Posts Tagged With: beach travellers

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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Categories: Australia, Cambodia, In the Air, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Melbourne Experience

Melbourne reminds me of Vancouver in a hundred little ways – although there are no mountains, there’s an ocean, the weather changes every five minutes, the people are hip and trendy, the coffee is delicious, there’s a hundred things to do and a great restaurant culture, and a hundred little communities that are worth exploring.  I was lucky enough to have a friend who lives in trendy St. Kilda, I went to film school with Torrance and she’s only been in Aus for three months, living the life in Melbourne.  She and her flatmates welcomed me into their home (and on their couch) for almost a whole week, I’m super thankful to them for letting me crash with them!

My first evening in Melbourne was pretty laid back, it was super easy to get from the airport to downtown on the SKybus, and then onwards to St.Kilda on the tram, a rail network that links the whole city and makes it super easy to get around.  I got into St Kilda with a few hours to spare, so I went down to the beach and put my toes in the water while getting acquainted with this lovely suburb.  It comes complete with its own kitschy beachside amusement park, cool cafes and delicious bakeshops.  I gorged myself on sushi and grabbed some maps from the local hostel, checking out what to see and do while I am in town.  There was so much free stuff to check out!! A plus for me cause I am on a super budget at this point in my trip – three months of travel can really do a number on your bank account!
I met up with Torrance after she was done work and we had a great meal together, catching up on several years of news and stories, we both have had some major moves and good stuff happen to us, along with a couple dozen friends in common, so we needed mucho catch up time!  The next day I was off to explore the city, first taking a walk with Torrance through Saint Kilda to an animal sanctuary she is considering volunteering at (complete with cute lil piggy in the yard!) and then boarding the tram for downtown.  Now, Torrance had said I could take my chances on not paying for the tram with a little refillable card, since the transit cops hardly ever checked, so i got on the tram without paying.  Luck would have it the MY tram on THAT day would get checked as we went downtown, I was almost fined an outrageous $200!! NOOOOOOO!!!!
Luckily I was able to play dumb and prove that I had just gotten there yesterday and played up my Canadian accent (i just got here, eh?) and I got away with it!! The transit cop was NOT happy about letting me go, but he knew and I knew I was NOT going to be paying any ticket, so I was able to get off.  Yes!! I was a bit shaken after that, and walked around the CBD aimlessly for a while, gawping at the buildings and the architecture, modern mixed with Victorian. I loved it! I wandered through the pedestrian only Bourke St Mall at all the shopping I couldn’t do (probably for the best as I still have to carry all my stuff on my back) and stumbled upon the Parliament Buildngs and the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  I ate lunch in Chinatown (can’t get away from those!) and went up to the Queen Victoria Markets to see the action there (there was none, market was closed. damn.) The downtown of Melbourne is actually pretty small, so I thought I would conquer the ultimate downtown walk and attempt to walk back to St. Kilda via the beach!  It took me a while – about two hours – but I needed the exercise and love exploring new places so it was worth it – I only got lost once!
I also saw the Southbank – which is the entertainment area on the bank of the Yarra river across from the city, and the State Library, which impressed me with its bohemian historic feel. I wandered around in there for a while, there were some really good free museum-like floors where the history of Melbourne was laid out and the history of the library as well.  I walked and walked and WALKED along the shore, there’s TONS of beachfront and the day was warm, so I didn’t even mind when my feet started hurting as the sun went down!!  That night we had a chill dinner at home and hung out with Torrance`s roomie over a bottle of wine.  I knew the weekend was going to be messy on account of the Auusie Football League Grand Final, so I wanted to save some energy for that!!
My second day in Melbourne was full of more free adventures.  I visited the National Gallery of Victoria (free) and marveled at their Picasso, Matisse and large collection of Southeast Asian Art.  I also loved the large-scale art project in the lobby of the gallery with a hundred bowls floating in a shallow pond, making music as they clinked together.  I walked up to Federation square, which was packed with footy festivities and revelers, but it started to rain and I ducked into the Cinema museum (my fav!) for an hour while it rained outside.  Fed Square is an interesting `main hub`of activity in the CBD, right by the central station and a very vibrant part of downtown.  Even though the architecture doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the historic surroundings, it’s an interesting place to visit.  I spent all afternoon typing and catching up on emails in a super cute hipstery cafe called Thousand Pound Bend, which is off a little alleyway in Melbourne’s downtown.  There’s quite a few little laneways sprinkled throughout the downtown, that hold unmarked bars and cool shops and places to eat,  I loved exploring this city!
That night I got a text from Torrance – she would be late cause she found a stray dog and was waiting for animal services to come and pick her up!  The dog was extremely cute, large and malnourished so after I paid her a visit I bought us a bottle of wine and headed home to make us some dinner.  Torrance and I also found time to redecorate her room and she made me some delicious vegan meals as well! Yum!  After some active days, I was ready for a sleep and wanted to me rested up for my awesome weekend!!

