Thursday, April 19, 2012

News Updates

Over the past few month, there hasn't been a whole lot new on the training front since Orca's 50k.

My knee's were in pretty bad shape following the 50 so I had to take a few weeks off running. They still feel tight today if I don't stretch them out, as a result my running has been at a minimum. My next event was a month later with the UBC Triathlon.

We lucked out and weather was incredible. I had a dismal swim where I fought with my goggles the whole time, a medium bike (energy was good, but power was lacking) and then I got to the run. I wasn't sure what my run would be like. I hadn't run since Orca a month earlier and I had been telling people that I wasn't even going to finish the run. I started it off and felt alright so decided to keep it steady and keep pushing. I somehow managed to pull off a 40:23 - 10k split. My fastest off the bike 10k ever. I was a little confused. I have been biking to and from work every day but at no point was I doing any run training.

Fast forward a few more weeks. I did a handful (read 3-4 runs) including a 5k tempo TT on 19:00 and the mile race where I managed a 5:12. Neither of which were exactly stellar performances. Then on Saturday we had our tri club year end banquet where I may have had a little to drink and was becoming boastful. You may have heard, I plan on winning the Grand Columbian Triathlon in September!

As a result I declared that I would be getting a PB on Sunday at the sun run a mere 8 hours later.

Well I woke up feeling a little worse for wear, however, got myself to the starting line and when the gun went off I felt fine. A little stiff but otherwise legs were turning over and lungs felt good. I felt like I was gliding, especially in my new shoes! Coming in at roughly 5 ounces, these babies are light!

The sun run is a funny race, Since it is downhill at the start, you always go way too fast. I passed the 1 mile in 5:26 which had me on pace for a 34 minute 10k. A little quick. In addition, the km markers are quite off. For example, here were my splits

1mile 5:26
2k 6:58
3k 3:18 (10:16)
4k 4:15 (14:32)
6k 7:48 (22:21)
7k 3:51 (26:12)
9k 7:32 (33:44)
10k 3:28 (37:12)

My official time was 37:10 so not sure if I started watch early or stopped late. Anyways. The point being this was my 10k pb by 15 seconds!

I was pumped.

Following my race I had a talk with one of my friends. The topic of serious training and potential came up. It's something I have discussed with people a few times but often shy away from. I think that this summer. Once I get into a good routine. I am going to try and push my limits. Get those morning workouts in before work. And since time is shorter this year than summers past. Try and get in quality workouts rather than junk hours. More high intensity interval stuff rather than the 2-3 per week long rides.

We will see how this goes. For now I am just pumped that my running is pain free.

I will try and get a race schedule planned. There should be some 10k's in there as well. I want to try and get into the 35's. I know this skips over 36 entirely but with a little focused effort I think it's possible.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Orca's 50k

Alright, I'm going to try and get back into the habit of writing this thing. Instead of trying to summarize everything I've left out, I'll just pick up as though I never left.

Two weeks ago I completed my first ultra marathon! I "wimped out" as much as you can when it comes to Ultra's in the sense that I completed the shortest possible race to be considered an Ultra, 50k. That being said, I chose one of the more challenging routes in North America.

The Orca's 50 takes place on Orca's Island in Washington State. This is a gulf island between Seattle and Victoria. It was beautiful there.

Stolen from Winston's blog

A group of 5 of us went down for the race. Jon, Johnson and Winston from the triathlon club, as well as my roommate Sean.

Jon has participated in Ultra's before, however, for the rest of us this was our first attempt. We arrived late Friday night, had some food, chatted with the race organizers and went to bed in prep for the big day.

Race morning came around, we were up early, but the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. The only shock to the day was when I realized that there were only 3 aid stations for the entire 50k (I thought there were at least 5-6). In addition to that, aid station 2 only had water...

The course was beautiful but challenging with over 8800 feet elevation change. I was a little worried about how my body would hold out. I ran a half marathon in November and injured my knee's and hadn't really done a long run since and only really got in any running in the one month leading up to the race. Going into a 50k run when your longest run was 49 minutes and 11k isn't exactly confidence boosting.


There was a little scare at 19k. I rolled my ankle quite badly, the same one I sprained at Christmas. It was bad enough that I stopped for 5 minutes and even started walking back, however, after a few minutes the pain went away and I decided to at least try and make it to the next aid station (30k) rather than quitting, and it was a major relief to find out my ankle no longer hurt.

