I have been back in Koh Yao Noi for three and a half days as I write this blog and a few things have changed for upon my return. Whilst on a climbing trip to Crazy Horse Buttress in Mae On, northern Thailand I found my drive, my motivation, my mojo. I have a new found desire to not only really explore but also train again after 18 months. With this came the drive to try hard again.
This does not only relate to my climbing, my travel, my love but also my desire to live a meaningful life. It may seem obvious to some but this is something that has been missing since the death of my father. To regain your love of inspired living is to discover a “brave new world”. This is paramount to me as a spiritual being. Today I sat down and drafted what became my official resignation letter to my awesome boss, from my role as an IT geek at one of the worlds major banks.
Whilst travelling one of my many projects was to find out what I wanted to do next. This is yet to appear, however I have worked out along the way some of what I don’t want. I am remiss to say that I was unhappy in my job for about twelve months and I needed to see things from a different perspective. Fortunately I was able through the wonders of modern corporate policy to take a sabbatical for a year. This was the best decision I had made in the last five years. Not to give up, but in fact to walk a path less travelled.
Today on this tiny Thai island I had my first ever reiki session (google it). Like all good alternative therapies performed on me, I instantly fell asleep. Irrespective of this the healing session continued and I was awakened by my therapist Akiko (we met in Kalymnos through Karine last year) as she was striking Nepalese singing bowls on the thoracic and sacral area’s of my back. This was indeed a sensation of which I had no experience and the vibrations through my body felt good.
Coming back to my body after the session seemed to take a long while and I felt very heavy laying on the cushions as I regained my motor functions after dozing off for an unknown period of time. I still feel a little “dazed and confused” but I do feel a sense of freshness in me.
A lot has happened in the last 18 months or so and the world is a much smaller place for now, but I do feel good and I do feel as though I have a wonderful group of supporters who always send me their well-wishes and love. With my resignation now official I can move forward one step at a time, for my stride is just right.
“… and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.” Christopher Columbus.
Thanks for enjoying my adventures and life with me people, it means a lot to me! 🙂
Today was an experience to say the least. This morning we had chicken rice soup AGAIN for breakfast and then we rode into Chiang Mai on a motor scooter. That was one of the most insane 40 minutes of my life. cruising down the left hand side of the road, trucks and cars screaming past dodging in and out of traffic trying not to die. Drivers just simply turn out in front of you from a side road. Fucking crazy!!!
We arrived in Chiang Mai old town to be received by the local constabulary. they pulled us over for a random licence check. I produced my Aussie licence and the officer said “Where you from?” I smiled gently and said “Australia mate!” “Very good” he said, handed me my licence and off we went to find the Chiang Mai climbing shop to check out the local vibe.
As all good coffee drinkers do , Karine and I located a nice little cafe with a good machine and ordered our standard Americano each. We studied the map and located several temples and we were ready to explore. We headed off down the main street and turned left and headed to the closest temple or so we thought!
Arriving at the gates of the first temple we could find was a little overwhelming. It was huge…….actually the biggest temple in old town I think. It was painted a fresh glowing white and adorned with ornate gold and brown trimmings. Very vibrant and beautiful indeed.
Walking through the grounds revealed the giant and very ancient Chedi that was the original centre piece of the gardens. All terracotta bricks and crumbling with time. It would have been and amazing sight in its former glory days. There are many shrines in the temple grounds and too many to list but some amazing sights none the less.
There were sitting Buddha’s, lying Buddha’s, big and small Buddha’s and there we even old decrepit Buddha’s as far as the eye could see. Buddhism in Thailand is very interesting as its a cash crop so to speak. In one temple we visited they capture the pigeons and put them in cane cages and then charge you to release them and this is “good karma”. From my minimal understanding a good buddhist would not capture the bird in the first place right?
In all seriousness though walking through the streets is a great way to see old Chiang Mai and experience the Thai culture and all its kitsch garnishing at times. Karine had been to Chiang Mai before and wanted to take me to this great little restaurant she knew of. Its also in The Lonely Planets recommendations. It was called Lert Ros and it was this dodgy looking place with salted BBQ fish cooking out the front on rusted grills over old style hearth’s.
I have to tell you! The food was stunning and the price was right. Super tasty and flavoursome, spicy, aromatic and cheap as hell. The photo’s will explain a lot but what can you say about Lert Ros other than you simply have to go there and not be timid about where you sit, what it looks like and what terrifies you 🙂
Walking through the market place was also an eye-opener for me with some of the cuisine on offer not looking too bad but having been sitting in the sun for the best part of the day. I thought the live fish in the tub were interesting. The catfish writhing around in a small plastic tub and then ending up on skewers whole and grilled as a snack was pretty horrid too, but thats just because I don’t like the taste of catfish.
