Sunday, September 19, 2010

On my way...

Is it the end of a journey, the middle of an adventure or the start of a new life? I think this as I'm on hour 5 of my layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (on my way to New Zealand). I can't tell which it is. South East Asia has come to an end, for now. I definitely feel different. I'm not sure how or what, but I feel a little new, really odd and especially grateful.

Of all the locals I spoke with over the month, I always asked them the same question: 'have you ever left your country?' Surprisingly, they all had the same answer, laughing they said 'of course not, that costs money.'

It's peculiar that something that is so important to you can never be a reality for someone else. Traveling is my passion, it's my priority. To meet people who would like to visit their neighboring country but cannot because of a mere $100 is heartbreaking to me. I'm very grounded by this and more importantly, I feel forever thankful that I have the opportunity to do what I love. I've been raised by a stupendous family who have (whether they liked it or not) supported my needs and desires to travel. There is something about leaving homebase for 2 days or 33 days that is quite freeing. Nothing to worry about but that day, the prestent.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, that is why they call it the present. That was a quote from a book that I had read on this trip that was so fitting. This is what I've gained, embracing the now. Living like the old man in Chang Mai, peacefully, calmly, independently and most of all appreciatively. Thank you world, universe and gods. To be carefree and worry-less is freedom.

My eyes have soaked in many memorable things that I will never forget. Tiny village girls dropping their price by 90% just to make a snippet of money. Tuk tuk drivers racing across the street for your business because it's been days since they've made one dollar. Girls leaving home to teach cooking classes just so they can save money to go to school. Guides taking you on a tour who have lost someone in a genocide. Walking on strewn clothing and bones of a grave site. It's all extremely grounding and really makes you think at the end of the day how lucky we are, how lucky I am and what can I do to make a difference.

My eyes have been opened. My heart has been filled. This has been an uplifting experience and I just hope that it continues. I hope that I forever grow and meet new people and share experiences. Love love.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Phnom Pehn

You are large an in charge Mr. Capital City. You are no chilled Siem Reap. PP is bustling with street stall and motos. I was actually scared again to toss myself in traffic to cross the streets. But just like any Capital, there is so much to be seen.

The history of the Khemer Rouge particularly struck my interest. Anna and I went to the killing fields and the S-21 Museum. It's hard to believe that something so horrific happened not too long agi. 1975 to 1979, my heart goes out to you. Actually walking through the killing fields silenced me. Silenced me! Mass gravesites. Bones. Teeth. Clothing. These items were still surfacing. I walked on someones shirt. I knelt down to see someones tooth. Bound rope around bones was peaking through the sandy dirt. Frightening. Eye opening.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can I get a Wat Wat?

Possibly one of the most magical ruins I've been to, and my camera officially craps out, which was ok. Some things are meant to be seen with raw eyes.

Vibol, my tuk tuk driver, had met me the night before in my guesthouse in a rather awkward setting. I was getting ready for bed when I heard a knock on the door. Assuming it's a friend, I wrap myself in a towel, prop my toothbrush inside my mouth and peak the door open. Two Cambodian men stand there straight, my face goes red and all I can think of is their customs and how inappropriate this must be. Vibol blushes, and tells me he's a friend of Melissa's (who is a friend of Chelsey's, whose recommended him to me). I immediately tell him to hold on, quietly close the door and rush to throw some clothes on and spit out my colgate. Yep, embarassing. Vibol and I made some arrangements for the following day.

Bright and early we tuk tuk our way to Angkor Wat. Overwhelming. Yes. I'm shocked that tourists are still climbing the sacred structures. It really is a magical place. A must see whilst it still stands.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Siem Reap has certainly been a favorite city during this journey.

The people are just so warm and friendly. The food is so delectible. The markets, a perfect size. I believe North Americans need to take some lessons from Cambodians. A smile goes a long way, and it's not creepy, sexual or scary. It's a smile. It's warm and contagious. For those who read this, please smile at someone. Your tuk tuk driver, your bank teller, your computer, the fellow driver next to you, a stranger, just smile. Please. For me. Let's start a trend. Feel warm today friends.

Photo: Vibol, my new friend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I've met some killer solo travelers in the past, who have even become my closest friends and I think I've found another. Australian Anna. The woman with an actual heart of gold.

After one night in a semi-scuzzy guesthouse with crickets jumping all over me, I opted to move. Anna was also moving to a different place to meet her friends. I trotted along side her, we jumped in a tuk tuk and made our way to the Golden Mango. I felt like I was traveling with my parents!! Beautiful wooden floors, the most heavenly English speaking staff, complimentary breakfast and tuk tuks, and wait for it... free internet and wifi! The Golden Mango, two of my favorite things: gold and mangos, surely this was THE place for me. Dream come true.
After settling into our lavish rooms, we made our way to the Cambodian Childrens Hospital. We bought a big bag of goodies for the kids and I watched Anna donate blood. What a saint! Unfortuneately we weren't able to play with the kiddies, but we left our bag of goodies with the smiling receptionist and bought some very fitting friendship bracelets.

