Archives for March 2015
Thai temples along the road of Highway 4
Walking to Chong Phli outside of Krabi
“Pictures will be uploaded later when I have a more reliable connection”
Chloe’s 4th Birthday Party in Solano!
After almost 154 days abroad my trip is slowly coming to an end. I will hit day 154 as of April 9th. I still have a little over a week left, but for the most part my trip is over. I saw what I wanted to see and experienced an adventure of a lifetime. Over the course of the last five months while backpacking SEA I fought illnesses in different countries, explored a vast amount of terrain by foot and hitchhiking, and tried my best to live as minimally as possible while seeking the views. It’s true what they say, “The best things in life are free!” You just have to have the determination, willpower, endurance and courage to find them. I could not have experienced a lot of the countries i backpacked through if I did not meet the people through hitchhiking or going out of my way to talk to random strangers. I think as you become more of a traveler you understand the principles of being a supertramp and find any means to travel. Whether that’s hitching boats, trucks, leather tramping, sailing, cycling and even spending some money to get from place to place towards the end of your budget. I traveled much of SEA by walking and hitchhiking. It is not for everyone. You don’t see much of the tourist attractions, but for me, I travel to experience the culture, the people of the country and the views in the undeveloped lands. Most of the places I backpacked to you cannot get to by a bus or a train. You could take a cab and spend a lot of money or you could just strap on your backpack and walk into the unknown without a plan, which is what I did for most of the duration of my 5 month backpacking trip through SEA.
Backpacking SEA: Flying signs in Thailand to get to Krabi
Drinking Thai whiskey at a basket shop with a local on Highway 4 right outside of Phatthalung.
Going for a swim in Senora Falls
I spent almost two months in ChengDu, China visiting my friend Eric, who specializes in Civil Engineering and Architecture. I crashed on his couch, 18 stories up, in his nice apartment and ended up kickin’ it with his German roommates Christoph and Jelte since Eric worked far too much. We saw much of the free museums and attractions around ChengDu such as Dufu’s Thatched Cottage, Luodai Ancient Town, Xindu, Baoguang Vihara Temple, ChengDu Panda Sanctuary, Global Center, Culture Park, Lan Kwai Fong, Wuhou Shrine, Shengxian Lake, Wenshu Monastery, Wide and Narrow Alleys, ChengDu East Music Park and more. From there I learned how I really wanted to travel, which surprisingly enough, ended up being solo.
Backpacking SEA: Sleeping on the beach on Penang Island in Malaysia
A mosque in Kuala Kangsar
Ferry ride to Butterworth…you only pay coming in, not going out 🙂
Squatting at Westin Resort. I slept on this dock and under it a few nights…where I woke up to a pair of stray dogs.
I spent seven days guerilla camping in the Kunming Mountains. I changed spots a few nights, but spent many nights falling asleep next to a nice, toasty fire. I celebrated my new year overlooking the city of University Town South in Kunming watching the fireworks burst and light up the tops of vacant skyscrapers. In Kunming I hitched my first two rides on my trip abroad and this gave me the idea to continue hitching while backpacking SEA for the next few months of my trip. I hitched a ride from a tricycle a few miles to get into town and find food and I hitched a ride from a vehicle that took me to a university in Kunming. I found China to be super easy to squat in as long as you take the Metro to the last station and guerilla camp on the outskirts of town in the undeveloped areas. You can also squat in abandoned buildings, or newly constructed, vacant architecture. Food is relatively cheap if you stick to street vendors and the only other expense is water, which I bought from the store as I did not trust the tap water here.
More cool footage of Sinagpore architecture by foot.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I slept outside behind a bush at the Gardens by the Bay bathrooms.
Climbing a water tower in Labis, Malaysia. Here is the view of the city below!
Climbing the highest point in Langkawi. The view looking down from a radio tower!
