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Fuck these people – Asana Agung Putra Hotel Bali

Apologies, I now have working internet and will try to catch up on Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia as well as trips to see monkeys, apes and Komodo Dragons.  In the mean time, have a review I just left on TripAdvisor.

——

I was traveling with a buddy I met in Flores and we decided to pick a place on Poppy and booked a room at Asana Agung.  I was disappointed to discover that the internet was essentially worthless as I had intended to upload some travel pictures.  The hotel uses open WiFi so there is no security, but they have a popup login window that can’t be closed.  The connection dropped every five minutes so I decided I would just upload my pictures when I got to a better hotel.
We met some people and decided to extend our stay.   I was not able to have an internet connection long enough to book on Agoda over their WiFi and went out and bought a SIM card and booked on my phone.  I got two email confirmations and immediately notified the hotel that this was a double booking.  They promised they would address it as soon as possible.
The front desk came up with one excuse after another and said they would have to talk with management to process the refund.  I pointed out the Lamborghini parked next to reception with the hotel chain name on it and stated that they must be here and that they would call.  They sent a confirmation email that they would give a refund as soon as possible.  The hotel manager, Putra Suyara promised he would refund the money within the hour as we checked out.  I got to Ubud to see the second email from Agoda, which evidences that he was flat out lying.
Bear in mind, this was a double booking caused by their horrific WiFI and that they did not suffer any loss of revenue as they were immediately notified.  I have had other hotels in Indonesia offer large apologies and cash refunds when they couldn’t process a credit card refund.  Not this place, they just lied and kept the money.
Additionally the pool chemistry is so unbalanced that it is unusable.
Avoid the place, they are not worthy of being in the hospitality business.

 

Warm greetings from Asana Agung Putra …

 

Thank you very much for your email,

For your booking for the ref # 57631454, would you please help to contact Agoda and process the cancellation directly as our policy we unable to cancel your booking at our system before we receive cancellation from Agoda.

 

Should you need any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you.

 

 

Best regards,

 

Adi Saputra ( Mr )

Sales Executive

——

Greetings from agoda.com!

With reference to your booking ID 57680421 as detailed below:

Hotel: Asana Agung Putra Hotel Bali
Room Type: Superior Queen Pool View
City/Country: Bali/Indonesia
Arrival: October 30, 2014
Departure: November 1, 2014

Please kindly note that Agoda has already contacted hotel Asana Agung Putra Bali regarding this issue. We have spoken to the hotel manager Mr.Putra, however, in this case the no-show charge for this booking must be applied and we cannot waive it as per our No-Show Policy.

Regards,
Agoda Customer Support Team

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New Camera

Just a short walk from my hotel is a four story shopping mall dedicated to electronics.  I knew what I wanted to buy, a Canon Rebel SL1, sold here as the D100.  I had been disappointed in the white balance and vividness of the D4100 and most pictures required post processing.  The camera also lacked autofocus in movie mode.  Whatever.

I was just going to buy the camera, a UV filter and a circular polarizing filter.  I ended up buying the 55-230 lens; I figured I would just regret not having it on my trip to Borneo, starting tomorrow.  This is the lightest SLR on the market and has received rave reviews on its quality of pictures. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find a store at the mall that sold cameras for less than Amazon prices and that there is no sales tax or VAT in Malaysia.  I also bought two UV filters and a Circular Polarizing Filter and a monopod.  They threw in a bag, a screen protector, a blower bulb and brush. Then I bought a 1,500 milliamp spare battery.

Next stop, get a lightning cable for charging my phone.  A standard USB cable has four wires, two for carrying current and two for data. A lightning cable shorts the data lines.  In this mode the phone will charge at one amp versus 500 milliamps with a standard cable.  Amazingly they wanted $20 for a $3 cable with the wires shorted.  I then spotted a 17,000 milliamp external battery pack. My current one is only 850 milliamps.  This beast would give my phone five charges.  Really I need to have a phone at all times.  As I said yesterday, google maps for taxis, track my walks, find points of interest with TripAdvisor, take pictures and yes, chat on Facebook.  They wanted to sell me this lightning cable for much faster charging.  I told them the cables that came with the battery pack were power only cables and I didn’t need anything else.  They didn’t believe me.  I downloaded three apps that show the charging rate and they all indicated 1 amp.  “This device puts out 2.3 amps.” So what dude, the phone won’t draw that.  I also advised them that the cable should only be used on AC adapters.  I don’t know if I got through to them.

When I got back to the hotel I looked up the filters I had bought and realized that when I stopped asking questions about prices the guy went nuts.  I went back to the store and told the guy I wanted to return the filters as I had been charged four times the value and showed him the prices online. He complained that online prices can’t be matched by stores.  I told him that four times the price was ridiculous and that I was sure I could buy at the online prices at another store.  He gave me a cash refund of a $150 and apologized profusely for having been caught.

