Tobias travels to South-East Asia and beyond!

Because the ticking you hear is your life passing you by!

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Location: London, United Kingdom

In my thirty's and slowly loosing my misanthropic streak!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Freezing in Melbourne

Got my evening flight to Melbourne and landed 6 am in the morning. Had been told that immigration might take a while and that was indeed true since I ran into trouble straight away. First of the guy who took my passport said I didn't look anything like the picture (trying to explain that I lost my glasses and lost a couple of kilos didn't help), secondly my passport so new that they couldn't scan it properly (well get some new technology then you plonkers). Thirdly I hadn't specified an adress where I was staying since I intended to stay at Kimberly's (nice girl who worked for Penguin in London but afterwards gone back) so I suppse I have to give them that. Had to wait for an hour before they had checked everything and just as I was walking out they grabbed me again and said they wanted to see proof of my departure ticket. I'm sure there must be a picture that looks just like me somewhere in the immigration office that says "If he looks like this give him hard time" or something but in the end I got through.
Considered taking a taxi in to town but saw this guy who was picking backpackers up for a hostel. I asked how much is was, made the calculations that if I went for it I'll be paying less than the taxi fare so I jumped into the minibus and headed for the centre.
Did I forget to mention how freezing cold it was in Melbourne, of course I did. A clear case of denial. Getting out in shorts trough the entrance was like being frozen down into a cryonic tube. Don't know what I was expecting but I realised that I got far to accustomed to the heat during the last months and was shivering like a leaf.
Got to the hostel and into my room and was greated by a bunch of snotty eighteen year old english people on a gap year who were discussing how drunk they had been the past night. I was quite close to intervene and reply that in comparison to what I just experinced in Bali they had not even been close to tipsy but I kept my gob shut.
It felt a bit weird being in a dorm again after having had the luxioury of having my own room for two weeks in Bali but there wasn't much to do about it. I knew Australia would be the most expensive country on my trip so it was pretty much a case of grittin' teeth and bearing it.
Slept for a couple of hours and was then picked up by Kimberly just after lunch (I had sent an s.o.s email that morning) and was taken out to her parents lovley house where I pretty much instantly fell asleep again.
Woke up the following lunctime as it was time to head out to Yarra valley for some winetasting. Ended up in a lovley little winery whit a nice little restaurant where I got the pleasure of enjoying a great kangaroo steak. It tasted fantastic and the wine they served with it was even better. A great way to ease into the Australian culture.

Birthday in Bali

Hurried to get to Singapore airport only tho find that the flight I was supposed to take to Bali had been delayed by an hour and a half. I dind't mind too much though, gave me more time to check out the huge varitety of shopping in the tax free area. Can't say I bought anything apart from a magazine but to see the the Japanese tourists running rampant in the Gucci shop was worth the wait alone.
After a five hur flight I landed in Bali and took a taxi in to Kuta which is the main tourist area. Had been a bit slack on checking out the hotels and ended up in a pretty dire hotel but it was alright since I was quite tired.
Kuta in itself was just crazy. Due to the bombings that happened there during the last five years the tourist industry has fallen into quite a decline since there's more people trying to sell you stuff than there are people buying it. You get hounded the first few days to say the least, luckily for me I had been well trained in Vietnam and managed to brush of most of them with a smile and a "No thank you". I guess the worst thing was the so called "Massage" places where they try to grab you to come in. Took a lot time persuading them that "No, I was not interested in a cheeky, cheeky massage".
Bali felt a bit strange at first I must admit and it took me a while to get into. There are a lot of quite cklicky groups and then loads of couples going for a romantic holiday and it became quite clear that Bali was a place where people go for their holidays not to travel.
Where it previously had been a benefit to travel by myself I now to some extent felt like a weirdo for being on my own (but still, I rather be alone than feel alone).
Spent my 35 birthday without anyone about apart from the locals who took me out to the jungle and got me drunk on palm wine which tasted horribly but got me well clobbered (well, it was my 35th so I was entitled to it). They had even made me a little cake and sang for me soin the end I got a birthday I'll soon forget.
The day after I felt it was time for a change. So what's a boy to do you might ask, well the answer is obviously to go for the cheapest hotel in town to find like minded people.
Said and done, did my research and found a decent place with a pool that was about half the price of the one I previously had (that's 5 pounds a night) and I was proven right.
Pretty much instantly met a whole bunch of travelers who shared the same thoughts about Bali as myself and we were pretty soon comparing war stories from previous contries.
The following week was spent in the following maner, morning; go for a trip to check out the amzing temples that exist around Bali (that includes monkey temple, Bat temple, Lion temple and lots of other animal temples) and then get back to find the most of the group still laying by the pool trying to cure their hangovers before it was time to party again.
A really nice canadian guy called Troy had tried to leave for the last week but for some peculiar reason ended up getting so drunk every night that he couldn't move the following morning (that's the time he usally got back from Bounty, the main club) until evening time when he started drinking again. School boy error if you ask me but it was quite funny to see though.
Went out to a couple of really nice beaches and checked out the surfers doing their thing. I really wanted to try it but the waves were a bit too erratic and I was told that it almost was impossible to learn during those condistions. Real shame but maybe next time.
Overall I had a great time in Bali. The first few days were a bit of a drag but that was mainly due to my own wrong doings. The following ones were fantastic, met such nice people and it almost felt like a shame to leave them. Will without doubt keep in contact though so not too worried.

Short stop in Singapore

It was time to finally leave Malaysia.
I had spent a longer time there than expected due the fact that the rain season had hit Thailand sooner than I expected but I was quite happy i did. There was so much to do in Malaysian Borneo and so many things to see. I could easily spent another two weeks there and still be able to come back. Sure it doesn't have the parties or beaches of Thailand but overall I felt it was well worth going to if you are into nature, culture and animals.
Took a flight out to Johur Bahru and just managed to get on a bus from the airport that would drive all the way into Singapore.
Everyone on the buss were dropped at some hotel but after speaking to a German family we decided to share a taxi into central Singapore and after a twenty minute ride I was dropped off in Little india. It took me a while to get my bearings but after walking arond for a while I managed to find the hostel I was after. As expected it was far pricier than anything I'd paid for a hotel during the previous two and a half months but it also looked a lot cleaner and modern so I guess it was justifiable.
Since I only had two days in Singapore I decicied to hit town straight away and walked down to the subway and got myself a ticket into the centre and got out of the tube and staright into the center.
It was definatly a bit of a culture shock. Suddenly I was surrounded by all these high street shops and there were no corrupt policemen or crazy driving going on anymore. Took a stroll up and down the streets and then checked out the shopping mauls. The best thing was the big food courts that pertty much resided in each one of them. The variety was endless, everything from Japanese to traditional Malaysian food was served and the best thing was that it was very cheap. Went to Borders and founf myself a good book on photography and then headed back to the hostel in the evening for some drinks with some scottish people I met. Went for a quiqk sleep before hand and was woken up a lady who was suppsoed to have the bed underneath me. She kept mumbling "It's too dark in here. Scary...scary" and acted very strange. I sat up and sarcastically said "Good morning" since she had caused such a lot of noice and she just starred at me for a minute with these crazy eyes and then grabbed her suitcase and walked off. Guess it takes all sorts.
The following day I headed down to the botanical gardens and checked out the orchids. It was quite impressive to say the least and even though I've never had a hughe interest in flowers it certainly made me change my opinion. Spent a couple of hours checking out the rest of the park and then walked over to Chinatown. That part of town was not at all what I expected (or maybe wasn't in the right part). Instead of lots of chinese restaurants I found lots of trendy bars and me and the guys I was with sat down and watched the world go by while sippin' on a nice singapore sling (when in Rome right!).
Headed beack to the hostel, had some nice barbeque and and chatted to a weird Irish guy who had decided to do the whole of south east asia in five weeks. I explained that he would be pushing it a bit on time but his reply was that he had just got the all clear from his doctor after having mental problems and had to go. Don't know if there's a special "loonie" trip going to Singapore but my guess is that there is.

