A Travellerspoint blog

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USA Los Angeles and San Francisco

Los Angeles San Francisco

San Francisco golden gate bridge

San Francisco golden gate bridge

At LAX airport my friend Karen picked me up.
From being in the freezing snow with -10 a few hours before I was now in warm LA where it was around 20 degrees and sunny. What better place to stay with this kind of weather than on the beach. So I stayed in Hermosa Beach. Just south of Venice and Manhattan Beach. The hostel is located close to the beach and from my room I was able to see the wonderful ocean.
Most people in the hostel are long staying residents. I can’t remember if we had something to celebrate or if it was just a night out but with a big group we went to the local club. One of the Aussie guys that joined us proposed to his girlfriend so from that moment on we had an extra reason to party.
Next morning we went to the beach for some surfing. In my case watching other people surf.
I have been to LA before so instead of seeing things twice I rented a car and drove to San Francisco.
Arriving in the city it was not hard to find the Italian district and enjoy a good coffee with a nice cake. Just around the corner I found and enjoyed a tasty pizza. To keep myself from eating all day I walked to the harbour and then drove around for the rest of the day. From the Golden gate bridge to the beach and back into the city. I really like this city. I could see myself living here.
Back in LA Karen showed me the observatory close to Hollywood and we drove to Santa Barbara. So I think I did all the touristy things that was possible in such a short time.
Two days before I was flying back to Vancouver I got the call that the Greyhound had found my ski bag. I hope I do not have to explain how happy I was. It was more than a week that I did not had my stuff. But most important that I did not lose my skies, ski boots, jacket, helmet etc.
So happy as a kid with a lollipop back to Whistler.
Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara not my ride

Santa Barbara not my ride

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Posted by Nielsontour 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Canada Whistler part 2

Whistler part 2

First day back in Whistler, I got up early to get up the mountain as soon as possible.
For the people that did not check my Facebook status in my first week on the mountain. It was about me being in love with Whistler. There is so much snow that it is just unbelievable. You don’t need to look hard to find fresh powder. Off course this is what makes Whistler famous. It snows a lot and it is really rare to see the sun. The first two weeks on the skies it was snowing almost every day. It varies from 10, 20 or 50cm a day. On days after a big dump of snow the locals stop working and get up with the first lifts to make the fresh tracks. This is called Pow day. Since you have a lot of these Pow days so you can imagine people don’t work that much around here. It took me a while to realise by the way what they were talking about with pow days, but now I know and will never forget.
Not only was the snow great but I also reunited with some great friends from Banff. It seems I was not the only one that wanted to see a few ski resorts. Julie was already in Whistler a week before I arrived and Tim Wakeling arrived a bit later. Unfortunately they are both snowboarders and a bit slow, but great to have around on the mountain. Only joking guys. I don’t mind your snowboarding :-)
On my second day on the mountain, I met an English ski guide from the ski club of Great Britain. We skied the rest of the day together; he was there to explore the mountain to see where he could ski with his guests later that week. I got invited to come back and join him with some of his members another day.
The next day I started my ski improvement course. So the ski club was put on hold for a few days.
On the first day of the course we had to show off how good we could ski and we were put into groups according to our ski level. Since I just had my 4 weeks in Banff under my belt I was already warmed up and was coming down the mountain pretty nice.
Our teacher/guide Dave is a level 4 ski teacher similar to a ski Fuhrer in Austria, which is defined as a pretty good skier that can make some nice turns. Just to clarify for the non skiers. This is the highest level you can achieve when it comes to skiing. If you ski from when you are a young kid you might be able to make it to this level. (On this note I would like to congratulate FX with getting his Level 3 this season)
I was with 6 other men in the group who were all pretty good skiers. I had a great time skiing with the group and we did some nice runs. Despite that we had a fast group and the standard was high, I was hoping for a bit more extreme skiing. I might have picked up some tips here and there but unfortunately, I was not really put out of my comfort zone to learn a lot of new things. This is probably because I had already skied in Banff for four weeks before I started the course. Most of the guys in the group just had their first or second week of skiing. It always takes a bit of time to get your muscles into shape to be skiing all day, so I see that as their excuse. But all together it was nice to meet this great group of people and ski with them. I had a good time.
The weekend after my course I got in contact with Toby from the British ski club again to set some fresh tracks. With three other skiers we had a great time in the fresh powder. We walked up the flute. This is a 20 min walk. It’s a bit of an effort but you get rewarded with fresh soft untouched powder where you leave your beautiful tracks behind. These are the moments where you bounce in the soft fluffy snow and wish it would never end. But unfortunately it does...
The next few times I joined the British ski club for a day of skiing I was asked to lead the advanced group. This was of course an honour but also lots of fun. Taking people to the edge of their limits and finding the balance between fun and fear. No, just joking I was not that extreme with them...
Looking at the amount of beer they bought me at the end of the day I can only assume that they had a great day on the mountain.

