Nepal – Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and a Virus

Bangkok, Thailand, May 2017: Back to Nepal via Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur but any thoughts of sightseeing inbetween have been somewhat curtailed. A nasty, debilitating virus has hit with its ugly symptoms manifesting on my first night in Bangkok beginning with the odd sensation that I needed to occasionally stretch then tighten my leg muscles. By morning I was quite feeling of nausea with ebbing energy levels. Thereafter sickness kicked in until around 3 in the afternoon by which time I had zero energy. Yes, its hard to even get out of bed and head for the toilet pan! Any thoughts of getting out are completely out of the question for today and probably tomorrow.

Day two arrives with energy at zero having had a disturbed night, but at least the vomiting has ceased. Zero energy and zero appetite but I can just about drag myself towards the kettle and make some tea. So, one more day in this Bangkok hotel before my flight to Kuala Lumpur. Sleeping better now but with a very sore back – like sleeping with a sunburn.

Day three, still with energy well below par I ‘m able to drag myself onto 2 buses and make my way across town to the airport for my flight to Kuala Lumpur. A freezing cold bus and still with that sore skin sensation its not a great journey! An odd mix of hunger and nausea prevents me from eating any quantities of food. I have an appetite back but then when faced with food I can’t eat that much of it. Kuala Lumpur late afternoon with energy back down to almost zero. Still no real appetite.

Day four with no real energy. All I can do is drag myself around the guesthouse here in Kuala Lumpur. That hunger with nausea sensation is still here spoiling what should be the best food experience in all of Asia. That soreness of the skin hasn’t subsided any either.

Day five with a little more energy. Its a real effort but I did make it out to the street and across to the shopping mall ATM. Still unable to eat in any quantity. Stll sleeping with that sunburn sensation.

Day 6, the same as day five! With a flight to Kathmandu tomorrow I’m seriously considering seeking medical attention – thankfully I have insurance! There’s a pharmacy across the street in the NU Mall. A very nice Chinese gives me about half a dozen white pills and is confident they’ll fix everything! These Chinese pills are making me feel rather light headed and well, after that I don’t know what happened since presumably I was sound asleep.

Day 7 and a miracle -yes, those Chinese pills have fixed everything. No more soreness, energy levels back to almost normal. After almost a week of sufferance, I’m ready for the challenges of road travel in Nepal.

IMG_1808

 

Advertisements

Thailand – Beach, Airport and Russians, Phuket

Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand, May 2017: To find a clean beach around here takes some effort. After having arrived here a day or 2 ago only to be greeted by the dirtiest beach I’ve seen anywhere in Asia – even the beaches in Sihanoukville, Cambodia are cleaner then here! So after a few hours of exploration here’s how to find a clean beach, close to Nai Yang, on foot and without paying a 200 baht fee.

  1. Just before the pay booth there’s a road between 2 sections of jungle. Take this for about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Take the next track on the right by a gate. It meanders towards the middle section of Nai Yang’s beach, about another 10 minutes.
  3. Head North towards the airport and after 20 minutes the garbage is gone, and so are the tourists.
  4. Another 10 -15 minutes north and the airport runway appears and so do a few tourists, the beach isn’t perfect here but not bad either.
  5. Another 10 minutes and there’s a near perfect spot and populated with plenty of vacationing Russians. A fallen log, a swing seat and a hammock to share between about 20 – but its still better than Nai Yang’s dirty beach. A lunch time the place empties and one has that dessert island feel. Here’s a few pictures….

IMG_0345

So with some effort, there is a clean beach, not that far from Nai Yang and if one likes aeroplanes then here it’s the perfect combination. Bring supplies since the beach sellers are somewhat unreliable, in short supply. and are really only limited to coconuts and instant noodles. Personally, I fill up at breakfast time – easy for me because I’m non-alcoholic thus no hangovers 🙂 .

South Korea – Train to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), Cheorwon, Conclusion

Seoul, South Korea, May 2017: having sat through a 20 minute video presentation, the chronology of the Korean war, it’s time to step outside for a breath of fresh air. Still under the watchful eyes of soldiers the group is allowed to wander around taking in the wonderful scenery but at the same time experiencing an eerie sense of danger! yes, just a short distance from here there is a murderous regime of oppression and control, poised, their tanks pointing in this direction. A radio station perched on the hill here continuously transmits in the direction of North Korea – propaganda echoing across the valley interspersed with a K-pop song. Yes, even PSY’s Gangnam Style is used to annoy  those within earshot! Gunfire also echoes across the valley, originating from the camp here – target practise day possibly or just reminding the opposition of a South Korean presence.

Below, another sneaked photo. Here is the South Korean side of the DMZ fence. To the right is ‘No Mans Land’. To the left of course is South Korea with the radio station perched on the hill top and a look out post in the foreground.

