Cambodia

10 Things I Learned While Travelling the World

I’ve been back in Canada for a little less than a month now and have had some time to decompress and to think about my trip.  At first, I thought I hadn’t really changed at all during my travels, but it actually has in a million tiny ways.  I’d like to share that with you now:

10. The Journey is the Thing

My trip had no specific goal, other than to relax, enjoy and experience the world that was far away from home.  This turned out to a great way to travel and, for me, to not focus on the result, but to really take the journey for what it was – an adventure into the unknown.

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9. We are all the Same

I included this in my last list, but I want to say it again.  I love people, and the truest realization I had again while I was overseas is that we are all, at our most basic level, very similar.  We just want to be happy; to have enough food to eat, a roof over our heads, some people who love us and a purpose in life that brings us joy.  I saw all kinds of people living in many different ways as I worked though six countries, but they all have this in common. We are all part of one big human family, and it doesn’t matter where you are from or what you are doing with your life, some things are the same within all of us.

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8. Travel is as Easy and as Hard as you Want it To Be

PATIENCE.  This one virtue has eluded me my whole life, and nothing cures the need for control than a less than smooth travel experience.  I learned about the essence of the journey in my search for patience as I met setbacks and mishaps along the road.   I learned how to be more adaptable, to let things slide, and to only care about the most important things along the way.

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7. Roll with the Waves

This one is a good follow-up to #8.  When I rolled with the upsets along the way, the journey got even more interesting: I saw some things I would otherwise have missed, or had a completely new experiences I wasn’t expecting to have.  By saying “Yes!” I got into more trouble, saw more unexpected things, and had more impromptu adventures than if I had stuck to a strict schedule and followed it the whole way along.

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6. Pay Attention

I learned that there is beauty in the details.  That every city is an intricate mess that somehow works in its own unique way.  That the road less traveled sometimes results in a washed out car or monkeys attacking your windshield.  To stop and save the kittens, get lost on a bike and get found again, and that fun can be found in every airport, bus station, or boat ride.  By paying true attention to my surroundings, I was also able to glimpse into the local life of the people, and have real experiences from the country I was visiting.  That, to me, is priceless.

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5. Embrace the Inner Hippie

I’m normally a goal-oriented, round the clock, by the book kind of person.  To escape that mentality for a while and embrace my inner beach bum was an enlightening experience.  I had whole days with no plans and nothing to do, vague ideas of where the day would take me, and days where I just went with the flow.  That rarely happens in my “real” life in Canada, and it was refreshing to break out of the bubble of who I think I am and step into the sandals of my inner Hippie Goddess.  She is someone I want to know better, and a side of me that I won’t soon forget now that we’ve been re-aquainted!

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4. Trust the Kindness of Strangers

In my travels I stayed with family friends, friends of friends, new friends and people I didn’t even know at all. I was welcomed into countless homes with open arms, to people eager to share in my travel journey and get to know me.  I feel SO blessed to now have friends from all over the world, and want to thank each and every one of you for your hospitality and help in exploring all these new places 🙂 If you ever travel, and someone recommends that you stay with a friend or you have family/friends to stay with overseas, DO IT! It will completely change your perspective on the country you are visiting, because you get to see it through the eyes of a local.  A thousand thank-you’s again to all those who put me up while I was abroad!  You are welcome to return the favour here in Canada anytime!

3. Comfort Zones are Boring

I did something new and crazy in every country I went to: Surfing in Indonesia, Parasailing in Philippines, and even Skydiving in New Zealand.  Get out of your comfort zone and try some new and crazy stuff.  It will enrich your travel experience and add a whole new level of fun.  Besides, that’s what travel is for: new experiences and adventures! It doesn’t matter how scared you are – do something wild and crazy!  eat that cricket off a Bangkok bug cart!  Take the jet boat ride through the canyon!  Throw yourself out of a plane! These things are the highlights of my travels as I look back on them now, the times I challenged myself and really went for it.

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2. Theres No Place like Home

Canada is an amazing country. I learned this while I was abroad through other travellers stories about my home country, that it is a well-loved place in the world and worth exploring in its own right.  Talking about it with others made me realize how much I love being a Canadian and how lucky I am to call this place my home.  I never really appreciated it until I left for a long time and realized what a phenomenal place it is.

