Wednesday, 6 June 2018

To bribe or not to bribe?

After nearly three weeks in Thailand I crossed over into Cambodia via a seven hour bus ride. I had read on the internet that it can be tricky to enter the country due to bribes. My advice to you? Stand your ground and refuse to pay.
First break before entering Cambodia. 
It’s true, bribery and fake visa scams are a fact. Apart from that, it was an unforgettable experience for me to enter this country. I immediately sensed a change in the air the minute I neared the border. Being the only African on the bus I certainly got a lot of looks from security. While everyone was processed quickly, I waited for a long time to be attended to while the bus waited. I was frustrated beyond belief, tears rolling down my eyes. At this moment I caught the attention of one immigration officer who asked me how much money I had, how long would I would be staying and where I was going next. He suggested I go to another office where I was met with a bribe request on top of a visa fee.
Cambodian Boarder.
They certainty are not ashamed for asking. I told them I had no extra money. They gave me back my passport and I sat down again and waited for another officer but I didn’t relent about paying extra. This was my worst experience on a border crossing since I started travelling. While everyone on the bus got their visa in about 30 mins, mine took about 90.

Driving into rural Cambodia reminded me a bit of rural areas in Uganda. Cambodia is not as developed as Thailand, so things were a bit different. We arrived in Siem Reap at around 6 pm. I was excited to be in a new environment. After having a difficult time entering the city, the people themselves were so nice. I set out to explore a little bit of Siem Reap at night. They have a Pub street which I really liked. There were many different kinds of restaurants and pubs with a good vibe. Cambodia is cheaper compared to Thailand in terms of food prices with bigger potions.


Some street art.

The pub street.

Siem Reap Night Market.


Later I took a stroll into the night market which I really liked because the prices seemed reasonable.

After wandering around a bit, I had to get back to my hostel but my phone was dead. I found out I walked 2 km away from my hostel until I found a good Samaritan to help me check on his map where I was. Luckily enough, he decided to drop me back to my hostel on his bike.


The good Samaritan.
The following day I woke up at 3:45 am to visit the famous Angkor Wat Temple and other renowned places of worship. I had a one day pass but you can also get a 3 day pass to see all the many temples. It was so cold in the wee hours of the morning riding behind a tuk tuk. The rider took me and another partner to go buy the tickets for the entrance. After getting the tickets we rode for about 40 mins or so to Angkor Wat. It was still dark when we arrived but it was beautiful waiting for the sun to rise behind the temple. We were unlucky for it was cloudy that morning but other than that, it was still spectacular to see the largest religious monument in the world. It was first built as a Hindu temple as a tribute to the god Vishnu but later on gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. Our tour lasted 90 minutes.


In front of the temple.

Angkor Wat.

From there we headed on to Angkor Thom, another beautiful ancient temple which was the last Capital city of the Khmer empire established in the 12th century. The temple is uniquely built with face towers at each entrance.


One of the face tours.

Angkor Thom temple.

One of the many entrances to the temple.


The last temple I saw was Ta Prohm. The movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed there. It was so amazing with giant trees growing out of the walls with most of it in distinguished ruins. I was so amazed by this and it’s a good spot for taking photos. This is one of Ankor's most popular temples and it was designated a UNESCO site in 1992.


Selfie at the famous location.

Tomb raider location.

Ta Prohm.

Amazing huge roots protruding the temple walls.
After all these three temples, I decided it was time to take a break since it was scotching hot. I relaxed all afternoon before I went out later in the pub with a friend. I did not spend much time in Siem Reap because I had less time in cambodia. But there are some things to do there like visiting the Land mine museum, floating village and enjoying a cooking class. 

My next blog post will take you to Banlung!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Pai, the hidden gem.

The town of Pai located in northern Thailand was the last destination in this country. My plan was to go to Chiang Rai but I was told along the way that Pai was the real deal. This is why I never make solid plans as you never know how things will change along the way. 