All right, laundry is done, time to book a flight.  Orangutans, coming up.

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Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur

I put an ad in Craig’s list several days ago and received four or five emails.  One guy promised to come and buy my camera on Wednesday night as he was in Pattaya, a beach town about 100 kilometers from Bangkok.  After several exchanges, he never showed. Around eleven Wednesday night I received an email from an engineering student who wanted to buy it for his girlfriend who was taking a photography class.  We agreed to meet at the hotel at nine.

He finally showed up at 10:30, inspected it and got the Nikon D5100 camera body, three lenses, a right angle viewer, four macro lens/filters, U/V filter, Circular Polarizing Filter, lens hoods and a bag I picked up in Sagada Philippines.  Used on Amazon that was about $700, I let it all go for 8,500 baht, about $275.   I just didn’t want to carry all that stuff anymore, the only thing I had used was the camera body and the 18-55 mm lens.

Off to the airport, I paid 10,000 baht in fines for overstaying my visa by 20 days.  What a dope.

A two and half hour flight with lots of knee room and I was in Kuala Lumpur.  I had booked a hotel in an area called Bukit Bintang.  The online instructions were

From the KLIA Airport, you need to get to the KL Sentral station (the airport is 60km away from KL).Then, take the monorail to the Bukit Bintang station. The fare is RM3.70 (~฿37.41)

The train was ridiculously easy to find and in short order I took a very comfortable 60 km ride to Sentral Station.  Then the fun began.

Map of  KL Transit System
Kuala Lumpur Transit Map

I waited in the queue at the token machine while a woman paid her 3.70 fee in dimes.  It took her forever to insert them and to scrounge around.  I was inclined to walk to the front of the line and just insert a couple of bills, but I remained patient.  The next person, who certainly appeared a malay stood in front of the machine for a confused five minutes before figuring out how to use it. Eventually it was my turn.  I pressed the screen over a station labeled Bukit Bintang.  There were no clear signs. I made inquiries and was told there was no way to get there.  After half an hour I decided just to take a taxi but it appeared that there were none at the central terminal. I made another inquiry and was told I would have to go to Masjid Jamek and transfer from there.  That was easy. I hopped the train, got Masjid Jamek and finally saw a transit map. From here I would have yet another transfer. I decided to go back to the Sentral Station and find the monorail.  I had bought a new phone, A Samsung Galaxy Note 3 a few days earlier and developed the habit of carrying it in a pouch over my shoulder.  In the pouch I also carry a charger that will top up the phone. I need a phone all the time.  Nearest places of interest, google maps to direct taxi drivers, yes and chatting on facebook.  As I was departing the train a girl about age five ran off the train and handed me my phone.  How the hell did that happen?  I inquired as to the location of the monorail and was told it was in the mall.  From the station I took the escalator into the mall and wandered around without any clue as to where it was.  I was finally directed to leave the mall on the far side.  I found the monorail and six token machines, all with their lights off and no way to board the train. What the hell?  Somebody else told me to take the elevator down to the ticket office.  I did so and found a couple of guys in their early twenties from Turkmenistan who were studying in Kuala Lumpur.  We joked around for a bit and then they told me that the ticket office was across the street.  Come on guys, a sign or two couldn’t hurt.  I secured a token and headed to my stop.  Broad sidewalks of granite, litter free, were populated but not crowded with a great many people.  A very short man completely covered in gold glitter did the old statue trick and posed with tourists who paid to take pictures with him.   Time to grab a taxi and get taken to the hotel.  Easier said than done.  I only found a taxi every twenty minutes and none of them knew where the hotel was even provided the address in writing from the booking confirmation.  I made my way to a McDonalds and availed myself of the wifi. The hotel didn’t have a website and none of the booking companies listed it’s phone number.  I finally found a facebook page for the hotel that listed the number and packed up.   My phone was now dead, but my Mac Air can run on batteries for 12 hours.  I found a taxi showed him the number, he called the hotel and then quoted me an outrageous fee.  I told him to use his meter, he refused. I finally got him down to 25 ringgit and he took me to the hotel.  I arrived at the hotel three hours after arriving at the airport.

I met a german lad who was on his way to Singapore. I mentioned that it was very expensive.  He knew, he was staying at a hotel at the harbor for $300 a night.  That’s way the hell out of my budget range.  He mentioned that he was going to Bali and I told him I had a couple of friends there and then showed him pictures of the bikini models I spent three weeks with in the Philippines.  I mentioned that they were from Guadalupe.  His parents winter at their house in the Canary Islands.  Few bucks in the family.  I introduced him to my friend Candice.  He seemed quite excited.  Dinner and time for bed.

