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Monday, March 29, 2010

Moving on......

So, since Taupo ( a city I really liked and could have spent more time in) we have moved on to 1 day in River Valley which was also really really cool. It was a tiny lodge right by a river in a valley (surprise) and we were far away from everything! We had electricity of course but, not much else. There was 50 of us all in this lodge and there was outdoor stuff to do but that was it.

It was really nice to get away from it all and just relax. A lot of people went white water rafting but, it was quite expensive and I have done it before so I took a pass on it. I just relaxed and trekked around a bit. We slept in a big room on mattresses all right next to each other! That was interesting haha but it was all good :) I have really made some great friends on this trip and our driver Ringo is awesome!

After we had our day in River Valley we left for the capital city of Wellington where I am now. It is a larger city and there is a lot to do I went to a really cool museum all about New Zealand and had some great food here so far. I haven't done to much else as of yet. Tomorrow I leave for Nelson finally on the south island! It will be a 3 hour ferry ride down there so wish me luck! I leave early in the AM :(

I guess that is it for now folks, yall take care now-Tyler

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot,Hot like fire....

Last night I went with some friends I met from the Kiwi Experience bus to some natural hot springs here in Taupo. It was really really relaxing just to grab a beer and go sit there in bubbling hot springs. It got quite hot and some points but luckily we were also close to another part of the lake that was freezing cold so we had the perfect balance of hot and cold.

I really enjoyed just relaxing there doing nothing but having a cold one and talking with new friends. Those really are the best moments of all my travels is just doing stuff like that. In this part of New Zealand it is very rural as I said before so there was no light pollution and you could see all the stars perfectly. It was great.

After that we went out for a bit longer at an Irish bar had a few drinks then called it a night. I slept late this morning for the first time on this tour because we had 2 days here and today the day is mine to do whatever I want. It was awesome to catch up on my sleep and just have the day to myself. I am enjoying New Zealand so far.

Well that is it for now. Yall take care,Tyler

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Glow Worms and the Caves

Today we stopped in a little town called Waitomo. A lot of the places here in New Zealand are really rural and small. Totally different from the wild east coat of Australia I was on. The landscape is totally different here as well. I actually think there is more natural beauty here in New Zealand than I have seen in Australia but here is just as expensive if not more :(

I had the chance to go "caving" today. We went to an underground cave and the water was about 10 degrees C or about 35 degrees F. We had wet suits but it was still COLD! It was really really awesome though. We had great guides named Ryan and Monkey and they were so funny and informative. We got to see glowing fly larvae called "glow worms" when you turned your lights off in the cave and let it go all dark you could see them light up on the ceiling with bio luminescence and it was really cool! I had a great time.

Other than that I saw a sheep shearing show that had a lot in it and the guy was very informative and entertaining and I learned more about Sheep shearing and farming than I ever thought possible. We saw a lot of tricks with the dogs and sheep and there was even geese! It was pretty neat. Tomorrow we are off to another town with more activities I am sure. I really am enjoying the bus tour and the people on it.

Talk at ya later-Ty

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Truckin down the Road....

So I made it to Auckland safely and spent the weekend there with a friend. Then I started my bus tour. It was Kiwi Experience. Different than I expected because I thought they just took you from point A to point B but in reality they actually force you to make different stops with them along the way. It really isn't so bad though, there is 50 people on my bus and they are really cool. You are allowed to stay as long as you want in one place or just stay the 1 day they allow for each place.

So far I have only stayed one day in each place but they always have an activity for you to do and a cool tour guide/bus driver named Ringo. Some of the activities you have to pay for and some are free. It really is your choice as to what you do. So far I have seen a really cool gold mine for free and also been to a city that smells of sulfur and rotten eggs but I paid to see a really cool Geo Thermal Park there.

New Zealand has been more beautiful than I expected for sure. It is cold here but I do like it. Tomorrow I will be doing some underwater caving/tubing so that should be great! I cant wait :) back on the bus for more stops until we finally get to Christ Church. I did see "lord of the rings town" that was neat. I will stay maybe 2 or 3 days extra in some town before I end this journey. I am just not sure where I want to pick up the extra days yet. Its all good so far though.

I guess that is all for now. take care,Tyler

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Zealand

So, after 2 days in Australia resting and getting used to the western world ( and western world prices) :(  I left for  New Zealand. After the usual bull crap at the airport I made it thru and landed safely in Auckland where my friend picked me up. She has been a great hostess. The first night we went out and I got to go to my first real rugby game! It was pretty exciting for me.