I managed to make it 35k before my knee's started to give out, then it was just a long 15k in to the finish (especially since the last 8k were straight downhill). During the last 15k I dropped from top 10 down to 30th, my final finishing place (out of 300). That being said I made it to the finish and was rewarded with a lovely local beverage from a keg!

We partied it up with the other runners, there was food and music late into the night, then the next morning we piled into the truck and made our way back to Vancouver!

All in all it was a great weekend. Two weeks out, my knees are still a little sore. I haven't tried running, but I have biked and I hope to start running light again by the end of this week. Gotta get prepped for the BMO in a few month!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 114

So I thought I was going to have to re-write my Myanmar blog post, I searched and searched my e-mail never finding the most recent update. Turns out I'm just an idiot and had deleted it. Fortunately I managed to hunt it down and found this e-mail which overlapped with my previous one of Thailand and Myanmar.

That was a little longer than I had wanted to go without
e-mailing... To make an excuse I haven't been somewhere with either
crappy enough wifi to require me to hit up an internet cafe. Or the
internet cafe's have been too expensive or non existent. Who would
have thought Myanmar would be the solution for me.

I left off a month ago in Sihannoukville Cambodia. I was sitting on a
beach, getting a tan, swimming, getting sick. All good times. After 5
days in Sihannoukville (my longest stay to date anywhere I took an all
day bus (3 buses actually) to Bangkok with hopes of catching the
overnight train to Chaing Mai. Unfortunately when we got to the border
and switched buses, the driver wouldn't leave until the minivan was
full. Having 10 people we waited around another 2-3 hours for the 11th
to show up and take off. We debated offering to pay for the 11th
person so we could just leave however we all agreed that the driver
wouldn't really understand this gift of money and would wait for
someone to arrive pocketing money for 12 people instead of 11. BONUS!

We arrived at Kao San Rd at 10PM instead of the supposed 7 meaning I
was now too late to catch the 10PM train. RATS!

It was alright, this would give me the day in Bangkok to try and get
my Myanmar visa sorted out. The next morning I discussed to great
detail the bus system in Bangkok. Mr iPhone said I should take the #15
west even though the embassy was east... And the hotel staff all
suggested other buses going east. I decided the iPhone didn't know
what it was talking about (my first mistake) and followed the hotel
staff's instructions.

After 3 buses and no bus fare later (no driver charged me because I
was only ever on for 3-4 stops while he explained I was going the
wrong way) I was blocks from the embassy. Getting there at 11AM
figured I was early enough to beat the rush. Turns out I was really
early. The embassy was closed. Uncertain as to why I asked if it was a
Thai holiday. He said no but that today it was closed. The
conversation went like this:

Vince: The embassy is not open today?

Guard: No (Smiling and nodding in a yes motion)

Vince: When is it open?

Guard: Monday to Friday

Vince: Today is tuesday...

Guard: YES! Still nodding and smiling.

At this point I am leaving for Chiang Mai tonight so will have to deal
with this when I get back. Unfortunately that falls on another
tuesday. After a few more conversations like the one above. I am
ensured the embassy will be open next tuesday so I take off.

The train north was uneventful. I got picked up at the other end by a
guest house who promised to take me to town just to show me their
place, no pressure. I got there, the wifi worked well, the place was
clean, they had the tour de france on TV for the last 2 mountain
stages and the time trial. I was set. This also turned out to be the
friendliest hotel staff I have had to date. They were amazing. Anyone
going to Chiang Mai I suggest staying at Junior Guest house in the old

The first day I just roamed the city. checked out the temples and went
to a neat thing called Monk Chat where you can converse with the monks
and they get to learn about your life and practice their english all
the while you don't feel like a jerk for asking all the questions
you've been ignorantly hiding for the past 3 month seeing monks in

My second day I took a traditional Thai cooking class and now know how
to make Thai meals! Only 5 of them I liked though.

Third day, Motorbike rental toured the area. As a cyclist this was
probably some of the most amazing roads I've seen traveling so far. So
many turns and hills. Would have been so nice to ride on. And smooth
pavement too.

