Archives for posts with tag: post

After a couple of flights and a brief overnight at the very nice Phuket Backpacker Hostel, we boarded a boat for Koh Phi Phi, Thailand’s stunning tropical beauty in the Andaman Sea. Of course, the word about Phi Phi had long since gotten out. As we disembarked into the heat from the air conditioned deck, we joined throngs of people streaming down the pier and were immediately absorbed into a sea of backpacks, luggage, and Thai men hawking hotel rooms.

Tonsai Village, the heart of Koh Phi Phi Don (the main island) is a dense area of small shops, bars, and restaurants served by streets no wider than a city sidewalk. There’s not a car or scooter in sight. When the boats come in, they turn into rivers of tourists. It was all a little overwhelming, so the first thing we did was sit down and have a pizza.

With lunch finished and the crowds cleared, we felt fortified enough to look for a place to stay, so we slung on our backpacks, and headed out to see what we could find.
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After leaving the Perhentian Islands we found ourselves back in Kuala Besut near what we thought was a bus station. I went to check our options for getting to Kota Bharu, about 30 miles away, from where we would fly to Phuket. There were some taxi drivers out front trying to solicit our business but I waved them aside, walked in, and started writing down bus numbers. A few moments later a short, heavy-set man with a few missing teeth walked up and stood right next to me, at which point there was an odd silence. He asked me in broken English what was I was doing. “Writing down buses to Kota Bharu,” I said without paying much attention. Another uncomfortable silence… “Those taxi,” he said finally. I had been standing in a taxi company office writing down taxi numbers. Derp…

I checked the bus station. It was closed, so we got a taxi instead (about RM60, I think ($20)). We were off to Kota Bharu. Read the rest of this entry »

Pulau Perhentian, as the islands are known in Malay, lie about 12 miles off of the east coast of Malaysia near the Thai border. Picture your favorite beach-themed screen saver. Where are those places? Well, the Perhentians wouldn’t be a bad guess. Scuba diving and chillaxing account for the largest part of the island’s GDP and that’s exactly why we were there. Backpackers mostly head for the small island, Pulau Perhentian Kecil (as did everyone on our boat). We took the road (strait?) less traveled to Deep Bay (Teluk Dalam) on Pulau Perhentian Besar, the big island’s quiet, southernmost beach.

The travel and diving season runs from April to October when the monsoons die down. We arrived in early April just as things got going. Here’s our take on this South China Sea gem. Read the rest of this entry »


We just got back from Southeast Asia. Our entry and exit point was Bangkok—what a city. Old, new, fashionable, and traditional, all mix together in this city on the move. Street vendors can be found everywhere selling anything from pad Thai and grilled chicken skewers to knock-off, Spongebob Squarepants carry-on luggage. Whole restaurants pop-up, makeshift-style, down random alleys. We even saw women at sewing machines, doing tailoring, right there on the sidewalk. Throw in some grit, a few stray dogs, boats speeding up and down canals in a black fog of diesel fumes, and you’ll have a pretty good picture of Bangkok.

Oh, don’t forget the heat. It’s hot, hot, hot, and humid. We averaged three to four showers a day and—I’m sorry to say—my deodorant still couldn’t keep up. That said, I think Bangkok is fantastic. It’s one of the most vibrant, engaging cities I’ve ever seen. Here are a few tips, if you go.

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Rice Fork, flooded last March, was crossable in November.

If you look closely (or click on this photo) you’ll see my spare gas can lying on this rutted section of Forest Road M3. These were typical road conditions for the first 10 to 15 miles.

Click here for a downloadable .gpx file of this trip for your GPS device.

In mid-November I went to the Mendocino National Forest, north of Clear Lake, solo, to see if I could circumnavigate the Snow Mountain Wilderness. I tried to do it back in March in the Montero but the snow melt-swollen rivers were too deep to cross. This time I brought a dirt bike. I didn’t think I’d be able to cover the estimated 60 or 70 miles in the truck, at least not in a day—10 mph is about average on rough roads. I figured I could easily double that on the bike.

I got up early, was in the woods, and on the bike by noon. Within a few minutes I had crossed Parramore Creek Rice Fork (the one that had held me back in spring) without a problem. OK—I stalled the bike mid-stream and had to dunk a boot in the water to keep from falling over, but basically no problem. From there my wet right foot and I headed north on forest road M3—see map below—and things got a little more serious. At one point, after slamming through a deep puddle in an especially rutted section of road, I stopped and thought, “Should I take a picture of that for the blog?” I decided yes and headed back. There in puddle lay my spare gas can. Sheesh.

After an hour of bouncing two wheels over mangled dirt, I had covered only 11 miles, about as much as I could have covered on four. I doubted whether I’d make it round the whole loop. That morning though, much like a 17th-century captain hoisting the flag of his patron saint, or an Indian taxi driver with dashboard shrine to Ganesh, I had attached a photo of Archangel Michael to my handlebars, well, a photo of a statue anyway. It helped. Despite my fear of heading alone into the wilderness, I felt a certain solidity in the journey and pressed on.

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This is a continuation of posts about our Idaho trip in early October 2010.

Burgdorf Hot Springs

Most of the cabins are not falling down. Some, however, are.

After Silver City and a night in Boise, we drove up to the town of McCall near Payette National Forest. Before heading up to the hot spring Natalie suggested a little side trip to the local fish hatchery. She, already a fan, initiated me to the wonders of the fish life cycle. What we learned was pretty amazing. (Salmon swim to Idaho from the ocean! It takes them three months! A female can lay 4000 eggs! Only 200 make it back out to sea! Of those only 10 will reach adulthood! Of those 10, only two will return to spawn!)

We took the self-guided tour, saw salmon in their various stages of development, and learned that Idaho restocks fish at about 600 lakes every year by horseback, helicopter and backpack. Can you imagine hiking for hours with a backpack full of trout leaning over your shoulder asking, “Are we there yet” every five minutes? That’s dedication. Read the rest of this entry »