Last Stop: New York City

My final stop on my month long trip to Southeast Asia was to see friends in New York City. Somehow, even after living in Boulder for 4 years, I feel like I almost have more friends in NYC than anywhere else. It’s always great to visit (though, for the first time, it really made me quite sure I never wanted to live there).

1119-NYC-0004

My good friend and photographer, Luis Carducci

I stayed with my best friend from college, Melissa, and her husband Jeremiah, who also studied photography at my university, Indiana Wesleyan University. He’s a fashion photographer in the city and it’s always inspiring to see his work (check it out. Jeremiah Wilson). It’s also entertaining to watch him skateboard in style.

1221-NYC-0009 1221-NYC-0018 1221-NYC-0031 1221-NYC-0034 1221-NYC-0038 1221-NYC-0051 1221-NYC-0074 1221-NYC-0094 1221-NYC-0101 1221-NYC-0117 1221-NYC-0128 1221-NYC-0135 1221-NYC-0171 1221-NYC-0172 1221-NYC-0186 1221-NYC-0196

Jeremiah just bought a new Hasselblad 50C 50mp back that attaches to his antique Hasselblad body. So we went on a photo walk around Astoria.

1221-NYC-0227 1221-NYC-0228 1221-NYC-0229 1221-NYC-0234 1221-NYC-0235 1221-NYC-0236 1221-NYC-0239 1221-NYC-0240 1221-NYC-0247 1221-NYC-0251 1221-NYC-0257 1221-NYC-0259 1221-NYC-0266 1221-NYC-0268 1221-NYC-0271

After a month of travel, I was excited to be back in Boulder. I love that live in a place I’m excited to return to. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hong Kong Street Photography

The last stop on my trip in Asia was Hong Kong. I bought my flight out of there when I thought I was going to China, and it made sense in my trip trajectory, but I went to Cambodia instead and had to buy two additional flights from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and Bangkok to HK. I was almost out of the money I had borrowed from Xavi after my wallet had been stolen, and the guest houses in HK were far more expensive than where I had been staying in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. I had met a guy in Thakhek who lived in Hong Kong who said he could help me out. He connected me with a friend of his who also happened to run an AirBnB out of his apartment. Thankfully, Gordon let me crash on his couch despite having a paying AirBnB guest staying. An incredibly gracious host, Gordon met me at the train station, and showed me around his neighborhood with his girlfriend. I’m definitely indebted to him, I left Hong Kong with $3 US dollars. I would not have made it without his accommodations.

I had one full day to explore Hong Kong, and I spent the day photographing with a street photography mindset. I had a blast. Hong Kong was an incredibly fun city to explore.

1215-HongKong-0007 1215-HongKong-0006

1215-HongKong-0008

1215-HongKong-0010 1215-HongKong-0011

1215-HongKong-0012 1215-HongKong-0018 1215-HongKong-0071 1215-HongKong-0070 1215-HongKong-0025 1215-HongKong-0030 1215-HongKong-0031

1215-HongKong-0033 1215-HongKong-0036

1215-HongKong-0037 1215-HongKong-0042 1215-HongKong-0044 1215-HongKong-0045 1215-HongKong-0050 1215-HongKong-0051 1215-HongKong-0065 1215-HongKong-0073

1215-HongKong-0074 1215-HongKong-0076

1215-HongKong-0077 1215-HongKong-0085

1215-HongKong-0178

I got really into photographing people's shadows at a crosswalk.

1215-HongKong-0182 1215-HongKong-0202 1215-HongKong-0204 1215-HongKong-0205 1215-HongKong-0209 1215-HongKong-0211 1215-HongKong-0214 1215-HongKong-0215 1215-HongKong-0217 1215-HongKong-0223 1215-HongKong-0227 1215-HongKong-0236 1215-HongKong-0237 1216-HongKong-0242 1216-HongKong-0248 1216-HongKong-0254 1216-HongKong-0257 1216-HongKong-0263 1216-HongKong-0265 1216-HongKong-0272 1216-HongKong-0275 1216-HongKong-0276 1216-HongKong-0279 1216-HongKong-0280 1216-HongKong-0282 1216-HongKong-0283 1216-HongKong-0288 1216-HongKong-0293 1216-HongKong-0296 1216-HongKong-0299 1216-HongKong-0302 1216-HongKong-0305 1216-HongKong-0306 1216-HongKong-0314 1216-HongKong-0316 1216-HongKong-0321 1216-HongKong-0325 1216-HongKong-0326 1216-HongKong-0330 1216-HongKong-0333 1216-HongKong-0336 1216-HongKong-0340 1216-HongKong-0350 1216-HongKong-0344 1216-HongKong-0352 1216-HongKong-0358 1216-HongKong-0361 1216-HongKong-0369 1216-HongKong-0371 1216-HongKong-0375 1216-HongKong-0390 1216-HongKong-0395 1216-HongKong-0402 1216-HongKong-0413 1215-HongKong-0061 1215-HongKong-0064 1215-HongKong-0179 1216-HongKong-0383

My time in Southeast Asia was over. I decided to stay up all night so I could sleep better on my flights. It worked.  I flew to Shanghai, then the 15 or so hours to New York. As soon as we took off, I passed out for 8 hours! Hands down the best sleep on a plane I’ve ever had. I love seeing new places, eating new foods, but I especially love meeting new people.

