Friday, February 27, 2015

HAT YAI, DAY 2

DAY 2

Despite the air in my hotel room smelling like a few nicotine addicts came here to die, I've decided to try to put in some time here in this city.


The ancient hotel couldn't be in a better location.  Around one of the sides is a shopping center.  Within it are six or eight tiny restaurants where one can get a full meal for under 40 baht.  That's about $1.30.   There are several semi-street vendors (call it street vendors with tables) that sell meals for 50 baht.  Coffee, 15 baht.

I should be able to survive here and save some money.

Following one of the things taught to me by Adam, my travel mentor - don't waste your visa.

Because the only chair in the room I rented is better suited for a child and trying to prop myself on the bed was so uncomfortable for my back I needed to go buy a chair.  Got one for 400 baht - cheap plastic.  Hopefully, it won't break before I leave.

Not sure how long I will spend here but it could be three weeks or even a bit longer.

If I can keep my costs low enough I'm going to try to save some money.

Yes.  Every single bill has a picture of the king on it.  Did I mention Thai people revere their king?  Same way people in South Africa revere Nelson Mandela.  But more.

From Wikitravel:  "Hat Yai (หาดใหญ่; also Had Yai, Hadyai) is the fourth largest city in Thailand and is located on the Southern Gulf Coast. It is an extremely popular tourist spot for Malaysians and Singaporeans on holiday. It's best avoided if you are looking to get off the beaten path. Prices are high because of the Malaysian and Singaporean tourists. This place does not have many Western visitors."

Compared to the town before, the prices here are quite reasonable.

Why the fuck anyone would come here for a holiday eludes me.  I'm guessing if the people are from Malaysia and Singapore, they may be here to drink alcohol.  Those countries seem to allow religion to get in the way of profit.  Strange.

Reading through the entire wikitravel on Hat Yai still doesn't answer the question of why anyone would come here for vacation.  The city seems pretty typical - nothing special.

While I was shopping for shoes and not finding any (tiny, tiny people here) I came across a Malaysian man and questioned him.  He said that there use to be (not currently) a very favorable exchange rate between Malaysia and Thailand.  Their money could go further.  So, they come here to shop.  And drink because their countries are Muslim and they tax the shit out of alcohol.



THAI QUALITY

I'd heard a LOT about how much better the quality of merchandise in Thailand was - compared to Cambodia.

Went to a fancy department store (Robinson) and bought a bag.

Made it through a good 13 hours before one of the zippers snapped off.  I realize I am hard on gear but less than a day is a whole lot of 'what the fuck'.  Take it back you say?  Really?

Decided, what the hell and did.

Holy shit - it worked.

I didn't even have my receipt.

Took about twenty minutes to get them interested in the idea but when you have a whole lot of time and just keep talking...



LAUNDRY

Found out there is a 'do it your own damn self' laundry place here.  To wash, dry and buy soap all total will cost about 100 baht.  Reasonable price but it will be two hours of sitting and smoking to look forward to.

Still, it beats doing it in the hotel room especially since they won't dry out quickly at all.  After I get my new pants I'll take my stuff over there and try out the machines.



7-11

There seem to be more 7-11 stores in Thailand (possibly in Singapore and Malaysia as well, not sure yet) than I remember seeing in the USA.  Here in Thailand, they have good deals on things as well.  Hell, you can buy a cheap packaged meal here that you'd eat as opposed to ones in the USA that frankly you would not.

Er...go USA?


Q & A

Because nobody writes in with questions I decided to make up some of my own.

Q:  Hi Logan!  I'm on a gluten free diet - what do you suggest for traveling?
A:  Stay home.

Q:  I'm curious what the oil they use for cooking is.
A:  Unless you are fluent in the language of the person doing the cooking, you cannot get an answer.  If you are, she or he will say "I just use the stuff in the big can marked 'oil'."  They probably have no clue where it came from, how old it is or how many Chinese Dynasties used the same oil before it ended up on their shelves.  Just eat and pay.

Q:  I don't know if I could eat street food!
A:  I use to have the crusts cut off of my bread when I was little.  I got over it.  Look at it this way - the kitchens are probably cleaner than the ones you don't see because everyone can see them.  If they look bad the locals won't eat there.

If you have any questions for Logan, be sure to either put them in the comments section (below) or contact him on Facebook.  If Logan feels like it, he will put a copy of the question with the answer in the next blog.



EXFILTRATION

Despite wanting to stay here for awhile, I always like to find out how to get out early.


According to wikitravel:  International Express leaves Hat Yai for Butterworth near Penang daily at 05:50 and "Note that Malaysian time is one hour ahead of Thai time: noon in Thailand is 13:00 in Malaysia. Be sure and check the departure time on your ticket as many tickets have Malaysian departure times even though Hat Yai is in Thailand."

That sounds like some of the weird shit they did in Russia awhile back.  Wasn't everyone suppose to be on Moscow time despite Russia spanning a bunch of time zones?

Cost seems to be about 35 ringgit (Malaysian) or $10 USD by bus.  Will find out about train fare.  Three hours plus border.  Curious as to how they do the border here if crossing by train.  Do you offload with your luggage to get it scanned then reload?

Other sources on wikitravel say minivans are about 400 baht.

A Malaysian I spoke with suggested getting Malaysian trains instead of the older, shakier Thai trains.  I'm going to go to the train station later to look into this and will report costs here.



COSTS

Cheap meal (street food or street food +), 30-60 baht
Coffee, 15 baht
Cheap plastic chair, 400 baht
7-11 22 oz drink, 25 baht
Guest house which if it had a 'hay day' was before I was born, 400 baht


Thursday, February 26, 2015

RAZY LACISM

A RACIST GAME FOR YOU TO PLAY

I was directed to a store called "Low-Bee-San".  I double checked twice on the pronunciation.   See if you can guess what name it really is.  Hints:  Not that uncommon of a last name for white people, also there is a song containing it from the ancient days before MP3's.

The answer to this will appear later in the blog.

Also, I found that if I pronounce it correctly, the locals have no idea what I am talking about.



SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

It's always funny to me how judgmental travelers are of other travelers.

Unless you are doing the stuff they think should be done by other travelers, you are clearly wrong.

I was talking to a Dutch guy I'd met at Viva (the Mexican restaurant).  He asked me "Why did you come to Siem Reap?"

"To drink.  And eat Mexican food."

He's the kind of guy who likes to do 'home stays', eat a lot of local food and so on.

I explained that I've been traveling long enough that I've done all of those things at some time - I just like eating and drinking at that particular restaurant.

And...did I mention where I'd met this guy?


