Posts Tagged With: travelling in SE asia

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

What does the Fox (Glacier) say???

My morning began late – I got to sleep in cause my Glacier walk didn’t start until ten am.  A van took us up to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier and we hiked up to check out the views. Others on the trip opted for a much tougher half-day hike but I didn’t take part.  I’m from Canada, people.  It’s snow and ice. Big whoop. Actually it was pretty majestic to see the glacier cascading from the cliffs, we got to see lots from our viewpoint, so I was happy with that.  Lunch at the glacier chalet was delicious, but after that our trip got thrown off the rails and kept going that way for the rest of our time together. It wasnt necessarily a bad thing – we still got to see and do everything we were promised, but there was no sticking to the itinerary, that’s for sure!

Let me explain first.  The roads through the mountains are subject to inclement weather and the only road through the mountains to Queenstown was closed half an hour after we left the town of Fox Glacier. Unfortunately there was no cell service to let us know that, so when we got to Haast Pass, we had to turn around and go back the way we came!  It was unfortunate but out trusty guides let us know we would still (eventually) get to our destination, but it would be the long way round.  We backtracked all day on the bus, stopping quickly for dinner in Hokitika (now a ghost town after 5pm) and watched movies on the bus until late in the evening when we finally arrived BACK in Christchurch for the evening.  There was nothing to do/nothing open so it was an early night, in preparation for the long drive ahead of us the next day.

Luckily our drive was broken up by some pleasant stops as we took an alternate route to Queenstown.  First up was morning tea and a tour at Morelea Farm, a sheep farm run by a lovely couple who explained to us the finer points of sheep farming and how their thousand hectare farm operates  I got to feed a little lamby!! It ALMOST made me feel bad about how much I love lamb.  Lol.  We also got to see how the sheepdogs round-up the sheep for the farmers, and how a sheep is sheared.  it was a really informative visit, and I’m glad it was included in our trip because we pass so many farms along the way on our travels and gave me insight into a subject I don’t know too much about.  I am now a sheep farming expert!

There were a few more stops that afternoon, lunch was at Lake Tikapo where I caught my whole family on the phone while they were having Thanksgiving dinner.  It was so nice to talk to everyone!  I loved reconnecting with them, and it made me a wee bit homesick.  I was determined to enjoy the rest of my time in NZ, though, and chatted with my lovely bus buddy Andrew (from Ireland) alllll the long way to Queenstown.  We rolled in a few hours before dinner, and had some time to settle into our apartment style suites before eating at at the world-famous Winnie’s bar.  They stuffed us with pizza and garlic bread and salad until we were groaning, and then we got to have a special treat – a trip to an Ice Bar, where everything is made of ice, including the drink glasses!

It was fun to suit up in the excellent winter coats and gloves provided for us, and look at all the cool sculptures and features carved into this bar made entirely of ice.  They even had an ice air hockey table and an ice photo booth!  We all took WAY too many photos and had a great time sampling ice shots and yum drinks as well. We only left when our hands were frozen to our glasses and our shoes were wet. haha!  it was a great way to end a long day of driving, I’ve always wanted to visit an ice bar, now I can cross that off my list as well!

 

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Shire and Lake Tuapo Bungy

The town of Rotorua was on our list the next morning, a short drive and we were in this cute touristy spot, famous for its spas and thermal pools  with healing properties, a natural wonder that we got to see up close. Unfortunately this also makes everything in the vicinity smell like egg, so we had to endure that, as well.  I had the morning to explore as my tour of the movie set didn’t start till the afternoon.  I may have gone into EVERY touristy souvenir store that the town had to offer – and bought quite a few little trinkets – I can’t help it!! Cant buy too much though – I’m literally out of room in my backpack.  Oops.