I love seeing new places, eating new foods, but I especially love meeting new people. Travel feeds my soul.

Island Life – Koh Rong, Cambodia

I left from Siem Reap on a night bus, a reclined sleeper. It was the most unique setup I’ve seen on a bus. The “beds” were not completely flat, but mostly reclined, and your feet fit under the torso of the person in front of you. Bunk bed style. It was pretty comfortable, but if I had been any taller than 5’10” I can imagine it would be much less so.

1210-KohRong-0007

The bus arrived in Sihanoukville in the morning. Another westerner had made friends with a local that worked at a bar on Koh Rong, and he helped us get a tuk-tuk that took us to the touristy part of town. We could buy tickets for the boat in many of the shops there. The fast boat ran about 40 minutes and cost about $15, the slow boat takes 2 hours and costs $10, round trip. The choice was obvious, except the fast boat was sold out when I got around to trying to buy my ticket. Slow boat it was.

The passengers were picked up from one of the guest houses and dropped off at a random looking industrial building at the docks. Unsure of where we were supposed to go, we find a group of westerners and locals lounging around an area definitely not made for passengers. Looking around at the boats, it was pretty unclear which was the “slow boat” transport to the island. I kind of hoped it was the yellow junker. I got my wish.

1211-KohRong-0009

1211-KohRong-0017

1211-KohRong-0019

1211-KohRong-0028

Throughout my trip, I was trying to capture nice shots of my sweet Osprey Waypoint 80 that the company had sent me, but it was rare that I had the opportunity to set my bag down in a picturesque spot. I took this shot as proof of concept, and was waiting until we left the dock and possibly neared the island to take the money shot…then about 10 people sat on and all around my bag. Picture ruined.

1211-KohRong-0030 1211-KohRong-0033 1211-KohRong-0038

1211-KohRong-0045

1211-KohRong-0048

The boat was a little crowded, mixed with supplies for the island.

1211-KohRong-0049

1211-KohRong-0052

1211-KohRong-0063

1211-KohRong-0067

1211-KohRong-0079

1211-KohRong-0090

I spent 3 days on Koh Rong but didn’t take very many photos 2 of the 3 days. I was just enjoying the friends I was making and the atmosphere on the island. On the boat, I had met a couple from Belgium, and we kept running into each other on the island. We decided to take a hike across the island to Long Beach, a 7km long white sands beach. The trek over the “mountain” is pretty steep going up and down, and when we reached the beach there was military personnel everywhere on an industrial looking dock with construction all around. Not the pristine beach we were expecting.

We walked along the beach, and the further from the dock the nicer it became. At the end of the beach we could see a small village, we decided to try and reach that. On the way, we met a British guy swimming with three girls and we took a break with them. Joe, Pleun, Bridgette, and Katrin ended up tagging along with us. At the village, we could either take the boat back for $5, walk all the way back along the beach, which seemed to take forever, or attempt to walk across the middle of the island. I wanted to see more of the island, so I decided to take the path across the middle of the island, and Joe joined me. I’m glad he did, would have been a long, lonely walk through the completely unremarkable terrain. It was 2x as long as the way we’d come. And I was in flip flops – I never wear flip flops. In all we walked about 24 km, it was a bit more than I’d anticipated.

1212-KohRong-0096

1212-KohRong-0098

The only interesting thing on the entirety of the middle of the island.

The next couple of days I spent exploring the island, swimming, seeing the bioluminescent plankton, listening to some great music, dancing with the locals, and just spending time with a great group of friends. It’s amazing to me how you can meet random people from all over the world, spend a short, intense amount of time with them, and feel like you’ve known them forever. These short friendships feel so organic and natural, but also a bit bittersweet, since you never know if you’ll ever see them again. We had a girl from the Netherlands, two girls from Austria, two guys from Belgium, a guy from the UK, and myself – and we just clicked.

My last day on Koh Rong, we spend the day relaxing, reading,paddling in a kayak, and swimming, on a quiet beach a 30 minute or so hike from the main strip. It was the perfect relaxing end to the majority portion of my trip.

1213-KohRong-0112

Pleun enjoying the magazine she carried with her for the entirety of her trip.

