When I write this I have pretty recently just come home so appearently I am safe and sound after a rather special end of my trip.
Our last night in Bangkok was pretty late so we arrived really tired to Bali (Indonesia) and were met up by, you guessed it, a friend of Oskars. She took us to a restaurant to have some nasi goreng after a short stop at an ATM. Our plan was to go out but we just couldn’t manage.
The morning after I realized I lost my Visa/ATM-card somewhere but I was not really worried since the ATM:s swallow the cards after like 30s. I was pretty shocked to find out that I lost somewhere between $250-$800, and Bali is not really that easy to spend money on! Of course, it was not with happy-happy-joy-joy-steps we went down to the beach to watch the incredible waves and the daring surfers. After a while though I was able to hide the dark thoughts of my loss and was able to watch the lovely sunset while getting a massage. This sounds a little bit better than it was though. While sitting on a log a woman came up to us and asked if she could massage us, as it sounded really nice we accepted. Then another one came up and wanted to massage our legs, then a third one to perform manicure, and a fourth one for your feet, and a fifth to wax your butt, and sixth one to floss your teeth, a seventh one to make your chest hair and so on. So, instead of enjoying the sunset with a nice (and dirt cheap) back massage all the time was spent to keep everyone away. This is VERY typical for southeast asia in general and Bali (together with Koh Samui) in specific. You are never really left alone to enjoy the beauty of the place.
However, to put my credit card loss further into oblivion we, you guessed it again you psychic!, went out partying. It worked so-and-so to be honest.
Instead we rented a jeep for $10 a day. It might sound good though but driving it was like mastering a water buffalo. Heavy, hardly-managable and very unsafe. The seats dropped down all the time and the seat belts were merely ornaments. The fact that it was left side traffic did not really do things any better either. We managed to get the wreck over to Runani (or something similar) where Oskar did his traineeship two years ago, at a hotel. We said some hi’s and how are you’s to…well, everyone…had a dinner and went back home.
The rest of the days we had three goals: try local fighting style Pencak Silat, dive and surf. We actually managed to do so and even exceeded with the help of Oskar’s ex Yunita. Yunita not only lend us her house where she stayed with her mom and two sisters (yes, we were enjoying it), she also drove us around to all the places we wanted.
The local Pencak Silat fighting style we found by asking some guys on the street, who lead us to some guy who knew the guru on the island, they called him to come over and accept us to try. Normally, only invited people can try it… After being accepted we tried the next day and to be perfectly honest the most exciting was the primitive but functional “gym” they had. The fighting style was more like karate.
The surf was better than my experience from Costa Rica but still, I am not very good at it and it was extremely tiring with 4 meter waves we never really could reach because of the current.
The dive we took was absolutely marvellous though, we had one at a coral reef and then another at a sunken american World War II warrior ship absolutely covered with coral and cool fish. It was breathtaking!
The last day, our luck was put to the test again. With our driver Yunita at work we challenged the roads again and stopped to take a U-turn on a main road (which is the only legal way to turn) and were really close to hit another jeep in front of us and BAM we were hit by a big truck from behind. Luckily he managed to slow down quite a lot and the hit was actually not that bad. We were also stopped from hitting the oncoming traffic by the jeep in front of us though. We were of course a bit shocked and very worried about whip-lash injuries and how the #Ã‚Â¤&%Ã‚Â¤%& we would solve the problem with our not-signed-under-uninsured rented jeep and the other two cars. Especially since involving the police makes everything MUCH harder. You basically have to bribe the police to get a police report. We managed, very relieved, to come up with a monetary solution that everyone was happy with.
After finishing off with a night out that was sweatier than the fighting, tougher than the waves and far more wet than our dive trip we were ready to leave for Kuala Lumpur, aka Kay Ell, with heads feeling something like you been hit by a truck.
I was very releaved to leave that evil island that stole my credit card, my memories of two nights and hit me with a truck. Bali was not really through with me though, at arrival to KL I found out that my camera was missing! There were hardly any places I could have left it so I was yet again devastated. Damn Bali (and damn me for not having a 100% check of where I have my stuff)!
The good news were that we have been using Oskars brilliant new Hong Kong hi-tech camera for 95% of all our pictures so the memory loss was not too large, so to speak.