The boredom of Brunei

Before heading over for some relaxation in Bali I had decided to take a quick trip to Brunei since it was so close to Kota Kinanbalu.
The kingdom of Brunei is a really small but wealthy (population is about 300K) nation that is stuck pretty much in the middle of the Malaysian Borneo peninsula but very prosperous due to the oil they've got.
Said and done, walked down to the ferry early in the morning and six hours later I put my foot on Brunei soil and took the buss in to Bendar, the main city. The closest thing I can resemble the journey in was that it looks like a well off suburb in England somewhere and I'll let you be the judge if that is nice or not.
Once in the main city I booked myself into a hostel and then proceeded to check out the town. The town itself was quite tarted up since the sultan was about to have his birthday in another two days so there were colorful lights everywhere. I took a boat taxi out to the village on stilts outside of Bandar which was a really cool place. The people were really friendly and as soon as the kids saw me (we're talking regardless of distance) they started shouting "Hello". Soon I was walking down the planks with voices of the kids everywhere and had to turn left right and centre to reply to them all.
After a couple of hours I decided to head back to land and check the the palace and mosques. Big mistake, it had been raining earlier and after I had waived in a water taxi and tried to walk down the slippery stairs to get into it I went flying. Just managed to stop on the last step before going into the water but my spectacles went flying into the water and sank to the bottom of the Brunei waters before I even noticed they were gone. Well, there wasn't much to do than getting back to shore and make the most of it.
The mosques looks fantastic, the palace is grand beyond belief but there's was somethign missing, something didn't feel right. The closest thing I can resemble I to is that the place lacks soul. Everything is clean and in proper order. There's no alcohol or evening entertainments. I ended up sitting in a cafe playing cards in the evening waiting for the hours to pass so I could justify going to bed.
Maybe it was due to the fact that I've been traveling trough chaotic countries that I got that notion but still, my end conclusion was Brunei is incredibly boring. I guess there's a lot going on beneath the surface (in the calmest waters...) but I decided I didn't have time to find out.
Kota Kinabalu was quite calm but in comparison to Brunei it's Vegas.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

On top of the world (Mount Kinabalo)

One of the last things I had decided to do on my journey in Malaysian Borneo was to climb Mountain Kinanbalo. The mountain itself is 4095 meters high and is the highest one in South East Asia. There really isn’t any real rock climbing involved but instead a hard trek so I was a bit worried how I would measure up to the fitness required.
Got on the bus at six in the morning and got to the bottom of the mountain two hours later. I joined a group of five other people and we were given a guide that would walk us all the way to the top. The climb itself was divided into two parts, first we would walk up to the base camp at 3000 meters and then rest and wake up at two in the morning to do the last 1.2 kilometers and catch the sunrise on the top of the mountain.
So off we went and a Dutch couple that was part of my group immediately disappeared in front of me.
My intention was always to take it easy up to the top and that’s what I did. The area around the mountain is a national park and I wanted to take my time and see as much of the nature as possible while walking up (how is that for an excuse).
The first three kilometers up to base camp was actually quite enjoyable. Even if I felt quite tired at times and a little bit out of breath due to the altitude it was very nice walking up slowly with the guide who highlighted animals and carnivorous plants along the way. And after six hours of pretty good solid walking we arrived at base camp for some well deserved rest.
Got to the room where I was supposed to sleep until we headed off again and it was freezing. Turns out the electricity wasn’t turned on until eight in the evening so I went down to the restaurant and grabbed a big mug of coffee to warm myself. Chatted to some people and we all agreed that it had been pretty tough to get that far and we were all a bit tentative about the last walk up a few hours later.
After getting two hours of sleep I was woken up and put on pretty much everything I had in clothes on. It was freezing outside and talking to the guide he said it would get worse.
I decided to take it quite easy on my way up and started to plod along. Got a headache a couple of times from the altitude but it went away after sitting down and resting for a couple of minutes.
The further up the mountain I got the harder the climb was. At times I was on all fours but slowly but surely I was getting closer to the top. The whole thing was quite funny because it was almost impossible to see anything in the dark apart from the light of the torch in my hand and some dancing lights from the people who were in front of me.
Turns out that strategy of keeping a steady pace paid of. The closer I got to the top the more people I passed along the way and when I finally got up there were only a handful people around.
Even if it’s hard to admit I must say it was absolutely freezing at the top. Since it still was pitch black the wind tore trough the clothes I was wearing but the only thing to do was to wait.
Forty minutes later and the horizon started turning yellow and the temperature slowly turned. The sight was beyond belief. It was such a weird almost surreal landscape that was revealed in front of me and for a moment I had a hard time believing that I actually climbed the beast.
Stay on the top and enjoyed my achievement for another thirty minutes and then started walking down.
To be honest I must say that the walk down was harder than the way up. Don’t know if this was because I had to use muscles that I normally don’t or because I was tired from the walk the previous day but going down hill for seven hours with huge big steps certainly took its toll on me.
Once back down I jumped into a cab with some other people from my hostel and instantly fell asleep, woke up two hours later arriving at the hostel and had a quick shower before heading out with the other ones for a well deserved drink and food.
The next two days I could hardly walk, the infamous “Kinanbalo wobble” had possessed my legs so it was just facing up to it and endure it.
A lifetime experience though.

Orangutan's and burnin' busses!

