Category: SE-Asia-2010-11

#17 from SE Asia — Khao Sok National Park — the world’s oldest rain forest — a must see on the planet

#17 from SE Asia — Khao Sok National Park  — the world’s oldest rain forest  — a must see on the planet
March 1st,  2011
Bangkok, Thailand

Khao Sok National Park — 130 million years old and still going…

On Chieow Laan lake

Daybreak on Chiew Lann Lake

I headed out pedaling north from Rawai Beach on February 22nd.  I had long overstayed my scheduled time on Phuket Island, but it had been so easy to do so. I had been living in a compound of 30 bungalows surrounding a swimming pool, stage, bar and restaurant.   Many nights we had live music as bands literally from around the world came to our Orchid Garden Inn to rehearse.  All in my back yard.   Conversations late into the morning with interesting people from all over the world.   A party every night in your back yard.  It was very easy to overstay.

A German-Thai couple, Dieter and Sinon, ran the place.  They were happily married for 26 years, with 2 grown children.  Dieter spoke English better than most Brits, and virtually all Americans.  He appeared to know the lyrics of every Dylan song ever recorded,  along with all the Rolling Stones.   I enjoyed immensely our conversations and I look forward to seeing him again.

But it really felt good getting back onto the road pedaling again.  I got 100 kms north to Taqua Pai by 4 pm.  The rain storms came and I decided to stay the night.  By the intensity of the rains that night, it was a wise decision.  The monsoons were beginning early this season.

of what???

I headed out on sunrise the next morning to cross the mountains to Khao Sok National Park.  I had heard of the beauty of these mountain national parks and I did not want to miss them.  It was a 1000 meter climb.  The first half I did all right.  But once it hit the 10% grades, I hopped off my bike and walked it up the remainder of the climb.  I needed almost 5 hours to make 50 kms.  Not very fast, but I did it by muscle power.

I got a bamboo bungalow for $7 @ night.  It had water, good reading lights, and a fan strong enough to blow away most of the malarial mosquitoes.  For the next 4 days I would be outside from sunrise to sunset, so this would do.

I spent my first day hiking all day into the park.  It is unlike any other forest I have ever been to.  It is covered by immense ferns and bamboo forest rising up to 30 meters.  Large hardwoods reach perhaps 60 meters thru the bamboo.  It does NOT look anything like the Amazon or Africa.  This is true triple canopy forest.  There is an ascending trail that claims to pass by 7 waterfalls.  It was one tough, slippery trail.  Grab ahold of the vines and fig roots or you might be sliding downhill quickly.  What they called waterfalls here I would call cataracts.  But they were isolated and beautiful.  Because of the immense growths of ferns and bamboo, they were also hard to see.  The one thing missing was the dinosaurs.  From childhood movies, these fern forests always were filled with the great beasts.

Triple canopy forest

Where are the pteradatyls?

I kept climbing higher and higher until I got to signs telling me not to go any further.  I looked around.  I was by myself.  I kept going.  There was no longer a trail.  I had to climb over vines constantly, or get tripped up.  Finally I discovered a vine about the same dimensions as barbed wire, only much sharper.  I looked at my bleeding calves and the leaches on them and decided I had gone far enough up the mountain.  In the whole day, I had never had one good panoramic view.

A German couple told me that I simply had to take the tour of the Chieow Laan lake.  Pay the money and stay as many nights as you can.

The lake is man-made but no matter.  It is incredible.  Its waters are blue, sweet, and pure.  I drank from it.  It has some of the most jagged limestone karst mountains on the planet.  There are overhangs of over 90 degrees.  The pictures say it better than I.  This area is populated by almost all the large fauna in Thailand.  Bears, elephants, wild pigs, tapirs, everything but tigers.  We rode thru the mist in our long-tail boat looking at the fern and bamboo forests coming to edge, expecting most anything.

Without the camera flash, the cave was much darker than this

We stayed on floating bamboo huts with a good mix of European travelers.  After a great lunch, we took the boat straight to the cave hike.  Getting to the cave was much more vigorous than I expected.  We were led by ‘Mr. Big Man’, and large, heavy-set Thai man in his 40′s.  He chain-smoked, did not wear shoes, and out-hiked all of us.

On the trail to the cave, we met a group who had just come out.  They were completely soaked.  Some were muddy.  Several looked truly traumatized.  They warned us about going in.  ‘Way more difficult than we thought’.  ‘If you have claustrophobia, do NOT go in’.  ‘You will have to swim over to the other side of the cave in water over your head in darkness.’  A younger girl looked as if she had been crying.