In Whistler I was skiing most days by myself. This was pretty good in a way since I could ski my own tempo but it did stop me from making some adventure tours. I am sure that my family is glad, that I stuck to the inbound ski areas most of the time.
I was really happy though that Tim and Julie were here and joined me a few times on the mountain. Tim was only there for a few weeks but we had a lot of fun together. Not only on the mountain but also tasting the beers. We had to compare of course the different tastes between the beers in Banff with the ones in Whistler even if it was the same brand, it was hard work... One day Julie, Tim and one more snowboarder who’s name I forgot, but let’s call him Jo for now, went out onto the mountain. Whistler had a big dump of snow the night before and so we went to Symphony bowl to ski some powder. We started in the morning and made some great runs. The snowboarders got stuck and had to walk from time to time. The snow was so thick and there was too much fresh snow to ski or board down at some points. Because of this I chose the steeper runs to maintain some speed. On one particular run Tim and I went down a steep run and Julie and Jo went another way. Down at the lift we Julie was missing. Mobile phones are not working all over the mountain and also not in this case. After a 10min wait Tim and I went back up to find Julie and Jo stayed behind to wait for her. On the way up I noticed ski patrol half way up the mountain in a bowl with a patient. I was hoping it was not Julie. Tim went down one way to check that area and I checked out the ski patrol. When I got closer I already recognised Julie’s snowboard. She had dislocated her shoulder when she tried to get up from a sitting position. So no crash or anything spectacular but not less painful. The doctor onsite put her shoulder back into place and we helped her down the mountain. We finished the day with lots of beers in the pub to get over the shock. At least this was one day we will not forget any time soon.
Once on the mountain I really enjoyed myself, even on days where I was a bit tired and was not really up for it. These days I just had to push myself a little and in the end I had lots of fun again once I was up high in the snow. I might have got a bit spoiled from time to time to be able to ski every day I know. I started to consider not going up the mountain sometimes if there was no fresh powder. Since it was snowing a lot these days it did not happen that often.

Off the mountain I took it easy. I went to the night clubs a few times but I cannot say I had such a great time. Just a relaxed beer in the pub with my roommate Terry was already great and enough for me. While writing this I feel old. Not liking night clubs any more, what’s wrong with me.
Time was going fast and before I realised my final week in Whistler was approaching. My brother Jurriaan decided to join me for this last week and travel back together with me to Amsterdam. This was a real nice last minute surprise. The actual reason I think, was that he was sent by my family to make sure I was really coming back. I can imagine they thought I would just stay in Canada.
Enthusiastic as I was to have my brother with me, I made all kinds of plans to ski some interesting routes. But Jurriaan did not have the privilege of having skied for the last two months like I did. So on the first day I think he was happy the lifts were closing at four a clock and we could go home so he could get some rest. The following days we took it pretty easy. We even had time to eat a nice Belgium waffle on the top of the mountain. Since I normally started to skip lunch, not to waste any precious time in the snow. I almost forgot that this was also a holiday for Jurriaan and not a ski drill training camp.

