Monthly Archives: December 2015

Laos Visa Run

Well, it’s been a year already.  But I don’t feel ready to come home.  So I decided to enroll for one more year of Thai language lessons which means a visa run to Laos.  I guess I need to rename this blog.  Sorry to family and friends that miss me.  I’m going to be gone one more year and will definitely be coming home after the year is up.

On December 10th, we woke up early to catch a flight to Udon Thani.  Then from there needed to figure out how to get to Nong Bua Lamphu.  We decided to stay a few days in Nong Bua Lamphu to visit Anong’s family.  We figure out we need to go to “Udon Thani Bus Station #2” which is 4km away.  The taxi station at the airport says it will be 200 Baht.  This seemed very expensive and they were not willing to negotiate so I told them for that price I’d rather walk.  I didn’t really want to walk but I’m also not willing to be overcharged just because I’m an obvious foreigner.  Luckily we find a tuk tuk driver who said he would take us for 100 Baht.  Deal!  5 minutes later we were at the bus station and as luck would have it the bus we needed was leaving in just a few minutes.  So we are on our way to Nong Bua Lamphu!  Later on I’m comparing prices of the Udon Thani airport taxi to other places.  Most taxi’s are charging 20 to 25 Baht per km.  This taxi wanted 50 Baht per km.  No thanks!

In Nong Bua Lamphu we didn’t do much.  Just relaxed a couple days then got on another bus back to Udon Thani then a mini bus to Nongkai / Thai / Laos Friendship Bridge.

Going through the border was pretty much as I remember it. First go through Thai immigration and use your departure card to exit Thailand. Then take a bus across the bridge (20 Baht) to enter Laos and go through Laos immigration. The Laos immigration border is very confusing to me but after going through it 2 times now I think I have it figured out. There is one line that Thai (maybe other) citizens go through. They pay 100 Baht to get an entry/exit card then go through immigration and get their passport stamped. American (and most likely other) citizens go through a different process. Go to window #2 and get the visa on arrival form. Then go to window #1 and give them your form, passport and pay $36 dollars. Then go to window #3 to collect your passport with new visa and any change. Sometimes I do really stupid things. I have no idea why but I skipped window #2 and gave window #1 my Thai education visa application form the school prepared for me for the Thai embassy consular office. Nobody said hey moron you gave us the wrong form, go to window #2 and get the right form. They just accepted it and gave me my visa so I had no idea at the time I gave them the wrong form. Anyways, now that I have my visa, I get to skip the other immigration lines and also don’t need to buy the exit card. Just show whichever “official” looking person your visa with stamp and they will let you through.

Now into Laos we need to figure out how to get to the hotel. It’s about 20km to the hotel we’re staying at so walking isn’t really an option. I’m always skeptical of people coming up to me offering rides. First they said 60 kip to the hotel we were staying at. I was very confused because 60 kip is basically free. Less than 1 cent. After clarifying they meant 60,000 kip which is about 250 Baht. Seemed reasonable so I went with it. After 30 or 40 minutes we arrived at the hotel. Something slightly humorous on the ride to the hotel happened. Turns our our taxi was actually a song thao so we picked up another person who happened to be a kind of cute Lao girl, probably in her 20’s. Halfway through the trip she spoke something in Lao. I just ignored it because I thought she was talking to Anong sitting across from me. Lao and Isaan languages are very similar so Anong can easily and often does talk with Lao people.  Lao people also understand a lot of Thai.  The grammar is pretty much the same but vocabulary is often different.  There is some common vocabulary and Laos people are exposed to a lot of Thai media which is one reason they understand Thai.  But Thai people understand little to none of the Lao language.  So this girl says “อ้ายอ้ายไปไส” which sounded like gibberish to me since I wasn’t expecting anyone to speak to me let alone in the Laos language.  I ignored her because I didn’t understand what she said and didn’t think she was talking to me.  Anong ignored her because it was obvious to Anong that she was talking to me.  I later learned a rough translation of what she said was “Hey dude, where are you going?”  I guess she thought I was cute too.


