Category Archives: Travelling

My travelling journals

Tips on getting a Visa-On-Arrival(VOA) for Thailand


Thailand is one of the most visited tourist destination in south east Asia. Here I want to share my experience on getting a visa for Thailand.

Generally Indian citizens need a visa to enter Thailand. You can get it in two ways:

  1. Get a visa before leaving India. I haven’t done this. You can visit VFS website to know about this more.
  2. Apply for a Visa-On-Arrival(VOA) when you enter Thailand.

I entered Thailand from Laos(via Nakhon Phanom border point) two times – on Dec 2016 and then again on Feb 2017. Both times I applied for a 15 days(this is the maximum you can get) VOA, and I got it without a problem.

Note that, as of September 2016, the Thailand VOA fee for Indians is 2000 Bhat. Make sure you check the Thai embassy website before planning your trip. Thailand is notorious for their frequent changing in immigration rules.

For getting a VOA you need the following documents:

  1. Photocopy of your passport(sometimes they don’t ask for this).
  2. One passport size photo.
  3. A confirmed flight ticket showing that you leave the country within 15 days of your arrival. Yes, you have to show that you leave by air. This is a must. Even if you plan on to visit another neighboring country by road, you still have to show the flight ticket.
  4. Hotel booking reservations showing that your accommodation in Thailand for the entire duration has been taken care off. Out of the two times I entered Thailand, one time they didn’t ask me about this at all, and another time, I had to simply tell the name of a hotel in Thailand I would be staying. In any case, I suggest you do a dummy booking using www.booking.com without paying any advance and carry a printout with you.

Now documents No 1,2 and 4 are pretty straight forward. But what can you do about the flight ticket, if you don’t want to fly out of Thailand? What I personally did was, to book a flight ticket which had the option to cancel the ticket in 24 hours with full refund.

Orbitz is such a cool website which allows confirmed flight ticket booking with a 24 hour cancellation policy. Here is a sample list of flights from Bangkok to Bangalore on 28th April 2017. Note that, not all the flights can be cancelled. So book any flight with a Free cancel within 24 hours tag, on the day you want to enter Thailand and once you cross the border and get your VOA, just cancel it the same day.

 

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The immigration department doesn’t check (at least not in my case) if you have cancelled your tickets or not. By the end of my 15 day visa, I went back to Laos by road. The Thai immigration didn’t ask me, why I haven’t flown out of the country as I had planned. So all went well. And I would do the same thing again if I have to.

 

Cycling along Mekong river and how it turned into a mental battle!


Its still surprising for me, how depending on my state of mind, I see the same things so differently. If I am tired and uncomfortable, I can get angry at simplest things. But if I am experiencing pleasant things, the same things bring a smile to my face. One of the cycling trip I did in Kratie(in Cambodia), reminded me,this side of the truth quite intensely.

Kratie city is a small town in the north-east Cambodia, on the bank of Mekong river. One of the activities you can do here is to cycle along the roads on the east and west bank of Mekong river. To cross to the other side of Mekong river, you need to take a boat ferry. Depending on which ferry you take you can do a round trip of 44 Km and more.

Because of my bad assumption making skills and over confidence, I decided to do 80 Km round trip with this cycle.

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It all went okay in the beginning. I cycled hard in the hot sun, took less breaks than I wanted, had a fast lunch. Some snaps, I still managed to take on the way.

The flooded lands in Mekong river

The flooded lands in Mekong river

100 Pillar pagoda in Sambour

100 Pillar pagoda in Sambour

The juicy fruit saving me from dehydration

The juicy fruit saving me from dehydration

forgetting to smile in the hot sun

forgetting to smile in the hot sun

Smiles for the selfie

Smiles for the selfie

I crossed the river from Sambour to the other shore called, Yeav. By 2:00 pm I was on the other side. Then the first surprise hit me. There was no tar road on the west bank of the river. There were a lot of small villages and everyone was so surprised to see me. Adults with open mouths and Children running around saying Hello.. Hello..  The mud road, was in very good condition and I was going really fast, for a cycle. I was very happy and told myself, this is nice. After the hard and boring ride on the east bank this is what I wanted. The kids saying Hello made me happy, and I also shouted back Hello.

