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Posts Tagged ‘thailand’

Road? What road?

February 7, 2005 Leave a comment

We’re back in Thailand, arrived yesterday afternoon after a totally hellish bus ride from Siem Reap to the Cambodia/Thailand border. 159 kilometers in 6 hours. They allege that there’s a road along that route, I’d like to dispute that. Most of it is a two-lane dirt track, and the bits that are tarmacked are so damaged that they may as well not be.

And it feels so wonderful to be back in this country. :)

We stayed in a very nice place called the Aran Mermaid Hotel in Aranyaprathet last night. Worth a stay if you ever happen to be in the area.

Up at 5am this morning for the 6:40 train from Aran to Bangkok. We’re now staying at the Atlanta Hotel. A very cool place with a great 1950s vibe, and well away from the Khao San Road backpacker area. Between noon and 1pm they play recordings of jazz tunes composed by the King (of Thailand that is, not Elvis), so we’re looking forward to hearing some of that.

I also discovered that I will be in Hong Kong on the night of Chinese New Year, the year of the Rooster, which is also my Chinese astrological sign. Synchronicity?

That’s it for now. Take care.

Cheers,
Paul C./Karsoe

Beachcombing

January 24, 2005 Leave a comment

“Bloody hippies!” :)
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Well, as much as we liked Koh Chang (ants excluded), one of the things which disturbed up greatly was the state of one of the beaches near where we stayed. Bear in mind that this is a National Marine Park, and many of the beaches on the island are actually very clean and swim-in-able.

All the same, Jen and I embarked on a too-small cleanup operation of this beach yesterday before departing. There was a horrible black slick thing oozing over the surface of the water and we saw two deceased marine creatures on the beach. We also managed to collect the following from an area roughly 50 meters long and 10 wide (about a fifth of the total beachfront)…

Plastic bottles – 6
Tetra packs- 10
Instant coffee sachets – 4
Bits of styrofoam – 9
Plastic bags – 81
Shampoo bottle – 1
Instant noodle packets – 5
Asthma Inhaler – 1
String (varying lengths) – 41
Velcro strip – 1
Aerosol can (wood laquer) – 1
Cassette tape – 1
Miscellaneous bits of plastic – 108
Remains of pineapple – 1
Straws – 10
Hook/pole thing – 1
Bottle caps (plastic) – 2
Biscuit packet – 1
Candy wrappers – 11
Glass bottle (intact) – 1
Tin cans – 1
Crisps bags – 7
Rope (varying lengths) – 10
Pieces of balloon – 3
Cigarette packs – 2
Remnants of tarpaulin (buried, unremoveable) – 1
Broken glass – 15
Plastic cups – 3
Home-made broom – 1
Plastic spoon – 2
Cigarette lighter – 3
Bottle caps (metal) – 5
Sanitary wrapper – 1
Styrofoam containers – 2
Tarpaulin fragments – 2
Flip-flop/Jandal/thong – 1
Watermelon hald – 1
Laundry detergent bag – 1
Bundle of sticks tied together – 1
Egg shells – 3
Cooler/chilly bin/Esky – 1
Chilli pepper – 1
Wire cable – 1
Bits of wood with rusty nails in ’em – 2
Beer can – 1
Woven rice sack – 1
Strainer/colander – 1

City Of Angels

January 14, 2005 Leave a comment

Hello from Bangkok.

Officially known as Krung Thep.

More officially known as Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

It seems as if any city known as the City Of Angels has a very long official name. Los Angeles, for example, is officially called El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porcincula.

Jen and I are still here, but have booked bus tickets to Koh Chang on the way to Cambodia. We head off tomorrow, ETA in Cambodia currently unknown. We have visas, that’s the main thing.

We’ve been having loads of fun exploring the city, finding new and cool placs for food and drink, visiting temples and other sacred areas (the pub for instance). :) And meeting some very friendly cats at a monastery. Getting a bit of writing done. And some reading. Letting the important lessons of life filter through my mind and into my heart. And also getting some tips on how to bring it all back to Australia with me and make it a part of my everyday life. That’s one thing I really hope to accomplish.

So yes, the amazing adventure continues. Not sure of the Internet situation in Koh Chang, but I’ll be sure to get in touch when I can.

Cheers,
Paul C./Karsoe

Categories: Travel Tags: , , ,

Home again?

January 9, 2005 Leave a comment

Here I am, safe & sound and significantly less hung over than when last we met…

Getting on the Thai Air flight from Siagon was a little strange. I was greeted by the flight attendant with “Sawadee ka” and felt instantly comfortable. I could’ve only felt in more familiar surroundings if I’d stepped onto a Qantas plane and met with a “G’day”.