It is alot colder here in NZ than it was in Australia and definitely much colder than Asia so I am having to get used to that. I have some more friends I will meet up with here in NZ and I am gonna join a hop on hop off bus tour soon which will take me down to the south island and all over the north island so that should be fun!

For the first time since I left America in Nov. I got to eat Wendy's! You know the hamburger place, it wasn't EXACTLY the same but it was close. It was SO  good to finally have a little taste of home way over here on this side of the world. Not only that, but I also got to meet a famous kiwi TV star. Now I had no idea who he was but he was just out eating alone at a local fast food joint. I guess since there is only 4 million people in all of NZ their stars are just much more accessible. That would never ever happen in America. But I got his autograph just for good measure and he was actually a pretty cool guy.

I haven't done too much else noteworthy just yet but I am enjoying my time here and it should be good. I still find myself comparing things a little too much to the Asian world and I need to get out of that mindset because there is nothing in this part of the world that will be as cheap or as accessible as it was in Thailand.

Well I guess thats it for now. I will update yall more when I move from Auckland. -Ty

Asian Reflections

So I wrote this blog once before but it all got erased so I am giving it another go. I just wanted to write about my time in Asia. I really loved it there more than I ever thought I would. My original plan was to spend a little bit of time in Thailand,Laos,Cambodia and Vietnam splitting my time equally between all of the countries. What actually ended up happening was I spent almost all of my time in Thailand, a week in Laos and a week in Cambodia with no time in Vietnam ( that will be for next time) I love being able to just change my plans whenever and where I need too.

Thailand: Thailand really amazed me on so many levels that was by far my favourite country and the only country (besides Australia) I have visited that I can honestly say I could live in. Not forever of course but for a while. At first it was just such a culture shock to me because they do everything SO different in Asia. I saw alot of stuff that would give occupational health and safety guys a heart attack! They aren't purposely unsafe over there I just think that is how its always been. They just dont know any better. I took some scary journeys along the way with some dodgy transport but I managed to leave Asia without a scratch. So it can be done :)

My favourite city in Thailand was up north, in Chang Mai. I loved the beautiful jungle being so close and the people were so chilled out and relaxed it was great there. I had a love hate relationship with Bangkok some stuff I loved about it but I really didn't enjoy people trying to use you like an ATM because you were a tourist or the pollution or the loud noises but even Bangkok holds its charms.

Down south in the islands it was beautiful there. It was quite expensive just due to it being the high tourist season but, I loved just relaxing on the islands chilling out and as you have seen from my pictures I was lucky enough to work on my tan. So I really traveled Thailand pretty much north to south and I loved it all. I had such a great time there I may accept a job there to teach English for a year. But I will for sure be going back.

Laos: I spent a week in Laos, I crossed over the border from Thailand into Laos. The border crossing took a bit and it cost 35 American Dollars but once I made it into Laos it was worth it! It was like a "break" from Thailand. As much as I loved Thailand sometimes it just got a little crazy there. Laos was so beautiful and so relaxed. I went down south to the 4,000 islands and literally did nothing and loved it. They didn't even really have consistent electricity but it was so cheap there and you could just sit on the beach and relax and at night you could watch the stars. I saw freshwater dolphins and alot of amazing things and no one hassled you in Laos. You wouldn't know it but, on a sad note... Laos is the most heavily mined country in the world and its neighbour Cambodia is number 2 due to the Vietnam war and other wars there is land mines everywhere and there is a ton of amputee victims due to land mine explosions. I stayed on clearly marked paths and came out of there with all my fingers and all my toes.

Cambodia: For me personally I just didn't enjoy Cambodia and wont be returning. It was loud,extremely filthy like they didn't even make any kind of an effort to clean up their own country,it was poor and there was beggars EVERYWHERE! Now I can understand up to a point why people beg for money over there because in the Asian countries there is absolutely no social safety net and if you are poor then you just work until you die. But there is actually a real "beggar fatigue" issue over there. You just get hit up for money so much by so many people it just makes you crazy!

I did go to S21 and The Killing Fields which is where Pol Pot and his insane political group tried to "purify" the country of Cambodia in 4 years between 1975-1979. In that time I total of 3-4 million Cambodians died of various causes but just at S21 alone they murdered 17,000 people with only 7 surviving. I have blogged previously about my experiences there. It was good to see that Cambodia is not denying what happened but it was just extremely hard for me to go thru. I dont regret it I just wouldn't do it again. Really the only thing I honestly enjoyed about Cambodia was getting my massage by Nika who was totally blind but gave an amazing massage! Best one I have ever had and going to Angkor Wat. Not all of Cambodia is a bad place and many people love it, it just wasn't for me. I am still glad I went though.

