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Monday, October 1, 2012

CAMBODIA TO GEORGIA

LEAVING SIEM REAP

The torrential rains of the night before seem to have mostly drained away.

I arrived about forty minutes early to the bus station.  The people at the Siem Reap hotel I'd been staying were very sad to see me go.

Even at 7:20 AM, the day was getting very sweaty.

An Aussy dressed in poofy pants, a cowboy hat and a bed sheet in place of a sheet met me at the bus station.  His name was Joey and I spoke with him a bit as we went.  When asked about the bed sheet, he explained that all of his shirts had gotten wet in the previous nights downpour and it was the only dry thing he had to wear.   Instead of purchasing extra shirts as he had intended, he got drunk and bought three different hammocks.  Funny ole world...    



ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK - AGAIN

It was a dark and stormy night when I finally arrived in Bangkok.

During the storm, Joey wanted to hang out under an awning.  Since I was getting soaked along with my gear it became time to part company.  The bindle was getting heavier and heavier as it absorbed more water.

After diving into an Indian restaurant to eat the best mutton curry ever, I bargained down a tuk tuk from his wildly optimistic 500 THB to 300 THB and took the uncomfortable ride to the Sukhimvit district.   Because of the rain and the time of night, I'd considered just staying in the Khao San Road area.  On their price cards, they usually have one reasonably priced 'simple' room and several other very high priced options.  The 'simple rooms' - if they ever really existed - are always full.

Stopping twice to argue with the tuk tuk driver that he should actually take me to my destination rather than dropping me off in the middle of nowhere and one other time so he could ask someone more competent where it actually was that he claimed to know, I got dropped off at the hostel.

This is the same hostel I had met two people I'd seen in different parts of the world.  Yes, I met someone else I'd seen in a different part of the world there.  Kind of an interesting vibe to that place.

The hostel was - with three notable exceptions - filled with the usual foreigners who liked to alternate between partying hard and sleeping.

Two of the exceptions were an old couple staying at the hostel.  Possibly in their eighties, I thought they were someone's grandparents who were meeting them at a hostel.  They said they had been vacationing and staying at hostels for the last four decades.  Their only complaint was that the young people pretty much ignored them.

Ignoring the old couple, I went to bed early.

Since I knew the partiers would be inconsiderate and definitely wouldn't be carrying flashlights, I just left the light on when I went to sleep.  Easier.

The air conditioner was blasting cold enough it gave me a new cough for a couple days.  Despite that, my body was still hot in that room.  Odd.  I punished the young people by sleeping only in my underwear.  They avoided me after that.

The next day, I awoke early and talked to the third exception at hostel.  He  was an old redneck named Mike.  He has inoperable lung cancer and a two pack a day habit.  He spoke of perhaps quitting smoking.  Since the doctors told him he only had six months to live I said "Smoke up.  Enjoy your remaining time how you want."  He had come to Thailand to live on a beach till death takes him.  That way, he can enjoy himself and not be a burden to his family.

Sounds like a plan to me.

We talked about having both served in the same town in Korea although a decade apart.

After that, I took my leave of him and headed to the airport.

On the way, a couple cops told me to go stand over there, possibly due to my jaywalking.  They were then distracted by several other people jaywalking.  During their distraction, I wandered off.  I didn't feel like paying bribes to the police just then.

After a couple blocks, I recalled I'd left one of my locks attached to an empty locker.  Didn't feel like going back to see if the police were upset with my earlier disappearance and reasoned that buying a new lock would be cheaper than buying two cops.

Off to the airport.

Arrived eight hours before my flight, five hours before I could have even checked in.  Some people would say I could have left my bag at the hostel and gone around Bangkok.  Been there so often there is absolutely nothing I want to do.

The big back is up to 17.9 KG.  Possibly something to do with the new business cards printed in Cambodia.

The Bangkok airport has one of those new 'controversial but accepted because we are more scared of terrorists than keeping our rights' body scanners at the airport.

As readers know, I wear a couple of pouches inside my shirt for money and ID's.  They insisted I put the pouches through the xray machine.  Despite the machine being able to see through my clothing to look at my pathetic little cock, they wanted my security pouches off.

I stripped off my shirt and the pouches and dumped all of that into the xray machine.  Going through dressed in only my shorts, I raised my hands and said "If you need to frisk me I totally understand and am happy to comply."

The Thais stared in horror as the waves of fat rippled like currents in the sea.

A couple other tourists goggled at me and I said "Yeah, they're a bit strict on their security here...  It's almost as bad as in the USA.  At least here I don't have to get naked and have a cavity search!"

My goods were quickly returned aside from a bottle of water and my beloved mosquito killing device.  These were taken away.  Sad.

The best thing about the Bangkok airport is a cheaply priced 7-11 within the airport.  This is a good place to eat and drink while living in the airport.

