Posts Tagged With: khaosan road

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

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.

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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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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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Three Nights in Bangkok

Leaving Railay was sad because I loved it there so much, and also didn’t want to put my shoes back on and face another night train. I actually slept 12 of the 14 hours it took us to get back, but it wasn’t too bad in the end. We got to stay at our old guesthouse, too, which made it feel like more of a homecoming instead of a goodbye. We had a lot of stuff to do, though, before the end of our trip! First up was bowling and karaoke together (hilarious video to follow), and a super yum group lunch where I tried some new food, and cabbed it back to our place to get ready for what would be an epic night on Khao San road.

So epic, in fact, that I missed the temple tour the next day ;-( but I did make it out for the weekend market and a full day (literally a whole day) of shopping, I must have spent about 3000 baht, which seems like a lot but is actually about 100 dollars CAD.

On our last day we gathered for a group dinner on top of one of the tallest buildings in Bangkok. We had sushi, salad and all kinds of other Western food we had been missing on our trip. We took a bunch of great group pics and enjoyed our last full night together! Of course, Khao San road was just as fun as the previous night, but bittersweet cause we knew it would be our last night to party together 😦

I feel really blessed to have ended up with such a great group of people on my tour, we were all such good friends by the end of our time together, and I definitely made new friendships that will last me a lifetime 🙂 I was also so happy to have found some adventurous girls who were ready to head out with me on the next part of our journey. We gathered together for final speeches and goodbyes on our last night, and reminisced about our awesome trip and got to thank our amazing guides Jon and Nikki for taking us seamlessly through such an incredible trip!!

But of course for me the fun was only beginning! Our last day in Bangkok, I set out with a lady friend to walk and get lost and possibly find the Grand Palace, which we eventually did, after finding a university graduation and a museum (which was closed,boo) The Palace was, of course, unbelievable, so glad I got to fit it in, it was a spot not to be missed, you could feel in the air how important and sacred a space it was. We got slightly lost on our way back (fun!) and met these two adorable German girls who asked us about where they should stay. We took them under our wing, got them un-lost and even got them all the way back to our decent guesthouse so they could check it out. We ended up eating with them later at an Indian Restaurant with my friend Chris, an Aussie who I had met recently in Toronto (small world!) Who just so happened to be in Bangkok at the same time as me. That night the five of us tore up Khao San one last time, and the rest of our friends left either for home or other exotic destinations. It was time for my “solo” adventure to begin!

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Bangkok Madness

Today was my first full day in BK and it’s still going – it feels soo long on account of everything I’ve done!  After a yum breakfast with my new roomie Camille, we headed out to check out the fish spa, a tank full of lil fish that eat all the dead skin off your feet.  I know, it sounds gross, but it’s actually like a luxury spa treatment in Canada so I wanted to check it out.,  It seemed kinda cool but our feet didn’t hurt yet so we decided to get into a Tuk Tuk and see some sights.  A Tuk Tuk is like a motorized open air taxi that runs on gas, makes a ton of noise and is also a super fun way to see the city…..if the city isn’t choked by traffic resulting from a protests from the Red Shirts.. aka Commies.  Bah.

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Pretty much the first hour all we saw was the back of numerous buses and cars spewing out filthy exhaust.  It made me miss my carefully planned bag even more as I had a dust mask in there I really needed!

The whole drive was a bit of a bust – they promised to show us a bunch of touristy sights on our way to MBK (the mega mall where I wanted to buy a Thai cellphone) but instead got dragged to three tailors (the kind that will custom make you a suit in like 24 hours) and a high-priced jewelry store before we realized we had been scammed.  One temple and like 5 crappy stops so this Tuk Tu driver could collect free gas cards from every place we went.  I argued with the driver (Me: “You didn’t show us anything!  Take us to MBK right now!”  Driver: “One more stop” Me: “NO TAKE US TO MBK RIGHT NOW.” Driver: silence.  Starts tuk tuk.  Drives to MBK.)

Overall it was not a bad outing considering we paid less than a dollar CAD (for both of us!!) for the whole trip, I guess if he gets free gas and gets paid by the hour he doesn’t give a damn where he takes us!! It ended up being a funny experience, but the Thais have their tourist scams down to an art, its unfortunate to say but I will be very wary of any overly friendly Thais from now on after that experience.

