Friday, April 29, 2016

Ko Pha-Ngan/Koh Phangan Island of beauty relaxation and spirituality

Being the original full moon party island it gets a lot of tourism. As with most places in Thailand of certain fame. I prefer the yoga town of Sri Thanu where you can relax better and enjoy various holistic activities. If you stumble upon mystical creatures you can end up taking LSD or mushrooms.

I tried freediving for the first time and had been disappointed with the lack of satisfaction I got. Sure I learned some techniques for breathing and diving deeper faster. The psychology is what changes when you actually have enough oxygen but feel the need to be at the surface. In any case I felt the extra cost was not valued and would have preferred diving with tank (scuba) for about half the price to see more wildlife.

In any case this place has magic and if you get with local rythem you can get decent price and quality fruits, to continue the fruitarian lifestyle, cheaper gas than most gas stations (can be found close to the main town Thon sala)

For now I stay here, after a heartbreak I carry on and see what the rainbow can show me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Travelling is my part time job

I have found another passion, and as with passions you tend to like the work that goes into it. Because let's face it, travel is work.

Sure, there were moments when I felt like it's work and didn't want to do it; from making the decision of where to go, how to go there, and what to do when there.

But then I found that I enjoy this work, and want to continue doing it as long as possible. The exploration of this plant has just began for me.

There are many more places I want to see and discover for myself and I am blessed with the time and financial means to do this. Mainly the savings and also the continues work I can conduct remotely from any decent internet connection (doesn't have to be very fast but solid is ideal - text file transfers as with the coding I do)

I know the places that I liked, where I will certainly return (sometimes I know when other times not sure yet). I know the places that I will visit (again, some I have a rough idea when, others I am not certain yet).

So far the journey has been a great one, filled with self-discovery, exploration of the inner and outer world, and some of the spiritual one as well. The cultures, people, foods, languages, customs and religious. Finding inner peace in nature or city chaos in rush hour traffic. Flights, overnight buses, trains, ferries, road trips in cars as well as motor bikes and many more adventures to come.

Let me know what you think about a life of travel? Would you picture yourself doing it in such a way?
Where do you recommend I visit?
In the comments

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pakse, Laos to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

I woke up around 6:30am to get last coffee from Ms. Ning's homestay and hit the road. Stopped by street fruit vendors to get bananas for the long journey to Thailand.

I arrived around 7:05am to Ms. Noy's rental shop as Mr. Yves rides in a few minutes after my arrival. I returned it and paid my bill for the motorbike rental - 110,000KIP for 2 days not charging for the 3rd because it was before 8am, as well as the bus ticket - 80,000KIP for a total of 190,000, when he returned the 10,000 he told me to keep it as they require when leaving Laos.

A tuktuk picked me up after I exchanged my last remianing KIP to Thai Bhat (I got around 600bhat)/
At the bus station I got the final ticket and waited for the bus. A few goats passed by and I think to myself what a cool scenario, I see goats in the bus station.

Finally got on the bus as it arrived and we're on the way, reletaivly smooth ride as we arrive at the border we get out and start the confusing process. First we must get through market areas to get up to an office in the heat and hand in our passport and give the 10,000 kip. Finished this and now the bus is gone, no where in sight. Confused again we must continue on foot to cross underground then to the entry of Thailand. Fill out the form and get screened by the immigration officer, he didn't know I had made a tourist visa for additional time and almost didn't give me the proper time. Good thing I mentioned this to him and he corrected the expiry date. So make sure you tell them right away if you do this.

Finished this and now I go to the awaiting bus where my bags are on the ground waiting for me with another officer which asks which ones mine. I have to take this back inside where it goes through an xray machine which didn't seem too sophisticated.

Finally take this back to the bus and load up the bags. Away we go.

I get the phone signal from my Thai sim card (True Move H) and the roads feel much smoother already. I'm back in civilization.

The bus stops to refuel, probably because the gas is cheaper and we continue to the central bus station in Ubon Ratchathani.

Taxi drivers want my business but I ask the tourist information how to get to the train station and there's a 10bhat truck that goes directly

 several hours before taking the night train to Bangkok

Friday, April 8, 2016

Pakse Laos and small loop of waterfalls, coffee farms and village

Now that I got my passport from Vientiane I am free to go, but Since I am in Laos I should at least see something else. It was relatively easy to get further south. Even though on the way there's recommended places to visit with 8km cave (Thod Lor) with a loop of their own,

I headed past it to the very southern town active for tourists called Pakse. In the Chompasak region which is generally more elevated and cooler. It is a nice change from the inferno of a city in Vientiane.

I arrived around 8am and headed straight to meet a fellow traveler I met in Vientiane, we got a breakfast and headed to the motorbike rental - Ms. Noy.

I was approached earlier on the way to meeting my friend by French speaking fellow on a Honda Wave (the most popular semi-automatic bike in Asia) asking what I was looking for. It turns out he was Mr. Yves and he is partnered with Ms. Noy, she's a local and he's a Belgium guy that lived in the area for several years.

He explained the two possible loops we can do in the region. Small and big, the small can be done in 2 days and the big in 3 or 4. He gave us a quick lesson on how to drive the semi-auto and a lot of information about what to do in which case scenarios when we get to various places and the general tips.

Easy enough, I was on the road by 11am off to get lunch with another traveler that wanted to do this loop. A young Dutch fellow that was eager to travel the world even though he's very interested in studying in Sweden to finish his masters in biology.

Had our soup in a local stop along the way and carried on to the next stop which was around 40 minutes of motoring later at a coffee farm. I had a coffee but am not so much into it so did my best to enjoy it before continuing with our new found friends from Sweden.

