Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Heading south, I went down to Trang, a place that I had visited before when I cycled through it. Jogging the memory, I remembered the clock tower and night market, but not where I stayed. Still got a cheap room in a cavernous old building. They were a few different boats going to the islands, so I choose a random one, Ko Libong, wonder what is there. A van was to take me to the port, but the driver went to the wrong pier. "I drive limos in Bangkok!", he protested, "Never driven in Trang!". Still I made it to the right place, and after about an hour hanging around, a longtail arrived to ferry us across. I met up with Peter & Monica, who told me a recommended place to stay, so I headed off there (I had bought my ticket which included a motorbike ride) and they followed after some bargaining with the motodrivers. I decided to stay in the adjacent resort in a bungalow 30m from the beach. Later the other moved over. They are really only three resorts on this side of the island. Two of the them side by side and the pricier one is isolated further along the coast. I tried a spot of snorkeling but it wasn't a great success, only seeing a few fish.

The beach was nice, but not outstanding. I decided to have a small campfire on the beach, despite the rain earlier, managed to get it going with some soggy wood! But alas no marshmallows :(

Next it was off to Ko Mook, a nicer beach in a shallow bay of blue water. We had a look at a couple of place, then settle on the cheap Hat Farang Bungalows, which was a good deal. A bit busier to Ko Libong, with a handful of restaurants (mostly attached to guesthouses) to choose from. Good spot to lazily read a book or chat. One day we went snorkeling again and spotted a lot more fish and corals, then a cuttlefish appeared looking very weird and translucent. Being not very sure at the time what it was I kept my distance!

After that I headed over to Ko Lanta, which has a decent beach, certainly long, a good stroll from one end to the other. Still some trees at the beach side and not covered in hotels, yet. I had a wander around, pretty hot when the sun comes out to play, bit sunburnt. Had some barracuda for dinner one night, very tasty (or maybe just because I was very hungry!)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Around Nepal

After resting I head south to the small town of Palpa. After hopping off the bus, I was crammed into a jeep for the ten minute ride up to town. Palpa is a traditional old town, and quite a change from the tourist scene of Pokhara. Narrow windy streets trail around the town, so it was long before I was lost, but not to worry after another 5 minutes I magically appeared back at my guesthouse. The next day I did a day hike along to Bagnas and beyond, a simple trail across the mountain ridges through some small villages, and farmland. Decent views, but a little bit hazy still. I chatted with a shopkeeper and then took the bus back, soon it was dinner time. I headed to Nanglo West for some Newari food. Sitting in the courtyard I had flattened rice with buffalo cholea (ginger & chilli) with potato curry. A bit different from the dal bhat, but interesting flavours.

Next stop was down close to the Indian border to the pilgrimage site of Lumbini, where the Buddha was born. Nowadays lots of Asian visitors to the Temple Development sites. Basically land set aside to build Buddhist temples for various countries around the world. I visited quite a few on my bike - Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian etc. Almost ran over a small turtle on the road, he must of escaped from a temple pond. Also visit the exact birth place of the Buddha, while I was contemplating under a tree, I heard "Uncle, uncle! Photo?" from a group of Indian tennagers. So I took their camera and was going to take a group photo, but they wanted me to be in the photo. Probably because I'm so handsome!

I was a bit templed out after that, so the next day it was off, I was planning on continuing to Chitwan, but I couldn't be bothered with all the bus rides that day, so I sat on the bus roof for a bit over an hour (which at Nepali speeds means around 15 miles along) then stopped travelling at Bairawa. Here I stayed at Hotel Glasgow :)
The staff there didn't seem to know where the name came from though. Just have a look around a normal Nepali town, very different from Thamel, nobody trying to sell me stuff!

Anyway the next day I got to Chitwan and was surrounded by the usual hotel touts. I picked the first guy to spot me, and went off to his hotel, same as the Annapurna Circuit, they don't make the money on the rooms, but on selling you a guide for trekking. So I only paid 100rupess for the room, but need to pay for permit for the park and also a required guide, in fact I ended up with two. One guide and the kitchen cook! Still he carried my bag :) Ram was the official guide and talking good English. Esram was the other guide, with a bit less English. The first day we came very close to a rhino, scurrying back down the round we rounded the corner and seeing it closeby. We ducked behind some trees to a safe spot, where we could watch it. Rhinos don't seem to move much. Don't like to be disturbed! In fact the next day we saw another rhino in the middle of the road and after watching and taking pictures we wanted to continue down the path, except a rhino was in the way! So Ram beat his stick to try and scare the rhino away, hoping the rhino would think an elephant is on the way. The rhino didn't seem much bothered by the beating of sticks, but evetually ambled off leaving the way clear to continue the trek. Also spotted some deer from a distance, but they don't hang about. A few wild pigs, and erm.. wild chicken. Quite a lot of different birds, stork, hawk, parakeet, hoopoe and kingfishers, and some peacocks flying through the air (never seem them leave the ground before!)

