A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia and Nha Trang, Vietnam

After leaving Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat) we took a bus to Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. Phnom Pehn is the capital of Cambodia and is the largest city. We found it incredibly busy, with a short tuk-tuk ride to our hotel being the most crazy driving experiences we have ever seen. It involved going through oncoming traffic that appeared to have no room for navigation at all. The amount of scooters, tuktuks, and cars on the road was something to behold. At times I felt that movement wasn't going to be possible at all, but then we managed to push our way through the crowd. It took 20 minutes to go about a mile. Never seen anything like it.

fishing boat
Mekong fishing boat
cambodian house
Cambodia house
Our hotel had been booked by our previous hotel in Siem Reap, so we were dissapointed to find that they didn't have airconditioning as we had requested, but for only $8 a night we decided to go for it and save some money. It was HOT, i mean lay on the bed with a fan on you, and just be HOT. The hotel had safety standards that wouldn't pass inspection in the US. For example, the room had only one window and it had metal bars on it. All other windows on the floor appeared to be barred as well, meaning in case of fire you must go downstairs to the front entrance which is a gated door that remains locked at night. To exit you must awaken the night watchmen who then unlocks the door. All of this and no smoke detectors. I didn't feel entirely safe considering we were on the top floor...

Bottled gas
bottled gas
The next day we decided to do a cultural activity by heading to the Khmer Rouge killing fields and the torture prison S-21. It was truly a horrific, but enlightening experience. We were quite disturbed to hear the stories of all the men, women, and children who had been killed by the fanatic communist regime. And to see the temple that housed many bones of those who had been killed for such a cause well let's just say it was terrible. On the way to the killing fields we crossed especially poor neighborhoods and the poverty of the people was also something to take in. Couldn't really drink it in,  I'd say it was more like drowning. As we headed to the notorious prison called "S-21" which used to be a school we passed more neighborhoods. One of the things we saw on the side of the road were small shacks selling bottles of yellowish liquid from glass pepsi bottles. They contain gasoline and are apparently on the black market as the gas is not legal to be sold. That being said they were everywhere so enforcement isn't an issue. It was interesting to see scooters being filled up with gas from pepsi bottles using dirty rags as filters. Cassie and I began to explore S-21, though I began to feel quite sick and a headache I had experienced for a few days became severe so I opted to just sit in the shade. We didn't take any pictures of either the prison or the killing fields as I just didn't feel it was right.
mekong ferry
mekong river ferry
We left Phnom Pehn the following day as the coast of Vietnam was beginning to look better and better. We took a bus from Phnom Pehn and rode for a few hours before we crossed the Mekong river.  The bus just drove onto a vehicle ferry and we got on. While sitting on the bus we noticed people selling baskets of an almost unidentifiable food, using the camera we saw beaks. Not sure what kind of birds they were. At another stop we saw baskets of cooked insects. We did not try either. I guess we are not that adventurous. We crossed the border into Vietnam without issue and by late afternoon we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon) it was a bustling metropolis and was obviously far more wealthy than anywhere we had been before, though there was still plenty of poverty around. We took a taxi from the bus station to the train station with the intent of leaving the city that same day (we were kind of done being hot and in cities). The train terminal was very fancy compared to the one we saw in Bangkok, and the tickets to go from HCMC to Nha Trang were about $25 each for an overnight sleeper train. There are four bunks to a room on the train with a tv and airconditioning. When we boarded, Cassie and I were distraught to find that one of our bunkmates had an infant who was incessantly crying. The beds were comfy and the temperature good it looked like a good purchase. The baby quieted down and we settled in for a bumpy night of sleep. The morning light was just starting to come through the windows as we arrived in Nha Trang and we took a taxi to the main cheap tourist area and watched the sun rise over the ocean while we waited for the hotels to open (it was still only 6am). We decided on the Perfume Grass hotel which was only $14 a night including breakfast and is about 200 yards/meters from the beach. We spent the day on the beach relaxing and enjoying the break from the hot weather.

meat with beaks
meat with beaks
sunrise in Nha Trang
nha trang sunrise

That night my headache (which still hadn't gone away) became severe again so I decided to email Cassie's brother to get his take on the headaches. He said they were normal side effects which made me feel better. After consulting with Cassie I decided to stop taking the pills as the headaches (almost certainly caused by the Doxycycline malarial pills) had made me (and therefore Cassie as well) pretty miserable. After stopping the pills my headache gradually disappeared over the next few days.

