A Travellerspoint blog

Gone Trekking...

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View Heading West on kym.haley's travel map.

Hello to all our lovely friends, family and fellow travel enthusiasts!

We finalized our trekking plans today and are very excited for the next 3 weeks to come in Nepal! We will do a 16 day trek around Annapurna (max out at 17,000+ feet!) staying in teahouses each night with our new Danish friend, Christina, and our 2 guide/porters. We will then spend a couple of restful nights in Pokhara, then head straight to Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal for some folk dancing, canoeing, elephant riding, jungle walks, the whole works! We leave on Thursday (2 days from now) and may not have easy access to the internet along the trail. So, parents, don't worry and everyone should look forward to the fantastic pictures and stories to come when we return to Kathmandu at the end of these adventures!

As always, miss everyone dearly and can't wait to catch up soon,

Kym and Jaime

Posted by kym.haley 05:23 Archived in Nepal Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

Preparing for The Second Leg

Finishing our Travels in Thailand and Moving to Nepal!

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Hello blog followers. Kym and I have left the beaches for Kathmandu. We arrived a few hours ago and the differences are refreshing and the similarities surprising. The backdrop of the town are the hills, green with evergreen trees, a change that reminds us of home. Also the weather is now 30 instead of a stifling hot 40, a most welcomed change. The streets are narrow, filled with giant potholes, and the cars are all at least 20 years older than those found in Thailand. The general feel is a little more crowded and a little more smog, and the mosquitoes are just as hungry, but I don't fit in anymore with my salt stained t-shirt from my last month of sweating. Where we are staying there are the same stores that alternate down the block: an outdoor gear store, a wool scarf store, and a trekking company. Only the occasional bookstore or restaurant throws off the near-perfect pattern. We plan to spend a few days here in town before we set off to the mountains. We are both very excited for this second leg in our journey. I can't believe we are already one third of the way done. It really has been a wonderful time.

From when we last updated we were in Railay. Our first night we were in Railay Kym hated it. This was mostly due to a dirty bathroom and a giant (palm of my hand size) spider that we shared our room with on the first night. But after we moved to a new room, we had a very nice time there. We climbed 3 days, spent one day hiking, and another morning just hanging out. Here are the highlights with some pics:

We climbed our first evening for a short while at Diamond Cave North Face. I climbed a 5.8 and a 5.9 on lead, and a 5.10d on top-rope. All were climbed clean, but I think the hardest routes are the easier ones that are climbed the most. The holds are so polished.

The next day as we described in the last entry was spent beaching it and climbing around the various walls of the peninsula. The third day was a rest day as I would call it, although Kym thought otherwise. We didn't climb, but we decided to hike to a viewpoint before we lounged on the beach.

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The view from the viewpoint

The hike was short, but we continued down another way to a tidal lagoon. It was difficult going and involved some down-climbing of low fifth class terrain, meaning it took a while and most people didn't make it. We sat at the lagoon to catch our breath and share our water with the two others who made it all the way, but neglected to bring water!

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At the Lagoon

It was very beautiful, but we still had to hike back up, and then back down the other side to get back to the beach. Once on the beach, the day was nearing an end and we spent the last hour before sunset lounging on the sand and taking dips in the water. It was very enjoyable and relaxing.

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The sunset from Phra Nang Beach

The final day we spent climbing at Tonsai. The climbing here is a destination for climbers across the globe and it was cool to see some of the best making the most difficult routes look easy. We climbed on the Firewall, where one of the most famous climbs of the area is located, the Groovetube. It is a mix of slab and chimney climbing. For those that don't know what that means, imagine trying to scoot up your chimney by using your feet on either side or by using both feet on one side and your back and shoulders on the other. This climbing can be very fun. We climbed three routes, a 5.9 (Groovetube), a 5.10d, and a 5.10b/c. This was the most fun I have had climbing in Railay. The routes were long, sustained, challenging, and very fun.

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Climbing For Helga (5.10b/c)

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From left to right, For Helga (5.10b/c), Boobtube (5.10d), and Groovetube (5.10a)

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Climbers on Tonsai Beach

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The sunset from Tonsai Beach

Our last night in Railay, we saw a fire show and snapped these photos:
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Mixing Drinks at a Railay Bar when the bartender was sleeping (we were thirsty!)

