(45) So what was your favourite…?

29 11 2011

I get a lot of questions like „What was your favourite country/place/thing you did..“.
The thing is, I can’t answer these questions, as I cannot reduce a 1-year-trip to just a simple answer to that. So I decided to choose some categories and then single out the things I remember most within these categories. Let’s begin:

  • Country, which has the best food: Mexico for sure
  • Best meal I had: Pancakes filled with cheese on a street food stall in León, Nicaragua for around 0,40$ a piece. Delicious!
  • Country, which has the friendliest people: Cambodia
  • Country, where travelling is easiest: New Zealand
  • If god were a men, every country would be like: Argentina (A country where half of the space in restaurants is occupied by a big barbecue, soccer is the national religion and women are beautiful. ;-))
  • Most strenuous activity I did: I call it a tie between climbing Volcano Concepción in Nicaragua and climbing Huayna Potosi in Bolivia.
  • Best fun sports activity I tried: I guess I have to say Skydiving, although it hurts your budget a bit..
  • Biggest surprise: Ending up as a participant of a Waiter’s run in Guatemala
  • Best Experience off the beaten track: Doing the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador. A trek in a beautiful landscape, which is not crowded at all with tourists and where you meet friendly local people in the small villages along the way.
  • Places to skip: Cancún, Mexico and Baños, Ecuador; they are way too touristy for my taste
  • Best trip: The boat rides from Iquitos into the jungle and from Siem Reap to Battambang
  • Worst trip: The 36 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang to Hanoi

Now let’s come to my favourite pictures:

  • Category Landscape:


Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

  • Category Fun:


Enjoying our time in San José, Costa Rica

  • Category People:


Winning Rock Paper Scissors makes the price go up 1 Dollar, the seller is happy!

  • Category Kids:


Cambodian kids happy about the entertainment I provided

  • Category Sports/Activities:


Having a glance inside Crater of Volcano Concepción in Nicaragua

  • Category Creativity:


A nice optical illusion 🙂

  • Category Animals:

I know there are a lot of pictures of animals in this blog and it is hard to make a decision. But my choice is the following one:


It looks like he is looking at me, right?


(43) Suit, Sir?

20 10 2011

All that is left now is to write about my time in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, a city cherished by Ping Pong enthusiasts from all over the world. First I have to note that when I was there no flood was to be seen yet, so I was probably lucky with my timing there.

On my first visit (coming from New Zealand) my main interest consisted in seeing the various temples in the city. That was when temples still could astonish me and indeed I usually find them to be more beautiful than churches.


You cannot pass!


View of the Grand Palace


Wat Arun, ‚the temple of the dawn‘

On my second visit, that was 2 days before flying home, my main interest consisted in shopping. After a year of travelling a lot of your stuff does not look too good any more, so it is a good opportunity to stock up – especially in a city like Bangkok where you have a lot of options for a good price. Now for example the area around Khao San Road is known as a backpacker ghetto and you can get a lot of things there. It helps that they offer the newest innovation:


A driving ATM!!!

When you walk around there you will be asked all the time: „Massage?“ – „Drink a bucket later?“ – „Suit Sir?“. Finally I could not resist to the last one and the result you see here:


Germany’s next Topmodel?

After all that was done I packed my things and took a flight – home. Well at that moment the idea of going home seemed as crazy to me as going to Mars or something like that. But I really made it and the first thing I had to do when I was back was to eat a delicious Doener Kebab, which I could not get hold of for a year.



It is hard to believe that my trip is over and the return was a very weird experience. Many things seem unchanged, so sometimes I have the feeling that all this was just a dream. Or wasn’t it?
Doing this trip was the best decision I could take and I can only encourage others to do something like that – if they feel like it. As I know the step from wanting to do something to actually taking action to do it requires the most effort. Just don’t be afraid and do it!

So this is the moment to say goodbye and to thank you for reading my posts. I hope there were interesting things for you to discover and that you enjoyed reading this blog. Writing was never my strength, so I hope I could disguise that fact a bit ;-).

