2008 July Koblenz / Frankfurt / Home

Hi all, So, I am home in Calgary, Canada after 8 months in New Zealand and 1 week Thailand and 2 weeks Germany/Czech. whoa! I am off to Alaska at the end of July for about 3 weeks by motorbike, whoa! Anyhow, I hope everyone is well and I get to see you all.

My last couple days in Germany I stayed in Koblenz at the Fortress on the hill and took a boat down the Rhine. I had stayed at the Fortress before and wanted to stay again as I enjoyed it so much the first time. It was ok, but I should have tried for a different Castle or place further down the Rhine. Bring dinner as they have nothing except $4 mini burgers. Good breakfast though. Lots of school kids in July.

Koblenz Fortress

Shots from the fortress

Where the Rhein and Mosel come together



The tour down the Rhine is great as you just chill on the top deck of the boat and check out the castles spaced along the hills on the river. Weather was a little rainy, but held out for most of the 6 hour journey. Highly Recommended.

Yum.


Cosmo Kramer's home town, do you get it?

Stayed in Frankfurt at the "Frankfurt Hostel" which is right by the train station and quite good. Ended up drinking with a bunch of Americans from 19 to 33 in age and talked politics. Someone may have gotten something out of it. Frankfurt is a forgettable city and no bars take credit cards so I was thankful the Americans bought me a couple of beers once I ran out of Euro.

Next stop Alaska.

2008 July Koln / Cologne

Time to visit Martin one of my Stuttgart mates who lives in Koln right now. I found out Koln is the Gay capital of Europe. This must be difficult to claim, but easy to notice the weekend I was there as it was Christopher street day (became a gay festival day after cops in San Francisco beat down gays on Christopher street which prompted human rights movements and the festival). Lots of dudes in leather, when they were wearing tops. Reminded me of Calgary, kidding!

What else does Koln have? Kolsch Beer and the Dom. I think Koln boasts about 8 different kinds of Kolsch which is a tasty brew only made in Koln. When I was there in 2003 I didn't realize there were 8 kinds and this time I found my fav to be Gaffel, which no one else loves as much as I do.

Oh and the Dom, which you see as you come in on the train, it's big! I found a way to take vertical pans to get the whole church in, check it out. The tourist tower is 500 steps and takes about 20 minutes one way.

Dom normal shot

Dom in Panorama
Inside the Dom

Martin and I up to Dom tower


Shot of the Koln TV tower and other things

Super tight 20 minute climb up these stairs.

Why is Germany so cool? Great people, partying til dawn, Porto-Urinals at festivals, automated bottle deposit machines and drinking in the streets with bottle openers as you exit the store. Oh and girls drinking beer on the street at 1 am while they escort their bike beside them.

Convenience, see the bottle opener as you leave the shop!


Sexy!

Outdoor electronica party.

and after 5:30 am.
Spanish girls we met on our Kolsch Krawl



Why is Germany not cool? Die hard smokers; Germany is in the process of banning smoking inside bars (about 2 years behind most of the world). One hardcore club, in order to stay legal, made everyone sign a contract to accept smoking inside the bar. Too many Stags and Stagettes And Electronica, nuff said.

Simpsons in German



Hey Martin, you awesome and a great friend. Thank you for the hospitality and going with out sleep.

2008 July Czech and Praha

Berlin to Praha / Prague by train. Not much to report on the train ride. Met another American who eventually discussed politics with. My line is simple, "How can a country that only 8% passport holders rule a world they have never seen?" Nuff said.

Milan and Renata are looking good, they bought a nice apartment 25 minutes out of Praha and they are loving it. The kitchen was still being completed, which is a separate contractor in Czech. Interesting.

Went swimming at an abandon mine called "America" where communist prisons were slave driven from 1949 to 1953 until the mine was shut down. We also saw "Mexico" which had up to 1400 prisons at one point. Now "America" is an amazing swimming spot once you can get down the slightly dangerous rock faces. Well worth it.

Tough entry



Random dog stopped by to say hi.



Will be great when the bridge gets finished


Cool Panoramics.


Milan and Renata having a swim.

Tried Kofola which was the USSR version of Coke while the Iron Curtain was in place. A girl from the train said that when the wall came down that was the first thing she did, try Coke, Wow. Kofola wasn't that bad.

A night in Praha, Prehistoric restaurant,

lots of meat in Czech.

Modern art

Memorial to the victims of Communism

Saint Charles bridge and more.


Thanks Milan and Renata for having me. Hope to see you in NZ.

June 2008 Berlin

From Thailand to Berlin via Frankfurt. My old girlfriend from 4 years ago picked me up from Tegel Airport and brought me back to her place where her new boyfriend Roman a director/ photographer was preparing for a photo shoot. The flat, located in Charlottenburg, Berlin, was very cool and much bigger than I expected for European standards with the elevator opening right in to the main workspace of the flat. Had a nice big room to myself, thank you A and R.

My room for the 4 days

Entrance of apartment.



Went to Fusion an outdoor rave type festival that goes for 4 days. We only went for the day which was enough for me and managed to skip the 40 euro entry fee ($65 US). On the way I got up to 180 km on the AutoBahn and got two photo radar tickets. The AutoBahns are not as good as you think and have few limitless sections. Antje, let me know what I owe you for the speed tickets and also when Fusion is next year!

