Friday, 30 March 2012

Bangkok - Again!

Bangkok is a strange beast. It's one of those places you hate at first but once you figure it out it kinda grows on you. Location is the key. The first time I was there I stayed on Ko San Road in an absolute shit hole, but this time Maren and I checked in to a pretty nice place about 15 minutes walk from Ko San. Ultimately I was only in Bangkok to catch a flight to Bali but as I didn't do anything the first time I was there we needed to tick a couple of things from the bucket list. We checked into the hostel and took a walk down to Ko San road to find a place to eat. Nothing really took our fancy on the road itself and instead we found a really nice street nearby that lots of quite classy restaurants (that's the first time ever I've written that word without having to spell check it by the way - HE CAN BE TAUGHT!). I wish I knew the name of that street we found as it was great, it had all these lanterns hanging from the overhead trees and there was no sleaze or sales crap to be seen. We had a pretty decent Italian meal with a glass of red each and for the first time, it was like a proper date. Until then we where always with the other guys (don't get me wrong, I love Maren's mates) so it was cool to spend an evening with just the two of us.

The next morning we got up bright and early as we'd decided we wanted to see the golden Palace. Now this is kind of a big deal in Bangkok, it's where the king of Thailand lives (I think!) and is pretty much the most famous tourist attraction in bangkok. The reason why I emphasise this is because when we hailed a taxi driver he didn't know what or where it was! He had to ask no less than 3 tuk tuk drivers for assistance, despite showing him where it was on the map and giving him the name in thai and english. Mental. Oh, and it was only about 5 minutes drive from where we were! Anyway, we finally arrived at the palace and where greated by a friendly well dress guy who asked if we where looking for the entrance to the palace. I smelt a con from a fucking mile off but decided to humor him nonetheless. He pointed to where the entrance was and explained that he worked in the palace but it was his day off so he was meeting some family and showing them around. Then he explained that we wouldn't get into the palace wearing what we were wearing (I was wearing shorts - Maren was ok) which we knew anyway. He then said that you can rent clothes from the palace for free (which we knew) but because it was a sunday the clothes rental place was closed until 1 (it was about 10 at this point) so he suggested going shopping first then coming back later. He asked what we where planning on doing for the rest of the day so we told him we where going to the big outdoor market and he suggested a really good suit place..... "Right, I'll stop you there mate, we're going" and I grabbed maren and we started walking off to the palace. They really have the most illaborate and sneaky sales ploys to get people to buy suits in bangkok. After going to the entrance and renting clothes without any issues for free I felt like hunting down the sneaky bastard and giving him a peace of my mind. For a people who are supposed to believe in Karma and mutual respect for one another their are entirely too many sneaky weasels in Bangkok. And I know that some tourists will fall for those lies they spin and end up wasting their time going around suit shops when they should be able to enjoy the city for what it is. Ok, that's enough ranting. We went into the Palace complex and it was pretty crowded. Not sure how much detail you want me to go into, there was a lot of gold and Buddha statues and we took some photos. Outside the Kings house there was a guard who, like the ones outside Buckingham palace, didn't move an inch. So I took some photos next to him :-)

After the Palace we grabbed a bus to the outdoor market which was ma-fricking-ha-osive! It was split into sections so there was a bit for clothes, a bit for jewlery etc. I wondered around with Maren for a while and picked out a couple of cool T-shirts but then I felt like I was a bit of a third wheel for her shopping fun so we agreed to bugger off and meet back in an hour. I figured I'd sit at a bar and have a beer but instead I managed to find the animal section and spent half an hour petting the cute puppies! When we met back up we decided we both wanted to hit a rooftop bar for the sunset and an over priced cocktail. We managed to find the exact building they shot Hangover 2 at (it was funny asking the tuk tuk and taxi drivers if they'd seen the movie to then ask them to take us to the building as they then offered to take us to a cinema. Lost in translation!) Pete's top tip: never take a tuk tuk in bangkok. They offered to take us to the area we knew it was in for twice as much as the air conditioned comfortable taxi we ended up taking. We went up to the bar and I was told that I wasn't allowed in wearing shorts despite the fact I was wearing a smart shirt. So I had to run down to the nearby street market and splash out 4 quid on some jeans that I was only going to wear for an hour or so then throw away! We got in there and the view was spectacular. The cocktails where 10 pounds each (with ++ on the top) but really nice. Totally worth every penny that ended up costing, if only for the picture of me and Maren together with the view of the city in the background :-)

That night Maren wanted to grab a massage and I was determined to see a ping pong show before leaving thailand so I met up with Liam and the two of us went off in a taxi to pad ping and found the same place that he'd been previously. It was crap. I expected it to be classy, I didn't expect it to be sexy, but I did expect it to be at least impressive. And it was just crap. But at least I can say I've seen it. I shan't bore you with the details.

After the show I met back up with Maren, we headed to the airport and said our goodbyes. Then I slept on Bangkok airport floor until my flight at 6am. 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Koh Chang

You know what, my time in Koh Chang was brilliant, some of the best days of my travels, but I can't remember anything we specifically did of interest. One of the days we went on a snorkeling trip which was good fun, but other than that I just chilled on the beach with the german girls. The first night we where in a pretty basic wooden hut then after that we landed a really sweet beach hut for the last 3 nights. Probably the best valued place I've stayed on in my travels; full concrete so no midges could get in, nice guy on reception and a nice clean room and shower. 

Sorry to disappoint, but unless you want me to tell you what I ate every day that's all I have to give! 

Go to Ko Chang for a time you'll never forget.  

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Cambodia - Angkor Whaaaat?!?!?

Wow, I really am behind on my blog!

