01.17.2016 37 °C
Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
08.27.2015 38 °C
Our day started with a fairly lazy morning and some breakfast. We took the train as close as we could to the temples we wanted to see, and then hopped into a Tuk Tuk to get us the rest of the way, since we were told "the only way to get there is by boat."
Of course, the Tuk Tuk took us to a boat travel agency at the end of the long alley way in the video, so we just decided to pay.
Here's the view from our long tail at some of the nicer buildings in Bangkok on the river.
And another one of a shrine or temple or monetary. Not sure which, since we didn't go to it.
Contrast the wealth of the city with delapidated buildings.
The first temple we visited was Wat Arun, which was being partially restored. You can imagine how magnificent it will look once it's done and all white again.
Kim just outside the temple. This was her pick Idea for the morning!
The Wat had several sculptures around the outside of it that look pretty great together.
A small portion of the renovated Wat Arun showing the detail and craftsmanship that these people had/have.
The largest section of the Wat was completely covered in scaffolding so it was pretty hard to see the details, but you can get a sense of the height.
These guys surround the entire base of the four smaller shrines surrounding the big central shrine I just mentioned.
The symmetry of this place is spot on.
Again with the symmetry, but different colors. This section is around the base of the big, middle column covered in scaffolding.
It also seems as though you would be able to walk up quite high on the main pillar before renovations began.
Up close detail of the porcelain and the detail within the porcelain. These places are all about the tiny details.
I'm not sure the significance of these guys holding up the base, but they're fantastic to stare at, especially from this angle.
Another section, another carving with incredible detail.
This horseman was about half way up one of the surrounding pillars. He views are unique at any given moment.
Here's Kim about 10 steps below me to give you a sense of scale of the size of the steps. Gotta watch yourself going up or down!
More restoration, detail, and symmetry. The beauty of this place....
As I said before, there are many sculptures surrounding the place of different animals and people/gods that contrast quite nicely with the temple.
Here's a diagram of the Wat to give you more of an idea what I'm talking about with the main pillar and surrounding pillars.
The grounds of this temple were not only the main Wat, but had several other gardens and buildings to view.
This is a frame of the queen of Thailand. Pictures of the king and queen are everywhere, and the Thai people adore them. They seem to be somewhere on the level of the queen of England, but have complete and utter devotion and support from the people. They really do love them.
Here's a closeup of another building on the grounds.
From there, we took a ferry acros the river (which is just as hectic as the streets, believe it or not) to go to Wat Pho, with the "laying Buddah." The video hopefully gives you an idea of the scale of this building and the size of the Buddah. The clinking sound you hear in the background is people butting money into bins on the other side for good luck.
This is a view from the top of the Buddah looking all the way down. Took me a while to get this one because there are so many tourists walking in and around this building.
As you saw in the video above, there are mosaics painted on every wall, going all the way up to the ceiling.
They apparently depict entire Buddhist stories as a continuous stream moving top to bottom.
Her's the other side of the laying Buddah. The "hair" is made entirely from sea shells.
Again, as with Wat Arun, Wat Pho is made up of many buildings. It was actually started as a Thai Massage school, and some parts of it are still used as such. This picture was from s garden of some of the spires we'll get to in a minute.
Still in the garden, but a better view.
These "giants" we're around 10-12 feet tall and were placed on either side of the walk way to the spires.
It's all about the details...
These are some of the other buildings in the compound where the Thai massage students learn.
Here's a model of the compound to give you an idea of its size and the location of some of the buildings we went to. The big building in the top right area is the lying Buddah building.
Lining the ceilings and walls were depictions of animals playing and dancing. This was my favorite. Also pretty sure that's gold leaf in there too...
Here was the entrance to another one of the main buildings in Wat Pho. This shows the Buddah laying on a serpent with seven heads. It has something to do with the servant being a God of rain, and covering the Buddah from the rain. I wish I knew more about Buddhism because there's intricate symbolism in every sculpture, painting, and carving.
Here you see the common tigers guarding an entrance. Cool note - they had free-moving round balls of stone they were chewing on in their mouths.
Yet another depiction of the Buddah on the serpent. A third time, but still hugely impressive in person.
Another doorway with the Tigers.
These however, were my favorite guards. Not entirely sure what they are supposed to be, but they're menacing! And beautiful.
Yet another HUGE building in the complex. They're just as long as they are high.
Here's one of the doors to the building. The entire door is full of pearl inlay with some grey stone. The detail in the craftsmanship is what really makes this place.
Another example. This is high up off the ground, and probably something most people don't even see all the time. Everywhere you look has this level of perfection and detail.
We actually stumbled into the building on the other side, which had a monk speaking to a bunch of students. What a grand hall.
We left after spending about 3 hours in the complex. Just on the other side of the wall: street vendors.