IMG_7273

An old railway bridge constructed in 1935 and said to be the first electrified railway line anywhere, remains as a relic of the past. A few more photos around here are possible with cameras pointed away from the DMZ area. A couple of helicopters rumble between the hills giving one a sense that this place really is on the fine edge of danger with North Korea. Yes, this is the real, raw DMZ alright, an experience like no other, a surreal sense of eeriness and danger!

And with the return 2 hour ride back to Seoul Station, that completes this little tour of the DMZ. Its a great experience, I’d recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure. There are no hoards of international tourists on coaches, so I guess this tour is only available via the DMZ train, known to Koreans and with tickets purchased on the day.

IMG_7361

South Korea – Train to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), Cheorwon Part.1

Seoul, South Korea, May 2017: A very last minute decision having ruled out a trip to the DMZ a few weeks ago at the height of US/North Korean tensions. Today is my final full day in Korea and now that the situation has eased somewhat, a trip to the DMZ is calling like a magnet to a nail! Quick research reveals there is a train from Seoul main station leaving around 9.45 am and that’s pretty much all the information I have. Better take my passport just incase of trouble.  I’m assuming there’s some kind of a shuttle bus between the end station and the DMZ!

IMG_7125

£17 return ticket on the DMZ train leaving at 09.27 am. Tickets can be bought at any counter and paid for with a credit card, so far so good. About 1 hour 40 minutes to the end station, place called Baengmagoji – Yes, I can’t say it either! A slow meandering between the suburbs of North Seoul, soon though the thing gets going and time to sit back and watch the scenery pass by. A mountain, green hills and soon evidence emerges of a militarised area – camouflaged shelters and transport compounds. I’d say riding the DMZ train is a unique experience.The thing is nicely themed along the lines of peace and humanity. Inside and the walls are adorned with a fine display of photos depicting aspects of the Korean war. The train though is largely empty, just a handful of Koreans and me, the only white tourist – but that’s not so bad!

The DMZ Train…

Here at a place called Hantangang is a hillside covered in white crosses. Although Google isn’t coming up with any information, one can only assume its a monument to the fallen during the Korean conflict. On the other hand this could also be the local grave yard.

IMG_7158

Here at last! 2 hours after leaving Seoul Station the train pulls up at Baengmagoji, a rather small halt in the middle of nowhere. (Google Map)

Next…at the DMZ fence.

South Korea – Jurye Neighbourhood and Gimhae Airport, Busan

Busan, South Korea, May 2017:  Today I’m having one of those shall I, shan’t I dilemmas. For those of you that don’t know I have a pilots license, although somewhat out of date now, I feel drawn to visit the local aviation scene if such exists, just for curiosity sake. Here in Busan there is an airport but its right across the city at some distance away. I’ve read that the aviation scene there isn’t really that great. On the other hand its my final day here and I don’t have anything else to do with it! Yes lets head for the airport, maybe explore the neighbourhoods around it too.

Getting to the Airport is like getting to anywhere else in Busan – easy! Just 1 change at Sasang and the place is just across the river. Its quiet with a a burst of action a very now and again so not that exciting after all. On the other hand the scenery around here is. Planes are taking off towards Gimhae town and its mountains requiring them the climb and turn quickly, but a bit too far for a good photo unfortunately. Looking back at Busan from here and the skyline is, well, full of skyscrapers but against the back drop of hills making for some unique photos.

Gimhae Airport….

IMG_6463

Looking back at Busan…the Sasang and Jurye Neighbourhoods.

A couple of hours here actually did produce an interesting item – a Korean Navy Maritime patrol aircraft, but now I’d better head off back to the city before arousing to much suspicion among the security guards. Just a 10 minute ride to the end of the line at Sasang where I can change for the line straight to Haeundae or walk a couple of stations along and explore the neighbourhood. Yes, lets explore the neighbourhood!

A 40 minute stomp towards the hills brings me to the neighbourhood of Jurye, according to Google Maps (Google Map Link). There’s a distinct European continental feel to the place, a residential neighbourhood spilling up the hillsides, flowing between mountains like a glacier. Yes, quite a different feel to the Busan explored earlier. A few shops, a very small vegetable market and some restaurants surrounding the Jurye Metro station.

Here’s one shop every British reader will recognise and it’s the only one I’ve spotted in all of Korea. In Britain, this was the mainstay of corner shopping in the 1970’s, not so much nowadays.

The Spar Shop, a great British institution for those of us growing up in the 70’s…

IMG_6528

Here’s a look around the Jurye neighbourhood…

 

South Korea – Haeundae, Songjeong

Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, May 2017: A cold fresh morning here on Haeundae Beach. The wind is strong, the waves are big with sea spray making distant views rather hazy. Its my penultimate day here, and I need something to occupy it with. Having seen everything that’s worth seeing I think a return visit to Songjeong will just about hit the spot! First lets go and look at those big waves crashing violently on the shore line. Plenty of folk up early, braving a dip in the ocean. Its the weekend and a public holiday so the place I daresay will be packed later.

