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The 5.30am Hike

Posted in Outings, Photography by Alvin on January 31, 2010

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Wednesday

Posted in Outings, Photography by Alvin on January 30, 2010

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Of School, Booze and Joy

Posted in Diary, Thoughts by Alvin on January 23, 2010

Week 3, work load is picking up its momentum. The usual routine sets in so fast that one does not realize we are three quarter away from the finals final. So much I enjoy the whole process of learning, I shudder at the thought of how the class fumbled pharmacotherapy last semester, the uncertainties and expectations. That aside, life’s been pretty much a breeze at the moment with ample sleep, good food and gatherings.

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Speaking about gatherings, we had a rather impromptu ones last Tuesday. I tweet about us being totally random, decided to gather for a round of distilled spirits and cognac. I slept at 5am that day.

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We shot some ‘high-on-alcohol’ videos which was really comical. Had a good time laughing at it the next day when we meet up for home-cook pasta Carbonara and curry for lunch. DSC_0005

I managed to watch ‘The Bucket List’ last weekend, 3 years after the official release. Way back of time but it was as good as any of the recent blockbusters. ‘Find the joy in your life, my friend’ was the most memorable quote in the movie by Morgan Freeman is his letter to Jack Nicholson.

Definition to it is individualized but effect once found is generalized, isn’t it?

End

Posted in Diary, Travel by Alvin on January 19, 2010

11 December 2009 – 12 December 2009

I made a trip down to the book cafe before leaving Bangkok for good. A quick exchange of the first 2 books of Dave Peltzer’s trilogy for the third, after a hard time looking for the book store.

Quick lunch at KFC before lugging my rucksacks, headed down to the train station.

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The train departed punctually at 2.30pm.

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I bought a 2nd class sleeper (upper bunk) for a trip down south to Hat Yai. The cabin captain transformed the day seat into proper beds with sheets at about 7pm. There were local peddlers who boarded the train selling local food at random stations but I bought some sandwiches from 7-11 and it tasted really good. That’s for dinner.

The journey from Bangkok to Hat Yai took 17 hours and I arrived at the largest metropolitan area in Southern Thailand. I went straight to the travel agency to grab my express bus ticket to KL. Hat Yai town was practically flooded with Malaysian tourist, at the local coffee shop for breakfast.

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The bus depart from Hat Yai at about 10.30am and I arrived in KL at 8pm that very day, putting an end to the trip.

‘No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow’ – Lin Yu Tang

A few days shy of a month backpacking around Thailand and Cambodia. It was indeed a journey to remember.

And doing it alone beautifies the realization of how beautiful it is to travel, more. 

Leaving Siem Reap

Posted in Diary, Photography, Travel by Alvin on January 15, 2010

10 December 2009

I spent an extra day in Siem Reap after the trip to Angkor.

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A laidback day catching up with random backpackers over breakfast, reading and continue to explore the town by foot. I bought a tie at the night market which almost all the stalls were selling the same stuff.

It was a long day on the 10th. I took a direct bus from Siem Reap to Poipet-Aranyaprathet and my final destination, Bangkok. We had to change a few buses before making our way out of the town. The whole process of getting out of Siem Reap took almost 5 hours, thanks to the long queue at both the Cambodia and Thailand custom. 

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Headed straight to Hualamphong after alighting at Khao San Road. The initial plan of grabbing a train ticket to Butterworth foiled and I settled for Hat Yai instead.

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I spent the last day in Bangkok at Urban Age Hostel, which I hastily made a reservation a day before arriving. Loitered around the infamous Patpong before dining at Subway and the rest of the night catching up on emails, facebook and news.

The best thing of the day was, I had the dorm all to myself. Haha

Angkor

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on January 13, 2010

8 December 2009

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Pale looking at 6 in the morning.

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Angkor Wat, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of Elephants, Ta Keo, Ta Phrom and Banteay Kdei.

and it was just tip of the Angkor iceberg.

Siem Reap

Posted in Diary, Photography, Travel by Alvin on January 9, 2010

7 December 2009 – 10 December 2009

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My first impression of the town was dust, tourist buses and hotels. The tuk-tuk I took to my hostel cruises through streets with rows of luxury and upscale hotels. It made a few turns into smaller streets and dropped me right in front of my hostel. I lugged my rucksacks up to the 2nd floor of Siem Reap Hostel, locked my laptop in the bunk bed locker and went hunting for ATM machine. USD is still the de facto currency in Cambodia and thankfully the machine regurgitates USD.