Day four, massage course. I didn't learn much new, however now I have
a 90 minute massage routine. I was pleasantly surprised when in
Bangkok two weeks later and Corinne and I got massages that the
masseuse used the same routine that I now knew. So I'm pretty much a
pro now.

Day five. Go to tiger kingdom and then train back to Bangkok
overnight. I got some sweet photos of me with Tigers.

Back in Bangkok I returned a day earlier than originally planned which
saved me two hassles. Having to rush south to meet up with Erich and
Corinne, and the mysterious closed Tuesday embassy. Sure enough on
Mondays the embassy was open and I got my visa application in. Just
needed to pick it up 3 days later. On to the night train again I made
it to Krabi and met up with Corinne and Erich the next morning just
before noon. It was pretty lucky. I had no idea what hotel Corinne was
at so I made a wild guess (of the hundreds) and got a late breakfast
while using the restaurant internet. After eliminating the 39 junk
mails I found out Corinne was staying at a hotel literally 10 feet
from where I was sitting. Sure enough there she was in the lobby!

The three of us took the boat to Railay and begun out epic adventure
of rock climbing and living the beach life.

Railay is the rock climbing capital of SE Asia. It was amazing (except
for the shoes). After a long day and night, we went to bed at 10pm
ready for our next morning. Having had a long day with a lot on my
mind I wasn't able to sleep so decided to go for a walk down the
beach. I sat there for a while admiring the area and met a few other
foreigners who were headed swimming. Since I figured I wasn't sleeping
anytime soon, I might as well go with them. They neglected to mention
that there was bio luminescence in the water! I have never seen this
before but when you wave your fingers little lightnight bolts of blue
shoot from them. It was quite the experience. So much so that I went
back three nights in a row.

After 3 days Erich had to leave us so it was just Corinne and I left.
We loved Railay so decided to stay there instead of venturing to the
other islands nearby (Railay isn't actually an island but since there
are no roads to it and only accessible by boat it acts that way).

Corinne and I lounged and rock climbed until it was time to head back
to Bangkok for her departing flight and my trip to Myanmar. The trip
was fairly easy and uneventful except someone felt my bag was too
heavy and stole 400$ from me in my sleep. That was awesome. Budgets
from the previous 3 month kept flashing through my mind as I
calculated how many fruit drinks that would equate to in Laos. How
many sugar cane juice that was in Vietnam and how many more massages I
could have had in Thailand or how many km I could have motobiked
instead of walked in Cambodia. As a fellow traveler stated. I can't
think of that and just be glad the money was stolen peacefully and not
at knife or gunpoint. That would have sucked.

We celebrated Corinne's birthday in style. Although she begged me to
go to a ping pong show I told her that now that she was 25 she needed
to act like a grown up. Instead we went for 2 dinners and a massage
where I am sure the Thai masseurs were making fun of us the whole

The next morning came too soon. Corinne flew back to Canada and I flew
to Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. At the airport I do like all
other foreigners do in a new place. I looked for the only other white
person and started chatting with him. His name was Paul but went by
Paddy. He is in the special forces in the UK and we split a cab to the
city center and since we got along decided to stick together for the
next few days and make life cheaper. He was a really interesting guy.
He had recently (February) gotten divorced and I got the impression
wasn't able to share feelings too much with his alpha male special
forces friends because although he kept saying he barely talks or
thinks about his ex, she was the topic of most of our conversations.
That sounds really negative and boring, but really it was kinda nice
and allowed us to get to know each other much more than the other
travelers I've gone with. I think a big part of that is the laid back
nature of Myanmar.

The first two days I didn't see another white person. Very few people
harass you for anything and everyone is really friendly and grateful
for your service. There is a large temple in Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda, it was probably one of the most impressive single structures I have seen. It was beautiful and gold. Making the temple on the top
of the mountain in Chiang Mai look like garbage. This building was 92
meters tall, and covered in gold. And I mean LOTS OF GOLD. 60 tons of
it. I must admit, often I am a little tired of temples but this one
really impressed me. We capped off that night by going to a restaurant. I'm not too sure what it was exactly. It may have doubled as a brothel. We were never approached by anyone, but there were these weird dances followed by the girls sitting at the tables with old men. But this restaurant was right off the street and open concept. Not some shady back room. We were a little on edge to say the least so left fairly quickly following our meal.