From Railay we took a boat to Koh Yao Noi. This is an island closer to Phuket and north of Koh Phi Phi. It is a Muslim island (so it is difficult to find beer) that relies on fishing and not really much on tourism. There are limited places to stay and nothing is in walking distance. We stayed in a cheap bungalow with open air windows and an open air bathroom (means there were lots of critters). Kym has become friendly with geckos now, but the spiders still bother her. We had plenty, four or five of which were palm of the hand sized. However, once the net is draped over the bed, we didn't worry too much anymore. Two of our neighbors had mice, and I think i would take the spiders over the mice! We rented a bike to see the island. I was a little off shifting gears for the first ten minutes, but by the end of the second day I felt like a pro. We climbed on our first full day, and the climbing was amazing. Even if you don't like climbing, it would be cool to see the walls. It is limestone like all the rest of the islands, but the stalactites that hang down are very impressive. We climbed a 5.9 and a 5.10a in a cave before we moved to a couple harder climbs. We climbed Daddy Long Legs, a 5.10d, that is the best climb that I have ever seen! As you climb the wall, you have to step off the wall behind you to a stalactite, climb further and then repeat. We met a friend, Leon from London, who also climbed with us. He had just learned in Tonsai and had only climbed for about 6 weeks, but was able to lead a 5.11a adjacent to Daddy Long Legs. I followed, but struggled up a few places, falling a few times and also resting a few. I finally made it up, but I wish I was in shape! Kym also went back to lead the 5.10a we had climbed first, a most impressive performance that I will remember for a long time.

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Leading The Cooler (5.10a)

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Our Friend Leon leading Daddy Long Legs 5.10d

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Descending from Daddy Long Legs

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Kym leading The Cooler (5.10a)

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Taking It Easy on Koh Yao Noi

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A transport from the ferry pier to our accommodations

After our short stay in Koh Yao, we were back to Phuket for a flight to Bangkok. A quick trip to the night market in Phuket filled our gluttonous bellies with all forms of food from food stalls that I don't know any of the names of, or have any idea what ingredients they consisted of! Everything was very tasty and although sometimes surprising as it tastes much different than expected from its looks, not one thing was bad.

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Kym at the Phuket Market

The stay in Bangkok was brief as we decided to avoid it due to the protests, we flew to Nepal this morning to check out the political unrest here! What luck we have! From what I have gathered there is a ten day peace period that began yesterday, so we will be long gone to the mountains when things heat up again. I am really looking forward to the hike!

Posted by jaime.lee 05:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

Circumventing the Railay Penninsula, Adventure Style

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Kym and I are in Railay. This is the Mecca for climbing in Southeast Asia and although it is low season here, there are still lots of climbers on the walls. Yesterday we did a circle of the area that included eating, sitting on the beach, a lot of walking, and some climbing of course. Here is a breakdown of our day:

Due to an enormous spider in our room the day before, Kym requested we move to a different room. We woke up and found a new accommodation and then found some food. We packed all of our things for the day: climbing gear, beach gear, and a couple liters of water. The water was finished before we even ate, so the day started like most: always on the lookout for water. From Railay East, we walked over to Mui Thai Wall and we did a couple quick climbs.

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Trying to find out where to go. It is cool you can climb right from the beach.

I led and Kym seconded Tamada (about 5.8/5.9). Then Kym led and I seconded Take It Easy (about 5.8). It was her second lead outside ever and she did great!
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Belaying Kym on Take It Easy

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Kym fixing the anchor on Take It Easy

We then walked over to Pra Nang Beach, a gorgeous beach and the main attraction for most tourists to visit this area. We hung out for a while enjoying the view and the sun before we walked to the west end of the beach.

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Kym on Pra Nang Beach

Just up from the beach is the Escher Wall. I led Short and Easy (5.8/9), although it wasn't as easy as it sounds. The climbs here on the karst limestone are so polished and slippery that you can never really get a good hold. The best holds are so greasy that you may as well look for something touched less. Also, the weather is near or over 100 degrees and the sweat that pours out can be problematic. In other words, we need a little more practice in this climate. After Kym climbed on toprope, I struggled up Ribbed for Her Pleasure (5.10d). I must have fallen half a dozen times before I finally got it (it seemed harder!).