So all in all I really did love Asia and actually when I got back to Australia the first night even though I hadn't been in Asia THAT long it was SO strange coming back to the western world. It really honestly felt alien to me. I felt as if I didn't belong and everything was different. I kinda went into a depression like state for a day or 2 and I couldn't sleep well. I asked my other friends about this who have been to Asia and they report the same. Its just so different coming back to the civilized world.

What I dont miss is the stupid "frog ladies" of Bangkok (those of you who have been know what I am talking about) it is these ladies who walk around and make this insane strumming frog noise over and over trying to attract your attention. It makes me crazy! I dont miss loud tuk tuk drivers trying to get your business ( Where you go?!) I dont miss multiple people a day trying to offer me a suit I dont need or want for a "special price" and I dont miss little kids who want to sell me flowers or thumb wrestle or play pool  with me for money because they ALWAYS win and when you fork your money over to them they dont even get to keep it. Children selling books or flowers or anything are just basically forced into a form of slavery for their greedy or sometimes poor parents who keep the money. They should be in school like normal kids but they aren't. I even saw a girl who was FOUR years old selling stuff. It really is a shame there is no social safety net for people in Thailand.

Well I guess thats it for now. Hopefully my blog actually saves and publishes this time. I dont want to write all this again. -Tyler

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sea of Red

Originally I had heard so many horror stories about the demonstrations going on here in Bangkok, everyone was saying farang ( The Thai word for foreigners) should stay inside etc etc. I was slightly worried just due to all this hype. This morning I would say about at least 500,000 "red shirts" shut down the city protesting the govt.

Well my friend and I are studying Thai, we each bought books so we decided to go to a nearby local park to study. We got there and were surrounded by the red shirt people. At first we were a little nervous but we soon realised these people are not out to hurt farang at all. They love us foreigners and depend on our tourism. So I got around to asking one of them who spoke English what they were protesting.

Apparently from what I understand the people of Thailand elected a prime minister and recently the military overthrew him because they said he was corrupt. As far as I can tell they haven't offered the people of Thailand any proof and they just installed some other guy in his place. So obviously the people are angry. So all the people of Thailand want is a chance to vote again in a new election to elect someone of their choice. A reasonable request I think.

So, we get to talking to this guy and he tells us we can join him at the rally. We figure why not? So we walk down there and there is I would say at least 500,000 Thai's in red shirts clogging the streets protesting and wanting a new govt. People there are happy and chanting and singing not screaming and getting angry. This is totally a non violent thing. I felt quite out of place at first with my friend being one of the very few Farang (foreigners) there. But the Thai's made us feel like Rock Stars! Everyone just acted like I was their best friend even if they didn't speak a lick of English and there was even a monk who hugged me! We also saw a foreign guy leading a protest chant and I asked him what the words he was saying meant, and he said he didnt even know! I was at least informed enough on the issue to know what I was doing there.

They all wanted pictures taken with me and to talk to me and give me free stuff like water etc.... I was amazed! At first I just went down there out of pure curiosity but they thanked me for supporting them and after I actually learned what and why they were protesting I do support them. The police/military WAS there but they were on the outskirts and they didn't harm anyone nor did anyone harm them. I can see this will be a totally not dangerous non violent thing unless either a protester gets angry or the police/military come down hard and hurt someone.

Tomorrow is the "deadline" for the change in the govt to happen so I wont be going down there tomorrow just in case things get heated but overall it was a really good experience for me to see people actually trying to make a change in their govt and doing something about it. In America I seriously doubt 500,000 people would assemble for anything. Either out of pure laziness or just not caring. But, also on the flip side of the coin we are lucky to have a govt that might not be GREAT but it has been and hopefully always will be elected by the people for the people so we dont have these issues.I wish I would have had my camera to take pictures but sadly I left it in the room not thinking I would be needing it for anything.

So long story short I had an interesting but safe day and I plan to make it back to Australia in one piece :)
On a Happier note I found the coolest little bar here on Soi Ko San ( Ko San Road) called The Happy Bar (go figure) the owner and his sister run the place along with a friend and it is literally just big enough to fit 9 people max but it is such a relief from the loud craziness of Ko San and you can actually talk and get to know people its great I really do love it there and I will miss it when I am gone. I do have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok for sure but I guess overall I will miss it. Tomorrow I shall write my Asian Reflections Blog. I guess that is all for now.

