What to see in Cambodia

Kid riding water buffalo in Koh Rong

Besides the Portrait of Cambodia that I’m writing, I promised before a post about things to do as a tourist in Cambodia. I’ve spent more than two weeks working full-time on it, but hopefully it will be worth. About my opinions of tourist places you can be sure I’m not going to tell you that something is awesome if I think it’s a fucking shit. I really hate those websites that say how impressive and wonderful is a touristy place just because everybody says that. When anybody talks exaggeratedly about how amazing is anything we use to nod and confirm what was said. So even when we think that it’s not so special, we’ll enhance those virtues up to the point of convince ourselves that what in other moment we thought it was silly it’s indeed amazing and we must recommend it to everybody.

And following this line of thoughts I repeat what I’ve already said once about the tourism: we don’t live our own experiences, but a commercialized copy of other people’s experiences.

 

Warning: No, it’s not a short post, it’s a tourist guide about Cambodia adorned with my Navarradas, that is with my own feelings and experiences. The main objective is not only that you read it (maybe in several days) to know more about what I’ve done here, but you also keep it as a reference and share it with your contacts and in the social networks. So with your permission I’ll elaborate on it grin

In order to make it easier for reading I let you here an interactive index/summary. Continue reading

Portrait of Cambodia: Introduction

Portrait of Cambodia

And it’s finally time to write about Cambodia. My Cambodia. And it’s just that this country doesn’t leave me indifferent. It’s not for nothing, I’ve already been more than 6 months here, although my travel drive is now kicking me in the ass.

So far I’ve been talking about every town I was visiting trying to write posts not very long, but that format is not possible anymore for Cambodia. Nevertheless I think some of you will like the new format since you’ll get a better insight into the country and into my day a day while traveling. I hope. At least until I am able to update the blog (yeah, I’ve been 10 months trying it stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes ).

Well, what I’ve decided is to write a series of post to create a Portrait of Cambodia.

My vision of Cambodia is not the vision of an occasional traveler and least of all the one of a tourist. Despite this, next post will not be part of the Portrait and will be for those who get only short holidays and just want to know what the fuck they can see in Cambodia; with all my love stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye

I’m not either to tell you what an expat would do: all the western stuff that is possible to do here with a Cambodian touch and “little” money. With all due respect to them, most of expats have only a superficial vision of how Cambodia is. They live their lives loaded with a very favorable exchange rate and/or with much higher salaries than Cambodian people (except those rolling in bribes: politicians, judges, attorneys, lawyers, policemen, doctors; and the list goes on and on). And most of them don’t bother either to learn the language, just a few words they hear repeated). Hopefully I’m wrong about that and I’ll receive tens of comments of pissed off expats grin

 

What I’m going to describe in this series is the real Cambodia, the one its population lives, suffers and enjoys everyday. You’re maybe wondering what gives me the right to say that this is the real Cambodia; after all, despite my words, any expat has been here much more time and knows much more about the country than me. Well, there are a lot of realities; mi reality is the one of those who have nothing, perhaps subjectivized by my own existence. In this series I’m not going to tell you about places (at least that’s not the main aim), I’m going to tell you about people, about feelings, about souls. I want you to see Cambodia as I see it. I want you to see Cambodia from the eyes of those who have not any other choice but survive here and from the eyes of those who try to get the country off the ground with their small acts. I’ll tell you about what I read in the eyes of the people, in their face, in their hands, in their skin, in their wrinkles. If I’ve learned anything in Cambodia it’s to read, to understand, to pity, to not judge and to love what would be easy to reject and send away from us. I still have to work a lot in myself in those aspects but without any doubt Cambodia has left a mark on me and I’ll try to make you understand that mark.

If I’m able to transmit you all of that is because in Cambodia I’ve got what I couldn’t get in Laos and frustrated me. I’m totally integrated in the country, I can live and feel as they do. An important part of that achievement is due to Sothy, a young Cambodian girl who owns a small farm and produce the famous Kampot Pepper (one of the best in the world; I’ll write also about it on a post aside from the series). I was happily working 4 months at her farm in exchange of accommodation and food. She taught me a lot about Cambodian society, about the life here and about humans in general. The other part is due to my way of traveling, poor as a church mouse, what allows me to share a table with the most grim reality of the country.

