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Carl's Circuit

a travel blog by GoBlue


Well, after a whirlwind wrap-up in Ann Arbor, we are on the road...I think it is going to take 3 months to recover from all that I am leaving behind in AA, so let's get started!
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You can do it, put your back in to it.

Krabi, Thailand


Ok, so I’m all alone now. So sad, kindof. Although I miss my travel companions (and especially Joc), the upside is I’m completely on my own schedule and free to make as many bad decisions as I’d like with no one else to blame. Wait, that’s not necessarily an upside . . . Anyway.

With two weeks completely to myself, I’ve been struggling with the decision of what to do. Visit Laos? More of Cambodia? Back to Northern Thailand? Viv’s family in Hong Kong? A bit of Malaysia? In the end, I decided to come to Southern Thailand for a few weeks of both rest and recreation. I’m now in Railey Beach, one of the top climbing meccas in the world. It is comprised of amazing overhung limestone jetting out of beautiful beach and surrounded by lush jungle. I chose to come here, to only one place, in large part to hopefully heal my back and then climb a bit while I wait for Joc to finish with her good karma acts in Malaysia (I’m hoping she is working hard enough to provide good karma for the both of us because I am being satisfyingly selfish and lazy).

Although this place is gorgeous, I had one of the worst days of the trip so far getting here . . . good story. I read in the guide book that the only way to get to these beaches is by long tail boat from the port city of Ao Nang. So, when I arrived in Krabi by plane I took a taxi to Ao Nang and stayed there for the night because a storm was coming in and the long boats were done for the night. The next morning I awoke to an amazing monsoon-type storm at 6am that must have had sustained 40mph winds (it was crazy for about 1 hour). By the time I loaded onto the boat the seas were pretty rough (and as a side note, the rain cover for one of my packs ripped while getting to the boat). About 3 minutes into the 20-minute boat ride a wave came up and over the front of the boat, completely soaking me and both my bags.

The boat then dropped me off at Railey Beach and refused to take me to the neighboring Ton Sai beach even though that was what I paid for. Then as it started raining (which really didn’t matter given my status) I headed to the nearest climbing shop to get the low down on the area. I ran into a kid who was staying at Ton Sai and told me that I didn’t have to wait till low tide to walk to Ton Sai, I could instead walk over a rough, bushwacking trail to get there earlier. I decided I would like to get to my bungalow to get all my stuff out of my bag and start drying as soon as possible, so I started walking. I got on a trail that was definitely not easy and could be described as “bushwacking” so I continued. I realized later that I was WAY, WAY off course! 1 hour later and a frighteningly close call with slipping on a cliff and almost tumbling into the sea (my hand and wrist are now all cut up from my “heroic” save of myself and bags), I found the real trail and ended up in Ton Sai. Only after hauling my 70lb bags for 1.5 hours did I find out that it is low season so they only have electricity in Ton Sai for a few hours a day. Despite what the website showed, I would not be getting an A/C bungalow with warm water . . . I thought this would make for a difficult time drying all my wet belongings. Turns out I was correct.

After two nights of effectively camping out in Ton Sai I put my heavy bags back on and trudged another 45 minutes back to Railey to a bit better bungalow with electricity all day. Now I am chilling for a few days, sleeping, reading and exploring the cliff faces. I climbed two days ago and my back wasn’t too happy about it, so I’m hoping that a few days off will set me up. In the meantime, I’m finding the best crags to visit and recovering a bit. Provided the sporadic, heavy rains cooperate, I think I’m in for a great time here over the next few weeks.

PS - I tried to upload some pictures today, but was thwarted again . . . I might have to wait till Australia to find a good connection, but I'm hoping not.

permalink written by  GoBlue on July 11, 2007 from Krabi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
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You can do it, put your back in to it.

Krabi, Thailand


Ok, so I’m all alone now. So sad, kindof. Although I miss my travel companions (and especially Joc), the upside is I’m completely on my own schedule and free to make as many bad decisions as I’d like with no one else to blame. Wait, that’s not necessarily an upside . . . Anyway.

