Burma to Bangkok to Kuwait to London to Uppsala, Sweden

On February 24th, after almost four weeks in Burma, it was time for me to leave. Having flown from Bagan to Yangon on the evening of the 23rd, I took a friend’s advice to stay at the Gardens Guesthouse in order to take some night photos of the Sule Paya roundabout:

In the morning, I flew to Bangkok and returned to my hostel of choice there, Soi 1 Guesthouse. I picked up my laptop and a bunch of clothes I had left with the owner, grabbed a nice shoewr, and in the afternoon I took off en route to London via Kuwait.

A snapshot of the dorm room in Soi 1 Guesthouse in Bangkok:

Because of the time difference, I landed in Kuwait on the afternoon of February 25th. Here’s a shot taken as we were coming in for landing:

I sat beside a really friendly Scottish girl who, incidentally, knows a couple I met in Mae Sot, Thailand months before. After a number of hours in the Kuwait airport chatting with the Scottish girl and watching the Japanese animated movie, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” on my laptop, I caught my onward flight to London.

After I arrived in London, I went for a coffee and some alone time, read a few of Checkhov’s short stories, then headed to my friend Aidan’s house. Aidan wasn’t home, but his flatmates immediately got me involved in a fun activity: filling his room with crumpled newspapers and phone book pages. We spent a fair bit of time doing it, and would have continued if we hadn’t run out of paper and run out of neighbours to ask for more paper. Aidan was slightly overwhelmed when he arrived home. Here he is, enjoying the new decor:

The next day I took a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park:

I sat down on this bench to take a break and eat a sandwich, and after a while noticed the inscription in the wood:

After my long stroll, I walked over to the Museum of Natural History and spent an hour and a half checking out their interesting exhibits. I’ve never before been to a museum with a full dinosaur exhibit, so this place was kind of exciting for me! A few random photos from the museum:

This is the caption for the photo that follows:

That afternoon I headed back to Heathrow once again, boarded an SAS flight to Stockholm Arlanda airport, caught a train to Uppsala, missed my bus even though I was ready to board, standing looking at the driver through the door, walked half an hour on ice to my old apartment, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep.

A Tourist in Bangkok

On December 14th, after a few hours rest in Mae Sot (following an intense 3 day road trip), I caught an overnight bus to Bangkok. I only slept an hour or so maybe, and arrived in Bangkok at 430am. I was at Soi 1 Guesthouse (a really good hostel in Bangkok, not actually a guesthouse, if you’re ever looking for one) by 5am, and sleeping on the couch in the lounge within a few minutes. I got up after 8 and set out to be a tourist and do some Christmas shopping, so I caught my “bus” which is actually a boat and, after disembarking, promptly got lost.

I’ve been to Bangkok a number of times, so I wasn’t reeeally lost. It was just that the map didn’t really match reality (which, it turns out, is actually true when I look at the real life map in Google Earth), but I found my way nonetheless.

I briefly checked out Wat Ratchanatdaram, and one of the little pagodas nearby.

I then walked past the Democracy Monument

…and around the Royal Grounds, and past the Grand Palace. A neat window along the way:

After quite some time and a fair bit of sweat, I arrived at Wat Po (pronounced, and sometimes spelled, Wat Pho). This place is definitely worth seeing, even for those who are as templed-out as I am. It was really impressive, and well worth the 50 baht (CAD$1.75) it cost to get in.

There are a number of buildings on the temple grounds, one of which houses one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world. It felt smaller than the big cement reclining Buddha near Mae Sot.

There are “guards” at many of the entrances and gates within the complex:

And neat little windows sometimes:

There’s a fair bit of maintenance / renewal work going on as well:

These photos don’t even come close to illustrating how ornate, bright, and detailed the buildings are.

After Wat Po, I did some shopping and a lot of walking (getting lost again, but eventually finding my way as usual), then caught the boat back to the hostel. This is my bus stop, where I get on and off the canal boat in the split second between the boat pulling up and pulling away. The first time I took this boat in November, I missed the first one because I wasn’t fast enough jumping on to the edge and climbing down into it.

After two days of shopping and chilling at the hostel, I caught a taxi to the recently reopened Suvarnabhumi Airport and took off to Taipei. I spent 6 hours in the Taipei airport, which luckily was nearly deserted and thus very quiet, then took off again to Vancouver to surprise my family and friends for Christmas. The flight from Bangkok was my 99th flight of my life, and the flight to Vancouver was my 100th! Yep, I have an Excel spreadsheet that lists all the flights I’ve ever taken. I’m a nerd like that.

Farewell to Asia

On Dec 16th, we left Cambodia by bus. From Phnom Penh it was about 14 hours to Bangkok. It wasn’t the best bus ride of my life, but it wasn’t as bad as many others I’ve been on. As usual in Cambodia, there were beggars at every one of the truck stops we went to. I watched one for a few minutes and worked out that, if she earned that same amount for every busload of passengers, she’d be earning about $10 in a few hours. While that may be very little here, that’s a lot of money in Cambodia.

