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.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 62!

Flooding in VV, on the day I arrived it went to the 4th green steps.

1.21$ all you can stuff on a plate mean

Rock climbing wall, about 100 meters above the ground

First climb of the day, having to shift from one hanging object to another 120m above solid land. Sweet!

Left side is route of 5'11 climb all the way to the shadows

Puffy hand from wasp sting (48 hours later)

Alright! I left off in Hanoi hung over and about to head to Laos. My trip over to Luang Prabang was failry uneventful. I met a canadian living in Hanoi who gave me a few helpful hints for Laos and was off. Fortuantely he was still around when we got to the airport because the ATM wouldn't accept any of my cards and I had to pay him in Dong (Vietnamese currency) and he paid for the tuk tuk into town. Getting to Luang Prabang, I found a relatively costly however very nice guest house. Being late decided to go with it. Luckily this was a good move. It was right next to the night market and also the food stalls. These were great! For 10 000kip (1.21$ CAN) you could fill a plate with as much food as possible. For another 10 000 you got a tall beer. I was set. Getting my fix of vegetables FINALLY after a 3 weeks in Vietnam I was set. Who knew I would be craving vegetables so badly. Eating in Vietnam wasn't great and my stomach agreed. However getting to Laos not 12 hours later my stomach was rock solid and thankfully has been ever since!

I was sitting at the food stalls and noticed a full table next to me roughly my age. They were all speaking with different accents so I decided to try my luck and introduce myself. Sure enough they were a group that had somewhat formed on the road (Laos really only has two routes people travel (North to South and South to North). I hit it off with this group (2 Austrian, 1 German, 1 American, 1 Dutch, 1 Italian) and these were the people I hung out with for the next few days.

Unfortunately that night it started to rain. A common theme for the next week. In Laos when it rains, it rains hard! A 20 meter walk and you are soaked. The idea was to go see waterfalls the next morning however when the rain continued this proved impossible. Tuk tuks wouldn't drive and there really wasn't any other way. This was a good relaxing day though. In the rain the group went to little cafes and somewhat just killed the day. A good way to offset the crazy pace that was Vietnam.

The rain continued and unfortunately once again the next day waterfalls were not possible. Speaking to some people who rented their own motorbikes and braved the elements to see them, they told us that there was a 20 minute walk through leech infested waters and the waterfall was brown from all the mud so you couldn't swim in the lagoon (which was this waterfalls major draw). Feeling defeated many of us decided to leave Luang Prabang and head south to the party city that is Vang Vieng (VV) where the legendary tubing takes place.

The trip down should be a 5-6 hour minibus ride. Easy. 4 of us from our international group departed in heavy rains. Rumors were ominously suggesting landslides. My roommate from Vancouver Corinne was strategically (or through poor planning) 3 days ahead of me in her travels through Laos and reported that heading south from VV was blocked by landslides but north was still clear.

After passing a half dozen landslides which covered 50-75% of the road and squeaking by after 4 hours of driving we had only gone 100km (of the 229). It was painful. I could bike faster than this. Then came the road block. At 2:30pm we ran into a large set of cars all waiting for a landslide to be cleared. The wait wasn't too bad. Locals sold food and beer walking along the cars and horns cheered as the excavator drove up the street. At 5:30 the road was clear and we piled back in the car. Sure we were 3 hours delayed (on an already slow day) but that part of the alure of travelling in Laos. Infamously slow buses. We get back into the car. Make it to km 102 and stop again. This time we can see the row of cars (not the 15 that had been previously waiting but 1-2km of them. A 30 meter landslide had been blocking the road since 9AM. To make the story short. We had a street party. Locals brought more beer and food and we played music until 10:30PM when the landslide was cleared. Unfortunately when you have 12+ hours of blocked road. There are a lot of cars. It was not until 12:30 that we moved and then there was a dense fog requiring us to drive 15-30km/h the rest of the way. I was thankful for this though becasue the roads were terrible. In some section sthere were large cliffs and the road had sunken 5 feet.

Arriving in the rain in VV at 5AM myself and a fellow bus rider found the first available guest house and went promptly to sleep.

VV was fun. The next day had no rain and we went tubing. Its exactly what its made out to be. Chaotic, a lot of fun, filled with lots of irresponsible behavior, loaded with drugs and a big headache the next morning. One day of heavy drinking was enough for me however some of the friends I had made decided to go a second and even third day. No way! Tubing was interesting though because of massive rainfal the city had the most flooding in decades. Great timing for Laos Vince.

My second day I went to visit some caves. They required a bike ride along VERY rural streets. I had to dodge cows along the way. THe caves were really cool however I described them as though I had had a cave on my land and charged admission. There was no public tourism. Once in the gave there was no guidance and getting lost without anyone knowing were you were was very possible. As a result myself and my american friend decided not to go too far in because we didn't really want to die.

