30 Januar 2008

5*-Empfang daheim

Es war ein seltsames Gefühl, “heim” zu kehren. Die Menschen waren überwiegend gar nicht so unfreundlich, wie ich sie in Erinnerung hatte, aber leider auch nicht so locker und offen, wie ich es von den Ozzies gewohnt war.

Tim holte mich am Flughafen in Frankfurt ab. Ich war froh, aus dem Flugzeug die Decke mitgenommen zu haben, denn es war doch etwas frisch in den frühen Morgenstunden im deutschen Winter… Aber Tim ließ nicht lange auf sich warten, und im ICE war es dann wieder gemütlich warm. Wir laberten eine Runde, bis Tim seinen Laptop auspackte, um mir die neueste Schwulenkomödie zu präsentieren, während ich im Schwarzwald seit Ewigkeiten mal wieder Schnee sah! Ich fühlte mich sofort in eine andere Zeit zurück versetzt…

Die Ankunft daheim hatte ich mir anders vorgestellt: Tim lästerte noch auf der Strecke vom Bahnhof zu meiner Haustüre, dass nun bestimmt niemand vor Ort sei, weil ich mich nicht angekündigt hatte – sollte alles eine Überraschung werden.
Erst mal wurde aber ich überrascht: Als ich frontal unser Haus anschaute, prangerte dort ein riesiges Plakat neben der Haustür: „Welcome Back“ war darauf zu lesen! Die ersten Freudentränen stiegen mir in die Augen…

Jedoch, als ich klingelte, rührte sich in der Hütte gar nichts! Als ich das Haus betrat, und wie gewohnt pfiff, meldete sich niemand. Das gesamte Erdgeschoss war verlassen von Menschen, und nur die Katze maunzte mir ein Hallo.

Ich stieg die Treppen empor, auf der Suche nach Lebenszeichen. Aber alle Zimmer waren verlassen. Schließlich betrat ich mein eigenes Gemach – und eine Figur erhob sich aus meinem Bett! Volker! Hatte der hier Mittagsschlaf gehalten und nichts gehört. Das gab ein großes Trara, und nur wenige Sekunden später hörte ich auch jemanden die Treppe herunterstürmen – Ursel! Also doch jemand zu Hause, nur halt am Schlafen! Unfassbar.
Mit Tränen in den Augen begaben wir uns ins Wohnzimmer. Nur kurze Zeit darauf sahen wir Klarissa am Küchenfenster vorbeiradeln… ich schlich mich aus der Türe, um die Ecke und – bang! Wie vom wilden Watz gebissen sprangen wir beiden Hübschen im Karree umeinander herum, lagen uns in den Armen und kreischten ohne Unterlass. Ach, es ist herrlich, nach so langer Zeit wieder heim zu kehren, und dann derart herzlich aufgenommen zu werden! Mama, Papa, Klari – danke für eine Wiederaufnahme der Extraklasse!!!

29 Januar 2008

Tell my guns I’m coming home...

Isabel and I boarded the plane, which Chris & Micha watched until it was out of sight. It was a noisy plane, but I was asleep after a few minutes. Isabel woke me up, when we landed in Bangkok – it would be our last flight we had made together for a long time!

An Airport Shuttle Bus brought us right into the backpacker centre of Bangkok. We found a little room in a big hostel, pretty expensive, and up on the 5th floor, but we were too tired to keep on looking.

Right next to us was Khaosan Road, the main tourist shopping street, with loads of stalls and heaps of “special offers”. We were damn disappointed by the unfriendliness of all those Thai dudes and sheilas, for we were used now to the relaxed Laos way to deal with customers – but it was nothing like that. Everyone was trying to sell you something, most of them with extraordinary high prices – even if you bargained back to the last Baht, you usually still paid more than that stuff was worth! And to see a friendly smile on one of the sellers faces, was a really, really rare thing.