On the third day we headed to the other side of the park, actually part of the trek was along a road. Hmmm, not quite what I had expected, still very little traffic. At one point both Ram and Esram stopped, a sound was heard to the right, sniffing they thought it was tiger scent. We creeped back, two sounds in the jungle, one a pig snorting and the other a tiger. Apparently. Esram spotted some stripes in the dense jugle, I tried to follow his line of sight, but could see nothing. Then a motorbike came chugging along and the sounds were no more. That was the closest I would get to seeing a tiger. Saw a few footprints in the mud, but no actual sighting except for a tiger in a cage. She was caged as a young tigress after found running about in a village, caught by an old woman into a cloth sack. Her mother had killed four people, and the other two cubs had starved, so the decision was taken to place her in domesticity.

The fourth day wasn't that interesting as we walked back to Sauraha, where the hotels were. Did see some crocodiles, sitting on the banks of the river though. Again hard to see unless they are moving. Oh yeah, also had some mozzies, leeches and tics. Urgh!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

After a 7 hour bus ride I got out of the Kathmandu valley and over to Pokhara. Here is a tourist town built on the lake. We took a trip up to the World Peace Pagoda, situated high on a hill on the opposite side of the lake, with nice views across. Then a row boat back into town. However, the real reason to be here was to get the bus to Besisahar, the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit. We ended up getting cramming into the back of a jeep to follow a bumpy road down part of the way. Managed to get seven people in the back seat, okay two Nepalis were hanging on either door outside!
Finally it was time to start walking, just one hour on we reached our first village, Ngadi. Here we found some simple accommodation, and some food. Later that night a band of villagers appeared to entertain us with their music and dancing, before soliciting donations to their funds. The next days we steadily ascend. After 5 days we reached Upper Pisang at a height of 3400m. The night however would bring snow, and fall steadily throughout the day. Undeterred we set out for Manang around 4 hours away. We trudged onwards, stopping for some tea after an hour or so into the journey. The problem with this is when you stop moving you realise how could you are! So we headed on cancelling the soup, just wanted to keep moving. Eventually we arrived at Manang and hunted down a place to stay, Mavis's. Here they had an indoor heater, a luxury! The next day it was a 1 hour climb upto a stupa nearby for an acclimatization climb. At this altitude the oxygen is thinner and people can be affected by altitude sickness. This isn't determined by genetics, so it is a bit of an unknown factor, fitness plays no role in it. Yet it is still a long climb to the top. I have a rest day in Manang, while others head off on a day long walk to the ice lake. The next day we ascend another 700m to Letdar (4200m). The sky is an amazing blue, the mountains coated in fresh white snow, stretching around forming a panorama. The Annapurnas is mountain scenery on a truly epic scale, with six peaks over 7200m, and in Annapurna I, one of only 10 peaks in the world over 8000m. However they are also some of the worlds most deadly to summit, with a fatality rate of 40%, so I was happy to stick to the trek.

The next day it was onto Thorung Phedi, and then after a cup of tea. We pushed onto High Camp, up a very steep track. Almost an hour of huffing, puffing and shuffling we arrived at the final stop before the pass at Thorung La. High camp has a heated glass restaurant to view back down into the valley below. But tomorrow comes the big day, the day which has taken a week of walking to get to, the Thorung pass lies ahead. After a cold, somewhat restless sleep. It was up at 5:00 for some brekky, and off at first light. First the icy narrow path had a steep snow-covered dropoff. Don't want to fall down there! Then it was slow and steady towards the pass. The wind steadily increased, the nearer we got. One false summit was disappointing and energy sapping, but plugging away we finally made it to the pass! At 5400m is a huge evelation (17716 feet), to put it in comparison - the summit of Mount Blanc is 4808m, Ben Nevis 1344m.

Also very cold with the wind howling! Thankfully there is a little tea hut up there to celebrate with a cup of black tea for 80 rupees. And a fantastic tasting snickers, went down very nicely. But back in the wind, the trek isn't even half done, for despite ascended around 1000m, we now have to descend 1600m down the other side. I zipped down as fast as possible to escape the biting winds. After a while, they eased but still a long long way down to go till the first village of Mukinath. Still everybody arrived safely and it was time for a well earned beer in the sun! The party continued through the night, thanks to the fact the Nepalis wanted to play pool for beer :)

Another long descent brought us to Kagbeni for the much anticipated trip to YakDonalds! Rather disappointing though as the burger was tiny :( Still a nice little traditional village. We took an accidental illegal trip into Upper Mustang, only when we returned did we realise that we weren't allowed out there without paying the 700$ for 10 day permit :o

Then a long flat walk to Kalopani, where I picked up a stomach bug and spent the night clutching my stomach, which was making crazy noises. Still, surprisingly after 12 hours I recovered to walk onto Tatopani, but then my leg got sore (shinsplints?)
And I hobbled my way the final distance. Some were continuing on to do the Annapurna Sanctuary trek, but for me the trek was over. One final two hour walk with Steve, then a 2 hour jeep ride, and a 5 hour roof-top ride on the bus and I was back in civilization! Well Pokhara anyway, which has steak restaurants! I order the fillet mignon and got two steaks! I like this restaurant. So now just a bit of R&R in Pokhara, and some pigging out :) Well I did drop two belt buckle-holes, so I deserve my Pringles!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Dropped down into the Kathmandu valley and through immigration, change some money and find a taxi to take me to a guesthouse. One guy to drive the taxi and one other to try and talk me into going to his favoured guesthouse. Anyway got a bed in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu. Full of restaurants, bars, trekking shops, souvenirs, tiger balm salesmen, rickshaws, taxis and tourists.