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1. I am SO lucky

The fact that I was able to pull off this trip still boggles my mind.  There was so much planning involved – a years worth of time and effort went into it, and now that I’m back I can see what a privileged position I hold as a citizen of Canada.  I have enough food to eat, a roof over my head, and friends and family who love and care about me.  The rest is just gravy!  Upon returning I went to my bathroom and turned on the tap, thinking back to all the times I didn’t have access to fresh water on my travels. Something as simple as turning on the tap can take on new meaning after travelling: it represents all that we take for granted, being from a first world country were every comfort is provided for.  I feel that, now, I am able to name how lucky I truly am.

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Well. That’s it!  I’m sure I will update this blog again in the future as life takes me on more travels, but for now I am happy to have landed back in Canada, ready to take on the world 🙂

xo

D

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Part Two – Ten Things I Learned While Travelling in SE Asia

This is Part Two of my post about what I learned while travelling solo through SE Asia last summer 🙂 See Part One here

5) Trust Your Gut

This tip is CRUCIAL.  If your instinct is telling you one thing (don’t go down that alley/with that weird guy/don’t take a bucket from a stranger), DONT DO IT!!  Train your intuition to take you down the right path, but also remember that things are very different in SE Asia and what’s thought of as dangerous in North America is often not regarded the same way over there.  I remember this gross scary alley in Bangkok that led on a shortcut to our hostel.  The tour guides were the first to take us down there and we all thought “what the hell?!”.  But then we saw families treating the alley as their back yard, working and watching TV as their many pets caused a ruckus.  Sure, it smelled bad and there was junk everywhere, but that’s just the way it was in BKK – don’t have a backyard? grab an alleyway!  By the end of my trip I was walking down this same alley at three am, laughing at my new friends as they cowered at the thought of plunging into the dark.  If you are unsure – ask someone, because trusting your gut can go a long way – with the right guidance of course!!

Trust Your Gut

4) Let the Party Take You

Lets face it.  I partied HARD while I was overseas.  Harder than I ever have in my life, especially on the Beach Travellers wing of the trip, because I was surrounded by 27 of the most fun and fearless Canadians I have had the privilege of meeting!! Every night there was a new activity, theme party, or massive beach bash that you would simply HAVE to go to, no matter how much sun you got that day or what viewpoint hike you did.

The parties in Thailand and Cambodia absolutely blew my mind, especially the Full Moon Party, which I conquered twice!! For more info about the Full Moon, click here.  I learned a lot about myself through these party experiences, if you can believe it!  I learned I am a party rock star who knows how to manage my alcohol intake so I can stay up all night and often be the last woman standing!  Of course I had some rather rough mornings and I didn’t escape a puke or two but overall, it was worth it to party so hard because A) when the heck am I going to have the opportunity to rock out so hard in my life?? and B) I might as well get all this partying out of my system while I’m young enough to experience it properly!!

Moral of the story? Party HARD, but Party safe, know your limit and don’t accept drinks/rides/pills/buckets from strangers.

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3) Friends are Family on the Road

When you travel, you are constantly meeting new people who seem friendlier and more interested in you than the people back home in boring, uptight North America.  This is because the BEST, friendliest and most worldly people know that travel is the ultimate learning experience, and go out of their way to meet new friends on the road.  It was harder to meet new friends while I was in my big group at the beginning of my trip, but as the months went by I learned how to strike up random conversations on buses and hostels to find new interesting people from all over the world.  Experiences can cement friendships too, like on Chelsea and I’s adventure on the Ko Tao night boat: we had to spoon with two lovely NZ girls on the way over cause there was no space, and they ended up being our fabulously fun travel companions for the next week!!

Bottom Line: Make it a point to meet new people while on the road, don’t just stick to your group of friends.  Make new ones from all over the world!!

Real Friends Party Naked

2) Embrace Your Inner Hippie

Go where the wind blows you. Throw away your shoes and wear a long skirt.  Grow your hair long and  forget about plucking your eyebrows. Learn to spin fire, like I did, or learn to surf, scuba or befriend a monkey for an afternoon.  Just let that North American uptight Type-A self slip away.  He or she will be back once you step off that plane and back to reality, trust me.  But there is something invaluable about embracing another way of life, something slower that is focused on personal growth and freedom. I found this amazing blissed out beach bum inside of me who finally was just going with the flow instead of planning every minute of every day.  Finding this side of myself was a crucial step of discovering who I am, and now I listen to my hippie self when she needs a day at the beach or a day in the park practicing spinning.  The lesson here is finding balance between the two selves and making sure both are being served in your lifestyle at home! 

