Five tips on Friday

Every Friday ( until I run out of tips) I am going to share five tips I wish I new before going to SEAsia!

1. Don’t be afraid of the bum gun. — Let me start by saying these are not some fancy bidet that you will want to wiggle up next to. This is a toilet with a kitchen sink sprayer attached to the side. So I’m not going to lie. It is a little intimidating at first … but after the third bus stop with no toilet paper I should have sucked it up and tried it out. (It really isn’t that hard to aim.) But no I waited almost two whole months! Major mistake. Don’t wait. Embrace the bum gun.

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It’s all about the people

The month of July 2014 was easily one of the best of my life.

I was in Cambodia and Thailand. I was traveling with my best friend. I was on lounging on white sand island beaches . I was dripping with sweat on some of the largest religious sites in the world. I was walking on dirt, teeth and bone fragments at one of the most powerful genocide memorials in the world. I was watching bubbles float past my face as I learned to breathe under water. I was slowly allowing my face to peel off after the worst sunburn of my life. I was befriending some of the funniest, smartest, most unique and rambunctious people I’ve ever met.

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Where are you now?

Obviously a key part of traveling is … traveling! We knew we would be taking lots and lots of taxies, buses, trains, planes, tuk tuks, boats, metros, motorcycles, and on and on.

We were aware. Anna went all over New Zealand and Australia. I went all around Scotland and Western Europe. We already knew how to travel.

The other evening around 7 p.m. we wandered into a travel agency and tried to book a bus for the next morning at 8 a.m. We wanted to go from Krabi, Thailand to the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.

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Man buns

Around the world some styles cross all cultural borders.

For example, high-waisted shorts are taking over the world and no one can stop them.

Bro-tanks will forever be a wardrobe staple of 20-something men.

Converses will never go out of style.

It does seem that the States are typically last in picking up trends, though — hair, makeup and fashion.

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Continuing through Cambodia

Our next few stops in Cambodia were comical to say the least.

We met our soon to be best friend forever and ever — Brett — on the way to Sihanoukville. Unsurprisingly another Canadian. We just love our Canadian beauties 😉 Even more unsurprisingly he was another solo male traveler. Derp.

Fam-a-lam

Fam-a-lam

We modeled for a hotel brochure after a day spent on the beaches of Sihanoukville. Earlier in the day we were assaulted by gang of rambunctious Cambodia teens. They were diving underwater trying to touch our butts. I might have “dunked” a few of them as pay back.

Later, Anna came down with heat stoke and puked on my feet. Great times! Oh .. and we got a little sun burnt.

A few days later we jetted over to Koh Rong (so right, Koh Rong) where we somehow gathered a gaggle of Americans to roll in the Fourth of July with. Ben, D.J., Nick, Kevin and I (Anna was still indisposed) screamed Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones into the wee hours of the morning. One bar even imported Budweiser for the occasion. It was a pretty sick evening! I mean I love Wapo Fourths but this was one for the record books! We even had some Canadians pretending to be from ‘Merica. *cough Brett cough*

Happy camper

Happy camper

Beautiful Koh Rong

Beautiful Koh Rong

Anna banana

Anna banana

Classic long-tail photo

Classic long-tail photo

3k beach on Koh Rong

3k beach on Koh Rong

Koh Rong

Koh Rong

Koh Rong

Koh Rong

Koh Rong

Koh Rong

From the coast we took a detour back to Phnom Penh before hitting up Siem Reap with Brett. We met up with our fellow brochure models — Nev and Jo from England — on our first night, and made plans to hit Angkor Wat at sunrise.

Boy did Angkor not disappoint. I’ll let the pictures to the talking.

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This little light of mine …

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Temple time

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The A-team

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What is everyone taking pictures of?

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Beauty

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A quick pub crawl here, few more temples there and we were on our way back to Thailand!

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Pub crawl!

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Little Pub Street action

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Woohoo!