I had a look at Durbar square, the main square here full of temples. Here resides the Kumari, a young girl picked as a Goddess who makes rare public appearances. After becoming a woman she reverts to being a mere mortal and new Kumari must be found. The occasional cow wanders past among the pagodas and ad hoc markets. Nepal is 80% Hindu but also where the Buddha achieved enlightenment in Lumbini.

Another day I headed over to Patan which has a similar arrangement. This time however a festival was underway. A small group of men banged at their drums, others played their long horns, creating a sound like a train horn. Following behind in single file were most of the villages woman, hundreds if not thousands were dressed up in their Sunday best, some carrying offerings held in tiffins. Grouped in colour, the line stretched on through the backstreets. I ate my thukpa while watching the going ons.
They proceeded into a temple, but here some temple are only opened to Hindus, so I don't know what goes on inside and then they pop out the front door and disperse amongst the square. Elsewhere is Patan I stumbled across a busy market street, where people hawked their goods to the masses. I then bartered with the taxi driver to go back to the guesthouse, in theory you can use the meter but with the traffic jams and them driving round in circle I found settling on a price beforehand a safer bet!

Next I went to the hard to pronounce town of Pashupatinath. Here is a holy Hindu town where people are cremated on the riverside ghats. Each caste has their own space for cremation. A cremation was taking place when I arrived, didn't really want to intrude, despite some latched-on guide saying "Photos OK!". I shook him off and headed across the river. Here the members of the Royal family were cremated after the massacre.

Continuing on up the hill I passed through a small village, here you can see how things are very basic. However little kids are smartly turned out in their uniforms with oversized ID cards dangling round there necks. After a while I arrive at Bodnath to see the huge stupa here. Walking in you can see everybody walking round it clockwise. You can climb up the steps onto the base, as the prayer flags flutter in the wind and the gild reflects the sunlight. However the mould also slowly grows over the whitewash walls, changing them white to green.

The next stop is to the quieter town of Pokhara with it's large lake. I met up with Barry and we shall soon tackle the Annapurna's. But first we headed up to the World Peace Pagoda with a good view back across the lake and nice views of the town. Unfortunately cloudy and so views of the Himalayas in the background are nonexistent except for tantalizing glimpses in the early morning. Tomorrow we head for Besishar for the start of the trek and then it will be up, up and up for the long walk round the circuit and then the sanctuary trek to the centre and back. See ya in a month!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

End of the ride

After Uttaradit I continued south to the little town of Pichai, where I searched around for somewhere to sleep. Found one grotty place about 7km outside town, with a foaming guard dog on a chain, decided to head in to town proper, where I found pretty much the only hotel, which was charging 500 baht for a room situated beside a road where trucks rumble past. Had a look around town, main centre seems to be some small supermarket type shops. Find a restaurant and order the old standby or chicken fried rice. I can almost read some Thai menus now, although painfully slowly! I decided to have a beer to help me sleep so popped along to the karoke bar next door, where some drunk Thai guys were wailing into a microphone. Then they all clambered onto a flat-bed truck/tractor and went singing into the night. Time to retire and get an early start for the ride to Phitsanulok tomorrow.
I set off at dawn and managed to pick out the correct minor roads to meet up with a highway. Sometime the minor roads are better as they are quiet traffic wise, but the downside is they aren't maintained to the same standards. So I navigated along a potholed road, rolling through little villages, getting a few wide-eyed looks, farang!

With 25km to go I stopped off for some breakfast and some rehydration. Feeling tired but push on, turns into a slog although the road is flat. I take a wrong turn as I reach Phitsanulok adding more distance, although I'm trundling along in first gear by now. I spot a large building straight in the distance which looks like a hotel and continue slowly towards, only 2km away but seems to not be getting any closer. Anyway eventually I arrive and it's pricy but I check in, order a steak sandwich via room service (which didn't last long) and crawl into bed. I wake up about dinner time :) Have some food and retire to watch a movie, today was a real struggle on the bike, the next day reveals why. I move round the block to a cheapy hotel, when I pull my bike out, I notice the rear brake block is rubbing againt the rim, hmmm. I suspect I cycled the last 25km like this, as the rubber is worn down on one side quite a bit.

Quite a big place Phitsanulok, I went for a walk and came across the local wat/market/construction site. Don't think I'll be eating here as dust fills the air. I walk through the middle of the city and a Thai woman in front of me screams at the top of her voice. I had almost stepped on a snake! It slithered off into the bushes, probably over a metre in length.

