A Travellerspoint blog

August 2019

Chiang Rai, Thailand

City in the Mountains

sunny 31 °C
View 12 Month Sabatical on Geete01's travel map.

Hi All, I am finally back on board after having a bout of Dengue fever. I can say with total certainty that this fever is the shitest you will feel without going to hospital. Actually I did go to the hospital in Laos and they gave me panadol and in broken English said, sorry don`t speak English and sent me away again, not before charging me $80 nzd for the Panadol, hahahaha. Oh and I had to pay $50 nzd for the Tuk Tuk to get me there and back as well.

Chiang Rai is a city in northern Thailand, in the mountainous province of the same name. They city is near the borders of Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Wat Phra Kaew is a royal temple that once housed the jade Emerald Buddha and now displays a replica. Nearby, the Navel City Pillar is a monument made of more than 100 Khmer-style pillars. Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park is a museum showcasing Lanna artifacts.

I am on day 2 in Chiang Rai. I really like this place, it only has about 70,000 people so is much quieter than a lot of the other cities I have been too. There is also a surprising amount of things to see here as well. Typically there is the temples, however, I have found 2 temples that are not the norm which has made it more interesting.

One of the first things I saw after checking into the hostel was the clock tower/roundabout in the centre of town. This thing has to be the most elaborate and ornate clock I have ever seen. The whole thing is painted gold and every night at 7, 8 & 9pm has a light show that lasts about 5 minutes.

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26/8/19
BLUE TEMPLE (WAT RONG SEUR TEN)

I think this intended to actually be a temple however, it is far more a tourist attraction than a temple. It is far more interesting even if it doesn`t have the history of many of the other temples in Asia. Literally everything is blue with many of the idols and statues contrasting in white. Another nice thing about this temple is that it is free to enter, this was a nice change.
I am not sure if the pictures do it justice as the sculptures and the artwork are amazingly unique, it takes a while to see all the different pieces as there is so much to see.

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THE BLACK HOUSE (BAAN DAM MUSEUM)

This site is the creation of national artist, Thawan Duchanee. If I remember correctly there is 40 structures that are an ecclectic mix of traditional Thai buildings and some modern and a little crazy designs. He uses a lot of animal skins within his art, so probably not to everyones taste. There is bear skins, crocodile skins, snake skins, wolf and even fox. I believe it is part art studio, part museum and part home as the artist lives on site when he is in town.
I really enjoyed wandering around the gardens and viewing something a little different to what I have been exposed too in Asia. The first building is absolutely immense and the whole place is very gothic/medieval.

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27/8/19
WHITE TEMPLE (WAT RONG KHUN)

First things first, do not pronounce the name of the temple incorrectly. I absolutely laughed my head off at this temple, I saw the staff harrasing the tourists and making a huge fuss about legs and shoulders being covered before you were allowed to enter. Give me a break, if it was a temple that was used for worship, ok fair enough but this temple is 100% to make money! end of story. Even the website calls it a privately owned art exhibit in the style of a buddhist temple.... not a temple, so why you have to cover your legs and shoulders to view art is a little confusing.
Anyway, it was still an amazing display of art.

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BIG BUDDHA (WAT HUAY PLA KANG)

Known as the big buddha, it is actually a representation of the god of mercy and is a 25 floor temple perched on the side of a hill about 6km out of town. You can get to the top of the temple via a lift that will cost $2 nzd. As with most things in Thailand, it is very elaborate in the way it has been decorated, even the lifts are done the same way. once you get to the top there is a round window called the 3rd eye that you have an amazing view of Chiang Rai from. This is absolutely worth the trip as I found it one of the most interesting buildings I have seen so far.
To the right of the temple is a 9 floor pagoda.

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Lift at the 25th Floor

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Inside the 25th floor

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View of the 9 floor pagoda from the 25th floor and also the carpark.

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Guard dog at the entrance

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Pagoda from ground level

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Posted by Geete01 02:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Vang Vieng, Laos

Very Disappointing Place

rain 29 °C
View 12 Month Sabatical on Geete01's travel map.

