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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.

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Gerrit Schwartz

I have never met Gerrit Schwartz, but he is indeed a pain in the ass.  He is “renting” my house. Unfortunately he has never remitted any payment.  He has occupied my house for six months now and is using my boat.  I am tired of his shit and have told him to vacate my premises immediately.

Every time I ask for money I get strange responses.

I know from other people around here who consider themselves your friends that you must be an incredible smarr person, but somerimes it seems to me that you want to be misereable and that you have a deep distrust against everybody. Well thats not a jim only problem. US americans display this kind of paranoia of beeing cheated upon in a very disturbing way. In general the assumption is that everybody is just trying to get their money in fraudulant ways.
I dont get that but i didnt grew up in the states, so what do i know.
At the moment i even try to get 65.000$ via crowdfunding for 10% interest for buying the tronconegro from jack kennedy. Pretty much the main reason for that is, that i probably would earn about 150.000 dollars in two years and then would offer you that money for the house.
My plan is to stay here around 5 years in panama and if possible eben just here in this house on solarte. I like it a lot beeing away from people :-).
I hope you understand that i dont want to take advantage of you and that i really care for this place out of simple respect and greatfullness to what you letting me do here. But i need some more liberties to live here and enjoying the life out here as best as possible.

Really? More liberties?  The guy hardly ever returns an email and when he does it is a pipe dream.  The guy can’t glue PVC joints, can’t install a light switch or a door knob and now he thinks the world is going to lend him $65,000 to buy a boat?

What kind of drugs are you doing Gerrit?

I am not anti american at all. My homecountry was liberated by largly american soldiers. I honor that very much and i visited several ww2 memorials speficly for expressing my gratitude. This paranoia stuff is somerhing i obverve everytime when getting in contact with us americans. The most visual expression of that is the general distrust in the federal government resulting in the tea party movement. From an outsiders perspective thats just plain paranoid behaviour and i follow the us news very closely.

You could call someone a racist, when he or she states that african americans are far morehomophobic than caucasian americans. Well a few independent social studies actuelly say exactly that this is the case. Why that is i dont know, but its a fact in society. I dont get it if someone from an opressed minority than picks on another minority.
I would argue that germany isnt the home of the best humor worldwide. We build good cars and machines but compared to british or american culture we are a humorless bunch.
Thats a not very flattering thing but still the truth allthough i would like it to be different.

All I did was ask him to pay the rent.

 

Thailand

Chiangrai Tour

 

 

Black house – บ้านดำ

hill tribe village – หมู่บ้านกระเหรี่ยง

Monkey cave – ถ้ำลิง

Mae sai – แม่สาย

Golden triangle – สามเหลี่ยมทองคำ

Chiang Sean – เชียงแสน

 

For three days I motorbiked around Chiang Ria. Seldom did I find my intended destinations but I did happen upon many an interesting spot. On the third day, returning to my hotel using a paper map as google maps on my phone always provided a route that was at least twice as far, sending me miles in the wrong direction to make a U-turn onto a road even farther away I stumbled upon a tour operator and walked inside.

All of my destinations and more in the comfort of an air conditioned vehicle for 1,000 baht, about $30. That sounded like a plan. I paid my fare and got an enormous hand written receipt detailing every stop. I guess there is no point in saying, “Chiang Ria and Golden Triangle Tour” when there is nothing else to do.

Ricky showed up promptly at my hotel at the designated hour of 8:30 the following morning. Along on the tour was Marco an Italian from Rome and a middle aged Japanese fellow.

White Temple / Wat Ron Kuhn / วัดร่องขุ่น

Our first stop was Wat Rong Kuhn, a temple unlike any I have ever seen. A visionary, possibly inspired by the legal mushrooms has created the strangest house of worship, it even features Superman.

Next up, Baan Si Dum, it’s hard to beat this for pictures and text, so I won’t bother.

My Picture

I was going to give the Villages of the Hill People a miss.  It was reported to be very exploitive and touristy, it was neither.

