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Wet. Relaxed.

A vacation from my vacation.

I don't really keep up with current events while I'm on the road. I occasionally check up on the Orioles and Browns, and I somehow became aware of the artist Rebecca Black (slams head against table), but aside from that, I'm pretty oblivious.

One thing I haven't been able to avoid though was the news about the tsunami in Japan. That news was pretty much punching travelers in the face wherever we roamed. A comparatively minuscule aftereffect, however one that affected me directly, was that the South of Thailand had serious flooding.

We are in what is considered the "hot" season here in Thailand. In fact, late March to early April is considered the peak of the hot season. I'm starting to question these labels.

severe floods claim 11 lives in southern thailand-1-million stranded

Not unlike when the Bangkok ladyboy threw a plate of noodles at my face, I luckily dodged the full brunt of this storm, however I certainly was affected by it.

I had escaped the insanity of the east coast to try to get some much needed R&R. I hoped to get this at an island called Phi Phi, the island where the blockbuster hit (cough) The Beach was filmed. Unfortunately, I was informed that thousands of other people from the full moon party had the same idea. Reluctant to enter another partying gauntlet, I decided on plan B. I asked around Krabi, the small, quaint town I was relaxing in, and found out about a small island about an hour away called Koh Pu. When I asked other backpackers about it, they had no idea it even existed. Perfect.

Koh Pu was exactly what I needed. They would put me on a boat to another major tourist island called Koh Lanta, however I would not be getting off with the other hoards of travelers. About an hour into the trip, in front of a lush, overcast island, a small batch of long tail boats approached. The boat we were on stopped, and the boat hands shouted in a thick Thai accent "Koh PuuuUU!!!!" About 4 of the 150 or so boat goers would enter the longtail, while the rest watched on wondering what they were missing out on.

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Koh Pu.

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Fearless Captain

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Ride In

It would rain, hard, every day on Koh Pu. But I didn't care. I wasn't there to party shirtless on the beach, soaking in the rays. I wasn't there to meet countless other travelers. I was there to relax, and get away from everything. If there is one place in the world that this was possible, it was here.

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My Bungalow

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My Porch. I literally spent hours here every day.

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The beach

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Beach again. Note how many people are in these pictures

We only had electricity between 6 pm and 10 pm. The smiling owner of the hostel insisted that after the initial negotiations ($8 a night for my private bungalow), that we not discuss anything about money until it was time for me to go. They had a dog and two cats. The were named Carlos, Purple, and Alfredo, respectively.

While raindrops pummeled my roof, I would pass my time napping, or reading, or listening to music, or eating. Nothing else mattered. Just me, myself, and I for a few passing days. A much needed contrast from the general inundation of backpackers in the previous weeks.

After three nights, rejuvenated, I realized that if I was going to get off of this island I needed to do it soon. The longtail boats at our "hotel" had fallen victim to the barrage of storms, and sunk. Luckily, a hotel in our general proximity still had functional boats, and was willing to get us out. I left behind the smiling family who ran the hostel, waving to me as the longtail navigated the choppy sea. Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles, this wonderful family embodied that sentiment more than anyone else I've met this trip.

After settling back at Krabi, I had a decision to make. I had heard raves of the beauty of Phi Phi, however I was reluctant to go to another beach after 10 straight days of rain. I was convinced to put Phi Phi on hold, and to go back up to Bangkok with a friend I had met previously in Krabi. Fantastic choice, as over the next week or so I would hear stories of how everyone was stranded in the south, even on the major islands. There was no electricity (which also meant no ATMs), or lights, or air conditioning, and people were supposedly quite miserable. Oh, and the Thai military was sent in to evacuate the women and children. Always a good sign. Not that I rejoice in hearing about other people suffer, but the stories certainly validated my decision to head north.

Was the weather ideal in the south? Absolutely not. In fact, it was down right terrible. However the fluidity of my schedule allows me to call an audible when the situation calls for it, and my affinity for relaxation allows me to roll with the weather punches.

I would spend the next 5 nights in Bangkok properly healing a bad cut I had gotten on my foot the night before the full moon party, and with myself fully mobile again, I decided to set out on my next adventure.