Next stop was the Shire!! I got to visit the movie set for Lord of the Rings Trilogy – specifically the area where the Hobbits live, the Shire.  It is now a permanent tourist attraction after being torn down after the first three movies.  I was rebuilt for the Hobbit movie, and obviously there is a huge draw for fans to come and see where the film was made.  It was so cute!  The tour was expensive but definitely worth it for any movie geek – the guides were extremely informative, telling us about where the scenes were filmed and how they pulled off all the movie magic, including how they made the hobbits look so small compared to regular humans.  We saw the whole village, the party tree, and even got to have a beer at the Green Dragon Pub, which was authentic down to the last little detail – even the postings on the wall were perfectly in tune with the theme.  We drove home, tired but excited after our sunny day in the Shire.  Our dinner was at the local Irish pub, and some of us went out dancing and partying that night, it was a fun way to get to know the “other” side of my tripmates, the drunk and disorderly side!
Our next stop was the Tongariro National Park, but before then we had one more stop in Rotorua, the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, a Maori site where families have lived for hundreds of years, taking advantage of the geothermal heat and the energy it provides them.  We learned more about the Maori culture and customs of the local trip while taking a tour around the village, where many tribe members actually still live.  There was also a cultural presentation, where we got to experience firsthand some traditional songs and dances, and another Haka (War Dance) as well. Fierce!  We drove onwards after that, visiting some waterfalls (horizontal Huka falls – forced through a channel and out the other side with incredible force, a natural wonder) and stopping for lunch in Tuapo, on the shores of Lake Tuapo which is the biggest lake in New Zealand.  It’s another super touristy town, I got to see some of the members of my group bungy jump off a cliff into a river.  I didn’t do it, I had other activities planned and have to watch my money cause four months of travel is sapping my bank account a wee bit!  It was cool to see everyone jump off and bungy down the cliff side, even touching the river below, making a splash!
We drove onwards that afternoon to Tongariro, the set of Mount Doom in the LOTR movie and site of our epic hike that we would tackle tomorrow.  It was a super busy day and I was happy to crash after dinner with a few glasses of wine in my belly.  🙂

 

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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!!

 

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Chillin at Avoca Beach

I spent my last weekend in Sydney visiting my friend Rachel and her hubby, Brendan in Avoca Beach which is about an hour from Sydney to the North.  The train ride out was picturesque, it winds through the countryside and along the bay and it was a nice day so I was able to enjoy the view.  My friend Rachel picked me up from the station in Gosford, a little town about 20 minutes from the coast where she lived in North Avoca beach.  It`s a gorgeous seaside town, and after I got a driving tour of all the beautiful beaches along the way, I settled into the Swan household for the evening.  I was treated to several new Aussie beers beachside at the beer garden, and caught up with  my friend over (a great many) drinks and delicious Thai food.  We had a blast, I even got to take in some footy and got to listen to some Aussie musicians that I hadn’t heard of before.

The next morning was Rachel’s birthday, so I got to be a guest at her birthday brunch with the whole family!  Rachel lived with my family in Canada for a while, and I had forgotten her parents had also visited, so it turned out her family knows my whole family, it was great to chat and hang out with people who knew all about my life in Canada and to experience a taste of beachside life outside of Sydney.  After a seaside breakfast at the surf club on Avoca Beach, we hit up the local markets where there were trinkets, antiques, handmade crafts, clothing and food for sale.  It was a perfect way to spend a lazy sunny Sunday, and I bought some gifts and even a few trinkets for myself!  I loved the beachy atmosphere of the town, it was super friendly and reminded me of some of the summer neighborhood markets we have back home in Toronto.
After the markets we had a “sausage sizzle” with Snags (sausages) and Rissoles (home-made hamburger patties) and I sampled some good Australian beer (on fifty lashes, coopers ale) on the front deck of the Swan household, and then was treated to a scenic drive of the surrounding area, including a visit to the beach where Rachel and Brendan had gotten married six months earlier, and a stop of ice cream as well.  The surrounding ares is gorgeous, national parks are all over the place, and it seems like a great family community so close to the city.  I’m glad I’ve been able to get out of the city so much while I’m in Sydney and into the surrounding countryside, it’s very different from the rest of Australia, and stunningly gorgeous!  I feel pretty lucky to have so many friends in this country – I think I will be back to take advantage of this country sooner than later, there so much that I missed, and more that I want to see!
After a sunny afternoon train ride back to the city, I was ready for my next adventure – a week-long trip to Melbourne, to catch up with some more Aussie and Canadian friends.  My plane ride was pretty uneventful as far as rides go, only an hour and a half to get there.  I ditched my big backpack for the week so it was fast and painless – I didn’t even have to wait for my luggage!

