Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lisu, how far will you go?

Lisu is the name of my new bicycle. I really enjoyed exploring the temples by bike and I thought that it would be great to explore a bit Cambodia also by bike. It was not easy for me to find big enough bike. Lisu is the biggest bike I could get in town but still Lisu could be a bit bigger. Lisu is an city bike with three gears. I paid for it 38$ and I plan to try biking in direction to Laos. From Siem Reap it is a bit more than 500 km. It is quite likely that Lisu or Lisu rider will not cope with this road and then they will have to separate. We will see.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biking Indiana Jones

Angkor Wat.

"The Temple stands solitary and alone in the jungle, in too perfect order to be called ruins, a relic of a race far ahead of the present in all the arts and sciences"
D.O. King, 1860, French explorer

Angkor was a capital of Khmer empire in 9th-13th century. It is hypothesized that this was the largest preindustiral city with a possible population of one million. The temples were build from sandstone and are still standing.

Ta Prohm.

I got to Siem Reap by the boat from Battambang. On the way we crossed quite a few small villages situated on the lake. Kind of water-land experience. Our boat was also delivering mail to the local people. You can find few photos from this trip here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bamboo train in Cambodgian jungle

Bamboo train driver.
Deep in Cambodian jungle there is single track rail line, which the local people are using for local transport goods to and from the market. But there is a need to use this track in both directions and few people can use train tracks in the same time.... so what to do if two trains meet? Easy, disassemble one train and assemble it afterward. It is possible if the train is ultra-light and is built from bamboo.

I heard about this train on the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap and immediately I decided to make a detour in my trip and see it, and I went to Battambang.
I wanted to ride this unique train for the sun rise. I did not manage to find any other traveler to join me, so I had to rent the whole train on my own... for 10$. I guess this was the only time in my life when I rent a train for myself.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


There are many gold Buddha in Bangkok.
For some people Bangkok is ultimate party place, but I was exhausted after my stay in Kolkata and I did not feel like jumping into night life of Bangkok. I had to set up few things for my future travel, I wanted to sight-see a bit and hit a road for the my next destinations.

My hiking boots got completely ruined so the most important aim in Bangkok was to get a new ones. I had looked around a bit in India already... but there was always a problem with the proper size for me. Since most of people in Asia are on average much smaller than me, I expected that finding proper shoes size might be a challenge. In Bangkok I went to a first hiking shop asking for the biggest boots and surprisingly, they were too big! So I manage to solve the shoe problem very fast. I hope that they will last a bit longer than my previous ones.

There are quite a few striking differences between Bangkok and Indian big cities that I visited. First of all it was quiet. No one was using horn on the street. Bangkok is also much cleaner, no one is throwing trashes on the street and there are some dustbins around!!! Also the street food in Bangkok is brought to another higher level than in India. Very tasty, one can not resist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Incredible India

I spent in India two and a half months (I could not stay longer because of short visa) but now there are more places in India that I would like to see than before my travel. I have a feeling that I only had a small bit from this oriental tasty cake. I started my trip from spending few days in Kashmir. This region is very difficult to travel. Many Kashmir people are dreaming about their own independent country. The day that we left Kashmir serious riots started and are continuing all the time.

The longest time I spent in Ladakh, breathtaking Himalaya region, and still I hope to go back there one day since there are few things that I did not see and few others that I would love to see again. From there I went east (Rishikesh, Agra, Varanasi) but I omitted the colorful Rajasthan, which for sure I would love to see. Finally I stayed in Green Part of Himalaya, in Sikkim, where I redefine the definition of green and got completely soaked.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Party Kolkata

Party Kolkata.
I was not looking forward to staying four days in the big Indian city. I have already stayed 3 days in Delhi... and it was 3 days too long there. I was told that Kolkata is poorer than Delhi, so I was not expecting to enjoy it at all.

Luckily in Ladakh I met Kamil who was motorbiking around, and he was doing long term internship in Kolkata. He invited me to stay at his place if I would be in Kolkata. He lives in AIESEC student shared flat with people from all over the world who come to Kolkata for the short time internship. Those students spend most of their free time parting together. I spent in Kolkata four nights and three nights were for sure the most party evening in India for me. Kamil, thanks for hosting me.

Searching for Rhinos.

