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You might have noticed that I have been away for a while. My last post was on January 29th and it was a guest post, not my experience even. I can hardly believe it. Having been sucked up by uni and travelling a bit myself left no room for continuing my baby here. Obviously, things die if you don’t take good care of them, so I lost a lot of readers, exposure and income. Luckily, that is not what I am writing for. I love to write and to share good stories and great places with you, topped up by a giveaway now and again. As a matter of fact, I can start by giving away a nice summerdress for you to enjoy the last weeks of summer in (or to use for a nice trip to the sun while the trees are already losing shredding their leaves in your country). For more about the offer and more on what to come please continue reading.
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Trip: A weeked in Ghent Date: 25 – 27 November 2016
Route: Delft – Roosendaal – Antwerp – Ghent
Transport to Ghent: Train Transport in Ghent: Tram, bus, walking
Company: Aegee Delft Stayed the night at: Hosted at someone’s house Highlights: Gentse Gruut Brewery
Faraway places with incomprehensble languages, white sand beaches, never-ending rainforests or fields of eternal snow are the dream of any traveller. However, sometimes we should not forget to explore the gems closer to home. Especially when you are working or studying fulltime it can be hard to travel as often as you want and as far as you want. The positive side of this is that you start appreciating what lies more at reach. One of these destinations for me was Ghent, in Belgium. Of most destinations I go to I have certain expectation. I do my research well and know all the things I want to do and see. When I meet people who did things that weren’t yet on my list, that list will just expand and expand. For Ghent this wasn’t the case. Just another city not too far from home where they brew good beers. Alright then. However, Ghent managed to positively suprise me. For example, how many cities have a castle right in the middle of it? Or that sweets exist that you had never heard of before? Or that it is possible to brew beer without the use of hop?
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(For readers with an adress in Belgium or the Netherlands)
It have been an amazing few weeks in which my blog has gained more and more traffic. A fantastic event, because that means more people are getting inspired by my stories and sharing stories and inspiring people to travel is exactly my goal. Travelling is one of the few things you can be that actually makes you richer and if everybody would open themselves up to be influenced and amazed by new cultures, languages, people and environments the world would be a much better place.
If you got here, you must be either a readily addicted traveller looking for more inspiration, or a first-time traveller who has set the first step of orientating yourself in the world of travel. Whatever your reason may be for checking out my page, I love that you are here and I want to thank you and inspire you to keep up your travel motivation. In order to do so, I am allowed to give out a very handy gadget to one of you…
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Abandoned places are really my cup of tea, so if I find any, you can be sure that I will keep nagging and whining until
somebody comes with me to explore the mystery with me. Naturally this happened in Bangkok too. I am very sure that a massive city such as Bangkok has a lot to offer for Urban Explorers, but the most well-known abanadoned tower must be Sathorn Unique Tower – better known as “The Ghost Tower” to backpackers. I already briefly mentioned this unique establishment in my top things to do in Bangkok, but this post will contain my personal and not super succesful experience as well as tips and tricks on how to be more succesful than I was. Although I must say, luck plays a little part in it.
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What happens if you are sober at an electronic musical party?
Sober October. That is my motto; a little piece of lifestyle invented by myself years ago and still standing strong. For some of you a month of drinking no alcohol might sound like hell on earth, whereas others normally only drink on their birthday and New Year’s Eve, or not at all. Personally I am neither, but I do like a drink now and then, especially in certain social situations. An electronic music festival (in Europe) is excatly the situation where everybody is under the influence of something; be it booze or drugs.
Getting invited to a party where mainly electronic music would be playing in October was not an excuse to give up on my non-drinking principle or a reason to decline the party invitation; it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to find out how you would experience a party where everybody is out of their minds on some substance from a sober point of view: losing count of the number of cans of energy drink you already downed in order to keep your own body fueled with energy.