Well, I do have claustrophobia.  41 days in solitary confinement can do that.  For a while I seriously thought about dropping out.  But the idea of me sitting outside for an hour or two waiting did not work either.  When we got to the entrance, I found it very large.  The others entered, walking in knee-deep water.  I followed with my head torch on.  The cave was filled with bats, crickets, and a particularly large spider, whose legs spread as wide as a man’s hand.  Two Swedish girls freaked out at the spiders.  For the rest of the trip Big Man enjoyed himself immensely by alternately scaring the women and flirting with them.  They did not seem to appreciate it, and he definitely did not care.   I found it amusing.

Cave fauna

The cave tightened up.  We were in cool water over our waists.  We got bumped by large fish, over 30 cms long.  Some people got freaked out.  We all had to descend a very slippery 3 meter slope into water over our heads and then swim along the passage.  They did have a rope there for those who could not swim.  Others struggled.  A young Finnish man, Mikka, commented about how challenging this was.  I agreed.  The tunnels tightened up to less than a meter wide with cold water rushing past your chest, but with the lights, it was great.

A long time later, we finally emerged, cold and wet, to a roaring jungle rainstorm.  Big Man commented that the water level of the cave would rapidly rise and no one would be able to go into it for a while.  The trail we had hiked in on dry was now thoroughly covered with mud, water, and debris from the deluge.  It looked entirely different.  Well, if we wanted to be in the world’s oldest rain forest, we sure got the rain part.  We got back to the cabanas toward sunset and swam in the lake.  The consensus was that the cave was much tougher than expected, and better too.

On the next day we were up at dawn.  The Scandinavians said aloud  “You watch.  The French will be late.  They always are.  They are just like the Spaniards and Italians.”  And sure enough, we had to wait again for them again.  We went out on the lake at sunrise along the shoreline and saw 4 species of monkeys including gibbons and macaques, horn-bill birds, and wild pigs.  Then we began a hike that ended up a very steep rock climb over very sharp rocks.   We probably spent 1 and 1/2 hours going up.    Again, it was tougher than we expected.  How Big Man did it barefooted I could not imagine.  I was older than the next oldest person by over 20 years, but I made it a point to stay up near the front of the group.  At times I did struggle.

This is what we saw.

Yes it was worth getting to here

It was now all worth it.

I have been on some cream puff trips.  This was definitely not in that category, and I liked that.  I got pushed more than I expected.

I fly home tomorrow from Bangkok,so this should end my posts for this trip.  Ah, to feel alive and free and joyful  on our beautiful planet.  I am such an Earth Chauvinist.

#16 from SE Asia — Characters you meet on the road

#16 from SE Asia — Characters you meet on the road
February 20th, 2011
SiaYuan, Phuket Island, Thailand

On the road, you meet people that you simply would not run into at all, ever, at home.  ‘Characters’ I guess.  People that you will never see in your home towns.  They may think that about you too.  Here are some interesting ones, from many different backgrounds, in no particular order.

James, the New Zealander, riding across Asia to England

I met this very young New Zealander in Krabi, Thailand.  He had ridden across New Zealand, flown to Singapore, and was riding to China.  From there he was riding across central Asia to ENGLAND.  He planned to do it in 16 months.  His budget was $17 US @ day.  Wow.  Go Youngblood go.

They ended up calling him 'the Devil'....

The people who went out drinking with this guy in the dive bars in Georgetown, Malaysia all came staggering back in the morning calling him ‘the devil’.  What happened, I don’t know.  But he blew old veteran expats’ minds.   But they said that his feats in the bars of Georgetown were legendary.  I will call him the Devil because he never told anyone his name.
The devil rode with us on a ‘visa run’ to Malaysia.  (to renew your visa in Thailand, you must leave the country and then return).
Read More…

#15 from SE Asia — Dental tourism in Thailand

#15 from SE Asia — Dental tourism in Thailand
February17th, 2011
SiaYuan, Phuket Island, Thailand

This is what it looks like when they grind down your front teeth for crowns  Now is this UGLY OR WHAT?

OH THE HORROR! After the grinding, and before the temporaries...

I couldnt wait to get these temporaries on...

So, I am getting older, and my teeth are wearing down and starting to chip away and crack.  I have done my best to take care of them.  I brush 3-4-5 times a day and I floss at least as often.

In 2007 I noticed that my 4 front lower incisors had really worn down.
They had lost at least 1/3rd their length.  They looked just like my dad’s
teeth when he was in his 60′s.  I asked my dentist in Bloomington what to
do.  He said I needed four crowns.  $3200 total.    (Today this estimate might be closer to $4500)  But he was so busy that he could not get at them for 2 months.