 

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Cairns, Sunshine City

I am at the northernmost point in my trip, and Cairns is a gorgeous place!  It’s nice and warm, the weather is perfect, and there are tons of backpackers chilling out and great activities.  There’s no great beachfront, but there is a man-made lagoon area where sunbathers can hang out.  I walked around the city on my first evening, there was live music spilling out of the doorways, lots of shops still open,  and even an outdoor movie theater in the town’s square!  I am totally coming back some day to check out this city again, it’s not a huge place but there are SO many activities, I only got a small taste in the two days I was there, and decided to go and check out some waterfalls in the tropical rainforest on Captain Matty’s Barefoot Tours.  I boarded the bus early on the Saturday morning, not knowing what to expect out of the day.

It was a sweet tour, there were some little hikes to gorgeous waterfalls (not one, not two, but three!) lakes and mountainous areas that showed off the region around Cairns really well, and we got a taste of all things Australian, some new music to listen to on the bus and a history of the surrounding area.  Our guide Gili was hilarious, made the day when he rescued someones Go-Pro from the natural waterfall rock slide, my favorite part of the tour.  We saw a Cassowary in the wild, one of only 1500 of these endangered birds that are left in the surrounding area, we got a good close look at it too, which is apparently really rare.  I slid down the rocks into the pool even though it was a bit cold, it looked so fun! We even got to sample some Aussie goodies like Tim Tams and coconuts from palm trees ( which are actually not native to Aus!).
I went out that evening with some people I met on my tour, first drinking goon (ugh) and then hitting the Woolshed to dance on some tables. It was a bit of a gungy backpacker bar but it was pretty fun to watch the ultra hammered people fall off tables!  We went to a second bar attached to our hostel which seemed like the nicest/biggest bar in the area, and danced the night away with an assortment of people, a pretty multicultural crowd for Australia!  Seems like Cairns is a big draw b/c it’s actually closer to Asia + other countries than Sydney/Melbourne.  I took myself home as the club was closing, i had only one more day to check out Cairns before flying off.
I had to pack and check out before stowing my locker in storage then sneaking back up to make myself breakfast in the communal kitchen 😛 I had a not so nice goon-over, and decided to check out the Lagoon and try to get in some snorkeling before leaving for the airport later.  I lazed around at the Lagoon after walking through the main beachfront area, and have decided I really like Cairns and would totally give it a second shot with more time to look around the area and explore all the activities.  I finished up with a dip in the Gilligans pool and said goodbye to (what i thought would be the last of) tropical Australian weather! My flight went off without a hitch, and soon I landed in the Sydney Airport where there were a few new adventures waiting for me! The best part about Sydney so far is my friend David, who I met in Vancouver when we both lived there.  He’s already picked me up and welcomed me into his house for the next few weeks while I explore Sydney and the surrounding area. I feel glad to put an end to the frantic pace of my trip so far and just to stay put for a little while in the same place – after all, I’ve stayed only up to three nights at EVERY place I’ve been to so far – 5 countries, 2 months! Whew.
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Sun and Sand in Surfers Paradise

Wahoo!  I’m in Paradise!  Surfers Paradise, that is.  I had hoped it would be a little warmer when I arrived here, and while 24 degrees Celsius in the winter here aint bad, I’ve had to put on extra layers at night since I am used to the sweltering heat of Asia!  The tepid temperatures haven’t stopped me from getting my tan on, though.  I arrived here from Coolangatta in the afternoon, and had no problem finding my cosy, if not well worn hostel, Sleeping Inn.  The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the full kitchen.  Nice! Time to do some grocery shopping, cause the Aussie prices were killin’ me.  I settled in and met some of my bunk mates, including a surly 50-year-old woman wearing ( I kid you not) a Tilley hat and matching vest with a zillion pouches, who ended up snoring all night after glaring at anyone who dared come into the room after she went to bed at nine.  Also, she managed to lock herself out of the dorm the next morning at, oh, 5am, and then banged loudly on the locked door outside until some poor German girl went to let her in.  Yayyyyy bunk-mates!  Lady. Get a hotel.