We walked through the city a bit more, and again, stumbled on a great sight. This is the grand palace from across a huge park. Lot of homeless people hanging around, but Bangkok is a large, modern city. It's just weird to see something from a time so far gone in a place with TV screens and automated trains..
Kim and her Brothers stayed on this road on their last trip. It's basically the Bourbon street of Bangkok. Clubs, bars, strip clubs, food vendors, vendors selling random stuff - including, and I kid you not, a flashlight taser. The guy just walks up to you and says here look, and crackles a freaking taser at you. Wild place, including plenty of the lady boys
Our last day started off too slow, and we were unable to make it to the Grand Palace. Unfortunately this was the one thing that you're "supposed" to do in Bangkok, but I think we got enough of the awe in with all the other Wats. Just and excuse to come back anyway! So instead, we decided to go to the Jim Thompson house before our flight left for Cambodia later that day.
The Jim Thompson house is a compound made by a U.S. Ex-pat after WWII. He was stationed abroad in Thailand, but never saw action, and came back to live. He fell in love with the culture, and is attributed with revitalizing the silk trade from Thailand to the U.S. and the rest of the world. His crowning jewel though, was his home. He loved the Thai architecture and gathered/saved houses and materials from all over Thailand and moved them to Bangkok. He used traditional building practices and materials to make it all as authentic as it could be, and in return, ended up creating some of the best preserved examples of this type of building. Here is his garden, which his main house overlooked
This is a print of the big bowl below. Several of the parts could be removed to add different colors to whatever you were printing on.
Some sort of beautiful porcelain map that he saved.
Here's part of his main house, lifted up on stilts like traditional Thai design to protect the house from flooding during he rainy season. The red paint on the outside is also a traditional Thai material made from a jungle plant that helped protect the wood from being prematurely weathered.
View into modern Bangkok from his backyard. I should probably mention at this point that the guy is dead. He went missing in Malaysia some time in the 60s (if I remember correctly) and his home has since been turned into a museum.
A view to his porch and main living room. Unfortunately they prohibit taking photos of the inside of the house.
This is one of, if not the oldest Buddah sculptures around. Our guide said it dates to over 1,400 years ago.
The next few photos are of the "spirit house," another Thai building ritual. The Thai's believe that they are respecting the people that have died in the grounds the house is being built on by giving them a place to live. The spirit house must never be in the shade of the main house and routinely has offerings of water and food. (This is widely practiced in Thailand from what we have seen).
Terrible picture, but this high rise caught my eye as being one of the most amazing looking in all of Bangkok. Once I find an aerial of it, I'll share it.
Finally, before I left Bangkok, I had to get a custom suit made!! Couldn't be happier with my choice (by recommendation). The place was run like clock work, professional, on point, on schedule, and at a great price for something like this.
Day 9 began with a short walk to our dive shop and a quick breakfast at their restaurant across the street. We got fitted, suited up, and got on a taxi to the pier.
A quick 30 minute or so ride to the small island off the coast of Koh Tao brought us to our diving site.
Which was full of other boats and divers. Unfortunately, in the excitement of the day I forgot to take any pictures of the boat, dive spot, or anything of the sort.... Sorry! So I'll try to explain it instead. Our dive shop, a smaller, more intimate group of divers, brought us to what is known as the Japanese Garden - a small cove full of coral reef and marine life. We had a lot of people on our boat doing "discover scuba" which is basically an intro course into diving where you learn all the basics and don't go more than 6M under the water. I decided to do a refresher course since it has been over 3 years since my last dive in Florida with my college crew. The basics were the refresher course in about 10 feet of water, a small dive after, lunch and one deeper dive in the afternoon. The refresher course was great, and my instructor Lexi was a fantastic guide back into scuba ( we actually had dinner with her and some of the scuba friends later that night).
The first dive was a bit bazaar because there were a bunch of other tourists snorkling in the area who kept waiving at us and throwing up the "peace" sign. There were also these small fish called Cleaner Wrasse (*insert clever pun here*) that nipped at anything discolored on your body. So, some scrapes I collected were promptly "cleaned." Thanks guys.... Plenty of Angel fish floating around and some beautiful parrot fish were the most picturesque in the water.
The second dive was much deeper (comparatively) to the first, and we saw much more wildlife, including a trigger fish, which apparently can be quite nasty if you get in their territory (head butts, biting, etc). I could talk for days about it all, but suffice it to say, I caught the scuba bug again.
This is the view back after we left our spot later that day. Every view in this place is breath taking.
Here's an attempted pano on some choppy seas of the island of Koh Tao. Some parts are a little funky, but it gives you a good idea of the overall feel.
