A Travellerspoint blog

General Observations

I know this entry is long overdue. It's just that I find my experiences and travels to be a bit overwhelming at times. There is just so much to do and see that its overwhelming to document it all. Also most days I hardly do anything besides wandering around cities purposefully getting lost or finding a bench to read a book. Nonetheless, I’d thought I’d share some general observations with everyone that I’ve come to notice while traveling. This entry will be quite sporadic talking about unrelated things, but things that might be interesting nonetheless.

In my opinion there is a difference between a traveler and someone on a holiday/tourist. In my eyes a traveler would be someone on an extended period of travel and often on a budget. They come and go as they please, not entirely interested in seeing every sight there is to see in whatever place they happen to be; but more interested in just being in that place in that moment. A tourist on the other hand is someone that is burning through money hitting every museum, temple, pagoda, on and off the bus tour they can book.
Well I’ve ran into quite a few characters in my travels lately and here is what I’ve concluded thus far. While on the road you tend to be classified by your nationality/ethnicity. In fact that is probably third question you get asked if its not already obvious by your accent. (The first two questions asked being: Where have you been? and Where are you going? In fact names rarely get exchanged within the first few hours of conversation.) My observations do not in anyway speak for the entire group however its what I’ve seen and people I’ve met thus far.
The Japanese Tourist…quite a specimen. Cannot begin to tell you the violations I’ve witnessed from some of them. For starters, underwater they take no concern for the marine environment. One of the fundamental rules of diving is to leave the environment the way you found it; everyone knows that corals are living species and that touching them can kill them. Supposedly Japanese divers missed this in diving 101. Above ground they are the epitome of a tourist, swarming sights as they hop on and off their plush tour buses. I don’t know what it is, but they show up in hoards and are louder than hell! Ok ladies…wearing wedges and heels is just not practical for scaling ancient ruins. I have to admit though, they are some of my favorite people for people watching. Sometimes I’d like to ask them who told them they looked good when they left the house that morning, because whoever it was flat out lied. They are always the brightest mismatched colors as well as wearing some of the funniest hats you can imagine. From large brimmed visor hats that your grandma probably wouldn’t wear anymore, even sombreros on some; their hats run the gamut!
Aussies: They are everywhere in Southeast Asia! With close proximity to Australia, SEA is naturally their most accessible destination. No chance walking a block without running into one.
Americans: The majority of Americans I’ve met thus far have got on my last good one! For the most part, I’ve seemed to encountered two types…The privileged that seem to know everything no matter what you tell them, or the Hippie nomads that seem to think that the world is ending and that America is on the verge of total collapse.
Well that’s just a few I’d like to comment on.

Another interesting fact, a bit of toilet humor. Some places, especially in the countryside, only have squat toilets. Basically just a porcelain hole in the ground with grooves on the side to place your feet. A tricky thing to get the hang of if your not flexible or have bad knees. Also most of SEA does not use toilet paper. They have a water hose with a squirt gun a ‘bum gun’ or even worse just a dipper which is nothing more than a bucket filled with water. This obviously doesn’t fly for most westerners so carrying toilet paper is a must. However the plumbing over here is not equipped to handle all the tp. Therefore whatever you use must go into the waste basket next to you and not flushed down the toilet. Something as second nature as dropping after wiping is a very hard habit to break.

Not a secret, but America’s pharmaceutical companies are exploiting us!!! When I can buy a packet of 10 valium from the pharmacy for no more than a single US $1.00, why do I need to shell out so much for a prescription in The States! Why do I need to be buying valium you might ask?? No I’m not turning into some drug smuggler. Valium can actually be a travelers best friend. In fact most travelers don’t leave their guesthouses without it. When you have a 12 hour cramped bus ride from Hue to Hanoi a couple of Valium is your best option.

The best plan out here is to have no plan! I must admit I’m a total planner, in fact when going on a trip anywhere I find planning it to be half the enjoyment. That’s how this trip started, I planned out the first 4 weeks of my journey. Oh how quickly that changed. Within 3 days of arriving here my plan quickly changed. I found myself in places I didn’t originally plan to go. I also found the freedom of staying in one place however long I’d like great! There’s actually no need for a guide book or pre booking accommodation or transportation. Besides my flight here and my eventual flight back to the states, I have not pre booked a single thing. Finding accommodation is as easy as wandering down the street. Booking transportation is as easy as taking a trip to the train or bus station, or even walking into a travel agency to have it done for you. There are at least 5 different travel agencies on any street block. And as far as knowing where to go, word of mouth by other travelers can be your best guidebook.