Isabel and I spent a lot of time together. We were about to be teared apart by 20.000kms for more than three months! Unimaginable, if you see, that we had been together for approximately 24/7 since we came together on that sunny day out in White Cliffs. Since then, we had made beds, fought the scurvy, eviscerated sheeps, enjoyed our private, personal beach and had planned & survived a wonderful trip through South-East-Asia. This time was about to be over, and it was hard to face that truth.

I have to commit, that I saw the end with one eye laughing, for it meant to me to return back home to my family, my friends, my relatives – short said: My home. After 18 months of travelling, discovering, working, relaxing and learning how to live a wild life of freedom I could almost feel the touch of my parents hands, smell the smell of our cat, whichs name I had forgotten over the time, and see my mates jump around in white clothes for the sake of “Fastnacht”. And I knew: Isabel would follow me in about three months time, so this goodbye would not be forever.

Still – it was hard, to let her go. It was hard, to sit next to her, one last time, in the bus to the airport. It was hard to watch her eating in the airport-food-court. But it was the hardest to see her leave behind the passport-control, after she had cried some “C U again soon-“ tears. Darling, I love you!

The following days were strange. I felt empty. Nobody around me. No one to cheer me up. It’s just no fun, to walk down those tourist-filled roads, without anybody by your side. I forced myself to do some last shopping, and longed for the day of my departure.

The day came. I spent the night before at the airport, thinking, my flight would leave at 7.20am the next morning. Well – it left at 7.20pm… but the time at the airport was all right, I bought some last TimTams and ate them in remembrance of the best time I’ve had in my life so far. Oz rocks!

25 Januar 2008

...and her Dad

He would have to be in there. We knew it.
Not even a minute after we had entered the airport-building, Isabel & Chris had spotted their Dad / husband. He was waiting for his luggage to come – but in place of his bag there was his family!

Michael Runge is a gynaecologist, one of the best in South-East-Asia. To change that, he decided to start a special training in Luang Prabang & in Vientiane, Laos’ capital. He imports medical devices from Freiburg and takes them to the hospitals in Laos, even out to some remote villages!
In October, after Isabel had left home, he and Chris moved to Luang Prabang. Now they live half a year in Germany, and half a year in Laos. Fair Deal.

He was a little unlucky with his date of arrival, as Isabel and I went off into an elephant camp for two days, sponsored by Runges. We rode the elephants, fed them, brought them to “bed”, fetched them again in the morning and gave them a good wash, before they had brekkie. It was amazing, to see these huge creatures being so peaceful and tolerating everything without getting angry!

Isabel and I had a luxurious, spacious room, and some yummi food – which didn’t seem to suit her stomach, as she had to abstain from bathing the grey giants in the morning of the 2nd day. We also had to cut down our kayak-trip home – from 4 hours to 1h. But, at least, she felt better the next day.

Chris, Isabel and I spent many hours (and Dollars) at Joma’s, probably the best cafe in town. No matter, if for health reasons (jep, banana split is the best thing you could eat, if your stomach aches) or just to chill out and share the latest experiences, it was always a great place to be!

There was not too much spare time, but stillt enough to calm down every now and then. On Sunday, Michael showed us around in the hospital, showed us his “office”, the gynaecology-department and a little “corner of remembrance”, which he had left as dirty as the whole unit was, when he had arrived here. I have to commit, he did a damn good job in the last few months, as far as I can judge that. Respect!

One evening, the four of us strolled out onto the sandbank of the Mekong River. Four persons, some cans with softdrinks, some nuts, and two cameras. That’s all you need to enjoy a picture-perfect sunset!

It was an unforgettable time, which we spent with Isabels parents, and we were both pretty sad to leave them that Tuesday morning, as we went back to the airport where we had fetched Michael only a few days ago. On the one hand, I was looking forward to see my family again soon, on the other hand I knew, that it would probably be a long way down the road before I might come back...

Chris & Micha: Thanks for those wicked days. I will always remember them!

16 Januar 2008

Meeting her Mum...