I wasn’t too concerned with all of this, because I had to check out the beach!  I had my bikini ready, and walked through the small but impressive downtown to the beachfront, which resembled one big expensive tourist trap, complete with a wax museum, Aquaduck tour and Laser Tag center.  I wasn’t interested in any of this, because when I saw the beach it was OVER for me.  What an incredible stretch of sand!  It went on for miles, and the sky was clear and blue, although it was a WEE bit cold in the shade, I plopped down in a sunny spot and took advantage of what sun there was.  I laid there for a few hours until I was actually too cold to stay, and then explored the shopping area a bit, found a grocery store, and headed home to cook myself dinner in our cute kitchenette.  That night at the hostel was trivia night, and I met some of the travelers in my hostel, and won third prize in the contest.  Which was – nothing. lol.  After finishing my ciders and wrestling with the shitty internet for a bit, I called it an early night.
The next day was my only full day in Surfers, so I made sure to get to the beach early and catch as many rays as I could! This got old at around two o clock and I shopped around the town a bit, finding a $5 sweater that cost less than my lunch, and some cute souvenirs for myself and my friends (i cant. resist. the. shopping. gah)  My rationale was that since I’m saving so much money on food by cooking most of my meals at the hostel, there’s some extra money for little things to help me remember my trip!  That night was the pub crawl, and $20 got you into four bars with four drinks so I decided why not? me and some fellow travelers boarded the giant party bus and picked up people from all over the city.  It was cool because I got to know so many people in such a short amount of time, the drinks were flowing and every time we got tired of one place we were off to the next.  I made friends with my bunk-mate Johanna, a Californian and a lot of English people! It was a great night out and the last club was within walking distance back to our place. Yes!
The next morning was a bit rough but i finally won the war with the internet and was able to chat with my family for a bit and get ready for my next adventure.  By 2pm I was off to Brisbane on a Greyhound to hug some Koalas!
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Culture Shock in Coolangatta

My time in Asia is at a close, I’ve landed in Australia and said goodbye to SE Asia for now.  What a difference! Everyone speaks my language, the toilets all have paper in them, and everything is twice the price.  Did I mention it’s incredibly gorgeous as well?  The flight here was uneventful, I had three seats to myself for the seven hour journey, and managed to nap most of the way, since my sleep was interrupted last night by a very loud Aussie woman (go figure) in Kuala Lumpur.  When I woke up this morning I was sure to bang my stuff around a lot as she did at 3:30 am when she came in from the bar, exclaiming loudly to no-one in particular that she was “absolutely pissed!!” Lol.