To complete the Canadian experience we went one day on a snowmobile (snow scooter) tour. While we were booking the tour I was afraid it would be a pussy family tour where you would not be allowed to go fast. But the booking agent advised us not to go for the extreme tour if this was our first time on the snowmobile. I must admit that it was the right decision. The group comprised of 4 people, Jurriaan, myself and a young couple. On arrival the guide changed the smaller snowmobiles for the bigger 1200cc Renegade ski doo’s. I think he got the message that we wanted to go fast.
After a short briefing on how to operate the ski doo we took off. We had a fast run up the hill where we ended up at a bowl with fresh powder. Here we were let free to ride and play and have fun.
I never thought that sitting on a machine like this would be hard work. But soon I was sweating. I also got stuck twice which did not help me to get any cooler, as its even more hard work to lift and dig the ski doo out of the snow. For whole tour we had the biggest smile on our faces. I can easily say that this was one of my best days in Canada.
The rest of the week we skied on both mountains Whistler and Blackcomb, we even had some sun here and there to take some photos and videos. Jurriaan skied some real fresh Canadian powder and I fell down filming Jurriaan. We also joined in with an avalanche awareness tour. So all together it ended up being a nice program with unforgettable experiences.
Unfortunately all the skiing in Canada came to an unavoidable end. It was time to pack the bags and head back to Vancouver. We spend one day there before heading back to the airport and back to Amsterdam.
As you can imagine I have not written down all of the stories from Canada. But in this blog I just have a few highlights for you to read. Some stories are missing. Like when Sandra got this amazing lift in a big truck for FX, me and herself back and forth to a village 20 minutes (one way) from Banff.
The great table soccer skills me and FX had in the pub.
Helping beginner skiers down black runs on several occasions and assisting with a ski accident.
There is much more to tell but I will leave it for now.

..Off to my next adventure in Asia soon.

Posted by Nielsontour 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Asia 2012


sunny 35 °C

From being in the snow to being in the heat.
After a short break back with my family in Amsterdam, I arrived in Bangkok.
I have been to Bangkok before so it had no real surprises for me. However it is Bangkok and that place is always full of surprises. This time it was Songkran new year celebration in Thailand. But I will explain this later.

Arrival into Bangkok airport is pretty relaxed and modern. Most big international airports around the world look the same these days, I guess. Since a few years ago there is a train connection between airport and the city centre. It is all air-conditioned so you don’t know what hits you until your in the city centre and you get off the train. First steps into reality. When I was standing there outside the station somewhere in the city it is not hard to miss the big contrast between the luxurious airport and train with the reality where the locals live, the difference between poor and rich in Asia. I was sweating like I had run a marathon and was a bit tired from the trip. I started walking and looking for a taxi. With my big backpack on my back and a small pack on the front you could spot the fresh tourist look from miles away. I was aware of this. I always feel sorry when I see backpackers walking around like this, but actually when I do it myself it’s not really that bad.

My first few attempts to get a cab that was willing to turn the meter on failed (they want to bring you to your destination for a fixed price that is twice the price it should be) Standing there helpless on the side of the road a young guy (Simon) came to the rescue and together we managed to get a cab in the end. Like 80% of the tourists arriving to Bangkok (I am not an exception) they all go to Khao San road. A busy tourist street in heart of the Bangkok, east of the Chao Phraya River.
In the Cab Simon was telling me all about his trip here in Asia and since we had not finished talking when we arrived at our destination, we continued our chat in the bar with a nice cold beer. Good start of my trip I thought to myself.

In one of the back streets of Khao San road I found a nice room with air conditioning, private shower and wifi. This all for the same price as two pints of beer in Australia.
After quickly freshing-up it was time to have a bite to eat and I was hoping for an early night to be fresh the next morning. However my jetlag was thinking differently. I think I must have had a drink in every bar on Khao San road that night. I was just not tired. The good thing from this street/city is that it never sleeps so even if its 3 or 4 in the morning you can still have a drink or a bite no problem. The later it gets, you notice the increased number of lady boys, but if you make sure you don’t get too drunk you will be safe..

