Even though helmets are not cool in Thailand, I finally got myself a motorcycle helmet. After climbing today I headed over to the Tesco Lotus in Krabi Town because that’s the only place I know of to get a helmet. There was only one helmet that fit me. I think Thai people have rounder heads than I do since nearly every helmet put a lot of pressure on the front and back of my head with a lot of space on the sides. The helmet fit good enough and felt like I could wear it for up to a couple hours without it causing pain. I ended up getting a Nakoya Rider Evolution for 599 Baht ($18 or $19). Amazingly there were some helmets as cheap as 250 Baht (about $8). None of the helmets had a DOT, Snell, or ECE rating. I suppose this helmet will be better than nothing and will do it’s job at the relatively low speeds I go. The primary purpose of this helmet is to protect my wallet from the police and I think it will do a very good job at that. For now I’m happy with it but I will keep a look out for a helmet with DOT, Snell, or ECE rating. I suspect it will cost more than $18.
I’m still trying to understand why Thai’s drive and act the way they do on the roads. The Thai government has been trying to reduce accidents and injuries on the roads. But their method seems to be on enforcing regulatory compliance (drivers licenses, helmets, etc…) rather than changing drivers attitude and eliminating dangerous behavior. I just read something on how most Thai people consider themselves good drivers. Funny how everyone thinks they are a good driver.
I joke about helmets not being cool. I’ve noticed around town and along the beach almost nobody wears a helmet, probably because people are making short trips and the speeds are much lower. On the bigger roads with faster speed limits significantly more people wear helmets but it’s still probably 50% or less. Maybe Thai attitudes towards driving are slowly changing… Me, I plan on wearing mine for all trips, whether it’s to Krabi Town or to the corner 7-11 for more beer.
Got a late start and didn’t make it to the crag until about 10:30am. I was hoping to get on Exfoliation but there were already people climbing it and the easy unnamed rout to the right of it. So I was forced to try something new. A little further to the right is Chutzpah 6a+. Protection is only slings which sketches me out a little bit. The guidebook says 10 but I think there are more. Anyways, I decided to give it a go. Right from the start I was struggling. I think someone in a group next to us was enjoying watching me struggle but the felt sorry for me and suggested I start a little further to the right. Much easier. Thanks dude!
The next few clips are pretty easy but then there’s all these tufas and it got confusing so I was not climbing it well but I eventually made it up to the last sling before the anchor. The rock up to the anchor from here was looking a little mossy and damp and it was also a little but run out up to the anchor so I was having some confidence issues even though the moves weren’t that hard. After a few feeble attempts at going for the anchor I was starting to panic a little bit and thought I was going to have to sacrifice another carabiner. But I saw a nice dry path to an anchor one route over so I got over there without much trouble and was able to relax.
The rest of the climbing day was working out the moves on Chutzpah (well, all of them except the last section to the anchor). Easily done on top rope. I guess my trip to Laos didn’t help my climbing 😦 I’m also starting to wonder about the grades on some of these routes. EFZ, Exfoliation, and Chutzpah are all graded 6a+. But Exfoliation is significantly harder than EFZ and Chutzpah seems harder than Exfoliation. For my ego it would be nice if Chutzpah was a 6b or 6b+ but it’s probably the other way around, Chutzpah is a 6a+ and EFZ is more like a 5. All the routes at this crag were set by a small group of guys who must all be extremely good climbers. There are routes graded up to 8a here so my theory is that it’s hard to accurately grade the easier climbs. Seems like anything easy for these guys got a default rating of 6a+.
After several laps on Chutzpah I thought I’d try the actual climb my rope was on. It looked significantly harder. It starts of sort of slabby and balancy. Then much easier climbing up to a ledge. Then I got stuck. I could kind of see what to do but the hands were a bunch of one finger pockets with terrible feet. Not going to happen and I didn’t want to injure my fingers by trying it. Well, it was fun to try something way above my ability.
After climbing it was back to the room for lunch of Chang beer and Pad Grapow Gai Kai Dao (spicy stir fried chicken with a fried egg). Then to Tesco Lotus to get a helmet. Then finally to Aonang Yoga for Yin Yang Yoga. I had not done this style of yoga before which is holding poses for 3 to 5 minutes with no muscle contraction and focuses on increasing flexibility. I can definitely see how it can increase flexibility but I thought it was kind of boring and I could do on my own if I wanted. Maybe I will try it again but for now I think I will stick with Vinyasa.
I haven’t been posting much because I went to Laos on the 21st. The internet in Laos barely works, kind of like in China. I was there to apply for my Thailand education visa which will let me stay in the country for up to a year. I’m happy to report I was able to get the visa without much trouble and made it back into Thailand. I’m at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok writing this, killing some time…
My first impression of Laos was not very good. First off, the border crossing is rather confusing. To enter Laos at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge crossing here’s the process:
- Fill out your Thailand departure card and exit Thailand.
- Buy a bus ticket for 40 Baht and wait for the bus to cross the bridge. The buses run about every 10 minutes so the wait isn’t too bad.
- On the Laos side, fill out your visa on entry form. Here’s where it is a little confusing. Go to window number 2 to get the form. Then when the form is filled out, go to window number 1 to hand it in and pay the visa fee. Then go to window number 3 and wait for your passport and any change.
- Finally you can go through Laos immigration / customs.
Leaving is also a bit of a mess. It’s not obvious that you have to purchase an exit card for 10,000 kip. They don’t tell you this before going through immigration.
Second, as an obvious foreigner I always feel a little bit like people are just after my money in SE Asia. Granted, some parts of Thailand are pretty bad in this regard but I felt like Laos was even worse. This was especially apparent with the Tuk Tuk drivers. They are dishonest and will take advantage of you.
