Archive for June, 2011

Thailand Tiger Cave Temple – No Tigers, Just Monkey Business

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tigerstepsIMG_0299What? 1,237 steps to the top of the of the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, Thailand? It couldn’t be that hard, I thought to myself. Our tour guide gave us an hour and half to go up and back so it seemed quite doable.

Unfortunately I was very wrong! Even my friend, the exercise addict, started dragging and complaining a quarter of the way up. We had picked the hottest day of our time in Thailand to climb these steps and they were a real challenge. Armed with the bottle of water provided by the tour guide (that should have warned us!), we trudged up the steps, which varied in width, length, and steepness. Some flights of steps, more like ladders, requiring hugging the banister to climb up!

We were thankful for the few toilet stops spaced along the way, but not for the obvious reasons. Using the bucket of water for “flushing” the toilet to drench ourselves, we cooled off, but only briefly since it was so hot that our clothes dried almost immediately.

So up and up we went!

Each time we thought we were near the top, we found yet another flight of steps! All markers along the way were in Thai so no way to tell how close we were to our destination!

At the top about 45 grueling minutes later, we emerged to the sight of golden Buddhas and an altar, including Ganesha and two other figures.

The breath-taking views made it well worth the climb, though the antennas next to the Buddha just seemed out of place!

See for yourself!

On the way down, I passed many monkeys and blissfully laughed at the screams of the nearby Japanese girls. Later I found out that the monkeys love to take shiny objects and have been known to bite! (Lucky me to still have my camera!) They seemed so cute at the time, especially the mother and baby monkey. Don’t they seem harmless to you?

What a strange mix of the modern and the ancient, the civilized and the wild!

My legs finally recovered after a week, but the memories will live on for a long time!

 

Thai Tuk Tuk Takes Us for a Ride

tuktukIMG_0226Ever ridden a tuk tuk? If not, it’s an experience to try at least once.

These three-wheeled open-aired taxis are a common way to get around in Thailand. We tried one of these motorized rickshaws after finally arriving in Bangkok after 20+ hours of travel, followed by a few hours of confusion navigating out of the airport to take the railway to our overnight home in Khao San.

I made the mistake of getting in one without agreeing to a price so probably got charged double for this error. Being tired and feeling overwhelmed by the traffic, I thought I could negotiate after I got in the vehicle. Unfortunately he started moving forward very quickly, partially perhaps because he was being chased and chastised by an official on the street. I suspected later that it was because the official was trying to keep us from being ripped off. Instead, we took the excuse that the fare was twice as high as the estimate given at the airport because of really bad traffic.BKK _tuktuk

So we zipped down many side alleys, dodged bigger vehicles, hung on to ourselves and our luggage, and eventually arrived at our destination. In total we only spent under $7 and were too tired to care by then, but knew better than to give the guy a tip!

We later learned that most taxis (the real kind, though in Bangkok often hot pink for some reason) have a meter that helps keep them honest.

Within a week we found that tuk tuk drivers often quote one number and then try to charge you for much more after you reach your destination, making it seem as if you misunderstood the charge or acting like you’re trying to cheat him. One driver glared, scowled, and muttered at us in Thai for over 10 minutes before giving up since we weren’t paying him any more than we heard.

Riding a tuk tuk can be a risk to the wallet, especially if you’re not a good negotiator or don’t have a good idea of the going rate to your destination.

So go for a ride in a tuk tuk, but don’t be taken for a ride by a tuk tuk.

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Planes, Airports, and Toilets – Oh My!

Taiwan toilet SOS

On my way to Southeast Asia, for the first time I noticed the impact cell phones has had on airports. Now a proud owner of a smartphone, I was among the many looking to charge my phone for one more time before boarding a plane. To my delight I found that most airports now have free charging stations!

I had just suspended my cell phone service (to avoid unintentional exorbinant roaming charges) and was going with the idea of using Wi-fi to connect to the Internet, with hopes of finding lots of free Wi-fi in airports at the least. As a smartphone addict, I was visualizing this method would work as well as promised by a friend. (So far it has worked great! Thank you Los Angeles and Taiwan airports for the free Wi-fi, and to my friend for the Wi-fi and smartphone idea!)

At the Los Angeles airport, Samsung-sponsored plug stations were scattered around various boarding gates. (My friend almost left her phone plugged into the charging column, as we got in the boarding line shortly after midnight. Convenient charging, but not if you leave your phone and fly away!)

We were on EVA Air, my first flight with this airline. What an impressive menu (chosen when you book) and individual seat-back selections of a variety of movies, television shows, and more. (If can’t sleep on a plane, you will find lots to keep you occupied for a while!)

Two of my meals came with the coolest lime plastic utensils. We liked them so much we kept a pair as a souvenir. These have since come in handy during our travels. (We did not, however, keep the flossing tool that came with each meal.) Read the rest of this entry »

 

Adventures in Southeast Asia – Hodge Podge Photo Montage

Kayaking at Bor Thor - caves and mangroves!

Kayaking at Bor Thor - caves and mangroves!

Sawadee! It’s June and we’re in Southeast Asia in southern Thailand at a cool place called Krabi. So far my friend Sabrina and I have been in Thailand for almost a week, beginning with a ride to Los Angeles, a long 13-plus hour flight to Taipei, and shorter flight to Bangkok, followed by wandering around in the confusing multi-floor airport (maybe the jet lag didn’t help), a ride on the railway, and a ride in a tuk tuk  (a tricycle rickshaw of sorts) to our home for the night (in the Khao San area, where you can get your 1 kilogram of laundry done for about a dollar!). Almost 24 hours later we were finally able to crash at our air-conditioned room at Queen Suriya’s Castle in the Khao San area.

The next day after one taxi, railway, plane, and bus (last one of the day!) later, we arrived after dark at our resort in Krabi, the Aonang Cliff View Resort, happy to be done traveling around for a while!

It’s the beginning of monsoon season here so we’ve had rain every day, with awesome downpours coming with hardly any notice. Despite the rain, we’re having no problem having fun. So far we’ve gone kayaking at Bor Thor (full-day tour under $30!), gotten two Thai massages ($7 for an hour!), eaten yummy meals (under $5), gone to the Night Market (meals for $1!), and taken a long tail boat ride in turbulent waters (and collided with an anchored boat)! That boat was suppose to take us snorkeling at four islands but was canceled due to weather after a few hours of being sprayed with salt water and bouncing up and down on the ocean! (Was a fun ride, though wish we could have gone snorkeling!) Read the rest of this entry »