We continued on our wanderings and discovered another beautiful temple. It was now starting to get a little late in the afternoon and I didn’t want to be riding back to Mae On in the dark on the side of the main road with Karine on a motor scooter, knowing that the trucks travel later in the afternoon. So we decided to head back to our scooter. I had never been in a tuk-tuk and requested a ride in one in the way a small boy would ask a parent for a chocolate bar or ice cream. It was super cool from a cultural experience and thats just what I wanted to do it for.
All in all a great day in an amazing old town………if you ever get there eat at Lert Ros and take a ride in a Tuk-tuk. It makes it feel like you have explored the town the right way.
Karine and I headed up to Heart Wall with Yeo and Su May after our fifth consecutive rice soup breakfast at La Bhu Sala. Although it was a great way to start the day we were all getting a little bored with the same thing everyday and we discussed what our options were in the village for the next day.
The walk in to the crag was a similar 20 minute walk into most crags in Kalymnos without the scree or the ocean views. Its beautifully setup with bamboo hand rails on the paths and well sign posted for easy time efficient access. The only difference is there are no route names painted on the rock. Anyways Heart Wall was the place for us. We warmed up and decided on our routes for the day.
Karine and I, on the recommendation of an American couple we had been chatting to decided the do a route called “Together” 6a+. A little romantic given the crag we were at too. 36 metres of varied climbing on incredible rock. It was a real little adventure. Three dimensional tufa climbing and overhung jug-hauling then onto a vertical steep face and up a slab to the anchors. Stunning to say the least. Next was “Hot Headed” 6b. A steep and pumpy route at the grade, 22 metres long and sustained all the way. Super stoked with the onsight and proud of Miss K sending it as well.
We called it a day after 5 routes and headed back to Jira Homestay with Yeo and Su May for a beer and a bite to eat. Talked about our day and generally chatted about cultural difference and weird slang in multiple languages. Its great to have the cultural diversity that travelling brings, as you meet new people on their own journey. We organised to have dinner together again and headed back for our clean up session after the dust and sweat had been subdued by beer and chilli.
Dinner at the Thai Steakhouse was hilarious! We were sitting in Australia corner (adourned with Aussie paraphernalia from yester-year) and the owner had been to Australia twice as a British Airways Operations Manager back about 20 years ago. His name (or what he liked to be called) was Uncle Nop. No idea why but there you go.
We ordered steaks and salad. It was a flavoursome meal but the stake looked grey and was definitely not cooked by an Aussie. It looked like it had been continually turned over and over and over until it resembled “the” grey slab at Upper Shipley (google it). Uncle Nop showed us pictures of his Scotland trip and he was very excited about reminiscing with us.
Tomorrow is a rest day and we are heading to Chang Mai for a look around the old city.
Well today we arrived in Bangkok, back from Mae On a little town bout 45 minutes out of Chang Mai and the home to one of northern Thailand’s best crags. We have just spent 10 days climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress. This place has it all; slabs, vertical faces, steep over hanging power endurance routes and all with in a 2.5 square kilometre area.
We arrived after being in Borneo climbing a mountain and we hadn’t been on rock for a couple of weeks. New crags and new rock, always a trying time when you are fresh off the lounge. We were staying at a place recommended by some people we met in Koh Yao Noi, a lovely couple Ingrid and Maurice. They said “you have to stay at La Bhu Sala! Its gorgeous and its an artisan’s retreat.” So we thought lets do it……..fabulous and priced just right.
After settling into our bungalow and having a brief wander around the grounds we received our scooter and decided to go and find the crag and eat. Karine had been here before and was excited to be back. We ate at Jira Homestay and Restaurant……this is the normal climbers retreat and accommodation in the area. Its cheap and the food is good. La Bhu Sala is a little more upmarket and its more like a Thai B&B, however it is owned by a very famous Thai chef by the name of Vatcharin Bhumichitr (Vatch).
After a travel day we decided a slow start for our first crag day would be good. We just wandered up to Crazy Horse and jumped on some very easy routes to familiarise ourselves with the terrain and the area. After a couple of 5’s I decided to step it up a bit and jumped on the 6b and totally got my arse handed to me completely. Off the ground this thing was absolutely nails……….Karine and I laughed as she caught me falling from the first bolt. Dejected I pulled through on the draw and finished the route.
