A Bohemian Traveler

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Welcome to Thailand

In Travel on June 29, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Welcome to Thailand my friends. A new country and a new post.

Lots has happened, days have been full and I’ve not posted as consistent as a result. Here is a post to make up for the days of recent travel.

Thai buddhist monks? Look twice.

I spent the last few days of my 30 day Cambodian Visa in Sihanoukville on the coast. It was lovely to be by the ocean and get refreshed before heading to a new country.

Kicking back enjoying the night come slowly

THAILAND.
A Country I have long-awaited to visit, and a country where more than one friend told me I would love. It was time to come here as I had arranged to meet a friend of mine in Bangkok, and because South East Asia has been a dream of mine to visit for some time now.

To be honest, I came to Bangkok and got overwhelmed. It was a much larger city that I anticipated it to be, lots of buildings spread around a wide radius, highways, transportation, city life going on. There wasn’t as much lights as one would see in an American city, but plenty of going ons. I wasn’t ready to do the city for the next week before I met my friend here. So I crashed at a hostel, left my suitcase in long term storage, packed a small pack and hopped on the first train out to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand the next morning.

It was the best decision I could have made.

Leaving beautiful Bangkok from the train station

On the way up north....Rice fields abound..

CHIANG MAI.

I got into Chiang Mai with my small backpack around 8:30pm. I had no clue where I would end up staying that night and that’s okay, because in South East asian towns and cities, guesthouses are easily found and people are more than happy to assist you if you require direction. I sort of like trekking into areas with an intentional flexibility, you let the painting paint itself and it’s beautiful. I throughly enjoy the experience, but I do have some friends who cannot fathom ever doing such a thing with no plans. Hey, we’re all wired different right?

Anyways, I started walking and checked out some of the activity going on, people eating in restaurants, some music here, and I followed the direction where most cars were going. I stopped by an internet cafe to see if my friend Rachel, who lives in Chiang Mai, had recommended any guesthouses for me. She did. It was called Mountain guesthouse, and for about 7 dollars, you could have a nice AC room near the main part of the city. I noted it and found where it was on the map, identified my current location, and stored it as a backup plan as the night moved along.

I decided to check out the local Couchsurfing.org group for Chiang Mai and see if any events were happening. After all it was a Friday night. They had about 1,000 members active and it just happened so that some surfers were gathering outside of a 7-11 to listen to some music and hang out. Seemed interesting enough and the guy who posted the event looked really interesting, having recently served in Banda Aceh for five years after the tsunami and from Bandung, Indonesia where some of my family has roots in. The 7-11 was only a five-minute walk from the internet cafe, so hey, let the paint paint!

7-11's are all over Thailand.

I came to the group only expecting to see two or three people, and instead there were about fifteen sitting around in a circle in an open area, some playing guitar, some singing, some chit chatting, and most everyone having a beer or soda of choice. I noticed the Indonesian couchsurfer Freddy, and starting talking with him about Indonesia and we hit it off immediately. As the night progressed, I found that most of these surfers were all working for organizations that fight for Burmese human rights, or enviromental awareness or education. These were all good hearted individuals and it was a pleasure to share a drink with them and discuss life under the moonlight.

Freddy offered to host me at his apartment for the weekend and I accepted, there was a lot to talk about and Freddy was a really unique individual. 36 years old, he lives life to the full. To give you some background, he has over 2000 facebook friends, and over 140 good references on couchsurfing. I have 30 references and have been a member for 4 years. TO get 140 references takes a LOT of experiences. I was looking forward to the weekend.

Chiang Mai

As the weekend took place, I ate well, explored water falls, spent time with other couchsurfers like Evan from the US, Nicole from Germany, Pan from Burma, Marie from England, John from New York and Sonja who is half Swiss/Half Thai. We went to a K-POP show that was sponsored by MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) It was a free concert that raised awareness to human trafficking and how to not fall victim. Lots of trafficking happens in the Northern Thai and Burmese villages, so it was really good to spread the message to the 10+ thousand screaming teenagers in the audience. I tell you, the K-POP band, Super Junior is big stuff out here!

Super Junior M. N'Sync meets South Korea.

The weekend continued and Freddy played a great host taking me around town on his Moto bike and showing me the sites. Throughout the weekend we had some of the deepest and realist conversations I have had in a while. It was fully comfortable and refreshing to me to talk to Freddy and we found we had more in common than we thought. We shared stories of our lives by a river in a rainforest listening to the birds and insects. Some rain fell down, it was a lovely time and I was thankful.

