Kanchanaburi, Thailand – The Weekend Getaway: Day 1

The last time I traveled to Thailand was the last time I was intoxicated to the point where I couldn’t sleep for a couple hours.  Normally I can contain my alcohol, but seeing a friend for the first time (since Las Vegas) in Chiang Mai (famous province to the north); and also it being Christmas Eve, it was that time to rock it out!

One-day trip.  A Christmas breakfast that involved the best banana pancakes in Thailand, a lunch with a couple folks while I was repping a flashing reindeer stocking, and an almost-missed flight because I decided I wanted to see the ‘Doi Suthep.’

However, since then….why travel in Thailand when you can go to Bali or the Maldives, right?

Here I am in a pinnacle moment that it’s either stay or head to Central America.  So, to burn off some of the steam and step-away from all the noise, I decided to head to a place like no other.

Toilets Outside Bangkok = The Best

I’ve never seen toilets quite like these.  It’s funny because the beautiful, newly built slate of shops are at the back of the parking lot while the typical 7-11 and pitstop is in the front.  For people who don’t like walking an extra 20 meters – you’ll miss a remarkable, and I mean a REMARKABLE glimpse of the worlds best public toilets.

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I was contemplating whether or not I should upload more of the photos from the trip, but it would be alot of scrolling (lol) for you guys, so I’ll just talk about it on my podcast and you guys can tune into my twitter (arseniobuckshow) and see some of the photos I took yesterday.

In saying that, after heading down dozens of miles to this place called Kanchanaburi, we stopped at a local Steak Burger place that was sitting roadside in the middle-of-nowhere.  What was so nice and odd about this place was not only the modern jazz music, but the cacti.  That was the first time in my life I saw those spikey-thorned plants in this country.   The entire vibe was great and I’ll have to write a blog or so on the places I ate at.

Finally, after what seemed like a half-a-day, we arrived at this ultimate retreat.  It was tucked off in a very narrow alley-way, paved with dirty and covered by trees.  While we were driving through, I just felt like it was a horror movie.  We were inching little-by-little with our eyes wide-opened, hoping nothing would go wrong.  At the front of the gate, a girl rose up from her hammock and instructed us to drive through the gates.  Following that, a man on his motorbike guided us to the rocky parking lot where a lady greeted us, hauled our bags into this two-wheeled cart, and walked us over to reception.

Upon checking in, it was SURELY FORESTY. I had no idea it would be of this magnitude, though.  Frogs, birds, bugs of all kinds, big wooden seating panels everywhere, bungalows tucked away everywhere and even a three-story one that featured rooms on every floor.  The seating area/breakfast area overlooks a gorgeous river and you can hear chatter off in the distance.  Ahhhhh…just wonderful.  The room, as spacious as it was, was pretty nice.  I mean it’s going to be a battle with bugs in the outer area (bathroom), but for the most part, the place was pretty legit and well-worth the price.

Waterfall Haven 

The waterfall was absolutely GORGEOUS! That was the first time I’ve ever been to one, and it was at no additional cost (because Thailand has a tendency)! I sat under a waterfall for the first time in my life, and it was exquisite! Just feeling energy piling on top of my head and hearing people cheer and laugh around me….life; at its very finest!

Story of being followed and a little bit more is in the podcast down below!

Podcast

Travel: Sedona, Arizona + Timeshare Warning

First and foremost, do not travel anywhere without booking a hotel – period.

Now that I’ve emphasized that, I have to tell you that Sedona, Arizona is a highly sought after destination for everyone around the world.  I heard people speaking Korean, Japanese, and heard a few Aussie and Kiwi accents throughout the day yesterday.

This is the ultimate travel destination for those crazy enthusiasts who love hiking/trekking and even the uber rock climbers.  The paved “pinkish” sidewalks, the rocks that match them, the red rocks looking over the town, the unbelievable smiles and super delicious food (not even mentioning the best weather I’ve been in the last four years) all makes for an unforgettable trip.

The Wonderful

There are bars and places placed conveniently throughout Sedona and these places have the most delicious cuisine that’s perfectly seasoned, wonderful drinks that aren’t oversaturated with alcohol, and wonderful service (for the most part) that you can’t get anywhere else.  Sedona Hotel, which we stayed at by a narrow margin (worse case was the Holiday Inn which was a staggering $229 USD a night), was right in the epicenter of it all.  This place was $150 bucks walking-in and had a heater in the restroom (speaking a restroom, don’t say “toilet” to Americans…they’ll think you’re crazy), gorgeous flat-screen TV, and ultra-comfomty beds.

Devil’s Bridge

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Folks standing by waiting to get their picture taken from someone across the gorge. 

This is a trail a highly recommend for everyone.  What’s really convenient about this trail is you can take a buggie, ATV, or any type of quad (some of them looking like the ones in the first Jurassic Park movie), through the dirt road instead of walking.  The trail itself takes about 20 minutes to go up and another 20 back down.  For those of you who have bad knees, I wouldn’t recommend it because the last 10 minutes is a bit steep and involves high-stepping galore.

