It’s been a month since leaving the US, and it is crazy how fast the month has gone by.  It has been fast, with lots of stories to tell and experiences to learn from.  I could write all day about each one, but instead, I will give a summary of my last month.

Flew out from Denver toward Manchester, England with a stop over in Iceland on Oct. 7, arrived on Oct. 8.  Took a train to Leeds where I would spend the next 2 weeks staying with my friends Chris and Alex, along with my friend Richard. We played a bit of Call of Duty, lots of Texas Hold’em, and relaxed (and probably drank too much).  A few days after arriving I realized I had lost my iPod and all my puzzles that I had brought (which I just recently found out are in Iceland – so paying $35 to have them shipped to me). While in the UK, Richard, Chris, and I took a train together up to Edinburgh, Scotland, which was a great time.  Richard and I spent 3 nights touring and Chris relaxed with his girlfriend Martina (who I used to live with in Leeds) for the weekend. Richard and I then trained to Glasgow for a couple nights, before returning via Carlisle to Leeds. A few days later we did a day trip to Skipton to checkout the city and what we could of the Yorkshire Dales.  We didn’t see much of the dales, but the Skipton castle was awesome, and we also sampled some whiskey (they had over 900 different kinds imported, crazy).

While in Leeds, we played some rugby, walked to Headingley (where I used to live), Hyde Park (where I stayed a year ago for 2 months with my girlfriend), and did a lot of pub crawling and gambling.  I was also able to catch an NFL game on Sunday, as well as a big soccer match between Tottenham and Chelsea. It was awesome to get to hangout with some good friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile, meet a few new ones, and it is a trip that will stay vivid in my memory.

In Edinburgh, after arriving around 10am we went into the hostel (the Castle Rock Hostel), dropped our bags off (check-in wasn’t until 2pm), then grabbed some lunch and went to a pub. Chris shortly after met up with Martina while Richard and I went to a couple bars, played some darts, and ended up at the Brewdog Bar (they brew beer with 7-9.5% abv) and played janga with a group of Irish guys.  By noon we had a fair share of alcohol and were ready to explore more.  Around 3pm we checked into our hostel, and went to the “listening room” where we played some excellent Simon and Garfunkle and Fleetwood Mac on vinyl. Over the course of the next 2 days, we had lots of good nights out, including a house party at Martina’s, drinking games at a bar with a Swiss-French girl, and getting lost at a club somewhere in Edinburgh.  Nevertheless, the city, the castle, the people, and the places were amazing, and I was very satisfied with the trip there. Made a few new friends and caught up with Martina, which was superb.

It was a Monday morning when we caught a train to Glasgow.  After arriving at our hostel around 10am, we once again had to wait to check-in until 2pm.  So we grabbed some food at the pub in the hostel, and also had a couple bottles of wine.  After checking in and dropping our bags off, we walked around the city until dusk, went bowling for 2 games, ended up at a nearby casino for a couple hours, grabbed some sandwiches from Tesco for dinner, and then headed back to the hostel.  Once there, we relaxed at the pub with another bottle of wine, and then called it a night.

The next day we woke somewhat early and decided to buy a day pass on the city tour bus, which basically circled the entire city and allowed you to get off at each major mark.  We ended up getting off at a couple places, notably the Univerisity of Glasgow.  We took a couple tours there, then caught the bus to the avenue with all the food, where we shared a large pizza.  After catching the bus and doing the rest of the loop, we headed to a beer hall that was recommended to us by a couple people in Edinburgh.  They served quality beer by the liter, which ended up being quite fun.  After having a couple beers there, we headed back to the hostel and had a bit of wine (they had good deals on quality wine), and also worked on practicing card magic at the pub.  Around 6/7pm, we caught the subway to a comedy club on the other side of town, which ended up being terrible, but an adventurous experience.  After finding our way back to the hostel, we went back to the pub and ended up meeting an Irish guy, Swedish guy, and Canadian girl. We played cards at the pub, and then moved upstairs to a bigger table.  After playing cards I played pool with the Swedish guy, and then went to bed.

