Monkeys monkeys everywhere.

Monkeys monkeys everywhere. I went climbing with three guys from Arizona today. They had hardware, I had the rope, so me met up. We climbed for a while, and it was pretty fun. I led the climb, using their quick draws, and top roped it out. We climbed for a while, got tired, and decided to eat lunch and go bouldering. The cave we went do was right on the side of a dirt track, hidden up a little hill. We were in for a while, then heard a mass amount of squealing out side the entrance. A group of monkeys were fighting, and one got injured pretty bad. His leg was sliced open and he couldn’t use it anymore.

These two ran off, and a monkey train came by us. At least 30 monkeys, including many babies, came by in the trees, on the ground, and in the power wires that we were currently even with. Many stopped to look at us, as if to question how we managed to walk on two legs and why we were so pink and fleshy. For having never seen a monkey in the wild before, I am adjusting pretty quickly. Simple rules: Showing your teeth pisses them off. Acting aggressive pisses them off. Getting too close to their babies pisses them off. A pissed off monkey will attack. Do not piss off the monkeys. I left a container of orange juice outside the entrance to the cave, and a monkey swept down and pulled into the trees where he proceeded to shred it into little bits and leave it hanging by a branch.

P.S. The guys I climbed with took some pictures of me climbing, so I will post them when I get them off their camera.

Beached for a while

Ahh… Beach Life. So relaxing. I apologize if the recent posts are full of uninteresting filler text. I really have not been doing much here execpt for climbing, eating and relaxing. I woke up this morning, ate breakfast from the supplies I bought in Ao Nang (the mainland) and read. I read all day. I finished Call of the Wild and White fang, then went down and got lunch, swapped my book out, and brought it all back to my porch and ate and read more. I think I cleared about 350 pages in a few hours. I started reading “The Beach” which was made into a movie with Leonardo Decaprio, but the book is much better, and very different. Interestingly enough, it takes place not far from here, just a few islands down, and is a popular Thailand backpacker read.

I banged my knee up pretty good the other day, and it still feels weak, but good enough to climb again, and I am meeting some people at 11:30 tomorrow morning to climb again.

Really not much to report. Sorry guys, but my life and travels just got put on cruise control. I am definitely going to stay here for quite some time.
monkey
Um… a Monkey.

nightfall
Night Fall

Staying In Ton Sai

Ok everyone, Sorry that it has taken me so long to get this post with pictures up. I don’t have that many, but they are beautiful. I just switched bungalows because the one I am staying at now is 100 baht cheaper a night than the one I was in before. The power also stays on in this one much longer than the other one, which means my fan runs longer. The place is called “Addaaman Resort” and it suits me well. It is about as rustic as you can get, but the main area has a good restaurant, and internet where I can plug my laptop in.

I have met a good group of people from all over, and have been climbing with a guy from Oregon, and a woman named Ivana who is originally from Russia, but now leads horse rides in the western United States, and climbs here in Ton Sai in the winter. This place is magnetic. Everyone is extremely laid back, likes to swim, climb, and get to know each other.

I have been trying to work out plans to meet up with Laura in Kathmandu to climb to Everest base camp, but so far it looks expensive to do the flight before I start working in Korea. I may have to wait until after Korea and use the money from working there to fund my base camp excursion.

By now I have already banged my knee up, taken skin off of my hands and feet, and had a grand old time climbing on the rocks with all these pros who know I have no clue what I am doing (compared to them) but don’t care and just want to show me more tricks and moves. I found a woman who owns a snorkel / dive shop, and have agreed to build her a web site in return for her taking me out to dive and certifying me rescue diver or above, depending on the time I have here. Fair trade I think.

I have already paid in advance for the next week here, and may stay until I have to do a visa run to Malaysia. I will renew my visa, and head back to Bangkok where I will get my visa for South Korea set up. Once that is taken care of, I will probably spend two weeks in the northern part of the country before I head off to South Korea.

It is so humid here that I only bring my camera out during the middle of the day for the most part. When I wash my clothes, I take them down to the beach to dry out and sting them up while we are climbing. This way they have a chance of getting dry in a day or so.

Below are some of the pictures I have taken so far. I reduced the file size so I could upload them quickly from the peninsula (which every one calls an island because you can only get here by boat…), and not have to go to the mainland to get the faster internet.

longboats
Long-tail Boats

hut
My Bamboo Hut

view from the hill
The view from the top of one of the cliffs. We also climb on the ones you see in the background.