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Trip: Fieldwork in South-Eastern France
Date: 14 – 05 – 2016 until 5-06-2016
Route: Car from Delft to La-Motte Chalancon. Drove in Cirlces around our research area and had a day trip to Sistéron, an hour driving from the campsite. We returned to Delft by car.
Transport to France: Car
Transport in France: Car
Company: My fieldwork group and fellow students
Stayed the night at: Camping Le Village in La Motte-Chalancon
Highlights: L’Oule river, Chalancon Via Ferrata
Never before have I been very impressed by study excursion as I could not imagine that any non-geologist would be interested in what kind of rock formations I had seen. This trip was different as not only the rocks showed brilliant layering, but also because we spent three weeks camping and hiking around the area, which happened to be extremely impressive, beautiful and full of old castle ruins as well.
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“We lied down on the floor not to get hurt. It was a huge panic. The terrorists shot at us for 10 to 15 minutes. It was a bloodbath.” – Julien Pierce
Doubt took ahold of me as I started writing this article. The horrors of what happened in Paris struck me Friday night and again Saturday morning when the number of deaths had risen to over 120. Should I express myself about this as a travel blogger? At first I thought better not. However today I realised that so many people have already stopped speaking about the terrors that happened only two days ago. People tend to forget what is out of their reach and travelling means to explore the world, to discover new cultures and to respect and care for everyone in this world. Exactly 3 years ago, I was in Paris to celebrate my mothers birthday, November 13th. It just goes to say how easily you and me could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is to express my respect to the people that fought, best wishes to the families and relatives that died and my hope to ever see a world in peace.
Paris, the 13th of Novmeber 2012, pictured by the photograph above. I doubt the Eiffel tower or its surrondings have changed since, but the layer of fog weighing down on the city has cleared to make way for an even more depressive atmosphere; the tendency of fear, sorrow and death after over 120 people died as a result of a terrorist attack.
Three of the shooters have been identified, all brothers, of which two were known as radicalised Syria warriors. This is perhaps what strikes me most about deeds of terror such as this one; the perpetrators are often known and sometimes being “watched” for earlier expression of radical ideas and thougts of executing them. The question remains, why were these people free to roam around and prepare an attack while “being watched” and how many more of these situations do we have, in France, in Europe, all over the world. This damage could have been prevented or at least limited if these men had been treated as the criminals that they are in the first place. This is what makes me scream and makes me want to shout out, how can known extremists be let out of sight in a world where my whatsapp messages can be tracked and read by the government. It is crazy, just like it is crazy that these attacks are claimed to be on behalve of Islam. Religion is meant to bring peace and no god in the world or beyond would encourage or even allow the unscrupulous slaughter of innocent men. Instead, terrorist attacks are the foolish deed of incompetent, brainwashed egoists, that actually believe in the promise of a sports car and 72 virgins that await them in the afterlife. I find it hard to believe that there are people willing to sacrifice their lives and that of hundreds of others for the ideals that they believe in, although this is mostly just the promise of receiving all they are probably lacking in real life. These people are easily influenced and probably unhappy. For that I would say that the world could use a lot more love. People that are happy in everyday life will be less likely to go all the way to generate a happy afterlife for themselves. Therefore give love, appreciate all you have and compliment your neighbours, who knows how many lives you can save.
Okay, I know this post is not one of my best, lacking content in every corner. Nevertheless, it is sometimes good to just express and discuss important matters in order to unite against crimes. I do not believe that an equal world, inhabited by humans, can exist. Selfishness is in our nature and people will remain to try to get better, even if they need others for that. Still, let’s strive at least towards a world where murder is history. Pray for Paris, so that I can find it back in the way I found it before, with happy Asian couples getting married beneath the Eiffel tower, pray for Paris, in any way and to any god you believe in, respect each others prayers and pray, not only for Paris, but for a future non-violent.