After my excursion to Turtle Island I decided to play it a bit safer and instead headed over to Sepilon and the orangutan rehabilitation centre.
I can’t remember how long it has been running but the purpose of the centre is to take care of orphaned or wounded orangutan’s and then put them back into the wild once they are strong enough to survive by themselves.
There are two feeding times at the centre and I was told that some of the orangutan’s that has been released sometimes comes back to feed if there isn’t enough food around (or maybe they are just plain lazy and want some fast food).
I had met a Swedish couple on Turtle Island who were quite disappointed when they had been there since there only had been one orangutan and lots of monkeys around so it was with certain anticipation that I started walking trough the jungle up to the feeding place.
Pretty much as soon as I got around the corner I knew I was in luck. There were about twelve orangutan’s chilling’ out around the site and there must have been another twenty to twenty five monkeys.
There were already quite a lot of people who had got the before me and they were taking pictures like it was going out of fashion. Apparently orangutan shares something like 98.5% of the same genes as humans and they were just awesome. I always thought monkeys are pretty funny but there is something special about orangutans. They are so chilled out and seemed just to everything in their stride. I don’t know if they top the list of intelligent creatures but the way they behave I’m pretty sure they are up there at the top somewhere.
Tried to take a couple of pictures once the feeding was going on. It was funny to see that the other monkeys waited around until the orangutans had been feed and then jumped for some of the scraps.
Headed back once all the monkeys had disappeared back into the jungle and shared a taxi with a finish couple into Sandakan where I was taking the bus back.
All went pretty well until two kilometers outside of Kota Kinanbalo where the air conditioning system started burning and black smoke came pouring out of the ceiling.
The buss stopped and people ran out coughing and throwing up around me. Luckily I had been sitting in the front so I was pretty much ok apart from some stinging lungs.
The driver walked in with a wet scarf around his head, opened all the windows and the bus started rolling after another five minutes again.
That’s Malaysian efficiency for you!

The tribulations of Turtle Island

After spending a couple of days in Kota Kinanbalo I had my first trip lined up. I was heading over to Turtle Island which is at the north peak of Malaysian Borneo.
I was taking an overnight bus to get there and headed of to the bus station a little bit past eight in the evening. Got to the ticket booth and there was a problem, apparently the bus I was supposed to be on had been cancelled but there was an express bus leaving in thirty minutes. I didn’t think much of it since I had to be in Sandakan to catch the ferry over to Turtle Island the following morning and bought a ticket. Big mistake, five hours later at two o’clock instead of eight I find myself in the middle of Sandakan. So what is a man to do? Well, I walked around the city for a while until I found a twenty four hour open café’ and then sat down and consumed a stupid amount of coffee and chatted to the taxi drivers for the next five hours. When I finally headed of to the office where the ferry was leaving to I could barely keep my eyes open but I stumbled in with my receipt for the ferry and accommodation on the island and said hello to the lady behind the counter. She looked at my receipt then looked at me and then said “You were supposed to have been here yesterday”. In a haze I grabbed the receipt, looked at it and sure enough she was right.
The problem with Turtle Island is that you have to book it quite far in advance and there’s only about twenty five people going each day (you stay overnight) so I was in big trouble. It was time to turn on the charm overdrive to eleven and do my best in my sleepy state so I nicely asked if there were any places available and the answer was no. My next question was if there had been any cancellation and the answer was also no. At this point I was pretty close to giving up but I decided to stay at the ferry terminal in case things changed. What happened, I fell asleep of course.
Two hours later, just as the boat out to the island was about to leave I was woken up by the counter lady shaking me like there's no tomorrow trying to wake me up. As it happens one of the persons who was supposed to be on the boat had not turned up and I was offered his place. Lady luck was smiling my way. Got on the boat and immediately fell asleep again and woke up when we got to shore.
The sight was quite impressive, the island was quite small but there were big tracks that looked like they had been made by a tractor running up and down the beaches. I had landed on Turtle Island.
After having lunch and walking around the island I crashed into bed again and woke up for the evening assembly. The turtles only come in at night time to lay their eggs and we were given instructions on how we should behave when we checked out the turtles.
Fifteen minutes later we stood around this huge turtle with a one point twenty meter long shell which had crawled up on the beach to lay her eggs. It was a great sight to behold, but it got better, after another twenty minutes the rangers of the island brought down a big container with about hundred and fifty small turtles who had been hatched the night before. It was absolutely amazing to see all these little critters trying to make their way into their water and I was scared to move because they were walking all over my sandals and you couldn’t see too well because of the dark.
In all my trip had gone from disaster to amazing and I was very, very happy!

Kota Kinabalo

After much deliberation I decided to head over to Borneo and the Malaysian city of Kota Kinanbalu.
The choice was quite easy to make really since it looked like there was so much going on that I liked (trekking, wildlife and so on) so I got myself some cheap tickets with Air Asia and got myself on the flight at nine in the evening. Two hours later I stepped into the airport at Kota Kinanbalo and headed for one of the hostels. Walking up the stairs I was greeted by this crazy lady who had the loudest and worst voice I’ve ever heard. She was very nice though so me ears forgave her pretty quickly. Talked to her for a while and then booked myself if for quite a trips and treks and then headed straight to bed.
Woke up the following morning and checked out the town. Kota Kinanbalo is one of the largest cities in Malaysian Borneo and pretty much works like a hub to the other cities in the Sabah region.
After walking around for a while I found the local harbor and decided to do a day trip to two of the island outside. Ticket system was a bit funny, basically you bought a ticket and then you had to wait until there were enough people on the boat before it departed. Luckily enough I had purchased a trip where lots of Chinese people were going on as well so I was on my way fifteen minutes later. The fist island was Sipi and was pretty small, there were about two hundred Koreans on the beach trying desperately to snorkel so there was no point trying to have a bath so I pretty much walked around the island (took about thirty minutes), took some pictures and had some fresh pineapple juice in the shade. The next island on the list was Manukan and that was a lot bigger. There was a good path all around the island which took me two hours to walk around and it was filled with birds and huge monitor lizards. Must admit that I got pretty scared a couple of times when I heard this rustle and then seeing a meter long reptile legging it into the woods.
Headed back to Kota Kinanbalo and decided that I should attempt to find a hairdresser to chop of some of the golden locks I had acquired during the last three months.
Eventually found one which appeared to speak reasonable English but I was soon to find out I was mistaken. I started of by saying that I needed a trim on top and a bit taken off the sides. Forty minutes later it looked nothing like I had told them and I was at this point trying to show gestures and chopping fingers what I needed done. The lady then bursts out “Ahhhh….like Sting”. At this point I was pretty worked up and went” No not like Sting, not like Danny Osmond or Liberace, same as before but less.” An hour later I got a reasonable result that I probably would have done in shorter time with nail clippers but I guess that’s part of the game. It was quite interesting to say the least though.
Went back out to a local bar to watch some world cup and then headed for bed. Woke up the following day by a strange drumming outside the window. Took me while to figure out that the local sunday market was on the same street as the hostel I was stayin gin and some guy was sitting right beneath my window trying to sell some funny looking drums.
Went out on the market and it was quite a sight to behold, there were everything puppies and kittens in cages to "Jesus loves you" stickers. I stayed away from most of it but bought some fruit and a couple of bits and pieces.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Took a two hour buss ride from KL to Melaka and checked into a great little hostel which was run by a family. Sitting in their in their living room watching television felt a bit weird at first but I got over it pretty quickly (had to body slam the dad for the remote later in the evening). Melaka is sort of the cultural centre of Malaysia and walking around I had to agree. The town itself resembled Georgtown (see below) apart from the fact that it was more modern and had a lot of museums and a plenty ( I mean a lot) of temples.
Met two really nice guys from England (Nick and Raj) and we ended up exploring the town together. One of the best things was the old catholic church in the middle of the city where all the tuck-tuck drivers hung out. Don't really know what was going on but there seemed to be a competition between them of who could pimp out their cycle the most. Some of them were so over the top that they just looked amazing.
One of the evenings we decided to go bowling and were amazed by the fact that they had archery in the same hall. There was no protection or any particular safety messures at all. Pretty much along the lines of "get 10 arrows and try not to shot at the guys bowling". Couldn't seen that happening in London that's for sure.
Spent most of the evenings in this massive food court where they a huge variety of Malaysian food. No meal was more than 4 ringhi ( about 70p) so we usually ended up eating one meal before the football started in the evening and then another afterwards. There is no point denying yourself good food when it's that cheap.
Spent another day in Melaka and then took a bus down to Johor Bahru (south of Malaysia, borders to Singapore. Since I had cut my trip in Thailand short due to the rain I had decided to fly over to eastern Malaysian Borneo. Stay tuned!