A very patient tuk tuk driver took us to Seeing Hands. A massage parlour run by blind men, very cool experience. Tucked away in a shotty alley was a tiny open room with 4 beds and a backroom. We changed into some scrubs and were treated with the magic hands of two blind fellows.
Lunch at the Blue Pumpkin made us feel like we were in NY or Milan with their streamlined industrial interior.

Peruzing the market was the perfect way to end the afternoon. We met Annas friends later for dinner, which was the best food I've had during the trip.

Siem Reap, I'm in love!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Journey of the Buses

After visiting so many magical places, I can no longer pick a favorite.

It took 38 hours on 4 buses and 2 iPods but I've made it to Cambodia. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds or as bad as people made it sound.

Bus One: Packed. Just the standard Asian bus. I prompt myself down beside a Malaysian Reggae man who plays the uke in a band and has dreads to his bum. He was rad.
Bus Two: We had a short hour in Vientienne. After driving through the city, I wished that I had planned to stay for a night or two. Visually, it was hustling. People were loitering the night streets, they situated themselves in pubs, shops were birghtly lit. Ruins were perfectly placed in the centre of streets. It reminded me of the perfect blend between Beijing and Guonghouz. Mmmm, this is making me want Chinese food! I know my dad will hold me to this statement since I never crave Chinese food ;) The infamous night bus. Dun dun dun! I must say I'va had a horse shoe with me on this trip. I lucked out and got my very own bed on the sleeper bus. Good thing too. These 'beds' were maybe 3' wide and maybe 5'5" long. I certainly slept diagonally just so I could stretch out. I can't imagine what it would have been like with a partner, let alone a stranger! Nightmare. It was quite loud, and very bumpy. My best friend was my iPod 'soothe me' playlist. We kept each other sane the entire night.

Bus Three: Arriving in Pakse, I had no idea I was on the VIP bus, and I wasn't about to say anything after the 'sleep' I just had. They say there is no difference between the regular and the VIP bus. Oh my friends, there is a difference, a lazy boy difference! And for the first time in Asia, the bus wasn't full. Heavenly.

The Cambodian border was strange. Small huts were speckled over one city block on either side. We slowly zig zagged our way to each hut where we paid $1 to $23 for random papers, health checks and visas. I wasn't about to argue with the Cambodian official walking around in his socks. Back on the bus I was ready to settle back into the 9 hour drive in my big comfy red leather when a small man runs down the bus calling 'Siem Reap.' We can't be here already? Of course not. We are moved to...

Bus Four: A small, rickety bus where the driver honked his horn every 20 seconds. Oh Asia, you're back!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


We went on the most beautiful 6 hour drive, I have ever been on! Taking a mini buss cramped beside two Laosian men was the best thing so far. I hung out the passenger side window to take in the untouched mountains with snake like vines, King Kong forests, sheets of rock. Laos is stunning. It's just that.

The children run amongst the street taking care of one another. The mothers sit on the stoops of their straw huts just content to sit all day long. The little girls are perfect in their tiny collared button shirts and their baby sarong like wrap skirts. The men are a beautiful caramel colour and very good looking.

We are in Vang Vieng now. I was hesitant to come here for the tubing. 90% of the people I meet tell me to stay away but I came anyways. One of the first girls I saw her had her head bandaged and bloody. Another man limped with a wrapped foot. And then we found out later that a girl died last week, drown. Deterring? Not quite. I'm a good swimmer I tell myself. And I watch my liquor intake...

River tubing was better than the full moon. Unreal party! So many bars, so many buckets going around, rope swings, zip lines, slides. No wonder people are injured or at worse drown. The river was raging too. If we stayed on the river with no stops we'd be down in no time. It's certainly no Pembina that we're used too. This was great! Towards the end our group of tubes were separated. I didn't make it to the last bar, only because I couldn't hold on to the rope the Lao man threw to me to pull me and my new South African friend in... the current was far too strong. So we floated. We watched the sun slip behind the jungled mountains... and we floated some more. He hung on to my leg so we wouldn't separate and I kept spinning to see if the rest were coming... nope. They clearly made it to the last bar. Eventually we made it to the side of the river where I slipped off my tube, not so gracefully, and made it back to the main street. River tubing. Highly recommended. YouTube it, it's a wild time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I started my day on a tour along the not so sweet chocolatey river, the Mekong. Lush mountains with low clouds kissing the tops. It was like a movie.

We eventually made it to a cave with over 400 Buddhas placed over the years from pilgrims. But the best part of the day was the waterfall. Like the elvin forest, I just expected to see hobbits jump out from behind the misty curtain.