It took hours of consideration before I was brave enough to decide that I would do it, I would cross the border from Thailand to Cambodia over land. Whilst searching for information I had come across many horror stories: from simple scams and long lines to serious blackmailing, threats and robberies, plus the fact that getting your visa on arrival would be an enormous hassle that would eat away your time. None of this is true.
There are multiple ways to find your way into Cambodia over land, one cheaper than the other, but none of them dangerous or unacceptably difficult. Here is how I’ve done it:
The adventure started off as a night spent at Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok. This is an unnecessary step in the process, but our train would leave at 5.55am and our couchsurfing adress was a fair while away from the station. Bangkok being such a vibrant city, we probably would not have had to worry about finding a taxi at such a time, but we decided to sleep at the station, just to be sure. The train leaves daily at 5.55am from Hua Lamphong Station (or at 1.05pm, but if you choose the latter one it is unsure if the border will still be open when you get there). Tickets can be bought at the station on the day of departure (earlier is not possible).
Be very careful with the (tour)bus!
Many tour companies claim to bring you directly to Siem Reap, prices range from 300 – 800 baht (€7.80 – €20,-) and tickets can often be bought at Khao San Road (but sometimes elsewhere at tourist offices). What seems too good to be true usually is. Keep in mind that these tickets are only sold in touristic areas, locals won’t use them, meaning that they are mostly meant to get money from tourists one way or another. Even if you managed to score a 300 baht ticket, your trip won’t costs you only 300 baht.
One of the issues is that Thai bus companies are not allowed to enter Cambodia, likewise, Cambodian buses are not allowed into Thailand. A “direct bus” is therefore your first rip-off. You will need to get off the bus at the Thai side of the border and hope that another (Cambodian) bus will pick you up on the other side. This often takes hours (if it comes at all). Additional scams involve, but are not limited to the fact that many buses stop at a restaurant or shop and won’t leave until everybody has purchased their (disgusting) food for a certain price or that the bus will not leave untill all seats are sold. Tourbuses are also well known for taking you to an illegit “visa office” to buy your visa at an overpriced rate. These offices are official looking, but not trustworthy!
Lastly, the worst rip-off is that the bus will stop somewhere in order for you to have something to eat (or they pretend to have a flat tyre, or another problem that requires you to get off the bus). Whilst you eat or whilst they “fix” the car, they actually have plenty of time to go through everbody’s bags and confiscate anything valuable you’re carrying. Don’t leave your belongings in the car under any circumstances.
Not all buses do all of this obviously, but none can take you directly for sure! Buses to Poipet instead of Siem Reap are useally better, but taking the train will most likely save you a lot of time, money and verbal fights.
Train to Aranyaprathet
Step two would be the train. When I saw what the train we would be going on looked liked I fell in love. The train looked like one that had ran away from a Charles Dickens story: old, windowless and incredibly nostalgic. Not to leave out any information, the train ticket is going to cost you 48 baht (€1,25) to travel all the 248km to Aranyaprathet. That is €0.004 per km, crazy isn’t it?
The train is an experience. After having boarded, the conductor instructed us to rearrange to a different seat several times, with no apparent reason. However, we ended up having two private benches for the two of us, so that was alright. The trains are made of wood, so don’t expect any comfort. You will spend six to eight hours on this train, at one point not being able to stop wiggling around, because you don’t know how to sit anymore. It is not so bad as it sounds at all, I liked the train and it was perfectly managable. I absolutely loved my nostalgic train ride.
The thing that people on planes miss out on is included in your valuable train ticket: amazing views of the country side and untouched farm villages. Moreover, the trains don’t have the horrific airconditioning that makes all the tourbuses feel like you ended up in a snowstorm rather than in tropical South-East Asia. If you are fond of luxury though, the train might not be for you.