I had high hopes for this little town in the mountains, based on what I had heard and read. Unfortunately this was worse than Vientiane, I am becoming less surprised that business in these countries look like they are struggling. They probably are based on how shit the service is and how much they try and rip off the tourists.
Tonight was a perfect example, went to a restaurant in the middle of the town, looked promising based on the fact it was full and many others were not. Ordered noodle soup and a drink, still waiting 45 minutes later, didn`t even have the drink yet. Now I understand that the restaurant was busy but you can`t even manage to bring a drink to the table in 45 minutes, ok bye. Left the restaurant and they never said a word.
Guess I am going to be very skinny after 12 months, hahahaha.
The place I am staying is Vang Vieng Garden Bungalows, essentially it is a pretty nice place, unfortunately it is the second night here and both days now music thumping louder than a concert vibrates the windows from 3 - 10pm non stop. The base is so loud the curtains move but at least that stops you from hearing the rats in the ceiling. Sounds like I am being harsh on Laos, however I am trying to give honest observations and experiences so people know what to expect if they travel here.

Garden Bungalows where I am staying and surrounding mountain

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This was a market that I found behind where I was staying. These markets are everywhere in Laos.

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11/8/19

Holy shit it rained like you would not believe today. After it stopped I got a picture of probably the biggest snail I have ever seen.

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12/8/19

Had so much fun today. I was sick of being stuck inside because of the rain so went out anyway. Hired an off road buggy for 2 hours, cost $180,000 Kip or $32 nzd. It included the fuel so I thought that wasn`t too bad. It pissed down so I got completely drenched, hahahaha but it was still 30 degrees.

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And some pictures of the mountains in between the rain.

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The scenery here is outstanding so it is such a shame that the food is terrible and the service is abysmal. Ok, keep some hope alive that Luang Prabang will be better.

Posted by Geete01 03:23 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Vientiane, Laos

Sleepy Frustrating City

rain 29 °C
View 12 Month Sabatical on Geete01's travel map.

Ok, so today I lost my shit with how frustrating it is to get anything done in this country. I understand things are not the same as NZ but come on. I think today was a build up of frustration over the last couple of months and it is very evident that a lot of SE Asia is not interested in catering to the tourists, be under no illusions, they are only interested in your money, Period.
Laos is probably the most obvious in this regard as everything they do is to ass rape the tourist in the wallet. Now don`t get me wrong, I am not saying Laos is expensive, however there is a clear distinction between what the tourists pay and what the locals pay, for instance I went to a few local museums and temples yesterday and what the tourists pay is more than 3 times what the locals pay. Also, it is widely publicised that they understand English in Laos but this does not appear to be the case. Also the Tuk Tuk drivers in Laos are the biggest crooks in SE Asia. Asked one this morning to take me to an ANZ ATM and he asked for the equivalent of $9 NZD, I told him I would walk and lucky I did as I found one about 1km away. After telling him I would walk the price suddenly halved and this is not the first time it has happened, they asked for $45 NZD for another ride I queried and when I refused it suddenly went down to $20 NZD.
Don`t even get me started on the food, I was under the impression that food in SE Asia was good. Hell no it isn`t, well haven`t experienced good food yet, as of yesterday I am now vegetarian for the rest of my trip. This is for the safety of my stomach as clearly nobody here can cook meat. Not sure how you can balls up deep fried chicken wings but apparently you can. Had them last night with blood still oozing, Mmmmmm yum.

6/8/19
Quiet day today but went for a walk around the city after arriving last night. Stupidly hot today, I think the weather report says 34 degress and feels like 42 because of the humidity.
In the centre of the city is a sacred stupa that they call "That Dam" they believe it is inhabited by a Naga (half serpent half man). Never saw him though and never showed up in any of the photos, Hahaha.

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Like a lot of SE Asia, there is a large French influence. In Laos there is many old buildings and houses that have been left to rot, Hopefully one day somebody will restore these, although it would cost huge amounts of money. I snapped these pictures of an old French house opposite That Dam

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Down by the Mekong river they have a market every night, it seems to be targeted at the tourists but it was interesting. You can get all kinds of food here as well but choose wisely as the quality varies greatly.

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Me having a beer at a rooftop bar overlooking the Mekong River.

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7/8/19
Today started with a visit to Ho Pha Keo Museum which is more of a temple. This place interested me as it was in very good condition compared to many of the temples I have seen in the last few months due to having been rebuilt several times. It was originally built in 1565 to house the emerald buddha. You will also see how large it is as some of the photos have people in them so you can get an idea of the scale of this place.

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These carvings were on the grounds and have been done in old tree trunks. Thought these were a bit different but not sure if the photos really do them justice.

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Second stop for the day was a monument they call Patuxai which means Victory Gate and was dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It is 7 stories high and from the top you have an amazing view of the city.