The two towers of KL

After three days in George Town I took a two hour bus to Singapore and got there safe and sound despite the heavy traffic on the motor way.
I had looked trough the guide and made my mind up that I would treat myself to a good hotel in a central location and got of the bus terminal and started walking.
Got to the hotel thirty minutes later (I only got lost once) and walked up to the counter. The portiere looked me up as I was standing there with my rucksack and clothes that needed a wash and when I asked if they had any available rooms he instantly replied “No, but there’s a cheap place around the corner”. I looked at him a bit stunned because I always been told that money sees no color but apparently they had higher standards in this particular hotel.
Walked out and the cheap place was indeed around the corner. The good thing was that it was really clean and nice and had a very friendly staff. Turned out all the rooms were full but they had an air conditioned dorm for a tenth of the price I had intended to pay at the hotel so I happily went for it.
After tucking my stuff under the bunk bed I headed out to one of the malls near by to check out the local shopping and it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. Not only were the place massive, had ten floors and probably hundreds of shops. This mall even had its own roller coaster inside and I kid you not, it was a big one.
Coming from a pretty sleepy place like George Town this couldn’t be more of the opposite side of the coin and I stood there in awe watching it all. Walked around the mall for three hours but still didn’t get further that level seven and decided that I would make a braver attempt at the top the following morning when I had some more energy.
Went out, got some food and then watched football at the hostel with some really nice people from Switzerland.
The following morning I woke up early and headed for the Singapore towers. I was told that they were the currently tallest buildings in the world and getting closer to them I had to admit that it looked really impressive. All that steel and glass reaching towards the sky certainly makes you thing about how they manage to get it happening with safety and everything else in mind. Walked in and it was equally impressive inside. The main difference from the mall I had been to the previous day was that this one pretty much only stocked designer shops. Gucci, Prada, Rolex, you name it and they had it there.
Must admit that I wasn’t too interested in most of the stuff being a backpacker and all but it did look fantastic.
Walked out and was approached by a lot of dodgy guys showing me fake Rolexes telling me “I got it from inside, buy now for good price”. Don’t know why they think anyone would go for it but they certainly were unsuccessful with me, mama didn’t raise no fool.
Walked around the city and china town for a while until the rain started at which point I decided to have dinner. Sat down in a little tiny place but they served the most beautiful dim sum (still doesn’t match Lido’s because the taste is so different but it was good).
The next day was spent in the BB plaza, another mall where I was checking out prices for camera equipment. Turns out they had very decent prices and I decided to upgrade my camera since I’ve got into the whole photography thing a whole lot more since starting this trip. Decided to go for a manual lens Panasonic FZ30 and they threw in a tripod, bag and two gigabyte memory for 280 pounds in total.
Spent the next day trying to get to grips with my new camera and then sobbed like a baby when Sweden lost against those stupid krauts.
I had met a lot of people that said they found Kuala Lumpur too imposing but I had a great time. Go there and enjoy!

Over to Malaysia and Georgtown

It was time to head for Malaysia. I had been having it far too comfortable the last couple of days and decided to go for an eight hour and slow torture busses from Krabi.
Set off, crammed up with ten other people in a little mini buss and got to the Malaysian border five hours later.
I had expected the customs to be really hard (drugs and such are penalized by death) but they pretty much stamped the passport and sent us trough without checking a thing. Even when the car was stopped the customs guy was really funny and just opened the door said “Everybody be cool” and then closed it and sent us off again.
Another five hours later I arrived in Penang and Georgetown. I had chatted to a really nice guy called Mark from Leeds and we decided to share a room to cut the costs. Jumped of the bus and went of to find somewhere to sleep. Turns out that most places were full for some reason and nobody we asked could explain why. The hours dragged by and we started to become desperate. We were told there were would be hotels at “Love Lane” (yes it’s the actual the name of the street and also is what’s goes on there in the evening ) and we did check out on of the rooms but after seeing the most run down room ever we headed back to the main street again. Luck came our way, a couple had just checked out to take an overnight bus and we gladly paid the 30 Ringi to take the room of their hands.
George Town was a nice introduction to Malaysia. There are so many peoples and cultures living side by side to each other. You have Muslims, Christians, Hindu and Buddhist all sharing the same country and it certainly showed in George Town as I was walking around. One minute there were Indian music blaring out and then suddenly a huge Chinese temple or a mosque around the corner. It all felt really confusing at first but I got in to it after a couple of days and really started enjoying it. It was great being able to go for a great Indian curry for lunch and then have an excellent Chinese or Malaysian dinner in the evening.
I spent most of the days in George Town just walking around mesmerized by the whole thing and then spent the evenings at some pub watching the football with the mixed people that the town represented. Football is a funny thing in Asia, they all seem to be so into it and I always wonder what makes them decide to root for a particular team. There doesn’t seem to be any particular logic to it but I guess it’s just one of those things.

