Last night, I caught a nice 2nd-class overnight bus from Bangkok (along with my mate Jutta; and this morning, I arrived in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand's largest city. The bus last night was quite luxurious (very comfy seats, snacks served in-trip), but not exactly perfect: they played a loud and annoying Thai movie for half the night; and the air-con was on far too strong, which meant that I almost froze to death in my t-shirt and shorts. As such, I barely slept during the trip, and I arrived in Chiang Mai groggy and exhausted. Still, it's very nice to be here: after the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Chiang Mai (although still a big place) is refreshingly serene and peaceful.
It's downright impossible to believe, but as of today, my life as a 21-year-old has officially come to a close. Today was the big day, Jan Third: happy 22nd birthday to me! I didn't do all that much to celebrate: just the usual hanging out, grabbing dinner, and shmoozing down in the Kabul lounge and bar. I didn't even partake in any birthday drinking: seeing as I was still recovering from an unfortunate lunch, I elected to just sip on water all evening instead. Birthdays are always good: but I must say that as birthdays go, 22 really is something of an anticlimax after the feistiness of 21.
I made it to the Kabul hostel by about 4pm this afternoon — only to find the hostel staff hopelessly knee-deep in some sort of paperwork (how much paperwork can a hostel have?), and a queue of about 30 people waiting to check-in before me. Bloody Spanish: they really are an inefficient bunch, aren't they? Anyway, at least they're inefficient with a smile. I grabbed a sandwich for lunch, and played a game of pool in the hostel lounge, while I waited to check-in — which I was eventually able to do, about an hour later. My introductory first night in Barcelona wasn't a massive one, but it was good relaxed fun nonetheless.
Like Madrid itself, we were feeling extremely lazy and tranquilo today: so after our paella lunch, Miguel, Emmanuelle, the Aussie Indian girl (Shomare) and myself cruised over to one of the city's many cinema complexes. We decided to see American Gangster, a new Ridley Scott film starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Very well-produced movie, although quite violent and a little disturbing. The film was dubbed: and although I've by now seen plenty of Spanish-dubbed movies, the "Spanish Spanish" took quite a while to get used to (all that lisping and rapid-fire talking, it hurts my poor Peruano ears). Miguel obviously had no problem with the dubbing; but Emmanuelle and Shomare didn't understand much of what was happening. They just came along for the ride.
I didn't have long to spend in Frankfurt — just tonight — and I made it a quiet one. I did a little bit of shopping in the area around Frankfurt Hbf (central station): it's a seedy and unattractive red-light area; but it's also packed with numerous indistinguishable cheap variety stores, where I was able to finish off some of the things that I still hadn't replaced since losing them (e.g. new headlamp, new combination padlocks). The free pasta dinner at Stay and Learn was good: and I met an interesting Brazilian guy over dinner, as well as a big group of Italian students (mainly girls), with whom I had a nice shmooze. Other than that, it was just a bit of online time — I met a random Peruvian girl at the cafe down the road — and then off to bed, in preparation for tomorrow's early start.
The long 3-legged train ride from Kitzbühel to Frankfurt took up most of today. From Kitzbühel-Hahnenkamm station (the secondary station at Kitzbühel, where there's no office or ticket machine, just the platforms and the tracks), I jumped on the 10:55am local train back to Wörgl; and from there (with a mere 6-minute change gap!), I caught another local train up to Rosenheim, which is just over the German border. Then, it was 4½ hours on an InterCity train, direct from Rosenheim to Frankfurt (via Munich, Stuttgart and Heidelberg). Not the most eventful of days — but no problems on the trains, and I reached Frankfurt at a reasonable hour.
Back in Oz, we feel like Chicken Tonight; but here in Austria, they feel like Uncle Ben's. Tonight's dinner was quick, cheap and easy: with a bit of rice, a bit of vegies, and a bit of Uncle Ben's stir-fry curry mix, I had me a delicious (and enormous) serving of curry, courtesy of the Snowbunnys kitchen. Now that Craig, Sarah and Kade have buggered off, I'm back to my usual big, unoriginal and economical cooking tricks — but hey, it floats my boat. And everyone said that it smelled great, too.
Things were a little messy this morning, after last night's big crawl. I woke up rather hung-over, to find that (after 3 privileged nights) I'm now sharing my room with 4 new people (2 Aussie couples from Melbourne), who informed me upon arising that I was snoring my head off all night (hey, they should kiss my a$$ — I could have done worse). Plus, I went downstairs, to find my beanie randomly hanging on a hook in the kitchen (WTF?). Anyway, a good Snowbunnys breakfast cured me a bit, as well as giving me my voice back (must have been all the passive smoking at Flannigans that robbed me of it — gawdammit Austria, could you please enter the 21st century and pass some anti-smoking laws!). And heading up to the Kitzbühelerhorn, for another day of skiing, was more than enough to complete the curing process.
Ziss is how ve do things in Osstria: after ve go skiing, ve have some fun, ja! And as they say: when in Austria... you know what I mean. For my first-ever European "après-ski" evening, we didn't do anything too big. It was a fairly relaxed evening at Snowbunnys: the place was rather quiet tonight (much like the slopes during the day), so it was mainly just the crazy swedes, the Aussie amigos and myself. I tried out the Snowbunnys après-ski shower for the first time, and I was impressed. Us Aussies cooked up some shared pasta napolitana (with a side of mash) for dinner, which was delicious and quite filling. And once again (like last night), we hit The Londoner pub once more, for a couple of drinks and a quick shmooze.
As with the previous two nights, my final night here at Yoho in Salzburg was a blast. No need to go out: more than enough fun to be had, simply by "going out downstairs" — and considering the cold, that's the best type of going out you can do around here. Big group, lots of beer-drinking (and mainly "wheat beer", which they have on tap at the Yoho bar, and which I far prefer over other beers), plenty of card-playing, and plenty of laughs. I'm really going to miss this place: and it's hard to believe that my next destination is probably going to be even better! Austria, you're giving me a good run.