Isabel sneaked in through the gate. I heard a scream, some laughter, and then two voices talking. I could imagine, the second voice must belong to Chris, Isabel’s Mum. And only seconds later she stood in front of me, spreading her arms, ready to wrap ‘em around me like a long-lost son, who just came back. It is true, we hadn’t seen each other for a long time, something like 20 years or so, but still – I would have never expected such a warm welcome! Sadly, Michael, Isabel’s father, had left Luang Prabang the evening before, and wouldn’t be back until Wednesday. But – Mum and daughter were happy to have each other again.

Chris took us out for some delicious dinner at a place called “Blue Lagoon”, and I decided I would pay my “debts” here – on my last evening.
After the desert (which we ate at another place) we strolled back to the car and drove home. Isabel and I unpacked our stuff in our huge apartment, more luxurious than anything else we have lived in together. So far. :-)

Next morning started with a shock: It was not that brilliant breakfast, served by a shy-smiling maid. It was Chris, who told us, her mobile had been stolen overnight. Incredible. Someone had climbed that little wall, without being noticed by any of the nightguards, broken into the upper apartment and taken the little cell phone. Nothing else, but a missing phone is enough, with all the numbers gone and nobody knowing you’re unreachable.

Anyway – Chris managed to smile somehow. We took the bikes and went off for some sight-seeing.
After some temples and a café-experience (“Joma”), we were back home early enough to watch a stunning sun sinking down behind the hills, illuminating the water of the Mekong in a really magical way...

Chris was adopted as our tourguide. And she did a damn good job. Next day, she brought us to a waterfall, which name is so complicated to spell, that I can’t remember it.
It was a beautiful day, but we were a little late, so the sun was already about to hide as we reached those turquise waters. It was amazing, that place.

Isabel and I went for a swim, but the water was not to any extent as warm as it should have been to make us feel comfortable. It was a short swim, but – we’ve been into the xxx waterfall! *g*

On our way back, we found a tiger woman lying in his “cage”, bored from its loneliness and all those bloody tourists outside, taking pictures (sometimes even with flash) and staring through the mesh.

Oh the way back home, we stopped at a non-touristic little village, which Michael and Chris had discovered on one of their numerous exploration-tours. Two boys followed us through the streets, a soccer ball under the ones arm.
We ended up down at the river, and I started a soccer match immediately. All of a sudden, another two boys appeared, and then four more. Oh yeah, we had great fun. I was exhausted pretty soon, and joined Isabel and Chris, who sat there in the sand and watched the Meking flowing, who were sunk in a conversation.

After a while, we were ready to head home, and the boys were so busy with playing soccer, they probably didn’t even notice we left.

Next two days were full of more sight-seeing, a shopping tour, many delicious meals / fruit- & milkshakes / ice-creams and the preparation for Michael’s comeback.
Isabel and I spent some time in our spacious apartment, enjoyed the internet connection, some movies from Chris and a lot of talking and a lot of snuggling. It was an awesome time!

Wednesday evening, the three of us hopped into the pick-up and drove towards the airport...

12 Januar 2008

On the way – to her parents…

We left Chiang Mai with mixed impressions: On the one hand, the night bazaar was beautiful, even though really, really touristic. And the McDonald’s was the cheapest we had ever been to. 3US$ for a full meal – that’s not too bad.
On the other hand – the town was ugly. Loads of unimpressive temples, no Asia-feeling at all, could have been almost any other city in the world.

We took a bus up north, destination: Mae Sai. Mae Sai is a part of the Golden Triangle, a triangle, where Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Thailand come together. In earlier years it was the dope-capital of Thailand. And maybe, it still is…
Anyway, we found a really cheap guesthouse and a huge market, which made us stay another day. We soon discovered our favourite restaurant, some food stall with three tables and a menu written in sanscript – Thai letters. We pointed onto something on that menu and ordered another meal, which our neighbours were just about to enjoy, and ate really delicious – for a price, which hadn’t bought us a single meal in any of those tourist-places.
When we came back the next day, the lovely family recognized us and made us the same two meals again – without communicating in any way. It was the first place we ever tipped in Asia. (It was only 20cents, but the lady was more than happy, and some bloody neighbour stared at us as if he wanted to express: These bloody tourists, they always have to show how damn rich they are!) Tipping is not usual in Asia.

