A Travellerspoint blog

February 2014

Temples, tuk-tuks and friends

Finding more than I was expecting from Cambodia

sunny 25 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

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If you want to see the whole world, stay no longer than three days at a place. It's not just me says it. I first heard the concept in the Kino’s Journey series (Kino no tabi anime). But in Europe I put it into practice and realized its wisdom. The thing is, if you stay any longer than that in a place, you will start building bonds, maybe even leaving a piece of your heart behind you. That is if you manage to leave. So when I got to Siem Reap I paid for three nights. Immediately though, I was surprised by the laid back atmosphere, and by the ease with which I could meet people… After Ko Phangan and Bangkok, the vibe felt very different. I can see why people keep coming back to this place, even staying some of them.
101_1355.jpgThe traveler fears not loneliness. Still it's better to have someone to share the moment with.

The traveler fears not loneliness. Still it's better to have someone to share the moment with.


Already since the train to Cambodia I had met an Australian girl, Jo. We shared the tuk-tuk to the border and did immigration together. Having read extensively about the scams that surround that border crossing, we were wary and distrusting. And sure thing, the driver brought us to a “Visa agency” just outside the official buildings. But we just shrugged them off and made the last blocks on foot, knowing we’d get the visa on arrival at the actual border.
Once there, if you have not completed your e-Visa application form in advance, you must first head to the passport control and pay your fee. It is 20$ for the regular one month tourist visa, and you must provide them with a passport sized photo. That is, unless you lose your photos somewhere in the black hole that your backpack has become. Then you must pay an additional one dollar. Or, like in our case, five dollars. Why? Because give me your passport and shut up. That's why.
So we were slightly suspicious when, after the 3 hour bus ride from the border to Siem Reap, they said we could have a free tuk-tuk ride to our hotels. Nothing is free, we thought... But sometimes, it turns out, rides are included in the bus price. The only catch is that your driver will offer to be your official Angkor ride. Which is great if you want to be taken there, I guess--but I’d rather bike myself there, thank you.
101_1500.jpgIt's a good place to bike around!

It's a good place to bike around!


I knew half the name of a hostel to stay in, and Jo had no set plans or bookings, or any idea really, so we made our way to the Garden Village Guesthouse. It is a great place that caters to any budget, from the 1$ khmer style bunks, to 30$ AC bungalows. So we settled in, and before I knew it, we’d met Tyson the musician. I congratulated him on his moustache (not anyone can pull it off as he does!) and invited him to go get some live music, since I'd learned of some couchsurfers that were playing in a bar a couple streets away. It’s funny how things turn out. Tyson brought his accordion with him and joined in for the last tunes. Next day they performed together on a rooftop bar, and on the third morning they recorded some music and a video at Angkor during sunrise. A couple of days later they left to some other musician’s house in a village, somewhere in Cambodia. All because I invited a stranger to go get some music.
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In such a manner have the days passed. One day I biked to the Angkor temples with Tyson and Jo. Another day I went there again by myself, to later come back to the Giant Puppet Parade, based and organized in Siem Reap and made by local children... Days fuse together. Between the meeting of people and the long conversations, I have found myself to be here in the company of equals. Odd figures all, people that could, but rather not blend in. Travelers, artists, and philosophers of the road. Somehow the three days became six, then ten. But it is now time to move on. Tomorrow I shall visit Angkor for one last time, and then hop on a night bus to some other place.
101_1529.jpgIt's been a good one!

It's been a good one!


From all these conversations, my internet foragings, and by the amount of time spent in silent thought, some semblance of a plan has risen. There is the possibility of work in Italy and France, and maybe in Denmark or the Netherlands. Yet the main realization of this past few weeks is that I have no intention of returning to Mexico. I wish to continue with my education though, so I seek to enroll in a Masters course in the Open University. It is an Online programme, so I’ll be able to work, study and travel, all at the same time.

Lets do this!

Lets do this!


I feel like I’ve been somewhat passive with my learning this last couple of years; waiting for my professors to assign me a task, or to give me the opportunity to prove myself. As such, I’ve been stuck in the same place for three years already. It’s about time I move on, continue looking forward. And since the web is brimming with free learning tools and resources, I intend to overload my brain in the coming months. Something good shall come of it, I can guarantee it. At the very least, I’ll have more think about during those flights and train rides. And there will be lots to read and write. So lets see how this adventure evolves!

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Thanks for reading!