The hanging bridge. So cool to cycle on this one!

The hanging bridge. So cool to cycle on this one!

But slowly things began to change. I was getting a bit tired, sweating a lot. After 15-20 Km of riding the road started to change. There was lot of water on the road, more inhabitants in the area(which made the road even worse). Sometimes it looked like a roller coaster. Sometimes I felt I was cycling slower than how I would walk. The bumpy road made my ass hurt. The fun part of the ride was dying out fast, and the demons inside me were waking up complaining.

The road turned into this. This image was copied from https://goo.gl/Trwv2l

The road turned into this. This image was copied from https://goo.gl/Trwv2l

And the clock was ticking. I need to go 25 Km or more on this road, and get another ferry to the other side of the river, where my guesthouse is. And the last ferry was around 5.30 pm(It used to get dark around 5.50 pm those days). Rather than enjoying the ride, questions started to fill my mind. How long would this shitty road last? Where would I sleep if I miss the ferry? How much extra I would have to pay to the boat man if I had to cross by myself? Would someone give me a place here to sleep for a night? How much should I pay in that case? Cant these kids give me a break and stop saying Hello? I cant concentrate enough on the road with all these people Hello-ing at me.

I had to take deep breaths so many times to let go of the ill feelings in my mind. But then they came back again. It was a cycle of letting go and coming back. I thought of taking a ferry much before the intended destination to end this suffering. But a part of me was saying, this is an opportunity. How many times would you feel so frustrated, so hopeless, so pushed to the end.

So I decided to push myself and finish the trip as planned. All I had to do was being mindful of my state of mind. This was hard though. I was so angry at some points that I was hitting the bicycle handle and screaming. But then there are houses everywhere, so I couldn’t scream too loud. Even at the moment, I found this situation a bit funny. The village kids who made me smile before, was getting into my nerves now!

In the end, I made it to the port around 5.40 pm. The last ferry hasn’t left yet. What a relief!!! The ferry came after 10 minutes, I crossed the river with my cycle and 2 dozen other people, rode to the guest house with a final burst of power left in my body.

What did I learn from all this? I am not sure. I cannot make conclusions and say, I should have done this or done that. Any choice could go wrong or right. What else can I do, than being mindful and centered when it goes wrong?

11 frequent questions people throw in my way


1)How long are you planning to travel like this? You cant do this forever. So what will come next?

I don’t know. I used to have life long plans before. But nowadays I just don’t bother thinking about it. I just don’t know.

When I started trekking and was doing it almost every weekend, I told myself, this is what I want to do all my life. Nothing else matters. After few years I started climbing and I got immediately addicted to it. I told myself, this is what I wanted to do all my life. I still like it and is my biggest passion at the moment. But I don’t know where life will take me after. I like to go with the flow.

I know that I can’t do this forever. In fact no one can keep doing things endlessly they are doing. That’s simply the nature of things.

2)Why don’t you start writing(or take good photos) about your travels and try to generate some revenues from it?

May be in the future. At this point I haven’t felt that way. I want to travel and climb without the pressure of thinking, what should I write about this place? How to make the article look more cool and so on. Same reason, why I don’t take photography seriously.

I do feel like sharing some of my experiences with the rest of the world. And I do it here. Since I don’t intend to make any money out of it, I feel no pressure,or at least not much, to impress people and get likes.

3)Why are you walking barefoot?

I don’t have a specific reason for this. Few years back,I tried barefoot for two months. Then I went back to wearing slippers. I have always loved to keep my feet free, to make contact with the earth without anything in between.

Recently I was in Manali and my slippers broke. I was forced to walk few kilometers barefoot, before I got a lift. And I thought, this isn’t so bad. It had hurt in the beginning, but after few days your skin becomes thick enough.

I do have a pair of shoes, which I use occasionally for hiking in difficult terrains and unknown places after dark.

4)Why don’t you(or when will you) climb Mt. Everest?

I tell people that, I am a climber and they have only a vague idea about what that means. First of all, climbing Mt Everest is mountaineering and this isn’t what I do. I do only Bouldering and sport climbing at the moment.