The next day we headed to The Furnace and did another couple of 5’s to start the day, then jumped on what I read in the guide as a 6a………wrong again!!! This route was new and not in the guide book we had. Found out later that day it was a 6b+ and a sandbag according to the locals. More like 6c apparently. Oh well, time to get a bit of a kick in the pants by the look of it. LOL 🙂
Our first rest day after being truly humbled on the walls of Crazy Horse, we decided to head out into the provence and sight see. We saw hot springs, temples, markets and little coffee houses and of course the stunning and angular Thai rice fields. We found a great coffee place (instant was all we could get at our accom) and soaked up the flavour.
We tried Yacon, a thai fruit that is sweet to the taste and crunches like apple. It was beautiful. Thai sausage was the order of the day for lunch and we devoured it with a purpose fitting of two starving animals. Karine is a passionfruit fiend and we brought a bag of about two dozen of them for 20 baht. We then head out to Doi Satek, Vatch had told us the ride through the hills was fabulous. Teak house were spied and photos were taken. It was a great way to rest and we retired early with a new goal in mind for the morning.
We headed out to The Furnace again to get on the 6a and 6a+ that we liked the look of and had a ball on them. The crag is named accordingly as the sun actually heats the rock to the point where it almost burns in the late morning. After our morning we headed up into the bottom of the State Anxiety Crisis Cave and climbed all the low grade routes there for the afternoon. Quiet and cool, silent and haunting is an apt description of the cave. The rock was all coral rock and weirdly appealing i its nature…..a great day out climbing.
We met a couple from Kuala Lumpur who were staying where we were and started to hangout a bit. We all headed up to Heart Wall for the day as we hadn’t been there before and people were raving about it. Walking into the crag and this huge steep wall opening up was amazing. Its about the same size as The Mitt on Koh Yao Noi but very different rock formations. Lots of cracks and bouldery weirdness as well.
We warmed up on the right on a few cruisy rules and then I jumped on a 6c and fell at the crux and then jumped bacon and finished the route. Karine wanted to do this 36 metre 6a+ on the main wall and we wandered over and it was free. I tied in and off I went up this slightly overhung face. Venturing into no hands knee bars five metres off the ground I found very funny, then up onto a series of tufa’s that were huge, through a channel and onto a ledge the size of a small dining table…….and this was the first twenty metres or so. Simply stunning climbing at the grade and beautiful to boot. Did the 6b to the left next and that was awesome too.
Karine and I both now felt we had a feet and were ready to tackle a couple of routes that we wanted to attempt……what the routes were we were still unsure of but we had a goal at least. That night was a little chilly and we all rugged up a bit. We had dinner with Yo and Su May and talked about heading back up there the next day to do some more routes.
Bangkok for a quick three days to catch up with Karine’s friends and pick up our climbing gear…..sooooo the “Full Thai Experience” (FTE) was put on the table by Karine and I accepted with a smile unsure of what she meant.
We woke to dogs barking outside our bedroom in the alley and it was barely daylight. I wandered down stairs and made coffee…..it was bad and not what I wanted to hand to Karine to say “good morning”.
Getting in the taxi and heading to our destination was an epic journey through the motorways of Bangkok. Traffic constricted every little part of the road. Scooters moving between the cars like flies buzzing around a carcass and merging cars bustling for position in this peaceful chaos that is driving in the city here everyday………not a horn can be heard anywhere.
Our first stop was breakfast. Khao Mun Gai for two and a fresh coconut juice (coconut included) for me and passionfruit juice for Miss K. What a way to start the day!? We walked a couple of blocks south after we had paid 125 baht for our morning feed, heading towards a little side street that Karine knew about. After all she had lived in Bangkok for just over 6 years. As we crossed the road and entered the side street I made contact with our destination.
I was now standing in front of a series of gold framed windows with stunningly clean glass and a sign that read “Panipa”. I was standing in front of a beauty salon and this was all part of the FTE that I had agreed to. We entered the salon and took a seat on the extremely lush cushioned lounge and waited to be received. Within three minutes we were welcomed and asked what we would like. A hair colour, manicure and pedicure for Miss K and well what can I say………A head, neck and shoulder massage, manicure and pedicure for me.
Here I sat being absolutely pampered for the next hour. My feet were massaged and tidied up to the point where I almost found my feet attractive…..unheard of! Nails were trimmed and cuticles neatened and softened with some miracle creme that was unknown to the non-metrosexual male surrounded by a sea of gorgeous European and Thai woman all there for the “same, same but different” thing as me.