I slept in a lot of airports over five months and Kunming was one of them. I ended up flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with absolutely no plan, no map and no idea what I was getting myself into. I ended up taking the train to KL Sentral and from there I went northeast to see the KL Tower and Petronas Twin Towers. Malaysia marked the beginning of a long hitch hiking adventure. From January 5th to the beginning of March I only walked or hitched rides with the exception of our rock climbing trip in Koh Yao Noi where we chipped in for a motorbike, which ended up being 1,500 baht. So if you consider I walked and hitched from KL down to Singapore and back up to Krabi, Thailand visiting many of the villages and towns in between and making multiple trips to different cities I would say I hitched roughly 7,000 KM and walked close to 1,000 KM when I was actually just leather tramping through the cities. The cheapest part of my travels were when I traveled solo through Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. I think if I break it down I ended up spending about 700 USD in total on food and water for those 3 months while I either camped outside, or crashed on floors from people I met on the road.
More of Abandoned Melaka. Some urbex at a local construction site across from an abandoned feed silo. I tried climbing to the top of the silos, but the concrete stairs decayed away!
From the KL airport I took a shuttle out and walked to the Petronas Twin Towers.
Just eating bamboo
The highlight of my trip though was definitely the last month. Langkawi island was insanely beautiful. The people treated me so well hitchin’ me rides to all over the island and I got to camp in luxury while squatting on Westin Resort beach with free WiFi, bathroom and water, not to mention the spectacular views of the fish from the dock lights at night. I did end up getting robbed and my phone got stolen in the Philippines, but I ended up meeting the most wonderful people of the whole trip in Nueva Vizcaya Solano, Philippines. I will always remember the Lacdao family and appreciate everything they did to help me out on my travels. I got some kind of food poisoning in Baguio and it ended up lasting for 10 days. Luckily they housed me and let me crash on their floor. I’ve been kickin’ it with them ever since. They taught me how to kill a chicken Filipino style. We ate a pig roast and they killed a live pig. We celebrated Chloe’s 4th Birthday and Erika’s graduation from the 6th grade before she moves to Calgary with her parents. I hitched rides with them to Isabela, Mt. Palali and ended up swimming and cliff jumping from Senora Falls.
Exploring the Village of Thai in Koh Yao Noi
Fisheye of the 2nd floor of the abandoned bar in ChengDu
A huge TV screen inside the Global Center
He who gives money receives good luck!
We are spending my last days in Manila and I will most likely disband from the group to visit Taal Lake and climb Mt. Maculot to overlook the Taal volcano. This trip has been awesome and I was a few hundred dollars under budget.
Multi-pitch climbing in Koh Yao Noi. This view is from 300+ ft in the air…!
I just thought these doors looked absolutely stunning with all the colors and intricate detail it definitely depicts China.
The M4 LP Club. We checked this out on single’s day in ChengDu East Music Park. A lot of Chinese people were looking for the right boyfriend or girlfriend.
A racecar track outside of a bar in ChengDu East Music Park.
A huge colorful tower inside the Wenshu Monastery
Including my five plane tickets, food, water, transportation, a laptop, shoes, and any items I bought on the trip I ended up spending roughly $2,800 USD, which for 5 months of backpacking SEA is living extremely minimally. I will do a further break down when I get back to the states, but it’s under my budget of $3,000 USD which I am very proud of because I know I can travel the world now on practically no money.
Camping in the mountains in Kunming!
What the boats look like while traveling through ChengDu, China!
100+ meters in the air from a crane. The view over the city of Xindu!
Drinkin’ Brandi with the boys in Solano.
Backpacking through Baguio City, Philippines
Overlooking the city of Hat Yai from the Big Buddha statue.
Hitchhiking Isabela Philippines
The past few days the knots and twists in my stomach killed me. Literally incapacitated, I slept most of the past two days, with the exception of hitching along for a ride to Isabela (a small village town in the mountains outside of Solano). The ride to Isabela took me through beautiful mountainous terrain. Green and chocolate peaks with yellow corn stalks sprouting from the bases, and bright lime rice terraces interlaced for miles on end. Our van hobbled down the back roads to Isabela Philippines. Dirt, gravel and dust flew in the air and the weight of 12+ passengers made the slightest bumps and cracks a challenge for the driver to escape with an unscathed undercarriage. Many times we bottomed out over speed-bumps, but kept on plugging at it. After a few hours we arrived in the village of Isabela. Many Filipino’s greeted me and the kids all stood around me in a circle staring. I was probably the first white person they ever saw in person. My stomach at this point still felt like knives twisting and turning in my abdomen. I could not eat at all, felt nauseous, slightly sweaty and not talkative in the least bit, which being a new exotic ingredient to the group, definitely made me slightly annoyed. I just wanted to be alone at this point, but everyone took such interest in me so an escape felt impossible.