On a second note, even if I get into mountaineering, I don’t feel like going to a place like Mt Everest, which is a very commercialized peak. These days, it’s more like anyone with a lot money and zero climbing experience can get on top of Everest. I would prefer to go to mountains which are more virgin.

5)You are so happy. I wish I could lead the life like you do.

I don’t think you really want to live like me. May be from our interactions you thought that, I am an only-happy person. But not only me, but almost all the humans have their sad sides, weaknesses and short-comings.

My life-style may seem appealing to you. But when we do such comparisons we normally tend to compare the bad things in your life to the good things in mine.

If you really feel like, this is the life style you want, then you just have to call upon your strength and make the necessary change in your life. Get rid of all the excuses and worry about what will happen in the future.

6)Most of your clothes are old, they have lost their color and some even have little holes in them. Why don’t you through them away? 

Since last year, I don’t have a fixed place of stay anywhere. Whatever I need, I have to contain it in my 70 liter backpack. And there is not much space left in there, after the climbing gears. So I take only 3 pairs of clothes. I admit that these are not the best looking clothes. But I don’t want to through away clothes, before they become unusable. I consider it as a wastage of resources.

Plus, I don’t worry about what people might think about me. I think for a person, who really have a connection with me, will not get affected by the clothes I wear or how I look. And opinions of others, doesn’t matter.

7)Why do you have long hair? (OR) Long hair looks good on you, but only if you shampoo and maintain it regularly. (OR) Why don’t you straighten it?

I never had long hair before. So I am just trying out a new style. For the moment I like it. When I feel like I don’t fancy it anymore I will cut it.

There are always people around you, who will suggest you what you have to do. But you don’t have to listen to them always. If I had done that, I would have never had long hair to begin with. I would have never done travelling,climbing, trekking or anything out of the ordinary.

8)You are travelling alone, don’t you get bored?

Yes, I do get bored sometimes. But who doesn’t. Life isn’t happy-happy all the time. But I prefer,at least to be doing what I want to do, when life isn’t treating me the way I want it to.

Plus, travelling alone doesn’t mean I am always alone. When you are in a place, you of course meet other travelers if you want to.  And at the same time, when you feel like you want to be alone, you have the option to do so. I have observed that, I learn a lot about myself when I travel alone.

The freedom in travelling alone, is another advantage. You want to do something, go ahead and do it. No need to convince someone else or check if the other person have time to do it.

9)Why did you become a vegetarian?

There are two reasons why I don’t eat meat. I believed in these reasons much before I actually turned a vegetarian. But I liked meat and was lazy to change my diet. So I kept these reasons inside me, until they came out to the surface after I had an argument about veg-non veg diet with my two of my friends.

First and foremost reason is that I didn’t want to be responsible for the torture and death of an another living being. It’s not just the killing, but how these animals are treated whole their life. Imagine for a second, you being treated like that by another species for all your life. How would you feel? Some people say, even if I don’t eat there are plenty of other people who do. But at least, you can avoid the suffering of few animals and at the same time become a role model for your friends.

Secondly, the environmental impact caused by the meat industry. There are so many signs that shows that Earth is already reaching its limits. We have been using the resources without any thinking. Let’s not rape the nature any more.

10)You are spending so much time climbing. Why don’t you make it as a profession and get some money while doing it?

This question is more like No 2. I don’t want to mix profession with passion. I have seen people who have done that and most of them loose either one.

Some people like trekking a lot and being in the mountains. After a while they starts a trekking company. Soon they are too busy organizing the treks, and couldn’t get themselves to the mountains. This is why I think mixing profession and passion might be a bad idea if you aren’t extra careful.

11)Don’t you think you have to settle down sometime. What if you regret all this after 10-20 years when you are alone and no one is there to take care of you?

I don’t know. May be I will settle down in the future. At the moment I don’t feel like it and I don’t know how it will be in the future. I don’t want to plan my life based on fears about my future.

Regrets? May be or may be not. Doesn’t matter how you live, regrets are something which will attack you if you don’t have a clear consciousness. It doesn’t matter on what your choices are now, but your state of mind at that time.