What will happen with me? Well, I have to make some decisions now and most importantly figure out the answer to the following question:
What should I do with my life now???
Not an easy task!


(42) Same Same – but different!

17 10 2011

A nice thing about travelling is that you get to know the diversity of the world. Although some things may be characteristic for some regions it always turns out that there is something special about every country.
Before I arrived in Cambodia I thought I would more or less just visit the ancient Angkor temples and then head on to Thailand. But I was wrong. In contrary that country and its people have touched my soul unlike any other place I know.

To give you a better understanding of that I have to tell you a little bit about the recent history of the country:
During the Vietnam War parts of the Vietcong wanted to hide themselves from the US forces and crossed the border to Cambodia. As a result the US army was bombing parts of cambodian territory. That on the other hand caused the cambodian people to fight against the suppression and their US-friendly regime.
Now when the USA left in 1975 a group called the Khmer Rouge under leadership of Pol Pot seized the power. All foreigners had to leave the country within 3 days. Next they sent all the people to rural areas to do forced labor for example in rice fields. Any person who could be some kind of threat to them was killed – together with their whole family. Who could be a threat? Anybody who disobeyed. Anybody who was caught stealing food when they were dying of starvation. Anybody who appeared to be intelligent: Doctors, Students, People who spoke a foreign language or simply people wearing glasses. It was a crime of unbelievable scale: approx. 2 million people (that was a quarter of the population) were killed within a couple of years.
In 1978 the group was overthrown and there followed 15 years of civil war. The country is since then run by a group of people calling themselves ‚Cambodian People’s Party‘. But basically it is a group of corrupt and criminal guys who run down the country even more. The transparency international corruption perceptions index lists Cambodia on rank number 154 out of 178 countries.

The normal people in Cambodia have a hard life and many of their families have been affected by the events which happened in the country. Hardly anybody has enough money to sustain a family.
Now that causes some more problems for the society. Many men make a baby and then run away. They can do so as they are not forced to pay for their kids (some of them can’t pay even if they wanted to, but of course there are a lot who could pay but do not want to). So now how will the mother provide care for her kid(s)? Sadly the only solution many of them see is prostitution.

Despite all these problems the people in Cambodia are so incredibly friendly. I do not know if it is their faith that lets them endure that much suffering. Their smiles can be the biggest smiles I have ever seen. It is actually contagious, so pretty soon I myself was walking around smiling all the time. And of course I also had to wave to all the kids everywhere, as they always got so excited upon people passing in a tuk-tuk.
But of course behind all this there was always also a deep sadness hidden and I think that it is exactly that duality which deeply moved me.

Now for those of you who just want to see the pictures of my time in Cambodia, here they are:

The royal palace in the capital Phnom Penh:


Some sightseeing monks


Creative gardening can often be seen in South East Asia

In one of the restaurants my travel mate Tobi had to settle the price for some books by playing Rock-Paper-Scissors:


Guess who won 😉

Next followed one of the cultural highlights of Asia: The Angkor Temples near the city of Siem Reap. Yes, there are actually a lot more than just Angkor Wat. We did 3 days of sightseeing and it was not too much.


Come on in!


One of the entry points of Angkor Thom


A romantic moment


The Bayoun temple which has buddha faces on all its many towers


Ta Prohm – the „Tomb Raider temple“


The area is crowded with street sellers: postcards, paintings, clothes or just drinks, they have everything


As you see 12th century cambodian women already were very beautiful. Those shown in the carvings are called ‚Apsaras‘.


What’s that?


Angkor Wat in the morning


You think that guy has a big load? You are wrong!

THAT guy has a big load:


🙂 🙂

Leaving Siem Reap I chose the option to take a boat to Battambang and it was a memorable trip. The boat passes some lake on which there are many floating villages. For me it is hard to imagine how life there might be, just think about the fact that they can not walk maybe more like 2 metres in one direction.


Mirror lake pictures are always lovely


I present you the floating temple. They also had a floating school nearby.


