Sunday, March 31, 2002

TR Cambodia

3/25 –3/31/02

When I left off in the last report we were about to leave Bangkok for Phnom Penh (PP), Cambodia. As I also mentioned previously I had prebooked this portion of the trip as a complete turnkey, private tour both for expediency and safety. In retrospect it was the correct decision because we would never have been able to cram in all the sights and education we received in five days by ourselves. I don’t think safety is a big concern so if you have lots of time you could certainly visit Cambodia on you own for much less money.

We departed Bangkok airport early Monday morning, March 25th – my birthday. I thought that was only fair since I had taken my sports manager to a marathon in Ocala, FL for her birthday? After arriving in PP and paying $20 for a visa at the airport (that took one whole page of the limited space in our passports) we were met by our new tour guide and driver. They drove us to our hotel first – a 4-star hotel that had seen better days and although it was located only one block from the US embassy the neighborhood looked pretty rough. But then again I had noticed from the air and the short drive that the whole city looked rough and to be in shambles. It reminded me of San Jose, Costa Rica except the infrastructure (roads, etc) was in even worse shape. Only the major roads and boulevards were paved – the others were dirt! And PP is the capital city of Cambodia with a population of 1 million. The other thing I quickly noticed was the traffic. There is no public transportation in PP so there are lots of cars and even more (millions) of motorbikes and bicycles. And like Rome and Cairo there didn’t seem to be any traffic rules? Vehicles and bikes were going in all directions – on both sides of the road! I was certainly glad that we had hired a local driver to get us through the maze.

The first stop on the tour was the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, PP’s main tourist sights. The Royal Palace itself is off limits since the king still lives there but many buildings on the grounds are open to the public. The Silver Pagoda or Preah Vihear Keo Morakot (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) takes its name from the floor of the temple covered with 5329 silver tiles. It also houses the famous Emerald Buddha. I was kind of upset with a gimmick they have in PP. Each tourist site has its own licensed guides so that our private guide had to hand us over to another guide which meant a ‘tip’ at each site. Our guide at the Royal Palace was a history professor at the University in PP. He made more from tips by moonlighting at the Palace than his monthly salary of $50 at the university. The average salary in Cambodia is about $30 per month. So a $1 tip is greatly appreciated.

The other thing we learned quickly is that the local currency ‘the riel’ (4000 per $1 US) was useless. Everyone quoted and requested US dollars. I exchanged $10 at the market later and the only way I could get rid of it was to give it away as tips. Make sure you take US traveler checks and cash since there are no ATMs in the country! The hotels and tourist restaurants will take plastic; otherwise you must have US dollars.

We then visited the Central Market located of course in the center of PP. All the locals do their shopping here on a daily basis. There are few tourists in PP so this is indeed a local market and you must be prepared to negotiate prices and still expect to pay 2 to 3 times what the locals pay (but still get a heck of a bargain because everything is dirt cheap). Now it was time for our first taste of Cambodian food at lunch. All meals were included in our tour package but the disadvantage was that most meals were a set menu and so we ate Cambodian and Thai food for lunch and dinner every day. We could have had it for breakfast too since the breakfast buffets all had a local and American side. But back to lunch! We received the daily special – a whole local fish steamed at our table with local spices and of course fried rice and veggies. Actually it was very tasty.

In the afternoon we visited the National Museum. It houses many of the original statues from the Temples at Angkor Wat. They had to be moved there to save them from looters/thieves. The statues at the temples are copies. Another thing we quickly realized about Cambodia and Asia in general. The only air conditioning in the country is in the hotel rooms of the international hotels. The lobbies, restaurants, public buildings, etc – NOTHING but the hotel room is air-conditioned! We damn near died from heat exhaustion a few times! Just walking and standing around in the museum was a brutal task -as interesting as the museum was I just wanted to leave and go back to our air conditioned car.
Our final stop of the first day was Wat Phnom (wat = pagoda in Cambodia) founded on the only hill in PP. Legend is that in 1372 a local widow, Lady Penh, stumbled across a floating trunk containing four bronze Buddha statues. She saw them as bearers of good fortune and had a small temple built for them on a hill overlooking the convergence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers. This hill became known as Penh’s hill –Phnom Penh – a name adopted by the city.
Finally and thankfully they dropped us off back at our hotel – and air-conditioned room! Both our guidebook and tour guide advised us not to walk around PP after dark (the only safety concern we received). We followed the advice and stayed in our air-conditioned room.