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Ribbed For Her Pleasure (5.10d)

Kym then led The Playground (5.7/8), a spectacular lead I thought when I got on it myself. I have never been afraid on toprope, but that one got my heart going a little. It had no holds on the crux, but a large slippery crack that I fit my whole arm into for stability. Lastly, we climbed Long Doo (5.8/9) next to it before we left Escher Wall.

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The start of The Playground

Just from the side of the climbing area is a large cave. We walked through the cave with only one headlamp (mine broke somehow!).

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Entrance to cave before going through to the other side of the mountain.

After 10-15mins scrambling through the dark through the side of a mountain, we came to the cave opening on the other side, about 500ft above the ocean. The views of sunset and the beach of Railay West below were spectacular.

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The views from the north side of the cave looking down on Railay West Beach.

A quick abseil down about 25meters and a hike down to the beach just as dark rolled in. Exhausting!

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Back down on the beach.

We lounged on the sand and drank our victory beer before we lugged our stuff back to the bungalow. It was a great day with lots of adventure, and we got to hike through a cave! A little dinner and a drink under the stars and I was ready for bed. We plan to spend a couple more day here and then head to Ko Yao Noi, an island north of Ko Phi Phi that most travellers don't see. We'll keep you all updated. Until next time....

Posted by jaime.lee 22:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

A Sweet Escape

Or shall I say SWEATY Escape...

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View Heading West on kym.haley's travel map.

We have finally escaped the big cities of Asia! After touring around through Cambodia (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh) and mainland Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket), we arrived on Koh Phi Phi Island (Andaman coast of Thailand) four days ago. While we really enjoyed exploring the bigger cities - the history, the shopping and the restaurants - the smog and hustle-bustle became too much. We were ready for something different. Something a little slower pace. Something like the beach.

So...we hopped on a ferry to Koh Phi Phi. It's an island off the coast of Phuket where backpackers/vacationers come from all over the world to see the spectacular beaches. Once we stepped foot off the ferry and found our accommodation for the next couple of days, dripping in sweat from our 35-40 lb. packs and the 100+ degree heat, the first thing we wanted to do was jump in the ocean. And we did. The only thing is that the water temperature was warmer than the air temperature! 'Is that even possible?!', I thought to myself. Yes - it felt like a hot tub. But being wet from ocean water is much more favorable than by sweat so we were thankful for the mild refresher.

Ruling out ocean-frolicking as an activity while on the island, we decided to seek out some adventure on the main climbing wall on the island - Tonsai Tower. It was a 15 minute walk from our hostel and offered many great climbs to get our blood pumping. While travelling is fun and enriching on so many levels, some days I feel like everything revolves around what/where to eat next. So the exercise from the climbing was really refreshing. We started to get our climbing legs back all the while meeting a couple of other climbers on the island. We also considered hiring a private boat to do some deep water soloing on a giant rock in the middle of the ocean north of Phi Phi. Unfortunately, we decided to pass in hopes of finding the same opportunity in Krabi or Railay - 2 other major climbing areas that we plan on exploring in the next several days. More to come on this!

Between climbing days we took an island-hopping snorkel tour to 6 or so different beaches nearby. The ocean life and isolated beaches are truly unbelievable. Our pictures don't even do them justice, but we tried anyway. Many of the pictures from that trip are posted on the blog Jaime posted yesterday and more are located in our photo gallery. Check them out if interested :)

Another strange observation is that there are VERY few Americans. Not sure why. Maybe because we are literally on the complete other side of the world. We met only one other American on the entire island and he now lives there. Being fairly sheltered from other cultures and languages before this trip, it has been really interesting meeting new people from all over the world with all different backgrounds. Speaking of which, we parted ways with our fantastic German companions yesterday. We had a great time with them for the past several (?) weeks and only hope to find travel companions that remotely compare to them in the future. Thanks again, Valentina and Tobi!

This afternoon we arrived by ferry to Koh Lanta island just east of Phi Phi. This island is in such contrast to Phi Phi, an island which hardly seemed to sleep. Once we arrived on Koh Lanta at our accommodation (which is quite amazing, by the way), we questioned whether the entire island closed and went on vacation! Shortly after arriving, it started to rain - hard. It only rained for about an hour, then ended being 15 degrees cooler with the most unbelieveable sunset and a nearly full rainbow. Yes, we were two of 3 people on the entire 2km beach and it was a perfect welcome to the island!