Mountains of Isabela
The worst part of all of this came as the assortment of food covered the tables. Chicken, rice, fried fish, pork, chili pepper scattered across the table with sticky rice, cookies and other desserts. My nose tasted the aroma of all the pungent smells spreading through the air and yet I knew I could not indulge in any of it. They all looked at me with the utmost concern. Robert, a drunk Filipino man who sipped on Ginebra Sam Miguel’s Gin the whole day, approached me and stuttered in broken English, “YOU EAT THE RICE???” Not understanding my stomach felt like daggers punching through flesh he stood there confused as did much of the group. I really wished I felt better because I ended up missing every single meal they prepared in Isabela.
He’s just chillin’ in a ditch like a gutter punk haha
However, after camping out in the van for the night with Allan James and taking some medicine in the morning my stomach finally felt capable of eating some real food. Other than crackers and a few pieces of papaya I just could not stomach anything for two full days.
The mountains of Isabela are covered in corn stalks, rice terraces and fish ponds along with a variety of other plants. It’s beautiful here!
We woke up at the crack of dawn around 5 AM. The KTV from the night before finally faded. The voices of drunken Filipino men slurring Tagalog songs over a microphone lasted for much of the night. They finished bottle after bottle of gin, chasing it down with coconut juice from the trees scattered throughout their properties.
Fishing in a pond in Isabela Philippines!
I indulged in crackers, and coconut juice. My stomach felt a little better, but I think I got food poisoning from a few nights prior after eating raw squid. The day progressed and we ended up going back to Robert’s father’s tilapia pond across town. There we caught fish. By this I mean, they pulled out the generator from their bamboo hut, hooked up the hose and we all jumped into the muddy bog-like pond. They fueled her up and started her. The pond drained over the course of an hour. Three Filipino men, Robert, Allan James and Welbur accompanied by myself and a naked little Filipino kid all roamed around looking for the presence of nearby tilapia. The mud squished between my toes and each step felt like quicksand as the mud inched up past my knees to my thighs. Mud ended up everywhere all over my body. My face, arms, hair, chest, legs, crotch all covered with the nastiest, smelliest brown mud from the Philippines. The feeling of diving after these slippery little fuckers definitely heightened my spirits. After spending much time sleeping in agonizing stomach pain I enjoyed getting my hands dirty catching fish or at least “trying” to catch fish. I think after much of the water drained and the pond was left to pockets of mud and water I ended up catching about ten to twenty fish of all sizes. Gills pricked my hands and left cuts and splinter-like marks across my palms and fingers, but by the end we all caught about 20 kilograms of tilapia total.
Some of the villages in Isabela Philippines
The best part of it all when I bit into that juicy, fried fish. I took a half-ass shower from the well water pump by this point. So I no longer looked like a dirty homebum from LA, but that was the most fresh seafood I have ever tasted in my lifetime.
Chilling by the fish pond!
Despite the stomach pain that followed most of the ride home it was worth it.
Mt. Palali – Nueva Vizcaya Solano
Cliff Jumping at Senora Falls
After leaving Baguio for Welbur Lacdao’s house in a village in Nueva Vizcaya Solano I arrived early in the morning and took a day to relax. Something I ate in Baguio destroyed my stomach making it twist and turn in all directions. We spent the day talking and listening to the Voice on YouTube.
Walk to Senora Falls
The next day we woke up and I hitched a ride on Welbur’s motorcycle to Senora Falls on Mt. Palali. It’s a 5 KM ascent up this non-paved driveway of stone and grass. When we reached the top there is an expensive resort hotel perched on the top of the mountain. The view from the outside eating area overlooked the whole city. From up there the mountains of Baguio peeked out in the distance and the city of Solano sat below in the valley of stone and a lone river. The houses of the village in the mountains followed the pathway to Senora Falls. Each marked with an “AEIOU” trinidad symbol consisting of a triangle, with an eye and three A’s in each corner, wings stemming off the triangle. I later researched the topic and found that the symbol referred to the Infinito Dios. A religious symbol influenced by the Spaniards when they came over in the Philippines to spread Catholicism. The symbol lined every house in the village in red print with a white background.
