A current diversion away from past Asia: Boquete, Panama
Billy has been battling a fever (bad water?) and I have been battling a UTI (TMI? Oh well..) so we’ve just been hanging out at our hostel for the most part, a nice place in the centre of Boquete called Mamalleena where we are spending $28/night for a private with private bathroom. Exxy compared to Vietnam.
Went for a hike up a road yesterday and Billy almost died. Luckily we were saved from hiking the descent by a mountain taxi that blared Latin DJ mixes at the loudest level possible.
Trying to budget ourselves, so yesterday we bought veggies (many peppers are grown in the region so they were cheap as chips), chicken breast, limes, tortillas and eggs. We figured these ingredients into a breakfast, lunch and dinner. Shown above is obviously our delicious breakfast. We were lucky to get some leftover watermelon from previous hostel guests to help colour up the plate!
Today we will take a walk by the river in town, visit the cemetery, as I am obsessed with them, and splurge on a BBQ dinner now that we are both a bit healthier!
Hope to pick up our new car in David on Thursday!
You can do some stupid shit at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok.
Vistors are free to feed the hippos here, even wee tots, who if they can reach far enough to throw rotting veggies into the hippos mouth, they can be placed on a rusty stool to do so.
But the Dusit Zoo wants you to know…
I spent the rest of my days in Bangkok traveling alone, which was fine (though these were the times I really missed Billy). Walks to the Grand Palace, a taxi to a floating market on the outskirts of the city where I was one of four white people, temples, temples and more temples. And many 7/11 Changs.
Welcome to Bangkok
Bangkok gets a lot of shit from travelers, though for most backpackers it just seems like a starting point, or a place to stop through. Though I didn’t get to see much of it, I actually enjoyed it for the most part (though I really only saw the Khao San Road area). I spent time in the city twice. It was my first stop in South East Asia via Singapore via Melbourne. I booked a hotel on Khao San Road that at the time didn’t seem too expensive, though as my backpacker travels went on and my bank account dwindled, I saw it as a lot of money wasted. I validated my stay in a hotel room by myself also because my apartment in Melbourne was a warehouse apartment whose walls didn’t reach the ceiling so you could hear every single breath someone in the house was taking. I needed some alone time. Plus the hotel had a swimming pool and free breakfast. So my first three nights in Bangkok were spent at the Dang Derm Hotel, on classic Khao San Road at approximately $30AUD/night.
On my first full day in Bangkok I dressed a little nicer than usual in hopes of attracting some friends. I wasn’t feeling particularly outgoing myself, and balled up at the prospect of talking to other travelers eating breakfast in my hotel. Luckily, come lunchtime down on Rambuttri near Khao San, I was approached by a seemily well traveled in South East Asia man named Chris from California. Due to my outfit (khaki Gorman eyelet top, light pink and green patterned J. Crew shorts, and matching pink nail polish and lipstick) he assumed me to be a stuck up English non-backpacker. Nonetheless, we decided to become friends for the day and he showed me a bit around Bangkok taking the subway and water taxi’s until nighttime when it was time to crack open some Chang’s and swim in my hotel’s pool.
We drunkenly became friends with a couple of French girls at the pool and made our way to the massive neon hub bub of Khao San Road where we played the drinking game of ‘spot the cliche tourist outfit’ If you didn’t spot a Chang singlet, “Ali Baba” pants, or any other typical Khao San Road junkie backpacker outfits first, you had to drink. The game was sucecced with buckets of disgusting whiskey, Redbull and Coke mixes and “dancing” to the worst songs I have ever heard.
And that was Bangkok day 1 for me.
This past month I have been some amazing places, (and I hate the overuse of that word, but I’m serious about it!) I feel guilty for not writing anything about it. I’ve left this blog space empty since I left Koh Tao, Thailand. That was just the beginning of my trek through South East Asia. I wasn’t feeling the best about it.
I originally planned this trip after my move from Melbourne as a chance to explore to my heart’s content and my Australian bank account’s emptiness, the many wonderful sights, and the many sad stories of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
However, the beginning of this trip was a lonely time for me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t having fun, because I was. I was spending my days exploring the most gorgeous beaches of the southern Thai islands. But I had no one to share that with. I had come into this trip excited to be on my own. To go my own pace and to meet new people who would hopefully be my lifelong friends. But at the time, I was just so incredibly sad to be alone.
So I made a rash decision. I think that about half of the travelling I have done in my life has been made by rash decisions. I guess I prefer not to dwell too much on the pluses and minuses of my future travels. I had been talking to Billy a bit about the possibility of meeting him in Central America or Mexico at some point during his trip. He had been looking into a way to get through Central America and really was hoping to buy a car and overland it himself. And he invited me to join. A one-way ticket from Hanoi, Vietnam to Panama City, Panama wasn’t that expensive. So I bought one. We gave ourselves a month in-between the ticket buying and my arrival.
I write this today on Sunday, September 8, 2013. On Thursday, September 12, I will leave Hanoi and begin a 33-hour trek to meet Billy in Panama City.