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Phetchaburi to Kaeng Krachan Park

As I was in Mae Klong and Phetchaburi was so close I thought I would check it out.  As my trip to Mae Klong was just an overnighter I only brought one change of clothes.  Got up, checked out of the hotel, walked down the street.  Found a place that had eggs. No I don’t want fried rice.  Googled omelette and showed it to them.  A few minutes later, I had an omelette.

Ten minute walk to town, found a police officer asked for transport to Phetchaburi (you supposedy can go by train or bus.  He pointed me down the street and said green.  I saw a red bus stopped in front of a stand, pulled out my phone, pointed to Phetchaburi on a map.  Six guys looked at it (it was written in Latin letters not Tha) one guy said “Phetchaburi” and pointed to his motorbike. I inquired about the price, 60 baht.  Five kilometers later he dropped me off on the side of a six lane highway and pointed to a van.

I walked over. “Phetchaburi?”  The man nodded and showed me six fingers. I handed him 60 baht and now I am off on a two hour ride in air conditioned van sitting next to a pretty girl.

That was ridiculously easy.  We arrived in Phetchaburi in short order, I thought the trip was going to take an hour and a half.  I was deposited in front of a mall, went in, enjoyed a mall big hot pretzel, something I haven’t had for years and a large iced coffee.  I wanted to see ??? a famous cave with with a temple inside.  I found a motorbike stand and showed the name of the temple to several people. I finally found one that could read the anglicized version of the name, written in Latin letters.

He agreed to take me there for 60 baht close enough to $2 that it makes no difference.  Yeah, it was a cave,  not impressive and it had Buddhas inside.  I was expecting an actual building inside for some reason, I obviously got it confused with another cave I had seen on the internet. Whatever, we saw an unimpressive former King’s house, hard to call it a castle, the homes in my town in Texas are far more impressive architecturally and far better appointed.  The grounds were interesting, expansive and lush, but the monkeys were the most interesting thing.   They were everywhere and very aggressive. The people who worked at the park carried sticks and slingshots to fend them off.  One more stop, ??? another Wat.  That’s it. I don’t need to see more.  I was dropped back off at the mall.

How to I get to Kaeng Krachen Park? That would require a coffee and some internet research.  An inquiry on the internet stated that Rabieng Rimnum Guesthouse.  I showed the name to a motorbike guy and he quoted 80 baht.  I laughed and showed him 40 and started to walk away.  He accepted and a few minutes later dropped me off.  Nothing like that ever happened in Lao.

The place was situated next to a bridge and ran along a river.  This rustic room had shutters that were open, revealing a fair sized river and allowing a good breeze.  Out of the sun and cooled by the breeze and an iced coffee, ahhh.   I asked the woman who ran the place about tours to the park. She informed me that the head ranger was illegally foresting and that she no longer goes there.

Hmmm.  I ordered lunch and sat by a windowed and watched enormous water monitors on the banks and in the river.  A man drinking beer after beer introduced himself.  He was taking advantage of the four day Buddhist Saint’s Day with a vigorous effort to remain completely wasted.  He asked if he could join me and then prattled on about how missed South Africa and then proceeded to tell me that it was dangerous and that he had no friends there.  More rambling, I ignored him, he cared not.

It started to rain.  He was going to go home but didn’t know where he lived.  Really?  You live in this city and you don’t know where you live?  The operator called him a taxi and then two well worn folks came in, he greeted them warmly and then introduced me “This is my good buddy… what is your name?”  There was one grizzled Norwegian fellow  They sat around and had drunken conversations for hours, repeating what they had said but the audience had already forgotten that which was said five minutes earlier.  The all had beautiful girlfriends in Cha Am, they just couldn’t remember their names. I did get some suggestions for interesting places to go.  Finally I went to my room.  The mattresses were a couple inches thick of foam.  Unidentifiable fluids drained down the wall near the bed starting a few feet above the bed.  Nasty really.   The sink for the shared bathroom rested on and drained into a five gallon.  Quite the dump.  I was tired and slept well.

In the morning I headed out to the pickup spot for the minivans to get to the park.  After being told by numerous people that there was no van I located the spot as I happened to be asking the driver of the van.  A couple of guys from England showed up and we paid our 120 baht.  An hour or so later we were delivered to the information center for the park where admission could be bought for 200 baht.  However, the campgrounds were 36km into the large park, walking was not an option and transportation required a four wheel drive vehicle and there were none for hire.   This couldn’t possibly be true.  More internet research, yup you have to hitch hike.  Too bad there is no vehicular traffic, precluding that option.  I returned to the van that took us to the park and I am writing this as we ride back to Phetchaburi.