The last night I was staying at the guesthouse I'd been at for three weeks, Mr. Reeet had what started as a small party and quickly blossomed into lots of locals and foreigners.

While I was talking to one of the other guests, she asked how I was able to do something or other.

"Because I am Logan!"

She responded with an emphatic "Fuck you, Logan!"

I just grinned at here.  Should have gone the full Eddy Murphy though.



As I was packing up to leave, my Central American pants finally collapsed into a black hole and pulled themselves through to the other side.  It was sad.  After a couple seconds of mourning, I tossed them in the bin.  That leaves me only with the extremely durable wrap pants.   (See The Harpy & The Hag for all your wrap pants and clothing needs!  Still, one pair of pants is just not enough.  I knew I'd be stuck getting some in Thailand.



When I left on the $28 dollar 'big, fancy' bus it was neither so big nor as fancy as I'd hoped.  The seats weren't as large (or Logan is getting LARGER) and there was no real space in the over head rack.

Managed to get two seats to myself as they had the space and I asked the attendant if it would be OK to move.



BORDER - CAMBODIA / THAILAND

The best thing about the expensive bus is that you get a small placard to wear when you get off the bus at the border.  This lets the bus know who you are.

It also acts as a magical talisman and lets all of the border scam artists (there are many) know you are already with a certain bus.  Rather than attempting to scam you, they just indicate which direction you should be going.

For people unfamiliar with the border or travel, this itself is worth the extra money.

If you don't wear the bus talisman, you can always print out one of these to wear.  Not sure if it will help - let me know.

Unless you can find and hire one of the rare individuals with a push cart, you will be carrying all of your luggage about half a kilometer.  If you can't carry your stuff (by yourself) that far, you shouldn't have the stuff you do.  Oh - and there are some stairs to lug your stuff up.  Did I mention the unnecessary stairs?

Once there, I got a thirty day visa.

This confused me for two reasons though I failed to bring up either to the nice border guard.  First, I had read that people crossing the border by land received only a two week visa.  Second, I thought there was a thirty dollar or so cost for the visa.

I did notice he looked at one of my old Thai visas and seemed happy with that.

And so long as he is happy, I am happy.



BANGKOK, THAILAND

As expected, the bus dropped everyone off at Mo Chit ("Not enough Chit, damnit!  I need mo!") bus station.

Met up with a couple from the same bus.  They saw me dismiss a couple taxi drivers with phrases like "I don't even want to talk to you any more!" and asked what was up.

I was getting a lot of quotes to take me to the train station ranging between 500-800 Bhat.  Didn't want to tell people "Fuck off, thief!" but I was clearly showing my displeasure with them.

"Look", I told them "If you don't want to get ripped off, you have to leave the bus station area.  I am out of here."

They walked with me as far as an ATM (not far) but then the guy announced he wasn't walking "All the way to the road - it was too far."

These were young, healthy people.  As people who are familiar with me know, I have serious medical problems that make it so I can't even stand up straight.  On top of my numerous back problems (not helped by hauling 20KG plus of shit), my legs have swollen up with blood and one foot hurts like I sprained it, causing me to limp.  And I'm lazy.

And these young, healthy people think it's "too far"?

Pussies.

You've got to harden the fuck up a bit to travel.  I don't consider myself all that rugged.  Another thing is I have less money than common sense.  Well, I don't have much money at any rate.  Fuck it, I'm poor.  But why pay double to these rogues?

Ended up not making it all the way to the road before a 'meter taxi' picked me up and informed me it would be 200 bhat.

They do have a place where you can catch 'metered taxis' (ones that use the meter rather than shaft you deep and repeatedly) but there was such a huge line for them and they came so rarely it wasn't even something I considered.

So I decided to take the metered taxi.

And ended up back in the Bourne Identity.

For those who don't know, when I was young (and could literally turn my head) I did a bit of stupid stuff in cars.  High speed chases, car tag (where you bump the other car to tell them 'they are it') and so on.  I've rolled a car and gone through many cars.  No idea how many.  Got taught how to do a PIT Maneuver and so on.

When I got into this guy's taxi, he made me feel right at home.

This was the most aggressive driving I'd come across in a long time.  He didn't quite push people out of the way but did his best to make them want to get out of his way.  Oncoming traffic?  Sure - swerve into that shit.  We didn't quite go up on the sidewalk.  Had they been as small of curbs as in the US and not filled with various merchant's wares I'm sure it would have happened.  But they are steep in countries like this for a reason.

Because I've accepted death as my constant companion (as I typed this I was nearly fatally struck by a car today) and inevitable end, I didn't whine or clutch at the 'Jesus handles'.  Just figured we were making good time and planning my escape if we crashed.


We didn't quite 'drift race' but we did skid to a halt outside the train station.   The meter was only at 150 bhat or so for the half hour race of death but I just gave him the 200 baht he mentioned at the beginning.  He'd earned the tip.

Got on to the train.

When you have the sleepers (even if your trip is brief) you end up sitting across from the people who have the other cot.  There are no compartments.

It was a mother and daughter.  Despite my offering some Pringles, they were both terrified of me and wandered around the train until it was sleep time.

Not nearly so good at making friends as M&M's.

Food does not come with your train ticket.  Your choices include buying whatever crap they bring by (all the same) or ordering off the menu.

I was very excited after they brought me a menu in both Thai and English.  Thai is one of those languages that only people from here or fairly serious about staying in Thailand people bother to learn.  In other words, nearly no one.

Since there was no sign of the mother and kid from the seats facing mine, they set up the small table turning the seats into a booth.

Yeah.  Good fucking luck with that.

Here is the difference, pictorially, between Cambodian food and Thai food.

Cambodian bus food.

Thai train food.  The stuff I really liked was kept warm under the pineapple desert.

Above is the six dollar 'set meal'.  It was amazing.  Better than I've had at many restaurants.  "I don't know what this side dish I'm eating is and have never had it but it was so fucking good I'm spending a moment of silence when it is done in mourning" type of good.

The train appeared to be the 'non-Express' train despite it's name but after the first couple stops kicked in at a good rate.  It was noisy and bumpy.

Not something I felt I could sleep in.

But the journey was only five hours or so.

At seven PM I was told I either got to crawl up in the top bunk (yeah, right) or that I should go to the dining car.

Wait - there's a dining car?

And I could smoke in there.  And drink coffee.

I passed the rest of my trip chatting with train workers, the restaurant staff and armed railway police.  It was excellent.

In both of the Thai trains I've been on, the dining car hours are roughly five in the morning until ten at night.  Despite people getting on at various stops, they really haven't figured out shift work and such here.  Presumably, the staff crashes in the dining car.  The dining car is like a bumpy wind tunnel with all the windows down.  Very retro - very 1980's.