Watch Germany get outplayed by Spain in the 2008 Euro Cup at Roman's friend's River bar. We chilled on beds as the Spanish team captured the title 1 -0. A quiet place to watch the game, but very cool and I'm glad we checked it out. Cool toilets which are located in shipping containers. It's a bloody big bar.

On my last day in Berlin Roman had to take some driving shots a new Infinity car that is coming out in Europe for the first time. He ask me to drive one of the subject cars that was being chased by the other through the streets of Berlin. A bit stressful as Roman was directing from the back of a convertible BMW and had us going all over, but I really enjoyed myself and managed to avoid crashing into anyone. Cool way to get to know Berlin.

Roman checking photos as I drive behind them.



Thank you Antje and Roman for having me in Berlin and I look forward to seeing you again. Best wishes, Brad.

Interesting Bike.

Roman and Antje.

June 2008 Koh Samui Day 8, Thai summary

Baan Talay resort looking in from the ocean. Koh Samui.


Friendly front desk of Baan Talay Resort.


Back in Samui I had one day left before I headed to Germany and still hadn't bought a pair of sun glasses. So, my last day I debated between renting a scooter for $6 and take the bus to and from the big mall for $8. Even though the scooter was hard on the leg/butt I went for it and managed a 2 hour deal as that's all I really needed. Declined the helmet option as you do in Thailand and made my way to the big mall where I picked up a pair of shades for $6, yay! Everything was sweet until on my way back the police blocked off the road and pulled all the scooters in to this parking lot to hand out various fines! Apparently it is the law to wear a helmet and the fine on that day was $10 which was all the baht I had left for lunch, etc. I saw 2 people out of 1000 wearing helmets, so basically the cops made a ton. It was a bit dicey as I almost missed my flight out because of this. Oh Samui.

Thai summary:
- miss Bangkok as you will be able to get every you desire anywhere else and it's a hour transfer to town from the airport. Unless you want to see the rats the size of cats?
- Koh Samui, similar to tourist spots in Mexico and Hawaii, good beach. Try to stay closer to bars to avoid expensive taxis.
- Koh Phangan, will check it out next time, I think?
- Koh Tao, best spot. Good and cheap. Probably only need 1 week here. Great Accommodation and diving. $25US would get you a great sleep, food and some beer.
- Ass injury, all seats and beds are particularly hard in Thailand.
- Mosiquitos are very strong, you don't even know you're bit until you get to Germany!
- Best bathrooms, Koh Samui airport.

All about the scooters.


I know they could add another chair!

Only a tourist would get this photo.

June 2008 Koh Tao

Off to one of the diving spots of Thailand, Koh Tao, which is a 2 hour boat ride from Samui normally. Unfortunately I was on a boat that picked up way too many ruined people from the Full moon party in Koh Phangan two days before. I would have been at this party too, but as noted before I had to cut into my time in Thailand due to the leg/butt injury.

Over crowded boat, check out the pile of boxes and bags.


Arrived at Koh Tao and after looking for a place on the main beach I got a ride up to Buddha view that this American in Bangkok told me about. Nice spot with a great beach bar and well set up for diving, but unfortunately they had no rooms. They took me over to Tropicana next door and got me set up. Great room for $12 US/night, manual flush toilet (you have to dump a dish of water to flush it), great balcony located in Chalok Baan Kao Bay which is 2 km from the main beach and partying area.

Tropicana room

This was fine as I came to Koh Tao to dive. Only draw back to Chalok Baan Kao Bay is a super swallow beach that collects some garbage.

Tropicana is great and good value for budget travel, if you want to spend more you can get really good rooms at Buddha View, which also has a nice pool. Oh and an Amazing BBQ that I went to every night! You basically pick your food and pay accordingly. Huge prawns, marlin steak, fillet mignon wrapped in bacon, skewers and always some sneaky spicy dish in the buffet (about $8 US for a really big feed).
Fish made from a plastic bottle.

Buddha beach bar.


Finally some diving. Went for 2 dives, White Rock and Japanese Gardens. Good visibility and heaps of fish. Water was 30 degree C. Slipped on the boat and hurt my butt again so took a couple days off. Had 2 more dives, South West Pinacle and White Rock. Came across the aggressive Thai Trigger Fish, which does attack by ramming and biting, but had no issues.
Final 2 dives in Chumphon Pinacle and Twins. Saw a couple of Reef sharks (1.8m) at Chumphon pinacle which I wasn't looking forward to, but really enjoyed. They are so wide and remind me of the thickness of a boxer or bull dog.
Over all the diving was really good, warm, clear and the boats were easy to get set up, jump off and climb back into. Hope to get a couple photos from my dive buddy Solomon.

Here's the Scooter I rented which was calling my name. Koh Tao is a smaller version of the greek island Paros, that rents scooters with no helmets and is where I first developed my need to get on two wheels. Roads are a lot worst though and there is really only 5 km to drive.


Shot of the street and typical Thai drivers.


Me in front of Shark bay which is one bay over from where I stayed.