The third day was by far my favorite. I have been rock climbing in montreal and vancouver for the past 10 years however had never been outdoor climbing. I signed up for a guided climbing day. The rock cliffs were apparently very similar to the famous areas in Krabi (thailand) however significantly less known. Climbing was hard. I managed to get stung by a wasp while tubing and also sliced my foot.This made climbing hard since my foot hurt in the shoe and I couldn't apply any pressure to my hand which had swelled to nearly twice its size. I've attached a photo but unfortunately it was once the swelling subsided and it really doesn't give a good image of the swelling, it just looks puffy.

I still managed a 5'10-5'11 climb for those of you who know what that means (it was actually a 6B+ using the french system so wikipedia was used to translate). What made this route hard wasn't the difficulty of the holds (which were hard) but the fact that the route was over 30 meters long. To do the route clean took nearly 5 minutes which in climbing terms (for me at least) is a marathon.

Deciding I had enough of VV after three great days I headed south again. Corinne (my roommate) was somehwere south of me and I thought that if I skipped through some caves and minority villages I could catch up. I took the bus to Vientiane (capital of Laos) spent the day sightseeing and got on a nightbus sleeper to Pakse in the South. The sleeper buses are funny. Although you do get to lay down, you have to share a 3X6foot spot with someone. Thats right, they aren't individual. At supper I met a family from Ireland also taking the sleeper bus. We had seen each other in VV and chatted quite a bit. They had two daughters traveling similar routes to me who I would assume were both doing their undergrads (or that age about).

Getting to the bus station, my ticket didn't have a seat assigned. They quickly assinged me #48. The irish family had seats 45-48... Uncertain where to go I just kinda hung out for a while until a bus official told me I was to share with them. Cosy! There were 5 (small) spots in the back row (44-48, 2-1-2). The two daughters were in the first two spots and to make life not super awkard I didn't share the other spot with the mom. So I got to spend the night on the sleeper bus between two 20 something girls and their parents. It was actually a really funny situation and I think they were pleased that it was me there since we had met on a few occasions and I can definitely say I am pleased I wasn't stuck between a bunch of Laos who didn't speak english.

Getting to Pakse I toured the city and tried to hunt down Corinne. With no luck. I had no idea if she was ahead or behind me on the road until 10PM when I got an email from her surprised to hear I was in the same town. Today we went on a tour of the Bolivan Plateau which has lots of coffee and waterfalls. Apparently the coffee is amongst the best in the world. Our guide was a french guy who has been living in Laos and married to a local(kinda, you aren't allowed to marry a local if you are a foreigner, its illegal). He is completely integrated but still has to western perspective.

All in all I really enjoyed it. Now tomorrow Corinne and I head to 4000 islands and then off to Cambodia!

Wow, I thought that by doing shorter interval between post that it would be shorter. Instead I just remember more details.

Also funny side note. The guy sitting at the kiosk next to me is watching porn and has been for the past 45 minutes with no shame. Asia is funny.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 52!

My suit!

Halong Bay

Fishing Boats we had breakfast on

View from room in Sapa

Bags loaded on bus to Halong Bay

Alright team! I've let another 2 weeks slip by since my last email. I blame shotty internet and an unwillingness to write e-mails on my phone.

I left off the last e-mail having just finished up my motorbike trip in Hoi An where I bought a lovely new suit! Photo attached.We left Hoi An and headed to Hue which is the old imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue was pretty interesting. We opted not to do a hotel tour because at 16$ they seemed expensive however his was probably a mistake because between paying for transport and site entrence fee's we probably payed almost that much and didn't get to see as much. In Hue it was really hot in the morning and we went to see the Citadel at the center of the city. It was nice, I thought it was funny that there was a modern tennis court in the center. Apparently one of the emperors enjoyed sports and played tennis. I would have preffered if they had left the old tennis court rather than this new 2008 version. Unfortunately a lot of the citadel was ruined from Bombing during the war (not too sure which one...). We left there and went to see a temple where the emporors are burried. Looking through the book it didn't tell us where they were so we chose the most appealing one based on description. Well turns out it was also the furthest (At 15km temples ranged from 2-15km).

Having completed all that we wanted in Hue we decided to leave a day early in order to get to Hanoi earlier so that we could get a good trip to Halong Bay before Colin left. We opted not to do the Demilitarized zone since we saw bomb craters, beat up bridges and tanks agent orange debris while on the bike trip. If there was anything else we would see in the DMZ I don't want to know.

Unfortunately being a national holiday there were no busses or trains to Hanoi so we ended up flying. It was only about 20$ more expensive than the train but much more comfortable. In Hanoi we went to the Hao Lo prison which was a french colonial prison used against vietnamese revolutionaries. Having just read the book Papillion which is about a frenchmen imprisoned at a colonial prison in south america it was interested to see the similarities between the two. Again it was another example of how the vietnamese have been abused by foreigners. We followed that up by going to see the Ho Chi Minh Museum which was less inspiring. Unfortunately we didn't know that you had to go see the man himself Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) early in the morning because its closed the rest of the day. The next morning we departed for Halong Bay.