Wild elephants and rhino in the night
I have heard that India is also great place to see animals in it's natural environment. I decided to try to spot some rhinos in the Jaldhapara Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a National Park which is very rarely visited by western tourist in the North-East part of West Bengal. Without previous arrangement I reached the neighboring city to the park and figured out that it is not easy to get inside the park. One can enter it only for 2h long Jeep Safari or which gives much greater chances to see Rhino - for 1h long elephant Safari. Theoretically there was only one place inside the park where one could stay overnight but was very small (only 6 rooms) and is usually booked by Indian tourists months in advance. Luckily another western tourist show up - Judy, an Australian women, who is backpacking and hitchhiking all over the world for 30 years already. Now she retired, but she said that she does not have too many places that she have not seen already... I wander if I will be able to say like this in 30 years.

Wild rhino at sun rise.

After few hours waiting and some additional Rupee, finally it was possible that we would spend the night in the park in this only guest house. The house was placed really in the middle of jungle and on the side there was a forest opening to which wild animals are coming from time to time (sometimes they are putting a bit of salt on this opening). The house was separated from the opening only by a very small river, which is for sure not a problem to cross for charging rhino or elephant. Basically from the front of our house we could appreciate wild animals in the night and at the sun rise time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tea time

Tea picking.
After Sikkim mountain experience I took a break in Darjeeling - the Indian capital of the finest tea. Early in the morning I walked down the hill through "The see of the tea plantation" observing how local women are picking up three youngest leaves from the tea plant. Apparently one of the reason for the excellent quality of the tea is the fact that females from this region have especially delicate hands. Of course no men is allowed to pick up the leaves.

"Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery
Orange Pekoe Number 1" tea testing.
Afterward I walked back and in front of the local factory "Happy valley" I met a very lovely old lady who has a nickname "The 5 second lady" (she is lucky not to be five second guy). She invited me to taste the tea produced in a local factory "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Number 1" and give me a short education about the quality of the local tea. Apparently this tea is the finest in Darjeellin. "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Number 1" is a black tea that you have to brew only for 5 seconds, and you can reuse the same tea three times. I also tried the first quality green tea and yellow tea. And I have to admit that "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Number 1" was very delicious.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Which way? To and from Holy Lake.

Kechopari Lake
I really enjoy traveling with my traveling mates, but I sometimes it is great to hike on your own. I decided to go to Kechopari Lake, which is holly lake. The road distance between Pelling and Kechopari Lake is 27 kilometers and I wanted to hitchhike in one direction and trek in the other. There were also some significant trekking shortcuts but there was a problem to find them.... In Sikkim it is impossible to buy any kind of the trekking map, non of the route is marked. So the only possibility is to constantly ask local people that one meet on the way, hopefully next to the crossroad. The problem is that local people here... seems not to hike so much like the local people in Ladakh, so sometimes they do not know the trekking shortcuts, and they do not have any clue what is the distance.

I wake up early in the morning and before 7 o'clock I was on my way. I planed to get any kind of the lift to the lake but unfortunately in the morning all cars (meaning 10 in total) were going in the opposite direction and I was told that there will be vehicles going to Kechopari Lake but in the afternoon. Finally, I manage to reach my destination in 5h getting two short lifts for 5km and finding few of the mysterious shortcuts.

Green Monastries

I wanted to see few monasteries in Sikkim to compare with the monasteries that I had came across in Ladakh. When I finished my first trek I met another Dutch person - Bas and a Tibetan girl - Pam and we decided to spend four days trekking together. For me Sikkim is kind of small Netherlands since... by chance I came across 6 dutch people and with 3 of them I went hiking.

Bridge that we managed to cross.
Bas managed to travel to India from Netherlands mostly by hitchhiking on a very low budget, and Pam escaped from Tibet 10 years ago and now she misses her homeland a lot not having a possibility to go back.

We managed to hike together to Dubdi, Tashiding, Ralang, Rabongla and Pelling Monastry.
We slept predominately next to monasteries.

Young monk in Ralang Monastery.
Once we did not manage to reach our destination before the sun set so when it was getting dark we looked for the home stay in the small village in the jungle on the way. We had hard time to communicate with the locals since the locals could speak only Nepali, but finally we manage to find a Bhutias family that spoke a bit of English and Tibetan and they offered us a very good meal and a place to sleep. That day the hike was very challenging. We had to walk down to the bridge on a very steep and slippery road. I slipped quite a few times there, and once... my rainbow umbrella that I was using as a walking stick, broke down. This same time Himalaya claimed my nail that I injured on the Toll Bridge (see the Under the bridge story). The new nail was growing all the time under the injured one and more than a half of nail is back already :)