It wasn't long until we got separated again since we saw a Buddha picture pointing 1km to the right on a dirt road. Of course I couldn't resist. So the dutch guy followed me and we went into the forest Buddha area where celebrations were on their way of the Lao new year.

We were the only foreigners and got stared at quite intensely by some, they all seemed friendly and curious so I walked to the Buddha and relaxed for a minute. I decided that was enough for me and wanted to continue. I saw the dutch guy getting into the party so I carried on but not to worry we would surely meet again at the next stop.

I forgot the exit points and had to make a U turn to get back to the waterfall. When I saw the waterfalls we saw some being washed in the river, I headed to the recommended hostel (homestay) called Mama Pop and had dinner there as well. She's a really good cook. We all reconvened there from earlier and it felt like a nice group now. We went for a short walk at night but lack of flashlights ensured that we returned early. Not to worry about the local dogs, they are all friendly.

In the early morning the dutch guy and one of the Swedes and I went for a walk to the waterfalls and they also swam and did some workouts. I thought the water was too dirty and returned back to use some internet for work.

After a nice fruit breakfast we got back on the road and hit the next stop which was a village with coffee growing. There we met an Italian girl that got a bamboo traditional tattoo on her arm and was unable to get back to town because of the pain from the tattoo. The group joined for a tour but 30 min of coffee details was too boring for me so it would be the last time I see anyone from this group.

I continue my journey and make a stop at fruit market for coconut, mangosteen, dragon fruit, and other delicious fruit. I also bought nice avocado being sold by the road which probably means they are in season. I made some stops at waterfalls and eventually stopping at Ms. Ning's homestay (hostel) for the night, half hour from Pakse. Had a dinner at Ning's and used her phone to ask Ms. Noy if the bus to Thailand can be arranged in the morning, she confirmed I can arrive at 7am and be on time.

I work up around 6:30, had a coffee with Ms. Ning and paid my bill for last night's bed and dinner. Got back on the road. I love the feeling of freedom. The road was very flat and straight so I had no problem maintaining 70km/h or more most of the way.

When I approached an intersection with various fruit vendors I made a stop to check my direction and made a purchase of bananas, looks like the jackfruit is in season too, they were huge!

I continue into town and get to Ms. Noy 5 min after 7am which is also around the time I see Mr. Yves coming in and he was very helpful with setting me up to get to Thailand, even the changing of my last KIP to Thai Bhat and even the tip to keep 10,000 KIP for the crossing.

Read more about crossing the boarder to Thailand.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane

First impression of Luang Prabang was... well a village. We didn't get to the center because as you see in Laos the bus stations are nowhere near the city. We refused to get on the tuktuk since we thought we can walk to town but it turned out to be 10km away, and a tuktuk eventually dropped a price to more reasonable one that took us in to the town center.

This is what really surprised me about Luang Prabang, that it's much more a town than a city. And being second largest population of Laos I thought it would be larger. But you get to know the size is more spread out. There are plenty of things to do and from the touristy western bars and coffee shops to more local shops and markets, you can find lots of nature around and wats (vats?) as well.

We went to see the "Whisky" village, ride elephants (ethically) and the famous caves (not all that special). This place, like many others in the region (including Pai, Thailand) are easy places to just be. Can do something, or nothing and still feel relaxed. Spent about 5 days here, walked around, had local fruit, local dishes, a few touristy specialty drinks and entered some wats. Enough of this town and next I head to a famous party town that is surrounded by waterfalls and caves - called Vang Vieng.

Located half way to Vientiane, the capitol of Laos where I will go after. Which was my main goal of this trip, visa extension.

Vang Vieng is surrounded by nature small town that ballooned into a party central area, filled with reggae bars with "happy" menu which includes 3 items in various forms: weed, opium and mushrooms can be on pizza, shake, omlet or tea. Take your pic, or simply buy a joint for 30,000 KIP (~$3.75US) which will be large enough for at least 3 people  and has no tobacco added.

Around there are plenty of caves and waterfalls to explore, I only made it to the "blue lagoon" which is not really worth a visit unless you like to see a bunch of tourists jumping into water. The cave above it isn't bad for a cave but I have seen a much nicer one in Pai, Thailand area and was not impressed.

All-in-all I didn't spend long enough or do the fun outdoor activities in this town as my condition wasn't so good and the heat was intense this time of year. If you can find a cheap motorbike rental I heard of a small one day loop around the local caves. Keep in mind there are many small fees to cross bridges and enter the nature so take change with you or find alternate routes when possible. Speak to fellow travelers or tour guides.

Next I found a 40,000 kip bus ride to the capital Vientiane and took the rough ride there. 4 hours later I have arrived, thankfully in the city center this time and not the far off bus stations that I heard fellow travelers getting dropped off at.

This place feels like a city, it's probably the only place in Laos that feels like it is a little more modernized with plenty of western style food and cafes. I even saw a DQ (Dairy Queen). First stop after I found a decent priced hostel was the embassy. Getting around is really convenient with a bicycle. 15 min after renting one (10,000 KIP) I was at the Thai embassy learning that they only take visa extensions 8:30am to 11:30am. So it meant another day.

Next morning I did the filing for visa, relatively painless. 2 passport pictures (my last 2!), filled out the form and hand in the passport. Now we wait, and it turns out I had to wait 2 days because of a holiday. That's fine because I can just relax and see the place. There's not much to see, but can cool off in the mall, see the golden roof temple and monument resembling Paris. Fast forward to getting the passport and next I head south to Pakse.