Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Be with me 3...

Vacation time

ready for our vacation
The travel ban to the country where I am presently working has been lifted by our government. I thought it was my chance to go home and truly enjoy my vacation and end my wandering. However, my company has decided to extend my vacation away from home since the situation is not yet stable. They don't want me to be trapped in Manila in case violence erupts again that may cause re-imposition of travel ban like what have happened to Nigeria. After lifting the travel ban last December, an explosion killed several person during Christmas which resulted to re-imposition of travel ban trapping those Filipino workers who went back immediately to Philippines for their Christmas vacation.

I have no choice but to wander again for 5 weeks. I hope everything will remain stable. I hope the peace and stability of the country where I am working will continue and eventually lead to a stable political situation so I could go back to my home on my next vacation on April.

Anyway, going back to my vacation, I am planning to visit 3 countries, namely: Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I am planning to explore Bangkok then fly to Ho Chi Minh to meet my wife and explore HCM city for few days and meet some of our friends who are residing there.

After that, I would be alone. I am planning to travel by bus to Phnom Penh and stay there for few days. After which, I'll travel to Siem Reap and fulfill my dream of seeing Angkor Wat. That will be my final leg then return back to Bangkok and wait for my flight back to Dubai then to job site.

My colleagues were surprised to learn that I have been visiting these places alone. I told them that it was an opportunity for me to discover myself and know the things that I am capable of. Looking back, I can't also believe that I have been to those places. As far as I know, I always prayed hard before I went for vacation and gave thanks after arriving back to my work place.

After few hours and +1 Hr Time Zone

my favorite seat at business lounge
I am now in Dubai airport waiting for my flight to Bangkok. I have eaten my lunch and updating my blog.

My 2130 flight to Bangkok, EK374, was delayed for more than an hour. The pilot announced that the delay was caused by several reasons such as delayed arrival of plane; that was understandable. The second reason was the entertainment or audio visual, blah, blah.. he could simply say there was a glitch or some DVD were damaged, LOL. Lastly, the ground engineers encountered problem in downloading the software. But the pilot explained that a redundant PC was working and the safety of the plane was not compromised. At any rate, software downloading was corrected by the engineers. All of us took the assuring words of the pilot by heart.

After few hours, when we have reached the Bay of Bengal, there was a strong turbulence that lasted for few minutes. I have been flying for many years and as a matter of fact I have accumulated several hundred thousand miles on my frequent flyers cards but that was the first time I had experienced such kind of turbulence. I could feel and see that the plane's body was shaking hard causing the baggage to rattle inside the over head compartment. Then without any notice, all of us felt that the plane lost some altitude. I am a system specialist and I know that in case the program gets corrupted while being downloaded anything can happen. Nevertheless, I believed the pilot when he announced that a back-up PC was working; this is the norm when you have critical system, sometimes you can have triple redundancy or back-up system. After a while, when the plane stabilized, the captain again announced that we had a clear sky turbulence which the plane's instruments were not able to detect hence, they decided to decrease the plane's altitude to stabilize our flight.

Kudos to the captain for remaining cool and for using layman's term in explaining the problem. Because of this all the passengers remained calm though I can see that the stewardess eyes were also stricken with fear.

I went back watching the sci-fi movie "In Time" by Justin Timberlake; very entertaining movie.

After more than 5 hours and +3 Hr Time Zone

I have arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport and learned that the airport express bus has been canceled since last June 2011. So the only way to reach the city is by taxi, van or car rental which will be very costly compared to 150 THB airport express bus.

I remembered that the airport link railways was at the basement of the airport. Immediately, I proceeded to airport link railways and paid 40 THB going to Ratchaprarop. Upon reaching Ratchaprarop, I hired a taxi and asked him to bring me to Tani road, near the famous Khao San Road. I paid 73 THB. My trip was faster and cheaper.

I reached Nappark hostel at 11:30 am and told to come back at 2:00 pm. I took my lunch and now wasting my time in an internet cafe updating this post. I'll pay the lady 40 THB for an hour of net, quite expensive.

I have checked-in and realized that the weather in Bangkok was bit warm and humid. Unfortunately, Nappark hostel a/c is off from 12 to 6 pm, just like many hostels in Singapore. The room is quite huge and plenty of vacant beds.

KHAO SAN. I took my dinner at Lucky Beer bar and restaurant at Khao San road, alfresco style. Ordered the all-time favorite chicken phad thai and downed it with 2 big bottles of Singha beer. Truly, Khao San is the mecca of Asian backpackers. This is the first time I have seen such great numbers of back packers concentrated in one area. The place is safe due to numerous police officers. Countless street vendors were selling their wares. I saw one guy doing exhibition on football. It was unfortunate that I left my camera at the hostel. Bought a leather ying-yang design wrist band. The price was initially 150 THB. Western tourists were eagerly buying this kind of souvenirs. Bought mine at 50 THB after 5 minutes of haggling. The western tourists at the other table were shaking their heads. They have been ripped-off by the vendor, lol. But maybe, I was too..