Anyways, the views are unbelievably spectacular.  The people who actually go up it are openly friendly.  I, and a few other people, initiated conversations so easily.  The kids of parents were blown away and in awe when they got to the top.  It was a feely of pure serenity….especially hearing the wind blow through the trees that were a bit higher up (wish I had gone up more).

The Ugly – Beware of Information Centers 

So, my friend and I walked into an ex-KFC place that had a bunch of travel brochures and things to do.  There were two representatives there and I asked one about places to hike.  He went from talking about places to hike, to talking about helicopter rides while throwing in odd questions throughout the conversation which my friend and I didn’t pick up so easily.  He said he was willing to offer a place to stay for $40 dollars a night, plus a helicopter ticket for $100 dollars (although it’s unknown if it was total or per person).  We needed to use a credit card instead of debit red flag and always remember that.  He asked us about what we did for work yellow flag, and salaries per year red flag.  We had to sign a contract whereas we had to deposit $220 dollars orange flag for a “gift” purchase.   Um……what’s the f’ing gift?

“Ask for the DVD when you get to the resort.”

Ummm…..why? Orange flag.

The helicopter ride was in the evening barely can see the mountains = a dumb flag, and we had to do a 1.5 hour tour of a timeshare the next day biggest red flag ever.  So, there were hidden fees just about everywhere, people.  It was suppose to be a total of $360, but he never said it with his own words.  The figures just weren’t adding up.  After thoroughly looking through the “contract” (after my friend’s card denied the entire transaction which was a gift), there was an additional $100 gift.  So that would’ve amounted to a staggering $320 deposit (with $100 of it non-refundable) and he never said “this is $140 total”….therefore, my bet was it was $140 per person.

The entire cost would’ve been $600 dollars (although he said $360 dollars initially).

This is the ugly nature of going into tourist spots.  In Thailand, you have to ask for the price before you get on a moped taxi, tuk-tuk (three wheel trolley essentially), and a few other things.  If they give an outrageous price, don’t haggle him.  Simply walk away because what they’ll do is drop the price before asking for the original price again when you’re on it.  These things happens quite often in Thailand because there’s no regulation or laws.

Conversely, seeing it happen in my own neck of the woods is disheartening and seeing how places like this still operate is quite unacceptable. So, I wanted to warn everyone.  A place that has these things on the window are no-go grounds.

  • Helicopter Rides
  • Anything that emphasizes “free”
  • Free place to stay
  • ANYTHING FREE!

If it’s a small shop and doesn’t say anything on the window, boom!  If it’s a place that says “clean restrooms,” that’s the niche for luring in people.  I EXPECT YOU TO HAVE CLEAN RESTROOMS! Duh!

To close this timeshare out, I heard the women next to us get very adamant and say, “no, I’m going to stop you right there. We don’t want this and we’re going to walk out.” They stayed to pay cash for a dirt bike ride.  When I heard that, I knew something was bad.

So that’s the rundown, people.  Beware of scam artists and companies like this because once you’re in and sign a contract, the damage is done and the months long process and angry phone calls with your credit card companies will ensue.

Nonetheless, this was a magnificent trip.  LOL

Honorable Mention – Bose

Bose in America has the best customer service on the planet.  My earmuffs were having some wear n’ tear, and while I was falling asleep, my friend said, “is that the place where Bose is?” I quickly woke up and saw that there was a Bose store and had her make a U-Turn immediately.  I walked in and told showed them my headphones.  He said, “you can pop them right off and put new ones on for $35 dollars!”  I didn’t have a warranty, but he simply fixed my earmuffs in less than 3 minutes and I went on with my day.  This saved me a massive $350 for some new ones.  BOOM!

Podcast if you want to hear more about what happened during the trip:)

Podcast: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/11609707

2006 – From Being Stuck Atop 1,000m Plus Mountain, To A Rescue Helicopter Flying In To Save Us. (Long read)

Oh, yes, it was a cold and sunny December 22nd, 2006 morning – this was the day that a rescue helicopter had to fly steeply to the main summit of Sunrise Mountain in Las Vegas, Nevada to collect my two friends and I in which was one of the funniest and most terrifying moments of my life.

This hike – this hike turned rescued mission featured the most daunting task of my life.

 

  1. The belief that we could actually scale the top of the mountain.
  2. The mountainous gorges that were hidden within the mountain.
  3. The lonesome Mexican lady that was our disguised blessing before we went up any further.

At the end of the day, there was a crowd of 20 people at the base of the mountain saying, “what the hell happened up there?” I, in disbelief, smiled creepily and retorted, “well, we were fighting time and had to get down the mountain as soon as possible, but we didn’t have any equipment or anything.”  Nonetheless, when I got back home, I was bombarded by some of the angriest family members one could ever imagine, hurling expletives at me in sheer frustration about getting stuck.  Oh, why did I call my mom from the top of the mountain.  Damnit!