The next morning we caught a train in the rain back to Leeds.  Overall, it was a great trip to Scotland, and an amazing time in the Leeds for a couple weeks.  I can’t thank Chris and Alex for letting Richard and I stay there, what an amazing time.

Hostel Reviews:
Castle Rock Hostel
(Edinburgh, Scotland): Excellent hostel situated right next to Edinburgh Castle.  Located perfectly, cheap, great atmosphere, and excellent staff.  It has lots of places to sit for free wifi, and had an awesome music room with lots of good music on vinly.  I would highly recommend staying here if you take a trip to Edinburgh.
Euro Hostel Inn (Glasgow, Scotland): This hostel was quite modern and new, but had a few features that I didn’t like.  The showers didn’t always work, the sink was on the other side of the dormatory from the toilets, the elevator didn’t always work, the night staff was rude, they charged for baggage storage, and the lockers didn’t lock properly so you couldn’t store your valuables.  On the plus side, the pub at the hostel was excellent, the day staff was friendly, the drinks were cheap, and the pool room was relaxed.   It was located really close to the train station and the center of the town (the shopping/restaurants). I couldn’t find any hostels in Glasgow with better reviews, and I would recommend this hostel if you’re looking for cheap accomodation (it was around £14/night).

Arriving in Bangkok

   

While I’m writing this, I realize that I’ve already been here 3 weeks.  Time baffles me sometimes.  As Tom Petty would say, “the bad nights take forever and the good nights don’t ever seem to last”.  I suspected time would fly and I would be overwhelmed with the experience, so I jotted down a few notes here and there so I can now summarize what the trip has been like so far.

After landing in Bangkok (BKK), I caught a taxi to the hostel I would be staying at for 1 week.  I noticed in BKK, 5 lanes of traffic will find a way to fit into 4 lanes, plus another few “lanes” of mopeds.  Lots and lots of mopeds, with everyone cutting each other off and flying down the motorway. Once in the city, tuk tuk drivers and taxis are everywhere.  Tuk tuks are basically these 3-wheeled vehicles that will take you around the city – but they are almost always more expensive than taxi’s and aren’t as reliable or comfortable, but they do provide a fun experience.  Taxis are the way to go, as long as you insist to turn the meter on. A few observations of my time in BKK so far:
– The streets often smell like trash.
– It is very hot, but people adapt (for example, you see people wearing jeans and a thick shirt that aren’t sweating)
– I often can’t find many places to throw away trash, but somehow the place stays relatively liter-free.  If I walk around at midnight you see piles and piles of trashbags being picked up by the trashtruck.
– food along the street is cheap, 40 baht for meal, alcoholic drinks are super expensive relatively (120-150 baht/beer).  apparently there is 150% tax which is why.
– you must buy all water you drink – can’t drink tap water.
– most places don’t allow you to flush toilet paper down the toilet.
– Thai massages are awesome, and cheap (220 baht/1 hour).
– tuk tuk drivers can be cool, and also crazy.
– skybars that overlook the city are very fun.
– there are big rats running around.
– when it rains in BKK, it pours.
– there are lots of stray cats and dogs.  I heard upwards of 200,000 stray dogs alone in the city of BKK.
– there is a lot of American and British music playing all the time.  I’ve heard lots of John Denver, Bryan Adams, and Taylor Swift.
– people who sell on the street markets work from 7am until probably 10pm, sometimes later.  Can you say hard work?
– I thought 7-11 was an American company, but wow, they are on every street everywhere, and they sell a lot of good, cheap stuff.
– while most of BKK is cheap, the big malls in the Siam area can be as expensive as America (food, clothes, etc.).