Ton Sai

I promise I will post photos tomorrow! I just found a place that has internet for 1 baht a minute from 3-6, so I can now afford to blog. I have spent a few days on this peninsula, but everyone calls it an island because you can only get here by boat and there are no cars, just trails, mountains, water, and food. It is incredibly peaceful, and I can see my next few weeks slipping away quickly as I alternate between climbing, SCUBA diving, laying on the beach, eating spicy Thai curry, and meeting the new people that arrive. Some people have been here for months, others weeks, but I made it in just before the busy season, so I met some of the people who come here every year and got to hang out with them.

I locked in my 200 baht a night rate, which is great, but I have to pay for two weeks up front to keep it. Guess I am here for at least two weeks. I went ahead and bought some climbing shoes, and am buying a rope off a woman who is leaving soon.

If you have ever seen the picture that hung behind my desk through out college, the one of the woman jumping off the wooden longtail boat into crystal clear water, that is literally where I am. I have some great shots of longtail boats and mountains and whatnot. This morning I was woken up by a monkey on the roof of my hut, and the goat that is out back. They played a tag team off each other and were obnoxiously loud, but it was OK, because i was woken up by monkeys and a goat.

I will write a proper blog post soon, with pictures of this place as soon as I can charge my laptop and get them off my camera.

Leaving to Krabi

I leave on a night bus to Krabi tonight. Well, Ton Sai. It is a southern beach near places with great views, climbing, cheap places to stay and a laid back atmosphere. Unfortunately it does not have reliable internet. This means that this may be my last post for a little while.

Not much really to add… I have just been hanging out in Bangkok. Joe, the Irishman, and I went out last night and met some girls from Holland, and a guy and a girl from Canada. The guy was a couchsurfer as well, and told me the best news I have heard in a while.  He couchsurfed with a guy in nepal who owns his own adventure trekkiing company. The guy has special deals for couchsurfers, and it looks like I may be able to go to Everest Base Camp for $500. I also got news that if I get my visa in Bangkok, the company I am working for will pay for $500 of my plane flight, as well as $150 for hotel stay in Bangkok. Hotels cost $10 a night max. Sweet deal!

My visa runs out on Nov. 29th, which means I have to leave Thailand by then, even if it is only for an hour. My plans will revolve around that, as I need to come back in to get my visa for South Korea.

I went around to a used bookstore and bought 3 books for $13 and traded in one I had finished. The store had all the books in little cellophane wrappers, so you could not thumb through them, which kind of ruined the experience.  You know when you go to a store, and can flip through the books, and that smell of old paper and ink fills the place. Some books just feel good, the pages are worn and marked, and you know it has been well read? Couldn’t find that here. Granted, some were not wrapped, but they were all science fiction books that I didn’t care about. I ended up getting “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “Call of the Wild and Whitefang” by Jack London, and “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway. Should be some good reads for my 12-hour ride tonight.

I got to run to see if i can get things (like documentation) shipped to the local DHL store. And i have to pull some money out and buy food and snacks for my trip. I hope to post again as soon as i can, but if i am in a hut on the beach with no internet… can you really blame me for not turning on my computer?

Quick update for Bangkok

Update: Travel map page has been added with the path I took in South Korea. 

Spent the day looking around the very close area to my hostel. There is so much going on that I didn’t make it far before street vendors offering to make me suits, take me to far away lands for cheap, of offer me a cheap beer stopped me. I would look, say no and wander on my way. I got a new cell phone number (via SIM card) here, and all my incoming calls are free. It costs me 5 baht a minute to call the states. Not so bad, and no contract. Granted, I am still paying AT&T for a service I am no longer using. The number to dial from the US is: 0066870038920, from Thailand: 0870038920. Give me a ring, although I don’t often keep the phone on.

Bangkok is a little much, so I booked a trip on a night bus, which is 12 hours long, to the beach town of Krabi for tomorrow night. The town itself has supposedly become too much of a tourist destination, and I will be heading a little further away to rock climb on Rai Lai beach, and Ton Sai. The prices jump high at the start of December, so I will be making my way back up the country and into Vietnam or Laos to exit my visa, and see another country before I head back to South Korea to teach English for 10 days. I still have to find a cheap ticket, but I am working on that.

