did let off the thermometer would shoot up close to 40 degrees.

We got a fair few massages from a group called ‘Seeing Hands’, they are all blind and this organisation gives them work massaging, plus they were really good.

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^^ Feasting on my dead foot skin

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^^ It's ticklish

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^^ Our $7 per night accommodation

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^^ We also saw a traditional Khmer dancing show

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Kirby did a cooking class which she really enjoyed; she learnt how to cook a peanut curry, a green mango salad, and a bean pudding. The best thing was she got to eat it all at the end of the class, and because the class only cost $10 it was cheaper than when we had ordered it at the same restaurant the night before, go figure, oh and also she got a free shirt that stated ‘Proud to be Khmer’ – we gave it to a tuk tuk driver.

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^^ Cooking ace

We also tried finding a swimming pool because it was sooooooo hot, although the cheapest one we could find wanted $16 for the day! Our hotel only cost $7 per night, so we decided to skip the pool and just stay around air-con.

We also discovered that in Cambodia they don’t have enough TV ads. So when a show goes to an ad break they show 1 or 2 ads and then an ‘intermission’ screen appears along with accompanying ‘elevator’ music; a world away from the ad-infected TV at home.

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^^ Delicious bugs on sale

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Finally on the 23rd we headed out to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temple complexes. It was an awesome experience, the air was thick with history and we had to pinch ourselves to actually believe we were visiting an ancient wonder of the world!

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The temples have many strange carvings and characteristics that obviously arise when you swap from being a Hindu temple worshipping Vishnu to being a Buddhist temple, however nothing can draw from the amazing architecture and awe inspiring skill that the Khmer builders possessed. A fun fact is that the binding material used in the construction is still yet to be identified by modern science.

It’s hard to put into words how cool it was to be visiting such an amazing place. Definitely weren’t disappointed!

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^^ Lost in the ruins

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^^ Carvings decorate all the walls

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^^ Polished boobs - apparently everyone likes to touch them

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That afternoon we got another massage each and purchased our $9 bus tickets to Bangkok!

Our last day in Cambodia we spent at the markets in Siem Reap; a bit of fun bargaining with the locals. Kirby picked up a camera bag, and I got myself what I’m calling an ‘asian’ style shirt :).

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^^ The markets have anything you could possibly want

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The journey to Bangkok was rather uneventful, which I guess is a good thing when border crossing are concerned, especially with the recent tensions between the Thai and Cambodian military.

The bus dropped us off at Poipet on Cambodia’s side and we walked across the border. The no-mans-land of approximately 100 meters is the home to possibly the world’s dodgiest casino. We didn’t stop and have a look, as gambling in land owned by no one freaks me out for some reason. After we passed through Thai immigration and received our 15 day visa (yes only 15 days when entering via land – sucks) we were shuffled into a mini bus and taken to a nearby restaurant where we had to sit for an hour (and purchase food/drinks from the drivers aunties restaurant). After the driver was satisfied the group had spent enough on his auntie’s overpriced food and drink it was on to an 18 lane highway straight into the heart of Bangkok!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 03:43 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap angkor_wat angkor cooking_class poipet pub_street seeing_hands_massage bus_bangkok Comments (0)

Battambang - A Bamboo Train and A Broken Speedboat

semi-overcast 30 °C

We finally arrived in Battambang after another epic bus journey; I realise I’m getting a bit repetitive on this whole ‘bus trip’ ordeal, but it is most definitely the worst thing about backpacking. The cheap hotels next to nightclubs with their insect infestations, the ratty looking restaurants with real rats, the toilets with no toilet-paper; it’s nothing compared to horrendous, DVT inducing, bum numbing, 15+ hour bus rides, they suck sooo bad! Anyway I guess it’s all part of the experience and it makes reaching your destination all the more exciting.