Thanks for the memories Thailand, you certainly pushed my party limits, and indulged my need for lazyness when you pushed me too far. I will always look back fondly on my time spent here, but now it is time for a shift. Time for an overdose of temples and some scintillating controlled chaos somewhere less developed. Next stop: Cambodia.

Posted by dpteitel 10:16 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Late Nights, Early Mornings.

“Ugh, what time did you set the alarm for again?” It was set for 4:45 am, a necessary evil in order to catch a Tuk Tuk in time to see the supposedly brilliant sunrise over the temples of Angkor. It would not be the first time we would see 4:45 a.m in Siem Reap, however it would be the first time not involving a late night foray into the bar scene.

Siem Reap is exactly what I look for as a backpacker. It has brilliant culture, rowdy nightlife, and dirt cheap food and accommodations. The culture begins and ends with the temples of Angkor, and the nightlife begins and ends with a row of bars called Pub Street.

It was a hot, humid day, and myself and Kelsey would catch an early afternoon Tuk-Tuk to Angkor Wat to see firsthand what all the hype was about. We were not disappointed. As we pulled up to the first of many temples, we started to get a taste of what the following days would hold. We began with Angkor Wat, a magnificent ruin that was supposedly the main event for the day. Amazingly, the temples would actually get better as the day progressed.

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Both of us made the mistake of not wearing sleeves the first day (suns out, guns out) so we were denied access into multiple temples by Cambodian woman clad in official-ish looking purple jumpsuits. But the ones we were allowed into provided more than enough culture for one day, and we were ready to reward ourselves with a beer or six for all of our hard work. Cue pub street.

We wandered down to Pub Street to meet up with Tim, Eddy and James, British fellows who I seem to run into every place that I go. Compared to the developed chaos of Khao San Road in Bangkok, Pub Street is like a puppy learning how to run with the big dogs. It might not be as big, or as hectic, but what it lacks in size and crowds it makes up for in charm. Fifty cent beers generously flow from the taps. Bars bring big ropes onto the streets for impromptu tug of war matches, the larger ones garnering as many as 60 hazy bar goers. If you order two buckets, you get a free shirt.

We would trade perspectives on everything from the merits and wisdom of various international drinking games, to which premier team soccer club I should follow (I am now a Tottenham Hotspur fan). The empty beer glasses piled up, the hours ticked away, and before we knew it everyone was dancing at a fever pace to the chorus of crappy pop music that, for some reason, Asians think that we like. We would stumble and ramble our way back to the hostel, and after a quick dip in the pool, and a liberation of a certain pool toy lovingly referred to as “Pinky”, we would see 4:45 am for the first time in Siem Riep.

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Pinky

We strategically planned our nights out with our days at the temples. Bearing the brunt of South East Asian heat after a long night is not something that I was interested in pursuing. On the days after Pub Street nights, I would relax, explore the cities various gastronomic options, and wander the dirt back roads of the city, exchanging smiles and waves with the various locals. A simple day, that would set me nicely to wake up early the next day to watch the sunrise.

Although the alarm was set, it wouldn’t be necessary the morning of the sunrise, as one of our dorm mates generously stormed into our room to awaken us around 4:30 after his long night out. After listening to him mumble some story about a crazy night, we dragged ourselves out of bed and began the process of getting to the temples.

Unfortunately, it rained that morning, which didn’t make for a great sunrise. The consensus around the workers was that the beauty that morning was only a sliver of what most mornings reward those who are motivated enough to wake up early. If that is true, they must be spectacular, because the morning was still excellent.

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I would spend six nights in Siem Reap. The city would enchant me with inside looks at thousand year old temples, a glimpse into a once mighty empire. It would satisfy my social urges with a street bursting with pubs and restaurants. Sure, it is always nice to go to a place where they don’t have streets catering to backpackers in order to get more of a local experience, but I won’t complain. The temples, the smiling faces of locals, children playing in the streets, the food, and everything else provides more than enough culture to satisfy this backpacker.

After feeling I had adequately experienced Siem Reap, the Red Coats and I decided to head South to get a little insight into the history of Cambodia. Time to put the pubs and smiles on hold for a few days, and get a dark look into the attempted genocide of the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge regime. Next stop, Phnom Penh, home of the Killing Fields.

Posted by dpteitel 10:02 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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