After some nice hours of shopping (well, we have to commit that we have been shopping for 1½ days…) we tried to cross the border to Laos. Only problem: There was none in Mae Sai. No official one. So it took another 4 hours to get to Huay Xai, and it took us thousands of Baht to get into Laos. You can’t say, the visa is cheap, it cost us more than a usual one-days-budget!

Laos is a pretty small country with only 6 million inhabitants. An army doesn’t really exist. Well, it does, but how could you expect such a poor country to fight? Some Laos blokes are seriously concerned, that China could conquer their country sooner or later, after another load of Chinese soldiers has been brought to the boarder. We’ll see.

From now on, our journey was pretty much planned by Isabels parents and somee friends of theirs. A boat would bring us down to Luang Prabang, where Chris & Micha, Isabels parents, are currently residing.
The one and only serious Backpacker-problem is always money – once again this time. Some tourguide told, that we would have to charter a boat down to Luang Praband, which might cost us 160US$. After he had revived us with mouth-to-mouth, we heard that there was also a cheaper option: By bus.
The road from Huay Xai to Luang NamTha, our first stop on the way to Luang Prabang, is said to be the worst I whole Laos, if you ask Lonely Planet. And if you look at the roads here, you know, you would never want to discover if they are right or wrong. But: If you have a tight budget, you still do. So did we.

11 persons were squeezed into a 9-seater, and everyoe was thankful for those 2 emergency seats the minivan had. And the journey began. In the beginning, the road was pretty well sealed, and after a while, it was even better sealed. I consulted Lonely Planet, if we were on the right road. Yes, we were. The “highway” was supposed to be upgraded within 2007 – and once in a lifetime the Laos dudes seem to have done something properly and within the given schedule. We were happy. Our driver was so happy, that he never slowed down in these well-sealed, damn tight bendings, and seldomly took his eyes from the girl next to him, while he was chatting on the cell-phone, drinking his energy drinks and speeding on the left-hand-side of the road (the wrong one) into another bend or over some dangerous crest. We were even more happy, that yet nobody seems to know, this road is sealed. It’s hard to describe, how happy we were, when we finally reached Luang NamTha. Alive.

Luang NamTha is a pretty and relaxed city, the second-biggest in Laos, if you refer to Lonely Planet. Well, it has almost 30.000 inhabitants.
I liked it from the start. The houses here look like you would imagine a good, old Asian-style house, plenty of palm-trees grow along the dirt-roads, and, even though there are aroud 20 guesthouses, it does not make a touristic impression. Except for some 50m along the main road, not at all.

We decided to go trekking the next day, and tried to find some dudes joining in. We found two: A Czech tourguide and an Ozzie-bloke, two guys who had met a few days earlier and both turned out to be really easy-going and funny. They were so easy-going and funny, that we talked until 9pm in the restaurant we had found them, and then found the tour bureau closed. Bad luck? Well… read on.

So we played Snooker istead of booking a tour, which was much cheaper. And much shorter. After an hour or so, I had finally understood the rules, our mates headed back, their guesthouse had announced to close the doors at 10pm. Isabel and I went to bed.

The next morning, we got up early, to find a last-minute-tour. Better to say: We planned to get up early. As the alarm clock rang at 7am, Isabel told me, she wouldn’t feel well at all. The stomach aches and stuff. We both went back to bed. Lucky, we hadn’t booked (& paid) a tour the day before.

I spent almost the whole day sitting next to her, writing diary and stuff, in case, she would need me, but she didn’t. In the evening, she felt healthy enough to get some dinner at a bakery, before we joined our mates at the Snooker table again. In fact – I joined, Isabel just got the address from that Ozzie bloke, cause he pretended to live in Melbourne, where she’s planning to head after Asia. It’s always good to have phone numbers, mail addresses, connections. You never know.

Time was running out, we had to move on the next day. A minivan brought us to Nong Khiaw, a beautiful little town nestled oto the banks of the Mekong river between some hills. After we had found our private bungalow right next to the river, we went to the local cinema, a living room of some family, equipped with a flat screen TV and a DVD-player, before we enjoyed some Beer Lao with a Lao dude and a French guy, who we had met on the bus trip.