I wasn’t too impressed with Vientiane the first time I came here, partly because the first time I came here I choose a hotel close to the embassy (about a 5 minute walk). There really isn’t anything to do in that area. This time I chose a much nicer hotel which is closer to lots of restaurants, cafe’s, shops, temples, etc… But it’s about a 45 minute walk. Vientiane is slowly growing on me. The place is an interesting juxtaposition of Lao, Buddhist, Communist, and French influence. International cuisine is pretty good here and of course there is a lot of Lao / Thai food to be found.

The embassy / consular office was closed all last week due to a holiday or something. So Monday morning was a complete shit show. Anong and I got there just after 8:30am when they open and there were already hundreds of people there. I’m guessing 333 people to be exact since the number given to me for next day pickup was 334. It wasn’t like last time where you stand in line to get a number then can sit down, relax, wander around while waiting for your group of numbers to be called up with window 1 or 2 to submit your application. It was just one giant line that snaked around the chairs in the waiting area, back to the entrance, around the yard, and out the entrance. At one point one of the guards decided the gate needed to be opened, I think for a car or motorbike coming in or out. I forget. Anyways, he just opened the gate and rolled it right into some people around me waiting next to it without any warning at all. Luckily I avoided it but a couple people got their shins / feet bashed. WTF? Seems at least once a week I see something new that makes me shake my head and leaves me dumbfounded about the behavior of Thai people. Not even any warning this guy just decides to roll the gate right into people waiting in line. How is that acceptable behavior in any culture?

Except for that it was pretty boring. Was next to a guy from Australia who spoke pretty good Thai. He was teaching me some Thai slang / vocabulary. Most of which I’ve already forgotten but did write down a couple things. Shortly after the gate incident and chatting with the Australian guy, I realized my mistake at the Lao border and that I did not have the visa application form. After a short panic Anong got a new form for me. Luckily I had one extra passport / visa photo. But the form requires two pictures. So I found a picture on another document I didn’t need to submit and cannibalized that. It was a little smaller than the first picture so I spent the next two hours standing in line wondering if my pictures would be accepted. There was a place photos can be made but I didn’t want to take new pictures and lose my place in line. By the time I finally got to the application window I submitted my application and forms. The guy behind the counter didn’t say anything and said ok, come back tomorrow so I guess they’re good. I’ll find out soon since I’m on my way to pick up my passport that hopefully has a new visa in it. Total time in line, nearly 4 hours!

Advice for visa application. Don’t go on a Monday after long holiday or you will spend a lot of time waiting in line. Even after I was done the line still went all the way back to the gate.

The next day I go back to pick up my visa.  Another long confusing line.  But after awhile I figure out we don’t need to stand in line and they’re calling numbers up.  So I sit down on the grass and wait.  About 3 hours later I have a shiny new visa.  Later on I learned over 1000 people applied for visas that day.  Definitely do not go on a Monday after long holiday.

The next day we’re off to Bangkok for a week.  Saw some friends, climbed on fake rocks, and ate some good food.



Tonsai with Joe!

A former co-worker / friend was coming to Thailand so we made plans to meet up.  We also ran into a few people I met in Chiang Mai.

Day 1 – Climbing at Cobra Wall.  Warmed up on Snake Whiskey 6a+.  After the warmup we met a couple girls climbing at the same wall.  One needed some chalk so I gave her some with a promise for a beer later on at Freedom Bar.  She also teaches yoga so we made plans for a yoga class on the beach in a couple days.  Then climbed Old Snake 6b.  I had tried this one before but needed to rest but today I redpointed it.  Feeling strong, I decided to push myself a little bit and try Baby Snake 6c.  It starts off very steep with big juggy holds.  Then it turns vertical and the climbing is much easier with a fun slightly tricky move near the anchor.  I needed several tries to get to the top but was happy I got up it.  This was it for the first day.  After climbing we head over to Freedom Bar to relax and so I can collect my beer.  But yoga girl does not show up 😦