When the bus did arrive it was around 9pm and we were greeted with the usual rowdy mob of tuk-tuk drivers wanting to take us to their hotels. It was really intense; we couldn’t escape the mob that surrounded us screaming out their prices for the ride to various hotels. Business must be down because the prices started at $2, then $1, then 50 cents and then they were all scrambling over each other and yelling ‘for free!! For free!!’ (The whole idea with free rides to the hotel is to sweet talk you into a day tour with them tomorrow). I noticed a guy just sitting next to his tuk-tuk chilling out not trying to trample us to death so I pointed to him we hurled ourselves into the back of his tuk-tuk and left the angry mob behind us. On the way to the hotel we found out his name is Sam Ol and his style is to hang back and let the tourists make their own mind up. It definitely worked with us, we would much prefer a passive driver willing to take us wherever we want to go than a worked-up, aggressive business man forcing you into his tuk-tuk. He was young like us and had a good sense of humour so we organised for him to pick us up the next morning and take us around town on a day tour.

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^^ Battambang

The day tour was awesome. It’s so easy with a local showing you around! We visited heaps of temple’s including Prasat Banan temple, and Phnom Sampeau. When we stopped and had noodle soup for lunch Sam Ol sat opposite and read us the newspaper to practice his English, which is already very good. He has a hilarious book full of ‘proverbs’ that other tourists have written down and ones he has found in books. We wrote a few extras in his book for him; he quite liked ‘Never smile at a crocodile’ and ‘She sells sea shells by the sea shore’; he kept practicing them all day with varying degrees of success, really funny though.

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^^ At Phnom Sampeau

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^^ The wet stairs you have to climb to get to Phnom Sampeau

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^^ Beautiful view from Prasat Banan

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We rode the bamboo train – a frightening experience! It’s a small bamboo platform that rests on two train axles with a large engine. They go both ways on the track and when you meet another train one of them disassembles to let the other through. The rule for which train has to be pulled apart is the one with the least people on board, however a scooter trumps people and live animals trump scooters. The ride itself is scary and the sections of rail don’t actually meet up square, so every join you approach you cross your fingers and toes and hope that the momentum will carry you across onto the next piece of rail line with a loud crunch. The lines are also warped from the heat so some sections you sway from side to side hoping not to flip. We definitely got our adrenaline rush for the day, although it was unexpected with Sam Ol telling us it was a pleasant ride on a local form of transport haha :). You better get in quick if you want to experience this train ride because the government has plans to re-lay the tracks so large trains can use it again, which means no more bamboo trains allowed. Note: I also have a video to upload of the train but because I am trying to do it within China the government is blocking it.

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^^ The bamboo train.

He then took us to a massive mango tree to show us the bats. Apparently the locals catch them and drink their blood because it’s good for your eye sight. I tried to explain to him that in Australia a popular saying is ‘Blind as a bat’ which really confused him, because the locals admire how they can fly around in the pitch black. That’s when I really confused him and tried explaining echo-location, and in fact if anything should improve from drinking bat’s blood it should be your hearing. He was puzzled but I wrote a definition in his book and he vowed to research the topic more :). Perhaps next time we visit, the village will be drinking the blood for hearing.

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^^ Enjoying the sights from the back of Sam Ol's tuk tuk

At the end of the day we went to a local bar and had a few jugs of beer with our new friend Sam Ol. I definitely recommend him as a guide/driver and if you find yourself in Battambang give him a call, his number is on the back of the tuk-tuk in the picture below.

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The next day we checked out the city by ourselves but it was like 37 degrees so it quickly turned into a search for an air-conditioned café. That night we missed the blood moon – full lunar eclipse – because it was too cloudy, we’ll have to wait 10 years and try again.

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We decided to take the speed boat across the lake to Siem Reap ($18 pp). The boat sounded like it should be going a lot faster than it was; in fact the engine was the size of a small car. But I’ve been crabbing in tinny’s that went significantly faster. At one point it completely broke down and we floated around for 45 minutes while the crew jumped off and searched for new batteries.

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^^ Our loud boat

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^^ A storm was brewing

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^^ Floating house

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The lake was impressive; it’s the biggest lake in Asia and when you emerge out of the tributary into the main expanse it’s fresh water as far as the eye can see. We passed many floating villages on the way and the driver even stopped to buy some fresh fish and eels for dinner. We arrived in Siem Reap about 7 hours later and found a nice cheap hotel – surprisingly recommended by the tuk-tuk driver – and had drinks that night in the lively streets of one of Cambodia’s ancient capitals.

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^^ Enjoying a strong jug of whiskey in Siem Reap

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 03:10 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap sam ol battambang bamboo_train speed_boat tuk_tuk_tour prasat_banan phnom_sampeau Comments (2)

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