Midway up the tiered mountain, Sean was daring enough to climb a small tree and swing like a monkey into the icy blue pool. Having far too much fun, he convinced me to try it. I haven't jumped off anything since breaking my tailbone in Corfu from cliff jumping, so naturally my legs are shaking as I take on the mini climb. It would have been far more troubling to turn back... so jump it was.

On the way too and from these destinations we stopped at small villages. I came on this journey looking for an eye opening experience, and Laos has given it to me tenfold. Living simply is an understatement for these people. It was enlightening and heartbreaking at the same time. Laos is a true beauty and I'm so happy that I made it here. THIS is the experience I was hoping to have; being taken aback by landscape, playing with smiling village children, watching young monks venture with their book bags and the food. My goodness, those backpackers that lost weight trekking clearly skipped Laos, because the food is unreal! Sweet breads are as tasty as China's, their pastries are as delicate as Paris'.

Laos, you are a sight for sore souls!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Luang Prabang

Reunited with the boys, we set off on a plane with two propellers. While shaking in the sky over the Mekong, I can tell Laos is an untouched gemstone. I wander the city and come across a local festival with boats racing on what looks like Willy Wonka's chocolate river, the Mekong.

Lost. I eventually turn on the navi skills and wiggle my way back through the crowded streets. The city is very small and there are few tourists, likely from the midnight curfew (loved it).

LP, you most certainly are going to be a new adventure.

mission accomplished

As my goal of visiting Thailand in 2010 comes to an end, I find myself very awake. Miss Thailand, you weren't at all what I expected to find and I look forward to coming back to you to see what other amazing things you have to offer. Your country melts my heart with your scenery and smiling faces.

Being here has made me feel so much more passion for my country, my family and my dear friends. Now that I've had the opportunity to be completely and openly free, I can realize the gems in my life. I know what makes me happy and how to live simply (simple enough for my Canadian being).

Thank you Thailand for the freedom you've donned on me. I will never forget your aromatic streets, lady boys and beautiful beaches. I can assure you that I will be back to see more untouched lands and rice fields. xo.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I ate breakfast today at an ultra hippy die. A man sat at the table next to me flipping through his sketchbook at what looked to be perfectly vectorized black markings. He looks like Confucious. He turned to me as I garcefully mixed my museli and asked if I was Japanese. I smiled and said I was Chinese. Intrigued. He said, him too. Halfers. Reunited. He was cute.
I quite liked this place so I went back in the afternoon for a shake and some internet time. I inquired if he taught art, he told me he could do whatever I wanted for 1000 BAH. Unfortunately I'm backpacking and pretty much too cheap for even a 30 BAH tuk tuk ride (PS 30 BAH is approximately $1 CAN, yes, I'm pinching my pennies).
On my way home from the Night Bazaar I again stopped by for some food and some fresh carrot juice. He told me to sit down, it'll taste like home. Cute.
After I paid he gave me a little pep talk. As if he knew my woes in life. Mind reader? He told me I had hands. I should use them. Using our hands will make us happ. It is our own accomplishments. We wash ourselves with our own hands. We clothe ourselvs with our own hands. We cook for ourselves with our own hands. We can't just be happy for one or two days. We must be happy all the time, he says. He told me that when I eventually go back home, I will do this. I will do it because everyday we learn. Everyday there is a problem, but no problem because we, with our hands, will fix it. We learn to deal with problems and we be happy.
Now this inspiring broken english conversation would have continued, but we were rudely interupted by a one legged, drunken, German man who wouldn't stop calling until Mr. Wise went over to him. I quietly snuck passed the drunken mess while the halfer was tending to his situation, grabbed my shoes and told myself I would be back for breaky. They are afterall, the only place that I've seen to offer brown bread. Hallelujah!
Photo: this is the man punching rice paper creating delicate designs. Ever so pretty.

Chang Mai

You are pretty lax Chang Mai, and I totally dig it.

I have seen more Thai people than Caucasian people... this is a good sign.

Unfortunately I've come down with something... I'm not sure what... but it's not allowing my body to really move (I hope it's not the green bubbles... scuba joke). Advil and aspirin have been my buddies for the last two days. And I love them for it. I'm flying solo now, so I have to heal myself; unfortunately that means no cool adventures that I was so hoping to do. Trekking in the jungle is the thing to do here... but the last thing I want is to be sick in Laos, or worse, pass out in the jungle!

So a new book was bought, I've already seen a large amount of the city thanks to my little tuk tuk driver. I've bought two pair of pants that I'm really not sure how to rock and some incense.


