Photos Koala's first trip to Southeast Asia (1 Viewer)

Koala

sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves
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I arrived in Bangkok first thing in the morning after an anxious night on the plane, getting caught in my own thoughts, just waiting for the all-ecompassing, enthralling experience of stepping into a land of the likes I'd never experienced before. I was convinced it was the only way to sort out my thoughts, and feelings, and the end of a relationship, and the stagnant rut I couldn't seem to pull myself out of in Australia.

I exited the airport into the thick, smoky, sauna air of Southeast Asia. I checked public transit directions on my phone - take a taxi, it recommended. Or a 2 hour bus. Then I noticed the blue square of the train station on the map not far from where I was standing.

I found the tracks - I smiled - I always felt at home around them. I approaced the ticket window. "Bangkok?", I inquired. "Fih baht", the ticket lady replied. I handed over a 100 note, not sure if I'd heard her right. She gave me back 95 baht in change. Yep, this one hour ride into the city center was 5 baht - the equivalent of 16 US cents.

By the tracks, I noticed a man with a stall of ice with bags of chopped fruit sitting atop of it. I approached and inquired about the watermelon, pointing and smiling. "Tweny baht". A woman next to the fruit man checked my ticket, and pointed at the opposite track, making sure I was to wait in the correct spot. I thanked them both and waited for my train.

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I watched the brand new landscape unfold, dilapatad houses full of character pressed up closely to the tracks, vendors selling street food and snacks at each station, stray dogs napping in th shade, not lifting an ear to the passing train screeching by.

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Coming into Hua Lamphong central Bangkok station, I stood in the doorway of the train and hopped out on the fly onto the shiny concrete platform. I couldn't wipe the curious, excited grin off my face for the rest of the day.

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I spent the next few days getting lost in endless mazes of markets and temples, sweating profusely and rehydrating with cheap mango and papaya and watermelon, taking photos and people watching.

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They had markets for everything! I walked into this electronics market that sold every kind of part, tool, and piece of tech you could ever need. People were fixing TVs and cell phones in little booths on the sidewalk.

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Some familiar international containers on a string sitting at a station.

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Freight graveyard

The trains were captivating me with their open air and beautiful presence so I decided to follow an image on a poster at a tourism office I saw one morning. I was going to the Mae Klong railway market.

The journey there ended up being the most fulfilling, as the market was completely overrun by tour buses and slow-moving people with giant cameras. At one point, I had to switch trains at the end of a line, take a boat across a river, and walk a few kilometers to where the next line started. There was not bridge connecting one side of the river to the other - people and motorbikes piled onto the ferry to cross the river,.

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Here's the market where the train comes through four times a day.

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I tagged along with the owner of my hostel and an older Italian guy to a few floating markets - it is accessible by car, but most vendors come in by boat through a network of canals.

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I saw kids jumping from a bridge and swimming - in this heat, all I wanted was to swim - I borrowed some clothes from the hostel owner's friend who sold coffee at the market and joined the kids, racing them back and forth in the canal!

After much anxiety about where to go next - south to the islands or north to Chaing Mai, the next biggest city behind Bangkok - I finally made my decision to book a train ticket north. Looking back, there was so much worry in the first week in SE Asia - there was definitely an adjustment period for me, as it was something totally new. I was so stoked to be in a new place with no plan, but also nervous to miss out.

Going north ended up being the best decision of my trip.

The train ride was fun - the Thai folks sitting across from me joked around with each other and with me, pointing to my side-shaven hair and tattoos. I explained through motioning that I had done some of the tattoos myself. We laughed together and shared cookies and other desserts being sold by hustling food vendors walking up and down the aisles of the trains, carrying hot plates of meat on sticks, rice and pork, coolers full of ice and drinks, bags of Thai tea, cups of noodles and coffee and an electric kettle...pretty much full service dinner and snacks, but not at elevated prices. The sellers would embark and ride a few stops - a half hour or hour - and get off the train, done for the night, or waiting for the next train back the direction to home.

I met a bicycle tourist from Switzerland who was returning back to the north and to his bike. We ended up biking together to the manmade lake north of town later that week!

