A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Negombo, Hikkadu, Unawatuna, Aragum Bay, Ella, Kandy, Colombo

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DSC_5269.jpg...WOW! I just finished my second draft of an update, both of which took me 2 1/2 hours to write and both times they were deleted by the effing document demons. SO I will now do an ultashort version of my Sri LAnka trip:

I decided to go to Sri Lanka from Nepal b/c I wanted to surf and didnt have the energy to travel through India. Sri Lanka was awsome: clean, laid-back, friendly, beautiful, great beaches w/ nice waves. They just finished their 30 year civil war and are recovering from the 2004 tsunami so there were NO TOURISTS! Just a few surfers. The central hilss were greeen w/ many waterfalls and tea plantations. Best part of Sri Lanka: Vegetable roti (think chewy potato pizza pockets) and the men's stylish color cordinated madras sarong's (skirts) with button up shirts and flip flops. Think J Crew Asia. I'm back in Bangkok spending time reading by the pool and getting my resume together to send out for an English teaching job in Korea or Asia. Sorry about my blog lameness, but at least I hope you are all able to enjoy the photos which have become my passion. See you soon. Pande.

Posted by PANDE 13:47 Comments (2)

Nepal

Kathmandu, Chitwan NP, Pokhara, Annapurna, Kali Gandaki River, Burkera

CSC_3140.jpgDSC_2884.jpgDSC_2859.jpgDSC_3012.jpgDSC_3430.jpgDSC_3591.jpgDSC_3872.jpgDSC_3879.jpgCSC_3857.jpgI had a great time travelling through South East Asia, but I have been itching to get out into the mountains and do trekking, biking, and rafting. So I booked a flight to Nepal and began my solo travels. Arriving in Kathmandu was a bit of a culture shock. The landscape is dominated by dusty earth tones, crammed stone buildings, and exotic looking characters in colorful gowns staring at me with intensity. The immense poverty was highlighted by the thick pollution and the overwhelming number of hustlers that bum-rushed me the second I got out of my taxi. To make things more surreal, I arrived in Kathmandu just after sunset and was told by my shadowy candle lit guest house manager that Nepal only receives electricity from around "8pm to 11pm...maybe." The maybe part was right as there was no set schedule. Sometime the power didn't come on until 10pm sometimes not at all. So everything is dark and eerily lit by candles, except for some shops who just run generators all day that seemed to be connected directly to my lungs. I got super sick my first 3 days here which sucks cuz I couldn't do much for myself and the city works hard against you. As soon as I got better I bussed it to Chit wan NAtiona l Park where I got to ride elephants and see rhinoceroses on a jungle safari. Then I headed to Pokhara to get ready for a 3 week trek in the Himalayan mountains around the Annapurna range. Pokhara was much more chill that Kathmandu and I was able to buy a few things for my trek. My dilemma was that I didn't want to buy a bunch of trekking gear, that I would only use for 3 weeks and then have to carry around for the rest of my trip. So I limited myself to a down vest, gloves, running shoes, long underwear, and shorts. How cold could it get anyway right? Well it turned out it gets freezing cold when you are above 10,000 feet. Ooops. I met a group of cool folks on the bus and hooked up with them. We all agreed to trek without the recommended guide and porter services. Turns out you don't need either and it 's more of a scam than anything unless you are old, lazy, or actually climbing mountains like Everest. It helps to have a group though and the group I was as with were all from Europe- 3 from France, 2 from England, and 1 from Holland. One of the girls from France was a mountain guide who usually set the pace of the trek at like 3-4 miles per hour, which is super fast. We hiked an average of 15 miles per day and I was last everyday, but I was taking alot of photos with my 5 lb. camera and actually looking at the awesome scenery. The trail was steep from the start, but it was gorgeous and I was so happy to be in the highest mountains in the world. Along the trail there are small villages every 2 hours or so where you can stay (for free) and eat (poorly). The whole trek, people were talking about altitude sickness and sure enough once we hit 12,000 feet my head and stomach started to hurt and I thought I might have to go down. Luckily I was able to buy a blood thinner called Dimox that cured my symptoms instantly! My lack of cold weather gear became an issue at 13,000 feet when a storm came in and dumped a foot of snow everywhere. Our course my European counterparts were all decked out in the latest Gore Tex, hiking poles, and titanium lip balm. Luckily the morning after the storm we woke to brilliant blue skies so the snow on the trail melted pretty quickly. What a way to see the mountains though-with fresh powder everywhere. It made me appreciate the fact that I was freezing. We pushed hard and made it to the high camp in 9 days. The next morning we hit the icy trail at 6am and made it to the top of Throng La pass at 17,881 feet. In 10 days we climbed over 15,000 feet and 85 miles in 10 days. Ridiculous! But what a great feeling of accomplishment to make it to the top. We celebrated with a snow ball fight and then of course we still had to go down, but that was alot easier. The total distance for the trip was 123 miles. "Wow" said I. Glad to be done for sure.