1213-KohRong-0128

Bridgette and Katrin

1213-KohRong-0141

1213-KohRong-0144

Job getting cozy with the white sands

1213-KohRong-0187

1213-KohRong-0190

1213-KohRong-0192

1213-KohRong-0203

Flo from Belgium

1213-KohRong-0195

1213-KohRong-0197

Job from Belgium

1213-KohRong-0205

1213-KohRong-0209

 

1213-KohRong-0215

1213-KohRong-0226

The lovely Pleun (Ploon? Ploowen? Plown?) from the Netherlands

1213-KohRong-0229

And the lovely Bridgette from Austria

waveswaves21213-KohRong-0178 1213-KohRong-0180

I got really into photographing the waves

1213-KohRong-0234

1213-KohRong-0244

Every time I’m around the ocean I want to find an interesting bit of coastline to photograph at night. I love those eerily smooth ocean nightscapes. I struggled to find anything to make an interesting photograph, and I tried for probably an hour to take a shot of rocks in the crashing waves. But with no moon, there wasn’t enough light to make an image. When I was returning to the village I found this salamander eating bugs on a lamppost. It made the wasted hour worthwhile.

1213-KohRong-0252 1213-KohRong-0264 1213-KohRong-0267-HDR

The light in the morning, when I was heading towards the slow boat, was pretty incredible, and I was finally inspired to shoot photos of the island.

A little about the island. When you arrive at the docks you’re overwhelmed by locals trying to get you to stay in their guesthouses. The beachfront is full of loud bars spilling Westerners out onto the sand in varying degrees of drunkenness. Many of the bars have guesthouses directly above them; I would not recommend staying in these. They’re incredibly dirty and loud, and even though they might have a good price, I’d recommend walking south along the beach to find some quieter places off of the main strip. I found a nice, quiet guesthouse with dorms and private rooms, only a 2-minute walk from the strip. I was the only guest in the dorms and effectively paid $4/night for a private room.

It was a good end to my trip, just enough beach time to relax and fulfill that need for a couple years. From here, I made my way to Phnom Penh, and then onto Hong Kong. Thing of note: None of the hotels in Phnom Penh accept credit cards. Because I was operating on very limited cash after having my wallet stolen, a friend was trying to pay for my hotel for me. She thought she had done so, and I argued with the clerk for a while telling him my room was paid for, yet he insisted I pay him cash. Finally, he called a supervisor who told me that none of the hotels have the ability to accept credit cards, so it was impossible that she had pre-paid for the room. I paid the exorbitant fee of $15 for the night. In the morning, I walked across the street to the airport and flew Air Asia to Hong Kong.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia – The Temples from Tomb Raider

I’m pretty sure I’d heard the name Angkor Wat before I went to Asia, but I don’t think I realized what it is.

I rarely pay to go in attractions when I travel; I generally would rather be where the tourists are not. But everyone that I met in Siem Reap encouraged me to pay the $20 to enter Angkor Wat, so I did. I rode a Giant hardtail mountain bike to the ticket office right at 5pm, when they sell tickets for the next day. There was a huge line and tour buses lining the parking lot. Once you bought your ticket you could rush the 4km from the ticket office to the Angkor Wat temple to catch sunset on the temple. There was a mass of humans here, trying their best to all take award winning photos with their smartphones. The sun had mostly gone down by the time I found a spot on the lake in front of the temple. I quickly took some quintessential tourist shots and moved on, making my way into the temple.

1209-AngkorWat-0030-HDR

Pretty much as soon as I got in the temple, guards started ushering tourists back towards the road. The temple closes at sundown. I somehow slid past the guards and went to the backside of the temple grounds.

1209-AngkorWat-0044-HDR1209-AngkorWat-0032-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0063

I found a monk standing perfectly still on the far side of the temple. This was a long exposure, several seconds, and he doesn’t appear to move. I tried a second shot…

1209-AngkorWat-0064

and apparently kicked my tripod. Happy little accidents.

The next morning I woke up before sunrise to peddle as fast as I could the 8 kms to the complex. I think it took me around 20-25 minutes of basically sprinting on the bike. I was psyched I paid the $1 extra for the Giant mountain bike instead of the city bikes. I was blazing past other tourists on bikes like they weren’t even moving.

I raced past the Angkor Wat complex, since I already had photos of it, in order to find something of interest before the sun came up. I think I found just what I was looking for.

1209-AngkorWat-0125-HDR1209-AngkorWat-0119 1209-AngkorWat-0138 1209-AngkorWat-0139 1209-AngkorWat-0140 1209-AngkorWat-0141 1209-AngkorWat-0143 1209-AngkorWat-0146 1209-AngkorWat-0149-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0159-HDR

The temple had faces carved into so many of the surfaces

1209-AngkorWat-0160-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0168 1209-AngkorWat-0170 1209-AngkorWat-0174-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0181-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0187-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0203 1209-AngkorWat-0210-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0215 1209-AngkorWat-0221 1209-AngkorWat-0236 1209-AngkorWat-0275

I had successfully avoided the hoards of tourists, and basically had this temple to myself for the sunrise. I continued on, searching for whatever treasures I could find.
1209-AngkorWat-0284 1209-AngkorWat-0291-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0292 1209-AngkorWat-0353 1209-AngkorWat-0354 1209-AngkorWat-0367 1209-AngkorWat-0369

After only a short time, I got bored looking at temples. I started seeking out humans to photograph. I stopped at many of the vendors and asked to take their pictures.