Landing in Bangkok 65 minutes later was also a very cool feeling. It really did feel as familiar as landing in Mascot.

Getting through to the outside world, however, was a total balls-up on my past. Knowing you could get a visa on arrival, I then proceeded to follow the completely wrong process and delayed my exit from the airport by an hour. Grr… I then got a taxi but failed to factor in the Friday arvo traffic. Another hour to the guesthosue Jen was staying in.

Seeing the tuk-tuks, Golden Mount, Democracy Momument, Grand Palace, and yes even Khao San Road filled me even more with a sense of coming home rather than landing in a foreign country. And while there’s a lot more traffic than in Vietnam, it’s also a lot quieter. No vigorous tootling of any kind. :)

FINALLY met up with Jen, we talked, we laughed, we ate some great food, we spoke vaguely about our next move to Cambodia, and we slept soundly. It was the first bit of quiet I’d had in 18 days. Magical.

This evening after dinner we found a department store and bought a kettle so we can enjoy the Vietnamese coffee I bought in Hué. Then bought a few more things from a nearby supermarket. The whole time it kept hitting me that this felt truly like where I lived. It was weird, but very cool.

[yawn!] I suspect I’m still somewhat knackered from my Vietnam adventure. :) So I’ll head off and wish you all a good night.

Lao Enchantment

December 10, 2004 Leave a comment

VIENTIANE, LAOS – I’m sure some of you have met someone that just strikes you as so extraordinary, so beautiful and gentle, that within five minutes of meeting them you know your heart is at risk of being stolen. You might even think to yourself, “Hang on, this is a bit quick, maybe I should ease off a bit, take my time and see if this is real.” But you look, and listen, and the attraction becomes stronger.

This has happened to me quite recently with someone so amazing, and it happened to me again this afternoon when I crossed the border into Laos. I can’t even describe what it is about this place that makes it so beautiful. But I just walked from me guesthouse with a smile on my face, my darker mood of the last day or so gone.

The crossing was a mini-adventure. I’d heard that you can get a visa on arrival, so I fronted at the checkpoint in Nong Khai with naught but my travel gear. Gave my passport to the bloke at Departures, who removed my Thailand departure slip. At that moment, I truly felt in limbo. Officially, I was not anywhere. The Thai govt. now had me on record as having left, but I still didn’t have any documentation for my destination.

I spotted a building labelled Immigration, and inquired there. It was staffed by some very harrassed-looking officials who told me, “Visa you get there, sign, Vientiane.”

Hmmm… having never actually arranged this sort of thing on my own, I was a little skeptical. I thought a visa had to be arranged before actually setting foot in the country you were going to.

So I asked at the office labelled Customs, only to be told to talk to Immigration.

The same Immigration official was a little less patient this time. “Lao visa there! You sign in Laos!”

I thanked numerous deities he wasn’t armed.

I spent about 10 anxious minutes looking for a Westerner who might know what was going on. The only signs in English were ones warning about likely penalties imposed if you were dumb enough to get caught taking drugs into Laos (“1. Prison. 2. Execution. 3. Goods confiscated.” I’ll take what’s behind door number 3 thank you.) Anyway, by that point I’d decided that my first night in the first Communist country I’d ever been to would be in a basement room somewhere in a Lao government building with a weary Australian embassy oficial shaking his head sadly over having to bail another clueless farang out on a matter that should be uncomplicated.

A tiny minibus arrived and about 7 people too many squeezed into it. I was last on board, the only Westerner. A little old Thai lady grabbed my 12 kilo pack and dropped it on her lap. She smiled and nodded at me, a silent “Mai pen rai” (no worries) passed between us.

I was starting to feel better.

It took 5 minutes to cross the Friendship Bridge, many people standing with nothing to hang on to. Fortunately we were stuck behind a lumbering fuel tanker, it was not possible to go faster than about 5 km/h.

I was relieved to see “VISA ON ARRIVAL” displayed prominently over a set of darkly-tinted windows in the side of a concrete bunker near where the bus stopped. I hopped out, my feet touching Lao soil, but I’d not be fully “there” without a visa and entry stamp.

I presented myself at the window, and a little slide-door opened to reveal an absolutely stunning young Lao girl wearing what seemed to be an old Russian army uniform. She smiled and took my travel documents, the slide door slamming closed quickly.

I filled out my arrival and departure forms and struck up a conversation with a Dutch lady who was backpacking through the region with her husband and two young daughters (both somewhere between 7 and 10 years old). They were heading to Sydney soon, so I did my bit for Australian tourism and told them to visit Manly. Might hit the council up for a commission when I get home.

My paperwork was processed in less than 10 minutes. I was disappointed to discover that the Lao beauty who took my credentials (as it were) had been magically replaced by a man who was probably ancient 500 years ago.