KL? Nice city, especially with its beautiful Petronas Towers (tallest twin building in the world) and pretty cool bars. We ended up in one and were once again wrecked the day after again. Why do we do this over and over you probably ask me…the night life is truly great! You just have to single out and avoid the prostitutes i.e. only talk to girls that seem uninterested in you.
This leads us into the last spot of our trip, Singapore, and you know what we had there? A friend of Oskar’s! His name is Andreas and works at the Raffles Plaza (sister hotel to the Raffles hotel known for inventing the Singapore Sling).
Andreas brought us out to some really posh places the first night and the night after we and some of his friends brought him out to the not so posh places at the shady side of town for Andreas’ bachelor party. This was a lot of fun!
Hmm….that was about it. We avoided the fines and penalties Singapore is known for (e.g. $200 fine for not flushing a public toilet, death penalty for drug traficking, cane hitting punishment for vandalism etc), we drank the Singapore Sling and we shopped at the high prices. I also got some good news from home, the credit card thieves only stole $100 which was really good news compared to what I expected.
To sum up: this has truly been a marvellous trip, actually even better than I expected. Lots of adventure, lots of crazy nights out, lots of meeting new people, lots of new impressions and lots and lots of fun.
Thank you for reading! I will put this diary up with the rest on www.uppdig.nu/minaresor.php together with pictures as soon as I get the camera from Oskar.
Ps. I hope/guess there are some of you reading this that I am not in everyday contact with. I would like to, so please add me to your contact list on MSN (email@example.com)!
Things have gotten a lot smoother now since our complications in getting into Cambodia. When I left you the last time we had just gotten to Angkor, which is the most famous place in Cambodia and one of the most amazing places in southeast Asia.
Angkor is an area with plenty of rather well preserved ruins of temples from the 13th century and it absolutely incredible. You really get the idea of how the producers of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider got their ideas. Hidden in the middle of the Cambodian jungle (although nowadays surrounded by a commercialized tourist industry) there are humongous ruins nested in the forest. The most famous one is Angkor Wat which is the worlds largest religious building. Imagine being the first one to discover these ancient temples the first time… I could go on and on about this but instead I will go on about how we went on to Phnom pen.
PP is the capital of Cambodia and has among many things (like millions of motor bikes) some horrible evidence of the genocide that took place here between 1975 and 1979. Two million out of 7 million Cambodians were killed under the regime of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. I repeat 2 M I L L I O N. Put that in perspective into your country if a third of the population would be tortured and killed, just for reasons like wearing glasses (meaning you are an intellectual, meaning a threat to the communist regime). PP bears the memories of this genocide in museums like The Killing Fields and the former prison S-21. Frightenly interesting.
Less interesting but nicer was when went on to the up-and-coming beach resort Sinhaoukville. It was actually pretty boring and the beach was so-so so went back to Thailand pretty fast and to the small island of Koh Chang. That’s where we truly met paradise. With some rented motorbikes we drove to a beach and got a room by the sea. We spend a couple of days sipping pina coladas, biking around with our motorbikes, playing football on the beach. We went out the first night and…I just love Thailand…we were bloody rockstars!
Koh Chang is an island where a lot of Bangkok people go to during the weekends (as when we were there) and if it is crazy to go out in Bangkok it is pretty damn Robbie Williams-like to go out in Koh Chang… I am not naive, I know there are a lot of…well…professionals in Thailand and a lot of the really hot girls were not…well…born as girls…Still, if you handle it correctly (which we do of course), you use the attention of everyone just to plain have fun…and then talk to the more serious girls.
We got hooked up with two really cool Thai girls and a guy friend of theirs with whom we spent the rest of the days at Koh Chang. They guy was friendly enough to invite us for lunch and was even friendly enough to include some spicy-as-hell raw crab-meat that someone left in the sun for a few days…they day after we woke up to what they in South America call Montezumas revenge, i.e. diarrea, vomiting and just being completely exhausted.
Well, having that done. We got ready to go down to another paradise island. Koh Samui. It was probably a paradise island a couple of decades ago but now when pretty much all the people in the world have found it it was just plain…Ayia Napa. Sooo touristy even though the beach was nice. The only thing we could do was to go out partying again. I guess, the more tourist a place is, the more professional the girls get. As said before, we can handle it pretty well so we had a lot of fun that night (not THAT type of fun)!
Coming back to Bangkok we did something we had planned to do all the time. Go to a Muay Thai gym to fight. We took a 2 hours beginners course in Thai boxing and I have never sweated so much in my entire life. It was crazy and a lot of fun. Real Thai boxing in a real Thai gym. Rallarsving!