Many people ask me what I’ve seen in Cambodia, why I’m staying here so long. Well, the ugly truth is that at the very beginning I stopped here because I didn’t have money anymore. I arrived to SE Asia more than 8 months ago with around 1000€. Due to a moderate consumption and to hitchhiking I could spend only 400€ per month in Thailand and Laos. However when arrived to Cambodia it was almost nothing left in my bank account so, knowing how easy is to extend the visa here, I decided to look for a place where I could stay without time limit until I could find the way to make money online while traveling. And that’s how I arrived, along with Belén, to Sothy’s Pepper Farm which I already knew about thanks to Hans and Håkon, two Norwegian guys whom I met in Ban Hoy Bo, a small village neighbor of Ban Na, north of Laos. So far I’ve not been able to make money but I’ve got something much more important/interesting: not to spend. Or at least spend almost nothing (although maybe they don’t know about this, Mélanie and Tristan, a French couple I met at Cade’s, my CouchSurfing host/friend in Phnom Penh, were a very important key for that, so thanks blush ). Unlike what you could think, I don’t care much about my accounting now, I just have a general idea of what I can spend and in the last 6 months in Cambodia I’ve spent less than half the money I was spending in 1 month in Thailand or Laos: on average I live with 1€ a day. And yes, I’ve also continued traveling smile

I’ll write later about how to survive with almost no money. Now it’s time to talk about my loved Cambodia.

Hitchhiking in Laos

Hitchhiking in Laos

While hitchhiking in Thailand is really easy despite the communication problems, but hitchhiking in Laos is not that simple. In Thailand seeing a farang at the shoulder is weird and many people stop for curiosity or trying to help because they think you’re in trouble (so sweet! smile ). In Laos a farang at the shoulder is not weird, it’s very weird and most of the people will either look at you with curiosity not knowing what to do and not stopping because they don’t speak English or look at you like a dollar with legs from whom they can get some profit; the last ones use to speak a bit of English. Indeed many of the drivers who stop ask for money and not, it’s not for sharing costs, it’s even more than the bus whether one would have taken it from origin to destination.

Of course there are a lot of people who are not like that (more in the South than in the North) and thanks to them I could travel hitchhiking around Laos:

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The 4000 islands of Mekhong

Si Phan Don

Short, very short was my time in Si Phan Don (literally 4000 islands) named after the numerous islands in that part of the Mekhong, the last one belonging to Laos. Just a couple of weeks ago I was looking forward to leaving the country and now, despite a bad experience in the first island we slept, I feel sorry for not staying more time here enjoying the relax.

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Pakse loop, where the coffee is grown

Coffee beans. Coffee flowers on the background

Although we left Thakhek hitchhiking, the last kilometers we had to take a local bus since it was already dark and we preferred to reach Pakse that day. There we’d perform a similar motorbike loop to the one in Thakhek but only for 2 days and, in my opinion, more interesting. The Pakse loop goes around the Bolaven Plateau, a plateau formed millions of years ago after the eruption of an ancient volcano. This region is famous for its waterfalls and for its coffee (mainly Arabica and Robusta, planted during the French colonial times) which is worldwide exported and it’s an important income for Laotian families. It was mid January and the coffee plants had flowers so driving through the fields we could smell its delicious aroma which reminded me to the sweet jasmine at first. Besides the good moments with my friends in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, this would be with no doubts the best part of my trip around Laos.

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Hostgator problems, hosting provider

As some of you already know, Navarradas.com has been outdated and inactive for almost one month thanks to HostGator, the hosting provider where my blog is hosted.

I had to make a public claim on the Social Networks in order they check, after 3 WEEKS, the migration ticket they had pending. Finally they didn’t execute it, didn’t offer any compensation and I had to renew for one year more to save the blog.

A pathetic support that of course will finish in one year, so if anyone knows other hosting provider with a good quality/price rate, I accept recommendations!

But now, Navarradas.com continues. Let’s go!