We took an overnight bus to Bagan which got a flat so in the pitch
black they pulled over and a team of 5 guys started fixing and
changing it while I watched. Someone announced that because of this
delay there would be no rest break in an hour so if we had to pee,
women to the left of the field, men in the right. Made me laugh, but
it worked and no one wanted to stop again in an hour anyways.

Bagan was just what I had hoped. Peaceful, quite and incredibly
impressive with its temples. A little background. There are roughly
4000 temples over a 20km area most of which can be seen from a few
viewpoints. It was spectacular. We visited them by horse carriage. We
debated bikes however they would have been too hard to keep oriented
since no roads are straight and a lot of the temples look similar.
Getting lost was for sure a great possibility. Also, you can't feel bad hiring a horse carriage. This simple luxury was a huge help to the locals. Our guide, who waited for tourist every morning at the bus stop at 4AM was thrilled because we were his first customers in 10 days and that having us hire him meant his family could have chicken with dinner. I have really enjoyed Myanmar because it's really off the beaten path. Even at
the most tourist site, Sunset in Bagan, there were only 40 ish people
in comparison to the thousands at Ankor Wat.

We took an early night because we got up at 4 to catch sunrise from a
temple. Unfortunately the sun rose a little earlier than our driver
anticipated, but we managed to get some good views and photos
nonetheless. Unfortunately photos really don't do these temples
justice. Its the panoramic views that really made Bagan special.
Hopefully Paddy got some better pictures than I did. He was an amateur
photographer with a 2500$ camera and some of his were spectacular.

Leaving Bagan, I took a quazi overnight bus. For some reason it left
at 4AM... its an 10 hour bus ride. Why it didn't leave at 11pm or even
8pm and get us in early morning I will never know. That being said it
was the least comfortable bus I have been on yet. People were sitting
5 deep on the roof. I managed to get a broken bench chair in the
middle of the bus.

Arriving in Kalaw I now have one good nights sleep ahead of me before
taking off on a 3 day trek which passes through countless villages and
we spend a night at a monastery which I've heard is amazing!

So thats it. That summarizes my last month of travel. I hope I didn't
leave too much out and I'm sorry for the lack of photos. I will make
sure to put them all up when I get home and send out a special edition
email with just that.

Despite having a great time traveling, I must admit that I am feeling
burnt out. I find I am going to temples and thinking they are just
another temple. The activity based traveling I am getting more out of
now as the culture shock is wearing off. So hopefully the trek does me
some good.

Editors Note, That was all written August 10th. I will now finish the rest of the trip.

The hike was amazing. This was the 4th long hike I have done. And the first three were fairly challenging, Ascending and descending quite a bit. Hard on the legs. Sure this one was long (55k in 3 days) but it wasn't difficult. This allowed you to really enjoy the scenery and the day. I traveled with a couple who were really friendly and we got along great. I inquired before leaving and was told that the villages along the way in addition to needing school supplies also needed hygiene products. I was advised to bring toothpaste, soap and toothbrushes if I could, because families would buy food but not waste money on these products. With my bag loaded up with gifts I started the hike. Stopping at a village for lunch we got a fantastic home cooked meal. The meals on this tour were amazing. Lots of food and lots of variety as well. We stayed that night in a one bedroom house. I decided to be adventuresome and hang out with the locals rather than the other tourist. This proved highly entertaining. I smoked a cigar with them and drank some terrible whiskey like drink. Every time I put it down the host tried to refill it. I must have drank 4-5 ounces of the stuff before straight up refusing anymore. Needless to say I slept very well that night.

The next day was another long day of crossing rice fields and awesome mountain scenery. Nothing overly eventful other than some rain. Fortunately being Asia it was 30*C so that didn't really slow us down much. We stayed that night in a monastery. It was cool, but a little overdone. You could tell this was somewhat like a hotel. But the kids were cute. The last day involved hiking out of the mountains and down to the lake. It was advertised that we would have an hour long boat ride. I wasn't overly thrilled with this idea, I get bored on boats, however, this turned out to be a great experience. Seeing Inle Lake from the water, the fisherman, the huts, was really amazing. We were dropped off in town and I walked to the hotel where our bags were stored, and I ran into Paddy again! He had gone to Mandalay but then skipped the trek and went straight to Inle Lake. We got to hang out for another day, share stories before I took off the next morning for Yangon. While in Inle Lake though, I continued my theme of giving. After having dropped off all the books and supplies to schools and host houses along the way, I arrived in Inle Lake and learned that there was a large school there as well in need. Myanmar is super poor, significantly more so than the other Asian countries. So that 10$ spent on books for kids goes a long way. I managed to buy a book, pen, pencil eraser for every kid at a school (66) as well as some general supplies like a dictionary and calculator. It was a little awkward giving these to the teachers but they seemed very appreciative and the kids all said thank you as I left.