Mr. Monsoon visits Phi Phi

Jumped on a ferry from Krabi that took an hour and a half and then jumped ashore on Phi Phi Island.
The first thing I see walking off the pier is this really tall Thai guy with long dread locks and big Rasta beanie on his head. On top of that he’s also holding a sign that had my name on it (I had pre-booked my hotel in Krabi).
I half expected him to say something along the lines of “Hello blood, welcome to Jamaica…I mean Phi Phi” but instead he was a really soft spoken and one of the nicest Thai people I’ve met so far.
Walking to the hotel I realized that there had been a lot of rain. It was almost impossible to walk some of the streets because of the huge big puddles that the rain had created everywhere.
I asked my favorite Rasta Thai if there had been a lot of rain and he just looked up and said “A little, maybe more lately”.
Checked into my room and fell asleep for a couple of hours but was woken up by an awful noise. It was the rain coming and it sounded like someone was dropping a bucket of nails on the roof of my cabin.
Went outside and the sight was just incredible, no drizzle here my friends. Instead it was more like the producers of Evian had decided to drop their whole early supply all at once.
It continued for another two hours and then let up a bit and I decided to take the opportunity to go down to check out the beach.
Phi Phi was one of the islands that were hit really badly by the 2005 tsunami and there still were signs everywhere. I had seen photographs at the hotel and pretty much the whole west side of the island was torn to pieces by the wave and the devastation was horrific.
Walking on the beach and seeing all the rubble that still laid around made me think a lot about the terror such a disaster must have caused on such a small place. A lot of people died and I can only imagine what it must have been like with no where to go at such a small place (Phi Phi is about the size of Hyde Park I think).
The rain pretty much continued constantly for the following four days. I chilled out, read a lot of books and took the opportunity to walk around whenever I could despite having to navigate around the ever increasing puddles. Watched football in the evenings and laughed at the excitement of the male tourists enjoying their free “wet t-shirt” competition every night when the soaked girls were walking past.
It was time to leave after four nights since Mr. Monsoon had decided to up his game and made the rain start at eight in the morning and finished at four at night.
I did enjoy my stay even if the weather was poor. There was so much construction and rebuilding going on at the island that I can only imaging what it’s going to look like when I go back there in a couple of years.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Monkey's and golden guns at Krabi

Dragged my feet onto the the bus and cursed everything that has to do with football. Sure, Sweden won (of course expected just like the next game) but being so tired I almost wished they hadn't qualified in the first place.
The boat took six hours since it first needed to stop in Koh Pagn Nang before heading to the mainland. Once I got to shore I had another three hours of the bus to look forward to.
One thing that amazes me about the Thai travelling system is that despite of how many times you need to change transportation they still get you there somehow. There aren't any computers or any kinds of visible records, instead you just get a sticker on your chest of various colour and off you go. It is pretty amazing.
Finally in Krabi town I was greeted by the usual patrol of people trying to get you to their hotel and this time I was so tired that I decied to go for it and it turned out great. Got a nice room with TV for less that 3 dollars.
My plan was to depart the following morning for Koh Phi Phi but after reading the tourist leaflets and the guidebook (which recommended the nature resorts and the island at the coast) I put my money on the James Bond island as it was called on the brochure and a trip to the nature resort and the monkey temple. I still haven't found out what the actual island is called but it's in the closing scene of "Man with the golden gun".
Despite being dead tired I still managed to eat some food and watch some football before heading to bead.
Woke up in anticipation, considered wearing my black tux for an effective entry on the Bond island but went for T-shirt and shorts instead. Had a quick breakfast before the van turned up to get me. Drove around some of Krabi's nature resorts which looked amazing (I also found out it’s very famous for rock climbing) and then headed out for the boat and the island. We arrived forty minutes later and I jumped of with high hopes of being able to update my extensive "Man with the golden gun" T-shirt collection. Disappointment, there was no golden guns, no inflatable Roger Moore dolls or even replicas of the movie's funny midget in sight.
Instead I was offered plenty of seashell jewellery and T-shirts saying Thailand on it. What is the world coming to!!!????
Got on the boat again after checking out the rest of the island and were taken to lunch at a village built on stilts in the middle of the sea. Since it was a Muslim community they had even built a mosque in the middle of it. It looked pretty cool.
Had a great sea food lunch and then was taken back to land again. The bus started rolling down the road heading for the monkey temple. I had expected a temple with with a huge massive monkey that the natives worshiped in awe but was incorrect. Instead I found a big cave and huge reclining Buddha. And, the only animals I could see were stackloads of bats inside so the place smelt pretty bad as well.
I was just about to go and speak to one of the officials about false advertising when I noticed the monkeys outside of the temple. It wasn't just one but about sixty of them hanging around the rocks around the entrance. To top it of there suddenly also were loads of women screaming "Ten Bath for food. It's for the monkey!". I’m pretty sure I had not seen either monkeys or women on the way in but now they had both magically materialized. Don't know if they had some kind of 50/50 deal going but it certainly felt that way. Either way I thought the monkeys were pretty cool. Not only were they really friendly (some might say domesticated but I'll stick to friendly) and quite happy to come up and take food straight from the hand. They even went as far as trying to pick the pockets of the unsuspecting tourists which I don't think is more than fair. Why go for the handouts if you can buy your own right!
Went back to the hotel very happy that I got a day in Krabi. I’ve also booked my ticket for Koh Phi Phi. Got my fingers crossed that the weather stays ok. Got a glimpse of the monsoon yesterday and it seems the rain season is about to kick in for real soon.