With two weeks completely to myself, I’ve been struggling with the decision of what to do. Visit Laos? More of Cambodia? Back to Northern Thailand? Viv’s family in Hong Kong? A bit of Malaysia? In the end, I decided to come to Southern Thailand for a few weeks of both rest and recreation. I’m now in Railey Beach, one of the top climbing meccas in the world. It is comprised of amazing overhung limestone jetting out of beautiful beach and surrounded by lush jungle. I chose to come here, to only one place, in large part to hopefully heal my back and then climb a bit while I wait for Joc to finish with her good karma acts in Malaysia (I’m hoping she is working hard enough to provide good karma for the both of us because I am being satisfyingly selfish and lazy).

Although this place is gorgeous, I had one of the worst days of the trip so far getting here . . . good story. I read in the guide book that the only way to get to these beaches is by long tail boat from the port city of Ao Nang. So, when I arrived in Krabi by plane I took a taxi to Ao Nang and stayed there for the night because a storm was coming in and the long boats were done for the night. The next morning I awoke to an amazing monsoon-type storm at 6am that must have had sustained 40mph winds (it was crazy for about 1 hour). By the time I loaded onto the boat the seas were pretty rough (and as a side note, the rain cover for one of my packs ripped while getting to the boat). About 3 minutes into the 20-minute boat ride a wave came up and over the front of the boat, completely soaking me and both my bags.

The boat then dropped me off at Railey Beach and refused to take me to the neighboring Ton Sai beach even though that was what I paid for. Then as it started raining (which really didn’t matter given my status) I headed to the nearest climbing shop to get the low down on the area. I ran into a kid who was staying at Ton Sai and told me that I didn’t have to wait till low tide to walk to Ton Sai, I could instead walk over a rough, bushwacking trail to get there earlier. I decided I would like to get to my bungalow to get all my stuff out of my bag and start drying as soon as possible, so I started walking. I got on a trail that was definitely not easy and could be described as “bushwacking” so I continued. I realized later that I was WAY, WAY off course! 1 hour later and a frighteningly close call with slipping on a cliff and almost tumbling into the sea (my hand and wrist are now all cut up from my “heroic” save of myself and bags), I found the real trail and ended up in Ton Sai. Only after hauling my 70lb bags for 1.5 hours did I find out that it is low season so they only have electricity in Ton Sai for a few hours a day. Despite what the website showed, I would not be getting an A/C bungalow with warm water . . . I thought this would make for a difficult time drying all my wet belongings. Turns out I was correct.

After two nights of effectively camping out in Ton Sai I put my heavy bags back on and trudged another 45 minutes back to Railey to a bit better bungalow with electricity all day. Now I am chilling for a few days, sleeping, reading and exploring the cliff faces. I climbed two days ago and my back wasn’t too happy about it, so I’m hoping that a few days off will set me up. In the meantime, I’m finding the best crags to visit and recovering a bit. Provided the sporadic, heavy rains cooperate, I think I’m in for a great time here over the next few weeks.

PS - I tried to upload some pictures today, but was thwarted again . . . I might have to wait till Australia to find a good connection, but I'm hoping not.




permalink written by  GoBlue on July 11, 2007 from Krabi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
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Green Season

Krabi, Thailand


Hello everyone. I haven't written much the last two weeks because I didn't think my updates about another day on the beach or yet another day of climbing would be all that fantastic of a read . . .

So, instead I've waited ten days to write that I've spent all my time hanging out on the beach, climbing, reading and in general relaxing. As usual, I wish I had some pictures to post to show you how beautiful it is here, but I always seem to have a hard time getting my pictures online. However, Jocelyn is finishing her time in Malaysia today and will be joining me in Railay Beach tomorrow and I will be able to upload some pictures then (using her equipment).

For those interested in stunning scenery, the beaches here have amazing white sand, clear blueish-green waters and vistas that include limestone cliff islands that jut out of the clear blue water. It is incredible. Also, even though it is supposed to be "green season" (a.k.a rainy season), the weather has been phenomenal--no rain for 4 days in a row now, which leads to stunning orange/red/pink/purple sunsets from the beach.