TWO MONTHS?  I want them now.

Read More…

#14 from Southeast Asia. 'Eco' tourism run amok. Loving it to death.

#14 from Southeast Asia

‘ECO’-TOURISM RUN AMOK  –  LOVING IT TO DEATH

February 15th, 2011

Krabi, Thailand

We didnt catch anything. And they forgot to bring our poles too.

We have a tendency to exaggerate to the better how our vacations go. We generally go on vacations to ‘feel better’. We want this to happen. And expectations form opinions. Who wants to come home from a vacation saying to friends “It was terrible. I will never go there again.” Well, I want to do a bit of truth-in-advertising here.

Clifford and I went on a fishing boat. There were 14 of us aboard, but just 8 rods and reels. The lady who booked us told me that there would only ten people and everyone would have equipment. We left late and trolled aimlessly. At the stern of the boat were two Russian paraplegics. If I hooked anything, I was handing them my rod to reel it in. They needed to catch a fish more than I. But three hours into the trip and no one had had a single hit. The six Russians in their party had by then downed at least three fifths of vodka and whiskey. They began making loud crass jokes about how bad the fishing was.

I watched the two near kids crewing the boat. They were searching with the fish finder. We saw nothing. So they took us swimming and snorkeling instead. To my complete surprise, the younger Russian paraplegic grabbed and mask and snorkel and rolled off the boat. This man was way over the top drunk. I watched him closely, ready to jump in. But he had tremendous upper body strength and swam strongly thru the water. Finally he was enjoying himself. He was the last one back aboard. He pulled himself out of the water with surprising ease.

Read More…

#13 from SE Asia — 3 fine books I have recently read

#13 from SE Asia — 3 fine books I have recently read
February 8th, 2011
SiaYuan, Phuket Island, Thailand

Two of the three valuable books I feel are worth reading

photos of 2 of the books here

The books are
1.  LAST KID IN THE WOODS  — NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER, by Richard Louv

2.  CONSERVATION REFUGEES  –  by Mark Dowie

3.  KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST  –  by Adam Hochschild

Before I go on bicycle trips, I get some good reading material for me.  I read in my tent, in guest houses, and wherever I have the time.  Often, these are the books that I do not seem to get the time to read.  I thank my friend Keith Snow for two of the recommendations.

Read More…

#12 from SE Asia — Riding into Phuket Island, and visiting my old friend Clifford Brown

#12 from SE Asia — Riding into Phuket Island, and visiting my old friend Clifford Brown
February 2nd, 2011
SiaYuan, Phuket Island, Thailand

Pedaling over the bridge onto Phuket Island

I left from Takua Pa at about 11 am, much later than I had planned.  But I simply had to visit all the Tsunami museums and exhibits.  I didnt figure I would get very close to Phuket Island with this late start.  So it was heads down pedalling.  I had hills to climb, but I was feeling really strong.  The trip was doing me well.  I just stopped for quick papaya salads and fruit juices and kept flying.  Sometimes I was maintaining close to 25 km per hour.
I took one short nap at lunch and then hit the road again.  By 5 pm I had 100 kms under my belt in the heat as I got to Phuket Bridge.  Wow I was having a fine day.  I was much further than expected.  Usually it is the other way around.
My plan was now to take the first reasonably priced guest house I could find.  But as I rode 20 kms.  into the north side of the island, I found that it was all agriculture and national parks.  Not one place to stay, and the sun had just set.  To top it off, the roads were wet.  Major trucks came by spraying me with sand and mud.  My bike did not have lights, and it was beginning to rain harder.
I saw a small restaurant to my left.  No sooner had I pulled my bike under the awning and heaven completely broke loose with a tropical deluge.  The road filled with deep water as cars plunged into it.  They threw water 5 meters to the side.

An unplanned homestay in Thailand. I am not sure what we were toasting to, but they all thought it was VERY funny.

Read More…

#11 from SE Asia — 6 years after the tsunami… The tsunami museums of Khao Lak and of Phang-Nga

#11 from SE Asia — 6 years after the tsunami…  The tsunami museums of Khao Lak and of Phang-Nga
January, 27th,  2011
Khao Lak, Thailand

Tourists walking out to the tidal wave...

Do read both of these eye witness statements

Well written...