Fish and coral's in Koh Tao

Had booked myself an express ferry ticket to Koh Tao and I was collected from the bungalow had considered my home for the last five days. It was a difficult goodbye. It had treated me so well in comparison to the other places I have stayed in so far.
Jumped up on the back of the pickup truck with my rucksack (no, health and safety is still not a priority in Thailand) and was taken down to the ferry.
Problems! What was supposed to be an express catamaran had somehow magically transformed itself into a rusty old ferry (in typical Thai fashion) but since it was the only option to get to Koh Tao in time I jumped on.
Seven hours later instead of three I put my first tentative steps on Koh Tao and instantly got a good vibe. The island itself is quite small and is most famous for being a place for it’s diving and marine life. I had considered getting a diving license since it is pretty cheap (and also to be able to justify the purchase of an oversized diving watch....just kiddin') but decided to check it out first.
Checked into a nice little 5 dollar bungalow which resembled card board box in comparison to what I had in Koh Samui but I couldn't complain. It was clean and without any extensive insect fauna (I've started to recognise the usual suspects by now) so I was pretty happy with it.
Took it easy the rest of the evening apart from finding myself a trip to go out snorkelling the following day.
Woke up early the following day, had a quick breakfast and was then picked up to go and select a mask and fins before heading to the boat. All went well I was heading out to sea in a big boat with a really nice staff onboard for a change (see the Halong bay entry).
The boat took us pretty much all around the island, stopping at different places and all I can say about the snorkelling was that it was pretty f*****n amazing (sorry mum). The closest thing I can describe it to was that it felt like swimming around in a big aquarium. There was so much fish and coral everywhere that it was surreal. I enjoyed myself so immensely that I decided to at book myself on another trip before leaving to not miss out.
Got back and had some food in the place I was staying in talked to some people while sipping on a juice. They were all divers but told me it was unnecessary to get a diving license since the stuff I’ve saw snorkelling was the same as further out but with less vision. Also when I explained my future aspiratations of mud diving in the rivers of England they explained that I needed to get another license for cold water diving when I got back. With that info in mind I decided to skip the diving course. I doubt I ever would have used it anyway.
I spent the following days slouching around. Hired a moped and drove around the island and sat down and read some of the books I had brought whenever I found a nice spot.
Got onto another snorkelling trip and it was as good as the first one apart from the fact that I forgot to apply the factor 400 sunblock so I burnt my back while swimming in water.
The last evening was a marathon. I had booked my trip for Krabi (Thailand westcoast) for an eight o'clock departure in the morning and Sweden played the late game which meant it started at 2 in the morning. Managed to keep myself awake with the help of a bucket of vodka/redbull and insanity of the Swedish supporters in the bar (who ever thinks shouting at the television is a really works raise a hand) and stumbled home victorious after the game at 4.30 in the morning. I had two and a half hours sleep to look forward to. Great!!!
The only thing that bothered me about Koh Tao was all the people talking about how great and isolated it was the first time they were there fifteen years ago.
Now, the thing is that if all those people hadn't gone back and told all their friends about the island the place wouldn't be what it is today so they only have themselves to blame. And, if they really like isolation so much they should head for Yemen and spend four years in the desert instead of sitting in a restaurant full of people sippin' beer.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Beach bliss at Koh Samui

Took an evening bus from Bangkok that would take me to Koh Samui the following morning.
The bus was full which surprised me but I then realized that the full moon party was happening on the 11th at Koh Phang Nang.
The bus stopped a couple of times during the night but the biggest problem was that it was so damn cold. Now, being Swedish I should probably have reminisced of home with shattering teeth but I it was really hard to do while being stuck on a old bus knowing that there were another 7 hours to go.
I did the best thing possible and put on my raincoat and then finally managed to catch some sleep. Woke up just as we got to the ferry that would take us over to the island. Turns out that there were more may people than they had expected and myself and lots of others were not allowed to get on the ferry, instead we were herded back to the bus. A feeling started growing amongst all of us that there might a chance that they would take us straight back to Bangkok but luckily we were wrong. After another hour on the bus were taken to a huge car ferry and were given tickets so we could get on. It was all a blessing in disguise since the ferry we were on would take an hour instead of four on the other ferry.
Eventually got to Chaweng which is in the busy part of Koh Samui and found myself a nice little bungalow next to the beach. It was time for some real holiday after all the traveling around for the last two months. Since I still despite efforts haven't got really tanned I slapped on some factor 400 and headed for the beach and jumped into the water. It was more than fantastic, it was amazing. Swam around for ages enjoying myself (or trying to get rid of all the dust my body had gathered while being traveling) and then headed out for some drinks. Met quite a few people who asked me if I was going to the full moon party to which I responded "If I wanted to listen to crap techno and take bad drugs I can do it at home" which seemed to keep them quiet. Not sure why (sarcasm) but the thought of having thousands of whacked people rioting on a beach doesn't do anything for me. Apparently a bunch of people die every year at the party which to me only proves that Darwin's evolution theory was correct.
After five days of bliss it's time to raise the game and head for the beautiful island of Koh Tao.

The storm over Sihanoukville

My plan of going south of Cambodia and Sihanoukville was to stay a couple of days down the Cambodian coast and then take the boat over to Thailand. I've heard that Sihanoukville was supposed to be quite a busy place during the high season but since it was low season now I had few fears about the place. Turns out I was wrong but not in the way I envisaged.
Finally got to Sihanoukville after a six hour bus ride. Got myself checked in to a 4 dollar a night hotel and then went out to check the place out. Turns out that low season really meant low season. There were almost no people about and the town itself resembled a ghost town apart from the lack of tumbleweed rolling past.
Went back to my hotel to have some food in hope that the town would change in the evening time and I was right but not in the way I hoped. By dusk the whole town was lit up in tacky neon and girls of dubious profession promising me "very nice and special massage".
I had initially decided to stay for two nights but after waking up I made my mind up and decided to go for the ferry to Koh Kong at noon.
Said and done, packed my stuff and got taken to the ferry just as big dark clouds gathered above my head. Stepped on the ferry which really wasn't intended for the sea at all but was a small river boat. The smell inside was really weird but I couldn't define it and instead sat down and looked at the inside of the tattered old boat. There were big bins by the end of every seat which was very weird since Cambodia isn't too big on either recycling or keeping things clean.
As soon as I got out to sea it all became clear to me. The storm was raging outside and the boat was airborne for far longer than felt comfortable. Suddenly the bin by the end of the seat and the smell became clear to me. It was the smell of sick and the bins were for people who needed to throw up. Indeed, twenty minutes later pretty much everyone around me had their head in the buckets and the boat was be rocked from left to right like it was stuck in some crazy amusement park. Thankfully all those years of me training to be a pirate paid of and I remained steadfast. I noticed that the best trick was to close my eyes and then just roll with it while trying to filter out the noises of Japanese tourists puking their guts out around me.
Two hours later we got to shore and the amount of green faces stepping of the boat was a sight to behold. I jumped into a cab with a couple of Canadians from Toronto and headed to the Thai boarder. Managed to get trough ok on time and managed to catch the bus back to Bangkok (I had initially intended to take the ferry to Koh Chang but I had enough of boats in one day). Checked into a small little room on Ko Sahn Road at one am. in the morning and slept like a baby.