 

Categories: Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How We Saved a Kitten in Ubud

Well, saved might now be the right word because Phil might very well have been euthanized by now, but I do feel better having rescued a kitten from sudden death on a busy alley road in Ubud. It was just about squished as Chelsea and I walked back to our guesthouse, and Chelsea said to me “isn’t that a kitten?” and we squee!ed at the littleness of it! Poor little guy had no momma in sight.  I moved him over to the side of the road, but he looked so pathetic that soon after we returned to our place, I said I gotta do something, so I went and bought some milk from the local quickeemart and scooped up the kitten on my way back.  As we chilled that night, Phil showed little to no signs of life, just chillin in my sarong like a lil villain. Yes, we named him Phil.  Big Phil was hanging out with us as we greeted our friends from Beach Travellers, who were in Ubud at the same time as us, and settled in for a rainy quiet night.
I found a place that might look after Phil by doing a little internet sleuthing, and facebook messaged Villa Kitty to see if they might have a place for Phil. The owner of this magical place, an expat named Elizabeth, said to bring him in, so the next morning we took a ten minute taxi ride to Villa Kitty, a cat hospital and kitty rescue clinic in Ubud, a sorely needed service in a country where wild dogs and cats are the norm and keeping pets as members of your household is not as popular.  When we got to the clinic, the vet told us Phil was ten days old, not three to four weeks as we originally had thought. I talked to Elizabeth on the phone, and she said that they may not be able to keep Phil alive as he couldn’t be given the attention he needed, given his early age. he needed to be bottle fed every two hours, and she just didn’t have the staff or resources to give him that attention.  I felt so bad, but leaving him there in the hospital staff’s capable hands was the best option at that point.  I said bye to Phil and told him not to throw up his food so they would keep him alive. I hope he listens!  I also gave a donation to this fabulous organization, it really fills a gap in whats needed in Bali in terms of animal welfare.
If you would like to learn more about Villa Kitty or donate to them, you can check out their facebook page here as well 🙂
Well, my karma meter is full at least. Poor Phil, Hope he had a good ten days, in any case!
Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gili T – My New Favorite Place on Earth

I think I’ve found it….again.  Gili Trawangan is my newest in a long line of favorite destinations, and this time, I think its love!  Let me back up a little here – three days ago we took a two and a half hour ferry to the Gili Islands, three tiny beachy islands nestled close to the mountains in Lombok, an island province close to Bali.  We were going to stay in a hostel but decided against it, the cheap and cute guesthouses that dotted the island were too tempting for us.  We found the Pondok Twins Garden with a little help from our Scoot Cruises employee, the ride over here with them was awesome and I highly recommend it.

It was perfect!  A little guesthouse nestled in on a back street not far from the beach.  We settled in for four nights, and set off to explore this gorgeous little place.  We were amazed at the turquoise blue color of the ocean, and the view of distant mountains on Lombok.  After settling into a table at Gili Cafe, we ran into one of Chelsea’s friends that was, by coincidence, was staying on the island. Yes it’s that small!!
The sunset was our next destination, and after getting horribly lost in what we jokingly referred to as the “suburbs of Gili”, we emerged on the other side of the island, in time to watch the beautiful sunset and have a bintang.  That night we chilled with Chelsea’s friend Connor, and his two Canadian counterparts, Joey and Pete.  Since its Ramadan, the island is very quiet, and out of respect for the locals the nightlife is curtailed to a single silent disco, which we got to experience the next evening! We ate dinner at the night market, which was a super fun experience, trying all the local foods and finishing my meal off with a giant roasted corn on the cob mmmmm.
Our first full day in Gili was super beachy, I learned some bad news from home, my family had been affected by the flooding in Toronto from the storms that are going on there right now, and our basement was in 7ft of water!! There is a ton of damage, but as my mom said, “it’s just stuff” and they are all safe so apart from a massive clean up job they are ok!
We shopped the island that afternoon and literally shopped it out, finding nothing of interest to buy – all trinkets and overpriced beachwear. I did buy a sweet Balinese mask from a local artist though, who had his workshop and store  right beside my guesthouse. I felt kinda like i was getting an eye infection, but a smooth and painless trip to the Indonesian Dr on the island and some meds, later I was on the mend. It’s already cleared up! Yay! sickness one averted.
It looked like it was gonna rain so we strategically sat ourselves in a beach cafe to watch the rain and eat a late lunch.  Then it was time to meet up with the guys for shisha and people watching, until after the sun set and we moved onto the silent disco!!
The silent disco was my favorite experience on Gili so far, we all got these sweet remote headsets and were listening to the same tunes at the same time, filling the dance floor and the room with our off-key singing.  It was hilarious to briefly take the headphones off and look around at all the people dancing wildly, silently to the music!  We had such a good time!!
Gili is such a friendly, sunny place, full of unbelievably nice and accommodating people, there’s tons of families around as well as young people, the food is good, and the vibe is just right.
It’s good to know there’s a place like this on earth. It’s as close to heaven as I’ve ever been.
xo
D
Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Near-Perfect Day in Paradise