1209-AngkorWat-02941209-AngkorWat-03021209-AngkorWat-03041209-AngkorWat-03061209-AngkorWat-03091209-AngkorWat-03131209-AngkorWat-03141209-AngkorWat-03161209-AngkorWat-03181209-AngkorWat-03221209-AngkorWat-03261209-AngkorWat-03281209-AngkorWat-03321209-AngkorWat-03341209-AngkorWat-03351209-AngkorWat-03391209-AngkorWat-03401209-AngkorWat-03411209-AngkorWat-03431209-AngkorWat-03441209-AngkorWat-03461209-AngkorWat-03481209-AngkorWat-03491209-AngkorWat-03511209-AngkorWat-0371I found a trail that looked like it could accommodate my bike, which led from one temple structure to another. I came across a group of Cambodian tourists following a boy monk.

1209-AngkorWat-0389

One of my favorite photos from the trip.

1209-AngkorWat-0390 1209-AngkorWat-0392 1209-AngkorWat-0395 1209-AngkorWat-0396

The trees in the complex were some of my favorite things.

1209-AngkorWat-0397 1209-AngkorWat-0399 1209-AngkorWat-0402-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0403-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0419 1209-AngkorWat-0421-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0430 1209-AngkorWat-0431 1209-AngkorWat-0442-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0457-HDR

Finally, after a lot of searching, I found Ta Prohm, the temple used in Angelina Jolie’s “Tomb Raider”. It was one of the more interesting temples because of the interaction between nature and man-made. But sadly, I got there at the same time as the hoard of tourists, so I didn’t get too many good photos of it.

1209-AngkorWat-0462-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0477-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0493-HDR 1209-AngkorWat-0496-HDR

Partway through I realized I was almost late getting back to my hostel to check out before they charged me for another day. I ran back to my bike and peddled as hard as I could. I didn’t realize how far I’d gone during the morning. I rode roughly 20 miles in total, a lot when you weren’t planning on riding much at all. I reached my hostel right at 1pm, the deadline. The ride had been pretty horrendous in the hot sun. I took a road back that wasn’t the most direct way, and there were zero trees for shade. I was psyched there was a pool.

I loved my time in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. I definitely recommend it as a destination. Next, I was seeking out some beach time.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

1208-SiemReap-0294-HDR-2

My time at Green Climber’s Home in Thakhek, Laos was great, but after nine days I was feeling pretty beat up and ready to move on. I knew I wanted to spend a couple days on an island and determined that Cambodia made the most sense on my trip trajectory.

I said my goodbyes to my new friends at GCH, and with a few other climbers, took a tuk tuk to the bus stop. I was going to Pakse with no plan other than to find transport to Siem Reap as soon as possible. When the bus arrived in Pakse I ended up meeting a couple from France that was also on the bus and we went in search of hostel together. The only thing availble we could find was single room with two beds, so I shared a room with this couple I just met. In the morning, I snuck out before they woke up to catch the early bus to the Cambodian border.

The Cambodian border….

Before the bus stops at the border, we pick up a man that gets on and says he will streamline the entry visa process for everyone, but there’s a catch. The entry visa is $40, but the man wants $50 from everyone. I already had my entry visa, so I just ignored him. Turns out the extra $10 was for bribes to the Laotian and Cambodian border guards. I went through on my own.

I passed my passport through the window to the Laotian guard, he looked up and asks for the $5. “I’m not paying you extra just because you’re doing your job.” He looked at me, frustrated, fliped open my passport and stamped something in it. He quickly handed me my passport back and yelled “next!”.

I followed the slow-moving, confused crowd across no-man’s-land to a medical tent we were directed to. They pointed a thermometer ‘gun’ at me, tell me to fill out a form, then ask for $1. I just stand up and leave. They’re supposedly checking for Ebola, but neither border requires the form, so therie’s no point to do this or pay for it.

100 yards from the Laotian border, I handed my passport to the Cambodian guard. He looked at my already purchased Entry Visa, peers up at me, and asks for $5. “I’ve already paid for my Entry Visa. I don’t owe you any more money.” He flips through my passport book and hands it back to me without stamping it. “You don’t have an exit stamp from Laos.” I don’t know what the Laotian guard had stamped, but he hadn’t actually shown that I was leaving the country.

I scurried back across no-man’s-land, worried that the bus would leave me. I might have made little bit of a ruckus as I returned to the Laotian border, demanding that they actually stamp my book. Finally, one of the guards reluctantly gave me the stamp I needed to “leave” the country. The Cambodian guard looked at me with equal disdain, but stamps my visa anyway and allows me to enter.

I guess I should be more careful with border guards, I’m entering their country, but I refuse to pay bribes.

After waiting around for hours at the border, we’re loaded onto a small micro-bus. I get set in the front passenger seat, and all our bags are loaded as a barricaded between me and the rest of the passengers. I effectively had a 6-hour private car ride to Siem Reap.