Miss everyone tons and we'll catch back up soon :)

Posted by kym.haley 07:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Saigon...

I think the government is still bitter

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When we last wrote we arrived in what everyone refers to as Saigon, with the exception of the few who officially call it Ho Chi Minh City. The differences are very evident from Cambodia. The streets are paved with asphalt, buildings are larger than two stories, and not a soul speaks English. At least they want you to feel that way! Bargaining is much more difficult and everyone wants to screw you over. When asking a group of people where something is, most say they don't understand you. You try to explain it a different way and they say it is very far away. Then they ask you if you want a motorbike or taxi ride. You say you just want to know what direction to walk and all at the same time they all point in a different direction. No Help! This all sounds negative, but it is just setting the stage! The city itself is actually very clean, although the smog can be strong, the trash is almost non-existent. There are surprisingly few cars, but it is more than made up for with the motorbikes. They have millions in the city. It is not uncommon to have a couple hundred at just one intersection (and I am not exaggerating!). The food is good and the accommodations aren't too expensive, a little more than Cambodia, but not bad. We ate Pho twice, but it is actually not as easy to find as I thought it would be. There are far more Pho restaurants in Seattle! Our favorite food was the fresh spring rolls that are found everywhere. While there we visited the war museum where they show old planes, tanks, artillery, bombs, and photos of the war with the US. There is a very strong sense of propaganda and government involvement in the creation of the exhibits. I know that there were many awful things that we did during the war and I was glad I got to see their side, but it was strange how many large pieces were left out of the puzzle. There was no mention of Vietnamese fighters on either side. There was no mention of Viet Cong. There was no mention of what weapons they used, the tunnels they dug, the clothes they wore, how they lived, ate, how many died, how many fought, anything. There were, however, exhibits on Agent Orange, Vietnamese POWs, bombing campaigns, and lots on anti-war marches in the states and across the globe. I left with a sense of "that was interesting, war is awful, but where is the rest of the museum."
The next day we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a large tunnel system and one of the largest battlefields during the war, just northeast of Saigon by about 40km or so. It was interesting to see the tunnels, but I got the same feelings as the day before. It was amazing how small the tunnels were. There would be no way that I could fit in them. There were a few tunnels that were widened slightly for tourists and even then, I could barely fit through crawling because my shoulders were too wide. We crawled though tunnels that were about 120 degrees inside. I can't imagine trying to live down there. We talked with our tour guide on the way back to Saigon and the whole minivan of tourists were in disbelief. He singled me out in the first two minutes of the trip when he asked if there were any Americans on board. But I had him back-pedaling when I started asking him questions about his history. In school they are taught the same information as was in the museum. I asked him a few questions about the Vietnamese fighters and he said that he knew more information existed, but that he didn't know it nor did he care to find out. I asked him how he became a tour guide and asked him if he had to go to school. He responded with "Two years for school on how to be a tour guide, but I can't talk about it because my teacher said that if I talk about this with the tourists, they will get angry." The whole bus couldn't believe it. He then became self-conscious and wouldn't talk to anyone for the rest of the car ride!
Nonetheless, I think that Vietnam is definitely worth visiting. Saigon is a great city for great food, it is clean, it is not the third world country that its neighbor Cambodia is. The people are great if you can get past the first two minutes. Some won't give you the time of day, but some are extremely nice. Bring your phrasebook and you can get along much better. I would also recommend the war remnant museum as it has a lot of history and it is a time of good reflection on American foreign policy that creates even more questions about our current operations abroad.
After our 4 days in Saigon we moved back to Thailand. Headed for the beach, we were trying to see if it could get any hotter. And like always, of course it could. The hottest day on our trip record so far is 42 C. You do the math. Talk to you all soon!

(for pics from Vietnam, check out the previous entry that shows a Hewy Helicopter, a tunnel entrance from Cu Chi, motorbikes, a pic from dinner at a restaurant that serves traditional Vietnamese cuisine)

Posted by jaime.lee 06:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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