We weren't really sure what we were getting into. Again the tours were expensive. 100$ for two nights so we opted to do it on our own. We made sure to book a bus that would get us the whole way there without knowing that it was a tour bus. So we managed to do the touristy route through the bay at a fraction of the price. SCORE! Halong Bay was beautiful. We saw some pretty impressive caves and then were dropped off on Cat Ba island. I've attached a photo of the islands in the bay. Out of this world! The once on Cat Ba one of Colin and I's funniest experiences happened. We went out drinking (Halong Bay also had 5000 Dong beers, or 25 cents) so we were a few drinks in and the table next to us had about 10-12 Vietnamese getting loaded.They kept coming over to Cheers us and eventually even refilled our glasses. At this point Colin and I were 5 beers in each and decided to join their table for a bit. Well they payed for all the beer but over the next hour was fighting not to throw up. I estimate we had in the range of 15-20 beers (they are smaller glasses, probably 250-300ml rather than the usual 355 to a can). Somewhere during that hour we were convinced to go fishing with them the next morning. Our understanding was that they were visiting the island on a fishing trip. So at 6:55 AM the next morning one of the guys Mr Nam knocks on our hotel room door. I wasn't feeling too great to say the least. I tried to explain to him that I was too hung over to go fishing so I kept saying "No Fishing" which he would then reply with a smile "No fishing!" Colin then infered that we were being invited to breakfast instead of fishing so we followed him and he leads us to the dock. I wisper to Colin that we are in fact headed towards a boat, so I repeat to Mr Nam for the 50th time "No Fishing" and he agreed no fishing but we get on the boat nonetheless. This is where the miscomunication took place. They were not on a fishing trip, they were fisherman inviting us to their boat for breakfast. So we went into the bay and had rice and fish with them. It was pretty good despite the hangover. We stayed on the boat for 3 hours while it poured rain outside so all in all it was a great way to kill the morning. The funny part was they were be chatting away in Vietnamese and then all of a sudden yell out NO FISHING! and all start laughing at me. I've included a photo of the boats. They did not live up to your typical reputation of fisherman. They were all very nice and polite and not crude at all (with the exception of an old man who showed Colin Vietnamese porn on his cell phone. We don't really know why he did that).

The sun came out and we spent the afternoon nursing out hangover on the beach. There was distinctly a white person section which was kinda funny.

The next day we did a kayak trip which was interesting. They took us out a km and just left us there. We had no idea where to go or when to get there. I yelled to them as they were leaving and they pointed at their watch and put up 2 fingers and pointed at an island. I assumed that meant we had to get to the island in 2 hours... hopefully. We left Cat Ba island for Hanoi that afternoon and the next morning finally managed to see Ho Chi Minh! The line was HUGE! well over a km. I'm guessing this was because of the holiday. We were fairly far back in the line which got cut off behind us probably 200 people back. Well funny thing happened. In Vietnam to move forward in a line you need to pass people. So before we knew it we were at the back of the line with 50 other white people. The spectacle of seeing Ho Chi Minh was more entertaining than the actual site itself since you only walk through the Mausoleum for 30 seconds while you see him through glass from 20 feel away.

Colin left that afternoon and I for the first time was on my own. I had a train booked to Sapa and having had success with Colin without the Tour decided to do Sapa on my own as well. You take a train overnight and are picked up and driven the hour to Sapa. The drive was spectacular. You see photos of the rice fields climbing up the mountain but you really can't appreciate it without seeing them. They are huge! The first day I rented a motorbike from the hotel (I've attached the view from my hotel room, it was steep at 6$) and spent 3 hours just cruising down the roads and taking photos. If anyone is going, I would suggest the south road. Northwest didn't have much to see and East is the way you come. I didn't know this road exhisted until later in my trip which was too bad but it was the most spectacular. All of the hotels offered the same tour for 15$ and I met a local who was willing to give me the same tour 1 on 1 for 7. I was pleased with my barganing skills so the next morning I embarked on a day treck. I immediately felt guilty for being so cheap. She spent 3$ on food for lunch and was only making 4 dollars on the whole day.

The trek was great. we passed through the mountains and she explaned to me the farming as well as how they make clothes out of hemp brining me to a huge marajuana field and she strips off the leaves, hands them to me and shows me who they make string out of the stalk of the plant. We got to her house were she made me a big lunch. More than I could eat. While she was cooking since there wasn't much for me to do I got a little bored. She noticed this and suggested I take a nap. I wasn't really tired but figured this was less awkward than sitting in the room watching her cook. I lay down and sure enough 5 minutes later was out cold. I woke up an hour later because her kids were throwing sticks and stuff at my beard. My beard is a hit in Vietnam. I can only imagine it will get better since its only halfway now. That being said. My beard hasn't been a hit all over. It did make a small child cry when I waved at her, but this did make her dad laugh a lot.