As soon as I got to Phetchaburi I decided to check out Ban Laem.  No buses? No vans?  Ok, I’ll take a motorbike.  Haggled, 100 baht and we were off.  He wanted to drop me off at the edge of town, I had him take me to the ocean. It was not the unspoiled beauty DSC_2566promised by the drunken Norwegian last night.   There were no hotels. None.  Not on Agoda, not a Hotels.com, inquiries in the street pantomimed yet obviously understood, nope the nearest was back in Phetchaburi.  I walked around for just a few minutes and inquired about transport to Bangkok.  This time I could talk. “Bangkok?” and the response was a point.  A few turns later and the next time I was told I was at the depot.  I saw a guy sitting at a table and invited myself to sit with him.  He was quite pleased and immediately took out his phone, pointed it at me and said “Facebook?” I gave him the thumbs up and he snapped away.  A couple of other people joined us.  Their expressions said it all, “Look a white guy.”  I had my picture taken three more times order one of whatever the lady was already cooking.  She got on the phone and soon a guy came over to tell me that the meal was free.

I gave one of them my phone number and told them through the guy who spoke english that I would send them the pictures I had taken.  I bought a ticket for the van, took a seat.  The driver showed up and directed me to sit shotgun. Nice people. It started raining and I added this boring shit to today’s blog entry.  See?  I told you I would be more current with my new notebook.

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Phetchaburi

1551573_817578458255118_696107817916890507_nIf you dance barefoot on the broken glass of ill defined plans, you’ve got to expect the occasional cut.

I am on day three of my day trip to Mae Klong. I packed a change of clothes, my camera and my computer. Whimsically I took a room, stayed overnight and instead of heading back went to Phetchaburi, saw what there was to see and seeking transportation went to a guest house that offered transportation to Kaeng Krachan National Park. Arrived to find they no longer do but knew where I cold catch a ride.

So I sat riverside and considered my options, return to Bangkok, get my bags and come back and go to the park? Nahh, clothes are easy to find.

As I watched the huge monitors swim up and down the river and crawl on the banks out these windows three guys on the end of a four day drunk, one from England, one from Wales and one from South Africa all have beautiful girl friends in Cha Am, a beach town. None of them could remember their girl friend’s names. I was introduced as “my good friend… What’s your name?”

So, trekking, beach, return to Bangkok? Who the hell knows?. More coffee!!!

Life on the road.

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zTF-jVjC9_So.kua9HuY7tUZ0

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Mae Klong

I decided I wanted to see the famous market of Mae Klong.  There is a train track right through the center of the market and the train comes four times a day.  This is what I followed to get there.

Once I was in Maha Chai I took a ferry to the other side of the river and ran into a Korean guy who was there to see the market.  Rather than wait for the train, we walked back, returned on the ferry and caught a one hour air conditioned ride for 30 baht ($1) in a spacious van.

He was in a hurry to see things and get back to Bangkok as he had a flight in the morning.  I wandered down the street and bought another memory card as I lost the one I bought yesterday. Good chance it is back with most of my luggage at the hotel in Bangkok.

I wandered through the market, filming with my new glasses and bought some wonderful fried chicken with a bit of sweet and hot sour sauce.  I wandered around some more and was just about to buy half a kilo of grapes when I realized I didn’t have my wallet.  I searched every pocket on my person and in my camera bag.  No wallet.  I returned to the place I bought the memory card.  They said they didn’t know and I believed them.  Stuck in a small town with no cash and no credit card.  I could probably book a room online as I have my credit card information, then I would have to have somebody send me money via Western Union.

As I was seeking out a hotel I passed by the woman from whom I had bought the chicken and she waved me down and showed me my wallet, sealed in a plastic bag.  Everything was in it.  I gave her 1,000 baht and thanked her profusely.  She was very pleased with her windfall and gave me another piece of chicken and then went off to buy me a bottle of water.  Women from the booths all around and I laughed as I went through the pantomime of heart palpitations.  This went on for several minutes and then the women with the grapes came up and told “MONEY NOW” apparently she had been advised that I had recovered my wallet.  I walked back with her, she put her arm in mine and as she approached her cart called me “darling” to the amusement of the women around her.  I got the grDSC_2504apes and started to eat them and she took the bag back and poured her bottled water in the bag and washed the grapes and rinsed them.

Finally the last train came but it was a non event.  All of the stalls had closed for the days and the train went down an empty track.  I shall see what it looks like tomorrow.   I located a hotel on Agoda, walked to it’s reported location and there was nothing there.  It was within half a kilometer but nobody knew where it was and there was no phone number.

I had a lot of funny interactions with people, but of course, never while wearing my glasses.

Whatever, another boring post.

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Bangkok, Yet Again

Saturday

Sorry, I have been slipping again. I took the overnight train from Vientiane, Laos to Bangkok and arrived yesterday morning. Although I had paid the premium for a lower berth when I traded my ticket from the agency for the boarding ticket from the train company I was issued an upper bunk.  What was indicated on my original purchase I will never know as it was retained by the train company. The sleeper car was of a style that I had never seen before.  The bunks lined both sides of the train.