I took a dorm room bed at Garden Village Guesthouse, at the recommendation of the bus company. It was a good price, and it had a pool (highly recommended). I ended up meeting some great people here.

Siem Reap is a pretty nice town, with something for almost every type of traveler. The draw for travelers is definitely Angkor Wat, but I met several ex-pats just enjoying living there as well. Good cheap restaurants line the tightly winding streets that run into the river. Along the river, there are more expensive places. There’s a party scene, and quiet areas.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to pay the $20 for a day pass into Angkor Wat. I typically don’t pay to go into things when I’m traveling cheap (and I was surviving off a fixed amount of cash that I had borrowed from Xavi), but some friends convinced me it was worth it. As I was considering what to do, I rented a bike and spent a day trying to connect with the locals, something I hadn’t really gotten to do on my trip so far. I do this by taking portraits of the people I meet.

 

1208-SiemReap-0142 1208-SiemReap-0151 1208-SiemReap-0158 1208-SiemReap-0162 1208-SiemReap-0165 1208-SiemReap-0166

Ice delivery. Might be best to avoid ice in your water.

1208-SiemReap-0173 1208-SiemReap-0177 1208-SiemReap-0178 1208-SiemReap-0183 1208-SiemReap-0185 1208-SiemReap-0188 1208-SiemReap-0189 1208-SiemReap-0190

There was a pretty girl selling fruit, but she wasn’t keen on having her photo taken.
So I shot her fruit.

1208-SiemReap-0191 1208-SiemReap-0194 1208-SiemReap-0197 1208-SiemReap-0199

I’ve eaten a lot of fresh coconuts, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had. The meat was so delicious!

1208-SiemReap-0201

1208-SiemReap-0202 1208-SiemReap-0206 1208-SiemReap-0210 1208-SiemReap-0214 1208-SiemReap-0219 1208-SiemReap-0229

I sat and watched these kids for probably 20 minutes, jumping into the river with pure joy.

1208-SiemReap-0276 1208-SiemReap-0283 1208-SiemReap-0285

I ended my exploration of Siem Reap at a large temple that was a bit past where most of the tourists go. It was quiet and offered me some shade from the blazing sun. I don’t often spend a lot of time in temples, but I enjoyed a lot of the quotes attributed to Buddha engraved on a lot of the statues.

1208-SiemReap-0298

Next: Angkor Wat. Be sure to subscribe!

Rock Climbing in Laos! Green Climbers Home

Xavi paid the tuk tuk driver, since I had had my wallet stolen in Vientiane. Luckily, Green Climbers Home operates on a credit system, and you pay at the end of your stay for lodging, food, and anything else. Because of this, I had 9 days to figure out how to get funds for the rest of my trip.

Side note:
Back in the early fall my buddy, Scott Homan, had mentioned that he was going to Laos to meet up with Xavier and climb. He – kind of – invited me, and after a rough fall, I figured a trip like this was just what I needed.

Green Climbers Home sits in a valley surrounded by tall limestone mountains that jut straight up out of the flat earth.

1127-GreenClimbersHome-0002

The resort is two large thatch-roofed buildings resting on stilts surrounded by bungalos, also on stilts. Apparently it floods every year. There are also two dorms, and two areas of tented camping. I think in all they can accommodate about 100 climbers at a time.

1206-GreenClimbersHome-0425

The climbing is super steep, varied, fun limestone climbing over pockets, tufas, and stalactites. Endurance and core power is the most important thing here. For me, this was mostly a climbing trip, and I barely took my camera out. But by the end of the trip I was feeling that I couldn’t leave without having a few climbing photos.

1128-GreenClimbersHome-0046

A climber works up Jungle King (7b) in the Roof

1202-LaosClimbing-0026

Xavi climbs Jungle King barefoot, because...he can.

1202-LaosClimbing-0029 1202-LaosClimbing-0079

An incredibly strong, older Japanese woman gets the send on Jungle King. Everyone was in awe of her grace.

1205-LaosClimbing-0154

Diana Wendt got the send on Jungle King after a few tries. My endurance kept me from getting this 
beautiful route.

1205-LaosClimbing-0205 1205-LaosClimbing-0229

Chrissi Kuehn and Pete? climb two roof routes

1205-LaosClimbing-0257

Diana prepares to make the crux move on Jungle King

 

1128-GreenClimbersHome-0085

GCH's original restaurant burned down last fall, so they were busy rebuilding it in the same spot.

I slept in a tent for nine days. It was pretty comfortable, but I was very happy it was not any hotter than it was. The tent was not really made for the tropics, having almost no ventilation. But it was about 100 feet from the river that runs through this cave, so I could go for a swim any time I was over heated.

The cave is pretty incredible, a huge cavern with three entrances. Standing on this rock, you can see two of the entrances, but the third, you apparently have to go wading through chest deep water for a while. I didn’t go explore it.