The trip to Yangon was fairly uneventful. I am now a pro at sleeping on buses. Getting to Yangon I travelled through the market and just killed my last day taking photos and walking around and found a good internet cafe. I flew out the next day to Bangkok after mailing some letters (3 cents per letter). The letters all arrived in Canada, however some took as long as late november to arrive.

From Bangkok I went straight south to Koh Tao, however my last week and trip home is going to be saved for another day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 98 Railay/Tonsai

I left of heading south on the train from Chaing Mai on my way to Bangkok. This overnight train got me in to BKK with plenty of time to spare before the next train to Surat Thani in the south of Thailand on my way to Railay/Tonsai.

During my 12 hour layover in BKK I managed finally to get my Visa application in for Myanmar and then walked around heading to the Palace and walked through the grounds. I was somewhat templed out and didn't really feel like spending 15$ to walk around and take more photos. Instead I walked back towards the train station and stopped in a park to read and watch old men do exercises. No one stepped on the grass the entire hour I was there. They simply jogged around the sidewalk over and over again or did squats and stuff in the wider parts of the walkway. Kinda funny.

Onto the train, and off to the south! Arriving in Krabi (jumping point to Railay/Tonsai) I wasn't sure where I was supposed to meet Corinne and Erich. Erich was flying in that day and Corinne had been there since the night before but unfortunately we hadn't managed to communicate where we were meeting. I arrived at a restaurant, ordered lunch and got the wifi password and learned where Corinne was hiding, some hostel which google maps showed being far and on the opposite end of town. I wasn't pumped about this. So I sat, ate my lunch and asked the server what the best way to get to this hostel was. She was confused by me question, because it turns out that the hostel was literally next door. The entire time I was eating, I wasn't more than 20 feet away from Corinne.

I walk the quick steps and we hang out and 15 minutes later Erich shows up. Success! Erich is super pumped:

First because of how awesome my beard has become; and

second because we are rocking out in Thailand!

We arrived in Railay which is more expensive than the further more remote beach of Tonsai, so packs and all we walk the beach and climb through the mini jungle to the second beach and find some pretty cheap digs for 6$ a night, No power during the day, padlocks on doors for locks. Pretty basic. Corinne and Erich bunk up and I grab my spot and we feast on a massive dinner! For anyone going, Tonsai has significantly better and cheaper food than Railay.

Railay beach is the right, Tonsai is the far left, and that green bit is the treacherous path we needed to hike through far too often everyday.

That night Erich and Corinne called it a night early, and I went back to my room to read. Not being in the mood to read and not able to sleep I decided to go for a walk. Through the treacherous path (in the dark using iPhone light) and across back to Railay where I could get wifi. While awkwardly lurking around one of the fancier hotels a group roughly my age (which I realize after writing that means 20-38 when I reflect on who was there) came through and were headed swimming! Seeing as how it was now midnight and I was wide awake, I could see nothing better to do with my time. Well, am I ever pleased I did. There was bioluminescence in the water! As you moved your arms and legs it looked like you were swimming on a cloud! Definitely an experience I did not expect to have that night. On my walk back towards Tonsai I noticed a lot of people on skype so I shared my experience with them and finally made it back to my room sometime between 4 and 5 AM.

Needless to say the 8AM meeting with Erich and Corinne came super early. Quick breakfast and we were off! What do you do in this area of Thailand you may ask? ROCK CLIMB!

Corinne had never really rock climbed before, she started out having trouble keeping up with the routes Erich and I were doing, but by the end of the week she was rocking them out no problem!

