#surfYOGAdiveBIKE #CrazierStories #BolderAdventures
So did I ever get to take the flight back to Bangkok after taking so much alcohol? Surprisingly, made it with the help of Apple and a very considerate driver. Flight was scheduled to depart Yangon at 8am, woke up at 6am took my bag went running like crazy. Outside the building, I was just hoping for the best. Then there was a taxi parked in front and I took my chance to take it, only wiTh $4 in my pocket. Not enough to reach the destination with a cab, it was just a miracle when the driver agreed and took the route to the airport. Miracle. Hangover in an international flight, woke up in Bangkok (Don Mueang International Airport) scorching.
Thailand (writing this story while listening to Let Her Go by Passenger as a tribute to my friend Tom Upfield)
BANGKOK- Again. Yep whatever route to take, it always come back to this capital city. So this time, I took the chance to be a tourist (yep, not a traveler) for a couple of days. The result was unbelievable. So where’s the best place to be a turista in BKK? I say, KHAO SAN ROAD! For the reason that everything is here, cheap food and accommodation, places of interests (temples), tour companies and party til down places. The first time I was here was a layover from Cambodia before taking my flight back to Manila. This was introduced to me by a good friend, Martin Wevers. But honestly, I decided to stay here because my hangover froze my brain that I can’t think so much aside from imagining an AC room with a good bed. So from the airport, took the bus to Mochit Station (just ask around how to get to Khao San Rd) for 35baht and transferred to another non AC bus (i think Bus 3). To my surprise, there was no one to take my fare from Mochit to Khao San Rd in the non AC Bus. There are also buses in Mochit station that go to Cambodia and Thai countryside. The Chatuchak Market is also located near the bus stop. So there I was inside the red bus still scorching, dizzy and telling myself, “I will not drink too much again (repeat nth times).” Reached Khao San Rd, tried to check some hostels however I was just too weak to walk more and settled in one of the places along the main road that costs $6 for an AC bed with wi-fi and selfish roommates. Yes, those two women talking loud and did not share the fan (the AC was turned off during the day) added to the undesirable weakness eating my spirit. So I slept for a few hours and woke up to their noise (b*tch*s). Guess I accepted the life of a budget tourist which includes this kind of perks. I strolled around Khao San for a few hours and decided to look for a better bed (or should I say better roommates), I found one just a few blocks from the entry point of Khao San fronting a 7-11 shop (hahaha more yogurt drinks!). Apology for forgetting the names of the places I stayed, hangover. The following day, I immediately packed my bag and transferred to my new hostel. My active roommies, Puerto Rican and Japanese guys and an Israeli girl, also the AC was better lol. The next five days, spent rambling the old city center. Yep, everything was roaming distance, like the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha, Parks and bus stop (where I took the red bus to MBK if I had enough with the old stuff). The highlights of this Bangkok chapter were my adventures with Tom (my friend from Laos trip) and the unlimited pad Thai/spring rolls. Tom, being a man of his words allowed me to watch THE PING PONG SHOW, with his supervision along with a bunch of other male tourists. Good thing though, my new roommate (Brazilian Girl) decided to go with us. The show was expensive, priced at 500baht first but the guys bargained and we took it at 300baht ($10) in a VIP room.
- PINGPONG Show– I have this feeling this is not legal in Bangkok as we were brought to an unknown, with not many people area and was searched thoroughly before getting inside a dark room with a small stage in the center. The next thing I knew, I was seeing something I could not even describe. Guests (mostly guys, tourists and a few locals) with astound faces, so was ME. First run, I was in disbelief of how these women (performers) can do so much with their pelvic muscles and vagina. To be honest, the it felt like WOW there’s so much to learn from this show and it felt like women can do more things than men. As the show went on, I saw a different aura. Women, with sad faces being forced to this kind of activity to earn money and survive. I was thinking, did they even have a choice before they got into this, will they ever make another way of living with that choice? The men were cheering and my friend was just…ahm enjoying himself. My heart bleed profusely. We headed back to Khao San after the second re-run of the entire pingpong show. Until that midnight, me and my Brazilian roommie discussed this show with disgust and disbelief.
