The Himalayas are an incredibly beautiful and rugged mountain range. After a slow start (from waiting in the Kathmandu domestic airport for two and a half days for the weather to clear) for a trek that already was pushed for time somehow me and my Sherpa made it to the desired destination (thankfully and unbelievably without succumbing to altitude sickness). The view we received of Everest (and even more so the other mountains that surround) were worth every moment of the strenuous trek. Most people take in the area of 10-12 days to do the hike we did in less than 6. One of the main reasons for people taking longer is because of the major elevation change. Gokyo Ri is at an elevation of 5360m with means it has half the oxygen in the air as at sea level. Which when hiking can be tough on the body and most people become quite ill if they push too hard before they become acclimatized to these altitudes. Watching the sunset over Everest from Gokyo Ri was truly an incredible experience (then getting back to Gokyo in the dark was interesting also, however in a different way). I only wish I could have had more time to explore a few other trails that would be of interest.
Kathmandu is such a cool town. I arrived yesterday afternoon (Monday) on a direct flight from Bangkok. How I got on that flight I have no idea since I had been trying to get on it for a while. I just called the ticket office at 2 am and they got me on (They made it sound like it was the last seat on the flight and it only just opened up due to a cancellation - I believe them since the flight was totally packed). The streets around Kathmandu are just tiny, but totally bustling with the many locals and travelers alike. Every shop seems to sell The North Face and Mountain Hard Ware stuff (imitation of course). I have picked up a number of articles of clothing in an attempt to get suited for my EBC (Everest Base Camp) trek that I hope to start in the morning (if the weather holds up for my flight into the hills). It should be interesting especially since I do not have the recommend amount of time to do it in so it will all come down to how quickly I can get acclimatized to the elevation jump. I have to say I am excited. Hopefully my porter does not get too upset if I want to go a bit faster than most of his usual clients.
It was fun to explore Singapore today. I started off early trying to get proficient with the Metro and headed for the airport to try to get a flight to Nepal. That however proved to be somewhat unsuccessful (only was able to get a cheap flight to Bangkok for that evening). I went back toward town and stopped off at the Expo which had some good book and food sales on, but even more interesting there was a very large Baptist church that I found. Unfortunately I arrived just as the masses were leaving. It was still good to see (I have not seen too many Protestant churches around). From there I rushed to visit the OM ship the "Doulos". While there I got to visit with Emile (she lived with the Newsons a few years back). However because I had a flight booked for the evening I did not get to spend much time on the ship. I was very surprised at the size of the "Doulos". It is quite the large ship. I had to rush back to the airport and thankfully made it with lots of time (10 minutes before they closed the gate). Here I now am back in Bangkok on Khao San Road trying to make my way to Nepal.
I had to finally move on from Koh Tao after a number of excellent dives. I did a bit of Island hopping today then bussed to Phuket where I am now online. Plan on checking out a few beaches in the morning (basically take it easy) then catch a boat early afternoon for Koh Phi Phi then possibly onto Krabi. Not planning on staying long here because there are way too many two week tourists (So often I want to stand up and tell them to take a chill pill - lame I know- when they start to go off on some poor Thai person. They just don't seem to realize they are not in the west anymore and have to go by Thai schedules and Thai rules... That's all I will say about that)
After a long day of travel yesterday (moto, bus, bus, boarder, bus, taxi, overnight train, minivan, boat, walk, pickup) I finally arrived in Koh Tao, Thailand this morning. I am going to chill on this wonderful little Island for a few days to get my diving certificate (PADI) and hopefully get a few great dives over the time I am going to spend here. Over these days I am going to have to try to plan the remainder of my trip whether I will be a beach bum around Indonesia (and possibly the Philippines) or hit up a flight to Nepal in the Himalayas and do some real trekking (Annapurna circuit and Everest base camp). Right now I am leaning toward going to Nepal, however with heading to the Himalayas there are a lot of logistics that will have to be work out (Visas, flights, trekking permits and tourist permits if I want to cross into Tibet).
"Welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia" the English sign read as I crossed the border from Vietnam. Despite needing to get my visa work done on the boarder it was thankfully a rather painless experience. Even coming from Vietnam (which in itself is a poor country with many people working for about $50 a month) it is easy to tell that Cambodia is an extremely poor country even to Southeast Asia standards. On the bus ride to the capital many kids come running aggressively after the bus and knocking on the windows trying to get some food or money from the passengers. Today I hired a moto driver for half the day for $5. I have to say I almost felt bad when I was handing him the money since I knew a couple dollars of that would go to the gas then some to pay for the bike. He might have made $1 to $1.50 off the deal, which to them somehow seems to be a good days wage. Cambodia is steeped in ancient history with Angkor Wat which I am excited to be checking out over the next couple days.Unfortunately Cambodia is also known for some of their not so ancient history with the genocide that happened here less than 30 years ago. It was very sobering to visit one of the many killing fields were many innocent families were beaten then killed. Today a stuppa has been erected in the place to remind people of the past so that these atrocities may never happen again in this place.
I finally had enough of the problems that my old camera were giving me so I spent an afternoon in Saigon camera hunting. In the end I did not upgrade as much as I may have hoped, but the price I got for the new camera was unbeatable so I had to go for it. In Malaysia I may look for a bit better of a camera even though I have been very happy with this new one. Canon IXUS 50 = European version of the powershot SD400. (The good 'ol days with my Canon Powershot A520)
Am in a bit of a Rush, but have been in Vietnam for the past few days. It has been an incredibly beautiful spot. There has been a threat of a typhoon hit, but the latest news is that it may head North for China which would be good for me since it was suppose to hit central Vietnam. This would have cut me off from the South for a few days very possibly. Just got back from a 3 day tour of Ha long Bay and Cat Ba Island, which was very interesting. We toured around on a junk and even slept on it the first night. Starting to head south so I'm out of hear. (will load pictures when possible).