At least until 6am the next morning when I had to get out to do a training run. I was surprised and relieved to find other runners out there winding their way down to the river about a mile from the hotel where lots of locals were running and exercising. I had no problem with traffic for the first part of my run but on the way back I found myself in rush hour traffic and quickly had to adapt to survive. I had to run with the traffic and claim my piece of the road and somehow everyone else seemed to avoid me? I don’t know whether to call it trust or stupidity but it worked?

Now it was time to continue our tour with a visit to Tuol Sleng Museum or Khmer Rouge S-21 Prison. During their reign of terror the Khmer converted a secondary school into a prison. Most of the classrooms were converted into small cells (3ft x 6 ft) but 10 rooms were used to interrogate (read torture and kill) prisoners. The museum has many graphic photos of tortured and dead prisoners including children. It is very gruesome reminder of what went wrong. Over 20,000 victims were imprisoned in S-21. Only seven survived! There were also many photos of the mass graves or killing fields outside of PP but we did not go to the actual sites. I will send you a photo of the prison/house rules. I guarantee that if you post them in your kitchen and implement them immediately that you will never have any insubordination problems with your family.

Our last stop in PP was at the Russian market, a local market that had been frequented by the Russians during their stay in PP. It is noted mostly for its silver and jewellery.
Two days is quite adequate to visit PP and we weren’t disappointed to be leaving for our journey north to Angkor Wat/Siem Reap.
It’s only a 20-minute flight to Siem Reap which is Cambodia’s most touristy town and has many modern international hotels. We were rewarded with a new 4-star hotel that had just opened in Feb. It even had air conditioning in the lobby and restaurant (and it would be appreciated). Although Siem Reap is much smaller than PP the traffic was just as bad.
Our new guide and driver escorted us first to the park entrance/HQ at Angkor to buy a 3-day pass. Foreigners must buy a pass to enter the park and cannot drive in the park. Since there is no public transportation this means that you must hire a taxi or a car and driver for your visits. There are over 40 temples and complexes within Angkor and you would need at least a week to visit all of them. Thus we could only visit the major temples and sites and I will just try to summarize some of the highlights for you.

Angkor Wat – built in the 12th century. The centerpiece of Angkor. A huge temple surrounded by a wall and a moat. The architecture is complex and sophisticated and the statues and relief carvings in the sandstone are intricate and spectacular. There are miles and miles of sandstone carvings depicting the history and religious beliefs of the rulers and people of that period.

Angor Thom – a city built 2 Km north of Angkor Wat in the 12th century to house about 1 Million people. It was surrounded by a wall and a moat with four entrances, one at each compass point. Directly in the center of the city is The Banyon, a huge temple with 54 towers, each containing four heads, each head facing a compass point. It is widely conjectured what or whom the heads are supposed to represent but the common belief is King Jayavarman VII. There are many temples within the grounds of Angkor Thom as well as the Terrace of the Elephants – a long terrace containing sculptures of 3-headed elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King.
All of these temples and complexes have intricate carvings depicting the history and religion of the periods. Our guide spent a lot of time explaining the carvings and history to us. Without his knowledge we would have had no idea what the various carvings meant.

Banteay Srei –the citadel of the women. Built in the 12th century. Renowned for its intricate carvings and decorations in pink sandstone and is in a state of remarkable preservation

Ta Prohm – 12th century. It was discovered in the 19th century and has been left untouched by archaeologists. Shrouded in jungle, trees grow amongst the stone pillars. Scenes from the recent movie ‘Tomb Raider’ were shot here.

There are many others but I can best sum up our experience by comparing the temples and ruins to the pyramids of Egypt. They are younger but the architecture is much more sophisticated and complex and the carvings much more vast and intricate. If you like to visit archaeological wonders then you must visit Angkor!
We finished our last tour day with an obligatory visit to a local school/factory where the government trained the locals in the ancient art/skill of carving – both wood and sandstone. It is all done by hand and so each piece is unique. We bought a sculpture of an Apsara dancer (the mythical dancer who is part female and part god) carved in Cambodian marble for $150. I don’t believe you could touch it in a gallery here for less than $1000? Now we are ready to leave – or are we?