It would be a lot easier to relax if I wasn't dripping wet. It's so hot here and there is no turquoise ocean to jump into, only dirty rivers. I even have a hot shower which I was giddy about this morning... now I miss those cold showers on the islands... what is my world coming to? Ha! I'd say my world is going pretty well considering the only thing I have to complain about (minorly) is my shower.

Yep. I'm going to get a massage.

Practice what you Preach


I've been saying it to people for months and now realize that I am the one that needs to follow it: you must love yourself before you are able to love anyone else. Yes. This is true.

2010 you have been rough. I realize that I, myself have been vacant, empty, heartless, blank. To my friends and family, I do apologize. It's now my mission to fill my heart with compassion and love. To simply live and love. Two different psychics told me that I was emotionally unstable... perhaps this was the first sign of my retreat.

Challenge accepted.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Missing Koh Tao

We arrived in Koh Phi Phi finally after a hilarious night ferry. Snuggled close with 100 other passengers. It's visually stunning here (aside from the heaps of garbage laying around). But I already miss Koh Tao. My daily routine in Koh Tao could have been my new life. During my last days on my favorite island, I said some sad goodbyes to the beautiful Dries and Vanessa, my irreplaceable dive buddies; and celebrated my new friend Sarah's 20th birthday!! Four British lovelies, me, too many vodka chocolate shakes and 3 too many buckets. It turned out to be an unforgettable evening, the perfect end to my friend Koh Tao.

Now I've thought about diving in Phi Phi but it's just so expensive and I'm becoming responsible after a mere 19 days!

I'm realizing now that I've almost completed my goal of seeing Thailand in 2010, the other countries are just bonuses. I think I will cut a few places out. I can rip through Laos, meditate through Cambodia and go home to New Zealand. I use the word home here because 1. Poom is there and 2. I feel like I will fall in love with that picturesque chunk of land and never want to come home. Plus, life will just be so different when I don't have to conserve shampoo or toilet paper, and be able to do laundry in a machine, rather than my sink. I'm anxious to wear normal clothes and actually be able to shop and not worry about trekking countries with my splurges on my back. I'm certainly anxious to see NZ and Poomeroy. I'll be there soon Pooey.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I miss Mike. Sigh.

I spoke with my workmate, Mike on FB chat, I know he hates FB chat, so I know he misses me too. I find myself still asking the question "should I have just taken a 3 week holiday? get this fit over with and head back to real life?" I don't have the answers to all the questions, not even my pendulem does ;) but I do refuse to have regrets.

What 18 days into this adventure has taught me so far about my 'real life' is:
1. I do actually really enjoy designing (maybe Vince was right, maybe I should have brought my laptop with me... but we won't give him that satisfaction, after all, he'll have to deal with my drunken mess when he losed this bet and takes me to the ACE Awards, free drinks all night, what a date!).
2. I really do miss Mike. AND my other workmates. No matter how frustrating work and colleagues can be, I just love those cool cats. My pa always described his staff as his second family and always needed to treat them really special. Now that I know, I'm not coming back, I'm constantly reminded of my MO family whilst I wander down streets, knowing exactly what he means.

Chris: there is always some hardcore jogger taking down the beach in shorty short shorts. PS I heard you made the office do a mandatory run at lunch, good job! haha I'm just glad I wasn't there!

Valery: you really need to go scuba diving and master illustrate the underwater life. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Simply stunning.

Vince: every ginger I see, I cringe and get a little angry inside ;) jk. I just laugh beacause they are lathering up in sunscreen trying helplessly not to burn.

Lorianne: YOU should really be here with me so we can wear Thai pants and get messy. I know you would love this place and likely never leave.

Drew: no one hugs like you do. When I feel homesick I think of you picking me up and cracking my back with your hugs. I need to find someone on these islands that hugs like you... sigh.

Jeff: I didn't think I would, but I miss your grumpy face in the morning! Our sarcastic chats, you even poking me in my easily bruising legs. I miss you, because I know you're like me, tough on the outside and super soft on the inside.

Steffen: I didn't get to work with you long but what I did take away from you was your ambition and initiation. Something that I lack as I laize on these sandy beaches pondering life.

Caitlin: I miss your albino latina ass sending me bass ass Spanish pop songs and pictures of our soccer player.

Jon: oh Jon. No one makes me laugh like you did. And that is quite important. Laughter is the best medicine. It's the best start and end to each day. I need to find someone who can make me laugh like that!

And my Mike: my pal. My bestie. I knew I would miss you because we got so close after K left. Our awkward walks to Safeway. You cringing when I sat too close. You reaching over my shoulder to grab my mouse. Our histarical iChats between 3-4PM to get us through the remainder of the day. Late night handwriting. Chocolate breaks at 2.

We've all had some good times and I miss you little MO family.
Take care of one another, otherwise you'll turn into a hot mess like me, a flubbering baby. And that will just be embarassing.


PS save me some samples of Stollery!!