Posts Tagged With: Thai

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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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.

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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.

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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?

xo

D

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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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