Once arrived in Aranyaprathet, it is still a small distance to Poipet, where the border is. This is the part that some people might consider as “tricky”. The tuk-tuk drivers are all gathered around the station when you get off the train, they know where you want to go and they will overprice the ride, this is not unlike any other tuk-tuks in the country, so don’t let this put you off. A fair price for this ride should be 80-100 baht for the whole tuk-tuk. The two of us found two other people to share the ride with and the driver started off by charching us 100 baht per person. We bargained down to 30 per person, which is not too bad.
The next trick is about the visa. Obviously, your driver will have some friends around the corner that are happy to sell you a visa for twice the price as the official office at the border. Your driver will get a good comission for it and not be so dissapointed that you “only” paid 100 baht for the ride. This scam is not too expensive, but I’m sure you have better ways to spent an additional 40 US dollars and it is easy to avoid. Just tell the tuk-tuk driver that you already have an (e-)visa* and he’ll see no point in bringing you anywhere else and bring you to the border without a hassle. Also, think wisely, you don’t need a visa for Cambodia in order to leave Thailand, so make sure you pass the passport control first (get stamped out of Thailand) before looking for the actual office where you can get your visa. The visa is $30, nothing more. Don’t pay more.
*Why not get an actual e-visa? For me the reason was because the e-visa is valid for 30 days from the date you apply. Since I did not have wifi everywhere I could only apply a few days before actually entering Cambodia. That is a waste of days on your visa. An e-visa also costs $7 extra.
And there it is… the entry to Cambodia. It has a miniature version of Angkor Wat on top, just like anything else remotely important in Cambodia. This is what you will see after having exited Thailand officially, this is also where you find immigration, on your righthand side (because in Cambodia you are supposed to drive on the right, as opposed to Thailand and other countries in the region).
As I mentioned before, the visa costs $30,- it is easiest to have this amount in cash in dollars. I was oblivious enough to think that border control would have an ATM accesible, but obviously this is not te case. It is Cambodia after all. I was lucky they let me pay in Thai baht, a price that equaled $34 dollars, but officially US dollars are the only way to go. Also make sure that you can provide a passport photo. Cambodia is very easygoing on visas, people from any nationality can get one on arrival! If everything is present the process won’t take more than 15 minutes.
After you’re done, you can finally enter throught that beautiful entrance port and next up the Cambodian passport control. Congratulations, you officially made it into Cambodia.
At the border and beyond it, massive casino-resorts wil be your only sight. During my trip I had no idea what a mini Las Vegas at the border would have to add to either of the countries economics. However, I recently learned that gambling in Thailand is illegal, the casino strip is just before Cambodian immigration, allowing Thai people to gamble in Cambodia without having to pass immagration. Who would have thought it, as the two nations still detest each other…
So unless you are a Thai looking to gamble, or a non-Thai having spent so long in Thailand that you have the urge to gamble at the border, you won’t want to stay in Poipet.
Now from here you have options. There is a free shuttle service bus that can bring you to the international transfer terminal. This bus is legit and it is only a short ride. The problem with it is that once at the international transfer terminal, you have nowhere to go. There are no ATMs, and the buses you can take from here only accept US dollars or the Cambodian riel. If you are stuck with Thai baht you are forced to change them at an unfavourable rate. Plus, I found the buses rather expensive. From the terminal, you can get a bus or minivan to either Siem Reap or Battambang. The buses to Siem Reap cost you $10 US dollars, which is not too bad for a 150km right, but I assume that there is a cheaper option that does not involve a minivan full of backpackers, as we got a cheaper ride on the way back from Siem Reap to the border as well.
The other problem with this bus from the international terminal is that it brings you to the outskirts of Siem Reap, not the city centre. They offer tuk-tuks to finish the right, but they will make you pay for those as well, making your seemingly $10 ticket more expensive. We got mad at the company and demanded to be taken for free, which happened in the end, but others still had to pay.
An alternative would be to look for a bus company in Poipet itself (before getting on the free shuttle to the internatioal terminal). I am not sure if you will find one, because I did it the international terminal way, but it is worth having a look around. Many Cambodians don’t have a car and they too need to get from the border around the country, but you don’t see them in the minivan. I am fairly positive that a local bus company should be present.