While I write this blog, Karine is having her hair shampooed and conditioned whilst trying not to fall asleep having her head massaged at the same time. This is a day of decadent self-indulgence and well-being that I have not experienced since a trip to Vanuatu back in 2007 (I think??)…….anyways I have to ask for another coffee and flex my toes a little to see how relaxed they are after the massage……….its hard for me today ok, I am struggling here…….I am out of my comfort zone.
Anyways, gotta go right now…….we have lunch and a massage to get to before dinner with friends………FTE..right!!!
Travelling by bus can really give you a whole other perspective on a country. It broadens your view beyond just the city, the airports and the hotel rooms you frequent. I hadn’t thought much about travelling by bus in Malaysia, however Karine had put the idea forward when we were discussing going from Penang to Lumut to catch up with her friend Marie.
Leaving Penang was a wonderful travel experience. We caught a big ferry from Penang Bay to Butterworth on the mainland, this was free by the way. Then a free shuttle bus from the ferry terminal to the bus terminal where we picked up our bus tickets (pre-booked online , of course).
We had to wait for an hour in the sweltering heat before the bus left but its all part of the experience.
Once the bus doors opened we decided we should board. The air-con was blasting arctic air across everyones faces as they sat in their pre-selected seats. We chose the front seats on the left thinking it would be a great vantage point to see what was on offer on the roadside during our three-hour journey. As the passengers embarked I noticed we were very few in total and we were on a beautiful 44 seat coach.
As most of the coaches are owned by Indian Companies you can only imagine the decor. There were crushed velvet curtains with tassels all along what looked like old cinema scroll curtain rails. There were matching seat materials and carpet as well. All very tacky, yet supremely comfortable. Given our tickets cost us the equivalent of $24 AUD in total I thought yet again “the experience”.
There was scattered with buildings on the single lane highway heading south-west. I thought they were just sheds but figured out very quickly they were restaurants, kiosks and other businesses. I was a little shocked at the primitive nature of the villages in the countryside as we travelled through. Penang was a little bit of a culture shock but this was different. This was between Penang and the villages in Africa I had driven through in October 2015.
There were palm plantations everywhere as far as the eye could see. It reminded me of our pine tree and sugar cane plantations back home in Oz. I don’t know what I was expecting to see but I was very much getting an education about rural Malaysia and fast. We stopped in a couple of places to pick up and drop off passengers. I would search for food that wasn’t dosed with sugar and fail miserably.
The vehicles on the road that we would pass wouldn’t be allowed to be started let alone driven at home and they would only just be useful on a farm. I found this amazing. The bus driver would drive in the middle of the road vying for position to prepare to pass whatever moving tragedy was in his way from getting us there on time. This was super entertaining to watch and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Witnessing this was the best part as like all the passengers on board, my life teetered in the balance of the drivers ability and his understanding of the road rules according to the laws of (distance + mass + velocity = tragedy). It was astounding really, but the exposure to the culture was well worth it.
After our stay in Lumut we caught the bus down to Kuala Lumpur. On the way we experienced a similar series of events and some even more entertaining antics from not only our own driver but other drivers as well.
Try the bus sometime………it’ll give you clarity………about how valuable your life is 🙂
We had just arrived in our hotel in Georgetown, Penang and the air conditioning was on and it was a blessed relief from the torture of the heat on the street. We rested briefly and then we were out and about in search of the famed Penang street art that Georgetown (the old colonial part of the city) is famous for. Looking at the map and feeling rather excited……we chose our first target and headed for “Kids on a Bicycle”………about a half hour later and several stops along the way we saw a crowd of tourists and thought “That’s It!” Sure enough…….there is was. Stunning and earthy. Truly wonderful.
As we wandered we saw many different and more basic/modern pieces this was a bit of fun to look at but nothing on the style and photo-realism of the classics. These paintings were indeed spectacular. The next few pieces were located in Armenian Street………a hidden gem with a few touristy shops and a great little bicycle shop to boot.
The pictures are self explanatory and I think it better not to ramble, so here are some of the pieces we looked at. I hope you enjoy them.
Wandering a round certainly worked up an appetite for both of us and we decided to head for the local noodle franchise Yeap Noodles……this place is great. Lime Juice was the drink of choice and it punches your thirst so quickly and completely. Dinner was pork spring rolls with spicy pork noodles and pork curry……..theres a theme building here.
We decided to have an early night and get up early in the morning and go and find the last of the unfound street art on our map. It was a great afternoon and a seriously fabulous way to see old Penang……shopping malls and touristy things really don’t interest me too much at the best of times.