Over the past month I have felt so excited that I didn’t even want to see the rest of South East Asia, to so nervous that my stomach churned and made me sick. Today I am excited. But also excited to see Hanoi and hopefully Halong Bay, as I am currently on a bus ride taking me there.
Since my last post in Koh Tao, I have travelled to Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and back to Bangkok in Thailand. Then, headed west to Cambodia where I went to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Vietnam followed with stops in Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and now Hanoi. I decided to forego Laos and I’m not upset about that. I wish I had just one more week in Vietnam. It has been my favourite country so far.
I don’t feel as alone anymore. I have found travel people to be friends with and travel with at times, and then have relished days to myself after that.
As I said in the beginning of this post, I feel awful that I haven’t written. I plan on making my posts for this trip as I sit in Guazhngo airport in China for 6 hours on September 12, and in Los Angeles, where I will sit and wait for 4 hours. The 4 hours that I will be back in the United States for in over a year. That will be hard.
I miss home, Milwaukee and my parent’s house in Sheboygan, terribly, terribly much. More and more every day. But I think that going home now, while it would be exciting at first, would be disappointing soon after. So, I’ll keep going. Keep travelling. And keep writing, hopefully!
I didn’t want travel alone that much
I didn’t want to come back home to be alone”
Limbeck- Silver Things
A week ago today I left Koh Tao, Thailand with my Open Water and Advanced SSI courses successfully completed in less than a week! I am now a certified to dive up to 30 meters deep.
I went through Scuba Junction via my friend Rebecca’s recommendation as she had done it a few months prior. Though I wasn’t overly fond of our instructor as he seemed to care more about cuddling his girlfriend on the boat than talking to us about the dives, the company was nice as it was all small groups and they put us up in nice bungalows for cheap.
I had two lovely young German girls with my in my Open Water class, both named Anna so we made a nice palindrome when I was sitting between them. It was nice to have girls to talk to as I had been feeling kind of lonely, though I think it’s overly easily to become lonely when traveling solo. For our Open Water we went to Japanese Gardens, Twins, Mango Bay, White Rock, Hin Wong, and Lighthouse Bay. Highlights included seeing baby squid (actually this was one of the best ever things for me and the first thing that we saw!!), Titan Triggerfish (who will bite through fins!), Moray Eels, little yellow Box Fish, a baby Seahorse, swimming in a school of sardines so thick you couldn’t see through them, Yellow Tail Barracudas, Pick Tail Barracudas, and lots more of the regulars like parrotfish, groupers, rabbitfish, blue lined angels, trevally, and anemone fish.
I decided to stay on for my Advanced training, half because I just didn’t know what to do next. The German Anna’s left and the only other person in my course was my instructor’s friend from England who was a science teacher. He was fun to talk to but definitely everything was about the scientific nature of everything. SSI Advanced has you do “speciality dives” so each dive we did was more specific than just a fun dive.
For our “Deep Adventure Dive” we went to Chumphon Pinnacle. Sometimes they see Whale Sharks here but that obviously didn’t happen for me. We did see a school of Chevron Barracudas, Fusiliers, Moray Eels, and giant Groupers.
The next dive was our “Wreck Adventure Dive” where we dove down to the HTMS Sattakut, an old WWII U.S. battleship given to Thai government after the war. It was purposely sunk as a dive site like 3 or 5 years ago. Diving the wreck and seeing its decay was great! Here we saw our first Blue Spotted Stingray, along with Red Snapper, Grey Sweetlips, boxfish, a Scorpionfish, and of course more eels.
That evening we did a “Night Adventure Dive” which if I had ever thought about it before diving before, I wouldn’t think I could muster. But diving never really stressed me out so jumping in at sunset didn’t seem like anything big. We went to White Rock for this and got in with still a little light in the sky. Within 15ish minutes everything around us was black and we only had our torches to see things. By far the most exciting part of this dive was spotting a sleeping Green Turtle. Koh Tao means Turtle Island but the constant flood of tourists in the past years has mostly driven them out. We also saw Great Barracuda, Blue Spotted Stingrays, transparent Cleanerfish, and Soapfish.
The next day was our last day of Advanced and we did a “Fish ID Adventure Dive” at Green Rock and a “Bouyancy Adventure Dive” at White Rock. The only different fish seen this day was a big Batfish at White Rock right when we were coming up.
The diving classes at Koh Tao were incredibly cheap. I think all in all my courses were about $600. Fun dives there were about $30 a pop versus my next stop, Koh Phi Phi where they were $80. I haven’t dove since this as I think I’m jaded by the costs but hopefully I’ll find someplace good soon so I can get on with completing my only real goal in life- to swim with a Whale Shark before I am 30.
So I’m on this gorgeous island in Thailand right now, doing my open water dive course, which has been my only goal I set for myself in the foreseeable future, and I’m not totally happy. I thought I would be absolutely loving travelling alone, doing things at whatever pace I wanted, eating what I wanted. But food here sucks and I feel like bloody Christopher McCandles.
It’s my last day in Australia and the challenge is to go the whole day without eating Asian food. Fuck.