Next I bussed back to Pokhara and did a cool 3 day rafting trip on class 4 rapids. We had a cool group of rafters and crazy river guides who were intent on taking over the steepest rapids possible. They managed to flip our raft (on purpose) 3 times for fun. One girl hit her face on a rock and bled everywhere (so dramatic). Later, the same girl got bitten by a scorpion at night...twice. At the end of each day we camped on the sandy river banks and played cards. The river was beautiful and we got to see several Nepalese funerals where they burn the body of the deceased on the river banks. Unfortunately I think our river guides were using that same water for our drinking water and I got sick again as soon as I returned to Pokhara. I decided then to not travel to India like I had planned and instead plan to go to Sri Lanka to join the Tamal Tigers fight for independence...just joking...I need to friggin surf man! Nepal was amazing and I'd like to come back, but the lack of infrastructure makes it somewhat challenging solo trip.

Posted by PANDE 22:27 Comments (0)

Northern Vietnam

Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sapa

DSC_2190.jpgDSC_2248.jpgDSC_2176.jpgCSC_3141.jpgDSC_2696.jpgDSC_2662.jpgHi everybody (who is still checking my blog). Unfortunately I havn't been able to update since I began travelling in Nepal b/c of the poor internet connections, limited electricity, and my busy schedule. Anyway, I'm back now and will fill in the blanks.

After visiting the beaches of central Vietnam, we travelled north to Hanoi where life is a little less modern and cheerful. The streets are drab and colorless, but there is definitely an old school feel to the people and their way of life. Two things that aren't different in Hanoi are the number of motorbikes and the sound of phlem being cleared and discharged horizontally from throats into the air and onto...anywhere. THe government in Hanoi is a little more present. Everyday at 8am and 5pm they broadcast a commentary/lecture from loadspeakers every 50m on every pole in the city. They drone on and on about some propaganda and you cannot escape it. Much like AM talk shows except that can be turned off. The currency in Vietnam is 16,000 "dong" to 1 dollar. So we got really good at math. Beer was still like $.30 per glass so that was nice. After HAnoi we went to visit the emerald waters of Ha Long BAy where the limestone cliffs shoot up from everywhere and the foggy air make everything look very mystical. We toured the bay on a beautiful old "junk" boat that cruised super slow through the glassy water. I took a cool kayak trip around the cliffs and into some caves. Some people chose to jump off the roofs of the boats and came out with a nice greasy slick on their bodies. Unfortunately we never blue skies while were in Ha Long Bay which would have been stunning. Our next trip was up to Sapa, which is a small northern village whose residents wear these beautiful traditional all black outfits with head scarves and leg warmers to match. Sapa was Pia and my last trip before flying back to Bangkok where (sadly) Pia heade back to Germany and Erik began his solo trip. Pia and I covered alot of ground in our 10 weeks together-4 countries. We decided that we made a good travel team and can't wait for the next adventure together.