Inner Hippies Chillin

1) It’s the Journey, not the Destination

As I traveled from one place to another, I found myself filled with anxiety again and again.  Will my train be on time? will we catch the ferry?  What If I don’t like the food they serve?

Those worries became less and less loud as I learned to treasure every crazy bus ride, bumpy boat trip and determined local who tried to sell me their wares. These detours and roadblocks became the best stories, the most memorable moments that I look back on and laugh.  Sure. my trip went well, I didn’t get mugged or kidnapped or hassled (too much), but there were definitely tough spots where I wished I had more control over the situation.  Every moment of my trip was important, even the times when I waited at the train station for hours or missed the boat to Ko Lipe and had to spend the night in Pak Bara.  If the journey is stressing you out, just stop, take a breath and marvel that you are halfway around the world, seeing sights that most people only dream of, and that you are lucky enough to have some cash in your pocket and clothes on your back, too. Wow!

Or just have a mini tantrum and work it out, I had to step away and do that more than once 😉

Embrace the Journey

Well, that concludes my writing about my 2012 trip (only a few months late, lol!)

But you lucky people get to come with me on YET ANOTHER JOURNEY!! BIGGER, BETTER, LONGER!!

Last year was my fearless adventure, this year get ready for “Work Hard, Play Harder 2013 SE Asia/Oceania Trip!!!”

More tomorrow on that 🙂

xo

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Ten Things I Learned While Travelling in SE Asia – Part One

Now that I’m back from my trip and planning to take the leap again and do a big solo trip this year again, I wanted to reflect on how my trip changed my life and what the benefits are of throwing caution to the wind, letting your hair grow long and experiencing the world.

10. We are all the same

I met so many fantastic people when I was on the road: my Thai friends, my new Canadian friends, and all the other international travellers I had the pleasure of getting to know on the road.  They all had some things in common, though.  All of us just want a few simple things: to have the love of others, to find a place that feels like home, to be in the midst of community and camaraderie, and to care for our families in peace and safety.  As I conversed with all these new people, I was struck by how similar our wants and needs are, and that made me think about how often our surface differences get in the way of really understanding each other.

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9. Real Confidence is Earned

When I stepped off the plane in Bangkok at the beginning of my journey, I was – scared. It was fun and refreshing and exciting, but also I was totally nervous about being on my own in a new country without anyone else to rely on.  As the trip went on and I learned the ropes of backpacking in a foreign country, I learned to love that scared feeling every time I went somewhere new. It became exciting to come to a new place and find my bearings, find a place to stay and a few friends to share stories with.  Every crazy new adventure made me even more brave, and as I scuba dove, jumped off cliffs, killed cockroaches and spun fire, all the apprehension I had in my normal life slipped away.  I came back with something truly priceless – a deep and lasting confidence in myself that I am capable of a lot more than I think I am.

Me spinning fire in Railay

8. Culture is an Experience

When I was taking Cultural Studies at school, it was all theories and book learning, discussing this or that dead white guy and what he thought about culture.  This is total crap compared to what you can learn about culture by immersing yourself in a completely new reality.  I had huge culture shock in Thailand, and again in Cambodia, then an EVEN BIGGER culture shock when I came back to Canada with a new perspective of how people live their lives in other places.  I loved the blending of old and new, of ancient traditions that we are missing in Canada and the hurdles I would sometimes have to cross when learning about a new country’s rules and customs.  I remember losing it on a ferryboat ticket guy because the boat had left early one day, and all the Thai  people recoiled in shock as I yelled (give me a break I’d been travelling for about twelve hours at that point!).  In Thailand, outward displays of anger are almost unheard of, and if you lose your temper you “lose face” and respect.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

My advice – if you want to get cultured, go eat a cricket off a bug cart in Khao San road then wash it down with a big mac at the Mcdonalds on the same street.  Culture in our globalized world is a crazy mind bending mashup, and experiencing it firsthand is truly priceless.

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7. Pack LIGHT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

Pack light. I mean it!  I was constantly re-evaluating my load of stuff, looking for ways to cut down on what I was carrying to make room for more interesting things I picked up along the way.  Most of the clothes I brought  were useless in the tropical climate and the clothes are so dirt cheap in Asia, you are better off just bringing more money and buying some sweet Thai fisherman pants to live in.  Also, if it’s a vacation then most of your time will be spent in a bikini/swim shorts and a sarong, so don’t worry too much about what else to bring.  You will look like a dirty hippie tourist no matter what you bring, cause in a few days it will all be dusty and dirty from travelling anyhoo.