Practice for the cambodian version of Oxford versus Cambridge

Some days in Battambang and on the beach in Sihanoukville (where the biggest challenge is having to get rid of the kids who want to play pool for money/bracelets with you) later I finally managed to leave that country.
It was the last country I got to know on this trip and I am glad I did get to know it.


(41) Letting the Sunshine in

30 09 2011

I already mentioned the bus ride into Vietnam in the last entry. It really was no fun: 36 hours in a bus with a vietnamese crew who spoke zero words of english, who were screaming around all the time and who switched on the air conditioning above your heads against your protest. If you protected yourself against the cold with an extra blanket it was pulled away by the crew as you had only the right for one blanket. But it may have been better like that because it turned out that the bus was infested with bedbugs.
So after 2 sleepless nights we arrived in the morning in Hanoi. We asked our helpful crew on which bus terminal we were and they showed us on the map the one right in the center. Great, so we can walk to the hostel! After 45 minutes of walking while asking people without success (as nobody spoke english or understood what we wanted) for directions finally we found a cab driver who revealed the secret: The place where we got out of the bus was not even on the main city map. Welcome to Vietnam!

We had already caught a glimpse of the traffic situation. And if you are not used to it it will appear to you like total madness. There are motobikes everywhere you look and it seems as everybody drives as he pleases. A red traffic light can for example usually be ignored. So all that causes a problem for somebody who wants to cross the street. The foreigner on his first day may use the strategy „to wait until there is no traffic and then cross the street“. Well, good luck with that!
The more experienced visitor (in which I of course converted myself after some days) will just start to walk and rely on the motobikes to find a way around him. And it works. I think you could even do it with your eyes closed. I haven’t tried though.

In Hanoi an amazing thing happened:
It was 10.30 pm and I was walking around the city looking for something to eat or drink. In a quite dark alley a vietnamese motobike driver stops nearby and shouts something to me. I come closer and wonder which of the three possible options it is: „Motobike?“ – him offering me a ride somewhere I want to go, „Massage, Bum-Bum?“ – him offering me a ride to a place which offers a ‚Massage for Men‘ or of course the Around-the-World-Classic „Wheed?“. But when I finally understand what he says I feel like I am struck by a lightning. It was none of those 3 options. He said „Bist du aus Karlsruhe??“ (engl.: Are you from Karlsruhe?). When he pulls off his helmet I finally recognize him and can only laugh about the absurd situation. It was a student I had met a couple of times in my home town, but we never spoke to each other before, so I am quite amazed that he recognized me in a dark street in Hanoi from behind.
The world is small!

From Hanoi you can join an estimated trillion tourist per year and visit nearby Halong Bay. I joined them. The biggest difficulty is finding a boat which really has all the things promised to you in the tour agency. Well ours was allright, just the food was a little scarce and the guide was upset all the time. That was no singularity and I have to say that many people in Vietnam who work in tourism are not very nice. You have to fight for everything, especially that you get what you paid for.
Impressions from the trip to Halong Bay:


Just feed garbage to the penguin!


Halong Bay

One night we slept on one of the islands in the bay called Cat Ba Island:


On Cat Ba Island (and no, they did not put me in prison!)

Continuing to the south the next stop was the city of Hue. There is a very large citadel where the king used to live and which can be visited. Sadly much of it has been destroyed in the wars.
After a bicycle tour the first day


School’s out

it was time to put on a little bit more power: Of course in a country where it is the main means of transport I had to rent a scooter. The first tries were not free of accidents but luckily without bigger consequences.


Faster, Harder, Scooter!


Practice for the show

The so called ‚Open-Bus-Ticket‘ got me then to Hoi An. It is famous for its tailors, so many people go there to buy some custom-tailored clothes. As I still had one month to go, I rejected that and postponed it to Bangkok. That way I did not have to carry around anything unnecessarily.


How many countries do you recognize/have you been to?


Would you rescue those cats?