After some confusion the previous day about the actual date we were leaving, we decided to take the night ferry to Surat Thani (mainland Thailand) and catch a plane to Bangkok. This is undoubtedly one of the most miserable experiences of the trip so far. Not even an ambien could cure the night. Remember how hot and humid I said Thailand is? Well, imagine a 6 hour boat ride full of backpacker tourists, inside, on used mattresses with basically just fans blowing. Add the guy next to me coughing and literally laying his leg across my body in the middle of the night and you get the idea. At one point I actually went outside and fell asleep because there was more air flow on the top deck.
Here's The best photo I could get of a fishing trawler out in the Gulf as we passed by late at night. The amount of light they shine is incredible.
5am the next morning and we're finally off this ferry. Thank god. Unfortunately, all travel companies from the island are run through 3rd parties run through another 3rd party run through a network of locals, so we got shuttled to a local restaurant to wait for a few hours before our next shuttle would arrive to take us to the airport.
Finally leaving the city at dawn.
The countryside here was gorgeous this morning.
Here's a short video of the ride we took in the back of a van with another German tourist.
... And another snowing the craziness of the driving here.
A few more pictures of the countryside.
After a long night and a bit of a rough morning, we made it to the airport. Off to Bangkok!
We made it into Bangkok, and after a 30 minute cab ride to the city center, we go to our hotel. Which had the tiniest elevators I've ever seen. Kim got trapped.
Practically starved and dehydrated, we recouped in a fantastic side-street find with some curry and won ton soup.
This is just one of the many intersections we ran into (albeit one of the biggest) on our first day. Bangkok is a crazy hustle and bustle city that is constantly moving at all times. It is 3-4 times as densely populated as the U.S. and clashes with the old and the new, the clean and the dirty, the run down and the modern.
And one more for good measure. The driving and bikers in this city are incredible. I cannot believe I didn't see an accident while I was here. Don't even think about crossing the roads here unless you have a cross walk. They've built sky bridges.
To give you a sense of the craziness, here's a time lapse of the street. Notice the bikes -- there are lanes painted, but no one really uses them like in the U.S.
They also have a fantastic train system (I believe entirely automated) that we used several times due to the congestion on the streets and the traffic.
Here's a view of the inside of the "Sky Tram"
And just a note that this country takes Buddhism very seriously.
While subsequently getting on the wrong train, we came across this huge, beautiful park in downtown Sukhumvit (area where we are staying in Bangkok).
We finally made it back to the hotel. Very interesting small rooms with crazy colored lighting and an electronic sunshade that rolled down the large window facing the street/a parking garage.
Day 10 ended with room service and this... (In a deep, male voice "When he murders your entire family, but then tries to repent... What happens? My heart... twinkle twinkle).
08.25.2015 36 °C
After taking that ridiculous ferry over to the island, neither Kim nor I were in the greatest of moods. We got our bags and walked around for a bit before finally picking the spot closest to us with AC for the night. We woke up late (like 7am) and got to wandering around. These first two were some of the more pleasant bugs in our vicinity.
We managed to make arrangements for our next hotel the previous night with an employee working for the scuba shop I'd be diving with but I decided to put that on hold for a day and just have some down time to read and enjoy the place I was in. Thailand is full of cats and dogs, but the cats like to come up to you more often. This little fellow wouldn't leave us alone and layed down right next to me.
After a bit of lounging, we wandered the island and ran into this little lady. Interactions with the locals is great because they're islanders. Their lifestyle is so laid back and friendly, that every pseudo-conversation is full of laughter and exuberance.
Realizing that we were actually really hungry, we grabbed a spot right on the beach for some Chang (which we would later be told is unregulated in its alcohol content and can lead to disastrous nights) and delicious Masaman curry. That dish is quickly becoming my staple over here. Spicy peanut curry with big chunks of potatoe and onions with veggies and meat (chic, pork, beef, etc).
This little guy wanted to drink my Chang.
Here's a view of the Main Street we used during our time on Koh Phi Phi to give you a sense of how narrow it all is.
We got to our bungalow to relax for the day with this view.
Here's the restaurant and our scuba shop. Really great place with some fun instructors and employees. They really do exemplify the simple life here.
Later that day we rented a scooter to explore the island...
... Right before it started to rain. Good thing it only lasts for an hour or so.
We rode the bike up and over to get to the "view point" hike route.
There are absolutely no markings, so this is what we thought was the "view point."
Fortunately, we found the actual view point. The entrance was through a 3 foot crack in the rock, which led to the other side with a platform of rock and this view. This is the view looking back at Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand.
Here's a view looking out away from Thailand into the gulf of Thailand on the opposite side of the island after another 30 minutes of hiking.
We found Cairne village at the top!!
Apparently a few other people have been here before us... Pretty sweet little place.
Another Pano, of the southern side of the island. This place is beautiful. My favorite place in Thailand so far.
Here's a view of the walk back down through the jungle. Would be absolutely terrifying at night, but it really was a proper jungle hike.