I was quickly offered a tuk tuk ride to Patpong for 300 baht.  I laughed and offered 100, the driver accepted 150, that’s about five bucks.  This is a small part of town, with convenient shopping, plenty of food and access to overhead and underground trains.  It is also possible to be about as debauched here as any place in Thailand excepting Kho Phanang. At a coffee shop I used the WIFI and quickly located a prospective hotel which was but a few hundred meters away.  Another hotel in which it was over 50% cheaper to book through Agoda.com.  Yet another time I booked on my phone while standing at the reception desk.  I deposited my bags, showered, changed and walked around went to a snake farm which had very few live asiatic serpents, most of them were ill preserved in large plastic cylinders and look nothing like they do in life.  My first trip to Bangkok I went to a snake farm and saw people picking up cobra after cobra with their bare hands, kissing them on the head and putting scores of them in small cages, hopefully just holding pens, that were easily opened by tourists as they were simply secured with a hook and eye.  Times change, maybe that farm still exists, I don’t know.

Sunday

So many things I have failed to see in Bangkok, despite the number of times I have been here.   I thought I would check out the Human Body Museum and headed out on foot.  While ambling down a street I came across a shop display of vintage cameras and went inside to look.  I would really like and 18-200 or 18-300 lens so I can dispose of my 18-70 and 70-200 lenses.  I just have too much stuff.  That’s about $700 in lenses that would go on eBay (yeah right, I am going to ship them to the states, have somebody list them, sell them and ship them) and another $500 to $1,200 for a lens for my SLR.  If I had it to do all over I wouldn’t have the thing with me, my little compact one that I broke in Vietnam. The store opened into a mall.  I fell upon clothing and bought five shirts, same design just different colors.  I am not much of a shopper.  Then I bought four pair of shorts that befit city life, light patterned cotton shorts.  I had some seriously heavy denim shorts that make for good jungle attire but really make one look out of place in the city.

Next up, get a SIM for my phone, for some reason the SIM I bought just a few weeks ago wouldn’t work on the network.  The fourth floor of the mall was pretty much dedicated to phones and accessories.  I’ll keep it short, some random guy brought me to a place that sold SIMS then went off and bought me a credit for my prepay phone.

My $285 Koss ear buds that I had for ten years finally gave up the ghost.  The connector was very corroded and finally the earpiece snapped off. I picked up a pair of Dr. Dre ear buds.  I had read about them and was glad that I didn’t just buy some random buds of the quality that comes with phones.

PICT0013My Oakley glasses got crushed in their case while I was wearing the case on my belt in Laos.  I happened upon a pair of sunglasses, ostensibly polarized, that have video camera installed for about $50.

At left is a picture of me wearing the sunglasses, pressing the button that took the picture.

I continued on and eventually found the museum, which was closed on account of Buddhist All Saints day.

In the evening I roamed the streets nearby. This is the red light district.  Men everywhere would thrust well worn, crinkled, plastic laminated pictures in my face and ask if I wanted a “good girl”.  I don’t think “good girls” are rented by the hour.  Walking down the street I got tired of walking around people who blocked the sidewalk and tried to direct me into their sleazy establishments and just continued walking, staring them in the eye with a “Really, are you going to fuck with me?” look. Guy after guy would approach me trying to direct me to various bars.  I would ignore them and they would run ahead of me, trying to anticipate where I was going in order pretend that they were steering business to these establishments.  I would duck into some place behind them just to screw with them.  I have been to San Francisco, girls shooting ping pong balls out of their vaginas is pretty mild, comparatively.  I guess I have seen too much stuff in my life, amazing me is pretty difficult.

Shirts   1,100 baht
Pants and swim suit 1,250 baht
SIM 100 baht
1 Month 3G or 1GB 250 baht
Recording sunglasses 1,500 baht

 

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Luang Prabang

I rented a motorbike for a couple of days.  The price is ridiculous, 180,000 kip about $23 at a fair exchange rate, which is not readily obtainable here. All over Southeast Asia motorbikes rent for $2 to $5 a day.

I set out to the biggest attraction near this little town, Kuang Si waterfalls.  There are several alternate spellings, but I have elected to use the variant on the sign over the entrance to the park.  Google maps indicates that the falls are in the middle of this flat town nestled at the confluence of the Nam Kahn and Mekong rivers in Central Laos.  This is geographically impossible as the town terrain is flat.  Misinformation seems to rule here, see my previous post on lost.
The motorbike was delivered with little gas to no great surprise.  I headed off and quickly found a gas station.  None of the pumps were operating and some women sat around with 1.5 liter plastic bottles that originally held drinking water.  This is a common means of reselling gasoline in rural areas.  That is sufficient fuel to drive these 125 cc motorbikes fifty kilometers, but in my experience is not common within cities.  I opted for the station across the street but found the situation similar.  Five Vietnamese sat around a steel barrel.  One man held a 20 mm plastic tube with his thumb over the end and periodically filled a brass pitcher which was then emptied though a galvanized funnel into a plastic bottle.  I found the participation of five people to accomplish this task hilarious and asked if I could take a photograph.  The people were amused at my amusement.