Then I took the easy way back to Chiang Mai, hopping on the train. Although I could only get the sleeper train due to my freight (i.e. the bike) The train meanders alongs through the night, eventaully getting into Chiang Mai after ten hours or so. Returning somewhere you know is so much easier, I jump on my bike and take the short ride into town, as new arrivals haggle with tuk-tuk drivers. Soon back in town and I sell my bike, buy some shoes, zip down to Bangkok and fly past Everest and down into the Kathmandu valley!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cycling along

After Lampang if was off East. I had a look at my map and deciding that Phrae was a long way away I would split the ride and stop at a hotel indicated. So I set off on starting with a climb out of Lampang. The destination a small town with the rather odd name of Long. After another big climb (and walking and pushing uphill) I got to the summit of the hill and whizzed down the other side. Stopping off for a quick snack and drink at a roadside stall, I turned left to complete the ride on fairly flat ground. After asking lots of people I found the hotel and had a nice little bungalow for the night. I headed out for a look around stopping off at a restaurant for a late lunch at Sunflower restaurant. It was a family run place and was invited for more food/fruit but I was stuffed. I had a look around town in the afternoon, then tried to flag down a songthaew to return, but they were having none of it, and I had to walk back. I went back to the same restaurant for dinner where I ordered a glass of beer, but got a pitcher, oh well such is life :)
Next morning up early to head on over to Phrae. More hills! But not such a long ride and got into town in time for a late breakfast of Pad Thai wrapped in an omelette. Phrae is another quiet town, I had a few days rest here as my leg was still feeling not quite right. Lots of old wooden houses, apparently it is famous for the teak growing here, and on the ride out the road was lined with furniture shops. Not quite sure how they all stay in business, seemed to be loads of shops and no customers, but I guess one order is a lot of money. The ride down to Denchai was straightforward. Back on a main highway, so a bit more traffic, but a short flat ride no problems. Found a guesthouse eventually tucked into the back of the town. Finally get the shower working after nothing coming out of the tap. Later on I asked somebody in a shop if there was an internet cafe around and ended up getting driven around town on the back of his motorbike. First place was shut, second place only had games - no internet, third place somebody had died and there was a wake on, but fourth time lucky I found a place to check how many goals Scotland had sunk France by, just the one :)
Late afternoon because it was just a short ride this morning, I went for a leisurely whizz along the path between the paddy fields in the back of town. Even saw another foreigner in his Hawian shirt, must be a resident or very lost. Next day not quite off as early as planned, but should be an easy ride, but... Somebody put hills in the way again, I though it would be a flat ride and the railway runs down this way, but they diverge a bit and the road takes the "scenic route". But I find a turn off for Uttaradit and head down the marked 7kms. I arrive at a small fountain in the middle of a crossroad. Hmm, I thought this place would of been a bit bigger, but I find a nice hotel. That night I have a stroll around and find out the centre of town is a couple of km's away. I happen across some sort of event where I buy my twenty baht entrance ticket to see whats inside. Like a fairground event with some Thai bands and lots of food. I have a cup of sweetcorn with butter, mayonnaise and a spoonful of sugar. Hmmm. I think I prefer it savioury. Also try some rice which is a sweet. Sticky & chewy, but not bad. After that I head for the large tent with the pumping dance music and within they have... dodgems! Not quite sure people were understanding the concept, people would sometimes apologise when your rammed them, haha! I then had a go at knocking down the tins to win something, hmmm, these tins are sturdy, wouldn't dare suggest they are filled with sand!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On yer bike!

I am back on the old bicycle. I thought I would take a looping trip over to Samoeng for starters. Probably not the greatest idea to start a cycling trip as getting there is really hard! I set off early, easy enough. Roll on past Huay Thung Tao reservoir and then the road links up to the main road to Mae Rim, not much traffic in the very early morning. At this point I decided I wanted a bungy rope to more securely fasten my luggage. So after hunting around and a bit of gesturing I managed to get one and tie up my bag onto the rack of the bike in a better fashion. Then after Mae Rim the hills start, big long high hills at that! I slowly climbed up past the snake farm and the orchid farm, up past the waterfall and elephant camps and up to the top of Mae Sa Valley, and then roll down into Erawan Valley, overtaken by some guy standing on the seat of his motorbike for unknown reasons! But soon it was back to where the climbing begins again.

I wanted a seat for a rest, but none was to be found, nothing about here. Everything is green and lush except the road. Very little around here, no shops or restaurant of farms, just forest. Nowhere to stop, oh well just sit and the side of the road and eat my cashews nuts and replenish with some warm water from the water bottle. Lots of bike pushing, not much riding by now. Arrrgh the sun is getting hot. I hope round every corner for the summit, but the road keeps climbing. But eventually it does get there and I am rewarded with a little fruit store where I get a drink of some less than sparkling water poured into a bowl. I buy some green fruit, like a large apple, nice and refreshing. Round the next corner I stop and rest at a great viewpoint where the scenery stretches away down into the distance, rolling valleys of greenness!