Lights were turning on, footsteps were echoing around the house, and chatter was breaking out.  I look at the neon light clock and it was 6:30 am, the time that we all said we were going to wake up.  There wasn’t nervousness whatsoever setting in, but the thought of going to one of the highest peaks in west coast United States did rescind within me.  However, we were excited.  Perfectly prepared breakfast, lunch, and even what we were wearing.  We did have a harness, climbing shoes, ropes, or any survival pack equipment because we thought were would be back down before nightfall at 5pm….

And, so, the journey began.  We walked down the street and made a turn onto a street that lead up to the dirty base of the mountain where there weren’t any people around for about a 2-mile radius.  There weren’t any proper trails, either, so we needed to just navigate our way through an ugly cluster of bushes and cacti to get to the base.

For about forty-five minutes, we still couldn’t believe that we were yet to break the ascent to the top of the mountain; until one of us finally turned around and realized we were pretty high up already.  “WOW! LOOK AT THAT!” The excitement reverberated within our group until we saw a figure hidden away in the mountain. “What the fuck is that?” My friend said…

“It’s a person!”  After watching movies such as Hills Have Eyes and Jason, us African Americans aren’t accustomed to seeing another individual on a mountain with no city, nor person, in sight for miles.  As we approached, my best friend, Andre, was in front of the pack because he felt like he had to be the big man.  We approached this individual pretty fast and realize it was a woman.  My friend said, “hola!” The lady smiled (her being Mexican) before the conversations commenced between him and her.

 

She was in her lonesome just going up to the mid-section of the mountain, as she does daily, apparently.  She was aghast when she found out about us going to the top.  My friend said, “hey, she said don’t go to the top.” She began heading down, terrified at us.  The further away she walked, the more I second guessed going up further.  When we got to about the 60% mark, that’s when the climb began.  Unstable rocks, gorgeous, no ropes, things falling down, us having to push each other up and maneuver around the not-so-safe areas we were climbing.  Then, when we were almost at the peak, which didn’t take too fast to get to, that’s when I realized our will was on the line.  I immediately knew then that we couldn’t go down in the same direction.  If we did, we could die.  Period.  So, we were climbing one under another in the last push…..and when we finally got to the top, it was magnificent.

As a backstory, me and my housemates back at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Arizona would climb a mountain just in the back of our dormitories routinely throughout the month.  This is what established my journey-filled fever within me.

The view was beyond spectacular.  The air was thin….the 360 view and even the ferocious back drop on the back side of the mountain facing Utah was jaw-dropping and nerve-racking at the same time.  I then knew, something wasn’t right.  “Andre, how are we gonna get down? We can die going down that way.”  Andre started looking while his girlfriend calmly opened saran wrap with a sandwich enclosed.  “Ummmm, your sense of urgency just isn’t here.  What the fuck? What the fuck is going on out here?”  Andre, with his hand on his chin, retorted, “I’m thinking.”  I threw my hands in the air incredulously and said, “Andre, that’s ridiculous. This is ridiculous.”

The angry conversations ensued, but just prior to reaching the summit, we saw a helicopter come and drop off a gentleman at the top where’s there’s a huge power-box.  “Well, worst case scenario is we can call a helicopter to save us!” Laughter filled the air….

….and then thoughts of that particular moment came back. “Andre, I gotta call 911 man. There’s no way of getting down.” He looked at me, stomped his feet and said, “whatever.  Fuck it. Call them. That’s on you.”  My breathing was shallow and I said, “mother fucker we gonna die up here if we don’t!”  Meanwhile, his girlfriend was still eating her doritos with no sense of urgency.

Phone rings……woman answers….”911 – state your emergency”

“Yes, hello. There are three of us and we are stuck on the south tower of sunrise mountain.”

“I’m sorry?” the woman replied.

“We are stuck on the south side of the peak on sunrise mountain which has the big electrical box.  My friends and I don’t have any climbing gear and anyway of getting down because there are massive, vertical drops everywhere.”

The conversation continued until she said, “Ok, we’re sending a rescue helicopter up to get you but please, don’t stand on the indicated “H” on the top of the mountain.”

5 minutes later, the helicopter made its way up.

Rusty, old, red-faced metropolitan officer with a sarcastic grin on his face, shades and a wobbly walk made his way on over to us in a very angry way.

“What the hell is going on?” He said.

I explained the situation before he showed us the trail to the next mountain.  OOPS!

“But we don’t have time. It’s 4:15 and we don’t have flashlights.”

I can’t remember much of the conversation, but he wasn’t thrilled at all about us.  He said, “normally this flight would cost a thousand dollars, but you’re lucky because taxpayers will pay for it.”

Sorry mom!

He took the sandwich eating freak of a girlfriend down first.

I was second.  WOW! This is a helicopter!?

“If you don’t hang onto this railing, you’re going to fallout and die.”

I gripped the rail with my life before landing safely and seeing the crowd of people.

Yeah, it was a terrifying experience, but one of the most memorable experience one could ever imagine because if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today. Why?

The leap of faith.