For those interested in climbing, Railay has over 700 sport climbing routes on beautiful limestone cliffs, all within a 15-minute walk from where I am staying. It truly is an amazing climbing destination. Again, the lack of rain has made the climbing enjoyable.

The wildlife here is also quite impressive. The other day, after I finished a climb, I was untying my knot while talking to the guy who belayed me. At the same time a twig fell off a nearby tree and landed on my climbing knot. I wasn't paying much attention, but when I looked down I realized that said twig was in fact a 12" brown snake with a greenish head that was draped over my knot! I quickly grabbed him near the tail and flung him away. No harm, no foul. However, I found out later that there are a number of dangerous snakes here, including king cobras, pythons and vipers! I haven't seen any of those yet . . . but I have also seen very brave monkeys and a few freaky looking large spiders with green bodies (many of you know my love for spiders).

As usual in Thailand, the locals are very friendly. I was speaking with a woman the other day about the Tsunami in 2004 and found that she believed that Railay wasn’t as badly hit as Ko Phi Phi or Phuket because there is far less prostitution here than in those places. I thought about asking if she was a fan of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson (who announced similar views about why America was hit by terrorists on 9/11), but then I thought it was better to smile and look surprised rather than judge her outright for such misguided thinking.

Anyway, there is also a lot of “herb” here, as the locals call it, due to the westerner, tourist influence, which is highly unfortunate because the locals don’t actually need anything to lower their already low ambitions. Then again, this is a Western way of thinking . . . According to Buddhism, not being overly ambitious leads to a happier, more peaceful life. So who am I to judge lifestyles that have been thousands of years in the making? Still, smoking or selling too much pot can’t be great for the locals in the long-run. In fact, just last week two local, well-liked businessmen were separately arrested for bringing over 30 kilos of weed into Railay. It is too bad that the locals are paying the price for Westerners who want easy-to-get and cheap-to-buy “relaxation” while on holiday . . .

So, thus is my time in Railay to date. I could write more, as usual, but perhaps for another time.


permalink written by  GoBlue on July 20, 2007 from Krabi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
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Railay--Quite Amazing

Krabi, Thailand


Jocelyn finally finished her self-indulgent trip to Malaysia and joined me in Railay Beach on July 21 for six days of climbing and beach relaxation. It was a great time. In fact, so great we decided to shift all of our plane tickets back two days to spend extra time in Thailand and less time in Cairns at the end of the trip.

So, our planned five days of "hard" climbing turned into six days of "hard" climbing. We actually did climb pretty hard considering neither of us have been climbing much over the last 5 years. We visited 7 walls in six days, climbing approximately 26 5.10s and 5.11s. It was a great time. I don't feel as strong as I once did, but I am inspired to start climbing more again.

Given that climbing was our focus, we also managed to do a few other activities during our off-days, including beach reading (yeah, we both devoured the newly released Harry Potter 7 while in Railay--bought it at the Bangkok airport), kayaking to an island that was probably 1 mile away from our beach (it was a beautiful day with brilliant green water and amazing clouds in the sky), soaking in amazing sunsets (by far the best of the trip) and eating (we ate almost every meal at Mom's Kitchen, a cheap place with great food and an entertaining 50-something, free-spirited Thai women to talk to).

For sure, Railay is a great place to climb/hang out and a great place worth spending 3 weeks.





permalink written by  GoBlue on July 28, 2007 from Krabi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
tagged Climbing and Railay

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Singarich

Singapore, Singapore


So, we've been traveling frequently on “discount” airlines. Either there is no such thing as a discount airline or the old adage of getting what you pay for is without a doubt true. I think the truth may be somewhere in between. Joc and I chose to fly Tiger Airways from Krabi, Thailand to Darwin, Australia because it was less than $100 (without taxes and surcharges, of course) to do so. However, this approach required a 24-hour layover in Singapore. No worries. We’ve never been there, so we thought it would be cool to check out a new city for a day.