National Geographic Picture

I took a picture of this woman and posted it on Facebook.  A short while later somebody I know in Panama said that a National Geographic documentary had been done on these people and the woman was featured.  I expressed my doubts and then the woman posted this. Absolutely the same woman.

The collars weigh over four kilograms.  They don’t stretch the neck, they collapse the shoulders and rib cages.  Apparently they feel this is an attractive look.

I walked around took pictures of the cute kids and a homemade toy that looked like something out of the Flintstones.

Being new to WordPress, I am having a difficult time formatting this page.  Allow me to slap in some verbiage and I will pretty it up later (yeah, right).

Monkey Cave – Chiang Ria – Thailand

Monkey Cave

No Southeast Asia tour is complete without visiting some obnoxious macaques.  We saw ours at the monkey cave. <table><tr><td align=”center”>

There was a long stairway, a few more than two hundred steps and a little cave with a Buddha complete with a little klitzy LED apparatus that looked like something out of a 1960’s Sci-Fi movie.
We headed up to Mae Sai, the northern most edge of Thailand on the Myanmar border.  A long line of vehicles of every description were waiting to cross the border, laden with goods purchased in Thailand where the tariffs are significantly lower.  There was a lot of shit for sale for tourists as well as actual goods such as fishing gear and televisions.   We spent half an hour there, which was entirely too long.  If one crosses into Myanmar and wishes to proceed a guide must be hired for 1,000 baht a day and food and lodging must be provided.   When one flies into Myanmar one has much more freedom to travel.  Just crossing the bridge and returning in the same day results in one’s visa being reissued for a period of 15 days no matter how many days were left on the 30 day standard tourist visa.

Golden Triangle – Chiang Saen

We stopped for someplace for lunch.  By now it was 2:45, we were starving and the buffet had been raided.  There were empty chafing dishes and near empty dishes already stripped of any sort of meat.  Next up we headed to the border again, this time the intersection of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.  There was a large golden Buddha and near it some steps one could climb and throw a coin into a funnel that would slide down some tubes and deposit the money in the navel of a laughing Buddha.  Upon receiving the coin it laughed over loud speakers.  It was the tackiest thing I have seen on this trip.

The final stop was the Hall of Opium, a serious disappointment.  There were hand painted murals on the wall, plastic poppies and a collection of opium pipes.

Pictures

Wat Rong Kun

Baan Si Dun

Monkey Cave

Hill People

Driver and Tour Operator

The tour was arranged through Sopaphan travel https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sopaphan-Travel-Chiangrai/266911106697851

Our driver was Paween, which means bird, a very pleasant person who spoke English well.

phone number: 0897575377  Email: mickeytravels.cr90@gmail.com

From outside of Thailand call +66897575377

 

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/thai-buddhist-temple-wat-rong-khun_n_1447032.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Rong_Khun

http://travelhighlighter.com/the-black-house-baan-si-dum/

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/tattoos-piercings-scarification-photos/#/thailand-long-neck-woman_12064_600x450.jpg

Singapore

Singapore

WTF I will post about Indonesia soon, but it was not a great time. I decided to head back to Thailand as I had never seen the north and from there go see Myanmar and Laos.  While booking a flight I had a layover in Singapore.  I haven’t been to Singapore in 28 years so I decided to stay there for five days and booked two flights.

Arriving in Singapore I found a hotel on Agoda and took a taxi there.  By this time it was 11:00 at night.  I was issued room 420.  420 hotel room signs are not stolen here as they are in the US and Canada.  My $100 a night hotel was a surprise, despite being highly rated, the elevator walls were galvanized steel. I used something similar underneath a course grained wire floor for my rabbit hutches.

The floor was unfinished concrete and the walls reminded me of those of a self storage building.  Prices are insane. $45 for lunch, $2.50 for half a liter of water at a convenience store.  Gum is illegal to sell.  I exchanged $100 US for $100 Singapore with the agreement that I would repay the hotel in Singapore dollars and get my US money back.