Anything you put in your pack you will have to haul around on your back for the next few months so be very wise and very ruthless while packing.  Dont take any stuff that is your absolute favorite item of clothing, because it could very easily get lost/stolen/left on a train

Some things I couldn’t live without: my silk sleep sheet (a cocoon of safety from questionable sheets), my jean shorts (buy them in Canada cause Asians have teeny hips), my travel towel (saved me from grody towels all over Asia) and my sexy hiking sandals made trekking a dream.  Spend money on these items and don’t bring your damn hairdryer!

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6. Bring Money. More than you think you need.

Back half the stuff, bring twice the money. This is a good rule of thumb I will use while travelling from this point on.  Often activities and extra outings cost an additional amount, beyond what you are expecting to spend for the day.  Theses types of trips will MAKE your journey, so save $$ to take a long tail down the River Kwai, to spend three days exploring Angkor Wat, or to go on a major end-of-trip shopping spree.  There were days when I would have to budget wisely to be able to make these things happen, so make sure to keep in mind that although Asia is cheap, there are things that wont be.  Food and accommodations can often be very cheap, so don’t be afraid to hunt around for a bit for the best deal or to eat lunch from a street cart.

Tip: if you are going to eat street food, look for the busiest cart as the ingredients are more likely to be fresh and the locals know best!!

Best Street Food EVER

5. Haggle, Haggle, Haggle

I love bartering.  I am damn good at it.  Often my friends would want to take me shopping because my training as an actor allows me to give the shopkeepers the performance they want.  The locals are used to bartering with their neighbors, it’s just the way of the world over there, and they are also used to fleecing tourists for goods at three times the price of the actual cost.  The trick to bartering is not losing your cool, and not caring that much about the item (unless you reeeeeeeallllly want it, in that case act like you care even less).  Ask how much an item is, offer them half the quoted price, then meet them somewhere in the middle. It’s a game!  Make it fun, joke with them and make them feel comfortable with you.  Offer to buy other items, or to do a combo deal with your friends who are buying items.  If you don’t get the price you want, just walk away.  They will call u back and say “ok” or you can walk down to the next shop and probably find the same item and try your luck again.  See?  It’s much more fun to haggle than to buy things in Canada at full price!!

How Much? Too much!!

Last Minute Shopping

Tomorrow, the top 5 things I learned while travelling solo in SE Asia!

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Bus from Hell to BKK

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The last bus ride of my journey was also one of the most memorable!  As in – it was a fresh hell.

Agh!  The first part of the ride was nothing new – uneven roads and potholes that took up half

the bumpy highway.  I was used to the roads, and luckily I met up with some Sihanoukville

friends on the bus, who made the trip much more bearable.

As we neared the border, the trip got worse.  The usual scam artists were hanging out by the

customs office, ready to accept bribes in the form of “fees” to skip the line, but it was silly since

everyone eventually got through the line and to the other side.

BorderCrossing

Once we walked across the bridge and were back in Thailand, it seemed as though our bus operators had abandoned us in this border town.  We waited several hours in the sweltering heat for anther bus to show up, and when it did there was only room for about half of the people, and I wasn’t part of the lucky group that got to cram into the minibus.  We waited for what felt like another hour or so, half the remaining people chartered their own bus back to Bangkok, as it seemed like we weren’t ever going to leave the border town.

FINALLY the bus showed up after what seemed like an eternity and we all squished in with our luggage to this tiny van, and I thought we would make short work of the trip to BKK.

No.

After about three hours we had to transfer yet AGAIN to a new minibus, with an even surlier driver with a death wish.  I saw the name of the City and looked it up on my map – we still had three or four more hours to go until we reached our destination!  It was nearing dark and we had been on the road since 7am, so you can imagine how anxious I was to get there.

We all piled in again and I was lucky enough to sit beside my cute friend Phil who produced a splitter for his iPod with two sets of headphones, and the final leg of the trip sharing music and giggling while crammed together in the cargo hold with my new friend.

We arrived in BKK where we were unceremoniously dropped onto a street, which thankfully I recognized as nearby to Khao San Road.  I navigated our group to the road where we said some teary goodbyes and took off into the night.  There were still two more nights in Bangkok to enjoy!!

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And that is how I ended my journey to Cambodia and started to say goodbye after nearly two months travelling in SE Asia.