nha trang boats
boats in nha trang
The following  day we took a snorkeling tour to some islands for about $13 each which included the shuttle bus to the boat, lunch, water and equipment. It was fantastic with amazing corals and some very nice fish. We both enjoyed ourselves immensely, though Cassie who had been very careful to wear longsleeves and plenty of sunscreen still managed to get burned. Another common side effect of the Doxy pills is to easily sunburn. Yesterday we rented a scooter for the day which was only $5 and rode about 17 miles south of Nha Trang along the coast to a more remote beach to escape the crowds. It was a beautiful beach and had many small seafood restaurants that had buckets of saltwater and a variety of live seafood inside. We decided on a shrimp lunch which was about $12 for a pound of 6 huge shrimp which they cooked over charcoal after letting me video them taking them out of the bucket. Very simple and very tasty. It was a nice relaxing day. The food here in Nha Trang has been excellent and last night we ate at an Indian restaurant that serves local Nha Trang beer. The beer is the only local one we've found on draft and it was only 50 cents for a pint. It tasted great. Apparently because of the production style it must be drank within 24 hours of opening so we drank quickly :)

We leave Nha Trang tonight for Hoi An, a small historic town north of here, we'll take an overnight sleeper bus tonight at 6pm and arrive at 7am tomorrow. For only $11 each we can travel 300 miles and not pay for a hotel tonight. Hopefully we will arrive well rested, though I suspect with the frequency that horns are used we will sleep a bit fitfully.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thailand and Cambodia

portrait of the travelers
We arrived in Bangkok just as the three day festival of Sonkrik or the Thai new year was beginning. It has a Buddhist history of that being the time of year of cleansing and washing of many of the Buddha images, but has now turned into a huge water fight that you can't avoid even if you wanted to. We had no problems with it since the drenching helped is tolerate the heat and humidity.
Songkran water fight
Happy New Year

While in Bangkok we visited the grand palace which is home to the temple with the emerald Buddha figure. Pictures weren't allowed in this one, but this is definitely worth seeing. The palace and all of the buildings and temples in it were very ornately decorated and we were amazed by all the color and detail.
the tower
Grand Palace
Mural in grand palace

Grand Palace Statue
The next day we tried to visit a teak palace which sounded quite spectacular, but after hiring a tuk-tuk to take us there, learned that it was closed for new year. We ended up walking to the marble temple which was nearby and while we weren't planning on going there, it had some very beautiful images and made our trip out worth it.
buddha in marble temple
Buddha in Marble Temple
marble temple buddhas
Hall of Buddhas

Our next destination was the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia near Angkor Wat. We took a train from Bangkok to the border which was a cheap slow train. It was nice to see some of the countryside, we travelled through rice paddies and small towns, but was quite slow and without a/c. The train ends at the border of Cambodia. We had been warned that there were a lot of scams at the border and were quickly ushered into an official looking building on the Thai side where they said we had to get our visa for Cambodia. After getting half way through the paperwork, I started feeling wary since the price was higher than expected, he wanted the money right away, and many other western looking travellers were walking right on by. We left before paying and learned that yes, that was a scam place. Maybe the visa would have been legit but double the price. At the real border crossing we were still taken in by a lesser scam where the officials bumped up the price a couple dollars, but I assumed it was due to a change in currency rates since we aren't used to questioning those in uniform.
hualamphong station
Bangkok Train station
flower pot
Thai Train stop

After a long day of traveling, we arrived in Siem Reap. We found a decent, cheap hotel with a/c, and found a tuk-tuk driver to take us to Angkor Wat. Riding in taxis and tuk-tuk in Cambodia is an exciting experience as there are cars, buses, motorcycles, and bicycles all in the same lane and passing at all times. The rule seems to be honk if you're coming up on someone slower than you, pass them, and yield to whoever is biggest.

angkor wat
Angkor Wat
bleeding statue
headless statue
in Angkor Wat
Carvings in Angkor
We visited different temples in the Angor Wat complex over the last three days. They were built roughly between 700 and 1100 and are in various states of restoration and decay. They were all unique and the level of detail and work that must of gone into these temples and cities was amazing. The first day was the main Angkor Wat temples which is the most spectacular and did not disappoint. There were endless statues and whole stories carved into the walls. The pictures do more justice than me trying to describe them but the pictures don't really do justice to the whole experience. The last two days we visited some of the smaller temples. These were typically less touristy and since we usually didn't know what to expect at each temple were often pleasantly surprised by what they had to offer such as all the elephants at East Mebon and the trees overtaking the temple at Ta Phrom.

temple corridor
temple monument
tree vs stone
tree vs stone
elephant guardian
elephant statue
Tomorrow we leave for a couple days in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh then head to Vietnam and the ocean. As amazing as seeing the sights at Angkor Wat has been, it is HOT and humid, and we are really looking forward to hanging out on the beach for a while. It's so hot and humid that we've been taking 3 liters of water with us for travels around Angkor we go out in the morning and are quite done by 1 or so. In that time, we've drank most our water, probably had a coke and have not had to go to the bathroom all day. The humidity is absurd.
amazing dragonfly
golden orb spider
orb spider
Internet seems quite easy to come by here, so next post should be from the beach in a week or so. Enjoy the pictures.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Just wanted to let everyone know that we made it safely to Thailand and are actually now in Siem Reap Cambodia. We spent our first few days in Bangkok, enjoying the Thai New Year festival which is basically the biggest water fight you've ever seen! We couldn't go anywhere without being soaked, but it was great since it took the edge off the heat. We saw the grand palace in bangkok which was quite spectacular and journeyed to Siem Reap Cambodia today to go see Angkor wat tomorrow. we'll post pictures and write more soon, but it's hot sitting out here and I'm headed back to the A/C in the room!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Leaving the country today

Well today we leave the USA for the beginning of our 8 month trip abroad. We start in SE Asia, head to South Africa, then to Australia, New Zealand, and finally back to SE Asia before returning home in time for Christmas this year. We're currently in our first real break from climbing and are enjoying being a bit lazy. We're mostly traveling in SE Asia and will start climbing hard again when we get to South Africa.

