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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Tao July 20th 2010

Where I've been... Hi all. I know it's been a while since I last wrote. I had been flirting with the idea of doing some dive training while I was in Thailand, and after knocking out my Advanced course, decided to stick with it. I heard about a mid-sized dive shop (there are ~48 different outfits here) on Koh Tao from a girl I was traveling with in Laos a few months back and decided to give them a go for some of the shorter courses I needed to complete before I could take any pro courses. So Davy Jones Locker, or DJL, was to become my new home. Initially I stayed in a small wooden bungalow on stilts right across from the dive shop. Pretty rough, but the convenience was nice. Even with a ... read more
Outbound Longtail
from dive boat
Enjoying the ride

Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Bangkok July 1st 2010

Going from gas-powered tractors to the skyline of Bangkok would be like taking a bus from Amish country in Lancaster, PA to Grand Central Station. I fell asleep with my head on the window, and when I awoke what was in front of me was a definetly not the Kansas I'd been used to. First of all, the city's growth is uninhibited by surrounding water, so the area is absolutely massive. Some stunning modern glass towers in the city center, especially at the financial center. There are also some low, very average homes and apartments farther out. As in any big city, there exists a huge disparity between the rich and poor. I stayed in a guesthouse in the backpacker district for the time I was there, but after a few nights out locally I wanted ... read more
Art Gallery at Hospital
Subway
Skytrain

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap June 29th 2010

After Phenom Penh, we headed to Siem Reap, considered by many to be the birthplace of Buddhism and Hinduism and hundreds of temples dating back more than 1,000 years. New Riverside hotel is a solid choice for ~$15/d a night, including a pool out front which is a welcome relief from the intense Cambodian mid-day sun. They also offer a free tuk-tuk to the Central Market, about 800 meters down and across the river on a very boring road. Central Market was cool, once you got away from the food section - my Western nose had some trouble in the enclosed spaces. Clothes, bags, packs, bolts of fabric, DVDS, carved and other random tourist chachees. Some great little alleys of densely packed restaurants - Indian, thai, western, all 30 feet apart. A little more $ than ... read more
AW Relief Carving 1
AW2
smaller field temple

Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh June 25th 2010

Border to Cambodia was a trip. We got off the bus, got our exit visas stamped, $2, walked to the Cambodia H1N1 check (which they forgot to do to mine anyway) $1, though you could pay with 3 currencies, USD, kip (Lao), or Riel (Cambodian), and about 100 yards to the Cambodia customs hut. There they realized our outgoing visas were stamped for a day too late, sent us back the 200 yards, where the first guys changed the number with a pen in 2 secs per passport, and sent us back. Then it was pretty easy going. A few more nickel and dime chanrges, but for less than $40 I was across. Bus to Phnom Penh was uneventful. Got in and met up with a Canadian guy I'd seen in passing on the bus to ... read more
Memorial Stupa at Killing Fields
Single Chamber
Mugshots of victims

Asia » Laos » West » Vientiane June 22nd 2010

After a longer-than-expected stay in Luang Prabang, I had to make up time on the rest of Laos. Truthfully, it wasn't that tough as nothing else really compared. My next stop was Vientiane, the political capital of Laos. There were some nice temples and restaurants, and guesthouses were plentiful, but for a bit more than LP. A lot of construction equipment was pushing dirt around on the Mekong riverbank, and I think in a few more months they'll have a nice little park-atmosphere going on there. Not so much right now, but the view of the sunset is pretty nice. Also I want to plug a cool restaurant I found. It's a cause-organzation that takes in Lao street kids and teaches them hospitality industry - hosting, serving, culinary skills. There were a number of options along ... read more

Asia » Laos » West » Luang Prabang June 17th 2010

Luang Prabang The bar was set high after Luang Prabang. As I'm editing this after spending time in 4 other Lao cities, I can now say without reservation that LP is very unique. This atmosphere was incredibly different from anywhere else I've been thus far. It was small, though for Laos it's a decent size, clean, and in low-season, very roomy. Tons of guesthouses from just a few dollars to posh hotels for several hundred, yet on the low-end some great deals can be found, especially when there's less demand. Many keepers offer reduced prices outright, others can be persuaded. I paid the very least here for the nicest room I booked in Laos - share a room and it's even better. The town has a beachy feel, though the only water nearby is two silty ... read more
Pools
Mini raptor cousin
treading up top

Asia » Laos » East » Xiangkhoang June 11th 2010

The bus to Laos left Sapa early and was to take about 10 hours. I hadn't slept well the night before, so I figured I could catch a few hours on the ride to Laos. Boy was I wrong. I've been on rough bus rides before, but this one was comically brutal. I also had a seat behind the rear wheels which means that we got an extra spring on every bump in the road. The road was the worst I've seen, yet that will soon not be the case. On the entire journey from Sapa to the Laos border you could see a modern road under construction several hundred feet up and back on the mountain. Staggeringly large amounts of concrete had been poured to retain the terrace needed to support the road, and bridges ... read more
Baking Roadside
another valley view
New bridge

Asia » Vietnam » Northwest » Dien Bien » Dien Bien Phu June 10th 2010

By the time I got a nice break in weather in Sapa, my Vietnam visa was just a day away from expiring. My natural exit point was Dien Bien Phu, a small city that looks like little more than a town in a field ringed by mountains. Historically though, this town was the scene of an event, a battle actually, that perhaps shaped more recent world history in this region than any other. And since you're more or less at my mercy by reading this, I'm going to tell you all about it. The First Indochina War was fought between the French Expeditionary Corps and the Viet Minh in mostly northern Vietnam, but also a little in Laos and Cambodia. Basically, when France tried to re-establish its presence in its colonies which had been overrun by ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Northwest » Lao Cai » Sapa June 8th 2010

I know I've been quiet the last few days, but I've been in Sapa waiting for the weather to clear. Part of the downside to traveling in the rainy season - it's been solid fog for four straight days. The scenery in Sapa is reputed to be stellar, so I decided to kill the last few days in my visa and hold out for a good one. Finally today the sun broke through. And worth the wait it was. I rented a small motorcycle and took it out for a 5 hour spin on the twisting mountain roads. Incredible scenery - terraced rice paddies, indigo, and a little farther out some amazing mountain views. Some of the roads were a little muddy in spots. A big push to modernize roads is clearly evident, but there is ... read more
typical street meat selection
little birds were big sellers
cooking roadside

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi June 3rd 2010

I spent my last few days in Hanoi exploring different neighborhoods, heading off in a new compass direction every day for an out and back route. I also want to share a great restaurant for any fellow travelers in the Hanoi area. I was staying at the Liberty Hotel and pretty much around the corner you could get a solid bowl of bean sprouts, ground beef, rice noodles, greens, and broth for 35,000 dong. Name is Un Bo Nam Bo, address 67 Hang Dieu. I got on an overnight sleeper train to Lao Cai, about 10 hours northwest of Hanoi. Not a bad ride, really. Pics are of the restaurant, train, and some time-delay shutter experiments.... read more
Restaurant Counter
Un Bo Nam Bo
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