We arrived in Bangkok around 9pm. I went straight to the guesthouse where we had a room booked for us, while Jos, Holly, and Ron went straight to the suit maker who was to have their suits ready for them to pick up. Then we went shopping like mad before the stalls all closed down, and Ron and I ate street vendor food. It’s the cheapest hot meal you can find, and it’s tasty and a lot less dodgy than it may appear. I got three big spring rolls for 25 bhat, which is a little less than a Canadian dollar.

The next day we went to the MBK mall, a massive mall in Bangkok, to do some last minute shopping, then grabbed our stuff, caught a cab to the airport, and got on a plane bound for Singapore. Holly flew out of Bangkok later that day to Kuala Lumpur to catch her flight back to Calgary. Yet another photo of clouds from a flight:

We arrived in Singapore, got a cab to a guesthouse in Little India, the area in which I’ve stayed every time I’ve been in Singapore (not including when I stayed free as a guest at NC’s home). The place was pretty shabby, and didn’t fit the description of the Lonely Planet so well, but it was good enough and cheap. There was a bird sitting in the distance outside our window.

The next day I went to hang out with some friends of mine, while Jos and Ron went to pick up their stored luggage at another guy’s place. My friends and I went to the beach at Sentosa Island, a small island connected by a causeway to the main Singapore “mainland” (which is, of course, a small island itself). My friends all do Parkour (sometimes called Freerunning in English), tricking, and fight scenes, so they practised in the safe environment. Landing in sand or water is much better than landing on grass or concrete.

It may look like NC fell while flipping in the first pic, thereby covering his face in sand. In fact, he did his wall flip just fine off the tree, but Torched (nickname of another guy who is a police officer) wanted to show me the techniques the police force is trained to use against people. So he twisted fingers, arms, and all sorts of crazy pressure points that looked very painful, using NC as his subject. Thus, NC’s face got very much covered in sand.

Jos and Ron met us at the beach after a while, and we convinced Ron to learn to do a back flip. Azri, the guy on the right, is a gymnastics teacher at an international school in Singapore, and is a very accomplished gymnast himself. George is also a gymnast I believe, and is experienced in helping people learn to flip.

Ron tried hard, and sort of flipped, but in the end sprained his ankle and had to stop.

The sunset was nifty, and although I have a gazillion sunset photos from various places, this one seemed unique enough to put up.

That evening we went to NC’s home where his aunt had prepared us a massive meal of Indian food.

[Me, George, NC, and Ashton on the MRT]

[Me, Jos, Ashton, George, Azri, and Ron at NC’s place for supper]

It was soooo good! We ate as much as we possibly could, Ashton left to get back to army base before curfew, then some time later we grabbed my luggage which was stored there, and headed back to our guesthouse. I had re-injured my knee for about the 10th time in a year while playing frisbee before Ron and Jos got to the beach. With two large suitcases and a 25 kg sidebag carry-on between three people, it was funny to see Jos pulling the largest suitcase as well as the huge and heavy carry-on bag, while Ron hobbled very slowly carrying nothing, and I limped along, pulling the small suitcase behind me. Countless people stared and laughed at us!

The following morning, the 19th, we got up early and caught a minibus taxi to fit all our luggage, and headed for the airport. We met up with Azri and George there for about 5 minutes, as they were flying to Bangkok for a week’s vacation, then we checked in at the airline counter and headed through security and all that.

Our plane was decorated with Christmas decorations! It was kinda cool. And Singapore Air is always good service, so it was about as good as a 17 hour flight can be. We stopped in Seoul, Korea for an hour which was annoying. We did that last year as well going the other way, because it’s the refuelling stop. The only reason I was annoyed both times is that I severely overload my carry-on baggage to keep my checked luggage under the weight limit, so walking through the plane and airport, having to go through security again and everything, with this massive sidebag, is not fun.

While in Asia somewhere, someone (I think it was Ron) suggested we all wear our suits off the plane. We decided it was too uncomfortable to wear suits for such a long ride, but then realised we could change in the Vancouver airport after arriving! Furthermore, we realised we had colour combinations that essentially matched! So after landing we took turns watching the stuff and going to the bathrooms to change into our suits. We even got questioned by a customs official who was watching us by the carousel, as to why we had changed into suits.

Well, we walked into the arrivals hall looking snazzy in our suits and immediately spotted both sets of parents waiting for us with big smiles.

And that, my friends, is the end of my overseas travels for a LONG time. I am in debt to the banks, my parents, and the government, and it’s now time to get back to reality. I’m back at UBC beginning January 4th, and looking for part-time work in good ol’ Vancouver city.