Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting back to Thailand

Well the time since my last post has carried a number of fun adventures...I'll try to summarize them in brief.

On the 26th and 27th of Nov. my host and I decided (at about 8.30pm) to take a series of buses overnight to Pangandaran, on the southern coast of Java.  It was a beautiful place and I'm glad she spoke both Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese because in some places the locals barely even spoke Bahasa - the national language.

We spent just one night there but got up early Sunday morning to go to the Green Canyon...not very big, but gorgeous and a ton of fun just the same!  We could have taken a boat up the river to the canyon (isolated in the jungle) for about $8 and then paid more to get out and swim around, but instead asked a local who told us how to hike there. All along the canyon there was water dripping and sometimes pouring out of the rocky walls, which were probably close to 100ft high.  In some places it was just a slow dripping and in others a steady stream more like a waterfall, but it all looked and sounded amazing.  I jumped in the river (which was surprisingly chilly, only about 60 degrees!) and swam up the river a ways to an outcropping of rocks, one of which was a stalagmite about 15ft high, and safe to jump off of. Of course I had no choice but to give it a try. Standing on top of the rock, under a cascade of water pouring out of the canyon walls above like a hard shower I stood for what seemed like an hour just reveling in the fact that I was taking a natural shower over a beautiful river in the jungle in Indonesia.  In reality it was probably only about 5 minutes before people below - who paid for the boats - were suspect that I may not do it and began urging me to jump.  I performed a near perfect cannonball, trying to soak as many of them as possible, and swam back to where I had come from.

Afterwards we ended up hitchhiking part way back to her city and taking a bus the rest of the way, I spent 2 more days there before going to Bandung, Indonesia.

Bandung really doesn't deserve a lot of space here, it's called the "Paris of Java" and maybe rightly so.  It's main draw is cheap outlet malls and opulent houses.  The economic disparity was nowhere more evident than my couchsurfing host's neighborhood and personality.  I learned more about corruption and disrespect, but little else.

The only highlight was going to Tangkuban Prau which is a big hill with some craters and hot springs.  It was nice to go hiking again, especially on my own, and I joyfully ran about 1km of the way up.  This may not sound like much, but it was nearly 7,000ft in elevation and a constant line of 2ft stairs carved into the hillside.  One of these days I'll get the corresponding pictures uploaded to my other webspace: http://louisnk.info

On Saturday, Dec 4th I flew back to Bangkok (overnight, with a 6 hour stop in Singapore) and spent a day bumming around the city before leaving Monday afternoon on a train bound for Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, where I sit writing this now.

My couchsurfing host here is great, an old British expat who has a large house overlooking a small pond and some fields, with a couple nice balconies overlooking the aforementioned pond.  The city so far is beautiful and today I am going into town to rent a motorcycle for 100 baht - for those of you who don't remember, $1 = 30 baht.

Last night I was lucky enough to go with my host to a festival that he is helping run a stall at, and his friend's stall is an activist group working with and for the Burmese people, while there I was also lucky enough to meet a Shan (ethnic group in NE Burma) guy who had to flee Burma after the 2007 Saffron Revolution (when all the monks were killed) because he was caught carrying a flag during a protest march and subjected to violent abuse and torture for 3 weeks, 2 weeks hard labor, and a contract promising he would never participate in any political activity again.

I uploaded a ton of pictures to my other webspace while I was in Singapore, but am still not up to date. If you look there you can get the stories behind a lot of the pictures by reading my posts on here about those places. http://louisnk.info

I'll be in Chiang Mai until Friday night when I'll be taking another overnight train back to Bangkok and Sunday night meeting with Bryce and Katie who are coming to visit for part of Christmas break.  It will be nice to see a familiar face again and not keep telling the same stories over and over, hopefully just once!

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