Orphanage of Phnom Pen

As a juxtapox to all the misery of previous day it was decided that we should do something useful.
We decided that we should go and check out one of the local orphanages and see what if there was anything we could do to help. We already knew that the foreigners that visit usually bring sweets for the kids so we decided to go for some rice instead. I must say that it looked pretty funny to see Andrew and Sarah on a motorbike together with the driver and a 25 kilo bag of rice, some might say it even was quite dangerous but hey, it's all for a good cause right!
Got to the orphanage and the kids started running towards us asking for candy before the bikes had even stopped. I was quite taken away by it all, went and sat down and immediately had four or five kids around me trying to talk to me in the few English words they knew. One guy explained that he trained hard to be a boxer and danced around trying to show me moves while another proclaimed his love for Manchester United. The whole thing got really funny when one of them saw my tattoos. I was suddenly surrounded by loads of kids who were pulling at the sleeves of my shirt trying to see what they looked like. I pulled out my camera asking if it was alright for me to take some pictures and I have never seen so many kids pose and acting up for the camera before.
Afterwards they showed me around their sleeping dorms and it was a pretty grim sight. The rooms were tiny, made of plywood and there were up to five kids in each room. The similarity to the prison cells in S21 wasn't too far away.
One of the kids said that they were playing football the following day and had asked if we wanted to join. We replied that we would consider it and sitting in the hotel later that evening we decided that it would be a great experience.
Woke up and got myself ready, met Andrew downstairs and headed of to the Olympic stadium in a tuck tuck. It took us a while to find the kids since the whole place was full of people playing sports but we eventually sorted it out. Everyone was really happy to see us and the game got on its way. Now this also the moment I realized that I'm not twelve or fifteen but soon thirty five and the temperature is already close to 35 degrees in the shade. I was sweating like a pig and considering that I probably haven’t kicked a football for 15 years I didn't have any hopes of any talent scouts approaching me any time soon. Don't get me wrong, the football game itself was awesome. The kids were running around barefoot since they couldn't afford any kind of shoes but were as fast as weasels on speed. It almost got too intense at times because the kids put so much effort into winning. For them it seemed that this was more than just a game a football, it was a way of showing us that they were better than the situation they were currently stuck in.
We eventually parted ways after taking some photos and then went back to the hotel. I tried to stretch a little knew I would be feeling the aftermath for quite a few days coming.
Chilled out pretty much the rest of the day since I still was tired after the football and then booked myself a ticket to head south.

Killing Fields and Phnom Pen

I took an early morning bus from Krati and as we stopped halfway on a bus stop I met Andrew and Sarah who were on another bus coming down from Siem Reap. It was a funny coincidence but I was really happy to see them both again. They had decided to go for Okay Guesthouse and we arranged to meet there later. Two hours later the bus rolled into Phnom Pen, the capital of Cambodia and I jumped onto the back of moped and had the most terrifying trip on the back on the back of a moped ever. Even when I asked the guy to slow down we still went so fast that I almost got tears in my eyes and even if I'm not a very religious person I know the only reason why I'm still alive today is because man up north thought it would be good for me to see another day.
Got to the hotel and asked for Andrew and Sarah since their bus had left much earlier from where we stopped earlier but they were not there yet. Sat down, had a drink wondering where they were and then see them coming trough the door. Turns out their bus had indeed been much earlier than mine but due to the lightning hyper super sonic speed of my bike driver I had got there before them.
Sat down and had some food and decided that we should head out for to the "Killing fields" then next day and also go and check out the S21 prison in the center of town. Had some drinks, chatting away before heading for bed and some sleep.
Woke up and headed for the S21 prison which was one of many during the Khmer Rouge regime. The building had initially been a school but after the Pol Pot got to power it was converted into a prison. The whole place was a really grim affair. The Khmer Rouge were very precise in keeping records and taking photographs and for each room I walked into there were big pictures of some of the people being tortured there. The cells that people stayed in were minute and I can even imagine the horrors that must have happened there.
It was time for some even more depressing stuff, the killing fields. The place itself is pretty much just a big burial ground that the Khmer Rouge used for the execution of anyone who didn't fit the political description of a Khmer Rouge party member. The whole story about how Pol Pot came to power is a pretty weird. The party came to power after a revolution and soon afterwards started killing all intellectuals and anyone who thought differently. A couple of years afterwards paranoia spread and anyone including party members was executed. In total they believe that up to two million people were killed during the span of ten years. The "Killing Fields" contains up to 20 thousand people all found in mass graves. Some of them came from the S21 prison; others were from other parts outside Phnom Pen. It was pretty surreal place though. In the center of it there's a big pagoda filled with skulls and clothes from the victims and around it there's still bones and clothes lying around as you walk around.
I'll never understand how the people alive during and after have managed to go on after everything that has happened but I was very impressed by the fact that they do. Sure, the country itself is as corrupt as anything with top politicians living well while a lot of people are struggling to get by in the midst of all the chaos that is Cambodia there's something special. Yes, people will try to get your money but they do it because they are trying to get by, not because they are trying to get rich.
I went back to the hotel that night and thought a lot of what I had seen. It was pretty weird sitting in a hotel chatting away while knowing what had been going on a few years earlier.

Krati and the dolphins

So after seeing all these wonderful temples I decided it was time for some country side action. My destination was Krati which is in the middle of Cambodia on the eastern side. The town itself is known for having a small population of river dolphins. Apparently there used to be lots of them around but after lazy fishermen decided to fish with dynamite the population of Irrawaddy dolphins has been reduced to less than 100.
Took the buss at 7.00 in the morning from Siem Reap and got to Kompong Thom in the afternoon after stopping several times at different restaurants. Funny thing is that at some of the stops the only thing they served was roast crickets and cockroaches. Spoke to one of the people at the stops and she said that they collected up to 6oo kg of crickets every night which they then roasted.
After finally getting to Kompong Thom I had to haggle with a minibus driver for a while before agreeing on 5 dollars for him to take me to Krati. The buss started but went nowhere fast, the driver pretty much stalked town trying to get the bus full of people and it took another hour before the buss was full enough to head towards my destination.
Two hours later on really bad roads the real fun began. Rain started pouring down and made the road so slippery that we were surfing more than driving on the mud. Swirling back and forth of the road we dodged people, cycles and animals along the wayside.
An hour later the bus stopped in front of a hotel in the centre of Krati. The rooms were 3 dollars a night and were in good nick so I didn't hesitate for a second. The town itself was a direct opposite to Siem Reap with worn down houses and a big buzzing market in the middle. For me it was how I imagined how Cambodia would be like. Old and torn buildings but the town has a good vibe and pulse to it.
Sat on the hotel balcony for a while to soak it all in before heading for dinner and then arranging with a motorbike driver to take me out to the Mekong river and the dolphins the following morning.
Woke up and jumped on the back of the bike with the camera charged ready for some wildlife action. The dolphins resided three miles further up the Mekong and the forty minute ride up there was just amazing. We passed beautiful scenery and typical Cambodian houses on stilts along the way.
Eventually I got to the Mekong and paid the entrance fee and for a boat to take me out on the river. Once out on the middle of the river my driver threw anchor and then decided to go for a nap, pure class. I didn't mind since the scenery around me was stunning and the fact the dolphins came up around me from time to time didn't spoil it either.
To sum it up I was really happy that I took the time to get out of the way and check this place out.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Holiday In Cambodia Part 1