And what a downhill it was around 12km, tempered by the knowledge that I would have to climb back up out of Samoeng valley. I ended up at Samoeng resort 2/3km from town proper. Quiet place, restaurant shuts at 6pm! After walking for a mile or so I managed to find a restaurant which was still open for some noodles (a previous place claimed they had no food left!) I had a rest day here and a rather excruciating leg massage. The next day it was time to leave, with the alarm set for 5:40 to ensure an early start. Not much cycling, "No power" as they say. Lots of pushing the bike for a long way back up this time round the other side of the mountain towards Hang Dong. Again the same as on the way here, when I did get to the top I whizzed down hitting speeds upto 65km/hr (which seems very fast on a bike) and straight past a little town sat in the basin of the valley, there went my chance for food! I clambered back up another really steep hill, by this time the sweat was pouring off my t-shirt onto my shorts, always a stylish look. One final crazy steep climb and I got to the summit and then it was coasting back down hill. Stopped off at a little restaurant, but nobody there. Continuing on I found a welcome village with a handful of places to eat. Some pork fried rice for breakfast! Continuing (mostly) down hill, I got back to a place I recognised and decided to push on to Lamphun. I tried to take a short cut on the minor roads, but probably ended up longer and the road hugs the river which winds and meanders South eventually reaching Lamphun where I ask around for a hotel. Find one opposite a Wat and collapse after a quick shower.

The next day another early start as I want to head over to Lampang nearly 80km away. I've cycled a fair portion in the other direction of this road so knew a little what to expect. I remember a big hill about half way with lots of shrines and a classic motorway services point. I set off feeling okay, but within an hour my legs were feeling heavy. I reached the uphill and got off and pushed. I thought it would take an hour, but the summit was closer than I remembered and then it was another nice downhill stopping off for some grub at the service station. Finally with just 10km left the sun decided to burn through the clouds and heat things up, grrrr :(

Anyway I reached Lampang and now have a few rest days, my arms are a bit red and legs stiff so a few days off the bike should fit in nicely. I picked up a tourist brochure and the first thing said Lampang has "Widely Acceptable Coal", so should be an exciting few days :)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bako && KK

After Kuching, it was a bus and a boat north to Bako National Park. I just turned up and got a bed, which may of been fortunate as the next day was full. After arriving I went for a walk. Selected the Bintang walk which loops through the forest and takes 3-4 hours. First a short walk along a boarded walkway to get to the start of the trails. Then the first 1km was hard work, being in thick rainforest is very humid. Hot and sweaty as the path climbed sharply in the first section. I breifly saw some proboscis monkeys crashing through the jungle, although I was never to get a very good look at them. After reaching a peak, there was a bench to rest upon and a taped off barrier behind. I had a peak down the crevice and it was a LONG way down.
Then jungle thinned out and gave way to rocky ground, some small pitcher plants don't offer much cover from the sun. The path had a trickle of water running through clay and sand, on top of hard black volcanic rock. Very different from the rainforest which I soon re-entered. Got back to the headquarters and slurped down a bottle of water and a coke. Considering going for a second walk but I was knackered. Watched the bearded pig (who has a giant nose and tiny eyes) roam about. Looking for scaps, didn't exactly seem wild or bothered by humans. The macques were less bothered by humans again, and sat watching the cafe waiting for the moment to pounce and steal anything they can get their sticky fingers on. A few raids into the canteen to steal bananas!
Later I took a short stroll down the boarded walkway and watched the proboscis moneys from a distance. Also in the distance I saw a big creature walking like a crocodile, but I think it was a monitor lizard.
About 8pm a few of us went for a night walk with a guide and our torches. The guide spotted a big spider, and a fluroscent mushroom but otherwise we saw very little, but there can be no guarantees as it's not a zoo!

The next day I had to check out at 11am, but arranged with a couple of people to share the boat ride back at 3pm. So went for a another walk this time to the next beach along, signposted as only 800m it should be easy, right? Nope, seemed like the longest 800m I've walked. Up and down a lot as you go over the cape to get to the next bay. One scary point where you have to go across a small hole, the top of a grotto, but the only way is by walking across tree roots! After that I descended down and came out at the small bay. I saw some mudskippers which were cool, looked strange closeup. They were all sitting on the same rock peeking over the top.

I headed back to headquarters as I was out of water, and got some food. After lunch I decided on final walk up to the cape above the main beach, nice view up there but I didn't take my camera. Back on the boat we were zooming along when we did a u-turn, there on a pipe in the middle of the river sat a crocodile sunning itself. We went quite close enough in the boat! Then back to the mainland where after waiting for a while got the bus back to Kuching. The next day I flew up to Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinablu centre is a long strip of roads sandwiched between the seafront and the green hills behind. Actually I think some of the flat land is reclaimed from the sea. Having a look around, it seems a bit more rough and ready than Kuching. Large market as the seafront, rows of shophouses, lots of basic coffee shops/restaurants. I had some nice beef sate from one. However things take an upturn as you enter one square where there is a popular new mall and pricier restaurants and the like. I had nice fish and chips at a restaurant, served in the pan for some reason. (I still prefer newspaper) Of course the chips, weren't chips but fries. Still never mind, eh? As it was the weekend I went for a beer. Walked into an Irish pub were a Malaysian band (with a japanese drummer) were playing The Shadows. Then a Philipino singer joined and they played some other old songs. I had a look elsewhere, as I was walking past I heard another band and the singer saying there were going to play another rock song so I walked in there. But he was being sarcastic as they launched into a rendition of My Way. I was conned!

