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Warorot Market Entrance

Warorot Market is without doubt THE day market to visit when you're in Chiang Mai. Loads of varieties of stuff sold in several complexes here. They are segmented into sections, so you get vendors of the same in each section for your easy shopping and comparison.

Can Cau's Hillside Hive of a Market

"Pleeeeaase... let me go! Release meeeee! I beg yooouuuu!" I could almost hear that pleading in oink language; in what seemed to be the loudest and longest wail of a pig's agony I'd ever endured. My heart went for the pig.

Just down from the main road, the irregular-shaped mild slope landing about the size of a badminton court was the pig section. Puppies also shared the space. All over the red earth landing, owners stood and waited for prospects to come and buy their legged properties.  Some leashed to the owners, some to wooden poles sticking out from the ground. At some spots, there was a filled clump of a gunny sack lying on the dusty red soil, with a hairy pig snout jutting out of a fist-size hole at the bottom of the sack.

Hope When There Seems To Be No Hope

This morning as I surveyed the endless New Year messages on my FB wall, one image came to mind. The Museum of Sayings by renown Indonesian author, Andrea Hirata, played vividly in my memory and triggered a series of thoughts.

2013 In Reflection - 6 Solo Trips

The year 2013 has been an adventurous one for me. As I look back, it's hard to recall all the experiences that I'd encountered as a solo traveler. Even harder to select the photographs to share my inner feelings. I'd chosen two pictures for each destination and hope to give a glimpse of the places I'd been this year.

I started the year off with visiting Sri Lanka in Jan-Feb. This trip was special as I'd gotten to know two fellow travelers from Malaysia when I scoured the TripAdvisor forums. It so happened that they were departing on the same flight and had similar itinerary with me. We texted each other daily as we exchanged notes on the various places to visit. That made the trip more memorable!

How I Lost My Passport on Bangka Island

It was an unplanned trip.

Forced unplanned trip because I couldn't find much information anyway on Bangka and Belitung. Since I'd gotten a Couchsurfing host in Bangka who'd promised to lend me some books on the two islands, I figured I'd read all about them when I reach there. It was to be a free-and-easy trip anyway; just think beaches… relax and chill.

So when I'd finally reached the eastern town of Muntok, Bangka on the fast boat via Palembang, I had to endure another 3 hours on 'travel' (basically a van taxi) crossing from the eastern tip to the western side where my host's home is located at Pangkal Pinang. I was the last passenger to be dropped.

Silvia was at home to welcome me. We spoke in Bahasa Indonesia and almost immediately chatted as if we were long-lost friends catching up on lost years. After all, we'd gotten warmed up on the Whatsapp Couchsurfers Babel chat channel. Babel is short for Bangka-Belitung and is used officially across the two islands. You can see 'Babel' on signboards and even used as part of a local bank's name. I was given a few books on Babel in local language. I could hardly take it all in as I flipped through the pages and Silvia went through the gamut of the places to visit. It was even harder when Silvia's younger sister, Veronika and their friend Shasha came back from a climb at a nearby hill and joined the chatter.

The Kalaw Trekking Experience and Jaw-Dropping Kalaw-Heho Train Ride

Everyone goes for the Kalaw-Inle Lake trek. I was the only goon doing the Kalaw-Kalaw trek.

"Weird…!" I could almost hear that.

Because I was the sole person doing the trek around Kalaw, I had to pay for the guide all by myself. No one to share the cost with. Pure unadulterated stupidity!

But I was adamant to take the Kalaw-Shwenyaung train ride. This could be the only train ride I'd take in Myanmar since it was known for bumpy train rides. As it was only a short 4-hour ride, it was perfect… and it's on the way to Inle Lake anyway.

So here I was bargaining to reduce the cost for the guide while he was trying to close on me as fast as possible. It was expensive for me while it was clearly a losing deal for him since he could only earn from a single client.

"Ok, you pay for deposit now."

Reluctantly, I took out 10 thousand kyats and handed to him.

It has been 15 days since his last client. The A1 Information & Trekking Service rotates their guides so that each guide gets a fair share of the work.

The Dallah Ferry Crossing and Village

It couldn't have been more than 20 minutes. The Dallah ferry crossing.

Every 20 minutes there's a ferry. So I'd been told by a fellow passenger. The ferry was completely filled with locals. Peddlers of food and knick knacks were moving from row to row of seats hollering out what they were selling. The river was calm as the ferry chugged along. The mid-afternoon sun was beating down on me as I sat on the wrong side of the ferry. The sun-facing side.

"Never mind. It won't take long," I pacified myself.