Shaving my beard. One of lifes big regrets
Some of the routes were HUGE! 30+ meters (which is tricky on a 30M rope)

No Bigs

Erich unfortunately had to leave us after only a few days. We mixed up our days by either rock climbing, or hanging out on the beach. It doesn't look too sunny, but believe me when I said it was HOT! Super humid. We went and discovered caves, Erich avoided monkeys so that they didn't steal his food again like they did in KL, and ate. Yes we ate A LOT!

Erich and Corinne cruising the beach
On Erich's last night we decided to go big. For years I've been heading Erich and Pat talk about Thai Buckets, booze concoctions so great that they don't even remember what they did those nights.

Needless to say, Erichs last night we purchased a few and people went missing. Sure there weren't the goodbyes everyone would have hoped for in the morning, but I think the story makes up for the missing people. I'll leave it at that. Another good night with buckets!

Now it was back to just Corinne and I. Corinne decided that my beard needed a trimming and unfortunately she did a terrible job! No just kidding, I was getting tired of it because it was getting really hot and itchy with all the moisture so I decided to shave. BIG MISTAKE! Surprisingly there weren't any dorky tan lines or anything of the such. But I was instantly cold! Corinne and I had big plans to visit other beaches on neighbouring islands, however, this place was so relaxing that we decided we really didn't need new adventures. This was Corinnes last week of travel and I was about to depart to Myanmar so relaxing was definitely a great plan. Our 3 days at this beach turned into 8 with nothing other than climbing, eating, drinking and swimming to report. It was fantastic! And this attitude wasn't just the two of us. Nearly everyone we met and hung out with while there also extended their trip from a few days to weeks. We met some fantastic people from all over. Some Montreal, Vancouver, California, All over Europe! Was great!

Corinne and I finally had to leave this beach paradise, and head back to Bangkok. This is where the first unfortunately event took place. Everyone always warns you of theft etc while traveling and I had encountered none. You are also told never to leave your money in the same spot in case of robbery. So I had a bunch of cash on me, and a bunch in the depth of my travel bag, and while on the bus someone must have been camping out in the storage compartment because I had roughly 400-500$ stolen from my bag, exact amount not exactly certain. As rotten as this was, I reassured myself by saying that at least it was stolen in a non violent way. I've heard of people being mugged, kidnapped and beat up for significantly less money while traveling, so a simple loss like this I could deal with. Not wanting to let this be a damper on my travels and Corinnes last night (which also happened to be her birthday), we went for massages and to a fancy dinner of mussels and chicken and then other items from the menu as we got hungry. Unsatisfied with dinner, while walking on Koh San Road Corinne found a food item she just couldn't say no to.

Roasted Grasshoppers or something like that. Tasted mostly just like roasted nuts but with a different crunch
For about a quarter we got like 20 of them, so Corinne and I had plenty of photo opportunities. We also tried to offer them to strangers as they walked by. Not many takers...

Thai money was really funny. my favourite was the 1000 Bhat which has the king of Thailand on it, he is acting photographer!

Corinne imitating the King

And here we parted ways. Corinnes last night in Bangkok and the next morning we went real early to the airport where she caught a flight home and I went off to Myanmar! But more on that later!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 85

So I'm guessing by now its pretty obvious that my updates lost a little bit of steam while I was traveling. My last update took place in the south of Cambodia with just over a month left in my trip. I was holed up in Sihanoukville after having just been sick, but was recovered and on my way to Thailand!

I wasn't too sure what to expect from Thailand. It has a reputation that precedes it so I had high hopes. The adventure started immediately, we got dropped off at the border and had to switch from bus to van. Well, since there were 10 of us in a 11 person van headed to Bangkok we decided to wait 3 hours for the next bus to come through so that we could load in all the extra people and head to Bangkok. The unfortunate effect of this was that instead of getting to Bangkok at 8pm which I could hope to catch the last train to Chaing Mai, I only arrived at 11PM and had to stay the extra day in Bangkok. Although Bangkok has Kow San Road and a few other exciting parts, I just really wasn't in the mood for the big city. I spent the next day going to the Myanmar embassy, trying to get my visa (it was closed for a holiday but the guard couldn't explain this to me) and then just walked through China town before heading north.

Not a truck you want to get a delivery from, seen in Bangkok

Chaing Mai was a great change from Bangkok. Its a big small town. Everything is activity based. Either you go on hikes, check out temples, take a cooking class or massage. I decided my first day to renting a motorbike and cruising the mountains north of the city. It was AMAZING! If I had more time I easily would have spent a few more days cruising on a motorbike (or better yet my bicycle). These roads were incredible, hilly, and always winding.