I set off without consulting a map and went a long ways from town.  The paved road gave way to a newly excavated swath of earth recently carved out of the side of a mountain.  Heavy construction equipment of all types roared down the roads, belching diesel exhaust and raising dust.  I was obviously heading in the wrong direction, to no great surprise and when my gas gauge indicated I had consumed half my fuel turned around. I was unlikely to find fuel in this unpopulated stretch of newly formed road.

I saw a sign that indicated that there was a bat cave and looked for a trail.   With none in evidence I called out at the the first bamboo hut that I encountered.  Shortly thereafter a man emerged, shirtless and fastening his belt.  I had obviously interrupted his late morning nap but he was pleasant about it.  I inquired about the location of the cave by showing him a picture of the sign and he pointed off into the jungle.  No path was evident.  Reading my confused look, he donned some flip flops and motioned me to follow.

We walked down an incline, forded a fast moving river, walked along the bank and pushed our way through dense foilage, unable to see the ground in an area teeming with large cobras.  Why am I doing this?  A short while later we hopped a small chain link fence and sat on the edge of a rock lined hole.  He indicated that I should enter.  I had no desire to negotiate small, filthy openings without a flashlight, the end result would be to just be dirty in the dark.

We returned to his house and his wife joined us, cradling a suckling infant, her shirt pushed up to bare her breasts, but the words “You Suck!” were still visible.  I am sure she had no idea what the words meant.  They offered me some drinking water and I inquired as to the location of the waterfall.   How does one do that, one might ask?  I pantomimed tipping my glass of water and the water flowing over the edge of the table, shrugged my shoulders and raised my hands questioningly.  This elicited a laugh and a shake of the head.  Obviously I was nowhere close.  After a short while as I was departing someone arrived on a motorbike.  The man with whom I was “conversing” spoke to the new arrival in Laotian and the man turned to me and told me that the waterfall was in the opposite direction from town.  Of course it was.  I made no effort to actually ascertain that I was headed in the right direction not that with my navigational skills the net result would have been different.

I returned to my hotel, showered, took a brief nap and headed off to the night market.

The following day I decided that two failed attempts we enough and vowed to actually go to the falls.  I rented the bike again, this time it also had no gasoline, despite the fact that I had returned it with half a tank.   Obviously someone at the company drains the tanks.   I barely made it to a gas station and easily find the falls.   Preceding the actual park was a stretch of road with vendors in permanent structures selling tourist wares.  A sign indicated that motorbikes could be rented for 2,000 kip about $0.25.  Wow!  Of course to get here one would have to take a taxi and the bikes had to be returned to the point of rental and there was nothing to see in the area.

One gets to the falls by walking through a bear rescue center.  Malaysian sun bears and other asiatic bears listlessly laid in the heat of the day and gazed back at the tourists with bored expressions.   These bears were rescued from bile harvesting operations throughout Asia.

The approach to the falls along a well maintained trail was along shallow pools of clear blue/green water that cascaded down the gentle slope.  The actual falls are broad and tall but, at least at this time of the year, had but a small water flow.  Beside the base of the falls was a trail that lead to the top, over picturesque bridges. At the top, the stream can be negotiated by natural stepping stones of limestone that have not yet been dissolved, I don’t think erosion is an appropriate description of the process as loss is probably not due to abrasion in this slow moving, clear water with little suspended matter.

I walked down the alternate path on the far side and stopped and bought a fresh fruit smoothie for 5,000 kip, I needed a little sugar after the climb.  A half liter of water was 10,000 kip, go figure.

There was supposedly a Hmong village nearby, but it wasn’t on a map and none of the various taxi, tuk tuk or van drivers knew where the place was.  The conversations were brief.  I would inquire “Hmong Village?” and there would be a brief discussion within the vehicle.  They knew what I was saying and what it meant, but didn’t know where the village was.  No great loss, I have seen many.

In the course of another quiet evening I received an email from a German woman who had just flown into town.  She was looking for a travel buddy to go explore rural Laos. Awesome.