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As you can see, the air in the north was terrible. It was the middle of 'burning season' - when farmers burn their fields to clear it for the next growing season and forest fires are set to clear land for new farm land or to encourage the growth of certain plants/mushrooms. Everyone was wearing face masks, you couldn't see the mountains surrounding the city, and some days were so bad that you could smell the smoke in the air.

That didn't stop me from finding a bunch of really awesome travelers and locals to spend my birthday with, though!

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Welcoming the smoky sunrise after partying all night on my birthday - April 3

Chiang Mai continued to be partying, eating amazing food, getting Thai Massages, and just overall indulgence.

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My Thai friend took me to this river where folks go to eat food, drink, ride bamboo rafts and tubes, and wade around in the water. You can't see it in the photo, but the restaurants send your food and beer down in shopping baskets attached to zip lines and announce over a loud speaker who's food it is so you can go and grab it!

After a bit longer than planned, I began heading towards the Laos border. There was no train so I decided to hitchhike!

After sweating my ass off for an hour jammed in a songthaew (open-aired, two-benched taxi) with 3 other women, a bunch of boxes, and bags of leafy vegetables, I walked to the highway and got a ride soon after.

Since he didn't speak fluent English, and I spoke extremely limited Thai, the majority of the ride went like this: the driver, Nock, handed me his phone and I swiped through his photos of traveling and cycling around Asia. When I came across a photo of interest, I'd ask, "where?", and he'd think for a moment before exclaiming "oh!", and telling me where and when it was taken.

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It was a very wholesome ride that would get me 2/3 of the way to Laos. Unfortunately, despite lots of effort on both parts to communicate where I would be going and where I wanted to be dropped, he dropped me at a police station in a tiny town on the highway.

After another confusing set of interactions with the two men at the station (who worked for the government but were not police), I finally got through to them and they drove me another 45 minutes down the road to a bus station. It was nearly dark so I paid the 60 baht (2 US dollars) to my destination and checked into a riverfront hostel and fell asleep, exhausted.

Next was Laos!

I rode the "slow boat" for two days, in a very chatty mood the whole time, I walked up and down the aisles of car seats talking to all the backpackers, old and young, cheers-ing my bottles of Beerlao with the bottles of other travelers and locals alike.

We passed sandy riverbanks, dry hills carved with bum paths, naked kids bathing in the river, water buffalo wading in the water. It was smoky and hot and almost post-apocalyptic feeling at times, but beautiful and fun and a very interesting method of travel.

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Slamming beers on the boat with some Laos women. And the little kid who would bring us beer and snacks from the shop at the back of the boat when we gave him money!

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After sitting on the boat for two days, I was dying to stretch my legs. I went for a walk on the other side of the river from Luang Prabang, the town I was in, and enjoyed the dirt roads a quiet.

As I was taking a break in the shade at a junction, three Laos women walked by and took a break in the same spot. We exchanged smiles and "sabaidee"s (hellos). Then one of them pointed to a rather large bruise on my leg.

I shrugged. I didn't know how it got there. "Beerlao?", I suggested. I probably had knocked into something while drinking on the boat. We all laughed in understanding. Clumsy, alcohol-related injury is universally understood.

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In Thailand and Laos, Songkran and similar Bun Pi Mai were being celebrated - the Thai and Laos New Year. It's when everyone dumps buckets of water at passing cars and bikes and people, and kids and adults alike run around with squirt guns and super soakers.

After a few days of this and loud music and Beerlao and Laolao (Laos whiskey - like moonshine), I was again partied out, especially after all my birthday debauchery.

So I sought quieter times in quieter places.

I spent about a week between a few different river towns along the Ou River swimming, biking, hiking, and chilling out with new friends getting stoned and looking at the mountain silhouettes by nightfall.

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I stayed in a poolside tent for a few nights.

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I got my own riverfront bungalow - equivalent to $5.70 USD per night! Living like a queen.

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Cave swimming

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A little Laos girl threw a rat at me in this cave. What she didn't expect was for me to pick it up and wave it around at her afterwards. Only then did she run.