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Beachy Beachy Sihanoukville

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I loved Sihanoukville!! It was such a perfect place to end my journey.  I had been travelling for two months at this point, and was only days away from starting my journey home again…  I knew I needed to make the most of this place and really soak up Cambodian culture while I had the chance.

We stayed on Otres Beach, a sandy stretch about 15 minutes from the main hustle and bustle of town.  It made for one expensive tuk tuk rides back and forth to town, but was totally worth it in the long run because of the secluded feel of the beach and the castaway atmosphere.  The weather was not great – we had a daily afternoon rainstorm, but it made for some fun rainy afternoons with friends so we didn’t mind too much.

Our guesthouse was called Mushroom Point, coined obviously because it was a giant mushroom shaped-structure! We stayed in the mushroom dorm and two friends stayed in the little mushroom huts that dotted the property.  It was all soo cute! The place was  charming, the food was really delicious and the beach was right across the street.  We even had our own “mushroom bar” on the beach that served up food right on the beachfront.  We met some cool Brits, more Canadians and even some Americans (Hi Joshua!) during our stay, and had some wild party nights in the cozy laid back bars on the beachfront.

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There was lots of time to take in the scenery, walk down the shore and see the untouched, unspoiled land that was all around us (although an ominous -looking development seems like it’s going in right down the road.  there goes the neighbourhood). We spent a lot of time reading, hanging out in the sanctuary at Mushroom Point, and searching for the cheapest beers at happy hour (50 cents!) on the beach.  We also make it into town to check out Serendipity Beach, but got seriously rained out and had to while away an afternoon indoors drinking beers and playing pool (poor us!).

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My beautiful Brits and I parted ways after three fun-filled days, I was so sad to see them go and so jealous of their travels to Vietnam, Singapore, Bali, NZ, Aus and China that they had planned.  Keep me posted ladies!  I was so happy to have found some free spirited, like-minded souls to travel with through this excellent country.  It made my trip way more entertaining and they were just about the best travel companions i could have hoped for!

 


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My time in Sihanoukville included one more night where I visited some friends who were working in a local bar – they were staying on Serendipity beach with free food, accommodation and booze for one week, doing promo for a bar called the Dolphin Shack.  I wanted to party until the wee hours again, but was afraid of missing my bus trip back to BKK which would leave at 7am and last 14 disgusting hours.  Euugh.

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A Sad Day in Phnom Penh

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Our night bus was supposed to come with fully reclining bed-chairs to make the best of what we were told was an uncomfortable and bumpy trip to Phnom Penh. Instead of the “luxury” bus we had been promised, we got switched at the last-minute to a rickety old bus with hard leather sets that reclined thismuch and were impossible to sleep in.  The air-con was blasting all night, leaving us shivery and cramped as we tried to sleep for a very long and incredibly turbulent 7 hours on our trip to the capital.  Needless to say, we were rethinking our plans to stop in PP only for the day and then catch the bus to Sihanoukville later on in the day.  But we decided to press on and do what we had planned for the day, booking our bus tickets for another five-hour bus journey later on in the day to the beach town of Sihanoukville.  Super Travellers, unite!

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It was a sobering and sad day as we took the time to look at the sites commemorating the genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970’s – only 40 years ago!  The country s still recovering majorly from the events of this period in its history, everywhere there is evidence of commemoration and rebuilding from the tragedy that occurred here.  If you want to learn more about the genocide that happened in Cambodia, I’d start here. http://www.ppu.org.uk/genocide/g_cambodia.html

We visited the Choueng Ek Killing Fields in the morning, a mass grave site that served as a burial ground for many of the prisoners in the Toul Sleng Prison that we visited later in the day.  Both sites made a huge impression on us, including my travel partners who weren’t as aware of what happened in Cambodia before they visited.  It was an eye-opening experience to visit the places where these atrocities happened so recently, and inspiring to see how far the country had come in so little time.  The dead were honoured here in memory and spirit, many people I saw were visibly accepted by the horror of these sites, and I think having these places open and available to the public is good: is educates us about how these things can happen and what we can do in the future to prevent genocide from happening again.

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Our day was reaching critical mass by that point.  We literally had ten minutes to rest after lunch before boarding the bus to Sihanoukville and our beach retreat.  Our bus was magnificent!  Fuzzy seats and lots of space to spread (squish) out.  I was an expert at sleeping on buses by this point. I used my sarong as a blanket, cuddled up with my trusty travel pillow and settled in for a five-hour nap.