Last time I hiked to Songjeong (Read about that here) the route followed a disused railway line. This time I’ll take the official road, elevated and next to the pine forest. About 25 minutes and one leaves behind the bustle of Haeundae to arrive at peace and quiet, broken only by the occasional kids squeal. Diversions are frequently encountered – I mean hiking trails. Yes, what seems to be a Korean tradition to ensure ones health, trails and paths exist with well signed arrow heads pointing up and down into the pine forests. Me, well i’m going to stick to the black top road, hopefully get some nice ocean views. Quite often one frequently encounters a pagoda, and here’s one now. 720 steps up but the view will be nice according to the sign!

Leaving behind the metropolis and arriving into peace and quiet….

And the views from that pagoda, 720 steps up…

IMG_6304

A little bit misty for clear views but still pretty good from here. Now though time to get back to the road and continue on to Songjeong and it’s wonderful beach. The road is still elevated and around this next corner I should hopefully see Songjeong, the town and that nice big beach. Yes, there it is. Plenty going on by the looks of things, not far now then. Looking down here, there’s a little area of allotments making for a nice photo, just by the little fishing hamlet described an earlier visit. (Read here)

IMG_6238

And so back again on Songjeong Beach. The advantage over Haeundae is the ability to have lunch and drink coffee while still just a stones throw from the ocean. In Haeundae, its all miles away and expensive too. A rough sea, plus holiday weekend brings out hundreds of surfers and this time some pretty decent waves to ride in on. Fun to watch while sipping coffee and nibbling on some indescribable food. This is nice, relaxing in the warm sunshine – I’ll stay here for a while.

IMG_6337

Heading back, on the bus since I’ve done quite enough stomping around for today. The 181 rolls up along the main street, 1200 KRW, and its about 25 minutes to Haeundae Beach and base camp.

South Korea – The Purple Bridge and The Trump, Haeundae

Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, May 2017: Visitors to South Korea have to admire the way in which the country solves its road transport problems. When land space runs out they simply build over water! In Seoul I’ve seen highways elevated along the course of the Han river and here in Busan, highways are built out to see, creating a series of Bridges attracting a good deal of tourist attention.  One such bridge connects Haeundae with the Busan downtown area. Its the bridge that can be 1/2 seen from Haeundae Beach when the sun shines and the haze doesn’t prevail but in full view promises to be quite a spectacle – well, that’s the myth floating around here!. This evening then, a stomp all the way to the very edge of town to check it out.

The sun is sinking, the sky turning into red and orange hue. I’m on the water front with skyscrapers behind me and the bridge ahead. The skyline here is really quite a sight as distant skyscrapers become shadows with the sun almost behind the hills. The Bridge, well its a spectacle all right – a beautiful mix of purple lighting with the backdrop of dark shadows and all the colours of a sunset. (Google Map)

IMG_6575

After about a hour here mixing with selfie obsessed Koreans and a few serious photographers its time to move on, back to base via the beach – lets see what they get up to at night around here! As I turn, oh look who has a presence here – non other than the President of the United States of America.

Donald’s pad in Busan….

IMG_6640

And on Haeundae after dark, plenty of kids letting off fireworks before being chased away by beach officials. Shadows of couples on the shoreline and one old timer selling flying Chinese lanterns. No drunken debauchery spotted, well its still quite early.

South Korea – Nampodong, Busan by Night

Busan, South Korea, May 2017: Having spent most of the day stomping around Gamcheon, uphill downhill, I have now arrived back in downtown Busan. The sun is low and not long until night, maybe a couple of hours. Thinking lets grab some scenic night shots, and thanks to a tip from Mel and Suan the perfect roof top views are not far from here. The Lotte Mall, has a roof top garden with 360 degree views of Busan and particularly the the docks. According to Google Maps is pretty much a straight line to the area of Nampodong, about a 20 minute stomp (Google Map)

The place is getting progressively busier, much more lively than 10 minutes ago. The road has turned into a pedestrianised street crammed full of shoppers. I’ve arrived at Gwangbok Road (Google Map). Looks like the place for Koreans to hangout on a Saturday afternoon. Much like London’s Oxford Street or Tottenham Court Road, a dedicated area for shops, malls, more shops and alleyways leading to, well, more shops, not to mention the array of cafes, restaurants and fast food. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the puppet man with his collection of puppets acting out to some music and playing up to the crowds gathered around.

IMG_5903 The Puppet man of Busan, much more entertaining than the puppet man of Norwich, my home town (Google Link).