All the while we were touring around Angkor I was observing and wondering if I could fulfill a hidden agenda – to run a marathon in Angkor/Cambodia! I had researched and determined that there is a half marathon held each Dec in Angkor but no marathon. A local runner had described the half marathon course to me – it is essentially a loop around the Mini Circle, a road that travels around most of the major temple sites. I asked the driver and guide to drive the loop to confirm the course. It was doable! The problem was getting there and support because I would have to do it very early to escape the heat. I had even booked an extra unscheduled day on the tour in the hope/expectation that I would be able to do it.

I asked the driver if he would be available to drive me there, assist me and what the charge would be. $10! I felt so guilty about asking him to pick me up at 4am that I insisted he take $20 – a full day’s pay! The tour guide, not to be left out, stated that he used to run half marathons and would like to accompany me for the first half? I was skeptical but didn’t care. The plan was on! At 4am on Friday the driver picked me up at the hotel. My sports manager did not bother waking up? We picked up the guide and proceeded to the west entrance of Angkor Wat. The marathon started at 4:15am in total darkness and a cool temperature of 80+F. As suspected the guide was not fast and after ½ mile I quit trying to run with him and forged ahead at an 8 minute pace. I wanted to get as many miles in as possible before sunrise! The driver continued to follow me and light up the road/path with his headlights. Otherwise it was so dark that I could never have run. The roads are in the park and although there are some local homes/huts along some stretches there was no electricity and thus no lights! Around 8Km the course makes a small loop back on itself and at that point I met my guide coming the other way. He was so discouraged that he quit, got in the car and helped provide support for the rest of the run. It was quite a scene – this white, mostly naked body running down the middle of a deserted road in the middle of a jungle being backlit with the high beams of a car. I think that apparition helped to scare off many of the dogs I encountered when I passed through a small settlement about 12Km into the race. But there were some dogs that decided to give chase and only backed off when I challenged them.

I had prearranged with my support crew to stop every 15 minutes (about 3km) for water as I knew that I would have to drink lots of fluid. I had given the driver money to buy eight 1-liter bottles of water and to put them on ice so I could also use them to cool down. They couldn’t seem to grasp the need to continue running while drinking so I just gave up and stopped for my water break even though it cost me time. A few kilometers after my encounter with the dogs I was running down a very dark stretch of road when I noticed a white or yellow streak slithering across the road right beneath my feet? It took about 5 microseconds to register what it was and another 5 microseconds to leap 5 feet vertically in the air. But it took an eternity as I hung there in mid-air defying gravity and watched a snake slither across the road and into the jungle before I allowed my body to drop back to earth! I had no idea what kind of snake it was. When I went back to the car to ask my support crew they were laughing so hard at my antics that they had not looked at he snake. Can I deduct snake-delay time from my finish time?

Soon I was back at the west entrance to Angkor Wat and passed the Half in 1:50 plus change. As I was following the route around Angkor Wat the second time I was treated to a spectacular sunrise lighting up the temple. Lots of people pay big bucks to go out there early for just that scene and I was getting it for free and I was still lucid enough to enjoy it. However that was about to change rapidly. As the sun rose so did the heat and humidity. And so did the problems with traffic as the locals started riding their bikes and motorbikes to work. By 20 miles I started sucking on sugar candy to prevent the low blood sugar problem I had in Bangkok and in addition to my stop at each water break I started walking for about 30 seconds while pouring cold water over my head to cool down. This slowed me down even more but at least I was able to continue running to the finish line and crossed it in 3:54:50. I was very hot and tired but had suffered no illness or injury and had eight days to recover for Bali.

After a quick cool-down my driver took me back to the hotel to find - guess what? My sports manager was still in bed sleeping! Some people have a tough life? But I still had time for a quick shower, breakfast and a nap before the guide and driver came to transport us to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok. We planned to overnight near the airport to catch an early morning flight to Hong Kong. After two weeks of Thai and Chinese food our only goal/desire for that night was to eat some American food. A pepper steak and French fries tasted mighty good!