If I eat fast food, I feel sick for a day afterward.  Not sure why - possibly the low food value and toxins within the food.  Despite this, I did look into the prices of Burger King at the airport.  Drink, burger and fries - $13.  Screw that.

Security and customs took about two hours.   I was told that my bag would next be seen in Istanbul.  I was hopeful.

The lady at the Malaysian Air counter interrogated me about my length of stay in Istanbul.  Started having bad flashbacks about the Philippines fiasco where I had to trash the ticket due to having no 'onward tickets'.

She seemed satisfied with my explanation I'd be taking a bus immediately out to the Republic of Georgia.  I exhaled.

While waiting on the plane, someone else got hauled off for not having 'onward ticket'.

Super.

The flight was one of those 'good news, bad news' things.  The layout of the chairs was two, aisle, five then two.  I got lucky and was in one of the two.  The bad news is that it was a 'screaming baby' flight.

During the flight, some cross eyed kid kept staring at me.  Then again, maybe he wasn't.



WELCOME TO TURKEY

Going through Turkish customs from the airport was dead easy.

I found the line marked 'visa', handed them my passport with $20 USD and got a visa.  No questions at all then a new line to get a stamp and off I went.

The airport in Istanbul is one of those which has a subway under it.  Figuring I'm eventually going to need to head back to Turkey, I hit an ATM rather than getting raped by the money changers.  Figure I'll play the Jason Bourne game with currency.  Since the ATM only gives 100 lira notes, I went to a money changer and got some change.  The currency exchange guy thought that was a good idea.

When I got down to the subway, lo, the machine accepts only 5, 10 or 20 denomination notes.  Go team.

For three lira I got a subway ticket and went ten stops to the 'autogar'.  This is the main bus depot.

When I arrived, it looked like a big open square surrounded by various transport agencies.  Like the center of a flower.  Around this like the pedals and screened by buildings are the actual buses.

Turkish for 'bus station' seems to be 'argument'.

Since plane tickets were selling in excess of 300 euros and going through either Munich Germany or Kiev and a Russian prison term for no visa bus seemed a better choice.  On the plane, a Turk was telling me that a plane would actually be the better option but it turned out he had wildly over estimated the cost of a bus ticket and horribly under estimated the cost of a plane ticket.  Bus wins.

A guy asked me where I was going then took me on a long walk to one of the sellers.  This is a mistake, I should have just sought out the Metro bus office.  Metro is a good line and cheaper than the others.  After taking me to the office the guy seemed to be expecting a tip.  I gave him 5 lira.  He grumbled but took it.  Figured that meant it was about the right amount.

While in Turkey, I couldn't find any Turks who spoke English any better than I speak Arabic, French or Korean (aka 'poorly') but due to the number who have dealings with Germany, it was again German for the win.  I was able to use that at a restaurant.  I suspect they heaped my plate a bit higher as well as forcing a free tea on me because I knew German.  Excellent.

One nice thing about the buses in Turkey is that unlike other parts of the world, they keep them quiet.  Everyone gets their own little TV and headphones.  With the exception of a couple hours near the end, no idiots played their music over the speaker.  I know we have that sort of thing where people are subjecting others to their music in public places but it is hoped that people outgrow it by the time they are done being teenagers.

For Logan, a quiet bus is a happy bus.  I can listen to my MP3's and sleep.

The Turks gave up trying to communicate to me in anything other than Turkish since I seemed to understand them.  Go go body language and voice inflection.



INTO GEORGIA

Compared to entering Turkey from the airport where the 'well heeled' (rich) guests come into the country, crossing land borders is always a bit of a 'cluster fuck'.  Daily laborers going back and forth, people hauling goods, lots of trucks, whatever.

To go through the border, we had to dismount the bus leaving our stuff.  We walked to the place to get our passports stamped out.  After getting our passports stamped (eventually) we waited for the bus to make it's way through the onslaught of trucks.  When the bus arrived, we retrieved all of our possessions so we could go through the Georgian side.  I was carefully told by a border guard who I don't think spoke English "Welcome to Georgia".  None of the Turks were told this.  Perhaps they like seeing an American passport.

If you are coming via the border from Turkey into Georgia headed to Batumi and wanted to save time, you could grab everything off of the bus immediately, walk through both borders and immediately catch a taxi.  That would save perhaps half hour to an hour.

After crossing the border, it was eight more hours (of my 26 total hour bus ride) to get to Tbilisi.  Most of the distance between Batumi and Tbilisi is twisting and winding roads.  I know they have night buses and such but no clue how anyone could sleep on them.  I'd have to be passed out from exhaustion to do so.  There are some pretty scenic parts  to see.

Having traveled without cease or shower, I got pretty ripe after three days.



ARRIVAL IN GEORGIA

What I had expected and what I got were remarkably different.