Waiting in line to get the entry stamp, the Dutch husband was standing in front of me. He glanced into the entry stamping booth thingy, stifled a laugh, then softly told me that the official doing the visa stamping was actually playing a snooker game on his computer. I sneaked a peek and he was right. We both had a good laugh over that. Fortunately, his offsider behind him seemed to be actually doing some work.

And wallop! I was in the Laos People’s Democratic Republic.

The Dutch couple offered to share a cab ride into Vientiane, and I agreed. I was feeling better but still very Twilight Zone. One of the cab touts hailed what allegedly passes for a taxi, but in Australia wouldn’t even pass for registration. It was an old Toyota Corona, no seatbelts, none of the instruments worked. But it beats walking 22 kms.

The Dutch family checked into the most expensive hotel in town (with a pool, etc., for the young ones). I continued on to slightly cheaper digs. 15 Us dollars, 600 Thai baht, 20 Aussie dollars, or 162,525 Lao kip for some very civilised accommodation near the Vientiane town centre. Beds with sheets! Air conditioning! Hot water! Western-style toilet! And a TV and phone, but that don’t impress me much.

Much of the signs are in Lao and French, and while my comprehension of French is tres petit (but better than my spoken or written Lao), I think I might be able to get by. The French influence is very strong here. Kind of more like what I’d imagined Southeast Asia to be like.

So yeah, that’s my story in Laos so far. It’s been real. :)

Once more into the breach, dear friends…

December 9, 2004 Leave a comment

[This was originally sent as an email to a bunch of friends.]

I arrived in Nong Khai at 9am yesterday, wandered about town in search of somewhere to crash and found myself beside a river. It took a little time for my brain to realise where I was.

So I found a cafe, obtained an excellent coffee, sat down and stared across the Mekong into Laos.

As the Aussies on this mail list can probably appreciate, it’s a strange feeling indeed to be able to stand in one country and look at another.

I’m going over to Laos tomorrow. Weirdly, I feel more nervous about this than I did over leaving my own country.

Bits of my being are trying to catch up with my physical manifestation, I’m feeling quite disoriented right now (nothing to do with the large bottle of Singha I just drank, I can assure you). I’m hoping that the Net connections in Laos are better than my 2 year old travel guide suggests. I’ll be hotfooting it over to Vietnam, probably take me about a week to get there (5 days to get a visa, apparently).

You know… I’m not entirely sure what to say… a lot has happened to me, much of which is hard to put in writing. I came here to change, and I am. I have. It’s so hard to explain. I like to think that on some level everyone has a desire to connect with the world on a higher level, but it’s so rare to make that known to others. I’ve met a few that I know think that way, maybe more that do but haven’t made that known. I don’t know… I’m finding faith in things other than “work hard, save money, buy this, want that”.

:) Maybe some of you are thinking, “Yep, Karsoe’s gone off the deep end.” Truth is, I’m only now starting to truly know things I long suspected for many years. I actually feel like I’m a part of something, though I still don’t know exactly what to call that.

“I know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

Hmmm… maybe I should go, check in again when I’m feeling more complete.

Take care,
Paul C./Karsoe

Next move?

December 5, 2004 Leave a comment

Hi all,

I’m back in Ayuthaya, trying to decide whether I should get on the overnight train to the Laos border, or get a visa extension and stay in Thailand for the duration. I’m really in two minds over it. Maybe a quiet place (unlikely) and a cold beer (very likely) will help me think things through.

And I have a lot to sort out in my mind, least of which is where to go next.

It’s nice to get away from the chaos of Bangkok. When I got there after a week in Kanchanaburi it wasn’t the first time I had culture shock over familiar things, but it was certainly the most intense. The traffic, the heat, the drunken English/Scottish/Irish backpackers, all things you’d expect I’d be used to from home. When I first got here I kind of enjoyed the backpacker thing on Khao San Road, when I went away and came back I was like “Oh God, can I go now?”

Anyhow…

It’s the King’s birthday today, and just about everywhere is gearing up for a pretty big night of celebration. I spent most of today walking around town and seeing a few things I missed with Jen last Tuesday. Anyone with even a passing interest in ancient civilisations would really enjoy Ayuthaya, I highly recommend it.

I was going to leave Bangkok on Thursday but I’m glad I didn’t as I bumped into someone I know from home! I ran into Silvia, who used to work at a laundromat about 300m from my house. It was great to *finally* get to meet! :) G’day Silvia, I hope you’re enjoying Brazil.

Haven’t been up to much, basically enjoying not working and also these new experiences & feelings. And to answer the questions from many of the blokes on this spam list, the answers would be “No”. :)

Gotta go. Take care everyone.

– Paul C.