Posts Tagged With: river kwai

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.


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.



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!


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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Tigers and Monkeys in Kanchanaburi!

We woke up in our floating guesthouse, and packed up as it was finally time to leave Kanchanaburi and head south.  We had two more stops in the area, though – the seven layer waterfall and the tiger temple.


The waterfall was in a national park, and is literally seven different waterfalls along a beautiful trail, complete with cheeky monkeys along the way. We were told to hold tight to our cameras because the monkeys love anything shiny and they WILL steal your camera. But they were sooooo cuuute!! One even had a little baby holding onto her mama as they crashed through the trees above us!

We got to swim in several of the waterfall pools as we hiked, and i sat in a little pool while the little fishies nibbled my feet (it tickled!).  After the hike, we ate some lunch and headed back to the bus – it was tiger time, baby.

The temple was really a tiger sanctuary, where rescued tigers can live from cubs, growing up around humans so they are used to us, and able to be in a relaxed state. We got to walk right up to the tigers, pet them and hang out while the trainers took pictures of us. It sounds dangerous but it was really a controlled environment – you had to hold the trainers hand and every tiger had its own trainer beside him. My camera died just as it  was my turn (bah) so I  had to borrow a friends camera to get my pics petting and walking with the tigers.  We paid a little extra and got to watch the tiger show, where they caged US in (haha) and let the tigers loose.  They jumped and play fought and prowled and were basically the most majestic and beautiful animals I’ve ever seen up close. It was totally worth it to pay the extra couple of bucks and watch the show.

We got back on the bus in time for our next adventure, the night train to the south.  This journey deserves its own blog, so ill stop here and pick it up later.


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Kanchan part deux

A nice surprise was waiting for us in the morning, we were told to gather at 930 which was a wee bit early for those of us who had partied all evening!!

Luckily our surprise was Thai Massages for everyone! I had already experienced one in Bangkok, but for most of our group this was the first time they had experienced the bliss. It was kinda fun to lie there six in a row and be pampered as the Thai ladies chatted and massaged us.  They were soooo happy when we tipped them, I gave my lady 50 Baht (about $1.50CAD) and she thanked me about ten times!

After our delightful surprise, it was time to pack up and ship out of Jolly Frog, onto our next adventure, elephant riding and washing.


Before I get into that, though, I have to say one of the weirdest things about Thailand is that there is literally a Seven-Eleven on every corner!! I think since I’ve been here I have seen the inside of over 20 different Sev’s in the five places we have been so far…..its so familiar yet sooooo different, all the food is different (pork buns where the taquitos should be, ham and cheese toasties instead of jamaican patties) and all the packaging, yet we have all managed to find our favorite stuff and now a sev trip is like a trip home.  I’ve tried so much awesome stuff (With the help of my awesome guides Jon and Nikki) that I normally wouldn’t have touched for fear of buying something disgusting. Its strange, I never though 7-11 would be an integral part of my Thailand experience, but it is.

Ok, back to the elephants. We dropped our stuff off at our new guesthouse, which just so happened to be floating on the River Kwai! Our bags dropped and rooms assigned, we changed into long pants and headed out to wash and ride the Changs ( elephant in Thai 🙂

They were sooo huge! We pulled up to the camp and saw the eight or so elephants just chillin out, seats already strapped onto their backs. I was worried we might hurt them by riding on them, but our guides explained that elephants had been used traditionally for heavy labor in Thailand for many centuries but were now becoming more rare as the country got more reliant on cars. Now they are more of a tourist attraction.


We got to feed the greedy little buggers bananas which they grabbed from us with their trunks and put into their mouths. Then it was time to ride.  We climbed up on a hut like structure to get up high enough to get  on them. They lumbered along with us on their backs, slow and steady, stopping to eat (and poop!) along the way. It was super fun, I couldn’t believe I was riding such a majestic creature!!

Then came the elephant washing…not my favorite activity as the changs were poopin in the water with us, and we narrowly missed getting slimed. Also the elephant guides were making the changs shake and try to throw us off into the water. I’m not squeamish but it was pretty nasty.


The long-boat ride down the river after was much welcomed, they boated us up past our guesthouse and we climbed onto bamboo rafts upriver and floated in a leisurely way back to our place, jumping off and swimming in the water as we went. So relaxing and chill.