Aside from the observations, I’ve done quite a few cool things and have met quite a few cool people.  I went to a couchsurfing meetup on Khao San Road in late October (when I was still staying at the hostel), met a couple Germans, a couple Thai girls, and a couple Filipinos.  We ended up going to a club on the road which ended up being quite fun and crazy. I’ve since hosted a couple of them at my place in central BKK.Tip: don’t stay at a hostel in BKK longer than 4-5 days.  I stayed for a week and it made it a party house.  Every time people would come for 2-3 days and leave, another group would come for 2-3 days and want to do all the same stuff.  It meant lots of peer pressure to go out and about to see all the tourist stuff and drink.  Because I stayed for a week, I ended up sleeping very little, partying a lot, doing lots of crazy things, but also meeting lots of cool people.  I ended up going to the good ol’ sex show/ping pong show (have to do it once in BKK) with a group of Americans, Canadians, and Australians, and then got my first experience of Soi Cowboy.  After Soi Cowboy we went into some random massage shop nearby (which I’m pretty sure was a sex business) and had beers. After that, we took a cab back to Khao San Road with 7 people crammed in, and went to get more drinks there.  By this point half of the group went home and the rest of us hung out there. There were ladyboys and prostitutes everywhere.A couple nights later after it poured rain for 40 minutes straight (literally 6″ of rain fell in 40 minutes, flooding the street with rats at my feet), I was convinced to hop into a tuk tuk that took us for 20 minutes to some obscure place.  After walking in, Bert (a French-Canadian guy) and I sat down only to realize it was us, and about 30 Thai women (or men) at this place.  It seemed very suspicious, but we had a drink anyway, got swarmed by these women, and then left back to the hostel.  After the tuk tuk driver dropped us off near our hostel, we started walking and on the walk back 2 police officers confronted us and made us empty our pockets checking for drugs (apparently people will sneak drugs into your pocket setup by the police, and when the police find it on you, they will either take you to jail or try to get a bribe [money] to avoid it).  Anyways, we didn’t have anything on us, and we made it home safe that night.In early November I went ice skating on the top floor in Siam Discovery (big mall in central BKK).  After grabbing some lunch, Martin (a German I met living in BKK working at an international school) sat down for drinks by Central World.  We shared a bucket and a small bottle of SangSom Thai Rum.  It was decent, though I’ve heard the Thai’s think of it as bad rum.  After some drinks there, we took the BTS (the Bangkok subway) to Soi Cowboy, had another drink there, and then randomly met a German guy who wanted to go out and about, so we went to a few bars on Soi 11, and went to a club until the early hours of the morning.

The other night I went to a pub called Saxophone which had excellent Neil Young and James Taylor covers, as well as some very good Jazz/Blues music.  I will certainly go back again.

It is now Nov. 12, and in a couple days I’m off to Malaysia and Singapore for 3 weeks.  My sleeping routine is terribly messed up due to the time difference, the many nights out, and the lack of a window in my apartment (which means at 2pm it feels like midnight because it is so dark). So far, Bangkok has been quite amazing. The people inspire me to work harder, the locals I know always seem to be happy, and people are friendly in general.  There are tons of people, and it is quite crowded compared to what I’m used to, but I’ve adapted and it is beginning to feel normal.  It is amazing to see a country that is develping as rapidly as Bangkok, and it has given me a whole new perspective on the world.  I’m excited to see what the next several months bring.

Hostel Review:
Nappark Hostel (Bangkok, Thailand): This hostel is situated in a big tourist area, Khao San Rd.  It is a famous road for bars, massages, shops, and street food.  However, it isn’t close to the central part of Bangkok.  Most tourists who stay here don’t get to see the more developed part of BKK, but nonetheless if you make an effort to taxi to the Siam area and take the BTS around the city, you will get a much better glimpse of BKK.  The hostel staff was friendly, there were drinks available for purchase (which were kind of expensive for BKK), the rooms were pretty nice, and the bathrooms were well kept. There was a lot of space to lounge and meet new people. For the price, it was an excellent choice and I’m not sure if there is a better choice of a hostel in Bangkok than Nappark.