Food is phenomenal out here. Some of the best food you can get is from the street corners. Little Asian ladies set up their portable stoves and pots of whatever they cook up. Grabbing a child stool and pointing to whatever the local is eating is all you have to do. The next thing you know you have a steaming bowl of Pho or noodles sitting in front of you. However, turning a blind eye to the unhygienic treatment of the food is a must otherwise you’ll just plain starve. I often find myself wondering about my friends and my own previous habits. Vegetarianism would be very hard, because although you ask for no meat whatever they make would be made with some sort of animal product. Asking for only white meat from the chicken and no dark meat would cause utter confusion. Refusing to eat meat that’s on the bone would leave you starving. Also an interesting habit that I’ve picked up is slurping. It is common practice and even respectful to slurp your noodles/pho/ramen/etc here so I don't mind it at all, in fact I rather enjoy it. However, I had to check myself the other day when I started to slurp my spaghetti. I caught myself doing it out of sheer habit. I'm not sure if slurping your pasta the way you slurp your pho is kosher.

I’ve had sooooo many unexplainable bug bites on my skin since I’ve been here. Little red spots here, white spots there. From bed bugs to mozzie bites to spider bites to whatever the hell else is out here, I’ve had it. Sometimes I constantly feel like something is crawling on me, but have seemed overcome it. Fearing small bugs has seemed to be a thing of the past for me.

Well that’s all for now. I’ll return with some entries about Cambodia and Vietnam later.

Miss everyone.
b

Posted by BeccaB 04:37 Comments (1)

Life at Sea

...a Pirate's life for me

With anticipation, all 22 of us stepped on board the Queen Manta I. We were immediately shown through the galley on to our cabins. Looks like my bunk mates were going to be 3 Aussie guys and a couple of them turned out to be in my scuba group as well. Our cabin was tight and cozy, only room for one person standing unless we were all in our bunks but lets face it, most of our time was going to spent in the water not in our cabins. The Queen Manta was newly polished and cleaned for the start of the high season. As soon as we were all settled in we went up to the dining deck (where we spent most of our time when out of the water) for a briefing from Gonzo, the head of the SCUBA instructors. The first night on board we feasted like kings then got briefed by our instructor for the dive tomorrow morning. The four of us in my group would be doing the advanced open water course which required us to do a deep dive of 30 meters, peak buoyancy performance skills, a night dive, and a wreck dive. The next four days were spent eating and scuba diving. We would wake up and be in the water just as the sun was rising. Then end the day either with a night dive or resurfacing just as the sun was setting. The scenery was beyond gorgeous. The similan islands can be pictured as crystal clear turquoise waters, visibility was at least 30meters under the water, big granite boulders, perfectly white sandy beaches, and hardly anyone around. For the most part people go out there to dive becAuse the islands are uninhabited. Can easily say best experience so far! Great people, awesome staff, living on a boat out to sea was surreal, and one of the top ten diving sites in the world...what more could you ask for. At the end of our trip we all reluctantly deboArded and started making our next travel plans. The Aussie boys and I all booked tickets to Bangkok, they were visiting but i was just passing through on my way to Cambodia.

The bus trip to BK...
As soon as we deboArded the boat we all immediately felt AWFUL! We were used to the rocking of the boat, the motion of the ocean; as soon as we transitioned back to land we got throbbing headaches and in some instances felt like vomiting. Well to surpress this, we decided to get some beer for the bus ride. In the middle of the bus ride by the time everyone was asleep (it was a night bus) Duncan came running upstairs waking me laughing his ass off telling me that Leon threw up downstairs. Supposedly he was scrambling to the toilet and apparently didn't make it. He ended up projectile vomiting in the aisle splashing spew onto sleeping peoples feet. Then when the bus pulled off the road to clean up, Coops, one of the other guys got off the bus and threw up as well. We were all upstairs in a fit of laughter. I'm surprised no one from down stairs beat our asses. I sure as hell would have if someone threw up on me then laughed about it hahaha

Oh on another note...while out here I've seemed to have developed what I like to call jungle rot. It's a rash on my shoulder blade about as big as a quarter. After visiting bangkok's pristine hospital (that is not sarcasm, their hospitals make ours look like third class establishments), I'll be happy to report that it is clearing up. The dermatologist was a bit taken aback as how I could have developed it seeing how it's a fungus infection you get from animals or pets when I clearly have none out here. I told her that if she saw some of the backpacker digs she'd know that they're not exactly awarded for their cleanliness.

