Chiang Mai take 2

Chiang Mai, Pai, south east asia, Thailand, Travel, trip

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I went back to Chiang Mai for a quick trip. It was only a week but I’m glad I went back. I got to do things I hadn’t done before and really just had a better feel for the area overall.

I drove up to Doi Suthep which for whatever reason I never bothered to see the first time. The stairs to get to the very top destroyed me way more than I thought they would.  While driving up to the temple I tried to see a waterfall too but it was closed because of flooding.

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I went to Pai for a couple days too. Which I finally got to see Lot cave. However like I mentioned earlier the cave was partially closed. I wrote about that trip here.

I was there during an interesting time though. The king of Thailand happens to be a very big deal. I was there for the week/day of his cremation. Not much was different except for the fact that nearly everyone was wearing black.

I also ate at a lot more places and did more exploring on a bike. Also was able to see the local university there. Are all college campuses the same world over?

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look at all of them

After this I flew to Malaysia and Singapore! Much more exciting I think.

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Cambodiaaaaa

Cambodia, south east asia, Travel, trip

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So from Thailand I went back to Korea for a week. I think I covered that place enough recently so I will skip the coverage in favor of the trip to Cambodia. I was supposed to go to or at least originally planned to go to Laos, but I decided I want to go to Angkor Wat so I went to Cambodia instead.

As in most places I have gone to I didn’t really know what to expect. I went straight to Siem Reap because that was pretty much the whole reason why I went here in the first place. It didn’t take me very long to realize that I made the right call.

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Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor (the Angkor temple complex is north of the city). The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century. Sauce

20171019_214309The hostel was pretty accommodating and almost right away I met some fun people that I could talk and hangout with. Better yet there was a pool too. The hostel had a really relaxed feel. Not only was it possible and easy to meet people it was also a good spot to get things done and really had a good mix between social vibes and letting other people do their thing. What took me off guard was just how under developed it was in the area. IMG_8643

Now Thailand isn’t broke but that was pretty much my measuring stick in these situations. However I just was unprepared to how under developed it was.Driving or walking down the street there would be various building but nothing ever really got going to forming a metropolis or really just a coherent town. It had some areas to be sure but it was mainly some random strip of random buildings followed by long empty strips then another row of random buildings. Coming from the airport made me feel like I was going through a distorted Vegas. There would be massive glittery hotels then absolutely nothing closer to 5 minutes to it. Siem Reap has at its center a French core that unsurprisingly is pretty well kept and is where a lot of activity can be found.

Countless looters have and still come and snatch the heads off of the statues.

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Cambodia is cheap, and I mean cheap. Which is great for me, but also mildly depressing for the actual country. Cambodia has had a rough history. What I didn’t really understand before going there was just the extent to which Pol Pot and his regime devastated the country. Now it isn’t purely on his shoulders and problems and the decline of the country started way before him, but what happened under his rule is just tragic.20171020_124219Now I spent most of the time visiting the temples in the area. Apparently back in the day each ruler started building temples under their rule so there are tons of these things around the area. I was lucky enough to meet some cool people so I spent the whole day going around with them.

Either way the temples were all pretty neat. They were definitely different than what I was used to seeing. What is definitely worth noting however is the condition they are in. Yes they have entire families trying to sell you magnets for a dollar, but that’s not what I’m talking about. If you look at the picture below and really look close you can start to make out that the wall on this bridge is actually not a wall. In fact it is lined with a ton of headless statues. This unfortunately is prevalent all around the area.  Countless looters have and still come and snatch the heads off of the statues. Here is some more reading about it if your interested. 20171020_13515220171020_12543020171020_123537

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Is it a picture of my sandals or the stone?

20171020_14231720171020_150120IMG_8603We nicknamed this the water temple from Zelda. It was actually pretty unique. We had to cross some small walkway spanning a shallow swamp to get here. Then like the picture above shows it was just a small tower in the middle of what is basically a pond.20171020_152324

We spent what seemed like forever waiting at the last temple to watch the sun set. While we were waiting it sure filled up.

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The next day I was by myself so I also went to see Angkor Wat which was pretty cool. The amount of area it takes up is pretty massive. I have seen so many pictures of this place. So it was cool to finally see it in person.

20171021_11524920171021_11475320171021_115810There are a few walls decorated like this and they all tell a different story. From fighting brothers fighting demons to the Khmer marching off to fight the Vietnamese. 20171021_12045320171021_12150520171021_12172820171021_122847

Looking at all of these temples and learning a bit more about the country of the past couple days the thought of  “what happened” kept popping up in my head. These structures all pretty impressive and if you look at the extent to which the old Khmer kingdoms stretched it was fairly large as well. What made it all collapse? Like always there is an answer. Colonization did the country no favors either.

I went to myriad of other temples too, at this point I was totally burned out from temples. However I paid to see them all so see them I did!