Third, Vientiane has got to be a contender for least walkable city in the world. Everybody parks their car on the sidewalk. Forcing you to walk in the street most of the time. I don’t even see this in Thailand. This, combined with the same crazy driving as in Thailand made walking around the city not a lot of fun.
But there are also some nice things about Vientiane. This city / country has been through a lot and at one point was ruled by the French. So a lot of French influence can be seen in the architecture. There are also a lot of cafe’s, French restaurants, and wine bars in the city and there’s lots of good western food to be found when one tires of fried rice and phad thai. This is also seen in a lot of the signs around the city, many are in Laos and French.
Patuxai Monument. This concrete behemoth looks very impressive from far away. For a small fee (and I’m sure foreigners pay more) you can go to the very top which offers 360 degree views of the city.
L’adresse de Tinay. A delicious French restaurant near Wat Ong Teu. I’ll spare you pictures of what I ate but I really liked this restaurant for two reasons. The food is amazing and the bathrooms actually have toilet paper in them (and the floors aren’t soaking wet). It was quite an adventure getting here. Maybe I will write about it later.
So, if you find yourself in Vientiane, Laos, here are a few things I recommend.
- Visit Wat Ong Teu and Wat Si Saket temples.
- Eat at L’adresse de Tinay.
- Go to the night market at Chao Anouvong Park.
- Ride a Tuk Tuk! But beware. Before riding:
- Know where you are going and how to get there.
- Negotiate a price before you leave.
- See the Patuxai Monument.
- Walk along the Mekong River.
I’ve been diligent about keeping the room clean, not leaving food out, and cleaning up any messes. I also discovered ant chalk. It looks like regular chalk but apparently has some chemical in it that kills ants. I draw it over any ant trails I find then the next day there are no more ants walking on the trail and usually a bunch of dead ants near wherever I put the chalk. There’s just the occasional ant inside now and the situation is manageable.
I’ve gotten some recommendations to use Borax. Mix it with honey or anything sweet then the ants eat this or take it as food back to their nest then all the other ants eat it and it kills them all. Sounds great! But maybe not an approach approved of by buddhists. So I haven’t tried it. That, and it turns out Borax is rather difficult to acquire in Thailand. At home it’s easily found in grocery stores usually next to laundry detergent. But I haven’t seen any in Thailand yet. Apparently some people were adding it to food which then led to Borax being regulated.
Catching up on some posts…. Went climbing last Saturday to work on Exfoliation. Warmed up on a route not in my guide book. It was very easy, probably rated an easy 4. It was fun though and not stressful. Climbed it a few times. Next was exfoliation. Led it once and did better than last time. Then climbed it on top rope cleanly and worked out some moves on the crux section. Then climbed it again but the sun was out and it was getting very hot which made me very tired. So I thought I was going to climb it clean again but required one take. That is all.
After a breakfast of Gai Tod and sticky rice, we headed over to Chong Phli for another day of climbing. I thought I’d try something new. Exfolation 6a+
It follows the diagonal line that goes up and to the right. But first, warm up on EFZ for the 100th time (not literally but I think it will be true at some point). EFZ was uneventful except for some reason I am making that last few moves at the anchor harder than they need to be. There’s almost a little cave near the anchor and it feels really nice and secure to wedge myself in there. But it’s awkward moving up the clip the anchor. Much easier to climb on the outside of it but it is more exposed.
Now on to Exfoliation. I sat around for 5 or 10 minutes because somebody left their quickdraws on the route and rope at the base of the climb. But a group next to me mentioned they had been there for 2 days! WTF!? Who leaves their shit out for that long? So at this point it’s obvious nobody is going to be climbing the route any time soon except for me! I get ready to climb and start on the route. Starts easy enough. Big jugs everywhere. I think it’s going to be like this all the way up. But half way up where the texture of the rock changes it gets thin and crimpy. Uh oh, I don’t know what to do, I feel the burn in my arms and I’m starting to get confused. Take! It goes like this for the next couple bolts but then it’s smooth sailing to the anchor.
Exfoliation shares the same anchor with another route called Devil’s Backbone rated 6b. So on my way down I clipped into the bolts for Devil’s Backbone to try it on top rope. You can see the route in the photo above. It climbs up that vertical line of black rock in the right of the photo. Well, the rock is black because it’s very wet and has moss and mildew or something growing on it. Whatever it was it is very slimy and made the route much harder than if it was dry. I got to the top then done for the day. Packed up. To room for a shower then off to lunch.
Lunch was at some restaurant at the end of Nopparattara Beach Everything on the menu was expensive! Almost everything was 100 or more BHT So I ordered the cheapest and most boring thing on there. Chicken Phad Thai for 90 BHT. Clearly this restaurant is for the tourists. And the Phad Thai wasn’t even that good. Very oily and tasted kind of funny. I won’t be going back.
Yoga! I’ve been doing yoga off and on for about a year and a half. I don’t like it. But I do it because it helps with flexibility and core strength which is good for climbing. It’s been a couple months since I’ve done any but decided I should get back into it. So I decided to check out Aonang Yoga I think it’s a little expensive but still cheap compared to home. I bought a 8 class punch card for 2000 BHT which works out to about $8 per one hour class. It was different than I’m used to but still good. I was dripping sweat at the end of class. It’s pretty much like hot yoga back home except it’s just normal yoga in Thailand because it’s so hot and humid here and only shopping centers and 7-11 have air conditioning.
Then dinner. At a little restaurant on the the side of the road across the street from 7-11. Kuai Tiao Gai (noodle soup with chicken). For 40 BHT. And way better than the Phad Thai for lunch.