Sweet Road leading to small hill villages

At the top of the mountain there was a temple. Big and gold, nothing extraordinary, however, there was a funny statue, Not sure what it was for, but it reminded me of you mom!

Just for you mom!

Day 2 in Chaing Mai: COOKING COURSE!

This was a highlight of Chaing Mai, I took a Thai cooking course where you could learn to make 7 different meals. There were groups of us so 21 different meals were made in total so if you were friendly to your neighbour you got to try a whole assortment of foods! I was apparently the only person who wasn't full by the end of the day. My favourites were Cashew Chicken and Pad Thai. Pad Thai has become a staple at my household now in Vancouver. Want to try it? Come on over for dinner!
My hilarious cooking instructor. He felt particularly sympathetic towards me because I was the only one not part of a couple taking the course. Either that or he just liked me

I realize neither of these photos are of Pad Thai or Cashew Chicken, but the spring rolls are the only photos I have of myself cooking

Day Three in Chaing Mai was spent taking a Massage class. Sure there were a lot of fun hikes I could take, but really, I figured this was a life skill someone from home would greatly appreciate. I can't remember the name of the course, it was Mrs. Tina's or something like that. I called from the hotel, spoke to a girl on the phone booked my class. There was supposed to be a full class in the afternoon, but the morning class still had space. I wasn't too sure what to expect (going alone without a partner). Well turns out the afternoon class being full meant there was already 1 person in it. These were 1:1 classes. Also, it was Mrs Tina giving the class. It was her brother. Nothing like a 4 hour massage course with a tiny Thai Dude. But in all honesty this was probably much less awkward than if it had been a 1:1 course with Mrs Tina due to the nature of the course, being topless was somewhat of a requisite and not sure how that would have fared otherwise.

Massage course finished I had one more day left in Chaing Mai before catching the afternoon train back to Bangkok. I spent a lot of time in Chaing Mai relaxing in my room in the evenings. We had cable TV and it just so happened to be the end of the most epic Tour De France in modern history! So between relaxing and doing pushups (because I stepped on a scale for the first time in month and realized I had lost 10 pounds) I just sat up and enjoyed the race and reflected on my trip so far.

Last day in the North was spent seeing TIGERS! Seeing the tigers wasn't actually all that exceptional, however some of the photos that came from it were easily worth the 25$ for the entrance.

Damn! Sweet Beard!

I got to see and snuggle up to an 18 month old (above) and a 2 month old tiger. Their fur is much more coarse than I would have ever imagined.

I got picked up from Tiger Kingdom and brought to a shopping centre to buy snacks, it was like Walmart, but the entire staff moved around on rollerblades.

I covertly snapped this shot!

Then it was on the train where I hoped I may meet Harry Potter on my way back to Bangkok while transferring to another train south to Krabi to meet up with Erich and Corinne!

Looking for Harry, must be on the wrong train
Long trip South

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 76

Always convenient, lesser known 6-Eleven

I left off in Pakse (Laos) heading to 4000 islands the next morning. One thing I have found really interesting traveling is how you run into the same people everywhere you go. The group I had been with in Luang Prabang and Veng Viang I thought I had left for good when I skipped a few days and headed down to Pakse.

Well the minibus to 4000 islands (Don Det) arrived and there wasn't a person in it that I didn't already know and getting to the islands ran into another few people.

For all the excitement i had heard about 4000 islands I must say I was a little disappointed. They were nice and all but being small islands on the Mighty Mekong there wasn't much to do. They didn't stack up to beaches since you couldn't really swim (for fear of floating away) and it was literally just a strip of guest houses and a couple bars. I understand it could be really relaxing but I think Corinne agrees with me that after 2 days there we had seen enough. Onwards to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor!

After a lengthy 14 hour bus trip including a boarder crossing into Cambodia (which included some lovely corruption; 2$ stamp fee, 2$ staple fee, 1$ photo attachment fee) we arrived in Siem Reap at fun guest house.

The first thing we did the next morning was rent 1$ bikes and head off to see Angkor Wat and the other more popular temples of Bayon and Ta Prohm. All in all it was about 30km of biking over the day, but on these terrible bikes I had had enough. Every pedal stroke between 3 and 5 the freewheel would slip. Lovely.