Today was as near a perfect day as I could have imagined, a great start to our adventures with perfect weather and excellent friends.  After a great facetime chat with the fam, Chelsea and I hit the shops for a little ‘lucky” shopping in the morning.  Balinese people will give you great deals in the morning b/c they believe its good luck to make sales in the morning and will bring good business all day.  Then we met up with Cassidy and Nicole again to beach it up and get accosted by Balinese ladies who wanted to massage, pedicure, wax, and hassle the eff out of us.  I really like Kuta but it’s very touristy and crowded, people yelling at you from all over to come into their stores, get a massage, take a taxi – its hard to feel relaxed when someone is literally grabbing you and telling you to come into their store. Yargh.  We had a quick lunch and then carried on hassle-free poolside on the rooftop pool of our friends hotel. it was so perfect.  We even found time to do a little crossfit action, courtesy of Ravi, my new friend and all around cool BT guide.

After a quick hotel stop we went back out with our friends for a farewell dinner and had incredible Indonesian food.  The BT guides were so amazing to us, they helped us arrange our travel and figure out what to see and do while we’re here.  They have already made our Bali experience so memorable and fun, its been a pleasure to see old friends and get to know new ones.
What does tomorrow bring? Well, we journey off the beaten path and onwards to Nusa Lembongan and the Gili Islands!! we leave by speedboat tomorrow for some tiny islands and some more fun in the sun!
xoxo
D
Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bali, Beachtravellers Style!

  What an amazing two days its been here! I feel like I’ve been here way longer than two days.  Our first day here started with an exploratory walk around our area, trying to get our bearings and get used to Kuta. After another delicious Starbucks (sorryyyyy we are easing into the whole Indo thing, at least we didn’t have Wendy’s!)  there was a very interesting tourist trap experience on Kuta beach.  We were given these punch cards by some friendly guys and after we opened them we were told we WON!! MONEY!! All we had to do to collect it was go check out a hotel and get a tour.  Ok. It sounded fishy but hey the hotel was in the nice southern area of Nusa Dua and we had just gotten there, so the free taxi ride sounded appealing and we wanted to look around Bali.  Then, when we got there after a shortish drive, we checked out the hotel and were told unfortunately there was no one to show us around just then.  So a 15 minute ride, 10 minute look around the hotel and crappy discount voucher “prize” was the worst that happened. Woo! Free taxi rides!!

Our next stop was to meet up with some girlfriends who had been with us on our Beachtravellers Thailand trip and had just finished the BT Bali tour and we were eager to hear how their trip was. We had lunch and caught up and saw their hostel, and awesomely enough, some more guides and friends who we knew from Thailand last year!! BT reunion!!  We all went to 66 beach in Seminyak together, and I did what I loved best – got on the back of a friends scooter and scooted through Kuta! It made me a happy girl, and I was even happier when I saw the beautiful beach with beanbag chairs and colorful umbrellas scattered around. We settled in for some good beers, pizza and catchup chats, and I got to know some more cool BT people, the Bali guide crew who are obv just as phenomenal as their Thailand counterparts.
We ate sate’s at a tiny Indonesian restaurant and partied the night away in Kuta. I finally got to try the fabled Extra Joss, an Indonesian powdered energy drink that foams up in your mouth – and gives you a killer buzz!  There also may have been 20 shots for 100,000 rupiah, about ten bucks. and then another round. And then? dancing at Skybar, a complex which has nine separate bars on four levels, basically a playland for the young, drunk and stupid. It was no fun at all 😉
Needless to say, it was a stumbly walk home. Hehe.
Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Party Herrrrrd

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

Categories: Cambodia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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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Welcome Home to Bottle Beach

Our arrival at Bottle Beach was full of mixed emotions – we were so happy to be going back to one of our favourite places in the world, but sad to be doing it without our group of friends that we had made during our Beach Travellers trip.  Our ferry ride over from Ko Tao had been uneventful – the extra ta-wenty Baht we had paid for air-con in our little ferry had been a sweet luxury item.