Freddy and I enjoying an American breakfast, my treat. It's always nice to thank your hosts whether that be through a bottle of wine, a meal or flowers.

After 4 days, I had to leave and it was back to Bangkok.

I think this is enough for now, stay tuned for Shawn’s latest post properly titled “Bangkok’d!”

Bangkok comes next post~

Thanks for reading~~~~~~

S-21 Tuol Sleng

In Travel on June 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm

So let’s recap here….

April 9-May 4, China travel in Beijing and Xian

May 4-May 22, South Korea travel, Seoul, Busan, Gyeong-Ju

May 22-June 20 (Today) Cambodia travel, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

Currently, I am in a bungalow about 70 meters away from the ocean. It feels good to be by the salt air again, it always has been a natural environment for me, and I suspect it will continue to be so…

Cambodia thanks you for coming

It’s been almost a month since I’ve stayed in Cambodia, and the trip has been thoroughly enjoyed and experienced. I’ve traveled in a circle around the whole country, met some amazing people doing good works, made many new Cambodian friends, experienced an ancient history and a more recent history that had a severe effect of the people.

Tuol Sleng S-21. A place where lots of people were interrogated and killed during the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-79.

One cannot come to Cambodia without knowing about the Khmer Rouge. The “Killing Fields” and the genocide that occurred post Vietnam war in the seventies in Cambodia are well known and are visited tourist sites in country. Estimates are about 1.7-2.5 million of the existing 8 million people at that time were killed or died of disease. It was a horrific time in the history of the people.

Coming to understand the truth of how such killings can take place is depressing, numbing and stirs up anger.

It is good though to see some of the sites that still exist today like Auschwitz and Tuol Sleng, because they reaffirm what we DO NOT want to see happen again.

Unfortunately, today there are people being tortured, being held against their will, having their rights taken away. We do what we can in our own power to prevent such injustices from happening, and to practice accountability and oversight.

Blood on the floor, 30 years later.

When in Cambodia, I talked to a good many people, but the Khmer Rouge period was hardly mentioned. While it is a time in history that affected the whole country, the Cambodians would rather forget that period happened. I don’t blame them, many people died and those that survived were psychologically affected. Maybe that’s why Cambodians love to watch horror films here so much.

Some people have yet to be tried, and some are being tried finally after years of still living. There are still Khmer Rouge in the current Cambodian government. They are proposing making an amusement park next to Pol Pots grave, for “tourism.” Pol Pot was the driving force behind the Khmer Rouge. I say Screw that.

It’s a downer post I know, but it had to be written sometime.

Cambodia has been wonderful to visit. There is much happening here, and there is hope for the future development of this nation. More and more people are becoming educated in the arts, sciences, business and hopefully will use these skills for more than just providing for their own way of life, which is very easy to fall into here. Corruption wafts around…Especially the 4 x 4 Lexus vehicles one sees around town…

But besides all the corruption that exists in this country, there is a friendliness that is bestowed to the foreigner. Whether it be genuine or not, it is given and I have struck up good conversations with many Taxi tuk tuk drivers, restaurant workers, business owners, internet cafe employees, guesthouse keepers, merchants of the markets and youth and children. If you come to Cambodia, it won’t be difficult to get around and be given assistance into what you need.

I’m leaving the country in a couple of days, Thailand calls and it shall be a good time I imagine. Already I have prepared to stay at the best Hilton in Bangkok for a couple of nights thanks to my acquired hotel points stays. I’ll text you while I’m in the pool 70 floors up in the air.

Cheers!

Shawn

To all my friends

In Personal Update on June 13, 2011 at 7:41 am

To all my friends..

Thank you for keeping in touch with me while I travel. It’s really quite a bit easier to keep in touch these days as a traveler. Anyone can text, call, skype, or email. This wasn’t always the case. People sent postcards and saw each other when they did. :)

I remember going to slow internet cafes in 2002, there were no cell phones that worked internationally and expensive phone cards could be bought every once in a while to call home.

Now, you can buy a sim card for cheap, call in country to anyone you need to get in touch with and Skype call to your friends off your phone for 3 cents a minute. It works well for the traveler.

So Wanna see some pictures?

Getting some climbing in at a Japanese guesthouse.

In a village

Well for children at school to drink at

I spent about 10 days in Siem Reap, soaking in the culture, making friends with the local Cambodians and expatriates, visiting some of the rural villages and of course, Angkor Wat was enjoyed for a couple of days.