I landed around 9pm local time, collected my bag, and was promptly searched thoroughly by customs, swabbed for drugs and had my emails examined as the surly Aussie lady I was dealing with was convinced I was running drugs into her country.  All she found was my pile of sweaty clothes, however, and she seemed almost disappointed when wishing me a pleasant stay in Australia.  I thought I was headed for a cavity search!  I guess I just look too suspiciously goddamned innocent ;-P I found out I had just missed the last bus into the town and the information lady informed me it would be “not much” for a taxi to my hostel, only $20. Gulp.
It ended up being about $17, but my driver gave me a much better welcome to Aus, even turning off the meter at one point and detouring around the coast to show me Danger Bay and the nighttime view from the lookout.  He dropped me at my new hostel, Kommune, where I paid a wallet-shattering $25 a night for my two nights there. Remember, I’m used to $5 a night!! There was a party going on in the main room, but I didn’t join in as I was super tired from all my travel and figured I would see the sights the next day.  Turns out there is nothing really to see in Coolangatta besides the beach.  I woke up late the next day and walked around the little town, quickly realizing I was in a Florida-like retirement community mixed with a smattering of young people with babies.  Hmm. Boring! I walked around Danger Bay, which was not dangerous (lol) but had gorgeous views up and down the coast.  I stopped at the beach for a bit while the sun was still hot-ish, and walked and walked and WALKED down the never-ending beach for lack of something better to do.  I walked all the way to Kirra Beach and found it more boring and quiet than the last beach, so I just admitted defeat, bought an overpriced organic peach iced tea from the local seven eleven (the Australian equivalent of a Southeast Asian temple; throw a stone and you’ll hit one) and walked back.  I decided to treat myself to some Indian food, and paid way too much for some admittedly delicious butter chicken.
There was NOTHING going on in the hostel besides three of us sitting in the lobby using the wifi, so I decided to but my losses and take my tired legs to bed.  Surfers Paradise is my next stop, and it’s sure to be much more entertaining than Coolangatta. Please? Australia? Hello?
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A Walking Trek of Kuala Lumpur

I actually think I walked ten clicks today, or more! There is a certain satisfaction to navigating yourself around a new city, especially one as confusing as Kuala Lumpur!  I had some walking tours outlined in my trusty Lonely Planet, but decided to save them till later and check out the landmark that is the Petronas Towers, once the tallest twin towers in Asia.  I figured out I could walk there, and decided to make the 20 minute trek over to see them myself.  As I walked, I stumbled upon the Tourist Center, and decided to go in to change the 200 or so Philippine Pesos I had in my wallet (about 17 rinngit worth but hey I didn’t want to hit another Malaysian ATM before heading to Aus!) Luckily I stumbled upon a chocolate shop and was treated to 6 or 7 samples along with all the other Asian tourists on the bus tour that I wasn’t on 😉 Nobody needed to know that!

My next stop was the twin towers.  They were pretty impressive as I walked up, and after a few minutes of figuring out where to buy tickets, I found out that they were sold out for the day and NOT free as my two-year old guidebook had said. Grrr! Oh well. I saw them from the ground!  They were cool!  After feeling like a schmo in walking in the fancy mall for a while, I hit the streets again and found myself on Bukit Bintang, the shopping and tourist district of KL. I wandered in and out of shops, feeling harassed by massage ladies, taxi drivers and salespeople alike, and took refuge in a giant mall with about a thousand kiosks selling every single imagineable item know to man.  I found a cheap meal in there, Black pepper beef and rice, along with a scalding hot coffee.  As I moved back out onto the street, I managed to get myself a bit lost and as I wandered, I just took in this big noisy dirty city with its walls of traffic and construction, and luckily got spit out only a few blocks from my current place of residence, Reggae Mansion.  I went inside to escape the heat and after a mid-afternoon shower and nap, I was ready to spend my evening in Chinatown, where I took in the covered Central Market and uncovered Petaling Street, where counterfeit bags were the order of the day.  I couldn’t help myself, I joined in and bought a fake Tory Burch clutch.  Oops! Dinner was soup noodles (surprise, surprise) and as night was rapidly approaching, I hurried back to my hostel as I didn’t feel safe on the streets of KL, having been followed last night.
The next day was my last full day in Asia, and I spent most of it planning for the adventures ahead!  I found a comfy spot in the hostel with good wifi, and booked my bus trips for the next two weeks in Australia, along with some of the sightseeing attractions that were booked in along with my pass.  I soon figured out that these places were a lot farther than I thought from each other, and groaned when I realized I had to take an eighteen hour bus ride at one point in order to fit it all in and make my flight to Sydney from Cairns at the end of the month.  Ugh!
To clear my hear, I headed out to the hustle and bustle of KL one more time, this time to Little India to peruse the night market that was just getting started and find some rice and chicken dish to celebrate my last evening in Asia.  I was feeling nostalgic and actually enjoyed the crush of people, smells and tastes for once, as it would be the last time in a long while I would experience the uniqueness of SE Asia’s flavors.  That night was tough to sleep as I was worried/excited for the next morning’s trip.  I was leaving the continent for a completely new place, filled with people I love and tons of new adventures!! Bring it!
Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lazy Langkawi and the Long Ride to KL