On Sunday there was a flea market where you could buy some jewellery, biscuits, maybe a siamese fighting fish or some nailclippers? Mostly junk! Or stuff I can get cheaper in Thailand. As there is approx. 10 baht to 1 ringgot easy to compare prices. Tomorrow I shall head off to Mount Kinabalu National Park, but finding out more information I don't think I'll be doing the climb.
1) You need to book accommodation on the mountain way in advance.
2) If you want to have a chance of having a clear view you should arrive at sunrise. Which means you have to get up at TWO AM and climb up in the dark with a torch. Hmmm
Of course it could still be cloudy :)

Monday, June 25, 2007


After some roti canai for brekky (okay brunch). It was off to the Cat Museum, Kuching is the city of cats after all. Hopping on the city bus took me to the museum, well the bottom of a big hill upon which the museum resides. After sweating my way up it was inside to the cat-o-rama.
Where else can you find such tenious links to cats as here? Like the Cats in Music section, with posters of Cat Stevens and Curiousity Killed the Cats. I particularly liked the dress up the cats as musicians section :) And if that wasn't strange enough I bought a ticket for "Katz" where 10 people dress up with cat makeup and costume and dance around. Kinda of Andrew Lloyd Webber meets tribal dancing. Didn't seem very popular as there was only 2 other people watching. I was dragged up on stage to show my blow dart pipe blowing skills. Performing admirably I nailed a balloon on my very first shot.
Then it was back to Kuching where the Sunday market was taking place (as it was Saturday...) I picked up a pair of Raybans for 3rm (about 50p!).
Next day I had a look round the Sarawak musuem which had some decent art pieces, some good longhouse models, and some so-so natural science exhibits. Across the road some archieological stuff from the caves, way back in the good old days 40,000 years ago. Some more rain, seemed to be easing off, so I mad a dash and nearly got struck my lightning, seemed to explode right above me, gave me a headache. AND the rain quickly came back on strong.
After looking at the price of the tours, I decided it was time to do some DIY so I rented a crappy motorbike and set off for the Crocodile Farm, quickly getting lost. I stopped and asked somebody, showing them my not very good map. They could point me in the direction of the Orangutan sanctuary only, no problem I wanted to go there as well. So I set off for Semmengoh Orangutan sanctuary and after a while I came across a sign for the crocodile farm, carefully navigation! Crocodiles tend not to do much except when they are eating, so they just lay around looking sleepy. A few other animals but nothing much to talk about, just don't let the rabbits get mixed up with the crocs.

After that I try to find the orangutan sanctuary, at one place the road was being worked on so I stopped, and then the starter died. After lots of kicking, it engaged and I was off again but I ended up miles away going towards "Borneo Road" or some such place.
I decided I better turn around, again getting stuck where I had to stop for roadworks. Started again after 5 minutes. By this time the petrol was getting a bit low, so I pulled into a Kampung and found a corner shop which sells petrol by the plastic bottle. After filling up, I cooled off with a coke on the bench outside, why the locals kids gawked at me, then ran away. Feeling refreshed I hit the open road again determined to at least get back to Kuching. As I was heading back, I whizzed past the sanctuary, a quick u-turn and I got inside. The engine cut again and I decided I would be quicker walking the last 1km if I wanted to get there in time for the feeding. The orangutans are semi-wild so they roam free, but usually turn up for the free food when hungry. They have 23 in all, I think 4 turned up. Looking very non-plussed about the camera-snapping tourists. Just turn their backs!

Anyway I made it back after a few more cut-outs (Note I'm blaming the motorbike not me!) Actually the traffic here is quite reasonable. Especially once you get out the city, not that many motorbikes :) A lot quieter than Chiang Mai! Just a shame about the lack of signs. After being on the bike most of the day I'm now a rather red shade of red from sunburn. I'll have to hide inside tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Arrive in Kuching, Borneo

About ten hours after leaving Chiang Mai I arrived in Kuching, in the West of Malaysian Borneo (an island split between Malaysia and Indonesia). I dumped my bag and went out for a look around. Seems like a modern clean city, on the taxi ride through town didn't see many people walking about. The Sarawak river runs through the city, splitting it in two, although most of the built up area is on the flat south. A fort on the north rises above the city, and a new construction of a large dome takes place under floodlit cranes. A cluster of large hotels are situated near the riverfront. As I was thinking there wasn't many tourist around, a big cluster of people spilled out the Hilton. Walking towards me a separate couple of tourists pointed at the group behind me and asked "Is that David Beckham? Yes it is!"
So I turned round looking at the tour group again, maybe David Beckham and his entourage? Nope, they were pointing at the 20 foot advert of him selling a phone.