FINALLY at MBK, we stepped into the air-conditioned madness to find the biggest, scariest, weirdest mega mall I have ever seen.  8 floors. Everyone selling the same crap as their neighbour. What?? so weird! there was a floor for each product and after navigating the very confusing MBK food courts ( you had to exchange $$ for food coupons and then give it to the vendors – not an easy thing to figure out since no one speaks great English and we certainly don’t speak Thai!)  We enjoyed a very yummy Pad Thai and headed to the fourth floor to buy a phone. This was another confusing experience. EVERY store sold the same thing!! I found a lil Nokia  Thai phone that I liked, paid 1600 baht for it (about 55 CAD) and happily headed home, in an air-conditioned taxi 🙂 Yay!

When we got into the hotel, guess what was waiting for me??? MY BAG!  yes!! It made the trip all the way from Toronto with nary a scar or tear to show for it, everything was intact and nothing spilled.  YES!  Although it was very pleasant to wash all my clothes the night before in my underwear with a bar of soap in the bathroom sink, I was so happy to see all of my stuff 😛

My Backpack Finally Arrives!!

Camille and I wandered around our little district near Soi Rambuttri, getting foot massages (3 dollars) and checking out a massage school where we might get certified to do Thai massage later on in our trip!  Another round of Pad Thai later ( I know, I know not very adventurous but let me wade in here, people!!)  from a street vendor (I get props for that don’t I??) we grabbed some drinks and wi-fi at a local bar and waited fort he night to begin.  We met a bunch more people from our trip, and at the meet and greet were introduced to about half of our fellow travellers.  It seems like an amazing group, I cant wait to get started.

Leaving BK tomorrow. onto floating huts, jungle treks, elephant rides, and THE BEACH baby!!

Bye Bangkok I’ll be back twice more before my trip is over.  I’m glad to leave your smelly crowded-ness behind – but since I am a city girl it’s safe to say I am truly intoxicated by your beauty and crazy vibe.  Cant wait to come back and experience more Thai city life.

And Mom, Dad, as soon as I can figure out this damn Thai cellphone I will be giving you a call!!

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Bangkok Nights

My first two days have seemed like a total blur!  So much has happened, I feel like yesterday was ages ago.  I slept like a baby on my arrival at O Bangkok, the beautiful traditional guesthouse I was staying in.  The room is literally two beds, and a bench but hey it does the job.  The hand sprayer in the toilet and lack of TP left me puzzled though (are you supposed to spray your bum with this? I wondered) lol.  and yes. yes you are. no TP in sight.

Bum Gun!

Bum Gun!

I woke up around three pm BK time and asked about my bag…no dice.  So I went on an epic walk around the area we are staying in, the very touristy Khao San Road.  I had a heavenly Thai massage (my first!) which cost me about 8 bucks and caused me to cry inside cause it was so good after sitting in an airplane for the better part of two days. I reveled in my alone-ness, totally cut off from everyone and everything I knew.

Now that I know how to kill someone with my bare hands from taking Jiu Jitsu, the prospect of walking alone through the crowded streets of Bangkok seems pretty safe 😉  People were alternately friendly and pushy towards me ( “You want Thai massage?  Come with me, very good price, hey Lady! LADY!”).  I eventually wandered back to my hotel feeling relaxed from my massage.  I met a cool girl at the massage place and we planned to meet up at the full moon party later on in my trip.

After this I sat in the “lobby” (loose term as it is an open air patio that looks onto the street which is actually a restaurant and soooo beautiful) and befriended two Canadian backpacker girls who were travelling together.  from Markham.  hahahah small world.

I thought the rest of my night might be pretty uneventful so i read a book and went to bed pretty early.

1:30 AM KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. Wha? Where am I ?  Who am I?  What side of the world am I on?  And who is knocking on my hotel door?

Turns out it was my new lovely roommate who had arrived, very apologetic for waking me up.  She immediately reminded me of my dear friend and former roomie, (Hi Myriam!!) a French Canadian girl named Camille who was so sweet I knew we would hit it off.  My guide invited me out as it was only 1:30 (lol) and after chatting for a few mins I felt wide awake and decided to join them.  Off we went into the night to drink humongous beers on the street patios, dance till 4am at a crazy club, and stumble home amongst the children selling us roses and the drunk tourists spilling out of the clubs, seven elevens, alleyways and who knows where else.

AH-MAZING.

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