Thakhek loop

Woman giving a bath to a kid

Three long journeys under rain and cold from Nong Khiaw but finally Belén and I arrived to Thakhek, the first big town in the South of Laos. The town itself was not very interesting, just a town at the Mekhong riverside, but in the surroundings there were several caves to visit and beautiful karst landscape. Once we properly rested in a hostel at the town’s outskirts we rented a motorbike to do part of a recommended 3-days-loop.
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Towards the South of Laos, Phonsavan

Plain of Jars, Site 1 in Phonsavan

After resting in Ban Na I came back to Nong Khiew and met Belén, the Spanish girl who I met in Pai and then again in Luang Prabang. We kept in touch and then moved together towards the South of Laos. We wanted to do it hitchhiking but those days it started to rain and to be a bit colder and we were not very well prepared so finally we took the bus. We’d prefer the East roads but the buses over there were very expensive so it was cheaper and faster to detour by Luang Prabang. Just after arriving to the city we took a bus towards Vietnam (where we met again the Finnish girls) and get off in Phonsavan at 2 in the morning. We had to look for a guest-house in a desert town due to the curfew in Laos.

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Calm after the storm

It was 6 in the morning of the day I decided to leave Luang Prabang and I still didn’t know what to do. Anya and Liam left the day before back to their respective countries. Poor Elena was sick but I was looking forward to leave and Casey and the Finnish girls came the day before keeping her company. I had two options: head towards south and leave the country ASAP or continue further north to explore less touristy places, the villages in the north of Laos. What kind of traveler would I be if run away when I don’t like a country instead of exploring it more? Later in Cambodia I would find out that the problem is not the country or the people, the problem is that we always do what other people have already done because we’re afraid of getting really lost or something bad happens to us. So eventually we don’t live our own experiences but a commercialized copy of other people’s experience.

6:30AM, backpack ready, something to have breakfast on the way and 2 hours walking out of the city to hitchhike. Direction: North. Continue reading

Luang Prabang, holiday city

Jumping to the turquoise waters of Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang

Some years ago there was a TV advertisement in Spain that says “Marina d’Or, holiday city” to promote a holiday resort at the Spanish east coast. And that’s Luang Prabang, a holiday city for families and retired people. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad families and retirees have a place for holidays but honestly, despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is pathetic. Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world, however Luang Prabang (the center) looks like any other western summer city. An island of opulence which badly contrast with the local poverty. Only some few Laotians benefit from that, the rest still scrape by in the outskirts while westerns multiply business focused on westerns maintaining a community not integrated at all with the social and cultural reality of the country.

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Vang Vieng, learning the way

Landscape in Vang Vieng: karst topography

Vang Vieng, a small town on the way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang which has radically changed since 10 years ago when it was a peaceful place of idyllic landscapes and become later a town of drugs and alcohol with no control at all. That finished when 2 years ago the police closed dozens of bars. Now the landscapes are the same, but monetized to the point of exaggeration, and the young and festive atmosphere of backpackers is more moderated but intense though (similar to Pai in Thailand). By the way, in Laos there is curfew at 23:30 for all the business (although some of them bribe the police to avoid it).

That is the atmosphere where I’d change the way that I think about my trip.

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Lao People Don’t Rush

The official name of Laos as a country is Lao PDR (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) but expats here created other meaning for that name: Lao People Don’t Rush. And what a true! In fact, the most repeated expression in Laos is baw-pen-nyan, translated as No problem or Never mind.

Before carrying on with my trip I’d like to share my thoughts about the people of this country which was a turning point in my adventure.

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Cheryl’s Birthday for dummies

I was improving some things in the blog before trying again to write the posts about Laos and Cambodia I still own you when in the social networks appeared a math problem asked to fifth grade kids in Singapore (11 years-old). Since so many people is facing problems for understanding it, even with the explained solution, I write you here my version for dummies.
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Combat tactics against mosquitoes

Combat tactic against mosquitoes

Developing tactics against mosquitoes

One of the biggest problems of SE Asia are the annoying mosquitoes, carriers of several diseases. This is what one has to do when have a comfortable bed but not place to hang the mosquito net:

For a while I’ve not written anything. You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been busy living! blush But I’ll try to update it as soon as possible with past Navarradas and new ones, which are becoming more and more interesting!

When I’ve had some decent connection I’ve taken advantage to optimize and speed up the blog.
Now it should load faster, for mobiles too, and images will load while scrolling down the blog.
Additionally I’ve changed the gallery system and I’ve installed Fotorama, a very useful plug-in written by the Russian Artem Polikarpov so you’ll be able now to see the pictures in full screen in your computer, mobile or tablet.

I’ll continue doing changes when I have time.