Day 2 – Warm up on Cowabungalow 6b then walked over to Missing Snow 6b+ so I could try for a redpoint. I had to fight for it but I got the redpoint.  Yay!  My first 6b+ redpoint.  Then we walked over to Escher Wall on Pra Nang beach.  But lunch from the boats selling food then climbed Goodbye Salvador 6a+.  This was a pretty fun climb but it’s very weird at the anchor.  Long reachy moves.  Also, stay to the right.  Otherwise you end up on a 7a+ or something like that.  Joe figured it out the hard way and I learned from Joe’s experience.  Thanks Joe!  Glad Joe led it first and hung the quickdraws for me.  Then we walked through the cave and rappelled down Thaiwand wall.  It started to rain so we called it a day and relaxed at Freedom Bar on the beach.  Yoga girls show up and I got my beer.  Austin bought me a beer and I think Joe did too.  I probably bought myself one.  We had dinner somewhere and I’m sure I had beer with that.  Then maybe one more beer relaxing at a bar somewhere.  Somehow I got really drunk.

Day 3 – We planned this to be mostly a rest day and I needed it because I was really hungover.  We met the yoga girls (Megan, and one had a weird name I can’t remember) for a nice yoga class on the beach.  First time practicing on the beach.  It was nice but sandy.  Then we headed over to Eagle Wall with an old guy we met the day before.  I think he was about 70 and talked about climbing 6c’s and 7a’s.  I hope I’m that awesome when I’m 70.  So we warmed up on Where Eagles Don’t Dare 6a+.  Being rather hung over and seeing both Joe and Vince struggle on it a bit I took the easy way out and just top roped it.  Got up without too much trouble so next time I’m over there I’ll lead it.  It’s a nice long route with a good view at the top.  Next we climbed Spiderman 6a.  This is a 32 meter route that starts a few meters up on a ledge.  Well, my 70 meter rope was just long enough to belay from the ground.  By now feeling a bit better so I decided I should lead something and got on the sharp end.  Super long route with another good view at the top.  Rope drag was horrendous.  Enough climbing for today.  Anong and I head back to Ao Nang to have dinner with some friends.

Day 4 – Anong and I wake up early to get on the boat to Tonsai.  We decide to go back to Cobra Wall.  I want to send that 6c.  Warm up on Snake Skin 6a+.  Then try Baby Snake 6c again.  Sadly I did not send.  I peeled off the wall one move away from the easy section.  One or two more tries and I think I’ll be able to get it.  But now it’s lunch time so we meet Kat for lunch then head over to The Nest / Wild Kingdom and climb Banana Hammock 6a+.  This was a really good route.  Can’t believe I’ve been here a year now and have not done this one yet.  Good view and great climbing.

Chiang Mai

A few weeks ago, Anong and I decided somewhat spontaneously to go to Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong.  Since Chiang Mai also has some very good climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress, we also packed the climbing gear and got ready for a week of climbing and Thai culture.    On November 20th, we hopped on the airplane and were off!

Day #1 First order of business was to get checked into our room.  A ฿160 taxi ride from the airport took us to the Yindee Stylish Guesthouse.  The rooms were clean with air conditioning and hot water and reasonably priced at around ฿1000 per night.  There are of course much cheaper rooms in Chiang Mai, as little as 100 to 200 Baht per night but in my old age, I require just a little bit of luxury these days.

Second order of business was to find the CMRCA climbing shop to get some beta for Crazy Horse.  We found it without not much trouble and picked up a guidebook for the area and got some new climbing shoes for Anong since her old ones will likely be worn out in a few months.


Anong testing out her new shoes.

The CMRCA shop is pretty  cool.  In addition to having lots of gear that can be rented or purchased, they also have a pretty good bouldering wall / training room.  If you’re a climber and in Chiang Mai, definitely check it out.

Third order of business, eat dinner!  Northern Thailand is known for its unique cuisine.  One of the most famous dishes in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi (Thai: ข้าวซอย).  It’s a coconut based curry noodle dish containing egg noodles, chicken (or pork), some vegetables, and topped with crispy fried noodles.  It’s delicious and one of my favorite Thai foods.


First Khao Soi of many in Chiang Mai.  This one was very good.