On Saturday we flew to HK and stayed overnight at a 5-star hotel overlooking Causeway Bay in downtown HK. We had two priorities: meet with a friend and ex-work colleague of Nicole’s for dinner and eat only American food before continuing on to Bali where we figured we would be eaing Indonesian food. There was a minor problem with sticker shock. After spending only $10 per day for three meals, paying $20 for a mid-size pizza was a shock. For dinner our friend was gracious when we took him to an English pub. I had Shepherd’s Pie – the first time I had seen mashed potatoes in two weeks. Funny how you can miss the little things?
We also went window-shopping in HK to see if it was still a shopper’s paradise – it’s NOT! I priced a 128mB memory card for my digital camera – only $5 cheaper than I can buy it here in Sarasota. Which means I can buy it a lot cheaper in NYC or on the net than in HK.

Now it was time to catch the next flight to Bali. Other than the marathon at the end of the stay, nothing was planned or structured for our 10 days there which meant that we could have some rest time and do our own thing. But that is the subject of the next report.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

TR Thailand Temple Run

3/18 – 3/25/02

Because of the length of time we were gone on this trip I plan to split the report into three separate reports chronologically in time.

Actually this trip was planned in a very short time since it was an alternative to my main goal for the spring – to run a few more countries in Europe. However all my attempts to contact the race directors in Yugoslavia, Latvia and Lithuania went unanswered. In addition the house situation in Florida clouded matters because we didn’t know when we would have to move. Finally the townhouse sold with a closing date of April 30th which meant the European marathons would be difficult to fit into our schedule anyway. So I decided to look into a new marathon being run in Thailand in late March. It appealed to me because it was being run outside of Bangkok which is polluted and has too much traffic. However I wanted/needed a second marathon in the area to spread the travel costs over and found a candidate in Bali, Indonesia two weeks later. Since we would have to stay and travel the region for two weeks maybe I could find a third marathon?

When trying to decide where we might visit during the interim period I remembered our son Jason telling us how much he enjoyed visiting the temples and ruins at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Why not? Maybe I could find a marathon in Cambodia? The basic outline of the itinerary was set. After countless hours on the Internet I had the itinerary and reservations confirmed. Because I had decided to arrange private tours within Thailand and Cambodia for expediency and safety I needed to save money elsewhere and we agreed to use some of our frequent flyer miles and hotel points. That turned out to be a wise or lucky decision because we had to accept first/business class air tickets (for only 20,000 miles more than economy) and they were a blessing. I would not fly to Asia again unless it was first or business class because you spend too much time on planes and in airports!

Both marathons offered packages that included entry fees and discounted hotel rates that were very reasonable. Combined with the private tours we only had one additional night in Bangkok and five in Bali to cover and we cashed in some Sheraton points to arrange those hotels nights. So far our costs were only about 25% of the actual cost of the trip and we would only have to cover meals and tours in Bali. We were ready! (Sorry for the preamble but it is important to understand that these trips just don’t magically appear – there is a lot of planning and work involved. Even more when you are not sure about the local political climate and safety.) But now – on with the trip.

We left Sarasota late afternoon on March 18th and as usual it did not take too long to hit our first road (or is that air) bump. When we arrived in Vancouver, BC at 11pm to transfer to Cathay Pacific for the Asian leg, we were informed that the flight was delayed from a 1:30am departure to 4:30am. Not enough time to bother going to a hotel so we decided to wait in the airport. Well the flight finally left at 8am after we tried to sleep on the floor of the airport for six hours. What really pissed us off was that no Cathay rep showed up to advise us that the first class lounge was open and we could have slept on a comfortable couch in the lounge. Fourteen hours later we arrived in Hong Kong and since we had missed our connection we had to wait another two hours (at least this time we enjoyed the lounge). Finally 42 hours after we left Florida we arrived in Bangkok! But our luggage, or at least my luggage, did not arrive with us! So after putting in a lost baggage report, etc we finally, finally arrived at the Sheraton 43 hours after we left home. Needless to say we were a bit tired! It was 7pm and our tour started the next day with a 7am transfer to the airport to fly north to Chiang Mai. Finally (for us and for you too) the vacation is truly about to start.

7am. We are on our way to the airport (still without my luggage that didn’t show up at the hotel as promised by Cathay). Depart 9:30 and arrive Chiang Mai at 10:30 to be met by a private tour guide and driver. We chose Chiang Mai because we had visited Bangkok and the beaches in South Thailand on a previous visit and decided to explore the northern part of the country this time. Chiang Mai is the capital of the northern region and is the main center for hilltribe trekking. Northern Thailand’s hilltribes, about 750K people living in about 3500 villages, have so far preserved their way of life with little change over thousands of years.