See you!

KM 52, Hmong village

Small Hmong girl carrying her brother

On the road between Vientiane and Vang Vieng/Luang Prabang, 52km away from Vientiane is sited a village called precisely like that, Km 52 (in Lao, the official language of Laos, that’s pronounced like Lak haa-sip-song). That originals are people here, and it’s not the only village with that type of name. Laos is full of them.

Since I left Vientiane I set Ban Km 52 (Ban means village in Lao) as my next destination. Firstly because it was a village in the middle of nowhere and no tourists stop there; and secondly because in CouchSurfing, surprisingly, there were several guys offering couch. But I arrived only to find that there was a big festival and every guest-houses were full or really overpriced (that’s why I didn’t get either positive replies to my CouchSurfing Requests).

I was wandering around, looking for a guest-house where I could sleep without paying too much when I walked a second time by a house where around 40 people of the same family were eating. One of the young guys made me gestures to join them and they invited me to eat, to party with them and to sleep in their home grin And that’s how I spent Christmas Eve in 2014 santa

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Vientiane

UXO. Estimated USA-bombed area in Laos

As I’ve already said, Vientiane has nothing really interesting, so I’m not bothering writing a real post about the city and I’ll just let you here some photos and tell you a couple of things (muahahaha, what a naughty boy am I).

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Curiosity killed the cat

I was wandering around Vientiane, capital of Laos (it has almost nothing really interesting by the way), maybe a bit confused due to the new driving side (here the cars drive on the normal side, on the right), when that nice woman in her fifties waved at me and we started to chat away. She was from Malaysia and her daughter would travel to Spain to study (what a coincidence!). She was a bit worried about her because it was a totally different world and she wanted to know more about it. Her uncle joined us (she was meeting him) and they invited me to a drink in a terrace. After a nice chat they offered me to have lunch with them so that I could talk to her daughter/grandniece and give her some advises. Sure! Why not? It was a great opportunity to meet new people.

They called a tuk-tuk and we went to their house. A maid or a helpful relative welcomed us and then the uncle’s brother showed up with a permanent smile smile He also talked me about her grandniece and how worried was her mother. I told him a bit about the Spanish culture:

Nothing to worry about, just the pickpockets! Hahaha

And about Mallorca:

Beach is invaded by Germans, but inland is more local.
+ Beach?
Oh… Don’t you know where Mallorca is? Look — showing them a map in my mobile —, it’s that island.
+ Ah, it’s an island!
Yes! — what the fuck are these people thinking about? Their girl is going there and they don’t know it?

I told him what my travel was about and that I was looking for temporal jobs while I was traveling to get some money to keep going so I’d probably stop for a while in Cambodia. Visa is easy to get there.

+ Really? I’m working in a ferry in Cambodian coast and you might be working there — coincidence!
Seriously? That would be amazing!
+ I work as a pit-boss in the casino — uhhh —, so I could teach you some cards tricks and when you come to visit me just come inside through the VIP entrance — sure —. We can work together there, what do you think about that? — What the fuck? I’m not going to visit you and work scamming people in a casino. But… let’s see where is all this going, I’m curious about those tricks grin
Sure! Why not?

We went up to the first floor and the pit-boss was teaching me some tricks about when to bet in Blackjack and gestures to tell me when I had to ask for cards and when not during the game.
He explained me that bets were normally with $5000 and he would give me that money to play in his table — imagine here my best face of WTF!!? —, but since I was a beginner he would give me only $200 so it wouldn’t be a real problem in case of I lose all that money — $200 or $1, you’re freaking out if you think I’m going to bet anything. He also told me that the first games would be played by his brother and I would only watch so I could learn.

Then he talked about one of his customers, a man from Singapore working with jewelery, gold and silver. He would probably come to have lunch with us and I could stay watching how they play — that’s weird. I just had to say that his brother was my tourist guide — sure, sure, whatever.
To my astonishment, oh what a coincidence, the maid knocked the door and announced a visitor. He was the customer from Singapore. In that moment my previous excitement about meeting new people completely disappeared and my scatterbrain understood what was happening there.

Great. So I’m not the one supposed to scam rich people in a ferry when I hypothetically visit him, but the one who is going to be scammed is me, here and now. Ok, too far. It’s time to run off!