Here's an important safety tip - don't get up and go to the doors leading out until the train has come to a complete and final stop.  Unlike European trains, there isn't much room in there and the train staff told me that pretty much every day someone falls out.  Sometimes they're just injured.  Other times, they break their back or even die.  The train often jerks like a bucking bronco when it comes to it's final stop.  No Americans, you don't get to sue them.  They'd just say "Why you stupid and stand near open door?  You lucky they took you to hospital you so stupid."

Don't be a warning to others.



HUA HIN, THAILAND

14 hours of non stop travel including a 'fancy bus' that wasn't, an insane taxi driver who didn't mind doing stuff I'd previously seen mainly in American movie chase scenes, a train and a bit of walking have brought me to a beach town in Thailand. As soon as I spotted the Burger King and McDonalds I said "Logan, you done fucked up". This town is way too mainstream, hence expensive. Right now I am staying at a $15 shit hole crawling with mosquitoes with 'suspicious stains' on the pillow. I'm going to wander around tomorrow and look for a better spot if I can find one. Probably see the town for at least a day or two. Maybe even eat some Burger King's.

Got to BK's just before the changing of the menu.  Unlike in the states where if you want a burger one second after the restaurant has opened, in the rest of the world you wait until lunch time.  Who could possibly want a burger in the morning?  Besides Americans?

The self loathing is related to the patriotism?  Or is it indigestion?

After the fifteen hours of hell by bus, I decided another twelve by train would be just the thing.  Anything to escape Hua Hin.

It is so expensive there that the tuk tuk drivers won't negotiate.  They look disgusted at any offers less than 100 baht even for a three block ride.  Amazing.

500 baht gets you a tiny tiny room.  There is mosquito netting on some - but not all of the windows.  There is no mattress - just a box spring.  Talking to some other tourists who stayed at different places, I found out they also had no mattresses.   Why they do this is unknown.  And who gets the mattresses?

So what did Logan think of Hua Hin?  The world may never know.

Could Hua Hin have spirit?  Almost certainly.  Spirit beyond "Hey, give me money foreigner?"  Perhaps?



TRAIN HUA HIN TO HAT YAI

Leaves either in the middle of the night or supposedly at 17:17 to arrive at 06:00.

Deciding seven hours hanging out at the train station with all of my bags sounded outstanding.

The train actually arrived at 18:30.

Unsurprisingly, some random tourist took the time to tell me "This train is shit - it came an hour late."  Rather than explain to him I knew and had been waiting the extra hour I smiled and nodded then got on the train.  I didn't mind it arriving an hour late as that should put me in closer to seven.  Note, it ended up being a bit after 08:30 - apparently it is becoming later and later.



HAT YAI

Irony places a surprisingly large part in my life.  This is probably ironic.

The first place I went to I ended up staying - after visiting half a dozen others.  This place is fairly shabby but the others ranged from "You want HOW MUCH for a room?  I don't want to buy the room, just rent it!" to "So you are supplemented by the government to keep prisoners here?"

They have one hostel in town (Hat Yai Hostel - no points for creativity there) but the rooms are basic.  When I say basic I mean they couldn't throw in a table and fucking chair.  Not sure why anyone would ever stay in their private room.  For the same money or a dollar and a half more you can get much better.

With my Stupidcard1 in hand, covered in sweat, unwashed for a day and smelling like it, I took to the streets to find a tailor.

I did - but it's pretty crazy expensive.  I tried to get the same kind of cloth (cotton) that my wrap pants are made from but I am getting charged a bunch extra because "You so fat!"

Fortunately, I found a bunch of places I can eat for about a dollar and a half so I'll be doing that for a bit.



RACIST GAME - ANSWER!

Remember the game before where you had to guess what the locals really meant by "Low-Bee-San"?

The answer is "Robinson".

Yeah.  That one baffled me to when a guy was pointing at the sign saying "You see?  You see?"

Want extra fun?

Watch THIS video.  Any time they say "Robinson", say "Low-Bee-San" in a mechanical voice.

Is it possible to remain sad after doing so?  I doubt it.

And to end with an alarming thought - what if the Thais are the ones actually pronouncing it correctly and in America we've been fucking it up for years?

Mind...blown.

Full credit to Jimmy Carr for the title of this blog.  Go buy his stuff.  I mean anything.  Even if people just robbed his house and are selling his shit on the street - buy it.



DESCRIPTION OF THE BLOG

From the incomparable Kevin D:

"I suggest getting a tetanus shot and wearing rubber gloves before reading any of his articles. The best description of his blog is the T.V. series "An Idiot Abroad| mixed with "Monty Pythons Flying Circus," basically the ramblings of a deranged mind that to your surprise is not on illegal drugs. It is however best read if you have drank a large quantity of alcohol. I am currently in therapy including shock treatment after reading just two paragraphs of his ramblings. I highly suggest checking it out."


Logan's Voyage is more fun than collecting a pyramid of human skulls.  Well...not really.



A SPECIAL THANKS TO JASON P

He made this.

I'm with the army of the 12 Monkeys!



VIDEOS

Evil Spirits 1, 2
Louis Guest House, Hat Yai - very close to train



PRICES - HUA HIN

Burger King; breakfast $4.  Lunch $10.
Shitty room, 500 baht


PRICES - HAT YAI

Custom tailored pants, 2300 baht.  -30 to -50% if you are one of those skinny people.




1 A StupidCard is the business card of the hotel you are staying in.  If you don't get one when you check in, you are stupid.  If you get lost, you use it to show locals so they can direct you back where you are staying.  For this reason, the best cards are in the local language rather than English.  A map on the back is less helpful than one would think because usually the locals can't read a map as there is no money to be had in map reading.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

DON'T DO WHAT DONNY DON'T DOES

MO' RESEARCH
In case you wanted to do what Donny Don't Does...

If you want to find out exactly what I think of research, take a look at the previous blog.  I spell it out there.  Within this blog, you will find yet more research - as well as some other tidbits.

Fear not though - there is some non research stuff within this blog!



HAT YAI - THAILAND

This name has potential to be funny but I'm not sure how.

Chatting with expat sex tourists, it seems I'm only getting two weeks for land crossing into Thailand.  Probably due to expat sex tourists.  Interestingly, the airport visas are still a month and the price of flying in has reportedly fallen very low.  Since I don't really care all that much about Thailand, two weeks should suffice.  Personally, I think they are cutting their own throats limiting people who aren't trying to live there - but nobody cares what I think.

Well, it's not like I get proved wrong often.