Our first stop of the morning was a Handicraft Village where there were numerous shops and factories making labor intensive products such as furniture, wood carvings, silk, etc. We visited a few that were interesting but then told our guide enough. We didn’t come to shop but to see Thailand. So after lunch she took us up Doi Suthep mountain that rises steeply on the western edge of the city to visit Wat Phra Doi Suthep (wat = temple), the North’s holiest temple or shrine because its chedi is supposed to contain fragments of Buddha. The temple is very colorful and striking as are most Buddhist temples in Thailand and commands a great view overlooking the city. It was a pleasant change to get out of the city. We then returned to the city for a brief tour around the city including the old quarter set within a 2Km square moat. That evening we went to the Thailand Cultural Center for dinner and a show that featured traditional Thai music and dances.

The following morning I ran around the moat of the old city (twice) before we headed north out of Chiang Mai to visit an elephant camp and one hilltribe. There are still about 5000 elephants left in Thailand. They were used as work animals for logging, etc but now are kept in camps to do shows and provide rides for tourists. We rode an elephant for one hour across rivers and up a mountain trail. My biggest surprise was that they could navigate so well up and down mountain trails. But are they ever slow! We covered about 1½ miles in one hour. After the elephant ride we rode on a bamboo raft for a few miles down the Ping River. It was the dry hot season so the water was low but it was a nice relaxing ride.

Time for lunch at an orchid farm before we visit the Hmong hilltribe. Although a few of the traditional family huts have electricity for lighting there is no water, plumbing, etc. They still grind and prepare rice with the same tools that they have been using for hundreds of years and cook over open fires inside the huts. I took a picture of an 80 year-old Hmong woman and her mother (100+). They were both quite healthy in spite of a very tough life?

Now it was time to head back to Bangkok where the marathon was being staged and hopefully reunite with my lost luggage (I did!). As mentioned previously we had booked a ‘marathon package’ and now I understood how and why the packages were put together. The Thailand Temple Run was organized by a runner who wanted to offer an alternative to the Bangkok Marathon. It just so happens that the runner (a Swede) is also the manager of the Amari Watergate Hotel, a 5-star hotel that is the flagship of a chain of hotels throughout Asia. We stayed at the Watergate since it was the host hotel and all the activities were held there. Part of the package was a tour of the floating market followed by a tour of the course. All these benefits were included in the entry fee but I had to pay extra for my sports manager. We had visited a floating market in Bangkok on our previous trip that was a ‘real market’ for the locals. That market is gone and has been replaced with a new floating market that is about 60Kms outside of Bangkok. The new one in my opinion was built strictly as a tourist trap and not worth the visit. But it was close to where the marathon was being run so was included in the package. The marathon route started and finished at the Phumrinkudeethong Temple in Samut Songkram, a rural community about 60km west of Bangkok. The course was a narrow country road winding past plantations (bananas, lichys, lemons) and rice fields. It also passed a total of 18 temples in the half marathon loop before returning on the same path. There were many (too many) twists and turns in the course. There were a number of huts or dwellings along the route and it seemed to me that every family in Asia owns at least two dogs. And since most of the homes don’t have doors or windows the dogs are not kept indoors. I was a bit concerned about the number of dogs along the course?

The package also included the usual carbo load dinner at the Amari Watergate. I had to pay $17 for my sports manager and all we got was a single SMALL plate of pasta, bread and a dessert. Water was included but you had to pay for booze or a soft drink. And there were no seconds. We could have gone to any Italian restaurant in Bangkok and both eaten better for $17! Now it was time for bed since we had to get up at 2am to catch the bus at 2:45am. Needless to say my sports manager was not going to accompany me to the start line!