Until next time everybody.
b
xx

Posted by BeccaB 04:01 Comments (2)

The Beach

So all the travel books say not to head to Koh Phi Phi in the high season without booking accommodation… Since I stopped following the travel book long ago, I didn't take heed to this warning. The majority of Guesthouses do not have internet sites, nor is there a yellow pages or phone book of Thailand. So how could these places be pre booked if there was no way of reaching them right....WRONG! The ferry ride was a straight shot from Phuket only taking about two hours, however it was a long two hours. The person next to me was an annoying talker that insisted on playfully bashing the United States, I wasn't havin it. After arriving on the shores of Phi Phi around 4pm I set off on a scout for a room that night. Up until now my routine if I arrive at a new place later in the day has been to find some decent accommodation straight away even if it is a little pricey then have a good scout about in the morning. After asking the first twenty guest houses if they had room and with all their replies being FULL, I knew I was in trouble. Thankfully this SCUBA instructor, Hussein, outside his shop stopped me asked me if I was searching around for accommodation. When I told him I that I was and was having no luck, he let me drop my rucksack in his office and told me to go looking a little more, if by the time he got off that night I still didn't have a place, I could sleep at his place. This threw me back a bit, thought it was a little sketch but being able to leave my pack at his shop was something that I was willing to do. So once again I set off searching and praying for a place, I was scared to be out on the streets for a night. In my head I was already devising a plan on how I'd stay awake for the entire night. In the end I tried literally every guesthouse I could find on the streets with no luck. I returned back to Hussein defeated. He told me not to worry that I could have his bed and he'd go sleep at a friend’s house. When I found out that his bed was actually in a dorm room at a well known guesthouse, I was put at ease.

So finally with accommodation taken care of I was left to enjoy the village of Tonsai, the only real inhabited village of Koh Phi Phi. It was very small, no room for any vehicles whatsoever. Locals insisted trying to bike around on bicycles however the streets were too packed with tourists that a bike was more of a hindrance. I wouldn't really even call them streets. They were more like elaborately packed alley ways with shops, guesthouses, restaurants, and bars all packed on top of each other.

One of the days I was able to take a sunset snorkeling trip to various coves and beaches around the island. Including the infamous Maya Bay (the filming location of "The Beach"). I have many pictures, but I'm afraid that my account and photos wouldn't do it justice. The entire area was truly remarkable with scaling cliff sides and turquoise blue waters. Limestone carsts with wild jungle vegetation scattered the oceans surrounding Phi Phi. This place had remarkable beauty. My only gripe would be the hordes of tourists everywhere, but hey I'm one of them so I can't really be a hypocrite and complain.

In transition from Phi Phi to my Live aboard trip in the Similan Islands, I decided to make a stopover in Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket not Fucket). The famous Phuket is the largest island in the world, so large in fact that it didn't feel like an island. It felt more like the mainland. Hordes of tourists every year crowd these shores for resorts, sex, and parties. Patong beach is where all this action takes place and can sort of be considered as the Tijuana equivalent of Thailand I'd say. So of course this is where I decided to plant myself for the night hahaha. Patong screams sex but not in a good way. Bangla street was lined with bar after bar littered with go-go girls and prostitutes, touts hawking ping pong shows, drunken tools and nasty old men. Not my scene; instead to escape the madness, I had a very "American" day. I spent the day browsing their massive mall. It reminded me of Honolulu’s massive mall complex or some mall complex you'd find down in southern California somewhere. It transported me back home for a bit; after reminiscing about home for a while, I decided to take in a film. I went and saw Tron. Besides the Thai subtitles, I found the movie to be good but the most interesting part of the experience took place before the movie even started. If I haven't mentioned it before, His Majesty, the Thai King is very egotistic (I'm sure I'd be stoned to death over here if I expressed those feelings to a local Thai). His seems to be somewhat worshipped over here. You can find extravagant monuments and larger than life-size photographs of him and his queen scattered about in any town or city here in Thailand. A bit flashy if you ask me. So back to the film...before the movie started, the audience all had to stand to give respect to His Majesty the King while the played what I believe to be the national anthem in the background. Thought it was interesting enough to share with you all. =)

Well stay tuned for an account of my live aboard scuba trip to the Similan Islands. I'll be writing very soon. Just to give everyone an account on where I am now though, I've moved on to Cambodia. My blog is about a week behind so I'll try to catch up in the next few days.

Miss everyone,
b
xx

Posted by BeccaB 21:45 Comments (1)

Comments

On a side note. Thank you everyone for your comments. Not sure how to comment back to them or if I even can, but don't think they go unnoticed. I look forward to them.

b

Posted by BeccaB 05:30 Comments (3)

Happy New Year!!

Sorry that it's been so long from my last post. The haze of island life has taken me away from all connection to the real world transporting me into this alternate reality that is much better I must say.