- TEMPLES (more than one can count) and Market– Yep, once in Khao San area the Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha etc are just walking distance. Most of the temples have fee like GP for 500Baht, RB for 100baht and so on. There were some free temples too but you need to walk around and go to the alleys. We decided to take the reclining buddha, and it was well worth the 100baht. I could have done better though (pretend to be local) but nevermind, i might get busted lol. Also the nearby Wat Arun was worth the visit for a sunset feels. I did not do any floating Market trip, too lazy and not interested in shopping as Khao San itself is good enough.
- FOOD, Drinks and Accommodation– there is an unlimited supply of clean street food ranging from barbecue, local Thai rice meals, fruits and of course Pad Thai and spring rolls ranging from 25baht to 60baht. Also fresh fruit shakes, juices and teas are just around every corner costing 20-30baht. This area is also flooded with both hotels and hostels. AC bed in a hostel cost 180-200 baht while non AC can go as low as 100 baht, be patient in looking around.
Wat Arun, Bangkok
Reclining Buddha, with THE Tom Upfield
Khao San Road gift
After the pingpong show encounter, I decided to slow down and reconnect with my soul. Enough of being a tourist, be a traveler, a wanderer an old soul living for the moment with fun and caution. It was time to get into something spiritual, Meditation retreat. With the help of the internet, I was able to find a retreat down south scheduled few days from the time I read about it. Signed up and prayed to God I would be able to get in. I badly needed it. So there, the universe conspired, with an email informing me to get ready and go to Dipabhavan Retreat Center in Koh Samui.
Koh Samui (or Samui)– one of the three more popular Thai islands in the Central Gulf Coast in Southern Thailand. Almost twelve hours away from Bangkok with bus and ferry ride priced at 620baht. I got my ticket from the bus station itself but its even cheaper to get it from some of the travel agents around Khao San, at least no need to pay for fare from Khao San to Bus station and the agency usually include transfer from hostel to the bus station. Wrong move. The trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui was smooth, traveling around Thailand has always been easy and safe. From Nathon pier where the bus stopped, I still had to take a 100baht songthaew ride to my hostel located to other side of the island. This place was too touristy and rude. People tried to rip me off every time I got out of my hostel. So I decided to buy stuff in the market and decided to hangout inside my 150 baht double room with toilet, tv and strong wifi. I had to restrain myself from going to the beach to avoid changing hearts for the meditation.
- Dipabhavan Meditation Retreat– This is a seven-day silent retreat held in the mountains of HuaThanon, just the perfect place to calm the mind and rejuvenate the soul. The retreat included yoga so I had to sign up when I saw this. This activity made so much impact in my journey and life wandering. People who organized this were kind and knowledgeable with the technicalities of meditation, yoga and Buddhism. Simple but significant way of spending seven days. Moreover, I came to appreciate the vegan world. The best part, meeting strangers who became my brothers and sisters to this wonderful world. Sign up now and feel the soul re-emerge from the darkest deepest sense of being.
- Samui Beach Life– After seven days, yes I was back in the cruel scene of touristic island life. A day after I got out of the retreat, I got sick. Guess my body was not used to the unclean existence but hey, this is life. Not ideal but real. However this imperfect life brought me some memorable experience and strangers. One of them was Noah, my roommate and theflashpacker who was trying to be a backpacker. We shared good times together like shopping (normalflashpacker activity) hanging out over food and paddle boarding.Guess I was lucky to have met the right people to be with.Samui was a bit expensive, with AC dorm bed at 220 baht (Checksamui hostel), food ranging60-100baht, fruit shake 60 baht and glassmojitos at80baht (street prices). Four days in this place, Noah along with his friend Alfie decided to move to nearby island KohPhangan for the half-moon party. Coincidentally, my brothers and sisters from the retreat invited me to join them in the same island. So all three of us traveled to KohPhangan for200baht one hour ferry ride.
Dipabhavan Meditation Sisters and Brothers
Photo by: Dipabhavan Facilitators
Paddle Boarding in Samui with Noah at 200baht/hour
Koh Phangan-–A.K.A the full moon party island. Nope, just the full moon, also the half moon, the jungle and whatever party one can think of. But more than the parties, this island boast attractive and quiet beaches.Unlike Samui, where tourists are everywhere, this place is just too big for all the partying visitors. Best place to settle in the beaches of Sri Thanu for affordable cottage 200baht for fan double bed with toilet with enchanting sunset right outside your place. For hostels, better to stay in Thong Sala or Baan Tai area. I would strongly recommend to stay in Hard Road Hostel for 150baht (non peak rate, for more information, please visit their website http://www.hardroadkohphangan.com/hostel.php) per night, this backpacker accommodation has swimming pool, billiard table, football field, table tennis facilities and has the best pre-half/full moon parties. Also, its near the beach and some cheap restaurants.