Cambodia to Thailand
If you are looking to cross the border the other way around, you can do the same thing vice versa: Take a bus from anywhere in Cambodia to the border, cross it, find a tuk-tuk to Aranyprathet where you wait for the train. Easy as.
There are a few things to remember about this though: first of all, the train from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok only goes twice a day. In this direction one at 6.40 in the morning, the other one around 1.55pm (check the train schedual at any station for exact times), you don’t want to miss the train or you’ll be stuck in Aranyaprathet, where there is not much to do and accomodation is rather expensive compared to Bangkok. For this exact reason, we decided to go for a more expensive tour bus, that would still save us money, because we could stay the night in Bangkok for so much cheaper.
Secondly, citizens of many nations can get a 30-day Thai visa when flying into Bangkok. Over land, almost all of these get a 15-day visa instead of 30 (except USA, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy & Japan). Of course your visa can be extended while in Thailand, but plan this carefully in your travel plans.
I assume this is all you need to know for a safe and rip-off-free border crossing at Poipet. Don’t let horror stories put you off and enjoy!
No, the subject is not travel-related, although for me it turned out to be. However, I warned you that from time to time I might express my opinion or tell a story about other subjects that caught my attention. If you are not interested, just don’t read and patiently wait till the next update (:
Patience is a blessing.
I am not sure if I have many talents, and if I do I sure as hell I don’t like to brag about them. There are always people that are better than you. However, there is one particlar talent that I have and can be sure of that I must be in the top list of people who have this talent; getting distracted.
Distraction may not sound like a talent to you, and if it is, it’s not a very useful one. Both true and wrong. In everyday life, especially with my studies it can be an enormous pain in the ass to have an attention span of about 15 minutes, before either the ceiling or the mysterious scraps of thoughts that go through my head become more interesting. Despite that, getting distracted has gotten me where I am now. If I had a perfect focus I would not have ever experienced travelling the way I did now, maybe not at all. I would sure as hell not have stumbled upon the most wonderful experiences and people, sometimes by quite literally running into them (or a closed door, a tree, or a lantern post).
When learning for my exams this week, distraction hit soon enough. Facebook, eating something, making tea and replying to a text all come in a very unpractical ratio with actual studying. However, the distraction never seems to be enough. Updating my blog would be perfect, but I know that once I start on that I will accidentally spend hours instead of minutes, so I needed something different. This time it was…. Tinder.
Tinder is a rather controversial app that matches people by whether they like each others profile pic. If you both like each others photo, you’ll be able to send your “match” messages that will perhaps end up in a date. If the like was not mutual, the person will just disappear in the Tinder jungle, never to be seen again.
Some actual couples are known to have found their significant other via Tinder, however more often the app insinuates many sexual dates and a lot of dissapointment to those who expect more. Not so strange considering the app generates matches based on someones looks, not even that, more on someones photos (that could be photoshopped).
Personally I was not looking for sex or love or anything else that you can find on the app. I was mostly looking for distraction and driven by curiousity, so I started swiping. It didn’t take long before I had over 20 matches. Great, but what now? Less then a quarter of them had started an actual conversation. I tried starting one with another quarter and would leave the rest for now. 20 people is too many to chat with anyways, besides, I had exams to study for.
At first I was slightly dissapointed by the lack of actual text respoonses from people. Whether they’re on there to find their soulmate or to find someone to warm their bed for a night, communication is mostly appreciated. After a while this problem sorted itself out. The interesting people stayed at the top of the list, playing truth or dare, talking about common interests or complete bullshit. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I also met an Italian guy that was on a holiday in the Netherlands for a few days and was looking for someone to show him around, nothing more. Perfect opportunity for me to broaden my foreign network.
Unfortunately him and I didn’t get around to meeting each other, he would go back to Italy in two days, and I was too busy studying after all…