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On a boat from a remote river town to a more central town on a main road in Laos, everyone must exit the boat and take a songthaew around a dam built by Power China.


In the midst of my first, but mild, battle with food poisoning, I rode a series of buses into Vietnam.

After a very quick and exhausting stint in Hanoi, Vietnam with a bunch of new American friends, 20 cent beers from kegs on the street, and 80 cent bahn mi at all hours of the day and night, I flew to Manila, Philippines to see an Aussie friend who was living there with her Filipino partner.

Debauchery ensued. A welcoming party. Then for three days we hitchhiked in a group of 6, jumping into the back of whatever truck decided to stop for us, empty or full, drinking, smoking, cooking, and sleeping wherever we found to rest our heads.

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Next, it was time to accompany two visitng Japanese bands on a tour! My friends run a DIY space in Manila and set up punk and grind tours for visiting bands. So it was another 3 days of long nights, drinking, crashing for a few hours on a venue floor, and loading up onto the public buses to get to the next place.

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For the remainder of the Philippines, I was pretty much bed-ridden and reduced to eating a bland diet as I'd gotten food poisioning again, this time more explosive. Luckily it let up in time for our going away celebration and a night of stick-n-pokes. I got a gas bottle in memory of our beloved gas bottle truck ride into the sunset from a few weeks prior.

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I wasn't ready to head back to Australian winter and solo travel - I was quite exhausted and feeling shit from so much partying and not enough taking care of myself.

I figured Thailand was a good place where I had a bit of a social life, outdoor activities were cheap/free, and fruits and vegetables were super, super cheap. And so I headed back for a 28 day stint in Northern Thailand!

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Of course, I ended up punking out and partying still, but I reduced my alcohol consumption, cut out junk food, and prioritized long bike rides and found a very cheap gym to get me back into the momentum of taking care of myself.

Taking care of body and mind is so important! I'd adapted to it while riding trains and hitching, as I get lots of exercise chasing trains and lugging my pack and water around everywhere, but southeast Asia was a luxorious, indulgent beast that I had let run me down.

I biked out to an airplane graveyard. I wanted to climb inside, but didn't want to disturb the squatter who'd set up a hammock and house inside!

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I rediscovered mountain biking...and my love for it...

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I studied and practiced meditation at a Thai Buddhist monestary for three days and three nights. It was a serene location in the mountains, so quiet and peaceful. Long hours of meditation and silence are very challenging, but I learned a lot and got to partake in traditions like offering food to the monks twice a day.

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Back to Chiang Mai in time for a punk show at my friend's bar!

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My friend took me to another local spot on his motorbike and we rented cheap tubes and took ourselves white-water tubing for the day!
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More trail riding...

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hiking....

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And a final goodbye barbeque with my new expat and local friends! I met some amazing folks during my time in Chiang Mai. It was an honor to be welcomed into a community and to be welcomed into Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and The Philippines and to experience the beautiful cultures and languages and people.

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Through language barriers and cultural differences, I saw so many new things and loved people and places in new and beautiful ways. This sounds cheesy as hell, but it's damn true. This trip taught me so much and gave me a different world view and was as beautiful and indulgent as it was terrible for knocking me on my ass with food poisoning three times and for adding some unknown amount of kilos of beer belly weighing me down.

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Until next time! I'll be back, for sure.
 
Last edited:
We sell all kinds of other stuff in our Etsy store!

WyldLyfe

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Nice post Koala, I remember thailand, the part where you mentioned first feeling the hit of the humidity, first felt that in Singapore on the way to thailand, was like what the heck is this!? But you get use to it hey. It was about, far out maybe 8 or 9 years since I was there. Hectic night life, everything's so cheap, singha beer, "Sawatdee ka!", monkeys, massive bugs, markets, there was a hidden market underground a local showed us because the police take money from there stalls. Bhuddist monks an temples, very colorful on the inside, crazy driving.. poverty.

There's a lot going on there all at once huh.
 

AAAutin

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Alternate titles for this thread: Two Months of Xu-Xus; Punksupial—Beats, Shreds, and Leaves; Why I'm Intimidated By Koala: A Story In Mounting Parts...
 