Ok, the journey to Cambodia was looooong and minging. Maren and Neel both had fevers, upset stomachs and suspected maleria so when we got to the hotel it was a Thermometer and medical jargon frenzy. The next day Neel went with Suzanne to the hospital to get a blood test as apparently final year trainee doctors don't take maleria medication when travelling through high risk countries! Fortunately the results didn't show any traces of maleria so Maren decided to chill in bed all day while the rest of us headed to the Angkor temples. We decided to spend 3 days looking at the temples as there are so many to see. So on day one we went to (I won't baffle you with the real names as you probably won't know them and I can't remember them!) the tomb raider one then the one with the faces carved into them. Then Neel went off to see Angkor Wat as he was off to Koh Tao in the morning. Got back home and played doctor to Maren for the evening and brought her bananas and snacks that would be easy on her stomach. Then I headed out to meet up with a friend from Chang Mai for a couple of jars. Which turned into a lot of whiskey and mosquito bites and being lost for over an hour!

The following day, Suzanne Kathrine and I went off to the temples to the east of Angkor to get some historical perspective. Not that impressive to be brutally honest but we still had a good laugh along the way. That evening Maren managed to muster up enough energy to head to the restaurant with us for some soup before heading back to bed. Meanwhile, Suzzane, Kathrine and I went off for a few jars, stopping in to get a fish pedicure (where the fish nibble on your feet - weird!) before going to Angkor what? bar for some beers. While we where there we saw these little kids dancing in front of the bar trying to get some money from the tourists. Didn't really know what to make of them, they seemed pretty happy dancing away and had some impressive moves, but at the same time it was pretty sad to see these kids out so late and having to walk the streets alone to get money. There was a lot more poverty in Cambodia than the other places I'd been to in SE asia.

The next day we chilled out and caught up with communication to the outside world and organized flights and transport for after cambodia. We had an early night as we planned to get up at 4am for the sunrise at Angkor wat.....

The big day. Got up early and Maren was feeling better. Still not 100% but a vast improvement. However Suzanne was now ill too so it was only me and Kathrine who where firing on all cylinders! Got to Angkor among the rest of the tourist and tried to find a good spot to watch the sunrise. I didn't bother trying to take any photos of the sunrise itself as my camera is pretty shite with limited light photos. Instead, when the sun was high enough I went town with photos with me and tiggs. Particularly chuffed with a couple of photo's Maren took of me doing my patented heel click and tiggs flying through the air. Then we explored the temple itself which was fairly cool. Had some sign based fun which always entertains me. After Angkor we went off to see the faces temple again as Maren hadn't seen it yet. Then we went of to the jigsaw puzzle one which had been re-built after some sort of historical thing had happened. Probably should have read some more on the background but meh. At this point Maren and Sue where really struggling so chilled in the shade while me and Kathrine went up the top of the temple. Then we went off to the Indiana Jones temple and got bombared by kids selling postcards. These kids where about 6 years old and constantly said "OK you buy, ten for one dollar" over and over again. They could also count from one to ten in German, French, English and cambodian which was bloody impressive!

Didn't go anywhere else in Cambodia so missed out on Sinokville, S21, Killing fields etc. But the alternative was to split up from Maren, and I really didn't want to do that!

Top Quotes (not for the easily offended)

These are some of the funniest things I've said/heard whilst travelling. Obviously you had to be there for it to be as funny as I found it but I'll try and put some context in:

1) "How's the Dental plan here mate?!" - Me, in Udaipur India, to a guy with all of 6 teeth left in his mouth. He didn't speak a word of English.
2) "That is a shot load of pissed off muslims!" - Jim, my dutch travel buddy, in Jakarta Indonesia, when hundreds of locals walked down the main road protesting about the price of petrol.
3) "That's fuckin' booshit maaan" - Jimmy, a 13 year old asian kid at the kung fu camp in China, said to our master whilst the rest of us where trying to concertrate on Cheng dong. I was giggling like a school boy for ages after!
4) "Are you Happy?" - Said like a million times to me and Rob by this uber gay guy in San Ming China. Think he may have mistranslated the word 'gay' when he learnt English and took the old meaning.
5) "C***" - Conner, a welsh guy from our hostel whilst playing bowling. He dropped this C bomb just as the music when silent so everyone in the place heard!
6) "Have you been to the reading festival?" (Reading pronounced as in reading a book) by some random American doosh bag.
7) "What do you reckon, shall I carpe diem the shit out of this mate?" Wade, in India when offered to take a local guys Bullet (motorbike) out for a spin
8) "Can you pass the concent milk" Ulgar in Vietnam when asking for the concentrated milk. I found this funny as it was as if the milk required permision in order to be milk!
9) "MASIA" - said by a russian guy who only knew about 6 English words, but for some reason knew the word Massia, and for an even stranger reason thought that I was his massia!
10) "Do you do karma sutra?" - Wade, in india, said to a security guard after being shown a temple with loads of karma sutra carvings.
11) "Are you a ladies man Tan?" Me - to a 70 year old tuk tuk driver somewhere who, again, didn't speak any English other than to tell us his name - Tan.
12) "Don't hold your ass boy!" Jimmy, the 13 year old asian kid at the Kung fu camp again.
13) "I pull this face every time I have cream coming out of my mouth" Wayne - a really cool American guy I was travelling with. Technically he said something slightly different, but that's what I heard!
14) "That's one of the benefits of being a complete retard" said by me while explaining that I don't get stressed about dates or names
15) Pete: "What's brown and sticky?" Cathy (Aussie girl): "A poo on stilts?" Said during a barrage of jokes from me.
16) "They can't think inside the box" Cathy, the same dipsy Aussie
17) "Isn't Steven Hawken that guy who fell off a horse?" Cathy, the same dipsy Aussie
18) "I want to rent a girl and service my dick" - Said by an Indonesian local in respect to the day of silence that was taking place in Bali (where you have to stay in your room all day and can't use any power) 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Home Sick.

Yep, it's finally hit me. Some of you may be pleased to see that for once I'm not gloating about all the cool stuff I've been doing, hopefully some of you may even be glad that I'm missing home. I suppose it started when Maren went back home having spent the previous couple of weeks together. I really miss her and it's only been a couple of weeks. I've been trying to work out some way to keep seeing her after I've finished travelling but she's in her final year of doing her doctors degree and planning to live and practice medicine in Berlin afterwards. She's planning on coming to England for a couple of weeks in the summer, so I'll get to see her then, but what do I do next? Tricky one. For all I know it was just a holiday fling for her and not that big of a deal. Maybe I'm reading into it. I'm sure there's some sort of profound saying about seeing the thorns for the roses or the wood for the trees but I can't remember!