We were wrapping up our mainland loop! It was a sad milestone. Over a month finished, four countries, countless pals and memories!

Next, the full moon party and Thai islands!

xx

Is it misinterpretation or do they actually just not care?

Ahhh signs. Meant to direct and instruct. Give tourists some sort of hint of what in the world is going on. Not in Southeast Asia, though!

It may be a pool sign that roughly says ‘if swimming after 9 p.m. not response.’ Not response? The hotel isn’t responsible? They won’t respond? What if I were drowning?! Nope. No response.

Or it might be a sign directing you up a mountain, except the translation is so butchered that no meaning can be interpreted.

 

Anyways! Here are a few of my SEAsia signs:

 

I do not want to know why this sign is necessary.

I do not want to know why this sign is necessary.

Formality is key during border crossings.

Formality is key during border crossings.

Usually

Usually

Wait. Wait just a minute!

Wait. Wait just a minute!

Every city needs one.

Every city needs one.

Solid attempt

Solid attempt

And my personal favorite!

And my personal favorite!

 

Cambodia — a country in ten days

Phnom Penh

The differences between most countries we have visited have been apparent but hard to pin point. It isn’t so much major changes but a sense or a mood.

But from Cambodia to Vietnam was obvious. The country is clearly not as industrialized as it’s neighbors, but with good reason.

For those who don’t know (I didn’t until I started researching for this trip), Cambodia was experiencing a civil war from 1968 until 1975. The Khmer Rouge was the victorious side and post-war they declared Cambodia a farmer nation. For four years horrifying genocide over took the country and three million people were killed.

If you had an education, you were dead. If you could speak another language, worked for the prior government, had too pale of skin, lived in a city, or wore glasses you were considered a threat to the government and you were killed. Your whole family was killed.

If you weren’t already dead, you were sent to the countryside to work on rice fields because the Khmer wanted to dramatically increase the rice exports to impossible numbers. They worked civilians like slaves while starving them.

The genocide ended in 1979. Most people in the country either remember and experienced the horrors or are once removed from it.

In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Anna and I visited a killing field just outside of the city. This was one of 300 of mass graves where thousands of people were killed and placed in mass graves. This one was six acres with 20,000 people buried.

I’ve never been to a concentration camp, but people I spoke with it was more chilling than Auschwitz.

They have recovered and identified as many people as they can but each rainy season more bones and teeth are washed up. They are bone fragments scattered all over the area still. It was horrifying and incredibly moving.

During the Khmer Rouge they wanted to cleanse the country of culture that was deemed challenging so they destroyed most of the temples and historical sites around the country. Angkor Wat is one of the only temples standing today.

It is so hard to see a country that was literally stripped of their sense of self.

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People leave bracelets as a sign of respect.

To Nam

Anna and I just wrapped up three weeks in Vietnam. We stopped in seven different cities and rode approximately 300 buses (it was actually nine buses, and around 60 hours.)

Quick recap of our time:
Three nights in Hanoi.
Two nights in Halong Bay.
Pit stop in Hué.
Seven nights in Hoi An.
Two nights in Nha Trang.
Two nights in Da Lat.
One night in Mui Ne.
Two nights in Ho Chi Minh.
Add a few nights on sleeper buses and you have our itinerary!

Every stop was completely different. Hanoi was wildly busy and bustling.

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Halong Bay was an oasis.

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Hoi An was a city of lanterns and our week of pure bliss.