- Full/Half Moon Party-– The first day we landed in Hard road, it was the half-moon party. Originally, we (me and my roommates Noah, Alfie, Adri, Ofir, Rotem and Noy) planned to go. However, something alarming happened to me that led to missing the half-moon party. Stalker issue (for real). However, the full moon party was a different story. I decided to go with my meditation sisters Elena and Natasha and roommie Adri. Entry fee was 100baht but if you came after midnight, its free. It was a night full of coffee and dancing. Yup, there’s no way I would take alcohol to be able to enjoy this party. But be ready to take a plunge into a different party scene.The party was located in stretch of Haadrin Beach with most of the tourists bringing alcoholic beverages. We just danced the night away, like meditation. The morning scene though was awful. Wasted party goers sleeping at the beach full of trash, strangers making out and stoned people still partying.
- Beach hopping–this is an everyday activity and after ten days, I can still say that time was too short to be able to see the entire island. We went as far as the beach up north and passed the Haadrin beach down south. We went to places that we were the only people sitting in the white sand while admiring the peace. Best sunset with the love of family. Also free snorkeling in some areas if you bring your own gear.
- Food and fresh fruit shakes (every day)– Yup, its right. I still had some 7-11 days but the Thong Sala food market was too hard not to fall in love with. Lanzones for 25baht/kilo, coffee, vegan food and fresh fruit shake for 30baht. Or rice meals with big portions at 50baht.
my personal spot in one of the many secluded beaches in KP
Full Party til morning with Natasha, Elena some new friends
Then one day, I realized my visa will be expiring soon (like 48hrs or so). Panic galore. Where to go? KRABI. Another town south of Thailand just near the border to Malaysia. Ferry and bus ticket combo cost 560baht. Two nights in Krabi, enough time to say good-bye to my beloved Thailand.
KRABI- did nothing. hahahaha Plan.Eat.Yoga.Walk Around repeat for two days. Me and two German guys (Tim and Cenan) who were actually my roommies in Hard Road just went around and planned to go to Ao Ng beach on the last day, but yeah we were too lazy to do so. Instead, we just hang out in our hostel with our gadgets.The best thing about Krabi was the kind family who brought me to my hostel from the bus station. It just melted me when I paid for my ride and they told me ” No, just enjoy Thailand.” I knew, I did. So before I get busted, I had to go.Away from Thailand crossing to Malaysia.
- Rent a bike or a motorbike. Way cheaper to go around, 100baht/day + fuel. This can be shared by three people.
- Eat/drink outside the hostel/bar.
- Stay on the safe side and be with trustworthy people
- Party responsibly and do not bring valuables to the beach/party.
Normal sunset in Happy Bungalows, Sri Thanu Beach, KP
One of those hidden escape in KP
MALAYSIA (Life Happens by Brandon and Leah for my Coouchsurfing friends Sami, Kla, Azwin, Katie, Roy, Nacho, Csabi and that Argentinian roommate in Love Lane)
🙂 Very interesting Malaysia
Pulau Pinang, Malaysia– Island near the Thai border and center of street art for Malaysia. I am no artist, but I was treated to a creative one month stay in this place. No, not just the drawings, paintings in the street, but most especially the food culture. From beach to mountains to the colorful streets, Penang was a beautiful surprise to my aching heart when I left Thailand. The city of Georgetown fascinated me with street art and food. Whereas the countryside seemed like a copy of what I saw during my travel in the Philippines. Tears, no, just teary eyes. Most of all, the people I met here made me feel I was home. We went around eating simple Malaysian dishes (from Indian to Chinese to Malay to specialty vegan food). We also went to some areas not written in the lonelyplanet books and reviews, thanks to the knowledge of KLA and Chen. Who would have thought that I could be a volunteer in a specialized restaurant that liberated me from the social prison I was in.