Across the street from the hotel was a food mall.  Several dozen vendors offered Singapore fast food twenty four hours a day.  I ordered a beef noodle soup from an irritable man.  I simply pointed at what he had served the previous patron and held up one finger.  He scowled, perspiration dripping down his face through the clouds of steam emanating from the various broths.  I wouldn’t have been happy either.  A lady came up behind me and spoke to the man in chinese and then told me she had ordered for me, also telling me that it wasn’t me, a lot of these people are just plain unhappy.

Back to the room, I sent messages to people in Ukraine, Romania, Brazil, Australia, Panama, Israel, Russia and China.  I get lots of messages.

What the hell am I doing here?  I went online to change my reservation, but Chase bank did it’s usual and wanted me to use their Verified by Visa system which popped up a window and then closed without asking me for my password, which was never created for this card anyway and then my reservation change was declined due to a problem with payment.  I detest Chase Bank.

The hotel offered two poached eggs for $19.  I walked across the street, and had what was called an omelette.  Mix half an onion with two eggs, whip and make a thin overcooked pancake like thing and you can reproduce this culinary masterpiece.

I tried to change my flight online, but Tiger Air invoked the dreaded “Verified by Visa” service that never works.  A window “Verified by Visa” flashed, never asked for a password I never assigned, disappeared and notified me that my payment was declined by my bank.  I have never successfully used “Verified by Visa” with this card.

Fifteen minutes of wandering the streets and I found a money changer, changed $200 US to $248 Singapore, returned to the hotel, exchanged $100 Singapore for $100 US, called a cab and headed to the airport to change my reservation.

I explained to the driver that I had spent $200 in 14 hours in Singapore and just wanted to leave.  \When we got to the airport the meter read $15.  I unloaded my bags and said the driver “It’s a free ride today for a weary and worn out traveller, right?” and I gave him a smile.  He replied, “It’s free today for my friend.” and turned to get into the car.  What? What?  Wait. I gave him $20. He thanked me, smiled and bowed.

Off to the Tiger Air ticket counter.  I was told the additional fee was $180 to fly.  Great.  It’s a $60 ticket.  Oh and there is a $50 departure tax.  I could get a refund if I called the service desk, I needed to buy a SIM for my phone. I went to a money changer and told the woman I was buying the SIM to make one phone call, she told me to just give her a dollar and she would give me change and I should use the pay phone if it was a local call.  I attempted that but the phone said “Invalid Number, Card Required.” Back to the ticket counter.  She told me again that I needed a SIM, I could not make the call from a public phone.
Back to the money changer I bought a SIM an struggled through a low quality call and for $60 change fee and an additional $60 fare change upgraded changed my $60 ticket to fly today. I gave the girl my Indonesian SIM to give to the next person buying Rupiah.

I immediately checked in to make sure everything was ok, cleared security and roamed around.  The Changi airport is amazing, there are five gardens, free high speed WIFI that works everywhere, 100 MB/s computers with nothing but a browser available, no software is installable (actually they are running XP as declared by the browser user agent), rooms with computers loaded with internet games for free, free console gaming kiosks,  four different tours of different areas of the City for free, a swimming pool, a gym, plenty of comfortable chairs everywhere. For every four chairs there are three electrical outlets and two USB charging outlets.  There is a movie theatre, but I don’t know how many movie offerings it has.  Shopping for anything from way overpriced electronics. My Samsung phone was over twice what it costs in Vietnam or the Philippines.

Chase Bank

———————————–
Original Message Follows:
——————————-
This Verified by Visa thing just doesn’t work. Any site
that requires it pops up a window that doesn’t work and
then I get declined on the payment.

I have missed many booking opportunities for flights. By
the time I go to the airport to book, the flights have
gone up hundreds of dollars. I never asked for it on this
account. Please just turn it off. And please don’t ask
me to call you, there is no addiitional information I can
tell you.
======
Dear James Schmidt,

——————————————————
Chase’s expected insipid reply
—————————————

Thank you for contacting Chase about the Verified by Visa
inquiry.

I apologize for the inconvenience caused due to this. For
additional assistance, you can call us at 800-654-9214.