Fortunately, according to this website, the train depot here is 'Thailand's only international train station'.

Dealing with transport schedules

An interesting hidden nugget from wikitravel states:

"The Jungle Railway is the apt description for the eastern line between Tumpat (close to the Thai border) and Gemas, including stops at Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis, Jerantut (for Taman Negara National Park) and Wakaf Bahru (for Kota Bharu and the Perhentian Islands). The original "Jungle Train" is the slow daytime service which stops at every station (every 15-20 min or so). It's 3rd class only, meaning no air-con and no reservations, and some stops may be lengthy as it's a single line and all other trains have priority - hence the "Jungle Train" waits in side loops along the way so that oncoming or overtaking trains can pass. Tourists may use this service to travel to Some find it to be a fascinating and stunningly scenic ride; others feel there's not much to see when you're in the jungle. Eastern line night trains (for which reservations are possible and recommended) also have 2nd class berths and seats, and some have 1st class sleepers too."


Important note:

Kuala Lumpur - unless you're on the direct night train, you'll have to change at Gemas to reach KL.



THROUGH MALAYSIA

The Jungle Line.  I found a video on what to expect.  Looks good to me!

Note that taking a train ride through a jungle appeals to me a lot more than walking or paddling through a jungle.  Been there, done that before.  Old and crippled now, not really up for doing a Bear Grylls.


...and later - because all of the information is NOT in one easy to find place (like it is here, you lucky people) the 'Seat 61' website told me this:

"Engineering work on the Jungle Line: The Gemas to Gua Musang part of the Jungle Line is set to be closed in the middle of the day for repairs from August 2014 for possibly up to 2 years. This means there will be no daytime shuttle trains south of Gua Musang during the day as there would normally be. The timetable below will apply from 15 August 2014 onwards. Flood damage on the Jungle line in 2015: In December 2014 the line was blocked by floods, it may take many months to restore services. Please check the KTM website."

Not sure if any intelligence on this can be gleaned from Hat Yai.  I'm sure it could from Khota Bharu but once in Hat Yai you have to make a choice of which railway to go on - east or west.  If the daytime jungle rail is down for maintenance then there isn't any reason to head that way.


As you can see from the map from 'the Man in Seat 61' (go buy his t-shirts) my choices are either the lightning round (headed for the 'Jungle Line') or the big blue arrow which eventually heads toward Kuala Lumpur aka KL - one of the hubs of the world.

And there is the town of Butterworth.  Of course, this is what I imagine is there.  I might be off a bit but remain cautiously optimistic.



WHERE TO GO IN MALAYSIA

After a little bit of research, I found some places that might be good to check out in Malaysia.

The places with red lines under them and corrected spelling.  Interesting that most of them are on the West Coast.  Not sure what I'd actually be able to hit if I ended up doing the 'Jungle Train', which still seems intriguing.

From the looks of it, I might head down to Georgetown (which I can pronounce) and Ipoh.  Which shall be pronounced as "I poo".  Funny.

Fortunately, I remembered to look at my blog.  Turns out I've been to Malacca and didn't care enough about it to even remember it.  Fortunately, that place is down past Georgetown and into Ipoh.

Or is it 'Pooh'?  This picture is dedicated to Chris C.  One of his nicknames is 'Pooh'.

Note - to get to Georgetown you have to go through Butterworth and get the ferry.  It honestly looks like a pain in the ass but Butterworth has no real tourist infrastructure.



THE BIG ISLAND THINGEE

It's the one in the middle...

After the Jungle Railway, it appears the coastal town you end up in is Johor-Bahru.  How to get from there to the big island thingee.

Note:  Someone else just told me the big island thing was expensive.  Going to do research on that first - if affordable, I can figure out how to get there.

After doing some research on Borneo (aka 'big island thingee') it seems to come in three flavors:

a) expensive
b) trekking through remote mosquito infested jungles
c) fucking nothing to do and towns not worth writing about

So that is three flavors of 'nope'.

And too are these potato chips.  What the fuck has been going on there since I left?

Time to check out the other islands in Indonesia and see what I want to hit.



FERRY MAP OF MALAYSIA AND INDONESIA

Makes me think


One problem I'm running into is that Indonesia is frigging huge, and the visa is only thirty days long.  And they have some complicated crap which might kick in that I won't bore you with.   Not sure if they really check 'proof of onward travel' for land (or train) crossings but we'll see.

See the stars?


Following the stars (see above map) is tempting.  It would give me a neat (though not complete) swath of Indonesia.  However, Sumatra (red island) is some hard travel.  Amazingly rough, hard travel.  And there are also places I'd like to just go hang out at there such as O'ong's place.  Read this review.  Imagine spending a month there learning to SCUBA dive.  Yeah.  That sounds sexy to me too.  Heck, since I couldn't afford to drink there (yeah, Muslim country) theoretically, it would give me more money for diving.

But then how to get over to East Timor?

I don't mind saying Malaysian Airlines does have me a bit nervous - with the planes they've been losing and crashing lately.

Unless...

...it gives me a cheaper fare!


Lets worry about having my body get permanently lost by M.A. later.  To start with, I need to get into the country.  Once in, I can fly around like a freak.  Note that later, I will compare costs by looking up flying in and out again.

The main - and possibly only - ferry goes from Port Klang (port for KL) to an extremely seedy shithole called 'Dumai'.  The place comes with more warnings than lawn darts.

I do really miss Jarts.  And not just for their power to kill and maim children!

Sadly, when I imagine something seedy it always looks like this - start :36 seconds in.

From there, it would be some hard overland travel to the northern part of the island if I wanted to just hang out for a month.  But I'm not sure about that hence I will do some research and see if I can answer the question "Where do I want to actually travel within Indonesia?"  Also, how much will it cost me to get to the next country?



PAPUA NEW GUINEA - BUSTED

Places that aren't well known to tourists can go either way.  Either rude crude but cheap places to stay or due to no 'tourist infrastructure' freakishly expensive.

After a bit of studying on PNG it turns out 'freakishly expensive' is the direction they went.

So, I could either sit in my thirty plus dollar a night hotel room and not eat anything, drink anything or go anywhere or pass.

Giving that a big pass.  I'd have been delighted to go rough it a bit there and find out what's up but I just don't have the funds.



EAST TIMOR

Since the remote Papua New Guinea had gone so poorly, it was time to check out the other remote place, Timor.

According to the valuable Wikitravel, the capital city Dili looks reasonable for food but only one place to stay as far as hostels go.  Could be a bit of a red flag but not as bad as PNG.

Nobody from East Timor has put a hostel on either hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com.  That tells me a bit.