But that's not the only factor. Here are some other things that I think have played a part:

1) These fucking mosquitoes are driving me mental. seriously, they can't get enough of me, every night I get massacred by the little flying devil spawn cunts, despite lathering every inch of my body with mosquito spray and it's driving me potty. I keep waking up in the middle of the night to a fresh cluster of bites so have to root through my bag to find the tiger balm to stop the itching. I really can't convey how much I hate them.

2) I haven't had a good nights sleep since Thailand. It started when I had to sleep on Bangkok airport floor before my flight to Bali and there's always been something to wake me up ever since, be it a mosque at 5am, building works, people talking, mosquito bites etc. But it's wearing me down. Right, this is a perfect fucking example of point 1, it's 3:30 in the afternoon (mosquitoes aren't supposed to bite until the evening) and in the time it took to walk from my bed with it's newly erected mosquito net to the kitchen to make a coffee then back to put some repellent on I got bitten on my foot. So now it's itching like crazy and will do for the next 10 minutes until the tiger balm kicks in. ARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!

3) Everyone is getting engaged/married back home. Last weekend two couples got engaged from my group of mates, on the same fricking weekend! And I'm having to miss Rob and Nat's wedding later this month because I'm on the other side of the world... getting eaten by little flying bastards. And don't get me wrong, I'm really pleased for my mates who are settling down, but it makes me feel jealous sometimes.

4) I'm panicking about money. Right, let's just check my balance online before I go on.... Right I've got like 512 quid in the bank for this months budget, plus 750,000 rupees in my bag, which is like 75 dollars, so 50 quid so that's 560 pounds to last me 18 days which is 31 pounds a day. Now the reason why I've written this as I think about it is to demonstrate that every transaction; every time I look for a hostel to stay at, every time I order food, every time I plan what activities I want to do I'm constantly worried that I'm over spending. And I wasn't worried before, I was just thinking, fuck it, I've got plenty of money and if I go into a bit of debt then so be it, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. And the knock on effect is that I've started saying no to doing things, which is dumb. Also, on the subject of money, I got messaged by a French girl I met in India telling me how expensive South America is. She said something along the lines of a basic dorm in Chile costing 10 pounds a night. As I've reverted back to a budget of 800 pounds a month instead of a grand a month that means I only have 25 pounds a day to cover accommodation (10 pounds) food (3 meals lets say 9 pounds if  each meal is 3 pounds each) transport between places and whatever tours/activities I want to do. And I've also got to survive Australia which is apparently like 8 pounds a pint! Fortunately I've got accommodation semi covered as I've got family and friends that I can call on but I don't want to miss out on doing things just because I'm worried about the cost compared to how much I was paying in Asia.

5) It's just started raining. You couldn't script it!

6) Ok, the last few points have been kind of trivial and/or obvious, if I think about it a bit harder, I guess this stage of my travelling is a bit of a loose end. I'd planed Bahrain, India and china, then when I got to Asia I'd planned to see Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and all the time I was constantly doing new things and learning new skills. Then it was a bit of a blank canvas until Australia. So currently I'm travelling across Java, somewhere I haven't really researched and don't really have a plan for.

7) I've been spending a lot more time on the internet recently keeping my blog up to date and Skype-ing folks back home. And every time I see stuff on facebook, see my little nieces growing up and every time Lillerz makes me laugh on Skype it reminds me of what I'm missing out on.

8) There's a quote that I like to call upon every now again From Alexander The Great: "When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer". The problem I have is that I feel like I've seen it all and done it all. Which is such bollax because I clearly haven't! But everytime I get offered a tour to a temple, or a trek, or a cooking course etc I feel like I've exhausted them all so I'm running out of amazing things to see and do. And I know that I sound like an ungrateful spoilt twat by saying that but that's how I feel. 


1) Research Java and detail what I want to achieve in the next couple of weeks. Same for Australia, I need a plan otherwise I'm just going to end up bummimg around in Melbourn for 3 weeks!
2) Get some heavy duty mosquito repellent, start eating Marmite every day and use my mosquito net every night.
3) Stop worrying about money, try to not spend money on crap like beer, chocolate, junk food etc and spend it on activities and tours. That's what I'm here for after all!
4) Research doing some charity work in South America. This will a) give me something different and rewarding to look forward to b) save me money and c) give me a genuine dose of culture that hasn't been watered down by the tourist trail.

Having said all that....

It's not as if I've been having a shit time doing nothing the past few weeks. I've jumped off a 12 metre cliff into the sea, learnt to surf, learnt basic German, been up a pretty impressive volcano (I'd never been up one before), had my first 'hot bath' in 7 months and seen some amazing fish while snorkelling in Bali. So I guess it's been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster these past couple of weeks. I don't want to use the wanky term of 'bi-polar' but I'm definitely going through some up and downs.

So there you have it. Proper little rant that eh? Hope you liked it!

Oh, and one more thing, I know I have some die hard blog fans out there, my sisters, parents, Rob, Lillerz, Phil and Chall, but the only reason I know that is because they each took the time to tell me. I know it's not exactly Shakespeare I'm writing but I do spend a fair amount of time writing this blog so it's really nice to get the odd message now and then saying that people are actually reading it :-)


PS, I feel a lot better now I've got that off my chest! 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

4000 islands - Don Det

After a pretty non eventful sleeper bus to Don Det via Pakse I met up with the Germans as I got off the ferry. I looked around for a while for a cheap place to stay but in the end the cheapest place was at the same beach hut complex as the Germans where staying. The main issue was that I didn't have any money and there was no ATM on the island. The place was rife with rumors of an asian girl who had gone out swimming in the river the night before and not returned and apparently it was pretty much a certainty that she was dead. So here was kind of an weird mood around the place. We booked into a canoe trip for the next day and they'd charged me a little extra onto my card and given me some cash to spend which was cool as I didn't want to have to take a trip to the mainland to get cash out. Anyway, we all chilled on the beach for the afternoon and afterwards I sat and watched the sunset from my balcony with Maren and it was the best sunset and best moment of my travels. I think it was partly the simplicity of the setting, overlooking a perfectly still river, but mainly that Maren was there to share it that made it so good:

The next day (valentines day - tiggers birthday) we headed off for a day of canoeing and to see the dolphins native to the 4000 islands. The canoeing itself was ok, but really tiring. We also saw some pretty impressive waterfalls and even got a glimpse at the dolphins in the distance. It was a fun day but really tiring. That night we went out for a meal at a really nice restaurant run by an Aussie expat and the food was great. Played a bit of Uno with all the Germans then headed to the beach. I was in a weird mood because they where all heading off to Cambodia the next day and I was trying to decide whether or not to go with them. I'd wanted to meet up with Laura from Chang Mai who was also staying there but we hadn't managed to cross paths but just as I gave up trying to track her down I bumped into her on the beach and we had a catch up. I was running really low on money and trying to work out how I could live on the money i had left or if I should just head to Cambodia with the Germans. I felt like i'd only just got to Laos and hadn't really seen much of it but at the same time i wanted to hang out with Maren some more. So eventually I decided to crash the Germans party and come along with them to Cambodia.

And I'm really glad I did :-)

Tubing in Vang Vieng

We'd been told that the tubing didn't start until 2pm by the guy at the hotel. This wasn't to be the first time he lied to us! Anyway, we went for some breakfast, gathered our stuff into our little waterproof bags and where all set for some carnage. I was wearing my swim shorts, the beater (vest) I'd got from smile bar the night before which was lush, my Jesus sandels and in my waterproof bag I had about 15 quid and my camera. This was twice as many things as I should have brought! I lost the beater (imagine, white, with a cartoon smiley face on the front and the message on the back of "drink tripple, see double, act single" - genuis) my Jesus sandels that I'd only bought 2 weeks before and temporarily my new camera. I'll come on to that.

So you go to the tubing station and rent a tube for 5 quid and have to give a deposit of 6 quid. so long as you bring the tube back before 6pm you get your 6 quid back. And this covers your tuk tuk to the start too. In the tuk tuk there I got chatting to 3 English girls who had all met via a travelling forum and where travelling together. we arrived at the river and crossed over to the first bar. You can hear music blaring from all the bars and they're all playing the same few songs, "me no speak americano", "hopeless place" by Rhianna, "sexy and I know it" etc. It was far busier than I expected but just a fantastic. I was in heaven, there was zip lines, free shots at every bar on arrival, rope swings, slides, beer pong, volley ball and everyone was pissed, pained up and all the girls where honey's in bikinis. How the Lonely Planet doesn't list it as one of the highlights of Laos I'll never know. We'd had reports of 3 people who had already died in the last month and had loads of different stories on how they went. Apparently they where all aussies, one had died by jumping into some rocks, one just disappeared and his body floated up the bar at the end one day and one died trying to surf on top of a tuk tuk whilst it was driving along. God knows what the truth is, I really didn't care, if you die at Vang Vieng quite frankly that's natural selection as far as I'm concerned. If you can't control your drinking and do something stupid then it's best you're out of the gene pool! Anyway, back to the tubing itself, after the first bar and a bit of beer pong we all headed down the river to the next bar to get a free shot before heading over to the zip line. The first time I did it I jumped off before the 'end' as that's what i figured you did. Then I realized, if you ride the thing right to the end there's a stopped that if you smash into it spins you 360 and you flip into the water! That was freaking sweet fun (I'm currently trying to upload the video of me doing it onto facebook). Then after that we floated down to a couple more bars and I flirted with anything and everything in a bikini! But there was only really one girl I wanted, Maren. At one of the places there was a slide that had a big ramp at the end that flung you into the water. I figured (in a moment of drunken stupidity) that it would be a good idea to film this. Despite my best kung fu grip on the on the camera on entry into the water the camera slipped out of my hand and sank to the bottom of the river. I tried retrieving it with some goggles but I was too drunk and didn't know where it was I landed in the water. So a local offered to get it out for me for 50 dollars. Eventually we settled on 20 dollars and he dove in and found it withing 10 minutes. Then when it came to paying him I realized I only had 7 dollars on me so gave him that. he wasn't happy and told me to give him the camera back and come back tomorrow with more money and get it then. I told him to politely go fuck himself and he could either take the 7 dollars or have nothing. At the end of the day 7 dollars for 10 minutes work is a small fortune for a local so I didn't feel bad about the arrangement and he reluctantly agreed. Maren Then came up to me and asked if I was ok, I told her I was a bit pissed off and needed a kiss to cheer me up. To my surprise this line actually worked! Then we took our rings and floated down the river towards the finish line. This part of tubing seemed to take forever and as the sun was setting it was getting pretty cold in the water so we got out and flagged down a tuk tuk to take us back. We took our tubes back to the rental place and got our deposit back, minus a small fee for bringing them back late. Then the five of us got changed and headed to a nearby restaurant for some much needed stomach lining. at the table next to us was a couple of pretty pissed of guys who had parted with like 20 dollars for a magic mushroom pizza that had no effect on them! We all headed to bucket bar where we each got our free bucket (between 9 and 9:30) then headed to smile bar. I can't remember what order we went to each place but it really didn't matter, I just spent the whole time talking to maren. She was great to speak to, she just had a way of making me completely comfortable speaking about anything from my family, to my friends to my ex girlfriends. Anyway, she may end up reading this so I better stop talking before I say too much!