After lunch my guide (Ma) brought me to the road and said I could walk or motorbike. Since I hate taking rides off the lazy motorbike drivers I opted to walk. She said it was a 2.5 hour walk along the beautiful valley and relatively flat. Off I went. every 5 minutes a guy would drive by saying. Hello... Motobike? and I just kept walking. Turns out it wasn't flat. The signs on the way said 10% uphill. For 9km. it was like walking up to the top of Seymore. I was tired. Got back to the hotel in desparate need of a shower and food. The last day in sapa I just relaxed and saw the town and took the train back to Hanoi overnight.

Which brings me to yesterday. Chris Newlove (friend from montreal) is also in Hanoi coming from Laos and we went out last night. Much to my surprise there were also 4 other McGill friends all in different stages of leaving Hanoi, some for Canada, others heading South. Unfortnuately none headed to Laos. We went out, had another big night of drinking and that brings me to today. Sitting in the rain waiting for my flight to Laos!

Anyways. Congrats if you made it this long. Sorry for the length.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 40!

I just realized I hadn't posted this one. Sorry team. I'll try and get a post of my last 2 weeks up tonight as I have good internet again in Hanoi.

I arrived in Vietnam on the 2nd of June and met up with Colin at the airport. By noon we were in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) and found a hotel to stay in. The rest of the day was spent walking. A lot, we went to the Ho Chi Minh city museum which was a little disapointing however the was War Remnants Museum was really interesting. They had a whole section about the bombings, agent orange and simpy the historical timeline of the war. Seeing as how I did very little research prior to coming, most of my knowledge of Vietnam came from watching Forrest Gump. It was a little embarrasing the amount I didn't know about. We followed this up by trying to find a theatre playing the new X men only to discover that it isn't showing yet in Vietnam (it was everywhere in KL and Singapore). This was probably a good thing as we settled in early and were up by 6:30 to head to see the Cu Chi tunnels.

The Cu Chi tunnels were again really interesting. There were over 200km of tunnels dug out using spoons and bomb shrapnel in order to prevent the advancement of the americans. This was probably one of my favorite days so far. Here we learned that Colin is in fact bigger than your average vietnamese since he didn't fit in one of the hideout holes. His shoulders wouldn't fit.

Back to Saigon in the evening we prepared once more to travel the next day to the Mekong River delta. One frustating thing about Vietnam is that even on highways you can't average more than 45-50km/k. So getting out to the Delta took all day. I will be brief with my description of the Mekong delta. I didn't really enjoy it. It was somewhat of a let down. Sure the floating market was pretty neat but going to fruit plantations and bee hives wasn't exactly the highlight of my trip. I tried to think of a different way to tour the area but since it covers such a large geographical area I couldn't really see a better way without having an extensive knowledge of it first.

We got back to Saigon at around 4:30 and were catching a night bus at midnight to Dalat so had some time to kill. We found a restaurant that showed movies and had cheap enough beer so we hung out there for a bit. At 10 we had to be at the tourist agent to be brought to the bus station. Getting to the bus station at 10:30 we found out that there wasn't a midnight bus and instead had to take the 10:30PM bus. Not a big probelm except I had just had food, water and beer and was somewhat counting on that 90 minutes to let my stomach settle.

The bus ride was an adventure. We thought we were being smar by taking a sleeper bus overnight. It cost an extra 3 dollars each but to be able to sleep through the night. Turns out the bus is more of a roller coaster. Constantly slamming on its breaks and swerving left and right. Being in the sleeper you really couldn't sleep. The fact that I didn't really fit in the bed didn't help either. Colin really didn't fit. Once again, turns out he is larger than a Vietnamese. The ride was capped off by the lovely sounds of a woman in the back vomitting the entire ride. All 7 hours of it.

Dalat was a really nice town. Its small and in the mountains so wasn't as hot as the rest of Vietnam. Unfortunately it rained all day but we managed to make the most of it walking around. A really pretty place. One thing that is funny about Dalat is there are motorcycle tours called Easy Riders. And the second you walk into the city they find out. We were originally going to head to the beaches following Dalat, but then got convinced to do a 5 day motorbike trip up to Hoi An and experience "the real Vietnam" with a local. The scenery was beautiful and the ride a lot of fun. Passing through the central highlands we saw so many nice rice fields, mountains and rivers and jungles. One thing that is incredible here is that there is no wasted land. Farms climb up steep mountains and down the other side. Terrain that would never be farmed in Canada.

Driving the bike really wasn't very hard and wasn't as dangerous as you would think. The only pain was the busses. In Vietnam there are different traffic speed limits for different sized cars. Tractors can go 30, bikes 40-50 (depending on the road), cars 60 and busses 70. The rest is that busses are constantly making the sketchiest passes. Blind corner going downhill, no problem, Doesn't even tough the brakes. Fortunately everyone in Vietnam honks roughly every 8 seconds so you always knew when a bus was coming to move over onto the shoulder.