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Flooded Forests and Floating Towns

Our next big adventure in Siem Reap happened two days later.  We booked a tour through a local company so we could see some of the countryside and another one of the cool attractions in Siem Reap – the flooded forest.  FINALLY, there is an upside to visiting this part of the world in rainy season: you can’t see the flooded forest in the dry season!  We took a trusty tuk tuk to our riverboat stop, a trip that was bumpy but fun cause we drove through some small towns and saw what Cambodia was like for the people who lived there.  It seemed like a simple but happy place – the people were just as curious about us as we were about them.  I even caught a monk snapping pictures of me on his cellphone in a temple we visited as I was snapping pictures of his beautiful temple!  I laughed when I saw him doing this, and obliged in a few photos 😛

Temple InteriorOur little tuk tuk ride came to an end at the mouth of a very dirty river where we boarded a noisy little boat and took off to see the “floating” town that was built on stilts to accommodate for the rising of the Tonle Sap river and lake that annually floods the surrounding area, turning their neighbourhood into a floodplain.  It was so surreal to see these rickety looking houses and community buildings towering high above us as we boated through the water below – it reminded me of some kind of surreal post apocalyptic place where the homes were rebuilt from leftoverscraps and whatever was floating by.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water levelled off closer to the lake, and we caught a glimpse of the flooded forest around us.  It was magical – all the twisted trees poking out of the water.  We boarded a small long tail boat and glided soundlessly though the forest.  One of the ladies I was travelling with was deathly afraid of the water spiders climbing everywhere in the trees and on our boat, we thought at one point for sure we were going to tip and fall in the water!  Steph eventually just cowered at the front of the boat as we turned a corner and made our way back, making sure to tip our Cambodian boat lady for the trouble!

Woman drivers :P

Our tour ended in one of the floating villages, where we were shown a school and encouraged to purchase pencils and school books for the children.  From the well-rehearsed way this operation was run (children lining up to grab at the books and pencils, handing them back to their mothers for repackaging, the open and sharpened panicles in the packages i “bought”)  I could tell that the money was not going directly to the school or where we thought it was, but I had to give kudos to these enterprising Cambodians who had found a way to tug on our heartstrings and open our wallets to them.  I enjoyed spending time with the lil Cambodian kids anyhow, and had my encounter with the monk at the beautiful temple in the town, built high on the hank of the flooding river.

Me "giving supplies"

Me “giving supplies”

Siem Reap was a really worthwhile place to check out.  It wasn’t as cheap as I thought (except for accommodation which was $5 in our very clean dorm room) but the food and attractions were excellent so I didn’t mind paying.  The little town was easy to navigate by foot and there was lots of shopping and cute little massage places to keep us occupied in our downtime.  The overly enthusiastic hawkers and beggars littering the street were more persistent than the ones I encountered in Thailand, but the county has no social safety net and these people have to do whatever they can to survive.  I tried not to give into the children who were begin.asking for money or meals on the streets, as it’s a well-documented fact that parents keep their children out of school to work on the streets.  Don’t support child labor!  Give your money to a local NGO instead, which is what we did.

My four nights in Siem Reap flew past and before i knew it I was on a night bus from hell to Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia.  Epic trip, indeed.

In the mangrove forest

In the mangrove forest

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Siem Reap and Angkor WHAT??!

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My bus trip from BKK to Cambodia cost 300 Baht (about ten Canadian dollars) and took about 10 hours including waiting time, not a bad trip overall considering it included a border crossing as well.  I met some cool British girls and a German girl on my bus trip over there, as well – me and the Brits ended up doing all of Cambodia together!  Our journey started by Minibus to the border, we had the tour company arrange our visas, at an inflated price but it saved the hassle  of trying to figure it out myself.  It cost a thousand Baht (33 bucks) and I needed an additional passport picture to get into Cambodia as well.

We crossed the border without mishap, you could immediately notice a difference between the two countries. In Thailand the roads were populated with trucks and minibuses, in Cambodia there were hand carts being pushed by people, and tons more motorcycles.  We boarded a creaky bus to the main Bus Terminal, and waited there for two hours as our bus filled in (slowly) with tourists.  Another three-hour bus ride got us from the border to Siem Reap relatively painlessly.