IN CONCLUSION



WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE HERE?

Here is what it seems to have shaped into:

Siem Reap (wake up at 7AM because the border is closed at night - yes, really)
Bangkok (by bus; switch to train)
Hua Hin (stay there a bit unless it sucks or is expensive)
Hat Yai (is the jungle line down?  If so,)
Penang, Butterworth (big city by bus then either ferry or bus across bridge to island)
Georgetown (stay there a bit unless it sucks or is expensive)
Ipoh (stay there a bit unless it sucks or is expensive)
Kuala Lumpur (head over to next door town, take ferry to Sumatra unless figure out better idea)

Sorry if the blog seems a bit jumpy.  It took roughly fifteen hours of research to find all of this stuff.  Much easier with the internet than travelers before had it...



LOCAL CUSTOMS  [ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR...   (SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA)]

Within Siem Reap, much less 'adventurous' people are traveling than ever before.  We have (other than Logan) other fat people, old people, parents with kids - hell I've even seen parents lugging around a 'special needs' kid.

Siem Reap has clearly become more 'main stream'.

They had their big parade today - the fourth (?) day of Chinese New Year.  Some notes I recorded follow:

Pre-recorded cheering - if you hear this you are clearly at an awesome event.  Despite people just standing there like statues wondering if it will get better, you get to hear mad cheering!

People collecting for 'good causes'.  I've always wondered about the percentage of money which goes to a 'good cause' as opposed to 'is collected'.  They had white guys and locals out collecting from the parade audience.  If I really wanted to help the locals, I'd feed them for awhile - not just give money.  I know how many people in Asia operate when given money and it is 'spend it all fast'.

They played music which to western ears (or at least mine) can best be described as 'grating'.  Lots of drums going on because people love to hit things with sticks.  Preteen.  Here is a sample.

Pre-recorded music because even the low quality of music produced in this country is 'hard'.

"Y" shaped sticks.  These confused me a bit initially.  Perhaps they are some hold over from an ancient native religion?  No.  They are to push the banners which hang over the streets out of the way so their floats can fit through.

Even the Khmer I spoke with didn't know what they were for...

It amazes me how many foreigners (non-Cambodian) were there trying to direct their Cambodian counterparts on things like 'flap the dragon wings thus'.  Perhaps in this country they feel they'd do best under white leadership.  Sigh.

As in every westernized country, half the people were looking through devices rather than with their eyes.  Because hey, that's how you see things these days.

They had a fire juggler who was doing four brands.  Anyone who says 'they can juggle' and does three - that just means you have decent coordination.  Four or more is the 'money shot'.

One acrobat, half dozen floats, two drummers - you can tell it ended when the regular traffic flowed in and backed up.

Typical float

The Feast of the Flaming Tiger

By tradition, young Cambodian men dress in outlandish garb and play loud drums as they dance throughout the streets to drive off evil spirits.  This so enrages the residents of the street, they would set Bali Tigers on fire and throw them at the young men.

There were many deaths every year until the 1950's when the Bali Tigers finally became extinct.  Unfortunately, the end of World War 2 also saw a lot of military surplus fall into the hands of civilians.  Instead of hurling flaming tigers at the young men, they would use flame throwers.

This had the unfortunate but inevitable consequence of burning down several villages made from corrugated metal, rotten wood held together with seaweed and snot.

Many Cambodians wished to use tigers native to Cambodia but sadly only about thirty exist.  Hence, the festival was updated to using conversationalists lit on fire and thrown at the noisy young men as they paraded loudly through the streets.  Although hundreds of conversationalists die every year, it is estimated that unless the festival is expanded their numbers will eventually displace native Cambodians.

In reality, as the wrap up for Chinese New Year in Cambodia, a group of perhaps a dozen young men with dragon suits, drums and symbols go to affluent businesses to 'bless' them. Presumably, they are finished blessing them when given enough money to move along. I just like my version better.

Yes, I realize that some people reading this may be heart broken that the 'intrigue and mystery' of the Asian culture is ruthlessly stripped away by Logan's version of 'seeing stuff for what it is' - not through a haze of 'well I paid a lot to get here and so I am ruthlessly disposed to enjoying this vacation regardless of what reality says' as I've seen so many tourists and travel writers display.



TRAVELER'S TIP

This is a picture of someone who left their computer 'just for a second' while they went off to the bathroom.

This device is worth several months pay to each of the people pictured in the background - and it is casually left on a table.

If you leave your stuff lying around and it gets stolen, tourists should have to claim "I donated it because I am stupid".  Instead, they will make it sound like they were pick pocketed - for insurance and not to sound as dumb as they are.

Note:  I have no sympathy for the stupid.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

DISNEY LAND WITH THE DEATH PENALTY

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH



Some clever philosopher once told me 'information is to travelers what wings are to a bird'.  Or some crap like that.



Sadly, it's true.  You need to do a lot of research.  The more expensive the area - or difficult - the more research you need to do before entering.

Research is my least favorite part of travel.  I'd love to be rich enough just to show up in an area and learn about it from the locals.  Sadly, this isn't always the case.

Some people live in constant fear of 'missing something'.  This stems from their belief they won't go back.  For most of them, probably true.


This sort of research isn't as exciting as Logan suffering horribly or getting some sort of messy surgery while still dressed in his street clothes.   Or sitting through earthquakes.  Or being in countries during revolutions or invasions or protests.  (For new readers, read the back issues - all that kind of stuff has happened and been documented.)


However, if you are going to travel, you do need to get good at this sort of research.  It is for those people I've documented out my steps.

Logan is not such a logical thinker that he says a, b, c.  No, he is all over the alphabet and bringing in weird symbols he doesn't even pretend to understand.  But, for this blog I've attempted to put the steps into logical order.



LEAVING CAMBODIA

I've paid up through 22 FEB thus far.  Rather than travel on a Sunday (bad move) I'm going to get a couple extra days so I leave on a Wednesday.  Always travel midweek when possible - usually the buses and such are not chocked full of people returning from visiting other people over the weekend.



THROUGH THAILAND

The one possible fly in the ointment is when you come in via land (not flying) you get a two week visa as opposed to a month long visa.  If this is correct it sucks cock and will keep me moving more swiftly till I get in to Malaysia.



After some research it looks like Hua Hin is going to be more comfortable than Prachuap for me.  Here is a google link to some pictures of it.

According to a nifty tourist map I found, the train stops right in the center of this small town and walking to any number of hostels shall be very possible.