After wandering around some more, I settled into a basic restaurant for some turmeric beef, which wasn't really worth the wait! Back to the hotel and find out that it next door is the dreaded top-volume karoke bar, a power cut saves the day and I get some sleep. I move into a quieter hotel the next day. Kuching being a compact city is easy enough to walk around for the most part, although the heat and humidity can be rather oppressive. I decided to visit the Sarawak Cultural Village a 40 minute drive away. After chatting with the hotel owner I purchased a "tour" i.e transport and entrance ticket, which was marginally cheaper and the van picked me up from the hotel. I was the only one in that van, passing along some nice green scenery, with a steep forest-clad pinnacle rising up from the ground. At the village there is a variety of longhouse (traditional architectural houses for the locals). The longhouses sit on stilts, with an angled log, with narrow notches carved out serving as steps. Inside a few local people sitting about, when I said I was from Scotland, one of the guys said he used to support Celtic (boo!), until he bot bored of football (hah!). Now more interested in rugby, aah, the benefits of satellite TV.

I managed to snare some free fruit from a leftover party, after a quick snack, it was onwards to the Penan tribe. Well actually it was just one guy. More of a lean-to shack rather than a longhouse as the Penan are traditionally nomadic hunters (although the government tries to settle them). Here the had a long metal rod, which has used to burn through a piece of bamboo. Just turn the rod back and forth for a MONTH and you have a blowpipe. (Hope you don't make a mistake). I stepped up for a go at the blowpipe skills, deep intake of breath, press lips against the pipe and quickly exhale! And the dart dribbled out the end...
At least the next few times it worked better, couldn't hit the target of a can though. With a poisoned tipped dart, hunt of all animals is possible.

Next stop was the Orang Ulu house, a huge longhouse built nestled into the hill. Upstairs they were playing music, something resembling a guitar, with a large flat bit of wood, with a few strings, odd placed frets, and tuned for droning. Then a few people danced around, kinda of slow and graceful, until I got dragged into it. After that, a quick stop in a sword hut, where with a fire and some belows, some hammers and somebody that knows what they are doing you can get a sword.

Another house had a medicine room, with something akin to wood oragami, with birds and insects representing the physical manifestation of illnesses, with the local quack would identify and cure. (At least I thinks that how it works!) The last hut was the Chinese pepper house, where the pepper is collected, thrashed and dried. Some samples of "Bird's Nest"
which is hugely expensive, collected at great risk and then served up to big wigs. Hmm, I wouldn't of thought bird mucus wouldn't of been that tasty.

Finally there was a show which highlighted the tribal dances, one of them featured bamboo poles being danced around, one of these carefully timed pieces, where if it goes wrong, you get your ankle broken!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Enveloped in smog...

I’m moved from the guesthouse into a condo on Huay Kaew Road. Much bigger than my old room and with fridge, tv etc. Got a nice balcony up on the thirteenth floor (or 12A floor according to the room numbers) overlooking the city. Not that currently you can see much due to the farmer burning all the lands. Not just in Thailand but in Laos, Myanmar & China also, enveloping the North of Thailand in a thick smog. Hopefully there will be some rain, in fact the experts were flying around in helicopters trying to “seed” the clouds for some rainmaking, but the humidity is low and it doesn’t want to rain then it doesn’t want to rain, and the last rain in Chiang Mai was way back on the 12th October! Not helping matters is the fact the Chiang Mai sits in a geographical bowl and the low weather system sits on top stopping all the smog escaping. Still the weather people say it will be better this week with some winds to dissipate it.

Before all this icky smog arrived I had cycled down to Huay Tong Tao a few times. A pleasant lake area with simple wooden shacks dotted around the perimeter. I was there before 10 a.m. and it is pretty much deserted although I’ve heard it’s a popular picnicking spot with the Thais at the weekend.

I decided to have some toast, which was all going well with the bread, the butter, and the toaster all working nicely, however first thing on my shopping list is a knife…Speaking of food, I met up again with Dieuwke (who I met in India) she was here doing a massage course and we went for food at the huge moo kata restaurant where you cook you own food from the buffet. They were pouring out baskets of mangosteen which were disappearing almost instantly, people taking handfuls at a time. All the food you can eat for 100b not a bad deal as there is a great selection. But very hot there, we drank 4litres of water between us!

Still doing the Thai language class in the afternoon, if I want to get some lunch before I had to leave home around 12:00 and if I return on foot I don’t get back until 16:00, so half the day vanishes, leaving me barely enough time to loll around :) In the class there is quite a mix of people. A 19year old Japanese woman, a 70 year old Japanese man, a Greek Buddhist nun, an American, German and a Dane. (walk into a bar…)
Either the teacher speaks too fast or I listen too slow, as I have a hard time following along. I’m always the one in the class that doesn’t understand (wheres my dunce cap!) I think I might repeat the same class again, as plenty of people do. The German guy has been coming to AUA on and off for twenty years and he’s still on the second class! Still he at least speaks good Thai (and then forgets it again.)