Super psyched to get moving. It was excellent to see so many friends and family recently and we will look forward to seeing you all again when we get home.

The next post should be from Thailand!!!!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Southeast video

Our latest bouldering video from our trip to the Southeast USA. Includes: HorsePens 40,Rocktown,Stonefort (aka LittleRockCity LRC), and Lily Boulders. Also includes some fun we had at a swimming hole at the Lily Boulders.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stone Fort and Lilly Boulders, Tennessee

After our days of fun at Rocktown we left Georgia and headed to Tennessee to climb at Stone Fort (aka Little Rock City). It's a strange climbing atmosphere because it sits directly on a golf course. So, as you are climbing you hear the tink of golf balls and can watch the carts driving around the course.

We have few of our own pictures because the charger broke on our brand new Canon camera, so we were without a camera for a bit. The new charger has arrived though and we're back in working order. All of the photos from the Lilly boulders and some from Stone Fort were taken by Nikki and are on her flickr photostream here.

sternum- stone fort (LRC), tn
Nikki on Sternum v5 - Stone Fort

great v0 -stonefort

We spent the day wandering around looking for stuff to climb. We weren't terribly impressed at first probably because we didn't have a guidebook which made finding the really good climbs a bit difficult. Eventually we ran into a group of climbers from Chattanooga and they gave us some advice on a few climbs we would like. There  was a v6 that Matthew flashed and Cassie got her second or third try. Matthew did Sternum v5 and Cassie did Ribcage v3 in a few tries. While talking to one of the climbers named Shay he asked us if we knew Ian and Nikki from New York. We were blown away that he knew them and told us they had just left there the day before to head to the Lilly boulders, which is where we were planning to head next. We had met Ian and Nikki in Moe's Valley Utah and had talked about meeting up in the Southeast, but didn't think it would happen and never made definite plans. So, armed with this new information we decided to only do a single day at Stone Fort, and head on to the Lilly boulders.

swimming hole with friends- wartburg, TN
Monster,Nikki,Ian,Cassie,Matthew at the swimming hole

woo hoo!
It's not the jump that's scary... It's the cold water.

We arrived at the Lilly Pad campground the next afternoon and immediately ran into Ian and Nikki who were stunned to see us. They had been thinking about leaving for West Virginia, but decided to stay since we were there. They showed us around the bouldering area and we found it to be a very nice little place. Definitely not as big as the other areas, but well worth the visit. The campground was Del and Marty's place and we found them to be excellent hosts. Their dogs are absolutely hilarious with one named "monster" chasing our car down the road every day to make us take her with us when we went climbing. Tipsy was another dog that loved to bark at vultures circling in the sky, Soldier was a big old dog who patiently waited around to clean off your plates and dishes. We bouldered until we were all sweaty and then headed down to the swimming hole that had an amazing place to jump off the cliff into the water. Cassie climbed an excellent v7 in just 4-5 tries called Jack Slap. Matthew did a great v4 called Hooker. Other than the ticks we had an outstanding time and were sad to leave after a few days.

jack slap- lily boulders, wartburg, TN
Nikki works Jack Slap v7
obediah- lily boulders, wartburg, TN
Ian flashes Obediah - v5
the hooker- lily boulders, wartburg, TN
Matt - Hooker - v4
I am not putting my hand in that hold. 

We said goodbye to Ian and Nikki on Friday and left for Red River Gorge in Kentucky. We arrived at a cabin Matthew's friends from Dayton had rented for the weekend and his friends arrived shortly after. We drank far too much that night catching up with everyone and stayed up much too late. The following day we took the crew climbing for their first outdoor climbing experience. Everyone had a good time though they struggled on the steep 5.9 we put them on. Everyone felt like it was quite an accomplishment to get as far as they got and were exhausted by the end of the day. We stayed up late celebrating Jim's birthday with bourbon and ale8. The next day we hiked to Natural Bridge and enjoyed the view. We drove on Sunday to Matthew's sister Elyse's house in Columbus, Ohio. We stayed up talked, watched a movie and the next day hung out, went out to eat and caught up on each other's lives. It was a great, though short visit.
Now we are at Matthew's parent's house in Howard, Ohio. It's a farmhouse on a river and is a bit of a hippy haven. We've cleaned out the van and are starting to get out stuff ready for going abroad. We leave for New York City in 4 days so time is short.