The public mini van from Chiang Mai to Pai took about 3 hours. Some travel by motorbikes but be sure to know how to ride; the route has many sharp turns and can be quite disconcerting if you’re not a seasoned rider. The scenery of the mountains with lush green emerald was an amazing sight!

The view of Pai.

I soon learned 
Pai is a laid-back town that’s ideal for walking with crisp, clean air. My 
favourite part was the night market in the walking street. It’s such a colourful slice of Thai life with ample cafes, bars, shopping and food. The good thing about northern Thailand is that it’s cheaper than the south.

The walking street.

Shops on the walking street.

Got a toe ring made from a coin.

My favourite garlic bread stall.

The next day I had planned with my friend to go sightseeing around Pai. Pai is best explored on a motorbike. We started our day by going to visit the temple on the hill (Wat Phra Tat Mae Yen) which has a big Buddha that’s quite impressive. Once you climb to the temple’s peak there’s a beautiful view of Pai which is stunning. If you get the chance, go during sunset.




Excited to start exploring.

Budha

Our next destination was the Pai Land Split. It’s so cool, literally a crack in the ground caused by an earthquake back in 2008. The land belongs to a farmer and the tear is 2 meters wide and 11 meters deep. You can actually walk through the split for about 15 minutes. After the experience you can enjoy ice cold drinks from a wild fruit that the farmer grows.
 

Entrance to the land split.

The split in the earth.

Sunny day the Land Split.

We went on ahead to the Pabok waterfall. Bring your swim trunks as you can go for a swim or just chill on the rocks since it’s very cool here. The water was quite cold for me. We took a few photos and later headed to the Memorial Bridge. 

The Memorial Bridge was built during the world war by the Japanese and it is made of steel and wood. At the moment it is only used as walking bridge but it’s a picturesque spot for photos and to have a good view of the river. 


Pabok Waterfall.



The memorial bridge.

We got on our bike again off to the 
Pai Canyon. The Canyon is said to be most beautiful during the sunset. We got there a bit early and waited for the sun to make its descent. It’s less hot during that time so it was a nice respite from the heat.

Beautiful sunset at the Pai Canyon.

Pai Canyon

Exploring the canyon


Pai has some parties and events going on every month. While there I heard about a “jungle party” at an unknown location. We were driven to a forest-like place by the organisers, quite fun but very cold in the night. Pai is way colder because of its location in the mountains.   

There are more things you can check out that I did not get chance to see because of time constraints, like The Pai Hot Springand some ominous caves which are 35km away from the town.

 Make sure Pai is on your list when exploring Thailand. It is beautiful, peaceful and serene.


Friday, 23 March 2018

The fun city of Chiang Mai

The third destination I had the pleasure of discovering was Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand’s most populous city.  It’s quite different from Bangkok, with lots of open space and fresh air. Plus, prices are cheaper.

I arrived in the morning anxious to start a full day of travelling after a night bus.


One of the views in Chiang Mai city.

Some of the beautiful restaurants.
I met a very nice girl Eunjin whom we shared the same interests.The first thing on our agenda was to tour the famous temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The tour takes about an hour and the views are lovely. Buddha statues and lotus flowers are everywhere.

My partner in crime.


On the way to Doi Suthep.


Inside Doi Suthep temple.


The view from the temple.
Next we checked out the night food market. There is variety to eat and prices are reasonable. We loved the honey chicken skewers right before our meals. I recommend ordering a variety and share. They have delicious fruit juices, shakes, and Thai tea, the most delicious and refreshing beverage I had on this trip.

The night life in Chiang Mai is not disappointing. There some bars you can go dancing or just sit and enjoy a drink. Going from one bar to another was easy as they were all close by.



Coconut shakes on a warm night.


Variety of dishes ordered.


Sea food.


The delicious Chicken skewers.

One of the things that I recommend you experience is an elephant sanctuary. Spend time with these magnificent animals! Some reserves have rescued elephants that have been mistreated and they are given a more compassionate life. In doing so, you are helping the cause by putting an end to their mistreatment. However, please do not visit the ones that offer riding services.