Yall take care,Ty

Friday, March 12, 2010

My journey with a monk

On my way back to Bangkok from Cambodia I sat on the bus next to a monk. His English was ok but not great, so I didn't get to ask him everything I wanted to ask him but, I did find out that every boy has to be a monk for 2 years or so and after that they can decide whether they want to continue in the lifestyle or not. He seemed like a nice kid I would guess he was about 18 or so. Now monk's aren't supposed to have cell phones or any technology but the younger monks I have seen sure do like to break the rules. He was chatting on a mobile phone for quite a while. I have seen monk's smoking and I even saw a monk stick his tongue out and whistle at a girl! They aren't allowed to speak to women directly, I guess to avoid temptation but they are only human. I respect them for what they do but it must  be a hard lifestyle.

Once I got back to Bangkok I just hung out with some friends and met some new friends. On the bus I met an Isreali guy and a girl from Switzerland. I also met a guy from California on the street and we all went out together and had a good time. I am tossing around the idea of coming back to Thailand to teach English here. I really do love it so  I will do some more investigating and see how that goes. Life is good here, its a little wild and crazy here in Bangkok but nothing I cant handle.

After being in Asia almost 6 weeks with no stomach problems at all just yesterday I got a touch of the stomach bug. It was a bad night for me but I am on meds now and I will pull thru. They say 85% of travelers get it at some point in their trip. I almost lasted my whole time with no issues though! I am hoping to be 100% better soon. They call it "The Bangkok Belly" You gotta watch out for the street food here when it gets hot outside sometimes you need to watch what you eat but, I will live. I leave Asia in 4 days :( back to Oz for 2 days then on to NZ. But it should be good.

Well I am done for today. Yall take care. -Tyler

Monday, March 08, 2010

Happy stuff/Sad stuff

Seeing those clothes from S21 is still haunting me. As I said before that museum was much more in your face than others I have been too. They at least cleaned the clothes that were displayed in the tourist part but these clothes still had blood clearly on them. I mean it wasn't like I saw dead bodies but I guess it was just seeing that giant pile of clothes that was taller than me and realising that they belonged to men,women and children who are no longer alive because of 1 crazy man's idea to "purify"a country that an entire generation of people are dead and gone.

They had pictures on the wall of some of the people who died there. (out of 20,000 at S21 only 7 survived) I did a quick calculation of the pictures and there was about 4000 photos. Every single one of those people died. It was hard for me to go there and see that but honestly it was good. It just shows that humans have the capacity for great good or great evil. At least the Cambodian people are not trying to brush it under the rug and are confronting their history and trying to make it right. The killing fields was sad too, that is where men women and even babies a whole lot of babies were killed. There is over 16,000 skulls there in a glass case. That glass case just seems to go on forever. I wont ever forget this. But, I dont regret seeing it.

On a happier note, I have seen a lot of cool stuff here in Cambodia many cool statues and monuments. As well as getting the best massage of my life. It was a "Japanese style" massage totally different from a Thai Massage (which is good as well) but the biggest difference is she was totally blind.

The girl who did my massage has been blind since birth. But, since she couldn't see obviously her sense of touch was amazing. I didn't even have to tell her where my tough spots were. She knew I have been backpacking due to the knots in my shoulders, she knew after feeling my kidneys that I dont drink enough water (I am really trying!) she even knew sometimes I slouch instead of sit straight up. She knew all that without even asking me anything. She also spoke perfect English despite living in Cambodia her whole life. The whole massage for an hour cost me 9 USD and I got to help her out as well. It really was a great experience I wont forget! Check her out, her name is Nika she is on Youtube!

Also, I have tied my record now, I have seen a dad, a mom, and 3 kids all on 1 motorbike built for MAYBE 2 people haha. Crazy Asian drivers!  I dont know how they do it. They just drive anything,anywhere anytime. Cambodia has the most beggars I have ever seen as well its really sad its so poor here and a ton of land mine victims too :( but enough sad stuff!

Oh ya, Lukie its the 9th here today. I cant believe you are 15 now! I remember when you were just a little baby..... ah the memories.... I have your present. You will get it as long as you dont wreck my new car :)

Soon we will head back to Bangkok in Thailand but we have 1 more day here in Cambodia. Yall take care,Ty

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cambodia so far....

So I have a lot to write about.... Well I crossed the border from Laos to Cambodia but not before a long and drawn out process. Basically I had to pay 23 USD dollars for a 1 month visa to Cambodia plus 3 dollars in "guard fees" aka bribes and after roughly 4 hours I managed to get into Cambodia in 1 piece. Thats just Asia for ya.