OP
Koala

Koala

sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves
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Thanks y'all ♡♡♡ thanks for reading! @SaltyCrew @Crazy Hobo Johnny @Juan Derlust

Hahaha thanks @dumpsternavel, my friend is an expert at spiking hair. I couldn't believe we got it to stand up! I had to duck going through doorways all night, hahah

Dang! @AAAutin you're inspiring me to come up with more creative titles in the future!

N yeah exactly @WyldLyfe! the first few days were so overwhelming, in the best way, just taking it all in. Whoa that underground market sounds so cool. And no Singha for me, Chang beer was my Taste of Thailand! :p
 

Breck

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That is my dream country to travel to 💓. Thanks for that terrific write up. How much a day do you think it cost you per day? I'm trying to save enough to go .
 
OP
Koala

Koala

sleeps 22 hours a day, eats chutes and leaves
Joined
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How much a day do you think it cost you per day?
I was paying about $10 to $20 per day depending on how much I was balling out! A room in a dorm was about $3 to $4 per night, single rooms $6 or $7 per night, street food $1 or $2 per meal, and sit down restaurants $3 to $5 per meal. Renting bicycles was $1 per day for a shit cruiser, $3 for a beat up mountain bike, and $5-10 a day for high quality, well taken care of mountain or hybrid bikes. I was hitting the gym a few times a week, drop in price was $2 each time. Beer is $2-$3 for .75L. Transport varies based on whether it's local transport or air con'd tourist-oriented bus or train. Local transport is very cheap, a 3rd class ticket on the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is around 250baht (around $8 US).

Wild camping is definitely doable too! I only did it one night because it was so fucking hot out and getting a room or dorm is so cheap and then I know I'll be safe/have a shower/possibly free tea and coffee/a place to leave my bag, etc.
 

siid

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dont fuckin worry about it
lmao dude these pix go way back i remembee that guyNock who picked u hp feels ljke forever ago Feels like i was there fke thjs whoke trkp Lmaooooo love u dude , fire pix, fire outfits, u already kno 🥰😚
 

Breck

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Stuck in the rustbelt
I was paying about $10 to $20 per day depending on how much I was balling out! A room in a dorm was about $3 to $4 per night, single rooms $6 or $7 per night, street food $1 or $2 per meal, and sit down restaurants $3 to $5 per meal. Renting bicycles was $1 per day for a shit cruiser, $3 for a beat up mountain bike, and $5-10 a day for high quality, well taken care of mountain or hybrid bikes. I was hitting the gym a few times a week, drop in price was $2 each time. Beer is $2-$3 for .75L. Transport varies based on whether it's local transport or air con'd tourist-oriented bus or train. Local transport is very cheap, a 3rd class ticket on the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is around 250baht (around $8 US).

Wild camping is definitely doable too! I only did it one night because it was so fucking hot out and getting a room or dorm is so cheap and then I know I'll be safe/have a shower/possibly free tea and coffee/a place to leave my bag, etc.
Thanks for the info
I was paying about $10 to $20 per day depending on how much I was balling out! A room in a dorm was about $3 to $4 per night, single rooms $6 or $7 per night, street food $1 or $2 per meal, and sit down restaurants $3 to $5 per meal. Renting bicycles was $1 per day for a shit cruiser, $3 for a beat up mountain bike, and $5-10 a day for high quality, well taken care of mountain or hybrid bikes. I was hitting the gym a few times a week, drop in price was $2 each time. Beer is $2-$3 for .75L. Transport varies based on whether it's local transport or air con'd tourist-oriented bus or train. Local transport is very cheap, a 3rd class ticket on the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is around 250baht (around $8 US).

Wild camping is definitely doable too! I only did it one night because it was so fucking hot out and getting a room or dorm is so cheap and then I know I'll be safe/have a shower/possibly free tea and coffee/a place to leave my bag, etc.
Thanks for the info . Will help me try to come up with a budget for my trip. Hopefully I'll have enough by the next low season.
 

Juan Derlust

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Is there more to the story about the girl in the cave who threw a rat on you?
 

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