Posts Tagged With: angkor wat

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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Categories: Cambodia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

Trip Booked!

ITS OFFICIAL. IM GOING.

60 days of adventure backpacking solo in SE Asia.  My trip of a lifetime is booked and theres only a few more things left to do now: prep, pack and go!  But first, a little background info on why I am taking this trip and what I hope to get out of it.

WHY ARE YOU GOING?

I’ve decided to take this trip for several reasons.  The first is simply that I love to travel and I believe that experiencing other cultures and customs firsthand is just about the best education anyone can get.  Next, Im single, a student (with wicked travel insurance), and dying to have a big adventure before I think about the next phase of my life which might not include time or money for solo travel.  Last, I want to prove to myself that I can do anything, go anywhere, adapt and survive in order to get closer to my goal of being a global citizen who is connected, conscious and educated about the world we live in.

WHAT WILL YOU DO THERE?

Have fun!  Meet new friends! Lay on a beach all day long!

Actually my trip will start with a 26 day adventure backpacking tour with a group of other young Canadians, and I will travel with this group through the southern beaches of Thailand to party, play, and have fun!

Then the real adventure begins.  I will be travelling through Laos and Cambodia, hopefully with a new friend or two, and then travel through Northern Thailand if I can fit it all in.  My travel schedule is flexible and I’m actually not going to plan too much besides some must-see things on my list (tubing down the Mekong river, Angkor Wat, etc)

WHY FEARLESS ADVENTURE?

Every year I choose a theme that I’d like to consciously focus on during that time period.  This year the theme is ‘fearless adventure’.  This means jumping into new things even though im scared, being willing to try new things and have new experiences, and going into every new journey with an open heart and clear mind, taking lessons from what i learn and bouncing back when i miss a step or two.  My SE Asia trip figures perfectly into this mindset.

WHY THIS BLOG?

While travelling overseas I wont be able to keep up with my friends/family the way I’d like to.  This blog is a way for me to share the joys, trials and tribulations of my travels with each and every one of you in a personal way.  You can comment and leave messges for me, too, so I dont feel quite so far away!

37 days till I board the plane.

I cant wait to share my adventure with you.

xo

Danika

lets do this

Categories: Pre-Trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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