The rest of the evening was very chilled out, there was nowhere to go as we were still very remote, but we had a great boat party, played drinking games, and I even got to talk to my dad (who called just as Celine Dion came on in our boat party, how fitting as he loves her!!)

The night ended with earplugs as our rowdy crowd partied into the night (Nikki and Kilby lookin at u!!)

Then I zzzzzzed. Ready for the fun day tomorrow?



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Amazing Thailand

Ok well for the past few days I have seriously tried to write out some blogs and keep up with whats happening, but there has been way too much fun stuff happening to find time to sit and write.

Thailand is an incredible place and i have had so many unforgettable experiences already, i know im going to be coming back completely changed. It’s not hard to see why so many people come here and choose never to leave. It really is that good.

Oh, and mom, dad, don’t worry….im still gonna come home. Eventually 😛

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Kan-chan-a-buri (say it with me)

FIRST OF ALL – this seems like SO long ago as we have been traveling through some very remote places and I havent been able to update this blog in a long time!  I have 40 mins left on the interwebs here in Koh Phangan and will do my best to update fully and fill all you lovelies in on whats been happening in the land of smiles since we left off.

Jolly Frog


Jolly Frog 2

We left Bangkok around 8am in a cute little minibus, off to the west of Thailand and a place (town?) called Kanchanaburi.  I had my first of many interesting experiences with the squat toilets that are the norm here, good thing I did so many squats before I left (thanks Peter!!) cause I certainly need that lower body strength now!

We arrived at Jolly Frog Backpackers Inn and had a group lunch, some announcements from our lovely guides Jon and Nikki, and put our stuff in what is possibly the UGLIEST room I have ever seen – think floral 70’s bed spread, paint splatter walls circa 1992 (with cracks secured by duct tape) accompanied by a scary bathroom and musty smell.  As my trip went on I realized – really – not such a bad room after all!!

We visited a school that afternoon, after a quick stop at TESCO.  Tesco was surreal because it seemed SO American (complete with a Dunkin Donuts and Dairy Queen) after all the foreign places I’ve experienced in the last week, it was strange to be in what felt like Wal-Mart!  We were only there to grab toys and games for the school kids, we loaded up on treats for the kiddies and headed out into the hotness.

We arrived at the cute little school (under 200 kids), and the little ones waved at us from their classrooms, visibly excited we were here to play with them.  Apparently the area we were in was pretty remote and they don’t see a lot of falang (foreigners), so the teachers were taking as many pics of us as we were of them!!

We got introduced to them as they sat in neat little lines by class, and performed a cute song for us. We then did the chicken dance for them, to their ultimate delight!  After getting acquainted, it was time to play soccer, blow bubbles and draw with them for an hour or so.  I drew a tic tac toe board for one of them on a little piece of paper and it was ON.  A tournament of wits ensued (I lost, maybe on purpose :P)  and we played happily together.

After a Kap-khoon-ka (thank-u) and goodbyes, we headed off to the River Kwai and the famous “Bridge over River Kwai”.  We walked over it (kinda dangerous as it was rusty AND there was a running train we had to avoid mid-pass lol) and had a wee history lesson as to it’s importance during WW2, apparently it was bombed many times and rebuilt in darkness during the night to keep crucial supply lines open.  I bought SWEET genie Thai pants that have proved very useful and the day was not even over yet!

Bridge over River Kwai!

Dinner at the Jolly Frog was delicious (coconut soup yumm) and we had some free time to get ready for the EPIC river cruise that was to come.  We took a bus to the riverside (still Kwai) and got on this giant floating covered raft complete with a DJ booth and crazy light show.  Jon (our guide) plopped down a 2-4 of M-150 (Thai red bull, twice as strong=twice as fun) and told us to go nuts – I knew then it would be a crazy night!!

We danced and danced and daaaanced to awesome music and our little group definitely became a family that night, we played games and got to experience a fire show (flaming batons twirling, being passed back and forth, being dropped, flung, twisted = so safe haha).  It was such a good party night and nothing like I’ve ever experienced before.  We were paired up with the 36-day tour for that part, so we got to bond with them for a bit too.

And then night wasnt even over yet!! After getting back to the guesthouse, we headed out to a place called Sugar Member (tee hee) and danced and drank some more, till we shut the place down.

After writing this I cannot believe all of that happened in one day!! More blogs to follow…much love peeps.



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