Travel for me isn’t just to “see” places and do “cool” activities. You can go see the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and the Great Wall and while they are amazing feats of engineering, the reality is that they are all overcrowded with tourists everyday. I did enjoy seeing them all, but after a while, most of the famous monuments of this world start to look the same.

For me, travel isn’t even travel. Travel is living for me. At some point in your travel life, you evolve from a tourist to what I term a “global citizen.” We are all on this planet together, let’s learn from each other, and help each other as needed. The world is large…There are over 260 countries, tens of thousands of languages, a vast array of cuisine, music and environment. A wealth of ideas, businesses and family structures. Relationships, love and marriage looks different everywhere.

One thing to factor in this life is the physical ability we all may or may not currently have going for us. For me, as a man going onto 30 years, I am still quite active and have all my physical and mental abilities intact and strong. While I still have use of all these faculties, I plan to use them while I can and do “adventurous” things like travel around Asia. My “creature comforts” have not settled in yet, though I expect they will in time.

Once you have your own family, these circumstances change yes. Once you get over 40, you may begin to have some physical issues. One of the top things people said to their caregivers while on their deathbed, was “I wish I lived out my dreams and did what I could when I was physically able to.” If you wait till retirement, unfortunately, it may be too late. Live your dreams now. You may think it’s difficult now, but you have to think differently. Anything can happen.

I have seen much of the world already, I recognize I have a unique vision and voice, and my current goal is to expand and sharpen that vision, build partnerships with other like-minded individuals and groups for future collaboration and support, and to just simply give some love, however possible, to a country that is limited and being tied down.

Sambath, a good friend I made. He started a school to bring education to 1400 children.

There are others in the world, who are committed to seeing people helped. Simple things like basic education are lacking in a country like Cambodia. Teachers will get paid $40 a month, and they may only be interested in the paycheck, not the real education of the kids. If the kids suffer from abuse at home, who can they turn to? Will the education they receive from the state really do anything for their future? Likely not.

I met a man named Sambath and he showed me his school he started. Kids in Cambodia go to the state school from either 7am-1pm or 1pm to 7pm.

They then can go to an additional school in their free time. This is the school that Sambath created. In it, kids have specific focus tracks like english, computers, sports, agriculture or teaching. 700 kids come in the morning, and 700 kids come in the afternoon. There are about 30 teachers, some of which are foreigners.

I visited the school and enjoying seeing “real change” in action. Here, children could really have an opportunity to build specific skills beyond what the state could provide. They were happy on the campus, they had fresh water from the wells at the school and materials and resources to learn from. I played some soccer with the kids and had a blast. Reminded me of when I played soccer with kids in Mexico back when I first starting doing volunteer trips.

Water anyone?

I am continuing to be blessed while here in Cambodia. I have connected with people from YWAM here, which was an organization I used to work for. I had stayed with contacts in YWAM in the town of Battambang for 4 nights, and when I left Battambang for Siem Reap, I ended up running into them again! The funny thing is, I was hanging out with another YWAM group, and so I connected them together! Funny how things work like that, but they’ve happened so much in my life, I don’t react as crazy as I used to, I just smile slightly and go about my way.

Thanks for reading

My buddy Samboan taking a break while enjoying a cool beverage.

Ywamers driving down to Phnom Penh

In the warm tropical Siem Reap

In Travel on June 9, 2011 at 5:37 am

So, it’s been a few days since I posted last. I’ll keep this short and sweet for those interested in what I’ve been doing…

Jasmine encourages relaxing, and that's a good thing every so often.


*Been staying at the Jasmine Lodge, making good friends with the owner, staff, housekeeping and tuk tuk drivers. I’m watching how the owner manages a place like this in SE Asia.

*Making friends with local Expats, english teachers, and even attended a local international church picnic.

*Went a 2nd day to Angkor, still beautiful.

*Eating some great food. Lok Lok, Amok, and rice dishes.

*Met one YWAM team here in Siem Reap from Paris, and connected them to another YWAM team from Kona when we all collided at a restaurant.

*Went rock climbing on a wall in a Japanese guesthouse.

*Having good conversations all around and look forward to seeing friends later this weekend.

That’s it. :)

one most amazing day at Angkor

In Travel on June 2, 2011 at 5:37 am

I woke up in the morning with a dream that had given me a strong message. While waiting for my Tuk tuk driver to come pick me up from the Jasmine lodge, I enjoyed the morning sun and the high 70’s weather slowly rising to higher temperatures.