Overlook from Mt. Palali
Right outside Senora Falls on Mt. Palali
As we walked closer to the falls the scenery just became more incredible. Bright greens, beautiful pink, purple flowers, palm trees, pine trees, and the clearest water my eyes ever witnessed. We took off our shirts and leaped into the water. My nipples became hard and I shivered as I swam to the surface. Despite being 90 degrees outside the water felt like 40 degrees. I felt like a member of the Polar Bear club. We swam for a while and jumped off the top of the falls, which is like a 20 foot leap of faith. We hung out there for most of the day until returning back to Welbur’s home.
The beautiful views of Senora Falls in Nueva Vizcaya Solano, Philippines!
Going for a swim in Senora Falls
Backpacking the Philippines
Backpacking the Philippines to Mines View Park
So I ended up getting kicked out of Manila Airport in the Philippines around 4 AM and instead of taking an un-metered taxi to god knows where I decided to just walk. Manila is one of the most dangerous parts of the Philippines. Much crime takes place and the city itself is a filthy, polluted mess. I ended up getting followed by this guy who called himself a “Travel Agent” and went by the name of Eric. But at 4 AM I found it odd this guy wanted to follow me around and help me out. We walked to a church where I learned most Filipino’s practice Christianity or Catholicism. Even at 4 AM a lot of people sat in the sanctuary worshiping God. This church stood near Metro Park. After that we checked out the Asean Mall and I noticed a pyrotechnic musical was being held on the 14th of March. He then took me to the deep sea by the coast, which we ended up walking for a few hours and chilled by the pathway that followed the coast until sunrise. At this point I just wanted to sleep, but I did not trust this guy at all. He would not leave me alone. We walked to breakfast and I ate a simple rice dish from a street vendor. Within a few minutes both of us finished our platters and when it came time to pay I put down the money on the table. The ATM only spits out 500 peso bills so I needed change. He offered to take it up and acted like she didn’t have change so he walked over to the nearest jeepney. I looked down to pick up my pack and the guy ran between the cracks, gone. He robbed me of 500 pesos and I needed to pay another 120 pesos for breakfast. So, needless to say, my first night in Manila was not the best. It didn’t really get much better from there.
I spent the rest of the day walking and trying to hitch out of Manila. I ended up walking about 25 KM. I saw a bus crash into a telephone pole and ended up on the news. I bumped into Paul Raymond Acosta who hooked me up with some lunch, clothes and directions to the best on-ramp for hitchhiking out of Manila to start backpacking the Philippines. I took a jeepney to Monumento and then a jeepney to Balintawak. I walked down the on-ramp and held my sign there near the NLEX on-ramp, “BAGUIO!” No one picked me up over the course of 4 hours. Apparently there is too much crime in Manila. People kept coming up to me trying to guide me to the bus stop, which I already knew existed.
Tramping down Kennon Road to see the mountains in Baguio, Philippines
I ended up giving in as I tried hitch hiking previously near a gas station and just tramping down the road didn’t work either. So I stood on the sidewalk where the Genesis bus stops for Baguio passenger pickup. Three buses later (Some Victory Liner buses as well) and no luck I almost gave up hope. By this time it was 6 PM and the sun just set. The people helping me out had left and I almost took a jeepney back to the Chill Hotel to crash for the night. It was then I met Welbur Lacdao. He was taking a bus to Nueva Vizcaya Solano. We talked for quite a bit and after a while I told him I’d go on whatever bus came first, Baguio or Vizcaya. The Baguio bus was full and his bus ended up stopping a few minutes after. We got on for a long 8-hour ride, most of which, in the darkness. I noticed a lot of scenery in the Philippines is covered in a variety of rice paddi’s and mountains.
Baguio Botanical Gardens
The next few days I spent time in Nueva Vizcaya Solano with Welbur and his family. His daughter just turned four years old so we celebrated her birthday and the whole neighborhood and family came by for the gathering. We ate a lot of Filipino food, shanghai, dried fish, rice with pork, okra, one-day old, etc. and at night time all the adults sat around a table drinking brandy and signing to KTV. In the morning I hitched a ride with Welbur to the UV Express Service Van station and took a 3-hour ride through the mountains to Baguio. The scenery along the whole ride is winding turns going up steep 6 to 10% grades through undeveloped mountains full of green vegetables, terraces and a mix of brown shrubbery along with vibrant, lime green rice paddies sitting between the valley’s of gray granite rocks where a small river runs through it.