1128-GreenClimbersHome-0135

Xavier and Scott made plans to shoot a short film with Richard Seisl, who wanted to put up a highline (slackline) up in the mouth of the cave. They asked me to help shoot the video. I couldn’t not take stills too.

1128-GreenClimbersHome-0153 1128-GreenClimbersHome-0155 1128-GreenClimbersHome-0170 1128-GreenClimbersHome-0183 1129-GreenClimbersHome-0194-HDR

The morning light coming into the cave was killer!

1129-GreenClimbersHome-0209 1129-GreenClimbersHome-0248 1129-GreenClimbersHome-0268 1129-GreenClimbersHome-0301 1129-GreenClimbersHome-0357 1205-GreenClimbersHome-0394-2

Here’s the finished video, I shot most of the wide angle shots and a few of the details.

 

1206-GreenClimbersHome-0440

The restaurant's usual state at night

1206-GreenClimbersHome-0464

No shoes allowed in the restaurant.

Green Climbers Home is a fantastic destination for climbers in Southeast Asia. I recommend that you check it out. I’d love to go back. I do wish that they would fix their shoddy anchor systems.

Message to Green Climbers Home: It’s incredibly frustrating and dangerous for us climbers. If it’s because it’s expensive to buy chains, charge everyeone an extra dollar. That’s plenty to fund changing out all of the expired climbing rope tying together two traditional metal hangers and a single hardware store d-link. You don’t want to wait until your “genius”, cheap, dangerous method fails.

Thakhek, Laos

At the bus station in Vientiane I got situated in my “bed” on the sleeper bus. It looked like I would be sharing the space with about 4 other people. Then a guy in plain clothes comes and tells me I have to get off of the bus. He leads me to another, crappier, sleeper bus a few down in the station and tells me this is my bus. It’s a completely different company, I’m pretty confused. The guy that brought me tries to take off, but I remind him that they still have my bags on the first bus. The bags get placed under the second bus and I get shown to another bed, a tiny space that I’m sharing with an older Laotian man.

This was one of the worst bus rides I’ve ever been on, constant jarring as if the bus had never been fitted with shocks. I got some fitful sleep, but at 2am, I was told to get off the bus. I stepped off into the dark night, unsure of where I was. I was on the side of the road, outside of a city.  Once again, they tried to leave without getting my bags.

IMG_20151126_105316

I shoulder my heavy bags(all my clothes, camera and climbing gear stuffed into an Osprey Waypoint 80, and a 40-liter climbing backpack. I estimate it to be over 60lbs.) and started walking towards what I think is the center of town, hoping to find someplace with WiFi. A woman called me over, “Guesthouse? Guesthouse!!”. I walked toward her, and she points to another woman on a cot behind a floor to ceiling metal barred gate. The second lady sat up and called me over. She quoted a price, a bit high for the shoddy looking place, but understandable since it was 2am and just outside the bus stop. “I have no money. No Kip. No Dollar. My wallet was stolen,” I tried to explain in broken English. I pantomimed my wallet being stolen, my back pocket empty. “I sleep there?” I suggested, pointing to an empty spot on the cement floor inside the gate. After some contemplating, lady number two conceded and opened the gate. I had a Klymit Inertia O-Zone sleeping pad, and they glared at me as I blew it up. I actually had a comfortable 4 hours of sleep.

I woke up to an old man sitting next to me, looking at me suspiciously. I quickly packed away my sleeping pad and stood up, motioning to the lock on the gate. Still eyeing me, the old man unlocked the gate and I wandered off into the morning light. I walked about 4 kms, asking everyone along the way for WiFi or Police Station. Most people just shook their heads and walked away. Some would point in a direction, and I would keep walking. (No one knew what I was asking, apparently. I was definitely not being pointed towards the police station). I finally found a hotel that allowed me to use their WiFi, found the location (I thought) of the Foreigner’s Police Station, and received an email from Green Climbers Home that said they had money waiting for at the gate so I could pay a Tuk Tuk driver to take me the 12kms

Women preparing their watermelon sales for the day and catcalling me...

1127-Thakhek-0002
1127-Thakhek-0004 1127-Thakhek-0010

The view from the Tuk Tuk

My friend Xavi was waiting for me at Green Climbers Home and paid the tuk tuk driver. It was good to be among friends after getting into the predicament of losing all my money.

Green Climbers Home is a climbing resort 12kms outside of Thakhek. Started about 5 years ago in a valley between some amazing limestone cliffs, they offer bungalos, dorms and tent camping. I’ll go more into this place later.

The one big caveat of staying at Green Climbers Home is that it is not Laos. It’s pretty much Europe in huts. The climbing is amazing, but you’re surrounded by pretty much only Europeans. I had to leave several times during my stay to experience Laos.

The best way to get into town was to hitch hike!

IMG_20151201_084956

Xavi and Scott relax on the way into Thakhek
 Monks ride bikes to get around town.