Our third day in Langakwi was super beachy- the sun was shining and it was almost unbearably hot – almost.  We set up in front of our favorite five star resort and I snuck into their pool numerous times to cool off – hehehe. Sneaky.  We grabbed some duty free beers after burgers for lunch and did some last minute poking around in the mall and little shops before spending the later part of the afternoon in our pretty guesthouse with all the kitties, and our fellow travelers.  I seriously can’t say enough good things about Soluna guesthouse – you have to walk a little bit to get to and from the main road, literally through a field and some rice paddies with water buffalo hanging out, but its so quaint with the cottage style rooms and beautiful greenery, the owner obviously put a lot of effort an planning into making the place a comfortable destination for travelers, and I especially enjoyed the air-con in the dorm and mini fridge to keep our cheap beers cold!  After cleaning up and eating dinner once again at the cheap and delicious Indian place down the road from us, we packed up our stuff and went to bed early.  In the morning we had a kitty-escort to the taxi stand, two funny little guesthouse cats followed us halfway down the road, just being cute little punks!

Our taxi took us to the jetty and I arrived in time to buy a ticket for the 8:15 ferry across the channel to the mainland.  Micheline and I said our goodbyes at this point, as she was traveling north to Thailand and I was headed south to Kuala Lumpur!  Thanks for being such a great and easygoing travel partner!  I’ll miss you!
The ferry ride was FREEZING but I was prepared this time with a sweater and blanket, I sat next to an energetic girl who watched me play candy crush the whooooole way, then whipped out her iPad and played a few rounds herself!  The jetty was a short walk to the bus station in Kuala Perlis, and I spent the next hour anxiously awaiting my bus after being told there is NO ticket counter for my company there. Eeps! Will it come? Am I in the right place? What happens if it doesn’t show up? I was also, at this point, trying to fend off a Pakistani man who decided since I was alone I must be lonely and offered to be my friend, but i soon realized he meant “boyfriend” and I told him thanks but no thanks. Lol. He persisted and THANK GOD my bus rolled up only about 15 minutes late, I said goodbye to my new “friend” and boarded the Transnasional Bus.  I soon realized I had bought a ticket for a bus that stopped in EVERY town in the province, and it was two hours before we even crossed the border into the next one!  Oh well, I got to see every little towns’ bus station, so – there’s that.  We finally got on the road and I figured the ride would take twice as long as the estimated five hours. I was right, cause five hours into the ride we were still nowhere close to KL.  Oh well.  We stopped at another little roadside rest stop, this one more picturesque than the one we had stopped at on the way to Penang.  I ate some noodles and chicken, had my bag of drink and waited in the rain for our bus to open up and depart.  When I say “bag of drink” I literally mean it – they serve drinks in these hilarious takeout mini bags with handles and a straw and ice.  I guess cups are too much effort.
We rolled into KL around 8pm and I was dropped at a bus station called Duta – which is still kinda outside of town. I was anticipating taking a taxi into town but the driver told me to board another bus with the same company – no charge – that would take me down town!  Win for Transnasional Bus Company!! The bus took its sweet time leaving but I wasn’t complaining about a free ride, especially after I realized I could now walk to my hostel from there.  I was armed with my guidebook as we arrived at the Puduraya Bus Station and I successful navigated myself through the streets of Kuala Lumpur and ended up at Reggae Mansion, the coolest, cleanest and funkiest hostel I have stayed at.  I have a little “pod” in the girls dorm with four walls that feels like a tiny hotel room, there’s free breakfast and the facilities are gorgeous! Yes! I already was loving KL!!
Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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