The next day all the german guys headed off to Pakse and I was planning on staying a while longer tubing. I figured I could easily spend at least a week there as it was so much fun and even if I didn't go tubing on some of the days I could always just chill in one of the countless restaurants showing either friends of family guy all day. I met up with the English girls who had partied a little too hard the night before and where feeling rough and we all grabbed a tuk tuk to the start of the tubing. This time I decided not to bother with a tube and to just float between the first few bars. You can easily get by on a tenner as they give out so many free shots you get pissed for next to nothing. It was kind of hard to get into the same mood though, the girls where a bit quiet through being tired and hungover and I was already missing Maren. Then when I did the zip line to cheer me up a bit I landed funny and somehow got a big bruise on my forehead the swelled up to the size of a golf ball! I then headed back to my hotel where the guy had moved me into a 'dorm room' which basically was a broom cupboard with a bed. He also tried to over charge me for the room as he thought I was pissed and wouldn't remember the price we'd agreed that morning. Then the next day when I asked him where the hot shower was that he'd promised me he told me to use the hose that's next to the communal toilet at which point I hit the roof and demanded a hot shower in one of the other rooms not being used. That was the icing on the cake, I decided to get the hell out of Vang Vieng and track down the Germans again in Don Det.....

Luang Prabang

Quaint, clean and classy Luang Prabang is really cool. We all woke up with a bit of a hangover so walked around the town for a bit before grabbing a tuk tuk to the waterfall. It was really beautiful to look at, refreshing to swim in and there was a rope swing there for people to use :-). I watched this little Chinese girl swing into the water then flap around as if she was drowning. Someone jumped in and helped her out of the water and I said to her "are you ok, can you swim" to which she replied "no, but I thought I'd give it a try!". I loved that, she'd never swam before so decided the best way to learn was to launch herself into a river from a rope swing and hope for the best! After that we chilled at this really cool little place owned by an French expat who had the attitude of "bring your own drinks if you like, I pride myself on having the most chilled out place in town". This was a really refreshing attitude, and the reason it worked is that backpackers and tourists respected the place for it so spent money on food and mixers but also brought bottles of spirits too so that the night didn't cripple their budget. That night we headed to a place full of locals so we figured it would be cheap and good. Some of the dishes where nice, a couple where a bit dodge, but by frog curry was lovely :-)

The next morning everyone woke up at 6am to do yoga. I could not be fucked with that! We met up a bit later in the morning and wondered around the town for a while before heading up the hill to the temple that overlooked the town for sunset. Pretty impressive sunset but too many people around in a small place to get a really good view. Then after the crowds dispersed the 4 of us (by this time the NZ guy who was by himself had gone off to an elephant sanctuary) sat and looked out at the town as night fell and all the lights started to come on. It reminded me of when I went up the cable car with wade in Udaiper to look out at the city. We sat there for an hour and soaked in the atmosphere and it was really nice.

The last day in Luang Prabang me and the canadian woke up earlyish to rent some push bikes and cycle around the town. This was a great laugh and the town was really nice to just potter around and look at. When we got to the river we had some locals coming up to us asking "boat trip?" which I thought was a bit retarded as we'd clearly rented bikes for a reason. after the 4th time of being asked "boat trip?" I decided to play with them a bit and started responding with "bike trip? only 2 dollars?" which they laughed at and one of them actually got my bike for a second for a laugh. That's one of the things I've learnt through travelling, it's all to easy to get annoyed by people coming up selling you things so the best way to deal with them is to have a joke with them. That way even if they're not getting your money at least you can make them laugh. Then we went back to meet up with the NZ couple and they rented a tandem bike and the four of us rode to the market. This was where I found my cowboy that I managed to bargain down to 3 pounds for :-) Then I made my way to the bus station where I met up with suzane (the German girl who had leant us the uno cards) and her 3 travelling buddies. The bus ride to Veng Vien (where the tubing is at) is notoriously dodgy but I managed to wangle my way into the front seat and even used the seat belt! On arrival at Veng Vien I managed to room share with the four germans who were travelling together. Thy where all doctors studying in Vienna (Austria) and all in their final year. there was:

Neel: A really cool, laid back guy who I immediately got on with
Kathrin: the quietest of the group, but still really nice
Suzzane: had spent 4 years living in america so had by far the best English. She was also the most confident and flirty.
Maren: Stunning. Reminded me of hayley in her looks, attitude, sense of humor and manor-isms.

The five of us went out for some food and I mainly chatted to Suzane whilst the other 3 chatted among themselves in german. Then the three girls went to bed early and me and Neel went to the bucket bar to see what was what. Suzzane said that he could do with some male company having spent so long with the girls. Everyone at the bar was already pissed so we didn't really mingle, we just chatted to each other and watched the fire limbo. Besides, we had a big day ahead of us tubing.....

The slow boat to Luang Prebang

Got on the boat at 9 only to be told that it didn't leave until 12. That kinda pissed me off as I really could have done with the extra sleep. I also feeling a bit weak and ill so I wasn't really looking forward to a whole day spent on a busy boat. Along with a Canadian girl from the hotel I was staying at there was also a group of 3 guys from new zealand, a couple and a guy by himself. I was in a pretty foul mood and couldn't be dealing with small talk so I tried to get some sleep while they all discussed real world shit (politics, jobs, economy etc). Then this English twat thought he'd be helpful by waking me up in case I got sun burnt. I suppose he meant well, but he was just one of these people who'd been travelling for a while, was wearing those gay cotton trousers that hippy douches wear and thought he knew everything about travelling and preached instead of discussing. Then after waking me up, he then tried to engage me in conversation by saying the dreaded phrase "so, how long have you been travelling for" at which point I just told him that I'm feeling rough and not in the mood to talk. There's no completely polite way of telling someone you just don't want to speak to them but I tried to be nice about it and he told me that's fair enough. So eventually we arrived at the halfway town where we where to spend the first night. I'd perked up a little and was chatting to the guys nearby (the Canadian and the NZ 3) and we agreed to all get somewhere to stay together. Getting off the boat we where bombarded with people selling hotel rooms and heroin (no really!) so the NZ girl managed to sort us out with a room for 3 and a double room for her and her BF with hot water and a really cheap price. I'd been told by loads of people that the town was really over priced but the place we stayed at was a pretty good bargain.