The temples themselves were amazing. despite this being a very tiring day I really enjoyed it. We got back fairly late and prepared for the next day which we would be waking up at 4AM in order to leave and catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat (the most famous and largest religious temple in the world). The sunrise was funny. Although we were instructed to enter and go left (North) for the best view, Corinne and I decided to go south and there were only a small grouping of maybe 10-15 people on the South side as opposed to the hundreds on the North. I dare say our view was significantly better because the sun rose over the temples rather than beside it.

Next up we went to further temples via Tuk Tuk (taxi). The rest of them were interesting as well however my highlight was the landmine museum which we passed on the way. This museum was created by a Cambodia who had been a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, then forced to switch sides and fight for the Vietnamese at the age of 12. Following the end of the war he had extensive experience with Landmines (Cambodia has more landmines than any other country in the world) and the museum owner has single handedly diffused 60 000 landmines. Sometimes as many as 300 a day. That being said there are still an estimated 6 million left (mostly on the border with Thailand).
Sunrise at Ankor Wat

The museum was very informative but in addition, since many people in Cambodia are poor, the museum also functions as an orphanage for children injured by landmines whose parents don't have the resources or knowledge to help them. Currently there are 50 kids there and over time as the museum makes more money and grows the money goes to expanding the orphanage.

Other than the temple and sights, I really enjoyed Siem Reap. It was a nice city with cheap food and amongst the best fruit shakes I've had. We bought a lot! I also tried Black Panther Beer (8%). I don't recommend this to anyone. And Corinne bought a child dinner only to be told she was a bad person by the other children. It was a good deed that definitely wasn't appreciated.

Next up, Corinne and I headed to the capital Phnom Penh. Corinne wasn't planning on coming to Cambodia at all and here I had persuaded her to see two cities now. In PP we went to see the prison S-21 where the genocide started followed by a very rainy motorbike ride out to the killing fields. They were depressing learning of all the horrors that took place, however it wasn't physically jarring that I've heard people describe. Maybe because I had read up on it before hand so there wasn't as much shock factor. One aspect that did surprise me was the photos of the head bad guy for the Khmer Rouge at the prison (not Pol Pot but his second in command or something). A guy who went by the name Duch. What surprised me was seeing photos of him, he is a tiny little man and the least intimidating figure you could ever imagine. Maybe 5'3-4 and 100 pounds its crazy to think this guy is referred to as more evil than Hitler.

Sunset from Guesthouse

Corinne left that night for Bangkok and I stayed in PP for another day. I went to the Royal Palace and walked around the city. Phnom Penh is actually a really pretty place.

Following PP I went to Kampot. Its supposed to be a really nice town, but to be honest. I just didn't see it. I stayed for 1 day. Did an interesting but significantly overprice tour and got out. The tour was to the Bokor Hill station. A 1920 casino/hotel built as a french retreat from the heat (since it is up in the mountains) but since it had a nice view it was heavily fought for during the wars. As a result the hotel is shot up as are many of the sites around it. In addition there is famous fog here which rolls in and makes everythign white. I took photos of the road and the hotel and you can get a picture. I would never want to fight a war there. The enemy could be 20 feet away and you wouldn't see him. THe only warning of their approach would be the detonation of a landmine.

Casino in the Fog, Bokor Hill Station (Kampot)

I left Kampot and went to the beach resort of Sihannoukville. I heard bad things about this place. Busy, touristy and dangerous. But to be honest I really like it. THere is a good atmosphere. I doesn't seem dangerous. and the beach is really nice. The only downside is that it has rained and I got sick making it so taht I don't dare be further than 20 feet from a bathroom (FUN!).

Storm Clouds coming in to Sihanookville

And that brings me to today! I will probably stay in Sihanoukville another day or two relaxing and getting better. I really want to go for a swim and get some exercise and then head to Thailand.

Thats all for now. A little rushed but has the details necessary.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 69

No real message today. Corinne and I were up at 4 to catch this moment over Ankor Wat. Pretty great day but now after our second 12 hour tomb raiding day I am tired.

Corinne may even be swayed to stay in Cambodia a few more days. But I won't say that too loud lest she hears me.