When I left, the hostel had lots of the owners (multiple owners) friends hanging out here, drinking, partying and so on.  As I understand it, the hostel is now owned by just one of the original owners.  The others have gone off to do other jobs.

There were no excited Georgians around to greet me and chat with.  I was disappointed and miss them.

There is a nice lady from South Africa named Bridget who I will be getting to know well as we'll be working closely together for several weeks.  I also got to go out to have some food and wine (very cheap at 4-5 GEL for a liter) with so I am not complaining.



TURKISH CHARACTER

Compared to SE Asia, the Turks I witnessed seemed extremely aggressive.  I'm not talking about violent or hostile but much like Indians who will cut in front of you in lines and so on.  Their body language and demeanor also seemed to suggest this.



NOTE TAKING

Whenever I pull out my notebook and take notes I get curious reactions from the natives.  Some look at me in amusement, some in amazement and some in horror as though I am making notes to pass along to the secret police on their behavior.



VALUABLE LANGUAGE TRAINING SKILLS

Turkey dubs the American movies they get.  This is why the people there don't speak much English.  Dubbing deprives people of valuable free language training as well as making the movie crappy.



REFLEXIVE ACTIONS

Do you remember when you were young and a doctor took a small hammer and hit you near your knee?  Do you remember how your foot - void of any conscious action on your part kicked him square in the testicles?  How the doctor doubled over and began to vomit?  All of these things are what I am terming 'reflexive actions'.  If you were someone like Travis and pulling out a gun and saying "Try that one more time..."

But I digress.

Reflexive actions.

The next time someone tells you there is a difference between normal heat and dry heat, the reflexive action  should be to backhand them.

Either way, you are miserable.

I've lived in Asia now for about a year and am happy to be moving on tomorrow.  I've been to 'non-hot heat' and dry heat counting at least three different deserts.

Miserable and I am tired of smelling Logan.

Tomorrow, should all go according to plan, I will spend a day in Thailand then heading back to Turkey to make the trip to Georgia.

[As a side note, the last person to slap Travis was the doctor when Travis had just been born.  Travis is still looking for him.  In the doctors defense, as all doctors dealing with newborns they say the slap on the rear is to give  them a general idea as to what they should expect form life.]



MP3 PLAYER

Mysteriously, my MP3 player began working again.  This makes me quite happy because in Siem Reap, you are given two basic Chinese knockoff choices - 2gig for $35 or 4gig for $45.  This seems a fairly unreasonable price to me as they have 8gig for $30 on Amazon.

Who needs so much storage room?

Music can be uplifting, relaxing and inspiring.  However, I usually find it after enough repetition to be dull and trite.  Music teaches me nothing.  Books on  the other hand, can offer much.

Books take significantly more room than a few crooned melodies.

We'll see if better offerings present themselves in Georgia.



INTERESTING  ARTICLE

The Five Best did a nice article on beer drinking.  The number five company surprised me.



SHOE STORY

Yet another sandal has broken.  Sadly, it is always the left one which breaks.  Were it otherwise, in addition to my badly patched clothing mismatched sandals could complete the ensemble.



CAMBODIAN BUSINESS MODELS

There is a restaurant close to the hotel.  It is a pretty pricey place on good real estate.  Looks very nice.  The place can hold about a hundred people.  

There are three outdoor cooks, more in the back - and about ten wait staff.

The owners are opening another restaurant within the even more valuable 'Pub Street'.

What confuses me is that this restaurant rarely - if ever has customers.  I've been there several times in several different months and this is always the case.

How the heck do they make money?



STORY IDEA

Hookers, Ho!

A story of dirty pirate hookers through the ages.  Follow these lusty beauties as they ply their trade upon the Seven Seas pursued by an evil Englishman who is intent on making them all disappear!



LOGAN MEDICAL

127 KG.  I can't recall if that is up or down from previous.  I'm guessing up due to Mexican food.  So good.




CAMBODIAN PRICES

Sandals, $10.  Note, prices before bartering can start as high as 150%.

Bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok, $10.



THAILAND PRICES

An excellent meal in the Khao San district of Bangkok of Indian food, $10.

Travel from Khao San Road (the cut off from the rest of the tourist district by intent so the cab drivers can squeeze the tourists for money) to Sukhimvit district by a filthy smelly tuk tuk, $10.


Sukhimvit to the airport via 'sky train', about $3 USD.



TURKEY PRICES

Plane ticket from Istanbul to Tblisi, around 300 euros or more.
Bus ticket of same, 100 Turkish Lira.   Note, "Metro" is only 90 lira.  Go Metro!

Access to a filthy squat toilet, 1 lira.

Cup of tea, small, 1 lira.

What is claimed to be 'Turkish Fanta' and isn't as good, 2 lira

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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 | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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