Current plans (I know, plans right? sounds odd.) are t teach in Korea, go see the DMZ, and then fly back to some other country. So much for my overland adventure! That will have to start when I get back… Heh.

More later,
-Ben

P.S. Sorry about the lack of pictures, I don’t really feel safe bringing my camera out with me.

Bangkok – Day 1

UPDATE: I got a job teaching English in Korea! They just emailed me back, and want to hire me for the 10-day camp. This pays about $1,700 and will be a good, quick intro to teaching English. I can buy a ticket there, then fly from there to pretty much anywhere else, and still have a good deal of money left. In Thailand, this is a few months of travel!

Um… So this is different. In so many ways Bangkok is different. My room last night cost 150 baht, which is $4.50. Dinner, pad thai from a street vender, was 20 baht, so less than $1. Beers are less than $1. Look at the video below to see Halloween, Khao San road style. About ten minutes before I took the video, there was a full concert going on in the middle of the road, but the cops came and shut it down.

I got off the plane and right away met up with a Canadian couple who were headed the same way but were about to pay 900 baht for a taxi. I told them about the A2 bus, which is an official airport bus and it stops right at then end of Khao San and only costs 150 baht. They went to get it while I arranged my bag and put the security net around my laptop and camera. When I got to the bus stop, they had already left, so I had to wait. I met up with a 35-year-old from Dublin, Ireland, and we started talking. He just flew in from a two month stay in India and has been to Bangkok and Thailand six or seven times, so he was giving me tips and advice, and trying to teach me the language. I keep wanting to say thank you and hello in Korean though, so it will take some time. We went down the road looking for a place to stay, and ended up splitting a 300 baht room that has two beds, a fan, a side table and nothing else. Bathroom is down the hall, but it is clean and has a shower with warm water.

We went out to experience the sights and ended up talking to a Thai man for a while who had asked us for food, and the guy spent 20 minutes teaching me to speak like a Thai. We met an American from Nebraska who took us to a bar and paid for us to get in to meet his girlfriend and her friends. I’m not sure what it is, -but every ex-pat seems to have a Thai girlfriend. If a westerner makes eye contact with a Thai girl, she immediately latches on. Joe left a little before I did because I had met a guy from Texas who was leaving in the morning, and we were hanging out with some Thais he had met. We went to a different bar where I decided I wanted nothing more than to just go to sleep, so on the pretense of getting more drinks, I snuck out the side door and walked back to the hotel.

The walk back was interesting because late at night, the lady boys come out. I must have gotten propositioned at least six times on a 15 minute walk. It is hard to tell though, because you have to look for an Adam’s apple, which they can now get removed. The other tell is big hands and feet, which you cant change. Crazy place this Thailand is.

Anyway, I am staying here tonight again so I can try to get a SIM card for my phone, and figure out how to get to Krabi to do some climbing and relaxing on the beach. Since I have no plans, I can pretty much do whatever I want, and at $4.50 a night, I am in no hurry to go anywhere. But the beach has a very nice ring to it don’t you think?

On to Bangkok

I am about to get on a plane to Bangkok in a few hours, and it is an odd feeling. I just changed my money from won to baht, and am still working on the exchange rate. Thailand is supposed to be very cheap, which is good, but more dangerous due to thieves, pickpockets and razor artists, which is bad. Not so bad, because i have the gear I need to take care of myself, but still, I will have to be wary now in a way that I have not had to be yet.

Last night Yong took me to his college and showed me around. We walked up to the top of the hill his school is on and got an incredible site of Seoul. True panorama is below, but this is just a single semi-HDR image i took. Seoul HDR We made our way back to his uncle’s house and called it a night. I had a great time in South Korea, and the interviews came off looking promising, so there is a very good chance I will return.

I made so many friends in the short two weeks I have been traveling, and it amazes me how easy it was to meet someone, then spend days traveling with them. From the start, Nathan and Rachel, thanks so much for making your place open to me on the first day of my arrival. Without your couch, I would have succumbed to jet lag, and your introduction to English teachers was endlessly helpful, as was the night out. In Sokcho, Claude, you were a great roommate and I enjoyed hiking with you in the mountains. Maybe I will come to Belgium one day. In Geyeong-ju, Lynda, and Mr. Quick Lizard, y’all were great fun to hang out with and go hiking with. Even if one hike was unplanned, and the other was foggy, I had a great time getting to know you both. In Seoul, Johnathan and Andras, good times for the two days at the Backpackers Hostel, and the War museum, and Yong, thanks so much for working it out so I could stay at your uncle’s place and taking me around Seoul in a way only someone who lives there can know. I left my towel there, hanging in the closet of the room we were in, but it is ok. I can find another one to use.