It really is an amazing city. It is so rich with culture, commerce and history that it was well worth the visit. In our 19 hours in the city, we managed to see a large chunk of it, including the Arab quarters, Little India, Chinatown, the Central Business District (CBD) and the Government district. By the end of our day I was beyond tired from walking, but I am really happy to have seen the colorful neighborhoods, tried some various ethnic foods and somewhat experienced a truly world-class city.

I can clearly see why every Singaporean I’ve ever met is proud of their city state. It is an incredibly clean city with amazing public transportation. It has food from everywhere, business from everywhere and cultures from everywhere. Overall, an impressive place that I highly recommend checking out.

As far as Tiger Airways, they were pretty good as far as discount airlines go. They only charged us for excess baggage upon leaving Singapore, so we got away without paying extra on one-leg. The planes also had enough space and the personnel were friendly.



permalink written by  GoBlue on July 29, 2007 from Singapore, Singapore
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
tagged Singapore

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Litchfield and Kakadoodle-do

Darwin, Australia


Returning to Australia was both amazing and shocking. We walked out of the airport to a perfect tropical temperature, no sweltering heat but a great breeze and pleasing aroma. Plus, not one person was in our face trying to sell us a ride or lodging or anything else for that matter. The ease with which we navigated indicated that we had arrived back into a more established, richer culture. The shock came when we were confronted with how much one has to pay for this type of culture. Australia is expensive!

The Economist’s Big Mac Index recently showed that Australia’s currency is about right on the mark—which is entirely impossible. I tend to agree more with a recent McKinsey report stating that the Australian dollar is about 20% overvalued. Even still, I’m not sure this goes far enough . . . The Carl Index (in which the world will soon be placing its trust) indicates that the Australia dollar may be overvalued by as much as 70% compared with the US dollar! As an example, we paid $130 for our first full night of lodging at a place that would go for maybe $60 in the US (in an expensive, more-demand-than-supply type US city). The amount of money we spent on this one room equated to what we spent for a similar style room in Railay Beach for 8 days! (I know this isn’t exactly an equal comparison, but shocking nonetheless). Long story short, I spent as much during our last week in Australia as I did traveling for a month in SE Asia. Australia is expensive!

Ok, with that out of my system, I can now explain how cool the Darwin area is. Darwin itself is an inviting little town that serves well its position as a jump-off point to local National Parks, Kakadu and Litchfield. We spent 2.5 days in Kakadu and 1.5 in Litchfield—both great places. We were warned that Kakadu is a huge park that requires long drives between notable sites and that in August it would be extremely busy because of local holidays. We found the first warning to be right on, but not so much the second. Because of the long drives, we opted to rent a campervan from Wicked Campers, drive at our own pace and stay where we like in lieu of paying for a tour from Darwin. In the end, we were extremely happy with our decision. We saw all the major attractions at Kakadu, including aboriginal paintings, amazing vistas, crocodiles, lots of cool birds, amazing forests and waterfalls with beautiful pools. Theses attractions were a fair bit away from each other and each beckoned for different amounts of time, so it was pleasant to have our own transportation and go at our own pace. Although I expected a Yosemite level of “busy”, including thousands of visitors at each site, we only found a few dozen each place we visited—not bad at all.

From Kakadu, we headed to Litchfield National Park. Along the way we stopped at Robin Falls and climbed for an afternoon. We jumped on half-a-dozen slab-like lead climbs on shoddy rock and had a blast! From there we drove into Litchfield where we found a lot more of the same that we found at Kakadu, except I think the waterfalls and pools were more magnificent (for starters you could swim in them without fear of crocs) and the attractions were much, much, much closer to one another, also convenient. Also, there is a part of the park called the Lost City that contains hundreds of sandstone boulders that makes for great bouldering (it was a lot of fun watching Joc send The Dusty Mutt Traverse, a V1 boulder problem we created).

Darwin and the local parks is a must-see for anyone going to Australia—great, unique scenery and culture.




permalink written by  GoBlue on August 4, 2007 from Darwin, Australia
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
tagged Darwin, Kakadu, Litchfield and Crocodiles

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Visible from Space?