What was next? Ah right, I went to Nha Trang. There I had maybe the worst day of this trip. The bedbug bites still visible and haunted by food poisoning I opted for a short swim on the beach. Some hours after I got back my hole body started to itch and I wondered what it was, as I did not see any mosquitos. When I got rid of my clothes I discovered that 80% of my body between the knees and my head were red and itching like crazy. (Yes, I have fotos and no, I won’t upload them.) Any treatment I knew of against mosquito bites did not help at all. And moreover I did not know what was going on. I could not get any sleep until 4am but when I woke up the next afternoon everything was gone.
Apparently I had contact in the sea with something called ‚Sea Lice‘. In retrospect it is quite funny that when you are travelling you are catching all these diseases which before you did not even know existed.

Well to sum up, that was the day when I most wanted to go home. But it had something positive, as I thought that it could hardly get worse. And it did not 🙂


The black pearl? No, it is an aquarium!!

A short trip to the mountains gets you to Dalat. What do I remember most about it?


The Valley of Love?


The crazyhouse?

No and no. In Dalat I spent the days mainly playing chinese chess with the ‚Easy Riders‘. That is a group of motobike drivers who drive tourists across the country. I did not want to spend that much money for that, but I did like to learn the game, as I have seen people play all over Vietnam. So one of them taught me the rules and we played a lot of games. After that I used to just walk into any Vietnamese Coffee Shop, buy a Cafe Su Da (Sweet Vietnamese Ice Coffee) and play with somebody who liked to play. That is namely what many vietnamese men do all day. Of course you won’t find women there, as somebody has to do the work in Vietnam!


My Chinese Chess Teacher

A stopover in Mui Ne (which seems to be one of the russian’s favorite holiday places) later to see the sanddunes nearby I arrived in Saigon, nowadays known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Interestingly enough it was the first time I found a couch via couchsurfing, so that way I could escape the backpacker ghetto in the centre at times.


6pm: Time for Aerobic


On the roof with my hosts and some guests

Let’s close this article with a few words about the Vietnam war. First thing to note is that you hardly see anything reminding you of the war, if you just drive around the country. You have to know where certain places are and look for them. Well it should be no wonder as 35 years is plenty of time to rebuild a country.
The other thing I want to add is that in the Vietnamese museums the Vietnam war is heavily used for propaganda or at least regarded only from one perspective. For example you can find a lot of pictures of people listed with the amount of american soldiers they have killed or tanks and airplanes they have destroyed or shot. I would have liked a little less excitement about these facts.


(40) Heat

4 09 2011

It is a Saturday night at Bangkok airport, for my inner time clock it is something like 2am after a long flight. It comes to a showdown between me and a policeman at the passport control point. The reason: On the immigration card I had to write the adress of the hotel I was supposed to stay.  But I just wrote „Bangkok“. The conversation went like this:

Policeman: You have to write down where you are going to stay.
Me: But I don’t know that yet. I never make a reservation.
P: Ok, so think about where you want to stay and write that down.
M: I can’t, I don’t know any name of a hotel in Bangkok.
P: So in which area of Bangkok do you want to stay?
M: I don’t know anything about the neighborhoods of Bangkok.
P: How do you want to get to the city from here?
M: I don’t know. I will ask at a tourist information about that.
P: How many days will you be in Bangkok?
M: I don’t know.
P: How much time will you be in Thailand?
M: I don’t know.
P: Where will you go next?
M: I don’t know. Maybe Laos.
P: So you come here and you don’t know anything about Bangkok???
M: Exactly. But I will find out later.

He checks my passport. Oh, this guys has passed a lot of border controls. Maybe he is not crazy.
He lets me through, I walk to a tourist information, ask about a good area with cheap places to stay, they tell me how I get there. I walk around a bit and find a place where I can get my well-deserved sleep. It is so easy.

Of course I could have invented a hostel or faked that I knew exactly what I was going to do. But if I have learned one thing from hollywood movies, than it is that small lies turn into big lies and then you lose the woman of your dreams just to win her back in the last 2 minutes of the movie. That sounds like a lot of trouble so I’ll just stay honest.