We finally arrived in Hoi An in one piece with a lot of dirty clothes. This required the necessity for laundry and also a new wardrobe. Hoi An is where you can get really cheap clothing made. I got a suit and jacket made, Colin two pairs of pants. I just picked them up today and am really pleased with the outcome.

We spent the day waiting for the suit at the beach getting roasted. Vietnam is by far the hottest of the countries I've been in so far. I guess thats why I get heading towards the 20* of latitude in the middle of June.

Thats it for now. We are heading to Hue in 20 minutes and will check out the Citadel, some Tombs and hopefully the Demilitarized zone.

Hope everyone is doing well. Let me know what you are up to. All I've gotten as replies is "keep up the updates"

Miss you all

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 33

Wow so much to say, so little time to say it. So I will just do a super fast description of the past two weeks with the highlight of each few days.

Last time I left you I was in Kuta Lombok on the 17th fending off spiders for Steph. We left Kuta and headed to Sengigi for a day. It was supposed to be the beach of all beaches, claimed you could search for years and never come across a beach like this. To say the least Steph and I were unimpressed. We had just left Lombok where we had found paradise.

We only stayed in Sengigi a day going to the market at night and the next morning took off for Ubud in order to be closer to the airport in Denpasar (Bali). After a 4.5 hour ferry ride which took us 10.5 hours in total we made it to Ubud (the cultural center of Bali). We had quick dinner (I found a plethora of ants in mine, delightful) and then we walked around and went to bed after a LONG day.

The next day was in Ubud, a full day. We went north and saw some bhuddist temples and then came back and discovered a gem of South East Asia, ABC Special. Its a drink with shaved ice and sugar more or less with fruits. Delicious! After lunch we went to the monkey sanctuary. Should have been a blast, and at first the novelty of the monkeys was great. Until we realized monkeys are very nice. Steph was handing a monkey a banana and it ate it, then proceeded to search her bag. When she tried to stop it, it grabbed her arm and bit her. I once again came to the rescue, throwing a banana a few feet away so the monkey would leave her. Unfortunately I hadn't thought of this sooner. From that point we were a little tentative around monkeys and shortened our stay at the sanctuary. We found a cool market as well and finally tried Durian fruit (they stink and aren't very tasty).

The 20th was fairly boring. Just early flight to Kuala Lumpur and then I had Visa stuff for Vietnam to take care off. Steph wandered around the Indian quarter and we regrouped with Erich and Corinne at the hostel. Getting my visa was a fiasco, I forgot my passport photo in my larger bag so I had to rush off and get new ones taken at a mall, A cab driver took me and drove me around for the hour getting me back to the consulate with 10 minutes to spare and get my Visa.

Our only day in Kuala Lumpur was spent going to the Batu Caves. These are a really interesting rock formation forming caves in the middle of plains. At the caves are a few very rare species which only exist in those specific caves (such as a type of spider of which they estimated there are only a dozen exist). The night before I had been feeling really lightheaded and sick. And following the caves I started feeling the same way. I went back to the hostel while the group headed to China town and I slept from 5:30PM until 9AM the next morning and felt significantly better. The one highlight of the day however was Erich having his snacks stolen by a monkey. He was going to give them to the monkey however didn't have the chance.
The following day once again was a transfer day, we traveled to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. Not much to report. We spent the next day on the island of Sapi, I don't really recommend it. It was nice, however after the beaches of Indonesia it really didn't compare. However following the island we were dropped of in KK again and found the most incredible food market which we used to stock up on snacks for the climb of Mt Kinabalu (the tallest mountain in South East Asia at 4097M) which we were to start the next day.

The climb was entertaining and not nearly as hard as Mt Rinjani however it also didn't offer as many views. It was more like climbing the Grouse Grind for those who have done it. But with the four of us (Vince, Steph, Erich, Corinne), we made a fun climb out of it continuously passing groups who did not appear to be having as much fun as us. We arrived at camp around 3. Ate food and settled in to sleep around 6. Surprisingly no one had trouble dozing off after the long day. I had a lot of trouble staying asleep. Being my first time sleeping at 3300M the air was very thin and I kept waking up short of breath. Steph commented that I seemed to be having more trouble than most with this, I wondered if it was because of the sports I've done. I've heard triathletes don't make the best mountain climbers due to the oxygen dept. We woke up at 2:30 AM and attacked the summit.

Steph and I were smarter this time, taking our time so as to not get there too early and freeze at the top. It was not as windy as Rinjani however the temperature I would say was colder. We got to the top after managing the rope climbs and were rewarded by some truly spectacular views of the mountain. Unfortunately it wasn't the best sunrise, but the mountain-scape made up for it. The weather was unpredictable, we had a view one moment and then 30 seconds later everything was whiteout with clouds.

We descended the mountain telling jokes and mainly making fun of Corinnes dance moves then caught the bus to Sandikan on which they pumped some sweet Maria Carey and Celine!