Sunday (3/24) was M- day! We arrived at the P temple at 4am. No need to worry about warm ups or being cold before the start. It was close to 80F at 4am! There were about 150 runners in the Full and 250 in the Half. I and only one other runner from the US – in fact from the Sarasota running Club ran topless. Everyone else wore a singlet or T-shirt. No way – not when it is 80+ at the start! After the monks from the temple sprayed all the runners with holy water for good luck the race started at 5am. There were a few streetlights for the first ½ mile and then we were running in total darkness on a small, narrow road in the country. Couldn’t see my feet so had to focus on the silhouette of the runners in front. I ran the first 5Km with my friend from Sarasota but then he started to drop off and I wanted to continue to push while the temperature was still a cool 80F. I couldn’t see or read my watch and I couldn’t find any distance markers until 16Km so had no idea what my pace was until then. Sub 8 minutes at 16Km. Thank goodness for the race volunteers and police who were stationed at many of the turns. They prevented us/me from getting lost and more importantly shone flashlights on the road so that we could see and to caution the many cyclists and bikers to watch for runners. About 5:30 am the locals started going to work. There were very few cars but lots of bikes and motorbikes – AND none of them had lights. I had several near collisions until I started shouting whenever I heard or saw a bike approach. My other concern also turned real as there were many dogs along the route. Most seemed too tired and hot or afraid to bother the runners but there were a few mangy, snarly dogs that caused me to slow down and challenge them to back off. They must get abused and kicked a lot because they would normally back down and cower away when challenged – but it was still a big nuisance!

It remained dark until 6am and then there was just enough light so that we could see the road but I still couldn’t read my watch. I thought/hoped that the road would be safer now from the bike traffic but it only seemed to get worse as they now went faster? I crossed the Half in 1:43 – way too fast for my training and the heat conditions but I decided to continue to push and take advantage of the cool (now mid 80s) temps. Another thing I did like about the race was the race bib/number scheme. The race bib contained both your age group and number. As I approached the Half the lead runners were coming back and I began counting the runners in my age group: one about 10 minutes ahead and a second about 5 minutes. I caught a 3rd runner in my group right before the Half so I should have been in 3rd place at that point. “Continue to push Maddog”. I caught 2nd place about 30K and continued to push although I knew I was slowing and beginning to hurt. However about 34K a Japanese runner in my group caught up to me and we began a ‘cat and mouse’ game. Neither of us wanted to take the lead at that point – just hang on to the runner in front and make a final kick at the end. Finally I saw a 38K marker and decided to go for it. I quickly left him behind but I was starting to hurt real bad. I felt I could hang on for just 4K more. But 10 minutes later, when I should have reached the 40K mark, another marker said 38K - AGAIN! That killed me! I knew that I did not have enough left to push for another 4K. Sure enough the runner passed me and made his final kick and I couldn’t respond.

By now in fact I knew that I was in serious trouble. I was extremely overheated and my fingers and arms started to go tingly and numb and I was experiencing dizziness and nausea. Thankfully I have been there, done that and knew that my blood-sugar level had dropped to zero. Unfortunately there were no more water/aid stations before the finish line so I had to struggle on. Finally crossed the finish line in 3:35 with only two priorities: get my body cooled down and get some sugar into me. The first priority was easy as there was a large bucket of crushed ice waiting right at the finish line and I liberally applied ice until I lowered my body temperature back to around 100+. I started to look for a coke or something with sugar but after a few minutes I was so dizzy that I couldn’t stand up any more so I just collapsed on to the temple grounds and waited for a race volunteer to come to my aid. It only took a few minutes and when I explained my problem and need that wonderful guy quickly brought me an ice-cold coke. You can’t believe how quickly the body absorbs that stuff. Within two minutes of guzzling that coke the tingling and numbness went away and I could get up and walk around. However I didn’t feel like waiting around for the awards so I tried to find the results. Duh! They had another great system. When I crossed the finish line they handed me a finisher’s medal, a piece of paper with my official finish time and a small plastic card with my group placing. I had been so sick and out of it at the finish all I had remembered was the medal.

It turned out that I had placed 4th. I still have no idea where #2 was or came from because I know that I deeked it out for 3rd place – and lost! However the awards did go five deep and were quite nice although just the standard trophy type. I later learned that I had been the first non-Asian and American to cross the finish line – 1st overseas runner as they called it? Back to the hotel for a quick shower and a nap.

Later that night I made another mistake by going to the ‘Gala Awards Banquet’. Cost another $23 to take my sports manager and again it was not worth it.
But overall I still have to give the race and the management good marks. It is certainly a better alternative than running a marathon in Bangkok itself.
Now it is time to pack and move on to Cambodia. But let’s leave that for the next trip report.