GETTING TO HUA HIN

According to the guy who runs the Cambodian hostel I'm in, the bus to Bangkok will run me $28.  This is for the 'nice bus' - the one I take all the way through as opposed to getting transferred to shitty vans once on the Thai side.  Due to the length of the ride (half a day) it is better to spend the extra money as it is a hella long trip.  He also confirmed that the bus will stop at Mo Chit bus station and should arrive around 5-6PM.  I did do research and there is indeed a train from the border of Thailand all the way to Bangkok.  Apparently, it is a real shitty ride - people talk about being able to walk faster.  I'll just stick with the nice bus.  In a few years, they may build a rail all the way to Siem Reap but that is years away.

Looking at the train schedules, the $15 train leaves at 6:30PM.  Since I don't really trust buses to be on time and laugh at tourists who do, I also plotted out the bus that leaves at 7:30PM and will cost me $18.  Since I'm experienced, I also confirmed there are buses leaving as late as 10:50PM.  It reminds me of the time I was in Turkey watching some idiot freak out because they didn't realize their cheap van ride to the airport would be stopping at lots of hostels to pick up lots of people - and they had only allotted a very short time to get to the airport.  I'd allotted six hours and saw the van ride as a free tour of Istanbul.



While the prices of the places to stay look like nothing special (around $15 USD, maybe cheaper if I am fortunate) Thai food usually cost a lot less than the excellent Mexican food I've been indulging in within Cambodia.

Either way, Hua Hin gets me out of 'oh gods not here again' Bangkok.

In Logan's opinion, this music video is perhaps the best thing about Bangkok.


From the Mo Chit bus station, I have a choice between either a short taxi ride ($3) or long assed train ride ($2).  If the taxi is really under 100 baht, I'll take that.


After reaching Hua Hin, I will try to find suitable lodgings.  Because I will be showing up at a completely shitty time (close to midnight) I did some research and found a hostel, Tid Tarad Hostel Hua Hin for those interested.  For about $13 I can grab a dorm bunk, catch a couple hours of sleep on it then go look for a better place to hang out.

From the looks of things on Hostelworld and Hostelbookers, there are a lot of 'not yet rated' places.  Tells me there could be a lot of new construction and such there.

If I have more time in Thailand, I may try to go see another city - less and I will break for the Malaysian border to the far south.

After looking at the other major stops on the train route, the only possibles (which would take a ferry to get to) are the Ko's.  Ko Tao, Ko Phangan and Ko Samul.  After a glance at the prices of lodging, these seem very reasonable.  I might just do a bit of island hopping if I get bored or have extra time.

To get down to the last town before the Malaysian border (half a day trip) with a nice bed (2nd class, express train) it seems to be 900B or about 30 USD.




SINGAPORE

This man would probably be put to death for entering Singapore.


For those who think to look at a map, they will note there is a whole lot of Malaysia which lies between Thailand and Singapore.  However, I researched Singapore prior to doing my Malaysian research.

According to William Gibson, Singapore is "Disneyland with the death penalty".  Needless to say, Singapore wasn't too happy with this description.  Rather than work on seeing if they could get some positive change out of this criticism, they banned the magazine that printed it for a couple decades.


There seem to be a surprising number of shitty places to stay within Singapore.  Travelers write of greedy owners who yell at them, hit them with brooms and spray them with insecticide.

Run!

Also, "Tobacco is heavily taxed, and you are not allowed to bring more than one opened pack (not carton, but a single pack!) of cigarettes into the country. This is particularly strictly enforced on the land borders with Malaysia." (Wikitravel).

Since I will be coming in on a land border with Malaysia this is particularly distressing.  I will have to be sure to use up a good deal of my smokes before coming here.

"There is no duty free allowance for cigarettes: all cigarettes legally sold in Singapore are stamped "SDPC", and smokers caught with unmarked cigarettes may be fined $500 per pack. (In practice, though, bringing in one opened pack is usually tolerated.)" (Wikitravel)

In a place as supposedly modern as Singapore these things make me really think "What the fuck" and "Is there anything I want to see here?"

Not that damned much.




UNPAID ENDORSEMENT!

The Man in Seat Sixty-One.  I've no idea why it is called that but this guy has forgotten more about train and ferry travel than I hope ever to know.  Find this excellent site here.



PRICES (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

Haggling:  -10 to -20%
Tuk Tuk haggling:  -50%

Monday, February 16, 2015

CHILLED MONKEY BRAINS

DEATH OF TIU

First, no humans hurt.  Again, my mentor is shown to be clever for having sold up and moved on awhile ago.  Unfortunately, the bombers putting a pound and a half of TNT there didn't probably realize the business was now 'locally owned'.  Sad.

Some of you may remember the hostel I stayed at in Ukraine.  It has been blown up by terrorists, saboteurs or some random mad bomber.




CHILLED MONKEY BRAINS

On a lighter note, TJ writes:

Logan Horsford your friends and fans want to know when are you going to stop messing around and eat a chilled monkey brain already on film for us?

"And chilled monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington D.C." - Clue.

"Consuming the brain and other nerve tissue of animals may be hazardous to health.[6] Brain consumption can result in contracting fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseaseand other prion diseases in humans.[7]" - Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_brains_(cuisine)

And for those wanting more information there is of course the page "Monkey Brains to Eat and How and Why". Though badly named it does have a lot of information.

Sadly, it shows the monkeys are now prepared for these shenanigans and have even got goggles with their helmets.


That being said - if I came across it and the kitchen looked clean enough, I would try it.  Maybe not eat the whole thing but yes, I'd try it.



FUCK A DUCK


According to the sources I bothered to google (it's a fun picture but I'm not going to research all day on it) the phrase has been around since the 1930's and means 'what the hell?'



CHINESE NEW YEAR

Cambodians are celebrating Chinese New Year on Thursday, 19 FEB.

In some articles they talk a lot about how it is due to 'cultural diversity' and 'respect between Cambodia and China'.  Even ancestors have been brought up.

While this may be true, I believe it is the minor reasons.

Older people I've talked to say 'luck in the new year'.  Younger people talk about the party.

Almost everyone will be going to temples.  Cambodia has a very odd collection of religious beliefs.  Here someone may call themselves a Christian and have a Hindu shrine in their house.  Keep what you want, discard the rest.

Chinese New Year sounds like one more belief that got sucked up along the way, people liked it and they decided to keep it.

Should be interesting.



POSSIBLE TRAVEL PLANS

I'm thinking one more week here then I'm going to go counter clockwise.

Wanted to visit Jason Pittman​ in Philippines but the air cost is pretty crazy.  Don't think I'll have time to get there by boat - it's a long way away.

Possible schedule of countries, depending on what my research comes up with:

Thailand - not thrilled about this one.  Been there, done that many times.  High cost for stuff.