After introductions the guy just sat down to play and gave the pit-boss a bankroll which pretended to be $2000 — yeah, sure — and the latter wrote down in a shabby piece of paper the round balance: in one side the Singaporean guy with $2000 and in the other one with $200 his brother and !?me!? fearful cold_sweat Additionally his brother didn’t put the chips in front of him, but between we two (we were sitting together). So I noticeably stepped aside and said that I was not playing, only he was doing it.

The pit-boss, clever guy, said:
+ Oh, you maybe prefer to leave?
Yeah, I think so.

Curiosity satisfied. I took my things and left accompanied by the woman who, before knowing what happened, asked me if I didn’t want to wait for her daughter. When realized she lost her smile. The cards were already on the table.


Whenever somebody tells me “Curiosity killed the cat” I always reply something I learned from my brother: “but saved the rat” (in English would be more correct to say “but satisfaction brought him back”).
However, sometimes it’s better to be careful just in case you’re the cat instead of the rat.

Coming back to the hostel I found a couple of cards laying on the ground. Now I keep them always with me as a reminder of the fact that appearances delude and that one can still trust people but must take care and don’t be reckless, even wanting to open up or meet new people.

 

P.S. (13/08/2015): In Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, several times similar people stop me, normally women or couples. I’m glad I lived this experience before (and it end up happily) because now I’m able to notice the scam attempt from miles away.

Surviving with 1€ a day

Cheap food

And that was my situation my last day in Thailand, having only 50 bahts (1,25€).

I had already spent my last 500 bahts in Chiang Khan (a town in the Mekhong riverside, which is a holidays destination for Thai people so I couldn’t find anything cheaper than 300 bahts for sleeping) and having dinner with Tamara, the German CouchSurfer who was hosting me in Nong Khai.

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Being swept away

Phu Ruea

Sometimes nothing happens as one expects, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Attitude is important and one must know how to let oneself be swept away.

The travel drive kicked me off the western comfort of Pai and I was heading to Isaan, the Northeast region of Thailand, the most rural and less touristy. But exactly when I was starting to hitchhike I began to feel something wrong in my stomach. Around Pai there was a kind of virus and everybody was a whole day throwing up and with diarrhea. Damn it! It wouldn’t be very nice if I throw up and shit to the road from a pickup stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes But I could manage it well, and after a couple of vomits, nothing to eat in the whole day and sleep a lot I woke up next day fresh as a daisy muscle

After a couple of days hitchhiking towards Loei, in a village whose name I do not care to remember, the local postman insisted on I couldn’t get a lift there and, with all his kindness, drag me to the police station and convinced the policemen to take me to the previous (bigger) village to take a bus. And that’s how I hitchhiked a police car and had to buy a bus ticket to Phuruea (or Phurua or Phu Ruea, you’ll see it written in different ways).

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Pai, backpacker’s town

Pai

I reached Pai from Chiang Rai hitchhiking with Elena (a Russian girl I met in Chiang Mai‘s hostel) through the jungled landscapes of Northern Thailand, its rice fields and its smiling people curious about us.

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Chiang Mai

Don't ride elephants

Beyond the tourist activity of Southern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the northern city everybody tells you to visit. However it has not so much: temples and markets, mainly the same that can be found in any other Thai town but with night life due to the tourism and quite more quiet and not so chaotic like Bangkok.

This city is a good place to be relaxed. In fact, I had there my first Thai massage which was in a local where the masseuses were ex-prisoner women. In Chiang Mai the prisoner women are taught how to give massages to have a job after the prison. My massage was awesome smile

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Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet

Wat Phra Kaeo in Kamphaeng Phet

And hitchhiking I reached Sukhothai, former capital of the kingdom with the same name which existed between XIII and XV centuries before being absorbed by Ayutthaya Kingdom. In this town is found the Historical Park of Sukhothai, a place where are sited the ruins of that kingdom (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like Ayutthaya one). It’s divided in several zones which cost 100 bahts each one (around 2,5€) for farangs (you’ll see that in Thailand everything has officially a local price, normally free, and a farang price, around 5-10 times more expensive). It’s possible to rent a bike by 30 bahts in the places surrounding (+10 bahts to get the bike into the place). 1 or 2 hours is more than enough to go around the central zone with the bike. Rest of zones are similar and I think they’re not worthy (although I didn’t get into).