The cool thing about this trip is all the contrasts we experience. One night we stay at shitty guest house, literally with cockroaches on the walls (eating food stand food and deep fried grasshoppers for dinner) and the other night we stay at a 5* Sheraton hotel sipping single malt and cigars in the hotel bar. It makes you really appreciate things.
The conclusion so far is that I really love Thailand. They rip you off pretty much as much as in Cambodia but they at least do it with a smile. Partying can’t be better. Everything is cheap….Cambodia was nice but extremely poor, making you distrust everyone. Everyone wants your money everywhere but in Cambodia they seem more desperate to get it.
After Bangkok we went on to Bali which so far has been to a certain extent, a bit of a disaster. I will let you more next time about how I lost 5000 SEK (700 USD) and got hit by a truck…not at the same time though.
For all you Swedish guys out there, especially you who have partied in Stockholm. Imagine this situation:
You have had a few beers and enter the hottest club in town. Everyone has prebooked tables with a bottle of scotch and are having a good time. Going in you share some glances with some pretty chick in there. She glances back…and her boyfriend comes up to you. Now imagine, that he invites you to their table and starts pouring up one drink after another to you and your friend talking about the advantages of Swedish girls…
That just would never happen. That was the way Bangkok greeted us though. We stayed at Khao San road which is some backpacker paradise in Bangkok with a street full of restaurant, bars and cheap hostels. As mentioned, we went out, had an awesome green curry (oh, that Thai-food!!) and found a bunch of Thai guys and girls that we partied with. After the club closed we took a drive to a nearby restaurant. Probably my second most stupid thing I have ever done (the driver could barely speak and I am not talking lack of language skills here, they normally increase with alcohol). A mental picture here again: you finish off clubbing in Stockholm, you are hungry, you drive to a nearby restaurant, you order: A. Hamburger B. Kebab C. Chicken feet.
After sucking those chicken toes dry we kept on, for some particular reason it gets a little bit blurry here but went on to a couple of bars and then cafes. When the sun had been up a few hours and the vendors started putting up their stands we decided to close up and end this incredible night out in Bangkok.
Short story of what happened after that. Woke up, fell asleep, woke up, drank water, ordered bus tickets to Cambodia, fell asleep. Went to Thai-boxing (cool, however not awesome) and finally the day after we went to Cambodia, mostly to see Angkor. That’s when we experienced the Bus Scam. Gunilla and Yvonne should probably stop reading now.
The Bus Scam is clearly described in the Guide (Lonely Planet) and it goes something like this. You buy a really cheap ticket in Bangkok to Siem Reap. The bus is supposed to leave at 8 and arrive at 18. The guide on the bus is really nice and helpful and give you lots of good advices. You stop at the border, they handle the Visas and advice you to cash out before coming to Cambodia because of the lack of ATMs there. You stop by at a place to exchange money and another place to have lunch. Once onm the bus again you get the news that the roads are bumpy because of the rainy season so you will probably be late, meaning you have to stop at another restaurant and guesthouse, all chosen by the bus company. This way they can get commission at the lunch restaurant, the visa, the exchange of money, the dinner restaurant and finally the guesthouse plus you arrive to late.
We figured out that this was about to happen somewhere in the Cambodian rural areas, i.e. after the border but before the dinner restaurant and knowing that you were getting F’d in the A it was of course a frustrating situation. We started passing around the guide to inform our fellow passengers and made up a plan. So when stopping at a larger village around 17.30 we told the driver that we need to get off. Hopped off and took our bags…oh…you should have seen their faces! Beatiful!! So, eight of us jumped off in a small Cambodian town in the middle of nowhere.
We were completely stared out, it was not every day that eight white guys with heavy back packs stopped in their little town. We instantly started looking for taxis/buses/drivers/bicycles/horses…anything that could take us the last 100 km to Siem Reap. It did not take us too much time to figure out that this was not so easy, no one spoke english and the few ones with pickups did not want to drive 3 hours in the wrong direction. Finally we found a guy though, offering him about 2000 Baht (400 SEK or $60) which is about three months salary. He agreed but in the very last minute some other guys showed up, we tried to bargain a better price using them but rapidly felt that the other guys were no nice guys to drive us. We agreed to the higher price with the nicer guy and drove away, only to be stopped by the other gang while leaving the city.