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It was near evening then. I walked into the old market reek of fish, raw meat, and wet market stench hoping for some rare encounter for dinner, but to no avail. By the way, there was  a salon right next to the vegetable stall with some lady getting their hair perm-ed. It was no different from a groceries stall except with a crooked mirror, combs, scissors and aluminum cans filled with gels, waxes and chemicals. It was quite a sight but I timidly kept my camera away when they gave me a stare. No sneak shot because it was too dark to not use flash.

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Cambodia amok for dinner on the first night, Indian curry for the second and I love the roadside food stalls best because its a dollar and a half for a decent fried rice and an orange shake.

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The cheap draft beer was tempting enough at Pub Street but I gave it all a skip. Browsed through some souvenir shops and book stores instead. The French pastry store was probably the best place to hangout with reasonably priced coffee and bread. I spent some time making necessary travel plans and bookings there after dinner before calling it a day.

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For once, my multi-nation wallet. From left: Cambodia Riel, US Dollar, Thai Baht, Singapore Dollar, Malaysian Ringgit.

Breakfast at the hostel was good. Milk, cereals, bread toast, fruits, juice, pancakes and random travel stories from random people who shared the table that morning, all for a dollar.

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Siem Reap is a little too commercialized for my liking. Probably its the weak Ringgit  and the annoying tuk-tuk driver along the streets in the town. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the walk around the town, the food and definitely Angkor Wat.

Crossing Border

Posted in Diary, Travel, Youtube by Alvin on January 6, 2010

 7 December 2009

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Hostel staff bid me goodbye at 4am as I made my way out to the main street to hail a taxi. The streets were dead quiet. I arrived at Mo-Chit bus terminal just in time to grab a 5.30am ticket to Aranyaprathet, the Thai-Cambodia border town in Eastern Thailand. The bus made multiple stops at random bus station and once at the military checkpoint.

I hopped on a tuk-tuk after alighting from the bus, heading 6km to the border. The driver expectedly, made a stop at a travel agency, notorious for cheats and scams. So much of trying to avoid it, I paid an extra of 4USD for a 3 hours taxi ride from Poipet to Siem Reap. The moral of the story, take the risk of waiting for other backpackers to car pool instead of paying extra to ‘secure a seat’ as what they called it.

After all, crossing over to Cambodia from Thailand via land transfer wasn’t that complicated. Poipet is the border town after stepping into Cambodia from Aranyaprathet. There is a 200m stretch of dodgy hotels and casinos right after the custom, patronized mainly by the Thais. The rest of the town is tyrannized by touts, beggars and traders pulling carts of goods to be traded in Thailand. Wikitravel has probably the best description of Poipet: ‘Poipet more or less rhymes with toilet’.

I was then ushered onto a free shuttle bus to the transportation hub 10 minutes away from the border, and later onto a taxi with 2 Belgian backpackers, well not after a round of argument and complains. The road heading to Siem Reap was nicely paved, and that was probably the best Poipet can offer. I arrived in Siem Reap at half past 2, with a morning of fun and adventure.

Anyway, I found this travelogue which captured Poipet in moving screens.

Bangkok: Walk and Snap

Posted in Photography, Travel by Alvin on January 5, 2010

5 December 2009 – 6 December 2009

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#1 Udee Bangkok

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#2 Siam Paragon          

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#3 Phra Maha Chedi, Wat Pho

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#4 Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

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#5 Khao San Road

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#6 Parade near Grand Palace for the King’s birthday

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#7  Fireworks at Democracy Monument

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#8 Chatuchak Weekend Market

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#9 MBK and the colorful taxis

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#10 Locals on boat, crossing Chao Phraya River

Bits and Pieces of Esarn

Posted in Diary, Travel by Alvin on January 4, 2010

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I had a chance to spend my last weekend in Northeastern Thailand organizing another English Camp for Nonsumran School, Sisaket province. It was another fun-filled weekend with about 70 middle school students. A pleasure to work with lecturer from the Faculty of Liberal Arts and members of ECC. 

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Awesome group of friends whom I hung out with for dinner and supper before heading 630km down south to Bangkok that night.

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Supper!

I barely slept that night in the bus. I wish I had a good sweater and definitely an ear plug. Caught the break of dawn in the bus with silhouette of concrete buildings. The bus attendant announced the arrival in Thai and the only word I could understand was Krung Thep, and that was more than enough.