Posted by PANDE 21:34 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam-Saigon, Nah Trang, Jungle Beach, Hoi An

Well after hours of researching flight and visa information we finally made it to Vietnam via Bali-our bags bigger and 1 surfboard heavier. Arriving in Saigon is a baptism in chaos-it makes Bangkok look organized! Motorbike madness everywhere...on the sidewalks, in the cafe's, on top of each other. Instead of issuing driving licenses the Vietnamese train their citizens in street crossing on foot. The basic rule is to walk INTO traffic and pretend like you are not about to get run over. As long as you stay calm you won't get hit. As soon as you rely on your western conditioned reflex to avoid danger...you're either dead or you're still waiting on the side of the street to cross. In Saigon we went out to the many "Bia Hoi" or fresh beer bars, which are basically kindergarten stools set up on the sidewalk where you are served glass after glass of cheap beer for about 30 cents each. There we met a lot of cool traveling folks who we traded stories and travel recommendations. We also went to the Vietnam War Museum in Saigon where on display are hundreds of US planes, tanks, and artillery left behind from the war. It also had a great, but very graphic photography gallery that showed the destruction that took place during the 8 years of fighting. Not surprisingly, the photos primarily showed the atrocities carried out against the Vietnamese and they were pretty gruesome. The Vietnamese suffered 3 million causalities, 2 million of those were civilian deaths. American casualties were around 55,000, but the US lost??!! We took a cool trip to the Mekong Delta where we paddled through jungle canals, visited a village where coconut candy and honey was made, wrapped a large Boa Constrictor around Erik's neck, and watched traditional Vietnamese musicians play music. We had a Rickshaw bike take us though the heart of Saigon during rush hour traffic, which would make any NY cab driver tremble. After 4 days in Saigon we traveled north to a place called Jungle Beach which is an amazing secluded beach. For only $22 per day we were fed with homemade Vietnamese food, sleep in straw huts, visited waterfalls, surfed, and lazed the day away on the beach. We met and partied with many cool people here and were bummed to leave. Now we find ourselves in a town called Hoi An that is filled with cloth and silk shops that will Taylor make ANYTHING you want-shoes, socks, shirts, dresses, suits. We spent a lot of time getting our worn out (and lost) duds replaced for super cheap. They will make an exact copy of your favorite item or create a new article from a photo. Although once you step into the shop they will not let you leave until you have put in an order. The bus rides from town to town have been funny. We booked overnight bus rides from town to town to save on hotel accommodations. However, these "sleeper" buses are built for 5'5" Asians, not 5'9" Germans. The seats are set up like bunk beds and your feet are inserted into a cavernous tube with no room to move. The drivers only travel about 30 mph because they are swerving over pot holes, endlessly honking there horns as they play chicken with on coming trucks. I swear to God Asian drivers have 9 lives. All in all the bus trips are convenient b/c we save time as we make our way north up the coast to Hanoi. Because we have enjoyed Vietnam so much, and b/c we are short on time we will probably skip Laos and Cambodia hoping we can visit those countries in the future with more time. We'll keep you posted from Northern Vietnam.

PANDE
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Posted by PANDE 19:42 Comments (0)

Indonesia-Bali, Lombok, Gili Islands

After 3 days in the busy urban city of Kuala Lampur, we relocated to the busy island city of Kuta, Bali, home of the most persistent and relentless salespeople you will ever meet..."Hey brudah...what you need...have look...cheap, cheap." Erik finally resorted to tickling the touts who would block the sidewalk for a sale. Kuta is kind of a beach ghetto, but it was oddly addictive. So much cheap stuff (I bought a brand new epoxy surfboard for $325), surf, comfy accomidations, and lots of nightlife. Erik drove us in a right sided stick shift jeep driving in left sided traffic, to the northern part of Bali to see some waterfalls. After a week in Bali we went east to the island of Lombok which is a much slower paced version of Bali. The people there a so sweet, the surf is clean and everywhere, and the landscape is pristine, green, and not very developed. Yesterday we boated over to the Gili Islands, which are some super tiny islands off of Lombok. There are no motorized vehicles here, only horsedrawn carts, which is really nice for a change. In a a week we will be in Vietnam...we'll keep you posted.

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Posted by PANDE 22:53 Comments (0)

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