Posted by Zaspirucho 00:18 Archived in Cambodia Tagged travel cambodia siem_reap friends angkor music hostel parade online stranger scam study puppets learning Comments (2)

Paradise in the wake

Back on the mainland!

semi-overcast
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

I realized a while ago that I've never spent more than a week’s time on a place with a beach. Like, ever. Ko Phangan was not the exception. People and friends kept telling me to stay for the full moon party; what was the point of leaving just before the main event? But as the week came to an end, I really wasn't enjoying the place anymore. So it’s now in my wake, party or no. I took a ferry and left the islands. In a matter of hours I was back on the mainland, paradise gone. It wasn't really paradise for me though.

Just a bit

Just a bit


It must be said, there’s more to Ko Phangan than the party. It is a beautiful place, with clear water to snorkel or dive, and plenty of jungly hiking trails crisscrossing the island. I met some great people there, found my own gaze reflected on stranger’s eyes more than once. It’s a great feeling, to look into someone’s eyes briefly, and knowing you’re the same as him. No words spoken. None needed.

The Haadrin Beach, home to the world famous Full Moon Party

The Haadrin Beach, home to the world famous Full Moon Party


I guess my experience would have been a bit different if I’d arrived somewhere else on the island. But I got to Haad Rin, party center. Just a two hour hike north lies another, hippier (the wealthy kind of hippie) place, Haad Tien. Or there's the more relaxed Ban Kai, slightly west up the beach. They seem nice enough! But Haad Rin wasn't my kind of paradise. Don’t go there if broke!
And it’s not the easiest place to meet people either, and it's not just my impression. Being a big party place, lots come in tight groups, or in couples, and are not really open to chatting. Still people talk about how much sex you can have in this party land. Yet I’m not very into drunken chicks, and sober girls are being constantly harassed by drunken vultures, so we honest folk get offed away with the rest... I did make friends with people in my hostel though! Two Chilean students who slept right next to me (no such a thing as privacy in the Hostel), and there was a couple that I got along with. He is a traveler too, of similar spirits, and was celebrating his 28th birthday there. I get the feeling we'll meet again somewhere.
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I took to long walks along the beach, or over gorgeous wooden bridges that round some rocky outcroppings, so you walk with the waves crashing under you. Every time I walked back on a road someone stopped to offer me a ride. A Canadian traveler, a French diving student, a German tourist and a Korean partygoer, they all brought me to or from Haad Rin on their scooter, nothing else than a smile in return. Not to mention the trucker that brought me from the small pier to the main ferry station in Koh Samui! I was wondering what to do, chatting at a juice stand, when he spurted "I’ll take you! No charge!" I’m not going to wait for someone to say this twice! He almost got me to the mainland for free, and was sad that he couldn't get me any further. And that wasn't the only one! Once in the train station, a woman waved a couple pieces of papaya at me, so I made my way over. I made sure she wasn't trying to sell anything to me, then sat down on my rucksack. She didn't speak English, but kept on talking anyway. From time to time she would use some english word and I'd get a glimpse of understanding. But mainly it was just nodding, smiling sheepishly, eating papaya and refusing her rice and curry. We waited until my train arrived, and then I left for Bangkok. In the end she pushed a 20 baat bill and a handkerchief into my satchel, and I offered her one of mine in return. I will never know even her name or story, yet I carry her handkerchief.

Onwards!

Onwards!


Not all is cheer and joy in Thailand though. Only most of it. As of yet, the only item I've lost is my water bottle, snatched from my bag when inside the luggage compartment in a bus. Not a great loss, especially considering I got it from a trash can in Oregon. But it was a good water bottle, I hope it serves its new master well. So there’s that, and the fact that that I caught a cold on that last night train to Bangkok. I can’t remember the last time I was sick, so I guess I was overdue. So no news from Bangkok! Even though I’m in this bright new city, all I want to do is crawl under a blanket and sleep.

And I’d rather sacrifice two days resting up in Bangkok, for I intend to catch the 05:55 train tomorrow to Cambodia. I’ll visit finally one of the few places in the world that give me a physical reaction upon thought: the Angkor complex.

Meanwhile, the introspective journey continues. I think I found a path to follow, on one of those beach walks. I bought a plane ticket back to Turkey, for April. And it seems I may meet my sister there. After months away both of us, that would be awesome. And it's back to Europe after that. But April's far away! A whole month!

So see you after the ruins!

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Posted by Zaspirucho 10:45 Archived in Thailand Tagged diving hiking beach thailand island beautiful party paradise full_moon snorkeling backpacking koh scooter phangan hitchhiking Comments (0)

Onwards!

Some Malaysia, Singapore and now Thailand!