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Not really sure what was going on here but there were faces on everything. Large faces. IMG_8717IMG_8688

Now I ended up staying a pretty short time in Cambodia. I had some friends returning to Thailand so I went back to see them. In the future I would definitely go to for longer. Not to disparage either country but it seemed like a more relaxed Thailand. The places I would like to visit should surprise nobody. They would be Phnom Penh first. I regret not seeing the killing fields. I’ve heard it is one of the most sobering things out there. Then next is Koh Rong because, well, beaches.

Next up, a quickie on Chiang Mai!

Thailand South

south east asia, Thailand, Travel, trip

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After Pai, I went down south to Phuket. However, I was really only there for an intermediate stay before heading to Koh Phi Phi, so didn’t gain too much insight into the area.  Did manage to see how seedy some parts of the city were.  After bumming around in Phuket for a day or two, I took the boat headed over to Phi Phi, my main target.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from Phi Phi, but it really was one of my favorite stops on my travels. I’m not sure if I could spend a very long time on the island, but I’m glad I went, and equally glad I met the people I did. Phi Phi was tiny, much smaller than I thought it would be.  Instead of roads, there was only a golden walkway winding its way through the small buildings. Apparently, the walkway is a new addition to the area. 

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I was there during the off tourist season so by all means the whole island was dead. If you just walked around for a couple minutes, you could see how many bars per inch there were and how geared up the town was to have a party every night during peak season.  It felt a little odd walking through an area that was just itching to have a ton of college aged tourists to come and drink themselves senseless.

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Either way, the weather was decent enough. It rained pretty much everyday, but only for about an hour and then it was sunny all day. So, it really just meant some extra hanging out at the hostel.

The hostel that I stayed at was really nice. The amenities and everything else were pretty standard, nothing really special about them. The blankets were super thin and the bathrooms were what you would expect. However, the owner and the people that I met there really set it apart. Out of all the hostels I have stayed in, it became one of my highest rated places. I can’t say enough about the owner and how great he was.  He really brought the people staying there together. I will never forget when I was feeling sick how he kept checking in on me to make sure that I was fine and wanted to give me anything to really make it better.

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So while it was warm, it was overcast pretty much the whole time and it was rainy, so the water was a bit muddled. Either way, the beaches were still looking fine.

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I stayed a few days in Phi Phi and did some sightseeing.  I went on a typical boat tour that takes you around to the islands and several other activities. This included Monkey Beach, which has monkeys, go figure. The tour also included snorkeling, random beaches, and swimming with plankton.  We had to pay to get off the boat to get to Maya beach, which was not worth it.  It was poorly explained and nobody knew what was next or what was going on.

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I spent most of the remaining time I had there snorkeling and trying to see sharks. Unfortunately, I only saw fish, and cut up my feet pretty bad. Still it was worth it, and I was just so glad I could go swimming. I thought it was cool just how close the fish would get to you.

I had a really good time on Koh Phi Phi. Eventually I needed to move on and so I left towards Koh Tao. 20171006_114801.jpg

I was headed towards death island with no way out.

I stopped for a night in Krabi then took the boat over to the small little island of Kho Tao. I spent a decent amount of time on the boat to get there. What really gave me the chills was what I read on the way over there. I didn’t really know much about where I was going ahead of time. So I googled “Koh Tao” and the first thing I read is about all the murders that happened there. So at this point I’m freaking out because I was headed towards death island with no way out.

Of course, everything was exaggerated and blown out of proportion, but it did make me approach the place with some caution. Luckily, my hostel was right next to the pier, and I only had a few minutes walk.

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I spent the better part of the first day snorkeling around and trying unsuccessfully, yet again, to find sharks. The next day I did some much needed shopping that I had meant to do the entire trip.

The main pull of the island is the diving.  There are an insane amount of dive centers located around the tiny island. It’s mildly ridiculous just how many there are. So with not much else to do, I decided to give it a go.

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I talked to my hostel and some random people, and they all said that Master Divers was a competent diving school. So that that is what I went with. I signed up for a dive the next day. The one thing that really changed with this decision was I had to wake up at a decent hour which I have been so used to not doing. I guess I have to make some sacrifices right?

Either way, the first day was pretty cool. It wasn’t as difficult or generally complex as I thought it would be. My instructor was an entertaining guy, and with him I felt pretty confident I wouldn’t be found floating in the water later that day.

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I decided to get certified at the end of the first day. I mean, why not? I had the time and who knows when I would be here again. The decision was even easier when I learned I’d have the same instructor and also be 1 on 1. Couldn’t pass that up!  I went back to school and spent my free time watching videos in my room.

For three days I was the only one in my hostel. So it did make studying and just being able to decompress very easy. Since there was nobody drinking, the bartender at the hostel just started driving me around to different places.

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The whole course went on for three days which was quicker than I expected. Everyday I came back super tired but it was always worth it.

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I got to see some creatures I never thought I would ever see. I was super pumped about seeing eels and some bluespotted rays, as well as barracuda and much more. I also got to go swimming everyday in water that was just awesome.  I’m very glad I got the opportunity to learn some new things in such a sweet environment.

That was pretty much my entire time in Koh Tao. I had an extra day to do some more snorkeling but for the most part I was packing my bags and getting ready to go back to Bangkok.

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Bangkok was meh.

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