I am sure I missed a lot of people, and I apologize. I am on to new places, and new faces. If you read this and I met you while traveling, please comment and let me know what you are up to. I would love to hear from you.

-Ben

Seoul Panorama

Fire Octopus from hell (and couchsurfing with Yong)

Checked out of the hostel today after I packed my stuff up and gave out my information to the people I had met there. I had mixed feelings about leaving because I was having a great time, and had made some friends. I did not need to worry. On the way to meet up with Yong, I stumbled across Smoothie kingmy greatest weakness and instantly succumbed. Smoothie King! In Korea! I met met up with Yong to Couch Surf in Seoul, and he took me out with his friends. He is an incredibly nice guy, and while it was a little awkward at first, we sat in a park and just talked for a while. Then we dropped my bag off in left luggage, and went to meet up with his friends. We went and ate what they said was the hottest octopus (but not actually octopus – the cousin of octopus… whatever. It was freaking octopus) IMAGE_245 in Korea. I really almost died. So did Yong. It was suckers and tentacles in Dave’s Insanity Sauce. I was sweating, my eyes were dripping, my nose was running, my heart was racing and I got dizzy. But I had to show them I could stand it, so I kept eating. My only saving grace was that Yong was reacting the same way. His friend has taste buds of steel and he was grinning watching us eat. Then we went to a international film festival, but it was too cold so we headed back to his aunt and uncle’s place where we are staying.

In Korea you live with your family until you are married, since Yong is not married, he lives with is family. At his house, there is not so much room, but his cousin is studying in Alabama, so we are staying in her room. I am amazed at the hospitality that I have been shown here, and I am greatfull.

UPDATE: Just got some emails, and tomorrow I have an interview at 1:00 pm, and I have been told to call a woman for another interview either tomorrow as well, or Wednesday before I leave. Hopefully they both go well and I end up with a job teaching English! As much as I don’t want a job, it will be kind of nice to have a little bit of a plan. The Winter camp (end of Dec to mid Jan) will be a good intro to teaching English, and It will allow me to live free for a month as food and living are provided, and pay me almost $3000 to travel with some more. I can make that last 4-5 months in Southeast Asia.

More later,

-Ben

fountain

Seoul Backpackers Hostel

Coolest place yet. I got here last night, and found it to be a well run, cozy place with plenty (like 15) other travelers who are all up for a good time. Last night I was invited to go to a trance/house techno party but declined as it was $50 and I was already tired from the night before. Today I am going with two of the guys I met here to the war memorial museum, and wandering through Insadong, a street I saw briefly before, but will actually explore this time.
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So we went to the war memorial, but got distracted on the the way by a street festival. drum dancer By the time we got to the actual memorial, it was overcast. We spend an hour looking at all fo the vehicals outside before paying w3000 to go in. We were treated to an incredible chronicling of the history of Korea, and the events leading up to, and after the Korean war. Through, diorama, film, animatronics and the like, they did a great job and everything was presented in Korean, Chinese, English and Japanese. We spent several hours exploring all three levels of the exhibit before making our way back outside to get dinner. Little did we know it had started raining, and we didn’t have rain gear. We ran to the subway station, then from our stop we walked in the rain till we found a little place that looked good, and we stopped for dinner. We had what can only be described as a fried egg omelet with seafood and vegetables that you dip in soy sauce. It was good, but not so filling. As we left, we sprinted the rest of the way back to the hostel and showed up dripping wet. They tossed us a towel before we came in. I had done laundry today, and it had gotten wet because i had hung it outside to dry, but they had moved it in for me before it got soaked. Not sure what the night holds in store, but if it keeps raining, we may just get some drinks here and hang out at the hostel.

Andre and the canadian
Johnathan and Andras in a chopper at the War memorial

face fountain

Fountain at the war memorial

kids on jet
Kids on a fighter jet
Festival animal
Street Festival performance