The people, even though most don’t speak any English, are very friendly and want to help out. They also have a saying, “Bopenyoung” (poorly translated to my ears), that means something along the lines of Hakuna Matata, or No Worries. And this is definitely the attitude of the people. They’re friendly and hospitable but not in your face about it. If you need something, you will ask. It’s great, I really enjoyed that about the Laotians.

1203-Thakhek-0026

Diana and Randall hitchhiking into Thakhek

1203-Thakhek-0029 1203-Thakhek-0031

We went through a large market that had everything from hand bags to pig heads.

1203-Thakhek-0034 1203-Thakhek-0037 1203-Thakhek-0039 1203-Thakhek-0043 1203-Thakhek-0046 1203-Thakhek-0051 1203-Thakhek-0056 1203-Thakhek-0060

I went to where I thought the police station was. No one spoke English and I was trying to communicate to someone over the phone what I needed. I just needed a police report saying my wallet was stolen. They needed my passport and some other information I didn’t bring. So I had to come back another day. On day two: you don’t have a form from this other police station. I had to walk all over town trying to find it. Wasn’t marked on the outside of the building. And it was closed for lunch. I had to come back two hours later. I finally got the form after waiting for all of the police officers to tell each other about their lunches, apparently (everyone standing around, no one doing anything, me just sitting looking stupidly confused). I go back with my form, my passport, and everything I needed.

“How do we know you had a wallet? We can’t give you a letter saying it was stolen because we have no proof.”
“How do you have proof that anything was stolen, ever?”
“We cannot give you anything on our letterhead.”

So I have a long document written in Laotian that recorded the incident, but they wouldn’t write it on their letterhead. Yay insurance.

1204-Thakhek-0070

IMG_20151205_215525

Harry had a birthday, so all of the Americans and several other Euros went into town to celebrate. Everything was closed except for the liquor store, so we had a party in the town square. Things got a little weird with whiskey body shots off of Harry. One guy didn't want to a body shot off of Harry....so he took the shot out of his own navel. One of the funniest things I've seen.

1204-Thakhek-0072

Then there’s the overabundance of Range Rovers in tiny little towns. I saw brand new Autobiographies ($150k) and well, how much classier can you get than a “gold” Range Rover Sport?

Thakhek was a nice town, but I wish I had gotten to see more of Laos.

A day in Vientiane, Laos

I had read on the all-knowing internet that I could not get a Visa on Entry to Cambodia while entering from Laos. The nearest Cambodian Embassy to Chiang Mai was in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. I took an overnight bus and arrived in Vientiane around 7am. I went straight to the Cambodian Embassy and dropped off my passport. I then walked several kilometers to the bus station and paid to have my 60+ lb bags stored. I walked all around the downtown, finally renting a bike and exploring more of the city.

1126-Vientiane-0002

1126-Vientiane-0004

1127-Vientiane-0005

The remnants of a festival on the river. The buildings you can see in the background are in Thailand.

1127-Vientiane-0007

1127-Vientiane-0008

1127-Vientiane-0010

1127-Vientiane-0029-HDR

1127-Vientiane-0032-HDR

1127-Vientiane-0043-HDR

As I was leaving the riverbed, a horde of soldiers came walking intimidatingly at me, and then past me. The last soldier smiled and said, “Saa baa dii.” Hello. I had thought I was in trouble. But the soldiers continued out into the riverbed in search of something that I could not determine.

1127-Vientiane-0045

1127-Vientiane-0047

1127-Vientiane-0050

1127-Vientiane-0052

1127-Vientiane-0053

I rode my bike back to the Cambodian Embassy, but arrived about 30 minutes early. I went to a streetside cafe across the street and ordered a cold juice. I then promptly fell asleep, resting my head on my arms. I woke up with a jolt, saw it was time for the embassy to reopen, reached for my wallet to pay and….nothing. I frantically looked all around, under the chair, the table, my bag, the bike. No one spoke English, but the bystanders didn’t seem to know anything.

I know better. I’ve had my wallet stolen before in India. I know you don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket – your money and credit cards in one place. But I did it anyway. I was comfortable. I never felt threatened or in danger. I didn’t think someone would take my wallet while I slept. It didn’t have my passport or my driver’s license in it, luckily, only one debit card, two credit cards, and about $70 of cash. But this set me up for some difficult times on my trip.

I got my passport back (with Cambodian Visa), I went to the travel agent I bought the bus ticket from and they gave me their receipt so I could still get on the bus, I got my bags and took the bus to Thakhek, trying to figure out how I was going to get to Green Climbers Home from the bus stop.

Yay adventure.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I left Bangkok on an overnight bus for Chiang Mai. I had a friend that just happened to be there, so I went to meet up. I didn’t really know anything about Chiang Mai except it was in the mountains. Right before I left I found out that the Lantern Festival (Yi Peng) was going on while I was there, so I wound up booking a hotel room before I left (I typically like finding housing when I show up. You find some great places that way). My hotel was a few kilometers out of downtown, so I rented a scooter to get around.