Chilling with the punks of Baguio whom I met at Aguinaldo Park in Baguio City, Philippines.
The first day I arrived in Baguio I randomly walked through the city and stumbled upon Aguinaldo Park and Museum across from the University of Baguio. I ended up chilling with some punks and drinking the cheapest, nastiest gin while we watched a modeling shoot go on around us. A Saudi Arabian/Brazilian model posed with his shirt off smoking cheap Fortune cigarettes, blowing plumes of smoke into the air while a petite, Korean girl stood in front of a yellow blossomed vine, topless, posing for the camera. I caught a side boob lol. I ended up drinking until the wee hours of the morning with all of the anarchist punks of Baguio. I woke up in the morning on the couch of Shark’s house with the worst hangover of my life. None of us moved until 4 PM. The night prior we hung out at two parks around town just drinking and bullshitting for hours and I ended up getting my phone stolen.
Backpacking through Baguio City, Philippines
LA gave me a souvenir to remember them from the Philippines, a La Krshna necklace, and invited me to the temple Sunday where the “Vegetarians” meet up (freegans).
Chloe’s 4th Birthday Party in Solano!
We hung out at Aguinaldo park again smoking cigarettes and just chilling. Zea introduced me to his skater friends and after a few hours of talking and watching them bust out kick flips and variel’s I noticed the punks left. They told me if I wanted to squat in Aguinaldo Park that Lolo, the caretaker, did not mind.
Drinkin’ Brandi with the Lacdao’s
So I ended up parting ways from the skater’s, hopped the fence, and found a nice place to camp by the sewer in the bushes.
The next day I took a jeepney to Mines View Park and ended up checking out The Mansion, Wright Park, and Baguio Botanical garden. I walked for hours aimlessly with no map and no plan scoping out the area for places to sleep and hit up an Internet Cafe where I got in touch with Welbur who told me to come back to Vizcaya as he just went on sabbatical.
Drinkin’ Brandi with the boys in Solano. Who would have thought Backpacking the Philippines would end up in a night of being tipsy with new friends 🙂
I walked and walked until I hit Kennon Road and took some pictures of the viewpoint. I then wandered through the city as the darkness loomed in and asked for directions to Mines View Park by jeepney. I ended up at Baguio Plaza where the jeepney dropped me off at the Mansion. Someone started following me around Wright Park so I decided to walk down the road and squat near the Mansion property. I hopped the stone fence and camped right in front of the “NO TRESPASSING GOVT PROPERTY” sign.
In the morning, I literally woke up, hopped the fence, waved down the first jeepney I saw and headed straight to Baguio Plaza where the driver showed me the location of the UV Express Service Van headed to Vizcaya Solano. I walked over and ended up being the last person to fill the slot in the van. I endured 3-hours of head-bobbling and felt extremely tired and sick from something I ate the night before, not to mention, getting bit by a spider while fiddling around with my sleeping bag.
Koh Yao Noi Island Guide
You can get to the island by either hitching a boat from Ao Nang or other islands or paying for a speed boat, longtail boat or ferry. If you book in advance you get a better price, but normally the price is dictated by the number of people on-board the boat. We haggled our price down to 600 baht per person from Ao Nang to Koh Yao Noi.
Sunrise in Koh Yao Noi near Namtok Bungalows
The ride is about 30 to 40 minutes by speedboat. The views are very intriguing, but if you have the chance try to sit in the very back or front of the boat otherwise much of the view is blocked from the roof of the speedboat. I believe longtail boat is the most costly way to arrive to Koh Yao Noi, however, it’s more private and less people so if that is what you are looking for then that is an option as well.
Once you arrive on the island there are tons of vans to drive you into town. The normal rate per van is about 80 – 100 baht depending on where on the island you want to go. For us, we wanted to go where the climbers stayed to meet people with similar interests and possibly get boats coordinated to climb Grateful Wall a little north of Paradise Resort off the northern part of the island.