Malaysia - the most bland country in SE Asia.  The places I've been have all the zip of the kind of Chinese food places that exist in Derek Jones​' home town.  "It's kind of Chinese" is the kindest thing that can be said about them.

Singapore - I want to do some research on this place to see if there is anywhere affordable to stay.  If there is, check it out a bit but I suspect 'big, modern, glass and steel city'.  But it is technically a country.

While in Malaysia, see if I can head over to that big fucking island they share with Indonesia.  I've never been to this island.  No clue what is there.  More research needed.  Want to go by boat because there are less controls and Malaysia has had a nasty habit of losing planes.  Because, Malaysia.

Brunei exists on this big island.  Apparently they have all of one hostel that I can afford.  One.  And their laws are extremely draconian.  People have told me there isn't a lot to see there but anyone who reads my blog knows I like to go take a look for myself.  More research (mainly into affordability) needs to be done.

Normally, from here I could get to Philippines.  However, the Sulu sea has heated up - figuratively.  Like 'kill whitey' heated up.  Now might not be the best time to pay them a visit.

So instead, I could head south on the big island (yeah, google map it) into Indonesia.  Then head south into more familiar parts.  I wouldn't mind staying again at Dani's Homestay (my 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' place) but with all that travel not sure on the time.  The visa for Indonesia is only a month but is possibly renewable.

If possible, I'd like to check out Timor.  Suspect it will be extremely back in time.

Then head to the island Papua New Guinea is on.  Maybe see that.  Not sure, I do like my wifi.

Are the Solomon Islands possible?   I know Fiji fucking isn't.  Rich folk go there.

Possibly South Korea then maybe China.

Just not sure.  Need The Matrix to download everything from Wikitravel into my brain quick quick.

After that, I'm at a complete loss.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WHERE 'WHY NOT' TAKES US

LETTER TO MY MOM

Given how much stuff I write for this blog and having written four books in the past, it is still difficult to write to my parents.

I've never been close to them and it doesn't seem any of their offspring are.  They have always had their own life which they lived and were never much interested in my hobbies when they went outside of what kids 'should' be interested in - sports and the like.

Having met many people who exhibit a strong bond to their parents they are always confused when my bond - and even interaction with them - is about the same as if they were long dead.

However, they are still on the planet and married as I write this - both seventy five (and seventy seven?) years old.   When I was a kid, there were few things as scandalous as 'divorce'.  Like being caught with drugs it just didn't happen.  Smoking, drinking and slapping your wife and kids around was far more acceptable.

It was a different time and one which many people show a lot of nostalgia for.  And they call me 'strange'.

Because my father knows I (and perhaps my brothers - I've never asked) have no idea of any of the special dates for the family, he wrote me to tell me it was my sick, aging mom's birthday.  I wrote her a letter for it.

Because this is one of those great pieces of literature which would cause Hemingway to rip off his shirt and insist on drinking rum with me I thought to reproduce it here for posterity.



Hope your birthday is pain free for you.


Not much is happening with me.  I am back in Cambodia hanging out for a month or so.

The few sidewalks they have are used for displaying merchandise, parking and such.  Normally, you walk on the sides of the streets attempting to avoid injury from the chaotic low speed traffic.

Often you get mugged by the smell of rotting eggs causing you to gag from the ill built sewers.

Imagine a wildly unsafe four seated wagon hooked to the back of a motorcycle.  This is called a tuk tuk ("took took").  Anyone with one constantly cries 'tuk tuk!' at you to attempt to badly lure you into the back of theirs so they can make a dollar or two from you.  Women at massage parlors call 'massage' in primitive English for the same reason.  Dirty and poor women wander around with empty baby bottles attempting to beg money from tourists presumably for 'milk for the baby'.  Many tourists don't realize the babies are often rented from others to make the begging con complete.

The Cambodian national dish is called 'amok'.  Fish stew.  Since I hate fish and have always been suspicious of soups and stews as well as the water used to make them, I stick to the more expensive foreign restaurants.

They have only two seasons here, wet and dry.  There is no relief from the dust during the dry season which is what I'm in now.  During the wet season only a couple hours of hard rain per day fall.  Though it is arguably a better time to visit, tourists mistakenly believe it continuously rains.

In the cheap hotels and hostels, you can get quite a reasonable room with a mini fridge and desk at a decent price.  This is all I really need as I spend a lot of time at my computer when not out wandering around.

This is one of my favorite towns within SE Asia.


As I grow older, thoughts about mortality often cross my mind.

Given the type of lifestyle I had, reaching age twenty five was quite a shock.  Given the state my body is in reaching the age of sixty would feel quite the cosmic betrayal.  Even given my life is now of extreme interest to me another decade upon this rock would probably be more than enough unless I got a new body out of it.

Don't think that will happen.


Given that you always ask me if I am healthy and happy I will answer 'reasonably so'.

I hope you are at least happy if not healthy.

Logan


And there you have it.  A rather stilted letter to someone who is almost a stranger to me.   Normally, thoughts of my parents and family are far from my mind - pushed out by more immediate sensation.

For those who are close to their families, here is a view from 'the other side of the spectrum'.



SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT LOGAN

If you know anyone else who would enjoy my Facebook feed, tell them to friend me!

Why?

Due to the excessive old age (read as 'imminent death') of my parents (read as 'stuck with son duty as I was not hatched despite reports to the contrary') I will eventually be passing back through the states in probably 1-2 years.

I'd love to do another combination of Logan's Home Invasion (LHI) part 2 and hitting various NERO events.

A big problem for people outside of the Virginia/Michigan/Colorado/Illinois states is quite frankly, I don't know enough people in others to make it 'economically viable' to visit other states.

If I knew enough people in all the states believe me I'd love to do a massive tour of the states.  If I know one or two people in a state (*even if they want to put me up for a week*) my thought is "I can't afford to stay there".

It's all about money and time = slow trickle of money.

If I was a lot more witty and famous I'd just rent a big RV, hire a couple drivers I liked and cruise the states to visit everyone.  That would be awesome.

But I'm just not that cool.

So - if you want me to visit your state and you're not in one of the four I listed earlier, now is the time to get other people interested in my blog and so on.  I'm looking for people I can stay with.

I get a lot of offers for 'hey, I'll take you out to dinner'.  That is great if I've got someone else to stay with but otherwise it just doesn't help.

If you have questions let me know.

If I can get enough people in your state (who want to drop me off to the next one in line and so on) I'd love to come have some drinks with you and sleep on your couch.



UNUSUAL DAY

It's always interesting to find out where 'why not' will take you.

