Monday, December 18, 2006
What a long strange trip it's been
Well kiddies, this is it. My first blog entry was just under 4 months ago written on one of my first mornings in Tokyo. I remember at the time acknowledging that I was really just a scared little boy. Some things change. Some things stay the same. Im here now in Auckland, New Zealand for the second time counting the last 26 hours before I start my long trek home.
What happened in Thailand and Cambodia? Nothing good that I have not already written about in the posts that had pictures. Did bad stuff happen there? Yeah, some shit went down. I'm not proud of it. What happened? My passport and wallet were stolen in two separate incidents. You got your wallet stolen again? Yeah.. again... How did it happen? The passport was in a pair of shorts that were taken from a baggage room in a hostel in Bangkok. The wallet was pulled right out of my pocket while I was drinking on a beach in the islands in the south of Thailand. What did you do about it? The passport just meant going back to Bangkok and hanging out at the Canadian embassy for two days filling out forms and handing over cash. The wallet now is just a memory. How did you deal with having no ID and no wallet/visa card/money? It sucked but I managed, as per usual. I had to beg/borrow from this girl I met the day before (Colleen, If you are reading this, send me an e-mail so I can pay you back). I was able to get emergency cash from Visa via Western Union and a new Visa card in Auckland. Did you learn any lessons from this? No.
Enough about that. It's still a sore issue.
New Zealand though has been an abrupt change of course though. The people here have been the most pleasant, helpful and honest of all the nations I've been to so far. God has truly given New Zealand a disproportionate amount of the world's natural beauty (and packed it into two really small islands). I met a kind English bloke at the airport and found suitable furnished lodgings in Auckland. He bought a car a couple days later and I found myself hitching my way around New Zealand with him. Traveling with your own vehicle is really the only way to experience this country. The buses are hugely expensive and they don't pull over every 5 Kms so you can take pictures of the new scenery. Driving here is no chore. In fact, its often better than exploring the towns you find yourself in along the way. Mountain passes full of wild flowers and snow capped peaks and reflective lakes. Rolling green hills that no one cares about yet a first timer has to stop and stare, speechless at, while slipping into a catatonic fantasy about your new life is a sheep farmer just as soon as all the necessary arrangements are made. If I every have to go into hiding from the Mafia, a crazy ex-wife or the CIA, I'm coming to New Zealand with enough scotch and weapons to wipe out a Thai village, finding an isolated little sheep farm on a mountain side and spending the rest of my time on earth coming up with fresh new jokes about fucking sheep.
There is no one that would be reading this that I would not recommend coming to New Zealand. This will not be my last time here. In the 10 Countries I've been in on this journey, this is the first one I will come back to. Only with more time and more money. There are no pictures attached to this entry because my USB chord as been AWOL since Hong Kong and there is no one here to borrow one from. Hint Hint for a Christmas gift... Three weeks is the most amount of time I have spent in any country along the way and this is the only place I've been were three weeks seemed so laughably short.
enough though. Always leave a place with reasons to go back. This place has a lot
My flight home rivals the Iron Man in terms of tests of endurance. There are 46 hours between the time I board in Auckland and land in Toronto. 31 of those hours are on flights. I start with a 10 hour flight in the wrong motherfucking direction to Singapore where I will hang out in the airport for 12 hours before getting on another flight to Los Angelas. I've got four hours of smelling bad, and scrambling my circuits trying to figure out what time it is while in LA and then I am in the capable hands of Air Canada for 5 hours back to Toronto. This is the first time the terms "Air Canada" and "capable" have ever appeared in the same sentence.
So unless I end up on the business end of a firing squad in Singapore for possessing gravol or the terrorists or Department of Homeland Security take me down in LA (Terror Alert: High), it's looking like my safe return may now have changed from doubtful to probable.
Thanks for reading. Expect one or two more entries; one summarizing the trip and one with pictures of this inconceivably beautiful place.
Much love, Merry Christmas and all the crap
Looking forward to catching up in person soon
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
New Pics again - Thailand this time.
So this is a little bit of Bangkok from the top of some temple... The city is far more modern than I was expecting. That having been said it is still in Southeast Asia and it has plenty of the same problems (hookers, thieves, corrupt cops and worst of all, travel agents). Still though. Nice city if you forget about the people.
Part of a trek through northern thailand involves riding on the back of elephants. My elephant was clearly from the "special" class as he could not for the life of him figure out that he was supposed to follow the path and keep up with the other elephants. he seemed to prefer getting yelled at and beaten by a thai guy whose frustration was about the funniest thing I've seen in south east asia.
The actual trekking through the jungle was one of the highlights of thailand (perhaps because it was finally a chance to get a moments peace, away from the pimps and ripoff artists that choke the streets of bangkok.) We spent 3 days/2 nights tramping though the jungle and mountains, staying in small tribal villages and swimming in waterfalls.