Now for the highlight of my trip so far. On the 26th around Sandikan we went to two more monkey sanctuaries. The first, an Orangutan sanctuary. They are pretty cool beast, however not nearly as impressive as the proboscis monkeys. Borneo is the only place these monkeys exist. If ever you are in the area it is a must see. Skip the Orangutans if necessary. They were very timid monkeys and you could get right up close to them and they didn't bite (unlike those foul grey tailed monkeys). We followed up that fantastic day with some Karaoke and a few too many drinks.

We started the next a little late and prepared to head to Semporna the stepping stone to Mabul island for 2 days of scuba! The scuba diving was a lot of fun and I tried a night dive which was a new experience. You can't really describe scuba diving in an e-mail and give it justice. Just know that Mabul/Sipadan are supposed to be world class dive sites. We didn't manage to make it to Sipadan however Mabul made up for it with the assortment of fish and turtles. We also dove in Kapalai which is a resort build on stilts above the coral. Very cool.

Unfortunately on the 30th our trip with Erich and Corinne had to come to an end. Steph and I headed back to the mainland and Kuala Lumpur so I could pick up my visa. The next day we spent the morning doing some Christmas shopping and checking out the central market before heading to Singapore where Steph flew out the next day. On a sad note, we lost Steph's camera. And despite my best efforts have been unable to recover it. Hopefully it will turn out but maybe those photo memories are lost. Fortunately most of the photos we took have been on my camera.

Our last day together was jam packed. After sleeping in a little too late we had the arduous task of working out the expenses for past month then head to botanical gardens. We then walked along Orchard road and headed to china town. It was not the best china town but was once again unique to the others we had seen. We spent the end of our day repeating some of the things we did on our first day. Checking out Bugis market and a must, going to little India for some Indian and delicious mango lassies. We talked about those Mango lassies the entire trip and were very satisfied when they lived up to the hype we had given them. So good in fact that we bought seconds. We headed back to the room, packed and headed to the airport. Steph flew out at 1am for Calgary and I at 7AM for Saigon. We split at the airport, I was sad to see her leave after an unforgettable month.

I slept in the terminal and the next morning met up with Colin in VIETNAM!

I'll leave it there. This concluded the first quarter of my trip. Sorry for the length. I'll try and be more consistent in the future!

I have attached two photos, one of the beach in Kuta, and the second of a grey monkey before we realized they were the enemy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 15 Kuta Lombok

Hi everyone, the last couple of days have been really relaxing. Kuta
Lombok is nothing like Kuta Bali, very quiet and a lot more surfers
but significantly less tourist.

Following my email when we first arrived, Steph and I settled into our
room, only to discover GIANT spiders! Very very fast as well. The
first one I discovered while Steph was in the shower and I debated
telling her about it. The spider was probably 4 inches across but with
a body. Not like daddy long legs either, more like dock spiders, big
hairy ones. The first I killed with a skilled flip flop throw. Steph
heard this so I had to divulge the cause the commotion. Upon seeing
the carcass of the deceased spider Steph proclaimed, "Your my hero!"
and proceeded to search the room for more of which we found 3. After a
little extermination effort on my part involving a few flip flops, a
broom and a head lamp I had killed the remaining spiders. One was
difficult. It was large enough that when it ran, it knocked over an
empty pop can. I was shocked to say the least. These heroic efforts
delivered me much praise by Steph. Similar to when I defended her from
monkeys, she was speechless by my actions. She is even speechless each
time I re-tell the tale.

We settled in to sleep a little tentative about our cheap lodging.
Tossing and turning with the feeling that bugs were crawling all over
us during the night I woke up at 3AM from my light sleep to something
brushing against my ear. I sit up trying not to wake Steph however my
stealth is not up to par after a restless sleep at 3AM. We take a
headlamp and investigate only to find a cockroach the size of my thumb
crawling around my pillow and then scurry off the bed. I took
confidence in the fact that the spiders and cockroaches seemed more
afraid of me than I of them, however I still didn't like them near me.

We woke at 7, and departed from this dangerous hotel and splurged an
extra 3 dollars for a ritzy hotel with no bugs. For my heroic efforts
I tried to get a back massage from Steph to easy my tense muscles from
the hike and a tirerless night, however she refused. My cunning was
able to get around this however by asking her to apply sunscreen to my
tomato red shoulders. A trick I have employed numerous times.

Things settled down after this first night. We rented scooters and
took off down the beach and discovered the most amazing little cove.
Across the 500m sandy perfect white beach there was only one other
couple and a few vendors. One of the vendors (his name was Andi)
selling sarongs approached us and was very nice. Instead of hassling
us, he simply started up a conversation. Eventually he persuaded us to
look at Sarongs which we bought a few (they serve as great beach
mats). Not having enough money on hand he offered to follow us into
town as we retrieved more. While Steph got money from the hotel I
chatted with him in the parking lot at which point he offered to bring
us snorking and spearfishing and invited us numerous times to his
house for coffee.