The Lotte Mall is just ahead although how one gets to it seems as complicated as negotiating the London Underground for the first time! Via a series of tunnels in an underground market one eventually arrives at the Lotte. Now all I have to do is find a way up to the roof – the 13th floor. Its a 10 minute journey on some very slow escalators to the top of Lotte Mall. A garden for the kids, a coffee shop for the adults and a viewing deck for everyone. Yes, the views from here don’t disappoint as the sun begins to set – night very soon then.

IMG_6034

So this is how Busan lights up after dark. Not quite the spectacle I was expecting but the changing colours on the bridge is pretty unique and worth the wait. Now though, its time to head back to base in Haeundae, but not before a little stomp around the streets below, to eat and find a subway station.

 

South Korea – Haeundae, Dongbaek

Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, May 2017: Today’s Google inspired excursion – Dongbaek, sometimes referred to as Dongbaek Island. A large rocky outcrop situated at the western end of Haeundae Beach and clad with forest. Just a short stomp today, still recovering from yesterdays marathon hike on that old railway line to Songjeong. (Read it here)

Plenty of activity on the beach this morning. Thousands of school kids taking lessons, building sand sculptures and generally having a nice time in the warm spring sunshine. Oh, and there’s a sea life centre where no doubt one can find all the good and bad that might emerge from the ocean here! Not for me though, not today anyway. So, in the shadows those million dollar apartments, expensive hotel rooms and Starbucks coffee, the kids are making some pretty nice sculptures. Its a competition apparently.

IMG_5299

What a delightful 1/2 hour as my taking photos is generating plenty of interest. The students are bright and engaging, asking some basic questions with their limited English. Mostly personal questions, quite boring so I won’t go into it right now! Some are shy, especially the giggly girls but after a few moments even they plucked up courage to attempt a question.

IMG_5406

Unfortunately, damage from a recent storm has closed the board walks over Dongbaek rocks, but not before I’ve managed to gain a little altitude for a few photos looking back at Haeundae and not before snapping a mermaid – just a statue of course.

A quick glance at Google maps reveals a road running through the place, accessed from near the skyscrapers. So, with a little further to stomp I’d better look for the official entrance to Dongbaek. Just behind the giant Westin hotel is where visitors here should start any kind of hiking around here. Nicely laid out trails up into the woodlands or follow the nice wide road around the base of Dongbaek park.

And so here’s what I’ve discovered about the place over the course of an hour or 2….

From here one gets a good look at the the other side of Haeundae town. The Marinas, the million dollar apartments and the Ocean – the East China Sea, according to Google. Its a first peak at Busan city which we’ll discover more about tomorrow.(Google Map) 

To be honest, the place isn’t that thrilling. Quite small, and how its an island is not apparent in modern times. But its an escape from the buzz of Busan or the headiness of Haeundae Beach. On a really hot day one will enjoy the shade of the forest trees with a cooling ocean breeze. The place is even dotted with reclining seats, free to use too!

 

South Korea – SongJeong Beach

Haeundae, Busan, May 2017: Having hiked for about 50 minutes along an old railway line heading for Songjeong (Google Map) I’ve  come across a little fishing hamlet with a cute little harbour – an ideal place to take a rest for 1/2 an hour. Now though, time to make a move otherwise I might never get to Songjeong! Back uphill to the old rail track then and hopefully its just a shortish hike to the next beach.

IMG_4999

About 20 minutes of stumbling on those wooden sleepers and Songjeong comes into view and it looks pretty good from here. A nice crescent beach with just a few mini skyscrapers on the skyline. A sudden surge of energy and I’m closer to that beach than I thought!

Not as developed as Haeundae but considerably busier with folk milling around enjoying the afternoon sunshine! Development in progress though as there are a few cranes littering the skyline, nonetheless a very pleasant place to be – Songjeong Beach, South Korea is rapidly becoming one of my favourites. The place has a more traditional seaside feel, something I can’t say about neighbouring Haeundae.  As one comes to expect in Korea, food is everywhere along with a plethora of coffee shops including Starbucks. Predominantly seafood here along the beach front although there are a few vans hawking “Tea and Toast” rather expensively. So, with a concoction of spicy pasta in one hand a coffee in the other, time to pick a spot on the sew wall and scoff while watching a handful of surfers attempting to ride the wavelets rolling in.

Songjeong old station, worth a look while exploring the back streets. Unimposing and hard to imagine how thousands of holiday makers wold be able to cram into this small place. The last train rolled through here 2014 presumably then giving way to big development plans as some of the track has been removed. Plenty of originality still exists though with the station house being part museum and part craft centre.

Well, better get back to base at Haeundae. Bus or Hike? Bus, quite an easy decision since there’s only so much hiking and stomping one can do in a day! I have a feeling i’ll be back before I leave Busan. So while I wait for bus 181 here’s a few more scenes from Songjeong beach.