In Thong Sala (the main town on Koh Phangan) we loaded up on supplies to take with us to Bottle Beach, where everything is a bit more expensive due to the fact it’s on a very remote beach that you can only get to by boat.  We were loaded up with all kinds of goodies when we caught our ride across the island to Chalok-lum, the town on the North side of the island, and boarded a little long tail boat which would finally take us home!  The staff greeted us as if we were long lost friends – “welcome home!” they said as we checked in and got settled.  We had been dreaming of Bottle Beach for so long – it seemed surreal to finally be back there again in paradise.

We spent the afternoon with our friends who worked at the resort, practicing fire spinning with Cheeky my favourite bartender, trading stories and making plans for the full moon and our next few days.  We met up with some German friends of ours who had taken our advice and decided to stay at the resort, and had a fun reunion night!  The next day we waited for some more friends to arrive, and got ready for what would be the highlight of our time on Bottle – Full Moon!

The morning of full moon we climbed to the viewpoint to check out the amazing view from the top of one of the surrounding hills.  Everywhere you looked from the top was unspoiled green beauty – there was very little in terms of developed resort land on that side of the island – it was so beautiful, pristine and untouched – took my breath away.

I had a completely different experience of full moon this time around – Chelsea and I got ready together and helped the other Beach Travellers group with their paint and party preparations.  I felt like a pro – the nervous excitement I had from the first time was gone – I felt like I knew what was in store for us, but still was excited to watch the night unfold again!

We boarded the speedboat and the anticipation was the same – rounding the bend, hearing the pulsing music under the bright light of the full moon, and finally seeing the beach lit up and spread out before us as we landed and formed a human chain to get to our meeting spot.  This time I had so many energy drinks at the beginning of the night, all I did was dance for about – oh – four hours until realizing I was starving and set out with a group of friends to find the amazing chicken place I had found last time.  We found it and ate yummy chicken schnitzels whole watching the mayhem unfold around us.  I managed to walk all the way down the beach this time to the very last bar, listening to all the different music on offer as we walked by snapping pictures of the drunk, passed out, and generally outrageous people surrounding us.  Eventually we figured out that the spot our group was hanging out at had the best music, so we made our way back to our rendezvous point and danced the night away, watching the sun come up together.

The day after was a bit of a write-off, on account of us staying up all night to do the full moon thing.  We luckily had a fantastic pool and some great friends to entertain us, so there was no shortage of laughs to keep us going into the evening.  During my second time around at Bottle, I felt like time had stopped – I had everything I needed with me and nothing to do but just simply enjoy and relax. During our last night I bar tended behind the bar with the staff, wearing my staff shirt of course!

Our last night was bittersweet, because we just had so much fun with each other but we knew it had to end, too soon.  We stayed up all night as our ferry was ridiculously early and we had to catch a 3:30(am!) ride to the other side of the island to catch it.  It was a long, bumpy, pitch dark ride on bad roads in the early morning, taking us away from our Thai family and friends and onwards onto separate journeys….my solo adventure was about to get real.

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Railay Round Two

The Bowl was empty – and it was filled with delicious offerings for our monk-in-residence, Steph

RAILAY has to  be one of my absolute favourite places on earth – so glad we made it back for a second stop to re-visit the memories and meet some awesome new people, including the newest batch of Beach Travellers!

After getting in on a (rainy) longboat, we checked into our pad (sweet porch included!) and unpacked. I tried Crocodile at the buffet at the  Viewpoint resort that night. Tastes like chicken, but chewier…lol. Also ingested large amounts of salad – a rare treat after so much rice and curry!

A local friend of the guides had opened a new bar just down the road (path) and we stopped to check it out. It was perfect! Good chilling areas and tunes, a dance floor, busy bar and even an indoor fire show 😉 crazy! We caught the fire show at Last Bar later on as well, and a free bucket for being the first (craziest) girls on the dance floor!  Oh Railay, how I love thee!

We crashed the BT boat trip the next day, glad we did cause it gave us the chance to get to know the new peeps – they were nice enough to let us in on the party! We floated, snorkelled, cliff jumped, iced each other and got up to all the usual boat trip shenanegans, and ended up on the beach for dinner and an epic sunset.

Loving up my leo portside

Islands we had dinner on

The next few days were about as perfect as I could have imagined – good friends, fire spinning, crazy party nights (Anything but clothes? why not?) and a healthy dose of sun, fun and sand.  We only got to spend three nights in Railay this time, but they cemented my love for this beautiful, hidden gem of a place.  For the rest of my trip, I couldn’t help but gush about to every fellow traveller I met – and when I had heard they’d been there themselves, it was always the same response: they had loved it as much as I did!

We left Railay for Krabi with sad hearts – I know it will be a while before I make it back there, but I can’t wait to bring some new friends there to experience it themselves!

Me in the water in Railay

A view of the West Beach from the water

Railay Beach West – see that cave up in the Karsts? I rapelled down from there 18 m onto the beach!

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