After getting into Cambodia I stayed 1 night in Kratie which to me was nothing special and really just another dirty city. I am sure it has some good points but, Cambodia is by far the poorest dirtiest country I have ever been too. There is beggars everywhere and people always want your money. It is really sad because most of them really need  it but you cant give it to them because if you give to one there is 20 other beggars who can see it and all want your money too. Cambodia is also the hottest country I have ever been too. it is boiling here with the humidity too!

After one day in Kratie I decided to skip Siem Reap with Angkor Wat and the beautiful temples ( supposed to be the 8th wonder of the world) due to the high cost in getting there and paying to see all the temples, and head directly to Phomn Phen. It was there that Kev and I met a really cool couple from Holland and we have been hanging out with them for a while.

We went to "The Killing Fields and S21" together. Those are the places in the 1970's where the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot killed over 3 million Cambodians between 1975-1979. I have been to concentration camps in Germany and stuff like that but these places were so much more "in your face" than anything I have ever seen before. There was still dried blood on the walls at S21. They had a room of photos of prisoners taken when they entered the S21 death camp, none of the people survived. There was over 4000 photos there. 20,000 people came into S21 and only 7 survived. It was good to see but very hard for me to go thru emotionally.

I accidentally got myself into an area not meant for tourists I think. I was trying to get out of the S21 Camp area and I went down 3 levels of stairs thinking I was going out the building. I didn't see any signs of any kind but I actually walked down into a basement type area. In that area was a mountain of clothes taller than me. much taller than me, the clothes still had blood clearly on them 35 years later. It was clearly the victims clothes and unfortunately  the image of that I think will be with the rest of my life. It was very powerful and sad and I wish I hadn't seen that. Babies were killed, adults,children,old people,educated people,poor people. It didn't matter. Entire generations lost. This just really showed me that humanity has the capacity for great compassion or great horror just due to the crazy people out there. It was really sad. Most people died there weren't even executed. They died from torture. The worst part is that almost every "leader"in the Khmer Rouge including Pol Pot escaped justice by just dying of natural causes. Not one of them has been brought to justice yet. It was good to see all that but very sad. I took a few pictures but honestly it was so depressing there I didn't take many and I doubt I will even share them all. You just need to go there and experience it for yourself.

After that we went onto happier times for dinner and drinks which was good but, we had to eat by candle light due to a city wide black out in Phomn Phen. There was no power at all! but it was actually kinda nice even if it was really hot! But they must be used to it because there was candles everywhere! Well that is all for now. I am safe and in a good guest house.

Until next time,Tyler

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

My time so far on the islands

So these islands here in Laos that we are staying on are so isolated and beautiful! We (sometimes) have electricity and (sometimes) have consistent running water for a shower but I dont mind at all. It is just really good to get away from the craziness for a while. I have seen some amazing sunsets that I have pictures of but pictures just dont do them justice I wish all of you could be here with me to see it!

The islanders are so nice and friendly and helpful. We have seen some amazing waterfalls and even are trying to spot some fresh water dolphins! We are staying at a guest house that definitely isn't the best as far as having the greatest rooms or beds or showers but "Mama and Papa" a Laotian couple run the place and they treat us just like their own children! They totally make up for the lack of creature comfort. They are the nicest,kindest most caring people ever! They bend over backwards for us! I will always remember them.

We also canoed quite far down the Mekong River but we got going quite fast downstream and close to a waterfall so rather than risk life and limb falling down a huge water (which was really beautiful by the way) we decided to turn back. I have actually put on about 4 pounds since I have been here in Asia that is a big deal to me! Food is so cheap here, but I still consider myself in fairly good shape. Canoing upstream against a strong current was one of the hardest things I have ever done though! It was SO tiring! We got passed up by two totally naked local boys who looked to be about 7 and they put us to shame! The locals are just so fit doing this stuff all the time their whole lives.

Oh, I did forget to mention the one good thing that happened in Pakse ( the city I was in before the islands) I got to eat dinner on a 7th storey roof top with an amazing view. I had a proper steak all the trimmings,beer and a dessert for 8 USD. Jealous huh? :) But on the downside I had  frustrating time waiting for my transport to take me to the VIP Bus down to the islands but all is well because I eventually got to the bus and got here so no worries just a little speed bump is all.

I have been so unplugged from anything North American related I really have no idea what is going on but I trust everything and everyone is well. So yall take care, til next time. -Ty