Page 4 of piranha27 Travel Blog Posts

Asia » China » Yunnan » Lijiang September 28th 2013

Did somebody say "tourists"? It was a 3.5h bus ride from Old Dali to Lijiang, another city with a distinctive ancient, labyrinthine portion in the centre. But if Dali is laid-back, hippie and bohemian, then Lijiang is its noisy, restored, main-stream counterpart. Arriving close to the country's national day holidays certainly didn't help, as the maze-like narrow streets of Old Lijiang were packed from dawn to dusk. A Unesco World Heritage site, with the imposing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as backdrop, Lijiang has been more than discovered by domestic tourists. Its restored streets and traditional buildings are filled with cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, bars, guesthouses, banks, tour agencies, you name it. And this weekend, it almost seemed like all of China must have been in Lijiang! It's still a pretty place though, notwithstanding the crowd, which ... read more
Tourists, tourists, tourists...
Yak Meat!

Asia » China » Yunnan » Dali September 26th 2013

Thanks to the painful memories of some ultra-long (>12h) bus/train rides that have been seared into my mind the past year and a half or so, I decided to break up the journey to my next destination. Instead of taking the 17h direct ride to Dali, I made a quick overnight stop in the provincial capital of Kunming, which was also a sneak preview of things to come, as I do plan to return again for some more detailed exploration. Somewhat annoyingly, the 9h ride from Jinghong to Kunming was interrupted by not one, not two, but three military/police checkpoints, all of which demanded identification from every single passenger on the bus, and one of which even did an inspection of some passengers' luggages. Not particularly polite or professional in their approach, I wasn't exactly sure ... read more
Foreigner Street
Three Pagoda Chongsheng Temple
Lost in Translation

Asia » China » Yunnan » Jinghong September 25th 2013

And so after that brief one week transit in Laos, and another 7h bus ride later, I say hello to the Middle Kingdom. Crossing the Boten-Mohan border, it became apparent very quickly that I'd entered another country. Gone were the quiet small-laned streets and rural backdrops. Enter large, super-highways, flanked by equally imposing but tackily opulent buildings. Yes, welcome to China, centre of the ongoing Asian economic miracle. And my first stop was Jinghong, the capital of the Xishuangbanna region in Yunnan province, in the far southwest of this large country. Despite it being very much a secondary city, it could hardly be more different from my last stop in Laos. Bustling, with lots of people. LOUD-talking people (we are in China after all), many conversing in what I presume to be some kind of Yunnanese ... read more
Rock Gambling
Say what?

Asia » Laos » North » Luang Namtha September 24th 2013

I had almost forgotten how serenely calm the Laotian highlands were, but it didn't take long for my memory to be stirred again. A 4h winding bus ride took me from the riverside border town of Huai Xai to Luang Nam Tha, often deemed to be Laotian trekking HQ. Being the closest major town to the border crossing with China, this would be my second and last stop in the country this time. It also happened to be pretty much the single remaining major place mentioned in my LP for Laos that I'd missed out on my trip here last year, so it was with some satisfaction that I managed to make it there. Goes to show all you need is some determination, and a little planning...I wasn't exactly in Luang Nam Tha for the trekking ... read more
Erm I think I'll pass!
Money does grow on Trees!
Luang Nam Tha

Asia » Laos » North » Luang Namtha September 17th 2013

With the last grains of sand in the hour-glass of my Thai tourist visa rapidly trickling away, I scurried to the Thai border and bade farewell to the country that has been my second home (yet again) for the past few months. As I approached the boat landing for the short long-tail boat ride across the Mekong River, I could already see Thailand's friendly neighbour beckoning warmly in the near distance. And barely two minutes (and THB40) later, I was there! Immigration at both Thai and Laos ends were a breeze, with nary a queue and friendly officers, which really put my tiring visa run experiences at the Cambodian border at Poi Pet in stark contrast. And so, after getting off the boat at the Laos end, clearing immigration and walking up a short slope, there ... read more
Wat Chomkao
Bar How
For those tired of Conventional BBQs

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Rai September 15th 2013

And so after some two and a half months, it was finally time to leave Thailand (again). As I continued to make my way towards the northern border with Laos, my last stop before I crossed was Chiang Rai. Incidentally, this was also my first stop in Thailand last year early on in my trip, when I crossed the border from Myanmar. At the time, I'd only spent a quick overnighter before speeding off to catch a flight to Bangkok. So this time, I stayed just a little longer to explore the city a bit more. The current low tourist season certainly made itself felt here. I recall Chiang Rai's streets certainly being more crowded and bustling last year, in July. But now, in September, Chiang Rai feels very, very quiet. And walking around at night, ... read more
Hilltribe Museum
Wat Jed Yod
Fried Crickets

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai September 14th 2013

After that brief sojourn to the highlands of the north, it was time to head back to the regional capital of Chiang Mai. And what a way to get back, as the mini-van driver drove as if in a frenzy down the winding hills, but thankfully got us all back in one piece, in a much faster-than-anticipated time of course. Because I'd already spent some time in Chiang Mai last year, I originally planned to make it just another quick night or at most two, before heading up north again towards the Golden Triangle. But there's something about Chiang Mai that makes you want to stay a little looonger. Perhaps it's the pleasant climate, despite the intermittent rain that persistent during this rainy season. Perhaps it's the generally low-key and laid-back atmosphere, notwithstanding its deserved status ... read more
Folk Life Museum
Folk Life Museum
Chiang Mai Temple Scams

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Mae Hong Son September 10th 2013

After a few days getting stoned, I mean, chilling out in Pai, I continued on my way on the north-west loop towards one of the highland towns closest to Myanmar -- Mae Hong Son. It was a four hour winding bus ride through some stunning highland scenery, but I arrived there soon enough. And what greeted me was a slight surprise. I had somehow expected a relatively bustling city, but Mae Hong Son turned out to be a rather quiet town. It was quite a stark contrast to the farang-filled little streets of Pai. Mae Hong Son certainly seemed much more genuinely local. And yet the vibe certainly wasn't just Thai. The town's proximity to the Shan highlands of neighbouring Myanmar certainly showed in the composition of the local people. Several of the temples in town ... read more
No Yingluck!
Circle of Life
Lake Jong Kham

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Pai September 7th 2013

And so it was with some melancholy that I said goodbye to my home away from home that is Bangkok, and took the long (but it must be said, very comfortable) 16h overnight train ride up to Northern Thailand. This would be my second time in the region - the first was just over a year ago, barely months into the beginning of my travels, when I entered the country in the north from Myanmar. I'd originally planned on spending time there before I headed down towards Bangkok, but an unexpected visit to the capital by my grandma saw me zooming down by plane to meet her there for the few days she was going to be in town. And with it went my original plans of exploring the much talked-about northern loop of Pai-Mae Hong ... read more
Falling in Love in Pai
Pai's Walking Street at Night
Mae Nam Pai

Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Bangkok September 6th 2013

And so yet another two months has flown by, and I've reached the end of my third extended stint in Bangkok. It's perhaps not surprising that with each stay, I've found myself doing the touristy things less and less, and getting increasingly more into a sedate routine. With weekday mornings occupied by my Thai classes, I've found less need to run around trying to take in the touristy sites, most of which I'd already seen on my previous trips here. Early on in my stay I also met Jin again just before she returned to Korea, and subsequently caught up with several groups of Singaporean friends who'd made short trips up, so I felt like there wasn't a need to do much more running around. Though I was, unfortunately, compelled to make a couple of visa ... read more
Yaowarat - Chinatown
Psychedelic Provisions Shop @ Chinatown

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