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Hitchhiking in Thailand

Hitchhiking in Thailand

Before coming to Asia I’d already started to hitchhike more than one year ago. My first time was Serbia, but then would come Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Romania and a bit in Spain and Germany. Waiting time average in Europe is around 1 hour, although that depends on the countries, but all of them have something in common: they know what hitchhiking and pointing the thumb up mean.

But Asia is totally different. I’ve only been 2 weeks hitchhiking in Thailand and I can only say it’s a wonderful country to do it, at least in the north. The only point is they don’t know what hitchhiking means. And I don’t mean the thumb up gesture (in fact here the most effective gesture is holding up the arm and move the wrist up and down, like calling a taxi), but the hitchhiking concept.

Firstly, everybody here has a car or at least a motorbike. Secondly, have you ever seen a farang (western people) without money or who isn’t able/want to buy a train or bus ticket?

Nevertheless Thai people are extremely kind and the average time will never exceed 15-20 min. And that’s not all. In several occasions will be they themselves the ones who stop to ask you if you need help, they will move kilometers away from their route to take you to a good place or even they’ll invite you to eat. Once I was even offered some money flushed
They mostly think you’re a lost farang and since hitchhiking is not here a well-known activity they’ll probably try to take you to a bus or train station. Sometimes you’ll lost more time than expected due to that, but it’s impossible to fight against a happy smile looking forward to help smile

I let you here just some of my experiences hitchhiking in Thailand:

  • Jaroen, a truck driver who carried me from Lopburi to Kamphaeng Phet, invited me to have a lunch, coffee and to eat the dried fish he was eating like a snack. And he refuels without stopping the engine sweat_smile
  • Just after 3 minutes waiting for a lift in Phran Kratai an old woman with a white dress, worrying about my safety, came to me. I explained her with gestures that I was traveling without money so she leads me to the bus stop, invited me to some Khao Lam (Asian dessert done with rice, coconut milk and black beans put together in a bamboo tube), told everybody about what I was doing (one of her neighbors tried even to give me 200 bahts which obviously I rejected vigorously) and I though she was going to pay the bus to Sukhothai for me but a young couple came to rescue me and dropped me off where the kind woman couldn’t see me again hitchhiking. What a lovely woman! blush
  • 2 motorbikes and 2 sidecars (being behind with no security at all and with the backpack is not very comfortable).
  • A truck with juices. I was with the orange juices and the door opened to not be enclosed.
  • Being with Elena (a Russian girl I met in Chiang Mai and with who I would travel to Chiang Rai and Pai) some guys who had been traveling for hours from Bangkok to Chiang Rai just went back for half an hour opposite to their direction to take us to the Pai‘s road.
  • Lee, a guy who was driving a red songthaew (taxi) offered us to sleep and have dinner at his wonderful home in Pa Daet.
  • We were around the mountains over the lettuce packets of a pickup.
  • An student and his mum, observing I was tired (that day I was sick) stopped before I’d tell them anything and offered me to take me to Chiang Mai, diverting their own route.
  • Ning, a Lampang University teacher gave me a lift from Chiang Mai to Lampang teaching me a lot of things.
  • Pim and Morn, students (and workers) who were around the University took me for several kilometers out of their route in order to drop me off in a good place towards Den Chai.
  • Just after that I got a car. The driver had to stop in the middle of the road because the car run out of gasoline laughing Fortunately other guy helped and came with a bit of it for us.
  • I’ve hitchhiked with Buddhist monks (when they got off the owners of the car gave them 100 bahts and a bottle of water, that looks like normal here)
  • I’ve traveled in a police car when the postman of a small village, trying to help me, told them that they should take me to the previous town to take the bus. Sometimes is impossible to make some people understand that you’re fine and not lost. But they try to help, so just smile and continue, new things happen later!