Day #2, first thing we did was find a shop to rent a motorbike.  Motorbike rental shops are all over Chiang Mai so they are not hard to find.  Chiang Mai isn’t as well known for its motorbike scams as Koh Tao but it still happens so I did a little research before hand to find some reputable shops.  Thai Moto Rent seems to be the most highly regarded shop but unfortunately they had none available.  Another shop named Mr. Mechanic also seemed pretty good and as a bonus they were close to my room.  So I rented a bike from them and we headed off to explore the city.  BTW, other than an empty tank when we received the bike there were no issues with the bike or the shop trying to scam me when returning the bike.  So except for the British helmet, Mr. Mechanic gets a thumbs up from me.


Unfortunately, this British flag helmet was the only one that fit. 😦

Exploring a new city means visiting the numerous temples in the area.  Here’s a few pictures from Wat Phra That Doikham:


And a few pictures from Wat Phra That Doisuthep which I didn’t really like since they charge a fee for foreigners to enter.


Day #3 is what I was stoked for.  Climbing at Crazy Horse!


Since this was my first day at a new climbing spot, we just took it easy.  My goal was to get familiar with the area and climb lots of easy routes.  The first wall from the trail is Crazy Horse Area and it has a few easy routes on it.  So we set up shop there and climbed:

  • Ding Dong 5b
  • The Muppet Show 5b

We met an Italian guy who was just learning to climb and was there with a friend.  They didn’t have enough quickdraws so asked to climb with us a bit.  We were planning to move on to another area but I headed back up The Muppet Show one more time so he could try it on top rope.  Considering that he was climbing in sneakers he climbed it well for a beginning climber.

After he was done, I climbed again to clean the route.  Since I haven’t taught Anong how to clean a route yet, that means I’ve climbed 6 pitches by now.  Once to lead, and once to clean.

Next we decided to go to the Anxiety State Crisis Cave.  The best routes here are above my ability but there are some easier ones.  Beautiful Mess 6a was fun and except for a cruxy section in the middle of the route was pretty easy.  I also put up The Underworld 5c which was also nice but not quite as good as the first route.  By now it was starting to get dark.  After a bit of a panic over lost keys (thankfully found) from our new Italian friends we were on our way home.

Day #4 it was back to Crazy Horse.  This time we climbed at Heart Wall which is pretty new and has lots of good routes.  The goal for today was still to take it easy and have fun but push myself just a little more.  We warmed up on Peuan Jai Rai 5a then moved over to Kuu Jai 5c.  Now time for something a little harder.  Dtok Jai 6a+ relatively easy climbing but then comes a small roof.  Getting up and over this is the crux which I think is a bit harder than graded.  I fell here and it took a couple tries to figure it out.  I was certainly startled when I came to this.  Once past the crux it’s easy climbing to the anchor.  Next up was Duang Jai 6a+ It looked like a fun route with a traversy chimney like section.  I was having fun, trying not to let the exposure get to me and everything was going well until I came to a section of rock covered by what must have been millions of some kind of small beetle that looked like a lady bug.  Even though by now I was only a few bolts from the anchor, seeing no clear path through these insects, I decided to bail off the route.  So I took apart one of my quickdraws and lowered off a carabiner.

On the way down I came to the anchor for Hua Jai Wai 6c+ so I set that up to try on top rope.  It starts off very steep with powerful, overhanging moves on nice big holds.  But then the rock turns vertical and the holds get much smaller and sharper.  Needless to say it took me a few tries to get to the top but it was fun to try something hard.


From the ground, I thought the black stuff on the rock was some kind of lichen.  But no, it’s millions of tiny black lady bug-like beetles.


View from the top of a climb.


The 6c+ and another view of the insects.


Day #5 was a climbing rest day.  We spent most of the day at the Chiang Mai zoo.  Speaking Thai, was able to get the Thai price for tickets.  Screw you dual pricing Thailand!  Here’s some pictures from the zoo:


Ticket prices.  Adults 150 Baht or 100 Baht if you can read Thai.


Got the 100 Baht ticket!



Had to buy another ticket to see the panda bears.  100 Baht or 50 Baht if you can read Thai.


That’s it for now.  The rest of the pictures are on my camera in Krabi and I’m in Isaan visiting Anong’s family and getting ready to go to Laos to apply for a new visa.  So stay tuned for part 2 in a couple weeks when I’m back in Krabi.