We met up yesterday, walked around, found a company that sold transportation, got some tips on destinations and decided to head out Wednesday morning.  Although the representative tried to tell us that the only way between some of the destinations was by private car, some quick research on the web resulted in some confidence that there is transportation, if only by local bus.  A local bus probably means an overcrowded, ill maintained vehicle with hard plastic seats, no air conditioning and farm animals on the bus.  Interesting way to to travel for three or four hours, a bit much for eight hour trips. Our tentative destinations are Luang Namtha, Pak Mong, Nong Khiaw, Luang Namtha, Muang Khan, Phansavanh,Vientiane. Then to Myanmar through Thailand.

Andrea is a cool woman, she found a shop that could actually get 3G working on a phone and walked me there and I bought another SIM and had my 3G working before I left the shop.  Andrea certainly “did” Indonesia far better than I, having gone to Borneo and seen Orangatans and Komodo to see the worlds largest monitor lizards.  She is German, but speaks excellent English, is soft spoken, adventurous and easy going.  This should be fun.

I will try to keep you posted.

More Pictures

Motorbiking without a destination

Kuang Si

 

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Lost

I hired a car to take me north for an hour where I could trek to a waterfall.  I set off to the market to get some grub.  It is but a ten minute walk and I had an hour to kill.   By the time I had returned to my hotel the van had come and gone.

How did that happen?  I walked the streets couldn’t find the side street, walked back to the the market and set off in each of four directions several times.  By this time everything was a familiar site and I still wasn’t oriented.  Finally I went to an internet cafe, looked up my hotel and printed off a map with my hotel marked by a flag.   After a long time a printout in light grey appeared on the ink jet printer,  only three of the streets had names printed on them (thanks, google maps).
lost
I set out again and couldn’t find the only three streets on the map.  Most of the streets don’t have street signs.  Sweating in the sun, I finally hired a tuk tuk and gave the driver the map.  He looked at it as though it was an MRI printout.  He had no idea.  He told me it would be 30,000 kip.   I laughed and told him 10,000.  You can figure things are at least three,  probably four time the fair value.  He accepted and drove around.  He stopped and consulted with other tuk tuk drivers.  Five guys looked at the map.  They couldn’t even find our current location on the map.  WTF?  After another forty minutes I was delivered to Luang Prabang Botique Hotel.  Same name, same key fobs for the room, same WIFI password, different hotel.  They had no idea where my hotel was.

Presently the tuk tuk driver greeted a european fellow walking down the road.  I hailed him and he told me he knew where the hotel was, just a five minute walk.  five minutes later we in front of an enormous hotel with a completely different name.  He took me to a small office, probably and accountant or lawyer.  The bookshelves were filled with three inch binders with client names written on the spine many of the binders contained but a sheet or two.  The proprietor spent half an hour printing off a map on a tired Brother ink jet printer, produced the map, couldn’t locate his office on the map, turned it over and drew a map.  Ten minutes later I had a hand drawn map that indicated I had to walk three blocks, turn left and walk a block.

I have entered the Twilight Zone.  Meanwhile I encountered dozens of people who had travelled with me for two days on a slow boat.  None of them seemed to have any problem making their way around, from 19 year old girls from England to a couple of Australian women in their late sixties.  I am seriously spatially challenged.

In my wanderings I decided that having a SIM in my phone would allow me to use google maps, so I bought a SIM and some prepaid time.  An hour later after consulting with half a dozen other people the guy at the shop gave up.  He had no idea what code to enter to enable 3G.

Restaurant, hotel, tour operators (trek, ride elephant, waterfalls, become a mahout (elephant trainer), white water rafting, Mhong (ethnic Chinese) village tours)  and repeat.  Only a programmer would nest parentheses.  There is much to do in this town.  Strange that one can eat to the point of near exploding for 10,000 kip, less than $1.50 and a bicycle is $15 a day.   Motorbikes in Southeast Asia usually rent for $2 to $5 a day and bicycles less.

Ok, time for breakfast, rent a motorcycle book a tour for tomorrow, go motorbiking and get hopelessly lost today.  Just setting goals I can easily accomplish.

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Welcome to Laos

had booked a trip to Luangprabong, Laos via slow boat after my tour of Chiang Ria.  The van picked me up at 6:30 and transported me and two others to the border.  I bought $35 in US money for my visa on arrival.  The fee may be paid in Thai Baht or US dollars, Laotian currency is not accepted.  I was quickly processed and we boarded a bus that took us to a transfer station. Next we were shuttled in the back of pickup trucks to the river.

On the shore were near a dozen 30 meter long, steel hulled boats with a three meter beam.  Only one was departing that day and  we took our seats.  I sat next to a pleasant young man from Vancouver who was traveling the world, supporting himself as a SCUBA dive instructor.  Across the aisle was a young couple from Barcelona.  He was carrying a Nikon D-7100 camera with a ridiculously large 70-200mm x 77 mm telephoto lens.  Sure, the aperture could be set to 2.8 at any point in the range, but that is a frigging bowling ball.   We talked about photography.  The Canadian and I talked about travels and diving.