So I got myself from Saigon and finally ended up in Siem Reap which was on of the destinations I’ve been looking forward to the most.
Checked a couple of hotels and ended up staying at a place called the Dead fish since it promised to have both live crocodiles and traditional Khmer dancing (not necessarily at the same time though). I met a guy called Boreth who had tattooed flames up his arms and when I asked him about them he replied that he had seen a video with Linkin Park and had decided to have the same tattoos done as the singer. Unfortunately everyone now considered him a gangster and he couldn’t get any job apart from driving tourist on the back on his moped. Without hesitation I knew this was the guy for me and we quickly struck a deal that he would meet me in a couple of hour to go and check out the famous sun set of Angkor Wat a couple of hours later.
Checked my camera, then jumped on the back of the moped and headed for the sunset only to realize that about four hundred people had done the same thing. I suppose it was supposed to be some kind of serene experience but to me it just seemed to be a big circus and after fifteen minutes I was back on the moped asking Boreth if we could go to a local place which he happily took me to. Sat down and was served some weird black alcohol in a big bowl that looked like Guinness but tasted bitter and was strong as a MF. Three of those later I deiced to call it a night and headed back for some food and traditional dancing at the hotel. Now, they might call it traditional but to me the difference between a bunch of drunken Swedes and traditional Cambodian dancing is very small. Both has very little feet movement, it’s kind of wooden and there’s a lot of hand clapping to the music. Some of you would know what I’m talking about.
I spent the following days on the back of Boreth’s moped going around to different temples in the Angkor Wat area. There are so many of them that it’s almost impossible to see them all unless without getting bored but I went to see the most famous ones like Banyon, Angkor Wat and the Jungle temple and then headed out for the ones further out on the following days.
One thing that strikes you is that Cambodian people are so poor and it gets quite hard to justify sitting in a bar eating and drinking and then not giving any money to the homeless kids running up and down the street. The fact that you have a lot of five star hotels in the area where people probably pay more dollars for a night than most Cambodian people make in six months is even stranger.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Good evening Saigon

Decided that I’ve been on far too many busses lately and decided to splash out $50 for a flight to Saigon (or Ho chi min city as it’s called these days).
Got to Saigon in the evening time and jumped into a cab for the hotel I’d chosen in the backpacker area. Dropped my stuff at the room and headed out into the Saigon night.
I was too tired and hungry to go anywhere and pretty much jumped into the first bar I saw with bright lights and ordered myself some food and a beer.
The staff was very friendly, started chatting with me, even asking more than the usual “Where are you from”, “What’s your name”. It took a little before the penny dropped and I realized that I had chosen the local brothel to have my evening tea.
An English guy who worked in Saigon as an estate agent turned up soon after I had sat down claiming that he was there because he liked that area (cough) and wanted to get away from his office workers (cough, cough). Chatted him for a while until the Madame of the house came out, knocked him on the shoulder and said she had a fresh and clean one for him. Nice!
Went to bed, fell asleep straight away and woke up refreshed despite the blasting heat. Got out and started walking around Saigon and it truck me straight away that the city was like all other big cities in Asia. Tuck-tuck drivers try to get hold of you, motor bike riders holler at you and restaurant try to get you into their place. I avoided it all by smiling and saying no but it does take a lot of effort to stay away from them and not give in.
After walking around the city for five hours I realized that I had pretty much done everything that the city had to offer. I had been at the war museum (which was good since it gave a Vietnamese perspective on the war) checked out the eopera house and the park with the piece monument but after the churches and the pagod's there really wasn't much more to do which didn't include spending lots of money.
Vietnam is quite a strange place. On paper it should have a lot to offer but in reality there is not an awful lot to it. It’s a busy place with a lot of people that for most of the time consider you a walking bank. I am sure there are a lot of great people in the country but as a tourist they are few and too far between. Sure, if you are interested in the Vietnam war you'll get your share but otherwise it's pretty bleak.
It was time for drastic measures. Instead of staying the intended three nights I decided that two was enough and got myself a ticket to Cambodia and Siem Reap.

The tailors of Hoi An

After being cultured out in Hue I decided it was time to move and took the buss down to Hoi An which is sort of the tailoring capital of the world (well not really but it has 400 tailoring shops in the same space as Covent garden). Took a slightly dodgy buss and was taken to a lot of hotels which were all pretty expensive but when I got to the one I intended to go to (Than Bhin II) I managed to get a room for $7 with aircon, pool and buffet’ breakfast included. It’s said it’s always good to haggle and that definitely proved to be the case. Was told by the hotel staff to not tell anyone else about the price which was a mistake, I pretty much went out and told everyone after the first evening beer.
The first evening was pretty quiet. Was still traveling with Andrew and Sarah from Canada and we went out for a couple of drinks. As soon as we came out of the hotel we were jumped by the shop keepers who wanted to sell us tailored clothes. I decided to not get drawn into it despite that I apparently had promised to buy things from them, been in there before and said I would come back or that I would miss out on the best goddamn tailor in the world if I walked away. One woman came up to me outside her shop and said she wanted to give me advise, she said a lot of people would come up to me and try to sell me stuff and take me into their shops but I should not listen to them. I responded that I took her advice very seriously, turned around and walked off.
Decided to do some research the following morning and found a couple of recommended ones on the internet. It seemed that the good ones were harder to find but we finally tracked one down after walking away from the main street. Considered ordering myself a couple of suits after seeing Andrew and Sarah go ballistic in the shop but ended up with two pairs of trousers and 5 t-shirts which brought it all to a total of $60.
Was told to come back the next day for fitting in the afternoon and decided to go out to the Mai son ruins outside of Hoi An for the morning.
Said and done, jumped on the bus and got out to the ruins. It was morning but the temperature was already above 30 degrees and I drank so much water I could have been mistaken for a fish.
The ruins were beautiful. Apparently they dated back to the 1100’s and were built by the Champ civilization. Unfortunately I didn’t pay too much attention to the guide because it was so hot and secondly I knew I would much more of the particular style when I got to Cambodia and Siem Reap. Did my best to walk around it all but gave up after a couple of ruin sites. Sorry folks!
Got back into Hoi An, went to the tailor and the trousers and the t-shirts which turned out great. It did take a couple of re-messurements to get them perfect though.
The next few days were spent in the pool and then back to the tailor to make sure everything fitted perfectly (which probably means that everything will be too small when I get back and start eating properly again). Noticed a funny thing in Hoi An as well, there seems to be a fashion amongst all the men to have a mustach and a baseballcap. Fifth time I was approached by a motorbike driver which I presumed was the same guy I realised that they were different people. I don't know if this is a way to confuse tourists but if you'll go there you'll see what I mean.