1122-ChiangMai-0001

I have this weird thing that keeps me from using taxis for as long as humanly possible (It’s probably just being a cheapskate. I learned that from my family). I walked several kilometers with my 60+ lb pack to my hotel to avoid hiring a taxi. Then I walked another several kilometers from my hotel into town to find a scooter. On the way I found this temple.

1122-ChiangMai-0003 1122-ChiangMai-0004 1122-ChiangMai-0007Lanterns over the Ping River riverwalk

My friend has been traveling asia since August and keeps finding herself back in Chiang Mai. She took me on a hike up to this monastary. I now can’t find it on the Google machine, but it’s somewhere west of the city.
1123-ChiangMai-0008 1123-ChiangMai-0011 1123-ChiangMai-0012 1123-ChiangMai-0014-HDR 1123-ChiangMai-0020-HDR 1123-ChiangMai-0024 1123-ChiangMai-0025 1123-ChiangMai-0032 1123-ChiangMai-0037 1123-ChiangMai-0044 1123-ChiangMai-0053 1123-ChiangMai-0056 1123-ChiangMai-0067

I said goodbye to one friend, and met up with another. In one of those wierd traveling coincedences I was in Chiang Mai at the same time as my buddy Luis’ sister.

I had spent the night at Luis’ and his sisters apartment in NYC the night before I left for Bangkok. I didn’t know this when I arrived there, but Giuliana was leaving at 6am for…Bangkok. I followed at 2pm. We missed each other in Bangkok, and then realized that we were both in Chiang Mai.

We explored the night market.

1123-ChiangMai-0073 1123-ChiangMai-0074 1123-ChiangMai-0076 1123-ChiangMai-0078

Love these illustrations1123-ChiangMai-0079 1123-ChiangMai-0080 1123-ChiangMai-0082 1123-ChiangMai-0088

I went climbing the next day at the Crazy Horse Buttress outside of the city on transport provided by Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures. Go there. Use them. It’s awesome. I didn’t really take any photos because I was enjoying the hell out of the steep, super-featured limestone climbs. The community has done an excellent job of bolting and maintaining this area.

The first night of the festival was putting floating candles in bouquets in the Ping River, called Loy Krathong. I don’t fully understand either of the days, but both seem to be about letting go.

1124-ChiangMai-0096 1124-ChiangMai-0106 1124-ChiangMai-0109 1124-ChiangMai-0122 1124-ChiangMai-0127 1124-ChiangMai-0129 1124-ChiangMai-0136 1124-ChiangMai-0140 1124-ChiangMai-0142 1124-ChiangMai-0143 1124-ChiangMai-0145 1124-ChiangMai-0146 1124-ChiangMai-0149 1124-ChiangMai-0154 1124-ChiangMai-0155 1124-ChiangMai-0160

I went back to Crazy Horse for a second day with some awesome people that I would end up meeting up with again in Laos. Ron and Adie on the left. 1124-ChiangMai-0168 1125-ChiangMai-0249

The Lantern festival at night was a beautiful thing to behold. But I also thought a lot about how much trash they were just sending somewhere else. 1125-ChiangMai-0253 1125-ChiangMai-0255 1125-ChiangMai-0258 1125-ChiangMai-0263 1125-ChiangMai-0264 1125-ChiangMai-0269 1125-ChiangMai-0272

Chiang Mai was great, I wish I had more time to explore and climb there. But I was on to Laos to meet up with more friends.

Bangkok, Thailand

I landed in Bangkok at 2am, for a total of 25hrs in transit from New York City. I landed having no real plan besides eventually making it to Laos to climb with a few of my friends that were already there. I didn’t know how I was getting there. When my mom heard that I was planning on going straight to Laos she insisted that I explore Thailand.

In my short stop in the Shanghai airport, I had met a woman traveling by herself  (to meet friends then head off to the islands). She wanted to share a taxi and felt safer going in one with me than venturing out into Bangkok alone at 3am. We decided to drop our bags off at the hotel where her friends were staying then immediately go explore the city. My goal was to stay awake until evening so I could avoid jetlag.

We ate some delicious street food and drinks, then headed out into the pre-dawn maze.

We found a lot of temples.

1120-Bangkok-0014

1120-Bangkok-0015

1120-Bangkok-0018

1120-Bangkok-0020

1120-Bangkok-0022

1120-Bangkok-0023

1120-Bangkok-0025

1120-Bangkok-0026

1120-Bangkok-0027

1120-Bangkok-0028

1120-Bangkok-0029

1120-Bangkok-0032

1120-Bangkok-0034

1120-Bangkok-0035

1120-Bangkok-0041

1120-Bangkok-0045-HDR

1120-Bangkok-0061

1120-Bangkok-0062

1122-Bangkok-0069

It was incredibly hot in Bangkok, and coming from the low humidity of Colorado, I felt like I was drowning. I had to get out of the city as soon as possible.

Besides the heat, I liked Bangkok. The city seemed to work well. I even went to the dentist!