So when I last wrote I was still on the island of Koh Tao. A lot has happened since then. One last thing to report on Koh Tao...I'm in love with a lady boy, well a couple to be honest hahahahahaha. So Thailand is a very open and accepting culture and therefore the existence of "lady boys" is very prevalent. On my last night on the island a friend and I decided to catch the lady boy Cabaret Show. Previous to this show Angelo and I were discussing the Thai women out here and remarking about out how none of them have blown us away just yet. Well that ended when we went to the Cabaret show. The both of us and another friend of ours, Teresa, were transfixed by these men ::cough:: I mean ladies up on the stage with their extravagant costumes breaking it down just as good as Beyonce herself. We all were skeptics and by the end of the act decided that we were definitely attracted to a couple of them and that there was no way they could have been men, enough said! ;)

Angelo and I with our newly recruited companions Tez and Ryan were off to Koh Phangan to ring in the New Year. The journey consisted with a rather choppy ride on a large Catamaran. People were dropping like flies to sea sickness. Thankfully we were the last few to hang on til we got back on land. The search for accommodation was tedious because in three days time there was to be the largest New Years Eve party any of us has ever seen (30k to 50k people expected). Angelo and I settled into this bungalow/shack that barely had enough room for a double bed. After trying it a night before, I refused to sleep in the same bed with him because he does some crazy shit in his sleep (kick, talk, thrash about, etc.) so we took turns sharing the bed while the other one slept on the porch in the hammock. I can't say I minded the hammock, in fact I preferred it to the dingy digs inside our bungalow. Being lulled to sleep by waves crashing on the beach while being able to see the night sky isn't a bad way to go out I'd say. The rest of our time on Koh Phangan consisted of beach hopping, resting up, and getting our outfits ready for this mega new years bash. Koh Phangan is famous for their full moon beach parties and that’s exactly what NYE was going to be, just bigger! This meant we were on the prowl for the typical neon colored outfits and fluorescent paint that everyone else would be wearing. With our bodies painted up, neon shorts and tanks on, ten of us set out to head to Haad Rin Beach. After travelling maybe about a mile in the taxi, it was clear we were never going to make it to the party. The traffic was bumper to bumper, no vehicles were getting through. It was about 11:15 when everyone starting to get frantic about midnight quickly approaching. This is about the time that everyone decided to climb out the taxi and start running to the beach. This would have been no problem because Haad Rin was probably only about 3 or 4 miles away at the most and with all of us filling a little boozed up, our adrenaline would have gotten us there no problem. HOWEVER...the road to Haad Rin is comprised of hills that would make San Francisco’s steepest streets look like child’s play. With my heart pumping through my chest and about half a mile left to go, finally a taxi (just fyi whenever I say taxi don’t picture yellow cabs, picture pickup trucks with metal canopies and benches welded to the bed for people to sit on) pulled up just slow enough for us to jump on the back of to take us the rest of the way. We had finally made it, and boy was it worth it!!!!! The beach was covered in djs playing anything from hip-hop to progressive tech. We spent the rest of 2010 dancing to techno beats while drinking out of buckets filled with the kind of whiskey or vodka that would ensure a solid headache the next morning. Angelo and I stumbled back around 2am or 3am which I was slightly disappointed by; we didn't pace ourselves very well. The Aussies we went with trickled in from 9am to 12 noon the following day, I was envious to say the least. All in all it was an epic NYE, one I'd like to recreate one of these years.

Our days on Koh Phangan were coming to an end and everyone had to say goodbye because we were all off on our separate ways. Tez and Ryan who we had been travelling with for the past two weeks were off to Malaysia and Angelo was off to Sydney to start his new life, which left me like a leaf blowing in the wind. I decided to take a trip to Myanmar aka Burma to renew my Thai Visa. That was an adventure all in itself which I did not enjoy, but at least I did it with a couple of other Spaniards so we were able to share in the hassle of the Burmese boarding crossing. Afterwards my plan was to head to Khao Lak, where I am writing from now, a beach side town known for its live aboard SCUBA diving trips to the nearby Similan Islands. I set up this live aboard trip where I'll be travelling to the Similan Islands and living aboard this vessel for 4days and 4 nights, diving until I grow fins. Going to be another epic experience that I'll make sure to report on once I'm done (I depart on the 10th). So tomorrow I head out of this one horse town, moving on to greener pastures. Koh Phi Phi (pronounced pee pee) is next on the list. For those of you who saw the film The Beach whi Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the island where that film was filmed. The impression I get by word of traveler’s mouth is that its the most picturesque island and beach in Thailand; the only downfall being the hoards of people flocking to grab a glimpse of paradise. Nevertheless, by this time tomorrow hopefully I'll be there sipping a Chang on my beachside bungalow.

As always; with lots of love,
b
xx

Posted by BeccaB 04:44 Comments (3)

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