A boat brought us up to Muang Noi, a little village which is said to be romantic, remote, some decades back in time. The only way to reach Muang Noi is by boat, no road leads there, that’s why you won’t find any car, motorcycle or tuk-tuk on its main-dirtroad.
As Isabel and I had a short look-around, we soon discovered that we were told wrong: Guesthouse besides guesthouse, that’s what the village exists of. Okay, power is cut at 9pm, and there is no sound of any motorized vehicle whatsoever, but I bet there are more tourists than in Nong Khiaw, which is right on the main road. Sad, but true.

We found a brilliant bungalow with a broken hammock on tis veranda, but the best view in town, for the cheapest price we had ever spent for a night on a bed before – 1US$ per person. Incredible. Just, because the shower & toilet was 10m behind the bungalow itself. A “problem” we could handle.

Trekking was nothing to seriously think about, as Isabel wasn’t 100% fine. We talked to some American guy about American politics and how to earn 200US$ / day while on holiday (he was some sort of a lucky guy, I’d say), before we had dinner and forced the polite unvoluntarily to leave the lights on until 9.30pm. Isabel went horizontal while I was still eating, and she didn’t sleep to well that night. Another reason, why we decided the next morning to reach Luang Prabang as soon as possible.

Bye, bye, Muang Noi – the boat went back to Nong Khiaw, ad from there on we hopped on the next boat down the Mekong river – to Luang Prabang. 10$ for an eight hours ride through a absolutely scenic ladscape… we were amazed! Along the river, we saw a few, small villages, all with a watergenerator to get at least some electricity, and all with unbelievably kind kids, adults and grandparents around. Everyone was waving, screaming (“Sabadiiieee” – “Good day”) and cheering… it was simply great.
The wooden chair became a little uncomfy after four hours or so, but somehow we managed to stand up after we had finally arrived.

A damn nice tuk-tuk-driver brought us to Runges apartment next to the Mekong. And what happened there? Well.. next post ist coming soon.

04 Januar 2008


I did it! I decided to go for that Bungy Jump the next day. I was pretty sure to struggle through loads of tourists first before I could get my ultimate adrenalin kick. But – surprisingly, there was no one except for Isabel, me, and three Thai blokes, selling me a T-Shirt, taking pictures and finally tieing me up, so I couldn’t escape.
50m doesn’t sound high at all. At least not for a Bungy Jump. And even less if you have been to Australia, where those heights reach 150m and over. So – I was a little bored, when that crane started to carry me off the ground and up into the air. I mean… I just booked it, because you have to do it sometime, and it was pretty cheap, compared with Aussie standards. I paid it as part of my christmas present from my parents. The rest will be spent shopping in Bangkok. Those were my thoughts, while I was trying to smalltalk with my instructor, a dude, who called himself Tarzan. I’m not exactly sure if he knew what that meant…
Anyway – after a few minutes ride we reached the top, and I was cool enough to catch a glimpse over the rim of our flying tea cup. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Done there, somewhere below, was Isabel with her camera, trying to get some good shots, but even with a 12x Optical zoom you can’t photograph a man on top of the Ex-World-Trade-Center – that is the height I felt. The only good thing was – even a man up there would have come down a few years ago. And so would I – but hopefully alive…
After the first shock I started to enjoy the view for a few seconds. Must have been long enough, to make Tarzan curious, if I might be scared and just trying to gain time. Nonsense. Such a fabulous view… *hrrrm*
Anyway – there was no way back. I had read the sign, there would be no refund for non-jumpers, so I made my dollars go as far as possible: 50 metres down.
To be honest: I was not half as exciting as I had imagined it to be. After not even a second of free fall, I felt the Bungy rope gripping, and knew that it was over. You start to slow down, long before the kick would have made you scream, scared or wet your pants. Boring.
But well, at least I can tell everyone I’ve been Bungy Jumping. Thanks, Mum & Dad!
Next time I might just have to look for something more interesting. Have you ever heard about the Niagara Falls?