The ferry crossing helps the locals to commute between Yangon on the northern side and the Dallah village on the southern side of the Yangon river. Many worked at Yangon. As with anywhere in Myanmar, transportation is cheap. The ferry ride costs 100 kyat only.

As the ferry began to dock at the jetty, the locals got up and moved to the side to disembark. They climbed up the rails to get on the jetty. As if on cue, I joined them at the back. Yangon is a typical modern traffic-choked Asian city. Upon crossing to Dallah, I seem to time-travel back to an under-developed old-time village albeit quite densely populated. There were many motorcycle taxis waiting for client passengers and the trishaw pullers were not to be beaten as well. I was constantly pestered by one passenger on the same ferry after I got off.

Bac Ha's Fantasy White Plateau

"We did not pay for a commercialized, purpose-built 'homestay' with no farm on it. What we wanted is to homestay with a family in an authentic farmhouse so that we can experience their daily lifestyle!" my travel partner raged.

We brought this up with our tour guide amongst other gripes. "Ok! Ok! I will try to look for a new homestay for you," the tour guide pacified us.

After lunch the next day, we were told that we would be 'looking' for a new homestay. Our guide took us for a walk as he asked around for the location of a farmhouse homestay. We were kept in suspense as he kept stopping to ask for directions. At one point, he stopped at a local house where he asked permission from the owner for us to take some photographs.

"We will go trekking through this farm for a short-cut to the homestay." Puzzled, we just followed.

The mists were beginning to descend on us. Weather was very unpredictable in the Bac Ha highlands. It could be sunny now and the next minute, the place covered with mists so thick, you couldn't see what was ahead of you.

Scaling Sri Lanka's Adam's Peak from East to West

You know what's the worst thing about climbing Adam's Peak for the first time?

The fact that you wouldn't know if you're fit enough to climb fast enough to reach the summit in time to catch the sunrise at the top!

At 2.45am. I was already in front of the Nallatanniya police station at the foothill waiting for the guys who wanted to join me hiking up Adam's Peak.

The minutes ticked. "We're on our way," the SMS came.

Almost 3am.

I began to tap an SMS reply on my phone that we don't want to be late for the sunrise.

Then the 2 guys appeared. They were already at full speed and I had to catch up in the cold. We marched down the cemented path that snake through the still-closed village shops catering to tourists. The light from the lamp posts shone on the path except for certain short stretches. I had my head torch just in case I needed it.

Soon, the cold gave way to body heat. Warm clothing soaked with hot sweat stuck like a leech to my skin as we hurried up the endless steps leading to Sri Lanka's most famous summit with a footprint said to be embedded on a rock. Depending on which faith are you, each story had a different slant. For centuries, pilgrims had climbed up the sides of the mountain to reach the summit where the footprint is claimed to be Adam's.

Biking Toba From The Behind

"I want to rent a motorbike for one week. Can you send it to my hotel?"

"Yes, can be done!"

I gave the details and the most important item on my Medan trip was settled!

Riding a bike on a holiday is always an amazing experience despite having to go through the weather i.e. too hot, too cold, raining! The top of my hands got sunburnt without me knowing because the ride to Berastagi was cool and refreshing. By the time I'd realized it and tried to put on some sunblock, the damage was done!

From Medan, I'd followed the route by Google Maps. As usual, it would always give the shortest route... but not necessarily the most pleasant one. The first half went through the village roads leading to the "Pemandian Alam" (river baths). Not as comfy as if you were to ride on a highway but manageable... and tiring. I had to take 2 pit stops in-between. It was Sunday and perfect time to visit the local churches. I'd never seen more churches in Indonesia than in the Medan-Berastagi-Samosir region. It was uplifting to hear Christian worship in Bahasa since I'd been to Bahasa church services in my country before. I was more curious than anything, my pit-stops weren't long; just to rest a bit, enjoyed the singing before going on my way again to Berastagi.

Hello... I Am Josh

A Travel Writer & Photographer from South East Asia

A little about me

Josh For some, it's shopping therapy. Others, movie therapy. Yet more, reading therapy. For me, it's writing therapy.
 
Why writing? When I travel, I enjoy first-hand the experience like in shopping therapy. But when I write about my travels, I live vicariously the experience again, as if like a movie sequel (or more like GroundHog Day, except that this is fun!). Yes, writing evokes the memories, the fun and the not-so-fun but all-in-all it gives the satisfaction of reliving the sense of place once more.
 
With images, it enhances the experience down one's travel memory lane. With this in mind, I hope to share my travel stories in words and images with you. For your escape therapy! More...

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