- Walking Tour— Stroll around George Town by night and be surprised with how street art is giving this city vibrancy. Do the museum, temple and mosque tour in the morning be surprised that some flyers can pass as postcards. Try to get to the old Chinese fishing village near the port or go to the Monday market.Ask my friend KLA, he brought us to places only locals know. Also try to trek the Penang Hill. We tried but failed because the police did not allow us, we were all foreigners.
- Food Escapade– This is just everywhere. Start at the Chulia Road, great mix of food for as low as 3RM ($1). Try going to hawker stalls and get the famous CENDOL. Or enjoy the Indian snack, Naan with garlic. Maybe some Cantonese food in Chinatown? or traditional Nasi Lemak with Kopi. Try some vegan restaurants too like Sushi Kitchen, hahaha I can eat here every day (or I did for almost 10 days).
- Couchsurfing– Penang has a big CS community so get involve. Meet the helpful souls from Penang. Not for free accommodation but real experience of living in Malaysia.
- Shop– hahaha okay guilty. There’s Little India and the traditional market that offer souvenirs and inexpensive clothes. Or if lucky, and its Diwali season, try shopping in the malls with imported brands like H&M, Polo, Giordano, Levi’s and many more. Yeah, i got bikinis from H&M for five dollars
- Activities– beach time in BatuFerringhi or head to the next islandLangkawi, be respectful. I did not wear bikini as a show of respect to the women in Malaysia. Or go wall/rock climbing with the owners of Sushi Kitchen. Be a volunteer. Visit the nearby towns like Alon Star.
Enjoy the street Art of Penang
The Old Chinese Fishing Village with Couchsurfing friends Kla and Azwin. With my Team Cambodia Ella and Sam
Photo by: Azwin
Weird and beautiful Penang
Melaka- Another heritage town south of Malaysia four hours from Singapore. Yep, I came to this town when I needed a place to crash because my host in Singapore kicked me out of his house. Stayed for a week in a beautiful condominium unit in the heart of Melaka. Thanks to my couchsurfing host (now friend) Nacho Lazaga. This town is smaller than George Town, with a different vibe. It felt like I was in Dutchland. The Dutch influence was everywhere. Best to walk around and feel the past. Don’t forget to eat in Jonker Night Market or in any local restaurant. Sorry, I had nothing much to say because I had explored the area for one day, spent five days just hanging out in the swimming pool of my hosts’ place and in the nearby mall. Nacho was too kind to bring me to some food hubs and our favorite was the local restaurant near his unit lol! Also, I enjoyed my movie time for 8RM (close to $3), Dracula Untold. It felt like I was living in Malaysia for awhile. I just hate to leave.
Dutch in Malaysia
Just One day Melaka
- Average food expense $2 (6RM)/meal
- Malaysia is safe and respects women, so dress appropriately
- Train travel is cheaper than taking the bus (Penang to KL was 18RM/$6
- Accommodation can be as cheap as $5 for non AC bed in a hostel
- Penang has no city train, only city buses with number codes for specific routes
- There’s a bus from KL Sentral Station and Melaka Bus station that goes to KLIA 1 and 2
- There’s a nearby place for trekking in Melaka (according to Nacho).
- Sushi Kitchen accepts volunteers, please check their facebook page for more information.
After one month in Penang, I had to leave for Indonesia. And after one month of being away in Malaysia, came back through Melaka for a week then flew to Manila.