The next morning I woke up feeling great, all I really needed was a good nights sleep. We headed down to the boat and it was already full. We'd heard that they sometimes do some sneaky tricks with the boats and cram loads of people onto fewer boats so as there where no seats left we kicked off with the boat guys and told them to get another boat. This didn't work exactly how we'd hoped, it actually worked out better. They put us on the boat but right at the back in the kitchen. We had our own little area, seats and as we'd complained they agreed to give us some free whiskey laos. so I set up the ipod and speakers and we cracked open the whiskey. The NZ girl managed to get a pack of Uno cards from a helpful German girl called Suzanne (more on her later) which we turned into a drinking game. Then the captain came over with the whiskey Laos, which was he poured from a 2 liter bottle of castrol GTX oil! The next 5 hours sailed by and by the time we got off the boat we where all pretty hammered. somehow we made it to a hotel, checked in and headed out to a fancy restaurant that we'd been recommended by someone I'd met on the border cross. The NZ girl was easily the most pissed of us all, probably because she was about 4 foot tall, skinny and didn't eat much all day. She was pretty funny though and I really got on with her boyfriend. Somehow we'd worked it so that the three NZ guys where in a room together and I was in a room with the canadian girl so I practised my newly learnt massage skills on her :-)

Laos - The Gibbon Experience.

Crossed the border into Laos on some rickety old wooden boat and arrived at the 'immigration office'. There was a huge queue to get through that apparently took about an hour to get through, but as I'd already got my visa in advance back in Chaing Mai (from good old Jam) I walked straight into the country! No-one even looked at my passport. Went straight to the gibbon experience booking office slightly worried about the fact that I had just been told that there was a 3 week waiting list only to be told that I could go the next day! The only thing was that it had to be the 2 day express version and not the 3 day that Hayley had gone on a couple of years ago and raved about. Turned out that 2 days was plenty and I saved myself a lot of money by doing that instead. So I had a day to kill in a silly little town which had nothing to offer. I was kind of looking forward to just spending the day chilling in my room and maybe updating my blog but this keeno german girl managed to convince me to grab a taxi to the local village to get some 'culture'. I really wasn't looking forward to it but it turned out to be a cracking experience. We arrived in the village and watched an old woman weaving some cotton together then headed deeper into the village and found a school. In the class room there was a couple of volenteers from Korea show where teaching the kids English, the letters A-Z. There was (I counted) over 200 kids in the class room and probably about 400 kids in total at the school. I chatted to one of the volenteers for a while who told me about the organisation and I took his contact details so that I can maybe do something similar in the future. I took some cracking photos of the kids then played football with them for a while and showed off some mad tekkers.I knackered myself out in like 5 fooking minutes as it was a billion degrees and I was running around like a loon. We stayed there for a while longer then got the taxi man to drive us back to the town. That night I went up to the roof of the hotel I was staying at to watch the sunset overt the Mekong river and got chatting to a canadian guy for a while and we decided to go out to a nearby bar for a couple of jars. The two of us met up with a couple of dutch guys and the four of us drank snake whisky (basically a bottle of whisky laos with a dead snake in it) and exchanged war stories. The dutch guys where telling me about the cock fighting that they'd seen in the Philippians and showed me some pics. From what the explained it didn't sound like something I'd want to see, but I did go to a cock fight the other day in Bali and it was a good laugh!

The next morning I woke up in a bad way. I looked in the mirror at my back and I had about a million bites on my back, arms and legs. At the time I figured that it was from mosquitoes, but I'm pretty sure it was actually bed bugs:

So everyone from the experience got chatting and I was pretty chuffed with the crowd of people I was to spend the next couple of days with. There was about 10 of us, a mixed bag of nationalities but all about the same age and all backpackers. A couple of the Aussie girls had a wee bit of food poisoning so I dosed them up with Gaviscon from my handy first aid kit that I'd brought along. This was not to be the last time that the first aid kit was required.... The day started with about 2 hours of trekking up a fairly steep hill to the first zip line. They had made the track very well and had rest areas every half hour or so which was well appreciated with the humidity and unfit westerners. At the first zip line the guide pretty much just left us to it, we where all being uber cautious at first triple checking each others equipment and talking through signals for when the line was clear. I went first and made a big hash of the zip line by using the breaks far too much so I had to pull myself to the landing point for about 5 minutes. After that I was pretty confident with judging the power of the breaks and left it till the last minute before breaking so as to land bang on the platforms. There was about 7 zip lines before lunch all ranging from 300 to 500 meters and over different ravines and tree lines. On one of them I was coming in real quick and one of the guys was filming me on the landing platform. I knew I was coming in too hot and shouted at him "I'M HAULING TOO MUCH ASS!" and as I came him he literally dived off the platform into the bush to avoid getting KO'd by me! We all had a good laugh about that one! Eventually we arrived at the tree house about 5 and zipped in. Then we stopped for some coffee (me and a couple of New Zealand guys drank some whiskey and vodka!) then did a circuit of 4 lines that took about an hour to do. We wanted to get tour moneys worth and all the guides where at the back of the group so instead of zipping back into the tree house we decided to do a sneaky extra circuit. we thought we where being rebellious but when the guide caught up with us he didn't mind at all and just said to make sure we where back before dark! We where all pretty knackered so only did one extra circuit before heading back for dinner and some more alcohol (only to tipsy level, none of us where being twats and getting smashed). Then we watched the sun set, chatted for a while, listened to some music and played some cards. I fancied a hot chocolate but we where all out of hot water so I decided to do a night time mission to the gas stove just outside of the tree house. With pot full of water in hand I zipped to the other side and walked over to the gas cooker. Then I sat there in the pitch back with bugs everywhere waiting by myself for the water to boil. I was mildly entertained when a moth flew clean into the gas flame and ignited into oblivion then freaked out when a massive spider stared crawling nearby. Then with a pot of boiling water I managed to zip back into the hut to a heroes welcome! we sat around for a while longer and discussed whether or not it was a good idea to go for a night zip. I wasn't really worried about the safety element as the zip lines are setup in such a way that you have to be a bit silly to injure yourself, I was just apprehensive that it wouldn't be much fun as we wouldn't be able to see anything. However, as it was a full moon, clear sky and we all had head torches 4 of us 'elite ninjas' (we called ourselves) decided to go out and do the circuit. And it was well worth it, zipping through the canyons at night was such an adrenaline rush especially when it came to judging the breaking point for the landing platforms. We didn't want to alert the guides, who where sleeping somewhere nearby, that we where out breaking the rules so we had a signal of making a noise like a gibbon when the line was clear for the next person to go. One of the best things about going out at night was seeing and hearing the swarms of woodlice in their masses. They where really impressive. So glowing from our triumphant and death free adventure we bedded down for the night in one of the most comfortable beds I've been in while travelling!