Despite the physical exhaustion, dehydration and gentle hangover we made it to this peak (about 1500m). the views were great and many a great picture was taken. (notice the slight bend in my knees -I'm trying to keep my balance and not fall off the drop-off below). Turns out I have mild fear of heights.
Mikkel, Anders and I rented some bikes on the morning after we got back from out trek. Neither of them had ridden before so they looked like pigs on rollerskates at first We had an awsome day of cruising down the highways with our i-pods blasting and getting off the beaten path and exploring old country roads and farmer's paths. The hot weather, long winding roads and awsome deserted mountains at the end of them made this really the perfect day of riding. This picture is the result of setting my camera up on the road and having to run back in time.
Me posing with the bikes (Honda Phantoms with 200cc sewing machine engines). Not a bad deal for $15 for the day. This is where the farmer's path finally ended. some local women working in the field looked at us as though we were crazy. maybe we were. nice mountain though...
Monday, December 04, 2006
Pics - Cambodia
On our first morning in Phnom Penh, Anders and Mikkel and I went to a local shooting range. They have virtually no concept of gun safety which is fine because I have no interest in it myself. For a small fee they just hand any old idiot a gun of his choice and let them fire away at a target. I chose the Colt-45 and the AK-47 though they had lots of others to choose from.
What can I say? That's an anti-aircraft gun and that's me holding it. The bandana is there to make me look tough.
A logical next place to visit after a shooting range is probably here; The Killing Fields (its actually just where the driver took us). During this reign of terror in the late 70s under the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot used this site for the seemingly indiscriminate killings of anyone he perceived as a threat to the revolution or the government. It is unknown how many people died here but estimates approach 100,000. Women, children, foreigners, the blind, the infirm and the elderly enjoyed no special exemption. The total lack rational that went into these deaths makes it all the more heartbreaking. In my travels, this place sits next to Hiroshima as a showcase of the ugliness and thoughtlessness we (the royal we) are capable of.
We arrived in Phnom Penh during the Water Festival, one of the biggest events of the year. The streets were choked of with hundreds of thousands of people having a good time and making life hell for cab drivers. Some places were far more crowded than this. You'd think I'd have something negative to say about it but I don't. It was a blast.
Just outside of Siem Riep is this: Angkor Wat. The mother of all temples. I assumed by the time I had reached this place and had seen about a million temples in Asia I would be all templed out. Impossible at this place. We arrived just after five in the morning so as to see the sun rise from in front of the main entrance. About 500 other people had the same idea. The main temple itself (pictured here) takes hours to explore but that only is the beginning of the day. For miles and miles around there are numerous stone pyramids, jungle shrines, ancient walls, bridges and gates that need to be explored. I will post more pics when I have time.
More new pics: Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand
Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. I spent two nights cruising around these limestone monoliths, swimming in the pea-soup water and getting sun for the first time. By far, the coolest thing in Vietnam.
Quite possibly the guilty culprit that made me black out and wake up the next day deaf in one ear and covered in mystery bruises. Worst thing I've ever drank. I doubt the snake cared for it either.
Me sampling the local tobacco in a street side bar with some locals. It tasted like raccoon hair that had been swept up from the floor a truck-stop bathroom but they were impressed that could manage to take it in without losing my lungs.
This drunk local couldn't speak any English but what he communicated very clearly is that he was Chinese and was a soldier in the war in Vietnam and that he was very proud that he had killed "many many American". At this point my American friend Monica (2nd from the right) decided that it wasn't so bad introducing herself as Canadian after all.
Pretty not bad for a backyard view for the people living in Sapa, a mountain town near the Chinese border famous for trekking.
French Canadian Charles attempting to do business with the local tribal girls. They are without a doubt, the cutest little people I've seen in my life. It's a wonder I didn't buy more than I did.
Cooling off for in a stream that feeds a large waterfall. I took some pictures of the local native girls swimming naked here but they aren't developed yet.
- stolen from Groucho Marx
I met these two Danish bastards, Mikkel (brown hair) and Anders (blonde hair) on the boat in Ha Long Bay and parted ways soon after. We met up again at a truck stop in the middle of the night a week later and I ended up traveling with them for a bit. That bit turned into one month that spanned three countries often times sharing beds to cut costs. By the end, they were like brothers.
After going to Nha Trang, and Saigon we went to the remote island of Pho Quoc. We stayed in bungalows on the beach, drank bottles of rum in the evening and had a great time. Can't imagine what we are looking at in this picture.
We were also traveling with a girl from just outside London. I was sharing a bungalow with her. I was reading a book on my bed when I heard a scream that caused me to turn white and damn near black out. Omdip (her name) had opened the bathroom door to discover this. I thought she had seen a dead body or worse. Still though this spider was big enough that he ought to have been paying a share of the night's accommodation.
The Hero of our story on top of Sam Mountain on his last night in Vietnam. Tomorrow there would be a boat ride into Cambodia. Look how relieved he looks to be getting out of Vietnam. Little does he know what horrors await him.