View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

For months I had been feeding the fantasy of a great sailing adventure spanning thousands of miles and innumerable seas and islands. When that thought came to its abrupt end, I was left in the labyrinth of decision. A thousand doors around me, each leading on a different path, all equal, all great. Which to choose? But just you wait, keep your eyes and mind open, and all will fall into place. So in the meantime, to give Time some time, I took to touristing.
After regrouping with my thoughts in Kuala Lumpur. I met with my friend Petrina and together we left for Malacca. Three months earlier we'd met in KL, and we had both gone on sailing adventures. Now we met again and exchanged stories. Turns out her experience was not too different from mine, with her captain’s company and attitude being only manageable, then building up to becoming intolerable, at which point two of the three crew left, and she ended up back in Malaysia, just as me. We both required some company, and with the approaching Lunar New Year Celebration, Malacca looked like a good place to be.
101_1119.jpgIt's a happy place

It's a happy place

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There’s a couple of things they don’t tell you about Malacca. First that, well, there's no beach! True, they never do quite say there is one, but being by the sea and all… There is an island nearby, and beaches will be easily found there. I guess. We didn't go there. Instead we walked around Chinatown and Little India, ate laksa here and sate there, and had a good time. But our hostel was not IN Chinatown, rather in the budget hostels quarter, right next to the tower of the eerie sound. That’s the second thing they don’t tell you. Don’t stay anywhere near that tower! It cuts the wind in such a way that an eerie, ethereal and invasive sound is created. It will crawl up your spine and enter your dreams… Other than that, with its Portuguese, Chinese and Dutch backgrounds and monuments, the place is nice enough. Petrina stayed a couple more days, but for me Malacca was over quickly, and in the traveler’s style we said goodbye while walking, backpacks on, each going their own way. On, towards the next destination! For me it was to be Singapore.

'Later!

'Later!


Now Singapore I really liked! It is a very modern city, and big too, but very nice. It is clean and walking friendly; it feels safe. I walked around it for hours on end, and it only felt more comfortable. The water’s clean too! And people were very smiley. For a big, modern city, I felt the atmosphere surprisingly relaxed. Had a chat with a retired Singaporean while we had lunch in a Chinese restaurant, outside a metro station. No worries, no rush.
Although I don’t need no excuse to visit a place, this time I had one. Some weeks earlier a high school friend had gotten me into contact with a friend of hers, saying we had similar ways of thinking, and we’d surely enjoy chatting. That was still back in India. And that was it. And that would have been it, for I thought she was in Japan. But in the weeks that passed she had moved to Singapore to study! Now in Malacca, being a few hours away from her and not coming to visit… that would have been a royal shame, no? So I hopped on a bus and set off to meet her in person! I knew I would like her, no shocker there! I was surprised by what I found in the city though.
101_1235.jpgHappy Year of the Horse!

Happy Year of the Horse!


Singapore is as modern and expensive as it is reputed to be. The price numbers there are the same as in Malaysia, it's just that one’s in riggit, and the other in dollars. Yet it’s also smiley and very walking friendly. The water is fresh and safe to drink, there is food everywhere and some places are open until very late at night, and there are parks and museums galore. It is a city worth visiting. I stayed at the Empire Hostel, for about 10 SGD a night, or 28 RM, a lot less than I expected.
As for attractions, people kept saying I should go to their Disneyland resorts and casinos island. Instead I spent a day in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. I was so amazed by all that I saw there, the relics, the ceremony, the information (to some I would say the presence too), that I became stupefied. I went upstairs and had a long nap in the Roof Garden, in the Pagoda of the 10 000 Buddhas. And that name’s no exaggeration either! 101_1240.jpgAll full of wonders

All full of wonders


On another day I walked around with my newly met friend Haruka. We made our way to the Supertree Grove, in the Gardens by the Bay. You can spend hours there, going up and down (literally) and eating and marveling at both the natural and man-made wonders there. We timed our visit for sunset though. We knew the place would light up at night, still we did not expect the show of light and music that awaited us. I would definitely recommend a visit!

It's worth a look!

It's worth a look!

And now, after some traveling, I am in Thailand.
Lets elaborate on that poor sentence. It resumes two nights of sleeping on a train seat, with a layover in Kuala Lumpur (where, as it happened, I could see Petrina once more!). By the second morning I was in Thailand, and at the border I met two travelers, an aussie and a dutch, and spent the rest of the day with them. We had beer for breakfast and noodle soup for lunch, then beer for dessert. The next train was very late and we had to run with all our things to the pier, to catch our night ferries. They were going to Koh Tao, but my destination would be Koh Phangan. We said goodbye traveler style. And didn't look back.

With the sun I stepped unto one of the biggest party islands in the world. And here I am. Still unsure of what is to come, still open to whatever may!
I don't think I'll party tonight though. I have a bed for luck's sake!

Posted by Zaspirucho 06:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged malacca kuala_lumpur singapore travel train thailand malaysia backpacking koh phangan Comments (0)

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