Cairns, Australia


One of the lines they like to tell you when visiting the Great Barrier Reef is that it is the only living organism that can be seen from space. Actually, you hear this often about a lot of things. Turns out it isn’t quite true—lots of things can be seen from space (http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/crew/exp7/luletters/lu_letter5.html).

But anyway, the Reef was amazing in so many ways. The fish life, coral life, colors, etc. It was also a lot of fun to do an introductory dive in the Great Barrier Reef. The day was even more enjoyable because we successfully were able to dive with no accidents and neither of us became sea sick! Woo hoo! I think we would have liked to do it again, but the weather turned nasty with high winds and it would not have been nearly as enjoyable.

Instead, we spent our last few days indulging in other outside activities and enjoying the great weather. We golfed at the Cairns Country Club and climbed/bouldered on some really interesting, sharp volcanic-like rock on Trinity Beach near Cairns. We contemplated driving 250km south to Townsville for a few days of climbing, but opted out of it. In doing research for this though, it looks like there are literally thousands of climbing route options in Queensland that haven’t been fully explored or developed yet. Any climbers out there looking to put your mark on Australian climbing? Queensland may be your place . . .

So, an enjoyable, low-pace last few days in Cairns wrapped up our time not only in Australia, but also abroad. I think almost three months traveling was just what the doctor ordered to recover from school, as I am feeling ready to dig into some work! Crazy, but true.




permalink written by  GoBlue on August 9, 2007 from Cairns, Australia
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
tagged Climbing, Diving, Cairns and GreatBarrierReef

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Ah Flossie, you break my heart

Hilo, United States


Our last week of true vacation . . . I start work two weeks ago yesterday, we have a wedding this weekend, family visit next week and travel to Seattle after that. This is it, but what better place to spend the last week of true vacation than in Hawaii?

As usual, it has been fantastic here. First of all, a truly comfortable bed to sleep in for the first time in months! And I’ve been taking definite advantage of that by sleeping many hours every night. Other than sleep, we have been doing the normal Hawaii things: a little golf, beach time, pool, croquet, grilling, reading, etc. It has been quite nice. I have also been attempting to catch up on computer-related activities while beginning some of the logistics of moving to a new city. What better place to do it?

The only thing not going as planned is Hurricane Flossie. She started rearing her ugly head yesterday as winds picked up dramatically. They continue today and should bring some rain with them before too long as the Hurricane passes close by the island this afternoon. We are hoping she passes today as planned so that tomorrow and Thursday morning we can enjoy a bit more beach time before boarding our plane back to the continental states.

In the meantime, I’ve been reflecting how incredible the last 3 months have been. I was fortunate enough to visit 7 countries while hanging out with great friends—and all safely. As part of this reflection, I’ve been contemplating some superlatives related to my memories of the trip. Here goes my list so far:

• Favorite city visited: Sydney, Australia
• Best wildlife encounter: Kangaroos in Grampians National Park, Australia
• Best Lodging: Cabin in Grampians National Park
• Most beautiful temple: Borobudur, Indonesia
• Best surfing: Bali, Indonesia
• Hottest city: Bangkok, Thailand
• Best Food: Thai food in Chiang Mai, Thailand, courtesy of none other than world-class Thai chef Sompon Nabnian
• Loudest city: Hanoi, Vietnam
• Best night of drinking: Rice Wine with village family near SaPa, Vietnam
• Most stunning scenery: Halong Bay, Vietnam
• Most painful experience: Mountain biking in Dalat, Vietnam
• Most interesting history: Hearing about Khmer Rouge from Cambodian local
• Most beautiful sunset: Railay Beach
• Best climbing: Railay, Thailand
• Cleanest city: Singapore, Singapore
• Best weather: Darwin, Australia

These are the first to come to mind. Perhaps I will update this blog in the future as I continue to reflect on what an awesome trip it was.





permalink written by  GoBlue on August 14, 2007 from Hilo, United States
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
tagged Hawaii

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