It was quite an immersive experience with the elephants; we had the chance to play with them in the mud (we changed our clothes) and then bathe them under a waterfall while their trunks sprinkled water and gave us kisses. It was such a fun day!



Elephant hug.


Bath and play time.

Be sure to rent a bicycle and ride around the new and old part of town. I’m not the best cyclist but it was a great work out and the traffic wasn’t crazy. We cycled to Wat Chedi Luang, a beautiful historic Buddhist temple in the center of Chiang Mai built in 1441. If you love old architecture and some quiet time, you need to take a look!



Cycling around town.


Bicycle adventures.

Some remains of Wat Cheda temple.

We also experienced a Tok Sen massage, a treatment meant to clear blocked energy, remove negative energy and deeply get into body's muscles. I felt lighter and better after this. The masseuses were very pleasant and  all four of them out of curiosity came to touch and feel my skin praising how smooth it was.


Just before the Tok sen massage.


Our lovely and curious messaues

Last but not least, they say if you haven't tried the Khao Soi dish (very delicious) or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven't really been to Chiang Mai. I had such an amazing time here and I see myself going back discover more that I left untouched. Such is life!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Krabi


I love the beach. I don’t get much chance to soak in the sun and waves since Kampala is a land-locked city so I was really excited to check out the shores of the Andaman sea. Krabi was my only option since I was traveling on a budget. I took a night bus to get there and upon arriving smelled the sea and so much green. My lodging was in Ao Nang which is pretty popular among the tourists and has a wide beach. It was refreshing to see the rocks and the big trees on every corner of the road.



Beautiful scenery.
Ao Nang was everything I wanted after the big city life of Bangkok. The scenery is so gorgeous it’s hard not to find a moment of Zen.  If you’re looking to get to Railway beach like I was (and recommend), don’t worry as there’s so many people eager to help you along your way to other places like Phi Phi island.

Railay Beach not only has gorgeous surf but also rock climbing for enthusiasts. I regret not having the chance but like every great trip I hope to return one day and try it. Climbing is safe (you wear a harness) and it’s a great full body workout. I hear rock climbing is a 2020 Tokyo Olympics sport so start training.




Beautiful boats ashore.


Railay beach




Buried in at Railay


Back from Railay I went on a pub crawl that was organized by my hostel. It was quite fun moving from one bar to another and observing the night life in this part of the country. Ao Nang is such a party area you won’t be disappointed. However, watch out for lady boys who ask for a tip if you want a photo.

Sunset at Ao Nang


Lady boy performers.
The following day I was in total bliss as I relaxed at a Krabi hot spring, nature’s own Jacuzzi. The water came from thermal springs which originated deep underground in a volcanic chamber. We then moved on to the Emerald pool, with waters that are crystal clear. It was nice to swim after walking through a beautiful trail to reach it. It’s all a feast for the eyes with so much green I felt like I was emerald city, the fictional fantasy land in the Wizard of Oz. Don’t miss taking a look at the Blue Pool, an amazing body of water. You can’t swim in it but it’s a breathtaking sight.

Chilling in the Hot spring




Trail View


All natural Emerald pool. please




Trail to the Pools.


Beneath the Blue Pool.




The last thing on the trip was visiting the Tiger Cave temple. This is not for the faint hearted as it takes 1, 237 steps to reach a Buddhist holy site. But don’t give up, the view is amazing at the peak. The struggle makes it worth the effort. There’s a lot of ‘monkey business’ up there though—many monkeys in the area love it when tourists feed them. Don’t do it though, feeding wild animals does more harm than good. Monkeys will literally grab your snacks from you.

The steps to the Tiger Temple


The view from above the temple.



Golden Buddha.


Of course, no trip to Thailand would be complete without a famous Thai massage. It was such a treat, my body needed it. Whether basking in the sun or finding peace at a temple, Thailand has so much to offer.