After yet another long day, we relaxed on the beach. These guys walked back and forth with pineapple, mango, or an entire grill set to cook meat for tourists. This entire country is based around tourism.
And yet another beautiful sunset.
Koh Phi Phi > Krabi > Koh Samui > Koh Tao
08.19.2015 - 08.20.2015 38 °C
Gooood morning everyone! Apologies for not posting yesterday, had a long day of travel and didn't find a place to stay until later that night, so I was pretty tired. Again started the morning off around 6am when the fan shut off, but luckily the clouds were rolling in and the sunrise was perfect.
This is the daily offering from the fruit bat gods on our porch. Still not sure why they chose ours, but they do feast at night!!
Our resort had a cute cat and dog combo that did a lot of nothing. Here's the cat hugging himself he's so comfortable.
This is one of our hosts on the bow of the long tail as we went into town to climb. He started smoking the second we cast off. It's around 8am now.
Another view of our beautiful, quiet beach.
That big rock face to the left of the resort? That's what we're climbing on today.
Another view as we approached from the beach.
This photo is immediately to the right of the last picture. Unfortunately it's hard to get a sense of scale and depth in pictures, especially without people in the shot, but the geography around here is other worldly. Those limestone cliffs in the background rise up from nothing.
This is the approach. Although short, it was quite a trek through the jungle with flip flops. Hard to tell, but Kim and our guide are no more than 10 feet and 15 feet away from me, respectively. VERY steep.
This was our climbing guide. His name - Apple. Or so he said. Very friendly guy from Laos making a living off of tourists doing what he loves. Bought him a Chang after the trip and chatted for a while.
After a few warm up routes we got to a 5.10b that was about 25M (~75ft) off the deck. At this point I was probably close to 50 feet up. Incredible limestone rock jutting out of the face. Some of the holds were basically ledges you had to pull yourself up on, others were finger holds. A few of which I cut up my hand pretty good. Totally worth the climb, though.
Hard to see, but here's Kim in relatively the same spot. Kickin some ass!!
These next two were all for you guys. Pretty sketchy bringing a phone up this high and trying to take a picture when your hands are sweaty and shaking from the climb. I couldn't swipe to get the pano due to the chalk/sweat combo on my hands, so I just took two next to each other. This is the view from the top of the route. Gorgeous island. Thailand can be so colorful sometimes.
Here's the obligatory shot down the face with a rope in the frame. Social medial peer pressure FTW! If you can get a sense of the height, Kim is 10 feet to the right of the rope and Apple is directly to the left. After the climb, we walked about 30 minutes back into the island to drop off our gear and have a beer with Apple (there are no vehicles driving around on the island).
After some small chat, he had a group of 8 Chinese tourists who wanted to climb before the sun set (about 1.5 hrs away) so we left the shop and found an ice cream place. This is how some vendors make ice cream on the island.
I also found out I can upload videos and link them to the blog, so here's the first try. Let me know in the comments if this is too long or too short and I'll try to include more video as well.
We stopped by a seafood place to grab a snack and sitting outside was their crab catch for the day. Again, the colors.
Looks like they do some serious seafood at night.
We made our way back to the pier to catch the last long boat for the day back to our resort.
The tide change here is crazy. At high tide, all of these boats are floating in around 5 feet of water.
Sun setting over the bay as we rode back to our hut.
<<-----DAY 6 ----->>
Again, woke up early to a beautiful sunrise.
We took the ferry back to Krabi and got in our "Lexus" van to take us to the airport.
As soon as we got in the van, we got our first real taste of the rainy season over here in Thailand. Generally speaking, it is fantastic weather and usually sunny. When it does rain, it rains HARD, but in pockets. So you usually can see sunshine and the dark, menacing clouds of an approaching storm.
After waiting for an hour or two, we got on our Bangkok Airways flight from Krabi to Koh Samui on the eastern side of Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand. Boarding the plane, the flight attendants had chirping birds playing through the speaker system. The also served us food on the hour flight. Pretty nice, actually. Here's the Koh Samui port as we waited for the ferry to arrive to take us to Koh Tao
On the ferry enjoying the views.
Impending rainstorm leading to a really choppy sea, and a lot of sea sick people.
This is me genuinely trying to keep the camera still. As always, video makes things seem lesser than they are in real life, but this gives you a taste of the TWO HOUR boat ride we had (~1.5 hrs was this rough). The people giggling in the video were jumping up and down at the crest of the wave so they would fly into the air as we fell down into the wave. Pretty good fun until you smack your head into the ceiling.
After a bit of misery, we landed on the island and were immediately bombarded by locals trying to get us to take their taxi or stay at their hotel. We got through the mob, walked around until we found a nice place to stay, and cranked the AC again. A short dinner and it was back to our den and off to sleep. Tomorrow is a much needed decompression/ relax day, and then the next day is SCUBA!!!! Cannot wait.