The ride was long and boring.  The shallow, fast moving muddy water was edged by green unpopulated hills.   There was a complete absence of boat traffic and fishermen.  Interesting, these waters harbor 300 kg catfish and enormous rays.  In the Delta fish farming is a way of life.  There was no activity here.

After seven hours on the river,I found myself on some outpost, halfway to our destination. The representatives of the lodges milled about with laminated flyers.  The lodgings had little to differentiate them, private room, private bath, river view, fan only, 200 baht, about $7.

I chose one at random and was the only person to make that choice.  Others packed into the back of enormous trucks.  We were all shuttled up the hill.  I put down my backpack, my daypack, filled with disk drives, cameras and lenses, my Mac Air and a giant linux notebook, checked in and put the bags in my room.

Famished I went out and had three meals.  That may sound gluttonous, but the vast majority of the meals are rice and I skipped the rice, pure carbs and calories with little nutrition.  I checked my emails and retired for the evening.

I woke up, grabbed my mac air and went down to the restaurant to check on my messages.  I had a lot of coffee while waiting for my omelette which took just about forever.  Come on, the boat leaves in an hour.  Finally I went back to my room, showered again, changed my clothes and packed.  WTF?  Where is my linux development computer?  I was gone yesterday for ninety minutes.  I left my room, it was locked, returned and it was locked.  Gone.  Gone, gone, gone.   The woman at the front desk told me I only had one computer.  I distinctly remember putting with my other bags when I checked in and then carrying everything to my room.

The thing was a big heavy beast that I hadn’t been using and I have two full backups with me, but it would have been nice to grab that terabyte disk drive.  The rest of the computer was pretty much shot due to exposure to high humidity.

Fortunately, thousands of dollars worth of cameras and all of my backups were undisturbed, on the bottom of a worn out and torn daypack that I intentionally use for its worn out appearance. I had left to dinner with my Mac Air.

This is nowhere near a tragedy, but it is annoying.  I shall certainly have to get a good internet connection and store my critical software files on a server somewhere in the states.  I can’t expect that years on the road won’t result in the loss of these drives one way or another, theft, flooding, an overturned boat.  Maybe I should be grateful that I am not lugging that weight around.  I have had some interest in my aerospace software lately, we shall see.  Yeah, I shall do what I can to get this stuff on a couple of remote servers and then ship the drives to the US for safe keeping.  Although they are encrypted, I have a guest operating system on my Mac Air that can read the disks.

I walked down the hill and passed the boat dock by a long distance, some woman on a motorbike figured I was dazed and confused and offered me a ride.  I threw my leg over her seat, tore the crotch out of my pants, put my hands on her hips and she rode me down to the dock where the boat was departing in three minutes.

I now ride in a similar boat to yesterday on seats from a car of some sort, bolted to skids but not to the floor of the boat.    The boat yesterday was packed, we could take another thirty today.  I have no idea what is in that little outpost that would attract somebody. The only thing for sale to eat on this eight hour journey is Japanese Seaweed flavored potato chips.

Damn there are some pretty girls on this boat.   Smiling, cheerful, bright eyed, thin with breasts that haven’t yet been pulled down by gravity.  Spaniards, English, Canadian, and here I am looking like a flasher.

To be continued, let’s see what I can pull off of these backup drives without having my linux operating system in place.

When I got to the town of Luangprabang there was no haggling over tuk tuk rides, the fare was posted at 20,000 kip.  I bought a ticket and walked over to the largest tuk tuk I have ever seen, a 125 cc bike with an enclose back with benches that seated six.  A man took my bag, handed it to a guy who put it on the top and then he took my ticket.  I was the last to board.  One other of the 16 guys in green shirts came over to collect tickets.  Every passenger aboard, all Laotian handed over a ticket. I explained that I had already given my ticket when they put my bag on top.  They went in and asked the guy who sold tickets, to 80 people in five minutes if he recognized me.  He had never even looked up when I bought the ticket.  He said he had never seen me before and I would have to buy another ticket.

It’s only about $3 but after the computer theft it was not a heartwarming greeting to Laos.  I found a cafe, pulled out my phone, did a quick search on Agoda, found a hotel and checked in.  A short while later, the keys for guests who had left the hotel were sitting on the front desk, which was unattended.  Great, three rooms with luggage and nobody in the room.  I don’t care what they say, I am taking my key with me.

The WIFI didn’t work in the room so I checked my mail in the lobby.  The hotel clerk told me he could get me a woman for only $40 an hour.  Really?  WTF?  Ten minutes later a young Japanese woman came in and we went to the night market.  I bought dinner for two with two bottles of water for 30,000 kip, less than $5.  When we came back she embarrassingly said she had lost her room key, could she stay with me.  Sure, I am a nice guy.