To be continued…

P.S.: ADVICE FOR HITCHHIKERS

  • Here it doesn’t work to wait with the thumb up, instead you must hold up the arm and move the wrist up and down, like calling a taxi. In Thai that’s boglot.
  • You’ll frequently see the gesture of turning the wrist with the open hand. That would be interpreted in western countries as “maybe”, but in Asia that means “no”. You’ll find that gesture useful for tuk-tuks grin
  • Traffic rules in Thailand are hardly used so you can hitchhike almost everywhere, but the best places in cities are the traffic lights at the exits where you can directly ask to the drivers.
  • It’s better if you walk and turn when cars come instead of waiting on the side of the road. That way they can see you’re going somewhere else, otherwise they can easily think you’re just waving at them sweat_smile
  • Most of people don’t speak English but they can understand a bit. In any case explain yourself with gestures telling them where are you going and asking them if they’re going there and if you can go with them.
  • Name 2 or 3 towns you’re passing through, maybe they can give you a lift to any of them.
  • Pickups are the easiest to get a ride since you can go behind. They feel safe and don’t have to talk to you if cannot or don’t want to.
  • Don’t try to stop minivans, they have their route programmed and will not stop.
  • Say hello (pronounced “sa-wa-dee-khrap” if you’re a man and “sa-wa-dee-kaa” if you’re a woman) with respect putting your hands together, like praying, and nodding once.
  • Bring with you a hitchhiking letter written by a Thai friend and learn some useful Thai sentences. This is mine in Thailand (it tells who am I and what am I doing in the road stopping cars):

    Although once you get used to express yourself by gestures and to understand what they want to say it’s not so necessary.

  • Use a GPS when you don’t have clear where they’re taking you, to know where they dropped you off or even to show them where are you going in the map (but show your phone as few times as you can). The best free offline GPS app for Android is Sygic but it has not map for some countries like Laos and Cambodia so I recommend to use additionally Maps with Me, also available for iPhone.
  • Even though Thailand is safe for traveling (I’d say that even for solo girls, but you’ll probably know that better than me), everywhere you can find bad people. If somebody wants you to get up with him but he still doesn’t understand where are you going, don’t trust him. It’s very nice that people stop for you, but remember you’re not obligated to get up. Follow your instincts!
  • Don’t be surprised if they want to have a picture with you or ask for your mobile number. Hitchhiking is just other way to meet new people and make new friends smile
  • Hitchhiking is one of the best ways to travel around places that typical tourists don’t even know they exist. Enjoy with the curiosity and smiles of all that people not used to see farangs. You’ll be the target of a lot of photos, laughs and glances, participate in that and smile back warmly.
  • Learn to accept what is given to you. Sometimes you don’t have other option than taking a bus.
  • More advice on HitchWiki.org where I’ll also try to participate when I be able.

 

Lopburi, Monkey City

Monkeys Fest in Lopburi

After Bangkok I thought about visiting Ayutthaya city (former capital of the kingdom with the same name which existed between XIV and XVIII centuries, precursor of Thailand). Jai, a nice Thai guy I met wandering around Bangkok‘s temples, was born there and I was going to visit him. But then I found out the last Sunday of November every year from 1989 Lopburi celebrates the Monkey Banquet: a feast in which city monkeys are fed with tons of fruit. Continue reading

Bangkok

As I said it could happen, I skip what I was going to write about the rest of the Balkans as well as Denmark and Norway. I’ll try to continue them someday.

 

Chaotic. That’s the best word to describe Bangkok. I’ve been there for 6 days, my first Asian city, and I’m leaving not liking it at all. Dirt everywhere, pollution, mess. Chaos.

A normal tourist would have been in Bangkok 2-3 days as much. I decided to stay here for a while to get used to the Asian life and to get in contact with the Thai gastronomy (and from other surrounding countries). That way I’ve discovered that good places to eat are the street ones with tables to sit down and water for free (never got sick due to that water); pedestrian crossing and traffic lights are just ornament and if one wants to cross the street must literally jump to the road to obligate the cars to stop; the only traffic rule is that there are not traffic rules; here cars drive on the left (I should have known this before laughing ); back seats have seatbelt but not socket; there are a lot of temples and eventually one gets tired of seeing the same things always; never take a Tuk-Tuk unless you don’t have other option because they’ll try to scam you or drop you off in a bad place so you’ll pay them more money to take you out of there (I was already warned of that); there are not tourist offices as we have in Europe (well, there are, but difficult to find; you have one in the airport), but tourist agencies who try to sell you one of their offers; around the touristic places there are people who accidentally meet you (even they tell you that they are teachers to look more disinterested) and tell you today is Big Holiday, Buddha Holiday, that everything is closed and it’s better you take a Tuk-Tuk for 20 bahts (0,5€) who will take you to different open and free places (they tell you it’s so cheap because Thai government wants to promote the Tuk-Tuk and let the gasoline cheaper for them); if those characters don’t convince you they’ll try to take you to an official tourist office (TAT, Tourism Authority of Thailand) with which they have obviously an agreement to get a commission (one of them even called me stupid because I didn’t fall, confirming he was trying to scam me laughing ); there is no way to know the bus timetable and route; if taxi doesn’t want to turn on the taximeter, just get off; the royal family is sacred (don’t step over a coin to stop it, it has the king’s face); Buddhism is a very tolerant religion, but in Thailand (and most of Buddhist countries) there are not nuns or they exist only to serve the monks; many people has not money even for buying shoes but every time they go to pray they donate to the temple and if we sum all the wealth of thousands and thousands of temples one can find here I wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeds even the Vatican’s wealth; Thai word to name foreigners is farang; if a policeman stops you while driving, 100 baths are enough to pretend nothing happened (I could see how a guy did it); cleanliness is overrated.