INDONESIA (Thinking out loud dedicated to my surfmate Janine Jose and my Team Bali Zoe and Jorden)
Jakarta- another crazy capital city that I would want to avoid, but just couldn’t. The plan was to reach Bali for less than $100 from Penang. With this in mind, bought a flight to this city from KL for $30 from Malindo Air (includes 30kg baggage allowance). Originally, I will stay for a day but my host in Yogyakarta told me that it was not a good idea. So it was just a a seven hour layover. I prepped up for an ugly scene based on what I have read, but surprisingly my arrival was hassle free. I even had the chance to chance clothes in the clean airport toilet. Also there’s a bus on the left side of the arrival area exit that goes to the city center and nearby towns. I had no plans of strolling in Jakarta so I decided to take a bus (35000 IDR or $3.5) that goes directly to the train station. I was planning to buy overnight train tickets to Yogyakarta, sleep at the station while waiting for my departure. Upon arriving at the Gambir Train Station, I got lost. By asking around, I found my way to the ticket section. It did help that the guy assisting me was patient to look for the cheapest ticket to Jogja. He was hesitant though to get me this trip as the departure was on the dark side of Jakarta, Pasar Senen station. No way, I wouldn’t pay for a $25 train just because I was too scared to walk in the cryptic street of Indo. So I convinced him to book me that $19 seat. Now my dilemma was how to get to that station safely. Just when I was in the mood to plan, my tummy started talking to me, geh I need to eat. So I did and then I met two Indo students who were convincing passengers to help their organization through donation. I got interested and listened to their spiel. However, that intention led to us three hanging out in the nearby National Monument Plaza. They were kind enough to offer to bring me to some attractions but at that moment, I was just too tired from Train-flight connection. It was not a wasted afternoon though as we witnessed another stunning sunset. Then I had to go. They were too worried for me, taking the train in Senen, I started to worry too. But its too late now. One of the students handed me his excess train card so I can take the city line to Senen. Such an angel. In the station, I was surprise by the group of passengers trying to get into the train, sh*t it was like taking the MRT-LRT lines in Manila during peak hours. Survival of the strongest. I waited until there’s no more crowd, but it was futile. People kept coming in and pushing around and my train to Jogja will leave soon. So, just like how I brave the Manila lines, I got through the next train and survived it. Getting off at the destination was even more cruel, my gosh, my body was already outside the train while my backpack was still inside. I had to pull it with all my strength. Victorious but clueless where to go next, lol. My brain was in coma for a few minutes, no Senen station in sight. So here comes the panic attack and miracles. First was the attendant telling me the direction to the station and the short yet unsafe distance I had to walk. Relieved, my legs started moving to a low lighted street towards my destination. Fifteen minutes later, I was walking in darkness whispering my personal prayer of gratitude and safety with people staring at me as moved pass them. My body was shaking in fear and alertness. Yet another miracle appeared, a police officer telling me that I am almost in my target. And he was right, there it was, beaming with light, Senen Railway station. There I was almost in tears for what it felt like my worst walk.The train ride brought me to dreamland that I missed my original stop, ended up at the last station where my CS host picked me up.
my first Indonesian friends at the National Monument
Jakarta Final Destination–Senen Railway Station
Yogyakarta– the home of the Marlioboro Cultural street. Traditional healers. Stunning temples. Good-hearted friends. Reunion site for my Myanmar CSMate Taryn. My host invited me to meet his cousin who owns a travel agency who never persuade me to buy his services but I did when I saw my friend’s name on the list of the people taking the Borubodur tour the following day. We took the morning tour to avoid the group of tourists during the day time so we had the temple to ourselves until people started coming in and asking pictures of my two foreigner friends (yep I looked like a local). There were students trying to ambush us to practice their English skills. We gave in for a while but it was too exhausting that we had to decline the other invitations. By the way, the entry fee was $20 (with a cup of coffee or tea) but if you have a student card (with no expiry date), a 50% discount is available. Hey, I got mine, seven-year old ID from Silla University (South Korea). Although I have seen equally magnificent icons for the past months, this did not fail me. It was magical in its own way.However, like all other tourist destination, sellers flock this area. It’s also located outside Yogya city center but could be reached by a motorbike or bicycle but I opted to get the transport for 70000IDR($7) with free breakfast. On the same day, I also had the chance to enjoy a long walking meditation along Malioboro street. Just observing how a normal Javanese life happens, getting that odd look from the locals I would pass. Too local to be a tourist. Miracles just kept on arriving at my doorstep. The owner of the agency, offered to take me to a traditional healers to try their method for my previous back injury but we have not found one practicing at that time. We drove to the countryside the whole day but did not find one.It did not feel that bad, just hanging out with these two locals and talking about traditions were more than enough to compensate the unfinished project. The same friends allowed me to take a plunge in the local food culture, eating in the streets of Jogja with less than $1 meal. I could have stayed for a couple of days more but I had to reach my next destination.
Eat local.Pay Local
THE MARLIOBORO Street
Bells bells in Borobudur
- Duration (Route 2): September 10-November 7 2014
- Total Expenses: $600
- Accommodation: Couchsurfing; cheap bed cost at $3
- Food: $5/day
More than three months on the road and having fun! Simply enjoyed every waking day and the company of different personas. But it’s not done yet. The daily unfamiliar became the comfort zone. Maybe its about time to reconnect with someone and something familiar and close to my heart. 🙂