The next morning I took the local city bus to have a tour around the city. Since I had no idea where the busses were going and nobody could tell me, I just hop on a bus that looked a bit empty to do some sightseeing. I thought this would be fun. This turned out to be slightly difficult to understand for the guy selling the tickets in the bus. I was trying to buy a ticket for an unknown destination. He did not know what to do with me so I asked him to sell me the most expensive ticket (1 dollar), he finally did and I was good to go.
Call it luck but I passed the Bangkok sky tower and I hopped of the bus to have a closer look. (This is where Hangover 2 was filmed) If your on the top of the 64th floor building (if I am not mistaken) you have a great roof terrace that has a fantastic look over the whole of Bangkok. It was no open until later that night but I was able to have a quick peak anyway.
After seeing a few shops, temples and markets I had enough of Bangkok again. Added to this was that it was Songkran (new year in Asia). It’s also called water festival since you can spray water on somebody for good luck (or paint powder). The city got pretty mad, water guns were being sold everywhere and everyone were splashing water and running around like little kids. Khao San Road was totally blocked off in the middle and on the sides it was hard to walk with hundreds of people spraying water. It was pretty refreshing since it was around 35 degrees. I was thinking how different this party would be in Canada. Nice, spraying water when its -15 degrees, I am sure people would not have so much fun then.
Anyway I had enough so the next day I went to visit a friend of Laurens (again) in Koh Tao.
This trip to Koh Tao, was just a quick get away before I would start my trip to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I thought that as soon as I was going to start my travel to Cambodia and the rest of the countries it might be hard to relax properly so first a short holiday during my travel. Yes, I know how to spoil myself.

After a reasonable but long bus ride I arrived at the harbour to wait for the boat to the island. In the last stretch of the trip we were cramped in a smaller bus like sardines and here I met some great Germans. All half asleep at 4 or 5 in the morning we got dropped off in the harbour and we had a few hours to kill before the boat would depart. Someone came up with the brilliant idea to get some beers and about 4 or 5 beers later the sun came up. On the boat we did not wanted to break our habit so we continued with some more cold gold sparkling beer, I lost count at this stage. On the island we all went our own way to find our accommodation and to relax a bit. First thing for me of course was renting a scooter before renting a room.
It was still Songkran and also on Koh Tao there was no escape. At least in Bangkok I managed to keep my backpack dry since they had the decency not to splash you when you were walking with your pack. But here on the island they did not seem to care and by the time I got to my room, me and my bag were soaking wet. It is so humid here that wet clothes don’t really dry here. So you can imagine the smell. But I will spare you these details.
I was asked by my new German friends (Amelie, Malin and Lars) to be there tour guide the next day. So we rented a second scooter and we toured around the island all day. We enjoyed some great food and fantastic drinks. We finished the day having drinks on the terrace of a beach bar looking at the sun set.
The next day was the last day of Songkran (3 day party) along the main beaches there were parties everywhere. So half in the water and half on the beach we joined the party. I must say that this was a really good party. With great people around me and a spectacular location. All together an amazing experience I will never forget. Swimming from party to party and finishing with spectacular fireworks that seem to last for hours and hours till the early morning..

The following day I visited Kim and Bastiaan, two dutchies that work as diving instructors on Koh Tao. They convinced me to do some dives with them. Kim, I and a dive master in training went out the next day to have some fun. Despite that it was a bit busy under water with all the divers everywhere it was a cool to have experienced the underwater world of Thailand. It was a bit frustrating for me that I run out of air so quickly while Kim and our dive master in training where still half way with their oxygen. I think I should go down with two tanks next time. It was a deep dive so it does require a bit more from the human body than a normal dive but still.

Amelie, Malin and Lars had a fantastic apartment overlooking the ocean from their balcony. It is a place where you can sit all day and relax, and just keep staring in the distance. When you get a bit too warm you can choose between two pools and a spa to refresh yourself. In comparison with my room that was on the main road above a few shops. For me no reason to hang around my place too much so time to explore some snorkel spots. We managed to buy some snorkel gear and off we went again. Snorkelling, eating, drinking and swimming. One day we hired a kayak and snorkelled some more.
That was the hard life I had.
Me, Amelie, Malin and Lars could get along so well that I did not want to leave them. So I joined them to the next island Koh Phangan.
On arrival with the boat we had an old lady that brought us to a great place where we booked a bungalow about 50 meters of the beach.
Since the formula/pattern we had developed on Koh Tao was working so well we maintained this for the remainder of the trip. To remind you, this was eat, drink, relax and swim, followed with drink, eat, relax and snorkel.
But we also visited: a night market where Lars managed to buy the exact same flip flops I bought a week before (this was not on purpose but a coincidence)
• Ate a cricket and other nice food.
• Visited an elephant and snake reserve.
• Toured around the island.
• Had some really heavy rain.
• And visited Handsome village.
After having such an unforgettable time with my new friends the moment came we had to go our own ways. They took off to Krabi and I went straight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Posted by Nielsontour 05:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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