I can tell you that I have not always arrived to a new place clueless like I did here. Let’s think back 10 months:
I was on my plane to Mexico. I had searched the Internet for hostels in Cancun and compared them all on Hostelworld. I found „the best one“ and made a reservation there for 2 nights. I paid and printed out a receipt which confirmed that. I printed out directions about how to get to the hostel from the airport. I had a guidebook with me in which I had a map and many information about the area I was flying into.

But with the time it has become very clear to me that I’m better off with the „no plans“-strategy. Plans are changing and the most important thing is to keep your flexibility. Also researching costs a lot of time and effort and you can do all this also when it is actually time to make those decisions.
I found that some things are just not that important, as for example all the hostels and guesthouses will be more or less the same, so why put so much energy in finding „the best one“?

Ok, after this little detour let’s get back to my travels:
Seeing this part of the world for the first time 2 things I noted very quickly. First the people here are so skinny it is really very hard to find a local who has a gram of fat on his/her body.
Second the heat is just killing. It is supposed to be rainy season which means that it should also rain a lot but at the beginning there just was no rain. The average number of showers per day was increasing drastically 😉

As mentioned above I first set foot on Asia in Bangkok. About my time there I can only tell you that what happens in Bangkok, stays in…..

Just kidding. But as I will return to Bangkok later on and don’t want to split the Bangkok time in 2 separate post, I’ll move on to my next stop right now, which was the ancient capital of Thailand named Ayuthaya. Much of it was burned down (as a consequence today the capital is Bangkok), but there are still lots of ruins and temples to see, which are scattered around the city.
So now we can play a little game, which is „Find the Buddha(s)!“



You found them all?

In the north lies the – with travellers quite popular city – Chiang Mai. Their police likes to present themselves in a quite amusing way:


If only that would resemble reality…

After a long time of not doing anything fancy it was time again to raise the adrenaline level. I found out that I could get a really good deal to go bungee jumping (the high price was the reason I did not do that in New Zealand), so I gave it a go.
It does not look too bad when you are watching from below, but when you are up there of course you doubt that it is a good idea to leap forward. The „No refund for non jumpers“-policy though helps to do the decisive step 🙂


Jumping time

Most importantly as a consequence you will smile for the rest of the day :-)!

From there I decided to let my prediction to the policeman come true – and went to Laos. Here the first place I have been to was the quite quiet capital Vientiane. There they built a park with lots of religious statues:


The Buddhapark near Vientiane

To have this point of view you have to crawl into the following thing:


Bigmouth strikes again

After only one night I went to one of the weirdest places I know on this planet: Vang Vieng.
Why? Well, it attracts party people from all over the world to do something called Tubing. The basic idea is a tuk-tuk drives you up the river, you rent a tube and drift all the way back to the village. But in reality for most people it is kind of an excuse to get drunk in the middle of the day. To accomplish that several bars have been built along the river to serve that wish.
I said no thank you to the bars and was just relaxing in the tube, waiting for the current to bring me back. Quite boring, so I wonder how good is this activity if it is only fun being drunk?
One more comment: I hear people say that Tubing is dangerous. Well, that is not true at all. If you are with the tube there is no way you can come anywhere near drowning.
The dangerous thing is that people get totally pissed in the sun and then think they can cross the river swimming to the other side to catch the next bar. Well, some of them just overestimate themselves.

Once the sun is setting people get back to the village and can watch Friends or Family Guy in every restaurant. Apparently someone has decided that these are the best TV shows to watch drunk.

So I went a bit disappointed further to the north to the city of Luang Prabang. Consuming lots of fruitshakes, eating lots of Lao-style sandwiches and grilled fish on the night market I was mainly waiting for my visa to Vietnam. Killing the waiting time I could do some elephant riding – not very comfortable once you remove the saddle. But quite interesting to see how these giants can still maneuver in very hilly and/or muddy areas. And also how much they eat, they hardly take a break of doing that!


Allright guys, I am prepared, hop on!


My heart will go on

Finally I got my visa and could hop onto the bus to Vietnam, which was supposed to be a 24hour-ride.
It took us 36…