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Da Lat was mountainous and refreshingly chilly!
Mui Ne was rolling sandy dunes colored with paprika and curry spices.
Everywhere we went the people were kind (and always eager to sell you something!).
Some days were pure relaxing on the beach.
While others we challenged ourselves to learn about the Vietnam War from the other perspective.
Beginning I was a little bit worried about how people would treat us. Would they resent us? Or blame us? But in actuality most people were incredibly kind. Many people told us the past is the past and they live in the present.
We went to the Cu Chi Tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh. I can’t remember the exact number but there were thousands of soldiers and civilians living underground to avoid being killed. There were entire civilizations underground with schools, kitchens, living areas.
We climbed through one of the tunnel that has been widened so westerners can climb through. It was 100 meters long and even with the expansion I was feeling very claustrophobic!
There was also a larger display of the traps they would set for US soldiers. I didn’t really listen at this part because our guide was kind of laughing as he said things like ‘Ah! And then we killed another American! Got him!’ I think going out of your comfort zone to better your understanding of the world is extremely important, but the way he talked about death so casually bothered me.
But the country was mostly fun! We spent a lot of time trying to NOT get hit by motorbikes while crossing streets. In Ho Chi Minh there are 10 million people and five million motorbikes. They have two rules of the road: honk constantly and there are no other rules.

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We met so many amazing people — local and other travelers. We watched World Cup games and saw the sun rise!
I could have stayed waaaay longer. It was just truly amazing. I can’t wait to go back!
Now we are in Cambodia and heading to the islands soon!!

xx

Still without a computer charger so posting from a cell phone. I’ll try to update again soon!!

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Filling travel time

Thinking back to my ‘preparations’ for this trip, I feel like a complete idiot.

Why didn’t I think of such basic things like the fact that we would frequently be taking five hour bus rides?

Candy crush is only entertaining for so long. (Also, I’m really bad and use my lives up quickly.)

What I really wish is that I thought to learn a new skill while traveling.

I’m reading a lot, but the books are heavy and take up room. Picking up new ones in hostels is nice, but they are poor quality and the selection is limited.

I should have brought a book on tying knots or identifying plants or finding constellations.

I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.

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My most recently finished book. Amazing novel!!

Our computer chargers melted so we are stranded to posting with our phones. I’ll update as much as a can but my good photos are trapped on SD cards and dead computers. *sigh*

That’s all for now.

Xx

Sabaidi Laos. Sabaidi.

IMG_3263One of my favorite word I’ve learned so far is Sabaidi. In Laotian it means hello and goodbye.

Walking up and down the night market streets it was constantly being shouted. ‘Sabaidi! Sabaidi! Would you like a bracelet? Sabaidi!’

It was a beautiful word. It was one of many beautiful parts about Laos.

We arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos in what I’m assuming will be the most interesting forms of transportation we have in our trip — a two-day slow boat.

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Hello slow boat!

Side shot of a slow boat

Side shot of a slow boat

With anything you do — work or play — the people you are surrounded by will make all the difference. We were lucky enough to have an amazing boat full of people. Soon the beer started flowing and people sat on the boat edges, toes dipped in the flowing Mekong River.

Then, the music started playing. Dorf, our Aussie pal, and a young boy on board brought out an amp and the party got started. We limboed and danced until our overnight stop in Pack Bang, Laos.

LIMBO!

LIMBO!

Anyways, the fun continued until we arrived in Luang Prabang.

It’s hard to describe what made Luang Prabang so special. It was a quiet, peaceful town with bustling markets and shops. The food was amazing, the exploring was fantastic, and our slow boat crew was in town.

Here are some highlights:

Maddy, Desirèe, Anna, Sasha (our pal we picked up on the slow boat) and I checked out the nearby waterfall one afternoon.

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Pals!

Desirèe, me, Anna, Maddy and Sasha

We hiked to the top where teenage Monks were doing backflips!

We spent time in the night market (so much cool stuff but so little space in the pack).

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We went midnight bowling because the bars all close at 11:30 p.m.

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We got fish foot massages, which were extremely tickly!!!

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We awoke at the crack of dawn to watch local monks receive alms from locals. (The extra was given to poor children in town.) *Pics won’t load … sorry!*

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We ate DELICIOUS food for a dollar.

Moral of the story, it was an amazing time. I fell in love and was extremely sad to leave. Until next time Luang Prabang! Sabaidi!

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