Not a lot of people go with it - they have 'reasons' why they don't.  Usually fear.

The day started early - about ten or elevenish when I was headed downstairs to go find some coffee.

There were about a dozen somber looking men in a guests room along with the owner of the hostel.  One of the somber men seemed to be reading a prepared statement off a piece of paper.

My first thought was cops.

After they tried the 'move along' thing on me (didn't work) it did indeed turn out to be police.  I asked the owner of the hostel about turning in some laundry.  He sent me down to see his wife.  Turned in the laundry and went to find coffee.

Although I didn't get the story until later, you won't have to wait.

Turns out some Dutch guy decided to go completely mental with drugs.

Normally, having a joint or two in the hostel (or somewhere discrete) won't get you into trouble.  However, he was passing out pills and downing them with alcohol out on 'Pub Street' - the main tourist area.

One of the cops took a picture of him.

At this point, you have an option - you can either pay a hundred dollar or so bribe or 'see where it goes'.

He choose poorly.

They then brought him to the jail for a bit and then a larger group of cops brought him back to the hostel.  At this point, he'd have had to bribe the larger group of cops about $500 and they wouldn't search the room and it might have all gone away -

Again, he choose poorly.

They search his room and naturally find more pot and pills.  People who want to go to foreign countries and do drugs which are illegal in them get no sympathy from me when they are caught.  None at all.  And acting stupidly and very publicly?

Now, there is evidence - lots of cops are involved.  The bribe is up to $3000.

Why go against tradition?  He choose poorly.

So they haul his dumb ass off to jail.



I go for coffee.


LOGAN GOES FOR COFFEE

There was really no good reason to make that into a separate heading, but it just sounded so dramatic I had to.

There is a restaurant very close to the hostel where I had been told a small cup of coffee was thirty five cents.  A reasonable price so I figured I'd go.

It turned out the guy who told me that didn't know the difference between 'thirty five' and 'seventy five'.  Considering it was tiny cups and not very good I don't think their coffee business is going to boom.  Remember that a draft beer is half a dollar in most bars.

While I was mulling over the coffee I was watching a guy counting up a bunch of cashey money.  My mind went back to my youth when I was in Egypt and got to meet my very first gangster.  Well, that's a lie - I'd met them before but it sounded better.  I remember it well - he had a bunch of cronies and a table full of cash with more being brought to him as the day progressed.

Turns out this guy wasn't a gangster but a fixer.



WHAT IS A FIXER?

I'd been asked about this on Facebook so I figured I'd include the term here for those who don't use a lot of 'street speak'.

My favorite definition comes from the old Cyberpunk game, though it is still a 'street' term used today.

Their definition includes ' Deal makers, smugglers, organizers, and information brokers '.

Depending on the type of fixer, they may range from totally legal to totally black market though most are well into the 'grey' market. Which can range from either handling a variety of legal and illegal goods (hence averaging at grey) or grey could mean goods which are 'kind of illegal' or 'legal in some places but not in others' etc. This guy did everything from give people rides, organize doctors to meet particular patients, pick up special fruit, etc. He is a busy guy.

Although they do have this occupation in 'developed' countries it is much more rare than in places where the laws are 'fast and loose'.

There are also general types of fixers as well as ones who only specialize in one sort of thing.  The best ones can - with enough cash - get you any item or any person with a certain set of skills you need on short notice.

Just to be clear, a fixer is not necessarily a smuggler.  They might do some smuggling or even employ a smuggler but it is not required for the job.  As stated earlier, their jobs may be entirely legal.


MR NGOG

[Disclaimer - not sure how to spell his name and it sounds like I've spelled it so I'm sticking with that for now.]

Really nice guy.  He told me he was counting out some of his money from dealing in cosmetics but he was also going to be starting a hotel in the area.

He asked my advice on aspects of the hotel.  Though I am no expert on running a hotel, I've stayed in enough of them to know what features I want to see in one.  He seemed very pleased with my answers.

Did I want to go see his hotel?

This is the point I hesitated for a bit.  The point where you use your training (if you have any training) in people and assess the situation.  Most people don't have any actual training, go with their gut and wind up dead in a ditch still not wanting to admit they are dumbasses.  But I looked at the situation and said,

"Why not?"

Let's see where 'why not' takes us.

We went to his under construction hotel.  I made observations and suggestions, he took notes and talked to his people.

Note that I do not expect him to follow all of my ideas - I was merely trying to give him some ideas he could choose from.  Be useful.

Apparently, he really liked my suggestions.

Not long after that, we were at a very expensive resort and he was buying lunch for myself and some of his friends from the initial restaurant.  I don't remember the name of the place but rooms start at $100 per night and go up from there.  It's often baffled me why people stay at places like that even if they can afford them - you really don't get even a taste of the country you are in.  And the location is pretty remote.

As he was taking me back to where he'd discovered me, he asked if I'd like to have dinner at his Cambodian families' (he is Thai) house tonight.

"Sure, why not!"

I consulted with the owner of the hostel as to what I should bring for a dinner gift.  Although I know the universal answer is always 'a small box of slightly expensive sweets', I figured I'd go with what he told me.  Here, I learned, they either bring food or beer.

Why not.

I stopped next door and bought an eleven dollar case of beer of the brand suggested.  I don't really know anything about what sort of food they wanted and I haven't seen any suitable sweets in the store.

Note, the sweets would have probably gone over better.

It ended up being a very nice dinner.

Turns out that the family not only were close friends with Mr. Ngog, but they own a huge hotel and are one of the richest and most influential families in Siem Reap.  He does the licensing for the government.

This is my 'how did I get together with the movers and shakers' picture


The person who prepared the food was another friend of Mr. Ngog's who may end up working for this family.  It's the first meal I ever had prepared by an actual gourmet.  Not even exaggerating.

Although I don't eat seafood, even I can see the artistry.


Most of the feast laid out with the chef in the background

After eating, I told my hosts I was depressed because that was probably the best meal I'd ever have in Asia.  No exaggeration.

After a lovely meal, Mr. Ngog borrowed the families government plated vehicle ("I never get stopped in this car!") and drove me back to my hostel.

It was a great night.

There was some talk by the family they might have me come out to take a look at their hotels and give recommendations.  As with Mr. Ngog, I don't expect any sort of payment but I'm betting it will be an interesting story to tell.



PRICES

Massage, per ten minutes $1

Bottle of alcohol, around $10/liter

Meal in Pub Street, Siem Reap:  If you are eating for under $5, it is probably crap.  The average meal is $5 to $9.


PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje Bitola Ohrid Struga | Albania: Berat Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples Pompeii Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand Hua Hin Hat Yai

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