Sun is shining, the weather is bright...

We departed, I had my pack set, water, check…Nice ripe mango, check, Cambodian avocado, check. Fuji apples, check, rambutan and mangosteen fruits, check…bread, some funds, camera…Scarf for neck, sunglasses for eyes, small pair of scissors to cut fruit with..let’s do this!

I came to the gate, paid my entrance fee and we started to cruise down a street that was bordered by a big forest. I started to smile, for I was about to engage in an adventure and exploration that would likely make an imprint on my mind for life. When given those opportunities, I try to make it a beautiful memory.

Already giving the thumbs up as we enter~

We entered into the open, WOW! I could see Angkor Wat, the large moat surrounding it, the sub-tropical rain forest spread everywhere. Where was I??

let the forest engulf you..

Here I was…Angkor.

Angkor is spread out throughout many miles. There isn’t just one temple, there are many and they are all over. I decided I’d let my Tuk tuk driver Vandee be the navigator since this is his job quite often and he’s getting to know me and my interests, (like when I’m looking up at the forest going, this is amazing!) so I’ll let him be the judge of what he thinks I will appreciate.

I got to Angkor Wat first, Vandee tells me to meet him on the other side. I begin to look at this magnificent structure and the vastness surrounding it. I walk slowly… I got all day and this is a day to simply explore and let it unfold.

I step on large stones across the moat, I try to understand the significance of this location, this temple as it was utilized before, this design and it’s symbolism. I enter in…

I’m greeted by a couple of guys who say, “here light incense for temple before entering.” He hands me some incense sticks, tells me to say a prayer for family, friends and good luck with girlfriend. It can’t hurt, and I’m a praying man, so I close my eyes, say a prayer and stick the incense before the Buddha Shiva. They offer me some green plum berries from the grounds and I chat for a bit. They give me some chili salt to go with the sour berries and it’s nice. They think it’s funny I enjoy them. Fruit from the temple grounds, brilliant…Whoa! Did I just see a monkey run by outside??

Time for me to go inside….

I look at the path ahead of me. It’s stone, wide and goes directly to the temple. I can imagine what my experience would be like if I walked down this path ahead of me, sprinkled here and there with some fellow Korean and Chinese visitors. But, if you know me, you know I don’t always follow the path everyone else is on. I go on the path not many people tread, and find that path most if not always very rewarding.

So I veered to the right as I admired the walls and intricate designs and noticed a trail head. I started to walk and immediately noticed some of the massiveness of the trees here. I continued to walk slowly…Smelling, breathing, listening…Looking.

self portrait 1

The forest caught my attention and I wondered in awe over the life there, the big trees, and how lots of water encourages all sorts of growth.

I entered the temple~

Amazing, unique and intact.

self portrait 2

So I walked out of Angkor Wat after a good hour or so and headed to meet up with Vandee. Wow! Check out that tree!

I got back to Vandee and we drove to another temple site. There I saw my first massive stone face that had been imprinted in my mind over the years….I saw some unique ruins, saw some more amazing trees and met some very sweet little girls. I couldn’t resist purchasing some bracelets and flutes from them.

Stone face with even more beautiful faces down below :)

I've never seen a triple trunk tree this big ever. Amazing.

self portrait 3

Nice cambodian family who works in the temple

Then Vandee and I trekked over to “Ta Phrom.”

Tuk Tuk driver taking a rest

"Ta Phrom"

Hello Tree

Nature moves in mysterious ways...

I had some lunch…Mmmmm, avocado and apple sandwich..Some water, fruit. Vandee didn’t want any, he said he already had eaten. But I offered three times, just to be sure.

Vandee took me to some other temples~

Man these steps are STEEP! Can't do this when you're retired! SP 5.

Yes, there are steps beyond what you cannot see in this photo. Crazy steep!

It was an amazing day, truly one of the most amazing days of my life. This vast land was magical and I enjoyed the day thoroughly. Trekking through this garden, I’m reflective of how the earth used to be when it wasn’t inhabited by as many people. The forests were big, lots of animals, clear water abounding…Makes me wonder how heaven can be. Today in some ways was like heaven. It was just a perfect day. I hope someday you will be able to travel here. It is most definitely worth it.

Photo by "Vandee"

I close off with a photo that defines my day and Angkor for me. Thanks for reading~

The End.

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