The next morning we debated his offers, was this a scam? We decided to
return to the beach either way and on our way he passed us as he was
dropping his son off at his mothers for the week at school. This made
it very difficult to say no to his offer for coffee. We followed him
500m past the beach and got to meet his entire family where his
brother climbed a tree and got us fresh coconuts to drink and eat.
Fortunately Steph and I had bought snacks for the beach we were able
to share. I think that the store bought wafers were a treat to them.
Andi the suggested we go back to the beach and go snorkling and
spearfishing. We were already headed to the beach so we agreed
thanking his wife for the hospitality.

Spearfishing was fun, however I was no good. Accidentially following a
fish to deep water and trying to get it, I shot the spear much deeper
than the water appeared then spent the next 5 minutes trying to swim
15 meters down to retrieve it. Andi had more success catching 5 fish
which he said we should come eat at his house. We tried to say that it
wasn't necessary and he took off. Only to return 30 minutes later
saying that they were ready. There was no real way out of it. Not that
we didn't want to try the food, we just didn't want to take food away
from him and his family. We arrived to fish, rice, beans, coconut all
set out and ready. We stayed there for an hour bought a few bracelets
from his friend made of seaweed and took off. It was a really amazing
afternoon. I couldn't believe how friendly he was. And he wasn't doing
all this to persuade us to buy bracelets, that was our decision since
we felt guilty eating all their food.

Yesterday was less eventful. We woke up and went surfing. The waves
were very big but it was a sandy bottom so no concern for coral
cutting us. I got tossed a few times and up a few times. I still have
a lot of work left.

Thats about it. We are headed to Sengigi today and will probably tour
around the capital of Lombok Mataram before heading back to Bali to
catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

Sorry I haven't been able to be on skype yet. There is internet
however no headsets.

Take Care everyone. Hopefully I will be able to come up with photos
one time soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Indonesia Travels Day 11

Team! Steph and I have survived climbing Mount Rinjani! It was AMAZING! However it was also really really hard. The first day was about 8 hours of climbing up to camp 1 at 2666 meters. That wasn't too bad but was nice and hot. The second day however was a doozie.

We went to sleep day 1 at 8pm on the mountain and woke up at 2 AM to ascent to the summit in time for sunrise. Climbing by headlamp for 2.5 hours we arrived at the top at 5:15 a little early to say the least. Facing 2-4*C temperature Steph and I sat waiting for the sun to come up. Claiming to be cold and faking shivers Steph snuggled up to me. I however wasn't cold so I can only assume this was a plot to get closer. Clever girl.

Finally when the sun came up it was spectacular. I have lots of photos and may try and get them updated soon. However without wifi I can't get them off my phone (and there is nowhere to plug in my camera).

Following the summit we made it back to camp only to find a family of grey monkeys hanging out at our tents hunting for food. In total I counted 28 of them. At this point I discovered Steph has a fear of monkeys so once again I came to the rescue and defended her from these 15 pound enemies. I really am a hero. At one point I even carried the communal water (which I only dropped once when I fell).

Day two was long, waking up at 2AM we hiked more or less non stop until 4pm having gone from camp 1 (2666M) -> Summit 3700M -> Crater lake 2000M -> Crater Rim camp 2 2600M. Big day.

We hunkered down and slept, asleep at 7pm as soon as the sun went down. We got up at 6AM and hiked the remaining 9km to Senaru and collapsed. The last hour it rained which was actually quite refreshing.

The whole experience was incredible. The most spectacular of all was the two porters carrying 30kg each tethered to a shoot of bamboo and our guide who couldn't have been more than 100 pounds carrying all 20 (1.5L) water bottles. They had our tent, food, snacks, pots and pans. And not only that, they did the entire hike in flip flops. I couldn't imagine how much you would have to pay someone to do that in canada, but apparently they made "good money" (we assume around 100 000 Rb which would work out to 11$CAD a day) as opposed to being in the rice field which make roughly 20-30 000 Rb. Steph and I wondered where the water was coming from until our porter, a 29 year old veteran of 12 years on the mountain pulled out the first of many water bottles for us. We felt guilty and continually tried to double up but they refused to make us do any more than the minimum amount of work.

Additionally I don't know how to work this into my story, but the food, we ate beyond comfort every single meal, 3 times a day. Today Steph and I pleaded not to have lunch because we were still full from breakfast (And the previous dinner).

The tour group (John's Adventures) was one of the more expensive at roughly 200CAD a person, however in seeing the service we were given over the other groups on the mountain, it was worth every penny (we had an air mattress in our tent which they had set up for us before we got to camp each night).

Following the trek, we were driven 4 hours to Kuta Lombok. We got in late so I haven't seen much of the terrain yet, but it is supposed to be the quiet sibling of Bali. Similar beach and surf but no crowds which so far seems about right.

