Friday, January 23, 2004

I don't know where to begin...the last few days have been really great. I guess i'll just start with what happened right after the last post. We decided to rent motorbikes, a dangerous proposition since neither of us had ever ridden one before, but I had to try it once. the people had to literally show us how to turn it on, change gears and use the gas, laughing the whole time at our ignorance. The other problem was that nobody wears helmets on motos here, so I was pretty nervous but I really wanted to ride one around the island. As soon as Shaul got on his, he had no balance whatsoever...we should have just stopped there, but we both convinced each other we can do it. we rode about 100 yrds slowly down the road then turned around, I can really close to crashing and had to jump off, but everything was ok. then about to minutes later, shaul loses control and keeps going faster and faster, probably about 20km/h, then turns really sharply and crashes into a wall on the side of the road. I was really scared, but luckily he was then became one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Right now, I'm laughing just thinking about it. So he returned the bike, and i still had a little courage and started getting the hang of the controls and rode mine around the island for the rest of the hour. It was a lot of fun, got it up to 40km/h at one point.

The rest of the day we hung out on the beach and watched the topless europeans stroll by. Great stuff. The next day we check out of our bungalow (more of a shack on stilts with a mosquito net) and chilled on the beach until about 2pm, then took the ferry back to the mainland...we basically travelled the entire day. We took a bus to a city called Chanthaburri, which is supposed to be a 1.5 hour trip, but somehow the driver stretched it to 4 hours. From there we tried to get on a bus to the cambodian border, but after buying the ticket and waiting an hour for the bus, every seat was full...we didn't realize you had to get on the bus and save a seat hours ahead of time. So we stayed in that city for a night, and it turned out to be really cool. Very few tourists go there, so when we walked around everyone stared at us. It was kind of cool for about 10 minutes, but started getting really annoying. But we did realize, that outside of Bangkok when people come up to you offering help, they really want to help you...every person we met was really nice and very hospitable.

We wandered around the city for a couple hours the next day and really enjoyed the atmosphere. After the main market got old, we found a pickup truck with seats in the back (called a songthaew, they're everywhere in thailand) and tried to get him to take us to the one that the book said was the best, but he ended up taking us to the one the book said was really overrated. From there, the other park was about 40mi away, so we just stayed and hiked around the area for awhile. There were probably about 2 or 3 thousand thai people there, and we were the only white people. Everyone stared at us, some said some jibberish obviously about us and a group of people laughed. It was a strange experience. The waterfall was ok, just like the book said, but we found a really peaceful spot on top of the mountain and took a nap there for about an hour. Overall it was a good time and a good work-out with all the hiking...i'm starting to get into decent shape with all this walking around with a 50lb backpack and hiking up mountains.

That night we took the bus we meant to get on the day before, at 10pm. We were smart this time and grabbed our seats as soon a possible. The book said the bus was supposed to take 8 hours, so we figured we'd sleep on the bus then cross the border in the morning and save a few $ on a hotel room. But it actually took only 4 hours, and it was a really painful 4 hours. the bus had a TV and they put in a VCD of some Thai Karaoke, and it was some of the worst shit i've ever heard. Plus they let it play two times through. Then they put in X-men 2, but it was dubbed in Thai and they turned it up really loud. So I didn't get any sleep on the bus. We got to the border town at 2 in the morning, and had a tuk-tuk driver take us to a hotel. They place turned out to be the best room we've been in so far, and we were afraid théy'd rip us off on the price (we were stupid and didn't ask before accepting the room), but the next morning it turned out ok, only cost about $7.50 a night.

So first thing in the morning (this morning actually), we went to the border, got our Cambodian visas, and crossed through. We had to find a pick-up truck from the border to Siem Reap (where Ankor Wat is). It is about a 6 hour drive on what is considered to be teh bumpiest road in Cambodia, a country that is considered to have some of the worst roads in the world. So we found a pick-up, and bargained the guy to $4 per person (which we later learned was a normal price). When we got on, there were about 15 people in the the time we left the town, there would be 23 people (all cambodians), plus luggage, in the back of a small japanese pick-up truck plus about 6 or 7 people squeezed into the front cabin. At first the road wasn't too bad, but with 23 people in a space smaller than my bed it was a really tight squeeze. After about 2 hours, it was by far the bumpiest road i've ever been ass still hurts. But it was also an awesome experience. I'm really glad I did it...once. About 2/3 of the way there, the truck stopped at a small town for people to use the bathroom and buy some food...we talked to some Cambodian girls working at a food stall. They were great...and we quickly realized that Cambodians are some of the frienliest people on earth. They always have huge smiles and are extremely friendly. These girls talked to us and joked around and didn't even try to get us to buy something. I'm really glad we took this pickup though...I got to see some of the cambodian countryside up close, and it was beautiful.

After the dirt road, I was literally covered in dust. When we finally got to a hostel and I took a shower it was like mud flowing off of me...I had to wash my hair 3 times to get the dirt off. Tonight we rented bikes and rode 20km to a temple near Ankor Wat that everyone goes to watch the sunset...we didn't realize that it's practically one top of a after biking 20km we sprinted up the mountain as fast we could b/c the sun was setting fast. We got to the top panting. The sunset was absolutely beautiful, and was worth the effort. After watching it go down, meeting a few English speakers on top of the temple, and buying some overpriced water from the friendliest cambodian kids on earth, we rode back to the town in the dark. Every passing car that had cambodians would wave, smile, and shout "hello!" I've heard this gets annoying after awhile, but right now it definitely makes me smile, and it's great.

I think that about does it for the update. I'll be exploring Angkor Wat over the next couple days, then heading back to thailand (most likely not via pick-up)


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