03 Januar 2008

Happy New Year!

We weren't really unhappy to leave Sihanoukville the next morning. Bus back to Pnomh Penh, Cambodia's capital, with only 1.5 million inhabitants - and still it feels incredibly crowded, so many cars, tuk-tuks, mopeds and bikes on the streets...

Isabel felt a little ill, so we didn't do too much. A city tour and and a closer inspection of the local market was everything we fitted into our stay, before we left for Siem Reap - the tourist capital.

Siem Reap is known for its huge temples - the largest ones in the world! Built in the 13th century by the Khmer (Cambodians), they were discovered in the late 19th century by some French dudes, who started to free those spectacular, from the jungle overgrown monuments in the beginning of the last century. Nowadays, the jungle is gone, there are streets and pathways and signs and shops and restaurants... and loads of tourists. Even though you pay 20US$ for a one-day-entry, nobody visiting this region wants to miss out on these impressive structures.
Currently, the temples are rebuilt and renovated. Each temple is supported by another country - so India, China, Germany, France and others spend a few dollars at a time to employ some Khmer guys, who sit around on the stone walls, trying unsuccessfully to look busy. But especially the russian-sponsored temple shows some signs of work - the only place, where we actually saw those blokes working.

We enjoyed some good sightseeing and some expensive shopping, and went back tired after a long day on the tuk-tuk. Maybe too long: Isabel had infected me 2 days earlier, and so I suffered from fever, headache and a sore throat, while Isabel was on her way to recover, but still went to the toilet alarmingly often. We're both getting better day after day, but are still wearing our scarfs (shawls) and lying in bed very long hours.

Siem Reap was crowded with tourists, we had to visit at least 10 guest houses, before we found an empty room, which suited our budget. Because of our bad health, we didn't do more than explore the market and that temple-tour - until New Year's Eve.

For New Year's Eve, we were pretty happy, that there were so many Christians around, for the Muslim & the Chinese New Year don't match with our celebrations day. But because of all the tourists, we could enjoy a big street party, with western-style party music and loads of jumping & screaming chics & chicos around us. Last thing we did last year was having Indian dinner and a Cornetto ice-cream. :-)

So - now it is over my first year in which I haven't seen any of my family at all. Pretty sad, on the one hand, but if you take into account, what I have seen... well... that's not too bad, I reckon - sorry, Dad, Mum, Kniven & Dulli. *g*

Isabel and I decided to spend New Year's Day traveling - on our way back to Thailand, and then off to Northern Thailand.
It took us 14 hours to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok, first in a crowded minibus and then in a comfy air-con bus. One hour in Bangkok was enough to have some dinner and organize a train-ticket to Chiang Mai, which is the second-largest city in Thailand. All good? Well... the sleeper-wagon was fully booked, for that night and the following - so were 1st and 2nd class. We booked in 3rd class - and a pretty painful 15-hour-journey, until we reached our destiny. Our backs ached almost as much as our bums, and we hadn't really slept... But that's all right. I read "Miracle in the Andes", the true story about a rugby-team, which survives 72 days in the Andes, after a plane crash. 11 000 feet high, they have to eat the flesh from their dead mates to survive, and the hero finally walks over 100 miles, passing one of the highest peaks in the Andes (over 17 000 feet), just in his rugby-boots, drinking melted snow, until he reaches some small farm. Incredible. I decided not to complain about that train...

So now we're in Chiang Mai, not exactly sure what we want to do. The night bazaar is beautiful, and we spent a lot of Baht in shopping. we probably won't go trekking, cause Isabel's Mum told us, those trips were far too touristic, and are much nicer over in Laos. Maybe I book in for a bungee jump - who knows?

Life is good, a little cold up here (700km north of Bangkok), but we're right.
One last thing to say, especially to everyone I haven't reached yet via Email: Happy New Year! And, please, don't forget those good-intent-things. At least not for the first week, aye?

P.S.: Sorry, no pictures at all this time - the computer does not accept USB. Damn it!