Recently went along to watch the Old Firm game at the Irish Pub, showing in a small corner while the majority of people watched the English FA Cup game. I had some Irish Stew for dinner, not bad. I was the only one that jumped up when Rangers scored, so I guess the other people weren’t Rangers fans. Can only watch some of the early kick off games over here, unless you stay awake for a 03:00am kick off! I’ve got a DVD player in the condo so I joined a rental shop, and got my free gift (free with the 169baht membership) a stylish plastic clock adorned with teddy bears. I rented out The Banquet, another Chinese film. I’ll save you the bother of watching it, everybody dies! Speaking of films, after speaking with Sly I turned down the Rambo part, creative differences you see… (Actually I never heard back from them after applying to be an extra!)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Back up to Chiang Mai

When I arrived here there were a few days left of the 3 month long Royal Ratchaphreuk flower festival, so I toddled along. That's a whole lot of flowers they've got there, over 2 million apparently, and a large side to walk round. They were selling season tickets with people going half a dozen time to see round all the exhibits. They had gardens from many different countries, imported into the site along with some companys having displays. Then there were lots of other gardens, among which the popular orchid centre. More here for the nosy. In a typical move nobody has planned what to do with the site now that the festival has finished, but a company had been contracted for the next two years for upkeep at the tidy sum of $$$.

Oh yeah, while I remember if anybody has a spare million baht (service not included!) they want to give me, I could go down for a fancy dinner in Bangkok. I have been hunting around for somewhere to stay, traipsing around Chiang Mai looking at condos, seems busy this time of year, but I think I have finally found somewhere to stay. Only problem is it is occupied so have to wait a few weeks to move in. Oh well.

In the meantime I should be studying my Thai as I signed up for the 2nd course at A.U.A. I took the first one last year, and now have realised how little I can remember. Also the book was a lot bigger than I remember now I need to memorise 250 pages in the next week. Could be a tough class!

I went along to the cinema and watched "The Curse of the Golden Flower", an expensive Chinese epic (handily dubbed into Thai!) with subtitles. The verdict? Needs more soldiers :)

Oh yeah! Speaking of movies I applied for a part in Rambo :)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Back in Bangkok

So I arrived in Bangkok and decided to stay near the SkyTrain this time, I found a hotel tucked round the corner from the National Stadium. I was somewhat jet-lagged all the time I was here in bed before 10pm every night. But on the plus side I did wake up early, like 4 a.m. hmmm. Anyway I did manage to pop back over to Wat Po, which houses a giant lying down Buddha. Last time I forgot my camera, but this time I got some snaps, kinda of hard to fit it all in the photo though. The grounds around the main Buddha are also nice, the last time I was there they were almost shutting up shop, this time I had a chance to stroll around and look at the other temples. After that I hopped across the Chao Praya river to Wat Arun aka The Temple of Dawn. This old temple if pictured on the 1 baht coins, so almost familiar! Taller than I realised at 67m, but your not allowed to clamber up to the top.

I took the boat down to the central pier and then hopped off at Lumphini Park for a nosy about, but starting to feel tired I head back to the guesthouse, where I zonked out. Another day I had a look round the shopping malls, seems to be loads of giant malls now. I didn't realise some of them were so big. After getting lost in MBK I exited that and skipped (not literally) through Discovery and the Siam Centre to get across to Siam Paragon. This is the posh one were you can buy your Cartier watches etc. I opted to head over to the big IT mall, Pantip Plaza and picked up a cheapo MP3 player for less than 15 quid. Does the job, and as a bonus a pony scrolls across the screen when you switch it off. All the walking made me tired again and my feet felt like pancakes by the time I returned.

Another day I headed over to the nearby Jim Thompson House. This was a group of Thai style houses that had been assembled into a large single house, some linked together with walkways. Some of these were transported from up to 100 miles away and reassembled. It was quite interesting as there was also a tour briefly telling you the history. Jim Thompson seems to be credited with single handled making the Thai Silk industry what it is today. On his return he showed the editor of Vogue the silks used in Asia and the soon became very fashionable and desirable items.

I wandered off down and lane and notice a bridge over the canal, I had previously in Bangkok jumped on one of the small boats from Banglamphu. A bit of a squash, but it looks like that may be a thing of the past. Now large power boats hammer down the canal sloshing the water around the narrow canal in their afterwake, probably enough to sink any small boats!

After a few days in Bangkok it is back up to Chiang Mai again, where I plan to stay for a while.


Long time, no update!

Well I went back to Scotland for the festive period, a long journey but worth it to see some familiar faces and one new one!

It was cold back in Scotland, neccessitating four layers of clothing before venturing outdoors. Then when Hogmannay rolled around, a stormed kicked up and blew the trains away (well at least enough to cancel them for the evening)

The trouble with not updating blogs often is that you forget everthing that happened, so I'll just leave this entry rather threadbare.