We stayed in “Namtok Bungalows,” which I highly recommend to climbers or low-budget travelers. The price of staying in a bungalow was very cheap at 500 baht a night. You can also rent motor scooters for 300 baht per day (automatic) or 200 baht per day (manual), which you will need to take the ridiculously sketchy drive down a sub-par, dirt road to the climbing walls off the beach of Paradise Resort Hotel.
I still camped outside for the duration of the trip while my friend stayed in the bungalow, but I prefer camping over sleeping inside. The bungalow offered free coffee, free water and a few electrical outlets in the main lobby along with hammocks both in the lobby and on the bungalow porch. They also included free WiFi, which was not the greatest, but it worked well late at night or during the day when people were either asleep or climbing.
The boat ride to Grateful Wall in Koh Yao Noi
They also serve breakfast, lunch and dinner for reasonable prices ranging from 20 to about 150 baht per meal depending on what you order. The food is great by the way some of the best dishes on the island. Danny also organizes snorkeling and fishing trips off of the island if you can get a large group together the prices are reasonable. Snorkeling isn’t recommended as the water off the island is murky and it’s hard to see fish from what I heard. However, fishing sounds fun so we might check that out in the next week before Trevor heads back to America.
The town has a climbing shop where you can rent gear. Prices are kind of expensive (a chalk bag and ATC were 100 baht a day), but if you want to do multi-pitch climbs off of “Big Tree Wall and The Mitt” you need an ATC with an auto-blocking device.
For breakfast in the morning you can hit up the corner market in between the climbing shop and Bamboo Bridge for an assortment of sticky rice dishes from jackfruit, and mango to regular rice at 5 baht per entrée.
For lunch and dinner we hit up a few places on the island. We always went to the meat stand in the center of town on the same side of the street a few blocks down from the 711. There is also a great place for roasted duck noodle soup towards the other end past the 711. You can choose either beef, chicken, or roasted duck soup for 40 baht per bowl. I don’t recall the names of either of these restaurants and street vendors but ask around and I’m sure one of the locals knows exactly what I’m referring to and the location of each.
Rock Climbing Thailand with Trevor Stuart. My first experience doing multi-pitch.
Another place we ate was the Rice Paddi, which is extremely expensive and despite the great ratings my friend showed me, I would not recommend you eat here on a budget. I only ate vegetable rice for 100 baht, but he spent over 600 baht on his meal. The place is overpriced, but definitely delectable. If you don’t have a budget and have the money to spend then you can check it out otherwise stick to the local restaurants and street vendors.
As for rock climbing you need to take a 30-minute motorbike ride in the morning down the shittiest dirt road following the power lines to the northern part of the island near Paradise Resort. You can climb “the Mitt” until about 11 AM or noon before the sun hits it. There’s an easy 5.9 warm-up inside the cave and the rest of the routes are relatively pumpy 5.10’s and 5.11’s with steep verticals. Then in the afternoon you can hit “Big Tree Wall” which is the wall past “HD Wall.” Big Tree has a lot of cool routes, all ratings are between 5.10 and 5.11 for the most part and they have a multi-pitch route at the very end of the wall. This is normally good to climb mid-afternoon. Then you can hit up HD Wall around 3 PM to 4 PM since it will be in the shade around this time. We did not climb too much of this wall, but everything on the island was pretty decent climbing. The island offered a lot of tufa’s and different style climbing than what I’m used to along with a rougher type of rock (limestone). If you have the money and the people definitely try to arrange a boat for Grateful Wall, which is a 20-minute boat ride to a wall full of 5.10 climbing. For 10 people you can pay 250 baht per person to take a boat to and from the wall. You can climb from 9 AM to 4 PM and you’re in the shade the whole day. The climbs on Grateful Wall are spectacular. Last time we were there they were actually bolting six or seven new routes on the wall so they might be ready now.
Chong Phli Bungalows in Thailand
If you’re looking for a nice beach you can take the bamboo bridge near the boat pier closest to Namtok Bungalows and relax in an area with little people and have the beach to yourself. I hope this Koh Yao Noi Guide helps you out on your travels whether backpacking or rock climbing definitely check out this island; it’s beautiful!