A big argument started between them and suddenly “our” guy changed his mind and told us to go with them. Appearantly afraid of the other gang and their creepy looking leader named Wan. He drove a brand new 4WD pickup and had some nice bling-bling on his fingers (in an area where they probably does not only grow rice so to speak). Now, it started getting dark as well and we really did not feel like going into the rural areas with the other guys but it was a dead-lock. Instead we tried to walk to a hotel but was not left a meter out of sight of Wan who instead tried to help us to the right hotel. We agreed on going to one he chose for us, knowing that he would know exactly where we stayed and knowing that we would not be able to leave the hotel without hm knowing of it. Four of the group left to look for other hotels only to find that they were “full” and surprise, surprise, who had gotten there before them? Wan…
So we all checked in to the same hotel, had some crackers and beer for dinner and started planning how to get to Siam Reap safe and sound. All ideas we came up with ended up with that we probably would have to trust that Wan-guy hoping that the easy money for driving us there would outprofit the risk of…doing something bad to us. It would be so easy just drive to some shady place, however.
Our best plan was to get up really early to at least look for alternatives around the city at daylight. At sunrise we got up, went down in the lobby, only to find…Wan. (Have you seen the movie U-turn?)
This is however where the story ends, to our benefit. Wan had done what every smart guy would have done after receiving 3 monthly salaries, plus tips and commission for a hotel. I.e. partying all night. He handed over the driving to some 50 year old guy who took us safe and sound to Siem Reap (a pretty nice drive I have to say).
Bonded by this experience, Oskar and I together with the Dutch, Germans and Austrians we drove with, got a hotel to see the ruins of Angkor.
About this truly amazing (and safe) experience I will write about next time.
I am taking this trip with my friend Oskar and our plan is to use all of our vacation days to travel through southeast Asia, basically doing the Mallorca of backpacking.
I left a stressy week at work and stepped on a plane to hot and humid Hong Kong with Oskar. We had arrangements to meet his local friend Windy. She started taking care of us, guiding us and helping us the very first minute. She brought us to our 5* hotel (Oskar get staff rates from his job at Sheraton) and then started taking us throgh le Grande Tour de Hong Kong. I can barely remember anything of this since I was severely jet-lagged but we went by some market, ate Dim Sum (chicken feet) and visited a chinese arcade until we finally could go back to our hotel to take a nap. Later that night, Windy and some other friends of Oskars took us out to a magnificent view of Hong Kong and dinner.
The next day it was YoYo and Ha’s turn to take us out. She was really surprised to see that our friends had not paid fully for our dinner yesterday, which seems to be the custom here. They however paid for everything which felt a bit weird but they insisted so what could we do 🙂 After doing some shopping we passed by the Kung Fu-quarters of HK because Oskar really wanted to visit a gym. We found some dodgy gym with some even dodgier German guy there who showed us the superiority of his Wing Chun Kung Fu by breaking a chop-stick on his throat and showing some moves on Oskar (who was really happy to experience this).
That night the girls took us out Hong Kong style by renting a room in a karaoke palace. We sang the night away and even the drinks just kept on coming (and the checks just kept on being paid for). They even said we were singing nice when we finished off at a peak of happiness with My Way. A pleasant lie of course. After that, it was nothing really to hold us back. We went to some club with an awesome live-band playing some really good picks of the late 90’s rock scene. Yeah! I think it was somewhere around that bar that I got a bit of what Oskar refers to as the Yellow Fever, the liking of Asian girls.
Well, after a jump-start like this we just kept on going. YoYo took us to Disneyland the day after (she had a free pass) and we experienced some true Asian kitch and had a blast being as childish as you can only be in Disneyland. The peak was to fulfill a long-time kids dream: to finally. FINALLY, meat Donald Duck and shake his hand.
After this extreme hospitality from our lovely Hong Kong hosts we left the safe and got into the unknown which was Macau. A Las Vegas-like island close to HK where we spent the night. It was a soft passage to the unknown since we were staying at another 5* hotel.
So, to conclude. We had a really marvellous staying in Hong Kong despite the 35 degrees and 100% humidity. I can’t imagine any better hosts or cooler town to start this type of trip than Hong Kong.
Now I am currently in Cambodia. I will write more about it soon and how we closed Khao San road in Bangkok, dodged a bus scam just to get into an even worse situation in a small country town in Cambodia.
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