If you have any further questions, please reply using the
Secure Message Center.

Thank you,

Nidhi Agarwal
Customer Service Specialist
==========
2:55 Called 20 rings no answer
3:03 Called 20 rings no answer
3:27 No answer
3:33 No answer

Fuck you Chase.

———————————

I roamed around from terminal to terminal looking at the gardens, wandered through the shops, chatted online with girls from Thailand, Croatia and Russia.  I wrote a few blog entries and edited some pictures, mostly by culling.

A two and a half hour flight and I was in Bangkok.  After clearing customs one may buy SIMS from five different phone companies all 299 baht for 100 minutes of phone calls and unlimited internet for a week.  I picked up a 3GB SIM for DTAC and headed downstairs to the train station.

About 30 baht bought me fare to Makkasan where I grabbed a cab to Sukhumvit.  I gave the driver the address.  He had no clue. I showed him where it was on the map.  He had no clue. I showed him the route. The dude couldn’t read a map.  I just waved him on and pointed right and left when he should turn.  We arrived twelve minutes later.   I don’t know how people travel without smart phones.

Uncategorized

I went out to buy flip flops and came home with a computer.

I blew out a flip flop and needed a replacement pair.  The front desk at the hotel told me that the resort store had them, but although they had other beach apparel they offered no sandals.  The cashier informed me that I could find some at the market and directed me there.

I walked along the beach road for ten minutes or so and found a typical market.  This one catered to locals, there was not a tourist to be seen.  That may be a consequence having no desire to purchase their wares or the fact that all the vendors only spoke Indonesian.

I searched in likely stalls myself but saw none on display.  After having made the rounds twice I started to inquire.  I have been in many situations in my life employing non verbal communication so I gave it a shot.

My act was to point to someones sandals, push forward money and pantomime taking their sandals. Then I would point at their sandal and smile and give a thumbs up and at my hiking boots and frown and give a thumbs down.  Then I would point to stalls and uplift my hands in a gesture of which?Many got it, many did not, many were just amused.  I got every conceivable answer but the one I sought.  A big no, which might mean the don’t know or that nobody has them and I got pointed to stalls that didn’t.  Finally I tried the act with various vendors and one guy smiled and pulled out a rice bag filled with sandals and offered me a pair.  They were not of a desirable style and they were half the size of my feet.  I pantomimed bigger.  He got it and reached in the bag took out a pair, put it down and repeated that several times until he pulled a pair that would only be a a couple of sizes too small.

Finally he shook his head no, He had divined the balance of the contents of the bag.

All right, I walked back to the hotel and one of the taxi drivers that rotates through servicing customers indicated that he knew of a surf shop that might have big sizes.  We went all the way to Densapar, a pretty good drive. The traffic is merely very busy as opposed to the chaos of yesterday with the motor biking fiasco.

The largest they had was 42, but I bought them anyway.  They appeared high quality and were priced like something upper end.  Well I probably won’t be able to do any better.

As we had come this far I asked him where the nearest Apple store was. He took me to one then another and finally I found a Mac Air 13” Retina Screen and plunked down $1,500 for something that sells for $1,000 in the states.  I guess that would be import duty for an American product made in Asia.  I don’t know, but I am loving it.

With a 12 hour run time on battery, I should be able to blog on trains, buses and airplanes and the picture editing software sure beats what I was using on Linux.

So back to the hotel sitting in front of the pool, I plunked myself in front of a machine with an interface I had never used, googled up a couple of tutorials and was off to the races.  I took some disk drives that I had laying around and set up one as an encrypted Time Machine drive, which is there term for a special kind of backup.  I took another drive and set it up to store things. This box has 128 GB of flash drive and no hard drive.

I have 140 GB of pictures of my travels I have already posted.

Then I started a couple of backups of my software development in expectation that I would never need any of the code I had developed ever again, but that if I failed to do this that I would get an email within a month from somebody who wants an Aerospace Distribution Solution.

Having fun learning, take care.  A lot more posts will be coming, both of my current activity in Bali and running backwards through the reportable parts of the Philippines.