We don't know how long we will be staying here, we need to meet Corinne and Erich in Kuala Lumpur on the 20th, so time will tell.

Tomorrow, we surf and do laundry which desperately needs done following that hike. I will be tipping the night off with a large Bintang, the only beer I can find in Indonesia.

Take Care everyone!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Indonesia Travels

So this may be a surprise to many of you, but I am actually no longer in Canada. I am traveling for the summer in South East Asia and left last week. Internet is slow and not accessible everywhere, however, whenever I have it I'll post something quick about where I am on the blog.

Unfortunately there will be no photos since I don't have a way of getting them off my computer and onto these cheap ones.

Day 4
Steph and I have made it to Bali following Singapore. We were going to travel up towards Malaysia prior to meeting Erich in Kuala Lumpur however following reading the Indonesia section of the Lonely planet book, Steph really wanted to visit Lombok (next to Bali).
So our plan at this point is to stay in Bali today and maybe part of tomorrow then spend the week in Lombok. There are apparently some of the greatest beaches in SE Asia in Senggigi and then we are going to do a volcano mountain summit (3726m) (http://www.lombok-rinjanitrek.com/rinjanipackages.htm) over a 4 day span before heading up to Sumatra and then meeting up with my friends in Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore was really pretty however I honestly feel that 2 days was more than enough even with the second day just running around and getting to the airport.
The airport was chaotic. We arrived hoping to book flights to Bali and were sent to all 4 terminals before being directed to the proper kiosk. Each person telling us a different place to go. This included 2 bus rides and 3 express trains between terminals. We managed to get onto a flight at 4PM (it was 3:20 at this point) and fly through security etc. Then into Jakarta which was a stark contrast from Singapore. After 45 minutes of waiting in line for a visa we had to run for our connecting flight to Bali, We got the visa at 6:20 (bording time for flight was 6:15 and in another airport terminal) We go out after frantically running around and find a shuttle filled with people and we need to shout at the drive what terminal (1-3) we want to go to and prove that our priority is higher than those going to other terminals. Finally we got on the flight at 7 after cutting a few lines and skipping security by waving frantic arms. Getting last on the plane and running through the terminal was fun.
We arrived in Bali haggled a taxi from 5$ to 4$ for a 15 minute drive then settled into a really nice room for a drastic 25$. Tonight we hope to be much more reasonable with a 12-15$ room. None of this life of luxury.

Day 8
Hey Team, we are leaving Gili Trawangan around lunch time today. Before then I will try and get a little surfing in for the first time over here. The waves don't look very big but they are uniform. Hopefully it goes well.

Steph and I went scuba diving yesterday and the day before. The diving was really good however I dare say it was trumped by the snorking. While snorking we saw all the same fish at a fraction the price. Turtles, Moray Eels, Manta Ray, lots of clownfish, angelfish, lionfish, scorpionfish, sweetlips, butterfly fish, surgeonfish, trumpet fish, and a bunch of rocks.

We also went for a run yesterday, 6km in 55 minutes, it was a pretty blistering pace. But in our defense it was 35*C and sunny.

We leave today for the island of Lombok where we will be climbing Mount Rinjani. Roughly 1/2 the height of Everest (I am reading "into thin air" so everything is gauged to Everest these days. As a result I don't know if I will have internet until the 13th. We may have it tonight but that would be it.

Hope everyone is good. Skype isn't working on my computer right now unfortunately. We may try and go to a different internet station and see if it does any better.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Science has taken over my life and I've been reminded that there should be more to it. So far at this point I have finished writing my thesis and have a date set for my defence. March 18th at 1:15PM! I booked it for later in the afternoon to insure that I can get over my hangover from St Patricks Day.

In all seriousness, I've finished my thesis, all 100 pages of glory, have already made my powerpoint for the defence presentation. And now all I have left to do is write a manuscript for my project and get it published before leaving UBC Masters program behind me.

In other news of life. Triathlon is going well. I have my first race this coming weekend. The UBC Triathlon promises to be a nice cold endeavour. I will be doing the double. Working for powerbar at the event as well as racing. My heat is at 12:40 though which is nice because I can be up early and setting up for powerbar and once things get settled down get ready for my race.

In recent news. The UBC Triathlon Club spring race series is underway, and knock on wood, for the first semester, I don't have an excuse (marathon, sprained ankle, concussion). So lets hope I can keep this up and it could be a good one! We have already raced the 5k and I achieved a new PB, 17:41!

And finally, I tried a new sport last week. Maybe this will be my true calling in sport. Does it meet the criteria?

  1. Spandex - √
  2. Endurance - √
  3. Has in some part the word Athlon in it - √
  4. ...
Thats about it. I tried the sport of Biathlon and had a blast. My friend Ceilidh coaches the cadets and offered to bring me up to give it a try. As a result I may do my first race at the end of the month!

Kelly Said I look fat... I thought black was slimming? Does anyone have any vertical stripes?

4/5 Not too bad!