I let you here some photos of the city: Continue reading

After the last post about Romania I’ve decided to change the Blog format.

Instead of traveling for one or two weeks and then write about my experiences, I’ll write daily (or every 2 days) shorter posts so that I easily find the time to write and you can follow me more day a day. It will be something similar to Facebook timeline.

I’ll start with this format once I write about the last month and the blog is updated. I’ll do that during this week but if I don’t have the time then I’ll skip all that time and start directly in Bangkok (although I’m right now in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand).

First stop: Romania

Landscape Transfăgărășan, Romania

Romania, a land where so many European countries only see the source of gypsies, gangs or gorillas. And how different one can see the things when forgets about the unidirectional communication media and embraces new experiences in unknown worlds.

Do you remember where we were? Miky, Bea and me had just arrived to Bucharest after 5 exhausting days driving. Taking advance of the car, Miky took me to go around the Carpathians whereas Bea stayed at home relaxed

So we rested a bit that night and next day we woke up early to carry out the proposed trip:

Continue reading

The adventure begins: on the way to Romania

Attention: this post is not intended to be a guide to describe any place (I’ll mark them properly when so), but just a post to tell my people about my trip towards Romania (with 4 weeks of delay laughing although I expect to be up to date in the next 2 weeks). In fact, that’s the purpose of this blog, tell my adventures, although I’ll do also guides, as always wink

From Spain to Romania

Leaving Madrid on Monday morning, a bit late we headed by A1 highway towards Irún. We both Miky and me were driving so the trip was supposed to be nice. We wanted to drive toll-free through France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and finally Romania. The other option was going through Italy and Slovenia, but Italy is full of tolls and the gas is fucking expensive. On the other hand, the distance in kilometers was more or less the same, around 3500 km, so no necessity to pay extra tolls.

We fucked up just after begin because we didn’t use GPS in Spain (c’mon, we know our own country) and near Irún we drove to the highway and… toll. And… more and more tolls in France until Bordeaux where we slept in a motel that looked like the American films ones.

Continue reading

How to make water drinkable

In several occasions will need water when we’re just far away from the “civilization” and from bottled water. In developing countries like the ones in SE Asia the water can have a lot of microbes. Some of them will cause only traveler’s diarrhea, but other ones could cause Cholera, Hepatitis and other more serious diseases. Even when immunized, we must be careful (and I guess nobody want to be all day shitting shit ).

If we need to take water from a river, a lake or even a suspect pat we can kill water microorganisms in one of the following ways (short by reliability): Continue reading

Vaccinations for Southeast Asia

Vaccines were one of the first things I thought about when I began to plan my trip. People try to save days going to get the vaccines as late as they can. FAIL! Most of the vaccines need more than 1 dose and time between doses. Additionally, if you’re going to a region where you need several vaccines it can be an EPIC FAIL. I needed 7 vaccines, although I didn’t need to get 5 more since in Europe we’re already immunized for them since we’re kids. I came to the doctor 3 months in advance. Anyway, even if you’re not going to vaccinate in that moment, you should go to the doctor with enough time. He/she will do a vaccination calendar for you.

In this post you’ll find all the vaccination information needed for a backpacking trip to Asia and Oceania (vaccinations for Southeast Asia are mainly enough for the rest of Asia and for Oceania).

Continue reading