Wat Pho

I have visited Wat Pho, it is beside or at the back of Grand Palace; one of the great places to visit while in Bangkok. I would make a post regarding this huge reclining Buddha. Presently, it is very humid and warm in Bangkok, my body is still adjusting. From where I am working, the temperature can go down to 10 degC during early morning thus I need to acclimatize first before I can explore full time.

I have been approached several times by touts along this area; even called by tuk tuk drivers. I simply didn't mind them and they left me alone after a while. I have my map with me and a bottle of water. That would be enough for me to explore Khao San area.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
I visited Chatuchak market this morning. This market is huge and overrated. For western tourists this market could be something new for them but for me the market is a combination of our own Tiendesitas, Dapitan Arcade and Marikina/Baclaran dry goods. Our own Divisoria can be comparable to Chatuchak in terms of size and variety. But I must admit that if you know how to haggle you can buy your merchandise dirt cheap, if I may say so. Anyhow, I bought a wood carving of dragon boat with two small dragons as requested by wife. I practiced my haggling prowess with the poor sales lady. I went there by metered Taxi.

24 February

After temple hopping in Bangkok, I flew to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. My wife would arrive later. I am planning to stay here for few days before going to Pnom Penh then Sim Reap.

Chu Chi Tunnels

I booked a guided tour for Cao Dai temple and Chu Chi tunnels with my wife at KIM Travel at the hotel. The following day, we strolled around the city and visited the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame & post office, Ben Thanh Market and Saigon Square where we bought North Face bags and pants.

Wife has left yesterday back to Manila. I would leave for Phnom Penh, Cambodia after 2 hours.

27 February

Left HCM City, Vietnam at around 9:15 am. After 6 hours of grueling bus trip, I reached Phnom Penh City, Cambodia. Several tuk-tuk drivers were competing for my attention. I walked for few meters until one driver remained. I asked him how much was the fare going to street 154 where Circuit hotel is located. He knew the hotel so I paid him 2 USD. Yes, you can use USD in Cambodia.

I visited S21 (Tuol Sleng prison), The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek), Russian Market, Central Market, Sorya shopping mall, The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.

The Killing Fields

Of all the places I have visited, S21 and The Killing Fields made a lasting impression to my being. Even now, I can still see those innocent faces tortured and brutally murdered during the reign of Pol Pot. My experience at Phnom Penh would not be forgotten until my last breath. It made me realize how important my family to me. I can't imagine in case those horrible things will happen to my family and people.

After 4 nights in Phnom Penh City it is time to go to Sim Reap and visit the land of Angkor.

02 March

I left PP at around 9:00 am by Mekong Express Limousine bus and arrived at Siem Reap bus station at almost 3:00 pm.

I have 5 nights reservation at Ta Som Guesthouse.

the wedding
I availed 3 days unlimited temple pass and paid 40 USD. I went to Tonle Sap floating village and I was fascinated at Kompong Khleang. The houses were built on top of stilts which were as high as 10 meters in some areas. After asking my tuk-tuk driver, I learned that during rainy season the water rises and sometimes even reaching the floor of those stilted houses.

I was able to attend a Cambodian Buddhist wedding, many thanks to Moori, my tuk-tuk driver.

I have extended for 2 more nights at Ta Som Guesthouse to take much needed rest after 4 days of rigorous temple and Tonle Sap trips.

I would be leaving for Khao San road, Bangkok tomorrow, 09 March by bus.

09 March

After almost 10 hours of another arduous land travel I was back at Nappark hostel, near Khao San Road, Bangkok City. I never thought that it would be very tiring to travel by bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

It was initially fun due to comfort of traveling in a big bus. However, after passing the border, we were herded like cows inside a 15 seaters Toyota Commuter van. At last, I have experienced the monstrous Bangkok traffic. At any rate, I have several days of rest before coming back to my job on 13th of March.

I simply took much needed rest for few days in Nappark hostel, age is obviously catching up, lol.

13 March

I have arrived in Dubai and waiting for our chartered lear jet that will bring us back to work. I met my colleague at Marhaba lounge and celebrated my successful trips by downing a glass of champagne. I am glad I would be back at work where life is much more convenient compared with my wandering.

I hope and pray that the travel ban to my work place will be lifted soon by our government so I could enjoy my vacation with my family.

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