The massive tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26th, 2004, did most of its damage in Thailand in the province of Phang-Nga.  It is where most of the 8,000 people died.  The ones that the media mostly paid attention to were those in the tourist locations.
Of the 240,000 who died that day, over half of them were on the southern side of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.   India and Ceylon lost another 80,000.  But the documented drama of the event focused mostly around southwest Thailand.

Read More…

#10 from SE Asia — Ko Phayam island. No cars, no shoes, no locks, no schedule…

#10 from SE Asia — Ko Phayam island. No cars, no shoes, no locks, no schedule…
January, 25th,  2011
Ko Phayam, Thailand

Approaching Ko Phayam

A view from our bungalow

A beach in Ko Phayam

Jeff was a day ahead of me and already had a room on Ko Phayam Island.  This island is part of the Laem Som marine national park system.  I rode my bike to the ferry early.  I felt great relief to not have to deal with any of the moto-taxis, schedules, and  price debates.  I just pedalled there quickly by myself.
I took the 3 hour ride to an island that has no cars, traffic lights, and only intermittent electricity and infrequent  internet.  It was about 4 by 7 kms in size and known for its fine beaches.  Across the island were 2 meter wide cement trails where one could pedal a bike if necessary to get to any of the many beaches, bars, dance halls and restaurants on the island.

Read More…

#9 from SE Asia 2011 – dealing with broken ribs in a hospital in Thailand

#9 from SE Asia 2011 – dealing with broken ribs in a hospital in Thailand

January 20th, 2011

Ranong, Thailand

The public hospital in Ranong, Thailand

The hospital waiting room

I landed smack on my right shoulder and ribs on hard pavement. A bloody knee and elbow, and a sore shoulder. I quickly got up and limped to the side of the road with my bike. I was riding fast, over 20 kms an hour, when it happened. It was at the end of the day and I was daydreaming, looking at the mountains in the distance, when I let my front wheel go off the steep shoulder of the road. I tried to correct it, but too late. I flipped the bicycle on the road. It happened real fast, as all accidents always do. For it accidents ever happened slowly, they wouldn’t happen at all.

Read More…

#8 from SE Asia — 2011 — Palm oil, rubber, and the world's oldest forest

#8 from SE Asia 2011 — palm oil, rubber, and the world’s oldest forest

January 18th, 2011

Ranong, Thailand

Note where the palm oil plantation has been cut into the world's oldest forest

I am now riding thru the very oldest rain forest on the planet. Biologists estimate that the tropical forest along the mountains of southern Thailand and Malaysia have existing continuously for 130 million years. No other forests on the planet come close to this in age. Both Malaysia and Thailand now have strong laws on paper protecting these forests. The locals for the most part sound serious about enforcing it. So what are the threats? Palm oil and rubber plantations.

While I was riding south, I got lost, again. I was using my compass to navigate across a mountainous area and I kept running onto dirt road with dead ends. Having to track back on hilly dirt roads on a bicycle can be very frustrating. It did not help that the locals could not understand my rudimentary Thai. I found myself in the midst of an immense rubber tree plantation that went on for at least 20 kms thru valleys and mountains. It was one continuous monoculture up and down the hillsides. i saw that they were expanding this rubber plantation.  I saw no landmarks to help me get out of here. It was getting late in the day and it was looking more and more like I would have to bivouac in this plantation until dawn.

Finally a motorcyclist came by me. I waved him down, and he kindly led me out of the maze to a paved road. This mistake set me back 40 kms. When I came out of the rubber plantation.  At the edge of the plantation, I could see that they were expanding it.  With the price of oil going up, natural latex rubber is more competitive with synthetic rubber.

Tapping a rubber tree

Unending rubber plantations.

Loading cured latex rubber for shipment

Read More…

The Wild Years

Dwight Worker The Wild Years A series of autobiographical stories about Dwight Worker’s life, running from the law…before Lecumberri. THE WILD YEARS is available in paperback and ebook.


Escape from Lecumberri

Dwight Worker Escape from Lecumberri Only two people ever escaped from the infamous Lecumberri Prison in Mexico City: Pancho Villa and Dwight Worker. This is the true story of Dwight Worker’s amazing escape. ESCAPE FROM LECUMBERRI is available in paperback or Kindle.

About the Author

Dwight Worker is an American professor, activist, adventurer, and fugitive. He escaped from the Mexican penitentiary Palacio de Lecumberri in 1975 along with the book and movie Escape about the story

Throughout his life he participated in civil rights, anti-war, and environmental movements. In 1991, Dwight volunteered to serve in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Worker is a former professor at Indiana University, where he created the Information Security program for the Kelley School of Business before retiring in 2008 to farm, write, and travel.….READ MORE