The next morning we woke up early and had breakfast prepared by the guides. We weren't quite sure if they where oblivious to our night zipping or just didn't give a shit but nothing was mentioned. Then we set off for some more zipping and trekking. we where all excited about the big zip at the end of the day that was 700 meters long. The trek to get there though was pretty hard work as it was down a steep hill and a bit dodgy to walk down. A couple of the girls had upset stomachs too so we where all a bit worn out by the time we got to the massive zip line. me and 2 other guys went first and even though we where pretty heavy (compared to the girls) and had good technique of raising our legs to go faster we all pulled up short of the landing sight. So when we saw Nora come in we didn't think that she would make it to the end either. However, she'd put the runner on backwards so that the break was on the opposite side to the wheels and had somehow clocked up a shit load of speed on the run in. I was standing pretty close to the landing zone when she came in and we realized she was coming in too hot quite late and started shouting "BRAKE". At first she had a really pleased look on her face as she had made it to the end without having to pull herself in. Then, within a moment, the look on her face changed from joy to fear when she went to break and couldn't. I won't forget that look she had when she realized she couldn't stop and as the runner smashed into the stopper at the end her body hurtled into the cable with a massive clatter and as she rolled back blood immediately started flowing from her forehead. She was in shock and blood was dripping down her face as she hung there on the cable. She was still conscious and not panicking so I told her to turn around and pull herself to the landing zone. We helped her unclip, sat her down and I grabbed the first aid kit from my bag. fortunately one of the guys there was a bit handy with first aid so strapped her up with a bandage and the guide landed moments later to see what had happened. He was pretty useless to be honest, he was young, didn't have a first aid kit with him and didn't really know what to do. So really it was lucky that I'd come prepared and one of the guys was clued up to help her. I have her some sweets to help with the shock and she was really shaken up. She went through all the emotions, first anger at the guides, then anger at herself, then tried laughing it off, the cried. Having said that I thought she handled it really well considering, the gash on her forehead was really deep and it was a pretty traumatic ordeal. The worst part was that we still had one more zip to do. We walked to the starting point and a couple of people went first. Then she started freaking out and saying that she couldn't do it. To her credit she plucked up the courage and did it and not only that, she was one of the few people that made it to the end without having to pull themselves in! We went back to the town via truck and the guys from the gibbon experience office took Norah to the hospital and paid for the 9 stitches she needed. we arranged to meet up later that night and exchanged contact details. Then the next morning I was booked into the slow boat down to Luang Prebang.....

Back to Chang Mai

Arrived back in Chaing Mai and checked into good old Mojito. Jam (the cool receptionist) was still a little bit ill from before I left to go to Pai but she was on good form. She checked me into dorm one and I chatted to her for a while about setting up a massage course for me. Then a cute looking girl walked in, so I asked Jam to move me to the same dorm as her. Unpacked my bags and had a quick shower then headed out to the local spot to see if I could find someone to make friends with. Within 5 minutes of sitting at the bar at a random place a couple of English girls came over so I chatted to them for a while. I wanted to try out some of the tricks from the Game to see if I could pull them off. The first of which, which I've used about 8 times since, worked a treat. I'll let my man Neil Strauss do the explaining: So having got them to pay for my next drink we then sat at the bar and I ran a couple more tricks, first the 3 mice story then the Pen 15 club, which both require a pen, and they where loving them. Having exhausted most conversations and realizing that I wasn't really fussed about either of them, I then walked through the club to find someone new to chat to. At that point I then saw the girl from earlier who I'd switched dorms for dancing on a table. Her name was Lindsy, a 29 year old lap dancer from England who was travelling for 3 months by herself. She had a glowing personality and a body to die for. I chatted to her for a while then ran the 5 questions game on her which she was loving. Then after a while the two of us started chatting to some Russian guys who where sat near by and to demonstrate that the 5 question game works every time I managed to get one of them to agree to play it with me. I explained the rules to him and he was ready to start:

Pete: What country are we in?
Guy: Thailand.

So he went of to get me a drink having completely failed to understand the point of the game! One of the other guys then pissed me off by telling me that he did something with smuggling illegal diamonds into the country and, having watched blood diamond and thinking I was an expert on the subject, worked myself up into convincing myself he was a terrible man so promptly headed back to the dorm.... with Lyndsy :-)

The next day I got up early to kick off my massage course. Jam rode me to the place and I met with the instructor and my massage model. The instructor was a middle aged big thai women who spoke really good english and was really friendly. My model was also middle aged and fat but was a german guy who was clearly shacking up with his employer as the two of them flurted cringe-worthily the entire time. The massage course ran for two days and was centered around learning how to give a full body massage. I figured that learning Thai massage wouldn't really be that 'sexy' when it came to actually giving one to a girl. The first day was front of legs, arms and chest and the second day was back of legs, arms and back. The last thing I learned on day one was chest, and massaging oil into a middle aged fat germans hairy chest was not really a highlight of my travelling! It got worse when the next day I had to massage his fat ass. But the course itself was really good and I've used the things I've learned a few times since. After getting some culture I treated myself to a mcdonalds afterwards :-). Then I met up with Lyndsy who was as shattered as I was having done gone to the tigger kingdom that day and we met up with a couple of people she'd met and headed to the night market. We didn't actually get to the night market as on the walk there we got chatting to a couple of really pissed english guys who convinced us to go to a roof top bar for 'one drink'. One drink turned into shots of tequila and a shit ton of sangson and coke. Then it all got a bit messy when a couple of the guys started throwing ice down at the street below and a hit someone who was walking past who then came up and started shouting at them. I had no part in it and was a little embarrassed to be associated with them. Me and Lydsy then went down to play diplomat and apologize on behalf of them and check that no-one was hurt. Then called it a night.