The town was lit up for an evening of party debauchery – we were accosted at every turn by overly friendly tuk-tuk drivers, massage ladies, and shopkeepers as we tried to get our bearings and figure out where our hostel was.  Turns out it was a short tuk tuk ride away, across the river and separated from the noise of the main tourist area.  Still walkable though, but my favourite way to get around was riding sidesaddle on the back of a moto, which would set you back about a dollar to get anywhere in town very fast!  After finding our little 6 bed dorm in Angkor Thom Guesthouse to be quite comfy, we ventured out into the night and checked out The Red Piano, where Angelina Jolie created a cocktail while filming her flick Tomb Raider a few years ago.  The food was delicious and prompt too!

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Our journey took a lot of us, so we opted for an early night to get ready for some temple action the next day.  Our friendly (aggressive) tuk tuk driver from the night before was parked outside of our guesthouse ready to pounce, so we got him to take us around the temple complex area for the day for $20US – 5 bucks a person.  We also had to pay for tickets to the actual temple complex as well, a one day pass gave us access to all the temples, even though we only got to see three up close.

Our guide took us to see the “Tomb Raider” temple as he called it, which is named Ta Prohm and is famous for the ancient trees growing out of the ruins – the sunlight was pouring in on the day we visited and made for a spectacular viewing of the place!  We were allowed to climb in an around the ruins on the platforms set up for tourists – we marvelled at the facet that we were allowed so much access and freedom to wander through such a sacred and ancient place.  Us and every other Asian tourist group, of course 😛

Our “tour guide” tuk tuk driver took us to The Bayon next inside the bid temple complex, an impressive pile that featured many four-sided faces of the Buddha. – very serene.  Our last stop was the actual temple of Angkor Wat. We wanted to catch the temple at sunset, and spent the last remaining daylight hours exploring the huge temple and grounds, imagining what it must have been like in its glory days.  After a few attempts at catching the sunset in some memorable pictures, we headed to the NIght Market for delicious indian food and a night out at Angkor WHAT?! a tongue in cheek name for a sweet bar on Pub street.  Dancing the night away is always a good end to the day, I think!  We joined the touristy crowd and danced until the wee hours on the tables.  It was a very fun day, to say the least!

Categories: Cambodia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Epic Travel to BKK and Goodbye Chelsea!

The 5 am ferry seemed like a dream – none of us had slept and we were all feeling sad to be leaving Ko Pha-ngan and Bottle Beach.  All four of us missed the epic sunrise and woke up with the Pier in sight and the sun blazing overhead.  One of the hardest goodbyes was next – Chelsea and I said goodbye to our friend Park who lives in Railay and our friend Carter who is a tour guide and country manager for Beach Travellers and also one of the coolest people I met on my travels and someone who helped to make our trip as amazing as it possibly could have been.  Chels and I just looked at each other, waiting together in the train station so early in the morning, and burst into tears.  I’m not sure whether it was a combination of sadness, being so tired, and sleep deprived, but we were super emotional that whole day.  Our last full day together as platonic wives and we would be spending it on a fifteen hour train journey to Bangkok together.  Euchh.

The train journey was something new – we had both done this journey before, but overnight both times.  It was a completely different experience during the day.  The country rolled by our window – verdant, lush and never-changing green.  We reminisced over our experiences together, laughing, crying and comparing stories.  That ride was one of the longest I took while travelling – all I can say is thank Buddha for air-conditioning!

We finally noticed the scenery start to change about two hours outside of Bangkok and veryyyy slowllyyy made our way into the heart of the city for one last tuk-tuk ride to Khao San Road, our home away from home.  I found a very cheap and clean room for the night at the 7-Holder Guest House and we shopped for  bit until I felt like I was going to pass out from exhaustion.

We had our tearful goodbye that night when Chelsea went to the airport. When I started my journey alone a month and a half before, I had never dreamed I would meet so many fantastic and interesting people on my journey, and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy than the one Chels ended up being to me.  It seemed at every turn we were on the same page with what we waned to do, see and experience on our trip.  She was incredibly easy-going and fun, easy to get along with and full of life.  Our adventurous spirits we definitely matched – and now I not only have all of these incredible memories but a new friend for life!  Needless to say, our goodbyes were pretty emotional – silly girls! We are already making plans for our next adventure – we shouldn’t have been so sad!

I spent a strange night in BKK that evening alone. But I wouldn’t have to worry, I would be meeting new friends soon on my trip from BKK to Siem Reap in Cambodia!

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Categories: Cambodia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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