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Final stop of the day was "That Luang" which is a gold covered Buddhist stupa that is regarded as the most important national monument in Laos.

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Starducks Coffee?????

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9/8/19
Me on the bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, it is a 5 hour trip so going a bit stir crazy.

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Posted by Geete01 21:51 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

The Jungle Island

rain 29 °C
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Spent 4 nights & 3 days on this island. There is quite a few places to stay but they have managed to keep much of the flora and fauna intact. I stayed at Tree House Bungalows that has built cool wooden huts either on the beach or in the bush, depending on how much you want to spend. I got the hut in the bush as it was only $15usd per night, had it`s own shower and toilet and a balcony.
They are an eco friendly resort so there is a lot of animals in and around the hut. There is a sign in the hut saying do not be afraid of the lizards as they eat the mosquitos but holy shit these things are 25cm long with the girth of a babies arm. Takes you back a bit when you get in the shower and one is on the wall staring at you or you wake up in the morning and there is one on the inside of the window.
Great place to stay, only 150 metres from the first beach, has a great bar/restaurant and so relaxing (because my life is so hard at the moment, hahaha).
Getting here was a mission though. From Phnom Penh takes 6 hours by bus then about 45 minutes by boat. I have found in Cambodia, if they say it takes 4 hours it will take 6. You catch the boat from a place called Sihanoukville, which should be called shitville. It is like they found an old rubbish dump and said "let`s build a town here". I have never seen so much rubbish ever. Talking to the locals and they explained that 90% of the rubbish is from the Chinese development here. Apparently the Cambodian government welcomes the Chinese as they believe this will help the country. Unfortunately everything that the Chinese build is exclusive for them, so it will not help the Cambodian people at all.

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Posted by Geete01 23:35 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Capital City

overcast 29 °C
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OMG Phnom Penh has the most traffic jams I have ever seen. It is strange because the population is only 1.5 million but you would swear there is 5 million vehicles. The city itself is actually not bad but trying to navigate the traffic is ridiculous. It is like Vietnam with 10 times more cars. I have used Tuk Tuks for all of my travelling in the city. I have found this to be the easiest, fastest and most reasonably priced way to get around. July, August & September are supposed to be the rainy season, however it is still 32 degrees everyday, add to this the humidity and the weather report says it feels like 39 degrees.

26/7/19

THE CHOEUNG EK GENOCIDAL CENTRE (THE KILLING FIELDS)
This would have to be one of the most confronting and emotional places I have ever visited. I had heard and read a little about the killing fields of Cambodia before I left NZ but it is hard to put into words the atrocities that were committed by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot.
I used the audio tour which cost $5 usd and is well worth the price. They give you a headset to wear and the audio is narrated by a Cambodian man that lost 4 of his siblings at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. He speaks very good english, so is not difficult to understand. There are 19 stops that are narrated in order at different areas around the property. There is also the memorial stupa in the centre of the property that holds the skulls from the bodies that have been recovered the the land known as the killing fields. They even go as far as explaining how they died based on the damage to the skull.
At the end of the tour there is a museum that holds many items from this time including clothing from the soldiers and the victims.
Hopefully the pictures I have included here give you a better understanding of how barbaric the Khmer Rouge were to there own people. Basically considered a threat was exterminated. They considered anybody with an education or anyone wearing glasses a threat to name a few of their bizarre ideas. They also removed the currency and created their own.

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TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM (S-21)
This was the secret centre of a network of nearly 200 prisons where it is believed up to 20,000 people were imprisoned and tortured under the Khmer Rouge. You only left S21 to be transferred to the killing fields, many were also killed at the prison. There are only 12 confirmed survivors.
Again this was as audio tour with 32 stops and was $5usd.
I have not included many of the pictures I took here due to the graphic nature.

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ROYAL PALACE
Took a few photos of the royal palace but as with many countries that still worship royalty, it was a total piss take. The people of Cambodia struggle
to survive and the royalty waste money on self indulgence rather than helping the people.

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27/7/19
WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTRE
This place was fantastic. They basically rescue animals that have been injured or captured to be sold for exotic pets. Most of the animals have been tortured and beaten so they can be trained to perform. All the animals are the rehabilitated to be released back into the wild if possible. You can buy bananas and sugar cane to feed the animals on the walk around.
Most of the animals seem pretty tame but you get the odd one that is still pretty traumatised from the treatment they have received prior to arriving here.

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Posted by Geete01 01:59 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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