The next day after finishing my massage course I then went off to buy a new camera to replace my XP10 that no longer worked. At some point some sand had got inside so the button to take photo's was knackered so I decided to get the XP20 so that I had spares of all the chargers and batteries. It set me back 100 quid but it had to be done as I couldn't do the rest of my travels without being able to take photos. Then Me and Lyndsy watched lion king in the TV room of the dorm (well, I watched lion king, she chatted to another stripper from England and compared dance moves while I tried to concentrate on the movie!). Then I we went out to the riverside bar to watch some live music. Whilst watching the band and singing along we'd been joined by a mid 30's couple from Australia who we managed to convince to got to a karaoke bar with us. Lyndsy loves singing in public as much as I do, the only difference is that she has a fucking good voice and sings professionally on some R&B tracks! And that was pretty much the end of the night, the next day I was going to head to Laos so I didn't want to stay up too late. Unfortunately lyndsy was heading off to cambodia heading in the opposite direction to me so that was to be the end of that little romance.

My last day in Thailand was spent in a van backtracking the same route and places that I'd been on when I had to do my visa run 15 days prior. I was pretty chuffed with that as I'd slept the entire time the last time (which I talked about in a previous post). So I was the hot springs, which where pretty unimpressive, then saw the white temple which was bloody impressive (you can see my photo's I just put on facebook in the album 'thailand'). Inside the white temple is a massive painting showing images of materialism and commercialism at the bottom then as the painting gets higher it shows more and more peaceful images then at the top are images of Buddhism and Budda. Basically its showing how if you can renounce your dependence on modern crap you will have a more peaceful existence. I can't really do it justice explaining it here but the detail was amazing and it was a really cool way of showing Buddhism. Eventually we arrived at the little town where we where staying for the night before we where to cross the border to Laos the next day. There wasn't a whole lot to do there but I managed to organise a giant game of killer using a pool table at a near by bar which involved about 30 people! I quite like playing fun coordinator and bringing people together. I didn't stay up that late though and left everyone mingling. The next morning I was off to Laos. And I was really looking forward to it.... 

Top 10's

So I realized the other day that I'm well past my halfway point and I've been travelling for almost 7 months now, so I think it's time for another quick reflection type post. For the record, I'm a bit pissed as I've been drinking Irak with some Bali locals on Kuta beach.

Top Ten Countries:
1) Thailand - It was the place I was most looking forward to and it didn't disappoint :-)
2) Vietnam - Seems to get a lot of negative press for some reason but I really liked it
3) China - In addition to proving a great talking point with the kungfu camp, I loved the big cities too
4) Bahrain - The people really make a country, and the expat community I met were great
5) India - Hard work, but ultimately an amazing place
6) Laos - Tubing. 'Nuff said.
7) Indonesia - Only been here a week but loving it so far
8) Cambodia - I wasn't really there that long so couldn't really take it in
9) Malasia - Technically I've been to Singapore for one night but didn't really see anything of note!
10) Only been to 9 countries!

Top Ten Places:
1) Chang Mai - I could go on for hours about that place. Think i might live there after I've been to Australia.
2) Ho Chi Min - Surprisingly endearing despite the hectic chaos
3) Udaipur - Best place in India and a lovely little city
4) Hoi Ann - Beautiful. Like Bruges, but better!
5) Ko Pan Yang - Not just a 'party' island, but a lots of great beaches and plenty to do
6) Jaisalmere - I had a cracking time there with the camel safari and the roof top restaurant.
7) Guang Zou - Only because Pete Hull showed me all the great places to go!
8) Don Det (4000 islands) - Left too soon but loved every minute. Properly chilled place
9) Sanming - Amazingly modern and really welcoming.
10) Vang Vien - Tubing. Nuff said!

Top Ten Moments:
1) Watching the sun set on valentines day in Don Det with the most beautiful girl in my arms. Perfect.
2) Looking over at Udaipur from the top of the mountain whilst drinking whiskey with Wade.
3) Looking out at the canyon after meditating at the temple, then looking up at the stars.
4) Doing Cheng Gong (kungfu/meditation) whilst looking out at the valley during sunrise
5) Riding through villages on my newly bought motorbike in Vietnam whilst listening to Bon Jovi on my ipod
6) Jumping off a 12 meter cliff into the sea on an island off Bali.
7) Watching the sun rise over Ankor Wat with tigs and Maren.
8) Watching the sunset in a tree top house after zip lining through the trees on the gibbon experience
9) Seeing sharks whilst scuba diving in Ko Phi Phi.
10) Racing up the hill on my 650 ninja with dave hot on my heals.

Top Ten People
1) Wade. God I love that guy. Looking forward to hanging out with him in Australia next year. I've never clicked with someone so quickly and been able to chat utter shit without ever having an 'awkward' silence.
2) Maren. Haven't talked about her on my blog yet, but she's a German girl I was travelling with through Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Stunningly hot and a fantastic sense of humor. Rule one of travelling broken!
3) Debz/Loaf/Shlee/Kate. Bahrain wouldn't have even been considered if it hadn't been for those guys. Debz has always been one of my favorite people and it was great to bond with Kate and Loaf. I also thought me and Ash got on really well and built on our friendship as we've never really been that close before.
4) Billy - The 6- year old from Goa who was so likable and confident (and the ultimate wing man!)
5) Ulgur - The russian - Top girl, shame we over did it in Ko Tao living and learning together 24/7.
6) Jackson - The Aussie guy from the kung fu camp. A really easy guy to get on with.
7) Conner - The funniest guy I've met so far. but then again, he's welsh and I always find the welsh hilarious!
8) Jack+Samir - from the kungfu camp. inseparable and quality guys.
9) Log - The Welsh girl from India and Thailand. A proper party girl and a great laugh.
10) Jam - My tour guide from Chaing Mai. She made my time there so great and was my personal accountant!

So there we have it. That's taken me 2 hours to write (in between skyping Rhi to sort out meeting in Aus later this month) and I'm still over a month behind with my blog! I may so some more tonight instead of going out.